Chief Master Sergeant Epps: I hope those F-16s got good aim. Major Lennox: Yeah? Why's that? Epps: I told them to hit the orange smoke. (orange smoke drifts between them) Lennox: You mean that orange smoke? Epps: It wasn't my best toss...
The Air Cavalry arrives!
The heroes are facing overwhelming odds. Everything looks hopeless and there is no possible way they can survive this. It almost looks like they are heading for a Bolivian Army Ending, when suddenly a large, menacing aircraft buzzes in over the horizon carrying enough firepower to turn the tide in favor of the heroes.
It is often set up to be a complete surprise to the ones being rescued. That way, when the gunship lowers into place it produces squeals of joy from the audience. The real joy is the look on the enemy's face when the gunship appears and they have to stare down the gatling guns, rocket pods, lasers, or whatever heavy firepower is mounted on the craft.
Often preceded by It Has Been an Honor. It also invokes some resemblance to Death from Above, and can often include an awesome looking visual of the rescuers doing a flyby, often putting themselves between the rescuees and the bad guys.
Not classified as Deus ex Machina, since most times it is set up in advance and rarely anticlimactic. And while most examples are of aircraft, specifically helicopter gunships or the Technology Level equivalent, ground vehicles and ocean vessels with a BFG mounted can sometimes be used for a Gunship Rescue.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Durandal gets the medal for her appearance to save Elsa from Gnosis in Xenosaga. Episode 1 goes one better with a heavily-armed mobile space colony, appearing to similarly relieve the Durandal and the colony it is docked with.
In Transformers Armada, the Decepticons decide to call in Tidal Wave as backup. Tidal Wave happens to be a gunship.
Mildly subverted in the last episode of Macross Frontier, where a Vajra "gunship" is about to blast its Wave Motion Gun point-blank into the Battle Frontier's bridge, only to have the Macross Quarter —a ship much smaller than Frontier— skewer the Vajra with its own main cannon while coming out of Fold space.
In the flashback of Mahou Sensei Negima!, the armada of the three major powers in the Magic World arrives to stop the end-of-the-world spell, as Nagi defeated the Big Bad one second too late.
The arrival of the Moby Dick, Whitebeard's personal flagship early in the Marineford arc of One Piece. The shocker is that it came from underwater taking the entire Marine force at Maineford by surprise!
And then one-upped 15 chapters later, when a black replica of Moby Dick arrives in the same way as its predecessor, to save the Whitebeard pirates who survived Admiral Akainu's destruction of their entire fleet's vessels.
The King of Braves GaoGaiGar Final, ep. 7. Palparepa: "Pathetic God of Destruction...what can you do alone against us?" Off-screen Taiga: "He is not alone!" Turn camera to the Division Fleet and cue Taiga's greatest speech ever.
Even earlier in the series, during the final battle with the Machine Kings. Volfogg's getting trashed rather badly by Penchinon, then gets saved by the Multi-Dimensional Intelligence Submarine going on a kamikaze strike to Volfogg's 3rd theme. Topped off by Penchinon's attempt to absorb it proving to be a very bad idea as its fusion reactor explodes.
Inadvertently invoked by Soldato J and the J-Ark on their debut a few episodes later. While defeating the Primevals was intentional, saving GaoGaiGar in the process...not so much.
The first story arc of Black Lagoon has the Black Lagoon being chased by a Mi-24 Hind-A heavy attack helicopter. Inverted — instead of saving the day, the Hind Gunship is destroyed spectacularly by a surprise torpedo attack of all things.
At the end of Zero no Tsukaima's first season, Saito shows up in a WWII-era fighter plane, turning the battle and giving up his chance to go home.
In Cat Shit One the Mi-24 gunship, call sign Angel One, comes in to rescue our heroes Packy and Botasky just when they thought they are completely surrounded. To quote Packy's words:
Packy: Well... that's one hell of an angel who came to help us.
There was a Toad Rescue moment in Naruto. During the invasion of Konoha, a giant three-headed snake was devastating a large region of Konoha, having already breached the defensive wall to allow the invasion force inside. As the Konoha ninja are fighting a losing battle against it a giant toad summon falls from the sky, wiping out the snake summon and turning the tide.
In the anime Halo Legends, when the Master Chief and Dr. Halsey are escaping from dozens of Seraphs, what appears to be either a Cruiser or the Point of No Return comes and blows them all up in seconds.
Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid's first episode has Sousuke being surrounded on a bridge. With nowhere to go, Al recommends self-destruct to avoid capture which Sousuke promptly rejects. The enemy commander starts counting down over loudspeaker... and just as he reaches 'one', the Arbalest launches off the bridge above the water. Cue the Tuatha de Danaan breaking through the surface and launching several cluster missiles at the enemy forces, wiping them all out in a single salvo while retrieving the Arbalest and quickly diving back underwater. Hilariously lampshaded by the shocked and singed enemy commander a while later.
Hanaukyō Maid Tai. La Verite episode 11. The gang is trapped in a dire situation, being chased by Konoe's Ax-Crazy sister, when Ryuuka's murder zeppelin shows up, now sporting laser cannons, to save the day.
In episode 5 of Bodacious Space Pirates, the Odette II is being fired upon by the Lightning 11 using optical sights (since the crew had hacked their computer beforehand). The main character, Marika, aboard the Odette II, uses an Improvised Weapon in the form of aiming their solar sails to blind the Lightning 11's gunners. Shortly afterwards, the Bentenmaru and the Barbaroosa, along with several military ships show up to assist them.
Arcus Prima's return to active duty in Simoun takes place just in the nick of time to save Messis from an overwhelming Argentum attack.
In Elephantmen: War Toys Volume 1, French freedom fighter Yvette is cornered on the roof of a cathedral by several Elephantmen. Then three or four Red Chinese gunships appear and open up on the Elephantmen with More Dakka. Subverted, because the gunships are shot down by the Elephantmen, crash into the cathedral roof, and kill everyone except Yvette who miraculously survives.
During The Surtur Saga in The Mighty Thor, Sif stays behind to defend a convoy of alien transport ships from horde of demons. When her strength starts failing, she prepares herself to take as many demons as possible with her. Then all the sudden the demons are blasted away and she is greeted by Skuttlebut, an intelligent spaceship who was also sent to protect the convoy.
