"A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once."The Dirty Coward is the slime of the earth, working exclusively for themselves and shamelessly retreating from harm's way even if that harm is about to hit the All-Loving Hero that just saved his or her life two seconds ago. They'll take every advantage and are not above using dishonorable tactics and dirty tricks, but they'll cry and moan every time the tables are turned and someone uses the same tactics against them, asks for a volunteer, or reminds them of that promise they made. Often full of vicious plans for anyone they dislike, as long as they aren't in need of that person's skills at the moment. Though the Dirty Coward may be a sociopath (or one of the Social Darwinists), they're certainly not heroic or comedic. And if they're a bastard, they're certainly not magnificent. They're usually only marginally competent to start with, and even the cleverest of them tends to be short-sighted. Even when they know that breaking ranks will leave a hole in the defenses that will let the enemy in, leading to far more danger for him or her in the long term, they will generally run for it anyway (and get shot In the Back). Their allegiance almost always lies with whoever can cause them the most immediate harm, even if that threat isn't likely to last. They'll be happy to badmouth people to their faces when they can not immediately hurt them, only to attempt to curry favor when the roles reverse. Dirty Cowards are especially prone to suffering a Karmic Death, usually at the hands of whatever they were trying to run from, and are similarly likely to suffer a Villainous Breakdown. Usually a villain unless used comically, although they may sometimes be a certain type of civilian that gets in the way. When used as a villain, this is a cheap way to make the heroes look good in comparison, even if they're not everything they should be. Villainous Dirty Cowards tend to fall squarely into Neutral Evil, since they are first and foremost out for their own hides at the expense of others. One of the best ways to demean the Big Bad is by making him out to be a coward. Its doubly ironic if the one who brings fear into the hearts of others turns out to be a pathetic scaramouch who hypocritically makes others feel weak because he is really the weak one and he tries to hide it. After all only a bully can bring the "dirty" into the Dirty Coward trope. It's tough to make a main character into one of these without them coming off as more slimy and irritating than funny. Unlike most villains, the dirty coward doesn't even have finesse, which can make them extremely annoying. The dirty coward may or may not have a horrific past to explain their actions, but it doesn't usually redeem them, at least not in the minds of the audience. When their backstory doesn't seem all that convincing, but convinces The Hero, it can be seen as a major cop-out. The best way to make this character tolerable is to make him or her at least clever. Some enlightened self-interest can occasionally be mixed in, although too much of any trait other than cravenness tends to change the character into something else. May Level Grind in courage if they realize What Have I Done. The Dirty Coward is pretty much Always Male, for the dubious reason that women aren't expected to be brave in the first place, and are allowed to sacrifice others to save themselves. Fridge Logic may lead to the Neutral Female coming off as a Distaff Counterpart to the Dirty Coward. As Action Girls become increasingly unremarkable, this may start to change in the near future. May be the Miles Gloriosus, and even believe his own brags when out of danger. The Fearless Fool may invoke this to persuade his companions to act like idiots. The Bully is often a Dirty Coward, brave enough when tormenting those weaker than they are, but showing their true colors in the face of those equal to or stronger than they are. Not to be confused with the Combat Pragmatist, who may employ tactics that can be considered dirty and cowardly but does so out of cold calculation rather than fear. Contrast the Lovable Coward, who numbers among the good guys and has foibles portrayed far more sympathetically, generally due to their not trying to pose as anything but a coward, and even then will often face their fears and ultimately still risk their lives if the chips are really down. The So-Called Coward is by definition mistaken for one of these; if they don't want to be, they'll say "Nobody Calls Me Chicken." See also Opportunistic Bastard. This Trope might apply to a Cowardly Boss, but it more often applies to a Get Back Here Boss.
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Anime & Manga
- Takehiko Inoue's Vagabond features Hon'iden Matahachi, whose usual "flight instead of fight" response) fuels his inferiority complex compared to his childhood friend Shinmen Takezou; after he didn't have the bravery (or whatever) to follow Takezou into a shed they're physically separated, and over the next four years he only catches fleeting glimpses of his former friend now called Miyamoto Musashi. It doesn't help that Matahachi had become a con artist passing himself off as Sasaki Kojirou, and is very self-conscious of his self-preservation instinct and inferiority complex both conflicting with his desire to exceed Musashi (if only in name, pinning his hopes and idolation on the real Kojirou as being the one who could overcome Musashi in fact).
- Shinji Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion fervently believes himself to be this, even though he's saved the world quite a few times despite being terrified while doing so. This is partially because his life just sucks that much. His infamous mantra, "I mustn't run away! I mustn't run away!" is him chiding himself for being frightened when he has absolutely every reason to be terrified of the giant monsters trying to kill him.
- Pop from Dai no Daibouken started out like this, but he gets better.
- Magnifico is a good example and has yet to grow out of this.
- Nina in the Conviction Arc was even worse. She repeatedly considers abandoning other characters to save her own skin, including Casca, who is mentally ill and incapable of looking after herself. However, she's still somewhat sympathetic, because her inner monologues show that her cowardice isn't really a conscious decision that everyone else is expendable; she does want to be brave but panics and can't bring herself to actually follow through with it. Also, the reason for her getting cold feet is often perfectly understandable, best illustrated by the arrival into the torture chambers, as can be seen here.
- Defied by Big Bad Phantom from MÄR, who regularly kills any and every mook that runs from battle. He only does this a few times onscreen, but it is clearly established that he despises cowards. He even denies his mooks the death of the protagonist Ginta, saying that, since he's a Worthy Opponent, there's no reason to kill him until he's strong enough to put up a proper fight.
- Akito Tenkawa spends much of the early part of Martian Successor Nadesico trying to flee from combat, though to be fair he's got some fairly serious psychological problems considering it's a comedy series. Unlike a certain other pilot of whom he is partly a parody, he gets over it. Eventually.
- Mad Scientist Akihiro Kurata from Digimon Savers, just one of the many, many things that we hate about him.
- However, this does make his downfall much more entertaining when we see him begging for his life as ShineGreymon Burst Mode gives him exactly what he had coming.
- Zofis from Zatch Bell!, who is revealed to be afraid of Brago and anyone with more power than him.
- Fist of the North Star:
- Jackal, a minor arc villain, is the practitioner of a martial art called "Nanto Bakusatsu-ken" — South Star Exploding Kill Fist. Despite the grandiose name, the style consists mainly of throwing sticks of dynamite at enemies while at a safe distance. Kenshiro calls him on this by snidely asking him if it's even truly a martial art.
- Jagi, in addition to being a heartless and cruel monster, is also the most cowardly of Kenshiro's major villains in the series, and the only one who does not Face Death with Dignity — in fact, he has the ignominy of being the only Hokuto Shinken practitioner to beg and grovel for his life in the tradition's entire 2000 year history.
- Also applies to almost all minor thugs in the series who live long enough to realize that they're screwed. A lot of them end up completely breaking down and begging for their lives. Doesn't help that Kenshiro's primary fighting style has a penchant for rather gruesome delayed death attacks.
- Chaka from Black Lagoon is a sociopathic asshole whose specialty seems to be Kicking the Dog and who sees nothing wrong with beating a noncombatant just to provoke his colleague into a gunfight, then running away while toting a human shield when things go badly for him and shooting several of his henchmen just because he's pissed. He fancies himself a Wild West gunman, but he's nothing more than a stupid, incompetent prick who thinks himself something far more than what he actually is.
- Kishin Asura from Soul Eater became a physical font of insanity and evil because he was scared of everything — which led to paranoia and the desire to become so powerful that no one could harm him, at any cost.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Yoki constantly suffers the consequences of his scumbag actions, mostly because he keeps lying and backstabbing so he can bribe his way into a higher military rank. Every nasty scheme backfires, landing him in nastier and nastier situations to the point that he's the manga's resident Chew Toy. One of the characters even points out it's entirely his own fault how he gets into these messes. Eventually he finally starts to move out of this, first becoming actually useful, and then later showing some courage by ramming a car into Pride.
- This was the accusation of Kimblee against Pride. On realizing he was near death, Pride tried to take over Ed's body as a new host, just moments after explaining his hatred of humans. Kimblee couldn't stand the cowardice and hypocrisy.
- Envy constantly resorts to dirty tricks, such as the Shapeshifter Guilt Trip, when fighting his enemies, and will bitch and moan non-stop the very second he's losing. His cowardice really shows when he reveals to Roy Mustang that he killed Maes Hughes and brags about it... and when he realizes just how bad of an idea it was to piss off Mustang, spends the remainder of the episode running in fear of the conflict he willfully brought down upon himself.
- The first Big Bad of Mahou Sensei Negima! is pwned by Chachazero after running from the final battle of the Kyoto arc. The point of her "The Reason You Suck" Speech is proven completely true when she gives Chigusa the most ignominious defeat ever: scaring her so badly that she fainted, revealing her cowardly nature.
- Yukiteru's father from Future Diary is this, all the way. He even kills his ex-wife because he's terrified that she'll tell the police he just left his son to die on a collapsing tower.
- Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure
- Hol Horse manages to be the only recurring villain in Part Three...by running for his life whenever things go wrong. He also refuses to ever work alone, despite being an assassin; he knows how weak his Stand is against most other Stands, after all. The incident that finally dispatches him even comes about because of his cowardice: told by a fortune-telling book that he'll kill Jotaro at noon, he takes the shot from a far distance and from cover... which allows for a Prophecy Twist to send the bullets back into his head. To be fair, Thoth was prescribing that shoot-from-cover bit. The only thing Hol did wrong was use his own watch, which was fast, rather than a perfectly accurate clock. Had he done that, the bullets would have hit Jotaro along with the water burst from the pipe. Also, he didn't die — like with Enya, he disengaged Emperor before the wounds could become fatal.
- Rubber Soul tries to surprise Jotaro with a sneak attack after getting caught in the water.
- J. Geil, on top of being a rapist and just a terrible monster and bragging about his depraved acts, immediately runs away and begs for his life once Jean-Pierre Polnareff, the brother of one of his victims, defeats his stand.
- Steely Dan, like Hol Horse, has a pretty weak Stand. But at least Emperor has some offensive power by itself; all Lovers does is relay Dan's own pain to its host, amplified several times over. Dan, pure slime that he is, doesn't just use this as a deterrent. No, he effectively blackmails Jotaro into being his slave, even to the point of forcing him to steal a bracelet, then get beaten silly by security, while Dan himself steals an even more valuable necklace during the commotion. All the while gloating over being tacitly invincible. Of course, once Kakyoin outmaneuvers and drives Lovers out of Joseph, Dan devolves into a pure sycophant, begging for mercy without dignity...then trying to use an innocent girl as another hostage to force Jotaro to let himself be stabbed! Dan fully deserved the 3+ pages/20 seconds of Ora-Ora that Jotaro ultimately unleashes on him.
- Alessi, whose Stand allows him to de-age anyone who touches his shadow. This is the only way he's willing to fight anyone (unlike Hol, who just adheres to the creed "run away to fight another day"), even if the nearest adult is a harmless woman. He has to use an axe to fight them. And to think he keeps calling himself a "good boy". Which make his defeat all the sweeter when he runs into Jotaro. He manages to use his powers on him, but Jotaro simply lays him out with an uppercut. Talk about irony.
- Dio Brando, of all people, is this. Even though he is determined, this does not mean he is particularly brave for all his pride, he isn't above fleeing or begging for his life when things turn sour.
- Genma Saotome, father of the titular character of Ranma One Half, falls somewhere between this and Lovable Coward. Despite being one of the more formidable martial artists in the locale, whenever trouble arises (and it's often his fault that it does), his plan of action invariably boils down to some variant of "run away" or "make Ranma deal with it". Whether it's pinning the blame on Ranma, telling Ranma that it's his "duty" to handle things, or simply vanishing into the woodwork and leaving Ranma with no choice but to try and handle something he hasn't the faintest idea about, Genma virtually never lifts a finger to help. He also has a bad habit of grabbing the nearest bucket of water as soon as it seems like he might have to answer some pointed questions.
- Dragon Ball:
- Yajirobe qualifies as this most of the time. With the exception of the time he ate Cymbal and him crawling out from behind a rock long enough to cut off Vegeta's tail in Dragon Ball Z, he'll constantly hide, cower and be a general wuss. Interestingly, when we first meet him he was seemingly set up as Goku's new rival, before falling into Can't Catch Up even faster than all the other characters did.
- Goku's brother Raditz is a more unlikable example. Despite being a member of a race of Blood Knights who would actually prefer death when defeated in battle than live with the shame of losing, he has the nerve to beg his younger, weaker (at the time) brother to let him go, only to backstab him when freed. Goku wasn't fooled again when he tried the same trick twice. It's suggested that this is part of why he's much weaker than other Saiyans; being someone who runs away whenever pushed, he rarely gains the benefit of Zenkai.
- Frieza is proven to be one of these once he's no longer inaccessibly stronger than everyone around him. Also, deep down, this is Frieza's ultimate motivation for killing the Saiyans—he's afraid that they'll produce a Super Saiyan, which will be his undoing.
- Frieza's minions, Zarbon, Dodoria, and Cui, all act like big shots and are confident that they could easily beat Vegeta, but the second Vegeta turns the tables on them and is about to kill them, they beg for mercy (Zarbon), cry out to Frieza for help (Dodoria), or just plain run (Cui).
- When Goku gets the better of him several times during their showdown, King Piccolo results to using Tien as a Human Shield and threatening to kill him to force Goku to stand still and let Piccolo break his legs and left arm with rocks so he could finish him while he was helpless.
- Android 19 ruthlessly beats on Goku and sucks the life out of him while he's suffering from the heart virus, but when he's beaten by the perfectly healthy Vegeta and loses both arms, he flips out and runs for his life screaming in terror.
- Babidi is entirely dependent on his minions to fight and protect him, and begs for his dirty life when Piccolo corners and overpowers him. Goku even outright calls Babidi a "cowardly worm" while criticizing Majin Buu for letting Babidi push him around.
- Eis Shenron of Dragon Ball GT goes from gloating over Goku when he has the upper hand to pathetically sniveling and begging for his life the minute Goku turns the tables on him.
- Daemon Spade from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! turns out to be one of these when facing someone who can actually defeat him. His "special move" is to bravely, bravely, run away to another dimension.
- Nijima from Historys Strongest Disciple Kenichi used Seigfried as a human shield during the D of D.
- He also runs from almost every person who even slightly threatens him.
- Averted once when he lies to Kenichi to keep him from being lynched by Ragnarok.
- Kotetsu, the twisted artist who uses demonic ink fueled by human blood and entrails, begs for his pathetic life when Inuyasha has him cornered.
- Naraku, especially before he Took a Level in Badass. He typically uses demonic puppets of himself or manipulates others into fighting Inuyasha and his companions for him so he doesn't have to worry about his own safety, and whenever he does fight on his own, it's almost a guarantee that he'll pull a Villain Exit Stage Left as soon as the tides turn against him.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Takeda Kanryu acts like a big shot and gloats about the power of money while unloading a gatling gun on Kenshin and his friends. As soon as Kenshin bypasses said gatling gun and is staring him down, Kanryu is reduced to a pathetic wimp begging Kenshin not to kill him, right before Kenshin breaks his jaw.
- One Piece:
- Helmeppo bullies people while hiding behind his tyrannical Marine Captain father Morgan. He gets better though when his father is defeated and he learns to become a great marine.
- Kuro, as a Foil to Lovable Coward Usopp. Tired of being pursued by the Marines, he sets up a scheme to murder an innocent young girl and his men in order to inherit her wealth and retire.
- Marshall D. Teach, better known as Blackbeard, is a notable example in that despite having the D. initial, he started begging for his life the moment it was in immediate danger.
- Spandam crosses the line to become a more obvious asshole than he already was in the flashback, when he started to beat a defenseless Nico Robin and mocks her about a military operation against her home island, which resulted in the death of her family and friends. He also beats Cutty Flam/Franky, when he's down, but starts to scream and cry, when he manages to bite Spandam in the head couple of times.
- Demalo Black.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny
- Yuna Roma Seiran was a snivelling coward and wannabe Manipulative Bastard who got Orb into the war on the Earth Forces' side, takes command of the army at the front...and then proceeds to spend the campaign having one panic attack after another. He's incapable of standing up to Earth Forces Captain Neo Roanoke, who more or less takes over the campaign and uses the Orb forces as cannon fodder, and is ultimately killed when trying to escape from a losing battle.
- Lord Djibril, Blue Cosmos leader, is a much more dangerous example, as he combines this trope with Diabolical Mastermind. When things go south for him, Djibril always bails, leaving his allies in the lurch...only to return soon after with his latest Weapon Of Mass Destruction primed for combat. A slimy, cowardly bully who nevertheless manages to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths through pure malice.
- Subverted with Taikobo in Soul Hunter. He pretends to be this early on but is actually a Chessmaster, using how people see him to his advantage.
- Captain Knowles of of the Goliath in Last Exile ordered his ship to flee battle before the retreat was sounded. Later, he was too cowardly to face Alex in a duel he himself demanded and so decided on a ship-to-ship duel, figuring his battleship would be superior. When he saw his opponent was the Silvana, he ordered his gunners to fire before the fight started.
- Masao from Shiki is a bit of a downplayed version. Notably, his cowardice makes him less of a threat than many other vampires because he's too scared to routinely kill and eat humans. He plays the trope somewhat straighter in the manga than he does in the anime.
- A somewhat straighter but less obvious version is Atsushi Ookawa. When he first meets The Vamp Chizuru, he says that people stay in at night because "they're all a bunch of stinking cowards," yet when Chizuru is actually in danger, he fails to rescue her because he's too scared of his father to risk his wrath, and later, when he's discovered after killing Toshio Ozaki's mother in revenge, he begs for his life.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, PaniK is portrayed as the classic cowardly bully, who pushes other people down in order to make himself feel braver. Yami isn't buying it. This carries into his duelist tactics: as Yami notes, hiding his monsters in shadows so opponents can't attack because they don't know how strong they are is a cowardly way to duel, and when they're revealed he switches them to defense and sets them up behind barriers to protect them until the shadows return. Although this becomes a case of Fridge Logic when you consider how often Yami, Yugi, Joey, and various other characters we're supposed to root for are forced/choose to play defensively at times.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, there was Lotten, the Big Bad of the Crashtown arc. He seemed brave enough when he had the advantage, but when things turned against him, he detonated a series of explosives planted in Crashtown and fled to save his own skin (even willing to leave his lover and partner Barbara - the only one who was loyal to him - behind to her fate). He didn't escape, and the most interesting part is, while the dub had to edit out the scene where Kiyru forced him to finish the duel (Kiryu's winning move simulated Lotten being shot in the head) the dub ending may have been far more fitting, depending on one's point of view: Kiryu refused to finish the duel, instead letting it remain unfinished so everyone would know Lotten chickened out like a coward.
- Mr. Heartland, The Dragon to the Big Bad in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. He usually uses a hologram when he has to talk to someone who might be angry at him (a good idea once, because Kaito tied to slug him) and when the heroes stormed the Faker's compound right before the Final Battle of the first season, he hid behind a army of robots, doing nothing but taunting them. (He did get his in the end when he fell through a portal to the Barian World, where he was turned into a bug-like creature. Also, in the later arc, he did develop enough of a spine to confront Kaito directly.
- Isao from Bokurano. When it's his turn to pilot (which ends in his death), he just runs away, resulting in him dying without winning a fight, and long-term adverse consequences to the pilots.
- In the anime, there's also Koyemshi, as a human, who's even worse than Isao. Despite having forced a pilot to participate, he breaks down into a sobbing wreck when it's his turn and cuts a deal, which ends up turning him into the robot Koyemshi and forcing him to recruit other pilots.
- Wolfs Rain: Tsume's back story has him being one of these, with him running away, leaving his friends to die. He's a unusual example in that he's portrayed as ultimately a good person, having grown out of his cowardice by the time the show starts.
- BB Senshi Sangokuden: Brave Battle Warriors, an adaptation of a line of Super-Deformed Gundam toys based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, has Enjutsu Zssa, based on Yuan Shu. Here, Enjutsu is a sniveling, pompous, gutless coward who runs at the first sign of danger and even abandons his own brother in the face of an attack by a single enemy. He also has the gall to be surprised when Enshou Bawoo (based on Yuan Shao and himself not exactly a sterling example of bravery either) ends up yelling at him for leaving him to die.
- The protagonist of 1982 manga AKIRA, Shotaro Kaneda, despite his bravado, had a nasty habit of abandoning his friends when they got into trouble and running away when things got sticky. Except for Tetsuo, who (despite having every reason) he never really left behind. This tendency is all but ignored in the film.
- Mr. Nezu also qualifies, especially in the film, where he tries his damnedest to make a run for it when his underhanded dealings blow up in his face.
- A female, non-villainous example occurs in the 4th episode of Girls und Panzer. During the practice match against St. Gloriana's Women's Academy, The freshmen team, Team D (aka Rabbit Team), cowardly abandons their tank and flees the battle while being fired upon by the opposing team, leaving it to be incapacitated and struck out. Even if they were inexperienced, leaving your tank to get incapacitated was still kind of an a-hole thing to do. This is averted in later matches.
- Doomsday, the monster that once killed Superman, is normally a mindless bundle of rage and power. When he was granted intelligence, he was revealed to be this trope in the end. All his new intelligence did was make Doomsday painfully aware of his own crippling fear of death — deep down, he's terrified of anything that could possibly be a threat to his life, which in his mind is everything. (The entire reason he's so powerful is because he was repeatedly cloned and let loose on a Death World until some bizarre process of Lamarckian evolution made him capable of surviving the worst it had to offer. It took a LOT of clone generations.)
- Dr. Venom from the early run of Marvel's G.I. Joe comics was a damn near epitome of this. Any chance he could backstab someone else, he would, and if he got caught, he would plead for mercy on his hands and knees.
- Subverted by Roderick Kingsley, AKA the Hobgoblin and enemy of Spider-Man. While his twin brother Daniel really was a spineless wimp who lived up to this trope, Roderick merely made himself look like this to get people to underestimate him. This usually led to him sabotaging his competitors' companies and destroying their reputations before buying them up cheap, or to keep anyone from thinking that he could be a cold-blooded Magnificent Bastard like the Hobgoblin.
- Manchester Black, a member of the Elite, is a cocky, arrogant, and cheerfully murderous antihero who lectures Superman on how his brand of heroism is outdated... as long as he has his ludicrously powerful teammates and Phoenix-level psychic powers backing him up; the moment he's isolated, Brought Down to Normal, and facing a vengeful Supes, he immediately breaks down and cries like a scared little girl, on live TV. When he comes back to trouble Supes again, he hides behind waves of Mooks and psychically tortures a helpless, powerless mortal woman. The second incident turns out to be a subversion: Black isn't afraid of death — he actually wants Superman to kill him under false pretenses to "prove" that Supes isn't a true hero. When Supes refrains from killing Black even in the face of such extreme provocation — up to and including the apparent murder of his wife Lois — Black immediately fixes everything and then commits suicide because he can't live with the truth: rather than being an antihero, he had become just another supervillain.
- Yellow Bastard in Sin City has a bit of a Meaningful Name. Not only is his yellow-skinned, but he is also more than willing to run away from a fight and whine about it. If he makes an attack, expect it to be a sneaky one.
- In The Sandman, Lucifer has no respect for Remiel because of this. He thinks that the only reason Remiel remained loyal to God was fear and not true loyalty. Lucifer also guesses (correctly) that Remiel whimpered and wailed when God made him the new steward of Hell in Lucifer's place. Lucifer contrasts Remiel with his silent friend Duma and guesses (again correctly) that Duma was the one who had the courage to actually take the Key to Hell.
- In Violine, Kombo, the Nominal Hero sidekick of Violine, tries to save his own skin whenever danger looms, and is resigned to the apparent fate of whoever he abandons. Other characters always drag him back onto the good side, though, to his disgruntlement. Despite this, he is not treated as a villain, and the heroes insist on dragging him along anyway. After the heroes are saved, he will boast that it was all him, even when he has done nothing at all.
- Zazu in The Lion King Adventures. In Zazu's in Charge, he's willing to abandon Simba and Nala in order to save himself from Scar and Hago.
Hago: You can't escape us now.
Zazu: Actually, I could always fly away.
Simba: And leave us behind? You chicken!
Zazu: When things get very serious, I look out for my own best interests. In a situation like this, I find you very irrelevant.
Nala: You are a chicken! You'd leave us to die just so you could save yourself?
Zazu: I'd love to say no, but unfortunately the answer is yes.
- Hobbes, intended to be a Lovable Coward or Cowardly Lion, ends up developing into this in Season 3 of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series. Word Of God confessed it was due to unintentional Flanderization, and it was finally taken down a notch by Season 4.
- Near ALL Naruto focused fics have the Civilian Council of Konoha as this, to the point that they are either described as: Wetting themselves, blabbering like babies, sweating like mad, knocked out, crapping themselves, or all the above by the tiniest amount of Killing Intent from Naruto or other characters. This also comes in almost every Sakura Bashing fic concerning her.
- Gilda in Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. When torturing Medley and threatening to rip her wings off, she uses her as a living shield, much to Rainbow Dash's disgust.
- The government of Lesotho is portrayed as this in Worldwar: War of Equals. The Lesotho government actually keep their promise to seek peace with the invaders and surrender, despite being kilometers away from any of the fighting. They get invaded by South Africa to deny The Race a safe landing zone into Africa and all of the country's leaders are arrested under charges of treason.
- Bad Future Crusaders: Featherweight relies on his status to intimidate others, and his changeling minions to fight them for him. When neither works, he runs away with his tail between his legs.
- Alexander Valentine of the Rosario To Vampire fic Here In My Arms. At first, he's smugly gloating over Tsukune and his harem and boasting of his superiority, but the very instant he discovers that Tsukune's a Blood Sage and that Inner Moka is released from her seal, he changes his tune, shamelessly begging Moka for forgiveness and trying to run for his life. Inner Moka even lampshades his attitude change right before she literally beats him to a bloody pulp:
Inner Moka: What happened to all that confidence you had, weakling?
Films — Animation
- Iago of Disney's Aladdin. For much of the second movie Aladdin: The Return of Jafar onward, he spent a lot of time looking out for himself almost exclusively, although unlike many of the examples here, he can be courageous and selfless. Two examples come up in the second film.
- Kent Mansley in The Iron Giant reveals himself as this when he has a nuclear missile launched at the Giant, standing about five feet away from him. Upon realizing he's doomed the entire town, he immediately hijacks an army jeep and tries to drive away and save his own skin.
Mansley: Screw our country! I WANNA LIVE!
- Scar in The Lion King. The minute Simba has him cornered at the pinnacle of Pride Rock, he pathetically begs for mercy.
- Roland from Strange Magic is an example. He uses nearby fairies to act as human shields against an irate Marianne, even the girl he cheated on her with! He pressures Sunny to risk his life to make the love potion while he safely stays in the fairy kingdom. He hides when the goblins raid the Spring ball, despite being a fully armored soldier. The moment the odds are at all against him, he bails.
- In Home, this is practically the Boov's hat. As Oh himself puts it: "When probability for success drops below fifty percent, Boov run away." Captain Smek is even worse, often shoving aside other Boov to ensure his own safety. Part of Oh's Character Development is moving beyond this.
Films — Live-Action
- Airplane II: The Sequel: Simon, Elaine's fiancee. He lied and said that Stryker was wrong about the Mayflower shuttle being defective, and later abandons the shuttle rather than help save its passengers from the disaster.
- Aliens: Carter Burke. His meddling directly causes the deaths of everyone in the colony. When called on this, he tries to bribe Ripley, then attempts to get Ripley and Newt infected so he can sneak them past quarantine. And to top it off, in order to sell a convincing story to the authorities, he was going to kill the rest of the team in their sleep on the way home. Slime ball doesn't even begin to describe him. In fact, being such a Dirty Coward is what leads to his death. When the Aliens attack, he tries to escape on his own, shutting a security door behind him as he does, which seemingly prevents Ripley and the Marines from getting out as well. He then runs straight into a single Alien, which kills him. Which is a kindness compared to the original script, where he ended up another victim of the Alien's parasite-based birthing process until Ripley gives him a grenade for a Mercy Kill (a fate which made it into the novelization). Burke was so bad that when Paul Reiser, the actor portraying him, took his parents to the film's premiere, his mother NODDED IN APPROVAL when her son's character died.
- Attack: Captain Cooney continually puts his men in jeopardy by being too cowardly to send reinforcements. At the end, when they're trapped in a basement in a town overrun by SS and other Nazis, he becomes a full-on dirty coward when he grabs a gun and threatens anyone that would keep him from surrendering. This is despite the fact that one of his men is Jewish and the others tell Cooney the SS won't honor his POW rights. The others shoot him before he can surrender and reveal their position.
- In The Double, James turns out this way. He's incredibly selfish and climbs ranks using trickery and blackmail, not caring what it does to Simon, and when Simon physically threatens him at his mother's funeral, he tries to hide behind whatever girl he brought with him rather than face Simon head-on.
- Major William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow. Upon learning that he's going to be embedded with the invasion (which, admittedly, ends in failure), he panics and blackmails General Brigham, resulting in him being arrested and sent to the front lines. Over the many times he repeats this process, he gradually takes levels in badass and loses this tendency.
- The Evil Dead: Scotty initially appears to be a Badass and the ideal hero, holding his own against the deadites while Ash is left paralyzed in fear. However, when he's forced to chop up his girlfriend Shelly with an axe after she's possessed, he promptly abandons Ash and an injured Linda to save himself, explicitly telling Ash that he doesn't care what happens to the latter. He pays for it when deadite-possessed trees rip him to shreds.
- Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men. For all his claims of toughness, he was willing to throw two marines under the bus to protect his sorry hide.
- The Flight of the Phoenix (1965): Sgt. Watson. At first, he fakes an injury to avoid going with his Captain into the desert, then he refuses to go with him to look for help. Both prove wise decisions, but Watson is clearly a coward made worse by the fact that he lives and never gets his comeuppance whereas more heroic characters do die.
- Karl-Heinz in Germany Year Zero is accused of being this, as he refuses to register with the government for food rations that the family needs due to fear of repercussions from his activities as part of a Nazi regiment. He doesn't deny this, but by the end of the film, he gains the confidence to go with the police and get registered.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Zartan, especially when he knife-stabs Cover Girl in the back (much to Storm Shadow's disgust).
"For you, Zartan, I make an exception."
- Godzilla vs. Megalon has two goons hired by a Seatopian agent. Not only are they bribed with "100,000 yen" to unknowingly kill a man and his younger brother inside a massive crate, but after realizing that they were being used and managing to kill the agent, they still follow through with the orders and try to dump the crate off a nearby damn, despite knowing they won't get paid. Why? Because they're afraid of the consequences if they don't. Once a friend of the heroes tries to convince them to save his friends, what do they do? They steal his car and run away, never to be seen again for the rest of the film.
- In All Monsters Attack, Gabara picks on Minya because he knows the poor kid won't fight back. This bites him in the ass when Godzilla goes to town on him.
- Inception: Nash (Cobb's original architect) sells out Cobb and Arthur to Saito to save his own skin. But said person would then leave Nash to the mercy of Cobol Engineering, who would inevitably hunt him down and kill him when they find him.
- I Spit on Your Grave: Johnny in the remake. He pees himself when faced with Jennifer's revenge. She reacts with extreme disgust, commenting that even the others didn't do that.
- Jurassic Park:
- The moment Donald Gennaro of Jurassic Park sees Rexie, he flees the car in frantic terror, abandoning Hammond's terrified grandchildren to go hide in a nearby outhouse toilet. In a superb case of Laser-Guided Karma, he's the only person in the whole group to get killed when it breaks out, knocks over the shack while pursuing Dr. Malcolm, and finds him pathetically cowering on the loo.
- Both Cooper and Nash, the Red Shirt mercenaries hired by the Kirby family in Jurassic Park III. Let's just say they were both way in over their heads when they decided to go to dinosaur-infested Isla Sorna.
- Vic Hoskins of Jurassic World. For all his talk on Social Darwinism and how awesome war is, when Delta has him cornered, he begins pleading with the raptor for his life and tries to appeal to it like Owen does. He makes the mistake of trying to imitate Owen's clicking noises and hand gestures, which Owen uses to indicate feeding time, so Delta kills him.
- In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Charlie fails the Secret Test of Character where he is given the choice between betraying the Kingsmen or dying. He gives the Kingsmen up without a second thought.
- The Mummy (1999):
- Beni fits squarely into this role, betraying every member of the cast and joining with the villain in order to save his own skin. His comeuppance is suitably horrible:
- Anck Su Namun in the second movie qualifies as well.
- In North Country, Josey's high school boyfriend witnessed her being raped by the teacher, but panicked and never told anyone, even when the whole town shamed her for having a baby out of wedlock.
- Paths of Glory: Lieutenant Roget. While out on a mission, he kills one of his own scouts in a blind panic and later tries to cover his tracks by having the only witness court-martialed.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: One of the glaring personality flaws of Captain Jack Sparrow is his tendency toward dirty cowardice (though he may arguably be more of a Lovable Coward), especially in the face of certain death, and escape from death becomes his major motivation in Dead Man's Chest and At World's End.
- In Pitch Black, Johns pretends to be a brave, upstanding man of the law at first, but is eventually revealed as a cowardly, self-serving junkie mercenary. He steals all the morphine so Owens has to die in agony. After the aliens come out during the eclipse, he stays back and lets the others investigate even though he's the only one with a gun, uses Jack as an excuse to hide his own fear, and is prepared to kill Jack and use her as bait to distract the creatures, causing Riddick to kill him.
- Yang, President Park's drinking buddy in The President's Last Bang. After an assassin comes in, shoots Park in the chest, and leaves after his gun jams, Yang scurries away. He leaves two women entertainers with President Park, who is bleeding heavily but still very much alive.
Shim: Are you fucking kidding me? Come here and help us!
Yang: You're brave girls. Wait here. I'll be right back.note
- The Princess Bride:
Westley: Give us the gate key.Yellin: I have no key.Inigo: Fezzik, tear his arms off.Yellin: Oh, you mean this key.
- Prince Humperdink. So much that, at the end of the movie, Westley says that simply letting him live the rest of his life as a coward is enough of a punishment.
- Count Rugen as well. When Inigo Montoya finally confronts him, Rugen raises his sword as if to fight, then turns and sprints away. (And then, on top of it, ambushes Indigo when he finally does catch up to him. But what do you expect from a guy whose idea of a "hobby" was Cold-Blooded Torture?)
- Also, Yellin, Humperdink's Captain of the Guard, given how he reacts after his men flee:
- Rambo IV: In the final battle, Major Tint hides when the fighting starts (leaving his own men to be slaughtered). When the battle's over, he runs for his life. The only time he ever even fires his weapon, it's to shoot an unarmed missionary In the Back.
- Revolution (1985): Tom didn't want to have anything to do with the Revolutionary War, and he doesn't want to get in trouble with the British. He grows out of this later on.
- Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: Owen, Penny's whiny ex-boyfriend, who uses her as a human shield and Screams Like a Little Girl when bullets start flying during a riot.
- Star Wars:
- Nute Gunray and the entire leadership of the Trade Federation in the prequels. They never made a move without an entire army to protect them, and cowered without any shame when there wasn't anyone to protect them. (In fact, pretty much every leader of the groups in the Separatist Alliance was like this, which is likely the whole reason why Palapine chose them as Unwitting Pawns — they'd be easy to dispose of once he didn't need them anymore.)
- The Phantom Menace: Sebulba, Anakin's pod-racing rival; although the movie does not suggest it, one Expanded Universe source said that the reason he had it out so badly for Anakin was because secretly, he was afraid of him. If Anakin was to actually win a race, even accidentally, Sebulba would have been humiliated beyond belief (which is exactly what happened).
- In that vein, the Expanded Universe (particularly The Force Unleashed) does a good job of establishing Darth Vader as a self-pitiful coward.
- In Saving Private Ryan, the German soldier known as Steamboat Willie shamefully grovels to the American protagonists when they have him prisoner. They spare him and allow him to walk free, but he joins up with another German unit and shows up for the final battle, and isn't so forthcoming of mercy when the situation is reversed, being responsible for the deaths of Captain Miller and another American mauve-shirt. Upham is often argued as one as well, as he sat cowering in fear as a German soldier was overpowering Mellish and stabbing him with his own knife, although he redeems himself for avenging Miller and shooting Willie dead.
- Storage 24: Mark in the British horror film. Not only does he bail on his best friend when they are attacked by an alien (the friend, who is the protagonist, manages to survive anyway), he later tries to bar an exit to keep the alien from reaching him, even though it means locking his friends in with it.
- Tombstone: Ike Clanton. He always talks trash when he has fellow gang members to back him up, but instantly turns into a cowering dog when the tables are turned on him. He backs down in fear or runs for his life no less than four times in the film.
- Transformers Film Series:
Starscream: Not to call you a coward, Master, but... sometimes, cowards do survive.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Dylan. He betrayed Earth to the Decepticons just so he would be safe.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Starscream seems to almost revel in it. In this film, in an exchange with Megatron that combines this with Know When to Fold 'Em:
- The sadistic Quint family in Will Penny (including Donald Pleasance in Large Ham mode and Bruce Dern in an early role). All of them worthless, heartless monsters, none of them have the courage to tackle the title character unless they're all together. Of course, the title character happens to be Charlton Heston.
- In The Wolverine, Noburo Mori runs from conflict, especially in the face of Wolverine.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron gives us Disc One Final Boss Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
Strucker: No matter what happens, we will NEVER SURRENDER!
HYDRA Soldiers: NEVER SURRENDER!
Strucker: [to Dr. List] So I'm going to surrender...
- In "The Four Feathers" Harry Faversham is not a coward, but it has been drummed into his head by his father that he was. He was so terrified of showing cowardice in combat (with all the social punishment that follows) that he resigns his commission just before he was to be sent to the Sudan. This brings on all the things he tried to avoid, including losing his friends and his fiancé. He then goes on a private mission to prove his courage to them and redeem himself. Ironically, although he makes a good case for choosing his own life and its responsibilities, he actually proves his father right in that physical courage is the only measure of a man.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: It isn't Aunt Josephine's numerous, crippling, irrational phobias that qualify her for this title, but rather the way she instantly and shamelessly promises not to reveal Olaf's disguise and offers for him to take the children when she is threatened. The narrator and the Beaudelaires agree that she was a horrible guardian. To be fair to her, she's widowed, terrified of everything, and got no support in life. Can you blame her for what she did?
- Many villains from Harry Potter both minor and major qualify for this trope.
- Draco Malfoy is one, to an extent, especially in the first few books, where he only trash-talks about the main characters as long as he has his two burly cronies at his heels. To everyone's surprise he does show a bit of conscience by refusing to abandon one of said burly cronies in a room filled with magical fire, in spite of the guy having just stabbed him in the back. Given the later books in the series made it clear he was a coward this is surprisingly noble of the guy.
- Wormtail sold out Harry's parents to Voldemort to save his own life. When Sirius Black tried to confront him about this, he loudly announces that Sirius committed the murder, uses a blasting charm, then transforms into a rat. This makes it seem that Sirius Black was the one who sold out Harry's parents and killed the muggles. Which kind of leads one to wonder why Wormtail was sorted into Gryffindor of all places. Although his inner Gryffindor qualities show when he ultimately remembers the debt he owes Harry and hesitates bringing Harry and his friends up to Bellatrix. This causes his hand, which only lets him obey Voldemort, to turn on him and kill him.
- Igor Karkaroff. A loyal Death Eater until the moment he was captured, at which point he sold all the information he had in order to reduce his sentence. When Voldemort returns, he flees, but the Dark Lord makes a point of hunting him down.
- Gilderoy Lockhart, who attempted to flee Hogwarts when the Chamber of Secrets was opened because he realized that his allegedly fantastic skills at combating the Dark Arts would force him to be put in a position where everyone would rely on him to save the school and would be exposed as a fraud due to his incompetence.
- Cornelius Fudge, definitely. He refuses to acknowledge that Voldermort has returned, and thinks Dumbledore is just making it up to take over the Ministry. He puts Dolores Umbridge in Hogwarts, who abuses all of the students, especially Harry. Though when he retires, he becomes a feeble, rather kindly old man once more.
- Dolores Umbridge, who is nearly as heinous and vile as Lord Voldermort himself. Won't hesitate to insult a herd of centaurs, yet will cry and whimper in terror when they drag her away, or as Senior Undersecretary of the Minister for Magic, won't even stand up for her own superiors during their respective downfalls.
- Mundungus Fletcher; he panicked during the "Battle of the Seven Potters", which was the reason why Mad-Eye died.
- Zacharias Smith, who, during his last appearance in the series, is bowling over first-years to save his own ass just before the final battle.
- Pansy Parkinson, who suggests that they just turn Harry in to Voldemort to make the Death Eaters leave Hogwarts.
- Horace Slughorn appears this way at first. Before the final battle, he leaves Hogwarts with the students who are not fighting, the only teacher to do so. It then turns out he only left to make sure all the students got to safety and so he could gather up reinforcements, whom he leads into the fight when the battle seems lost. He then proceeds to personally duel Voldemort along with McGonagall and Kingsley.
- Rincewind from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series tries to play it straight (all he wants is to stay out of danger and doesn't particularly care what happens to anyone else), but subverts this because he's both The Chew Toy (which means the world really is out to get him) and a Cosmic Plaything of Lady Luck, doomed to repeatedly save the world by performing absurdly dangerous heroics.
Rebel: But there are ideals worth dying for!Rincewind: No there aren't! Because you can pick up five new ideals at any street corner, but you only get one life!Rebel: By the gods, how can you live with a philosophy like that?!Rincewind: (deep breath) Continously!
- It also doesn't help that his conscience is practically an intelligent entity in its own right — several times when he's saved the world, it's because his conscience told him to. In form of a conversation.
- In Interesting Times, Rincewind also gets to use all his knowledge of cowardice and panic in one magnificent Crowning Moment of Awesome when he starts a rumor among the soldiers of the Agatean Empire that Cohen's Silver Horde is most certainly not backed up by an army of 2,300,009 invisible bloodsucking vampire ghosts.
- Also in Interesting Times, Rincewind ponders running away from the rebel army and letting them fight without his aid. He argues with one of the rebels about this, and the exchange goes like this:
- The title character of The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a shameless example... or so he claims.
- Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings fits this trope pretty well. He was a soldier from Rohan once who betrayed his king and country, to curry favor with Saruman. Though some may say he helped redeem himself in the end by killing Saruman, though that may not have been courage, but rather extreme hatred.
- Wormtongue started out as an ordinary villain. His original idea was, after Théodred was killed, to get Éomer disinherited, then have Théoded get Éowyn to marry him so that he could take the throne as her consort. A nasty bit of political dynastic maneuvering, but not really out of the way. But to do it, he had to get Saruman's help, and by the time he realized what Saruman was really up to, he was in over his head.
- The Pierson's Puppeteers from Larry Niven's Known Space 'Verse seem to fit this quite well. (When they can be found, that is.) They actually consider bravery to be a form of insanity and their word for "leader" (Hindmost) translates as "he who leads from behind". Although this is apparently a misremembered instinct, not to turn around and run, but to turn around and attack with their powerful hind leg. It's pretty much explicitly stated that no human or kzin has ever met a sane puppeteer, because space travel is dangerous and no sane puppeteer would ever leave Homeworld. (Sum total of kzin and humans that have ever been on Homeworld: 1 and 2, respectively. And the puppeteers evacuated an island about the size of Madagascar ... on a world where every square inch is city ... so that no puppeteers would accidentally run into them.)
- Every Redwall bad guy ever. (And it actually works for many of the Mooks, though never for the Big Bad.) A few Big Bads have some guts, but there are maybe a half-dozen of them over 20+ books.
- Thenardier and his wife of Les Misérables are described as the worst sort of scoundrels, to the extent that the Break-o'Day Boys (thieves and murderers, but not hypocrites!) are more sympathetic than them.
- The Rifter: Fikiri — Mama's Boy, spy and informer, liar, traitor; attacks children out of the Grey Space (where he moves invisibly) but runs away from hand-to-hand fights.
- Paris in The Iliad might qualify seeing as he was such a bratty little wuss.
- In C. S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when invisible beings threaten to massacre them unless Lucy goes into the magician's tower and casts a spell, Caspian declares that they are trying to make her do something they are too afraid to let their own daughters do. They agree that he has put it quite nicely. (One reason why Lucy agrees is that she thinks it may not be as bad as they say, as they are obviously great cowards.)
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars series, cowardice is pretty much the defining trait of villainy, to the extent that it's almost possible to believe they're synonymous. Any antagonist who is actually brave is fairly likely to pull a Heel–Face Turn by the end of the story (there are a couple of exceptions, generally of the "overconfident to the point of insanity" variety). The heroes, conversely, may be prudent but they're never cowardly. Basically everyone on Mars is either a warrior, a Dirty Coward, or a noble maiden, which last is the same as warrior except that their ability to take care of themselves is purely hypothetical.
- In A Princess of Mars, John Carter describes Tal Hajus as a Dirty Coward to force him into battle.
You are a brave people and you love bravery, but where was your mighty jeddak during the fighting today? I did not see him in the thick of battle; he was not there. He rends defenseless women and little children in his lair, but how recently has one of you seen him fight with men?
- In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Jav exults when he thinks Tario dead, and instantly cowers when he realizes he's alive. It does not save him, and he whimpers through the following ordeal.
- In Chessmen Of Mars, when O-Tar berates his followers for cowardice, one of them declares:
The jeddak knows that in the annals of Manator her jeddaks have ever been accounted the bravest of her warriors. Where my jeddak leads I will follow, nor may any jeddak call me a coward or a craven unless I refuse to go where he dares to go. I have spoken.
- In A Princess of Mars, John Carter describes Tal Hajus as a Dirty Coward to force him into battle.
- Bishop Sansum from The Warlord Chronicles is a great example. Unfortunately he's also a Smug Snake who always manages to get an advantage out of his betrayals and slimy political power grabs. Also, very unusually, there's Lancelot who contrary to his Knight in Shining Armor image in most of the Arthurian Legend, here gets his reputation by paying off minstrels and bards to tell of his deeds and taking the credit for other people's work. However, Lancelot is the Arch-Enemy of Derfel, (the story's protagonist) and Derfel does admit that Lancelot was a surprisingly good fighter when the two actually fought and that it's possible that his hatred for Lancelot is coloring the tale.
- Nom Anor from the New Jedi Order series is a self-proclaimed coward- indeed, everything he does is to ensure his own safety, power, and comfort. He's an exception to the rule that a Dirty Coward cannot be a Magnificent Bastard, however, because he often comes off as the only one of his people with any common sense whatsoever.
- Alfred Builder in The Pillars of the Earth does everything he can to be cruel to Jack Jackson out of jealousy and contempt. When he falls on hard luck, though, he meekly returns and begs Jack's mercy to grant him a job, only to use the position to back stab Jack shortly thereafter.
- Maltsev becomes or turns out to be this in the end of The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, revealing a willingness to sink as low as necessary to get out of Persia alive.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword," Dion turns out to be one of these, which is exploited by Thoth-Amon in order to get him on his side against his master Ascalante, whom he knows will have Dion killed when Conan is assassinated. Unfortunately, Dion makes the mistake of telling Thoth-Amon about a "ring of good fortune" that he bought from a Shemitish thief who stole it from a sorcerer of Stygia. When Thoth-Amon recognizes his lost Ring of Power, he promptly stabs Dion to death and reclaims it.
- In Tad Williams's Memory Sorrow And Thorn, the Hernystyri monk Cadrach is portrayed as an unrepentant thief, liar, and coward who will sell out his trust for wine or convenience. At least until Princess Miriamele, in a fit of sympathy over Cadrach's self-loathing, manages to pry out his backstory in bits and pieces, revealing a once-brilliant scholar who unearthed Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and fell into an insanity born of despair. She struggles to reform him and is rewarded at the end.
- In Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots, Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights cowers in the face of an attack by "ProCath" forces, and Havisham gets him to behave after by threatening to shoot him and claim the forces did it, making him cower again.
- In Jurassic Park, Ed Regis, the Public Relations manager from InGen, proves himself to be one when the power goes down and the T-Rex shows up. He abandons Lex and Tim, John Hammond's grandchildren, in the car with the door open in order to save his own ass and hides in a group of nearby boulders. Grant and the children later find him after they regroup...just in time to see him dispatched by the juvenile T-Rex who came along after the adult.
- In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, the villains fled on the prospect of capture. Wessner in particular — Freckles can beat him, free, and so he torments him when Bound and Gagged.
- Harry Flashman, eponymous Anti-Hero of his series (actually a Public Domain Character from Tom Brown's Schooldays); his three self-admitted talents are horse-riding, languages, and women—to which we can add credit-stealing, the ability to live through and run from anything, and total, cutting honesty in his memoirs. Interestingly, he does subvert the bit about cowards being short-sighted, which is part of the reason he lived through all the interesting historical events that he did.
- Scrape and Peck from The Book of the Dun Cow, who attempt to desert Chauntecleer's army but are dealt with before they carry their plan out.
- Trapped on Draconica: Like Ben Ritchie shies away from danger despite being equipped with 'the perfect hunting tool' i.e. his own body.
- Joffrey Baratheon in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire reveals himself as this in his Establishing Character Moment, apart from being a Royal Brat to the Stark family. Whereas his father is a widely known Boisterous Bruiser noted for his bravado and strength, Joffrey is a weakling (while still being boisterous) who can only bully others and get away with it because of his status. He claims to be both vicious and manly, but is often put in place by his dwarf uncle Tyrion when he steps out of line. Unfortunately, he's also The Caligula, and uses his power as King to drive King's Landing into the ground.
- To Kill a Mockingbird has Bob Ewell, who tried to kill Scout and Jem in an attempt to get even with Atticus for dirtying his already filthy reputation. The reason he didn't go after Atticus himself is because Atticus is the best shot in the county.
- Morgoth Bauglir from The Silmarillion, probably because he knows that unlike other Valar, he won't be resurrected if he dies.
- One-Eye, one of the handful of wizards employed by the Black Company. His exploits include selling bread at a 20 times the normal price several months into a siege, buying an Imp that was an obvious plant by an Evil Sorceror, arguing so strenuously with fellow wizard Goblin that he gives the Company's position away (more than once), turning an anti-siege granary into an impromptu brewery (because the local religions forbade imbibing alcohol), abandoning his post to look for the spear he threw earlier in the battle, cheating at cards so poorly that everyone in the Company beats him anyway. Despite being a mercenary, his favorite tactics are sleep spells, illusions, and other unfair advantages.
- Goblin is nearly as bad, but it's noted that One-Eye almost always starts the trouble in the first place.
- The Slotter Key government in Vattas War qualifies. Instead of attempting to rally a defense against the Space Pirates after an attack on planets biggest merchant family instead turns against them to protect themselves. In addition the President plans to scrap what little protection it has in it's small number of Privateers in order to keep the pirates happy.
- Seaman Grimes, Horatio's steward in Hornblower and the Hotspur, is a coward who begs not to be included in a dangerous mission ashore. He's shown as more sad and pathetic, not evil; Horatio himself fears physical pain and death. Grimes is Driven to Suicide when he realizes he won't be able to live with the crew.
- At the end of 1984, Winston and Julia both are broken down into this after being tortured in Room 101, where the last name they cling onto for hope is the one that they demand be subjected to the torture instead — each other. It's unknown whether this was permanent, though, as like everything else, it was all part of Big Brother's carefully designed Mind Rape games.
- This is the origin story of Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. The title character's youthful cowardice defines his life, and is what turns him into The Atoner who watches over the outpost of Patusan and, eventually, lays down his life when duty seems to call.
- The fireflies in The Underland Chronicles.
- Prince Jalan in The Red Queens War. A little unusual in that his acts of cowardice are usually misinterpreted by onlookers as attempts at heroism. (e.g. him fleeing enemy soldiers only to run headfirst into a different group of enemy soldiers and cutting a bloody swath through them in his attempt to escape winds up being portrayed as his attempt at a one-man-rescue.)
- Female example in Lady Dewanne from Kyell Gold's Argaea series, specifically Shadow of the Father. Lady Dewanne considers herself this, due to her decision to secretly abort at least one cub for fear that her husband's illegitimate son would murder them.
- Subverted by Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. While he flees the battlefield twice and completely freezes during a typhoon, it's implied that his problem is mental illness. After all, he served with distinction in the Atlantic escorting convoys earlier in the war.
- Gaunts Ghosts: Captain Flyn Meryn has developed into this as of Salvation's Reach. He has a shot at Sirkle when the assassin is using Yoncy as a human shield, but doesn't take it, and near the end of the operation at Salvation's Reach, he gets in cover with his squad and doesn't budge. When the order to return to this ship is given, he just up and runs with his squad instead of falling back in an orderly manner.
- Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!) claims to be this, scrambling for cover whenever the shooting starts and only doing his job when it makes things more comfortable for him. Many people (including his editor) think that he really doesn't give himself much credit and that at least some of his heroic deeds are genuine.
- In Divergent, Al is accused of being this after he almost kills Tris because he felt intimidated by her.
- Karlax in the Doctor Who novel "Engines of War". After he gleefully forces the mind probe on Cinder, the Doctor attacks him, and he doesn't fight back at all, instead begging Rassilon for help.
- Ethan Rayne of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willy the Snitch is also one.
- The demon Sahjhan from Angel, who is revealed to be have gone back in time and rewrote the prophecy that HE would be killed by Angel's son to that Angel will kill his son, prompting Wesley to kidnap Connor for protection and betray Angel and the others, leading Connor to get taken to a Hell dimension. And Sahjhan sadistically enjoyed what he'd done, and even told the truth when Angel and the others interrogated him. Even the revelation that Sahjhan reworte the prophecy and duped Wesley didn't stop Angel from trying to kill Wesley for taking away his son. Even Fred didn't forgive Wesley, though she was against Angel trying to kill him. The good news is Sahjhan got his comeuppance two seasons later when Connor himself killed him, although the writers probably did that due to Angel already being cancelled.
- From GARO The One Who Shines In The Darkness we have the Big Bad Kaneshiro Tousei. If it wasn't enough he was one of, if not the worse villain in the GARO series (being responsible for summoning a horror to kill his mother and being in awe of it and turning several good people like Enho and Makai Knight Sonshi into Makai Horrors thus making them tragic monsters, as well as having his entire family killed including his nephews and nieces) and becomes a Boisterous Weakling when he mocks the Makai Knights when they confront him since they can't kill humans. However, when he's put in danger he's a sniveling, begging coward who runs at the first incline of trouble. Even after becoming a Horror himself at the end of the series...he is still a coward now since he's fair game for Ryuga and Rian. Gets a WELL deserved Karmic Death by Rian who shoots him with Makai Bullets while emphasizing the good people who died because of him.
- In Kamen Rider Gaim we have the fine specimen of humanity, Mitsuzane Kureshima. At first his intentions could be interpreted as well-meaning, but his attempts to protect his friends end up backfiring spectacularly in an (admittedly heartbreaking) scene where the person he was trying to protect slaps him across the face for his efforts. However, he takes this turn of events way too hard, becoming complicit in an attempted murder of his brother, plotting against his friends and manipulating events behind the scenes, and selling out humanity to the God-like Overlords for a promise that he'd be allowed to govern the remnants of the apocalypse the planet was quickly heading towards. However, the crowning moment was when his big brother (who had earlier pulled a Heel–Face Turn) returned to fight him, he used every dirty trick in the book and only won because his brother showed a moment's hesitation at the thought of killing his beloved younger brother. Needless to say, Mitsuzane didn't share the same compassion.
- Arnold J. Rimmer from Red Dwarf. He slowly gets better over the course of the series. The recreated one in Series 8 is "Rimmer how he used to be", lacking all of the development of the previous series, so he also fits.
- Though both Rimmers subvert this trope at least once. Hologram Rimmer willingly becomes the next iteration of Ace Rimmer, his heroic alternate dimensional counterpart, and Series VIII Rimmer actually comes back to save his crewmates in the final episode when he could have stayed in the perfectly safe mirror world. For all his cowardice, he does seem to acknowledge 'better dead than smeg'.
- Mark Corrigan of Peepshow. Some of his more memorable acts of cowardice include hiding from his fiancee on their wedding day (in the actual church) rather than call it off, and using a past girlfriend as a human shield against a man who he tried to frame.
- Baltar was this in the original Battlestar Galactica.
- Gaius Baltar of the new Battlestar Galactica is the poster child for this trope. He takes whining, crying, and pleading for his life, and self-pity and refusal to take responsibility, to a whole new level. He does get somewhat better though, while still remaining fundamentally the same person at heart.
- Stanley Tweedle from Lexx is mostly an example of this trope, although if he's pushed into an absolute corner he generally mans up and does the right thing.
- Brad Bellick of Prison Break is this when he's not in the position to bully someone.
- Dr. Smith, The Load in Lost in Space. For someone who valued himself so highly, he wasn't very good at taking care of himself — his desperate acts of self-preservation never failed to endanger him.
- Doctor Who
- Gibbis from the episode "The God Complex". At first it's Played for Laughs ("All I want is to go home and be conquered and oppressed, is that too much to ask?"), but ultimately his actions directly result in the death of a sympathetic character. Worse, Gibbis survives the episode completely unscathed.
- Fewsham, from The Seeds of Death, collaborates with the Ice Warriors, fearing for his life, until he sees he's helping wipe the human race out. Then he grows a pair and gives the secret to stopping the Ice Warriors at the cost of his life.
- The Doctor himself can get like this on occasion in that while he's no stranger to physical danger or hard choices, he'll often run from the consequences. At the end of Series 9, having undergone a Sanity Slippage due to a Trauma Conga Line (and thus become — temporarily — a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds), he inspires his exchange from other characters:
Ohila: [disgusted] He's running away.
General: Where is he running to?
Ohila: Same place he always does: Away. Just... away.
- Chang in the penultimate episode of Community Season 2. At one point he runs through the paintball wasteland screaming "Does anyone have an alliance I can join?!", having betrayed at least 3 other groups already (The Study Group, Math Club, and The Cheerleader Alliance).
- Lailoken, the soothsayer of King Vortigern in the Merlin (1998) series. He is motivated entirely to keep himself out of danger (makes sense, considering he's around Vortigern of all people) and preserve his own life. After Vortigern tasks him to try to find out why his tower is collapsing, Lailoken makes a perfect dirty coward quote while at his religious rituals.
I've been a follower of the Old Ways all my life. Now, that life is in danger, and it's a precious life . . . it's mine!
- Angel Martin of The Rockford Files fits quite well. He frequently refuses to do his part in plans that put him in the slightest amount of danger, and he sells out his friends immediately when things go south and he ends up in jail, or in the hands of organized crime.
- On the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, the main character's wife fits this trope. Whenever Debra is in conflict with another person, she will usually bully her husband Ray into confronting the other person for her, almost always growling "You need to back me up on this!", to the point where that line is almost her catch phrase (and even if the other person has a perfectly valid point, they will still be treated as being horrible simply for opposing Debra). Then when Ray inevitably caves in to her demands and starts doing the verbal battling on her behalf, Debra always finds a way to sneak into the back and hide behind Ray while he takes all the heat from the other person. Then when Ray gives her a chance to speak her mind and join in, Debra always says something like "hey, it wasn't me, this was your idea," and goes back to cowering behind Ray's back and letting him be the target of the other person's anger. What's really infuriating about this pattern of behavior is the fact that Ray himself is usually in favor of making peace with the other person and wants everyone to get along, but he gets dragged into the argument anyway because his wife wanted him to, and yet she herself is totally unwilling to actually take responsibility for it, even when the fight is her idea. And yet she still treats him as if he's an unworthy husband, even though he always ends up doing her dirty work for her.
- Cold Case
- The victim of the episode Justice is a serial date rapist who exploited the lax laws regarding date rape to repeatedly perpetuate the crimes, peed himself when several of his former victims confronted him at gunpoint, and then acted unapologetic and unrepentant about his actions once they left. The detectives become so repulsed by what they learned of him that they actually tell the killer what to say in court to defend himself.
- The killer in the episode Blood On The Tracks was fearful of whatever punishment would be meted out for a crime she, her husband, and their friends were involved in a decade earlier—which the guilt-ridden husband was planning to confess to the cops about. So she enticed her ex-lover—who clearly still had feelings for her—to help her murder her husband in order to keep his mouth shut, with the promise of them running away together. Instead, she killed her husband and a friend of theirs whom she bore a strong resemblance to, assumed the other woman's life, and allowed her ex to suffer for 20-something years thinking that he had killed her, while she lived the ideal life of a suburban housewife. When confronted by Lily, she feebly denied being a monster, but outright admitted being "a coward".
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Nor the Battle to the Strong", Jake Sisko gets a Reason You Suck Speech calling him this, which he owns up to at the end.
- George Costanza from Seinfeld exemplifies this Trope perfectly in one scene- he's willing to push women and children out of his way and knock them to the floor to get to out of a burning building. The episode's writer said that such an act was, "George stripped down to his essentials."
- Horatio Hornblower: Jack Simpson is a very well-written and wonderfully performed villain of The Bully variety. His true cowardice is revealed when he's unable to Face Death with Dignity and begs for his life as Horatio has right to fire at will at their duel. Horatio's "you-are-not-worthy-of-the-powder" scornful remark absolutely psychs him out morally, and he tries to stab Horatio In the Back.
- A sympathetic example is found in Jack Hammond, who panicked during his first battle when someone else's blood splattered on him, and ends up stranding his captain during a mission. Unlike Simpson, he's not a bad man, just a normal person out of his depth in a Naval career he didn't want and is completely unsuited to in the first place.
- It's rare to find an Evil Overlord that fits a Trope like this, but Master Vile from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers likely does. He wasn't the only major villain who gave up and quit, but actually threw a childish tantrum and ran off to his home galaxy after the Alien Rangers defeated his army. (If you didn't see it, trust me, it was a rather pathetic display.) Sure, maybe it was a big setback, but a lot of villains in the series had experienced worse, and it didn't make them run away crying.
- Don't expect Eric Forman's friends from That '70s Show to stick around when things go south of the border whenever their antics (Most often Kelso's) blow up in their faces.
Jackie: I can't believe Michael pushed me aside.Donna: Me neither. I thought he'd use you as a human shield.
- More obviously invoked in episode Halloween, when Kelso hears a noise which he takes for a vengeful spirit; he pushes his girlfriend out of the way in his haste to flee.
- King Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones is this. A Smug Snake, Royal Brat, and all around Jerk Ass. While he acts tough, the truth is that he's nothing more than a coward. Some of the best parts from the show are watching him squirm like the worm he is.
- In an episode of Frasier, a gunman comes into the coffee shop and Bulldog tries to hide behind Roz (who's pregnant at the time) to shield himself. However, when he is trying to get behind her he manages to accidentally spill hot coffee on the gunman, disarming him and promptly leading to Bulldog being hailed as a hero, to the disgust of Frasier who saw what actually happened.
- Justified has Harlan County marijuana dealer Dickie Bennett. A vicious, sadistic little man, Dickie tends to lose his courage the moment things aren't going his way, begging and pleading for mercy. He does it to Raylan twice, and to Boyd when the latter tries to force the location of his mother's money out of him. Late in Season 3 he seems to grow a spine, largely because he believes that he's a dead man anyway.
- Lester Nygaard from Fargo. Despite being viewed by his peers as a quiet, nervous type, the truth is that he's a repellant little worm who will do anything to keep himself from harm, even if that means framing his own brother for the murder of his first wife. He crosses the Moral Event Horizon when, while fleeing town in an attempt to evade Lorne Malvo, he sends his second wife to be killed in his place, even giving her his distinctive orange parka to ensure she resembles him as closely as possible.
- The Arrogant Worms have a song called I ran Away, unsurprisingly the protagonist resorts to every stated situation by running.
- Frank Gallop played it for laughs in "The Ballad of Irving," who was Too Dumb to Live as well as a coward:
The James Boys was comin' on a train at first sun,
And the town said, "Irving, we need your gun."
When that train pulled in at the break of dawn,
Irving's gun was there, but Irving was gone.
- Sabaton's song In The Name Of God is a "Reason You Suck" Speech aimed directly at religious terrorists (particularly Al-Qaeda and their ilk), and it's mostly calling them this.
Stand up and show me your face!
Myth and Legend
- Thersites from The Iliad.
- Ares from Classical Mythology. He reveled in the bloodshed and chaos of war, but he actually wasn't that good a warrior and had low pain tolerance. His response to being wounded in the Trojan War was to cry and run back to Olympus.
- King Mark from the Tristan and Isolde part of the Arthurian Legend. Or at least he's like this in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.
- This is a classic heel character in Professional Wrestling. The Honky Tonk Man made a career out of this gimmick in WWE and Christian Cage was in this mode following his Face–Heel Turn in TNA.
- In the late 90's following his infamous Face–Heel Turn, Hulk Hogan had the bizarre distinction of being both a Villain Sue AND a Dirty Coward at the same time. While he might squash any challenger that came his way at a PPV, Hogan would often spend at a least a month hiding behind members of the New World Order talking trash as his future opponent would rip apart the jobbers in the nWo a few feet away.
- Averting this trope is one of the reasons Kane is so popular, even as a Monster Heel. He will never back down and has gotten into the ring with guys far bigger than him. In the Royal Rumble match, he will always stare down the biggest guy in the ring, nod, and when it is returned the two will ignore everyone else until one of them is eliminated.
- Kurt Angle was famous for this in early WWE run (1999-2002)
- Edge is very good at portraying this type of heel, though sometimes it's subverted somewhat when it is shown that the women who are in love with him actually want to risk their necks to save his, and do so without his prompting (see Lita and Vickie Guerrero). CM Punk milked this trope as part of his Charles Manson-like cult-leader gimmick, with his skin-headed moll Serena smiling as he uses her as a human shield. (Depending on your attitude toward such relationships, I guess, this is either terrifying or Fetish Fuel.) Edge was such a coward as a heel that it wasn't unusual for him on house shows to spend up to ten minutes stalling outside of the ring before eventually locking up with his opponent.
- Subverted by John Cena, who acted this way until his full-blown Heel–Face Turn in 2005. Despite being very strong and tough in his own right, he would use a steel chain wrapped around his knuckles to knock out larger opponents and gain victories over them - and he still got cheered.
- Michael Cole IS this trope following his Face–Heel Turn. To put it in perspective, he's put himself in a bulletproof glass case for his protection and constantly backs down when someone challenges him to a match.
- Bryan Danielson's heel run in WWE is borderline comical in this respect. It's a Running Gag that, if things get hectic while he's at ringside, he'll disappear from the action, but the camera will soon cut to a shot of him leaving up the entrance ramp huddling his World Title with AJ following close behind.
- Major Bloodnok (Peter Sellers) in The Goon Show is a coward through-and-through, and there's not a thing he won't do for money.
- Also, everyone else. While deciding who gets volunteered for a dangerous mission:
Seagoon: I'm terribly sorry, but I have a wife and 63 children!
Bloodnok: I too have a wife and children. That only leaves dear old -
[rattle of telephone]
Eccles: Hello, hello, operator? Get me the marriage bureau!
Bloodnok: Flatten me cronkler with spinach mallets. So, both of you have turned cowards, eh. That only leaves me. Two cowards, and me. You know what this means?
Seagoon: Three cowards.
- Also, everyone else. While deciding who gets volunteered for a dangerous mission:
- Thomas in Old Harry's Game (whose nastiness disgusts even Satan) has many horrible characteristics, but his dirty cowardice is among his defining traits. Though he does occasionally show signs of Character Development, this is nearly always unwound by the end of the episode.
- Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician. His tactical insights include:
"Everybody but me— CHARGE!"
"Don't look at it! Maybe it'll go away!"
- The Ebon Dragon may be one of the Titans who created the world, and one of the most overwhelmingly powerful beings in existence, but his pitiful Virtues (especially Valor), the easily exploitable holes in his defenses, and the personality constraints of his Excellency make him an utterly rank coward. He will very rarely engage in a straight fight against anything capable of hurting him (which can be everything) and will never do so against something that has the slightest chance of killing him. Fortunately for him, being the Principle of Villainy makes one really good at talking your way out of trouble, or just plain running away.
- The Skaven are sneaky, conniving, selfish, cowardly, and backstabbing, and each of these ratmen would gladly sacrifice their entire race for their own hides if not for their innate fear and paranoia. However, this does not make the Skaven race weak, as their disease-resistant qualities, large numbers, and dedication to keeping themselves hidden from mankind and the other races (to the point that they are regarded as a myth even when presented with irrefutable evidence of their existence) would make them a formidable foe that could potentially overtake the world if they could just put aside their in-fighting and distrust for each other for one millisecond.
- Hobgoblins are quick to turn tail when the odds are against them. One example is a hobgoblin mercenary Oglah Khan, who constantly switches sides when the side he is on is losing.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Night Lords. Yes, really. They are a legion of Chaos Space Marines who specialise in raids, terror tactics, and guerrilla warfare. However, their reliance on this kind of fighting means they are themselves rather cynical and cowardly, lacking the conviction of the other, more fanatical legions. Several Night Lords characters are also shown to be willing to abandon their own brothers in the name of self-preservation, a trait which is also symptomatic of many fallen Chaos Space Marine warbands.
- The Spyrers from the spin-off game Necromunda. Justified by the fact that each and every one of them is a One-Man Army in a world full of Badass Normals, so, if a gang manages to kill one or even more of them...
- Dungeons & Dragons kobolds tend to be like this.
- In Cyrano de Bergerac:
Cyrano (To himself): I will write, fold it, give it her, and fly!(Throws down the pen): Coward!... But strike me deadif I dare to speak to her,... ay, even onesingle word!
- The public of The Burgundy Theater invokes this trope about Montfleury's Run or Die decision instead of standing to Cyrano (who has threatened to kill Montfleury if he insists to act in a play) in the middle of Act I Scene IV. Subverted at the end of that scene, after Cyrano kicks a Bore's ass and wounds De Valvert, then it is obvious that Montfleury displayed true valor despite Cyrano's prohibition to be in a scene. The public still thinks that Montfleury is a Dirty Coward.
- At Act II Scene III, Cyrano admits to himself he is one of those when he thinks to write a letter to Roxane and flee. Interestingly enough, he has a Freudian Excuse.
- Garcin from No Exit.
- William Shakespeare used this at least twice: the braggart Parolles in Alls Well That Ends Well cravenly betrays his fellow soldiers when they make him think he has been captured by enemy forces; more sympathetically is Falstaff.
- The mayor in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. A non-humorous example who gets a well-deserved Karmic Death near the end by trying to bargain with Big Bad Caulder to save himself after selling out the heroes to him.
- From the same game, Waylon, whose own men desert him en masse after his first appearance because he would throw their lives away to cover his own. His theme song is even called "Flight of the Coward".
- More than a few of Altaïr's targets in Assassin's Creed I would flee from him (though him being Altaïr might have something to do with it); city guards may quit the field if you show off your prowess as well.
- And in Assassins Creed II, Borgia captains and couriers are more than likely to flee Ezio's grasp, though then again the same applies for Ezio, who's arguably deadlier than Altaïr.
- The Baron de Valois from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, who takes Bartolomeo's wife hostage to try and get the latter to surrender, makes a break for it when surprised by Ezio, and will execute her quickly if Ezio is detected trying to reach him.
- The Doctor character from Multiplayer and Project Legacy is one too.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
- Patches the Hyena of Demons Souls, and later Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
- Also from Demon's, Long Bow Oolan, who chose to wield a bow so she could avoid the frontlines, defended by her legionaries. When she was turned into a demon by the colorless fog, she became the helpless Phalanx, relying on the Hoplites to defend her.
- In Dark Souls II, a couple invader spirits in use cowardly tactics against the player.
- One invades while you are descending a ladder into an enclosed space full of zombie dogs.
- Maldron The Assassin does this as his career. In his first encounter he will run away into an area full of enemies when he loses some health. And in his second encounter, he disguises himself as a White Phantom, only to pierce you from behind with a lance.
- In Disgaea 2 we have Axel the Dark Hero who, in the style of Disgaea demons being Card Carrying Villains, is a Card Carrying Dirty Coward (hence the "dark" part). Further in Disgaea style, he's actually a Lovable Coward.
- One of the main reasons Prince Charmles is one of the least favorite Dragon Quest characters is that he's both a Dirty Coward and a Jerkass, and makes you do all the work for him on the one story quest where you're forced to take him along.
- Porky Minch from EarthBound. At the start of the game, he ditches his brother in the night and proceeds to go bug Ness for help with finding him so that he won't get disciplined, only to prove totally useless in battle, spending most of his time hiding behind you. After he starts viewing Ness as his nemesis, he shows up from time to time to simply taunt him, then run off. It's only at the very end when he has Giygas backing him up that he actually has something of a spine, but even then, he bails out and leaves Giygas to deal with you once he takes a little abuse.
- There's also the man in the tent in Threed, who abandoned his wife and children to the zombies. He doesn't seem to understand why they're angry with him.
- Shinji Matou from Fate/stay night is an arrogant Jerkass who likes talking about how much better he is than everyone, but quickly loses his superior facade once he is confronted and shown what a pathetic and sniveling coward he really is.
- In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the boss of the Part 3 Prologue, Septimus, is shown to be immensely paranoid about laguz attacks and runs off as soon as the player or allied armies get close, leaving his second-in-command to guard the seize point. He later shows up in 3-8, assigned to enter the lava-filled caves and bring back the bodies of the enemies that no doubt perished there as proof that they were dead — and is quite dismayed to find them (that's the player's army, again) very much alive.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, the Hierarch, who Chrom and his sisters had known for years and who had helped Emmeryn during the early years of her rule sells them out to the Plegian army to save his own hide. When the Plegians begin the ambush, the very first thing they do is kill the man, stating that they were told to bring back a man, not a coward who betrayed his own country; the Hierarch's last words, other than begging to go free, are a terrified 'EEEEEEEEEEEEK!!'
- Goblins, the weakest unit of the Stronghold Faction in Heroes of Might and Magic V: Tribes of the East. In gameplay, their cowardice causes them to run away from their attackers instead of retaliating. If enough of the stack is killed, they actually defect to the other side. Storywise, this attitude earns them a great deal of contempt from the rest of the faction, which primarily consists of Proud Warrior Race Guys. As a result, their "comrades" have no problem with letting their Shamans sacrifice Goblins for mana replenishing rituals or with letting the Cyclops treat Goblins as snacks and ammo.
- Tavion, The Dragon of Desan in Jedi Knight 2:
Kyle Katarn: "Why should I believe you?"Tavion: "Because I am not brave enough to die?"
- Kai Leng of Mass Effect 3 is a particularly unlikable case. He's not above playing dirty tricks on his enemies, and pulls several on Shepard, including calling in a gunship to provide fire support while his shields recharge and using the salarian councilor as a shield. Even worse, he endlessly taunts Shepard when he's out of danger, including sending them an email mocking them about the events on Thessia. In the final battle, Shepard points out that Kai Leng always runs, which the latter responds to rather ungracefully. When Shepard shatters/dodges his sword and guts him like a fish, it's not easy not to cheer.
- The original Metal Gear features a boss fight against "Coward Duck" (later renamed "Dirty Duck") who, although a nearly a non-entity as far as characterization goes, lives up to both his codenames in his fighting style. He strikes at Snake from the relatively safe position of being surrounded by three hostages, and killing any of them makes the game Unwinnable by virtue of being unable to get the Rocket Launcher.
- Brad Vickers, S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team helicopter pilot from the Resident Evil franchise, who immediately turns tail and runs off, abandoning his teammates during the events of the first game when the zombie dogs attack. When Chief of Police Irons dismisses the rest of the team's claims about the mansion, Vickers goes along with them to keep his job. To the satisfaction of the player, he eventually is killed off..
- Though to Brad's credit, he did he show up just in time to drop them a rocket launcher to use against the final boss, and then did his damnedest to extract the remaining members of S.T.A.R.S before the mansion went up in smoke. Brad will never hold a very high place in the eyes of the fandom, but if he hadn't worked up the nerve to turn back, there wouldn't have been any survivors of that mission.
- Alfonso in Skies of Arcadia is established as this in the game's opening sequence: once his ship is attacked by the Blue Rogues, he is more concerned with escaping than fighting, and once he secures the means to do so he murders his vice captain in cold blood and tosses the corpse overboard in order to frame the vice captain as a traitor and cover his own ass. However, one of the surviving crewmen rats him out to Galcian, who strips Alfonso of his command of the Mid Ocean Fleet and immediately reassigns him to Ixa'Taka.
- The Spathi from Star Control are a Planet of Hats devoted to craven cowardice and borderline paranoia as a way of life. A traditional Spathi prayer goes "Oh God, please don't let me die today! Tomorrow would be so much better", and the entire race lives in fear of a nebulous alien race they refer to (always in the same ominous tone) as "The Ultimate Evil". However, they can and will fight if backed into a corner (and they can fight quite well; the Spathi Eluder is one of the best ships in the game). However, this doesn't stop the Spathi from backing out of their alliance with the "hunams" and sealing their home world beneath an impenetrable force field the first chance they get.
- The Spathi can fight quite well — mostly because their ships are so fast no one can catch them, and because they pelt anything that tries to catch them with a hailstorm of Backward Utilizing Tracking Torpedoes fired out of the back of the ship as it flees. Which means, fittingly, that they fight best when they're running away.
- A memorable quote comes from the Spathi High Council, about a Spathi (named Fwiffo) who has been "captured" by the protagonists: "If you held a weapon to Fwiffo's head, he would say anything you wanted him to say. In fact, if you held a vegetable to his head he would probably say anything you wanted him to say."
- Yuber from Suikoden is a perfect example of this trope: Once he realizes he's in danger, he will flee, be it in a one-on-one duel or in a big scale battle as commander of his troops. On the other hand if he's feeling superior he will destroy a village out of boredom or summon a huge monster to deal with the hero. What a dick.
- Snowe from Suikoden IV is a particularly sickening example. Late in the game after everything he has done, you are given the chance of either adding him to your team or killing him, and it is very easy to make the second choice. Although if you kill him, you won't get the True Ending. And the main character will die. And if you do forgive him he gets better and becomes more humble and respectable. It could be said, though, that only the sudden escape from marauding pirates at the beginning of the game is cowardice. Everything else, he faces with at least a modicum of courage, including the three times he's captured by the player and threatened with death.
- Alduin in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim turns out to be one of these when faced by someone who can actually hurt him. It's one of the reasons Odahviing agrees to help you pursue him — the other Dragons are no longer certain that Alduin deserves to be their leader.
- The Orc chief Yamarz has the dubious distinction of being a deceitful weakling amongst a race of proud warriors. When his tribe is besieged by Giants, he opts to hole up in the village and let everyone else fight them off rather than lift a finger to do it himself. When he is tasked with slaying the Giant chief, he tries to bribe the player to do it for him and let him take the credit. If the player agrees, he then tries to kill them too to keep his cowardice from being discovered.
- And of course the first example we're confronted with is during the intro, where Lokir the horse thief spends his last moments desperately pleading to his captors, his fellow captives and finally to every one of the Eight Divines for salvation. When you reach the chopping block, he attempts to run for it and shouts "You aren't gonna kill me!" only to be unceremoniously shot in the back.
- The Mean Emcee from Wario World is this. He is absolutely terrified of Wario and will hide under a cup after he punches him enough.
- Anub'Arak in the Old Kingdom dungeon in World of Warcraft is widely regarded as a despicable coward due to his fight mechanics, where he constantly burrows underground becoming untargetable and sends minions after the players. Far from being a challenge it is merely an annoyance and prolongs the fight unnecessarily. Although that's probably more due to a Scrappy Mechanic more than anything else. In The Frozen Throne, when he is first introduced, he is pretty brave, serving as Arthas' dragon, accompanying him through Azjol-Nerub and fighting at the front. In one mission, the duo meet a forgotten one (an Old God-lite), and Anub'Arak's first response is to charge the thing.
- Anub'Arak: It cannot be... Look to your defences, Death Knight! Fight as you have never fought before!
- Many generic enemies in World of Warcraft have a cowardly streak, upon depleting most of their health they will attempt to flee and the message "[enemy] is trying to run away in fear." is displayed. If not controlled or killed they could potentially reach other enemy groups for help resulting in a wipe.
- Meng the Demented, one of the four Spirit Kings in Mogu'shan Vaults, alternates between attacking the tank normally and fleeing while putting a shield on himself that reflects damage on the raid, in alternating respective "Crazed" and "Cowardice" phases.
- Mumkhar from Xenoblade should get some sort of award for this, because he left his friends to die in the middle of a battlefield just to save his own skin... 5 minutes into the game.
- Advanced V.G. II:
- Despite genetically enhancing her own body, Miranda knew she still couldn't defeat Yuka in a fair fight. So she forced Yuka to fight the Material Twins first, then took advantage by attacking Yuka while she was exhausted.
- Ironically, Miranda falls victim to her own tactic, when Yuka proves stronger than she had anticipated; causing Miranda to exert herself just finish Yuka off. Which enabled Tamao to return the favor by whupping. Miranda's. Ass.
- Jyrall in The Last Story, which takes any and all occasions to get Zael in trouble, but flees at the slightest hint of danger. Even when he tries to sell him off to Zangurak, the latter is barely interested in him at all. It takes him being fused with a demonic sword, being in numerical advantage AND a full-on mental breakdown to actually challenge Zael to a fight.
- Ben from The Walking Dead could be viewed as a deconstruction. Ben is in the unenviable position of being too old to have resilience and trust of authority to protect him (like Clementine and Duck), but too young to have developed self-sufficiency or determination (like Lee and the others in their thirties and forties). He's old enough to comprehend the full horror of the Zombie Apocalypse and be terrified of it, but not old enough to have a decade or so of adult life experience to strengthen his character and resolve. He's likely watched a lot of his young and vital peers die right in front of him, as well as teachers he thought could protect them. It's hard to say who Ben might have become if he'd had the chance to age a decade more before all this happened. This is likely why characters like Lee sympathize with him. Ben can be viewed as a masterful deconstruction of a lot of tropes, including this one.
- Lenny from Hitman: Absolution is a rare overlap between this and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
- Sundowner from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Despite his imposing size, scary weapon and talk of how awesome war is, he's revealed to be rather pathetic as an adversary. His only story accomplishments are pretty much just killing one unarmed and unaugmented man in cold blood, and tormenting a bunch of orphans and homeless kids. When you fight him, he clearly can't keep up with Raiden straight on and has to resort to "gimmicky shit" like an explosive shield, not to mention he calls in helicopter drones to back him up when the fight starts going badly for him.
- Anyone who has fought a Rathalos will know that the damn thing will fly away the moment the fight begins going badly for it. Luckily, there is a thing or two you can do about that...
- Ser Jory from Dragon Age: Origins. Introduced as a boastful, proud Glory Hound, the moment the party encounters a wounded soldier and he realizes that he will actually have to fight Darkspawn, he immediately tries to convince the Warden to desert, and continues to do so even after Daveth angrily points out that they're the only true defense against the Blight. This culminates in him outright attacking Duncan during the Joining in a final attempt to desert. Naturally, this costs him his life.
- Satan in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is revealed to be one. Satan is afraid to face anyone who can seriously challenge or even kill him. The only reason he is returning in the present is because he's certain that Dracula is dead. Dracula exploits this trait at the end of their battle by making it look like he is willing to kill his own son Alucard/Trevor (whom Satan is possessing) again just to get rid of Satan. Satan panics at the last moment and leaves Alucard's body, giving Dracula a clear shot at finishing him off.
- In Diablo III, Holus, the ex-mayor of New Tristram is regarded as a this by pretty much everyone in the game, and not without reason. While the people of New Tristram, most of them being simple farmers, are desperately trying to keep the Zombie Apocalypse at bay, Holus worries more about his broken cart and how he can't flee anymore. The man can't catch a break, because he turns up later in the game as a stranded merchant at Bastion's Keep... which is besieged by The Legions of Hell. He complains about wanting to flee the entire time and the Player Character constantly chews him out for it... only for him to die when Diablo is resurrected. A nearby soldier notes how he had the chance to flee, but never did.
- In Jurassic Park The Game, Nima suggests to Miles that they need a distraction when they're surrounded by a pack of Dilophosaurus. Miles' response is to push Nima right in front of one.
- Antharia Jack from Zork: Grand Inquisitor is not only one, but outright confirms it. He isn't a brave dashing hero, he just played one on TV. While he does help you a few times. Though in the end, he helps create a plan to have you climb the Macguffin tower which will save the world, while he creates a distraction which is telling the Big Bad what you're doing. Then again if the immortal Big Bad didn't climb after you, he wouldn't have been blasted by pure magic and killed. So...
- Prince Gordon in Final Fantasy II ran away from Fynn when The Empire invaded, leaving his brother Scott to die. He spends his time moping in Altair, feeling insignificant compared to the three refugees who have become the best agents of the Wild Rose rebellion, until he runs away once the Dreadnought begins bombing towns. By the time he finally gathers his nerve, he finds himself stymied by the monsters that have overtaken Kashaun Keep and inadvertantly causes Josef's death, as the heroes wouldn't have needed to go to the Ice Cavern to obtain the Goddess's Bell if Gordon had been there to hold the door open for them. He joins with pitiful stats, but can level up quickly if you put in the effort and Takes a Level In Badass while accompanying the heroes, eventually taking the role of Commander of the Wild Rose forces and immediately volunteering to join in on the real Princess Hilda's rescue.
- Five Nights at Freddy's 3: The murderer turns out to have been this, when confronted by the ghosts of the children he killed, he turns into a raving coward and runs away like a scaredy cat before trying to hide in an animatronic, which kills him.
- When laying siege to a raubritter's castle in Darklands, the party may try to challenge him to a duel. However, a failed skill check will just make him laugh at the heroes and then he will send more henchmen to the field.
- In Commander Kitty, CK himself has his moments. His expression sheet even has him pushing Nin Wah into the line of fire for "fierce".
- In Endstone, the Grave Robber Bolo tries to steal the Lightstone and puts the blame on his companion when caught.
- The Chief in Goblins. Who survived the massacre by hiding and ignoring the cries of his villagers. Afterwards he becomes a cleric to start a path of redemption.
- Lightning from Sidekicks all the way. Despite being a Superhero, he never puts himself in the line of fire unless he absolutely has to or he is provoked into doing so. It's no wonder that three (four if you count Theo being overtaken by Metheos as the former dying) of his previous five sidekicks have died. He's also indirectly responsible for the destruction of the Committee headquarters.
- In Impure Blood, their ride dumps them in the city and leaves.
- Dr. Schlock, from Sluggy Freelance, is played for laughs in this manner: He helps the cast out more often than not, but that's only because Riff has a gun to his head. When he eventually gets into a situation he can't run away from, he's revealed to be more dangerous than he looks.
- Tower of God gives you Parakewl, a tall, haughty jerkass with a green fish face, who in general calls everybody scum, is the first to abandon somebody, demands that people should be sacrificed for his ends or in his stead, sticks up for nobody, openly switches sides to gain the majority's favor and has neither skill nor intelligence to back his behaviour up. He is known in fandom as the ass. Why he survives is a mystery to all.
- Dead Fantasy: Aptly sums up what Final Fantasy fans thought about Hayate's actions in episode 5. During live screenings, the crowd could be heard booing because he sent an entire squad of ninja after Tifanote , who'd been weakened during her fight with Hitomi. And stood idly by, not caring how many of his men died, just to keep from getting his hands dirty. It isn't until Tifa's exhausted and bound in chains that he casually strolls up to her and finishes her off. At which point, a member of the audience shouts: "That's fucked up! C'mon!!" (heard at 4:31).
- A possible interpretation of Neopolitan from RWBY. Against Yang, a rookie first-year Huntress, she's very smug and confident while Curb Stomping her, but up against a real opponent such as Raven Branwen, she pisses off in a rather undignified manner.
- Gaea from Noob. She blackmails and cons her own guildmates while thinking of them as human shields in battle and weasels her way out of contributing to her guild's common fund while frequently stealing from it. She even plays Squishy Wizard, which makes her optimal battle strategy consist of taking cover (or sometimes attempt to ditch the battle while pretending to do so) and hitting enemies with powerful attacks.
- Daffy Duck of Looney Tunes is a self-admitted one of these characters, and proud of it. He'll sell out his friends in an instant to save his own hide and/or claim wealth for himself. As he puts it, "Sure I'm a louse, but I'm a live louse!" During the "Hunter Trilogy" of cartoons, he freely admits he's only sending Elmer after Bugs because it's "Really duck season".
- Inverted slightly in the Hunter's Trilogy, while he is out for "thelf-prethervation", he also seems very set on his rival getting his head blown off. The numerous instances Elmer actually turns his attention on Bugs, and naturally screws up, Daffy will actually go up to Elmer and berate him to his face to "Shoot him! SHOOT HIM!". On one occasion he actually snatched the gun from Elmer and attempted to do the job himself, the latter just walked off bewildered.
- His greed can overcome this, though: in "Ducking the Devil" (1957) he beats up the Tasmanian Devil when Taz takes some money from him!
Daffy: I may be a coward, but I'm a greeeedy little coward!
- There are many examples from Futurama
- When the chips are down, Zapp Brannigan is a coward. This quote from him sums it up.
"I surrender and volunteer for treason!"
- Bender. In one of the movies, he, Amy and one other character are trapped by a bunch of orcs in a castle. Bender tells the two ladies he has a plan, The next scene shows him holding them up in the and tells the orcs to take his friends first, just to give him one more second of sweet sweet life. In "Bendin' in the Wind," the crew is plunging off a cliff. Bender grabs a nearby cable, loudly declaring, "I'll save ME!" The rest of the crew is only saved by grabbing his legs just in time.
- Fry is also this. In "The Series Has Landed" Fry gets a moon rover caught in a lunar dust pool. He declares "It's every man for himself!" and bails out, only to sink up to his neck in the very same dust. He immediately calls for Leela to save him. He gets called this in "War is the H-Word" when he, wielding the only charged phaser, blasts himself a hole to hide in. Though at the end of that episode, he does ride a bouncing ball to the peace meeting to save the life of his best friend.
Zapp Brannigan: Look at this sissy, Kif. While others were fighting and dying pointlessly, he was hiding in a hole; wallowing in a pool of his own cowardice.
Fry: That wasn't cowardice!
- Towards the end of the series Leela would seem to override Fry's cowardice, particularly in "A Farewell to Arms" Fry chooses to stay behind on an apparently doomed Earth to let Leela have a chance of life.
- When the chips are down, Zapp Brannigan is a coward. This quote from him sums it up.
- Throughout Transformers, Starscream is and always has been a dirty coward, instinctively fleeing as soon as any fight starts even leaning in the enemy's favour. He will also fight like a coward, with cheap shots and ambushes, even if he probably had the advantage anyway.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Transformers Animated, where he makes five clones to help him overthrow Megatron (hey, it's The Starscream we're talking about here), each of which represent one facet of his personality. This being Starscream, his 'army' consists of a pantophobe, an egomaniac, a suck-up, a chronic liar, and... something.
- The Fairly Oddparents: King Grippulon, supposedly a fearsome king, frequently uses his wife as a shield when his life is in danger, and is willing to put his son on the throne after there are several assassination attempts.
- Captain Hero of Drawn Together.
- Antoine of the Sonic The Hedgehog animated series, initially more of an arrogant Lovable Coward, was Flanderized into this trope later on, at least once offering to switch sides when the Freedom Fighter base had supposedly been found. Even Snively found him to be a " little worm".
- Ben 10 con-artists Argit and Simian, although Simian can and will fight if backed into a corner.
- Ben calls Malware out on being this in 'Omniverse' when Malware sends a gasoline tanker at a busload of innocent children just to escape Ben.
- In Avatar The Last Airbender, Yon Rha, the man who killed Katara's mother, is this. When confronted by his victim's vengeful daughter, he cowers in terror and while he admits that what he did was wrong, he offers his mother's life instead of his own. Katara merely gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and leaves.
- Dale Gribble from King of the Hill will often sell out his friends or run away.
- Everyone on it has traits of it. Each character on the show is more than willing to abandon each other at a minute's notice or rat the other out if the thought entered their mind. but doubly so for Peggy, who would often switch sides whenever it would benefit her. Going from supporting Hank when he was accused of Racism to claiming he was Racist just so she could enjoy a Double Standard with a smug smirk on her face. Whenever its time to put up, she backs away or blames somebody else for what had happened when she's clearly at fault.
- Eustace Bagge from Courage the Cowardly Dog. There's even one episode where the shadow of a deceased man, who spent the whole night scaring other people, declared that Eustace is an even bigger coward than Courage himself.
- Codename: Kids Next Door
- The Delightful Children from Down the Lane are the biggest example Apparently, the term "fair fight" is unknown to them, and they rarely confront even one member of Sector V without at least one Dumb Muscle, an army of mooks, or a Humongous Mecha supporting them. And if they lose their edge, they're quick to run for it. Of course, you can hardly blame them; the few times they have tried to stand up to them have been Curb Stomp Battles (with them hitting the curb) and in the Series Finale, Numbuh One defeated all five of them alone.
- Ironically, they were once KND Operatives before being Brainwashed by Father, and they were far braver originally, as proven when the effect was reversed. (Sadly, Numbuh Zero knew of no way to reverse it permanently.)
- On the subject of irony, Father himself was like this when he was a child. While his far braver brother led the rebellion against their villainous father, he ran and hid like a coward. Thus, his brother would become the legendary Numbuh Zero, while he would grow up to be the KND's worst enemy. Of course, he became much braver as an adult, but in "Operation: Z.E.R.O.", while his heroic brother was still more than brave enough to face their father, the younger villain still chickened out.
- Another example from the show Negative Numbuh Four. Given the fact that everyone in his world is an Evil Counterpart (or a good counterpart, if the character is evil) and a polar opposite of someone in the "real" world, he is Numbuh Four's opposite in every way, and is thus a coward in every sense of the word. (Amazingly, Numbuh Four is the first one to realize this, a rare case of him holding the Smart Ball.)
- Flash Thompson wasn't one in the original Spider-Man comic, where he usually is portrayed as hot-headed and brave enough to face villains, but Ultimate Spider-Man made him one; in this version, he has no scrupples trying to offer Peter as a snack to save his skin when confronted to Venom, and even left Harry Osborn behind to escape Taskmaster.
- The Tick has Die Fledermaus, who has no problem ditching the other heroes of The City whenever trouble comes up.
- Safari Joe in the original Thunder Cats. Lion-O assumes he's a coward from the start, and when he finally runs out of ammo and no longer has any tricks, the hero is proven right. The villain does nothing but fall to his knees and plead for his life. (Given what he had done, Lion-O might not have spared him if this had been the Darker and Edgier remake.)
- The king in Wat's Pig does not want to fight the battles. During the second battle, he goes and hides under Wat's covers in the countryside while his brother does all the fighting. As a result, the invaders successfully take over the kingdom.
- Preston Northwest from Gravity Falls. He was gonna leave everyone in his mansion to burn while a ghost wreaks havoc.
- DuckTales: Major Courage, "Where No Duck Has Gone Before."
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "School Spirit", when attacked by monsters, Brittney Wong uses the people around her (including a girl in a wheelchair) as shields and shoves several of them into the monsters to slow them down while trying to escape.
- Dagur the Deranged from Dragons: Riders of Berk is a skilled warrior, loves violence, and is chief of the feared Berserker tribe. Yet for the first two seasons he never goes anywhere without a large armada backing him up, hides behind his men in battle, panics at the first sign of things going wrong, and begs for mercy when captured. He only fights when he has no choice or he gets enraged to a point his madness takes over.
- In Ivanhoe The Kings Knight Prince John shows shades of this at least once but not without justification. While participating in a siege, he has all of the enemy's arrows being fired at him and intends to spend the rest of the siege watching it from a hill. As John so eloquently put it "What is the point of having an army if all of their arrows are meant for me?"
- Batman Beyond: Nelson is a great example, beating up a schoolmate until Terry steps in and challenges him, at which point he is no longer mister big and tough.