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Twisted Ankle

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Tony: Ah, let me guess... You're that person in horror movie that decides that since all your friends are dead, you really need to go check out the demonic, breathing noise down in the basement.
Kate: Well, it beats being the girl who twists her ankle and gets everybody else killed.

Any injury which causes a fleeing victim (call him Bob) to fall or become slowed, giving his pursuer a better chance to catch up. If the injury is crippling, other characters must decide whether to abandon Bob or assist him, knowing that supporting or carrying Bob will slow down other members of the group and put them in greater danger as well.

In war stories and action movies, a heroic team member with a damaged ankle may bravely say I Will Only Slow You Down and volunteer to do a one-person Last Stand with a machine gun to provide covering fire so their comrades can escape.

In a regrettably sexist tradition, this tends to happen to female characters more often than male ones, and a male character will very likely end up physically carrying her to safety.

A variant of this trope is also a form of the Game-Breaking Injury. A twisted ankle is bad enough to remove them from the game, but generally not something career ending.

The fact that it happens while fleeing is in fact Truth in Television - it's very easy to overextend your foot on uneven surfaces, trip, or land on it wrong. Especially in a panic.

A form of Broken Heel. Contrast Dramatic Slip. This trope may lead to a No One Gets Left Behind speech and/or Crisis Catch And Carry.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Smurfs: Smurfstorm's leg is injured when she falls out of a tree in The Betrayal of Smurfblossom. Though she insists that it's 'just a sprain' and won't slow her down, she winds up slipping when her group is fleeing the destruction of the Growlers' den and is nearly swept away by the floodwaters.

    Fan Works 
  • Anglerfish: Tim breaks his ankle after getting shot in the ankle while fleeing. His armored boot helped deflect the initial shot, but it knocked him off a ladder to a bad landing on the pavement beneath. He is unable to put any weight on it for at least the rest of the night even with a splint.
  • Five Petals (Naruto): Sasuke suffers a bad fall in the Forest of Death that leaves him with one of these. Unfortunately, his stubborn pride complicates matters: not only does he prove to be rather ungrateful for all the help he receives from others bailing him out, he refuses to drop out of the Chuunin Exams, insisting he can still fight in the tournament. This results in more than his ankle being broken, as he faces the prospect of his leg being permanently crippled.
  • In OSMU: Fanfiction Friction, Orla gets a twisted ankle directly upon landing on the island of Hy-Brasil. Before she can move any further, however, a dragon advances on her and attacks her, and by the time Oswald finds her, she's badly injured.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Igor, Heidi fakes a twisted ankle to get Igor away from Eva.
  • In The Last Unicorn, the main characters are forced to confront the Red Bull when Lady Amalthea (the eponymous unicorn in human form) falls down and is unable to continue running.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens a teenage boy twists his ankle (with the foot turned all the way around!) and has to be carried by his date.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alien: Covenant. A crewmember panics on encountering an alien, slipping in blood and falling to the floor, then slamming the airlock door on her foot when she tries to seal the room. She's able to free her foot in time but her ankle has been crushed, hobbling her efforts to flee when the alien breaks through the door.
  • Bloody Homecoming: In a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome moment, Nora twists her ankle when she jumps out of the bed of a pickup truck while wearing a pair of stiletto heeled ankle boots, which severely restricts her ability to run away from the killer. She is reduced to crawling under parked cars in an attempt to hide.
  • Carve Her Name with Pride. Violette Szabo twists her ankle while being chased by German soldiers. As I Will Only Slow You Down, she stays to give covering fire so her compatriots in La Résistance can escape. This was Truth in Television, as she'd already damaged her ankle during a parachute drop.
  • In the Misery-esque 2009 thriller Homecoming, a broken ankle is the injury that first leaves Elizabeth at the psychotic Shelby's tender mercies. In the process of "caring" for her "patient," Shelby intentionally aggravates the injury in order to torment Elizabeth, which significantly hampers Elizabeth's attempts to escape. After she fails to do so, Shelby further hobbles her by severing both her Achilles tendons with a pair of sharpened pruning shears.
  • In The Horror of Party Beach, female lead Elaine is searching for evidence of the film's monsters in a flooded quarry when said monsters suddenly appear from the water. As she attempts to flee, Elaine stumbles and gets her foot caught between two rocks; even after getting loose, the resulting injury prevents her from fleeing quickly enough to escape the monsters, and she only survives because the other characters show up in the nick of time.
  • Into the Grizzly Maze: While the group is fleeing from the bear, Kasey falls down the mountainside and impales her leg on a broken branch. They bandage her leg and stop the bleeding, but for the rest of the film, she has to be helped to walk by one of the other members of the group.
  • When Elena, Steph, and Scott are trying to catch up the the search and rescue chopper in Indigenous, Steph trips and breaks her ankle, necessitating Elena running to intercept it while Scott has to carry her away from the attacking monsters.
  • Pagan Warrior: While fleeing the castle, Queen Silvia trips over absolutely nothing on an unobstructed path and sprains her ankle; forcing King Rollo to stop and help her and allowing the Vikings to catch up.
  • Happens in Predators to Edwin. He blunders into a trap designed to maim, and gets his leg messed up. However, the hero Royce knows the point of the trap is to wound one person to slow the group down as they try to help him. Royce refuses to make himself vulnerable that way and leaves Edwin to be hobbled around by the sniper Isabelle.
  • Resident Evil: Retribution. The housewife version of Alice hobbles out of a crashed car more slowly than the zombie horde charging up behind her, yet escapes into a nearby house due to a handy scene cut.
  • In Rovdyr, Jorgen twists his ankle when he and Camilla are fleeing through the woods: greatly slowing his pace and forcing the pair of them to hide rather than run when one of the hunters gets close.
  • In Scarecrow Slayer, Mary sprains her ankle when she falls out of the upper storey of the frat house while escaping the Scarecrow. This leaves her badly limping and easy prey for the Scarecrow when he catches up with her.
  • Parodied in Scary Movie, where a very Genre Savvy victim mocks this trope while demonstrating it in a very extreme manner to the increasingly horrified killer, complete with a sickening snap and a protruding fracture.
  • In Siren (2010), Ken trips while chasing after the phantasmal Silka and sprains his ankle, making him easy prey for the dead sailor. The next morning, his ankle is fine, calling into question how much of those events was real.
  • Both heroes and villain experience this towards the end of The Terminator. Kyle has a gunshot wound that slows him down; fortunately the Terminator has also damaged a leg, slowing down its pursuit. Then Sarah catches a piece of shrapnel in her thigh in the same explosion that blows the Terminator's legs off.
  • Urban Legend features a chase scene involving sexy radio host Sasha. At one point, she's tossed over the railing of a stairwell and twists her ankle after falling. Unable to run, she opts to return to a third floor room to hide before being cornered and murdered by the masked killer.
  • VHS features two men in different segments (Clint in "Amateur Night" and Gary in "Tape 56") taking a tumble down the stairs and suffering a severe break while fleeing.

  • Complained about in a Discworld book or two, generally by a female character who hates the cliché of the pretty heroine twisting her ankle and getting carried off by the hero and is determined not to be so soppy herself.
  • Invoked in "The Gypsies in the Wood". Would-be Kid Detective Dickie and his friend Maeve are following a trail of clues when Maeve twists her ankle and has to stop behind while Dickie goes on alone into what turns out to be a trap. Maeve is in league with the antagonists, and faked the injury so she could stop behind and distract the adults who are following after to get Dickie out of trouble. She knew Dickie would buy it because it's the kind of thing that happens in the detective stories that inspire him, and he does, though he notes to himself that the self-reliant Maeve isn't the kind of girl it usually happens to in the stories.
  • In The Famous Five book Five Go Adventuring Again, Anne twists her ankle while running along the Secret Way to escape the villains. Julian firmly hustles her along, and when they see that the villains are going to catch up with them, George uses Timmy to hold them off.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ginny injures her ankle while fighting in the Department of Mysteries. Luna helps her along for a while, but when most everyone in the group is incapacitated, Ginny's left on the ground, SOL.
  • In The Heroes of Olympus, Annabeth Chase injures her ankle chasing down the Mark of Athena.
  • Septimus Heap: In Flyte, it's a twisted ankle that slows down Septimus to the point that he gets almost taken by the wolverines.
  • The Murderbot Diaries. In Network Effect, Murderbot is shot full of holes and suspended upside down in a pit to be taken over by TargetControlSystem. The Made of Iron cyborg is able to free itself, but has suffered damage to a knee joint which later slows it down when TargetControlSystem uses an infected body to chase after Murderbot.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Willow twists her ankle after her Crash-Into Hello with Tara while fleeing from the Gentlemen. The injury is not emphasised, but is just one more thing to add to the terror of the scene.
    • Also regularly faked by Buffy once the vampire of the week has chased her far enough that they are out of sight of any witnesses. Lampshaded in "Earshot" when she announces that the stumble-and-fall gets them every time. After knocking down the demon, Buffy is ambushed by a second demon, implying they were trying their own version of her trick.
  • Doctor Who: Twisted ankles are stereotypically the main method the Doctor's companions used to advance the plot and increase the tension in an episode: when being chased through the BBC Quarry by People in Rubber Suits, the girl could be counted on to twist her ankle at just the right moment. This doesn't actually happen half as often as people remember — it was played straight with Susan, and parodied by Sarah Jane in "The Android Invasion" in a scene where she twists her foot while running, goes down and then immediately turns out to be okay.
    • In "Terror of the Autons", Jo injures her ankle escaping from a moving vehicle, but it doesn't slow her down much, she just limps for a while. (That wasn't in the original script, but was added during shooting because the actress actually did hurt her leg.)
    • Male companion Adric stumbles and injures his ankle in "The Visitation" while the TARDIS crew are fleeing from hostile locals on 17th Century Earth. He limps away with Nyssa's help, but his race's Healing Factor means the injury soon ceases to be an issue.
    • When it happened (yes, to Susan) in "The Five Doctors", it was a deliberate bit of Self-Parody, with no dramatic effect. Although the same can't be said of Sarah Jane's "needing" to be hauled up the gentlest slope in Wales with a rope and Bessie the car.
      Say you'll stand beside me
      Say you'll help me save the world
      Fall and twist your ankle
      Be my Doctor Who Girl
    • Happened to a male companion of the Eighth Doctor in the Expanded Universe, due to a gunshot wound to the leg, and the Doctor proceeded to carry him around bridal-style.
  • In the fourth Horatio Hornblower telefilm, Temporary Love Interest Mariette breaks her foot when she and Horatio jump out a window to flee the French Republican forces overtaking the village, forcing her to hop along slowly towards a bridge that needs to be blown up in a few minutes. She's shot and killed before reaching it.
  • In a Season 2 episode of El internado: Las Cumbres Paul, Amaia, and his sister Adèle sneak away from school to go look for their friend Manu. They almost get caught but manage to get away. All of a sudden, Amaia's foot is caught right at the ankle in a bear trap, and the other two have to carry her to where Manuel might be held captive.
  • This happens to Dr. Keller while evading hostile aliens in the woods in one episode of Stargate Atlantis.
  • Marion sprains his ankle jumping out a window in The Swamp Fox, though once on his horse, he's fine.
  • Tony sprains his ankle in an episode of The Time Tunnel right before they become participants in a private war against two Japanese men. Naturally, he tells Doug (who he ends up leaning on for almost the entire rest of the episode) to go on without him; the latter doesn't comply.
  • The Walking Dead (2010): In "Thank You", while the Alexandrians are traveling through the woods, Annie trips over a tree root and hurts her ankle. This leads directly to her death later in the episode when the group is fleeing from a horde of walkers in an abandoned town: Annie's improvised crutch breaks, and she elects to go down fighting rather than slow the others down.
  • In the Zoey 101 episode "Curse of PCA", the group accidentally awaken an angry spirit outside of the school and during the ensuing panic, Zoey sprains her ankle and has to be carried back to school by Chase.

