In order to keep a story moving, things need to happen a certain way. Sometimes everything is carefully set up and orchestrated, so that events unfold in an organic, natural fashion. More often than not, though, things happen the way they do simply Because Destiny Says So.
There's just one tiny little problem with that theory: Sometimes, Destiny doesn't say so.
Contrived Coincidence describes a highly improbable occurrence in a story which is required by the plot, but which has absolutely no outward justification — not so much as a character saying There Are No Coincidences. The concept of "destiny" is glossed over altogether, and the events in question are simply disguised as mere happenstance. This would be jarring, but most of the time no attention is drawn to the event at all. It's just a narrative convention designed to skip over lots of irrelevant stuff by putting the important events all together, leaving the audience to forget the improbability of the event.
For example, when two characters are separated in a huge battle involving millions of combatants, they will bump into each other again just in time for one to save the other's life. This is not highlighted as an example of destiny or fortuity in any way, and in fact the improbability of the two people meeting again at such a convenient moment is ignored altogether. If the coincidence is noted, it will be in the form of "lucky you showed up when you did" as if it provides some justification to the events that just transpired.
In many an action/adventure show or movie, the protagonists are introduced to at the very beginning or portrayed to retain various gadgets that invariably play perfectly into a dire situationthey find themselves in later on. It has the potential to be reasonable, such as bringing hiking equipment to a mountainous terrain mission, but more often than not it's just a flat-out Asspull. Honestly, what didn't Batman "just so happen to" carry in that little belt of his? (For that matter, RPGs and Adventure games are particularly common offenders, as inventory coincidences are often used to maintain the progression of gameplay.)
It's not Destiny, it's not By Design; heck, the writer may not even bother calling it a coincidence. It just happens. Deal with it and move on.
In cases where the coincidence is acknowledged, it's likely a Lampshade Hanging. Characters may invoke Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane for that.
Can be justified to a limited extent by the Anthropic Principle (see also The Other Wiki). Unlikely coincidences are bound to happen once in a while. Exceptional things don't happen to the main characters because they are main characters; rather, they are designated main characters because exceptional things happen to them. In other words, there would be no story without this first exceptional coincidence. The earlier in the story the plot-driving coincidences occur, the more leeway the writer has with them.
Except for Farce. Contrived Coincidence is one of the driving forces of Farce, decreed by the Rule of Funny. This is a major reason why wariness is needed in other genres; too much of it will make the story farcical.
One, less justifiable use for it is Doing In the Wizard. When the creator requires a coincidence, or worse, a combination of them, not to move the action forward but to say that it really could happen mundanely, it's not magic or the supernatural, the effect is usually not pleasing. Audiences disliked it as far back as the ancient Greeks, and Aristotle deplored it in Poetics.
Make note that like its sister trope Theory of Narrative Causality, this is one of the most pervasive tropes out there. Just about any work of fiction, no matter how excruciatingly well-written, is sure to use this as much as they are allowed.
For a more grandiose or plot-wrapping version, see Deus ex Machina. See also Fridge Logic for the moment it sinks in, and Not My Driver for the vehicular version.
It's a Small World After All is a subtrope of this. So is the variant of Framing the Guilty Party where the one doing the framing didn't know that party was guilty. Too many contrived coincidences may result in One Degree of Separation. Often, these can disguise a Gambit Roulette as The Plan.
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Done especially so in the Zatch Bell!. A poor innocent girl in the story get's brainwashed into partnering with an evil demon and attacks her very best friend. But what's this? It turns out the attack was blocked by another demon who happens to be both said friend's partner and that demon's worst enemy. Really, out of 6 billion human beings on earth for the scattered 100 demons to choose from, these two pick two human friends that grew up together? Well that's just dandy. It's also rather dandy that 50% of the demons fought are at one point found in Japan, and everyone in the cast all speaks English/Japanese. And why doesn't the Brainwashing demon just use his physic powers to raise an army to avoid fighting the latter demon? Maybe because it in turn will be the only reason he's able to find and fight the him in the first place by attracting his partner's attention.
The Straw Hats in One Piece seem to be particularly lucky to show up at Fishman Island at the exact same day that Hody stages his coup d'état after years of planning, allowing them to prevent the whole island from falling to his elite soldiers and 100,000 strong slave army.
This happens to the Straw Hats a lot. Luffy arrives at Shell Town to save Zoro and the villagers from Captain Morgan, they end up in Orange Town to save Nami from Buggy's thugs, arrives at Ussop's village the day Captain Kuro plans come to fruition, stops at the Baratie when Don Krieg floats by...it seems like most of the time they gets into trouble just from being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn't help that Luffy's an active thrill-seeker who enjoys throwing himself into danger.
From Naruto we have two 'coincidences'' which sets Itachi free from Edo Tensei. The first is even encountering Naruto in the first place, a 1/80,000 chance. The second is Kotoamatsukami, the jutsu that was used to rewire his Edo Tensei to give him back his will? 1/36,500 due to its ten year charge time-with Itachi not even knowing if the charge time was completed. Yet...both were fullfilled. Now the second is Itachi's 'defeat' of Kabuto. The first is running into Sasuke in the first place, giving Itachi the backup he needed to win. The second is possessing Izanami in the first place, since it was never alluded to at ALL that Itachi was taught any Uchiha Kinjutsu, let alone one designed to negate an attack that (as far as they would have known) nobody could use any more. And finally finding Kabuto, since he could have easily moved from the place he was in that Nagato pointed out for Itachi. Its a rather sore spot forboth sides of the Itachi debate, minus the hyper fans.
A couple of characters are on Titan being chased by an alien mook. One of the characters comes across a blaster lying on the ground and shoots the mook with it. After doing so, he notices that the blaster belongs to his brother, who was thought to have been KIA in the area (his brother's abandoned ship is also close by). It would have been quite a stroke of luck for anybody to stumble upon these items after landing on a random area of the planet, much less the missing pilot's own brother...
The fact that the main (human) heroine of the series is a dead lookalike for (the alien queen) Starsha and her sister is also an unexplained and apparently random coincidence.
Keroro Gunsou uses it for humor in episode 37, pointing out the four different coincidences (including one that seems to have nothing to do with anything) that just so happen to resolve the plot in exactly the right way.
Narrator: Eh? Why did this happen? Well... we can't help it now that it's done with.
In Episode 18 of Cat's Eye, Hitomi and Ai tie up and gag a pair of female wrestlers known as the Tiger Ladies, and steal their costumes in order to escape the cops. Not only do the Tiger Ladies wear masks, but they conveniently have hairstyles and body measurements similar to those of the thieves as well.
Elfen Lied, both fortunately and unfortunately, happens to be chock full of this. This is the reason why all of the characters meet in the first place, as the chances for these select few individuals encountering one another (especially Lucy and Kouta) is next to impossible.
That none of them remember each other is a whole 'nother web of improbability.
In Rose of Versailles, Rosalie sees her foster mother get run over by a carriage being driven by the noblewoman who is none other than her birth mother. Continuing the stretch of crazy coincidences, Rosalie meets Oscar when attempting to prostitute herself, then meets Oscar again later when she mistakes Oscar's home for Versailles. Rosalie just can't avoid the contrived coincidence....
While a lot of things in Code Geass can be explained by Lelouch using his Geass off screen, the second episode of the second season is just a little convenient. Lelouch, having lost his memory, decides to go gambling in a skyscraper that just happens to be at the start of a street that goes straight to the Chinese consulate, the skyscraper also exactly tall enough to be stretched out along the street, has a spacy ventilation shaft inside it which would protect people in the unlikely event that it would topple over... Starting to guess what's going to happen?
Season 1 episode 22 is just as bad. See my mind control eye? I can make you do anything, all of which being horribly bad for everyone involved, and none of them funny, even though I'm trying to make a joke. It would be horrible if my power forced you to do one of them, now - er... Whoops? That was because Diabolus Ex Machina was the real Big Bad of the show.
In Maison Ikkoku, Kyoko just happens to walk by when Kozue tricks Godai into a goodbye kiss—which turns out to be a turning point in the series.
The second episode of Sailor Moon R reunites the Sailor Senshi for another season of adventure. How does it do this? The bad guys stage a fake casting call for a TV show and out of untold millions of girls, they just happen to completely randomly stumble upon four of the five Senshi and the best friend (and favored Victim of the Week) of the fifth. Let it be noted that it wasn't even as though the bad guys chose these people based on some vague explanation of them having a ton of energy or whatever. It was the original TV staff that just happened to choose them.
Kaolinite (from Sailor Moon S) explains that the senshi's powers orchestrate events so that senshi are always close to a place of a future attack. This makes sense given that just five senshi (nine for outerplanetary attacks) have to protect a planet.
In the very first episode of Witch Hunter Robin, the eponymous character shows up at a warehouse where the squad is fighting a witch and saves the day, with no explanation for why she happened to go there. No one ever comments on it.
In Macross Frontier, the three characters in the primary Love Triangle have the amazing ability to randomly run into each other where ever they go, in a city that's home to millions of people. Even when a character decides to randomly visit places they've never been before, the other two happen to show up there as well.
Nodoka, after receiving her Pactio card, just happens to be walking by when she overhears Chamo and Asuna discuss how the card can be used to summon magical items. This starts a series of events (and other coincidences) that results in Nodoka not only discovering her Pactio ability of Mind Reading, but also discovering that Negi is actually a mage.
Interestingly enough, this isn?t the only time Nodoka was walking by when Negi, Asuna, and Chamo are discussing important stuff, as this also happens first when Negi tells Asuna about his past, and later when Negi invites Asuna to go with him to the Magic World during summer break.
Taken even further when you consider the sheer improbability of Negi's class being assembled. Asuna, magical world princess Konoka, daughter of his father's fighting companion Evangeline, sealed there by his father Mana, half-demonfolk mercenary, Ku Fei; apparently the most talented martial artist on campus, Chao, his descendent Kaede; exceedingly talented ninja, and Zazie demonfolk princess. It's possible the headmaster just meddled, but then it's still a case of Improbable Age that everyone is in the same grade.
It's not that contrived for all of this to happen. Considering that the school itself is is quite populated by mages, several of whom are related to Negi's father's group, it isn't THAT big of a stretch so much interesting people would gather there. After all, Asuna being placed into the care of a ton of mages makes sense since she's a princess in hiding, albeit unknowingly so to herself at least, and there probably would be several of those tied to the magical world staying in a place filled with mages, such as Mana and Zazie. And Chao needed to be in Mahora itself since she needed to use the World Tree for her spell, so she would be waiting around in the school for the right time. The biggest contrivance is really just that all these people were stuffed into a single classroom.
In Monster, Johan Liebert is able to find another family named Liebert, who lost a son named Johan, who would be the same age that he is, allowing him to slip right into the community. This is after meeting a family named Liebert as a child who named him Johan. Fortunately, it's a fairly common name in Real Life.
Butterflies, Flowers: When Choko goes job-hunting at the beginning of the book, the only company hiring is the one where her family's ex-servant has become director of the department she is applying to...
It's a good thing "old habits die hard" for Death Note's Light, otherwise he wouldn't be wearing that watch at just the right time. Also fortune he never, not once, decided to open his watch while he was still suffering plot induced amnesia. Also fortunate that the guy who ended up with the death note acted exactly as he did and didn't opt to be more secretive with the book, or bungle himself into getting caught another way or decide to off himself instead of go down to the police or any number of the near infinite ways things could've played out. In fact, Light's gambit on getting the death note back relies on a number of things working out just right without any conscious involvement on Light's part. They all do.
He states that he never takes the watch off under normal circumstances. Wearing something you always wear isn't a coincidence. Also, he doesn't know how to open his watch and the mechanism to open it was one he was highly unlikely to trigger by accident.
Doesn't stop with Light, though. It was just a coincidence that both Mikami and Light knew Kiyomi Takada, that Takada was a Kira supporter, and that Light had a history with her. It was just a coincidence that all the people Mikami rejected died. It was just a coincidence that Misa Amane and Light happened to live within a train ride of each other — at one point in the anime, they're shown having coffee in the same little shop, completely unaware that the other one is actually a Kira. When you get down to it, it was a coincidence that Light just happened to have the TV on, considering how much studying he's shown to do with it off, when L first broadcasts his Lind L Tailor message. The list doesn't end; Death Note has a ton of these.
The main character of Gakuen Alice just happens to befriend a kid with a superpower, who just happens to have avoided being sent to the special school for those people long enough to befriend the main character, and just happens to have one of her letters reach the main character despite the faculty of the school doing everything they can to prevent the students having any contact at all with the outside world, which just happens to prompt the main character to travel to the school, where she just so happens to be allowed in because she has a power of her own, one which just happens to be so situational that neither she nor anybody else knew that she had it until the plot demanded it.
Subaru and Ginga, were found and rescued by Quint. Quint ended up adopting them because their eyes are similar to her. Turns out their DNA matches with Quint. Yeah, of all the people in the universe who could've rescued them, it turns out to be the woman they were cloned from.
Quint was also partnered with Zest and Megane. Zest ended up dying and resurrected to take care of Megane's daughter. During their walk around the Mid-Childa, they found Agito, a unison device, whom very effect to Signum.
