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Knuckle Cracking

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You should listen to him. Or else, You Are Already Dead.

"You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."
Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India

Knuckle Cracking happens when a character cracks their knuckles to show that they are ready to deal out a whuppin' or tackle a challenge. Frequently used as an intimidation tactic in fights, this is a particularly effective way of showing that The Stoic is bothered enough by someone to get serious. Cracking knuckles may also be sign that a character is ready to get to work on a particularly arduous task, especially one that requires a lot of muscle. Comes in two varieties: raising one's hands and proceeding to use hand A to fold the fingers of hand B in towards hand B's palm, and then immediately using hand B to do the same with hand A. Another kind involves cracking both hands at once by lacing the fingers together a la Finger-Tenting and bending them away from the palms, pushing one's hands either down towards the ground, forward away from your chest, or some angle in between, such that one's arms take on a wishbone shape. A less common variant, sometimes seen in martial arts films, involves cracking the knuckles one-handed by slowly and dramatically clenching one's hand into a fist.

Sometimes the knuckle cracking sound is removed, maybe for the sake of realism, maybe because some people find it too squicky and then it will be replaced by the hero crushing something in their hand. Bonus points if it's made out of metal, points removed if it's only a paper note.

Sometimes other joints are cracked as well, most often in the neck. Cracking joints in the shoulders or back provides a convenient excuse to flex your muscles and show off your powerful physique. Another reason for this is to flex the muscles, loosen the joints, and open the blood vessels which helps to improve blood-flow and reduce the strain and potential damage from overexerting a stiff body part.

A Sub-Trope of Kinetic Clicking. Compare and contrast with *Crack!* "Oh, My Back!", in which a character's joints crack painfully, often to show that they are aging or have an injury.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: In anime Episode 201, Kenpachi Zaraki does a neck crack during his fight with Nnoitra Gilga in Aizen's fortress of Las Noches in Hueco Mundo.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The protagonists do this all the time before and during a fight.
    • Super Buu does a LOT of neck-cracking, even though he doesn't have bones.
  • The first sign that someone is already dead in Fist of the North Star is a cracking noise coming from Kenshiro. He’ll typically crack his knuckles on each hand before administering some Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs.
  • Scar of Fullmetal Alchemist cracks the joints in his right hand dramatically when he's about to use the Power Tattoo located on his right arm.
  • Inuyasha: The protagonist does it with his hand open while showing off his claws.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, the first thing the Pillar Man Wamuu does after freeing himself is to casually crack his neck as he observes the Nazi soldiers investigating the Pillar Men, clearly unimpressed.
  • In Episode 4 of Kill la Kill, Ryuko gives this along with a Death Glare to Maiko Ogure after she tried to steal Senketsu from her, but couldn’t activate it.
  • Naruto: The main character does it all the time. Repeatedly on the same hand, making the same cracking noise as he does it five times in succession.
  • Luffy of One Piece always cracks his knuckles menacingly during Let's Get Dangerous! moments.
  • Ranma ˝:
    • In his introduction story in the anime, Ryōga crushes several walnuts to dust with his fist, vowing to make Ranma pay for something or other. In the manga, he crushes a single walnut... between index and thumb. Effortlessly. Since Ryōga constantly does things like lifting immense boulders and smashing walls by banging his head against them in frustration, this isn't surprising
    • Ranma is pretty fond of the "cracking knuckles and popping joints to show he's getting serious" version, and much like Inu-Yasha he favors the "cracking fingerjoints with an open fist" method. Also, in at least the anime version of Hinako's arrival, he effortlessly bends a yen coin completely in half after taking it from her. Between thumb and forefinger.
  • In Real Bout High School, Midori gets cracking when she gets cracking.
  • Sgt. Frog. This is practically Natsumi Hinata's go to move. When you hear cracking knuckles, a certain green house guest is fixing to get a beating.
  • Lina Inverse of Slayers does it too, on occasion. ("Did you say flatchested?")
  • Dr. Stein from Soul Eater cracks the joints in his neck at one point. This is tension leaving his body as he stops holding back his insanity.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Arc-Gurren Lagann cracks its neck shortly after its first transformation, and immediately before wiping out a swathe of Mugann. That's right, a city-sized mecha cracks its neck.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: Kaneki Ken develops a habit of cracking his index finger with his thumb before diving into a fight, something he probably picked up from Jason
  • Vinland Saga: Askeladd cracks his knuckles before his first duel with Thorfinn.
  • While there's not that much obvious noise, when Blue or Toboe from Wolf's Rain start clenching shaking fists, somebody's in for an asskicking.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • In Bizarrogirl, Supergirl cracks her knuckles — and makes her eyes glow to reinforce the effect — when she warns a monster that it can choose between spitting its victim out voluntarily or getting him cut out of its insides.
    • The Killers of Krypton: During the final battle between the Omega Men and the Citadel, one Supergirl clone cracks her knuckles to show she is not listening Kara's pleas to stop fighting.
    • In the Starfire's Revenge storyline, Rodney Marlowe starts cracking his knuckles as asking who killed his twin brother.
    • The Hunt for Reactron: When they are deciding their strategy to engage Reactron, Flamebird says she "will go high", Nightwing says he "will go low", and Kara says she "will kick his butt up the middle" while cracking her knuckles.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "Morozko": Father Frost cracks his knuckles and gnashes his teeth before unleashing waves of extreme cold upon someone.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Butcher Bird, Kaneki is fond of doing this just prior to a fight, as are, to a lesser extent, the rest of the Nightmare Pirates.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In "Surprise Guest", when a bar patron is talking and laughing about burning the place down, another patron responses like so:
    One of the nervous trolls turned to glare at the dark-clad figure. "You think that's amusing? Shut up or I'll show you something really amusing!" He cracked his knuckles threateningly.
  • Rise of the Minisukas:
    • When Gendo first meets Leader and Shiki, the latter starts cracking her knuckles maliciously as glaring heatedly at him. It is scary enough to give Gendo pause.
    • When Mana tries to claim one desk beside Shinji, Asuka cracks her knuckles ominously and encourages her not-at-all-rival to keep walking for her dentures' sake.
  • True Potential:
    • In the omake from Chapter 55, Kiba makes fun of Sasuke by pointing out that the latter's haircut looks like a duck's butt. Upon hearing that, Sakura narrows her eyes towards Kiba and walks closer to him while cracking her knuckles before hurting him in a way that he makes a loud howl of pain that various animals could hear from afar.
    • In the omake from Chapter 62, Kanji asks why the word 'kunoichi' is a thing. Tenten makes a passionate speech about why that word is a thing and how proud she is to wear that title. However, while grinning, Kanji asks why not using the other word, which is she-nobi. Tenten is in disbelief that he asked that question just to make that pun. Soon after, she has some killing intent towards the boy, approaches him slowly, and cracks her knuckles before asking in a soft voice if he thinks everything she just said was a joke. The next paragraph indicates that Kanji now has a comically-large bump on his head that causes him pain.
    • Anko does this three times in Chapter 72:
      • The first time is when she warns Naruto and Fū not to pull any prank on her or else they'll regret it.
      • The second time is before she manages to scare two civilians who were negatively talking about Fū.
      • The third time is before she does some one-on-one sparring with Fū.
    • In Chapter 76, Anko does this again when Shibuki asks her to help him get answers from Zagi Kariudo, who helped the Akatsuki invade Taki.

    Films — Animation 
  • Before their bot fight in Big Hero 6, Yama cracks his neck with his hands. Hiro tries to imitate him, making a cracking sound effect vocally.
  • Tai Lung has the habit as well in Kung Fu Panda.
  • Cobra Bubbles, the badass social worker in Lilo & Stitch, cracks his neck in his second appearance.
  • North cracks his knuckles just before he confronts Jack Frost about his "center" in Rise of the Guardians.
  • In Turning Red, Mei cracks her knuckles while Ming cracks her neck as they prepare to clean the temple.
  • Another example of "character who has no bones and is therefore invincible but shows being invincible by cracking his neck despite having no bones after being beaten up" is in Ultimate Avengers 2, when the alien Nazi shapeshifter (who is kind of a colony of slugs) does this after falling from a great height.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Random Task in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery does this. Largely as a parody of Odd Job from Goldfinger, the ultimate Stoic.
  • Blade II: After drinking his fill of blood and rejuvenating, Blade gives his neck and knuckles a nice crack while limbering up to tear through a small army of Faceless Goons.
  • In The Dark Knight, when the Joker is captured, and taunting the cop assigned to watch him, he finally gets a rise out of the guard, who tells him "I know you're gonna enjoy this. I'm just gonna have to enjoy it even more." The Joker's only response is to stoically crack his neck.
  • At the end of Kick-Ass, 11 year old Mindy McCready aka Hit Girl is going to school for the first time, when two older kids try to shake her down for her lunch money. Cue Hit Girl cracking her knuckles with an evil smile, then the camera pans away as we hear the bullies screaming in pain.
  • Kung Fu Hustle uses it as a parody of/homage to (it's hard to tell which with Stephen Chow) Bruce Lee, when the Landlady menaces Brother Sum with knuckle-cracking to warn him away from Pig Sty Alley.
  • Bruce Lee likes this one:
    • An old standard of Kung Fu movies is to have a group from a rival school (often Japanese) come in and start disrespecting the Hero's school and his recently deceased master, maybe making a pass at his girlfriend. Fist of Fury, which uses the Chin Woo school as a basis, has a scene where this occurs and we get Lee standing there, taking the insults but with a knuckle crack to show how angry he is getting and to step up the tension.
    • On the flip side, an example of the "cool" variety, before his fight with Chuck Norris at the Colosseum in Way of the Dragon, both fighters step up to each other take off their shirts and then turn around to warm up. Norris only does some knuckle cracking before starting on some karate moves but Lee goes on to crack his entire upper body and show off his muscular definition.
  • Agent Smith cracks his neck a lot in The Matrix films.
    • He cracks his knuckles and his neck during the subway fight in the first movie.
    • As the Agent Smiths start to wander off at the end of the Burly Brawl in the second movie, several of them crack their necks as an ensemble.
  • Men in Black. After the Bug kills Edgar, dons his new Edgar suit and climbs out of the hole made by his crashing starship, he cracks his neck.
  • Mortal Kombat
    • Subverted with some random mook in the first movie, right before he promptly got owned by Sub-Zero.
    • Played straight in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Perhaps a little too straight. Shao Kahn must have a really bad neck, because he barely moves his head and it still cracks.
  • My Demon Lover, a film where Nick from Family Ties turns into The Devil whenever he gets an erection, has the, er... "hero" going nuts over a misplaced pack of Fritos followed by some gut-wrenching knuckle cracking.
  • In Pacific Rim, Raleigh and Mako have Gypsy do this before a major fight. Presumably, the pilots themselves are limbering up for the fight and the jaeger is merely matching their movements. Moments like these help remind the viewer of the humanity living within the giant mecha.
  • Resident Evil (2002). After she succumbs to the T-virus infection and turns into a zombie, Rain Ocampo does the neck cracking variant just before she attacks.
  • In The Sandlot, Benny cracks his knuckles (one handed) when he faces off with The Beast.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. After Joseph "Joe" Sullivan (AKA Sky Captain) enters his office and pours out some Milk of Magnesia he cracks his neck, presumably to relieve stress.
  • In Snatch., "One-Punch" Mickey stretches and cracks his knuckles to warm up for a fight while his opponent his pounding on him.
  • Undercover Brother: After killing three guards with his bare hands, Lance does a neck crack.
  • In the X-Men Film Series, it appears a side effect of mutant healing factors is mutant joint-cracking, with Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike really going at this trope for all it's worth. Deathstrike really crunches those fingers of hers. Of course, they don't have to worry about arthritis. Justified in Deathstrike's case, since her claws are inside her fingers. They need to be kept loose, and are probably sore quite often. Bonus points for adding a metal clanking noise when they crack their knuckles, hinting at their adamantium skeletons.

  • Discworld:
    • In both Soul Music and Maskerade, the Librarian cracks his knuckles before he begins playing the organ, which the narrator notes takes a while when you have as many knuckles as an orang-utan.
    • Done in The Truth by both Mr Tulip when considering violence on Mr Slant, and Otto von Chriek when threatening to go full vampire on the leader of the conspiracy.
    • In Unseen Academicals, Ridcully is reminiscing about his grandfather, who used to stop fights by throwing everyone into the street, and says he wishes he had something to remember him by, causing the other wizards to look down at his massive hands. Then:
      He cracked his knuckles. There was an echo.
  • Uncle Andrew does this in The Magician's Nephew, when he's cornered the children in his attic room. Interestingly, he doesn't show any inclination to start a (physical) fight; the cracking seems to have been designed to make him more intimidating (and generally creepy).
  • Variation in Titus Groan, in which Flay is constantly followed around by a leitmotif of joint-cracking, and his Let's Get Dangerous! scene involves him wrapping his knees in bandages to allow him to sneak up on his enemy without his skeleton betraying him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Hush" when demons steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale, Giles cracks his knuckles before undertaking the task of... changing the overhead transparencies in order to deliver his usual exposition.
  • In Dinosaur Revolution, the rival Tyrannosaurus rex often cracks his neck before going in for the kill.
  • Spoofed on Family Matters. When Urkel uses a machine to turn himself into Bruce Lee, he starts out an fight with an extended series of cracking, the noises of which barely even match up with the motions that are supposed to be making them. Then it becomes an Overly-Long Gag when Urkel, Richie and 3J all become literal Bruce Lee Clone and begin cracking and whining noises.
  • The Flash (2014). Subverted when Felicity Smoak tries this while bragging about her Hollywood Hacking skills.
    Felicity: When it comes to hacking, I'm the fastest woman alive. (does interlaced finger version and winces in pain) Arrgh! That was not as badass as I pictured...
  • The henshin devices in Juken Sentai Gekiranger require the users to perform knuckle-cracking movements to activate.
  • Whenever Kotaro Minami transforms in Kamen Rider BLACK, his fists make cracking noises.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki has Asakura/Ouja and US counterpart Kamen Rider Dragon Knight has JTC/Strike (but not Price, the second, non-sociopathic Strike) do a neck-crack before going in to inflict some suffering.
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Kintaros' Character Tic is cracking his neck; since he has Super Strength, he can accomplish this simply by putting one thumb against his chin and pushing.
  • Michinaga (Kamen Rider Buffa) loudly cracks his neck before rushing in to fight some Pawn Jyamato untransformed in episode 13 of Kamen Rider Geats.
  • Lois & Clark: One episode features a shapeshifting assassin who reveals his identity to the audience through his Character Tic of cracking his neck before doing something insidious.
  • Spoofed on an NCIS episode. McGee tries to act tough by doing this, while Tony (falsely) points out that doing so is a warning sign for the early stages of arthritis.
  • Sherlock. Jim Moriarty does a neck crack before enacting his plan to break into the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville prison simultaneously.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • In Breath of Fire III, Bunyan cracks his knuckles after catching your team robbing his house red-handed.
    • Marshall and Forest Law, also, had some knuckle and wrist cracking and are complete Bruce Lee Clones.
  • At the start of the Ostagar battle in Dragon Age: Origins, an advancing Hurlock Alpha is depicted cracking his neck.
  • Doomguy does this before punching out Dr. Hayden's speaker at the end of his Establishing Character Moment during the first level.
  • Duke Nukem cracks his knuckles at the beginning of every level in Duke Nukem 3D. He will also do it if you wait around too long.
  • Guilty Gear's Sol Badguy does this in one of his fight intros.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Rean's idle animation in the field is to crack his knuckles.
  • Shepard invokes this trope in Mass Effect a lot, usually as warm up in order to extract information from a hesitant informant. Unsurprisingly, if you understand anything about Shepard, it works. One volus was savvy enough that all she\he had to do was crack knuckles to comply.
    • Joker does this also quite a few times, most often when he's about to make Normandy dance. Which is strange, seeing how he could break his fingers quite easily...
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Senator Steven Armstrong does this after having beaten Raiden to an inch of his life and just about to finish him off.
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Venom Snake can "Knock" by twisting his prosthetic wrist around, causing it to crack loudly and spark, drawing attention towards his location. Diamond Dogs that take over strike missions in Big Boss's place can do the same thing... and it looks like they're cracking their wrists so loudly a soldier could hear.
  • In the Overwatch video "Recall", Reaper cracks his neck before fighting Winston himself.
  • Wesker does this in Resident Evil 5 at the beginning of your fight with him and Jill assuming you don't shoot them first.
  • In RUINER, cracking your knuckles is one of the prompts given when you're about to get into a boss fight.
  • Tokugawa Ieyasu from Sengoku Basara dramatically cracks his knuckles before his Basara attack, appropriate since he's a fist fighter. Kuroda Kanbe also cracks his neck during his taunt, complaining that he "needs a break".
  • In Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time in the animated short "Timing is Everything" Sly does this before opening a safe.
  • Vector the Crocodile cracks his knuckles in Sonic Heroes when he finds out their client is unable to pay for their detective work.
  • A deleted scene from Spider-Man: The Movie: The Game has Shocker doing this. With no sound, oddly.
  • In one skit of Tales of Destiny 2, Loni Dunamis starts mentioning on how no guy will be attracted with Nanaly Fletch, because... she's a tomboy. Then cue to Nanaly cracking her knuckles (with sound effects), which scared Loni shitless and the rest, she starts cracking his bones.
  • In ULTRAKILL, V2 does this before his boss fight in Greed in Act 2. V2 shouldn't even have crackable knuckles, what with him being a Killer Robot with a self-made arm, but It's Personal and he's got a slight flair for the dramatic.
  • Warframe has Lavos, who cracks his knuckles as part of his Idle Animation. Curiously, he's not a brawler by design.
  • The character select screen in Warhammer Online has the Chaos Chosen flex his fingers and clench his fist in a soundless example of the trope, but the Orc Choppa simply grabs his own head and noisily cracks his neck.
  • Yakuza 0 (and the remake of the original game on the same engine, Yakuza Kiwami); Kiryu will crack his knuckles and roll out his neck whenever he is switched into his default Brawler stance.

    Web Animation 
  • Spoofed in Dragon Ball Z Abridged. Piccolo cracks his neck with a very satisfying sound which inspires Krillin to do the same. The result is a meaty crunch and him screaming in pain. And adding another notch on the Krillin Owned counter. He's still screaming later once Frieza enters his third form.
  • Once they were able to do non-machinima sequences in Red vs. Blue, Tex normally enters fights with a knuckle crack and neck pop.

  • In Goblins, the "lesser finger horror" makes this sound every time it moves. (It's been explained that its form of movement involves breaking its own bones and healing them again.)
  • In the BDSM webcomic Sunstone, Lisa does this at the very start of the series before beginning the memoirs and again later when to help wake herself up she cracks her neck. It's one of the few things about her that annoys the crap out of Ally.
  • The Bull from Tower of God gave us a loud and muffled example of neck cracking.
  • Van Von Hunter sort of plays with this trope; the signature move of the Flaming Prince is saying "I will CRUSH you like this [noun]!" while acting this out. Often said object is something he really does not want to crush, due to it being valuable or very painful.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Occasionally played for comedy, with a piano player about to attempt a difficult piece. For example, Bugs Bunny in "Rhapsody Rabbit".
  • In one episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Xin Fu does this before facing off with Toph.
  • In one Batman: The Animated Series episode there's a crook who is loudly declaring "I'm no squealer" that Batman needs to get information out of. Batman just cracks his knuckles and narrows his eyes threateningly. The guy talks.
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force: Kevin Levin sometimes does this.
  • In The Cleveland Show, Roberta gets ready to put a beatdown on some college guys for harassing her and punching out her boyfriend (in "B.M.O.C."). She cracks her neck, then shoulders, then knuckles, then boob knuckles.
  • Ed Eddn Eddy: In the episode "Shoo Ed" by Jonny 2x4, who not only cracks his knuckles to annoy everyone, but cracks all the other joints in his body during the last segment of the episode.
  • In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Frankie does this before preceeding to beat the tar out of her date after he insulted her friends.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, Yang Jackie tends to do the neck variant before getting into a fight.
  • Mongul in the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything".
  • Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil: Rock Callahan, Kick Buttowski's favorite action hero, has a habit of cracking his neck while delivering his One Liners.
  • The Legend of Korra: Korra is known to do this when she's about to throw down.
  • The Loud House: Lynn Loud does this in the episode "Making the Case" [1].
  • Middlemost Post: Angus cracks his knuckles while preparing to hug Parker for 30 seconds.
  • Phineas and Ferb features this in "Ferb Latin." The episode focuses on the duo reinventing societal customs. They assign meaning to several gestures including cracking your knuckles.Doing so means that you're hungry.
  • Ready Jet Go!:
    • Celery does this in "Castaway Carrot".
    • Jet cracks his knuckles in "Treasure Map" as he prepares to make a treasure chest.
    • These two moments indicate that Bortronians have bones, even though they are stretchy.
  • The first aired (but not "true" first) Regular Show episode, Mordecai and Rigby vigorously crack their knuckles, spines, and shoulders for a few seconds before engaging in..... Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Of all people, Richie Rich's mother had this as a habit.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Like the SpongeBob example below, Bart Simpson also hurts his knuckles when he tries this.
      Bart: Ow, my bones are so brittle! But I always drink plenty of—... [looks at carton] Malk?
    • Also to temporary mob boss Homer. He then blames his bodyguards for not protecting him.
    • In "Homer the Whopper" Comic Book Guy cracks his knuckles, neck and ponytail.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
  • The titular character of Steven Universe cracked his knuckles once, however they made no noise. When questioned he said his knuckles are polite.
  • Teen Titans:
    • As for neck cracking, Starfire does one badass neck cracking in "Go", where you really see what an upbringing by a warrior race will do for you when you're scared and in a strange place having just escaped being a war prize and implied sex slave. Scary.
    • A more humorous, yet still serious example occurs near the end of "Only Human." This time, it's Cyborg's turn for a double neck crack, but since half of his head is robotic, the second crack is actually a mechanical whine.
  • Total Drama:
    • Owen is the last one to jump the 1.000-foot cliff in "Not So Happy Campers -- Part 2". If he jumps, his team wins, so scared as Owen is he resolves to do it. He prepares a run-up, cracks his knuckles by tightening his hands into fists, screams, and goes for it.
    • As Izzy and Chef Hatchet prepare to fight in "Hide and Be Sneaky", first Chef cracks his knuckles merely by making a fist, then Izzy does the same and one-ups Chef by cracking her neck while she's at it.
    • One of the things Beth has to say about Brady in "Masters of Disasters" is that he has a habit of cracking his knuckles. She acknowledges that most people find it gross, but she finds it adorable when he does it.
  • Would you believe that Optimus mimes the knuckle-cracking move in Episode 41 of Transformers: Cybertron (or 42, if you follow Galaxy Force)?

Alternative Title(s): Cracking Up