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Mexican Standoff

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"You got guns on us. You decide to shoot, we're dead. Up top, they got grenades. They drop them down here, you're dead. That's a Mexican Standoff, and that was not the deal. No trust, no deal."
Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds

A stalemate in which everyone must lose.

This is typically dramatized as a situation where everyone is standing out in the open and has a weaponnote  pointed at someone else. All the threats are equally balanced to ensure a Mutual Disadvantage; no one is walking away from this standoff with what they came for. That being said, there is also no possibility of withdrawal; everyone is stranded in the situation, and Failure Is the Only Option, either because you attack (and die) or attempt to retreat (and die). Typically, such situations are only resolved by some form of Plot Twist or Deus ex Machina.

This trope can be constructed in a number of geometries: one against one, three or more to a side, free-for-all, or army against army. Frequently ends in a Blast Out when someone gets twitchy, figures the odds differently than everyone else and decides they have an advantage, or is just crazy enough to not care if they die too.

When this kind of standoff happens in Heroic Bloodshed movies, it usually takes the form of two characters with their guns in each other's faces at point blank range. Another version of the Mexican Standoff has three or more participants with guns leveled in ring-around-the-rosy fashion, so the person you've got covered is not the one covering you. Blades could be substituted for guns, meaning the person you've got covered just might survive long enough to retaliate.

Sometimes the situation is resolved in a civilized fashion with all involved parties realizing the suicidal position they are in and agreeing to put down their weapons, usually on a count of three to make sure no one ambushes the other. Occasionally, a downplayed Friend or Foe? situation results in a brief version of this.

It's Older Than Radio and has been around long enough to be parodied in the play The Critic, first staged in 1779. The term itself, however, originated in the 19th century — possibly in Australia, of all places — regarding perceived political indecision in Mexico.

Unsurprisingly, Mexicans don't refer to this as a Mexican standoff. In fact, no quippy Spanish equivalent seems to exist at all.

When entire nations do this, it's upscaled to Mutually Assured Destruction. Also a case of the famous "Prisoner's Dilemma": If everyone puts the gun down, everyone lives. If everyone shoots, everyone will die. But nobody wants to be the first to put the gun down and become vulnerable. Compare the Showdown at High Noon from Westerns, which sometimes take the form of this trope. It's also closely related to the Game of Chicken, where nobody wants to be the first to back down, but if nobody backs down, well…

Expect Extreme Close-Ups.

Not to be confused with Mexican rugby fly-halves. That is a stand-off that happens to be Mexican.


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  • Parodied in a banned Xbox 360 commercial, where an entire subway station spontaneously erupts into a Mexican Standoff, then a giant shootout... Only nobody is carrying any guns. They're just pointing Finger Guns at each other and yelling "Bang!"
  • A commercial for AT&T U-Verse uses this trope, but the people in question are a typical nuclear family and the "guns" are remotes.

    Anime & Manga 
  • A Mexican standoff involving paint guns occurs during chapter 82 of Ai Kora.
  • Baccano! has a fun standoff as three separate groups simultaneously try and hold up a dinner car on a train. Two groups have guns and the third has a knife. The guy with the knife quickly apologizes, closes the door, and walks away.
  • In the third episode of Berserk, Guts and Griffith have their first fight, which ends with Guts and Griffith presumably in a standoff, neither able to move without putting themselves at a disadvantage. However, Griffith manages to pull an ingenious move and win the day, which is very badass.
  • In the manga version of Black Butler, during the Noah's Ark Circus Arc, Ciel points a gun at Baron Kelvin, so Joker points his Sword Cane at Ciel's throat, so Sebastian holds his dagger against Joker's neck.
  • Happens at least three times — so far — in Black Lagoon. Once during Revy's epic battle with Roberta, then again (with three participants) in Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise, and finally the short standoff between Revy and Dutch during the Nazi arc following Revy getting the Whitman Fever and trying to gun down the noncombatant contractors on board the ship along with her Nazi quarry.
  • Cowboy Bebop:
    • Spike and Vicious engage in a Mexican Standoff in "Ballad of Fallen Angels". Spike's got a gun, and Vicious holds a katana to the space cowboy's chest. They both attack each other, and Spike nearly dies, revealing flashbacks about both men's pasts. One seems to develop earlier in the same episode where Spike encounters an armed mook holding Faye as a hostage/human shield. Spike casually shoots him in the head.
    • Repeated in "The Real Folk Blues (Part 2)". Interestingly, the standoff is a result of each man disarming the other. Spike has Vicious's sword, Vicious has Spike's gun. In a Shout-Out to A Better Tomorrow II, they give them back and then both die.
  • Code Geass:
    • Subverted when C.C. pulls a gun on Lelouch, threatening to shoot him in the leg, in order to stop him from leaving. Lelouch responds by drawing a gun of his own, but since C.C. is immortal and needs him alive to fulfill their contract, he points his gun not at C.C. but at his own head, threatening to kill himself if he isn't allowed to leave.
    • The first season ends with a Mexican Standoff that's resolved after the Fade to Black. One of the big mysteries going onto the Oddly Named Sequel is what exactly happened, since all parties involved are shown to be alive and well one year later (not to mention the protagonist's little sister has been replaced by a little brother). There's another standoff much earlier, but that one is possibly disqualified by the fact that one side consists of two men with pistols while the other is a Humongous Mecha with a supersized gun bigger than both men combined...
  • The final episodes of Death Note should count. Though Matsuda was the only one using his gun; We have Light, Mikami with his death note, the Japanese police, Near, and the SPK at each other's throats. Someone was about to kill someone, and until the end, it was Matsuda that was quick on the draw.
  • In an episode of Dominion Tank Police, there is a standoff in a sewer. Buaku and his police hostage are fleeing with a stolen portrait when they are accosted by power-armor wearing mercenaries called Red Commandoes. Then the Puma Sisters show up and point guns at the Commandoes. Then the tank police show up and point guns at both. Guns are pointed at everyone. No one moves, no one talks, because they all know what will happen. Then someone sneezes...
  • In the FLCL episode "Brittle Bullet", Haruko and Commander Amarao end up in one when she reveals herself as the woman cutting his hair. They each have a gun pointed at the other's head.
  • Futakoi Alternative has a hilariously awesome three-way Mexican Standoff.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell: Arise continuity, Motoko's first encounter with Batou resulted in his gun pointed at her head and her knife at his throat. This was defused when the person who assigned both of them to guard him stepped in to clarify the situation.
  • In Maiden Rose, Klaus and Berkut have a brief standoff when Berkut's sword is at Klaus' neck while Klaus' gun is pointed at Berkut's head. Unfortunately for Klaus, Berkut notices immediately that the gun is jammed. Azusa begins shooting from behind him before Berkut can do anything about it, though.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny ends with a Mexican Standoff. At first, it's only between Durandal and Kira; then Rey appears and takes aim at Kira from behind, only to lower his weapon at Kira's Kirk Summation. Then Gladys rushes into the room, and Athrun arrives on the elevatornote . He calls out Kira's name, and all five aim their gun at someone. Finally, a shot rings out, Durandal collapses… and the rest of them all look back at Rey as he falls to his knees in tears. Gladys immediately runs up to Durandal, who asks her whether she was the one who took the shot. She wasn't — it was Rey.
  • Done in Mysterious Girlfriend X, but instead of guns, we get scissors and legs.
  • One Piece:
    • When Luffy is captured by bandit leader Higuma in the prologue, Red Haired Shanks steps forward and a random mook points a gun at his head. Shanks, showing no signs of fear, asks him if he's prepared to pull the trigger. The mook hesitates long enough for Lucky Roo (Shanks's crewmate) to shoot him from behind.
    • When Luffy recruits Master Swordsman Zoro, spoiled brat Helmeppo points a gun at Sidekick Coby while his father Morgan attacks Luffy from behind. Luffy knocks out Helmeppo and Zoro slashes Morgan before he can hurt Luffy.
    • A standoff (of sorts) happens in the Baratie arc when Forced into Evil Gin points a shotgun at Chef of Iron Zeff in attempt to make Hero cook Sanji leave the ship (as Gin doesn't want him to get hurt), but Sanji who is indebted to Zeff tells Gin to point the gun at him instead, Gin doesn't doesn't comply so Sanji lets other henchman Pearl give him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown forcing Gin to pull a Judas and smash Pearl so he can fight Sanji himself.
    • A more traditional one happens after the midnight battle of Whiskey Peak; when Adventurer Archaeologist Nico Robin appears suddenly on board the ship, everybody panics and Usopp points a slingshot at her head while Sanji points a gun at her, but Robin, disliking their hostility, disables both of them with her very "handy" devil fruit powers.
    • Robin appears in another standoff against seasoned badass Iceburg who points a gun at her and she proceeds to point eight guns at him using her powers.
    • Sanji takes the lead in another standoff on Zou when Capone "Gang" Bege captain of the Firetank pirates (The Mafia) has captured Sanji and his crew and if he doesn't he comply they will sink Sanji's crush Gold Digger Nami into the floor. Sanji acts like he's going along with it but then throws Nami and the crew to safety and points a rifle at plot-important Mad Scientist Caesar Clown's head, threatening to blow his brains out if the gangsters go after his crew.
  • Psychic Squad features a very prolonged metaphysical standoff between Big Bad Kyosuke and Badass Normal Minamoto; they both possess the means to kill each other (Kyosuke has Reality Warper psychic powers, Minamoto has a gun specifically engineered to kill high-level Espers like him), but neither one will actually pull the trigger because if they do, Living Macguffin Kaoru is all but certain to side with the martyr and bring about the future the killer doesn't want.
  • Psycho-Pass:
    • The premiere of season 2 sees a big one of these: after Akane has cornered the latent criminal Kitazawa on a rooftop, he has a shaky finger on the detonator for his suicide vest. Akane refuses to raise her Dominator at him since she doesn't want to kill him, but Enforcer Hasuike is on a neighboring rooftop and has his weapon pointed at Kitazawa. Then Ginoza points his Dominator at Hasuike, and then Inspector Aoyanagi points her Dominator at Ginoza. The situation is resolved when Kitazawa's Crime Coefficient drops into the nonlethal zone and Akane brings him in alive.
    • In the end of episode 6, Akane and Kamui get in one of these. In a twist, neither of them can fire; Akane's Dominator doesn't register Kamui's existence, while Kamui's Dominator is locked since Akane's Crime Coefficient is too low for enforcement action.
  • In Rave Master, Elie and a villain get into one. Elie pulls the trigger while the guy is talking. He survives.
  • Trigun:
    • The manga features a multi-person standoff consisting of Wolfwood, Zazie, Hoppered, Midvalley, and Legato all holding multiple guns to each other. Vash is kind of involved, too, since Legato's using his power to keep Vash from exploding. It was kinda awesome to watch. Then Meryl pops up from beneath Vash to resolve it.
    • Vash and Knives, in their climactic showdown in the finale of the anime, have a very protracted (and very dramatic) one-on-one standoff, where every attempt to break the stalemate by one character is instantly copied by the other. Vash breaks it when Wolfwood's voice sounds in his head, at which point he realizes that he's standing on the Punisher, giving him a move Knives can't copy.

    Card Games 
  • In the card game The Good, The Bad, and The Munchkin, there is a card called Mexican Standoff which does indeed balance the sides in any given battle.
  • Short ones often occur in Magic: The Gathering when either player making a move would give the other an opportunity to kill them. It generally lasts until one player draws the right card.
    • The card Standstill explicitly invokes this trope. Drawing three cards (basically for free) is an enormous advantage, and no player would want to allow their opponents such advantage. What this card does is that if a player casts a spell, all of his or her opponents draw three cards. The effect is all the more devastating, and the trope most invoked, the more players there are in the game. It often literally ends up in a standoff, with all players waiting to see who will cast the first spell.

    Comic Books 
  • The final issue of East of West starts with a Mexican Standoff between the Ranger, Archibald Chamberlain, and Bel Solomon. Chamberlain has rigged the situation in his favor by secretly emptying Solomon's gun beforehand, but ends up negating his own advantage by shooting Solomon first anyways out of anger, giving the Ranger an opening to gun him down.
  • Gloriously averted in an issue of Fray when Fray and a mook are pointing guns into each other's faces:
    Mook: Well, it appears we have a standoff.
    (Fray shoots him in the face)
    Fray: I don't have a standoff.
  • A three-way version in Hitman with Tommy Monaghan, a random Mook, and Batman. Tommy has two guns, Batman doesn't have any, and he had his arms tied behind his back as well. Tommy talks the mook into pointing his gun at Batman, then leaves since nobody is pointing a gun at him. Batman later disarms the mook, because he's Batman.
  • Happens to the Hulk's supporting cast in an issue of The Incredible Hulk. For some reason, writer Peter David thinks this is the perfect opportunity to deliver a topically belated, satirical comment: "Is it just me, or is this how we got involved in Vietnam?" (The comic in question was from 1994)
  • In one issue of Marvel Team-Up, The Punisher and Blade have a gun and katana to each other's heads, respectively. Blade suggests they both stand down, and lowers his weapon. Punisher doesn't move. Blade: "…" He then turns away, and Punisher shoots him in the back.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Power Rangers work Constants, it's referenced by name.
  • Androgyninja's A Drop of Poison: Naruto and Kiba's Chuunin Exam match ends this way: one of Naruto's bunshin has a kunai against Kiba's neck, but Kiba is poised to rip out the real Naruto's jugular. When neither is willing to concede, Hayate announces that it's a tie, and neither qualifies to advance.
  • In Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger, a three-way standoff occurs between Alpha's team of droids, Sando's Boys, and the Apex Society, with members from all three groups pointing blasters at each other. Omega refers to the situation as a "Tatooine standoff".
  • In the Halo fanfiction The Life, Frank, Pavel, and two redshirts get into a short one with a Spartan III team. The misunderstanding is quickly fixed, though. Through talking, not shooting.
  • Incorrectly named in My Immortal. Ebony yells out in one of the last chapters: "they're having a Latin standoff!" Considering this is My Immortal, it's likely a parody, though.
  • Old West: This trope pops up regularly.
    • In the 1st chapter, Sheriff Rango jumps in a barrel while escaping Tomson and his two mercenaries. As Tomson is about to yank Rango out, the sheriff points his gun at the rat's face while the other two mercs point theirs at the chameleon. The stalemate is broken by the townsfolk coming to Rango's rescue.
    • In the 3rd chapter, Rattlesnake Jake attacks Grace Glossy when she tries to flee upon spotting him and pins her to the ground with his coils. As she struggles and manages to get a hold of his tail gun, he places his coils around her throat in an attempt to choke her. Fortunately, Rango turns deadly serious, points his gun at Jake's head and demands him to release Grace. A long moment of glaring contest follows until Jake admits that his position is precarious and backs off.
    • In the 16th chapter, Delilah Rangler comes to Grace's property in order to report Jake her progress on the assignment he has given her. Beans threatens her with a gun, only for the bobcat to whip out her revolver and point it back at Beans until Jake arrives.
    • In the 28th chapter, Irvin Worst places his ax against Dufayel's throat, but Dufayel is unconcerned because he has placed his revolver against the lizard's gut. Before the stalemate can get messy, the fox starts talking business, prompting Worst to back off.
  • In Queen of All Oni, a brief one occurs during the initial fight for the second mask — Tohru captures Jade, so Right (one of her Co-Dragons) retaliates by holding a sword at his neck, and Uncle in turn aims his wand at Right. It's quickly broken up when Ratso accidentally gains the mask, which provides enough of a distraction to allow Jade to escape.
  • Hawkmoth and Ladybug learn each other's identities at the same time while in his dining room in Someone to Watch Over Me. She has the element of surprise since she transformed first, but she's seen him fight off both her and Chat Noir at the same time before, and it seems like he wants to talk, so she doesn't immediately leap to the attack. If they walk away, though, both of them can get reinforcements.
  • In Undocumented Features, a three-way standoff is described as a "Carggian standoff." Another character replies, "Well, we moved from Mexico when you showed up."
  • There's a crossover fanfiction wherein the Eighth Doctor, Blade, Buffy, Mulder, and Scully find themselves in one of these. When a swarm of vampires suddenly show up, the Doctor — the only one involved without a weapon — remarks that things are starting to get a bit ludicrous...

    Films — Live-Action 


  • Quentin Tarantino loves this trope.
    • The movie Reservoir Dogs features a few instances of the trope. Toward the beginning, an argument between Mr. White and Mr. Pink gets heated, and they end up pulling guns on each other. They hold for a moment, then both lower their guns. At the climax, an undercover cop and three villains are caught in a tense three-way standoff. Bad guy one shoots the cop, bad guy two shoots bad guy one, bad guy three shoots bad guy two and bad guy two returns fire. In the end, Mr. White holds Mr. Orange at gunpoint, while the cops (off-screen) point guns at Mr. Pink.
    • In the climax of Pulp Fiction, Jules disarms Pumpkin at gunpoint, Honeybunny freaks and turns her gun on Jules, and a returning Vincent takes aim at Honeybunny while also threatening to shoot Pumpkin until Jules shuts him down. Unlike most other examples, Jules and Vincent could have ended the standoff at any time.
    • True Romance ends with a big standoff between the police, the mafia, and the bodyguards of a Hollywood producer. And Clarence & Alabama.
    • A two-man version shows up in Natural Born Killers, which drops the trope name.
    • Kill Bill features a standoff between a hitwoman and Beatrix, who has recently learned she's pregnant and wants no part of it.
    • Inglourious Basterds features two separate stand-offs in a single scene. In the first, an SS agent and a British spy point pistols at each other's testicles beneath a bar table. Later, a German soldier and the rest of the Basterds have each other at a stalemate, during which time they argue about whether their position could be called a Mexican Standoff.
  • The two-person point-blank variant of this is used in John Woo's A Better Tomorrow II, The Killer (1989), Bullet in the Head, Broken Arrow (1996), and Hard Boiled. As a result, it's sometimes called the "John Woo Standoff."
    • John Woo is fond of these kinds of standoffs. There's the standoffs between Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee from The Killer (1989), between Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in Hard Boiled, and between most of the main cast in Red Cliff Part II — albeit with swords, of course, since that was set in Three Kingdoms period China. There's also the moment in Face/Off where Sean Archer and Castor Troy end up in a standoff at a church, with Archer's FBI agents and family on one side, and Castor's family and crew on the other, which is made very dramatic by the fact that Archer and Castor are wearing each other's face and both sides are trying to convince the other which is which. When the stalemate is finally broken, the shootout that commences is the most memorable of the entire movie.
    • Subverted on Broken Arrow (1996), where a suspect snatches the gun from a park ranger's holster and aims it at her, only to realize she's drawn a hunting knife and set it against his throat. He points out the disparity in their weapons' effectiveness, and she agrees… because she doesn't keep her sidearm loaded. She's lying, and admits it after he forfeits the pistol.

Individual films

  • American Made: Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is disavowed by the CIA after working for them covertly, and while frantically trying to get rid of evidence, he is simultaneously arrested by the DEA, ATF, Arkansas State Police and the FBI, who are pointing their guns at each other as much as they're pointing them at Barry.
  • Assassins (1995). Two hitmen are on either side of a bulletproof divider in a taxicab after an unsuccessful Not My Driver ploy. Neither can get out of the taxi without being killed, so the younger (and crazier) hitman breaks the stalemate by threatening to shoot an innocent bystander unless he starts driving. Then follows a car chase to avoid pursuing police vehicles while at the same time each hitman is trying to kill the other.
  • In Big Trouble in Little China, the Chang Sing gang and the villainous Wing Kong gang have what Wang calls a "Chinese standoff" before their big fight near the beginning of the movie.
  • The Blob (1988): During the climax, Brian pulls a military rifle on Dr. Meddows, getting into a stand-off between the two, the army, and the local police. Meddows tries to convince everyone to shoot Brian, and Brian reveals to everyone that Meddows is the mastermind behind what's happening. Meddows snaps and pulls a gun himself only to get dragged into the sewers by the titular monster.
  • Boris and Natasha: The climax has the heroes and villains pointing guns at each other. Boris realizes that the only way everyone can survive is if he uses dynamite to blow up all the time reversal chips.
  • Branded to Kill features a very odd subversion, almost a Deconstruction. The Number One Killer pulls a gun on the the Villain Protagonist, who responds in kind as dictated by the trope. Then the Number One Killer says "We'll have to split the bed." They stand next to each other for days, as the Sociopathic Hero goes crazier and crazier. The Number One Killer is unfazed.
  • This leads to tragedy in Courage Under Fire. A mutinous soldier is pointing his weapon at Captain Walden, when Iraqi troops suddenly appear out of the darkness behind him. Walden fires at the Iraqis, and is shot in return by the soldier, who thinks she was shooting him. When Walden later makes it clear that she isn't going to let either his would-be mutiny or shooting her go, he engineers Walden's death by Unfriendly Fire.
  • Circus: The showdown in the Greasy Spoon ends up with Leo pointing a gun at Julius; Bruno's men pointing guns at Leo; and Moose pointing guns at the thugs.
  • Another Hong Kong film, Ringo Lam's City on Fire, features a Mexican standoff near the end of the film, similar to the one later seen in Reservoir Dogs (see below).
  • Corky Romano, a comedy revolving around a veterinarian with a mafia family he never knew about being used to infiltrate the FBI. The climax of the film has a Mexican Standoff of sorts that is really a half dozen men walking up to each other in a line, each doing a *Click* Hello.
  • Referenced (perhaps) in The Court Jester in a joke Hawkins tells the king:
    Hawkins: The Duchess dove at the Duke just when the Duke dove at the Doge. Now the Duke ducked, the Doge dodged, and the Duchess didn't. So the Duke got the Duchess, the Duchess got the Doge, and the Doge got the Duke!
  • Parodied by Date Night: "Oh my God everyone is pointing guns at everyone!"
  • Variant in the climax of the kung-fu film, The Deadly Knives. The hero is an expert in throwing knives, while the Yakuza Big Bad has a gun trained on the hero. The hero's best friend pulls a Heroic Sacrifice via Taking the Bullet, getting himself pumped full of lead before the hero hurls a knife into the villain's neck.
  • In Death on the Nile (2022) when Poirot uncovers Jacqueline and Simon as the culprit, Jacqueline points a gun at Poirot and at the others in the room to make their escape. Poirot raises his gun and Salome also aims a gun at Jacqueline and Simon to even the odds.
  • D.E.B.S.. Lucy and Amy end up pointing their guns at each other the first time they meet and have a debate about who's going to put their gun down first.
  • The Departed: Costigan, Sullivan, Barrigan, Brown. An abandoned apartment building. Three bodies. Sullivan walks away.
  • In Dragonheart, with the knight Bowen standing in the dragon's mouth, sword pointed up. If the dragon bites down, the sword goes through his brain. If Bowen stabs the dragon, his jaw comes down.
  • The first James Bond film, Dr. No, has Bond outwitting a would-be assassin by hiding behind the door while the assassin attempts to kill him in his room. Bond has the assassin drop his gun on a rug and sit down while he interrogates the man. Bond would occasionally take a drink during the conversation, which the assassin used to slide his gun closer to him by dragging the rug. Eventually, the assassin regained his gun and pointed it at Bond, saying that they are now at a standstill, to which Bond casually shrugs and simply shot the guy. It should be noted that the assassin had used all of his bullets earlier shooting the bed which he believed contained Bond. As Bond knew this fact, it was easier for him to react calmly to a gun pointed at him.
  • At the climax of Enemy of the State Dean resolves the conflict by engineering a standoff between the rogue government agents who are after him and the mob goons who'd previously threatened him. Notably, neither of these groups has any reason to fight the other, but Dean manages to trick them into a showdown that neither side will back down from.
  • One of the most famous scenes from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly involves the titular characters in one of these, and may well be the Trope Codifier. Despite that, it is actually a subversion. Blondie knew that Tuco's gun was unloaded, so he knew to shoot Angel Eyes and deal with Tuco later.
  • The end of the French film La Haine sees Hubert and a cop with guns in each other's faces in the immediate aftermath of Vinz getting shot and killed by accident, ending with a single gunshot and a Smash to Black.
  • In the Hitman movie, the main character is in an Mexican Standoff with three assassins out to kill him. Why the assassins are pointing guns at each other and not just at the guy they're supposed to kill is a good question, but it is quickly overshadowed by the fact that they decide to "die with a little dignity" by ejecting the magazines from their guns, dropping their guns, and each pulling out a pair of mini-katanas, and after another brief standoff in which the 4 assassins cross their swords a la the 3 musketeers, they then have a swordfight.
    • As for why they're pointing guns at each other, it's most likely because the guy who completes the contract by killing 47 is the only guy who gets paid.
  • A huge one occurs in the B-Movie The Immortals. The leaders of two gangs direct about a dozen people each on who they should be covering, every one with Guns Akimbo. It all hits the fan when an Innocent Bystander drops some plates. Most of the good guys somehow make it out alive (if wounded), even though everyone involved in the shootout were standing only a few feet away from each other.
  • In Bruges has Ray and Harry getting into one of these in the middle of the bed-and-breakfast. Harry is too principled to get into a gunfight with the pregnant landlady right there in harm's way, and she refuses to leave, so they hilariously argue about how they can continue the fight elsewhere.
  • in Infamous (2020), one happens among the bank robbers after police surround the bank as a result of Arielle livestreaming the robbery on social media. Kyle pulls a gun on Arielle, Dean pulls a gun on Kyle, and the rest of the gang pulls guns on Dean. Kyle even refers to it by name. It ends in a Blast Out.
  • Done much more simplistically in the film The Departed is based on, the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs. Only three people, rather than the addition of another two a bit later on.
  • In Jojo Rabbit after Jojo finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa in their house, he proposes they make a deal. He says that if he tells his mother he knows, she'll kick Elsa out which she obviously doesn't want. However, he knows if he tells the Gestapo and they arrest her, she'd rat the two of them out and they'd get in trouble. He calls it a Mexican stalemate and Elsa replies that it's really just a normal stalemate. They both agree to not tell, in exchange he'll bring her food and she'll tell him everything he wants to know about Jews.
  • Near the conclusion of Lust in the Dust, a 1985 film, nearly everyone is pointing guns at each other over a chest of gold. Marguerita (Lainie Kazan) is the lone character without a gun — she exclaims, "This is not fair!" The others give her a pistol out of fair play.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Done on an organisation-wide basis in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Steve Rogers broadcasts that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA, causing the loyalists and the infiltrators to point guns at each other, including Agent 13 and Brock Rumlow. Brock drops his pistol in apparent surrender, then uses a knife to slash 13's gun-arm. A Blast Out ensues.
    • In Ant-Man, near the end of the film, Hope, Cross, and his guards are all training guns at each other. Lampshaded by Carson, who moves backwards out of the firing line.
      Carson: And here we go...
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, after Yondu's Ravager crew finally succeeds in capturing Rocket, a disagreement over what to do with him escalates into a full-blown mutiny attempt, culminating with a standoff in which all of the mutineers and all of the loyalists are aiming at each other with every weapon they have in their possession. The impasse doesn't last very long before Nebula catches up and incapacitates both Yondu and Rocket, allowing the mutineers to take control.
    • Avengers: Infinity War has Star-Lord and Iron Man holding each partnernote  hostage by threatening to shoot them if they don't get answers.
  • The Matrix franchise:
    • Near the end of the first movie, Neo and Agent Smith have their guns to each others' heads, only to find that both their guns are empty.
      • The scene even begins with a newspaper blowing across subway platform like a tumbleweed.
    • In a memorable moment in The Matrix Revolutions, Morpheus, Seraph, and Trinity confront the Merovingian at his nightclub to secure freedom for a limbo-ridden Neo. There were easily at least 20 people involved. When the Merovingian demands "the eyes of the Oracle" in return, Trinity decides she doesn't have time for this shit and points a gun at his head. Merovingian calls off the standoff with no bloodshed after he realizes that the trio aren't going to back down.
  • Men in Black 3: Parodied when J and 1969!K go to a bowling alley for information, and K gets into a standoff with one of the aliens. K has his single gun, and the alien has four arms, one gun in each of them. It's resolved by J knocking the alien out from behind.
    K: Looks like we've got ourselves a standoff.
    Alien: Looks that way.
  • Parodied many times in The Mummy Trilogy.
    • First in the original, two rival archaelogical crews put each other at gunpoint when they fight over a dig site, which Evy breaks when she finds another dig site and persuades Rick that there are other places to dig.
    • In The Mummy Returns, the three thieves get into a standoff with the cult who hired them over how much money is owed. The ditziest of the thieves points his gun at his leader.
  • In Munich, one occurs when Louis (the Israeli assassination team's source of intelligence) double-books their Athens safe house and a group of assorted revolutionaries stumbles in at the dead of night.
  • In A Man Called Nereus, a federal agent draws his gun at the same time a bystander points his shotgun at him. The bystander won't even let the agent reach into his pocket for his ID. He eventually lowers the gun when told that he could spend years in jail.
  • Next Day Air ends with a Mexican Standoff that goes bad and kills half the cast (and almost kills half the rest).
  • Discussed in Nick of Time by Ms. Jones when Gene pulls a gun on her, unaware that she has a gun pointed at his daughter.
  • In one of The Pink Panther movies, a soldier is shooting at the baddies. A baddie sneaks behind the soldier and puts a knife to his throat, telling him not to move. Another soldier gets behind him and puts a gun to his throat, telling him the same thing, creating a sort of blade-based Mexican Standoff. As they are all there unmoving and unsure about what to do, a grenade drops nearby and blows them all up.
  • One of the Running Gags in Pirates of the Caribbean is to find and use new humorous variants of this trope.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Used to interesting effect when the cursed Pirates have a sword to Elizabeth's throat, while Will Turner has a gun to his own head (If he kills himself there, the pirates can never lift the curse.) It initially just causes confusion because the pirates have no idea who he is.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Norrington, Jack, and Will engage in a Mexican standoff — but with swords. Norrington points to Will, Will to Jack... and Jack doesn't know who to point to, deciding to point, late, to Norrington.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End has a particularly interesting one, involving five people (one of whom isn't even directly related to the argument and pulls out his guns because everyone else does), each with two guns pointing at two other people. During the course of a conversation, they constantly switch who they are pointing their guns at. The whole thing becomes moot when Jack tries to shoot Barbossa. The shot is a dud, prompting everyone to fire at everyone else with the exact same result. Turns out flintlock guns don't work when they have wet gunpowder.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Jack, Angelica, and Scrum over the mermaid's tear.
  • A brief subversion shows up early in Predators. When Stans realizes what sort of a Death World they're on, he demands for someone to give him a gun, because his knife isn't going to cut it. After no one volunteers to give a gun to the friendly neighborhood Serial Killer, Stans catches Mombassa by surprise, holds a knife to Mombassa's neck, and demands a gun. Mombassa calmly points a gun at Stans' head, explains that he's Not Afraid to Die, and waits. It takes all of about two seconds for Stans to back down.
  • A three-way one with four participants occurs in Primal. Loffler is holding a gun to Ellen's head. Frank is aiming an arrow at Loffler's chest. Freed is pointing a gun at Frank's back. If anyone fires, they're likely to kill at least two people as various weapons go off.
  • In the film of Prince Caspian, Caspian confronts Miraz and puts a sword to his throat. Then Miraz' wife points a crossbow at Caspian. Then Susan walks in and points her bow at Mrs. Miraz.note 
  • Late in Repo Man, there's one in a convenience store involving 1) Otto's friends who've come in to rob the store, 2) the brothers also trying to chase down the Malibu, and 3) the store's security guard. All three keep moving their guns back and forth at the other two.
  • Retroactive: In one of the temporal loops, Karen takes Frank's accomplice hostage at the gas station, only for the Sheriff to walk in at that moment. This results in an armed standoff between herself, the Sheriff, and Frank, which ends with Frank killing the Sheriff.
  • Subverted in Rik Mayall Presents The Big One. Contains a five way Mexican Standoff. The guns are aimed this way and that, while three of the five people involved run off as soon as no-one is aiming at them. The two people left aiming at each other are on the same side.
  • A particularly well-done and tense Mexican Standoff is done in the latter half of The Rock, as seen here.
  • In Saving Private Ryan, there is a Mexican standoff between a group of German soldiers and a group of Americans. As both were taken by complete surprise, nobody dares to shoot first, but they insult and intimidate each other instead. A second score of Americans enters, and literally blows the status quo.
  • Lampshaded in the Jackie Chan movie Shanghai Noon. The corrupt sheriff comes in during the ransom money trade-off and pulls out dual pistols, aimed at Jackie and Owen Wilson. This is on top of the heroes having the other villain at gunpoint with the princess and royal guards also in the fray. He quips, "How bout that... it's a Mexican standoff... only we ain't got no Mexicans."
  • Hilariously played with in Shaun of the Dead when, in order to actually make the standoff 'fair', a character from one side hands a weapon to a character on the other side.
  • In Showdown in Little Tokyo, the heroes and the Yakuza end up in a standoff when they're taken to see the boss. The culture-savvy cop notes that they should make an effort to respect them if they are to be let off with a warning, but when he realizes that it's the same man who murdered his parents in Japan years before he immediately points his gun at the boss's head. The situation eventually defuses when he points out that too many people saw them come in, so they can't just make the two L.A. cops simply disappear.
  • Six Reasons Why opens with a Mexican standoff between The Nomad, The Entrepreneur, The Sherpa and The Criminal in the middle of the desert. The rest of the film is dedicated to explaining How We Got Here.
  • The film version of Stardust has Tristan and Septimus getting into the knifey-equivalent to this.
  • Ken and Ryu walk into one in Street Fighter between Bison and Sagat after the former attempts to pay Sagat in Bison Dollars (which verge on Counterfeit Cash) — and then the Standoff is interrupted by Chun-Li and her allies sending a truck full of explosives towards the illegal weapons bazaar everyone was at (Bison and everyone else narrowly escape).
  • The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe is an unknowing pawn in a scheme between two interdepartmental government rivals who is set up to appear to be a whistle-blower agent. When factions from both sides converge on his apartment, they all draw guns — as they face off, they agree that as professionals, they won't shoot each other... then a trick cigar (given to the pawn by his friend) smoldering in an ashtray blows up, and all four men gun each other down.
  • The film Time And Tide has two characters, a regular soldier and a special-ops mercenary, pull pistols on each other simultaneously. The soldier says "Now we are equal," and the mercenary shoots him immediately, then spits on his body, saying "I only speak with my gun."
  • Done between a squad of Army rangers and Sector Seven agents in Transformers (2007). Broken up by Defense Secretary Keller, who suggests the agents do what the rangers say. "Losing's not really an option for these guys."
    • Happens and even gets referenced by name in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. During the scene where they believe the Decepticons are targeting Sentinel Prime, the Autobots protect him as they get him to NEST headquarters where the Pillars are located. When two of the Dreads show up with their guns, Ironhide and Sideswipe counter with their own. After Sideswipe Lampshades it, he and Ironhide offer to let the Dreads 'put down their guns and leave with their dignity still intact'. The Dreads do as they say, and so do the Autobots, then the Dreads try to use their hidden weapons. Sides' and 'Hide proceed to kick the metal shit out of them without their guns.
    Ironhide: Class dismissed.
  • The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent sticks Nick and Javi in an indecisive shootout. Each receives an assignment to kill the other, but strongly refuses to eliminate his friend. Ultimately, the Big Bad's gunners chase both guys off of the dueling grounds.
  • The ending of Until Death, a 2007 Jean-Claude Van Damme film, have Van Damme's character and the villain pulling guns on each other. Here's the fun part; the movie actually have two different regional endings. The North American version (which also doubles as the International version) has Van Damme pulling the trigger first, killing the villain; said movie then ends with Van Damme embracing his pregnant wife, and is later shown raising his illegitimate daughter. The European version instead ends with both of them pulling the trigger at the same time, resulting in a Mutual Kill, and the film ends with Van Damme's wife and illegitimate daughter visiting his grave years later.
  • As tensions rise in We All Die Alone, two warring gangs draw their guns leading up to a tragic conclusion.
  • Welcome to Dongmakgol: The one between the North and South Korean soldiers in the village lasts all afternoon, all night, and into the next day, and only ends when a North Korean soldier falls asleep on his feet and drops his grenade.

  • An indirect version in the Able Team novel Warlord of Azatlan. Carl Lyons gets into a taxi in Guatemala only to have a Rebel Leader climb in also. Carl draws his pistol on the man, who points out that the nearest buildings include the Presidential palace and the headquarters of the National Police, guarded 24 hours by sharpshooters. If Carl were to start shooting, he wouldn't outlive the rebel by very long.
  • Aeon 14: The third act of Destiny Lost has a five-way standoff between the Intrepid Space Force (the protagonists) and four fleets that are all trying to get their hands on ISS Intrepid's advanced technology: the Bollam's World Space Force (the government of the system they're in), the AST Space Force (The Empire), and pirate fleets of the Mark and of a warlord named Padre. It turns into a winner-take-all battle after an ISF fighter has a malfunction and drifts into Padre's line of fire, and the ISF ultimately slaughters all of them.
  • This happens twice in The Amber Spyglass between Lyra, Will, Tialys, and Salmakia.
  • Happens often enough in Blood Meridian, one memorable one being after Glanton's horse bites the ear off an Apache chief's during a meeting, and moments later everyone on both sides is fixed in a web of gunsights.
  • A variation in The Bourne Identity. After overpowering the man holding him prisoner in the back of a car, Jason Bourne puts a gun to the head of a driver, who puts his foot on the accelerator, threatening to crash the car if Bourne shoots.
  • Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book ends this way, with both generals holding a bomb that could possibly obliterate the opposing side. Neither side drops their bomb.
  • In Richard Ellis Preston Jr.'s Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin novel Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War, Goethe declares that Sabrina is Sabrina Fawkes, and must come with him, in the middle of the Imperial stronghold. Both the Imperials and the Crankshafts face off against Goethe's guards. Romulus defuses it with a challenge to a Duel to the Death.
  • The novel Dance Of The Voodoo Handbag by Robert Rankin uses a Mexican Standoff in which an increasing number of characters arrive pointing guns at each other in an argument over the titular McGuffin. However, the main character realises no one's threatening him, so he steals the handbag and escapes in the confusion.
  • The Dark Tower
    • In keeping with the series' Western roots, Wizard and Glass involves the main character's friend training a fatal slingshot round on a corrupt deputy harassing a mentally handicapped boy, who then has a gun put to his head from behind by another one of the corrupt deputies, who then gets a knife put up against his throat by one of the first boy's friends, who gets a gun put to his head by the leader of the lawmen... who suddenly finds the main character's knife against his back, in what may be the most over-the-top example of this trope played straight.
    • Played straight in an earlier book, as well, between Eddie and Roland in The Drawing of the Three. Notable in that Eddie actually refers to the standoff by name as a Mexican standoff.
  • The Detachment. After realising they've been betrayed with the apparent connivance of one of their own, a minute twitch by Trevan leads to the entire Badass Crew pointing guns at each other. Fortunately Dox defuses the situation by putting his gun to his own head and quoting from Blazing Saddles.
  • Discworld:
    • Guards! Guards!, when neither dragon can get an advantage, the narration notes that this is "the well-known Klatchian standoff".
    • Later, in The Fifth Elephant, Vimes and Inigo Skimmer are in each other's personal space, with blades drawn...
      Vimes: "And now it appears that we have reached what Sergeant Colon persists in referring to as an imp arse."
    • The Thieves' Guild Diary illustrates the section on "Conflict Resolution" with three guild members, each pointing a weapon at one of the others.
  • In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Turn Coat, Harry thrice goes into his apartment to find Morgan, Molly, and Mouse — with Luccio, twice in some form of a Mexican Standoff. He defuses the situations.
    • Harry and Murphy against Binder and the Gray Men. Harry and Murphy are protected from Binder's men by the empowered circle, but Binder could break it. Murphy points a gun at him to prevent that. Defused by Molly completing a second circle around Binder, banishing the Gray Men.
  • Played with in Trevanian's The Eiger Sanction. The hero is only holding up his hand in a gun shape while he's under a sleeping bag.
  • Finders Keepers: Happens between Pete and Morris in the climax, with Morris holding Pete's sister Tina at gunpoint while Pete threatens to ignite the notebooks Morris wants, which he has drenched in lighter fluid. Morris even mentions the trope by name.
  • A situation like this is deliberately engineered in Foundation's Edge so as to allow a Kingmaker Scenario — Gaia doesn't trust their own judgement about the future of the galaxy, so they arrange a situation where a representative of the First Foundation in a gravitic warship and a representative of the Second foundation on a ship carrying a (previously clandestine) Gaian both arrive in their home-system. The warship could easily blow the other ship to pieces, and its psychic static device is just strong enough that unless Gaia or the Second Foundationer (backed by a Second Foundation mental gestalt) specifically focus on them the crew is protected from permanent alteration or being made to do something while still being hindered from acting to destroy the other ship. Gaia and the Second Foundation can't put their full focus on breaking through the psychic static, as then the other one would be able to overwhelm them, and they can't focus on the other one as then the First Foundation warship would be free to act. The chosen Kingmaker is Golan Trevize, on the scene in his own ship, equipped with a computer he can mentally link to. By linking to the computer and making a choice he would add just enough psychic power to any one of the three to break the stalemate — Gaia and the Second Foundation would be able to keep the First Foundation at bay while dealing with the other one, and the First Foundation's psychic static would be strengthened enough to allow them to blast the other ship.
  • Fire & Blood: The stand-off between Rogar Baratheon, and Jaehaerys I Targaryen at Dragonstone. Rogar is determined Jaehaerys and his sister-wife Alysanne do as he says, which to start with includes splitting the siblings up, and has brought men to back him up. The royal couple refuse, and their Kingsguard get in the way, telling Rogar he's dead if he tries getting past them. Things get tense... but ultimately no-one gets stabbed. As Gyldayn notes, however, history never actually makes mention of the castle's archers, and what they were doing during all this.
  • In Dan Abnett's terature/Gaunts Ghostsovel Ghostmaker, after Corbec tackled a figure who turned out to be a Volpone Blueblood, the Bluebloods surrounded him with guns; he let the major up, and the major drew a gun on him; Gaunt appeared, pointing a gun at the major and declaring that if he shot Corbec, he would be dead before his men could shoot; more Ghosts appeared, with their guns drawn... It was a good thing that the Inquisitor Lilith showed up, all in all.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, there was a stand off between Harry, Hermione, Ron, Professor Lupin, and Sirius Black. It was then calmed, then when Snape entered the picture, the stand off began again.
  • Twice in InCryptid:
    • Fran and Jonathan in 1928, in The Flower of Arizona. Jonathan pulls a gun on Fran, who throws a knife into the wall behind him faster than he can see.
    • Their great-granddaughter Verity and Dominic in 2012, in Discount Armageddon. Verity gets caught in a trap Dominic set for cryptids, and he arrives while she's freeing herself. They immediately pull guns on each other. The two of them end up married too.
  • Battles between magic users in the Inheritance Cycle require at least one of the participants to gain access to the other's mind before any casting can be done, because otherwise this trope will result. Magic takes a split-second to cast, and once cast cannot be stopped, thus the first caster is guaranteed that his opponent is dead. However, it takes longer than a split-second for the magic to take effect, so once your magic begins, your opponent can retaliate with equally lethal magic, thus the second caster is also guaranteed that his opponent is dead. If a caster has access to his opponent's mind, however, they can see the magic coming before it is cast, thus counter-magic can be prepared prior to the casting.
  • One of the major storylines in the Liavek anthologies concluded with one of these in the office of the Levar's Regent. The Regent has a gun, his top enforcer Dashif has two, and a crossbow-wielding assassin has just showed up too. Also present are Dashif's daughter and one of the Regent's political rivals. The Regent makes the mistake of aiming at Dashif's daughter, so he dies along with Dashif and the assassin.
  • Subverted in Popcorn, one of Ben Elton's earlier books, when a very film-savvy criminal gets caught in a one-on-one standoff and remarks "I never got why people didn't just stop yakking and shoot the other guy" before shooting the woman he's facing in the chest.
  • Referenced in The Prisoner of Zenda. Rudolf even namedrops The Critic.
    Rudolf: "In fact, Fritz," said I, "I am reminded of a situation in one of our English plays—The Critic—have you heard of it? Or, if you like, of two men, each covering the other with a revolver. For I can't expose Michael without exposing myself..."
    Sapt: "And the King."
    Rudolf:"And, hang me if Michael won't expose himself, if he tries to expose me!"
  • Done in the Redwall novel The Bellmaker, where Mariel is threatening to kill the commander of a troop of rats. One rat has an arrow pointed at her head. This goes on for at least a few hours before the good guys are finally rescued.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe refers to this as a Rodian Standoff. It doesn't show up as often as you might think.
    • One happened in Boba Fett's story in Tales of the Bounty Hunters, with a twist. Neither Solo nor Fett really wants to fight anymore. But neither of them trusts the other enough to be the first to put his gun down. The story ends with both still trying to figure out how to end the fight without killing each other. Since both of them show up in stories that take place later on in the EU, they must have come up with something.
  • In the novel Something Rotten of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, Thursday find herself in one of these: for the better part of the book, Thurs has been trying to find a way to gently break it to her friend and colleague Spike that his cute, perky wife Cindy is secretly a contract killer with a contract out on Thursday. When she finally confronts Cindy in Spike's presence, Thurs draws her gun on Cindy (who she believes has a concealed weapon) only to have Spike — who refuses to believe her — draw his gun on her. The standoff ends when a random grand piano falls out of a window above them, and the piano bench lands on Cindy; she collapses, revealing said concealed weapon. The author has said that he had no idea how to end that scene, so he Took A Third Option. Astonishingly, by the end of the book, he actually Justifies it.
  • In Trail of the Lonesome Pine by John Fox, Jr., eight men in a feud run into each other in front of a courthouse and pull their guns on each other so as to create an eight-way Mexican standoff. It ends, peacefully, when a judge comes out of the courthouse and demands that the leaders drop their weapons, which they do, and then that their followers do the same, which they also do. He tells them to go home, and that's the end of it for that day.

    Live-Action TV 


  • Joss Whedon seems to like subverting this a lot:
    • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Two to Go", Xander, Andrew, and Jonathan are caught in a two-sided Mexican stand-off when Andrew holds Xander at swordpoint, and Jonathan, trying to keep Andrew from killing Xander, puts his own sword to Andrew's neck.
    • In the Buffyverse comic book miniseries Fray, Melaka and one of the two random goons after the same prize end up pointing laser pistols at each other, causing the goon to state "It appears we have a standoff." Melaka's response? "What standoff?" BLAM.
    • In the Angel episode "Unleashed", the Bad Boss points out in this situation that "I'm willing to let my men die. Can you say the same?"
    • Also subverted rather beautifully in the Firefly episode "Serenity", where River is taken hostage by the Alliance mole, who has a gun to her head, and Mal is walking back up from their latest illegal dealing. Considering he, Jayne, and Zoe just came back from an outing during which they were all heavily armed, and considering the fed had allegedly called for backup, this could easily have led to a Mexican standoff, especially given that Jayne is prone to betrayal at the drop of a hat if given enough money. Instead, Mal and the others almost completely ignore the man's threats, with Mal simply shooting him in the face as soon as he catches sight of him without even slowing his pace or being fazed one bit.
    • Serenity, the Big Damn Movie of Firefly. This happens twice between Captain Mal and River Tam: the first time in the bar after River has demonstrated her martial arts abilities, and the second after River escapes custody and goes to the bridge.


  • A HUGE occurs near the end of Barry. In its typical "act of fools" style, breaking it is an exceedingly poor decision.
  • In The Big Bang Theory Sheldon and Leonard try to buy liquid helium from a shady character. The deal breaks down when they say they could turn him in for selling stolen helium, and he points out he can do the same to them for attempting to buy stolen helium. Sheldon and the crooked seller get into a pedantic argument about whether you can call it a Mexican standoff if it only involves two parties.
  • Blake's 7. In "Aftermath", Avon gets a gun pushed into his back by Servalan. Avon indicates the Action Girl who's just come up behind Servalan with a bow and arrow. Then a bunch of sword-wielding locals arrive and Servalan admits the gun is empty anyway. Everyone legs it.
  • A humorous version on Blossom. The titular character ditches school, her father ditches work, and they spend the day together. Towards the end, the pair runs into her Spanish teacher, out on a date with her English teacher. It seems Blossom' s goose is cooked, until she recalls that both teachers are married—to other people. Her father name-drops this trope, leading to the following exchange:
    Teacher(sternly) "We had a test today, Blossom. (Beat, then cheerfully) You got a hundred!"
  • Burn Notice:
    • Invoked in a season 1 episode. Michael puts himself between black market couriers who were transporting a cash payment, and the Dirty Cops who were trying to steal it from them, and douses the cash with gasoline and stands there holding a propane torch to take it hostage. He gets the traffickers to release their client (Sam's friend Virgil, whom they had taken hostage), and they make a break for it when the cops and traffickers start shooting at each other (after throwing the torch to burn the cash anyway).
    • Exploited in a season 3 episode. Team Westen's machinations put a group of child kidnappers in a standoff situation after being manipulated by Michael into believing they were being betrayed by each other. None of them actually wanted to start shooting, but Sam sneaks up behind the building and fires his gun into the ground. The noise makes the criminals panic and kill each other.
    • In another episode, Michael turns a situation where he should be at a massive disadvantage (he's alone and trying to face down an Arms Dealer, the dealer's 6 armed mooks, and the master thief that stole a chemical weapon and was planning to sell it to the dealer) into a Mexican Standoff with some quick thinking: rather than try to intimidate them by pointing his gun at his opponents, Michael points it at the chemical weapon they came to buy. Sure, if they shoot him, he's dead, but if Michael can fire before dying, the nerve gas inside will kill everyone there.
      • Subverted by Fiona having swapped the canister of nerve agent with relatively-harmless tear gas. So Michael can Shoot the Hostage and escape when everyone else panics.
  • Community: In "Modern Warfare", the ambush in the men's room turns into this.
  • A Cougar Town episode ends with the whole cast involved in a Mexican standoff with finger guns, leading to a pretend bloodbath (one of the examples below even gets namechecked: Travis's dying words are "I love Spaced!")
  • Dark Matter (2015): The cops hold Four at gunpoint, while Four's friends hold the cops at gunpoint. It quickly becomes apparent that the cops don't have as strong a negotiating position as they think, since if the cops take Four alive he'll be delivered to his Wicked Stepmother Empress Katsumi and her supporters.
    Inspector Kierken: If you shoot, you risk killing your friend.
    Three: I'm betting he's okay with that.
    Four: It would be a better death than what would happen if they let you take me.
    Three: Told ya.
    • In the first season finale, One, Two, Three and Five get into a Mexican standoff where One and Three each accuse the other at gunpoint of being The Mole (One because he thinks Three is selfish enough to sell them out, Three because One lied about his given name and identity when he joined the crew) and entreat Two to side with them, then Five appears and accuses Two at gunpoint of being the saboteur, thinking that she was subjected to Mind Control when Dwarf Star Technologies recaptured her recently. The standoff is broken up when Six, the real mole, locks them in and floods the corridor with knockout gas.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Revenge of the Cybermen": Dr. Kellerman and the commander face off. The other surviving crewman jumps Kellerman.
    • "Destiny of the Daleks": One occurs when a squad of Daleks corner the Doctor, but he threatens to blow up Davros if they don't "spack off!" When they do stand down momentarily, the Doctor says "I believe this is what's called a Mexican standoff."
    • "The End of Time": A Time Lord one occurs near the end, with the Doctor versus the Master and Rassilon. The Doctor has a gun, Rassilon has his Gauntlet of Doom and the Master has his resurrection-induced lightning powers. It's resolved when the Doctor takes a third option and shoots the diamond creating the connection between Gallifrey and Earth. The Master then attacks Rassilon in revenge, leaving the Doctor on Earth as Gallifrey and the other Time Lords are sucked back into the Time Lock.
    • "Victory of the Daleks": The Daleks gloat at the Doctor at gunpoint while he holds them hostage by threatening to blow up the TARDIS and take the Dalek ship with it. Eventually, however, the Daleks figure out that the self-destruct device the Doctor's been threatening them with is actually a jammy dodger, and everything goes to hell in a handbasket.
    • "The Woman Who Fell to Earth": At the climax, the Doctor versus alien headhunter Tzim-Sha (or as the Doctor calls him, "Tim Shaw"). She has the recall device he needs to get home, he controls DNA bombs that were implanted into the Doctor and her friends earlier. At least, that's what the Doctor lets him think... as she's already removed the bombs and tricked Tim Shaw into implanting them into himself.
    • "Orphan 55": When the Doctor locks herself, a human called Bella, and an alien called a Dreg in a sealed room, she points out that they're keeping each other alive since the Dreg breathes carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen, so if it kills the Doctor or Bella it'll suffocate before it can escape. The Dreg realises that co-operating with the Doctor is the only way out of this situation, and stops attacking the Doctor long enough for her to open the door.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has one in the final episode between Sharon Carter and the Big Bad Duumvirate, during which it is revealed that Sharon has been Evil All Along and is the real mastermind behind everything, having arranged this very situation to eliminate two inconvenient loose ends. She proceeds to shoot and kill both of her opponents (though she is wounded in the process).
  • An episode of Farscape involves a sentient virus who can take over the body of any intelligent being. Because nobody knows who the virus is inhabiting, at one point at least five or six people have guns pointed at each other, often weaving between targets. Crichton exploits this, using the situation to keep everyone in one place while he ferrets out who is currently infected.
  • Get Smart
    • Max and 99, attempting to protect a KAOS defector, comes up upon one of these in a hotel. The KAOS agent at the desk threatens them with a pistol, but he's covered by a maid, who's covered by the janitor, who's covered by another guest, who's covered by the hotel chef. As soon as Max, 99, and the defector leave the room, everyone fires and Max laments "All it takes is one wiseguy..."
    • In "The Hot Line", the Chief is undercover as a singing waiter, and tries to pass on a warning to Max and 99 through his singing that the restaurant is owned by KAOS. Two KAOS agents realise who he is and join him on stage while sticking guns into his back—naturally they have to join in his singing to avert suspicion. Max and 99 see this and do the same, only for two more KAOS agents to stick guns in their backs with them all singing merrily along. They don't have backup, so we just cut to the next scene with Max, 99 and the Chief all tied up.
  • In the Heroes episode "Landslide", HRG and Mohinder get into one. However, HRG isn't pointing his gun at Mohinder, he's pointing it at Molly Walker, a little girl whose power happens to be The Company's new "Walker" tracking system, and the biggest threat to the heroes' security.
  • Played with in Hunter (NBC) when a Dirty Cop decides to sell a large stash of drugs he's found to The Cartel. It starts with them all pointing guns at each other in mutual suspicion until the cop says, "Well one of us has got to start trusting the other" and holsters his gun so they can all get on with the deal.
  • Life On Mars: Gene's superior officer and mentor, recently found out to be corrupt, is cornered by Sam and Gene in a corridor. All three produce guns. The mentor begins to challenge the two to break the stalemate, remarking that none of them are getting out of this unharmed — but doesn't get to finish, because Gene bluntly shoots him in the leg while he's still talking. Gene, of course, was a bit pissed about the whole 'corrupt' thing.
  • This happens a few times on NCIS, usually when Team Gibbs charges in to bust the bad guys—only to find out that they're actually feds from another agency. This is then followed by a round of Jurisdiction Friction.
  • Parodied in The Office episode Murder, where the office's murder mystery game concludes with Michael, Dwight, Andy, and even Pam pointing finger-guns at each other. The "standoff" then gets resolved by the participants pretending to shoot each other.
  • In a filmed sketch on Saturday Night Live three gangsters have one of these which lasts for days; they sleep together, shower, go to a Thanksgiving dinner, go ice skating, even attend one of them's son's soccer game. Finally, one of them says that the last few days have been the best of his life; the other two immediately shoot him, then go back to a standoff with each other.
  • Tim and Duane have a paintball standoff in the fourth episode of Spaced.
  • Star Trek:
  • The Studio C sketch "Get Up and Walk Out of Here" has a standoff starting with two participants, but which has people joining one by one to tip the balance. At the end, there are 10 people in a ring, each pointing a gun at the next person. (The tenth was actually the wife of the ninth, upset that her husband was 40 minutes late for dinner.)
  • Supernatural: "Bad Day at Black Rock" has two of these over a cursed rabbit's foot — first between just Dean and Bela, then with Sam, Dean, and Bela, who shoots Sam in the shoulder.
  • One episode of the Sitcom Taxi, Bobby has a fare talk himself into the front seat, then pull out a gun in an attempted robbery once they've reached his destination (the middle of nowhere-in-particular), foiled once Bobby pulls his own, kept for just such an emergency. This trope is then played straight for something like eight hours, subverted when the thief complained that his arm's getting tired and convinced Bobby to swap his much larger pistol for the latter's much lighter one... revealing afterwards that his gun was never even loaded, and resuming his crime from square one.
  • In an early episode of Torchwood, Owen's got the villain at gunpoint, when the villains' accomplice reveals himself and points a gun at Owen. Gwen is shocked, and lifts her gun toward the accomplice.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Two", the man and woman find discarded weapons and briefly point them at each other in spite of their attempts to get along.
  • Westworld. Literally in the episode "Contrapasso", as they are South of the Border. Dolores and William board a train only to be confronted by El Lazo. Dolores breaks the standoff by pointing her gun at a coffin packed with nitroglycerin, whereupon El Lazo decides it's best if everyone puts their guns away.
  • Wiseguy. When Vinnie Terranova gets framed due to a Government Conspiracy, his OCB handler Frank McPike tries to get an eccentric billionaire (who's cut himself off from society for decades) to help. The meeting takes place in a ski-lift, with the billionaire holding a cocked LAAWS rocket. At one stage he points out that it's not a good idea to threaten a man armed with a bazooka, whereupon McPike whips out his snubnose .38 and says: "Big hole, little hole; either way we're just as dead." The billionaire is so impressed with McPike's chutzpah he does eventually come forward to clear Vinnie.
  • In the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "The Dirty Half Dozen", the first three criminals that Xena frees as part of her plan spend an entire night with weapons at the ready, because none of them trusts the others enough to be the first to lower their weapon.
  • One The X-Files season finale contained enough plot twists to briefly lead to a three-way stand-off between the good guys — it's resolved without bloodshed and with a slight degree of embarrassment on all parts.

  • Elbow's song "Mexican Standoff" uses this trope as a metaphor for two guys who are competing for the attention of a woman, but apparently neither is brave enough to physically fight the other one.
  • Depicted on the cover of Lifehouse's album Almería.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The game Ca$h 'n' Gun$ is designed to simulate this situation. The players are crooks arguing over dividing up the loot from a robbery. Money is piled up in the centre over the course each round, and players have a number of 'Bang' or 'Click' cards. On a count of three, each player points a (foam) gun at another player. On another count of three, players can back off if they don't like the odds pointing at them. Then you reveal if anyone gets shot or if it's just a bluff, and then anyone still standing gets a share of the cash. Backing down costs you points, but getting shot enough makes you dead.
  • It is not uncommon in Chess for one or both players to find themselves in a position to make a capture, at the risk of putting themselves in danger as well. Experienced players can easily invoke such a situation, but even beginners can end up like this by accident.

  • Older Than Radio: Quoth Scott Higgins' article in Cinema Journal 47, No. 2: "Brewster and Jacobs invoke Sheridan’s parody of this warhorse of situations in his 1779 play The Critic. Sheridan mocks melodramatic convention by having a fictional playwright concoct a scene in which two women hold the man they both love at dagger’s point; the man, in turn, draws two daggers and holds them on the women, at which point their two uncles enter and draw their swords against the lover. The standoff is resolved when, unexpectedly, a Beefeater enters and orders "In the Queen’s Name, I charge you all to drop your swords and Daggers."
  • The end (and perhaps other parts as well) of the one-act play The Inspector Answers.
  • The Show Within a Show of The Pot Boiler ends with all of the characters holding one another at gunpoint and making threats. When the playwright admits that he has no idea how to end the play, all of them shoot him instead.
  • There is a short comedic play called The Tarantino Variation which is three men, each holding a gun to another's head. Then they realize they need to kill the person holding them at gunpoint, and switch, all the while bantering — it's quite funny. The play ends with them each having one gun on each of the other men, walking off to lunch together.

    Video Games 
  • The 2018 remake of The 25th Ward has its final bonus chapter black out focus on one of these; Akama and Aoyama have guns pointed at Hatoba from two sides, but are also aimed by Kuroyanagi, with Uehara acting as backup. Kuroyanagi ultimately allows Uehara to take the first course of action, whether it's killing Akama, Aoyama, both of them, Hatoba, Kuroyanagi, everyone (including or excluding yourself), no one, or taking a different option entirely. Played for laughs in that you have to choose from 100 different outcomes.
  • In one of the side missions in Borderlands 2, you participate in a "Truxican standoff", which is slightly less dramatic than the other listed examples due to the fact that everyone involved has energy shielding. In another side mission, you defuse an all-NPC standoff by solving a logic puzzle.
  • This is the situation at the beginning of Fallout: New Vegas between the three factions vying for control of the Mojave: the New California Republic, Caesar's Legion, and Mr. House. If any one of the three takes action against another, they'll be left weak and vulnerable to be picked off by the third. The Courier gets to decide which faction to support to break the standoff. Or can say "screw you" to all of the factions and takeover the Mojave him/herself.
  • The video game Fear Effect has one of these between two playable characters at a climactic moment. You get to choose who fires first, if either.
  • Final Fantasy X-2
    • The game features a three-way Mexican Standoff between Gippal, Nooj, and Baralai. Actually, it happens twice, if you go around getting the optional scenes.
    • There's also a very brief one between Yuna, Rikku, and Paine when the latter two are temporarily possessed by Shuyin in the Den of Woe. Probably not a true Standoff in the way that at least one party had no intention of harming the others.
  • Grand Theft Auto V - "The Wrap Up" climaxes with a crazy standoff wherein a half-dozen parties end up with guns pointed at each other, including Michael, Steve Haines, Dave, a rogue FIB agent with an entire HRT for backup, a group of IAA agents including the Big Good from Grand Theft Auto IV and a private militia with helicopter support. Steve gets twitchy, shoots, and a massive Blast Out ensues.
  • Guild Wars had this happen in Random Arenas every time a team had a ritualist, a Trap Ranger, or both. Offensive Ritualists worked best when enemies were in range, and Trap rangers require players to get closer to use the traps. While trash mobs will rarely try to get away from the spirits range, players are far smarter than that and know they'll be slaughtered if they try and Shoot the Medic First. So they waited until someone got impatient and leeroyed, or won because the other team all decided to surrender or leave. This was one of the reasons that a time limit before both teams went into a sudden death round was added. (The other being Rangers with kiting abilities would make the matches run forever after three of their teammates died.
  • Subverted in the second chapter of the video game Killer7: a group of diplomats are playing mah-jongg when one is accused of cheating. All four men stand up, pull their guns... and then shoot each other without a second's pause.
    • Before they reach for the weapons, one even expresses irritation that they're about to all die.
  • Mass Effect is littered with Mexican standoffs with all sorts of people; whether they end peacefully, with someone getting shot in the face, or with a Blast Out depends mostly on the player's choices.
    • In the most notable example in the first game, Shepard and one of their own party members, Wrex, get into a standoff on Virmire over blowing up a lab containing a cure for the krogan race's infertility, which is slowly killing them off. Getting out of the situation without killing Wrex earns the player an Achievement for resolving "an impossible situation" with diplomacy. No better way to break a standstill than to have your buddy gun down your other buddy from behind him when things start getting hairy...
    • In Mass Effect 3 Shepard then gets into another Mexican standoff with whichever human squadmember survived Virmire. Ironically it is possible to have a different squadmate shoot the same person who did the exact same thing on Virmire.
  • Beautifully done in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, as it actually makes sense. Both realize they're back to back with the enemy, so they turn around to shoot. The great part is if you look close enough, neither hesitate, and Mona Sax was just a few inches faster.
  • Samus vs Dark Samus on every occasion in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Made even more awesome by the fact, at some times, they both walk while holding their cannons to each other.
  • In Pokémon, moves like Destiny Bond, Counter, Magic Coat, Sucker Punch, Metal Burst, and to a lesser extent, Bide and Endeavor can all heavily punish an opponent for attacking. If two Pokémon both carry such a move, and know that the other has one, things devolve into either this trope or risky overprediction.
  • The opening sequence of Project X Zone 2 has one of these between Reiji, Xiaomu, Saya, and Sheath.
  • The Big Bad of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 tries to do this at the end of the game. Unfortunately for him, your reflexes are way better than his, even if you let him get far enough into his Motive Rant to actually draw his weapon on you.
  • Every multiplayer match in Red Dead Redemption begins with one.
    • Depending on the game type, up to 16 people against each other in one standoff.
    • There is a moment in the game where John is accused of cheating in poker by a German player, and both draw their pistols. The other occupants of the table follow suit, alongside some other people from the crowd, each pointing at someone else. Appropriately, the scene takes place in Mexico.
      Herr Muller: ...There must be a name for this.
      Landon Rickets: An impasse, sir, an impasse.
  • In Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, Steve and Alfred get into a brief fight concluded when they get into a stalemate with Steve on the ground with both machine guns aimed at the latter and Alfred standing over and pointing his rifle at the face of the former. Steve breaks the stalemate in a snap by unloading his guns into Alfred anyway. Who probably didn't want to break the tension of the moment.
  • One trailer to The Secret World featured a standoff between each of the faction representatives introduced so far: Rose has a shotgun aimed squarely at Alex's head; Alex is ready to launch a fireball at Mei-Ling from point-blank range; Mei-Ling is holding a flaming sword to Rose's throat. Then Zuberi shows up and draws their attention to the Unutterable Lurker closing in on them. Cue Enemy Mine scenario.
  • In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, one of these occurs between Sam and Douglas Shetland. Shetland decides that this is a good time to embark on a Motive Rant. It ends when Shetland lowers his gun, saying, "I know you wouldn't shoot an old friend," at which point Sam (controlled by the player) shoots him in the head and replies, "You're right. I wouldn't shoot an old friend."
    • Unless you lower your gun. Then Shetland tries to shoot Sam, only to get a knife in his gut.
  • Done by the three factions' flagships in the Star Trek Online mission "A Step Between Stars". After Koren, captain of the Klingon Defense Force flagship IKS Bortasqu', claims the Jenolan Dyson Sphere as property of the Klingon Empire, Captain Va'Kel Shon of the Enterprise-F says, no, we were here first. Captain Tiaru Jarok of the RRW Lleiset tries to claim it for the Romulan Republic as a neutral party, which neither of the other two want since the Rommies already control the gateway to the Solanae Dyson sphere. Things could've gotten bad really fast if Tuvok hadn't talked everyone down.
  • Did we mention John Woo really likes this trope? In case it wasn't already evident, Stranglehold uses these as a regular gameplay mechanic where the player has a split second to dodge bullets and take out anyone who's holding him at gunpoint.
  • Time Crisis: Project Titan - Stage 3 ends with a Mexican Standoff between Richard Miller and the President of Caruba, Xavier Serrano; both men pointing their guns at each other. Thankfully, and much to President Serrano's surprise, they don't shoot as President Serrano goes to clear Richard's name while Richard himself continues his pursuit of Wild Dog.
Serrano: "I'm just as surprised as you are. They never executed me. For some reason, they kept me alive as a hostage."
  • The Walking Dead: Season 2 - Episode 4 ends on this note as the protagonists are ambushed by a group of Russians who are out for revenge for being robbed earlier by two members of the protaganist's group. Each side points guns at each other arguing for the other to put their's down. Clem then notices that Rebecca, who recently gave birth to a baby, has died from exhaustion and is reanimating as a Walker, threatening to eat her newborn which she had in her arms when she died. Clem (or Kenny if she bring this to the other's attention) is forced to shoot her to save the baby. But this sets off the Russians who open fire on the group.
  • The prologue chapter of Wild ARMs 3 has the following happen within a train car on A Dark And Stormy Night: The Heroine bursting through the door, The Lancer doing a reverse barrel roll through the side window, The Big Guy coming from nowhere, and The Smart Guy casually walking in all at the same time and ending with the latter three pointing their guns at each other while the heroine just watches.
    • This standoff lasts for quite a while because you return to this sight until you play every character's intro.
  • One of the routes of Zero Time Dilemma has Q team end up in one. You can try to shoot Mira, Eric, or nobody. Shooting Eric is the correct choicenote . The timeline flowchart actually tells you that there's a fourth option, but good luck figuring out that there's a fourth character who has been hidden from the player for the entire game.

    Web Animation 
  • Happens for most of the episode "Close Encounter" of For the Empire, a Fan Animation Star Wars series made with Unreal Engine. Right after the Battle of Hoth, a pair of Rebel soldiers try to reach the transports evacuating the planet, but they come face-to-face with two lost Snowtroopers (who barely escaped in the previous episode from the AT-AT walker that Luke blew up). A tense moment ensues, with each pair leveling their blasters at the others, but both unwilling to start the hostilities.

  • Brickworld Saga has a truly massive standoff with over twenty participants on five different sides, including pirates, cyborgs, and the undead.
  • An Epic Comic has a metaphorical example that involves only villains:
    • Hades and Bowsers are planning to backstab each other first and then take out the other villains.
    • Eggman and Wily also plan to take out each other first and then the others.
    • Scanty and Kneesocks plan to backstab ??? and Corset and then take over the universe with ??? planning to backstab them and even expand on just taking over the universe.
  • Girl Genius: Subverted between Klaus and Dr. Beetle. As Gil points out, Beetle's strategy is flawed because he put all his strength in one large clank, and the Baron had a backup fleet.
  • Homestuck: The 3X SHOWDOWN COMBO sees a god of luck, a white wizard of science, and a juggalo serial killer face off bearing weapons as they recall their famous ancestors, all to building music. The standoff is diffused when a victim of the wizard is resurrected as a vampire and knocks out the other two combatants before cutting the wizard in half with a chainsaw.
  • Irregular Webcomic! has the Bavarian standoff, essentially, Mexican Standoff with chocolate cake.
  • The Last Days of Foxhound: Ocelot, Octopus, Wolf, and Scratch get involved in one of these in strip 71.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Subverted in an early arc. Tagon's Toughs get into one with a small army, at which point the narrator describes the trope in detail. Then Tagon notices that his foes have armor while his allies don't, at which point the narrator points out that Tagon isn't even remotely descended from Mexican stock.
    • Not to mention he's outnumbered 5-3. Fortunately, it's resolved without shots being fired.
    • Later, Howard pulls another one, with entire fleets, although not really since at this range the Plaited Daisies could probably shred the Battleplate, and eat the other ships.
    • And then Tagon gets another one later.
  • Lampshaded and parodied a few times in Sluggy Freelance. An example, since in Timeless Space everyone's guns have a Mexican Standoff setting that makes them go chakat! when pointed.

    Web Original 
  • Code MENT in Episode 14 has this between Shirley, Mao, and Lelouch... except Lelouch is caught in the middle, unarmed. And if he moves, Shirley will shoot him. And if he doesn't, Mao will shoot him. And that's why it's funny.
    Mao: Lelouch, buddy, are you alright?
    Lelouch: I feel like sunshine right now!
  • Freddie Wong + Key & Peele + this trope = hilarity that must be seen to be believed.
  • "Hardly Working: Mexican Standoff" has office workers so bored that they are delighted to get into Mexican Standoffs (and die), and points out only two people is just a standoff, not a Mexican Standoff. After the initial Mexican Standoff is achieved by accident, the enthusiastic participants keep having to replace dead members to maintain the delicate balance after thoughtlessly jumping the gun and even negotiate with another Mexican Standoff going on nearby. The reaction of the visiting Latino relative of one of the employees sends it home:
    "Is this a regular standoff?"
  • In the first season of I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC, a bit of a one-sided Standoff occurs in the bar when Nick Fury holds a gun to the robotic Lex Luthor spy Lance M Donovan, and every hero in the bar responds by pointing whatever weapons they have (including claws, guns, pulse cannons, web shooters, and fists of fury) at him.
  • A Challenge Round is resolved like this in season one of The Leet World. Ellis drops down behind Leeroy and takes aim, only to be held at gunpoint by Westheimer, who is in turn menaced by Cortez. It ends with a Blast Out (luckily, Death Is Cheap).
    Ellis: *Click* "Hold it right there, Bo. Reach for the sky."
    Westheimer: *Click* "Hands up, perp!"
    Cortez: *Click* "Prepare to die, Dog."
  • While reviewing Devil, The Nostalgia Critic and Santa Christ have one to parody the movie, but this one actually comes off better because they have a history.
  • It doesn't get more dramatic than Pete and Brian's "Showdown". Hilariously done, with some Stock Phrases to boot.
  • Parodied for comedic effect in the TomSka video "Standoffish"
  • This happens once in Survival of the Fittest version one, between David Jackson, Jacob Starr, and Peri Barclay. By this point, Jacob's mind has become dangerously unstable due to the guilt and trauma he's experienced over the game's course clashing with the morals his police officer father taught him his whole life, so the situation devolves into a Blast Out when he suddenly turns on Peri and attacks him.
    • Another happens in version 3, this can be best described as 'Bobby Jacks vs. Everyone', as at one point the aforementioned villain character had no fewer than six people pointing guns at him, whilst he reciprocated by pulling out both of his guns and returning the gesture. Fortunately, the situation was eventually diffused.
    • Another v3 example is one that involves Lenny Priestly, holding Heath Trennoby hostage, has a gun pulled on him by Bobby Jacks, while Shameeca Mitchell holds a gun at Lenny's sister Elizabeth, who is currently holding James Martinek hostage. Not to mention the three spectators who are watching from nearby. Unfortunately, just as things seem to be going good, Heath tries to attack Lenny. What results is James, Heath, and innocent spectator Lauren Howard being shot dead, Anna Kateridge and Lulu Altaire kidnapping Elizabeth, Lenny going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Bobby Jacks trying to hunt him down, and Shameeca realising she failed in her one job of trying to rescue James. So naturally, it doesn't end well for anyone.
    • A smaller scale example would also be Clio Gabriella vs Brendan Wallace. Both with guns pointed at each other's heads. It lasts for several minutes, while Brendan manages to talk Clio out of doing anything rash, proclaiming that if she were to pull the trigger, he could pull the trigger on his gun just as fast, leaving them both dead. After a while, she runs off, and Brendan looks inside the gun to find there's not a single round inside. Cue LONG sigh of relief.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • Stan Smith references this, as it's part of the procedure of arguing with his wife. Though here, he refers to it as a "John Woo stand-off."
    • At the end of "Independent Movie", Stan, Roger, and Toshi's father Hideki celebrate hitting it big and then suddenly pull guns on each other. The screen goes black, a gunshot is heard, and Roger says that Hideki was the one who got shot.
    • At the end of "Hurricane!", Stan, Peter Griffin, and Cleveland Brown enter a three-way Mexican standoff. (Well, four-way if you account for the fact that Peter had two guns for some reason.)
  • Archer: In the pilot, the titular character's mother is taken hostage by The Mole, so he captures Lana and threatens her. Except that The Mole doesn't even care about Lana, and thus the Mexican Standoff is futile.
  • Arthur uses a family-friendly version of this trope in the episode "Desk Wars": instead of threatening each other with weapons, each of the kids threaten to destroy something important to another one of them. If George sharpens one of Brain's pencils for Muffy, Brain threatens to drop a book on George's bubble-gum stegosaurus model. Then Brain receives simultaneous threats from Sue Ellen and Muffy, with Sue Ellen (who watched George work on said model all year) threatening to throw Binky's rubber-band ball out the window if Brain makes good on his threat, and Muffy demanding that Brain give up the pencil or she'll put Judo Kitten stickers on his desk, Francine (who was promised those stickers) gets out a pair of scissors and threatens to cut up the dust ruffle that Muffy shares with Fern, who in response, threatens to have Buster's Bionic Bunny comic book shredded, briefly mistaking it as Arthur's before Buster corrects her and threatens to eat all of Arthur's chocolate chip cookies, etc. Then Brain accidentally knocks the book onto the stegosaurus model and chaos ensues.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has one at the start of the Mêlée à Trois between Aang, Zuko, and Azula.
  • The Boondocks: During Huey's description of a "nigga moment", two men bump into each other on the street and pull guns on each other, daring the other to shoot, only for the men to empty their clips at close range without landing a single shot.
  • Castlevania ends the fight between Trevor and Alucard like this — Trevor has a knife partially buried in Alucard's sternum, but wouldn't be able to fully stake him before Alucard rips his throat out with his fangs. The fact that Trevor's perfectly willing to go through with it impresses Alucard enough that he ends the fight and agrees to work with Trevor against Dracula.
  • Drawn Together: Parodied in "The One Wherein There is a Big Twist, Part 1", where a minor issue between the housemates flares into a standoff. Then Wooldoor leaps into the fray and produces a ridiculous amount of guns (in a ridiculous amount of arms), even going as far to shout "I'M NOT AFRAID TO DIE!" before pointing yet another gun at himself.
  • Final Space: In Episode 6, Avocato and Quinn both draw guns on each other when the former wants to go rescue his son while the latter wants to close the breach first. Then they both aim their guns at Gary to force him to choose which mission comes first. KVN tries to join in by drawing two guns of his own, but is quickly disarmed.
  • G.I. Joe plays with this when Shipwreck is confronted by Destro and the Dreadknoks just after he dumped a chemical that makes water explode down the drain. To hold them off, Shipwreck has a lit match and threatens to ignite the treated water. Destro confidently tells him that's pointless since a triggering explosion is needed to set off the water. Shipwreck calls it a bluff and Destro dares him to find out. Shipwreck does and drops the match down the drain, only to learn he was not bluffing as nothing happens. With the Joes' trump card now worthless, the Dreadknoks open fire, but Shipwreck dodges and that weapons fire provides the triggering explosion to set the water off.
  • Handy Manny: In "Gopher Help", Turner faces off against the gopher, complete with what the closed-captioning describes as "western standoff music." It ends with Turner successfully leading the gopher to a trap, which it is then caged in.
  • King of the Hill: Subverted when Dale turns to the bounty hunter and faces his target. Both drop their rifles and put their arms up... Then stand there until their arms get tired, but not before they both covertly try to go for their guns... only to be scared by the other doing so, and both promptly surrender again.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: In Mute-Eat-Mute World", the main characters are surrounded by the Newton Wolves, the Scooter Skunks, the Mod Frogs, and the Hummerbombers, with everyone willing to fight each other if it means capturing the humans first and thus getting the glory and rewards for doing so.
  • Sealab 2021 takes this trope to comedic excess in "Let 'em Eat Corn", which climaxed in a five-way Mexican Standoff, with each faction armed with a nuclear missile. It then anti-climaxed when they all fire, and find out the nukes (all bought from the British) are duds.
  • The Simpsons:
  • Transformers: Animated: In keeping with its western theme, "A Fistful of Energon" features one in the climax between the Autobots and Decepticons over two captured Starscream clones. The standoff breaks when the clones are also revealed to be living bombs that activate a timer to detonation.
  • T.U.F.F. Puppy: In "Share-a-Lair", T.U.F.F. and D.O.O.M. are surprised at seeing each other in the same office and proceed to point their guns at each other to try and attack. Kitty manages to reason with them by pointing out that if they both start shooting their office would get destroyed.

    Real Life 
  • A Mexican Standoff is a heightened version of what is sometimes referred to as a Hobbesian Trap (after the philosopher, not the tiger who was also named after the philosopher). When two (or more) parties are both able to do harm to the others, and afraid of being harmed by the others, the trap is set. A great deal of effort has gone into providing ways to safely back out of the trap, at least on the national level; "Honor", where making a pre-emptive strike causes the nation to become a pariah; mutual defence treaties, where another nation will avenge any pre-emptive strike made against their ally, in order to discourage agressors; and international organisations like the U.N., who provide a way for nations in a Hobbesian trap to reduce their conflict to a war of words rather than arms. All three were considerations during the Cuban Missile Crisis, remarked on belownote .
  • The "Sitting War" that occurred near the beginning of World War II.
    • Most specifically, the French-German border was quiet for seven months while Germany conquered Poland and Norway. The English and French together had a 4-to-1 numerical advantage over the Germans in the area, but the defenses of the Sigfried Line made the situation a stalemate.
    • This standoff is probably best considered as a three way, with the third party being the bitingly cold 39/40 winter. Once winter decided to back out however...
  • The Cold War was one of these, with two superpowers and their allies pointing enough nuclear weapons at each other to end human civilization if either one fired first. The notable exceptions being the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan—and bear in mind that while the US directly fought in Korea and Vietnam, and the USSR in Afghanistan, the other side did not officially commit troops to any of these (although in practice they did provide clandestine support to their allies).
    • The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most intense period of the Cold War; a standoff within a standoff.
    • Even with the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons will keep the standoff going in perpetuity. A Time editorial considers this preferable to the level of bloodshed the pre-nuclear World Wars exemplified.
  • Many hostage situations boil down to Mexican Standoffs-the police don't want to fire on the hostage taker for fear of causing him to kill the hostage, yet the hostage taker doesn't want to execute the hostage, as there's then no reason for the police to refrain from shooting.
    • That's why there's always a sniper attached to the police during hostage situations. Unless the hostage taker isn't standing near a window.


Video Example(s):


The Jedi The Hunter & The Caij

At the conclution of the bounty side quest, Caij turns on Cal for the more significant bounty he's earned for himself since they met, until an unexpected third party interrupts, leading to a three way stand off which directly homages The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / MexicanStandoff

Media sources: