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[[quoteright:329:[[Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/kamina_thumb.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:329:Guess which one is the main character.[[note]]It's the dorky kid on the right. The cool-looking guy with the cape and shades [[ItWasHisSled is killed off 8 episodes in]].[[/note]]]]

->''"Long time ago on a planet long forgotten by time, a young hero was born, a righteous Saiyan warrior who would bring peace to the galaxy. This... is '''not''' his story."''
-->-- '''Narrator''', ''[[Creator/TeamFourStar Bardock: The Father of Goku Abridged]]''

So you've got your hero. They practically have a giant neon sign over their head that says they're a hero. It might be subtle, but it's fairly obvious you've found the person who'll save the day, get the girl/guy, and live a long and hap -- what the? Did they just get bitten in half by a mutant [[TyrannosaurusRex T. Rex]]?

Some books, films, or games like to mix things up and throw viewers for a loop by revealing that the StandardizedLeader isn't TheHero. This can be very dramatic; there are few more effective ways to showcase AnyoneCanDie than taking out the apparent protagonist. (PlotArmor? What Plot Armor?) It can also be used comedically, revealing that the person who [[GenreSavvy thinks they're the protagonist]] [[WrongGenreSavvy is just a glorified bit player]]. Sometimes the Decoy Protagonist will turn out to be the antagonist.

IntroOnlyPointOfView frequently is used to emphasize their importance before TheReveal.

What happens next is the person we perceive as TheLancer, SideKick, or even a fringe loner takes center stage as the real protagonist (maybe even Hero). Usually they reveal a much greater level of personal integrity and strength of will than previously thought.

Note that this does not necessarily involve the death of the initial protagonist, although that is often how this trope expresses itself. If the target dies, they're often a SacrificialLion. If the character truly was TheHero (but not the protagonist, maybe), see TakeUpMySword. Also see DeadStarWalking. Compare QuicklyDemotedLeader, when the secondary character does the heavy lifting only for the hero to take control.

In video games, this can overlap with AndNowForSomeoneCompletelyDifferent; compare FirstPersonPeripheralNarrator, where the narrator is obviously not the protagonist. For the villainous version of this trope, see DiscOneFinalBoss.

Contrast PassingTheTorch, RedHerringShirt, DiscOneFinalBoss, TheUnchosenOne, SupportingLeader, NonProtagonistResolver.

Not to be confused with SupportingProtagonist, which is simply that the focus is on another character than the hero, or FakeUltimateHero, who doesn't appear to be the protagonist.

'''As this is frequently a DeathTrope, beware spoilers:'''



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Despite featuring an EnsembleCast, Creator/NaokiUrasawa's ''Manga/TwentiethCenturyBoys'' has Kenji Endo at the center of the story for the first five volumes or so, when he apparently dies in an explosion. One TimeSkip later the focus shifts to his teenage niece Kanna as she attempts to finish what he started. [[spoiler: However, in a surprising twist, Kenji ''comes back'' at the start of the third act]].
* Takashi of ''Manga/AllRounderMeguru'' is clearly the star of the prologue, and his storyline is the heaviest and most dramatic element of the series, but Meguru's the one with his name in the title.
* ''Manga/{{Arachnid}}'' begins with Kumo the assassin kidnapping an orphan named Alice to make her into his apprentice. She soon comes to respect and regard him as her father, only to be forced into a fight to the death because Kumo actually [[DeathSeeker wanted her to kill him]] and inherit his abilities.
* The first chapter of ''Manga/ArataKangatari'' and its debut cover page on the magazine it's serialized in would have you believe that Amawakuni Arata is the main character, but he isn't - it's Hinohara Arata, who's not even on said cover.
* ''Manhwa/AreaD'': The first chapter of the series starts by following Soutaro and only much later introducing Jin, who seemed to become the {{Deuteragonist}} or his {{Mentor}}, after that, however, it's clear that Jin is the real protagonist and Soutaro is just a member of the main cast.
* ''Manga/AttackOnTitan'':
** Subverted with Eren in He's maimed and eaten in the first major battle [[HeroicSacrifice while trying to save his friend Armin]], which seems like the perfect start to a StuffedIntoTheFridge scenario to motivate the more skilled Mikasa or stir then cowardly Armin to heroism, until it's revealed that Eren is a Titan Shifter and escapes; this becomes a major plot point.
** In a way, he is this to Historia. Not only is she the true heir to the monarchy of the walls; but the very powers Eren possess rightfully belong to the Reiss bloodline to begin with. Meaning his powers were meant for her. This leads to his HeroicBSOD as he starts to think himself as worthless and in the way of what should have been Historia's quest of slaughtering Titans and not his, until she snaps him out of it.
** Although subverted again in regards to Historia- if she'd gotten the powers he has, [[spoiler: she'd have become possessed by the will of her ancestor, forced to abandon any quest of killing titans, and probably would have erased the memories of anyone who knew about her powers to ensure the cycle continued.]] In a way, Eren having these powers '''saved''' Historia, and allowed her to become a hero of her own.
** In an overall sense, even after coming back as a Titan, Eren has been mostly out of focus and he mostly seems to serve as TheBigGuy and the MacGuffinSuperPerson. The cast seems to function more in an ensemble with plenty of different view points just as important (if not more) as Eren's.
* ''LightNovel/{{Baccano}}'':
** Played with as Carol insists that Firo is the protagonist because he's "main character-ish." Given the [[JigsawPuzzlePlot deliberately]] [[AnachronicOrder disjointed]] nature of the series (in the anime anyway, the source books are much more chronological), as well as the [[EnsembleCast ridiculously huge cast of "main" characters]], she manages to be completely right and way off the mark at the same time.
** If one defined "main character" based on screen time alone, Isaac and Miria would fit. They are also the only ones to show up in every single timeline (except for in 1711).
* In ''Manga/{{Basara}}'', everyone thinks that a boy named Tatara is TheChosenOne—he fits the prophecy to a T—until the king he’s supposed to overthrow hears about him, rides in, and takes his head from his shoulders. Tatara's twin sister Sarasa, who grew up in her brother’s shadow and has basically been forgotten about by almost everyone, rises up to take his place. [[ImpersonationGambit Literally]].
* Aaaaand while we're on Urasawa, ''Manga/BillyBat'' now has [[spoiler: the death of Kevin Yamagata, after which Kevin Goodman takes over as the true protagonist.]]
* The sequel to ''Manga/BlackButler'' sets up Alois Trancy and Claude Faustus as the new Master and Butler duo, [[spoiler:until Sebastian comes back, and Ciel is brought back to life. All in the first episode. After all of the marketing A-1 Pictures has done for Alois and Claude, it turns out that it was done to hide the fact that Sebastian and Ciel would be returning. Bravo.]]
* ''Anime/{{Blassreiter}}'': This guy got a lot of screen-time. He's ''great''. His life is wrecked, but he should not give up. He got TheVirus but clearly has enough of HeroicWillpower -- look, he doesn't kill when even non-infectee [[EtTuBrute could be]] [[GreenEyedMonster tempted]] [[WasItAllALie a lot]]! He must be the protagonist! Right?.. Oops, he turns out to be but one more deadman, who just kept the horror scenes of imminent NinjaPirateZombieRobot [[ZombieApocalypse Apocalypse]] from being looked upon as AMillionIsAStatistic.
* Waku from ''Manga/{{Bokurano}}'' is presented in a way that couldn't be mistaken for anything other than the classic HotBlooded shonen KidHero. At least until [[spoiler:he dies after piloting the robot in the second episode (''first'' volume of the manga).]]
* In Nobuhiro Watsuki's ''Crescent Moon in the Warring States'', the protagonist is actually Isshinta, not Hiko Seijuro as many readers believe.
* In ''Manga/TheDaughterOfTwentyFaces'', the audience is lead to believe that the main characters are the crew of [[VillainProtagonist sympathetic thieves]] that Chizuko hooks up with. Then comes [[WhamEpisode Episodes 6 and 7]], where [[spoiler: most of the thieves are killed]] and Chizuko is sent back to Japan. It's there that we meet Chizuko's ''real'' supporting cast; Shunka and Tome.
* Gohan from ''Franchise/DragonBall'' is this to his father, Goku:
** In the Buu Saga, it's established that Gohan has taken over his father's role as the key protector of the world (as the finale of the Cell Saga supported). In the manga, the beginning of the Buu saga even starts off with Master Roshi saying that the series will continue "just a while longer" with Gohan as the main character, while in the anime, the intro and outro sequences for the Buu saga focuses on Gohan as the lead protagonist. A good chunk of the Buu arc either focus directly on Gohan or a good amount of side-character stalling while Gohan trains on the Kai Planet to awaken his dormant powers, presumably arriving at the last minute to save the day much like how Goku was previously portrayed. However, Gohan ends up being absorbed by Buu, leaving his father to take over as TheHero once more for the remainder of the arc and even into the next series.
** Gohan seemed to regain, at least, a solid {{Deuteragonist}} status during the Universe Survival saga, being made TheLeader of his team, getting a lot of buildup to the regaining of his powers, and even being the one to finish off Universe 10 in a big character moment for him. One of the Universe Survival EDs even ended on the note of [[{{Fauxshadow}} him and his father standing side by side and charging forward.]] When the saga actually gets down to the U7 vs U11 endgame, however, after a single episode he's eliminated while fighting [[UnskilledButStrong Dyspo]] due to Frieza's running out of stamina to keep up the cage, necessitating that he takes himself down with him as the endgame continues to focus on Goku, Vegeta, Frieza, and most shockingly ''17.'' After defeating [[ButtMonkey Universe 10]], he didn't have all that much to do until that point, either, besides team up with Piccolo to defeat Universe 6's final members.
* In ''Manga/DrStone'', the series starts following Taiju Ooki, a hot-blooded yet dimwitted high school student who wakes up thousands of years in the future after every human was turned to stone, only finding his friend the hyper-intelligent Senku, who plans to rebuild society with his immense knowledge of science. After two volumes and freeing Taiju's love interest and the main villain, Taiju goes undercover in the latter's group and the manga now focuses on Senku as he shows a village of cave-people various forms of science.
* From the same author of ''LightNovel/{{Baccano}}'', ''LightNovel/{{Durarara}}'' has Mikado Ryuugamine who may look like he's the protagonist because he was the focus for the first episode. You might be thinking "huh, so we get to see Ikebukuro from the eyes of a NaiveNewcomer". [[spoiler: Until you see his biggest secret.]] WordOfGod says that [[HeadlessHorseman Celty]] is the protagonist of the series, not Mikado.
* ''Manga/{{Emerging}}'': Since she appears on the cover and since the first chapter revolves around her, it's very easy to mistake Akari for the series' protagonist. [[spoiler: She gets infected with the disease at the very beginning of the story, and from then until the very end does nothing except lying in her hospital bed looking miserable. Her family doctor becomes the hero.]]
* The demon-hunting squad you're introduced to in the first episode of ''Anime/GaReiZero''. They're all distinctive, have some interesting chemistry and seem like a skilled bunch. [[spoiler:They all die.]] At the end of that very same episode. They were included on promotional material.
* ''Anime/GenmaWars'' opens with a young man named Katsu fighting in a tournament to join the Genma tribe and manages to win, but then [[AbusiveParents his father]] [[TheCaligula the Maoh King]] arbitrarily executes him ForTheEvulz. The poor dude doesn't even make past two minutes before dying. The series is about the the king's other children and given Katsu isn't featured in the opening credits, it makes sense he is the Decoy Protagonist.
* ''Manga/GingaNagareboshiGin'' started out with Daisuke as the protagonist and was your typical ABoyAndHisX story. Eight episodes in it had a GenreShift when the attention changed to his dog, Gin, and Gin ran off to join a pack of feral dogs. Daisuke doesn't appear again until the tail end of the series and is nowhere in the sequel anime.
* Henrietta is very obviously the main character for ''Manga/GunslingerGirl''. As the series goes on however Triela is given noticeably more and more spotlight while Henrietta becomes more of a side character. [[spoiler:Henrietta is in fact the second major girl [[TheHeroDies to die]] and Triela is the last]].
* In ''Anime/JewelpetKiraDeco'', Retsu seems like the typical hero: he's HotBlooded, he's the leader of his {{Sentai}} team, he's front and center, he gets the color red, he's the first to introduce himself. But it's Pink, TheChick, whom the story revolves around.
* Anyone unfamiliar with most of ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure'' and reading/watching it from [[Manga/JojosBizarreAdventurePhantomBlood the first part]] would be forgiven for thinking Jonathan "[[ProtagonistTitle JoJo]]" Joestar is the protagonist of the whole series (especially when Part 1 was originally serialized as ''Jonathan Joestar: His Youth'', implying the series chronicles his entire life). [[TheHeroDies He dies at the end of the part]], and every subsequent part instead focuses on his similarly-named descendants.
* In ''Literature/JokerGame'', everyone thought [[AudienceSurrogate Lt. Sakuma]] would be the protagonist, largely owing to [[PatrioticFervor his personality]] being a fairly standard one in works portraying [[UsefulNotes/ImperialJapan the WWII era]]. However, he disappears from the story after episode two, having refused [[TheSpymaster Lt. Col. Yuuki's]] invitation to join the [[CovertGroupWithMundaneFront D Agency]], and is only mentioned again once in passing. Inasmuch as this series ''has'' a protagonist, it's probably [[TheChessmaster Lt. Col.]] [[MagnificentBastard Yuuki]].
* Keyman is the title character in ''Manga/KeymanTheHandOfJudgement'', but he gets killed by the end of the first chapter. For the rest of the story we follow wDetective Alex, an anthropomorphic T. rex, as he tries to solve the murder case.
* ''Anime/LegendOfGalacticHeroes'' has two main characters: Reinhard von Lohengramm of the TheEmpire and Yang Wenli of TheAlliance.[[spoiler: While Yang Wenli IS the most important character of the democratic cast, he's assassinated three-quarters of the way through - completely changing the dynamic of the show. Yang's protégée Julian succeeds him in the last season while Reinhard is a protagonist throughout.]]
* For the majority of ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamSEEDDestiny'', Shinn Asuka was clearly the main character. He got the most focus, piloted the titular mobile suit (the Destiny Gundam), and was front and center on promotional art. However, towards the end he was effectively DemotedToDragon and either Kira Yamato or Athrun Zala, members of the cast of the prequel ''Anime/GundamSEED'' [[SpotlightStealingSquad take center stage]]. Athrun could be the ''true'' main character of the show, as he has the most screentime out of the three main characters and the TV Movies were narrated from his perspective. However, official sources still identify Shinn the main character all the way through the series.
* While we're on the subject of Naoki Urasawa, [[spoiler:Richard Braun]] is this for ''Anime/{{Monster}}''. Not an entirely straight example, because he isn't this way for the series as a whole, just for an arc that takes up volumes 5-9. Still for that arc, this trope definitely applies.
* ''Manga/TalentlessNana'': In the very first chapter, we're led to believe that Nanao Nakajima is the protagonist and title character; he doesn't seem to have any talents or powers as the title states and we get an in-depth look at his backstory. [[spoiler: By the end of the chapter, he is killed off by the real protagonist, Hiiragi Nana.]]
* The prologue episodes of ''LightNovel/MuvLuvAlternativeTotalEclipse'' follow Yui Takemura, before episode 3 switches to Yuuya's viewpoint.
* ''Manga/OnePiece'':
** Paulie in the [[Recap/OnePieceWaterSevenArc Water 7 Arc]]. The Straw Hats have come to Water 7, home of the world's best carpenters, in search of a shipwright for their crew, and Paulie happens to be the best shipwright at the largest shipwright company on the island. He has a very well-devolped fighting style involving the use of rigging ropes and the amusing personality quirk of being constantly in debt. We learn of a better shipwright, Franky, who supposedly betrayed the company, but he's set up as the arc's villain, making it a surprise when, as the arc proceeds, he receives a tragic past, a connection to the series' MythArc, and a quirky fighting style of his own. Guess who ends up joining?.
** Vivi also counts as a Decoy Crew member. She travels and adventures with the Straw Hats for over three story-arcs, is even given her own theme song and commercial eyecatcher, but at the end of the day it's the previous villainess Nico Robin who joins as they leave Vivi behind to rule her country. Now that's a plot twist.
* And back to Urasawa, ''Manga/{{Pluto}}'' [[spoiler:tells the story mostly from Gesicht's point of view for the first six volumes - up until his murder. Epsilon and then Atom take on the mantle of the hero, though Gesicht's memories play a role in the final confrontation against Pluto.]]
* The first episode of ''Popotan'' starts out with Daichi discovering [[spoiler: the ''real'' protagonists']] mansion as he explores a field. He walks inside... It's dark, and lit only by a Christmas tree... Suddenly, "UNA!" He runs into the hallway, having been startled by Unagi, and runs into the bathroom door as Ai comes out wearing only a towel. It's from here on that we meet all the ''real'' protagonists as he frantically attempts to flee the house. He is present during the last minute of the episode, after the girls leave, but is only ever seen again in episode 7 (as an adult, except for flashbacks) and the last episode (when [[spoiler: Ai travels back to the time she and her sisters first met him]]).
* ''Anime/PsychoPass'' has Shinya Kougami heavily featured in the promotional videos and openings as if he's the protagonist mostly ignoring Akane in favor of featuring him with [[ArchEnemy Makishima]] in photos. While he's still the main character alongside Akane, he takes quite a backseat to her, who grows significantly more as a character and ultimately receives the most spotlight.
* ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'':
** This trope gets played with [[ZigZaggingTrope all over the place]]. Despite being the title character, Madoka [[UselessProtagonist has little effect on the plot, and is mostly an observer]]. Sayaka does become a magical girl, and she has a personality much more commonly associated with protagonists. According to WordOfGod, she is the hero of the story, [[spoiler:except that it's actually her StartOfDarkness.]] Then episode 10 came along [[spoiler:and we find out that in many ways, this is Homura's story.]] And in the finale, [[spoiler:Madoka ''does'' become the hero, [[HeroicSacrifice selflessly erasing herself from existence]] to change the world.]]
** Gen literally says "I think the human protagonist is actually Homura." [[http://wiki.puella-magi.net/Otona_Anime_Vol.20#Summary_of_Staff_Comments in an interview.]]
** ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagicaTheMovieRebellion'' is more of a straight example. The film follows Madoka at first, but then Homura takes over the plot right when things start happening.
* ''Manga/PuellaMagiOrikoMagica'', had an odd case. For starters, the title character ''isn't even on the cover of the first volume''. In fact, [[spoiler: it's an AntagonistTitle; Oriko is the villain.]] The real protagonists, at least in the first volume, are Kyouko and Yuma, the girl who actually was on the cover. Mami functions as a secondary protagonist. [[spoiler: And then in the second volume, [[HijackedByGanon Homura]] [[InvertedTrope becomes the protagonist]].]]
* The First Episode of ''Manga/{{Shiki}}'' follows Megumi as the central character and her life around the village. [[spoiler:She's dead by the end of the episode]]
* ''Manga/SketDance'' begins with [[NewTransferStudent Teppei's]] first day in his new school and meeting the eponymous Sket-dan. Then the chapter ends and he never appears again aside from a few cameos.
* In the second "season" of ''Takemitsu Zamurai'', a bandit leader named "[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Glass-eyed]] Tetsuzo" is set up to be the new antagonist after landing in jail. Unfortunately he's [[spoiler:TooDumbToLive and kicks previous antagonist [[ImplacableMan Kikuchi]] awake.]] The next morning, Tetsuzo is found [[spoiler:''with his head twisted off'' and Kikuchi]] is now the owner of a [[spoiler:pretty marble, which he eventually uses to burn the prison down]] and escape.
* This trope is played with in the first season (Question arcs) of Higurashi: When They Cry where the central protagonist switches from character to character. It is only in the second season (Answer arcs) where it is revealed that the real main character is actually [[spoiler:Rika Furude]].
* Some viewers didn't realize Kamina wasn't the central protagonist of ''Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann'' until [[spoiler:his death in Episode 8.]] It turns out that Simon is the main character.
* Double subverted in ''Anime/TheTowerOfDruaga''. Neeba is shown to be the leader of his group early on with Jil showing up as a mysterious badass... who then gets knocked out within five seconds of first encountering an enemy and has a sort of goofy flashback for most of the first episode about how his journey started... which turns out to be a dream while the rest of his party saves him. His brother, Neeba is seems to be the real hero, for much of the early show. [[spoiler:Then his brother turns out to be the FakeUltimateHero, and the second arc supplants him with Jil.]]
* ''Manga/TsubasaReservoirChronicle'':
** For the first dozen volumes of the manga and all of the anime, the series seems to be a typical shounen series about strength and determination, centering on typical shounen hero Syaoran with the other characters in supporting roles. However, that changed when Syaoran [[spoiler:[[FaceHeelTurn turned out to be a clone and puppet of the Big Bad,]] splitting off from the party and going to wreak evil havoc.]] At that point the focus of the series switched to former motivational love interest Sakura, at least until [[spoiler: SHE died]] several volumes later.
** [[spoiler: Clone Syaoran]] can still be considered to be the main protagonist for the first half.
* In ''Anime/{{Vexille}}'', the first half of the movie is spent with Vexille, who's part of a force that's about to stage a covert operation against an isolationist nation. The second half of the film reveals the protagonist to be Maria, a character who wasn't introduced in the first half. Indeed, pretty much everything Vexille was trying to do didn't matter at all. Maria's the one who knows what the stakes are, has devised a plan to thwart the villain, and has gathered together a group of people to execute said plan. She has a direct and personal connection to the villain, as well as people on her side who she has to work against to gather resources and manpower to pull off her scheme. The story in the second half continues to be told from Vexille's point of view, yet her main contribution is to have things explained to. And to pilot the Mecha.
* In ''Manga/TheWorldIsMine'', we meet the two {{Villain Protagonist}}s [[PsychopathicManChild Toshiya]] and [[WildChild Mon]] driving down the highway, with Mon having sex with a flashy-looking high school girl. She describes herself to the audience as if she'll be the protagonist ("My name is Miho, seventeen years old, ''love'' sex!") and is then [[DisposableWoman pushed out of the car into oncoming traffic]]. The ''real'' female protagonist is a plain-looking girl and one of the few people that Mon doesn't want to rape or kill (Mon actually curls up into her lap and falls asleep like Berserker Rage Manga/{{Ranma|OneHalf}}).
* In ''LightNovel/YokuWakaruGendaiMahou'' Yumiko has the focus in the First Episode until its shown that Koyomi is The Main Character.
* ''Anime/YuruYuri'':
** A running joke is the 'main character' Akari worrying constantly about her complete lack of screen time, character traits, and presence. Although she leads the [[TitleSequence opening segment]], she's always interrupted, ignored, or distracted by something. Once or twice, she only appears to tell the audience that she won't be in the rest of the episode.
---> "I'm Akaza Akari and I'm still the protagonist!"
** [[LargeHam Toshino Kyouko]] claims to be the true protagonist.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Like a lot of comics, Creator/NeilGaiman's ''Comicbook/BlackOrchid'' lampshades BondVillainStupidity. Unlike most, the {{Mook}} really ''[[DefiedTrope does]]'' shoot the main character in the head. He doesn't know that [[GoodThingYouCanHeal she can regenerate]], but he [[KillItWithFire sets her on fire]] to be absolutely certain she's DeaderThanDead. Given this is on the second page of the first issue, it's a good thing MesACrowd.
* A non-fatal example in the ''Department of Monsterology'' comics. We are initially introduced to Emma Hampton and Team Challenger and are led to believe that they are going to be the main protagonists(with TheHero being the NaiveNewcomer Emma Hampton). However, after their initial scene, one of them mentions Team Carnacki who then become the main protagonists, with [[HeroOfAnotherStory Team Challenger]] being DemotedToExtra afterwards.
** The two body-jumping villains appear to be set up as the BigBadDuumvirate, or at least as major antagonists. They ultimately turn out to be Decoy Antagonists, and are defeated by the end of the initial story arc.
* Similarly, Gaiman's ''ComicBook/TheSandman'' gave us a Decoy Antagonist with Roderick Burgess, the warlock who imprisons Dream in the first issue. He seems to be set up as the BigBad, or at least as a major antagonist. Then it turns out that the first issue spans ''70 freakin' years''. By the end of issue #1, Burgess has died of old age, and his son Alex is a harmless, senile old man. After Dream escapes, he leaves him in a permanent nightmare and never sees him again.
* ''ComicBook/{{Shakara}}'':
** The comic begins with a human thinking he's the LastOfHisKind after the Earth is destroyed. He's killed on page 3 by a much larger alien right before the real protagonist, Shakara the Avenger, is introduced.
** A later issue introduces two tomb raiders who team up to find the lost treasure of the Shakara homeworld. After facing many perils, they're unceremoniously shot by Buggerian mercenaries.
* Used to great effect in ''Origin'', in which it turns out that the kid who looks like a young Wolverine, is nicknamed "Dog", and has the surname "Logan", isn't the one who grows up to be {{Wolverine}}. The real young Wolverine is actually James Howlett, who starts out as a sickly rich kid living in a manor house in Alberta--though Dog is heavily implied to be his half-brother (and may or may not be connected to Sabretooth in some way).
* ''ComicBook/TheMask'' comics is a very good example of this. Stanley may be the first person to wear the ArtifactOfDoom but he is not the main character. It is debatable after the 2nd series of books whether the wearer of the mask is the main character or if it is Kellaway (the SympatheticInspectorAntagonist). And Big Head is just the BigBad.
* The first ''Comicbook/{{Azrael}}'' miniseries begins with what appears to be the title character being shot and killed in the first few pages. As it turns out, this was the main character's father and the mantle is a LegacyCharacter. Batman himself also serves as one, as despite having top billing in the original miniseries and having most of the focus for the first half, he is captured halfway into the story by [=LeHah=] and the remainder of it focuses on Azrael joining forces with Alfred to rescue him.
* James Robinson's ''Comicbook/StarMan'' series had a similar opening with a superhero being killed in the first two pages, only for his brother to take up the mantle.
* In a third act switch, Archangel Cameron in ''Archangels: The Saga''. He's the main character for the first seven issues [[spoiler:and for the epilogue of the 9th]], but in Issues 8 and 9, the famous archangel Michael is summoned by God to issue the BigBad's final defeat and ''he'' becomes the new focus character.
* In the ComicBook/UltimateMarvel universe Ray Connor, the kid who takes up the Comicbook/{{Daredevil}} identity after the death of Matt Murdock. We're given an issue dealing with his origin and background and the book makes it seem like he's being positioned as a major character in the mold of previous [[LegacyCharacter Legacy Characters]]...but then at the end of said issue, he gets bitten by a vampire.
* ComicBook/TransformersWingsOfHonor: Follows Metalhawk's group (with TheHero being the NaiveNewcomer Dion), and Onslaught's in their war against the growing Decepticon uprising lead by Deathsaurus. In the final few comics, Onslaught's team reneges, and kills half of Metalhawk's team, with Dion defeating their combined form. Then the protagonist switches to Magnum, the leader of the Elite guard which Onslaught and his men wiped out. He and the rest of the survivors, including Dion, fight Deathsaurus and beat him. Deathsaurus turns out to be a Decoy Antagonist, and is beaten and overthrown by the true antagonist Megatron. Megatron leads an attack on the Autobots, fatally shooting Dion and Magnum. Alpha Trion takes them, and rebuilds Ultra Magnus from one of them, while the other dies, and Ultra Magnus welcomes the true hero of the war, Optimus Prime.
* In ''ComicBook/{{Noob}}'', being the player whose DayInTheLife is shown at the beginning doesn't guarantee being the focus for the rest of the comic.
* ''ComicBook/InnocenceLost'' tells the story of ComicBook/{{X 23}}'s creation, and provides the groundwork for how she became the BrokenBird DarkActionGirl she's best known as. However Laura herself is ''not'' the main character, and in fact isn't even born until roughly halfway through the book. The story actually focuses on Dr. Sarah Kinney's attempts to create her, [[HeelFaceTurn the events that lead to her decision to free Laura from the Facility]], [[spoiler: and her accidental death at Laura's hands]].
* ''ComicBook/TheBojeffriesSaga'' introduces us to the titular family through the eyes of a rent collector trying to get back rent from them. He gets turned into a geranium plant at the end of the first arc.
* DoubleSubverted by ''ComicBook/BlackScience''. First, the perspective shifts from ScienceHero Grant to ActionHero Ward when the former is put out of commission. Then, [[spoiler: after Ward is killed, the perspective shifts back to Grant... who is himself killed off two issues later. The real protagonist so far seems to be Kadir, who was introduced as a stock CorruptCorporateExecutive ''villain''.]]
* ''ComicBook/{{Runaways}}'', though focused on a team, set up the leader [[BitchInSheepsClothing Alex Wilder]] as the overall protagonist of the series. He was the one who lead the other kids to discover their [[ArchnemesisDad parents]] were supervillains as [[CosmopolitanCouncil the Pride]], helped the team acquire/discover their artifacts and powers, was made to look like he'd be an official couple to ComicBook/NicoMinoru, was the AudienceSurrogate as the only member [[BadassNormal with no powers or special gadgets]], and led the overall charge to end the Pride once and for all. Then, as it turned out, Alex was [[EvilAllAlong loyal to the Pride the whole time]], and was plotting to use the others to fulfill his plans to undermine the Deans and the Hayeses, the two non-humans that planned to betray the others, and actually ''succeeded''... only to be killed off not long after by the Gibborim. For the record, this was at the end of the ''first arc'' in a series that has ran over fifty issues. Afterwards, there's not really a protagonist, though Nico fits closest as the new leader.
* ''ComicBook/SteamWars'' makes us think that it'll focus on the Luke Skywalker {{Expy}}, Beauregard Baron, will be the main character. In truth though it's actually the Princess Leia Expy, Duchess Imoen.
* ''ComicBook/BitchPlanet'' #1 follows Marian Collins as she is transported to the titular prison for "non-compliant" women...until her death at the end of the issue, which brings the real protagonist of the series into focus.
* ''ComicBook/SouthernBastards'' builds up Earl Tubbs as the protagonist of the series for the first few issues, focusing on him being the only man to stand up to crooked Coach Eustass Boss and his cronies. He's killed by Boss at the end of the first storyarc, who takes over as the VillainProtagonist of the whole story.
* The ''DC Rebirth'' era ''ComicBook/{{Superwoman}}'' series was promoted as a series following the New 52 Lois Lane after she got some of the New 52 Superman's powers. [[spoiler:She dies at the end of the first issue and the real central character is Lana Lang, who got a different powerset.]]
* ''ComicBook/CurseOfTheMutants'' is a storyline revolving around the X-Men as they fight against vampires lead by Dracula's rebellious son Xarus, who lead a coup to depose him. However, the prologue of this event doesn't follow any X-Man, but rather Dracula's other son Janus, who observes the coup up close and attempts to defy his brother to no avail. He doesn't have anymore relevance in the plot beyond the prologue, not appearing again except in a short supporting role, as the X-Men are the real focus of the story.
* ''ComicBook/{{Reborn}}'' opens with Harry Black being murdered by a crazed shooter and his soul being transported to a fantasy afterlife realm where he and others fight against the forces of darkness. The focus then immediately changes to his widow Bonnie, who is the comic's actual protagonist.
* ''ComicBook/{{Uber}}'': Patrick O'Connor has all the markings of TheHero, being a [[AllAmericanFace brave American soldier]] that volunteers for the process to become a {{super soldier}} and fight against the Nazis just like ComicBook/CaptainAmerica. He then goes up against [[DarkActionGirl Sieglinde]] and gets killed in the most horrible manner imaginable. Due to the AnyoneCanDie nature of the story, no character whom the audience may feel like is the protagonist seems safe.
* The 2016 ''Comicbook/{{Venom}}'' series opens with a former soldier named Lee Price becoming the new Venom after encountering the symbiote. Lee serves as the protagonist for the first arc, after which he is arrested and stripped of the symbiote, who remerges with Eddie Brock.
* ''ComicBook/{{Bloodquest}}'' has a particularly tragic and brutal example of this trope: Leonatos is the leader of the Blood Angels' squad on a quest to retrieve their chapter's relic after it was lost. He pulls a HeroicSacrifice to save the last two remaining members of their group so they could return the relic while he stood behind in the Daemon World to make his last stand. The two survivors - Lysander and Cloten - become the new protagonists and embark on a quest to rescue Leonatos... Who is revealed to have been possessed and [[FallenHero turned to Chaos]].
* ''ComicBook/{{Raptors}}'': Vicky Lenore is the actual protagonist, but Drago and Camilla are featured on all the covers and are basically a SpotlightStealingSquad.
* ''ComicBook/GreenArrow'' has a unique case for its second volume that began in 2001. For most of the first storyarc, "Quiver," the reader is following the newly resurrected Green Arrow, but with a large chunk of his memory removed, as he doesn't remember anything since his "Hard Traveling Heroes" period with ComicBook/GreenLantern. As it turns out, we've only been following Oliver's SoullessShell, while his soul elected to remain in the afterlife. It isn't until "Quiver's" final chapter where Oliver's soul returns to his body and he's truly back in both mind and body.
* Creator/GrantMorrison's ''ComicBook/SevenSoldiers'' series begins with a member of the original Seven Soldiers, the Vigilante, forming a new team consisting of himself, a new Whip, Gimmix, Boy Blue, Dyno-Mite Dan, and I, Spyder (a seventh member "got cold feet"). They all die at the end of their issue, paving the way for the ''real'' protagonists: Shining Knight, the Guardian, Zatanna, Klarion, Mister Miracle, Bulleteer, and Frankenstein.
* The first issue of the Peter Milligan / Mike Allred era of ''ComicBook/XForce'' introduced an entirely new cast of characters, with the main [=PoV=] character being the team's leader Zeitgeist. All but two of the team were then violently killed off at the end of the issue, including Zeitgeist, establishing the AnyoneCanDie dynamic that the run would have.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
%%* Used in ''FanFic/FairlyEnglishStory''.
* In ''FanFic/SeventyTwoHours'', Nick Savini and Tamyra Carpenter are set up as the protagonists and main couple...up until the fourth chapter, where Nick unwittingly blows himself up and Tamyra gets shot in the heart.
* Marty in ''FanFic/NoAntidote''. He's only really there to tie the Pokemon in his team (including the real protagonist, Bulbasaur) together.
* Connor Russell in [[Franchise/TheSlenderManMythos the Slender Man fic]] ''Fanfic/ByTheFiresLight'' starts as our first viewpoint protagonist, but dies in short order. He ends up being replaced by Detective Carl Rourke and Mira Grolinsky.
* Broddigan "Longbow" Quarles from ''Fanfic/WhatLiesBeyondTheWalls'' is set up as being the story's main viewpoint character, and there's even a good chunk of information given about his background. Then a weasel comes by and [[SlashedThroat slices his neck open while he's sleeping]] before the first chapter's even ''one-third'' of the way finished.
* ''FanFic/TheEndOfEnds'' focuses on Beast Boy for a while before he runs away and gets killed. Then it focuses on the Titans and Doom Patrol in their fight against Count Logan [[spoiler:who, to hardly anyone's surprise, is actually Beast Boy]].
* There is an entire community of ''Literature/HarryPotter'' fanfic authors out there who believe that ''Harry Potter himself'' is actually the DecoyProtagonist of the series, and that the True Hero of the story is Hermione Granger. They refer to Harry as a "front kick" (that is, a sidekick who is presented as the hero), and are huge fans of the RonTheDeathEater trope, usually making Ron Weasley either stupid, evil or stupidly evil.
* [[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10303398/1/The-91st-Annual-Hunger-Games The 91st Annual Hunger Games]] does this. Initially it opens up focusing on [[OriginalCharacter Wesley Togsiala]], before Act 2 opens up and the POV suddenly shifts to his sister Aveline. Given the nature of the Hunger Games, it's no mystery as to why this happens.
* ''Fanfic/PokemonStorySinnohJourney'': Dawn is the focus character for the first couple of characters. Then, the focus suddenly shifts to Aaron. Ash gets a little bit in his three-part battle with Aaron. All in all, the story spends more time developing time Aaron and then Ian. If that disappoints you, the sequel should help.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* The first few minutes of ''Animation/DelhiSafari'' follow Sultan and his family of leopards. But he's killed off very quickly by hunters, which triggers the real protagonists into heading to Delhi.
* A deleted opening for ''Disney/AtlantisTheLostEmpire'' was actually going to make a team of [[HornyVikings Vikings]] the main characters of the movie. Cue [[KrakenAndLeviathan the Leviathan]] sinking their ship, killing said Vikings, and causing the Shepherd's Journal to float away into the Atlantic Ocean...
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirlsRainbowRocks'' appeared to have Twilight Sparkle as the focus, both for the film's [[TrailersAlwaysLie promotional material]] and in-universe to other characters. However, the film ultimately follows [[HeelFaceTurn Sunset]] [[TheAtoner Shimmer]], who saves the day in the end. Sunset would go on to be the focal point character for the remainder of the ''[[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirls Equestria Girls]]'' franchise. This is joked about in the film's commentary, where the writer notes that earlier drafts gave Sunset little importance, before she realized Sunset's character arc would be more interesting than a standard "Twilight saves the day" story.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* The TropeCodifier (if not the TropeMaker) and easily the most famous example is ''Film/{{Psycho}}''. Marion Crane is set up as the main character through the first half of the film. Then [[ItWasHisSled she takes a shower]]. She's the reason Hitchcock asked for a "no late admission" policy, as he thought that if people entered the theater late and never saw the star actress Creator/JanetLeigh, they would feel cheated. Leigh's agent didn't want her to take the role because of how quickly the screen time ended. Leigh's response was "Ah, but who are they ''talking'' about the rest of the film?"
* ''Film/{{Hostel}}'' primarily focuses on [[spoiler: Josh, the nice, shy, virginal guy]] for most the film before killing him and revealing [[spoiler: Paxton, who'd be among the first to die in most horror movies,]] as the lead and survivor. The second movie does this for [[spoiler:Paxton]], setting him up to be the protagonist and quite possibly [[spoiler:trying to take down the organization after what he suffered in the first movie]]. Instead, he gets his head chopped off five minutes in.
* In ''Film/{{Fargo}}'', Jerry Lundegaard seems to be the main character, as would be typical for the Coen brothers' ordinary-schmuck-commits-a-crime-gone-wrong genre, until Marge Gunderson is introduced about a half hour into the film.
* ''Film/TheGodfather'': Marlon Brando had star billing and a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Vito Corleone, but he was [[spoiler:gunned down]] less than forty minutes in and spent a good deal of the rest of the film [[spoiler:lying in a hospital bed before dying of a heart attack]]. His son Michael was the [[VillainProtagonist hero]] of the film. Similarly, the second movie initially appears to be about Vito's character, but once again Michael ends up being more the protagonist and Vito eventually drops out of the narrative.
* Creator/QuentinTarantino takes this to the point of having an entire decoy ''cast'' in the ''Film/{{Grindhouse}}'' film ''Film/DeathProof''. Half of the movie focuses on a bunch of characters where they very distinctly focus on one character who just ''screams'' FinalGirl only for her and all of the characters introduced to be [[spoiler:killed off all at once.]] After that the rest of the movie focuses on a completely different bunch of characters in a completely different area, and filmed in a completely different style. It was like watching a sequel to the movie in the middle of the first one!
* In the original ''Film/{{Alien}}'' movie, Creator/SigourneyWeaver's Ripley was not played as the main protagonist. For the first half of the movie, the presumptive lead was Captain Dallas [[spoiler:AKA Victim #3]]. In fact, Sigourney Weaver was probably the least famous actor in the cast. John Hurt, the most established actor, dies first in the iconic ChestBurster scene.
* Alderson in ''Film/{{Cube}}''. The beginning of the movie shows him getting up and beginning to explore his surroundings... only to be unexpectedly [[{{Gorn}} sliced into cubes moments later.]] The movie pulls it again by making Quentin look like the heroic protective leader-type within the group before pulling a FaceHeelTurn. Worth, who initially appears to be an AntiHero, eventually steps up to be the true protector of the survivors.
* In ''Film/DeepBlueSea'', the adventurer/executive played by Creator/SamuelLJackson [[spoiler: gets bitten in half by a shark]]. And later,[[spoiler: Saffron Burrows who got billing as the lead character, is the only character on the cover and posters and looking like the presumed Final Girl... gets eaten. It wasn't written that way, but the test audiences felt she shouldn't survive after causing that much death.]]
* Sarge in the ''Film/{{Doom}}'' movie [[spoiler: has a psychotic break and later (for unrelated reasons) turns into a demon. He even lampshades this when he is caught by the demons and shouts out "I'm not supposed to die!", because he assumed he was the main character.]].
* ''Franchise/FridayThe13th'' franchise:
** The ''Film/FridayThe13th2009'' ContinuityReboot has a group of teens slaughtered by Jason in the beginning and then introduces another group of teens including obvious FinalGirl Jenna. Jenna is the Decoy Protagonist and is abruptly killed off twenty minutes before the end. The actual FinalGirl is Whitney, one of the girls from the first group whom Jason took alive.
** Rob Dier in ''Film/FridayThe13thTheFinalChapter'', who we were led to believe was going to be the [[BigDamnHeroes Big Damn Hero]], only for him to die a pretty anticlimactic death.
---> '''Rob:''' [[{{Narm}} He's killing me! He's killing me! Oh God, he's killing me!]]
* The first ''Film/{{Feast}}'' movie has the characters named "Hero" (''Life Expectancy: Pretty Good. Occupation: Kicking Ass'') and "Heroine" (''Occupation: Wear tanktops, tote shotgun, save day. LIFE EXPECTANCY: Hopefully Better Than The Last Hero'') both end up dying, the former a few minutes after being introduced. The second Heroine (''Occupation: Career waitress, single mom. Life Expectancy: Expects nothing from life.'' upgraded to ''Occupation: Heroine #2. Life Expectancy: Let's hope for the best'') is the one to make it through, even [[DeathOfAChild after her son is eaten]]. Needless to say, this movie loves [[SubvertedTrope subverting]] the SortingAlgorithmOfMortality.
* Jim Ogilvie in the first of ''Film/TheStepfather'' films. He spends most of the film looking for his sister's killer and in the end, when he does finally find the stepfather, he's [[spoiler: knifed in the stomach before he can even pull his gun out.]]
* One may think that Creator/ClintEastwood's Monco is the main protagonist of ''Film/ForAFewDollarsMore'', just like in ''Film/AFistfulOfDollars'', but it is really more about [[Creator/LeeVanCleef Colonel Mortimer]]'s personal quest for revenge.
** While the Man With No Name played a key role in ''Film/TheGoodTheBadAndTheUgly'', the film is Tuco's story, not his.
* Lucius Hunt is clearly the protagonist of ''Film/TheVillage'', right up until he is stabbed viciously and his blind girlfriend Ivy must make the journey to rescue him that takes up the rest of the film. Notably, this is the only plot twist in the film that isn't telegraphed very early on and actually feels twisty as a result.
* In ''Film/AnnabelleCreation'', it looks like the movie focuses on Janice. [[spoiler: Until she gets possesed by the demon in the end of the first half of the film, becoming the antagonist, and the movie goes on to focus on Linda instead.]]
* In the Brazilian film The Trace We Leave Behind, João is set up as the main character. [[spoiler: At least until about three fourths in, when he's killed off and his wife takes over as the main character.]]
* A rare third-act POV switch in ''Film/DeathBecomesHer'': Bruce Willis's character takes over as the protagonist, leaving the previous main characters played by Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn sidelined until the movie's coda.
* Happens in a few of ''Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet'' films:
** In [[Film/ANightmareOnElmStreet1984 the first movie]] we're introduced to Freddy through Tina Grey's dreams, hearing about Tina's fears in regards to the nightmares, and generally being led to believe that this movie will be about Tina's escape from Freddy. And then Tina becomes Freddy's very first victim, and focus soon shifts to Nancy, the true main character of the film.
** [[Film/ANightmareOnElmStreet4TheDreamMaster Part four]] starts out focusing on Kristen, the protagonist of [[Film/ANightmareOnElmStreet3DreamWarriors the previous film]], but she is rather quickly killed off and focus completely shifts to her schoolmate Alice. In her debut film, the focus quickly shifts to Nancy, TheHero of the first film. [[spoiler:While Nancy does get killed off, it happens at the end of the movie.]]
** In ''Film/FreddysDeadTheFinalNightmare'' the apparent main character confronts Freddy, telling him [[spoiler:that he knows that he's his son.]] He promptly learns, [[spoiler: the hard way, that Freddy had a daughter.]]
** The [[Film/ANightmareOnElmStreet2010 2010 remake]] employs a use of this trope. [[spoiler: Kris]] is actually the second victim but most of the first twenty minutes focus on her and the actual heroine, though already introduced only becomes important after [[spoiler: Kris]] is killed. This works significantly less well considering the real heroine [[spoiler: Nancy]] shares the same name as the original's heroine
* ''Franchise/{{Scream}}'':
** In another Wes Craven film, the trailer for the first ''Film/{{Scream|1996}}'' movie had audiences assuming that Drew Barrymore's character Casey was a main character. [[spoiler:She's killed in the first ten minutes.]]
** Played with in ''Film/{{Scream 4}}''. [[Creator/EmmaRoberts Jill]] is set up as an {{Expy}} of her cousin Sidney, her actions mirroring those of Sidney in the first film, and everything seems to be on the way for her to become the FinalGirl. [[spoiler:Turns out she's the killer.]]
* ''Film/APerfectGetaway''. The seeming main characters are [[spoiler:not only ''not'' the protagonists, they turn out to be the ''villains''. The actual protagonists]] only show up twenty to thirty minutes into the film.
* ''The Spectre Of Freedom'' by [[Creator/LuisBunuel Luis Buñuel]] does this repeatedly. (If you can call the characters protagonists in the first place...)
* Ilios from Lucio Fulci's ''Conquest'' is TheChosenOne, possesses one of the few bows in the film's world, and is on TheQuest. He tends to screw up and gets rescued by his sidekick, Maxz. And then [[spoiler:the minions of the BigBad kill him and Maxz takes up his bow, completing the quest]].
* During the first 1/2 hour of ''Film/TheBoysFromBrazil'', it seems pretty clear that Barry (Steve Guttenberg) is the main character. Then he has a run in with some Nazis...
* The slasher flick/cop movie ''Film/ManiacCop2'' focuses largely on the two survivors of the previous film, who get killed before the film is halfway through.
* The opening scene of ''Film/TheHurtLocker'' focuses on Thompson, played by Guy Pearce, who seems to be the hero until he dies and gets replaced with the real main character.
* Unless you had seen the poster or trailer for the first ''Film/BringItOn'' movie, the opening sequence would lead you to believe that [[spoiler:Big Red]] is the main character. Then, mid-song, the focus shifts to [[spoiler:Torrance]]. Granted, [[spoiler:Torrance]] is there in the first part of the song too, but she's off to the side or in the background. No one dies, but it otherwise fits this trope.
* [[spoiler:Aziz]] in ''Film/AnAmericanCarol''. [[spoiler:He doesn't die, but it is Michael]] who is the actual hero. Interestingly, [[spoiler:Aziz is portrayed as a VillainProtagonist. Michael effectively replaces him, but is portrayed as a well-meaning, dim-witted ActionSurvivor]].
* ''Film/{{Mindhunters}}'': [[spoiler:Christian Slater's character]] gets killed first.
* At the end of ''Film/SuckerPunch'', the protagonist Baby Doll has a revelation that [[spoiler:the movie isn't actually her story at all, but actually Sweet Pea's. She sacrifices her own freedom for Sweet Pea once she realizes she was only ever meant to be the catalyst for Sweet Pea's escape from the mental asylum]]. [[spoiler:Unless you view the movie as a nested series of traumatic dissociation within Baby Doll's own mind, in which case all the other girls we see in the Burlesque and High Fantasy scenes are fractured aspects of her consciousness, which kinda changes the entire meaning of the film.]]
* The horror movie ''Scarecrow 2'' started off with an older farmer telling a flashbacked story about how the titular monster murdered his father when he was a kid to a reporter. It sets up as if he's (one of) the main protagonist(s), but he's chopped up by the scarecrow to the point of LudicrousGibs while handcuffed to a hospital bed within 20 minutes of the opening credits.
* Watch the first hour of ''Film/TheReturn2003'', and it's pretty clear that Ivan is the main character. Watch the final 20 minutes, and it's pretty clear that Andrei has taken over the role. According to WordOfGod, Andrei was the main character for the entire movie, but was metaphorically "hidden in the shadows" up until that point.
* In ''Film/{{Blindness}}'', it might appear at first the movie's main character would be the Japanese man, or the Doctor, but after a while it is made clear that the Doctor's Wife is the real main character of the story.
* In ''One Day'', given that the movie, at first, appears to focus primarily on Emma, she appears to be the protagonist. However, with about fifteen minutes of the film to go, [[spoiler:she gets hit by a truck and dies]], completely transferring the focus to Dexter.
* ''Film/FogOverFrisco'': It comes as a surprise when Arlene, the FemmeFatale thief who seems to be the central character, disappears barely halfway through, and eventually turns out to have been murdered. The main characters after that are her stepsister Val and Val's boyfriend Tony, as they first try to find her and then try to figure out who killed her. The fact that the actress who played Arline, Creator/BetteDavis became a much bigger star than anyone else in the movie, makes it even more surprising for a latter-day viewer. (Davis followed this film with her StarMakingRole in ''Literature/OfHumanBondage''.)
* A superhero appears at the beginning of ''Film/KickAss'', prepared to make the dive of a skyscraper. He's hailed by a bad-ass soundtrack and the voice-over about superheroes. [[spoiler: He dies from the fall. And the movie moves on. Turns out he was just some random crazy person.]]
* Mike from ''Film/KillerKlownsFromOuterSpace''. He survives the whole movie, but his role as TheHero is usurped early on by Dave the policeman, who becomes the only character in the entire film to kill any of the klowns, and he never gets it back.
* Done surprisingly well in UsefulNotes/{{Bollywood}} movie ''Dum Maaro Dum'' where the whole movie focuses on ACP Vishnu Kamath((Abhishek Bachchan)'s attempts to root out the drug traffickers. He suddenly gets killed by a corrupt cop about 3/4th into the movie and a supporting character DJ Joki(played by debutante Rana Daggubati) assumes the lead role and ends up foiling the BigBad's plan
* The ''Franchise/{{Halloween}}'' franchise.
** Although Jamie is clearly the main protagonist in ''Film/Halloween5TheRevengeOfMichaelMyers'', we're led to believe that [[spoiler:Rachel]] will once again be at her side for the duration. She's one of the earliest victims in the film. Then, the annoying girl who you'd expect to die first [[spoiler:(Tina)]] ends up outliving her friends (bar Jamie).
** ''Film/HalloweenTheCurseOfMichaelMyers'': [[spoiler:Jamie herself. She is killed very early on in the movie]].
** [[spoiler:Laurie Strode]] in ''Film/HalloweenResurrection''. [[spoiler:After being the main protagonist in 3 films, she's the first victim in the final outing.]]
* The President's daughter from ''[[Film/SpyKids Spy Kids 2]]'', whose prologue made the film look like if it was actually about her and her adventures at an amusement park full of wacky CGI rides.
* Creator/ViggoMortensen's character in ''Film/{{Daylight}}'', an adventurer who becomes the de-facto leader of the survivors, is killed while trying to look for an exit of the collapsed tunnel, coincidentally just as Creator/SylvesterStallone's character arrives.
* ''Franchise/StarWars'':
** With ''Film/ANewHope'', Luke Skywalker doesn't appear until around 20 minutes in. C-3PO and R2-D2 are the focus of the movie until then.
** [[spoiler: Finn is made out to be the de facto hero in ''Film/TheForceAwakens'' trailers and marketing, what with him wielding Anakin's lightsaber and all. While he does get a lot of focus, he ultimately takes on the role of the Deuteragonist, with Rey who is ultimately the Hero. While Finn does use the lightsaber, he's pretty clumsy with it and is nearly killed by Kylo Ren when they duel at the climax of the film, with Rey ultimately felling him. In fact, Maz gave the lightsaber to Finn so he could give it to Rey, as she initially rejected it after a series of terrifying visions which implied that becoming a Jedi was her destiny. It's entirely possible that Finn is Force sensitive like the marketing implies, though it's never explicitly stated in the film itself that he is.]]
* ''Silver Tongues'' opens with Rachel and Alex, a newly married and already fraying young couple on their tense honeymoon. A few minutes in they run into a couple in their 40s and have dinner with them. [[spoiler: The older couple turn out to be con artists who trick Rachel and Alex into believing they are swingers, manipulate the frustrations the younger couple have and leave the newlyweds with a seemingly broken marriage. The plot then sticks with the con artists as they run into other people - Rachel and Alex are never seen or mentioned again after the first act.]]
* In ''Film/BramStokersDracula'', Jonathan Harker appears to be the heroic protagonist for the first quarter until the focus shifts to his fiancee Mina for the rest of the film and Jonathan fades into the background as a supporting character. [[spoiler:Mina is even the one who vanquishes Dracula in the end.]]
* ''Film/TheImaginariumOfDoctorParnassus'' starts with Anton as the protagonist at the film's beginning. Then it's Tony in the middle of the film. The ending makes it clear that the film's protagonist all along was [[spoiler: Parnassus himself]].
* The cop at the start of ''Film/{{Ultraviolet}}'' looks like the typical BigBrotherIsEmployingYou hero. He goes on about the harshness against hemophages and believes the whole thing is just a witch hunt. Then, he gets infected and his partner shoots him dead.
* In ''Film/ByTheSword'', in the first half, we seem to focus more on students Erin Clavelli and Jim Trebor and their romance at the fencing school. About halfway through, they become more background characters and shown as differences in teaching styles between the real main characters, Max Suba and Alexander Villard.
* ''Creator/MarilynMonroe'' gets top billing in ''Film/{{Niagara}}'' but not only is she the villain, [[spoiler:she dies halfway through!]]
* ''Franchise/EvilDead'':
** ''Film/TheEvilDead1981'' clearly sets up Scott to be the likeliest to the survive the story. As the story continues, he's the one who is continuously doing things, trying to save the rest of the group's lives, and eventually decides to go get help, only for the camera's focus to shift to Ash, the character whose defining moment up until this point had been getting trapped under a bookshelf. [[spoiler: Scott makes it back...but not in one piece]]
** ''Film/EvilDead2013'' Reboot sets up David as the group leader and protagonist. He leads the group, and takes charge. [[spoiler: The shift occurs when Mia changes from the dead to the living, and David is killed.]]
* ''Grave of the Vampire'' starts off with a vampire attacking a young couple (killing the man, raping the woman). A police detective, after hearing the woman's story, goes to the cemetery. So far, so good. It doesn't end well for him.
* In ''Film/{{Chronicle}}'', Andrew is the primary character for the first half of the film. [[spoiler: However, the focus shifts to Matt when Andrew starts to [[DrunkOnTheDarkSide abuse his powers]] and [[JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope go further off the deep-end]]]].
* Rare antagonist example in ''Film/GIJoeTheRiseOfCobra''. A lot of fans familiar with [[Franchise/GIJoe the mythology]] expected the Doctor to actually be the ''Rise of Cobra'' version of Doctor Mindbender. Only at the end, was it revealed [[spoiler: that the Doctor is actually Cobra Commander.]]
* ''Film/CitizenKane'' is a double subversion. Even though Kane is the title character, he's actually the person we learn about through multiple third-person perspectives of him, [[ItWasHisSled since he died at the beginning.]] The real protagonist is Jerry Thompson, whose goal throughout the film is to find out what "Rosebud" meant.
* ''Film/SevenSamurai'' first focuses on a bunch of peasants before shifting to the samurai. The peasants continue to play an important part, including in fighting and defeating the bandits (and the ones who go out in search of samurai at the beginning are shown to have stories of their own, in particular Rikichi), and Kambei at the end of the movies states that the peasants are the real winners.
* In ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'', [[spoiler:it's actually Spock who defeats Khan, not Kirk. The movie focuses on Spock's growth as a character through Kirk's actions. Unlike most cases though, Kirk doesn't stay dead]].
* Contrary to what the advertising for ''Film/NowYouSeeMe'' suggests, the Four Horsemen aren't the leads, Agent Dylan Rhodes is, though they (and Thaddeus Bradley, for that matter) are {{Deuteragonist}}s. [[spoiler: Taken to a new level when you learn that Dylan is the fifth Horseman.]]
* ''Film/ThePlaceBeyondThePines'': The film follows Luke for the first hour of the film, [[spoiler:until he's killed. The film then follows the police officer who kills him and then Luke's son fifteen years later. There is no real main character]].
* ''Film/ExecutiveDecision'': With ''Creator/StevenSeagal'' being prominently featured in the trailer, and receiving co-billing alongside his two big co-stars, you would expect that Seagal's character, as usual, is the hero of the film. [[spoiler: He dies at the end of the first act.]]
* The first half of ''Film/DressedToKill'' follows Kate ... until she gets killed.
* ''Film/TheOne'' starts showing Lawless, played by Creator/JetLi. Naturally, people assume that he's either the hero or the villain, as the trailers claimed that Jet Li is ActingForTwo. Lawless is killed by the real villain Yulaw a few minutes into the film, the latest in the long line of doubles he's already killed.
* ''Film/WhatHaveYouDoneToSolange'' has Elizabeth as the FinalGirl until she gets killed viciously midway through the movie. An especially well-done example of the trope as it comes out of nowhere.
* In ''Film/SouthlandTales'', the final minutes reveal that the character of Boxer Santaros was the false messiah - the primer being the Taverner brothers.
* In highly realistic UsefulNotes/{{Bollywood}} film Bollywood/{{Parinda}}, Karan is the hero who is our introduction into the CrapsackWorld of Mumbai gangland where his brother is a {{Mook}} for the BigBad. Then, [[spoiler: Karan and his wife get murdered brutally and his brother performs a HeelFaceTurn and avenges his death.]]
%% * Steven Seagal in ''Film/ExecutiveDecision''.
%% * Paul Taylor in ''Film/TheBlob1988''
* Both Tom and Jerry in ''WesternAnimation/TomAndJerryTheMovie''. Their [[HumanFocusedAdaptation new human friend]] Robyn Starling is the actual main character.
%% * Detectives [[Wrestling/DwayneJohnson Danson]] and [[Creator/SamuelLJackson Highsmith]] in ''Film/TheOtherGuys''
* In ''Film/ParanormalActivityTheMarkedOnes'', Jesse is the protagonist at first. The movie opens with him getting a camcorder for his high school graduation present. [[spoiler: After he fully gets possessed by the demon, his best friend Hector takes over the protagonist role, and the second half of the film shows him trying to save Jesse from the covenant of witches that 'marked' and chose him.]]
* Though Joseph Brody is given a lot of development early on in ''Film/{{Godzilla 2014}}'', his son is TheHero of the story as far as human characters go.
* ''Film/XMenDaysOfFuturePast'':
** Even though WolverinePublicity is in full effect, Charles is the true protagonist of the film. [[spoiler: Wolverine even gets taken out before the climax.]]
** [[spoiler:Mystique]] is presented as a villain throughout the movie, but her motivations (to kill the man who tortured and murdered her friends) are heroic, and she's the one who saves the day and stops [[spoiler:Magneto]] at the end.
* ''Film/FallingDown'': It seems like the story's main character is Bill Foster and Prendergast is a HeroAntagonist, but as the movie progresses and Foster [[ProtagonistJourneyToVillain becomes increasingly villainous]] they switch roles as well.
* ''Film/RiseOfThePlanetOfTheApes'': Despite Creator/JamesFranco getting top billing for the movie, the chimpanzee, Caesar, is the true hero of the story. By ''Film/DawnOfThePlanetOfTheApes'', Creator/AndySerkis, who does the motion capture for Caesar, got top billing.
* In ''Film/FrightNight2011'' [[spoiler: Ed]] is actually the focal character for the first 20 minutes, as he's the only one to realize that Jerry is a vampire and does his best to stop him. Then [[spoiler: he gets bitten and turned into a vampire by Jerry,]] and the film immediately switches all its focus on to [[spoiler: Charlie]] who only appeared briefly in the first act. Anyone who's seen the original film will quickly figure the twist out, especially since the characters have the same names that they do in the remake.
* ''Film/TuckerAndDaleVsEvil'' initially looks like it's going to be a HillbillyHorrors movie told from the perspectives of a group of preppy college kids who get on the wrong side of a pair of sinister hillbillies while partying in West Virginia. It then rewinds the first scene to show us how it happened from the point-of-view of the hillbillies, revealing them to be the titular Tucker and Dale, a pair of well-meaning and friendly types merely intending to fix up a dilapidated old shack to use as a holiday home. We then follow the movie from their perspective as the college kids, now revealed to be mostly a bunch of smug jerks still labouring under the [[WrongGenreSavvy mistaken impression that they actually are facing]] HillbillyHorrors, end up killing themselves in all sorts of creative ways as a result.
* "Safe Haven" from the anthology ''Film/VHS2'' seems to follow the producer of the film crew until he is killed by the ApocalypseCult early on, at which point Adam becomes the new POV.
* ''Film/RunawayJury'' starts off following a man who is killed in an event that drives the rest of the plot.
* ''At The Devil's Door'' initially follows a lonely real estate agent who is tasked with selling a foreclosed home inhabited by an evil demon, which seeks to impregnate a young woman with a spawn. When it's revealed that the agent is infertile and she comes face to face with the entity, she is killed off and her younger (fertile) sister becomes the protagonist when the demon picks her to carry its offspring.
* Boris in ''Film/TheCranesAreFlying''. He seems to be the protagonist but dies half-way through the movie.
* ''Film/ThingsChange'' uses this briefly: the opening credits are mandolin music, and the film opens on a [[SourceMusic man playing the mandolin]]. He adjusts the tune, tries it some more, trades the mandolin for another mandolin, plays another tune, and brings it to a cash register to purchase. Along the way, he passes by two mobsters who are spying on the real protagonist. The mandolin player is never seen again.
* The Satanic B-movie ''The Devil's Rain'' stars ''Creator/WilliamShatner'', but his character gets possessed and turns into a minion halfway through the film.
* A deleted scene from ''Film/ThisIsSpinalTap'' has bassist Derek Smalls showing a clip from a cheap Italian action film he acted in. He gets an impressive amount of screen time, playing the sniper in an extended assassination set-up. In the end, he is unceremoniously shot, and he must [[ConversationalTroping admit]] that his killer is the real protagonist.
* ''Film/NoCountryForOldMen'': Llewelyn Moss gets the attention for the first 2/3rds of the film, then is unceremoniously KilledOffScreen by a group of Mexican bounty hunters who had been treated as little more than cannon fodder previously. Sheriff Bell is the real protagonist, and delivers both the opening and closing monologues. The story is about an old man not adapting to the reality of the brutal environment he works in.
* In ''Film/{{Purgatory}}'', it looks like Blackjack and his gang of outlaws are going to be the {{Villain Protagonist}}s of the movie, and the early scenes focus on them exclusively. However, this all changes once they arrive in Refuge.
* In the 1970 Spanish slasher film ''The House that Screamed'', Teresa is the new girl at a boarding school where there are some strange things going on, including girls mysteriously disappearing. Teresa has all the hallmarks of a FinalGirl (despite the movie well predating the films that would be the {{Trope Codifier}}s of the concept). [[spoiler:But about two-thirds of the way through the movie, she is murdered, and the focus shifts to Irene, who had been a ''villain'' up to that point. [[DownerEnding She doesn't survive, either.]]]]
* ''Film/HorrorOfDracula'', the film begins as the same of the book, with Harker coming to Castle Dracula to discuss with Dracula some property in England to move to. [[spoiler: Then it's revealed that he's really a vampire hunter sent there to kill Dracula while under the guise of a realtor. However he gets bitten by Dracula's bride and, while he manages to stake her, takes too long to do so to Drac before the sun sets, allowing Dracula to wake who quickly kills and turns him. Helsing later comes looking for Harker, finds his undead body and stakes him, effectively taking over as the main protagonist.]]
* ''Film/TheBridesOfDracula'', Marianne looks to be the main character but halfway into the film, Helsing soon takes over. Though Marianne manages to ''narrowly'' survive the events of the movie.
* The 1973 version of Dracula (aka Dan Curtis Dracula) likewise started with Harker as the protagonist and coming to Castle Dracula. [[spoiler: Though unlike ''Horror of Dracula'', he has no ulterior motives and just an unlucky visitor. He likwise dies in this version (this time by the brides) and comes back as a vampire at the end of the movie. Oddly it's more Arthur who's the hero of this movie.]]
* ''Film/SavingPrivateRyan'' sets up TheSquad in the opening battle at Omaha by cutting between the faces of several men in the landing boat, with Captain Miller shouting out orders and a RousingSpeech. Then [[DarkerAndEdgier to show this isn't one of your dad's classic war films]], all of these men save Miller either are immediately riddled with bullets when the door goes down, or they jump over the side and drown because their gear weighs them down. The ''real'' squad make appearances during the battle, trying to stay alive - they only get folded together after the battle.
* In the 2017 remake of ''Film/{{Flatliners}}, Creator/EllenPage is the biggest name in the main cast, and her character serves as the leader and catalyst of the flatlining experiments. However, she dies halfway through the film, leading the rest of the cast to figure out how to handle the repercussions of the experiments.
* ''Film/NorthwestPassage'' sets up Towne and Marriner to be the main characters. However, the film actually focuses on Major Rogers, played by Creator/SpencerTracy.
* ''Film/TheHiddenFortress'' has Tahei and Matashichi as the protagonists of the film, and while they continually drive the film, the focus is on General Makabe and Princess Yuki.
* ''Film/IrreconcilableDifferences'': Casey kicks off the plot by suing her parents, but she's a side character for most of the movie. Most of the focus is on her parents, especially her father.
* ''Film/AQuietPlace'': The film's marketing strongly emphasized the family patriarch Lee Abbott as the hero of the film, especially given the fact that he is played by [[Creator/JohnKrasinski the director]]. Around three quarters in, however, [[spoiler:he takes a mortal wound from a monster and sacrifices himself to draw it away from his teenage daughter Regan; it is she who is the true hero of the story, and is the one who figures out how to defeat the monsters]].

* In Thomas Sniegoski's ''The Fallen'', the first few pages revolve around a high school kid experiencing a bout of HeroicBSOD due to the fact that he's just gained superpowers and can now talk to animals. He's obviously the protagonist, right? Wrong. [[OurAngelsAreDifferent He gets torched by the big bad]] and is [[ButForMeItWasTuesday never mentioned again]].
* ''Literature/BraveNewWorld'' features perhaps one of the most iconic examples of this: we are initially led to believe the protagonist of the story is Bernard Marx, as the novel focuses on him being a misfit in the World State and his questioning of its ideals. Then, as soon as Bernard and Lenina arrive at the Savage reservation, we are introduced to John the Savage and the novel focuses more and more on John while Bernard fades into the background.
* ''Literature/TheDiamondAge'' by Creator/NealStephenson features a particularly spiteful example: as the book begins, we're introduced to a thuggish cyberpunk protagonist straight out of the low-rent sci-fi movies of the late Eighties, complete with spiffy black leather clothes, skull-mounted nanotech weapons, and life of petty crime. Within a hundred pages he's been [[spoiler: gruesomely executed for armed robbery]], and his neglected four-year-old daughter turns out to be the book's ''real'' heroine.
* Literature/BattleRoyale tries to fool readers, [[spoiler: making them think that Shinji Mimura will be the hero. He dies, and Shuya is obviously the hero after that point]]
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' is a poster child for this trope, due to extensive use of AnyoneCanDie:
** Each and every prologue is told from the point of view of a character who turns out to be a SacrificialLamb. The trope really only applies to the first book, because by the second book the reader will have figured out the pattern and not expect the character to survive.
** The main act is Eddard Stark, the Lord of Winterfell and leader of the protagonist-heavy Stark family. While we see many points of view, the main action of the story centers around Lord Eddard; he gets loads of character development, hints at a fascinating past, the works. [[spoiler:And then the Lannisters chop his head off before the first book even ends]].
** Viserys Targaryen is a Decoy Antagonist. As the abusive and insane scion of a royal line deposed by our decoy protagonist, he looks like the main villain of the series, but he dies about halfway through the first book.
* Played straight in Ben Bova's ''Moonrise.'' The first half of the book has playboy astronaut Paul Stavenger as the main character, only to have him die about half way through. Following a TimeSkip, Paul's less interesting and MartyStu-esque son assumes the role of protagonist.
* Veil Sixclaw in ''[[Literature/{{Redwall}} Outcast of Redwall]]''. The book's description talks about nothing but him and doesn't even mention the real protagonist. He's even on the front cover. So naturally, one would assume the story centers around him. [[CoversAlwaysLie It doesn't.]] Veil ''doesn't even exist'' in Part 1 of the story and he's a {{Jerkass}} in Part 2 ([[LaserGuidedKarma and gets banished for what he does]]). By Part 3 his subplot (which should've been ''the main plot'') [[TrappedByMountainLions wasn't necessary to keep the book going]], and at the end of the story [[spoiler: he does a random "heroic" [[HeroicSacrifice sacrifice]] [[AssPull for reasons not fully explained]] and dies]].
* ''Literature/MarcusDidiusFalco'':
** In the first ''Literature/MarcusDidiusFalco'' novel, the spirited young noblewoman who encounters Falco, Sosia, seems to be the second protagonist, but then she's [[spoiler:murdered]]. The actual second major character and Falco's love interest is [[spoiler: her cousin, Helena]].
** ''The Course Of Honour'' appears to be Caenis' story, but in reality, it's the story of the rise of Vespasian, seen through Caenis' eyes.
* Highly pronounced in Susanna Clarke's ''Literature/JonathanStrangeAndMrNorrell,'' where the titular Jonathan Strange is not introduced for 250 pages, before proceeding to gobble up most of the spotlight.
* ''Literature/TheCavaliersSeries'' Oxford Blood opens with Stephanie French, social climber extraordinaire, attending the Cavaliers Summer Party and having Archie, the heir to a dukedom declare his love for her. And then Archie is turned into a vampire and kills her to complete his transformation. From then on, the action skips a year and focuses on Harriet, Stephanie’s cousin. Although [[spoiler: Stephanie continues to have a major influence on the story, most notably by being the major motivation for Archie’s murder spree]].
* China Mieville's ''Un Lun Dun'' starts with two girls as protagonists, of which Zanna is presumed to be TheChosenOne, according to a prophecy, and Deeba seems to be her CowardlySidekick. Then, [[ScrewDestiny prophecy doesn't come true]], Zanna is kicked off the story, and Deeba takes the limelight.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' has a few:
** Though he doesn't die, in ''Discworld/GuardsGuards'' quite a few pages are spent making it look like Carrot is going to be the main character of the story, having all the traits of the classical hero, before Sam Vimes takes over as protagonist, not just of the book, but of the City Watch series. This was how it was intended to be, before Creator/TerryPratchett realised Vimes had more character and switched protagonists.
** In the second book, ''Discworld/TheLightFantastic'', [[spoiler:the story's {{Deuteragonist}} and main protagonist of the Unseen University storyline is killed off a mere quarter of the way through the book, leaving Trymon, the BigBad, unopposed at the university.]]
* ''The Zero Game'': The apparent protagonist [[RevealingCoverup is murdered]] four chapters in, with the narration switching to his friend.
* ''Franchise/{{Whoniverse}}'':
** In the ''Series/DoctorWho'' novel ''Prisoner of the Daleks'', [[spoiler: Stella]] seems like a perfect companion figure for the Doctor, but [[spoiler: she gets killed off]] by Chapter Three. This sets the DarkerAndEdgier tone for the book.
** This was also done in the Literature/DoctorWhoMissingAdventures novel ''Time of Your Life'', focusing on the Doctor's first adventure after Trial of a Time Lord. [[spoiler:Angela]] is set up as the new companion, only to get killed pretty quickly. Instead it's [[spoiler:Grant Markham]] who ends up as a companion by the novel's end.
* In the classic Greek ''Theatre/{{Antigone}}'', the titular character seems to be our main until... Well, she is a [[spoiler:TragicHero]]. Creon, the only character to have appeared in all of the Theban plays, takes the spotlight. Ergo, trope is OlderThanFeudalism.
* In ''The Night of the Generals'' (later made into a film of [[Film/TheNightOfTheGenerals the same name]]), during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, an officer of German military intelligence is investigating a series of murders of prostitutes, and comes to the conclusion that the killer is a German general. Two-thirds of the way through the book, he [[spoiler:confronts the murderer, and is killed]]. Years later, a friend of his, who had a very small role in the story before this point, [[spoiler:takes up the case and brings it to a successful conclusion]].
* Creator/JackVance's ''Literature/{{Lyonesse}}'' trilogy begins with the birth and upbringing of the spirited Princess Suldrun. At about the halfway point of book one, however, she dies. The rest of the series divides its focus amongst a number of other characters, including her lover, son and father.
* Robert Silverberg's ''The Alien Years'' begins with an alien invasion from the perspective of a resourceful pilot. He's killed in the first chapter, and the rest of the novel focuses on his brother's family.
* Orson Scott Card uses this at least a couple of times.
** In ''Xenocide'', Qing-jao is the focus of the storyline on Path. She doesn't die, [[spoiler: (she does have her OCD/godspoken-ness taken away though)]] but she's very handily displaced by Wang-mu towards the end of the book, and though Wang-mu appears as a main character in ''Children of the Mind'', Qing-jao does not.
** In ''Empire'', we meet Reuben Malich, who is basically the hero of the whole book [[spoiler: except he gets unceremoniously shot in the face about two-thirds the way through, and Cole has to finish his work.]] Bonus points for the paperback version of Empire because it happens ''right'' before a page turn.
* Card also uses it, by degrees, in ''Literature/HartsHope'', which begins centuries before the protagonist is born, with the story of a baron who overthrows his king. Orem, the hero, isn't born until roughly one-third into the 300 page novel.
* The first chapter of ''Literature/ThePhantomOfTheOpera'' novel centers around a BrainlessBeauty named La Sorelli, who is given a disproportionate amount of detail describing her physical appearance, personality, and history for someone who turns out to be one of the most insignificant characters in the book. This is particularly HilariousInHindsight considering the losses the real heroine Christine endures to her personality in adaptations, reducing her to TheIngenue who vaguely resembles La Sorelli, personality-wise.
* Andrew Phelan in ''Literature/TheTrailOfCthulhu''. It seems like he'll be something of a SupportingProtagonist or an ActionSurvivor, witnessing the bizarre goings on that may or may not be connected to his mysterious new employer, Professor Shrewsbury of Miskatonic University...but that's only for the first chapter. [[spoiler:After this, he is no longer the [=POV=] character and eventually all-but-disappears entirely. He doesn't die, though, and considering this is a Franchise/CthulhuMythos yarn, that's really saying something.]]
* Creator/ArthurMachen's short story, "The Dover Road". The first two thirds of the story stars Professor Warburton as he tries to come to grips with a bizarre phenomenon he and his colleagues have witnessed. Warburton eventually gathers up enough evidence to come up with [[AgentScully a rational-enough solution that completely satisfies him]]. The focus then turns to one of the other witnesses, [[AgentMulder Ian Tallent]], who had previously taken up all of 2-3 sentences in the story. Ian notices that Warburton's proposed solution fails to address certain aspects of the case and spends the remainder of the story doing some investigating of his own.
* Machen did this again in his novella, ''The Terror'' where he makes ''[[CreatorCameo himself]]'' the main character for the first few chapters before being demoted to mere GreekChorus.
* Biographical example in ''Literature/StrangerThanFictionTheLifeAndTimesOfSplitEnz''. Author Mike Chunn leaves the titular band in chapter nine out of sixteen, before they [[ThePeteBest even released their third album]]. Even still, he was only really a SupportingProtagonist up till that point.
* From ''Literature/TheKingdomsOfEvil'': Pon, who appears to be a Farm Boy on his way to seek his fortune. You know, before [[spoiler: he's slaughtered.]]
* Sara Douglass's ''Literature/TheWayfarerRedemption'' series takes an interesting take on this. The main protagonist of the first three volumes is Axis. Initially, it seems that his love interest is [[spoiler:Faraday]]. However, partway through the series, Axis falls in love with and marries [[spoiler:Azhure]], relegating [[spoiler:Faraday]] to a supporting role. The first half ends on an apparently final note with Axis defeating Gorgrael, after [[spoiler: Gorgrael kills Faraday and tears her body apart in a hopeless attempt to distract Axis]]. Then the second half begins with [[spoiler:Axis retired and the kingdom in the hands of his eldest son Caelum]]. The first volume strongly pushes Caelum as the main protagonist, [[spoiler:only for him to be rather unceremoniously cut down by Qeteb, turning over the reins of the series to his disgraced younger brother, [=DragonStar=].]] Oh, and [[spoiler:Faraday returns from the dead to become ''Drago's'' love-interest.]]
* Margo Smith is the hero of the first ''Literature/TimeScout'' book. Skeeter Jackson steps in for the second and carries much of the rest of the series.
* Eponymous character of NarrativePoem ''Pan Tadeusz'' (''SirThaddeus'') by Adam Mickiewicz, Tadeusz Soplica is set up to make readers belive he is the main character, but as the story progress it becomes more and more apparent that real protagonist is Preist Robak [[ForegoneConclusion also known as]] [[spoiler: infamous Jacek Soplica]].
* Shadow is technically the main character of ''Literature/AmericanGods'', in that he is the viewpoint character, but his role in the story is largely the same as that of [[Literature/AliceInWonderland Alice]]; that is to say, he watches as the plot happens around him, occasionally pausing to say, "Gosh, that's unusual," but by and large he neither actively contributes to the plot unless deliberately roped into it by someone else nor does he react as though he seriously believes he's involved. It's really Mr. Wednesday's story at the end of the day (well, [[JediTruth there's a strong argument]] that it's actually Mr. Nancy's, but he's letting Mr. Wednesday borrow it).
* Similarly, while Aly is the view-point character of the Literature/TortallUniverse's ''Literature/DaughterOfTheLioness'', she's just one of [[TheChosenMany several chosen]] creating a rebellion to put the prophesied queen on the throne; the beautiful, passionate and caring Sarai. [[spoiler: At least, so it appears for the first 2/3rds of the story, until Sarai goes off and elopes to another country, leaving her little sister to become queen.]]
* There are ''two'' of these in the ''Literature/{{Mistborn}}'' series.
** In the first book, though the main viewpoint character is [[SupportingProtagonist Vin]], the story is about Kelsier and his rebellion. [[spoiler: Then he dies and Vin takes on the main protagonist role.]]
** A variation happens in ''Hero of Ages'' when [[spoiler: Vin sacrifices herself to destroy Ruin and it turns out that Sazed is TheChosenOne, though the core thrust of the narrative is still centered around Vin.]]
* The focus in ''Literature/{{Wraeththu}}'' shifts from Pellaz who [[RagsToRoyalty becomes a king]], to Swift who [[ComingOfAgeStory grows up to defy his father]], to Cal, a side character who turns out to be the key to everything.
* While he is not a point of view character until the third book and then only part of the time Valraven in ''Literature/ChroniclesOfMagravandias'' is the true protagonist of the story. The story shifts from [[BrotherSisterIncest his sister]] to his [[PlatonicLifePartners second wife]], to [[TheChosenOne a peasant boy]], but the focus of the story is always Valraven.
* Creator/JinYong loves this trope. A majority of his WuXia novels start around an apparent protagonist, only to reveal (sometimes several chapters later) that it is not. First comes to mind should be TheSmilingProudWanderer (笑傲江湖) when the audience should be fooled to view Lin Pingzhi as the protagonist [[spoiler: while it is actually Linghu Chong]].
* In ''Literature/TheWalkingDeadRiseOfTheGovernor'', [[spoiler: the two main characters are Philip and his ineffectual brother. Philip is the name of the Governor in the comics and it seems apparent that the novel is about him. Before it ends, however, Philip is killed and Brian takes on his name. Thus, the story was about him.]]
* The original novel version of ''Literature/TheUnholyThree'' has the titular, murderous three as the main characters until the fourth or fifth chapter; afterward, the focus switches to a young man named Hector who has the misfortune of crossing paths with the three. Averted in the movie adaptation (coincidentally Creator/LonChaney Sr's only sound picture), where the focus remains on the three even after Hector is introduced.
* Cynthia Voigt's third Kingdom novel, ''The Wings of the Falcon'', pulls this. Oriel is a dashing, brave, fantastically charismatic young man who is clearly the perfect candidate to win the heart of the princess and save the Kingdom. Until, of course, he [[spoiler: dies in a duel about 3/4 of the way through the book.]] His always-in-the-background best friend, Griff, gets a rather abrupt promotion to Hero after that.
* In the first ''Literature/EmpireOfTheAnts'' book, the Ants part of the story starts from the perspective of a young male named 327, and follows him as he forms a team with female 56 and asexual warrior 103683... he is killed in the middle of the book, and his two partners take over as the main characters. And again later, 56 becomes queen and is reduced to secondary character then killed, while 103683 serves as the main character for the remaining of the trilogy.
* In the description and beginning of ''Literature/EverybodyLovesLargeChests'' the story seems to be a dungeon-diving adventure novel, until he is eaten by a dungeon mimic. Then you realize that the mimic is the real protagonist.
* Ensign Tom Davis in the opening chapter of ''Literature/{{Redshirts}}''.
* ''Literature/LesMiserables'' opens with a book detailing Bishop Myriel's life and philosophy, firmly establishing his character. Then in the second book comes bursting through his door a certain parolee named Jean Valjean...
* In ''[[Literature/HumanxCommonwealth Quofum]]'', Ersa Trellenberg is the initial viewpoint-character, and seems to have all the elements -- unique appearance and backstory, adventurous but responsible, UST with the expedition's only female crew member -- expected in a heroic protagonist. [[spoiler: Then he catches a lethal sonic blast to the forehead.]]
* ''Fade to Blue'' by Sean Beaudoin appears to have two protagonists, Kenny Fade and Sophie Blue. But later in the book, it's revealed that [[spoiler: Kenny doesn't exist. He's a virtual life that Sophie has been living.]]
%%* ''Literature/{{Reckless}}'' briefly appears this way, [[spoiler: but it's ultimately subverted.]]
* The third book in Literature/TheInheritanceTrilogy, ''The Kingdom of Gods'', plays with this; Shahar Arameri would appear to be the main character alongside the godling Sieh - she dominates the description on the jacket copy, at any rate - but she actually gets shunted aside about 260 pages in to make way for her twin brother, Dekarta. (However, the author ''did'' state that she wanted to emphasize the plot, and thus the movers and shakers of the plot, rather than the romance angle...)
* If you're a new reader of ''Foundation'', the first novel in Isaac Asimov's ''Literature/{{Foundation}}'' series, you'd be forgiven for believing that the novel centers around the chracter Gaal Dornick as he works with psychohistorian Hari Seldon. However, Foundation is a novel that takes place over hundreds of years, and the second part of the novel (which is only 40 pages in by the way,) takes place many, many years after both characters have bit the dust. Hari Seldon is the driving force of the novel, and is frequently mentioned and appears in holograms. Gaal is literally never mentioned again.
* ''Literature/JoeGolemAndTheDrowningCity'' has the opening chapter be from the perspective of Felix Orlov the magician and his experiences with dead spirits. He seems like the main character, but the second chapter shifts POV to his assistant Molly and she becomes the lead character throughout the rest of the book, whilc Felix is a LivingMacguffin.
* In ''Literature/{{Dragonvarld}}'', it initially looks like Melisande might be the main character of the trilogy — she's introduced first, she's tough enough to defy a dragon in Chapter 2, she's got a developed love interest, and she's in line to assume the position that the first book is named after (Mistress of Dragons). But then she [[spoiler:spends the rest of the first book needing to be rescued and protected by other characters, being sexually violated (twice), and then dying while giving birth to characters who'll be important in the next books.]]
* ''Literature/TheSilerianTrilogy'': Josarian, the Firebringer, is prophesied to at last free Sileria. At first he leads the struggle and seems well on his way to doing this. [[spoiler: Then he's betrayed and murdered as part of a deal to get the Valdani out, and revenge for killing Kiloran's son]]. Tanses takes up his role in the next books and serves as the main protagonist.
* At first glace, Colin Lamb appears to be the protagonist of ''Literature/TheClocks''. He's an "outsider" who gets mixed up in a peculiar murder case, and was let in the investigation thanks to his FriendOnTheForce, Inspector Hardcastle. However, Colin is actually a HeroOfAnotherStory who is using the murder investigation to find new leads for his own Intelligence work, and Hardcastle serves as the primary sleuth working on the mystery.
* In ''Literature/StrangeFruit'', Tracy Deen is not even the first viewpoint character to be introduced, but still appears to be the protagonist for many chapters, being caught at the center of a LoveTriangle and faced with a difficult decision about what to do about the pregnant girlfriend he regrets he wouldn't be allowed to marry. He makes his decision halfway through the story, and it gets him killed.
* The SeptimusHeap series focuses more on Jenna Heap rather than the titular protagonist Septimus Heap; even the summary of the first book has an inclination to her story rather than his. He was the one most sought after by the antagonists for his MagicalSeventhSon powers ([[spoiler:though these powers never really manifested in the series]]), yet she had more of a narrative focus, and in the final battle she [[spoiler:orders him not to help her fight the bad guys. She seals the evil away and is later crowned as queen, with everybody having absolute faith in her ability despite her age. He makes no protest about her telling him not to fight (despite his own desire to protect the family he was separated from since birth), doesn't comment on it later, does not fulfil a character arc and seems perfectly content with how things turned out.]]
* In ''The Rose Labyrinth'' by Titania Hardie, it initially appears that the two main characters are Lucy King, a young woman about to undergo a heart transplant, and Will Stafford, a young man travelling Europe in search of a family secret. However, several chapters in, [[spoiler: Will is mysteriously killed in a motorcycle accident,]] and it's up to [[spoiler: his]] brother Alex and [[spoiler: Lucy]] to uncover the mysteries that await.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* [[ManChild Hurlan]] in ''Series/TheHeartSheHoller'' was the Protagonist from the beginning, but this is changed in [[Recap/TheHeartSheHollerTheComening The Comening]] when [[spoiler:he is KilledOffForReal, and Hershey becomes the new Mayor.]]
* Jack from ''Series/{{Lost}}'' was originally meant to be one of these, played for the single episode by a big-name actor- Michael Keaton being a top choice- to reinforce the audience's assumption that he was the main character. [[ExecutiveMeddling Executives]] decided that the audience would feel betrayed and tune out if he was promptly killed. Thus, Jack was made the actual leader of the group and a regular, thus necessitating a cheaper actor.
* ''Series/{{Lexx}}'':
** An early episode begins with a man drifting through space in a small shuttle, playing a radio message which details his backstory and the plight of his home planet "Gworim". Then the Lexx runs him right over, and nobody even notices due to his comparatively small size.
** In the very first episode Brian Bostwick play Thodin the leader of the rebellion. He would have been the obvious hero if it had been the type of story to have that sort of thing.
* ''Series/{{The Office|US}}'': when Michael Scott left the series, his initial replacement was [=DeAngelo=] Vickers, who was [[SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute very similar to]] Michael and played by frequent Steve Carell collaborator Will Ferrell. He only appeared for four episodes before disappearing after a total physical and mental breakdown.
* Non-death example: ''Series/TheThickOfIt'' begins with a minister entering his office, greeting his staff, and getting ready for a meeting with Malcolm. Then, in the meeting, Malcolm suddenly forces him to resign. Quick cut, and the new minister (and the show's protagonist) appears. Basically, rather than AnyoneCanDie, this is Anyone Can Be Sacked.
* ''Series/StargateSG1'':
** Non-protagonist example: Kawalsky was only character from the film to return aside from Jack and Daniel, in addition to being made the head of SG-2. He gets more screentime in "Children of the Gods" than [[TheBigGuy Teal'c]] (who went on to be in the most episodes of any cast member) and was played up as being a regular character in the show. Unfortunately, he gets taken over by a Goa'uld at the [[FirstEpisodeSpoiler end of the pilot]] and [[WeHardlyKnewYe dies in the second episode]].
** [[DeadStarWalking Colonel Sumner]] from ''Series/StargateAtlantis''.
* ''Series/TheWire'' features an extended example: in the first season, D'Angelo Barksdale is the POV character for the criminal side of Baltimore, as [=McNulty=] is for the cop side. However, [[spoiler: he's killed off early in the second season]], while [=McNulty=] lasts through the entire show and other criminal figures step into the spotlight. This seems natural, [[spoiler: as Baltimore drug dealers tend to live short lives]].
* The pilot of ''Series/{{CSI}}'' centred around [[NaiveNewcomer Holly Gribbs]], only to have her [[spoiler: get shot in the end and die in the next episode.]]
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** As with the book, the series opens with several rangers of the Night's Watch who end up getting killed or executed by the second scene.
** Eddard Stark appears to be the show's main protagonist. He's played by the show's most famous actor and the plot centers on him more than any other character. However, he dies at the end of the first season, causing the drama to fracture into a large number of plot lines, each with their own protagonist.
** Robb Stark after his father, whom George R. R. Martin admits he killed to subvert the standard revenge story.
** Viserys Targaryen and Khal Drogo are Decoy Antagonists.
** George R. R. Martin's leaked outline for a first draft of the series reveals that he intended from the start to have five central characters: [[spoiler: Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Bran Stark, Danaerys Targaryen, and Arya Stark. It is not currently known which of these characters, if any, will play the most prominent role in the endgame of the series. Melisandre seems to believe that either Jon or Danaerys will serve as Azor Ahai and find a way to defeat the army of the dead, though Bran is also likely to fill this role and fans still theorize that Tyrion or Samwell Tarly could eventually be revealed to be the true protagonist.]]
* Played with in the "Up Your Pavement" sketch of ''Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus''. It starts as the [[ShowWithinAShow intro to a television show]] about a pair of happy-go-lucky homeless people, who are abruptly run over by a Film/JamesBond-type international crimefighter and spy. The sketch then quickly features a renowned surgeon, a [[UsefulNotes/BritsWithBattleships Royal Navy Admiral]], his daughter, a [[BreadEggsMilkSquick flasher]], and the chairman of Fiat Motors, then goes through about a dozen random, tenuously-related people before finally setting on a legendary RAF fighter ace of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII...[[OverlyLongGag and the story of the men who flew with him]].
** Similarly played with in the "Giant Blancmange" sketch. Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Brainsample are introduced as if they were the focus of a sport-sketch but they're immediately abandoned for one about AttackOfTheFiftyFootWhatever. [[BrickJoke Then they show up at the end]]: turns out they were responsible for the destruction of the blancmange at Wimbledon.
* Multiple layer example in the first episode of ''Series/SaulOfTheMoleMen''. The opening credits feature the S.T.A.R. Team, who promptly die seconds later in a meteor shower. Following are the replacement credits for Johnny Tambourine... who is a complete moron. Then the opening credits for The Molemen (as a funny sitcom)... and finally the ''real'' credits for Saul himself.
* Season 15 of ''Series/TheAmazingRace'' had Zev & Justin, who, when compared to similar editing of teams in previous seasons, appeared to be set up for a run late into the race, including a burgeoning rivalry with Maria & Tiffany, that is until they [[IdiotBall lost a passport]] in leg 4.
* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': Ben Matheson in the [[Recap/RevolutionS1E1Pilot pilot]] from this new series. The show spends the first several minutes centered around him and you would think he would become the main character who ends up knowing how the blackout started and [[TheAtoner trying to atone for his sins]]. Instead, he gets shot before the first commercial break, and his daughter steps in as the real protagonist.
* New viewers watching ''Series/BlakesSeven'' might assume the thoroughly likeable Varon (Blake's lawyer) and Maja (Varon's wife) are going to be major characters, as they have a lot of screen time, and spend much of the episode attempting to help Blake. [[AnyoneCanDie New viewers would be wrong in this assumption.]]
* ''Series/TwentyFour'''s final season plays with this: [[spoiler: after [[FaceHeelTurn transitioning]] to VillainProtagonist,]] Jack still played a central role in the season's plot, but the show actually gave focus on Chloe while his screentime notably became more limited in the final episodes, making the real hero of the season her. [[spoiler: This even comes into play after Jack's HeelFaceTurn in the series finale, as he is wounded and spends most it offscreen being held captive while Chloe's efforts to expose the season's conspiracy and eventually save him are given the greater focus.]]
* In ''Series/TheShield'''s first episode, Captain Aceveda asks new detective Terry Crowley to [[InternalAffairs go undercover]] in the Strike Team and gather information on [[CorruptCop Vic]]'s criminal activities. Crowley appeared to be set up as a {{Deuteragonist}} or HeroAntagonist, and appeared in the opening credits and advertisement for the show, suggesting he would be a main character. He is shot and killed by Vic at the end of the pilot, although his death does [[spoiler:start off the years-long chain of events that results in Vic's fall.]]
* ''Series/{{Oz}}'s'' Dino Ortolani, a young Italian mafioso who's introduced as the "sponsor" of series protagonist Tobias Beecher in the pilot episode. Roughly half of the pilot's plot is devoted to him, heavily hinting at a character arc involving his struggle with his own violent nature and his relationship with his family on the outside. But then he's abruptly [[spoiler: burned alive by his enemies]] at the end of the episode, hammering home the fact that AnyoneCanDie in Oswald Penitentiary.
* Fans of the Chris Gethard Show were told Random Messenger Bag would undertake a Hero's Journey, defending Chris from a full hour of attacks, to the point where Chris actually referred to him as the Mr. Baggins to his Sam Gamgee. In fact, Messenger Bag betrayed Chris when given an opportunity for more screen time, leaving him to fend for himself while handcuffed to a chair. Messenger Bag was in fact on a villain's journey, Chris is the true hero.
* Byung Hee in ''Series/ShutUpFlowerBoyBand'', who was killed at the end of the second episode. He was played by a well-known actor, had a LoveInterest, got the most screentime, and was the lead singer of the band. The focus shifts to guitarist [[TheLancer Ji Hyuk]].
* ''Series/{{Gotham}}'': Jerome Valeska is introduced and clearly set up to develop into the arch-villain of the Batman universe ComicBook/TheJoker. [[spoiler: Then he's suddenly killed off shortly after the start of Season 2.]]
** [[spoiler:And then season 2 ends with a villain experimenting with bringing people back from the dead, and trailers for the second half of Season 3 suggest he might be returning.]] Either way, it's made clear that his deeds were [[{{Cult}} highly inspirational]], making him the proto-Joker even if he never became the Joker himself.
** [[spoiler: He gets better and officially returns, essentially as the Joker in all but name and starts his rivalry with a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne.]]
* ''Series/HouseOfCards'':
** [[IntrepidReporter Zoe Barnes]] is the {{deuteragonist}} of the first season, with the story focusing almost as much on her journalistic career as it does on Frank Underwood's rise to power. When Underwood becomes Vice President of the United States at the end of Season 1, and Zoe finally begins to piece together the clues about his involvement in [[spoiler: Peter Russo's death]], one could assume that the next season would feature her as the HeroAntagonist to Underwood's VillainProtagonist. [[spoiler: Nope. Underwood throws her in front of a subway train in the first episode of Season 2.]]
** It's then [[DoubleSubversion Double Subverted]] when Zoe's love interest Lucas Goodwin becomes an AscendedExtra in Season 2, and seems poised to replace Zoe as the HeroAntagonist as he gets involved with underground hackers and sets out to expose Underwood's corruption. [[spoiler: Also nope. He doesn't even make it halfway through the season before he's sent to prison for cyberterrorism after his hacker ally betrays him to the FBI]].
** And then ''again'' with Rachel Posner, who gets a hefty amount of screen time during season 2 and build up in season 3, who is seemingly the one remaining piece that could threaten Frank Underwood. [[spoiler: And then as before, she is killed and Frank's trail grows ever colder.]]
* In the first episode of ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'', a student named Jesse [=McNally=] was introduced along with Xander and Willow. Jesse had been friends with the two for years and looked like he would be part of the main cast, but is turned into a vampire and staked by the end of the pilot. Joss Whedon apparently wanted to include him in the opening credits to make his death more shocking, but the executives wouldn't allow him to spend the money.
** Tara, a recurring character since season four, was finally promoted to regular cast member in season six... and was killed in the same episode where she first appeared in the opening credits.
** In ''Series/{{Angel}}'', Doyle was part of a PowerTrio with Angel and Cordelia, was the team's link to the PowersThatBe, appeared in the opening credits, had several episodes based around him, and appeared to be at the start of a long [[CharacterDevelopment character arc]] related to coming to terms with his half-demon heritage. He died by HeroicSacrifice halfway through season 1, and was replaced by Wesley.
* ZNation pulls this twice in one season. First [[spoiler: Hammond]] bites it, then [[spoiler: Garnett takes a bullet to save Murphy.]]
* In the ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'' viewing of ''Film/TimeChasers'' Mike and the robots voice their desire that Nick be an example. After a few scenes, they begin hoping that Nick will cross paths with a new character who turns out to be the ''real'' star.
-->'''Crow:''' This... is not our star, is it? I will ''not'' accept this as our star, sorry.
* ''Series/DesperateHousewives'' Zigzagged this trope in regard to Mary Alice Young: The pilot episode begins with her having a long monologue that details about her life... only for her to commit suicide at the end of it and reviewed to us that she is the narrator while the main characters are her fellow housewives and friends. However, her death is the DrivingQuestion of the first season of the show. Later seasons turned Mary Alice into the narrator because her storyline has wrapped up at the end of the first season but she still pops up here and then to further the other housewives stories.
* ''Series/StarTrekDiscovery'': Captain Georgiou dies in the second episode. The series really isn't about her and the starship ''Shenzhou''. It's about First Officer Michael Burnham, aboard the ''Discovery''.
* ''Series/BlackMirror'': In "USS Callister", Daly is initially the focus and we are seemingly meant to empathize with his plight as another sad sack pining for a girl he lacks the nerve to approach and bullied by his peers. Once the digital version of Nanette awakens, it becomes obvious she is the real protagonist, and Daly is the monster she and the crew must overcome.


* The [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9qYF9DZPdw music video]] for Music/WeirdAlYankovic's "White and Nerdy" (parody of Chamillionaire's "Ridin'") started out with two black gangsters riding a car (in reference to the music video of "Ridin'") before they meet a nerd mowing his lawn. From there, the focus was on the nerd.
* The [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lzrh_NOX2-s promotional video]] for Orange Range's "O2" (the first opening of the second season of ''Anime/CodeGeass''), is also this. The story follows a {{Samurai}} in love with his lord's {{Geisha}} and having a secret relationship with her, with the band members guest starring as a RagtagBunchOfMisfits just going about their everyday lives. The samurai saves her the first time from a group of thugs through some quick thinking, but when actually forced to fight, he didn't possess the strength to save her. It fell onto the band to save them ala BigDamnHeroes and using a variety of skills from their careers (Hiroki's a thief with SuperSpeed, Yoh's a skilled ronin, ect.) The video ends with Orange Range as the heroes and implies that the geisha broke it off with the samurai afterward, since he wasn't her KnightInShiningArmor after all.
* The first two verses and choruses of "Sk8er Boi" by Music/AvrilLavigne center on a girl that rejected the titular character, but when the bridge comes around, it's revealed that the singer is actually the protagonist and also the boy's girlfriend.

