The Year: The Wild West
The Place: In the middle of an empty, dusty road outside a saloon.
The Time: The instant the clock strikes high noon.
One of two things happens.
(or Badass Longcoat Anti-Hero
with No Name Given
) and the Big Bad
stand back to back in the street. They step forward ten paces, the spurs on their heels clinking with every step. At the tenth step, they turn. The shoot out begins.
(or B. A. L. C. A. H. w/N. N. G.) and the Big Bad
stand at opposite ends of the street, hands hovering over their holsters. The camera cuts between their faces, their twitching fingers, the faces of the frightened crowd, and of the combatants framed by the opponent's legs
. Long seconds pass. On a cue known only to the gunfighters, hands slap leather and shots ring out.
The outcome is never certain, and any number of Westerns, even in the pre-Post Modern
days of the Fifties, played with this trope
without subverting it. In Version A, will someone cheat? Will the combatants draw at ten paces, or turn it into Version B? In either version, will one get the drop on the other, but not fire? Will both draw, and reach a Mexican Standoff
? Will one intentionally miss, shoot the gun out of the other's hand
, or simply gun him down? Or will some third party
change the dynamic completely?
A Dead Horse Trope
(no pun intended) right up there with Chained to a Railway
, but many works that featured it before it became cliche are still around. Its familiarity, of course, makes it a favorite parody
. In said parody, one character is required to say, "This town ain't big enough for the two of us
." Quite rarely will it occur to them that some urban expansion could solve all their problems.
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Anime and Manga
- Vash the Stampede found himself pulled into a couple of these in Trigun. They never ended as planned.
- Gun Blaze West had a few as well. Some with some interesting variations.
- Played for laughs in Prince of Tennis with chibi versions of the characters.
- Pokémon does this in the DP Galactic Battles episode Where No Togepi Has Gone Before. During the scene before Brock's Happiny and the evil Togepi fight, the background is a desert, and then, after a few seconds, the two Pokémon clash with one another.
- The Jason Comics story "Low Moon" inexplicably switches out the traditional gunfight between the Sheriff and his black-hat-wearing nemesis Bill McGill with a game of chess.
- High Noon, despite what one would think, actively subverts this, as the hero sneaks up behind the gang of villains, gun already drawn, and yells for them to drop their guns before shooting one in the neck and leading to a tense chase. Furthermore, noon only marks the arrival of Frank Miller and co., not the showdown itself.
- Outland (a sci-fi remake of High Noon) has the hired killers arriving on the 12:00 shuttle.
- Back to the Future Part III. Marty asks Buford if he wants their showdown to happen at high noon, but Buford insists that he "does [his] killing before breakfast." Ultimately, the film provides a Double Subversion of the trope when Marty refuses to take his place in the duel, but is forced to anyway. However, he still refuses to actually shoot Buford, relying instead on a Bulletproof Vest ploy. (Maybe that makes it a Triple Subversion.)
- The Quick and the Dead, Sam Raimi's overlooked masterpiece.
- Common in Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns:
- The Good The Bad And The Ugly has a three-way showdown. In a cemetery. With incredible music. It also provides a Standard Snippet for these sorts of scenes.
- Once Upon a Time in the West has variety B between the hero, supporting his noose-hanging brother with his shoulders. The eerie harmonica music accompanied by this scene overlapping with the showdown is the harmonica being pushed into the hero's mouth at the time of the execution. It comes together perfectly as the hero guns the bad guy down.
- In the unauthorized Spaghetti Western remake of Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the man with no name faces down the baddest tough-guy in town. As in the original, the bad guy has the most sophisticated weapon in town, this time a repeating rifle.
- Most films about the gunfight at the OK Corral usually turn this bloody ambush into a Showdown at High Noon.
- Howard the Duck had one of those, complete with cuts between the faces and bad guy throwing the side of his Badass Longcoat back to reach for his gun more easily... Except that there was no gun - the bad guy was an interdimensional demon inhabiting the body of an innocent scientist, versus an anthropomorphic duck armed with a BFG strapped to a golf-cart.
- The Matrix, in the subway station. It even had newspaper tumbleweed. Of course, given the fact that both combatants could dodge bullets like crazy, it quickly turned into a kung fu showdown rather than a gunfight.
- Yojimbo (1961), the ronin with no name prepares for a Jidai Geki version of the showdown — problem is, his opponent has the only revolver in town.
- Hot Fuzz spoofed this with Angel and most of the villains at once in an idyllic English village. It quickly turned into a action move shoot-out.
- Tombstone: The duel between Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo. They stand an arm's length from one another, circle slowly, and draw.
- Played with in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. Billy, finding one of his friends had been badged by Garrett, ends up doing the Ten Paces and Turn version. Once his opponent starts counting off steps, Billy simply turns and waits, gun drawn for his opponent to turn. Of course, Elam's character didn't exactly wait until ten to turn around.
- Kevin Kline and Brian Dennehy in Silverado, although the time of day is never mentioned.
- The endings of the western spoofs Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter are both extended parodies of this trope.
- The Guns of Navarone. While in a firefight in some ruins, Spyros Pappadimos and a German officer find themselves facing off, each armed with a machine gun. They advance slowly toward each other and eventually start firing. Both are killed in the gun battle.
- The film Posse had a scene where the two combatants advanced slowly, attacking with Throw Away Guns.
- Three O'Clock High transports the trope into a high school, replacing the gunfight with a fistfight scheduled for after school at 3:00. The name of the film is a riff on "high noon" and "high school."
- Inverted in BloodRayne II: Deliverance. The vampires controlling the town tell Rayne, "You've got until High Midnight to get out of town."
- Subverted all to hell in an early scene of Wyatt Earp. The first gunfight of the film is between two angry drunks, staggering around about ten feet from each other and firing wildly. Both men shoot each other at about the same time, and we (and young Wyatt) are treated to the sight of one of them bleeding out from a shot to the crotch while a horse that caught a stray bullet screams in pain until it's put down.
- Once Upon a Texas Train climaxes with a showdown between Cotton's gang of Young Guns and the combined team of retired outlaws and retired Rangers in a ghost town.
- The New Old West movie Extreme Prejudice (1987) culminates with a pre-arranged shootout over the Love Interest by her suitors, Texas Ranger Jack Benteen and his childhood friend turned drug kingpin Cash Bailey.
- The climatic showdown between Guerrero and Red in Dead in Tombstone takes place at midnight rather than high noon, but otherwise follows the trope.
- In the Han Solo novel Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, Han faces down legendary Gunslinger Gallandro. The two of them had been working together until Gallandro decides it's time for a showdown. Gallandro wins the quick draw and wounds Han, but the shooting activates a no-weapons system and Gallandro gets vaporized by lasers.
- The final duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort ends up one of these (a Type B), except both wizards fire at the exact moment the sun rises. Additionally, Voldemort lost long before the duel ever actually began.
- In Reaper Man, Death's climactic duel with his replacement borrows from both High Noon and For a Few Dollars More. It even takes place at midnight, though Death sneers at this ham-handed attempt at drama.
Live Action TV
- Used in a time traveling episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
- Subverted in Wayne and Shuster's Fist Full of Dollars sketch where, after the climactic gunfight in which dozens of bullets are fired at Schuster with no effect, he reveals that he was using the old "brick wall under the poncho" trick.
- Happens in Psych, between a policeman and... a cowboy (not a real cowboy - this is the one at those little re-enactment tourist traps), after it's uncovered he's been whacking people to try and keep a gold cache under the town secret. The cowboy's SAA, however, was real. Cop wins.
- In the episode of The Prisoner where Number 6 is an old-west sheriff, he has a Single-Stroke Battle shoot-out with the henchman of the latest Number 2.
- Parodied in The Goodies "Bun Fight at the OK Tearooms".
- For a bizarre non-Western example, the final showdown between John Sheppard and Acastus Kolya on Stargate Atlantis goes just like this.
- The final confrontation between Jack Keenan and Frank Butler in Wild Boys is a Type 2.
- When Sam and Dean in Supernatural go back in time to find something to help them beat the Mother, Dean and a phoenix have a type 2. Dean wins because his gun is the Colt.
- In Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor gets into one of these. A Time Lord and a Cyborg. This was in the episode "A Town Called Mercy".
- A version of this starts off Justified. US Marshal Raylan Givens has given a murderous thug 24 hours to leave Miami. As the deadline is about to pass, the two men meet at a terrace restaurant on a sunny Florida day. They sit opposite each other at a table and Raylan gives the thug one last chance to leave town. The thug draws his gun and Raylan kills him. The extremely public nature of the shootout (and rumors about the 24 hour deadline) causes a massive PR headache for the Marshal Service and while the shooting is deemed "justified", Raylan is reassigned to the Lexington, Kentucky office.
- In The Adventures of Superboy episode "Threesome, Part 2," Superboy has one of these with Luthor, Metallo, & Odessa Vexman on a deserted street in Smallville. The scene comes complete with a Western-style musical score. This one is most like version B.
- Parodied in a Russ Abbot sketch; a grim gunslinger arrives in the bar at five minutes to noon, terrifying the locals. When the clock strikes twelve, a second horse is heard outside, and in walks the gunslinger's mother, to drag him home for his dinner.
- The Megaman remix-band The Megas make the battle between Megaman and Quickman sound like an embodiment of this trope. It's all built up with Quickman as the "sheriff"; with lines such as "Quick on the draw, in this town I am the law. Is what they say true? Does death wear blue? Can he fall?" The conclusion comes with "My circuits slow. I'm not scared anymore. Reach for my weapon and in turn you're reaching for yours. My circuits slow. What they said is a lie. The shots are heard and the bullets scream death as they fly", essentially also making this an example of a Single-Stroke Battle. In the end, the winner is Megaman. But what did you expect? He's the hero.
- Panther of The Protomen made such a song to promote the member Turbo Lover's band Cheer Up, Charlie Daniels, about the band competing with a similarly-named group for rights to the band name. The song was called The Duel. The song's also getting a sequel, The Duel: Part 2, about the band's showdown at The Road to Bonnaroo.
- The Marty Robbins' song Big Iron is this trope in spirit, when the Arizona Ranger and Texas Red have their showdown.
The morning passed so quickly it was time for them to meet,
It was twenty past eleven when they walked out in the street.
- Allan Sherman's 1962 parody of the Streets of Laredo, called the Streets of Miami, feature two business partners shooting it out "in the heat of the sun at the stroke of high noon."
- "Sam crumbled, just like a piece halvah."
- The Wizard Mode of Cactus Canyon is "High Noon at the OK Corral", requiring the player to hit twenty Bad Guys in around 30 seconds.
- Though it isn't set in the Old West, the backbox for Lights... Camera... Action! shows such a shootout between The Hero and The Dragon. The player must press a flipper button at the right time to win the draw.
"Ready, set, DRAW!"
- Ironically, in matter of historical fact gun duels have been more common among upper-class "gentlemen" who put great value on personal honor, rather than the lower-class characters who dominate Westerns. Perhaps the most famous example of such a duel is the 1804 duel in which American Vice President Aaron Burr killed Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The difference here is that dueling pistols were not at all accurate nor meant to be accurate — the point of the duel was to prove you cared enough about the grievance to risk your life. That Aaron Burr actually hit and killed Hamilton was a freak occurrence.
- According to the book Founding Brothers, the two witnesses they had brought along agreed in writing that Hamilton fired first and missed, then Burr fired two or three seconds later, fatally wounding Hamilton. Whether Hamilton missed deliberately or Burr intended to miss but hit by accident is a matter for speculation.
- Also, the showdowns happened at high noon (yes, they really did) so that neither participant would have more of the sun in their eyes than the other, and it'd be a fair draw.
- In an episode covering duelling, the documentary series "Tales of the Gun" indicated that high quality duelling pistols were in fact made to be extremely accurate (or at least as accurate as unrifled flintlocks and percussion cap pistols could be).
- The "honor" component changed the playing field somewhat from how western "quick draw" shootouts are usually depicted. Andrew Jackson once fought a duel in which he deliberately allowed his opponent to fire first, so that if he missed, he would be compelled by honor to remain still and allow Jackson (taking more time to aim properly) to return fire. Jackson was hit in the chest, but non-fatally, and his return shot killed his opponent. This was considered a dirty trick, though.
- James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok gunned down a man by the name of Davis Tutt in 1865 in Springfield, Missouri, in a rare example of a bona fide Wild West "quickdraw" showdown. After winning about $200 in a poker game against Tutt's compatriots—who were playing with Tutt's money—Tutt alleged that Hickok owed him $35 from a previous game; Hickok claimed the debt was only $25. Tutt seized Hickok's prized golden pocket watch as collateral. Humiliated but outnumbered, Hickok warned Tutt not to wear the watch in public. Tutt brazenly assured Hickok that he would be wearing it first thing in the morning. Hickok then calmly told Tutt that he would shoot him if he saw him wearing the watch, then pocketed his winnings and left. True to his promise, Tutt openly wore the watch in the town square the following day. Word quickly reached Hickok's ears and, after a final round of negotiations failed to settle the debt, Hickok walked into the square just before 6 p.m., pistol drawn, sending everyone except Tutt running for cover. Wild Bill cocked his pistol, holstered it and called out to Tutt, "Don't you come across here with that watch." Tutt said nothing, but stood with his hand on his pistol. At a distance of about 75 yards, both men "stared down" the other for a brief moment. Tutt drew first, Hickok raising his Colt Navy in response. Each man fired one shot at almost exactly the same moment. Tutt missed. Hickok was luckier: his shot struck Tutt in his left side between his fifth and seventh ribs. Hickok was charged with manslaughter. However, in his trial, the judge informed the jury that, while Wild Bill was technically guilty of the crime he was charged with, they may decide to apply the "unwritten" law of a "fair fight." The jury took no more than a couple of hours to bring back a not guilty verdict.
- Deadlands featured a full set of rules—in the core rulebook, no less—for conducting such a duel, including justification for the "cue known only to the gunfighters" bit: drawing second made things pardonable in the eyes of the law, so the lead-in to a proper duel consisted of head games intended to make one's adversary draw first, with bonuses given to the rolls of players who can come up with truly terrifying intimidations or biting ridicules to put in the mouths of their characters.
- This kind of duels replaces traditional FPS Boss Fights in the Call of Juarez series (except in The Cartel:
- In the original Call of Juarez, the duelists start off facing each other while a visible timer counts down. When it reaches zero, both of them reach for their guns (the player has to move the mouse/right controller stick down and back up again) and shoot. Most fights end if a single bullet hits, and you can also lean left and right to avoid incoming bullets. On one notable occasion, you face two enemies at the same time.
- In Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, you (and the enemy) can now strafe left and right around each other. Dueling revolves around keeping the enemy in the center of the screen at all times, since the cue to fire can come at any time (with a bell sound). At the same time, the player has to use the mouse/right stick to keep their character's hand close to his gun (but not too close or the hand position will be reset!) to reduce the drawing time. Once the bell sounds, the player must reach for the gun and shoot the enemy as the aiming reticule slides from the ground up.
- In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, you can no longer move but instead use the WASD keys/left stick to control how close Silas' hand is to the gun (which reduces the drawing time), while the mouse/right stick is used to keep the aiming reticule on the enemy (who can move and throw off your aim) in order to generally slow down time when the duel starts. When it does (usually after a preset time), you can use WASD/left stick to dodge bullets while drawing the gun and firing. Once again, there is a Dual Boss mid-game, and the Final Boss is a three-way shootout with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
- There was a Nintendo Light Gun game called Wild Gunman, and a version of it appeared in Back to the Future Part II.
- Wild Gunman was recreated as a microgame for the first WarioWare game. Smooth Moves also features an original western quick-draw microgame.
- One of the original Light Gun games for the NES, Hogan's Alley, did this as one of the game modes. To successfully completely, you ultimately had to draw and shoot accurately in less than a second.
- Used as a Mini-Game in Kirby's Adventure for the NES. Amusingly, the same Mini Game was recycled using this trope's Far Eastern counterpart in Kirby Superstar
- The PC game Gun has you pull this off a few times as well.
- The ancient ZX Spectrum western-themed adventure The Wild Bunch used version B if you decided you wanted to kill the bad guys, rather than just bring them in to the sheriff (killing them was more rewarding). The trick was that you had to let the bad guy move first, so that's it's self-defence to shoot him rather than just plain old murder.
- Billy Frontier has an unusual spin on this where rather than simply being the first to draw after a signal, you also have to play a LITERAL Simon Says Minigame during the “glare at each other sullenly” stage.
- Red Dead Revolver, being a love letter to the Spaghetti Western, has this as a frequent occurrence. Not only is there a Whole Plot Reference to The Quick and the Dead, but a showdown is how you defeat the final boss.
- Live A Live has one of the A variety in its Wild West chapter. The protagonist and his nemesis each take five steps (on account of the small viewing area), draw and shoot... at two different outlaws hiding on the sidelines.
- Parodied in Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal: After Guybrush has rearranged the mysterious wind idol near the Vaycaylian Wind Control Device, De Singe arrives with a rifle and demands that Guybrush surrender his Poxed hand. A brief period of staring silence follows, complete with close-ups of both Guybrush's and De Singe's faces in a style parody of The Good The Bad And The Ugly before the former breaks the silence with "Make me!" and the latter pulls out the rifle and shoots him sky-high. Of course, Guybrush is still alive when he lands on the ground and gets up.
- Tin Star has one of these at the end of every day (with one exception), and they serve as the game's boss battles. They're always comical too; if you miss one of the shots, you may kill a passing bird or even shoot down the belts from your opponent, causing his pants to fall down.
- Happens twice in Metal Gear Solid 3, with the same Western-loving character. The first time, you're in a typical shootout with him, but you can choose to stand out in the middle of the battlefield, which will cause him to engage in a quickdraw fight with you. The second time is right at the end of the game, where he challenges you to another quickdraw shootout, with the added excitement of not knowing which of the guns have a bullet in them. In a subversion, the bullet is blank no matter what happens.
- While not actually a mechanic appearing in the game itself, Steve's introduction in Sunset Riders has him out-drawing a bandanna-wearing Mook, complete with a helping of Blown Across the Room, all backed with an appropriate 16-bit spaghetti-Western tune.
- In Borderlands 2, the final mission involving the Sheriff of Lynchwood has her challenging you to a duel. Subverted in the fact that her idea of a "duel" involves being surrounded by a posse of mooks and taking potshots at you from the rooftops behind cover. Nonetheless, she uses a pistol as her primary weapon and one of the bonus objectives is to defeat her with a pistol.
- There's one in a cutscene of Star Trek Online, of all places. Episode "Wasteland", mission "A Fistful of Gorn" starts with your contact on Nimbus III, an old Romulan named Law, challenging a Gorn pirate who's gunning for your head and attempting to fill the power vacuum you created in the previous mission. He leaves you a death note and they square off in a version B. Battle Discretion Shot as they fire. Next scene has Law walk up to you and give a nonchalant shrug, then note that he looks a little stupid for giving you a death note and then surviving.
- Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist: Close to the end of the game. There are two arcade sequences following each other very closely.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: A portion of Prince Zuko's A Day in the Limelight is a blatant pastiche of the Western showdown — in a world resembling ancient China, as far from the Wild West as one could get. The very next episode goes as far to feature a ghost town, a Mexican Standoff, and a three-way showdown that once more takes place at high noon.
- Spoofed in the Looney Tunes cartoon Drip-Along Daffy: Daffy and Nasty Canasta do version A, but before a single shot is fired, Porky defeats Canasta with a wind-up toy soldier... with a ridiculously powerful musket. The crowd already has Porky up on their shoulders when Daffy, still walking towards the showdown, realizes what happened.
- Bugs Bunny literally expands the town for Yosemite Sam in the cartoon Bugs Bunny Rides Again. Sam doesn't care.
- Featured in a SpongeBob SquarePants Western-themed episode, where SpongeBob's look-alike ancestor SpongeBuck has a showdown with outlaw Dead Eye Plankon. It ends before it even begins, when SpongeBuck accidentally steps on Dead Eye.
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West had one, though it was at sunset and not at noon.
- One episode of The Simpsons featured Homer slapping people everywhere he went challenging them to duels to avoid having to pay for things. Unfortunately when he challenges an old fashioned Texas cowboy to a duel, the man naturally accepted. At the end of the episode they finally duel with the customary ten steps when the Texan is distracted by a pie Marge cooked. Homer, in a move that was idiotic even for him, reminded the man that the duel was not over. The Texan apologized for his rudeness and promptly shot Homer in the shoulder.
- Teen Titans: The year: Present Day. The place: a forest in TV-land. The time: right now. A water ski and life jacket-wearing Robin squares off with the Off-World Outlaw. On the sidelines a grizzly and a Steve Irwin Expy hold their breath in rapt attention. The trope collapses like a starcruiser from Reverse Polarity-induced temporal feedback when Robin socks his opponent in the face while he's distracted by the cheering bear.
- Played nasty and played straight in Galaxy Rangers episode "Galaxy Stranger" where Shane and Singray “settle things” on the main street of Frontier. The show was a Space Western, and the writers played it for all it was worth.
- The Backyardigans, being the kid-friendly show it is, played this relatively straight, replacing the shootout with a ping-pong match.
- In the ReBoot episode 'The Episode With No Name' Andraia and a nameless female Guardian have a showdown in the streets. Slightly modified since Andraia uses projectile spikes, instead of a gun. She still wins.
- An episode of Rugrats plays with this with 'Showdown at Teeter-Totter Gulch' in which Tommy and Chuckie deal with a bully named "The Junk Food Kid", who always comes to the park at noon, or "No Shadow Time." Their first encounter ends badly, but Tommy prevails the second time.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Teaser to "Night of the Batmen!" involves one.