How the Mighty Have Fallen

This is the guy who used to be able to turn solid stone into lava just by thinking hard at it. The 60's most powerful superhuman! And all he's fit for now is soaking up whiskey like blotting paper and burning the toast!

This person once had it all. They were wealthy and powerful, sycophants hung on their every word, and it seemed like the world was their oyster. Then they fell, hard. Now their empire has crumbled, their money is gone, and they are scorned by the people who once admired them; there's nothing left for them to do but long for the Glory Days.

Other characters may shake their heads in pity and comment, "How the mighty have fallen".

Someone powerful and prideful who suffers a Humiliation Conga or Break the Haughty can have this fate waiting for them at the end. However, it can just as easily happen offscreen, or to someone who wasn't excessively prideful.

Depending on how sympathetic the character is, this can be played for comedy, tragedy, or karmic justice. It may even prove to be a Happy Ending; he avoids Lonely at the Top for true friendship and true love.

The Trope Namer comes from the Second Book of Samuel, as the soon-to-be-King David laments the death of King Saul.

The Fallen Princess copes with it; the Princess in Rags pretends it hasn't happened. Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! is when it happens to a civilization, or Vestigial Empire when it happens to a nation state.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Viral at beginning of season 2, Simon (by choice) at the end.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Yoki. He goes from leader of a prosperous mining town to Scar's sniveling lackey.
    • In the anime he his reduced to scavenging in a junkyard to survive.
  • Slayers: NEXT has Martina, a princess whose kingdom is blown up by Lina, and who takes to following the heroine around seeking revenge.
  • Death Note's ending leaves Light broken both physically and mentally, with all his sycophants either dead or not having a clue who he is. The anime scene with him running sobbing from the warehouse to be killed by a heart attack a few minutes later is the nice version of his death, and within a few years, the world's gone back to normal. In the original manga, he's killed while writhing in agony and whining that he doesn't want to die.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, the fourth season manga of the Nanoha franchise gives this treatement to Signum in spades. Fortunately, after recovery, she's working her ass off to subvert this.
  • The life of Fallen Prince Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass. Even his Zero persona goes through this.
  • In Black Butler, Sebastian says this of Ash/Angela in the first Season Finale. In this case, he's referring to three things exactly: first, the Irony that someone who adored Purity is now drawing power from human corruption, second that is a literal Fallen Angel, and third, that s/he is about to go DOWN.
  • Your Mileage May Vary, but... several of the countries from Axis Powers Hetalia can be seen as such. The Roman Empire himself, for starters, is said to have had everything, but then vanished one day (although, as a young Italy remarks, he had many scars and was in pain beforehand, probably for a long time). Prussia used to be a great fighter, and now, he isn't a nation anymore. During the Revolution, America remarks how England "used to be so big". Kind-of played with in the case of France, when he isn't invited to one of the Allies' meetings and tries to remember some of his "finest hours", all of them ruthlessly destroyed/parodized (in the cases of Joan of Arc and Napoleon, because of England, and in two cases he just jumped into the fight when the enemy was already weak).
  • This happened to Kotetsu's old boss in Tiger & Bunny. Ben Jackson was the director of TopMag's HERO division before it closed down and he became a mere taxi driver. Unlike most examples of this trope, he was a genuinely caring boss to Kotetsu. Later episodes show that he doesn't mind it though he still looks out after Kotetsu especially when he realizes that Kotetsu is losing his powers. In the epilogue, this is ultimately subverted as he becomes the new president of Apollon Media.
  • One Piece: The death of his crew at the hands of Kaido left Gekko Moriah really screwed up — by the time the protagonists first meet him, he's let himself go and uses others' strength instead of his own to get the job done.His Badass Decay eventually got him kicked out of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, as he was deemed too weak for the position.
    • Earlier on, during Usopp's introduction arc, Kuro, upon seeing his crew struggling against the Straw Hats, almost says this trope word for word expressing his frustration/anger at their "inexcusable" weakness.
  • Fairy Tail: The titular guild itself suffers a tremendous one following the Time Skip. After their master and strongest members go missing, most of the guild's remaining members leave the guild out of frustration or shame, the ones left behind are forced to foreclose their guildhall as it has become too expensive (the replacement building not-withstanding), they are constantly being hit up for money that they borrowed from a neighboring guild filled with jerkasses, and they lose their reputation by losing six consecutive years of the Grand Magic Games in a row. Of course, the lost guildmates finally return after seven years and things begin to improve.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku more or less expresses this when he mocked Frieza's final attack after he deemed him too weak and Not Worth Killing. He states this again after Frieza was cut himself in half by his own attack. Finally, after being force to blast Frieza after he tried to shoot him in the back, Goku has an expression that practically embodies this trope. For someone who was once called the strongest in the universe, it was indeed a mighty fall.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, this has happened to Frieza's entire empire. They went from being the most feared and powerful force in the universe, who controlled 70% of the known universe, to barely qualifying as an army after not only losing Frieza and his father, but all their best fighters on Namek. According to Sorbet, they're on their last legs and are considered a laughing stock.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure: Joseph Joestar, main character of Part 2 (1938), was just as powerful in Part 3 (1989). But in Part 4 (1999), time has finally done its dirty work to him - he's withered, nearly deaf, partly senile, and generally on death's door. Josuke, his illegitimate son, can't bring himself to accept Joseph as his father for several reasons, and one of them is, "How could that seduce my mother?"
  • The Animatrix: As shown in the euphemistically-named short film, The Second Renaissance, humanity entered a new age with the birth of artificial intelligence in the 21st Century, and then showed a profound lack of appreciation for their offspring, treating them as slaves. Despite efforts to show appreciation and cooperation, the AI gathered in the world of Zero One eventually formed an army, soundly defeated humanity and turned the roles about, enslaving humanity with a similar level of prejudice and contempt as biomechanical batteries for the Machine City and the virtual world known as The Matrix. A few humans and Machines regret the error.
  • In The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, the titular Devil is transported from his world (where he is the commander of a massive army of demons and possesses extraordinary magical power) to our mundane world, where he is no more powerful than a regular human and has to take a job at a fast food restaurant to survive. The same winds up being true for the Hero that tried to oppose him, as well as his most powerful subordinates.
    • However, unlike most cases of this trope, he doesn't seem overly distressed about his fall from power. Instead, he sees it as an opportunity to climb the ranks and amass power in this world just like he did in his original world. When the destined Hero also shows up, she has a similar attitude towards her own position in this world.

