->''"You know me. I always save the day."''
-->-- '''[[SadClown Sarcastic Hawke]]''', ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII''

Heroes sometimes lose. It's pretty common and, with [[InvincibleHero a few]] [[GodModeSue exceptions]], it's the general rule of fiction to the point of being a near [[OmnipresentTropes Omnipresent Trope]]. However, [[YouCantThwartStageOne losing in Acts 1 and 2]] doesn't mean a hero won't beat the villain in [[HappyEnding Act 3]]; this is a good way of establishing conflict and drama while keeping them far away from being a ButtMonkey. Expanding this, a hero may well consistently win but still learn valuable [[{{Aesop}} lessons]] out of it, get CharacterDevelopment, and just sometimes lose to [[TheWorfEffect keep the villains fresh and threatening]].

Then there are heroes who never win. ''Ever''. Especially in [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption series-resolving situations]]. He might make some headway against a rival in the first or second round, but the rival neatly trounces them before the end credits, sometimes thanks to a DiabolusExMachina. Any "wins" he does pull off are ambiguous and open-ended, [[UnwittingPawn further the]] [[EvilPlan villain's plan]], or blatantly make things [[NiceJobBreakingItHero that much worse for the unwitting hero]]. This, of course, tends to rob a given episode or movie franchise of dramatic punch when the viewer's reaction to a hero making steps to resolving their lifelong goal is "[[YanktheDogsChain You're Just Yanking Our Chains!]]"

Behind this is usually the idea that the hero sucks that much. Plus he's the hero; [[GoodIsImpotent the side of good]] [[BalanceBetweenGoodAndEvil is in an eternal struggle with evil]]! This is especially common in comedies where the hero is a [[UnsympatheticComedyProtagonist failure of some kind]] or where advancing his goals would [[JustEatGilligan end the show]]. If taken to extremes -- and not in the comedic sense -- leads to AntiSue.

The loser counterpart of InvincibleHero. Not as prevalent as its sibling, but still common enough to warrant its own trope. The SmallStepsHero will become this in a truly CrapsackWorld.

Please note that being saddled with the pesky StatusQuoIsGod or FailureIsTheOnlyOption tropes isn't enough to qualify someone as a Failure Hero; they must fail at not only the thing the shows says they can't succeed at, but at nearly everything else due to [[DiabolusExMachina continual plot]] [[DeusAngstMachina contrivances]].

Contrast ShowyInvincibleHero. Usually falls prey to WhatMeasureIsANonBadass Also see IneffectualSympatheticVillain, the evil counterpart.
----
!! Examples: Spoilers Ahoy

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Poor Gon from ''HunterXHunter'' can't catch a break sometimes. In his last Hunter exams he only passes because his rivals have pity on him. As a result, he spends a lot of the next volumes training to overcome his weakness. He decides to help his friend Kurapica in his fight against the Genei Ryodan but he is kidnapped. After Gon is released and Kurapica stops his plans, Gon keeps training and becomes the first person to beat the Greed Island game. Things were looking better for him as he met his first teacher, Kite, and started exploring with him. In a short time later, his teacher is killed by the enemies known as Chimera Ants and Gon goes on a quest to defeat the Chimera Ants under the belief that Kite managed to survive. When learning Kite's situation is hopeless, Gon goes through so much angst that he sacrifices his life to get revenge on Kite's killer. He succeeds but his condition is left so bad that Killua spends an entire arc searching for a method to save his life.
* Shinji Ikari from ''Anime/{{Neon Genesis Evangelion}}'' embodies this trope perfectly. Every awesome moment he has is negated by an even worse failure shortly after.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'': Repeatedly applying TheWorfEffect to secondary cast members without giving them any wins has this side effect. [[FauxActionGirl Sakura Haruno]] and [[ButtMonkey Rock Lee]] arguably have it the worst, made all the more poignant by [[HardWorkHardlyWorks how very hard they try to avoid failure]].
** Due to the amount of loved ones you see die / go evil in their line of work, even the "successful" characters feel like this. Kakashi outlived his entire team and couldn't stop Sasuke's heel turn. Jiraiya watched Orochimaru become a serial killer, outlived his teacher and first student, and failed rather spectacularly at helping Nagato / Pain. Despite being two of the most feared warriors on the planet, [[HeroicSelfDeprecation they both consider themselves trash under their kooky exteriors]] - Jiraiya feels that training Naruto is the only thing in his life he did right.
*** Naruto himself feels like this from time to time, especially in the first mission he's in after the TimeSkip, in which [[YouAreTooLate he arrives too late to save Gaara]]. He laments this failure in addition to his failure to bring Sasuke back, and remarks that he believes his training over the TimeSkip seems to have made no difference.
* Yamcha from ''Manga/DragonBall'' suffers this way due to TheWorfEffect. Early on, he was used in each Tenkaichi Budoukai to show off how amazing some new character was. This continued with successive new enemies killing or almost killing him first to prove their threat level. After Android #20 impaled him through the chest, Yamcha decided just to call it quits for the day and start rocking a yellow ''Miami Vice'' suit. He still ended up being murdered (again) by the BigBad an arc later, though.
** In ''Anime/DragonBallZ'', every non-Saiyan fighter (or more specifically, every fighter not named Goku or Gohan) suffers this by the start of the Frieza saga. Even Piccolo who gets two hefty powerups, is still only good for holding off a major foe for an episode or two before being disposed of. Vegeta suffers a similar fate, despite being a Saiyan and second in strength to Goku. Vegeta practically exists to show that being a Saiyan with cosmic levels of power still isn't enough to make a dent in the enemy for long, you have to have [[HeartIsAnAwesomePower heart]] like Goku has.
*** While neither got to beat the main villain, Vegeta and Piccolo both did get to off minor villains in the android arc (androids 19 and 20) and the movies, and win against Cell's weaker forms, until he transformed and trounced them.
* While Clare from ''{{Claymore}}'' is introduced as a badass demon hunter with a cold attitude, it appears most of the reason for her existence the entire rest of the series is to show how much more awesome her comrades are than her.
** Albeit understandable, as she's ranked dead last by [[NebulousEvilOrganisation the Organization.]]
** As a matter of fact, most of the heroes in the series spend the majority of their battles being {{Curb Stomp|Battle}}ed and horribly mutilated by every other baddie they face. It's not even an uncommon occurrence for the warriors to outright lose their fights, or [[AnyoneCanDie even die]] without ever having their conflict resolved. Though one could argue that this makes the series a tad more realistic -- if you were to go up against an army of all-powerful demons with only half their blood keeping you anywhere close to even footing, you'd damn well better expect them to mop the floor with your half-breed ass.
** Though, many of Clare's early failures are justified by the revelation later on that she focused all of her training on fighting Awakened Beings -- while all the Claymores tend to get curb-stomped by them, she's usually able to fight far above her weight class when they're involved.
* From ''Manga/BlackLagoon'', one gets the sense the author is a sadist from the fact that Rock is ''never'' going to learn that trying to do good in the CrapsackWorld he ''voluntarily'' entered will '''always''' end in tears.
* [[BigEater Kuro]] from ''{{Kurokami}}'' ends up falling into this, since she rarely wins, and the few times she DOES win is either against very early opponents, due to a DeusExMachina, made moot anyway by plot events, or several of these at once. Probably because, much like [[YuYuHakusho Yuusuke Urameshi]], even she has problems [[CantCatchUp catching up]].
* [[{{Gundam0083}} Kou Uraki]], who only manages to fight his main antagonist to a draw two times, and ultimately fails to avert the ColonyDrop at the end. [[YouCantFightFate Then again,]] [[Anime/MobileSuitZetaGundam can't derail what comes after it, can we?]]
* The Royal Knights Saga of ''Anime/DigimonFrontier'' turned ''every one of the heroes'' into this.
* Some view [=WarGreymon=] from ''Anime/DigimonAdventure'' as one due to his tendency to spend entire fights helpless and get allies killed in the Dark Masters arc. To elaborate.
** Against [=MetalSeadramon=], Zudomon has to bring him to the surface to prevent [=MetalSeadramon=] from drowning [=WarGreymon=]. Whamon has to sacrifice himself since [=WarGreymon=] can't free himself on his own power.
** He's pretty useless against Puppetmon too, to the point where he did nothing. He basically spends the whole fight under his control. [=MegaKabuterimon=] does most of the actual damage, crippling Puppetmon and driving him off while Garudamon destroys his weapon.
** Mugendramon is probably the worst example. [=WarGreymon=] didn't kill him. In fact, he aided him in becoming Millenniummon.
** He's not that important in the Piemon fight, since that was [=HolyAngemon's=] debut. That did not stop astute fans from noticing that Piemon was able to destroy his armor effortlessly, but unable to cause even superficial damage to Andromon.
* Ladies and gents, let us introduce Saya Kisaragi of ''Anime/BloodC''. Taking Failure Hero to a whole new level. If there's a monster attack, and she has to save you, it's time to make peace with whoever you pray to, because you are ''screwed.'' She does manage to save a girl from the Eyeball Elder Bairn in the park, but scares her to death when she tries to help her while covered in blood. Considering the ultimate fate of the town, however, this probably didn't amount to much. She does become perfectly competent in [[Anime/BloodCTheLastDark the movie]]. Her incompetence from the TV series is brought by Fumito's doing.
* {{Kinnikuman}} in his early appearances was so pathetic that monsters wouldn't even bother attacking Tokyo if he was the only hero they'd get to fight. Fortunately for him, things start improving for him in the first Choujin Olympics arc.
* The crew of [[CowboyBebop The Bebop]] rarely successfully takes down a bounty (And never as the focus of an episode). The bounty either dies, or accidentally turns themselves in, or so forth. Or if they do take down a bounty properly, they wind up doing so much collateral damage that they have to spend the reward paying fines, repairs or medical bills.
* Luffy from {{One Piece}} get hit with Failure Hero status hard in the Sabaody, Impel Down, and Marineford story arcs. First, he failed to protect his crew at Sabaody from an admiral and his subordinates and they all nearly died only to be saved by Kuma who traumatized Luffy by separating his crew one at a time before his eyes before sending him off. Just when he was ready to reunite with his crew he finds out that his older brother is about to be executed in less than a week, forcing him to break into the most dangerous prison in the world to save him. He is then defeated in said prison by the warden and left to die by poison. Luffy is saved, but it cost him ten years of his life and because it took him so long to recover he failed to reach his brother in time before he is transported to his execution ground. After fighting his way out, Luffy escape the prison, but he had to leave behind one of his friends to do it. When Luffy finally reached the war zone, he is promptly beaten up by every strong person there and is pushed passed his physical breaking point. He is forced to risk his life further by taken more adrenaline just to keep going. When Luffy did finally succeed in saving his brother, Ace died in his arms saving him from a killing blow from one of the admirals. To say the least, Luffy had a terrible week. The entire experience convinces him and the others that they're not yet ready for the New World, and they spend two years training.
* In the second season of ''Anime/PrincessTutu'', Duck sees herself as this due to being locked out of the loop and feeling unable to help anyone or stop what's happening.
* Invoked In-Universe with [[IdolSinger Sakura Hagiwara]] from ''[[Manga/SekaiDeIchibanTsuyokuNaritai Wanna Be the Strongest in the World]]''. Since her debut in Pro Wrestling, she has done nothing but lose, in the same way: She is put on a Boston Crab hold and dragged away from the rope, and, unable to get out of the Boston Crab, she gives up. She had ''50 losses'' this way so far. Her fans diminish with each loss, and the audience starts booing her... until she got dragged into a TrainingFromHell where she's forced to stop giving up or else her mentor will break her bones via Boston Crab (doesn't take 'give up' for an answer) and afterwards, she would avoid the booing and instead being cheered despite her losses. Rinse and repeat 15 times afterwards until she gets her own FinishingMove and ''then'' she started avoiding the trope.
* Shuzo Matsutani from Anime/NowAndThenHereAndThere attempts plenty of heroic stuff, but doesn't accomplish anything at all. In the first episode, he fails to rescue Lala-Ru from the giant robot snakes, then he is captured and tortured. Ultimately, it's Lala-Ru who defeats the BigBad, not Shu. And the final shot gives the impression that Shu should have just stayed home and not talked to Lala-Ru on the smokestack. Remove him from the series and very little would have changed.
* The first season of HellGirl tries to shake up its formula of every VictimOfTheWeek using the Hell Correspondence to damn both their tormentor and themselves to hell by introducing Hajime, a tabloid reporter who discovers the Hell Correspondence and starts trying to prevent people from using it. Except that nothing really changes, because he fails every single time. The only person that he manages to stop from using it is his own daughter.
* Princess Hime/Cure Princess of ''Anime/HappinessChargePrettyCure'' is this, especially at the beginning. Her first appearance has her being knocked into a transition transformed stage by a MonsterOfTheWeek, who ends up being destroyed by another Cure, who promptly lays her ass out for being TheLoad. Three episodes later, she's still this as the [[RookieRedRanger Rookie Pretty Cure]] Megumi/Cure Lovely is racking up some pretty impressive kills while Hime's on her back. It seems that [[Anime/HeartcatchPrettyCure Chypre]] was a little premature in "Weakest Pretty Cure in History" calling.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Superheroes in general have this problem, due to the effects of JokerImmunity in regards to villains. Due to popularity, all of the most well-known villains will be unlikely to be ''truly'' killed or defeated, as all they need is a HandWave whenever a writer wants to use them again. Regardless, a few heroes have it worse than others. (see below)
** Franchise/SpiderMan unfortunately was thrown headlong into this trope after [[DealWithTheDevil the events of]] ''ComicBook/OneMoreDay'' took away his only consolation prize for [[ButtMonkey his life of misery and failure]]. Many fans still aren't happy about it at all. Spider-Man in general can be quite easy to [[{{Flanderization}} Flanderize]] into one of these; whilst his life has not been without its difficulties, many of the poorer writers who have handled his character tend to forget about his successes and reasons for optimism (which he is not ''entirely'' without) and make him 'all failure, all the time'. While the appeal of the character has always been the struggles and losses, when written badly, he's just a total loser instead of an example of a relatable, grounded superhero.\\\
The truth is that he's mostly a self-pitier with low self-esteem. Even during his nerd years, he had beautiful girls throwing themselves at him. He's been a successful photographer and a pretty good high-school teacher and that's underachieving due to his time as Spider-Man keeping from using his genius-level intellect to build a career as a scientist.
*** When Doctor Octopus took over Peter's body in the ''ComicBook/SuperiorSpiderMan'' saga, Otto's aghast that Peter has all of this potential and had squandered it, deciding he'll be better than Peter. Superior, even. He ends up creating an army to protect New York with, creates his own company, and gets his PhD, at the cost of his friends, his family and the goodwill of New York City. When the Goblin King struck and brought everything down around his ears, Otto's forced to realize why Peter was the true "Superior" Spider-Man: because of all of his smarts and power, he sabotaged himself from using it greatly because he felt he didn't deserve being successful because of the great cost it came with it - With Great Power ComesGreatResponsibility.
* SteveGerber's AuthorAvatar Richard Rory fits this bill, and he's not happy about it.
* Comicbook/{{Empowered}} frequently crosses into this trope. Especially in her earliest stories. She is a perennial loser who is constantly getting [[BoundAndGagged captured and tied up]] by supervillains, even bush leaguers like Glue Gun Gil and regular old non-super thugs. In fact it isn't until about the middle of the vol. 1 that the reader actually sees Emp succeed at anything. Even when she does succeed it often backfires on her or her victory goes unnoticed by her fellow capes. Like when she defeated a supervillain that had taken out most of the Superhomeys by ramming him with a Humvee she ended up [[BoundAndGagged tangled in the seatbelt]] and [[JerkAss Major Havok]], despite being unconscious at the time, took credit for Emp's victory. Then again when the Capey's were besieged by Fleshmaster [[spoiler:aka dWARf!]] Emp single-handedly defeated him and saved the day!...And then her teammates promptly accused her of being the real mastermind behind the whole thing. [[spoiler:All that being said, in the latest volume Emp went up against Deathmonger and [[SugarWiki/MomentOfAwesome totally mopped the floor with him]]. Major Havoc doesn't believe her and call BS on the whole affair, while Captain Rivet is skeptical, but the Superdead defended her and named her as their liaison with the superhero community, so that has to count for something.]]
* Jon/Skeleton Man from TarotWitchOfTheBlackRose is this in ''spades''. Besides the fact that he's in a world full of dragons, witches, TheFairFolk and worse, his ineptitude is legendary. The most notorious example is probably when he's forced to stop pursuing a cadre of homicidal ghosts because ''they refuse to tell him the address of their next victim.'' His only consistent victories are over grave robbers and vandals (which are surprisingly common in Salem).
** Tarot has shades of this. Over the course of the series, her effectiveness in battle is heavily degraded to the point where she can be [[ClothingDamage stripped naked]] in a duel with her EvilCounterpart, a random fish minion in her own home, and animated snowmen. She'd have died several issues ago if not for the fact that her opponents need her for something, taunt her, or are TooDumbToLive.
* ''JusticeLeagueInternational'' would play this for laughs, usually with BlueBeetle (Ted Kord) and BoosterGold.
* The titular character of ''ComicBook/CaptainAlcohol'' fights several villains and only defeats one of them. In fact when he attempted to save a DamselInDistress, [[spoiler: he had to be saved by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.]]
* The titular protagonist of ''ComicBook/{{Rat-Man}}''. He rarely wins, most of his victories are ridiculous (he defeated the [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Mud Man]] by getting him to clean his shoes before entering) or are made meaningless by his own idiocy (an early story shows him inflicting a CurbStompBattle on a gang that had kidnapped an orphan for ransom, only for him to pay the ransom. The gang's boss can't move due the sheer idiocy of what has just happened), the few that aren't end up getting him worse than before, and when he finally has defeated both [[BigBad The Shadow]] ''and'' the BiggerBad [[spoiler: Mr. Mouse]], the SequelHook reveals that [[spoiler: he's about to become the new host of the Shadow]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fanfic ''Fanfic/EyesWithoutAFace'', the main character [[AntiHero Rose]] attempts to right her wrongs after her meeting with [[spoiler: Twilight Sparkle]]. Unfortunately for her, her earlier mistakes sneak up on her: [[NiceJobBreakingItHero the other ponies she's hurt are out for her blood, she's gained the attention of the mob and the police...]]
* In The Adventure Through Runescape, the main protagonist Mainiac97 is always forced to rely on another character to save him from whatever predicament he falls in. Did we mention that he's the main character?
* Copycat a.k.a. [[Series/{{Heroes}} Peter Petrelli]] in ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4860110/7/Heroes_Abridged_With_Commentary_Genesis Heroes Abridged With Commentary]]''.
* [[IronWoobie Blackjack]] from ''FanFic/FalloutEquestriaProjectHorizons''. Nothing ''ever'' goes right for her: everyone in the [[CrapsackWorld Equestian]] [[DeathWorld Wasteland]] she helps or saves winds up mutilated, raped, or killed anyway, every wrong she rights turns out to be a [[NiceJobBreakingItHero mistake]], and to top it off she's painfully aware of her inadaquicies and [[HeroicSelfDeprecation despises herself for them.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* The title character of ''WesternAnimation/{{Nine}}''. 9 first turns on a literal killing machine [[IdiotBall despite all evidence at the time saying his actions would be a bad idea]]. The machine kills [[spoiler:2]], whom they [[NiceJobBreakingItHero were trying to rescue in the first place]]. Later, when [[spoiler:7 and 8]] are kidnapped, he orchestrates a plan to both rescue them and destroy the machine. [[spoiler:8]] ends up dead while [[OhCrap the machine still works]], which proceeds to kill [[spoiler:5 and 6]]. He comes up with yet another plan which involves [[spoiler:sacrificing himself]]. But this changes when [[spoiler:1 shoves him out of the way and gets the ax instead. In the end, 9 can't even die right]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* The ''Film/MysteryTeam'' is implied to be this.
* Brad and Janet in ''Film/TheRockyHorrorPictureShow''. At no point in the narrative do they even come close to stymieing [[MadScientist Frank]] at anything he wants to do. In fact, if the credits didn't identify them as "a hero" and "a heroine," most people probably wouldn't even notice.
* Both Professor Anbronsius and his assistant Alfred from ''Film/TheFearlessVampireKillers'' are so terrible at their jobs of vampire hunting, [[spoiler:they fail in killing a single vampire, but they end up spreading vampirism to the rest of the world by bringing a vampirized Sarah along with them.]]
* Luke Skywalker in ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack''. Absolutely nothing goes his way throughout the film, and his attempt to save his friends at Cloud City ends with them saving ''him''.
* Huff in ''Stone Cold''. All his plans to stop the [[AllBikersAreHellsAngels Brotherhood]] with proper police procedures fail, and while he shoots all the bad guys by the end, their big plan succeeded.
* In the movie ''Film/{{Inferno}}'', the main character Mark does absolutely nothing that contributes to the villain's death. The villain died in a fire that she unintentionally set through one of her murders. All that Mark did was explore the building and escape it while it was burning down.
* Captain Picard in ''Film/StarTrekGenerations'' fails a lot. Upon gaining the ability to transport himself to ANYWHERE in time and space, Picard chooses to go back minutes before Soren launches his missile, instead of say going further back and just arresting him or going back even further to save his brother and nephew who died in a fire which is established in the same damn movie! So, his family stays dead, his ship stays destroyed and he gets Captain Kirk killed because he apparently wanted a macho last minute action movie confrontation. The expanded universe explained that Picard knew that the further you go back in time, the greater the chance that [[TemporalParadox you'll screw everything up in horrible fashion]], and he wanted to avoid that risk as much as possible, but still...
* Film/JamesBond in ''Film/{{Skyfall}}''. Bond fails at every objective he has during the movie: he leaves the MI6 agent to die; loses the MI6 hard drive; allows an assassin to kill a politician; fails to get information from said assassin; fails to protect the mole; [[spoiler:falls into Silva's trap; fails to stop Silva escaping; fails to stop several deaths in Parliament; loses Skyfall Manor; kills Silva instead of letting him rot in prison; and finally fails to protect M.]] The only positive thing that can be said is that he survives. In a sense this is exactly the way Creator/IanFleming first conceived of Bond.
** Bond in ''Film/TheManWithTheGoldenGun'' as well. Other than [[spoiler:killing Scaramanga]], Bond doesn't accomplish all that much.
* Franchise/IndianaJones succeeds at very little in ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk''. He loses the golden idol to Belloq at the beginning of the film, which perfectly exemplifies Indy's failures throughout the rest of it: the Nazis are always a step ahead of him or manage to turn his successes into their own, culminating in the Nazis obtaining the Ark of the Covenant, the very thing he had been trying to prevent the whole time. Indeed, it's possible that, without him, the Nazis would never have obtained the Ark at all. Indy doesn't even get to save the day at the end, since it's the Ark itself, not Indy, that defeats the villains. Finally, he can't even keep the US government from locking the Ark away instead of putting it in a museum. This isn't to knock on Indy, though, because it's clear that he gives everything his absolute best, and we love him for trying.
** A ''lot'' of people love to point out that the entire flick would have ended ''the exact same way'' had Indy just stayed at home, but don't forget he at least saved Marion who otherwise would have been tortured to death by Toht.
* Reid in ''Film/TheLoneRanger'' may have killed the bad guy, [[spoiler:but he utterly failed to save the Commanches from being massacred, although given their historical fate, there's an overlap with DoomedByCanon here]].
* Gandalf in ''Filrm/TheLordOfTheRings'' and ''Film/TheHobbit'' trilogies. Sure, he can easily beat {{Mooks}} and lesser villains, but put him against a major opponent and he loses. ''Hard.'' Examples include Saruman trouncing him in ''Film/TheFellowshipOfTheRing'', the Witch-King of Angmar destroying his staff in ''Film/TheReturnOfTheKing'', and [[spoiler:Sauron]] wiping the floor with him in ''Film/TheHobbitTheDesolationOfSmaug''. [[spoiler:Even when he defeats the Balrog in ''Film/TheTwoTowers'', he still dies.]]
* When the bird apocalypse happens again in ''Birdemic2TheResurrection'', Bill gathers together his survivor friends and decides that he needs to rescue as many people as possible, before demonstrating that he's absolutely horrible at it and should've just holed up somewhere. Despite traveling around to numerous locations, his group only manages to save ''one'' person, who just dies later (hell, at one point he goes into a silent film theater to see the audience under attack by birds...and then just leaves without even ''trying'' to save anyone.) Near the end of the movie, his group finally reaches a zoo that the birds aren't attacking (apparently because the zookeeper understands [[GreenAesop that they're attacking because of global warming...or something.]]) Rather than camp out and wait for things to die down, Bill ignores his complete failure of a track record and decides that he ''has'' to find more survivors, before leaving and getting two more of his group killed before the end of the movie (one of which dies ''within seconds'' of them leaving the zoo.)
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* In a variant of this trope, ''[[WorldsOfShadow Out of this World]]'' by Creator/LawrenceWattEvans is a rather vicious {{Deconstruction}} of both HighFantasy and the ''ComicStrip/FlashGordon'' style of sci-fi, so the hero fails because he's just an ordinary person in [[ThisIsReality the real world]] and the stuff he's trying to do is only possible by the {{Theory of Narrative Causality}}. (At times the book swings towards DeusAngstMachina, particularly when [[spoiler:the villains rape and murder his wife ''and'' his daughter.]])
* Ed Greenwood's {{Falconfar}} trilogy, at least the first two books.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' can't seem to write a good guy who ''isn't'' one of these, with Peter and Mohinder getting the worst of it (and Hiro beginning to catch up). On the rare occasions they aren't carrying the IdiotBall or VillainBall or doing a NiceJobBreakingItHero, they're up against opponents heavily favored by DiabolusExMachina. It's no coincidence that characters like Angela Petrelli, Noah Bennet and Sylar -- ranging from morally ambiguous to downright evil -- tend to be extremely popular, given that they have been shown actually succeeding at their goals on a fairly regular basis.
** It feels like the Writers constantly throw the idiot balls at Peter because, let's face it - if he actually knew how to use his powers correctly he would be a {{God Mode Sue}}, while the others... the writers just don't know how to write dramatic tension.
*** Oddly enough, when Peter [[DiscardAndDraw got a new power]] [[RePower after losing his original one]], he became a ''lot'' more effective.
* This was part of the massive CerebusSyndrome that hit ''Series/{{Supernatural}}''. In the later seasons, there was very rarely an episode where hunting was portrayed as a good thing or that they were doing it for the right reasons and more often than not, someone got a [[BreakTheCutie little bit more destroyed or slipped down the humanity scale]], [[AnyoneCanDie died]] or managed to [[NiceJobBreakingItHero break something]].
* ''Series/{{Torchwood}}''. They can't straight-up win the day ''ever'', ending up with PyrrhicVictory at best. By the end of ''Children of Earth'', [[spoiler:three of the initial five main characters are dead, one's on effective maternity leave and one's buggered off into space]].
** This trend continues right into ''Series/TorchwoodMiracleDay''. As of episode five [[spoiler: Jack has lost his immortality, Ester has gotten her sister separated from her children by child care services, Oswald Danes refused to fight PhilCorp, Rex destroyed the throat of the one man who could give them information on the villains, Vera has been burned alive and Gwen has her father set up to go down the same route.]] [[SarcasmMode Go Torchwood!]]
* NinjaWarrior competitor Katsumi Yamada has not only never managed to obtain Total Victory, but from the 14th tournament on he hasn't even manage to complete ''the first stage''. The fact that he's focused his life completely on this (which cost him his job and his family) makes it all the more heartbreaking. Nevertheless, he is considered an All-Star and fans (as well as the other All-Stars) continue to cheer him on for him to one day reach on top of Midoriyama.
* Series/{{Wallander}} seems to be this, especially in the Kenneth Branagh version. He's basically a Swedish Shinji Ikari. The moment something goes right for him in his personal or professional life, it is certain to ultimately end in tears. Usually Wallander's, who cries in literally five out of six episodes of the six-episode series. Because he fails. All the time.
* Film/TheThreeStooges. Nobody can fail as epically as they can.
* ''Franchise/UltraSeries''
** Pity the Science Patrol in ''Series/{{Ultraman}}.'' It's their lot to spend the first twenty minutes of every episode throwing everything they've got at the MonsterOfTheWeek to absolutely no effect, until Ultraman shows up and saves the day in the last five minutes.
** This is [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] in an episode of ''Series/UltramanTiga,'' where the team's leader comes to resent Tiga a bit for ''always'' having to bail them out; but by the end of the episode, he's decided he's okay with it.
** ''Series/UltramanMebius'':
*** Played With as the Ultramen are there to protect the Earth, but really want to fight ''alongside'' humanity as equals.
*** Mebius usually gets to kill the MonsterOfTheWeek at the end of the episode, GUYS often helps pull his butt out of the fire during the battle, are usually the ones to neutralize the monster's special abilities, and often get to score monster kills in the beginning and middle of the episode. In fact, due to one particular episode, they actually end the series with a kill count ''higher'' than Ultraman's.
** In ''Series/UltramanTaro'', ZAT's efforts more often than not [[NiceJobBreakingItHero make things]] ''[[TemptingFate worse]]''.
* John Wiles's tenure producing ''Series/DoctorWho'' edged into this. "Mission to the Unknown" (the handover episode) was a BottleEpisode where a bunch of people die at the hands of Daleks and the Doctor never shows up. "The Myth Makers" is a comedy story that ends with most of the endearingly well-characterised guest characters being slaughtered in a sudden, horrific bloodbath and the time travellers having no choice but to abandon them to escape. "The Daleks' Master Plan" ends with every heroic guest character dead, two companions KilledOffForReal, and the remaining companion saying WhatTheHellHero about the Doctor's methods. "The Massacre" involves Steven [[PinballProtagonist having virtually no idea what is going on for most of the story]] and the Doctor failing to save anyone's life from an atrocity he knew was going to happen. Only "The Ark" has a happy ending and that features the Doctor ruining everything ''just by arriving'' on an alien world by spreading an alien virus to the last remaining humans, and his attempts to fix this problem end up causing a race [[HappinessInSlavery Happy In Slavery]] to [[TurnedAgainstTheirMasters Turn Against Their Masters]]. The Doctor is straight back to having a generally more competent role once Innes Lloyd takes over, and "The Celestial Toymaker", "The Savages" and "The War Machines" all show him using his intelligence to create a relatively happy ending.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* [[ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}} Charlie Brown]] is the world champion of this trope, forever destined to demolish all challengers to the throne in his [[KafkaKomedy hilariously cruel]] world, managing to find [[SerialEscalation new and creative ways]] to make him fail at life.
** To be clear, Charlie Brown fails, often through no visible fault of his own, in ways that are explicitly stated by other characters to be ''physically impossible''. [[NeverMyFault Not that this stops them from blaming him.]]
*** Charlie Brown did win a game of marbles, winning back Rerun's marbles from a bully in his last animated special. Lucy could not believe it.
*** And he won a motocross competition in one of the animated shorts...though his prize was less than impressive.
*** And he [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome kicked the damn football while taunting Lucy]] in ''It's Magic, Charlie Brown''.
*** There was a baseball game that Charlie Brown's team won. He was doing a happy dance like you would not believe. He was happily proclaiming "I won! I won!" The person he was saying this to responded "''You'' won?"
*** The first full-length movie with the ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'' gang, ''WesternAnimation/ABoyNamedCharlieBrown'', specifically revolved around Charlie Brown's role as an eternal failure, demonstrating that even when he wins, he ultimately loses.
* The cast of ''ComicStrip/FunkyWinkerbean'' comes a close second though, especially in recent years.
* Averted in ''ComicStrip/{{Garfield}}'', where Garfield's owner [[CasanovaWannabe Jon]] finally gets the girl of his dreams after 28 years. In these 28 years, however, all of Jon's plans to get a relationship fail horribly. Even when he scores a date, you can bet that either he, Garfield or the environment would ruin it.
* ''ComicStrip/{{Tom the Dancing Bug}}'' sporadically features Sam Roland, the Detective Who Dies. Each appearance gives us another case of Sam dying before solving the crime. Sometimes before answering the phone to get a new case.
* The newspaper comic version of ComicStrip/SpiderMan has always been this. He's utterly incompetent and completely ineffective. It's not at all unusual to have a street thug get the drop on him and knock him out with a piece of debris they found nearby -- despite the fact that his Spider-Sense should make this virtually impossible. He's often shown more likely to just sit around and watch TV and many of his storylines have even resolved ''despite'' Spider-Man's involvement.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* Cited as one of the main reasons why Wrestling/{{WCW}} went under in its later years; every single {{Face}} that tried to go up against the {{Heel}} stable [[Wrestling/NewWorldOrder NWO]] invariably got ruthlessly squashed, including [[BadassLongcoat Sting]], [[CoolOldGuy Ric Flair]], and even in one of its most infamous moments in history Wrestling/{{Goldberg}}, who was a ShowyInvincibleHero before.
** It was almost a ridiculous cycle of [[KickTheDog kicking the dog]] and then [[YankTheDogsChain yanking its chain]] just to get it back into kicking range. Sting seemed to have the [=nWo=] beat... and then it resurged. Ric Flair returned and the Four Horsemen were reformed... and they did nothing. Bill Goldberg was, well, [[{{Badass}} Bill Goldberg]]... and Nash beat him with outside interference. Nash was all right though, because his nWo was opposed to Hogan's... and then the FingerPokeOfDoom happened.
* They're called {{Jobber}}s for a reason -- the very few occasions when a dedicated midcarder [[HopeSpot ever achieves anything remotely resembling success]], [[YankTheDogsChain their hopes are quickly dashed]].
* Wrestling/RingOfHonor had a case where a number of factors combined to create a team of Failure Heroes. Early in 2007, longtime tag team partners Wrestling/AustinAries and Wrestling/RoderickStrong split, with Strong forming the No Remorse Corps alongside hot new talents Davey Richards and Rocky Romero. Aries, the {{Face}} in this feud, teamed up with the less established wrestlers Matt Cross and Erick Stevens. Unfortunately, Aries was soon forced to leave ROH for a few months due to contract obligations with Wrestling/{{TNA}} - leaving Cross and Stevens woefully outmatched by the No Remorse Corps. Wrestling logic dictated that the NRC get the early advantage in the feud, but without Aries around, Cross & Stevens had ''no'' credibility to begin with. By the time Aries returned, Cross and Stevens had already lost to the NRC so many times that nobody could get excited about their comeback.
* In Wrestling/{{TNA}} [=EV2.0=] had been this since day one, whether if it was during their feud with Fortune (led by Wrestling/RicFlair) or Immortal (led by Wrestling/HulkHogan). Whatever victory they managed to obtain was only short-term as they lost many of their key members, including the FBI, Wrestling/{{Sabu}}, Wrestling/{{Rh|yno}}ino, and Wrestling/{{Raven}}.
* [[Wrestling/TedDiBiaseJr Ted [=DiBiase=] Jr.]] has slowly become a Failure ''Villain''. Lampshaded by his girlfriend Maryse, who even accuses him of causing her to lose matches by association and outright calls him a loser.
** On the 1/26/11 edition of NXT, however, he did finally managed to score a win. Who? '''''[[Wrestling/BryanDanielson Daniel Bryan]]'''''! ''Cleanly''. And Maryse actually complemented him! And his rookie Wrestling/BrodusClay won the Fatal Four Way elimination match! ...[[YankTheDogsChain But wait]]! That match Brodus won? The winning rookie had the opportunity to switch Pros! Brodus then [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech pointed out all of DiBiase's failings]] before ''ditching'' him for Wrestling/AlbertoDelRio. And to add insult to injury, he takes him out with the Tongan Death Grip!
** As of recently [=DiBiase=] has leaned more into Face territory and started to gain more actual victories. He's still in mid card placement, but still at least he can get clean wins every once and a while.
* MVP went through a similar situation during a heel run, losing every match he had for a very long period of time (albeit for different reasons ranging from legitimate failures to outside interference and flukes). Story actually implied he was becoming backrupt as a result of this, leading him to gradually gain audience sympathy and eventually get cheered with great enthusiasm as he finally started to gain wins as a face.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:TabletopGames]]
* Depending on codex and writer, the [[Characters/Warhammer40000ImperialGuard Imperial Guard]] of ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}''. Conscripted by the billion, given laughably inadequate equipment, following moronic plans by incompetent (if not outright traitorous) generals and of course, executed whenever they complain, piss themselves at the horrors they're facing or think of a way to win that ''isn't'' the way the Imperium has been doing for the past few thousand years. All for nothing, as the Imperium steadily crumbles further.
** Anytime an army is victorious over Chaos could count as this, as the Ruinous Powers are actually ''strengthened'' whether or not they win (one is worshipped whenever blood is spilled, another by both pain and pleasure, one has so many XanatosGambits running that the failure of one just means another can now function, etc.).
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/ChronoCross''[='=]s [[SilentProtagonist Serge]] unfortunately became this trope after his '''third''' NiceJobBreakingItHero. There's a reason that why that trope was named after him in the TheGrandListOfConsoleRolePlayingGameCliches.
* Leo of ''VideoGame/{{Zone of the Enders}}''. [[spoiler:Despite some victories, things still get destroyed all around him, and the end of the game is a humiliating defeat. He has better luck in the sequel, but that's when he's not using Jehuty.]]
** However, you can save plenty of civilians from BAHRAM if you're good enough, you prevent Jehuty from falling into BAHRAM hands, and you [[spoiler:save the colony from destruction before you're defeated by Nohman.]]
* ''{{Rameses}}''. There are even conversation choices where you can stand up to the bully, insult the toadie, or defend TheWoobie, but the [=PC=] will nearly always reject them with a variation of "Why bother? [[{{Railroading}} I couldn't do that anyway.]]"
* Isaac and his son Matthew in ''VideoGame/{{GoldenSun}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{GoldenSunDarkDawn}}''. Every single decision that they make unfortunately leads to world destruction and/or furthering [[InvincibleVillain Alex's]] [[GambitRoulette plans]]. [[YOuCannotFightFate And there's nothing they]] [[OnlyTheAuthorCanSaveThem can do about it]]. This combined with their HeroicMime status and [[DracoInleatherPants the Draco'ed villains]] makes them the least popular of all 16 ''Golden Sun'' protagonists within the fandom.
* A problem in the Franchise/MetalGear series after VideoGame/MetalGearSolid, which applied via RetCon. Anything the main characters do advances the AncientConspiracy's goals ''[[GambitRoulette somehow]]''. If the series didn't get a sequel after 3 it would have been a TheBadGuyWins DownerEnding to the series.
** Lampshaded in VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty. The main character Raiden [[spoiler:is told before the ending that all his actions have been scripted and defeating the BigBad would just help the group that has been forcing people to against their will. As a result, before the final fight against Solidus Snake, Raiden tells the Patriots AIs he prefers not to fight and is threatened with the death of his girlfriend and an infant if he is murdered. In the end Raiden has to defeat Solidus, leaving the other conflict open for the next games.]]
* Raiden becomes this in ''VideoGame/MortalKombat9''. His actions to change the future only makes things worse, he loses the trust of Liu Kang, gets many heroes killed through his indirect actions to change the past and only barely wins the battle because the Elder Gods arrive to help him at the last moment.
* Leonard in ''VideoGame/WhiteKnightChronicles'', the actual main character of the game. Despite being possessing the power to transform into an indestructible 20 foot tall walking tank whenever he feels like it, he consistently fails to achieve his goals or [[VillainsActHeroesReact take any action that isn't a direct response to the actions of the antagonist]]. He allows the Princess he's supposed to be saving to get kidnapped in front of his eyes multiple times, even allowing to her to get ''re''captured after rescuing her for about 15 seconds. He is consistently fooled by the bad guy's spies and infiltrators, and can't wrap his head around the fact that every time his friend Kara disappears, the evil [[TheRival Black Knight]] appears. He suffers a ''HeroicBSOD'' and outright quits the party for half of the second game. Then, in a misguided attempt to save the day, he parachutes back into the party during a crucial battle underleveled, underdeveloped, and undergeared and usually gets the entire party killed as a result of the player being forced to field an unprepared character. And finally, he leads the charge into the final dungeon and defeats the BigBadWannabe, only to wind up [[NiceJobBreakingItHero fulfilling the real Big Bad's]] EvilPlan and become the final boss ''himself'' via a GrandTheftMe. He's last seen limping off screen slumped over someone else's shoulder, with the Princess he spent the last game repeatedly failing to rescue having killed the BigBad herself when everyone else wasn't looking.
* The goal of the game in the InteractiveFiction title ''{{Inhumane}}'' is to enter a pyramid full of traps and get killed by ''every single one''. Even if you succeed in all of this, [[spoiler: the throwaway in-joke about the author's math teacher destroys your mind when you try to exit the pyramid with the treasure]].
* Hawke in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII''. [[spoiler:Fails to save his/her sibling in the beginning. Fails to save his/her mother from a serial killer. Fails to stop the Qunari attack on Kirkwall. Fails to prevent the Mage/Templar War.]] Basically, every major story quest will have the worst possible outcome and the player's choices will make no difference.
* Mike Dawson in ''[[VideoGame/DarkSeed Dark Seed 2]]''. While he was competent and knew what he was doing in the first game (even if [[GuideDangIt it was only because the player used a walkthrough]]), in the sequel he seems to struggle with things that shouldn't really be too problematic, and gets himself into situations that could be easily avoided. His attempt to [[spoiler:stop the Dark World invasion, something he achieved handily in the first game, is implied to be badly botched. The ending is left ambiguous, but it doesn't end well for him, either way.]]
* In ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedIII'', Connor fails all of his longterm goals even though he manages to kill all of his enemies. He finds out the hard way that the world does not run on BlackAndWhiteMorality and that killing people doesn't always make problems go away. His only victories are re-starting the all-but-dead Assassin Order in America and [[spoiler:successfully hiding the MacGuffin away for his descendant to find.]] Oh, and living long enough to become Desmond's ancestor, but that was a ForegoneConclusion because the life of an assassin who dies before siring heirs couldn't exactly be relived through the Animus.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Collar 6}}'' struck the protagonists with this for its second major arc. Any fight was either lost or interrupted, which lead to them getting captured twice. The first time, they would've spent the entire arc in captivity if their maids hadn't come to bail them out. Ultimately, they could have stayed home and the whole thing would have worked out for the best, if the bad guy's plan didn't require kidnapping Laura and [[spoiler:a sudden BiggerBad that required stopping.]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'': anything that [[JerkassWithAHeartOfGold Karkat]] [[JerkassWoobie Vantas]] wasn't guaranteed to fail at due to YouCantFightFate, he managed to bungle on his own, with the exception of [[spoiler: calming Gamzee down]] and a few other things. When tasked with creating a universe-frog, [[spoiler: he wasn't patient enough to do the job right and ended up giving the poor thing cancer]] (although waiting any longer may have made the game unwinnable, due to the black king becoming exponentially harder to beat the longer the game goes on). When he tried to lead his group to victory, [[spoiler: he managed to keep at most five of them alive from a group of twelve]]. His efforts to prevent the creation of a HeroKiller GodOfEvil were kicked in the head by destiny, and his dating life has been kind of consistently disastrous. Even his childhood dream of joining the Threshecutioners was doomed from the start due to a) his mutant blood colour and b) [[spoiler: the destruction of the universe]], and his efforts to learn programming ended up killing his [[RaisedByWolves lusus]]. It's no wonder the guy hates himself so much, and is so consistently pissed.
** Ironically enough, many of his failures seem have side effects that turn them into successes, for example, the robotic Aradia clones that came from doomed timelines that were attributed to his failures were essential to win, and Aradia also states the the Mobius Double Reacharound virus was essential to winning as well. Similarly many of his successes turn into horrific failures- the ectobiology that he was initially successful with [[spoiler: later making the game unwinnable]], for example.
*** Other examples include [[spoiler:Calming Gamzee prevented the other trolls from offing him, and considering Gamzee is one of the main sources of problems for every group of protagonists...this... isn't a good thing. Not only that, Vriska speculates that if attaining Godhood is related to attaining your species equivalent of maturity, then Karkat's efforts to keep his murderous race of friends together may have kept most of them alive for as long as it did, but had he been a BAD leader, half of them would have killed the other half but the survivors may have gotten FAR more power as a result.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' we get [[spoiler:Tex who was created from the Director's memory of his dead girlfriend. Since said girlfriend died in battle, the memory and thus Tex herself have that failure deep seated within them. As a result, despite being perhaps the most badass character in the entire series, she fails just about any mission that has actual importance no matter how hard she tries.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Serial Novel]]
* ''StatlessAndTactless'': Kyle is styled like an archetypal pulp-era adventure hero, very much the group's most obvious good guy. He's also spread so thin on skill points that he's pretty much incapable of succeeding in any task he attempts.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Racing cartoons tend to have one of these characters:
** ''WesternAnimation/WackyRaces''' Dick Dastardly, despite being as lukewarm a VillainProtagonist as you can possibly get, definitely falls into this trope. Even in the rare instances he conquers [[DickDastardlyStopsToCheat his obsession to cheat]] he still manages to become a Boring Failure Hero. He actually managed to win ''once'', even to the narrator's suprise.
** His {{Expy}} Phantom Fink suffers the same problem; when he does win, the prize is absolutely horrible.
** No matter ''who'' wins in ''Yogi's Space Race'', something happens to make the prize undesirable. One wonders why the racers keep coming back.
* The protagonists of ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy''. Not only do [[AmbitionIsEvil Eddy]] and his crew fail at their attempts to scam kids, they also completely fail at legitimate ventures or even completely innocent goals like gaining a little respect from their friends. The constant teasing and harassing of their {{Jerkass}} neighbors only rubs salt into the wound.
** In the movie [[spoiler: this is subverted. The other kids finally accept the Eds into their group after seasons of turmoil.]]
* The title character of ''WesternAnimation/TheBuzzOnMaggie''. Mostly everything she tries to accomplish fails, or backfires in her face.
* The main theme of ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'', where all the characters are failures, both heroes and villains.
** It really says something when even the most badass character on the show, Brock Sampson, is a failure. Brock was a promising college football player who had to quit school because he accidentally killed a man on the field. Then he goes off to OSI, where he gets paired with a guy tagged as a crazy conspiracy theorist by the department. Despite being as awesome as he is, he gets assigned [[strike:guard]] babysitter duty to Dr. Venture, a washed-up, sociopathic OmnidisciplinaryScientist, and his CloudCuckooLander kids. He's viewed as just about as much a waste of great potential in his field as Dr. Venture in his own. On top of everything, he can get any woman on the planet, except the one woman he actually loves.
* Creator/ChuckJones' interpretation of WesternAnimation/DaffyDuck was meant to represent a polar opposite of WesternAnimation/BugsBunny, constantly attempting to take on TheAce role, be it a super hero, a western sheriff or a detective, only to get his ass handed to him by even the most incompetent of villains, with real heroes Bugs or Porky usually clearing things up. Other directors occasionally placed Daffy as a bumbling hero as well, [[DependingOnTheWriter though it varied]] whether he was an actual failure or not.
* One of the major problems most fans have with ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice'' is that no matter what the heroes do, it almost never matters. They usually end up soundly defeated, and on the rare occasions that they ''do'' win, it just furthers the villains' goals somehow.
[[/folder]]

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