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Let's You and Him Fight

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"I knew I couldn't kill them. More powerful men than me have tried. But if I could get them to kill each other …"
Colonel Helmut Zemo, Captain America: Civil War

When two people fight because someone manipulated them into the struggle, it is an example of Let's You And Him Fight.

The phrase probably first comes from the Popeye comic strip, as a catchphrase of Wimpy, who often gets Popeye to fight big tough guys he's wronged. "Let's You and Him Fight" is also the title of a Fleischer Studios Popeye short revolving around a boxing match between Popeye and Bluto. It also appears in Eric Berne's 1964 book Games People Play as one of the identified behavior patterns used to manipulate others.

This trope is particularly overused in Super Hero comics and the movies and shows spawned from them. In that genre, it long ago became cliched, not even excused by Genre Blindness. It's now reached the point of being an Undead Horse Trope and is just as often parodied, averted, lampshaded, and mocked as it is played straight. In video games, this is one way of setting up a major character (i.e. the Deuteragonist) as a Climax Boss, as defeating them clears up the misunderstanding that was fueling the initial conflict, and makes the character more unambiguously heroic from it.

Sometimes leads to a Lighthearted Rematch. See also Why Isn't It Attacking?. Comparable to We ARE Struggling Together. Happens constantly with Headbutting Heroes. Contrast Fire-Forged Friends, Defeat Means Friendship, and Fighting Your Friend. If more than one heroic character is involved in a The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, a misunderstanding a la this trope may occur to justify why the heroes are fighting. Compare the video-game trope Set a Mook to Kill a Mook, when you make enemy forces fight each other.

Also commonly known in comics fandoms as "Fight Then Team Up," or the "Marvel Misunderstanding", even in the Marvel Bullpen.

See also: Good Versus Good

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Aizen's secret machinations during the Soul Society arc aim to pit Ichigo's group and the Gotei 13 against each other, giving him the opportunity to delve into Urahara's confiscated research to discover a means of extracting the Hougyoku from Rukia's soul. It's only at the end of the arc that the two groups realise they're on the same side and should be uniting against Aizen.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • The Orsola Aquinas Rescue Arc has Touma, Index, and Stiyl fighting the Amakusa Catholics, who seem to have kidnapped Orsola Aquinas. Eventually, it turns out the Amakusa Catholics were trying to save her, as the Roman Catholic Church was going to have her tortured and executed. Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, they all team up to save her.
    • During the DRAGON Arc, Shiage Hamazura runs into Accelerator and attacks him, thinking he was sent to kill his girlfriend Rikou Takitsubo. Accelerator easily defeats him and leaves. Shiage realizes he was mistaken and berates himself.
    • This is the basics of Yukumi Hisako's Agitate Halation plan: manipulate every hero into fighting each other until she has created a world without heroes. To do this, she creates a signal that gives anybody with heroic tendencies an uncontrollable urge to protect a little girl named Fremea Seivelun. Unfortunately, these people then perceive everybody else as a threat to her and attack them.
    • Touma manages to convince Othinus to pull a Heel–Face Turn, but then must defend her from all his allies and her enemies, who refuse to believe his explanations and think that he's either gone to the dark side or been brainwashed.
  • City Hunter: Mick Angel and Ryo's way to say hello when they met after very long time? Shoot at each other until they emptied their guns. Then they started laughing like idiots, and, after Mick revealed he had been hired to kill Ryo, they hit a few pubs.
  • Code Geass:
    • Invoked in Code Geass. During what appears to be a rebellion by defecting Britannian troops, Marianne in the body of Anya attacks Bismarck, accusing him of being in on it, so that he'd be on the defensive and wouldn't question her.
    • It's played straight during the first episode, where Suzaku attacks Lelouch because he thinks he's a terrorist (which was not yet the case).
    • Invoked and played straight at the same time by Schneizel turning the Black Knights against Zero by careful manipulation of facts and a few lies toss in to make them betray him.
  • Digimon Adventure: Cherrymon tries to prey on Matt's feelings of insecurity to get him into a fight against Tai, so as to get WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon to hopefully kill each other. While it ultimately failed, the aftermath of that battle did cause the group to temporarily split up.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Vegeta and Trunks ended up getting into this, as the former plans on letting Cell absorb Android 18 for his perfect form while the latter has plans on stopping that.
    • Later on Vegeta gets possessed by Babidi and turned into a Majin, where he only desires to fight Goku. This leads Goku and Majin Vegeta to battle it out for the first time in years.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Jaco is chasing a Puppeteer Parasite called Watagash. When he sees Gohan in his Great Saiyaman costume, he does not recognize him and assumes he's being possessed by Watagash, so he attacks him.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Broly: This is how Broly comes to blows with Goku and Vegeta. The saiyans exile Broly to planet Vampa, where he and his father Paragus live for 41 years. The newly resurrected Frieza, in the process of rebuilding his empire, finds and recruits them. He offers Paragus the chance to get revenge on Vegeta, the son of the king who exiled Broly. Even though Broly doesn't want to fight, his desire to escape Vampa, and his father's desire for revenge, allows Frieza to manipulate Broly into attacking his most hated enemies.
  • Fabricant 100: During the tragedy, Ashibi brings up to Fabricants that he's too young to be harvested and there's only one of him. While it was quicker than he's expected, one Fabricant killed all others present and became his bodyguard.
  • The Familiar of Zero has what is perhaps one of the most satisfying one of these ever in its backstory: the birth of Kirche and Tabitha's friendship. A number of girls were jealous that Kirche was stealing all the boys, and teamed up with a boy who Tabitha had humiliated in duel. At a dance the boy used wind to shred Kirche's dress, leaving her naked. He then offered her his coat and told her Tabitha was responsible, which Kirche found reasonable because she had teased Tabitha earlier in the year. When Kirche confronted Tabitha, she told Kirche that she had nothing to do with it and walked away. Then Tabitha returns to her room to find her book collection scorched, and immediately walks over to Kirche's room and accepts the challenge to a duel (this was done by the jealous girls). They go to the courtyard to fight and after one exchange of spells immediately realize that they were set up and team up to find and punish the real culprits.
  • In Freezing, some third years tell Rana that Satellizer is just using Kazuya (whom Rana has a crush on) for his power instead of treating him like a true partner. This lead to Rana challenging Satellizer to a duel. After the girls have beaten each other to a pulp, the third years applaud the "free entertainment" and then attack them.
  • Hinted to have happened in Gunslinger Girl, while it's not overt, it's implied that the government was hoping that the terrorists that took over the Turin nuclear plant and the politically-dangerous Section 2 (an agency that uses Child Soldiers) would take each other out. There were enough Section 2 survivors left that the government just said 'screw it' and declared them terrorists, arresting them all.
  • Naraku from Inuyasha should have won an Oscar for the number of times he plotted his enemies (and allies) against each other. One particularly nasty example is when he told Sango that Inuyasha slaughtered everyone in her village, leading her to almost kill herself trying to get revenge. Another such instance is when Naraku lures both Koga and Inuyasha to his castle and sets them up to make Koga believe Inuyasha wiped out his clan, tricking them into a life-and-death battle; then sends in his subordinates to kill the survivor. Of course, in both cases, he had arranged the massacre himself.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run: Benjamin Boom Boom, the patriarch of the murderous Boom Boom Family, uses his iteration of the Boom Booms' shared Stand Tomb of the Boom to manipulate the iron implants in his face and disguise himself as Johnny Joestar, then attacks Mountain Timnote  and flees, hoping to turn Mountain Tim against Johnny and Gyro and lead all three of them into a trap. It almost works, but fortunately Tim realizes just in time that he, Johnny, and Gyro have been magnetized by the Boom Booms, and the three join forces.
  • The Crossover movie Lupin III vs. Detective Conan only has minor elements of this; Conan is chasing a Rebellious Princess who switched places with Ran, but said princess has befriended Fujiko, leading to a chase sequence where Conan's rocket-powered skateboard actually manages to tail Fujiko's bike.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS Quattro tricks/brainwashes Vivio into fighting Nanoha. Nanoha holds out just long enough for her Wide Area Search to pinpoint Quattro before using a restraint spell on Vivio and unleashing her full Mama Bear wrath on Quattro's ass.
    Quattro: "Now kill each other like a good mother and daughter."
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing:
  • Naruto: During the Five Kage Meeting arc, Big Bad Tobi sets up such a fight between Sasuke and Danzo.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, the first fight between Negi and Setsuna (in the furo) has distinct overtones of this. Negi loses. Painfully.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Whiskey Peak arc, the crew had been proudly welcomed by the town, which was used by bounty hunters from Baroque Works to rob and/ or kill unsuspecting pirates while they slept. When the bounty hunters attack Zoro, he defeats them all. A chain of events are set up for the saga as he comes face to face with two agents of the aforementioned organization, Mr. 5 and Ms. Valentine. But Luffy, after learning Zoro attacked the other Baroque Works agents and unaware they weren't as nice as they seemed, becomes enraged and attacks Zoro, who calmly tries to explain before Luffy attacks him anyway. The two of them fight while the agents continue to complete their mission, but after Luffy and Zoro keep attacking them while they fight, Mr. 5 and Ms. Valentine try to kill them themselves...
    Luffy and Zoro: (Stop fighting and turn to the agents) Shut up! And go away!
    Mr. 5 and Ms. Valentine: (expressing extreme shock)
    Luffy and Zoro: You're interfering... (punching the agents aside) ...with our fight!!
    • When the Straw Hats reach Water 7, the CP9, with Nico Robin's help, frame the Straw Hats for the attempted assassination of mayor and shipbuilding company president Iceberg, essentially pitting them against the entire city, particularly the dock 1 foremen. Things are cleared up when the CP9 reveal themselves.
    • Sanji and Zoro trading insults until things get physical has become a Running Gag, especially during the Davy Back Fight arc, where it almost causes them to lose a match until they get their act together and team up.
  • Being a deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs, Ramen Fighter Miki show us the kind of person who would use this trope: Megumi is The Bully / School Yard Bully All Grown Up / The Rival for Miki, and her personal definition of a friend is: Someone whom Megumi can manipulate to beat Miki. Just after Megumi hears Miki describing to his mother a powerful enemy at the Endou house, while being punished for constantly Carrying a Cake:
    This is surprising! There's someone who can land Onimaru-san in this much trouble. He must definitely be an amazing fighter. First I should become friends with this person, then teaming up would be the best course of action.
  • In Ronin Warriors, Dais uses his powers to make the heroes think each other is him, so they blindly attack each other.
  • Subverted in Samurai Champloo. In the first episode both Mugen and Jin get into separate fights with the samurai in the town they are wandering through. When the two cross paths, Mugen believes Jin is one of the samurai sent to kill him and immediately attacks. When Mugen learns that Jin actually killed the town's samurai, Mugen becomes even more excited at the prospect of fighting a tougher opponent. The entire show consists of Mugen and Jin trying to fulfill their obligation to Fuu so they can finally fight each other, and the series constantly hints that no matter how close Mugen and Jin grow in their quest, their eventual duel will be to the death. Averted in the end when they decide not to, having come to like one another far too much.
  • In Sekirei, Minato is trapped by many other Ashikabi and Sekirei who were sent an email by the Game Master who said if anyone stops Minato from reaching the MBI building, they'd be excused from his earlier rule where an Ashikabi with no wins would lose their Sekirei. A biker Ashikabi arrives late to the situation and immediately starts talking trash to them. Then they end up fighting each other instead, allowing Minato and his group to escape.
  • Sonic X: Knuckles very often attacks Sonic and friends due to believing Dr. Eggman's lies.
  • Sword Art Online: Kirito was rendered catatonic and is cared for by Alice. Kirito's wife Asuna eventually arrives and tries to see him, but Alice has no idea who she is and attacks her, thinking she is either an assassin or a stalker about to attack him. It doesn't help that Asuna doesn't try to explain herself and just keeping demanding "My Kirito", which further convinces Alice that she is a stalker. The fight is broken up by a third party, then they are eventually able to come to an understanding.
  • An inverted example in Trigun, when a pair of bounty hunters after Vash the Stampede mistake one another for Vash, because of the wildly varying descriptions of him that are floating around. All within sight of Vash.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: Yuto and Yugo's enmity comes from the fact that they mistook the other for Yuri, who looks very similar to both them and the protagonist Yuya. Unfortunately, by the time they clear up this misunderstanding, Yuto's been defeated by their mutual Superpowered Evil Side possessing Yugo and is reduced to a spirit inhabiting Yuya's body.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Cenotaph features resident teen Chessmaster Skitter, manipulating Lung and Kaiser into a battle to the death. Then, when it looks like Kaiser might get away, she makes sure he is distracted and off-balence at a crucial moment. Kaiser was the one she thought would be harder to take down, ultimately.
  • Code Prime: Megatron mostly ignores Britannia beyond assisting Charles with finding Energon because he wants the humans to find Optimus, and believes that backing Britannia is the most effective method of doing so - he knows Optimus won't allow innocents to be subjected to the cruelty Britannia practices on a daily basis and is waiting for Prime to take a stand. Optimus finally obliges during Chapter 5, to Megatron's delight.
  • In Eleutherophobia: Escape from L.A., past-Rachel is all too eager to kill Tom even as he tries to explain that he's from the future and not infested.
  • During Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness, Suika Ibuki accuses Coop—and Megas by extension—of stealing her prized sake gourd. Not knowing who she was or what she was talking about, Coop denies it and rebuffs Alice when she tries to warn him that it wasn't an ordinary little girl he was dealing with. This prompts Suika to super-size herself and punch Megas away from her, followed by her reciting the trope name almost word for word:
    "Don't wanna give back my drinky-drink? It's a fight you're hankering for, huhhh? ...You want to surpass an oni? You're interested in a fight? Fine with me. Let's you and me fight."
  • Fate/Stay Night: Ultimate Master: Ben and his servant Avenger against Saber and Archer. Ben and Avenger are always the one being attacked and are just defending themselves (with one exception, and even then there was a justification). Saber, Archer and Rin are too busy seeing him as a threat (actually outright attacking him on sight) to actually stop and talk with him and realise he doesn't want to win the Grail and is wary of it's wish granting ability.
  • God Slaying Blade Works: Shirou Emiya kills the evil god Angra Mainyu and gains his powers in the process. Perseus senses Angra's energy within him and attacks, thinking Shirou actually is Angra. Shirou is forced to kill him in self-defense, and Perseus realizes his mistake in his last moments. (Good thing he turns out to be such a Graceful Loser.)
  • Hyphen: The unnamed Team Aqua grunt that stole from Devon at the start of the game manages to outsmart Astra, May, and Brendan by provoking the Exploud patriarch of Rusturf Tunnel into fighting them while he escapees.
  • In the Pony POV Series Dark World Series, Twilight's group does end up fighting with the rest of the mane six due to the others being Brainwashed and Crazy until Discord's spell was broken. However, this is averted with Applejack and Twilight, who broke Discord's spell independently of one another and when they run into each other mistake the other as still being brainwashed. While Applejack does panic and kick her (leading to a comical moment of Twilight ending up under a Dirt Maid's skirt and being kicked back onto Applejack), they quickly put two and two together (such as Twilight calling her Applejack instead of Liarjack and Applejack having washed her hat for the first time since the Day of Chaos) and realize the other isn't acting like Twilight Tragedy/Liarjack. They each quickly realize the others pulled a Heel–Face Turn and decide to trust each other and team up.
    • This happens repeatedly in the Wedding Arc, due to characters constantly mistaking others for being brainwashed by the Changelings. And things are further complicated by the presence of Moth, a reformed Changeling and Bon Bon's adopted sibling.
      • Thankfully subverted when Misfit Actual joins up with the main heroes during the arc's Final Battle; since they helped Trixie's group fight off Hercules Beetle and tried to get Cadence to use her powers to vouch for them (it was Moon Dancer posing as Cadence, but they didn't know that), which would have exposed them if they were imposters, the others are quick to trust them.
  • Superwomen of Eva: As expected of a superhero Fusion Fic, the series has several examples (examples: She-Hulk vs. Spirit in Superwomen of Eva: Emerald Fury and Power Girl vs. Wonder Girl in Superwomen of Eva 2: Amazing Amazon).
  • This Bites!: Invoked by Cross and Soundbite to get the Unluckies that are pursuing them in Jaya off their backs. Soundbite goads Van Augur to start shooting at Ms. Friday, and when that doesn't stop Mr. 13, Cross finds Bellamy and insults him to his face to spring him right at him, and by extension, Mr. 13.
    Cross: Excuse me, is it true that Doflamingo's spring-heeled dickweasel can be found here, or is this the wrong bar?
  • The Bridge: Happens and is averted a few times despite the set up.
    • Godzilla Junior in his unicorn form and Princess Luna get into a brawl because Junior was fighting the Canterlot Guard. Junior had just crash landed into the castle and was delirious, meaning when a guard grabbed him by the hoof he thought he was being attacked; leading to an escalating fight with Luna jumping into the fray to protect the guards.
    • Averted when Mothra (changeling queen) meets Twilight Sparkle. Despite Twilight initially mistaking her for Chrysalis, Mothra calmly defuses the situation and lets Twilight test her to prove she means her no harm.
    • In the prequel Tales from the Amalgam'verse: Godzilla meets Gorgo, the still kaiju Godzilla Junior and Gorgo's mother Orka fight. Orka is just trying to reclaim her son and Junior is trying to protect the humans. Thankfully it ends without serious injury.
  • The Flash Sentry Chronicles: This is the first part of Lightning Blitz's plan in The Battle of Canterlot. After taking the entire city hostage and daring every citizen to try to find him and his companions, he and his friends set up enchanted runes around town that ensnare several victims at once. The ponies caught in the enchantment are trapped until the strongest is determined by a fight, forcing the groups to turn on each other and knock each other out in order to continue. This dwindles the heroes numbers while simultaneously exhausting them and damaging the trust and friendship between them.
  • "Pokemon vs. Digimon: When Worlds Collide" opens with Devimon (Digimon Adventure 02) arriving in the Pokemon world, Ash and his friends arriving in the village where Devimon attacked shortly before the Digidestined follow, initially sending their Digimon through. With the locals already paranoid, Veemon's poor choice of words leads to Ash, Misty and Brock assuming that the new Digimon are Devimon's associates, which results in Ash's current team- Pikachu, Bayleef, Cyndaquil, Totodile, Noctowl and Phanpy- fighting Veemon, Hawkmon, Armadillomon, Patamon, Gatomon and Wormmon before the Digidestined arrive and both parties take time to explain the situation.
  • The Kim Possible fic "Other Side of the Mirror" pits Kim and Ron against evil alternate versions of themselves. At one point, Ron hits his counterpart with an apparently poisonous gas so that evil Kim will release Kim as her current hostage, but after evil Kim has been beating Ron for a while, he reveals that he actually just hit his other self with the antidote to other-Ron's poison, prompting the other Ron to attack the other Kim and allow Kim and Ron to recuperate.
  • In the Arc-Ved Protagonists story, "Coming Right Back" Yuya is never made aware that the reason why he is dueling Yugi is because his mom wanted Yugi to be a Warrior Therapist for him.
  • RWBY: Epic of Remnant: After rescuing a little Faunus girl by killing her attacker, Hassan of the Cursed Arm tells her to go home, then follows at a distance to make sure she gets there safely. Blake Belladonna just sees a suspicious looking person following a child and evidence of a murder and attacks him. The misunderstanding is eventually cleared up.
  • The Red Dragon's Saber:
    • Artoria Pendragon gets summoned and helps Issei Hyoudou rescue his friend Asia Argento from Freed Sellzan, Raynare, and the Fallen Angels. Since Rias Gremory's peerage have no idea who Artoria is, where she came from, or what her true motives are, they prepare for a fight after she defeats the Fallen Angels. When she says she simply wants to make sure Issei and Asia are safe, they stand down, but are still wary.
    • Later, when Artoria learns that Rias and her group are Devils, Artoria attacks them until Issei and Asia are able to convince her that they are not evil.
  • In Change, this is the original plan Queen Crudelis has for dealing with Queen Chrysalis and Equestria. Using an agent from another hive, she plots to assassinate Twilight, the daughter of Chrysalis, and have Equestria be blamed for it. Chrysalis will become so enraged over the death of her daughter that she will declare war on Equestria, only to be wiped out due to her hive being outnumbered and weak due to a love shortage. Also as a potential bonus, Equestria could be left in a weak enough state afterwards that Crudelis could easily conquer it herself. However, the plan fails when Twilight survives the assassination attempt, allowing Celestia to calm Chrysalis before she can do anything drastic, and work together to bring the real assassin to justice; thus creating an alliance between Equestria and the Badlands Hive.
  • Actually averted in Natural Selection. The final of the Naturals Election's Sudden Death Runoff was going to be Satsuki vs. Ira, but Ryuko knew that they wouldn't give it there all (and that's assuming they would even fight in the first place even if it was the rules) and decides to cut out the middle man and disqualify Ira so she could fight Satsuki for the final round.
  • Avengers and Trollhunters: The Avengers are only in Arcadia because they picked up the energy from Claire's shadow portals and mistook it for some sort of backup plan of Loki's. Therefore, they're already on edge and quick to confront Jim and his friends when they realize the group is hiding something; the teens, already paranoid about potential Changeling infiltration, just as quickly lash out when confronted, leading to a fight that results in Claire getting hurt before anyone can calm things down.
  • Penny and Noel in Chapter 39 of BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant end up fighting each other due to their Murakumo programming taking control and forcing a conflict between them that ends with Noel blasting Penny through a building. Thankfully, Ruby is able to stop it before Noel succeeds in killing Penny.
  • There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton: In The Royal We, Varvatos and the Tarron siblings briefly mistake the Alien Force for bounty hunters sent by Morando, due to them not being completely human. This leads to a brief fight between Ben and Varvatos, but when Ben makes it clear he's not trying to kill Varvatos, Aja calls him off so that the groups can actually communicate.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Dr. No, James Bond's investigation into an MI-6 operative's death leads him to Quarrel, who's already working with CIA agent Felix Leiter. Because Leiter saw Bond leave the airport with one of Dr. No's men, Quarrel attacks Bond; their fight is broken up when Leiter arrives to clarify the whole mess.
  • In The Matrix Reloaded, Seraph fights Neo on their first meeting, but in that case it's to establish that he really is The One. Given Mr. Smith's ability to Body Surf this is a sensible precaution.
  • Two cops in Hard Boiled end up on either sides of a major gang shootout taking place in a warehouse. One is undercover. The other drops in from the skylight to do a bust, and does not know about the cop undercover. This is a very, very straight example.
  • The Forbidden Kingdom. It having Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the same movie first time ever!!, of course they have to fight at first. This is achieved by having Jet Li's character first steal the MacGuffin, taking Chan's character and the kid to be a couple of thieves.
  • In Heroic Trio, all three main characters fight each other in different scenes before finally teaming up.
  • The kung-fu flick The Jade Faced Assassin revolves around the two heroes, twins Separated at Birth and raised in different martial arts clans, and oblivious to each other's identity, being manipulated by the villains into fighting each other. Their inevitable one-on-one Sword Fight makes up the lengthy climax of the film.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Jack Sparrow uses this tactic to escape Will and Norrington by goading Norrington into directing his anger at Will and attack him.
  • In Bunraku the two main characters have a Bar Brawl before deciding to team up to go after the Big Bad.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 2, Rhodey suits up in a spare Iron Man suit to rein in Crazy Drunken Self-Destructive Tony. It seems played for laughs at first, but gradually turns very un-funny. They fight a second time, unwillingly, when Vanko hacks Rhodey's suit, newly upgraded into the War Machine armor, while Rhodey is still inside. Fortunately, Black Widow is able to remove the hack just in time for them to team up against Vanko.
    • The Avengers:
      • At the end of the first act, Thor tries to get to his brother Loki, but provokes Iron Man and Captain America by stealing him out of SHIELD custody. What follows is a short but intense brawl of pure, delightful fanservice, gratuitous demonstration of power and ability ranges galore. Joss Whedon discussed the trope in the commentary of the scene, explaining that he desperately avoided setting up the fight with a misunderstanding or with one hero being Brainwashed and Crazy because then the audience would simply be waiting for them to wise up and start talking. Having them fight over custody of Loki let the movie have its fight with full justification.
      • Later on in the movie, Thor fights to stop a rampaging Hulk from destroying the Helicarrier, and Black Widow fights off a Brainwashed and Crazy Hawkeye. Cap and Iron Man almost get angry enough at each other to start a fight themselves (Steve even makes a challenge, but Tony refuses to suit up), but they drop the issue the moment the Helicarrier comes under attack.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron has another case where one of the heroes tries to intervene in a Hulk rampage; this time Iron Man with special anti-Hulk armor he had prepared.
    • In Ant-Man, Scott is infiltrating a warehouse to get a piece of tech, only to realize too late that it's now an Avengers facility. When the Falcon responds to the intruder alarm, Scott tries to introduce himself and talk his way in, but Falcon rightly doesn't trust the stranger and a fight starts.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, Zemo's plan is to turn the Avengers against each other by framing Bucky Barnes for a terrorist attack. As relations among the team are already strained due to disagreements over a Super Registration Act, it works only too well. His masterstroke: revealing that Bucky murdered Tony's parents while under HYDRA's control, leading to an all-out brawl where Steve tries to stop Tony from killing Bucky.
    • In Thor: Ragnarok, Thor is forced into Gladiator Games and finds his opponent is the Hulk. Thor is overjoyed at seeing a familiar face, but Hulk doesn't care and starts smashing him.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange meet Star-Lord, Drax, and Mantis. The two groups attack each other due to mistakenly believing the other works for Thanos. After the fight ends with a Mexican Standoff and Star-Lord attempts to interrogate Iron Man's group under the belief they know where Thanos took Gamora, they realize that they're both out for Thanos' blood and team up.
    • Two in Avengers: Endgame:
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home:
  • Max Payne has this with him and Mona briefly before teaming up.
  • In The Sum of All Fears, the villains try to get the two world superpowers, the U.S. and Russia, to destroy each other.
  • In Godzilla (2014), Serizawa's solution to the MUTO attacks after the nuke is hijacked by a MUTO is to let Godzilla finish the job.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: A more complicated example than usual because, unlike the original crossover, the humans don't actually want the two to fight, but by transporting Kong off of Skull Island (for unrelated reasons), Godzilla immediately sees Kong as a rival intruding on his territory, while eventually Kong has enough of Godzilla's repeated attacks, and in the end, you get what you came for.
  • Jurassic World: Is an I-rex threatening you and your family? No problem. Just open Paddock 9 and let Rexy handle it. Bonus points if you can get a semi-trained Velociraptor and a Mosasaurus to lend a hand.
  • Both Kamen Rider × Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen and Heisei Rider vs. Showa Rider: Kamen Rider Taisen feat. Super Sentai both have two different sets of hero groups slugging it out due to cases of Superdickery.
  • Played for laughs in They Call Me Bruce The protagonist is called "Bruce" and though he does not know martial arts, he is assumed to by everyone due to being Asian and having a superficial resemblance to the late Bruce Lee, and having accidentally foiled a convenience store robbery. He is accosted by a group of thugs who wish to test his martial arts skills. When one thug demonstrates he himself is proficient at martial arts, Bruce compliments him on his skill and asks who his teacher was. When the thug answers, Bruce claims to have studied under the same sensei and says that because of "the code" it means they can't fight each other. Then, when a second thug tells him that he studied under a different sensei, Bruce says "that's great, that means you two can fight each other!" and goads them into doing so while he quietly slips away.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman and Superman are manipulated (and partly forced, due to Lex's kidnapping of Martha Kent) by Lex Luthor into conflict.
    • In Justice League, after Superman comes back to life, he is confused and disoriented with amnesia. When the rest of the Justice League approach him, Cyborg's defense systems activate and he involuntarily blasts Superman, enraging him into attacking them. It isn't until Lois Lane shows up that he calms down.
  • In Yamato Takeru, the hero ends up fighting his future love interest/adventuring companion Oto Tachibana when they first meet, because the latter mistakes him and his friends for the thieves who stole her shrine's sacred mirror. The misunderstanding is thankfully cleared up before anyone can get seriously hurt.
  • In The Terror of Tiny Town: Bat Haines is attempting to manipulate Pop Lawson and Tex Preston into a range war, so he will be able to easily acquire both properties afterwards.
  • In More Dead Than Alive, Billy attempts to goad Cain and Cassidy into having a gunfight: first siding with one of them, and then the other, and even handing Cain a gun when he says doesn't have one. It is only Cain's steadfast refusal to pick up the gun that prevents a fight. As Billy's pleas for them to shoot each other become more desperate and pathetic, Cassidy realises how stupid the whole thing is and walks ways. Billy suffers a Villainous Breakdown as he sees that the shootout isn't happening.
  • The premise of Sadako vs. Kayako. Two girls watch Sadako's cursed video and are cursed to die. Meanwhile another girl, whose family has moved next door to Kayako's abandoned house has been tricked by the ghost to enter the house and be cursed by her. The solution a medium comes up with is to bring both girls to the cursed house and watch the cursed video in there, causing both onryo to fight over their victims.

  • Neil Gaiman's American Gods, where it's a key plot point. An example of an old, named scam mentioned to Shadow by Mr. Wednesday, "Let's You and Him Fight" turns out to be the Evil Plan Odin and Loki have been working on together. The plan was to goad the home-grown modern gods into fighting the immigrant gods to the death, so both Odin and Loki could feed off ensuing battle.
  • The Heroes of Olympus series:
    • Percy and Jason duke it out when possessed by evil spirits.
    • In the audiobook Son of Sobek, Percy crosses paths with Carter Kane while they are both hunting the titular giant crocodile, and they get into a fight when Percy mistakes Carter for a rogue demigod.
  • In one of the Sharpe books, master manipulator Ducos comes up with a plan to end the war. As a first stage, he needs a general killed. On a personal level, he wants Sharpe dead. As luck would have it, Sharpe has already slept with the general's wife. One well-timed letter later, the Duel to the Death is arranged.
    • In another book, Sharpe and Harper go to a monastery occupied by a mixed force of deserters from all the armies involved in the Peninsular War, led by a French cook and 'Colonel' Hakeswill, carrying the ransom for the Portuguese wife of an English high-up who'd been at the monastery for an annual festival. At the same time a French officer and his sergeant arrive to pay the ransom for the French officer's English wife. Both sides think that the other is the enemy.
    • In the film, Sharpe pins the French colonel and calls for him to surrender, but the Frenchman refuses to surrender to a "deserter".
  • Warhammer 40,000 novel Grey Knights
    • The Big Bad uses the secrecy surrounding the Grey Knights to paint them as Chaos Marines and get the local Imperial forces against them.
    • Similarly, Alaric, the protagonist of the series, pulls this off on his foes in the sequel Hammer of Daemons. Some of the Daemons he manipulates are aware that he's playing them, but they are compelled to go along by their own greed, paranoia, and rage.
  • Heimerdinger's Kingdoms And Conquerors features several chapters of this, told from multiple POV. One hero (Apollos) believes his Love Interest was murdered by his masked opponents (a long ago friend) while Gid was informed that Apollos killed his good friends. the two continue to fight until Gid's friends shout his name, and Apollos recognizes the voices.
  • This ultimately turns out to be the plan of the alien Starflyer in Peter Hamilton's Space Opera Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained.
  • In the history of Larry Niven's Known Space universe, the Puppeteers lure an Outsider ship into human space so that the humans will gain an advantage during the First Man-Kzin war. And during one of the later Man-Kzin wars, the Puppeteers themselves show up to sell humanity invulnerable starship hulls. They do this so the humans will wreck the Kzinti population (and specifically to kill off the more violence-prone members of the species), thus reducing the Kzinti threat to the Puppeteers.
  • In a Russian short story, after a devastating interstellar war, humanity and a race of human-sized insects wipe out each other (humans cause the bugs' star to go nova, while the bugs nuke Earth). The few remaining humans are helped by a race of benevolent aliens. When the aliens offer one of the humans (a clone, actually) a chance to fight a cloned bug, he readily agrees. During the fight, though, the bug (who has Genetic Memory) reveals that the supposed "benefactors" are, in fact, the masterminds behind the failed First Contact between humans and bugs. Apparently, whenever they encounter a violent race that can potentially threaten them, they find another violent race and pit them against each other to mutual annihilation.
  • Simon R. Green:
    • Forest Kingdom: Much of the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 5 (Guard Against Dishonor) is set up so as to get that series' married-cop protagonists, Hawk and Fisher, to fight one another, as the bad guys implicate Fisher in police corruption while alleging Hawk has gone rogue and is killing innocent people. When they finally meet, it's subverted, because they both care about each other more than about their duty as cops, so wouldn't have attacked each other even if the allegations had been true.
    • The Nightside series has this as a favorite tactic of the main character.
      Count Video (on sending agents of hell against the Walking Man): "Let's you and him fight, I like it."
  • In Needful Things, Leland Gaunt tricks an entire town into fighting and killing each other by selling worthless junk magically disguised as treasures to people in exchange for having them perform pranks on their neighbors.
  • Pretty much the entire plot of Honor Harrington has been orchestrated by the Mesan Alignment.
  • This happens in The Granite Shield, in which a weak and tiny expy of Protestant Wales distracts all of Europe by assassinating the equivalent of the Pope, thus plunging its many, many enemies into a decade of war.
  • In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel On The Razor's Edge, when Gidula pitches Donovan against Eglay Portion, in an official combat that Donovan suspects may be used to cripple him against the rules, Donovan with some cunning timing defeats him in the first moments. Eglay appraises him, asks him how to do it, and is his man thereafter.
  • Dog Warrior, the last Ukiah Oregon book, opens with Atticus Steele (undercover DEA agent) finding his long lost brother (the protagonist of the rest of the series) unconscious in a car trunk wearing a Dog Warriors jacket. Research shows that every known member of the gang is on the FBI Most Wanted list, and he shuns his newfound family and works against them. Meanwhile, Ukiah sees that his long-lost brother seems to be a ruthless drug dealer, and suspicion leads the Pack to put Atticus through a harsh initiation, confirming their criminality and enmity in his mind.
  • In Devil's Cape, Bedlam attacks Argonaut, thinking Argonaut was responsible for breaking out a patient at his psychological institute and almost killing Bedlam himself. However, the mistake is understandable, as the culprit was Argonaut's twin brother, who has the same powers and even uses the same aftershave.
  • The BattleTech novel Call of Duty has two military groups, each of which is tricked into thinking the other had attacked it.
  • Doctor Who spinoff Faction Paradox has the War in Heaven, a massive conflict arranged by the titular Faction between the Homeworld and The Enemy for a chance to swipe some nice tech, some converts, and poison the timestream in the process.
  • In the Kane Series novel Bloodstone Kane manipulates two neighboring and already hostile nations of Selonari and Breimen into outright war, while the titular Bloodstone is gaining enough power to crush them both.
  • Archimago from The Faerie Queene tricks Sir Guyon into thinking that the noble Redcrosse Knight is a rapist in order to get the two to kill each other. Guyon nearly strikes Redcrosse down as soon as he sees him, but upon seeing the blood-red cross on his shield, he realizes Redcrosse is a holy man and gives the knight the time to explain his innocence.
  • A Desolation Called Peace: Caught between the expansionist Teixcalaanli Galactic Superpower and an unknown alien threat, some of the Lsel Station councillors warn the former about the latter in hopes that they'll exhaust each other in stalemate. The councillors don't fully consider the difficulties of remaining neutral in such a situation.
  • Subverted and then played straight in the short story The Hunters of Asterion by Stewart Cowley. Rahzell Kalee and Jeef Kindswoog are two of the titular Hunters, separately hoodwinked into fighting each other for a galactic audience who want to see two Proud Warrior Race Guys battle to the death. When they actually face each other, both men refuse, since neither has a slight on the other, and are then abandoned far from their homeworld. Flash forward several years later and Kalee stumbles briefly across the path of the law, which ends up recruiting him, while Kindswoog takes a darker path. Kalee goes undercover to take down a massive crime syndicate that's hit the Terran Federation's military and stolen some pretty hard-core weaponry. When he turns some of it on the criminals and demands their surrender, he's challenged BY NAME by Kindswoog (who realizes that only another Hunter could have undone his schemes as badly as Rahzell did), and they fight it out at last.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: Bahar, a rookie witch at an evil Wizarding School who has already made herself into the indispensible Friend in the Black Market for several of her classmates, uses this tactic when she's forced to run through a lethal obstacle course with three other members of her class: she simply bribes the other students, all of whom need the powerful potions and crafted items she's capable of making, to fight each other for her. They do fight and two of them are killed, giving Bahar a much easier time in the course.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • Rare heroic example in season 5: Jack Bauer is inside a bank retrieving evidence that will implicate the President of the United States in the day's conspiracy from a safety deposit box when Christopher Henderson's men manage to find him and surround the bank, but due to the fact that all the windows and walls are bulletproof, Jack's safe as long as he remains in the building—but only then. He has the bank president set off the silent alarm to call the police to the bank, and since Henderson can't allow that evidence to reach CTU (which it undoubtedly would if Bauer was arrested), his men open fire on the policemen, allowing Jack to escape in the confusion. In a police car, no less.
    • "Live Another Day" is basically a whole season of this trope, as Jack is considered a traitor and the local CTU branch has a grand total of one agent who's not a trigger-happy idiot.
  • In Babylon 5 a large part of Sheridan's strategy is to arrange this for the Shadows and Vorlons. Likewise, this trope was essentially the Shadow's philosophy: to get the younger races to fight amongst each other, so that the survivors would be stronger.
  • The Green Hornet Crossover episode of Batman included a classic "ignorant good guys beat the crap out of each other" scene. Given that the Green Hornet's cover story is that only a few people know that he isn't a bad guy - and solves many of his cases by intimidating the real bad guy into "cutting him in on the profits" - this one was pretty easy to script even by Batman standards.
  • In the sixth episode of Black Lightning (2018), Anissa (the title character's oldest daughter) goes to rescue her mother from Lady Eve's goons. Black Lightning soon arrives, but after seeing Anissa standing over his Bound and Gagged ex-wife, assumes that Anissa (whose face identity is hidden by her costume) is the kidnapper. A fight ensues, and Black Lightning only realizes that his opponent is his daughter after he's injured her.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "Nightmares" (Buffy vs Sid the Dummy), "What's My Line?" (Buffy vs Kendra), among others.
    • Another example would be the season 4 episode "Primeval", in which Adam, the season's Big Bad, plans for the army and the demons to kill each other, creating lots of dead bodies for his human/demon cyborg army.
    • Another Faith example. In "Revelations", the villain of the week tricks Faith into fighting Angel. It was easy enough, after Xander laid the ground work.
    • In "Angel", Darla concocts a plan to entice Angel "back to the fold" by arranging to have him kill Buffy.
    • In Angel, Angelus does this with The Beast and Faith, allowing the Beast to weaken her before he killed it, as he wanted to kill Faith himself. Luckily, she manages to get away.
    • "Dirty Girls" has a quite amusing variation as Spike and Faith, both former villains, fight each other because each is unaware that the other has gone through a Heel–Face Turn.
  • This happens several times on Chuck, where the team gets into a fight with another spy, only to learn that they're actually MI6 agents working on the same case undercover. Cole Barker is a particularly notable example.
    • It also happens within the team, as well. The second episode had Casey and Sarah accusing each other of being rogue with Chuck caught in the middle. The penultimate episode of season two starts with Chuck and Sarah gone rogue to save his father, with Casey in pursuit. A season 3 episode has Casey briefly go rogue to protect his ex-fiance. Most tragically, Quinn uses a malfunctioning Intersect to destroy Sarah's memories and brainwash her, before turning her loose against the team in the Grand Finale.
  • Daredevil (2015): When Wilson Fisk can't directly get rid of an inconvenient ally or an outright enemy, he'll set up these situations as an indirect way to get rid of the problem. In season 1, Fisk escalates the conflict between Matt and the Russians, so that the Russians are in a position where Fisk can target them with bombs, and then sends in the corrupt cops in his pocket to kill the survivors. Later on, when Nobu gets too insistent that Fisk immediately fulfill his part of the Hand's deal to acquire Elena's property for Midland Circle, Fisk sets him up to fight Matt in the hopes that they kill each other. In season 2, Fisk does a series of orchestrated moves to get Frank Castle into his jail, then gets Frank to kill Dutton and his entire crew, which allows Fisk to keep his hands 'clean'. When Frank thwarts Fisk's attempts to have him killed after getting rid of Dutton, Fisk then arranges for Frank to be released knowing that Frank will go out and kill off lots of criminal rivals who may pose a challenge to Fisk on his release from prison.
  • The Defenders (2017): Luke Cage and Danny Rand run into each other when their investigations into the Hand cause them to cross paths when Luke catches Danny in the act of roughing up Cole, causing a fight to break out. The first minute or so of the fight is completely one-sided in Luke's favor, as nothing Danny does can make Luke budge an inch. It takes Danny delivering a direct hit to Luke's face with the Iron Fist to do any actual damage.
  • Season 3 of Dexter starts with the death of a semi-innocent man due to this trope.
  • Doctor Who: The regeneration story "Time and the Rani" had this happen between the Doctor and his sidekick — she didn't realise he was the Doctor because she hadn't seen him since the regeneration, and the last time he'd seen "her" it had been the villain in disguise.
  • The Flash (2014): The Arrow and The Flash get into a fight after the latter has been infected with a Hate Plague. It ends in a draw, as Arrow is able to stall Flash long enough for their allies to come up with a cure.
  • Frasier: An interesting variation occurs when Fraiser, fresh from messing up two relationships in as many days, drives to a remote family cabin to think about his situation. His mind then dregs up the images of Lilith, Nannet, and Diane, two ex-wives and a woman who left him at the alter respectively, and later his mother. Each one is acting a bit of his own personal thoughts. The women start sniping and yelling at each other until Lilith realizes Fraiser is making them do this so he can avoid confronting his own personal issues.
  • Happy Days: In "Joanie's Weird Boyfriend," Fonzie and Carmine Ragusa (guest appearing from Laverne & Shirley) let Richie, Ralph and Potsie fight the Red Devil gang before finishing the job afterwards.
  • In Heroes, Maury Parkman uses his mind control powers to trick Nathan Petrelli and Matt Parkman into fighting each other, each thinking they are fighting an enemy.
  • On Hustle a nonviolent version ensues for the first episode of series 5. Albert sets up Mickey and Ash and Emma and Sean to pull cons on each other at the same time.
  • It seems a mandatory part of every entry of the Heisei Kamen Rider series (except Kamen Rider Kuuga (which only had one Rider) and Kamen Rider Hibiki (which had no Riders fighting one another)) that every single pair of Riders must fight each other at least once in the series. Made the entire point of Kamen Rider Ryuki, where There Can Be Only One.
    • For much of Kamen Rider 555, Inui Takumi and Kiba Yuuji are friends in their civilian identities and each ignorant of the other's alter-ego - which is good, because each thinks the other (in his alter ego) is a Dragon for the evil corporation. Even the AU Kiba of the Non-Serial Movie is tricked into fighting Takumi by the bad guys.
    • Kamen Rider Decade is a good example. Most of the time, whenever he travels to other people's worlds, those people get word of Decade being a devil and would destroy them, so naturally, they fought back, save for, coincidentally enough, Hibiki, who see him more as a grand teacher. As it turns out, Tsukasa's goal is to kill the riders, so that their battles can be remembered, and thus, save the worlds from crumbling.
    • After Decade, Kamen Riders seem to avert this, or at least justify it so that one of the riders is heavily influenced, be it Brainwashed and Crazy or attacking them to fulfill a Deal with the Devil. The only Kamen Rider show to play this trope as straight as its earlier counterparts is Kamen Rider Double, in which the first encounter with Accel results in them fighting because of conflicting view points (Shotaro wants to arrest someone, while Ryu wants to kill them). Kamen Rider Fourze also plays it straight, but it gets subverted as Gentaro's friends huddle around him to prevent a fight with Meteor after the latter sees them as a threat to his goal.
    • This streak went on until Kamen Rider Wizard, where both the brainwashed and clash of ideals styles come in. Brainwashed in the form of The White Wizard's brainwashed Mages and clash of ideals in the form of Wizard vs. Beast (Haruto wants to stop Phantoms from making people despair and Nitoh wants to keep eating Phantoms). It also has Wizard vs. White Wizard, though it doesn't count since by the time it happens the latter has clearly established that he's not a hero.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim brings the trope back to its early roots, with the protagonist fighting every other Rider at least once, mainly because they're the ones attacking him (though some of them are outright villains). A good example of it being played straight is near the final episodes, where his best friend is manipulated by the Mad Scientist to fight him and get him out of the way for him to dissect the girl they both like.
    • In Kamen Rider Drive, it's Kamen Rider Mach that instigates most of these fights since he suffers from Fantastic Racism. He mostly goes after Kamen Rider Chaser, a member of the monsters who has since sided with humanity and redeemed himself; but sometimes the villains have manipulated his rage and led him to tangle with Drive as well. Mach was also brainwashed for a little while (or rather, pretending to be brainwashed until he could get the villains' research).
  • Similarly, almost every Super Sentai series from about 2000 and on must have its yearly teamup movie with the previous group of Rangers start with the two groups mistakenly battling it out before getting into the meat of the plot. Power Rangers, on the other hand, usually averts this trope by having Ranger teams get down to business pretty quickly. The only teamups that invoke it are Ninja Storm/Dino Thunder (the Dino Rangers need to smack some sense into the brainwashed Ninja Rangers) and RPM/Samurai (both Red Rangers are manipulated into getting pissed at each other).
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "The Justice Society of America", the first meeting of the Legends and the Justice Society has the two teams quickly ending up fighting, due to the JSA thinking that the Legends are Nazi spies.
  • Lost:
    • In the final season, Locke/the Smoke monster tries to manipulate Kate and Claire into killing each other over Aaron.
    • One of the big reveals near the end of the series was that the Smoke Monster, being prevented from killing Jacob's candidates himself, was manipulating them into killing each other all along: Survivors, the Others, DHARMA folk and everyone else - and while some attempts failed, other have succeeded.
  • Used by Patrick Jane of The Mentalist. Faced with a serial killer he could identify but who he could not prove, Jane went on a talkshow with the killer and goaded him into talking smack about the "deceased" Red John. As one would imagine, there was one less serial killer that evening.
    • An accidental (and much less serious) example occurs in an earlier episode of the same show. A CBI team gets a report of lights on inside a vacant house that may be connected to the abduction they're investigating. It turns out that the reason the lights were on is because another CBI team had been called to the same house to investigate a body found inside. Fortunately, they recognize each other before anyone actually gets hurt.
  • Occasionally used on NCIS between Team Gibbs and their rival, Fornell of the FBI. When one federal agency is investigating a case the other will either be following the same case or looking into a lead on another, they'll meet with interesting results.
  • Sharpe: in Sharpe's Enemy, Hakeswill orchestrates it so that Sharpe and Harper, on a mission to ransom a general's kidnapped wife, attack and almost kill a pair of Frenchmen... who are there for exactly the same reason, but for the French officer's wife. Fortunately, Sharpe realizes what's going on before anything irreversible happens.
  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law: She-Hulk and Daredevil get into a fight when Jen's client (Leap-Frog) kidnaps Matt's client (Luke), and Jen assumes that a guy dressed as a devil is a villain. Leap-Frog didn't intend to make them fight, but he does take advantage of it to get away with Luke.
  • Happens all the time in Smallville when Clark meets another hero.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Full Alert", the Goa'uld try to manipulate the United States and Russia into a nuclear war.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • The Dominion's plan to conquer the Alpha Quadrant is to set the major powers fighting against each other, so that they'll all be weakened enough for the Dominion to come in virtually unopposed.
    • The plot of the infamous episode "In the Pale Moonlight" is to set up a scenario that lets the Dominion and the Romulans fight.
    • In "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost", Insane Admiral Leyton is planning a coup against President Jaresh-Inyo. When the Defiant heads for Earth with crucial evidence, Leyton sends the Lakota to stop them by saying that the Defiant has been taken over by Changelings.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), the yellow-eyed demon brings all the special children to Cold Oak, a ghost town, and manipulates them to fight each other.
  • In season 3 of Teen Wolf, the Big Bad tries to eliminate Derek by pitting his own pack against him.
  • Three Kingdoms:
    • Explicitly invoked to explain the Huarong Valley incident: the victorious naval commander Zhou Yu reveals to his lord Sun Quan that he set up the pursuit so that Cao Cao would be chased into the forces of Sun Quan's nominal ally Liu Bei, intending for Cao Cao's successors to blame Liu Bei for his death and primarily target Liu Bei's force, leaving Sun Quan's force free to operate more freely. However, Liu Bei's military advisor Zhuge Liang revealed this plot to his lord, and that he'd deliberately left Guan Yu on that route because Guan Yu's honor debt for Cao Cao's past generosity to him meant that he would let Cao Cao escape, so as to escape Zhou Yu's plot (since apparently chasing Cao Cao back into the arms of Sun Quan/Zhou Yu's force wasn't an option).
    • Later attempted when Sun Quan later offers Cao Cao a birthday present of Guan Yu's severed head with a deferential proclamation that he'd followed Cao Cao's instructions, intending for Liu Bei's wrath would turn from Sun Quan's state of Eastern Wu towards Cao Cao's state of Wei — but Cao Cao sees right through it and orders the head buried with a body carved from fragrant wood and a noble's honors, complete with a heartfelt eulogy.

  • The song, "The Ultimate Showdown" by Lemon Demon takes this trope Up to Eleven.
  • In the Charlie Daniels song "Uneasy Rider", the protagonist attempts the heroic version of this when he stops at a bar in Jackson, Mississippi, and the rednecks threaten to hurt him for looking like "one of those long-haired hippie-type pinko fags." He accuses one of them of being an undercover FBI agent who's trying to infiltrate and destroy the Ku Klux Klan. The ploy doesn't quite work, but the protagonist manages to distract everyone long enough to run out to the parking lot, get in his Chevrolet, and obtain a measure of revenge by pretending to run the rednecks down when they come out to chase him...before making his escape and heading for Omaha.

  • Classical Mythology:
    • The Trojan War actually started this way, with a goddess getting three other goddesses to fight over who was the prettiest.
    • Some of the heroes did this, too: apparently, the best way to defeat dragon's-tooth warriors is to throw a rock into their midst and have them fight each other over who threw the rock.
  • One Chinese idiom comes from a fable that goes as follows: A clam opens itself in the sun, and a snipe attempts to eat it. The clam shuts itself upon the snipe's beak. The snipe tells the clam that if the clam doesn't open up to flee, it will dry itself out in the sun. The clam tells the snipe that if the snipe doesn't withdraw itself, it will die of hunger from having its beak clamped shut. Neither party is willing to give way in order to outlast the other, and both are eventually bagged by a passing fisherman.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • MsChif successfully pulled this scheme on Daizee Haze and Haze's Tag Team partner Mickie Knuckles on the second night of IWA Mid-South King of the Death Matches 2004: The Last Bloody Stand. However, while she got one over on Haze, it was the start of what would become a multiyear rivalry with Knuckles.
  • El Generico, Excess 69 and Kevin Steen all competed with each other to have the least amount of time in the ring with Samoa Joe during a northern Championship wrestling four corner's match (and to a lesser extent, to be out of the ring in general as winner had to face ROH champion Austin Aries) in January of 2005. 69 didn't want to be in the ring with Steen either, which in turn let Generico outmaneuver Steen.
  • Raven's plan for Kurt Angle, Christian and Samoa Joe in TNA during early 2005 while he bid his time messing with Abyss until the time was opportune to enter the NWA World Heavyweight Title picture and fulfill his destiny.
  • Carlito Caribbean Cool cost himself the WWC Universal Title this way in January of 2015 by choosing to go after a confused Ray González while the two of them were surrounded by La Revolución rather than team up. La Revolución went on to attack both of them and then set their sights on the third Universal title contender Mighty Ursus, yet González, Colón and Ursus still kept fighting each other. Eventually though, Carlito would wise up and united against the common enemy, that is he joined forces with Revolución...Juan Manuel Ortega, the who had been on a mission to rid the pro wrestling industry of Carly's family prior.


  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Stretch Is Accused of Professionalism", teenaged Dumb Jock Stretch Snodgrass enters a circus wrestling contest and wins a prize. Unfortunately, this came to the attention of rival Clay City High School principal Jason Brille. By a technical reading of school board rules, this makes Stretch a "professional athlete" and ineligible for school sports. Miss Brooks tries to get the wrestler, visiting Madison High School to deliver Stretch the prize money, to attack school board head Mr. Stone. In that way, she hopes proof of the wrestler's violent nature would lead to Mr. Stone waiving any penalty against Stretch.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Star Fleet Battles Universe (an Alternate History Star Trek universe), this is how the Tholians survive being bordered by the Federation, Romulans and Klingons (the last of which are flat out trying to destroy them... with some good reason). The Trope is referenced by name as the guiding diplomatic strategy of the Tholians.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • This is standard Eldar operating procedure. While they're usually more concerned with making entire species fight each other for their own benefit they are more than happy to manipulate individuals to the same end.
    • Due to the extreme secrecy surrounding Inquisitors and the insidiousness of the forces of Chaos, most times an Inquisitor crosses paths with another during an investigation it ends in bloodshed. Due to the nature of the universe, however, one of them usually turns out to be correct about the other's corruption.
  • Champions Organization Book 2 PRIMUS and DEMON. The DEMON organization's plan to steal the Earth Crown of Krim from PRIMUS headquarters involves tricking PRIMUS into attacking the local superhero group.
  • Dragon #200 had a debate over who was Dungeons & Dragons' greatest wizard: Elminster (argued for by Ed Greenwood) or Raistlin (argued for by Tracy Hickman). At the end of the article, it was revealed that the fight was being set up by Mordenkainen.
  • Paranoia encourages players to do this. Failing that, Make It Look Like an Accident. Failing that, at least wait till they're distracted (possibly by something you set up) before ambushing them, rather than just attacking them at the first opportunity and giving them a chance to shoot back. Or just collect (or manufacture) evidence and throw them under the bus at the debriefing.

  • In Romeo and Juliet, Paris (Juliet's betrothed) goes to visit her grave at the same time that Romeo does — they each think the other is trying to defile her tomb, attack each other, and Paris dies. Romeo doesn't realize his mistake until Paris (with his dying breath) begs to be brought to Juliet's side so that he may join her in death.
  • In Twelfth Night, Sir Toby and Fabian urge their friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek to fight Cesario (Viola in disguise) in a fencing duel, with the hopes that Andrew might have a better chance of gaining Olivia's hand. Toby and Fabian accompany Andrew as dueling seconds, urging Cesario to participate in the duel. Moments later, Antonio encounters Cesario, mistaking him for Sebastian and asking for the money which he had entrusted to Sebastian. Later on, Andrew attacks Sebastian, mistaking him for Cesario, only for Sebastian to thrash and bruise Sir Andrew.

    Theme Parks 

  • Has happened a few times in BIONICLE, usually when the heroes have never met before (or at least, one doesn't recognize the other due to a Mid-Season Upgrade). The most blatant one, which has no such justification, comes when the Toa Hagah show up and say "Sorry, but, uh, we kind of have to cause some Monumental Damage to complete our mission.", to which the Toa Mahri say "Aw Karzahni no!" and they fight. After it breaks up, they lampshade that they're idiots for not even trying to come up with a less destructive plan for the Hagah to follow.

    Web Animation 
  • Really weirdly, in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, one of the "heroic" characters ends up fighting many of the others as a Non-Player Character in a Tabletop Roleplaying Game they're playing.

    It Makes Sense in Context. Sort of. As follows: First, Custodi's perverted comments finally get so bad that Brain Bleach isn't enough and the Emperor deletes him from existence. Soon after, the rest of the characters who hang out with the Emperor play a tabletop RPG set in the Warhammer Fantasy setting with some kind of magical thing that makes it a little bit real. After going majorly Off the Rails, the Player Characters encounter some ogres led by a powerful "Gorger Lord" that recently appeared from somewhere. This lord turns out to be Custodisi, who's desperately looking for a way back to his reality. Evidently, for him, it's all real. There's no recognition between him and the others, presumably because the player characters don't look like their players, and because even though Custodisi does look like himself, as an NPC, he's not seen by the players, only described by the Game Master. He ends up being the Final Boss of the game, although since the player characters are novices who aren't even supposed to be in this part of the world (and he's a kind of Super Super Soldier), he's way out of their league. They don't even have weapons that could harm him — at least without making a roll where the odds are much less than a Million to One Chance.

  • Antihero for Hire: Crossroad jumps Shadehawk because a doppleganger disguised as him ratted her Secret Identity out to her mob-boss father. Presently, Shadehawk is engaged in a running battle with the "Civic Champions" who think he's evil for a repeatedly unrevealed reason, which eventually turns out to be breaking into Tera Corp.
  • Arthur, King of Time and Space here, partly for the pun and partly as part of a quick little plan by Morgan.
  • In Circus Knights, the school's protectors attack Domino because he's carrying an unconscious girl, and someone's been going around putting girls in comas. About twenty pages later, one of the protectors points out that the girl Domino is carrying "Has shown signs of Narcolepsy."
    "You're kidding me... We could be attacking someone who tried to help Mrs. Blacksmith?... JOE! This isn't funny!!
  • Girl Genius has done a variant on this... until just before the Big Impressive Fight started, she was the Big Bad.
    • Also, it now is home to what may be the first ever version of this trope intentionally enacted by both heroes.
  • In Inverloch, Acheron is captured and put in an arena for fighting da'kor. Varden volunteers to fight him in order to fake Acheron's death and save him. In order to make the fight believable, Varden says something to anger Acheron, making him believe Varden has switched sides.
  • Magellan has an impressive aversion: a team from the future (and thus, unknown in the present) was attacked three times by other heroes in quick succession. The latter two they quickly resolved with diplomacy, and the first was a very short fight.
  • In Sluggy Freelance this happens between Berk and Torg during the K'Z'K storyline, since Berk thinks Torg is the one who summons the demon K'Z'K into the world and Torg just thinks Berk is a nut with a shotgun.
  • Played painfully straight in League of Super Redundant Heroes.
  • Karno's webcomic PeRKS has Savage Squirrel and Happy Jack cross paths while working two different cases. Savage orders Happy Jack to surrenderand Happy Jack promptly does. When Savage Squirrel wonders why, Happy Jack explains that she is working a slavery ring (Savage Squirrel is working a kidnapping). The two guess their cases are related and team up.
  • Novik from Tower of God eggs his team mates on to establish a strength hierarchy and beats almost all of them.
  • Energize vs the Heroes Unite Initiative in Energize: Hunted. As a result of both the HU Commander and Nemesis pursuing their own separate agendas.
  • In El Goonish Shive, an Immortal deliberately set up a fight between Elliot and a griffin named Tara in hopes of getting Elliot killed. This method was chosen, as Immortals are forbidden from acting directly.

    Web Originals 
  • Invoked (the author is a troper...) in Star Harbor Nights when Perfection Jones and Ray Vallenzio first meet.
  • Let's not forget the Deadliest Fiction Wiki, designed for the express purpose of playing this trope out.
  • In DEATH BATTLE!, there's usually no excuse for characters fighting each other, even if they're both good guys; it's more like a thought experiment on who would win played out. There are exceptions:
    • For "Superman vs. Son Goku", when Goku learns of Superman, he assumes Superman is an evil invading alien and launches a preemptive strike. Superman tries to reason with him, but Goku's Blood Knight tendencies make him keep attacking.
      • Which is still a humorous hand wave given Goku's tendency to offer mercy and second chances to even his most evil opponents. To say nothing of Superman.
    • For "He-Man vs. Lion-O", when Lion-O sees He-Man riding Battle Cat, he assumes He-Man is treating the cat as a slave instead of a partner. As Lord of the ThunderCats, Lion-O is outraged and attacks him.
    • For "Fox McCloud vs Bucky O'Hare", Bucky mistakes Fox's friend Slippy Toad for a member of the evil Toad Empire and kills him. Enraged, Fox attacks Bucky to avenge him.
  • Epic Rap Battles of History: A couple of Season 4 battles have one side invoking this on the other so as to disrupt team flow:
    • Lewis and Clark make note of Bill's stepmom, something which Ted agrees with and Bill isn't that pleased with, causing them to waste bars getting themselves squared away.
    • Sun Tzu points out that Socrates is the father of Western philosophy and by implication Nietzsche and Voltaire are his pupils. Nietzsche takes exceptionnote  and starts a feud with Socrates; Voltaire tries to play peacemaker but Socrates in turn was incensed at Voltaire (specifically his rigging of the French lottery) - Team West ended up bickering amongst themselves, just as Sun Tzu planned. Team East ended up doing the same to themselves after one Ice-Cream Koan too many.
  • The solution to the Wizard Standoff Riddle is to reject the most powerful wands to make yourself a weaker target, so that one of other two wizards will eliminate each other before your second turn.
  • Red vs. Blue This is the precise method that Charon Industries and its shadow forces spend years manipulating/building up the bitterness/enmity between the two main armies/people of the planet Chorus to have them kill each other instead of just simply nuking them, making it alarmingly suspicious to offworlders, and thus leading to them eventually tragically killing each other off during a long, bloody war, thus leaving its invaluable alien artifacts ripe for the taking for the ones that incited the whole conflict and fueled their hatred toward the two factions over the years and would have succeeded entirely if the Red & Blues hadn't interfered/broken the otherwise-endless cycle of hatred/resentment between said two factions of the New Republic and the Federal Army of Chorus.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1936 is a down in Lovecraft Country that plays host to a massive civil war between eldritch deities, supported by a cult known as the Victory Society. It turns out the Society is engineering the conflict in order to distract these monstrosities, turning them against one another before they can turn their focus and their terrible power on the rest of humanity.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, between the Gaang and Zuko the first time they meet after his Heel–Face Turn during the third season. Understandable given their history, which included a Heel–Face Turn he didn't quite complete at the end of the second season, something that Katara angrily reminds him off before and after he makes this one stick.
    • Earlier in the series, Sokka caused a rare heroic example of this trope. After the Gaang was captured by a group of pirates to trade to Zuko for a waterbending scroll, Sokka pointed out that Aang is the Avatar, and the Firelord would pay a much higher bounty for Aang than they could get fro the scroll. The pirates started fighting Zuko forces, creating a distraction for the Gaang to escape both groups.
  • In Fantastic Four: The Animated Series series, the Black Panther did it without a misunderstanding. It looked very much like he woke up one morning thinking hunting them would be fun. If completely unfamiliar with the character, you'd have thought he was a villain in the vein of Kraven the Hunter, but it turns out that he's, well, Black Panther, and he's testing the Four's strength to see if they were badass enough to help him out.
  • The crossover episode Ben 10/Generator Rex: Heroes United starts that way, with Rex Salazar mistaking Ben Tennyson for an EVO and Ben mistaking Rex for an alien. The fight is relatively short however, and most of the special deals with them cooperating.
  • In the Beware the Batman episode "Reckoning", Batman is simultaneously confronted by several of his enemies trying to claim the dead-or-alive reward offered by Ra's al Ghul. Batman surrenders to one of them, who is then attacked by another villain, and so on until Batman is able to simply walk away from the free-for-all.
  • Carmen Sandiego: V.I.L.E. leadership Dr. Maelstrom invokes this idea to his colleague Coach Brunt in order to break apart the alliance of the traitors Carmen and Shadowsan by revealing to the former Shadowsan killed Carmen's father on orders from the leadership council. What this plan fails to account for is the trust the two have in each other allows Carmen to work through her anger and just asks Shadowsan to confirm the details he can, and when third party evidence backs up his version of events, the alliance is stronger than ever.
  • In Celebrity Deathmatch, when they had daytime talkshow hosts Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell, and Jerry Springer in a match, Springer decided to go this angle by trying to pit Oprah and Rosie against each other while he stays safe. However, it comes back to bite him in the ass as the two ladies eventually realize he's playing them. They both decide to team up, grabbing one of his legs each, and then pulling until he splits down the middle.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door, "Dogfight" does this, by having The Kid fight Numbuh 2 (both of them like to eat chili dogs, which plays a role in the plot). Later turns out that the owner of the hobby shop they both frequent told The Kid that Numbuh 2 was trying to destroy chili dog stands. Guess who's really behind that plan (hint: he doesn't like chili dogs staining his counter). And, a la Buffy, we didn't find out until The Kid brought it up.
  • From the DC Animated Universe:
    • In the Superman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series crossover, there is a scene where Superman meets Batman for the first time while he is in the process of crossing two lines: a) Don't threaten and/or beat up the mooks any more than is necessary and b) Don't do it on Superman's turf. Supes tries to get Batman to stand down. Batman throws Superman across the room. A second later, Superman has him pinned to the wall, commenting that he had heard he was crazy, but "I didn't think you were stupid." Then Batman gets out the Kryptonite...
      Batman (holding out a minuscule sliver of Kryptonite as Superman buckles): It doesn't take much, does it? response to Superman using his X-Ray vision to discover who he is. All of this builds up to the end of the episode, which reveals the real reason for Batman's attack when (after Batman takes the time to warn him that The Joker is after him with a buttload more Kryptonite and departs) Superman finally gets a moment to himself in his apartment in his secret identity as Clark Kent, discovers a tracking device hidden on his cape, and looks out the window to see Batman, several blocks down, watching him through a pair of binoculars.
    • The same episode has the villains' sidekicks, Mercy Graves and Harley Quinn, fighting in a Funny Background Event during a meeting between Lex Luthor and The Joker.
    • The Zeta Project episode "Shadows" sets things up so that, in a spot of havoc by the rogue infiltration unit IU7, Batman becomes convinced that Zeta has returned to his old ways. Their encounter doesn't have the same visceral satisfaction of many other examples, as Zeta is barely even defending himself.
    • Static is giving Batman a hand with a villain's time machine in the Batcave when he's flung 40 years into the future. The new Batman, not recognizing him and reasonably considering him an intruder, tussles with him until the elderly Bruce Wayne breaks it up. He's been expecting this day, and he needs them both for a mission...
    • In the Justice League episode "The Terror Beyond", Superman, Wonder Woman, and Hawkgirl stumble upon Dr. Fate, Inza, and Aquaman apparently torturing Solomon Grundy. Supes demands that they stop; Dr Fate decides that there isn't enough time to explain what's going on. He makes a shield to block the heroes out, and when that fails, he magically teleports everyone away... and when that fails, Hawkgirl kicks his butt.
    • Technically, this trope also occurs in the episode "Paradise Lost". In it, both Wonder Woman and Superman have hallucinations in which they see each other as a monster and then proceed to attack each other. Superman discovers the ruse when he sees Wonder Woman's reflection in water. He tries to tell her, but she still sees him as a monster and continues to attack. One would think that she would start to wonder why it wasn't fighting back but she was so enraged that the thought never occurred to her. She finally snaps out of it when the monster answers her inquiry ("Where is Superman?!") by pointing to a mirror, revealing him to be the monster she was holding in a choke-hold.
    • In "Ultimatum", the Ultimen have literally no valid reason whatsoever to fight the Justice League other than deciding that, as failed clones who have ludicrously short lifespans, defeating the Justice League will make them be remembered after they die. Batman and even their own teammate Longshadow are very quick to point out how flawed their logic is and how pointless it is to fight for no reason, with Bats even believing that such irrational behavior has to be the fault of their minds deteriorating. It also happens to be one of the most genuinely tragic examples of this trope.
    • Then there's the Justice League Unlimited episode "Clash," which has Superman and Captain Marvel come to blows after Superman, having his suspicions about an underground device with a timer attached to it below Lex Luthor's newly-built city, refuses to listen to Marvel's reasonable suggestion to have some of the heroes check the device to see what it is. The resulting fight does considerable damage to the city which Luthor was counting on all along to bolster his growing popularity and paint the Justice League in a bad light and ends with Marvel quitting the League after a What the Hell, Hero? speech to the founding members.
    • The JLU episode "Double Date", not long before "Clash", has Green Arrow and Black Canary defending a loathsome, but under police protection mob boss against a rogue Huntress and Question. This ends up being a case where, out of four established characters with comparable abilities, there ends up being a clear winner. Probably due in part to them being depicted as the "good guys" in this encounter, Green Arrow and Black Canary win.
  • In the Futurama episode "The Farnsworth Parabox", when the Planet Express crew meet themselves from a Parallel Universe, both groups assume the other is evil, as mirror universe doppelgangers are always evil. Of course, neither are evil (not that either are good, either).
  • An episode of Hercules: The Animated Series had a crossover with Aladdin: The Series, with a Villain Team-Up of Jafar and Hades. After failing to destroy each other's nemeses, the villains engineered a fight between the two heroes.
  • In the House of Mouse short "Mickey's Cabin", Mickey is held hostage in his cabin by Pete and his cousin Zeke after they rob a bank, and Mickey outwits the two by convincing each of them that the other is going to steal the money they took.
    Mickey Mouse: Aww... gee, fellas. Don't fight, and whatever you do, don't use a hammer and a baseball bat.
    [Cue the hammer and baseball bat]
  • In the mini-series Indiana Jones and the Sargasso Pirates, New Jersey Jones (no relation to Indy; he's a con artist capitalizing on the Jones name) uses this trope verbatim to get Indy and Bill Lawton to fight.
  • Kappa Mikey: One episode does this, with Gonard and a lobster that had escaped from the kitchen.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon, Henery Hawk watches next to a boiling stew pot as Foghorn and Barnyard Dawg fight it out.
      Henery: I don't care who wins. I'll fricassee the loser!
    • In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "French Rarebit", Bugs is being pursued by two competing French chefs who each want him for the special of the day. Bugs tricks them into fighting each other so that he can get away.
    • Daffy Duck got in a similar situation in "What Makes Daffy Duck", where he's being hunted by a fox and by Elmer Fudd. He tries to get the pair into competing over who gets to have him.
    • Another Foghorn Leghorn cartoon has Daffy Duck as a salesman, selling traps to both Foghorn and Barnyard Dawg in what turns into an escalating prank war. Daffy gets sloppy however in the end when he sells both same kit. Upon seeing each other setting up the same trap, they quickly realize Daffy's game, and team up, trapping Daffy in the very trap he sold them.
  • Miraculous Ladybug typically doesn't have this trope come up, as the heroes tend to know when new heroes come around. Ladybug generally recruits a new hero with a Miraculous and Cat knows what is going on. The first time it happened he was surprised but his first instance was not 'hit Rena Rouge in face'. The time that Alya dons the Ladybug instead of the Fox Miraculous while Marinette is away is a different story, where he does in fact try to hit her in the face and have a brief fight. This is at least partially because Cat's first instinct was 'someone replaced Ladybug' and not 'Ladybug got a sub', though the example remains atypical,
  • Popeye: "What- No Spinach?", provoked by Wimpy. A waiter in Bluto's restaurant, Wimpy incites a Diner Brawl between Popeye and Bluto by spiking Popeye's roast duck with red pepper sauce, causing the sailor to march out in a huff. Bluto sees a customer leave without paying and attacks him, giving Wimpy free reign to plunder the food safe.
  • South Park: In "Tweek vs. Craig", the boys make up stories to get Tweek and Craig to fight.
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends: The episode dealing with the origin of Iceman manages to work in a fight between the two heroes prior to their official team-up, until Spidey managed to talk some sense into him.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series did it with Daredevil, who thought Spider-Man was the one who framed Peter Parker, given his particularly poor reputation at the time.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie": AGIMUS constantly tries to manipulate people into fighting each other. In particular, he stokes Boimler's resentment of Mariner's overbearing ways to goad him into fighting and eventually firing on Mariner. However, this turns out to be Boimler playing along in order to manipulate AGIMUS himself.
  • Steven Universe has a fight between Amethyst and Pearl in "On the Run". Amethyst battles Pearl because Amethyst feels really bad about where she came from and Pearl is being insensitive.
  • Brianne Drouhard has made a little animatic of Amy Winston clashing with the "Burrito Bandit" (implied and later revealed to be Batgirl of Super Best Friends Forever; there's evidence that both are very skilled with computers) online and swearing to find her. The creators of both shows seem to agree that they would end up as best friends. However, she has also gone on the record as saying that actually animating it would get her arrested.
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Deep Six", the Titans team up with Aqualad to stop a painfully-egotistical villain named Trident, who's using toxic chemicals to clone himself and take over the world. Because they all have the same thoughts and personality, Beast Boy is able to get all the clones to fight each other by saying that only one of them can be true perfection, letting their collective egos turn them against each other.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
  • In Transformers: Animated, the Autobots met Jetfire and Jetstorm this way, assuming them to be Decepticons because only Decepticons have access to flight modes. They were unaware that Jetfire and Jetstorm were the first Autobots to obtain fully functioning flight modes.
  • The Transformers G1 cartoon has a few examples. Season 3 twice contrives a way to have Optimus Prime and Rodimus Prime fight (once when Optimus has been brainwashed by the Quintessons, once when Rodimus has been infected with the Hate Plague). Before that "War of the Dinobots" saw Megatron manipulate the three original Dinobots into attacking Optimus Prime. Then the two new Dinobots turn up and...clue's in the title.
  • Brock arranges this in the season 3 finale of The Venture Bros., pitting General Treister's forces against The Monarch's. However, he doesn't anticipate Sgt. Hatred showing up with Hank and Dean's clones to turn it into a Mêlée à Trois, which is enough for Brock to come out of hiding and give himself up.
  • Winx Club:
    • In episode 22 of the third season, Riven mistakenly believes that Nabu (at the time using the fake name Ophir) is trying to steal Musa from him due to a Not What It Looks Like situation, and when he arrives at the Red tower where the others are, everyone but Nabu has been knocked unconscious after a fight with the guardians of the Red tower, and Riven assumes that Nabu was responsible for that as well. Before Nabu gets a chance to explain what is going on, Riven attacks him and Nabu has to fight back. Luckily, the others regain consciousness, stop the fight, and clear up the misunderstanding.
    • Also in the third season, Valtor creates illusions that make the various schoolmasters fight one another, to everyone's shock and confusion.
  • An unusual example in Young Justice with a hero pulling this on two villains. The team are captured and held in stasis, guarded by the powerful Black Beetle, who mopped the floor with them in the first place. Who does Arsenal free first in order to keep Beetle occupied? Mongul, a Galactic Conqueror who can go toe-to-toe with Superman.

    Real Life 
  • Some old-school American conservatives - Pat Buchanan most notably - have argued in recent years that the United States should have done the passive version of this trope during World War II, staying out of the war entirely and letting Nazi Germany and Communist Russia annihilate each other. On the other hand, Harry Truman argued that the U.S. should enter the war on the side of which of the two combatants was the weaker in order to neutralize the greater threat. Winston Churchill, meanwhile, asserted that the Nazis were definitely the biggest threat and that the Allies should team up with whoever opposed the Nazis, even if it was the Devil himself.
    • This did happen to some degree, depending on ones perspective. While air and naval campaigns were underway by the US, UK, and other allies, ground incursions didn't happen in Italy until September 1943, well after the Germans had been thrown back from Stalingrad and lost a large chunk of their army and France until June 1944, after Russia had made large amounts of progress and pushed Germany halfway back to Poland. The Soviets argued strenuously that both invasions begin as soon as possible.
    • America's position during WWI essentially amounted to this. The overwhelming majority opinion of American's was that the whole war was a case of Evil Versus Evil and there could be nothing but good from letting Imperial powers fight each other to the death.
  • The Communists in China used this during WWII to position themselves to take control of the country from the vanquished Japanese and exhausted Nationalists that had nominal control.
  • A lot of Eastern European historians (especially Polish ones) accuse the USSR of employing this tactic during WWII. They argue that once the Red Army had dealt a mortal wound to the German military at Leningrad and Stalingrad, they took their time liberating the rest of eastern Europe. This was done so that partisan groups would wear themselves out fighting the Nazis and anti-Soviet resistance would be minimal.
    • This point of view is supported, to a degree, by Russian inactivity during the Warsaw Rising of 1944. The Red Army was within striking distance of Warsaw by August 1944 and could have provided both material and physical support to the Polish partisan army. instead, the Russians held back and did nothing. While this could be explained in terms of the Red Army advance having out-run its logistic support, necessitating the Front regrouped for the next stage, it becomes harder to explain why British support aircraft were absolutely refused permission to refuel at Russian-held airfields - vitally necessary to ensure more than token air support could be made over Warsaw. Unless the observer takes the point of view that Stalin wanted the non-Communist resistence to weaken the Germans and destroy itself, so as to minimise post-war resistance to Soviet rule. (After the war, the minority Communist resistance was given the credit for the uprising - history was rewritten)
  • A complaint leveled against the US government by African American civil rights activists during The Vietnam War was that the war was being used to let the black and Asian men fight and kill each other while white imperialists reap the rewards.
  • Speaking of imperialists, this was a common strategy of colonial and imperial powers historically: make an "alliance" with one group of locals against another in exchange for their loyalty, then consolidate power over both of them once they've been weakened by the fighting. Getting local collaborators in your pocket is optional but encouraged.
  • This was the plan of the Yugoslav nationalists who arranged the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. And it worked. The action forced a fight between the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia) and the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy). They knew Austria-Hungary didn't have the economy or the political power to sustain a war on such a large scale. With the army off fighting in foreign lands, local rebellions ate away at Austria-Hungary's territory and it eventually went bankrupt. Though perhaps they got a bit more than they bargained for, in starting the first World War.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Fight Then Team Up, Marvel Misunderstanding


Kim Jong Un vs. Vladimir Putin

What would cause these two virile, peace-loving dictators to fight? The evil machinations from Barack Obama!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / LetsYouAndHimFight

Media sources: