When a character is faced with a creature that should have him running away or cowering in fear (or which could at least finish him off with one bite) but instead engages it — maybe even beats it — in an impromptu Staring Contest.
Picture the scene: Bob The Hero has been cornered by the villain. The Sealed Evil in a Can is about to be unleashed, probably in the form of an Eldritch Abomination. The villain is locking the hero in a Cool Gate to Another Dimension with no chance of return. The Gladiator Games have commenced and it's one unarmed, wounded person against a whole pride of hungry lions. There's nothing anyone can do. There's no backup, no escape, no Big Damn Heroes. All is lost. The world is undone. The lions are going to eat good tonight. HE COMES.
And in the other corner, we see Bob, alone and defenseless, seconds away from complete and utter doom, standing with his eyes fixed directly on what's going to kill him. He stares straight ahead, unaffected, unafraid; at the hungry lions, at the Evil Overlord, even at that hideous, inhuman thing.
The seconds tick by. The forces of evil start to squirm a little bit. The lions don't move in for the kill. The villain stops his insane cackling. The Ultimate Evil... hesitates. The hero, through sheer badassery, has intimidated something which had an infinitely superior advantage over him.
Where the situation goes from here depends. Perhaps the bad guy turns tail and runs away. Maybe Bob's staredown has distracted the villain long enough for The Cavalry to arrive or the Big Damn Heroes to show up. If the mighty being develops a sense of respect for the lesser character's moxie, then you've transitioned into Wowing Cthulhu. Or maybe the villain gets over it and kills the hero after all, but they — and the audience — will always remember that Bob, though he died, was never defeated.
Overlaps with Death Glare and is often portrayed as a Kubrick Stare. The Slow Walk is optional. If the hero goes out staring down and intimidating his killer, it's a good candidate for a Dying Moment of Awesome.
- One Piece:
- The rare-but-powerful "Conqueror's Haki" grants the ability to do this to anyone who has it. With a sufficiently powerful stare, the user can cause giant monsters to back down in fear, and even cause those with weak constitutions to faint.
- Big Mom's Your Soul Is Mine abilities work best if the victim is afraid of her. Jimbei's faith and conviction in Luffy was so strong that Big Mom was unable to take his soul, shocking everyone. Especially notable as Charlotte Moscato, one of her own children, had tried to do the same, but got scared at the last minute and got his soul ripped out to fatal results.
- Teen Genius Light Yagami of Death Note stares down Rem, a God of Death. Mind you, the Death God is a nicer person than he is and through his manipulations he has turned her into an Unwitting Pawn.
- Dragon Ball Z:
- Son Goku often ends up staring down at hideous monsters such as Demon King Piccolo or Space Overlord Frieza. Later, God of Destruction Beerus gets stared down. And then Frieza again.
- His son Gohan inherits the same trait upon ascending into Super Saiyan 2 against Cell, and 7 years later pulls it off again against Majin Buu.
- Vegeta gets his own moment of glory against Kid Buu. Even after getting pounded into the ground not once, not twice, but three times. Buu thinks he's won, when Vegeta stands up, covered in blood, slowly walks toward him, and starts making a speech about how he can't be defeated by such measly attacks. "What are you gawking at? What did you think, huh? That I was gonna roll over and die from an attack like that? You're nothing. Just a trickster. I am a warrior... the Saiyan Prince... VEGETA!!!" Buu is frozen with a look of utter shock on his face, and then he takes a step back in fear. When you scare the fight out of Majin Buu, you know you're Badass.
- On two occasions, the titular character of Naruto stared down the Kyuubi. The first time, Naruto was blackmailing it for chakra; the second time, he was telling it to stop nay-saying.
- This is how the Fairy Tail team, battered and barely able to stand, defeats a still fresh and well-rested Sting in the last day of the Magic Games: they stare him down until he realizes beating them like this wouldn't help him in the slightest and surrenders.
- In The Twelve Kingdoms, staring is exactly how a Kirin, a creature of Incorruptible Pure Pureness, gains the allegiance of youma. If the Kirin's will is strong enough, the youma will submit and protect it for the rest of its life; if the Kirin wavers, the youma will eat him. One young Kirin protagonist is told to start on very small and weak youma and work his way up to the dangerous ones; instead, he happens upon the most dangerous kind known, that has never been forced to submit- and wins.
- The master of Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?, John Constantine the Hellblazer, does this when face-to-face with the most powerful beings in the universe, such as Satan and God. He stares them in the eye while puffing smoke from his cigarette. He even flips Satan a finger.
- Casanova Quinn is forced into a psychic staring contest with a hive mind of evil monks. Cass wins by having a mind full of spiders.◊
- Victor von Doom is intimidated by precisely nothing. For instance, when he faced the Overmind, an alien being with the telepathic strength of billions of aliens, and which had already mind-controlled Reed Richards, he looked it right in the eye and didn't back down. Or when the Purple Man helped him Take Over the World, then tried to threaten him. Doom took off his anti-mind control mask and looked Purple Man right in the eye.
- Doom may be hideously evil, but you gotta give the jerk props for his willpower. Dude kept his composure while being vivisected by the Beyonder.
- Also demonstrated in Marvel Zombies. Every other villain and hero on earth is consumed by hunger when bitten. Reed Richards takes it like a religious conversion that he needs to spread, Colonel America starts chowing down on government officials hidden in presidential bunkers, Thor's hammer abandons him, and Spider-Man's first meal as a zombie is Aunt May and Mary Jane. Doom? He calmly helps Ash from Evil Dead escape, only revealing he's been bitten and zombified just before Ash is teleported to another dimension. "Doom is no slave to hunger."
- Captain America going up alone against Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet◊. Naturally, he doesn't fare very well◊, but you gotta respect his dedication, especially considering he was never supposed to win in the first place and the entire battle was a case of Delaying Action by Adam Warlock.
- When Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman go to Apokolips to save Supergirl in The Supergirl from Krypton. Batman threatens to blow up Apokolips if Darkseid doesn't give up Kara. Even though the New God pummels him Batman still threatens him. Darkseid later concedes.
- During the Superman story that introduces Bloodsport, the title character can pull any weaponry he can think of out of thin air and has just shot Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. He fails to get the kill, however, because Jimmy Olsen gets between the two and stares down Bloodsport while threatening to use one of his own weapons on him.
- In A Charmed Life Light does this to Sidoh, a God of Death. Though Sidoh is, admittedly, kind of a pushover.
- In Solitude Light does this to his rapist. Light would stare him down every time they were in a room together and evidently this drove him to suicide.
- In the MLP:FiM fan fiction The Monster Mash tale Rarity: Blood and Water, Count Drache attempts to use his vampiric mesmerism on Fluttershy. She meets his gaze with her own and it's the vampire who looks away.
- In Discworld/The Big Bang Theory crossover The Many Worlds Interpretation, Sheldon Cooper looks Death full in the eye-sockets and refuses to go, as Death is not the manifestation Sheldon expects to meet when his time comes. Death is rather confused and backs off. note
- In the Wicke & Nephew Interlude of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, the titular nephew, Zilant, is offered a Z-Ring by Tapu Koko. Zilant, who is a Ranger and not a Trainer, refuses it. Tapu Koko keeps insisting, but Zilant's continued refusal eventually angers it, so it summons a lightning storm and channels it into one finger pointed at Zilant's neck. Zilant takes his chance to stare into Tapu Koko's eyes and use an empathy power to make it understand why he refuses. Tapu Koko is still angry but ultimately leaves him alone.
- Rango. This is how Rango finally earns the respect of Rattlesnake Jake, having been terrified of him on their first encounter.
- Hercules: Hercules, when riding CERBERUS to meet Hades in the underworld.
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 features the Bewilderbeast, an absolutely massive dragon who's sheer size alone asserts its dominance over all other dragons, and it enforces it by staring at anyone who resists. Toothless eventually falls in line and loses its will to fight. Hiccup spends much of the film training to help Toothless regain his confidence and challenge the Bewilderbeast. When Toothless is finally ready to fight, he stares into the Bewilderbeast and forces it to look away. The rest of the dragons snap out of it and begin to follow Toothless as their established leader.
- This is how Mowgli defeats Shere Khan in The Jungle Book. Much is made of him being the one who can stare down the tiger and live.
- George C. Scott in the 1980 horror movie, The Changeling, has the nerve to glare at the vengeful ghost of a murdered child and yell: "Joseph, you Goddamn son of a bitch! What is it you want?" It works temporarily.
- In Hannibal, Hannibal Lecter stares down a vicious Doberman and it curls up in the corner and whimpers.
- V'Ger of Star Trek: The Motion Picture effortlessly destroys anything that affronts it—including a Klingon task force of three battlecruisers—on its way to Earth. Depending on the cut of the film you're watching, the energy field that V'Ger creates around itself has a diameter either greater than that of the solar system, or just greater than Earth's orbit around the sun. When it arrives at Earth, the machine casually prepares to obliterate the planet's biosphere. None of that stops Jim Kirk from playing chicken with V'Ger, and winning; making the leviathan stand down by threatening to not reveal who its creator is if it doesn't.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: This seems to be a favorite of Riddick when he's faced with some alien monster.
- Pitch Black: Played with. Riddick realizes that the flying alien creatures have a "blind spot" right in the center of their echolocation-based vision. When he's confronted with one of them, he gets right up in its face so it can't see him. It does work but then falls apart when a second one suddenly shows up.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: On the prison planet Crematoria, the guards release vicious "Hellhounds" to feast on the prisoners. Riddick hides behind a waterfall until one of the hounds sniffs him out. Then he gets into a staring contest to assert his dominance, and because his silver eyes resemble those of the hound, it accepts him as one of the pack.
- X-Men: Apocalypse:
- Immediately after Xavier accomplishes a Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu? by modifying the final sentence of Apocalypse's planet-wide New Era Speech, Charles brazenly glares at his captor, unflinching and undaunted by any punishment that may befall him. It proves that Professor X will oppose Apocalypse with every fiber of his being, no matter how futile it is.
- Before that, Caliban, of all people, not only doesn't flinch from Apocalypse when he arrives demanding his assistance locating other mutants but mouths off to him and pulls a gun on him.
- Thor: The Dark World: Loki does this to Kurse during the Prison Riot when the latter approaches his cell, wondering if he'll break Loki out. Kurse seems to consider but eventually walks on. According to behind-the-scenes commentary, Kurse actually decides against letting Loki out of his dungeon because he realizes that a guy locked up by himself in an Asgardian prison and does nothing but smirk menacingly at people who pass by is probably too dangerous to be set free.
- In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the evil president Snow forces Katniss to be a gladiator to ensure her neutralization. During the chariot parade Snow smiles at her while she approaches him, but Katniss locks eyes with Snow for a very long time with the calm cold facial expression of a determinator until the president stops smiling and gets out of view. Katniss may well die but she sure will be defiant to the end.
- The Jungle Book (the book!): Crossing over with Humans Are Cthulhu, wild animals can't hold Mowgli's gaze.
- Aragorn does this to Sauron with the Palantír in The Lord of the Rings... sort of. He challenges Sauron by staring into the Palantír and has enough willpower to break away from Sauron's visions.
- The Dresden Files:
Dresden: "If you don't want to do business, I'll go elsewhere. I could still call Lasciel's coin to me in a heartbeat - and Nicodemus and the Denarians would be more than happy to help me. I am also one of the only people alive who knows how to pull off Kemmler's Darkhallow. So if Nicky and the Nickelheads don't want to play, I can damned well get the power for myself - and the next time I call your name, I won't need to be nearly so polite."
- Mouse, a dog, gets a few of these in. Two of the most impressive times are once to Leanansidhe, one of the most powerful fae in the series, and later to Nicodemus, a man with a literal Fallen Angel in his head. Justified: Mouse is a Temple Dog, and this is exactly what Temple Dogs are bred for.
- In Proven Guilty, Harry himself does this to Maeve, the Winter Lady. Since she can squish him like a bug, it's a moment of understated awesome for Harry. Though, he does mention in his First-Person Smartass narration that he's really just up against a shark, and trying to make himself look nice and inedible and praying that the shark doesn't take a couple of bites just to test. Even better, he does this while calmly, quietly, tonelessly talking about how he killed Aurora, Maeve's peer and equal. He ends his little talk by holding a chair open for Maeve and asking her to play nice, as he doesn't want a confrontation.
- In "Changes" Harry, suffering from a broken back, running out of time to save his child, and short on options, calls up Mab to accept her offer of becoming the Winter Knight. Of course, Mab being Mab, asks Harry why she should allow him to enter her service. Harry informs her in no uncertain terms that accepting her offer is the least evil of his options, and if need be, he will exploit his position as one of the few to know the whole secret of the Darkhallow, go curbstomp the Red Court, save his little girl, and come track down Mab for a nice chat as a newly-minted necromantic god.
- And in Cold Days, Harry stares down Mab, and threatens to have Demonreach imprison her. She actually seems to take the threat seriously, although for her that means being happy that her new knight is worth the trouble.
- And in a reversal of the above, the villain of Watership Down grants his troops seconds for a vital getaway by confronting a dog. (Though he didn't just stare, he also fought, as the dog later turns up with bites and scratches, drawing a remark from a human observer that it "must have gone for something that put up a fight.")
- The Luggage successfully stares down a Basilisk. And Discworld Basilisks have supposedly-fatal stares. And the Luggage doesn't even have eyes.
- Rincewind repeatedly reflects on how creepy it is that the Luggage is clearly watching things without having any eyes.
- The Luggage once batters down the gates of Hell. Except it didn't even have to, after staring them down for a while and backing up the gates throw themselves open. Doesn't stop the Luggage from giving it a contemptuous kick on the way in.
- In Unseen Academicals, the motherly young cook Glenda Sugarbean stares down the ancient, eerie, Chessmaster Vampire Monarch Margolotta after suffering an extremely embarrassing first encounter. When Lady Margolotta remarks on her audacity afterwards, Vetinari idly comments that Margolotta looked away first.
- Guards! Guards! has Lady Sybil Ramkin stare down the giant dragon just like she usually does with her smaller and mostly harmless swamp dragons. Unfortunately, she then also searches her pockets for a cookie - and in doing so looks down and loses the eye contact...
- A big point is not made of it, but in Dinoverse the first time the kids are menaced by a Tyrannosaurus rex Janine just stares defiantly at it. Unlike the others, she can't fight or run.
- Played with in Unique. The vampire Ophelia tries looking at Jan with an expression of predatory sexuality, in the hopes of seducing and overpowering him. Jan, being a young Veiðimaðr who has trained to fight things like female vampires, makes it very clear that it's not going to happen.
- Conrad Kurze, the Night Haunter, has good reasons for viewing himself as his father's terror weapon and is scary enough that even his brother Primarchs have trouble meeting his gaze. In the Horus Heresy novel The Unremembered Empire, Tarasha Euten, the woman who largely took care of the actual work of raising Roboute Guilliman, one the other aforementioned Primarchs, faces Kurze down when he's in the middle of a rampage through Guilliman's stronghold, looks him dead in the eye and tells him to go to hell. And thanks to the very timely intervention of a squad of Space Marines, manages to actually survive it.
- Averted in Artemis Fowl, where Butler and an equally large bodyguard don't engage in this trope. Butler has previously shown that he has a very effective Death Glare, but here the narration notes that both men are blinking normally so as to avoid dry eyeballs, and that staring contests are for amateurs.
- Downplayed at the end of Fate/Zero, Waver Velvet (an Inept Mage) stands his ground and faces down Gilgamesh (a near-Physical God) eye-to-eye, explaining to Gilgamesh that he won't try to fight him since it would be suicide, and Rider (another near-Physical God and Waver's 'master', who Gilgamesh just killed) had told him to live on and bear witness. Despite Gil being a Social Darwinist and Jerkass supreme, he appreciates Waver's loyalty and conviction enough to let him live. Once Gil has left, Waver breaks down.
- Later on, Gilgamesh himself pulls this off against Angra Manyu, a God of Evil. Angra Manyu, who in this universe is created by human sin (rather than being the origin of it like in Zoroastrian teachings) asks Gilgamesh who shall take responsibility for humanity's sin and bear their burdens. Gil essentially answers that he will, because he's just that awesome. Angra Manyu backs off.
- In ''Wolfsangel, Saitada burns her own face so as to put off rapists. It works- not because of the wound itself ("a man in passion is a beast that no small deformity can deter"), but because it made her eye so grave that even they could not delude themselves into ignoring her pain.
There on her face he confronted the damage he had done and, as a coward, could not bear to look at it in his home. [ ] the bloody eye that seemed to look through you and expose your sins to shame.
- Mr. Eko not only stares down, but actually scares off the Black Smoke, which is about as close to an Eldritch Abomination as Lost gets. However, in the next season, they meet again, and it kills him.
- Criminal Minds: Hotch gets back to his apartment to find a serial killer waiting for him, a guy so bad he stabbed himself multiple times to throw police off his tracks. And Hotch shows no fear. Not when the guy shoots the wall right next to his head; not when the guy pulls out his knife, not even after the guy starts stabbing him! It's so badass, even the other characters speak in awe about how badass it is. Reid and Garcia muse maybe The Reaper let Hotch live specifically because he didn't even blink.
The Reaper: Is this part of my profile? You can't show me fear?
Hotch: If you don't see fear maybe it's because I'm not afraid of you.
- Game of Thrones
- Hot Pie, of all people, does this to Gregor Clegane. Clegane has made it a habit of coming down to where prisoners are held each day and personally selecting one person to be questioned and tortured to death. Another prisoner tells Hot Pie he's managed to avoid being picked for torture by invoking this trope on Clegane. The next time Clegane comes down to pick a victim both the prisoner and Hot Pie enact this trope. Hot Pie doesn't get picked. The other guy does. Hot Pie then needs new pants.
- Arya Stark does this to Tywin Lannister. Tywin's death glares are known to leave even hardened warriors quaking in their boots, and Arya — a little girl — stares him down. It seems to be becoming a recurring theme for her to lock eyes with the most dangerous characters in the land without backing down. She later does it to Melisandre (who is actually disturbed by what she sees in Arya's eyes) and the Hound. Though averted with the Mountain; as mentioned above, the one person who tries this trope gets tortured to death in front of her.
- Jon and the Night's King stare at each other while Jon retreats from Hardhome.
- In King's Landing, most people are utterly terrified of Cersei's monstrous, resurrected henchman. Kevan Lannister, however, is completely unimpressed and treats him more as a nuisance than a threat.
- At the beginning of "Blackwater", Bronn stares down Sandor Clegane, who's intent is very much to murder him. He later ends up saving Clegane himself during the ensuing battle.
Sandor: You like fucking, and drinking, and singing. But killing... that's the thing you love. You're just like me. Only smaller.
Bronn: And quicker.
- Bronn even snarks Lord Tywin with his "You wouldn't know him" comment. That's gotta count under this trope.
- In Season 7, Bronn manages to one-up himself even further, operating a Scorpion with a fucking dragon bearing down on him. He not only survives but manages to get in a hit on Drogon's wing, coming within a couple of feet of ending Daenerys Targaryen's bid for the Iron Throne then and there.
- In Jekyll, Hyde not only stares down a pride of lions but puts them under his mind-control.
- In Lois & Clark, Lex Luthor is introduced staring down a venomous snake which slithers away in fear.
- This is part of the Establishing Character Moment for young Michael Lee in The Wire. Drug kingpin Marlo Stansfield, who owns the west side of Baltimore, is running a Reign of Terror where he brutally murders anyone who even thinks of disrespecting or challenging him. (And sometimes their family too.) One day, perhaps convinced by his slightly more humane Dragon, Marlo gives away some money to a group of young kids in a bid to get a good reputation on the street. Michael, however, not wanting to be in anybody's debt, refuses and begins to walk away. Marlo, none too pleased with giving away money at all, goes to confront Michael. Michael, rather than backing up, fixes Marlo with a Death Glare. After a few seconds, an impressed Marlo nods, smiles and lets Michael go. Afterwards Marlo begins actively trying to recruit Michael into his gang. Michael is 13 at the time.
- John Sheppard does this to wraith queens a couple of times. It works better sometimes than others, but it still unnerves the wraith pretty good. Or, y'know, keeps them from just straight off eating him.
- Gideon Jura, a Planeswalker from the Magic: The Gathering franchise, took up a staring contest with that universe's closest thing to Cthulhu: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It happened at the end of the Battle of Fort Keff. Gideon, spotting the horizon darkening as if to herald the arrival of the great Emrakul, beckons the inhabitants of Fort Keff to flee. Gideon, however, remains to witness the Eldrazi first hand before Planeswalking away to Ravnica to seek help. This epic staredown is depicted in his first printing: Gideon Jura.
- In Five Nights at Freddy's 3, this is one of the things you can use against Springtrap. He won't move when you're looking directly at him, so when he's behind your window or at your door, as long as you don't move the view away or pull up the cameras or maintenance panel, you can stare him down until 6 AM. Of course, if you don't pull up the maintenance panel you can't reboot the ventilation, and if you don't reboot the ventilation you'll start blacking out and allow him the chance to attack, but it can still provide a few life-saving seconds of delay.
- In Mass Effect 3, this occurs near the end of the Leviathan DLC when Shepard comes face-to-face with the Leviathan itself. Happens again on Rannoch, when s/he fights a 160m tall Reaper in a Bullfight Boss battle.
- Librarians in Metro 2033 are on par with the vicious Demons, Moscow's apex predators, in terms of danger level, being tough-as-nails, rather fast, and surprisingly hard-hitters. Your best option is to stare them down until they lose interest (or get intimidated themselves) and leave, as Ulman tells you to. Otherwise, you're in for, if not death, at least a very hard fight.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link throws his Death Glare to Demise, who is the incarnation of all evil. Demise is impressed, as every single human he'd ever faced before had fled in terror from him. He recognizes Link's courage, admitting that he never expected that from a human.
- Bun-bun in Sluggy Freelance does this to an angry bear, making her (actually him, which may explain it) his crony. He's brought "her" cub along and everyone assumes he's going to go Mama Bear at the slightest provocation, but when Bun-bun isn't the least bit intimidated, he apparently knows a Killer Rabbit when he sees one.
- Looking for Group: Richard vs a great eye, wreathed in flame.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Fluttershy has subdued a dragon (whose eyes were larger than her body, so she lectured while pacing on his snout) and a cockatrice (whose gaze was turning her to stone as she did so, but who still gave up first) by staring them down and scolding them. Subverted (twice) however, when she tries to stare down Discord — he only pretends to be horrified to mock her. She does manage to scold him into backing down later on when the situation has changed.
- Justice League Unlimited:
- Towards the climax of the Cadmus arc, Prof. Hamilton stares down Superman, whom he (justifiably) expects to go on a tangent and try to take over the world at any moment.
- A more literal example would be in "The Terror Beyond", where Hawkgirl after she and Solomon Grundy are ensnared in the grip of Ichthultu, has this to say:
- On Beany and Cecil, "Beany Meets The Monstrous Monster" has a little fish called Staring Herring, who uses his talent to hypnotize. He does this to the Monstrous Monster.
- A Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoon had Jerry's lookalike magic-performing cousin visit. When Tom grabs the cousin and laughs sinisterly, the magic mouse simply stares at him until he ends up hypnotizing him.
- In some cases, this can be used by a familiar person to calm a possibly violent animal. Many large dogs will respond submissively to their owner, or someone familiar, standing looking down at them with a firm stance and unwavering stare. (Please Do Not Try This at Home with any dog but your own, folks, even then it's always better to call professionals if you think there is a strong threat.)
- People are often warned not to break eye contact with certain dangerous animals that are watching them because that prompts them to attack.