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Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!

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"We're not retreating, we're advancing in a different direction!"

Someone shouts an order or entreaty but is suddenly forced to change their stance and start chanting the opposite. Usually a Comedy Trope, but can also be presented as a valid military tactic.

The standard formula goes like this: repetition of a word or phrase; alarming change in circumstance; repetition of an inversion of the first. Or a straight reiteration of the first statement, given a humorous context by the new circumstances.

For example: "Chaaaaaaarge!" (giant rolling boulder appears) "Retreeeeaaaat!"

Commonly spoken by a Small Name, Big Ego. The change of circumstance often prompts an Oh, Crap! expression. See also Verbal Backspace, On Second Thought. Tactical Withdrawal is a non-comedic variant. Can be an element of Hit-and-Run Tactics or a Defensive Feint Trap. Be Careful What You Wish For often involves this, though more long-term. Compare Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh.... Contrast Attack! Attack! Attack!. May be a comedic Underequipped Charge. If the character Attack-Attacks anyway, they're probably a Boisterous Weakling.


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  • Happens twice in an ad for Nissin Seafood Cup Noodles. A group of prehistoric-looking people approach a tentacle that appears from behind a pile of rocks, and then retreat when its owner — a giant octopus — reveals itself. They then come back when the tentacle hangs out again, but then retreat when a giant squid pops out. And then the squid chases after them.
  • A 2012 Little Caesars commercial has a guy getting his pizza with no calling or waiting...
    Guy: There's no rules! [starts taking off his shirt]
    Employee: Put your shirt back on!
    Guy: There's one rule! [puts it back on]

    Anime & Manga 
  • Early in Attack on Titan, Hannes declares his intentions to fight and defeat a Titan to save Eren & Mikasa. He charges ahead, gets one solid look at the Titan, immediately grabs Eren & Mikasa, and runs away with them instead. Most definitely NOT played for comedy.
  • In Digimon Adventure, during the final battle against Piedmon and his army of Vilemon, a few Vilemon chance some small digimon (Otamamon and Gekomon) as they all go off screen. Then the Vilemon run back on screen, chased by three much larger digimon.
  • A variation happens in the first episode of Dragon Ball; Bulma first tells Goku to stay put, (while she goes to the bathroom,) then immediately shouts for him to come over quickly when a monster traps her.
  • Girls und Panzer:
    • In episode 8, the Ooarai girls' team gets a bit too excited chasing down a Pravda tank during the match. They are then led into a town and are completely surrounded by other Pravda tanks. Miho, the Oorai's tank captain, has them retreat into a large church, where they are then asked by a Pravda representative to surrender the match to them.
    • In the final battle, they fall victim to this again: when they enter a city, they spy a lone enemy tank. They chase it to gun it down before the rest of the enemy team gets there... only to be ambushed by a freaking Maus super-heavy tank! The retreat order is sounded pretty quickly after that.
    • Rosehip from St. Gloriana especially guilty of this, since she's always the first to charge in despite her tank is a Fragile Speedster.
  • During The Orange Island Saga on Pokémon: The Original Series, Jesse's Lickitung chases after a pair of Nidoran and chases them into a cave. Two seconds later, it's running out in terror as they come back out with Nidoking.
  • In OVA 1.1 of Squid Girl, Eiko and Squid Girl are playing an RPG game. In one scene, they are rushing towards a bunch of Mooks and mowing them down. In the very next scene, they're running away from some giant monsters chasing them.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex after a running battle against a horde of mooks with small arms, the protagonist call a retreat, prompting complaints from one their Tachikoma's (a sentient Spider Tank that is imprevious to small arms) that it wants to fight some more. Seconds later, one of the mooks fires an anti-tank rocket in their direction, prompting the Tachikoma to flee immediately.
  • The C-rank idiot trio in World Trigger launches a successful assault on a Bamster, complete with a cool entrance and a flashy name for their combination attack. As soon as it's destroyed a modded Rabbit, a terrifying looking enemy they've never seen before, climbs out of it and fires a powerful beam at them. This prompts an immediate retreat in the opposite direction.

    Card Games 

  • Eddie Izzard, explaining how Russia's geography repelled both Napoleon's army and the Nazis:
    Eddie Izzard: Napoleon had been steaming in there 100 years before: "I'm going to kill them, I'm going to kill them, going to — Oh, it's a bit cold, it's a bit cold. Right! OK, OK, bad idea." And then Hitler, "I've got a better idea, got a better idea — Oh, it's the same idea! It's the same idea, it's the same idea..."

    Comic Books 
  • The usual outcome of challenging the Gauls in Asterix, once given added funniness by the narrative.
    In attack, the Romans employ the formidable military manoeuvre known as "The Tortoise".
    [short fight scene]
    In retreat, the Romans employ the useful military manoeuvre known as "The Hare".
  • In a Lucky Luke episode, the fire brigade comes. The baddies who committed the arson in first place shoot a bullet at them. The fire brigade gets the hint and leaves.
  • Democracy: When the Athenians rebel against the Spartans, the Spartans, at first, try to hold them down, only for Leonidas to order them to retreat and seek security in Acropolis.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a Cathy strip, we have a Saleswoman shouting "COME BACK!" and variations over the course of three panels/months. By the time customers (read: Cathy) finally come back, all she says is "Go away".

