Two characters open their arms. They lean in and... fake to the left, flinch backwards, bump arms, cringe, and back away.
Sometimes, hugs are psychologically helpful, natural, heartwarming or at very least, cathartic. Other times, the chemistry's off, elbows keep bumping, or both participants instantly want to back out. Can be used to to highlight a complete lack of sexual tension, relationship problems, embarrassment, intimacy issues, any number of things, really. The important part is that the hug is incredibly awkward. This does not indicate that the characters are not emotionally close—frequently, examples of this trope occur between two people who just hate physical closeness.
The characters may actually succeed in wrapping their arms around one another, but immediately break apart from acute embarrassment.
Sister trope to Greeting Gesture Confusion, in which two characters misjudge the correct gesture to use when meeting one another. Can overlap with Man Hug, where men develop a special way of hugging to keep this from happening out of embarrassment. Also see Air Hugging. Maybe the natural result if No Hugging, No Kissing is violated. For the hug that becomes awkward because of how long it goes on, see Overly Long Hug.
- In Blackbird (Arrow): After everyone returns from Nanda Parbat, Moira pulls Laurel into a hug. She muses that Laurel is stiff in her arms, before one arm "mechanically" rises to somewhat return the hug. She then wonders how long its been since Laurel's had this kind of contact.
- In Vigilantes' Dawn, both Sara and Quentin pull Laurel into a hug when she first gets home. Sara notes Laurel returns the hugs in an "awkward almost unsure motion". Quentin hugs her again before leaving to speak with the doctor, and Sara again sees that Laurel seems to be "going through the motions", like she can't quite remember how to hug people.
- In the 1958 film version Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Maggie hugs her husband, Brick. Brick instinctively raises his arms to hug her back... then lets them down and tells Maggie to let go.
- Several examples in the Harry Potter films:
- At the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Hermione runs up to Harry and gives him a big hug, and then turns to Ron, who holds out his arms a little bit. They end up shaking hands instead of hugging. This is a indicative of both characters' feelings - hugging Harry is just hugging a friend, but Ron might be more and neither he nor Hermione are yet ready to deal with this.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Voldemort attempts to hug Draco, who just sort of stands there. It's obvious that Draco just wishes he weren't there at the moment and that Voldemort has absolutely no experience with giving hugs.
- The King's Speech Immediately upon the death of King George V, his eldest son David (the future Edward VIII) breaks down sobbing over his mother, Queen Mary. Mary, a true believer in Stiff Upper Lip, is uncomfortable with her son's lack of composure and does not return his hug.
- A one-sided example: In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Aragorn hugs Haldir. Haldir, startled, smiles after a moment and pats Aragorn on the back.
- At the end of Mean Girls, Janis and Damien's hug is very awkward and not sincere.
- She's Out of My League, Kirk's nasty ex gives him an awkward hug, (then pushes him away) after he reluctantly gives her his blessing to accompany his family on a trip with her new boyfriend.
- The Divine Comedy: The problem with reuniting with a dead friend while you tour the afterlife is that while you still have a body to hug, he doesn't. Both Dante and Casella fail to realize this until the third time they pass through each other, one of many blows to Dante's pride.
- 30 Rock: Liz and Jack should not attempt to hug without extreme circumstances. Later subverted to highlight the importance of a moment. Liz is getting married and Jack gives a nice hug.
Liz: [surprised] This is the best hug I've ever had!
Jack: I know.
- Happens in the Syfy miniseries Alice between the Mad Hatter and Alice, as Alice is leaving Wonderland.
- Whenever Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory attempts physical contact of any sort, it is incredibly awkward. This goes double for hugging.
- Best Friends Whenever: Barry and Shelby have a very awkward hug, and Cyd lampshades it.
- Cold Case in the episode "A Perfect Day", the seemingly perfect husband Roger visits his wife Cindy at the diner she works at and gives her a hug, which she clearly is not receptive to. (This turns out to be entirely understandable as we later learn Roger is a Domestic Abuser.)
- Community provides the current page image, in an episode where Troy and Britta get involved in a commercial for the college and have to do a short scene where they hug while saying "To meet different people!" Unusually for this trope, they actually are capable of doing a natural-looking hug... at other times, when they don't have the Dean's perfectionism and obsession with having an interracial couple in the commercial forcing them to film the same hug dozens of times, with them getting more miserable and monotonous every time. Ironically, they shared a genuine hug earlier in the episode, which the final commercial used.
- Doctor Who:
- "The Parting of the Ways": When the Doctor says goodbye to Lynda as she's heading off to help defend the space station.
- "Deep Breath": The Twelfth Doctor reacts in an un-hug manner when Clara hugs him for the first time (in fact, he takes the exact same pose as the man in the top photograph here). He gets better at it as time goes by.
- Drake & Josh: In one episode, the titular step-brothers decide to do a quick one before anybody notices it, with both acknowledging the awkwardness of it.
- On Firefly, Zoe and Mal have a "highlighting lack of sexual tension between close friends" hug variant.
- Between Parker and Jules in Flashpoint who have something of a father-daughter relationship. Parker wanted to congratulate Jules on a job well done and Jules wanted to thank Parker for coaching her through a negotiation. Parker extended his hand for a handshake while Jules attempted to pull him in for a hug. Then they switch places with Parker going in for a hug and Jules offering her hand. They end up having a bit of an awkward moment when they finally settled for a hug, with Jules quickly leaving afterwards and Parker remaining frozen in place.
- Game of Thrones: Left with no one else to console her, Cersei reveals her hidden anguish to her hated younger brother, Tyrion, who realizes that he should do something to comfort his sister in spite of their antipathy. As he reluctantly walks toward her, he can't find any words to say and can't even hold her gaze, much less hug her. He ends up standing awkwardly beside her as she weeps.
- Happens hilariously on Merlin: Merlin saves Arthur's skin again and after Arthur reluctantly apologizes, Merlin goes in for a hug. Arthur steps back, hands out, and...
Arthur: What're you doing?
Merlin: I thought you were going for a hug.
- Gilmore Girls: Luke gives an awkward hug to Rory after finding out about her acceptance to Harvard.
- Monk: When Monk's brother Ambrose is first introduced, the somewhat estranged siblings try to hug. This doesn't go well, partially due to the fact that both of them suffer from Super OCD, and they end up Air Hugging.
- The Office (US) in the episode "Paper Airplane", Jim and Pam, whose marriage has become strained by Jim's new job have been tense or outright fighting throughout the episode. Before he leaves for work again, Jim embraces Pam. Pam, however, does not respond for a few moments, before remembering that she loves him and hugs him back.
- Psych: At a big party for Lassie, Lassiter and Juliet exchange an utterly awkward but completely sincere hug.
Lassiter: Eh—um— oh, come here.
- On Schitt's Creek
- Johnny and David attempt to hug after David agrees to lend his father money but are thwarted by the seatbelts.
- David and Ted share a comically awkward hug informed by the fact that they hardly know each other and there is social tension over Alexis's declaration of love for Ted. The awkwardness later amplifies the poignancy when David and Ted have a heartfelt conversation about their past hurts and the possibility of opening their hearts again that leads to David declaring his love for Patrick and Ted declaring his love for Alexis.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time", when Spock learns that he hasn't killed Kirk, he grabs him by the upper arms as if to hug him — and then notices McCoy watching and quickly lets go.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale, the potential future Picard is flashing forward to establishes that he and Dr. Crusher married and divorced, and when they meet, they have a hard time deciding if they're going to hug or shake hands.
- The West Wing: Leo and Josh patch things up after an argument, and Leo spreads his arms in an expansive all done, then gesture. Josh interprets this as an attempted hug.
Leo: Boy, did you read that wrong.
- The Wizards of Waverly Place are so dysfunctional they have trouble hugging. Harper even lampshades it.
- The X-Files, "Colony": Agent Mulder is called by his father to visit his mother due to a family emergency. When he arrives, Mulder greets him and goes for a hug. Bill Mulder, however, just extends his arm. They shake hands, but Mulder is visibly disappointed.
- Can You Spare a Quarter?: When hearing Jamie's story of abuse at home Graham reaches out to hug him, but upon noticing that the boy is trembling from fear he instead holds Jamie's hand.
- In Vlogbrothers, John shares an awkward hug with an actor he was interviewing.
John: That was the worst hug I've had in my life.
Birbiglia: You didn't warn me!
- Gravity Falls:
- At the end of the first episode "Tourist Trapped", Dipper and Mabel share an "awkward sibling hug", complete with awkward back patting.
- This got a heartwarming Call-Back in the penultimate episode "Weirdmageddon 2: Escape From Reality", where Dipper and Mabel reconcile with a "sincere sibling hug". They still do the awkward back patting.
- Kim Possible: In the series finale, when Ron and Shego arrive to rescue Kim and Drakken from the Lowardians, Kim and Ron eagerly hug while Drakken and Shego (who briefly looked like they were about to do likewise) awkwardly try to act nonchalant.
- The Simpsons: In the episode "The Day the Earth Stood Cool", Homer asks Terence if they could have a "man-hug". When Terence says sure, Homer admits he's never actually attempted one before and stands with his arms held perfectly straight at an awkward angle.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Innocents of Ryloth", clone trooper Boil's reaction when he gets hugged by Numa, a young orphaned Twi'lek girl he and fellow trooper Waxer befriended, must be seen to be believed.
- Awkward sidehugs.
- Hover hand. It's putting your arm around somebody's shoulders, but letting your hand hover awkwardly just above their shoulder. Usually indicates lack of confidence.
- Keanu Reeves would disagree, but still thinks you're breathtaking.
- Elementary students and younger often try to hug their teachers, but teachers are often told not to engage in physical contact with their students due to the fear of lawsuits or accusations of impropriety.