Overkill is the use of excessive force or action that goes further than is necessary to achieve its goal. For example, using a sledgehammer to crack a hazelnut, or shooting an ant with a rocket launcher would be considered overkill.

Nuclear weapons

Overkill is especially used to refer to a destructive nuclear capacity exceeding the amount needed to destroy an enemy.

The term was probably coined in the 1940s and was in common use during the Cold War era, referring to the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both nations possessed (and still possess) more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy one another many times over — nuclear overkill.


In criminal profiling, the term "overkill" refers to the wounds or mutilations inflicted by offenders (especially serial killers), which go beyond what is necessary to kill the victim. Such wounds are often inflicted post mortem. This often occurs when the attacker is completely out of control i.e. a blind rage or the proverbial red mist. Alternatively, the deed may be done calmly in order to satisfy the control/possession fantasies of the assailant. A classic example would be a frenzied stabbing where the victim has suffered a very high count of abdominal wounds.

In movies

In a critical sense, overkill might be considered a close relative of overacting and overdramatizing. For example, in most modern horror films, such as Friday the 13th, most of the killing is quickly clichéd, and is always overkill. For instance, when someone has fallen three stories onto the pavement, it would be overkill to hack them up with a chainsaw.

In Transformers, (post 1987) Overkill was one of Soundwave's later Cassettes.

In video games

Overkill is a common feature in many video games. In some games, such as Final Fantasy X, "overkill" is made part of the battle system; finishing off an enemy with a very high-damage attack may give bonus rewards after battle. Overkill is also one of the killing spree medals in Halo 2, and is awarded for killing 25 opponents in a row without dying. It is available in all multiplayer game types. Overkill is also a medal and Achievement in "Halo 3", and is obtained by killing 4 opponents within 4 seconds of each other; it is equivalent to the Killtacular award from the previous Halo games. It is available in all multiplayer game types, however the Achievement associated with it can only be obtained in a Ranked Free for All Playlist over Xbox Live.

In Call of Duty 4 Overkill is a tier 2 perk that lets the player carry two main weapons.

In first-person shooters, overkilling a character will often result in gibbing that character.

Overkill is the name of Vice's HSDM in The King of Fighters 2002.

In Music

  • Overkill (band) is an American thrash metal band, formed in 1980 in New Jersey. The band has been active since 1984, releasing 15 studio albums, 2 EPs, 2 live albums and a "covers" album.
  • Motörhead's studio album and song from the album of the same name released in 1979. Lyrics written by Lemmy (Ian Fraser Kilmister).
  • Colin Hay has a song named "Overkill". This song is in the first episode of Scrubs (TV series) season 2.
  • Lazlo Bane covered the song "Overkill". Lazlo Bane are well known for collaborating with Colin Hay, who sings the final part of the song. Colin Hay is also in the official music video.
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