Someone's long fall is broken by an open dumpster or an open heaping trash can. The trash will usually be softer than anything else in the immediate vicinity - you'd think there was a chance of broken glass in there, but this is hardly ever a problem... maybe fictional people are better at wrapping it in cardboard.
Sometimes the trash just happens to be there, which is a lucky break if the person falling wanted to live. People Driven to Suicide who land in one of these will likely be unhappy about the Unwanted Rescue.
Sometimes, the person doing the falling aimed for the trash.
When the character picks themselves up, there is a good chance they will stop to remove debris or food from their clothing. More often than not includes a banana peel. For large trash piles, they might not need to stop — trash will fall off their clothes as they move. Bonus points if someone tries eating items from the trash.
Another common variation, limited solely to comic uses, generally to kids' shows and mostly to people who really deserve it, is the big-ol' pile of horsesh... er, manure.
May serve as a way for our heroes to end up Down in the Dumps.
Compare Dumpster Dive, where the character deliberately enters a garbage pile to retrieve something.
Note: This is a very risky stunt, and unless the only alternative is certain death, it would be best to think twice about doing this in real life. (The manure pile, while disgusting, is also less likely to kill you, assuming you don't land wrong — but still, don't try it unless there's no alternative.)
- Purposely arranged in Death Note so Matsuda can convincingly fake his death to escape from a cabal of Corrupt Corporate Executives.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Kusanagi gets thrown into a dumpster by a combat cyborg during a sting, but is fine thanks to being a cyborg herself. Batou finds it funny, she doesn't, and he wishes Togusa luck on the way back since he's riding with her. The next time we see her she's in an even skimpier outfit than usual since she had to change clothes, prompting Aramaki to ask if she's trying to get his attention.
- Gunslinger Girl. Roberta Guellfi jumps out a window into a trash container in order to Ditch the Bodyguards in "Hartmann's Letter".
- In Plastic Memories, Isla does this inadvertently in the first episode when she attempts to jump from one building to another. Unfortunately, she slips just before getting a good footing and she falls down on top of a trash container.
- In comic strip "Judge Dredd"; a perp running from Dredd sees a "laundry Chute" and jumps in, expecting to land in a nice soft pile of laundry; Dredd shouts "You fool! That's not a laundry chute, that's Garbage Disposal!" The usual sound effects ("Aaaaaiiiiieeee!" Grind! Crunch! Squelch!) ensue.
- The guards chasing Aladdin land on Crazy Hakim's Discount Fertilizer.
- During the chase at Tokyo Airport in Cars 2, both Mater and Finn McMissile escape from villains Grem and Acer by leading them through the fuselage of a Samairai plane, causing the two villains to fall into a waste disposal truck parked next to that plane. According to the novelization and comic, this happens to said villains again during the chase in London near the end, but such did not happen in the film (in the actual movie, both Grem and Acer meet their end when Holly Shiftwell knocks the two away from Mater and Lightning McQueen, then luring them both into a pub called "Ye Left Turn Inn", where the two are immediately beaten up by several trucks inside, including automobile versions of King Fergus, Lord Dingwall, Lord MacGuffin, and Lord Macintosh).
- In the trailers for TMNT, three of the turtles land from a jump off a fire escape, and make badass poses, looking menacing and ninja-y... and then Michelangelo takes a header into a dumpster instead, prompting facepalms from the other Turtles.
- Ace Ventura: Pet Detective: Ace falls and land on his back on a pile of garbage from a roof of a two story building when trying to catch the rare albino pigeon.
- Jackie Chan film Armour of God has a truckload of boxes conveniently placed for the car to land after a double highway overpass ramp jump.
- Eddie, the lead kidnapper in Baby's Day Out, gets knocked semi-unconscious and dropped off a building and into a garbage bin at one point while he and his two co-crooks are chasing after the titular baby. He survives, presumably partly due to being only half conscious and having a bunch of objects to break his fall on the way down.
- In a variation, Biff Tannen crashes his car against a manure truck in each of the two first films of the Back to the Future trilogy. (In the third film, it is his ancestor and a manure wheelbarrow.)
- One of Lane's amusingly pathetic suicide attempts in Better Off Dead ends with him falling unharmed into a garbage truck. This result is witnessed in passing by a couple of black tree-trimmers:
"Now that's a real shame when folks be throwin' away a perfectly good white boy like that!"
- Heroic Wannabe Defendor does this, then winces in pain as he hauls himself out.
- A Running Gag in The Fighter has Dickie constantly jumping out a second story window into a trash heap to avoid his family catching him in a crack house. They quickly learn to anticipate the move.
- Foul Play with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase has a scene like this.
- Done rather painfully in Lethal Weapon 4, as the person falling landed feet first rather than back-first to distribute the force of landing.
- Hot Fuzz: "Skip." note
- Neo, while running from the three Agents in The Matrix, jumps from a window and conveniently lands on a pile of cardboards and bags of trash.
- Done hilariously to Cady in Mean Girls after parading down the hall with "The Plastics".
- Notably averted in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Russian cop Sidorov realises that Ethan Hunt has escaped from his hospital room, and looks out the window to find him standing on a ledge several stories above a garbage container. An amused Sidorov points out that it's not a good idea. Ethan agrees and starts edging back towards him.
- Marv in Sin City escapes the hotel this way. The same sequence is also included in the original comic.
- In Southland Tales, an open dumpster is padding Taverner's fall from the rooftop.
- Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope: "Into the garbage chute, flyboy!"
- Steel falls into the garbage (where he belongs) after trying to leap buildings. But is able to get away because the dumpster is also where he stored his bike.
- In Stuart Little 2, when Falcon drops Stuart from a tower to kill him, the mouse lands on a dumpster.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) has a variant where Shredder falls into a garbage truck. His (unlikely) survival is immediately rendered moot when Casey Jones activates the compactor. But then he somehow did survive to appear in the sequel.
- In Thomas and the Magic Railroad, Diesel 10 lands in a garbage barge after falling off the viaduct at the end of the chase scene. At which point he quips, "Oh well. Nice time of the year for a cruise."
- Valentine has Lily be shot by arrows until she falls off the balcony into a dumpster aka Death by Irony.
- Hilariously subverted in We're the Millers. David attempts this when fleeing from three thugs chasing after him. He drops his backpack down first, but it hits the trash can lid, causing it to close. He then lands on the lid instead, and due to the pain, he's unable to move, allowing the three thugs to steal his stuff.
- Deadpool escapes from Colossus by jumping off a bridge into a garbage truck.
- Spider Robinson's Callahan's Lady includes a short story with a villainess with some Applied Phlebotinum that forces the characters to do anything she asks them to. One of the orders she gives to the protagonist and another character is "don't go downstairs". They use Exact Words to turn that into "Do not descend a staircase" and the protagonist jumps into a dumpster from an upstairs window.
Maureen: "If you are able to arrange your life to avoid dropping into whorehouse garbage from a height, I suggest you do so."
- This is the fate of Veruca Salt and her parents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Nut Room's squirrels toss them down the bad nut chute, which is directly connected to the factory's rubbish pipe, and emerge from the building in the denouement completely covered in garbage. It could have been worse though — the rubbish pipe ends at an incinerator, and had luck not been with them, they would have been burned alive!
- Discworld: When Moist von Lipwig jumps from the window in Going Postal he lands in manure. This causes him to think, "On the positive side, this meant that he had fallen into something soft. On the negative side, this meant that he had fallen into something soft."
- The Trials of Apollo: The first scene of the entire series is the title character landing in a New York City dumpster after being booted off Mount Olympus because his father is unhappy with him.
- The Amazing Extraordinary Friends: In "Revenge of The Wraith", the Wraith jumps of the the top of the cathedral carrying Vicki, gliding with his cloak. Ben, who has lost the insignia and does not have his powers, jumps after him and grabs hold. All three of them crash land in a pile of trash bags in the alley.
- Used extensively in The A-Team.
- In the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the Marlin", Sarah and a Fulcrom agent fight on a rooftop. Chuck arrives just in time to see them both go over the edge, but running to the edge he discovers that they landed safely in a dumpster.
- CSI has an episode where a liquor store robber jumped out a window and into a dumpster to escape the cops, but in a subversion of the Soft Glass trope the window glass cut into his neck and killed him.
- Doctor Who:
- In "Inferno", the detached TARDIS console drops the Doctor into a rubbish tip at the story's conclusion.
- In "Survival", the Doctor is thrown from the explosion when neither he nor the guy he's playing motorcycle-chicken with swerves in time. He lands face first (and arse up) in a pile of rubbish someone was nice enough to leave lying in an abandoned field.
- "Boom Town": Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen's emergency teleporter allowed her to escape 10 Downing Street, unlike the rest of her family — but she wound up in a skip on the Isle of Dogs.
- Invoked in Jessica Jones: Kilgrave has told Will Simpson to jump off a building, so Jessica saves him by knocking him out, dragging him down to the alley beneath the building, and dropping him in a dumpster. When he wakes up, she tells him that he jumped off the building and landed in the dumpster. Since Simpson believes he fulfilled Kilgrave's command, the compulsion to jump goes away.
- Daredevil upholds his no-killing rule by dropping a guy he's finished interrogating into a dumpster several stories below. Benefit of the doubt says that his Super Senses told him there was nothing dangerous.
- In the opening chase of the first episode of The Last Detective, a young thief jumps off a balcony into a pile of rubbish bags and hurts his leg. DC "Dangerous" Davies stops to ask if he's OK before following him.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit turned this into pure terror. While running from the police, a suspect jumps to safety in a garbage truck. Unfortunately at that moment the driver starts compacting the trash in the truck and could hear neither the screams of the victim nor the cops due to headphones he was wearing.
- MacGyver (1985): In "The Coltons", Frank and Jesse tackle a pair of bad guys out through a second storey window and land in a dumpster which is miraculously full of bags of shredded paper.
- Subverted in Malcolm in the Middle after Stevie goes flying through the air. The camera cuts to a man raking an extremely large pile of leaves, and Stevie smacks into a tree about 50 feet behind him.
- Tested by the MythBusters — if you're certain there's nothing dangerous under that top layer of trash, it's doable. Their "best case" setup assumed a dumpster used by a mattress factory and thus full of foam scrap; it did a better job of cushioning Buster's (and later Adam's) fall than the regulation stunt airbag.
- However, on the flip side (and the main factor working against this trope's practicality), if you're not absolutely sure that the dumpster's safe, it probably isn't. When the Mythbusters went to a waste disposal facility to look through dumpsters, they noted that the three that they selected at random to look at had items like medical waste, rebar and wood slats, which would likely severely injure anyone jumping into the dumpster. The expert they talked to backed up those findings, noting that dumpsters filled only with soft material, such as the mattress factory example above, make up a very, very small percentage of the total garbage received.
- In an episode of ''The Nanny", Fran agrees to go out with a guy, whom she had rejected in High School. Then he asks her to marry him, or he will jump out of a window and kill himself. But when it seems like everything has turned out alright (Maxwell has read a play he has written and decided to produce it), he trips and falls down several floors by accident, only to have his life saved by landing in a garbage pile on the pavement below them.
- An episode of NCIS: Los Angeles has Hetty, of all people, sneak out of a locked-down building this way. After landing in the dumpster, she lays still for a few seconds, having the wind knocked out of her, but seems fine otherwise. She does mention that she's getting old.
- Person of Interest had a more sensible version when a man does a Destination Defenestration into a crate of styrofoam packing pellets. Even then he's stunned for several minutes (and would probably have broken his neck smashing through the plate glass).
- Recycled In Space with Quark, a short-lived sci-fi comedy about a spaceship whose job is to pick up garbage. In the final episode, the captain is subject to Dramatic Space Drifting when the computer goes homicidal and strands him outside the spaceship. Quark is able to release the garbage loading chute and drop inside.
- Roswell: In "The Morning After", this is the way Max and Michael get out of the Sheriff's office. Granted, it was a two stories fall and there was nowhere else to land but the dumpster.
- Scrubs: Ted accidentally falls off the hospital roof after being startled (while contemplating suicide). He is saved by landing on a pile of garbage bags that the Almighty Janitor and his sidekick had been hiding on a lower roof as part of a money-making scheme.
- Like in L&O SVU above, in The X-Files episode "Essence" a foe falls off a roof while fighting Mulder and Scully. He seems to land safely in a garbage truck... but then the compactor is activated.
- This trope can occasionally be seen being played straight on wrestling whenever there's a backstage brawl. One example is when The Undertaker had Hulk Hogan tied to the back of his motorcycle and was dragging him around backstage only for Hogan to go crashing into a pile of empty cardboard boxes, while the announcers played up how painful that apparently would be.
- Naegi in Danganronpa at the end of the fifth trial drops several stories (depending on how many levels down the trial room is) into the school's trash dump without any complication, despite falling headfirst next to a solidly-built desk and chair. Some hours later Kirigiri does the same thing, with a cup of ramen stuck to her head as the only consequence. Later on, the two of them make it back to the first floor on a ladder that takes them roughly half an hour to climb.
- In Dying Light, hero Kyle Crane uses trash piles to break his fall. At one point he wonders if he'll ever land on one full of rusty knives.
- In Leisure Suit Larry: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards, Larry leaves a brothel by jumping out of the window and landing in a large dumpster, in which he even finds a hammer which he needs later in the game.
- During The Matrix: Path of Neo this is averted during the chase level, you either jump off the balcony and land a few feet away or run down the stairs.
- In the video game adaptation of Men in Black, near the beginning, you're being fired upon while descending a building's fire escape. You can't descend all the way down because you'll die before the enemies get within the range of your weapons, so your only choice is to leap down into the dumpster.
- At the beginning of Perfect Dark Zero's Rooftops Escape mission, Jack conveniently lands in a trash bin after being knocked off the rooftops.
- Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (1997) ends with Carmen doing this when escaping from ACME headquarters. The dumpster she lands in transforms into a car, but one of the characters holds it in place before she can use it. The scene then cuts to Carmen in a cell behind anti-time travel laser bars, and the credits roll.
- In Resident Evil 4, Leon and Ashley escape from a part of Saddler's island compound by jumping down a trash chute, and come out no worse for the wear. The same chute can be used to dispose of a few Militia with a crane beforehand, but all bets are off as to whether they die when tossed down it.
- In Tiny Toon Adventures Buster Busts Loose, if Buster loses a life, he will sometimes fall into a dumpster.
- In a Consolers strip, Sony throws Konami far away, and she lands headfirst into a trash can.
- Errant Story protagonist and Anti-Hero Jon has a model of the genre, as a roof collapses under him as he's prowling the rooftops to sneak into Saus. This leads to a slightly uncomfortable reunion.
- Girl Genius: One of the Geisterdamen in Paris falls from her rooftop chase of Agatha's group into a Parisian dumpster when Dimo crushes her giant riding spider.
- Parodied and subverted in Sluggy Freelance. Rammer doesn't just fall on a dumpster, he falls on a dumpster full of pillows. Unfortunately it was closed at the time, so he busted up his ribs. Torg later points out the irony.
- In Batman Beyond, Terry gets thrown into a dumptster, and flies out of it just as it's being picked up by a couple of garbagemen. While one is shocked, his companion just shrugs it off with, "A guy's gotta eat."
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Batman punches the Joker through a window and across a street where he lands in a dumpster in "Joker: The Vile and The Villainous!".
