In any competition, making the first move helps. Naturally, the Combat Pragmatists of the world and those who believe in Fighting Dirty often like to take that a step further, by intentionally getting in a first blow before a competition is even supposed to start so they have the advantage.
While an Anti-Hero may be able to get away with this, it's generally more of a villain move. After all, heroes can only get away with creeping out in front of a race's starting line or hitting an opponent that isn't ready in sparring so many times before they stop looking like a hero.
If the person doing it loses anyway, it's because Cheaters Never Prosper.
Not to be confused with False Start.
- Played for Laughs in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. As the final duel is beginning, the Sheriff makes a thrust at Robin before he's ready. Only after Robin manages to dodge does the Sheriff say "En Garde."
- In The Quick and the Dead, a Quick Draw tournament is held where both contestants start to draw when the town clock chimes the hour. Cort advises The Hero that there's actually a click that comes from the clock just before the chime, and to listen for it and start drawing then, since it's too close to the chime for anyone watching to tell the difference.
- In Fast Five, the guys have an impromptu four-way drag race after "acquiring" some police cars. Roman takes off before the others...and still loses.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch is about to be in a knifefight.
Butch: No, no, not yet. Not until me and Harvey get the rules straightened out.
Harvey: Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!
[Butch immediately kicks Harvey in the groin]
Butch: Well, if there ain't going to be any rules, let's get the fight started. Someone count 1-2-3 go.
- The Man with the Golden Gun: James Bond is kidnapped by Hai Fat and taken to a martial arts school, where he is forced to fight the students. In a formal combat like this the opponents are supposed to bow to each other first. While Bond's opponent is bowing to him, Bond takes him out with a surprise attack.
- Superman II. Clark Kent (de-powered Superman) asks the bully in the diner to step outside so they can fight. The bully says "After you." As Clark starts to go out the bully attacks him from behind (and with surprise) and knocks him down.
- Death Race 3: Inferno: One of the racers tries to get a head start on the others by driving off before the race officially opens. He just ends up demonstrating how effective the prison's guided missile system is to punish anyone who might have ideas of leaving the planned route.
- The Quiet Man has the rivalry between Sean Thornton and Will Danaher come to a head, and the two combatants prepare for a slugfest. Danaher makes a show of raising his arms and announcing to the crowd, "Marquis of Queensbury! Marquis of Queensbury!" meaning that he intends to fight in accordance with the rules of boxing, as set forth by the Marquis of Queensbury. Sean Thornton, wanting to signify the same intention, mimics Danaher's performance. Thornton barely gets his hands down when Danaher wallops him with right hook that sends Thornton reeling.
- Happens with surprising frequency on Street Outlaws. Doing so always nets the opponent a Disqualification-Induced Victory.
- In an episode of Seinfeld Jerry was in a footrace in high school and had gotten away with literally jumping the gun, taking a 10 yard lead before the race started, and for some reason nobody noticed except George. Many years later, a guy he beat comes back for a do-over.
- An episode of The Book of Pooh features Rabbit and Tigger accusing each other of making a head start before Eeyore gave the starting signal for the race they were doing (what really happened was that they both started early).
- Oh so often, usually with the Heel attacking the Face before the bell. Technically illegal, but it happens so often that it's usually completely ignored by the referees nowadays, who just signal for the opening bell after the first guy gets in the first shot. Another version, taken a little more seriously, is when someone is attacked backstage before the match.
- A tragic variation late into Hamilton ends up killing a main character in a duel gone wrong. In a duel where the competitors shoot on the count of ten, George Eacker shoots Alexander Hamilton's son at the number seven, even though Hamilton's son clearly motioned that he was going to shoot his gun into the air and forfeit the duel.
- One racer in Midnight Club 2, Ricky, has a tendency to jump the start when you race him. He's not a terribly good driver, so this doesn't really help him.
- In Crash Team Racing, the Final Boss starts driving before the final light.
- In the boss races in Diddy Kong Racing, the bosses start before the signal to go.
- All over the place in TF2 - Duel Failure (a Jerma-STAR_ crossover.) The two of them try to arrange a revolver duel, but both of them keep trying to betray each other. The first time, Jerma lies that he won't attack STAR_ as he approaches the duel zone, only to fire... and completely miss. The second time, STAR_ kills Jerma in the middle of explaining the rules. Then lastly, when the two of them arrange the rules to be to face away, take ten steps, and then turn to shoot, STAR_ tries to cheat by turning on step 3, except Jerma never turned at all and shoots him the instant STAR_ tries.
- During the Bill Gates vs Steve Jobs episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, Jobs interrupts the announcer in the middle of introducing the contestants and goes straight into a high energy rap, trying to blitz Gates with it.
- The LEGO website used to have a flash game based on its Drome Racers line wherein you could set your start to go on green, yellow, or red. Going on yellow was safest: no penalty, and if your opponent started on green you'd begin with a 3 second lead. If you went on red and your opponent went on green, you'd be penalized by 3 seconds.
- Wacky Races often had a racer, usually Dick Dastardly (of course) either starting the race before the opening shot or trying to do so.
- Played for laughs in "Tortoise Beats Hare", the 1941 Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes short based on Aesop's fable "The Tortoise and the Hare". Bugs and Cecil Turtle are at the starting line for the race.
Bugs: One for the money! [Tiptoes a bit past the line] Two for the show! [Tiptoes a bit further] Three to make like ready [Tiptoes a bit further] And four to... [Runs a long way past the line] Go!
- In the Tex Avery MGM Cartoon "The Chump Champ", Droopy and Spike are competing in sports events. For the first event, the 100 meter dash, Spike has the starting pistol, but after going "On your mark, get set..." he runs to within one step away from the finish line. The moment he yells "Go!" and fires the gun, Droopy instantly zips to the finish line, then tells Spike that he might be cheating.
- Jonny Quest TOS episode "Dragons of Ashida". When Dr. Ashida and Race Bannon have a judo match, they bow to each other. Ashida hits Race with a judo chop while he's still bowing.
- A Shaun the Sheep Championsheeps cartoon features this occurring twice. It leads to Shaun and the other competitors exhausted from their false starts...excluding Shirley who was the only one not to start too early, thus is not exhausted and finishes first!
- The Simpsons: During the annual company picnic Mr. Burns gets a very quiet "go" from Smithers in the sack race before everyone else. They all know that Burns is supposed to win the race.
- In the Rugrats episode, "Susie Vs. Angelica", Susie and Angelica compete in a race to see who's the best three-year-old in the world. Tommy is given the job of waving the flag (which consists of a pair of underwear on a stick). Angelica drives off before he waves the flag, which leads to this exchange:
Lil: Hey! That was cheating!
Tommy: Nah, Angelica told me, she was opposed to go right before the flag was waved, and Susie's opposed to right after.
Phil: Oh. Well, as long as it wasn't cheating.
- Mike, Lu & Og: In "The Mother of All Marathons", Mike and Lu have a sprint race and Lu starts before Mike says "Go". Mike still wins because she's more athletic.
- The Land Rush of 1889 had a number of people hide out in unoccupied lands of what is now Oklahoma to claim the land before the Land Rush officially started. Because they got there sooner than the others, they were referred to as "Sooners". This is why Oklahoma's state nickname is "The Sooner State".
- The shortest professional boxing match that ended by knockout went 10 1/2 seconds including the 10 count. It is estimated that Aurele Catoure was more than halfway across the ring before the opening bell sounded; he punched & knocked out Ralph Walton while Walton was still adjusting his mouthpiece.