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Running Over The Plot

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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.

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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.

If a character (nearly) runs into someone, but doesn't 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.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in 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.

    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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
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    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "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.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

    Western Animation 

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