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Fight-Scene Failure

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Luke Skywalker defeats one of Jabba's henchmen using the Jedi power Force kick.

"This [fight] is obviously staged, and more to the point, it's staged poorly."
General Tarquin, The Order of the Stick, Strip #783

Almost all fighting you see on TV is fake. It's for safety and insurance reasons. Producers just can't have their actors actually hitting each other, as most do not wish to be held liable for broken bones, stitches, etc. So, fight scenes in movies have to be cleverly staged to make it appear as though they are real, but in such a way so that nobody actually gets hurt.

Sometimes this is pulled off extremely well, making for one hell of a great fight scene. Then there are these scenes.

When a fight scene isn't pulled off so well, there are usually a number of factors in play, but it can usually be attributed to poor choreography or simply poor acting. But regardless of the reason, the whole fight comes out looking extremely corny to the viewers and the characters look like utter buffoons.

Of course, this can be a matter of opinion, though some of the examples that follow are so bad that they fail even the most generous benefit of the doubt. May sometimes involve an Obvious Stunt Double or two. Compare Fight Unscene and Special Effect Failure – when they overlap, this is often an example of When Props Attack. See Wimp Fight, What the Fu Are You Doing?, and Fake Special Attack for when this is done deliberately. If the Fight Scene Failure fails and someone really does get hit, expect the producers to Throw It In. Compare Hitbox Dissonance, which can look similar when it happens.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The fights of Berserk (2016) are notoriously hard to watch, between the finger-puppet CGI, wildly moving camera, and repetitive, ill-fitting sound effects. One of the most infamous is Guts's fight with Zodd in the second season, which can only be described as the two of them standing five feet apart, wildly Flynning and flailing with their gigantic swords, while the audio sounds less like a battle to the death and more like a stack of pots falling over.
  • The fight between Godzilla and Ghidorah in Godzilla: The Planet Eater consists of Ghidorah biting Godzilla for a large portion of the film with the two more or less completely static, then Ghidorah is dispatched with ease, being taken down in a few hits while screaming in terror, which is quite unlike the way he’s typically portrayed in the franchise, to say the least. Ghidorah's general lack of emoting and the lack of anything really happening also means the only real way to tell Ghidorah's hurting Godzilla or winning the fight is the characters telling the audience he is, meaning large chunks of the film involve some people standing basically motionless and commenting on a fight in which nothing is happening.
  • The fight scene between Chris Redfield and Glenn Arias in Resident Evil: Vendetta features an attempt at Gun Kata (a combat style that's already known for looking implausible when done poorly). Most close-range gun-kata scenes feature the characters staying extremely close to each other, using semi-automatic weapons, and deflecting or blocking the opponent's gun before they can fire; this scene does not. The result is two characters each spraying automatic gunfire, unimpeded and at near point-blank range, and missing every single shot while never running out of bullets, while their opposite number does little more than your basic tuck-and-roll. It reaches the point of comedy when the two start circling each other, still spraying bullets and failing to hit someone ten feet away moving at a brisk jog—it looks less like they're dodging shots through pure skill and more like they're trying to miss.

    Fan Works 
  • The part of The End of Ends in which Count Logan beats up his enemies with his cane is especially poorly animated. For example, he and Terra jump at each other, and he seemingly hits her in the shoulder, only to cut to him hitting her on the chin and her kicking him in the chest, resulting in both falling to the ground, not to mention that some of the sounds of the fight get repeated.

    Films — Animation 
  • The first BIONICLE movies follow strict violence guidelines, which forbid the characters from using their "tools" (LEGO still shied away from using the word "weapon" at the time) for their intended purpose. Thus we get scenes like Tahu storming onto a villain, flipping in the air above it, flashing his Magma Swords, planting them into the ground, and sending small lines of fire around the villain, making it... annoyed at the hot air? This was phased out later, and the fourth movie had tons of genuine physical combat, although the characters would take awkward, second-long pauses after every swipe, and in one shot, a villain chasing one of the heroes simply vanished when the camera panned to the side.
  • Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings has this to such a degree that it's hard to say what fight scenes do work. The film makes very heavy use of rotoscoping real performers in its animation, but said performers were clearly not trained to fight beyond the bare basics. Add in the fact that the film sticks very closely to the original footage (at points, being little more than that footage with a filter over it), and nearly every fight scene looks like what you'd see in a middle-school play, with characters making weak and inexpert swings that seem like they're trying to avoid hurting their opponent.
  • In the palace in The Magic Voyage, there is a terrible fight scene where a few of the Swarm Lord's minions try to grab the Princess while Pico swings back and forth on a rope.
  • Every fight in Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins is clunky as hell, but the nadir is the heroes' fight with a swarm of Tarkatan warriors at the end, which is five minutes of the same repeated shots of the combatants whiffing attacks at each other, sometimes in slow motion or with the image flipped.

    Films — Live-Action 

By Creator:

  • The latter-day films of Steven Seagal (especially by the "Fat Seagal" period) are infamous for this, being designed to conceal as best as possible the degree to which Seagal has fallen since his action-star prime. Not only do they make use of extremely rapid Shaky Cam editing and regular showings by the Obvious Stunt Double, but the fights themselves are so lethargic that Seagal never comes across as the One-Man Army he's usually meant to play, with his opponents rarely fighting back and Seagal frequently being visibly exhausted despite barely moving.
    • Out for a Kill has a downright bizarre fight scene taking place in a barbershop. The intention is apparently to make Seagal's opponent look like some kind of hyper-agile Wire Fu specialist, but in practice, it just looks more like, as Seanbaby put it, "he's dedicating 90 percent of his energy to pointlessly selling his monkey impression." Meanwhile, the attempt to do Boring, but Practical just results in Seagal's character coming across as bizarrely slow and awkward in comparison.
    • The China Salesman features a fight between Seagal and Mike Tyson that is particularly disastrous. For some idea of how obvious the stunt doubling is: at no point in the actual fighting are the two men's faces in the same shot. Add in nigh-constant quick cuts, and it's impossible to tell what's going on or who's winning. One of the few relatively discernible shots is one where Seagal is supposed to be shrugging off a slow-motion punch to the face, but he (barely) reacts to the punch slightly after it (fails to) connect.

By Movie:

  • In Batman & Robin, when Mr. Freeze sends his minions to attack while claiming the Wayne Diamonds, Batman actually pulls off a Force Kick on one of the hapless hockey hooligans (about 44 minutes 13 seconds in.) Bruce's foot is almost as close to his own face as it is to the bad guy.
  • In Beerfest, during the fight between Landfill I and Cherry, the heavyset Mo'Nique playing Cherry is quite obviously replaced by a much slimmer stunt double every time she is hit.
  • During the climactic battle of Black Panther (2018), Killmonger slits the throat of a Dora Milaje with no Gory Discretion Shot and her body just collapses without spilling a drop of blood. This is especially jarring since the previous Waterfall duels avert Bloodless Carnage with T'Challa, M'Baku, and Killmonger bleeding when bludgeoned, impaled, and slashed.
  • Played for laughs in Black Dynamite when Bullhorn helps Black Dynamite out in the pool hall. Bullhorn accidentally slaps one of the henchmen for real, who gets mad, breaks character, and approaches Bullhorn's actor, as if to return the favor, but the take is cut short. The next take features a completely different actor playing the same henchman, implying that the original actor had to be replaced.
  • Pretty much anyone in Uwe Boll's BloodRayne, as the delivery of strikes are very stiff. And just to hammer it in, the last 5 minutes is a gratuitous slow-motion montage of the over-the-top blood effects, allowing you to see the already bad choreography look even worse.
  • In-universe in Captain America: The First Avenger when Cap "socks old Adolf in the jaw" during his stage show, the movie audience clearly sees the distance between Cap's fist and the actor playing Hitler. Later, lampshaded when Cap claims to have knocked out Hitler over 200 times.
  • Several times in The Dark Knight Rises, henchmen in big fight scenes hurtle back and collapse from being in Batman or Catwoman's mere presence, often when they are standing a good distance away and beating up someone else. Batman's first fight with Bane also has quite a few instances of whiffing, to the point that there are moments where they seem to be about five feet apart.
  • Dolemite: Scenes are shot from the wrong angle, so it's obvious that punches miss, while in other cases it's clear the actors are leaping into position, rather than trying to synch up with the movements of the choreography. Dolemite Is My Name lampshades this, showing off that Rudy Ray Moore, though bighearted and energetic, had no martial arts training whatsoever (which is a problem when you're playing a purported kung fu master).
    D'Urville: Is there any angle that you could shoot this, where it looks like he's actually kicking him?
    Nick: There is no such angle.
  • Fantastic Four (2015):
    • At the end of Ben and Reed's brief scuffle, Ben headbutts Reed in a manner that looks extremely stilted.
    • The battle between the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom is seen as the absolute worst point of the movie by critics, featuring a lot of CGI that is pieced together incomprehensibly in a weirdly-choreographed and forgettable climax.
  • The Godfather: When Sonny is beating Carlo, one of his punches obviously misses by a mile, but Carlo and the soundtrack react just the same. The reason this was kept in the film is apparently that the beating was all filmed in one take and the rest of the beating was too real: James Caan broke several of Gianni Russo's bones.
  • Godzilla:
    • A common complaint against some of the films in the Heisei era of the 1980s and 1990s, where the combat scenes are mostly comprised of barely mobile monsters or machines standing opposite each other and shooting all manner of rays (a phenomenon dubbed "beam wars" by fans), and physical fights were often a bit cumbersome and awkward due to the overly bulky monster designs.
      • In one of the few cases from the Heisei era where the above can be justified, Super Mechagodzilla's considerable reliance on beams and long-range weapons is an example of these limitations being worked around. Mechagodzilla's suit is very impressive, bright and shiny and features lots of fiber-reinforced plastic to make it light and easy for the suit actor to wear, but these same benefits meant that it was very easy to scratch the suit's plastic and paintwork. Thus, to avoid unnecessary damage to the suit that would cost time and money to repair, Mechagodzilla's fighting style was simply written to favour its abundant missile supply and laser weapons.
    • The earlier films were not immune from this either, especially as the budgets started shrinking. An example of a Showa-era monster fight that doesn't exactly work is Godzilla's scuffle with the giant condor in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, which basically consists of the bird flapping its wings at Godzilla and pecking his face for a bit while he tries to slap it away from him, after which he gets tired of that and obliterates it with one shot of his atomic breath. The extremely tight framing and excessive Jitter Cam don't help.
  • Gymkata is mostly known for casting an Olympic athlete in the lead role... a male gymnast. While Kurt Thomas was legitimately one of the best gymnasts alive, he was not a martial artist by any means, nor did the film know how to make him look like one. It culminates in an infamous sequence of him doing gymnastic moves on a convenient pommel horse while cannibal villagers walk one by one into his heavily telegraphed kicks.
  • Happy-Go-Lucky: The scene when Scott and Poppy fight over the car keys is fairly convincing; the scenes with the children fighting less so.
  • Lampshaded in the Australian comedy Hercules Returns, whose plot involves a Gag Dub of an Italian sword-and-sandal movie. "Why did you all fall down? I missed the lot of ya!" In another fight scene, the character graciously offers to "pull his next punch", which of course fails to connect.
  • Ip Man 2 contains a rather funny moment at the reyert caused by Twister in his first step into the ring. One of the kung fu trainees gets punched in the face (hard, but just once, and so fast that it can be easily unseen by eye) and he suddenly starts to twitch and flail his arms for some long seconds until he gets held by another trainee. It only looks like the punch gave the poor guy a seizure.
  • While The Irishman is a very acclaimed film, it also gives us an infamous scene in which Robert De Niro's character Frank Sheeran beats up a shopkeeper for shoving his daughter. De Niro was in his 70s at the time of filming, with his face digitally de-aged to portray a man in his 30s during this scene...but nothing was done to disguise the fact that he moves like a man in his 70s, making the beatdown he delivers thoroughly unconvincing. The shopkeeper does his best to act like he's getting pulverized, "helped" by some fake glass that shatters before he even touches it, while Frank awkwardly shuffles after him and gently taps him with his hands and feet a few times, accompanied by outrageously loud WHACK sounds that don't match the onscreen visuals at all.
  • Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects: It's hilariously obvious that Charles Bronson was too old for any strenuous fight scenes at this late point in his career, which constantly cut between close-up and wide-angle shots to hide the fact that a stand-in is clearly performing all the kicks and punches.
  • In The Last Airbender, this arises from the decision to depict bending moves as a way to build energy for attacks, rather than synchronizing the attacks with the moves, leading to a lot of scenes of actors posing and punching the air dramatically while nothing happens. The best example is the so-called "Pebble Dance" where six Earthbenders do a bunch of elaborate choreography, whoop, and shout, and then a small rock moves slowly and lazily through the air. This was one of a few fight scenes that were shot with a single camera, with no jump cuts. This leads to the problem of showing the audience a large number of mooks standing in the background, not doing anything while their friends are getting knocked senseless.
  • The infamous scene in Las Vegas Bloodbath where a man takes a swing at Sam with a bat, and hits a just barely offscreen mat.
  • At the end of Leviathan, when Peter Weller punches the Corrupt Corporate Executive there's at least three inches of air between his fist and her.
  • The Man Who Saves the World (aka "Turkish Star Wars") as a whole. Especially the climactic battle.
  • Mortal Kombat: The Movie:
    • Happens in-universe in the first film, where Johnny Cage is making another kung-fu film. He hits a Mook actor, who does a No-Sell. Johnny has to remind him "This is where you fall down", before the guy promptly drops. Needless to say, they have to re-shoot the scene. In-between takes, Johnny meets his martial arts teacher (actually Shang Tsung in disguise) and complains that people think everything he does is fake.
    • In the sequel, Raiden's fight with a pair of ninjas looks less like fighting and more like rhythmic gymnastics given the constant flips and twirls while both parties are over ten feet from each other.
  • At the end of The Next Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi takes on Colonel Dugan. Each of Dugan's thrown punches are prefaced with a very obvious pause, even when they're the lead-in of a cut to a new camera shot.
  • The makers of Satan Claus decided to show a beating completely from the victim's POV. This looks horrible.
  • In a fantasy sequence at the beginning of Sidekicks, the main character and Chuck Norris manage a simultaneous kick into the face of a Mook who... freezes for a second, then falls down.
  • Spider-Man: Peter's punch to Flash Thompson obviously does not connect.
  • Spy Kids: Carmen punches a robotic simulacrum of her brother, only to hurt her hand on its metal face. It's quite obvious her hand wasn't anywhere near it; it looks more like the robot has a force field that blocks punches.
  • Star Wars:
    • In an otherwise iconic fight action scene is the "force kick" from Return of the Jedi where a mook reacts to being kicked despite Luke's foot clearly hitting nothing but air. Fans devised the joke explanation that he was actually using the Force. Years later, this became Ascended Fanon in Star Wars Legends when Star Wars: The Old Republic used it as the Jedi Knight's interrupt ability.
    • It has been argued that the climactic fight from the The Phantom Menace between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan & Qui-Gon actually suffers from being extremely overchoreographed, and has several swings, parries, dodges, and twirls that are just there to look flashy but don't make sense if you look closer at it. This video perhaps explains it best.
    • Attack of the Clones also has some infamous moments, including when Anakin fails to use two lightsabers for more than six seconds, not helped by the fact that he seems to deliberately hold his handle so that it can be cut. Then there are the extreme close-ups which prevent the audience from seeing how the blades are effectively connecting. Anakin also seems to deliberately leave an arm exposed so that it can be cut in half. Then the Yoda fight begins and Dooku appears to be flailing at the ground while Yoda barely seems to strike at any part of Dooku's body as most of the attacks are clashes aimed at blades.
    • Some Expanded Universe material, including Jedi: Fallen Order seem to try to justify how duelists deliberately aim for each other's lightsabers by saying that's just how lightsaber fights work, because with their mutual precognition, direct attacks are pointless in most cases, and they're trying to wear down their opponent's guard strength.
    • In Revenge of the Sith, which otherwise has notoriously good fight choreography, the fight between Palpatine and the Jedi Masters. It's very, very obvious that the Emperor is being played by a 60-year-old man, as most of his swings are incredibly telegraphed and slow, and the Jedi react like sloths. It's probably supposed to be happening too fast for the Jedi to react, but it's a pretty slow scene at that point. The sudden transition between Palpatine's inhumanly silly CGI-rendered twirl-jump and his lethargic live-action attacks doesn't help. Ian McDiarmid was forced to do his own stunts for this scene, and the actors were only given one day to learn the choreography, whereas for their fight, Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor got to train for months.
    • There is also a scene when Anakin fights Count Dooku, where he deliberately swings above Dooku's head and leaves his back exposed. Concurrently, Obi-Wan strolls up to two Super Battle Droids and barely appears to dodge or block any of the laser blasts.
    • The fight between Obi-Wan and Grievous has some pretty big moments of this in its first part, mainly because Grievous is so huge and has four swords, meaning a whole lot of opportunities for him to end the fight which he staunchly refuses to take. Despite having four arms, he mostly just uses two sabers at a time, and spends a lot of time making very slow windup swings that seem designed to hit Obi-Wan's guard. It's also not hard to tell that McGregor didn't have any idea what he was supposed to be fighting. Once he's down to three sabers, things do pick up, though.
    • Speaking of Christensen and McGregor, their fight scene has its own infamous moment, when the two combatants stand within striking distance of each other and pointlessly spin their sabers for about three seconds before finally clashing.
    • The Last Jedi: Rey and Kylo's battle with the Praetorian Guards. Reportedly, Adam and Daisy hadn't nailed the blocking, leading many of the guards' actors to improvise in the final cut. As a result, it ends up being a rather awkward scene to watch once one notices these issues happening. In general, numerous moments where the guards stand by and don't attack, or they seem to purposely miss attacks while Rey and Kylo do nothing to block or dodge. At the very beginning of the fight, the guard in the foreground on Rey's side spins and attacks his own ally, who blocks it with his own weapon. Rey blocks an attack from three of the guards and somehow kicks all three way despite only kicking one of them physically. Kylo Ren stabs his sword into the ground for no real reason, only for a guard to then run up and attack his lightsaber rather than Kylo's completely undefended upper body. One of the guards' weapons suddenly vanishes behind Rey's back mid-shot and he appears to be catching her from falling. Further, he could have easily gutted her and then (if his dagger hadn't vanished) stabbed her in the back. One guard throws away his weapon before Kylo Ren runs him through. Finally, another Praetorian Guard armed with an electro-bisento wrestles Kylo into a stranglehold with his weapon. The guard briefly lets the weapon go to adjust his grip, while Kylo is still holding on to the weapon as if he is being choked when he could have pulled it away from his neck at that moment. This gives the impression that Kylo is actually choking himself.
    • The Rise of Skywalker:
      • Ben's fight with the Knights of Ren has some pretty bad fight choreography. At one point his blaster simply disappears between edits (similar to the disappearing Praetorian knife in The Last Jedi) so he can't just shoot the six guys with melee weapons. The camera then deliberately draws focus to Ben performing a bizarre move where he bends forward, holds his lightsaber behind him, and just stands there for a solid few seconds as one of the Knights goes out of his way to hit the blade instead of his completely exposed legs, torso, and waist. The way it's shot indicates the audience is supposed to take it in as cool-looking.
      • Rey's fight with the Sith Troopers has some questionable editing. It appears to be the same scene shot at different angles, with the footage spliced together out of order; this results in Sith Troopers somehow getting hit by blaster bolts that weren't aimed at them, Troopers that got shot suddenly being fine a few frames later, Rey's hand motions not always matching what happens onscreen and one Trooper firing at the ceiling for no apparent reason. She ends up killing the same set twice, leaving only one set of bodies.
      • Rey's fight with Ben starts with Rey making a ludicrously telegraphed swing that's aimed about two feet above Ben's head and goes around until her lightsaber is almost behind her, leaving her completely exposed. She then goes on to never actually aim for his body until Ben uses his own lightsaber. Shadiversity gave a lengthy breakdown of how bad the fight was.
  • Street Fighter:
    • The film has very stiff choreography for Bison's and Guile's final fight due to actor Raul Julia being in the advanced stages of cancer at the time. The fight itself can be completely described as Guile landing cool kicks on Bison while the baddie tries repeatedly to grab him like some kind of scrub player.
    • The Legend of Chun-Li is worse in this regard. Just look at her doing the "spinning bird kick" and prepare to cringe as Chun-Li slowly kicks those around her without even doing the full splits and her opponents fall down (as in not the direction they were kicked in) from the kicks that clearly miss.
  • Done intentionally in the opening fight of Team America: World Police as Joe grapples with a terrorist; the puppets are just flailing around and getting tangled up. Later in the film, the fight scenes are better done. The commentary reveals that the puppeteers were good enough they could have actually done all the fight scenes realistically, but decided to go for Rule of Funny after realizing the results were actually too realistic and crossed into the Unintentional Uncanny Valley.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze hits this hard, due in part to Executive Meddling forcing the violence to be toned down. Too many scenes are basically just one of the turtles throwing a punch or kick at a Foot ninja that's obviously several feet away who then does a back-flip or somersault in an unconvincing attempt to make it look like they were hit.
  • The Three Musketeers (1961): At the beginning, when a bunch of townspeople Zerg Rush D'Artagnan to help Rochefort, one of them is clearly seen hitting the air several times with his pan instead of Gérard Barray. The extra probably took the "don't hurt him" order too seriously.
  • Unknown Island has a fight between a giant ground sloth and a Ceratosaur which looks more like a waltz.
  • Played for Laughs in the short film "US vs. HK" by the ZeroGravity stunt team, which shows the same fight scene as Hollywood and Hong Kong film productions would portray it, and depicts the Hollywood version as a comically slow, stiff, contrived, overwrought and drawn-out affair with attacks telegraphed from miles away, obvious undercranking and visible landing mats among other Special Effect Failures and flaws. The Hong Kong version, in contrast, has none of these things and is a short but fast-paced scene with the kind of jaw-dropping fight choreography and stunt work seen in the average Hong Kong production.
  • La Venganza De La Momia (The Vengeance of the Mummy) has a short fight scene between El Santo and a jaguar. A three-month-old kitten could have given Santo a better fight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Susan Lucci once recounted a particularly horrible scene she had on All My Children. First off, neither she nor her costar was a trained fighter, but it was a catfight, so that wasn't a problem. However, the scene took place outdoors, in the rain, while both were in tight-fitting clothes and high heels. Adding even more to it, both actresses were wearing lotion, which combined with the artificial rain and made them both incredibly slippery. By the end, the "fight" was merely the two actors grabbing each other by the wrist and flailing back and forth.
  • Arrow was praised for having awesome action scenes until Season 4 which, despite having a stunt choreographer directing a few episodes, had very sloppy fight scenes. Pretty much every fighter in the show goes through Badass Decay. In many cases, the scenes seem to be what can only be described as Flynning without swords. The worst-received part of this by fans is that despite the show being called "Arrow", very few arrows were fired per episode and some episodes featured no arrows being fired, and the bad camerawork exposes these flaws even more, with many deriding the fight scenes as "modern dance". This culminated in a final battle that started off fine but ended up with the Big Bad and the Green Arrow punching each other in the face in a cartoonish way (as in literally taking turns while standing still).
  • The Avengers: Cathy Gale's fighting style is made of this trope. Back then, fight scenes would be recorded 'as live' on studio video with no possibility for editing or retakes, rather than being pre-filmed and edited.
  • Babylon 5 occasionally had this; J. Michael Straczynski himself (via producer's commentary) points out a shot in "Severed Dreams" when Garibaldi attempts to hit a mook with his PPG rifle; the blow clearly doesn't connect, and JMS apologizes for it.
  • Fights on the 1960s Batman series were almost always like this. The missed punches were often covered up by the now-famous hit flashes of "POW!"/"ZAP!"/"WHAMMO!" etc., etc. This was because the show's brutal production schedule didn't allow much time for fight scene rehearsals.
  • Many fights on Buffy the Vampire Slayer are made of this trope. Also, any time swords are brought on to either Buffy or Angel. Overlaps with Obvious Stunt Double when Buffy and Angel swordfight in the season 2 finale. As soon as the camera pulls back, Buffy grows several inches, and Angel has a drastically receding hairline. Lampshaded by Joss Whedon in his DVD commentary for "Hush": "Look! Buffy's strapped on her fighting boobs!"
  • Chuck:
    • The Season 2 final: Chuck has an I Know Karate moment, and his actor had clearly very little stage fighting experience. They must have worked on it in the off-season break, as he's much, much better in season 3.
    • And used as a plot point in Season 3. Shaw fakes a rescue of Chuck and Sarah which includes shooting three enemy agents, and having a fight with two more. There is some horrible stage fighting, with punches and kicks being missed all over the place. It turns out that he's a double agent and the fight was staged intentionally. It's also telling that the only person who figured out that Shaw was faking was Morgan, thanks to many-many hours of watching bad kung-fu movies. All the CIA/NSA experts watching the footage took it at face value.
  • Parodied with "Kickpuncher" on Community. Abed and Troy make their own version, with even more Stylistic Suck.
  • Days of Our Lives doesn't have many fight scenes, but whenever somebody just has to fight, it's quite obvious that the choreographer was on break and the actors are much more suited to crying and then losing their clothes as they make up than throwing a punch.
  • A frequent occurrence in the black-and-white era of Doctor Who. Most of the early stuff had to be done in one take.
    • "The Web Planet" was forced to have some seriously awful fighting scenes in it, as the monster costumes used were so delicate.
    • "The War Games" part 6 has an absolutely laughable sequence. Jamie swings obviously wide of the mark blows vaguely at the bad guy's face, over and over and over, while a guard in the background of a fight sequence tries to escape, with a crummy slow-motion Girly Run, before one of the heroes pulls him off a slope and onto a bed onto which he harmlessly bounces.
    • The Axon chucking itself at the jeep in "The Claws of Axos".
    • "Robot":
      • Episode 2 has an adorably flimsy-looking Killer Robot chasing the Doctor at a pace best associated with zimmer frames, while Tom Baker zips and flings himself around it effortlessly, trying to look like he's narrowly being missed by its blows and not slightly managing. It's quite fun when the Doctor uses all of his costume gimmicks against it but it's also clear he can only possibly lose the fight due to the fact he has the Idiot Ball lodged in his throat for the whole episode.
      • Episode 3 forces the actor playing Jellicoe to help the robot down some steps while pretending to be hiding behind it, because the actor in the robot costume couldn't see where he was going.
    • The fight with the Myrka in "Warriors of the Deep". A woman is approached in a blindingly-lit corridor by a ridiculous green pantomime horse monster that leaves visible wet paint smears as it goes, the two flail their arms about and the woman inexplicably decides to high-kick it in the chest which gets her killed by some bad CSO before the pantomime horse monster can land a single hit on her. The footage was used on Room 101 when then-BBC Controller Michael Grade was asked why he cancelled the classic series.
  • Parodied on The Fast Show. They showed a clip from a 'new British gangster movie'. The title was a parody of The Long Good Friday, The Long Big Punch Up. It was basically two blokes on a bit of wasteland, just doing one really slow, telegraphed, obviously wide-of-the-mark punch after another. Over and over again.
  • The Game of Thrones Season 5 episode "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", where the fight scene between Jaime and Bronn vs. the Sand Snakes is poorly choreographed, which some reviewers compared it to Xena: Warrior Princess as opposed to the show's usual quality. The editing is also seen as questionable. The short time allowed on the Dorne set and restrictive budget probably contributed. It was actually supposed to be a tense fight scene filmed at night, for example. The show's producers decided to add this to the plotline in the season 7 episode "Stormborn". Obara and Nymeria Sand both die in a battle with Euron, showing they weren't really as good in combat as they thought they were.
  • The Helen of Troy miniseries features some pretty awful fight scenes, with Bloodless Carnage, swords that never actually touch flesh, people wildly swinging at thin air while their opponents parry strikes that would never have touched them, and all of this happening so slowly that you can see all of it.
  • Home and Away. Dear god, that show had the lamest fight scenes. Simply involved both participants rolling in the sand and somehow getting massive black eyes and other cuts and bruises. However, there was a storyline where Ric was hospitalized after an illegal street fight. That fight actually did involve some reasonable-looking punches.
  • The "Magical Video Game Controller" sketch from Incredible Crew has this as its climax, with some Special Effect Failure thrown in for good measure at the end.
  • While most of the fight scenes in Inhumans are lacklustre for one reason or another, the most infamous one is Medusa's fight against Maximus' guards in the pilot. The Special Effects Failure of Medusa's hair only accentuates the utterly laughable scenario of the supposedly dangerous guards run up to her and get lightly smacked into unconsciousness by a completely still Medusa.
  • A common criticism in the first season of Iron Fist, which was particularly crippling given that it's a show about a superhero martial artist. A good deal of the issues related to the Troubled Production severely limiting how much the actors could rehearse. The second season went to lengths to fix this, by actually giving the actors more time to learn their fight choreography and also shooting in the winter (so that fight scenes set at night didn't have to worry about having limited windows to shoot, which happened in season 1 due to that being filmed in the summer).
  • Jessica Jones has this to the point that when the people behind the show said that they weren't trying to one-up Daredevil's fight scenes, the response was a resounding, "we figured". A big example is when Jessica fights Kilgrave's hired goons. While it's understandable that she doesn't want to hurt them, her slow reflexes reflect her alcoholism. Of particular note is her fight scene with Luke Cage, where she tries to stop him from moving by pushing him... and he just keeps walking, creating this hilarious scene where she's ineffectually leaning against him.
  • Knight Rider is infamous for this, too: The proper way to knock someone out is to swing one's fist past their stunt double (who'd look nothing like the real deal if they weren't wearing roughly the same clothes) at a distance of 2 ft.
  • While most fight scenes on Mission: Impossible were limited to giving somebody a Tap on the Head (the main exceptions were missions in which a boxing tournament and a martial arts match were central to the plan), said taps tended to be so poorly choreographed that it looked like the team was knocking people out by slapping them between the shoulder blades.
  • Monster Warriors has this in spades. For example, one girl is hit by a giant snake, but she falls down before the CGI snake actually hits her. Whether this trope was deliberately invoked (given the B-movie inspiration for the series) is debatable (given how seriously the show takes itself).
  • There is a fight scene in Once Upon a Time between Prince James and the Behemoth. The fight scene is chock-full of jump cuts, which were probably an attempt to cover up the poor choreography.
  • Power Rangers faced an infamous problem during the Bruce Kalish era (between 2005's Power Rangers S.P.D. and 2008's Power Rangers Jungle Fury), a phenomenon dubbed by fans as "Kalishsplosions". While the franchise has largely serviceable-to-great fight choreography, explosions were mishandled in the era, often times appearing behind people and sending them flying, inadvertently giving the impression that whoever was trying to blow them up missed but trying to pass it off as the victims getting hurt, and stretched out by gratuitous slow motion. When compared to earlier seasons where explosions were faster and at least appeared in front of people (thus reasonably giving the impression that they indeed hurt), Kalishsplosions are criticized for making people look far wimpier than intended (implying that they're being defeated by thin air), with their presence stopping the momentum of fight scenes dead in their tracks, especially since they happen a lot (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive has over 250 shots featuring Kalishsplosions). Regrettably, a lot of this was enforced because of Disney's censors, who explicitly forbade front-appearing explosions.
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon improved on a few aspects over the anime, but the fight scenes were certainly not one of them. "Ballet-fu" or not, the choreography is insultingly stupid and it lost a great number of viewers for that reason. It got better as time went on.
  • On Robin Hood we had Marian punch out Guy of Gisborne at the altar. Her fist clearly doesn't connect with his face. Other fight scenes amongst the outlaws were rather clumsy, particularly whenever Robin blocked a sword blow from an opponent with his bow. It's made of wood, people! And the fight between Robin and Guy in Tattoo, What Tattoo? involves both actors obligingly lining themselves up for the other one to more easily punch them.
  • The Australian series Rush (1974) was prone to this, one case of which was hilariously spoofed on The Late Show (1992), in its Gag Dub sketch The Olden Days, in which the actors get into a fight over their ability to stage an unconvincing fight scene.
    "Unrealistic fight scenes are a piece of piss! First I'll tip over the table, then I'll stagger into the crowd. Then the fat guy will pull me you in the corner, propel yourself across the room for no apparent reason!"
  • A Saturday Night Live Weekend Update skit ended up unintentionally — and hilariously — lampshading this. Jimmy Fallon was incensed at Tina Fey's snarky remarks and as such, repeatedly struck her in the face. Unfortunately, the sound effect was absent, making it seem as though he were really hitting her, leaving the audience in stunned silence. Once the sound effect was fixed and the noise of the punch landing was put in, the audience laughed heartily, prompting Tina to continue snarking, "You see how much funnier it is with the sound effect?"
  • Pick any fight scene from Sharpe and you'll see an example of this. Due to the show being made on a bugger-all budget, the battle scenes tend to have soldiers fall over dead when the clearly fake swords lightly tap their jackets.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In a brief bar brawl between Holmes and a drunken ruffian, the opening backhand obviously misses and slightly later one of Holmes' punches is obviously aimed below the chin. However, the fight is otherwise competently staged.
  • The original Star Trek was bad for this:
    • "Court Martial". Not only can you tell it's two stuntmen fighting, but they telegraph their punches so badly the misses are obvious.
    • "Arena": "Worst Fight Scene Ever"; the guy in the Gorn suit moves slowly, apparently in an attempt to make the Gorn look big and ponderous... but it makes the fight seem ridiculous. The Gorn also doesn't seem to be able to use his super-strength to overpower Kirk or use his big teeth to bite. Gloriously parodied in a trailer for Star Trek: The Video Game.
    • Those scenes were of course not helped by Kirk taking time rolling over and over and over to make his plight look worse, leaving the Monster of the Week standing around waiting for Kirk to get back up for the next spectacular throw and fall.
    • The fight scene between Kirk and Spock in "Amok Time", which looks more like a sex scene than a fight scene. This was likely deliberate, as the man who wrote the episode (Theodore Sturgeon) was infamous for putting gay subtext into his works... and using asphyxiation as a metaphor for sex.
    • In the Bar Brawl scene of "The Trouble with Tribbles", Scotty punches a Klingon across the room—without touching him. Maybe Scotty can use the Force like Luke?
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The episode "Code of Honor" has a particularly inept fight scene at the episode's climax, with most of the action being shot from the same camera angle, and the two combatants (Tasha Yar and an alien woman) standing on what looks like a children's climbing frame and mostly just flailing around at each other with spiked gloves. This was largely due to the episode's director being fired the day before the sequence was shot, and the first assistant director — who had never directed anything before, much less an action sequence — having to take over.
    • In "The Schizoid Man" a dying scientist uploaded his consciousness to Data's positronic brain, and the possessed Data strikes Captain Picard. Data swings his arm camera-right, Picard spins camera-left as he staggers camera-right.
  • Supernatural: Castiel's actor Misha Collins appeared to have little stage fighting experience in season 4, making some of his fight scenes look mildly awkward. He improved massively in season 5.
  • This fight scene from the Taiwanese drama Top on the Forbidden City is an example of Dance Battler and Battle in the Rain done wrong; while it's meant to be a dramatic fight, the characters mostly breakdance in place and only occasionally exchange blows, making it look more like a dance-off than the brutal duel the show tries to sell it as. Thanks to Memetic Mutation, it's become the only thing most people in Chinese-speaking circles remember about the show.
  • Generally averted in the Ultra Series, but there are exceptions.
    • The early episodes of the original Ultraman had some very awkward battles that looked exactly like what it was — two People in Rubber Suits clumsily tumbling around. Apparently the directors were unsure of how to direct the fights early on in production. But as they began to settle more into the series' groove, the fights got better, which was also helped by Ultraman's suit actor Bin Furuya refining Ultraman's fighting style with inspirations from Judo and Greco-Roman wrestling, as well as veteran suit actors like Haruo Nakajima helping to tutor the guys playing the monsters of the week.
    • While Ultraman: Towards the Future, produced in Australia, managed to largely avert this trope, the American-produced Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero is notorious for its sluggish and awkward battles, consisting mostly of the suit actors nudging each other and SFX attacks with minimal physical contact — very problematic in a series where giant monster battles are one of the main attractions. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is Powered Dada, who after growing to his full size stands perfectly still with his arms outstretched to fire off a few explosive blasts, only moving when Powered tries to get up close. Allegedly, this is because the show's high-quality rubber suits were so expensive, fragile, and cumbersome that there were concerns of damaging them if the battle scenes got too violent, and because the director actually had no idea of how to choreograph a fight.
  • Wonder Woman: The show had its share. One notable example came in "The Starships Are Coming". Mason Steele's Aide ("Well, we gotta do something!") rushes up to Wonder Woman and swings wildly over her head. This would be roughly par for the course. What made it stand out was that he held his fist over his head for a full second while Lynda Carter reared back her punch and delivered the hit. Apparently, Wonder Woman seemed like the kind of person who needed a really, really big opening.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • In pro wrestling lingo, a "botch" is a moment when someone screws up. Examples include when a performer overreacts, fails to react at all, or misses with whatever they were trying to do. The web video series Botchamania details a long and extensive list of such botches.
  • Shane McMahon's signature move, other than jumping/falling off a tall structure, is to deliver a quick series of badly-worked punches to the abdomen.
  • When the Dark Order debuted on AEW Dynamite, a camera caught one of the Creepers obviously faking his punches on Dustin Rhodes. The backlash against this botch almost killed the group before it got going — although they did salvage it by working it into the story with the offending creeper getting punished for allegedly failing to hit Dustin on purpose.

  • Casey vs. Shredder in Gettin' Down in Your Town. Never mind the fact that Casey Jones (an Unskilled, but Strong brute who typically relies on his weapons) manages to fight a martial-arts master in hand-to-hand combat, the sound effects of them hitting each other are poorly synced, their pantomimed fist-throwing is painfully obvious, there is no music playing in this concert and the Turtles throwing him in a trash-can somehow sends him back to the Prison Dimension from whence he came.

    Video Games 
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the cinematic at the end of Part I on non-Crimson Flower Routes has some ridiculous moves if you look closely. You can see Claude (the only Lord who doesn't have Super-Strength), defeat two soldiers with single-handed sword strikes, with the first being a light tap. Meanwhile, Dimitri parries a sword strike with the shaft of his spear, then twists his spear so that he throws the soldier to the ground, apparently killing him from a fall that is unlikely to have seriously injured him.
  • Kamen Rider Battride War II has its CG opening movie, which looks like a poorly-staged live-action fight due to the fact that none of the attacks has any weight behind them (especially noticeable during the giant brawl that starts 29 seconds into that video). This really stands out not only because the actual gameplay is far better, but because by and large the Kamen Rider franchise is known for having excellent fight choreography.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: An infamous cutscene features two krogan fighting. Krogan are large, heavily built aliens that look something like a cross between a snapping turtle an a bipedal Ankylosaurus, with proportionately short arms and legs. In previous games, they've been depicted as fighting by headbutting or body-slamming opponents. In Andromeda, the two fight using human martial arts, throwing absolutely ridiculous-looking punches and kicks that couldn't possibly deliver any actual force.
  • Mortal Kombat 11 has it happen in-universe, where for one of his fatalities, Johnny Cage keeps screwing up his Deadly Uppercut move. He mostly blames the other fighter for it, asking "Who hired this guy, what the fuck?" (Keep in mind that in the MK series, "screwing up" means he only hit his opponent so hard that it shattered their jaw and snapped their neck, rather than punching their head clean off their shoulders.)
  • A common complaint in Warcraft 3: Reforged was how terrible the final Arthas vs Illidan fight looked such as an awkward Blade Lock that looks more like the two are rubbing their weapons together rather than trying to overpower one another.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: While the show is built around having well-choreographed fights as its bread-and-butter, there have been notably egregious examples, namely some of the early tournament fights in Volume 3, along with a good chunk of the fights in Volumes 4-5, due to other animators and fight choreographers having to be brought in after the loss of Monty Oum.
    • It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of the terrible fights involve multiple characters attempting to use complex choreography at once while remaining in position for the cameras. More aggressive camera cuts and reaction shots were also introduced to some of the fights.
    • "Round One", the premiere episode of Volume 3, has RWBY striking poses to face the camera, resulting in a disjointed mess where RWBY and ABRN lose track of each other's positions during the fight, as seen in Fatmanfalling's diagram here.
    • The second episode of the volume, "New Challengers", sees JNPR fail to properly take cover against a sniper, and BRNZ patiently wait for their opponents and the commentator for exposition, before getting knocked out in a single blow. The fight between SSSN and NDGO sees plenty of intense close-ups on the characters' faces, along with a lack of strategy that causes SSSN to lose a potential advantage, something Neptune points out. It isn't until the next two episodes, "A Brawl In The Family" and "Lessons Learned" that these issues are kept at a minimum for the remainder of Volume 3, barring "Never Miss A Beat".
    • Come Volumes 4 and beyond, however (where Rooster Teeth used Maya for every part of the animation process), came an increase in continuity errors and awkward choreography, especially in group fights against singular enemies. TheFloofArtist tracked down the first of many errors (91 during the Geist fight) in videos such as the one shown here.
    • The fights got progressively worse the longer the volume went on - the Nuckleavee fight at the end was the most inconsistent at 128 errors (123 continuity errors and 5 terrible animation/rendering screwups).
    • The most egregious example, however, has to be the last four episodes of Volume 5, from "The More The Merrier" to "Haven's Fate". During the Battle Of Haven, the fight was full of continuity errors, terrible animation and rendering, and poor decision-making. YouTuber TheFloofArtist logged in the entire battle, complete with a map, at 210 errors.
  • Sonic Mania Adventures generally has very fluid and high-quality animation with the first episode having a rather detailed scene of Sonic performing some parkour, so it comes as a bit of a shock when all of the fight scenes fall straight into Limited Animation and consist almost entirely of still-frames with only slight movement. Of particular note is how when Mighty throws a giant rock at Metal Sonic, the way the still-frame is set up to show both Metal and the rock in the same shot carries the implication the rock bigger than his entire body bounced off his head instead of just crushing it off (having him get blasted back through the trees probably would have sufficed).
  • The Order of the Stick has an in-universe example, wherein General Tarquin is complaining about a staged gladiator fight. The two gladiators are best friends, so they of course don't want to hurt each other. However, their ruse is not working, and a Tear Jerker follows.

    Web Original 
  • According to the corresponding Cobra Kai section, this comes up whenever a Fight Scene involves Daniel.
  • There Will Be Brawl: In some scenes, the fights are just too slow to look realistic. Episode 10 is a big one.
  • Channel Awesome:
    • The big battle of the TGWTG Year One Brawl is made of this, but they're doing it on purpose for the Rule of Funny. The cartoonish sound effects don't help matters.
    • In his commentary over the N. Bison/Dr. Insano fight in Kickassia, Film Brain reminds people disappointed in the fight that they were in another person's house and had to be careful not to mess it up, so what we got really was the best thing possible, especially considering the time and money issues.
    • Ditto the original Final Battle between the Critic and the Nerd. The lightsaber scene alone was too ridiculous not to be a parody. (Also, during the "dueling kicks" sequence, you can see the Nerd's hand resting on the TV to balance himself. Yeah.)
  • Cracked:
  • There was an extremely odd video on YouTube called "My Family Raped Me" where a girl talks about how bad stuff keeps happening to her every day and calls it being "raped" even though not a single thing that happens to her in the video is rape, leading viewers to wonder if it's some kind of Translation Trainwreck or she's just completely insane. At one point she is "raped" by her father hitting her mother; however, in the scene it's painfully obvious the "hit" misses her by about a foot. The Amazing Atheist did a "review" which includes a slow-mo replay of the hitting scene to make it even more obvious (Warning: extremely NSFW).
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd: The review of The Immortal does this deliberately, as a parody of the fighting animations in the game. At one point, the Nerd gets into a fight with a goblin, and they exchange some very stiff and awkward blows that quite obviously don't actually connect.
  • The infamous "I'm the cook" video, taken from a porn parody of Under Siege, plays this for humor, with some rapid-fire light slaps (complete with cartoonish punching sound effects) and a Neck Snap that looks more like he's tilting the guy's head back slightly.

    Western Animation 
  • One brief moment during an otherwise great, brutal fight in the fifth episode of Arcane has Vi performing some rapid fire body shots on her opponent. However, the punches seem to lack the weight they should have and come off more like she's just roughly poking her adversary with her fists instead of landing truly damaging blows.
  • The Beast Wars episode "Dark Designs" opens with a shootout between the Maximal and Predacons featuring intense (ab)use of Shaky Cam and jump cuts. Not only does the frantic editing fails to put the lipstick on a basic and unexciting choreography (mostly consisting of both sides standing and shooting their weapons at each other), pausing at any point will reveal a number of modeling and continuity errors.
  • Daffy Duck in Hollywood has an In-Universe example, with Daffy’s Stylistic Suck film including a boxing match that’s been edited to remove all the actual punches, while the announcer reacts as if he’s seeing the most violent match in history.
  • One criticism of the 2016 reboot of The Powerpuff Girls is that along with there being less action overall, when there are fight scenes, the Powerpuff Girls' punches are too slow and don't really have much impact.
  • Street Fighter has some comically terrible fight scenes, due mainly to clunky animation. In general, punches and kicks don't have anything like the speed one would expect, which becomes downright goofy when dealing with moves like the Hurricane Kick—rather than a jumping roundhouse, it looks more like the user (typically Chun-Li) is levitating and slowly revolving while holding their leg out.
  • The 1996 DCAU Superman: The Animated Series has a few below-average fights due to inconsistent power levels for the title character.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! isn't known for jaw-dropping action sequences, but there are a few instances where the action becomes completely unbelievable:
    • In "King Mario of Cramalot", halfway between the final duel between Mario and King Koopa, the music was replaced with a cover of "What Comes Up May Never Fall Down" from The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3. The song's slow pace completely kills the mood and makes it seem like the two are having a friendly sparring.
    • The fight scene in "Robo Koopa" has so many obvious coloring mishaps, continuity errors, and lazy animation, it becomes a complete farce. For one, in the opening shot, Koopa fires two bombs. In the next shot, there are three bombs. In the next, Mario whacks back two. The next shot (which is simply reversed stock footage) displays three bombs in the air. And finally, Koopa lazily hops over just two bombs and charges straight for Mario. Yes, they could not keep track of the number of projectiles between each shot. The very end of the episode has a blatant script error in which Dr Nerdnick tells Koopa to press the yellow button (in reality, the ejector button) to destroy Mario, but Koopa presses a red button instead, and he is still ejected!
  • Pretty much any X-Men series has this problem, save for the Hulk vs. Wolverine short movie, when showing Wolverine fighting, since they are often aimed at kids and therefore heavily toned down in visible violence. Since his entire powers are to cut things apart with his retractable claws and heal from wounds, writers often go out of their way to make him miss any living opponent he fights, sometimes with rather silly moments. Basically, you may choose from the following for Wolverine's enemies: Mecha-Mook, No-Sell, Good Thing You Can Heal. Otherwise, Wolvie's gonna tackle someone.
    • Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) might possibly be the worst offender. One fight has Wolverine fighting Sabertooth, a mutant with similar powers (including the claws) as his. It involves Wolverine cutting off a branch of a tree to use it as a club against Sabretooth and ends with Sabertooth pulling a bazooka-sized Taser out of his trenchcoat (despite being too big to fit in it) and knocking out Wolverine.
    • In other shows, expect Wolvie vs. Sabes to always come down to wrestling matches in which claws never connect with flesh.


Galadriel's horse hang

Shad rips apart the memetically bad scene from Rings of Power.

How well does it match the trope?

2.27 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / FightSceneFailure

Media sources: