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"A Chronicle of Enterprising Demises Honoring those who improve the species... by accidentally removing themselves from it!"

While I have common sense I rarely let it interfere with my actions, preferring to use it to analyze why I shouldn't have done what ever it is that I did to cause the most recent Darwin moment.
James Nicoll

The Darwin Awards are a collection of stories of those that have given the best their DNA can offer to the gene pool. That is, they removed their DNA from the gene pool through actions (of their own devising) with such stupidity that the fact they can no longer breed is worth an award. It is worth noting that, although most of the winners remove themselves from the gene pool in a fatal manner, there are a precious few who manage to leave the gene pool in a spectacularly stupid manner while still remaining alive (albeit... incomplete) afterwards.

Although internet based, the Darwin Awards have released books authored by Wendy Northcutt detailing the "winners" of that year.

There are four categories:

  • Darwin Award winners: Those killed or unable to reproducenote . Further being classed as;
    • Confirmed by Darwin: In reliable news sources.
    • Unconfirmed by Darwin: Unable to find reliable sources, but not proved to be false.
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    • Debunked by Darwin: A story previously thought to be true is found to be false.
  • Honorable Mentions At Risk Survivors: Those that did their idiotic best to kill or sterilize themselves, yet defied the odds and failed to do so.
  • Urban Legends: Those stories believed to be true yet have no basis in reality.
  • Personal Accounts: Members of the internet put forth their own personal stories with no other proof.

See also 1000 Ways to Die, which is based on a similar premise (the major difference is that 1000 Ways To Die doesn't really care about the death being due to stupidity if it's spectacular and/or bizarre enough).

Finally, there was actually a film (The Darwin Awards) based off of some of the stories from this site. A few of the stories were also tested by the Mythbusters (who, incidentally enough, made cameo appearances in the movie).


NOTE: People who take out innocents in the process of removing themselves from the gene pool are expressly disqualified from Darwin Awards consideration by the website, thus instantly disqualifying all drunk drivers if they hit someone. (This rule was not in the first version of their ruleset, thus some of the early Darwin Awards did mention the death or injury of bystanders.) This rule has its own exception, namely: if anyone in their right mind would flee the area if they saw what the contender was doing, and a bystander stays to watch, then the contender can still get nominated on the grounds that the bystander will probably also get nominated. People with mental disorders are also disqualified as Wendy sees these deaths as just plain tragic. Youths under the age of 16 are generally disqualified unless a majority of the youth's peers agree the action taken by the nominee was incredibly stupid. Anyone who won before a rule change, that would have disqualified them, gets to keep the award as part of a Grandfather Clause. Finally, there was a unofficial rule change that says the nominees must have unintentionally caused the incident as to prevent people from harming themselves to try to win. There are a few exceptions due to the aforementioned grandfather clause.

Fictional examples of this kind of activity go on Too Dumb to Live.

The Darwin Awards contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The excessive consumption of intoxicating beverages often plays a major role in these stories.
    • A few of the books have had to include disclaimers explaining that this doesn't excuse you from winning a Darwin Award, since it was your decision to get drunk in the first place.
    • The books also noted that being drunk when handling a pet snake led to the most Darwin-esque reptile accidents... which is ironic since one way to make a snake let go of you/back off is to get alcohol in its face.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: People being stupid enough to take this trope to heart are common nominees.
    • Special mention goes to the two guys who jumped into a tiger enclosure, threw flowers on the tiger, and were somehow surprised when the tiger promptly mauled them.
      • Extra stupid points allocated considering that the end would still be the same (if potentially less gruesome) if they had jumped in an enclosure with a perfectly domesticated guard dog that was as unfamiliar with them as the tiger was.
    • A tourist who purportedly left a Safari car in South Africa to rearrange some lion cubs who apparently weren't posing for photos to her satisfaction. Right under the nose of their mother.
    • The moron who decided the best way to determine whether a grizzly bear in a zoo was male or female was by entering its enclosure and kicking it between the legs. The bear turned out to be male (and needless to say, reacted in much the same way the male of any species would to that particular injury).
    • A man who thought it was a good idea to tease an Indian elephant by holding out sugar cane to the hungry animal, then jerking it back when the elephant reached out its trunk to take it. Suffice to say, the elephant got tired of it a lot sooner than the man and made its displeasure known in very pointed fashion.
    • A well-known Personal Account relates the story of a soldier who attempted to cross a field inhabited by bison, and with warning signs on the fences, insisting that the sign must be a joke because, "Real, live buffalo don't exist!" He survived to learn that he was wrong, but still would fall under the category of Honorable Mention in light of his injuries, were it better documented.
  • Artistic License: Some fictional stories can be easy to spot by how many of the details seem to run on "Hollywood" logic as opposed to the ways things actually work.
  • Ballistic Discount: Subverted.
  • Based on an Advice Book: The film is an inversion, as it's based on a source about things nobody with half a brain ought to do.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: One of the winners who was left alive but unable to reproduce ended up that way by attempting to have sex with a porcupine. Another man was kicked to death while attempting to acquire carnal knowledge of a cow.
  • Black Comedy: This is the reason why these deaths are funny instead of morbid; the people are so stupid they Cross the Line Twice.
  • Black Comedy Rape: There are a few stories dealing with attempted rapes that went horribly, horribly wrong. Like the story of the woman who bit her assailant's balls off. Then took off with them, and handed them in to the police, which meant her assailant was arrested when he checked into the hospital with a matching injury. The evidence proceedings for that case must have been interesting.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: The Honourable Mention story "(Un)armed and Dangerous" opens like this: "A drunk driver? No Darwin. An one-armed man driving an unadapted car? No Darwin. A man driving while talking on a cell phone? No Darwin. But a drunken one-armed man driving an unadapted car while talking on a cell phone? Darwin Award - almost!"
  • Bullying the Dragon: Often leads contenders to their nasty ends. Such examples include the guy who kicked a bear in the balls, the man who deliberately challenged his son to stab him to death, and the famous incident where a robber decided to rob a gun store filled with gun users and a cop.
  • The Cameo: The Darwin Awards movie boasts cameos by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as well as Metallica.
  • Chainsaw Good: One fool took his own head off with one of these.
  • Children Are Innocent: The reason why people under the age of 16 are not considered eligible for the awards, as a key criteria is that the winner had to have had the option of avoiding such catastrophic stupidity and knowingly chose the more dangerous option, whereas children are by default considered too dumb to know any better.
  • Consolation World Record: A great many winners were trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. Instead they killed or neutered themselves and ended up here.
  • Crippling Castration: The one outcome other than death that can qualify an individual for this award. Self-inflicted attacks of this type are the general cause of a person exiting the gene pool without exiting this mortal coil. Here and here are just two of a fairly large number of examples.
  • Death as Comedy: The point of the awards is finding comedy in the death of others, because the death is hilariously self-inflicted.
  • Death by Irony: Protesting motorcycle helmet laws, an Onondaga, NY man was participating in a bare-noggin protest ride when he was killed via flipping over the handlebars. Read about it here.
  • Draft Dodging: Tales of those killed or crippled while attempting to inflict a minor injury to avoid military service include a farmhand kicked in the head by a draft horse, and a man who had his arm bitten off by a lion.
  • Dumbwaiter Ride: One story involves two guys who decide to take a ride in a dumbwaiter. Unfortunately, they both squeeze in at the same time, and their combined weight sends them falling to their deaths.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Some of the earlier stories were obviously fabricated but still treated as if they were true.
  • Epic Fail: Whatever it was they were trying to do, it ended up in their deaths.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: "Real, live buffalo don't exist!"
  • Explosive Stupidity:
    • The story note  of the would-be mail bomber who died when the package was returned for insufficient postage.
    • Then there were the Palestinian terrorists who built a bomb with a timer while in their home, planning to make it go off in Israel. However, Daylight Savings Time was not observed at the exact same time in both places, meaning the bomb went off while it — and they — were still in the car.
    • The Urban Legend about a 17th century village making a crude wooden cannon to attack their neighbors with, which promptly exploded and killed most of the would-be artillerymen. The Mythbusters tested this one and found it fairly plausible — the only part they didn't buy was being able to build the cannon in a single day using 17th century tools.
    • One Croatian tried to get the explosive out of a hand grenade with a chainsaw for New Years' firecrackers.
  • Forgot I Couldn't Swim:
    • This guy who chose to dive into a lake, without a life jacket, and without having safety ropes available aboard his boat.
    • This guy pushed his girlfriend into an icy river and then jumped in to shove her even more. What makes this funny is that she can swim while he can't.
  • Forklift Fu: A forklift driving instructor killed himself with a forklift while filming a safety video on the dangers on not wearing a seatbelt. He was not wearing a seatbelt while filming.
  • Grilling Pyrotechnics: An 'At-Risk Survivor' award went to a pair of guys who started their barbecue grill, then realized they were short of charcoal. So they loaded their still smoldering grill on to the back of their pick-up to drive it round to a friend's place who had some charcoal. No prizes for guessing what happens when you air at high speed through smoldering coals. Their truck ended up going up in flames.
  • Groin Attack: A self-inflicted one is one way to get into the books, if it prevents one from reproducing; one of the few ways to get awarded without dying.
  • Hilarity in Zoos: There are a few stories of people ignoring signs and barrier fences with fatal results.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • As well as many of the Award "winners", founder Wendy Northcutt considers herself a klutz and a "potential Darwin Award candidate", which would be this trope (and cruelly ironic) if it happens. She's come close.
    • Taunting a prosecutor with the evidence needed to convict you of a capital felony and getting you executed isn't a bright idea.
  • Improvised Zipline: One award winner decided to use a karabiner clip to slide down the cable of a disused chairlift. Too late he discovered that he had no way to arrest his acceleration and no to disengage himself from the karabiner. He collided fatally with a pylon. Prefaced by the Famous Last Words "Hey, watch this!"
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Naturally, irresponsible use of firearms is an extremely common way for people to get themselves killed or injured, normally by geniuses deciding that James Yeager is right and that instead of checking their weapons normally by working the action, that the best way to determine if a gun is safe or not is to point it at themselves and pull the trigger! See here, here and here for just a few examples.
  • Karmic Death: This fellow who managed to briefly dodge the death penalty for murder in a case of double jeopardy managed to, in a textbook case of Stupid Evil, send a highly abusive letter that consisted of him effectively confessing to the crime down to the smallest details because he thought that he couldn’t be prosecuted further for it. However, thanks to his bragging, the court manages to nail him for the crime in the end and he is summarily executed seven years later.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In Kenya, a thief stole from a church offering basket in plain sight of everyone else there, ran into the street, and was struck and killed by a bus.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When accidentally falling off a glacier, it is wise to provide your companion with more information than the fact that you are still alive, just in case they are stupid enough to deliberately fall off a glacier. "Are you OK?" "Yes!"
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Accidentally; one urban legend is about a man who tried to use a power plant's coal runner as a treadmill, but tripped and was converted into power for hundreds of homes.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Some people can find truly ingenious ways to shoot themselves.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Do not taunt lightning.
  • Soft Glass: Some winners fatally avert this trope. Real Life glass is not soft; it is hard and sharp.
  • Stupid Crooks: A chapter in one of the books is dedicated to them, such as the guy who tried to rob a gun shop with a gun.
  • Stupid Evil: A good many of the more assholish contenders apply for this. For example, the honorable mention who decided to swerve off the road and crash his own car in an attempt to hit a random dog For the Evulz or the guy who mutilated himself for a get-rich-quick insurance scam.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: The Most Macho Man in Europe and a whole lot more. One of the chapters in one of the books is titled "Testosterone Poisoning", though in this case it refers to stupidity brought on by excessive displays of virility.
  • The Movie: A fictional film was made in 2006 about two investigators chasing Darwin Award-type stupidity for an insurance company, starring Joseph Fiennes and Winona Ryder. (Reviews were generally bad, according to The Other Wiki.)
  • Throw the Pin: Grenades seem to be a magnet for Darwin Award winners.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • All of them are literally too dumb to stay alive. That's the entire point of the Darwin Awards, and, according to the creator, one of the biggest reasons why it's funny instead of morbid. This is also why minors aren't included on the list, as there's a big difference between this and legitimately not knowing better.
    • A few "lucky" ones don't kill themselves, but still end up being unable to have children.
    • "At-Risk Survivors" are people who managed to survive despite doing something that put them squarely in Too Dumb to Live territory. Sheer luck is often a factor in these.
  • Tree Buchet: According to an Urban Legend, a heavy storm caused a tree to get bent over and wedged under the eaves of a house. The homeowner climbed up the tree to saw the top of the tree off to free it from the eaves. Once he cut through, the tree sprang back, catapulting the owner to his death.
  • Underside Ride: One Darwin Award winner tried this while attempting to diagnose a truck's engine, apparently to watch the engine while it worked. It seemed a fine idea until the moving parts caught his sleeve... Link here.
  • Undignified Death: Award winners killed themselves by doing something stupid. If it were dignified then we wouldn't find it comical.
  • Urban Legends: Sometimes end up being submitted by people who mistake them as true, though they're almost always proven false if they are. This includes one of the most popular Darwin Awards, the famous JATO story, which was so popular that the Mythbusters did three shows involving it, two of which were made after it was pretty widely known to be an Urban Legend (though admittedly the reason there are three is that the second one ended with the car blowing up as the test began. The third was successfully excecuted).
  • Walk on Water: Attempted by a priest who, obviously, failed miserably and fatally. Also a group of people tried to learn to walk on water, their attempts were eventually stopped after their leader slipped on a bar of soap in the bathtub and drowned.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Apparently, quite a lot of people are stupid enough to ignore blatantly obvious safeties and take outrageous risks. With that said, Don't Try This at Home. If you fancy trying this yourself, you're doing the human race a favor by ridding us of your stupidity. Thanks!
  • William Telling: Perhaps unsurprisingly this example involves the participants using beer cans instead of apples.


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