"What shall we do, what shall we do!" [Bilbo] cried. "Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!" he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say "out of the frying-pan into the fire" in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.
A trick for maintaining dramatic tension (and sometimes irony
): place the heroes in great danger, and then have their escape land them squarely in even greater danger.
Bob escapes from a sword-wielding maniac by hiding in a river—only to find out the river is full of hungry piranhas. Alice defeats a monster with fire
—and now she has to escape from a burning building. The band of heroes
scares away the opposing army by summoning a dragon
—which turns around and begins attacking them
. The permutations are endless.
A subtrope of From Bad to Worse
: this trope involves the solution of one problem causing a worse one, while From Bad To Worse doesn't even require any causal link between the initial problem and the getting worse. If you're in a pool of water with a bunch of jellyfish, and then someone releases sharks into the water, that's From Bad to Worse
. If you're in a pool of water with a bunch of jellyfish, and in the act of climbing out you fall into a different pool with a bunch of sharks, that's Out Of The Frying Pan.
Can overlap with Villainous Rescue
or Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
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Film - Animated
- Near the end in Toy Story 3, the toys wind up in a landfill and onto a conveyor leading towards a shredder. They escape by grabbing onto metal objects as an overhead magnetic strip separates them, only to discover that this conveyor leads to an incinerator.
Film - Live Action
- Star Wars:
- A New Hope. First, the heroes escape from a shootout with stormtroopers by diving into a chute, realizing too late that it leads to the interior of a garbage compactor. Later, Luke shoots a control panel to lock a door between him and some stormtroopers, then realizes immediately afterwards that this same panel controlled the extendable bridge. Thus, he's traded death by stormtrooper for death by bottomless chasm.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is pursued by the Imperial fleet, and flies into an Asteroid Thicket to lose them. He then realizes that the odds in the asteroid field aren't much better than his odds against the Imperials, so he hides in a cave on a larger asteroid—and ends up flying down the mouth of a giant space slug.
- In Hellboy, after Hellboy resists temptation and avoids triggering the apocalypse, he kills his tempter, Rasputin. A tentacle-y monster slithers out of Rasputin's body and rapidly grows to a massive size...
- The film adaptation of The Hobbit has a similar scene to the original novel: the party escapes from the caverns of the Misty Mountains, only to be cornered by a worse band of warg-riding orcs. One of the characters even says "Out of the frying pan", and Gandalf finishes "into the fire."
- In The Hobbit, the adventure party escapes from the goblins of the Misty Mountains, only to find themselves surrounded by wolves as night falls.
- It is lampshaded in the Alcatraz Series
It seems that no matter what I did, I ended up in even more danger than I was before. One might even say I was "out of the frying pan and into the fire"... Personally I say "Out of the frying pan and into the the deadly pit
filled with sharks
who are wielding chainsaws
with killer kittens
stapled to them." However that one's having a rough time catching on.
- Very common in The Dresden Files. Harry Dresden tends to make enemies from a lot of different factions. Many of the books climax with Harry confronting the primary suspect, realizing he's in trouble, and running away—only to run into enemies from some other faction.
Live Action TV
- As their producers were all too happy to point out, during Top Gear's Middle East Special, the hosts escaped from a country where there is no war (Iraq) to a country where there is one (Turkey).
- The (new) Twilight Zone episode "Crazy as a Soup Sandwhich". A loser sells his soul to a demon in exchange for winning at the horse races, only to get cheated, of course. He goes to the mobster he borrowed his betting money from, begging for protection and the mobster does—because he's an arch-demon in human form, and now the loser owes his soul to a worse demon.
- Taken literally in Afterlife, where one of Hell's punishments places the damned on a giant frying pan over a fire. They occasionally jump, in the desperate and vain hope that the fire will be less hot this time.
- Cave Story: You and Curly Brace get attacked by the Core. Since the Core is a Load-Bearing Boss, its defeat alerts The Doctor and Misery to your presence in that chamber. They teleport in, take the Core so it can be repaired, and then flood the chamber as they leave—leaving you to drown in a locked room.
- The Curse Of Monkey Island: Midway through the second chapter, Guybrush gets swallowed by a snake, and has to collect a wide variety of items inside the snake's belly before finding one that'll help him escape... after which the snake vomits Guybrush into a quicksand pit.
- Zero Punctuation explored a Caffeine Bullet Time mechanic used for the stealth sections of Velvet Assassin, pointing out that the mechanic would backfire on Violet if there was more than one conveniently-alerted Nazi around, or if more were alerted.
...then the "f**kup remedy" has instead resulted in what we experts call "boomerang f**kup