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When characters get gunned down in old films by repetitive fire, they often flail side-to-side while standing... for a loooong time...

E.g. in Robocop (videos contain "blood"):

Was this done for comedic effect?

Flailing around like that while getting shot, without dying, looks extremely silly nowadays (pretty sure it's been parodied a lot too, in more modern media).

I wonder why older films do this as if it's normal.

  • I don't think you're going to find a canonical answer, so I'll put this as a comment. I think it was meant to convey extreme emotions. Agony, revenge, ecstasy. When someone dies slowly, with more gunshots than you'd expect, you either love the revenge factor (if you hate the character, you want him to suffer) or pity the agony they're going through (if you love the character, you want them to be put out of their misery quicker). It's just more poetic either way than to have them fall with one bullet. – Johnny Bones Aug 20 '19 at 18:41
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    “Old” films. That feels... bad. I hope it wasn’t intended to be comedic in Robocop because I find those scenes horrific. – Todd Wilcox Aug 20 '19 at 19:54
  • Just a guess, but note that it's the typical way actors "die" in theaters. Since in the past film acting was more influenced by theatrical acting than it is nowadays this may be the explanation. – Chanandler Bong Aug 20 '19 at 21:32
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    @ToddWilcox RoboCop was intended to be satirical to a degree, and the violence in those scenes is deliberately over-the-top. I would like to see OP provide an example of this that isn't from RoboCop though. It's hardly that old. – F1Krazy Aug 20 '19 at 21:33
  • I don't think the close votes are fair, the question is not that broad. – Luciano Aug 21 '19 at 7:59
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This kind of acting/behavior isn't limited to "older" films. When I first read this question I immediately thought of Alonzo's death from Training Day.

Granted, the movie is from 2001, but still, it's more modern than not.


And the flailing about actually has a trope dedicated to it, called the Multiple Gunshot Death:

Expect the victim to flail and twitch dramatically (or hilariously) with each new wound. The amount of blood shown is directly dependent on the work's rating or amount of Narm needed. Sometimes, the shooter would continue firing at the corpse to Make Sure He's Dead.

So to answer the OP's question,

Why do characters flail around when they're shot? Is it simply for comedic effect?

it's really a combination of all of the above -- comedic effect, plain bad acting, directing decisions, etc.

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