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Duel to the Death

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"Morituri te salutant!"note 
I can't tell what's wrong or right
If black is white or day is night
But I know when two men collide
It's a question of honour!
Sarah Brightman, "Question of Honour"

An affront has been committed!

The hero has been affronted. Or the villain has. Or someone has dragged the Damsel in Distress into some dangerous situation against her will. Or someone in the cast hasn't realized that they're in Cloudcuckooland and that it's a serious crime to offer Cheesy Poofs to the daughter of the mayor. Or it's a rival situation and "this town ain't big enough for the both of us."

Whatever the situation, sitting down rationally and talking out the differences is just not going to settle things. No, the only way the offended party feels they can have satisfaction is with a Duel to the Death — nothing else will do! So, after striking the offending person upside the head with a glove [horseshoe, brick, or rock optional] to announce your intent, possibly doing so in public, it's time to choose your weapons!

Weapon types can include:

  • Swords (which, depending on the setting, may have a Laser Blade)
  • Guns
  • Martial Arts
  • Wacky items like pies or water balloons
  • Airplanes
  • Giant Robots
  • Magic

...and it usually is considered bad form to use your superpowers if either or both parties has them. Villains, of course, will try to do so anyway. If one character lacks a weapon, Give Me a Sword may ensue — and other characters may use this to try to stop the duel. Generally, it is the right of the challenged to choose the manner of combat, and it is considered highly improper for the challenger to object to the choice.

Sometimes it's a formal "pistols at dawn" duel. Sometimes it's something dictated by The Government of the city, town, planet, or dimension in which the scene takes place. Sometimes it's just a fight where there's an unspoken certainty that the loser will not be getting up again. Sometimes the location and circumstances of the duel are quite outrageous.

When the hero wins, he will almost always show mercy to his opponent, much to the opponent's humiliation (unless he's an Anti-Hero out for revenge, in which case all bets are off). In such cases, the villain may taunt the hero for cowardice or weakness; or he may try to take his own death blow after the duel has officially ended and the hero is walking away, in which case, fifty-fifty, the result will often be the villain getting killed in self-defense (a form of Karmic Death) or the hero or one of his friends stopping the villain Just in Time.

When the villain wins, you can count on the villain to strike mercilessly. The other party will die or may have to be rushed to whatever works for first aid/resurrection in this instance. On the other hand, this may be the point of which you learn the other character is not a villain (Get It Over With is common).

And several duels in media end with the loser having to get out of town.

Honor may (theoretically) be satisfied with first drawing blood, or first serious injury. However, because it will be fought with real weapons, any such duel can still end in death.

Commonplace in westerns, naturally, with the Quick Draw shoot out Showdown at High Noon as the duel type. Jidaigeki or chanbara movies also tend to end this way, with two samurai engaging in a Single-Stroke Battle over a matter of honor, and the outcome of this is usually the death of one or both of the samurai involved.

May overlap with Fight Clubbing, where the duel is, arguably, for fun. At least the spectator's fun. Compare Ten Paces and Turn. Often enforced in Gladiator Games and a Deadly Game. A situation where the combatants don't have a choice in the matter is an Involuntary Battle to the Death. This is often a way for someone who is seeking an Honorable Warrior's Death to find it.

There are lesser variations, and greater ones beyond simply "to the death."

A lot of Card Game Anime actually end up with duels for The Fate Of The World rather than just the lives of the two involved. Serious Business, you know.

See Wizard Duel for the magical equivalent. Compare Combat by Champion, and Trial by Combat. Sniper duels are a subtrope, though they usually just occur in the normal course of warfare rather than being explicitly agreed upon beforehand.

The video game version of this, of course, is the Duel Boss.

Since this trope frequently involves death, fair warning: Spoilers beyond this point.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Rurouni Kenshin Kenshin is a Technical Pacifist who refuses to kill under any circumstances, but quite a few antagonists have tried to force him into breaking that vow in order to fight a true Death Match with them. The most noticeable one was probably Udo Jin-e, a psychopathic killer who was a fellow assassin (though on the opposite side) during the revolution. After Kenshin prevents an assassination, he tries to put Kenshin in a situation where he HAS to kill him in order to save Kaoru, but when it doesn't work and he's left defeated but alive, he simply commits Sepukku, all while stating that he's going to watch Kenshin from hell to see him kill someone.
  • Mazinger Z featured several memorable duels in all series of the franchise: the Final Battle between Kouji Kabuto and Dr. Hell in Mazinger Z (manga version), the final dog fight between Duke Fleed and The Dragon Blackie in UFO Robo Grendizer, the battle between Kouji Kabuto and a mechanized Baron Ashura in Mazinkaiser... but the most famous and most memorable was the Sword Fight between Tetsuya Tsurugi and The Dragon Great General of Darkness / Ankoku Daishogun in Great Mazinger. Not only it counted like a CMOA in that series but it also was a Dying Moment of Awesome for Ankoku Daishogun, who was ready to die without regrets as long as got the chance to fight his Worthy Opponent for the last time, thus redeeming his honour.
  • In Street Fighter, Akuma always fights to the death, though it's somewhat averted in that he never challenges anyone (he only takes challenges from worthy opponents), and ends up sparing loads of people anyway.
  • Samurai Deeper Kyo has, near the end, a duel to the death between Kyo (in Kyoshiro's body) and Kyoshiro (in Kyo's body). Ultimately subverted, Kyoshiro gives Kyo his body back before the final blow is stuck and Kyo, rather than stay indebted with him or making him look better than him, heals his wounds.
  • Last Exile is notable for featuring a duel to the death by airship.
  • Gankutsuou features a duel with Humongous Mecha.
  • Mendou Shuutarou in Urusei Yatsura is not averse to challenging people who annoy him to duels, the first with two very large cannons.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!'s "Shadow Games"—duels to the death decided by card games. Variations of this pop up across the spinoffs Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, and Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. Typically, a Shadow Game causes the pain and injuries from the duel to become real, with terrible consequences for the actual loser. The manga and Toei anime had different varieties of games, usually with lethal results.
  • In Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers, there are two different versions of the same Duel To The Death between Susumu Kodai / Derek Wildstar and Dessler / Desslok near the end of the Comet Empire arc. In both versions, one dueler collapses due to shock from an injury from an explosion on Desslok's ship, rendering a duel unnecessary.
  • In One Piece, this is what happened between Akainu and Aokiji during the Time Skip. The two had the first-ever feud between Admirals, and it was over the Fleet Admiral position. The conflict escalated to the point of a death match on the barren island of Punk Hazard, lasting ten days and permanently altering the climate of the island, making one half a frozen wasteland, the other half permanently on fire. In the end, the winner was Akainu, but, in a rare moment of sympathy, spared Aokiji's life, and the latter proceeded to ditch the marines, not wanting to serve under Akainu.
  • In SD Gundam Force, this trope is the source of conflict between Bakunetsumaru and Ashuramaru. In the past, the two dueled and Baku won but spared his opponent. Outraged at being this perceived dishonor, Ashuramaru would later join the Dark Axis and track Bakunetsumaru down in Neotopia, this time making sure their next duel's for keeps. Bakunetsumaru wins, of course, but does not spare Ashuramaru.
  • During the climax of Assassination Classroom's Hotel Arc, Nagisa engages in a deadly knife duel with Takaoka, the mastermind who poisoned his classmates with a lethal virus and blew up the antidote that the class spent the entire arc trying to obtain just to see them suffer. Despite being completely outmatched in terms of raw strength and getting curb-stomped for the first half of the match, Nagisa manages to win the duel by using an unorthodox assassination technique that gives him a big enough opening to immobilize him in a single move. Instead of killing him, Nagisa coldly smiles as he delivers the finishing blow, an act that drives Takaoka to the brink of insanity as he's rendered unconscious.
  • In There, Beyond the Beyond, the two Virids—identical twins—have been expected to do this from birth in order to avoid an otherwise bloody dispute over the throne, as the survivor obviously gets to inherit. Should a victor not be decided, then they're both to be killed. Oh, and the duel's to take place on their thirteenth birthday. Needless to say, their kingdom's a bit messed up.
  • There are a lot of these in Bleach but one instance stands out where Ichigo is fighting a Battle in the Center of the Mind with his Hollow self in order to gain control over its power. During the battle, Ichigo struggles to find the resolve to gain a killer instinct that desires to seek battle and crush his enemies, and as a result, his Hollow forces visions of past warriors Ichigo has defeated as tests for him to overcome this issue. The climax of this inner struggle comes when Ichigo faces Kenpachi who Ichigo claims that they settled things from their last battle now that they're friends, but Kenpachi claims that nothing about a battle is settled until one side is dead. Kenpachi further clarifies that if Ichigo desires power then it is inevitable that he seek out battle and not shy away from it, that men like them were born to love fighting and to continue fighting in order to gain more power. Basically Kenpachi speaks of a spirited warrior who craves battles to the death.
  • In Vinland Saga, Bjorn takes a gut wound in battle that will inevitably kill him slowly. Rather than wait for the infection from his wound to kill him, he requests a death in this manner instead. Askeladd acquiesces.
  • Queen Millennia: Yayoi challenges the next Queen Millennia sent to replace her to a duel on Venus, the one whose energy shield is scratched would get evaporated by the atmosphere. Yayoi wins and not happy she had to resort to this. This has no plot significance and La-Metal doesn't see Yayoi's treachery until much later.

  • Although many works of art depict duels to the death, William Hogarth's Marriage A-la-Mode is a rare early example of "serial art" which features the trope. The six paintings show the disastrous Arranged Marriage between the son of an Impoverished Patrician and the daughter of a Nouveau Riche alderman; in the fifth painting, the husband has found his wife and her lover in bed together, challenged the lover to a duel, and lost. In the sixth painting, the lover has been executed for the nobleman's murder, and the wife has poisoned herself out of grief and shame.


    Comic Books 
  • In Adventure Comics issue #412, Supergirl is forced to enter one when she's chosen by the ruler of planet Liquel II to be her champion. She doesn't want to kill anybody but Liquel II will be taken over by a tyrant if she loses. Kara manages to win the gladiatorial combat, but instead of finishing her opponent off, she talks the public out of choosing rulers via combats to the death.
  • In The Astounding Wolf-Man Wolf-Man has two very climactic Duels To The Death.
  • In Lucifer, Christopher Rudd gets into a duel in hell and manages to manipulate his demonic opponent into fighting him in human form. After the demon boasts that he is still stronger and faster than Christopher; Christopher shows him it is about SO much more than just speed and strength.
    • Lucifer himself has a significant duel with the angel Amenadiel later in the series, where Rudd acts as Lucifer's second.
  • World's Finest issue #261 shows Superman challenging Batman to a duel to the death.
  • In Marvel Universe, the title of The Lord of Vampires can be obtained by killing its current holder in a duel to the death. Count Dracula gains it in the pages of Dracula Lives!, and has to duel for it again near the end of the original run of The Tomb of Dracula after losing it due to being temporally turned into human.
  • In the first appearance of the Morlocks in X-Men comics, Callisto's battle with Storm was supposed to be this. (Callisto even threw Storm a dagger so they could do it right.) Storm ultimately won, Callisto surviving due to quick action by the Morlock's Healer, but this meant Storm was able to seize leadership of the Morlocks from her. (Technically; she would rarely enforce this, but it did end the crisis.)
  • Red Sonja believes this is her true superpower as revealed in The Art of Blood and Fire. She's good with a sword, but the only way she can beat the best swordsman in the world is to challenge him in a duel to the death. With only honor on the line, the fight is ultimately empty to her and her motivation lags, but when everyone knows the stakes are lethal her steely nerves are unbeatable.
  • In an early arc of Batgirl (2000), Lady Shiva offered to restore Cassandra Cain's body reading abilities in return for facing her in a fight to the death in a year's time. Cassandra agreed, fully intending to throw the match.
  • Hunter's Hellcats: In Our Fighting Forces #116, Lt. Hunter is forced to fight a duel to the death with scimitars against an Afrika Korps captain by a sheik for control of the strategic oasis both sides require.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): In issue #177 Galactic Conqueror "Klamos" has his minions gather up women to force them to fight to the death to find his bride. It doesn't work out as Wonder Woman and Supergirl sabotage the event and unveil Klamos as a robot controlled by his "assistant" Grok, destroying the despot's new empire.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Medusa invokes Ares when Diana gets her pinned during her attack on the embassy, thereby forcing Diana to agree to a duel to the death if she wants to get at the murderous gorgon. Medussa is under Ares' protection because she challenging Di to a duel after he actually bothered to manifest when she called on him, meaning Diana can't get at her.
  • Blaze of Glory: The nightriders force Caleb Hammer and Gunhawk to engage in one, but it is interrupted by Ghost Rider (no, not that Ghost Rider).
  • In Tragg and the Sky Gods #6, Tragg and Lorn are captured by a tribe whose traditions dictate that any strangers entering the valley must be put to death. While the chief is debating whether to apply the tradition (Tragg had just saved his son), Keera arrives, pretending to be a goddess. Following argument between Lorn and Keera, the chief offers them the opportunity to fight a duel, using traditional weapons, next to a pit filled with Spikes of Doom. The winner must either force their opponent into the pit or kill them and throw their body into the pit.