[[folder:Myths & Religion]]
* ''Literature/TheBible'':
** ''Acts of the Apostles'' at first focused on the Apostles particularly Peter before switching to the exploits of Paul in chapter 13.
** There are two Books of Samuel, which feature the prophet [[ReasonableAuthorityFigure Samuel]]. He dies before the first one is over; the books are mainly about [[TheGoodKing King David]], whom Samuel appoints [[TheChosenOne on God's command]].

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* The D&D adventure ''Vecna Lives!'' famously pulled this one. The players start in the roles of the Circle Of Eight, the most powerful archmages in the world-- guys who have spells in the rulebook named after them. But the very first encounter is a HopelessBossFight, all the archmages end up dead, and the players must switch to a less-powerful backup team and still save the day.

* ''Theatre/TheBookOfMormon'' begins with charming, handsome Elder Price setting off to change the world with Elder Cunningham as his PluckyComicRelief sidekick. By the end of Act 1 Price has abandoned his mission and Cunningham decides to step up and lead the people. Price still remains a main character, but the action is more focused on Cunningham's actions from then on.
* Lead actors in ancient Greece often preferred to show off their versatility by switching among multiple roles, so there are many Greek tragedies in which a particular character is at the center of the action for the first third or half of the play, only to die or disappear and be replaced by a new character (who would have originally been played by the same actor in a new mask).

* Jaller was one of these twice in Toys/{{Bionicle}}--once for Takua/Takanuva (in-universe more than to the audience, since everyone else thought that he was TheChosenOne aside from himself and Takua), and the other for Matoro. The first time, he got killed (but got better), and the second time was something of a subversion as [[spoiler: Matoro performed a HeroicSacrifice, causing the real hero to die instead of the decoy.]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'':
** Although Link is the player character in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'', the main focus of the story is his ExpositionFairy Midna, an exile of the Twilight Realm, [[spoiler:and the true Twilight Princess who seeks to defeat TheUsurper Zant]]. Even Zelda and the main villains tend to directly talk to Midna during the important conversations while barely acknowledging Link's presence.
** ''Videogame/TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild'' starts off with an amnesiac Link trying to reclaim his memories as the player character. However, most of the Memories he recovers (and the story in general) focus on Princess Zelda and her struggles to live up to everyone's expectations of her and her own destiny.
* William Carter in ''VideoGame/TheBureauXCOMDeclassified''. The real protagonist is [[spoiler: an ethereal you are directly playing as, who is controlling Carter]].
* Haytham Kenway of ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedIII'', is playable through the first three memories. The kicker is that [[spoiler:he turns out to be a Templar, and becomes an antagonist for his son Connor]].
* In ''VideoGame/HeroesMustDie'' [[spoiler: You is the playable character in the opening but is killed by Lord Murder at the end of the level. His friend Storm takes over from there.]]
* In ''VideoGame/LANoire'' [[spoiler:for the last three missions, control is switched over to his fellow marine Jack Kelso, who investigates the Suburbian Redevelopment Group as Cole is stonewalled by the corrupt police department. Cole is later killed in the final mission, and a flashback of Kelso ends the story.]]
** [[spoiler:One of the rare occurrences where the decoy protagonist is playable most of the game. However, the story is really how Cole's drive as a marine and a detective spurred Kelso to do the right thing and that Jack had a lot to learn from his rival, who was neither his friend nor his enemy.]]
* ''Franchise/SilentHill'':
** [[UnwittingPawn Harry Mason]] seems to be the protagonist of ''VideoGame/SilentHill1'' at first, but as the game goes on it becomes clear that the main focus is on Alessa Gillespie. Harry actually has very little importance to the plot, until he [[spoiler:kills Alessa. In two of the endings, at least]].
** ''VideoGame/SilentHill4'' has ''two'' examples of this. You start the game playing as Joseph Schreiber, gone mad from The Room's influence. After the prologue, you start playing as Henry Townshend... who ''still'' turns out not to be the protagonist, as most of the game focuses on Walter Sullivan. [[SupportingProtagonist Though you still play as Henry the entire game.]]
** Happens again in ''VideoGame/SilentHillOrigins''. Travis crashes his car at the edge of the titular town and stumbles right into the tangle of events surrounding what happened to Alessa (though of course he does have to deal with his own problems as well).
** And again [[MindScrew more famously]] in ''VideoGame/SilentHillShatteredMemories''. The game switches back and forth between a [[HeroicMime first-person therapy session]] set in the present and third-person gameplay starring Harry Mason, making it look like Harry's reminiscing of Silent Hill while under therapy. [[TwistEnding The end]] reveals that [[spoiler:the patient was Cheryl, Harry's daughter, and that the third-person PC was but a figment of Cheryl's imagination, distraught over her father's death many years ago. The therapy sessions weren't meant to cure Harry's trauma, but Cheryl's denial over Harry's death]].
* In Wrestling/{{WWE}} 12, when the player first starts the "Road To Wrestling/{{WrestleMania}}" mode, the first person they plays as is Wrestling/JohnCena, they make it ''look'' like you're gonna have to wrestle Wrestling/TheUndertaker, so Cena comes out... only to get Brouge Kicked by Wrestling/{{Sheamus}}.
* In ''Everlong'', the main character Brad was... well, the main character, until he suddenly [[spoiler:vanishes as the evil spirits within him took over him, causing him to because BrainwashedAndCrazy, take a FaceHeelTurn and end up being killed by the BigDamnHeroes. Downplayed in the latest version of the game, where he breaks out of his brainwashing and rejoins the party. However, Glen still takes most of the spotlight for the rest of the game.]]
* ''Franchise/MetalGear'':
** Infamously done in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty''. [[spoiler:The game starts with you playing as the familiar hero Solid Snake and investigating the creation of a new Metal Gear - Metal Gear RAY. However, the tanker he is aboard is sunken about an hour into the game and he is presumed dead. After a TimeSkip, you control Raiden, a rookie FOXHOUND operative, through the main portion of the game.]]
** This is PlayedForLaughs in ''[[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3SnakeEater Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence]]'''s Secret Theater video "Metal Gear Raiden: Snake Eater", where Raiden, [[NoFourthWall discovering that he will not be the protagonist of MGS3]], travels back in time to kill Naked Snake.
** Played with in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidVThePhantomPain''.[[spoiler: You spend the game beliving yourself to be Big Boss, TheHero of ''[[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3SnakeEater Snake Eater]]'', ''[[VideoGame/MetalGearSolidPeaceWalker Peace Walker]]'', and ''[[VideoGame/MetalGearSolidVGroundZeroes Ground Zeroes]]'', and the BigBad of the old 2D games, only for it to turn out that you're really a lookalike (A literal "Decoy" Protagonist) named Venom Snake. In fact, it turns out the character [[ChekhovsGunman Ishmael]] was the real Big Boss from the rest of the series. In a way, Venom Snake is ''his own'' decoy protagonist. Extends to the original game as well, with the revelation that Venom Snake will eventually beome the "Big Boss" from the end of the original game, and we never encountered the "real" Big Boss until ''Metal Gear 2''.]]
* To some, it isn't immediately apparent that you're playing as Chaz in ''VideoGame/PhantasyStarIV'', rather than Alys.
* ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII''. Roxas. Provided the cover art isn't a giveaway, anyway.
** Likewise in ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep'', Ven resembles Sora and Roxas in several ways, but [[spoiler: the plot actually revolves more around Terra, and Aqua does the more traditional heroic deeds.]]
** In ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts3D'', for the most part Sora and Riku share heroic deeds pretty evenly. Then in the last world, [[spoiler:Sora is almost corrupted by Xehanort and falls into a coma. In the end, Riku comes to the rescue by facing off against Young Xehanort, then freeing Sora's heart from the darkness by destroying the Armored Ventus Nightmare in a BattleInTheCenterOfTheMind.]]
* In ''Franchise/StarWars: VideoGame/RogueSquadron 2'', you start out playing as Luke Skywalker for two and a half missions, but when Luke's Snowspeeder gets shot down in the Battle of Hoth he gets replaced by Wedge Antilles, on Hoth and in subsequent missions. As we know, this is because while Luke survived, he didn't regroup with the others, so it was up to Wedge to lead Rogue Squadron.
* Locke of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'', while Terra gets the main focus of the story in the World of Balance, its Locke that is in the traditional protagonist role. He is locked into the party for most of the game's first half and plays a role in both Terra's and Celes's stories. However, Celes becomes the protagonist in the World of Ruin and while Terra gets forced into the ending if you don't recruit her, Locke can miss the ending entirely. He is one of the last and hardest to find party members you re-recruit and his role is diminished quite a bit in the second half. While Kitase said that there is no main characters, it's Terra and Celes that come the closest to it.
** This could be said a bit about Terra herself, as almost the entire story of the World of Balance revolves around her, even if you're not playing her. When the World of Ruin comes, she has very little role as well- not much more than Locke. All of this is largely because of the non-linear nature of the World of Ruin; Celes is the starting character and re-recruiting Edgar and Setzer is needed to get the GlobalAirship in order to reach the final dungeon (as well as that being the minimum number of characters possible to advance in said dungeon), but it's possible to do skip everything else or do it in nearly any order the player sees fit. As a result, characters who were essential to the first half the game become incidental to the second half.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' has Tidus say in the beginning "''[[ArcWords Listen to my story]]''". You then spend most of the game hearing about Yuna and her pilgrimage, Yuna and her Aeons, Yuna's duty and her goal .. [[spoiler: until you reach Zanarkand. This is when Tidus really ''screws the rules'' and became more the leader]]. Not insignificantly, Yuna eventually says "This is ''our'' story."
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'', Reks, a level 3 soldier and the brother of the protagonist, is this as you briefly control him through the castle, and fight empire enemies in attempt to save the king during the prologue.
** This seems to run in his family - while the player spends the rest of the game controlling Reks' younger brother, Vaan, it quickly becomes clear that Vaan is not the protagonist. Despite filling a typical JRPG young plucky hero trope, the story is clearly centered around Ashe, Basche, and Balthier (the latter of whom frequently proclaims himself the leading man.) Vaan even comes to this conclusion for himself eventually. Vaan serves as the player's viewpoint into the other major characters, since he's largely an outsider to the nature of the political and social state Ivalice - something the other characters use for insight into their own problems. [[spoiler: The game ends with Vaan eventually setting out on an adventure in his own right. The sequel, ''Revenant Wings'', finally let him have the role of protagonist in earnest.]]
* This is pulled with ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'''s Isaac, despite the fact he doesn't die. You begin the first game controlling him as a silent protagonist, only for the second game to shift POV to Felix, revealing that ''his'' quest was the one saving the world, making Isaac a Decoy Protagonist who is ''actually an antagonist'' (unwittingly). [[spoiler: Then, at Jupiter Lighthouse, the whole situation is explained to Isaac, and [[BigDamnHeroes he joins forces with Felix for the finale]].]]
* [[spoiler:Joseph Allen]] in ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare 2'', who is killed off in his [[spoiler:second playable mission]] after leaping the MoralEventHorizon. Also implied with Gary 'Roach' Sanderson, whose role as a playable character seems to be to show off how badass 'Soap' [=MacTavish=] has become. [[spoiler: Confirmed when Roach [[DroppedABridgeOnHim had a metaphorical bridge dropped on him]] so the rest of the game could be told from Soap's perspective.]]
** The first ''Modern Warfare'' game has [[spoiler:Sgt. Paul Jackson]], who seems like he's going to be a second protagonist for the entire game until [[spoiler:he's killed by a nuke]]. After this, the story focuses entirely on Soap's squad.
** Practically exaggerated in ''Modern Warfare 3''; the game has ''three'' decoy protagonists. The first is Derek 'Frost' Westbrook, who's the decoy ''decoy'' protagonist. His missions aren't of any critical importance to the A plot, [[spoiler: but he doesn't die along with the rest of his squad by the end of the game]]. The real decoy protagonist is [[spoiler: Yuri, who used to be Makarov's partner until his HeelFaceTurn. ([[RedemptionEqualsDeath Guess what happens in the end?]])]] And then there's [[spoiler: Soap, who was the original protagonist in the first two game's after the decoy protagonists were killed. But in this game, he dies ''before you even have the chance to play as him''.]] So who's the ''real'' protagonist in the series? [[spoiler: Captain Price. You only get to play as him ''twice''.]]
* Done twice in ''VideoGame/BatenKaitos'', first when it's revealed that Kalas is TheDragon, and Xelha takes over, and then second when Kalas experiences a HeelFaceTurn and rejoins your party.
* The Prelude to ''VideoGame/TheGodfather'' game starts with you playing Johnny Trapani, but he gets gunned down within minutes. The real player character is his son after a TimeSkip.
* ''VideoGame/TotalOverdose'' pulls this twice. The first level is an older man... who is neutralized mysteriously. Then it's his son, who gets laid up in the hospital. Then it's the twin brother who takes up the guns and starts shooting everything.
* In ''VideoGame/HybridHeaven'', you begin the game as Diaz. Except you are not Diaz, you're just in his body and get yours back about an eighth of the way through the game you are really the real Johnny Slater. Diaz is, in fact, a major villain.
* ''VideoGame/YggdraUnion'' starts out with a [[EverythingsBetterWithPrincesses princess]] [[PursuedProtagonist running for dear life from an enemy army]], accidentally costing the leader of a band of thieves his fortress, and begging him to help her take her country back. Although you start out playing as thief Milanor and this looks like your classic [[Franchise/StarWars Luke-and-Leia setup]], Princess Yggdra becomes the player character very shortly after. Milanor himself remains a completely static character until the penultimate chapter, and is shunted into the role of mentor and sidekick. (The player does take control of him during certain points of the story where Yggdra isn't where the action is, however.)
** Milanor's presence in the story at all, compared to his relative unimportance to the plot, is probably due to the need for a surrogate for male players--who might be uncomfortable at the idea of playing a game from the perspective of a (''very'' feminine) girl.
* The opening cutscene of ''VideoGame/CompanyOfHeroes'' shows a group of American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach. They bravely charge the beach only to get mowed down to the last man. Then a second landing craft comes in, and it's these guys who turn out to be the protagonists.
* ''VideoGame/FatalFrame'' [[spoiler: 1 and 4 do this. Mafuyu is a playable character in the intro chapter of the first game, then spends the rest of the game wandering around Himuro mansion while his younger sister Miku takes over as the main character. Likewise, Madoka is the first playable character of the fourth game, but she is killed at the end of the prologue chapter and goes on to become one of the hostile spirits who the other protagonists (Ruka, Misaki, and Choushiro) have to fight at some point.]]
* ''VideoGame/SteambotChronicles'' does a variant of this trope. In the optional tutorial stage, you play as [[spoiler:Mallow, the hero's childhood friend.]]
* In the ''VideoGame/FireEmblem'' series:
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemGenealogyOfTheHolyWar'' takes this up to 11. [[spoiler:Sigurd is a decoy for his son, Seliph. Moreover, the most of Sigurd's ''army'' dies with him, making your entire army a decoy. The BigBad pulls a huge win making the chapter a [[HopelessBossFight hopeless level]].]]
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemRadiantDawn'' does this as well. It seems that Micaiah is the main character of this game. Then [[AndNowForSomeoneCompletelyDifferent part 2]] rolls around, with Queen Elincia and her gang. Then [[AndNowForSomeoneCompletelyDifferent part 3]] happens, and Ike shows up and kicks ass, as usual. THEN you get his story, which leads into a plot about [[spoiler: killing a goddess. Micaiah is still very much a major character (yes, even despite being a vessel for another goddess half the time) but Ike is given slightly higher billing and treated as TheHero.]]
* At first glance, ''VideoGame/SonicBattle'' is about Sonic and his friends messing around with Emerl, a cool robot that mimics their combat abilities. As the cast rotates babysitting Emerl and he starts developing an emergent personality, it gradually becomes apparent that Emerl is really the protagonist. The majority of Cream's and Shadow's chapters near the end of the game are played as Emerl, and the final chapter is his solo attempt to stop Eggman's plot.
* ''VideoGame/AgarestSenki'' has Leonhardt himself. He is the protagonist of the first generation, but when you finish his chapter, he gets to be sealed in a pillar with the three [[LoveInterest Love Interests]]. Then his son Ladius gets to be the protagonist of his chapter but also gets sealed after his chapter is done with his three [[LoveInterest Love Interests]]. Same thing happens to Thoma and Duran in the third and fourth generation. Duran's son Rex then becomes THE TRUE protagonist for the rest of the game itself.
* In ''VideoGame/DeadSpaceExtraction'', you first play as a mining employee, who first notices the necromorphs showing up. At the end of the first level, he's killed and his mantle of PC is taken up by the leader of the expedition that killed him.
** Similarly in ''Dead Space 3'' you start off playing as a new character named Private Kaufman. After the breathtaking opening, Kaufman is murdered and the game shifts to another time and location where the real main character, Isaac Clark, is introduced.
* Done brutally in ''VideoGame/HaloReach'' where SPARTAN B-312, AKA Noble Six, has the same combat rating as ''Franchise/{{Halo}}''[='s=] protagonist Master Chief John-117 and, like John, is also [[spoiler: chosen by Cortana to be her carrier. Unfortunately, Six dies on Reach.]]
* ''Videogame/{{Persona 2}}'' starts out with five protagonists: Tatsuya, Michel, Ginko, Maya, and Yukki. However, [[spoiler: Yukki ends up being a decoy protagonist for Jun, a.k.a. Joker, who joins your party near the end of the game.]]
** ''Videogame/{{Persona 3}}'' is a weird example, as the Main Character wasn't originally this, but after the UpdatedRerelease added a PlayableEpilogue, the role of Main Character switches over to the {{Deuteragonist}}, [[RobotGirl Aigis]] after [[spoiler: the protagonist's death at the end of the game]].
* The prologue of ''VideoGame/{{Xenoblade}}'' introduces Dunban, a legendary hero who is the only one who can wield [[SwordOfPlotAdvancement the legendary Monado]]. Then there's a TimeSkip, and he's retired after losing the use of his right arm because he ''wasn't'' actually the true wielder of the Monado. We then meet Shulk, the game's actual protagonist, who can not only use the Monado but can also unlock many of its hidden abilities that Dunban couldn't. Unlike most examples of this trope, not only does Dunban not die, but later into the story [[TookALevelInBadass takes further levels in badass]] and becomes a powerful party member in his own right, using a katana [[HandicappedBadass with only his left arm to fight]].
* ''VideoGame/XenobladeChroniclesX'': The customizable PC actually falls into this role. You are woken up from a pod at the beginning of the game by Elma, and that's your primary contribution to the plot for the rest of the story. Elma is the leader of the team, makes all the decisions, recruits new members, and is a celebrated veteran and war hero who is central to both humanity's survival efforts and the Ganglion storyline. It's possible to play minor side missions without her, but every story mission and nearly every affinity mission requires her in your party. The PC, on the other hand, is just an ace rookie with amnesia.
* ''VideoGame/FateExtra'' has one of the most [[TearJerker tragic]] uses of this in videogame history. [[spoiler:You spend the prologue playing as an average high school student who quickly gets swept up in the Holy Grail War. Depending on how many optional scenes you unlock, he manages to discover several secrets that are crucial to the future plot. Then, when the time comes for his trial in the prelims, he fails ''miserably''. As in, he isn't even able to get a ''single attack'' before the enemy Servant effortlessly cuts him down. The prologue ends with the dying student tearfully begging that someone, ''anyone'' will remember his name and who he was. The most tragic part is, thanks to how Eliminations in the War [[RetGone work]], ''no one ever will''.]]
** Not even the player. [[spoiler: His name is never revealed, so not even the player can remember him, so he dies as alone as any video game character can ever be: cut off even from the player. Massive PlayerPunch when you realise this.]]
* In ''VideoGame/Killer7'', the titular group are seven split personalities all within a crippled man in a wheelchair named Harman, who is the protagonist. [[spoiler: Then the ending comes, which reveals that the leader of the seven personalities and the only one who is shown normally exist seperately of Harman, Garcian, is actually the one with the split personalities under his control, and Garcian ''himself'' is the split personality of the ruthless assassin Emir Parkreiner, and he killed Harman and the recessive six personalities, gaining Harman's power of invoking those personalities and carrying the weapons of the recessive six in his briefcase.]] Their counterparts created by the US military work similarly. [[spoiler: Handsome Red, the supposed leader of the Handsome Men, fights Harman, the supposed leader of the killer7. The last of the Handsome Men-killer7 duels is between Handsome Pink, the real leader of the Handsome Men, and Garcian, which foreshadows Garcian being the true protagonist.]]
* ''VideoGame/HotlineMiami'' features a hitman ([[FanNickname "Jacket"]]) as its protagonist for the majority of missions, but it's [[spoiler:[[FanNickname Biker]], the boss at the phone station who solves the mystery behind the answerphone messages]]. Given that Richard is an UnreliableNarrator, one assumes that [[spoiler: Biker survived their encounter, and went on to kill the villains]]. [[Videogame/HotlineMiami2WrongNumber the sequel]] shows that [[spoiler:both storylines are canon, with Jacket and the Biker having survived their encounter and both storylines progressed independent of one another]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Mother 3}}'' starts with a brief prologue where you play as Lucas, and also control Claus for the first battle of the game. [[spoiler: (After the first main chapter, Claus is never seen again until the end of the game, except for as the Masked Man.)]] The first main chapter has you play as Flint as he looks for his wife and kids, and then for Claus a second time. [[spoiler: (Again, Flint is never seen again until shortly before the game ends.)]] Chapter 2 focuses mainly on Duster, who actually is one of the core protagonists, but not the main one of those four. Chapter 3 is about Salsa, who afterwards, is only seen again at Chimera Laboratories. From chapter 4 onward, after the three-year skip, you play as Lucas, the boy you started the game as.
* ''[[VideoGame/NintendoWars Advance Wars: Days of Ruin]]'' features Brenner as the protagonist until his [[spoiler:HeroicSacrifice]], after which Will is the protagonist.
* ''VideoGame/{{Crysis}}'': Nomad? Alcatraz? Nope. It was Prophet's story all along.
* ''VideoGame/{{Yesterday}}'' starts you playing as a young, idealistic man named Henry White, the heir to a multi-million dollar fortune who wants to use his money to help the homeless. He gets captured by a crazy but named Choke who talks to mannequins and wants to subject Henry to a witch trial (either he dies like a good person or survives like an evil and is shot), only to be saved by his friend, who kills Choke. Then, it's revealed that [[spoiler:Henry is a serial killer who tortures hobos for fun, while Choke is an immortal who keeps coming back to life as a young man with no memories]].
* Reimu, Byakuren, and Toyosatomimi no Miko from ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}: Hopeless Masquerade'' are this. The game's premise sets up the three as the main protagonists, trying to gain the faith of the Human Village for their own religions, but in actuality [[spoiler: the incident turns out to be the cause of [[FinalBoss Hata no Kokoro]] who's on a quest to find her lost Mask of Hope, which her interactions with the other characters help her develop as a Youkai]].
* ''Clive Barker's Jericho'' starts off with Devin Ross as the only controllable character, who dies within less than an hour of playing the game and then commands his team from beyond.
* In the ''Videogame/XCOMEnemyUnknown'' tutorial Delta squad members all have names and talk to each other and command but 3 of them die before the mission ends.
* Newcomer Sakito Asagi in ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsOriginalGeneration [[Characters/MasouKishin Coffin of the End]]'' is the protagonist for the first 30+ chapters of the game. [[spoiler: When you finally rescue the four elemental lords, Masaki takes over as the protagonist while Sakito gets DemotedToExtra, save for one subplot.]]
* In the Flash game ''Innkeeper'' available on Kongregate, the player takes the role of Manuel, a young man whose lifelong dream is to build an inn to bring tourism to the island where he lives. His family agrees to help out. The most supportive member of his family is his mother Nanay, who acts as the receptionist. Once the inn becomes a big enough success, their rival visits them and expresses disbelief that his chain of inns is losing business [[spoiler:to someone who doesn't even exist anymore. Manuel was DeadAllAlong, having died at a very young age. His mother Nanay had a breakdown and eventually deluded herself into thinking Manuel was still alive.]] Nanay was the real protagonist all along [[spoiler:trying to fulfill her late son's dream]].
* VideoGame/TelltalesGameOfThrones [[spoiler: Ethan is built up as one of the main characters as Lord of House Forrester, but he is murdered in cold blood by Ramsay at the end of the first episode. Rodrick takes his place as lord after turning out to have survived the massacre. You even play as Ethan until he is killed.]]
* ''VideoGame/BioshockInfinite'': In the ''Burial at Sea'' DLC, where Booker [[spoiler:Actually Comstock]] once again serves as the hero of Episode 1, [[spoiler:only to be killed by a Big Daddy at the end and be replaced by Elizabeth in Episode 2.]]
* In ''VideoGame/MegadimensionNeptuniaVII'', Neptune and Nepgear shared the spotlight of the protagonist role at the first arc till Neptune is out of the picture to give more screen time for the Ultradimension version of Neptune. At the second arc, it's Neptune, Vert, Blanc, and Noire and when all the routes converge, Neptune's at the spotlight again. By the time the Heart Dimension arc happens, Hyperdimension Neptune realizes that the spotlight has been at Uzume and adult Neptune while she gets stuck with being a side character. [[HilarityEnsues She doesn't take it well.]]
--> '''Neptune:''' [[BreakingTheFourthWall This is protagonist fraud at this point! I'll take this to court! I'll sue and I'll win!]]
* InUniverse version in ''VideoGame/TakAndThePowerOfJuju'', where everyone thinks the warrior Lok is TheChosenOne destined to defeat BigBad Tlaloc. Considering whose name is in the title, [[DramaticIrony it's pretty obvious to the players who the hero actually is]].
* The first four games of the ''VideoGame/CubeEscape'' series are each narrated by a different character, with the woman in ''Seasons'' having the biggest number of expected protagonist traits (tragic backstory, desperately trying to complete a nigh-impossible quest, a SequelHook that implies that her story isn't quite over yet...). It isn't until the fifth game, ''Case 23'', that Dale Vandermeer is introduced as the detective investigating the aforementioned woman's (supposed) death and becomes the most focused-on character in future games.
* In ''VideoGame/NierAutomata'', [[spoiler:2B is the primary protagonist for Route A, while the remaining routes are told mainly from 9S and A2's perspectives. She's briefly playable for the beginning of Route C, but she later asks A2 to TakeUpMySword right before dying, after which A2 and 9S become the protagonists.]]
* In ''VideoGame/FarawayStory'', [[spoiler:Pia starts as the main character and seems to fit the role of an ''{{VideoGame/Atelier}}'' protagonist learning to [[ComingOfAgeStory become strong and independent]]. However, she's killed by the Dark Lord at the end of Part 1, forcing her mentor, Ellevark, to turn back time and prevent its resurrection. In the partially complete Part 2, Pia is nowhere to be seen and Ellevark is now the main character, though it's unknown if she'll rejoin in the final version of the game.]]
* ''VideoGame/TheTuringTest'' features an unusual form of this. After Ava finds out from the audio logs that the crew believed that TOM, the AI sent to oversee the mission, was controlling them via their implants, a short while later Ava enters an area where there are signs on the walls declaring "YOU ARE BEING CONTROLLED", "DRONE", and "TOM'S SLAVE". The crew urge Ava to enter a Faraday cage through an area full of EM radiation, designed to mess with Tom's control over Ava. Sure enough, just like you might expect, your control over Ava during this section wanes, as you aren't free to choose your own path and Ava will start gradually wandering along in a certain direction if you don't press any buttons. As Ava approaches the cage, your vision gets more and more full of artifacts and glitches out, [[spoiler: finally cutting out entirely when Ava enters the cage. Cue you looking down on Ava from a camera above. Turns out that the AI wasn't taking control over Ava - the AI was *losing* control of her. And you, the player, are *not* playing as Ava - you're playing as TOM, the AI.]]
* Supergirl in ''VideoGame/Injustice2''. The game's opening cinematic focuses on her surviving the destruction of Krypton and one would be lead to believe she is the main hero since the trailers hyped her as the redeeming replacement for Superman, who went evil in this universe. Instead, she is the focus of Chapter 9 where very little happens to advance the plot, except her own character development, and the plot really is about Superman and Batman trying to settle their differences once and for all.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 4}}'' becomes this if you play as a female character. The opening is narrated by the tough war veteran male protagonist, Nate, giving a monologue speech about his grandfather's service in World War II and how [[ArcWords war never changes]]. Then he's tragically shot and killed 15 minutes in, in front of his mortified wife, and then you play as her instead.
* ''[[http://www.holywowstudios.com/worldoftyping/ Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly]]'' seems to be another typing adventure starring the eponymous character. At the end of the first episode, however, Icarus is apparently killed, and the rest of the series focuses on robot detective Mark 22 and his investigation on the mystery behind the murder.
* This is also pulled in ''VideoGame/StreetFighterV's'' story. Who ultimately destroys Shadaloo and saves the world? Not Ryu, who appears at the start and the end, but spends most of the story training offscreen. Not Nash, who does have a central role but ultimately suicide bombs Bison to weaken him at the end (so Ryu can finish him off). Instead it is Rashid. Looking for his friend (who doesn't survive the first 15 minutes of the story), he works alongside both the Illuminati and the World Warriors, and he ultimately stops the Black Moons from crashing into the Earth (with some help from his friend).

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* ''VisualNovel/NineHoursNinePersonsNineDoors'' has [[spoiler: Junpei. Notably, he's still the main character, but just before the final puzzle it is revealed that you have been playing as Akane, not him, for the entire game.]]
* Taken UpToEleven in ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry''. After Keiichi has been the main character for three arcs, his spotlight is taken away for the rest of the series, with three arcs devoted to Akasaka, Shion, and Rena. Then the first episode of ''Kai'' focuses on Akasaka and Ooishi. Then we get an arc centered around Satoko. The eventual main character? [[spoiler:Rika Furude]], a [[TrueCompanions True Companion]] who had received the least attention prior to the reveal. Keiichi still plays a critical role, though, as a source of inspiration and courage.
* In ''VisualNovel/UminekoWhenTheyCry'', [[spoiler:Bernkastel]] actually attempts to [[spoiler:[[HijackedByGanon hijack the whole setup]] through her game piece, [[ReplacementScrappy Erika]]]], effectively weaponizing this concept.
** Battler also weaponizes it in EP 5. [[spoiler:During the final battle against Dlanor, he argues that because he isn't the detective this time around, he has the right to lie and obfuscate facts as an observer]]. He's a subversion overall, though, as [[spoiler: he fights to remain as the protagonist and ultimately earns it]].
* ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'' opens with a man recounting the point where his Servant, a blue-armored woman, was summoned, but then promptly switches to Rin Tohsaka's narration as she attempts to summon her Servant in preparation for the Grail War. She remains the viewpoint for the first three days (about two hours of gameplay), and, as a likable, manipulative DeadpanSnarker is a fairly classic UrbanFantasy protagonist. Then she and [[TheLancer Archer]] get [[CurbStompBattle curb-stomped]] by a [[LadyOfWar blue-armored woman]]... and we rewind three days, go back to the start, and see the events leading up to that from the point of view of the mage who summoned that woman, Emiya Shirou, previously a minor supporting character.
* Sayaka Maizono from ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'' is played up throughout Chapter 1 as the main female lead, becoming Makoto's sidekick and potential main love interest. [[spoiler: It turns out at some point she started manipulating Makoto to become the fall guy for when she killed somebody, but when she actually tries it, it backfires horribly and she ends up as the first victim.]]
** ''VisualNovel/NewDanganRonpaV3'' first introduced Ki-bo, who was designed to resemble [[VisualNovel/DanganRonpa Makoto Naegi]] down to the IdiotHair, mentions him as someone he looked up to, had a name that could be read as "[[CentralTheme Hope]]", and was put in the first official video and in the first official artwork along with Kaito and Maki to fool the player into thinking he is the main character. Then comes the Tokyo Game Show 2016 trailer, showcasing Kaede Akamatsu as the main character (with her even saying as much in the trailer herself) rather than Ki-bo. [[spoiler:And then Kaede got executed in the game's first case, from then the protagonist position is shifted to Shuichi Saihara. And, in Chapter 6, Ki-Bo does end up playable for a short amount of time, so the trope is partially subverted.]]
* ''VisualNovel/HatofulBoyfriend'' does this. In the first, sole human student Hiyoko Tosaka is the protagonist for the entirity of the otome segment. [[spoiler:Then the Bad Boy's Love true ending story starts with her ''murder'' and the game switches over to Ryouta Kawara, who was previously her best friend and one of the titular boyfriends.]] The swap is marked by a change in the interface: the background of the text box no longer says the game's name, but says [[spoiler:Hurtful Boyfriend]] instead.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Shin-Wu from ''Webcomic/{{Noblesse}}'' plays a red herring until the supporting protagonist Raizel shows up. While Shin-Wu is still prominent in the Noblesse S lite novel, he has been relegated to the background of the comic as comic relief and DistressedDude.
* In the first chapter of ''Webcomic/{{Gosu}}'', a martial artist (who looks strikingly similar to Gang Ryong) is released from prison for an impressive feat and continues to be the focus of the chapter until he gets taken out by the leader of a group of bandits. Cue the revelation that it was the tubby delivery boy who is actually Gang Ryong! A [[CurbStompBattle curb-stomping quickly ensues]].
* In ''Webcomic/MitadakeSaga'', we're initially led to believe that [[spoiler:Zaraki Yagami is the protagonist. He's the first character we focus on and the first chapter is about him getting a weapon to defend himself with. Then, just as he's done so, he suddenly drops dead of a heart attack, showing the real protagonist, Zero Nanaya]], the true weight of the situation.
* Invoked in ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'' [[http://www.sluggy.com/daily.php?date=971019 here]]
-->''"What is this? A sci-fi thriller or a goofy buddy movie?"''
* In ''Webcomic/{{Sonichu}}'', it seems like Sonichu would be the main character, but the attention quickly shifts to the creator Chris Chan himself. Almost every adventure Sonichu and his friends go on is something that happened in Chris's life. The comic is basically a big metaphor for how Chris wishes he could go back and do things differently.
* ZigZagged with John in ''{{Webcomic/Homestuck}}''. Even though the focus of the story changes constantly and he's absent through most of the story (as the focus shifts to other characters or even his own companions), later events in the story have put him back in the spotlight, and characters will often refer to him as the de facto protagonist of the story even though he keeps getting put in the background of everyone else's plans and actions that drive the story.
** Played straight with [[spoiler: Jane]], who was set up to be the [[{{Deuteragonist}} Tritagonist]] of [[spoiler: the post-Scratch session]]. In the end though, the one who ends up being more involved with the main plot is [[spoiler: Roxy]].
* Tessa, the leader of Team Alchemical in ''Webcomic/SleeplessDomain''. The end of Chapter 2 and WordOfGod reveal that the actual protagonist is Undine. While Tessa remains a side character, the transition is made clear as the titles of chapter 3 onward are water-themed, in line with Undine's MakingASplash powers, and Tessa is later shown in a seat in the center of her classroom because, as the AltText explains, "window seats are for main characters."
* While ''Webcomic/SchlockMercenary'' is named after Schlock, and he's usually ''involved'', he's receded a fair bit into the background, with the actual protagonist role typically going to a human character (Tagon, more often than not). It's notable that on the comic's [[Characters/SchlockMercenary Character page]], he's something like a third of the way down the page, despite, again, being the title character!

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Blog/JustAnotherFool'', there is Logan. After a while, he goes missing and his friend Josh takes over the blog. [[spoiler: [[NotQuiteDead Then Logan returns...]] but now, he's gone just a little [[DrivenToVillainy unhinged.]]]]
* [[http://youtu.be/POZ4CcJILWw The sequel]] too [[http://youtu.be/4txVqr1eNwc ''Cool Guy Has Chill Day'']] begins with new character Mr. Funk doing similar things to Cool Guy in the original, and plays a sweet saxophone solo... [[spoiler: then Cool Guy shows up and [[MoodWhiplash kills him]] about halfway through the video, proceeding to bury his body to his {{Leitmotif}}.]]
* ''WebVideo/MarbleHornets'' had Jay, who was shown as the main protagonist for 80 out of the 87 entries. Wanna know what happened in the 80th entry? [[spoiler:He was shot and killed by [[BigBad Alex]]. For the remaining entries, Jay's "sidekick" Tim had to take the reins and settle the conflict once and for all.]]
* In the first episode of the children's audio series, [[https://bluetowel.wordpress.com/audio-drama/the-hanna-jo-stories/episode-one/ The Hanna Jo Stories]], it appears that Edward is being set up as a potential main character for the series. But at the end, it turns out that it is actually Edward's brother Allen (who had only a small part in the first episode) who ends up traveling with Hanna Jo and becoming the series' second lead. Edward remains simply a recurring guest star.
* The prologue chapter of ''Literature/ThePiratesCoveredInFur'' takes place on an island away from the story's main setting and follows a goat who's trying to prevent Captain Lyle and his pirates from stealing a dangerous weapon. She's killed at the end, [[YouCantThwartStageOne and the pirates acquire the weapon despite her efforts]].
* hbomberguy [[TropesAreNotGood believes this to be a failing]] of ''VideoGame/Fallout3'' ([[https://youtu.be/mLJ1gyIzg78?t=2000 relevant portion of his review]]): both the pre-game hype and in-game narrative holds the player up to be important (and their choices of great consequence), but in the end they end up being more of a spectator to the player's father, and he feels annoyed at having been lied to.
* The first entry in the ''Smirvlak Trilogy'', ''Literature/SmirvlaksStone'', mostly focuses on Nickolas Corveel as he tries to strengthen his bond with his estranged brother, Gnekvizz. Along his journey, Nick learns how to be a CombatPragmatist, he grows closer to his brother, discovers that the world can be both beautiful and despairing, and even goes as far as killing the DiscOneFinalBoss. Then it's revealed that Gnekvizz was EvilAllAlong, and shortly afterwards, he murders Nick, thereby illustrating that Nick had no bearing on the trilogy as a whole.
* ''WebVideo/{{Smosh}}'s'' series, Part Timers, began with the manager, Lori, introducing the newly hired [[AscendedFanboy ascended fanboy]] Scooter to his new job at Pork E. Pine's. Scooter gives a small speech about how he's thrilled to be working there... And then he is very promptly killed when Ian accidentally hits him in the head with a ski ball. The next scene has Lori bringing in the new employee, Pete, who becomes the main character throughout the series.
* The first chapter of ''Literature/{{TOT}}'' focused entirely on Mark and [[BigBad Maximus Slade]]. Mark is also the one who informs his friends about the werewolf and that they're in trouble. Mark is also the one who got the police involved (or tried to at least). Mark is ''also'' the one who receives a large amount of development, and the story is written to set Maximus to be Mark's ArchEnemy, and that he'll ultimately be the one who saves the day. Despite all of this, Mark is killed two-thirds of the way into the story, and is surprisingly the ''first'' main character in the story to die.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The ''WesternAnimation/AeonFlux'' short "War" is built around this trope. It begins by following Aeon Flux, who is quickly shot to death. The story then follows a quick succession of new "protagonists," each displaying typical lead character traits before getting unceremoniously killed. According to WordOfGod, it's meant to be a commentary on how easily audience sympathy can be manipulated; each new protagonist is on the opposite side of the war than the one before.
* Played in a similar manner for Rufus in ''WesternAnimation/TheDreamstone'' with the pilot episodes establishing his role as assistant to the [[BigGood Dream Maker]] and having TookALevelInBadass to stop Zordrak. While some early episodes still play with this idea, the spotlight slowly drifts towards [[VillainProtagonist the Urpneys]] and Rufus' competence and pathos dwindle in favor of making him a HeroAntagonist no more significant than the other residents of the Land Of Dreams.
* ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'':
** Subverted in the episode "Aisle 8A". Bobby is the main character for the first act, then the focus shifts to Hank for the second act, and finally back to Bobby in the third act.
** "Hank and the Great Glass Elevator" starts with Hank dealing with the guy's antics in a trip to Austin for Bill's birthday, then it's set up for the episode to focus on him when he moons Ann Richards (ItMakesSenseInContext). After this, Bill take the blame and the rest of the episode focuses on him.
* WesternAnimation/MickeyMouse in ''Disney/PlutosJudgementDay''. Despite the short claiming that Mickey is the main character, it's actually [[WesternAnimation/PlutoThePup his dog Pluto]] that is the main focus of this short. Mickey actually punishes Pluto for chasing a cat around his house, and as a result the dog starts to have a nightmare about him going to Hell.
** In fact, Mickey ends up being this in a lot of his shorts due to the [[WesternAnimation/DonaldDuck supporting]] [[WesternAnimation/{{Goofy}} characters]] being more popular and having personalities that work better for comedy.
*** An extreme example of this is the cartoon ''Donald and Pluto''. According to the opening titles, it's a Mickey Mouse cartoon, yet he is nowhere to be seen! (It can be assumed that it takes place in his house, but that's pure conjecture.)
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Reboot}}'' could be subversion, with [[TheHero Bob]] went MIA during the ''Web World Wars'' and focused on [[BrattyHalfPint Enzo]] [[IGotBigger growing up]] [[PlotRelevantAgeUp with]] [[ActionGirl AndrAIa]]. Until Bob returns and [[FusionDance forms with Glitch.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' does this regularly. Often the episode starts out with a plot that seems to be going one direction, but then a side detail creates a new plot that may focus on different characters. For instance:
** The episode "A Milhouse Divided" starts out centered on Milhouse's parents' divorce, but when Homer and Marge begin to have similar marital troubles, the narrative changes to revolve around them instead.
** In "Blood Feud," when Mr. Burns is dying, only Bart has a matching blood type to transfuse to save him. Later, Bart is sent only a thank you note and Homer steals the rest of the episode when he objects to Mr. Burns' minimal reward and sends an insulting letter to his boss. From then on, Bart becomes nothing more than his dad's sidekick, and doesn't do anything significant except for a prank call to Moe's Tavern.
* ''WesternAnimation/TitanMaximum'' did this with the promos, where both [[TheBigGuy Spud]] and [[TheLancer Gibbs]] were shown as part of the cast. But in the first episode, Spud was KilledOffForReal and Gibbs had a FaceHeelTurn. Their team roles on the actual show were taken by TheHero's younger brother and the monkey.
* [[http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_WYfblufc8eM/TNXA8DOLYVI/AAAAAAAAAaU/tJoOJMj-Ahc/s1600/Transformers_Prime_Poster__scaled_800.jpg Promotional artwork]] for ''WesternAnimation/TransformersPrime'' showed a team of six Autobots. One of them, Cliffjumper, was the star of the comic released before the show debuted, and was also announced to be voiced by fan-favorite Wrestling/DwayneJohnson. The first five minutes of the show follow Cliffjumper as he finds the Decepticons have arrived on Earth...and then he gets [[KilledOffForReal stabbed through the chest by Starscream]]. The other bots end up being a traditional FiveManBand.
* From episode 1, ''WesternAnimation/XiaolinShowdown'' sets up [[TheChosenOne Omi]] as TheHero. For awhile, this is undoubtedly the case; his face is in the logo, he is [[TheAce the most skilled]], gets [[AdorablyPrecociousChild the most attention]], and gets the most opportunities to [[BigDamnHeroes save his teammates]]. As the series goes on, he still gets the most attention (including [[WeCanRuleTogether special training]] from Season 2's BigBad), plus the [[ArrogantKungFuGuy ego to show for it]] and the most NiceJobBreakingItHero moments, so that by the start of Season 3 he's the [[BadassInDistress one being saved]], and [[spoiler: [[TheAtoner Rai]][[TookALevelInBadass mundo]]]] is TheHero in all but name. [[CharacterDevelopment Subtly played]], but quite a few viewers saw the finale and [[spoiler: Raimundo being named team leader]] coming a season away.
** The AlternateContinuity sequel series, WesternAnimation/XiaolinChronicles also begins with a focus on Omi, but the show ends on a story arc that sees [[spoiler:Kimiko as the first Xiaolin Dragon of their generation to become a Dragon Rider, using her new powers to save the day]].
* A ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' episode began with Meg getting Brian to take the UsefulNotes/SATs for her only for him to fail. The shift of focus to him is lampshaded by an extra.
-->"Thank God! I thought this was gonna be a Meg-centric episode."
* ''WesternAnimation/WanderOverYonder'': Craig [=McCracken=] mentioned in an interview that [[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-hill/craig-mccracken-talks-abo_b_6161784.html he feels the show is really about Lord Hater.]]
-->He's the character that has the most to [[CharacterDevelopment learn over the course of this show]] and is the one who most needs to grow. [...] I mean, Wander has some flaws. But he's really the guy who's guiding Hater to his future or wherever he's going to end up.
* This trope is part of the '''premise''' of ''WesternAnimation/PennZeroPartTimeHero'', with the titular character and his friends [[ParttimeHero having the job]] of "heroes" in any given dimension where the ones who are supposed to inhabit the roles are unable to accomplish the task.
-->"Wherever good is threatened, heroes rise to the challenge and always save the day! Except when they don't..."
* ''WesternAnimation/TotalDrama'': in the second season, the first episodes are heavily Trent and Gwen-centric, and the two are even captains of their teams...but by the seventh episode, they are both eliminated from the show.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBros'' appears to focus mainly on the adventures of Hank and Dean throughout the first season. However, they [[spoiler:(or rather, their clones)]] are killed in the first season finale, and the show revolves around [[LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters a large ensemble cast]] from that point forward. Though even during the first season, the show focused more on their father Rusty Venture and his life as a scientist/former boy adventurer.
* ''WesternAnimation/WhenTheDayBreaks'': The rooster seems like he'll be the protagonist, as the cartoon opens with him getting ready and starting his day. But he's killed less than a third of the way through and it turns out that the real protagonist is the pig, who has to deal with her feelings after seeing the rooster killed by an oncoming truck.
* In the Canadian short ''WesternAnimation/HotStuff'', the caveman who received first is thought to be the main character, but then he dies halfway through and passes on the fire to future generations
* ''WesternAnimation/VoltronLegendaryDefender'': It's easy to be misguided into thinking that Lance is TheHero, seeing as he gets a lot of focus in the very start of the first episode and is the first one to obtain his lion. However, this is soon proven wrong as the show is much more of an EnsembleCast, with the protagonist role often leaning more towards Keith and Shiro.