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"What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?" is one of the most famous formulations of a Yin-Yang Clash in the Western consciousness. As a result, it's become a Stock Phrase for describing any conflict between particularly strong or particularly stubborn individuals.
Some people try to claim that the unstoppable force would just bounce off and continue moving, albeit in a different direction. For this reason, the question is sometimes phrased using the term "irresistible force" instead.
Please note: This article is about the actual phrase itself. If two really strong guys fight, and no one compares them to an immovable object and an unstoppable force at any point, then the example belongs in Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny or Yin-Yang Clash.
Anime and Manga
- In Pokémon, Rampardos is described as the unstoppable force/spear that can break any shield and Bastiodon is described as the immovable object/shield that can't be broken. They battle. So you might be wondering what happens when Rampardos battles Bastiodon. The answer? The battle is interrupted due to Team Rocket before it can be resolved.
- In Hoshi no Samidare, Yukimachi and Subaru's paired attack and defense directly allude to this - they call their telekinetic attack "the Strongest Spear" and their telekinetic shield "the Ultimate Shield." They pick the names from a story shared by their teacher, the Master, about a spear that could penetrate any shield and a shield that could block any spear. In the hands of a single warrior, that warrior would be unstoppable. The Master then clasps their hands together, declaring the two together to be "the warrior."
- Referenced in the anime of Trigun by Hoppared the Gauntlet, who declares himself as an invincible shield and Vash's guns as an unstoppable spear.
- Discussed in Saint Seiya during Seiya's early fight with Shiryu and even referred to as such. In a twist, Shiryu's in possession of both; his shield too strong for Seiya to breach while also having considerably greater raw strength at his disposal. Seiya ultimately solves the conundrum by tricking Shiryu into attacking him in such a way that when he dodges, he ends up punching into his own shield. The shield breaks, but Shiryu also nearly breaks his hand in the process and is forced to continue the fight without his Cloth.
- In Naruto, Gaara develops a technique called "Shield of Shukaku", a giant Shukaku-shaped doll made of sand that is supposed to be impervious to most any attack. In the anime, he also demonstrates an attack-based counterpart called "Spear of Shukaku", which has yet to meet a defense it could not break. The names are in reference to the chinese parable mentioned above. Both are formed by Gaara using his sand to compress the hardest materials he can find under extreme pressure. Being used by the same person, they've yet to be seen hitting each other.
- The Incredible Hulk #272. Hulk and Sasquatch ram Wendigo using downed trees, with Wendigo in the middle.
The Wendigo becomes the immovable force between two irresistable objects.
- This phrase is more overused in The Hulk than anywhere else. Whenever the writers want
belaborimpress that an opponent is a serious physical challenge to Hulk, they will be one of these, and Hulk will be the other.
- This phrase is more overused in The Hulk than anywhere else. Whenever the writers want
- When former X-Men writer Chuck Austen was asked in a interview; what would happen if the unstoppable Juggernaut runs into the immovable Blob? He replied...
"They'd pound on each other until they were both so exhausted that they'd just lay down and watch videos. Porn, of course!"
- The toy review site OAFE.net answered this question with a toy comic. Basically, they shake hands and say hi. (Which makes a lot of sense in-story: the Juggernaut and the Blob have both been members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, although they are rarely on the team at the same time.)
- Marvel Super Heroes RPG, knowing its readers, provides an answer to this. "Juggernaut could move The Blob by destroying the ground underneath his feet, unless he was sitting on a planet made of Adamantium" (it didn't say what would happen in that case, however).
- Presumably, he'd move the planet.
- Blob's immovableness is exaggerated. In his first appearance he was moved by Colossus using a steel beam while using Wolverine's back as a brace.
- Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman has Superman being asked this question. His solution? "They surrender."
- Back in the Silver Age, Superman and Superboy tried to test this out by flying into each other. They wound up with memory loss and ripped the Time Stream a new one.
- From The Dark Knight, after Batman knocks the Joker off a building and then fires his grappling cable to save his life:
The Joker: Oh, you. You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren't you? Huh? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
H: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
- And later, when Heck has decided to leave Rachel because he knows that she's in love with Luce:
Heck: I want you to be happy. More than anything else, I wanted to be the cause of happiness in you. But if I'm not, then I can't stand in the way. Do you see? Because what you're feeling now, Rachel, is the unstoppable force... which means that I've got to move.
- The Avengers - Thor's Hammer vs Cap's Shield. The result? The force of the impact doesn't hurt Cap, but is instead reflected into a shockwave that levels the forest for miles around.
- A Russian joke runs like this:
Vovochka, what will happen if unstoppable force will affect unmovable object?
- Used as a riddle in the far-future section in Ian Banks' "Walking on Glass". The actual answer is randomly tossed out in the other narrative. The unstoppable force stops, the immovable object moves.
- Only two people in the world of Soon I Will Be Invincible have "Invincibility" listed as a power...
- Harry Dresden defines the mind games between him and Molly in this way. He has a big, obstinate castle (unmovable object) while her attacks are equivalent to several Mongolian Hordes (irresistible force). It usually ended in a draw and two headaches.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look's football promo sketch contains this (and the similar "The giants of Charlton play host to the titans of Ipswich, making them both seem normal-sized").
- Used in the Knight Rider episode "Trust Don't Rust", to describe the theoretical outcome of a head-on collision between KITT and KARR. They refer to it as "Zeno's Paradox".
- The old Johnny Mercer standard, here sung by Fred Astaire to Leslie Caron in 1955's Daddy Long-Legs:
When an irresistible force, such as you,
Unstoppable force and immovable object,
- An oft-played clip from Wrestlemania III's iconic Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant match: "The irresistible force meeting the immovable object."
- Given the power levels that get slung around in Exalted, it usefully has a rule for what happens when a perfect attack comes up against a perfect defense: Defense always wins.
- The World of Warcraft TCG features the below mace and shield as cards, with the flavor texts of "What happens when . . . ?" and "Oh, that's what happens.".
- In World of Warcraft there is a Mace called Unstoppable Force and a shield called Immovable Object; both were among the easiest to obtain Epic gear and really good... until the release of the first expansion pack made them next to useless.
- This also inspired the Joke Weapons Stoppable Force and Moveable Object.
- In the Suikoden universe, the True Runes were said to be born after the Sword Rune that could cut through anything and the Shield Rune that could stop any strike clashed
- Ace Attorney: Edgeworth tells a story of a weapon merchant presenting gifts to a lord; a spear which can pierce any armor, and a shield which can stop any weapon. The lord immediately pointed out the contradiction, embarrassing the merchant. This story inspired the design for the present day Prosecutor of the Year trophy; a broken shield, and a broken knife. Thematically, it's the equivalent of Ancient Romes "memento mori", reminding prosecutors they are not unbeatable.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, During their duel in Episode 3, Virgilia attacks Beatrice with the Divine Spear, and Beatrice deflects it with the Divine Shield. Ronove helpfully notes that this only worked because the irresistable force must never meet the immovable object.
- Perfect World: a very early quest for human characters involves meeting the salespeople in Etherblade. Playing off the Chinese (spear/armor) version of this paradox, the blacksmith claims that his spears cannot be stopped by any armor, and the tailor claims that her armor cannot be pierced by any spear.
- One of the many things the SCP Foundation keeps track of is SCP-255: an immovable object, and an unstoppable object. They really do not want to find out what would happen if these two objects ever collided. They're drawing up planetary evacuation plans just in case.
- By their own admission, that might not be enough: Since all tests thus far have shown that neither SCP-225-1 nor SCP-225-2 can be damaged or moved by any means known, the possibility also exists that neither object would be annihilated, halted, or altered from their course even by contact with the other. If this is true, then a collision between SCP-225-1 and SCP-225-2 has the potential to [DATA EXPUNGED].
- In one Robot Chicken sketch, Zeus is giving Perseus (or possibly a Perseus action figure) magic equipment, including a sword that can pierce any armor and a shield that can stop any weapon, along with advice not to get them too close together since he isn't sure which one beats the other.
- In X-Men: Evolution, the Juggernaut and the Blob are characterized as this by the Blob. Juggy manages to move the Blob but is considerably slowed.
- Batman the Brave And The Bold episode "Emperor Joker!" has Batmite describe Batman's relationship with The Joker as such. Likely in reference to The Dark Knight quoted above.