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Surprisingly Super-Tough Thing

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That is literally one tough nut to crack.

Surprisingly Super-Tough Thing is when an inanimate object, building, or vehicle is attacked with futility, even though the attackers expect it to be outright destroyed.

However, the futility of the attack has nothing to do with the actual vulnerability of the object. The object can even be a vase made of paper-thin glass; all things being relative, what's Made of Indestructium to an ant is Made of Plasticine to a human. The key word here is "surprisingly": this trope isn't about objects that are indestructible, it's about objects that are surprisingly so to an attacker who expects their destruction (or at least destruction from their initial attacks. If they change their weapon or adjust their technique which succeeds in destroying the object, then their failed first try still counts toward this trope).

Interestingly, this trope is omnipresent in video games. Since every object that doesn't have a damage model coded for it is effectively invincible barring exploitation of glitches, many players invoke this trope when using their weapons on random things lying on the ground instead of enemies.

Be aware that when adding examples, be sure that:

  1. There is a building, vehicle, or item;
  2. a character judges that thing to be destructible within their abilities, and:
  3. the object is attacked with very little to no effect.

Be especially careful with #2; a character attacking something they know they can't destroy because of instinct, desperation, mind control, or spite does not count. Regardless of the quality of their judgement, if the character in question believes they can harm or destroy the object in question, requirement 2 is fulfilled. Even if omnipotent gods have failed to destroy the MacGuffin, if Average Joe is stupid, arrogant, mentally ill, or intoxicated enough to think his mortal punches will crush it, then it counts.

For things that really are indestructible, and not those that just seem that way, check out Made of Indestructium. If a character's most powerful attack or weapon invokes this trope, it can overlap with The Worf Barrage. Compare No-Sell, which is more about characters fighting each other than failing to destroy inanimate items. Toys that are Made of Indestructium may invoke this trope in real life.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Late in Dragon Ball Z, the legendary power of the Z Sword is tested against a brick of Katchin, the densest metal in the universe. Everyone thinks it will be short work because not only is it a legendary sword, but everything in the universe is Made of Plasticine around the ridiculous power of the heroes. They all get a nasty surprise, though, when it breaks the sword.
    Goku: I guess it's not called "the hardest metal in the universe" for nothing...
  • A segment in the final episode of Nichijou features Mio and Yukko going to greater and greater extremes in the course of trying to break open a pumpkin.
  • Space☆Dandy: The cursed calendar that leaves everyone stuck in a time loop. Not even a chainsaw is able to put a scratch on it!

    Comic Books 
  • Gaston Lagaffe:
    • One strip has Gaston decide to take up karate, starting with a hardtack biscuit he found, emitting a Kiai before bringing his hand down. The last panel has Gaston's hand in a cast and Fantasio wondering at the Indestructible Edible.
      Fantasio: I didn't know you had to yell afterwards as well.
    • A series of strips has Gaston look for ways to crack a nut, culminating in putting it on a tram track... causing the tram to derail right into a pharmacy.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Ant and the Aardvark has the aardvark encounter a tin can of chocolate-covered ants. Delighted by his find, he's blocked by not having a can opener handy. Aardvark tries a number of methods to crack open the can, but nothing works. Even the label remains intact. One method involves using a rubber mallet (a paneling tool), saying, "It can't hurt." The can is unharmed, but the blow rebounds the mallet into the aardvark's noggin. "I was wrong: it did hurt."
  • "Much Ado About Nutting" features a squirrel getting a hold of a coconut and finding it harder than normal to break open. This escalates until the coconut is dropped off the roof of a skyscraper and leaving only a crater in the street, before falling off of its stand and finally opening... revealing another coconut shell.
  • "The Three Little Pups" has Droopy's brick doghouse. While it obviously holds against the Wolf trying to blow it down, it also manages to survive against an axe, hammer, having its door rammed by a log, and enough explosives to level a town. Lampshaded by the Wolf in the cartoon.
    Wolf: Now there's a well-built doghouse, man.
  • In the Hilarious Outtakes of Toy Story 2, Buzz and co use Rex's head as a battering ram to open a gas vent, and fail. (They succeed in the actual story.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dune (1984): Paul tells the Fremen about an obelisk "cut from your hardest rock." He has them kick it, yell at it and cut it with a laser. Nothing. Then he blasts it with the weirding module and shatters it.
  • In Independence Day, the US military launches a nuclear missile at a city-sized alien spacecraft. The ship's Deflector Shields repulsed normal missiles from jet fighters earlier, but everyone is truly demoralized when the intense fireball explosion subsides, only to reveal that the alien craft hasn't even suffered a single scratch.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Gimli tries to destroy the One Ring. His axe shatters upon striking it. Elrond then explains that the Ring can only be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Avengers (2012), Thor tries to break out of a containment cell built for the Hulk. He's surprised when it actually holds against his first hammer hit. After he's been dumped with the cell into free-fall, he adjusts his technique and flies straight at the crack he made with the first hit, breaking through.
    • In Thor: The Dark World, it's Thor again, this time trying to destroy the Aether (which once resisted the entirety of Asgard's power) with the hammer Mjölnir. It fails.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there's a brief shot during the first French castle attack where Lancelot is visibly stabbing the wall. Granted, Lancelot's Ax-Crazy, but some of the other knights are seen hacking at the wall in between being pelted with farm animals.

  • A popular joke in the Deaf community (told in sign language) talks about a lumberjack who goes out chopping trees in a forest. The first two fall no problem, but the third tree is immensely huge. He repeatedly chops and yells "TIMBER!," but the tree refuses to budge. A helpful doctor or forest ranger then comes by and investigates—revealing that the massive tree is Deaf! The lumberjack then signs "T-I-M-B-E-R," and it promptly tumbles to the ground.

  • A Certain Magical Index: Accelerator, in a fit of rage, once attempted to destroy the Windowless Building which houses Academy City's leadership. He did this by throwing an entire skyscraper at it at multiple times the speed of sound. Result? Not a scratch (though the thrown building was totally pulverized). Later novels note that the Windowless Building is made out of some kind of self-aware material named "Calculate Fortress", which is able to alter its composition and vibration properties to withstand any amount of force. The only way to break it is to exploit logical weaknesses in its self-altering procedures.
  • The "Droplet" probe in The Dark Forest. It's able to annihilate mankind's entire space fleet by ramming through every ship at relativistic speed without so much as a dent. This is because its surface is made of exotic "strong-interaction material" contained in a force field, making it effectively indestructible. Another droplet is later destroyed when its force field loses power, reverting it to ordinary metal.
  • In Magic 2.0, Phillip used magic to make his Pontiac Fiero indestructible and gave it a magically powerful engine too. When a thief steals it, it plows straight through a brick wall without a scratch on it, forcing Phillip to flee before the authorities discover he's a wizard.
  • In REAMDE Peter tries to snap a CD with his hands, expecting it to break easily. Then he exerts his full strength and the CD shatters, cutting his hand. It's worth noting that this is Truth in Television: don't try to destroy a CD with your bare hands.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Angel, Doyle attempts to ram a gate in his car, but the gate holds.
    Doyle: Damn, that's a good gate.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt attempts to break a window in Ted's office building with a potted plant. The pot bounces off the thick glass and Walt is escorted out by security officers.
  • The Goldbergs: In "Kara-Te", Barry signs up for a school talent show. Onstage, he attempts to break a wooden board with his martial arts skills, but it fails hilariously with the board not even cracking.
  • The Goodies: One Parody Commercial appears to be demonstrating the fuel efficiency of a car, up until it crashes into a paper banner stretched across the road reading "20 Miles".
    Announcer: Robinson's Paper. The strong one.
  • In Just Shoot Me!, Dennis gets an ugly homemade vase Jack made in pottery class. Dennis tries to "accidentally" break it, but no matter how hard he drops it, the vase proves indestructible.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Best Laid Plans", Turk's phone withstands, unharmed, J.D. hurling it to the floor then stamping repeatedly on it, and being thrown from a fourth-story window.
    J.D.: This phone is indestructible, if it has a camera I am so getting one!
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • "The Serpent's Lair" has the Air Force fire a pair of ballistic missiles tipped with 1-gigaton naquadah-enhanced nukes at a pair of orbiting Goa'uld Ha'tak-class motherships. Apophis and Klorel raise shields and the missiles impact rather pathetically to no effect whatsoever.
    • The Teaser of "Revelations" has Thor's starship Beliskner fire on a Ha'tak. The Asgard had long held a technological edge over the Goa'uld, but this time the Beliskner's weapons do absolutely squat. In the ensuing off-screen battle the Beliskner is destroyed and Thor captured.
    • The first encounter with a Kull warrior in "Evolution, Part 1" has Teal'c and Bra'tac shoot at it with staff weapon and zat guns, since in this 'verse armor is usually useless. The weapons have no effect, but luckily for them, it keels over from unrelated cardiac arrest about five seconds later.
    • In "The Quest, Part 2", the team searching for the Sangraal is faced with a dragon. They eventually settle on trying to blow it up by throwing all their C-4 in a bundle at it. Teal'c grabs the makeshift satchel charge and throws it at the dragon, trying to hit the underside because Cam thinks that's where dragons are weakest; it turns into Feed It a Bomb when the dragon snaps it out of midair, swallows it, and has the C-4 go off in its stomach to no effect whatsoever. The Oh, Crap! look on Teal'c's face is hilarious.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant" had the eponymous Defiant-class fire a modified torpedo at a Jem'Hadar dreadnought, expecting it to disrupt the ship's antimatter containment system. Cue titanic explosion, only to have the dreadnought come out of the fireball with no apparent damage and blast the USS Valiant to pieces in minutes.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series pilot "The Cage" has the crew of the USS Enterprise unsuccessfully utilizing hand phasers and even ship-level phasers against a rock cave in order to try to blast through so that they can rescue Captain Pike, who is being held captive inside by aliens. Subverted, in that the telepathic aliens were just using mind control against the crew and giving them the illusion that the rock cave was still intact, when in reality they had already blasted through it.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Living Doll", a father finds that his daughter's "Talky Tina" doll can't be destroyed by any of the power tools in his basement, which include a rotating saw blade and a blowtorch.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dungeons & Dragons module Skarda's Mirror has a mirror of life trapping. The known method of smashing such mirrors didn't work, as it was really an Artifact that an Immortal created to be a gate into one of his personal planes.

    Video Games 
Since, as stated above, everything in a video game that doesn't have a damage model is invincible from the player's point of view, and there is at least one object in almost every video game that will invoke this trope on a destruction-happy player, a list of straight examples would be too long to list. Please focus on aversions, inversions, subversions, lampshade hangings, and parodies.
  • Deus Ex has a notable example in door confusion. Most locked doors tell you whether or not they can be battered down or blasted open, and is shown as what is effectively a health bar. What isn't shown is how damaging a weapon it takes to actually damage it. This sometimes, but not always, corresponds with how much health it starts with. Sometimes you can crowbar your way into a door only to later find a door with the same amount of health that said weapon can't scratch. Likewise, after finding the Dragons Tooth Sword and maxing out the low-tech weapons skill, many locked doors with finite durability can be destroyed with it. Then sometimes you encounter a fairly low-durability door that still shrugs off everything sort of explosives.
  • In the Devil May Cry series, all objects that can be interacted with (meaning it reacts to an attack) are breakable, with the following exceptions:
    • Throughout the first four games, the "Red/Blue devices" (basically, switches in the form of a pedestal with an intricate circular object layered in its surface) can only be activated by the playable character's only means of interacting with the environment: attacking it. They won't break even if you use the character's strongest attack, though they'll activate faster if you do that.
    • Combat Adjudicators in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening and Devil May Cry 4 react to melee weapon attacks but not firearms. They are also Immune to Flinching unless you use the proper weapon or the playable character against them, respectively. But even so, they would only shatter when you reach a certain Stylish Rank while attacking them.
    • DMC4 has Gyro Blades, torch/top-like devices which at least have the excuse of being sturdy enough to destroy indestructible doors and pedestals. Slashing it once it's ignited will make it spin faster, which in turn allows it to move faster when launched with Nero's Devil Bringer (or Lady and Vergil's melee attacks in the Special Edition).
    • The Giant Dice from DMC4 which activates a board minigame. Nero can shoot, slash, and punch it all he wants and it will never break. Later subverted in a cutscene when it turns out you can actually destroy it, which Dante does by pulling off a Diagonal Cut on it before it activates the minigame.
    • The Red Orb Crystals in Devil May Cry 5 can only be destroyed if you deal enough damage within a given amount of time. If you're not fast enough to shatter them after landing the first hit, these crystals will turn black and become impervious to all further attacks.
  • In the text-based RPG Mobile Armored Marine, your character must get past a heavily fortified door to continue the mission. One of your options is to try to blast it away with your weapons. That will fail, much to your described (remember, it's text-based) surprise. However, after that, you have the option of piling all your grenades against the door, which will work. The first plays this trope straight, but the latter part of this example inverts it.
  • In Red Dead Redemption, there are lanterns in towns that you can vandalize, and dynamite crates that blow up when shot. You can also shoot the "arms" off of cacti.
  • The Secret of Monkey Island, as featured in Return to Monkey Island, takes the form of a jewel-encrusted chest stored inside a 5-lock wardrobe chest. Guybrush Threepwood, having just completed a quest to find the five Golden Keys to unlock The Secret of Monkey Island, finds the chest within a chest and decides he's not going to bother searching for a sixth key. Cue a montage of Guybrush trying everything he can think of to open The Secret, culminating with him trying to chew it open.


    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: "The Vase" is about the kids attempting to destroy an ugly vase, only for it to turn to be seemingly indestructible. Placing it in the path of an oncoming truck results in the truck flipping over.
  • Animaniacs: The Slappy Squirrel episode "Nutcracker Slappy" revolves around Slappy and Skippy trying to crack open a walnut with methods that start out normal and get increasingly over-the-top. By the end, it opens only to reveal that it's empty inside, so Slappy complains about it to the director and stuffs him inside it.
  • Arthur: "Arthur's Birthday" has a nigh-indestructible clown piñata, to the point where the end of the episode shows Arthur's father attempting to use a chainsaw to try and cut it.
  • The Simpsons: Grandpa complains that, unlike when he was growing up, toy soldiers today are cheaply made and break when stepped on. To his surprise, they are built better than he expected, and security drags him from the store.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Wet Painters", SpongeBob and Patrick's attempts to get some permanent paint off of Mr. Krab's first dollar included using a belt sander and a fire hose, all of which don't affect the dollar or the paint on it one bit (it does affect Patrick though).
  • The What A Cartoon! Show short "Yuckie Duck in Short Orders" has the title character serve a steak that absolutely refused to be cut not matter what tool he used.

    Real Life 
  • Sometimes, when police raid a building, they may find that doors that look normal from the outside are quite strongly reinforced and barricaded on the inside.
  • 1967: Missouri Tigers football coach Dan Devine tried to motivate his team for the upcoming game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers by playing the Cornhuskers fight song over and over again, whose band played it every time they scored a touchdown. On game day he picked up the record and said, "I never want to hear this song again!" and threw it down on the floor, expecting it to shatter. Instead, it bounced up into the air. He tried the floor again and failed again. He picked it up and bent it, but it still wouldn't break. He hurled it against a wall and it bounced back again.
    Dan Devine: I don't know when I've ever been so embarrassed and humiliated. Finally, I just went over to a window, opened it, and threw the record out. Then I got out of there as fast as I could.
Despite the pep talk setback, the Tigers went on to win the game 10-7.
  • As stated in the description, those plastic and/or metal playthings can be known to be quite surprisingly formidable, what with being mere toys.
  • During the Battle of Stalingrad, a 30-man platoon of Soviet soldiers were ordered to defend an apartment building and hold the surrounding blocks of the city. The Nazi forces, certain that this would be an easy victory, set out to capture or destroy the strategically located building. What began with orderly assaults soon devolved into a 58-day-long Zerg Rush that threw entire divisions of troops, tanks, heavy artillery, and air raids at the structure. At the end, Pavlov's House was battered but still standing and uncaptured as the Red Army's counter-offensive arrived to retake the city.
  • There are several stories of people who get their plastic or wooden mailboxes repeatedly vandalized by people running them over with their cars. In many cases, they eventually replace them with deeply anchored metal-and-concrete poles, and then Hilarity Ensues.
  • If left outside for an extended time older bowling balls can have their outer skin wrinkle and shrivel causing them to look like an underinflated rubber ball. Anyone who kicks them will quickly discover that they are still bowling balls.


Video Example(s):


The Uncuttable Steak

Yucky Duck serves a woman a steak that refuses to be cut.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SurprisinglySuperToughThing

Media sources: