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When things are going badly wrong, the hero needs to hit something to prove he's a badass, but can't hit anyone because that would be unheroic. So he hits something inanimate. His pain proves he is sincere.
Done by a guy as a sign of Testosterone Poisoning, but also common among Tsundere and people who are simply approaching the limit of what they can take. It can also be the first sign that you're staring into the face of Mama Bear.
This trope does not cover martial arts techniques which may include punching hard surfaces to harden the knuckles, nor does it cover punching things you need to break, if there is a chance of success.
A common subversion is the object in question being a little harder than the hitter was expecting. If it's the wall we're talking about, then the most likely case is that they accidentally hit the stud behind the wall.
Tends to avert Invulnerable Knuckles, but not always.
It's also a common reaction to Rage Against the Reflection towards mirrors affixed to walls.
- Happens frequently in Ranma ½. Ryoga is probably the most common offender but most of the cast do it at some point. We also see Akane do this several times (although she usually mildly injures her hand while smashing whatever she hit).
- A quirky subversion occurs when Ranma is sapped of his strength by a vengeful Happosai. After being
defeatedtrashed by Kuno, an unbelieving Ranma punches a wall in outrage... but a toddler gets in the way. Akane and Ranma are horrified until it's revealed that the child barely even felt Ranma's fist.
- A quirky subversion occurs when Ranma is sapped of his strength by a vengeful Happosai. After being
- Kaname does this in Full Metal Panic.
- Sousuke also punches out the screen of his laptop when he gets an e-mail informing him that he is no longer to guard Kaname and he can't contact her anymore.
- In the Tenchi Muyo! Non-Serial Movie, Ryouko punches a wall when it seems all hope is lost and Tenchi's going to be erased by a time paradox.
- Soul Eater has a variation. When Black Star hears the location of the organisation that hospitalised Maka he allows some of his soul wavelength to discharge from his open hand into the wall (since all attacks in this series work by hitting the target with the attacker's soul wave and Black Star's is strong enough to do damage without a weapon).
- In Sentou Yousei Yukikaze Jack puts his fist through a glass window when he learns that his CO willingly put Rei's life at risk.
- In Holyland Shougo does this after he thinks that the Sawako gang attacked Shinichi because of him. Yuu also does this to test out his hand protection when preparing to go after the Sawako gang.
- In Nanoha As, Signum does this a little while after she hears that Hayate's illness has become life-threatening, realizing that the Book of Darkness is the cause and there is absolutely nothing she and her fellow knights can do about it, save abandon their honor in a last-ditch attempt to feed enough Linker Cores (extracted from living humans) to the Book before it kills their Mistress.
- Sakurako punches a wall in order to get the attention of several people in her second trip to the world of Psyren. Later in that trip, Hiryu is slumped against a wall with a bloody and dented spot, and it is implied that he punched it after learning that Tatsuo was captured by the Taboo and implanted with a Taboo core.
- Spike Spiegal is mistaken for Vicious in one episode, and responds by bashing in a nearby wall-mounted pipe before doing the same to his would-be attackers.
- Detective Conan, first episode, Ran, who's not angry at Shinichi at all, punches through a concrete electric pole, laughing afterward.
- A filler episode in the Zatch Bell anime has Ted searching for Cherish when he's interrupted by some ill-tempered men he bumps into. Zatch volunteers to take the beating while Ted follows the trail of Cherish's perfume. But his conscience catches up with him, and he comes back to tell the men that if they lay a finger on Zatch, they'll have to deal with him. He then dents the nearby brick wall with a single punch for emphasis.
- The Boys has a variation - The Homelander (a Superman expy) has just been embarassed by Billy Butcher. Instead of punching a wall, he throws a plane.
- Daredevil, after his long time on-again off-again girlfriend Karen is killed by Bullseye, he screams and trashes his bedroom.
- In one arc of the the Hellboy series BPRD, Abe Sapien finds pictures on a wall of his transformation into a fish-man, with his former friends standing around and visibly celebrating the transformation (as they believed that this brought their friend closer to their favorite occult deities); he becomes so upset he punches one of the pictures, breaking the frame and putting a hole through the wall behind it.
- In Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami, L punches a wall in frustration and "made a big whole" after Light uses the Death Note to kill Mikami as he's identifying him as Kira.
- Naruto punches things in Naruto Veangance Revelaitons in jealousy of Ronan being better than he is.
- Gran Torino, Walt punches in the doors of several cupboards, culminating in two glass ones.
- Classic example: Jack La Motta beating the shit out of a prison cell wall in Raging Bull
- At one point Die Hard the dragon comes back from trying to kill McClane, and immediately starts smashing the scenery. McClane's wife, of course, takes it to mean her husband is still alive, because only he could make someone that pissed off.
- James Dean as Troubled but Cute teen Jim Stark does this to a desk in the police office near the beginning of Rebel Without a Cause.
- Played for Laughs in They Call Me Bruce. Bruce's Kung Fu master claims that with control of your emotions you can do anything, including punch a hole through a brick wall. Bruce doubts this is possible, and when everyone else agrees the old master losses his temper and punches a hole in the wall, revealing a pretty 'massage girl' on the other side who says he's early for his session.
- In The Darksword Trilogy, Joram punches a tree which falls over and whines endlessly until it gets given brandy.
- In Men At Arms, Vetinari has come to expect Vimes to punch the wall outside his office after every meeting, and recognizes it as a sign that Vimes is really going to buckle down on a case. Conversely, when Vimes doesn't punch a hole in the wall after such a meeting, Vetinari wonders whether he pushed Vimes too far.
- In The Catcher in The Rye, Holden mentions that after his brother died, he smashed every window in the garage with his bare hands.
- Xander puts his fist through the wall after Joyce dies in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Albeit, drywall is not difficult to punch through.) He then gets his hand stuck in the wall.
- In Angel's spin-off series, Angel begins repeatedly punching a hole after he finds out that he can't save Darla because she was already resurrected.
- And Faith takes out Wesley's entire shower wall after getting her ass kicked by The Beast.
- Also, parodied on Friends.
Ross: [explaining why his life sucks] ...And then none of this would have happened, and I wouldn't have put my fist through the wall!
Rachel: You put your fist through the wall?
Ross: No, I missed and hit the door. But it opened really hard!
- In Cardiac Arrest, Dr Monica Broome beat up a soap dispenser in frustration at not having beaten up two senior doctors who had been openly looking down her top a short while before.
- Worf sometimes punches inanimate objects in Star Trek: The Next Generation - they always break.
- Sarah Connor when they lose track of John's signal.
Cameron: Breaking the computer won't help
- In The West Wing's episode "A Proportional Response", CJ and Sam have a vicious verbal fight after CJ finds out about Laurie the Call Girl. She dresses him down pretty thoroughly; he fights back by questioning the "guts, strength, and courage" of her convictions. CJ is very hurt. Sam knows it, and knows furthermore that she was right. So, in frustration, he punches the wall outside CJ's office, done (as with lots of things on the show) while walking down the hallway.
- Can't forget Andy Bernard's infamous reaction to Jim hiding his cellphone in the ceiling tiles and calling it repeatedly.
Jim: *examining hole* Wow, thats a half inch of dry wall!
- In How I Met Your Mother, we learn that Ted's apartment got a hole in the wall when Robin got drunk on a six-pack of Molson and went Super-Canadian with a hockey stick and puck... Lily caught the puck, leading to Robin challenging her to a fistfight... which Ted broke up, causing Barney to get angry and punch the hole in the wall, because "You never break up a girl fight! Aagh!"
- Played for drama in an episode of House after Foreman fails to save a patient. He wears splints for his broken fingers for an episode or two afterward.
- George from Alien Nation punches a large dent in a racist suspect's desk to intimidate him into talking. His partner later wonders aloud whether they'll get billed for the desk.
- Dexter does an epic one of these in season three--he punches the glass out of a cabinet door and smashes the shit out of his office with a howl of "MIGUEEEELL!"...but it turns out it was just in his head.
- Avril Lavigne punches a mirror in the video for Don't Tell Me.
- In Neil Simon's play Laughter On The 23 rd Floor, based on his real life experiences working as a writer on Your Show Of Shows, this is played for extreme drama at the end of Act 1, and the same punch is played for extreme hilarity at the start of Act 2. Max, the Sid Caesar analogue, gets so frustrated at the Red Scare that he punches a hole in the wall at the end of a firey rant and angrily shouts that no one should ever fix it. After intermission, there is an empty picture frame around the hole.
- Lampshaded in City of Villains, in a mission to rescue humourously overcyborged punks:
Tank Freak 1: Well, it's been fun. I think I need to go break something. You know, express my generic inner rage and stuff.
- Done by both Heat and Cielo in Digital Devil Saga.
- In Final Fantasy X, Luzzu punches a wall repeatedly if Gatta dies in Operation Mi'ihen.
- Also done by Colonel Volgin in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, where he makes a rather sizable dent in a concrete wall.
- A Running Gag in The Last Story: The party just ran into a dead end? Have Zael kick a wall. This always manages to open a secret passage. The party members occasionally comment on this.
- In the Wii version of Punch Out, before you face Mr. Sandman in Title Defense, the slideshow reveals he was so frustrated at losing the belt to Little Mac, he leveled an entire two-story building with his bare fists.
Boss: The Pain is dead.
Colonel Volgin: I'm so angry I could punch a hole in a solid concrete wall!
- In The Simpsons, Otto summons the strength to crack an exterior wall after leaning that Homer had called him a Sponge, not a bum.
- In Justice League Unlimited, Wildcat does this at one point...putting a huge dent in the wall, just to remind us his Charles Atlas Superpower is not to be underestimated.
- In Futurama, Fry discovers a statue of Philip J. Fry, the first man on Mars, who Fry thinks is his brother stealing his name and dreams. He punches the base in anger.
Fry: And now he hurt my hand!
Bender: His legend lives on.
- Nicole of The Amazing World of Gumball punches a hole in a door when Gumball keeps giving excuses not to bring a rented DVD back to a store.
- On American Dad, Stan spends an episode plowing his face into the wall every time someone says something he doesn't want to hear. This goes on until he puts his forehead straight into a stud.
- Don't try to pretend you haven't punched or kicked a wall, just out of a need to hit something when you were really angry or frustrated.
- Mike Nesmith of The Monkees once got into a heated argument with one of the PTB over creative control. When he was basically told he had no say in his own songs, he did this, yelling "That could have been your face, motherfucker!". The incident is recreated in the docudrama "Daydream Believers".