It's the end of the movie, the climactic battle royale between The Hero and the Big Bad... and The Hero is losing. After a long struggle the Big Bad finally manages to get through the hero's defenses and score what looks like a decisive hit. The hero crumples, looking to be in a dire strait indeed; usually at this point the villain takes the opportunity to gloat a bit and humiliate his opponent verbally or physically, believing the hero to be his to dispatch at convenience. Often, the hero's loved ones will to be watching them getting the beat-down in a horrified state, which adds to the despair of the situation (and is a pretty bad hit to the hero's confidence). In more violent examples, the hero will have wounds that really ought to be fatal.
Then, just when everything seems to be lost, something happens. With a sudden all-out effort, the hero rises, often presaged or accompanied by a Theme Music Power-Up, ready to rejoin the battle — and, this time, despite the apparently crippling injury just sustained, there's no question at all that the hero's going to end up standing over the villain's smoking corpse — or, more generally, triumph in whatever way is appropriate for the genre. It is also traditional to deliver a "World of Cardboard" Speech in the process.
This trope is heavily relied on in Professional Wrestling. Hulk Hogan in particular carried wrestling for approximately eight years doing this, to the point where the moment a hero starts shrugging off his opponent's offense is still called "Hulking up" (not to be confused with "Hulking out").
There are hundreds of ways to do this same trope, but some of the most popular ones are:
Realize what it is that you are really fighting for if you haven't done so yet.
Happens all the time in Super Robot Genre series. Often the pilot will get their butt handed to them until the last five minutes, then pull out an amazing comeback because they were playing possum, waiting for their chance, or just needed to get some sense knocked into them. Usually, it's just to prove that determination and GUTS! will always win in the end.
Mazinger Z: Kouji Kabuto did this as soon as the second episode. He barely know how piloting his mecha and he was being soundly beaten by two mechas. Finally he got knocked out and Mechanical Beast Doublas M2 proceeded to torch Mazinger with him inside. However, as he was unconscious, he saw or believed seeing his grandfather's spirit reminding him because he was fighting and what were the consequences of being defeated. Kouji came around, got up and started to trash both Mechanical Beasts using Mazinger's weapons.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji performs several comebacks but they are all due to his EVA going berserker in ways are more terrifying than awesome. And when Asuka tries the same thing it is subverted in the most mean-spirited way possible.
King of Braves GaoGaiGar FINAL gives us a chain of these during the final battle with the Sol Masters. The heroes are on the knife-edge of defeat, with the entire Brave Robo Corps down for the count and Guy seemingly beaten by Palparepa. The only one still fighting is Mamoru, locked in a Beam-O-War with Pei la Cain and losing... until Mamoru's courage and sheer refusal to give up power up his G-Stone necklace. Moments later, the series reveals a crucial fact: all G-Stones resonate with each other, and Mamoru's courage powers up not only his G-Stone but also the G-Stones used to power GaoGaiGar and the Brave Robo Corps. Cue sevenMy Name Is Inigo Montoya moments from the good guys right in a row.
Who can forget Kamina during Episode 8? Thymilph deals him a blow that pretty much killed him. Kamina came back from the dead out of pure manliness to kill Thymilph and avenge his own death, before promptly dying after his final words, causing tears all 'round (even from the giant robot).
Played for all its worth in Lagann-hen. The fight with the Anti-Spiral in the Grand Zamboa goes worse than it did in the series, with the Zamboa tearing apart the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann into pieces, revealing only the minuscule(comparatively, anyway) Tengen Toppa Lagann. It's looking bad for Simon, until Nia herself comes out in her own Tengen Toppa mech - the Solvernia. She defends the Lagann and rouses Simon, before the Anti-Spiral attacks her, only to be blocked by Viral in a Tengen Toppa Enkidu. From there it's a massive showcase of all the character's Tengen Toppa mechs, including a Tengen Toppa version of the Dai-Gurren piloted by Dayakka and Leeron. And a galaxy sized volcano gets thrown into the mix, because it looks cool.
This happens a lot in the Pokémon anime, especially during gym battles.
While all Starter Pokémon have abilities that work like this, no one does this quite like Ash's Infernape, who's gotten two different insert songs to go with it.
Pokémon Special: It's almost guaranteed that before a Dex Holder team ultimately wins a fight against the Big Bad, they will get the crap beat out of them.
Ichigo often experiences this. He often needs to focus on protecting someone to focus his resolve. Lampshaded on one occasion by Ginjou who admits that he brought Orihime into their training fights because he knew if Orihime's life was in danger, he'd find his true strength much faster, precisely because Ichigo is someone who needs to protect others. One of the most dramatic examples occurs against Ulquiorra, who manages to blast a hole through Ichigo's chest, almost killing him. When the almost-unconscious Ichigo realises that all that's standing between Ulquiorra and Orihime's death is absolutely nothing, his resolve to protect pushes his body so far beyond hollow state that it seems to mimic a full Resurrección. He proceeds to fight Ulquiorra in what can only be described as a Curb-Stomp Battle. Prior to this, the person doing the curb-stomping had been Ulquiorra.
In the Attack of the Clones—I mean Gotei Invading Army Arc—Kenpachi gets one of these against himself. Then again, he did have one thing his clone didn't: Yachiru.
Similarly, Rurouni Kenshin is full of these kinds of moments by Kenshin, Sanosuke, and even Saitou. A subversion occurs however, when Shishio Makoto follows Kenshin's heroic powerup and recovery from death's door by doing the same thing. Almost a Take That to heroic power ups in general,or at least the fact heroes seem to get most of them, marred only by the fact Shishio pushes himself too far and dies.
Just try to list everyone this has happened to in Yu-Gi-Oh! and GX. It seems a hero can't win with more than 500 Life Points. The most outrageous example of this is when Yami Yugi defeats Dartz: Yami Yugi had zero Life Points left.
Taken to nearly as absurd levels in 5Ds where some of the characters have defeated their opponents on one life point (Yusei/Jack/Crow) or dropped to zero and died but came back from the dead and gaining new powers (Rua).
This happens alot in Spider Riders too. Lot's of times Hunter will be on his last leg, but he always, always pulls it together when it counts. "Never give Up!"... Indeed.
In the Dark Tournament arc of YuYu Hakusho. During the final climactic fight, Yusuke's opponent criticizes him for not fighting at his full capacity, and kills a teammate to incite Yusuke's full force. This has its intended effect, and after the fight, one of Yusuke's teammates rebukes him for needing the impetus and not fighting full-out in the first place.
Of course, this is somewhat parodied when it is revealed that the dead teammate isn't actually dead, but rather pretending to be, just to invoke this trope.
subverted more than parodied, since the opponent is Genre-savvy and struck just hard enough, and in the right place, to keep the teammate down long enough for the whole thing to be convincing. The opponent was also playing Thanatos Gambit here, expecting that the teammate would realize what was going on and stay down.
Though at the time one character also offers the theory of hesitation.
It happens earlier in the Dark Tournament Arc and is also played for laughs when Kuwabara, heavily wounded and exhausted from his previous fights, is forced to fight as Kurama is wounded in the previous match, while Hiei and Genkai are trapped because of the opposing teams cheating. Kuwabara spends most of the fight getting his ass kicked, then he sees his love interest, and in an effort to impress her he immediately gets all his power back, ignores his previous injuries completely and pretty much effortlessly defeats his opponent.
When Yusuke fights Yomi at the end of the Demon World arc, Yomi is pummeling Yusuke, until Yusuke snaps out of his Heroic BSOD that came when he realizes he doesn't know what he's fighting for. He still loses the fight, as Yomi gets one of his own after hearing his son call out to him.
In Prince of Tennis, Kirihara Akaya, although generally more a Blood Knight (as much as sports manga allows) type than a hero, does this at the Nationals' semi-final match: having already lost singles 3 and doubles 2 against Nagoya Seitoku, Kirihara is getting his ass handed to him in singles 2 against Liliadent Krauser (he is, in fact, bleeding and heavily injured). Krauser takes time out to gloat about it in English, and Kirihara's team mate helpfully translates and exaggerates what is said, leading to an angry Kirihara getting back up and destroying his opponent.
Something similar happened beforehand, when Kamio was losing to Sengoku in singles. He hears one of the guys in the bench say it was all lost, but that triggers memories of his loss to Kaidoh (who had also said something similar in the courts) and then manages to recover and wins.
Shakugan no Shana: Here, catch! Shana, tied up and powerless, unarmed, injured and almost nakedbreaks free, steals a magic sword and uses it to cut a creepy twin who has her sword to bits without touching him, takes hers back and chucks the magic sword right into the gut of the second twin over a period of roughly four seconds. The thrown sword is about seven feet long, very wide bladed and just as heavy as you'd expect it to be. She got mad.
One particularly notable example was Lee's battle against Gaara. An arm and leg crushed, tendons snapped, bones cracked, Lee is down for the count until he slowly rises and assumes a ready stance despite the battle having ended... only for it to be discovered his body was so heavily trained that by sheer instinct it had assumed the stance while he was unconscious.
At the end of Naruto's battle with Kyubi, Naruto receives his Mother's love and blessing, which enables him to overpower Kyubi's hatred and attack with such renewed vigor that Kyubi even remarks on how strong Naruto has become!
Happens again in the season finale — Gallantmon Crimson Mode is fighting the D-Reaper'smain Agent, which gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech aimed at humanity and digimon alike, saying they don't deserve to exist, all while drowning him in the D-Reaper's chaos mass. However, Gallantmon finds the strength to continue fighting and prove the D-Reaper wrong, starting with flying up and ramming his fist through the Agent's chest to kill it.
The heroes of Saint Seiya manage to win fights against much more powerful opponents because they just refuse to stay down. Seiya is by far the worst offender: his usual strategy is to repeatedly get his butt kicked and then stand up again until he has figured out his opponent's techniques and gathered enough power to win.
Pretty much every major fight in the Dragon Ball series features this one eventually. Probably the biggest example though is when Freeza is in the middle of drowning Goku, who has sudden visions of what will happen to his friends and family if he loses. Cue ass-whooping.
Fullmetal Alchemist's series finale: Roy Mustang is pinned to the wall with a sword through his shoulder, but rips it out to save the kid and finish off Bradley.
Hellsing: Nail of Helena-empowered Anderson is finally kicking Alucard's ass for real and Alucard seems unable to do anything to save himself when Seras shows up and tries ineffectually to fend Anderson off. This succeeds in making Alucard snap out of his funk and pull off the win.
After Fate puts a stone spear through his chest and threatens his students, Negi gets back up and smacks him in the face out of sheer determination.
After being beaten to a pulp during his fight with Jack Rakan at the end of the tournament, he does it again because he wants to win that badly.
Happened to Negi's legendary father as well. After having his entire party whopped by one attack from The Mage of the Beginning, Nagi reaffirms that he is indeed "The Invincible Thousand Master" and has the healer of his party provide what magic he had left to give him a temp healing before going on to a Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? moment.
And, of course, the ultimate example outshining all others:
Happens to Luffy close to the end of the Enies Lobby arcWhen Rob Lucci has beaten Luffy to the point that he almost gives up. His body begging for rest, and his will almost broken, it takes Ussop, (who he just had an arguement with) revealing himself and challenging the Strongest CP 9 agent in history in front of Luffy, for him to snap out of his Heroic BSOD, stand back up, and blow Rob Lucci to Kingdom Come with his Strongest Move Yet. Actually now that I think about it, it`s probably happened more than once.
Played very straight at the climax of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Sephiroth leads Cloud around in a fantastically overpoweredfight sequence for several minutes without even running out of breath, and finally beats him down and impales him through the shoulder with his BFS. "Tell me what you cherish most... Give me the pleasure of taking it away." Cloud has a flashback of miscellaneous things he cherishes, pulls the sword out and sticks it to the wall next to him, and gets back to his feet. "I pity you... you just don't get it at all. There's not a thing I don't cherish!" Cue Omnislash, the only thing that can beat Sephiroth.
Elaborated further in the extended version. Sephiroth impales Cloud through the chest in mid-air, grows a wing, throws him high into the air, flies after him and pokes holes in him and finally throws him to the ground, bleeding and barely able to get back on his feet. Sephiroth remains aloft and speaks the above line while making a godlike dramatic pose in the air before swooping down for the kill. Cloud has the flashback, but it ends up with his zoning out to get a prep speech from his dead friend Zack. When he comes back, Sephiroth is still just about to descend onto him. Cue even bigger Omnislash.
To clarify, Complete has Cloud use Omnislash only for Sephiroth to block the attack and turn it against him, so he has to come up with a completely new "Version 6" to beat him. The 6 just signifies that it was the 6th version designed for potential use in the movie, but it's still impressive.
The final chapter of the Zelda manga Oracle of Seasons. After seeing his friend Pyoko, a cuccoo chick who has been his constant companion since the VERY FIRST PAGE, killed by the big bad, Link goes into a berserk rage, complete with a visible aura of blazing flames of wrath.
Inazuma Eleven anime uses this a lot, especially the second season where they're fighting aliens. Basically, the heroes are overwhelmed by everything the bad guys have. But with a bit of Power of Friendship, they suddenly gain new techniques, dribble across a field full of overpowered oppornents within a minute, and score a tieing or winning goal.
Touma from To Aru Majutsu no Index, being the Determinator that he is, does this a few times, namely in his first fight against Accelerator, where he was already electrocuted before the fight, then tossed around in collateral damage attacks and explosions. he then gets back up and delivers a solid punch to Accelerators face, one-liner and all
Kim Kapwhan in Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture gets his rear handed to him until he hears the voice of his son cheering him on, upon which he curb stomps his opponent, taekwondo style.
How Haru wins every battle in Rave Master. Lampshaded by Griff when Lucia seems to get an extra long oppurtunity to beat on Haru before said second wind arives.
This comes up during Bakunetsumaru's duel with Ashuramaru in SD Gundam Force. Baku takes Ashuramaru's ultimate attack head-on, and is knocked down after being covered in hundreds of cuts. Rather than finish him off Ashuramaru demands Bakunetsumaru stand up, as Baku's physical wounds can't compare with the wounded pride Ashuramaru had. Zapper Zaku doesn't understand why Ashurmaru isn't taking the chance he has, and is suitably upset when Bakunetsumaru does get up.
Zapper: There, you satisfied? You waited long enough and he's got a second wind, ya jerk.
A staple of every major fight in Fairy Tail is for Natsu to either get a special magic power boost or invoke friendship power after being trashed by the villain he's been working up to all arc. This is subverted in the tournament arc where he and Gajeel wipe the flood with Sting and Rogue, too former fans of theirs who have dreamed of surpassing them all their lives. The chapter ends with Sting and Rogue unsteadily getting back up, Sting declaring he needs to win for the sake of one of his companions, and both of them revealing they can enter Fairy Tail's equivalent of Super Saiyan mode.
Most of Ippo's matches involve him using this. He usually faces a strong opponent who seems to be winning the match until Ippo KO's him.
In Pretty Cure All Stars DX 2, the collective Cures are in a tight spot: the Big Bad Bottom's swallowed the Rainbow Jewel and has become pretty much all-powerful. The hopelessness of the situation is shown off as the colors on the Cures' costumes fade out. However, despite the bleariness, Cure Blossom just flat out refuses to surrender, mostly because she realizes that it was time for her to pay back for all the help the other girls had done getting her and Marine to where they were. It's their refusal to stand down that grants the other girls their second wind.
Depending on the author, Spider-Man's greatest power is not wall-crawling, web-slinging, or even fighting like a cow. It's taking a Class A butt-kicking for 10 pages (complete with torn and shattered mask) before coming back to defeat the villain. The movies followed this pretty accurately.
With perhaps the most famous example being in issue 33 of the original Lee/Ditko run, where Spider-Man lifts a massive piece of steel he'd been trapped under, in a room filling up with water, when he reminds himself about the final ingredient of the medicine Aunt May needs before it's too late.
Parody example: An official ability of The Tick is Drama Power. This means that his strength actually increases the longer he is attacked, because a comeback victory is more dramatic. Clearly seen in The Tick vs. The Tick.
Played so straight it became the ultimate example in Marvel Two in One Annual #7. A Cosmically-powered warrior called simply "The Champion" beams the strongest heroes of earth up to his ship to Box with him. The fate of the Earth is at stake naturally. The Thing is the last hero into the ring (the others being mopped-up in short order by a bored champion or not really understanding Boxing, and thus being "disqualified" and punted back to wherever they were yanked from — there's an absolutely classic moment where Thor pops up, thoroughly confused, wearing boxing gloves and trunks... and his winged helmet and cape. Of course, since Norse gods don't box much, he proceeds to wing Mjolnir at the Champion and get kicked out). The Thing gives a good account of himself before being savagely beaten down. He gets back up and attacks again, managing to injure the Champion before being beaten to an utter pulp. He gets up and manages to land a few more blows before being beaten through the floor. As the Champion goes into his spiel about the fate of the Earth, the Thing drags himself up and grabs him by the ankles (weakly). At which point the Champion declares "I could break your body, but I could never destroy your spirit" and leaves for other planets and other challenges. The story is based on a story in which Daredevil takes on the Hulk, which is itself based on a much earlier story involving Daredevil against the Sub-mariner.
Used in an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, with their Avengers expies (and Monkey taking Thing's role). The Champion expy Rasslor was voiced by Randy Savage (if those two clues weren't enough, the contest in question was wrestling rather than boxing).
The X-Men are defeated. The Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club stands victorious. Wait! A single hand raises out of the sewers water, soon followed by a very pissed Wolverine: "OK, suckers. You've taken yer best shot. Now It's My Turn!"
John Hartigan did this twice in his story from Sin City. His second wind was usually brought on by his old age and heart failure, rather than actual attacks. At one point, after being shot, he tells the attacker "Just getting my second wind".
This happens with Hulk a lot, due to the fact that both his strength and his rate of recovery speed up the more hes angered. When hes down and seemingly out for the count he'll usually get mad enough to get his second wind. In the 2008 movie he has a few just from seeing Betty Ross in danger (or apparent danger).
The Punisher does this a lot. The most common reason for getting back up is having a flashback to the death of his family, especially when children are involved.
During their final duel, Twilight, despite having absorbed Harmony's power and become an alicorn, starts losing to Titan, who verbally dismantles all her reasons for fighting while physically overpowering her. However, before he can kill her, she realizes his one vital flaw — that for all his talk of a natural order, he has no place in it — which she forces him to recognize, which breaks him completely, allowing her to gain the upper hand, strip his powers, and finally kill him.
In chapter 17 of Ace Combat The Equestrian War, Fluttershy fights against Night Raven and puts up a fair fight, before the griffon calls for Axe to immobilize Fluttershy. After a brutal beatdown, Night Raven reveals to Fluttershy that he killed her friend, Blueberry earlier and how much he loves fighting. Before he gets a chance to finish Fluttershy off, she is able to free herself and flies into Unstoppable Rage, ultimately defeating Night Raven.
The Lion King: Scar has main protagonist Simba trapped on a ledge, and is about to drop him into the flaming gorge when Scar whispers what he intends to be the Just Between You and Me secret: "I killed Musafa." Those three words, which trigger the memory of watching Scar drop a tired Musafa into the stampede, give Simba more than enough Second Wind to lunge at his evil uncle and eventually defeat him.
Westley pulls a minor version of the same trick in the scene more famous for To the Pain. As Humperdinck loudly proclaims he's won because Westley can't even stand up, Wesley does just that. This, plus a "Drop. Your. Sword." command, is all it takes to win the final battle. It's made even better by the fact that, the instant Humperdinck was safely tied up, Westley promptly collapsed, having been bluffing the entire time.
The climactic battle between Neo and Agent Smith at the end of The Matrix, in which Neo rises to conquer despite having had an entire magazine of ammo emptied into his chest. To a lesser extent, "My name is Neo!" in the subway is another example.
And once more in The Matrix Revolutions — after Smith delivers a truly exemplary Nietzsche Wannabe speech, he asks the beaten Neo why the hell he even bothers to keep fighting. Neo stands and says, "Because I choose to." Cue asskicking, trope subversion as Smith rejuvenates and beats Neo to a pulp again, double subversion as Neo gets up again, triple subversion as Smith manages to infect Neo, and finally quadruple subversion as Neo uses his defeat to provide a link between Smith and the computer that created him, allowing it to simply delete him.
Subverted (sort of) in Wild Hogs. Ray Liotta and his bikers beat the heroes to a pulp, do it again when they get up and are shocked when the Hogs try and get up for a third time. In the end they are shamed off.
Although Spider-Man is famous for doing this in general (see above), the climax of his first movie provides a particularly good example of this.
The Chinese film The Warlords has a particularly powerful example (albiet, slightly subverted). Wu Yang, is attempting to take revenge his adopted brother Qing Yun for killing his other brother Er Hu. Even while Qing Yun beats his ass down with repeated blows and breaking his arm and leg, Wu Yang continues the fight, declaring that "The brother who kills the other brother must be killed by me!". However, at the most dramatic moment, when Wu Yang makes his final attack, Qing Yun is shot in the back by an assassin hired by his corrupt superiors. This allows Wu Yang to get past Qing Yun's defenses and make the final killing blow.
Though he never actually goes down, Sin City sees Hartigan dispose of an entire unit of elite guards but take some serious damage himself in the bargain, to the extent that when he appears at the barn the Yellow Bastard is holed up in, he can barely stand or lift his gun. The Yellow Bastard gleefully points this out, and gets shot for it, although that's the least Hartigan does to him.
Obi-Wan gets one of these moments before Luke (or is it after?) in his fight against Darth Maul, coupled with Heroic Resolve, after his Unstoppable Rage doesn't work too well.
In The Fall: although the final fight is a genuinely beautiful and tear-jerking moment, Odious is knocked out with a single blow as soon as the Masked Bandit finds the strength to fight back. And subsequently randomly falls onto a spike, because these kind of occasions call for blood. And proceeds to drown, messily, because... well, why not?
Justified in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. After the T-800 is incapacitated by a metal bar through its power source, he uses a secondary power source to gain a second wind. However, he is noticeably still weak, and only uses his energy to reach the T-1000 to blast it.
The first and last Rocky films had this as the central theme in the big fight. It's also very much used in the way Rocky beat Clubber Lang in Rocky III.
Subverted in Fellowship of the Ring. Boromir takes an arrow, goes down... gets back up and keeps fighting. Four times before he can no longer get up again, taking out at least two orcs each time..
Played and subverted in the ending of Hot Fuzz, when Skinner, fist-fighting Nicholas, pulls the lead out on his strength and takes the advantage with "Get... out... of my... village!" only to have Nicholas counter with one of his own: "It's not your village anymore!"
In Kill Bill Vol. 1 the Bride manages to kill wave after wave of goons, only to be bested in her final duel with O-Ren Ishii. The hero seemingly fallen, O-Ren makes a few victory quips... but not so fast! The triumphant music swells, the Bride rises to her feet and defeats O-Ren.
At the end of The Karate Kid Part II when the battered Daniel finally realizes the answer to the riddle of that little "secret of karate" knick-knack, rises slowly into a new stance with cold determination now in his eyes, and removes any doubt as to Chozen having any remote semblance of a chance from that point on. A similar moment happens at the end of Part III, in a weird way.
In Ip Man 2, Ip has been knocked down by the Twister once more and is barely holding on when he remembers Master Hung's words, which gives him the determination to get back up and win.
Malcolm Reynolds battling the Operative in Serenity. The Operative thoroughly whoops Mal, and would've taken him out entirely if not for that conveniently moved nerve cluster. The Operative begins, but doesn't get to finish, his speech, which Mal actually calls him on: "Expect you'd want to say your famous last words right now. Just one trouble. I ain't gonna kill you."
The climactic duel in Rob Roy ends with one of these. Worth noting that an opponent grabbing your sword really is a major risk in rapier fighting.
In the final showdown scene of The Last Dragon Leroy realizes that he is the master and lets Shonuff know this fact the proceeds to kick his asymptote. It happens again when Eddie Arcadian shoots Leroy, who appears to be dead but in reality had caught the bullet with his teeth.
This goes back and forth in Street Fighter The Movie. First Guile kicks Bison around in hand-to-hand with only moderate resistance from Bison, then Bison powers up and starts shooting lightning and flying around, knocking Guile around like a rag doll, and finally Guile rallies and jump kicks Bison into a TV.
Noticeably averted in Equilibrium and Ultraviolet, where the hero kills the Big Bad without breaking a sweat, and the only concession to show that the Big Bad is a credible threat is that he doesn't die instantly, unlike everyone else that came before. In the commentary for Equilibrium the director even mentions this trope, and states he thinks it's stupid and unnecessary for the hero to job to the Big Bad in round 1 because the audience already knows the hero is going to win anyway.
In Nacho Libre, during Nacho's fight with Ramses, the latter has Nacho pinned down with a foot on his neck, and everything slows down to show Nacho seeing Sister Encarnacion enter the stands, followed by Chancho and another orphan, both of whom are wearing luchador masks. Reminded of just why he's in the ring, he pushes Ramses off him and proceeds to kick some ass.
In Bloodsport's climactic battle, Frank Dux has the upper hand, so the deceitful Chong Li throws poweder in his eyes and blinds him. Though initially incapacitated and completely unable to hit Chong Li, a flashback involving his friends and old master reminds him why he is fighting, and after calming his mind, he recalls his blind fighting training. He then receives a Theme Music Power-Up and defeats Chong Li soundly.
In Aliens, Ripley desperately searches the xenomorph lair for Newt, using the tracker she gave her. But her homing device only points to the slime-covered tracker itself, and Ripley breaks down and cries over her apparent failure. However, she soon hears Newt screaming nearby, and immediately hurries over to gun down a facehugger before it gets out of its egg to latch onto her.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is this trope stretched out across an entire movie, where Kirk and the Enterprise have to overcome a mid-life crisis and a total drubbing by Khan and the Reliant in order to stop him from using the Genesis Device to cause unknowable amounts of damage.
Done for decidedly unheroic reasons in Man Of Tai Chi. After being soundly thrashed by a pair of fighters, hero Shen gets an Armor-Piercing Question from Big Bad Donaka who asks if Shen's only losing because he's afraid of what he can do. Shen then manages to get up and soundly beat the pair that beat him so easily.
Sunshine: Physicist Capa is wounded and terrified, but has no choice but to suit up (a process which usually cannot be completed without assistance), make his way to the physics package of his ship, and set it off. Worse, he knows the madman who wounded him is probably already there and must be defeated first. An example of #4 above, since failure to do so will eventually result in the extinction of the human race.
Engineer Mace is faced with a similar problem when he tries to get the ship's overheated computer back into its cryogenic coolant bath. He is forced to resort to actually jumping into the coolant to attempt the repair, which he knows will almost certainly kill him regardless of success or failure. It's Mace's admission of failure which brings home to Capa just what's required of him.
When in The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King, Eddie Dean realizes with gradually mounting grim satisfaction what he has to do to beat Blaine in the riddle contest and destroy it, saving all their lives, and the despondent others, having lost their hope, look over at him (he has been apparently nigh catatonic and useless for hours) and see that he's trying as hard as he can not to burst into laughter as he says, "Blaine?...* I* have couple of riddles..." What follows is both the Crowning Moment Of Awesome and the Crowning Moment of Funny of the whole seven-book series.
Subverted rather cruelly by the ending of the original book, The Princess Bride: all of the instances listed above still happen, sure, but moments after that "perfect kiss", Westley relapses into a "mostly dead" coma, Íńigo passes out from blood loss, and Fezzik spots a platoon of Humperdinck's men pursuing them from the castle. Everybody scatters, and their actual fate is left up in the air. The movie didn't change the ending, really, the Grandfather just didn't read that far. I mean, the Kid was already sick, and pretty involved in the story; it only would've made him feel worse, y'know?
It's fixed, though.
Happens repeatedly in The Dresden Files. This could be due to Harry being ridiculously stubborn, and very powerful. Though they tend to be more drawing on hidden reserves than anything else.
Occurs during the climax of the Warrior Cats first series of books, when Firestar fought Scourge. Scourge actually kills him once, and assumes he's gone forever, but since Firestar has nine lives, he comes back later. Firestar's triumphant return is somewhat of a shock to Scourge, and he comes back apparantly fighting with the power of StarClan. However, Firestar's I Surrender, Suckers is the actual deciding factor in the battle.
Done constantly in Harry Potter. Seriously, pick any book. It almost always happens in the fights.
Sort of subverted in Half-Blood Prince, where Harry, facing Snape, gets up once, twice, but the third time he's too late for stopping their escape.
In Return of the King, Frodo is literally half-dead and dragging his body up Mount Doom when he almost hears someone calling "Now, now, or it will be too late!". He drags himself to his feet and walks up the rest of the way.
Live Action TV
Firefly: In the episode "Out of Gas," Mal Reynolds announces his second wind with a classic dramatic gun cock as he gets the drop on the ship thieves who've just gut-shot him.
The climactic battle in the episode "Becoming, Part 2". Angelus has Buffy cornered and disarmed and takes his moment to gloat (Spike even comments that Angelus is going to kill her), at which point Buffy kicks his ass.
Angelus: Now that's everything, huh? No weapons... No friends... No hope. Take all that away... and what's left? (thrusts) Buffy:(catches his sword) Me.
Buffy has another one in the series finale. She's stabbed by a random ubervamp, but after some taunting from the Big Bad, dramatically rises to her feet and carries on kicking ass.
First Evil (in the form of Buffy): That was a nice trick. You came pretty close to smacking me down. What more do you want?
Worf made a fine showing of this trope on an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Detained in a Dominion prison camp, the Klingon was forced to fight a near continual series of one-on-one fights with progressively more skilled Jem'hadar. Finally, he reaches the lead Jem'hadar, who beats the unholy hell out of him. However, Worf refuses to admit defeat, and rises to go another round. In a subversion, it's clear that the Jem'hadar could easily finish and kill him at this point, but instead...
Ikat'ika: I yield. I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him. And that no longer holds my interest.
The Jem'hadar's superiors disintegrate him on the spot for his noble sentiment.
The Doctor gets in one of these every so often on Doctor Who:
The Doctor: I'm going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I'm going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I'm going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky! Dalek: But you have no weapons! No defenses! No plan! The Doctor: Yeah. And doesn't that scare you to death?
And a couple seasons (and a regeneration) later, we get an example that isn't delivered to a villain, but it's the same principle, the speech o' determination given by the hero when things look bad:
Passenger: Who are you? Doctor: I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm nine hundred and three years old. And I'm the man who's going to save your lives, and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?
The Brigadier almost gets one of these in Seventh Doctor story Battlefield. Faced with The Destroyer of Worlds he knocks out the Doctor, grabs a gun with silver bullets and walks into a situation in which he is totally outmatched.
Destroyer of Worlds: Pitiful. Can this world do no better than YOU for its champion? Brigadier: Probably. I just do the best I can. Gunshot.
In the Season 2 finale of Supernatural, Dean Winchester engages in a fight with Azazel, the Yellow Eyed Demon while the gates to Hell are open and spirits and demons are escaping. Azazel telekinetically tosses Dean into the air and he hits his head on a headstone (and his bloody forehead indicates that he has sustained a concussion at the very least). His dad's spirit breaks out of Hell, wrestles with Azazel, and then Dean aims the Colt (the magical Kill Anything Gun) at the Yellow-Eyed-Demon and shoots. It hits YED in the chest and he dies. When the rest of the battle is over, Dean walks over to the corpse of the Azazel's host.
Dean: That was for our mom, you son of a bitch.
Then at the end of the Season 4 premiere, "Lazarus Rising":
Hulk Hogan, who would always call upon the power of all the Hulkamaniacs watching when it looked like he was going to lose a match. You could tell when he was drawing on their power because he would start shaking and the opponent's strikes wouldn't hurt him anymore. Because Hulking Up almost always lead straight into Hulk Hogan's Five Moves of Doom, he might as well have been invincible. Others who used a similar gimmick include...
The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan after he Hulked Up by Hulking Up himself and drawing on the power of all his fans in the audience. The Ultimate Warrior's cue would be slowly using the ropes to stand back up while ignoring any offense the opponent threw at him then violently shaking the ropes before cutting into his five moves of doom.
Sebastion Rose on the American Indy scene emulates the Ultimate Warrior's sequences.
Dragon Gate's BXB Hulk has his own Hulking sequences, naturally but his usually wears off long before the match is over.
Alundra Blayze/Madusa would seemingly be exhausted and crushed, the opponent would lackadaisically do a lateral press only for Madusa to impressively peel back to her feet and roar into a flurry of offense. It was understandable the first time but wrestlers really should have hooked her leg after seeing it twice.
Most times The Undertaker simply no sells or sells the bare minimum because he's a zombie and mortal attacks shouldn't be hurting very much. When he was with Paul Bearer though, Undertaker wouldn't really start no selling until Paul demanded him to with his urn. At one point, Undertaker substituted the urn for the energy of the audience, blatantly copying Hulk Hogan.
Eugene was mostly a good sport and timid by professional wrestling standards but sometimes he would go into an unstoppable rage and seemingly become immune to pain. This was most commonly triggered by bashing his head into a turnbuckle, which he seemed to hate and would signal it by repeatedly bashing himself in the head while staring angrily at the offender.
The Eugene example is based on the Missing Link. Someone would drive the Link's head into a turnbuckle, Link would No Sell and just to prove how hard his head is he'd grab the back of his own hair and ram himself into the turnbuckle a few times. (Eugene was a Wrestling Savant who took random portions of gimmicks from older wrestlers - a kind of one-man Call Back.)
Parodied by Santino Marella, who has a shoulder raising, heavy breathing, super powered comeback born of rage...that almost always wears off before he can hit the cobra.
Also parodied on Sunday Night Heat by Charlie Haas, who would turn invincible after he put on a mask but the mask couldn't cure his fear of heights so he still lost after he climbed to the top rope.
Magnum TA occasionally had an unstoppable rage variant, best seen in his United States Championship defense against Kamala, after he got sick of the Ugandan hitting him in the head the strikes stopped staggering him, even as he bled.
Kamala himself had a variant, he wasn't as big as many other giants or as monstrous as other monsters but try to hurt his friends and he would become one of the most dangerous men on the roster, as a face anyway.
Father Time, the oldest rookie in the history of professional wrestling, has a Hogan like comeback but it isn't explicitly drawing from the audience.
A strange example is Curryman, who usually started off his comebacks by force feeding his opponents curry.
Tatanka would sometimes do a second wind routine by starting to do a Native war dance in the ring, (mostly) ignoring his opponent's offense. The word is mostly; at least once Bam Bam Bigelow was able to stop the 'wind dance' cold by enzigiri-kicking Tatanka in the back of the head.
John Cena, after he became a Face would usually get kicked around the ring in a manner reminiscent of child abuse for the majority of the match, then start to No Sell and hit his opponent with his finisher and win the match. Unlike the those listed above, there is no kayfabe explanation or audience cue to show when it will happen.
The "Heroic Comeback" Signature Move from the Hong Kong Action Theatre! supplement To Live and Die in HK is made for those characters who make miraculous comebacks to turn the tables on the bad guy and come out on top just when it looks like they're down for the count. In order to use it, the character must have been either beaten to shit in an earlier scene by the guy he's using it on, or been reduced to half his Form and Focus by damage. When the character uses this signature (often during the movie's climax), he gains a complete replenishment of his Chi pool or a + 5 bonus to hit the guy who kicked his ass for the rest of the movie.
The "Second Wind" action in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition uses a healing surge to give yourself 1/4 of your HP back and a temporary boost in defenses once per encounter.
Also in 4th Edition D&D is the Epic Trickster class, with Epic Trick. Any class can take this as their final class change, assuming they have appropriate Dexterity and Charisma. Using Epic Trick completely restores HP, or restores all daily powers (except Epic Trick), or all magic item uses, or all action points. Whichever you pick, you get a huge power boost. Give it to a Wizard, and the phrase "Nothing up my sleeve" because infinitely more terrifying/badass.
In fact, most Epic Destinies grant you this trope. They usually activate once you are reduced to 0 or less HP. The effect? Instead of helplessly bleeding to death on the floor, you stand up and fight. With healing and usually some bonuses to attack or defense.
And parodied via exaggeration with the availability of a "Third Wind" feat.
The Star Wars RPG has Second Winds as well. Once per day, you get a certain amount of HP back based on your Constitution. You have to be a heroic class, though (or have Extra Second Wind - heroics get an extra use, nonheroics just get to use it).
Exalted, of course, has this in Final Ray of Light, a high level Integrity charm for Solars. If you know this charm, and you get wounded to the point of incapacitating injury/death while defending or championing those weaker than yourself, then those who need him, whether they want to or not, give rise to him rising again after a few minutes, restored to half health, essence, and willpower, and ready to fight again. You can't do it often, and it costs a permanent essence dot, but nothing can stop them from standing back up.
Games that reward players for accepting setbacks with plot points/tokens/whatever which can then in turn be cashed in for (usually temporary) action bonuses or other benefits when needed lend themselves to this trope — the player character(s) may well endure a beatdown, but in the process harvest enough points to then turn the tables and stage a dramatic comeback. Examples include anything FATE-powered like Spirit Of The Century or The Dresden Files, but also Mutants & Masterminds and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying also features an explicit "Second Wind" special effect that a character may have as part of a power set. This basically allows the character to simply clear out all stress of some type (usually physical) that he or she may have suffered so far and boost a power from that set for the next action to boot...with the price being that the stress die, rather than just disappearing in a puff of heroic grit and determination, goes straight to the doom pool, i.e. the Watcher's special "trouble" dice pool from which it can be used back against the player(s) in some fashion. (Example characters from the basic rulebook who have this exact trick in their repertoire include Captain America and Spider-Man.)
Hamlet, Act V, Scene II: "Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane!" spoken while a) stabbed (twice!), b) dying of poison, c) emotionally distraught at the deaths of ... well, everyone.
In a flashback of Final Fantasy VII, this happens THREE FREAKING TIMES between both the hero and villain within a single BFS-happy cutscene. First, Sephiroth fatally wounds Zack and confidently returns to Jenova, only to be impaled width-wise by Cloud's BFS. Then Sephiroth, who clearly should be dead, stumbles back into the room and impales Cloud through the chest with his own BFS. This leads to the third moment, where Cloud uses the power of leverage on the katana impaled through his chest to toss Sephiroth into the reactor.
The first Kingdom Hearts game shows this by giving your allies an ability called Second Wind, which revives your allies sooner than usual.
A straight example would be the ability Cheer, which boosts your strength when your HP is low
The protagonists in the Nasuverse tend to have trump-card-like abilities, which when combined with the fact that they tend to fight superhuman enemies, makes for many, many moments of this.
Tohno Shiki, the protagonist of Tsukihime, has something like a split personality; whenever he is on the verge of death, his SuperpoweredBlood Knight side ("Nanaya") takes over. And he really likes killing.
The best example of this would probably be where he is being eaten alive by Nero Chaos before killing around one hundred animals while lying down, then killing a unicorn, a dragon and three giant crab monsters effortlessly. And then Nero himself.
Fate/stay night's protagonist, Emiya Shirou, seems to have it in his contract that he has to have at least one My Name Is Inigo Montoya moment before things will start to go his way; often, he will have several, enticing the reader with learning new and exciting ways for his body and mind to strain itself to new limits before he's allowed to win or get saved by a Deus ex Machina.
In the climax of Ōkami, after the Hope Spot against Yami and the Combined Energy Attack that restores Amaterasu to her full, ultimate divine glory, casting "Sunrise" (Ammy's own Celestial Brush skill, but rarely used in the game) destroys Yami's so-called "eternal darkness" and makes it vulnerable to attack. But by that point, powered by the faith of all the people of Nippon, Ammy is so incredibly and awesomely ass-kicking Bad Ass that Yami isn't so much beaten as thoroughly trounced. Even the soundtrack agrees, as the ominous Final Boss music makes way for Ammy'stheme.
Subversion and played straight: In Super Robot Wars, one way to build up Will, which increases stats, activates tide-turning special abilities and unlocks new attacks, is to take damage and watch your allies get blown up. This also happens quite often in plot sequences, but usually when the good guy gets up and attacks the villain again, the villain uses their rage and adrenaline against them, allowing them to finish the job or escape without harm.
This is a game mechanic in the Freedom Force series. Particularly heroic characters get to do it more often. In the sequel they also shout catchphrases, like "The spirit of freedom fills me!"
Can be pulled off in the Wii Punch-Out!! title: When you're being KOed for the third time, quickly mash the 1 and 2 buttons or shake the Wiimote and Nunchuk like mad; if you're lucky, Little Mac will stop himself from passing out and immediately rejoin the fight with 1/4 of his health
This is also a mechanic in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. When Travis' health is depleted, there's a small window to shake the Wiimote and nunchuck enough to come back with a small amount of health. The number of times you can do this per level/boss fight before going down for good depends on the difficulty level.
Fei-Yen in Virtual-ON has a hyper mode that activates when she is reduced to half her health.
Several Pokémon, including all the main starters except Pikachu, have abilities that power up either a type of attack or one of their stats when their hit points get down to a certain point. There are also some moves, such as Flail, that have their strength increase in inverse proportion to the user's hit points. The anime Played for Drama the fact that Chimchar uses Blaze in this manner, by having Paul purposely get Chimchar beat up just so its Blaze will activate.
It's literally an ability used by the Onna Bugeisha in Shogun 2: Total War. Fittingly, they can only be fielded on the defending side of a siege.
Bowser: Listen up! You're saying the kingdom will vanish? NOT TODAY! THE MUSHROOM KINGDOM IS MINE!!! SO YOU VANISH!!!
Some of the most amazing moments in World of Warcraft occur when the boss is at 3% health, 8/10 of your party members are dead, and, with a single well-placed cooldown ability, the last man standing manages to score the killing blow on a massive dragon while all his dead friends watch. Usually results in a pithy one-liner on the part of whoever stayed alive.
Do not forget the talent "Second wind" in the Arms tree of the warrior class: each time the warrior is stunned or paralized, he will recover a portion of his health and rage (the fuel for his abilities). More than one desperate battle against another player turned in favor of the warrior thanks to this.
Said talent has been boosted even further in the latest expansion. Now it gives Rage upon being stunned or immobilized, but no longer grants health. However, whenever you fall below 35% HP, you will recover 3% HP per second. When combined with Protection specialization, gear, shields, and abilities (and getting hit literally makes you more powerful if it doesn't kill you due to Vengeance, so you hit back harder and you absorb more damage), this reaches truly absurd levels when doing content from previous expansions where bosses aren't designed to 1shot you below 35% HP (or, even more relevant, to do enough sustained damage to overpower the healing received and ultimately kill you - tank health pools roughly triple compared to the same point in progression in comparison to the preceeding expansion).
In Borderlands if you hit 0 HP you have can keep fighting for a short period of time as your vision fades to black. If you manage a kill while in this mode the game actually says "SECOND WIND" in big letters as you get back up. This leads to situations where it can actually be convenient to leave a few wimps alive in a boss fight to use as reanimation fuel. While it doesn't fully heal you, it does fully recharge your shields, at least.
Some skills for some of the characters rely on the second wind mechanic to work, such as all weapons doing more damage when you get second wind.
The second wind mechanic can't be abused, however. If you go down immediately after getting a second wind, you bleed out a lot faster than you did before. If this process is repeated too much, the speed of bleeding out will be extremely too fast for your character to be saved and you'll be forced to respawn.
Guild Wars 2's downed mechanic functions much like the borderlands example, giving you a few basic skill you can still use after being reduced to 0 health, with a new but rapidly draining health bar. Killing an enemy (or due to the tag-mechanics, any enemy you damaged dying) lets you get back up with about half health, as does using the healing skill which is easily interupted by enemy attacks. Getting downed multiple times in rapid succession means the downed-health bar starts out progressively more empty. When the downed health bar runs out, you're out.
In Hitman: Contracts when your health is gone, the game goes into slow motion black and white. If you can score four headshots before 47 keels over, you get a minimal amount of health back. If not, it's game over.
Used in the ending of Modern Warfare 2. Soap, bleeding out with a knife in his chest, finds the strength to pull the knife out of himself, and throw it into General Shepard's face.
This is the entire idea of Ace Attorney. In almost every case, Phoenix is up against impossible odds from the beginning and may simply be unable to pull out contradictions in witness testimony. Typically, this is when somebody interrupts the trial to make a trial changing statement, or for Mia to be channeled by Maya or Pearl and encourage Phoenix to think about the evidence in a new way. There's a reason the series is called "Turnabout Trial" in Japan.
In Theking Of Fighters 94, Kyo and his friends would've not likely won against Rugal if he had not been impossibly pissed off after finding out tha Rugal had not just defeated his father, but almost beat him to death. Similarly, seeing that Rugal had brainwashed said father into becoming The Dragon to him in 95 played a similar effect on the Hero Team.
In Max Payne 3, when you reach zero health, the game goes into slow-motion and if you're able to kill someone you get half your health back.
Total War Shogun 2 has Second Wind as an ability for elite troops. It allows all the nearby units to recover their stamina. In some battles this ability can save a player's army from annihilation.
Used in a particularly psychological variant at the end of A Miracle of Science, when the hero, with a decidedly unpleasant hole through his liver, faces down the Mad Scientist. All he actually manages to do is stand on his own, but that's also all he NEEDS to do...
Used straight in the fan webcomic The Last Days of Foxhound where Liquid is impaled through his chest with a katana. As he bleeds to death, he is taunted in his mind by the voices of his team mates, the ninja that impaled him, and his dead father about how much he sucks. He then proceeds to stop the bullet-evading ninja singlehandedly.
Of course, Liquid's ability as a FOXHOUND member is that of the Determinator. Much like in the game, he just simply refuses to die.
Happens here in the Endgames world of Megatokyo; true to the trope, Largo is severely wounded and "T3h 3vil" gloats before the final blow, but Largo manages one last strike that takes him down. But soon after, it becomes a subversion; Piroko heals both of them, and the bad guy kills Largo before he can get up.
Linkara did it in his fight with Countdown to Final Crisis turned alive. He even made one of the most stupid sentences in a history of comics sound badass while doing it.
The "Justice Friends" short "Dial M for Monkey" from Dexter's Laboratory did a complete remake of Marvel Two in One Annual #7 (see above). With "The Champion" renamed "Rasslor" (and voiced by pro wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Oooooh, Yeeeeah!), The Justice Friends filling in for the rest of Marvel's line-up, and Monkey filling the shoes of Mama Grimm's blue-eyed boy. Played completely straight (Rasslor's final speech — "I could break your body, but I could never destroy your spirit" — is lifted verbatim from the comic, as the original writer gets a writing credit), which just makes it funnier.
Bugs Bunny: "Of course you realize this means war."
Always presaging that long, drawn out note that lets you know the hero's theme music is about to start. If it then segues from that into The Stars and Stripes Forever (or Columbia, Gem of the Ocean, or Yankee Doodle), somebody's going to get a better than average beat-down.
Also the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie, when Optimus Prime is lying as a crumpled wreck at Megatron's feet, and Megatron gloats "It's over, Prime." (Prime's response? "NEVER!", co-delivered with a two-handed haymaker. He was still badly injured afterward, though.)
In Transformers Cybertron Optimus Prime's final showdown with Galvatron. At first Galvatron gets the upper hand, then Optimus gets back up and finishes Galvatron off with Vector Prime's sword.