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As Long As There Is One Man

When you fall, my friend,
Another friend will emerge
From the shadows
To take your place.
French Resistance Song

Our Hero and the Big Bad have finally come to blows. A titanic battle erupts, and when the smoke clears... well, the Big Bad has won. Instead of killing Our Hero, though, the Big Bad takes them hostage, and drags their broken body out for all the regular people to see. The villain assumes, of course, that seeing their champion broken will lead all the non-heroic civilians to automatically surrender. And for a second, it seems like it will.

...but there is one person who refuses to lay down and accept defeat, even with the hero down for the count. They'll step forward, even if they're no match for the villain, and say something to the effect of "As long as one person is left to oppose you, you'll never win." The other civilians, inspired by this person's bravery, also rise up in defiance of the villain. Usually in the process of the revolt, the hero recovers, and once again rises to challenge the villain.

Usually a hero's chances of this happening increase when they've trained the peaceful villagers.

This is often the result of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. The villain underestimated the effect the hero had on the people around him and it ultimately comes back to bite him when they don't.

See also: I Am Spartacus and Doomed Moral Victor. Compare Sedgwick Speech, Inspirational Martyr and Civilian Power. Contrast and compare As Long as There Is Evil, Evil Will Fail and Evil Only Has to Win Once.

Not to be confused with the literal scenario in Y: The Last Man — see Gendercide for that.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Transformers Super God Masterforce Something like this happens. Mega tries to crush Ginrai between an asteroid and a tower, but then a little girl who Ginrai saved throws a rock at her. This inspires all the other kids to throw rocks, which pretty much defeats her.
  • In One Piece, after Boa Hancock petrifies Vice Admiral Momonga's crew (except for Momonga who avoids that fate by stabbing himself to distract himself from her beauty), she mockingly remarks that his crew is now down to one. He replies that "one" is not the same as none. Of course, as a Vice Admiral, he's easily stronger than his entire crew.
  • In Dragon Ball, Master Roshi fails to seal Piccolo Daimao with the Evil Containment Wave, costing his life. However, with his last breath, Roshi swears someday someone will defeat Piccolo.
    Master Roshi: But don't...think...you're safe yet, Piccolo. Someday,...someone will take my place...and be strong enough...to rid the world of you. This, I truly believe-" (collapses, and dies)
  • In Yuma's epic battle with III in the first season of Yu Gi Oh Zexal, Yuma invokes a variation of this trope at one point of the duel, after recovering from the Despair Event Horizon that III's curse had inflicted on him. He's taking a serious beating, Astral is apparently dead, and he's down to 400 Life Points... And he responds to III's Evil Gloating by telling him that even if he had just one Life Point left, he'd keep fighting him. And despite the fact that the situation got even worse from that point, his attitude paid off.
  • This trope appears by implication in the anime ending of Soul Eater. Maka defeats the Kishin (the embodiment of fear-induced madness) with courage. When the villain screams about how something as common as courage is worthless, the hero claims that's the point—it's not special. Which means everybody has it.
    The Kishin: Everybody, huh? So it's just like madness, then.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America does this to Galactic Conqueror Thanos during The Infinity Gauntlet crossover. Subverted in that the hero's defiant stand, along with his defeated team's futile assault, were unknowingly all part of an elaborate plan by Adam Warlock to elicit the villain's true defeat by exploiting his Achilles' Heel.
    • Captain America had a habit of doing these speeches only to get stomped into the ground. He also did it in Avengers: Under Siege and the original Korvac Saga, possibly a few other times.
    • A straighter example happened with him sometime later after Korvac got hold of the Cosmic Cube. Korvac could have put the Captain under his power too, but left him free to demonstrate the impossibility of opposition. Cap repeatedly proves him wrong before the Reset Button each time, occasionally with things as small as protest t-shirts.

    Film 
  • Michael Collins This trope is repeatedly mentioned. When you're doing a movie about a revolution, you want to do this.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Will Turner says (with a nod to Jack Sparrow) that, "No cause is lost as long as there is one fool left to fight for it."
  • The Spider-Man Trilogy movies:.
  • Training Day: The final showdown scene between Jake and Alonzo is somewhat similar to this.
  • In the climax of Let's Go Kamen Rider, the film celebrating 40 years of the metaseries, Os, Ankh and New Den-O are captured by Shocker and are planning to execute them in front of a large live audience. The Rider Scouts, with the help of the Double Riders, arrive to rally the people into rebelling against Shocker and help in freeing the captive Riders. But even having four Riders aren't enough to match against Shocker's forces. Cue Big Damn Heroes when the All Riders appear, heralded by the Owner of the DenLiner, who states that, even if Shocker has changed history, the Riders will never be gone as long the sense of justice remains in the people's hearts.
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut parodies this sentiment with the song "La Résistance", as the song gradually turns into Go Ye Heroes, Go and Die, and Stan, Kyle and Cartman find it increasingly uninspiring.
  • In The Avengers, when Loki attacks Stuttgart, Germany and orders the people to bow to him, one elderly German (old enough to either lived through World War II or born soon after) refuses and proclaims that there will always be people who will stand up to petty tyrants like him. Loki gets ready to fry the old man when Captain America arrives.
  • In The Postman, General Bethlehem is about to execute two of the Postal Carriers when he realizes their example will just make things go on:
    Ford: Who are you?
    Californian Carrier: Name's Clark. Postal Carrier of the restored Republic of California. Who are you?
    Ford: Postmaster Ford Lincoln Mercury.
    Californian Carrier (takes off his cap, shake hands): It's an honor, Sir.
    Bethlehem: Wait a minute... wait a minute! You don't know each other? This will never be over. It'll go on except I'll be fighting a goddamn ghost.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs A Genre Savvy Visser One notes that unlike Yeerks, humans will continue fighting even when it's completely illogical. This is her main argument for continuing her secret invasion of the planet as opposed to Visser Three's plan for all-out war. (Although she has other reasons.) She turns out to be totally right, the eventual full assault is a disaster.
  • The Light Fantastic Parodied when Cohen the Barbarian is surrounded by some of the rioting city men. One explains that although Cohen might defeat him, someone else will continue the fight until Cohen is dead. Cohen replies, "Yes, but that isn't the point, is it? The point is, you'll be dead". Suddenly they all decide not to mess with Cohen after all.
    • Parodied in Guards! Guards!. One brave man stands up to the dragon and is immediately turned into a small pile of charcoal. This, unsurprisingly, does not inspire anyone. Later, The Hero (Lance-Constable Carrot) has to prevent the mob from kicking the dragon while it's down.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Voldemort has apparently killed Harry (who's faking it, but that's not what's important here), and drags his body out for all the people in Hogwarts still fighting the Death Eaters to see. The fighters seem pretty cowed, until one person steps forward... Neville Longbottom, who's spent the entire series getting mocked, cursed, beaten, battered, and having his parents' misfortune thrown in his face. Voldemort offers to let Neville join his army, and Neville responds, "I'll join you when hell freezes over," followed by a battle cry. Voldemort isn't too impressed, though, and he puts Neville in a Body-Bind Curse and places the Sorting Hat on his head, then sets it on fire. Neville isn't burned by the fire, breaks free of the curse, pulls out Gryffindor's Sword from the hat, and uses it to kill Voldemort's pet snake and final Horcrux, thus rendering him mortal. Then reinforcements come, and it's kick Death Eater ass time.
    Neville Longbottom: It doesn't matter that Harry's gone.
    Seamus Finnigan: Stand down, Neville!
    Neville Longbottom: People die every day! Friends... Family... Yeah. We lost Harry tonight. But he's still with us! (Points to his heart) In here! So is Fred... Remus... Tonks. All of them. They didn't die in vain! (Turns towards Voldemort) But you will! Because you're wrong! Harry's heart did beat for us - For all of us! (Pulls Gryffindor's Sword out of the Sorting Hat) It's not over!
  • Subverted in 1984. "If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man."
    • These may or may not have been lies designed to demoralize Winston and facilitate his brainwashing but still relevant even if they were, since the bad guys think it's important members of the resistance feel alone, isolated and the last of their kind.
  • The Stand by Stephen King, looks like it's going this way, but then subverts it. Near the end, when Flagg is preparing to crucify our heroes, one of his minions stands up and says "This isn't right! We used to be Americans!" We expect a revolt of sorts, but Flagg promptly kills the man, and no one else stands up. Then they're all killed by an unrelated nuclear bomb.
    • Well, sort of. the little ball of lightning Flagg conjures up to kill his minion doesn't go away once the man is dead. Instead, it grows and appears to form what another character sees as the Hand of God, which triggers the bomb. The man Flagg kills doesn't start a revolution, but he does contribute to Flagg's downfall, albeit in a very roundabout way.
    • Depending on your interpretation, this was Batman Gambit on the part of God. The whole point of His sending our heroes to confront Flagg was to inspire people like this man to stand up to him as well. Sure, he died right after, but from a cosmic standpoint that's irrelevant: he reclaimed his soul before he died.
  • In Lord Foul's Bane this is the Lord's comfort in the final battle. As long as there is one soul who remembers the beauty of the Land evil has not triumphed. Considering the nature of the books this is pervasive throughout the series.
  • Villainious version in The Wind Singer. The Zars are infinite, mindless, and can only be permanently be killed by activating the titular Wind Singer. Seriously, the have enough to fill a practically bottomless gorge with their own dead and form a single line from Amaranth on the far side of the map all the way through the gigantic plains and everything all the way from the cave !!!

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • The episode "Into the Fire" , where the Shadows and Vorlons attempt to break the coalition against them by simply destroying the protagonists' ship: "They will not follow you if you are dead." Two other ships take incoming missiles for them, with the rest ready to follow suit.
    • More openly in "Comes The Inquisitor". The questioning of Delenn by the Inquisitor results in him giving both Delenn and Sheridan a Sadistic Choice: to die or to let the other one die. Both are ready to sacrifice themselves and Delenn is so kind to elaborate: "If I fall, another will take my place!"
    • Also invoked by one of the Shadows' human agents, towards Sheridan. They would rather convert him to their side than kill him:
      Sheridan: Why don't you just kill me?
      Justin: Doesn't work. Someone will just come around and replace you.
  • Mentioned during the breather moment of "The Best of Both Worlds" on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard questions Guinan about the fate of humanity in the face of the Borg threat. Guinan, whose race was nearly wiped out by the Borg, assures Picard that as long as there are survivors, "humanity will prevail."
  • An episode of Psych had Shawn screw up an investigation against a deadly Russian mobster when he was recorded illegally searching the office of the mobster for evidence. He spends the whole episode trying to correct his error (and having weird It's a Wonderful Life dreams), but eventually is stymied when he can't come up with a new source of evidence or a witness against the mobster. He and Gus then give a Rousing Speech to the citizens who've been terrorized, stating that though they can't prove it, they'll testify that the mobster is a bad guy. This convinces one guynote  to tell the citizens that he'll testify as well, and he is a witness. When the mobster states that he can take care of one witness, everyone else says they'll testify against the mobster, and he can't kill them all.

    Music 
  • The War of the Worlds Rock Opera. "The Spirit of Man": 'If one man can stand tall, there must be some hope for us all, somewhere in the spirit of man...'
  • Similarly, this trope is invoked tragically by The Protomen.
    • In their first album, Protoman, who became The Dragon because he saw that the humans won't stand up for themselves against Wily's tyranny, nevertheless still holds out hope that just one person will stand and fight. They don't, and Wily has the assembled crowd slaughtered anyway.
    • In the second half of the prequel album, the viewpoint character is Joe, a brave and rebellious young man who sees what the city is becoming under Wily's superficially benevolent rule. He ends up dying in the process of destroying the tower from which Wily spews constant propaganda, but his sacrifice becomes meaningless because Wily has backups and uses the attack as an excuse to unleash an army of robots to crush any further resistance before it can begin.
  • The U.S. Air Force, which happens to be the official song of the U.S. Air Force, invokes this trope in the fourth verse:
    Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
    We'll be there, followed by more!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: In the backstory, when the Emperor and Horus are having their final battle of a great galactic civil war, the Emperor is beaten and horrifically wounded, due to his refusal to kill Horus (who was his beloved son before being corrupted by Chaos). A lone warrior (sources are very unclear and keep changing but either an Ultramarine, a member of the Emperor's elite guard, or a lowly Imperial Guardsman ) then sees the Emperor's broken body and attacks Horus in a rage. Horus simply flays him with a glance. Which then causes the Emperor (who sees that Horus is irredeemable) to completely annihilate Horus' soul.

    Video Games 
  • The Crusader games. The backstory and other universe materials included indicates that the Global Resistance is quite aware it might fail in toppling the WEC. However, the propaganda they distribute to their own people cites this trope, and also states the (technical truth) that nothing can last forever, so that eventually, the WEC will be overthrown, even if the Resistance is long dead by that point.
  • Elite Beat Agents: At the end of the next to last mission, the music-hating Rhombulans zap the Agents with a petrification ray, turning them into statues. As all the people whom the Agents helped during the course of the game mourn, one of them, Lucy (the little girl who was the focus of the "sad" mission), starts clapping her hands and chanting. The other people join in, reviving the Agents to the tune of "Jumpin' Jack Flash".
    • Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Tamashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2. A similar scenario shows up. Just as it looks like the original "Evening City" Ouendan have been crushed by an icy meteor and the Earth is doomed to slowly freeze to death as the Sun goes out, a young boy stands up and starts cheering on the Ouendan. The rest of the crowd of people the Ouenda have helped, as well as the new "Morning City" Ouendan, joins in, and the original Ouendan break free of their icy prison. The Evening City and Morning City squads then proceed to team up in leading the world in cheering to the tune of "Sekai wa Sore wo Ai to Yobundaze" ("That's What the World Calls Love", the closing theme to Densha Otoko).
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Palpatine seems to believe in this trope when he notes that Marek's Heroic Sacrifice in the Light side ending has given the Rebel Alliance a martyr.
    Palpatine: You must be relentless Vader. For if even one Rebel survives, this Alliance that we have unwittingly created will be our undoing.
  • In Live A Live, this is subverted horribly. Oersted continuously tells himself that as long as one person believes in him, he can continue to fight. Then it turns out that even she (Alicia) lost faith in him. He doesn't take it well.
  • Throughout the Mass Effect trilogy, Commander Shepard has always been of this mindset; even if they, personally, are brought down, someone, somewhere will know and will take up arms against the threat of the Reapers.
    Shepard: We will fight, we will sacrifice, we will find a way to stop you!
    • The ending bears out this faith, too. Even if Task Force Hammer is shredded, Shepard will continue to struggle. Even if Shepard dies, this sacrifice will destroy or pacify the Reapers. Even if the entirety of galactic civilization is crushed — another species, 50,000 years from now, will discover who Shepard was and what they knew and did, learn from it, and continue the fight. Inevitably, the cycle will be broken. Ironically, the Catalyst knows and anticipates this, but being a rather single-minded AI, can't and doesn't want to change that.

    Webcomics 
  • Domain Tnemrot. Dae is one of the last living soldiers in a resistance war and has essentially become the leader by default.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons Parodied. During a standoff between Homer, head of "Springshield", and Fat Tony:
    Homer: You can kill me, but someone will take my place. And if you kill him, then someone will take his place. And if you kill him... well, that's pretty much the end of it, the town will be yours.
  • This trope kicks off the four-parter "Beyond Good And Evil" in X-Men, when Apocalypse defeats Cable in the year 3999, and steals his time-travelling device. As Apocalypse is about to rid himself of his mortal enemy, Cable cries that more like him will continue opposing him, and "the world can't stomach his evil forever". Apocalypse scoffs at his outburst, considering himself to be above his moral sensibilities...but then briefly muses on the prospect of having to face guys like Cable, as he had previously done many times in his extremely long lifetime to be a Fate Worse than Death. After refusing to accept this to be true, a time-travelling mishap brings him to the "Axis of Time", and he attempts to remake the universe in his own image. Interestingly, it turns out that Apocalypse himself is also indestructible as an avatar of evil — he can only be sealed away temporarily.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: After Superman has been decisively defeated by Darkseid and presented as a trophy to the citizens of Metropolis, Dan Turpin (a police officer who had previously balked at Superman's crimestopping capers, feeling they made the police obsolete) walks forward and tells Darkseid that it'll take more than that to get them to surrender. He takes action to free Superman in the resulting chaos, leading to Darkseid killing him when he is forced to withdraw by Superman and the forces of New Genesis.
    • Resulting in what is possibly the most touching line in the series. "In the end, the world didn't really need a Super man... Just a brave one."
    • Turned around in the finale of the same series. Superman goes to Apokolips and decisively defeats Darkseid. He presents Darkseid's battered and broken body to the people of Apokolips, declaring them free... And they start carrying their master back to his palace to tend to his wounds.
  • Batman shows himself to be one, as Superman points out in the battle against Darkseid in Justice League Unlimited show. While Darkseid is invading the planet, Batman, a mere mortal, jumps on his back and becomes the first person to ever dodge his Omega Beam, prompting Superman to tell Darkseid that neither Batman, or any of the League, will quit as long as they can draw breath. He follows up with the trope-naming "World of Cardboard" Speech.
  • Happens in Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Last Patrol!". The villain manages to defeat a team of heroes and forces them to make a Heroic Sacrifice. He thinks this will crush the world's faith in them. Cue the entire world chanting their name, having more belief in their heroes than ever. This causes the villain to shut down and have a Villainous Breakdown, making no attempt to resist as Batman arrests him.

    Real Life 
  • While not exactly needing one man, when it comes to the Scottish...
    ...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself. Declaration of Arbroath, April 6th, 1320
  • This video denouncing Islamic terrorism in Iraq.
  • The national anthem of Poland has overtones of this. Composed in the 18th century, when Poland was not on the map, it asserts that so long as Poles remain alive, Poland continues to exist.

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Anti-VillainIdealism TropesA World Half Full

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