In the Back

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"A true friend stabs you in the front."

Only a Dirty Coward would shoot someone in the back. Or even knife him.

Back-to-Back Badasses is to prevent this—provided the other character is trustworthy.

On the other hand, if they can't let you escape, and you are the Dirty Coward fleeing a fight, it may happen anyway. Particularly when up against a Combat Pragmatist.

When The Dog Bites Back, this often comes into play.

Does not necessarily apply to executions. Or when The Big Bad decided to turn his back on The Hero in order to stab a hostage. And if a Heroic Bystander shoots a villain in the back, for some reason it's considered, well, heroic.

Sometimes employed as an unceremonious end to what is otherwise a Badass famous character - a staple of westerns.

Compare Back Stab for a video game special move based on this trope. Can be used as Dynamic Entry, in which case a Surprisingly-Sudden Death usually ensues. Beware Backstab Backfire. Don't compare Right Through His Pants...

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of In the Back include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, Kiku Honda/Japan does this to his adoptive older brother Wang Yao/China. We don't see it because of a Gory Discretion Shot, but it can be assumed that poor Yao tried to run away when he saw Kiku pointing the sword at him. Later on we can see the scar.
  • On The Galaxy Railways, Manabu's brother dies when a space pirate shoots him in the back. Later, Bruce is killed when a thug he pissed off earler in the episode shoots him in the back while he's buying a drink from a soda machine.
  • Juubei attempts to kill Kazuki this way in GetBackers, but Kazuki dodges very slightly at the last second.
  • Rokudo Mukuro from Katekyo Hitman Reborn, after pretending to have resigned his fight with Tsuna and given up, attacks Tsuna while his back is turned.
  • Used all the time by the Numbers Cyborg Dido in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. This led to her downfall in the end, as Teana predicted her doing this and countered accordingly.
    • Done by Deville of Huckebein as his Dynamic Entry against Isis and Nanoha. The first succeeded, the second would have if not for Fate.
    • Later done by Curren of Huckebein to Hayate.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has a literal example, when Lust stabs Havoc in the back after having pretended to be his sweet and loving girlfriend.
  • The penultimate episode of the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime contains an extremely painful and jarring scene where Anthy stabs Utena with her own sword--the same one that Utena wielded throughout the series. And it's made even more tortuous for the audience by Utena's drawn-out struggle to remain on her feet and save Anthy despite her betrayal.
  • That's how Mercutio kills Laertes Montague in Romeo X Juliet.
  • In Naruto Chapter 483, Sasuke tries to kill Sakura this way. It doesn't work, thanks to Kakashi.
  • There's a scene in End of Evangelion where a JSDF commando sneaks up on a nerv gate guard, grabs him by the face and pushes a knife into his back, quite horrifying as you see the guard arch his spine, groan and then go limp, and in another scene we see one gun down nerv staff whilst their running away from the JSDF with their backs turned
  • From Bleach:
    • Soifon, Hitsugaya, and Shunshui team up on Aizen, and Hitsugaya successfully stabs in the back. Sadly, that wasn't really Aizen, but Hinamori, his best friend, placed under an illusion. Luckily, she lives long enough to receive medical treatment.
    • A slightly earlier and weird example is what happens with Starrk and Wonderweiss. Turning up behind the man, Wonderweiss puts his hand through Ukitake's chest, causing Kyoraku to go for him by flash-stepping behind the 'kid'. But before Wonderweiss gets hit, Starrk takes the opportunity of the distraction to shoot Kyoraku in the back. Kyoraku, being a fine Combat Pragmatist himself, later returns the favour.
    • When the sixth squad come to arrest Rukia in season one, Ichigo tried to interven and fights the sixth squad lieutenant Renji Abarai. Just as Ichigo is winning, captain Kuchiki Byakuya Flash Steps in from behind and breaks Ichigo's sword. As Ichigo turns to face him, Byakuya flashsteps again, now behind Ichigo and stabbing him in the back right through his heart, ending the fight and leaving Ichigo to die! On a show where most fights last several episodes, this one is over in seconds.
  • From Dragonball Z:
    • Krillin has attempted to do this with his Destructo Disk against Vegeta in his Oozaru form (it failed) and Frieza (after his first transformation), where he only managed to lob off some of the latter's tail. Though if the villains hadn't reacted RIGHT when they did, Krillin could've easily killed them both.
    • Frieza himself tries this. Goku beats him and now he's not not half the despot he used to be. So he tries to blast the Super Saiyan from behind. Not smart, Frieza. Just not smart at all.
  • In Gundam Seed Nice Guy Nicol Amalfi dies while trying to stab Kira Yamato In the Back; Kira turns around and proceeds to cut Nicol (not The Blitz but Nicol himself) nearly in half. Nicol's action is never portrayed as anything other than sympathetic, given that a) it's a war, b) The Blitz was too damaged to confront Kira and The Strike head on, and c) he was trying to save his best friend, Athrun, from Kira.
  • in A Certain Magical Index, one teleport esper, Kill-Point, can only teleport directly behind people. as such, this is his preferred attack style.
  • Gino Weinberg of Code Geass certainly isn't above this: this is how he kills Senba of the Four Holy Swords, and how he destroys the otherwise highly guarded Shinkirou much later.
  • Momose from Bloody Cross has been known to use her shadow manipulating abilities to sneak up behind opponents and stab them in the back.

Comic Books

  • While not done in the back, the titular character of Jonah Hex is shot and killed during a cardgame when he stops to clean his glasses.
    • Supporting character J.D Hart was shot in the back when he turned away, refusing to draw on a woman he had no quarrel with.
  • A controversial moment among fans in Judge Dredd was the death of the original Judge Giant. Attempting to arrest an agent of East Meg One, he is distracted by said agent's Robot Buddy. The agent rather calmly shoots Giant in the back.
  • Happens to Zorro of all people. How? In The Lone Ranger: The Death of Zorro #1, a sixty-something Diego is compelled to don the cape and mask one last time to help Indians brutalized by American soldiers. Only thing: "Tonight you forgot to watch your back, old bastard!", while fighting skillfully a sergeant
  • In Flashpoint, Batman does this to Eobard Thawne

Fan Works

  • Many fights in Christian Humber Reloaded involve one protagonist trying to get behind the other. In Vash's first fight with his corrupted self, he manages to get behind his corrupted self, only for his corrupted self to then get behind him.


  • Doc Brown was supposed to be shot in the back by Buford Tannen over a matter of eighty dollars in Back to The Future III.
  • The Brass Legend

Sheriff Wade Addams: It's the worst kind of killer that would shoot a man in the back just as soon as look at him.

  • Dirty Dingus Magee

Charles Stuart: Here he comes! Shall I shoot him in the back when he passes?
Herkimer "Hoke" Birdsill: No! I want this to be a fair fight. I 'll shoot him in the back. It's the Code of the West.

  • Subverted in Ip Man, where Zealot Lin tries a sneak attack on General Miura after the latter had accepted the Chinese pugilists' loss and gets a fatal beating for his troubles.
  • In the John Woo movie The Killer, when Inspector Li confronts the title character at the beach house, he demands that he turn around, as he won't shoot people in the back. The title character, a Hitman with a Heart, notes that this is another way that they're the same.
  • How Saruman's death played out in the extended cut of Return of the King, originally Wormtongue slashed his throat.
  • In L.A. Confidential Captain Dudley Smith tells Ed Exley he's not ready for detective work because he's not willing to shoot a suspect in the back. By the end of the movie, Exley has done just that... to Smith.
  • Hickey uses this in Last Man Standing, putting his tommy gun down and turning his back to his victim preparatory to drawing a pistol and blowing them away. And then in the final showdown:

Hickey: "I don't suppose you're the kind of man who would shoot an unarmed man in the back?"
John Smith: "I've done worse than that."

  • The Operative pulls this on Mal in Serenity when the latter is trying to get to Mr. Universe's backup broadcast equipment, causing Mal to ask if he's made him angry (referring to their conversation in the Companion training house).
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
    • As soon as Order 66 is brought up, the troops accompanying Aayla Secura (that blue Jedi girl) shoot her in the back. Over and over. To be fair to the clones, she was standing in front of them, and they probably had been with her for a while so they know that firing at her from the front is a dodgy proposition
    • All of the clones shot their respective Jedi in the back. Mundi turned around at the last second, but the thought is what counts. Which was the entire point of not just Order 66, but the entire clone wars. To weaken the Jedi (and Jedi senses) far enough that when you shoot, their back is still towards you when the bolt hits.
    • Averted with Yoda, who was not having any of that shit. Yoda was aware of what was going on as the Jedi were being slaughtered, far too many to simply be attributed to combat, and when the clones approached him with weapons drawn, he knew what they were up to and struck first.
  • At the climax of The Secret of NIMH, Sullivan betrays Jenner and throws a knife into his back, killing him.
  • Great dialogue from Support Your Local Gunfighter : Sidekick: "You hit him from behind!" Garner: "Just as hard as I could."
  • Captain Marvel machine-guns a couple of fleeing, unarmed bandits in the 1941 Republic Pictures Film Serial, which is odd behaviour for a superhero of any time, let alone that time.
  • In the TV movie El Diablo:

Billy Ray Smith: You just shot that man in the back!
Van Leek: His back was to me.

  • In The Cowboys, Bruce Dern's character shot John Wayne in the back, and was typecast for life as a villain.
  • In White Sun of the Desert, Said reveals Offstage Villainy Djavded killed his father from behind. Said's current apparel has several bullet holes in the back - but whether he inherited it from his father or liberated it from someone else is unknown.
  • In Gangs of New York, Bill the Butcher throws a meat cleaver into Monk's back after he is elected sheriff, before beating Monk to death wih his own shillelagh.
  • In a famous scene in The French Connection Popeye Doyle shoots a man in the back. The real Popeye objected to this portrayal at first but eventually learned to accept it under the Rule of Cool.
  • What, no White Heat? When Arthur Cody Jarret learns that his mother was dispatched through being shot in the back, it's strongly implied that his plans for vengeance against the backshooter in question became all the more imminent and brutal
  • In High Noon, Amy shoots Pierce, one of Miller's men, in the back through a window while he's trying to reload.
  • Disney Peter Pan. Hook is sneaking up on Peter with sword drawn, when Smee sees him and calls out, "Capt'n!" Peter then turn around and asks, "In the back, Captain?"
  • In Disney's Tangled, Mother Gothel does this to Flynn/Eugene when she fatally stabs him in the back with her dagger, unseen, while he's trying to save Rapunzel (though, Gothel may or may not be a Dirty Coward, yet she does fight dirty). Guess he should have seen that one coming.
  • The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, obviously.
  • An interesting inversion happened in John Wayne's final film, "The Shootist." In the original script, Wayne's character was to shoot someone in the back during the final gunfight, but Wayne refused to do so, saying, "...I've made over 250 pictures and have never shot a guy in the back. Change it." Despite protests from Don Siegel, who insisted that good friend Clint Eastwood would've shot a guy in the back, the script was changed, and the final shootout played to Wayne's satisfaction.
  • How Ironhide is killed in Transformers: Dark of the Moon: shot in the back by Sentinel Prime.
    • Who, in an Ironic Echo, himself is shot in the back by Megatron. He doesn't die but is cripped enough for Optimus to finish him off with a headshot right after decapitating Megatron in the space of 5 seconds... while missing an arm.
  • Nobody realises ahead of time that someone intends to shoot him in the back and sets up a humiliation for them when they try.
  • In the Alternate Timeline of Stargate: Continuum, Ba'al has become the Supreme System Lord and has taken Qetesh (in Vala's body) as his bride. However, when Qetesh sees that Ba'al is not being as "Goa'uldey" as he should (he doesn't want to destroy Earth), she stabs him in the back with a monomolecular blade. She tries to get Teal'c cooperation, but he retorts that she'll kill Ba'al anyway. She does.
    • There are other cases in the show itself, including the good guys. For example, Teal'c android copy shoots Cronus in the back with a staff weapon in revenge for killing Teal'c father.
  • In Push, when Kira pushes Agent Mack to think his partner Agent Holden killed his brother (Mack doesn't have a brother), Mack walks out of the bathroom and shoots Holden in the back before realizing what he'd done.


  • In the Nibelungenlied, Hagen spears Siegfried in the back while Siegfried is drinking water from a spring during a hunt. This also happens in most other versions of the Siegfried story. (Siegfried's one vulnerable spot happened to be on his back, by the way).
  • In The Tomorrow Series, this happens to Corrie. Offscreen.
  • The Takers by Jerry Ahern. When he's trapped on a yacht that's been hijacked by pirates, the hero Josh Culhane has to do this. As he's a writer of action novels where the hero isn't supposed to shoot people in the back it bothers him, but not enough to stop him from doing it.
  • In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Summer Knight, Harry slugged Aurora in the back with his staff, ungentlemanly though it was. On the other hand, she was trying to sacrifice a helpless prisoner.
    • He also shot Captain Luccio in the back of the head. In his defense, she was possessed by a psychotically evil Omnicidal Maniac necromancer who would have just possessed him if it had realized he'd figured it out.
    • In Small Favor, Harry threatens a thug with this if he tries to run, pointing out it could mean his spine got hurt.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 novel Space Wolf, a Chaos Space Marine tells Ragnar

Do turn around, please. I want to look at you, for I never like shooting anyone in the back.

If you're going to shoot us, you'll have to do it in the back.

    • The primary point of any of Cain's altruistic acts, heroics, etc. are to stop Guard units he is leading from shooting him in the back (as happens to other Commissars).
  • Inquisitor Eisenhorn has the courtesy to wait until the enemy is facing him. Though he still shoves his pistol in Eyeclone's mouth and fires while the renegade isn't expecting to spot him. Just imagine the Oh Crap look on Eyeclone's face!
    • And during our introduction to Bequin she saves Eisenhorn by stabbing a thug through the back of the neck.
  • In Nick Kyme's novel Salamander, the Salamander captain is shot in the back. At the climax, Dak'ir accuses the killer of having no honor because of it, and a renegade Space Marine such as he defends himself; he had to obey orders.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Master Mind of Mars, Gor Hajus is a respected assassin, and part of the reason is that he will not attack from behind.
  • In Cold Mountain, a minor character is terrified of being shot in the back, which would prove he was fleeing the battle. He is eventually shot in the chest, whilst running backwards.
  • In C. S. Goto's Blood Ravens novel Dawn of War: Ascension, at the Blood Rites, aspirants are stabbed In the Back by others whom they had trusted to guard their backs.
  • In Chris Roberson's Imperial Fists novel Sons of Dorn, Jean-Robur learns to fight like a Combat Pragmatist in his first battle, stabbing a foe In the Back.
  • The Casino Murder Case: The murderer is holding Philo Vance and district attorney John Markham at gunpoint. After shooting Vance, he tells Markham that since Markham is "only a cop at heart", he would shoot Markham in the back. Markham refuses to turn around. Vance was Playing Possum after switching the murderer's bullets for blanks, hoping The Cavalry, a.k.a. the NYPD, would kill the murderer and save everyone the hassle of a trial. It worked.
  • Happens in one of the Redwall books, because the shrew in question is a Jerkass and a coward that throws his rapier at Log-a-log, killing him.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Red Nails", Conan the Barbarian repeatedly tells Olmec that he has to go before Conan. When he forgets and pushes ahead because he heard a scream, Olmec does indeed attack from behind.
  • In Malevil Armand is stabbed in the back when attempting to rape a woman. The big thug is unaware that he was stabbed and walks around town with the knife sticking out.
  • Happens in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • In Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, Rachel the Dragon attempts to stab Pyrates in the back with a kitchen knife. It doesn't work.
  • In Götterdämmerung, Hagen stabs Siegfried in the back in a more elaborate version of the scene from the Nibelungenlied. In the opera, Brünhild had cast a spell that made Siegfried invulnerable from the front because she said she knew he would never turn his back on an enemy.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan has three main characters: Revan (redeemed from the Dark Side), Meetra Surik (the Player Character from KotOR II), and Darth Scourge (who realizes that The Emperor is planning to start a war the Sith Empire can't win and wants to stop him). At the end of the novel, the three characters have joined forces and are facing down the Emperor. Scourge has a Force Vision that shows him a different Jedi killing the Emperor. Realizing they can't win, he stabs Meetra in the back, killing her instantly, while the Emperor disables Revan.
  • White Plume Mountain has this as one of The Justicar's main points:

Justicar: If they can hit you back, you're doing something wrong.

  • First Lensman opens with the visitor to a lab sneaking up on a scientist with a handgun and shooting him in the back seven times, including twice in the head — only for every bullet to pass through him harmlessly. Coupled with the scientist's blasé reaction and addressing the shooter as "Gharlane of Eddore," this is how we find out the shooter and the scientist are an Eddorian and an Arisian (respectively) in disguise. (No one notices any of this thanks to their zones of compulsion.)
  • Treasure Island: Jim Hawkins witnessed Long John Silver's murder of an honest sailor who refused to turn pirate — the man turned his back, saying he defied Silver, and Silver threw his crutch like a spear, hitting him between the shoulders, then jumped on him with a knife and finished him off.

Live-Action TV

  • On Supernatural Sam is killed the first time by a stab in the back. Subsequent deaths are much less dramatic, until three seasons later he jumps into Hell to save the world, and technically doesn't die.
  • When Jack Bauer has to shoot Nina Myers in the first season of 24, she insists strongly that he look at her when he does it. She's wearing a Bulletproof Vest.
  • The only way you could actually get zapped by the Interceptor.
  • Garak on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had no qualms about this.

Odo: You'd shoot a man in the back?
Garak: It's the safest way, isn't it?

    • Being pragmatic is the Cardassian way, especially if you've received Training from Hell meant to prepare you for the life of an operative.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The changing face of evil", Gul Dukat disguised as a Bajoran convinces Kai Winn to align towards the Pa-Wraiths. Winn's assistant finds this out and a conflicted Winn stabs the assistant in the back
  • The Addams Family

Uncle Fester: I'll shoot 'em in the back! Turn around! [signature line]

  • Have Gun -- Will Travel episode "The Colonel and the Lady"

Clay Sommers: Head-on, from the side, in the back; nobody's gonna make a fair fight out of it. We see you, we shoot.

[Smith tries to shoot one of the aliens in the back. The aliens make the laser pistol disappear]
Alien: You showed treachery and cunning, noble qualities on your native planet no doubt, but indicating defective relays in your reasoning circuits.

Chris Larabee: You don't shoot nobody in the back!

  • The Persuaders

Angie: Aww, what you gonna do? Shoot me in the back? That was always the difference between you and me. See, in your place, I could pull that trigger.

  • Mal's final conversation with Simon in the pilot of Firefly has these words assuring Simon that he won't kill him in his sleep: "You don't know me, son, so let me put this to you plainly. If I ever kill you, you will be awake, you will be facing me, and you will be armed." Given Mal's later nature as a Combat Pragmatist, this seems more an acceptance of Simon and his sister into Mal's True Companions than anything else. Joss Whedon suggests sardonically that Mal just has a very particular code of honor that will let him shoot an unarmed, surrendering enemy...but only in the front.
    • Alternatively, the monologue could be taken to mean that Mal just plain isn't going to try and kill Simon, and would only do so if Simon was trying to kill him.
    • A bit of Fridge Brilliance here, Dobson was awake, armed and looking at Mal when he was killed. The first time anyways.
    • After Jayne betrays Simon and River for money, Mal calls him out on it:

Mal: The next time you stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face.

Rimmer: What are you waiting for? Gloop him.
Lister: I can't. He's not armed.
Rimmer: Lister, this isn't a Scout meeting. We're not trying to win the Best-Behaved Troop flag. Gloop him.
Lister: What? In the back?
Rimmer: Of course in the back. It's only a pity he's awake.
Lister: You mean you could happily kill him if he was asleep?
Rimmer: I could happily kill him if he was on the job. Gloop him.

  • Lost
    • In the season 4 finale, Keamy criticizes Richard for shooting him in the back (which also wasn't effective because Keamy was heavily armored.) Richard hadn't had a choice, though, as Keamy was grappling with Sayid at the time.
    • In "The Variable," Eloise shoots Daniel, her own son, in the back.
  • SCTV - an ad for the tv Western "Yellowbelly" shows just what a yellowbelly the title character (John Candy) is as he shoots a child in the back, and then does the same to the child's mother.
  • In an episode of Blakes Seven Tarrant refuses to shoot his duel opponent in the back (despite his being an android), prompting cries of "Kill Him Already". He calls out his name, then shoots him.
  • Whild Bill Hickock's ultimate fate in Deadwood.
  • Horatio Hornblower is nearly stabbed in the back in the mini-series, by a furious and humiliated Simpson, but is saved by a truly excellent shot by Captain Pellew.
  • This is where Jimmy is shot in Degrassi, causing him to be paralyzed from the waist down for the remainder of his time on the program. This is also where JT is fatally stabbed.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Masterpiece," Rossi stays pretty composed while the unsub of the week tries and fails to kill his team and destroy him in various other ways. He loses it, however, when that same unsub attacks him from behind.
  • Jaime Lannister offed The Mad King in this fashion, seventeen years before the beginning of Game of Thrones. And There Was Much Rejoicing.
    • Though even though the Mad King was obviously completely unfit to rule and a danger to the entire kingdom, Jaime was called "Kingslayer" from then on and was met with disdain from Lawful Good (or Lawful Stupid, if you prefer) characters like Ned Stark, who believed that what he did was dishonorable.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy finds herself facing the vampire prostitute she earlier caught feeding on her Love Interest Riley Finn. Initially Buffy lets her go, but her darker side takes over and she hurls a wooden spear into the vampire's back as she's running away.
  • Happens in CSI: NY,in the season finale where the bar the CSIs are sitting in is shot to bits by a suspect wanting revenge. However, it's mainly a result of the villain shooting anywhere and everywhere with some kind of automatic weapon and Danny, who was sitting closest to the window anyway, having thrown himself over Lindsay to protect his wife, leaving his back exposed.
    • And later to Mac in 'Near Death'.

Video Games

  • The Dark-type Pokémon move Pursuit hits an opponent attempting to switch out, inflicting double damage in the process (presumably by striking their back).
  • The first mission in Mass Effect 1 starts with Nihlus, a turian Spectre, getting shot in the back by his old colleague Saren.

Grunt: Warriors like you and me? Right in the face. *Beat* Kidding, kidding.

Private Chernov: Are we to shoot them in the back?
Sgt. Reznov: The back, the front, the head! Whatever you wish! Just so long as they are dead!

Mobster1: [back turned to the player] Always figured someone would sneak up behind me in the middle of the night and shoot me in the back.

  • Stabbing a Mook in the back is an instant kill in Assassin's Creed II.
  • In Fallout 3, one of the first quests is to decide if you want to set off or defuse an atomic bomb in the middle of a town. If you tell the town's sheriff about the individual who offers to pay you to set it off he will go to confront him and be shot in the back for his trouble (unless you save him, but this doesn't effect the game much).
    • As for the player, you score automatic critical hits (for double or better damage) when shooting an opponent who hasn't seen you. Early in the game, before you're very good at sneaking, this is easiest from behind them.
  • You can earn medals in the multiplayer modes of Halo by doing this. In-game these are registered as "assassinations".
  • A rare good guy version occurs in Quest for Glory 3; when the five heroes enter the Demon Wizard's inner sanctum, they're confronted by super-strong, demonic versions of themselves created via magic mirror. The player's fight seems unwinnable until the thief from the bazaar appears and backstabs the evil version, telling the hero to go on and face the wizard while he holds off the copy.
  • In Super Smash Bros.. Melee, you could get the appropriately named "Backstabber" bonus for primarily attacking your opponents from behind.
    • Ganondorf shoots Bowser with the Dark Cannon from behind in Super Smash Bros.. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary.
  • In Team Fortress 2, stabbing someone in the back with the Spy is a one hit kill, while using a Backburner as a Pyro does triple damage from behind.
  • World of Warcraft
    • The Backstory of Alexandros Mograine features this. His son Renault was persuaded to lead him into a trap -- a hopeless fight against wave upon wave of undead. Because he was such a Badass, he killed them all -- but when he took a breather afterward, and let go of his sword, Renault came out of hiding and stabbed him with it.
    • In terms of game mechanics, this sort of behavior is encouraged against raid bosses and a danger for tanks. In raids, attacking a boss from the front often involves standing in a frontal attack zone where only the tanks can survive, so most melee attack from the rear; conversely, monsters striking a player from behind can both daze the player(slowing them). Some attacks also only work from behind, and you can't be dodged by players (or parried by anyone) from behind either.
    • Orgrim Doomhammer died when he was stabbed in the back with a polearm. Those who look up to him consider this a cowardly act.
    • One quest in the Twilight Highlands involves fighting some enemies long enough for your ally to sneak up on them and finish them off.
  • In The Godfather: The Game, you will occasionally have enemy mobsters attacking you from behind even if you cleared the path beforehand. There are various opportunities to sneak up on enemies yourself.
  • At the end of Conquests of Camelot, the thief that stole the grail tries to stab King Arthur in the back, which fails since he's wearing armor (He is not a moron). The guy is then promptly reduced to a skeleton by the grail's power for his bad manners.
  • In World of Tanks, you'll find that attacking your opponents in the back to be very efficient, as tanks always have the armor strongest in front.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The "Knife" and "Submarine" endings turn themselves into a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending.
  • Tales of Monkey Island: Inverted near the end of Chapter 4: Not only does LeChuck (figuratively) stab Guybrush in the back in a clever ambush attack, but he (literally) stabs Guybrush in the chest... with the Cursed Cutlass of Kaflu that is powerful enough to kill him, if not instantly!
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, on Terra's route, after the boss fight with Master Eraqus, both have a My God, What Have I Done? moment, until Master Xenanort stabs Eraqus in the back (while Terra watches), killing him (although in Blank Points, it's shown that Eraqus' heart went into Terra's).
  • All the Thief games encourage attacking from behind. With your blackjack or sword (first two games) or dagger (third game) against an unwary foe, it's a KO or kill respectively. This is important, since Garret kind of sucks at direct combat. He's a THIEF after all, not a knight errant, or an errant fool.

Tabletop Games

  • In the earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, the Thief class ability giving bonuses on surprise attack was named "Backstab". It was renamed to "Sneak Attack" in D&D3, reducing amount of zig-zag clarifications ("backstab is not necessarily an attack from behind" - though most often it is).
  • Non-Skirmisher units in Warhammer Fantasy get massive bonuses to combat resolution (the check to see if the enemy breaks and runs) if they charge from the side or rear.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • In episode nine of There Will Be Brawl, Zelda stabbed Link in the back with his own sword.
  • During the 'Recovery One' miniseries of Red vs. Blue, Agent South shot Agent Washington in the Back. He really likes to bitch about that.

Western Animation

Bugs Bunny: Only a rat would shoot a guy... (turns around) the back.
Elmer: (starts to pull on the trigger)
Bugs Bunny: I reiterate: only a big, fat rat would shoot a guy in the back.
Elmer: (shoots -- a smoke cloud appears where Bugs was)
Elmer: (gloating) So I'm a big, fat wat!
Bugs Bunny: (appears out of smoke) Ah! Have some cheese, rat! (shoves cheese wedge in Elmer's mouth)

Real Life

  • Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back by Jack McCall. It happened to him the only time he ever sat with his back to the door.
    • McCall shot Hickok in the back of the head, whereupon Bill stood up and began to draw his pistol and turn toward his attacker before falling across the table dead. Reflexes like that qualify Hickok for Epic Badass status.
  • Famed Lakota warrior chief Crazy Horse was reputedly bayoneted in the back.
  • Famed gunslinger and killer John Wesley Hardin was shot in the back. His killer got off by claiming self-defense on the grounds that Hardin could see him reflected in the barroom mirror Hardin was looking at.
  • While in the Wild East... One 19th-Century Chechnyan warlord surrendered to Russians (yes, Chechen Wars aren't exactly new stuff), and the other kept fighting. On one occasion they met, and when the first one was leaving, the second shouted at him to turn around, because he wants to at least shoot him (for mentioned surrendering to Russians, what he saw as treason), but won't shoot in the back.
  • Brutally true in Real Life. It has actually been proven that it is significantly easier for soldiers to kill their opponents when their backs are turned, especially if they are retreating. An opponent facing a shooter or attacker is a human being and a face that conveys a variety of emotions, immediately triggering the fundamental human aversion to killing one's own kind. On the other hand, a person fleeing triggers predatory "pursue and kill" instincts, and the killer doesn't see their face, thus dehumanizing their target, making shooting or stabbing them much easier. A person from behind also resembles the standard "person silhouette" target used on many target ranges, making it easier to revert back to training mentality and shoot.
  • This is true in melee as well. Approach an experienced fighter from the front with violent intent and whipping out a weapon or having buddies might not save you, but catch one by surprise and things look quite different.