- In Darkwing Duck, the "Just Us Justice Ducks" episode sees Darkwing falling out of a skyscraper and into a garbage truck. At the end, it looks like Negaduck is about to get the same treatment, but Darkwing drives the truck out of the way at the last second, causing him to crash into the pavement instead.
- In the episode "Luck of the Fryish", Fry falls headfirst into a garbage can after electrocuting himself on some power-lines. A fast-food clerk then comments "That is one unlucky guy!" as he dumps his bucketful of waste into the same can.
- Played with in the episode "Roswell That Ends Well", when Fry pushes his young grandfather, Enos out of the way of a moving vehicle, on to a pile of rusty bayonets. The vehicle itself turned and wasn't headed towards Enos.
- Regularly on Hong Kong Phooey, the title hero changes into his kung fu get-up in a file cabinet and goes down a chute from an ironing board cabinet into a dumpster where his Phooeymobile is housed.
- In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "Nemesis," Jonny and Hadji end up in a garbage dumpster while running away from some bad guys.
Hadji: Jonny, this was—Jonny: ...A really rotten idea?
- The Ruby-Spears Megaman cartoon has an example where Megaman is being overwhelmed by Wily's bots and needs to make a getaway off a bridge. He spends a superblast on Guts Man, knocking him into the other bots, and while they're picking themselves up from that, Megaman and Rush jump off the bridge onto a garbage barge to get away. Surfacing from it with a banana peel on his head, he wonders aloud whether Wily's bots or himself have the worse end of the deal.
- The Simpsons:
Wiggum: And to think, those stupid environmentalists were protesting this landfill.Homer: Solid waste. I could kiss you. [kisses it] Ewww... [kisses it] Ooh... [kisses it] Blech... [kisses it] Ooh, I think this was pizza...
- In the "Treehouse of Horror" episode where Homer is sucked into the
fourththird dimension, when he escapes he lands in a dumpster.
- In "Marge on the Lam", Ruth with Marge brakes and stops in time before driving into the chasm, but Homer and Chief Wiggum fail to stop and fly over the cliff until they are saved by a landfill mountain.
- In the "Treehouse of Horror" episode where Homer is sucked into the
- Static from Static Shock seems to have an extra superpower laser guiding him to the nearest dumpster whenever tossed anywhere by a villain. The show even lampshades this several times.
- In the TUGS episode, "High Tide", when Zebedee's steel rig damages the railway bridge and causes it to collapse, Top Hat is forced to save the Goods Engine by catching it in Lord Stinker the Garbage Barge when it comes across the bridge.
- The sheriff in the first Bunny & Claude cartoon falls out of a multi-story window and into a dumpster twice.
- Either Truth in Television or an Older Than Steam urban legend for propaganda purposes: In the (Second) Defenestration of Prague on May 23, 1618, two Catholic regents and a secretary were thrown from a third-story window at Prague Castle by a mob of Protestants. The three men fell seventy feet but somehow managed to survive. The Catholic Church proclaimed this a miracle; they must have been caught by intercessionary angels, or the Virgin Mary herself. Protestants spread the counterpoint that the men had landed in a conveniently located pile of manure.
- The traditional soft landing method for high stunt falls in film and TV was (very deeply stacked) piles of empty cardboard boxes, which progressively collapse and absorb the impact, allowing a landing without injury. Example. The boxes need to be unflattened, as it's the air inside them that provides most of the cushioning. Nowadays purpose-built airbags are usually used instead.
- A man in New York attempted to end his life by jumping from his ninth story apartment. Due to an incredibly lucky combination of a blizzard with massive snow buildup, which caused a delay in trash collection, he survived the fall when he landed on the snow and trash bags.
- The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and spin-offs recommend that you always aim for a full dumpster - it's usually better than landing on concrete.
- Skydiver Gary Connery used an enormous pile of cardboard boxes to land without a parachute after jumping out of a helicopter.