In Red Sea Sharks, Tintin's ship is under attack by a submarine. They manage to reach an Amrican warship, but are afraid they'll be sunk by the time it gets there. As they try to avoid the torpedoes, the captain suddenly hears a boom and thinks they've been hit- only to discover it's the destroyer's seaplanes depth-charging the sub.
Act of Valor has the SEAL team heavily outnumbered and outgunned, hotly pursued by militia forces, and then just as the militia catches up to them, a pair of SWCC boats show up and deliver a literal wall of fire, doing their best to achieve enough dakka in almost two minutes of near-sustained fire.
Attack of the Clones featured a gunship rescue moment from Yoda and the clone troopers, and a Big Damn Heroes moment from Yoda confronting Count Dooku. The event is even called "Gunship Rescue" on the DVD.
Han Solo: "You're all clear, kid! Now let's blow this thing and go home!"
Double Subverted in Return of the Jedi when Han and Leia manage to take care of a couple of storm troopers giving them trouble, only for a AT-ST Scout Walker to approach them. They give the Oh Crap look, only to find out it was the one Chewbacca and the Ewoks hijacked earlier. And in the end they used the communications link in the walker to draw the base guards out rather than just blast open the doors.
This is not the only time this particular Scout Walker was used this way. Just after hijacking it, Chewie started blowing away other Scout Walkers that had been chewing up the Ewoks pretty badly.
The Matrix had Neo and Trinity in a helicopter armed with a mini-gun that even the near unstoppable Agents can't dodge.
Revenge of the Fallen features an air strike to help the ground troops trying to hold their position that was represented on-screen with a Guinness Record for the largest explosion Hollywood has ever done. Say what you will about Michael Bay as a director, he knows how to blow shit up.
Dark of the Moon has a subversion, they already knew that none of their aircraft could match the Cybertronian aerial fighters (a F-22 Raptor was shot down with little trouble) and thus they staged a wingsuit entry into the city, in this case the "air" support was actual people. But it was played straight somewhat during the climax, not from physical aircraft but from a series of stinger missiles launched from a nearby base thinning out the Decepticon ranks.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, after Will Turner stabs Davy Jones' heart and the Dutchman sinks, the EITC armada is about to wipe out the pirate armada... and then the Dutchman explodes from the water, with Will at the helm.
Star Trek: Alternate Spock is headed into a massive missile barrage in Spock Prime's little ship, with the computer warning him that the black-hole-creating-stuff in the back will ignite if they're hit. Cue the "Jump-out-of-warp" noise, and the Enterprise blasts into the scene with all guns blazing furiously, picking off every missile. Oh, and they beam Spock out of the little ship and Kirk and Pike off of the bigger one about to be rammed.Big Damn HeroesandGunship Rescue moment for the Enterprise and her crew, set to an epic, ''epic'' soundtrack.
In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Captain Sulu and the Excelsior show up to help the Enterprise fight a cloaked Bird-of-Prey. In this case it wasn't necessarily for the firepower but in Sulu's own words "Give them something else to shoot at" while the technicians figured a way around the cloak.
Sulu: Target that explosion and fire!
The climax to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home played with this, partly for comedy: A whaling vessel is chasing the two humpback whales Kirk and crew need to bring back to the 23rd century to save Earth from a destructive probe. The vessel sights the whales, fires a harpoon - which suddenly bounces off nothing with a metallic clang. Cue the heroes' stolen Bird of Prey decloaking above the water... and the whaling ship urgently attempting to turn around and run away.
Star Trek: First Contact: "Sir, there's another ship coming in. ...It's the Enterprise!" Cue the shiny new Enterprise-E swooping in like an avenging angel to save the mangled Defiant (commanded by Worf at the time) from the Borg cube.
Two Romulan Warbirds under Commander Donatra tried to do this for Enterprise in Star Trek: Nemesis, but were quickly disabled.
In Behind Enemy Lines, Burnett is cornered by pretty much the entire Serbian Army, but is rescued when a fleet of American helicopters loaded with weapons and angry Marines arrive and completely wreck the Serbians.
In Blue Thunder, the titular Black Helicopter pulls one of these off when hero Frank Murphy's girlfriend is about to be arrested by the police after being pulled over on a bridge while carrying the Plot Coupon. Cue dramatic engine roar and the sight of Blue Thunder rising up from beneath the bridge, BFG aimed right at the cops. A hilarious Double Subversion follows, as while the Oh Crap moment gives Murphy's girlfriend a chance to drive off, the cops recover in time to pursue her... until Murphy blows their car in half.
In a marvelous example of overkill, True Lies has Arnold approaching the terrorists holding out in an office building and proceeds to rip apart the entire floor with an anti-tank weapon on the Harrier-II he was flying.
In Off Limits two American military policemen are surrounded by corrupt South Vietnamese police. The chief policeman tells the Americans, "I am afraid you are outgunned today." As a helicopter BDG appears from behind the buildings, the lead MP replies, "You still don't get it, do you? We [Americans] are never outgunned!
At the end of Afghan-Russian War movie Ninth Company. Seven surviving Russian paratroopers (down to half a magazine each) surrounded by at least 50 mujahideen fighters. Cue the arrival of two Mi-24 Hinds.
In the beginning of Red Dawn (1984), the heroes realize that their escape to the mountains is about to be prematurely cut off by a Soviet roadblock. Just then an Army Huey helicopter turns up and blows the roadblock to pieces, clearing the way for them. (Another chopper, or possibly the same one, shows up later on harassing the Soviets as they secure the town)
Inverted towards the end, when the Dirty Commies finally catch La Résistance out in the open, and the Wolverines find out that Mi-24 Hinds are out of their league.
In the final battle scene of the movie as the U.S. soldiers crest the hill they are staring down the barrels of the enemy weapons who are about to shoot them. Just as it looks like they are about to get shot to pieces, you see the enemy getting splattered by rockets and minigun fire from Huey Gunships allowing the Americans to finish storming the enemy positions.
Earlier in the film, the Americans are on the verge of being overrun by the NVA. In a desperation move, they call in a "Broken Arrow", which calls in all available air assets to assist. The NVA get curbstomped, at least for the moment.
Black Hawk Down is a bit of a subversion of the trope: the eponymous Black Hawks were good for gunship purposes due to their miniguns, but proved too vulnerable to RPG fire. On the other hand, the much smaller Little Birds fulfilled this purpose admirably—they packed more firepower in their rockets and were much more difficult to hit.
Tears of the Sun ends when Bruce Willis' team of Navy SEAL badasses, having just barely survived a battle with a pursuing enemy army, end up chased into a grassy field. Just when all hope seems lost for them and the refugees they have been escorting, a flight of F/A-18 Hornets comes screaming in and liberally applies napalm amongst the enemy ranks.
Man of Steel: Surprisingly, this is achieved more often by the villains than the heroes, as a couple of Kryptonian fighters are part of their limited arsenal and it outclasses anything humans have. The military does help a little with their A-10 Warthogs being able to at least distract and/or disorient their targets, but can't deal any real damage.
Subverted. The Argo II doesn’t get to Camp Jupiter until the day after the invasion.
It does, however, pull off a lot of rescues in Mark of Athena.
The War Against the Chtorr. After losing his surrogate children the protagonist decides to drive into an alien-infested zone until something eats him, only to have his Colonel Badass girlfriend turn up in a massively-armed jetcopter gunship and blow up the road in front of his vehicle.
In The Salvation War, during the battle at Hit between the U.S. Army and the invading demon army, the infantry are heavily pressed by the baldricks because their rifles don't do enough damage to drop the invaders, and they have no air support because of the harpy presence....until the harpies have been culled from the skies by massed anti-air fire. Cue the Apaches.
In The Dresden Files novel Small Favor Harry Dresden is saved by Badass mercenary Ms. Gard, who proceeds to gun down demons using a minigun on an illegal Huey. While playing "Ride of the Valkyries" on speakers mounted on the chopper. Even Marcone was very impressed. The best part? It is piloted by an actual Valkyrie.
In Orphanage by Robert Buettner, Metzeger combines this with a heroic sacrifice, crashing a gunship into the alien hive to save his friend and his pregnant wife from being killed in a hopeless siege.
In 1634: The Baltic War, one of the USE's "timberclad" warships steams to the rescue of the folks escaping from imprisonment in the Tower of London.
Subverted in the Mass Effect prequel novel. A gunship arrives with lasers blazing to save the outnumbered-and-pinned-down soldiers from mercenaries, only to be shot down by the The Dragon bounty-hunter who not only predicted the gunship, but prepped massive anti-aircraft weaponry beforehand.
Eisenhorn has a guncutter that turns up at least once per novel. In Xenos when the titular inquisitor is cornered by Glaw, Midas Betancore brings the cutter down and helps Eisenhorn escape with an artefact. In Malleus his daughter Medea saves Eisenhorn from witch-finder Tantalid — "Never argue with a guncutter, asshole". Subverted in Hereticus where Medea flies in to try and save Eisenhorn and company from a Chaos titan, despite Eisenhorn's orders to stay put, and gets shot out of the sky.
In a two-for-one hybrid of Gunship Rescue with the Biggest Damn Hero ever, Angel City is saved by the timely appearance of the Garuda bird in The Case Of The Toxic Spell Dump. It qualifies as a ship as well as a hero, because in this Magitek setting, the mighty Garuda is being outfitted for space travel by the setting's analog of N.A.S.A.
The Alchemist by Ken Goddard. When the undercover narcs are pulling the drug deal at the end of the novel, an attempted rip-off is stymied by their pilot turning up in an AH-64 Apache he borrowed from a nearby military base.
Star Wars EU Novel Shatterpoint played with this trope intensely. Throughout the novel, gunships both repeatedly assault the main characters at the worst possible moments, and rescue a whole bunch of civilians in the nick of time. The climactic sequence involves the rescue cruiser being ambushed, the crippled gunships being saved by Mace Windu commandeering ENEMY gunships, using these in a trojan horse assault, being Gunship Rescued right back by the enemy air fleet, using one of the gunships stolen earlier as a tank to try to pull off the daring assault, having it destroyed, and having a different set of enemies use another set of aircraft to lure the first enemies into a brutal massacre of civilians. Peace only reigns when everyone sends the damn things home.
Another particularly noticeable example in the EU comes at the end of Choices of One. The local Imperial Fleet (including Pellaeon and Thrawn), which Han, Wedge and Leia have been covertly helping are surrounded and badly outgunned by the true Big Bad of this novel. Cue Lord Darth Vader's personal squadron.. You know, the one from Empire Strikes Back.
Red Storm Rising: Edwards and his men have been discovered, are pinned down and getting torn apart by a Russian squad. Friendly A-7s manage to kill the Russian mortar teams, but are unable to safely hit the assault troops because of their proximity to the Americans. Then Edwards is hit, hears rotor blades and figures it's the Russian Hind from Keflavik... it's not.
Another Tom Clancy one in Clear and Present Danger, this time from the perspective of the gunship. A twenty-one-ton Pave Low might make for awesome firepower, but it's not a dedicated gunship, as the crew are keenly aware.
Ralph Peters's Red Army. Soviet close air support with fuel-air bombs destroy the remaining Dutch tanks about to overrun Kryshinin’s forward security element.
In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Vor Game, the heroes are hopelessly outnumbered when the commander says, "Whatinhell's that? It's too big to be that fast. It's too fast to be that big." It's the gunship rescue, is what it is.
In Harry Harrison's alternate history novel Stars and Stripes Forever, Washington D.C. is being invaded until the ironclad Avenger arrives to save the day.
In the NUMA Series book Atlantis Found, Dirk Pitt and the unarmed icebreaker he came in on are getting pummeled by a U-boat's machine guns and deck gun in Antarctica. They look well and truly screwed until his boss Sandecker pulls some strings and gets the U.S Navy to send the U-boat to the bottom with a destroyer-launched Tomahawk cruise missile.
John Ringo's Paladin of Shadows series features in its later volumes two gorgeous helicopter pilots call-signs "Valkyrie" and "Dragon." Dragon flies a Czech version of a Hind attack helicopter with so much weaponry on it that when she unloads on the bad guys it looks like the helicopter has blown up.
It happens several times in Honor Harrington, which both played this straight and subverted it, depending on the book in question.
Also is used to good effect in the Mutineer's Moon and Excalibur Alternative universes. "Break off and leave them to us!"
Despite being clawed and feathery rather than armed with superior firepower, this is the narrative role of the Eagles in The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. Almost every time they show up it's to bail out the heroes from a hopeless battle, rescue anyone who needs rescuing, and turn the tide.
Happens a few times in Parellity, once by Mobius, and once by the CORE.
Star Trek: The Next Generation's Grand Finale had Riker flying in the new-and-improved Enterprise-D which is capable of ignoring the Klingon shields and blasting several holes in their ships with the huge super-phaser.
The Defiant does this twice in the Mirror Universe two-parter in Enterprise's fourth season.
An entire fleet of Klingon ships did this at the episode "Sacrifice of Angels".
To quote General Martok in Call to Arms, "Continue your work, Commander, I will handle the Jem'Hadar."
Who says there's never a Klingon around when you need one?
The Klingons get to do it again in the TNG episode The Defector. The Enterprise, alone in the Romulan Neutral Zone, is surrounded by two huge Romulan warbirds (each of which alone would have fire superiority over the Enterprise). Picard gives a Rousing Speech and three Klingon Birds-of-Prey decloak to reveal that it was actually the Romulans who are surrounded and outgunned.
Commander Tomalak: You will still not survive our assault. Picard: And you will not survive ours. Shall we die together?
Airwolf used this all the time, being that the title craft was a gunship.
Set up and inverted in the original pilot, when During the War, Mal's little group of Independents hang on against impossible odds. You get your moment of Gunship Rescue as the roar of an arriving fleet of aircraft sounds... only to find out that the gunships belong to the other side and they're about to be on the receiving end of all that firepower. Cue the look on Mal's face.
There's a bluffed GR in the episode "The Train Job", when Wash shows up in Serenity to save the crew from a fight, threatening to "blow another crater in this little moon". Serenity's sudden appearance is apparently so intimidating that the locals back off without stopping to think that, as a transport ship, she doesn't actually have any guns. Jayne laughs at the locals for falling for it.
Played straight in "Safe", before River can be burnt at the stake. Serenity may not be armed, but Jayne is. Heavily.
Preacher: This is a holy cleansing. You cannot think to thwart God's will.
Mal: Y'all see the man hanging out of the spaceship with the really big gun? I'm not saying you weren't easy to find... but it was kinda out of our way, and he didn't want to come in the first place. Man's lookin' to kill some folk. So really it's HIS will y'all should worry about thwarting!
Subverted yet again in "Heart of Gold" when Mal's plan for Serenity to provide support in a firefight is screwed up by the bad guys ambushing Wash and Kaylee in the cargo bay.
Doctor Who had an Airship Rescue moment in "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky" two-parter, with the Valiant. Although it isn't the guns that save the day, but the jetwash from its rotors that blow away the poison in the immediate area's atmosphere.
Danny Boy and his space Spitfires, first in "Victory of the Daleks" and then in "A Good Man Goes to War".
Hell, Atlantis itself has a moment of this during the series finale.
Also happens with the Beliskner in the episode "Thor's Chariot", where Thor's flagship comes down from the clouds and beams away all enemy Jaffa and destroys every Ha'tak piece-by-piece.
"Into the Fire" has the survivors of SG-1, -3, -5, -6, and -11 held prisoner by Jaffa. Then the gate opens and Teal'c and General Hammond fly through in a modified death glider that blasts apart the turrets guarding them while a squad of rebel Jaffa led by Bra'tac comes through the gate.
Another episode involves the heroes trying to get the Asgard of a parallel reality to pull a Gunship Rescue to save that reality's Earth. Viewers are treated to same shot as in "Thor's Chariot", except that Beliskner is hovering over the SGC.
Lost City, Part 2, the Season 7 finale has SG-1 in a small, unprotected Tel'tak using a modified ring transporter to drill through a mile of ice in Antarctica and Anubis's fleet rapidly approaching their position. The Prometheus, with General Hammond as commander, and a squadron of F-302's show up and the Prometheusparks above the Tel'tak to defend their position.
The Prometheus herself gets rescued by a Big Damn Gunstation once O'Neill launches a giant swarm of glowing squid missiles that completely destroy the attacking Goa'uld fleet, including Anubis's giant ship.
Defied in "Camelot." The Ori motherships have come through the Supergate and are curb-stomping the combined forces of several Ha'tak vessels, Asgard ships, and Earth ships. Teal'c comes in raining fire on the Ori with three ships of his own… which proceed to get curb stomped just as easily.
Averted and then played straight in an early episode of Atlantis: When Sheppard engages in a 12 hour game of cat and mouse with a particularly powerful Wraith, and it's not going at all well, he's relieved to hear Lt. Ford call him on the radio to say that Ford's coming with reinforcements and heavier weapons, and Sheppard compliments Ford on the "nice timing" of the rescue. Ford radios back that he and the reinforcements are still twenty minutes away, to which Sheppard replies "In that case, your timing stinks Lieutenant. Get here when you can." But the big guns still turn the tide in killing off the Wraith.
Parodied in the Farscape episode "Scratch 'n Sniff" when damsel-in-distress Raxil discovers our heroes preparing to assault the Big Bad's fortress with a couple of pulse pistols.
"Two guns? I mean, I thought you were the great Crichton and D'Argo! I mean, you blew up a Shadow Depository. I mean, I thought you'd bring pelshfer charges...and a plasma bomb...and a really big gunship...but no! You bring nothing! You bring two little weapons that wouldn't kill a negnik!"
Talyn often played this role in other episodes, such as "Thanks for Sharing" and the "Liars, Guns and Money" Trilogy.
Battlestar Galactica has just such a moment in the evacuation of New Caprica. The Galactica is going down, it's being pummeled by basestars, it's lost maneuvering thrusters and FTL. Adama has told his crew It Has Been an Honor. Cut back... the BattlestarPegasus swoops in and totally trashes one basestar in the first few seconds of firing. The Pegasus then has to take the brunt of the battle and is itself heavily damaged, leading to Lee to conclude Ramming Always Works. It does.
In the same episode, when the Resistance forces were pinned down by Cylon fire, Galactica comes to the rescue by jumping into the planet's atmosphere, launching its Viper wing, and jumping out again in time to avoid going splatnote Note that the Galactica has the aerodynamics of a brick and was not designed for atmospheric operations..
Hotdog: Well, this oughta be different.
Lee did it first when he rescued Tyrol, Cally, and Baltar from Centurions on Kobol in the season 2.
A rather archaic appearance of the trope happens in the short Hornblower TV series episode 'The Frogs And The Lobsters' when the main characters and a platoon of marines are trapped on a beach and about to be killed by the French, at least, until the HMS Indefatigable opens up.
Plenty of cases in Babylon 5. A memorable example in "Walkabout", where Sheridan takes the White Star to face off several Shadow vessels. He wants to use Lyta Alexander's Psychic Powers to immobilize the Shadows in order to destroy them. Lyta manages to hold one Shadow ship, while three telepaths on the accompanying Minbari cruiser restrain all but one. Just as it seems the remaining Shadow vessel will blast both the White Star and the Minbari cruiser, a jump point opens, and the Narn cruiser G'Tok appears, blasting its Frickin' Laser Beams at the unsuspecting enemy. This outmatches the Shadows to the point of forcing them into retreat, for the first time since the Shadow War opened. Then G'Kar orders the other ships he brought with him into action...
During the battle for Babylon 5's independence, Babylon 5 and two cruisers manage to hold back an EarthForce fleet loyal to the President (losing one of their cruisers in the process). Cue jumpgate opening and a large EarthForce fleet arriving, larger than the one they just barely repelled. Then cue more jumpgates, with three Minbari Sharlin-class warcruisers, a White Star, and a very unhappy Delenn.
Delenn: "Babylon 5 is under our protection. Withdraw or be destroyed."
Capt. Drake: "Negative, we have authority here. Do not force us to engage your ship."
Delenn: "Why not? Only one human captain has ever survived battle with a Minbari fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else."
(The fleet proceeds to turn tail and get the hell out of there.)
During the battle for Earth at the end of season 4, the deranged President Clark turns the Earth Defence Grid against the planet itself. The Agamemnon, captained by Sheridan, is out of ammo and the only ship close enough to destroy the last remaining weapons system. Sheridan orders ramming speed - at which point the Apollo, in a magnificent Heel-Face Turn, comes blazing out of a jump point with all guns firing, saving the hides of both the Agamemnon and Earth itself. Let's not forget that the Apollo had put a cap on this battle, which began with the cinematic beauty in the combined fighting might of Minbari, alien and Earthforce ships and fighters working in destroying the defense grid with astounding might and power in a way never seen before.
At the final climax in the 1st season episode “Scimitar”, Harm and Meg while driving a limousine are chased by Iraqis in a Soviet made Hind. But at the Kuwait border a U.S. Army Apache saves the day.
Also in the 5th season episode “The Bridge at Kang So Ri”, two U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles out powers two North Korean Migs.
An episode of NCIS: Los Angeles has Kensi and Deeks pinned down by mercenaries near the Mexican border with a pair of kidnapped Marines. Cue Sam and Callen coming over the horizon in a helicopter with Sam sitting in the open door with his M4.
Warhammer 40,000 has several. In the fiction, during the siege of Terra, primarch Rogal Dorn seemingly deserted his post, only to return in the nick of time aboard a city-sized floating superweapon.
Apocalypse games using flyers can throw this out a lot, especially now that it is (slightly) more affordable to have an entire Elysian army mounted in Valkyries. One can imagine the variety of scenarios that could be put together; a small Imperial Guard garrison set to hold a fortress against an overwhelming tide of Tyranids until a Space Marine company with a Thunderhawk swoops in to the rescue...Or a band of Eldar Guardians holding the line until half a dozen Aspect Warrior-laden Vampires drop out of the sky and start opening Webway portals all over the battlefield...
In the arcade game Dungeons And Dragons Shadow Over Mystara, the heroes defeat the final boss, only for it to start getting back up for a final attack. But, before it can, an entire fleet of Elvish airships shows up and bombs it into the ground for good.
In Mass Effect, near the end Shepard can order the Fifth Fleet to rescue the Council aboard the Destiny Ascension.
The ending of Mass Effect 2 features this. After killing the Human-Reaper, Shepard and his/her squad are on the run from the overwhelming horde of Collectors. Just as you reach a dead-end leading into space, the Normandy flies up from above and you make an epic low-gravity leap to safety (or not). Not an entirely classic example, since Normandy actually doesn't have any weapons they can safely fire at that moment, but unless you fared really badly up to that point, she is still carrying the ten toughest badasses in the galaxy ready to cover you.
Archangel's recruitment mission has this, too, on the bad guys' side. Depending on the choices you made earlier, it may or may not be completely repaired. Samara's recruitment mission and Kasumi's loyalty mission have the same thing for the bad guys.
In Mass Effect 3, Shepard flies in on a shuttle and uses a mounted gun to save Admiral Koris.
At the end of the game, the entire allied fleet arriving to retake Earth, consisting of every single faction Shepard has gathered in the game. Further even better with the Destiny Ascension (if you saved it in part one), which while not shown doing anything awesome, nonetheless makes up for it by being an awe-inspiring sight as it completely dwarfs every other vessel of the fleet.
The Normandy pulls this off during the Action Prologue, where they obliterate the Cannibals about to over-run Shepard and Anderson's position.
World of Warcraft's Halls Of Reflection instance ends with one. After fleeing from the Lich King, the players and Jaina Proudmoore (Sylvanas for Horde) find themselves at a dead end. Just as he prepares to kill you and your leader, your faction's gunship shows up and buries him in a pile of rubble.
Halo 3 had a Pelican come in to take out Covenant ships that are giving you trouble. Subverted later, they see thousands of sentinel drones rising in the air and Sergeant Johnson prepares to engage them with the turret on the Pelican, but Guilty Spark alerts them that he is in control and they are to slow down the Covenant forces.
A cavalry version happens earlier when the Shadow of Intent arrives and Elites start dropping into to help you against the Flood, showing that they have switched sides.
A variant of it happens in Halo 2. The Master Chief rides a bomb into a Covenant Supercarrier destroying it. Unfortunately, he is now plummeting to Earth. Fortunately, Miranda Keyes maneuvers her frigate to "catch" him.
Johnson: For a brick, he flew pretty good.
Resident Evil 4 had a gunship come and help the player deal with a lot of zombie/soldier things. Which is then promptly subverted when it gets hit by a well-aimed RPG and is destroyed.
Happens again in Resident Evil 5, only this time with flying Plagas instead of a missile.
Inverted in the opening of Resident Evil 6 where Leon and Helena are fired upon by a helicopter right after they barely survived an explosion. Played straight when later it is revealed said helicopter was actually piloted by Ada and was helping them by shooting at the zombies around them.
There is a battle in Mother 1 (a.k.a. Earthbound Zero) where your party is saved by the giant tank that rolls up and kills the enemy.
Some Final Fantasy games (e.g. 3/6 and 7) give the airship owner a special attack in the form of a bombing run by the party's airship.
Also is in Final Fantasy IX The main character's airship is facing down a large flight of silver dragons when Lindblum's Aerial Fleet Arrives and takes them on to open the way for the heroes.
Another example, from Final Fantasy X: right before Yuna is about to be forced to marry Seymour, her guardians arrive, at high speed, in the ridiculously cool airship, and then slide down the airship's grappling lines to the rescue, under heavy fire.
In StarCraft II, the Hyperion's first appearance takes the Brood War example and does it right. By the time it arrives your base is being completely overrun by Zerg, with Creep Tumors falling from the sky and Nydus Worms erupting right inside your base... Then the Hyperion drops in like a meteor and rains hell down on them. They do it again in a cinematic near the end of the campaign, although in this case it's a squadron of Banshee gunships instead of a capital ship.
Call Of Duty 4 featured at least three Gunship Rescue scenes: one is in the USMC mission "The Bog", featuring two Super Cobras coming to The Squad's rescue when it's overwhelmed by enemies; the second features a Lockheed AC-130 gunship appearing just before the team faces a enemy armored platoon (it then also covers their subsequent escape); and the third one is in the very end, when a Havoc arrives to rescue Soap in the last damn moment. There's also a mission where you can call in a Mi-28 at will, so whether it invokes a Big Damn Heroes moment depends entirely on you.
A very similar scene to the ending of COD4 appears in Modern Warfare 2, when Roach and Ghost escape from Markarov's Dacha, chased by dozens of Russian Mooks. 30 meters from the extraction point, you get knocked out by a grenade right next to you, only to awaken while being dragged away by the collar by Ghost. As you try to take some more enemies down through your blurry gaze, the ringing in the ears turns into the unmistakeably sound of miniguns warming up and a chopper flies over your head, completely shredding the pursuing soldiers to pieces. But once you're up on your feet and handed the retrieved data to General Shepherd, he shoots Roach and Ghostand burns their bodies in a ditch.
In MW3 The Lockheed AC-130 from the first game returns, in which you have to blast free a path out of Paris for the soldiers who captured Volk. Earlier in the level you can throw purple smoke grenades to call an airstrike, so again whether it invokes a Big Damn Heroes moment depends entirely on you. At the end of the level, the Delta Force soldiers are making a stand on the Pont d'Iéna against vastly superior Russian forces with heavy tank backup. Just as you start to run out of ammo and the tanks close in, American bombers come in and obliterate the Russian forces. Unfortunately this causes the Eiffel Tower to collapse. In Sierra Leone you can take remote control of the gun on Nikolais gunship, and in Berlin you are given a target designator for an A-10, "the tanks natural enemy".
Black Ops has two in the mission "The Defector", one by a gatling-armed Huey chopper that clears the path for your squad and the other by a flight of F4 Phantoms covering your escape.
There is also a Gunship Rescue in Call Of Duty 2. Dog Company has to hold Hill 400 against an overwhelming amount of German infantry, supported by tanks and half-tracks. After doing this for several minutes, a flight of P-51 Mustangs will finally come to the Rangers' rescue, forcing the German troops to break off their attack.
Also used in World at War in the mission "Black Cats". The titular "Black Cat" is a PBY Catalina flying boat that's landed on the water to pick up survivors of a sunken destroyer. Your character is trying to keep attacking Zeroes off the plane while it tries to get airborne, but the gun turrets are scripted to run out of ammunition as one final wave of enemy planes is inbound. At the last possible second, a squadron of Navy Corsairs show up and clear a path for your escape.
An example of a Gunship Rescue for the Gunship Rescue. You had just arrived on the scene as the fleet was being attacked by the Japanese, doing your best to fend off the Zeroes and the Japanese torpedo boats while you did your rescue work.
The Medal of Honor 2010 reboot has one in the form of 2 Apache helicopters coming to the rescue of Army Rangers who have been ambushed at the foot of a mountain. Particularly poignant as the four Army Rangers (well, three Rangers and one Air Support Tech) had already spent minutes and most of their ammo waiting for reinforcement, only to call off their own troops, as their support would only arrive in time to walk into another ambush after the squad was killed. The four resign themselves to their fate as their ammo quite literally runs out and their cover is completely blown away… and then the gunships show up.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has quite a few, a notable one being near the end, where the Navy shows up with a formerly mothballed battleship to save Snake from the super-submarine Outer Heaven.
Fallout 3, in the DLC Broken Steel: After you set the Enclave mobile base to self-destruct, your guys show up in a captured Enclave VTOL.
Enclave Vertibirds in general employ the villainous version of this trope, coming out of nowhere and laying down all sorts of suppression fire on everything in sight. Amplified by the fact that, for the most part, nobody but the Enclave has functional cars let alone military gunships.
This can happen in the final battle of Fallout: New Vegas twice. If you help the Boomers get their B-29 bomber, they'll use it against whatever faction you're fighting. If you manage to get the help of the Enclave Remnants, they'll show up via a Vertibird.
The TCS Mount St Helens, in Wing Commander IV, steps up to bat for this trope, jumping in from Sol System with Captain Eisen in command, to engage its sister ship, the Vesuvius, just as the Vesuvius was about to blow the player's carrier to dustbunnies. However, as the Mount St Helens wasn't completed before Eisen hijacked it, things didn't go quite as well as hoped, though they did still delay the Vesuvius long enough for Blair to slip in ahead of Admiral Tolwyn, for the final showdown.
Freelancer has many of these. In one instance you and Juni are cornered by half the Liberty Navy as wanted criminals, and you're outgunned so badly it's not even funny. Just when things are at their bleakest, Captain Marcus Walker charges to the rescue in his cruiser, blowing away a battleship with its Wave Motion Gun, buying you and Juni precious time to escape.
Happens some in FreeSpace. One mission has an enemy ship about to open fire on a station you are protecting (an enemy ship too powerful for your fighters to handle), when all of a sudden, the very-aptly-named Colossus warps in and blasts the crap out of it.
Subverted at the end of Ranbow Six: Vegas 2. The player, Bishop, orders his team to stand down while he goes to face off against the Big Bad. He's in a white shirt carrying a handgun, and you're fully armed and armored... this'll be an opportunity to Pay Evil unto Evil. And then his own Gunship Rescue shows up, and you have to distract it for a while until your allies can shoot it down.
In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Captain Mitchell (the player) is given the chance to direct gunships at armored targets at various point in the game. However, there is a deliberate invocation of the trope in the infamous Plaza del Angel mission: after the US Embassy has been blown up by insurgents, the Ghost squad must protect the dignitaries —and the "football"— from a sheer onslaught of enemy forces. These start as endless on-foot infantry... then a couple of jeeps... then an APV... Then you see a tank just a few blocks away, and all of a sudden the ruins of the embassy are demolished by cannon fire... Then you hear the roar of helicopter blades and the tank disintegrates as a US gunship descends from freaking nowhere, giving Mitchell and his squad the chance to evacuate on a Blackhawk, providing a glorious finish to the most intense firefight in the entire game.
In the Worms turn based attack games one of the attacks you can choose is calling in a bomb drop.
Mission 3 from Dawn of War: Winter Assault. Your Imperial Guard force is holding the line against the biggest Ork WAAAGH! you've probably ever seen for 10 minutes. As the timer counts down, a Squiggoth charges your lines and proceeds to dominate your pitiful force. Countdown ends: cue Baneblade tank, a rolling engine of destruction that saves your ass and easily devastates the Squiggoth and remaining Orks single handedly.
Cirisis Core: Final Fantasy VII has the Air Strike Limit Break invoked by lining up Tseng's image in the DMW slots. He flies in on a helicopter, shoots up your enemies, then launches some rockets/missiles. Unfortunately, it doesn't ignore enemy Vitality.
In Splinter Cell: Conviction, in the Michigan reservoir level, on your way to tag the second generator for the EMP an enemy helicopter shows up to give Sam trouble. Fortunately, Vic's chopper shows up after you tag the second generator and blows the enemy heli away.
Happens in The Ballad Of Gay Tony during the final mission. Luis is on a motorcycle being chased by assassins when Yusuf shows up in a gold plated helicoptor and blows up the assassin's vans.
In World in Conflict, the heavy attack helicopters. Their only purpose in the game is dishing out Death from Above to everything that moves and has wrong colors on it, meaning that in any given multiplayer match, the Heavy Air players will end up pulling off Gunship Rescues repeatedly. Is it any surprise that the Separate, But Identical heavy chopper models of the Soviets and the U.S. are Mi-24 Hind and AH-64 Apache? The Tactical Aids can be this, if applied correctly, particularly the Heavy Air Support.
In the singleplayer campaign, when your battalion is heavily outnumbered during the Battle of Pine Valley, critically-low on ammunition and with Colonel Sawyer ordering a retreat to the beach, the USS Missouri arrives and rains death on the Soviets.
In Battlefield: Bad Company 2 the main characters are about to be executed by an improvised firing squad in a cutscene, and just as the command to fire is about to be given Flynn the pacifist pilot flies over the cliff edge in an armed Blackhawk and unleashes hell on the bad guys. Accompanied by a few appropriate words, of course. Also happens in one of the multiplayer trailers, where american soldiers are pursued by russians in a hectic vehicle chase, they run into a cliff and are seemingly cut off from escape until a Blackhawk comes from below, turning to face its mounted minigun towards the pursuers. Braaammm!
Somewhat subverted in Battlefield3 expansion Armored Kill : There are Gunships, they can rain down instant death, but the fact that it's slow moving, hard to spot the people down on the ground, and require trajectory calculation just make the Gunship a huge target.
A Super Robot Wars staple, with the catch that the "guns" are also your party. You're given a small group of units and told to take out around ten enemies. Once those are out, a horde appears, possibly with a boss... at which point your ship also appears and you get to deploy the forces you've already collected.
This is particular awesome when your Space Noah-class battleship appears on the field and fires its Tronium Cannon at the enemies with extremely fitting music playing.
This seems to happen at least once per campaign. On Geonosis, a gunship blasts a hole in the side of a ship that's about to self destruct, allowing the player and his squad to escape. Later on Kashyyyk, a gunship shows up just after numerous Mook Makers are dropped virtually on top of the squad.
Happens a lot in Operation Flashpoint and ARMA missions, due to the inherent power of helicopter gunships against tanks and infantry. In a rare example of this being used against the good guys, the climax of one mission in the Resistance expansion has your guerrilla group abandon the armored vehicles you captured in the previous mission and flee into the woods when you come under attack by Soviet Mi-24 attack helicopters.
You are the Gunship Rescue several times throughout the Ace Combat series. The fourth installment's Operation Bunker Shot plays this twice in the same mission. The first is you doing this for the amphibious assault forces; the second was the Eruseans attempting this at the end of the mission with their flight of A-10s showing up.
You can subvert this in Just Cause 2. If you case enough chaos (read: blow up a military base single-handedly) the enemy will send in helicopters as their Gunship Rescue. This would work really well, since they are armed with minguns and occasionally rocket launchers, if only you didn't have your grappling hook, as this allows you to hijack the helicopeter and wreak even more destruction (read: blow up two more bases, then jump out and jack another helicopter on the way down).
Whether you choose the "Deal" or "Revenge" path in Grand Theft Auto IV, the final battle leads to a pretty much unwinnable chase. It's either Niko in boat vs. badguy on helicopter, or Niko on dirt bike vs. badguy in boat. Until Little Jacob swoops down in an aptly-named Annihilator helicopter to give you a lift and provide supporting fire.
Arguably, any RTS where you can call in an air attack to bail out your ground forces can count. Company of Heroes's Strafing Runs from Airborne Company P-47s have been known to turn the tide of many a game. In the expansion pack, the Panzer Elite can request Henschel close air support aircraft for a similar purpose. The Soviets in the Eastern Front fan-made expansion take it Up to Eleven in typical Russian style by calling in an entire squadron of Il-2 Sturmoviks. Nothing says "Gunship Rescue" like watching Panther and Tiger tanks disintegrate under a storm of aerial rockets.
Happens in Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain after holding the line at Taherir Palace. In this case, you have to physically jump to the helicopter, if you miss, you fall to your death and fail the mission.
The climax of A Miracle of Science, though it was fairly obviously coming. In a bit of a twist, however, the gunship fleet only guarantees everyone's physical safety, and the main character still risks his life to Save the Villain (or rather, the villain's sanity).
In the "Dead Dogs" arc of Skin Horse, the team and Sweetheart's pack are facing off against a horde of werewolves. Sweetheart is in the middle of her Rousing Speech when Nick, who'd been left behind at the pack's base, shows up with massive reinforcements.
This happens a lot in Schlock Mercenary. Especially because said gunships can teleport. See here for a prime example.
Early on in Dubious Company, Walter steers his heavily armed airship around in an attempt to do this for Sal. Unfortunately, his airship is wooden and Izor has a squad of mages with him, forcing Walter to retreat and think of a better plan.
"I would say that was the cavalry, but I've never seen a line of horses crash into the battlefield from outer space before"
In Chapter 36 of We're Alive, The Colony looks to be on the brink of collapse under the assault of the "Little Ones" when Michael and crew arrive in the Pelican an proceed to mow down zombies with an M134.
Transformers Animated played it straight in the first season, when Lugnut and Blitzwing were trying to reach the Ark. Ratchet had reactivated the war ship weapons system and the two Decepticons found themselves facing one hell of a Wave Motion Gun in the face. In the end of Season 2, Sari and Ratchet go to get reinforcements... which consists of reactivating the ship they came to Earth on and turning it into Omega Supreme. Also a plain old Big Damn Heroes since, hey, he's both a Humongous Mecha and a battleship.
Ultra Magnus rescues Bulkhead, Wheeljack, and Miko from Predaking with his space cruiser during the third season of Transformers Prime.
Avatar: The Last Airbender had a dramatic reversal with the airships the Fire Nation had built, premiering in the pivotal "Day Of Black Sun."
Also a more traditional one with the use of a War Balloons in the episode "The Northern Air Temple" to protect those living at the Temple. Especially when the Fire Nation thinks they're the ones being reinforced, thanks to the insignia on the balloon. They aren't.
The beginning of Season 3 ("Volume 2") of Star Wars: Clone Wars has a custom-painted gunship save some Jedi from General Grievous just in the nick of time, in a move almost as cool as Grievous hunting them down in the first place. In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode "Landing at Point Rain", the clone troopers under Obi-Wan Kenobi are falling back and an injured Obi-Wan lights his saber for their Last Stand... and a squadron of Y-Wings arrive to take out the incoming droids and bugs. One of the few crowning moments given to the Y-Wing bomber.
A handful of times in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. "New Frontier" where Kidd's ship swoops in and takes out some of the Crown fighters (granted, it was just to get their captain back from the Rangers' custody). In "Renegade Rangers" the Laredo shows up to blast at the battle cruiser the Rogues Gallery stole. Subverted in "Changeling" where the Rangers have to convince the gunship not to open fire on a penal colony asteroid, and inverted in "Armada" where Shane and Niko fly in with a tiny interceptor and broadcast to the gunships how to destroy the Crown Armada.
Villainous example in Exo Squad, when Phaeton (actually, his clone) arrives to the besieged Venus with a single ship—a gigantic dreadnought Olympus Mons II, temporarily changing the tide of battle in favor of Neosapiens. Too bad it's blown up by the next episode.
During the American Civil War, at the Battle of Hampton, ironclad warships were relatively new. On the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads, the Confederacy revealed their shiny new metal behemoth, the CSS Virginia (a rebuilt captured steam frigate, the former USS Merrimack), which almost single handedly mopped the floor with two of the wooden ships that the Union Navy was using. On the second day of the battle, the Virginia came back to the fight to finish off the third Union ship, the USS Minnesota. However, the Union had brought in their own ironclad, the USS Monitor, into a defensive position in front of the Minnesota. Thus began the very first battle between metal warships.
Also during the American Civil War, at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, the final Confederate assault on Union lines was repulsed with the help of naval artillery fire from the wooden gunboats Lexington and Tyler, steaming on the nearby Tennessee River. Small, shallow draft gunboats were used throughout the war, especially during the Mississippi River campaign, so this trope is bound to crop up quite a few times.
One major advantage that the river gunboats had was that they could easily transport guns that were significantly heavier and more powerful than land-based units could, which meant that the gunboats were often able to engage enemy artillery positions from a safe distance. Later in the war, ironclad gunboats became more and more common, meaning they could safely engage land-based units even if they weren't outside the enemy guns' range.
At the Battle of Normandy, American troops who were pinned down at Omaha Beach received some respite in the form of American and Royal Navy destroyers, sailing dangerously close to the beach (several times nearly running aground in the shallows) to engage the shore defenses directly with their 5 inch gun batteries. By the end of the battle, the Navy had lost three Destroyers, a Destroyer Escort, and a troop ship to the enemy defenses in order to help the Army get ashore and inland.
Reports are that the Libyan rebels in the 2011 civil war, being forced to retreat under fire from government forces, regarded the sudden arrival of French air support as this. To make it even more dramatic, one commander even said that he had thought that the UN resolution authorizing force had been forgotten and that they really had been abandoned.
Close air support duty tends to lead to this. Guess what most modern aircraft designated as "gunships" are designed for.
As mentioned about for Act of Valor, the whole point of SWCC boats is to be this when the SEALs need hot extract, bristling with guns on every corner.
One real incident was during the 1983 US invasion of Grenada when a unit of SEAL troopers tried to extract the US ambassador, but found themselves surrounded by enemy troops. Cut off from their support, and their communications out, the US troops desperately make a commercial phone call to their base in North Carolina. Once the callers were confirmed as US troops in peril, the base connected them to the theatre operations-headquarters and the commanders diverted an AC-130 gunship to provide air support for the troopers.
In the World War II Battle of Bulge, things were looking bleak for the Allied troops trying to hold off Nazi Germany's counterattack until the weather cleared midway into the battle, and then the Allied air forces could start striking back from the air.