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I fell into a burning ring of fireThe ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
—Johnny Cash, "Ring Of Fire"
A commonly seen element of a climactic battle involving The Hero being encircled by a flaming ring. Much like a boxing ring or a gladiatorial arena with sealed exits, it is used to indicate that neither the Big Bad nor The Hero have the option of running away from the Final Battle, and the story will end with one of the two dead. Most frequently used by villains, especially Magnificent Bastards who want The Hero to be Deader Than Dead, but can occasionally be enacted by The Hero when the Big Bad has run away from similar confrontations in the past. Fridge Logic tends to come into play as soon as the viewer realizes that sending the flames directly under the feet of the hero is probably a better idea on the part of the villain, but let's face it, it looks cool. The Ring of Fire is a great set up for a hero and villain to meet in a final confrontation, symbolic in that there is no escape from the fight and representative of the emotion of the scene. Expect it to be a part of the The Very Definitely Final Dungeon or any other situation where failure is not an option.
This can often indicate Did Not Do the Research, since natural flames have a natural aversion to forming the perfectly circular rings seen in movies, and unless a propellant has already been shaped into a ring a real fire would fill in the area where the victim is standing, and that's assuming there's no wind to change the direction of the flames. Then again... Nine times out of ten, A Wizard Did It.
- The use of the Ring of Fire for climactic duels was called out in a car dealership commercial wherein the customer wanted a very special discount... after they defeated the dealership's champion to prove the quality of the cars. Scary-looking MMA fighter steps into the ring of stones and the customer strikes a match to light the ring of fire.
Anime & Manga
- Yu-Gi-Oh!! also has one leap up around the arena during the duel with Panik with the intent of turning Yugi into a cinder. The Gag Dub Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series plays Johnny Cash's song (quoted above) as it happens.
- Karen has one spring up around her in the X 1999 movie, though it is her major power to manipulate and create flames.
- In Mai-HiME, one springs up around the main character as her full powers manifest for the first time. Naturally enough, she's pyrokinetic.
- In Bleach, ungodly powerful Head Captain Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryûsai can make fire consume an entire area simply with the initial release of his zanpakuto. The two captains that he fights lead him away from the execution grounds simply to keep everyone else in the area from dying.
- Fate/Stay Night's Archer does this as a part of his reality marble "Unlimited Blade Works"
- In Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro's final battle with Jagi takes place on a rooftop. Jagi eventually reveals he led Kenshiro there because there was a huge container of oil, which he breaks and then throws on a match on. Since he has the high ground Jagi will presumably be safe because of Convection, Schmonvection, but it quickly devolves into Kenshiro being trapped in a ring of fire. Not that it matters though. Ken just destroys the floor and falls down to the safety of the ground below.
- Slightly subverted in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) has Van Helsing create one to protect himself and Mina from the bad guys, rather than the standard final duel setup. He also manages to do it simply by chanting Latin and drawing a circle around them on the ground with a flaming brand.
- At the end of the movie version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, Voldemort stops Harry from running away with the Stone by summoning one. In the book magical ropes were used, but Rule of Cool prevails in the movies.
- In Half Blood Prince, Bellatrix creates one around the Burrow to keep the other wizards from going after Harry to help.
- Parodied in Finding Nemo- it's bubbles. And doesn't work at first.
- The Jet Li movies Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave have climactic fights in a ring of fire.
- The Mass Teleportation effect which transports the entire town of Grantville into the past takes on this form and is even called the "Ring of Fire" in-universe.
- The Dresden Files: In Changes, Harry and Susan battle the Ick (and its Red Court handlers) in the Erlking's court. Said duel takes place in a Ring of Fire with screaming faces floating in it.
Live Action TV
- Highlander the Series: In "Homeland," Duncan MacLeod and Kanwulf face off within a ring of fire.
- When testing gasoline fire myths, the Myth Busters made a Ring of Fire in the workshop. It soon turned up to be really hot inside it.
- In Supernatural, Castiel reveals (and is later a victim of) the fact that flame circles made with a certain sort of holy oil will contain an angel until the fires burn out.
- Older Than Print: The Valkyrie Brynhildr in Norse Mythology was imprisoned in one of these after deciding the outcome of a battle against Odin, the King of the Gods.
- As part of Gangrel's entrance in the WWF, a ring of fire would appear on the stage, and he would rise up through a trapdoor in the center of it.
- Similarly, the Inferno Gimmick Match involves a ring of fire.
- West End Games' TORG had a mechanic that generated a Ring of Fire that went up to 11. The game is based around variant realities, and two "possibility-rated" characters (read: PCs and important villains) from different realities face off, they can invoke a 'reality storm' that separates them from any other interference so that they can get down to the business of forcefully shoving their realities down each other's throats.
- This is one stock Fire attack in City of Heroes, used by a number of powersets. The ring of fire actually has effect of immobilising the target, trapped in a circle of damage-inflicting flames.
- In Kingdom Hearts 2 during the battle between Axel and Roxas, Axel sets the stage on fire in an attempt to defeat and eliminate Roxas.
- Link's final showdown with Ganon in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time also takes place in a ring of fire. He knocks Link's sword outside of the ring first.
- This is recreated in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, with an electrified magical barrier standing in for a flaming one.
- Additionally, in The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask, fights with the Garos, mysterious Ninja-esque enemies in Ikana, take place in a ring of fire that randomly appears.
- In a minor subversion, during the escape part in Ocarina of Time, a ring of fire surrounds Zelda, forcing Link to battle two Stalfos to get rid of it
- Also in Majora's Mask, Odolwa, the boss of the Woodfall Temple, occasionally starts a large ring of fire around Link. Frustratingly enough though, he can go right through it without being harmed. Despite being ridiculously vulnerable to fire: you can kill him with two fire arrows.
- In the prequel to Dissidia Final Fantasy, Dissidia 012, Feral Chaos's EX Burst is to teleport himself and his opponent into a giant arena surrounded by flames so he can issue a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown when they have nowhere to hide or run.
- The Axe and Sword twins in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones fight you in one, and both you and them can take damage if you get too close to the fire.
- The battle with Sticky Fingaz in Def Jam: Fight For NY takes place inside of a ring as the player tries to get their girlfriend back from him.
- King's Quest V
- In the original Pokémon games, the move Fire Spin would trap the opponent in a circle of fire for 2-5 turns, preventing them from attacking. This was later changed to just damaging them every turn.
- Brutal Legend allows the player to create one. By Double Teaming with a Fire Baron, they can share a motorcycle, crack open a Molotov Cocktail, and burn a trail of fire. If the player completes a circle, it will enclose, burning enemies inside. It's meant to be a Herd-Hitting Attack.
- Asagi can pull this trick in Shall We Date Ninja Shadow. More justified than in other cases, as this is magic fire that he creates with his mystical powers.
- Sapphire: Daisuke creates a green ring of fire during his duel with Michiru. She defeats him by teleporting out of the ring, then leaps back into it and skewers him.
- The Disney version of Aladdin has this happen to the Aladdin in the final battle with Jafar. It's magic fire, so it's somewhat justified.
- Which is then used to neat effect for Jafar's Scaled Up moment.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Chase", Azula does this to Aang by setting a building on fire, though she can actually control the flames as she's doing it, somewhat justifying it.
- In the series finale, the heroes are captured in a ring of fire when they're caught near the camp of the Order of the White Lotus.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, a prison warden prevents an escape using a whip to create one of these, earning applause from the prisoners because of the amount of skill with which it was done.
- Another example is in the episode with the Radioactive Man movie, where the movie producer flashes back to the 1960s TV series, in which Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy fight The Scoutmaster's henchmen, and one of them creates a ring of fire by rubbing two sticks together.
- A joke version occurs in Drawn Together when Toot tries to protect her adopted Nicaraguan "baby" in one.
- Played with in The Lion King 2 when a dim-witted villain surrounds himself in one of these.