Not Quite Dead

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Never count a human dead unless you've seen the body. And even then you can make a mistake.

Frank Herbert, Dune

Any situation where the bad guy has been dealt a mortal blow which he could not possibly have survived, and it looks as though The Hero has won - but a couple of scenes later comes the twist: He's not quite dead. On the contrary, he's back, ready for more - and pissed off.

Basically, a form of filler where the Big Bad seems to have been defeated, but actually survived. Maybe he was rescued from certain death by his right-hand man. Maybe he was spared by a healing spell - or in more drastic cases, upgraded to One-Winged Angel status by way of Emergency Transformation, or even a small case of We Can Rebuild Him. Or maybe he's just that hard to kill. Either way, the fight isn't over yet.

Compare Only Mostly Dead and Almost-Dead Guy. There may or may not be some overlap with Staying Alive. It can be shown - if at all - by having their eyes open or fingers twitch. Not to be confused with The Undead. If a villain does this a lot, it's probably because he has Joker Immunity.

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

Examples of Not Quite Dead include:

Anime and Manga

  • Perfect Cell in Dragonball Z is teleported into the afterlife by Goku after initiating a self destruct technique set to go at any minute, after which he regenerates from a single surviving cell with an increased Power Levels from Saiyan DNA pushed to the brink of death and which absorbed the teleportation technique that Goku had just used. Using said technique, Cell returns to the battlefield back on Earth just as everyone had believed the battle over and begun to mourn Goku's passing.
    • Broly was stabbed in the stomach as an infant, punched in the abdomen by Goku (with chi donated from the others) and finally hurled into the sun by a triple Kamehameha. While that last one did kill him, he still came back as a clone. They finally beat him in Movie 11, wanna know what kills him? The Ocean.
    • This can basically be said of most of the villains in Dragonball series:
      • Freeza was cut in half and left on a planet that exploded, he got better
      • Cooler who was burned up in the sun but survived thanks to space junk and returned as Metal Cooler
      • Cell and Broly as mentioned above.
      • Buu, in his many forms who could literally reassemble himself from subatomic particles.
  • Naruto's Orochimaru wins the award for most Not Quite Deads within the shortest time period. In the space of a few chapters, he was dismembered by Sasuke, only to come back and eat Sasuke, only to get dismembered again, only to come back as The Virus to some degree inside his Battle Butler, Kabuto.
    • He comes back again from within Sasuke during his battle with Itachi, practically tasting revenge, except he's almost instantly defeated permanently. Then you see a snake that's obviously some sort of piece of him that can regenerate, but the Amaterasu fire spreading all over completely incinerates it.
  • Bleach is full of these, on both sides but especially with the heroes.
    • You'd think someone would die if you do the equivalent of running them through a paper shredder. Byakuya Kuchiki does this to two different characters. Neither dies. Even the one character Killed Off for Real in the early series is Not Quite Dead.
    • Happens frequently enough with both protagonists and antagonists in the Hueco Mondo arc, one would think that the giant clouds of dust kicked up by the horrible attack du minute had incredible regenerative powers.
  • Etemon in Digimon Adventure is sucked into a space-warping... warp... thing that was apparently destroyed, but managed to bide his time and evolve before coming back as Metal Etemon. Vamdemon (aka Myotismon) is shot through the chest by Angewomon, but survives in order to fulfill a prophecy and has to beaten by War Greymon and Metal Garurumon.
    • And even then does Myotismon survive--he's the Man Behind the Man... the Mon behind the man? in season two, having possessed Oikawa as the kids left for the Digital World right after thinking they'd done him in as Venom Vamdemon, emerging as final Big Bad in Digimon Adventure 02 in his One-Winged Angel form of Belial Vamdemon, aka Malo Myotismon. Unfortunately, he proved to be a Clipped-Wing Angel.
    • As a general rule, just because Digimon tend to have explosive deaths doesn't mean you shouldn't stick around because they may pull themselves back together. This happens to Neo Saiba in V-Tamer 01 more than once but he still doesn't learn.
    • Zhuqiaomon in Digimon Tamers is defeated by Mega Gargomon, but reappears and nearly kills the tamers, before Azulongmon convinces him to do a Heel Face Turn.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann subverts it when Kamina receives an unexpected attack from one of the Beastman Generals and is completely impaled by a giant glaive. After a blood-curdling scream, the villain's triumphant laugh, and a look of horror on his comrades' faces, he somehow manages the strength keep moving and inspire Simon one last time as he leads them in the final attack against his would-be killer. He succeeds in eliminating his foe before finally subduing to eternal rest.
    • Then he shows up in Episode 26 to once again inspire awesomeness and fulfill his own words: "A real man never dies, even when he's killed."
  • In Godannar, this becomes Kouji Tetsuya's gimmick, being the Butt Monkey of the series. His mech gets trashed on a regular basis, and suffers a lot of nasty wounds, but always manages to crawl out of it by saying something to the effect of "I'm not dead", shortly after the other characters have written him off.
  • Humorously played with in Mnemosyne when Rin ambushes the Monster of the Week in her office. She quickly guns down Rin without any hesitation, and hurries over and, being a doctor, checks her over to make sure she's dead before straightening up, sighing in relief, and going on with her business. She is thus quite terrified when Rin just gets back up after a minute.
    • Case in point, Rin getting killed happens thrice an episode on average. She just happens to be immortal and thus, resurrects each and every time.
  • Mad Bad Bull, a minor antagonist from Kiddy Grade, had a heavy metal crate dropped on him by Éclair and Foxy Fox with Artificial Gravity, but still managed to punch his way out of it.
  • In Transformers Super God Masterforce, the first battle between Super Ginrai and Overlord ends with Ginrai apparently dead, while Overlord is unscathed and decides to obliterate the rest of the Autobots. However, at the very end, Ginrai refuses to die.
  • One Piece has the Skypeian "god" Enel. During his fight against Wiper, Wiper actually manages to kill Enel with the dangerous Reject Dial. Too bad for him that Enel has the powers of the electric Devil Fruit, which automatically works like a Magical Defibrillator, restarting his heart. Cue round 2.
    • For years, it's been accepted by One Piece fans as a basic truth that the entire series is an embodiment of this trope. Unless the death scene happens in a flashback, no matter how obviously dead a character seems to be, they really aren't. This was considered irrevocably confirmed when a minor character made a Heroic Sacrifice which involved not only being at ground zero of an I-can't-believe-it's-not-a-nuke city-buster bomb, but quite literally holding it while it goes off. He showed up in bandages and a crutch several chapters later. But it was averted big time in the Whitebeard War arc. The lead-up showed various nameless Mooks dying in, by One Piece standards, a shockingly graphic manner, and the climax included two very major characters dying in the space of three chapters. Whether future arcs will be as bloody is unknown, but one thing is sure: the "nobody dies in One Piece" meme is no more.
  • Used and then averted in Seirei no Moribito. Balsa manages fake her death by sending her and Chagum careening over a cliff and into a valley filled with poisonous vapors, with their dead horse and straw dummies clearly visible. Because the vapors would kill anyone going down there before they'd reach the corpses, their pursuers are forced to declare them dead. They do come back later to double check once they've equipped themselves to handle the vapors, however.
  • The second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has a version of this in episodes 22-24. Big Bad Ribbons Almark was shot by Regenne Regetta but as it turns out, his soul is actually in the Quantum Supercomputer Veda, and the body is just a puppet, plus he has spares. Later, both Regenne and Tieria Erde have been shot and their bodies are pretty much dead, but their consciousness lives on in Veda and actually severs Ribbons link to it, trapping him in his current body. When Setsuna F. Seiei sees the body of his friend, he proclaims his intention to avenge him, but Tieria then uses Veda to tell Setsuna not to kill him off yet.
    • 00 also has resident Butt Monkey Patrick Corlasaur, who pulls a Mu La Flaga in the final battle after having about three continuous CMoAs... but comes back in the finale and gets the girl to boot.
    • Mu-san aside, Gundam Seed also has Andrew Waltfeld. He was supposed to have died after Kira Yamato defeats him, but due to his immense popularity with fans, he got revived miraculously. He was, however, significantly maimed (losing an arm, a leg and an eye), requiring him to be fitted for prosthetic limbs. For some reason this includes a shotgun behind his detachable hand.
  • In Code Geass, Mao is riddled full of bullets (including by the heavy machine gun of a Knightpolice Frame), but he came back next episode with a Hand Wave about Britannian medical science and how Lelouch should have commanded the soldiers to shoot to kill. It takes a bullet to the head to stop him once and for all. Near the end of the second season, a similar thing happens to Cornelia, except she doesn't get shot in the head.
    • Don't forget Guilford, whose mech for all intents and purposes was within the blast radius of a weapon that disintegrates everything in its path, yet lived to appear at Cornelia's bedside in the last few episodes.
    • In a more extreme example, Empress Marianne actually was killed, but managed to transfer her mind and soul to another person before her physical body died.
  • In Clannad, Nagisa, Ushio, and Tomoya all fall under this, if we go by the Visual Novel True End and the TV anime's Gainax Ending.
  • This happens to Shuda in Rave Master. While character in the manga do have a tendency to survive insane amounts of damage and be up and about as if it hadn't happened only two days later (which made it so weird when one of them actually did have to spend time in a hospital), cutting off your arm and falling at least 2000 feet into a forest is over the top. No explanation is given for how he survived too (not that one ever is).
  • Thief King Bakura, from the final season of Yu-Gi-Oh! gets locked in a tomb and supposedly falls into a deep dark pit... only to somehow escape and sneak back into the city.
  • Fairy Tail loves this. We have: Jellal, who got hit through god knows how many stories of a tower and most likely fused with Etherion to send it into the sky, which should have torn his body apart; Lyon, who was shoved off a cliff by a Racer while explosives are attached to him, which blow up while they're latched together and only kill Racer (better explained in the anime where Lyon saves both of their lives by removing the bomb at the last minute and shielding them from the blast with an ice barrier); and finally Lisanna who, at least in the anime (the manga never shows it), got sent flying by a single swipe from her monster-possessed brother. It's Fairy Tail though, so the spoiler blocks might not even be necessary.
  • Junji Ito's Tomie. Several times over.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn- For crying out loud, The Future Tsuna isn't dead! He's been put to sleep by a speeding bullet one day, courtesy of Irie Shoichi!
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Nagi killed The Lifemaker aka Mr. Creepy Black Cloak Guy off for good 20 years ago, right? Wrong.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, poor Ed gets impaled by a giant steel pole after a fight with Kimblee, which he kinda lost. He collapses with no way of freeing himself--but it's a mortal wound anyway. That is, until he realizes he can use his own lifeforce as a philosopher's stone (a throwback to the revelation that philosopher's stones are mode from the souls of humans). He frees the trapped chimeras alchemically, and enlists them to pull the steel beam out of him. He quickly transmutes the wound shut, chopping of a few years of his lifespan in the process.
    • Bradley pulls this off quite spectacularly. TWICE!
      • His train was blown up on the tracks, sending the burning wreck toppling hundreds of feet into the churning river below. No one could survive that. Unless you have Bradley's ultimate eye that is, in which case you can chart a path in the falling rubble, grab onto the cliffside, and return slightly ruffled to singlehandedly storm your nation's capital.
      • Shortly after returning, he's thrown into battle with Greedling, Buccaneer and Fu. Only by a major joint effort of the three, resulting in the death of the latter two, is Bradley even wounded. At this point, Greeling rips out Bradley's ultimate eye in a bersercker fit of rage, tumbles through the wall, and Bradley is sent plummeting hundreds of stories into the moat far below. He's declared "dead", until the very next chapter when he is seen climbing out of the water, bloodied and ready to kick ass. The dude's not even immortal, in fact he's the only homunculus who isn't.
    • And before all that above, Lust stabs Roy and Havoc through their lungs and leaves them to bleed to death. Roy cauterizes their wounds with Havoc's cigarette lighter and a transmutation circle carved into his own hand and returns to curbstomp Lust in an absolute Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Roberto in Monster, but he's at least suffered an immense injury.
  • D.Gray-man has the protagonist lose an arm, have his Innocence shattered, and has a hole put into his heart and yet he wakes up the next episode.
  • Kotetsu in the finale of Tiger and Bunny. He is not impressed by his friends' inability to properly determine when someone is dead.

Kotetsu: Did you guys even check my pulse?

  • Being stabbed through the heart with a large spike? With an actual doctor checking his pulse to make sure he was dead? Minor things when it comes to the self-proclaimed Ultimate Teacher, Ganbachi Chabane.

Comic Books

  • Hammerhead in the Ultimate Marvel and regular continuities make heavy use of this trope.
  • Played with in Blue Beetle #33-34.
  • The Phantom was the ultimate inversion of this: every time the old Phantom kicks the bucket, a new one is chosen, usually his son or closest kin. This allows them to project the illusion to their enemies that the Phantom is immortal, though their friends know better.
  • While the '2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was based on the Mirage comic Baxter Stockman became a cyborg by choice and was killed outright thus averting the fate of his later cartoon incarnations. Granted he also had more chances to die with the plots that existed outside of the comic in the '03 cartoon and was stranded more than killed in the '87 cartoon..
  • A sequel comic based on Disney's The Great Mouse Detective was actually about Fidget the bat being revealed to have survived the fall from Ratigan's blimp at the end of his film, and immediately choosing to be on the side of good.
  • In The Secret History, Dyo always seems to just cling onto life one way or another. It remains to be seen if this applies to Aker and William de Lecce.

Fairy Tales

  • Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. And all their numerous variants. Especially creepy in Neil Gaiman's adaptation of the former, "Snow, Glass, Apples", in which the huntsman really does remove Snow White's heart and give it to the queen. It just doesn't stop beating until Snow White goes into her coma - and when she wakes up, it starts again...
  • In "The Golden Bird", the hero's envious brothers shove him down a well to kill him, and succeed in trapping him there.
  • In "The Story of Bensurdatu", the hero is trapped at the bottom of the river—to perish.
  • In "The Brown Bear of the Green Glen", John's brothers set on him, to kill him, but he recovers.

Fan Works


  • The Trope Namer is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, specifically the scene wherein Prince Herbert fires off an arrow with a plea for his release tied to it. The arrow flies straight and true...into the chest of Sir Lancelot's trusty squire Concorde, leading to the conversation in the page recap.
  • Inverted in Johnny Mnemonic. The Priest is blasted with EMP, frying most of his cybernetics, and is then electrocuted to a crisp. At the very end of the movie, he starts to rise from the floor, and a frightened gasp comes from Jane... only to reveal that his body is actually just being hauled up on a pulley. "Just garbage. Get rid of it."
  • A nameless character apparently killed in the first scene of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly comes back for revenge about two hours later, only to be shot more decisively.
    • Naturally, Sheriff Jed Cooper—played by Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter, fares better upon coming back from the dead (although at the very end, it seems that the character may actually have been a ghost playing a cruel game on both his killers, and the people who allowed it).
      • Marshal (not Sheriff) Jed Cooper is Clint's character in Hang 'Em High. The relevant character in High Plains Drifter is Marshal Jim Duncan. Second, Clint was "The Stranger", but not Jim Duncan; that role was played by Buddy Van Horn, who was Clint's stunt double on many occasions.
  • Karl, Hans Gruber's second-in-command, in the original Die Hard.
  • Lampshaded in Scream:

(Gale, Sid and Randy are looking at Billy's body)
Randy: Careful. This is the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back to life, for one last scare.
(Billy starts to rise)
Sidney: (shoots Billy) Not in my movie.

    • Lampshaded in all the sequels, too, but to the best effect in 4:

Dewey: (as the supposedly dead Jill rises behind the survivors) She was right behind me...
Sidney: they always are. [beat] (grabs Dewey's discarded gun and shoots Jill, poised to attack, in the chest)

    • Naturally, a lot of slasher films tend to do this. Michael Myers (Halloween) and Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) routinely get their fair of stab wounds from the Final Girl before it's all over. Jason was eventually Killed Off for Real, but since then he came back from the dead and is even more unstoppable.[1]
    • Used to full effect to justify the creation of Halloween: Resurrection: it turns out that Laurie had killed a paramedic instead of Michael at the end of H20; Michael had attacked the paramedic, crushed his larynx, and switched places with him before "Michael's" body was carted out to the ambulance.
    • Chucky does this in the first two films.
    • Even Freddy gets this in Freddy vs. Jason, when both he and Jason are set on fire and thrown into Crystal Lake. Freddy returns and attempts to kill Lori and Will, before Jason stabs him and Lori decapitates him.
  • In the backstory to the second Ghostbusters movie, Vigo the Carpathian had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered. Before his head died he uttered this prophetic warning: "Death is but a door, time is but a window. I'll be back."
  • An example of the scenario which this page is actually about appears at the climax of Iron Man.
  • Army Of Darkness: "It's a trick. Get an axe."
  • In Sin City, Bruce Willis' character knows that even when a death looks impossible to survive, one must always "confirm the kill."
  • The comedy Freaked parodies this trope to death.
  • Jason Statham in Crank. He falls out of an airplane, lands on a car, bounces off, hits the pavement, and then blinks. The sequel shows us that he's definitely still alive.
  • The titular character of The Spirit.
  • In the movie Ben 10: Race against Time, the Tennyson trio stumble across the seemingly mummified corpse of Constantine...right before he sits up and declares "I'm not dead!", scaring both Ben and Gwen. Grandpa Max is not surprised, as usual.
  • Averted in the 1997 version of George of the Jungle. After a character falls from a bridge, the narrator reminds everyone that "Nobody dies in this story. They just get really big boo-boos."
  • "Why do they call him Boris the Bullet Dodger?" "Because he dodges bullets!"
    • The same can be said about Bullet Tooth Tony who survived an entire clip being unloaded into him in a flashback.
  • In The Film of the Book of The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn plunges off a cliff during the warg battle in the Two Towers. To the surprise of no one, he comes back relatively unscathed.
    • Ironically, in the extended DVD of the Two Towers the actor almost drowned when shooting the scene of him floating in the water.
    • Gollum is thrown over a cliff by Frodo in Return of the King, and returns at Mount Doom.
    • Grishnakh, who is more or less a mook, is stabbed by a Rider of Rohan in The Two Towers, yet he is still able to chase Merry and Pippin into the forest before Treebeard kills him.
  • Miller's Crossing plays it straight with Bernie's "murder", then lampshades it with Caspar's policy:

Tic-Tac: You gotta remember to put one in his brain. Your first shot puts him down, then you put one in his brain. Then he's dead. Then we go home.

  • Red Dragon features this during the final confrontation between Detective Graham and the titular villain, when they shoot each other through a flimsy bedroom door. Later averted when Graham's wife puts a bullet in the killer's head. Several times.
  • Men in Black loves this. Kay shoots the giant cockroach from the inside and splits him in half. However, his top half lives and attacks them for a split second before he is finally killed by Laurel.
    • In Men in Black 2, Serleena is shot by Jay and blown to bits, however it is shown she survived, in worm form. Later, she chases after them in her ship, but is tricked and eaten by Jeff, the giant worm. However, she once again returns, this time in a more powerful form, until she is finally destroyed.
    • Not to mention, of course, poor Jeebs having his head blown off time and again.
  • In Galaxy Quest, Sarris's ship is blown up with mines. However, out of nowhere, he appears on the Protector, having teleported away from his ship at the last second. He is beaten down by Mathasar with a cane, but returns once again before an audience during the final scene, before Jason finally destroys him.
  • The Gamers: "It's Hunk, the mercenary you left for dead!

Yzma: Kuzco is dead, right? Tell me "Kuzco's dead". I need to hear these words.
Kronk: Uh, do you need to hear all those words exactly?
Yzma: He's STILL ALIVE?!
Kronk: Well, he's not as dead as we would have hoped.
Yzma: Kronk!
Kronk: Just thought I'd give you a heads-up, in case Kuzco ever came back.
Yzma: He can't come back!
Kronk: Yeah, that would be kinda awkward, especially after that lovely eulogy.

  • Austin Powers plays with this numerous times. Usually by dragging it too far.
    • "Why aren't you dead yet!?"
    • Also Dr Evil's henchman Mustafa, after being shot in the neck with a dart and falling down a cliff.
  • Re-Animator: at the end of Bride of Re-Animator a mausoleum literally collapses on top of Herbert West, in the sequel Beyond Re-Animator Herbert West is perfectly fine and still doing his thing.
  • In The Tuxedo, the antagonist falls to the ground and burns his face on acid. He later gets back up to charge at the hero, who finishes him in a somewhat gruesome way.
  • Wesley in the beginning of the The Princess Bride. Supposedly, he goes to seek his fortune and is lost at sea within the first five minutes of the movie. Yeah, right.


  • Sandman Slim teaches us that when you die in Hell you end up in Tartarus. Not to mention that the main character is virtually unkillable.
  • In the tenth and final book of the The Pendragon Adventure series, every character who has died in or before the other books (including the main character who died at the end of the ninth) turns out to be resurrected in the exact condition (age, etc) they were in at the time of death, minus, of course, the cause of death, and they all band together to fight the Big Bad.
  • In Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant, there's a mild subversion where the hero knows the villain is Not Quite Dead.
  • Morjin in Ea Cycle survives decapitation.
  • Prince Andrei in War and Peace. He's left in a village with other hopeless wounded after the Battle of Austerlitz, and the way the chapter ends suggests that he dies there, but of course he doesn't.
  • Expanded Universe Jedi K'Kruhk has managed to be almost killed several times over. He goes into some form of hibernation if seriously wounded, leading to people assuming that he's dead. But no, he's still got a loooong time ahead of him.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos Fugitives of Chaos]], when Colin falls off a building while fighting an enemy, everyone concludes he's dead. Then this eagle shows up. None of them, including Colin, knew about his Voluntary Shapeshifting abilities until he was inspired to change.
  • Honor Harrington was once taken prisoner, but managed to escape, creating a lot of problems for her captors in progress. Havenites, believing that she was dead too, concocted the story of her trial and execution, more for their own masses than anyone else. Naturally, she was not amused.
    • Many of her friends were though.
    • And that was not the only time in the series that someone was declared to be dead and then turn up alive later. There are at least three other examples.
  • A footnote in one of the Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! books reveals that Cain has been listed as "killed in action" so many times that the Munitorum eventually gave up trying to keep track and decided to keep him on the payroll regardless - even long past his confirmed death, and burial with full military honors.
  • In Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams, one character, Reno, is killed when his home is the target of a missile attack. He later makes a series of telephone calls to the hero. Turns out that he was a wirehead and was "jacked into the net" when the missiles struck. He spends pretty much the rest of the book as a disembodied mind, wandering around the equivalent of the Internet, looking at everyone's most secret files.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Horus Rising, Maloghurst's unexpected survival makes him a hero in the fleet.
    • In Graham McNeill's False Gods, when Horus is felled by his injuries, the word on the ship is that he died; Mersadie and Karkasy go to see the arrival, and Karkasy notices that apocetharies are still tending him, so he must be alive.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Sanguinius, Rafen is in an exploding factory. He is thrown into a channel of water and ends up thoroughly banged about but alive. He sneaks onto the spaceship and when Arkio and Mephiston are deciding on single combat, Rafen calls from Arkio's forces that he will fight him. He walks out and takes off his helmet, and for the first time, Arkio shows shock.
  • In the Dragonlance War of Souls novels, Tasslehoff's death is retconned with the use of a magical time-travelling device given to him by a god. He's cheated death many other times also.
  • Voldemort, the main antagonist of the Harry Potter books, blew himself up by accident a decade before the story begins, and only managed to survive as a soul because of Horcruxes .
    • Let's not forget Harry himself, who everyone believed dead and for a time; he might actually have been.
  • At the end of The Man Who Never Missed, Emile Khadaji has zapped 2388 Confederation soldiers (with paralyzing darts) before they found out who he was and imploded his hideout. And then they found he'd used exactly 2388 darts. The commanding officer is not pleased, because he knows this one-shot-one-paralyzed soldier legend will be a headache for the Confederation, but at least they've killed him. And then the narrative finishes:

And, of course, Over-Befalhavare Venture didn't know the half of it.

  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Dark Adeptus, Magos Antigonus survives getting his head pulped through the use of Lost Technology to Body Surf through servitors.
  • During the course of The Lord of the Rings, several of the major characters are thought to be dead at one point or another—and some come a lot closer than others. But the Big Bad of the series, Sauron, actually does get killed off, several thousand years before the series begins. But he doesn't stay dead, because he has the One Ring as his Soul Jar.
    • If you include the First Age and the Second Age, it happens to Sauron often enough to border on Joker Immunity.
  • Santiago: A Myth of The Far Future inverts this in much the same way as the Phantom example. As one of his supporters cackles, after Santiago is quickly murdered by a bounty hunter—whom Santiago then guns down -- "Everybody knows that Santiago can't die!"
  • Cunégonde and Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide: the former is raped and disemboweled; the latter is hanged in a Kangaroo Court. Both come back with a Lampshade Hanging .
  • Bailey in Martin Chuzzlewit (Dickens) is thrown from a crashing coach and left insensible. His death is later reported to other characters. Guess who reappears at the denouement, with a bandage round his head, reeling about with comic concussion?
  • In the Dale Brown novel Flight of the Old Dog, Dave Luger is left for dead after he covers the team's escape from a Soviet base. The events of Night of the Hawk are kicked off when it is learned that he is not dead, merely Brainwashed into helping the Soviets - and that the CIA wants him Killed Off for Real as an apparent traitor.
  • This happens in Necropolis, the fourth book of the The Power of Five series. Following a fight in a temple in Hong Kong, the good guys think they've killed all the Big Bad's henchmen ... But there's one still alive, hiding under the altar. He's dying, but goshdarn, he's going to take one of the Five down with him. He sets his sights on Jamie, the closest, and is aiming his gun when Scott comes bounding into the picture, and telepathically aware of the danger to his twin, bulldozes Jamie out of harm's way ... Thus letting the bullet continue on into Scarlet's head instead.
    • She's probably not quite dead either, but I guess we won't know till the next book comes out.
  • In Percy Jackson and The Olympians, "The Titan's Curse", the main antagonist Luke falls off an insanely high cliff on to the rocks below. Percy is sure he's dead, after all No One Could Survive That but alas, Luke is still alive.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Devil in the Moonlight" Conan is, it turns out, Not Quite Dead after a head injury.
    • In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Taramis believes her sister dead.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Final Problem", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes commit a Heroic Sacrifice by throwing himself and the Big Bad Moriarty off Reichenbach Falls, but as we discover in "The Adventure of the Empty House", he didn't actually die.
    • This is also done to a lesser extent in "The Adventure of the Dying Detective", wherein Holmes pretends he's dying of a poison used by the murder suspect in the Mystery of the Week. Luckily we only have to wait a few more paragraphs afterwards to find out he was just faking it.

Live-Action TV

  • Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood and Doctor Who. If he dies, he gets better. This has fooled many a foe. He normally turns up again after the villain says to the rest of Torchwood 'Well, your leader's dead'.
  • In Torchwood, he actually takes a few days to become alive again at the end of season 1.
    • Not to mention that when Davros appeared in a Classic Doctor Who serial he was invariably killed off, and yet always managed to get inexplicably better in time for his next appearance- This even included dismemberment.
  • In MacGyver the character Murdoch always ends the show by seeming to die in "No One Could Survive That!" type circumstances only to reappear alive, though often worse for the wear a few episodes or seasons later.
  • Likewise Dr. Loveless, the nemesis of James West in The Wild Wild West.
  • Mikhail of Lost does this twice. The first time, he was shoved into a sonic fence and assumed dead. He later claimed it wasn't set to a lethal level. The second time, he was impaled by a spear, but managed to live long enough to blow himself up.
    • In the season 4 finale, Keamy is Left for Dead, only to later surprise Locke and Ben in the Orchid.
    • Not to mention back in Season 1, when we are led to believe that Shannon has been killed by the 'monster,' only to find out that it was just Boone's hallucination.
    • Many [dead link] thought Richard died after being punched by the smoke Monster in the penultimate episode. Not only he shows up in the Grand Finale but is one of the few to end the episode alive.
  • Caleb in Season Seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is thought to be dead, but gets back up and ruins the reunion between Angel and Buffy.
    • Not to mention a lot of other characters, including Buffy herself. Death just doesn't agree with those people.
      • The line in episode "Once More With Feeling" is, "Hey, I've died twice" -Buffy
    • Subverted in 5x01 'Buffy vs. Dracula', after Dracula's been staked for the second time.

Buffy "You don't think I watch your movies? You always come back." (Dracula starts to reform again) "I'm standing right here." (Dracula leaves)

  • CSI: Miami almost does this with Tim Speedle, who was killed by a misfire of his gun during a shootout in Season 3, but had evidence of his survival found in Season 6. Cleverly subverted at the end, when it's revealed the "evidence" turns out to be head trauma-induced hallucinations from Speedle's best friend and a lab tech using his stolen credit card after the incident.
    • CSI New York also has someone is pronounced dead, stolen, dropped in the sea and then starts coughing up water, he turns out to be part of a hibernation experiment and now is in a coma
      • Shane Casey reappears to threaten Danny after falling off a cliff.
  • Tony Almeida in ~24~ was believed to have been killed in Season 5, but promos for Season 7 show him alive, and as a villain. He isn't.
    • Charles Logan receives a potentially fatal knife wound in a season 6 episode, but is last seen in an ambulance, thus leaving his fate unclear (especially by ~24~ standards). He returns 2 seasons later, and in the series finale he attempts to commit suicide by putting a bullet into his head. And while he does indeed do so, the bullet is apparently off the mark by just enough to leave him "possibly brain-damaged" instead of actually dead.
  • In Stargate SG-1 Apophis exhibits this particular trope on several occasions, surviving his ship being blown up, a catastrophic explosion (both by ringing away at the last possible second), and a star going supernova. He was finally killed when his mothership was about to explode, burning up in the atmosphere of a planet, infected by replicators, which were swarming over his personal shield. And he STILL managed to get guest spots in later episodes where he appeared in flashbacks and an alternate time line. For a villain who was really kind of bland and uninteresting, you sure couldn't keep the guy down.
  • Also in Stargate SG-1 Dr. Daniel Jackson is able to survive the un-survivable. He repeatedly actually dies, almost dies, or is believed to be dead a total of nine or so seventeen times including the movie such incidents include getting shot by a staff-weapon or other energy weapon ('Stargate' the movie, 'The Nox,' 'With the Serpent's Grasp'), radiation poisoning ('Meridian'), not-dead deaths ('Fire and Water,' 'Threads'), temporary deaths such as a heart attack ('Avalon') and alternate universe deaths ('Moebius,' 'There But For the Grace of God,' '2010'). His robotic clone also died first in 'Double Jeopardy', before we knew that they were the robot SG-1.
    • This is lampshaded by two archaeologists finding some ancient ruins:

"Dr. Jackson's going to die when he sees this!"
"What, again?"

  • Father Jack Hackett from Father Ted. Jack drank floor polish which only brought about the symptoms of death including lack of pulse, rigor mortis, decomposition...
  • Heroes had a bit of fun with this when Sylar and Peter Petrelli faced off for the second time in season one.

Sylar: Didn't I kill you?
Peter: Didn't take.

    • Arthur Petrelli used his super powers to knock Hiro Nakamura over the edge of a building. When Arthur teleports away, assuming that Hiro is finished, (because No One Could Survive That), the camera pans over to the edge of the building, where he seems to be dangling from a flagpole for dear life. Even Dangerously Genre Savvy Evil Overlords make mistakes.
    • Nathan Petrelli and Sylar both tend to invoke this trope at the end of every season. In all seriousness, these guys die at the end of a season and are usually confirmed alive by the time the next Graphic Novel comes out. This is taken to its (il)logical conclusion in the 3rd season finale (Nathan is "resurrected" in Sylar's body), where both appear to be Not Quite Dead, in their own ways.
  • At the end of the Star Trek episode "Amok Time", Spock resigns in disgrace after having killed Jim Kirk. Tri-ox compound, my ass.
  • When the Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode "Great Barrier" aired, NBC let viewers vote on whether Nicole Wallace would be Killed Off for Real or given a No One Could Survive That. They chose the latter, and Nicole returned for a couple more eps.
  • In one episode of I, Claudius, Caligula orders Claudius to be thrown off a bridge, assuming that he will drown. Claudius is dragged away, only to return in the same scene, dripping wet and covered in pond weed. Fortunately, Caligula is too amused by this to try again. Earlier in the series, a slave interrupts Caligula as he announces the death of Tiberius - not only is he not dead, but he's feeling a lot better and wants his dinner. Caligula promptly has him smothered, goes back outside, and cheerfully announced that the emperor is definitely dead this time.
  • Played straight repeatedly in Farscape with just about every character, but interestingly zigzagged near the end of the first season when Aeryn was stabbed. The episode closed with John saying how lucky she was that the knife missed her heart. It seemed like a very conventional case of not quite dead. Then the next episode brutally subverted this when Aeryn revealed that the wound had done internal damage, and she was probably going to die soon.
  • It stands to reason that this would occur in Sherlock, as this IS just a modern-day incarnation of the original stories and the season two finale is titled "The Reichenbach Fall". One difference between this episode and the original "The Final Problem" is that while we know Sherlock's alive because we see him standing under a tree after his funeral, watching John watching his headstone, Doyle intended to keep Holmes dead.
  • In the third season, Chuck shot Shaw in Europe and watched him tumble off a bridge into the river below. Of course, he ignored the entire point of this trope which is: When you shoot someone and they fall in the water they are NEVER dead.
  • As of Fringe episode 3x16, William Bell.
  • In the Season 1 finale of The Pretender, Dr. Raines should not have survived when Sydney shot his oxygen tank and it exploded, yet he's still alive albeit badly burned in Season 2.
  • Burn Notice: Larry, yes Dead Larry.
  • Power Rangers Wild Force had this in the final battle against a revived Master Org. Said org took 2 finishers directly and some other zord attacks until 1 more finisher destroyed his body. However the org heart survived and was still beating. It then brings back Master Org and he proceeds to resume his rampage.
    • Before that, he'd appeared dead when he lost his powers battling Cole's Super Mode and was soon tossed off a cliff by the new Big Bad Mandilok. He got better and made Mandilok Quite Dead (though he did revive him and the other Org generals to serve as guardians during his final transformation. Presumably Brainwashing was involved, which he can do.)
    • Also, Zen-aku. He's seemingly destroyed after Merrick is purified of the evil of the mask, only to reappear wanting to merge with Merrick again.
      • Even after he's destroyed from that battle he appears again at the end of the series seeking redemption and begins following Merrick.
  • It also appears in Power Rangers RPM where after Venjix's new body is destroyed, (multiple times) he always returns to his tube within his fortress. Even after the final battle is over and the rangers turn in their morphers, a red light reminiscent of Venjix's light in his tube is seen on the morphers beeping, while Venjix's theme plays in the backround. A possible return.
  • Seriously, Power Rangers love this trope. In Power Rangers Zeo, King Mondo is destroyed yet somehow he returns towards the end of the series, only to be blown up again. Even after that he appears in Power Rangers in Space. An earlier example in Zeo was when Adam assumed Rito and Goldar didn't survive the explosion of the Command Center. The viewers soon learned he was wrong.
  • Trakeena from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy does a cross-series one. Surviving the events of the finale, Trakeena appears in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue seeking to regain her former power.
  • Zeltrax from Power Rangers Dino Thunder has to set some kind of record. His backstory is being a former friend of Tommy's who was thought dead. He goes on to eat a Finishing Move at the end of a climactic battle against Tommy on his airship, which soon explodes from the damage it had taken during the battle. Dead, right? Nope, he comes back, though his mind isn't what it used to be. He eventually gets his own Super Mode and fights Conner's Super Mode, and gets quite kablooified. ...and immediately stands up in his normal mode. Destroyed by all the Rangers in the penultimate episode... and reveals that he'd used a hologram to fake his death and had actually jumped out of the way of the combined-weapon BFG blast. We're pretty sure his defeat in the season finale was his Final Death (his Power Rangers SPD appearance was by way of Time Travel.) but there's such a thing as Reunion Shows and the dude has died about five times... so who knows.

Tabletop Games

  • The Shadowrun 4th Edition handbook advocates gamemasters using this trope:

"In general, if you as the gamemaster aren't ready for a [villain] to die yet, you should exploit any opportunity to cast doubt on the certainty of doom. ... As the old movie trope goes, if the heroes can't find the body, then the villain isn't necessarily dead."

  • The prevalence of resurrection spells in D&D generally make death a non-permanent affair. And even if there's no body to resurrect, you can always physically travel to one of several possible afterlives and find the dead comrade there, or just use a more powerful spell that doesn't need a body. Death never lasts in D&D.
    • Of course, in 3.5 the lost level is a problem, as is the cost. Low level Resurrections require an intact, fresh body and several thousand gold worth of Diamonds, higher level spells have an even heftier pricetag. And if the DM wants you to stay dead, then there are ways to make sure that dead you stay. Such methods include certain abilities and spells that prevent a characters resurrection by anything but Miracle/Wish, and even then only with a 50% success rate; making it so that the character doesn't want to come back (Resurrection spells can only pull back someone willing); trapping or outright destroying the soul; animating the body as an undead which limits what will raise the character to the highest spells possible unless the undead can be destroyed; and more.
    • In D&D 4th edition several epic destinies have level 30 powers that cause a "dead" character to get back up there next turn/at the end of the fight/the next day.
      • By far the most ridiculous version of this in 4th edition is the Undying Warrior epic destiny, which keeps the user from ever being permanently killed. The worst thing that can happen is they'll appear a day later, perfectly fine, and that's only if they are killed repeatedly in a short period of time. The Thief of Legend epic destiny gets a lesser version of this where the respawn time is a day and an hour always, but they can reappear anywhere safe on the current plane, making them more immune to being trapped in a Fate Worse Than Death than the Undying Warrior.
        • The Dark Wanderer Epic Destiny takes it even further than the Undying Warrior; unlike the Undying Warrior who just never dies, the Dark Wanderer does die, but then simply walks out of hell.


  • The second act of Into the Woods reveals of The Mysterious Man, "I thought you were dead." "Not completely. Are we ever?" Of course, what he means by this is left ambiguous.
  • At the end of Wicked Elphaba is revealed to be, in fact, quite water-insoluble.
  • Spamalot references this Trope with the song "He Is Not Dead Yet".

Oh we're not yet dead, to Camelot we go
To enlist instead to try and earn some dough
And so although we should have stayed in bed
We're going off to war because we're not yet dead!

  • In Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor, Italian tenor Tito Merelli appears to have died of a phenobarbital overdose in his hotel room. However, he's just sleeping really, really deeply and wakes up, puts on his costume, and runs out the door at the end of Act One. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Martin Guerre, Martin is shot on stage saving Arnaud's life, and tells him to return to his hometown to tell his wife he's sorry. Of course, one dead person impersonator Becoming the Mask later, Martin returns to Artigat, alive and well, and demanding his name.

Video Games

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II: While it was hinted in intel that Frank Woods was still alive, the reveal trailer showed him to still be living.
  • Darth Revan was killed when Malak bombarded the bridge of his flagship with turbolasers. He manages to come back, destroy Malak's plans, and kill him anyway.
  • When Commander Shepard shows up on the Citadel in Mass Effect 2, s/he is stopped by security guards who observe that his/her records say s/he is dead. "I was only mostly dead. Try finding that option on government paperwork."
  • Resident Evil loves playing with this trope.
    • In Resident Evil Albert Wesker is impaled by the Tyrant, but shows up in every other game nonetheless.
      • Not exactly. Wesker's resurrection, and subsequent Big Bad status were retconned into the plot of Code Veronica. Up until then he was not seen, and presumed dead.
      • In the RE: Remake, the following absurdity can occur. You have to fight Lisa Trevor on a platform of some sort, surrounded by a huge pit on all sides. If you fall off, it's an instant death. Wesker backs you up by firing on Lisa. However, it's possible for Wesker to get hit by Lisa and fall into the pit. If that happens, he'll still somehow turn up none the worse for wear in the Lab final battle, with absolutely no explanation.
      • Wesker only helps fight Lisa if you play as Chris. If you choose Jill, Barry Burton helps fight Lisa; and if he dies, then he's Killed Off for Real.
      • According to the Code Veronica: Wesker's Report file - it turns out that Wesker planned this by injecting himself with some (unnamed) virus that would give him super speed, super strength, and even preserve his mind - but it could only be activated by him almost dying. Not even Capcom could believe something that ridiculous, so they then retconned their retcon by simply having him disappear during your battle with the Tyrant in one (apparently canon) ending of the Resident Evil Gamecube remake.
      • Which was re-retconned in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles as showing Wesker being impaled by the Tyrant, rising from the dead as a superhuman, and being highly pissed the place was about to blow.
      • Also in the original Resident Evil 1, if certain conditions were met, instead of Wekser being killed by the Tyrant, you can find his body decapitated by a Chimera in the self destruct control room. The Battle Game in the Saturn version even had a zombie Wesker. Seems he was going to be Killed Off for Real but Capcom changed their mind and saved that for Resident Evil 5.
    • Ada Wong in the sequel is presumed dead after either a nasty fall, or being electrocuted. She returns in Resident Evil 4 feeling much better. Seems, she was merely Pining for the fjords. Also, it's revealed in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis's epilogues that she survived.
      • Even in that same game, about five minutes after this happens a shadowy female tosses down a rocket launcher to Leon while he's fighting the final boss.
    • Jack Krauser in Resident Evil 4 has this as well. It would appear that he was Killed Off for Real in the final battle with Leon, only for him to appear and be killed at least three more times in Ada's mini game that is taken as canon. Fans still believe he's alive.
      • If he got off the island in time.
  • In the Monkey Island series, the grand villain LeChuck, who is actually a ghost in the first game and is seemingly destroyed at the end of it, comes back as a zombie, a demon, and a ghost/zombie/demon over the course of the next three games.
    • In Tales of Monkey Island, both Guybrush and Morgan LeFlay are killed but return in spirit form (the former in zombie) to combat LeChuck.
  • In Cave Story this trope is important to the secret ending, when if you don't actually see professor Booster die, he survives and gives you an improved jetpack later on.
  • Borderlands has a downloadable side quest, called "The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned", in which Dr. Ned is defeated and the credits roll. But in the middle of the credits, a horrific twisted undead version of Dr. Ned tears through the screen and another battle begins.
  • Forum Community/MMORPG Gaia Online's storyline is notorious for this. Many of the main characters have been shot, dropped off freakishly tall towers, and then crushed by said tower, all in the same plot update. Every single person killed in that particular incident was later revealed to be alive and well in later updates. Two by use of Applied Phlebotinum, and the other two simply by turning out to be vampires. In fact, the characters ever to be Killed Off for Real are characters introduced solely for making the current Generic Horror Movie Parody plausible.
  • This is used in the Unlimited Blade Works scenario of Fate/stay night, when Archer carries this to ridiculous levels by first being cut off from any mana at all, then is stabbed through by Shirou, then taking several full-on attacks from Gilgamesh, finally culminating with him suddenly reappearing when he should have disappeared long ago, just in time to both save Rin and then finish off Gilgamesh, yet still managing to stay around long enough to have a good-bye talk with Rin. Talk about hard to get rid of...
    • Also done to Lancer in the same route, who gets impaled on his own spear (which is supposed to cause certain death), but hangs around out of sheer willpower long enough to drive off an antagonist, save Rin, and set the entire place on fire once she leaves.
    • Also Saber in Heavens Feel. This is not a good thing, however.
  • M. Bison of the Street Fighter series has apparently been killed off thorough the series, only to come back in the next game. Chronologically his first death occurs in Street Fighter Alpha 3, in which his body is destroyed by the Psycho Drive, but his conscience survived and he receives a new host body for the Street Fighter II series, which doesn't have the same abilities that his "original" body from the Alpha series had. Apparently Bison's body is destroyed again at the end of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, this time by Akuma's "Raging Demon" technique, only to get another new host body for the Street Fighter IV series (which reveals that he has an entire factory of host bodies). Since IV is a prequel to Street Fighter III, where Bison doesn't show up, so it remains to be seen if he will be Killed Off for Real this time.
  • In Army of Two, Phillip Clyde goes through this one a lot, to the point where ever after you kill him in the final boss battle, they Never Found the Body.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, Scarmiglione comes back from the dead in a much more powerful and grotesque form after you beat him the first time on Mt. Ordeals, proclaiming that he, in no uncertain terms, will knock you all down!
  • Multiple cases in World of Warcraft:
    • Illidan Stormrage, the Well-Intentioned Extremist, was struck down earlier and left bleeding in the ground. However, we find out he did not die.
    • Magtheridon, a demon Illidan defeated and supposedly killed, is revealed to have been imprisoned instead. Admittedly, Illidan later used his blood to empower an army of enhanced orc soldiers.
    • Maiev Shadowsong, the night elf warden defeated by Illidan, was also revealed to have been imprisoned instead of being killed, which makes even less sense since she is no use for him and the only reason she lived was to kill him anyways. Guess who ended up killing him?
      • Worth noting is that Maiev was employed as Illidan's warden for his ten thousand year imprisonment. Small-minded as Illidan was he had the intent to do the same to her.
    • Muradin Bronzebeard was believed to be dead (though you can say his death scene in Warcraft 3 is questionable at best) turned out to just have a Laser-Guided Amnesia and survived the event.
    • Several old classic bosses are confirmed alive at 'Cataclysm. Including Hogger, Ragnaros, Balnazzar, and Nefarian.
    • In the comic about Varian Wrynn, it is revealed that assassin Garona Halforcen and Twilight Hammer leader Cho'Gall are still alive.
    • There's also Kael'thas "Merely a setback" Sunstrider. The lore says he's dead now, but since Tempest Keep was merely a setback, fans would not be surprised at all if it turned out that the Magister's Terrace was too. Heck, the quest to beat him in the Magister's Terrace is even called "Hard to Kill."
  • Pikmin 2 had some enemies that, after they're defeated and left alone for a while, would slowly recover their health and eventually come back to life.
  • A lot of Metal Gear antagonists, but the most notable ones are Vamp (a knife-throwing hypnotist with weird nanomachine immortality powers) and Liquid (A Made of Iron Determinator), both of whom get beaten multiple times in a single game, but just won't stop.
  • Super Metroid: Big Bad Mother Brain pulls this one off twice in the epic Final Battle. First, Mother Brain appears as it did in the original NES Metroid game -- stuck in a glass tank, attached to various life support systems, incapable of attacking on its own, and apparent missile fodder. Once enough damage is done, the entire structure holding Mother Brain in place will be blown away, and the brain will crash to the ground, seemingly defeated... until it starts to rise up into the air, newly attached as a head to a gigantic grotesque body, and emits a horrible shriek at Samus, letting her and the player know that she won't go down quite so easily this time around. Second, the reformed Mother Brain proves to be too much for Samus to handle, but the eponymous Super Metroid shows up at the last second to save Samus from the brink of death and seemingly incapacitate Mother Brain, transforming it into the same sepia coloring that the player has seen from the rest of the Super Metroid's previous (deceased) prey, and starts restoring Samus to full energy. Unfortunately, as this is happening, the final boss BGM continues to play -- already never a good sign that the foe you're facing is truly defeated -- but just to hammer the trope in, suddenly some drool and puffs of smoke emit from Mother Brain's mouth... cue the upcoming Tear Jerker scene where the Metroid sacrifices itself in a last-ditch effort to stop the revitalized Mother Brain's advance, followed by Mother Brain's third (and final) asskicking from Samus.
    • No mention of Ridley? He practically embodies this trope! The actual entity known as Ridley has died 5 times, the first four of which he came back from. Subsequent appearances in the chronology (Other M and Metroid Fusion) have merely been clones, though his clone's appearance in Other M was enough to make Samus go through a terribly controversial Heroic BSOD.
  • The mercenary Sig from Jak and Daxter gets eaten by a giant Metal Head as it dives into a Bottomless Pit. He shows up at Daxter's party in the final cutscene, without a scratch.
  • Part of The Reveal in Overlord is that the previous Overlord who you believed dead is in fact possessing the body of the Wizard, and has been using him to corrupt the heroes who defeated him.
  • Prince Rurik in Guild Wars is brought back from the dead by the Lich at the end of Prophecies as an enemy. You fight and nobly kill him in order to end his suffering.
  • In Portal the credits song indicates that GLaDOs isn't dead, even after she was taken apart and incinerated.
    • Perhaps a much stranger example from the second game is the Companion Cube.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy 2, the final fight with Bowser seems to be just like the previous two fights, only with more attacks from Bowser. You beat him, he falls into the darkness, and he loses the Grand Star just like in his previous battles. Before Mario can claim the star, Bowser quickly rises up and EATS IT, becoming more massive than he ever had been in his history! Epic battle ensues as Bowser tries to fly closer to Mario and punch him while Mario leaps from meteorite to meteorite and smashes Bowser with a few of them.
    • This happens again in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. After Mario defeats Bowser just like he did in Super Mario Bros., Kamek makes him giant, and he reemerges from the lava for the final phase of the battle.
    • In Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time, Elder Princess Shroob is defeated, and turns into a mushroom. At the end of the game, she is eaten by Bowser, and the two become the final boss of the game before Elder Princess Shroob's spirit is finally destroyed.
    • In Super Paper Mario, Dimentio seemingly blows himself up in what appears to be an attempt to kill one of the protagonists. It turns out he was setting him up so he could possess him and become the final boss of the game.
  • Early during Another Century's Episode: R, the audience learned of one Dr. Shiki who, according to the antagonists, was killed by human colonists of the planet Eria prior to the events of the game. As it turns out, he inserted his consciousness into one of the evil androids before that happened and proceeded to reveal himself to be The Man Behind The Evil Boss Android at the expense of the 'droids once he deemed them as having outlived their usefulness.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, after Link defeats Ganondorf, he and Zelda have to escape the castle, only for Ganondorf to climb out of the ruins and transform into Ganon for one final fight. He does this again in Twilight Princess as the Sages try to execute him; he survives and kills his killer with the sword before being banished to the world of Twilight. In the same game, after Stallord is seemingly defeated and his skull is lying motionless, Link uses the Spinner to raise the central platform into a pillar, only for the skull to reveal itself to be perfectly okay and attack Link, forcing a second round of the fight.
    • In Phantom Hourglass, when Bellum is defeated by Link, he falls, and is believed to be dead, although Oshus's power has not yet returned. He beleives it will eventually, but guess who attacks them later on... and guess who regains all his power once we officially see Bellum turn to sand and explode.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Seems that for King/Captain K.Rool, being beaten, punched, thrown from a cliff bouncing twice on the rocks on the way down and splashing into the ocean, THEN getting attacked by hungry sharks didn't stop him from showing up again as the secret/lost world boss, soaking wet and mad as hell. Topping that, being defeated again and getting thrown inside a volcano that erupted shortly after causing the entire island to sink also didn't prevent him from showing up in the next game without a scratch and under a new alias. Maybe he accidentally ate one (or more) phoenix down when he was just a baby crocodile.
  • In Time Hollow, Irving pulls this after falling from a cliff.
  • If any video game villain embodies this trope more than Ridley, it's Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog. At the conclusion of most of the earlier Sonic games, Sonic has destroyed Eggman's mech and blown up his base, supposedly killing him as he is not seen again in the game, but he always escapes somehow and returns for the next game. Once his Joker Immunity became apparent, they even stopped pretending to kill him off in later games, often showing him after the defeat of the final boss.
    • In fact this serves as part of the plot for Sonic Chronicles: Dark Brotherhood. In the game's start Eggman is apparently killed when his battleship explodes while he is in it. Naturally he's still alive. The trope is even lampshaded by the protagonists, many of whom suspect that Eggman is still alive before there's even any reason to suspect as much.
  • In Chrono Cross, it's revealed that Lavos, the giant space tick that was destroyed by Crono in Chrono Trigger wasn't quite dead; instead, it fused with Schala and became the Time Devourer. The Devourer itself is also an example; killing it the normal way doesn't work. Due to the nature of the Chronoverse, there will always be a timeline where you didn't kill the Devourer, and it'll just come back from there.
  • A key mechanic in The Godfather 2. If you don't kill an enemy Made Man using the specific "condition" needed, he'll just come back for more later.

Web Comic

  • Happens in Dominic Deegan quite often. Klo comes back from oblivion for no reason, as did Celesto who on top of a similar oblivion, escaped an alternate dimension that is normally unescapable. The Infernomancer also escaped this dimension after being banished there. The return of both Celesto and the Infernomancer is explained: when the souls of the Chosen were detonated by Karnak, it breached the planes, allowing them to return.
  • Lampshaded in this Narbonic strip.
  • On her arrival in Something*Positive, Kestrel (from Queen of Wands) is hit by a car and left a bloody mess in the street, with no one noticing. A few months later, she returns with head injuries, medical bills, and another not-so-secretly infatuated female best friend.
  • This is one theory among many as to how Oasis keeps returning from the dead over and over again in Sluggy Freelance.
  • No Rest for The Wicked: The Boy finds Prince Ricardo right after the "fall off the cliff" part. Not too startled when he surges to attack—then he is The Boy Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was

WOW! You're the third-liveliest dead man I've ever met!

First blood: ELAN!

Web Original

  • Believe it or not, Kill'Em All series Survival of the Fittest has this in Andrea Vanlandingham and Denise Dupius. There are also hints that more supposedly-dead characters may show up, at least the ones whose deaths haven't been shown.
    • It's been revealed that most of the students whose deaths weren't shown ended up being involved in an escape plot and had their collars removed. However, around half of those have now been Killed Off for Real by the terrorists.
    • In V4, Clio Gabriella knocks Garry Villette off a cliff and watches him plunge into the water below. She doesn't bother to check to see if he surfaces again and believes him to be dead. He isn't.
  • The entirety of Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction is spent trying to kill the Meta. Recreation revealed that this failed, though apparently he suffered damage of some sort, forcing the Meta and Agent Washington to capture Doc to fix him.
    • Church himself is a heroic example. He was killed in the very first season, but it didn't take long for him to come back as a ghost.
      • Really, Red vs. Blue loves this trope; Sarge died for an episode only to be brought back via CPR, Tex died at the end of season one and came back next season, Captain Flowers died in his first appearance, but was brought back in the next season before dying again. Donut can be added to this list, as he was confirmed dead by Doc at the start of Revelation, but gets brought back to life in a sponsors-only ending of chapter 13 and confirmed as being alive by Word of God.
  • The miniseries The Gamers mocks this trope when the players' characters meet up with an angry mercenary the left for dead in the "castle of almost certain death."
  • In Tales of MU, the main character's mother is believed by everyone to be dead, but side stories reveal that she may be alive and living under an assumed name, for reasons not completely clear yet.

Western Animation

  • Kenny in South Park does this often in Season 1, only to be killed seconds later.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this occurs to the Shredder a grand total of four times—three if you count the occasion that was retconned into Back from the Dead.
  • Stinkmeaner in The Boondocks dies in "Grandads Fight", but in "Stinkmeaner Strikes Back" he beats the Devil's Martial Arts Gauntlet and gets sent back to Earth.
    • Another example of this trope occurs during episode 5 "A Date with the Health Inspector". Ed Wuncler the III and his friend Gin rob a store ran by people of Middle Eastern descent. A police officer happens to be there who in a parody of the Iraq War and the status of whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or not is asked by Ed if he sees any weapons on the Middle Eastern man. The police officer refuses at first but then agrees not wanting to get on Ed's bad side, as it turns out the Middle Eastern man did have a gun and he and some other Middle Eastern men open fire on Ed and his friend Gin with the police officer getting caught in the cross fire. Then the police officer is laying down on the ground and Ed's friend Gin has a brief exchange with the man, whose name turns out is Freddie, that is word for word with Monty Python. Freddie then gets up and gets shot again. At the end of the episode back up is called and the Middle Eastern men are arrested and Ed and Gin are viewed as heroes who stopped "terrorists" and Freddie makes a full recovery.
  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Satan sends MC Pee Pants back to Earth often, providing the only continuity the show has.
  • In Family Guy‍'‍s famous chicken fights the chicken is killed three times yet he always returns for more. Within a single fight (the first) he is seemingly beaten to death, only to attack Peter again seconds later.
    • For that matter, this should also apply to the monkey in Chris's closet, Connie, and of course Meg, who have all sustained typically fatal injuries and even led fans to wonder whether or not they were actually Killed Off for Real by the end of these episodes until they show up fine in later episodes.
  • Shendu from Jackie Chan Adventures is killed off at the season one finale, and is assumed dead. The act of "killing" him off allows him to become a spirit and he returns in the body of Valmont. The rest of the series sees him being resealed in the demon underworld, reborn, resealed in his original state, revived, and final sealed off for good in another dimension. Note, he is never actually killed.
  • In the first season finale of X-Men, the massive robotic Master Mold pulls a Chernabog and bursts out of a mountain, insisting it can never be destroyed, after seemingly being destroyed with the rest of the Sentinels by a massive explosion. This is the cue for Professor Xavier to fly in with the TNT-loaded Blackbird jet, fly at Master Mold full speed, and eject.
    • No, this is not Master Mold's final appearance, if you're wondering.
  • Swindle in Transformers Animated was, at the end of "S.U.V", paralyzed and trapped in vehicle mode, which the Autobots allowed the Detroit Police to tow away with the stated goal of either selling him or stripping him down for parts, not even mentioning that the "SUV" was a Decepticon. In "Five Servos of Doom", he turns up alive and unharmed, though still stuck, Sentinel Prime having bought him from the impound lot (considering his parts couldn't move, they probably weren't worth much).
    • Starscream himself. In nearly all versions, the guy just won't die, or at least stay dead.
  • Near the end of Barbie and the Diamond Castle, one of Lydia's spells backfires on her and she disappears. The main characters finally reach the Diamond Castle and are about to undo all of Lydia's spells when guess who comes flying in the window?
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Phil Ken Sebben gets hit by a bus in Season 3. Then at the series finale: "Ha! Ha! Final Episode stunt casting!"
  • Beautifully parodied on The Simpsons (of course) in their Bible Trilogy. A story called David and Goliath 2, an Affectionate Parody of silly actioners, has Ralph Wiggum's character die at one point pretty finally. Later in the story, he suddenly reappears anyway. Bart says "I thought you were dead!" All Ralph says is "Nope!" Absolutely no explanation is given for this.
    • Also, in the similarly non-canonical Treehouse of Horror VI story "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace," Martin Prince falls asleep during class and is strangled to death in his dream by Groundskeeper-Willie-gone-Freddy-Krueger. As his body is being taken away, Martin reanimates into a crazed zombie and is about to attack Ms. Krabappel's class but is sedated and prevented from harming them. Groundskeeper Willie himself fits this trope, given it's a parody of Nightmare On Elm Street. But Willie's death, reanimation and vowing of revenge are not even mentioned until after Martin's death and reanimation at school.
  • Occurred quite often in Swat Kats, especially in the season 1 finale "Katastrophe", where four of the major recurring villains are caught in a massive warehouse explosion. They all get better by unknown means.
    • Earlier, this occurred to Dr. Viper in the episode "Destructive Nature", where he falls off a 300-story building only to reappear in "Katastrophe" unscathed. Viper was one of several Swat Kats villains whose Origin Story involved coming Back from the Dead, so this might explain it.
  • Darth Maul has been revealed to have survived his encounter with Obi-Wan Kenobi and makes his debut in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode "Revenge." But judging by the ending, Darth Maul looks like he's here to stay for the next season.

Real Life

  • (Possibly) Real life example: Rasputin was poisoned, shot, beaten, shot a couple more times, and had his body dumped in a river... and even then he only died from hypothermia.
    • He must have survived drowning then to die of hypothermia, that's how - at the post-mortem - they knew he was alive when they put 'his body' in the river: there was water in his lungs!
    • He also had his belly sliced wide open in a previous assassination attempt, eliciting a cry of "I have killed the Antichrist!" from his would-be murderer.
    • But Wait! There's More!! It turns out that when they cremated his body, they forgot to cut the appropriate tendons in his body, thus, the heat caused them to contract, causing him to sit up.
  • Rapper 50 Cent laughs at your Instant Death Bullets.
  • Simo Hayha. Finnish sniper in WWII had over seven hundred confirmed kills of Soviets, 505 with his sniper rifle and two hundred or so by submachine gun. They tried everything up to Artillery strikes to kill him. He finally took a bullet to the jaw and it exited the left side of his face taking most of it. His buddies commented half his head was blown off. He woke up a few weeks later and lived to the ripe old age of 96, dying in April 2002.
  • A famous case in Belleville, Illinois. A teenager was attacked by the teacher she was friends with (and may have been having a relationship with) who broke her neck and then strangled her with a belt before dumping her body in the woods. Thirty hours later, in a driving rainstorm, the police found her body. Only she had somehow survived (her attacker pleaded guilty and went to jail for twenty years). I won't name the people involved, but look up Miracle Girl.
  • Mark Linkous, leader of the band Sparklehorse, fell into a coma after mixing anti-depressants and sleeping pills in a London hotel room in 1995. He was found clinically dead with his legs pinned under him, and was lucky not only to be revived, but also to be able to walk again after six months of rehab. Linkous, who continued to struggle with depression and substance abuse, killed himself more decisively in 2010 by shooting himself in the chest with a rifle in an alley near a friend's house while intoxicated.
  1. Although since he was stopped before, he was not unstoppable and couldn't be more unstoppable afterward. More like, "We really mean it this time unstoppable."