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[[quoteright:350:[[WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/moe_catching_maggie_7357.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:[[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming Nothing convinces one not to commit suicide better than accidentally saving a baby while trying to.]]]]

'''Yakumo:''' Wow, that's impressive.\\
'''Tenma:''' That's not what was supposed to happen at all!
-->-- ''Manga/SchoolRumble''

A character becomes celebrated for heroism. Problem is, [[FakeUltimateHero it isn't false modesty this time]]. He really ''didn't'' do anything special.

Two flavors:
* The accidental hero blundered in some way that actually caused a rescue or saved the day.
* The accidental hero was just standing around in a place where it looked like he saved the day.

In either flavor, public acclaim that just [[ThinkNothingOfIt won't go away]] is the main complication. The subsequent plot is a good showcase for examining the fiber of the accidental hero's character and to spin a little yarn about [[HoldingOutForAHero how people ''need'' heroes]]. Many times he becomes a true hero by the end of the story.

May be a consequence of NonProtagonistResolver. Compare AndYouThoughtItWasAGame, BadassOnPaper, CowardlyLion, FramedForHeroism, GodGuise, NominalHero, MistakenForBadass, SpannerInTheWorks and NiceJobFixingItVillain. May result in BrokenPedestal.

This trope is the spiritual opposite of NiceJobBreakingItHero.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In the first ''Anime/YesPrettyCure5'' [[TheMovie movie]], the BigBad has the MacGuffin in hand... but it's not complete, so it can't grant any wishes. Blame [[spoiler:Urara]], who still had that last Pinky and hadn't put it in yet.
* Carr Benedict in ''LightNovel/AllisonAndLillia'' agrees to take sole credit for the history-changing discovery made by Allison and Wil, when he was only present because he'd been trying to shoot them. The newly-promoted Major Carr finds the resulting mass adulation and jealousy deeply uncomfortable. His reckless actions in the next adventure (which he secretly hopes will bring his rank down a notch or two) only cement his heroic reputation.
* In the first chapter of ''Manga/{{Whistle}}!'', the main character switches schools and is mistaken for a soccer star by his new team. He doesn't have the confidence to correct them, causing him to be outed embarrassingly when they actually make him play, and he's terrible.
* Kitano, the protagonist of ''Manga/AngelDensetsu'', half the time manages to do this by just being around and [[SelectiveObliviousness not understanding what's happening]]. The other half, however, he's actually [[AllLovingHero saving the day]].
* ''Anime/IrresponsibleCaptainTylor'' - While he does not really become celebrated (although he gets quite the reputation amongst the enemy), Justi Ueki Tylor does seem to hit both flavors often.
* In ''Manga/UchuuKyoudai'', Mutta accidentally foils a robbery and briefly becomes a celebrity.
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'', Usopp manages to fulfill both flavors at once in Dressrosa when he [[spoiler:is force-fed the Tatababasco-laced bon-bon, causing Usopp to freak out from its spiciness and morph his face so grotesquely that his adversary falls unconscious from shock, undoing her curse on thousands of people, some of whom had been waiting for her defeat for a decade.]] From the perspective of anyone outside the small room where the battle took place, however, it looked and sounded like Usopp was kicking major butt and emerged victorious after it went quiet.
* In ''Manga/{{Toriko}}'', Zebra is hailed as a hero by a small desert village since his earlier rampages ended the war that ravaged the village. [[spoiler:And by eating 26 species to ''extinction'', he inadvertently saved the ecosystems said species were destroying.]]
* In the ''Anime/{{Pokemon}} Chronicle'' "We're No Angels", Jessie, James and Meowth are mistaken for a fictional superhero team by the people of a backwater village. They set the record straight by wrecking what they think is a robot protecting the villagers - only to be told the mecha was about to destroy the village fields.
* ''Anime/DragonBallSuper'' plays around with this one. [[KingOfAllCosmos Zen-Oh]] had previously expressed desire to hold a martial arts tournament between all 12 universes, but he didn't actually get on it until several story arcs later when Goku reminded him of the idea. However, in the meantime he'd also decided that he wanted to cut down on the number of universes, so it was announced that any team who lost in the tournament would have their universe destroyed. People from the other 11 universes instantly blamed Goku and [[HeroWithBadPublicity saw him as a heartless villain]]. However, Vados points out that they shouldn't hate Goku, since by reviving the tournament idea he actually gave the universes a fighting chance, and otherwise Zen-Oh would have just destroyed them, end of story. For his part, Goku doesn't care either way, though he's okay with people thinking he's evil if it means [[BloodKnight he gets a good fight out of it]].
* In ''Manga/OnePunchMan'', the reason why [[spoiler:King is ranked as high as he is in the Hero Association, despite being a normal guy with below-average strength and no powers, is that he just happens to be nearby in a lot of incidents where Saitama defeated the bad guys, and bystanders credited King because he looks more like a hero than Saitama.]] However, ''because'' of his false reputation, he has actually been able to save the day on his own--some bad guys flee or surrender the moment they see him.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ComicBook/DisneyMouseAndDuckComics examples:
** Mickey's pal Goofy has been an accidental hero so often that it became a cliche in 1960s comics. Goofy would set out to engage in some hobby or sport, capture a small-time crook by mistake, and then use the inevitable reward money toward the hobby. Every. Single. Time.
** This is how Fethry became the superhero Red Bat: he and Donald, journalists for the story, were infiltrating a masked party thrown by various rich people, Donald wearing a Beagle Boy-sized gorilla costume and Fethry wearing a red and grey bat costume, and when the Beagle Boys actually robbed the place disguised as gorillas and mistook Donald for one of them he tried to save his cousin-and a few blunders later the Red Bat had defeated the Beagle Boys with the help of a headless gorilla.
* An ''Franchise/{{Archie|Comics}}'' comic had Jughead failing as a security guard until he tripped and fell on a guy who turned out to be a shoplifter.
* Don Martin's ''ComicBook/CaptainKlutz'' begins his career (such as it is) by landing on top of an escaping robber following a bungled suicide attempt.
* Comicbook/TheAvengers - Hardball was recruited into the Initiative when he used his powers to save a little girl from being hit by an armored car -- at least, that's what it looked like to witnesses. In reality Hardball was trying to ''rob'' the armored car. The rescue was a coincidence. This is one of the first hints that Hardball is a bit too amoral for a superhero-in-training.
* Quite often the Comicbook/IncredibleHulk isn't actually ''trying'' to do something heroic, but he often does a lot of good with his powers anyway.
* ComicBook/QuantumAndWoody's first case was an investigation into the murder of Ed Palmer's wife. They follow clues all around the world until they captured Terrence Magnum, a global financier with a stolen computer chip that could decrypt military codes. Unfortunately, he had nothing to do with the murder -- Mrs. Palmer was killed by her husband, as the police had originally surmised.

[[folder:Fairy Tales]]
* ''The Valiant Little Tailor'' is one of the fairy tales recorded by Creator/TheBrothersGrimm, in which a tailor's story of killing "seven with one blow" (that is, seven ''flies'') accidentally gains him a reputation as a fearsome warrior, leading him into a series of deadly encounters with giants and other magical creatures. Disney adapted this story as a Mickey Mouse cartoon in 1938.

[[folder:Fan Fic]]
* Calvin [[spoiler:unintentionally and unknowingly stops an AlienInvasion [[ItMakesSenseInContext with a firecracker]]]] in ''Fanfic/CalvinAndHobbesTheSeries''.
* The ''FanFic/PonyPOVSeries'' has an example in Clover's story in the ''7 Dreams/Nightmares'' collection: [[spoiler:Clover's about to be killed by her BigBad, the Diamond Dog FluffyTheTerrible (yes, really) in a shack atop the Canterhorn mountain, when the dragon [[PhysicalGod Bahamut]] just happens to land right on top of them (he literally didn't notice the shack until after he crushed it), sending Fluffy [[DisneyVillainDeath off the side of the mountain to his death]].]]
* ''Fanfic/AccidentalHeroOfTheGalaxy'': Given that it's Mass Effect done in the style of Ciaphas Cain, this is to be expected. Shepard in this missed the last shuttle off Elysium and when the Batarians attacked tried to run, inadvertently causing the Batarians to follow him back to Alliance reinforcements, which allowed them to win the day. Since then, he's been stuck with an evergrowing reputation for heroism he feels he doesn't deserve.
* In "[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12315137/1/Destiny-Gospel-of-a-New-Genesis Destiny: Gospel of a New Genesis]]", a {{VideoGame/Destiny}}[=/=]NeonGenesisEvangelion crossover, Shinji makes a name for himself as a Guardian when he kills a high value Fallen Priest by himself.[[note]][[https://www.destinypedia.com/Aksis,_Archon_Prime Aksis]], a Raid Boss, and primary Villain of the "Rise of Iron" expansion, but before he went all cyborg-y[[/note]] How'd he do it? Well, he was trying to harvest some spinmetal on top of an overpass; pushed a car over the side to make a path, [[SugarWiki/FunnyMoments and the Priest happened to be standing right underneath]]. '''''SPLAT!''''' Shinji wasn't even aware that he'd made a kill until he got back to the Tower. Adding insult to injury Asuka-2, Misato, and Zavala had just had a real ''Bitch'' of a day trying to kill one of the Priest's subordinates.
--> '''Asuka-2''': "...Seriously?! You killed a higher ranking target through sheer, dumb '''''luck?!'''''"
* And of course, "Mr. Black" from ''Fanfic/MakeAWish'', where young Mister Potter is simply "a guy on vacation" while the bad guys are dying like flies whenever he's in the vague vicinity.
* ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings'' fanfiction ''FanFic/NineMenAndALittleLady'' has [[spoiler:Gollum, who inadvertently saves the day by eating Mary Sue, having mistaken her references to her "precious" as meaning the Ring.]]

* The Mariachi in ''Film/ElMariachi'' came into town just to find a place to play music and get some cash. Instead, when his guitar case is switched with a guitar case full of weapons owned by an infamous hit man, the villains and the DistressedDamsel mistake him for the hit man. Dumb luck allows him to kill the hit squad sent after him, elevating him to legend status.
** Though after the tragedy of the movie's end, the Mariachi would undergo a transformation over time into the [[TheGunslinger gunslinging]] vengeance-driven badass that we would see in ''Film/{{Desperado}}'', a figure more than worthy of the legend.
* In ''Film/ArmyOfDarkness'' Ash both invokes and subverts this trope at different times.
* Played with in the movie ''Film/AccidentalHero'' (also known as simply ''Hero''): the actual person who saves the people from a burning plane is a JerkAss who has one moment of decency (a plane crashes in front of him and he grudgingly helps the victims get out). The bum who (falsely) takes credit for said rescue is otherwise the kind of person you'd believe to be a hero and uses his reputation to help other people. There's enough gray area between them for the audience to decide which (or both) is the true hero.
* Juan, one of the {{Villain Protagonist}}s of ''Film/DuckYouSucker'', a Mexican highwayman/rapist/murderer, ended up becoming a revolutionary hero after knocking over a bank and inadvertently releasing the political prisoners being kept in its vaults. The gold deposits had been moved out of there months ago, and Sean, his "friend," neglected to mention that to him when helping him plan the "robbery."
* ''Film/ForrestGump'' is of a sort. Forrest ran back into the combat zone to try and find Bubba, only to be called upon by other soldiers to rescue them, which he did by carrying them to the river. What he did was technically heroic but he didn't intend to save 4 others and be awarded the Medal of Honor.
* In ''Franchise/StarWars Film/ThePhantomMenace'', Anakin Skywalker gets into Naboo fighter ship to avoid a firefight in a hangar on Naboo. After accidentally activating the autopilot, the ship flies to the scene of the space fight, where Anakin figures out how to turn off the auto pilot. In an effort to escape being blown up by federation fighters he flies the ship into the hangar bay of the enemy federation ship. After several robot droids notice him and start approaching his ship, he fires on them, destroying the droids. Conveniently, several of Anakin's missed shots at the droids hit a power system structure, which happens to be directly behind the droids. Anakin narrowly escapes the erupting federation ship, which is noticed by other Naboo fighters. "There's one of ours out of the hangar." After the federation ship is destroyed by Anakin's bad aim, the battle is over as without the command and control from the federation ship the attacking droids all shut down.
* The heroes of the parody westerns ''Film/ThePaleface'' (Creator/BobHope) and ''The Shakiest Gun in the West'' (Don Knotts) are AccidentalHero material of the second variety. Both men succeed in "saving" a convoy of covered wagons, but the ''real'' heroes are their girlfriends (secretly US agents in disguise).
** Nearly every movie starring Bob Hope or Don Knotts is an AccidentalHero story. A lot of the Creator/DannyKaye movies fit this trope too.
* In Creator/CharlieChaplin's ''Film/ModernTimes'', Chaplin thwarts a prison break by dodging bullets and pummeling the escaping prisoners. But he only does so because earlier he'd unknowingly sprinkled cocaine all over his lunch that another prisoner had hidden in a salt shaker, and was completely high at that point.
* In ''Film/{{Amistad}}'', when they speak with the leader of the Africans through a translator, they learn that he isn't all that confident about "leading" anyone: he became leader of the group because he killed an attacking lion with a thrown stone some time back. He doesn't feel deserving of the acclaim he got for this achievement because the stone was lucky shot that just happened to hit the lion's head in such a way as to kill it; he'd thrown it out of desperation and panic in the heat of the moment.
* Godzilla's actions in the final act of ''Film/{{Godzilla 2014}}'' saved countless lives; killing the Mutos saved what remains of San Francisco and stops what could have been a global epidemic of their species.
** Although the film leaves it an open question how much Godzilla does that intentionally and how much it's just instinct, so this may or may not be a subversion.
* In ''Film/{{Footloose}}'', the hero is challenged to a GameOfChicken in a tractor, and finds himself the accidental victor as his shoelaces get stuck in the gearing, preventing him from bailing out.
* During the FinalBattle of ''Film/JurassicWorld'', the ''Indominus Rex'' is getting beat around [[spoiler:when the park's ''[[SeaMonster Mosasaurus]]'' lunges out of the lagoon and drags the ''I. Rex'' to her doom. To her, the ''I. Rex'' was nothing more than a convenient midnight snack]].
* ''Film/HeWasAQuietMan'': Bob Maconel was planning on GoingPostal in his office building, but a similarly withdrawn co-worker beats him to it by roughly a minute. Bob shoots the co-worker with the gun he was carrying at that moment, and is suddenly hailed by his company and the media as a hero.
* ''Film/GhidorahTheThreeHeadedMonster'':
** Godzilla and Rodan's battle destroys a power line tower and triggers a blackout, mere seconds before Princess Selina would have been fatally electrocuted.
** A stray blast from King Ghidorah triggers an avalanche that buries the assassins' car and kills all but one of them. Later, another stray blast causes the final assassin to fall to his death.

* ''Literature/AudreyWait'': The media latches on to Audrey as the subject of infamous EarWorm and BreakupSong, "Audrey, Wait!", turning her into a celebrity for no real reason other than inspiring the song. Not "heroic" in the traditional sense, but Audrey uses the media attention to good ends.
* Literature/HarryPotter is credited with defeating Voldemort as a baby, when it was really his mother's love that saved Harry and destroyed Voldemort's body. Allowing Harry to grow up without all that pressure is one of the main reasons Dumbledore arranges for him to live with MuggleFosterParents (even if said foster family [[AbusiveParents went a little too far the other way.]])
** In ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenix'', the nervous Ron is applauded for making a save with his foot during practice. When Harry mentions this right before the first match of the year, Ron tells him that he fell off the broom and kicked it accidentally. Harry quickly quips, "Well, a few more accidents like that and the match is in the bag."
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'', Creator/SandyMitchell's Commissar Literature/CiaphasCain, [[FakeUltimateHero HERO OF THE]] [[TvTropesWikiDrinkingGame IMPERIUM!]] claims that this is basically what he is in his memoir (ie. the novels and short stories). It's only partly true. In his first short story he was nothing but, credited with saving the day while allegedly scouting for and finding a Tyranid flanking attack -- when he was actually trying to desert; and saving his future aide, by charging to protect him from a horde of Tyranids -- when in reality, he was simply running from ''more, larger'' Tyranids in the other direction. Since then, a combination of his survival skills, extreme good luck, and diplomatic abilities has resulted in him getting out of one hairy situation after another, with his reputation as a '''HERO OF THE IMPERIUM''' snowballing. However, only some of this had him accidentally being a hero. Other times, he'd do it on purpose, even if it was only because his own skin was among those needing to be "heroically" saved, or because of his being SlaveToPR. He did like that reputation.
* Everything Rincewind ever did in the ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' novels that didn't involve running away like his backside was on fire.
** Except for the one time that he mans up, in ''Discworld/{{Sourcery}}''. But it's okay! The statue, as a reward, gets downgraded to a plaque, gets downgraded to a certificate, gets downgraded to a fine.
*** It's implied that although a coward he may be, Rincewind also grew up on the streets of Morpork - and Survived. Which is why he chose a half-brick in a sock as his weapon against the greatest Sourcerer to ever live.
** Also in ''Discworld/TheLightFantastic'' and ''Discworld/InterestingTimes'', although he is still trying to run away in ''Interesting Times''. He just finds the save-everybody MacGuffin while he's at it.
*** In ''The Light Fantastic'', [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu he beats up the bringer of the apocalypse]]. With his ''bare hands''.
** As Lord Vetinari remarks in ''The Last Hero'', "[T]he thing about saving the world, gentlemen and ladies, is that it inevitably includes whatever you happen to be standing on." One of Rincewind's enduring character traits is his willingness to "heroically" face ''almost'' certain death whenever the alternative is facing ''absolutely'' certain death.
** The title character of ''Discworld/{{Eric}}''. He had intended to summon a demon from the Dungeon Dimensons to grant his wish. He ends up rescuing Rincewind instead.
* There's an element of this in ''Literature/TheWonderfulWizardOfOz'', after Dorothy's house squishes the Wicked Witch of the East, and it's the key to the plot. Without squishing the Wicked Witch of the East Dorothy would never have acquired the Silver/Ruby Slippers and incurred the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West. Nor would the Wizard have assumed she was powerful enough to destroy the WWW and thus never would have sent her there.
* In the ''Literature/WarriorCats'' graphic novel ''Rise of Scourge'', we learn that BigBad Scourge became the ruthless warlord he was in part by trying to live up to a reputation for toughness he got for beating up two dogs. One of these incidents was a complete fabrication and in the other the dog became afraid of Scourge's shadow and ran off while Scourge was yowling at him. Of course, Scourge apparently did kill a few dogs for real later.
* During the war in Creator/LoisMcMasterBujold's ''Literature/ShardsOfHonor'', Cordelia gets all the credit for [[spoiler:killing Admiral Vorrutyer]]. She protests, but not too strongly, because she's protecting [[spoiler:Sergeant Bothari]], who would get court-martialled if his side knew he had done it.
* In John Gardner's novel ''The Liquidator'' (made into a movie in 1965), a UsefulNotes/WorldWarII soldier called Boysie Oakes mishandles his sidearm and kills two men. Fortunately for him they are both German agents. This seen by the Allied agent they were trying to kill who mistakes his terror-stricken gaze as a stone-cold killer face. The agent later recruits the soldier as an assassin for British Intelligence.
* Subverted in ''Literature/AllAmericanGirl'', where the main character believes she's this but, in fact, she really did do something heroic.
* This trope is the title of the first ''Literature/JackBlank'' book (in the second publishing run, the original title was [[CharacterNameAndTheNounPhrase Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation]]), and an accurate description of what Jack did in the first chapter. He's considered a hero for beating Revile the Undying, when all he did was blow up a school generator when he panicked and Revile got caught in the blast. He didn't even know he was a technopath at the time.
* In ''Literature/TheLostFleet'', Commander John Geary was a commander of a small task force patroling a system near the [[OneNationUnderCopyright Syndicate Worlds]] space. When the Syndics invaded TheAlliance, one of the first attacks was on the convoy going through the system. Sending all but his ship to the jump point, Geary turns his ship towards the incoming Syndics in order to hold them off long enough to let the others escape. He evacuates the crew and himself jumps into a cryopod before his ship is destroyed. While the act is definitely heroic, when he wakes up nearly 100 years later, he finds out that the Alliance has turned him to a great hero who will someday return to lead the fleet to a glorious victory over the Syndics. The Alliance-Syndic war has continued without stopping for all this time, with both sides being too large to be easily defeated. Heavy attrition of experienced personnel has resulted in AttackAttackAttack being the only fleet tactic familiar to the fleet with personal glory of ship commanders being the most important thing in battle. Geary is now a full captain with the legendary nickname "Black Jack". However, when someone points out his heroic LastStand, he explains that this was his only battle to date, and he lost it.
* ''Literature/LesMiserables'': Thénardier. First, when he accidentally saves Georges Pontmercy's life, and then again, in his attempt to blackmail Marius.
* 'Literature/{{Victoria}}'''s protagonist, USMC Captain John Rumford, is this initially, owing his early reputation to what essentially amounts to a politically incorrect prank, for which he gets cashiered. However, the story grows in the telling until Rumford becomes almost a legendary figure of integrity and anti-PC defiance in the military community, and a band of ex-military vigilantes elect him as their leader largely because of this. That said, Rumford then proves himself suited for the position, using his irregular warfare skills to take on the gangsters and corrupt political machines they are fighting, thus graduating into a more genuine hero.


[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Firefly}}'':
** In the episode "Jaynestown," Jayne is idolized by the citizens of a small town who herald him as the [[JustLikeRobinHood hero who robbed their oppressor and gave them the money]]. What the locals do not know is that the robbery was just that: a robbery. Jayne had every intention of keeping the money, but his ship was damaged and he had to throw the money out the window in order to escape. In fact, he was so determined to keep that money that he actually threw his ''partner'' out of the ship first. The spurned partner returns, minus an eye, and reveals the sordid truth, but this does not stop a local man from [[TakingTheBullet taking a shotgun blast meant for Jayne]]. There's even a song that the locals composed in celebration of his "heroics," an excerpt of which can be found on the quote page.
** Jayne also denounces heroes in and of themselves in a fit of grief after said townsman is killed, saying there's no people like that. "There's just people like me."
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' has the episode "The Homecoming": the Bajoran Li Nalas was hailed a legendary hero after slaying a powerful Cardassian warrior in an epic contest of strength and skill. The truth is that Li Nalas caught the man by surprise----the Cardassian had just finished bathing and was clad only in his underwear, and the impression of a struggle only came about because the Cardassian collapsed on top of Li Nalas after he had been shot. Though he wanted to reveal the truth, he was convinced by Benjamin Sisko that his "deeds" inspired others and, even if it never really happened the way people said, he was the hero that the people needed.
** Another ''[[Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine Deep Space Nine]]'' episode, "Nor the Battle to the Strong", has Jake Sisko: a civilian, aspiring novelist and part-time journalist. While on a besieged planet, Jake defended a field hospital by causing a minor cave-in, killing two Klingon invaders and sealing the entrance. [[spoiler:Except that it was all an accident, he was panicking and shooting blindly, and the results were extraordinary luck for him.]] He freely admitted, however, that he was acting on fear and only trying to stay alive. He even wrote a truthful account of it for publication. He may not be a hero, but he's a very conscientious journalist.
** In yet another ''[[Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine Deep Space Nine]]'' episode, a Klingon warrior attacks Quark in a drunken rage, and accidentally falls on his own knife. People assume that Quark killed him in self-defense, and instead of denying it, he milks the publicity for all it's worth... until it lands him in the middle of a series of Klingon political intrigues.
* ''Series/{{Lost}}'': in "Through the Looking Glass," Jack is called a hero for pulling a woman and her son from a burning car. When the woman regains consciousness, she reveals that the reason she crashed was [[spoiler:she was looking at Jack, who was [[InterruptedSuicide about to jump off a bridge at the time]].]][[note]]The {{Irony}} being that even though he was the one to pull them from the car, it was her who saved ''him'' by being there right at that moment.[[/note]]
* ''Series/FTroop'' "The end of the Civil War was near; When quite accidentally; A hero who sneezed abruptly seized; Retreat and reversed it to victory."
* In an episode of ''Series/{{Frasier}}'', Bulldog enjoys this status when he grabs Roz and spins her away from danger when their coffee shop hangout is attacked by a gunman. In actuality, Bulldog thinks that someone pulling out his wallet is the gunman and spins Roz ''towards'' him, using her as a human shield. The rest of the episode features Bulldog being lauded with praise for being a hero while Frasier tries to convince him to come clean - starting with simply asking him and escalating into more and more elaborate attempts to guilt-trip him. Of course, him being Bulldog, none of this works. Things finally return to normal when Frasier's dad yells "He's got a gun!" at a banquet in Bulldog's honor, causing him to repeat his actions, whereupon he is berated by all the guests there. It turns out, however, that Frasier's dad doesn't really care about right and wrong in this case, he just wanted Frasier to shut up about it.
* In an episode of ''Series/{{Friends}}'', the male characters go to a seedy part of town with Phoebe's then-boyfriend Gary. While there, what sounds like a gunshot is heard, and Joey jumps on top of Ross, apparently protecting him with his body. He's hailed as a hero, even though it turns out it was just a car backfiring, because he didn't ''know'' it wasn't a gunshot. When Chandler gets upset because Joey protected Ross instead of him, however, Joey admits he was actually protecting a sandwich.
* Ralph Hinkley/Hanley from ''Series/TheGreatestAmericanHero'' was this up until the end of the series when his character was completely derailed and he became famous for being a super-hero. Earlier in the series, with rare exceptions, he avoided the hero role that was thrust upon him.
* In an episode of ''Series/GoodLuckCharlie'', Teddy ditches class to prove that she is not a goody-goody, which she is being called by everyone at school. However, when she is there she stops a pickpocket and is awarded a medal of honor in school the next day, and the class cheers her on by calling out "GG", short for goody-goody.
* In the ''Series/PoliceSquad'' episode ''The Butler Did It'' (a.k.a. ''A Bird In The Hand''), a gunman holds three police officers hostage in a room at a police station. Suddenly, Frank Drebin opens the door, [[TheDoorSlamsYou hitting the gunman]] and allowing the police officers to apprehend him. [[note]] This scene was recreated in the second ''Film/TheNakedGun'' movie with Music/WeirdAlYankovic as the gunman. [[/note]]
-->'''Ed Hocken:''' Nice work, Frank.
-->'''Frank Drebin:''' (confused) What?
* In the ''Series/{{Angel}}'' episode "Harm's Way", negotiations with some demons go sour and they demand a sacrifice or else they will declare war. Harmony, who had no idea what was going on and was in the middle of a fight with a rival vampire, appears and then stakes the vampire. The demons consider that satisfactory and continue the negotiations.
* ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'' episode "Boys at Ranch" had the boy's fireworks show a drunk and lost Hal and Otto the way back home.
* ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' has Jeffrey Mace introduced as an Inhuman who gained fame when he was photographed holding up a wall to save the life of a woman when a conference was bombed. He's made head of SHIELD and helps the organization out. However, a mission exposes that Mace is not an Inhuman and has no powers. His "saving" of that woman was actually him tripping over her trying to save his own skin and a reporter just happened to get a photograph at the perfect time and angle to make it look like Mace was holding up a wall. The President and Glen Talbot thus pushed him to take on the role for public morale. In reality, Mace hated the whole act and is ready to announce the truth but Coulson (who saw Mace risk his life to help others) urges him to keep it up in public while Coulson handles the real SHIELD activities.

[[folder: Newspaper Comics]]
* ''ComicStrip/BeetleBailey'': When Beetle [[ProfessionalSlacker of all people]] receives a medal for being an exemplary worker. It starts when he gives his usual kind of lip ("I could do that, if I wanted to") to Sarge "asking" him to clean up some graffiti. Sarge gets angry and gives a violence-laden order for him to want to do it, then. When he's cleaning the wall, Killer happens by and asks why he's doing it, to which Beetle replies with angry sarcasm that it's because he wants to. The General also happens to walk by and is impressed by this dedication.
* In one week's ''Drabble'' strips, Ralph was too sick to go to work as a mall security guard, so Norman disguised himself as him and went in his place. While a shopper asked Norman where he could find a certain place, a man stole another shopper's purse nearby. As the purse snatcher ran past, Norman reached out to point to the place and clotheslined the guy.

[[folder: Radio]]
* In ''Radio/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'', Arthur becomes a hero to a race of alien birds for showing them not to take any nonsense from their machines by throwing away a cup of revolting tea substitute a Nutrimatic device had given him.
-->'''Wise Old Bird:''' In a moment we realised the truth. Just because the little bitches liked us, it didn't mean to say that we had to like 'em back. And that night we rounded up every last one of the little creeps.
* ''Radio/TheMenFromTheMinistry'' episode "Counter Spies" has General Assistance Department arrest of couple of shop-owners in Hackney for ridiculously small irregularities in their products that go against the norms set out by EEC, and accidentally blowing the cover of two Soviet spies, allowing [=MI5=] to catch them.

[[folder: Video Games]]
* ''[[VideoGame/LeisureSuitLarry Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)]]'': Larry Laffer meets a Latin American woman at a music store, and tries to talk in Spanish with her. Problem is, he took Spanish at high school, and doesn't understand the girl... but the girl thought that his badly spoken phrases were secret codes, and thought he was the Soviet agent she was waiting for. She gives him a Peruvian onklunk with a hidden microfilm for the evil Dr. Nonookee; Larry, incapable to understand, thought it was a gift. And so, Larry is chased around by several Soviet spies and agents of the KGB, without even being aware of it (that is, unless they capture him, and dies). Finally, the onlunk is broken when Larry falls in the middle of a jungle. Poor Larry: he saved the world, and the only thing he received for it was a bush with killer bees...
* In ''Franchise/SilentHill'', [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu beating a god to death with a pipe]] tends to be an objective the player character achieves while pursuing a different goal, though how heroically that turns out for the characters depends on which of the MultipleEndings you get.
* In the ''VideoGame/WorldOfMana'' series, being the chosen hero tends to happen by accident:
** ''VideoGame/DawnOfMana'': Keldy just wanted to find the Guardian Beast to save his DoomedHometown...except he ends up having to clean up the very mess he helped make when [[ChildhoodFriendRomance Ritzia]] ends up [[GrandTheftMe possessed]] by the SealedEvilInACan instead.
** ''VideoGame/SecretOfMana'': The Boy just wanted to cut [[InsurmountableWaistHighFence some tall grass]]...though you do find out later that he comes from a heroic lineage.
** Whatever party you choose in ''VideoGame/SeikenDensetsu3'', the fairy just picks them to bond with because they happened to be there.
* In ''VideoGame/PaladinsQuest'', Chezni starts his journey because he was [[spoiler:duped by his "friend" Duke, actually Zaygos, the Emperor of the Southern continent, into activating Dal Gren]].
* In ''VideoGame/WarioLand3'', [[spoiler:Wario saves his own world and unknowingly breaks Rudy the Clown's curse on the music box world's inhabitants by defeating him purely in self-defence. The inhabitants, thinking this was intentional, reward him with freedom and all the treasure he found on his quest, which is exactly what he was after from the very beginning.]]
* In ''VideoGame/EiyuuSenkiTheWorldConquest'', the player's army is getting ready to invide the Taika Empire. The empress, Qin Shi Huang, is at the same time suffering from a debilitating disease and taking what she believes to be medicine but is actually liquid mercury. The player's army circulates some false rumors that Qin Shi Huang has taken a turn for the worse, causing her advisor, Sun Tzu, to return to the capital. Sun Tzu arrives and accidentally breaks Qin Shi Huang's medicine bottle just as she was about to take an extra large dose, causing both parties to inadvertently save her life. Since the game is fueled by DefeatMeansFriendship, it averts NiceJobBreakingItHero.
* In ''VideoGame/SaintsRowGatOutOfHell'', Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington descend into Hell only to rescue the Boss, who has been kidnapped by Satan. In doing so, they end up inadvertently foiling Satan's plan to invade and conquer Heaven.
* The "Recall" short from ''VideoGame/{{Overwatch}}'' is a retroactive example of this. When Winston sends out the recall signal for all Overwatch agents, it was also transmitted to the long abandoned Eco-point Antarctica. Waking up SoleSurvivor of the outpost, Mei, mere days before the station power would have died and left her to freeze with the others.

* Kevin Kolton from ''[[http://www.evilplan.thewebcomic.com Evil Plan]]'' wasn't trying to do anything heroic with the supervillian's telekinesis chip. He accidentally installed it by [[spoiler:falling asleep in class.]]

[[folder: Web Original]]
* In LOL, T.G.W.I.T.M.C.I.L.O.L became a hero by WebVideo/{{EnderPixel}} stopping the trolls just by not uploading a LOL video in a long time. So now T.G.W.I.T.M.C.I.L.O.L, his own character, has to go to a death filled adventure. HOORAY.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/MegasXLR'' did this. Naturally, the beautiful anime-inspired (read "a complete parody of ''Manga/SailorMoon''") residents intended to put Jamie up against a powerful monster without letting him get in a word of objection edgewise. Or briefing him on what would [[DeaderThanDead kill off a monster]], and what would merely [[NoOneCouldSurviveThat appear to kill it]], leaving it to come back stronger in a couple hours. Considering that the show's premise is "Giant Mecha lands in the yard of American Teenager, he uses it to save world ([[ThisIsYourPremiseOnDrugs on drugs]])", nobody should be surprised.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "Homer Defined" had Homer save the town from nuclear doom by using eeny-meeny-miney to find the right button. He is then lauded as a national hero. He later manages to recreate his blunder, but the townsfolk figure out he had no idea what he was doing, and his "reward" this time is inspiring the term "[[PersonAsVerb pulling a Homer]]".
** Similarly, in "Little Big Girl" Bart accidentally puts out a fire when using fire extinguishers to propel himself forward along the road... his intention was just a cheap thrill, but the material from said fire extinguishers put out a fire that he encountered along the way.
** The image is from "Moe Baby Blues", where Moe saves Maggie (who had been launched from the Simpsons' car in a traffic accident) just as he was about to jump off the Springfield Bridge. Also counts as a CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming when [[LickedByTheDog Maggie kisses Moe]] and Moe smiles, saying [[HappilyAvertedSuicide "Life don't seem so hard no more".]]
** Homer again in "Boy Scoutz in da Hood" when he and Bart go on a Father/Son camping trip with the Junior Campers. Homer is TheLoad all the way, losing their map and getting himself, Bart, and the Flanderses lost at sea. He only ends up saving the day when his keen sense of smell and the Krusty Burger map he brought along led them to food and rescue. It also turned out that the "correct" path led the campers who went down it to be attacked by mountain men, a bear, and eventually [[Franchise/FridayThe13th a psycho killer lurking in an abandoned campground]].
* In the ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' episode "Roger Ebert Should Lay Off the Fatty Foods", Cartman, furious that no-one saw him on TV, knocks over the [[MindControl mind controlling Planetarium projector]] in a fit of rage, inadvertently saving Stan and Kyle and wiping the mind of the Planetarium owner.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'', a very small-time thug, "Sid the Squid", working as a lookout somehow managed to accidentally "kill" Batman, which makes him a hero and a big-shot to Gotham City's underground. It also [[TheOnlyOneAllowedToDefeatYou earned him Joker's wrath]], however. Batman is actually still alive, however, and saves Sid and collars the Joker. Sid gets sent to a big prison outside of Gotham City limits, where he is still treated as a hero for ''almost'' killing Batman -- and making both [[TheDon Rupert Thorne]] and the Joker look like fools.
* This is the only reason anyone in ''WesternAnimation/InspectorGadget'' accepts the title character as an Inspector. However, he's so clueless that he ''believes'' the hype and never realizes for himself that he's not really the hero. Then again, his bumbling often genuinely ''does'' help save the day, usually in a SpannerInTheWorks fashion.
* Franchise/ArchieComics: The superhero Bob Phantom created an identity in order to get close to superheroes and learn enough about them for his exposé book. In his first appearance, however, he is mistaken for a genuine superhero, and, worse still, ends up helping another hero save the day!
* WesternAnimation/DuckDodgers is this to the Martian Queen (and only the Martian Queen). Whether it's a well-timed teleporter malfunction, or bending over at ''just'' the right moment, whenever he's around her, circumstances conspire to make him look like a badass.
* In one ''ComicStrip/USAcres'' segment of ''WesternAnimation/GarfieldAndFriends'', the normally cowardly Wade accidentally saves the day, and as a result becomes rather arrogant for his so-called heroism -- until, of course, he is faced with a situation where he must save the day again.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Recess}}'', TJ gets a black eye and won't tell anyone how he got it. The other kids convince themselves that he got it performing some heroic feat or other and is just too modest to admit it. After initial protests TJ quickly starts enjoying the hero life, even getting a parade in his honour. When he's asked to tell the tale of how he got his black eye at the parade, however, his conscience finally kicks in and he admits the truth - He was square-dancing, and his partner knocked into him.
* One of the early episodes of ''WesternAnimation/{{Arthur}}'' has a CatUpATree leap into Buster's arms to eat his ice cream, [[spoiler:due to it having fish]], thus becoming a hero. He lets the hero stuff go to his head and Arthur and friends decide recreate the scenario via robotic cat to prove he is no hero. It succeeds, much to the disappointment of Buster, but then [[spoiler:he (intentionally) saves Arthur and Francine from a runaway piano. HereWeGoAgain]].
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/JimmyTwoShoes'' had Jimmy stop a thief that was stealing Lucius' treasures because his was in the middle of having a PricelessMingVase fight with Beezy.
* This happened to Doofenshmirtz in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb'' when he accidentally saved a falling kitten when he tripped coming out of the store. As a result, everyone (including his enemies) believes him to be defecting to the good side. He even attempted to get rid of the news footage of the event to save his reputation.
* A blind Peter becomes one in ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'', when he pulls Horace out of the Drunken Clam without knowing it was on fire.
-->'''Tom Tucker:''' Here comes the blind hero now. Tell me sir, how were you able to summon up the courage to enter that burning building?
-->'''Peter:''' That freakin' place was on fire!?
* The entire series ''WesternAnimation/HongKongPhooey'' was built on this trope. In earlier episodes, the titular character often lucked into his heroic acts, and in later episodes, his faithful pet cat was responsible for orchestrating the events that led to his heroism. All the while, the entire cast, the titular character included, believe him to be a skilled superhero.
* On ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers,'' Col. Bud Manstrong is celebrated as a hero, but actually [[spoiler:''blacked out'' from a handjob]] while piloting the crashing Gargantua-1 back to Earth.
* ''WesternAnimation/RandyCunninghamNinthGradeNinja'': Bash de-stunk one of his fellow students when he broke said student's musical instrument but he only broke it because he didn't like its shape.
* ''WesternAnimation/GreenLanternTheAnimatedSeries'': In the episode "Steam Lantern", Gil Broome (a.k.a. Steam Lantern) is revered as the hero that saved his alternate Earth from the [[BigBad Anti-Monitor]]. He eventually confesses that he's a fraud. Duke Nigel Fortonberry had opened a dimensional rift that transported the Anti-Monitor into [[AlternateUniverse another universe]]. At the same moment, Steam Lantern fired an energy blast at the Anti-Monitor that had no effect whatsoever -- but because Gil was visible to the crowd of onlookers and Duke Nigel was not, everyone assumed that Gil's attack caused the Anti-Monitor's departure, and he received all the credit.
* Practically a RunningGag on ''WesternAnimation/DanVs'': many of Dan's revenge schemes end up defeating some evil force, such as the balloonist cult in "New Mexico", the supervillain dentist in "The Dentist", and [[spoiler:the gym robots]] in "The Gym"; however, in almost all such cases Dan is either unaware that the evil exists or [[SkewedPriorities is hunting them for a completely different reason]].
* ''WesternAnimation/BeCoolScoobyDoo'': In "Where There's a Will, There's a Wraith", Scooby is included in a rich man's will for saving that man's life. It's eventually revealed that Scooby was just trying to get a piece of jerky from the man's pockets and the life-saving was accidental.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheSylvesterAndTweetyMysteries'', Granny is praised far and wide as a master detective, and she herself thinks she is. While by no means incompetent, as she always makes the final deductions herself, it's Sylvester chasing Tweety Bird around wherever they're located that causes the necessary evidence or information to fall straight into Granny's hands--she has never once fully solved a case by herself.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Kaeloo}}'': In Episode 104, when Stumpy is trying to escape from [[RobotMaster Olaf's]] MechaMooks, who are clinging onto him, he sticks his fingers into an electric socket. Somehow, the electricity passing through all of them gives him control over them, and he uses the army to rescue the others (who are [[spoiler:being held prisoner by [[NotSoHarmlessVillain Olaf]]]]).
* ''WesternAnimation/TheBoondocks'' had one in the form of Tobias Lynchwater, aka Catcher Freeman. The true story surrounding him is that he wrote the first ever screenplay and showed it to his master George (who's also his illegitimate father) before informing him of a revolt by his fellow slaves. However, the revolt happened a week earlier than they said, much to Tobias' displeasure. He picked up a gun and meant to shoot the rebel leader Thelma, but ended up accidentally shooting the colonel instead because they kept moving. With everyone looking to him, Tobias just decided to roll with it and made it look like it was on purpose, thus starting the Catcher Freeman legend.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* In ''Fragebogen'', Ernst von Salomon relates that in the prison camp where the Americans interned him as a "security threat", he was informed that the general everyone was kowtowing to was the victor of Crailsheim. You never heard of the Battle of Crailsheim? It was the last German victory.\\
In ''Crusade in Europe'', Eisenhower noted that "...we occupied Crailsheim, but were forced to withdraw by unexpectedly strong resistance." The real story: the general, in his command tank, was cut off from his unit in the darkness. He finally found an armored column and traveled with it all night, before finding that it was an American column. He tried to slip off quietly (insofar as possible in a tank), but was spotted. So he opened fire with everything he had. The Americans heard firing, thought the Germans had outflanked them and were counterattacking from the rear, and pulled out of Crailshem. "Proving that a general without his command can be just as useful as a lance corporal."
* In 1976, writer Creator/RogerSharpe ended a thirty-four-year-ban on {{Pinball}} by demonstrating that it was a game that required skill, not luck. He did this by playing pinball in the courtroom, ending when [[CallingYourAttacks he announced that he would launch his next ball through the center lane at the top of the playfield,]] then [[ImprobableAimingSkills proceeded to do just that.]] Only later did Sharpe admit that his success was [[{{Irony}} based on luck.]]
* After the 2016 bombings in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, police were able to apprehend the suspect extremely quickly because two thieves who had been trying to steal the suitcase that one of the bombs was in [[http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-09-19/ahmad-khan-rahami-suspect-in-nyc-and-nj-bombings-arrested-after-shootout accidentally defused it]] when they took it out of the suitcase and put it in a trash bag before making off with the suitcase. Because of that, police were able to access the info from the cell phone it was rigged to and track down the bombing suspect. Naturally, this [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BczoM_4eRHs made for]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H-16M67A18 late-night]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQRbCzYPqJQ comedy fodder]].
* Allegedly, after the 1952 tsunami on the Kuril Islands, one soldier was found next to his unit's colour. UsefulNotes/JosefStalin, upon hearing that, wanted to make the soldier a Hero of the Soviet Union, but the soldier confessed he was only next to the colour by accident. Stalin said "pity we have no rewards for honesty", and ordered to encourage the soldier's behavior regardless. He was given a brand new uniform out of officer quality material and a month long leave.