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Only A Flesh Wound / Live-Action Films

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Flesh wounds in live-action movies.


  • Both played straight and subverted in 28 Days Later, when the protagonist is shot in a vital area but seems to be able to survive with minimal health care from a non-qualified woman and a girl. The aversion comes from the original ending where the protagonist dies.
  • In 28 Weeks Later, Scarlet, one of the main group of survivors, gets shot in the leg and says, "It's only a flesh wound." Other than having a bit of a limp, she seems largely unaffected.
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  • 127 Hours, as pointed out below in the Real Life examples.
  • Played straight in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, where Alan gets shot non-fatally in the shoulder and is able to continue his confrontation with Pat.
  • Angels Revenge: While she's clearly affected by being shot, Trish is shown caring more about whether her actions earn her a spot among the Angels.
  • Beverly Hills Cop: Protagonist Axel Foley is shot through his right shoulder during the final confrontation with the film's Big Bad. After quite realistically falling over in pain, he manages to drag himself to his feet (leaving a trail of blood) and continues to pursue the villain, with the sole concession to the injury being to hold his gun in his left hand. Afterwards, Foley is seen hanging out with his friends, apparently oblivious to the gunshot wound, and hangs a lampshade on it when Chief Hubbard shows up. They do eventually convince him to go to the hospital, but not until long after he should have passed out or died from blood loss.
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  • Awesomely inverted in Cellular, after Jessica Martin, a biology teacher, manages to rig up a phone line to make a call. Then one of the kidnappers stumbles upon the phone, and she slices him in the upper arm with a shard of broken glass. At first he's amused, then confused and worried at how much blood he's suddenly losing from this mere cut. He asks "What did you do to me?" She informs him that she sliced open his brachial artery and he'll be dead in less than a minute.
  • City Hunter: The Cupid's Perfume:
    • Ryo being Shot in the Ass by Kaori is treated entirely comedically, and only as a minor annoyance. He later says that he was lucky that she only grazed him.
    • Mr. Skippy is hit in the shoulder with a bullet that was destined to Kaori. Afterward, he's only seen wincing in pain a bit and still go on unhindered. That doesn't even spare him from suffering more Amusing Injuries.
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  • Cloud Atlas: "The bullet went right through and killed nothing but his appetite."
  • Cloverfield. After searching for Beth throughout most of the movie, they find her impaled through the shoulder with an iron bar. Realistically, they assume she's dead as soon as they see her, but she's just passed out and comes to shortly after they arrive. They pick her up and force her off the bar, and she runs down more than thirty stories of stairs and boards a helicopter, and only needing to lean on her boyfriend for support.
  • Subverted in Commando. Arnold's right shoulder is hit by a bullet, and his right arm is useless for most of the last fight. It's mostly fine by the end though.
  • In Con Air, Poe takes a grazing shot in the shoulder while doing his Slow Walk toward Cyrus. He doesn't even flinch.
  • Played ridiculously straight in the otherwise excellent film Copycat. Holly Hunter's police detective character is seen at a shooting range with her rookie partner, actually lecturing him on aiming for a criminal's shoulder rather than the torso. Nevermind that as stated, this would be extremely hard for even an experienced cop to do, it's also completely the opposite of what's taught in the police academy. To make matters worse, she suggests that he do this so as not to kill the criminal (but still disable him so that he's no longer a danger to others)—when a shot to the shoulder is almost guaranteed to hit the brachial artery, which would be fatal within minutes. It comes back to bite her in the ass later in the film when she attempts to disable a suspect this way—and he's able to use his uninjured arm to pick up a gun and kill another officer.
  • The Counselor had one occur in its only proper shoot-out. Two cartel members try to hijack a drug-smuggling truck. One is shot dead, another in the hip and takes cover by the roadside. He then proceeds to shoot the driver and the second guy dead, then gets up with no bleeding or even a limp gets into the truck and drives away. Later scenes show he's fine with his leg being only slightly patched up.
  • Daredevil. In the fight between Matt and Elektra, he ends up pinned to a wall by one of her sai. Minutes later, he's fighting an acrobatic battle with Bullseye, apparently little worse for the wear.
  • Spoofed in the movie Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid — when Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) is shot in the shoulder, Juliet (Rachel Ward) sucks the bullet out, and then puts a band-aid over the hole. This happens three times, with Rigby getting shot in precisely the same spot each time.
    Rigby Reardon: This is never gonna heal!
  • Played straight and justified on different occasions in Deadpool (2016). The titular character can ignore his injuries due to his Healing Factor. Francis/Ajax on the other hand, merely has Feel No Pain yet continues fighting just fine even after injuries like being impaled through the shoulder or stabbed in the thigh.
  • The Die Hard franchise can't seem to decide how it feels about this trope, and will play it straight and avert it sometimes within the same movie. A gunshot to the leg is treated as horribly painful and keeping the character from being able to stand without leaning heavily on something, but blood loss also doesn't seem to be a problem for him. At the same time, when a character is shot in the shoulder, he hits the floor and can't move, and has to be dragged to his feet and held up by another character.
  • Dracula vs. Frankenstein: During the shootout in Dr. Durea's lab, Mike gets shot in the shoulder. His wound is never treated and does nothing to slow him down for the rest of the film.
  • In Dresden the main character manages to escape the bombing of Dresden with serious injuries. As in, he digs himself out of rubble, runs and climbs a 40-50ft set of iron rungs... with a gaping wound in his side, a crushed foot, and while seriously drugged. Oh, and he also takes a detour in order to climb to the top of a cathedral in order to view the destruction.
  • In End of Days, Jericho Caine shoots his friend Bobby in the arm to confirm that he's not actually Satan in disguise. When Bobby rants at him afterwards for shooting him, Jericho tells him to stop whining because it's "just a scratch".
  • In Eraser, Arnie gets shot in the leg and second later he's running and jumping. He also gets shot in the shoulder during the final action sequence, yet is able to continue fighting, hold on to a chain to keep from falling several stories, and catch the heroine to keep her from falling as well.
  • In Escape Plan, Schwarzenegger's character Rottmayer only grunts in pain when shot in the shoulder and continues to fight no other consequences.
  • In Fast & Furious, Letty shoots Dom in the shoulder. He just digs the bullet out by himself, slaps a Band-Aid on top and acts the rest of the film as if it never even happened.
  • Played straight to a horrifying level in Fight Club. The Narrator shoots himself in the mouth to kill his alter ego. When his troops come to his aid, he insists he's fine, and stands calmly with his girl to watch the buildings around them get demolished by the explosives they planted. Of course, there’s a theory that the last scene is a Dying Dream.... Take it as you will.
  • In Forrest Gump, the titular character is lucky enough to be shot in the buttocks during the early part of the Vietnam War, ensuring that he'll be given medical leave for the rest of the fighting while still being able to make a full and relatively painless recovery.
  • Used to great Irony in Grand Canyon, as action film director Davis, whose films include this trope and Money Shot, is shot in the thigh. He spends the rest of the film either in a hospital bed or with a severe limp.
  • In the Soviet film Grozovye Vorota (Thunder Gate), 1st Lt. Doronin is shot in the lower abdomen (most probably with a bullet from an assault rifle) yet he is able to dress the wound, walk and give the rallying speech to his soldiers (he may be using combat analgesics though). However, when Pvt. Vyetrov is shot in the thigh, he is forced to hobble leaning heavily on the stick and when Pvt. Gorshkov is shot in the arm, he loses control over the injured limb, rendering him unable to reload his machine gun. Moreover, all wounded protagonists are still crippled when shown in the hospital.
  • Taken to absurd heights in the 1994 film Gunmen where the running gag between the Enemy Mines will have one trying to convince the other on a course of action, the other refusing, and the first shooting him in the arm or leg and tossing him the first aid kit, then demanding he "try and keep up".
  • In Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, LL Cool J survives getting shot in the head. It was only a flesh wound, after all.
  • In the final game of Happy Gilmore, Happy is hit with a car. The only loss he suffers is his ability to hit the long drive; he soon shrugs off his injuries and is able to win the tournament.
  • This works absurdly well in John Woo film Heroes Shed No Tears. One of the main characters, Big Dog gets stabbed in the leg with a spear at one point, but walks fine in the next scene. Similarly, Chin gets shot in the chest, then apparently hung up by his eyelids (or something of a kind), yet still lives.
  • Done to the point of absurdity in the climax of Hot Fuzz, where nobody was killed by the massive gun battle the heroes embark on—except maybe for the guy who triggered the sea mine, but that was a case of Karmic Death. This in itself may be part of the film's blatant but loving parody.
  • Parodied in the Hot Shots! franchise with Lloyd Bridges' character, "Tug" Benson. He's an old military man who's taken so many flesh wounds that he's practically artificial.
    Admiral Benson: Didn't see ya there. My eyes are ceramic. Caught a bazooka round at Little Big Horn. Or was it Okinawa? The one without the Indians.
    Admiral Benson: I don't have a clue what you're talkin' about, Phil. Not a fucking clue. I have a shell the size of a fist in my head. Pork Chop Hill. The only way I can make this goddamn toupee stay on is by magnetizing the entire upper left quadrant of my skull, so you just go ahead and do what you do.
  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka pushes this line to the limit, as one of the heroes leaves for the final confrontation with more pistols than any sane being would take ("You can never have too many guns,") then promptly trips, falls on the ground, and shakes as an unknown amount of his guns go off. After a quick check, one of the other heroes declares, "They're all flesh wounds," and they walk off.
  • I Shot Jesse James features main character Robert Ford getting shot through the shoulder, yet he's able to ride dozens of miles from Kansas to Jesse's hideout in Missouri in only mild discomfort.
  • James Bond:
  • In Last Action Hero, a character who's been realistically shot and is dying is relocated into the movie universe where, as Danny notes, "that'd just be a flesh wound" and not anything to worry about. The instant the victim swaps realities, a doctor scoffs at the flesh wound and he's healthy again.
  • In Lethal Weapon, Murtagh states his preferred method is to shoot a felon in the leg so he can question them later. This is mainly to differentiate him from titular hero, Riggs. As stated above, that's not how police operate if they've decided firing their weapon is necessary. Riggs' methods are correct. He just does it way more than any real police officer ever would.
  • Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring gets hit by three arrows near the end of the movie. Granted, the wounds were eventually fatal, but he fights orcs for a good few minutes after, and survives long enough afterwards for Aragorn to kill his killer and then give a death speech.
  • Zigzagged throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Nick Fury has been shot multiple times, the first time in The Avengers (2012) was justified since he was wearing a vest but surviving the two sniper rounds to the chest (breaking several ribs) in The Winter Soldier is slightly harder to believe.
      • Speaking of Winter Soldier Black Widow takes a bullet to the shoulder from the former and remains conscious... though she rapidly loses blood and would’ve died without Anthony Russo patching her up.
      • Also from the same movie Captain America gets shot multiple times but still has enough strength to stop HYDRA and lift a girder off the man who shot him. However unlike some of the superhuman examples mentioned below Cap is still gravely injured by every bullet and hospitalised shortly after.
    • The Incredible Hulk gets stabbed by the Abomination’s spikes in the Final Battle and bleeds but still wins the fight. However if you look closely in later films you notice Hulk still has a scar from the Abomination’s attack suggesting his Healing Factor isn’t perfect. Similarly in Thor: Ragnarok Hulk gets badly bitten by Fenris but still beats the undead wolf... worth nothing this was first time since his first movie that Hulk’s skin was pierced.
    • Thor invokes this at times: in Avengers he gets stabbed in the side by Loki and not only still wins the faceoff but later on he asks a comparatively uninjured (albeit exhausted) Cap if he can keep going. But that’s nothing compared to Ragnarok where Thor loses an eye in mid-fight and keeps going.
      • The lady who took out Thor’s eye, Hela, doesn’t seem bothered getting impaled numerous times herself.
    • Special mention to Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron who seemed more angry than pained at losing his arm.
    • T’challa after getting Brought Down to Normal in Black Panther (2018) shrugs off a spear to the shoulder and still wins the duel.
    • Tony Stark despite ironically being well protected by Powered Armor, was impaled right through the torso in Avengers: Infinity War and unlike Agent Coulson or Killmonger survives (thanks to spraying some medi-gel on himself). Considering this was the same man who recovered from a shrapnel bomb to the heart it isn’t too surprising.
    • Captain America in Avengers: Endgame gets his forearm broken by Thanos (you can almost see his radius bones sticking out) but Steve ignores the pain and use his Shield strap as a splint so he can keep fighting.
  • In The Man Who Knew Too Much, the heroine's scream messes up the assassin's aim, and he ends up shooting the prime minister in the arm instead of the heart. One of the other characters then uses almost this exact phrase to let people know that the prime minister won't die.
  • In The Matrix, Tank is shot with a plasma gun by Cypher, causing what appear to be third-degree burns across a large portion of his torso. Although he appears to be in considerable pain when he turns the tables on Cypher, he tells Trinity "I'll be fine." shortly thereafter and doesn't seem any worse for wear for the rest of the movie.
  • This trope is named after the famous sketch of Arthur's confrontation with the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Even after having his limbs consecutively severed by Arthur, the Black Knight downplays his obvious injuries and attempts to fight. It's something of a subversion, since Arthur clearly intended to end the fight without killing the knight, but the profuse bleeding clearly indicates he's bleeding out, but the knight's reactions are completely incongruous (which is the joke, of course).
  • In Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), John Smith is stabbed in the leg with a very large knife. He grimaces in pain and the wound doesn't bother him any more after that.
  • In The Naked Gun, Nordberg is shot up badly and ends up in the hospital. While he does spend the film recovering, Frank Drebin points out that luckily "the bullets missed every major organ", and indeed Nordberg is back in the next movie, none the worse for wear.
  • In National Lampoon's European Vacation, the Griswold family accidentally hit a man in their rental car on their trip to England. The man (who is appropriately played by Eric Idle in an obvious Actor Allusion), insists that "it was only a flesh wound."
  • At the end of Night Train to Munich, Randall is shot in the shoulder and it doesn't even slow him down.
  • The finale of Ong-Bak sees Tony Jaa's character get shot in the shoulder with a pistol by the Big Bad at near point-blank range, but remains spry enough to vault off a piece of scenery and deliver dual-downward-knees to The Dragon hard enough to break through the piece of scaffolding they're standing on. This is Tony Jaa.
  • In the climactic battle of The Patriot, Benjamin Martin shoots Colonel Tavington in the left shoulder and the audience is treated to a slow-motion spray of blood out of the wound. Worse, bullets back then were softer, so they were likely to break apart in the body. It would have torn his shoulder to ribbons from within. Tavington just shrugs it off and almost beats Martin in hand-to-hand combat.
    • Compounding this is Tavington having been shot in the stomach just days or at most a few weeks prior.
  • A Running Gag in Pineapple Express has Red seemingly die multiple times throughout the film, only to wake up and carry on with only minor discomfort and some crude bandages. In the end, after one final fakeout, the heroes agree that they really ought to get him to a hospital.
  • Predator:
    • Jesse Ventura's character got shot while raiding the guerrilla camp, leading to his incredibly awesome response "I ain't got time to bleed".
    • Dutch is also wounded by gun shrapnel from his M16 when it's struck by the Predator's plasmacaster. As in Commando the impairment to the arm is only temporary, later allowing Dutch to make and use a longbow.
  • Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark gets shot in the shoulder during the Chase Scene and is not shown getting medical attention despite bleeding and being in great pain. Indy does get Intimate Healing from Marion though.
  • Rambo:
    • In Rambo III, our hero had a chunk of debris embedded in his abdomen after an explosion and (after pulling it out) cauterized the wound by dumping the propellant from a large bullet into it and setting it on fire. Given that he was climbing mountains the next day, nothing John Rambo does can surprise me.
    • In Rambo, the title character is shot through the shoulder with a round from a large machine gun mounted on a nearby boat. He yells in pain, drops to the ground, then sees a truckload of soldiers coming towards him. He jumps back up, uses the machine gun he was mounting to shoot down trees and liquefy the soldiers, then continues mowing down more enemies. After the final confrontation, he simply frowns while holding his injured shoulder (which is really huge, thanks to Sylvester Stallone taking human growth hormone at the time of filming)
  • Subverted in a Harrison Ford film, Regarding Henry. The title character is shot twice during a robbery, once in the shoulder and once in the head. It is later explained to him that the fact he was shot in the shoulder first probably saved his life by reducing the blood pressure in his head. The lower blood pressure then prevented him from bleeding to death before he could get to a hospital. What's more, it's the wound to his shoulder that caused the brain damage, because it prevented oxygen from reaching his brain.
  • Rush (2013) depicts an example from real life, where Formula One driver Niki Lauda crashed and was caught in his burning car for over a minute, suffering severe burns and inhaling toxic fumes, and returned to the tracks after only six weeks. When he first arrived to the hospital he wasn't expected to survive at all, and Last Rites were administered by a priest.
  • Serenity:
    • During the opening robbery scene, Mal and the vault guard are discussing where the guard could be shot to make it look like he resisted, but keeping the risk of serious injury minimal.
      Mal: The leg is good. Lots of bleeding, and we avoid any unnecessary organs.
      Guard: I was thinking more of a graze...
      Mal: Well, we don't want it to look like you just gave up.
    • In the closing fight scene, Mal gets a sword through the gut, then (after fighting for a moment with it still stuck there) pulls it out again. And after that, he seems to suffer no ill effects.
  • Alluded to and averted in Se7en, when Detective Mills relates a story about a drug raid that went wrong. His partner gets shot in the arm, and the impact is enough to spin the man around like a top. Mills' partner dies of blood loss before he reaches the hospital.
  • Double-subverted in Seven Psychopaths. When Charlie arrives to reclaim his dog, he makes a show of being unarmed. Billy shoots him in the spine, and then is disgusted to find he was unarmed (save for a flare gun). For the next few minutes, Charlie's paralyzed and helpless, unable to move his legs... until Marty helps him back to his car. Then he's back to normal, revealing that Billy only clipped him ("Just a flesh wound, kid"), and grabs a gun from his glove compartment, as this is when the film hits the Decon-Recon Switch.
  • In The Sixth Sense: Subverting this is essential to the movie's big twist, although it isn't obvious when it happens. When an action-movie star like Bruce Willis gets shot, you just assume that it's just going to be a flesh wound... to the point where when it turns out he actually dies of it, it's a twist.
  • Happens twice in Sleepy Hollow (1999). The first time, Ichabod is stabbed in the right shoulder, which is handwaved by the blade in question being supernaturally (and undetectably) hot, and thus it instantly cauterized the wound. The second time it happens, no supernatural entities are involved. He manages to take a bullet to the shoulder and hardly worries about it the rest of the movie.
  • At first seemingly avoided in Speed. Jeff Daniels' character is shot in the leg near the beginning; he carries a cane and walks with a limp for the rest of the movie. Later, he somehow manages to dress in SWAT gear and enter a house with a team.
  • A particularly ridiculous example comes from Starship Troopers. Carmen, the hero's girlfriend, suffers an alien pincer attack which impales her directly through the ball-and-socket joint in her shoulder. Yet she has no trouble handling a weapon with the afflicted arm. And she suffers very little blood loss. And she's able to Outrun the Fireball at the end of the movie. And happily skip away from the final scene as if she had completely forgotten about the gaping wound in her shoulder.
  • Star Wars:
    • Return of the Jedi: Throughout the original trilogy, we see armies of Mooks getting blown away from a single blaster bolt. Leia takes one smack in the arm and grits out, "It's not bad." She then blasts two Stormtroopers.
    • Must run in the family, as Leia’s son Ben, aka Kylo Ren, tanks a shot from Chewie’s bowcaster in The Force Awakens and in true dark-Jedi fashion uses the pain to drive him (even outright smacking his wound).
  • In Taken, Brian disarms a corrupt cop before casually shooting the man's wife in the arm to demonstrate how serious he is about recovering his kidnapped daughter.
    Brian: It's a flesh wound. But if you don't get me what I need, the last thing you'll see before I make your children orphans is the bullet I put between her eyes.
  • Terminator:
    • In the original The Terminator Kyle Reese gets shot somewhere in the chest during the climax, and while initially seeming fine he increasingly begins to lose strength and passes out at least once.
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day:
      • John Connor makes the T-800 promise not to kill anyone anymore. The T-800 from that moment on only shoots people in the legs to cause incapacitating but non-fatal flesh wounds. Handwaved by the T-800 later explaining that it has detailed files on human anatomy in its memory.
      • Sarah Connor is shot in the leg (and loses a lot of blood) and impaled in the shoulder. While the shoulder wound does realistically cripple the arm, the leg wound only makes her limp a little. This is ignoring the fact that the wounds plus blood loss should be sending her into shock.
    • In Terminator Salvation, John Connor gets impaled through his chest with a blunt object and stays conscious and talking. Later we learn that this did massive mechanical damage to his heart, and he has an impromptu heart transplant in a field hospital, and appears to recover instantly.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: Steve Martin's character gets shot in the arm which doesn't bother him any more after that.
  • Three Kings plays with this trope. Two of the good guys get shot, one in the gut and the other in the shoulder. The one with the gut wound survives, the other does not. Not only is it directly called out in the beginning of the movie, but the fatal effects of such a wound on one's organs are explained at length, with a very detailed visual aid. That exact scenario (with the same level of visual detail) plays out when the wound is actually inflicted later. The guy with the gut wound survives thanks to a mixture of on-the-spot and later treatment. The other guy was dead within the minute from septic poisoning.
  • In the final fight of The Three Musketeers (2011), D'Artagnan is cut several times with a rapier across his limbs, at one point even gripping onto his enemy's blade and slicing his hand open across the full length, but afterwards requires no bandages or let alone a limp, with the wounds resembling minor papercuts.
  • In the 2010 version of True Grit, LaBoeuf is shot straight through the shoulder but is unhindered by it for the rest of the film. The only reason we even remember him getting shot are the bloodless holes on the front and back of his coat.
  • Warm Bodies: Grigio shoots R in the shoulder before seeing that he's become human again. Later R is shown to be fine, but realistically this could do a lot of (potentially permanent) damage, even assuming the bullet didn't hit any major blood vessels.
  • Douglas from Where the Wild Things Are gets his entire arm ripped off. Ironically, he's the only one who doesn't react that strongly to it.
  • In X-Men: First Class, Charles Xavier is shot in the back and remains conscious throughout the entire scene, albeit in great pain. He is permanently injured, though.
  • Averted in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Mystique gets shot in the leg. Not only does she have to go to a hospital to get the wound treated, but she has a limp for the rest of the movie.


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