    Fan Works 
  • A Child Shall Lead Them (Transformers): Cyclonus and Scourge are chasing Wheelie through Unicron's interior. They round a corner... and find themselves facing the Dinobots. Cue Scourge pulling this trope.
    Scourge: You distract them, I'll go for help. [runs]
  • Played for Drama in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. Determined to make sure that Ash is alright after hearing an explosion, Misty decides to face her fears and not let a Beedrill stop her. A trio of them follows suit, and she doesn't let them stop her either. But when a whole swarm in the hundreds appears, she has no choice but to run away.
  • In Chapter 53 of The Dursley Witch, the Gryffindor students go from encouraging Harry to open the golden egg to begging for him to close it as soon as it makes a horrible noise.
  • Universe Falls: In "Strong in the Real Way", the Manotaurs try to chase Sugilite off their territory. She just throws a huge boulder at them, forcing them to run screaming back into the Man Cave.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin:
    • Inverted when Abu grabs a sword and threatens the oncoming guardsmen. The guards panic for a moment, until their leader Razoul reminds them that they all have swords!
      Guard: He's got a sword!
      Razoul: You idiots! We've all got swords!
    • The title character has this to say: "Abu! This Is No Time to Panic!... Start panicking!"
    • In the sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar:
      Iago: [in a birdcage] C'mon! OPEN THE CAGE! Open it! Open it! OPEN IT! [Abu sees Rajah the tiger nearby, smirks and opens the cage] Yeah, that's more like it— DAH! [sees Rajah snarling menacingly at him] CLOSE THE CAGE! Close it! Close it! CLOSE IT!
  • An American Tail: "Welease the Secwet Weapon!" "Stop the Weapon!" "Release the Weapon!" "Make up your mind!" "Release the blasted weapon!" What was happening: A false alarm caused the mice to start to release their secret weapon too early. But the effort to stop the weapon before it was loose takes them right to the scheduled release time, forcing them to scramble once again, this time to release it.
  • Cinderella:
    Duke: Stop that coach! Close those gates! [Cinderella's coach slips through before the gates close] Follow that coach! Open those gates!
  • In the German animated movie The Fearless Four, Buster the dog grabs Tortellini the rooster by the tail to keep him from falling. Tortellini snaps "Let me go, silly dog, let me go!", only to see guards below and say "Don't let go, don't let go!"
  • In G.I. Joe: The Movie, there is a nod to this trope when Cross Country chases his runaway HAVOK out of sight, shouting "Stop, mule! Stop! STOP!", only to almost immediately come running back shouting "GO! GO! GO! It's..." (cue entrance of COBRA forces shouting "COBRA!")
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown, with Sid the Sloth near the end.
    Sid: We're gonna LIVE! [beat for the realization of rising water all around them] We're gonna DIE!
  • In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Crash and Eddie charge at a carnivorous plant while carrying sticks like swords and yelling battle cries...then run away screaming from the plant's attacking vines.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: When the Furious Five attempt to bring down Shen's cannon factory.
    Monkey: [dropping a dozen barrels of explosives inside] Here's your New Year's gift!
    Mantis: Hope you like it, 'cuz you can't return it!
    Tigress: Po?! What's he doing here?
    Monkey: [as he frantically tries to snuff out the burning barrels] Return it! Return it!
  • In The Lion King (1994) the reversal is shared between two different characters, with the first requesting for release from his prison and the latter asking for the safety of the bars instead:
    Zazu: [in a cage] Let me out, let me out!
    Timon: [being chased] Let me in, let me in!
  • In the climax of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Timon tells Pumbaa "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," and they charge into the battle between the Pridelanders and Outsiders. They then chicken out when confronted by an Outsider.
    Timon: Like I said, LET'S GET GOING!
  • Mulan: During the fight against the Huns, Mulan runs out by herself armed with a cannon and a totally crazy idea. Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po follow after her to help. Then they see the avalanche Mulan caused with the cannon, and immediately run as fast as they can in the opposite direction. Currently provides the page image.
  • Disney's Robin Hood (1973), when Robin is chained up and about to be executed there is a change in John's orders in the span of a couple of minutes, depending on how uncomfortably close a dagger is to his back:
    Prince John: [throwing a tantrum] Off with his head!
    [Little John secretly threatens him from behind with a dagger] Let him go, for heaven's sake! Let him go!
    [the Sheriff distracts Little John, who releases Prince John] Kill him! Don't stand there! Kill him!
  • Robots, where Fender is captured by a dreaded Sweeper.
    Fender: Help! Let me out! Open the door! OPEN THE DOOR! [doors open to reveal the Chop Shop] WHOA! Close the door! CLOSE THE DOOR!
  • Tarzan:
    Jane: Put me down, put me DOWN! [a million maddened baboons appear] NOOOO, PICK ME UP, PICK ME UP, PICK ME UUUUUUUUUPPPPPPPPP!!
  • In Treasure Planet, during the supernova, Captain Amelia orders: "Secure all sails!" And then when Dr. Doppler points out that he can predict the next magilla wave coming out of the black hole, and she decides they can ride that out of there, she turns to the crew, who have just finished tying down the sails, and we have this exchange:
    Mr Arrow: All sails secured, Captain!
    Captain Amelia: Good man! Now release them immediately!
    Pirates: But we just finished tying them down! Make up your bloomin' minds!
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. On hearing that their vegetables will be used as bait to attract the Were-Rabbit, Mrs. Mulch flees with her giant pumpkin, whilst the townsfolk yell at her "Come back! Come back!" The Were-Rabbit then approaches, prompting her to about turn. The villagers then realize what is happening and start yelling "Go away! Go away!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 300: Those in back cried "Forward!", those in front cried "Back!" ... The guy in front screaming "Back!" gets brutally stabbed just after saying it.
  • Subverted in The Avengers. Captain America gives a policeman directions on how to best control the situation when an alien army attacks the city. The policeman at first dismisses his advice, then once he sees the good Captain at work against several Chitauri, immediately repeats Cap's orders to his men, verbatim.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The cavalry rides out through the city gates, followed by the Admiral screaming "Charge!" — cue the gates being closed — "Let me in!"
  • In The Delta Force, a hundred terrorists charge a schoolhouse, thinking their opposition consists only of two Delta Force operators, only to turn tail and run when one operator sets off the explosives that they had planted in the building before the terrorists arrived.
  • Evolution: An alien burrows into Harry Block's leg.
    Dr. Paulson: We might have to amputate.
    Harry Block: Whoa, Doc! Don't take the leg! Ira, don't let them take my leg.
    Ira Kane: Isn't there anything else you can do? He thinks he's an athlete.
    Nurse Tate: Doctor, look!
    Dr. Paulson: It's headed for his testicles.
    Harry Block: (beat) TAKE IT! TAKE IT! TAKE THE LEG!!!
  • A rare case of this trope Played for Drama, and definitely not a Tactical Withdrawal, happens in The Film of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:
    Boromir: [after discovering the long-dead dwarves inside the West Gate of the mines of Moria] We should never have come here. Now get out of here; get out!
    [cue attack by Watcher in the Water]
    Gandalf: Into the mines!
  • In the beginning of Ghostbusters (1984), the 'busters find a ghost librarian. At this point, they do not have their proton packs;
    Ray: Get 'er!
    Ghost Librarian: (Nightmare Face)
    (Smash Cut to Peter, Ray, and Egon running out of the library, screaming)
  • The first American Godzilla film. The Intrepid Reporter's cameraman, Victor "Animal" Palotti (Hank Azaria), runs down a hallway and encounters several baby Zillas.
    Animal: This way! This way!
    [baby Zilla roars; Animal returns]
    Animal: Not this way! Back that way!
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
    • In Part 1, Harry tests his newly acquired wand by attempting to make a flame in a jar grow using an engorgement charm. He has to use the Reduction charm almost instantly as the tiny flame in the jar turns into a monstrous column of fire.
    • Part 2: In the Room of Requirement, Ron chases Goyle furiously after he tries to AK Hermione, only to run away screaming, "Goyle set the bloody place on fire!"
  • In Home Alone, burglars Harry and Marv are forced into this when they try to monkey bar across a tightrope to Kevin’s treehouse in pursuit of him and Kevin picks up a pair of lawn choppers.
  • One scene in Hook has Captain Hook holding a pistol to his head, threatening to commit suicide:
    Capt. Hook: This is it. Don't try to stop me this time, Smee. Don't try to stop me this time, Smee. [Smee just sits there, doing nothing, knowing it's a bluff] Don't you dare try to stop me this time, Smee! Smee, try to stop me. Smee, you'd better get up off your ass. Get over here, Smee!
  • I Come in Peace: From Larry, when he asks Jack to stop driving on the sidewalks as they're being chased by the bad alien:
    Larry: Get back on the street, get back on the street! [sees the alien] Stay on the sidewalk, stay on the sidewalk!
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:
    • Another all-screaming version with the title character chasing one of the bad guys armed with nothing but a sword... until the bad guy's friends show up (similar to the above Star Wars example), causing a hasty retreat.
    • Also, later, Indy stops the runaway mine-cart by pressing his foot against the wheel, causing his foot to catch on fire. He hops around while Whillie tries to kick dirt at it, shouting, "Water, water! Water!" A few seconds later, the deluge unleashed by Mola Ram comes flooding through the entire tunnel, destroying everything in its path. "Water! Waaater!" While it's the same word, Indy is extremely panic-stricken and clearly doesn't want it anymore.
  • In Iron Man, Yinsen does this to some Ten Rings terrorists shortly before he gets shot.
  • In Jurassic Park 3, after the plane lands on Isla Sorna, the team of mercenaries set off to secure the island (despite Alan Grant's warning that you cannot secure an island filled with wild dinosaurs). One loud roar later, the mercs are rushing back to the plane.
  • Labyrinth:
    • In a rare scene not featuring "The Area", when they are fighting their way through the Goblin City: "Chaaaaaaaaarge!... Ruuuuuuuuun!"
    • From the same battle...
      Goblin: Steady, men! Hold your ground!
      [Ludo's boulder knocks the goblins over]
      Goblin: Okay, I take it back - Run for your lives!
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: The set-piece of chasing an enemy until all his mates turn up seen in Indiana Jones is repeated in this film.
  • Maverick: Maverick's old pappy used to say "He who fights and runs away... can run away another day".
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • The hero's Battle Cry quickly breaks down into a rather disorderly call for retreat. The French counterattack by launching farm animals at the attackers.
      Knights: CHARGE! CHARGE!
      [one livestock bombardment later]
      Knights: RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!
    • Also brilliantly done when the group confronts the Killer Rabbit.
  • From The Mummy Returns, as the heroes escape from Ahm Shere:
    Izzy: [as Jonathan is hanging from a rope ladder] Pull him up! Pull him up!
    Jonathan: Pull me up! Pull me up! [sees the giant diamond on top of the pyramid] Wait! Let me down! LET ME DOWN!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights has the Sheriff of Rottingham telling his men to get Robin until Robin puts a sword to his throat, and his orders become, "Wait, I've... changed my mind."
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Happy Hogan attempts to protect Peter Parker's friends while Spider-Man takes on Mysterio:
    Happy Hogan: I gotta get you guys out of here! Get on the jet!
    MJ: Who are you?
    Happy Hogan: I work with Spider-Man!
    Flash Thompson: You work for Spider-Man?
    Happy Hogan: I work with Spider-Man, not for Spider-Man! [one of Mysterio's drones blows up the jet] New plan!
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture starts with three Klingon battlecruisers encountering V'Ger and firing photon torpedoes at it. When the torpedoes are neutralized and V'Ger fires back, the Klingons beat a hasty (yet futile) retreat.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope:
      • The heroes are being pursued through the Death Star: "Close the blast doors! Close the blast doors!" (doors close immediately after the heroes dive through) "Open the blast doors! Open the blast doors!"
      • Earlier, Han, Luke, and company turn a corner and run directly into about half a dozen stormtroopers. Han shoots one and the rest flee in a panic. Han chases them screaming only to find a huge contingent of stormtroopers around the corner. Oh, Crap!. Cue Han's headlong screaming retreat. One of the few things the Re-Cut improved was replacing the handful of soldiers with an entire hangar full of them, making Han's reaction much more justified (and funnier). Nonetheless, the original cut is (arguably) just as funny, where the stormtroopers hit a dead end, and then turn around to chase Han. It's very obvious that they just did a check headcount and went "Hey, wait a minute..."
    • The Force Awakens: Finn and Rey are running toward a ship in a salvage yard when he points out another one. "That one's garbage!" (the ship they were running for gets blown to smithereens) "The garbage will do!" Made funnier by the "garbage" ship being revealed as the Millennium Falcon.
  • In Starship Troopers, the Mobile Infantry land on the alien world of Klendathu and go from contact to a panicked rout back to the dropships in the span of about half a minute, after only two casualties. The director explains that the intent was to depict the Mobile Infantry as a Fascist, but Inefficient Paper Tiger.


    Live-Action TV 
  • The Italian army in 'Allo 'Allo! embodies this trope. The bombastic Italian officer and his men keep demanding the place of honour in any German-led act of aggression, but within minutes are either retreating or have surrendered. Their German allies exasperatedly put up with this but are not happy.
  • The A-Team: In "In Plane Sight", Pete and Mack run after Murdock after finding out that he isn't who he says he is... only to turn around and run the opposite way when they're met by Hannibal, Face, and B.A., who had been hiding around the corner of a nearby building.
  • In Blackadder's first episode, when Prince Edmund thinks the castle is under attack:
    Edmund: Run for the hills! Run for the hills!
    Baldrick: My lord, they're coming from the hills.
    Edmund: Run away from the hills! Run away from the hills! If you see the hills, run the other way!
  • Blake's 7. In "Redemption", our heroes manage to escape into the launch bay holding the Liberator. A squad of Faceless Goons get the Slow Doors open and charge after them, only to come running back out when they're scorched by the blast of the Liberator taking off.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "The Zeppo", an axe-wielding Xander chases a zombie down a corridor, only for them both to come tearing out again chased by members of a demon cult.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Ghost Monument", when the Doctor and company are hiding from SniperBots, Ryan decides to go Call of Duty on them, grabbing the gun of a downed one and running out to attack, shooting three of them... only for the three robots to stand right back up again, and Ryan realizes he doesn't know how to reload, sending him running back for cover. The Doctor is none too impressed.
  • In Family Matters, Urkel makes a double or nothing bet that he could beat someone in a game of pool. Things start off well for Urkel until the punk he was playing takes and crushes his glasses. Since he's Blind Without 'Em and had no money to pay, he was grabbed by two lackeys and carried up some stairs to be ruffed up. They only make it up a few steps, before they have to back down the stairs, with a very angry Carl following behind.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • "Valar Morghulis":
      Grenn: Two blasts is Wildlings.
      Edd: You're not fighting them alone. Come on.
      [third blast]
      Grenn: Three blasts?note 
      Edd: RUN!
    • Played much darker in the Season 5 episode "Hardhome". As the Others arrive at Hardhome, the Magnar of Thenn gives orders to shut the gate in the face of the thousands of wildlings outside the settlement. As the gates are closed, others left outside start screaming for them to open the gate to try and protect them from the Others, though it doesn't help them.
  • The 2nd season opening for The Monkees shows the boys rushing down the beach towards the water for a swim. Wave comes in, they do a quick 180 turn and dash back up the beach with the wave lapping at their heels. All in undercranked fast motion.
  • In the Mudpit episode "Travelin' Band":
    Fitsy: I'm in.
    G: Great! See you tomorrow.
    Fitsy: I'm out.
  • In The Nanny episode "The Playwright", Fran tries to talk a former classmate out of jumping off a building.
    Fran: [looking down] Oh my God, Jeffrey, look how high up we are! Oh, Jeffrey, I'm scared! Hold my hand! Hold my hand!
    Jeffrey Needleman: I'm gonna jump...
    Fran: Let go of my hand! Let go of my hand!
  • So Random!, "Kickin' Daisies":
    Nolan: Zoey? She is dead to me!
    Zoey: Hey Nolan.
    Nolan: Zoey? You are alive to me!

  • Used as a pun in the André Manuel / Krang song "Ten Aarzel". The Dutch phrase "ten aanval!" means "attack! / charge!". The verb "aarzelen" means "to hesitate". Thus, the trope is evoked using clever wordplay.

  • In episode five of Mystery Show, Starlee asks her friend Sloane to approach Jake Gyllenhaal and ask him how tall he is. Then she remembers how that's gone badly in the past, and sends her a follow-up text telling her not to. Unfortunately, Sloane only gets the "Attack Attack" and not the "Retreat Retreat".

    Pro Wrestling 
  • At the unauthorized ROH A Night Of Hoopla, the crowd had been chanting "Take your pants off!" and "Pants still on!" at Davey Richards both before, during and after a "Pants Off Dance Off" between Truth Martini's Hoopla Hotties. When Richards finally gave in and pulled them down, the chant became "Keep them on!"

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: Season 4, Episode 20 (featuring Alan Arkin). Miss Piggy doesn't like Arkin's choice of a closing number ("Pig Shuffle") and decides to voice her protest with a karate chop. Thing is, Arkin had drunk a Jekyll & Hyde potion earlier, and the blow switches Arkin to his monster side. Miss Piggy quickly flees.
  • Muppet Treasure Island: The island Boars show up and are about to provide reinforcements against the pirates, but are scared off when Long John Silver shoots off the headdress of the lead boar.
    Chief Boar: You! Tiny pirate men stand down, or die like stinking dogs!
    [Long John Silver shoots off the headdress]
    Chief Boar: Ah. Me see you have boom-boom sticks. [beat] Bye-bye.
    [tribe runs away]

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, after Daigo forces Rhys to shoot Carlie in friendly fire, Rhys produces a bayonet and charges at Daigo in retaliation. He quickly realises his mistake when Daigo effortlessly grabs him and tries to throw him in the way of incoming spears.

  • Hamilton: the song "Stay Alive" has George Washington and Charles Lee arguing over plans on the battlefield with Washington shouting "attack!" and Lee "retreat!". This is based on the real-life battle of Monmouth, where a similar incident occurred.

    Video Games 
  • In the opening of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Jack finds Colonel Zarpedon at the escape ships, having earlier mentioned that the first person to shoot her in the head "gets a high five and a turbomansion." True to his word, he immediately orders an attack when he spots her at the escape ships.
    Jack: Hey, it's that Colonel! Execute Plan "Shoot that chick in the head!" [takes potshots at Zarpedon in her Humongous Mecha]
    Zarpedon: Hello, Jack. [an alien suddenly rises up, stops Jack's bullets, and drops them harmlessly to the floor.]
    Alien: Naughty.
    Jack: [now suitably cowed] Okay, that's unnerving. RUN!
  • This happens during the ending of Crime Crackers.
  • In the fifth installment of Dynasty Warriors, the barbarian king Meng Huo is repeatedly bested in battle by Zhuge Liang. One of his event quotes follows this trope.
    Meng Huo: No more retreating, I swear!
    [Meng Huo and his Nanman army are soundly thrashed for the fourth or fifth time that stage]
  • The Fairly OddParents: Breakin' da Rules has the level "Crash Landing", in which Yugopatamian mooks will beam down and attack Timmy. All the player needs do is walk towards them, and they will back away before finally retreating back to their ship.
  • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 uses this trope in Chapter 13. Rist, an enemy boss, will lead a charge on Tahra with his army, but as soon as he dies, what's left of his army will flee the way they came (and the 4 ballistas in the area will stop firing).
  • God of War:
    • From Chains of Olympus:
      Soldier: [while trying to fight off a Cyclops with his fellow soldiers] Flank him! Flank him! [Cyclops squashes one of the soldiers] Flee! Flee for your lives!
    • From the novelization:
      Athenian Soldier: [while running from a Minotaur] Run! You have to run!
      Kratos: [with scalding contempt] Spartans run toward the enemy.
  • Unintentional in Guild Wars 2 with the speed-boosting warcry "Retreat!" Rarely used to retreat, mostly used as the most demotivational gap closer or travel convenience in history. (Changed in an August 2021 patch: "Guardians never retreat, so this shout skill has been renamed "Advance!")
  • Halo:
    • In a slight variation, in Halo 3, Grunts will sometimes shout "Charge... backwards!"
    • In Halo Wars, your AI-controlled allies usually attack with just one unit, and when greeted with one bullet, immediately runs in the opposite direction.
  • Infinity Wars has the Fleeting Footman, who retreats whenever he would go into combat with an enemy.
    Fleeting Footman's Flavour Text: ATAAAAAAAAAACK! Wait… RETREEEAT!
  • Jak II: Renegade: Daxter inadvertently activates a handful of bombs, with Vin trying to keep him and Jak calm. Vin: "Don't move! (Beat) On second thought, move! Far away!"
  • In the Kingdom Under Fire games, some of the more chaotic battles will have you attacking and retreating repeatedly as events unfold on the battlefield. It's not uncommon to hear your commander invoke this trope word for word.
  • The Last Sovereign: A succubus commander is refusing to retreat or surrender in the face of overwhelming odds, despite her troops' protests, when suddenly Aka surprises the commander with a knife to her back. Before Aka can even get a sentence out she surrenders immediately much to Aka's bewilderment and her underling's incredulity. Her reasoning is that there's no honor in surrendering to a bunch of grunts, a sexy assassin chick on the other hand...
  • Spyro the Dragon: Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!: This trope doubles as Didn't Think This Through with Ripto. When the title villain summons his monster Gulp to do away with Spyro after Crush is defeated, Gulp tries to get through the door, but the impact causes the roof to cave in on them and they retreat.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: When traveling at night, Link may be set upon by large wandering flocks of Keese, a type of batlike enemies. These will immediately bear down on him and attempt to swarm him up until he kills even a single one of them, at which point the whole flock will instantly turn tail and flee. A similar thing occurs with regular wolves Link can encounter in the wilderness, which come in packs of two to four and will attack him when they spot him. Despite their initial aggressiveness, they will cut their losses and flee like other animals do should Link kill one of their packmates.
  • Metroid Fusion: The frozen Blue X exploit Samus's newly-acquired weakness to cold by forcing Samus to absorb them, freezing her from within. Once she reacquires the Varia Suit, this no longer works and she recovers HP as normal — but the X don't know that until they've seen it fail a few times. Once they figure it out, usually in the middle of a swarm, they'll flee from Samus for the rest of the game.
  • Modern Warfare 1 (Call of Duty 4) has an inversion (Retreat! Retreat... attack! Attack!): after Price's squad's been forced to retreat up a hill towards a helicopter landing zone (LZ) by a neverending army of Russian forces, they're told that the LZ's no longer usable due to the presence of anti-air missiles in the area, and that the nearest safe LZ would be at the bottom of the hill... right through the Russians. And to rub a little extra salt into it, you passed by that LZ on your way up. Gaz is... suitably vocal in his displeasure.
  • Pac-Man: Two of the intermissions of the classic game feature this. The first one has a ghost chasing Pac-Man only to be seen in vulnerable form going back the other way as a giant Pac-Man closes on it. In the third intermission, the ghost runs across the screen and then runs back the other way dragging its ghost suit with it. It's also constantly present in regular gameplay, with the ghosts turning away from Pac-Man the second he grabs a Power Pellet.
  • Portal 2:
    Announcer: Stalemate detected. Transfer procedure cannot continue.
    GLaDOS: Yes!
    Wheatley: Pull me out pull me out pull me out pull me out pull me out pull me out pull me out!
    Announcer: ...unless a stalemate associate is present to press the stalemate resolution button.
    Wheatley: Leave me in! Leave me in! Leave — Go pre... Go press it!
  • Played for drama in Return Of The Obra Dinn: During Chapter VII, Gunner Christian Wolff orders Abraham Akbar to hoist up the cannon, move it by hands and "aim level" at the kraken that is attacking the ship. On Wolff's command of "Ready!", Akbar lights up the fuse, but then the beast intervenes, grabs both the gunner and the cannon and pushes them against each other while entrapping Akbar between the cannon and the hull. In a panic, Wolff shouts out to the seaman to put out the same cannon fuse, but Akbar gets crushed in his attempt to do so. The results are... not so pretty at all.
  • In Snapimals, you can find a cheetah chasing a dik-dik. You can also find a dik-dik chasing a cheetah. Downplayed, however, as the descriptions for these events state that the animals are only playing.
  • Star Fox 64 had a boss which gave commands to a train throughout a level. For most of the level, you chase him down as he shouts "Step on the gas!" to his subordinates, but if you hit a series of 8 switches before a certain point in the track, you can change his route so that he crashes into a supply depot. Upon realizing what you've done, he shouts "No! Hit the Braaaakes!", but it's too little too late. The resulting explosion takes out the entire base, which was the actual intent of the mission.
  • There are occasions where this can occur in Town of Salem. The town can be completely against someone they want to lynch, and then something can happen or be revealed which proves that lynching that person would be bad, leading to cries of "inno! INNO!" in the chat. The two main instances are a Mayor revealing on the stand (proving that the player is Town, and a Town with a *triple vote* at that), or it suddenly occurring to the Town that the person on the stand is a Jester, who will kill one of the people who votes guilty on them.
  • Pretty much the standard situation in a game-round of Verdun. You attack with your squadmates, and make the enemy retreat, or take enough casualties and fall back in panic. Overlaps with Tactical Withdrawal, since if you don't retreat in time, you will be shot for desertion.
  • Often the result of wars in the Civilization franchise with lopsided technology. The AI will often declare war on you, spend twenty turns throwing their Crossbowmen into your field cannons and then make a panicked peace treaty when it catches on to what's happening.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • In the animation proper:
      Simmons: Any second now the Blues are going to come running over that hill, guns blazing, screaming CHAAAAARGE!
      [cuts to the Blues getting attacked by Tex]
      Church: RETREEEEEEEAT!
    • They had some fun with this in the bloopers.
      Simmons: Any second now the Blues are goin' to come running over that hill, charging, guns blazing, screaming — [stammers] — fuck!
      [Blues come running over the hill]
      Church and Tucker: FUUUUUCK!
  • The Kritzkrieg edition of Team Service Announcement has the RED Demoman ordering his team's Medic, Pyro, and Scout to attack a Kritzkrieg-charged BLU Soldier. This ends messily and hilariously.
    RED Demoman: KILL HIM! [boom] [Beat] ...RUUUUN!

