Suppose you either are facing truly insurmountable odds, or are just the kind of quitter who panics at the first sign of trouble. You might want to surrender. A good way to do so non-verbally is to hoist and wave a white flag.
Don't use it just to lure your enemies closer for a clear shot, though — that is perfidy, a war crime; moreover, in the future, white flags might tend to be less accepted. White flags can also be used for negotiating things other than surrender (e.g., a prisoner exchange) — the basic meaning behind the white flag is "Don't shoot, we wish to talk about something."
Sometimes a character will raise a white flag, only for it to be shot off or filled with bullet holes. In this instance, fight away.
- The commercial for Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 has red plaid shirt Luigi under attack by Shellcreepers, Sidesteppers and Fighter Flies and ends with him waving a white flag while ducking into a pipe.
[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
- Dragon Ball: During the first Tournament saga, Giran, witnessing Goku's power firsthand and after he breaks free of his Merry-Go-Round Gum rings, promptly produces a white flag and forfeits the fight.
- The Invisible Man also produces one after he's made visible thanks to Master Roshi's Nose Bleed, losing any possible chance of winning against Yamcha.
- In Fairy Tail, after the one-year Time Skip, Natsu curbstomps Bluenote Stinger, causing the remaining Orochi's Fin forces to raise a white flag in surrender.
- North Italy of Hetalia: Axis Powers, being a Lovable Coward and constantly Distressed Dude, makes frequent use of these. At one point, he's shown mass-producing them, gives them as gifts to his friend Germany, and turns them into alien costumes that the nations use in The Movie.
- In Hunter × Hunter during the Chimera Ant arc, after Meruem fatally wounds the Ant Queen, Colt immediately heads out with a white flag to inform the Hunters they require their assistance to save the Queen.
- Nadiathe Secret Of Blue Water:
- In "Riddle of the Giant Sea Monsters", the Grandis gang has the Gratan fly the white flag to surrender to the USS Abraham Lincoln due to being weaker.
- Later, in "Emperor Neo", the titular ruler want Paris to fly the white flag or else face annihilation.
- Pokémon: The Series:
- One Kanto episode has Ash and Co. trying to help a Paras evolve, by throwing fights so it can earn experience. One instance has Pikachu dropping on the ground and waving a white flag.
- In the Johto, saga, after the elders defeated several bandits trying to steal Diglett and Dugtrio, the bandits waved a white flag of surrender. Then again, they weren't actually trying to steal the Diglett/Dugtrio so much as they are trying to test their elders as to whether they can continue to defend their area.
- Space Runaway Ideon: After a series of inconclusive battles, the human colonists of Planet Solo decide to negotiate a ceasefire with the Human Aliens who’ve been attacking them, and raise white flags over their starship to display their peaceful intentions (having failed to reach them by radio — their communication technology is too different). Unfortunately, to said aliens, raising a white flag is a declaration of total war and lifelong vendetta, and scramble their forces in a panic. By the time the humans realize their mistake and raise more appropriate colors, the next attack has already begun.
- Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Great War in the Bizarre World episode 11, Wolffy attempts to escape the bee queen and her soldiers, but the latter stop him by throwing stinger spears at him to hold him in place, leading to Wolffy crying while holding a white flag.
- In SnarfQuest, Snarf and his allies are pinned down behind a rock. Snarf announces he has a plan and tells Action Girl Telerie to take off her shirt and give it to him. The now topless Telerie is not impressed when she discovers Snarf's plan is putting her white shirt on a stick and waving it as a white flag.
- FFS, I Believe in You: In the sequel, Sidon's group uses one to signal their intent to parley when meeting with the foreign Zora, although in a twist Hyrulean peoples traditionally use black flags for this purpose.
- Subverted in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). After the initial exchange of gunfire, several of the gangbangers besieging the police station approach holding a white sheet. But instead of negotiating they smash a bottle of blood on the pavement and leave the sheet there as well, which is marked with symbols painted in blood. Turns out it's a cholo, a Blood Oath taken by the gang members to kill everyone there.
- In Birds of Prey (2020), Harley Quinn ends up finding herself in a Chase Scene with multiple adversaries while going out for breakfast, ending with her getting surrounded by Roman Sionis' armed thugs. Woefully unprepared, she simply waves out a napkin and calls for a parley.
- In The Cat in the Hat As Dumb Schweitzer sets up aiming the wooden bat to hit Cat in the crotch he waves the white flag frantically but it doesn’t help.
- In Deadpool (2016), the titular Merc With a Mouth makes an improvised one out of his underpants. He's this close to finally tracking down Francis, there's a large, armed squadron between him and Deadpool, and DP left his guns in the taxi. He therefore offers his opponents the opportunity to cease hostilities on the grounds that they're just getting paid, and he won't hurt them if they don't hurt him. They refuse. Deadpool kills everyone (except Bob) and writes Francis' name with their corpses.
- In Small Soldiers, Phil Fimple attempts some negociation using an umbrella and white scarf for an improvised flag. The Commando Elite are having none of it, of course.
- In Suburban Commando, this is Played for Laughs when Shep Ramsey plays an arcade game so well that the cabinet opens a hatch and waves the flag of surrender.
- The gangster in Underworld (1927) signals his surrender to the police by tying a white hankie to his rifle and waving it outside the window.
- In The War of the Worlds, three people discover a Martian ship, and decide to show they are peaceful by waving a white flag. Unfortunately for them the Martians don't follow that standard, either because they genuinely don't know the concept of a white flag, or know but don't care anyway.
- What is the war flag of [nation you don't like]? A white eagle/star/crown/etc on white fabric.
- In Bored of the Rings, just before The Cavalry arrive and all seems lost:
"Despair not," Goodgulf commanded through his little window. "Bring me my white robes, and quickly!"
"Ah!" cried Pepsi, "white robes for white magic!"
"No," said Goodgulf as he stapled the garments to a pool cue, "white robes for white flag."
- In Jingo, Vimes's First of Foot (which in Vimes's head aren't a regiment at all, but still a police force) march under a white flag to represent "what they're fighting for".
- In Night Watch, a soldier waves a white flag to request a brief ceasefire so his side can remove their dead.
- In the Honorverse, the universal sign of surrender for space ships is to "strike the wedge", or deactivate one's impeller drive, which leaves the ship at the mercy of its opponents.
- In one of the Otto Stahl novels by Leo Kessler, the German spy succeeds in capturing a Soviet bunker, only to see German troops advancing with a flamethrower. They need to surrender or be roasted alive, but no-one has a white flag. So Otto gets one of the Russian soldiers to take his pants off and wave his long underwear.
- Doctor Who:
- "Doomsday": The Doctor improvises one so he and the Cybermen can discuss a temporary alliance against the Daleks.
The Doctor: Sorry, no white flag. Only had a sheet of A4; same difference.
Cyberman: Do you surrender?
The Doctor: I surrender, unto you... a very good idea.
- "The God Complex": Gibbis, an alien whose species' hat is surrendering, is introduced waving a white handkerchief.
- "Doomsday": The Doctor improvises one so he and the Cybermen can discuss a temporary alliance against the Daleks.
- An episode of M*A*S*H had the compound under attack by a lone sniper hiding behind a bush. A helicopter arrives and opens fire on the sniper. After a few tense, silent moments, the sniper raises and waves a white flag.
- Earlier in the episode, Hawkeye and Trapper employ a white flag in order to get casualties out of the ambulance truck for surgery. It doesn't quite work as the sniper opened fire anyway.
- House of the Dragon: Daemon Targaryen waves a white flag as part of a I Surrender, Suckers maneuver at the Crabfeeder's army to draw them out. He keeps up the pretense until Dark Sister is taken from him, then goes on a killing rampage through their ranks.
- Star Trek: Voyager. Captain Janeway combines this with From Dress to Dressing in "The Q and the Grey", tearing off strips from her American Civil War petticoat.
- Subverted in Westworld's episode "TrompeLOeil". The Confederados trap William, Dolores, and Lawrence/El Lazlo on the train after the latter stole their nitro and replaced it with tequila. A boxcar door opens and out gallops one of Lazlo's men, carrying a white flag. Just as the Confederado officer gets close, he notices clear liquid flowing out of the man's ear. Lazlo uses the distraction to shoot his already-dead man, filled with some of the nitro, and give them a chance to make a break for it.
- Blue Öyster Cult, White Flags.
Light the white flag of surrender, the war is over, the battle ended...
- Garth Brooks' "White Flag" from In the Life of Chris Gaines.
- Tom Holt's filk "The White Flag - Battle Song of the 23rd Regiment of Pragmatists".
- "White Flag" by English singer-songwriter Dido (which has also been covered by Kelly Clarkson) is a Break Up Song about how the singer accepts their ex doesn't want to be with them anymore, the singer is still in love with their ex and they won't throw up a proverbial "white flag" and surrender those feelings even if they know the singer won't take them back.note .
I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I'm in love and always will be
- In Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, the description of orcs states "They do not obey the 'rules' of war — for example, they will shoot at a person carrying a white flag."
- Cuphead: The Devil is shown holding one in the ending after getting heavily beaten up by Cuphead and Mugman.
- In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil's group notices a Red Wings airship flying one of these as it approaches them, and its meaning is respected by both sides; Kain merely wishes to negotiate an exchange.
- The Lanius from FTL: Faster Than Light may transmit waving white flags in one of possible surrender messages. They must have taken learning about Earth quite literally.
- In some Heroes of Might and Magic games, if you order your hero to surrender, a scene showing a white flag being hoisted may play during the post-battle results screen.
- Kangaroo: If a large, malevolent ape succeeds in stealing Mama's boxing gloves, she becomes defenseless, and pressing the Punch button only results in her waving a white flag of surrender. Fortunately, her gloves are restored after a few seconds.
- The Tricastle Mini-Boss (essentially a mini castle) from Mega Man 10 hoists one once you take out its three weakpoints. Then it explodes.
- The Arab commander of Metal Slug 2 and X does this when you beat the first boss.
- Used for symbolism in The New Order Last Days Of Europe. If nuclear war breaks out, the last hidden event that plays afterwards shows humans landing on the moon again, untold decades to centuries after the end of civilization. They find a white flag on the moon. At the beginning of the game, the Nazis planted a flag on the moon; now, all those years after the collapse of the world they'd built, exposure to the sun has faded it into a flag of surrender.
- In Sega-era Puyo Puyo games, Draco Centauros waves around a white flag if she's defeated in a puyo battle.
- In Radar Mission, after beating the third level, a cutscene shows the enemy base being obliterated, as well as the enemy hoisting a white flag and waving it.
- A level in The Simpsons Game's Fictional Video Game Medal of Homer, Homer and Bart have to remove several white flags from the French village after Uter threw a rock at the village during World War II (which Homer erroneously attributes to The American Civil War).
- The Bowser Jr. and Bowser Castles in Super Mario Galaxy 2 fly the white flag on the overworld after getting their Grand Stars.
- Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy have areas where you're attacked by ships filled with mooks. When you destroy the ships, the mooks onboard will wave flags as the whole thing goes down.
- One WarioWare microgame requires the player to keep a spotlight trained on Wario as he moves around in an otherwise dark area. If the spotlight's still on him when the time runs out, Wario hoists a pair of white flags and you get credit for successfully clearing the microgame.
- In World of Warcraft, at the players defeat Viq'goth at the end of Siege of Boralus, Tandred Proudmoore arrives with the Kul Tiran fleet to save the city. Priscilla Ashvane, who's leading the siege of the city, immediately realizes she can't win and hoists a white flag.
- In Yoshi's Safari, the Koopalings and Bowser wave white flags upon defeat.
- In Tyranny, the blue flag serves the same purpose: a banner of peace and negotiation that even Evil Overlord Kyros will respect. On certain paths, the Villain Protagonist, working for Kyros, can choose to honor or defy this flag. The former sets them on the path of becoming a Noble Demon or even making a Heel–Face Turn, while the latter earns them serious Villain Cred for the scheming, manipulation, and sheer cruelty needed to get that many Rebellion leaders together in one place for slaughter.
- In the early-'50s cartoon "Southern-Fried Rabbit" of Bugs Bunny has the rabbit waving one so he can ask Yosemite Sam why he's guarding the Mason-Dixon line. It turns out that Sam has orders from General Lee to do so, and he doesn't see a little thing like "the war being over for nearly 90 years" as a reason to stop.
- In "Homeless Hare," Bugs spends the bulk of the cartoon battling an obnoxious construction worker who has razed his hole in the ground so a skyscraper can go up. After a typical Bugs once-over, he issues the ultimatum "Well, toodles...do I get my home back or do I have to get tough?" Amidst the rubble and ruins Bugs issued, the construction worker puts up a white flag.
- Egghead Rides Again: When Egghead is accepted to try out for becoming a cowboy at the Bar-None Ranch in Wahoo, Wyoming, his first challenge is to use his gun to light a cowboy's cigarette. Egghead takes his shot, and it hits the cowboy. When the smoke clears, all that remains is the cowboy's boots and hat, which is floating in the air. The cowboy's hand comes out of the hat, waving a white flag.
- Subverted in an episode of Mr. Bogus, where the ant that had stolen Bogus's special piece of cake only waved one of these as a distraction and given him a false piece of cake that was actually a rock painted to look like a cake.
- In Jackie Chan Adventures, after Jackie is shrunk down, he attempts to get Tohru's attention by holding a white flag big enough for him to carry and wave, though Tohru fails to notice it.
- An episode of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 has Koopa pretending to have thrown in the towel with his schemes by showing up in front of Toodstool with a flag and giving her the key to his castle.
- Near the end of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "To Bee Or Not To Bee", when Pooh and his friends were telling Christopher Robin about what happened, involving a swarm of bees, Rabbit mentions that they were forced to surrender, as did the bees, with both sides waving one of these.
- Spongebob and Squidward both wave these in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Employee Of The Month", after trying to compete against each other for the position of Employee of the Month.
- Tom and Jerry:
- The mid-60s cartoon "Matinee Mouse" starts off with footage from the original shorts of the two going at each other and then new animation of them presenting white flags, calling a halt to their fighting (albeit temporarily).
- At the end of the shorts "The Little Orphan" and "Two Little Indians", Tom, after getting a particularly bad beating from Jerry, pulls this off. Both shorts end with Tom joining in with Jerry's activities.
- In the Looney Tunes short "My Favorite Duck", Daffy Duck antagonizes Porky Pig during a camping trip, using the excuse that it's not duck season yet and there's a fine for even hurting a duck. Eventually, duck season opens and Daffy desperately tries to stop Porky from shooting him. As a last resort, he waves a white flag; Porky blasts it full of holes, which spell out "Start Praying, Duck!"
- In the Popeye short Blunder Below, after Popeye gives a spinach-powered thrashing to a Japanese submarine, a Rising Sun flag pops out of it and the "sun" sets to turn the flag white.
- Family Guy: The episode "E. Peterbus Unum" sees Peter seceding his property from the United States and naming it Petoria. Near the end, after an intense standoff with the U.S. Army, Peter asks Brian if he can tie him to a stick and use him as a white flag.
- In the The Simpsons episode "The PTA Disbands", the class watches a historical reenactment of a Civil War "battle" in which Southern troops crest a hill waving white flags and requesting an unconditional surrender so that their wounded may be treated. The Union soldiers of Springfield "heroically" massacre them.
- The second flag of the Confederate States of America, the "Stainless Banner" adopted on May 1, 1863, was mostly white, with the distinctive design in use as the battle flag confined to a small square in the upper left corner. Since it could be easily mistaken for a flag of truce at a distance, a red bar was later added to the right side, but this revised flag was not widely used because The American Civil War ended two months later.
- A white flag was the national flag and naval ensign of France after the Bourbon restoration. No great surprise the following Orleanist dynasty restored La Tricolore of the revolutionary and Napoleonic periods.
- The white flag even played a key role in preventing a second Bourbon restoration and making France permanently a republic. When the Second French Empire in 1870 collapsed due to the Franco-Prussian War, the Bourbon heir Henri, comte de Chambord, was offered the throne. Henri demanded that he would only do so if the white flag was restored. The Tricolor was by this point a beloved symbol of French unity, so the French Third Republic was established on what was meant to be a temporary basis, so they could wait until the comte de Chambord died and the more reasonable Orléanist heir Philippe, comte de Paris (who besides being the Orléanist heir was recognized by most Legitimists as next in line after the childless comte de Chambord) could replace him. But the comte de Chambord stubbornly stayed alive until 1883, by which point public opinion had swung against monarchism and the "temporary" Third Republic lasted until France was conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940.
- Ironically, the comte de Chambord had himself created a "compromise" flag in his youth that combined the Tricolor with the royal coat of arms that would probably have been acceptable (at least as a personal flag of the monarch and/or as a state flag), but in his 50s he was apparently much more stubborn about fully returning to the old ways and symbols of the Ancien Régime.
- In short, he was unable to become King of France because he insisted on flying a white flag. The jokes write themselves.
- The first mention of the usage of white flags to surrender is made during the Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25–220), making this trope Older Than Feudalism.