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- In the fairy tale The Armless Maiden, the Wicked Sister-in-Law changes letters to and from the titular character and her husband (who's away in a war), by getting the messenger drunk when he stops to rest at her place.
- Gallipoli has this as the major plot point in the film, where just as the soldiers are about to go over the top to attack the Turks in a futile attempt to gain ground,the order is rescinded. The catch? Mel Gibson doesn't deliver it fast enough and his best bud dies.
- The entire movie of Kangaroo Jack. Which is probably a good thing, as the money that the protagonists were supposed to deliver is meant to pay the recipient to kill them.
- In Deep Impact, the astronomer who realizes that the object is a comet on a collision course with Earth, tries to get the information out but dies in a car accident before he can alert the world.
- The Madness of King George: Both averted and lampshaded in Thurlow's race to Parliament before the Regency bill passes.
- Tora! Tora! Tora!: Attempts to transmit a warning message via radio to the American forces in Hawaii fail due to atmospheric interference. They decide to send the message via commercial telegram, but fail to mark the message as Urgent, meaning it sits in a backlog of messages in Hawaii and isn't delivered to Fort Shafter until after the attack is underway.
- Further, an American destroyer spots a Japanese submarine trying to enter the harbor and sinks it, but their report of the engagement isn't received until after the air attack starts.
- Further still, the Japanese send an ultimatum to the Americans, intended to be delivered before the attack as a final justification for the imminent war, but delays in decoding and translating the message into English mean this message isn't delivered until after the attack either. Understandably, the American government is not pleased by the timing of the message.
- Invoked in Wicker Park where Alex deliberately withholds Lisa's letter that she was supposed to hand over to Matthew in order to sabotage their relationship.
- In Troy, a Trojan scout discovers that the Greeks have not abandoned their war effort after all, despite their supposed peace offering of the giant wooden horse. He immediately tries to warn Troy of the deception but is promptly cut down by a Greek arrow.
- The Impeded Messenger is a crucial plot point in Romeo and Juliet, as he's prevented from informing Romeo that Juliet faked her suicide and isn't really dead. This results in Romeo committing suicide for real, and Juliet following him after seeing his corpse.
- And a smaller point in Hamlet and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where Hamlet changes the letter to the king of England so that R&G are executed in his place.
- In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, it was mentioned that an Impeded Messenger example was averted when shortly after his horse threw a shoe, the messenger just 'happened' to run into a traveling peasant with a portable forge. This is played with further in that it is only due to the messenger's timely arrival that the dreadful Battle of Five Cities never happened.
- Terry Pratchett uses a variation of this in Carpe Jugulum as well.
- In The Andromeda Strain, the electronic version happens: the scientists working on the alien virus in an isolated lab don't get the notification that the president has ordered that an atomic bomb be dropped on the infected site (a very bad idea since the scientists have already discovered the virus is resistant to radiation and large amounts of energy just make it grow faster) because of a mechanical failure in the bell of the teletype machine that was supposed to alert them.
Live Action Television
- In the Hornblower episode The Wrong War/The Frogs and the Lobsters, a messenger carrying plans for a joint invasion of France by British and French Royalist forces is killed and the plans stolen. In this case, the heroes know exactly what the message was, as this was a copy being sent to the Admiralty, but now the heroes have to consider the possibility that the plans might find their way into the Revolutionaries' hands before their operation can succeed. They do.
- Video game variant where the protagonist is the messenger: in Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, the character Anthony is given a scroll he's supposed to deliver to Charlemagne, but the scroll proves in fact to be a trap carrying a nasty undead curse—which Anthony discovers by accidentally inflicting it upon himself. Anthony bravely decides to warn Charlemagne of the plot against him, and after battling ghouls, traps, and the curse slowly eating away at his body, reaches his destination to find...that the assassins got sick of waiting, and Charlemagne is already dead.
- Fallout: New Vegas starts with the player character as a Courier who gets ambushed by a group of thugs led by a man in a suit, who proceeds to take the Platinum Chip that was to be delivered. The main goal of the first half of the game becomes tracking down said man and regaining the chip (completing the delivery is optional after that though).
- As noted in "For Want of a Nail", many battles have been lost due to crucial communication holdups.
- One famous case is the 06.06.1944 telegram that was supposed to inform Adolf Hitler and his Berlin staff that the Anglo-American armies had stormed the beaches of Normandy in the early morning of the same day, and that in order to beat them back, Hitler had to authorise the deployment of Panzer Reserves now. However, Hitler was a long sleeper and had declared he wasn't to be awoken, so the message lingered unread for hours, all while the Allies fought their way inland and subsequently robbed the German garrison of any possibility of an effective counter-attack. The rest, as they say, is history.
- Similarly, shortly before the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor, the destroyer USS Ward spotted a Japanese mini-sub attempting to enter the harbor and sank it. The Ward's report of the engagement wasn't passed up the chain fast enough due to delays in transmission and decryption of the message, and the American commanders received it shortly after the air attack began.
- On the same vein, the official declaration of war by Japan was delivered late to the American authorities because of various details (a miscalculation of the time difference between Pearl Harbor and Washington, D.C. and the American official leaving the Japanese ambassador's aide waiting, among others). The fact that this lateness made it look like the Japanese had deliberately lied about their intentions pretty much ticked off the American military even more.