I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire."
A commonly seen element of a climactic battle involving The Hero being encircled by a flaming ring. Much like a boxing ring or a gladiatorial arena with sealed exits, it is used to indicate that neither the Big Bad nor The Hero have the option of running away from the Final Battle, and the story will end with one of the two dead. Most frequently used by villains, especially Magnificent Bastards who want The Hero to be Deader Than Dead, but can occasionally be enacted by The Hero when the Big Bad has run away from similar confrontations in the past. Fridge Logic tends to come into play as soon as the viewer realizes that sending the flames directly under the feet of the hero is probably a better idea on the part of the villain, but let's face it, it looks cool. The Ring of Fire is a great set up for a hero and villain to meet in a final confrontation, symbolic in that there is no escape from the fight and representative of the emotion of the scene. Expect it to be a part of the The Very Definitely Final Dungeon or any other situation where failure is not an option.
This can often indicate research failure, since natural flames have a natural aversion to forming the perfectly circular rings seen in movies, and unless a propellant has already been shaped into a ring a real fire would fill in the area where the victim is standing, and that's assuming there's no wind to change the direction of the flames. Then again... Nine times out of ten, A Wizard Did It.
Johnny Cash is considered the Trope Namer due to the song "Ring of Fire" being one of his best-known recordings. Although often mistakenly accused of being either about addiction to drugs or having a sexual connotation, the song was co-written by Cash's future wife, June Carter, during the time when she and Cash - while both still married to other people - were having an affair and the song expressed her fears regarding this.
- The use of the Ring Of Fire for climactic duels was called out in a car dealership commercial wherein the customer wanted a very special discount... after they defeated the dealership's champion to prove the quality of the cars. Scary-looking MMA fighter steps into the ring of stones and the customer strikes a match to light the ring of fire.
- Subverted in a British advert for vindaloo-curry flavour Pot Noodles (Instant Ramen to Americans), in which the Ring which is on fire turns out to be a bodily part. Apparently Johnny Cash was amused by the idea, and happily allowed his song to be used in this way.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! also has one leap up around the arena during the duel with Panik with the intent of turning Yugi into a cinder. The Gag Dub Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series plays Johnny Cash's song (quoted above) as it happens.
- Karen has one spring up around her in the X1999 movie, though it is her major power to manipulate and create flames.
- In Mai HiME, one springs up around the main character as her full powers (flame-based, of course) manifest for the first time.
- In Bleach, ungodly powerful Head Captain Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryûsai can make fire consume an area simply with the initial release of his zanpakuto. The two captains that he fights lead him away from the execution grounds simply to keep everyone else in the area from dying.
- Fate/stay night Archer does this as a part of his reality marble "Unlimited Blade Works"
- In Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro's final battle with Jagi takes place on a rooftop. Jagi eventually reveals he led Kenshiro there because there was a huge container of oil, which he breaks and then throws on a match on. Since he has the high ground Jagi will presumably be safe because of Convection Schmonvection, but it quickly devolves into Kenshiro being trapped in a ring of fire. Not that it matters though. Ken just destroys the floor and falls down to the safety of the ground below.
- Slightly subverted in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) has Van Helsing create one to protect himself and Mina from the bad guys, rather than the standard final duel setup. He also manages to do it simply by chanting Latin and drawing a circle around them on the ground with a flaming brand.
- At the end of the movie version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, Voldemort stops Harry from running away with the Stone by summoning one. In the book magical ropes were used, but Rule of Cool prevails in the movies.
- In Half Blood Prince, Bellatrix creates one around the Burrow to keep the other wizards from going after Harry to help.
- Parodied in Finding Nemo- it's bubbles. And doesn't work at first.
- The Jet Li movies Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave have climactic fights in a ring of fire.
- Happens in Free Willy 2 after the oil slick catches fire and something blows up. Jesse is only able to escape by diving underwater holding onto Willy's dorsal fin.
- In Predators, Royce prepares a circle on the ground with gasoline or something else, then when the Berserker Predator attempts to attack him, he drops a torch to set it ablaze and surround them with fire. This blinds the Predator, as it only sees in infrared.
- In the 1632 series, the Mass Teleportation effect which transports the entire town of Grantville into the past takes on this form and is even called the "Ring of Fire" in-universe.
- The Dresden Files: In Changes, Harry and Susan battle the Ick (and its Red Court handlers) in the Erlking's court. Said duel takes place in a Ring Of Fire with screaming faces floating in it.
- The trope makes another appearance in Ghost Story. Fun fact about fire? It burns magic, too. The bad guys trap Sir Stuart inside one so he can't Mortimer Lindquist when they abduct him. Although part of the restraining effect probably comes from the circular shape.
- Highlander: In "Homeland," Duncan MacLeod and Kanwulf face off within a ring of fire.
- When testing gasoline fire myths, the Mythbusters made a Ring Of Fire in the workshop. It soon turned up to be really hot inside it.
- In Supernatural, Castiel reveals (and is later a victim of) the fact that flame circles made with a certain sort of holy oil will contain an angel until the fires burn out.
- In the finale of Spartacus Gods Of The Area the surviving gladiators are all brought into the arena, and a ring of fire is set about them. Likely as an in-universe invocation of Rule of Cool. The Romans overseeing it explain that anyone who falls/gets thrown outside the ring is disqualified, anyone who falls inside the ring dies. Gneaus later uses it to set his net on fire, and then throw it on someone. Crixus, Ashur, and Gneaus are all thrown outside the ring, Ashur burning himself in the process.
- Game of Thrones: In "The Door", the Children of the Forest summon one to prevent the Wights from invading their home. Unfortunately, the White Walkers are unaffected by fire and walk through it. Then the Wights tunnel under it.
- The Puerto Rican version of the World Wrestling Council (WWC) is commonly referred to as the first professional wrestling promotion to use fire as hazard during matches, eventually developing the concept into a "Ring Of Fire" match, where flames would shoot up under the bottom rope if someone tried to exit the ring.
- In perhaps the single biggest argument against garbage, Tarzan Goto and Atsushi Onita had a barbed wire match(another gimmick WWC pioneered, although this was in FMW) Sabu and The Sheik where Sheik tried to burn Goto and Onita with a flaming stick and ended up setting the wire on fire. The wrestlers panicked and bailed under the bottom "ropes" when they realized the ring was starting to melt.
- As part of Gangrel's entrance in the WWF, a ring of fire would appear on the stage, and he would rise up through a trapdoor in the center of it.
- The Inferno match involves a ring of fire, with the object being to push your opponent into source till he (or his clothing) catches.
- In 2014-2015, there was a possibly unintentional detailing of WWC' history with fire, as the feud between Mighty Ursus and Carlito Caribbean Cool started with lighter fluid and escalated to a full on ring of fire.
- West End Games' TORG had a mechanic that generated a Ring Of Fire that went up to 11. The game is based around variant realities, and when two "possibility-rated" characters (read: PCs and important villains) from different realities face off, they can invoke a 'reality storm' that separates them from any other interference so that they can get down to the business of forcefully shoving their realities down each other's throats.
- This is one stock Fire attack in City of Heroes, used by a number of powersets. The ring of fire actually has effect of immobilising the target, trapped in a circle of damage-inflicting flames.
- In Kingdom Hearts II during the battle between Axel and Roxas, Axel sets the stage on fire in an attempt to defeat and eliminate Roxas.
- Link's final showdown with Ganon in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time also takes place in a ring of fire. He knocks Link's sword outside of the ring first.
- This is recreated in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, with an electrified magical barrier standing in for a flaming one.
- Additionally, in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, fights with the Garos, mysterious Ninja-esque enemies in Ikana, take place in a ring of fire that randomly appears.
- In a minor subversion, during the escape part in Ocarina of Time, a ring of fire surrounds Zelda, forcing Link to battle two Stalfos to get rid of it
- Also in Majora's Mask, Odolwa, the boss of the Woodfall Temple, occasionally starts a large ring of fire around Link. Frustratingly enough though, he can go right through it without being harmed. Despite being ridiculously invulnerable to his fire, you can kill him with two fire arrows.
- In the prequel to Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Dissidia 012, Feral Chaos's EX Burst is to teleport himself and his opponent into a giant arena surrounded by flames so he can issue a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown when they have nowhere to hide or run.
- The Axe and Sword twins in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones fight you in one, and both you and the twins can take damage if you get too close to the fire.
- The battle with Sticky Fingaz in Def Jam: Fight For NY takes place inside of a ring as the player tries to get their girlfriend back from him.
- King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!. Mordack becomes a ring of fire in the final battle to burn Graham to ashes.
- In the original Pokémon games, the move Fire Spin would trap the opponent in a circle of fire for 2-5 turns, preventing them from attacking. This was later changed to just damaging them every turn, but it still prevents them from switching out or running.
- Brütal Legend allows the player to create one. By Double Teaming with a Fire Baron, they can share a motorcycle, crack open a Molotov Cocktail, and burn a trail of fire. If the player completes a circle, it will enclose, burning enemies inside. It's meant to be a Herd-Hitting Attack.
- Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae's final battle takes place at a ruined shrine on fire, where the arena is surrounded in flames.
- The Disney version of Aladdin has this happen to the Aladdin in the final battle with Jafar. It's magic fire, so it's somewhat justified.
- Which is then used to neat effect for Jafar's Scaled Up moment.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- In the episode "The Chase", Azula does this to Aang by setting a building on fire, though she can actually control the flames as she's doing it, somewhat justifying it.
- In the series finale, the heroes are captured in a ring of fire when they're caught near the camp of the Order of the White Lotus.
- A joke version occurs in Drawn Together when Toot tries to protect her adopted Nicaraguan "baby" in one.
- Played with in The Lion King 2 when a dim-witted villain surrounds himself in one of these.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, a prison warden prevents an escape using a whip to create one of these, earning applause from the prisoners because of the amount of skill with which it was done.
- Another example is in the episode with the Radioactive Man movie, where the movie producer flashes back to the 1960s TV series, in which Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy fight The Scoutmaster's henchmen, and one of them creates a ring of fire by rubbing two sticks together.
- Occurs in the climax of The Smurfs Christmas Special.
- Mister T is trapped in one of these in the episode "The Fortune Cookie Caper" by a villain called the Firebug. Hilariously, the bad guy set up the circle of flames so that there was a fire hydrant inside it. Cue Mr. T awesomeness.