Mexican standoff

Mexican standoff

Mexican standoff is a strategic deadlock or impasse, in which no party can act in a way that ensures victory.


The phrase came into usage during the late 19th century. Originally a derogatory reference to perceived Mexican political indecision, it has come to refer to any impasse, regardless of the participants or the presence of arms.

In popular culture

In popular culture, the Mexican standoff is often portrayed as multiple opponents with weapons aimed at each other, such that each opponent feels equally threatened and does not believe they can strike first without endangering their own life; not only does any initial shot decisively destroy the unstable equilibrium of multiple deterrence, shooting any one person takes one's aim away from the other opponent. The Mexican standoff is now largely considered a movie cliché due to its frequent use in spaghetti westerns and action films.

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