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Sinister Switchblade

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"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's Teddy", The Rocky Horror Picture Show
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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 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 applies almost always expect it to be the iconic Italian Stilleto 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 who 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 banning the sale, use, or transport of the knives altogether (The Netherlands).

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


Examples:

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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 assasin 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 henchman.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Edmund Slate tries to kill James Bond with an automatic knife in Quantum of Solace, but 007 fends him off and kills him with a pair of nail scissors.
  • 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.

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    Literature 
  • The Cross and the Switchblade is David Wilkerson's account of his evangelism work among gang members.
  • 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.

    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.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Jack is introduced leading the rest of the class to see a lake which (thanks to some crazy experimental science/magic) immediately boils away. He then proceeds to draw what appears to be a switchblade (from the way it clicks and the way the panels are framed), but is then revealed to be an umbrella (he didn't warn them it was about to come back down again).
  • In Goblins one of the alternative Minmaxes carries twin flip-swords (or very large daggers).

    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 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.

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