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Film / Black Hawk Down

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When I go home... and people ask me: "Hey, Hoot, why do you do it, man? Why? You some kind of war junkie?" I won't say a goddamn word. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand it's about the men next to you. And that's it.
SFC Norm "Hoot" Gibson

Black Hawk Down is a 2001 war film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, directed by Ridley Scott, and based on the nonfiction book of the same title by Mark Bowden. The film depicts the Battle of Mogadishu, a 1993 raid integral to the United States' effort to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The movie features Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Kim Coates, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jason Isaacs, Glenn Morshower, and Orlando Bloom among many, many others.

In a raid, a task force of Delta Force soldiers, Army Rangers, and Special Operations Aviation Regiment attempt to capture two of Mohammed Farah Aidid's senior subordinates in the Bakaara Market neighborhood of Mogadishu. The mission is led by Major General William F. Garrison and was supposed to take no more than one hour. The extraction by the Delta team is successful, but the Somali militia, armed with RPGs, shot down two Black Hawk helicopters, and the resulting rescue extends the mission to over 15 hours.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Many elements were added to make the action sequences more exciting for cinematic audiences.
    • In the DVD commentary, some of the soldiers involved in the Battle of Mogadishu gave these embellishments (particularly the scene with the recoilless rifle) their approval because of how cool they were.
    • Little Birds are depicted as having advanced head-mounted targeting systems during the nighttime gun runs. This was done because audiences were going to have a hard time believing that Little Bird pilots were actually aiming using a simple mark drawn onto their windscreens with a grease pencil.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene:
    • Not many, but a notable one is Hoot comforting Sgt. Eversmann after they were unable to save Smith.
    • Likewise, the scene where Aidid's propaganda minister gives Durant a thoughtful lecture on the nature of the conflict they're fighting is a real standout.
      Hassan: You are the ranger who kills my people?
      Durant: I'm not a ranger, I'm a pilot.
      Hassan: (offers Durant a smoke, Durant refuses) That's right, none of you Americans smoke anymore. You all live long, dull, uninteresting lives.
      Durant: What do you want with me?
      Hassan: You have taken hostages, we have you.
      Durant: My government will never negotiate for me.
      Hassan: Then perhaps... you and I can negotiate, eh? Soldier to soldier. (offers Durant water)
      Durant: I'm not in charge.
      Hassan: Of course not, you have the power to kill but not negotiate. In Somalia, killing is negotiation. Do you really think if you get General Aidid, we will simply put down our weapons and adopt American democracy? That the killing will stop? We know this, without victory, there can be no peace. There will always be killing, you see. This is how things are in our world. (tosses Durant his dogtags)
  • Actually Pretty Funny: The first thing CPT Steele does after catching SGT Pilla doing imitations of him is to acknowledge to the other Rangers of how funny it was. The second thing he does is put Pilla into a headlock and walk off with him explaining why he shouldn't undermine his authority like that.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • The company clerk pressed into service as an infantryman is named "Grimes" in the film, as the actual Ranger who was in this situation was later sent to prison for rape and child molestation. The film takes great pains to make the audience aware of the character's new name.
    • Many of the Delta operators also have different names from those given in the book, though in some cases they are actually Composite Characters.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: The real Tommy McKnight has noted that he doesn't smoke and rarely shouts or swears, unlike how Tom Sizemore portrayed him in the film. He also didn't go out for the final extraction as he'd been ordered to stay put due to the severity of his neck wound rather than stubbornly insisting on being deployed.
  • All for Nothing: Despite the Little Birds managing to find and extricate Busch from the first crash site, he sustained a gunshot wound while defending the crash and eventually died from it.
  • All There in the Manual: Although some of the things done by the American forces in the movie seem stupid or absurd, they make more sense in the book where the author explains that, up to that point, typical missions lasted no more than an hour. For example, the Rangers dumped the weight of armor plates and water in favor of more ammo because they would be pulling security (and thus have a man guarding their rear at all times) and be riding on helicopters to the objective, not exactly an intense activity. It was a case of falling into habits after a long deployment.
  • America Saves the Day: Inverted; the Americans are only able to get their men from the city when their UN allies finally arrive. Of course, the Pakistanis do their best to be as useless as possible, which is Truth in Television according to people who were there. There were also several Malaysian units involved, with the majority of the APCs in the relief column being Malaysian, but they make no appearance, despite taking more casualties than that Pakistanis.
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the very end of the film, Hoot is grabbing a bite to eat and gearing up to go back into the city on another mission, presumably to look for Durant, the helicopter pilot who was taken prisoner.
    Hoot: Hey, we started a whole new week! It's Monday!
  • And This Is for...: In the book, after the bodies of a helicopter crew are mutilated after crashing, a fellow Black Hawk crewman vowed that he would scream one of their names each time he killed a Somali. "The D-boys in back kept looking up at him, wondering what he was doing."
  • Arc Words: "Nothing" / "It's nothing," and possibly "Don't go without me" are repeated throughout the movie.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: Discussed early in the film when Steele chides Hoot for carrying his carbine with the safety off, only for Hoot to respond that his trigger finger is the safety. Somewhat subverted as the book explains that Hoot had previously cleared the weapon and dropped the hammer. AR pattern rifles actually cant be put on safe with their hammers down.
  • Artistic License History: Has its own page.
