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I'm Not a Hero, I'm...
"I'm no hero. Never was, never will be. I'm just some old soldier hired to do some wetwork."
Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid

Often preceded by "You're a hero!" The Hero will respond: "I'm not a hero. I'm _____!"

Can be used in a variety of ways, including:

A subtrope of I Am the Noun. Compare I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder. Contrast The Chosen Zero.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch has one of these moments right after Euphie ended up going on an unintentional killing spree because of his Power Incontinence, when a dying old lady asks him as Zero to save them.
  • In the Fishman Island arc of One Piece, none other than Luffy himself has one. Specifically, Jinbei asks him to be the "hero" of Fishman Island, to which Luffy informs him that he's a pirate, not a hero, and has no desire to be one. Luffy then gives an analogy about how a hero would share his meat with everyone, while a pirate would simply feast on it. He ends up agreeing to help anyway when Jinbei promises to give him some meat.
    • Zoro gives a similar analogy later, except with booze instead of meat.
      • Note this is a case of 'they are really not heroes.' The Straw Hats, and Luffy in particular just do what they want, always, regardless of the consequences. Most of the time, because they're nice people, this ends up being 'beat up the bastard who made my friend cry, who just happens to be the man who's oppressing this entire region, so I have subsequently liberated a country from tyranny.' But it's equally likely to be 'try to break my brother out of prison, and subsequently release thousands of dangerous criminals who will go on to hurt people out into the world.' Luffy never forgets that he is a pirate, even when his actions happen to benefit people, so he discourages heaping praise on him, unless it comes in the form of an awesome meat-themed party.
  • Jack from Pandora Hearts is very insistent that he's not a hero. It only ends up making him appear humble and sweet, not to mention more tragic and cute.
  • The catchphrase of Izumi Curtis, from Fullmetal Alchemist. Even though she's the one who trained the Elric brothers in martial arts and alchemy, she manages to make a Badass Boast out of declaring that she's (merely) a housewife.
    • It gets subverted near the end of the Brotherhood anime when she gleefully exclaims she's an alchemist.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, after his Heel-Face Turn, Accelerator rejects being called a hero, saying that a hero would be able to save the day without killing anybody. Touma also reacts in confusion to being called a hero, simply saying "I just did what anyone would do, right?"

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Kairi Niko in the Knights of the Old Republic Fanfic Destiny's Pawn adamantly insists that she's "just a translator." Even after the Jedi all but shove a lightsaber into her hand, she's done some heroics looking for the Star Maps, and assembled the Ragtag Band of Misfits, she still considers herself Bastila's aide. Queue massive Heroic BSOD when the truth comes out...
  • Played straight in the Tamers Forever Series
    Daemon: "Why can't you be a good boy and give up!"
    Chaos: "I'm a Virus, Daemon. I'm not a good boy."
  • Also played in Harry Potter fanfic "The Apothecary Knows Best". Severus Snape claimed to be just an apothecary when Harry called him a hero for having defeated a "Jester". (This fanfic's Dark Lord has his followers known as "Jesters" instead of "Death Eaters". Yes, this fanfic's Dark Lord is Albus Dumbledore. Long story)
  • In the Lord of the Rings fanfic Left, Sam tells Frodo about his fight with Shelob very matter-of-factly and he is surprised by how his master keeps harping on it.

    Film 
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, upon learning of the prophecy that they shall be heroes, the Pevensies provide this little gem:
    Peter: I think you've made a mistake. We're not heroes!
    Susan: We're from Finchley!
  • The film version of the Hobbit has Bilbo utter this particular gem
    Bilbo: I'm not a hero, or a warrior... I'm not even a burglar!
  • In the film, Twilight, Edward uses this trope to warn Bella to stay away from him.
    Edward: What if I'm not the hero? What if I'm the bad guy?
    Bella: You're not.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman says this just before his Zero Approval Gambit.
  • Something similar is done in the movie version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. "I can't be a wizard! I'm just Harry! Just Harry!"
  • A variation of this occurs in in Spy Kids 3D. After exiting the video game, Arnold's, Rez's, Francis's, and Juni's respective secret, non-virtual identities. Various types of this trope occur in the conversation that ensues:
    Francis: Well, in the real world I'm not that smart.
    Arnold: I'm not strong.
    Rez: I'm not cool.
    Juni: Reality Check!
    Arnold: So, who are you out here in the real world?
    Francesca: (to Juni) Special agent, we need you.
    Rez: Whoa!
    Juni: I'm Juni Cortez.
    • The above declaration by Juni is also a reference to his facade as "The Guy," which was revealed shortly before the group's exit from the game.
  • Near the end of Pulp Fiction, when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are robbing the coffee shop, and the manager attempts to cooperate:
    Pumpkin: I don't know, Honey Bunny. He looks like the hero type to me!
    Honey Bunny: Don't take any chances. Execute him!
    Manager: Please don't! I'm not a hero. I'm just a coffee shop...manager...
    • Naturally, his character according to the credits was "coffee shop."
    • Of course, the robbers' definition of "hero" is "anyone stupid enough to make trouble for us." Criminals are funny like that.
    • Also this monologue by Jules, sort of:
    Jules: There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you." Now... I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ass. You'd be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin' made me think twice. See, now I'm thinking: maybe it means you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here... he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. And I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • In Team America: World Police, Gary decides "I'm not a hero! I'm a dick!" after a mission results in the deaths of innocent bystanders. A drunk he meets at a bar gives him a pep talk about dicks, pussies and assholes that makes him feel a little better.
  • He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!
  • Variation in The King's Speech: "I'm not a king! I'm a naval officer."
  • In Jumper, Griffin spits this at Davy as he walks off to what Griffin believes to be certain death; in his experience, Jumpers don't have the power to save anyone, as while the Paladins are ready, willing and able to kill entire families as collateral damage in killing Jumpers, all Jumpers can do is Jump away. The best Griffin's ever accomplished is escaping with his life after killing his enemies, and he's been Forced to Watch everyone he's ever cared for die at the hands of the Paladins.
    Griffin: You're not a hero! You're a Jumper! Don't you get it? You don't save the girl! You lose her!
  • Jack Reacher, in his self-titled movie, makes it clear enough for even the slowest-witted villain:
    Reacher: "You think I'm a hero. I'm not a hero - I'm a drifter with nothing to lose. You killed that girl to put me in a frame-up, and I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot!"
  • Live Free Or Die Hard: McClane thinks he isn't really a hero. He knows people call him one, but he doesn't really think it's worth it:
    McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.
    Farrel: Then why are you doing this?
    McClane: Because there's no else to do it right now, that's why. Believe me, if there was somebody else, I'd let them do it, but there's not, so we're doing it.
    Farrel: That's what makes you "that guy".

