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. The phrase is used to describe both armed and unarmed conflicts.
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.  This situation occurs in the movies Shanghai Noon, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Delta Farce, and Reservoir Dogs. An analogous highly unstable situation can also occur when a weapon is within reach, as in the climax of Dead Again. The Mexican standoff is now largely considered a movie cliché due to its overuse in Spaghetti Westerns and action films.
- Mutual assured destruction (MAD)
- Battle of attrition
- Winner's curse
- Heroic failure
- Prisoner's Dilemma
- No-win situation
- Win-win situation
- Pyrrhic victory
- Chicken (game)
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
- ^ Almost by definition, a Mexican standoff!, McFarlane, Keele Saturday, July 08, 2006 (retrieved 2007-12-16)
- ^ Mexican Standoff - Television Tropes & Idioms
- ^ Movie Death by Mexican Standoff - Movie Deaths Database