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Running Over the Plot

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Try explaining that to your insurance company.
"What a way to go." (Beat) "Run over." (Beat) "Twice." (Beat) "By two consecutive buses."

Someone is hit by a car, and that kicks off or resumes the plot.

It may be that The Hero is driving, or not. Maybe they are a passenger, or it's a Getaway Driver, or it's the hero themselves who is hit by a car. This trope counts regardless of who does what, because what matters is the dramatic potential of a character getting hit by the car. It's a memorable way to bring The Team together, and provides immediate stakes. Put simply, car accidents are dramatic.

The injuries incurred by this Inciting Incident can range from death, in which case it's usually a Plot-Triggering Death, to serious injury, to being completely unharmed. The latter often doubles as an a Big Entrance. It may overlap with Drunk Driver or Drives Like Crazy (especially in more comic settings), and it may be caused when Driver Faces Passenger or by Vehicular Sabotage. It can be related to Look Both Ways, if the character doesn't look before they step out.

It's a well-observed cliche to start an isekai work with the protagonist being run over by a vehicle so they will die and Reincarnate in Another World. This sudden death can be established without a setup and usually sidesteps the question of sending the protagonist to their home world. Memetic Mutation has conflated these into "Truck-kun", the same truck heroically going around killing ordinary teenagers so as to send fantasy worlds the hero they're summoning. Characters sent to these worlds in this way are often said to have been "isekai'ed", and it's become an oft-parodied cliche.

If a character (nearly) runs into someone, but does not actually hit them (and that kick-starts the plot), that would be a subversion. If a plot ends by someone being run over, that would be an inversion.

Not to be confused with "being run over by the plot wagon", which some roleplayers use as a synonym for Railroading.

As this can be a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable: the main villain Yoshikage Kira is ultimately defeated when an ambulance accidentally runs over his head when he's lying on the street after Jotaro beats him up.
  • Barely avoided in the manga and anime Fly Me to the Moon. The protagonist Nasa meets his love by being almost hit by a truck - from which she rescues him. He's still wounded and loses a lot of blood, resulting in him being hospitalized and spending a long time in rehab.
  • Subverted in Monster Musume: Kimiheto gets told he's going to die by Lala the Dulahan, but he doesn't believe it. He steps out into the street and it looks like he's about to get run down by a speeding car, only for the perspective to shift and reveal that it's just a kid's remote control car that harmlessly bumps his shin. He then explains that he'd figured out that Lala is actually just a gothy chuunibyou who looks mystical because of her detachable head.
  • Parodied in No Longer Allowed in Another World. Every Otherworlders was brought to their world by what's called the Isekai Jackpot Truck, a vehicle that's the product of a summoning ritual called the Isekai Transport Service.
  • Sonic X averts, then nearly inverts this in the first episode, where an outburst of Chaos energy instead causes him and his friends to be transported to Station Square, a city in a world populated by humans. Only then is he almost hit by a truck.
  • Subverted in The World Ends with You. It looks like the protagonist, Neku, is about to be "isekaied" by an incoming truck, only to find that it harmlessly phases through him. It turns out that he had been transported to the Underground version of Shibuya already at the beginning of the story.
  • The first we see of Yusuke Urameshi in YuYu Hakusho is him saving a boy from an oncoming car and getting hit himself. He gets better.
  • Played straight in Zombie Land Saga, since the protagonist Sakura literally dies by being hit by a truck in the cold opening of episode 1. A very metal OP ensues, and then she spends the rest of the show as a resurrected zombie/idol at the beck and call of a necromancer/producer.

    Fan Works 
  • Parodied in an extra for A Game of Cat and Cat, where a girl from a fantasy Stone Age was run over by the world's first truck hours after it was invented. After her death, the vaguely godlike entity who receives her grants her the 'traditional reward' by offering to send her to another world (modern Japan, where the rest of the story is set).
    The same day you invent the truck, you invent vehicular manslaughter.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frankenweenie: The premise of the movie is that Sparky the dog gets fatally hit by a car, then Victor brings him back to life with lightning.
  • Lilo & Stitch: After Experiment 626 crash-lands on Kauaʻi, he runs into a road, gets distracted by rain and a frog, and then gets run over by three tractor trailer trucks, only knocking him unconscious due to his Nigh-Invulnerability. This would lead to him being brought to the animal shelter where Lilo adopts him as "Stitch", starting the main core of the plot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 11:14 starts with Jack Levine running into someone while driving while talking on his cellphone. And intoxicated. Due to the film's Anachronic Order, this is also where it ends.
  • At the beginning of The A-Team, Barakus almost runs over Hannibal, which appears to have come out of nowhere from Barakus's view.
  • In Back to the Future, shortly after arriving in 1955 Marty accidentally gets run over by his grandfather's car, which introduces him to his mother (who is instantly smitten with him) and accidentally prevents his parents from meeting. This triggers the main subplot where Marty must work to get his parents back together to stop the Grandfather Paradox obliterating him from existence.
  • Big Fat Liar: The plot begins when Jason is hit by Marty Wolf's limo and is given a ride to school as a result. Jason accidentally leaves his assignment in the limo and Marty steals a movie idea from them, kicking off the main conflict.
  • In Big Trouble in Little China, the main character is introduced to the Big Bad when he runs through him with a semi truck. The villain in question was a walking dream (a ghost, essentially).
  • In Children of the Corn (1984) and Disciples of the Crow (kept from Stephen King's original short story), Burt and Vicky accidentally run over a boy who stumbles out in the road and take him to their nearby town. His throat was already slit, though, because he was trying to escape from there.
  • Inverted in Deadpool 2: The threat of Russell Collins growing up to become evil (which is the reason Deadpool and Cable have come to blows) truly ends when Dopinder the cab driver runs over the orphanage headmaster as he tries to run away during the final battle.
  • In Dr. Dolittle starring Eddie Murphy the title character reawakens his ability to Speaks Fluent Animal after hitting a dog with his car, an ability he had suppressed and forgotten since childhood. The dog, who would be later adopted by the doctor, runs off no worse for the wear, but not before yelling at Dolittle to watch where he was going. This incident would lead to the rest of the movie with Dr. Dolittle finding himself dealing with animals coming to him for medical issues once it gets out he can understand them.
  • While Strange is not exactly hit by a car, a vehicular accident is the incident that sets the plot in motion in Doctor Strange (2016).
  • Ghost Story. As one of the protagonists is driving in a snowstorm, the ghost of a woman he murdered appears before him, causing him to swerve to the side of the road. He is then attacked (and presumably killed) by one of the ghost's accomplices.
  • Ghost in the Shell (2017) has a truck driver run over a naked woman on a rainy freeway. It turns out to be Project 2501 escaping in a cyborg body.
  • In Dark Angel: The Ascent, we see this from the victim's point of view. Veronica, a rebellious teenage demon, sneaks out of Hell to take a peek on Earth. Unfortunately, she arrives in the sewer, and when she emerges from a manhole in the middle of a busy street, she's immediately hit.
  • Harry and the Hendersons begins with the Hendersons hitting a Bigfoot (the titular Harry) with their car, then taking it home to recuperate.
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer: What they did last summer was run over a pedestrian walking on a coastal road and put the body in the water. The twist is that he didn't actually die, and he's back for revenge.
  • Played with in The Loved Ones. Brent actually avoids running over the plot (not knowing that's what he'd be doing) when he swerves to avoid a boy stumbling around in the middle of the road, killing his father and restarting the actual plot. But it turns out that he was actually one of Lola and her father's victims, barely clinging to life.
  • Inverted in A Simple Favor: The day is saved when Darren runs over Emily just as she was about to shoot Stephanie, which doesn't kill her, but does leave her unable to flee when the police arrive.
  • Southbound: "The Accident" starts when Lucas is distracted by his phone while driving, resulting in him hitting someone and causing horrific injuries. He tries desperately to save her life while guided by a 911 dispatcher, a certified EMT, and a surgeon over his phone.
  • This was a Running Gag in Thor. Jane meets Thor after hitting him with a car and later, after he escapes form the hospital, hits him again just when she needs information from him.
  • Unedited Footage of a Bear doesn't really get started until Donna runs into her evil clone in the street, who attacks her, forces her out of the car, and then hits her with said car. This allows the clone to take over her life for a while and do something to her kids, while the real Donna is stuck crawling home.

  • Eve and Adam: The first chapter ends when Eve is hit by a car, and that's how she enters the hospital that holds most of the plot.
    I'm thinking of an apple when the streetcar hits and my leg severs and my ribs crumble and my arm is no longer an arm but something unrecognizable, wet and red.
  • Parodied in KonoSuba, where the protagonist, Kazuma, is almost hit by an extremely slow tractor — actually dying of shock — and his death is so absurd, his own family apparently laughed at it.
  • A variant in the Agatha Christie novel Murder is Easy, where an old lady shares her fear of a murderer with a young man on the train. A few days later, the guy learns of her death in an automobile accident and investigates. It turns out that while the driver himself had nothing to do with the story, the murderess pushed the old lady in the way and gave the wrong licence number to frame another character.
  • A subtle example in The Shining. Jack, even after breaking Danny's arm, is in denial about his alcoholism. He only comes round and decide to go sober (which is how the Overlook tempts him) after he and a drinking buddy hit a bike while driving under the influence. Both of them are seriously disturbed by what could've happened if someone had been on that bike.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show: Benny as an old homeless person gets run over by a car full of young women. They take him home, clean him up, buy him new clothes, and bring him to a party. But it turns out it's All Just a Dream of his. Then he really does get run over by a car full of young women. They take one look at him, see it's just an old homeless bum, and drive off.
  • Dead to Me: The plot is kicked off when Jen's husband is killed in a hit-and-run, and she joins a grief support group, where she meets Judy. The two women become fast friends, and Judy agrees to help Jen try and find out who did it. The twist? She did, albeit by accident, and is an absolute wreck from the guilt.
  • In the Drake & Josh episode "Josh Runs into Oprah", Josh accidentally runs over Oprah Winfrey on his way to see her show for his birthday. The rest of the episode has him try to find her at the hospital to apologize.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Father's Day", the Doctor takes Rose back in time to the day her father was killed by a motorist. She stops the death but then the Clock Roaches come out; it turns out the only way to stop the destruction of the universe is for him to get hit by a car and die.
    • Inverted in "Turn Left", where an alternate reality version of Donna keeps her main universe version on the correct path by running in front of a lorry, getting killed in an accident but creating a traffic jam so Donna goes the other direction instead.
  • Emergency!: John Gage is injured in a hit and run while walking to the squad, which kicks off the episode “The Nuisance”
  • Forever: How "Diamonds Are Forever" kicks off the week's murder case. In this case, not just run over, but reversed over after, to make sure he's dead.
  • A couple of episodes of The Fugitive started with the protagonist either being hit by a car or hitting someone with a car he was driving. Given that he's on the run from the law, this is obviously a bigger problem for him that it would be for someone else in the same situation.
  • In Life on Mars (both the British Original and the American remake), this is how Sam Tyler gets sent back in time; he gets hit by a car in the present day, and wakes up in 1973, unsure if he's in a coma, in the afterlife, or really back in time.
  • M*A*S*H. Whiplash Wang, who makes a meager living by purposely getting run over by GIs in jeeps, then making them pay him off to keep him from reporting it.
  • Happens in Midsomer Murders to Barnaby's wife. In the end it turns out it was a real woman who disappeared in the secret entrance of a roadside building. However, the show puts in a Real After All moment when Barnaby also barely avoids running over a woman in the same spot... but this time, there is clearly no one there.
  • In The Office (US), Michael ends up accidentally running over Meredith when he pulls in to the parking lot in "Fun Run". While she's in the hospital, the doctor discovers a previous case of rabies, so Michael being Michael decides to host an office fun run for rabies treatment.
  • The Poker Face episode "Escape From Shit Mountain" is instigated when finance bro and parolee Trey Nelson goes for a drunk joyride when the ankle bracelet keeping him on house arrest is disabled by a snowstorm. This drive results in him running over a pedestrian (later revealed to be Charlie, who survives) and trying to dispose of the body.
  • The plot of Russian Doll kicks off when Nadia gets run over by a taxi on her birthday, resulting in her death. She suddenly finds herself back at her birthday party a few hours earlier and eventually realizes that she's stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. Every time she dies, she ends up back at the party. Nadia spends the rest of the first season trying to find a way out.
  • Both the American limited series Seven Seconds and its inspiration, the Russian film The Major, begin with a police officer rushing to the hospital because his wife is in labor and accidentally hitting a boy with his car along the way.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "You Drive", Ollie Pope runs over and kills a kid before the opening narration, and the story revolves around his guilt making his car a Sentient Vehicle.

    Video Games 
  • The intro of Alan Wake has the protagonist retell a nightmare in which he ran over a hitchhiker on a road at night. Watch the scene here.
  • Happens at the beginning of Deadly Premonition, when Agent York crashes his car, startled by the Raincoat Killer that just appeared out of nowhere on the road.
  • The intro of Graveyard Keeper shows the protagonist in the real world and a still of a car rushing towards them, with soundeffects of a car suddenly breaking. The protagonist is then sent to the village where the game takes place, unclear if this is some sort of afterlife.
  • Right before the start of Persona 2 Eternal Punishment, Anna Yoshizaka was the victim of a hit-and-run that resulted in her Career-Ending Injury. This starts a series of events that begin with the murder of the suspect, trigger the events of the game (as it's the investigation behind the murder that brings the party together) and induces a boss fight with the one who ordered the murder.
  • To the Moon mixes this trope with Chekhov's Gun in the opening, as Neil and Eva are driving to their next client. A squirrel runs into the street and Neil can't swerve in time and drives over it, killing it instantly. The squirrel's corpse ends up helping to by-pass John's repressed memories about his deceased brother.
  • This is how the plot in Zettai Hero Project begins. The first Unlosing Ranger Pirohiko Ichimonji gets recklessly run over by Kyoka and Mana, killing him. The Main Character sees the incident and is more or less forced to inherit the Unlosing Ranger title from the dying Pirohiko and advance the story from there.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Rose Guns Days, the 1948 part begins with Rose hitting a girl who jumped in front of her car, apparently running from procurers. She loses her memories in the process and Rose gives her a temporary name, "Rapunzel". It turns out the girl literally jumped in front of the car so that Rose would "save" her, since her mission was to infiltrate Primavera and get close to Rose.

    Web Original 
  • As noted above, the sheer overuse of this method in the isekai genre has led to the idea of the truck being a sentient character hunting down main character material in the streets of Japan, leading to variations like a Transformer getting punched by a robot that turns into a truck, one comic even inverteding it with the truck getting sent to the fantasy world, and a one-shot manga (titled "Isekai Truck", appropriately enough), where the protagonist runs down selected Japanese persons to send them to a fantasy world in need of heroes.

  • Inverted in Mage & Demon Queen. The summoned hero, Axel, has spent a very long time going from world to world to act as a summoned hero when he really wants to go home to his own world, making him very bitter and willing to do anything to get home, no matter how many people he hurts in the process. Turns out, the reason that the gods never sent him home was because they'd pulled him out of his world moments before being hit by a truck, which happens to him the moment he gets sent back. The Distant Finale shows that he managed to survive, but lost an arm, a leg, and an eye in the crash.

    Western Animation 
  • In Action League NOW!, whenever someone goes out into the road, they will get run over by a car (or some other kind of vehicle on occasion). This has even defeated the Monster of the Week a few times.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: "Christmas" opens with everyone in town in the holiday spirit... and then the Wattersons accidentally run someone over. The family minus Nicole believe the man is an amnesiac Santa Claus, causing Richard to go out and do good deeds to get himself off the naughty list for running over Santa while the kids try to jog his memory.
  • In BoJack Horseman, BoJack and Wanda's subplot in "After The Party" starts when they run over a deer (an anthropomorphic one) and have to find him and get him to the hospital.
  • Played for drama In-Universe in the Defenders of the Earth episode "100 Proof Highway". When Mandrake discovers that Kshin has been taking liquor from his drinks cabinet, and that Kshin doesn't understand how dangerous alcohol can be, he conjures up a vision in which Kshin (aged up to the same age as Rick, LJ and Jedda) drunkenly drives straight into the path of an oncoming truck and is killed. Afterwards, Mandrake tells a shocked Kshin that this is what "one little drink" can lead to.
  • The song and animated film Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer revolve around the titular vehicular accident happening to the protagonist's grandmother courtesy of Santa Claus. While the song is about how the narrator discovers in a darkly comedic fashion that Santa truly exists, the animated special revolves around the Black Sheep of the family trying to sue Santa for whatever she can and Santa accidentally kidnapping Grandma because the collision made her forget where she lives.
  • Several examples in The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Bart Gets Hit By A Car", Bart gets hit by a car. Being more specific, he gets hit by C. Montgomery Burns' car, and the episode revolves around the courtroom hearing that ensues when Homer decides to sue Burns for all the money he can.
    • In "Brake My Wife, Please", Homer gets addicted to walking after losing his driver's license, while Marge gets stressed from all driving she has to do for her family now. This culminates with Marge impulsively attacking Homer, starting with her hitting him with her car. This shows marital issues between them.
    • In "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-bot", Bart deliberately throws his bicycle in the path of Dr. Hibbert's car. After the collision, Dr. Hibbert assures Bart he'll pay for a new bike, then returns to his car, vowing to keep his eyes on the road... before getting distracted and hitting Snowball II as well, killing her.
  • Sonic Boom: Played with in "Three Men And My Baby!", where the episode starts with Sonic and Tails riding their hoverboards being towed by Knuckles' monster truck, which swerves out of control when Knuckles gets distracted by the pizza from his portable oven. Lady Walrus is in the truck's path and Knuckles manages to swerve away at the last moment to avoid running her over... only for the tree his truck crashes into instead to fall onto Lady Walrus and injure her so that she must entrust her baby Chumley to Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles for the episode's plot.


Video Example(s):


Kazuma's Death

His death is so embarrassing that everybody seems to laugh at it. It also subverts and parodies the cliched isekai trope of getting run over by a truck into the new world.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / UndignifiedDeath

Media sources: