A character falls or is pushed off the edge of a building or cliff to their death. No One Should Survive That!, right?
Wrong. The next shot reveals that their fall has been interrupted. If Played for Laughs, it's usually a window-washing platform or a deck on a lower level that saved their life. If Played for Drama, the character will probably be holding on to a ledge or protruding pole. If they've gone off a cliff, it's usually a small tree that's likely to start breaking under their weight to add further suspense, in which case this situation has turned into a Literal Cliffhanger.
The invoked version of this trope is Suicidal "Gotcha!", where a character willingly jumps off, knowing they will be saved by whatever object is waiting below. Sister trope of Catch a Falling Star where a falling character is caught mid-air by some entity and Trash Landing / Car Cushion where the landing gets cushioned by an object on the ground.
- YuYu Hakusho: Overshadowed by others' badassery, heroes team boasty member Kuwabara has his second fight with Byakko the White Tiger (to get the latter out of the way to Artifact of Doom infesting human world with demon insects) end with both fighters thrown off a small elevated stone plateau down into lava. It's soon revealed that Kuwabara's sash got stuck on a sharp rock protrusion and the guy is hanging there scared shitless, flailing and crying for help as the thing is about to tear.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Joey has a few instances of jumping out of a Kurama nest, only to fall into another one. This ends when there isn't another nest waiting below; fortunately, there is a branch with a capsule that reveals Baby Dragon.
- In Pokémon: The Series, while Serena is running towards a field of flowers, she fails to notice a cliff in front of her; the ledge breaking under her foot and causing her to slide down the cliff, with Ash grabbing her hand and getting pulled down with her. While the cliff is revealed to not be that high, Ash does end up with a twisted ankle from the slide.
- De Cape et de Crocs: After the heroes are made to Walk the Plank, Don Lope comes up gasping when he hears his friends calling to him, seeing that they've somehow managed to find a tiny platform in the middle of the Atlantic. They never figure out what it is, but the reader gets to see that they're standing on the highest rooftop of a sunken city (bonus points for the characters coincidentally discussing the existence of Atlantis). They eventually escape thanks to the Flying Dutchman (actually a ship impaled on a massive fish).
- In Tintin - Tintin in America, Tintin falls off a cliff while pursued by angry natives, but is saved by a small tree with a ledge right below... and that ledge has an entrance to a secret cave.
- Subverted in the 1981 animated feature Heavy Metal. The ravaged Taarna come to upon a ledge within a very deep pit. Some poor Red Shirt is thrown in, and he misses the ledge and continues plummeting into the depths, screaming all the way.
- Used in Balto II: Wolf Quest when jumping on a platform hidden in the mist.
- The Emperor's New Groove: Played comedically during the climactic fight between Yzma and the heroes. For no apparent reason, a trampoline seller mistakenly sets up one in the palace...in exactly the right place to catch the screaming Yzma as she falls and rocket her back towards the fight again.
- The Lord of the Rings
- In The Two Towers, Frodo starts climbing down a cliff face when the cry of a Nazgul causes him to freeze and fall. A fortunately-placed ledge catches him.
- In the climax of The Return of the King, when Frodo and Gollum wrestle for the Ring, they both fall off the cliff towards the fiery pits of Mount Doom. While Gollum, along with the Ring, falls into the lava and dies, Frodo manages to grab a ledge so that Sam can pull him up and save him.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina takes Daggett out the window to escape his mooks, only to land on a window washing platform.
- In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond and Wai Lin who are chained together escape the villain by performing a Super Window Jump out of a highrise. It looks like suicide until the next shot when we see them land on a deck one floor below.
- In Sherlock Holmes (2009), Blackwood pushes Irene Adler from Tower Bridge and it seems she fell to her death. A few scenes later we discover she just fell onto a platform below and is well off.
- Batman (1989): Happens twice in the Gotham City Cathedral.
- Batman lets one of the Joker's thugs knock him around and toss him over the edge of a platform, but grabs onto the structural supports just below and out of sight. When the thug peeks down, Batman swings his legs up to grab him by the neck, slam his head into the bell, and dump him down the shaft.
- Later, as Batman and Vicki Vale peer over the edge of the balcony to see if the Joker has truly fallen, he surprises them by yanking them over, having landed on a ledge a few feet down.
- In The Untouchables (1987), Eliot Ness chases Frank Nitti onto the roof where he waits in ambush. Ness rolls to the side to evade his fire, only to roll right off the roof with a scream. A smirking Nitti saunters up to the edge to look over, only to be shot at by Ness who's lying on a wooden platform, presumably put up for painting or window washing.
- In Scary Movie 3, the lady who parodies Anna Morgan from The Ring jumps off a cliff only to crash into a tree branch. "Oh, shit!" she says before rolling off it. Watch the scene here.
- Played with in Super Fuzz. After developing his superpowers, Speed and his partner respond to a situation on the 23rd floor of a building. During the scuffle, Speed gets thrown out of the window. There's a window washing platform a couple of floors down, but Speed misses it. Instead, he uses his powers to safely land on the sidewalk. When he rejoins the fight, his partner looks out of the window, sees the platform, and assumes this trope got played.
- In the 1971 French Louis de Funès comedy Sur un arbre perché (Perched On A Tree), the car containing the heroes goes off a cliff but is caught in a tree on the way down. The plot revolves around them trying to get out of this precarious situation.
- In The Cannonball Run sequel, Sammy Davis Jr does an Enter Stage Window to Dean Martin in a high rise hotel room. As his character is in the middle of trying to seduce a girl, he's not happy and shoves him out the window, only to be surprised when Sammy stands up unharmed (he's standing on a window washing platform).
"You are the tallest short man I've ever seen."
- In the German movie Peas at 5:30, the hero who went blind after a car crash seeks to commit suicide by jumping from a rooftop. The jump doesn't go as planned as he lands on a table of a terrace located right below top floor.
- In Buck Privates, Herbie falls over the edge of a cliff during an army training exercise. When Smitty looks down and asks him what he's doing in the tree he's clinging to, Herbie shouts back, "I sat on it when it was an acorn!"
- Parodied in Spy Hard. Dick Steele takes a horse up to the roof of a hotel while fleeing from one of the bad guys (on a lawnmower), but he ends up falling off the ledge. It turns out that that the horse landed inside a pool that was just one floor down, while Dick somehow landed inside a Harrier Jump Jet (actually part of a billboard, but it scares off the bad guy before he can notice this).
- Invoked in Down Periscope when Captain Dodge makes Pascal Walk the Plank blindfolded. Turns out there's a helpful fishing boat moored alongside, and he lands in a net instead of the water.
- During his fight with Phasma in The Last Jedi, Finn is kicked down an abyss, presumably falling to his death. But the next scene reveals he landed on a moving platform which lifts him back up.
- The Million Dollar Duck: done breathtakingly in the climax of this 1971 Disney film. A boy and his pet duck are being chased by his parents and a whole gang of adults (because the duck lays golden eggs). On the roof of a tall office building, he sets a ladder on the edge over to the next building, and starts crawling across it to escape. But the ladder is only a few inches longer than the gap, and his movements gradually shift it until it falls. Unusally for this trope, we actually see ladder plummet — about five feet, where it's caught on moldings on each building that are so narrow, you didn't notice them! (More suspense comes when the wooden ladder starts to break. Dad saves him.)
- Overnight Delivery - When the car drops off the cliff, a clever overhead angle disguises the fact that the ledge actually is a ledge, until the occupant wonders why he's not dead.
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Ethan Hunt tries to climb up the cable holding a net bag of medical supplies hanging beneath a flying helicopter, but slips and falls, hitting the bag and rolling off it. When the people flying the helicopter look down in puzzlement, they see nothing there. Then a Reveal Shot shows Ethan has managed to grab onto the net underneath. Later Ethan crashes the helicopter which then rolls off a cliff. It's then shown that Ethan is holding on the above-mentioned cable whose cargo hook has hooked onto a rock, supporting the helicopter. Then the rock starts to crack under the weight...
- Bloodshot (2020). While fighting in the elevator shaft of a skyscraper, Dalton throws Ray Garrison off the elevator platform and smirks, "Let's see him survive that!" Cue Ray shooting past him on an adjacent elevator platform.
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: After the Big Bad blasts him, Sorcerer Supreme Wong falls from Wundagore Mountain, seemingly to their death. They are revealed a couple of scenes later to have landed on a narrow ledge and be none the worse for wear, and then proceeds to climb back up in time for the final confrontation with said Big Bad.
- In the Novelization of the Walt Disney Presents Made-for-TV-Movie The Whiz Kid and the Carnival Caper, the Whiz Kid's little sister crawls down a sewer grate to get his model rocket, which she had been playing with without his permission and accidentally launched down there. She tries to just reach in but she ends up falling down into the sewer; she thinks it's going to be a long painful drop to the bottom but she's saved by catching a ledge not to far below street level. She ends up having to drop the rest of the way anyway in order to get out, but she can do it a little bit at a time and not all at once.
- The Fifth Elephant: Vimes has an old wooden stair fall out from under him while climbing out a pit, he is saved by landing on the stair of the flight below before that too gives way, and he lands on the flight below even that one; however it is lampshaded that while in theory that is a survivable way of getting back to the bottom, most of the falling stairs have taken out a lot more below him and he better start considering other options really quickly if he wants to survive.
- In the novelization of the animated film BIONICLE 3: Web Of Shadows, Roodaka demonstrates the power of fear to Vakama by ordering three of her Visorak minions to jump to their deaths from atop a skyscraper's balcony, to which they immediately comply - naturally, there's a ledge to catch them.
Vakama: I didn't know there was a ledge...Roodaka: Neither did they.
- Unusually for a LEGO product, the actual film itself had no ledge, and six, rather than three Visorak ended up killing themselves. The novel was presumably written based on an earlier script, while the film went on to push the boundaries of what LEGO allowed the creators to get away with.
- Doctor Who:
- Used for one of the most notorious Cliffhanger Copouts in episodes 2/3 of the story "Genesis of the Daleks". Sarah Jane falls from a rocket-access tower in the cliffhanger, only to land on a platform that definitely was not there in earlier shots in the sequence.
- Happens due to poor editing in "Dragonfire" when the cliffhanger at the end of episode one had the Doctor dangling over a giant bottomless chasm, but by the start of episode 2 a small ledge has appeared for him to clamber down onto.
- In Day Break (2006), two mooks fetch the hero and throw him from a rooftop. Then the camera pans down to show him having safely landed on top of the building's entrance canopy.
- In Hawaii Five-0 episode "I Helu Pu", McGarrett goes over the side of a building trying to save a drunken suicidal man. Danny rushes to the ledge only to see they have both fallen onto a balcony.
- One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit sees the team trying to track down an ex-con who was desperate to avoid going back to prison and thus shoved Stabler off of a roof. Luckily for Stabler, there was a platform just below, so he suffered only minor injuries.
- That's how Holmes survives the battle with Moriarty in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. An Invoked Trope, since he took the time first to study the potential battlefield.
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Rise", the Villain of the Week throws Tuvok off a Space Elevator tens of thousands of feet above the ground, smugly goes back inside and closes the hatch. Then we see Tuvok has grabbed onto part of the elevator that's sticking out. Problem is, even after climbing back on the elevator he can't get through the locked hatch, and the elevator is climbing rapidly into the upper atmosphere where there's no air to breathe.
- During the "Masquerade" storyline on the Soap Opera The City (a reimagining of Loving), the killer in question sabotages an elevator so that Sydney will fall down the empty shaft, then shoves her when she manages to catch herself. However, someone else happens along and finds Sydney just a floor below, having fallen onto the elevator and therefore suffering only a sprained wrist.
- In the cliffhanger ending of Iron Fist (2017) episode "Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch", Danny Rand tries climbing up the outside of a skyscraper to Harold Meachum's penthouse, only to be discovered and shoved out the window. The next episode shows this trope happened twice; first Danny is able to grab onto a light pole sticking out from the side of the building, then he falls onto a ledge and knocks himself unconscious.
- Referred to in the original Dragonlance: Fifth Age Dramatic Adventure Game's "obscure death" rule - where for the first several modules in the series named player characters and plot important non player characters literally could not die until after a prescripted time - if they fell off a thousand foot cliff to certain doom, they'd always get saved by a convenient hidden tree/ledge out of view.
- In The Secret of Monkey Island, if Guybrush gets too close to the edge of a particular cliff, it will break off and he'll fall, apparently to his death. a false Have a Nice Death message appears for a few seconds, then disappears as Guybrush soars back onto the plateau, with the explanation that he landed on a rubber tree (Needless to say, rubber trees do not work this way in real life).
- In La-Mulana 2, one of the final rooms in the game includes a collapsing bridge the player is encouraged to run across. However, actually letting themselves fall reveals the room below is not only safe, it contains a hidden save point.
- In Metroid: Other M, Anthony attacks Ridley to save Samus, but Ridley knocks him off the platform and he falls into a lava pit where he is presumed to be dead and his in-game profile even has him marked as killed in action. At the ending, Anthony shows up alive and well with only some singes to his armor. It's revealed that Anthony managed to freeze a lava monster on his way down with his freeze gun, providing a safe platform for him to fall on.
- Happens on one Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoon, in which Wile E. falls off a cliff and lands on a ledge just below. He's at first relieved, until the ledge gives way.
- The Simpsons:
- Subverted in "Homer The Great" when Homer joins the Stonecutter Lodge. One of the trials is the "Leap of Faith," a five-story plunge where they push you off a ledge and you fall five stories - but it's really only a few feet. Homer falls the few feet, everyone laughs, and then the floor gives way sending Homer on a genuine five-story plunge.
- In episode "Mayored to the Mob", Homer accidentally pushes the mayor out of the window and assumes him dead. But a look out of the window reveals that the mayor is still hanging from a ledge below the window and Homer is able to pull him back in.
- Superman: The Animated Series episode "World's Finest" has the Joker and his thugs cause Bruce Wayne to topple from the terrace of a penthouse nightclub. "See that he's street pizza. In this town someone could have caught him!" the Joker orders, whereupon the mooks find Wayne alive and intact on a window washers' gantry several stories below the roof. Intersects with Deus ex Machina that such a gantry would be deployed there, at night, with no workers in sight.
- Subverted in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force when Shake falls off a cliff and manages to grab a flimsy tree branch, which then breaks before anyone can help.
- In the DuckTales (1987) episode "The Golden Fleecing", Scrooge is wrestling to keep ahold of the titular treasure as the harpies try to grab it from him and falls off the makeshift helicopter the triplets are flying as a result. Fortunately, he lands on a spot not far down — the head of the dragon that normally guards the fleece. (Even more fortunately for Scrooge, the dragon doesn't notice him as it's focused on someone else.)
- Happens in "Mama Luigi" from Super Mario World when Luigi retells Yoshi the story of how they first met. Luigi was attacked by a Sumo Bro ripping open the ground where Luigi "fell for hours" until he finally landed on a skull raft floating down a lava river below him. But, he goes over a lava fall and jumps off the raft where he falls and gets saved again by landing on a ledge with blocks.
- Batman: The Animated Series: In ''Nothing to Fear", the Scarecrow accidentally hits one of his henchmen with his fear toxin. The toxin's hallucinatory effects scare the henchman so much that he runs and jumps out of the Scarecrow's blimp. Fortunately, he is shown landing in a tree seconds later.
- Pilot T-Bone of the SWAT Kats gets thrown into a pit full of spikes by the villain Dark Kat. Razor is able to fish T-Bone out of that pit, where he was clinging to a small outcrop of rock.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Western Air Temple", Zuko gets blown off a platform by Combustion Man and it looks like he fell to his death, to the shock of the onlooking Gaang. The next shot reveals that Zuko was saved by holding on to a tree trunk right below the platform.
- In Star Wars Rebels episode "Rise of the Old Masters", Ezra is doing Jedi training on top of the Ghost as it's flying through the atmosphere. Zed is throwing cartons at him that he's supposed to deflect with his lightsaber, and eventually knocks him off the gun turret, but it turns out he's just landed on the hull of the ship. The next time this happens however he really does fall (fortunately Kanan saves him using the Force).
- One episode of Alpha Teens on Machines has the head of the Alpha Teens, Mr. Lee, being thrown off the top of a skyscraper by a vengeful rival. Everyone assumes the worst until after the villain has been dispatched it turns out that Mr. Lee landed in a window-washing platform that was near the top.
Mr. Lee: "It might not be the most high tech but I'll admit that it was quite conveniently placed."