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Breaking the Bonds

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Q: Did Londo's men weaken the chains after all, or was G'Kar just really determined?
A: That was one determined Narn.
J. Michael Straczynski talking to fans about Babylon 5.

Heroes showing off their power — literally or symbolically — by busting out of chains, ropes, or similar restraints. Sometimes it involves the "flex my pecs to bust these bindings" thing, or it can be "I'm so pissed off, it's like my handcuffs are made of paper." Whichever the case, Heroic Resolve or Unstoppable Rage is usually at work.

If it turns out that the prisoner could have busted out any time, he's a Play-Along Prisoner. If he already has, and is only pretending to be still restrained, he's Slipped the Ropes.

See also With My Hands Tied, Chained to a Rock, and Chained by Fashion. If a chair is involved, we might have a Bench Breaker. If the character uses their broken bonds as a weapon, you get Chain Pain. Goes with Conditioned to Be Weak in a behavioral conditioning way, where a powerful character is only docile and submissive because they are conditioned to follow orders and/or fear their leader.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: At the very beginning, Ichigo dramatically bursts out of a paralyzing spell, demonstrating his immense spiritual power. Rukia is astonished at him breaking her spell, since a normal human shouldn't even be capable of twitching when held by it, let alone standing up.
  • Kamina does a rather casual one in the first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Lordgenome does one in the 15th, where he makes Lazengann break free of the Gurren Lagann's shades after the failed Giga Drill Breaker.
  • Subverted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, where Fate cuts through her bonds with a new weapon only to have Jail entangle her with new energy threads. Then Double Subverted after her adopted children talk her out of the effects of Jail's Breaking Speech and she activates her Super Mode, destroying these threads with its Transformation Sequence and avoiding any new ones with the speed boost it gave her.
  • Ranma ½:
    • In order to stop Ranma from trying out for the role of Romeo, Happōsai covered him in chains, encased him in concrete, and buried him in the yard. Later, Ranma very casually jump-kicks Happōsai and shrugs off his bindings.
    • In a much more serious, straight application of the trope, Akane rips through the pantyhose binding her arms and wrists with sheer brute force (no mean feat, since she was wrapped up in so much pantyhose it was several inches thick, and her wrists were tied behind her back in a similar fashion.)
    • Akane is rather effective at this. When captured by Principal Kuno and suspended high above the ground in a Crucified Hero Shot (with brooms in lieu of a cross), she easily snaps in half the broomstick binding her arms and uses the rope to swing-kick the Principal.
    • Another time, after turning into Sickeningly Sweethearts because of love mushrooms, Ranma and Akane get wrapped up in chains by Mousse, then easily break out.
      Ranma: Babe.
      Akane: Hon'.
      [chain breakage]
  • GaoGaiGar rips apart a net EI-14 trapped him in. "You think you'll defeat GaoGaiGar with things like this?"
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the original series, General Blue performs this when a Penguin Village police officer attempts to cuff him, breaking the chain links.
    • In a near-identical scene in Dragon Ball Z, Androids 16, 17 and 18 do this after the police bust 18 for shoplifting, breaking through the cuffs themselves.
    • And in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, Pan proved strong enough to break through the cuffs even though she's just three years old. Not that she wanted for a while though, as she kept them on to be a Trojan Prisoner for an undercover Piccolo.
    • During Goku's match against Kaiju Giran in the first Tournament Arc, Giran spits out a gooey substance to trap Goku called "Merry-Go-Round Gum" (Gurugurugamu in Japanese), which Goku is initially unable to break out of. After his tail grows back, however, Goku's strength increases and his able to burst free of the gunk with minimal effort.
  • Played for laughs in Higurashi: When They Cry (Now there's a phrase you don't hear often). When Rena decides she's taking something home, there's truly no stopping her.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • Kenshin broke out of hypnosis-induced paralysis on one occasion, and his most awesome He's Back! moment is predicated by him snapping the chains he's bound around his sword (It's a long story).
    • Even Sanosuke and Kaoru managed the "breaking out of hypnosis-induced paralysis" part. Triple in the case of Kaoru since she was also in an And I Must Scream situation and Forced to Watch as Kenshin was reverting to his former Battousai self.
    • Sanosuke also exploded the front of his prison cell when he got annoyed at someone. Yes, exploded it. With his fist.
  • In the Black★Rock Shooter OVA, Black Rock Shooter is bound in chains by Dead Master, but breaks out of them so she can hug Dead Master into submission.
  • During the Water Seven arc of One Piece, Paulie and Luffy are pinned to the floor by Paulie's co-workers who are actually top secret government agents instructed to find the blueprints for an astronomically powerful ancient super weapon. Enraged by his co-workers' betrayal, Paulie strikes a pact with Luffy to team up and kick their asses. Cue epic chain breaking induced by way of raw, herculean strength.
  • Gunslinger Girl: Cyborg girl Triela breaks the handcuffs of Mario Bossi after she rescues him from being "taken for a ride" by his former Mafia acquaintances.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: JACK ATLAS did this twice in the series, with minimal effort. There is a reason why fans consider him the Yu-Gi-Oh version of Chuck Norris.
  • Naruto:
    • The manga has Kisame tearing apart the thick wooden stock he was held in after freeing himself from a Mind Probe by biting his own tongue.
    • One of Pain's bodies holds Naruto captive and announces that the Kyuubi has been captured, only for Naruto to start chatting with his enemy in order to buy enough time to convert his captor into a stone monument, and then break that stone statue to free himself.
  • In an early episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Heero brute-forces one hand out of some hospital restraints—in spite of the fact that it turns his wrist into a bloody mess.
  • When the main group of Dazzle get arrested, Alzeid breaks his cuffs as if they were made of paper.
  • Bakemonogatari: In the second season, when Araragi wakes up and realizes he has been chained up by his girlfriend Senjougahara, he is disturbed but overall rather calm about the whole thing. Until Senjougahara mentions that his little sisters might be in danger... and we're suddenly reminded that he does indeed still have vampiric strength when he snaps the chains like rubber bands.
  • In episode 5 of Maid-Sama! after being kidnapped and hands cuffed behind her back by stalkers who are obsessed with her. 16 year old Badass Normal Misaki breaks her handcuffs after they imply she's weak and submissive and then proceed to kick their asses.
  • Sonic X: Chris somehow manages to free himself of his restraints in the first series finale.
  • Towards the end of Soul Eater, Death the Kid is put on trial by the Witches, and is handcuffed. He breaks the restraints not to attack them - as he had previously threatened - but to beg for their assistance in the fight against Asura. It works.
  • Kan'u Unchou does this in Ikki Tousen: Dragon Destiny.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • James did this in an episode during the Gold and Silver series.
    • Ash and his Greninja also did this with Team Flare's restraints.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Gluttony breaks free from restraint when realizing Mustang is present to seek vengeance for Lust's death.
  • Saint Seiya: In the Poseidon arc, after having all of his techniques worked around, his armor crushed and ending up bound in Shun's chains to spare him, Scylla Io pulls one on Shun, doubling with a I Am Not Left-Handed and a Let's Get Dangerous! moment, before unleashing his stronger technique that does NOT depend on his armor.
  • Black Butler: In one episode of the anime, Sebastian quietly submits to arrest and is chained up in the Tower of London for several hours. Although he does seem to enjoy his interrogation, he's really only there because Ciel ordered him to cooperate — the moment his master calls for him, he easily breaks his chains and escapes, casually murdering the shocked torturer on the way out.
  • Sailor Moon: In the Super S season, when Minako is shackled to a board and her Dream Mirror is extracted, she is able to break the shackles, while not transformed. Even Artemis was shocked.
  • Power Antoinette begins with Marie-Antoinette about to be executed as in history. She was willing to Face Death with Dignity, but when her captors comment that her children will be tortured, she breaks her ropes and the guillotine and starts kicking ass to rescue them.

