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Intimidation Demonstration

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"Know what this is called?" [Pops football in hands to the kids' amazement] "...Intimidation."
Bruce Smith, Little Giants

When someone wants to show off how skilled they are with a weapon, martial arts, acrobatics, or just plain strength, they will do some sort of flashy movement to display their skills, such as juggling knives, twirling a sword, swinging their nunchucks, flexing their pecs, bending a metal pipe, breaking a brick, or kicking and punching while doing flips. This is very common in fighting games and martial arts movies, as characters will want to appear badass by doing some unnecessary cool moves before they fight.

Can apply to twirling around firearms, but not that type of twirling. Just don't confuse intimidation with a Dramatic Gun Cock.

Another variant is simply a demonstration of firepower and/or military capability. In Real Life, this is a common diplomatic tool—if you want to intimidate a country, conduct a military exercise with an aircraft carrier battle group in their general area. Or a nuclear weapons test.

A favorite move of Bruce Lee clones, Martial Arts Movie, and Artistic License – Martial Arts in general. Is sometimes combined with a taunt or Badass Boast. Often finished off with a Bring It or an Ass Kicking Pose. When it works, it's an example of winning without fighting and Victory Through Intimidation, examples of doing this badly may fall under What the Fu Are You Doing? or Flexing Those Non-Biceps. If done by someone who should be stealthy, not flashy, see Highly-Visible Ninja. If a person crushes something in their hands for a reason other than intimidation, see A Glass in the Hand. Battle Strip and Pec Flex are related.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu episode "Summer Illusion of Steel", Sameshima the cook runs up to Sōsuke with a knife in each hand, and starts twirling them around. He then switches over to rapidly slicing them through the air while stating his reputation as "Sammy the Slasher". It pays homage to Indiana Jones, though, as Sōsuke just shoots him.
  • Early on in Hunter × Hunter, one of Kurapika's opponents punches a concrete wall, leaving huge cracks and chips in it, then reveals a tattoo resembling that of the deadly Spiders organization as well as his kill count on his back. It turns out that he embedded a steel plate into one of his hands to enable him to punch with more force but can only do it once in a while as it really hurts, that the Spiders have a membership number on their tattoos, and that their kills are so numerous that they don't bother to count.
  • Played with in School Rumble. First, Karen scares off an attacker by absolutely disintegrating an apple just by squeezing it in one hand. Later, Lala does this to intimidate a few classmates, but Imadori, unfazed, claims that it's no big deal and does the same thing with a ripe banana.
  • During his fight with Luffy in One Piece, Arlong uses his powerful teeth to bite through a solid stone pillar. While this was intended as intimidation, Luffy answers by pounding the stone with his fist, and telling Arlong that biting through stone is rather silly.
  • In The Big O episode "The Greatest Villain". Before Beck fights Roger Smith he does some fancy maneuvers with a giant boomerang-like weapon from his megadeus. Roger has the Big O shoot him with its Arm Cannon, instantly winning the fight.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • In Younger Toguro's second appearance, he demonstrates his strength by demolishing a building. Yusuke is scared shitless.
    • Yusuke demonstrates his Spirit Gun on a balcony in an attempt to get Chu to surrender. It doesn't work.
  • Bleach: Yamamoto demonstrates the gap between himself and Nanao by simply focusing his Spiritual Pressure on her, and in the process nearly crushes her into paste.
  • While Obi from Snow White with the Red Hair usually prefers to enter fights without his target even being aware of his presence beforehand once when he caught up to a pair of thieves and realized they were just kids he got in a tree ahead of and above them and called on them to surrender while threateningly spinning one of his throwing knives with his face framed in shadow. The tactic worked as they immediately gave up when Zen arrived, though Obi was annoyed they took him for a criminal.
  • The Vagabond manga is pretty unimpressed with this trope. A Warrior Monk compares warriors who do this to animals who try to bluff their way out of danger by trying to look bigger and more dangerous than they really are. Most times that a fighter does this it has been because they suddenly realized that whoever they're fighting is better than them, and the fighter attempting the intimidation is becoming desperate. Virtually every time that it happens, the warrior in question winds up losing his fight and/or getting killed. A few examples:
    • When Musashi first fights the spear master Inshun in a match with training weapons, Inshun scores a number of solid and physically damaging or disabling blows that Mushashi attempts to keep fighting through. Gradually, however, it starts becoming clear even to Musashi that nothing, not his great physical strength, his famous determination, or his equally famous dirty fighting tactics can make up for the edge Inshun has. Musashi lets out an intimidating roar and launches a furious all-out berserker attack... which Inshun calmly withstands and then goes right back to beating Musashi within an inch of his life.
    • As an inexperienced youth Denshichiro used to boast about being the son of the famous Master Swordsman Yoshioka Kempō, mainly as a way of bluffing his way into respect, and to discourage people from fighting him. And indeed most people decided not to risk it, since they either believed that the ability would run in the bloodline and/or that Denshichiro would have the benefit of being taught by one of the greatest swordsmen in the land, and thus Denshichiro would also be a great swordsman. This helped Denshichiro on a number of occasions, because while he was certainly a good swordsman, he was nowhere near the level of mastery that his father or brother attained, and despite lots of training he was so inexperienced at real fighting that sheer nervousness would make him fall apart in an actual duel. It fell completely flat, however, when he got into a match with a young Sasaki Kojiro and attempted to use the boast, only to be informed that 1) Kojiro is deaf and can't hear him, and 2) Kojiro has lived all his life in the backwoods without much education, so even if he could hear Denshichiro's boasting, he wouldn't know who Kempō is anyway.
    • When facing Musashi in a duel after Musashi has killed his brother Seijūrō (who was a much better swordsman than him) in a fight, Denshichiro gives off an enormous scream of rage during the fight that intimidates everyone watching... everyone except Musashi, who is so lost in Dissonant Serenity at that point that he simply placidly wonders why Denshichiro would scream like that. After all, that kind of screaming will accomplish nothing except to make Denshichiro's muscles stiffen up right when he needs them to be loose so he can move fluidly.

    Comic Books 
  • One of the early Spirou and Fantasio stories has the Marsupilami meet a gorilla, who starts engaging in threatening behavior (chest-beating, ripping trees out of the ground...). Subverted, however, in that it is quickly too tired to actually fight, and the Marsupilami goes by unharmed.

    Films — Animated 
  • Aladdin. While the guards are pursuing Aladdin and Abu the monkey, Abu picks up a sword and threatens the guards with some stylish maneuvers, frightening them, and leads to a He's Got a Weapon! cry:
    Guard: He's got a sword!
    Razoul: You idiots! We've ALL got swords!!
  • Heavy Metal segment "Taarna". When Taarna and the Barbarian Leader are about to fight, the BL deploys his circular saw hand and cuts through a pipe to show its deadly power.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Big Trouble in Little China
    • When Jack Burton confronts the Lords of Death members at the airport, one of them pulls out a knife and an extendable staff. When he starts swinging them in front of himself in a frightening display of his weapon-handling abilities, Jack wisely backs away from him.
    • When the Three Storms first appear to break up the fight between the Chang Sings and the Wing Kong, they give a display of martial arts skills to intimidate the gangs. One of the Storms, Lightning, adds a display of his electrical powers for extra "shock value."
    • When Lightning confronts Jack, Gracie, Egg Shen, and Miao Yin after the death of Lo Pan, he fires off lightning bolts in all directions in an attempt to frighten them.
  • Blade II. As Nyssa approaches Blade before their duel, she whirls her blades around to display her swordsmanship. The scene can be viewed here.
  • Never Back Down has the Cool, but Inefficient capoeira fighter who shows off with fancy flips and spinning kicks before the fight, but is then finished by Ryan with a single punch.
  • Full Metal Jacket: After a Vietnamese boy steals a camera and tosses it to his friend on a bike, he turns around and starts doing a series of palm strikes in the air and making fierce screams, then does a spin kick. Joker humorously tries the same thing along with his "war cry" back at the boy.
  • Enter the Dragon has Oharra breaking a board with his fist in an intimidating fashion. Bruce Lee is not impressed.
    Lee: Boards don't hit back.
  • Game of Death has a scene where Bruce Lee and another man spend the majority of their battle expertly flailing their nunchucks around while yelling and staring intently. They get around to fighting, eventually.
  • Goldfinger: Oddjob demonstrates his ability with his killer bowler hat early in the film, Foreshadowing the fight with Bond at the end.
  • Indiana Jones
    • The famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana faces the Master Swordsman has the swordsman demonstrating just how skilled he is by throwing his scimitar from one hand to the other and then spinning it in his hands. Indy promptly puts an end to it by just shooting him.
    • There is a similar scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Indy faced off against two swordsmen. They did some brief sword spinning as well. He tries to resolve the situation in the same way as before...except after reaching for his empty holster, he remembers he'd been relieved of his pistol earlier in the film.
  • In Kin-Dza-Dza! an etsilop to whom a character forgot to say "Koo!" used his weapon to perform a Diagonal Cut on a faraway sand tower just to make a point.
  • Various times in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, such as the "gopher-chucks" scene where The Chosen One is scaring off his opponents by twirling his gopher-chucks, much like someone would show off normal nunchucks. There's also Master Pain/Betty's ability to take Groin Attacks like they were nothing. Even The Chosen One was impressed by it!
  • The Matrix series
    • The Matrix: The very first fight Neo has. "... what you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent. Others can be broken. Understand? Then hit me, if you can." Cue Neo and then Morpheus both waving their hands around in the air and assuming theatrical pre-fight poses.
    • The Matrix Reloaded:
      • During the Burly Brawl, Neo hits an Agent Smith with a pole and knocks the concrete off the end, then spins it around to intimidate the other Smiths watching.
      • During the fight in the Merovingian's château, Neo does a brief spin display with the two sai after he pulls them off a wall to him. Also, one of the Merovingian's goons spins his swords around in an intimidating way before attacking Neo with them.
      • During Morpheus' fight with the albino ghost twins, each of them does some fancy moves with their straight razors before fighting him.
      • During Morpheus' fight with the Agent on top of the truck. After pulling the sword out of the side of the truck and slicing through the Agent's tie, Morpheus swings the sword around a few times.
  • In The Mighty Ducks, Coach Bombay has Fulton practice his powerful (if somewhat inaccurate) slapshots during warm-ups before the game against the Cardinals. Near the end of the game, Fulton gets the puck and winds up for a shot. All the Cardinals duck for cover, allowing one of the Ducks to take the puck and score unopposed.
  • In the first The Substitute movie, the principal tells the protagonist that at the start of every year he does this with the school's out of control students by smashing a large wooden board with his bare hands right in front of them. He completes the story with an excellent quote "Power perceived is power achieved", basically meaning that unless the unruly Gang Banger students see that you have power, they will never go along with you. The protagonist takes it to heart and gives a very personal demonstration to his class about how he can maintain order.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, after the turtles barely escape from Tokka and Rahzar, the Shredder unleashes the pair on the city, telling them to 'Go play'. After the pair go on a destructive rampage, the Shredder has a message delivered to the turtles through April: if they don't appear for a final showdown, he'll release Tokka and Rahzar into Central Park, and the innocent civilians that would be there.
  • Undercover Brother
    • During his fight with Mr. Feather, the title character demonstrates his skill with nunchucks.
    • Likewise, Mr. Feather deploys his hand claws in a flashy manner.
  • In The Wild Life 12-year-old Jim intimidates some would-be bullies at the bowling alley by putting his cigarette out in the palm of his hand, followed by a Bring It.
  • Wild Wild West, during two of Jim West's battles with Dr. Loveless' mooks inside the giant spider robot.
    • His first opponent was modified with cybernetic devices that shoot blades out his wrists. After he ejects one of them he whirls it around menacingly. West responds by activating his boot blade in his Tricked-Out Shoes and wiggling it around in a completely non-intimidating manner.
    • One of his opponents does some fancy martial arts moves and says "I learned that from a Chinaman." Jim's response is to grab a shovel, knock him unconscious with a single swing, and reply "I just made that up."
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) has Michaelangelo getting into a chuck-off with a fellow chucker among the Foot Clan.
  • Batman (1989). When the Joker's sword-wielding mook first appears, he swings his swords around in an expert manner in an attempt to scare Batman.
  • A similar event occurs in Batman Forever, when one of Two-Face's thugs performs some fancy moves with bladed gloves, only to promptly leave himself wide open for Batman to take him out with a single kick to the face.
  • In Kick-Ass, one thug tries to intimidate Hit Girl with his butterfly knife skills. It doesn't work. She simply responds with a more impressive display using her own butterfly knife, then uses it to kill him.
  • The Running Man. When the Stalkers Subzero, Buzzsaw, Dynamo, and Fireball are introduced to the studio audience, each of them shows off their weapon by destroying something. When Fireball first appears to the runners Ben and Amber, he repeatedly fires off his flamethrower to impress them.
  • In The Three Musketeers (1993), Pothos runs into a Japanese mook who twirls his sword around while shouting a Kiai. Unimpressed, Pothos mockingly imitates him and then drops him down a Trap Door.
  • Star Wars:
    • In The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul turns towards Obi-Wan after killing Qui-Gon Jinn and swings his lightsaber around to taunt him.
    • In Attack of the Clones, Dooku tries to intimidate Yoda by throwing machinery and rocks at him with the Force. Yoda isn't amused, however, and assumes an Ass Kicking Pose, whereupon Dooku gives up and draws his lightsaber.
    • In Revenge of the Sith, Grievous pulls out all four of his lightsabers and begins spinning them and cutting up the floor as he moves towards Obi-Wan. However, Obi-Wan isn't fazed by this and makes short work of him.
    • In the same movie, Yoda makes some flourishes with his lightsaber while challenging Palpatine to a fight.
    • Anakin also twirls his lightsaber around during a break in his duel with Obi-Wan. He can be seen doing the same thing during the arena battle in Attack of the Clones.
  • Quest for Fire: Early human conflict is still very much rooted in threat displays. In one scene, a group of proto-humans approaches a trio of Neanderthals while smashing their clubs on the ground to show their strength. In response, one of the Neanderthals starts howling and making stabbing motions with his spear to display his own threat.
  • The Golden Child. While Chandler Jarell is fighting Tommy Tong, Tong repeatedly flourishes his swords to make it clear to Chandler that he's outmatched.
  • Demolition Man
    • While John Spartan is fighting Simon Phoenix in the museum's underground exhibit, Phoenix picks up a shovel and spins it repeatedly before attacking Spartan with it.
    • When John Spartan charges out of the Taco Bell to fight Edgar Friendly's men, one of them approaches him and waves two swords around in an attempt to show him who's boss. Spartan takes him down quickly.
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again. During Kato's surprise attack on Clouseau, Kato displays impressive ability wielding a staff and Clouseau shows off his elite skill with a pair of nunchucks before they start using them to fight.
  • Tank Girl. At the beginning of Tank Girl and Keslee's fight, they are standing on a suspended catwalk. Keslee uses the spinning blades on his artificial arm to cut through two supporting cables to show Tank Girl how dangerous they are.
  • Hudson Hawk. Just before Eddie's final battle against Alfred the butler, Alfred snaps out his blades and swings them around in a threatening manner to let Eddie know just what he's up against.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Judge Doom advances toward Eddie Valiant with a toon buzzsaw, extending the handle and cutting through a pipe, with lots of sparks flying out, to show that it can kill Eddie.
  • Dreamscape. While in the President's dream, Tommy Ray creates glowing nunchaku (martial arts weapons) with spiked heads. Before attacking, he spins them around his own body to show how quick and deadly they are.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) discusses that every kaiju/titan has its own unique form of an intimidation display. Of the ones shown: Godzilla lights up his back spikes, Mothra's wings glow orange, Rodan's body has magma flowing through it, and Ghidorah's necks are always pulsating yellow with electricity. MONARCH even lampshades this behavior when Godzilla nearly attacks an outpost with the whole cast present:
    Sgt. Hendricks: Hey, what's with the light show?
    Dr. Graham: It's an intimidation display. Like a gorilla pounding its chest.
    Sam Coleman: [nervously] Consider us very intimidated.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. When Sky Captain fights The Dragon Robot Girl in order to enter the rocket ship, The Dragon twirls her energy staff to show how proficient she is with it.

  • The Anubis Gates: The protagonist has recently grown much stronger and attempts to intimidate an aggressive bunch of men at a bar by crushing a pewter mug in his fist. He has no idea whether he's strong enough to accomplish the feat... and he's not. Needless to say, the stunt fails.
  • Beware of Chicken: When things get tense between cultivators, it's fairly standard for them to manifest their qi and Intent. If one of them is dramatically stronger than the other, then the weaker party will usually backpedal and apologise immediately.
    Another man from a table nearby, slim, with a grey robe, snorted. "Look at this brat, staring at jewelry without a care in the world!" he chortled. "If you go into the tournament with that attitude, girl, you're going to get hurt."
    He smirked. His green Qi coiled around him, and intent brushed up against her senses. It was an unpleasant, minor distraction.
    The Green Man's intent flared more, as he stood.
    Tigu's eyes narrowed. Oh! She was supposed to show her strength!
    Tigu's intent flared.
    The room fell into silence. The Green Man's face went pure white, as blood drained from it. She could hear his heart suddenly hammering in his chest.
  • The Hunger Games: One of the nuances of the training room is whether or not you show off your deadliest skill. The Careers (volunteers for the Games) like to let the other tributes know what they can do as a sort of boast.
  • This causes a Culture Clash in The Dark Elf Trilogy. To dark elves, demonstrating one's superiority with a weapon to someone else, while leaving them completely unharmed, is an indicator that you have no intention of harming them and in fact wish to ally with them. When Drizzt tries this on a human, they run off in terror and warn everyone of the evil Drow lurking in the woods.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Speckled Band, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, a large ill-tempered. and violent man followed his stepdaughter to 221 B Baker Street and tried to warn Holmes off by grabbing a poker from the fireplace and bending it into a loop. Holmes, unimpressed, straightens the poker back out, demonstrating that his own strength is at least as impressive.
  • Isaac Asimov's short story "Victory Unintentional." Three robots visit the planet Jupiter and see the Jovians' plans for war against the human race. The Jovians attempt to demonstrate their superiority but the robots casually brush all it aside (sticking a hand in a vat of molten steel for example). Then the Jovians sue for friendly relations with the humans. The robots leave bemused. The lead robot finally realizes that they never explained that they were robots. The Jovians assumed they were humans and that all humans were just as strong and tough as they were.
  • In Interesting Times, a samurai warrior tries to intimidate Cohen the Barbarian by throwing a silk handkerchief in the air and cutting it in half with his extremely-sharp sword. In response, Cohen throws his own handkerchief in the air — and attacks the samurai while his attention is on the handkerchief.
  • In Sweet Silver Blues, one of the groll (troll/giant hybrid) brothers catches a brick thrown by a racist mob and crushes it into dust. Subverted in that the mob isn't sufficiently impressed, so the grolls have to start swinging large pieces of lumber around before the racists disperse.
  • In the Conrad Stargard series by Leo Frankowski, a delegation sent by the Mongols demands that the Poles submit to their empire. To show their soldiers have no fear of death, several of them cut their throats on command. Conrad Stargard realizes he's got to do something or the war will be lost before it's begun. So Conrad asks the Mongol ambassador to order another member of their delegation to kill himself. He hesitates (because it's his son, as it turns out) but complies. Then Conrad asks for yet another demonstration. When the ambassador demands to know why, Conrad says if all the Mongols are stupid enough to kill themselves, they won't have to fight them on the battlefield. The Poles all break out laughing and the ambassador departs having lost the initiative.
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted, the Big Bad is screening a propaganda broadcast to a colony of pacifists, with a Million Mook March montage of troops and tanks. Rather than being intimidated, however, the locals given their culture are simply confused as to why so much energy and resources are being wasted to no apparent purpose.
  • In Watchers of the Throne, when the Custodes approach a Splintered stronghold, they do so at a leisurely pace while Parrying Bullets. This is partly to intimidate their enemies and partly to awe their allies.

     Live-Action Television 
  • Game of Thrones: Karl Tanner slices 'n dices the air with his twin daggers while advancing on Jon Snow.
  • Supernatural: In the first episode of season four, titled "Lazarus Rising", the angel Castiel first introduces himself to Dean and Bobby by causing the lights to flicker rapidly before bursting through the doors, exploding all the lights around them and showing off his shadowy wings. He never enters a room this way again after their first encounter, so clearly he was attempting to show them the extent of his powers and intimidate them right off the bat.
  • 30 Rock: In the episode Idiots Are People Two!, a ninja attempts to intimidate Kelsey Grammer by performing several flips, kicks, and punches.
  • Bones: Brennan does it while explaining to Booth in anthropological terms in the episode "The Maggots in the Meathead" while surrounded by Guidos. She picked it up while watching a "documentary" on TV.
    (Peppy punches Clinton, turns to Booth and throws a punch at him but misses. Booth punches Peppy, who gets up and tries to get to Booth but Brennan gets between them and makes a weird fierce posturing)
    Brennan: This posturing is called "throwing the crab," it will intimidate him into compliance.
    (Peppy looks at her, puzzled and amused)
  • Happy Days: Fonzie is about to fight a fencing duel with a visiting French character. Frenchie uses his epee to cut the gym's climbing rope. Fonzie counters by swiping at a nearby banner; Frenchie is amused by Fonzie's failure until Fonz snaps his fingers and the banner splits in two.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: In "Sal's Pizza," Sgt. Jeffords warns the precinct's new IT guy to stay in line.
    Terry: Hey, ball, if Savant were to do anything to harm this precinct, would I destroy him? (crushes a Magic 8 Ball with one bare hand then looks at the remaining die) "Answer uncertain. Ask again later."
  • Wonder Woman: In "I Do, I Do", a thug tries to hit Wonder Woman with a tire iron. She catches his arm, takes the weapon out of his hand, tosses him away, and then ignores him in favor of bending the tire iron into a circle. That's when he decides to run.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In WWE, The Great Khali demonstrates his vise grip (basically a move in which he crushes the opponent's head with both his hands) on a basketball hard enough to make it pop to intimidate Batista before a match. Batista then reminds him that, among other things, he's not going to be wrestling a basketball.
  • Awesome Kong once grabbed a kendo stick and expertly twirled it around. Roxxi Laveaux's response was to laugh and nail her with a steel chair.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 2nd Edition had a Non-Weapon Proficiency called "Display Weapon Prowess". If the user demonstrated his weapon skills successfully, it caused opponents to make a morale check.
    • Also the whole point of the "Blade" bard kit from the same edition's Complete Bard's Handbook, which wasn't so much about being a great fighter (being, well, still a bard rather than an actual member of the fighter class) as it was about convincingly looking the part for showboating and intimidation purposes.
  • In the Hero Game System this is covered with the "Presence Attack" mechanic. (You get bonuses if you do it really well).
  • Starblazer Adventures, based on the 1980's British science fiction Comic Book. The Demoralizing Stance stunt allowed you to intimidate opponents by demonstrating your fighting techniques.
  • Hackmaster 4th Edition. The monk class had two abilities of this type which could be used before combat began, both involving the use of the monk's martial arts techniques. Intimidating Display caused all opponents to lose initiative on the first round of combat, allowing the monk's party to attack first. Really Intimidating Display could cause opponents to sit down and watch as long as the monk continued to perform.
  • Top Secret/SI. The Dragon magazine #178 article "A Swing and a Hit'' has various combat techniques. One of them is "Weapon Display", which allows an agent to twirl a weapon all around their body to try to impress an opponent. If the tactic works the opponent must stand and watch the display until it ends, and may not be able to attack or defend for another combat turn.
  • Earthdawn supplement Earthdawn Companion. The Impressive Shot talent allows the user to fire a missile close to an opponent (through their sleeve, hit close to them, knock something out of their hand, etc.) in order to impress them with the user's archery abilities.
  • In Pathfinder's 1st Edition this was represented by the Dazzling Display feat, where a character showed off their prowess with their favored weapon to make nearby enemies anxious about facing them. With sufficient optimization it could result in people running for the hills in fear of how well it had been twirled.

     Theme Parks 

     Video Games 
  • In the Metal Gear games, triple-crossing Magnificent Bastard Revolver Ocelot is rarely seen not elaborately twirling around his revolvers to intimidate his foes and his allies. It's played for both silliness and creating menacing tension.
  • Parodied in Pokémon Gold and Silver, as well as Crystal and their remakes. Chuck, Cianwood City's Gym Leader, tries to intimidate you when you challenge him by throwing and smashing a rock, only for the Player Character (based on what said he says) to point out that what he did has nothing to do with how good he is at Pokémon battles.
  • In Soulcalibur, each character is focused on for a few seconds before a round starts. While many characters simply taunt or toss their hair, some, such as Taki, Kilik, Hwang, and Maxi will use that brief moment to take out their weapon and twirl it about while letting out a Kiai.
  • A rare instance where this trope is used to end a fight rather than start one. In BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Carl Clover interrogates Tsubaki Yayoi a little too roughly, and Makoto, not knowing who the aggressor is but wanting to stop the abuse, jumps out and prepares to punch him. Carl dodges - and good thing, too, as the punch leaves a massive impact crater where he once stood! Unfortunately for Makoto, this causes Carl's attention to shift to her, as she's with Intel and Carl wanted the whereabouts of his father, Relius Clover...
  • In Mass Effect, whenever there is a stand-off in cut-scenes, Liara is immediately shown to flare her biotics, while Tali raises her omni-tool.
  • During The Matrix: Path of Neo nearly everybody who picks up a weapon for the first time will do some demonstrating of their sword, staff, or axe techniques. Never mind all the AssKickingPoses that are shown and there are quite a few of those.
  • Upon encountering a Thresher industrial robot in Descent 3, it will pick up a crate and shred it to demonstrate its great strength.
  • Star Control 2: The Thraddash's "Culture 3" parodies this. They apparently were in the habit of chopping off their own limbs to demonstrate how hardcore they were, which actually did let them take over Thraddash society due to scaring the crap out of their enemies. However, veterans would quickly run out of limbs and were said to "roll around on the ground" during war parades. The modern Thraddash consider all this a race-wide case of Old Shame.

     Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • There are several examples in Worm:
    • Glory Girl likes to make her entrance by doing flashy maneuvers such as Ground-Shattering Landings.
    • At the beginning of Chapter 6.1, a gang member whips his katana around to try to intimidate Skitter. It doesn't work.

     Western Animation 
  • In the Daffy Duck short Muscle Tussle, Daffy's girlfriend is wooed by a beach hunk. Daffy takes some strength tonic in order to match up with the new guy. The new guy demonstrates his strength to Daffy; Daffy tries to match him but the results are less than stellar.
  • Popeye: Popeye has various ways he shows off just how strong he is; virtually every time he eats spinach, he flexes his now-humongous biceps.

    Real Life 
  • Very common in animals, especially mammals, but sometimes birds as well. Males will face off against rival males to prove strength and fitness for the right to mate. Deer, antelopes, buffalo, elephants, humpback whales (rare nonphysical singing contest version), rams, lions, horses, and others all do it. And yes, it can go to the death for some species.
    • There's also the mating variation, where the male tries his best to impress prospective mates with strength, various skills, displays, etc.
    • Also a frequent defense mechanism. Prey animals will try to ward off an enemy by showing they are too strong to target. A good example is the 'pronking' behavior of some antelope species.
  • In Ethology this is called a "threat display". There's a practical reason — if the alpha male fights a rival, even if he wins, he risks getting injured, making him vulnerable to the next challenger. And even if he's not injured, he still uses a lot of energy in the fight. Better to just scare them off without fighting.
  • Wargame Designer James Dunnigan commented that this was one of the reasons for Bling of War: it costs a lot less to look badass than to be badass. And hopefully, everyone else will either believe you or know their own troops are just as incompetent.
  • Sometimes, peacekeepers are advised to coax loud, metallic noises out of their weapons to simulate the (Hollywood) sound of a gun cocking; this is sometimes enough to make threats run away.
  • This is how Gunboat Diplomacy works, if one nation wants to assert its claim over water territories, they send their biggest ships to show they mean business.
  • In 1976, the US embarked on a mission with 813 men with aerial support in order to take out a tree in the DMZ between North and South Korea after two American soldiers were killed in an incident.
    • This has essentially extended to the duty of an entire fleet of the United States Navy, which is permanently posted near the Korean Peninsula specifically to let North Korea know that they'd be dealing with the United States as well if North Korea resumes armed conflict with the South.
  • In a broader sense, a political demonstration like a march through the street invokes the idea that there are many people who support such-and-such cause enough to stand out in public and disrupt the daily routine in order to communicate to government officials the scale of their discontent - destructive riots when organization and crowd control are lost are in a sense this attempt Gone Horribly Wrong (or Right). Similarly, police or paramilitary forces brought in to control it are always dressed in proper uniform and frequently sporting visible signs of heavier equipment like riot shields, police batons, or heavier-than-normal vehicles equipped with water cannons as a means to non-verbally communicate to the demonstration (or any bystanders) "Do not cause excessive trouble" and more implicitly "We are still in charge" - again, incidents of Police Brutality and other suppression of civil rights are this Gone Horribly Wrong (or Right).


Video Example(s):


General Grievous

As his fight with Obi-Wan begins, General Grievous makes a show of slowly advancing towards his opponent while rapidly twirling his lightsabers and slicing up the floor as he goes. This doesn't faze the Jedi, however.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / IntimidationDemonstration

Media sources: