...and the fighter cracks his neck before his attack - when did this get common?

Wolverine does it before a lot of his action in the X-Men movies - but there was a sense that part of it was related to his super-healing powers (snapping stuff back into place and all)

Then, I saw Cyborg do it on the Cartoon Network Teen Titans anime (I think it was the one where he fought Atlas), and the bad guy did it on the Justice League (the one where Superman is lost in his fantasy of life on Krypton if it hadn’t blown up).

I don’t have other specific cites, and I seem to recall seeing this in the past, but now it seems commonplace. Don’t get me wrong, I crack my neck, too (although I am far from a warrior!), but when did this become the unwritten code for “yeah, I’m cool, I’m relaxed and I am ready to kick your ass”?

Agent Smith did it in the first Matrix, and I remember recognizing it then but not knowing from where.

Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi in Desperado (1995) was before that, but surely that can’t be the first?

Yep - I remember both of those, now that you mention it. I guess I am interested in where it started, but I am just as curious as to how it became so commonplace.

Maybe it was Agent Smith? Just like Trinity’s freeze-frame kick which got spoofed and copied all over the place - maybe the neck-crack is just another visual cue other directors adopted for the “ready to rumble” signal…

Hmmm, I remember Murtaugh doing something similar in Lethal Weapon, which was in 1987, so this certainly precedes the Matrix by quite a spell.

Robert Redford does it in The Sting, so we can move back the first occurrence date to 1973. Anybody remember seeing it earlier?

…really? I don’t doubt you; I just don’t remember. Can you describe the scene when he does it at all?

And again - this is great from the “who did it first in the movies” standpoint, but do you guys agree with my working hypothesis that it was Agent Smith in the Matrix who made it the thing to do?

No, not at all. It felt very familiar the first time I saw that movie.

Wordman, maybe I’m remembering incorrectly, but it was the first thing I thought of when I read the title.

However, describing it is going to be a bit spoilery:

It’s right after Paul Newman cheats during the poker game on the train, when they’re about to hook Lonneghan - Redford’s character goes to collect Newman’s winnings, and Lonneghan’s thugs yank him into the back room, presumably to work him over. He gets one chance to say something to Lonneghan before being turned over the the thugs, so he calmly straightens his suit, cracks his neck, and says the one thing that could have saved him - he admits that Newman cheated. And from then on, he’s got the mob boss dancing to his tune.

Oh wow - Jenny - I certainly remember the scene, but not that nuance. I’m gonna have to look for it!

and Priceguy? I hear you about it looking very familiar - I think so, too. It seems like a natural thing to do if you are a badass getting ready to wade into action (like I am even remotely familiar with that feeling - hah). But, other than JH’s mention of the Sting - which, if you think about it, isn’t an action movie, really - was this a commonplace part of movies?

I don’t remember it in any of Schwarzeneggar’s or Stallone’s movies - not saying no one did it, just that I don’t recall it being done with a bit of dramatic heft, if you know what I mean. Squeegee remembers it from Lethal Weapon, but I can’t recall the scene the way I can with Wolverine or Smith, where it seemed to be given significance…

In The Sting, though, it’s used in a different way. The character does it after the fight, as way to nurse his injuries. The way this bit was used in the later movies mentioned here was as a preparation for the fight.

Bruce Lee did it in Return of the Dragon, I think. Maybe in Enter the Dragon too.

In the Lethal Weapon series Murtaugh cracking his neck was the signal that he was about to do a “super accurate” shot with his revolver.

True,saoirse, but that’s true of many times when this little tick is used - I don’t remember Wolverine doing it out of the blue, for instance. It’s always because he was recently hit - in The Cage, in the snow, in X2 on the porch - always after something happens to him, and he’s about to respond. I think most of the time when Agent Smith does it, it’s used in a similar manner.

Also, if Smith is the first character anybody can remember doing it before anything happens, it can be argued that due to his extensive contact with human culture, he’s learned to mimic the neck-crick, but doesn’t understand it, and thus he uses it incorrectly at the start of the fight.

I see your point though.

I don’t remember this, but if he did, it’s probably the answer we’re looking for. He’s definitely sufficiently influential.

I think your on the money with this one. I always remembered Lee do a little stretching before kicking some ass. Including the neck stretches.

Especially when you consider how nmany of Lee’s signature moves made their way into the Matrix. For example, there’s a moment in the subway scene where Neo wipes blood form the corner of his mouth with the back of hs hand, looks at slowly, and then does that come-hither motion to Smith - I clearly remember Bruce lee doing that several times in his movies (including once when fighting Chuck Norris).

I remember in Dragon: The Bruce Lee story, right before Bruce has to spar for the right to teach Kung Fu to non chinese, he and the big muscly guy have what I affectionately refer to as the “crack off”.

The crack their necks, backs, fingers… damn near everything.

Another vote for Bruce Lee.

Return of the Dragon w/ Bruce Lee…been mentioned, but it really has to be said that this is must be the most over-the-top joint cracking and sound-effect overdubbing that has ever been done. Yikes, I’d be a quivering arthritic mess at the end of his pre-fight stretch…