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One-Hit Kill

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Any time people gather with the goal of hitting each other until one of them falls over, the ultimate trump card would be a weapon, spell, technique, trick, or what-have-you that makes people fall over immediately, without all that annoying strategizing and healing and stuff. The One-Hit Kill is that trump card.

Often, the One-Hit Kill isn't humble enough to just kill, instead petrifying, permanently polymorphing, or banishing its victim to the Phantom Zone. At times, it's not even content with a single target, becoming a One-Hit Polykill.

Usually, the One-Hit Kill comes at a price. Sometimes it's a Dangerous Forbidden Technique which to use requires Casting From Hit Points or life span, other times it's just really hard to pull off, or leaves you wide open for a counterattack. One-Hit Kills are a common spell in RPGs. In video RPGs, it's frequently a Useless Useful Spell because of low hit rates, inability to affect bosses, or a prohibitive cost required to cast it, if not all three combined. Tabletop RPGs, by contrast, have a history of letting those pesky spellcasters make these spells insufficiently useless, turning many fights into a mere Quick Draw contest. In martial arts, it frequently takes the form of the Touch of Death. If it only works at the start of a fight, it's a Back Stab. If it only works at the end of a fight, it's a Finishing Move. If every enemy attack is a one-hit kill, the protagonist is a One-Hit Point Wonder. If every attack by both you and the enemy is a one-hit kill, you get Rocket-Tag Gameplay.


There's also a non-lethal variant of this: The One-Hit Knockout. One-Hit KOs usually don't involve anything like forbidden techniques or rare technology, just an immense amount of force applied at once, usually in the form of a punch to the face. (Bonus points if a particularly fleshy or swift and satisfying sound effect accompanies the blow.) The drawback of this is somewhat self-explanatory: It's not a kill, only a knockout. Still, it gives the user at least a solid five-minute head-start, perhaps even longer, to make an escape or thwart some evil plans before the target can recover and figure out what hit him. In certain works, this is a common reprisal when someone (accidentally or intentionally) presses someone's Berserk Button.

With bladed weapons, cinematic representation of this trope often becomes a Single-Stroke Battle. When a character opens a fight with their most powerful attack in hope of a one-hit kill, the trope overlaps with Begin with a Finisher.


See also Chunky Salsa Rule. Often a Death-or-Glory Attack. Compare Coup de Grâce. Note that if the battle is laughably brief because the attacker is much more powerful, as opposed to simply using an instant-death weapon, it's a Curb-Stomp Battle. Compare/Contrast HP to 1, where the attack is merciful enough to spare a single Hit Point. A Mook that can deliver this is an Instakill Mook.



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    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

  • Jason Voorhees shows it's done in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan as Action Survivor Julius makes a last stand against the walking corpse by punching him over and over again even though it proves futile. Then it's Jason turn and makes Saitama proud by punching the dude's head clean off.
  • Any number of Kung Fu B-movies, which often featured characters (usually villains) who knew a special technique that could kill people (or otherwise take them out of a fight) instantly.
    • In a parody of this, the Wuxi finger hold in Kung Fu Panda.
    • The Flying Guillotine from the movies was a weapon version of this. If it gets on your head and the villain pulls the chain, it's game over for you.
  • The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique in Kill Bill is a special Pressure Point technique that once performed kills the victim once they take five steps through means of exploding their heart. Pai Mei taught this infamous technique to only one student during his lifetime: The Bride, who uses it on Bill himself at the end of Volume 2.
  • Bruce Willis pulls off a one-hit kill in The Last Boy Scout.
    "I'm gonna need a light. You touch me again, I'll kill ya."
  • The Duel to the Death in Seven Samurai comes down to this.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy is searching for Marion the crowd parts to reveal a black swordsmen with scimitar showing off his skill ready to fight, but Indy casually pulls out his gun and blows him away... making it's place in movie history. Hilarious practicality aside, this scene originally was gonna have Indy face the swordsmen for real in choreographed fight scene which would've taken three days to film and blown the studio over budget. Until Harrison Ford (who was suffering from dysentery) wisely suggested to Spielberg that he just "shoot the son of a bitch".
  • In Star Wars:
    • The Death Star plays this both ways. One shot from the superlaser at a target planet creates the planetary equivalent of the Chunky Salsa Rule. Whereas a single proton torpedo to the thermal exhaust port, and the Death Star — the size of a moon with a crew numbering in the millions — turns itself into a planet-sized firework.
    • This is how the famous "who shot first" is resolved. Han shoots and kills Greedo with a single shot before Greedo can react.
    • Despite how badass and unique Darth Maul is in the otherwise lame Phantom Menace many forget he is the only major film antagonist to be taken out (sliced in half) in one slash by Obi-Wan. Kylo Ren (Big Bad Wannabe) in The Force Awakens in contrast got up again after taking a slash to face from Rey's Lightsaber strike.
    • General Grievous from Revenge of the Sith survived mutiple Lightsaber strikes and having his arms sliced off thanks to being a Cyborg. But thanks to his heart being left vulnerable Obi-Wan just shoots him dead with common blaster.
      Kenobi: (throwing the blaster away) So uncivilized.
  • Snatch. has "One Punch Mickey", Gypsy bare-knuckle boxing champion. Bonus points for doing it when he shouldn't.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Tony Stark aka Iron Man given the abilities of his suit, can easily Megaton Punch the average joe so hard it kills him. On a less lethal note Iron Man One-Hit K.Os The Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron with the Hulkbuster Armour, justified as Hulk was distracted having just come to his senses after Scarlet Witch meddled with his mind.
    • The Incredible Hulk's Emil Blonsky gives a demonstration as to why normal humans (even those who have injected themselves with Psycho Serum) shouldn't be stupid enough to try measure up to the Hulk. Best way to avoid getting your ass spartan kicked into next week, Blonsky only survives thanks his Healing Factor.
    • The Bunker Buster aka "Ex-wife" from Iron Man 2 was supposed to be this but it being developed by the inept Justin Hammer means it failed miserably when Rhoedy used it against Whiplash.
    • Thor swings and throws with Mjölnir tend to be one hit kills unless you're a super powerful being, a man in a power suit, have a indestructible shield or possess a magical superweapon of your own to match Mjölnir. Even without the hammer (or without powers) Thor can knock out trained regular humans with a single blow.
      • Thor does the near impossible and takes out Thanos with a single throw of Stormbreaker into the Titan's chest, however it would've been a true One Hit Kill if he'd aimed for the head.
    • Using the power of an Infinity Stone will tend to vaporise your target instantly e.g Guardians of the Galaxy using the Power Stone to destroy Ronan. Though you are more likely die yourself from just touching or coming into contact with one of the stones.
    • Despite Steve Rogers aka Captain America being Determinator (once again) against Thanos in the Avengers: Infinity War by catching and holding back the Infinity Gauntlet, making a stalemate Steve is then instantly knocked out when Thanos uses his other hand. Considering Thanos overpowered Hulk, Thor, Vision and Spider-Man the fact that Steve still has a head on his shoulders is mark of his strength.
    • Non-lethal variant. In Doctor Strange (2016), The Ancient One demonstrates a palm strike move that will kick out a person's astral body out, leaving their physical body unconscious and helpless. Considering she uses the same move against Professor Hulk in Avengers: Endgame, it's clear that physical might is irrelevant when defending against this move.
  • Godzilla possesses the "Spiral Ray" in a few of his later incarnations, a supercharged, red/orange-colored variant of his normal light-blue atomic Breath Weapon. It proved capable of annihilating some of Godzilla's most powerful foes ever (such as Super Mechagodzilla, Spacegodzilla, and Kaiser Ghidorah) within seconds. The one and only time it did not provide an immediate victory was when used against Destoroyah — and that was when it was being used for the duration of the entire climactic battle — which demonstrated how amazingly dangerous Destoroyah really was.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: as you may know after reading the book, the dragon Smaug gets instantly killed by Bard after being pierced by the Black Arrow on the scaleless skin spot of its chest.
  • Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla: Kiryu (AKA "Mechagodzilla 3") possessed a weapon called the Absolute-Zero Cannon which could instantly freeze anything it hit down to absolute zero. The devastating effects of the weapon are seen when Kiryu accidentally freezes several skyscrapers during a battle with Godzilla. Said skyscrapers collapsed into dust almost immediately after freezing. The lethality of the weapon is subverted when used against Godzilla himself twice. The first time, Kiryu had gone berserk from hearing Godzilla's roar and was rampaging across Tokyo before they could fire the weapon. And, the second time, the Absolute-Zero Cannon was badly damaged and could only very temporarily trap Godzilla in ice.
  • Ong-Bak contains a kick-to-the-face that is possibly the best example ever.
  • In Diggstown, "Honey" Roy Palmer gets pissed off and knocks out an opponent with a single punch immediately after the round starts.
    Roy: (to the ref) Get the next one in here now.
  • All but the tiniest phantoms in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, since they're an Intangible Man that does Collision Damage by ripping the soul from your body like walking through a cloud of smoke.
  • In Punisher: War Zone, Frank kills a man with a single punch that penetrates his skull.
  • Drive Angry gives us the Godkiller. A unique gun that can kill anything shot by its bullets in one shot, and even banishes them from existence.
  • In the I Spy film, Eddie Murphy's character is a boxing champion known for one-hit KOs. Not exactly a "kill", but it would definitely end your career if you went down from one punch.
  • Transformers: The Movie: Galvatron kills Starscream with one shot.
  • In Godzilla (2014), Godzilla performs one on the male MUTO, by way of a Tail Slap into a skyscraper. Amusingly, the way Godzilla turns around to deliver said attack looks almost casual.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Gazelle does this to Lancelot, cutting him in half lengthwise.
  • In Jason Bourne, Bourne is shown knocking an opponent out in a single hit during a illegal fight.
  • At the start of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, three Klingon battlecruisers launch an Attack Hello against the entity V'Ger, which proceeds to effortlessly one-shot each of them. By contrast, the Deflector Shields on the refit Enterprise barely manage to No-Sell a similar blast from V'Ger.

  • A staple of Choose Your Own Adventure books are the no-escape dead ends, though gamebooks (e.g. Lone Wolf) fit the trope best with instant death if you're lacking the right skill/item or just plain unlucky — being not only accepted, but expected.
    • In Lone Wolf, the bow and arrow, far from being just annoying, often allows a one-hit kill for the hero, if he chooses the right target and is enough of a good shot (though some monsters are utterly immune to this).
    • The best Choose Your Own Adventures were better known for their creatively gory endings to your life than for their successful endings.
    • Ditto Star Challenge. You and/or your robot are as common to be the one(s) on the receiving side as your enemies.
  • In the Fighting Fantasy book Creature of Havoc, the Player Character is a hulking Monstrous Humanoid with a 1-in-6 chance each combat roll of landing a Critical Hit that instantly kills its opponent. It can also accidentally drink a potion that suppresses this power.

  • Harry Potter:
  • In the second series of The Chronicles of Amber, Merlin knows a "neat little cardiac arrest spell." He only uses it once, but he just obliterates a Jabberwock with it. Apparently, he has a separate "death spell," but he never uses it. However, he does note that the first spell wouldn't have been a One Hit Kill on a fire angel, as they have three hearts.
  • In Michael Moorcock's novel "The Eternal Champion", when the Eldren use their ultimate weapon, a high-powered energy gun, against their opponents, who are using classic Middle Ages armor, their attack is a One Hit Poly Kill, obliterating entire lines of their opponents each shot.
  • The Ivory Knife in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, a mere scratch from which will kill; it is described as "the very tooth of Death". As one might imagine, this can be somewhat dangerous for the wielder as well. Heroine Jame carries it in her boot sheath for a long while, at first because she doesn't realize what it is, then after she knows, because she doesn't have anywhere safe she can leave it.
  • Balefire in The Wheel of Time instantly erases from existence anyone it hits retroactively. And it kills in such a way that even the Dark One (who has power over death and can reincarnate people) can't save them. Balefire comes at a very high price, though. Since it kills retroactively, the past will be changed - any actions performed by the killed within for everything for a minute back to days (all according to the power of the Balefire) will now not have happened. If this happens too much, reality itself unravels, causing a Temporal Paradox that can destroy the world.
  • The Vord Queen in Codex Alera has become powerful enough by First Lord's Fury that, when an Aleran High Lord takes the field at the battle of Alera Imperia, she blasts him out of the sky with one hit. When he's protected by dozens of Citizens and knights. Cue the Mass "Oh, Crap!".
  • The demon-in-the-form-of-a-sword "Stormbringer" in Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone series kills any non-magically protected human in one blow (it also eats the victim's soul). "Mournblade" is a similar demonic sword, and one story reveals that there is an entire race of these demons — all of them taking the form of swords.
  • In Warbreaker, Vasher uses his sword "Nightblood" to dispatch numerous Mooks. Nightblood, when fully drawn, will completely obliterate its victims, soul and all, in a single strike, leaving nothing but a brief cloud of black smoke where they were standing. Wielding Nightblood in this manner comes with severe drawbacks.
  • "Morganti" weapons in Dragaera all destroy the soul of the victim upon entry, making revivification impossible, and also making it impossible for the victim to travel the Paths of The Dead to the afterworld. (Assuming the victim has a means of both suiciding and entirely disassociating their soul from their body before contact — a never certain process, aside from its obvious drawbacks — they damage the corpse as an ordinary weapon of their type.)
  • Any of several magic words in the Inheritance Cycle which cause instant death to whoever they were directed at.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords series, Farslayer can kill anyone (including demons and gods) anywhere as long as they don't have Shieldbreaker or Woundhealer to save them.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, Jadis uses the deplorable word and basically one-shots an entire planet, resulting in no more subjects for her to rule. But that's okay, a pair of children help save the day on Earth and Narnia
  • Shardblades from The Stormlight Archive cut the soul of living things rather than the flesh, and cut straight through almost any inanimate matter without any effort. Slicing the blade through one of a victim's vital organs kills them instantly. Slicing it through a limb "kills" that limb, rending it permanently paralyzed and numb. The only beings that are likely to give somebody with a Shardblade a problem are those with a suit of Shardplate, (which can withstand a Shardblade, at least for a while) or beasts so large that the blade can't easily be sliced into their vital organs (and these are BFSs an average of six feet long, so the fact that there ARE beasts that big, and a lot of them, says something about this world).
  • In The Destroyer book series, the martial art of Sinanju is mostly one-hit kill moves. The (very long) series isn't entirely consistent on how much of this is based on actual precise technique targeting vital spots, and how much is because practice of Sinanju raises basic physical abilities to the point where pretty much any imaginable attack can be used to do lethal damage.
  • In Billy Budd, the eponymous character is accused of conspiracy and mutiny aboard a British man-of-war by the ship's master-at-arms, who is doing this to fight off his "strange attraction" to the androgynous sailor. Upon hearing this, Billy freezes up, unable to say anything in his defense. Eventually, he answers the only way he can - by punching the liar in the temple. The man dies on the spot. Unfortunately, Billy is found guilty of murder by the tribunal of officers, despite them all being sympathetic to the boy, and hung the next day. Interestingly, the tribunal was about to find him not guilty as a weird case of self-defense, when The Captain intervened and convinced them of the necessity of the execution.
  • In the Star Carrier series H'rulka weapons easily one-shot smaller Confederation ships, being as how their ammunition consists of what amounts to miniature black holes. They also outrange most Confederation weapons.
  • Honor Harrington delivers a One Hit KO to the Honorable Sir Reginald Houseman in Honor Of The Queen, after he demands that she pull her forces out of Yeltsin's Star, leaving the Graysons to be conquered or nuked by Masada. It worked not only because Honor is a Heavy Worlder, but that he was such an Entitled Bastard that he had no idea at all that she would dare to actually strike him.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, it's not that Gregor Clegane has any magical trick or secret technique that suddenly turns him deadly. He's just that big, strong, able to wear so much armour and can wield a cavalry weapon that's just that big (while he's on foot; in a single hand, no less) in such a way to lay waste to even the most heavily armoured of his opposition in one swing thanks to the sheer power he can put behind it. Now, add a horse's mass and velocity to this equation for when he starts using a lance in or out of the lists... If he makes contact, you're so very dead (and, probably even the guy next to you and the one next to him). It's simple physics and psychotics — and, he proves it time and again. The downside is that he isn't the fastest (still faster than you'd expect, considering how much he and his poor, disposable horses haul about) and he suffers from chronic physical pain thanks to his gigantism for which he's on constant medication. But, if you think that's a bonus, it just means you need to hurt him more (all while dodging the inevitable) for him to even register it.
  • The Magic Wand that Griswalda gives Lucifer in The Vagina Ass of Lucifer Niggerbastard. Lucifer, "tests", the Magic Wand out on Griswalda.
  • In Sword Art Online, the boss of the 75th floor. It's bad enough that the only door out closes and disappears, and teleport crystals don't work, so the raid group is trapped until they either win or get wiped out. But on top of that, it also one-shots almost everyone unlucky enough to get hit by it. Most of the fighters are suitably terrified. By the end, 14 out of 32 are gone.
  • In Changes, Ebenezar McCoy casts what essentially is a mass version of aforementioned Avada Kedavra onto two hundred or so Mooks. There's no flash, no sound or anything, he just makes a wide gesture with his staff and those he points to simply drop dead.
  • The inspiration for the James Bond film and video game Golden Gun, the book version in The Man with the Golden Gun is a gold-plated Colt Single Action Army firing custom solid gold bullets with silver-plating. Ballistics calculations (using lead .45 Colt bullet weights as a starting point) indicates that Scaramanga's revolver hits like a .500 S&W Magnum, which has aided his reputation for only needing one shot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who the Dalek race's beams are this, even for other daleks, who are usually really hard to even scratch. There's a very memorable scene in the 9th Doctor's first Dalek episode where a room full of soldiers shoot at a Dalek uselessly and instead of shooting back the Dalek just hits the fire sprinkler on and shoots one death beam and electrifies all the wet soldiers in one.
  • Game of Thrones: As Bronn stated, one can attempt to fight Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane by out-maneuvering him, but if he gets just one good hit in, that fighter is dead. This is illustrated in "The Mountain and the Viper." After spending an entire fight flailing at— and missing— the much more nimble Oberyn Martell, Gregor finally manages to get his hands on him and ends the fight in seconds.
  • In Smallville, especially early seasons, there are very few opponents that Clark doesn't take out in one hit.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Every single vampire goes down (turns to dust) with one stab of a wooden stake (or sharp wooden object) to the heart. Usually there's a drawn out fight at the very least to showcase vampires as powerful foes, then at other times they get staked instantly, and some don't even make it out of their own graves before Buffy dusts them. Sunlight also ends vamp-fights quickly e.g. Russel Winters in the first episode of Angel who is pushed out a skyscraper's window by the titular hero and doesn't make it to the ground.
    • Despite how much a threat they are played up to be, most Big Bad(s) in both Buffy and Angel are taken out in one attack such as The Master, The Judge, The Beast and Jasmine.
    • Before Saitama there was Illyria in Angel series 5.
  • Game Shows: In its simplest sense, the one-hit kill was a contestant winning the game outright on the first play of the game, before his opponents even have a chance to play. Although rare, the most notable examples were:
    • Tic-Tac-Dough: The "red box" "Bonus Category," which immediately allowed the contestant another turn if he/she answered a three-part question correctly. The categories were moved to other boxes after the question, and the "Bonus Category" always appeared in an adjacent box or other space that allowed him/her to set up and eventually complete a tic-tac-toe. Played correctly – and it often was – a tic-tac-toe was completed without the opponent getting a chance to play (although he/she was always invited back to play the next game). Eventually, in the interest of fair play, the category was retired, in lieu of the modified "Double-or-Nothing."
    • The Joker's Wild:
      • Spinning three jokers on a single spin automatically won the game for that contestant ... provided he/she correctly answered a question. While it has happened several times on the game's first spin, only once – the first time it happened – did it result in the opponent not getting to play. (The opponent, a challenger, forced his smile as he was on and off the show in roughly 90 seconds.) The ""first-spin triple joker" quick kill was averted thereafter by allowing the challenger – who always played second – an opportunity to catch up by continuing to answer questions until they either caught up, won by surpassing the opponent's score or giving an incorrect answer; however, the game would end if the challenger spun the triple joker and answered the question correctly.
      • Like its sister show Tic Tac Dough, the 1977-1986 syndicated version had special scoring categories, which could be used on the player's first turn to build a huge lead and virtually assure themselves a win, simply by severely pressuring the opponent. Categories fitting this example were "Fast Forward" and "Bid," both which allowed contestants to answer multiple questions in a single turn until they either stopped and kept their winnings ("Fast Forward") or completed the terms of their bid to earn the cash ("Bid").
    • Concentration: Solving the puzzle after making a match on the game's first turn.
    • Although one contestant did spin (and miss) before her, Caitlin Burke solved I'VE GOT A GOOD FEELING ABOUT THIS on Wheel of Fortune after calling the L.
  • In the finale of Life, Crews kills Roman with one blow to the throat.
  • In the competitive robot combat show Robot Wars robots could be battered into submission and some robots were in fact powerful enough to disable an opponent with a single lucky blow. Robots could also be flipped over and those with no way to right themselves were immobilized and defeated. However there was only one guaranteed way to defeat an enemy robot in a single strike: throwing it over the wall and out of the arena. The first time it happened, no one could believe their eyes. Not to mention, the pit.
  • The Zat'nik'tel in Stargate SG-1. Although it takes two shots to kill, one shot delivers excruciating pain, enough to neutralize any target that's not protected against it.
    • One season 8 episode has O'Neill use an Ancient ship that is basically a transport shuttle (defensive weapons only, no shields) to do this to a Goa'uld Ha'tak mothership (the same class of ship that was a major threat to Earth in the early seasons). Shows how powerful the Ancients were.
  • Done on CSI: NY, where a martial arts expert killed the victim of the week with a single blow to the back of the neck.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "The Changing Face Of Evil", we see for the first time the Breen's Energy Dissipator, which in one shot, disables the engines, weapons and shields of its target. While not necessarily a "one-hit kill" per sé, the target becomes a sitting duck.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In the final episode (Endgame), Voyager gets upgraded with technology from the future. It gets armor that makes it immune to Borg weapons, and it gets special torpedoes that can destroy Borg cubes in one hit.
  • Supernatural:
    • The Colt is a magical gun that can one-shot nearly anything in existence, even beings that would normally be considered unkillable. However, there are a few cosmically powerful creatures that it can't outright kill. Dean and Sam learn a bit too late that Lucifer is one of them.
    • Most of the highest ranking angels enjoy doing this to anyone less powerful than them who manages to piss them off, with Lucifer being the standout example. One snap of his fingers is usually enough to turn just about anyone into a red paste.

  • During the first Demogorgon mode in Stranger Things, shooting the ball into its mouth results in the monster immediately being destroyed, ending the mode.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • It's pretty common in North America for a pro wrestler's Finishing Move to be used as a One Hit Kill. There are many, many matches where one participant spends the whole match getting the snot beaten out of him, then seizes an opportunity to hit his finisher and win the match. Note that this is less common in Mexico, Japan, and Europe.
    • The One Hit Kill effect is essentially what made Diamond Dallas Page so dangerous in WCW. You could beat him up all day, but all he had to do was hit the Diamond Cutter and he'd come out on top — and he could hit the Diamond Cutter at a moment's notice, from fifty-two different positions.
    • As well as Randy Orton's RKO. Though the RKO occasionally gets hit with The Worf Barrage. Orton's Punt to the Head is a better example, as no one has ever kicked out of it.
    • Also witness this WWF title match between Bob Backlund and Diesel. Kick, Jackknife Powerbomb, match over.
  • Though he didn't use it for obvious reasons, Michael Tarver of The Nexus once had the gimmick of the 1.9 second punch, a punch that would instantly KO anyone.
  • Santino Marella has The Cobra, a jab to the throat. He's still mostly a Jobber because he wastes so much time signalling for it that he's almost always intercepted.
    • And then after months, he finally hit the move for the first time on Zack Ryder...and still ended up losing the match.
    • People now have to sell the damn thing.
  • Umaga's Samoan Spike.
  • Shawn Michaels and Sweet Chin Music.
  • The Tombstone Piledriver: In the two decades that The Undertaker has been using it, you can count the amount of people who have even kicked out of it once on your fingers. In fact, when Shawn Michaels kicked out of it at WrestleMania XXV, the look on Undertaker's face and reaction of the commentators was akin to "That did not just happen!"
  • Kenta Kobashi's Burning Hammer can actually one-up on the Tombstone: nobody has ever kicked out of it. As a result, he's only used it seven times to maintain its special-ness. Well, eight if you include the time he used it on his cancer.
  • Sheamus. The Brogue Kick.
  • The Big Show. The Knockout Punch aka The Weapon of Mass Destruction.
  • Spike Dudley's Acid Drop/Dudley Dog.
  • A simple roundhouse kick to the head is a staple of the Japanese shoot-style finishing offensive. It's credible enough to pass for a real KO, and the Mixed Martial Arts world has taught us that it's indeed as powerful. This is seen in Yoshi Tatsu's debut match in WWE's ECW against Shelton Benjamin. Benjamin got distracted at the beginning of the match with mocking Tatsu's Japanese salute... and hitting the roundhouse kick was all Yoshi had to do for the win.
  • Lacey Evans has The Woman's Right, a right hook that almost always KO's her opponent.
  • Despite his very hit-and-miss booking, Baron Corbin has possibly the most-protected finisher on the entire current WWE roster in his End of Days (Pendulum Lifting Reverse STO). Only one person has ever kicked out of it, and that was Austin Aries while Corbin was still in NXT.

  • Destroy the Godmodder uses this often. Any attack that isn't charged has an incredibly high chance of this happening to it. If the godmodder doesn't brainwash them and turn the summon to his side instead.

  • The webcomic Instant Death revolves around this. The protagonist has the ability to instantly kill anything with a thought, even gods, immortals, ghosts, and abstract or conceptual beings. Even beings with multiple layers of immortality and resistance to death manipulation can be killed by it.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • The talking sword Chaz can kill pretty much anything with a single swing. Even a scratch will suffice in most instances. The Demon King of the Dimension of Pain managed to survive getting scratched, but was still permanently crippled. The only limitation is that Chaz only has this power after bathing in the blood of the innocent.
    • Later, 4U City's military is shown using weaponized teleporters which transport whatever they hit into Another Dimension. Not really a one-hit kill, but definitely a one-hit victory.
  • The Golden Arrows from Slightly Damned tend to take football sized chunks out of their targets. It's not a guaranteed kill, but it's pretty close.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Susan, armed with a magic sword, and supercharged with magic, can take out an aberration with one swing.
  • In Noblesse, Raizel has the ability to take out any opponent with one strike of his blood magic, but it shortens his life span the more he uses his powers.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, Pinky and Inky both get knocked out in one blow at the start of the fight against two tunnel dwellers, requiring Blinky to revive them with a Healing Potion.
  • Scoob and Shag has the Ballyhoo "Power", which grants the user the power to "turn off" anything... by making it collapse on itself until it disappears. The user can also undo the effects by "turning on" anything that they previously erased. If they want to permanently kill someone, they can just target the head.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-544 perceived threads extending upwards from the heads of others, as well as from other living things, and could kill anything instantly by cutting its thread with his mind.
    • One of the 001 proposals can obliterate anything in a single strike of its flaming blade, from people to missile bases, 049 has an extremely effective Death Touch, 956 will petrify you with a single look (while not immediately fatal, you'll wish it was), and witnessing anything done by someone infected by 370 will mean You Are Already Dead.
  • Art of the Instakill celebrates the trope in several modern game franchises. Visual effects included. Here's a reference for those who may not know.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Season 1 has Donut throw a plasma grenade and oneshot Tex, who was halfway across a canyon and in a tank. This gets a Call-Back in season 10, where he manages to lob three plasma grenades in one throw to kill three soldiers.
    • In Season 10, Agent Maine does this to The Big Guy of the enemy team to show off his new Super Strength. The guy is killed in a single punch (which also either knocks his reinforced titanium helmet off or out-and-out decapitates him... the camera angle leaves this unclear).
  • One of Cracked's 31 Life Lessons You Can Only Learn From Video Games is that "no matter how strong and powerful you are, some scrub will take you out with a death spell."
  • Whateley Universe: Tennyo's 'death blow' can kill anything - including Physical Gods and Eldritch Abominations - Deader Than Dead. Even the sub-atomic particles that made up their body simply decay into nothingness.
  • Dreamscape: The Overlord of Evil can fire a small laser that annihilates whoever is hit. Unless you have Resurrective Immortality like Melissa, you're done for.
  • TierZoo:
    • The Crocodile's Death Roll was mentioned to be an instant kill in an earlier video. A later video expanded upon this — while it was a death sentence when successfully pulled off, it also required the crocodile's unbroken concentration meaning that it could be interrupted by an ally of the victim.
    • In the Dinosaur Tier List, the sauropod's Giant Foot of Stomping was mentioned to be the most devastating attack of any animal, knocking down the target while dealing lethal crushing damage. This effectively gave them an "Instant Death" Radius and was one of the reasons why sauropods were the sole dinosaur type in the S-Tier.
    • The Poison Dart Frog's poison was stated to be lethal enough to one-shot any attacker that hit it. The trouble is that the frog had to be attacked for this to work, and due to it tiny size, it would also be killed easily.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The series gives the impression that the advanced Firebending ability to shoot lightning is a One Hit Kill if it manages to get a direct hit. This is offset by the difficulty of shooting lightning in the first place (it requires a mindset which is opposite to the usual for Firebending, and insufficient skill is likely to cause it to explode in the users face), and even when mastered the time it takes to build up the charge tends to telegraph the attack.
    • In the grand finale, Aang's use of 'Soul Bending' borders on a peculiar sort of Have-a-Heart instant neutralization.
    • Ty Lee was also feared enough for her ability to temporarily kill someone's Bending. Not a 'kill', but in a world where children can throw fireballs it leaves you pretty helpless (various big name mundanes aside).
  • Castlevania:
  • Code Lyoko :
    • Many of XANA's monsters are able to do that.
      • The Kankrelat, one-shot Yumi in episode 91.
      • The Blok's rings of fire are powerful enough to one-hit a Lyoko-warrior.
      • The Megatank's attacks, starting with Season 2 is an instant kill.
      • The Manta's explosive mines. Ulrich was immediately devirtualized in episode 66.
      • Any of the Kolossus' attacks : it is so big any of it's attacks (whether it's his arm-sword or him crushing someone) instantly sends you back in the scanners.
    • Some Lyoko-warriors are also able to do that.
      • William. Even when he was a beginner, any of his sword attacks will devirtualize you. When Xanafied, it goes from Bad to Worse. He gains a sword beam attacks which is not only as fast as Odd's laser arrows, but are also a One-Hit-Kill, except when William lowers it's powers in order to capture Aelita.
      • Aelita's fully charged Energy Field. Not even William can tank it.
      • Yumi's fans devirtualizes instantly monsters without having to hit their weak point. In some episodes, XANA-William can tank it, however.
      • If you don't block Ulrich's sword throw attack, you're as good as dead. XANA-William tasted it. Twice.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the main characters use the Elements of Harmony twice: once to take down Nightmare Moon, the evil ruler of the moon, and again on Discord, the omnipotent dark god of chaos.
    • Even without the Elements, a Circle of Friendship attack has enough power to One Hit Kill a trio of Windigos, powerful monsters capable of causing a world ending blizzard.
  • Kramer vs. Predator, as seen on Family Guy.
  • Celebrity Deathmatch:
    • The Loch Ness Monster gets one on Bigfoot during their fight when he slices Bigfoot in half.
    • In Spice Girls vs. Hanson, Marilyn Manson gets one on both combatants by crushing them under the light rigging.
    • In Kid Rock vs. Eminem, Joe C jumps into the ring and eviscerates guest referee Carson Daly, but not before Carson kicks him into the air. He lands on Eminem, and takes control of Eminem's body, which he uses to take out Kid Rock with one hit.
    • Jean-Claude Van Damme cuts Chuck Norris in half with one hit.
  • Samurai Jack Season 5; Jack most likely kills one of the Daughters of Aku with a single punch to the face, snapping her neck in the process.
  • In general, unless you're Vlad Masters, if you find yourself on the receiving end of Danny Phantom's Ghostly Wail, you're about to go down and stay down. Good thing, too, since the attack is so draining it usually leaves the hero de-powered and severely weakened afterward, stopping it from being a Story-Breaker Power.
  • With the amount of damage the gems in Steven Universe can take, it's easy to forget that humans don't have the same luxury. Therefore, Lars dying in a Robonoid explosion was one of the most shocking moments in the show.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: This is a common power among the rogues gallery, but one of the heroes' has this on his side.
    • Cat Noir's Cataclysm power will almost instantly destroy anything he touches. As we are reminded every time he ends up Brainwashed and Crazy, this very much could include human beings.
    • Timebreaker can absorb the time of anyone she touches, causing them to fade away from existence.
    • The Gamer can turn people into points that he uses to level up his mecha.
    • The Collector can seal anything or anyone in his book, as long as he's still got blank pages.
    • Befana's candy gun turns those she views as bad into coal statues. She's not immune to her own weapon.
    • Glaciator can turn people into statues of ice cream if they're hit by the ice cream he uses as ammo, but he refuses to attack loving couples.
    • Style Queen's main offensive power is that she can turn anyone into a statue of golden glitter.
    • Backwarder has a non-lethal but still hopelessly debilitating variation. Anyone hit with her clock hand cane will be forced into rewinding their actions, with Backwarder absorbing their remaining forward time.
    • Desperada can turn anyone she hits with her musical instruments or the beams they can fire into yellow smoke and a sticker on her guitar case.
    • Party Crasher can seal anything or anyone in his disco balls, as long as there's still a blank square.
    • Cat Blank, being a villainous version of Cat Noir, has unlimited uses of his signature Cataclysm, which have been powered up to the point he can destroy the entire Milky Way Galaxy.
    • Heart Hunter's female face can turn anyone who feels any kind of love into a heart, which promptly gets eaten by the male face.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television. Many weapons don't need many hits to kill a person, especially if they hit the brain.
  • This is the aim on both kendo and German School of Swordsmanship.
  • It is entirely possible to kill or knock out a person instantly with a single surprisingly gentle blow. However, beyond accidental cases there is little evidence for the existence of a reliable martial technique. Chances of an instant knockout are significant if any highly trained fighter is given a reason to go all out against an opponent with little or no conditioning. Even if the attacker has no training, (un)lucky hits can lethally aggravate a pre-existing condition (aneurysms are particularly infamous) and kill in short order. If the initial blow causes the victim to fall over (not necessarily unconscious) onto a hard surface or an object that results in critical trauma to the brain or spinal cord, the fall and resultant impact can easily paralyse the unfortunate victim, or even be fatal.
  • A rare real-life example outside a military context is commotio cordis. If a blow strong enough strikes a small region of the chest between the 2nd and 4th ribs during a 15-millisecond window in the heartbeat cycle, the heart rhythm will be disrupted and cardiac arrest will ensue. While this probably can't be induced during a real fight due to the coincidences involved, it has happened to hockey, lacrossenote  and baseball players who have been hit by shots or hits. Lacrosse players have died from this.
  • Nuclear weapons, capable of annihilating entire cities and the inhabitants located in them. Practically anything near the epicenter of the explosion is vaporized by extreme heat, while the resulting blast-wave can instantly demolish most structures. Anything that hasn't died from either of the above may then succumb to radiation poisoning within a matter of hours or days.
  • The Box Jellyfish, the deadliest venomous animal known to exist. It generally takes somewhere between 5 minutes to a second for its sting to kill. Only one person is known to have survived from one.
  • The poison dart frog poison kills in less than 3 seconds; it has to get in the blood though, so contact itself probably won't kill you. Unless it's the Golden Poison Dart Frog, which can.
  • In both armoured and naval warfare, a well-aimed or lucky hit in the opposing tank/ship's magazine can lead to that unfortunate target being blown up by its own ammunition. This is what happened to three British battlecruisers at the battle of Jutland in 1916 and to the HMS Hood in 1941. It doesn't even have to be in the main magazines! At least one of the hits at Jutland (on the HMS Invincible) penetrated the roof of a main battery turret, which wouldn't have been a problem except that the Royal Navy battlecruisers' gunners were bypassing safety protocols for the sake of rapid fire and leaving a nice, flammable chain of cordite leading all the way to the magazines. That, and the fact that the cordite stock hadn't been sufficiently rotated and the stuff was a bit old and chemically twitchy, added up to cause disaster. This is how the Bismarck may have sank the HMS Hood, managing a plunging hit straight into the Hood's magazine.
  • Japanese cruisers in general were vulnerable to this. This was because they carried highly volatile "Long-Lance" torpedoes, which were the most advanced torpedoes in the world by the 1940s but powered with pure and flammable oxygen. Even glancing hits from low-caliber shells could cause them to quickly cook-off and destroy or cripple the ship. In particular, during the Battle Off Samar, the USS Johnston managed to land a crippling hit onto the Japanese Heavy Cruiser Kumano completely taking it out of the battle with just one torpedo hit (the hit blew the ship's entire front end off).
  • In World War I the SMS Szent István was torpedoed in the aft boiler room, killing the power needed to use the pumps and throw the water out. In fact a direct hit from a well-placed torpedo will sink most warships, with only the biggest capable of surviving. Modern torpedoes, which all use proximity fuses rather than needing to strike the target, ideally detonate a short distance below the keel of a vessel "breaking its back" under the target's own weight, causing the ship to split in two and sink relatively rapidly. The "back breaking" effect happened to one US ship during World War II from a kamikaze aircraft instead of a torpedo. The aircraft crashed in front of the ship, the ship ran over it, and was destroyed by an airplane which had already been shot down.
  • In general, aircraft are extremely susceptible to being brought down by a singular cause, whether intentional or accidental. A propeller strike on a single-engined plane for instance, can effectively render a plane uncontrollable. In air-to-air combat, a direct hit by a single missile will generally suffice to bring down any aircraft.
  • Hydrogen-filled Zeppelins in World War I were surprisingly resilient to being brought down by machine gun fire, though they could be downed with just one burst of incendiary ammunition or a single explosive shell in the right place.
  • Similarly, anything that penetrates the armor of a tank will kill it, or at best take it out of action for the duration of the battle. This is because tanks are very compact vehicles, so anything that gets through the armor is going to hit something important. Increasingly, this “something important” is the crew itself.
  • Masutatsu Oyama, founder of Kyokushinaki Karate, was considered in his time the embodiment of "One Strike, Certain Death". Three times in exhibitions, he killed a full-grown bull with a single punch.
  • A lot of pesticides are made like this.
  • Many combat athletes are known for their ability to end a fight with a single strike. Perhaps the best contemporary example is the UFC's Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, who, as of March 2017, shares the record for most all-time knockouts (including TKOs) in UFC history (11) with Anderson Silva, and boasts an incredible five KO/TKO victories in 51 seconds or less, with two of them coming in 13 seconds each. In the words of UFC commentator Joe Rogan, "Rumble Johnson connects on people, and they just shut off.". Another great example is Jorge Masvidal knocking out Ben Askren in five seconds at UFC 239, when Jorge only needed a flying knee to lay Ben out cold, setting the record for fastest KO in UFC history.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): One Hit KO, Instant Kill, Instant KO, One Turn Kill, Instant Death Attack


One Punch KO

Hugo Panzer knocks out agent Greta with a single punch

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / OneHitKill

Media sources:

Main / OneHitKill