This trope is a staple of the shonen genre, which usually features scrappy teenage protagonists going up against fully grown villains with a clear advantage and defeating them.
Thorfinn versus Thorkell in Vinland Saga, with no clear cut victor in either of their two fights, though Thorkell concedes the second fight after Thorfinn tears out his eye.
The basic premise of Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer revolves around Misaki coming to terms with being small and choosing a small Angel. Hikaru, naturally, never fights anyone smaller than she is; they're all bigger, heavier, and initially have a strong upper hand.
Touma in A Certain Magical Index. Seriously, complete invulnerability to all supernatural powers sounds awesome, but let's think about this. A. It's his only power. B. Against non powered opponents, if anything it works again him by influencing his luck. C. It doesn't protect him from the effects of said powers such as shrapnel. D. Using this ability means he can't use any sort of weaponry and therefore has to get into punching range of his opponent. E. It's only a single limb, not his entire body. Opponents so far: An esper with extremely potent electric abilities. An essentially all powered magician able to draw on what is apparently the entirety of magical knowledge. A reality warper who can literally kill with a thought or do anything he thinks of. Accelerator, who can not only take a nuke head on but hit you back with it even harder.Fiamma of the Right, a magician who has an undodgeable and always lethal attack and can level cities without effort. The Archangel Gabriel, second most powerful angel in existence who can end all life on Earth in minutes. Basically, a partial immunity to their abilities on his side and street fighting skills. David Versus Goliath much? And naturally, any opponents who don't rely entirely on these abilities tend to crush him. Kanzaki and Tsuchimikado, basically, who go for a wide range of abilities instead of relying on the raw power of whatever their ability is.
Shiage is an even bigger underdog in his fights against superpowered enemies, he doesn't have any superpower at all. He becomes very interested in magic when he learns of it, but is quickly told that he can't use magic: while he's a Level 0, he's still an esper, and therefore incompatible with magic. Sucks to be him.
The titular Eyeshield 21 vs. just about anyone he goes head to head with, especially Shin and Agon.
In reality, however, neither Agon or Shin are especially tall, Sena's just that short. A better example would be the lanky Mizumachi vs the stout Komosubi.
GUNNM: Gally/Alita is a female cyborg 5 foot tall and that doesn't appear to be more that 20. She routinelly defeats foes many times her size (however, her battle style being designed to handle larger foes, said foes' overconfidence, and the fact that her bodiesare most of the time advanced combat models are important factors). In almost every important battle she fought, she was stated as Weak, but Skilled (and lost to more skilled and stronger opponents), and the 2 important battles she was stronger, one she only won because her flesh-and-blood opponent though it'd be appropiate, and the other she toyed with her opponent until her body was hijaked by the superpower she was stealing her power source, and got punched to pieces. She survived and may get better...
Also, Sechs taking on the Jovian seeded team by him/herself and putting up a fight (the first form of said "team" was about 500 meters wide, and got larger), Zazie and her relatively weak body (and tons of guns) fighting in the ZOTT semifinals and finals (where 2 superpowers try their latest MDW, and those LOST before the finals), and Caerula Sanguis fighting a cyborg with Chinese Swords.
Soccer manga and anime Giant Killing is basically about this: the protagonist is a coach whose mission is to bring a bottom-feeder Japanese team (for which he played in his professional career and was an idol before moving to an English team in the same situation) up to top contender level. The term "Giant Killing" redirects here because it is a common saying for this trope as applied to association football.
Fist of the North Star: Kenshiro isn't exactly a small guy, but he usually takes on huge people, sometimes twice his size, and wins handily most of the time (keeping in mind that Raoh is also bigger than him).
Repeatedly for the eponymous character of Lyrical Nanoha. Fate: More experienced. Reinforce: More powerful. Vivio: More powerful. Thoma: ... Yeah.
Referenced by name in Robotech where it compares the battle between the SDF-1 and the Zentraedi fleet to this.
Kuroko versus Murasakibara. Holy hell, Kuroko versus Murasakibara.
Deconstructed to absolutely horrifying degrees in Attack on Titan. Humanity are the underdogs in every way to the Titans, and this usually means a very gruesome death. On the other hand, the trope is played absolutely straight with Mikasa Ackerman and Colonel Levi, who are both fairly small but incredibly skilled. This allows them to devastate the ranks of normal Titans and even present a credible threat to the more dangerous Human-controlled ones.
While most fights with the outclassed characters in Dragon Ball results in a straight up Curb-Stomp Battle, the exception occurs at the end of the Saiyan Saga. Son Gohan and Krillan end up having to stop Vegeta when Goku wasn't able to. Krillan and Gohan were no match for Vegeta's flunky Nappa (who Goku flattened), and even though Vegeta is injured out from his fight with Goku, he still has enough fight the two of them can't even scratch him. However, despite the odds, they manage to narrowly win after hitting him with leftover energy from Goku's spirit bomb and Gohan using the artificial moon Vegeta created to turn into an Ozaru and injures him enough to force him to (barely) retreat
In fact, Dragon Ball is one of the ultimate subverters of the trope. Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu were either small characters or their final forms were not their largest.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Manjyome's duel against his Corrupt Politician (and complete jerk) of a brother Chosaku clearly fit the Trope, but whether it was a straight example or an inversion is hard to determine, because it's hard to say who was David and who was Goliath. Chosaku was using a deck full of powerful Dragon beatsticks, while Manjyome had a deck full of monsters will only 0 to 500 Attack Points, and seeing as Manyome won, the obvious answer is, the Trope was played straight. On the other hand... Seeing as Manjyome had built his deck using a careful and clever strategy, while Chosaku was sloppy and used almost no strategy other than "hit him with everything you have", you might argue that the opposite was true, and that Manjyome was more of a Goliath here than his Small Name, Big Ego brother ever could be.
Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi's fight with Jack Rakan. Negi has training most of the series to defeat a Knight of Cerebus named Fate Averenecus, and through some circumstances, he's fighting Jack, a character so overpowered that not does Fate actively avoid fighting him but considerable humor is made from how invincible he is. For the most, Negi is losing, Jack No Selling everything he does, Negi only surviving because Jack only wants to test him, not kill him, but he does manage to fight to draw by prodding Jack's ego and causing him to use an attack that Negi uses his new Energy Absorbtion trick that he came up with take the power from injure him enough that with the power he has left after putting everything into his Titan Slayer Spear move, he and Jack end up K Oing each other.
In ∀ Gundam, this sums up the tense stand-off between Earth-bound humanity and the Moonrace. Which wouldn't be so bad except that the Moonrace is a technologically advanced society while the people on Earth have at best little more than World War I technology. Even though biplanes, artillery and concentrated attacks do some damage, it's not until the Turn A steps into the picture and the discovery of mobile suit caches from the Dark History that they actually stand a chance.
David Haye at 6"3 took on the 7"2 over 22 stone (310 pounds) Valuev, the heaviest boxer in history. Even though he broke his wrist in the attempt he came out on top.
""He is the ugliest thing I have ever seen. I have watched Lord of the Rings and films with strange looking people, but for a human being to look like he does is pretty shocking." - Haye
That's not so much David Versus Goliath as Goliath Versus Bigger Goliath.
Inverted completely by Manny Pacquiao against the taller, longer-reaching Oscar de la Hoya on their December 8th, 2008 "Dream Match" for eight rounds. As ESPN's analysis put it in round 5, "Forget pull the trigger, De La Hoya doesn't even have a gun."
Inverted again, this time against Antonio Margarito in the Pacquiao Versus Margarito fight. Pacquiao did such a good job in the fight that pictures of a chinky-eyed Asian boxer are currently going around while people claim it's really Margarito. It is.
Perhaps the most extreme examples (and one of the earlier ones caught on video) was the title bout between Jess Willard and Jack Dempsey in 1919. Many people thought the fight would be a mismatch as Willard had about 6 inches and 60 pounds on the smaller Dempsey. Instead Dempsey unleashed perhaps the most savage and brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in boxing history on Willard and forever etched his legend into boxing lore. To this day Dempsey's name is synonymous with the words ruthless and relentless in boxing circles, and many latter days fighters such as Mike Tyson purposefully adopted and imitated a number of Dempsey's mannerisms.
Speaking of Mike Tyson, he was exceptionally short for a heavyweight, with a short reach, meaning he was often the smaller fighter and yet routinely destroyed his opponents. While him losing to mid-level contender Buster Douglas at the height of his career is shocking, it is less so when you consider that Douglas had 4-5 inches of height, a lot of reach, and around 20 pounds of muscle on Tyson. Even more so when you consider that the death of Douglas' mother inspired Buster to make a once in a lifetime effort in the ring that night.
Unintentional evocation of this trope is the reason it's hard to write good Superman villains. Unless you make them even more powerful than Superman (which gets boring after a while) or have them regularly exploit one of his weaknesses (The Kryptonite Man, Metallo, Ruin, etc.), many of Supes' villains end up looking better by simply being able to go up against him — most notably normal humans like the Prankster, Toyman, and of course Luthor. Prankster and Toyman are generally in it for the laughs (the Prankster has been seen complaining to Black Canary that she hit him harder than Superman ever does). Lex has been accurately described as "a man fighting God".
There have have been times where the Hulk is in the David position. Of course, he's usually still the stronger one.
Taken Up to Eleven in two instances where he fought an enemy outside his Rogues Gallery. One with Fire Lord, a Herald of Galactus. For the most part, he tanks everything Spider-Man throws at him and Spider-Man only wins at the end through Popularity Power allowing him to KO Fire Lord even though it didn't make any sense. The hardest case of it being played straight was when he fought The Juggernaut, a villain who has fought the X-Men's entire lineup single-handedly and proven too strong for them to take head even for their strongest members. Naturally, their first fight ends with Spider-Man flattened and Juggernaut only stops because kidnapping his target would require taking her off life support. Spider-Man's second attempt fares no better and only wins by getting Juggernaut to walk into a pit of cement.
The Smurfs versus Gargamel, or versus any human that is their designated villain.
The Ranma ½/Dragon Ball Z crossover Human Saiyajin gives us Ranma Ranko Saotome vs Perfect Cell. Even after several power-ups, Ranko doesn't even have the ki levels necessary to level a few city blocks, where Cell is far past being capable of causing an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. This difference in power also translates into their physical attacks; Cell can KO Ranko in one solid hit, where Ranko has to resort to Death By A Thousand Cuts just to annoy Cell... but Ranko isn't the greatest martial artist in the world for nothing, and she manages to keep up with Cell by invoking Weak, but SkilledHARD, capitalizing on her knowledge of the art to predict where Cell is going to move and strike, basically fighting the entire battle a step ahead of Cell and using every trick in her arsenal to keep her opponent off balance and unable to counterattack. It's only after Cell figures out how to see through the Umisenken that Ranko goes down, but not before she snaps off a Hiryu Shoten Ha powerful enough to spawn a gods-be-damned hurricane.
The Ponies Of Olympus series has Spike's fight with Garble (who by this point is a fully grown dragon) during the preliminaries of the Atlas Strongest Tournament.
Randy Couture's Mixed Martial Arts victory over Tim Sylvia, a man seven inches taller, forty pounds heavier, and thirteen years younger. "Big man versus small man" MMA fights are very popular in Japan. Fedor Emelianenko (183 cm and 100 kilos) has faced and defeated the aforementioned Tim Sylvia (203 cm), Mark Hunt (125 kilos), Zuluzinho (201 cm and 177 kilos!), and Choi Hong-man (166 kilos and an unbelievable 218cm)... all in one round each. He also has a notable win by decision over Semmy Schilt (212 cm and 133 kilos). However, the smaller man in these matches is invariably far more skilled than his opponent and highly favored to win.
Eventually inverted in both mans cases. Randy moved back to Light Heavyweight after losing Heavyweight title to Brock Lesnar and Fedor was completely dominated by Antonio Silva (194 cm and 130 kilos). In early days of MMA big fighters usually coasted on their size (or in case of Hunt and Schilt were kickboxers with almost no grappling skill) and could be defeated by smaller, skilled guys. Modern Goliaths like Lesnar, Alistair Overeem and Antonio Silva bring both size and skill, meaning former Heavyweight greats who weigh around 100 kg (Fedor, Mirko Cro Cop, Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) are no longer as dominant as they used to be.
The secret is that unlike kickboxing a MMA fight can go to the ground, where the height and weight can sometimes be a disadvantage when grappling there. While Fedor basically slugged out Zuluzinho and Sylvia on their feet, Choi actually took Fedor down and Hunt almost submitted Fedor on the ground before he eventually came back to beat them on the ground.
There was also the 2009 Super Hulk Tournament where four guys of varying lighter weights were put up against four apparent behemoths — middleweight Ikuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa against Bob Sapp, middleweight Gegard Mousasi against Mark Hunt, light heavyweight Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou against Jan "The Giant" Nortje, and the debuting ex-Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco against Choi Hong-man; with the exception of the untrained, mid-40s Canseco all of the "Davids" won, complete with Bob Sapp (getting a bye thanks to the "injured" Mousasi withdrawing) being eliminated twice, and the finals are between the middleweight Minowa and light heavyweight Sokoudjou.
These fights happen all the time in K-1 kickboxing, where the only weight classes are at 70kilos and unlimited. This has lead to such notable matchups like Mighty Mo (slightly over 6 feet) vs Choi Hong Man (towering over 7 feet), where Mo KO'd the Korean giant with a single punch, Kaoklai Kaennorsing (80 kilos) vs Mighty Mo (at 130 kilos), where Kaoklai knocked Mo out with a flying kick to the head, and Nicholas Pettas (at less than 6 feet) vs Kim Young Hyun (almost as big as the aforementioned Choi Hong Man) where Pettas thrashed the Korean giant with a fury of ruthless kicks.
Speaking of K-1, Kid Yamamoto of the now defunct K-1 Hero's and now, DREAM promotions made it a point to fight at the 155 lb. weightclass, while he walks around at 143 lbs and 5'4. He fights people who weigh in at 155 lbs. and regain all their water weight before the actual fight (We're talking 10 pounds or so, here). He has a record of 17-1 - I think you can figure out the rest. 20 pounds isn't that huge of a number but size definitely matters in this sport. That's why there ARE weight classes.
Somewhat a case of "Goliath Versus Bigger Goliath," but Cain Velasquez (6 foot 1, weighed in at 244) defeated Brock Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight championship (6 foot 3, weighed in at 264) when his wrestling skill was at least roughly on par with Lesnar's but his striking skill was that much better. (It should be noted that heavyweight has a much, MUCH wider range of allowed weights than any other weight class.)
Played straight and ultimately inverted by Royce Gracie. With an unimpressive-looking physique and anywhere from 175 to 180 pounds (he'd be a middleweight under the modern weight classes), he didn't look very imposing. In fact, that's why Rorion Gracie, the founder of UFC, chose him instead of Rickson to be their torchbearer, to prove that the style could overcome physical limitations. For a while, it looked like the classic scrappy-little-guy-finds-a-way-to-prevail story. Then a few ugly facts entered the picture...like, while he may not have been massive, he had tremendous speed, flexibility, stamina, and toughness, and he had tremendous strength for a middleweight. Not to mention that he was a master of ground fighting, something most of his opponents didn't know the first thing about. By the time UFC 5 rolled around, he was downright legendary, so much so that Ken Shamrock was frightened of him. This was almost certainly the main reason Gracie was able to escape with a draw in their matchup, as Shamrock (who actually had a pretty good chance of winning) was too intimidated to get any real offense going.
This trope makes frequent appearances for comedic effect in martial arts movies, where the hero must fight a towering character who cannot be affected by his "weak" attacks.
Game of Death, pitting Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This was a bit of a subversion as not only did KAJ's character possess a significant height, strength, and reach advantage, but was also remarkably fast and agile for his size while being a match of Lee's character in terms of fighting ability.
Nearly every Jackie Chan movie.
In the Hindi film, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Surinder, a mild mannered geek, engages in battle with a sumo wrestler in order to win a trip to Japan for his bride. After taking some abuse, Surinder won by hanging onto the wrestler's ankle and at just the right moment, when the wrestler had all his weight on the opposite leg, he was able to overbalance him and topple him to the ground like a ton of bricks.
The movie Hoosiers is based on the true story of the tiny, country school of Milan (Hickory in the movie) defeating the big city school of Muncie Central (South Bend Central), a very rare feat given the advantages a bigger school would have. The movie even included a prayer before the championship game that featured the Bible verses of David versus Goliath.
You would have thought the story of impoverished orphan newsboys going on strike against newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer was already an obvious David Versus Goliath story, but just so we didn't miss it, one of the main characters of Newsies is named "David", another character draws his attention to the coincidence ("As in David and Goliath?"), and then there's a further reference in one of the songs ("We'll slay the giant!").
Subverted in Avatar, where size and power differences are generally respected. Trudy's Scorpion plane realistically loses against Quaritch's Dragon flying fortress after he manages to flush her into open air (she was holding her own when hiding in the rocks), and the bullet-proof giant rhino things absolutely crush the tiny powered armor suits the humans use. It is played straight with Jake and the toruk, though.
Inverted at the end with Quaritch's last stand.
Used in many different ways in the Transformers Film Series. First off it depicts the human military as having reasonable success fighting against the Decepticons and thus depicts regular soldiers going up against robots that are, on average, 20 feet tall or bigger. It is also the first time in the franchise that they actively avoided Your Size May Vary and realistically showed that the highway vehicles the Autobots typically turned into would be dwarfed by the military and construction hardware the Decepticons became. Their largest warrior, Optimus, was a massive semi-truck and was still much smaller than most of the 'Con forces.
Strictly going by size, 2 foot Yoda vs 6'4" Count Dooku, a man three times his size. In terms of power they're pretty even though.
And the Death Star is very David and Goliath. Here we have a couple dozen Rebel fighters, versus a space station the size of the moon.
In the Battle of Endor, Admiral Ackbar apparently didn't expect to destroy the Super Star Destroyer. As its bridge tower is on fire and it careens out of control into the Death Star, his bridge crew cheers and he just flops into his char, jaw agape in disbelief as he watches it erupt into a fireball.
Ip Man versus the Twister in the second film is this very straight. The Hero may have got his Badass cred down pat earlier, but the Twister is not only physically larger, he had destroyed the Old Master who fought Ip to a draw and killed him, so there is a definite underdog vibe.
The Verdict has a washed-up attorney representing a small family in their malpractice suit against the Archdiocese of Boston and a high-payed attorney with a large legal team.
The final fight of Real Steel with Atom, a Good Old Robot built specifically as a sparring robot souped up by a young Gadgeteer Genius and Zeus, the undefeated reigning champion that has always won within two rounds. The announcers even advertise it like this.
Indiana Jones is usually the "David" in a fist-fight against a bigger opponent.
An inversion of this appears about halfway through The Incredible Hulk (2008 film), when the still-human SAS agent Emil Blonsky goes toe-to-toe with the Hulk in melee combat (thanks to a dose of Super Soldier serum). Similar to the Superman example, despite being the villain, Blonsky looks much cooler simply for being able to go up against the Hulk without being instantly killed.
He still got his ass kicked by the Hulk though.
Live Action TV
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant", the titular Defiant-class ship goes up against a Dominion super-battleship in every way their superior, confident that they (a literal cadet crew, caught behind enemy lines when the war started and the senior officers killed) can exploit a design weakness to destroy it. However, it doesn't work, and the ship is appropriately stomped. That's what happens when your crew is called Red Squad.
In another episode, Sisko takes a parallel-universe Defiant and defeats a much larger, much heavier armed battleship. The Defiant's smaller profile and maneuverability win out over the larger ship, flying so close to the thing they couldn't get a lock on it. The main difference was that Sisko was the one in command.
In That '70s Show Kelso attempts to beat up a guy who Jackie kissed (totally ignoring the fact that he's done far worse with other girls at the drop of a hat), but he and his friends are quite shocked to find he's just picked on a black belt.
Most ancient matches of Deadliest Warrior have a fast, lighter warrior fighting a larger, stronger warrior.
The series Kings is a modern-day retelling of the David story. In the pilot, plucky young soldier David Shepherd goes behind enemy lines to rescue some hostages - one of whom turns out to be the crown prince - and single-handedly goes up against a "Goliath" tank.
Monty Python's Flying Circus "Scott of the Antarctic" sketch. Scott does this while facing the 20 foot high Electric Penguin, even the extent of taking off his jock strap and using it as a sling.
Villainous example, inverted: In the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, normal-size Tommy has a typical Curb-Stomp Battle with four Rangers (Jason being captured), and they summon the Megazord, which quickly overpowers him (When he is later grown to giant size by Rita, he returns the favor).
Played with in the Dale Brown novel Flight of the Old Dog. Near the end, the Old Dog is hounded by a MiG-29 Fulcrum. Although the Old Dog is a massive bomber and the Fulcrum is a much smaller fighter, the Fulcrum is clearly the Goliath because the Old Dog is not only less manoeuvrable or speedy, but also Can Barely Stand, with damaged/malfunctioning equipment and crew members far from their best.
Imminent in the Honor Harrington series: the Star Empire of Manticore and the Republic of Haven vs. the Solarian League. The Solarians comprise two-thirds of the total human population of the entire setting, but Manticore and Haven have the most advanced militaries and tactics.
The earlier Manticore / Haven war was an even more one sided affair, if you just looked at numbers.
Many of Harrington's earlier battles, as a mere ship captain: taking her smaller ship against much larger, and better armed ships. Fearless vs Sirius, and Fearless II vs Thunder of God.
The Elysian navy versus the People's Navy and State Sec task force sent against Hades. The remnants and captures from a few squadrons of battlecruisers, plus a bunch of formidable but immobile orbital defenses that weren't even in range at the time, against an entire major Naval task group. Unconventional, extremely risky tactics for the win. And stupidly predictable State Sec flight patterns for the lose.
In the Manticore/Solarian case, it's debatable which side is David, and which Goliath. The Solarians indisputably have the numerical advantage (roughly 110 to 1 in terms of ship counts), but Manticorian technology is so far ahead that the only way Manticore can lose a fight is to run out of ammo.
In The Pinball Of The Dead, the "Cemetery" table has Ricky, a massive zombie who reaches up from underneath the playfield.
WWE has put on several matches between Rey Mysterio Jr (who is 5'6" and 170 lbs.) and The Big Show (who is billed as 7 feet tall and 500 lbs.), and even promoted them as "David versus Goliath" matches.
Later, Mysterio was pitted against The Great Khali, who is even taller than the Big Show.
Mysterio has feuded with Kane, who is about Big Show's height but weighs less. Man, they just love to make Rey fight tall guys, don't they?
WCW also quite liked this idea, pitting Mysterio against the near-seven foot Kevin Nash.
Of course, in wrestling, Goliath tends to win most of the time, or at least wrestle to a draw.
The trope namer is the aforementioned story in the Old Testament Book of 1 Samuel, where David kills the large and fearsome Goliath first by knocking him down with a rock launched from a sling and then cutting off the giant's head.
How David Beats Goliath is a The New Yorker article about this trope and its subversions. It talks mainly about a girls' basketball team reaching the National Junior Basketball Championships due solely to the full-court press (Instead of the 'normal' method of immediately retreating to guard your own basket when the other team has possession, the full-court press is aggressively defending against the other team in their own court.) The main reason that the full-court press worked is that it wears down both teams' stamina much faster - and the girls' team had worked almost solely on building stamina. The girls' team rode roughshod over other teams with taller girls and better shooting technique due to the fact that the other team couldn't get shots off due to having the ball stolen when they weren't expecting it, or losing possession for not bringing the ball back into play or in the other team's court fast enough. In some cases, they had 25-0 leads over other teams. The girls were then castigated by the other teams for playing 'unfairly' and not letting the teams 'develop basketball skills' - to the degree that fights nearly broke out. The team then lost its final game by caving to pressure and playing the 'proper' way after the referee (supplied by the opposing team) called excessive amounts of fouls. The general moral of the story is that when David plays by Goliath's rules, David usually gets crushed. However, by changing his tactics, David can become the favorite over Goliath. However, Goliath will respond in kind by using social pressure to force David to fight by Goliath's rules.
That's quite a moral.
Essentially the reason why a lot of people dislike or even hate certain successful sports sides like Manchester United (association football) or Australia (many sports, but especially cricket). Also part of the reason why "Stop Having Fun" Guys get on people's nerves: many if not most people prefer siding with underdogs.
Any team playing the New York Yankees, but specifically, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Super Bowl III. The AFL was largely considered a second-rate league behind the NFL and had lost the previous two Super Bowls to that league. The AFL champion New York Jets were now handed the daunting task of taking on the Baltimore Colts, a 13-1 team that would overwhelm opponents with stingy defense and potent offense. The Colts were favored by a ridiculous 22 point spread, but that didn't stop Jets quarterback Joe Namath from guaranteeing a win. The Jets would go on to shock the world, winning 16-7.
Super Bowl XXXVI. The St. Louis Rams were coming off a 14-2 season with the NFL's top offense, the league MVP Kurt Warner, and the Offensive Player of the Year Marshall Faulk. They were just one year removed from winning one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time, and were largely considered a better squad than 1999. They would have to play against a scrappy New England Patriots squad that came in at 11-5, barely (and controversially) won their two playoff games to reach the big game, was led by a backup quarterback after their starter severed an artery in his chest, and were 0-2 in Super Bowls prior. The Patriots had to play 60 minutes of near-perfect football and still barely escaped with a 20-17 win in the final seconds.
Super Bowl XLII is an absolutely perfect example of this trope. The New England Patriots (boasting what many called the greatest offense in NFL history), led by quarterback Tom Brady (league MVP by a large margin, with stats worthy of some deeming his 2007 season the best ever of any NFL quarterback) and Randy Moss (who had scored the most touchdowns of any wide receiver in NFL history that year), went undefeated in the regular season, a 16-0 mark that no other team had ever accomplished, and on top of that, defeated the same New York Giants they would face in the Super Bowl in Week 17 of the regular season in what was an extremely climactic battle. Their opponents, the aforementioned Giants, were a Wild Card team who had barely made it into the Playoffs, had to eke out wins in the post-season on the road by slim margins, and had many players sidelined by injury. The Giants, however, used their effective pass rush to force Tom Brady into quick throws. The Patriots were unable to score the large amount of points they were accustomed to, and this kept the Giants in the game. Despite Brady still performing at a high level in the game, his team scored only two touchdowns (in ironic fashion, before the big game, Brady literally laughed at the fact that Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress claimed that the Patriots would only score 17 points in the Super Bowl— the team averaged roughly 35 points per game in the regular season). The Giants would win the game after an improbable play in which Eli Manning escaped the grasp of numerous would-be New England tacklers and hurled the football down the field, which was caught by David Tyree by pinning it against his own helmet as New England's Rodney Harrison forcefully tackled him and attempted to pry the ball loose. New York would then score the winning touchdown and force a turnover on downs as the Patriots attempted to get in field-goal range with 29 seconds remaining.
Super Bowl XLIII: The Arizona Cardinals, a franchise known for its inability to go to the playoffs and who has the second longest championship drought in American professional sports, facing off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, quite well known for their ability to make it to Super Bowls. In fact, they've been to more Super Bowls than any other team in the league minus the Cowboys. The Cardinals nearly won on a valiant, almost inhuman fourth-quarter effort by receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but the Steelers came back and earned a 27-23 win to obtain their sixth Super Bowl.
In college Football September, 1 2007 Appalachian State (a Division I-AA school) defeated #5 ranked Michigan. At Michigan!
Also ic college Football, 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Boise State-Oklahoma. Heck, when the broadcast team openly acknowledge the trope ("This is truly a David and Goliath situation" etc), and an undefeated team goes up against one of the winningest teams in the history of the sport. And pulls off one of THE most improbable and thrilling wins....yeah, I think it qualifies.
In College Basketball March 26, 2006. University of Connecticut, a team with 6 players that would be drafted in the NBA, a 1 seed in their bracket in the NCAA tournament, and the odds on favorite to win the whole thing, takes on George Mason, a school that had only 3 tournament appearances before the 2006 tournament. The Patriots, no relation to the cheaters from New England mind you, shock everyone with an 86-84 overtime victory, sending them to the Final Four and UConn players to the coldness of the NBA.
And who can forget the ultimate David in the 1980 US Hockey team, a bunch of College kids that defeated the all mighty Soviet team...after getting creamed by THE SAME TEAM 13 days earlier.
Baseball has this at times, but the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays have to take the cake. They play in the AL East division, home to the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox (teams with virtually limitless coffers and very solid teams; their payrolls are about $200 million and $150 million, respectively). With a payroll of ~$40 million, they win the AL East outright, and they make it to the World Series before losing to the Phillies after being tabbed as the underdogs in every round (especially the AL Championship Series, which they barely took over the Red Sox).
Football (Soccer) has a version of this which is known by fans and insiders as Giant Killing, where a small team who would usually have no chance of beating a huge team will pull it off. The FA Cup is usually where to find it, happens more than you imight imagine...
Great example was the 2011 Women's Fifa World Cup. Two times champion United States, home of great players such as Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe, pulled many victories such as defeating the strong Brazilian team in a 122 minute plus penalties match, was in the finals against Japan, which reached there mostly through upsets (including defeating home team and defending champions Germany). Amazingly, the American Amazon Brigade that towered over the Japanese (literally. Some of the above listed names are almost 6 ft, while the average height of the Japanese players was under 5'5'') failed to score only on seemingly endless opportunities and the Nadeshiko Japan resisted until the penalty shootouts, which they won.
The 2004 European Championship saw an extraordinary feat of serial giant killing. Greece arrived as rank outsiders, having only qualified once before when they were knocked out at the group stage. They were widely expected to repeat this feat. But they won their first group match against the hosts, Portugal. Still, they only just reached the quarter finals ahead of Spain and Russia, and only beat Spain on goals scored. Nobody expected them to win their quarter-final against France, the defending champions and one of the pre-tournament favourites. But they did, and found themselves up against the Czech Republic in the semi-final. The Czechs were considered the form team, having won all three of their group matches and having won their quarter-final 3-0. Surely Greece couldn't beat them? They could, and reached the final. Could they somehow possibly be able to beat Portugal on their own soil for a second time? Yup, somehow they did, and took the trophy home.
The legendary Alcorconazo, in which the most successful European side in history, Real Madrid, were swept away by third-tier Alcorcón in the Spanish King's Cup. By the 50th minute of the first leg, the score read Alcorcón 4 - 0 Real Madrid. Madrid, in fact, did not score until the 80th minute of the second leg, when the outcome was already all but settled.
Not entirely uncommon in roller derby; some smaller players have made an art out of taking out larger ones. It involves a certain level of momentum and landing a shoulder check in just the right place, in such a way as to lift the other player into the air without very much effort. And, since most jammers are the smallest, lightest players on any given team, pretty much every jam involves a certain level of David v. Goliath for them to get through the pack in the first place.
Roller derby also has inversions at times; while jammers are typically small, super fast players who can get through the pack without being hit at all, some teams have "heavyweight jammers," large women who are nearly impossible to knock down, who can clear their own path, or who can wipe smaller jammers clean off the track.
The 2010 Seattle Seahawks were the first NFL team in a non strike shortened year to win a division with a losing record. Their playoff game was against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. How much of an underdog were they? Before the game The Onion posted a picture of the Seahawks with the caption, "Saints get first round bye." Despite being double digit underdogs, Seattle pulled out the victory propelled by an amazing touchdown run, leading to the infamous headline, "New Orleans Saints Lose First Round Bye."
The 2001 World Series featured The New York Yankees who were playing for the 4th consecutive World Series vs the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were playing their fourth season. Despite multiple comebacks from the Yankees and having to face the greatest closer in baseball history, the Diamondbacks prevailed
The Louisville women's basketball team faced several Goliaths during their 2013 NCAA tournament run.
A 5-seed entering the tournament, the Cardinals won their first two games to make the Sweet 16. There they met Baylor, the reigning national champions who were 74-1 over the past 2 seasons (with the only loss coming against #4 Stanford when their second best player was injured). Bonus points for Baylor having a literal Goliath on their roster, 6'8" player of the year, Brittney Griner. Louisville played a very physical game to limit Griner, and made a tournament record 16 3-pointers to find themselves up late in the game. One of the game's signature moments was when Louisville point guard Shoni Schimmel, nearly a foot shorter than Griner, drove on her, scored, drew a foul, and turned to briefly stare Griner down. After falling behind with 9 seconds to go, they drove the length of the court and drew a foul. Monique Reid, a player who had missed a key free throw only minutes earlier, was taking the shots. She made both, and Louisville pulled off what many thought was an impossible upset.
In the Elite 8, they met Goliath #2, Tennessee. The Lady Vols had won 8 national championships in their history, more than any other team of the time. It was an admittedly down year for the program, but they were still a very good team. Louisville built up a lead and managed to hang on in the second half to get another upset, and advanced to the Final Four.
In the Final Four, they faced Cal. Not as much of a Goliath as the other two, but still a good team and favored to beat the Cardinals. After falling behind by 10 points at the half, Louisville made a comeback and took the lead late in the game, ultimately winning and becoming the lowest seed ever to reach the championship game.
In the National Championship, they faced powerhouse UConn, a program with (at the time) 7 national championships, and a team that had beaten Louisville handily during the regular season. A win against this Goliath would secure their run as the greatest in tournament history. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, reality ensued, and they wound up on the losing end of the largest blowoutin championship game history.
Magic: The Gathering has a few abilities that contribute to this; the first example is probably Elvish Archers (2/1, first strike) vs. Ball Lightning (6/1, trample). The Ball Lightning's power is three times greater than the Archers', but the first strike ability means the Archers do their damage first, killing the Lightning. However, Magic being Magic, the attacker can intervene, and the defender can intervene in that as well.
Done with a great sight gag in 1776. 5'7" Adams insists that 6'3" Jefferson (and the script specifically notes their heights) stay and write the Declaration of Independence instead of visiting his wife. In fact, he will make Jefferson stay. Jefferson stands very close:
The entire premise of the videogame Shadow of the Colossus. The hero, an ordinary young man, fights a series of creatures ranging in size from a large bull, to a literal skyscraper... and wins, mostly due to being clearly Made of Iron. Plus some help from a horse that's apparently Made Of Adamantium.
In Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, protagonist Little Mac fights a series of boxers who are all at least twice his size.
In House of the Dead, there's always at least one fight, most times more than once, where the two not-so-physically-imposing AMS agents face off against a giant behemoth (Strength in II, Death in III, and Temperance in IV).
Kishima Kouma as Goliath vs. Nanaya Kirei as David. Kouma has essentially no skill whatsoever because he doesn't need any. His skin is tougher than steel, he can punch through trees effortlessly and doesn't tire. Kiri is essentially the most skilled assassin on Earth. Unfortunately, he's an assassin and not a magus or anything like that, so he's reduced to hammering at one side of Kouma's neck and then hitting the other to try and break it. The difference in skill is so huge that his opponent doesn't even realize he almost died with that attack. Key word: Almost. Goliath wins. Foregone conclusion, though, if you've played Tsukihime.
Two major fights in Fate/stay night. The first on the horribly unbalanced seeming nature of the fight is Shirou Vs Berserker which is won due to an Eleventh Hour Superpower projection of Caliburn plus Saber's assistance. The second is less jarring in appearance but a far bigger upset in actuality when Shirou takes down Gilgamesh essentially singlehanded, chopping his arm off and about to deliver the final blow before the Grail opens on him and Archer has to save Shirou from trying a Taking You with Me.
No More Heroes and its sequel: we have bosses using huge laser cannons (Speed Buster), a huge sentient earthquake machine (Letz Shake) and a crazed tycoon that first bloats into a hulking bloke, and eventually inflates to the size of a blimp(Jasper Batt Jr.)
In Metal Gear Solid 4, you have the battle between the outdated, and damaged Metal Gear Rex, versus the Anti-Metal Gear unit, Metal Gear Ray. Despite having the better machinery, Snake still manages to defeat Liquid and his Ray. However, it's only because he let him win.
Generally averted in Sword of the Stars. Superior micro will only take you so far in a tactical encounter when the enemy outnumbers or outmasses - or both! -you, at least in a straight fight as opposed to repeatedly throwing ships at the enemyto wear them down. To reinforce the need to outnumber, you get extra command points for every so many ships of each class more than the enemy you have, up to a certain limit, allowing you to field more ships than the Arbitrary Headcount Limit would normally give you. Get enough and you can deploy extra dreadnoughts. While destroyers can occasionally beat dreadnoughts, this relies on swarming and the dreadnought-user failing to include light weapons on his ships and is far from foolproof.
The plot of inFamous 2. It begins with The Beast, an incredibly powerful Conduit, nearly killing the main character, requiring him to retreat to increase his powers. Once you finally confront him again you can pull a Heroic Sacrifice and use the RFI to kill all conduits on the planet, sacrificing yourself to stop The Beast from annihilating the human race.
Bosses tend to be much bigger than the protagonist in a lot of games, especially 2-D side scrollers.
In the final route of Duel Savior Destiny you're required to beat Downy with Sel. Not only is your opponent way stronger in terms of story, he's also at a much higher tier than the character you have to use. In fact, Selbium is actually significantly weaker than the normal units you use, though his style matches up against Downy fairly well.
The bosses Apocalypse, Onslaught, Abyss and Galactus in the Marvel vs. Capcom series.
The Legend of Zelda is all about a small boy/young man named Link who defeats Ganondorf, a large man from the desert, who often becomes a giant boar monster named Ganon.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron ends up having this on both ends. For Autobot segments, most anything that tries to stop Grimlock (who dwarfs most everything in the game) is the David to his Goliath, particularly with the target of his Roaring Rampage of RevengeShockwave, one of the smaller characters in the game that doesn't even come up to Grimlock's knee, but is much smarter than his adversary, though it isn't enough to stop him. For when the player is the David, using Jazz against Bruticus, the former being the shortest playable character in the game, and the latter being by far the largest.
In Nip and Tuck, in the Movie Within A Movie storyline "Rebel Cry," it is first subverted at the beginning of the storyline when the small, scrappy Rebel forces are thoroughly trounced by the Federation military... then played straight through the rest of the arc when the the pilot of the Rebel Cry, pushed one step too far by the Federation's punitive rules, steals back his own ship and proceeds to make monkeys out of (in order) a Federation battleship commander, an Federation battle fleet, and the all-powerful Federation itself...
Mass Effect 3: Generations has Harbinger, a two-kilometre long Reaper, blown up by a single raid done by the Volus Bombers fleet. For a reality check, Sovereign managed to endure A LOT more punishment inflicted by several fleets (including dreadnoughts) before it got blown up.
In Gargoyles, the leader of the New York gargoyles is named Goliath and their first major antagonist is David Xanatos.
Something of an inversion, though, at least in the beginning. David Xanatos is the one with the resources and the smarts, while the Gargoyles hardly have anything besides their natural abilities. On a purely physical level, it's played straight.
Also inverted in that you are expected to be rooting for Goliath.
This fits perfectly into the show's Fish out of Water premise. Much like in the biblical story, Goliath is a warrior who fights with brute strength, while "David" survives by his charisma and smarts. Goliath comes from the Middle Ages, where the stronger warrior always triumphs...but he finds out that in the Twenty-First century, the Goliath, not the David, is always the underdog.
In The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy reguarly contends with the bully Francis. The episode "Kung Timmy" has them actually fight.
In the Grand Finale of Kim Possible, the sidekick Ron Stoppable had this moment when he took down two alien invaders three times bigger than himself.
JT Marsh vs Emperor Phaeton at the end of Season 1 of Exo Squad. Marsh's jet-type frame is completely outclassed by the unit Phaeton is using. It shrugged off his missiles. It survived being dipped in lava. Marsh only won through a clever gambit and superior piloting.
One fight featured in Celebrity Deathmatch was quite literally a David vs. Goliath match: David Spade vs. Steven Seagal (a Goliath compaired to him).
The "literal" aspect even applies to the killing move: Spade using a improvised slingshot.
Popeye's foes, especially Bluto, are far taller than him, but of course they always regret taking on the smaller sailor-man.
Subverted in ReBoot. During the start of the third season its Enzo as David and Megabyte as Goliath, and Enzo completely fails to beat him. Megabyte could kill Enzo anytime he wants to, and there's nothing Enzo can do about it. Enzo needs a Time Skip just to reach Megabyte's level, which renders them the same size.
The Powerpuff Girls vs. just about anybody and any monster, but most notably the mega-Mojo Jojo in the movie.
Many of the foes that Mr. Bogus faced off against were all three times bigger than he was.
During the climax of the Season 3 finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Ahsoka had to fight Garnac, the trandoshan leader. The guy was 2 meters tall, weighted 178 kilograms, had a very thick reptilian hide, and was armed with an axe and a knife in addition to his claws, not to mention his species are on the same scale of physical strength as Wookies. Ahsoka is an average height and a bit skinny teenager, and all she had were her Waif-Fu and Force-skills.
Often occurs in Batman: The Brave and the Bold when Batman has take a superpowered enemy without the help of the guest hero. Despite the show's Refuge in Audacity, he has often ended losing, notable instances being against Professor Zoom, a temporarily evil Superman, and Darkseid, which ended with a flat Curb-Stomp Battle against him.
X-Men: Evolution at the start of the show's third season when the X-Men go to stop The Juggernaut, who in their previous fight, they most they could do was remove his helmet and allow Xavier to use his Psychic Powers to telepathically knock him, which they only were able to pull off with the Brotherhood's help. Now they were own their own, with no help, and despite their teamwork, the most they can do is avoid dying till Rogue manages to use her Power Parasite ability to knock him out.
Transformer Prime, any fight against Predaking turns into this ( except for Unicron's fight with him in "Predacons Rising" where he gets flattened), since while Predaking isn't stupid, he has no experience fighting having been a recently created entity, thus he gets by through his raw power and ability to No Sell everything, while whoever is fighting him, mostly the Autobots, tries to get by through quick thinking and team work, which, is never enough to stop him. The closest to a subversion is his fight with Optimus Prime since Optimus is closer to his power, and size, than everyone else is, but Optimus still loses regardless.
Ironically enough, Michelangelo's iconic statue of David is almost eighteen feet tall. Except that he's looking up, and has a terrified look on his face...
Physics act just the way they do in the biblical story. A sling stone has as much kinetic energy as a pistol bullet, and a skilled slinger can achieve uncanny accuracy. (That said, the slung stone was not the last blow; having felled Goliath, David decapitated him with his own sword.)
The Vietnam War. No matter how many casualties the Allies inflicted on them, the Communists just would not give up.
The recent elections in Japan had the reiging Liberal Democratic Party (in power since the Fifties!) as Goliath versus the 13-year-old Democratic Party of Japan. Despite the LDP's clout, they were still beaten by the smaller and younger DPJ.
On a national scale, there was the Winter War of 1940 between Finland (a relatively small Nordic nation) and the Soviet Union (a colossal nation with one of the world's largest militaries, 30 times as many planes, and 100 times as many tanks). Thanks in no small part to exceptionally cold (even for Russians) winter and extremely well-entrenched defence line judged later to be impenetratable sans for with nuclear weapons, Finland was able to hold off the Soviets for far longer than anyone expected.
And helped by Simo Häyhä, aka the White Death, aka Sugar. Current record holder for the dealiest sniper alive with 505 confirmed kills by sniper rifle and 200 odd kills via machine gun in just 100 days. At 5'3, could be considered a David.
The Battle of Rorke's Drift, during which a platoon of 150 men successfully stood against thousands of Zulu warriors with few casualties... after an even larger platoon had been massacred by said warriors earlier the same day.
The capabilities of anti-ship missiles in the modern age allowed the Soviets to fit them even on small corvettes / large torpedo boats, turning them into gnats with boxers' fists, able to strike down the largest warships if caught off guard.