The Hero is fighting against the Giant Mook. He might be slow, but he sure is strong — he doesn't seem to even notice the hero's blows. The hero can hold him off for a while, but before too long, the mook has knocked away his weapon and taken hold of him. With this enemy's strength, this is surely the end for our hero. He'll just snap the hero like a twig, crush the life out of him, or hold him still with one hand and punch his head right off his shoulders...
Oh, no, he's thrown the hero across the room. I'm sure it hurt, but the hero is getting up again. Now he's very slowly closing the distance... He's got the hero again; now it's time for the killing blow. Just twist his head off like a bottle cap....
Nope, he's just holding the hero up in the air by the throat. Oh, and now the hero has kicked him in the groin. You'd think the mook would have seen that coming. However, unfazed, he...
...he's thrown the hero again — right through a wall, so he must have thrown him pretty hard. However, the hero is now conveniently right next to the weapon he dropped earlier, giving him another chance to fight back. This could have been avoided if the mook would have Just Hit Him!
Also popular with superpowered villains with telekinetic powers. Despite the availability of superior attacks, they always try to lift the hero up in the air and toss him gently.
A Doylist explanation for this phenomenon is that many writers are not martial artists. While the Gracies demonstrated the power of Brazilian jui-jitsu over many striking styles in the early days of the UFC, grappling and wrestling are still widely underestimated by the public, who don't recognize the damage a good slam or throw can do.
See Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him? for relevant Stock Phrases. Compare Bond Villain Stupidity. Contrast Wrestler in All of Us, particularly its subtropes Meteor Move, Spinning Piledriver and Suplex Finisher, where throws are genuinely dangerous.
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Occurs in issue #4 of The Awesome Slapstick. During the Neutron Bum's explosive rampage, The New Warriors, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, and The Avengers were trying to formulate a proper attack plan. Slapstick simply went to a coffee shop, bought a cup of coffee, gave it to the bum, than knocked him out in mid-sip.
Also averted in Sin City. Marv, Manute, and other large characters usually just punch or kick. It always looks painful too.
Terminator Salvation has two separate fights involving an unarmed Terminator fighting John Connor, and despite being a killer robot with extensive knowledge of human anatomy, repeatedly throws Connor far away and thus giving him the time to pull out a weapon.
One of them has no legs, thus making throwing him doubly stupid.
The two hitmen sent to kill Jackie Chan in First Strike (aka Police Story 4) decide they want to 'have some fun' with Jackie before they kill him. And how do burly Russian hitmen have fun? Throwing people across the room!
In fact, a lot of the bad guys in Jackie Chan films have 'throwing people across the room' as a hobby.
Subverted in the Subway Showdown in The Matrix, in which Smith throws Neo across the room a lot, but also pins Neo to the wall and punches him silly.
In Constantine when John confronts the demon Balthazar, he's held up against the wall by his neck and slowly choked, giving John plenty of time to reach into his jacket pocket and pull out his holy-knuckle-dusters. In this case though, Balthazar was taking his time to gloat, and got a fist full of holy for his troubles.
Indiana Jones: Particularly egregious in Temple of Doom, where the slave-driving Giant Mook fails to take advantage of Indy's frequent and painful immobilization via knife to Voodoo Doll.
In Hot Fuzz both fights involving Giant Mook Michael Armstrong are prominent examples of this.
Possibly justified as the "trolley boy" was stated to have the mind of a child - a child who does whatever the Big Bad tells him, but a child none the less
The movie Sidehackers has a baffling good guy example. Upon infiltrating the villain's camp, the big guy, Big Jake stealths his way over to one guard and silently snaps his neck. So far, so good. He then tries to do the same thing to another guard but the guard notices him. Big Jake runs over and instead of killing the mook before he can make too much noise, inexplicably grabs him by the lapels and holds him up against the wall, while he sets off enough of a holler to attract another mook who fills Big Jake with buckshot.
Mewtwo from Pokémon: The First Movie is the psychic version of this. Ash running towards him ready to sock him? Just levitate and launch into the nearby stone tower! That doesn't exactly work, however...
May be justified by Mewtwo being so ridiculously powerful that he doesn't consider Ash worth the effort of turning him into a fine red mist (think shooing away a fly instead of swatting it).
Lampshaded in The Princess Bride (the movie if not the book). Fezzik doesn't want to kill Westley right away because he hates for people to die embarrassed. When he's actually fighting, he does seem to try to do damage, but is just too slow.
He also mentions during the fight that he's really much more experienced fighting large groups than just one man, explaining that one uses very different tactics and moves against a dozen men.
In the climatic battle with The Dragon in Die Hard With A Vengeance, John McClane does get the shit kicked out of him, a lot in fact, but then The Dragon decides that throwing him around is more fun, and then mocks him. John promptly turns the tables and kicks his ass (with a chain!).
I, Robot: In a fight with Spooner an NS-5 robot just throws him about a bit, even with one arm missing it could have done better.
Possibly justified. If the robot still has its Rules active, it is incapable of bringing harm to Spooner and can only justify enough to incapacitate without lasting or prolonged damage.
Or not. The fist fight portion began when that NS-5 tried hitting Spooner with his own car. The only time the robot started trying to beat Spooner to death he revealed that he had a robot arm.
Subverted in Gamer. When Kable slams a mook headfirst into the floor, there's a nasty crunching sound and it's pretty clear he ain't getting up from that one.
In Chronicle, Andrew would have succeeded in killing his abusive father had he just did a telekinetic dismemberment or such rather than drop him from height, which allowed Matt to save the man.
In Underworld Awakening, Selene, the heroine faces against an uber-werewolf twice the size of a car. He swats her around like an unwanted toy, but never thinks to just pin her down and dismember her. It's especially notable as almost every other lycan in the series has literally gone straight for the jugular the first chance they get.
Megamind, being Genre Savvy, makes use of this trope. When he's grabbed and about to get finished by his super-powered yet dumb nemesis Titan, he taunts him (with a massive dose of Brutal Honesty), and, instead of ripping him apart or melting his face with Eye Beams, angered Titan tosses him across the square, right next to Megamind's invisible car containing the depowering device. A minute later, Titan grabs and throws Megaming yet again, this time a several hundred meters up, so the fall would kill him, but instead it just gives Megamind enough time to save himself and get a surprise attack and for depowering device to fully charge up.
Pacific Rim: Humanity builds giant robots to fight giant monsters hand-to-hand, but they sure do spend a lot of time throwing them around into deep water.
In Star Trek, Captain Kirk once fought an alien lizard that successfully caught him in a snare, pinning him under a rock. With Kirk totally helpless, the alien bizarrely decides to lift the rock and then try stabbing him, giving Kirk the opportunity to escape.
The demons on Supernatural are pretty bad about the telekinetic version of this. They have repeatedly slammed Sam and Dean against walls and have demonstrated that they can slice people open telekenetically, but they always seem to cause only superficial wounds while taunting the boys until they lose their advantage. You'd think they'd know better by now.
Boss monsters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer tend to throw Buffy or her friends into walls instead just ripping their heads off. (Adam comes to mind. Also the goddess Glory, and The Judge, and the Turok-Han uber-vampires, and...) No matter what superpowers or magic spells the bad guys have, or if they're technically immune to damage, the final fight boils down to a martial arts duel between them and Buffy. Buffy is occasionally allowed to use a special weapon (like the rocket launcher used to kill the demon called The Judge), provided that weapon is the only way she can hurt the Big Bad.
For that matter, Buffy herself spends a lot of time throwing mooks around and punching them to no particular effect, since most of her enemies can only be killed in fairly specific ways.
As above, walls and conveniently placed piles of cardboard boxes or dumpsters full of soft, soft trash. Mostly the more human Scoobies landed in the latter, as it is canon that Buffy is very durable.
The superpowered serial killer Sylar from Heroes both plays it straight and subverts the trope: His signature move is to cut open the skulls of his victims, using his telekinesis like an invisible power saw. But at other times (when his opponent is a main character who is supposed to survive), despite the fact that Sylar's telekinesis is strong enough to flip over a driving truck, he uses it simply to hold his opponent up in the air or to fling them into walls instead of breaking their neck.
Justified most of the time in that Sylar needs live victims. Snapping their necks would be counterproductive.
Also averted to hell and back by Knox in the same series. He's a villain, made super-strong by other peoples' fear. Sounds like the standard guy to receive this treatment, right? No. He does just hit you, and his whole fist goes right through and out the other side, ribcage or no ribcage. You want to survive an encounter with powered-up Knox, here's a hint for you: don't let him punch you. Hell, the one time he did do this, he ended up killing future-Sylar's son.
Charmed had a lot of this, even when they had the in-canon power explanation of Leo being able to heal who needed it. -Partly- explained in the typical bad-guy fight involved energy being shot around like gunfire.
While no one could describe the throws as "gentle", the sorcerers in Merlin have a habit of using their abilities to throw enemies around which usually only stuns them or knocks them unconscious. While the telekinetic throwing does kill sometimes, it's very inconsistent and such powerful magic users must have a more reliable way to get rid of someone.
Manga and Anime
The telekinetic version of this is averted in Elfen Lied, where it would take a miracle to stop Lucy from just snapping your head off from the get-go.
In Suzumiya Haruhi, Ryouko decides to kill Kyon with a knife, despite being able to control everything in the area, including the victim's movements. The attack could have been much easier if a more supernatural approach was taken, but that would probably defeat the purpose: Ryouko wanted it to look like a normal killing to see how Haruhi would react to the death of a friend, not to see how Haruhi would react to the suspicious or outright supernatural death of a friend. This is supported by the fact that the fight with Yuki was notably more supernatural, since the intent was simply to win.
The psychic version appears on a massive scale in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The Anti-spirals are able to warp across the universe and summon a mecha the size of a galaxy, but decide to eliminate the humans by making the moon crash into the Earth over the course of several days, and even alert the people to this.
Somewhat justifiable due to their methodology — the Anti Spirals' routine is to kill through the Hope Spot, and the Colony Drop scenario had some escape hatches (that the anti-spirals had mostly welded shut, Simon notwithstanding.)
Gaara's fight with Rock Lee during the Chunin exams in Naruto is rife with this, although it's justifiable by claiming that Gaara wasn't taking Lee very seriously and just toying with him for half the fight. When he finally gets a grip after taking him seriously, his first act is to pulverize Lee's limbs.
Similarly completely averted when he's fighting Deidara, as he sends his sand flying right towards him and rips off his arm the second he touches him.
A heroic example in Penguin Musume Heart has the title character gigantic and naked, and her opponent slightly bigger than usual and naked (or she just lost her clothes and was no bigger.) Title character proceeds to scream "how cute" and rubs her opponent against her face. Opponent goes on to bite her way out of the title characters' grip and jump away. And then they argue over the Power of Love, which results in said opponent eventually becoming gigantic too. Then again, Penguin's kinda dumb so oh well.
The psychic version is frequently averted in Darker Than Black, where most of the Contractors are incredibly direct with offensive use of their power. For example, a Contractor with the ability to switch two objects via teleportation kills someone by switching their heart for a rock, another one can teleport whatever is covered by his blood so he just splatters it on people and rips them apart, and another that can freeze any water he touches will just freeze the water in your body and kill you or impale you with an icicle (he even has a partner that can cover the area in water, letting him do it from a distance).
Nico Robin in One Piece completely avoids this: her power is to sprout arms on any surface, and if she ever gets serious, the first thing she tries to do is snap her opponent's spine (most important enemies still find a way to avoid losing this way).
In Digimon Frontier, Mercuremon has an attack called Generous Mirror that reflects an attack to the attacker while Mercuremon remains unharmed. He uses this once to defeat a very powerful digimon. He might as well apply for the Big Bad position and repel any opponent with Generous Mirror but he doesn't do it.
When he lost his humanoid form, and thus this ability, it was a plan to learn all the heroes' attacks for his beast form but with more power behind them. This would have worked if the heroes had not figured out that using Combination Attacks completely new type of attack and thus he couldn't counter it.
Justified and subverted in Holyland. Iwado is a judoka, so it makes sense that he would be better at throwing than striking. At the same time, it's shown that getting hurled into a concrete wall or onto asphalt can be as fight-ending as a good strike combo. Also inverted in the fight against Taka, where at one point Yuu closes on his foe and the narration notes that he could have ended the fight right there had he used a throw rather than trying to strike.
In Lyrical Nanoha works, characters can apparently be slammed through multiple floors of a concrete building without significant loss of combat capability, but are somehow threatened by melee strikes.
Not Truth in Television. Despite common belief in the might of the striker, it's not that easy to get a One-Hit Kill on an opponent who's built conditioning and pain resistance. At the same time, consider when you took a nasty tumble onto concrete or asphalt. Not pretty, was it? Now imagine a trained and experienced grappler or wrestler doing that with intention to hurt. Ouch. There are good reasons why many street fights are over the moment one guy kisses the tarmac. Even a sloppy one taken on the relatively meaty back or butt can knock the wind out of you, leaving you vulnerable to more hurting.
Both played straight and subverted in Haunting Ground. Debilitas will slap, toss, bearhug, and generally make your life miserable, so long as you aren't all the way into Panic Mode. Then he just hops on top of you and punches you to death.
Even more averted by the Great Dragon, which will bite and shake you until you die once it grabs you unless one of the other party members manages to hit it with a stun attack, which is the only way to escape.
Played straight in Resident Evil 4. You'd expect the Ganados to beat you senseless when they get their hands on you...but instead they just lift you up by the collar and throw you back.
Subverted however in a certain Press X to Not Die event, where if failed the villain picks Leon up and immediately breaks his neck.
Happens with Big Bob-omb in Super Mario 64, where the boss will only ever try to throw Mario out the arena (aka off the moutain, although not a massive drop in most cases) and has to be defeated by Mario throwing him to the ground (in the arena). Averted in the DS remake where he actually throws Bob-ombs against Yoshi, although only because Yoshi can't pick up anything in said game.
Can be invoked or defied in God Hand depending on what moves you give Gene and both have their uses. When you have God Hand Unleash active you will lay the hurt on much more effectively by using moves that do not knock the target down or away, but when not in Super Mode being able to thin the ranks of the enemies bumrushing you by pushing them away does make a difference.
Subverted in Parasite Eve with the Giant Enemy CrabBonus Boss, who has an attack in which he picks Aya up and slams his claw on her knocking her to one hp. Played straight in Parasite Eve 2 when there is a battle with a slightly more than 2 story tall boss. One of his attacks is to pick Aya up and hold her over his head for a few seconds and then throwing her against a stone wall hard enough to leave a small impact crater. This does a surprisingly small amount of damage compared to how painful it looks.
Inverted in Crysis games. Picking someone up and throwing them is always fatal, but even human mooks can survive a couple of punches.
Increasingly subverted in Assassin's Creed games. In the first two main titles, throws don't do direct damage unless you toss the guy into a long fall or a fragile scaffold. In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, though, Ezio uses One-Hit Kill throws in certain unarmed assassination animations. By Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Ezio can use a Counter Grab throw in straight combat to One-Hit Kill most enemies. Assassin's Creed III regrettably plays it straight again with two inversion: the Ropebeater and Haytham counter all of Connor's strikes and can only be defeated by luring him near tables, upon which Connor slams him into them to hurt him.
Draugr Death Lords are highly fond of hitting you with the Unrelenting Force shout, which just knocks you around instead of doing damage. However, this can be very troublesome to the player, as they have to spend several seconds getting back to their feet (with a very slow animation) during which they are vulnerable to other attacks.
Averted in the Diablo III debut gameplay trailer, where the Siegebreaker warbeast (in one of the most brutal PC deaths around) picks up the male Barbarian and BITES HIS HEAD OFF. It's an image that will stick with you for long.
Sickle makes this mistake in Batman: Arkham City. Not too many villains can say "I got the drop on the Dark Knight, had my hand around his throat, was choking him to death, and he wasn't able to get free even though he was trying like hell." Almost any villain with a shred of pride would be embarrassed to admit "And then I threw him across the room, allowing him to catch his breath, get back on his feet, and kick my ass."
An incredibly egregious case in Uncharted 3: during a fight on a plane, a Giant Mook catches Drake, pins him against the wall... and, for no apparent reason, decides to open up the cargo bay in mid-flight and throw Drake out. Drake manages to get free and uses a parachute deployment system to hurl a truck into the mook's face.
TheMeta is afflicted with this in Revelations Episode 20. After Sarge's Unflinching Walk, which turns into Meta swatting Sarge's shotgun away with his right arm, Meta proceeds to grab Sarge's throat and hold him up and... doesn't do anything else while Sarge manages to commune a secret message to Grif and attaches the Warthog's tow cable hook to the Meta's torso. Still, more preferable than Tex's fate in the previous episode.
Much like Deadly Dodging on Spidey's part, Just Hit Him was thoroughly exercised by various supervillains and superheroes alike on Spider-Man: The Animated Series due to the fact that the network suits didn't allow anyone to throw punches. Try to imagine the otherwise Bad Ass Kingpin or Venom being limited to picking up Spidey, then lightly dropping him again and proceeding to pronounce how invincible and deadly they truly are.
To be fair, Kingpin was known for handing out spine-crunching bear hugs to his opponents. So, hitting is bad but crushing people in half with bare hands is okay?
The reason punching is left out is because it's an imitatable action that can and will cause harm. However, if your kids start hugging each other...
... the way Kingpin does, someone's going to get hurt.
Also comes up in The Spectacular Spiderman; in his first fight with the web-head, Rhino repeatedly grabs him and throws him away. This is after it has already been made abundantly clear to both of them that Spidey is a (relatively) Fragile Speedster while Rhino is a Mighty Glacier, and that the fight would be over immediately if Rhino just kept hold of him and tore him apart.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Both played straight and averted in the episode "Kidnapped". Darts D'nar is fighting an unarmed Obi-Wan Kenobi, and throws Obi-Wan across the room a number of times when it probably would've been more effective to just start beating the hell out of him right where they were. But at other times during the fight Darts does beat on him, and choke him, and pick him up only to slam him onto the floor, etc.
The cartoon's No Punching Rule was harder on Grundy than it was for the other villains. Most of them still had things they could throw or gadgets they could push buttons on. If you take away Solomon Grundy's ability to punch, he's as useless as a first base coach. The only thing he could do during a fight is something we called the "Grab Attack" as kids. It was a complicated move where he grabbed the other guy until they pulled free or shoved him off. Sometimes they waited until he carried them around a little bit. You might have inadvertently used this same move on your kitten or a bag of groceries. Just remember, every time you're carrying a case of beer to the hooker in your car, you're kicking as much ass as Solomon Grundy, and that's not even counting when you punch the hooker.