My hands were clenched in fists of rage
So your plucky hero has decided that enough is enough and has retired from the scene, looking to return to a life of mundanity and safety. Unfortunately, the villains just can't leave well alone and the next thing you know, the Hero's girlfriend has been kidnapped/house burned down/dog has been shot, and the Hero watches the wrong-doers ride off laughing into the distance.
Cut to the hero's hand, hanging limp by his side. In comes the Theme Music Power-Up as the hand slowly curls into a fist. The fist quickly turns white with intense squeezing — maybe it even trembles with determined strength, and (especially in Japanese media such as anime and tokusatsu) you might even hear the sound of the hand's tendons stretching taut and the subtle movement of the fingers moving into place. He's Back!! Cue the Roaring Rampage of Revenge!
The dramatic clenching of a fist is often used as a visual signal that the character's resolve to perform the upcoming series of heroics is hardening, or as a signal that they have regained something — physical or mental — that they needed but were previously lacking. Also done during climactic fights — the villain seems to have the upper-hand and stands gloating over the Hero, who then manifests a Fist of Fury and returns to the battle with previously unseen strength.
Occasionally paired with a Power Fist, and invariably done even though the character's powers and abilities (if any) might not be related to their hands, or even physical prowess.
Truth in Television. It is a common trait for someone who is frustrated, indecisive or anxious to clench and unclench their fists as they try to decide upon a course of action. While not necessarily a "furious" version, a clenched fist in real life will often reflect the closing of an internal conflict, even if violence is not directly about to ensue.
- Guts from Berserk does this surprisingly not during his Screw Destiny speech at the end of the Golden Age Arc (which led into his Roaring Rampage of Revenge), but during his My Greatest Second Chance declaration at the beginning of the Retribution Arc.
- Touma of A Certain Magical Index always clenches his right hand into a fist before he says he will shatter someone's illusions.
- L of Death Note does this after his first defeat, as he resolves to show his face to the task force. (Light also does it in the Rewrite movies - not to reflect any real emotion, just as part of one of his many Bastardly Speeches.)
- Dragon Ball is an inversion, as usually such characters clench their fists because of the exertion required to channel their incredible amounts of power. Played straight by Goku when fighting Frieza, and by Gohan when fighting Perfect Cell however.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: In an interesting usage, throughout the series there are repeated shots of Shinji's hands as his fingers curl as if trying and failing to make a fist. In the final episode of the TV series, as he finally declares "My life is worth living here!", he makes a real fist. The walls of the dark "playroom" around him shatter, to reveal him surrounded by the rest of the cast, all congratulating him under a blue sky.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Obelisk the Tormentor's Fist of Fury. Especially with his power-up effect.
- In All Fall Down, when Pronto hears about Siphon, he has one of these that's so intense he makes his palm bleed.
- All-New Ultimates: Dagger made one when she was breaking up with Cloak, and Cloak tried to be reasonable in it.
- In Demon Spawn, Supergirl clenches her fists after putting up with a bullying co-worker.
- Wonder Woman (1987): Several Sangtee Empire nobles clench their fists in rage when Wonder Woman has herself projected into their meeting via hologram and cockily informs them that since they're practicing chattel slavery they have no right to complain about the revolution she's leading, and that they have no choice but to lose.
- Much Ado About Shakespeare: Love's Labours Won: Horatio Hornblower almost clenches his fists. It's his reaction when he remembers sadistic Jack Simpson and realizes that he had been molesting his friend Archie.
"The truth hit Horatio like a musket ball as he jerked upright with horror. He barely restrained himself from clenching his fists as he realized what must have been happening on the Justinian, all the while he had thought himself the most mistreated midshipman there."
- Since Neon Metathesis Evangelion is a Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic, all characters are varying levels of bad at communication. Hence, instead of them articulating their feelings, they often simply ball their hands to fists and say nothing. This happens very often, seemingly at least once per chapter.
- In Never Had a Friend Like Me (The Fairly Oddparents fanfiction), this is Norm's initial reaction when he see's that Amanda is about to be dropped into a pit of lava along with Timmy due to a revenge scheme by the anti-fairies and pixies. His next reaction is a little scary.
- In Turning Red, Mei clenches her fists when faced with Tyler after he puts up posters of her embarrassing artwork.
- Back to the Future, of course! George does this to Biff in order to protect his future wife.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme likes doing this, especially visible when fighting the Sumo Competitor in Bloodsport.
- An interesting inversion of this trope happens in Fight Club. When Norton's character is being threatened by his boss, he looks down at his hand and is surprised to see it clenched into a shaking fist. Moments later, he unleashes a brutal beatdown ... on himself.
- Bruce Lee's characters did this a lot, especially in the actual Fist of Fury film.
- A particularly extravagant example comes from The Incredible Hulk movie (certainly the 2008/Ed Norton film, and quite probably the Eric Bana and Lou Ferrigno versions too). Not only does Bruce Banner clench his fists tightly as he prepares for battle, but those fists start getting bigger and greener...
- Tony Stark does this just prior to unleashing the Mark I armour upon his captors in Iron Man.
- Spider-Man 2 - Just after Doctor Octavius kidnaps Mary-Jane, the recently retired Peter Parker watches the villain carry her off and seemingly 'reactivates' his ailing powers with this gesture.
- Superman Returns: A wounded Superman does this seconds before plunging into the Atlantic and lifting the Kryptonite-infested Island into the upper atmosphere.
- Animorphs: When Cassie rescues Aftran from the Yeerk pool, she sees one of the Controllers shaking his fist in what looks like impotent rage. Except she knows that he's a mole, so he's really cheering her on.
- Played straight in The Stand by Stephen King, after the explosion that injures Franny and kills and wounds a bunch of others. Stu tells her that Harold set the bomb, and then gets a revenge-hungry look on his face that outright frightens her and does the Fist Of Rage with both fists.
- Cinderella and the Four Knights: When confronted with arrogant rich guys who refuse to pay for the pizza they ordered, Ha-won clenches her fist. The next shot sees him go flying across the room.
- In El corazón nunca se equivoca, Ari's hands ball up into fists when Mateo drops uninvited to the party and begins insulting Temo.
- The Handmaid's Tale, "Unknown Caller": June/Ofjoseph clenches her fists in barely suppressed anger when Serena and Fred Waterfords force her to pose in their video about their baby having been kidnapped from Gilead to Canada. (June was a Handmaid to the Waterfords, which means baby Nichole/Holly is hers and she managed to get her to a safe country with Serena's approval.)
- During the third season of the turkish historic soap opera Resurrection: Ertuğrul, Ertugrul does this when he realize a traitor of the Cavdar Tribe, Ural Bey, is plotting against him with Tekfur Vasilius, the Big Bad for that season. Previously he had the chance of killing Ural and failed, and now he sees the chance of killing him once and for all.
- Don McLean's "American Pie" contains the page quote, which is a major Take That! to Mick Jagger. It references McLean's reaction to the disastrous Altamont concert, where one of the attendees, Meredith Hunterone, was killed by the Hell's Angels, which the band had hired as security, while Jagger kept singing and egging the crowd on.
- Many times in Final Fantasy VII Remake, almost always with a close up shot. Barret and Tifa do this multiple times, with Cloud doing it at least once at Jessie's death.
- In Mass Effect 2, when Shepard and Thane are interrogating a well-connected criminal, you may choose to employ the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine. When the criminal angers Shepard you see his/her hand ball up into a fist, and if you take the renegade option you can give him a good slug.
- In Super Smash Bros. Brawl: In Subspace Emissary, Lucas does this when he meets back up with Wario, who had incapacitated his new friend Ness, indicating that Lucas has gotten over his fears and ready to fight Wario to get his friend back.
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: After Dark Samus absorbs Ghor and leaves, Samus clenches her fist in silent rage. Later after defeating Gandrayda, Samus aware of what is about to happen, can once again only clench her fist.
- Doctor Steel is often posed in his propaganda art making one (and it's part-and-parcel of his trademark salute), and does it as he's suiting up for "Experiment Time" in The Dr. Steel Show, Episode 2.
- In Arthur, in the episode "Arthur's Big Hit", after D. W. breaks his toy plane, and blaming him because it didn't fly, Arthur angrily clutches his fist, and punches her in the upper arm for breaking it. The fist became a popular reaction image online - so much so that a later episode, "Arthur's Big Meltdown", replicates the fist several times when Arthur gets mad.
- Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender does this every once in a while, especially in the first two seasons, either as he's about to attack Aang or as he's trying to keep his bottled-up frustration inside.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
- At the end of "The General", Captain Rex does this after Pong Krell claims that the heavy casualties taken by the 501st in the episode were "necessary", and that someday Rex would "realize this".
- "Eminence": Death Watch leader Pre Vizsla does this when Maul tells him that he'll let him rule Mandalore (as a Puppet King, effectively) while he runs a new galactic crime syndicate from the planet with his protection. Vizsla then pretends to agree with the plan and offers some suggestions, all the while planning to backstab Maul.
- Star Wars Rebels: In "Droids in Distress", Kanan does this when Vizago takes off without paying the Ghost crew for the weapons he asked them to steal due to the arrival of Imperial forces.
- Kim Possible: In the climax to So the Drama, when Kim recovers from a 10-Minute Retirement and walks in on Drakken mocking her having thought he defeated her, she clenches her fist right as he finishes up - and he realizes he's now on his knees in front of a very angry Kim. He's Punched Across the Room almost immediately afterwards.