Kick Them While They Are Down

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Now that's just plain mean.

Ender knew the unspoken rules of manly warfare, even though he was only six. It was forbidden to strike the opponent who lay helpless on the ground; only an animal would do that. So Ender walked to Stiltson's supine body and kicked him again, viciously, in the ribs.

No-one is supposed to kick, stab, beat, or otherwise harm someone after they are down. Unless they are a villain, of course, then they are just emphasizing how much of a bastard they are. In some cases this may cross the Moral Event Horizon if it is especially vicious and the writers do not want us sympathizing with the one doing the kicking. The person who does this will almost never turn good, unless they have a spectacular moment of oh My God, What Have I Done?.

This proscription extends to hitting someone who is newly dead just to unleash aggression; no matter how evil they are, respect is Due to the Dead.

Essentially, a form of Kick the Dog. A common example of fighting dirty and thus a Combat Pragmatist will often not shy from it. Worse if the fighting had stopped and the character was not caught up in the heat of battle. Worse if the victim was clearly incapacitated. Still worse if you hadn't been fighting him prior to the injuries; breaking into a hospital to slaughter the wounded, or shooting down transportation carrying the wounded, or kicking someone to see if he survived for Cold-Blooded Torture, is usually an unforgivable offense, even trumping Men Are the Expendable Gender.

It may not be regarded as seriously wrong if the attacker had been in the throes of fighting his victim, and had just reason to feel Unstoppable Rage, so that he doesn't realize he was doing it. But even if the attacker caught the victim crossing a Moral Event Horizon, had to fight furiously to subdue him before this trope, and didn't realize that the victim was stopped while he was doing it, it's not a good act.

If a nominally good character does this, it is a clear sign of Good Is Not Soft at best, if not Good Is Not Nice; at worst he/she is a Knight Templar Designated Hero.

In Real Life, under The Laws and Customs of War, it is a war crime—as is Playing Possum, because that encourages soldiers to do this.

See also No-Holds-Barred Beatdown for when a bad guy does more than just kick you when you are down—although that may not start out like this, with the hero able to defend himself somewhat, it usually turns into it. A Finishing Move that can only be used on downed opponents may also involve this, such as a Finishing Stomp.

Contrast Get It Over With, as well as Once Is Not Enough where it would be sensible to do this but the character reveals his Genre Blindness and terminal idiocy by failing to. Compare Finish Him!. You Get Knocked Down, You Get Back Up Again is a videogame-specific defiance.

Examples of Kick Them While They Are Down include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mahou Sensei Negima: Kotarou Inugami suggests this trope to Negi Springfield during their fight with Jack Rakan, but he decides not to, not due to any sense of fairness, but rather that he was pretty sure Rakan was faking it.
  • A favorite tactic among the cast of Code Geass, but especially Charles, Lelouch and Schneizel. Suzaku has his moments as well. This is probably because most of the cast are well-intentioned extremists running on generations of fervent nationalism and racial wars. It's not a fun place.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • In the original anime, Yami Yugi of all people does this to Insector Haga (of all people). He kept attacking Haga with Berserker Soul even after his Life Points hit zero, and would have kept going if Anzu hadn't stopped him. While it might still be unjustified, Insector Haga had pulled a cruel trick on Yami (which was also this trope) so in a way, he kind of deserved it. Yami just went a little too far.
    • A variation: In the Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, when Edo Phoenix defeats Judai, with an attack so powerful it sends Judai flying and renders him partially blind, Edo roars, "Dissappear, trash!"
  • Nnoitra did this to Ichigo in Bleach just after Ichigo defeated Grimmjow. Nnoitra then received a Karmic Death thanks to someone who presents more of a challenge than a half-dead Ichi: Zaraki Kenpachi. Also recently[when?] done by Gin towards his Morality Pet Rangiku. He faked it. Kira Izuru claims this is one of the main strategies of the third division. Then again, even Rukia advised Ichigo to follow the attack from behind mantra.
  • Beelzemon does this to an already-wounded Kyuubimon in Digimon Tamers when she makes the mistake of referring to him as Impmon, while pleading with him to stop his attack on her and the other protagonists. Seeing as Kyuubimon is a 4-legged, 9-tailed fox, it could also be considered a literal example of Kick the Dog.
  • Miata in Claymore is clearly established to be insane after she keeps stabbing a dead Yoma after (quite viciously) killing it. However, it might just be that she doesn't realize it's dead, as she's just a bit off her rocker.
  • One Piece:
    • Spandam in his arc does this to Nico Robin after capturing her, all the while gloating about the genocide at Ohara, that happened when Robin was eight and that she was the only survivor of. (Also to Franky, albeit to a lesser extent.) He even kicks poor Robin down the stairs, and somehow his small Draco in Leather Pants fandom mostly doesn't mind and considers that to add to his percieved sexiness.
    • In the Amazon Lily arc, Boa forces Luffy to fight her sisters Sandersonia and Marigold in public Trial by Combat, done on an elevated platform surrounded by a spiked pit. In one part of the fight, Luffy ties their tails together (an improvised version of the old "tie the foe's shoelaces together" trick) leaving both off-balance when Marigold tries to breathe fire at Luffy, hitting Sandersonia instead, burning her cloak and sending stumbling towards the pit. She barely manages to grab hold of the edge, and is hanging on for dear life - when Luffy leaps on her back. For a few tense seconds she thinks Luffy is going to finish her off while she's helpless - but he isn't. He's trying to cover the Slave Brand on her back, as he knows it would be humiliating for all three siblings if Boa's subjects saw it.
  • Baccano! - Ladd Russo demonstrates just what a crazy bastard he is when he decides to take a whack at a downed opponent not once or twice but forty-seven times, entirely for shits and giggles.
  • In Pokémon Special, Maxie and Archie love doing this. They left Courtney's corpse underneath fallen rubble (they pulled her into it first), had Norman's dead/dying body go up in flames, beat the shit of Wallace after he was forced to stand down to save his love interest, and stomped on Ruby's Feebas several times over.
    • Team Rocket in the Pokémon anime did this to Ash's Sceptile while it was having a Heroic BSOD, having Cacnea and Seviper hit it over and over with Poison Tail and Needle Arm because it couldn't fight back while trying to protect the Meganium that it had a crush on.
  • D Gray Man
    • A newly evolved Level 2 slashed Kanda severely after disguising himself as an accompanying Finder, after punching Kanda through several walls and then holding him pinned to another wall.
    • Tyki has done this twice. Firstly when Allen was completely worn out from trying to save Suman and had injuries to both his arms, when Tyki seemingly destroys Allen's Innocence and then plants a flesh-eating golem to bite a hole in his heart, meaning to kill him - well, he had been sent to assassinate Allen. Secondly in the Ark arc, when Tyki's alternate form is triggered and he wipes the floor with Allen and Lavi. He beats them up and then sets to choking Lenalee, who is unable to fight back effectively due to her injuries from an earlier battle, to near death.
  • In the Ranma ½ manga several characters will do this. For example Genma and Soun both will attack Happosai when he is down. Of course, Happosai usually deserves it.
  • In Black Lagoon, Rock is the victim of this when Chaka is trying to provoke his bodyguard and partner Revy into a quickdraw duel, so punches him in the gut and starts taunting and kicking him whilst he's on the floor writhing in pain and gasping for breath, until their bosses arrive.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Goku defeats two members of the Ginyu Force very easily, leaving them lying on the ground unconscious or in serious pain but still alive, not killing them even though they came very close to murdering his son and best friend (and also Vegeta). As he and his friends discuss the events on Namek, Vegeta suddenly murders both weakened fighters. Goku chews him out for this, saying they were no threat and couldn't even defend themselves but Vegeta (unsurprisingly) doesn't care.
    • The fight between Vegeta and Freeza has plenty of this too. Even after beating Vegeta so hard he couldn't move, Freeza picks him up by his hair and gleefully continues to beat the hell out of him.
    • Also, back in the 22nd Tenka'ichi Budokai, Tenshinhan beats Yamcha by landing a powerful kick to his gut. The two were in mid-air when it happened, so after Yamcha fell back onto the ring, Ten decided to land a kneedrop onto Yamcha's leg, breaking it. Goku calls out Ten on this, but Ten simply shrugs him off.
  • The battle between Cypha and Signum in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force ends with the former impaling the latter's body after the latter was already unconscious on the ground and critically injured, all to make a point for anyone who happened to be watching them.
  • In Holyland Masaki pretends to do this to Yuu after their Curb Stomp Battle in order to fool the watching thugs into letting them leave.
  • In Naruto Pain does this to Hinata.
  • In Berserk, Guts does this to the Apostles whenever he defeats one. He casually shoots the bisected but still alive Baron full of crossbow bolts, and stabs the mutilated Count in the face dozens of times with a knife (which still doesn't kill them). The fact that the Apostles themselves commit far greater crimes on a regular basis and against helpless people is the only thing that prevents it from being a Moral Event Horizon for Guts, but it certainly shows how twisted and blackened his soul is following the Eclipse.
  • Subverted in the last episode of Speed Grapher. Suitengu Choji is not well known for his mercy, but when Saiga sacrifices his eyes to blow up a missile that would have killed them both, Suitengu takes pity on the helpless man and flies him to safety before taking his farewell bow.
  • In Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, Hatori proceeds to do a rather nasty one to Yanase in episode16. Sure Yanase already broke down crying after being rejected by Chiaki a second time but was it necessary to break into his house and then pin him into the wall proceeding to beat the shit out of him in his own house when he practically shut down?! Thank god Chiaki stopped it before it got worse.

Comic Books

  • Legion of Super-Heroes - In "Five Years Later", the serial killer Roxxas (no relation) was attempting to kill the Legion when he found Mekt Ranzz, the villainous brother to Legionnaires Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass/Light Lass. Believing him to be after the Legion, Roxxas tries to strike a deal, splitting up the Legionnaires they could kill; when Mekt, who has reformed, tries to stop him from killing, Roxxas brings him down and, complaining that he would have shared, kicks him while he is unconscious.
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach is kicked and beaten after he's been pinned down by the police, having already injured himself jumping out of a second-story window while trying to evade capture. Of course, he did severely injure at least a few of them before being brought down, and has been said to have made some insulting remarks about the police.
    • Hollis Mason's murder is another example.
  • Usagi Yojimbo - A favorite tactic of Noriko "The Blood Princess". She's introduced sparring with her cousin Tomoe using wooden swords, winning, and then savagely beating a now unarmed Tomoe to the ground. She does this again (minus the wooden swords) when she reveals that not only are she and Tomoe are half-sisters but she also killed Tomoe's father after he refused to acknowledge her as his daughter, literally kicking Tomoe while she's down and in shock.
  • Ultimates - In Ultimate Extinction, Mahr Vehl asked Captain America (comics) if he had a problem with kicking people when they were down. The Captain coolly replied he always figured it was best time to kick them.

Fan Works

  • TFN Fan Films hosts a short Star Wars fan film named Legacy of the Jedi produced by Thrill Factory Entertainments in which a Jedi uses this to recover his fallen Master's lightsaber after a lightsaber dueling session in which the Jedi and his Apprentice are evenly matched by a Sith Master. Watch it here: [1]


  • Biff did this in Back to The Future Part II. After Marty is knocked over in 1955, Biff takes the sports almanac back from. He then kicks Marty in the stomach twice, the second time saying "This one's for my car!" Marty was lying on the ground, but he was still conscious.
  • From Dusk till Dawn‍'‍s kick punctuation (after breaking Cheech Marin's fingers and punching him in the face):

How ya doin'?!
Enjoying it?!
I hope so!

  • While we're at it, how about Lex Luthor viciously kicking the ever-loving crap out of Superman in Superman Returns?
    • In Lex's defense, one doesn't get many chances to kick Superman and do any actual damage at all so can you blame him for seizing the opportunity to make it count?
  • And Davy Jones in the third Pirates of the Caribbean, stabbing Will Turner after he's both defeated and fearing for Elizabeth's life -- with the sword Will made in the first film, no less. Jones gets his just deserts a few minutes later.
  • Kung Fu Panda. In the climactic battle, Po has thoroughly beaten Tai Lung physically and emotionally, with obvious wounds on the villain as he struggles in helpless bewilderment towards Po to ask how this is all possible. Instead of answering, knocks him out and sends him sailing.[1]
  • The Joker does this with gusto to Bats in The Dark Knight, with a crowbar after he had just been attacked by a pack of Rottweilers. Possibly justifiable there, as... well, he is the Goddamn Batman—he doesn't stay down too easily.
  • Mitch tries to do this to Slim in Enough. Fortunately for her, her self-defense teacher had prepared her for this situation.

Instructor: He's standing over you. He thinks he's won. And as sure as he's a coward, he will try to kick you.

  • Sonny Corleone's death scene in The Godfather. Not only did he get shot dozens of times, even when he couldn't defend himself, but his dead body gets shot a few more times just because and then kicked hard right in the face.
  • This happens in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. After two minor villains are disarmed and no longer resisting, Jack Spade punches one of them in the stomach (watch it on YouTube at about 3:10). Jack's partner John Slade has to tell him to stop ("Hold it! Hold it! It's over, it's over!") or the villain would have been much worse off. Jack has no combat experience and was caught up in the heat of battle.
  • A favorite of mob movies beatdowns, kicking a person who's already on the floor is a good way to showcase the brutality of the characters doing the kicking. Most memorably used in the Billy Batts scene in Goodfellas where Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci just batter the hell out of their victim. Also in the famous pen scene in Casino, where Joe Pesci alternates between kicking and repeatedly stabbing his target with a pen even though he's already on the ground.
  • Remarkably enough, this is averted by the jerkass protagonist of Royal Flash, whose motto is "Never kick a man when he's down; he might get up."
  • In Streets of Fire, this is done to the hero, Tom Cody, by Big Bad Raven Shaddock. Cause he's awesome, Cody pulls through and wins the fight anyway.
  • Jerkass Master Li from the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid encourages his students to do this to their opponents, even when they are already down and defeated, showing them absolutely no mercy.
  • In Unforgiven, "Little Bill" Daggett kicks English Bob in the chest after he's down because he's angry about Bob coming to town to murder the cowboys and collect the bounty.
    • This seems to be Little Bill's standard M.O. for out-of-towners. All visitors to the town are expected to surrender their firearms upon entering, and for those that don't Bill calls up his posse to surround them with guns. Once the visitor is forced into handing any weapons over, Bill proceeds to beat the unarmed man senseless. He even pulls this on Eastwood's character when he rides in, in spite of Eastwood clearly being sick with a cold and unable to defend himself. When it's pointed out afterward that, unlike with English Bob, there was no evidence Eastwood was in town for the bounty (He was, but Bill didn't know that), Bill casually blows it off.
  • Used gloriously in Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski stars and his primary fighting style seems to be sitting on your chest and smashing your face.
  • Undercover Brother. The title character kicks a golf course security guard after Sistah Girl knocks the guard out. Later in the film, he apparently literally curb-stomps a knocked down guard... only to reveal that he in fact crushed the guard's bag of Cheetos. It was his last bag.
  • In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah the titular villain waits until Godzilla is grieving over his son's death, than attacks him, establishing itself as one of the most hated monsters in the franchise.
  • In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine orders Anakin to execute the literally disarmed Count Dooku after Anakin defeated him. After a moment of hesitation on Anakin's part, Palpatine commands him to do it—slipping into his Darth Sidious voice in the process—Anakin beheads Dooku. This act serves the double purpose of removing a no longer useful pawn and bringing Anakin ever closer to the Sith way of thinking.
  • In the live-action Transformers film, Optimus Prime's fight against Megatron doesn't end up going too well, with the Decepticon leader being more powerful than Prime. One portion of the fight shows Optimus on his knees, wounded. Megatron takes the opportunity to kick him in the face.
    • The sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen features a three-against-one fight with Optimus Prime facing a resurrected Megatron, Starscream and Grindor. Midway through the fight, Optimus ends up receiving a devastating amount of punishment, resulting in a Broken Faceplate. Just as he begins struggling to get back on his feet, Starscream hits him... with a missile.


  • Ender Wiggin in Ender's Game did this early on, to "win" all future fights with Stilson. It comes up again in Battle School, when Ender is cornered by a gang of older (read: bigger) students who don't care that he's the last, best hope for humanity (in fact, they hate him more because of it.) Ender doesn't find out until years later that the brutal beatdowns he delivered actually killed both Stilson and Bonzo.
  • What Eragon does to Sloan in the Inheritance Cycle. Murtagh is also found of this tactic, going so far as to behead one of his enemies while the man is on the ground.
  • In Tamora Pierce's book Lady Knight, a young woman named Peliwin is found by Keladry cutting apart the body of the Scanran solider who "hurt" her, after Kel and her friends raid the camp and rescue the group of refugees Peliwin was being held with. Given the context, it's reasonable to assume that the man raped her. Kel reassures her, telling Peliwin that she can stop now since he can't hurt anyone else ever again.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, when Jantine Patricians sneak-attack the Ghosts on shipboard, one Ghost sees two Patricians clubbing a wounded and helpless Ghost—as part of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that kills three Ghosts and leaves another one critical. To say nothing of the one they dragged off for Cold-Blooded Torture and attempted Mind Rape.
    • Later in the same novel, a Naval trooper kicks Caffran while he is down, before bringing his gun to bear. This time, it means that Bragg can get at the trooper before he shoots.
    • In Ghostmaker, Gilbear, walking the pickett, beats two Ghosts he disapproves of, in an eruption of their regimental rivalries. He kicks one while he's down. When Corbec interrupts, he brings Gilbear down and in Revenge, kicks him.
    • In Blood Pact, Kolding's Backstory: his father was a doctor during the war, and the Chaos forces broke in to murder him and the wounded. (Kolding saw it; he was sixteen at the time.)
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, Nobby Nobbs is the undisputed master of "putting the boot in" with City Watch prisoners.
  • Many A Song of Ice and Fire fans feel that young Dark Action Girl Arya will eventually progress into a fullblown Sociopathic Hero. One of the earliest pieces of evidence they point to is the action of viciously kicking the body of one of her father's guards. Earlier in the book said guard had promised her she would be safe because each northman with her father was worth ten southern soldiers. When she finds him dead having killed only a single foe, she commences the kicking and calling him a liar.
  • In Dan Abnett and Mike Lee's Malus Darkblade novel Daemon's Curse, Malus informs Brettonian captive, Mathieu, that he is going to let him go free thanks to his fiancé. But he then proceeds to tell him that she made the mistake of saying she would do anything to save him. Because Malus is a compassionate fellow 'anything' included being gang raped and tortured by most of the Dark Elves on board. Once everyone was done with her Malus killed her and flayed her face off, which he saved for Mathieu. He waits for it all to sink in, then throws the poor sod overboard and straight into the arms of man-eating mermaids.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy In Flames, in an attack on the betrayed loyalist Space Marines, Eidolon and his troops start their attack with the Apothecary and the wounded. He takes particular glee in killing those who had belonged to his Legion.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novel Thendara House. While the Terran woman Magda Lorne is training as a Renunciate, she gets into a sword fight with several men. After one of them realizes that he's outmatched and tries to surrender, Magda continues attacking him and almost kills him. She had gone into a berserk state and didn't realize he was surrendering.
  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Ball And the Cross, the two heroes come upon some drunks harassing a car carrying a woman and her driver.

Another of the rowdies rushed forward booing in idiot excitement, fell over the chauffeur, and, either by accident or design, kicked him as he lay. The drunkard got to his feet again; but the chauffeur did not.
The man who had kicked kept a kind of half-witted conscience or cowardice, for he stood staring at the senseless body and murmuring words of inconsequent self-justification, making gestures with his hands as if he were arguing with somebody.

Admiral Torgis proved he understood as well as Woetjans did that the first rule of brawling is that you always kick your opponent when he's down.

  • In Alex Bledsoe's Burn Me Deadly, Nicky stops Eddie by saying that if he kills an unarmed and injured man before her, she will see him hang. Eddie doesn't know whether he would actually have killed the man, but he was glad he wouldn't have to find out.
  • In The Warlock In Spite Of Himself, Tuan indignantly rules out a mildly sneaky move by comparing it to kicking a man in the head when he's down. Rod decides it's not the time to mention he's done that and worse in a fight.
  • In the Night Huntress books by Jeaniene Frost, "Always kick them when they're down" is one of Bones' rules, and likewise anyone trained by him.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Literature/Red ails" this is freely used:

when a man or woman went down under the stamping feet, there was always a knife ready for the helpless throat, or a sandaled foot eager to crush the prostrate skull.

Constantius's bluebearded devils will be searching the quarters for wounded Khaurani; they'll hang every man who has wounds to show he fought against them.

  • Jack Reacher is perfectly willing to do this.
  • In C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian, onlookers are not entirely pleased that Peter steps back to let Miraz rise. Then two of Miraz's treacherous nobles claimed that he had stabbed Miraz in the back, and one of them stops rushing to attack Peter in order to stab him himself.
  • In The Bible, Simeon and Levi lead an attack on the city of Shechem after the prince of that city rapes their little sister. They tell the Shechemites that they will form an alliance, on the condition that the Shechemite men get circumcised. The Shechemites agree to this, and the men and boys of the city undergo the procedure. Three days later, while they're still incapacitated, Simeon and Levi and their brothers go in and slaughter all the men of the city (and take the women and children as plunder.) Their father, Jacob, gives them a What the Hell, Hero?.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Michael O'Halloran, Mickey recounts how a nurse abused a little girl, one of her charges, and then one of her brothers kicked her when she was down. He did not know any street kid who would kick a little girl when she'd been beat up.

Live Action TV

  • In the first episode of Firefly, the Fed agent hits Book a few more times after he knocks him out just because. Joss actually said in a commentary that they added this to emphasize just how psychotic the guy was. On the other hand, Mal taunting and jabbing a fallen Atherton Wing at the end of their duel in "Shindig" is played for laughs (mostly because Atherton deserved it):

Mal: Mercy is the sign of a great man. (stabitty) Guess I'm just a good one. (stabitty) Well, I'm all right...

  • In the Babylon 5 episode, "The Long, Twilight Struggle," Londo Mollari may be disturbed seeing his ally, Lord Refa, bombard the Narn Homeworld with illegal mass drivers to devastate the planet, but it does not prevent him from carrying out the declarations of the brutal occupation of the planet in council on Babylon 5 with a complete hardass and unyielding. Sheridan was quite willing to continue beating a deserving target long after he'd been knocked to the ground.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, this sort of behavior ultimately gets Barney banned from Laser Tag.
  • Faith is introduced as wanting to beat the bad guys a little too bad on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • In Pushing Daisies, the first episode has Chuck lightly kick the corpse of her murderer. It's more adorable than disturbing.
  • The concept of overkill is brought up a few times in Criminal Minds: if a killer commits violence against the corpse of their victim, it's considered a sign either that they have a great deal of anger, or they're really starting to lose their mind. Or both. In one episode, it's considered significant that a murderer has stopped the practice of repeatedly stabbing his victims after they're dead.
    • The most notable example would be when Hotch, in his Unstoppable Rage, kept attacking the Reaper after their intense life-or-death struggle, even though he was clearly already dead. Justified in that it was better to be safe than sorry, and the Reaper had killed Hotch's ex-wife minutes earlier. The team had to pull him off while he was still beating the corpse.
  • In Robin Hood: after the Cat Fight Kate squeezes Isabella's face and shoves it to one side with a nasty smirk on her face, despite the fact that Isabella's surrounded and incapacitated.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. In the "Scott of the Antarctic" sketch Scott does it to the lion while fighting it.
  • One episode of Drake and Josh has Josh ordering their father to wrestle Drake, who was injured. This is because he discovered his injuries from a dune buggy accident when their parents had forbidden them to drive it.
  • In the Doctor Who serial Underworld, the Seer does this to Herrick to verify he's alive for Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • Leverage: During their fight, Mr. Quinn makes a point of trying to kick Eliot into submission after he's already knocked him down. Eliot quickly turns the tables.


  • Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" contains the line "The first kick I took was when I hit the ground."
  • Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" has the refrain: "Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down, kick 'em when they're stiff, kick 'em all around,"

Professional Wrestling

  • During the kayfabe era (pre-mid 1990s), when the staple of a wrestling promotion's television programming was matches pitting top tier and mid-level talent vs. jobbers, a promoter frequently would push a villain as an unstoppable Monster Heel by having him continue to physically punish a jobber well after he had scored a victory over him, often by performing a powerful finishing move on the hapless opponent one or more times. This was always to demonstrate said move's power, establish the heel's credibility as invincible and – the end goal – set up a showdown with the promotion's lead face (seemingly the only one who could withstand the evil man-monster's might). Well-known examples of wrestlers making encore use of their powerful holds/moves after getting the win:
    • Earthquake (John Tenta) and his running seated senton (the "Earthquake Splash"), sometimes as many as five times after the match was over.
    • Yokozuna (Rodney Anoa'i, a mammoth-sized Samoan wrestler with a sumo wrestler gimmick) and another form of the senton, this one jumping from the second rope to land in a seated position on his prone opponent's chest. At his peak, Yokozuna would repeatedly "Yokozuna splash" his unfortunate opponent up to four times after the initial win-securing move. (At least once, Yoko continued to sit on the opponent's chest, as an in-ring interview with Mr. Fuji took place.)
    • Big John Studd, the wrestler who claimed he couldn't be slammed, would often bodyslam his opponents several times after a match. Other times, he would continue to use his submission hold, an over-the-shoulder backbreaker, until the jobber passed out from the pain.
    • Sid Justice's finishing move was a powerbomb, where the opponent is hoisted into the air and slammed onto his back. During his pre-Wrestlemania VIII run as a heel, Justice used the move up to three times on his foes post-match.
    • Ox Baker, who used a move called the Heart Punch (a powerful punch thrown to the opponent's chest) to knock out his opponents, was known to repeat the move several times (and "further damage" the poor guy's cardiovascular system).
    • Far smaller than the above opponents, but Greg "The Hammer" Valentine was often fond of re-applying his submission hold, the figure-four leglock, on a defeated jobber; the formula was that he would release the hold to accept the victory, then—usually to push him as sadistic—push the referee aside, grab the writhing-in-pain jobber's leg, and put him in another figure-four leglock (ostensibly to "break the leg").
      • For a time in the late 1980s, Valentine wore a steel brace over his knee, claiming it was to help heal a knee injury, but the intent became clear once he began applying his figure-four leglock and jobbers were in even more pain. This included during and post-match punishment.
    • Baron Von Rasche was a Greco-Roman specialist, but was more fond of using his brain claw to force his beaten opponents into a painful submission. At times, he was even more fond of keeping the pressure applied until he drew blood.
    • The tag team Demolition (Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow as the KISS-influenced Ax and Smash, respectively) would do their "Demolition decapitation" finisher—Ax drops an elbow from the second rope, while Smash holds the unconscious opponent over his knees—on occasion. The most famous example was to jobber Brady Boone, whom Vince McMahon happened to point out was the "cousin" of Billy Jack Haynes (a mid-carder that the WWF was trying to push as part of a tag team with Ken Patera). In the Boone example, Haynes came out for the save ... only to be on the receiving end of a beatdown and at least two Demolition decapitations; Patera then came out to stop the assault, but he too got it!
      • More often than not, several of the above examples would sometimes feature the jobber being carried from the ring on a stretcher (and sometimes for added effect, "blood" would be added to simulate internal bleeding), in a further attempt by the promotion to demonstrate the power and sheer evil/unstoppability of the monster heel. Carrying the trope even further, sometimes the heel wrestler would, after watching the medics tend to the "injured" jobber, grab the wrestler as he's being taken to backstage (for "medical attention") and deliver the powerful finishing move again in the entrance aisle—and more than once, the heel wouldn't stop with just one at this point.
      • Occassionally, this trope would be reversed, with the face punishing a heel wrestler—especially if he were the Monster Heel that sadistically sidelined the rest of the hapless jobbers and terrorized the faces—to both give the heel his comeuppance and send the audience home happy. In 1981, then-beloved babyface Andre the Giant continued to punish an obviously beaten Killer Khan in retaliation for breaking his leg; three years later, he spent 15 minutes torturing hated villain The Iron Sheik, and had him beat long before he finally decided to pin the bloodied, battered and bruised Iranian. During his first WWF Heavyweight Championship run, Hulk Hogan was known to continue punishing such vile villains as "Dr. D" David Schultz, the Iron Sheik, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and Randy Savage, long after he could have easily pinned them.
  • The "stretcher match" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin – an opportunity to continue beating your opponent into a comatose state, long after victory would have been assured, to force him to be carried out on a stretcher. The most famous was the Andre the Giant vs. Killer Khan stretcher match in 1981 in Philadelphia.
  • In the WWE, Bret Hart's Face Heel Turn was sealed by viciously attacking an unconscious Stone Cold Steve Austin.
  • Randy Orton's second Finishing Move, The Punt, is performed exactly what this Trope says.
  • Alberto Del Rio has a habit of assaulting people whom he's just beaten or have had a grueling match with someone else, ramming their shoulders into the ringpost or barricade, then putting them in his Rolling Armbar over and over again.
  • Similar to Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry, as a Heel, and especially during 2011, often assaults people. He'll ram them into things, hit them with his World's Strongest Slam and Running Splash over and over again, then wrap a steel chair around their leg and jump on it.
  • At No Mercy 2004, Billy Kidman defeats Paul London with a Shooting Star Press, causing London to cough up blood. Paramedics load London on a stretcher and attempt to cart him away... when Kidman shoves them away and gives him another Shooting Star Press.
  • In a 2005 "no disqualification" match pitting Triple H against television commentator Jim Ross, Triple H -- at the height of his monster heel run—bloodied Ross and attempted to pin him. Taking advantage of another "rule" where the only way to win was by pinfall, Triple H repeatedly pulled Ross up at the two count to continue the punishment ... that is, until Batista arrived to knock out Triple H and help Ross get the win.

