Aliens have come from outer space. They've landed in the outback of Australia. They proceed to destroy all of the Southeastern Asian region and begin marching through Europe and Africa, but the combined military might of these continents is unable to defeat them.
Guess it's all up to the good ol' US of A.
This trope describes any instance where, because the story was made for American audiences, the writers create a world-wide problem to be solved by Americans (and typically Americans alone). The reason for this is simple. The movies are made for Americans and most Americans want to see other Americans as the heroes; also, most of the available actors are American. Whether or not the problem actually starts in the USA doesn't matter. Americans always save the day when this trope is invoked.
This often happens because the US military ''pays'' films to do so. If you show them in a very positive light, they'll let you borrow top notch military planes, ships, and tanks to film, which would normally cost you millions to get access to. So long as you make sure that evil military general is French, and the army that stops him aren't, you go a long way towards making your film within your budget. Not that this is an uncommon practice or restricted to America.
A Super Trope to America Wins the War (intersecting this with World War II). Compare Mighty Whitey and Creator Provincialism.
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Anime and Manga
Subverted in Read or Die. At the end of the anime movie the US military shows up to save the day, only to be easily defeated when the villain's naval fortress annihilates their entire force with one shot. The (British) main characters then go on to save the day themselves. Nonetheless, the real rulers of the world (the British Library) seem to assume that America is the World Policeman.
America attempts to do this at the end of the AKIRA manga but are promptly chased away by the Neo-Tokyoites, who declare the ravaged town to be a new country.
Used and tweaked around in Death Note. Most of this Japanese series features a handful of Japanese police working with L to find Kira, though justified by the fact that Kira is in Japan, which L quickly deduces. At the same time, the America-specific version of this trope is invoked by several prominent appearances of American FBI and CIA agents, particularly Raye Penber and Near's SPK task force, who work independently of Japan. Light proves to be aware of this trope as well, as he considers it a crowning victory when the American president finally announces that his country will no longer try to oppose Kira.
Though The Adventures of Tintin was a Belgian comic, it had already become considerably popular in America by the time The Red Sea Sharks was written. This has been offered as an explanation for why the plot culminates with the USS Los Angeles coming in to rescue the heroes from submarine attack.
As a reversal of their being the bad guys of The Shooting Star, perhaps... later editions replace the stars and stripes of the rival ship with an anonymous white star on black. The villain is still a gangster stereotype with Unfortunate Implications given later world events (fat, balding, black suit, little glasses, big nose and lips), but now is not explicitly identified as American.
DC and Marvel comics. Dozens upon dozens of examples. For example, the most recent Checkmate series has everyone making snarky comments on how the United Nations operational task force is filled with -Americans-.
Played out rather jarring in the Squadron Supreme limited series. The Earth is on the brink of total collapse, but the Squadron is composed entirely of either Americans or otherworldly beings. Creator Provincialism also results in all of the story's events taking place in the United States, with problems elsewhere barely mentioned at all.
Subverted in Mark Waid's Empire, where the villain Golgoth begins his world conquest in Australia and continues until only the U.S. remains as a beacon of hope. Then America falls too and everyone is screwed. Justified in that if you're doing world conquest and starting from nothing, it makes sense to build up a powerbase somewhere else first and save the toughest target for last, after you've assimilated everyone else into your forces.
In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" story, while Johnny and his Vikings are pursuing Bubba's gang, an American military helicopter from the Vietnam War suddenly appears through a temporal rift. When Johnny explains the situation, the crew decide to help, reasoning that they're Americans, so they have to save the day.
Occurs in many of Roland Emmerich's films, especially Independence Day. Everyone who took part in devising the plan to save the world was American. There was no international committee or involvement of the global scientific community. Considering the movie is taking place over a grand total of three days, during which the entire world is reeling from a massive coordinated strike that crippled most of the world's industrial and military power, this might be justifiable. The film is still considered Snark Bait internationally.
The capper comes at the end of the movie when the Americans discover how to destroy the alien ships and send the message out to everyone else in the world. We see that no one from any other country has even been attempting to solve things, instead apparently waiting around for America to do something. The absolute best scene is when a bunch of Brits sitting out in the desert receive the message and the radio operator declares joyously, "it's from the Americans!" Hooray! It's especially questionable why they're happy the Americans are launching a counter-offensive when you consider America's last plan involved nuking their own cities.
Though 2012 is a subversion of this trope. It is clearly shown that the U.S. cannot prevent the apocalypse single-handedly, and global cooperation is a major, if not very subtle, theme of the movie. The scientists who first discover the coming apocalypse are Indian, and the Arks that allow some of humanity to survive and so rebuild are built by the Chinese. Presidential adviser Carl Anhauser declares that only the Chinese could have got the project built in time.
Mercilessly lampooned in Team America: World Police which of course was mercilessly lampooning the American government's real-world "America saves the World!" mentality. Being written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker meant it also mercilessly lampooned the detractors of said mentality (and everything else in between).
U-571 is vaguely based on events that really happened. The USN did indeed capture a Kriegsmarine Enigma code machine and books from a U-Boat in 1944. They did deliver it and the resulting intelligence did aid the Allied cause materially. However, the movie was based on real life incidents where the British Royal Navy had captured Kriegsmarine Enigma code machines and books in 1941 and 1942, enabling the more efficient decoding of enemy transmissions to begin, and the code had already been cracked by Bletchley Park building off of Polish prewar work.
James Bond movies tend to subvert this trope, with the CIA more often than not being absent or impotent while Bond saves the day. (Quite often set in America, at least in the older movies.) Examples include (but aren't limited to):
You Only Live Twice (Brits track the SPECTRE satellites to the Sea of Japan and the Japanese secret service, lead by its head honcho, Tiger Tanaka does much the grunt work of the case, including supplying its elite ninja unit for the assault on the secret base, while the US are all too willing to blame Russians.)
Casino Royale (the CIA can't hold on to Le Chiffre, and Leiter's card-fu is weak.)
Quantum of Solace (where the official stance of the CIA is to do nothing to stop Medrano and Greene, and two of the CIA staff were actually working WITH Greene).
Played straight in:
Thunderball, where a parachute attack by scuba-equipped U.S. Navy SEALS (with Bond's help) defeats the SPECTRE frogmen carrying the nuclear warhead to Miami.
Diamonds Are Forever, when a force of armed U.S. helicopters attacks Blofeld's oil rig after receiving Bond's signal.
Painfully subverted in 28 Weeks Later in which US troops help reinhabit a small portion of London amidst a previously rage infested United Kingdom. Needless to say a sane rage host inadvertently infects her husband, resulting in a mass reintroduction of rage to the barricaded refugee population.
Of course it's played straight if you realize their plan would've worked perfectly if the woman and her husband didn't carry a planet sized Idiot Ball.
Every action taken for human reasons is mercilessly punished with more death. The message of the film: the virus doesn't care.
But also, it makes some sense in why America doesn't save everybody as they do immediately switch their plans at the first signs of a real infection. As soon as more than about 50 British are infected, they kill everyone, evacuate their forces, firebomb the city into a giant heap of ash, then go back, burn whatever is left, then leave again.
The only sane response to another outbreak was extermination according to plan. The opportunity to detect and cure was lost due to human failings.
Parodied in A World Gone Mad. After the American military suffers almost total defeat at the hands of an alien invasion, the entire crisis is resolved off-screen, with the solution only being mentioned in a brief newscast as having been "A clever scheme by the Australians involving their local frog population".
The trope's presence in Armageddon is sensible (but also heavilyLampshaded). As one of the few space faring nations, only America has the necessary technology and infrastructure to build the equipment necessary to destroy the asteroid. The Russians do provide support in the form of a refueling station. The team NASA sends is purely American, except for the Russian cosmonaut from said station.
It's explicitly said in the movie that American, Russian, Japanese (and I think Indian) space agencies "are working together on this." The European Space Agency doesn't get a mention, despite having a launch capability.
Its use in Revenge of the Fallen, however, grates on many Transformers fans since it gets in the way of the core theme of the show. The American military almost seems to be better at fighting the Decepticons (a threat completely alien to Earth) than the Autobots (said alien threat's ancient enemies)!
Averted in GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra, where GI Joe, originally a single American marine backed up by other Americans, becomes an entire multi-national team thanks to international audiences not being too fond of our military or our country at the moment. That's right, folks: GI Joe doesn't have G.I. Joe in it. No "All-American Heroes" here!
Justified in Contact by showing some of the background politicking and controversy over the US dominating the construction of the Faster-Than-Light Travel machine. In an attempt to alleviate this an international committee is used to select Earth's ambassador, but it's mentioned that the Japanese (who are also contributing significantly to the trillion dollar project) are bought off from insisting on their own candidate by promising them a significant percentage of the technological spin-offs from First Contact. Presumably other behind-the-scenes deals were made to ensure an American candidate was sent.
Armageddon's Dueling MovieDeep Impact also had an all-American crew of astronauts heading out to destroy the world-ending comet, notwithstanding the token Russian cosmonaut. Worse, the smaller comet landed in the Atlantic; that this also affected Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean was passed over in one line of a speech.
In Man of Steel, the Kryptonians are clearly a global-level threat, but you wouldn't get the impression that any armed forces exist outside of American ones. No other country's military gets involved at all. This is almost plausible since most of the conflict takes place on American soil, but at one point, a World Engine is deployed on the other side of the globe, and not one non-American military force even investigates it.
Subverted in John Wyndham's Cosy Catastrophe novels The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes in which blaming Russia for the disaster and waiting for America to save the day when you could be planning survival strategies is a bad idea.
Lampshading the popular belief that as that's what happened last time, that's what should happen this time...
Fully half of the novels in his Ryanverse feature American firepower saving the day. In the other half, it's American know-how, American hard work, or American honesty, as long as they aren't sabotaged by Strawman Liberals. Sometimes a combination of these is thrown in for the sake of variety, and in fairness, other countries do get to help out from time to time.
In The Bear and the Dragon, the US sends an armored division and a fighter wing to help Russia hold off an invasion from China. It's made plain that the Russians wouldn't have won without US aid.
Rainbow Six actually subverts this; the guy who ends up saving the day is a Russian who eventually alerts the Rainbow agents of the plot to spread viral agents at the Olympics.
Live Action Television
If you look at YouTube, besides hating the Theme Song, another issue some fans had with the opening credits of Star Trek: Enterprise was that, in its attempt to highlight human enterprise and vessels similarly named "Enterprise", it seemed to only detail American achievements in naval, aerial, and space exploration (excepting the H.M.S. Enterprise). No mention of Sputnik, or even a glimpse of Yuri Gagarin.
Generally played straight with the Stargate franchise, with the US Air Force gathering alien technology and allies to fight in defense of the Earth. At the same time, it justifies this by acknowledging the mistrust, politicking, and power struggles that would occur if other nations learned about it... which is exactly what happens when the Russians start running their own program, and together they let other major world powers in on the secret. Eventually the Stargate program goes international, but it's still supervised by the US, and most of the characters are Americans. Specifically, going from the Stargate Wiki's list of main characters:
In Stargate SG-1, six main characters were Americans and three were aliens.
In Stargate Atlantis, six main characters were Americans, one was Canadian, one was Scottish, and two were aliens.
The Battle of Antarctica in the TV movie/two-parter "Lost City" is all about America coming to save the day, as Prometheus and its squadron of F-302s fight the first (and only) straight-up battle against the Goa'uld on Earth.
24 employs this trope in the sixth season, where the American CTU not only has to save America from terrorists, but also has to recover a device stolen from the Russians by the Chinese, to stop World War III from happening. Yes, really.
The inspirational series (Gerry Anderson's UFO) provided this detail as well, with Shado being an international organisation, only based in England because the studio was there.
Subverted in Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion. When Major Blake informs Prime Minister Harriet Jones that the US President wants to take control of the possible invasion, Jones answers, "You can tell the President—and please use these exact words—he's not my boss and he's certainly not turning this into a war."
Saddler hangs a lampshade on this trope in Resident Evil 4, but it's hardly a subversion since Leon, an American agent, promptly kicks his ass and saves the day. This is even more notable because it a game released by a Japanese company... although Americans were the primary intended audience.
Though he's also a highly skilled former policeman (who managed to survive and play a major role in stopping a massive biohazard on his first (and only) day on the job) turned special agent who stopped ANOTHER potential viral superweapon in South America. Leon's just that damn good (who happens to be American).
Averted in Red Alert 1. The Americans do provide assistance to Allies, but the Allied forces are mainly comprised of European nations. The player's superiors are in fact German and Greek.
Also averted in Red Alert 2; the Soviet Union, bearing a grudge against the United States, unleashes a full-out assault on the country. The President is quick to seek the help of America's allies in fighting off the Soviets (to which General Carville does not take kindly: "It just ain't right! We shouldn't have to beg for help from anyone!").
The Expansion Pack, Yuri's Revenge, also has campaign missions that showcase each of the special units given to each country in multplayer mode.
Subverted in Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour. America virtually defeats the GLA and saves the world during the US campaign. The GLA makes a comeback and drives the US out of Europe during their campaign, and China comes in to save the day during their campaign. That's right, America is handed its own ass and Communist China are the big heroes.
All that and it still wasn't enough to keep it from getting banned in China.
Averted in World in Conflict, as it's more like America Saves Its Own Butt. Though they did wind up saving France and Europe, that was as part of a greater NATO operation.
In the actual missions you are simply a U.S. Army Lieutenant who has been put in charge of a French unit because you were the closest unassigned officer and they need those tanks to push back the Soviets NOW.
Averted in Red Alert 3; the American president is an incompetent Bush parody who you later have to kill to prevent a world war. Or is a robot spy for the Rising Sun..
The national diversity among Allied units is highlighted more in Red Alert 3 than it was in the previous two games; each of your units come from around the world (including Hydrofoils coming from the Dominican Republic), your orders usually come from a British field marshal and a British intelligence officer and occasionally The Allied co-commanders are also from around the world. Giles is British, Lisette is French (despite lacking any accent), Warren is American (and played by Randy Couture). And the American Vice President is David Hasselhoff.
Resistance: Fall of Man, an Alternate History game based on World War II, with The Virus in place of Nazis and a different timeline. Initially, in the game, the US was an almost totally ineffectual faction whose involvement was restricted to providing supplies due to strong isolationist tendencies. At the last minute, the Americans finally get seriously involved, and have a major role in finally winning things.
Resistance 2 goes all out with this trope, though; even the main character's superhuman abilities are quickly revealed to be due to experimentation by the U.S. Army, rather than the random fluke they appeared to be in the original game. Although, it's ultimately subverted, as they end up messing up badly.
Not to mention they get steamrolled, like everyone else.
Subverted in the original Shin Megami Tensei: the U.S.A. army occupies Japan because it's invaded by demons. In the end, the U.S.A. send nukes on Japan and you later play through a post apocalyptic Japan.
Metal Gear's universe plays with this trope like a cat's cradle. The times when Snake (any of them) is acting as an American agent, the trope is played straight; when Snake is a free agent as part of Philanthropy, the American military is sometimes portrayed as not helping with or contributing to a problem (like the tanker incident in MGS2), and sometimes as coming to Snake's aid (like the U.S.S. Missouri's Big Damn Battleship moment in MGS4). In the end, the United States is just as much at the mercy of the machinations going on behind the scenes as the rest of the world. What it really boils down to: Snake Saves The Day From The Metal Gear Solid 3 Cast.
Played so straight in Americas Army, to the point that your team always appears as U.S. Army infantry while the opposing team appears to be European terrorists; players on the other team see themselves/their team's in-game characters as being U.S. Army, while your team and your avatars appear to be said Islamic terrorists. Then again, you are playing an official United States Army game, authorized and funded by the United States government.
Subverted in X-Com, where the manual to the game specifically notes that several national governments attempted to confront the alien threat individually and were ineffective; the X-Com project controlled by the player is therefore, at least initially, an international organization funded and supported by every nation on Earth (and keeping their support is a major part of the game.) The United States does realistically (or at least, realistically in terms of what would likely be possible in such a scenario) contribute more money than any other nation, though.
Given the similarity of X-Com to Gerry Anderson's UFO, it's not surprising the accents are American.
In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, it's the Americans who get screwed over by their "no man left behind" policy. Your character's chopper is turned around to rescue a fellow pilot, which means that your squadron isn't out the blast range when a nuclear bomb goes off. It's the British SAS who save the day, though the American military does help some near the end - a joint Marines/SAS mission to avoid nuclear strikes on both Moscow and Washington D.C. The Brits still fire the final shot of the conflict though.
The Spectre gunship is not normally available to the British armed forces. Fortunately we have allies with a big stick, and leaders who know a good weapon when they borrow one.
In Modern Warfare 2, it's the British again, this time working on taking down a rogue American general who was in command of the troops that got nuked from the first game. That's right, not only is it American Doesn't Save The Day, it's The British Save The Day From America. Granted, General Shepherd's plan has more-or-less succeeded, and the open war between the US and Russia that he wanted is pretty much a guarantee, but still...
Call of Duty: World at War also subverts this, with the final mission of the Americans being more of a portrayal of rest of the Marines being fortunate enough to survive and go home after a final massive assault against; whilst they spend their missions clearly struggling and being grinded down by the resilient and fanatical Japanese defenders. The final mission of the game which better evokes a feeling of victory is won by the Russians taking the Reichstag in Germany. To be technical though, the American Marines chronologically finish the war. On the other hand, the Russians' missions themselves make their front seem pointlessly brutal.
Subverted and attacked in Spec Ops: The Line. Both Konrad (leading the 33rd) and Walker continually disobey their orders in an attempt to help the people of Dubai after a sandstorm strikes the city, but their efforts are driven more by a Power Fantasy of becoming a hero than by any genuine sense of altruism, and ultimately they only succeed in making a bad situation even worse. Meanwhile, the CIA also has a plan to "save the day" in Dubai: namely, killing every survivor of the sandstorm so that the truth of the atrocities the 33rd has committed in Dubai in the name of maintaining order will never get out, for fear of this causing a war between the US and the Middle East.
Subverted like crazy in PiLLI ADVENTURE, where more often than not the Americans (usually two NASA agents) show up just as the day is about to be saved and completely and totally screw things up. They also cause the problem on occasion.
This is, depending on who you ask, either harshly subverted or simply averted in Survival of the Fittest. Averted because, well, the marines haven't come storming onto the islands to rescue the children at any juncture in any of the three games. However, a subversion could be argued in that, on a number of occasions, a rescue has been teased or hinted at, only for it to prove to be a hallucination or dream.
Parodied in the American Dad! episode "Tearjerker" where Stan tries to fulfill this trope, even shouting "America to the rescue!" as he does it, but instead ends up crushing the James Bond style British agent with a snowmobile:
British dude: Smith! I don't need your help!
Stan: Nobody needs America's help! Until they need it!