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Onrushing Army

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" A line of dust floats at the base of the Red Mountains. A thin brown line, growing larger and larger. Specks appear in the haze. A noise rises up, like a hundred roaring engines. A thousand thundering hooves. Ten thousand uplifted voices... They come in a ramshackle cavalry charge that whips the desert into a sandstorm. At the center of the charge is a old, battered truck. On the roof of the cab stands the Victor, grey hair whipping in the wind, nightgown flapping against her bony legs, a pitchfork in one hand and a pistol in the other, shrieking a war cry that reaches the eagles in the sky."
Arrow, a sequel to The Victors Project

A popular subset of Hollywood Tactics. Opposing armies will not engage in tactics or maneuvers of any kind. Instead, they simply form up into two opposing masses and charge straight at each other across a flat field. Afterwards, even this rudimentary formation will be lost as soldiers break up into a chaotic series of individual duels. If there are any cavalry, they will not work as a separate unit or form up together; rather they will just be scattered in amongst the infantry.

If one side doesn't charge, they will hold any of their ranged fire until the very last moment (it helps build dramatic tension). Or they will fire exactly one volley of arrows before charging themselves.

In the history of warfare, generally only the absolutely most unorganized and untrained mobs engaged in this trope. Even ancient barbarians generally knew better than to just gang up and run toward the enemy. This isn't of course to say that charges didn't happen; it's just that a charge at the enemy was one tactic among many, generally incorporated into an overall strategy, whereas this trope portrays an army's entire battle plan as beginning and ending with, "Everyone run straight at the enemy."

Realism aside, this trope makes for a useful and iconic image for filmmakers, and is popular in an introductory scene as a way to quickly tell the audience that these two large groups of people really, really don't like each other. Compare Animal Stampede, where the charging troop consists of mindless animals rather than soldiers. A subtrope of Call That a Formation?


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    Comic Books 

  • The inhabitants of a certain Gallic village in Asterix (as well as the eponymous hero and his buddy Obelix by themselves when abroad) do this regularly to the Roman army, the unfortunate recurring crew of pirates, and whomever else they may end up fighting in the given album. Justified in this case by Panoramix's magic potion giving them superhuman strength (plus of course the Rule of Funny).

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Lord of the Rings
    • The prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring features mindlessly rushing Orcs against more disciplined Elves.
    • The Return of the King:
      • The Rohirrim's charge against the Orcs at Minas Tirith. One really big line of horses coming at full speed on the Orc army, whose volleys of arrows do little to impede the cavalry charge before they're all swept away by a literal equine tidal wave. The Rohirrim attempt the same strategy against the line of Mûmakil covering the Orcs' retreat, but fail hard due to the Oliphaunts' sheer size and are left scattered. Not too long after the Rohirrim are nearly spent, Aragorn's group joins the fray with the Army of the Dead, bullrushing any and all resistance on the fields.
      • The final battle between Aragorn's force and the combined, very much larger force of Mordor plays this trope even stronger; with the need to distract Sauron's gaze away from Frodo and the Ring, Aragorn simply charges forward and his army follows suit, despite being completely surrounded by the Black Gate's army.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
    • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The final battle also features this, though there is some strategic use of boulder-dropping fliers before the forces clash. In a slight twist, Peter's army charges in the shape of a flying wedge, in contrast to the Witch's army charging in the typically crowd-like fashion. Notably, there are actually two collisions, each sides' great cats charge ahead of the rest of the forces and slam into one another ahead of everyone else.
    • Used to a T in Prince Caspian. The Telmarines send their cavalry in first, far ahead of the infantry, charges far ahead, then monolithic rectangles of infantry slowly walk in, supported only by trebuchets.
  • Braveheart plays with this. There are Screaming Warrior charges, sure, but there's also archers, cavalry, and Irishmen deployed in various battles before they get to that bit. During the climax of the Battle of Stirling, the Scotts, right after trapping and slaughtering the English cavalry, meet head on with the incoming English infantry, complete with alternating shots of both armies rushing and screaming.
  • The climactic battle of The Last Samurai. After enduring several volleys of gunfire, Katsumoto and his men manage to divide the Imperial Japanese army with columns of fire, pelt the stranded half with arrows, before rushing them on foot. The Imperial army, for their part, also meet them head on, having a slight range advantage with their guns until the samurai close the distance. Then there's the final cavalry charge, which consists of Katsumoto, Algrene and any surviving samurai pushing as far as they can through the Imperial Army's lines until they're brutally stopped by machine gun fire.
  • The Spartans do this in 300 whenever they don't feel like using a phalanx as they're supposed to (which is most of the film aside from the start).
  • Parodied in Meet the Spartans: The Spartans and the Persians charge at each other, and collide in the middle, falling to the ground.
  • Big Trouble in Little China. The Chang Sing and Wing Kong secret societies line up facing each other (a "Chinese Standoff"). When one of the Wing Kong members yells, they charge to attack each other.
  • The first battle sequence in Gladiator looks like it will subvert it, with the Romans clearly being aligned in formation while the disorganized Germans are not. However, by the end of the battle, it turns into the same swirling melee that all Hollywood battles are wont to do, which is especially egregious given the fact that Rome's military success came from its incredibly well drilled legionaries and use of formations.
  • Done in The Mummy Returns. We see lots of this trope in flashback, and toward the climax it's also done with the Medjai versus the army of Anubis. Partially justified, since Anubis warriors are dog-headed monstrosities and possibly not smart enough to use strategy.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, this is how the battle between Gotham's police and Bane's army plays out. In the cops' defense, there wasn't time nor a supply chain for anything more tactically sound, what with only ten minutes to stop Bane before he set off a nuke. Armed with only police batons, smoke grenades and pistols, the GCPD charge against Bane's army, who are armed with automatic assault rifles.
  • In the first assault on the city in Troy, the Greek army does this... And gets stopped cold by the Trojan phalanx, before a Rain of Arrows sends the survivors back to the ships.
  • In the final battle of Warcraft (2016), the two armies hurl themselves at each other with complete disregard of formations. It could be that, with the humans being in a canyon, there was quite literally no other tactic possible than to go forward, but this still doesn't excuse lack of even the most basic shield-wall while it's made very clear their orc adversaries are individually far more mighty.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War the Wakandan army led by the Avengers charges toward a similarly charging army led by Thanos' children. Somewhat justified by the fact that the Wakandans (and most of the Avengers) excel in melee combat, with few specifically ranged weapons among them (Bucky is smart enough to stay at range when using his gun, but also closes to close range to take advantage of the fact that he's also a skilled close quarters combatant).
  • In Avengers: Endgame, the combined force of the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and an army of Wakandans, Asgardians, Ravagers and Sorcerers, charge against Thanos and his army in an even and epic clash, breaking down into an epic tracking shot of individual heroes and villains clashing to showcase just about every Avenger (and many of their allies) in action.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail plays this for laughs, as King Arthur and his knights (and later his entire army) always attack by charging. The trope is exaggerated on two occasions, when they charge at an enemy castle. Notably, they never win a single fight.


  • On the Discworld, this is the policy of the D'regs. As their wise man said in Jingo, "It is always wise to charge."

    Live Action TV 
  • Deconstructed the first time a viking raiding party fights a Saxon force in Vikings. The Saxons try to ambush the vikings (who are coming from raiding a nearby town) before the vikings can get back to their ships. The Saxon battle plan consists solely of firing a single volley of arrows and then charging at the vikings in a disorganized mass. The vikings on the other hand stay in a tight shield wall, have a reserve to fill in any spots should someone in the front line of the shield wall die, etc. The vikings slaughter the Saxons, while only suffering two casualties, plus the two guys who were originally watching the boats.
  • Played for Laughs in Monty Python's Flying Circus with the sketch on the Batley Townswomens' Guild's re-enactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbour.
  • Typically averted in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, with the Romans frequently using a shield wall, necessitating the rebels to use some sort of additional tactic such as ambushes or catapults. The Grand Finale seems to play it straight with both sides charging right at each other, only for the rebels to stop and hold leading to the Romans falling into a Pit Of Spikes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The basic ork strategy is to run at the enemy while yelling and shooting. Justified in that the standard ork soldier is seven feet tall, tough enough to survive most small-caliber weapons, and have the numbers for such a strategy to be viable (and their biology requires orks to die to create more down the line).
    • Tyranids do something similar, but applying It Can Think by sending genetically-designed Cannon Fodder first (they don't even have digestive systems since they aren't meant to survive the battle) to ensure the defenders waste their ammunition before sending in the bigger monsters.

    Video Games 

  • A trailer for War Craft III shows this, with a battle between Orcs and Humans which quickly goes in a different direction when demons unexpectedly rain from the sky and kill everyone.
  • Happens in the intro to Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. Initially averted, as the Blood Ravens hold their positions while the Orks first charge them, but it gets played straight as the Blood Ravens charge forward after the reinforcing Dreadnaught obliterates the attacking Orks, and then the Orks charge back. Possibly a Justified Trope, as after the Blood Raven commander collapses from being shot and placing a flag at the top of a hill, Space Marine drop pods fall from the sky behind him. The flag is theorized to be some sort of device to call in those reinforcements from the drop pods, so the Blood Ravens had to make a reckless charge. The Orks reciprocating their charge more or less just makes complete sense - Orks totally love doing stuff like that.
    • It would also make sense if one considered tabletop rules, where for several editions standing one's ground wasn't worth it against the enemy's charge bonuses, especially with Orks' Furious Charge rule.
  • Pretty much any Real-Time Strategy consisting of individual units to be micromanaged attack-moving - they'll all just run toward the selected point until they can see something they can hit, run toward that until they can hit it, and then keep hitting it until they can't and go back to running toward the selected target in search of things they can hit. It will depend on the game for Screaming Warrior to make an appearance.
  • In the Total War series, this trope is generally a very bad idea despite the trope picture (Total War: Shogun 2). Though charging units have a bonus when they make contact and not charging in an open field battle loses out on this bonus, flanking the enemy causes a significant penalty that is definitely worth doing instead of just running at the enemy head-on. Furthermore, lots of units (especially pikemen) have the "charge defence" trait that only works when they stand still and nullifies a head-on charge. The AI in earlier games was fond of this trope, however, as it was really easy to code.
    • From Total War: Rome II and onward in the series, a "bracing" bonus exists for infantry units that are standing totally still and facing toward enemy units to help reduce the damage an enemy's charge against them will cause. A variety of units in these later entries can also have a bunch of other bonuses to encourage averting this trope again enemy units which have a more fearsome charge than them, such as negating charge bonuses entirely as previously mentioned, doing more damage against charging adversaries while braced, or even completely reflecting an enemy's charge bonus right back onto them (especially good against cavalry, of course).
  • This is largely how infantry combat plays out in Black & White 2.
  • Mortal Kombat: Armageddon has all the bad guys on one side charging towards all the good guys in the intro movie.
  • Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator can have armies numbering well into the hundreds of thousands duking it out, which naturally means that individual unit AI seems to be a very low priority. Consequently, the only thing armies can really manage by themselves is to run in the direction of the closest enemy, then begin attacking the moment the enemy is in range until they are dead.

    Real Life 
  • Most ancient and medieval battles had relatively light casualties until a rout started. Soldiers would usually panic long before they would be wiped out. The point of charging is to hope to break your enemy's resolve with a sudden onslaught. If that fails, the charge is of little benefit. This shows that while it was not a very effective strategy, it is a very intuitive one, prone to appear in cultures with a primitive approach to war.
  • Less professional and/or poorly led armies often turn to this strategy, sometimes unintentionally. The typical result is a bloodbath if their enemy does the same, or a one-sided massacre if he doesn't - their enemy would have to be very very worse in either or both regards for it to work. Of course, it makes slightly more sense when there's no cover to speak of and the other side has superior artillery support, but a sensible commander avoids getting into such a situation in the first place.
  • Ancient Greeks usually fought in phalanxes, and a fairly good way to tell apart one formed by disciplined and motivated soldiers from one that, well, wasn't, was depending on the way they charged. Since they were usually formed by militiamen who never saw many battles in a single lifetime, plenty of battles had the attacking hoplites charge the enemy head-on in a fairly loose formation in spite of their spears and heavy shields. Controlling this factor was instrumental in the victories of the Spartans, the Thebans and the Macedonians (and the Athenians in Marathon).
  • The real-life Battle of Agincourt was lost by the French deciding to employ this trope at exactly the wrong time. At the time of Agincourt, conventional wisdom held that the shield/pike wall would defeat a headlong charge; thus the army that attacked first would lose. The French, holding home terrain, superior numbers and not crippled by disease and logistical issues, thus decided to hold and wait for the English to make a desperation charge that the French could crush with their cavalry and men-at-arms. Thus, as the English advanced their longbows into firing range and put down a wall of stakes, the French did not respond. The end result: The English began bombarding the French with arrows and the French, instead of giving ground, decided to charge the English lines en masse. The outcome, exactly in accordance with conventional wisdom, was a devastating French defeat.
  • Something approximating this was used to substantial effect by Highlanders against Hanoverian armies during the Stuart rebellions, particularly the '45 and its aftermath - although it should be noted that it was used as part of a wider strategic system with more professional troops. The Highland charge was a tactic of sprinting into an enemy's musket lines and hacking at them with broadswords while they're still struggling to fix their bayonets. Later in the war, though, the redcoats developed tactics to defend against such charges and won a horribly one-sided victory at Culloden which ended the rebellion at a stroke.
  • In The Napoleonic Wars the British had a variation of this. They would wait. Occasionally chant. But mostly wait like a silent inhuman wall. This would push the soldiers' tension to its absolute limit which often came at the same time as the French were worn out. Then in a moment they would give a shout, fire their muskets, and charge. The French would almost inevitably collapse.
  • In the age of firearms, is the basic concept behind a bayonet charge, although such attacks are rare (and functionally similar to pike rushes, mentioned above), and typically only done if ammo is short and the enemy near. While bayonets are usually considered Awesome, but Impractical at best (even if the enemy is arm's reach from you, you can still just shoot him), they are also viscerally intimidating, and often result in a total rout as the enemy flees rather than risk getting stabbed to death by a berserking soldier. The most recent bayonet charges by modern military forces were both courtesy of the British military, with Scotts from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders routing a larger force of Iraqi militiamen near Al Amara in May 2004, and in Afghanistan in October 2011 a squad of soldiers from the Prince of Wales Royal Regiment caught in a Taliban ambush forced the enemy to retreat by immediately launching a bayonet charge counter-assault.
  • Up until the development of guided missiles, air-to-air combat could take on traits of this, especially with large forces of fighters intercepting massed bomber formations (the bombers had to stay close together to accurately hit their targets and protect each other, the fighters had to mass together to effectively attack the large formations before they could release their bombs). That said, it was relatively rare for dogfights to start this way. It was much more common for fighters to get "bounced" by an enemy that spotted them first and moved into a blind spot to engage with the element of surprise (which by definition was almost always from behind).
  • A modern version of this, done for fun, can be seen at quite a few metal festivals. Witness: The Wall of Death.


Video Example(s):


Hell Impale

Led by Inarius into hell to slay Lilith, the Knights Penitent form a shield and spear wall to meet a charging horde of demons.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / AThicketOfSpears

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