Tabletop Games

  • The flavor text of the Magic: The Gathering card Whipkeeper reads, "If you don't hit your adversaries while they're down, they might get up again. In terms of game mechanics, certain Magic cards like Memory Lapse/Lapse of Certainty, which put an attempted spell back on top of the opponent's library, work best as kick 'em while they're down cards; if someone doesn't get enough land cards to cast anything and they finally DO get something they can cast, these spells don't let them play anything that turn, and ensure they get no land next turn.
  • The List of Character Survival Techniques Version 1.5 (written for Tabletop RPG players) suggests the following:

Confirm your kills!
In gun games, ammo is rarely so scarce that you can't spare two bullets to splatter a body's head. If ammo is scarce, refer to fantasy rule below.
Fantasy rule: behead anything you think you've killed. If you're really nasty, take a hand with the head. That way if it does come back, at least it's pissed. Always confirm your kills if possible. If you didn't confirm the kill, don't be surprised when you see him/her/it walking down the street or crawling through your bedroom window.

  • There's a set of gear in the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons that gives a + 5 Damage bonus to those who've been knocked prone when the set is complete. Also, the coup de grace. A full-round action that can only be done to utterly helpless opponents (not just knocked down or pinned, but completely immobilized or unconscious) which is an automatic critical and forces the target to pass a high-level fortitude save or die immediately.
  • Champions—The recovery mechanics of the hero system are such that an enemy that is knocked just a few points into unconsciousness can get up and continue fighting in just one or two actions, assuming the GM doesn't just declare them "out. So if you just barely knock out a big threat after a long fight it is essential to hit him again so the rules for really unconscious characters kick in.
  • In Blood Bowl, this is one of only two forms of violence that are officially disallowed (using weapons is the other). Of course, even when fouls do happen, the player doing it won't get ejected unless the notoriously myopic, easily bribeable referee sees him/her do it.
  • The BattleTech rules practically invite this—kicking a prone adjacent BattleMech with another is basically free all-but-guaranteed extra damage, and is often the only physical (as opposed to weapons) attack you can make against them by the game rules anyway. Of course, since we're talking about Humongous Mecha here, the emotional impact may not be quite the same.

Video Games

  • Neverwinter Nights In the first module of the Bastard of Kosigan modules, a small kid takes the opportunity to beat up the dead body of his abusive boss after you kill him. Your reaction (either gently discouraging him or handing him a knife so he can have more fun) nets you alignment points.
  • In Mega Man X Maverick Hunter X, Vile repeatedly stomps on X's seemingly unconscious head and kicks him around the room after their battle during a cutscene. You only see that during Vile Mode playthrough.
    • Vile's intro stage also features this. After you beat X, Vile spends some time shooting X around with his Shoulder Cannon.
  • In Bushido Blade, attacking a downed opponent is one of the acts forbidden by Bushido that damages your invisible Karma Meter.
  • Mithos does this to a recently defeated Yuan after he's revealed as a villain in Tales of Symphonia. He even piles an insane Evil Laugh on top of it, just for that 'cramming this villain's evilness down your throat' feeling. If you don't skip the dialogue, the villain keeps doing this over and over again.
  • Max Payne 2 features Big Bad Vladimir Lem kicking Max in the ribs after losing his gun. Max recovers as the Big Bad leaves, revealing that he took the kick primarily to hide the lost gun: it was under his chest.
  • The beginning of Half-Life: Episode Two introduces the Hunter, a gorilla sized synthetic enemy who delivers a Game Breaking Stabbing to Alyx Vance. And then when she's down and gasping for help, it stomps on her hard enough to put her in a near-fatal coma.
  • In the Battlefield series, the AI bots in single-player have no qualms about charging in and killing a medic and the wounded soldier he's treating. Particularly pronounced in the Project Reality mod, where soldiers take several moments to be restored to full health after being revived.
  • Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume - Part of your pact with single-L Hel is to rack up "sin," and the main way to do it is to do keep smacking foes after they've already taken enough damage to die. Each level has a set amount of sin that must be accumulated, and hitting that amount gets you a small reward. Hitting 150% or 200% of the amount gets a much larger reward and a message that you have greatly pleased Hel—it's up to you whether to be ashamed. On the other hand, repeatedly failing to hit that amount results in your fighting a Doppelganger with much better stats than you, and if you want any hope of beating it you'll probably have to use the other method of acquiring sin and sacrifice the life of one of your allies for a tactical advantage. Pretty much played straight, since the protagonist's a Byronic Hero at best.
  • A key technique in many 3d Fighting Games. The term 'okizeme' is at times used to describe what to do to the grounded guy; 'wakeup options' are what to do when the grounded guy tries to get up. Options run from a simple kick to low blows to tossing them downrange. Similarly, games that allow this also have a fun way of dealing with an opponent after you win the round ...
  • Professional Wrestling games often fall under Fighting Games, and have this as well. Naturally, you do have to get down and either pin him or bend him in ways God didn't intend when the human body was designed.
  • God Hand allows you to do this, either with some normal attacks or the Stomp Action Commands, which although normally a stomp can be made into a boot-grind or kick with use of the analog stick. It seems that God approves of this, as one of the God Reel/Roulette/Wheel moves is God Stomp.
  • In Assassin's Creed 2 you can kick downed enemies when using fists, or attack them in a more lethal fashion with other weapons.
  • This is a common technique in Dragon Age, to a point that the AI is actually designed to prioritize grounded targets to make use of their momentary vulerability.
  • The Dark-type Pokémon move "Assurance" works something like this—it does more damage if the opponent had already suffered damage on the turn the move was used.
  • In Bungie's Oni, Konoko has no problem doing this to fallen foes—and they have no problem doing it to her either.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours. One mission requires Tony to steal cassette tapes but not kill the owner. After doing so, he returns -twice- to wildly kick the downed and dazed enemy. In 'return', failing the 'hassle the cops' mission sees them give Tony a wild beat-down. Of course, success sees the cops plunge into the ocean. Really well done success sees most of them explode.
  • Several attacks in Hybrid Heaven only work on prone opponents, and one of the best is a simple kick to the head. Like most moves in the game, almost all of these are learned when an enemy uses them on the player character.
  • Grand Theft Auto in particular lets you attack other people in various ways, some of the sort which inevitably knocks the victim down to the ground. What you can do later to the grounded pedestrian ranges from a simple barrage of punches and kicks, to gunning them relentlessly, to even saw them off in half with a chainsaw, right in the ground, most of which will be incapable to escape their fate while they get smacked around.
  • In Fear Is Vigilance, attacking an unconscious opponent this way gives you the "Making Sure" Merit Badge.
  • Dawn of War: Units will continue to shoot at knocked-down units in range, but will engage in melee if specifically ordered to attack a downed target. Given the Crippling Overspecialization of most shooting units, this can quickly end in disaster.
  • In Dark Messiah, finishing move deals massive damage against a prone opponent. Expect to use it a lot whenever there's no conveniently placed spikes around.
  • Defeat a prefect in Bully, especially when no others are around to nab you (what with your Wanted Meter being quite full for defeating a prefect). Each time I've done this, I've never been able to not put the boot in afterward. Also fun for other targets, too!
  • The World Ends With You has it in the first day of the third week where Neku is left to face the Noise alone. Beat, who is a Reaper, can't take that kind of event so he turns back to a Player and makes a pact with him.

Web Comics

  • The Order of the Stick
    • During the first battle against Xykon, after Durkon uses Thor's Might to take out a bunch of goblins that Belkar had just been gearing up to attack, Belkar proceeds to stab one of them in the face even though they're already dead. Well... yes, he is evil.
    • Later, he kicks Miko after Roy knocked her unconscious. She's probably very lucky for the Mark of Justice.
    • Belkar also does a verbal version of this to Hinjo, calling it an "insult of opportunity".
    • Belkar also desecrates the dead, by giving a slaver a shot of his 'marinade' and making good on his threat at the beginning of the strip.
      • Technically the slaver was still alive, just beheaded and in the process of dying. Note the lack of Xs in his eyes.
  • In this Girl Genius, Violetta expresses her fury by kicking the wounded Tarvek—who is not actually down, but can't really fight back because they are on the same side.

Tarvek: Oh, nonono no, you do not "give up!" YOU DIE!

Western Animation

  • Starscream does this to Megatron after the latter's battle with Optimus Prime in the animated Transformers movie. There was a fan theory (confirmed in the IDW comics) that he does this to Megatron in the Live Action one too, getting in a last shot at him along with the earth forces jets before running away. Well he is The Starscream.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer's new Jerkass neighbor tried to hit Ned, who swiftly incapacitated him leaving him on his knees begging him to let go (Ned was bending his wrist back). Homer than smashes a chair into him leading to this exchange:

Neighbor: Why would you do that? I was begging for mercy.
Homer: I saw my advantage and I took it. That's what heroes do.(complete with Horatio Caine style hero pose).

  • From Droopy cartoons:
    • One cartoon has Droopy and butch as matadors, both trying to win a bullfight to impress a woman they admire; unfortunately for Droopy, the bull doesn't care to fight a runt like him, pushing him aside to focus attention on Butch, who proceeds to get clobbered. Eventually, Droopy starts sobbing over the picture of the woman he longs for, and the bull notices... Then takes a pen and draws a moustache and beard on it. (And then starts laughing his head off.) Droopy's response to the bull? "You know what? That makes me mad." Followed by him beating the crud out of the bull.
    • The same thing happened in an episode where Droopy and Butch were trying to slay a dragon to impress a princess, and ended the same way.
    • In "Homesteader Droopy", Zeke manages to capture and tie up Droopy and his wife, and is about to shoot them, but then he notices that Droopy's infant son is drinking milk that is being siphoned from a cow via a long tube. Just to be mean, he grabs the siphon hose and blows on it hard, causing the cow to inflate like a blimp. And then he starts laughing his head off. Unaware that this time, Droopy's son is the one who realizes that's made him mad...

Real Life

  • At one point in a supposedly friendly soccer match between L.A. and Sydney, a player was on the ground, an opponent stepped on his outstretched arm, noticed, and continued, temporarily putting all his weight on the poor guy's arm. Wearing spiked soccer boots. Ouch.
  • Overkill is a criminalistic term to describe actions of murderers that would have been lethal to the victim if it hasn't been dead already. E.g. when someone is killed with a knife and there are 100+ stab wounds found on him, clearly many of them were post-mortem. The term Overkilling is AFAIK usually tied to serial killers, because they tend to follow their own ritual when committing a murder and the ritual most often doesn't end with the victim's death.
    • On the judicial side, Real Life overkill can be presented as evidence of premeditation in a murder case, seeing as someone usually doesn't shoot a person 15 times without really meaning to. Such evidence can also be used as an aggravating circumstance at sentencing, permitting the prosecutor to ask for a harsher sentence than usual. (He ran into my knife ten times.)
    • Occurs in domestic disputes as well. "Why did you stab your spouse thirty-nine times?" "My arm got tired."
  • Attacking someone on the ground automatically voids any claim of self-defense in most jurisdictions, for obvious reasons.
  • Historical European grappling manuals rarely included ground-level techniques, because when you've successfully thrown the opponent to the ground, well...
  • Both held to and averted in MMA: the sight of someone being attacked on the ground by his or her opponent has been an iconic image of the sport, but part of the reason for the sport's beginnings in America was Royce Gracie proving that a guy on his back isn't necessarily defenseless. Literally speaking, the act of kicking (or kneeing) a downed opponent in the head is illegal under the "Unified Rules" used in most of North America, but several times in Brazil and more commonly in Japan it has been famously allowed, while ironically grounded elbows were outlawed.
  • To paraphrase a hunter's safety guide, a good hunter knows it is morally wrong to shoot a sitting duck. It is however acceptable to shoot a flying duck, because a small bird is an equal match for a hunter with a rifle.
  • According to The Laws and Customs of War, wounded troops are considered hors de combat (literally, "out of the fight"), and are given special protections under various treaties. Pilots and crew abandoning doomed planes and ships are likewise given similar protections.
    • A commonplace of propaganda is accusations that the enemy has attacked the wounded.
    • The problem is, wounded troops aren't always as helpless as they may appear (they can still pull a trigger or a grenade pin just fine in a lethal Desperation Attack), and if they're not finished off, they may live to fight another day. There is a reason this trope is a favorite of the Combat Pragmatist, legal or otherwise, and knowing (or suspecting) that their attacker will try this means that a wounded soldier is much more likely to try Taking You with Me, not to mention the possibility of their friends taking revenge on you or your allies when they have the upper hand.
  • A large part of the techniques of judo and jujitsu, the latter especially, avert this to an extent because once the opponent has been thrown to the ground you then devote your efforts to keeping them there. Though hold-downs aren't really attacks, and more designed to keep the opponent helpless than to cause them actual harm, they are certainly not leaving the grounded opponent alone.
    • Additionally, in those martial arts, you can attack with submission holds or (in MMA and self-defense) ground-and-pound. Kicking the opponent while they're down? Not so much. Punching, elbowing, kneeing, strangling, and snapping the limbs of the opponent while they're down? Oh yes. It should be noted that in groundfighting, the attacker is also technically "down", making it a possible aversion of this trope.
  1. Thanks to the Distant Reaction Shot which turns this into a Take Our Word for It moment, we don't know he dies -- we don't even ever see exactly what the Wuxi Finger Hold does for sure. This could well be a Sequel Hook (since Word of God says they're working on one right now), which means the Heel Face Turn might still happen. Even so, and even taking into account that humiliating Tai Lung might be the only way to beat him (turning the strength of his pride against him), this could very well count as some serious Moral Dissonance.
  2. also the film adaptation