  • Statue of Liberty: At its left foot sits a broken shackle, showing the strength of liberty in defeating tyranny and slavery.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • Superman #233 cover was the beginning of the Kryptonite Nevermore arc which launched The Bronze Age of Comic Books in Superman.
    • And it was a Shout-Out to his most iconic Golden Age image.
    • In issue #238, Superman is encased in a shroud of stone, and he manages to break out.
    • Superman: Brainiac: Brainiac traps Superman inside a metallic cocoon. Superman cannot break it until Brainiac insults Earth one time too many. Furious, Superman shatters his metallic prison.
    • In Two for the Death of One, Superman is split into two "twins" by his enemies Satanis and Syrene. One of them is captured and chained to a cell by Syrene. Usually, chains are not a trouble, but this Superman lacks his Super-Strength. Fortunately he hasn't lost his invulnerability, so he pulls from his chains bit by bit until they finally snap.
    • In The Supergirl from Krypton (2004), Batman shackles Supergirl to a stretcher as he examines her. The young Kryptonian shatters the metal cuffs as soon as she wakes up.
    • In Supergirl Volume 5 # 2, Cassie Sandsmark alias Wonder Girl binds Supergirl with her magic, unbreakable lasso. Supergirl shrugs it off.
    • In Supergirl Volume 6 #17, Wonder Woman binds Supergirl. After a few moments, though, Kara uses a burst of sunlight to free herself.
    • Kara does this in the cover of Supergirl vol 6 #37 which harkens back to Superman #233 Kryptonite Nevermore.
    • She also breaks her chains in the cover of sixth issue of Supergirl (Rebirth).
    • Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade: Mr. Mxyzptlk materializes Kryptonite chains around Supergirl during the final battle. She breaks them easily.
    • In Bizarrogirl, Supergirl encases Bizarrogirl in a chunk of ice which her doppelganger breaks free from easily.
    • In The Killers of Krypton, Supergirl has been handcuffed by Harry Hokum's minions. As soon as she is left alone in her cell, she uses her Super-Breath to freeze the manacles and then she shatters the strained metal.
    • The Immortal Superman: In the cover of issue #385, Superman is shown breaking Kryptonite chains easily.
    • In The Hunt for Reactron, a Science Police K-Squad tries to use a neuro-disruptor electrical net to capture Supergirl. Supergirl manages to overcome the pain, though, breaking the net and shaking off the agents surrounding her with a burst of anger.
    • In Way of the World, a Krallian Green Lantern uses his Power Ring to burst the depowering bindings which he had been shackled with by the villain Dolok.
    • Death & the Family: When she becomes fed up with Insect Queen's ramblings, Kara flexes her muscles, shatters her bindings and lunges at the villainess.
    • The Plague of the Antibiotic Man: After stunning Supergirl, Amalak chains her to a chair. Amalak believes Supergirl has been completely disabled, even though Superman warns him she can break those chains with one finger...and effectively, she easily shatters her chains by merely pulling her wrists apart.
    • In Masters of the Universe crossover "From Eternia— With Death!", Skeletor breaks free from the shell of frozen lava which he had been encased on with a mighty flex of his arms.
    • Girl Power: When Kara gets tired of letting the Outsiders beat her up, she shouts "No more games!" and breaks her Kryptonite manacles into a thousand shards.
    • "Supergirls Super Pet", Streaky the Supercat plays with a roll of thick telephone cable until becoming hopelessly tangled up in it. He then simply flexes his muscles and completely shreds the cable coiling around his body.
  • The Punisher:
    • Frank Castle does this in "The Long, Cold Dark" arc of The Punisher MAX, having been incapacitated by his nemesis Barracuda, who in addition to fulfilling this trope, also exhibits Bond Villain Stupidity. Barracuda intends to kill the Punisher's daughter-he-didn't-know-he-had right in front of him, thus giving the Punisher the Unstoppable Rage he needed to burst out of the cuffs.
    • Barracuda does this himself later in the arc, finally losing it after being shot, beaten, having his crocodile clips wired from a car battery to his testicles for about an hour, tied up in chains and thrown into the boot of Frank's car. Frank's response?
      The Punisher: You have got to be fucking kidding me.
  • Spider-Man has also done this on occasion. Because of his goofy, family-friendly demeanor, villains often underestimate his true strength. In one story, both Spidey and Nick Fury are tied up in chairs, Spidey in chains and Fury in ropes. Spidey breaks the chains when the villains are briefly distracted, then Fury, unable to break his ropes, instead breaks the chair he's tied to.
  • Asterix:
    • In Asterix and the Goths, after the Gothic chief Metric is deposed by Rhetoric with the aid of the Gauls' Magic Potion, he is visited in the dungeon by Getafix, who offers him a dose of the magic potion so he can take revenge on Rhetoric. After Metric takes a drink, he bursts out of his chains, and Asterix quips, "He's got a free hand now!" (The original French edition relied on the double meaning of "déchaîné"; the English pun arguably doesn't warrant Obelix laughing over it for the rest of the book once he gets it.)
    • And in Asterix and the Banquet, Asterix and Obelix want to be captured by the Romans, but keep breaking their chains without thinking (at one point Asterix breaks through his chains to help the Romans tie up Obelix, because it's all taking too long). The Romans eventually decide to put them in the cart without chaining them up.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck:
    • Soapy Slick chains Scrooge to the chimneys of a steamboat, and taunting him with Scrooge's family letters, revealing that his mother had died, pushes him into Roaring Rampage of Revenge mode. Scrooge doesn't just break the chains, he breaks the ship. After bringing down the entire steamboat around himself, Scrooge then proceeds to cause so much destruction the townspeople think a tidal wave hit them. Note that the town is twelve hundred miles upriver from the ocean.

      Note that the entire sequence is not as shown as alluded. The destruction of the ship shown only outside the ship (in sepia colors, no less) without actually showing Scrooge doing anything. Meanwhile the narrator gives increasingly ridiculous alternate explanations to events as they are shown as opposed to the extreme unlikelihood of Scrooge suddenly going Super Saiyan in a relatively realistic setting. In the end the narration comes to the conclusion that there is no knowing what really happened that day except that it was epic enough to spread through the North within months and turn Scrooge into a stuff of legends.
    • Inverted in many cases when Huey, Dewey and Louie are captured: They keep their lungs full of air in a false act of bravado while they're being bound, and then breathe out to loosen the ropes.
  • In Batman: Year One, Bruce Wayne is arrested after his first unsuccessful attempt at crimefighting and has to break a pair of handcuffs after being shot in the shoulder. Once he develops the Batman identity, he makes sure there are plenty of lockpicks in the suit.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man has a similar sequence after Spidey is shot and arrested.
  • Sin City: Marv is tied to a chair while interrogated by the prostitutes. Once they agree he's innocent of killing their leader, he stands up, revealing he could have broken free at any moment. The girls are shocked: if anyone knows her knots, it's a dominatrix.
  • Vampirella: In "Deaths Dark Angel". In a state of bloodlust craze, Vampirella is even stronger than already.
  • Subdued example in All-New Wolverine:
    • Laura allows herself to be cuffed by Mooney in issue 2 when she arrives at Alchemax Genetics' headquarters while investigating the Paris attack. Emphasis on allows. Once everyone is satisfied she's exactly who she says she is, she makes it very clear one snikt later that she was always in control.
    • Issue 14: After being arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. for massacring a town under the effects of the trigger scent, Laura is forced to escape when Fury refuses to pursue the culprits when they flee towards Madripoor. Laura puts her flexibility on display by working her cuffed hands out from behind her back so she can slice through her restraints with her foot claws.
  • Aquila: When chained up by his captor, Aquila confirms the three abilities his pact with a supernatural entity gave him: immortality (immune to age, sleep, and disease), Healing Factor, able to see the evil in people's souls... and reveals there was a fourth one: locks, ropes and chains only hold him up for as long as he wants them to.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In the Golden Age, Wonder Woman frequently got to break chains and other restraints dramatically as she was captured fairly regularly. And unless the perpetrator was a man that had welded together her bracelets, they almost never used a method of bondage that could actually restrain her should she want to get free.
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Even when men welded her bracelets together, which "By Aphrodite's law drains her Amazon strength", Diana still manages to snap the bonds on at least three occasions. She's still stronger than an average human, it just takes much more effort, time, and concentration on her part, which is why her go to solution is to have Steve Trevor cut the chain or otherwise free her hands when she's bound this way.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Julie Sazia has Poison Ivy, Cheshire and Cheetah put Diana in chains when they capture her while Widow Sazia is trying to gain control of Boston from the other gangs and mobs. When Diana stops pretending to be unconscious, she simply snaps the chains and leaves.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In the Russian tale The Death of Koschei the Deathless, the titular evil sorcerer breaks all chains he was fettered with when he recovers his strength.
    So the prince brought him a second bucketful. Koschei drank that, and asked for a third. But when he had drunk the third bucketful of water all his former strength was restored, he shook his chains, and snapped all twelve at once.

    Fan Works 
  • Paul does this in the New Zork chapter of With Strings Attached when a cop puts "neut cuffs" on him that supposedly neutralize his strength. Only they don't.
    "Youse broke the neut cuffs?!" the cop shouted, his voice jumping an octave on the last two words. "Youse broke the neut cuffs!"
  • Similarly, it happens with the drain wrap that the Hermit's Rock ambushers put on Paul in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. He's supposed to be brought down to normal in it, so the guy watching over Paul has a nasty shock when Paul immediately breaks out of the stuff. Later, Paul adds immunity to such things to his ever-growing list of powers; he'd all but forgotten about the incident with the neut cuffs in Strings, though he certainly remembered it now.
  • Pete Malloy does this in the Adam-12 fic Into The Forest. One of the guys holding him and his girlfriend prisoner tries to rape his girlfriend. Despite being injured and exhausted, Pete breaks the leather strap he's tied to a tree with and charges the guy, ready to kill if he has to. They don't escape, but the villains learn how they shouldn't tick him off.
  • Iowa does this in front of President Harry Truman in a 4-koma for Pacific: World War II U.S. Navy Shipgirls.
  • The Bridge:
    • Godzilla Junior and Xenilla both humor their guards when they get arrested at different points in the story, then casually break their shackles.
    • King Sombra shackles Princess Cadance with crystal constructs and boasts that even with her Alicorn strength, she won't be able to break free in time before he kills her. Xenilla arrives in time to tackle him away before he can stab her, then while the two are fighting, Cadance manages to break them.
    • Harmony wraps Bagan with a chain that becomes stronger the more evil the prisoner is. Bagan is able to break it, possibly because he considers himself Above Good and Evil.
  • After being put in The Chair in Dancing With Demons, Sunny/Naruto decides he's bored with it and calmly breaks out using his demonic chakra.
  • In one Naruto story, when Gai decided his interrogation (part of the tests to join the ANBU) was over, he simply stood up from his chair and declared as such. It's noted that those chairs are supposed to be near impossible to break, but most people can't activate four celestial gates at once with a thought.
  • Burning Black: Timmy tries to do this after Remy chucks a magical device at him and it trusses him up in metallic rope. Averted in that it was custom built specifically for him and the attempt to magically bust out triggered the mana-draining effects to weaken him further.
  • In Here There Be Monsters, Doctor Shivana captures Captain Marvel by shackling him with special bindings and putting him under a paralyzing ray. Eventually, Marvel manages to escape the stasis field and shatter his bindings with a flex of his powerful muscles.
    Before the spurt of evil magic could bridge the gap, Captain Marvel exerted his mighty muscles. The bonds of metal flew apart as shrapnel, and the Sivanas had to dodge the fragments. He leapt from the horizontal prison that had held him for so long, and landed in a certain part of the floor just long enough to stamp his gold-booted foot through its concrete surface.
  • Naru-Hina Chronicles: In Chapter 112, Sakura is chained to a wall after being captured by Evil Sasuke. A few chapters later, she uses her chakra to break free from the chains.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • King Kong is chained when turned into an attraction in New York. Once he's enraged, no way they're holding him back!
    • Subverted 88 years later in Godzilla vs. Kong. For the first time in Kong movie history, they put him in chains that even the biggest and strongest incarnation couldn't break free from even after minutes of struggling with all of his strength. When the ship was flipped over, he had to be released manually or else he would have drowned
  • Morpheus in The Matrix breaks through his handcuffs when Neo arrives to rescue him, despite Agent Smith's best efforts to break him.
  • Forrest Gump: Three words: "Run, Forrest, run!"
  • The Boondock Saints features a variant on this trope: When Connor is handcuffed to the toilet by a Russian mobster bent on putting a bullet in his brother, he rips the toilet right out of the floor, carries it up to the fire escape, and then drops it right on the head of the mobster, killing him instantly.
  • True Lies: Harry surreptitiously picks a pair of handcuffs that bound his hands behind his back. This scene is more hilarious when you realize Harry has been pumped full of Truth Serum. And that despite having just told everyone in the room what he was going to do, he still succeeds in doing exactly that.
    Harry Tasker: First I'm gonna use you as a human shield, then I gonna kill this guard over there, with the Patterson trocar on the table. Then I was thinking about breaking your neck.
    Samir: And how are you going to do all that?
    Harry: You know my handcuffs?
    Samir: Hmm...
    Harry: [hold his hands up] I picked them.
  • The Charlie's Angels (2000) movie has a variation: Drew Barrymore is tied to a chair. First she releases her feet, and then she breaks the chair on the mooks - but her hands keep on tied the whole scene.
  • Marv in Sin City does this. Angry prostitutes think he killed Goldie, so they tied him up and are interrogating him. He calmly explains that he's trying to find Goldie's killer. Once they understand, he calmly busts out of the ropes, much to the chagrin of the bondage expert. The reason he LET THEM slap him around rather than escape a while ago? They wouldn't just let him leave, and he Wouldn't Hit a Girl.
  • Chun Li does it in the live-action movie adaptation of Street Fighter, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
  • Total Recall (1990): Quaid breaks metal shackles twice. Unless he only imagines it happening the second time and the Rekall process actually succeeded...
  • Steve Reeves in Hercules (1958): Not only did he burst out of the chains, he then used them as bullwhips to kick serious ass.
  • Innocent Blood. When Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Marie decides to have sex with cop Joe Gennaro, she allows him to cuff her hands behind her back so she can't harm him. During sex she vamps out and breaks the cuffs, but just continues having sex without killing him.
  • Sloth does this in The Goonies to retrieve a candybar that was thrown to him but fell out of reach. Chunk reacts with awe: "Jeeze, mister. You're even hungrier than I am!"
  • Parodied/subverted in Pineapple Express. After the heroes tie Red to a wheelchair with duct tape (and doing a very sloppy job of it), he tries to do this and fails.
  • In Kull the Conqueror, the bad guys taunt Kull and claim that his bonds are unbreakable, so he simply pulls so hard that the railing that he is tied to breaks.
  • Bane does this in the opening of The Dark Knight Rises. For extra impact, he stands up just as he does it, revealing to both his captors and his audience that he is huge.
    CIA Agent: Well, you got yourself caught! What's the next step in your "master plan"?
    Bane: Crashing this plane [snaps cable ties] WITH NO SURVIVORS!
  • In a moment of Heroic Resolve in UHF:
  • Federico Fellini's strongman protagonist in La Strada does this for his grand finale.
  • Played for Drama in The Muppet Movie with Miss Piggy snapping her bonds to save her frog. Plus the villain makes the mistake of cracking a bacon joke.
  • John Carter does this the first time the Tharks put him in chains (justfied, as his Earthling bone structure and musculature give him superhuman strength on Mars). So, the next time, they use bigger, stronger chains that he can't simply break. What does he do? He breaks the rock that the chain is attached to.
  • Man of Steel
    • Superman surrenders himself to military custody, allowing himself to be handcuffed to demonstrate he is cooperating. During the subsequent discussion, he breaks the cuffs like the chain was made of snow to make it clear he is there because he wants to help, not because he cannot leave until released.
    • He also does this in Zod's mothership when he's being held prisoner.
  • Interesting example in Spider-Man 2. Doc Ock has just delivered a bound Spidey to Harry who grabs a dagger to kill him, but he unmasks him first. He stumbles back with shock seeing Spidey is his best fried, Peter Parker, who snaps his bonds effortlessly and tries to explain to Harry what had happened with his dad. He fails, but he was in a bit of a rush to save the world from Doc Ock, so...
  • John Wick. Ms. Perkins does the dislocating her thumb trick to slip out of her handcuffs. Likewise Miguel Bain (also a Professional Killer) in Assassins, to escape from police custody.
  • In Spectre, James Bond at one point gets captured by some mooks who zip tie his hands together and put a black bag over his head. As soon as the van stops and they attempt to march him out, he kicks their asses, then breaks the zip tie with no effort before removing the bag.
  • At the height of rage in The Monster Maker, Lawrence escapes the bed he has been strapped by ripping his restraints out where they are attached to the floor.
  • The Bride: While shackled to the wall of the jail, Viktor senses Eva's emotional distress through their Psychic Link and rips the shackles out of the wall in order to go to her aid.
  • Blazing Saddles: A humorous example, where Bart and the Waco Kid have an unconscious Mongo heavily chained to the wall, but when he is woken up, he casually stretches and yawns, snapping all the chains without the slightest effort. Fortunately he's in a peaceable mood.

  • When Carl Lyons is handcuffed by Vietnamese intelligence agents in the first Able Team spin-off novel of The Executioner series, he knows from his prior experience as an LAPD cop that crazies can break handcuffs and decides to find out if he's crazy enough. He is. Later Carl discovers the cuffs were "Made in Vietnam" and dismisses them as "cheap imitations".
  • In Beren and Lúthien, Finrod Felagund breaks his bonds, then kills a werewolf bare-handed (though he does die as well).
  • In American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand, Big Pete Bondurant does this whenever he is arrested. It's treated as a parlor trick to impress whatever cops arrested him rather than a feat of determination and strength. Of course, the fact that Bondurant is able to do this so casually only makes this more impressive.
  • From one of Keith Laumer's Retief stories:
    "You have the gall," Qorn stormed, "to stand here in the center of Qornt Hall—uninvited, at that—and in chains—"
    "Oh, these," Retief said. He tensed his arms; the soft aluminum links stretched, broke. He shook the light metal free. "We diplomats like to go along with colorful local customs...."
  • In Harrison Bergeron when Harrison tears off his handicaps, straps "guaranteed to support 5000 pounds"
  • In Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny, Wakim is Strapped to an Operating Table with his powers deactivated. He manages to break one hand free—which is enough to freak out the villains—before help arrives.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Arno Blunt apparently "ripped those handcuffs apart as though they were links in a paper chain."
  • Discworld:
    • Subverted in Thud!, when the Watch get captured by dwarfs, Detritus the troll makes a point of not breaking his chains, even though Vimes notices they're so crappy, a human could break them. Detritus knows this is a deliberate gambit so he can be "killed while trying to escape" if he does so.
    • In Unseen Academicals, Mr Nutt chains himself up after learning he's an orc. When various "ordinary people" appear not to care about this, he is touched that they do not see him as a monster and stands up, casually smashing the chains in the process. Everyone flees.
  • In Codex Alera, Kitai shatters a chair she is tied to.
  • In the first Warrior Cats book, Longtail doesn't want Rusty to join the Clan because he was owned by humans, and the two fight. There's a moment during the battle where Longtail grabs the back of Rusty's collar and begins using it to strangle him. Rusty struggles forward until his collar snaps, and the Clan leader stops the fight, saying that it's a sign that Rusty is meant to join the Clan.
  • Mindstar Rising: Greg Mandell and a fellow prisoner free themselves by using their neural implants to cut off their pain receptors, then stomping on a wrist to shatter the bones so they can slip free. Even without pain, it's as squicky to them as it sounds.
  • In Fool Moon, Harry Dresden is bound by wrapping his ankles and wrists in duct tape. He lampshades the idea that duct tape is an unbreakable restraint, pointing out that while it's fine if the prisoner is supervised, if you leave him alone for a few minutes it's not all that difficult to weaken it and break free.
  • The Daevabad Trilogy: In the climax, the half-djinn protagonist is chained with Cold Iron, Blood Magic, and her secret birth name. She focuses her mind on the name and identity she built for herself and wills the chains to shatter.
  • In The Book of Eve, Mother Chiara leans on this trope to demonstrate her holiness and to hide her conspirators' presence. Chiara is captured and held in chains, so two of her allies try to break her out. They manage to snap her manacles with a clipper, but she refuses to run away. When her captor comes back, she shows off the broken chains and claims that they broke in response to her prayers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5
    • G'Kar breaks out of his bonds when paraded before Emperor Cartagia. The conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor had arranged for him to be given weak chains, so that he can break them and create a distraction at the right time. Then the chains are replaced with strong ones, and he breaks them anyway. Cartagia actually mentioned that the chains were "unbreakable". Not that that's going to stop G'kar, mind you.
    • Lyta is shackled and escorted to the docking bay on her final departure from the station to travel with G'kar. When she arrives, she snaps the restraints with her psychic powers — she'd only left them on to make people feel safe and because she'd started to like the feeling.
  • Heroes:
    • In the episode "Run!", Jessica is implied to break free from handcuffs purely by her own strength.
    • Peter breaks out of his bonds using Super-Strength in "A Clear And Present Danger"
  • Captain Jack Harkness does this after he's been captured by the Master in the Doctor Who episode "Last of the Time Lords".
    • Rather funny in that, in spite of his heroic efforts, he is immediately shot dead. Considering that it's been a year since the viewer last saw him, and that there's no particular reason for his suddenly bursting his bonds, one can imagine it's happened to him a few times already.
    • Not a hero, but this is the first thing the Dalek in "Dalek" does after tricking Rose into touching it.
  • During the big showdown between Faith and Buffy in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Graduation Day Part 1", Buffy handcuffs them together. Faith then breaks the cuffs. Interestingly, in "Bad Girls", when they were both arrested, they knocked out a cop and stole his keys to unlock their handcuffs, instead of breaking them.
  • Battlestar Galactica. Leoben breaks his cuffs and gets the drop on Kara Thrace simply to show he can during his interrogation. Cylon prisoners after this episode are always excessively chained and restraint-collared.
  • The X-Files ("Revelations"). A religious fanatic escapes from Scully and Mulder by diving out a window, then breaking his handcuffs after he hits the ground.
  • COPS "I can break these cuffs!" "You can't break those cuffs." He doesn't.
  • Burn Notice:
    • An episode has Michael doing this with handcuffs. They had been specifically rigged to allow this, though.
    • Another episode has Simon breaking through his handcuffs after hinting that he'd been working at them long enough to cause metal fatigue. Mike advises his captor to change his cuffs more often.
  • Eliot does this in the second season finale of Leverage. However, considering that he's the show's Lightning Bruiser and the cuffs were of the plasti-cuff variety, rather than metal cuffs, it's not surprising. Word of God says that their research showed that with plastic ties, this is possible given the right training and skills.
  • Happens often in Smallville.
    • "Aqua" had Arthur Curry/Aquaman strapped to a table and weakening due to lack of water. Clark Kent activates the fire sprinklers, reviving him and allowing him to break free.
    • "Supergirl" had Lois Lane put Gordon Godfrey in shackles, but he casually breaks them, and explains that he's being possessed by Darkseid and thus has his strength.
    • "Isis" had the titular goddess tie Clark Kent up with magical ropes he was unable to break. He escapes by breaking the table he was tied to and untangling himself.
    • "Abandoned" had Clark chained to a chair next to a furnace with kryptonite flames and savagely tortured by Granny Goodness and the Female Furies. He uses his Super-Breath to freeze a chain and make a lead sheet fall on and smother the furnace. Once the kryptonite flame is out, he instantly regains his strength and breaks free.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: In the final battle against Globbor, after the spell darkening the sky is broken Ninjor breaks free of his chains (as well as the Synchronization link to Globbor) and grows to giant size to aid the Megazords. Earlier in Season 1's "Wheel of Misfortune", Tommy was tied to a tree by Putties, but after a few minutes of straining he managed to bust the ropes.
  • On Kamen Rider Fourze, Gentaro and his friends are tied up in one episode. Heroically summoning the "power of youth," Gentaro rips the ropes apart... only for a subversion as it turns out one of the miniature robot buddies did it. One of the other characters even hangs a lampshade on the gag by claiming the actual explanation "makes more sense."
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be", Dean snaps the ropes suspending him when he sees Sam in trouble. To be fair, though, the ropes were already damaged.
  • Happens frequently in The Incredible Hulk (1977): David Banner is tied, then he transforms into the titular character and breaks the bonds. In many cases, he doesn't even need to put an intentional effort to it: the increasing of his body size and weight during the transformation naturally stresses the bonds' material into breaking.
  • Daredevil (2015): Villainous example with Wilson Fisk, who is handcuffed to a table, when Matt starts threatening Fisk's girlfriend Vanessa. Fisk remains very still through Matt's speech, and then... *snap*
  • The Defenders (2017). While being released from prison, Luke Cage, stands there while the guard drops the key and just casually breaks the handcuffs holding him.
    Cage: My bad. [hands the cuffs to the warden] I believe these belong to you.
  • Jessica Jones (2015). Kilgrave uses his Compelling Voice to order a detective, who's handcuffed to a pole with his own cuffs, to come with him. Cue the detective screaming in agony as he forces his hand through the cuffs, breaking the bones in the process.
  • Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman did this many times. In "Formula 407" she is chloroformed and Steve Trevor are tied up. She snaps the rope almost as a afterthought. In "Baroness Von Gunther", the bad guys have the forethought to chain her up with chains that are "unbreakable, even by elephants". But they are breakable by Wonder Woman. In "The Murderous Missile", Wonder Woman wakes up in a jail cell chained by both of her hands and feet. It takes her 25 seconds to break the chains and the door of the cell.

  • The cover art for Disturbed's album Asylum pictures their mascot doing this.
  • The U2 song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" has the verse: "You broke the bonds/And you loosed the chains".

    Music Videos 


    Myths & Religion 
  • In a Greek legend told by Aristoxenos (4th century BCE), Pythias was convicted of conspiring against the tyrant. Damon volunteered to take Pythias's place so that Pythias could make arrangements for his family before his execution. Pythias made the arrangements and hurried back so that Damon would not be executed. Bandits captured him and left him tied to a tree. Pythias frees himself by Breaking The Bonds and arrives just in time to prevent Damon's execution. (The tyrant was so impressed by the Power of Friendship that he pardoned Pythias.)
  • In the ending of the story of Samson in The Bible (making this at least Older Than Feudalism), Samson asks God to restore his strength so he can do this and collapse the Philistines' temple on them. God obliges.
  • An unfortunate person from Gadara (you heard that one), was described as doing that on regular basis. To be fair, it's not specified, whether this strength is result of Demonic Possession, or the man simply was strong enough to begin with:
    ...a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.
  • The Book of Mormon records this occurring multiple times with divine help.
    • Nephi is tied up in the desert by his older brothers, with the intent to leave him there to die, after they become frustrated by him preaching to them. He prays for the strength to break the bands, and promptly does so, after which he goes on preaching.
    • Alma and Amulek, after preaching repentance to the city of Ammonihah, are thrown in prison, where the chief judge of the city visits them and mockingly challenges them to break themselves out, claiming that then he'll believe that God will destroy the city as they warned. After completely ignoring him for a while in the face of increasing harassment, they eventually call on God and break their bands in front of him, after which an earthquake levels the prison, killing the judge and his compatriots.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Fenrir did this with every chain the Aesir used on him, except for the ribbon Gleipnir. It looked like any other ribbon, but was made from impossible things — the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the saliva of a bird. Therefore, it was unbreakable.
    • Gesta Danorum: During his imprisonment for rebellion Ubbe, son of Ragnar Lodbrok, tears his chains "by immense violence"; only to be shackled with stronger chains which he is not able to break.
  • Classical Mythology: In one myth about Hercules, he travels to Egypt, where the Pharaoh captures him and is going to sacrifice him to the Egyptian gods. However, Hercules breaks the chains binding him to the altar, scares the Pharaoh into hiding, and escapes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS always lists the ST needed to break bonds. The Ultra-Tech book also has a clever device for stopping people from trying this: razor-wire (or monofilament) hidden inside resilient tape, when a person busts free it cuts his hands off.
  • The Witcher: Game of Imagination inverts it to the point of a deconstruction. The spell Fire net binds its target and that's about all it does. Any attempt of movement will deal d3 damage. Breaking free? That's 2d6 damage — almost half of the maximum possible Vitality the average character will have.
  • Mutants & Masterminds also has rules for characters of a sufficient strength breaking through their bonds automatically. At higher values of strength (or weak bonds), it can even happen as a free action, effortlessly.
  • Hero System defines handcuffs and other restraints with the Entangle power, which has "use my Strength to break free" built into it.
  • Legend System has both Athletics and Larceny checks for breaking and slipping out of restraints respectively. The examples given for breaking restraints range from "hastily-tied ropes" through "runed adamantine manacles" to "the crushing gravity of a prison world".
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Creatures can usually try to either slip out of or burst manacles and other restraints, though the relative difficulty of each depends on the edition. 5th Edition gives a small chance of bursting steel manacles (30% at the normal maximum strength for a Player Character), while 3.5 Edition makes it impossible without Super-Strength (which is relatively accessible in that edition).
  • Hunter: The Vigil: A vampire in one Sourcebook tries to intimidate the hunter who captured him, claiming that he has the Super-Strength to break out of his handcuffs at any moment. The hunter calmly responds that a Smug Super like him would have used that power already if he had it at all.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: A creature caught in a lasso or other entangling weapon can attempt either to wriggle out with an Agility test or burst their restraints with a Strength test.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, near the end, when Solid Snake breaks out of his handcuffs to chase after Metal Gear Ray - specifically stated by Hideo to symbolize him 'breaking free of his genetic heritage'. In story, it's justified that a one-in-a-million bullet hit them.
  • Mega Man X's titular character, after Zero's Heroic Sacrifice to destroy Vile's Guard Armor, burst free of the paralyzing electro-chain in a heroic resurgence.
  • Ryu bites clean through his bonds in Breath of Fire III. Probably justified, since he is a dragon...
  • In Quest for Glory II, a fighter character will eventually be invited to join the Eternal Order of Fighters after an initiation test that involves being completely unarmed and chained to a wall and told to break free in ten seconds. It is entirely possible to fail if the character's strength stat is too low, which will result in the character being bitch-slapped with a big-ass sword and thrown out.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Regal has since stopped wearing the Handy Cuffs he wore in the first game, but ends up in some again for unrelated reasons. After being properly proven innocent, the guards can't find the key, so he notes that the makers of these cuffs aren't known for being sturdy, breaks them, and recommends they buy some from his company next time.
  • Troublemaker sees player character Budi, and sidekicks Zaenal and Boby drugged and tied up in chairs by Ricco's mooks from the student council, besides abducting the two girls, Sophia and Rani. Budi and Boby are first to wake up and realize they're trapped, but when Zaenal regains consciousness and realize Rani - whom he had a crush on - is missing, he instantly rips his ropes apart in a rage
  • In Geneforge 4, the player character is sent into Shaper Monarch's dungeons to rescue Khryk, a senior Shaper. The rescue is entirely unneeded, since Khryk could have broken himself free at any time, but chose to remain in captivity to learn Monarch's weaknesses and pass them on to you.
  • In Baldur's Gate II Minsc gets to perform this task in the prologue. He's been caged up and because he'd already broken out once, the villain removed the lock, sealing him in. Talk to him, and regardless of what you say he'll get mad enough that he breaks through. "The bars! They bend and twist with my berserker strength! Minsc and Boo are FREE!"
  • In a flashback in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Ganondorf does this. Set for execution at the hands (or sword rather), of the sages, he breaks free from his chains (AFTER he is already stabbed in the stomach) and in one swift move kills one of the sages. Of course, he had the Triforce of Power on his side, so he did have some help.
  • The opening cutscene of Jak II: Renegade shows Jak Strapped to an Operating Table. He displays his new-found dark eco powers by snapping the metal restraints around his wrists and ankles like daisy chains.
  • Even Noodle People like Mickey Mouse can muster the strength for this, as shown in Epic Mickey
  • You do this at the start of the Syndicate remake.
  • Done symbolicly when the player enters the Shrine of Farewell in Hellsinker.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has a Witch who breaks her chains after Neo frees her from a dungeon.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Abomination wears chains around his body that break off when he turns into Beast form, and mysteriously reappear when he turns back into a human.
  • Batman: Arkham City begins with Bruce Wayne being dragged into Arkham City in cuffs, courtesy of Hugo Strange's personal guard. Of course, the cuffs do nothing to stop Bruce from defending himself pretty well from the eponymous super-prison's inmates, but its when he's under attack from Penguin and his thugs that he manages to snap his cuffs to bits much to the mooks' horror, allowing him to really get hands-free with them (and Penguin himself too.) And this was before he got into the Batsuit! That and letting himself get arrested by Strange's men allowed him to better gauge what kind of threat the City posed and what he was up against.
  • Doom (2016): The Doom Slayer is introduced chained to a table naked. As soon as he wakes up, he effortlessly breaks the chains and slaughters a few demons before finding his armor.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, Berserker, aka Hercules, broke anti-divine chains (which were supposed to bind him entirely, since the more godly you are the more impossible it is to escape) with his iron will and Unstoppable Rage after Gilgamesh fatally injures his Master Illya. Manly man indeed.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, prosecutor and Boxed Crook Simon Blackquill smashes his handcuffs against his bench when sufficiently agitated. This justifiably freaks out everyone in the room, as he gets angrier and more aggressive when his chains are broken (shouting "Silence!" instead of "Objection!", using his hands as samurai swords to strike Phoenix, etc.).


    Web Original 
  • In the lonelygirl15 episode "What The Hell?!??!", Jonas appears to have broken free from some ropes of his own accord, but this turns out to be a slight subversion since it is revealed shortly afterwards that Daniel loosened the ropes for him.
  • Supergirl breaks her bonds in this fan video.
  • Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] Abridged: Subverted when Caster captures Shirou and ties him up with magic threads. When Caster reveals she has been draining the life force of the townspeople, an enraged Shirou declares his righteous fury will allow him to break his bonds and take her down. He fails to break them, and Caster says no matter how he talks tough, he lacks power.
  • DSBT InsaniT: In 'Carneelval', Autmn, Dave, Asia, and Robo discover an elephant that is chained to a post and forced to give people rides. Dave shatters the chain, which ends up startling the elephant, but Asia and Autmn calm it down.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Jimmy's mom bursts free of ropes to save her son and husband from a robot copy of herself.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • The Old Master of Earthbending, King Bumi of Omashu, pulls this off during what's generally considered his most impressive act. However, he was not handcuffed, or even tied up — he was restrained in a solid metal box with only his face showing. He escaped from this box, with his face, and went on to chase an entire occupying army out of his city.
    • In The Legend of Korra, at the end of the third season, Korra is trapped underground, bound by platinum chains, which she is eventually able to break out of with a burst of strength. Unlike most cases, this is a sad moment — she was given a poison that forced her into the Avatar State, which gives her immense strength but also makes her more vulnerable.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998), in the episode "Bubblevicious", Mojo Jojo zaps Bubbles with a laser, and she breaks free of her restraints and promptly beats the living crap out of Mojo.
  • Thundarr the Barbarian Opening Narration: "But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice!" He was apparently forced into gladiatorial sports until he broke free of his chains and devoted his life to battling sorcerers.
  • Averted in Justice League Unlimited; when the founding members of the Justice League (sans Batman) surrender to US custody as an act of good faith, one soldier prepares to handcuff them when his superior officer calls him off, arguing that the cuffs probably would not do much to hold them anyway.
  • Parodied in an early episode of The Tick. The Tick initially had the power to swell his muscles to twice their size by flexing (this was quickly forgotten). In the first encounter against Chairface Chip'nDale, the Tick attempted to use this to break free of his ropes, but had to stop because he would have killed Arthur and American Maid in the process. Instead he saved the day with his "Good Dental Hygiene".
  • On The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Penelope has been known to do this on a couple of occasions.
  • In the Pinky and the Brain episode "Welcome to the Jungle", the mice are tied up by Brain's archnemesis Snowball, who intends to burn them at the stake. Brain tells Pinky, who has been displaying a surprising prowess at surviving in the wilderness, to rip his way free of the ropes, but Pinky is too weak to do it. But when Snowball kicks Pinky off the platform and into quicksand, Brain suddenly goes into an Unstoppable Rage and rips the ropes off himself.
  • The Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon:
    • One episode has Mega Man get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the evil scheme of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans, Mega Man let himself be handcuffed. Soon after his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs like they were nothing.
    • When he's captured by Wily, on the other hand, he's only able to loosen an arm. (Presumably, Wily has the foresight to use special manacles.)
  • During an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, the threat of Evil Clones popped up after Jackie's clone was found, so the rest of the J-team willingly strapped themselves to chairs for an interrogation. When an actual evil clone appears and Jackie is the only one free, Tohru and El Torro both burst out of their bindings, Viper slips out of her rope, and Captain Black... well, the poor guy tries to get out.
  • Superfriends:
    • In "Fairy Tales of Doom", Superman gets trapped in the story Gulliver's Travels, and the Lilliputians tie him up Gulliver-style with kryptonite ropes while he was asleep. Superman manages to fight past the weakness and break the ropes.
    • In "The Darkseid Deception", Darkseid captures and shackles Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. When Darkseid turns Steve into an ape, Wonder Woman gets so angry that she breaks the shackles and lunges at Darkseid.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Purple Smurfs" (the Animated Adaptation of the comic book story "The Black Smurfs"), Lazy as a purple Smurf is shown to be strong enough to break the ropes that are binding him. Hefty as a Purple Smurf also breaks the ropes in the same fashion.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983):
    • He-Man has done this on several occasions, even breaking through the supposedly indestructible Photanium.
    • In "The Secret of Greyskull", Skeletor and his minions capture and chain up the Sorceress after taking Orko hostage. As soon as He-Man rescues Orko, the Sorceress effortlessly breaks her chains and curb-stomps the villains.
    • In "Jacob and the Widgets", Teela defeats Mer-Man and ties him up with rope. However, as soon as someone blabs the location of the coridite, which Mer-Man was trying to steal, he effortlessly snaps the ropes and runs toward it.
  • The ZhuZhus: Midge the Mighty does this in Zhu World when Num Nums and Izzy tie her up with yarn.
  • The Owl House features a magical varation where Luz and her friends are all bound by restraints made of abomination goo. When Amity hits her Rage Breaking Point after her mother tells her that she's going to forcibly break her up with Luz, she proceeds to rip her restraints apart then use her own abomination magic to morph it into a spiked fist.

    Real Life 
  • Most handcuffs are rated to resist 495 lbs (about 2200 newtons) of force for 30 seconds. This is one of the reasons they are considered "temporary" restraining devices. It would be possible to make more durable handcuffs, but it would also be too expensive to be practical.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Breaking Free Is A Free Action


Adversary Wants A Fair Fight

The Adversary demonstrates that her chains don't hinder her at all and that the only thing that is stopping her from attacking you is that she wants a fair fight from you. If you fight her and lose your weapon on her arm, she'll end hand it back to you, and wait for you to get back up.

How well does it match the trope?

4.36 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / FairPlayVillain

Media sources: