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Sinister Switchblade

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"You look nervous. Is it the scars?
You wanna know how I got them?"
"When Eddie said he didn't like his teddy you knew he was a no-good kid.
But when he threatened your life with a switchblade knife..."
Chorus, "Eddie", The Rocky Horror Picture Show

When it comes to planning out the weaponry of a story, Good Weapon, Evil Weapon never fails to display itself. That said, the switchblade gets a particularly bad rep. The small size, concealability, and razor-sharp edge make it almost impossible for the poor weapon to be seen in a positive light. This is especially the case with "stiletto" switchblade, named for the similarly shaped dagger. Gangsters scare their targets (and the viewers) with a single flick of their blades, and assassins slit the throats of unsuspecting victims who barely have time to hear the click sound given off by the weapon.

As the above states, when this trope is applied, almost always expect it to be the iconic Italian stiletto switchblade.

In real life, a lot of countries ban or severely restrict switchblades, flick knives, and similar weapons such as butterfly knives. These weapons have such a bad reputation that even countries that allow more conventional knives to be carried without restriction have laws against them. The actual effects of the legislation range from prohibiting the use of switchblades to anyone outside the military (Hungary) to banning all switchblades with blades longer than a few centimeters (Japan) to adding specific clauses to laws that distinguish between "tools" and "weapons" that always prohibit them no matter what (Canada) to banning the sale, use, or transport of the knives altogether (the Netherlands). It's to the point that even countries that allow you to own and even carry blades that could be far more deadly like butcher's knives or used in the exact same manner like straight razors nevertheless ban switchblades.note 

A Sub-Trope of Psycho Knife Nut and Retractable Weapon. See also Devious Daggers, Sinister Scythe and Sinister Shiv, which are also bladed weapons associated with unsavory people.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass
    • Inverted with Kallen, one of the (more) straightforwardly heroic characters, who owns a trick wallet that can project a blade switchblade-style.
    • Played straight with Rolo, an assassin who can combine his Time Stands Still powers with a switchblade.
  • In Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Vincent uses a switchblade to cut Faye's top before brutally killing one of his own henchmen.
  • Highschool of the Dead has a crazed survivor holding up Rei with a switchblade.
  • The ending of Ichi the Killer has Takeshi wielding a switchblade after being brainwashed into becoming an assassin.

    Films — Animated 
  • Played with in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, where Batman keeps a serrated switchblade for use in escaping traps, but actually throws at the Joker's head (just barely missing) when he finds out the Joker tortured Tim Drake into insanity. The weapon marks the first and only time in this Batman's timeline that he was willing to use lethal force.
  • In Fantastic Mr. Fox, the villainous Rat has a switchblade as his main weapon.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The murder weapon in 12 Angry Men is a switchblade, but the blade's reputation even extends to its non-usage; Juror #4 is appalled when Juror #8 pulls out an identical blade to prove that there are more copies of the supposedly rare knife than previously thought.
    Juror #4: It's against the law to buy or sell switchblade knives.
  • Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). After several members of their gang are killed in a police ambush, the leaders of the Street Thunder gang stick switchblades into their forearms to make a Blood Oath to avenge them.
  • Avengers: Infinity War has Thanos using a double-bladed switchblade to explain his perception of "balance", and the slaughter it entails, to a young Gamora.
  • The murderous Swinburne's first appearance in Bedknobs and Broomsticks has him threaten the main characters with a switchblade. Later on, his boss the Bookman orders him to shoot someone, and Swinburne that he'd rather use his switchblade.
  • Bitter Rice: Giuseppe the thief has one. When he finds Francesca unwilling to help him steal the rice, he says "Jail isn't the worst thing that could happen to you," and he flips open his switchblade creepily.
  • The final confrontation in Blackboard Jungle involves a delinquent with a switchblade. One of the protagonists manages to take advantage of the weapon's fragile lock to snap the blade off the handle.
  • The switchblade is the villainous bookie Troy's weapon of choice in Circus. The first time it is seen, it appears seemingly out of nowhere as he holds the blade against Leo's neck. At other points, he whips it out while threatening to cut off various of Leo's body parts for non-payment of debts.
  • A Clockwork Orange has the gang leader Billy-boy pull a switchblade in response to Alex's challenge to a brawl.
  • Most of the knives carried by the Joker in The Dark Knight are switchblades. The most sinister scenes with them are the two "scar story" sequences; in the first, he puts one of his knives in Gambol's mouth before killing him, and in the second, he presses the same knife against Rachel's face menacingly as he's talking to her.
  • Dementia (1955): Before going out, the woman takes a switchblade out of a drawer, flicking it open and smiling strangely. Sure enough, she later uses that switchblade to stab the fat man in the gut.
  • The main antagonist of Dennis the Menace (1993) is Switchblade Sam, a town robber armed with a switchblade, and he's not above using it on little children.
  • Played with in Dirty Harry, where the titular character carries a hidden switchblade when he goes to confront Scorpio and stabs him in the leg with it. Harry's not evil, but he's a definite Cowboy Cop who's not at all opposed to violence towards perps. Watching Harry tape the knife to his leg, Da Chief expresses his disgust that a police officer would know how to use such a weapon (however he doesn't order Harry to leave it behind).
  • Dracula A.D. 1972. As per the Setting Update, Johnny Alucard uses a switchblade instead of an ornate dagger to take blood for the ritual to resurrect Dracula. He flicks it open over the throat of the woman lying on the altar, but cuts his wrist instead of her throat (though she is indeed intended as a sacrifice).
  • In Halloween (2018), Dr. Sartain has a retractable blade inside his pen. While this is ostensibly because he spends most of his time looking after Michael Myers, he turns out to have been Evil All Along and he stabs Sheriff Hawkins with it.
  • In the 1958 exploitation movie High School Hellcats, Dolly's Establishing Character Moment is her producing a switchblade and flinging it into the wall.
  • The primary weapon of Henry Bowers in It (2017) is a switchblade. His fall to madness is punctuated by him killing his father with it.
  • In John Wick, mob boss Viggo Tarasov owns a stileto with pearl grips. He uses it in his final fight with John, who takes a stab so he can withdraw it and stab Viggo back.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show has the song Eddie's Teddy invoking this.
    Chorus: You knew he was a no-good kid, but when he threatened your life with a switchblade knife...
  • Inverted in the film adaptation of Sin City, where the heroic John Hartigan uses a switchblade to incapacitate the Serial Rapist Roark Jr., who wields a Bowie knife.
  • The Terminator: The three punk hoodlums at the start pull switchblades on the Terminator when he threatens them. Obviously, since they're really Mugging the Monster, he doesn't even flinch from getting stabbed.
  • In the 1988 adaptation of Sven Hassel's Wheels Of Terror (aka The Misfit Brigade), the Legionaire's throwing knife has been replaced by a large switchblade, with a blade twice as big as the handle.
  • The Plot-Triggering Death in The Eiger Sanction is done by a Cuban hitman using a switchblade knife. This is used for a Red Herring later when Clint Eastwood's character has to determine who the killer's accomplice was, and one of the suspects uses a similar knife. The man is a mountain climber, so has a legitimate reason to use a knife he can open with one hand.
  • In The Warriors naturally, given that it's a Seventies movie about street gangs, most notably used by Swan in his climatic confrontation with Luther.
    • Earlier, it's downplayed. The leader of the Orphans, Sully, wields a straight razor, and while it might look menacing, being the orphans, it's practically worthless.
  • Inverted in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Mutt Williams carries one but is on the side of the heroes, and it is most often used for regular cutting tasks as opposed to a weapon. He does flick it open in an attempt to intimidate the two KGB agents, but closes it after realizing they're predictably carrying guns.
  • In the 1980 war movie The Sea Wolves, a beautiful German spy uses an automatic knife hidden in her purse for assassinations.
  • Secondhand Lions: In the bar scene, the four teens are instantly tagged as punks with no real fighting skills by the fact that all four draw switchblades after Hub tells them to get lost.
  • These Are the Damned. Joan, who works as the lure for a gang of muggers, has a switchblade tucked into the front of her tight pants when she first appears, as part of her bad girl image. When a member of her gang finally produces one however, it's just so he can lend someone his knife for non-lethal purposes.
  • Death Wish. Paul Kersey pretends to be engrossed in his newspaper on the subway, supposedly not noticing the two hoodlums eyeing him until one of them announces his intentions by slashing his newspaper in half with a switchblade. Bad idea. The next time however, one of the muggers is able to cut Paul before he's shot.
  • James Bond
    • Dr. No. Quarrel takes Bond into a backroom, then suddenly produces a switchblade with a loud click. This is to make the audience think he's a villain; actually Quarrel is an ally of CIA agent Felix Leiter and wrongly assumes that Bond is the villain.
    • At the start of Live and Let Die, a seemingly respectable man in suit and tie stands next to a surveillance agent watching a funeral procession. The man produces a switchblade from under his clasped hands and flicks out the blade.
      Agent: Who's, ah, funeral is it?
      Suit-wearing man: Yours. (stabs him)
    • Quantum of Solace. When Edmund Slate catches Bond trespassing in his apartment he tries to kill him with an automatic knife, leading to an extensive brawl that ends when Bond stabs him with a pair of nail scissors.
  • In West Side Story (1961), switchblade knives are a standard weapon for both the Jets and the Sharks. Riff and Bernardo both use switchblades during their fight at the rumble.

  • The Cross and the Switchblade is David Wilkerson's account of his evangelism work among gang members.
  • Go to Sleep (A Jeff the Killer Rewrite): An adult Randy flicks out a switchblade in self-defense as he hears commotion in the bushes. Then Jeff, the boy who Randy made insane some years ago, reveals himself to Randy, much to his disbelief.
  • Henry Bowers from It starts off with an ordinary Buck folding knife before losing it and getting a switchblade from the titular Big Bad. It's about this time that he graduates from "just" a crazed bully to a truly homicidal Ax-Crazy maniac.
  • Switchblades are very common among the gangs in The Outsiders.
  • In the Sonja Blue series, antihero and part-time monster Sonja Blue has a silver switchblade as her favorite weapon. Silver to help fight other monsters, and a switchblade because she's just that brutal.
  • Christine:
    • School bully and delinquent Buddy threatens Arnie with a giant switchblade, which leads to Buddy being expelled when a teacher intervenes (particularly because it's a switchblade). In the film, he uses it to stab Arnie's lunch.
    • Also in the film version, Christine chases Moochie (another bully and one of Buddy's friends) into a loading bay. Moochie, believing Arnie is driving, takes out a switchblade and tries to scare him off when it looks like the car can't chase him any further. At this point in the film, it (probably intentionally) just comes off as pathetic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Arrow, Ricardo Diaz stabs Oliver with a switchblade in the middle of a fistfight.
  • The close-range weapon of Al Capone's gang in Deadliest Warrior is a switchblade, referred to a "stiletto."
  • Highlander. In the episode "The Sea Witch", one of Alexi's thugs carried around a classic Italian Stiletto as a back-up weapon to his Desert Eagle. It's seen quite prominently on-screen when he draws it on Richie and later on Richie's girlfriend of the week just as Duncan arrives in a Big Damn Heroes moment. Both scenes make sure to highlight him clicking it open.
  • The Professionals. Not only villains but Bodie and Doyle can be seen using them on occasion, probably as part of their Combat Pragmatist image.

  • The song Switchblade Serenade by Swedish heavy metal band Sister Sin is about a yandere who murders the object of her affection with a switchblade, then sings about how much she loves them while they bleed to death. The cover of the album, Switchblade Serenades, also features a tattooed arm holding a switchblade, with menacing-looking thugs in the background.
  • Rod Stewart's "The Killing Of Georgie" has the title character mugged by a gang and stabbed with a switchblade. The song itself was inspired by the death of a friend of Stewart's, though he cannot remember if the song's inspiration was shot or stabbed.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the switchblade as a holdout weapon (e.g. you can sneak it into casinos, which normally take your guns). It's typically used by the Fiends, Powder Gangers, and the infamously overaggressive Freeside thugs.
  • Fallout 4 again features a switchblade in the "swinguard" style (with a hinged guard that folds up against the blade when closed) commonly seen in movies as a basic melee weapon sometimes carried by Raiders. It's possible to modify them with a serrated blade that inflicts extra bleeding damage, making them somewhat more useful than typical straight-edged one.
  • In both The Last of Us and its sequel, Ellie uses a switchblade that she inherited from her mother. In-game, it functions as an unbreakable shiv, enabling her to stealth kill clickers without having to craft anything. She ends up losing it in the ocean during her final fight with Abby in Santa Barbara, another casualty of her pursuit of revenge.
  • Played with in Life Is Strange. When Frank is introduced, he threatens Max and Chloe with one, but he quickly proves to be something of a Paper Tiger, and that he tends to bring a knife to a gunfight means his switchblade marks him as a bit pathetic. Indeed, the worst that can happen is that Max and Chloe accidentally kill him in self-defence in episode 4, if the player fails to convince him to join their investigation (and if Chloe ends up fighting him unarmed, she easily manages to stab him with his own knife). In the prequel his much more dangerous friend Damon threatens Chloe and Rachel in a similar scene (in the same place, no less) but uses a much scarier looking combat knife to make it clear that he's much more of a threat.
  • In the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney bonus case Rise from the Ashes, the Spree Killer Joe Darke's weapon was a switchblade. It was also the true murder weapon of Bruce Goodman before a second knife was used as a decoy.
  • Team Fortress 2's Spy carries a butterfly knife around with him as a default weapon. He can also use an alternate weapon, the Big Earner, a more conventional switchblade whose switch has been broken.


    Web Original 
  • The Jontron video Love Is Like Drugs characterizes a drug dealer as evil nigh instantly by having him open a switchblade in front of our main characters, which sends them fumbling to find a magical analogy to get them out of the situation.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Schoolhouse Rocked": When the Gangreen Gang are forced to attend Pokey Oaks kindergarten, the girls tackle Lil' Arturo when he shows off what looks like a switchblade. Turns out it was just a switchblade-style comb.
    Ms. Keane: Girls! Girls! No fighting!
    Blossom: But Ms. Keane! Arturo's holding a deadly—
    (Arturo presses the switch)
    Blossom: —comb.


Video Example(s):


"That's not a knife!"

A group of thugs try to mug Mick "Crocodile" Dundee, and quickly find out they've bitten off more than they can chew.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / MuggingTheMonster

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