  • As Himself: The Little Bird pilot who pulls the Delta operator out of the first downed Black Hawk is played by Chief Warrant Officer Keith Jones, who did the exact same thing during the real Battle of Mogadishu.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: What the Pakistanis use to get the American troops out: big and thick-armored APCs that look like they could take direct hits from tanks and keep going. In real life, they were actually Malaysian, with the Pakistanis providing tanks.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical:
    • The comm lines are highly secure. Too bad the delay caused by them cause the ground team trying to reach the downed helicopters to miss their turns, over and over again.
    • Having high flying oversight from P-3C Orion spy planes: awesome. Having no radio communication with those planes: bad. The delay caused by getting the directions from the planes, to the Joint Operations Center, to the C-2 officers in the helicopter was more than a minute, and ended up resulting in the wrong directions (they were trying to direct the convoy to the wrong crash site).
  • Badass Boast: Subverted/Mocked. Just about every character that makes one gets screwed by it. The Rangers in the hangar (preparing for takeoff) tell Grimes to leave his night vision goggles and canteens behind since they're not going to be gone long enough to need them; the strike force is so tough that no possibility of mission failure enters their minds. (Granted that the mission as planned was supposed to take only 30 minutes, but military planning is supposed to be about preparing for the worst-case scenario.) They also tell him to leave the rear ballistic plate out of his kevlar flak vest; supposedly he will only need it if he is running away from the enemy. The Rangers spend much of the movie surrounded and taking fire from all sides. The very worst Badass Boast comes from Private Blackburn, who tells Grimes, "I'm here to kick some ass." This is completely subverted as he misses the fast-rope after an RPG forces the Blackhawk to juke, falls from the helicopter, breaks his back, and is evacuated on a Hum-Vee without firing a single shot in battle.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Averted. The sound of the minigun is accurately portrayed (its actual rate of fire and lethality, however, are grossly inferior to the real thing).
    • The latter is actually fairly common in films and television, as a real minigun's barrels spin so fast a camera wouldn't be able to register their motion, and they'd appear completely stationary.
  • Band of Brothers: On the vitriolic side of the trope.
    Hoot: When I go home ...and people ask me: "Hey, Hoot, why do you do it, man? Why? You some kind of war junkie?" I won't say a goddamn word. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand it's about the men next to you.
  • Based on a True Story: Several notable things were changed for the movie, most concerning Eversmann. In real life he jumped on the convoy as it was pulling out the first time, and when it eventually returned to base, so did he. Upon arrival, he found the airport almost completely undefendednote  and immediately went to work correcting that. He did not participate in most of the combat depicted in the film, and his lieutenant, DiTomasso, was more important at the first crash site (DiTomasso plays a significantly smaller role in the film and is played by an unknown actor). Also, PFC Grimes is a fictional composite. The real PFC Stebbins on whom "Grimes" is based was later convicted of a distasteful crime and is rightfully considered a disgrace by the Army in general and the 75th Rangers in particular. The Pentagon requested that Stebbins not be mentioned in the film. However, his actions during the battle were too important to omit, so the fictional character of Grimes was created to replace him. Both the studio and the Army were subsequently accused of either glorifying a sexual predator or whitewashing his crimes - sometimes you just can't win.
  • Bash Brothers: Grimes and Sanderson develop this relationship. Twombly and Nelson are forced into it when the convoy leaves without them. And of course, the kings of this trope are the late Shughart and Gordon.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Grimes complains about sitting at a desk during major US Ranger conflicts. He finally gets his chance to go into combat... and gets hit by an RPG blast a few minutes in for his troubles. It only gets worse for him from there.
    Grimes: (blasted several feet away by an RPG blast) FUUUUUCK THIIIIIIIIS!!!!
  • BFG: Two are featured in the film: A recoiless anti-tank rifle used by the militia and later by Delta Force, and the M2 .50 caliber machine guns on the Humvees, affectionately known to the US armed forces as the "Ma Deuce".
  • Big "NO!": Eversmann does this twice, first when Blackburn falls out of the helicopter and when Jamie runs out to help Twombly, leading to Jamie receiving fatal gunshot wounds.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The battle went horribly wrong (and caused Bill Clinton to take the troops out of Somalia), but the Rangers and Deltas still managed to get out of Mogadishu by the next day, preventing more losses on either side.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Happens to Specialist Gallentine, who practically loses a thumb in the process (it's only hanging on by a shred of skin).
  • Boom, Headshot!: Gordon is killed when a militiaman sprays his rifle into the cockpit, with one bullet catching him in the head.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Delta operators all wear off-the-shelf hockey helmets instead of the kevlar helmets the Rangers use because their missions usually involve raiding houses; the main threat to their heads is bumping them on the low doorways, the hockey helmets are more comfortable, and they're lighter. However, they are also not bulletproof.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Limited ammunition is stated and shown multiple times as being a major concern for the trapped soldiers. As is the fact that the entire operation was supposed to be over in about an hour and the soldiers did not ride out fully equipped for what is to become an entire day's worth of fighting.
  • Bowdlerize: The Mexican Spanish dub changes the R-rated swearing to more PG-13 swearing as the movie was dubbed during a time where strong swearing was prohibited in television and movie dubs.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Played straight. Armored plating only works if you wear it. In one tragic case recounted in the book, this would prove to be the death of one Ranger who had been trying to emulate a Delta's method of taking cover without understanding the why of the method - causing the Ranger to expose his unprotected back. In the film, this overconfident Ranger is Joyce.
  • Camera Abuse: Blood splatters onto the camera when Sgt. Pilla is shot dead.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Lots, usually from the mouth of McKnight, Hoot or Steele. Late in the film, a pitched nighttime urban gunfight is going on as McKnight's convoy arrives. As he and Captain Steele meet:
    Steele: I thought I heard a noise out here!
    McKnight: Need a lift?
  • Catchphrase: "Hoo-ah!" In Army usage (and to a lesser degree in the Air Force), the word can be taken to mean anything and everything except for "No."
  • The Cavalry: The Pakistani and Malaysian (mentioned but not seen) troops who roll into the rescue with the heavy Armored Personnel Carriers necessary for such a hot zone.
  • "Cavemen vs. Astronauts" Debate: A heated argument between soldiers near the beginning of the movie over whether or not "limo" is a real word, regardless of its presence or absence in the dictionary, and therefore legal to use in a game of Scrabblenote .
  • Central Theme: The politics of war and armed conflict are irrelevant in the face of life and death, these things are endemic to the human condition, and real heroism doesn't come from medals or glory, but rather fighting to defend something.
  • Child Soldiers: One tries to shoot an American soldier, who conveniently slips at the right moment, causing the kid to shoot his own father who was standing on the opposite side of the doorway.
  • Chromosome Casting: No women are credited in the cast list. Giannina Facio, who plays Shughart's wife, picking up his phone call too late, was director Ridley Scott's partner (they married 14 years later, in 2015).
  • Cigar Chomper: Osman Atto, a controversial figure during the Civil War in his own right is depicted as one. This is an example of a historical liberty, as the real Osman Atto never smoked cigars or cigarettes.
  • Collateral Damage:
    • One of the Somali militiamen accidentally shoots his comrade with an RPG while trying to shoot Strucker's Humvees.
    • A Child Soldier who tries to shoot Yurek winds up shooting his father when Yurek slips and falls while walking through a doorway.
    • Another militiaman accidentally shoots one of the hostages while firing on the Lost Convoy.
    • Narrowly averted when Nelson mistakes Yurek for a Somalian militiaman and nearly shoots him before Yurek can call out to them.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel McKnight has a habit of walking round a war zone like bullets ain't flying all around him. Must be a symptom of the badass disease.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Rangers' helmets are PASGT helmets with desert camo covers, while Delta helmets are black sports helmets. Likewise, Rangers have olive drab or woodland green gear and Delta has black tactical vests.
  • Comically Missing the Point: A kid is holding a cell phone up in the air so the militia officer on the other end of the connection can hear the sounds of the helicopters' engines as they fly over. One of the Black Hawk pilots sees him and thinks he's waving at them, unaware the kid was working for Aidid's militia and warned them of the helicopters coming.
  • Composite Character: Several characters, but most prominently Eversmann, who was actually part of the "lost convoy" in real life. A number of the Delta operators are composites as well.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Justified because they're a Delta squad. Later subverted when the two Delta marksmen are finally overrun. Overall demonstrated with the casualty count of the battle in Real Life: The Americans took relatively light casualties compared to the Somali militias, largely because they had better training and air support. By the end of the fighting, the UN forces had lost 21 men (19 Americans, one Malaysian, one Pakistani), while the Somalis suffered over 1000 militia and civilians killed.
  • Cool Guns: Whereas the Rangers have only M16s, some with M203 grenade launchers, M249s and in one case an M60, all with iron sights... the Deltas not only have different helmets and tactical vests but also Colt Model 727 (14.5" barrel) and 733 (11.5") carbines with red-dot optics and weapon lights. An older CAR-15 and an anachronistic M4A1 are also seen. Shughart, one of the Delta marksmen, carries an old-style scoped M14, and his partner Gordon carries a suppressed and accessorized M733, both with camouflage paint schemes. Captain Steele and a Ranger medic also use the M733, but without any accessories. The Delta Force operators are also distinguished by their .45 caliber M1911 pistols, a notable contrast to the 9mm Beretta M9 pistols carried the rangers. The M9 was the standard issue pistol for the US Army at the time.
    • According to the book, Shughart's use of the clumsy but powerful M14 is Truth in Television. The other operators would apparently tease him for insisting on it. Later on, while seething about his ammunitionnote  (and everything else), SFC Howe would decide that Shughart was the smartest guy in the unitnote .
  • Color Animal Codename: The eponymous Black Hawk is a type of military helicopter that the US army used in the battle the film is about.
  • Cool Helmet: While the Rangers wear the US Army's standard issue helmet, the Delta operators and the Air Force pararescuemen all wear sleeker looking hockey-style helmets. Ultimately subverted in the source material, where it's noted that the special helmets offered no protection from bullets or shrapnel - which likely contributed to at least one Delta member's death.
  • Danger Deadpan: The pilots of Super Six-One calmly report that they're going down after the chopper is hit, and the co-pilot even manages to make a deadpan joke to the pilot. Mike Durant of Super Six-Four is portrayed as a lot more nervous, but his voice is still calm and even as he reports that the chopper is going down. Super Six-One wasn't as badly hit as Super Six-Four, where the helicopter was damaged, but then lost the tail rotor, while Six-One essentially had an engine get destroyed, but still had more control over the aircraft. Truth in Television, you don't get to be a professional pilot - much less a military pilot - if you panic easily, and pilots are specifically trained to stay as calm as possible and continue reporting the conditions as they change, to keep HQ aware of the situation.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: At the end of his Last Stand, Shughart is shot several times in the arms and back, before getting shot 11 times in the chest at point-blank range by one militiaman/civilian who emptied his entire pistol magazine into him.
  • Desk Jockey: Grimes; his rare (at the time) ability to type makes him more valuable manning a desk than doing anything else.
  • Deadpan Snarker: McKnight.
    Pilla: Colonel, they're shooting at us!
    McKnight: (stares blankly) Well, shoot back!
    • The USAF Pararescueman working on the crew-chief of Super Six One
    Wilkinson: (Starts an IV fluid line) After I'm done with this I'll whip you boys up some margaritas. The usual, blended, no salt?
    • If anything, the movie failed to capture some of Wilkinson's best lines. From the book:
    Wilkinson: (as the chopper is being punctured with bullet holes) He hates the cans! Stay away from the cans!
  • Death from Above: The MH-6 Little Bird helicopters, which make gun and rocket attacks that kill literally dozens of militia.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Grimes gripes about being given desk duty because his skill at typing makes him too valuable to put him in the action. In 1993, basic computer literacy was much more valuable than in 2001. Today, any adult is automatically assumed to know his way around a computer.
  • Description Cut: "Convoy is encountering light resistance." Cut to the convoy getting shot and blown up every which way.
  • Desecrating the Dead: There's a brief glimpse of the mob lifting Randy Shughart's body out of Durant's helicopter and carrying it like a trophy; he has already had his shirt ripped off. This hints at the real life events, where Shughart's and the bodies of the other dead at the crash site were stripped and dragged through the city. This was eventually broadcast on American television and resulted in popular opinion turning against the Somalia mission.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The convoy is being guided to the crash site by a surveillance plane overhead. However it does not speak directly to the convoy commander but to the headquarters then to the communications helicopter and then to Colonel McKnight. This causes a delay which means by the time they get the order to turn they have either missed the correct road or worse, turn down the wrong street entirely. Had the convoy been guided purely by the surveillance plane it could have secured the first crash site in time, freeing up other forces to head towards Durant's downed aircraft.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: When Specialist Mike Kurth sees a woman about to pick up a gun. He yells for her not to do it... and Struecker unhesitatingly shreds her when she does.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Hoot racks the charging handle on the Ma Deuce after he takes the place of the Ranger who was just killed. A Justified Trope; US Soldiers are trained to cycle the weapon once when replacing a dead or wounded gunner to ensure the weapon is still functional and in a ready-to-fire state, making it one of those rare and wonderful moments that are both cool/dramatic and Truth in Television.
  • Eagleland: The Dragon sarcastically claims that all Americans are Type 1, who don't drink, don't smoke, and live long, healthy, uninteresting lives.
  • Elite Army: 18 Americans died. Contrast that with the 1000-2000 Somalis killed.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The bulk of the American units shown in the film: 75th Rangers, 160th Special Operations Air Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, Air Force Pararescue, and Deltas.
  • Eye Scream: Maddox, one of the Humvee drivers, gets an faceful of glass when a Somalia shoots an RPG that shatters the windshield of his Humvee. Granted, his vision isn't completely destroyed, just heavily impaired.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • How Nelson and Twombly wind up separated from the rest of the Rangers and Deltas. They were supposed to hold a corner and then exit with the Humvees. However when the convoy leaves the target building, Nelson and Twombly are forgotten.
    • When Nelson, Twombly, and Yurek leave the vicinity of the target building to go to the Super Six One crash site, they apparently don't hear Galentine trying to raise them on coms. note 
  • Failed State: The film dramatizes the US Army's effort to remove violent warlords from Somalia, where bands of thugs are hoarding relief supplies meant for the sick and starving people. As was true in real life, the government of Somalia exists pretty much in name only, with the rival warlords having carved up the country into fiefdoms, with their armed militias imposing thug law on the helpless masses.
  • Fast-Roping: The first sign there's something wrong occurs when a green squad member attempts this trope but misses because the chopper had to dodge an RPG. In the book the film's based on, there's no RPG and no swerve, he just has a hand/eye coordination moment.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Subverted with Mike Durant, who survives the conflict as a Somali hostage.
  • Fingore: Gallentine almost loses his thumb and just tapes it to his hand to keep it in place.
  • Foregone Conclusion: If you've read about the battle, you already know who's going to die and who's going to survive, and that the UN mission overall will fail.
  • Gatling Good: The Little Bird and Black Hawk choppers are both equipped with miniguns, which basically shred their targets into meaty ribbons.
  • Gilligan Cut: A rare non-comedy example. An officer from the 10th Mountain Division tells Colonel McKnight that between the 10th Mountain and the UN troops, the relief force will have more than enough manpower to get to the crash sites and retrieve the Rangers. McKnight's men don't need to go back out into the city. The very next shot is McKnight climbing into a Humvee at the head of the convoy, before rolling back out, passing the UN tanks standing guard at the entrance to the stadium.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The mission was supposed to last thirty minutes (technically, it does- the objective is completed early in the film. The problem is the chaos that results from that objective).
  • Gorn: All the time, considering the fact that war isn't pretty.
    "There's a fucking ROCKET in him, sir!"
    • Othic, in the middle of a firefight, comes across a fellow soldier's severed hand, and immediately blinks out of combat mode as he wonders what to do with it (he eventually stuffs it into a pocket). In the Real Life incident, Othic knew whose hand it was, and put it into the pocket of the soldier that had lost it, causing a bit of a ruckus back at the base later when an unprepared nurse found it and freaked out.
    • One of the Deltas (Griz) is torn in half when an RPG hits the armoured car he's in. It doesn't kill him instantly.
  • Gunship Rescue: During the gun battle at night, where AH-6J Little Birds were called in to provide fire support — shredding any unfortunate Somalis caught in their sights.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • One of the Somali militiamen accidentally blows off the upper half of one of his comrades while trying to shoot one of Struecker's humvees with an RPG.
    • Delta operator Wex, who loses the lower half of his body to an RPG.
  • Hand Signals: To be expected in a film like this. Special mention goes to Hoot's coordinating the takedown of a technical gunner with an elaborate series of hand signals.
  • Headbutt of Love: Non-romantic example. At the end of the movie, two Rangers who have just returned safely to their base do this as a sort of manly, utterly exhausted alternative to a hug. In real life, when done with helmets on, this is known as "Turtle Fucking".
  • Headlock of Dominance: After catching Pilla performing his comical imitation of him, and acknowledging that it was Actually Pretty Funny, Captain Steele asks to have a word, before putting Pilla into a headlock and walking off with him in tow.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, the two Delta operators that go to help Durant take him from the chopper and place him in a nearby building, then go back to defend the chopper. This doesn't make much sense until you realize they didn't have enough men to guard the building. They were drawing the militia fighters away from Durant by using themselves as bait. However, it does almost end up becoming a Senseless Sacrifice, considering Durant got captured by the Somali militia anyway. Almost, in that they thinned out the armed crowd and it ended up mainly being unarmed Somalis who beat on Durant. He was then spared by Aidid's propaganda minister who decided to take him as a hostage. He was also helped by not being armed at the time of his abduction.
    • In the book, it becomes significantly more clear that they knew exactly what they were doing by going in on foot. They didn't have a chance of extraction by helicopter, and they were aware that the pilot (Durant) was unable to move fast enough to be extracted by foot. They went in knowing that there was a good chance they would be overrun by the hundreds of militia members they could see from their vantage point in the helicopter, and they did it anyway. There's a reason they were both awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.
  • High-Pressure Blood: In one gruesome scene, arterial blood sprays the faces of the team trying to treat it.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The Pentagon pressured the screenwriter to give this to Ewan McGregor's character, SPC John "Grimsey" Grimes, who was based on SPC John Stebbins. The real-life Stebbins was sentenced to thirty years in prison for raping his six year old daughter.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The recoilless rifle being used by Mo'alim, the Aidid militia commander seen through the movie, being turned on him by U.S. soldiers.
    • The kid and his dad that try to ambush a soldier as he exits a building. He slides to the ground as he exits the (couple feet high) door and the kid shoots his own dad instead.
  • Hold the Line: Eversmann tells Nelson and Twombly to hold a corner at one end of the street to cover the rest of the Rangers and Delta who were still loading the prisoners. Later on, as the Lost Convoy heads back to base, Eversmann tells his chalk that they will hold the strong point until the convoy arrives.
  • Hollywood History: While the movie is based on a true story, it removes any references that Malaysian Peace Keepers were also involved in the rescue of the downed Black Hawks. This angered the Malaysian government since the movie was implying the Malaysian did nothing when in reality Malaysian soldiers both fought and died together with their American counterparts in that rescue operation. The roles and actions of certain characters were changed as well, usually in the Composite Character spirit.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Smoke grenades, strobe lights, and other beacons used for marking positions for friendly aircraft, like the IR strobe Eversman threw onto the roof of a Somali-occupied building to mark it for a strafing run, are actually used to mark friendly positions. This avoids the possibility of an enemy picking up the beacon and throwing it back - note that one of the Somalis does in fact pick up the strobe in puzzlement, but is killed immediately afterwards.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Invoked by two Blackhawk pilots as Wolcott and Durant argue over the legitimacy of the word "Limo" in a game of Scrabble:
    Wolcott: You touch my limo and I'll spank you, Night Stalker. You hear me?
    Durant: Yeah. Promises.
  • The Idealist: SGT Eversmann. He receives some good-natured ribbing from his fellow Rangers over his being a dyed-in-the-wool believer in America's mission to help the Somali people.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: A Somali boy and his father attack a Ranger from both sides. The Ranger slips and falls, and the boy (shooting from the hip) shoots his own father.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kowalewski is killed when he is shot with an RPG, which passes partway out the other side of his body without blowing up.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Somalis keep their AKs on full-auto and tend to not aim all that much, whereas Delta Force and the Rangers take decently aimed single shots most of the time. The sheer number of Somalis makes this "spray & pray" strategy more effective than it would be otherwise.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Sgt. Dominick Pilla becomes the first American fatality when he gets shot in the throat while manning a Humvee turret.
  • In Harm's Way:
    Hoot: When I go home people'll ask me, 'Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, are you some kinda war junkie?' You know what I'll say? I won't say a goddamn word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand that it's about the men next to you, and that's it. That's all it is.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Subverted. The bullets used by both Delta and the Rangers were a new "penetrator" type, essentially light armor-piercing rounds. They had a particular tendency to not kill people who were hit by them, as the bullet wounds ended up being through-and-throughs, instead of the rapidly expanding or tumbling effects usually observed by full-metal-jacket rounds. According to the book, it was extremely common to shoot three guys, only for two of them to get up and drag the third out of the combat zone.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Between the Rangers and the Deltas. Steele outright accuses the Deltas of being undisciplined cowboys while Delta regards the Rangers as subpar (at least compared to the unquestionably elite Delta Force) soldiers hamstrung by conventional Army thinking.
  • It's Cuban: While being interrogated by Army Intelligence to learn where insurrectionist warlord Muhammad Aidid is hiding, Osman Ali Atto calmly smokes a cigar which he mentions is a genuine Cuban, given to him by Castro's emissaries for keeping the renegade factions supplied with weapons.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Captain Steele tends to be a bit of a Jerkass, giving condescending lectures to Delta Operators who he considers Mildly Military. At the same time, it's obvious that he acts out of concern for his men's well being, and he tends to come off as A Father to His Mennote .
    • Hoot in particular stands out as he seems more than a little callous about the whole conflict, and about the lives lost, not to mention his disregard for firearms safety. However, he is just hyper-professional, and encourages Eversmann not to doubt himself or how he handled the mission. In his last scene, he more or less says that the reason he fights is for the sake of the guy next to him. And then he puts the jerkass demeanour invoked back on, telling an (obviously exhausted and strung-out) Eversman not to try and go back out with him, because he works better alone.
  • Karmic Death: Joyce gleefully boasts that he doesn't need the kevlar plate in the back of his vest since he "doesn't plan on getting shot in the back running away." It didn't work out so well for him...
  • Kinda Busy Here:
    Lt. Col. McKnight: How are things going? Things okay there, Struecker?
    Sgt. Struecker: (racing his Humvee down a city street while bullets ricochet all around) I don't wanna talk about it right now, Colonel. I'm busy!
  • Large Ham: Captain Steele, to the point where one of his men is able to amuse a whole bunch of his men by doing imitations of him lecturing them for various perceived wrongs.
  • Last Stand:
    • Gordon and Shughart fight to the death to the defend the crash site of the second downed Blackhawk, going all the way down to their final few pistol rounds before they are overwhelmed.
    • Busch is the only person onboard Super Six One who is in any shape to defend the crash site. Help eventually comes, but by then Busch has sustained fatal injuries.
  • Manly Tears: Near the end of the film, one of the Deltas is loading up to go back out to try to rescue those still out there (such as Durant) and Eversmann starts to do the same only to be stopped by the Delta who tells him he works better alone. As the Delta soldier walks away, the stress of battle finally hits Eversmann and he weeps visibly.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • During the battle, Grimes manages to make some coffee and gives it to Sgt. Sanderson. After the battle, Sanderson tries to return the favor but can only find tea.
    • Before they leave on the mission, Eversmann tells Smith he needs him to watch his back out there, Smith replies with "It's nothing." When Smith is about to bleed to death during the battle later on, he assures Eversmann with the same phrase.
  • Meaningful Name: Eversmann, The Everyman. Surprisingly shallow in any character building details, never been in a firefight, somewhat more thoughtful about culture and the war in Somalia than his fellow Rangers. His main role in the movie is to give the audience someone they can relate to who interacts with most of the film's other characters. Similarly, the commander back at the headquarters is named Garrison. Of course, both people were Real Life participants in the battle.
  • The Medic: Two of them during the battle, one of whom, notably, was an Air Force Pararescueman in Real Life.
  • Military Maverick: Special Forces units. The book details how these could cause friction with more conventional units... which ended up having some negative consequences in the field.
  • A Million is a Statistic: The massive amount of civilian casualties mentioned in the book are only depicted in the film by a single shot of a man carrying his dead child.
  • Mission Creep: The film is set during the Battle of Mogadishu, which was a Trope Namer for Mission Creep when journalist Jim Hoagaland described the term when covering the conflict, and it's tragically illustrated in a film about soldiers finding a reality that severely complicates and compromises their brief. The film displays dramatically the manner in which a seemingly normal mission quickly gets severely complicated.
  • Monochrome Casting: With the exception of Kurth, all the other American characters are white.note 
  • Must Have Caffeine: A group of Rangers and Delta operators are bunkered up inside of a building, besieged by Aidid's militia. Grimes copes with the stress of the situation by finding a coffee pot somewhere and brewing some coffee, which he offers to one of the Deltas. Doubles as an actually useful thing to do (rather than just something for Grimes to do to keep busy), as tired soldiers in a combat situation can definitely use a small hit of caffeine to keep their edge, especially if things stay quiet long enough for them to start crashing/coming down from the adrenaline high.
  • Nave Newcomer: Grimes has served behind a desk for his entire army career, and this is his first combat mission. This makes for plenty of opportunities for exposition.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Twombly's attempt to gun down a trio of militiamen who sneak up on him and Nelson saves their lives but costs him in the long term. How? When Twombly, Yurek, and Nelson reach Eversmann's position, Nelson doesn't hear Twombly's instruction to turn back and cover him as he attempts to cross. The militiamen see them, Twombly's ammo bag gets shot burning him, Smith attempts to help Twombly, and receives fatal gunshot wounds.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: The Somalians are referred to as "Skinnies" by the Rangers, as they apparently were in real life. While many assume that this refers to the malnutrition of the locals, it's a reference to Starship Troopers, which is a popular book among the battalion and on the reading list at West Point.
  • No-Harm Requirement: Both the book and the movie detail an effort by Army Rangers and Airborne Ops to capture alive two Elite Mooks of a Somali warlord. The good news: they bag the two objectives intact. The bad news: Airborne unit Six-One goes down, and a simple extraction mission goes From Bad to Worse.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The movie's Catchphrase: "Leave No Man Behind", and accurately depicted as the Real Life policy of the Special Forces. Played With in the book, however. The book records several soldiers wondering about the wisdom of this policy as the efforts to free a dead pilot threatened to delay departure past sunrise, when the shooting would kick back in to high gear.
    • Also, Aidid's fighters were banking on this tendency in the Americans. Yousuf Dahir Mo'alim told Bowden, for the book, that they felt the best way to hurt the Americans was to somehow shoot down one of the helicopters, which would make them rush to the scene where they could be attacked.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: Randy Shughart is finally killed when he receives 12 pistol rounds to the chest at two feet away.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Aidid's propaganda minister tells Mike Durant this about Americans and Somalis. According to him, despite the differences of the political systems of the United States and Somalia, they're both militaristic nations who use violence to solve their problems, and they'll always use it, no matter how much they both want peace.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • General Garrison wanted light armor and gunship supportnote  for his men, but the request was denied so they were stuck with Humvees, Black Hawks and Little Birds.note 
    • The Quick Reaction Force is portrayed this way in the movie, when, upset that they were not informed of the raid, it takes them a little longer than it should to get all their forces assembled. In Real Life, they were informed of the raid, and were scrambling to get to both crash sites the second they were called (which was mere minutes after the first crash), but due to the Somalian Militia blocking off roads and setting up ambushes, they had to go all the way around the city, which took several hours. They were truly distressed that they weren't able to get to either crash site sooner.
  • Oh, Crap!: The look on Mo'alim, the Aidid militia officer's face, when he realizes Delta has commandeered his recoil-less rifle and are pointing it at him while he was distracted ordering his men to reload the machine gun he was using, before they finally kill him for all the grief he's caused them over the course of the battle.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Garrison goes out to one of the Black Hawks right before the start of the mission, Eversmann notices.
    Garrison: Good luck, boys. Be careful. No One Gets Left Behind.
    Grimes: What's wrong?
    Eversmann: Nothing. He's just never done that before.
    Grimes: Oh, fuck!
  • One-Woman Wail
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted, as a man who got shot in the leg dies painfully (both for him and the viewers; the scene where they try to stop him from bleeding out from the femoral artery is really graphic).
  • Pistol Whip: One of the Somalis that captures Durant uses his AK-47 as a makeshift club and smacks him across the face with the stock.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: People have pointed out that the soldiers never use the downed helicopters' mounted miniguns to defend the crash sites. Miniguns do not work without electricity, making them functionally useless.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In the book, one USAF Pararescueman runs across a street to pick up IVs and medical supplies. Not once, not twice, but three times. While the Rangers and Somalis are trading fire. He doesn't get hit at all.
  • Retirony: According to the book, most of the men in the platoon were just married, intending to marry, intending to get a new job or a promotion, a new father, an expecting father, etc. Justified because marrying and having kids young is very common in the military for various reasons.
  • Right Behind Me: SGT Pilla is entertaining a group of Rangers by pacing back and forth, mock-lecturing them in the style of Captain Steele. Suddenly all of the men stop laughing.
  • Rock Beats Laser: We occasionally see the Somalis' low-tech tactics. To neutralize the speed advantage of helicopters, they'd just have a kid hang around near the American base with a cell phone, who would call someone when a large group left, and then that person would have people start lighting tire fires, to act as a warning to Aidid's militia throughout the rest of the city that they were about to have company.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After the offensive, General Garrison notices a pool of blood in the ground, tries to clean it up and makes it worse. A clear metaphor of how the US Military's actions just managed to escalate a bad situation, killing a whole bunch of people in the process.
  • Running Gag: Grimes keeps getting shot with RPGs. Okay, so it's not a funny running gag. (In the actual campaign, Stebbins really did find himself near far too many explosions. Each time, his squadmates thought he was done, but each time he managed to survive somehow. He eventually makes it out of the combat zone with a badly injured foot; this is referenced when Sanderson asks Grimes about how his foot is.)
  • Scenery Gorn
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Zig-zagged. The sacrifice the two Delta operators that go to help Durant somewhat becomes this, as Durant ends up getting captured by the Somali militia anyway. On the other hand, he did survive to see another day, which may not have happened if he was left wedged inside the heli wreckage firing an MP5.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The first American death is the Class Clown, SGT Pilla, who is killed early in the fighting.
  • Shown Their Work: Historical inaccuracies aside, the film was and remains one of the best portrayals of the US military in action, and of war in general.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: One soldier has always been away from the fighting, a fact he says isn't his fault. It's because he has a rare and valuable skill beloved by the infantry that keeps him busy: he can type. note 
  • Sole Survivor: Durant is the only member of Super Six-Four's flight crew to survive the battle. Gordon and Shughart (who are both killed-in-action defending him) manage to keep him safe long enough for Aidid's men to take him prisoner, (and he is eventually released) but the mob that descends upon the crash site murders the other survivors (if they weren't killed when the chopper crashed).
  • Steel Ear Drums:
    • Averted. Nelson is left mostly deaf for the rest of the movie after a 5.56mm M249 squad automatic weapon is fired from within a foot from his head.
    • Subverted at another point in the film; Grimes barely dodges a Somali RPG and is knocked off his feet and partially buried by the dirt churned up by the blast. When a Delta digs him up, the viewer sees things from Grimes' perspective, including temporarily distorted audio due to the blast momentarily deafening him.
      Grimes: I can hear bells ringin'!
  • Stock Shout-Out: It's hard to find a First Person Shooter in a modern setting that doesn't have a reference to this movie somewhere.
    • Of particular note, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare features two levels highly reminiscent of the film: in one, the player and his fellow US Marines are deployed via Blackhawk helicopters (despite the Blackhawk not being part of the Marine's TO&E), and another, where the player must rescue a downed helicopter pilot from an enraged militia group; for bonus points there's a similar line ("We have a Cobra down, we have a Cobra down"), she's even armed with an MP5, and this also ends in a Senseless Sacrifice for everyone.
    • Resident Evil 5 of all games also features a few nods to the film; most easily recognized is the Agitator, a sunglasses wearing mid-level enemy whose primary purpose is to use a megaphone to incite riots among the region's population. At one point the two player characters are also tasked with rescuing a downed Blackhawk pilot.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: One of the helicopters unleashes a hail of minigun fire to ward off some Somalis on a rooftop. Unfortunately Eversmann is crouching directly underneath the helicopter and receives superficial burns from the spent shell casings; it takes fire to shoot a gun.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: After Col. McKnight's convoy took one too many RPG hits on their way to pick up the surrounded Rangers and Deltas at the second crash site, he bluntly tells mission control that he's got too many dead and wounded on board to be useful and requests permission to withdraw, regroup, and rearm before trying to go back to the second crash site again. After his request is granted, McKnight's convoy heads back to Mogadishu airport, stranding the Rangers and Deltas behind enemy lines, though he returns several hours later with a convoy of Pakistani Army tanks and APCs'.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Captain Steele and Sergeant Sanderson don't get along well. The Sarge steps up once when the Captain is being indecisive.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: McKnight has more than a bad gut feeling about the mission.
    McKnight: No Spectre gunships, daylight instead of night, late afternoon when they're all fucked up on Khat, only part of the city Aidid can mount a serious counter-attack on short notice... What's not to like?
  • Those Two Guys: Nelson and Twombly are rarely seen apart and provide some much needed comic relief.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Durant when Randy is killed.
  • Title Drop: Courtesy of LTC Gary Harrell : "Black Hawk down, we have a Black Hawk down."
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: All of them, especially Durant, who is taken prisoner.
  • Trope Codifier: Set the image of modern warfare for virtually every movie or video game that came after it.
  • Truth in Television: The film is based on true events, so every trope depicted is pretty much true.
  • Unflinching Walk: Everytime McKnight's convoy stops, he gets out and strolls around, apparently oblivious to the bullets flying past his head, to find out what's wrong.
  • Un-person: The character of Grimes was created to replace John Stebbins. They renamed that character, since Stebbins is serving 30 years for raping his own pre-teen daughter.
  • Urban Warfare: One of the few modern depictions of this trope prior to works based on the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • Vehicular Turnabout: A recoil-less gun mounted on a militia technical is taken over by Deltas and turned against the on-site commander, who had been causing them trouble all throughout the battle.
  • Verbal Tic: The Rangers tend to use "hooah" almost as a punctuation mark, which is Truth in Television, as "Hooah" can, depending on context and tone, mean anything and everything except "No."
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Sanderson tells Grimes to "stay off the walls" with no explanation. If you are leaning against a wall in a firefight, two things might happen: bullets striking the wall at a shallow angle might end up traveling along the wall and hit you, or an explosion will go off nearby and the wall will shake hard enough from the recoil to violently smash into you.
  • Villainous Rescue: After Durant is captured, the Somalis look ready to finish him off. Just then, members of Aidid's militia show up and claim him before they can kill him, firing a warning burst of gunfire to order the mob to stand down and back off. Granted, it's just so they can have a hostage to negotiate with, but it beats the certain death Durant would've faced otherwise.
  • Violence is the Only Option: "The only way to negotiate is to kill."
  • The Warlord: The objective of the Army Rangers is to capture the generals and lieutenants of Somali warlord Adid, to weaken Adid's power and possibly reveal Adid's hideouts. Adid's goons make a habit of butchering the locals and seizing humanitarian aid supplies for themselves. Of course, this mission goes horribly wrong, kicking off the events of the film.
  • Warm Place, Warm Lighting: The film tints a war-torn Somalia in yellow and grayish-green...except for the American bases which are lit in a cooler blue.
  • We Need a Distraction: During Hoot and the Delta team's stealth attack on the militia's recoilless cannon, Seizmore—as the only non-Delta Force member of the team—is assigned a role as a momentary distraction to draw their attention right before Hoot and the Delta commandos use the opportunity to garrote the militia and hijack the cannon. Notable in that the entire scene is coordinated without a word being spoken: Hoot uses hand signals to lay out the plan.
  • You Are in Command Now: The Lieutenant responsible for Chalk 4 has a seizure on the eve of the battle, forcing Eversmann to lead his unit. Similarly, when Cpt. Steele's Rangers have too many wounded to continue to the crash site, Delta Sgt. Sanderson (RL Sgt. Howe) has to push on without him.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Grimes has spent most of his career making coffee for his fellow Rangers, due to being trapped in the office by his ability to type.
  • Zerg Rush: The strategy employed by the lightly armed mobs, who were only nominally under warlord control. The paramilitary forces (none of the warlords had access to a real, regular army) controlled directly by the warlords were better equipped, trained, and led, if only by comparison, and were responsible for the downings of the Blackhawks and most of the pressure put on Eversmann's strongpoint throughout the night.
    • Gordon and Shughart are elite Delta Force snipers, career soldiers who are the absolute best of the best. But they're still two guys who, alongside the wounded and immobile Durant, are fighting an armed mob with hundreds of people in it. It's clear that they don't last particularly long defending the crash site, and even before the two of them are gunned down, they're almost completely out of ammo. All they had was their service rifles and sidearms, plus whatever could be salvaged from the crash site itself. The real Mike Durant said in a lecture he gave that the mob overran them in about fifteen minutes.