In this popular subset of Hollywood Tactics
, an army lines up in a large rectangular formation at one end of a huge field. When the battle begins, they charge forward, screaming at full volume
until they collide against the opposing force or fortification.
The opposition, likely as not, will form their own line and rush forward at the same time, so that the two meet (with a satisfying crunch) in the middle of the field. All semblance of formation
or military discipline will immediately vanish as the warriors engage one another individually. Don't expect any tactical maneuvres such as flanking or use of reserves, or for anyone to take advantage of the terrain or try to move to the high ground. If there are any cavalry, they will not form up together and try to outmaneuvre anybody but just run in front of the infantry.
If one side doesn't charge, they will hold their line and fire at the approaching force with whatever artillery they have until the last moment, which makes little more sense than running amok. Rarely, one side will have some kind of fortification, be it a trench or a castle, against which a charge is especially stupid and almost certain to fail, unless someone breaks out ladders and battering rams
This trope may have some basis in trench warfare, which peaked at the end of the industrial age and was quickly discredited when technological advances rendered it horrifically ineffective. A casual glance at the mortality figures of World War I
(~9 million) will show you how well it worked against advanced firearms. Even before guns, this tactic was exceedingly rare, and even ancient barbarians generally knew better than to just gang up and run toward the enemy. On the other hand, this tactic is similar to a Zerg Rush
, which can be viable if you have lots of combatants to spare
and, usually, the element of surprise.
Realism aside, this trope makes for a useful and iconic image for filmmakers, and is popular in an introductory scene as a way to quickly tell the audience that these two large groups of people really, really
don't like each other.
- Astérix does it regularly with the roman army and that both in internal conflicts and against whoever they are fighting in the given album.
- The Prologue of The Lord of the Rings film featuring mindlessly rushing Orcs against more disciplined Elves. The final battle between Aragorn's force and the combined, very much larger force of Mordor plays this trope even stronger.
- Used to a T in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The Telmarines send their cavalry in first, far ahead of the infantry, charges far ahead, then monolithic rectangles of infantry slowly walk in, supported only by trebuchets.
- Braveheart plays with this. There are Screaming Warrior charges, sure, but there's also archers, cavalry, and Irishmen deployed in various battles before they get to that bit.
- The Spartans do this in 300 whenever they don't feel like using a phalanx as they're supposed to.
- Parodied in Meet the Spartans: The Spartans and the Persians charge at each other, and collide in the middle, falling to the ground.
- Big Trouble in Little China. The Chang Sing and Wing Kong secret societies line up facing each other (a "Chinese Standoff"). When one of the Wing Kong members yells, they charge to attack each other. Watch it here, starting at 1:30.
- Done in The Mummy Returns. We see lots of this trope in flashback, and toward the climax it's also done with the Medjai versus the army of Anubis. Partially justified, since Anubis warriors are dog-headed monstrosities and possibly not smart enough to use strategy.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, this is how the battle between Gotham's police and Bane's army plays out. In the cops' defence, there wasn't time nor a supply chain for anything more tactically sound, what with only ten minutes to stop Bane before he set off a nuke.
- In the first assault on the city in Troy, the Greek army does this... And gets stopped cold by the Trojan phalanx, before a Rain of Arrows sends the survivors back to the ships.
- On the Discworld, this is the policy of the D'regs. As their wise man said in Jingo, "It is always wise to charge."
- The final battle in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is this to a T, though there is some strategic use of boulder-dropping fliers before the forces clash.
- A trailer for War Craft III shows this, with a battle between Orcs and Humans which quickly goes in a different direction when demons unexpectedly rain from the sky and kill everyone.
- Happens in the intro to Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. Possibly a Justified Trope, as after the Blood Raven commander collapses from being shot and placing a flag at the top of a hill, Space Marine drop pods fall from the sky behind him. The flag is theorized to be some sort of device to call in those reinforcements from the drop pods, so the Blood Ravens had to make a reckless charge. The Orks reciprocating their charge more or less just makes complete sense - Orks totally love doing stuff like that.
- Pretty much any Real-Time Strategy consisting of individual units to be micromanaged attack-moving - they'll all just run toward the selected point until they can see something they can hit, run toward that until they can hit it, and then keep hitting it until they can't and go back to running toward the selected target in search of things they can hit. It will depend on the game for Screaming Warrior to make an appearance.
- This is largely how infantry combat plays out in Black & White 2.
- In the Napoleonic Wars the British had a variation of this. They would wait. Occasionally chant. But mostly wait like a silent inhuman wall. This would push the soldiers' tension to its absolute limit which often came at the same time as the French were worn out. Then in a moment they would give a shout, fire their muskets, and charge. The French would almost inevitably collapse.
- Less professional and/or poorly led armies often turn to this strategy. The typical result is a bloodbath if their enemy does the same, or a one sided massacre if he doesn't - their enemy would have to be very very worse in either or both regards for it to work.
- Of course, it makes slightly more sense when there's no cover to speak of and the other side has superior artillery support, but a sensible commander avoids getting into such a situation in the first place.
- This is a surprisingly effective tactic when the best weapons around are pikes and your troops are more disciplined. The Swiss used it for centuries.
- Except they made sure to be slow enough to stay in formation. Unlike some weapons there is absolutely no way to use a pike except in a tight formation.
- This is also a fairly good description of a Greek phalanx. Again however, they tended to stay in formation - indeed, a phalanx breaking up tended to be the end of the battle from there (due to the impressive resilience of a phalanx's shields and armor at the time combined with its troops being huddled closely together to better abuse both, anything that was not a phalanx stood little hope of defeating them head-on for much of ancient Greek warfare! Thus, a lot of ancient Greek combat was largely phalanxes going into each other until combined arms was later significantly refined) Spartans, being Spartans actually walked up rather then "rushing".
- In the age of firearms, is the basic concept behind a bayonet charge, although such attacks are rare (and functionally similar to pike rushes, mentioned above), and typically only done if ammo is short and the enemy near. While bayonets are usually considered Awesome but Impractical at best (even if the enemy is arm's reach from you, you can still just shoot him), they are also viscerally intimidating, and often result in a total rout as the enemy flees rather than risk getting stabbed to death by a berserking soldier. The most recent bayonet charges by modern military forces were both courtesy of the British military, with Scotts from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders routing a larger force of Iraqi militiamen near Al Amara in 2004, and a squad of soldiers from the Prince of Wales Royal Regiment caught in a Taliban ambush forcing the enemy to retreat by immediately launching a counter-assault.
- Up until the development of guided missiles, air-to-air combat could take on traits of this, especially with large forces of fighters intercepting massed bomber formations (the bombers had to stay close together to accurately hit their targets and protect each other, the fighters had to mass together to effectively attack the large formations before they could release their bombs). That said, it was relatively rare for dogfights to start this way. It was much more common for fighters to get "bounced" by an enemy that spotted them first and moved into a blind spot to engage with the element of surprise (which by definition was almost always from behind).
- A modern version of this, done for fun, can be seen at quite a few metal festivals. Witness: The Wall of Death.