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A Wronski Feint is a maneuver where a pursued character feints at an obstacle in order to get their pursuer to follow. They pull up at the very last second, and the split second of confusion, or their enemy's inferior piloting skills, causes the enemy to crash into the obstacle.
This trope allows the work to show off what a skilled pilot the hero is - he can take out the enemy with only his piloting skills. It also shows the audience his level of fearlessness and ability to keep cool under pressure.
Note that while the obstacle is usually a cliff, the ground, or a similar immobile object, it's not unheard of to pull this off with missiles, other vehicles, or other mobile targets.
Named after the Quidditch technique where one team's Seeker will pretend to see the Snitch near the ground and go into a dive to attempt to lure the opposing Seeker into crashing into the ground. The Wronski Feint is first mentioned in Harry Potter, and again in Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp, wherein it was revealed to have been named after famed Polish Seeker Josef Wronski.
Anime & Manga
- Gundam Evolve 7, a computer-generated short based on Gundam Wing, has Heero use the colony cannon he's attempting to destroy for a Wronski Feint.
- Early in Zeta Gundam, Quattro and his team take advantage of their Rick Dias suits' superior manoeuvrability to pull the basic 'fly at the ground and swerve away at the last minute' version on a squadron of pursuing GMs. Made rather more plausible by the fact that the Federation GM II, to be blunt, steers like a cow.
- Tails tries the missile maneuver with one of Eggman's missiles in the last episode of the second Sonic X season. It doesn't work.
Eggman: This isn't your typical anime weapon!
- Fiendishly Inverted by the Anti-Spiral termination forces in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The machines attempt to fake out their opponents with sluggish movement and feeble attacks, tricking them into thinking they have the upper hand. Said opponent might let up on the attackers just long enough to realize he's in the middle of a sudden Zerg Rush, or mount a counterstrike and charge forward- racing toward their doom. As soon as the enemy falls for the bait-and-switch tactic by dropping their guard, the mecha equally drop the charade and IMMEDIATELY go for the kill- with very deadly results. In fact, their brilliant tactics transcend this Trope and venture into Xanatos Gambit territory.
- In Tiger and Bunny, Kotetsu actually manages this against Barnaby without flight -- his opponent didn't take in account his Grappling Hook Pistol when following him off a skyscraper.
- In The Desert Peach, Rosen does this to a pursuing British pilot. Rosen's in a Stuka---a dive bomber that's made to deal with the G-forces and stresses of pulling up out of a very steep dive---and the British pursuer isn't.
- In the "Wrecking Havoc" story in The Transformers, a human fighter pilot actually manages to pull this off on Cyclonus.
- This is essentially done a few times in Sin City in which a character lures one or more cop cars into Old Town where cops are not allowed. This ends with the cops turning and leaving... usually. The cop cars unfortunate enough to land in the neighborhood get blasted apart.
- In the first Fantastic Four movie, the Human Torch uses the Wronski Feint to dispose of a missile, when his attempt to lure it with flares proved ineffective.
- Galaxy Quest uses magnetic space mines in a Wronski Feint to destroy the Big Bad alien's flagship.
- The Lightcycles in Tron use a unique variant, creating their own walls for their pursuers to crash into. They use the standard version when there's a wall already in place.
- In the movie Blue Thunder, the hero (flying the titular Black Helicopter) dodges two heat seeking missiles fired at him by military F-16s by luring them into, respectively, the heat from a Japanese barbecue shop and the sun reflecting off a skyscraper. Under the circumstances, he had no real choice, but the film rather jarringly avoids dealing with the consequences.
- In The Incredibles, Elastigirl tries this move to cause pursuing missiles to hit the ocean. It doesn't work.
- Appears in the movie of How to Train Your Dragon. It helps that the Red Death's wings were shot full of holes so it can't pull up.
- In Independence Day, Steven Hiller uses the canyon ploy to escape from the alien dogfighters. He then uses the actual Wronski Feint on his last pursuer, ejecting and deploying his chute, causing both plane and alien fighter to crash. Mostly justified since the chute obscures the alien's sight, and by the time it slides off the alien craft, it's too close to the canyon wall to pull up in time.
- In the first movie of the Harry Potter series, Harry actually does this when he and the Slytherin Seeker are both going for the Snitch. Harry having done it is never referred to by name, and is never brought up in the movies after that point, despite it coming up in the fourth movie..
- In a variation without canyon walls, the heroes of Pearl Harbor do this by flying their planes directly at each other, and then swerving at the last minute, causing their pursuers to crash into each other.
- Terrestrial variant: Batman Forever shows the Batmobile accelerating into a brick wall before using a combination of rocket boosters and a grappling hook to drive up the wall. The pursuers drive right into it.
- As mentioned above, it was demonstrated quite effectively in the Quidditch World Cup by Viktor Krum in the book Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. And several Harry Potter Fan Fics have Harry himself performing it, as in the book he thought after seeing it that he couldn't wait to try it. Unfortunately, later events(the Quidditch cup being called off due to The Triwizard Tournament in his fourth year, getting banned from Quidditch by Umbridge in his fifth year, getting weekly detentions for the end of the season in his sixth year, and skipping his seventh year) conspire to prevent him from ever trying it.
- Skandranon, the hero of the Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon novel The Black Gryphon does this in the first chapter of the book, when he's being pursued by enemy fliers. It's subverted by the fact that he promptly runs straight into a tree himself shortly thereafter. Of course, it was a tree on his team's side of the warzone, which is what he was really worrying about.
- In the X Wing Series, Corran Horn pulls this off against a set of missiles, pulling up at the last second to cause them to crash into an enemy ship.
- Oh, it's more complicated than that. The proton torpedoes were being launched by Y-Wing bombers against a Lancer-class frigate, which could have blown them all out of the sky without breaking a sweat. Corran, in his much-more-agile X-Wing, tells the bombers to lock on to him, with the express intent of using a Wronski Feint to actually deliver the ordnance to target. Mary Sue that he is, it works.
Live Action Television
- In the Stingray episode "The Man from the Navy", the titular super-sub is being used as the target vessel for a new underwater homing missile. In all previous tests, Stingray hasn't been able to shake off the missile, so an annoyed and frustrated Troy Tempest charges at a large rock formation on the ocean floor, only veering off at the last second. The missile can't follow the insane turn and crashes into the rocks. Just as well, because while the other missiles have been inert test rounds, this one has a live warhead courtesy of Titan's agent X20.
- Occurs unintentionally in Red vs. Blue Reconstruction. The reds are fleeing from a pair of freelancers in a car chase. Grif races towards a cliff, believing he can make the jump over the river, but changes his mind at the last second and brakes just in time. The freelancers are not so lucky and go flying off the edge. Simmons shoots them with the car's turret as they go down for good measure.
- Dude Hennick pulls one against a Japanese fighter in Terry and the Pirates when the heroes are escaping from Temple Rock prison, causing the fighter to crash into a lake.
- One Garfield comic strip had the titular feline chasing a bird at ground-level, at full speed, only to have the bird pull up sharply (90° angle!) at the base of a tree. Garfield did not dodge.
- In Star Fox 64 Team Starwolf would tail you unmercifully. You COULD pull an Immelmann Turn and shoot whoever was following you that way - but it's waaay more fun to fly almost right into a pillar, then pull an Immelmann, and have Wolf die an instantaneous death. Cue Evil Laugh.
- However, due to technical limitations this would only work if you had the victim in your sight.
- Mass Effect 2 has a cutscene battle where the Normandy SR-2 comes under attack from Collector fighter drones. Joker flies the Normandy into a dense debris field in an attempt to evade them. Despite the drones being quite small and nimble, they are crushed by the debris while the massive Normandy flies through unscathed thanks to Plot Armor.
- Justified in this case. The Normandy (SR-1 or SR-2) has a far larger drive core than normal, allowing it to maneuver with much more agility than a standard craft of its size. It also has far, far better kinetic barriers than do the tiny drones (which can be shot down by infantry in a pinch; same can't be said for the Normandy itself). Even those barriers aren't enough to withstand the repeated debris impacts if you've left the stock systems in place; unless you've purchased the Plot Armor, someone will die in that chase.
- Tribes Ascend allows nimbler classes to escape the Shrike aircraft's attacks this way. Especially common since a lot of pilots will aim to ram the infantry.
- In the intro for Wing Commander Privateer, the player character lures a pirate's missiles around an asteroid, and then sends them back at the firing craft. How he did that in a ship that can't outrun or outturn the missiles is an exercise best left for those who forget the MST3K Mantra.
- In Forza Motorsport this is a popular method to get rid of AI cars tailgating you; if they only start to overtake you right before a turn, they'll go flying through the turn from breaking too late, often slamming into a wall. This also happens frequently in multiplayer when dealing with rammers - if you see someone aiming to smash into you at a tight turn, just go wide at a turn and smash on the brakes, and the rammer will go flying through the turn and smash into the walls of the track.
- In the Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row games, the best way to lose a cop pursuit it to switch into the opposite lane wait for them to follow you and switch out just before you hit another car.
- At least one example of the missile version happens in Star Wars: Clone Wars: Anakin, pursued by a large numbers of enemy fighters, orders his squadron of clone pilots to fire their missiles across the bow of a capital ship and then lures the enemy fighters into the path of the missiles.
- The finale of Justice League Unlimited had Batman do this with the Omega Effect (self-guided Eye Beams of Ret-Gone); he throws down a Mook he passes trying to elude it so said Mook bounces into the Effect's path at just the right moment.
- The Gargoyles use this trick against the Steel Clan a couple of times.
- Late in the second season, one of them even lampshades it: "It's amazing how many times that works"
- The good guys fall for this in Re Boot. Two web creatures on a collision course going around the Principal office, each followed by half a dozen CPU's. Web creatures escape, all CPU's crash and explode.
- In X-Men: Evolution, a more unusual form of this is done to evade missiles and fighter pursuit. Instead of bothering to pull out of the dive, Kitty Pryde phases the entire jet through a mountainside. The missiles crash harmlessly into the rock and the pilots who were in pursuit (not knowing about mutants) swear never to speak of it again.
- Occurred in Real Life, as seen on History Channel's Dogfights show. In the episode, "Desert Aces", the to-be Israeli jet ace Geora Epstein is chasing a MiG-21, which tries to shake him off by doing a Split-S maneuver at dangerously low altitude - a Suicidal Gotcha. At first Epstein thought he had crashed and died... but then, the MiG began rising out of the swirling storm of sand kicked up by his jet afterburners. The feat was Awesome but Impractical, and Epstein used common sense, casually flying up to the struggling MiG and scragging it with his cannon.
- At least one Real Life instance of the Wronski Feint have been reported to be used by pilots of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron during WWII.
- And a variant was used regularly: the Poles were used to underpowered, underarmed Polish and French fighters, and found that the only way to make any impression on German formations was to dive head-on at them and open fire at point-blank range. When they tried this in Merlin-engined, 8-gun Hurricanes, the tactic proved to be awesomely effective, causing more than one German raid to abort entirely as the pilots tried desperately to get away from these madmen...
- This may be why J.K. Rowling made the inventor of the trope-naming manoeuvre Polish.
- Also (sometimes) averted during the WWII Polish Campaign: German Bf 110 pilots understood their large and heavy fighters would become hapless victims of the Wronski Feint if they attempted to dogfight small and nimble PZL fighters, so they used superior engine power to fight only in the vertical plane, by zoom-climbing towards the Poles, guns blazing, and repeat the shoot-out during the afterwards dive.
- At least until the end of WW 2, this also gave the Swiss the edge when flying substantially inferior aircraft against combatants who had entered their (neutral) airspace - they knew the mountains like the back of their hand and the intruders did not.
- Captain Jim Denton and Brent Brandon, USAF, manage to pull one of these in an EF-111 Raven radar jammer against an Iraqi Dessault Mirage F1. Though the kill was credited to a nearby fighter pilot who was in the process of locking the Mirage, Denton and Brandon were both awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their role in causing the Mirage to plow into the ground at full speed. This is the only time that a kill of a jet has been credited to an unarmed aircraft.