Fatal Flaw

"I am writing a list of tragic character flaws on my dollar bills with a felt pen. I am thinking of the people in my universe and distilling for each of these people the one flaw in their character that will be their downfall—the flaw that will be their undoing. What I write are not sins; I write tragedies."
Tyler Johnson, Shampoo Planet

Heroes have a Fatal Flaw which they wrestle with on a consistent basis. This may open them up for specific conflicts later — when a protagonist's fatal flaw is encountered through the course of a plot, the audience's reaction is very tense.

This is not to be confused with what Aristotle calls hamartia, also a key part of Tragedy. A hamartia is a mistake or error a hero makes which leads to his undoing. It is not the same as a fatal flaw. This confusion arose from the misunderstanding of Aristotle's Poetics in the 19th Century.

In classic literature, a Fatal Flaw is often what prevents a Tragic Hero from succeeding, or serves as the cause of their Tragic Mistake. It is usually some sort of character deficiency listed below or, in conventional television, an addiction of some sort. In modern television, the Fatal Flaw is more likely to lead to a Very Special Episode.

Some specific Fatal Flaws:

Note the resemblance to the Seven Deadly Sins note . Also see Virtue/Vice Codification for a more comprehensive list of vices identified by various authors throughout history.

If the Fatal Flaw doesn't play any role in the story, it's an Informed Flaw. If the flaw isn't quite so fatal, you're likely dealing with Mr. Vice Guy.

A literal fatal flaw, as often seen in science fiction and fantasy, would be Phlebotinum Breakdown and/or Achilles' Heel.


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  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Whether it be a raging inferiority complex, self-endangering recklessness, an Oedipus complex, alcoholism, bizarre neo-mystic delusions, or a complete disregard for one's own life, pretty much everybody has at least one of these. Quite a few have more then one.
  • Light Yagami of Death Note has his overwhelming pride, which reaches A God Am I at its worst and blinds him to the point of refusing to even contemplate his own failure.
  • Code Geass
    • Lelouch does things without considering their negative consequences, keeps too many secrets, and doesn't trust people.
    • Suzaku has a large lack of self-worth and is too much of an idealist for his own good. Suzaku is unable to see that the people he sucks up to due to his lack of self-worth and desperate desire to be a Britannian are everything that he does not want and he is doing everything he claims he is against on a daily basis.
    • Shirley's attraction to Lelouch gets her killed when she confronts Rolo. Even though she doesn't remember him, she trusts him because Lelouch seems to trust him.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Chrono's demonic instincts and need to protect others (particularly Rosette) sometimes combine to give him a very, very dangerous temper. Since Chrono's powers drain Rosette's lifespan due to their contract, it's dangerous not just to him, but to Rosette herself. In fact, in the manga this trope is taken literally, when Aion provokes Chrono into unsealing his powers himself and come at him with everything he's got. Several people are killed in the battle, and it drains so much of Rosette's life that the next time she unseals the watch, she dies.
  • Soul Eater:
    • Death the Kid has his raging OCD and self-esteem issues; the presence or lack of symmetry in his surroundings (or remembering that he may have forgotten to symmetrically fold his toilet paper roll this morning) can take him out of a battle in a heartbeat. In one case, Liz uses this against him to avoid getting into a battle in the first place, as the factory containing the Clown scared her, (and with good reason). She does something similar earlier, when taking note of Free's ball and chain to provoke Kid to attack the werewolf.
      • The origin of his OCD is revealed: Shinigami-sama was a Great Old One who possessed the Madness of Order, much like how those like Asura possessed Madness of Fear. All the Great Old Ones can radiate and control their Madness, as their sheer existence and power is so mighty, surrounding beings go mad. As such, there is a need to bring order and those who succumb to it can force humanity to be mindless puppets. Death the Kid's OCD appears to be an offshoot of inheriting this form of Madness.
    • The Salvage arc suggests that potentially each of the Great Old Ones has one of these which would make Beat Them By Compulsion a valid tactic against Physical Gods.
  • D.Gray-Man Allen goes out of his way to save others, even when it's impossible for him to do so. Kanda is extremely arrogant and rude to the people he has to work with. Lenalee has a raging fear of losing anyone close to her. Krory is a Horrible Judge of Character. Miranda has next to no self-esteem and is easily depressed. And Lavi is torn between his duty as a Bookman and the people he cares about. Cross Marian's flaw seems to be women and girls. He hates returning to the Dark Order, and has been running from them for 4 years. A team is sent to find him. Chief Komui puts Lenalee, a young girl on Cross' team. Cross ends up back at HQ, but promptly tries to escape. But Lenalee hugged him, and begged him not to leave. He thinks about how cute she is, thus he can't refuse her. And that leads to him attending a meeting, being interrogated for his 4 year absence, investigated, demoted, and put under constant surveillance. His being at the Order in the first place made him easy to find when someone comes to his room to attempt to assassinate him where upon he's shot in the head. The only reason he went through any of that at HQ is because he didn't run away when he had the chance, and the sole reason he didn't is because a cute girl asked him not to leave. And said girl wasn't even one of his lovers.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Juudai's stubbornness, being headstrong, irresponsible, impulsive, and impatience are cute and endearing for two and a half seasons. Then all of those combine and (he thinks) gets four to five of his best friends killed.
  • From Durarara!!, Shizuo's severe anger issues and Kida's inability to face his guilt head on. Not only does this put him in a position where he avoids his girlfriend Saki they make up at the end of the anime series but by not facing this head on, he repeats his whole guilt trip with his best friend Mikado by dropping out of school and leaving Ikebukuro. And Mikado didn't take this well...
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Kamina's impatience, Simon's lack of faith in himself. (Of course, Simon beat his fatal flaw senseless about halfway along and went on to use its limp form as a club, but that's not important right now.)
    • Kittan's inferiority complex led to his Crowning Moment of Awesome when he stole a kamikaze attack Yoko was about to volunteer for.
  • Precia Testarossa's Heel Realization in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 1st: "I never notice things before it's too late."
  • The characters in Puella Magi Madoka Magica had their downfall brought by their respective Fatal Flaw. Sayaka's is Pride, Mami's is Loneliness, Madoka's is Selflessness, and Homura's is Ambition. And QB is thwarted thanks to his Lack of Emotion. Kyouko however, only died after she set aside her Selfishness. Death by Irony?
    • Then, clearly shown in Rebellion, Kyubey's is Greed.
    • In the same movie, Homura's I Work Alone and Ineffectual Loner tendencies made her fail to see who were her friends and enemies are in the world her Witch form made. Even her Witch form has self-reliance as her nature. Not to mention her selfishness that lead her to betray Madoka.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu has a noted tendency to keep personal struggles to himself, even when those personal issues don't just affect him. This starts really coming down hard on him in the second half of the series when he can't work up the nerve to tell Barnaby he's retiring, or the reasons behind it, and Barnaby takes it as a sign that he doesn't trust him.
    • And Barnaby has his own flaw; the hell-bent obsession with revenge that made him an Ineffectual Loner who has rejected any close personal relationships for the past 20 years.
  • According to Shura of Blue Exorcist, Yukio could be exploited by demons because he keeps his emotions bottled up unlike his more hot-headed brother Rin. Likewise, Rin has trouble controlling his flames because he's afraid of them.
  • School Rumble
    • Harima is so committed to making Tenma happy that he's willing to deprive himself of happiness.
    • Tenma always wants to make others feel better. This almost get her killed in the manga.
    • Eri is a Clingy Jealous Girl. A hint of Harima getting paired with a girl sends her into a quiet rage which almost messed up her friendships with Mikoto and Tenma, and in the manga almost gets Tenma killed.
  • Future Trunks from Dragon Ball Z at first appears to have everything together: is a Bad Ass, has a tragic past, able to beat Freeza and King Cold like it was nothing. But as the arcs progress, his fatal flaw regarding his issues with Vegeta end up costing him big.
    • Vegeta himself allows his stubborn pride and arrogance to get the better of him several times.
    • Goku has one that rears its head on occasion: His love for a challenging battle. He projects this desire onto Gohan, who lacks said love, leading to Goku's death.
    • Most of the villains in fact have the fatal flaw of thinking there is no way they can be defeated. With Vegeta, it was a low-born defeating an elite. Frieza couldn't comprehend (or rather refused to accept) that a "monkey" could become stronger than him. Cell believes his final form is perfect (having the best qualities of each fighter) and thus cannot be defeated. Buu couldn't stand Vegetto's strength. All of them suffer a Villainous Breakdown when they are proved wrong.
  • In Bakuman。, Nanamine's fatal flaw is his inability to empathize with others. Not only does it lead him to twice attempt to rise to the top of Jump by using consultants, all the while viewing people as expendable, but it also means he is unable to write characters with "heart", in spite of his talent as an artist.
  • Berserk has Guts' wrath and Griffith's ambition and pride. One could make the case for lust in Griffith's case considering that it was sleeping with the Princess that directly caused his downfall, although that seemed to be more about wounded pride than sex per se.
  • In Attack on Titan, Eren is very emotionally-driven (especially by his temper) and can be reckless at times, which tend to him making decisions that end up having negative consequences for himself and others. Such as trying to avenge Thomas's death, resulting in most of his team's deaths and himself being eaten.
    • Mikasa's protectiveness over Eren had her prioritizing his safety over everything else, including her own life, which clouded her judgement and made her less efficient as a soldier. When she thinks Eren died in Trost and again when the Female Titan captured Eren, she became recklessly suicidal and at one point, it led to Levi being injured to save her.
  • Luffy in One Piece has one true fatal flaw: personal loyalty. The length of which he's willing to go to help a friend is nothing short of incredible. This may manifest as stubbornness, anger and inconsideration. For instance, his inability to control his volcanic rage eventually lead to Kuma attacking and scattering all the Straw Hats around the world. Luffy does what he wants, even if he knows there would be grave results. The above example had Hatchan making Luffy promise not to cross paths with a World Noble, regardless what happens. But when Camie and Hatchan are kidnapped and injured, Luffy went ahead and broke his promise and while he did apologize, he didn't show any regrets.
  • In Bleach, Aizen's god-complex and belief that he was above everyone else led him to discard strategy and cunningness (what had previously allowed him to outsmart and outplay his enemies). He relied too much on his unnatural power upgrades and became Drunk with Power. Which would lead to his defeat at the hands of both Ichigo and Urahara.
  • It becomes clear pretty quickly that Satou's biggest flaw (Hikikomori tendencies aside) in Welcome to the N.H.K. is his incredibly addictive personality, marked by him hurling himself headlong into anything he's introduced to (internet porn, MMORPGs, etc.) and needing to be bailed out by others.
  • In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic, Hakuryuu's desire to avenge the murder of his father and two brothers is beginning to isolate him from the one person he wanted to protect the most and he would do anything to get power to attain that revenge, including going down the path of depravity.
    • Alibaba's lack of confidence and self-doubt, especially in the Balbadd arc, made him indecisive which in turn caused problems when he tried to stand up to his older brother the king of Balbadd on behalf of his people.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yami Yugi has his Pride where he feels that he has to win at all cost, even if he has to do questionable things, such as being prepared to kill Kaiba during their rematch in Duelist Kingdom to save Yugi's grandpa. He eventually grows out of this as seen in his Batty City duel with Bakura where he refused to attack the injured Bakura.
    • Kaiba's flaw is his obsession with being the best, at everything, and indeed, some have used his need defeat and surpass his rival as a way to manipulate him, or try to. Kaiba's obsession can often keep him from thinking clearly and take needless risks in pursuit of his goal. He would likely find life more enjoyable if his need to be number one didn't dominate him.
  • Arslan's father King Andragoras in The Heroic Legend of Arslan was overconfident that his powerful army could overcome any enemy with little regard for tactics or planning, despite warnings from one of his generals. That pride would cost him the battle of Atropatene where he not only lost a huge portion of his soldiers, the rest of his followers scattered, the capital city becoming overrun and he himself would be imprisoned.
  • In Hakuouki, Hijikata's desire to protect Kondou. He deliberately plays the role of the harsh disciplinarian and "Demon Vice-Commander" to elevate Kondou's warm and friendly nature for the troops, dealing with most of the issues and problems instead of Kondou. This backfires on both of them as Hijikata's efforts leaves Kondou entirely unprepared to deal with the harsh realities of leadership when the Boshin War began and Hijikata to suffer a Heroic BSOD when Kondou sacrifices himself to buy his men time to escape and is executed.
  • Bishamon's refusal to accept consequences of her actions in Noragami. She regularly takes in more Shinki that she can to protect them despite the strain and the danger it puts on her. When the Ma clan was destroyed by Yato as a Mercy Kill, she refused to acknowledge her own failing that led to the clan being corrupted and blamed Yato instead. She consistently insists that she is fine when she is not, causing in turn her Shinki to hide their own problems because they don't want her to worry, resulting in their hidden anxieties straining her body further.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Envy's fatal flaw is his sadism; he simply cannot resist an opportunity to Kick the Dog or gloat about his atrocities to anyone who will pay attention, even when it's really not a good idea. His bragging to Roy Mustang, a Person of Mass Destruction who had already killed Envy's fellow Homunculus Lust, about how he was the one who murdered Maes Hughes, Mustang's best friend, leads directly to his undoing.
  • Elfen Lied: Lucy's flaw is her desperate need for affection. Having had a horrible life, she wants someone to love her so much that if she even suspects a betrayal, heads will roll. Literally.
  • Parodied in Air Gear when Spitfire points out that Ikki has a crippling weakness, that he sucks at using AT. Ringo has to admit he's not wrong.

    Comic Books 
  • Nico, leader of the Runaways, is an interesting take on Lust as a flaw. She's quite responsible in most ways, but when dealing with stress or trauma, she (in Nico's own words) "throws herself at the nearest warm bod". This habit doesn't cause Nico's downfall, but it frays her self-esteem and sabotages her friendships.
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach summed up his own fatal flaw quite nicely in one moment:
  • The Joker's is a mixture of his insanity and The Only One Allowed to Defeat You stance towards Batman.
    • In general most Batman villains have a fatal flaw related to their psychosis, which Batman naturally tends to exploit. Two-Face is too dependent on his coin, Poison Ivy with her obsession with plants, and The Riddler would be a perfect thief if he wasn't always leaving riddles.
  • Hank Pym has his feelings of inadequacy, which caused him health problems when he became Giant-Man, mental problems when his worries about not being good enough for Janet led to him becoming Yellowjacket, and countless personal problems when his desire to prove himself as a meaningful member of The Avengers led to him building a robot to attack the team so he could stop it. Despite all of this, he still keeps trying to prove his worth as a superhero.
  • Across various iterations, Iron Man's has been either his narcissism or crippling alcoholism.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In the Dot Hack fanfiction .hack//G.U.: The Staircase to Nowhere, each of the Epitaph users has one physical/mental flaw that can spell the end for them in the Goddess Morganna's war; Haseo has his photophobia (his sensitivity to light), Atoli's fear of being alone, Endrance's weak lungs, and Kuhn's color blindness.
  • In the Glee fanfic Hunting The Unicorn, Blaine's Wide-Eyed Idealism has gotten him the Warblers, Kurt, an unlucky high school friend, an emotionally estranged father, and a stalker. Not to mention that he lost his virginity to a guy who did not share his belief that Sex Equals Love.
  • Getting Back on Your Hooves: Checker Monarch is a master manipulator, but her plans ultimately fall apart because of her inability to understand empathy.
  • Mass Effect The Equestrian Equation: The Equines were naturally trusting and cooperative, causing Reaper Indoctrination to wreck their defenses and cost them the war.
  • In RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse, Luna's is irrational fear, mainly of becoming a tyrant, which prevents her from taking decisive action against the Deadly Decadent Court.
  • In The Irony Of Applejack, Vigil's is the fact that he's obsessed with perfection.
  • Several show up in Fist Of The Moon for the good guys, but end up not being too fatal.
    • It’s noted at several points that Ranma and Usagi have the same ones: laziness (except for training), a non-serious personality, being a Big Eater, major fans of anime and manga, and a general dislike of school.
    • Rei starts off with a mix of Pride and envy—it’s really hard for her to handle Usagi being better than her at anything, especially in light of the blonde’s flaws. This mellows out, and she later suffers from worry that she’s going to mess up and disappoint Usagi.
    • Akane has a temper, and remains mildly homophobic through the entire story.
    • Luna doesn’t appreciate the suggestion that she might be wrong.
    • Mamoru isn’t a bad guy, but he can’t really click with Usagi’s playful immaturity, meaning he doesn’t always take her or their relationship as seriously as he should. Evidenced by the fact that he privately refers to her as “the Kid”. He also feels guilty if he spends time with a female closer to his age, but doesn’t stop either.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: It's shown time and time again that Arial Kuyumaya's greatest flaw is her stubbornness and temper. Being infatuated with Dark, it's stated she flew into a rage every time she merely suspected that Dark was involved with someone else, and when she met Mizore, she nearly killed her in a jealous rage while repeatedly refusing to accept that Dark didn't love her like a wife. It's only after she essentially destroys Dark's opinion of her and nearly drives him over the Despair Event Horizon that she finally listens to reason and accepts that she is Dark's guardian angel/mother figure and nothing more.
  • Wisdom and Courage: Veran is completely blinded by her pride, repeatedly underestimating any threat Link and Zelda pose to her and overlooking the loose ends, such as Navi's power to heal, that bring about her downfall.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos: Both Maledict and Jesus' monomaniacal pride is what keeps them from understanding the terrible consequences of their endless warfare. Likewise, Tsali's vengeful wrath basically jump-started the Metarex War.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Book of Life:
    • La Muerte loves making bets. Xibalba often exploits this weakness.
    Xibalba: I rule now.
    Grandpa Sanchez: She would never give control to you!
    Xibalba: She lost a bet.
    Grandpa Sanchez: Beat She would do that.
    • Xibalba’s cheating nature when it comes to bets. It's the main cause of the estrangement between him and La Muerte. It also indirectly lead to trouble for Manolo and San Angel.
  • In Frozen Queen Elsa's tragic flaw is fear of her own powers. This flaw is justified because she almost killed her sister, Anna when they were playing.
  • Flint from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is naive and always seeks the approval of others.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future's Marty McFly and his compulsion to prove that he's not "chicken". This is eventually stamped out through Character Development.
  • Plunkett & Macleane's main character Macleane has a weakness for women and gambling. Both get him into serious trouble.
  • Star Wars:
    • In the prequels, Anakin Skywalker's fatal flaw is his arrogant insistence that he can do anything and his inability to let go of that which is important to him, ironically causing him to turn to The Dark Side in his narrow-minded effort to save Padmé at all costs.
    • Palptine's flaw is his incredible hubris and overconfidence the flaw of most Sith Lords in general. This is what doomed many other villains in early stories he was a part of, including his own mentor, and eventually doomed him as well.
  • Carlitos Way has a variation of this trope. Carlito's Fatal Flaw is either his determination to keep his "reformed" status, or his ties to his criminal past. If he had gotten rid of one of the two, there might have been a happy ending.
  • Jigsaw's MO in Saw films is setting people up in traps (or as he calls them, tests and "games") where someone must overcome their Fatal Flaw or be destroyed. Seriously.
    • Nine times out of ten, they lose.
  • Full Metal Jacket's Sgt. Hartman's inability to deal with issues without using force.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
    • Khan's obsession with taking his vengeance on Captain Kirk blinds him to some very bad mistakes and ultimately destroys him.
    • Kirk's hubris; his unshakable belief in his own ingenuity and command instincts. Therefore he's taken off guard by something that even raw cadet Saavik saw coming. And he arrogantly believes there's no such thing as a situation that he can't win. As his character develops throughout the film, he learns just how misguided he's been.
  • The Corleone Brothers in The Godfather all inherited a trait from their father (Sonny's charisma, Fredo's heart and Michael's cunning) which they don't have in each other. Had they worked together, they would have been unstoppable.
  • In The Hobbit trilogy, Thorin's biggest flaw is his pride, as lampshaded by Gandalf.
    • His grandfather Thrór became so greedy and obsessed in filling his halls with gold that it would attract Smaug and eventually led to the downfall of Erebor.
  • Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood thrives on animosity and he goes after enemies with a will. He ends up driving away the boy who he treated as his son and kills his arch-enemy without thought of consequence.
  • CLU in TRON: Legacy suffers from an unquenchable need for perfection. He inherited this from Kevin Flynn when he was programmed, but unlike Flynn he is a program and is unable to learn from his mistakes.
  • Dr. Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade suffers from multiple flaws: ambition, greed, and vanity. Her ambition to get the holy grail at all costs turns fatal when she's faced with the decision to reach for the grail or give Indy her free hand. Overcome with greed, she reaches and cannot stop herself. Indiana can't hold her because, in her vanity, she wore fancy leather gloves on her hands, which promptly slips off. All these flaws contribute to her long plunge of a Death by Materialism.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Ron always reads what's on the teleprompter.
  • Rocky from Angels with Dirty Faces is loyal to a fault.
  • GoodFellas
    • Tommy's Hair-Trigger Temper where he killed a made man lead him to be killed himself.
    • Henry is greedy and set up his own operation that gets him arrested. Worse is that he clearly hasn't learned anything by the end.
    • Jimmy's solution to everything is to Kill 'em All. Henry turned against him as a result.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Johann tells the eponymous character his fatal flaw is his temper. He is soon proven correct when HB loses his cool and slugs him.
  • Norma from Sunset Boulevard is obsessed with being a movie star again despite her talent in finance. Made worse by her Butler Max who indulges her fantasy because he loves her.
  • X-Men: Ironically, Professor X had a habit of attempting to control those close to him without the use of his telepathy.
    • X-Men: The Last Stand: Upon meeting Jean Grey, Xavier placed constraints upon her powers which then led to the creation of the Phoenix.
    • X-Men: First Class: Trying to control Raven's life drove her away from him, which eventually resulted in her becoming Mystique.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Part of Charles' Character Development revolves around realizing this and learning to trust instead of control. It pays off when he proves just how much he trusts in Raven's good nature to do the right thing, instead of attempting to manipulate her. She doesn't murder Trask, and the bad Sentinel future is averted.
  • In Draft Day the expected number 1 overall pick Bo Callahan is a great player and has the raw talent to become a franchise quarterback, but Sonny eventually didn't draft him since Callahan has personality problems.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire could fairly be described as a dozen or so tragedies going on simultaneously (with several in the backstory). This implies almost every single character having their own fatal flaws.
    • A common flaw in the Starks is Honor Before Reason (which could be seen as a form of pride), especially in Eddard and Robb.
      • Eddard's flaw is more his undying love for his friends and family, this motivated him to go to King's Landing to help Robert and then lie about Joffrey's parentage to attempt to save his daughters. And Robb's flaw is more of a need to be like his dad.
    • Stannis shares much of the same Honor Before Reason attitude initially, although in later books he is more willing to compromise.
    • Robert Baratheon's is gluttony.
    • The Lannisters lean toward pride with a side of wrath: see Tywin, Cersei, and Joffrey. A big part of Tyrion and especially Jaime's character development is overcoming this.
    • Theon's could be considered ambition with a side of pride. He gets both beaten out of him by hard experience.
  • Hubris is a common tragic flaw in mythology and classical literature. One of the more famous examples is Odysseus, who is forced to undergo a 10-year voyage home after angering Poseidon with his arrogance.
  • The Pillars of the Earth: Not a hero, but William is absolutely terrified of a Fire and Brimstone Hell. It's a flaw because others use it to exploit him and make him do their bidding.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, it's explicitly stated that every demigod has a Fatal Flaw which, if not mastered, will lead to their death. Annabeth's fatal flaw is explicitly stated to be hubris (except Percy thinks she says hummus). Percy's is personal loyalty—he will do anything necessary to save the people he cares about, even if that means ignoring the greater good. Thalia's fatal flaw is that she has a weak resistance to offers of power, to the point she seriously considered betraying her friend to become more powerful than the gods (though her conflicting feelings over this were apparent). It's a good thing Mr.D was able to step in otherwise she probably would have given in. Nico and Bianca have the Fatal Flaw of holding grudges, which they inherited from their father.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry saves people. It's just what he does. At one point, someone immediately figures out that he's harboring a fugitive because that's Harry's schtick; people come to him for help, he helps them. Even if the person is someone he doesn't like, he will help them.
    • In the Backup Novella a "client" deliberately plays the part of damsel in distress complete with kidnapped child to get Harry's help as part of her plan, Thomas steps in without Harry knowing to save him.
    • His other fatal flaw is probably his temper. When he gets mad enough, he'll do almost everything in his power to destroy the bad guys with little regard for the consequences. He reevaluates this outlook in "Ghost Story", after the destruction of the Red Court throws the world into chaos.
  • Harry Potter's "saving people thing" gets him into trouble. He's willing to do anything in order to save the people he cares about, and he has a martyr complex that keeps him from asking for help or back-up at times when it would really be a smart idea. He does this to keep the people around him safe but it tends to really work against him. Voldemort uses this to manipulate him into doing things that lead to Sirius's death. This also makes it very easy for Harry's enemies to lead him into traps.
    • Voldemort's fatal flaws:
      • Pride. It's not so much petty, plain-old narcissism and arrogance than it is outright full-blown megalomania. He's the smartest and most powerful wizard in the world and he knows it, so he tends to go out of his way to add a flair of grandeur and grace to his plans while attempting to achieve his objectives in the way he thinks will be more terrifying. For example, he challenges Harry to a duel in the graveyard sheerly for amusement, when the most pragmatic option would be to simply give the Avada Kedavra right there and then when Harry was tied up and couldn't escape. Thus, he doesn't realise that other people could learn about his Horcruxes, or find them, and he certainly doesn't realise that attempting to kill the boy destined to defeat you may result in that boy being actually able to defeat you. And thus, Harry Potter was given the weapons to destroy Voldemort.
      • Voldemort also cannot understand love, though he can't help that - he's The Sociopath whose complete incapability for love and compassion were caused by the fact that his mother coerced his father into marriage with a love potion, which is not true love.
      • Voldemort is also so terrified of death — Word Of God states that Voldemort's boggart would look like his own corpse — that he doesn't believe that there could be anything worse. His quest to cheat death forever, combined with his other fatal flaws mentioned above, ultimately condemns him to a Fate Worse Than Death. Moreover, all of his major defeats come about because his adversaries prove that they aren't afraid to face death: he died in the First Wizarding War because Lily Potter willingly sacrificed herself to save her son Harry, his plan to claim the Elder Wand fails because Dumbledore willingly lets Snape kill him, and he ultimately dies in the Second Wizarding War because Harry willingly dies to destroy the Horcrux inside him.
    • Sirius's recklessness; he's a Leeroy Jenkins.
    • Severus Snape hangs on to the past to the point that he makes seemingly irrational choices simply because of some event or another that happened a long time ago.
    • When he was young, Dumbledore had a whopping case of Pride, planning to create a "new world" with Grindelwald in which wizards would rule over muggles. He snapped out of it with the death of his sister and spent more than a century deliberately avoiding powerful positions because he didn't trust himself. He refused the position of Minister of Magic, for instance.
  • Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights holds on to grudges and he spends his life getting even with people who were mean to him. He uses his own family as pawns and holds Kathy on such a high pedestal that he refuses to see that everything that happened to him was her fault. He is also blind him to the fact that his revenge can never last so when he dies and everything reverts back to normal, it's like nothing happened.
  • Ahab's self-destructive quest against Moby-Dick.
  • Ambrosio, titular character of The Monk, commits the sin of pride long before he starts committing any of his truly deplorable acts. It is his pride that allows him to believe himself holy while he continues to sin.
  • The Trojan Royal Family is so tight that they protect Paris even though they know he is wrong for taking Helen with him. This dooms them and their country.
  • The animals of Animal Farm were far too trusting. Benjamin the donkey is too cynical and refuses to voice out his concerns about the Rebellion's aftermath.
  • Gollum's obsession with the Ring in Lord of the Rings.
  • The Bible
    • Book of Genesis - Adam's ignorance, Eve's greed, Cain's anger, Abel's self-righteousness, Abraham & Sarah's desire to have a child and Joseph's pride.
    • Book of Exodus - Moses' anger. Aaron's weak leadership. Miriam's jealousy of Moses. Balaam continuing to antagonize the Israelites even after experiencing God's power.
    • Book of Judges - Jephthah's rashness. Samson's lust for women and drink.
    • Books of Samuel - Saul's tendency to follow his own way rather than waiting for a command from God. David's inability to control his children . Joab's disobedience of David.
    • Books of Kings - Solomon's dissatisfaction with his life. Ahab's inability to stand up to his wife.
    • Book of Esther - Haman doesn't understand that he's just a despot's favorit and can be replaced at a whim.
  • The Apprentice Rogue: Falita is consumed by her greed and steals Leona's necklace, which leads to tragedy. She even takes the hemp string on the necklace, despite recognizing that it was worthless, because it was part of the necklace. The narration notes that she might have gotten away clean if she didn't take the string.
  • Jay in the Spaceforce series is a highly competent agent for the Taysan Empire, fearless, clever and resourceful, with a talent for deception and masquerade that is highly unusual in his species. But he is constantly undermined by his compulsive womanising, which has brought him to the brink of disaster at least twice. It's all the more dangerous because sexual immorality is actually a crime in his society.
  • The Great Gatsby's obsessive love for Daisy, despite the fact she isn't worth it
  • In the Samurai Kids book Monkey Fist, Niya's flaw is loyalty- he will not abandon a friend for any reason. While this may sound like a good thing, it really isn't. In the novel's climax, Niya's true companion, Kyoko, has been kidnapped by a corrupt imperial minister, who offers to release her if the protagonists reveal the location of a group of benevolent monks politically opposed to him. Niya's thought process clearly shows that, had the choice been his, he would have betrayed the monks and let them die if it meant Kyoko's safety.
  • In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo's flaw is his pride. His dad was a lazy deadbeat, and he's afraid of other people thinking that he's like that too. The author Achebe modeled Okonkwo after the heroes of Greek Tragedy, so it's no surprise that his flaw is hubris, leading to the atë (rashness) that caused his downfall.
  • The titular Julian has a deep craving for the mystical and incomprehensible. Relying on the insights of a hammy soothsayer isn't wise, especially when you're the Emperor of Rome.
  • Most of the Forsaken from The Wheel of Time have at least one which is responsible for their descent into villainy. Most obviously, Be'lal's flaw was Envy of everyone and everything more powerful than he was (he was even known as "The Envious"), and Demandred's was the combination of Wrath and Pride that lead him to hold a vengeful grudge against Lews Therin Telamon beyond all reason.
  • Les Misérables.
    • Jean Valjean has Chronic Hero Syndrome and he will save every person he can even if he screws up other lives in the process.
    • Javert's Black and White Morality blinded him to the reality that some people can't afford to be as law-abiding as him. He kills himself after letting Valjean (who had saved his life earlier) go and feared he has betrayed his own principles.
    • Fantine is a Horrible Judge of Character which is why she got pregnant in the first place, then she left her daughter in the care of an Obviously Evil couple who proceeded to maltreat Cosette and extort more money from her causing her to prostitute herself. Her temper also gets her a lot in trouble.

    Live Action TV 
  • Sherlock: The main character himself is arrogant, prideful and tends to make irrational even dangerous choices just so he doesn't get bored. Moriarty tells Sherlock in the "The Reichenbach Fall" episode that his flaw is always wanting everything to be clever which is how Moriarty manages to deceive him. Sherlock still wins by exploiting Moriarty's own death wish.
  • Community, as a show about broken people trying to find their place in the world is filled with this.
    • Jeff has too much Pride. His body issues pushed him to make himself into a perfect physical specimen, but he almost kills himself when he takes anti-aging pills with alcohol.
    • Abed's Lack of Empathy and overindulgence in fiction.
    • Pierce's Brutal Honesty. His envy of the rest of the group in general and of Jeff in particular is also a major problem.
    • Troy's naivety and occasional laziness.
    • Britta's self-loathing leads her to casual hookups and drug use.
    • Shirley's anger (which manifests through her passive-aggression).
    • Annie's need to 'win'.
    • Oddly enough the seven of them collectively cover all Seven Deadly Sins.
    • In the episode Regional Holiday Music, all of the characters fall victim to the thralls of the Glee Club because of major character flaws that plauge them throughout the season.
      • Abed is first due to his curiosity.
      • Troy is second after Abed tells him what to do.
      • Pierce is third out of a desire to feel relevant.
      • Annie is fourth out of a desire to fit in with Troy and Abed.
      • Jeff is fifth out of a desire to be close to Annie.
      • Shirley is sixth due to being drug into singing about her religion
      • Britta is seventh because she does what Jeff does.
  • Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey is a Benevolent Boss to his servants but this doesn't stop him from thinking them inferior and preferring the company and advice of his "peers". This haunts him when bad advice from an aristocrat doctor over that of their regular physician Dr. Clarkson causes the death of his daughter Sybil.
  • Homicide Life On The Street - Frank Pembleton's self-righteousness and moral absolutism drive everyone away from him, and eventually force him to turn in Tim Bayliss, the closest thing he has to friend.
  • 24
  • Breaking Bad - Walter White's Pride causes him to start cooking meth instead of accepting charity in the first place, and continues to get him into escalating trouble from there, eventually turning him into a full-fledged Villain Protagonist.
    • Gus Fring's determination to get revenge against the men who killed his best friend is another major example. He even had a chance to avoid his death by letting his dragon kill the main object of his hate. But because he had to do it, personally, he walked right into a death trap.
  • In CSI:
    • Warrick's gambling problem.
    • Ray's struggle to avoid giving into the violent tendencies he feared he'd got from his father.
  • In Cheers, Sam Malone's former drinking problem.
  • In Smallville:
  • House's vicodin addiction, irritability, and inability to have a healthy relationship.
  • In The John Larroquette Show, John Hemingway's (recovering) alcoholism.
  • Babylon 5 had Dr. Franklin addicted to "stims" for most of one season, and battling his addiction for a second; and Security Chief Garibaldi's alcoholism (which he had successfully battled for most of the show's run) formed a major part of the fifth season's arc.
  • Law & Order: Most characters from the franchise have one of these that occasionally clouds their ability to do their job ethically and fairly or discredits their testimony once in court. Briscoe had drinking problems, Logan was a hothead who'd occasionally rough up suspects, Curtis couldn't curb his infidelity, and so on.
    • The same with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Olivia and her belief all women are victims when it comes to dealing with men, given that she was a product of rape. Fin and the revelation that he was a deadbeat father. Elliot and his marital problems at home.
  • Most of the cast of What Its Like Being Alone, including Armie, who only has one limb left, Aldous the Emo Teen, Princess Lucy, who would be the Alpha Bitch if she weren't fiendishly ugly, Sammie the alcoholic Fish Person, Charlie, who is always on fire, Seymour, who doesn't have a mouth, and other unfortunates. They're also all orphans.
  • Heroes: Pretty much every character on the show has a fatal flaw (drug addiction, insecurity, tendency to explode, carelessness.
  • Supernatural: Dean for Sam, Sam for Dean and both of them for John while he was still alive. Ah, the joys of being a clingy, screwed-up family filled with martyrs.
    • Both brothers have no sense of self-worth thanks to Dad, who refuses to show any affection or let anyone help him, preferring to keep his sons completely in the dark. Not the greatest planner with vengeance on his mind, this works out badly.
    • Dean's self-loathing. His struggle to hold his broken family together, along with his sluttiness, death-wish, general bone-headedness, and feeling that he's only valuable as a "blunt instrument", all seem to stem from efforts to do enough that he feels worthwhile.
    • Sam's insecurity. His gullibility and pride seem to be born of his overriding desire to believe that bad people can be good—that he can be good.
  • Many of the characters in ER have one at some point or another. Examples include Abby's alcoholism, and Carter's painkiller addiction.
  • On American Gothic, Dr. Crower's fatal flaw would quite obviously have to be his struggle with alcoholism (and the tragic event which resulted from it). Gail's, apparently, is sex.
  • In Scrubs, the character Dr. Kevin Casey is an example of The Ace with a hidden Fatal Flaw. JD, Cox and Turk all despise him for being such an insufferable genius at everything he does. Until they see him suffering because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder, unable to stop washing his hands.
  • Team leader Nate's alcoholism in Leverage, which has gotten the team into trouble more than once. In the periods where he isn't an alcoholic his desire to control takes its place with often worse problems.
    • Sophie, the team grifter, has the flaw that she is extremely good at what she does and has the habit of manipulating everyone around her, even her own team at times.
    • Hardison has the flaw that he tends to go over the top as a grifter coupled with a heaping of pride in his own intelligence. This gets him into trouble repeatedly.
    • Parker has the flaw that she is incapable of dealing with a normal person which is problematic when she is forced into the role of grifter.
    • Eliot? Let's just say that he often gets a little carried away as The Hitter.
  • In The Chosen, Rebbe Saunders' near-fatal flaw was fear that his son would be unworthy. It is overcome because Danny loves his father enough to endure the harsh training that his father thinks he needs.
  • In the Merlin (1998) series, the titular character's fatal flaw is that he sees only the good in people, rather than their flaws, and thus expects too much of men. The villains also have their own fatal flaws, with Vortigern's being his Pride, and Uther's being Lust.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Damon's impulsiveness, and Stefan's inability to control his addiction to human blood whenever he has even a little.
  • Wesley from Angel has a tendency to commit rash action usually for a good reason. It comes back to haunt him in seasons 3-4. Wesley also has a mistrust of others and compulsively hoards every secret to himself.
  • Shinya Arino of Retro Game Master/Gamecenter CX has major problems when it comes to certain gameplay twists, most notably when dealing with a Sequential Boss. Whenever he makes a major accomplishment, he starts cheering and lets go of the controller. The problem is that he plays games blind. Thus, he doesn't realize it's not over, yet he never seems to learn. It's been called "Heaven to Hell" on a few occassions. By the time he realizes what's going on, he's to shocked to rationally continue and dies. Sometimes he recovers and retries, sometimes he doesn't, most notably with Act Raiser.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess is all too willing to give up her life to save others.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer all her predecessors are implied to get too careless after a while, leading them to get killed before their time.
  • A few in Once Upon a Time:
    • Emma is too much of a doubter.
    • Rumpelstiltskin is a coward. This leads him to become the most powerful magical entity in his world to make up for it and find his son.
    • August is really bad at resisting temptation. At the start of the series, he was off at some resort island using money he was supposed to send to Emma.
    • Regina is completely Genre Blind and very emotional, which results in her being led around by the nose by Rumpelstiltskin.
    • Sidney's love for Regina.
    • Jefferson's need to please his daughter.
    • Henry leaps into danger without thought, a trait he no doubt inherited from Charming.
    • Mulan's unrequited love for Prince Philip made her overprotective of Princess Aurora because she promised him.
  • Nikita is too secretive, stemming from her inability to trust.
    • Alex is naive and vengeful and is turned into Oversight's pawn.
    • Michael puts himself in danger for the women he loves.
    • Carla's misplaced belief that Division can be redeemed with Percy still in charge.
  • Burn Notice
    • Michael's Determinator quality makes him utterly ruthless and willing to put others in danger.
    • Sam would put himself in danger for friends. "I owe him" is his unofficial motto.
    • Fiona resorts to violence more times than she should.
    • Nate's need to prove that he's reliable and not a screw up.
  • Both Ross and Rachel in Friends suffer from Never My Fault, most likely stemming from when their parents spoiled them as children. This leads to their breakup since a major reason why their relationship failed is because both of them don't take responsibility for anything and are quick to blame others and each other for their mistakes.
    • Chandler also suffered from deep self-esteem issues that inhibited his ability to engage in long-term relationships. Much of this is due to Freudian Excuse. His parents' acrimonious divorce was so traumatizing that it left him hesitant to commit out of fear of screwing things up. Exacerbating the matter was the fact that his two initial recurring love interests (Janice and Kathy) ended up cheating on him when their respective relationships became difficult to maintain. Thankfully, in Season 5, Chandler hooks up with Monica, someone who could share the feeling of suffering from emotionally Abusive Parents throughout childhood and who had worked through self-esteem issues of her own. Together, the two are able to build a relationship based on trust and mutual understanding, allowing for a happy marriage that lasted throughout the end of the series.
  • Arrested Development:
    • Michael's selflessness.
    • George Sr.'s corruption.
    • Lucille being overly protective to her children.
    • G.O.B.'s ego.
    • Buster's dependence on his mother.
    • Lindsay being a spoiled brat.
    • Tobias's homoeroticism.
    • George Michael's crush on his cousin.
    • Maeby's lying.
  • Person of Interest.
  • Nick from New Girl always runs away from problems.
  • The Wire
    • Jimmy stepping on everyone's toes to solve a case.
    • Stringer calling shots behind Avon's back.
    • Herc's impatience.
    • Wallace's inability to adjust to a crime free life.
    • Bodie believing that being gangster is cool.
    • D'Angelo needing to prove he can handle things on his own.
    • Cheese bragging too much.
    • Prez's combination of lack of nerves and an itchy trigger finger.
    • Omar avenging people he loves.
    • Marlo's Chronic Villainy.
    • Senator Davis' greed. Even if he got away in the end there's no telling he won't be involved in another financial scandal.
    • Frank Sobotka's tendency to ask help from anyone.
    • Ziggy not wanting to be the screwup.
    • Colvin believing the end justifies the means.
    • Avon being slower than Marlo in strategy.
    • Michael never relying on anyone except himself.
    • Carver focusing on the big picture instead of an individual detail.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the system called House of the Blooded, the characters are all nobility, seemingly built for high drama and Mary/Marty Sue-ism. Each character has six characteristics, each based off of one of the major families, and there is no rolling involved. You have four points for one characteristic, three for two others, two for two more... and the sixth characteristic gets a zero, meaning you can never use it. A zero in Strength means you are too physically weak to force open a sticky door, for example, thus ensuring that all characters have an inbuilt Fatal Flaw that cannot be legally circumvented.
  • In Traveller the Fatal Flaw of the Vilani was in trying to call a halt to progress for the sake of stability. Which worked so long as they did not find an outside competitor(I.E. Earth) The Fatal Flaw of the Terrans was more complex. It was in trying to govern the thousands of conquered Vilani worlds without the experience or inclination. The Vilani system was too repressive for the Terrans to use it and the Terran system was only suited for governing a few dozen worlds.
  • This trope is present (and of course taken Up to Eleven) in Exalted:
    • The Solars, Lunars, Dragon-Blooded and Sidereals all get various versions of the Great Curse, a psychological affliction thrown at them by the Primordials for besting them in war. The Solars and Lunars enter a brief psychotic period called a Limit Break (ranging from berserker ragenote  to uncontrolled crying at the suffering of the worldnote  to becoming cold and uncaring about the suffering of othersnote  to despising others' faultsnote  and well... being a jerkassnote ), the Dragon-Blooded get a lighter version of the same, and the Sidereals can't seem to make any of their big plans work right.
    • The Abyssals, on the other hand, get Resonance. If, for some reason, they decide they don't want to go along with their masters' goals of feeding all Creation into the mouth of Oblivion and resume something approaching a mortal life, their Resonance will build until it erupts and risks destroying any emotional connections they've managed to make with the world of the living.
    • The Infernals get a similar variant, known as Torment. If they defy the will of their Yozi patrons for too long, then said patron will assume control and cause shit to go haywire. This can range from spreading a Hate Plague (Malfeas) to causing the immediate vicinity to become a lifeless and spiritual wasteland (Cecylene).
    • Even without supernatural curses or compulsions, each of the four virtues has drawbacks if you have three or more dots (and exalts have to have at least one virtue of 3+): compassionate characters have trouble making harsh decisions; temperate characters have trouble lying, cheating or going back on their word, no matter how dishonest the antagonist; valorous characters don't know how to back down from confrontation; and as for conviction, well... Oh and it's perfectly possible for a character to have 3+ in two or more virtues. If they conflict, tough luck!
  • White Wolf are generally pretty fond of this trope. Changeling The Dreaming and Vampire: The Masquerade are particularly good examples as every sub-flavour of supernatural ("Kith" in Changeling, "Clan" in Vampire) has its own supernatural disadvantage.
  • The New World of Darkness also has the option during character creation of giving a character a flaw which could potentially hinder them and - if done right - give extra experience points. Some of the flaws include addictions, Coward, Forgetful, and Behavior Blind.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • The Emperor's arrogance and detachment from humanity.
    • The Space Marines' blind obedience to their Primarchs.
    • The Eldar's single-mindedness. This leads to the Dark Eldar's continued debauchery and the Craftworld Eldar's Crippling Overspecialization.
    • The Necrontyr's jealousy of the Eldar's long life which led them to pledge their services to the C'Tan.
    • The C'Tan's gluttony which led them to feast on each other.
    • The Chaos Gods' selfishness which is why cooperation between them is impossible.
    • The Orks' love of fighting for its own sake.
    • The Tau's belief in The Greater Good.
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus' insatiable curiosity for Lost Technology.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, several Time of Judgment scenarios show how fatal flaws undermined the various shape-changers.
    • The Nuwisha alienated many Garou with their trickster ways. When the Wyrm targeted the Nuwisha for genocide, their reputation created difficulties for them when they sought refuge among the Garou.
    • The Black Furies naively revered the Wyld for much of their history. This spelled doom for the tribe when a quarter of its members contracted the Wyld-tainted Metamorphic Plague.
    • The Get of Fenris always placed too much emphasis on relentless combat and too little on subtlety. This gung-ho attitude drove the tribe to charge head-first into subterranean tunnels to fight the Black Spiral Dancers. Even when it was obvious that the Black Spirals were luring them deeper into the tunnels with defensive feint traps, the Get pursued their prey anyway, until the tribe fell to the Wyrm.
    • The Uktena's close study of the Wyrm always worried the other tribes, and their strategy of binding banes under caerns was dangerous. In one Time of Judgment scenario, these bound banes corrupted the tribe's Bane Tenders, who in turn corrupted the rest of the Uktena.
    • The Red Talon's uninhibited hatred of humans led them to eat human flesh. The Red Talons contracted a prion disease from eating human flesh, which they in turn passed on to other wolves, annihilating almost all of their wolf kinfolk.

  • Older Than Feudalism: Pretty much all ancient Greek tragedies had a main character or characters with a hamartia, which is often translated to English as "fatal flaw." It was part of the basic structure for an Ancient Greek tragedy, according to Aristotle. Oedipus was headstrong and didn't know when to stop, Creon in Antigone was proud and was intent on making an example out of Antigone, Antigone was stubbornly committed to her traitorous brother...
  • Shakespeare loves to give these to characters in his tragedies:
    • Brutus is extremely honorable and expects others to be, or possibly self-centered and susceptible to flattery.
    • Richard, Duke of Gloucester, a.k.a Richard III, has a callous disregard for human life and an irrational lust for the crown.
    • Macbeth is blinded by power and paranoia and plagued by guilt. He's also very wrathful.
    • Lady Macbeth is overly ambitious.
    • Hamlet waited too long, and is very likely crazy. He does have a particular flaw, but what it is depends on interpretation and how he is presented. And yet in every production he is completely Genre Savvy about this:
    "So, oft it chances in particular men,
    That for some vicious mole of nature in them...
    Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
    Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
    Their virtues else ? be they as pure as grace,
    As infinite as man may undergo ?
    Shall in the general censure take corruption
    From that particular fault."
    • Romeo and Juliet are so obsessed with each other they forget about anything else. Romeo is a bit of a hothead, too.
    • Friar Lawrence thought his Crazy Enough to Work plan would actually work.
    • Antony and Cleopatra similarly allow their obsessions with one another to override any sensible political judgement, so that they needlessly make an enemy of Octavian.
    • Othello is too rash, not to mention gullible (to be more precise, he believes the people he shouldn't and doesn't believe the ones he should) and prone to jealousy.
    • King Lear is far to proud. This causes him to exile and disown his beloved, youngest daughter who tells him the truth and gets himself stabbed in the back by his two eldest daughters who tell him what he wants to hear.
    • Goneril and Regan (Lear's back-stabbing daughters) are destroyed by their shared fatal flaw: lust. Their mutual attraction to Edmund from Act IV onward turns them against each other, culminating in a Murder-Suicide during the final scene.
  • Shown explicitly in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willy Loman, is so entranced with his own dreams and desires that he denies and ignores anything contrary to his beliefs. Willy's conviction that just being well liked is enough to lead to success eventually leads to his downfall, as he can't understand why his sons, who were popular in high school, can't seem to get successful jobs. After Willy commits suicide, the play ends as a Shaggy Dog Story, with nobody attending Willy's funeral. One of Willy's sons even Lampshades his father's Fatal Flaw.
  • In Miller's A View from the Bridge, Eddie Carbone's Fatal Flaw is his unrealized love for his niece, Catherine.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Sweeney Todd's obsession with revenge against Judge Turpin (combined with waiting a little too long the first time he had him in his hands) ends up costing him everything in the end (as well as his willingness to trust someone he really shouldn't have concerning his wife's fate).
    • YMMV on the above. You could also argue that Sweeney's fatal flaw is naivety. "What was his crime?" "Foolishness". He failed to perceive exactly how dangerous Turpin was to his family, and all of the subsequent damage happened because of this. Case in point: it happens again. He's genuinely shocked by Mrs Lovett's betrayal - you get the feeling that even after his descent into total madness, he still can't comprehend the depths that some people will sink to.
  • In Electra, the title character's unrelenting lust for revenge combined with her nigh incestuous obsession with her brother, Orestes, and her father, Agamemnon, makes for her fatal flaw.
  • My Fair Lady. Higgins' superior attitude causes Elisa to leave him.
  • Nancy's misplaced Undying Loyalty to the monstrous Bill Sykes in Oliver!.
  • The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies.
    • Christine's love for her late father which The Phantom plays upon.
    • The Phantom's obsession for Christine.
    • Raoul doesn't listen to other people's advice.
    • Madame Giry's bitterness at The Phantom not appreciating her.
    • Meg's need to please her mother and the Phantom.


  • The Franchise/Transformers, with its Loads and Loads of Characters and multiple AlternateUniverses has numerous characters with well-known flaws that are constant throughout the franchise:
    • Megatron is often a Bad Boss, and more often than not has the flaws of Pride, Wrath and Greed.
    • Starscream, being the Trope Namer, lusts for power and isn't above taking action that directly harms his own faction to gain said power. The Marvel Comics version infamously had a higher kill count of named characters than Unicron!
    • Rodimus Prime is often viewed both in-universe and among fans as a Sucksessor to Optimus Prime. He himself often suffers from self-doubt and is prone to second guessing himself. In some universes, he grows out of it and becomes a capable leader in his own right. In others, he's glad to let someone else take over as leader, especially if Optimus is somehow brought back to life.
    • Optimus Prime has two famous fatal flaws: his willingness to sacrifice himself for a noble cause and his unwillingness to fight the war with utter ruthlessness. The first has become a sort of Running Gag for him, while the second is usually justified by him fearing that fighting the way Megatron does would be his own personal Start of Darkness.

    Video Games 
  • Mithos, the Big Bad of Tales of Symphonia, is a Determinator of the first order. Unfortunately, his complete unwillingness to give up and know when enough is enough leads him to create a system where two worlds vie for a rapidly draining amount of resources, leads countless people to die meaninglessly, and turns his own allies against him.
    • From the same game, Colette not wanting anyone to worry about her leads her to keeping quiet about all sorts of problems. This never works out well, as the things she's keeping quiet about all blow up in her face at the worst possible time, often when the heroes really need to focus on something else.
  • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War: The main character Sigurd of Chalphy is noble, caring, and an excellent military commander, but he is far too quick to jump to military force to solve his problems. Worse, he is reckless, naive and short-sighted. Ultimately, his flaws are ruthlessly exploited by the Big Bad, he pays for it with his and his soldiers' lives, and the mess he ends up leaving in his wake takes an entire generation to fix.
  • Mass Effect:
    • For all their intelligence the salarians' relatively short lifespans appear to make them VERY shortsighted when it comes to decision making on a galactic scale. Uplifting the krogan without taking into account the long term consequences of their birth rate, especially when freed from the natural mortality rate of Tuchanka. Creating the genophage but not expecting the turians to use it without their permission. Worse still it seems they feel the yahg are a great new prospect for uplifting into galactic society. Anyone familiar with this race can see the glaring flaws in that strategy a mile away.
      • For those who don't know the yahg? We see only two specimens. One manages to escape in the midst of a Cerberus attack, slaughtering better armed, trained, and equipped soldiers with nothing but its bare hands. The other managed to take over the job of Shadow Broker and has been running the gig from behind the scenes for years... and still manages to be a very difficult fight, despite being an intellectual.
  • In Iji, the titular character eventually manages to defeat the seemingly-invincible Assassin Asha... with the simplest weapon in her arsenal, the shotgun. Although Asha has lightning-fast reflexes, years of training, and an active teleportation device that lets him dodge nearly any attack conceivable, he considers evading such antiquated technology beneath him.
  • Dungeon Keeper 2: Turned on its head in execution, but still used perfectly straight. One of the earlier campaign missions pits you against Lord Avaricious in his impenetrable fort. The elegant way to win (as opposed to a head-on slaughter) is to have your imps mine away almost all of the gold beneath his realm, enraging the man enough to lead the charge personally. It doesn't end well.
  • Eien no Aselia: Yuuto's fatal flaw in would be his stubbornness and anger. His life to this point has been more difficult than it needed to be due to the former, and because of the latter he nearly kills Kaori.
  • In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh has a titanic ego and tendency to underestimate his opponents.
    • Shirou's need to save everyone constantly causes him problems and is what eventually led to him becoming Archer.
      • It also gives him severe self-esteem issues and a martyr complex. (If Saber weren't around to protect him, Shirou would be dead before the second cutscene.)
  • In The Sims Medieval, every Sim in your kingdom has some sort of fatal flaw that directly affects their mood or performance (Gluttons have to eat more frequently, and require more than one meal to be fully satisfied; Licentious Sims get in a bad mood if they don't kiss or Woohoo with other Sims after a set amount of time). Succeeding in certain quests allows them to drop their fatal flaw and replace it with a Legendary Trait, which can't be selected during character creation.
  • In Touhou, the Lunarians as a whole has a titanic ego and tendency to underestimate those they believe to be impure. To their credits, they are more powerful than most people in Gensokyo. Their arrogance eventually render them vulnerable to Yukari's plan... to steal Lunarian sake, Now that's just petty.
  • Rufus of Deponia has a tremendous ego. Not only does this tend to piss off quite a lot of people, it also means that he rarely pays attention to potential problems with his plans or inventions.
  • Raziel from Legacy of Kain is too rash and ends up being an Unwitting Pawn.
  • Mortal Kombat
    • Reptile is far too trusting and sides with any Big Bad on the promise that his people will survive. He dies in every game.
    • Scorpion is hell-bent on revenge for his clan, leading him to kill his rival, the elder Sub-Zero, then later plotting revenge against the Elder Gods when they bring back the Shirai-Ryu as zombies. In Mortal Kombat 9, he was on the verge of giving up his desire to kill Sub-Zero under Raiden's guidance, until Quan Chi manipulates him with images of the Lin Kuei's massacre of his clan, including one of Sub-Zero killing Scorpion's wife and child himself, driving Scorpion to kill Sub-Zero in a blind rage and making him forevermore a pawn of Quan Chi.
    • Kung Lao succumbs to pride at his detriment through the course of Mortal Kombat 9. He boastfully accepts a fight with Scorpion which gets him immediately eliminated from the tournament then later dies whilst grandstanding after defeating Kintaro, courtesy of a Neck Snap from Shao Kahn.
  • The World of Warcraft is populated with the likes of Arthas, Grom, Illidan and Kael'Thas who use drastic but well-intentioned methods when dealing with a crisis.
  • The Last of Us: Quite a lot of the characters, but Henry and Sam share one. Normally, Big Brother Instinct is seen as a positive trait, but here, Henry is far too protective of Sam and consequently Sam never learns to fend for himself, making him The Load. After he is bitten by an infected, Henry is forced to kill his little brother and takes his own life out of despair.
  • Several characters in Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Most incarnations of Sonic himself are presented as overly cocky and prone to acts of recklessness, a lot of which are exploited by foes or end up with him making a detrimental mistake. In the games alone, Eggman took advantage of an opening left by Sonic's arrogance in Sonic Unleashed, while in Sonic Lost World his over eagerness to swat away Eggman's new toy left another antagonist, the Deadly Six, free to bring havoc, an act which almost led to Earth being drained of it's life and Tails being transformed into a robot).
    • Since his first appearance, Knuckles is infamous for being gullible, something that is constantly exploited by Eggman as a Running Gag, usually to trick him into fighting or distracting Sonic.
  • Persona 4 uses this as a major plot point, confronting most of the party (and at least one other character) with their Fatal Flaws in the form of shadows that act as gross caricatures of them (Shadow Chie becoming a dominatrix to represent Chie's need to control Yukiko to feel better about herself, Shadow Kanji being a Camp Gay stereotype to represent Kanji's insecurity about his girly hobbies, etc.) Accepting and overcoming these flaws instead of just denying them is the only way to truly defeat the shadows and transform them into their Personae.
  • God of War: Kratos' flaws are his volcanic rage and inability to accept the consequences of his actions. By the time he's finally gotten his revenge and killed everyone who ever wronged him, he's singlehandedly caused the apocalypse.
  • In I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, the five protagonists all have a fatal flaw; Gorrister is a guilt-ridden, Benny is merciless, Ellen is traumatized, Ted is cynical, and Nimdok is a Nazi.

     Visual Novels 
  • Corpse Party: Naomi is very much your typical Tsundere. Cute, but has a tendency to let her temper get the best of her, and is unable to admit her true feelings. Unfortunately, this is not Played for Laughs or seen as cute, as her temper, and inability to apologize, ends up getting Seiko killed.
  • Fate/stay night: Shirou's selfless need to help others is identified as a sign of his twisted, distorted view of the world pretty much right off the bat. What this really means, though, and the extent to which his distortion reaches, is only fully revealed in the latter routes.
    • Archer's flaw was his idealism which led him to being estranged from other people and finally executed for crimes he did not commit. He might have accepted this but his idealism also led to him becoming a Counter-Guardian, an existence which consisted solely of killing people rather than saving them.
    • Sakura's fatal flaw is her self image, which is horrible enough to become the primary cause for everything going FUBAR in Heaven's Feel.
    • Kiritsugu wanted to save the world. It cost him his wife, his daughter, and his life. He admitted that he had never done a single act of good, nor saved a single person, until he pulled Shirou from the fire which was caused by his own actions.
    • Kotomine is unable to find any joy or pleasure in anything good, and can only find satisfaction or happiness in the suffering of others. He struggled for a long time to deny this flaw, to work around it, or to correct it, even going so far as to marry and have a child. His only sadness upon her death was regret that he hadn't killed her himself. With the help of Gilgamesh, he surrendered to his own need for evil.
    • Saber's selflessness was her downfall in life. As King Arthur, she chose to become her ideal of the perfect regent, ruling without surrendering to her emotions and taking every action possible for the good and safety of her kingdom. However her perfectly just rule and emotional distance from the people led to many feeling she was in some way inhuman. This in turn led to civil war started by Mordred, the "son" created by Morgan le Fay whose love she rejected and subsequently allowed to turn to hate, and her death.
    • If Gilgamesh ever ever fought at full power, no one and no Hero in the Holy Grail War would be capable of defeating him. But due to his arrogance he never fights at his full potential.
  • Explored with each character on Illusionary Trauma, with each route showing the flaw of the character and how it affects them.

    Web Animation 
  • Happy Tree Friends: Almost all the characters have fatal flaws. Lumpy is inept at everything he does, Nutty is constantly hyperactive and addicted to sugar. Flaky has fears and phobias about just about anything and everything. These flaws do indeed prove to be fatal by the end of the episode. Sgt. Flippy's untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, always proves to be fatal for everyone else around him by the end of the episode.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius has the fatal flaw of Pride in zir magic power and intellect, which both leaves zir wide open for the trauma factor of being completely powerless to stop horrible things from happening to his/her friends and loved ones and drives zir to accept a Deal with the Devil rather than experience that feeling of helplessness again. Later zhe starts working on that, though, and is limiting zir to low-level enhancements unless zhe needs them, as opposed to just going all out.
    • Redcloak, whose inability (Conviction) to back down from the path and plan he's chosen, despite all the senseless sacrifices, really bites him in Start of Darkness.
    • Haley's flaw is greed, although unlike most examples, she's vaguely justified in this: her father is being ransomed for a small fortune and she became an adventurer to get enough money to save him from further imprisonment. At one point, the gold and treasure she owns is destroyed in a fire, and Haley's shock is so great that it renders her literally unable to speak for the next hundred or so strips. (One of the reasons she likes Elan so much is because his presence encourages her away from this.)
    • Miko Miyazaki, a massive Knight Templar who refuses to believe that anything she does is wrong. Instead, she imagines a massive plot brewing behind the scenes just to enable this belief. It's only when she's moments away from death that she starts to question any of her actions, but by then, it's way too late.
    • Nale is a Smug Snake who thinks It's All About Me. His massive ego and tendency to slip into Evil Gloating have only hampered his ability to competently execute plans in the past, resulting in numerous defeats and a trail of kobold corpses in his wake. It's even noted in-universe that if Nale wasn't such an arrogant egomaniac, he would actually be dangerous. He ends up in over his head when he makes a series of incredibly short-sighted choices on account of his pride, which first costs him Girard's gate, then his adventuring party, and finally his life.
    • Tarquin in Dangerously Genre Savvy and can be very dangerous, but he thinks It's All About Me and starts falling apart when Elan refuses to be The Hero and tells Tarquin that he isn't The Big Bad.
  • In Golden, a take-off of the standard fairy tale, the hero (and his less useful older siblings) are all sent off on the Quest because of their father's fatal flaw: GREED. The king wants gold very, very much. In fact, that whole family loves gold just a little too much to be healthy.

    Web Video 
  • The Nostalgia Critic is trying to work on his temper and cynicism, but his insecurities about seemingly never being good enough are still getting in the way.
  • Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons: Minerelle's Cowardice, Joey's Greed, Miriam's Anger, Gibnaf's Idealism, and Kod's Pride. The former is particularly notable as Minerelle's strict running policy led her away from Joey and Kod, meaning when she went down there was no one to save her from being Killed Off for Real.
  • In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lizzie's pride and stubborness has caused misunderstandings and problems between her and others, particular Darcy and Lydia. Fortunately, through Character Development, she starts to work on improving from those flaws.

    Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom: Danny has two: His darkness, which manifests into him constantly abusing his powers which if he isn't careful, would result in a Bad Future. The other is his emotions which he has a hard time containing—the latter is often used to his advantage by some of his baddies. Unlike the first example, this is one he has yet to resolve.
  • Robin of Teen Titans tends to become so devoted to one goal, he neglects other aspects of his life until the issue is resolved. This characteristic has damaged, or even risked losing, many of his friendships and sometimes even proved his undoing.
  • While it is undeniably played for laughs most of the time, Omi, from Xiaolin Showdown has a massive superiority complex, constantly talks down to his friends as if they're beneath him, and it has gotten him in trouble more than a few times. Also demonstrated with Raimundo. Due to being singled out of a promotion and treated as inferior by Omi, again, Raimundo betrayed the team.
  • Avatar The Last Airbender:
    • Iroh's bizarre Fatal Flaw is his love of tea. While normally the wisest and more sensible figure in the entire series, he makes some monumental mistakes when around the stuff. Once, when having to hide his identity as a Fire Bender, he used his bending to heat up some cold tea and nearly blew his cover. Earlier than that, when finding a plant whose leaves were either the world's most refreshing tea or pure poison, he ground it up and drank it due to temptation. It was poison.
    • Azula is another example. Her belief that people can be controlled through fear proved to be a mistake. Also Azula's determination to prove herself to her father, mainly because she believed that her mother only cared for Zuko, proved to be a serious issue that led to a villainous breakdown at the end of the series.
    • Aang's flaw is his conviction. He was raised as a dedicated pacifist, and though he will fight if necessary, he won't kill. When his opponent is the Big Bad who descended from the man who slaughtered Aang's people with the intent of continuing such a legacy and oppresses the populace of two nations, this turns out to be a bad thing.
    • Katara is known to hold grudges to the point where she could kill someone, especially if she was betrayed or if her loved ones are put in danger. When she runs into Jet after he had betrayed her trust, she immediately attacked him. She flat out told Zuko after he joined the gang that if she thinks he might hurt Aang, she would personally kill him. And when she confronted the man whom she believed killed her mother, she bloodbended him.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Korra nearly gets killed or depowered on several occasions by her aggressive and proud nature. She gets better, at least. Bolin, meanwhile, repeatedly gets himself into trouble through his trusting nature. Of the other members of New Team Avatar, Asami doesn't really have one and Mako's inability to spit anything out or relax for four seconds never gets him into any worse trouble than a difficult breakup. Lin Bei Fong has trouble letting go of old resentments. Tenzin can be surprisingly naive for a middle aged man and has to learn not to compare himself to his father.
    • The villains: Fittingly for a Satanic Archetype, Vaatu's flaw is his Pride - more specifically, his belief that mere humans could never pose a threat to a supremely powerful spirit such as himself. Kuvira's flaw is her utter devotion to her goal of a safe and unified Earth Empire. While this makes her a Determinator, it also gives her tunnel vision and sends her further and further into outright villain territory.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Discord loves exploiting these to break ponies For the Evulz, and is very good at it, but has one himself, namely his own pride and inability to truly understand how strong the bond of friendship really is. Both of these blind him to the fact the mane cast has reforged their friendship and the Elements of Harmony, the one thing on earth that can possibly defeat him, work again until he gets a friendship powered Wave Motion Gun to the face.
    • All six of the main ponies suffer from some defining flaw that usually serves as a pivot for most of their personal dilemmas and even expand into full blown disasters when exacerbated enough (almost all of them have suffered a Sanity Slippage at one point):
    • The Arc Villain of the fifth season premier, Starlight Glimmer, has a big one: intolerance. She absolutely refuses to have any belief or tolerance for anyone's idea of friendship other than her own or differences between ponies. The idea Vitriolic Best Buds even exist is one she can't comprehend and she refused to actually trust anypony at all that she hadn't 'equalized'. This is her undoing, as the Mane Six exploit this to Out Gambit her. She also has another major one: Wrath. When angered, she has very little control over it. This nearly leads to her destroying the world before Twilight can calm her down.
  • Gargoyles have many examples. One of the strongest examples is Demona and her refusal to take responsibility and accountability for her actions. After all Demona was the reason why her Gargoyle clan was destroyed by the Vikings and why the surviving clan members got cursed, which is the genesis of the series.
  • American Dad!:
    • Stan's so uptight that when he enjoys something, he can't stop.
    • Francine gets herself in trouble because of her need to have a more exciting life.
  • Total Drama
    • Courtney's flaw is pride. She expects others to follow her unquestioningly, gets dangerously angry when they don't, and is constantly trying to elevate her social status. This has led to her downfall in every season she's in.
    • Sierra's flaw is her obsessive nature. Aside from her stalking of Cody, she idolizes Chris (and the show itself) leading her to trust him blindly.
    • Noah's flaw is apathy. He won't work with his team to win, and generally doesn't care about anyone's feelings- which, combined with his sharp tongue, led to him being voted off.
  • Bob from Bob's Burgers gets obsessed when it comes to one-upping his rival Jimmy Pesto.
  • The Author (aka Stanford Pines) from Gravity Falls is really bad at just explaining things, usually due to trust issues or lack of communication skills. Among other things this leads to his assistant leaving and going mad, a fight with his brother that gets him sucked into another dimension for about thirty years, only trusting one person with world-saving secrets, and being part of a chain of events that kicks off Weirdmageddon.

Alternative Title(s):

Tragic Flaw