  • 8-Bit Theater provides this:
    Red Mage: Use your weapons, they are designed to inflict damage!
    [one panel later]
    Red Mage: Our weapons are useless, reliance upon them is death!
  • A rather justified action in this Awkward Zombie strip. It's kinda a bad idea to send a Pokémon into battle if it's also your current mode of transportation.
  • In Bob and George's first actual gag, Mega Man went from the Badass Boast about big trouble the other guy was in, to talking about how much it would hurt.
  • Freefall: The Mayor wants to open the lichen museum, but after Sam Starfall and Helix emerge from the museum and give back the giant Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony scissors they stole out of her hands, she changes her mind.
    Mayor: If you can't find Sam, find another pair of scissors. I want to open this museum!
    Helix: Here are your scissors back. Thank you. Have to run now. Bye!
    Mayor: [squinting suspiciously] I do not want to open this museum.
  • Girl Genius: Among the illustrations for The WORKS card game, there is a panel where Agatha is fleeing from three murderous constructs. Next panel, the constructs are fleeing from Agatha, now armed with a Death Ray.
  • Goblins:
    • This happens to Dellyn Goblinslayer:
      Dellyn: Get over there and kill anything that isn't human!
      [two strips later]
      Dellyn: Close the west gate! Close the west gate!
    • And to Kin shortly afterward. Actually an inversion: she wanted to keep the spear to defend with... it's just that the spear magically reappears after being thrown.
      Kin: Don't throw the spear!
      [following page]
  • In strip #181 of The Order of the Stick, the adventuring party is walking through a slightly damp corridor before stumbling upon an area of magical darkness. When Haley finally finds the edge of the darkness, she calls for her comrades to join her... before realizing she's nose-to-snout with a black dragon.
    Haley: Back into the darkness!
    Roy: But you just said—
  • Rusty and Co.:
    • A close variant in strip #31:
      Princess & Mimic: Cross the bridge!!!
      Rusty: No cross!
      Princess & Mimic: Cross the bridge!!!
      Rusty: No cross!
      Princess & Mimic: Don't cross the bridge! Don't cross the bridge!
    • In Level 11, "Castle Life", when the besieged castle's denizens look for safety in the treasure room...
      Dorilys: This is the safest place we can be right now. We really shouldn't leave, for any reason.
      [rumble rumble]
      Presti: EARTHQUAKE!
      Dorilys: Everybody get outside! Go! Go! Go!

    Web Original 
  • In the Web Serial Novel Worm, the Merchants, a gang of criminals, march into the main character's territory... and then start running as her creepy Bug-controlling powers start to attack them.
  • Has a trend of occurring in Dream's Manhunts.
    • The most obvious examples are the 3 hunters chasing Dream, only to see him drinking a potion (including the famous Fire Resistance potion gambit), then immediately run away, due to the absurd damage output of the potions, able to easily chew through iron armor.
    • Another example is the beginning in "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters FINALE REMATCH.", where the usual process of Dream running away with no gear ends with him finding a ruined portal chest and taking out a golden sword, causing the hunters to panic and run.

    Web Videos 
  • Inverted by the The Angry Video Game Nerd during his review of Friday the 13th:
    AVGN: [while Jason has him cornered] Please don't kill me. [Jason holds up the Friday the 13th game] Kill me.
  • Critical Role episode 10 has Grog say "I would like to Rage" as per the norm during a battle, but since there was an order given to retreat, he adds "...and RUN!" Hilariously, being in Rage mode does help him leg it quicker.
  • Channel Awesome:
    • In the first episode of Kickassia, a frenzied charge on the nation of Molossia is cut short when the President pulls a machinegun on them, causing them to run away in a panic.
    • From the trailer of Suburban Knights: "Run like children!"
    • Also from Suburban Knights: "Wet yourselves and run!"
    • In To Boldly Flee: "The control room is this way!" [brakka brakka brakka] "Detour!"
  • One has to look carefully in order to find it, but the Leeroy Jenkins Video has Leeroy himself doing this after his guildmates rush in.
  • Lewis Brindley of the Yogscast provides the page quote, which comes from his and Simon Lane's attempts to attack and subsequent panicked retreating. The Yogscast typically do this on the whole, but he and Simon are the most guilty.

    Western Animation 
  • From the Action League NOW! episode, "Yurplastic Park", when the League tries to evade a hungry T-Rex:
    Stinky Diver: Head for the chopper!
    [the T-Rex smashes the chopper with its foot]
    Stinky: Head away from the chopper!
  • In one episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, an Evil Sorcerer has had a monster minion steal the Great Book of Gummi:
    Sorcerer: Give me the book! [is flattened under gigantic tome] Take the book! Take the book!
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • The episode "Operation A.R.C.H.I.V.E." has this moment:
      Boy: Charge!
      [kids about to take severe beating from adults from their spanking machines]
      Boy: Run away like little girls!
    • Another moment happens in "Operation M.A.T.A.D.O.R.".
      Ernest: CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGE! [follows a whole bunch of teens into a coliseum door]
      Ernest: RETREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAT! [all the teens are running back outside as Numbuh Four and his dad come out riding caffeinated adults]
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "Just Us Justice Ducks Pt.2":
    Pedestrians: [running towards a squad car] Help, Police!
    [Quackerjack's chattering teeth emerge, wearing patrol hats]
    Pedestrians: [running in opposite direction] HELP! POLICE!!!!
  • In Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, "Ceiling Zero Zero":
    Dastardly: (to Klunk) Start the birdcalls! (an incredible number of birds BUT the Yankee Doodle Pigeon all land on the plane) Shoo! Beat it! Get out of here! (to Klunk) Stop the birdcalls, STOP THE BIRDCALLS! (CRASH!)
  • In the Dennis the Menace episode, "Up Up and Oh Boy!", Dennis, Jay, and Margaret fly away in Henry's company's dirigi-blimp, and Henry and Mr. Wilson chase after them on Mr. Wilson's tandem bicycle. At one point, Henry and Mr. Wilson ride down a hill, and this exchange occurs:
    Henry: Hit the brakes, George! Hit the brakes!
    [Henry looks behind himself and sees some boulders rolling after him and Mr. Wilson]
    Henry: Oh no! Don't hit the brakes, George! Don't hit the brakes!
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "The Great One", Scrooge and gang are stranded in ancient China, where Bubba the Cave Duck turns out to be a prophesied hero come to rescue the city from a cruel chancellor and a horde of barbarians. During the climax, the chancellor opens the gate and lets in the barbarian horde, who rushes past him... then immediately comes rushing back out again. The reason? The Humongous Mecha Launchpad just discovered that was hidden as an ordinary statue.
    Chancellor: A thousand gold coins to the first man to find them!
    [the army runs past him then comes running back again]
    Barbarian: Keep your money!!
  • The DuckTales (2017) episode, "The Lost Cargo of Kit Cloudkicker!" has two examples:
    • First, when Kit and Dewey are in the air:
    Kit: [to Dewey] You can stop screaming now!
    [Don Karnage cuts the rope]
    Kit: You can start screaming now!
    • Then, when Della is flying Butterbear and fleeing from the sky pirates:
    Della: I gotta get off this bear!
    [She almost falls off dodging one of the pirates' harpoons]
    Della: I gotta stay on this bear!
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes:
    Jimmy: We demand you lower the wall! [gets crushed under wall] Raise the wall!
  • Kim Possible: In the episode "Grudge Match", a robot chases Kim and Ron through a subway tunnel shouting "attack", until it encounters an "oncoming train" and it shouts "retreat" and runs away.
  • Looney Tunes
    • In the short "Sahara Hare", Riff-Raff Sam (a.k.a. Yosemite Sam) asks Bugs Bunny to open the door to a fortress, and as soon as it opens, it opens it up on him, and he asks to close the door.
    • Repeated in the short "Knighty Knight Bugs":
      Sam: Open that bridge, varmint! Open it, I say!
      [drawbridge lands directly on top of Sam]
      Sam: [muffled under it] Close it! Close it! Close it up again!
    • Yosemite Sam again, chasing Bugs into a hole ("Bunker Hill Bunny"):
      Sam: Chaaaaaaaarge!
      [Sam charges into the hole, then discovers it's actually the inside of a cannon]
      Sam: Retreeeeeeat!
    • Echoed in "Captain Hareblower", this time with Sam trying to swing aboard Bugs's ship, only to end up swinging into a cannon. Same words, same results.
    • The end result of the final scene in "Prince Violent" (a.k.a. "Prince Varmint"), where Yosemite Sam (as a Viking) thinks he has finally succeeded in invading an archduchy castle and is about to overthrow the royalty... only to find an Indian elephant, whom he had abused multiple times in the short earlier in their attempts to defeat the castle's guard (Bugs Bunny), waiting to run him off, and the pachyderm does just that when he swats him repeatedly with a club.
    • At one point in "Road to Andalay", Sylvester sics Malcolm Falcon on Speedy Gonzales, but the falcon, clinging to Sylvester's gloved hand, carries the cat aloft as he flies into the air. Sylvester yells for Malcolm to let go. Malcolm obliges, opening up his talons and releasing his grip on Sylvester's glove, only for the cat to discover that he is several feet in the air. As he falls, Sylvester yells for Malcolm to grab him again.
  • In the Literature/Redwall TV Show "Underground", Cluny is marching with his army to attack Redwall, complete with the chant of "Redwall Redwall Redwall must fall!" when he sees a "ghost" on the attic roof (really Cornflower with a lantern standing in front of a suit of armor). Cluny panics and runs away, screaming "AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" with the rest of his horde quickly following him yelling "RETREEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAT!"
  • In the The Looney Tunes Show episode, "Sunday Night Slice", Bugs buys out Gerardi's, his favorite pizza restaurant, when it closes down, and hires Daffy, Porky, Marvin the Martian, and Pete Puma to run it. Thanks to their inexperience, their attempts to run Gerardi's are a disaster. At one point, this exchange occurs:
    [cash register rings]
    Bugs: Oooh, I like the sound of that!
    Porky: [as he hands a customer his dollar back] Here's your refund.
    Bugs: Oh. Don't like the sound of that.
  • The Simpsons: In "Bart's Girlfriend", Groundkeeper Willie tries to save the wee turtles when the school evacuates due to the fire alarm going off.
    Willie: If I don't save the wee turtles, who will?!
    [emerges covered in turtles]
    Willie: Gaahh save me from the wee turtles! They were too quick for me!!
  • From the Sonic Boom episode, "Circus of Plunders", when Knuckles is smashing away at an avalanche:
    Knuckles: Keep em' coming! I could do this all day!
    [Knuckles gets flattened by a boulder]
    Knuckles: I could use a breather.
  • From the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Pizza Delivery", when Squidward and SpongeBob get sucked into a tornado:
    Squidward: Let go of the pizza!
    [Squidward looks down and sees a long fall below him]
    Squidward: Hang onto the pizza!
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) has Mikey pull a good one...
    Mikey: [caught by Raphael] I'm saved! I'm saved!
    [Triceraton starts tearing apart the car]
    Don: We're going down!
    Mikey: We're doomed! We're doomed!
  • In the Timon & Pumbaa episode" "Two for the Zoo", a lion marks the letter "Z" on Timon's chest off-screen.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures:
    • From the short, "Rent-a-Friend" (part of "Rainy Daze"), after Buster tricks Montana Max's Acme Bunny Basher robot into attacking Monty:
      Monty: Let me go! Let me go!
      [Monty looks down and realizes the robot is about to drop him from the top of his mansion]
      Monty: Don't let me go! Don't let me go!
    • From the short, "Whirlwind Romance" (part of "What Makes Toons Tick"), when Dizzy Devil falls in love with a tornado:
      Dizzy: Don't be shy. Dizzy want to be your friend! Take Dizzy hand.
      [gets his hand caught up in the tornado, which spins him around]
      Dizzy: Give... Dizzy... hand... back!
  • From the We Bare Bears episode, "Ranger Norm", when the Bears discover Norm's true motives.

    Real Life 
  • Many toy-sized dogs have the same territorial nature as their larger brethren but are unable to gauge the relative size of another dog intruding on their territory until they get really close to it. This typically results in the smaller pooch running towards the bigger one while fiercely yapping, and then quickly running away while yelping pitifully after it realizes just how much larger the other dog actually is.
  • This can also happen when a dog goes after a cat since cats can make themselves look significantly more fearsome when backed into a corner. And some cats prefer to stand their ground and attack the dog once it gets close rather than run from it (particularly large toms, who tend to be relatively slow runners). The dog approaches, barking fiercely, only to be sent running with multiple claw marks across its nose. A similar scenario tends to play out the first time a dog encounters a skunk or porcupine.
  • The Korean War was like this for both sides. First at Pusan when the North Koreans were about to win and MacArthur landed at Inchon, causing a helter-skelter retreat. This led to the Americans chasing the North Koreans all the way to the Chinese border when — you guessed it — the Chinese came over the border and sent them running back again.
  • The Battle of Cannae in The Punic Wars has an example on the Roman side: after finding themselves encircled, some Romans launched a Death or Glory Attack on the Carthaginians, broke through the enemy forces... And kept running before the enemy finished the bulk of their forces and killed them too.
  • This trope was weaponized during the Lusitanian Wars, where Lusitanians used a tactic named concursare that involved charging, retreating and repeat. This unsustained fighting infuriated the Romans and made them prone to blindly chase them, breaking formation in the process, which Lusitanians capitalized on with ambushes and surprise attacks.
  • In the same war, a more straight example happened during the siege of Erisana. The Roman general Servilianus had the city besieged and was near surrendering it, but the chieftain Viriathus came to the city's aid and somehow managed to sneak his army inside of the walls during the night without the Romans noticing. When Servilianus was about to order what he believed to be the final assault against the walls at dawn, he was shocked to see Viriathus and his forces coming out the gates and butchering his siege workers, and was forced to make his entire army retreat.
  • The Italian offensive of late 1940 designed to push the British out of Egypt got so far. Then stopped. And was then turned into humiliating retreat back into Libya by a makeshift British army about an eighth of its own size. The Italian invasion of Albania and Grece was similarly humiliated. Both disasters required heavy German intervention to rescue their hapless ally.
  • During the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders besieged Constantinople (it was complicated). Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos gathered his forces, sallied out, and marched on the besieging army... but then his courage failed, and he and his forces withdrew back to the city without a fight.


The First Assault on Molossia

When Kevin Baugh pulls a gun, everyone quickly turns back and screams.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / AttackAttackRetreatRetreat

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