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[[quoteright:350:[[Manga/FistOfTheNorthStar http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_kenshiro_5317.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:You should listen to him. Or else, YouAreAlreadyDead.]]

->''"You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."''
-->-- '''Indira Gandhi''', Prime Minister of India

Knuckle Cracking happens when a character cracks their knuckles to show that they are ready to deal out a whuppin' or tackle a challenge. Frequently used as an intimidation tactic in fights, this is a particularly effective way of showing that TheStoic is bothered enough by someone to get serious. Cracking knuckles may also be sign that a character is ready to get to work on a particularly arduous task, especially one that requires a lot of muscle.

Sometimes the knuckle cracking sound is removed, maybe for the sake of realism, maybe because some people find it too squicky and then it will be replaced by the hero [[AGlassInTheHand crushing something in their hand]]. Bonus points if it's made out of metal, points removed if it's only a paper note.

Sometimes other joints are cracked as well, most often in the neck. Cracking joints in the shoulders or back provides a convenient excuse to flex your muscles and [[IntimidationDemonstration show off your powerful physique]]. Another reason for this is to flex the muscles, loosen the joints, and open the blood vessels which helps to improve blood-flow and reduce the strain and potential damage from overexerting a stiff body part.

Subtrope of KineticClicking.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/DragonBall'':
** The protagonists do this all the time before and during a fight.
** Super Buu did a LOT of neck-cracking. Which is funny when you think about it, as he [[BlobMonster didn't have bones.]]
* ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'':
** In his introduction story in the anime, Ryôga crushes several walnuts to dust with his fist, vowing to make Ranma pay for something or other. In the manga, he crushes a single walnut... ''between index and thumb.'' Effortlessly. Since Ryoga constantly does things like [[SuperStrength lifting immense boulders]] and smashing walls by [[DoesNotKnowHisOwnStrength banging his head against them in frustration]], this isn't surprising
** Ranma is pretty fond of the "cracking knuckles and popping joints to show he's getting serious" version, and much like Inu-Yasha he favors the "cracking fingerjoints with an open fist" method. Also, in at least the anime version of Hinako's arrival, he effortlessly bends a yen coin completely in half after taking it from her. Between ''thumb'' and ''forefinger''.
* The first sign that someone is [[strike:going to die]] already dead in ''FistOfTheNorthStar'' is a cracking noise coming from Kenshiro. Which is only to be expected as he's a BruceLeeClone.
* In ''Manga/RealBoutHighSchool'', Midori gets cracking when she gets [[TheCracker cracking]].
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' does it all the time. Repeatedly on the same hand, making the same cracking noise as he does it five times in succession.
* Luffy of ''Manga/OnePiece'' always cracks his knuckles menacingly during LetsGetDangerous moments.
* Lina Inverse of ''{{LightNovel/Slayers}}'' does it too, on occasion. (''"Did you say flatchested?"'')
* {{Manga/Inuyasha}} does it with his hand open while showing off his claws.
* Scar of ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'' cracks the joints in his right hand dramatically when he's about to use the PowerTattoo located on his right arm.
* While there's not that much obvious noise, when Blue or [[BewareTheNiceOnes Toboe]] from Anime/WolfsRain start clenching shaking fists, somebody's in for an asskicking.
* Dr. Stein from ''Manga/SoulEater'' cracks the joints in his neck at one point. This is tension leaving his body as he stops holding back his insanity.
* ''Manga/SgtFrog''. This is practically Natsumi Hinata's go to move. When you hear cracking knuckles, a certain green house guest is fixing to get a beating.
* ''Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann'': Arc-Gurren Lagann cracks its neck shortly after its first transformation, and immediately before wiping out a swathe of Mugann. That's right, a ''[[RuleOfCool city-sized mecha cracks its neck]].''
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}''. In anime episode #201, Kenpachi Zaraki does a neck crack during his fight with Nnoitra Gilga in Aizen's fortress of Las Noches in Hueco Mundo.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In ''ComicBook/{{Bizarrogirl}}'', ComicBook/{{Supergirl}} cracks her knuckles -and makes her eyes glow to reinforce the effect- when she warns a monster that it can choose between spitting its victim out voluntarily or getting him cut out of its insides.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Tai Lung has the habit as well in ''WesternAnimation/KungFuPanda''.
* [[BadassSanta North]] cracks his knuckles just before he confronts Jack Frost about his "center" in ''WesternAnimation/RiseOfTheGuardians''.
* Before their bot fight in ''Disney/BigHero6'', Yama cracks his neck with his hands. Hiro tries to imitate him, making a cracking sound effect vocally.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Creator/BruceLee likes this one:
** An old standard of Kung Fu movies is to have a group from a rival school (often Japanese) come in and start disrespecting the Hero's school and his recently deceased master, maybe making a pass at his girlfriend. ''Film/FistOfFury'', which uses the Chin Woo school as a basis, has a scene where this occurs and we get Lee standing there, taking the insults but with a knuckle crack to show how angry he is getting and to step up the tension.
** On the flip side, an example of the "cool" variety, before his fight with Creator/ChuckNorris at the Colosseum in ''Film/WayOfTheDragon'', both fighters step up to each other take off their shirts and then turn around to warm up. Norris only does some knuckle cracking before starting on some karate moves but Lee goes on to crack his entire upper body and show off his [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbIwQMBeC2c muscular definition.]]
* ''Film/KungFuHustle'' uses it as a parody of/homage to (it's hard to tell which with Stephen Chow) Bruce Lee, when the Landlady menaces Brother Sum with knuckle-cracking to warn him away from Pig Sty Alley.
* ''Film/MyDemonLover'', a film where Nick from ''Series/FamilyTies'' turns into TheDevil whenever he gets an erection, has the, er... "hero" going nuts over a misplaced pack of Fritos followed by some gut-wrenching knuckle cracking.
* In the ''Film/XMenFilmSeries'', it appears a side effect of mutant healing factors is mutant joint-cracking, with Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike really going at this trope for all it's worth. Deathstrike really crunches those fingers of hers. Of course, they don't have to worry about arthritis. Justified in Deathstrike's case, since her claws are inside her fingers. They need to be kept loose, and are probably sore quite often. Bonus points for adding a metal clanking noise when they crack their knuckles, hinting at their adamantium skeletons.
* In ''Film/{{Snatch}}'', "One-Punch" Mickey stretches and cracks his knuckles to warm up for a fight ''while'' his opponent his pounding on him.
* Random Task in ''Film/AustinPowersInternationalManOfMystery'' does this. Largely as a parody of Odd Job from ''Film/{{Goldfinger}}'', the ultimate [[TheStoic Stoic]].
* Agent Smith cracks his neck a lot in ''Franchise/TheMatrix'' films.
** He cracks his knuckles ''and'' his neck during the subway fight in [[Film/TheMatrix the first movie]].
** As they start to wander off at the end of the Burly Brawl in [[Film/TheMatrixReloaded the second movie]], several of the Smiths do it as an ensemble.
* ''Film/MortalKombat''
** Subverted with some random mook in the first movie, right before he promptly got owned by Sub-Zero.
** And played straight in the sequel. Perhaps a little ''too'' straight. Shao Kahn must have a really bad neck, because he barely moves his head and it still cracks.
* In ''Film/TheSandlot'', Benny cracks his knuckles (''one handed'') when he faces off with [[AngryGuardDog The Beast]].
* In ''Film/TheDarkKnight'', when the Joker is captured, and taunting the cop assigned to watch him, he finally gets a rise out of the guard, who tells him "[[TooKinkyToTorture I know you're gonna enjoy this]]. I'm just gonna have to enjoy it even more." The Joker's only response is to stoically crack his neck.
* In ''Film/PacificRim'', Raleigh and Mako have Gypsy do this before a major fight. Presumably, the pilots themselves are limbering up for the fight and the jaeger is merely matching their movements. Moments like these help remind the viewer of the humanity living within the giant mecha.
* ''Film/MenInBlack''. After the Bug kills Edgar, dons his new Edgar suit and climbs out of the hole made by his crashing starship, he cracks his neck.
* ''Film/SkyCaptainAndTheWorldOfTomorrow''. After Joseph "Joe" Sullivan (AKA Sky Captain) enters his office and pours out some Milk of Magnesia he cracks his neck, presumably to relieve stress.
* ''Film/ResidentEvil''. After she succumbs to the T-virus infection and turns into a zombie, [[spoiler:Rain Ocampo]] does the neck cracking variant just before she attacks.
* At the end of ''Film/KickAss'', [[BadassAdorable 11 year old]] Mindy [=McCready=] aka Hit Girl is going to school for the first time, when two older kids try to shake her down for her lunch money. Cue Hit Girl cracking her knuckles with an evil smile, then the camera pans away as we hear the bullies screaming in pain.
* ''Film/UndercoverBrother''. After killing three guards with his bare hands, Lance does a neck crack.

* Variation in ''TitusGroan'', in which Flay is constantly followed around by a {{leitmotif}} of joint-cracking, and his LetsGetDangerous scene involves him wrapping his knees in bandages to allow him to sneak up on his enemy without his skeleton betraying him.
* Uncle Andrew does this in ''Literature/TheMagiciansNephew'', when he's cornered the children in his attic room. Interestingly, he doesn't show any inclination to start a (physical) fight; the cracking seems to have been designed to make him more intimidating (and generally creepy).

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Spoofed on an ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' episode. [=McGee=] tries to act tough by doing this, while Tony (falsely) points out that doing so is an warning sign for the early stages of arthritis.
* Spoofed on ''Series/FamilyMatters''. When Urkel uses a machine to turn himself into Bruce Lee, he starts out an fight with an extended series of cracking, the noises of which barely even match up with the motions that are supposed to be making them. Then it goes UpToEleven and OverlyLongGag when Urkel, Richie ''and'' 3J all become literal BruceLeeClone and begin cracking and whining noises.
* Whenever Kotaro Minami transforms in ''Series/KamenRiderBlack'', his fists make cracking noises.
* ''Series/KamenRiderRyuki'' has Asakura/Ouja and US counterpart ''Series/KamenRiderDragonKnight'' has JTC/Strike (but ''not'' [[spoiler:Price, the second, non-sociopathic Strike]]) do a neck-crack before going in to inflict some suffering.
* In ''Series/KamenRiderDenO'', [[TheBigGuy Kintaros]]' CharacterTic is cracking his neck; since he has SuperStrength, he can accomplish this simply by putting one thumb against his chin and pushing.
* The henshin devices in ''Series/JukenSentaiGekiranger'' require the users to perform knuckle-cracking movements to activate.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. In "Hush" when demons steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale, Giles cracks his knuckles before undertaking the task of...changing the overhead transparencies in order to deliver his usual exposition.
* In ''Series/DinosaurRevolution'', the rival TyrannosaurusRex often cracks his neck before going in for the kill.

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* Wrestling/ChrisBenoit would often do this during matches.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/BreathOfFireIII'', Bunyan cracks his knuckles after catching your team robbing his house red-handed.
** Marshall and Forest Law, also, had some knuckle and wrist cracking and are complete {{Bruce Lee Clone}}s.
* In one skit of ''VideoGame/TalesOfDestiny2'', Loni Dunamis starts mentioning on how no guy will be attracted with Nanaly Fletch, because... [[NoGuyWantsAnAmazon she's a tomboy]]. Then cue to Nanaly cracking her knuckles (with sound effects), which scared Loni shitless and the rest, she starts cracking his bones.
* Jill and Wesker do this in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil5'' at the beginning of your fight with them assuming you don't shoot them first.
** Not Jill. She stands like some soldier at the ready while Wesker cracks up, then hisses in some wildbeast pose in the second fight.
* ''VideoGame/GuiltyGear'''s Sol Badguy does this in one of his fight intros.
* Shepard invokes this trope in ''Franchise/MassEffect'' a lot, usually as warm up in order to extract information from a hesitant informant. Unsurprisingly, if you understand anything about Shepard, it works. One volus was savvy enough that all s\he had to do was crack knuckles to comply.
** Joker does this also quite a few times, most often when he's about to make Normandy dance. Which is strange, seeing how he could break his fingers quite easily..
* A deleted scene from ''VideoGame/SpiderManTheMovie: The Game'' has Shocker doing this. With no sound, oddly.
* The character select screen in ''VideoGame/WarhammerOnline'' has the Chaos Chosen flex his fingers and clench his fist in a soundless example of the trope, but the Orc Choppa simply grabs his own head and noisily cracks his neck.
* Tokugawa Ieyasu from ''VideoGame/SengokuBasara'' dramatically cracks his knuckles before his Basara attack, appropriate since he's a fist fighter. Kuroda Kanbe also cracks his neck during his taunt, complaining that he "needs a break".
* At the start of the [[BattleInTheRain Ostagar battle]] in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'', an advancing [[EliteMook Hurlock Alpha]] is depicted cracking his neck.
* VideoGame/DukeNukem cracks his knuckles at the beginning of every level in ''VideoGame/DukeNukem3D''. [[IdleAnimation He will also do it if you wait around too long]].
* Vector the Crocodile cracks his knuckles in ''VideoGame/SonicHeroes'' when he finds out their client is unable to pay for their detective work.
* [[VideoGame/Doom2016 Doomguy]] does this before [[TalkToTheFist punching out]] [[ShutUpHannibal Dr. Hayden's speaker]] at the end of his EstablishingCharacterMoment during the first level.
* In the ''VideoGame/{{Overwatch}}'' video "Recall", [[DarkIsEvil Reaper]] cracks his neck before fighting [[GeniusBruiser Winston]] himself.
* In ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidVThePhantomPain'' Venom Snake can "Knock" by twisting his prosthetic wrist around, causing it to crack loudly and spark, drawing attention towards his location. Diamond Dogs that take over strike missions in Big Boss's place can do the same thing... and it looks like they're cracking their wrists so loudly a soldier could hear.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* Once they were able to do non-{{machinima}} sequences in Machinima/RedVsBlue, Tex normally enters fights with a knuckle crack and neck pop.
* Spoofed in ''WebVideo/DragonBallZAbridged''. Piccolo cracks his neck with a very satisfying sound which inspires Krillin to do the same. The result is a meaty crunch and him screaming in pain.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/VanVonHunter'' sort of plays with this trope; the signature move of the Flaming Prince is saying "I will CRUSH you like this [noun]!" while acting this out. Often said object is something he really does not want to crush, due to it being valuable or very painful.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Goblins}}'', the "lesser finger horror" [[http://www.goblinscomic.com/04262011/ makes this sound every time it moves.]] (It's been explained that its form of movement involves breaking its own bones and healing them again.)
* In the BDSM webcomic ''{{Webcomic/Sunstone}}'', Lisa does this at the very start of the series before beginning the memoirs and again later when to help wake herself up she ''cracks her neck.'' It's one of the few things about her that annoys the crap out of Ally.
* The [[SuperpersistentPredator Bull]] from ''Webcomic/TowerOfGod'' gave us a loud and muffled example of neck cracking.

[[folder: Web Original]]
* In her co-review of ''Honor & Glory'' with WebVideo/ObscurusLupa, WebVideo/TheNostalgiaChick starts doing this when Lupa rejects Todd for about the millionth time.
* [=MiniFett's=] ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' weirdo, Spyper, normally speaks with a Spy's voice, but he'll randomly twitch and start talking like a Sniper, usually to spout something loud and tactless. Every time it happens his neck cracks audibly.
* ''[[http://www.captainbucky.com/ The Adventures of Captain Bucky and his Space Marshals, in Outer Space.]]'' A Space Corporal (Temporarily Assigned) does this when ordered to land the ship, with accompanying fanfare to imply this will be a CrowningMomentOfAwesome...only for him to use his finger to push a BigRedButton which does the job.
* WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic has [[WebVideo/TheAngryJoeShow Angry Joe]] cracking his knuckles at Zack Snyder in their crossover review for Film/BatmanVSupermanDawnOfJustice.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Mongul in the ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeagueUnlimited'' episode "ComicBook/ForTheManWhoHasEverything".
* Of all people, ComicBook/RichieRich's mother had this as a habit.
* Occasionally played for comedy, with a piano player about to attempt a difficult piece. For example, WesternAnimation/BugsBunny in "WesternAnimation/RhapsodyRabbit".
* In one ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' episode there's a crook who is loudly declaring "I'm no squealer" that Batman needs to get information out of. Batman just cracks his knuckles and narrows his eyes threateningly. The guy talks.
* ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'':
** As for neck cracking, Starfire does one badass neck cracking in "Go", where you really see what an upbringing by a warrior race will do for you when you're scared and in a strange place having just escaped being a war prize and implied sex slave. ''Scary''.
** A more humorous, yet still serious example occurs near the end of "Only Human." This time, it's Cyborg's turn for a double neck crack, but since half of his head is robotic, the second crack is actually a mechanical whine.
* Taken UpToEleven in the ''WesternAnimation/EdEddnEddy'' episode "Shoo Ed" by Jonny 2x4, who not only cracks his knuckles to annoy everyone, but cracks all the other joints in his body during the last segment of the episode.
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', [[ArrogantKungFuGuy Xin Fu]] does this before facing off with [[CuteBruiser Toph.]]
* Would you believe that Optimus mimes the knuckle-cracking move in episode 41 of ''Anime/TransformersCybertron'' (or 42, if you follow ''Galaxy Force'')?
* Another example of "character who has no bones and is therefore invincible but shows being invincible by cracking his neck despite having no bones after being beaten up" is in ''WesternAnimation/UltimateAvengers 2'', when the alien Nazi shapeshifter (who is kind of a colony of slugs) does this after falling from a great height.
* ''WesternAnimation/SpongebobSquarepants'':
** When Spongebob tries cracking his knuckles, [[EpicFail he ends up]] [[{{Fingore}} breaking them instead.]]
** Before "kicking Spongebob's butt" Flatts the Flounder cracks his knuckles normally, then cracks them with a nutcracker [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking and then he brushes his teeth.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'':
** Like the Spongebob example above, Bart Simpson also hurts his knuckles when he tried this.
-->'''Bart:''' Ow, my bones are so brittle! But I always drink plenty of--... ''(looks at carton)'' Malk?
** Also to temporary mob boss Homer. He then blames his bodyguards for not protecting him.
** In "Homer the Whopper" Comic Book Guy cracks his knuckles, neck ''and ponytail.''
* Rock Callahan, WesternAnimation/KickButtowski's favorite action hero, has a habit of cracking his neck while delivering his {{One Liner}}s.
* The first aired (but not "true" first) ''WesternAnimation/RegularShow'' episode, Mordecai and Rigby vigorously crack their knuckles, spines, and shoulders for a few seconds before engaging in..... Rock, Paper, Scissors
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheClevelandShow'', Roberta gets ready to put a beatdown on some college guys for harassing her and punching out her boyfriend (in "B.M.O.C."). She cracks her neck, then shoulders, then knuckles, then ''[[RuleOfFunny boob knuckles]]''.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TotalDrama'': Izzy does this in "Hide And Be Sneaky" before she has her fist fight with Chef.
* In ''WesternAnimation/Ben10AlienForce'': Kevin Levin sometimes does this.
* The titular character of ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'' cracked his knuckles once, however they made no noise. When questioned he said his knuckles are polite.
* In ''WesternAnimation/JackieChanAdventures'', Yang Jackie tends to do the neck variant before getting into a fight.