"Simmons, you get an F in efficiency, but I have to give you an A+ in dramatic timing!"
They're in deep trouble. The Dragon
or perhaps the Big Bad
himself have them cornered, their heaviest hitters worn out. Their enemy is just about to unleash an attack that will no doubt kill them.
Cue The Hero
, standing all cool-like, deflecting the Finishing Move
and saying "Sorry I'm late
" for effect.
Alternately, the hero
is in dire straits until The Cavalry
, his ragtag band
of acquired friends
, arrives to save the day.
A Sister Trope
to Big Damn Heroes
. A sports variety is Down to the Last Play
Contrast You Are Too Late
, Remembered Too Late
No relation to the eponymous time-traveller, Justin Time (which is just a pun on the term).
And if you're looking for animated television series seen on PBS Kids Sprout
or Disney Junior
depending on where you live, go here
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Subverted in Watchmen: Rorschach and Nite Owl II arrive "just in time" to challenge Ozymandias; but it turns out he knew they were coming and set his plans irreversibly in motion.
- Spoofed in the "His Code Name Was The Fox" series of strips in FoxTrot: Roger's Marty Stu self-insert has less than a fraction of a second left to disarm a bomb, yet still correctly decides which of the 186 wires to cut.
- Played straight near the end of The Joker: Devil's Advocate: the executioner is about to throw the switch to electrocute the Joker when a phone call rings out just in time for one of those attending the execution to get a call from the governor, who indicates that the real culprit for the poisoned stamps has been found and that the Joker is now in the clear and granted a death row pardon. Another few seconds, and he would have been toast before he ever got exonerated of the incident.
- In Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty", the heroine, her children and the merciful servants are already lined up with their hands tied and are just about to be pushed into the queen's Snake Pit, when the king unexpectedly returns to the castle, causing the execution to stop and the queen's evil plan to blow up.
- In the novel Moving Pictures, Victor ponders the idea that since the Theory of Narrative Causality would ensure he arrives in the Nick of Time, he could stop to catch his breath but decides against it, because that would break the rules: he'll inevitably arrive in the nick of time, so long as he dramatically gives his all to get there.
- Subverted in the beginning of Going Postal: Moist Von Lipwig (under an assumed name) is about to be hanged in the morning when a courier from Lord Vetinari arrives. Lipwig's relief vanishes when the message is delivered: "Get on with it, it's long past dawn!"
- Around the World in 80 Days ends the third to last chapter with Fogg concluding he has arrived too late and lost his bet, leaving him ruined. However, the penultimate chapter has him suddenly arriving just in time to win after all. As the surprised reader wonders how he pulled that off, the narrator explains that Fogg forgot to account for gaining a day after crossing the International Date Line, meaning he arrived early without knowing it and would never have realized his mistake in time if his love, Aouda, hadn't set off a chain of events that alerted Fogg he still had time to win the bet.
- Considered an actual duty by the Roving Reptilian Rescuers in Walter Moers' The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear. Unless it's absolutely vital, they refuse to show up at any point before the last moment. One of them is actually named Deus X. "Mac" Machina.
- Doubling as a Big Damn Heroes moment, in the Darkest Powers series, Derek tracks down Chloe in just enough time to save her from having her face carved up by a vindictive street kid.
- Matthew Reilly uses this often, but one that just begs to be mentioned comes from Scarecrow: a nuclear missile is prevented from being launched with less than a second left. And a different nuclear missile is shut down in mid-flight.
- In Robert E. Howard's "The Slithering Shadow", Conan the Barbarian, running away from a Zerg Rush, gets dropped through a Trap Door to where Natala has been abducted, just in time to save her from the Living Shadow.
Live Action TV
- Sega Pinball's Golden Eye has the "Eject or Die", a magnetic ball saver that captures pinballs which drain down the outlanes. It flings the ball back onto the playfield, and you have six seconds to shoot the Eject Target, or lose the ball outright.
- Dungeons & Dragons has a feature called the "Magic Save", which (if the player presses a button fast enough) raises a block to deflect a draining ball back to the flippers.
- In Zaccaria's Farfalla, when the ball goes down an outlane, the player can use the "React Feature" for a split-second chance to use a smaller flipper and knock it back into play.
- Similarly, Embryon has the "Flipsave", a small flipper next to the right outlane. When activated, the player can use a well-timed button press to knock a drained ball through a gate and back to the playfield.
- The "just in time" trope is a very common staple in professional wrestling. Several ways this can be carried out:
- A face wrestler who is on the verge of defeat will either 1. Kick out (sometimes, rather emphatically) out of a sure pinfall at the last possible instant before the referee completes the three count – almost always, after the heel wrestler performs a powerful finishing move on the face; 2. appear to pass out from a very powerful submission hold, only to rally by either powering himself out of the hold or reaching the ring ropes, which, under the rules, almost always requires the aggressive wrestler to break the hold.
- A "weaker" wrestler – a jobber or one of the mid- to upper-card faces – will suffer a severe beatdown by one or more heels (often including a monster heel). Just as the face/jobber is about to be finished off for good, the head babyface will run out to the ring and run the bad guys off.
- Often reversed, usually by the face about to complete giving a heel wrestler his comeuppance, only for the heel's associates or a monster heel (under which he might be serving) to run out and begin a beatdown just before the three count is completed.
- In Nobilis, players can take the Perfect Timing gift. In its lesser form, it ensures they arrive just in time whenever it's physically possible to do so. Its greater form does the same without any of that pesky causality getting in your way, so feel free to take a week to prepare for the evil cult's sacrifice tomorrow evening.
- In 3e, this is one of the basic powers of an Aspect 3 Miracle— it ensures that whenever you use it to take some physical action, you complete it either 'instantly', 'at just the right time', or (in an absolute worst case) 'just in time.' Unless opposed by another Miracle, you are always guaranteed to be at least just in time when using Aspect 3.
- This is one example of what fate points can be used for in the Dresden Files RPG, especially if the arriving character (or one already on the scene) can point to a relevant aspect they have — just spend the point to declare somebody's arrival is an example of this trope, and it is. The True Faith power Guide My Hand allows a character to do this without having to spend a fate point as long as their timely arrival where they are needed is in line with their holy mission, providing an in-game model for the ability of the Knights of the Cross (and Father Forthill) to regularly be in the right place at the right time in the books.
- Due to the way that actions are triggered in videogames, players cannot help but arrive in the nick of time. This can result in the appearance of a world which is so dangerous that it begs the question of how anyone survives long enough for the hero to arrive on scene. The answer in System Shock games is...they don't survive. The player is always too late, up to the nick of time, and can only witness the remains and read the Apocalyptic Log.
- There is a straight example in the first System Shock game, however - no matter how long it takes for you to escape, you will always be in time to reach Citadel's bridge before it separates from the rest of the station.
- Ace Attorney:
- Several cases in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series have everything seem lost, only for a casebreaking piece of evidence to appear at just the last moment. A particularly extreme example occurs in the first game. The judge declares a Guilty verdict and starts to go through the normal game over sequence before being interrupted at the last second.
- Taken Serial Escalation in the final case of Investigations, where this happens four times in succession whenever the Big Bad tries to make his escape. First Shi-Long Lang and his Interpol men appear to strip Alba of his diplomatic immunity, then Gumshoe arrives with the pushcart used to sneak the murder victim across the embassy, then Larry Butz and Wendy Oldbag show up with proof of how the body could've gotten back over to the embassy's other side, and finally an unnamed police officer arrives with the final damning evidence. To be fair, the last two were already there.
- Alternatively, a literal example occurs in Dual Destinies when the panicked people in the courtroom manage to all fumble their way out in time before the time bomb that's been planted explodes, thus saving people from dying. Although in actuality, Juniper Woods and Apollo Justice didn't manage to get out in time, but they both survive.
- A chilling subversion comes in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Your squad of highly trained covert anti-terror badasses arrive in a Rec Center where hostages are being held... just in time for the terrorists to fill the area with poison gas, killing the civilians.
- At the end of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary story, all the heroes are gathered before Tabuu, who prepares to simply blow them all away with another helping of his One-Hit Kill Off Waves... only for Sonic The Hedgehog to zoom in out of nowhere, smash the wings giving said attack power, and join in for the final battle. It just goes to show; "Heroes always arrive late."
- Sabin in Final Fantasy VI. Turns into a Duel Boss battle.
- Final Fantasy XIII: Fang and Lightning appear just as Hope is about to be squashed by a Hopeless Boss Fight (Snow had already been taken out in one hit) to save the day.
- In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus learns that her ship is under attack while it's parked. As she returns to her ship, the damage gets progressively worse, before arriving to the scene of the crime, finding that a corrupted Ghor is pounding at its hull. Ghor himself looks at Samus to say "just in time!" before attacking her.
- In the true ending of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Junpei and the others open the Q door with only a second to spare before their incineration.