Sibling Rivalry

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Azula: I'm sorry it has to end this way, brother!
Zuko: No, you're not.

Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a Sibling Rivalry is when two siblings end up rivals.

Let's face it, life is a competition. And more often then not, your first and most consistent competitor can be found sleeping in the next bed.

Siblings compete. They compete for toys, love, food, resources, time, attention... in short, pretty much everything. Usually this is a healthy thing—usually—as a little healthy competition builds character and helps to define one's place within the world and within the family. (If nothing else, they'll toughen you up to the point where you can handle just about anything the other kids are likely to dish out.) Besides, as anyone who actually has a brother or sister knows, sometimes you just have to tease them. Otherwise, what's the point?

Sometimes, though, sibling rivalries are not healthy, and then things can get ugly. Really, really ugly. Because who can know you better—and perhaps have more reason to hate you—then your own sister or brother? When the battle is between siblings, you can trust them to know (if not always do) the things that are going to hurt you the most.

Naturally, the closer the siblings are in age the more intense the rivalry is likely to be, and the more likely one of the siblings will feel Always Second Best. Extreme cases may result in Can't Catch Up, especially if an Aloof Big Brother is involved. If the parents take sides one of the rivals is bound to become The Unfavorite. When it spills over into romantic affairs with two siblings pursuing the same Love Interest, it can become a Sibling Triangle.

For a Sibling Rivalry turned into good vs evil, see Cain and Abel.

For that splendid variant of sibling rivalry that's exclusively reserved for girls see The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry.

Not to be confused with Sibling Revelry.

Examples of Sibling Rivalry include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Tendo Sisters of Ranma ½ are a fairly gentle example of the "constant teasing" variant, with Nabiki as the prime instigator, while Tatewaki and Kodachi Kuno exemplify a much darker (and funnier) version of the trope.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni has this as a major part of the basic premise, with the adults squabbling over Kinzo's inheritance.
  • Lina and Luna Inverse in The Slayers, even though Luna never appears. Lina seems to admire Luna (she once admitted Luna was "really cool" to a little girl who also had big sister issues in the manga) even as she's terrified of her—or perhaps more accurately terrified of making her angry. It seems there may be a wee bit of Can't Catch Up motivating Lina.
  • Vash and Knives of Trigun
  • [Usagi and Shingo Tsukino in [Sailor Moon]] regularly take potshots at one another. Usagi is bigger than Shingo and is thus able to bully him physically, but Shingo is smarter than her so he's better at not getting caught when he pulls pranks. It's also made explicit that both of them care deeply for one another and their fighting is just old-fashioned sibling bickering.
  • In Corsair, Canale and Jean-Hughes take this to extremes, with Jean-Hughes having tried several times to murder his brother since the age of eight. When Aura is captured by Jean-Hughes the rivalry rears its ugly head again. Aura and Leti in comparison are a healthy version of this, and Ayace, though not blood-related, has a similar sibling-like rivalry with Aura.
  • The sickest version of this trope occurs in Ichi the Killer (no surprise there) when two psychotic brothers have a sick rivalry going that ends in torture and mutilation for whoever makes one feel inferior to the other. For instance, they each had sex with two women, then the older brother asked one of the girls who was better. When she said that the younger brother was just a little bit better, he furiously pulled all of her hair out. Then he turned the question to the other girl. Terrified, she said that he was the better one. And then the younger brother cut her nipples off. Later on, they had a fierce contest to see who was better at torturing a captive.
    • Even more disturbing, the brothers used to be triplets. Their extreme rivalry is the reason they're twins.
  • Inuyasha and Sesshomaru from Inuyasha Sesshomaru is the Aloof Big Brother to whom Inuyasha Can't Catch Up. Despite this, it's actually Sesshoumaru who feels like his father felt he was Always Second Best to Inuyasha. Much of his journey through the manga involves him developing from a Big Brother Bully to an Aloof Big Brother through finally understanding that his father viewed him as a Big Brother Mentor rather than The Unfavorite.

Comic Books

  • Snow White and Rose Red in Fables. They're mostly past it now, but flashes of their backstories reveal that Rose was once so jealous of Snow she behaved in ways that could fairly be characterized as evil.

Fan Works


  • The Royal Tenenbaums[context?]
  • Twin gunfighters Kid Shelleen (good) and Strawn (evil) in Cat Ballou. Subverted in that no one knew Strawn was Shalleen's brother (due to his facial disfigurement) until after Shalleen shot him. Both were played by Lee Marvin.
  • Gattaca
  • Nick and Carly from House of Wax, along with a bucket of incestous subtext.
  • The Lion in Winter (both the film and the play) has this trope in spades as Prince Richard, Prince Geoffrey and Prince John all angle to become the heir to their father's throne.
  • Thor and Loki in Thor, but it's much more bitter from Loki's point of view than Thor's until Loki's Heel Face Turn. Odin seemed to inadvertently encourage this since he said that either one of them could be king. Smart choice.


  • Miles and Mark Vorkosigan from the Vorkosigan Saga. Given their respective capabilities it's a good thing they prefer to "score" by pulling each other's chips out of the fire.
  • Sibling Rivalry defines the Weasley family dynamic in Harry Potter, with each successive boy's efforts to outshine the others at something reaching its peak when Percy becomes an unctious, grasping prig. Fred and George may look like they've opted out of the competition but their goofball antics actually earn them a great deal of attention while Ginny's privileged position as the youngest and the only girl puts her on a level where none of the boys can compete. And poor Ron feels overshadowed by all of them. Being the best mate of The Boy Who Lived doesn't always help, either, especially during those moments when it seems like Harry's become yet another (foster) brother with whom he cannot compete. Ron's ultimately successful attempt to overcome this personal demon represents a major turning point in the seventh book.
  • Edmund and Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia have this tendency in the first book, due to the fact that Edmund enjoys tormenting her.
    • The first sequel has this with Susan and Lucy. Susan is angered that Aslan seems to favor Lucy, while Lucy is bitterly upset when Peter takes Susan's side because she's older and (usually) wiser.
  • Jo and Amy in Little Women have a minor one. They never got along well as kids, and then Laurie falls in love with Amy, after loving Jo. Amy even asks if he still loves Jo (who refused him) and he has to assure her that he only loves Jo as a sister.
  • Roger Zelazny's Book of Amber is centered on the convoluted rivalry and shifting alliances among seven siblings jockeying for their father's throne. (Not all of them want it, but they all have preferences as to who should get it, and perhaps more importantly strong opinions about whom they don't want to have it.) Corwin and Eric in particular take it to Cain and Abel levels, though in later books it becomes less clear which one is which.
  • Bury Him Among Kings is a World War I novel about an intense Sibling Rivalry between a (slightly) Aloof Big Brother and a younger brother who feels Always Second Best. At the climax the elder brother's patrol gets trapped in no-mans' land and the younger brother has to choose between leaving him to die and risking his own life to save him.
  • Robin Hood in all of its many versions: the underlying plot driver is the sibling rivalry between King Richard and Prince John and in some versions Will Scarlet is Robin's illegitimate half brother.

Live Action Television

  • Pretty much the whole idea behind The Brady Bunch.
  • Reworked and re-examined for The Nineties in Step by Step.
  • The Smothers Brothers, of course. "Mom always liked you best!"
  • Bud and Kelly from Married... with Children.
  • The Crane brothers in Frasier fairly run on this trope. Even when they're not actively feuding or competing, they bicker constantly and aspire to out-snark, out-class, and out-psychoanalyze each other on a daily basis, often without even realizing what they're doing. When they wound up in couples therapy with a renowned marriage counselor, he told them that they would never stop fighting as long as they lived, unless they never spoke to each other again. Of course they reject this as a solution because they acknowledge that ultimately they love each other too much.
    • On a more episodic scale, Daphne becomes extremely jealous of Frasier's new girlfriend, Claire, because she and Martin take a huge shine to each other and begin acting like father and daughter (and Martin starts enthusiastically shipping Claire with Frasier). Daphne has always been as close to an adopted daughter to Martin as it is possible to be, and responds to this new competition by furiously vying with Claire for Martin's attention.

Martin (about Claire): Don't you love her laugh? It's like music.
Daphne (anxiously): You-you used to think my accent sounded musical. Didn't you?....Marty?
Martin: Oh yeah, but now I'm used to it.

Mycroft: He's always been so resentful. You can imagine the Christmas dinners.
John: Yeah... no. God, no.

  • Ray and Robert Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond. The show's title references Robert's resentment towards Raymond for being their parents' favorite.
  • While not actual siblings (though they are Platonic Life Partners) CJ and Toby from The West Wing are a lot like this trope, constantly sniping at and being passive-aggressive to each other while vying for Jed or Leo's attention and approval the way siblings do for their parents.
  • The Borgias: The two eldest Borgia siblings, Cesare and Juan, despise one another. The cunning, intelligent Cesare bitterly resents the fact that his father practically forced him to become a Cardinal while his Too Dumb to Live, Spoiled Brat little brother becomes heir to the family estate and gets the military position he himself always wanted. And Juan, fully aware that everyone thinks he's an Inadequate Inheritor, becomes wildly insecure about his position of power (and over-compensates for it by being an arrogant idiot).
  • Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries: Of the good-natured, teasing variety between Frank & Joe Hardy, though all bets tended to be off when both brothers were interested in the same female...and Frank wasn't above shoving all the heavy physical work off on Joe, either. And don't get Joe started when Nancy Drew and Frank were anywhere in the same room together...
  • Suggested but ultimately averted in a recent[when?] episode of Bones, when Booth's son Parker met his newborn baby sister Christine. At one point, Parker was seen taking a pair of scissors to some family photos, indicating that he was jealous of his new baby sister. At the end of the episode, it was revealed that he adored Christine and was cutting the photos to create a mobile to hang over her crib.

Video Games

  • Team Fortress 2—The reason why RED and BLU are fighting is because of a historic feud between brothers Redmond and Blutarch Mann.
  • Tekken has the beautiful Nina and Anna Williams. That's 20+ years in the making.
  • BlazBlue gives us Ragna the Bloodedge and the Yandere/Jerkass Jin Kisaragi.
  • In one of the Grand Theft Auto IV DLC games, The Ballad of Gay Tony, Brucie (who appeared in GTA IV) and Mori Kibbutz are major rivals. Mori was part of the Isreali military, had a 4.0 in Ivy League schools, and is in better shape than his brother (they're both obsessed with working out). Try as he might, Brucie can't seem to compare to him. To add to this, Mori's a Jerkass to Brucie. After watching Brucie getting tormented for several missions he finally gets fed up and decks Mori, breaking his nose. During the credits it shows them facing off in the LC Fight Club.
  • Main character Hawke and younger brother Carver in Dragon Age II are naturally predisposed to this. Carver has a lot of inferiority issues that don't really get better as the game progresses, though he and Hawke still love and care for each other as siblings. It doesn't help that the only way Carver will survive is if Hawke is a mage; chances are good that Carver will join the Templars, the very people who police/oppress mages.
    • If Bethany survives instead, party banter will also make references to this being Carver's relationship to her. Apparently he didn't take it well when his twin turned out to be the only magical child while he was normal, which was aggravated further by being an inferior warrior to their elder brother/sister. It's also possible to set up a sibling rivalry between Hawke and Bethany, but the player really has to work for it.
  • This is the essence of the entire plot of Baldur's Gate, starting with Charname fighting against his half-brother Sarevok in the first installment and culminating in a war between Charname and the other 5 strongest children of Bhaal.
  • GLaDOS in Portal 2 does this deliberately to the co-op robots Atlas and P-body. Though it's hard to ascribe a term like 'siblings' to a pair of one-eyed, genderless androids, they are evenly-matched partners, built at the same time, who GLaDOS will occasionally try to pit against each other. (For Science!, and also her own amusement.)

GLaDOS: "Excellent work, Blue. Blue is awarded one hundred science collaboration points. Orange... Keep up the mediocrity."

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Remy Kim and Josee Trembley of Survival of the Fittest v4, who both see themselves as The Unfavorite to their mother, and have been known to attempt to "regain" her love from the other twin.
  • Homestar Runner: In an Easter Egg in the "hide and seek" sbemail, Strong Bad's animatronic decoy and Grape-Nuts Speak'n'Spell robot get into an argument like this.
  • Played a little more seriously in Pay Me, Bug!, where Velis Enge is the leader of a black ops team that's blackmailing her brother, Grif Vindh, into a very dangerous mission.

Western Animation

  • Bart and Lisa Simpson
  • Zuko and Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender, to Cain and Abel levels.
  • Megabyte and Hexadecimal in ReBoot, also to Cain and Abel levels(Though both are evil).
  • Daria and Quinn.
  • Ralph Bakshi's Wizards
  • Wanda and Blonda in The Fairly OddParents
  • Ruffnut and Tuffnut in How to Train Your Dragon can work together as a team with a lot of effort... but they still spend more time beating the hell out of each other than they do fighting anything else.
  • Fry had a rivalry with his brother Yancy in the Backstory of Futurama, with a recurring theme of Yancy stealing Fry's ideas and stuff. To the point where it seemed like he'd stolen Fry's name after his disappearance! It turns out Yancy named his son in memory of the disappeared Fry, who went on to accomplish everything he dreamed of.
  • Drew and Stu Pickles from Rugrats has been arguing and fighting since they were babies, as seen in a Flashback episode.
  • Stewie and Bertram from Family Guy, even though they're really half-brothers. There was even an episode with the same name as this trope involving them.
  • In the 2011 reboot of ThunderCats, Tygra is Lion-O's adoptive brother. They have a pretty good rivalry going on, with Tygra always seeming to come out on top in "everything except the crown". Still, they're close enough that Tygra helps bail Lion-O out of a fight with an angry mob, saying he's always got his brother's back.

Real Life

  • Michael Schumacher and Ralf Schumacher. Somewhat averted though, their rivalry was never played up as much as Michael's rivalry with other drivers.
  • Eli and Peyton Manning. Of course, pretty much every football fan in America would JIZZ IN HIS PANTS were they to face one another in the Super Bowl. It almost happened in 2010; alas, 'twas not to be.
  • Seriously averted by Venus & Serena Williams who subjected the world to several lackluster tennis finals since they couldn't seem to go all-out against each other.
  • Liam and Noel Gallagher formerly of Oasis.
  • Cruelty is common in animal kingdom, but sharks still stand out as radical (no surprise, really), when it comes to their reproduction process. They are live-bearing and usually have up to fifteen embryos but only one or two of them actually emerge. Where do the rest of them go? Take a guess.
  • Ed and David Milliband, Energy and Climate Change Secretary and Foreign Secretary under Gordon Brown, respectively, were the two front runners for the Labour Party leadership (and thus the Leadership of the Opposition) after the 2010 elections that put David Cameron's Tory-Lib Dem coalition in power. Ed ran as a more lefty Brownite, David as a centrist Blairite; Ed won.
  • Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks. Their onstage brawls were so bad that it led to a five-year ban from American venues.
  • Basketball players Pau and Marc Gasol have a rivalry of necessity; they play for different teams (the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies, respectively). That said, when they go up against each other they don't hold back. Pau, the older brother, is probably "winning", being on a much more successful team and dwarfing Marc in nearly every positive stat category.
  • English princes (and Later Kings) Richard, Geoffrey and John, as depicted in both The Lion in Winter and most versions of Robin Hood
  • Candace Bergen has stated that as a young child she felt an intense "sibling rivalry" with an inanimate object: her ventriloquist father Edgar's famous dummy Charley McCarthy.
  • Seventies/Eighties singing family The Nolan Sisters appear to have split into two separate rival factions who are mutually not at home to each other. Let us call these the Provisional and Official wings of the Nolan family, as it does appear to have got this bloody and this Irish. Relations were soured when the oldest sister made abuse allegations against her (now deceased) father that were hotly denied by the horrified rest of her family. It was pointed out that the oldest sister is bankrupt and in desperate need of the money only a shock/horror autobiography could bring in. Offered a lucrative reunion tour and recording deal, the rest of the sisterhood retaliated by cutting the oldest out of the contact. On top of this, a sixth sister who left the band just as they became famous was miffed to discover the sisters were reforming, and she had not been invited. Lawyers have been brandished and opening shots fired. Official family history has been airbrushed to make it look as if there were only ever four Nolan Sisters (Maureen, Linda, Bernadette and Colleen). Anne and Denise Nolan are said to be just a wee fecken' bit offended that they no longer exist and are seeking to prove their corporeal integrity, to the satisfaction of Church, State and Courts. (If nothing else, they are credited on the first few LPs and an awful lot of TV work the girls did....) Watch this space.