Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object
"What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?" is one of the most famous formulations of a Yin-Yang Clash in the Western consciousness. As a result, it's become a Stock Phrase for describing any conflict between particularly strong or particularly stubborn individuals. Some people try to claim that the unstoppable force would just bounce off and continue moving, albeit in a different direction (according to Newton's third law of motion, and convention of energy and momentum... you know: science). For this reason, the question is sometimes phrased using the term "irresistible force" instead. Please note: This article is about the actual phrase itself. If two really strong guys fight, and no one compares them to an immovable object and an unstoppable force at any point, then the example belongs in Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny or Yin-Yang Clash. Unrelated to X Meets Y.
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Anime and Manga
- In Pokémon, Rampardos is described as the unstoppable force/spear that can break any shield and Bastiodon is described as the immovable object/shield that can't be broken.note They battle. So you might be wondering what happens when Roark's Rampardos battles his father Byron's Bastiodon. The answer? The battle is interrupted due to Team Rocket before it can be resolved.
- Alluded in Eyeshield 21, when Yamato (the original bearer of the title) and Shin (the antithesis of main character Sena) met, both are considered the unstoppable Runner and the strongest Linebacker respectively. The result is sort of definite though, with Yamato managed to drag Shin with all his strength...at snail pace. To say the watchers amazed is an understatement.
- In Hoshi No Samidare, Yukimachi and Subaru's paired attack and defense directly allude to this - they call their telekinetic attack "the Strongest Spear" and their telekinetic shield "the Ultimate Shield." They pick the names from a story shared by their teacher, the Master, about a spear that could penetrate any shield and a shield that could block any spear. In the hands of a single warrior, that warrior would be unstoppable. The Master then clasps their hands together, declaring the two together to be "the warrior."
- Referenced in the anime of Trigun by Hoppared the Gauntlet, who declares himself as an invincible shield and Vash's guns as an unstoppable spear.
- Discussed in Saint Seiya during Seiya's early fight with Shiryu and even referred to as such. In a twist, Shiryu's in possession of both; his shield too strong for Seiya to breach while also having considerably greater raw strength at his disposal. Seiya ultimately solves the conundrum by tricking Shiryu into attacking him in such a way that when he dodges, he ends up punching into his own shield. The shield breaks, but Shiryu also nearly breaks his hand in the process and is forced to continue the fight without his Cloth.
- In Naruto, the legendary Third Raikage possesses an impregnable defense and indefensible offense through using his lightning chakra cloak. The only way he could be wounded was to turn his attacks on himself.
- According to Go Nagai, Shin Getter Robo is the unstoppable force while Mazinkaiser is the immovable object.
- In Katanagatari, the first of the Twelve Deviant Blades Zettou Kanna was supposed to be unbreakable. The second sword Zantou Namakura was supposed to be able to cut anything. When Shichika wondered what would happen if the swords clashed, Togame guessed that Zantou Namakura would prevail since it was forged later. Confirmed in the end, when Shichika's Kyotouryuu, the final perfected Deviant Blade, easily shatters Zettou Kanna.
- Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge: Apparently the reason why the Crime Edge (an indestructible sharp pair of scissors that can cut anything) can cut Iwai's otherwise unseverable hair.
- According to director Mitsuo Fukuda, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED's Strike and Aegis Gundams were designed with the Eastern version of this paradox in mind: "What happens when a sword that can destroy anything hits an invincible shield?" Hence their Meaningful Names; "Strike" as in what a sword does, "Aegis" as in Athena's shield.
- Incredible Hulk #272. Hulk and Sasquatch ram Wendigo using downed trees, with Wendigo in the middle◊.
The Wendigo becomes the immovable force between two irresistable objects.
- This phrase is more overused in The Hulk than anywhere else. Whenever the writers want
belaborimpress that an opponent is a serious physical challenge to Hulk, they will be one of these, and Hulk will be the other.
- This phrase is more overused in The Hulk than anywhere else. Whenever the writers want
- Invoked directly in the second Superman / Spider-Man crossover, when Superman calmed down The Hulk by planting himself to the ground and let the Hulk hit him, thinking that when he decided to become the Immoveable Object, no Unstoppable Force could move him. He also hinted that he didn't want the Hulk to get any angrier, or he'd become more than even he could handle.
- Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman has Superman being asked this question. His solution? "They surrender." note Ironically enough, he seems to have gotten this from the back of a newspaper he read only a few moments before.
- When former X-Men writer Chuck Austen was asked in a interview; what would happen if the unstoppable Juggernaut runs into the immovable Blob? He replied...
"They'd pound on each other until they were both so exhausted that they'd just lay down and watch videos. Porn, of course!"
- The toy review site OAFE.net answered this question with a toy comic. Basically, they shake hands and say hi. (Which makes a lot of sense in-story: the Juggernaut and the Blob have both been members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, although they are rarely on the team at the same time.)
- Marvel Super Heroes RPG, knowing its readers, provides an answer to this. "Juggernaut could move The Blob by destroying the ground underneath his feet, unless he was sitting on a planet made of Adamantium" (it didn't say what would happen in that case, however).
- One Expanded Universe novel had them fight each other. Juggernaut won, because Blob flinched before the impact. Marko internally noted that had Dukes not flinched, the collision would have been really painful.
- This has actually happened in comics; The Blob's status as "immovable" is more a badass boast on his part than an actual assessment of his powers; while he is extremely difficult to move, the Juggernaut, the Hulk, and Strong Guy have all successfully moved Blob through sheer force.
- Back in the Silver Age, Superman and Superboy tried to test this out by flying into each other. They wound up with memory loss and ripped the Time Stream a new one.
- A Naruto-Justice League crossover had Sasuke's sword of Kusanagi vs. Wonder Woman and her gauntlets. The sword dented the gauntlets, shocking them both—Sasuke because it didn't cut through, Wonder Woman because it dented them at all.
- In the Discworld fic Nature Studies, Sam Vimes watches a showdown between a charging rhinoceros and Sergeant Detritus bracing to meet it head on. He reflects that Vetinari was banging on down at the palace about the old philosophical conundrum of what happens when the irresistible force meets the un-moveable object. He reflects the Patrician would give something of personal value to witness what happens next... and then the two met.
- In the Babylon 5 fic A Fighting Chance, a Minbari fleet charging a wall of EarthForce dreadnoughts who can see through their stealth is described as an irresistible force running in an immovable object. The Minbari almost broke through, but at that point the human ships fired thousands of missiles at them, annihilating their fleet.
- From The Dark Knight, after Batman knocks the Joker off a building and then fires his grappling cable to save his life:
The Joker: Oh, you. You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren't you? Huh? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
- Imagine Me And You:
H: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?Luce: It never happens. If there's a thing that can't be stopped, it's not possible for there to be something else which can't be moved, and vice versa. They can't both exist. You see? It's a trick question, is the answer.
Heck: I want you to be happy. More than anything else, I wanted to be the cause of happiness in you. But if I'm not, then I can't stand in the way. Do you see? Because what you're feeling now, Rachel, is the unstoppable force... which means that I've got to move.
- And later, when Heck has decided to leave Rachel because he knows that she's in love with Luce:
- The Avengers: Thor's Hammer vs Captain America's Shield. The result? The force of the impact doesn't hurt Cap, but is instead reflected into a shockwave that levels all the forest in their vicinity. The phrase isn't used in the movie itself but in the wider MCU: Thor's movie called his hammer the ultimate weapon and Cap's movie called his shield the ultimate defense.
- A Russian joke runs like this:
Vovochka, what will happen if unstoppable force will affect unmovable object?Vodka price will rise?Why do you think so?'Cause my dad always says: First some weird crap happen — then vodka price will rise.
- A generic quip on the subject:
Q: What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?A: They have an indescribable accident.
Q: What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?
Q: What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?A: That would never happen, Chuck Norris would never kick himself in the face.
- Used as a riddle in the far-future section in Ian Banks' "Walking on Glass". The actual answer is randomly tossed out in the other narrative. The unstoppable force stops, the immovable object moves.
- Only two people in the world of Soon I Will Be Invincible have "Invincibility" listed as a power...
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden defines the mind games between him and Molly in this way. He has a big, obstinate castle (unmovable object) while her attacks are equivalent to several Mongolian Hordes (irresistible force). It usually ended in a draw and two headaches.
- In Whispers Under Ground, after watching Zach chowing down on one of Molly's gigantic breakfasts, Peter quips about how the unstoppable cook is up against the unfillable stomach.
- The Saga of Arrow-Odd: When Odd and Hjalmar and the Arngrimssons prepare for single combat on the island of Samsř, Angantyr Arngrimsson wants to take on Odd, because Odd has a magic shirt that is supposed to be impenetrable to any weapon, and Angantyr has the magic sword Tyrfing that supposedly can cut anything in the world. However, Hjalmar insists that he take on Angantyr, and thus we will never know whether Tyrfing would have worked on Odd's shirt.
- In The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke a reporter uses this phrase to describe the conflict between ace engineer Vannevar Morgan, who wants to build a space elevator on a mountain, and the abbot of a Buddhist monastery that has been sitting on top of the mountain for thousands of years.
- In The Grimnoir Chronicles, the characters Jake (a 'Heavy' able to control gravity and alter his density) and Toru (a 'Brute' equipped with Super Strength) have this dynamic, though the spend most of their time as uneasy allies.
- In Mazeway by Jack Williamson, the protagonists are repeatedly asked "What happens when the all-cutting blade meets the uncuttable stone?" The blade is sharpened.
Live Action TV
- Referenced on one episode of M*A*S*H, when Hawkeye and B.J. go on a bathing strike in response to Charles' french horn. When Charles refuses to budge, Hawkeye prefaces their next gambit with:
- "That's it! The irresistible force is about to polish off the immovable object."
- That Mitchell and Webb Look's football promo sketch contains this (and the similar "The giants of Charlton play host to the titans of Ipswich, making them both seem normal-sized").
- Used in the Knight Rider episode "Trust Don't Rust", to describe the theoretical outcome of a head-on collision between KITT and KARR. They refer to it as "Zeno's Paradox".
- In an episode of The Adventures of Superboy, a professor asks Superboy to help transport an insanely heavy totem pole, referring to the pole as the immovable object and Superboy as the unstoppable force. The totem pole was so heavy that even Superboy had difficulty lifting it.
- The old Johnny Mercer standard, here sung by Fred Astaire to Leslie Caron in 1955's Daddy Long-Legs:
When an irresistible force, such as you,Meets an old immovable object like me,You can bet just as sure as you live,Something's gotta give —Something's gotta give —Something's gotta give!
- Skyclad tells us in "You Lost My Memory" that
Unstoppable force and immovable object,repel one another when by chance colliding.
- Jane's Addiction's "Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)".
Myth and Legend
- A Greek story has a variation with a the Teumessian Fox (who can never be caught) and Laelaps (a hound that can never lose its prey). Naturally, they're set on each other. Zeus, unable to tolerate this kind of paradox, turns them to stone and casts them into the sky as the constellations Canis Major (the hound) and Canis Minor (the fox)..
- Similarly, the Nemean Lion had claws that could pierce any armor, and a hide which couldn't be pierced by any weapon. Heracles decided to strangle the lion to death, then cut its hide with its own claws to make a snazzy cloak.
- An old Chinese legend concerns a blacksmith who makes both shields and spears. He first pitches a customer the spears, claiming that they are so sharp, no shield can block them. He then pitches the shields, saying they are so hard, no spear can pierce them. The customer then asks what would happen if he threw one of the blacksmith's spears at one of his shields...and received no answer. This is the source of the Chinese word for "paradox;" "矛盾," or máodůn, literally translates as "spear-shield.''
- The 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars won every game they played and were favored to win the Super Bowl...except they couldn't beat the Tennessee Titans. The Titans had dealt the team both of its regular season losses and eliminated them in Conference Championship game. For comparison sake, the Jaguars had scored 62 points in the previous game, but were held to just 14 against the Titans.
- The phrase was in wide use referring to the 2013 Big Ten Football Championship game, which pitted the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Michigan State Spartans. Ohio State was known for their amazing offense, which had led the team to a 24-0 record over the two years since the appointment of Urban Meyer as coach, while the Spartans had, by universal agreement, the best defense in the country. The immovable Spartans stopped the unstoppable Buckeyes, 24-34.
- Likewise, this trope was at times referred to in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, which had two teams who were respectively the best in offense and defense for the 2013 season; the AFC's Denver Broncos (led by quarterback Peyton Manning) and the NFC's Seattle Seahawks (a.k.a. the "Legion of Boom"). Seattle defeated Denver right from the first snap twelve seconds into the game, 43-8.
- The 2007 Colorado Rockies came into the World Series having one ten games in a row, including sweeping their 2 postseason series and 21 of their last 22. They played against the Boston Red Sox...who swept them in 4 games.
- Given the power levels that get slung around in Exalted, it usefully has a rule for what happens when a perfect attack comes up against a perfect defense: Defense always wins.
- The World of Warcraft TCG features the below mace and shield as cards, with the flavor texts of "What happens when... ?" and "Oh, that's what happens.".
- In World of Warcraft there is a Mace called Unstoppable Force and a shield called Immovable Object; both were among the easiest to obtain Epic gear and really good... until the release of the first expansion pack made them next to useless.
- In the Suikoden universe, the True Runes were said to be born after the Sword that could cut through anything and the Shield that could stop any strike clashed.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Edgeworth tells a story of a weapon merchant presenting gifts to a lord; a spear which can pierce any armor, and a shield which can stop any weapon. The lord immediately pointed out the contradiction, embarrassing the merchant. This story inspired the design for the present day Prosecutor of the Year trophy; a broken shield, and a broken knife. Thematically, it's the equivalent of Ancient Romes "memento mori", reminding prosecutors they are not unbeatable.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, During their duel in Episode 3, Virgilia attacks Beatrice with the Divine Spear, and Beatrice deflects it with the Divine Shield. Ronove helpfully notes that this only worked because the irresistable force must never meet the immovable object.
- Perfect World: A very early quest for human characters involves meeting the salespeople in Etherblade. Playing off the Chinese (spear/armor) version of this paradox, the blacksmith claims that his spears cannot be stopped by any armor, and the tailor claims that her armor cannot be pierced by any spear.
- League of Legends: Xin Zhao has a taunt: "Find me an immovable object, and I'll put this question to rest!"
- Malphite's Unstoppable Force ultimate is now actually unstoppable. Before, you could knock him out of it by hitting him mid-charge with any stun or root.
- Even before his release, Riot has joked that Braum using Unbreakable to block Unstoppable Force would not crash the game, but would cause all of the other players to "gather round and place bets on the Rock-Man vs. Muscle-Man boxing match that is about to go down."
- The Legend of Zelda Oracle games have a miniboss who claims this of his sword and shield. You can't damage his shield, and you can only run away when he throws his sword at you. The solution, of course, is to get him to hit his shield with his sword.
- In Fate/stay night's Unlimited Blade Works route, Lancer throws Gae Bolg at Archer, who counters by projecting Aius. The scene is called "Lance of Sure Hit, Shield of No Loss."
- Referenced in Real Life Comics here. The result in this case: the immovable object wins.
- Two Guys and Guy references it too, but only for The Unreveal.
- In Grrl Power, a villain shows up declaring that his "skin is impenetrable and [his] claws can cut through anything". Turns out the former isn't quite so true.
- One of the many things the SCP Foundation keeps track of is SCP-225: an immovable object, and an unstoppable object. They really do not want to find out what would happen if these two objects ever collided. They're drawing up planetary evacuation plans just in case.
- By their own admission, that might not be enough: Since all tests thus far have shown that neither SCP-225-1 nor SCP-225-2 can be damaged or moved by any means known, the possibility also exists that neither object would be annihilated, halted, or altered from their course even by contact with the other. If this is true, then a collision between SCP-225-1 and SCP-225-2 has the potential to [DATA EXPUNGED].
- This was examined by MinutePhysics in this video. Their answer? An "immoving" object really refers to an object that is will not accellerate, since the concept of moving depends on the frame of reference of the observer. And an unstoppable "force" refers to an object that is moving, but cannot be accelerated (so they are really the same thing). Although they would require infinite mass, and thus, infinite energy, if these objects truly could not be accelerated, then both objects would pass right through each other and continue moving. For an unstoppable force and an immovable object to exist, they must both be intangible.
- There are a number of abilities in Worm that are absolute and flat out break the laws of physics. For example, the Siberian is utterly invulnerable and cannot be impeded by any obstacle, while another character can freeze objects in time, rendering them completely impervious to any force. Their collision is referenced by this trope, and results in both powers being canceled out, with the frozen objects reverting to normal and the Siberian vanishing, as she is actually a projection.
- In one episode of Regular Show, this is what happens when Rigby learns the Death Punch in attempt to beat Mordecai at Punchies. Only for Mordecai to learn the Death Block and challenge him. The result is a stalemate.
- In one Robot Chicken sketch, Zeus is giving Perseus (or possibly a Perseus action figure) magic equipment, including a sword that can pierce any armor and a shield that can stop any weapon, along with advice not to get them too close together since he isn't sure which one beats the other.
- In X-Men: Evolution, the Juggernaut and the Blob are characterized as this by the Blob. Juggy manages to move the Blob but is considerably slowed.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Emperor Joker!" has Batmite describe Batman's relationship with The Joker as such. Likely in reference to The Dark Knight quoted above.