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Quaking with Fear

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"What is that strange rattling sound?" I blurted out.
"Your knees rattling together," was his simple and unflattering answer.

In many forms of media, there are scenes that express a character's fear, whether it be from heights, or from entering an abandoned mansion. It is worth noting that at times, those characters will, as a result, tremble. Though it can be considered on the note of serious terror, once the sound effect of trembling is implemented, or once you notice that characters are shaking in the most exaggerated way possible, it seems as though those scenes are there for comedic effect. As a result, characters will often joke about the other character "shaking like a leaf", with the portrayal of one's teeth chattering or knees banging together adding to the comic relief (most prominent in Scooby-Doo).

A common feature for a Nervous Wreck. Compare Security Cling.


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  • A '90s Little Caesar commercial depicted a class getting ready to take an exam, and one of the kids was shaking rapidly when he was about to take it.

    Anime & Manga 
  • At the beginning of the second chapter of Asteroid in Love (animated right after the opening credits in the first episode), Ao trembles in fear as she gets overwhelmed by Mira's texts.
  • Monaka in Dragon Ball Super. He is so terrified to fight Hit that his teeth chatter and his knees shake.
  • Megumi from Food Wars! is known to always shake violently when anxious.
  • Bocchi Hitori in Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu does this when she is anxious, as her legs tend to cramp under stress. And since she has a severe case of social anxiety, this happens pretty often.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • All Might tries to stop his legs from shaking due to the trauma of training with his past teacher.
    • Izuku Midoriya also subverts this trope on a couple of occasions, mainly whenever he is nervous to fight and his legs won't move.
  • Naruto:
    • In the episode "The Cursed Warrior", Naruto tries to convince Lady Tsunade that he isn't scared of ghosts, but his knees are visibly trembling in front of her.
    • Ino experiences this is as well due to being afraid of helping Sakura fight the sound village in episode 32.
  • Shio Ogura from Nobunagun. In the very first episode, she experiences a life-threatening situation that causes her knees to knock together in fear. She tries to stop them from knocking by holding them, but it doesn't work.
  • Usopp in One Piece. Even though he claims that he is not afraid, his shaking legs always tend to give it away.
  • In the Pokémon: The Original Series episode "Clefairy and the Moon Stone", the professor tries to protect the Clefairy from Team Rocket, but Team Rocket note that his knees are shaking, thus making a loud noise.
  • Shino Amakusa from Seitokai Yakuindomo. She is afraid of heights, and her shaky knees portray that. However, she tries to cover it up by saying she's shaking with excitement.
  • Karen from Shomin Sample. Her legs start to shake when Kimito attempts to dominate her in regards to what clothes she wants to wear.
  • Keith from Zatch Bell!. After losing the fight between Kiyo Takamine and Zatch Bell in chapter 196, his legs shake so hard that he notes that they are practically laughing at him.

    Fan Works 
  • In Mirai SMP, when Techno comes across him and Travis, Cooper is trying to act brave, standing in front of Travis holding a tiny dagger, but Techno notices that his arms are shaking, giving away how scared he is.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Ichabod is absolutely terrified when traversing the woods due to the probability that the Headless Horse Man could appear. The smallest of sounds are enough to make his legs tremble like crazy.
  • Back to the Outback: Maddie trembling in fear after a surprise encounter with Chazzie, who is also trembling in fear, is what clues him in on her being Not Evil, Just Misunderstood.
  • Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs: When Coal Black gets startled by the voices of the sebben dwarfs, her knees are shown knocking in rapid succession.
  • In Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, the camera points to Kei Amemiya's legs shaking when she is confronted by Fuse in the sewers.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): When being grilled by King Triton over Ariel being in love, Sebastian notices his legs shaking with fear and sheepishly covers them.
  • Make Mine Music:
    • In "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met", Willie the Whale imagines himself portraying Mephistopheles, appearing onstage as a huge fire-breathing demon. Just offstage is a group of firemen at the ready, trembling at his fiery performance.
    • One of the pitchers in "Casey at the Bat" also does this before throwing the ball.
  • Mushu from Mulan trembles at the knees in fear for his life when he accidentally destroys the Great Stone Dragon.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Twilight Sparkle's human legs quiver in fear due to being the goalie against Rainbow Dash in a soccer game.
  • Scary Godmother when the kids get spooked by Scary Godmother's crew in the haunted house.
  • In The Secret of NIMH, Jeremy's knees are knocking loudly as he drops Mrs. Brisby off at the entrance to the Great Owl's lair.
  • In the opening of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, when Bowser emerges from his ship to face the penguin king, one of the former's Koopas is so scared that he's hiding in his shell, quivering.
  • Woody from Toy Story when he encounters Sid's horrifying house.
  • In Turning Red, Mei trembles in mortification as her mother confronts Devon at the Daisy Mart.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Jurassic Park (1993): Lex's enjoyment of a spoonful of jelly('jello') is interrupted by the terrifying sight of a veliciraptor. Her shaking in fear is emphasised by the spoonful of dessert consequently jiggling.
  • 13 Tzameti: In the final Russian Roulette duel, veteran player 6 is calm while the protagonist 13 is soaked in sweat and trembling with fear.
  • In the opening sequence of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids when the male character confronts a bug.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie and Roger are at Maroon Studios to talk to R.K. Maroon about the sale of the studio to Cloverleaf. Eddie accuses Roger of wanting to leave because he's too scared. Roger says "Me, scared? Don't be ridiculous!", followed by him chattering his teeth in an exaggerated manner appropriate for a cartoon character like him.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the main cast trembles comedically when facing the Wizard.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022):
    • "In Throes of Increasing Wonder...": In the climax, Louis de Pointe du Lac is visibly trembling with terror when Lestat de Lioncourt growls, "I'm not the Devil. You were wrong about that." Louis doesn't understand yet that Lestat is a vampire, but he still knows that he isn't human, and Louis being Catholic means that he naturally assumes that a supernatural creature who mauls a priest to death with his fangs must be demonic.
    • "A Vile Hunger for Your Hammering Heart": Claudia, whose leg has just been broken by Bruce, is shaking like a leaf in the last shot we see of her before the scene cuts.
  • Legion: In "Chapter 22", while operating Cerebro, Charles Xavier trembles with fright after he makes contact with Amahl Farouk's mind.

  • In the music video for "Not Your Fault" by AWOLNATION, a guy's legs shake either from the cold or from being in a spooky cave.

  • Coppélia: A ballerina is pressured to check what's behind the closet. After seeing Coppelia in there, she hides and makes her legs tremble in an exaggerated manner.
  • Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 1:
    Ophelia: Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other; and with a look so piteous in purport as if he had been loosed out of hell to speak of horrors, he comes before me.

    Video Games 


    Web Original 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Jamie trembles from fear when Graham extends his arm to him, and when he first meets Frank who reminds him of his father.
  • In the fan film Deadpool: The Musical 2, the Moana song parody includes Deadpool singing these lines to lampshade the terrified reactions of the grunts:
    Deadpool: [singing] You're face-to-mask with Deadpool and you're scared
    You feel your knees start to shake— [spoken] Did you just piss?!

    Western Animation 
  • The 3-2-1 Penguins! episode "Moon Menace on Planet Tell-a-Lie"'s musical segment told the story of Galaxy Gus. When high noon was approaching and the town of Gamma Gulch ran off. Galaxy Gus starts to shake in his boots, chatter his teeth and bite his gloved hand as the outlaw Honcho Villa approaches him for a showdown.
  • In the Daffy Duck cartoon "What Makes Daffy Duck", Daffy's legs tremble in quick succession when hiding from duck season.
  • Danger Mouse: In "Where There's a Well, There's a Way," DM and Penfold are traversing a dark cavern when DM hears some rapid knocking. Penfold (as he describes as it's pitch black except for the heroes' eyes) lowers his head and the knocking stops. He's got his head between his knees to keep them from knocking together.
  • In the 1938 short "Ferdinand", everyone is afraid of Ferdinand, and the matador is portrayed with his knees knocking against each other.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In the episode "Crushed", Mandy has an Out of Character moment of falling in love, including sweaty palms and weak knees.
  • In Growing Up Creepie, best friends Carla and Melanie's legs shake while being frightened in Creepie's house in the episode "Night of Fright".
  • The Huckleberry Hound Show: In one episode, Huckleberry Hound takes the role of a lion tamer. The narrator states that once the lion notices any sign of fear in the lion tamer, it starts to make its pursuit. Consequently, the camera pans to Huck's knees knocking together.
  • Andy from Maya & Miguel experiences this when he tries to hit on Esmeralda in the episode "The Letter"
  • Mickey Mouse: Mickey's legs are shown shaking on multiple occasions in the 1929 "Haunted House" episode.
  • Fluttershy from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic tends to get in a nervous wreck where she trembles, hence her name.
  • PAW Patrol: In Tracker Joins The Pups, Skye, Rubble, Tracker and Carlos hear a knocking sound. Then it's revealed that the sound was coming from Marshall, whose knees were shaking.
  • In the Porky Pig cartoon "The Case of the Stuttering Pig", Porky tells Petunia that he's not afraid, as the camera cuts to a close-up of his shaking knees.
  • The Raggy Dolls: Lucy, just in general. Whenever she gets scared, she either falls into pieces, or her knees start knocking.
  • In the episode "The Boy Who Cried Rat" of The Ren & Stimpy Show, Mrs. Pipe stands on top of a couch with her knees shaking because of her fear of mice.
  • Scooby and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. It's so prominent in the series that the theme song of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! notes that we can see how Scooby shakes and shivers.
  • Tom and Jerry: Tom's knees bang together from behind the blankets while being told a scary story in the episode "Fraidy Cat".
  • Mandy from Totally Spies!. The camera focuses on her knees knocking together when she is afraid to perform in front of a crowd in the episode "Black Widow". She was shaking in her boots!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Shaking With Fear, Trembling With Fear, Shivering With Fear, Shaking Like A Leaf


Scooby Doo, American Dad Style

For Halloween, the Smiths, minus Stan, go as the Scooby Doo gang, and later they would encounter a monster.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpoofyDoo

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