The first and only time Section 6 have a vacation. Erio and Caro stumbled upon Vivio.
Since this is an Alternate Universe, the Materials are no longer doppelgangers of Nanoha, Fate and Hayate, just a group of strangers who happen to resemble them. And despite the drawing of in-game equipment for the series' virtual reality video game being randomized, they just happen to have Palette Swap versions of the main trio's gear so that the resemblance will be even more apparent.
In Haou Airen, the Triad hitman Hakuron is sent to Tokyo twice to deal with the Yakuza. Both times, he saw the female lead Kurumi. The first one, he took a glimpse of her grieving self during her father's funeral; the second, she was the person who saved his life when he was badly injured after he finished the mission
The two main characters of Tiger & Bunny happen to have the same exact superpower, down to the name, strength multiplier, and time limit. There is in-universe no reason for this at all, and nobody thinks it's anything noteworthy. Would have been averted in the original draft, where Barnaby had teleportation powers instead.
Also in episode 12 when Jake is randomly selecting which hero to fight against, he selects Kotetsu and then remarks he won't last a second before choosing another card. He ended up drawing Barnaby's card. He lampshades this by pointing out how he picked them together and saying "they really are a team".
Part of Rule of Funny, there are many, many coincidences that prevent Kotetsu from drinking the drugged coffee in episode 20.
In Popcorn Avatar, all of the Devas and Asuras introduced so far have all been Japanese, and conveniently found in or close to the city Kurando and Lisa live in. This fact is even lampshaded in a later chapter.
In the sixth volume of High School D×D, Asia gets herself forcefully transferred to a different dimension by Shalba Beelzebub and planned to kill her there. It just so happens that Vali and his group were at the Dimension Gap looking for Gogmagog and he sees her prompting him to rescue her on a whim.
In Haiyore! Nyarko-san W, the protagonists go to the Great Celano Library so Nyarko can return an overdue book, and come into conflict with a pair of aliens who are ransacking the place looking for something. When the team arrives at the villains' lair, Nyarko realizes she forgot to return her book, which leads to her and Mahiro discussing the possibility that that book is what the bad guys were looking for, before they both dismiss the idea as way too convenient. It turns out they're right; what the bad guys really wanted was a book Mahiro unknowingly put in his pocket when everything started going nuts at the library.
Most people go their entire life without seeing a crime that would require them to step in to help. No superhero, particularly one who has resolved to give up his cape, can last a day without seeing someone being mugged in an alley, or stumbling across a burning building with a woman screaming for help from a window.
Brian Garfield realized this when writing a sequel novel to Death Wish: "Long ago Paul [the Vigilante] had learned not to waste time in fruitless search for felons in the act of committing crimes; the odds were too long. A robbery took place in the city every three minutes... but it was an enormous city and there were three million potential victims".
Paul Benjamin, besides using himself as bait, comes up with the idea of shadowing the court houses. After all, criminals often are repeat offenders who have to show up for parole hearings, methadone treatment, etc. So, he tails them from the court house. See page 56 of Death Sentence. Other writers averted this through the use of police scanners; the Spider usually an early version in The Cholera King, while Hero at Large with John Ritter and The Exterminator 2 showed the protagonists using police scanners.
Some superheroes, like Batman, don't stumble upon things as often as set out to find them and have all sorts of explained ways of knowing how to do that.
This exact point made in Zot!!. There's an issue called "Looking for Crime" in which Zot looks all over New York for a crime. The closest he gets to finding one is finding a homeless person stabbed, and he didn't witness it.
If you are a superhero, then someone you know will be murdered horribly, or develop superpowers, or at least have some slightly odd seemingly innocuous problem that will be intimately connected with a supervillain's latest Evil Plan. If you're lucky, this will be because your enemies know who you are and are targeting them because of the connection. Probably not though.
The fates of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent crossed paths a ridiculous number of times before they ever became Batman and Superman, and even before they knew each others secret identities.
A recent Superman/Batman story featured Jor-El using a probe to take the mind of a human to Krypton, so he could ask what kind of planet Earth was. The human he selected went on to use the advanced technology of the probe as the basis of a great company called Wayne Enterprises.
In the very first Superman/Batman crossover, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne happen to take a cruise at the same time and are coincidentally assigned to be roommates. Why Wayne can't afford a single occupancy cabin or, for that matter, his own cruise liner, is unexplained. They are both in the cabin at the same time, changing into costume, when a bright ray of light beams through a port hole, lighting up the room and revealing the two superheroes' identities to each other. And Lois Lane wound up on the same cruise, because a female passenger chickened out at the beginning. Apparently only one person disappeared from the cruise, so Clark couldn't be given his own room.
A later comic retcons this story, saying that due to an overbooking error, there are only two rooms to share between Clark, Bruce, and Lois, and obviously Lois isn't going to share a bed with either of them.
In the Silver Age continuity, as well as in the current one, both Superman and his archenemy Lex Luthor spent most of their life in Smallville before moving to Metropolis. In other words, the two biggest public figures in one of the world's largest cities happen to come from the same small and obscure Kansas town.
This deliberately happened in Cable & Deadpool. In the wake of House of M, Deadpool was searching for the real Cable trapped somewhere in an alternative timeline. But just as he teleported to the real world with the real Cable, Scarlet Witch had changed the real world into her image, thus the middle aged Cable was transported into a baby (It Makes Sense in Context). And despite everything changing to normal, baby Cable stayed as a baby (but not for long). It was all to being sold as a tie-in to House of M, and apart from some breather issues forward it didn't do much for the plot.
Y: The Last Man - The most successful human cloning scientist in the United States happens to be a woman who is the daughter of another scientist who may or may not have wiped out all the men in the world except him and Yorick and he tested on Yorick's monkey, Ampersand, who was probably the reason Yorick survived the gendercide and Yorick happened to get Ampersand through a shipping error because it was next to the monkey Yorick was supposed to get but didn't because they both escaped and the shipping guys didn't know which was which. There are plenty more, but I'd have to reread the entire series and double the page length to get them all.
The latter one isn't as much a coincidence when you realize that, once you grant the existence of the shipping error, someone would have gotten the vaccinated monkey, and they would probably be the last man instead of Yorick.
Very few names start with Y, so it's a pretty big coincidence that the only person (in fact, the only mammal) with a Y chromosome after the Gendercide would just happen to have a name that starts with the letter Y. But on the other hand, that's the selective reporting fallacy. M is a much more common initial letter (Mark, Matt, etc.), so if someone with one of those names had got the monkey he would have been "M: the Last Man", which also looks coincidental. Likewise, L (for "last"), V (for "vir", Latin for "man" in the masculine sense, "Homo" means Man in the human sense) and T (for "testosterone", which he has more of than anyone) are also common initial letters. It doesn't take too much imagination to come up with an epithet that goes with almost any initial letter, so the name thing isn't actually much of a coincidence even though it looks that way.
It's also not a huge coincidence that a successful biologist has a father who's also a successful biologist, given that parents often encourage their children to choose the same profession they have, and help them on their way. Which seems to be exactly the case in Y: The Last Man. Since cloning is implied to be both the cause and the solution to the gendercide, it doesn't take a huge leap of faith to accept that the expert they seek to help with the problem is also the daughter of the man who might've caused the problem.
However, the fact that at the exact same moment Yorick is proposing to his girlfriend, 355 is carrying an ancient artifact that's prophesied to kill an exorbitant amount of men when it leaves the country it's in, and Dr. Mann and the woman her father impregnated give birth to their clone babies fits this trope rather well.
Another is that the last man's mother just happens to be the highest ranking female in the line of succession for President of the United States.
The story of Caitlin in Hogwarts Exposed is built on Contrived Coincidence. The girl with a ridiculously tragic backstory who Hermione takes pity on just happens to have exceptional magical potential that gets revealed later on and a twenty million Galleon inheritance.
In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, there was a need for a Dimensional Anchor. The item found in Tsuruya's backyard during the events of the seventh light novel? Guess what it is.
Averted and then subverted in With Strings Attached. The woman that kidnaps John turns out to be the person who has the Kansael, which the Fans were going to maneuver to Paul. Varx comments that this is a great coincidence, but Jeft points out that it's no coincidence—the script they wrote for the woman has been altered by an outside force. Which turns out to be the C'hovite gods. And the subversion is that it's not them, it's actually Jeft, who altered his own script and created his own coincidence.
A minor one happens earlier on in Ponyville Goes To The Dragons. When Twilight is trying to make the three dragons feel more at ease, she hears one of their stomachs growl and starts to talk about Sugar Cube Corner, and all the treats it has there. This causes them to realize how hungry they are and start to drool with hungry looks on their face over Twilight's dicriptions of the treats there. Well, guess who everyone's favorite Moe Blob draconiphobic happens to walk in at that exact moment...
In Retsuraed, this trope is referenced by name in their MST of 'When Fifi met Tails', based on how Fifi's boyfriend (Hamton) is away on the day of a school dance at the same time Tails is in Acme Acres looking for a Chaos Emerald.
Turnabout Reunion: Athena just had to turn on the TV to see Sunset Shimmer's conviction. I mean, Detective Fulbright even specifically mentions Phoenix's name.
Spider-Man 3: The Venom symbiote just happens to fall out of the sky and land near Peter Parker, and the Sandman just happens to be the guy who killed Uncle Ben. Then Peter chooses to get rid of the symbiote in the same church where Eddie was praying at that very moment, which allowed the later to become Venom.
First, Peter just happens to be crossing the same street and area in which some thugs are escaping from the police that very moment and gets his bike destroyed by their car, leading to an important plot point that strikes a riff in his relationship with Mary Jane.
Next, Peter just happens to walk past some thugs beating up a guy and can't help but feel unable to intervene (that others are ignorant of the mugging could be an example of the bystander effect).
He is present when the accident regarding Otto's demonstration occurs.
He and Aunt May just happen to be at the same bank that Octavius decides to rob to get money for his enhanced tritium experiment.
And then finally, Peter just happens to be at a nearby newsstand when an apartment building on the nearby corner catches fire. Notice that he wasn't in his Spider-Man costume in any of those events; he was merely a bystander minding his own business. And that's not even counting the beginning of the movie in which, on his way to deliver a pizza, he crossed a street in which some kids were almost run over by cars (he prevented this from happening). It's like he attracts accidents and crimes!
Then there was also the part in which Spidey is fighting Ock and they both plummet onto the rail tracks and land on a train that was just passing under them. If they fell even a second earlier, they would've landed on the tracks in front of the train, with predictable results.
On a broader Spider-Man note: all five major villains had a personal connection to Peter Parker. Green Goblin was his best friend's father. He'd met Otto Octavius several times, and he definitely remembered him. New Goblin was his best friend, Venom was a rival photographer whose girlfriend he stole, and Sandman killed his uncle. In addition, the villains tend to take his friends and family hostage a lot - Mary Jane gets kidnapped in every movie (by Norman Osborn in the first, by Otto Octavius in the second, and by Eddie Brock in the third), Aunt May is held hostage by Octavius in the aforementioned bank robbery, and the Bugle is attacked by the Green Goblin. It seems the writers never quite grasped the concept that there are in fact more than eight people in New York.
The Dark Knight Saga has many; The Dark Knight Rises probably has the most. One is that several of the same officers, like Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley and Detective John Blake, respond to the same emergency calls: Selina Kyle's fight in the bar and Bane's attack on the Gotham Stock Exchange. It seems as if the writers didn't realize that the odds of a deputy police commissioner and one specific uniformed cop answering the same call are very low.
Note that the response to the former involved a Senator/Congressman who had gone missing and the second could be construed as a terrorist attack. The deputy police commissioner responding to either makes sense. And as for John Blake, he's a main character. Of course he'll show up to plot-important scenes.
Also, Batman just happens to show up when Selina Kyle is being cornered by Bane's men.
Independence Day has loads of this, being a massive homage to old disaster and sci-fi movies, which were also loaded with this. To take just one of many, Will Smith, an astronaut wannabe and the only fighter jock to survive an attack on his base, who has shot down an alien fighter and captured its pilot, just happens to crash nearly in front of a convoy of refugees who happen to be driving in the general vicinity of Area 51, which Will just happened to notice in the middle of a dogfight. The most contrived coincidence is Jeff Goldblum's Eureka Moment on how to beat the aliens...triggered by his father's admonishment to bundle up to avoid catching a cold...
Jeff Goldblum also just happens to be the ex-husband of the President's Chief of Staff, giving him a way to save the President in the 11th hour. Will Smith's fiancee also just happens to be the one who finds the First Lady.
Lampshade Hanging in The Great Muppet Caper: When Miss Piggy is stranded and needs to get across town in time to foil a museum heist, a motorcycle just happens to drop off a passing box van, to which she remarks, "What an unbelievable coincidence!"
In Star Wars Episode IV, the odds of Luke meeting up with childhood friend Biggs at the Rebel base (as shown in the Special Edition) is next to nothing — as the two characters themselves acknowledge earlier in the film (this part of the footage was not restored). All six films are riddled with bizarre It's a Small World After All (or rather galaxy) moments, starting with the two droids just happening to be brought to the Lars homestead. There's some justification, since "There's no such thing as luck," and KOTOR lampshades the matter by having most Jedi characters interpret the massive coincidences and unlikely happenings coming their way as part of the Will of the Force.
Mission: Wow. What are the chances of that happening?
Canderous: Remember, we're talking about the Force here. At this point, Malak himself could drop out of the sky, and I wouldn't bat an eyelash.
Mission: Good point.
Quite a bit of it goes down in Crash, most conspicuously the car crash scene with the cop and the woman he had molested earlier.
In Borat, the titular character falls for Pam Anderson at first sight, but doesn't wish to cheat on his wife. A few hours later, Borat receives a letter telling that his wife is dead. High five!
Tokusatsu action film Casshern runs on this in almost every single scene, with the broken lightning bolt from a giant mountaintop statue accidentally landing in a scientist's mystical Neo-Cell soup and reanimating a bunch of dismembered body parts into the badass Shinzo-Ningen...who then just happen to stumble during their escape into the funeral of the scientist's dead war-hero son and kidnap his mother and then just happen to find a giant war factory in the middle of nowhere with an army of robots for them to use...while the scientist resurrects his dead son whose expanded musculature can only be contained by a super-suit coincidentally designed by the scientist dad of his girlfriend... and that's only the beginning! The only excuse this movie has for any of it is its stylized weirdness and the epic, Gotterdammerung-esque tone that hints that, though not explicitly stated, literal Deus ex Machina may be involved. After all, that was a convenient lightning bolt.
In Vantage Point, watching the Contrived Coincidences come together is half the fun. The other half is figuring out the stinking Gambit Roulette.
In The Fifth Element, the taxi Leeloo falls into just happens to be that of the ex-special forces major who was chosen to bring back the four elemental stones.
Music and Lyrics: Alex is a musician and former pop-band singer/songwriter who has been commissioned to write a pop song for a current pop queen, but only ever wrote the music and can't write lyrics. Sophie, the girl who waters his plants, turns out to be a budding lyrical prodigy. What a happy coincidence!
Not every nasty turn of events in The Dark Knight can be chalked up to the Joker's work. In particular, there is the moment when Harvey Dent gets half his face neatly burned off, and the same fire renders one side of his trick quarter distinct from the other. This was well after he'd earned the nickname "Two-Face."
In Lantana the number of coincidences builds up to become a theme. All of the major characters bump into each other randomly.
Taken further in the original play, Speaking in Tongues. In the first act, Leon and Jane's tryst takes place simultaneously with Sonja and Pete, and with nearly all the same dialogue. This occurs again when Sonja and Pete confess their near-affair to Leon and Jane only to find that their spouse cheated on them. In later acts, it is revealed that Sarah is having an affair with John behind her therapist/his wife's back, and that Leon, the detective investigating Valerie's disappearance, ran into Sarah's ex-boyfriend while jogging. In the film, Sarah is changed into a male gay patient of Valerie's who she wrongly suspects of having an affair with her husband. The jogger ends up dating Leon's police partner. In addition, Jane lives next door to Nick, who is suspected of Valerie's murder, while Pete was accosted in the street by Valerie the night she died, shortly before meeting Leon and having a drink with him.
In Star Trek, no attempt is made to explain the immense improbability of Kirk running into Spock Prime in a cave on the ice planet and thereby getting the exposition he needs to save the day. Even if we assume that both Nero and current Spock dropped their respective people off near the outpost, what are the chances of running into another person within a 14km radius? They're both going to the same place, but the most likely place for them to encounter each other is near the facility, not in a random ice cave. The novelizationlampshades it by suggesting that the timeline is attempting to restore itself.
Then there's the fact that Scotty just happens to have been Reassigned to Antarctica in an outpost a mile away from the cave…
Also the Enterprise's Chief Medical Officer and Chief Engineer are killed leaving those posts vacant for McCoy and Scotty respectively, Uhura has the specific linguistic knowledge to bump her up to the Communications station and Kirk gets an implausibly rapid promotion from cadet (on probation!) to Starship Captain, all so we can get the classic crew together in their correct places by the end of the film.
Legally Blonde gets its ending from one of these. Seriously, the main character wins the case with her knowledge of perms, which was the key to unraveling the alibi of the real murderer. If the killer had had any other hairstyle, or had at least not gotten a perm that day, she'd have gotten off scot-free.
In Hackers, a hacker breaks into a massive corporate supercomputer with zillions of files. The directory he picks at random to copy as a "trophy" turns out to be a worm belonging to the villain.
Played for laughs in Without A Clue. Holmes's (and Watson's) contrived method of solving the final clue turns out to be true, but the real solution is far simpler. Holmes and Watson read the final clue, a partial serial number (234) as being part of a kidnap victim's code. The victim's favourite book of the bible was the book of Psalms. Psalm 23, verse 4 leads them to a passage that referenced an In-Universe famous play: The Shadow Of Death, which played at a local theatre which was, in fact, where he was being held captive. 234 was also the address of the theatre, which was what the victim really intended.
Brooklyn's Finest has its climax as one of these when all three cops end up in the same area as each other for different reasons. Its still done well though.
Jake happens to see and stop a random schoolgirl from being raped in Training Day. Afterwards, she runs off and he takes her wallet to give back to her later. Several hours later, Alonzo betrays Jake by turning him over to some gang bangers. The lead of those gangbangers happens to be the girl's cousin and they discover her wallet seconds before blowing Jake's head off. It's the only thing that saves him.
Subverted in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy finding Marion coincidentally in the first tent he happens to stumble in? Lame. Him deciding to leave her there since he can't take her that easily out of the camp? That's a new twist.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. As a teenager, Indy used a whip for the first time (giving him his chin scar), gets his fear of snakes, and his signature fedora all in the same day.
The Great Dictator: Let's see...there's a random barber who happens to look exactly the same as Adenoid Hynkel, the fascist dictator of Tomania. He happens to be Jewish. And he happens to wake from a coma in which he's been trapped for twenty years, just around the same time that Hynkel is planning on invading Austerlich. Moreover, it turns out that this barber's old war buddy is now a high-ranking member (turned Defector from Decadence) of the fascist party. Oh...and Hynkel just happens to get lost on a fishing trip at exactly the right moment for the barber to take his place.
Invoked in The Truman Show, where the producers' increasing reliance on Contrived Coincidences as desperate attempts to convince Truman everything's normal and stop him from suspecting the sham he's living in backfire spectacularly and only drive him ever more paranoid.
Nick: I'm not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to her childhood lover whom she last saw on a deserted island who then turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground. Hillary: I know. It all sounds like some bad movie. (Aside Glance)
Lampshaded in The Emperor's New Groove when Yzma (in cat form) has finally gotten the potion back from Kuzco and is promptly squished by Kronk throwing open the other opening of the chute he had fallen into a good while ago (too long ago to have taken this long, but this movie runs on pure Rule of Funny). His quote — while still oblivious to what he had just done — "Wow. What are the odds of that trap door leading way out here?"
The Emperor's New Groove is full of this. Before that, there was Yzma's miraculous survival when she fell off of the top of the palace. For no reason at all, at that very moment, a trampoline had been accidentally delivered to the palace and set up where she was falling.
In An American Tail, Fievel gets washed overboard in a raging storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of drowning, he somehow ends up inside a floating glass bottle, which somehow ends up washing ashore right onto Liberty Island, which coincidentally is near New York, where Fievel's family was headed. Luck and the ocean currents were definitely on little Fievel's side, apparently.
The film Tokyo Godfathers has quite a bit of this, to the point of being a plot point. One of the main characters repeatedly mentions that the baby they've found is a gift from God, and we see many times that she might be what's making everything fall into place so perfectly.
Lampshaded in Wayne's World when, upon stepping out of an Alice Cooper concert for a moment, they conveniently talk to a security guard who tells them the travel plans of a producer who could help the career of Wayne's girlfriend Cassandra.
Garth: Aren't we lucky we were there to get all that information? Wayne: Yes. It seemed extraneous at the time.
The plot of The Perfect Host kicks off when an escaping bank robber goes into a convenience store to treat his injury. It just happens to get robbed by a completely unrelated criminal, which delays him and gets him noticed by the store clerk. So he talks his way into a nearby house to hide out, the occupant of which just happens to be a lunatic who likes drugging strangers and having all night "dinner parties" with them. And it getsmore ridiculous from there: the lunatic just happens to be the LAPD Lieutenant assigned to his case.
The Road to El Dorado: The guy the duo gambles against happens to have a map to El Dorado just as the Spanish Fleet is leaving for South America, the duo happen to wash up right on its shores after days adrift at sea, and a volcanic eruption happens (and cancels itself) just as the duo are asked for proof of their divinity.
Superman. When Otis screws up and enters the wrong coordinates into the first nuclear missile they just happen to be the coordinates for Hackesnsack, New Jersey, where Miss Teschmacher's mother lives. This motivates Miss Teschmacher to save Superman from Luthor's Drowning Pit so he can stop the missile. What are the odds?
How two twelve-foot hyper-aggressive Great White Sharks both ended up in the same flooded convenience store in Bait 3 D is anyone's guess.
Watching Hoodwinked a couple of times, it's clear that the four main characters ending up in Granny's house has to be this. In order, Granny Puckett arrives first, parachuting in through the chimney, coincidentally just as the Wolf and Twitchy are arriving at the house. Her parachute gets caught in the ceiling fan which ties her up and throws her in the closet. The Wolf and Twitchy search the place, presumably for maybe no more than five to ten minutes before Red Puckett, the person they are trying to get information from about the Goody Bandit, arrives. By even more coincidence, Kirk, the lumberjack, is trying to cut down a giant redwood tree up a hill from Granny's. By freak coincidence, just as Kirk is hearing a scream from the cottage, the tree topples and takes him down the hill, and throws him through the side window.
Red Puckett is like Contrived Coincidence to a T: The bandit strikes her granny's store while she happens to be in a treehouse nearby (he's gone by the time she reaches the store, so it's clear she jogs a short distance).
Later, the Wolf just happens to show up when she falls from the cable car (though this is revealed by the Wolf's story to be because he was doing surveillance on her based on information from his informant Woolworth).
Red and the Wolf happen to end up traveling through the same coal mine at the exact same time. Their carts come within a few feet at least twice, and neither character notices the other. Further more, it just happens to be a coincidence in both of their cases that they stumble upon the coal mine: Red finds it through Japeth, who lives in a mine shack tha turns out to be the first building she's seen in a few hours, while the Wolf happens to find a ladder out of the cavern he and Twitchy have been traveling through (having trusted Boingo with directions).
Red happens to encounter Granny while her mine cart is airborne. Granny has just escaped an avalanche and is flying home in a parachute.
All four characters' encounters with Boingo have to count: in Red's story, he just happens to be on the roadside when he sees her riding by on her bike. In the Wolf's story, he conveniently shows up at the right time to suggest a (not) shortcut to Granny's place. In Kirk's story, Boingo conveniently happens to be the first passerby to show up after Kirk finds his truck raided. He also appears right before Granny's ski race to get her autograph.
In GoldenEye, Bond's performance evaluation just happens to be set in Monte Carlo, where Xenia and the Janus Syndicate are just about to steal the experimental EMP-proof helicopter. Moreover, Bond randomly meets Xenia while they are driving on the same road into the city at the exact same time, leading to their impromptu race.
In Pitch Black, the ship happens to crash land on an inhabitable (sort of) planet, 22 months out from port, on the one day every 23 years that it has a solar eclipse, which allows thousands of carnivorous, dark-loving creatures to come to the surface and terrorize the crew.
In Die Hard With A Vengeance, McClane is chasing Gruber through the half-finished aqueduct, when the latter blows a dam and floods it. The water pressure shoots McClane out of a drainspout literally the moment Zeus passes it, allowing him to pick him up and continue the plot. Had the two missed each other and taken any time to reconnect, they would have missed their opportunity to later board the boat and Gruber's plan would have gone off without a hitch. Not to mention, of the hundreds of schools in New York City, the one Gruber has planted his bomb in is the one where Zeus (who only entered the story randomly) has his two kids enrolled.
Narrator: Watch Brad Pitt survive an un-survivable apocalypse thanks to a constant stream of lifesaving coincidences like: never hitting traffic in the middle of mass hysteria; finding an RV with the keys and a loaded gun inside; this friendly mugger showing him where to find medicine; this friendly Mexican family taking him in, no questions asked; these fast zombies who slow down as soon as they are about to catch him; this small child headshotting a zombie on top of him; this plane dropping a ladder down to save him at takeoff; this Israeli soldier killing a zombie about to eat him; surviving this car crash; surviving this plane crash; surviving a spike through his stomach; and shooting up with a randomly picked virus that happens to be curable while also serving as zombie camouflage.
Played for drama in Das Versprechen, when the police attempt to set up a trap to catch a child murderer. But, unbeknownst to them, said murderer has died in a car crash on his way there, so they never actually catch him, or even find out who he was. It drives the protagonist so far up the insanity tree that he insists to keep waiting for him for the rest of his life.
Captain Underpants: The Captain had these in a few books. For example, the 4th book The Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, opened with George and Harold having to stay at school during a class trip. For revenge, they rig the teacher's lounge to spray the teachers with glue and Styrofoam pellets, turning them into "snowmen". This leads to the science teacher retiring after seeing them, thinking he's gone nuts. Thus, Professor Poopypants takes up the now-open job of science teacher, leading to the main plot.
The aliens attacking the school in the third book use "Zombie Nerd Juice" to turn all the students into zombie nerds. All it takes to change them back is a dose of the conveniently available, lampshaded generously, "Anti-Evil Zombie Nerd Juice".
A dandelion happens to grow right outside the window where George pours the "Ultra-Evil Growth Juice" out of. It goes horribly wrong.
Subverted for laughs in the 7th book, where the Captain jumps out a window to take flight, unaware that he has lost his superpowers. He falls several stories to the ground, and crashes onto the only patch of ground not covered by extra fluffy pillows, a trampoline, or a haystack.
Jane Eyre: When Jane, penniless and homeless, passes out in the middle of a field, it just so happens to be on the property of her long lost cousins. Also, right before she's planning on leaving for India with St. John, she just happens to hallucinate someone calling her name, making her go back to Mr. Rochester and his burnt down house. And the mysterious rich uncle who bequeathed her the money necessary for her to marry Rochester "as an equal".
Even The Eyre Affair offers no explanation for the fact that Jane ended up getting taken in by the Rivers family.
Jane is not "hallucinating" someone calling her name. In the novel's universe, Rochester is calling Jane mentally. It sounds like a hallucination to modern readers, but in the 1840s many people, even scientists, believed that such a thing could happen.
Villette is an even worse offender. British heroine Lucy Snowe goes to work at a school for girls in some French-type country (most likely Belgium), and it so happens to be the school where her god-brother serves as a doctor. Also, her potential romance with Dr. John is stopped abruptly when the woman in France he mysteriously rescues from a burning theatre happens to be the former ward of Dr. John's mother. From England.
Shirley, in which Shirley Keeldar's governess also turns out to be Caroline Helstone's mother.
David Copperfield: At one point the entire denouement hinges on Mr Micawber a) just happening to be in Canterbury, and b) just happening to walk past the Heeps' door (which is c) wide open due to nice weather) on d) the one day - and hour - that David has been invited to tea within. This in a book that already depends pretty heavily on characters just happening to run into one another, frequently on the streets of London, then as now one of the biggest and busiest urban metropolises in the world.
In Martin Chuzzlewit, to wrap things up during the happy ending, Mark Tapley happens to randomly bump into the couple that they left behind as their nextdoor neighbours in the "town" of Eden. This even though the couple were last seen in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in central USA, and the ending happens in London. (The fact that the woman in the couple is the same woman that Mark befriended on the boat to America was already a coincidence in itself.) With Dickens it's easier just to think of it as a form of Narrative Causality by which his universe ensures that anybody necessary for the plot happens to be exactly where they need to be, even if they're on the wrong continent.
Oliver Twist: Oliver is an orphan in a town 75 miles from London who runs away to the big city and falls in with a gang of thieves. Obviously, the mark in the first pickpocketing caper he's involved with turns out to be an old friend of his father's. After getting kidnapped by the crooks, he's forced to get involved in a burglary. This time the victim turns out to be his mother's sister.
In Great Expectations, a coincidence that is central to the plot is the fact that Miss Havisham has the same lawyer as Pip's real benefactor, Magwitch the convict. However, for no good reason other than to tie up loose ends, it also turns out that Magwitch's nemesis is the same man who left Miss Havisham at the altar, and that Magwitch is Estella's father.
Thomas Hardy did this a lot as well - The dénouement of Tess of the D'Urbervilles required the title character to run into the man who raped her earlier in the book, while yomping across Dorset, in just the state of mind to consider taking up with him again, and, by the way, he's given up being a country gentleman to be an itinerant preacher in the intervening time...
The RPG (which uses the FUDGE spinoff FATE) explicitly has this as a mechanic. Players can spend a Fate Point to make a Declaration, which the book describes as letting one create a convenient coincidence. The examples given are a character having a cigarette lighter right when he needs one despite never smoking, or showing up during a dramatic scene just in time to help out. One of the Faith powers (Guide My Hand) lets a character do this without spending the fate point.
In Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court the eponymous Yankee's time of execution happens to coincide with a solar eclipse. (Not to even mention that he knew the exact date and time said eclipse would occur despite its status as obscure fourteen-hundred-year-old history.)
The real coincidence being that he was the kind of person who would calculate all the solar eclipse dates in the past few millenia for fun... just before getting time warped into the past.
This was based on an actual event when Christopher Columbus used an eclipse to frighten the natives in Jamaica, except that a) it was a lunar eclipse, not a solar one, b) Columbus had access to astronomical journals which calculated it and c) Columbus had to wait months for the eclipse to arrive. In short, the real event was coincidental, but much less unlikely.
The narrator of Betty Miles' The Real Me writes an essay in which she describes such coincidences in the "horse books" girls her age are supposed to love, in which a poor girl who wants a horse conveniently wins one. When the family wonders where they're going to put it, a nice man offers her father a job in the country, and their new house has a big barn out back. You'd expect someone to say "If you expect this whole family to pack up and move fifty miles just because of some damn horse, you're crazy," she says, but "nobody ever says that in horse books".
The Wheel of Time actually averts this. Not by there not being coincidences, those happen all the time. Chance events interact across entire books, as well as generations in-story. The main character's birth is shown to depend on a small act of charity around three thousand years beforehand, among other causes. However none of these coincidences are contrived as we see just as many coincidences that are completely insignificant to the plot. All this is explained as the Pattern explicitly making these sorts of things happen taking every life into account for a grander design.
xkcd: As Randal Munroe complains in this comic, the Redwall books often have the main characters discover some hitherto unnoticed riddle somewhere in the titular abbey, the solution to which just happens to provide them with some necessary advantage against the Monster of the Week.
Les Misérables has some of the more spectacular Contrived Coincidences in literature. One example: Marius's grandfather is (apparently) the father of two little bastards by his housemaid; he fires her, but pays her a substantial allowance to support them. When they die, to keep from losing her income, she takes in two children about their ages — who just happen to be the two youngest Thenardier kids. And when these two are thrown out onto the streets, who do they take up with? Why, Gavroche... who never uses the name "Thenardier", and who's forgotten that he ever had two younger brothers.
Also, Valjean is being pursued by the police through the alleyways of Paris. He climbs over a wall into a convent. And who's that working as the gardener? Why, it's that guy whose life he saved a few chapters ago! (Parisian population at the time: over 600,000...)
Another spectacular example: The Thenardiers lure a wealthy man into their home, first to beg for money, later to extract it from him. This man is Jean Valjean, his adopted daughter is Cosette, who has lived with the Thenardiers before. Their neighbour is Marius, who fell in love with Cosette after watching her on the streets of Paris, and whose father was saved by Thenardier at the Battle of Waterloo. When Marius informs the police of the plot, he meets Inspector Javert, who is pursuing Jean Valjean. Additionally, this all happens in exactly the same house Jean Valjean and Cosette had lived in years ago.
Also, there's the two incidents Valjean using his great strength to save two separate men, who are trapped in similar accidents. Both incidents are witnessed by Javert, decades apart.
Really, classical literature in general loves this trope.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy pokes fun at this a lot. Most famously, when Douglas Adams had his main characters thrown out an airlock into space, he realised anything that saved their lives at this point would be a Contrived Coincidence. Rather than Handwave this, he gave it the biggest lampshade he could think of, by inventing a space drive that creates Contrived Coincidences as a side-effect of its nonsensoleum.
And that space ship in question just happens to contain not only Arthur's old almost-lover, who by coincidence was originally introduced to him at a party in an Islington flat that had the same phone number as the probability of them being saved, but it is also piloted by Prefect's long-lost cousin, who JUST SO HAPPENED to be the guy who blew up the Earth because of his astounding negligence.
Eddie calculated the odds of the above actually happening to be one in two to the power of infinity minus one. When DNA contrives coincidences he takes the cake... and makes the Total Perspective Vortex out of it.
Adams also used this trope a lot in his Dirk Gently novels, this time without the excuse of the Infinite Improbability Drive. Rather, Dirk's convoluted "holistic" philosophy of detection — which he'd concocted purely as an excuse to charge trips to Majorca on the expense accounts of clients whose cats go missing in London — actually seems to work for him, no doubt to his disgust.
As does his 'zen' method of navigation; find a car that looks like it knows where it's going and follow it. You won't get to where you wanted to go, but you will end up where you needed to be.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Guards! Guards!!, it is stated that a chance of one in a million holds true in nine of ten cases. This "universal truth" is later used by a bunch of people in a (failed) attempt to slay a dragon.
And then accidentally, when it's a million-to-one chance that they won't die in the ensuing chaos. Naturally, they're fine.
Rincewind's life is one Contrived Coincidence after another. This is explained as the interference of Luck The Lady herself.
In fact, the plot of Interesting Times is explained away as a battle between the personifications of Luck and Fate.
In Maskerade, the supposedly foreign Enrico Basilica announces on stage that he is returning to his Morporkian birth-name of Henry Slug. A woman in the audience, who has never attended the opera before and probably never will again, is present to recognise the name of her long-lost beau. Agnes refuses to believe this sort of thing happens, but Nanny Ogg points out reality is currently conforming to the rules of opera, where it happens all the time.
In Jingo, it looks as though Vimes is about to become a victim on 'friendly fire' when he comes face-to-face with one of the few men in the city who'd recognise him instantly his own butler.
In Snuff, it is mentioned that this sort of thing happens all the time to Colon and Nobby. It's one of the reasons why they're still on the (otherwise fairly respectable now) force (apparently, one time a major case was solved because something tried to lay an egg in Nobby's nose). The one that is relevant to the plot in that book is that Colon happens to buy a cigar with a goblin Soul Jar pot in it.
In the Young Wizards series this is both lampshaded and justified by the phrase "There's no such thing as coincidence", meaning that the Powers That Be and/or God set things up so they'd happen that way. One example is the fact that whenever Nita and Kit go on anything resembling a vacation, whatever their destination is just happens to be the exact place they need to be in order to fight the Lone Power.
In the books, this is known as a "Wizard's Holiday". Sounds like it happens pretty often, for it to get a name.
Edgar Rice Burroughs is another classic example; he was particularly fond of having separated characters be unexpectedly reunited while lost in the middle of thousands of square kilometers of jungle, ocean, and/or trackless wasteland.
The climax of The Return of Tarzan has Tarzan, his best friend, his cousin, and his estranged love interest, each on separate journeys with different destinations, all wind up in the same patch of African jungle. For bonus coincidence, it's the same patch of jungle where Tarzan grew up, which he was attempting to avoid and none of the others could have found if they'd tried.
The first Pellucidar novel, At the Earth's Core. The main character, after coming to the inner world of Pellucidar, immediately meets a beautifulgirl who happens to be a princess, an old man who happens to be a king, and soon after a young man who happens to be yet another king. Needless to say, he will need the help of all these royals and their kingdoms later in the story.
In Gods of Mars, John Carter is talking to a fellow prisoner, who speaks of his father. When John Carter asks who is his father is, he gets to "My father is — " before they are interrupted. So they get to escape before a third companion calls Carter by name, to get the reaction, "I am his son."
The heroes of SM Stirling's Emberverse novels at first appear to be the beneficiaries of a whole honking string of these, but it gradually becomes clear they are getting very powerful behind-the-scenes help from somewhere.
A particularly egregious case of this trope occurs towards the end of A Clockwork Orange in which the brainwashed and rehabilitated ex-hoodlum Alex just so happens to bump into every single person he ever wronged throughout the course of the book, all within in the same evening. The consequences were dire.
Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood features an end-of-the-world scenario where Blanco, the mafioso who raped Toby, just happens to survive multiple rounds of prison gladiatorial combat, kills everyone in Ren's workplace, and ends up surviving an apocalypse which happens to kill 99.99 percent of humanity, only to be finally found and poisoned by Toby.
Lampshaded in several Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey stories, in which Peter discusses with an author the annoying fact that coincidences look contrived in stories, even though they happen all the time in real life.
In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Vor Game Miles just happens to get tossed into a jail cell several light years from home with his runaway emperor, later runs into a former Barrayaran general, that he had caused to be cashiered from the service. She then lampshades all the coincidences when Miles runs into yet another old friend, and responds to their surprised "What are you doing here?" with "Somehow, I figured that might be your first question."
Quite a lot of straight romance novels may be use this as well. After all, what are the chances of any two random people meeting and falling in love with each other at first sight?
In George Eliot's Middlemarch, Bulstrode turns out to be Will Ladislaw's step-grandfather. This, together with the way in which Raffles tracks down Bulstrode in the first place, is quite a large coincidence. Raffles's surprise on his discovery acknowledges that it's a coincidence, but Bulstrode's relationship to Ladislaw is glossed over. How did Bulstrode come to be living in the same area as Will, when one would have thought he'd want to avoid any association? A relatively subtle example by 19th-century standards, though, and nothing on Dickens.
Tom Clancy's novels enjoy this. Any Jack Ryan novel features some coincidental happening that forces Ryan to play some greater role than his job actual requires, often leading to him saving the day. It started small in The Hunt for Red October, with a helicopter carrying a pair of Royal Navy officers being lost when their helicopter had a catastrophic failure in flight, resulting in Ryan being flown out to supervise the "rescue" of a Soviet submarine despite his not speaking a word of Russian, and finally culminated in Debt of Honor when the President, the Supreme Court and most of Congress is killed by a pilot who'd managed to steal and pilot a 747 across the Pacific Ocean and the continental United States by himself to crash it into the Capitol, all moments after Ryan is confirmed as Vice President.
A few in Remote Man but only one is all that implausible: The protagonist Ned runs into an American tourist while staying with his aunt and uncle in the Northern Territory. After joining his mother in Concord, Massachusetts on her long service leave, he stumbles onto a wildlife smuggling operation being run by the same tourist, whose son is incarcerated in Concord Prison.
Millennium Falcon by James Luceno has way too many to preserve willing suspension of disbelief. The heroes decide to figure out the ship's history just as one of its previous pilots regains conscience after a 60-year-long coma. Said pilot starts out from a medical facility one of whose members just so happens to have piloted the Falcon in the past as well. The pilot, the heroes and the mastermind behind the whole thing just so happen to be in the same city of the same planet at the same time. Then they finally get to their target planet right as it's about to blow up.
In reality if you read the full star wars expanded universe you get the sense that there is no coincidence. Everything happens because the Force knows what it is needed for the galaxy to prosper. In one novel (or comic or game) in the series it's said that the Force knows what it is doing. In one analysis by one character, it's pretty much said that the destruction of the Old Republic and the Jedi, as well as the Civil War between the New Republic and the Empire was all in preparation for the Yuuzhan Vong. So that when the war with them came to happen, the sentient beings of this Galaxy could win. So in the end the entire premise of the Expanded Universe of Star Wars is pretty much a subversion of this trope. Yes the book Millennium Falcon by James Luceno has plenty of these supposed coincidences happen in the same book, when normally all the coincidences tend to happen across several books. But if you look at the entire EU it is in reality a Subversion, with the Force acting as a god who knows whats best for its people and doing whatever is necessary for them to be able to survive and prosper.
In the Jack Reacher novel The Killing Floor, Reacher just happens to wander into the same town that his brother, who he hasn't spoken to in years, is murdered in just before his arrival.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a servant of Voldemort looking for his master just so happens to meet with the only person in the world who can give the location of another, much more capable servant.
The plot of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban kicks off because 1) The Weasley's win the wizard lottery, 2) This gets them a large front-page picture, 3) Ron's pet rat is in said picture, and 4) Cornelius Fudge just happens to be carrying this exact issue when he goes to visit Sirius Black.
Ron becomes Harry's best friend. His pet rat (actually a human) just happens to be responsible for the murder of Harry's parents.
The magic map that Harry received from Fred and George, who had originally found it in Filch's office, just happened to have been created by his (Harry's) father and his friends. And he (Harry) received it on the same year that one of those friends (Lupin) happened to be a teacher at the school (which was also the ONLY year in which he was a Hogwarts teacher), conveniently leading to him (Lupin) getting it back after Harry was caught breaking the school's rules and Snape (the one who caught him) decided to take Harry to Lupin.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron, and Hermione save a group of people kidnapped by the villains. There just happens to be a goblin in that group (the same goblin Harry met on his first day at Gringotts, no less), which makes it very convenient when they need to figure out how to break into Gringotts.
Not to mention that, in all of England, Harry, Ron, and Hermione happen to be camping right near some goblins when they reveal plot information about the sword.
And out of hundreds or thousands of wizards who could have bought a locket from a petty thief, it was not only a person that the kids knew, but the one with a peculiar enough appearence that the thief would remember her and they would recognise her from his sketchy description.
When Voldemort needs to check if Harry is dead, he chooses out of the dozens of his followers the only one who would have a reason to lie to him.
Harry only receives critical information because V murders Snape at a very particular time and in a very particular way and doesn't check if he's actually dead.
Harry and his friends found out about the Deathly Hallows because they asked Xenophilius Lovegood about the Sign of the Deathly Hallows. Harry knew that he knew about the sign because Xenophilius happened to wear a golden chain with it on his neck when both he and Harry attended Bill and Fleur's wedding. And Harry had only taken notice of this golden chain and remembered the sign because Krum was also attending and became outraged when he saw it and told Harry that it was the mark of Grindelwald, who had killed Krum's grandfather.
Harry obtained the Deathly Hallow of invisibility because his father just happened to own it and Harry inherited it.
Harry also became the owner of the Elder Wand (also Deathly Hallow) because he just happened to disarm its owner, Draco. Neither Draco nor Harry were aware that Draco was the owner, and Harry wasn't even aware that disarming someone made one the new owner of their wand.
Dumbledore's plan and many of his predictions relied on this trope happening to ridiculous extents.
Harry and Ron just happen to be in Hagrid's hut on the night he gets arrested, learning information that helps him advance the plot.
Out of hundreds of students, not to mention faculty and staff, Harry happens to be the one who finds the diary after it was thrown away. Also, the person who tried to destroy the diary just happened to be present the one time Harry (accidentally) let it be seen in public, leading to it being stolen back from him.
Lampshaded in The Avenging Chance: At the beginning, Sheringham mentions how many mysteries are solved by such a coincidence, as if chance itself were avenging the victim. The case is ultimately solved by such an event.
In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Phaethon ponders whether a meeting is coincidence or arranged by the Earthmind, an AI with a trillion times the brain power of a human such as himself.
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Mab thinks that Father Christmas being nearby in a mall so they can take refuge is an enormous coincidence. Miranda argues it would only be if they were looking for Father Christmas; instead, they were looking for somewhere, anywhere, safe, and it just happened to be Father Christmas who could swing it.
Lampshaded in Malevil. Emmanuel is stunned by the unlikelihood of the following events: Vilmain's men take La Roque the night before he planned to, they would have walked into a trap the next night when attempting it themselves. The only reason they don't is because of the scouts caught investigating Malevil in the morning; Emmanuel breaks his own orders and captures one rather then killing him, and the scout turns out to be a friend who wants to defect and warns them of their new enemies.
"Realizing that your life depends on such absurd coincidences, that's something that makes for modesty".
In The Merchant Princes Series, Miriam's ex-boyfriend is a DEA agent. Given that fact, it's not a coincidence that he was pulled in by The Men in Black to hunt down the Clan (any government agent of any kind would do), but it is a huge coincidence that he's the guy Matthias defected to, spilling the whole story about the Clan itself.
The Adventures of Blue Avenger by Norma Howe argues that this trope falls under Reality Is Unrealistic. Unlikely coincidences happen all the time, and Million-to-One Chance events are pretty common in a world with nearly seven billion people. So here comes one...
In Dune, House Atreides and all its retainers are scattered to the winds all across the planet Arrakis, and some even father, after the family is attacked by the Harkonnens. Two years later, Paul spots a smugglers' ship and sets a trap for it...and this just so happens to be the same group of smugglers that his mentor Gurney Halleck fell in with after the attack, and he's on that very ship.
This is Paul Atreides though, so he could easily have created the coincidence on purpose.
I think this could be a case of YMMV regarding a contrived coincidence. Keep in mind that Paul and the Fremen had been destabilizing spice production for years. Furthermore, it would have been safer for Gurney to stay on Arrakis. As one of the Atreides' top ranking officers, he could have easily been recognized and caught if he tried to leave the planet. He did have some evidence of the Emperor's illegal involvement in the Change and his violation of kanly. Thus, Gurney would have been better off staying on Arrakis.
After several days of fruitless searching in the Knight and Rogue Series Fisk points to a stable boy and says they may as well ask him for all the good it would do, and the boy just happens to be the only person in town with information they can use.
Flashman and the Angel of the Lord requires Flashman to join John Brown on his famous raid. The only way this could be arranged is so contrived that Flash himself points it out; "I'd not have been a within a thousand miles of Harper's Ferry, or blaster Brown, but for the ghastliest series of mischances: three hellish coincidences-three mark you!-that even Dickens wouldn't have dared use for fear of being hooted at in the street.
Subverted in The Robots of Dawn. Baley states that it is an amazing coincidence that Daneel was ready in time to be critical for The Caves of Steel case. Dr. Fastolfe remarks there must have been many occasions where he would have been useful, but without him, other means have been found.
In Time Scout, paradox doesn't happen. Period. Don't even try. Because something will happen to make it not happen.
Similarly, in To Say Nothing of the Dog, the space-time continuum will pick causality over plausibility any day. Erm, any time. Erm, always.
In Rule of Four, the four leads try to relax a little before graduation at Princeton by playing laser tag in the underground steam tunnels. When they are cornered by campus cops, they escape by joining a public naked party celebrating the first snowstorm of the year. Graduation is in May, and it would be a dry winter if the first New Jersey snow fell in May.
Gene Wolfe's Soldier of Sidon is the sequel to Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete. The first two novels are supposedly translated into English by Wolfe from ancient Greek scrolls found in the British Museum. The third volume is said to be a translation of another scroll, found hundreds of miles away in Egypt, which coincidentally turned out to have the same author.
A Little Princess: Well, it is by a Victorian novelist: the old gent who moves in next door turns out to be looking for a particular young lady who is due to inherit a great deal of money. Since the 'Indian Gentleman' is not even sure which CITY the little girl was sent to school in, it's somewhat serendipitous that he happens to move in next door from the right girl.
In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Angel goes to the orphanage to track down the clothing left with Freckles, to find she's just in time to have missed it; his aunt and uncle have just taken them in their despair, and are just about to leave America for Ireland, being unable to find their nephew.
In Beastly, Kyle just happens to meet Lindsy, the girl who would break his curse, on the same night he was cursed. He also just happened to give her a rose corsage, which was the only thing that convinced Kendra to give him a chance to break the curse at all. At the end of the book, there's one that's also a Shout-Out to Jane Eyre, when Kyle hears Lindsy screaming for help through the magic mirror, giving him enough warning to find and rescue her from a kidnapper. This happens the last night in his time period to break the curse and happens to be the event that leads to the curse being broken.
Actually used in-universe in Catching Fire, the second book of The Hunger Games. The Capitol hosts a special Hunger Games every 25 years called the Quarter Quell with a twist on a rules to further intimidate the Districts. (e.g. Year 25, an election is held to choose the tributes, rather than names being drawn. 50th year, twice the amount of tributes are reaped, so 47 kids die.) They claim that the twist for each Quell was predetermined at the very beginning, for centuries and centuries of Hunger Games, but for Year 75, they proclaim that the tributes will be reaped from the existing pool of victors, meaning they'll have to go back into the Arena.Just when the main character - the only female victor in her District - had accidentally incited uprisings in the Districts.
Even if they claimed it was a coincidence, none of the main characters really believed them.
Before the Quarter Quell announcement, President Snow actually averted this as a reason why he doesn't just kill Katniss for the berry stunt and make it look like an accident. Even he knows that no one would buy it.
In Handle with Care, the jury pool for Charlotte's trial just so happens to include her lawyer's biological mother.
The entire Animorphs series is just one small part of an epic cosmic struggle between Crayak and the Ellimist, so there are more than a few moments in the books that are just chalked up to "the Ellimist did it." However, there is one very specific instance that is lampshaded: In their war on Earth, the Yeerks are the pawns of Crayak, while the Animorphs are the (begrudging) soldiers of the Ellimist. The deal between the two meant that the Animorphs were supposed to consist of six random humans. Instead, we've got Ax (an Andalite, and Elfangor's brother), Tobias (Elfangor's son), Marco (the son of Visser One's host body), and Cassie (a sub-temporal grounded anomaly, who's mere existence means any attempts to alter the timeline will be doomed to failure). And yes, that means Jake and Rachel are the normal ones. The Drode (Crayak's Dragon) notes that this is impossible, and accuses the Ellimist of stacking the deck.
There are several apparent ones in Book #27, but it is ultimately an aversion. Erik is left unable to move or project his hologram, so the Animorphs carry him out of the mall. There was a major sale, so virtually everyone was elsewhere in the mall and all the cameras are down. They take a bus, and the bus driver doesn't notice. This makes them suspicious. Later, when they realize they will need a sperm whale morph, a sperm whale "happens" to beach itself. This they all realize can't be a coincidence, and that someone is pulling the strings. The Drode turns out to have been behind all of it.
In L. M. Montgomery's The Materialization of Duncan Mc Tavish, an Old Maid keeps from girls from pitying her by claiming to have a romance and to have quarreled with him. You can guess the rest from the title.
Happens many times in IT: the children of those involved in the events of 1958 turn out to be involved in the events of 1985, while their ancestors turn out to have been involved in past incidents with IT. Ben goes to the library in both 1958 and 1985 and hears the librarian telling the same story. The molds that the kids use to make silver slugs to kill IT turn out to have been purchased from an iron factory IT caused to blow up. Etc. Lampshaded in the following quote:
It was one of those odd quirks of fate or coincidence which sometimes obtain (and which, in truth, obtain more frequently in Derry).
Averted in the Book Within a BookMisery's Return in Misery: Paul is well aware that it would come off as too much of a coincidence for two women in the same town to have been Buried Alive, so he comes up with a way to link the two events.
"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption": It just so happens that Tommy Williams shared a cell at Thomaston with Elwood Blatch, the man who really killed Andy Dufresne's wife (a fact Tommy happens to be privy to because Blatch bragged about the crime). It just so happens that Tommy ends up at Shawshank, where Andy is incarcerated.
In the "Notes" section of Skeleton Crew, King describes an outlandish coincidence he claims actually happened to him. When he was an undergraduate, he submitted a story called "The Float" (an earlier version of "The Raft") to a men's magazine, which would pay only upon publication of the story. Later that year, while driving around late at night in the town of Orono, a traffic cone which road workers had failed to remove knocked his car's muffler loose from its tailpipe. Angered, King decided to drive around town picking up other traffic cones which had also been left out. He had picked up a good number of them when he was pulled over by an Orono cop, who took him into custody. The judge levied a fine against King of $250 – which he didn't have. Looking at 30 days in jail if he couldn't come up with the money, King saw no way out — until a check for $250 came in the mail from the men's magazine to which he'd submitted "The Float".
In The Hobbit, the party arrive at Rivendell and get Elrond to read their map on Midsummer's Eve — which just happens to be the right day (the first in several years, and the last for who-knows-how-many more years) in which some secret Moon Runes hidden on the map can be seen and read; they are only visible on a Midsummer's Eve on which a moon of the exact same phase as the one on the date they were written, shines through them.
A real life example comes from The Silmarillion. Númenor is meant to be an analogue to Atlantis, an advanced and powerful island nation that sinks below the sea eventually. Strangely, when Tolkien was working out what the Quenya name for Númenor would be, he realized that the word Downfall would be translated into Quenya as Atalantë, going off the pre-established root lant meaning "fall"
There are several in Jane Austen's Love and Freindship, such as the meeting of the grandfather and his four grandchildren, but one when Laura can't talk without remindind Sophia of her troubles, and when Sophia begs to talk to distract her, and a carriage overturns, is enough for Laura to remark on it. That the carriage happens to be carrying their husbands doesn't, however.
In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, the Guild ship happens have to as Captain a man who knows Jern. The captain pledges offering to a goddess whenever he happens by her shrine at the marvel that what was lost is now found.
Many episodes of Monk rely on a Contrived Coincidence to help Monk solve a case, which sometimes results in a Eureka Moment. For example, in the episode "Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame," Monk discovers the killer's identity only because a TV playing a commercial that featured the killer happened to be on while Monk was questioning a suspect.
In "Mr. Monk and the Voodoo Curse", when Natalie accidentally overdoses in a voodoo ritual, and Monk calls an ambulance, the paramedics that respond coincidentally include Angeline Dilworth, the voodoo doll sender's third victim.
Almost every episode of House involves an unlikely occurrence at just the right moment for House to realise the solution to his case. For example, in "Here Kitty" he diagnoses his patient with Cushing's. Just before she is about to undergo surgery, the cat she claims predicted her death enters the room and jumps onto House's laptop. This causes him to realise how the cat 'predicted' deaths. She was just trying to keep warm by lying on patients that were feverish or had a heating blanket, making it seem as if she 'knew' they were going to die. In turn, this causes him to figure out that his patient does not have Cushing's, but cancer of the appendix. Another such occurrence is in "Clueless" when he reveals to a clinic patient's wife that her husband is cheating on her and she throws her gold wedding ring down onto the floor. This prompts House to realise that his main patient was being poisoned by his wife with gold sodium thiamilate.
This trope is beautifully lampshaded in the episode '5 to 9' where Cuddy asks House what he's going to do if his latest theory doesn't pan out. House responds with "Go talk to Wilson about something completely unrelated and see what happens."
Subverted and/or lampshaded in Life On Mars. In both versions of the show, the heavy-drinking Gene is shot — but it turns out he's okay because the bullet hit the flask he keeps in his jacket pocket. "What are the odds of THAT," one of the characters asks; Gene, pulling flasks from several other pockets, says "Pretty good, actually."
The Red Dwarf episode "Quarantine" features a man-made virus which temporarily gives the "infectee" insane amounts of luck, eventually leading to the use of a rapid string of Contrived Coincidences to save the day.
It sure was lucky that the Farscape crew happened to land on Earth just when Hallowe'en came around, so they could (nearly) get away with being aliens on an earth which had only seen the first Star Trek.
In tokusatsuKamen Rider Den-O, the Transformation Trinket that Ryoutaro receives in episode one has four coloured buttons, each corresponding to one of his four forms. This despite the fact that he only has one form at the beginning, and the monsters he goes on to make contracts with for his remaining forms just happen to have the same colour schemes as the remaining buttons. You'd think it wouldn't really matter, but on some forums, you'd be deadly wrong.
Kamen Rider Black had the protagonist inadvertently stumbling upon Golgom's evil plans in nearly every episode. The organization itself believed he was some sort of Batman / Sherlock Holmes-level genius who was constantly tracking them down thanks to keen detective work, when reality it was almost always dumb luck.
On Heroes, mainly during the first season, the main characters -who mostly lived in different parts of the USA- ran into each other several times, mostly by sheer coincidence. The worst example was when Hiro, Nathan and Sylar ALL HAPPENED TO STOP TO EAT AT THE SAME ROADSIDE DINNER AT THE SAME TIME. Though there has been talk about some characters having a "destiny" in the series, it has not been proven yet. (In fact, history has been changed at least twice.)
Two different diners: Hiro meets Nathan in one after seeing him land outside. Then Hiro and Ando stop at the one in Texas, where Sylar kills Charlie.
In Season 2, this trope is brought into contrast, as a guy asks the girl he's dating if he is meant to believe that the fact that her father once abducted him as a boy and now she's going out with him is just a coincidence. Also probably the only time the word "coincidence" is used in the show.
In Season 3, Sylar is ambushed by a paramilitary group in his father's home. He takes a member of the paramilitary group that tried to capture him to a nearby house, to do the whole torture others the guy cracks routine. This house, which Sylar picked at random, just happened to house a local boy who had superpowers of his own AND who knows where Sylar's father is AND who wants to go on a roadtrip with him.
Mohinder's cab in Season 1. Seriously, it must be the only taxi in New York or something, because whenever a character hails a cab, there he is.
In the first episode of The Tick's live action show, The Red Scare, a communist assassin robot built in 1979 and programmed to hunt down and kill Jimmy Carter, is deployed in The City by a group of neo-commies who were trying to reprogram it to kill the postmaster general. Unfortunately, The Tick and Arthur foil them and accidentally activate the robot before the commies could reprogram it. Upon interrogating the communists and learning the latter, Arthur suddenly notices the title of that day's local newspaper. I'll give you three guesses as to what it says, and the latter two do not count.
The Tick:Jimmy Carter is in town? Heavens to Betsy, what are the odds?!
All of the passengers of flight 815 have unknowingly crossed paths before meeting on the plane, to the extent that the series also falls into the One Degree of Separation trope. For instance, only in season 3 we find out that Claire and Jack are half siblings; this remains unbeknownst to Claire until the end of the show (as far as we are shown), while Jack finds out only in S4. like the writers were just throwing in little connections to please fans, but as of season six it is pretty obvious the fact they have all crossed paths is an important aspect of the show, and it may not be fate that brought them to the island in the first place.
Some characters are "chosen" by the Island, and it will not let them die until they've done their job. This generally manifests itself as a series of coincidences. A man survives a high-speed car crash, and another finds that every stick of dynamite he tries to commit suicide with burns out before exploding. Even just putting a gun to your head and pulling the trigger doesn't work.
Tom: I'm curious—did the gun just jam up on you, or did the bullet bounce off your skull?
Lampshaded in a season 4 episode of The O.C., where Ryan and Taylor are trapped in an alternate reality. When the two have to split up, Taylor assures Ryan that since it's an alternate reality, they'll "just find each other". Sure enough, they do.
In the first season of 24, Jack Bauer and his daughter wind up in apparently separate dangerous circumstances. Because this was the Big Bad intentionally targeting Jack and his family for revenge, this turns out NOT to be a case of Contrived Coincidence, and the lack of same makes it seem like rather clever plotting. However, in the second season, Jack and his daughter wind up in completely unrelated dangerous circumstances on the same day, apparently because the writers decided not to mess with a successful formula but couldn't be bothered to make it seem remotely plausible. It culminated in the Trope Namer Trapped by Mountain Lions.
In season 6, Morris O'Brien (CTU analyst Chloe O'Brien's ex-husband, and a major character) is identified as one of the handful of people in Los Angeles who are capable of assembling and arming a nuclear bomb, which is a perfect justification for the Big Bad Fayed to kidnap and coerce him into doing the same thing for a terrorist device.
On Doctor Who, the Doctor and Donna investigating in the same building simultaneously, questioning workers in the same office at the same time, using the same printer, running down parallel streets and parking their transports in the same street without everseeing the other is portrayed as pure coincidence.
That is until "Journey's End" went and blamed it all on fate via the Timey-Wimey Ball and one rebellious Dalek.
A repeated Missed Him by That Much may have been a Contrived Coincidence, but Donna was intentionally investigating weirdness in hopes of finding the Doctor. Given how much he likes modern Earth, and England in particular, it's not all that much of a coincidence that she would eventually find him.
"The End of Time" takes it even further, suggesting that even meeting Donna to begin with might have been simply to put the Tenth Doctor in contact with her grandfather Wilfred, who is destined to cause his death.
Then again, the setup for almost every Doctor Who episode seems like a contrived coincidence. It seems that the TARDIS can't land anywhere that some sort of galactic peril isn't unfolding.
It's likely that the TARDIS is doing that itself.
Now confirmed, when the TARDIS matrix was temporarily put in a living body.
The Doctor has stated he "skips the boring ones."
Curb Your Enthusiasm practically runs on this—each and every episode will have a good four or five subplots, which inevitably come together at the end to totally and completely screw Larry over. Sometimes it's not that out there, but nine out of ten times the end of an episode is this trope at work.
Lampshaded in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation when the killer, a bitter TV actress, sarcastically suggests how the "hypothetical" murderer could have pulled off her crime, which ends up evolving into an increasingly convoluted, soap opera-ish plot. When Brass interrupts to snark about how much of a Contrived Coincidence one development in her scenario is, her response is, "that's alright, you're allowed to have one per episode."
In How I Met Your Mother, this specific coincidence shows no significant plot relevance YET, but: What are the chances that the mother forgets her yellow umbrella at a party, and then Ted happens to take that umbrella, only for him in later years to briefly date a girl, who happens to be the mother's roommate, and, coincidentally, the time when Ted goes to that girl's apartment it was raining, and Ted happened to be using the yellow umbrella and conveniently forgetting the umbrella at the apartment, where the mother resides?! SERIOUSLY?!? Out of all of the women he dated and the rainy days, he happens to forget the umbrella at his ex-girlfriend's apartment who happens to be roommates with the original owner of the umbrella.
Prison Break is full of this, with things only getting more contrived as the show goes on. For instance, the premise of the show is that Lincoln Burrows has been framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother. Fortunately for him, his brother Michael happens to be a structural engineer, and happens to work for the company that designed the prison he is sentenced to. Furthermore, the firm designed the prison in a shady under the table deal, and due to family circumstances Lincoln and Michael have different surnames, thus ensuring that few other people know these things. Thus allowing Michael to put in place a complicated plan to free Lincoln that involves getting himself thrown in the same prison (which itself borders on this trope, though there are Hand Waves). And that's just the start...
The "Chicago Holiday" two-parter from the first season of Due South. Detective Ray Vecchio is trying to track down the contact list of a murdered mobster - which is written inside a book of matches. The matchbook is passed from a mob enforcer (who subsequently loses it) to several random bystanders who either throw it away or give it to someone else, and eventually winds up in the hands of the mobster's girlfriend, who then gives it to a high-ranking Canadian diplomat's daughter - who just so happens to be under protection from Fraser (Ray's partner and the main character of the show).
In The BBC's science fiction drama Earthsearch there's an episode where the four-person crew of the starship involved in the titular search defeat an evil robot that tried to take over. Having done so they decide it's time to set course for their next destination, but it turns out that they don't have to, because out of all the infinite directions it could have chosen the evil robot randomly selected the very course they wanted to take.
In another episode, somewhere in the vastness of interstellar space they just happen to accidentally run into one of the only two other ships in the fleet, just so they can have an adventure on board.
There's no reason at all that Romeo didn't get the message about Juliet's sleeping potion, except to make the story a "tragedy" in the loosest sense of the word. (There's an explanation, involving a plague outbreak and a quarantine, but it's still a contrived coincidence that the quarantine happens at that particular time.) Arthur Laurents, librettist of West Side Story, was very proud of inventing a more compelling reason the message was lost, as Tony's gang very nearly rapes the messenger.
In The Taming of the Shrew, Bianca's many suitors need someone brave enough to marry the shrewish Katherine so that Bianca will be eligible for marriage. When they decide that, in rides Petruchio, who thinks that a beautiful, rich wife sounds fantastic, and finds the idea of "taming" her to be thrilling.
In Othello, Iago's wife doesn't see fit to tell Othello what a scoundrel her husband is until after he murders Desdemona.
The traditional Russian name for this trope is "grand piano in the bushes". It comes from an old Soviet stage comedy sketch "Completely coincidentally" by Arkady Arkanov and Grigory Gorin, which parodied obviously staged Soviet news reports that were made to look live and improvised. In the sketch a TV reporter interviews a retired heroic factory worker, with objects and people that help illustrate some parts of his story just "completely coincidentally" happening to be nearby. The sketch concludes with the interviewer asking the worker what he does in his spare time, to which he replies that he is a skilled musician, and wouldn't you know, there just happens to be a grand piano hidden in the nearby bushes for him to demonstrate his musical skills.
In Les Misérables, this trope seems to be in play as all of the important characters happen to show up in the same place at the same time.
Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest' relies on ridiculous coincidence for its humour.
Final Fantasy V. The party needs to cross the ocean. They just so happen to find a cavern used by pirates. They try to steal the ship, and it just so happens that Faris, the goofy male pirate with pink hair, is pink-haired princess Lenna's long lost sister Sarisa. Which is great timing since Faris needs to be around to watch her father die and give her a motive to save the world.
Final Fantasy VI. The player party needs to get across the ocean, but ships are too tightly watched by The Empire for them to go by sea. The following series of coincidences allows them to make the trip:
The only airship in the world is held by a Sky Pirate named Setzer, who has a thing for an opera soprano named Maria.
Maria is supposed to be playing in an opera just near the party's current location.
Maria is afraid of being kidnapped by Setzer, and therefore won't play. However, party-member Celes resembles her closely enough to take her place.
Celes is a proficient enough musician to convincingly pass for a world-renowned soprano after at most a few days of rehearsal, despite being an 18-year-old ex-general.
Final Fantasy VII. Cloud, a former comrade of Sephiroth (who becomes the Big Bad), meets Aeris, who is the last survivor of her race (and just so happens to be the only one able of stopping Sephiroth) and who just happens to be Zack's ex-girlfriend, who was another comrade of Cloud and Sephiroth, and Cloud & Zack were experimented on (as adults) by Hojo in the basement of a mansion in Cloud's childhood hometown, and Hojo turns out to be Sephiroth's father...
Crisis Core takes it to a whole new level, with Zack Fair actually meeting many characters seen in the original game, including some of the playable characters who join Cloud's party, with the exception of Red XIII, Barret and the sleeping Vincent Valentine. Why none of them remember seeing a guy with the same haircut as Cloud carrying the exact same sword…
Before Crisis is even worse than Crisis Core, with the player Turk encountering virtually everyone in the original game (including Cid, Red XIII, Barret, and Vincent) as well as Zack.
Final Fantasy VIII. Right around the time that Squall and Rinoa are apparently lost and drifting in space forever... giant disused space ship floats by. Granted, it's there because it was previously used to tow the space station they were just on into orbit, but given how big space is the odds of it so conveniently drifting within reach at just the right time, let alone still being in perfectly functional condition after almost twenty years of disuse and being easy enough to operate that Squall is able to land it safely with a bit of instruction via radio, are very slim indeed.
In God of War II, it would appear that every hero in Greece scheduled an appointment with the Fates the same day Kratos did.
Regal from Tales of Symphonia keeps his true identity secret for almost half of a disc. Yes, he emphasizes his role as a criminal to hide it, but the secret would have been revealed if anyone ever mentioned him (and he's well known) using both his first and last name.
It helps that he never actually says his full name (before The Reveal)... and that the one person who figured it out (Zelos) decided not to call attention to it.
EarthBound has a number of these, usually played tongue-in-cheek. The most flagrant example? After the Moonside segment, you receive a phone call from Apple Kid, who tells you that he is sending you his latest invention: a yogurt machine that, as of now, can only make trout-flavored yogurt. Then you are approached by a monkey who lives in a cave in the desert, whose master wants to meet you. Then a delivery man says that he brought the yogurt machine, but lost it in a cave out in the desert. (Yes, the same one.) And then one of the maids from the building you've been trying to enter all this time asks if you could bring her some trout-flavored yogurt. And all of this happens in immediate succession.
The prequel's whole plot is due to a contrived coincidence: namely, that Ninten is a descendent of the humans who raised Giegue. If this were not so, then he would be unable to enter Magicant and find out that he must collect all eight melodieswhich are the only things that can make Giegue call off his invasion of Earth. And even with all that, the only reason he stumbles into Magicant in the first place is because his town's curfew prevents him from leaving his hometown the conventional way, requiring him to go off the beaten path.
The Half-Life series is brimming with this trope, from fortuitous weapons acquired immediately before they would be most useful to people and indeed entire organisations functioning almost entirely to benefit the player. This is even used as a pervasive story element, as the almost omnipresent GMan is shown to manipulate things both important and seemingly inconsequential for his own purposes, blurring the line between coincidence and intent and further emphasising Gordon's complete lack of control. Need to get somewhere but rubble just fell and is blocking your way? It's all good, because nearby there will happen to be a hole in the wall/an underground tunnel/junk usable as stairs/broken prison bars that lets you get to exactly where you need to go. In fact, it's more likely that what was behind the rubble that fell wasn't where you needed to go.
Portal 2, a non-plot critical example: In the finale, Chell is knocked flat on her back and dazed by an explosion which exposes the moon through the ceiling. Chell fires a random portal at it, which happens to hit within yards of an Apollo Program landing site.
Which becomes even more coincidental when you consider that in the Portal universe, Aperture Science was heavily involved in the space program.
Done especially badly in Homeworld 2. In order to acquire the MacGuffin, you need a Precursor Dreadnought - a very powerful, very well hidden and ostensibly unique spaceship. It takes the aid and self-sacrifice of the last remnant of an ancient alien race to liberate the thing from the Keepers and put it back into shape. Just as you wipe your forehead, you receive an out-of-the-blue message in a casual, nonchalant tone: "There is another Dreadnought...and Makaan has it." Well, isn't that a surprise, I ask you?!
Heavy Rain: Ethan's son is kidnapped because he has a blackout, as a result of a car crash from years before, and he finds himself in an alleyway with an origami crane. It certainly appears to be a contrived coincidence, unless Ethan is really the Origami Killer and didn't know it. However, it's really an even bigger contrived coincidence than it seems at first. The Origami Killer just happens to be across the street to witness the car accident that started the blackouts, they all coincide with the Origami Killer's kidnappings, and always result in Ethan finding himself holding a paper crane and coming to at a specific intersection which just happens to be emotionally significant to the killer. Nobody knows this at the time so he couldn't have picked it up from the news.
Interestingly, most of the explanation for the above was originally going to be part of the plot where a sort of psychic bond was formed with The Origami Killer, who was present at the car accident and saw Ethan as an ideal father. This was cut a few weeks before release because the developers felt the added paranormal angle took away from the immersion and didn't really add anything to the story. What's left provides a pretty big contrived coincidence that is never explained.
While Shelby and Lauren go to visit Manfred's Clock Shop, the Origami Killer murders Manfred exactly when Scott is looking through filing cabinets, Lauren is in the other room entranced by a music box, and all the clocks are cacophonously chiming at the top of the hour, allowing the killer to sneak in, murder Manfred, and get away before anyone notices. Although when it's revealed that Scott was the murderer, it takes out some of the variables, but still leaves the coincidence of Lauren being distracted by a music box while the clocks were going off just as Scott decided it was time to murder Manfred.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Shadow the Hedgehog's strikingly similar appearance to Sonic is noted often by the various characters, but he was created 50 years prior to the series and only looks like Sonic out of sheer chance.
Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle Of Flesh: Hoo, boy, does the game have a number of these! Arguably the biggest instance is when Curtis has to break into a small locked room in his workplace, where he finds a toolbox. Inside it he finds a girl's dress his mother made him wear as a child, as well as a letter from his boss Paul Allen Warner to Curtis's father. He ends up finding a letter to him from his father, saying a number of things, like hoping that WynTech is treating him well. It's weird that his father puts this letter in such a spot and hopes that Curtis will one day work at that place, get some wild hair to break into this room and find this letter and the other contents of the toolbox, while his boss is starting up his illegal and immoral science project! If that's not this trope, then we're all the rulers of Siam!
Do note that at least part of it is played for laughs, such as Edgar sound clearly unconvincing that the spill was an accident, and he does at least chest the busted pipe, a smart thing to do, it's part P Layed For Laughs and part building up to the climax sequence.
Secret Files does this. In the first game, Max Gruber works at the same museum as Nina's father. In the second game, the two are on two completely unrelated missions: Nina is taking a vacation and Max is visiting a classmate in Indonesia photographing her archaeological find. Puritas Cordis happens to be in both locations.
In Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis in one place you need to gather several small blue stones to solve a puzzle. Those stones were removed from the cemetery to be used in constructions. For some reason, all of them were used in visible places and not buried under other stones.
In Syberia, at one point player character Kate finds herself trapped in an abandoned Soviet factory complex because someone has stolen the automaton train conductor's hands. The thief turns out to be the unstable director of the complex who has used the hands for his automaton pianist which he plans to use for a concert he wants an opera singer he is obsessed with to have in the complex. He won't let you go unless you can somehow bring her there but neither him nor Kate know where she is. However, by glancing at some articles in the guy's Stalker Shrine to the singer, Kate finds the name of one of the singer's acquaintances...which happens to be the man her mother is dating. One call to her mother and Kate learns the singer is in a spa town in the same region. And the complex just happens to be next to an abandoned cosmodrome which contains a still functioning airship which you can take to the spa town. After that quest line is resolved, you finally leave via the train...and arrive at the exact same spa town you departed from earlier...and find the guy you were looking for the whole game sitting in a bench.
The Mass Effect series. What are the chances that, as you run around the galaxy in the second game, you randomly bump into people you met in the first game? It's a small galaxy, indeed. A few of these are justified to a degree by the fact that many of the places Shepard visits happen to be among the top important and famous gathering places in the entire galaxy, but accidently running into people is still somewhat hard to believe due to the sheer size of these planet-covering locations.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and its sequels run on these. Almost all the cases would be unwinnable if it weren't for at least one witness being in the right place at the right time. Any specific example would be woefully spoileriffic, though.
Still, here's a particularly egregious one: a ringmaster goes to meet with someone, instead of his daughter. He just so happens to borrow your defendant's cloak. The murder drops what just so happens to be a golden bust of your client on the ringmaster, killing him. The bust just so happens to snag on the cloak when he pulls it up, and to a witness from exactly the right spot, it looks like your client is flying away from the corpse.
Everyone realizes just how much of a Contrived Coincidence each act is, and when the evidence supports the theory, actively rebel against anyone accepting it as the truth. In the case of the above spoiler, Phoenix himself acknowledges that it's incredibly unlikely and near impossible, and, in his words, "But that's exactly what happened." This happens all the time.
The plot arcs of each game have a few coincidences, but are usually explained as the long-term plans of people involved with the cases. Not so with the events of Investigations. It seems that when Edgeworth was first starting out as a prosecutor several years ago, he got involved in an incident involving a smuggling ring. Cut to the present day, where he ends up investigating three crimes that are all in some way related to the group. None of them are directly related to each other. His presence for all three is pure coincidence. And this happens over a period of two days.
Subverted in Canvas 2; it's implied that Kiri started working at Nadesico precisely because Hiroki worked there and she wanted to see him again.
When Elan really needs a way to travel quickly and become a better fighter to stand a chance against his Evil Twin, his drinking partner just happens to be a Sky Pirate.
Elan: Wow, what were the chances?
Julio: Pretty good, considering we wouldn't be having this scene if it didn't forward the plot in some way.
Elan's father just happens to be the Evil Overlord who is holding Haley's father for ransom.
MegaTokyo has quite a few of these, most notably the significance of nearly every member of the Sonoda family (Yuki is Piro's student, Meimi has a hit on Largo, the Inspector knows half the cast and Erika was engaged to his brother). Oddly, the example quoted above is one of the few that can make any sense, if you're willing to believe that Largo actually CAN sense evil (given everything else in the comic, it isn't too far a stretch).
Besides, the inspector's son hasn't had any significance yet. Well, he was a mild fan of Erika, but she had a lot of those.
Torg accidentally stumbles upon Dr. Steve's laboratory and becomes the object of Oasis's affections. By sheer coincidence, one of his friends is secretly employed by Steve's old company, Hereti Corp, which is desperately searching for Oasis.
Lampshaded towards the end of "Love Potion": "That is a great story, Kenny! All kinds of good fortune! And I guess the final one is that Gwynn would happen to sit next to the only other demon-possessed person on the train, allowing us to exchange stories."
Also lampshaded in "28 Geeks Later", although it's not really plot-significant. "Aw man! Brain-bug right up the nose! How plain silly! What are the chances it'd be shooting out of the drain right when my nose was over it? What's the word I'm looking for? ARGH!!!" [gets made slightly nerdier by brain-bug] "...'Contrived'!"
Lampshaded and subverted in Digger, when the title character is told she's a descendant of Helix, one of the wombats who worked on the chains binding the dead god:
Digger: What? Me? Isn't that a little... improbable?
Helix: I had eight sons a thousand years ago. You do the math.
El Goonish Shive has an interesting subversion. During the party, a lightbulb explodes, interruptingSusan and Justin's ill-advised hook-up. They see this as a fortunate coincidence. It's actually the Demonic Duck saving their friendship. He owed Justin a favor after a joke went very wrong.
Chapter 3 of Gunnerkrigg Court. All the other parts of the comic's Generation Xerox have a reasonable in-universe explanation, but in this chapter Reynardine, attempting to escape from the Court, smashes through several roofs. And one of these roofs just happens to be the dorm of Antimony Carver, the daughter of Rey's old friend Surma. This then gets practically lampshaded shortly later: Annie tries to find Rey again, but has no idea where he is. Then she finds a train, clearly labeled "Secret Train To Large Animal Holding Cells (Very Hush Hush, You Know.)" which naturally takes her straight to Reynardine.
Headmaster Llanwellyn: Tell me, do you find strange things seem to happen around you?
Trying Human relies heavily on this for parts of its story. The main character, Rose Marie, has been being abducted by aliens, and her boyfriend, Roger, ends up working for Majestic 12, a Men in Black organization that interacts with those same aliens. There's also the matter of Phillis, a woman from the 1950s who was shot and killed after interacting with the aliens' leader and how she ties in, which at the moment is unclear but implied to be significant.
Nedroid's Harrison Story Arc is full of this: Harrison runs into what look like Beartato and Reginald underground. Surprised to see them, "Beartato" replies he is actually an Identical Stranger called Buttfranklin. Harrison asks "Reginald" his name...and he turns out to be the actual Reginald, who had fallen down a hole shortly before.
Think of the odds of two people happening to travel via ship from America to England at the same time. Now what are the odds of three unrelated parties who have never met being on that ship and are all tied to the same plot? Fortunately in the world of Sire fate is a malevolent force called "The Binding" and it will move the Earth to make these circumstances happen.
Super Mario Bros. Z had one in the second episode when Mario, at the mercy of Bowser and his metal powers, is saved by the arrival on Sonic and Shadow's capsule, which crash-lands on Bowser's head and shatters his metal coating, giving Mario a chance to fight back.
Simon Wood in Survival of the Fittest version three managing to navigate his way across an island and find his girlfriend just in time to rescue her from an attacker.
To some extent, this also occurs when groups of friends manage to meet up with one another very quickly: the Deserted Islands upon which the games take place are rather large, and the odds of meeting your friends that fast are rather slim, to say the least.
In a Running Gag in Final Fantasy Trilogy, Sabin, Setzer and Terra survive their falls off Narshe's cliffs by landing on Relm, Relm's corpse and Strago respectively.
It was also good that they never bought a new van/fixed the old one, since it would stop breaking down in front of creepy old haunted buildings.
Lampshaded in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated in Gatorville when they are forced to stop because the engine block to the Mystery Machine has been stolen by Mr. E who wanted them to stop there.
There was a Lampshade Hanging on an episode of Futurama, where Bender, after having spent quite some time hurtling through space at the speed of light and encountering all sorts of circumstances along the way, gets thrown back to his worried friends, Leela and Fry, while they just happened to have started giving up on ever actually finding him. When he lands in front of them with a parachute to somehow slow his descent, Leela in incredible disbelief states, "This is, by a wide margin, the least likely thing that has ever happened." Justified, because actual, literal God was involved.
Or possibly just the remains of a satellite that collided with God.
The real coincidence there is when Fry smacks the radio telescope equipment in frustration, sending it spinning around in a random direction. As he does so, he laments that he just wants Bender back, within range of the microphone. The equipment just happens to end up pointing in the exact right spot for his message to reach God, allowing him to send Bender in the right direction to get home.
Further lampshaded on the commentary when one of the writers notes "And that's how we wrote our way out of that one".
Commander Zhao received word of a promotion to Admiral in the middle of asking for help, allowing him to change his request for the special troops he needed into an order. This was mocked by turning it into a Gambit Roulette in Avatar: The Abridged Series.
Captain Flamingo uses this a lot in the workings of the eponymous character's Bird Brain — his "super power" to misinterpret his sidekick's suggestions in such a way that his actions end up solving everything. One of the most extreme examples is Lampshaded and Hand Waved by Lizbeth (the aforementioned sidekick) and the Captain. "Isn't it awfully convenient that the book you checked out just happened to be on the exact subject you needed to return it?" "My Bird Brain works in mysterious ways. I don't question it, and neither should you. *Aside Glance* And neither should anyone else."
One episode of WordGirl was entirely built around Lampshading this trope, starting from normal usage and becoming territory by the end of the episode.
Contrived Coincidences happen frequently in Kim Possible, usually neatly lampshaded, but the episode "Rewriting History" is the most blatant and over the top example: Kim and Ron discover that Ron's great-grandfather Jon Stoppable was a police constable with the same kind of relationship to Mr. Barkin's ancestor, the chief of police. Most of Jon's success in police work is down to ace reporter Miriam "Mim" Possible, Kim's great-grandmother. Professor Dementor's ancestor is demonstrating his device at the World's Fair, and is just like his modern equivalent. Chasing this up, Wade discovers that his ten-year-old ancestor was there too. Ron finds this pile-up of coincidences unlikely, and when Drakken's great-grandfather enters the picture (with a sidekick resembling Shego), Ron declares the whole thing ludicrous. Having just discovered all this, it turns out that after a hundred years, the device is due to go off that day. With sixty seconds left on the clock and no idea how to disable it, Drakken and Shego burst in to steal it. Their craft takes the device far enough to go off harmlessly. Ron notes that the villains arriving in the nick of time is so unlikely, it's like a dream - and it was (though according to Word of God all the persons were real).
The episode ended with a statue of Ron's ancestor in Rome, who was the enemy of Dr. Drakken's ancestor. His victories may really be due to a mysterious masked Amazon who resembles Kim...
The entire episode "Trilogy of Error". Everything that happens to each character is a direct result of something (usually stupid) that another character has done, always with no idea that their actions are influencing the rest of the family. Eventually everyone's paths have crossed and re-crossed until, at the end of the episode, everyone's in the same situation.
In the episode "Don't Fear the Roofer", where Homer befriend a man named Ray Magini and ends up in therapy because his friends and family are convinced Ray is an imaginary friend (note the Significant Anagram) Homer made because he was feeling unappreciated. In the end it turns out Ray is real, and everyone just happened to miss seeing him for one reason or another. Turns into outright parody with Bart, who saw Homer talking to thin air because there was some kind of odd spacial phenomenon (requiring explanation by Stephen Hawking) that prevented him from seeing Ray.
Parodied in Road Rovers where the character of Hunter had the catchphrase "yet another unexpected twist", even if the twist is completely expected or just a wild coincidence.
In every episode of Phineas and Ferb, the eponymous young boys build a spectacular creation and Heinz Doofenshmirtz builds an invention of evil. Whenever Doofenshmirtz loses control of his invention, no matter how far away it is, it will inevitably destroy, directly or indirectly, any evidence of what Phineas and Ferb built that day before their mother can see it (much to the bafflement of their sister Candace). Less often, Phineas and Ferb will do something that seems inconsequential at the time but actually helps their pet platypus Perry (who's a secret agent) defeat Doofenshmirtz later on. One or the other (or both) happens Once an Episode. Perry the Platypus is the only one who's aware how much the characters affect each other's lives on a daily basis.
In addition, the two subplots are always near each other. Phineas and Ferb are on a trip to see Mr. Rushmore? Doofenshmirtz's base isinMt. Rushmore! Phineas and Ferb are visiting their grandparents in England? Doofenshmirtz is attending an evil convention in England! Phineas and Ferb are in space... (That one got semi-lampshaded.)
When they build a super computer it takes advantage of the coincidences to let them do the nicest thing possible for their mother, fixing her hair after a horrible hair day. The computer even gets a Literal Genie moment but it is Made of Explodium, all things it anticipated.
Then there are the even less likely moments where Perry's two dual lives meet, such as when Dr. Doofenshmirtz takes his girlfriend to the restaurant Phineas and Ferb built in their backyard, or when Candace delivered girl scout cookies to Doof's apartment, while Perry was still there. Jeremy once went to Doof's home to teach him how to play the guitar. Doof once dated Linda. He once went to a garage sale at the Flynn-Fletcher household. (It's not known if he knows Linda lives there) It goes to the point where every character has interacted with the doctor at some point, bar Phineas and Ferb themselves, and they have gotten close at points.
Averted in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, where the boys land in Doof's building, destroy the machine (an "Other-Dimension-Inator"), and then cheerfully help him fix it. And then Perry busts in, freezes when he sees them, and attempts to stop the doctor in 'mindless pet mode'. He fails. They travel to another dimension, and then gets outed as a secret agent, but then Laser-Guided Amnesia allows the characters to press the Reset Button and forget all about it.
The same Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension has both Perry and Candace invoke the coincidence to save the day. Perry knows the boys can build incredible things, and has been saving all of their disappeared inventions for use by the boys, their friends and allies to defeat Alternate-Doof's invasion. While it's still not going well, Candace forces their mom out so see what's happening, reasoning the "Mysterious Force" preventing her from busting her brothers, now that they are involved due to their saved inventions, will clean up the entire city. She was right.
In the episode "Don't Even Blink", the characters decide to watch the boys' latest invention to see where it goes. On the day where Doofenshmirtz has built an invisibility ray. Every time Linda comes to look it goes invisible, and it turns visible again when she leaves... and when Candace realises you can still feel it, her attempt to cover it in paint is thwarted by Doof deciding to screw the whole thing, and convert the machine to a disintegrator ray.
Many of the patches that the Fireside Girls earn are conveniently linked to Phineas and Ferb's project of the day.
This unfortunatly doesn't apply when it comes to Candaces own projects, in situations where the boys are protected by random chance, Candace is not and is caught every time.
It was in "Brain's Bogie" where Brain needed to steal a golf club from a famous golfer to take over the world and Pinky points out that he's doing a celebrity golf tournament soon.
Brain: There's only one word to describe such an amazing stroke of luck.
Pinky: I got one right!
Jonny Quest episode "Mystery of the Lizard Men". Out of all of the wrecked ships in the Sargasso Sea, the one that Jonny wants to explore is the one the Big Bad is using as his base.
There was an episode of G.I. Joe in the eighties in which the Joes repeatedly received menacing telephone calls throughout the episode warning them that "the viper is coming," which they naturally assumed referred to their archenemy Cobra. They were able to interpret apparent clues in the calls to upcoming Cobra attacks, and so anticipate and thwart the attacks, and so throughout the episode enjoyed great success against Cobra, but the calls keep coming. Then, at the end of the episode, an old man shows up with cleaning equipment and announces that he is "the viper," and that he was there "to vipe the vindows."Cue laughter. So there just happened to be critical clues to upcoming Cobra attacks in a series of unrelated phone calls. Sure, why not?
Lampshaded with a heavy dose of Meta Humor in an early episode of Family Guy: Peter has given up TV and Lois tries to entice him back by talking about the broadly-drawn characters, cliché storylines, and convenient coincidences that bring the plot around just in time. Immediately after she says this, William Shatner enters the house, his car having broken down outside on his way to give a speech on how TV keeps families together. (And yes, Shatner's appearance does resolve the plot and get things back to status quo.)
Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth". The Enterprise encounters an alien who was the basis for the Mayan/Aztec deity Kukulkan. He's coming to Earth to wipe out the human race because he's angry that humanity hasn't contacted him. One of the officers on duty on the bridge is Ensign Walking Bear, who just happens to be an expert on ancient Earth cultures and recognizes the shape of Kukulkan's ship. Walking Bear says the name "Kukulkan", which not only prevents Kukulkan from destroying the Enterprise but convinces him to allow several Enterprise crew members to try to solve a puzzle. If they solve the puzzle, Kukulkan will give up his plan to destroy humanity. Ensign Walking Bear didn't appear in any previous or subsequent animated episodes, just this one. What are the odds?
The episode "The Best Night Ever" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has everything go horribly wrong at the Galloping Gala in an unlikely way. True, Princess Celestia claimed the Gala was always horrible, but most egregrious are the forest animals who are scared of Fluttershy. The guests at the Gala can't control what the animals think, and it seems unlikely there would just happen to be animals who are scared of Fluttershy at a place where everything else is horrible.
Then again the guests at the Gala can control what the Animals think. Because what they think is: "All Gala guests are horrible." A time tested truism.
In "Castle Mane-ia” the ponies (either alone or in pairs) all decide to visit the old castle for different reasons at the same time.
Becomes a mass of coincidences once all the ponies are in the castle, for example Rarity reaching through the hole to accidentally grab Rainbow Dash.
In Street Sharks, Melvin just happens to stay at the same hotel that the Sharks' father is hiding in, leading to him accidentally eating mutagen popcorn and turning into a shark hybrid himself.
Generator Rex: in the episode "Breach", Rex is trapped in Breach's crazytown private dimension breaking things so that Breach ejects them into random locations in normal space, while Six and Bobo are in reality being hard-pressed by giant mutant scorpions. By some freakish stroke of luck Breach drops the ice-cream trucks Rex had just finished smashing directly on top of the scorpions.