Counting to Three

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"One! ...Two! ...FIVE!"
"Three, sir."


"Troper, I'll give you to three to stop reading this description."


"Don't try do defy me! This technique is very effective. Parents, especially Sitcom parents, use this technique to keep their kids in line all the time! And it's most definitely based on a very effective real-life technique! Sure, the kids always defy their parents at one, but then we get to..."


"Sometimes, fighters subvert this trope by launching into action here. Of course, in our case, this is when the kids bolt to their rooms for fear of punishment. What's the punishment, you ask? Eh heh... Um... The other option here is that the kids realize that the parent doesn't want to punish them, and so they continue to be defiant instead. In that case, you might notice that the pace of the numbers becomes comparable to a Magic Countdown."

"Two and a half..."

"Come on now... Wouldn't you much rather read up on Rule of Three, Timed Mission, Just in Time, Race Against the Clock, Exact Time to Failure, or Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, which are all somewhat related to this trope? Or maybe you'd like to look through Insufferable Genius or Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist - the kinds of people who are often on the recieving end of this trope. And the Arrogant Kung Fu Guy also gets this a lot, but he actually lets the counter get to three before demonstrating that he knows kung fu. At least have a look at Knight Templar Parent, which is one type of character who often employs this trope."

"Two and three quarters..."

Examples of Counting to Three include:

Anime & Manga


Samus: Ridley! I'll defeat you on the count of three. If you're capable, let's count together.

    • With each number she fires a different weapon, and Ridley's down after "Three."

Comic Books

  • Wolverine counts to 3 with his fist under another person's chin as added incentive for the person not to defy him.

"One." Left claw *SNIKTs* out.
"Two." Right claw *SNIKTs* out.
The victim usually begins singing before he gets to three.



  • In Despicable Me, Gru tells the girls he's going to count to three and they better be in his, erm, vehicle by three. He counts one, then two, then the scene cuts to the girls' ballet class as the teacher says "three, four", showing that the girls overruled Gru.
  • King Arthur is given very specific instructions from The Book of Armaments as to how to count to three in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • Yet as the page quote indicates, he still manages to botch it. Luckily, their target (the Killer Rabbit) got blown up anyway.
  • From Die Hard:

Hans Gruber: I'm going to count to three, there will not be a four. Give me the code.

  • Played for laughs by the Shrunken head on the Knight Bus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He's counting down from 10 though.
  • Repeatedly Subverted in Space Cowboys. As a Running Gag and plot point, both sides would agree to a three-count, then immediately shout "Three!"
  • Played for drama in Slumdog Millionaire. After rescuing Latika, the love of Jamal's life, Salim attempts to rape her. When Jamal protests, Salim holds a gun up to his brother's head and tells him to leave before the count of three. "One." Jamal doesn't move. "Two." Jamal doesn't move. "Three." Latika lowers the gun herself and tells Jamal to go, letting Salim sleep with her to save his life.
  • Sinisterly subverted as per above in the Charles Laughton version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. When confronted with a begger who refuses to pay his share into the common fund, Clopin gives him to the count of three to reconsider—and stabs him just as he says, "Three."
  • This is a Crowning Moment of Awesome in the Transformers flick (as long as you ignore the cheesedick comment the Sec Def makes seconds later)

Simmons: I'm gonna count to five, okay-
Lennox: Well I'm gonna count to THREE! [cocks his gun]

  • Happens and played with in both of the first two Home Alone movies, through the films Kevin watches (and plays back to unsuspecting people he's trying to convince to leave). The first movie has a count of ten that goes: "One... two... ten! *gunfire*" and the second, a count of three: "One... two... *gunfire* three."
  • Used very well in 1989's The Dream Team. The bad guy's got a gun on the girl when Michael Keaton comes up from behind pointing a gun at the bad guy's head.

Bad Guy: I'm a police officer. Drop the gun.
Keaton : I'm a mental patient. I'm not impressed.
Bad Guy: I'm going to count to three.
Keaton : [pulls hammer back] I'm not even going to count. Gimme the gun. [beat] GIMME THE GUN!

  • In the Lethal Weapon series, this is played with as Riggs and Murtough discuss if it's 1,2,3 then go, or go ON 3.



Cohen: I will count to three. One. Two. (knees the guy in the groin) Three.

  • In the Newsflesh trilogy, Shaun and Georgia count to three, always stopping at 2, as one of many checks for Kellis-Amberlee Amplification. of course, when Shaun is talking to Georgia in his head, he only counts to one out loud

Live Action TV


Brian: Right, you've got five seconds...Where are the fillings? [slowly] Five, four, three, two, one, Zero! Zero! Oh! Hah! Forgot to fire it!


Jack Bauer: I am going to ask you one last time. Who are your co-conspirators? You have until the count of three, or I will kill you.

    • That particular instance is a subversion, though. Jack Bauer needed President Logan alive so that he could plant a recording device on him. He never actually intended to follow through with his threats.

Oral Tradition

  • A few jokes are based around this trope:
    • There's a joke about a newlywed settler couple. Every time the horse trips, the husband says "that's [insert number under 3]. Once he gets to three, smack-dab in the middle of death valley, he shoots it. the wife gives him a talking-to, and his reply is "That's once."
    • "You have untill I count to ten. I'm counting by fives/ in binary".
    • *bang* One. Two. Three.

Professional Wrestling

  • Referees will count certain things besides pinfalls, which they generally never get to the end of or it takes a long time.
    • Illegal holds are to be let go of by the time the ref counts to 5 or the holder will lose by disqualification, but it's more likely that the ref will count, "1, 2, aw come on, get offa him!, 3, seriously, I mean it this time, 4, all right that's it break it up..."
    • If a wrestler leaves the ring they have a 10 count to get back in or lose by countout. Different refs have different cadences but it's always at least 5–10 seconds between counts. Plus it's in the actual rules that if they get interrupted for any reason they have to start over at 1.


  • When Cyrano De Bergerac first appears, he gives Montfleury (an actor he dislikes) to the count of three to leave the stage.

Video Games

  • William does this to his brother Ray in the end of the Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. It doesn't end well.
  • Calo Nord in Knights of the Old Republic does it to a gang of thugs, and kills thems after they don't get out of his way. When the player character tries to talk to him, his only reply is "One.".

Western Animation


I'm gonna give you a count to three to open this closet door. One - I'm gonna shoot you both; Two - I'm gonna cap some bitch. Three...


One of them: On the count of three!
Altogether: THREE!

  • In the Futurama episode "The Problem with Popplers", Nd-Nd, (an alien from the planet Omicron Persei 8) does something like this:

Nd-Nd: Little one, get out of there. I'm going to count to blorx!
Little Omicronian: But, elder one--
(Nd-Nd starts counting off her fingers)
Nd-Nd: Flingle ... glorg ... glorg and a gloob...

  • In one Looney Tunes sketch, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam were about to duel. Bugs counted off to 10, but stretched the count between 9 and 10 with crazy fractions just long enough to get Sam into the street to be hit by a bus.

Bugs: (checks his watch) Eeeeeyep, she's right on time!

  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Cowboy Stackhouse gives Jimmy to the count of three to get out of the house with Sandy. Luckily, Jimmy gets out right on three.

Web Comics


Tagon: One. Two. Ten.
(opens fire)
Tagon: I'm sorry. I think I skipped seven.
Kevyn: My mother would argue that you also skipped nine-and-a-half.


"THREE!" *bang*