    Literature 
  • In Gone, this attitude plays a huge role in the character of Sam, the Designated Hero of the FAYZ. Phrases reminiscent of the trope are consistently repeated throughout the books.
  • In Twilight, Edward uses this trope as an attempt to warn Bella to stay away:
    What if I'm not a superhero? What if I'm the bad guy?
  • In the Harry Potter series, Harry verbalized this trope a few times throughout the series. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows he experienced somewhat of a fleeting Dialogue Reversal with Ron after Ron's return and redemption.
    Ron: I'm sorry. I'm sorry I left. I know I was a — a— (trails off)
    Harry: You've sort of made up for it tonight. Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.
    Harry: Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was. I've been trying to tell you that for years.
  • Mat "I'm no bloody hero!" Cauthon from The Wheel of Time, usually said after he does something heroic. He is the variety that thinks he can ignore the call, even though he's actively doing heroic things. Doubly obtuse, since he has gifted memories of hundreds of people throughout time - if there's one person who could objectively judge him a hero, it should be him.
    • Perrin "Stop calling me Lord" Aybara.
    • The Dragon Reborn stopped being this and pendulumed into Designated Hero syndrome, impressive because he is a bona fide, prophecy certified, world changing hero. He came around to a true, self-admitted hero in the final few books.
  • Mogworld by Ben Croshaw, Jim's not a hero he's a protagonist.
  • Discworld:
    And I'm not a hero. I'm out of condition, and I need a drink, and I get a handful of dollars a month without plumes allowance. That's not hero's pay. Heroes get kingdoms and princesses, and they take regular exercise, and when they smile the light glints off their teeth, ting. The bastards.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Gift":
    Giles: ...[Buffy] couldn't take a human life. She's a hero, you see. She's not like us.
    Ben: ...us?
    *Giles smothers Ben to prevent Glory from ever returning*
  • In Doctor Who, Donna Noble frequently puts herself down by saying "I'm nothing special; I'm just a temp from Chiswick". As it turns out, she's destined to become the Donna-Doctor to stop the Daleks from exterminating reality.
    • Done again in "The God Complex". In order to save Amy Pond, The Doctor must break her faith in the idea of him as a hero.
    The Doctor: I stole your childhood and now Iíve led you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is, I knew. I knew this would happen. This is what always happens. Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain, because I wanted to be adored. Look at you, glorious Pond. The girl who waited for me. Iím not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And itís time we saw each other as we really are. Amy Williams. Itís time to stop waiting.
  • In the DS9 episode "Empok Nor", Garak (under the influence of drugs) has been twisting the knife about Miles O'Brien's participation in an incident which occurred while he was serving in the Federation-Cardassian war under Captain Maxwell; O'Brien led an attack on a Cardassian encampment and was dubbed "the Hero of Setlik III".
    Garak: Maybe it's true... maybe you're not a soldier anymore.
    O'Brien: You're right. I'm an engineer.
  • Sherlock has a particularly scathing example in the third episode.
    Sherlock: Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist; and if they did, I wouldn't be one of them.
    • This gets amped up to eleven in the series 2 finale:
    Sherlock: [To Moriarty] I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them.
    • And again in the series three finale:
  • As Richard Alpert attempts to convince her to join "Mittelos Bioscience", Juliet Burke, who is going through something of an emotional breakdown, tells him: "Whatever you think I am, I'm not. I'm not a leader, Mr. Alpert. I'm a mess."
  • In the season 1 finale of Burn Notice after blackmailing the second-largest drug kingpin in Miami via a "dead-man bomb", the kingpin asks Michael who he is.
    Michael: I'm Michael Westen. I used to be a spy.
  • In the Firefly episode "Jaynestown", criminal/mercenary Jayne is considered a hero by the locals after dropping stolen money on them a few years before. He only dropped it to lighten his damaged aircraft in order to escape capture... and he threw his partner out first. He has a change of heart about basking in their adoration:
    Jayne: You think somebody's gonna just drop money on you? Money they could use? Well, there ain't people like that... there's just people like me.
  • Once Upon a Time: When August (Pinocchio) tries to convince Emma that the curse trapping Storybrooke is real, she refuses to believe it and says that if the town is relying on her, "[they're] all screwed."

    Music 
  • The Dark Knight soundtrack has a piece titled "I'm Not A Hero" and correlates with the scene in which the page quote is delivered.
  • Daniel Balavoine's song "Je ne suis pas un hťros" (I am not a hero) repeatedly states that pop singers should not be considered as heroes by their fan base. But he was not only a famous pop singer, he also was a musician and a composer, he was quite smart and some of his lyrics were like poems. And he donated a lot for charity, he stood against racism, and died young. If he was not a hero, he was close to be one.
  • "I'm not a hero! I'm not a savior! Forget what you know/I'm just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control." Styx's "Mr. Roboto" definitely fits. "The modern man/Who hides behind a mask" indicates this is probably the Tomato in the Mirror usage.
  • Josh Groban's "In Her Eyes:" I am not an hero/I am not an angel/I am just a man...
  • My Chemical Romance's Welcome to The Black Parade uses this.
    I'm just a man, I'm not a hero
    Just a boy who wants to sing his song
    Just a man, I'm not a hero
    And I don't care
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road": "Well I'm no hero, it's understood/All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood/With a chance to make it good somehow..."
  • Nickelback song Hero: "They say that a hero could save us; I'm not gonna stand here and wait... And now that the world isn't ending, it's love that I'm sending to you. It isn't the love of a hero, and that's why I fear it won't do..."
  • The message of the Black Veil Brides has always centered around being who you are and standing up for yourself. As a result they have gathered a large fanbase that worship them. While the boys love their fans and support them through their music, they've always said that they were just guys in a rock and roll band. 'Nobody's Hero,' a song from their album 'Wretched and Divine' expresses this viewpoint. They will support you, they will help you, but in the end they are only human, not heroes.
    "I can lead you to salvation yet I am just a man.
    I'm a loaded gun, an only son.
    I'm nobody's hero.
    I've come undone, I'm on the run.
    Yeah I'm nobody's hero."
  • Kiss' "Just A Boy" from Music From The Elder has "I'm no hero, though I wish I could be; I'm just a boy..."

    Religion and Mythology 

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • From Homestuck, Dave claims not to be a hero at one point as part of his insecurity complex at being not as awesome as John or his Bro.
    TG: im not a hero
    TG: my bro was
    TG: john is
    TG: im not

    Web Original 
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Battlecat gave this speech to his Arch-Enemy, Baron Samedi, right before dropping the villain from the roof of the Superdome.
    Baron Samedi: "We both know you're not going to kill me. You're a hero."
    Battlecat: "Not tonight. I'm not a hero tonight. I'm a husband. I'm a father. That's what I am tonight."
    Baron Samedi: "No... wait!" (followed by a long drop and a sudden stop)
  • In the Welcome to Night Vale special live episode "Old Oak Doors":
    Carlos: "I'm not a hero, I'm a scientist."

    Western Animation 
  • In the Justice League Cadmus arc, The Question tries to assassinate Lex Luthor in order to avert a dark alternate future. He reasons that a known Conspiracy Theorist like him could go rogue without surprising people, but if a hero were to breach the Thou Shalt Not Kill policy, the whole world would go to hell. (He was probably right.)
  • Graveheart, the Designated Protagonist of Shadow Raiders, says this a lot.
    Graveheart: I'm not the man to lead this alliance.
    Jade: Aren't you?
    Graveheart: C'mon, Jade, look at me! I'm just a miner.
    (lengthy clip show with Graveheart saying "I'm just a miner" over and over and over and over)
    Jade: You have no idea how tired I am of hearing you say that.
  • Kim Possible: Ron's dad does this to the Mathter before a math-based brain battle in "Mathter and Fervent."
    Mathter: "And what kind of hero are you?"
    Mr. Stoppable: "I'm no hero. I'm Actuary of the Year."
  • Teen Titans: "I'm not a hero. I'm not out to save the world. I'm just a girl with a geometry test next period and I haven't studied."
  • Megas XLR: Look, Red, I'm no hero. I'm just a guy from Jersey.
  • Elisa in Gargoyles (specifically in "High Noon") says she's no hero; she's just doing her job. Not that this stops her from fighting tooth and nail to save her friends when she isn't on the job...
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie would like nothing more than to do his job as an archaeologist and leave the heroism to the authorities.
  • In The Hair Bear Bunch episode "I'll Zoo You Later," the superintendent praises Peevly as a hero for corraling two bank robbers and the runaway Bunch. Peevly says it's simply "all in a day's work."
  • In an episode of Batman Beyond, a Fantastic Four-ish group called the Terrific Trio goes insane and tries to set off a nuclear reactor. Terry tries to stop their leader by reminding him that he's supposed to be a hero.
    Magma: No... I'm an accident. Real heroes, they make a choice. I never did.

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