Belkar: [tackling Crystal] Last minute field goal!! We're headed to overtime!
Bozzok: Damn it! See, THIS is why you don't take your time killing the heroes!
Oh, no! The villain has beaten the hero in a fight! Our hero is down on the ground, battered, bloodied and helpless. The villain triumphantly raises his weapon, delivers his gloating one-liner. This is it, our hero is done for! The Big Bad gleefully readies the Coup de Grâce...
... and dies.
There are three general ways that this happens. Either the hero pulls some last-minute trick out of his sleeve and delivers the killing blow to the villain, one of the other Big Damn Heroes leaps in from Behind the Black to finish off the baddie himself, or the villain was Already Dead.
If the good guy has the bad guy at his mercy, then a Sword over Head is the usual result. In that case, the hero will either stop himself or go through with it. The distinction between the two is that the good guy almost always gets to make the choice himself and live with the result. Occasionally, somebody else will kill the bad guy, either while the hero is thinking it over or just after the hero decided he couldn't do it. This will often happen eventually if the game makes use of a Coup de Grâce Cutscene. May be the result of a successful Diagonal Cut. Compare Ominous Adversarial Amusement.
Types of Thwarted Coup de Grâce:
- Bait-and-Switch Gunshot
- Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind
- Ominous Adversarial Amusement
- Sword over Head
- In Berserk, after completing a series of horrific and unimaginable deeds to his former friends Guts and Casca, Griffith, now Femto, leaves our Star-Crossed Lovers unconscious and dying on the ground of hell and is about to let the Apostles finish them off. Luckily for these two, the Skull Knight breaks through the Vortex and saves them just in the nick of time.
- In Naruto, at the climax of a heated battle between Sasuke and Itachi, Itachi has Sasuke cornered and is about to take Sasuke's eyes (and the Psychic Powers they impart) for his own. Itachi touches Sasuke on the bridge of his forehead... and then keels over, dead. Sasuke later finds out that Itachi was suffering from a terminal illness the whole time and was actually implanting his eyes' powers onto Sasuke just before his death.
- In Pandora Hearts Retrace LXXVIII, Oz is at Oswald/Glen's mercy, and the latter has just raised his sword to strike when he's shot in the hand by Gilbert. Of course, since he's Nigh Invulnerable, Glen didn't die, but Gil's "betrayal" of him was still heartwarming.
- Inverted and mixed with Mercy Kill in Claymore. Theresa, who was in battle with Priscilla, manages to get Priscilla on her knees. Undergoing a Super-Power Meltdown, Priscilla begs Theresa to kill her before she can turn into a monster, to which Theresa agrees. However, before she can kill her, Priscilla grabs her sword and slices Theresa's hands off and then decapitates her.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Mustang, who has just incinerated Envy back down to his parasitic state in a vengeful rage, has the now slug-like homunculus under the sole of his boot and is ready to kill him, until Riza Hawkeye shows up with a gun to his head, threatening to kill him per their promise. Scar and Ed soon join them, with Ed springing Envy away from Mustang, who he pointedly asks if this is what he wanted to be when he were to become Fuhrer. Mustang finally calms down, and after Envy fails at breaking them by mocking them for their failures, he breaks down in tears and commits suicide.
- In Neon Metathesis Evangelion , Plug Dummy-controlled EVA-01 is beating down on Bardiel-controlled EVA-03, clasping its hands over its head, ready to deliver a hammer strike that would kill the angel, the EVA and probably also Touji inside the EVA... when it suddenly stops. Rei, acting in unison with the 'her inside EVA-00', is using her powers as Lilith's soulbearer on the one Lilithian EVA unit.
- In the climax of Loved And Lost, Jewelius tries to decapitate his subdued aunt Celestia with a telekinetically held sword after his army is turned to stone by the Elements of Harmony. However, the sword is magically blasted away by his cousin Cadance.
- Happens to Frollo at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a result of him saying "And he shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!" while trying to kill the heroes. The gargoyle hes standing on gives way and sends him to his end. Bonus points for falling to the flames he started to kill one of the protagonists.
- Used in the climax of The Secret of NIMH when Justin has thrown out his sword and is giving a speech, Jenner sneaks up behind waiting to make the strike, by the time Justin notices Jenner has him, suddenly Jenner gets stabbed in the back,.....by a Mook he just stabbed.
- During the climax of Brave, when Bear!Elinor is tied down and Fergus is about to deal her a finishing blow, an arrow from Merida blasts the sword out of his hand.
- In Kubo and the Two Strings, Beetle interrupts both Sisters trying to finish off Monkey, first at the boat and again later at Hanzo's homestead.
- In Toy Story 2, Woody and the Prospector fight overt the former not wanting to go with the latter to be put on display in a toy museum. As the Prospector raises his pickaxe to tear Woody to pieces, he gets distracted by blinding camera flashes from Buzz and company.
- In Frozen, just as Hans is about to deliver the coup on the former queen Elsa, Anna(who gives up the chance to save herself in favor of her sister) swoops in and takes the blow, fortunately since she becomes frozen solid afterwards, the sword gets shattered instead of her and Hans gets knocked unconscious in the process.
- Lurtz, the head Uruk-Hai in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, has shot Boromir full of holes and is ready to deliver the killing shot when Aragorn leaps in and kills Lurtz. This gives Boromir enough time to deliver his dying speech.
- The climax of the Battle of Cowpens at the end of The Patriot has Colonel Tavington ready to deliver the killing strike to Benjamin Martin. Martin ducks under the sword and impales Tavington on his bayonet.
- Star Wars:
- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith has Mace Windu having just beaten Chancellor Palpatine in a lightsaber duel. Anakin charges in and tells Windu not to finish Palpatine as Palpatine is begging for his life. Just as Windu is about to Kill Him Already!, Anakin hacks Windu's hand off and Palpatine breaks out the Force Lightning.
- In Episode II, Dooku brings down Obi-Wan, but before he can deliver the final blow, a previously electrocuted Anakin gets better and jumps across the room to block it.
- Episode VI: Palpatine uses Force Lightning again, this time on Luke, and Vader stops him. Unusual in that it doesn't involve any weapons.
- In Gladiator, Emperor Commodus has ordered General Maximus to be executed. The soldier orders him to kneel so he can stab him. Maximus (with his hands tied) head-butts the soldier, takes his sword and then kills every other soldier who was guarding him. Maximus is badass.
- Serenity does this twice with Mal's confrontations with the Operative. The first time, Mal is surely beaten, and the Operative is about to finish him off with his sword when Inara's flashbomb goes off and stuns him. The second time, the Operative is about to kill Mal after having paralyzed him by grabbing a specific nerve cluster. Mal had that nerve cluster removed by shrapnel in the Unification War, and right as the Operative strikes, he twists out of the way and dislocates his shoulders.
- In Highlander, Connor MacLeod's first death is nearly his final as the Kurgan prepares to deliver the beheading shot, only to be tackled away by Connor's kinsmen.
- Standard issue in The Last Samurai, where Nathan takes advantage from the samurai opening himself up. However, Nathan was already wounded and fell unconscious after making the kill.
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Sheriff beats Robin with his father's sword and has Robin backed against the wall. The Sheriff turns to Marian, says, "Get ready", only to have Robin pull Marian's dagger out of his boot and stab the Sheriff.
- In the final duel of Rob Roy, Archibald Cunningham has Rob at his mercy and pauses to remind him that no quarter would be asked nor given. Rob grabs onto Archie's blade, preventing the dainty fop from delivering the killing blow, and hacks him nearly in two.
- Happens in Transformers: Dark of the Moon TWICE within 10 MINUTES of each other. First with Bumblebee, then with Optimus.
- In Thunderball, Largo has James Bond at gunpoint and is about to shoot him when he is killed by a harpoon fired by the girl he had tortured earlier.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the climactic battle nears the end as Davey Jones has Bootstrap Bill dead to rights. Right as he's about to finish Bill, his son William (whose mortal wound inflicted by Davey For the Evulz was the instigator for attacking Davey) stabs Davey's heart (with some assistance from Jack Sparrow), thwarting the finisher.
- Benjamin Mayhew thwarts one for Honor Harrington in The Honor of the Queen.
- In The Hunger Games, during the "feast" at the Cornucopia, Clove gets Katniss pinned down with a knife to her throat. She takes the time to gloat, and is promptly killed by Thresh for saying that she killed Rue.
- The Reynard Cycle: At the end of The Baron of Maleperduys, Drauglir has Reynard down on the ground and is about to finish him off when Rukenaw and Martin barrel into him. Drauglir is unharmed, but he gets distracted enough that Reynard manages to regain his feet and stab him right between the eyes.
- This happens in A Storm of Swords, during the duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane. Martell spends the entire fight using Hit-and-Run Tactics to wear Clegane down. Finally, he delivers what seems to be the final blow by impaling Clegane with a spear. Unfortunately, Martell is obsessed with hearing Clegane confess to the rape and murder of his sister (and the sister's children), so he gets too close while trying to force a confession, allowing Gregor to grab him, pull him down, and then beat him to death. Doing the Sword over Head routine on a guy who is both the World's Strongest and Most Psychotic Man is a very bad idea. And yet despite this Oberyn still manages to get his revenge since his spear was coated in a deadly poison that leaves Clegane in unimaginable agony for days until he finally succumbs to his injuries.
- In Twig, the Duke of Francis has routed the forces of the rebel Reverend Mauer, defeated his I Surrender, Suckers gambit by having his infiltrators defuse the explosives that Mauer had planned to use in a Taking You with Me, and is about to cut his head off, only to discover in the most painful way possible that the rebel forces have developed working rapid fire sniper rifles.
- In Warrior Cats: The Last Hope, Ivypool is trapped by Hawkfrost and would have died if it weren't for Hollyleaf with a Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind. Hollyleaf gets a throat wound, however, and she dies while saving her.
- In the Buffy season 2 finale, Angelus has seemingly defeated Buffy in a sword fight. He goes to finish her off and she catches the blade between her hands.
- Heroes does this, though sometimes with a role reversal. Two good examples come from near the end of Season 2: HRG/Noah has Bob, the head of the Company at gunpoint, and pauses to remark about how if he just pulls the trigger it will all be over. Then, later, Victoria has Adam/Kensei at the end of a shotgun. Knowing he can regenerate, she says, "I knew it would take blowing your head off. Better late than never." Neither was successful, largely because they ran their mouths when they should've been pulling the trigger.
"What am I thinking now, Parkman?"
- In Stargate SG-1 this happens in the episode "The Warrior" when Teal'c kills Kytano/Imhotep
- In an episode of Babylon 5, Londo's old friend, who is accused of treason without proof, challenges him to a duel for supposedly conspiring against him. At the end, he has Londo on his knees, raises his sword for the final blow, and hesitates a split second, which is all Londo needs to stab his opponent in the gut. After the fight, Londo reveals to Vir that his friend threw the fight, as he was always better, in order to allow his family to escape disgrace. By rules of the combat, the victor assumes responsibility for his opponent's family. As such, they are now Londo's family, so the accusation of treason won't harm them.
- In Game of Thrones, the duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane a.k.a. The Mountain. Oberyn dominates the big man for most of the fight, making it apparent that this will be a Curb-Stomp Battle. However, in his attempt to get Gregor to confess to the murder of his niece and nephew and the rape and murder of his sister, he delays the finishing strike so long that his opponent manages to recover long enough to trip him and deliver a finishing strike of his own. (By which we mean "grasp Oberyn's skull like a bowling ball, confess just for the sake of rubbing salt into the wound, then crush his head like a grape.") To rub salt into the wound, Gregor does succumb to his injuries and the poison, but is "saved" as an undead servant. Oberyn is just dead.
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and its sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War allow Talion to deflect the Coup de Grâce when his health is emptied. There are a couple of limitations, though; he can only do this a few times each fight before he is automatically slain, the timing gets tighter each time, and he can't pull this on orcs with the No Mercy trait. Shadow of War also has Forthog Orc-Slayer, a Mysterious Protector who will occasionally pull a Big Damn Heroes on your behalf if you are about to die.
- Super Metroid has Mother Brain fire a rainbow beam which stuns Samus. When she prepares the second blast, the baby Metroid flies in to protect Samus. It gets itself vaporized in the process, but not before transmitting some of Mother Brain's energy to Samus... who is very, very angry at Mother Brain for hurting the baby Metroid. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle.
- Happens twice in this Order of the Stick episode.
- In Tower of God, Hwa Ryun attacked Rachel, which led to Baam jumping in between them to catch the strike. With Baam being beaten bloody to the ground, she gets ready for the final blow, but Baam's Defense Mechanism Superpower activates, slicing her right through the face.
- During the second Time Skip of White Dark Life, Nikolai Velenova finally regains Leila Belnades' trust (and reawakens her latent affection for him) by pulling one of these, interrupting Bowser Jr.'s No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in spectacular fashion to save Leila's life. (Granted, he doesn't make it in time to prevent Leila from being beaten to the point of unconsciousness, but he makes up for this by bringing Leila to his dorm room (to hide her from follow-up attacks), performing first aid on her, and ultimately calling in her cousin Anastasia to fix her up when his own efforts prove insufficient to treat her injuries.)
- Batman: The Animated Series: Batman loves this trope. The Riddler hates it. Batman once used this to save the Riddler's former lab partner that was suspected of sabotaging a brain enhancing disk.
- In one spectacular MMA bout, fighter Pete Sell landed a powerful, devastating body shot to opponent Scott Smith's liver. As Smith doubled over in agony, Sell rushed in to finish the job with his hands down, giving Smith the opportunity to deliver one last knockout punch. Smith won the fight, right before keeling over for medical attention.
- The most famous sports-world example is the 1978 Miracle at the Meadowlands. The New York Giants were leading the Philadelphia Eagles 17-12, they had possession of the ball with less than thirty seconds left in play after Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski was picked off, the Eagles had no timeouts, and the telecast was already rolling credits; all the Giants had to do was kneel down. Instead, they tried to run a handoff (which no Giant on the field wanted, but Giants QB Joe Pisarcik had gotten into hot water with Giants offensive coordinator Bob Gibson over changing the play at the line in previous weeks), the handoff was fumbled, and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards returned the loose ball for the game-winning touchdown. Gibson was promptly fired and never called another NFL play again.
- This play was so epic, it actually caused the development of the victory formation (now when the quarterback takes a knee, two running backs will flank him immediately behind him and a third will sit five or seven yards back as a safety) and legitimized taking a knee (before this, a lot of football people thought taking a knee was cowardly).
- Similar to the MMA bout above, in 2004 future boxing world lightweight champion Nate Campbell badly hurt his opponent Robbie Peden with a body shot, doubling Peden over and causing him to stagger around the ring. Peden was able to defend just well enough for the next 30 seconds or so to evade or block Campbell's attempts to finish him, and recovered enough to finally punch back. Campbell, in his arrogance and certainty of victory, stood in front of Peden with no defense at all and dared Peden to hit him again. Peden did, and Campbell fell over backwards like a tree going down. Link.