Load-Bearing Hero

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Beneath 150 billion tons, stands The Hulk -- and he's not happy!"

"This is really heavy."

Spidey, Spider-Man 2

Rather than let their friends be squished like a bug by a Descending Ceiling, falling boulder, or one of those hero-seeking falling pillars, the Big Guy will step in, catch the falling object, and hold it up long enough for their friends to escape. Often utilizes the Atlas Pose.

Characters don't need to have Super Strength or huge muscles to use this trope, so almost anyone can invoke it. However, weaker characters will likely face a Heroic Sacrifice as they are stuck holding up something that will crush them if/when they let go. That said, expect melodramatic characters intent on being a Martyr Without a Cause to be pulled to safety by their allies.

Not to be confused with Load-Bearing Boss (but that may very well lead to this trope). Barrier Warriors will frequently do this. Don't think too much about why the falling object doesn't break under its own weight and collapse all around the character, or how the ground underneath the character can support all that weight being channeled through the Load-Bearing Hero's feet.

Distantly related to the Barrier Maiden, whose "load bearing" duty is more metaphorical and less literal.

Not to be confused with We Cannot Go on Without You.

Examples of Load-Bearing Hero include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Blockbuster does it in a Batman story, holding up a collapsing mine prop long enough for Batman and the miners to escape.
    • Also from a Batman story, during the Cataclysm event: a condemned criminal on death-row (who continually proclaims his innocence throughout his arc) keeps rubble from falling on his lawyer and a nun who were there to witness his execution. Earlier in the arc, he'd helped defend them against several escaping inmates, helping add to the reader's sympathies to the character. Subverted when he reveals that he really did commit the crime for which he was condemned, just before he finally passes out and dies when the rubble falls on top of him. Coincidentally right when he was scheduled to be put to death.
  • The Hulk in Secret Wars. He held up a mountain range, creating an air pocket for several other heroes to survive.
    • It wasn't the first time he'd done that, either. He held up another mountain long enough for The Defenders to get out, and then it caved in on him. The Valkyrie was actually starting to cry about how he'd given his life to save them, and then the side of the mountain blasted open...

Hulk: Bah! Stupid rocks try to smash Hulk! Hulk smash back!

  • Solomon Grundy in Starman (the DC Universe comic) held a blown-up building.
  • Colossus, whenever something falls on X-Men.
  • Bamse shows the limit of his strength in an early story with a variant: he holds back a volcanic eruption by ramming an enormous boulder down the opening, but notes that "Not even I can hold this back forever!"
  • In a variant, Zhantee from Elf Quest: Shards uses his shielding power to protect Cutter and others when the building they're in collapses. He doesn't have enough shield-power to save both his companions and himself, so makes a Heroic Sacrifice and leaves himself unprotected, dying from his injuries soon after they're dug out of the wreckage.
  • Spider-Man held up a corner of the Daily Bugle to keep if from collapsing in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #98.

Fan Works

  • In the Terinu fanfic "Grace of God", Rufus' alternate universe twin blocks a closing airlock door with his arm to let the heroes escape. Then it closes...

Film - Live-Action

  • Sloth does it in The Goonies to help his friends escape from the crumbling cavern. He survives.
  • In Highlander II the Quickening, Ramirez uses up his life force to hold up a giant spinning wind turbine.
  • Krull has the cyclops do this to let the hero and his band enter the teleporting fortress. He dies. Made more badass because he knew, thanks to prescience, that he would die that way if he helped the heroes.
  • Used in Murder By Death, where the Poirot expy's manservant saves him from a Descending Ceiling. He survives with a hunched back.
  • In National Treasure 2, the main antagonist stays behind to hold the door open so that him and The Hero don't both get crushed/drowned in the flooding water. Naturally, he is killed in the flood.
  • Superman does this a lot, but is almost never in any danger, considering he often can easily throw the load aside, crawl to safety or if necessary, dig or drill his way out if he's buried completely.
    • In the first Christopher Reeve movie, he becomes the load-bearing support for the entire Pacific tectonic plate. Holding up a passing train afterward is child's play by comparison.
    • In Superman Returns, he does this to lift a continental landmass that is mostly made of Kryptonite out of Earth's atmosphere and fling it into outer space. All the more impressive because the aforementioned Kryptonite rendered him very NOT Nigh Invulnerable and he was in very grave danger.
  • Spider-Man as well, but he tends to be in a lot more danger. One instance is near the end of Spider-Man 2 when Spidey does this to save Mary Jane from a falling wall. "This is really heavy," indeed.
  • The T-850 in Terminator 3 holds up a blast door for John and Kate, near the end.
  • Zangief performs this feat in the Street Fighter movie shortly after making his Heel Face Turn. Subverted in that Ken and Ryu step up immediately to share the load long enough for everyone else to pass safely.
  • An unusual example is seen in X-Men 2, as Jean Grey telekinetically holds back a giant wave of water to allow the rest of the team time to escape from it, dying in the process.
  • The Movie version of the Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian movie did this with a minotaur who tried to hold up Castle Telmar's portcullis to allow the Narnians to escape. He dies when only about half the army is through, so the rest are trapped inside and slaughtered.
  • From the silent movie classic The Golem: When out-of-control magic threatens to destroy the Emperor's palace, the Golem in this way saves the court from being crushed by a Descending Ceiling.

Film - Animation

  • WALL-E does this towards the end of WALL-E, holding up the holodetector long enough for EVE to throw in the plant. It crushes him and he "dies", but EVE managed to repair him back on Earth.
  • In Antz, Weaver, being a really strong soldier ant, holds the bottom of a giant "ant pillar".
  • Ginormica on Monsters vs. Aliens does this to save the others from the collapsing spaceship. Comes as a bit of a surprise, since just before she had been Brought Down to Normal and recovered her size and strength Just in Time.
  • Mr. Incredible does this in the final battle of the movie to keep his kids from being crushed by the robot.
  • In Disney's The Jungle Book, Louie and Baloo hold up part of Louie's collapsing ruins.
  • Bolt has Rhino using his hamster ball to prop up the falling rubble of the studio so Bolt can get past, screaming "It is a good day to die!!!" as his ball starts to crack under the weight... Don't worry he lives.

Live Action TV

  • Played for Laughs in an episode of The Brittas Empire: Colin Weatherby thinks that Gordon Brittas is supporting a collapsing ceiling on his shoulders, but what Colin Weatherby can't see is that the ceiling is in fact supported by a fallen steel girder down the back of Gordon Brittas' shirt. Colin Weatherby later comments that Gordon Brittas must have a backbone of steel.
  • Gan does it in the episode of Blakes Seven in which he dies.
  • The Tribe: Lex uses his body to hold open an airlock door while Bray, Amber, Dal, and the dog escape from a self-destructing virology lab on Hope Island.
  • Subverted in Stargate SG-1. Teal'c tries this, but it doesn't really help. In another episode, a Russian commando tries to hold a door open, and is crushed before anyone could can through.
  • Seen in Heroes when Niki holds up a collapsed pillar to let Monica escape from a burning building. Unfortunately, since she's been depowered by the Shanti virus, it doesn't end well.


  • Porthos in The Vicomte De Bragelonne does this, resulting in Heroic Sacrifice and possibly the first time Aramis ever shed tears.
  • Glurk did it in The Carpet People. "Gonna... be... a... hero..." He gets told not to be so stupid and gets yanked to safety before his strength gives out.
  • In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean (at that point the wealthy mayor of a town) saves the life of a worker who was crushed under a heavy cart, by lifting up the cart. Unfortunately, this helps cement Inspector Javert's suspicions of his identity.
  • Percy Jackson and The Olympians, being based in Greek myth uses Atlas's burden in book 3.
    • In fact, four separate people take the load over the course of the book - the first is Luke, the second is Annabeth, the third is Artemis and the last is (unsurprisingly) Percy himself.
  • Daja does this in the first book to stop her and her True Companions being crushed when buried in an earthquake.
  • Happens to Detritus the troll in the Discworld novel "Moving Pictures", albeit by accident rather than heroism. All the trolls in Holy Wood worked together to clear a passage into the underground theater, then headed in one by one, leaving Detritus stuck holding up the roof.
  • Damon Runyon's "Earthquake" ends with 'Earthquake' holding up an orphanage door to allow the nuns, children—and the policeman chasing him for a cop-killing—to escape the collapsing building. Even Earthquake can't stand up to a second temblor, though. Listen to a radio dramatization here [dead link].
  • Keltset in The Sword of Shannara.
  • Boundary: A cave-in in an ancient ice tunnel. Luckily, while Our Hero did not have super-strength, her spacesuit could become rigid on command, so the problem was merely replacing her with other bracing.


  • John in the Jimmy Dean song "Big Bad John". Note that the other miners were about to go back in with equipment to save him before the mine completely collapsed.

Myth and Religion

  • Inverted in The Bible with Samson, who destroys the pillars of the house he is in to crush the Philistines in it along with himself. It is still considered a Heroic Sacrifice, though.

Video Games

  • In the MMORPG Mabinogi, at the end of the second mainstream storyline, the person you've been working with the whole time to uncover the Big Bad's plot is about to get stomped by a golem. You rush in and stop the golem's leg, holding it until you unlock your true potential and become a Paladin.
  • In Breath of Fire II, Rand does this with a gradually closing pathway, holding it open for the rest of the party to escape. He is unable to escape without being crushed himself, but his super-strong mother arrives and knocks him out of the passageway, getting crushed, turning it into a Heroic Sacrifice for her.
  • In Chrono Trigger, Robo briefly uses his body to brace a heavy door open to stop the other characters from being trapped on the wrong side of it.
  • Quite a popular trope across the Final Fantasy games:
    • Josef from Final Fantasy II sacrifices himself holding back a rolling boulder trap, allowing the party to escape.
    • Palom and Porom from Final Fantasy IV go as far as petrifying themselves to stop crushing walls.
    • Tsuze the werewolf in Final Fantasy V holds off the power augmenter from the Fire Crystal. That wasn't directly in the way of the heroes, but it did give them more time to escape the place.
    • Sabin in Final Fantasy VI holds up the collapsing house.
    • And in the Collapsing Lair sequence after Kefka's defeat, he catches and tosses a large piece of junk that threated to crush his brother.
  • At the end of Mega Man 5, Mega Man does this to save Dr. Light and Wily from a collapsing castle.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: This is how Casavir dies, at least till Storm of Zehier retcons him into being alive but captured
  • Bowser and O'Chunks do this together in one of the final rooms in Super Paper Mario. Naturally, each tries to convince the other that they don't need their help, and that the other should leave, not wanting to share the Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Presea's Heroic Sacrifice in Tales of Symphonia takes on this form.
  • Played for Laughs in The Simpsons Game with a Morc (Moe as an Orc) holding up the collapsing game engine while Mr. Burns gathers his things. Just as Burns escapes, Moe's strength gives out and he's crushed.
  • In X-Men Legends, Colossus is recruited in Russia attempting to hold breaking parts of a nuclear reactor over his head to prevent a second Chernobyl.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask the four giants have to hold up the freaking moon so that it doesn't crush Clock Town and they have to hold it long enough for Link to get inside, do four puzzles, and finally defeat Majora (who has multiple forms).
  • Horizontal example: In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Raiden holds up a giant ship threatening to crush Snake.
  • Subverted in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, when the imprisoned heroine Sophia Hapgood won't crawl under a heavy iron gate with only Indy holding it up. (You have to go find a suitable piece of metal to brace the thing open instead. Sheesh.. some gratitude.)
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, there is a non-combat adventure in Noob Cave in which the way is blocked by a collapsed boulder. You get out by picking up the boulder and crawling out underneath your own legs.
  • Kyle Katarn does this twice in Jedi Academy during the mission to Vjun: first to keep a power coupling out of the water until the player character can drain it, and then again at the end to hold large chunks of the ceiling up while the player character carves an escape out of the floor with Kyle's lightsaber.

Web Comics

  • In the final battle of Its Walky, two characters appear to have been crushed by a ship, but one of them manages to hold it up (yes, the ship) just long enough for the other to escape.

Western Animation

  • Junko in Storm Hawks once caught a falling airship to save it from crashing into a mountain. Needless to say, he is strong.
    • And he's considered a runt in his species! Imagine what a regular one could do...
  • Superman does this a lot. In Superman: The Animated Series, Bizarro does this, holding up a collapsing building to give Supes enough time to save Lois from a bomb, while staying behind himself. Don't worry, he gets better.
  • In the Doom Patrol arc of Teen Titans, Elastigirl makes her Heroic Sacrifice holding up a collapsing section of cliff long enough for Beast Boy and Mento to escape.
  • In the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, Bouncing Boy holds up a ferris wheel so Superman can fix it.
  • Transformers Prime sees Bulkhead forced to hold up the weight of a collapsing cave roof in the episode "Rock Bottom".
  • Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender did this once when Wan Shi Tong's Library was sinking into the ground with the rest of the Gaang inside. It helped that the Library was made of stone and Toph was an Earthbender.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: When Tsar Alexander III's train crashed and the roof of the car he and his family was in started collapsing, he held it on his shoulders until his family got out and help arrived. It didn't end well, however, since he considerably overstrained his body and died from the disease really caused by trauma during the crash.
  • These two strips about the rescue effort after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake give poignant real life examples.
  • Lifeguards and rescue swimmers are specifically trained, if they're supporting an unconscious person and are about to get washed into rocks by the waves, to avert this trope and let the victim's body absorb the impact, rather than risk being stunned so both will drown. Faced with the choice, however, virtually everyone with the heroism to seek out such jobs instinctively plays this trope straight, shielding the rescued person from further harm.