  • Frank Zappa lampshades this trope during his introduction of the track "Cheepnis", about B-monster movies, on Roxy & Elsewhere (1974).

    Video Games 
  • Happens to Naomi from Corpse Party when she falls into Heavenly Host Elementary School.
  • Happens at least twice to Fiona Belli in the game Haunting Ground as part of her massive amounts of Cutscene Incompetence. Downplayed in that she actually gets up and runs even if hurt. The second time, she tries to crawl away on all fours. She also trips a lot when scared in gameplay, too.
  • Waylon Park, the hero of Outlast: Whistleblower, goes from spry to hobbling after he gets a gigantic splinter on his leg falling on an elevator shaft. The crippled limping speed makes escaping from Variants far more difficult from then on, and it gets worse after he falls on it a few more times.
  • In one Valkyria Chronicles mission, Alicia (who, as a Scout, is usually one of the fastest characters available) twists her ankle after being thrown off a cliff by an artillery bombardment, drastically reducing her foot speed and cutting her action bar to a fraction of its normal length. For some reason, the magic healing rocks that can fix bullet wounds don't help with this, but some ground-up flowers will. We later learn that Alicia's a Valkyria with an innate Healing Factor, and has "always healed quickly"; while this does explain how she's back up to full speed the next day, by and large it only raises more questions.

    Visual Novels 
  • Umineko: When They Cry: This was originally the reason Rosa decided to stay put and try to fight the goat-headed butlers. While she and Maria were running through the rose garden, Rosa tripped on the steps and broke her ankle, so she couldn't make it to the beach as she had initially planned.


    Web Novel 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: When Jamie runs away from Graham, he eventually slips on a rock and twists his ankle, putting an end to the flight and allowing Graham's dog Cindy, Jamie's friend Jason and Jason's friend Pony to catch up with him.

    Western Animation 
  • The Angry Beavers: Parodied in Halloween Episode "The Day the World Got Really Screwed Up". In one scene, the beavers and B-movie damsel-in-distress Taluca Lake are trying to flee a horde of monsters, only for Taluca to injure one ankle, then the other, then both at once somehow as the beavers try to help her along. Dagget lampshades this by asking if they can just cut off her feet.
  • Happens near the end of the Arthur episode "Muffy's Soccer Shocker" when Brain as the soccer team goalie tries to catch the ball but only to crash into the grass and injures his left ankle, thus Muffy takes his spot for the rest of the game.
  • Beetlejuice takes Lydia to a Neitherworld hospital after she injures her foot in "Generally Hysterical Hospital."
  • A Staircase Tumble while being chased by Jim lands Jeremie Belpois of Code Lyoko with a pretty severe example of this trope; he does try to jump up after the tumble but immediately goes down with a loud cry of distressed pain.
  • Happens to Yasmin in Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous while the kids are scrambling to get across the island to the ferry in time. As she was previously the best runner, the injury hurts her psychologically as well as physically because it makes her feel that she's suddenly a burden and she pushes herself overly hard for a while after that. Made worse by Kenji slacking off and making her feel like she's got to do his share of the work as well.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: Parodied in "We Got Hacked!" when the Bodega crew are fleeing from some "glitch zombies" created by malware getting into Dendy's Hack-Pack. Rad sprains an ankle fleeing from the monsters, then tries to keep going but sprains his other ankle. He stubbornly tries to get around this by doing a hand-stand, and proceeds to sprain his wrists.
  • It happens to Carly in one episode of The Transformers.


Video Example(s):


"Can we go now?!"

While Norbert, Daggett & Toluca Lake are fleeing from monsters, Toluca repeatedly injures one (or both) of her ankles, causing the beavers to have to go back and help her up, much to Dag's increasing annoyance.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / BrokenHeel

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