Follow TV Tropes


Knife-Throwing Act

Go To

"My mother was a show thrower. She could throw knives all around a person and never harm a hair. She never missed."

The old carnival routine where a person (usually a Lovely Assistant) stands against a board as a target (sometimes a spinning wheel to ramp up the danger). The skilled performer throws razor-sharp knives, and each blade just misses the assistant's body, leading to a Knife Outline on the target.

Usually faked when done in live action, even where the possibility of error is supposed to be realistic. Too many things can go wrong, and Lovely Assistants in Stripperiffic outfits aren't easy to come by these days.

Compare William Telling, another show of Improbable Aiming Skills.


    open/close all folders 

  • A series of Australian television ads for a company called iSelect has a Stage Magician appear in people's homes to demonstrate how he can make their bills smaller. In one of them, he straps a woman's husband to a wheel (that appears out of nowhere), folds her bills into shuriken, and proceeds to fling them at her rotating husband, creating a Knife Outline. He finishes the act by William Telling an apple off the husband's head.
  • Wilkins Coffee: One commercial has Wilkins perform a knife-throwing act, with Wontkins as his target.
    Wontkins: Watch out where you throw those knives!
    Wilkins: Are you drinking Wilkins instant coffee yet?
    Wontkins: No!
    Wilkins: Okay, let's try it blindfolded!

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Alice in the Country of Hearts movie, Alice suddenly finds herself strapped to a board in the circus. Two demented kids start throwing knives at her, ignoring her protests. One of the knives cuts her cheek. The last two would have landed in her chest if Blood Dupree hadn't blocked them in time. Enraged at them for endangering her, he annihilates the kids with a machine gun.
  • Black Butler had Dagger, a knife thrower in Noah's Circus. He was quite skilled at it. Ciel tried to throw knives for his entrance exam to get into the circus so he and Sebastian could investigate a case involving missing children. He only hit the mark because Sebastian flicked pebbles at the knives so they would make it to the wooden target, since Ciel wasn't strong enough to chuck them that far himself.
  • One is performed in the court of the Kingdom of the Cats in The Cat Returns, using cuttlefish instead of knives. It doesn't go well and the knife thrower gets tossed out of a window.
  • The arrested-maturation character Cassian from the Count Cain manga, who looks like a boy but is really thirty-five, and therefore has a weird sort of two-way paternal relationship with his early-twenties commander Jizabel Disraeli, was sold to the circus and performed in one of these for some time. During the series his main weapon remains throwing knives. (Not a very practical primary weapon in real life.)
    • He is not seen to throw any knives after having his brain transplanted into the High Priest's body; presumably he didn't bother to train the new muscles and eyes and so on to the correct coordination and habits.
  • Cyborg 009 had this.
  • This is part of an interrogation technique used on a drug dealer in Dominion Tank Police . First, they strap the man on a wheel. Then, Leona walks up in a Playboy Bunny outfit and politely asks who his suppliers are. If he doesn't answer, she stuffs a pinless grenade in his mouth and spins the wheel. Then the rest of the squad starts throwing knives at the man. They call this technique the "Wheel of Fortune".
  • In the anime of Golgo 13, a hitman posing as a circus performer demonstrates his skill with hisweapon of choice by throwing a knife into the bulls-eye of a dartboard, just past his girlfriend's head. She shows her own badass credentials by not flinching. After playing the trope straight on stage, he then uses his skills against Togo, who unfortunately is an unflinching badass himself.
  • In Gun Blaze West, Colice Satoh performs a knife throwing act in the circus.
  • Referenced in Irresponsible Captain Tylor. The marines hear someone listening at the door during a secret meeting with the captain, so they leap outside throwing a couple of knives which hit on either side of Harumi, who's dressed in a skintight outfit (instead of her usual look) as she's trying to assassinate Captain Tylor.
  • Kaleido Star has a guest character doing this.
  • Being part of a circus as his cover, Trowa of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing performs in this act as the target. He doesn't even flinch when the knife was accidentally thrown close enough to draw blood, highlighting either a stunning lack of fear... or a complete disregard for his own life.
  • Popee the Performer: Popee and Kedamono are both very skilled at knife throwing in very different ways. Kedamono never hits the person being thrown at, but Popee always does.
  • Mousse from Ranma ½ disguised himself as a circus knife-thrower when he came back (for good) to hunt down Ranma. And he did pin the latter down to the target board, but Ranma escaped the deliberate stabbing.
  • One of the Student Council meetings in Revolutionary Girl Utena had Touga and Miki doing this with Touga as the knife-thrower with plenty of impossible Knife Outlines all the while. Heaven knows why they were doing this, but then again, it's Utena.
  • A filler episode of Rurouni Kenshin had Kaoru attempt this, only to hit Sanosuke in the arm on her first try.

  • German artist Timm Ulrichs worked with knife thrower Jonny King to produce the performance video piece Messerwurf-Porträt 1978/91.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers: In Secret Avengers #29, John Steele is subjected to one after being captured by the Circus of Crime.
  • Batman: In one arc where Two-Face takes over a circus, Deadeye Dagger, the circus knife-thrower, was one of his more willing henchmen.
  • Conan the Barbarian: In Savage Sword of Conan #119, Conan (in a scene that is undoubtedly a Shout-Out to the movie The Vikings) is forced to play a game where his sister's head is stuck through the middle of a hollow target and he must throw axes to sever her braids while blindfolded. Luckily, he manages not to slay his own sister; and since he ran out of sisterly braids while still having an axe left, he indulges in a manly jest and throws the weapon at Magloclun, cutting the clan leader's own braid.
  • Used several times in EC Comics stories.
    • In "Current Attraction" in Tales from the Crypt #41 the main character's daughter is attracted to the circus knife thrower, a married man.
    • In "One Last Fling!" in The Vault Of Horror #21 the main character is a circus knife thrower and uses his skills to kill his wife onstage after she becomes a vampire.
  • Gaston Lagaffe: One gag has Gaston walk in on Fantasio tossing knives at something. Fantasio sadly informs Gaston that due to the amount of mail Gaston hasn't sorted out and filed, they have no choice but to head into a new career, revealing that he's been tossing knives at Gaston's life-sized latex dummy of himself, with very few misses. Gaston suddenly feels an urge to organize mail.
  • Green Lantern: Knife throwing was one of the skills mastered by the Gambler, a Golden Age foe in Green Lantern (1941), during his time at the carnival.
  • Hawkeye'': Clint Barton developed his skills as part of a knife-throwing act with the Swordsman
  • Jonah Hex: In "Sawdust and Slow Death" in issue #15 of the original series, Jonah joins a circus and becomes the unwilling target of an armless knife-thrower (possibly inspired by The Unknown; see Film examples below).
  • Kid Colt: Blade Benson was the knife thrower in the Circus of Crime who fought Kid Colt in issue #106.
  • De Kiekeboes: Depicted in “Doorgestoken Kaart”.
  • Lady Mechanika: Gitano is the knife thrower for the Cirque du Romani.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): The Great and Powerful Trixie does this while blindfolded in issue #21 with the aid of one of her assistants.
  • Tintin: General Alcazar in Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls has a Knife Throwing Act. After creating a full Knife Outline around his Indian target, he asks an audience member to blindfold him. His blind throw hits right in the center of the target held over the Indian's chest.
  • Wonder Woman: In Sensation Comics Mimi Mendez's puts on impromptu knife throwing acts for her henchmen when she has prisoners she's angry at. After sinking knives in the walls all around them she'll throw the last few to kill.

    Comic Strips 
  • One Charles Addams cartoon shows a couple in a hotel room staring at the wall, which has a series of knife-points poking through it, outlining the shape of a woman.
  • The Far Side: A knife-thrower flashes an "Oh, Crap!" Smile at his enraged audience, when it turns out his "assistent" is actually an inflated dummy, which he has punctured with one of his knives.
  • Modesty Blaise: "El Casador and Conchita", the identities adopted by Willie and Modesty when they appear as a knife thrower and Lovely Assistant in Willie's circus.

    Eastern Animation 
  • Moto Perpetuo: The man sees a mostly naked lady in the elevator shaft. He eagerly jumps in, only to jump back out when a bunch of knives from a knife-throwing act fly into the frame and stick in the background behind the woman.

    Fan Works 
  • A major plot point in A.A. Pessimal's Discworld fic Clowning Is A Serious Business is the Fools' Guild reluctantly accepting girl students, to a Department Of Circus Skills that incorporates learning both how to throw knives and how to stand still in front of the target. The principal tutor in the new school is a fiery Latin lady who has excellent knife skills. As she demonstrates. Knife-throwing - by Assassins, Thieves and circus practitioners - is a recurring theme.
    • The big problem for Assassins required to go undercover in the Fools' Guild is how to unlearn their knife-throwing skills and deliberately miss the target. Every time.
  • The vocaloid fanfic Rotting Camellias gives Mayu one of these in a Circus of Fear setting.
  • In The Victors Project, Gleam says his mother used to perform this during their circus act, and these skills help him win his Games. Ahenobarbus demands that Gleam again show off his skills at an after-party. Gleam reluctantly complies and successfully avoids hitting the Avox forced to be a Lovely Assistant. Ahenobarbus then tells Gleam that mercy is for the weak and throws a knife directly at the Avox. Thankfully, Orchus catches the knife in midair before it hits the Avox.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Barbarians: One of the Ragnis is shown practicing his during the tribe's travels when they are still entertainers.
  • Bernard and the Genie: ccording to the opening (subtitled) dialogue, Josephus attempted this trick for the first time, only for it to go horribly wrong. The man who curses him to eternity in the lamp is the unfortunate Lovely Assistant's (understandably very pissed-off) father — who, it turns out, is a sorcerer.
  • Berserk! (1967) (1967), in which Judy Geeson played a target girl in a circus knife act.
  • Blind Woman's Curse: Aiko has one in a carnival, which is pretty neat, since she's blind.
  • Bronco Billy features Clint Eastwood as a sharpshooter and knife thrower who runs a travelling circus, which threatens to go out of business when he accidentally hits a target girl during the act. A key plot element involves Sondra Locke as a character who becomes a new target girl.
  • Circus of Fear (1966), which features British actress Margaret Lee as an assistant facing danger in a knife act.
  • Circus of Horrors (1960), in which Vanda Hudson plays a target girl called Magda von Meck.
  • The Scorpion is the Affably Evil knife-thrower in Lucifer's carnival in The Devil's Carnival.
  • One of Germy and Austin's old jobs in Drive-In Massacre.
  • Egypt By Three (1953) comprises three stories, the first of which is about a knife throwing act. The thrower and his target girl have an affair but the thrower is married to another woman. When the wife finds out about the affair it leads to a potentially deadly situation.
  • Fantasy Mission Force: In Lily's first scene she is shown using throwing knives to undress a bar girl tied to a dart board by aiming for the straps on her clothing.
  • The Fighting Prince of Donegal: When Hugh O'Donnell wants to prove his point about Divided We Fall regarding the Irish clans, he takes a dagger and throws it on a shield on the wall, explaining that one clan's struggle against the English occupation by the forces of Queen Elizabeth I is not enough. He then throws other daggers on it, and it starts unhooking. Henry O'Neill (Tom Adams) then provokes him into a fight, loses the fight, takes a dagger and throws it on the shield, which makes it fall, meaning all clans are now united and follow Hugh.
  • Gangs of New York features a confrontation between the main protagonists in which Cameron Diaz's character Jenny Everdeane acts as a target girl in an impromptu knifethrowing act with the villain (who also uses this ability in combat, and uses an array of differently-sized butcher knives rather than uniform throwing daggers), Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. For extra suspense, he keeps "accidentally" slipping, and constantly on the verge of hitting his partner, both to amuse his audience and to make the protagonist sweat.
    "Whoopsy daisy!"
  • In the French film The Girl On The Bridge (1999), a knife throwing act is at the centre of the plot. Vanessa Paradis stars as Adele, a girl who attempts suicide by jumping from a bridge but is saved by knife thrower Gabor, played by Daniel Auteuil, who persuades her to become his target girl. They soon fall into a complex relationship in which knife-throwing is very overtly and erotically depicted as a sadomasochistic substitute for sex.
  • The Great Beauty: Geronimo masterfully performs the one on Trumeau at the party hosted by Lillo de Gregorio. The knifes land very close to her as they should.
  • A brief but spectacular knife-throwing act is seen during the opening "The Greatest Show" number in The Greatest Showman.
  • The 1987 television movie If Its Tuesday It Still Must Be Belgium features Courtney Cox as a character who becomes a target girl in a circus knife throwing act.
  • The 1951 movie The Knife Thrower is based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant about a circus knife thrower with an unfaithful wife. The thrower's wife, who is also his target girl, is having an affair with a magician.
  • In The Loves of Hercules, Deianera's trial by ordeal consists of tying her to a wall and seeing if Hercules can cut her free using some throwing axes without injuring her.
  • The spy thriller Masquerade (1965) features Marisa Mell as a target girl named Sophie.
  • In Meet the Feebles, Wynyard has a knife-throwing act, but also has a terrible case of the shakes. The result is just as bad as you think.
  • The Russian knife throwing twins from Octopussy.
  • In Old Shatterhand, Tujunga's third ordeal to manhood is him enduring getting shot at with arrows and axes.
  • Phantom Of The Rue Morgue (1954) has an early scene featuring a knife throwing act. The movie was shot using a 3-D system, which was used to give audiences the impression that knives were flying at them.
  • The Mexican Mind Screw Santa Sangre takes place in a circus: the knife-thrower husband is having an affair with his target. His wife resents this, so the husband sets the wife at the bulls-eye and, with his throwing knives, chops off both her arms.
  • The Sideshow (1928) features a knife throwing act in the climactic scene. The knife thrower was played by Steve Clemente and his assistant by Janet Ford.
  • In Sky Bandits, Major Bannock's squadron is based in a circus camp, with many of the performers still there. One of them is seen practicing his knife throwing while chopping up vegetables for dinner.
  • The Three Stooges perform one in The Three Stooges Go Round the World in a Daze.
  • Part of Lon Chaney's act as Alonzo the Armless in the classic silent film The Unknown. All of the throwing stunts were done by Real Life armless knife-thrower Paul "Judge" Desmuke, who threw knives with his feet.
  • Up the Front: When Disguised in Drag to hide from Colonel von Gutz, Lurk ends up in El Puncturio's act as his assistant getting knives thrown at him. To make matters worse, Colonel von Gutz, Donner, and Blitzen find him and begin throwing knives of their own.
  • In one of the most famous scenes in The Vikings, the Vikings subject a woman accused of adultery to "Odin's test". This consists of using thrown axes to cut the woman's braids while she puts her head through the hollow centre of a large target. All the braids getting cut without she being hurt means she is cleared of the charge. All goes well thanks to Einar.
  • In Viva Maria!, the boy tied to the board is harmed during this routine because Bardot!Maria distracts the man controlling the spotlight, leaving the knife-thrower in the dark and hitting the boy in the arm. This is Played for Laughs.
  • Lynne's specialty in The Warrior's Way.
  • In Wishcraft, the killer has Samantha Chained to a Bed and amuses himself by throwing axes at her so that they bury themselves in the bedhead around her: explaining that it is an old Viking pastime.
  • Completely faked in a German comedy film (sorry, forgot the name, must be from the 60s or so). Two guys are in the Wild West, armed with stage magician gizmos. The "thrower" lets the knifes fall over the back of his shoulder into a water bucket, and his friend pulls on strings behind the target board, "folding out" a knife. The unknowing victim, after going through the act: "I didn't even hear them coming!" Of course, the act is much safer this way...

  • Give Yourself Goosebumps:
    • You can be dragged into this in Under the Magician's Spell, and the performer will assure your worried relatives that one of the knives is fake and harmless. "Whoops! Wrong knife!"
    • You can also be forced into this in Hocus-Pocus Horror. The trick is designed for you to get your hand chopped off in front of the audience, but you're decapitated when you sneeze and move your head.
    • Early on in Trapped in the Circus of Fear, partaking in a knife-throwing act is one of your first tasks. Do NOT accept it - the thrower, Morton, will miss the board, and the last thing you see (as you succumb to a knife in the chest) is the circus' ringmistress telling Morton, "You missed! You're fired."

  • Alex Rider: Mr. Grin in Stormbreaker used to be part of a knife-throwing act in which he would catch a knife between his teeth during the act's finale. As a result of the act going horribly wrong, he now sports a Glasgow Grin and has difficulty speaking properly.
  • Angels of Music: In "Guignol", Rollo is a knife-thrower with Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol who is dismissed by Guignol for collaborating a little too willingly with Le Theatre Des Horreurs when they take over the theatre. He returns in "Deluge", alongside several other of the Angels' old enemies; now looking to flense the Angels in revenge for his earlier humiliation.
  • The short story "The Artist" by Guy de Maupassant concerns a circus knife thrower who wants to kill his wife. It is hinted that he might do this by feigning an accident while she acts as his target girl. The twist is that he finds this impossible because he has trained himself so well that his reflexes prevent it.
  • Coraline has Coraline used as a target for a single thrown knife. She gets a box of chocolates for helping with the act...
  • Referenced a couple of times in Discworld, usually with an unimpressed audience complaining that the thrower keeps missing.
    • Nanny Ogg's Cookbook has a Shout-Out to The Vikings in the section on dwarfish ettiquette. It is a bad idea to wear your hair in long braids at a dwarf banquet, because all dwarfs carry axes, and the more they drink, the more unwarrented confidence they have in their throwing skills.
  • Feluda: Jatayu becomes an unwilling participant in one in The Mystery of the Elephant God. Our heroes are captured by Meghraj, and he delights in asking his assistant (who was once a knife thrower) to practice with Jatayu as his target.
  • The short story "Han's Crime" by Naoya Shiga centers around the murder trial of a knife thrower who killed his target during his act.
  • InCryptid:
    • The Fabulous Fran, before meeting Jonathan Healy.
    • Studying with The Incredible Christopher is how Verity got so good at throwing knives.
    • Timpani joins the carnival as a combination Trapeze act and knife throwing act.
  • The novel Knives of Desire by Marion Zimmer Bradley (writing under the pen name Morgan Ives) is about a woman who becomes involved in a lesbian relationship after joining a circus to be the target girl for a female knife thrower.
  • Steven Millhauser's short story The Knife Thrower features a thrower who specialises in nicking or marking those who stand at the target board for him. It was published in 1998 as part of a collection that bears the same title.
  • Falon's act in the player's troupe in the Knight and Rogue Series.
  • The relationship between a target girl and a circus knife thrower is the central motif in the poem cycle Das Mädchen und der Messerwerfer published in 1997 by noted German poet Wolf Wondratschek.
  • In A Nightmare on Clown Street, Deana does one, which makes Ray suspect her since someone threw a knife near him earlier.
  • A knife thrower plays a prominent role in the Ravenloft novel Carnival of Fear.
  • Simon Templar, alias The Saint is an expert knife thrower in the books by Leslie Charteris.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch: In "The Adventure of Vittoria the Circus Belle", Vittoria is being trained to be the target girl for Diaz the knife-thrower when Diaz is poisoned in what Vittoria is convinced was an attack aimed at her.
  • Thom practices throwing knives at Nynaeve in The Wheel of Time series, when both of them are stuck with the travelling circus.
  • In The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, "the man who could see without his eyes" makes his fortune in part by doing a knife-throwing act while very, very blindfolded.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The television play The Act (1987) revolved around a knife throwing act. It was made for the BBC and was a co-production involving the Royal College of Art. It starred Caroline Embling and Bill Rourke. Real life knife thrower Jay Ruffley provided throwing skills in one scene and also appeared as the owner of a club.
  • "Conspiracy of Silence", an episode of the television spy series The Avengers (1960s), featured a knife throwing act played by real artists Elizabeth and Collins.
  • Booth and Bones went undercover as a knife-throwing act. Bones gets really into it, adding more dangerous stunts to the initial act to Booth's frustration and fear.
  • In Charlie's Angels, Cheryl Ladd's character Kris Munroe goes undercover as a target girl in an episode titled "Circus of Terror".
  • Knife throwing, with a celebrity acting as target girl, was a regular feature on Circus Of The Stars.
  • A knife-throwing act featured in the Cold Case episode "Metamorphosis" which centred around a murder at a circus. The knife-thrower was the chief suspect for a while.
  • Elementary: Footballer Phil Simms appears As Himself in "Just a Regular Irregular". Apparently he is the world's greatest knife thrower and only went into football because there is no money in the impalement arts. He is Sherlock's knife-throwing expert and Sherlock consults with him about how a murder during a knife-throwing act at a circus in the 1930s could have been committed. Simms tells Sherlock that his theory is impossible and then demonstrates his knife-throwing prowess before leaving.
  • The Spanish game show El gran juego de la oca featured Italian knife thrower Alberti Murroni and his Lovely Assistant Vesna Peracino Once per Episode. Each week he would perform a demonstration, after which the contestant would wager on the outcome of a second demonstration.
  • In Father Ted, a knife throwing act is one of the things that Ted interrupts by phoning Larry Duff's mobile, to Duff's inevitable detriment.
  • In the Frontier Circus episode "Karina", a woman, on the run after shooting her vicious husband, stows away in Casey's wagon. Casey agrees to let her join his circus as the target in a knife-throwing act, but local lawmen and her vengeful spouse soon arrive to exact vengeance.
  • Get Smart. Max is going undercover in a circus when his identity is blown. The circus strongman seizes him while the knife-thrower chucks his knives, but as he's trained himself to just miss the target they miss Max and stick in the arms of the strongman holding him. Max naturally responds with his catchphrase, "Missed me by that much!"
  • A knife throwing act was part of the entertainment troupe Gary tried to press into service to fight off a German invasion in the Goodnight Sweetheart episode "How I Won the War".
  • An episode of Highlander had Amanda and Duncan doing a knife-throwing act at a circus, with Duncan throwing and Amanada as the target girl.
  • An episode in Human Weapon that dealt with Ninjitsu had one of the masters they talked to (and who tried to teach them a bit of his art) specializing in throwing various sharp objects ranging from knives, star-knives, caltrops, and nails.
  • I Love Lucy. Lucy Ricardo got into a knife throwing act once. It was faked.
  • One of Murr's punishments on Impractical Jokers has him strapped to a rotating wheel while a magician throws knives at the balloons on the wheel — or so he's told. There are no knives; the balloons are set to explode via remote control. The point (heh heh) is to make Murr think that there are real knives that might hit him instead.
  • One of these acts was done on Jonathan Creek.
  • After a critic describes Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge as 'moribund', Alan decides to prove them wrong by having himself strapped to 'Wheel of Death'.
  • Laverne of Laverne & Shirley was the throwee once. And Shirley was the thrower.
  • The Last Leg: In series 18, ep. 5, the team decide to test whether Prince Andrew's claim that an overdose of adrenaline can destroy your ability to sweat. To do this, Adam has Alex blindfolded and strapped to a board surrounded by balloons. Adam tells Alex that his going throw knives to pop the balloons. He then proceeds to pretend to throw knives while the balloons are popped by Josh who is standing next to the board. Alex's flinches reveal that he has no idea it is being faked.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Death in Disguise", Barnaby is puzzled by how the Victim of the Week was stabbed while all of the suspects were on the other side of the room. After a "Eureka!" Moment while watching a game of darts, he realises the victim was killed with a thrown knife, and then learns that one suspect had been a knife-thrower in a circus.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Phryne Fisher goes undercover as the target girl in a circus in "Blood and Circuses".
  • Faked in the first season of the reality television series The Mole. In one of the challenges, one of the contestants was placed in a game where he had to try to convince the others (including The Mole) to take part in situations that they would find terrifying. One of these situations involved the mole being blindfolded and put up against a wall, where a miniature ax would supposedly be thrown at her. Although the mole is normally given information in advance, in this case she was not told what was happening in order to up the drama and she actually briefly passed out. (Though none of the contestants were told exactly what they would be doing, she was able to pick up enough clues to guess.) When she finally agreed to the task, the actual throwing was faked— somebody simply walked up and stuck an ax in the wall.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Blood and Circuses", the murderer is ultimately revealed to have been a knife thrower in a previous circus, explaining how a murder was committed in a locked jail cell.
  • In My Name Is Earl, Earl volunteers to be on the target to help win a mother and daughter beauty pageant. The girl doesn't want to spend her life doing pageants though, so Earl encourages her to "accidentally" hit him in the leg during the act. He forgot how much getting stabbed hurt.
  • Dave Nelson from NewsRadio was once a knifethrower named The Great Throwgali, Master of the Throwing Knives. He's good enough to enter a talent show, but after he meets an old knifethrowing rival of his, Throwdini, his skills intimidate him so much that Dave can't perform.
  • In Nikki, the episode titled "The Jupiter and Mary Chain", first aired in 2001, featured the characters played by Nikki Cox and Susan Egan taking jobs as target girls.
  • In Season 2, Episode 5, "Knife of the Party" of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, the final act has Penn and Teller convincing an audience member that she's performing a gimmicked knife-throwing trick.
  • In the Soldiers Of Fortune episode "The Danger Sisters", a sister knife-throwing act working in North Africa hire Tim and Toubo as bodyguards.
  • Supernatural: Luckily for Dean in "Everyone Loves A Clown", the rakshasa seems more interested in pinning Dean to the wall by his clothes, than causing fatal cuts.
  • This happened at least once on the Johnny Carson incarnation of The Tonight Show. Carson was strapped to the target. One of the biggest laughs Carson ever got was when Ed Ames did an axe-throwing demonstration (on an outline target) and didn't quite hit where he should've. See why.
  • In the final episode of The Tripods, the protagonists are hiding in a traveling circus. The ringmaster, Al Pasha, forces two of the children to train for this act, so Will offers to take the girl's place but only when the thrower is good enough to hit the Knife Outline a hundred times in a row. To Will's apprehension he's able to reach this target before the arrive for a big show in Geneva, and so Will has to do some William Telling as the final act involves Will with an apple on his head; he ducks just as the knife splits the apple into two halves that Will catches in each hand.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): The Circus Episode "Final Trumpet" opens with Mad Wolfgang and his Lovely Assistant Nola rehearsing their knife-throwing act. Later, during the questioning, Wolfgang gets so infuriated at Patrick Mower that he hurls a knife at him, which hits the target board behind him.
  • One of these is featured once on World's Dumbest.... It almost goes flawlessly until the final few seconds when one of the knives grazes the poor girl in the head.

  • One Old Master Q strip has Big Potato talking to Master Q about the new circus in town, with it's highlight, the knife-throwing performance, being one of the best he had ever seen. Intrigued, Master Q then buys a ticket, watches it - a knife-throwing expert forming a perfect Knife Outline around his assistant - and when he got back, Big Potato asks Master Q how's the show. Master Q's response?
    "I don't get what's so good or exciting about the knife-throwing act. That idiot missed the lady in every shot!"

  • In the music video for Coldplay's Magic, this is featured. In the extended edition of the video, Chris Martin's character is stabbed through the heart. Lucky for him, it was All Just a Dream.
  • The circus ringmaster character in the music video for Finntroll's Under Bergets Rot does this at one point.
  • "The Devil's Daggers" from the Nox Arcana album Carnival Of Lost Souls is the music playing during the knife throwing act Diablo & The Devil's Daggers. It doesn't go well, and both the assistant and Diablo himself die.
  • Knife Thrower by Charming Disaster.
  • Gretchen Peters uses the target girl as a central metaphor in her song "Woman on the Wheel", which was debuted on her 2010 tour in support of her Circus Girl album.
  • The cover of Stick It to Ya, the debut album by heavy metal band Slaughter, was infamous for a picture by photographer Glen Wexler of former Playboy playmate Laurie Carr wearing a swimsuit, strapped to a target board and surrounded by knives. The cover of a subsequent release, Stick It Live, featured an image apparently from the same shoot as the first but this time showing the target girl walking towards the board hand-in-hand with a knife thrower.
  • A knife-throwing act appears in the music video for "Midnight Circus" by Sunny Hill, with one of the singers as the target girl.
  • Tom Waits's song "Circus" from his 2004 album Real Gone features a knife throwing act as part of the eponymous travelling show.
  • Rock group The White Stripes appeared as a knife throwing act in a photo by Annie Leibovitz in 2003 that was part of a series which appeared in a book and an exhibition, both titled Annie Leibovitz: American Music.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    • The Teaser for the Peter Sellers episode has Scooter entering Mr. Sellers' dressing room to tell him its "fifteen seconds til' curtain" and catching Gonzo doing a knife-throwing routine with their guest. Sellers, in character as Inspector Clouseau, mutters "Fifteen seconds? I should live so long!" and ducks before receiving a knife to the head.
    • The Gladys Knight episode had a knife-throwing act with Fozzie as the unwitting target. Unfortunately, the theater roof was away at the repair shop, letting in a thick fog and the knife thrower, who aimed with his hearing, was randomly throwing knifes at the slightest sounds while everyone was ducking quietly for their lives.

    Print Media 
  • Singer and musician Shakira appeared standing against a target with knives around her in a photo in the April 2002 issue of FHM magazine (UK edition).
  • Actress Jennifer Ellison appeared strapped to a "wheel of death" target and surrounded by knives in the UK edition of Maxim magazine in 2005.
  • Model Karen Elson is seen spinning on a "wheel of death" target in a picture by photographer Steven Meisel that formed part of a series titled "The Greatest Show on Earth" in the April 2007 issue of the Italian edition of Vogue magazine.
  • Model Kate Moss appeared on a "wheel of death" target in two of a series of fashion photos by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott in the April 2006 issue of W magazine.

  • The target in question is a painting, not a live person, but Count Carl-Magnus has a knife-throwing scene in A Little Night Music. It's almost completely irrelevant to the plot. (He's demonstrating his prowess with weapons to a romantic rival.)
  • Hines in The Pajama Game does a Knife Throwing Act at the picnic, but Babe wisely ducks because his aim is a bit drunken. Later he goes Ax-Crazy with his knives in the pajama factory.
  • The play Pin Cushion, by Clay McLeod Chapman, is based around a husband and wife knife throwing act and consists of the target girl delivering a monologue while her husband throws knives around her. It was performed as part of Chapman's Pumpkin Pie Show at The Red Room Theatre, New York, in May and June 2002. The performance involved a genuine knife throwing act, with actress Niabi Caldwell as the target girl and professional knife thrower Dr David Adamovich (aka The Great Throwdini) playing her husband.
  • Queen of Knives, by American composer Eric Stern, is a full-length opera which tells the story of a brother and sister knife-throwing act in the midst of student protests in the early 1960s.

    Theme Parks 
  • Occurred in The Carnage Returns show at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights in 2015. Chance, the assistant of the ringmaster, Jack the Clown, would throw knives at a board (that happens to have a woman strapped to it against her will) as a way of choosing what torturous act they would do next on their victims.

  • The well-known Playmobil range of toys, marketed at children aged between six and twelve, once included two different sets featuring figures of a knife thrower and assistant. The Knifethrowing circus act set, which was retailed from 1978 until 1982, consisted of a target girl on a rotating "wheel of death" and a knife thrower, both dressed in "wild west" type costumes. The Circus Performers set, released in June 1982 and discontinued in 1987, also contained a similar knife thrower and assistant with a wheel of death target, but their costumes were different and there were three other figures in the set.

    Video Games 
  • The Marionettes in Disgaea use this as an attack.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, at the Cabaret, you can see one of these performed. This being Grand Theft Auto, he 'fails' the act and hits her, resulting in a bloody mess. And judging from the way he yelled at her, it wasn't an accident.
  • The Hearthstone card Knife Juggler uses this trope. "Put this apple on your head." "Hey, catch!"
  • In the Amiga game Heimdall, the protagonist has to prove his worth (in order to recruit a decent crew) by, among other tasks, cut the braids of a barmaid with throwing axes.
  • Sofia gets thrown into one of these by Indy in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Indy himself ended up doing one of these in one of the comics.
  • In Lost Smile and Strange Circus, Billy's usual circus act consists of this, just with stuffed animals instead of people. At one point he asks Noah if she would like to be the Lovely Assistant in one of his acts, but after seeing her reaction says it's a joke.
  • Luigi's Mansion 3: There's a chest of blades and a knife wheel in the Twisted Suites. Vacuuming the wheel to spin it will see some blades throwing themselves into it with perfect accuracy, granting Luigi a gem.
  • In the final level of Psychonauts, a terrifying circus made of meat, you must navigate a few deadly obstacle courses including tight ropes, trapezes, and, of course, sword-flinging knife throwers that only aim for you. There's a puzzle where you have to jump in front of a rotating shield at just the right moment so that a knife thrower tosses a knife that impales the shield and becomes a handle which you can catch to hitch a ride upwards.
  • The knife act makes a return of the penultimate level of Psychonauts 2, though thankfully in a far less terrifying flea circus. This time around, Raz takes Flea Frazie's place throwing knives at Flea Augustus, as Flea Frazie is not quite prepared to accidentally stab their dad again.
  • Joey Falconetti makes his debut scene doing this in Ripper, as a way to interrogate Jake Quinlan. It's helped that Falconetti's already experienced with knives. This trope is also played with, as the act takes place in one of his cyberspace wells, although it's never stated if the knives are virtual; granted, he also has real knives outside of cyberspace.
  • In the Sam & Max: Freelance Police episode "Bright Side of the Moon", the Big Bad ties Sam to a "spinning wheel of death" — but Max, instead of getting concerned about Sam, urges the Big Bad to "throw some daggers, no, hatchets!"
  • Some of your first permanent party members in Suikoden II are knifethrowers working at a carnival. They use Riou as part of the act and can actually hit him if you move him around. He gets better, though.
  • In Telepath RPG chapter 2 this is Niven's shtick. The problem is he's very good at hitting the target with his knives, not missing them, forcing him to reimburse you for the damage he deals to you when you volunteer. You can get him to join your party and put those 100%-accurate blades to better use.

    Web Animation 
  • The Amazing Digital Circus: Caine puts Pomni through one against her will in the teaser. It ends with Pomni being made into a Human Pincushion.
  • The old Homestar Runner theme song video ("old" as in "replaced 10 years ago") has Strong Bad as the knife thrower and Strong Sad as the (unwilling) target. It's obvious that Strong Bad is trying to hit Strong Sad, but the camera cuts away before the knife hits.

  • ErrantStory: Ian's friend Riley had a circus gig doing this some time in the pre-story past.
  • Freefall: Referenced when talking about how Sam Drives Like Crazy:
    Helix: Florence, standing in a burning building while blind circus midgets throw knives at you is safer than driving across town with Sam.

    Web Original 
  • One of Ray William Johnson's viral videos was a series of videos by a couple named Dakoda and Adam involving various knife-throwing (including a on-fire hatchet throwing act) acts done on each other. Warning: Watching video may bring risk of anxiety and heart attack.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In "Vanishing Act", Jimmy puts on a magic show to impress Betty Quinlan, but when Cindy messes with Jimmy's Metamorphosis Box, she sends his friends to a strange and magical dimension. While Jimmy goes into the dimension to rescue his friends, Libby entertains the audience with a knife-throwing act, with Ms. Fowl as her target. Jimmy and his friends manage to return to their dimension before Libby can throw any actual knives, as she mostly threw harmless things like a cheeseburger and a sneaker.
  • In Around the World with Willy Fog, while Rigodon and Tico work in a circus while penniless in Yokohama, Rigodon almost gets killed in a knife act thrown by villain and Master of Disguise Transfer. Willy steps up and saves him.
  • The Batman has something along those lines, where Batman is captured and the villain proves to be an amazing knife thrower, first intentionally missing the pinned Batman in the typical circus act manner before going for a killing shot.
  • In Camp Lazlo, Scoutmaster Lumpus becomes the unwilling target of knife throwing act after being captured by the clowns of Slapstick Mountain.
  • In The Flintstones episode "Dial S for Suspicion", Wilma's old boyfriend Rodney Whetstone is a knife thrower with the circus. Through a series of coincidences, Fred becomes convinced that Wilma is trying to kill him. Naturally, that night at the circus, Fred is called up onto the stage to act as Rodney's target...
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Peanut is trapped in a genie's lamp with a woman. He says they're going to go on a "magic carpet ride" and asks her to hand over a roll of nearby rope. Later on, when said genie releases his captives, Peanut appears with the woman tied to a giant target, having apparently been doing such an act the whole time.
  • Nightmare Circus: After defeating the bosses of the big top stage (two serrated-fan wielding goons), Raven can choose one of two stages. The "Maggot-Men Act" begins with him tied to a wooden board and knifes being thrown at him. To escape the trap, the player must rotate the board so that the knifes strike Raven's knots and release him.
  • Numb Chucks: In "Couch Potato", Quills performs a blindfolded knife-throwing act using her quills as the knives and an annoying reporter as the target girl. As she has never done this before, it leads to a nasty accident (off-screen).
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Krusty does one of these acts with axes. He doesn't miss.
  • Done in the Woody Woodpecker short "The Dizzy Acrobat". Woody walks right past the Lovely Assistant just as the knives come flying in but somehow escapes unscathed.


Video Example(s):


Burn The House Down

One of the twisted attractions is a man with a bag over his head throwing knives at a hopeless-looking woman locked onto a wheel.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / KnifeThrowingAct

Media sources: