The classic swordplay of Swashbucklingmovies: Threaten high countered by parry high, threaten low countered by parry low, lather, rinse and repeat as you climb the spiral tower staircase, until the hero can drive his sword through the villain's heart. It looks good, and the "tink-tink-tink" of sword tips clashing has become familiar to the ear over the decades.
But it's not real swordplay. It's not even a decent simulation, or even a poor simulation like competitive fencing. Essentially, it works out to the two combatants deliberately trying to hit each others' weapons with an impressive clanging sound, rather than each other.
The other primary variety of unrealistic fencing (more popular in the Far East and modern works) is a preposterously overactive offense, typically consisting of spin and flips that would leave the back wide open combined with absurdly overshot slashes and swipes that would invite a quick lethal interruption.
It is used, on stage at least, to make sure no one actually gets hurt; in live theater special effects are nigh well impossible and actors don't have stunt doubles. Willing Suspension of Disbelief helps; conversely, a working knowledge of any school of swordsmanship can easily ruin all enjoyment of Hollywood sword fights for the 0.0001% of the population who both know and care about such things. (It's also important to note that, on stage, if the audience sees a fight that looks too realistic, they often stop caring about the scene and begin to worry genuinely for the actors and their safety.) It's also done because real combat involving swords tended to be gory and violent, usually resulting in nasty bloody wounds and body parts being chopped off. That isn't gonna fly with the Media Watchdogs and Network Censors especially in the case of works geared toward children.
In theatrics, this is known as "Pirate Halves", so named because you see it so much in pirate movies ("halves", because you're basically making a half-circle with your sword with each parry, meeting at the top and bottom of each arc — a similar move, "Pirate Fulls", is when you're making a 360° arc with each swing to meet at the bottom of each swing). Often in pirate and swashbuckling movies they wouldn't have the time (or the budget) to give everyone in the film sword fighting lessons, so they'd give some lessons to the lead actors, and tell all the extras in the background, "just do this."
Named not for a TRON character but for swashbuckler film star Errol Flynn. Worth noting that, as some of the examples below illustrate, quite a number of his colleagues in early 20th century Hollywood actually were expert fencers, but rather than go for realistic fights they used their knowledge to produce something that just looks cool instead.
While, as copiously noted above, Flynning doesn't have much in common with real fencing except for using swords, stage combat is an art form in and of itself that is a) tremendously fun and b) tremendously fun to watch. Certified specialists can get up to absurdly high levels of skill, with enough acrobatics to make a gymnastics team jealous.
Note that Flynning in a real sword fight would quickly render swords useless, as sharp blades dull if they hit too many hard things. Flynning also cause extreme stress to the blade, which can easily snap it in two.
Not as common as it used to be, but the pseudo-ninja style whirling blades, often one on each hand, sometimes even by Romans, is (if anything) even more absurd.
Compare A-Team Firing, which replaces the swords for bullets. Contrast Single-Stroke Battle, which doesn't look elaborate enough. See also Anachronism Stew as swords and sword fighting techniques shown on film tend to be hundreds of years ahead of what would have been available in the time setting of a medieval film.note Might be a case of Acceptable Breaks from Reality, given that most past cultures never wrote down the details of their martial arts. On the flipside, some films use anachronistic techniques when there's a knowledge base concerning the techniques they did use.
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In a Dos Equis "The Most Interesting Man in the World" commercial, The Most Interesting Man is shown taking on two opponents with sabres, for sport. Flynning mixed with camera cuts (as if it were an old, worn film).
Best Buy as of Summer 2014 has an ad for 2-in-1 tablets where there is a brief scene of two students in fencing garb Flynning it up.
Anime and Manga
Revolutionary Girl Utena's sword heavy duels Flynned to cut down animation costs, though the participants generally aren't actually trying to kill each other.
Akio: No, you know nothing besides play duels. But if you don't put up your sword now, you'll find out how terrifying real duels are.
The beam-sabre fights in the various Gundam shows go back and forth between using this trope and utterly averting it. Most are short and brutal, ending with severed limbs & impaled cockpits and/or reactors, but if both combatants are named characters expect a fair amount of Flynning before somebody finally bites it. The worst offender is likely Gundam Wing, although in the case of Wing Zero and Epyon this is somewhat justified; their pilots are trying to kill each other, but since the Gundams' computers are in perfect sync, they're able to parry any attack the other makes. Interestingly, whenever characters clash with real swords outside their Humongous Mecha this trope is conspicuously averted. Witness Char and Amuro's memorably bloody rapier duel in the final act of the original Mobile Suit Gundam show.
This was used intentionally during Kira and Athrun's brief duel during Gundam Seed Destiny. Since they were friends and only wanted to convince the other to leave the battlefield and let the their respective forces deal with the problem, their battle consisted entirely of firing warning shots at each other and beam sword Flynning while telling the other to return to their ship. Eventually Kira loses his patience and, instead of parrying, dodges and slashes for real, which results in Athrun's Gundam getting completely dismantled in the space of a few seconds (though without killing Athrun, this is Kira we're talking about).
Averted in Gundam 00 a lot of the sword fights between important characters are usually pretty short and to the point. Setsuna vs Graham the 1st time and then at the end of season 1 or Setsuna vs Alejandro in his MS.
Averted in (the paper) One Piece, where swordsmen make it a clear point to go straight for the opponent's person. The only reason swordfights have any real length is because most fighters are Made of Iron, a Determinator, or both.
Though one of Brooke's techniques, the Prelude Au Fer (prelude on iron), directly strikes the opponents weapon. Though in that case the intent is to destroy the weapon of the foe and is accomplishes it by pitting the length of his weapon against the breadth of his foe's.
Similarly averted in Bleach. Usually, excessive blocking is the sign of either a reluctant or fearful fighter while their opponent is aiming to kill. Urahara made it quite clear early in the series that this was not acceptable.
When you dodge, “I’m afraid of getting cut”. When you attack, “I’m afraid of cutting someone”... Yes, your sword only speaks to me of absurd fear.
Actually justified with Kira, though, due to the way his magical sword, Wabisuke, works: Its gimmick is to make anything it hits heavier and heavier—thus extended sword-clanging is a decent tactic for him, as it will end with the opponent having a sword too heavy for them to lift.
Again averted in Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, with Squalo's attack Scontro di Squalo, deliberately hitting his opponent's blade, sending paralytic vibrations up the sword and into his opponent's arm.
In Hayate the Combat Butler Hayate and Athena's fights are constantly swords clashing. Apparently Athena was aiming for this effect, since her swordsmanship was supposedly so good she'd kill him if she actually aimed for Hayate. When Midas attacks Hayate, he apparently OHKOs him.
Averted in Le Chevalier d'Eon outside of staged fights, when two enemies are engaged in a fight, they go straight for the kill.
In Naruto, while some of the fights between people wielding swords or similar weapons fall into this, often, one or both of the combatants have special techniques related to their weapons, enabling them to slice through their opponent's weapon or otherwise injure their opponent while they lock blades.
Played straight, averted and justified in La Seine no Hoshi: French soldiers usually go for the body (and the eponymous heroine got her ass handed to her in her first real fight specifically because the commander of the French Guards had the habit of alternating between lethal attacks at the heart and mobility kills on the leg, catching her flat-footed when he suddenly used the latter), but the Black Tulip alternates between playing it straight to disarm his foe and going for the kill, and the Star of the Seine, being strong enough to wield an heavy sidesword like a rapier, usually goes for the enemy's sword in the attempt to numb the sword hand, thus making him drop it (most of the times) or even breaking it in two (the one time she fought a foe strong enough to not have the sword hand go numb but wielded a decorative rapier), and has no problems going for the kill whenever pissed or otherwise motivated (see her final duel with the commander of the French Guards: until then she had gone for trying to disarm, but as soon as she was unmasked she eschewed her usual tactics and tried to stab him until she succeeded).
In YuYu Hakusho, at the beginning of Kurama's fight with Ura Urashima, they swing and parry with their razor-sharp rose whip/fishing line, respectively. Kuwabara, who while tough is not very experienced, is absolutely amazed and says they are evenly matched. Hiei calls him a fool and says Kurama could kill Urashima at any time, but has an annoying habit of feeling out an opponent due to curiosity of their fighting talents.
Happens in Shadow Snark when Uma, Pinkie Pie, and Shadow try to poke eachother with sticks. It eventually becomes a deconstruction when they end up trying cool sword fighting moves and have to ask their opponents to stage it.
In How I Became Yours, Sokka's "sword fight" with Sho involves several panels of the two in an "en garde" stance with each other, and Sho once doing a flip. Then again, this is in large part due to the frequent copying of panels in the comic, to the point where a character will have the same expression for several panels in a row in a dialogue scene.
Films — Animated
Justified in The Road to El Dorado. Protagonists Tulio and Miguel deliberately use Flynning to stage a pantomime street-fight (with rapiers; the classic duelling weapon) to divert attention from their con-tricks, in a manner that suggests they've done it before. Once out of trouble, they announce:
Tulio: Ladies and gentlemen, we've decided it's a draw!
Miguel:(tosses swords to guard's feet) Thank you all for coming! You've been great, see you soon!
Films — Live-Action
Subverted in The Mask of Zorro, where Don Diego De La Vega asks his successor to demonstrate his sword fighting style. The student energetically swishes around his sword only to have Don Diego casually disarm him with one move with the implied lesson of not to waste energy with such useless flamboyance. Given that this is Zorro, the rest of the movie ignores it for more Flynning, but points for trying.
Another subversion: in the same scene, Alejandro mentions that swordplay is about putting the pointy bit into the other man.
The Disney TV Version of Zorro in the 1950s somewhat subverted it as well, as Guy Williams, who played Zorro, was actually a champion fencer. His Zorro used a more accurate fencing style, though still stylized to avoid injury.
Subverted in the famous duel in Potop (the second movie of the Sienkiewicz Trilogy) - Kmicic is seriously fighting to kill. Wołodyjowski, being a far superior swordsman, humiliates him by deliberately reducing his effort to Flynning: Clip
The duel in The Great Race was an even more exaggerated version of this. For those who understand fencing terminology, it was two people endlessly repeating parry-riposte-counter parry-counter riposte-etc. in line 4. For those who do not, it was two people endlessly repeating the first two moves taught to beginning foil fencers. When they switched to sabers, it quickly descended into Pirate Halves.
For all that it looks spectacular (and the dialogue cites real fencing masters and styles), the great battle between Inigo and Westley in The Princess Bride is almost entirely Flynning. The screenplay even says that the characters are Flynning; Wesley and Inigo both being masters with nothing personal driving their fight, they want to enjoy it.
Averted in the rest of the movie, especially the final duel between Inigo and Count Rugen. Rugen is a Combat Pragmatist, aiming to kill with every attack. Inigo is at first simply defending himself. As his strength returns, he toys with Rugen for a few moments, then finishes him.
Commentary states that Cary Elwes (Westley) and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo) were complete novices at swordfighting, threw themselves into the fights with a lot of energy and panache. The first time that Patinkin and Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) practiced together, Patinkin actually stabbed Guest. At that point Guest went out to get himself some true fencing lessons, figuring that if he didn't learn how to protect himself Patinkin was going to wind up accidentally killing him. Link.
The lightsaber battles from the original Star Wars trilogy, dubbed "budget kendo" in some circles. The original idea behind the lightsabers was that they were difficult to handle, which limited their choreography to mostly slashes and parrys. For the prequels' George Lucas specifically stated that the battles of the original trilogy were fought by "old men, feeble cyborgs and young kids" and he wanted the prequels to highlight a more sophisticated fighting style. They are more technically impressive and faster paced, but still use common tricks associated with flynning.
There were technical limitations involved as well as skill limitations. Every duel in the Original Trilogy involves Darth Vader. The Vader mask left David Prowse with such a restricted field of view that he had trouble even seeing the person he was dueling with, never mind trying to fight. The props themselves were also fragile, preventing the use of more aggressive and intense strikes.
The expanded universe elaborates on lightsaber combat, based partially on the forms developed by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard and he made unique styles as a fingerprint for each character. Wookieepedia spells it all out, and Gillard himself said the styles were meant to evoke that the Jedi use an Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age and thus have to be really good at it. There are also handwaves that the sheer lethality of lightsaber blades mean that it isn't enough to get the killing blow, you have to make sure you won't be hit even slightly as your enemy drops their weapon.
The X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar introduced a culture that practiced semi-ritualistic Duels To The Death with so-called "blastwords"note best described as a cross between a rapier and a diver's bang-stick. This trope was definitely not played straight; a lot of people apparently did tend to fence like this when fighting merely for sport, and fared badly when they came up against someone who was playing for keeps, even if that person has very little idea how to use a blastsword.
Exception: Unlike modern performers, many actors from The Golden Age of Hollywood, such as Basil Rathbone and Tyrone Power, were actually champion swordsmen in Real Life. Combined with a very active fencing scene in Hollywood at the time, this led to superb fights in films where all of the male leads knew what they were doing. One such fight between Rathbone and Power can be seen here.
Cornel Wilde, too. It is said he dropped off the US Olympic fencing team for lack of money.
Rathbone was often cast as villains (with one notable exception), and so was not allowed to win most of his on-screen matches. the only two exceptions were his role as Tybalt in 1936's Romeo and Juliet, and a very short duel against Eugene Pallette in The Mark of Zorro. However, Hollywood concensus was that in any non-choreographed fencing match, Rathbone would have cleaned the clock of any other Hollywood figure.
Rathbone vs. Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. Either a brilliant example of this trope or a brilliant parody of it. Danny Kaye, though not a skilled fencer, was fast enough and agile enough to keep up with Rathbone in a choreographed fight, thus giving him a rare chance to show off his skill to the fullest. Naturally, he took the opportunity and ran with it. Rathbone was 63 at the time, and he still effortlessly gave Kaye a run for his money. The most impressive thing about that fight scene is Danny Kaye was able to mimick Rathbone just by watching him.
Rathbone was approached by Warner Brothers to play opposite Flynn in his third great swashbuckler, The Sea Hawk, but Rathbone, who had a horror of type-casting, turned down the part. It therefore went to Henry Daniell — an excellent actor, but too incompetent with a blade even to Flynn convincingly. In the end he had to be doubled extensively by fencing master Fred Cavens.
The 1952 movie Scaramouche is Crowned with not just a Moment but several straight Minutes of Awesome as Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer (and/or their stunt doubles) methodically Flynn their way through a theater, starting the balcony boxes, working down to the lobby, through the main seats, backstage and ending on the stage itself. That particular scene was possibly the most masterfully done aversion of this trope ever. A careful observer may note that the combatants are actively trying to hit each other, dance through every one of the eight lines (except for #1), exercise such complicated procedures as feints and disengages, and generally fight very well given the uneven footing they find themselves on. Especially impressive is the fact that they manage to work Andre's game breaker multiple disengage sequence from the book into the duel, though you won't notice it unless you know what to look for.
The three-way fight between Sparrow, Turner and Norrington in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. However other sword fights in this trilogy are portrayed far more realistically.
Partially justified in that the three combatants are all on roughly the same side of the overarching conflict and actually have a great deal of positive history together, though circumstances at the time divide them, and they aren't really interested in killing each other but in grabbing the key to the heart of Davy Jones. Both Sparrow and Norrington pass up obvious and easy opportunities to kill Turner quite early in the fight, opting, instead of stabbing him, to distract him or throw him aside.
Averted in The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel, 'The Four Musketeers': Not only was the swordplay highly realistic (with moves like grabbing the opponent's blade, and hitting them with one's cloak), but all the stars were trained swordsmen. Christopher Lee admitted in an interview that he had to remind Oliver Reed during one of their fights that he wasn't really trying to kill him. It didn't help that the swords they used weren't foils.
A scene in the comic Jon Sable, Freelance had movie stuntman "Sonny" Pratt tell Johnny Carson that "Oliver Reed fights like it's for keeps."
In Broadway Melody of 1940, the dance to "Please Don't Monkey With Broadway" has Fred Astaire and George Murphy flynning with canes.
1995's Rob Roy with Liam Neeson climaxes with a duel containing some of the most realistic sword fighting in modern cinema. Though some Flynning occurs, you really get a sense that these two men want to do each other serious bodily harm. Especially with how it ends — Roy grabs his opponent's blade firmly enough for it to lodge into the bones of his hand, then — whack. Watch it here
The brief stickfight between Adams and Dickinson in 1776 is rather unconvincing Flynning when it's not just the two men grappling.
Men in Tights also mocks this with the staff fight between Robin and Little John. Their weapons repeatedly break in half throughout the scene, and each time they simply throw half away and continue to attempt Flynning, to the point where they're playing medieval Pencil Pop when any sensible combatants would have simply given up and begun fisticuffs.
And at one point in the last duel, Robin calls out the Sheriff's sequence of moves while responding to them.
"Parry, parry, thrust, thrust... good!"
Troy's Flynning is so obvious one does not even need to have so much as a cursory knowledge of actual swordplay to spot it. When Hector and Achilles fight, both of them avoid obvious killing strikes and holes in their opponent's guard on several occasions.
In Highlander, this was done in large part because Christopher Lambert's eyesight is so bad that he just swung his sword around. His opponents were tasked with hitting his sword with theirs to make it look like a sword fight (instead of a mostly blind guy swinging his sword wildly).
Hook's climactic fight between Peter and the captain, which is all Flynning. In his review, Roger Ebert lamented how boring and uninspired the whole sequence was.
Earlier averted when Hook reacts to Rufio trying to clang swords with him high by going low and stabbing him to death.
In Cutthroat Island, William Shaw's Flynning during the tavern fight between Morgan's crew and Dawg's crew is justified, since he'd not yet learned how to do any serious fighting:
Morgan: Very pretty, Mr. Shaw.
William: Thank you, ma'am. I had the good fortune of studying with a grand master in Vienna!
Morgan: Now stop fiddling, and kill the man!
William: Kill him? Bless me, we never got to that!
*Morgan grabs William's arm and thrusts it forward, sending William's sword through the chest of the enemy mook.*
Shanghai Knights features some of this in the final fight, but it's Justified for both combatants: Chon Wang, although trained in martial arts, does not know how to handle a sword, and Rathebone (specifically stated to be a master swordsman) is using overly flashy techniques to toy with and humiliate Chon, knowing that he doesn't have the skills to recognize and attack the openings Rathebone is presenting him with. Bonus points for Rathebone being named after Errol Flynn's iconic swordplay opponent.
In Gladiator this is almost lampshaded; in the gladiator training camp scene, the instructor tells the student, "this is how you fight", and starts showing him the "Pirate Halves" move. Justified - gladiators were essentially entertainers, as well as fighters. Maximus, a former professional soldier, was actually told off for being too efficient as he naturally went straight for the killing move.
Done deliberately in if when three self-obsessed teenagers get into a sword fight more or less for the hell of it and tear around the school flynning for all they're worth.
Averted in Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, A Game of Shadows. Holmes actually uses a form very similar to historical Bartitsu, but with Wing Chun boxing and swordfighting introduced (the choreographer even called it "neo-Bartitsu").
Subverted in Red Sonja (1985 film): When the Arnold Schwarzenegger character is fighting mooks, his first strike simply attacks the blade. His second strike muscles the sword back on target while the mook's sword is helplessly to the side.
Which is known as "battement" and is a very effective fencing technique, especially if you're massively stronger than your opponents without being considerably slower.
Played with in The Lord of the Rings. In some scenes, such as Aragorn's battle with the Uruk-Hai chieftain at the end of Fellowship, there is a certain amount of Flynning, done subtly enough so that things look dangerous. In most of the mass-battle scenes, on the other hand, the action tends toward the swift and brutal. Viggo Mortenson (playing Aragorn) and the stuntmen who were roped into playing Orcs suffered quite a few on-set injuries.
Subverted in The Rocketeer: Neville Sinclair's role in movies is that of a Flynn-type action hero. As such, he engages in this kind of swordplay with one of his costars. However, he "accidentally" stabs said costar for upstaging him.
Mostly averted in Kingdom of Heaven, where some effort was made to present the use of weaponry at least somewhat correctly. Although not perfectly done, the guards Balian is taught are similar to those of the historical Italian school of longsword fencing, and the use of half-swording and striking with the hilt is featured rather prominently.
The villain of the Discworld book Maskerade complains about the unrealistic swordplay in operas (the book takes place in the Ankh-Morpork opera house). Ironically, he engages in an overly-clangy sword fight with another character, and dies when his opponent sticks the sword between his arm and his torso. Cue the super-long death speech.
This is all justified when multiple characters comment that people don't go to see opera for the story, but for the music and singing.
Also lampshaded in Moving Pictures, where an inexperienced human has to fight a veteran troll actor, and doesn't fully realize it's fake. The troll explains that all he has to do is parry dramatically.
Also-also lampshaded in Wyrd Sisters, where Tomjon gets trapped in every live actor's nightmare: everyone else in the cast has forgotten their lines, gotten distracted, or developed stage fright. The poor guy foresees a fight scene in which he will have to "parry his own wild thrusts and stab himself to death."
Subverted and Lampshaded in The Saga of Darren Shan. When Darren witnesses a knife fight between Mr. Crepsley and the mad vampaneze Murlough, he expects a drawn out battle with lots of clashing blades. He notes in retrospect that the two were trying to kill one another, not entertain an audience. The fight itself takes all of three seconds, and ends with Murlough brutally cut open.
An early scene in Exile's Valor features two of Alberich's students deciding to Flynn during a class practice bout to show off. Since they aren't nearly as good as they think they are, all they do is embarrass themselves (and get stuck with a hideous bill for salle damage).
Lampshaded and subverted in The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, when swordsmaster Don Tomsa Maramzalla explains the difference between the lessons he gives to his high-born clientele and those he'll be giving "Gentleman Bastard" Jean Tannen:
Those prancing little pants-wetters come here to learn the colorful and gentlemanly art of fencing, with its many sporting limitations and its proscriptions against dishonorable engagements.
You, on the other hand...you are going to learn how to kill men with a sword.
The Fencing Master describes swordfights in a way that, while showy and dramatic, would be ridiculous if illustrated.
In The Curse Of Chalion Caz reminisces about how he thought he was a good fencer with a repertoire of fancy moves in his youth until he met another boy who ignored his flashy technique and launched a simple stab that would have killed him had they been using real swords.
Heavily lampshaded in the Kingpriest Trilogy, when POV character Cathan (a veteran knight) and an old comrade-in-arms attend an (obviously scripted) gladiatorial game. While aforementioned comrade is more familiar with this sort of thing, and therefore able to relax and enjoy the show as something only tangentally related to actual combat, Cathan can't get over how obviously fake and unrealistic the swordfighting is, and in fact does something of a mental running commentary of all the ways the combatants could take advantage of each others' mistakes if it was an actual fight.
The page quote ironically has C. S. Lewis decry this trope on stage, but in the next few sentences of Prince Caspian he creates his own system of silly strikes which look no more like historical swordsmanship than this trope. Additionally, there is a difference between styles developed for rapiers and their kin and those for swords from the Middle Ages when used against armored warriors.
A variation occurs early in Perry Rhodan, of all places. The protagonist and the newly-introduced Atlan (who's still trying to find a way off an Earth that most of the galaxy believes destroyed at the time) end up crossing swords in a museum. They're not actively trying to outright kill each other, but Atlan demonstrates the difference between a twentieth century astronaut who may be a decent modern sports fencer on the side and an immortal Arkonide who's spent millennia on Earth and actually knows how to use a historical broadsword properly quickly enough. (This exact duel is revisited later in the series when an impostor unknowingly reveals himself by getting the weapons used in it wrong.)
Mostly averted in The Belgariad and The Elenium with a very few exceptions, where any kind of bladeplay is usually quick, brutal, and to-the point. While combat styles and techniques are discussed, most of the time the characters are doing any kind of sword or knife fighting, they simply kill their victims outright.
Discussed in No Good Deed.... Elsabeth's fighting style is efficient and economical in movement, and her thought processes exhibit great disdain for swordsmen who prefer the flashier techniques of the tournament fighters. During a fight at the beginning of the book, Elsabeth makes rather quick work of an adversary precisely because his more elaborate style allows her to use quick and direct attacks to get through his defenses faster than he can counter her. She's equally disparaging of masters who teach such a style.
The Star Wars X-Wing novel Starfighters of Adumar mostly takes place on a planet ruled by a society that feels the need to essentially Flynn everything, from dueling with blastswords to starfighter combat. Whenever a character who refuses to play by the rules (either a local who hates the formal styles or the off-world protagonists who were never trained to be so theatrical) enters a fight, it's over in seconds.
Averted in Emilio Salgari's novels (not so much in the movies adapting them). While not a fencer, Salgari was very good at researching information and including it in the novels, and the bladed fights (be they the swordfights of the Black Corsair saga and the Pirates of Bermuda series or the knife fights and more exotic fights prevailing in the Sandokan saga) are extremely short, include little to no parries, if at knife length include grappling, and tend to end with someone stabbed in the chest or the guts.
The Black Corsair is stated to be an immensely skilled swordfighter, and even has a secret technique. What this secret technique consist into doing? Tricking the other guy into overextending with a stab while he dodges and stabs him in the chest.
Played with in How I Met Your Mother: when Ted and Marshall got into a heavy argument while holding swords (long story), they start Flynning, but as their sword play gets more elaborate as they try fancy and ridiculous moves, the argument dissolves into "Dude, how awesome is this?"
Mal's duel with Atherton in the Firefly episode "Shindig." Justified in that Atherton is quite skilled and is playing with Mal, knowing he can kill him at any time, while Mal is clueless, and thinks he's doing surprisingly well for his first ever Sword Fight. When Atherton actually goes for blood it takes no more than a stroke or two.
Almost always averted in Angel, but in the season 3 episode "Billy", the title character teaches Cordelia to use a sword, and all he's describing is this trope. Although this is also a possible subversion/aversion, since his idea is to teach her to stall until he can get there to rescue her.
In an episode of Slings and Arrows, Geoffrey Tenant burst into a party wielding swords demanding a duel with his rival. Both being classically-trained Shakespearean actors, they naturally Flynn.
The horribly botched Flynning that was Hugh Beringar fighting in the the TV series Cadfael.
Used on several occasions in Doctor Who during the Pertwee/Baker era. A fencing scene in The Sea Devils; after the Master disarms the Doctor, and has him pinned in a corner ready to deliver the killing blow, the Doctor escapes by kicking the Master back.
Played with in The Androids of Tara. The Fourth Doctor ends up in a duel with "electro-swords". At first he seems incompetent with the blade, merely parrying blows. However, it quickly becomes clear that this is a ruse, as he unleashes more and more skill until finally besting his opponent with ease.
The King's Demons features a very Flynnian swordfight between the Fifth Doctor and the Master. 
The Christmas Invasion contains a particularly bad case of flynning between the Tenth Doctor and the leader of the Sycorax. Most notable is a moment when the Doctor charges the Sycorax leader with an overhead strike. In any realistic fight, the Doctor would've ended up with a sword through one of his hearts.
Justified in the finale of the Evil Green Ranger series of episodes Green With Evil on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Jason has to destroy Tommy's sword in order to break Rita's spell and consequently spends much of their duel attacking Tommy's sword. Tommy's Flynning, however, is completely unjustified.
Done in Sharpe's Honour where Sharpe is duped into a duel with a Spanish fencing master after Sharpe had been falsely accused of sleeping with his wife as part of a French plot. After playing by the real rules of fencing, Sharpe then switches to the rules of real combat (none) and quickly overtakes his genteel opponent.
In Highlander: The Series, this is done almost every episode. This is partly due to Rule of Cool, and partly because many of the guest stars had never before picked up a sword in their lives, so they had to rely upon Adrian Paul and the stunt coordinator to make the fights look exciting.
In one commentary bit, it's mentioned that there's an easy way to tell whether the actors in a particular episode are any good with a sword: if the fight scene has a lot of cuts and changes in angle, it's done to disguise the weakness in an actor's form or to switch more capable stunt doubles in. If there are long periods without a cut or change in camera angle, then it means the actors for that fight were good enough to avoid all that.
Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize that for Immortals swordplay is very different because they can't just stab a vital place to finish it. They need a good, heavy, unimpeded swing which can only be done after you've tired your opponent out or disarmed them. That reasoning only works for really powerful Immortals, the younger ones can be incapacitated by the same blow that would work for a human. However since very few of the Immortals seen in the show are less than a century old most of them have built up that tolerance for pain.
Though Kamen Rider Faiz- being a Kamen Rider series- has its share of Flynning, it's notably subverted during a fencing duel between main character Takumi (minimum experience with swordplay) and rival Masato (president of the university fencing club). Takumi's offense consists of wildly aggressive Flynning which is expertly parried by Masato, who retaliates with a single, point-winning riposte. This happens three times in a row.
iCarly: The absolutely horrible attempt at fencing during the episode iFence.
Primeval has an episode where Danny get into a sword-fight with a medieval knight. (Pipe versus Sword) Danny doesn't actually want to hurt the guy, but since the knight thinks that he's in hell and Danny's a demon, he'd probably be trying a bit harder to kill.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a great sword fight between Buffy and Angel where they shuffle back and forth alternating their blows from up and down.
Most of the swordfighting in the TV miniseries Shogun was Flynning. It's especially obvious when they show a scene of someone cutting someone else's head off, they'll zoom in to show just the sword wielder, and the trajectory of his blade will be no where near where the other man's neck was.
Any documentary that displays mass battles—particularly those made by the History Channel. The two four-episode-each Barbarians series, Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire and those like it/made by the same studio/group tragically suffer from this heavily. Any and all other historical inaccuracies aside, just watch the big battle scenes. Stuntmen in differing suits of armor dance about each other while visibly, readily just clashing their swords against one another's. What makes this particularly egregious is the fact that in most, if not every shot, an overwhelming majority of the soldiers clashing blades are all HOLDING SHIELDS...and not ONE of them seems to even think of raising it to block an attack. Even more egregious in those episodes of above series' that focus on Ancient Rome and it's legions, who relied heavily on their shields, and only used their swords for stabbing; even in the early days of the Republic, pre-empire period, a Roman soldier would've looked at you as if you had two heads if you suggested using your sword to parry, block, or even do anything but stab and occasionally slash as need be, when he has and is trained to use a shield that could do such a task far more easily.
Mostly averted in Merlin. Duels sometimes include this, but most often they just go for the kill and sword fights are over quickly. Even the Arthur vs. Mordred swordfight of legend takes all of ten seconds. Arthur parries, hesitates to catch his breath, and Mordred runs him through.
One behind-the-scenes clip of the choreographed sword fight rehearsals has the director saying "You have to believe you're going for the parts of the body."
S3E11 has a subversion: a pseudo-ninja in a tournament begins the "spinning blades" style of combat as he impressively advances towards Arthur...who stretches out a hand and knocks him on his back, winning the round in moments.
Crops up on occasion in Wrestling, where the wrestlers will do this, usually with steel chairs or Shinai. Professional Wrestling in general could be considered a form of Flynning, but with amateur wrestling and martial arts instead of swords.
Pathfinder features a style of combat called "Performance Combat" where, along with fighting your opponent, you are also trying to win over the crowd. There is even a line of feats that make this easier. but much of what can earn one Victory Points or crowd attitude could be characterized as just doing cool stuff in a fight that is being observed.
The Complete Bard's Handbook for the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons offered the "Blade" kit, which was basically all about this trope — fighting not so much better than other bards (let alone proper fighters) as fighting flashier for both entertainment (in lieu of more regular bards' musical skills) and intimidation purposes.
Role Master, Spacemaster Privateer campaign setting. The Swashbuckling skill allows the user to perform elaborate maneuvers with his melee weapon, including flourishes and feats of weapon control (such as recovering a dropped weapon).
The stick-fight between John Adams and John Dickinson in 1776 is quite Flynny. Especially in the film version—Daniels clearly goes for Madden's stick, which Madden has already raised over his head. The shouting, grappling, and overturned desk distracts from it, though.
This is actually one of the reasons a certain play by Shakespeare is reputed to be cursed. That play... you know the one... requires an unusual amount of Flynning while wearing full costume on a stage that you hope the set crew has built strongly enough to take all that hopping, bouncing and slashing. Accidents happen.
There is an episode in Final Fantasy IX, where a fighting scene is played on stage. Since the hero pretends to be an actor, a mini-game is presented where you have to respond with parry high to threaten high et cetera. Your performance is then rated by the audience. No matter how badly you do, you're given a chance to improve your score. Depending on your score, you're given gil, and also an item by Queen Brahne if you talk to her as Steiner later. If you can manage to impress all one hundred nobles and Queen Brahne, then she will grant a Moonstone, one of only four available in the game. This is extremely challenging, however, and not really worth it unless you're the type that has to do absolutely everything, as the Moonstone really isn't needed for much. Furthermore, in order to get a perfect score, you're pretty much required to retry, as it's only in latter tries that the more dazzling moves that are likely to truly impress the audience become available with frequency.
In Final Fantasy XII, Balthier's sword techniques are inspired by this, as befits the suave ladies' man. Of course, most of his weapon styles are based on the most stylish rather than practical options; he practices Gun Twirling, for example.
Subverted in Devil May Cry 3, after the second battle with Vergil; the twins appear to be Flynning, until one notices the copious amounts of blood on the floor, which demonstrates that their inhuman speed is actually letting them land hits.
Surprisingly, utilized in the Wii game Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest game. Whereas the previous swordsmanship title (Twilight Princess) only required a small wiggle of the Wiimote to make Link fight, Pirates actually requires the player to flail like Flynn during the fight sequences.
Critical hits in general involve a lot of spinning and jumping around. It gets really intense once the series hits the GBA, but even the more crudely-animated sprites from the Jugdral games have some elaborate gymnastics for critical hits.
The most insane examples would have to be the Myrmidon and Swordmaster. They rely upon an insane amount of flashy jumps and pointless spinning. Even worse, the ones in Sacred Stones tend to be more effective than Eirika and her simple stabbing.
In Blazing Sword, Eliwood's critical animation has him hold up his rapier specifically for Audible Sharpness, swooshes it around before stabbing, and then do a backflip.
Sacred Stones has Eirika avert this; both Eirika's normal and critical animations are quite straightforward until she promotes (and even then she keeps it to a single spin). Her brother, on the other hand, Flynns with a spear in his critical.
While the normal melee combat animations in World of Warcraft tend to be pretty sensible, special attack animations tend the feature unnecessary amounts of spinning around or swinging the weapon. Some races' parry animations tend to be quite flashy, too. Sometimes partially justified by the race in question, but still silly. The blood elf is gonna parry and swing her weapon around behind her back to switch to the other hand. She's an elf. Given the intentionally comic-bookish and campy style of the game this is simply part of the style.
Inverted in most weapon-based Fighting Games. Instead, thanks to the magic of Hit Points (well, in most cases), characters tend to survive some grievous blows every round. Sword collisions, while generally possible, don't happen too often; in the cases they do, the things that happen vary from game to game, or even from instance to instance, though it's never Flynning.
Heavily subverted in the PlayStation game Bushido Blade, which features no health bar, and in which it's perfectly possible, with the correct timing, to win a match with a single move, often a direct thrust to the face. Subverted even more in that if you're injured, you drop to one knee and have your move list reduced to "parry" and "swing wildly". It's still possible to win a match from this position... but you don't recover for the next round. Harsh.
Can be attempted in the Soul Series, but will usually result in having your weapons break (Soul Edge) or being blown back by the force of inertia (the Calibur games.) Though a particularly long Guard Impact chain can look rather like Flynning.
An example of the edge on edge part comes as an aversion and justified trope in Fate/stay night. Assassin and Saber are fighting, and Assassin always parries because his sword can't take the kind of abuse real blocking would require. Saber, on the other hand, has a magic sword and doesn't have to worry about such things, so she gets annoyed at his refusal to match her in a contest of pure power. Eventually, he does block an attack, and ends up losing the fight because it bent his sword and ruined his technique.
In the realm of knifeplay, most First Person Shooters do it quite improperly with the back slash which will result in a quick counterattack and subsequent death.
Speaking of knifeplay, Metal Gear Solid 4's second fight between Raiden and Vamp has the two characters sending sparks through the air as they repeatedly block and parry each other's knives. Of course, actually getting two knives to collide real life even once would be difficult even if it was choreographed, and downright impossible (not to mention stupid and pointless) in a real fight. For all their effort, they may as well have aimed for their target's body and not their weapon.
A variation happens with the final fight between Snake and Liquid, when their fists collide.
Clang is basically Neal Stephenson's attempt to develop a game that averts this trope as hard as humanly possible.
In the modern remake of Sid Meier's Pirates!, some characters in the background will do this during swordfights. The two main participants will also briefly do this when both characters go for a thrust at the same time.
Averted by Mount & Blade. There's no real techniques for fancy parries, acrobatic slashes, or dramatic exchange of blows; every melee attack is a crude but meaningful swing or thrust, and taking a hit is a bloody business for anyone on the receiving end. Fighting usually involves forcing an enemy to overextend themselves so that you can go in for a killing blow. Blocking is mostly done with shields. Weapon blocking is possible (and will make the distinctive 'ting' sound), but messing it up will leave you staggered and vulnerable, which is not an issue when shields block (though shields can be damaged enough to be broken). The option to counter-attack using a sort of weapon-based Cross Counter instead of block is there, but this is both incredibly risky and notoriously unreliable, especially in multiplayer.
The Guild : a hand-to-hand combat version at the end of season two, Wade and Zaboo get into a fight. Wade spends the entire fight showboating while doing minimal damage, Zaboo takes it like a bitch manages to strike a firm enough friendship with Wade while being pummeled that Wade thinks Codex isn't worth the fight.
Double-Justified: Wade is a STUNTMAN, while Zaboo can't fight whatsoever. It even starts with Wade doing a series of dramatic NEAR MISSES, before apologizing.
Suburban Knights: They fight like a bunch of internet reviewers who rarely leave their chairs...oh.
Luckily for them, the Mooks are just as bad. Because they are secretly just D&D nerds.
Somewhat averted in the Star Wars-inspired lightsaber duel in Ryan Vs Dorkman 2. Though there is some flynning, the choreography is especially well-done and the two fighters actually seem to be trying to hit each other instead of just clanging swords. They also put some importance on showing just how dangerous the lightsabers are. One of the best moments is when one character has another's lightsaber pinned against a wall and the 2nd character grabs the other guy's head and tries to push it into the sabers. See the fight here.
Stewie and his half-brother Bertram fight this way on the playground in an episode of Family Guy.
The Star Wars: Clone Wars miniseries is even worse with its Flynning than the Star Wars franchise's live-action outings. Anakin and Asajj Ventress spend their entire fight spastically swinging wide in each other's general direction. Even less justified than normal in that it's animated and no one has to worry about injury.
In a 2009 animated Wonder Woman film, Wonder Woman comes to modern America and sees a group of boys flynning in a park while excluding a nearby girl. The girl tries to make the best of it, saying she doesn't know how to fight anyway. Wonder Woman points out that the boys have no clue how to really fight either, and gives the girl some practical tips. The girl promptly wipes the floor with all the boys.
Steve: That was sweet, teaching her to disembowel her friends like that.
One episode of Steven Universe opened with Steven and the gems watching a sword fighting movie. Pearl criticizes the flynning, going on about how it isn't anything like real sword fighting. However, when she gives Steven a demonstration of "proper" sword fighting, she and her holographic-double sparring partner also aim for each other's swords.
An actual element of drilling in modern sport fencing, to give the student a chance to practice his parrying. Also an element of two newbies giving the coach a headache. Teaching fencers not to do this is surprisingly hard. In fact, breaking this habit when teaching any style of sword-related combat can be surprisingly hard. It may not be so much Truth in Television, however, as it is a case of Reality Is Unrealistic, where the people in question have only ever watched actors fight and think that it's actually the correct way to do it. Beginning fencers tend to do this back-and-forth when the only blade actions they know are straight attacks, high-line parries, and simple ripostes. It is sometimes derisively referred to as 'ping-pong fencing'.
Although there are shades of Truth in Television here, as in very, very, rare cases, two experienced and skilled fencers will have a phenomenon similar to this, usually to show off how much better than everyone else they are as a psychological attack (or for shits when they are bored), using advanced moves such as the seldom used "prime" (first) parry (instead of the more practical and efficient "quatre" (fourth)), which is when you point your blade vertically downward, holding your arm roughly at mouth level across your body so the blade is on your off hand side; or the incredibly impractical (and risky) yet oh so awesome stunt wherein instead of dodging you actually crouch so far your go under your opponents thrust and strike up from that position.
Olympic Fencing is not the only victim. There's actually quite a few students of both Western and Eastern swordplay still in existence. In all cases, the beginner's tendency to begin Flynning has to be overcome.
Historical fencers, who study the use of rapiers and their related paraphernalia (e.g. cloaks, daggers, bucklers, main gauches, and so on) as an actual martial art, sometimes view classical (Olympic) fencing as having aspects of Flynning due to its rule set.
New practitioners of kendo are prone to trying to act like samurai from the screen. Additionally, kendo gets a bit of the same rap from students of iaido as fencing does from historical fencers. Both kendo practitioners and classical/Olympic fencers are practicing a sport descended from a martial art, but are still limited by rules which do not apply to the martial art.
In China, highly choreographed and beautiful wushu events can fall under this trope, where the routines are judged on difficulty and how well they were executed. Sword techniques are part of the sport.
Finally, there are martial artists out there researching and rediscovering ancient sword techniques from not just Europe but the whole world. In all cases, one of the first things a new practitioner has to learn is that everything they've seen is wrong, whether they are studying German sword or traditional Middle Eastern scimitar.
According to a popular theatre anecdote, two actors who were too obviously aiming at each others blades suffered a heckler shouting, "That's right, sharpen it!"