Created By: Generality on March 4, 2014 Last Edited By: Generality on July 23, 2014
Troped

Failure Montage

Montage of characters suffering repeated failure

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Trope
A type of Montage, and the approximate inverse of a Hard Work Montage, which shows a character or series of characters trying and failing to achieve some specific task such as building something or performing a skill. The intent is to show either that the characters are hopelessly inept or clumsy, or that the task is extremely difficult. If the attempters are protagonists, they'll usually succeed in the last shot; this may lead into a Training Montage, in which the attempter does gradually better each time, giving the whole scene a chiastic composition. Alternatively, the scene will cut out after the first success, the implication being that the character mastered the skill offscreen.

This often occurs when someone gains a new superpower; see How Do I Shot Web? It is also frequent in a When You Snatch the Pebble situation.

Compare Humiliation Conga, where the failures happen one after the other in real time. Writer's Block Montage and Terrible Interviewees Montage are Sub Tropes. Hilarious Outtakes are somewhere between this trope and the real world.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • A flashback episode of Last Exile shows how the protagonists became messengers after being orphaned. Their biggest hurdle in doing the job was retrieving the messages, which were on a ring at the end of a long pole, which had to be grabbed via flyby in an aircraft, similar to a train seizing a mailbag. They miss many times and eventually have to practice on the ground, then at slow speed, before they can do it for real.
  • Happens in the one-shot manga Section 459, when the boss tests Mugen to see if he is worthy to be a demon.

Film - Animated
  • Mulan's "I'll Make a Man Out of You" opens with a montage of all the soldiers trying and failing to retrieve Shang's arrow from the top of a pole.
  • In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West there is a montage of Tiger training under Wiley Burp, bumbling through each exercise until he finally gets things right.
  • The Brave Little Toaster has a montage of the appliances' failed attempts at finding ways of travelling out of the cabin.
  • Chicken Run starts with a montage of Ginger's plans to break out of the farm, each one ending with her being stuck in solitary confinement as punishment.

Film - Live Action
  • Groundhog Day has several of these. There's one for Phil's failed attempts at wooing Rita (with repeated slaps in the face), another for his attempts to save the old hobo's life, and a particularly morbid one of him repeatedly committing suicide.
  • WarGames. After David Lightman learns of the possibility of a back door into the system he wants to hack into, there's a long montage of him trying various means of discovering the password needed to open the back door. Watch it here. In a later scene, after he sees a video of Professor Falken and his deceased son, he realizes that the password is the son's name: Joshua. And it works.
  • RoboCop 2 demonstrates early on why the hero is the only one of his kind: repeated attempts to make another Robo Cop result in cyborgs that immediately self-destruct with the realization of what they have become, kill the scientists that made them, or both. Eventually an executive figures out that they need someone with a very strong survival instinct who can be coerced into taking orders.
  • The first Training Montage in Cool Runnings consists of shots of the team learning push starts. Nearly all of their attempts end in some combination of crashes, face plants, or people running after the sled.
  • In A Knight's Tale, William's attempt to become a master jouster is at first fraught with failure, as he tries repeatedly to grab a ring with his lance or hit the shield of a practice dummy, to his friends' increasing dismay and frustration. After he finally succeeds at both, the film jumps to his first tournament, where he barely scrapes by with a win.
  • Iron Man series
    • The first film had a montage of Tony Stark working on parts to the Iron Man suit and having spectacular failure after spectacular failure.
    • At the beginning of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark has to clear a Senate hearing, the U.S. government being nervous about his singular control of the Iron Man technology and the possibility that it might get into unscrupulous hands. To refute this fear, Tony takes control of their screens and shows what his competitors' attempts to make Powered Armor have amounted to, all of which result in sheer property damage and/or severe injury to the test pilot.
  • The Sam Raymi Spiderman movies. Peter has a How Do I Shot Web? montage where he tries to figure out how to, well, shot web.
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2: After an encounter with Electro overloads his web shooters, Peter is shown trying to find a way to keep that from happening, resulting in him repeatedly making batteries explode and nearly starting a fire.
  • Edge of Tomorrow: Cage is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop; when he dies the loop resets. He's a Dirty Coward sent to the front lines. Cue a montage of many deaths as he levels up.

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of The Tomorrow People (2013) has Stephen attempting to access "Limbo" by trying to learn to stop time whilst teleporting. We get a nice montage of him and John trying to work that out, before concluding that they need a new approach.
  • When the MythBusters tested the claim that dental floss can cut through prison bars, Grant initially tried to build a floss-bot out of things a prisoner could plausibly get his hands on. Cue one Failure Montage, complete with bleeped-out swearing and frustrated throwing of robot parts.
  • Played with in Takeshi's Castle. Common way of advancing the show past a straightforward non-group challenge is combining footage of several people failing it with one or two succeeding to pass.

Web Original
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd regularly does this when a game is particularly difficult, showing clips of the increasingly frustrated Nerd repeatedly failing a section.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • When Tex, York, and Maine are squaring off against the new Freelancer, their repeated failures as presented rapid-fire, showing just how comically outmatched they are by Tex.
    • In season 12, the main cast is trying to get Felix as part of a training exercise. None of the attempts even come close.

Western Animation
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic seems to like this one a lot.
    • "The Show Stoppers" has a montage early on featuring the Cutie Mark Crusaders trying and failing at various tasks in attempts to get their Cutie Marks.
    • The Mane Cast during the "What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me" song in "Magical Mystery Cure." All of them save Twilight Sparkle are shown trying, and failing, to do one another's jobs.
    • The Cutie Mark Crusaders, yet again, in the "Hearts as Strong as Horses" song in "Flight to the Finish." In this case the Failure Montage leads up to eventual success through teamwork.
    • "Pinkie Pride" has Pinkie Pie, feeling overshadowed as resident Party Planner Pony, trying out other jobs including operating room nurse, mailmare, and construction worker.
  • Regular Show had several failure montages for Mordecai and Rigby in different characters, some prominent examples being:
    • Their training montage with the God of Basketball, so full of failures he declares them to be the worst Basketball players in history.
    • Trying to clean up the park's abandoned ballroom, while ghosts undo everything they do.
  • In an episode of Phineas and Ferb where the title characters are attempting to build a rocket, we are treated to several failed attempts, involving an equation on a chalkboard, old test launch footage, and the resulting ash-covered boys going back and modifying their equations.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Pickles", SpongeBob has trouble doing things right, and there's a montage of him trying to figure out how to get into bed.
    • In "Missing Identity", SpongeBob tries to retrace his steps to find his missing name tag by repeating everything he did that morning, from tripping down the stairs to tasting Gary's food to saying hi to Patrick. Unfortunately, Patrick keeps flubbing his lines, meaning that they have to go through the whole thing over and over.
  • Combined with Travel Montage in The Legend of Korra, as Team Avatar travels the Earth Kingdom trying to recruit the newly-awakened Airbenders, and showing Tenzin's utter lack of salesmanship as he unsuccessfully tries to convince each one to come learn the Air Nomads ways.
  • Action League Now had a Clip Show involving the Action League standing before council to see whether they should retain their hero status or be declared a danger to the public for their incompetence. Each of the Leaguers' flashback to their past exploits don't really help their case, but the icing on the cake is Flesh's recollections which are presented in such a montage of how his clumsiness or carelessness only did more harm than good to the people he was trying to help.
Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • March 4, 2014
    DRCEQ
    Compare Humiliation Conga, where the failures happen one after the other in real time.
  • March 4, 2014
    KomodoClassic
    The Sam Raymi Spiderman movies. Peter has a How Do I Shot Web montage where he tries to figure out how to, well, shot web. On that note, maybe also add "See How Do I Shot Web" or note that they cross over often.
  • March 4, 2014
    troacctid
    Film - Animated

    Film - Live-Action
    • Groundhog Day has several of these. There's one for Phil's failed attempts at wooing Rita (with repeated slaps in the face), another for his attempts to save the old hobo's life, and a particularly morbid one of him repeatedly committing suicide.

    Web Video
    • The Angry Video Game Nerd regularly does this when a game is particularly difficult, showing clips of the increasingly frustrated Nerd repeatedly failing a section.

    When You Snatch The Pebble should be cross-referenced (if not that trope on this page, then at least this trope on that page). Writers Block Montage and Terrible Interviewees Montage are subtropes, I believe?
  • March 5, 2014
    Arivne
    Film
    • WarGames. After David Lightman learns of the possibility of a back door into the system he wants to hack into, there's a long montage of him trying various means of discovering the password needed to open the back door. Watch it here. In a later scene, after he sees a video of Professor Falken and his deceased son, he realizes that the password is the son's name: Joshua. And it works.
  • March 6, 2014
    Larkmarn
    When it's a fatal failure montage, you've got a Death Montage.
  • March 6, 2014
    sgamer82
    Western Animation
    • The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "The Show Stoppers" has a montage early on featuring the Cutie Mark Crusaders trying and failing at various tasks in attempts to get their Cutie Marks.
  • March 6, 2014
    Tallens
  • March 6, 2014
    GeneralLuigi
    I know of at least two Let's Players that have used failure montages during difficult parts of games. One example would be Nintendo Capri Sun during his attempt to get the third Green Star in Flipsville Galaxy during his Super Mario Galaxy 2 LP (failure starts around 25:18). ...Or would that qualify exclusively as a Death Montage?
  • March 6, 2014
    JonnyB
    The original Iron Man had a montage of Tony Stark working on parts to the Iron Man suit and having spectacular failure after spectacular failure.
  • March 7, 2014
    Mamona
    ^^^^
    • In "Call of the Cutie", Rainbow Dash tries to help Apple Bloom get her cutie mark. A montage of Apple Bloom trying and failing at numerous sports follows.
  • March 7, 2014
    troacctid
    Roadrunner cartoons are not montages. They're more like Sketch Comedy. Montages are made of shots, not scenes.
  • March 7, 2014
    GuyIncog
    • The first Training Montage in Cool Runnings consists of shots of the team learning push starts. Nearly all of their attempts end in some combination of crashes, face plants, or people running after the sled.
  • March 7, 2014
    Omeganian
    • The Worf Effect page has a link to a video demonstrating the trope. Fits quite well, I would say.
  • March 7, 2014
    CrypticMirror
    • One episode of The Tomorrow People 2013 has Stephen attempting to access "Limbo" by trying to learn to stop time whilst teleporting. We get a nice montage of him and John trying to work that out, before concluding that they need a new approach.
  • March 9, 2014
    Lyendith
    • Happens in the one-shot manga Section 459, when the boss tests Mugen to see if he is worthy to be a demon.

  • March 9, 2014
    CosmeF
    Regular Show had several failure montages for Mordecai and Rigby in different characters, some prominent examples being:
    • Their training montage with the God of Basketball, so full of failures he declares them to be the worst Basketball players in history
    • Trying to clean up the park's abandoned ballroom, while ghosts undo everything they do

  • March 10, 2014
    robbulldog
    In an episode of Phineas And Ferb where the title characters are attempting to build a rocket, we are treated to several failed attempts, involving an equation on a chalkboard, old test launch footage, and the resulting ash-covered boys going back and modifying their equations.
  • March 10, 2014
    sgamer82
    My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic seems to like this one a lot:
    • The Mane Cast during the "What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me" song in "Magical Mystery Cure." All of them save Twilight Sparkle are shown trying, and failing, to do one another's jobs.
    • The Cutie Mark Crusaders, yet again, in the "Hearts as Strong as Horses" song in "Flight to the Finish." In this case the Failure Montage leads up to eventual success through teamwork.
    • "Pinkie Pride" has Pinkie Pie, feeling overshadowed as resident Party Planner Pony, trying out other jobs including operating room nurse, mailmare, and construction worker.
  • March 11, 2014
    SquirrelGuy
    What was the episode of Family Guy, where Peter goes back in time and blows his chance to as Lois to marry him? He keeps trying to pick her up at the pool as he originally did, but he keeps blowing it, and has to go back in time again and again to get it right.
  • April 13, 2014
    Generality
    ^ Could you put that in the form of an example?
  • May 29, 2014
    Tallens
    • The Amazing Spiderman 2: After an encounter with Electro overloads his web shooters, Peter is shown trying to find a way to keep that from happening, resulting in him repeatedly making batteries explode and nearly starting a fire.
  • May 30, 2014
    Arivne
  • May 30, 2014
    TonyG
    • Sponge Bob Square Pants
      • In "Pickles", SpongeBob has trouble doing things right, and there's a montage of him trying to figure out how to get into bed.
      • In "Missing Identity", SpongeBob tries to retrace his steps to find his missing name tag by repeating everything he did that morning, from tripping down the stairs to tasting Gary's food to saying hi to Patrick. Unfortunately, Patrick keeps flubbing his lines, meaning that they have to go throught the whole thing over and over.
    • In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West there is a montage of Tiger training under Wiley Burp, bumbling through each exercise until he finally gets things right.
    • The Brave Little Toaster has a montage of the appliances' failed attempts at finding ways of travelling out of the cabin.
  • July 1, 2014
    Tallens
    • Chicken Run: Starts with a series of Ginger's plans to break out of the farm, each one ending with her being stuck in solitary confinement as punishment.
  • July 6, 2014
    Silveraith
    Transformers Animated: Starscream's attempts to kill Megatron after an Allspark shard is embedded in his head

    A more fatal version of this trope in the Supernatural episode Mystery Spot, spanning nearly the entire episode.
  • July 7, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    Creators use themselves as characters for this, when Hilarious Outtakes is the outcome.
  • July 7, 2014
    StrangeBro
    The Grinch: (crawling out of the rubble) Airbags are a little slow...
    [Airbags deploy]
    The Grinch: ...but that's what these kinds of tests are for! (collapses)
  • July 7, 2014
    TairaMai
  • July 8, 2014
    Antigone3
    When Myth Busters tested the claim that dental floss can cut through prison bars, Grant initially tried to build a floss-bot out of things a prisoner could plausibly get his hands on. Cue one Failure Montage, complete with bleeped-out swearing and frustrated throwing of robot parts.
  • July 8, 2014
    Larkmarn
    • Red Vs Blue:
      • When Tex, York, and Maine are squaring off against the new Freelancer, their repeated failures as presented rapid-fire, showing just how comically outmatched they are by Tex.
      • In season 12, the main cast is trying to get Felix as part of a training exercise. None of the attempts even come close.
  • July 9, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    • Played with, in Takeshi's Castle. Common way of advancing the show past a straightforward non-group challenge is combining footage of several people failing it with one or two succeeding to pass.
  • July 19, 2014
    DAN004
    Launch?
  • July 19, 2014
    Generality
    I'll launch as soon as I stop getting new examples.
  • July 19, 2014
    Tallens
    • Combined with Travel Montage in The Legend Of Korra, as Team Avatar travels the Earth Kingdom trying to recruit the newly-awakened Airbenders, and showing Tenzin's utter lack of salesmanship as he unsuccessfully tries to convince each one to come learn the Air Nomads ways.
  • Western Animation
    • Action League Now had a Clip Show involving the Action League standing before council to see whether they should retain their hero status or be declared a danger to the public for their incompetence. Each of the Leaguers' flashback to their past exploits don't really help their case, but the icing on the cake is Flesh's recollections which are presented in such a montage of how his clumsiness or carelessness only did more harm than good to the people he was trying to help.
  • July 21, 2014
    Lumpenprole
    The Powerpuff Girls episode "The Beat-Alls", when Mojo Jojo, Princess, Him, and Fuzzy Lumpkins teamed up and discovered that together they would beat the Powerpuff Girls every time, as shown by a montage of four or five defeats.

  • July 23, 2014
    Generality
    ^ I'm not sure if this counts, because the episode was from the villains' perspective. So in a way it'd be a success montage.
  • July 23, 2014
    Tallens
    Just Launch It Already. New examples will come in time, but I think it's about time this one got off the ground.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=5ango6xe5s0mrrseiv3yjz8h&trope=FailureMontage