    Fan Works 
  • In Supergirl fanfic Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl enters one with her evil duplicate Satan Girl. Satan Girl wishes nothing but Supergirl's destruction by her hand, and Supergirl can't let her hurt anybody else (and she would like staying alive. That, too). What follows is a long, tough battle between two Kryptonians throughout an uninhabited solar system.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, a Kryptonian criminal falls from the Phantom Zone into Sunnydale and gets bitten. Turned vampire, he gathers an army of undead and gets ready to crack the Hellmouth open. In order to stop him, Supergirl challenges him to a duel. Nonetheless, Buffy interferes when she gets Willow to mind-link her and Kara. Using her fighting techniques and Kara's Kryptonian powers, Buffy manages to slay Zol-Am.
  • In Code Geass Megiddo, Lelouch enters one with Suzaku during the Battle of Pearl Harbor after regaining his memories and returning to his role as Zero, leader of the Black Knights. The duel was the end result of eight years of hatred and resentment, in which both men finally let out their rage on each other. The battle itself was for the most part even, but Suzaku stunned Lelouch with a Wham Line towards the end that essentially sapped his opponent of his will to fight, and would've killed him had it not been for Kallen. Suzaku's declaration at the end during their escape makes it quite clear that any battle between them in the future will also be this.
  • A Brighter Dark: In true honorable fashion, Ryoma and Xander decide to have a formal sword duel rather than allow their armies to descend into full battle. What follows is a long battle between two individuals who have been built up as absolute masters of their trade, with the author using extraordinary detail in describing each action and how it weighs on the course of the overall battle. During which, the focus periodically shifts to individuals working around the duel and trying to turn it to the advantage of their respective army. By the end of the duel, both of them are so badly wounded that they need to be dragged off by their allies.
  • Parodied in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfnip Madness". Minus the "death" part, Hefty and Duncan McSmurf duel with each other while they are intoxicated with smurfnip — Hefty using his police baton and Duncan using a sword — in order to get the other person to drop his weapon. When Tracker brings them to their senses with a fast-acting remedy to smurfnip, neither of them remember why they were even dueling with each other.
  • In Chapter 20 of The Good Hunter, Sir Henry Watson calls Cyril a knave and challenges him to a duel in hopes of taking his head upon victory. Cyril obliges and ends their duel instantly by shooting the Knight Errant in the throat.
  • A Matter Of Honor STO: Worf and his allies goad Chancellor J'mpok into challenging him to a duel on the floor of the Klingon High Council, in what amounts to a palace coup against the Imperial head of state after they manage to implicate him in conspiring to murder Chancellor Martok (J'mpok canonically claimed it as an honorable duel).
  • Legacy of ch'Rihan:
    • Morgan t'Thavrau's Number Two Sarsachen tr'Sauringar has a Dueling Scar from where another Romulan Republic officer took offense at him having served in the Federation Starfleet. He came away needing some stitches but put the other man in the hospital. In "Heis'he Ri'nanovai" he's shown practicing swordwork with Morgan.
    • Sienov Mnheisahein's title literally means "Sword of Honor" in Rihan. When a Watraii nobleman challenges Jaleh Khoroushi to a duel in hopes of breaking up a planned peace deal between the Watraii, the Federation, and the Republic, Morgan exploits a loophole in the Watraii dueling code to sub in as Jaleh's second since the Starfleet exchange officer has no experience whatsoever with swords. She badly wounds her opponent and forces him to yield; otherwise she was prepared to behead him.
  • In Chasing Dragons, Victarion and Dagmar have one over whether or not the Ironborn in Essos should aid Balon's rebellion in Westeros. Victarion ultimately wins by crushing Dagmar's chest, leading to the Ironborn staying put.
  • Vow of Nudity: In his backstory, Serris challenges Faelar to a non-lethal duel but gets framed and imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. After Haara helps him establish his innocence (and discover Faelar was responsible, though without enough evidence to prove it in court), he re-issues his challenge, this time to the death.

  • The 13th Warrior features a lethal duel between two Norsemen warriors. Each warrior is granted three shields to use during the combat. The larger, younger Norseman splinters all three of his opponent's shields and appears to be on the verge of victory. The smaller Norseman, however, isn't as weak or exhausted as he let on, and immediately decapitates the larger man. The ruse was all part of a ploy to intimidate the heroes' enemy with their strength and cunning.
  • Avengers: Endgame provides a hell of a twist. In order to retrieve the Soul Stone, Hawkeye and Black Widow are presented with the fact that an ultimate sacrifice, of something the person loves most, was necessary. But as Platonic Life-Partners, neither of them are willing to sacrifice the other. Indeed, both would gladly die for each other... and both of them know it. Subsequently, they begin to fight not to kill the other, but so the other can't stop them from sacrificing themselves.
  • Bruce Lee fought many of these in his career:
  • In the climax of By the Sword, Villard reveals to Suba that his father died this way to his best student, not realizing that Suba was the student who killed his father and has come back to make amends.
  • Peter Blood and the evil pirate Levasseur in Captain Blood.
  • Convoy has one between a truck and a platoon of the Texas National Guard.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon features a duel in which a father and daughter challenge an old villain who slew their wife/mother. Later, Jen, armed with Green Destiny, fights Yu Shu-lien, armed with a variety of weapons, though the duel is not lethal.
  • Death Duel is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin, with the entire movie being a massive build-up towards the duel between Third Master Chi, the "greatest swordsman in the world", and Yen Shi-san, the dreaded challenger who seeks the number one title. At the end of the film, the number one title stays number one.
  • Unsurprisingly, Ridley Scott's movie The Duellists is about a series of duels, ostensibly to the death, between two Napoleonic-era French soldiers. A slight subversion, in that despite their best efforts they consistently fail to kill each other, and in the end, one of them just walks away.
  • Equally unsurprisingly, the film Duel to the Death centres around a duel to the death: a recurring duel between the top warrior of Japan and China for their nations' honor. Although the Chinese swordsman is a nicer guy, both characters are treated sympathetically when they puzzle out a sinister Japanese plot to fix the fight. They still end up duelling, however, with lethal results.
  • Dune (1984): Dueling with knives is a tradition among the nobles of the universe. Paul Atreides kills Jamis of Sietch Tabr to earn himself and his mother a place among the Fremen. Much later, the film climaxes in a knife fight between Paul and Feyd-Ruatha.
  • Dune (2021): The dueling tradition of the nobles appears, this time using one-handed single-edge short swords (they resemble machetes). Paul Atreides acts as Jessica's champion when Jamis challenges Stilgar over accepting them into Sietch Tabr, quickly proving the more skilled fighter, but is taken aback when Jamis refuses to yield with Chani's borrowed crysknife at his neck; he is then told that there is no yielding under the Fremen amtal rule. After the second time, Stilgar wonders aloud to Jessica if Paul is toying with him; Jessica informs him that Paul has never killed anyone before. The third time, Paul stabs and kills Jamis.
  • The Earrings of Madame de... ends with a duel between Louise's husband Andre and Louise's lover Donati. Andre kills Donati.
  • In Escape from New York, Snake Plissken is forced to fight to the death in a very large opponent in a boxing ring.
  • Flash Gordon (1980): Flash vs. Barin. Defeat Means Friendship, and Barin swears loyalty to Flash in gratitude for not having been flung to his death.
  • The silent classic Flesh and the Devil (1927) has one of these between John Gilbert's character and the husband of Greta Garbo's character after the latter discovers an affair between the two.
  • Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, as Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne in The Adventures of Robin Hood. And it is glorious.
    • Flynn also had a good one as Geoffrey Thorpe against Lord Wolfingham in The Sea Hawk.
  • The Four Musketeers climaxes in a duel between d'Artagnan and Rochefort, as does The Three Musketeers (1993).
  • Gladiator has Maximus fight Tigris of Gaul and later Commodus.
  • The Great Waldo Pepper: Waldo and Kessler turn what is supposed to be a filming flight for a movie into one.
  • Hero (2002) features several duels. The film opens with a duel between Sky and Nameless. Later, Nameless duels and defeats Flying Snow. The true outcome of both of these duels varies with each version of the tale. Broken Sword also duels the King, but spares his life.
    • Also, Flying Snow challenges Broken Sword to a duel, only for him to drop his sword instead of parrying her strike. As he dies, she impales herself on her own sword, essentially nailing herself to his body.
  • Every final confrontation between immortals in Highlander. Off with their heads! Subverted with Connor's duel with Boston Common.
  • House of Flying Daggers, the final battle between Jin and Leo.
  • In The Karate Kid Part II Sato challenged Miyagi to one of these over winning the hand of Yukie, a woman both men loved, after Miyagi left Japan to serve in the War and to avoid having to fight his friend, Sato waited his whole life to have it with him. Because as Miyagi says, "In Okinawa, honor VERY Serious Business." Miyagi avoids the duel by saving Sato's life during a storm before it happens; Sato is so moved by this and also realizing that he never stood a chance against Miyagi that he is willing to consider the debt paid and help Miyagi and Daniel afterwards. But after this is resolved, Chozen tries to force Daniel into one of these over accusing him of dishonoring him, with Daniel ultimately winning but refusing to kill him and instead simply giving him a nose honk as a "finishing move".
  • Kate sees one between Renji and Kijima in the finale, with the victor to claim leadership of the clan.
  • Kill Bill has a series of them, leading up to the one implied by the title.
  • Happens at the end of Lethal Weapon between Martin Riggs and Mr. Joshua.
  • Woody Allen's Love and Death.
    Anton Inbedkov: Shall we say pistols at dawn?
    Boris Grushenko: Well, we can say it. I don't know what it means, but we can say it.
  • The Gladiatorial Combat variation is in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome ("two men enter, one man leaves").
  • In Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, the French and German officers have a duel in balloons with blunderbusses.
  • In his introduction scene, Britt of The Magnificent Seven (1960) is forced into a deadly duel by a Sore Loser who refuses to believe that Britt was faster with a knife than he was with a gun.
  • In his introduction scene, Billy Rocks of The Magnificent Seven (2016) is forced into a deadly duel by a Sore Loser who refuses to believe that he lost to Billy. Billy makes a show of placing his guns on the ground, but at the signal, he pulls a throwing knife from his hair and kills his opponent, who never gets a shot off.
  • In The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond and Scaramanga have a formal duel ("take ten paces, turn and fire") with Nick Nack as the referee. Subverted when Bond turns around to fire and finds that Scaramanga has vanished into his maze to have a cat-and-mouse game with him.
  • The Mask of Zorro gives us two - Don Diego De La Vega (Old Zorro) vs. Don Rafael Monterro and Alejandro Murrieta (Young Zorro) vs. Captain Harrison Love.
  • The Mummy Trilogy:
    • In The Mummy Returns, Evy and Ankh Su-Namun, both reincarnates from Ancient Egypt, have one to settle old scores. Ankh runs off when she starts losing, though.
  • Münchhausen has a rather unique "cuckoo" duel at the court of Catherine the Great. Combatants are locked in a room in total darkness, and take turns shooting when their opponent calls "cuckoo".
  • Ophelia: In the film's finale, Laertes duels Hamlet due to the latter killing his father, with no quarter. Hamlet kills Laertes, though he's killed himself as Laertes' sword blade was poisoned and he gets cut.
  • Patton: The General, then commanding II Corps in Tunisia, remarks to his aide, Captain Richard Jenson, that he'd rather engage his purported GERMAN rival, Field Marshal Rommel, in a tank-vs-tank duel, and, shake hands, then share a drink before "buttoning up" and doing battle with their vehicles; with the outcome of that battle deciding the war. Captain Jenson volunteers to deliver the challenge personally.
  • Plunkett & Macleane features a duel to the death pistols at dawn style between Plunkett and General Chance. Both survive, however.
  • Prince Caspian has one of these, Peter vs Miraz. It underlines how badass Miraz is, because he is at least equal to Peter, whereas his traitorous second in command gets killed by Peter in around two seconds flat, despite Peter having dislocated his shield arm.
  • The Princess Bride, several times:
    • The Man in Black vs. Inigo Montoya: Inigo is a man of honor and spares The Man In Black's life until he can pull himself together. After mutual I Am Not Left-Handed, The Man In Black spares Inigo's life after defeating him.
    • The Man in Black vs. Fezzik: The Man in Black succeeds in besting the giant, but does not kill him.
    • The Man in Black vs. Vizzini: Inconceivable! The Man in Black has built up an immunity to iocaine powder.
    • Humperdink vs. Westley. Westley subverts the duel, invoking To the Pain instead and wins through Refuge in Audacity.
    • Inigo Montoya vs. Count Rugen: It was a heroic revenge thing and Inigo's obsession for the last decade or more. A killing blow is finally dealt, by Inigo to the Count.
  • The Quick and the Dead is about a series of quick-draw competitions - in effect, pistol duels. They only officially become 'to the death' after the first round, though.
  • The movie Rob Roy about 17th-century Scottish freedom fighter Robert Roy MacGregor features a very well-done duel between Rob, a highlander with a heavy, basket-hilted claymore, and Archibald Cunningham, an English fop with a rapier. Archibald proves to be a vastly superior swordsman, but drops his guard at the critical moment while he indulges in a bit of Evil Gloating. Rob grabs Archibald's blade and uses his last ounce of strength to cleave him nearly in two.
  • Robin and Sir Miles at the end of Robin Hood (1991).
  • In Robin and Marian, Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham agree to fight a single combat rather than commit their armies to a pitched battle. Robin kills the Sheriff but Sir Ranulf, the Sheriff's second-in-command, disregards the agreement and attacks anyway, slaughtering Robin's men.
  • Robot Jox portrays a dystopic future where nucular armageddon is averted by resolving all battles with duels between Humongous Mecha, which are consumed through the mass media like sporting events. The trope is hilariously averted in the final duel when the villain and hero spontaneously decide to stop fighting and give each other a thumbs-up knuckle-bump.
  • The final showdown in The Scorpion King (2002) between the protagonist Mathayus and the tyrant king Memnon. Two words: "Catch this."
  • Serenity: The Operative vs. Mal. The Operative is so devoted to his job that he happily dispatches honorable death without anger in the name of the Federation. Until Mal makes him angry by unleashing the Reavers of Miranda on Mr. Universe's moon. Then It's Personal — sort of. But Mal wins and settles for temporarily crippling The Operative so he can see what his bosses have done, which leads to a My God, What Have I Done? moment on the part of The Operative.
  • Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns have given us some great ones by way of Mexican Standoff:
  • Shane: The titular gunslinger against gun-for-fire Wilson.
  • In Sodom and Gomorrah, Hebrew leader Lot fights a duel against Sodom's Prince Astaroth after the latter reveals that he has seduced both of Lot's daughters. Lot wins and kills Astaroth, despite the latter's pleas for mercy.
  • Spartacus has the titular hero in two - one against Draba and one against Antoninus.
  • It is Star Wars film tradition to have a lightsaber duel between two Force-users at some point in the movie, usually near the end. Just as often as not, the duel doesn't end with someone's death — Qui-Gon Jinn of Episode 1, Count Dooku of Episode 3, and Obi-Wan of Episode 4 all met their ends in a lightsaber duel, but the rest usually ended in some other fashion, sometimes with one character losing a hand.
  • Troy has a great one between Achilles and Hector.
  • True Believer: Shu Kai Kim engages in one with a member of a rival prison gang at the beginning of the film.
  • The orcs in Warcraft (2016) have a tradition of mak'gora, a formal duel in which two orcs try to kill one another. It's considered sacred and the participants are pretty much untouchable - Blackhand refuses to stop a mak'gora in progress in an emergency situation and when Lothar wins his mak'gora, other orcs disobey Gul'dan when he wants to have the human murdered, letting Lothar leave unharmed. Gul'dan also loses a lot of points with the Horde when he "wins" a mak'gora by draining the life out of his opponent with fel magic (using magic in a mak'gora is considered cheating).

  • The Count of Monte Cristo
    • A military man is brought to a secret meeting by Napoleon supporters hoping to recruit him. Instead, his bickers and trades insults with the group over their differences in politics. Finally the leader of the group feels that he has been insulted once too many times and challenges the man to a duel. Although he is wounded several times, the leader kills the military man and throws his body off of a cliff, leaving his family none the wiser of his fate for many years.
    • The Count himself casually states that we will agree to a duel under any circumstances, whether swords or pistols or even drawn lots. He's that sure of victory.
  • Eugene Onegin: Lensky and Onegin. It doesn't end well for Lensky and his friend is extremely shattered, too.
  • Known Space: Kzinti are characterized by their hair-trigger tempers and intense sense of personal pride. Personal insults can be washed off with an apology, but that relies on at least one party being willing to back off and admit to being in the wrong. Failing that, insulted or contesting Kzin will seek satisfaction through a duel to the death, and announce their intent to do this through a scream of rage and a leap to the jugular. Historically, this has served as their main method of population control — as population density rises, insults become increasingly more likely to occur, and duels rise in frequency until total numbers have dropped to a stabler level.
  • The Three Musketeers features a number of duels, some more lethal than others. Of particular note, D'Artagnan meets and befriends the title trio when each of them challenge him to a duel on the same day.
  • Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series: Stephen Maturin is an accomplished duellist: he claims to have gone out twenty times in his first year at university. There are two particular examples in the canon: he is shot in the chest by Cannings in a formal duel, and while he only aims to injure, due to his injured hands shoots him in the throat and kills him instead. In Sydney, he fights a soldier who insults him. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin nearly duel in the second book of the series.
    • In fact they nearly duel in the first book. It's how they met.
    • They also nearly "go out" for a duel again later in the series. Captain Aubrey, iron man of the Royal Navy, victor of many battles, fierce battler of many boardings, is sure that Maturin will slaughter him.
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • "Hornblower and the Even Chance", one of the stories in Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, features a subversion. Hornblower knew that his opponent was both a better shot and a better swordsman (and being somewhat suicidal at the time), Hornblower chose to have a 50-50 chance duel. Two pistols, one of which was loaded, chosen by duellists at random. He was perfectly happy to kill his opponent, in fact that was the whole point of challenging him to a duel to begin with, but he would have counted being fatally shot as a win too. The captain ensured that neither of the pistols was loaded, however, causing the duel to be declared null and void, and arranged for Hornblower to get a position on another, better, ship. It was played differently in the Mini Series adaptation. (See the Live-Action TV section for details.)
    • During Hornblower and the Atropos, a Jerkass pearl-diving master named McCullum duels Eisenbess, the pompous minister to the exiled Prince of Seitz-Bunau (currently a midshipman). This is a problem, as diving for lost British gold is the Atropos' entire mission. When Hornblower visits the wounded McCullum and the man continues to insult with every other word, Hornblower wonders how the man has "lived for so long without previously being shot in a duel."
  • The fourth novel of the Honor Harrington series goes as far as to allude to it in the title, Field of Dishonor. Dueling is legal in the Star Kingdom of Manticore and tends to be used by the aristocracy more often than the commoners. On Grayson, a steadholder accused of a major crime can demand a trial by combat against the Protector's Champion.
    • In Field Of Dishonor, Honor has to duel with a professional duelist, who killed her lover in a duel to goad her into challenging him. He assumed that, as a Naval officer, she wouldn't have the same level of skill with the chemical-propellant handguns that are used in duels as he does. Unfortunately for him, her uncle's involvement in the Beowulf Society for Creative Anachronism made her very familiar with such guns, and her genetic enhancements and cybernetic eye have sharpened her hand-eye co-ordination to the point that she can and does simply shoot from the hip. It's not a duel but an execution: she hits her opponent four times before he can even raise his gun, gives him a second to realize he's been beaten, then kills him instantly with a fifth shot between his eyes.
    • At the end of Field of Dishonor, Honor duels Pavel Young, the cowardly and amoral aristocrat who hired the previous duelist. He's so terrified that he turns and fires early... but fails to kill Honor. He's promptly splattered by both Honor and the Marshal of the Field. She is later heavily criticized by aristocrats for, in their opinion, shooting an unarmed man (he had expended all his ammo by that point), conveniently ignoring that the moment he violated the rules of the duel, his life was legally forfeit. Even if Honor hadn't fired, the Marshal would still have killed him on the spot.
    • In Flag in Exile, Honor is forced to engage in a sword duel against a Grayson Steadholder when she's already badly injured from a shuttlecraft crash. Despite his greater experience in swordsmanship, she cuts him down with ease - he had the mindset of a sport fencer, not a hardened killer like Honor, and wasn't mentally prepared for a battle to the death. It should be noted that Grayson swordsmanship is of the Single-Stroke Battle variety since it's based entirely around the movie Seven Samurai.
    • It's mentioned that there are two protocols for duels on Manticore. In the "Dreyfus Protocol", death is possible but not given; one party can declare that honor is satisfied after the first exchange of shots, whether the shots do damage or not. In the "Ellington Protocol", both parties can keep firing until the other goes down. It's implied that the former type is not always fatal, while the latter nearly always is.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, dueling for honor is frowned on but permitted, and such duels can go to the death. Since there are no firearms, all duels are with blades, usually the "belt knives" that most Pernese men (and even some women) carry.
    • In Dragonflight, Lessa manipulates the dragonrider F'lar into a death-duel with the corrupt Lord Fax, since Fax murdered Lessa's entire family.
    • In Dragonquest, Oldtimer T'ron challenges F'lar at a particularly bad time. T'ron clearly intends to kill F'lar, but F'lar can only fight to wound his opponent. T'ron is a fellow dragonrider, and killing him means killing his dragon too — something F'lar absolutely will not do.
    • In The White Dragon, Oldtimer T'kul arranges a situation where he challenges F'lar to a duel — right after T'kul's dragon Salth has died, so T'kul is not only taller and stronger, but also Ax-Crazy after the death of his dragon.
    • Averted later in The White Dragon: Holder Toric of Southern casually insults both Lord Jaxom and his Hold of Ruatha. Jaxom is about to challenge over the insult when Lessa and F'lar (the two most powerful people on Pern) enter the argument and force Toric to back down.
    • At the end of The Renegades of Pern, Jayge fights Big Bad Thella to the death. He foiled her plans more than once, while she killed his uncle and tried to kill his wife and kids, so neither one is holding back.
  • Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series has an alternate-historical version of General George S. Patton so outraged by a viewpoint character's comments that he challenges the character to a duel and requests his choice of weapons. The character gets out of it by clever choice of weapons, as with the Abraham Lincoln case below; in this case, selecting flamethrowers in order to scare Patton off.
  • Sharpe: Sharpe fights several duels in the books and films, most formally in Sharpe's Revenge against Captain Bampfylde, a Royal Navy captain who abandoned his men to the French. In the novel, Sharpe's actually trying to gut-shoot Bampfylde, but unfortunately the smoothbore flintlock doesn't quite shoot straight. In the adaptation he knows Wellington wouldn't tolerate him having killed the man, so deliberately shoots him in the backside.
  • Flashman: Harry Flashman fights his first duel shortly after joining the army, after seducing another officer's sweetheart. Naturally, being a cad and Villain Protagonist he cheats by having a crony palm the other man's bullet. Then, after his opponent "misses", he delopes and by sheer luck shoots the top off a brandy bottle, winning him an entirely undeserved reputation as a crack shot and a gentleman. (Then, just for good measure, he refuses to pay his crony - after all, what can the man do, tell everyone he rigged the duel then was cheated out of his bribe?)
  • Terry Pratchett's Nation features a battle between Mau and First Mate Cox, with the stakes being whether or not a tribe of cannibals will feast on Mau's tribe.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, Lord Peter Wimsey recounts that he's been challenged to a duel three times and fought twice; the third time the police intervened, and Lord Peter suspects that the other man disliked Lord Peter's choice of weapons, swords.
    Lord Peter: A bullet, you see, may go anywhere, but steel's almost bound to go somewhere.
    • Harriet Vane, to whom Peter is telling the tale, then accuses him of bragging.
  • In Teresa Edgerton's The Queen's Necklace, Wil is readying himself for a duel when the novel opens. The authorities intervene. It proves to be The Plan to keep him out of the way; as the queen's guard, he would have prevented her having done something foolish.
  • G. K. Chesterton:
    • In The Man Who Was Thursday, at one point the police infiltrating an anarchist organization set up a duel between one of their number and an anarchist, to delay him. As a consequence, the policeman demands they fight to first serious injury, not first blood, because he can delay him long enough that way.
    • In the Father Brown story "The Duel of Dr Hirsch", Dr Hirsch issues a challenge to a duel.
    • The entire setup of The Ball and the Cross is that an old-fashioned Catholic and militant atheist flee from the police across the English countryside to try and engage in an (illegal) duel to the death, but are thwarted at every turn in increasingly hilarious and bizarre ways.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel The Traitor's Hand, when Beije insults the regiment's colonel, Cain declares they will duel over it if they survive their situation and he does not apologize. They do, but he does.
    • In The Last Ditch, a novice Commissar starts to mouth off about Colonel Kasteen's preference for actual tactics and Jurgen asks Cain if he should start making the arrangements. Once the above scene is described to her, the other Commissar backs down.
  • In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, once Alex Jones challenged the Pirate Greenbeard to a duel — when Greenbeard was the persona he adopted to infiltrate the pirates. Staging it behind a wall, he convinced the Hoka pirates that he had actually fought it.
  • In Parzival, these are so common that a duel is almost the first response of any knight meeting another.
  • The Reynard Cycle: You can expect at least one of these to occur in each installment of the series.
  • Starfighters of Adumar: Dueling is a big part of Adumari (well, really Cartannese) culture, so naturally it comes up a lot. And, in Cartann at least, every single duel is or can be to the death. It starts with starfighter dueling - naturally, the New Republic contingent refuses to do it - and goes from there. One main character attempts Suicide by Duel Opponent; another steps in to fight the guy who would've killed her (but not before using his blastsword to draw a stick figure of a man with a tiny head to taunt his opponent) but doesn't kill, preferring to punch him within an inch of unconsciousness, and then slap him. Heck, it's considered romantic to give someone else the choice of life or death after winning a duel! (The other nations are, mercifully, less insane than Cartann. Their duels aren't deadly.)
  • A Song of Ice and Fire features a number of "trials by combat" in which people are challenged to a duel in answer for their perceived crimes or to settle a dispute. Each of the Tales of Dunk and Egg ends with a duel as well. The laws allow for the trial by combat to be fought by a champion on behalf of the accuser/accused, the reasoning being that the gods will not allow the innocent party to lose. However, the fact that all the trials by combat involve each party trying to get the most dangerous warriors they can find to do the fighting and are often unsatisfied by the outcome, it is clear that nobody really believes the gods have any say in it. Exploiting the trope, Ax-Crazy King Joffrey is found of ordering people who come to him seeking arbitration to fight to the death to resolve the matter. This and the other cruelties he calls justice don't do much to improve the public's opinion of him.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • In James Swallow's Blood Angels novel Red Fury, the Flesh Tearer Noxx gets Kayne into a situation where he can challenge him. Rafen, being Kayne's sergeant, breaks his fingers and says that since Kayne can not face him, he will take his place. The resultant fight is not supposed to be to the death, but Rafen realized he intends to kill him and overpowers him.
    • In the Shira Calpurnia novel Crossfire, a Navy officer who feels that Calpurnia has overstepped her authority and given him grave insult challenges her to an honor duel that could very well kill one or both of them. However, due to legal precedents, she can't accept the challenge, but someone else can take her place—namely, a commissar who eventually wins the duel with only serious injuries being caused.
    • In Ben Counter's novel Chapter War, Eumenes challenges Sarpedon in the opening; Sarpedon insists on its being to first blood. They fight such a challenge again at the climax, and this time, Sarpedon realizes he must kill.
    • In William King's Space Wolf novel Grey Hunters, a young Marine is astounded at the way Sven and Ragnar bicker. Back on their native Fenris, it would have lead to a duel to the death.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars books, a practice of the Green Martians. Indeed, the only way to get a second name and a chieftain's metal is through this, with the chieftain.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden was once formally challenged to a duel under the Unseelie Accords (something like the supernatural equivalent of the U.N.) by a duke of the Red Court. It was decided that it would be a duel of wills, whereby a ball of matter from outside of reality would be encased in a spell that reacted to willpower and each of the two would have to try to force it against the other. Harry ultimately won by summoning Heroic Willpower after the vampire threatened that his friends would be murdered if he won (although the vampire did try to cheat by drawing a gun when it became apparent he would lose). The vampire wasn't killed (as he fled the duel) but Ebenezer McCoy saw to that. Using a disused Soviet satellite.
    • Harry himself later challenges the Duke's widow, Arianna Ortega, to a more traditional Wizard Duel To The Death in Changes.
    • In White Night, Harry and fellow Warden Carlos Ramirez challenge White Court vampires Madrigal Raith and Vittorio Malvora to a two-on-two duel in front of practically the entire White Court due to a string of serial murders of weaker magically-talented humans, in an effort to prove how weak the White Council of Wizards was. Since this is on the tail end of the two vampires trying to claim that the string of murders was their idea (instead of them stealing the thunder from another vampire noble house), the White King pretty much forces them to go along with the challenge, telling them they have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Harry and Ramirez proceed to kick some incubus ass.
  • Jim Butcher must like this trope; Codex Alera also has this as a political and social institution, known as juris macto. One is between Tavi and Navaris, who hopelessly outclasses him but is a little too psycho for her own good; Tavi Breaking Speeches her into making a mistake in a fit of blind rage. The other is a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of Isana by Lord Antillus, who also finds himself being psychoanalyzed mid-fight, though, since Isana knew she couldn't win, that was actually the whole point of the challenge.
    • An interesting factor is that while the juris macto is mentioned lots of times, it only actually happens twice over the course of six books. Apparently implying that you will haul someone outside and kill them if they don't shut up is enough to make all but the most arrogant or desperate consider other options.
    • The juris macto comes with another interesting caveat: The challenged can have a champion fight on their behalf, but the challenger cannot. This serves to radically shrink the number that happen since a High Lord or elite metalcrafter might well step in on behalf of the defendant if they're convinced of his innocence.
    • One epic duel we don't get to see was the legendary one between Aldrick ex Gladius and Araris Valerian. These two Master Swordsmen went for ten hours note  in Alera Imperia, where something like 50,000 people turned out to see it.
    • The juris macto has an interesting legal implication as well: A non-Citizen can become a Citizen by challenging and defeating them, as we learn in the backstory of High Lady Placida, who killed the brother of a High Lord to gain her Citizenship. A juris macto can also be non-fatal, as witnessed in Academ's Fury and the duel between High Lord Kalarus and his son Brencis, which gained Brencis his Citizenship. This seems to be a pro forma method of granting Citizen's kids their own Citizenship without killing their parents.
  • David Eddings has several in his medieval-fantasy series:
    • The Belgariad climaxes with a duel between Garion and the Dark God Torak, acting as proxies for the Prophecy of Light and Prophecy of Dark respectively. To address the seeming impossibility of a Farmboy killing a Physical God, Torak's power is limited and Garion's is enhanced so that they're exactly equal.
    • Part of the climax of ''The Elenium" is a duel between Sir Sparhawk and his arch-enemy Martel. They're both highly trained, in top condition, and armed and armored almost identically, so it's a very close fight.
    • The climax of The Tamuli involves a duel between competing Cosmic Entities that represent good and evil. Sparhawk acts as champion of the Bhelliom, the force of Creation, and Physical God Cyrgon acts for Klael, the force of Destruction.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Shadow Kingdom" Kull refused to fight one with a mere ambassador.
  • In 1632, a bar fight nearly turns into a duel, until MacKay is informed that dueling is illegal in Grantville. In a separate incident, Tom Simpson states that if challenged to a duel, his weapon of choice would be the 10-pound sledgehammer, the announcement of which probably guaranteed that he would never be challenged to a duel.
