I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings.
Fear can be a good motivator. Maybe someone is afraid of losing something good, or gaining something bad. Whatever it is, it can push someone to fight harder than ever before. This isn't a trope about facing your fears and overcoming them, this is about using fear as a catalyst to do the difficult or impossible.
Anime and Manga
- In Naruto, Sasuke activated his sharigan for the first time when he was scared out of his wits due to Itachi killing their family.
- Astérix and the Normans' plot starts when the Normans take the expression literally and decide they'd like to know how to fly. Being Vikings, they also literally don't know what fear is, and embark to find the biggest coward who will teach them. They eventually learn the feeling when they're threatened with listening to another of Cacofonix's songs.
- Disney Mouse And Duck Comics
- There's a Donald Duck story where he needs to win a bicycle race, but his nephews' Training From Hell was so horrible (bathing in ice water at 5 AM, attacked by bees etc) that he falls asleep at the start line even when the gun is fired. Scrooge hides in the bushes and makes a loud buzzing sound, which not only wakes Donald up, but supercharges him to the point that he careens past the other racers without even realizing it.
- In an early Mickey Mouse comic, Mickey is scammed into buying a horse named Tanglefoot, thinking it's a top-tier racehorse who will let him win the upcoming jockey race. But initially Tanglefoot appears to be utterly useless and untalented... until Mickey discovers Tanglefoot is afraid of bees. Thus he mimics the sound of a bee swarm in the horse's ear to make it think it's being chased and thus dash away at top speed.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce tries making the jump out of the pit several times. His first few tries are with the rope attached to prevent him from falling to his death. After talking with a prisoner who tells him that Bruce's lack of fear of death makes him weak, not strong, Bruce tries the jump once more without the rope, in full fear of falling... he makes it.
- Tremors. Crazy Survivalist Burt Gummer gives annoying teen Marvin Pug a handgun to shoot the Graboids with as they run to the safety of a rock outcropping and after he continuously asks for one... and Marvin finds out the hard way that the gun was unloaded, forcing him to run faster. Which is exactly what Burt wanted him to do.
- In the Chronicles of Narnia novel The Horse and His Boy, the horses Bree and Hwin are too tired from their voyage to outrace Prince Rabadash's army, and the author notes that they were pushing themselves only as far as they thought they could. Suddenly, a lion attacks them and the horses get a burst of speed from their fear to escape the predator. The lion is later revealed to have been Aslan, whose attack was a Batman Gambit that he knew would make them go faster.
- In Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, the protagonist Hiro faces off against a beast of a man named Raven who fights with glass knives sharpened to only a single molecule wide, and also uses them to create deadly spears out of bamboo. Hiro is saved by only a stroke of luck, and later is up until three in the morning training with his katanas, and "floating around on an ocean of generalized terror." His panic inspired intense training ultimately saves his life later and allows him to defeat Raven and stop the Snow Crash virus.
- In Scrubs, when asked to give a pep rally to JD's residents, Dr. Cox deliberately tries to frighten them by telling the residents it's just a matter of time until they kill someone. Later, when talking with JD who is shaken by the experience, Cox tells him that a little fear is good for a doctor. It keeps you on your toes, or as he put it, "stops you from becoming a crappy doctor".
- Played for laughs in the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Pegasus Project," a crossover with Stargate Atlantis. Rodney Mc Kay from Atlantis has a well-known citrus allergy. When SG-1 needs some calculations five minutes ago, Col. Mitchell threatens him with a lemon Col. Sheppard gave him for exactly that purpose, and Rodney provides the results very quickly.
- In Max Payne, Vinnie Gognitti is shot and in terror of his pursuer manages to run across several rooftops and jump onto a train to escape, bleeding all the while, leading Max to speculate that it's fear that gives men wings.
- Truth in television, response to a fear stimulus can activate adrenaline, allowing someone to react quicker, and accomplish physical feats they would not have been able to pull off before.
- This is often common advice/techniques for actors. Chris Evans says he bulked up massively in a short period of time for the role of Captain America because he was terrified of letting down people and disappointing fans. Similarly, many actors are often instructed to use their "nervous energy" and deliver a better performance.