    Comic Books 
  • In Common Grounds, the once-prominent superhero Blackwatch is now a slovenly homeless man after serving a long prison term for accidentally killing newbie hero Snowflame in one of those superhero fights.
  • In Lucifer, when Perdissa thinks she's killed Lucifer, she indulges in a bit of Evil Gloating by quoting Isaiah 14:12 - "Oh how art thou fallen from grace oh Lucifer, son of the morning."
  • Death of the Family: While the Penguin was distracted by the Joker's return, his Number Two, Ogilvy, took advantage of the situation to steal his boss' position as top crime boss of Gotham, coercing the loyalty of Penguin's lieutenants and buying out all his assets. By the time Penguin realizes what's happened, he's been rendered homeless, powerless, and completely broke.
  • Ratbat's fall from Cybertronian senator to Casetticon minion is chronicled across the IDW Transformers line, but concludes in The Transformers Robotsin Disguise where an attempt to seize control of the defeated Decepticon army and restart the war ends in his murder.
  • Judge Dredd: Chief Judge Silver was once the highest authority of Mega City One. He fell from power hard after the defective Judge Kraken, whom he approved against the wishes of the retiring Judge Dredd to take his place, fell under the control of the Sisters of Death and released the Dark Judges. After the fiends took over, Judge Death decided to make Silver a zombie so that his torment would never end. When Necropolis ended, Silver hid out of fear that he'd be burned as an abomination. When he finally tried to take back power, Dredd ruled in his favor on being entitled to his old post, but then executes him for criminal neglect of duty. Silver is incinerated and ignominiously disposed of by the sweepers.

    Fan Works 
  • Evangelion 303: When the history starts Asuka is the best pilot of all Children and she openly declares that she is the best there is. Several events later her self-confidence and self-esteem were shattered, she (mis)blamed herself for the failure of several missions and her friend's death and she saw herself like a pathetic failure.
  • HERZ:
    • In the backstory Asuka went from considering herself the top pilot and a prodigy child to regard herself as an ugly, scarred, worthless freak and a failure due to be –repeatedly- beaten, humiliated, mind-raped, brutally scarred and nearly killed.
    • In chapter 10 SEELE kidnaps Gendo. While one of their members is torturing him, he mockes him quoting the line verbatim:
      The SEELE member looked in disdain at the quivering piece of humanity before him. "How the mighty have fallen. The Commander of NERV. Once a powerful man before whom nations and peoples trembled. Now reduced to this," he sneered noting that Gendou's right forearm was missing. An old injury. 'Pity,' he thought, 'five less fingers to break.'
  • The One I Love Is: Asuka was the best Eva pilot, a genius and a beautiful girl. She gloated about it because her very fragile self-esteem depended on being the best at all what she did. However throughout the fic she got routinely beaten by her teammates, defeated by the Angels and the guy she loves is uncapable to choose between her and another girl. When she is mind raped, that is the final blow and humilliation and she feels that she is worthless and she has nothing to live for. She even quotes the line verbatim:
    Asuka: "How the mighty have fallen. Look at me... I'm crying... I hate crying... only a weak person cries. I hate Wonder Girl... she showed everyone how pathetic I was. I hate you... you made me cry, now you can see how disgusting I am. I hate everybody... but most of all... I hate myself..."

    Films — Animated 
  • At the end of Cats Don't Dance, child actress Darla Dimple loses her career and becomes a janitor.
    • A similar demotion awaits the Mayor of Frank at the end of Osmosis Jones.
  • Yzma from The Emperors New Groove, who goes from scary sorceress of the palace in the movie to itty bitty kitten in the sequels.
  • Inverted in The Swan Princess with Jean-Bob, a frog who only thinks that he is a prince when in actuality, he is not.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He went from being a leader in the Eugenics Wars and ruler of India, to being stranded on a dead world, leading to his desire for revenge on Kirk.
    "On Earth, two hundred years ago, I was a prince with power over millions..."
  • Truth in Television example from The Last Emperor, in which an aging Puyi returns to the Forbidden City as an ex-convict tourist, to view the throne from which he'd once reigned.
  • Shadow of the Vampire. Schreck reads the book Dracula in order to study for his role 'playing' a vampire, and is saddened by the scene where Dracula leaves a meal for Jonathon Harker. Schreck then remembers when he used to have servants to do such tasks for him, which reminds him of when he had a wife, family, estates etc, whereas now he's just a scavenger living in a ruined castle.
  • The Third Man. Baron Kurtz now works as a blackmarketeer in post-war Vienna.
  • You Can't Take It with You. Russian Grand Duchess Olga Katrina works as a waitress at Child's restaurant. Her uncle the Grand Duke is an elevator operator.
  • Megatron in the Transformers Film Series, by the third film, he's been left grievously wounded by Prime at the end of the previous film, scheming and hiding out in Africa.
  • Once scene in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon shows the burial of one of the older enlisted men of the regiment. He is revealed to be a former Confederate general.
  • Star Wars: The Jedi went from guardians of the Republic to being hunted down by the Empire they unwittingly help create. All because of the schemes of a single Sith Lord.
  • Happens to the entire Dwarven race in The Hobbit. Their kingdom in the mountain, Erebor, was once one of the (if not the) wealthiest, mightiest and most industrious city states in Middle Earth. Then the dragon Smaug came and sacked it single-handedly, leaving the Dwarves as a destitute and scattered people, wandering the wilderness. Their prince, Thorin, is shown ironically labouring away in a human blacksmith just to scrape enough money to get by.
  • In the slowly dying future Earth of Interstellar, the New York Yankees have been reduced to a barnstorming team of college-age players and local stars.

  • Trope Namer is The Bible; the phrase occurs in 2 Samuel 1:19, 1:25, and 1:27.
    • Interestingly, not quite an example despite being TropeNamer. The mighty in question, Saul, has literally fallen in battle, not merely fallen from power.
  • See also Isaiah 14:12 - "How art thou fallen from heaven, star of Morning, son of the Dawn! How art thou cut down to the ground, who laid the nations low!"
  • The same sentiment was also expressed in The Aeneid: "quantum mutatus ab illo / Hectore"
  • Paradise Lost goes for both of them because John Milton loves his erudition: "If thou be'est he but oh how fallen / How changed..."
  • Snow Crash: Chuck Wrightson. Once the president of Kenai and Kodiak, now a homeless drunk.
  • A recurring theme in the Nightside books; John Taylor notes that even gods can end up living on the streets. Herne the Hunter is one of the biggest examples.
  • Ozymandias in Percy Shelley's famous poem (the point being that such a fate is inevitable):
    "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away
  • In Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, the Greek Gods are holed up in a dilapidated house in contemporary London, much diminished in power because no-one believes in them anymore, what with "the upstart carpenter" and all.
  • An incidence of this being the Happy Ending occurs in Juliet E McKenna's Aldabreshin Compass with warlord Kheda having lost two separate kingdoms, but is now free to be with the woman he loves and travel as he wishes instead of tied to his throne.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Thoth-amon used to be a powerful magician, until he lost his Ring of Power. Then he had to flee for his life, and ended up being Made a Slave.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman goes from being a demigod and head of the wizard's order to boss of a small group of Orcs bullying hobbits in the Shire. Pretty much every adaptation ignores this bit of the book.
  • Kallor in The Malazan Book of the Fallen once ruled a kingdom that spanned two continents, but was such a monster that his mages were willing to destroy an entire continent in the hopes of killing him. He survived the devastation and was later cursed to live forever and fail at whatever task he took upon himself as punishment for exterminating his own huge empire; man, woman and child by the millions, when he knew it would be taken away by beings more powerful.
  • The Wrath of God, a novel by Jack Higgins (this trope seems to involve lots of wrath!) Janos, a grossly overweight ex-soldier in the Hungarian imperial guard, now working as an Arms Dealer in 1920's Mexico, curses the glandular problem that caused his fall from grace.
  • Antichrist villain Nicolae Carpathia in the Left Behind book series went from being a terrifying Evil Overlord who ruled the world with an iron fist and Satan indwelt to a pathetic and humiliated rotting shell of a human being who has to suffer for eternity in the Lake of Fire.
  • According to the Legend of Belisarius, the Eastern Roman general Belisarius ended up as a blind beggar on the streets of Rome.
  • In the fourth The Wheel of Time book the recently overthrown former Amyrlin exploits this trope in order to get past a guard and flee the city:
    Yesterday, I was perhaps the most powerful ruler in the entire world, able to summon kings and queens and have them answer; today, I must hope I can find a farm where I will be allowed to sleep in the barn. Whatever crimes you think I have committed, isn't this punishment enough?
  • The Machine Gunners: Having received a crushing defeat from schoolyard rival Chas McGill, Boddser Brown finds his followers have deserted him, people are no longer afraid of him and openly mock his turban-like bandages and his position of power and popularity at school is gone.
  • Young George Amberson Minafer of The Magnificent Ambersons suffered this when his 'rich' grandfather died and it turned out that he had lost all his fortune and he just didn't tell him for the sake of pride. He went from living in a gorgeous mansion to living in a boarding house with a job involving explosives.
  • One of the two fates offered by Historia Brittonum for King Vortigern, the supreme ruler of Britain blamed for bringing the Saxons to Britain, is that he was dethroned and ostracized by his former subjects, so
    "... that, deserted and a wanderer, he sought a place of refuge, until broken-hearted, he made an ignominious end."
  • William Wordsworth's poem, "On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic":
    "And what if she had seen those glories fade,
    Those titles vanish, and that strength decay;
    Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid
    When her long life hath reached its final day:
    Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
    Of that which once was great is passed away."
  • The third act of A Clockwork Orange operates on this for Villain Protagonist Alex, a vicious criminal (in the first act) whose "treatment" in jail has rendered him incapable of even thinking about a violent act without becoming cripplingly ill. It becomes particularly noticeable when some of his old peers find him being mercilessly beaten by the elderly and then decide to beat on him themselves - all of these people he'd easily crushed earlier in the story.
  • The Authors of The House of Night tend to favour the Break the Haughty method:
    • Aphrodite went from being the most popular fledgling, High Priestess-in-training, dating the hottest guy at the House of Night to being friendless, completely powerless, and spending her meal times sitting out in the courtyard eating alone.
    • Rephaim - "The favourite son of an ancient immortal reduced to hiding in refuse and talking to the ghost of a human child."
  • The German ballad "Trutz, blanke Hans!" by Detlev von Liliencron, about the rich city Rungholt wiped out by the Northern Sea. ("Blanke Hans"note  is an Affectionate Nickname for the sea.) You may mentally exchange Rungholt with Atlantis, Vineta etc.
  • Arch-Imager Vagel from Mordant's Need. Once the most powerful Imager in the world and arch-enemy of Big Good King Joyce during the founding of Mordant, at the start of the series many believe that he's the mastermind behind the recent troubles. Once he actually appears, it turns out that he's a wreck, passively serving the real mastermind Eremis in the dreary hope that by doing so he'll at least get to see the people who brought him low fall. In the end even his final defeat is anticlimactic. While Gilbur goes down fighting and Eremis gets satisfyingly Hoist by His Own Petard, Vagel is last seen fleeing in panic from a crazy old man, who then kills him off screen by impaling him on a tree branch.
  • In Updraft, Tobiat, a scruffy, mad-seeming vagrant in Kirit's home tower, was once one of the exalted Singers, the closest thing the city has to rulers.

    Live Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: Said by Stretch Snodgrass (of all people) of Mr. Conklin, in the episode "Spare That Rod". Walter Denton had forged a letter threatening Mr. Conklin with dismissal for being "flagrantly dictatorial" in his disciplinary methods. Mr. Conklin was forcing himself to be meek and humble as a result.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Said by Guinan of the recently depowered Q in the episode "Deja Q".
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Obsidian Order was Cardassia. Enabran Tain was the Obsidian Order. Not even the Central Command dared challenge him and Garak was his official protégé. In Cardassia, it doesn't get much more powerful than that. Then Garak ended up in exile for an unrevealed crime and now Cardassians have this view of him. Gul Toran even quotes this trope verbatum to him in the episode "Profit and Loss".
  • In Angel Illyria used to be worshiped by millions and held dominion over multiple dimensions. Due to her reincarnation in a mortal body, as of series end, she's capable of being defeated by a minion of creatures she previously barely noticed. And the closest thing she has to a worshiper drinks a lot and called her a smurf.
  • Conan O Brien discussed this trope in his opening skit to the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards, mocking NBC in the Broadway-style musical number "Trouble At NBC''.
  • In Rome the defeated king of the Gauls, Vercingetorix is thrown before Julius Caesar, stripped of his clothes and made to kiss the Imperial standard. Then he's dragged to Rome in a cage, displayed in a triumph and strangled.
  • Breaking Bad: Walter White is hit HARD by this in the series' antepenultimate episode, fittingly titled "Ozymandias". After spending five seasons building up his drug empire and sacrificing all of his morality to do so, we see every sin and mistake he's made in the series come back all at once. By the end of the episode, a former close family member is dead, the rest of his family have all had their lives ruined, all of them despise him (or in the case of his baby daughter, would rather stay with her mother), and he becomes one of the most wanted men in America and is forced to go on the run. It's use of this trope was so hard-hitting that it's led to it being called one of the best episodes of television ever made.

  • Several Bruce Springsteen songs, most notably "Glory Days", which is the TropeNamer for another trope.
  • "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay tells the story of a man who overthrew a corrupt king and took his place. He had money, power, and an admiring kingdom, but he soon became corrupt just like the first king. Upon realizing how far he had fallen, he became disillusioned with his position of power and allowed himself to be removed from the throne and [assumedly] spent the rest of his days looking back on his reign and laments his fate.
  • The Depression-era number "Brother Can You Spare A Dime", famously performed by Bing Crosby.
  • Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone":
    Once upon a time you dressed so fine,
    You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
    People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
    You thought they were all kiddin’ you.
    Now you don’t talk so loud,
    Now you don’t seem so proud
    About having to be scrounging for your next meal.
  • The Laura Marling song "Failure" starts like this:
    He used to be the life and soul of everyone around.
    You'd never catch him looking up and never see him down but oh, la laa.
    He couldn't raise a smile oh, not for a while, and he's a failure now.
  • "Fortune Plango Vulnera" from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana".
    "Fortune rota volvitur;
    descendo minoratus;
    alter in altum tollitur;
    nimis exaltatus
    rex sedet in vertice
    caveat ruinam!
    nam sub axe legimus
    Hecubam reginam.
    (English translation: "The wheel of Fortune turns/I go down, demeaned/another is carried to the top;/far too high/the king sits at the summit/let him fear ruin/for under the axis is written/Queen Hecuba.")

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A WWE Monday Night RAW angle had Shawn Michaels so broke that he was reduced to working for John Bradshaw Layfield.
  • In a real-life example, Ric Flair was a 16-time world champion and considered one of the greatest wrestlers ever. Between bad investments, messy divorces and living the jet-set lifestyle character he played on TV left him seriously in debt later on in life.
    • Hulk Hogan has exhibited some similarities to Flair above. Recognized as the icon of professional wrestling (known not just in his own industry but as a beacon to non-viewers as well just because he's so damn iconic), the 2000s have been less than kind. Divorcing his wife and the legal problems that hounded his son following an accident that took the life of the passenger in his car has seen the Hulkster looking less-than-stellar. A lot of the opportunities he's taken in the 2000s are often seen by longtime wrestling fans as desperate grabs to keep him in the spotlight and otherwise give him a recurring income flow (such as his stint on American Gladiators and the fact he came to WWE one night pretty much just to shill it).
  • TNA. While not as mighty as, say, WCW, for many years it was indisputably the #2 Professional Wrestling promotion in the United States. Many recognized that the company had the potential to one day compete with the WWE. Hoping to capitalize on that, they decided to bring in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff — and what followed can basically amount to as "WCW-lite", including but not limited to: a failed attempt to restart the Monday Night Wars, a massive amount financial mismanagement, much of the younger talent being pushed down the card, and the Power Stable Immortal, which was basically nWo: Take 2.
    • After Hogan and Bischoff left four or so years later, the company was in such disrepair that they lost their TV deal with Spike, while many of the TNA Originals (most notably AJ Styles) quit when they were told they were to face significant pay cuts; in spite of A: the fact that their talents were already being misused during the Hogan-Bischoff era and B: Many wrestlers under their promotion were struggling to make the ends meet as is! Some really nasty examples: Awesome Kong just wanted a raise to buy a car, Taylor Wilde was seen working at a Sunglasses Hut (and she was the Knockouts Champion at the time, too), Jesse Neal was able to qualify for food stamps, and Gail Kim was only bringing in $30,000 a year for her work (garbagemen make more, with better benefits to boot), in spite of the fact that she and Kong had the highest rated segments on the show.
    • Jeff Jarrett, the original founder of the promotion, tried to buy the company back, but his offer was rebuffed since Dixie Carter's position in the corporate structure would not be as secure — he eventually ended up starting another wrestling promotion instead. TNA is now desperately trying to grasp the glory that was once so closely in its grasp, only to continuously fall short and be eclipsed by ROH. If all this weren't humiliating enough, PWI no longer considers the TNA World Heavyweight Championship a world title, basically declaring that to them, the company has dropped to indy status. There was a time when this company was lauded as the future of Professional Wrestling; today, many wrestling fans are just begging for it to be put out of its misery.
  • Chyna. It seemed like a lifetime ago when this woman was a superstar with an assured future in the Hall of Fame. The only women from her time period that could ever compare to the impact she had were Sable, Trish Stratus, and Lita. At one point an international sex symbol, her fall from grace has reduced her to doing porn. That's only scratching the surface of how much the former Joanie Laurer's life has fallen apart.
  • WCW. At one point the most successful wrestling promotion in the world, the only promotion to ever drive Vince McMahon to the brink of defeat, its disastrous twilight years are what it's best remembered for (where it became the Snark Bait for fans) — that, and having a book that illustrates everything that could go wrong in a wrestling promotion by outlining the circumstances surrounding its fall, and the eventual impact it had on the industry. It's history, more-or-less.
  • Matt Hardy had a mental breakdown after Lita cheated on him with Edge. At one point one of the most popular wrestlers of the early '00s, Matt entered a downward spiral that lasted years, culminating in him faking a suicide note for cheap publicity. It utterly destroyed his reputation, to the extent that his drug-addled younger brother, who, earlier that same year, arrived at a PPV he was main eventing stoned out of his gourd, forcing the match to end in ninety seconds just so he wouldn't hurt anybody, was regarded as more responsible than him. While Matt has worked to get his life back together since then, his legacy will forever be marred by his actions and has most likely blackballed him from ever returning to WWE.

    Tabletop Games 

  • One of the most prevalent themes in Greek tragedy; it'd be easier to list the exceptions, which are very few indeed.
  • Oedipus the King is an especially good version of this. Over the course of the play, he goes from King of Thebes to a blind beggar who everyone knows killed his father and slept with his mother.
    "Men of Thebes, look upon Oedipus
    the king who solved the famous riddle
    and towered up, most powerful of men.
    No mortal eye but looked on him with envy,
    yet in the end ruin swept over him."
  • The song "King of the World" from the musical Songs For A New World is about this — the singer used to be very powerful and is now in prison. (Beyond this, the details are open to interpretation.)
  • In the musical of The Producers, Max Bialystock reminisces about once being "the king of all Broadway" rather than, as now, a producer of serial flops. (But then the chorus responds with "We'll believe you - thousands wouldn't.")
  • Maybe a bit of a stretch, but the song about Grizabella ("Grizabella the Glamour Cat") from "Cats" gives this vibe. Former celebrity, now a common, old stray.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • This is a common theme in the Human and Dwarf Noble origin stories. both of which begin with the player character as a scion of a very powerful family (either that of the in-universe equivalent of a duke or that of the King of Orzammar). Both end with the player on the run and forced to join the Grey Wardens to escape. Of course, you do rise to prominence again at the end, but that is to be expected.
    • This happened to the Dalish long before the story started. It's mostly their fault as well.
    • The Tevinter Imperium used to rule most of Thedas, but now it's a crumbling remnant of its former glory with its one remaining claim to Bad Assness being that the Qunari are trying to destroy it, and yet it's still managing to continue existing.
  • The line is used in Eternal Darkness as Pious kills Mantorok in the second chapter. Considering he just punched out that story's equivalent of Cthulhu and consigned it to a slow and inevitable death, it is probably fitting.
  • From Portal 2:
    • The middle chapters take the player on an exploration of the old Aperture Science Innovators test facilities, far beneath the more modern chambers that you start the game in. You get to see what Aperture was like when its eccentric founder, Cave Johnson, was in his heyday, full of money and enthusiasm and with "astronauts, Olympians, and war heroes" jumping at the chance to test his products. Then you get to see it as a company struggling to survive and hiring bums off the street due to Congressional inquiries over the "missing astronauts". Lastly, you get to hear Cave's final recordings as a bitter, bankrupt old man dying of mercury poisoning and trying desperately to preserve some kind of legacy. Aperture may have recovered and gone on without him, but he's gone, his memories buried along with the empire he built.
      • Appropriately, the chapter where you're first introduced to the crumbling remains of Old Aperture is called "The Fall".
    • GLaDOS when Wheatley takes over her body and uploads her consciousness into a potato battery. Though she gets back up again.
  • This is where Starscream ends up by the end of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
    • The whole point of the game, really. They've gone from nigh-immortal lords of technology to rats fleeing a sinking ship. Except rats know better than to fight when they should run.
  • In Starcraft II, after spending almost the entire series as the dominant race, the Zerg are decimated and scattered at the end of the Terran campaign, and you spend the entire next campaign helping them recover from the disaster.
  • The Lost MC in Grand Theft Auto V. Once a feared group of Badass Biker's, V reduces them to strung out, aimless, desert dwelling meth addicts, who get massacred by Trevor.
  • A recurring theme in FromSoftware games. Mighty rulers are reduced to pathetic husks of their former selves and lose everything because of their obsessions:
    • King Allant of Demons Souls. Once a proud king of a great kingdom, his obsession with the power of souls eventually turns him into a helpless blob feebly clinging to his sword wishing for nothing but his own death. Meanwhile, the demonic doppelganger he left behind to rule in his stead leads his kingdom to ruin and his only son is Driven to Suicide unable to bear the truth.
    • Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight of Dark Souls. He was once a lightning wielding God Emperor who ushered in a new age by defeating the Everlasting Dragons. In a desperate attempt to prolong the Age of Fire when the First Flame started to flicker and die, he split his own soul apart and made himself kindling for the First Flame. This turned him into a Hollow shell of his former self bereft of his former powers. In the end, Gwyn was nothing more than a crazed and lonely old man afraid of change.
    • King Vendrick of Dark Souls II. The backstory builds him up as a powerful ruler who built the kingdom of Drangleic over the corpses of an entire army of Giants. He is constantly hyped up as the ultimate challenge the player character must overcome. His attempts to stave off the Undead Curse led him to be afflicted with it himself. His own beloved queen manipulated his downfall and the ruin of his kingdom. When he is finally met in person, he's a giant naked Hollow wandering aimlessly in his tomb.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer's long lost half-brother Herb, who was the wealthy head of a major auto corporation until he found out he was a Simpson.
    • Mr. Burns lost his fortune and the Power Plant and Lisa helped him get it back, much to her regret.
  • Valmont from Jackie Chan Adventures goes from a major villain in the first two seasons to a homeless petty criminal in the third. By the fifth season, he's resorted to becoming a bus driver with a small cameo in the last episode.
  • Subverted by Vilgax in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Ben mocks his old foe's fall, but Vilgax has every intention of regaining everything he lost and more. In fact, he turns out even more dangerous than he used to be with his empire, as he is enough of a Magnificent Bastard to take over a cult of human followers, and eventually manipulate Diagon, making its power his own.
  • This happened to Mandarin in the second season of the Iron Man 90's animated series. After losing the Ten Rings of Power in the first season finale, Mandarin was reduced to working as a laborer, whipped daily by a cruel overseer. Then he notices the overseer's ring...and after regaining his power, he falls even harder in the series finale. Half of his rings are destroyed, his memories are gone, and he loses the other five rings when lowly mountain bandits chop off his hand.
  • Invoked by Slithe in ThunderCats (2011)
    "How quickly things change for the cats. From top predator, to endangered species... in a single day!"
  • Avatar The Last Airbender: On the heroes' side, The Earth Kingdom, the only world power to even come close to rivaling Fire Nation, is overrun by the latter at the end of the second season. On the villain's side, Fire Lord Ozai and Princess Azula start off as the God Emperor and The Chessmaster / The Ace, respectively. By the end, Ozai's been Brought Down to Normal and Azula's lost her mind. Karma's a bitch, innit?
  • Blossom in The Powerpuff Girls episode "A Very Special Blossom". She steals a set of golf clubs to give the Professor for Father's Day then tries to frame Mojo Jojo for it. When the jig is up, we see her in an orange prison suit performing community service.
  • Johnny Test villain Dark Vegan started out as an alien warlord, but after his second appearance he ends up stuck on Earth and another member of Johnny's Harmless Villain Rogues Gallery. He even lampshades this; "I used to be ruler of my planet, but now I'm an unemployable loser!"
  • Azul Falcone of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is introduced as partner at the law firm. He's more successful and popular than Harvey, despite being a much less competent lawyer. However, after his first appearance he slides down the firm's pecking order until he is a mere bathroom attendant.
    • This trope seems to inform both this series and its sister series Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Hanna-Barbera stars long past their respective heydays trying to survive post-fame.
  • Many, many characters and institutions in The Venture Bros., but Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture is perhaps the best example. Formerly, a famous and successful boy adventurer and heir to the prodigious Venture Industries, he is now a bitter, unsuccessful CEO to a floundering science firm.

  • Happens all the time in real life in the workplace, where a non-supervisory employee says, "I used to be in management and [whatever I don't like] was not how I/we did [X]."
  • Subverted in this joke: Three refugees from talk about the old times. First one: "Here I live in a one-room apartment, but in the old country, I had a house with twelve rooms." Second one: "Here I am an ordinary secretary, but in the old country, I was a CEO." Third one (with a Mister Muffykins on his lap): "I'll admit, I'm a poor devil now as well as then. But in the old country, my dog was a St. Bernard."
  • People during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance saw Ancient Rome as this.
  • The Hudson's Bay Company, once, a real life Mega Corp.. For 200 years, they owned and ruled over more than a third of what is now Canada. Now they're just a chain of mid-range department stores, some of which are now being sold off to Target.
  • Joe Paterno. He retires in disgrace after the horrifying Penn State sex scandal blew up. And after his death, a statue outside the campus erected to honor his achievements gets taken down after numerous evidences and implications pile up that he was involved in the whole cover-up.
  • In the late 1990s, Leeds United emerged as the most likely team to challenge Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League, launching a sustained title challenge and reaching the semifinals of European competitions. However, in doing so, they spent too much money, and after losing their champions league place to Newcastle United, they were forced to offload players to recoup debts. They were relegated in 2004, and again in 2007 after losing the promotion playoff the previous year. They returned to the first division in 2010, but are still yet to return to the top flight.