  • This is Colonel Mustard's shtick in the Clue books. He challenges everyone left and right for the slightest infraction, though only once in the entire series does he actually duke it out with someone.
  • In Scaramouche, Andre-Louis Moreau does this with several members of the Privileged Party, but the most notable one is the duel with the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr. Technically most of the duels, as was the custom of the time, are not officially to the death but only until one party is too injured to continue; Andre-Louis only injures most of the members of the Privileged Party he duels but goes for the kill with the Marquis and in one earlier duel against de La Tour d'Azyr's accomplice de Chabrillane.
  • In John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton, Menelaus's second occupation.
  • In Fredric R. Stewart's Cerberon, after George punches Aladavan, and he's convinced Aladavan plans terrible retribution, George suggests they have a duel to get it over with. Fortunately for George, Aladavan considers the idea ridiculous.
    • Aladavan is forced to duel the son of a wizard he killed in a Trial by Combat. Aladavan is not allowed to use his sword or magic in the fight, while his opponent is fully armed.
    • George offers to duel Captain Mayhew to settle their differences. He tells Mayhew about the special ammunition his pistols are loaded with and lets him pick which one he wants to use.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's The Pale Horseman, the protagonist Uhtred is sentenced to fight a duel with one of Alfred the Great's champions. It's interrupted by a full-scale Danish invasion.
  • The Shadow of the Torturer features a duel between the protagonist and a mysterious army officer that's fought using flowers. The flower in question, the avern, has poisonous leaves that the combatants pluck off and throw at each other like darts.
  • Another bizarre duel takes place in The System of the World - it's fought with cannons. (Not quite as odd in context - the challenged party, who has the right to choose the weapons, is an officer of a merchant ship, and more familiar with cannons than swords or pistols.)
  • In Poul Anderson's "Holmgang", Bo and Lundgard stage this in space, after Bo learns he killed Johnny and is going to seize the ship for his rebellion.
  • Julie Kagawa's The Iron Fey: In The Iron King, when Ash and Puck meet, they challenge one another to a duel. Meghan asks Puck not to fight because of the danger, and Puck says that duels to the death tend to end in it.
  • In Stephanie Burgis's A Tangle of Magicks , the brother of a woman the Viscount Scarwood ruined fought one. He was the one who got shot, not fatally.
  • In Dune the Fremen fight duels with their traditional Sandworm-tooth crysknives, that are always to the death. The first time Paul is challenged to one he is reluctant to kill his opponent, which the onlookers initially mistake for "toying with him". He's also used to fighting with Deflector Shields, which require the blade to be slowed down at precisely the right moment in order to pass through the field. Since the Fremen don't use shields (they drive sandworms crazy), they're confused when Paul doesn't strike at Jamis with full force.
  • In Richard Ellis Preston Jr.'s Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin novel Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War, a Mexican Standoff is resolved by Romulus's insulting Goethe and requiring this.
  • Dying of the Light has a rather elaborate system for dueling. The duelists must decide on the weapons used, the location, the mode, and whether or not they fight with a partner. The challenged gets the first choice, any of the four, followed by the challenger, the challenged again, and finally the challenger. The dueling code also covers special circumstances, such as if one party is young, sick, or partnerless.
  • In the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries a number are fought, despite being illegal.
  • Implied in Sense and Sensibility when Colonel Brandon tells Elinor that he and Willougby "met by appointment" to settle the matter of Willoughby's having impregnated and abandoned Brandon's ward. Both left unwounded. Though it doesn't go into detail, deloping—deliberately missing—was not uncommon. Elinor privately thinks such measures are too far but doesn't censure her friend out loud.
  • After Wickham and Lydia disappear in Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet fears that her husband would duel Wickham on finding him and leave the family to the Collinses' charity. She refuses to be calmed by her elder daughters' reminders that Mr. Bennet is really not the kind of character who would get into a duel.
  • In The Empress Game, the gladiatorial combat in which Kayla participates is often brutal, but Kayla herself prefers to incapacitate her enemies rather than kill them. Later, in the Empress Game itself, the duels are not to the death, which Kayla notes is sometimes to her advantage — if she actually had to damage her opponents rather than just score points, she'd have a tougher job, since some of them could take more damage than she could.
  • The Icelandic Sagas contain several of these, usually delivered in Beige Prose concerning the outcome rather than spending any time on giving a blow-by-blow recapture. Usually they are done to prevent a Cycle of Revenge between two injured parties, and usually duking it out doesn't take anyway.
  • The Dinosaur Lords has a duel between Falk and the commander of Emperor's Praetorian Guard as part of Falk's plot to take over the Guard for purposes of The Coup. Falk wins handily.
  • There was a Boys Own-type series featuring a large hero nicknamed Colossus. In one book he's challenged by an arrogant toreador, who thinks Colossus is Too Dumb to Live when he chooses swords as his weapon of choice. Colossus however turns up with two huge claymores, which the toreador can barely lift. He then suffers the humiliation of being spanked by the flat of the blade wielded by the hero.
  • This Immortal:
    • Conrad challenges Hasan the Arab to a duel to the death (after having paid his death tax and acquired a duel permit, of course) in order to stop him from killing Myshtigo. The dual is fought using slingshots but is interrupted by a group of Kouretes, so no one actually dies.
    • When captured by the Kouretes, the group is given the option that one of them fight the Dead Man in a duel to the death to win all of their freedom. Moreby is very confident that whoever fights will lose, as that's what always happens. Hasan kills the Dead Man, but, predictably, Moreby does not keep his promise of letting them go.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, duels have been abolished in the Elflands, as they are seen as barbarian custom only fit for goblins. Thus, it is rather interesting when Csethiro Ceredin writes Maia a letter, complaining that duels are no longer considered appropriate, and expresses the desire to duel someone who wronged Maia.
  • In Paths of Darkness of the The Legend of Drizzt series, Entreri has Jarlaxle set up one, so he can settle his score with Drizzt once and for all by eliminating all outside influences that up to this point always ended their one-on-one fights without a clear victor. Jarlaxle uses Crenshinibon to set up a crystal tower in which Entreri and Drizzt can fight without either Drizzt's friends or anything else to interfere. Unfortunately, it is an Involuntary Battle to the Death from Drizzt's point of view, but he is goaded into fighting anyway.
  • The Stormlight Archive: This is the traditional way to win a Shardblade or set of Shardplate. The Alethi elite normally refrain from actually killing each other in these types of duels, but foreigners are another matter.
  • David Drake's Historical Fiction/Military Science Fiction fusions frequently use these.
    • The prospect of a pistol duel is brought up frequently in the RCN series. Deuteragonist Lady Adele Mundy was trained as a duelist by her politician father to ward off such challenges due to the rough-and-tumble nature of Cinnabar politics. Notably she killed her first duel opponent by accident, however: she meant to only wound him but was using an unfamiliar weapon and blew his brains out instead. She also remarks once that if she ever comes face to face with Daniel Leary's father Corder Leary, the man who ordered her entire family executed for treason, she'll just skip the formality of a duel and kill him on sight. Daniel himself nearly challenged her early in the first book over a perceived insult, though his manservant Hogg talked him out of it. Had he not, it would have been a very short book.
    • In Into the Hinterlands, dueling exists (Allen Allenson and Sarai Destry's affair hypothetically becoming public is cited as cause for one), but in response to the common-born Councillor Rubicon's accusation that Allenson considers him beneath his status to challenge, Allenson responds that he considers dueling "a stupid way of settling disagreements." Throwing the offender out a third-story window, on the other hand...
  • Part of a changing medieval society Protector of the Small. King Jon had to make a declaration that Alanna is not allowed to issue challenges, otherwise she'd be forever beating up knights who don't think women should fight with swords, and while challenges of honor are still quite common when there's a tournament going on, fights to the death are verboten—instead it's a best-of-three joust. This doesn't stop one knight from trying to spit Keladry in a joust, but rather than call it off as a foul (which would be allowed and justified), Kel opts to finish the joust and unhorses him.
  • During the final battle in Loyal Enemies, Shelena challenges her unnamed former tormentor to a duel to the death after having tracked him down. Since her enemy is a mage and she intends the duel to be fought with only their swords, she uses archmage Veres' presence to intimidate him into compliance. It's a long, drawn-out thing, as both of them turn out to be capable sword fighters, but Shelena wins that particular contest of patience.
  • Brother Cadfael
    • In his first appearance, High Beringer challenges the murderer of Nicholas Faintree to one of these. Ostensibly it's a Trial by Combat, to let God favor the combatant who's telling the truth; privately, Hugh needs to kill the man without giving him the chance to testify because shameful information about the brother of Hugh's new Love Interest will be revealed if the culprit speaks in his own defense.
    • Cadfael determines that the death of Godfrey Picard was no murder, but the result of a duel in which he was armed and his opponent fought barehanded. Picard's challenger was Lazarus — once known as the legendary knight Guimar de Massard — whose granddaughter was being abused and sold into an unwanted marriage by her uncle and aunt the Picards. As such, Cadfael and Beringer see no need to charge Lazarus with a crime.
  • In the backstory of the Vorkosigan Saga, Aral Vorkosigan challenged his first wife's two lovers to duels, and killed them both in the same place, one after the other. Duelling was illegal, but he got away with it because everyone assumed they had killed each other. Later, when Aral is Regent, his friend's son is sentenced to death for accidentally killing a friend in a drunken mock duel with ornamental swords. Aral has the Sadistic Choice of pardoning the boy, which will be seen as the Regent allowing his friends to flout the law, or letting the execution go ahead, which will turn his friend into an enemy and make him a hypocrite in private.
  • In The Curse of Chalion, duelling is legal, and one obnoxious duellist picks fights on trivial grounds and forces his victims to duel to the death. He gets away with murder because it's all according to the rules - until one victim's father persuades a god that the duellist doesn't deserve to live.
  • Alexis Carew brings up the existence of duels in Privateer.
    • First mentioned during the landholders' meeting when Edmon Coalson, head of a rival family to the Carews and whom Alexis once poured a pot of tea on when an attempt to court her went awry, is set to speak against amending inheritance laws to allow female heirs. Bracing for an Ad Hominem attack against Alexis's Royal Navy career regarding The Mutiny on HMS Hermionenote , Denholm suggests he might challenge Edmon. Alexis thinks to herself that Denholm will have to get in line. Instead Edmon surprises everyone by announcing he's in favor of the measure.
    • Later, a dispute between a gathering of privateers erupts after the situation inside of a hard-to-access star system turns out to be different than Alexis expected. One of the other captains insults Alexis and she challenges him. She puts her sword through his face, but he survives and she can't bring herself to deliver a Coup de Grâce.
  • In Dangerous Liaisons, after the Marquise de Merteuil and her ex-lover and partner in manipulation, the Vicomte de Valmont, turn on each other, Merteuil reveals to her other ex-lover, the Chevalier Danceny, that Valmont has slept with Danceny's music student and lover, Cécile de Volanges. The enraged Danceny immediately challenges Valmont to a duel. Valmont is fatally wounded, but as he dies, he passes Merteuil's letters to him on to Danceny and asks him to read and circulate them, thereby destroying the Marquise's reputation.
  • The Berenstain Bears: In the chapter book The Berenstain Bears and the Giddy Grandma, Gran tells Sister the story of how, when she was younger, she used to perform a one-bear-band vaudeville act. She also recounts how Gramps (who also worked there, but not as a performer) and a clown named Roscoe both courted her, which culminated in Gramps slapping Roscoe and challenging him to a duel (which was, of course, illegal). Roscoe, as the challenged, had the right to choose the weapon... and chose pies, with someone promptly going to a nearby bakery and coming back with two banana cream pies for them to use. Despite losing the duel, Gramps came out on top in the long run, as he was physically unharmed (though his pride was somewhat wounded), and Gran decided he was the bear she wanted to marry.
  • Waltharius: Travelling through the Vosges mountains with two chests of Hunnish gold, Walther and Hiltgunt are held up by king Gunther who demands Walther to surrender Hiltgunt and the gold, and, when Walther refuses, sends twelve Frankish champions to do battle with Walther. However, Walther has made camp in a narrow gorge where only one man can get at him at a time. In a sequence of single combats, Walter kills eight Frankish champions until the remainder realize they have to change gears.
  • Frigid Fracas by Mack Reynolds. A Cold War disarmament treaty leads to the US and Soviets fighting Gladiator Games using nineteenth-century weapons. An American agent is challenged to a duel by a Hungarian duelist who is actually an assassin sent to kill him. The American chooses Bowie knives as a weapon his opponent isn't familiar with... except that he is as it's not dissimilar to an Italian short sword used for dueling. What the Hungarian doesn't know however is that—provided you get the original designed by James Black—it makes an excellent throwing knife.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: In perhaps one of the most unusual duels ever; Yuki Nagato faces off against Ryouko Asakura, both of them interfaces/agents of the Integrated Data Sentient Entity, in order to protect Kyon from Asakura's attempts to kill him in order to get a reaction from Haruhi. Asakura seems to terminally injure Yuki with the latter having apparently made no attempt to attack. It transpires that Yuki has been on the attack in a different way, breaking through Asakura's data barriers in order to terminate Asakura's data link, effectively deleting her from the world.
  • In Corsair, Shirokko hates Canale, who is a blind pacifist and therefore useless as a pirate, and keeps trying to challenge him to one for any reason, hoping to be rid of him. When Canale finally is forced to duel him and beats him (being a former assassin), Shirokko is rather stunned.
  • A very important part of the society of Robert A. Heinlein's science novel Beyond This Horizon. Citizens (male citizens, at least) are expected to carry deadly weapons as a matter of course. If they do not wish to go armed, they must wear a "peace brassard"—but are then liable to be snubbed at every turn, being expected to "give way automatically" in public places to armed citizens. The rules of dueling in the novel are a trifle unclear; on the one hand there are references to set-piece duels with formal challenges, and to gentlemen sending their "next friends" (formal "seconds") to demand satisfaction. On the other hand, a Quick Draw shootout breaks out in a crowded restaurant, and no one seems to feel any law or custom has been broken thereby—after it's over, the other diners return to their meals "with the careful indifference to other people's business of the urbane sophisticate".
  • The Obsidian Chronicles: These are common among the nobles in Manfort. Arlian duels multiple people in the books and kills his opponents.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100 has Queen Nia challenge Lexa's leadership of the Grounder coalition with one of these. Each is allowed to choose a champion to fight for them, but while Nia chooses her son, Roan, to represent her, Lexa insists on fighting for herself. The rules of the duel (the only rule of the duel, actually) is that it ends when someone dies. Lexa wins, but instead of killing Roan, throws her spear into the audience watching the duel, killing Queen Nia. This ends the duel, and makes Roan, who is much more favorable to Lexa than his mother was, the new King.
    • It's implied that a series of duels among the Nightbloods is used to select the next Commander. We don't get to see it, though, since Ontari kills all of her challengers while they sleep.
  • Angel, several times. In one of the earliest, he wins when his opponent impales him, assumes he's won and turns away. Angel then cuts his head off. What kind of demon assumes impalement is automatically going to work?
    • Discussed when Buffy and Webs, a former classmate who was turned into a vampire, fought in "Conversations With Dead People".
  • Arrow. In Season 3 thanks to the machinations of Malcolm Merlyn, Oliver Queen is forced to challenge Ra's al Ghul, leader of the League of Assassins and one of the most dangerous men in the world. Malcolm is actually trying to engineer Ra's death rather than Oliver's (though the latter probably wouldn't bother him much) but Ra's easily defeats Oliver and throws him off the mountaintop. When Oliver turns out to be Not Quite Dead, Ra's is impressed enough to name Oliver his successor, leading to their second duel in the season finale where Oliver does a lot better thanks to being instructed in swordfighting by Malcolm. The following season Oliver challenges Malcolm, but rather than break his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule he cuts off Malcolm's hand instead, deposing him as Ra's.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Londo is mentioned to have been a member of a dueling fraternity. He gets into a duel to the death in the second season episode Knives, though it's more a Suicide by Cop gambit by his opponent to save his family from being tainted by a charge of treason.
    • Minbari duel with hollow metal quarterstaffs(probably sharpened at the edges). As a duel is presumably consensual it is considered by them to be "suicide" and hence it is not Minbari killing Minbari. The most dramatic example of this is Marcus dueling Neroon, to prevent the latter from assassinating Delenn. Marcus loses, but he gets better.
      Neroon: Den'sha, you said. "To the death". And death there was. The death... was mine. To see a human invoke the name of Valen — to be willing to die for one my kind, when I was intent on killing one of my own... the rightness of my cause... disappeared.
      Marcus: The next time... the next time you want a revelation... could you possibly find a way... that isn't quite so... uncomfortable?
      Neroon: (bursts out laughing)
  • Speaking of which: the A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch The Duel. It turns out that "sword or pistol" is an either-or, so when the challenger picks the sword, his opponent gets... the pistol. They eventually settle for dueling with handkerchiefs, but the sketch ends when the witness realizes he doesn't have anything left to drop.
  • Blackadder
    • The first season had the title character challenge someone who revealed him as a bastard to a duel, and was shocked when the man enthusiastically replied, "To the death!". Luckily, he was just messing with his head.
    • The third season ends with the Duke of Wellington challenging the Prince Regent to a duel over the honor of his nieces (with whom George had slept). The Prince convinces Blackadder to take his place by offering him everything he owns and then survives the duel (which is conducted with 1-pound miniature cannons) due to a Pocket Protector. Wellington takes Blackadder's survival as a sign from above ("Fortune clearly favors you for greatness!") and calls off his grudge; it helps that Edmund had earlier impressed the Duke with his wit and charm.
  • Bridgerton: Anthony, Lord Bridgerton challenges his best friend Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, to an illegal pistol duel after catching Simon making out with Anthony's younger sister Daphne (risking her reputation). Daphne rides out to stop the duel but it turns out she needn't have bothered: Simon deliberately aims his pistol straight up in the air, and Anthony aims to kill but his hand is shaking so badly the shot goes well wide (even before Daphne rides her horse between them right before they fire). Simon tells Anthony later he always was a terrible shot.
  • By The Sword Divided features two of these, both involving Cavalier officer Tom Lacey. In the first series, he fights a fellow Cavalier to defend his sister, Anne. In the second, he deliberately provokes the Roundhead Major General Horton into challenging him to a duel at dawn.
  • One episode of Cadfael resolves this way thanks to taking place on the medieval Welsh border. Cadfael and Hugh Beringar determine that the dead man in the woods was called there for a duel over mistreating his niece, who happened to be his killer's long-lost granddaughter. Because the killer beat a swordsman while being unarmed himself, the death is declared not to be a murder.
  • Deconstructed in a Castle episode, where the victim of the week was found with a musket ball in his chest. Of course, Castle immediately spun off a theory about a time-traveling pirate. When the apparent murder weapon, an antique pistol, was found, Beckett and Castle proceeded to test it at the firing range, before realizing that there's no way to hit a specific target at range with it (even steadying the weapon and using a laser sight). It turns out that the victim and his friend specifically used two antique pistols to settle their dispute because they didn't want to hurt each other but wanted to keep their honor (they were steampunk LARPers). Unfortunately, a rival of the victim's found out and shot him with a shotgun loaded with a musket ball from the same set.
    • The inaccuracy of dueling pistols was grossly exaggerated for that episode. The reason that specially crafted sets of weapons were used for duels is that they were carefully engineered to be as accurate as possible, and the majority of 19th Century dueling pistols could put a half-dozen shots in a three-inch ring at 20 paces. Doesn't keep that montage from being hilarious though.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Curse of Peladon", the Doctor is forced into a duel with the champion. Even though he's an old man, the Doctor wins anyway.
    • In "The King's Demons", Hugh insists on taking up the king's champion's gauntlet, to protect his father. He is highly insulted when the champion, having unhorsed him, comes to finish him off and the Doctor intervenes, saving his life.
    • Although the Doctor rarely picks up a weapon, he did duel with an alien spaceship captain in "The Christmas Invasion", in a "this town ain't big enough for the both of us" scene. After beating the alien, he graciously decided to let him live (despite the fact the aliens had come to enslave humanity and had previously killed two diplomatic aides in cold blood), but when the humiliated alien captain attacked the Doctor from behind, the Doctor finished him off by dropping him off the edge of the spaceship hovering over London. By throwing a piece of fruit at the release button.
  • The Firefly episode "Shindig" has Mal dueling Atherton Wing as a result of Mal decking the aristocrat for essentially calling Inara a whore. Mal wins (because Inara interferes by begging for Mal's life before Atherton can deliver a Coup de Grâce, and Mal takes advantage by landing a haymaker on Atherton while he's distracted), and lets Atherton live — albeit perhaps a bit scratched up.
    "Mercy is the mark of a great man." [Stabbity!] "I guess I'm just a good man." [Stabbity times two!] "Well, I'm all right."
  • In The Flash (2014), Gypsy comes to Earth-1 in order to retrieve H.R., as it turns out that dimension-hopping is a capital crime on their native Earth-19. By Earth-19 law, someone can challenge a Collector (like Gypsy) to a duel. It's only after Cisco challenges Gypsy that he's told that the duel is to the death. Unlike him, Gypsy has full control of her powers (identical to his), while he still needs his glasses and amplifier gloves. He also has very little combat experience, while she is a highly-trained officer of the law. However, Julian manages to analyze a video of their initial fight and determines that Gypsy has a predictable vulnerability. During the duel, they engage in some dimension-hopping, before Gypsy prepares to use her special move. Cisco remembers the vulnerability and manages to catch Gypsy off-guard, knocking her to the ground and hurts her a little, before sparing her life in exchange for H.R.'s. Oh, and they start dating later.
  • In an episode of the re-imagined Flash Gordon series, Flash is enamoured with Princess Aura under the influence of a Love Potion. Barin, the leader of a local tribe, whom Ming wants to marry Aura (despite both being unwilling) happens upon Flash and Aura. Right at this moment, Ming walks in and sees the three of them. Gleefully, he forces them both to publicly duel to the death for Aura's hand using poisoned flail-like weapons. The problem is that Barin is a warrior and has been trained to use the weapon, while Flash is a marathon runner from Earth with few hand-to-hand combat skills. Quickly disarming Flash, Barin prepares to finish him off, but can't. Instead, he throws the weapon at Ming, who goes down from the poison. Aura then reveals that she has replaced the poison in the weapons with a fast-acting sedative meant to simulate death and that Ming will be very angry when he wakes up.
  • Game of Thrones: Of course.
    • Subverted by the duel between Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister which, after five episodes of hype, is interrupted before either party can gain any real advantage and both men survive.
    • The duel between Syrio Forel and Ser Meryn Trant is left as a Bolivian Army Cliffhanger, prompting wild mass guessing based on Never Found the Body even though the victor reappears unharmed later.
    • Drogo engages in one with Mago when his leadership is called into question. He rips Mago's throat out bare-handed but takes a sword wound that becomes infected, killing him.
    • Jorah Mormont gets into an impromptu one when Drogo's bloodrider Qotho attempts to intervene in Mirri Maz Duur's blood magic. He wins handily, because he's wearing a suit of armor and Qotho isn't: he traps Qotho's khopesh under his arm and skewers him with his longsword.
    • Qhorin Halfhand starts one with Jon Snow as part of a Heroic Sacrifice to install Jon as a Fake Defector.
    • Westeros accepts Trial by Combat as a legitimate form of justice. The Hound is subjected to it in Season 3 and Tyrion elects Combat by Champion in both Season 1 and Season 4.
    • Daario Naharis stands as Daenerys' champion against the champion of Meereen.
  • A staple of Highlander, just as in the films. But, since it’s a series, there are occasional exceptions to it as well.
  • Hornblower, episode "The Even Chance" AKA "The Duel": Horatio challenges Simpson because he accused him of cheating in cards. The real reason was to either kill their bully or to die, not having to face his torture anymore. His friend Clayton clubs him and fights Simpson in his stead. Unfortunately, poor Clayton is shot. However, when Simpson and Hornblower meet later, they are to face each other yet again. Simpson fires early and claims it was a misfire, giving Horatio a free shot. Being the Dirty Coward he is, he begs for his life, and Horatio fires into the air, saying he's not worth the powder. Humiliated and furious, he tries to stab Horatio In the Back. Captain Pellew shoots him dead, exhibiting some fine Improbable Aiming Skills.
  • JAG: In "Dog Robber (Part 1)", Mac deals with two Naval Academy pledges (fictional descendants of Burr & Hamilton) who staged a failed duel.
  • James May's Man Lab has an entire segment dedicated to the art of dueling, culminating in James and his producer Will dueling over a parking space with flintlocks the first time (resulting in the death of an errant sound man), and paintball guns the second time. Will wins the second duel, and as James lays "dying," his life flashes before his eyes.
  • Legends of Tomorrow
    • The team travels to The Wild West to hide from the Time Masters but happens upon a gang terrorizing a town. They manage to capture the leader of the gang, but the gang takes one of theirs prisoner as well. Jonah Hex suggests someone duel the gang leader at high noon. Ray, having been named the town sheriff, volunteers, despite having no experience with a revolver, but Rip decides to go himself, being a crack shot (and his own blaster is even shaped like a revolver). Rip ends up winning, and the remaining members of the gang release Jefferson and flee the town, abiding by the terms of the duel.
    • Earlier, Ray, Kendra, and Sara are accidentally left behind in 1958. After a while, Sara leaves the couple and goes to Nanda Parbat to (re)join the League of Assassins. By the time the rest of the team return, Sara's mind has mostly forgotten her origins, and she has become a true member of the League. An attempt to rescue her goes awry, and everyone is captured. Knowing the rules of the League, Rip challenges Ra's al Ghul to a duel for the fate of the prisoners. Presumably, Rip has no intention of actually killing Ra's decades before his fated death at Oliver's hands, but he probably assumes that Ra's can be healed in the Lazarus Pit. However, unknown to Rip, both he and Ra's are able to choose a challenger to take their place. Ra's chooses Sara. Reworking his plan, Rip chooses Kendra, Sara's friend and frequent sparring partner, hoping that Kendra can reach Sara during the fight. It works. Sara bests Kendra but snaps back before dealing the killing blow. Then Chronos attacks, and the duel is forgotten.
    • In Season 2, the enmity between Damien Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn reaches a boiling point, and they decide to settle their dispute "League-style". What follows is a vicious sword fight, but the opponents are evenly matched, and their prisoner (an amnesiac Rip) convinces them that they're better off putting their differences aside in order to force Eobard Thawne to treat them as equals.
  • The Middleman had the title character forced into a vastly outnumbered Duel to the Death on behalf of his mentor, Sensei Ping.
  • In one skit on The Muppet Show, a knight named "Sir Avery of Macho" (portrayed by Special Guest Avery Schreiber) challenges the Monster of the Moors (portrayed by Sweetums) to a duel of insults, while Kermit in his reporter attire watches and comments on it. Avery eventually loses, but manages to claim that it wasn't the Monster's insult that got him - it was his breath.
  • In The Musketeers, this happens quite often. The first episode has D'Artagnan seeking out Athos and challenging him to a duel because he mistakenly believed that Athos had murdered his father.
  • In Quantum Leap, Sam leaps into a man that is being challenged by a disgruntled former partner to a duel at high noon. Sam's host is destined to be shot by the superior gunman, and Sam himself is terrible with a revolver. Fortunately, one of Al's former girlfriends taught him how to quick-draw, and Al teaches it to Sam. Sam ends up winning the duel, but he deliberately goes for a disabling shot.
  • Parodied in the Red Dwarf episode "The Beginning", which opens with a rogue simulant claiming that Lister has killed his brother, and challenging him to a duel across space and time. It turns out that "Hoagey the Roguey" has been challenging the crew to duels across space and time on a regular basis, and they're getting sick of it. Evidently, they're not actually to the death.
    Hoagey: You say I'm obsessed with duels across time and space? You insult my honour! I challenge you to a duel across time and space!
  • The 2008 miniseries of Sense and Sensibility shows the "meeting by appointment" between Brandon and Willoughby as a Sword Fight. In this version, Brandon does wound Willoughby, but decides to refrain from actually killing him.
  • A common feature of Sharpe, being set in The Napoleonic Wars. Sharpe fights multiple duels, which also carry a risk beyond his death: Duelling between British Army officers was banned by Wellington during this period under threat of court-martial.
  • An episode of Sliders has them end up in a world where the Republic of Texas never became part of the US and takes up most of the former Mexican states. As such, duels (of the quick draw variety) are a common way of settling disputes, and there are professional duelists frequently hired by businessmen to remove rivals and conduct hostile takeovers. Quinn is challenged by one but drops his gun, refusing to participate. Not being a complete monster, the professional duelist can't bring himself to shoot an unarmed man.
  • Stargate:
    • Surprisingly, there are several in Stargate SG-1.
      • After finding out that La Résistance leader K'tano is actually a minor Goa'uld named Imhotep, Teal'c challenges him to a duel. However, instead of traditional Jaffa weapons, they use wooden training staffs in the shape of the staff weapons. When K'tano is about to finish Teal'c off after breaking his staff in two, Teal'c uses a broken piece of the staff to impale K'tano as he lunges for the killing blow.
      • Later on, Cameron Mitchell engages in several sword duels with holographic knights. He wins one by beating the knight. The other one can't be beaten normally and almost kills Cameron, but Daniel ends up shooting the holo-projector. Also, Cameron is captured by a secretive tribe of Jaffa, who have developed their own form of martial arts. As Cameron is accused of killing one of their tribesman (the guy is actually alive at SGC), he is told that he will be executed by allowing a family member of the deceased to fight him. Being fair, they send one of their own to teach Cameron their martial art. When it comes time for the duel, Cam finds out that his teacher is the brother of the "deceased" and his opponent. Despite his military training and the new skills, the brother easily beats Cam and pretends to kill him.
      • The audiodrama First Prime has Teal'c being forced to fight in a duel with Sebe't, a former friend and the new First Prime of Apophis. Sebe't uses a device called "altir", which is a pair of orbs that are typically attached to the temples of gladiators that allow them to scan each other's surface thoughts and which can be used to deliver electrical shocks to the wearer. Sebe't is able to use the device to outmaneuver Teal'c and beat the crap out of him, so Teal'c flees and uses "kelno'reem" to hide his thoughts. At the end, he uses the "altir" to show Sebe't the truth about his wife Li'tel's death: her death wasn't an accident, she jumped off a bridge after Apophis forced her to be his mistress and then discarded her. Teal'c witnessed it but was ordered to lie to Sebe't. Sebe't renounces Apophis and is killed when an electric shock is delivered through the device.
    • In Stargate Atlantis, John Sheppard finally kills off Acastus Kolya with a quick draw, after Kolya refuses to surrender.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • Kirk and Trelane in "The Squire of Gothos".
      • Kirk and Spock in "Amok Time". (Kirk is trying to help Spock, who's Not Himself, and doesn't find out it's a fight to the death until he's already committed.)
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Tasha Yar's duel with Yareena in "Code of Honor". In a twist, Tasha does kill Yareena, but then Dr. Crusher revives her after Yareena's been officially dead long enough to nullify her marriage to her jerkass husband.
      • Klingons, unsurprisingly, have more than one dueling protocol. After Duras kills K'Ehleyr, Worf's lover, Worf storms onto his ship and kills him in the Rite of Vengeance. This also happens to resolve the Empire's Succession Crisis and puts Gowron in the top spot.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • Worf then removes Gowron from power with one of these because Gowron is using the war to play politics (with disastrous results for the actual soldiers). Then he gives the coat to his sworn brother, Martok.
      • Quark participates in no less than two of these, although neither ends in death. The first time, he is temporarily in charge of a Klingon noble House and attempts to prove that the head of another House has been attempting to destroy "his" House through financial means (a big no-no in Klingon society). The other Klingon challenges him to a duel in response, figuring the weak Ferengi will be easy to beat. However, Quark drops his bat'leth at the start of the fight, refusing to participate in this farce. When the other Klingon tries to strike him down anyway, Gowron intervenes, having seen proof of the other Klingon's dishonor, and praises Quark's bravery. Later, an aide to his Klingon lover challenges Quark. Quark wins by using Worf to remotely control his body. Quark/Worf knocks the other Klingon down but spares him. Quark's lover declares honor satisfied and dismisses the other Klingon from her employ.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise expands the Andorian culture into Romanticism incarnate, to contrast them with their Enlightenment Vulcan rivals. No surprise that Archer eventually has to duel his frenemy Shran, although the Andorian dueling code is so complex they're able to find an acceptable way to avoid an actual killing.
    • Star Trek: Picard: This is an ancient Romulan custom which is still practiced on the cusp of the 25th century as a nod to their roots as a Proud Warrior Race. Tenqem challenges Picard to a Sword Fight with the intent of killing him, and it's a long-standing tradition for a Zhat Vash and a Qowat Milat to fight each other to the death in unarmed combat.


  • Several ancien regime-style duels are featured in the video to Wolf Parade's "I'll Believe in Anything." The final duel involves cannons (possibly inspired by the one Kaiser Wilhelm II was involved in; both the officer in Wilhelm's case and the challenged guy in the video clearly think of the whole duel thing as ridiculous).

  • Norse Mythology:
    • An interesting mash-up between this and Talking the Monster to Death is found in Norse Mythology and the tradition of a Riddle Game... to the DEATH! This is a favorite tactic of Odin and was also taken whole-cloth by Tolkien for the deadly riddle contest of Bilbo and Gollum, including the unanswerable question at the end.
    • The Prose Edda tells how after Hrungnir, the strongest of the giants, has insulted and threatened the Aesir, Thor and Hrungnir settle the score by fighting each other in single combat. Hrungnir is specified to be the first (which possibly implies, the only) opponent to actually challenge Thor to a duel.


  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme:
    • Series 1, Episode 2 had Voltaire, Voltaire's friend Guy de Lombard the finest swordsman in Paris, and a man who didn't believe Voltaire would really fight to the death for the right to say something he disagreed with. When de Lombard challenges this man to a duel for insulting Voltaire, Voltaire says he must fight to the death for the man's right to say Voltaire wouldn't fight to the death. When de Lombard says this is stupid, Voltaire agrees and backs down. Realising this makes the other man right, de Lombard then challenges Voltaire, who realises there is now nothing he can say that doesn't lead to him having a swordfight with de Lombard, which he'll lose. At his funeral, the priest comments that the final irony is that Voltaire never actually said that anyway.
    • In the Storyteller sketch in Series 4, Episode 1, Finnemore recounts an altercation between two of his fellow clubmen in which he unwisely inserted himself, resulting in the world's first triangular duel, as Sir Winnersh Stopdolphin challenged Lord Scoby for sleeping with his wife, Scoby challenged Finnemore for suggesting only a coward would refuse such a challenge, and Finnemore challenged Sir Winnersh for calling him the worst shot in the club. And then the other two resolved their differences just before it started, and when Finnemore protested, they both took aim at him. But first he got them to pose for a photograph; the same trick Sir Winnersh used to shoot three tigers with the same bullet.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000.
    • Common among the Imperium, Chaos, and Dark Eldar and extremely common, if informal, among the Orks.
    • "Informal" in this case roughly translates to "only when shooting them in the back with your favourite gun doesn't kill them instantly".
    • This was given an explicit rule, "Challenge", in Sixth edition: if two squads each have an upgraded/attached unit such as a sergeant, or if one squad is an independent character all on their own, then when they close for melee combat the attackers can issue a challenge to the defenders. If the challenge is accepted, each duelist can ONLY affect the other (useful when one tends to make a lot of attacks per round and could wipe out a squad); if rejected, the defending champion can't take part in that round of combat (still potentially useful, in cases where one unit can't take out the attacking character but the whole squad can).
    • Lucius the Eternal tends to only fight to his full ability when he's called one of these. With a sword and whip. Likely against someone with a big gun.
  • Warhammer isn't too far behind, with Empire, Dark Elves, Orcs, Chaos, and Ogres all engaging in this to some extent.
    • Ogres in particularly are big believers in it; leadership of a tribe only changes with the death of the current Tyrant. Sometimes this is of fairly natural causes (the legendary Tyrant Olflab Stonecruncher Fatgut Deathcheater choking to death on his great-grandson's skull after ruling for over 90 years, for example). Most commonly, a "guts out pit-fight", where two ogres fight to the death with their bare hands and the winner eats the loser, is what determines a change of power. They also combine this with an Eating Contest; the winner gets to eat the loser. The ogres will gladly take similar challenges from non-ogres, except trolls, whose Hollywood Acid digestive system is a Game-Breaker even by ogre standards.
    • This is half of Wulfrik the Wanderer's shtick, going around challenging people whose head the Chaos gods want on a stick (read: important units the player wants dead but are safely hidden behind bodyguards). The other half is his Gift of Tongues, which allows him to speak every single language there is and ensure the challenge is unrefusable, because it takes the form of a long string of unsubtle insults that enrage the target into accepting the challenge even if it's an obviously stupid idea (such as leaving the walls of a fortress to ride out and fight him).
  • Rokugan's culture favors contests of iaijutsu when it comes down to two bushi having a personal clash. That said, the parties involved require special dispensation from their lords in order to fully realize this trope—their lives are not for themselves to choose to throw away, after all. Normally, such duels are thus merely to first blood.
  • A deeply rooted part of Clan warrior culture in the BattleTech universe. Not only is it fairly common to settle disagreements with duels (not always to the death, but few Clanners blink an eye if it happens as long as nobody cheated), but it also constitutes the appeals process in the courts, is essential to the promotion process, and is mandatory to participate in the political process, where earning the right to vote requires you to be the winner of a 24-man dueling tournament. The attitude goes so far that ganging up on a single enemy in actual combat is considered a breach of the rules of warfare, to the point where an odd man out will wait until his comrade is killed, and then engage the now "free" enemy. In essence, a properly fought Clan v Clan war is the sum total of numerous individual duels. The Inner Sphere, being the Inner Sphere, exploited this mercilessly and tended to manage to win fights where they were technologically outmatched by fighting completely unfairly when the Clans expected fair fights.
    • This can also happen when two Solaris gladiators decide the galaxy isn't big enough for the two of them. Duels are technically not allowed, but if someone has a "friendly" 1-vs-1 with an opponent who refuses to eject and whose cockpit takes a stray laser beam... that is just a tragic accident.
  • Chaosium's Stormbringer supplement Stealer of Souls. After 4 merchants have Elric of Melniboné kill Nikorn, one way for Nikorn's daughter Freya to get revenge is to challenge each of the merchants to a duel. If she takes too long dealing with them, one of the merchants will seek her out for a duel. In the sequel Black Sword, Freya can duel Elric himself.
  • Traveller: Several versions. Notably Aslan who fight duels with claws. As each one has a claw long enough to serve as a dagger It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Car Wars features these, both with and without cars being involved.
  • In Rocket Age the Silthuri sometimes use duels to settle matters, usually hiring a champion. Most duels aren't usually to the death, but there are exceptions.
  • In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution two telekinetics or two psychokinetics with near-to-equal talent levels and a bone to pick can initiate psychic duels. They are highly dangerous for both parties and anyone else nearby.
  • In Ironsworn, as per the Draw the Circle move description, Ironlanders can decide whether a duel can be to the death. The opponent must either comply or forfeit to this demand, and backing down after complying brings great dishonor.

  • In Shakespeare's Henry IV part 1, Prince Hal challenges Hotspur to single combat in lieu of their two armies meeting. The offer is more or less rejected, the armies fight, but Hal and Hotspur eventually have their duel, which becomes the "this town ain't big enough for the two of us" version.
    Hal: Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere, Nor can England brook a double reign of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.
  • Averted Trope in Zemsta - the challenge is issued, but the challenger forgets about it. There was a lot going on.
  • There are three duels in Hamilton, two of which are to the death. The first only ends in injury, the second takes the life of Hamilton's son Phillip, and the third, of course, kills Hamilton. Ironically, one of the lyrics to "Ten Duel Commandments" notes that "most disputes die and no one shoots."
  • In the ballet Raymonda, Countess Raymonda's betrothed and the Saracen visitor who was trying to seduce her fight a duel on the behalf of the visiting king of Hungary. Thanks to the help of the castle ghost, the visitor dies, and Raymonda rejoices.
  • The final battle between Curt and Owen could be considered this, with them grabbing different weapons from a museum and fighting each other with them in The Eleven O'Clock Number One Step Ahead.

    Video Games 
  • Arcaea has Hikari being forced into one of these when Tairitsu saw a vision of herself being killed by the former. Hikari kills Tairitsu and wins, but quickly breaks down and goes insane out of guilt. Later on, Lethe and Saya was caught in a similar situation where the former attempts to kill the latter due to Saya's affront against the memories Lethe collected.
  • Devil May Cry 5: Dante and Vergil unsurprisingly get into another fight after the latter's return, with Nero eventually stopping them as he's decided no more deaths and because dealing with The End of the World as We Know It Urizen caused is more important.
  • Some of the games in the Gundam Vs Series use the concept of the Duel to the Death for Mission Mode stages. Alliance vs ZAFT 2 Plus has a literal duel with Andrew Waltfeld, where both he and the player start back-to-back with one hit point, meaning first blood wins. Gundam vs Gundam Next Plus has a particularly annoying variation where you and an ally fight two enemies at the same time, again so low on health that one hit means death... except both enemies have a "second chance" ability that sacrifices a nonessential limb for extra health, meaning whoever you kill last needs to be killed three times. And the whole fight takes place on a stone platform in the middle of a volcano, so if you miss your jump...
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has this with Ganondorf as the battlefield is being flooded by the entire ocean.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has this as both the fight with Zant and the True Final Boss.
  • Per the above BattleTech example, a memorable mission in Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries has the player square off with the leaders of a Clan Jade Falcon invasion force to settle the matter like true badasses. It's not one on one (the Clanners 'bid' a Binary (10 mechs), and the PC answers with an eight mech bid and tells them to bring it) but otherwise plays "pistols at dawn" very straight, taking place at first light on a deserted beach.
    • The best part, of course, being that it isn't to the death (unless you lose, of course)- after winning the challenge you cite Clan law to force the enemy commander to become your bondsman and join your company with the callsign Falcon. She's one of the best pilots available too.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • This is actively encouraged among Orc tribes as part of the Klingon Promotion to become chief. This isn't primarily due to evil ambition, though. Orcs are encouraged to kill their chieftain if he is too old or too weak to continue to lead, thus ensuring that whoever leads is stronger than the leader he replaces and strong enough to lead the tribe.
    • Minotaurs have a primitive clan-like social structure along these lines. Typically living in groups numbering in the twenties, Minotaur clans are led by the strongest male who has breeding rights with all females of reproductive age. Younger males may attempt to challenge him for the position via such a duel.
    • In Morrowind, the Vivec Arena is used for settling matters of honor rather than prizefighting (as it is in Oblivion). Completing the main quest and rising to the top of each non-mutually-exclusive Guild and Faction requires fighting in no fewer than four such duels, with several others optional (and not always lethal). Other quests involve NPCs fighting there as well.
    • In the backstory of the Action-Adventure spin-off game Redguard, the hero, Cyrus, slew his brother-in-law, Hakan, in a duel after Hakan drunkenly struck Cyrus' sister Iszara. Though such duels are a perfectly legitimate means to settle disputes in Redguard society, Cyrus is the son of a prominent Crown (a conservative Redguard political party with ties to old Yokudan nobility) while Hakan is one of the leaders of the Forebears (a more progressive Redguard political party with ties to the "Warrior Wave" of Redguards who first settled Hammerfell and made it safe for the rest of the Yokudans to settle there). The Crowns and Forebears are violently opposed, and Hakan marrying Iszara was an Arranged Marriage to hopefully bring peace. Thus, Cyrus was forced to flee, becoming a pirate.
    • The ancient Yokudan (Precursors of the Redguards) Master Swordsman Frandar Hunding had participated in 90 duels by the time he was 30, never once having been defeated. This led him to believe that he was invincible, causing him to retire to Mount Hattu where he would write the Book of Circles to pass along his insights.
    • Also from the backstory, King Joile of Daggerfall convinced Gaiden Shinji, the legendary Redguard hero and leader of the Order of Diagna, to join him in the Siege of Orsinium (the home city-state/fortress of the Orcs). Joile then convinced Shinji, the Blademaster and founder of the Imperial City Arena, to participate in a Combat by Champion-style Duel To The Death against the Orc leader, Baloth Bloodtusk. As Shinji and Baloth were fighting, Joile ordered his archers to open fire on both of them, killing them both. As it turned out, Joile not only wanted to sack Orsinium but planned to invade Hammerfell after and knew that Shinji would have been a major obstacle. (Joile would get his comeuppance, dying during what would be a failed invasion of Hammerfell.)
    • Another backstory example is Pelinal Whitestrake, the legendary 1st Era hero of mankind/racist berserker. Pelinal came to St. Alessia to serve as her divine champion in the war against the Ayleids. Pelinal would fly into fits of Unstoppable Rage (mostly directed at the Ayleids) during which he would be stained with their blood and left so much carnage in his wake that Kyne, one of the Divines, would have to send in her rain to cleanse Ayleid forts and village before they could be used by Alessia's forces. When dealing with Ayleid lords, however, Pelinal liked to challenge them to individual combat and then mercilessly slaughter them. At the end of the war, he battled the Ayleid leader, Umaril the Unfeathered, in this fashion. He defeated, but could not kill, Umaril who had divine protection from the Daedric Prince Meridia. Umaril's minions then cut the wounded Pelinal into eight pieces as a mockery of the Eight Divines.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the player character can be challenged to a one-on-one duel by a knight who believes they are responsible for the death of the king. The player can agree to fight him fairly, send their entire party after him, talk him out of the fight, or force the fight to a draw by retreating into the market, causing the knight to call off the fight and swear vengeance later.
    • You also get to fight Loghain in a duel to the death, though you can choose a champion in that duel.
  • In Dragon Age II, if you have Fenris in your party and/or if Isabela comes back at the end of chapter 2 you get the option to resolve the qunari uprising by fighting the Arishok alone in a duel to the death. (Whether or not you'll want to is another question entirely.)
  • Towards the end of the level "The Ark" of Halo 3, the Master Chief runs into a pack of brutes, led by a hammer-wielding Chieftain. Unlike most engagements with Brutes, where the player has to contend with the mooks first, in this encounter, the bodyguards form a semicircle while the Chief engages the Chieftain.
  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game: The Duel mechanic where two units take turns hitting each other according to their current strength until one of them is dead. Typically in favor of the unit who started the duel, as their owner got to choose their target and will stack the odds in their favor.
  • World of Warcraft has the "mak'gora", a formal, honor-bound duel of orc tradition. In the original, traditional method, each duelist is permitted one weapon blessed by a shaman and no armor, but it's mostly up to the two duelists over what rules there will be. The mak'gora is often used to challenge the current Warchief, with the victor taking the mantle. During Thrall's reign, the mak'gora wasn't fought to the death, but Garrosh re-established the rule "Lok'tar Ogar", Victory or Death. There have been many notable mak'goras throughout history:
    • Orgrim Doomhammer challenging the Warchief Blackhand in the first Warcraft game. After learning how Blackhand was a pawn to Gul'dan, Orgrim challenged Blackhand and killed him, becoming the new Warchief.
    • Garrosh challenges Thrall after the events on Outland over Thrall's tolerance with the Alliance. The duel was never finished since the Scourge attacked Ogrimmar during their battle.
    • Cairne challenges Garrosh for what he believes to be a betrayal on Garrosh's part(actually manipulation from the Twilight's Hammer cult). While it doesn't happen in-game it's widely referenced in-game. Garrosh's weapon was poisoned by an Evil Chancellor without his knowledge, so Cairne was paralyzed as soon as Garrosh barely scratched him. He was then killed by Garrosh. It was believed by many, Garrosh included, that Cairne would have won the duel had he not be betrayed so.
    • During War Crimes, which chronicles Garrosh Hellscream's trial after he goes off the deep end and is subsequently defeated by the Alliance and a Horde uprising, Saurfang, a seasoned orc veteran, expresses distaste that Hellscream is being tried by foreigners in a foreign land and that if it were up to him, he would have challenged Hellscream to a mak'gora. Saurfang, despite his age, would most likely have won this duel easily.
    • In Warlords of Draenor, Thrall challenges Garrosh. Garrosh gains the upper hand at first, but then Thrall unleashes his shaman magic. Thrall wins, and Garrosh loses his life. This has consequences in Legion. Because of everything Garrosh did since Thrall put him in control of the Horde, Thrall suffered a great deal of emotional turmoil after all was said and done. So much so that he lost his connection to the elements and so lost his shamanistic powers.
    • In Battle for Azeroth, Varok Saurfang challenges Sylvanas Windrunner after she proves how monstrous she's become and what direction she was taking the Horde. Sylvanas dominates the fight, but Varok manages to scratch her face while declaring she's a failure who will never break the Horde. This leads to a Villainous Breakdown where she angrily declares the Horde is nothing to her, which instantly turns everyone including the Forsaken against her. Realizing what she said, she finishes off Varok with a blast of dark magic before fleeing.
  • In Empire: Total War, a Western faction's gentleman character can challenge or be challenged to duel another character (not necessarily another gentleman). The cutscene shows a duel either using swords or pistols. Interestingly, the duel is not always lethal, meaning both characters can survive with their honor satisfied. The cutscene will then show both characters walking past each other (one of them bandaged), nodding in respect.
    • The intro to Total War: Shogun 2 shows a Combat by Champion between a samurai from an army besieging a city with the city's champion. The invading samurai wins. As he walks away towards his general triumphantly, he falls dead revealing that his back is now a pincushion from arrows fired by the city's defenders. Cue his general sounding a charge to the walls in anger.
  • This is the final boss fight in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, between Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot.
    • Most Metal Gear games in general end with a one-on-one duel. There are more bosses who don't bring mooks to back them up than there are that do.
  • Fable: The Arena quest is mostly a Monster Arena with your Friendly Rival Whisper fighting alongside you, but the surprise final bout is announced to be a duel to the death between the two of you. You need to defeat her to complete the level, but can Defy the trope and walk away after that, unless you want the cash bonus and huge hit to the Karma Meter that comes from cutting her down in cold blood.
  • Sword duels are a standard piece of Imperium Nova, over insults or for money. Whether the loser survives or merely suffers injuries depends on their skill and fighting style.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, the "Seven Rivalries" require the pilots of the seven Divine Knights to duel with each other until only one Divine Knight remains. Normally it doesn't involve the pilot dying but it ends up becoming this trope if the pilot previously died and is only being kept alive by the Divine Knight. By the end of the rivalries, Rutger, Arianrhod, and Osborne die by the end of the game while Crow, who died in Cold Steel II, lived on because of the powers of the seven Divine Knights.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic features several duels, especially in the Sith storylines (given the Siths' Might Makes Right attitude).
  • One level in Dishonored has the main character infiltrate a high-class masquerade ball. While there, an optional mission involves handing a letter from an Upper-Class Twit ally of the main character to one of the nobles present. Said noble, upon reading the letter, calls the sender out as a gutless coward and reveals that the letter states that the main character will take the sender's place in a duel to the death, which the player is then made to participate in. Despite the duel opening with each participant being given a pistol, the player is free to use other weapons if they so choose, including sleep darts for a Non-Lethal K.O..
  • Genshin Impact: In the nation of Inazuma in, one can challenge another to a 'Duel Before the Throne', a duel overseen by the local God-Emperor, Raiden Shogun. If the Shogun agrees, status, political power or even being a foreign dignitary are no barrier, and the loser will be executed, no questions asked. The Traveler invokes this against Signora to make them answer for their crimes, and is notably one of the rare times The Traveler audibly speaks in cutscenes.
    The Traveler: I challenge you... to a Duel Before the Throne!
  • In King of the Castle the code of the duel is an integral part of the culture of the Grandees of the South, and several story events see various Grandees getting into duels on matters of honour with nobles from other regions. If the King sanctions the duels, they risk the practice getting out of control and leading to many deaths, but if the King bans duelling altogether, the Grandees' Defiance will spike, as they regard it as an attack on their traditions.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: The truth behind Chapter 4's killing is a combination of this and a heavily implied Suicide Pact. The chapter's motive is that it takes place in a Closed Circle where the students are denied food until a murder takes place. Realizing that everyone is willing to starve to death rather than kill anyone, Gundham engineers a scenario where he and Nekomaru are alone, and they engage in a duel to the death, knowing that the winner will almost certainly be convicted of murder in the resulting class trial and be executed by Monokuma, but also that their combined sacrifice will save everyone else.
  • In the backstory of The Great Ace Attorney, Genshin Asogi offered one of these to his friend Klint van Zieks after correctly identifying the latter as the Serial Killer known as "The Professor". He did it to allow Klint to leave the world with honor instead of being executed like a common criminal. As for Klint, he wrote his will directly before said duel and wrote that he did not deserve an honorable death like this anymore. The autopsy report of Klint notes the lack of wounds on his body aside from the fatal stab to the heart, so it is all but stated that Klint merely stood there and let himself be killed in a sort of Suicide by Cop.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick features Roy versus Thog in the Empire of Blood's arena. Roy didn't initially intend on the "to the death" part— he expected the fight to be called after he knocked Thog down. Unfortunately, he had broken Thog's tooth, which gave the barbarian a rage-enhanced second wind, allowing him to get back up and eventually get the upper hand. Roy tried again to avert this trope, this time by surrendering, but Thog wasn't having it and continued to wail on Roy with obviously lethal intent. Roy eventually won by tricking Thog into collapsing the entire arena on top of himself, resulting in his death. note 
  • In Escape from Terra duels are legal on anarcho-capitalist Ceres, but most of the residents are sensible enough not to do them. Unfortunately when Guy's Napoleon-obsessed cousin Pierre arrives on the asteroid he challenges someone who gropes his butt at a gay bar. Guy and the other guy's second conspire to set up a series of conditions to make Pierre withdraw.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, plenty of duels to the death have taken place when heroes have faced villains. Most notable ones include Arawn vs. Leon, Amano vs. Ax, and Leraje vs. Ismail.
  • Three words: Ryan. Versus. Dorkman.
  • Fate/Nuovo Guerra has developed a system allowing for "Servant Skirmishes", i.e. battles where it's possible for both combatants to get out alive, and "Servant Duels", which are this trope. The former allows for typical Play-by-Post Game free-form roleplaying, while the latter uses a dice to determine the winner while minimizing accusations of God Modding.
  • Skippy's List has examples:
    86. May not challenge anyone in my chain of command to the "field of honor".
    188. May not challenge officers to "Meet me on the field of honor, at dawn".
  • The DEATH BATTLE! web series takes two similar characters and pit them against each other, analyzing their respective strengths and weaknesses to see who would win a... Duel to the Death. Indeed, the rules stated say that it is necessary for the loser to be killed, and should the character have any pacifist qualities that would prevent the situation, those are removed and not alluded to in the dialogue. There has been only one subversion in the entire series: Deadpool vs Pinkie Pie ends with the two becoming friends and deciding to have a party in Ponyville instead of killing each other because their Medium Awareness allows them to break the fourth wall and the rules of Death Battle.
  • Logan's Tale: Logan chooses to settle things with Benny this way in the Legion's arena.

    Web Videos 
  • Played with in the Corridor Digital work To The Death. A student at a futuristic Laser Sword school is being tested for graduation by dueling a teacher. The Combat Commentator says that the student will need to kill his opponent in order to graduate. However whenever one of the combatants is killed, a medical device is wheeled out that heals their injuries and revives, either bringing them Back from the Dead or, at the very least, from the brink of death. The student is healed/revived four ways throughout the video, and possibly more that weren't shown before finally overcoming the teacher, who is also revived.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Agni Kai among Firebenders. Not necessarily an automatic Duel to the Death, but given that Firebenders are temperamental and frequently portrayed as aggressive, arrogant, and violent...
    • Zuko vs. Fire Lord Ozai - how Zuko got his scar. Rare occasion of a villain showing mercy... but not really, given what comes after.
    • Zuko vs. Zhao: Zuko wins, but refuses the Kill Shot. Zhao, disgusted at being defeated by someone he considers inferior, attempts to take a kill shot on Zuko, but Iroh steps in and shoves him across the arena with a casual flick of the wrist.
      Iroh: Even in exile, my nephew has more honor than you.
    • Zuko vs. Azula: Azula wins, but only by cheating. And both Zuko and Katara show her mercy, even though she's gone nuts by this point.
    • Ozai vs. Aang: Ozai plans to kill Aang. Aang knows he's supposed to kill Ozai, but he finds another way.
    • After a fashion, the Earthbender battle arena also counts, but death is not intentionally a consideration, as it's done for showmanship and entertainment.
  • In various Looney Tunes cartoons taking place in a Western setting, Bugs Bunny is challenged to a duel, usually by Yosemite Sam. Needless to say, Bugs doesn't play fair, and neither does Sam.
  • The Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry short "Duel Personality" centers around one… er, several of these between the title characters. All of which Go Horribly Wrong.
  • Futurama, "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?": Zoidberg challenges Fry to Claw-Plagh after catching him with the woman he was trying to mate with in a spoof of the "Amok Time" episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • In The Simpsons episode "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)", Homer goes around slapping people with his glove and challenging them to a duel. Nobody accepts the challenge, so Homer keeps doing it just for the hell of it. Soon enough, someone (a Southern Gentleman, natch) accepts, so Homer skips town with the family, thus starting the main story. After that runs its course and the Simpsons return, Homer asks why they ever left in the first place. Sure enough, the man is still there, waiting to duel. "D'oh!"
    • During the same episode, Homer runs into Jimmy Carter. The encounter swiftly goes sour thanks to Homer's rudeness, and Jimmy Carter tries to challenge Homer to a duel. Homer freaks out and drives away before Carter can slap him with a glove.
  • The entire premise of A Gentlemen's Duel. Two gentlemen come courting the same lady at the same time, naturally something is going to go down. With giant steam-powered kung-fu robots. Of course.
  • Storm's duel with Calisto was adapted and Bowdlerised for the X-Men: The Animated Series cartoon. (They used energy batons instead of knives.
  • Samurai Jack: Jack gets into a few of these throughout his travels. Once, Aku came up to him and challenged Jack to a final duel (Aku says he won't use his magic if Jack doesn't use his sword), but they both cheat, and Aku runs away before Jack has a chance at killing him.

    Real Life 
  • Dueling (of the type we think of today) originates from the time period when a squabble between two men could easily and rapidly blow up into a huge, ruinous family feud. Dueling contained the dispute between two/four men and kept collateral damage to a minimum. However, duels to the death have always been relatively rare. First blood, or in the case of pistols, one-shot, duels have always been more common. Even in a place as notoriously rough-and-tumble as 17th century Venice, only one in forty duels ended in the death of either combatant and even then deaths were more the result of unlucky first cuts than anything else. And in pistol duels it was common for one or both duelists to shoot into the air or into the ground at the feet of their opponent; willingness to risk one's life in the duel was supposed to be sufficient for honor to be satisfied. When a duel was intentionally to the death, it was usually because a feud between the participants went deeper than just the specific dispute that was officially the subject of the duel.
    • Maybe. It has been estimated that over a 180-year period during the Middle Ages in France, upwards of 40,000 French nobles died in personal duels.
  • American history has the Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr duel. As a classic early-19th-century pistol duel, it would not have been socially expected to have been to the death, but one or both parties may have intended it to be nonetheless. This one is so steeped in personal enmity and political rivalry, and is of such importance to the history of the United States, it gets its own article on The Other Wiki.
  • Abraham Lincoln was also challenged to a duel at one point. He thought that the idea of dueling was absurd and initially chose cow pies as the weapon. When the challenger told him to take the challenge seriously, Lincoln then requested that it be fought in a pit with cavalry broadswords. Lincoln particularly insisted that the pit have a plank across the middle that neither man could cross. Then, just before the duel, Lincoln cleared some branches with his sword. Realizing that Lincoln had at least six inches' greater reach, his opponent ended up chickening out.
  • A lot of fun was had on the Internet when it was noticed that the specifics of Will Smith hitting Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars (him slapping Chris across the face with an open palm in order to protect his wife's honor after Chris had aimed a barb at her) technically meant that Will Smith had just accidentally challenged Chris Rock to an Duel on live television.
  • The Sandbar Fight itself wasn't a duel but followed after one. The duel itself - where the two men did not harm each other after two shots apiece - was a tame affair. The aftermath between the two groups that supported each duelist was bloodier, when they approached each other one side opened fire and they began a close-range brawl. The Sandbar Fight became famous because Jim Bowie - a target of the brawl - barely survived it with various gunshot wounds while taking out three men (killing one) with his famous knife. When word of the fight made the papers, sales of the Bowie knife skyrocketed.
  • Andrew Jackson was involved in several duels and carried multiple bullets inside him for many years — it was a common joke among his associates that the man rattled when he walked. In one particular duel, Jackson knew his opponent was a better shot, and let him fire first. The bullet lodged in his chest but was not fatal. Because pistols back then could only be fired once before reloading, Jackson had all the time in the world to aim his shot.
  • British history has two famous ones from the early 19th century:
    • The 1809 duel between Lord Castlereagh and George Canning. Both men were leading Cabinet ministers in the Tory government of the Duke of Portland (Castlereagh was War Secretary and Canning was Foreign Secretary). As the Napoleonic Wars were ongoing, they were chiefly fighting over military strategy, but also who would succeed the ailing Portland: the proximate cause of the duel was that Castlereagh discovered that Portland had secretly agreed to kick him out of Cabinet and replace him with Lord Wellesleynote  when the political moment was right. Castlereagh won the duel (Canning, who had never shot a pistol in his life, fired wide, while Castlereagh hit Canning square in the thigh), but ultimately neither man succeeded Portland (the job went to Spencer Perceval instead).
    • The 1829 duel between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchilsea. The Duke was Prime Minister at the time; Winchilsea had written a letter harshly criticising Wellington for allowing the passage of the Catholic Relief Bill (neither Wellington nor Winchilsea were fans of Catholic Emancipation, but Wellington felt it politically necessary to avoid civil unrest). The Duke missed (deliberately, he claimed, although he was such a notoriously bad shot that this might be face-saving); Winchilsea fired into the air and apologised for the harshness of his language.
  • A particularly famous 16th-century French duel was waged after the young, minor nobleman Guy de Chabot, Baron of Jarnac, quarreled with the Dauphin (the heir apparent to the throne). Because the Dauphin was too important to duel himself, the veteran soldier and highly skilled duelist François Vivonne stood in his place. Knowing that he had little hope of defeating Vivonne, Jarnac hired the services of the Italian fencing master Captain Caize, who trained him to perfect a little-used cut to the back of the knee. On the day of the duel, Jarnac quickly landed two blows on Vivonne's legs, crippling him. The enraged king ended the duel immediately. Vivonne refused medical attention and eventually bled to death. The duel shocked the French court due to the unexpected result, the ease at which Jarnac seemed to win, and the bad implication it had on the royal family. Dueling was quickly outlawed in France thereafter. To this day, a Coup de Jarnac is a tricky or unexpected attack.
  • In his youth as acting editor of the New York Sunday Mercury, Mark Twain challenged the editor of a rival newspaper to a duel. The duel itself was narrowly averted after Twain's second exaggerated his marksmanship, prompted the rival's second to advise him to call off the duel.
  • Ridley Scott's The Duellists was based on a true story - in France, 1794; a young officer named Dupont was ordered to deliver an insulting message to Fournier, a fellow officer. Fournier took out his rage over the letter by challenging Dupont to a duel, which ended without a clear victor, as did the next, and the next and so on. They fought thirty duels over the next nineteen years. Eventually Dupont grew so irritated at repeatedly being challenged that he refused to fire in a pistol duel, instead telling Fournier (who had fired and missed twice) than if he ever challenged him again he would first fire his two reserved shots.
    • Fournier was a violent and quarrelsome fellow, so his life was full of other duels with countless other people. The Spaniards didn't call him El Demonio for nothing.
  • Mathematician Évariste Galois died in a duel at the age of twenty, leaving behind writings that provided much of the foundation of group theory.
  • The great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin was very touchy about his own honor, but rather disrespectful about others. As a result, he fought a great number of duels. He was eventually killed by Georges d'Anthes, husband to his wife's sister, over rumors that d'Anthes was having an affair with Pushkin's wife.
  • A few years later, another Russian poet, Mikhail Lermontov, met his end when, while serving in the Army, one of his fellow soldiers didn't like a joke he had told. They dueled, and Lermontov was shortly dead.
  • The last recorded judicial duel in France was fought in 1386. Interestingly it was allowed, not because The Government at the time thought it appropriate practice but simply because they hadn't bothered to take it off the books! A French noblewoman conceived while her husband was away at war. She claimed it was rape by a political rival of her husband's. Her husband appeared as plaintiff and slew the defendant.
  • In 1818, an Englishman was accused of murder and claimed the right to trial by combat. To everyone's surprise, the law granting him that right was still valid, and he was acquitted when his accuser declined to appear on the "field of honor." Trial by combat was abolished the next year.
  • Germany's last Kaiser, Wilhellm II, was very temperamental and often challenged people to duels. One of the main ways his opponents avoided them was by setting very strange rules. One rather intelligent army officer proposed a duel using field artillery, at 30 meters.
  • Otto von Bismark once challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel over a political dispute. Allegedly, Virchow chose sausages as his weapon: One was infected with larvae of the Trichinella roundworm (which cause a painful and potentially deadly deadly illness if eaten), one was not. The Chancellor decided that he didn't want to risk eating a toxic sausage and withdrew the challenge.
  • Two rather famous hunters once challenged each other to a duel at 400 meters with rifles with each fighter at the other end of a cliff split by a deep river. The duel lasted over a month since each would carefully camouflage themselves after firing.
  • Preston Brooks gained infamy for bludgeoning Senator Charles Sumner half to death on the floor of the Senate after deciding that the man was not his social equal and did not deserve to be called out to a duel. Another congressman, Anson Burlingame of New York, accused Brooks of cowardice for his actions and received a prompt challenge by Brooks. Burlingame, a marksman, accepted the duel and chose rifles. To avoid anti-dueling laws, he demanded that the duel be held in Canada. Surprised by Burlingame's enthusiasm for the duel and aware of his reputation as a crack shot, Brooks claimed that he did not want to go into "hostile territory" to reach Canada, so he withdrew the challenge. The North mocked him for a coward for the rest of his life.
  • Frederick The Great's father once almost challenged the King of England to a duel, commenting that it was a personal quarrel that should be handled personally rather than risking the lives of their respective subjects. It was unseemly - a bit of Common Sense which very few monarchs seem to have for some reason. The diplomats scotched that plan.
  • Master Swordsman and Olympic fencer Aldo Nadi engaged in a legitimate and very illegal duel with a rival in his youth, sometime in the 1920s. Both participants were wounded several times, and Nadi refused repeated requests from his friends to end the duel. Finally his opponent simply lowered his sword and walked forward with arm extended, as you would at the end of a fencing match, to bring the episode to a close before someone got seriously injured.
  • Two Frenchmen once fought a duel in hot air balloons over Paris. The winner punctured his opponent's balloon, causing the loser and his second to fall to their deaths.
  • Two other Frenchmen fought a duel in which they threw billiard balls at each other. The outcome of the duel is unfortunately unknown.
  • In 1967 Gaston Differre mayor of Marseilles and R. Ribbere majority leader met on the field of honor over a political insult with swords to first blood. To avoid having the police spoil the fun, Differre was smuggled in the trunk of a car.
  • At one time in his career Theodore Herzl the founder of the Zionist movement wanted dueling to be legal in the new state to emphasize that Israelis could be as, well, Badass as any Proud Warrior Race around.
  • A variation of this was once used by warriors in India to avoid the shame of dying in their beds. A lord would pick one of his retinues to give him Suicide by Cop.
  • The Yanomami of South America have a dueling code of their own which has been commented on by anthropologists. It is as elaborate as the various European versions with gradations of danger according to the seriousness of the affront. Similar regulated combats are in fact not unknown among low-tech peoples and are perhaps the source of the hyperbolic of such peoples as only having ritualized warfare.
  • Dueling note  is specifically forbidden in the United States armed forces, per Article 114 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Turns out, your soldiers shooting each other over personal feuds is considered detrimental to discipline and combat effectiveness. A soldier can be put before a court-martial under this Article not only for having an active part in the duel, but also for knowing about it and failing to report it to the authorities.
  • In post-World War II France, an American intelligence officer was challenged by a member of the French aristocracy. His reputation meant he had to accept, but the American ambassador heard of this and threatened to fire him if he did. He resolved the dilemma by naming tanks as his choice of weapon.
  • A duel between two British Army officers - in July 2016 - using flares in lieu of pistols resulted in burning down the Officers' Mess at their base in Dorset.


BoJack's Dad's Death

BoJack says that his father was killed in one of these.

How well does it match the trope?

4.79 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / DuelToTheDeath

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