It's time for the Second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest! Details here
A variation on the Prophecy Twist
and, sometimes, the Self Fulfilling Prophecies
, the Prophetic Fallacy is different in that the prophecy itself - typically a prophetic dream or glimpse through a time window - is incomplete or deceptive in some way rather than simply vague.
For example, a man might see himself being knocked down by a car and note that the time on a digital display is 10:51, then spend the entire episode trying to avoid going near a road, despite various events conspiring to put him in danger. He eventually makes it to 10:52 and thinks he is safe, but is knocked down an hour or so later and discovers that he saw the digital clock in a mirror and his actual time of death is 12:01.
Alternatively, characters might have a vision of a terrible future and give up hope, but discover that the vision was of something fairly innocuous
that looked unusually dangerous because of the limits that the vision imposed.
The important factor is that whoever sees the vision is not given enough information to work out the truth. Thus, the Prophecy Twist
comes not from the character misunderstanding a vague prophecy, but coming to the only available conclusion given the lack of a full story.
This can be used to deliver a moral about not jumping to conclusions, but this is usually done poorly, and has gone out of style. Now it's merely a way to build (false) suspense, or to justify the Idiot Ball
or a plot that wouldn't make sense in the larger picture. If this trope is used comedically, then hilarity may ensue
If the prophecy still
doesn't fit the facts even after everything is revealed, it's From a Certain Point of View
. See also Poor Communication Kills
and Unspoken Plan Guarantee
Like most Twist Ending
tropes, Beware of Spoilers
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Basara, male and female twins are born, and it is prophesised that one of them will overthrow the evil kings that rule post-apocalyptic Japan. The villages automatically assume that the boy is the saviour... but he gets killed, leading the girl to disguise herself as him and lead the rebellion. The village wise man comments that she noticed without realising it that she was in fact the saviour.
- In Rave Master, a seer sees Haru (hero) stabbing Elie (heroine) with his sword. Turn out, Elie's magic was going to go crazy and Haru activated the next form of his sword that can cut magic but nothing of substance, thus sealing her nearly-rampaging magic and saving everyone. After this, he waves the sword through his arms a few times to demonstrate.
- In part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the Stand called Thoth is a comic book that shows predictions of the future. When they aren't subject to Prophecy Twist, this happens instead. For instance, the villains see a prediction of the protagonists drinking poisoned tea, which does happen. But the prediction didn't show that they would spit it back out when Iggy startles them. Later, while working with Boingo, Hol Horse questions several prophecies that require unusual actions (e.g. kicking an innocent woman in the back) because they don't immediately show what benefit they reap (it kills a scorpion hiding in her clothes and earns her gratitude). Presumably, the comic was from Silver Age DC.
- In Nausicań of the Valley of the Wind, the prophecy of the Blue-Clad One refers to a great leader, a bird perched on his shoulder, appearing from a field of gold to lead the nations to peace and unity and save them from the Sea of Corruption. What it actually foretold was Nausicaa, her Dorok tunic stained deep blue and indigo from a baby Ohmu's blood, being lifted high into the air by the shining, golden feelers of innumerable Ohmu, her long and bushy-tailed squirrel-fox Teto on her shoulders.
- In Dog Days Princess Leo receives a prophecy from a magic mirror that both Princess Millhiore and the Hero Cinque will be killed at a certain date and time. Turns out fortune telling is far from accurate and trying to avoid the prophecy, which never came true, was nearly a disaster.
- Steins;Gate manages this despite the "prophecy" being something the protagonist saw with his own eyes. Turns out "the female lead dies" was a red herring for the real fixed point in time: "the main character sees the female lead lying in a pool of blood, prompting him to send the text message that leads to the discovery of time travel."
- Ushio and Tora led up to the climactic final battle with a time-traveling bakemon visiting the future, when the actual final battle is in full swing. He sees the vaunted Beast Spear shattering into tiny pieces, and his report drives the bakemon coalition to try and forge their own new Beast Spear since the original will fail. Turns out this was the Beast Spear's own intent, splitting itself into shards to attack every Memory Eater that the big bad had sicced on the populace and the heroes' allies.
- In the graphic novel Top 10 — The Forty-Niners, two characters see part of a newspaper headline from the future that suggests Nazis have taken over America. However, the headline is later shown in full and revealed to be celebrating the Nazis' failure.
- This was the basis of Dream Girl's use in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Her prophecies were always completely accurate but often misinterpreted.
- The Matrix takes this to rather insane extremes as Neo and his friends deal with apparently contradicting prophecies from the Oracle that work themselves out in the end.
- The trick, though, is that the Oracle isn't really telling Neo or the other Zionites what her prophecies actually are. She tells them, "exactly what they need to hear" in order for her prophecies to come true.
- There's also a trick to the wording. She said Neo wasn't The One — didn't say he couldn't become The One. In fact, she said the opposite; she compared being The One to being in love and said it seemed like Neo was "waiting for something", which suggest that Oneness isn't something you just get automatically.
- It's even more detailed than that - Oracle: "You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something." Neo: "What?" Oracle: "Your next life, maybe. Who knows?" Neo only really unlocks his One-ness after being shot and apparently killed by the Agents, then coming back to life.
- It is Neo's love for Trinity that allows him to save the day.
- The Oracle and the Architect could only use their prophecy to guide the One within the Matrix itself. For the Architect, it was to compel the One to fulfill his function. For the Oracle, it was to add an unbalancing element to the One's choice in hopes of ending the war. That spoiler was Trinity's love (which was real and existed in and out of the Matrix), which compelled Neo to Take a Third Option, saving Trinity from death within the Matrix, despite the Architect's fated words, or Neo's own dreams of her death.
- In fact, what seemed to be a false prophecy that the war would end when the One reached the Source became true. The Architect wasn't the Source, but the Machine City that Neo sought to reach in The Matrix: Revolutions.
- The Architect's words still rung true; in the course of Neo's ultimate choice, Trinity still dies and he was powerless to stop it. It Sucks to Be the Chosen One.
- The Scorpion King includes a vision by the female lead where Mathayus gets shot in the back, at which point it ends. Said prophecy happens, then Mathayus gets back up, pulls the arrow out of his back, and shoots it back at the Big Bad, killing him.
- The main plot of The Smurfs is driven by Papa Smurf misreading an attempt to foretell the outcome of the Blue Moon Festival thanks to having the critical part of the vision interrupted by Clumsy Smurf — who, of course, ends up being integral in said scene. The rest of the film consists mainly of Papa making the prophecy come true with his attempts to keep Clumsy out of the way.
- Willow sees the evil Queen Bavmorda come across the prophecy of a child bearing a mark, who will lead to her destruction. Naturally, she scours the land capturing all pregnant women in search for this child. When Elora Dannan is born, all those people who have heard of the prophecy rally to protect the newborn so she can fulfill her destiny... accidentally bringing together a force that can storm Bavmorda's castle, while the queen herself is destroyed by the very spell she intended to kill baby Elora with.
- In the 1997 version of Prince Valiant, the bad guys steal Excalibur, but in their base, the sword embeds itself into the floor. Morgan le Fay orders her Magic Mirror to show them a person worthy of pulling the sword out besides King Arthur. It shows what appears to be Sir Gawain, so they try to kidnap him and force him to pull it out. Naturally, the mirror had shown Prince Valiant in Sir Gawain's armor.
- In the Harry Potter books, Voldemort hears half of a prophecy about a boy about to be born who will be his nemesis. With two possible choices, he chooses Harry, but in the process of trying to kill him, gives Harry both the power and a reason to defy him, which was the half of the prophesy that he missed. Also a Self Fulfilling Prophecy.
- It's implied that the prophesy still would have been true if he had attacked the other boy, in a bit of a Schr÷dinger's Gun.
- It's also clear that Voldemort intended to kill both children, just to be sure. But once Harry survived the attempt and Voldemort was temporarily reduced to a near-death state, it became obvious that he was the one the prophecy referred to and thus Voldemort lost interest in the other child. He didn't realize, and never did figure out, that Harry was only The Chosen One of the prophecy because Voldemort was the one who chose him. As mentioned above, that's the Fallacy part of the Prophetic Fallacy.
- Additionally, Voldemort's ego meant he never stopped to consider that doing nothing would have thwarted the prophecy completely.
- Interesting Times references Croesus (below). A seer, who, as he's on the Discworld, probably has a decent batting average, is completely flummoxed by a demand to predict the outcome of a battle, which is understandable as Lady Luck, several billion chaotic-system-generating butterflies, and Rincewind ("With him here, even uncertainty is uncertain") are all in the immediate vicinity. Knowing that he would be put to death for admitting it, he says only that "a decisive victory would be won" — neglecting to mention who would be the victor. Even then, he almost doesn't get away with it; Lord Hong demands to know if he's sure, and he only manages to escape by pretending to get indignant: "What, so you're the seer now? You can see what the liver means just here? I suppose you know all about this green wobbly bit over here!"
- Jingo: Nobby Nobbs chooses to take the cheap version of a genuinely magical fortune teller's vision in the crystal ball, which is just asking for this trope. She sees him surrounded by women who like him. It turns out this only happens because he's dressed as a woman himself at the time, so it's not exactly what he hoped for.
- The Heroes of Olympus series: Several new prophecies are mentioned in Son of Neptune, but are only half complete, leaving their ultimate meaning unclear.
- The Lord of the Rings
- Denethor sees the coming of the Black Fleet in the PalantÝr, and loses hope for Gondor defending itself against the onslaught from Mordor. Aragorn saw the same and went on to commandeer said ships, fill them with the now-unoccupied soldiers from southern Gondor, and helps turning the tide in Gondor's favor.
- The PalantÝr does this a lot. Among other things, it also tricks Sauron into attacking Aragorn.
- It's heavily implied that the PalantÝr also shows Denethor that Frodo is imprisoned in the tower of Cirith Ungol, leading him to believe that the Enemy has the Ring. He doesn't realize that Sam had taken the Ring, and is still free.
- Even the elves get in on this. Glorfindel foresees that the Witch-King will fall "not by the hand of man," without mentioning that he will fall by the hands of a woman and a hobbit.
- Word of God claimed that the last was inspired by Macbeth: Tolkien always thought that the quibble about Macduff not being "a man of woman born" was too inelegant, and it would have been much more satisfying if Macbeth had simply been killed by a woman. Similarly, the Last March of the Ents comes from Tolkien's disappointment that Birnham Wood didn't literally march on Macbeth's castle.
- A sort-of example: in the Expanded Universe series of Star Wars novels called the New Jedi Order, the enemy are Scary Dogmatic Aliens, the Yuuzhan Vong. One note about the Vong is that twins are exceedingly rare-and their religious beliefs indicate that one will always kill the other. They are intrigued not only by Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa Solo, but by Leia's children, Jacen and Jaina. To that end, they attempt to make it happen, by capturing one and them inducing them to kill the other. This in fact leads to their downfall, as with a little help from a spy Jacen not only is able to fake loyalty to the Yuuzhan Vong, but learns a number of Force uses that become instrumental in the war, but also that he corrupts a critical piece of Vong biotech.
- Disturbingly, they seem to have actually succeeded in the long run, as that training becomes a step along his path to becoming a Sith Lord, which drives Jaina to kill him.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe "Thrawn" trilogy has this kind of prophecy from the insane Jedi Master Joruus C'Baoth. He prophesied that Mara Jade would become his apprentice because he saw a vision of her kneeling before him. Turns out that Mara "kneels" in order to duck under C'Baoth's Force Lightning and chop him in half with her lightsaber.
- Also relating to Mara was the order/prophecy/hypnotic compulsion the Emperor issued her that she would kill Luke Skywalker. She invoked this trope by killing his (evil) clone instead, freeing herself from the Emperor's last command.
- In the story An Appointment in Samarra, a servant is sent to a Baghdad marketplace where he sees Death make a threatening gesture. His master lends him a horse to flee to the town of Samarra. When the master finds Death, and asks why she made the gesture, she replies that it was only a start of surprise at seeing him in Baghdad, since their appointment was that night in Samarra.
- As a parody on this, Death's introduction as a character in the very first Discworld novel goes like this: Rincewind runs into Death, who comments that they have an appointment soon somewhere else and asks if Rincewind would mind going there. Rincewind declines.
- In the same novel, a fortune-teller sees her own death in a crystal ball, panics, sells all her possessions and sets off for a far away city. She is killed by a freak avalanche at the exact same instant that her house collapses into a pile of ashes. The narrator informs us that this just goes to show that Death has a sense of humor too.
- In the trilogy Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams, a prophecy speaks about three swords that have to be united, so the early can resist against the late. This is interpreted by the protagonists that they have to get all three swords to resist the undead Storm King. Unfortunately, no one remembered the fact that the elves lived in the world before the humans arrived. Or, for that matter, that the prophecy was written by a servant/victim of the Big Bad.
- China MiÚville's Un Lun Dun plays around with this trope: a young girl named Zanna is prophesied by an living book of prophecy to be the Shwazzy, the saviour of UnLondon, a fantasy counterpart to London, from the evil sentient smog that threatens the city. When Zanna and her best friend Deeba accidentally travel to UnLondon, Zanna attempts to fight the Smog...and is almost immediately put out of commission. Deeba, however, proves to be much more effective at combating the Smog, and she rapidly becomes the hero of the story. This is only the first of MANY plot twists in this novel. Also, the book of prophecy that predicted incorrectly? It spends quite a lot of the rest of the book being depressed and thinking that it is useless. All this results in the one thing the Book was certain was a misprint being absolutely correct and the key to stopping the Smog.
- The Journey of the Catechist series has the main character repeatedly warned that if they continue they will die. They do, only to be resurrected immediately afterward.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Arthur Dent knows that he can't be killed until he visits Stavromula Beta and has an attempt made on his life while there, thanks to his encounter with Agrajag. Dent assumes it's a planet and does his best to find out where it is, so he can avoid it. It turns out to be a nightclub, Stavro Mueller's Beta. He doesn't realize that this is the name of the nightclub until he enters it. The attempt on his life is made, and he's killed seconds after that.
- Much of The Darksword Trilogy concerns an ancient prophecy about the destruction of the world. Unfortunately, the prophet died in the middle of speaking it, leaving it unfinished. Naturally, when the final line of the prophecy is eventually revealed it completely changes the meaning. Turns out the people who have been trying to prevent the end of the world have been doing exactly the wrong thing for several thousand years now. Oops.
- Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer plays with this trope and adds a tragic twist to it. Applied Phlebotinum briefly transports the mind of everyone on Earth to the future, giving everyone a short "vision" of what is to come. Believing this means the future is predestined, people make assumptions based on what they saw themselves doing in the future. Some start doing whatever their future selves did while others are devastated by their visions. This drives one character who wanted to be a writer but saw himself as a bus boy to kill himself, ironically proving that the future wasn't predestined anyway. It's also implied he was working as a bus boy for book research.
- A subversion in Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. One of the main characters owns a book of prophecies made by a distant ancestor that's been passed down from generation to generation. Every last prophecy is perfectly accurate-but pronouncedly unclear. The subversion is that this character, and generations previous, were fully aware of this, and it became a sort of family business to try and decipher them. This wasn't an easy job, since the best explanation that she can give another character was that Agnes Nutter, the original seer, was looking at things she didn't understand through a very small metaphorical tube, in no discernible order, and so while things often slot into place afterward (some in time to do some good even, like, "Dont buye Betamacks"), until then what anyone thinks the original seer was predicting is as good a guess as anyone else's.
- On the other hand, the prophecies are indeed so accurate that the characters eventually realize they can just pull one out at random and it'll be the one they need.
- The Faerie Queene: The sea nymph Marinell's mother was scared by a vague prophecy made by a sea god Proteus that a woman would be the cause of her son's doom. Assuming that the woman who could hurt him the most would be the one he loved, she forbade her son from falling in love or getting married... eventually leaving his girlfriend Florimell easy pickings for Proteus. Meanwhile, the prophecy was fulfilled when Marinell was severely injured in battle with the Action Girl Knight in Shining Armor Britomart. His mother eventually saw her error in interpreting the prophecy and got Zeus to release Florimell and give Proteus a stern lecture on abusing the power of prophecy to manipulate people.
- Harry Turtledove's fourth Tales Of The Fox story has a prophecy about "bronze and wood" that fools even the clever and well-educated Fox into thinking it just refers to chariots, but that's okay; it wasn't meant for him anyway, but for his son and his demigod houseguest, who puzzle out the true meaning just in time to save the Fox's army.
- In Daphne du Maurier's short story Don't Look Now (later made into a film), John Baxter stays in Venice because he sees his wife on a boat. Turns out he can see the future, and she was actually returning to Venice for his funeral.
- In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, the witches prophecise that Macbeth 'need fear none of woman borne'. Macbeth is eventually killed in battle by Macduff, a man born by caesarean section.
- In a Star Trek: New Frontier novel, a scientist is given a vision that he'll die on his 43rd birthday. When the day comes and goes, he is relieved...until he finds out that his assistant had been surreptitiously altering things on his project, inadvertantly speeding up the clocks in the process. A raiding party promptly beams onto their station and kills him...on his 43rd birthday.
- In the Apprentice Adept series, the Red Adept receives an Oracle prophecy stating that she would be "destroyed" by Adept Blue. Red sets about striking first; murdering Blue and making an attempt at Blue's "other self", Stile, in Proton (scientific twin world to Phaze's magical one). When Red and Stile finally meet, and Red confesses why she's been trying to kill him, Stile points out that, had she not killed Blue, Stile never could've entered Phaze. And probably wouldn't have anyway, if Red's first attempt to kill him hadn't left him unable to race horses. Turns out The Oracle (Who was really a self-aware super-computer with connections in both Phaze and Photon) intentionally phrased Red's prophecy in such a way that her paranoia would do the rest, counting on her not to stop and think about it.
- In Myth-Gotten Gains, a prophecy states that the Golden Hoard will be reunited by a green hand. Normally this would be a helpful clue, except that both Aahz and Barrik have green scales, and Tananda's skin has a touch of green to it: everyone who's a candidate to find the Hoard fits the description, making the prophecy worthless due to its imprecision.
- Done quite impressively in the Mistborn books. The God of Evil Ruin is imprisoned in the Well of Ascension, but can still effect the world in subtle ways, especially changing writing, so he carefully reworded the prophecies about the Hero of Ages to say that they need to do the exact opposite of what they're supposed to. The first time round he was foiled by a man with a Photographic Memory, but it worked spectacularly the second time.
- Done on a galaxy-wide scale in the Horus Heresy novels. Whilst on the brink of death, Horus is shown a vision of the future where his father, The Emperor of Mankind, is worshipped as a god across the entire galaxy. He "visits" a world devoted solely to the Emperor's worship and sees the statues devoted to him and the (as yet unaware) loyalist Primarchs. Taking this as proof that the Emperor wanted to install himself as a god, Horus launches a galaxy wide rebellion that would eventually cause the very future he saw. Though in this case he was not alive to see it happen.
- In The High King, when the sword Dyrnwyn is stolen, the main characters get two prophecies about regaining the swordnote . They interpret them as meaning "Ain't gonna happen"; it's actually a reasonably literal chronicle of events leading up to the sword's recovery.
Live Action TV
- On one episode of Taxi, Reverend Jim gives a number of prophecies that seem to come true. When Jim declares that Alex Rieger will die the following Thursday at 7pm, Rieger is skeptical. One the night of the prophecy, Louie goes to visit Rieger to keep him company and to help avert whatever tragedy is to fall him. As the highly improbable prophesied chain of events leading up to Rieger's death start to come true, Louie grows more concerned and Alex grows more incredulous. He finally decides to tempt fate by acting out the more ridiculous of Jim's prophecies, just to prove to Louie that it's all a bunch of hogwash. Finally, at 7pm, there's a knock on the door. Louie hesitantly opens the door, and sees a girl scout selling cookies. Louie screams, the girl scout screams and flees, and Louie slams the door in terror: "Did you see it, Rieger? It was hideous!!"
- Medium uses this a lot. The main character and her three daughters has lots of visions that often take days to figure out what those visions really are saying.
- Happened numerous times in The Outer Limits and other supernatural anthology shows, typically involving someone trying to avoid their death at a given time/date, but learning that he was supposed to die a little while later.
- The series that was truly the king of this trope was the contemporaneous One Step Beyond, which seemingly used this twist every other episode.
- Also happened in The Twilight Zone, though rather more rarely.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Cassandra", the eponymous computer predicts that Rimmer will die of a heart attack. However, he notes that Cassandra does not know that he's Rimmer, and tricks a crewman into wearing his jacket (with nametag). Sure enough, the crewmember dies. (Also a Self Fulfilling Prophecy: he dies of a heart attack brought on by the stress of being told he's going to die of a heart attack). However, we later learn that several of the predictions she made were intentional lies in an attempt to get revenge on Lister for killing her. It fails and Lister does kill her, but it's more a Rube Goldberg Device-esque accident than any intentional murder.
- That's So Raven is entirely built around this, as Raven's brief glimpses of the future never give her the whole story. Hilarity Ensues as she tries to fix what may or may not actually be broken - and breaks it. And learns her lesson... for precisely twenty-three hours and five minutes.
- In one episode of Xena, a widower king's evil advisor tries to get him to kill a child prophesied to take his throne. Eventually, the plot's exposed, the king marries the infant's mother, and the baby will, in the fullness of time, take the king's throne. But he will take the king's throne as his heir, not his usurper. The series is (loosely) based on Greco-Roman myth, where this sort of thing was common, though usually more tragic.
- Also quite nicely subverted in season four. The entire season features Xena being haunted by a vision of herself and Gabrielle being crucified, and slowly the pieces seem to start coming together for it to happen: she recognizes a nearby mountain peak as in the background of the vision, and is forced to cut Gabrielle's hair to the length she saw. So much time is spent on this over an entire year's worth of episodes that the audience pretty much all assumed that there was going to be some twist to get them out of it. Nope; things happen exactly as Xena saw, and she and Gabrielle die on their crosses. Of course, this being the show it is that's no obstacle for them continuing to star on the show.
- Stargate Atlantis did an episode with a number of these, that always cut off right before revealing that the scene shown is actually to their benefit.
- Babylon 5:
- The first episode that introduced prophets had a vision about Babylon Five being invaded with forces at a last stand. This part was false. It was linked to a second vision where Babylon Five was destroyed with one ship barely escaping. While true, it was really scuttled due to bureaucracy.
- "If you go to Z'Ha'Dum, you will die". For a while, anyway...though even so, afterward, his days are numbered.
- Londo Mollari had a vision of his own death: when he is an old man, he and a Narn will strangle each other to death.When he meets G'Kar, Londo recognizes him as the Narn from the vision and treats him as a personal enemy (it didn't help that their people had been enemies for decades). While this occurs exactly as Londo saw, he misread the context: he and G'Kar are no longer enemies, and G'Kar killing him is an act of mercy because Londo's "Keeper," will not let him kill himself. He strangles G'Kar because the Keeper wakes up and tries to defend itself.
- In the first season finale of Angel, Wes translates a prophecy to say that Angel will die. In the end it is revealed that Wes mistranslated it, and the real prophecy said that he would "live and die" (the language of the prophecy uses the same word for both); in other words, become human. Of course, the prophecy only said "the vampire with a soul," so in the fifth season, a conflict is introduced that it could have been Spike they were talking about. At the time the prophecy was translated, Angel was not only the only vampire with a soul, but the only one that had ever existed, nobody had even considered the idea that it could refer to someone else.
- Also the prophecy "the father will kill the son", which drove multiple episodes in the back half of the third season, was faked by the demon Sahjhan (who, upon revealing this, taunts "read any good prophecies lately?") because the true prophecy was "the son would kill Sahjhan". When Wesley goes to one of the Loa for clarification, he is told that the vampire will certainly devour his child. Angel's blood supply from the butcher had been spiked with Connor's blood by Wolfram & Hart and at the season 4 finale, Angel 'kills' Connor: he destroys Connor's true identity, giving him a fake one to save his sanity by giving him a normal family life, one that carries no memory of his real lifel.
- Also Sahjan hearing only "the son would kill Sahjan" led him to causing Conner to be in the exact position to do just that.
- Used many, many times on the TV version of Flash Forward, but here's one example: Demetri's fiancee doesn't believe that Demetri's blackout means he's going to die, as she had a vision of herself walking down a beach to greet Demtri's family while dressed in white — so, obviously, she saw their wedding, which means he'll still be alive in six months. Then she realizes that she was in South Korea in the vision, where white is a color of mourning...
- In Doctor Who, the Tenth Doctor is told that before he regenerates, "he will knock four times." Considering the last episode was set to feature the return of The Master (who, in the new series, constantly hears four drum-beats in his head), many presumed the seemingly obvious. Turns out it wasn't the Master, nor was it the power-mad President of the Time Lords...it was Wilf, after all the trouble had been sorted, knocking quietly on the door of the broken containment chamber that's about to be flooded with radiation. And the only way get him out is for the Doctor to lock himself in the adjacent chamber, thus triggering his regeneration.
- This was a staple of Heroes throughout the 1st season thanks to future-painter Isaac Mendez. Everything he painted came true, except that none of them came true in quite the same way everyone interpreted them. Some examples:
- Two in Homecoming, the first was the painting of Sylar standing over a dead cheerleader, which everyone expects to be Claire Bennett, who he's currently chasing. It turns out to be fellow cheerleader Jackie, who Sylar mistakes for Claire. The other was a picture of a dead Peter lying outside Claire's high school. That does come true, except that he comes back to life thanks to acquiring Claire's regenerative abilities.
- A picture of Hiro pointing a sword at a dinosaur, which made everyone believe Hiro's time traveling abilities would send him back to the Jurassic Age. Instead it came true when he pointed a fake sword at a museum dinosaur.
- A picture of Nathan standing in the Oval Office, insinuating that he gets elected president, a painting that becomes the basis for mob boss Daniel Linderman's plan for world domination. As it turns out, the painting comes true, but it's not really Nathan. It's Sylar, who gains illusion abilities, kills Nathan, and takes his place in his own plot to gain power. Thank god it only happened in an alternate future seen only in Five Years Gone.
- An Applied Phlebotinum / Techno Babble-powered example occurred in the first episode of Blake's 7 after the super-computer ORAC joined the cast, when they tested out its future-prediction capabilities and got a short video clip of what appeared to be the Liberator exploding. Turns out it was another ship of the same design, launched in pursuit after they spent the episode trying to escape the people who built the Liberator and disputed their salvage claim, and it turned out to have been ORAC who sabotaged it. Apparently they decided that getting ORAC to predict the future was more trouble than it was worth, as it was never used again.
- This happens a fair bit in The Dead Zone, with Johnny getting visions where the intended target/victim is unclear or he jumps to the wrong conclusion about what he is seeing because he doesn't know what he's seeing is incomplete. A particularly good example occurs when he has a vision of himself killing a stranger and the clues lead him to believe Sarah or JJ are in danger ( the victim is really Bruce and it's a complete accident.) At the end of the episode, Johnny laments that he just sees flashes of events out of context which makes trying to predict (and prevent) the future very difficult.
- In another episode Johny gets a vision of a school shooting but does not see the shooter's face. The school principal believes him and institutes a zero-tolerance policy in order to prevent the event from occurring. At the end of the episode Johny realizes that the vision was from a few years in the future and the shooter is still a young boy who has yet to experience the abuse that will turn him into a killer. Johny exposes the pedophile teacher that would abuse the boy and prevents the tragedy. However, the school's heavy handed tactics cause another student to rebel because of the harassment he received and then a paranoid security guard shoots the student thinking that the he is the shooter from Johny's vision.
- In Misfits, Curtis (in a relationship with Alisha) receives a vision of the future where he is standing on a roof in a superhero costume where he is propositioned by an unknown girl. Once back to the present he assumes that this happens in the far future, where he is destined to become a superhero and have a new love interest. In fact his relationship with Alicia quickly falls apart, he meets the girl from the vision, and after only a week or two he attends a fancy dress party wearing the costume, allowing the vision to come true.
- Early in Wicked, Elphaba predicts her future greatness, saying "When people see me, they will scream" and "There'll be a celebration throughout Oz, all to do with me." However, as it turns out, people scream out of fear, and the celebration is about her death.
- Being killed by a creature who was already dead seemed rather unlikely to Herakles until the end of The Trachiniae, where it is revealed that his wife (who has since also killed herself) accidentally poisoned him with a purported love potion given to her by a centaur he killed on his deathbed.
- In The Curse of Monkey Island, the Voodoo Lady warns Threepwood that she has seen that Blood Island will be the place where he dies. When he actually reaches Blood Island, he draws 5 Death cards from a single Tarot deck. Turns out, everyone does see him die there: He fakes his death, multiple times, in order to gain access to certain crypts.
- In Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Jolee Bindo recounts the tale of an old Jedi comrade of his, whom other Jedi believed to have a great destiny. Jolee and this Jedi were later captured by a warlord, but the other Jedi raving about his destiny annoyed the warlord so much that he threw him into the ship's engines. Jolee notes that the Jedi's must've damaged something during his fall, as the ship blew up, the warlord was killed, and the political system of the entire sector was radically changed.
- Similarly, Jolee's accounts of the player's "swirling force" are vague and cryptic enough to prevent them from affecting the player's choices at all. Jolee simply wants to observe.
- And in the sequel, pretty much everything Kreia says, prophetic or not, is a semi-lie that manipulates everyone and everything to following her grand plan. For instance, she says the Jedi cut the player off from the Force. When in fact it was the Jedi's flawed teachings that led to the Mandalorian Wars, during which the Exile cut him/herself off from the Force due to... well, it's a long story. The Exile goes looking for the Jedi to get some answers... and, well, they don't survive long.
- Her grand plan doesn't matter much beyond itself, it is meant to build up the PC as a Jedi and ally in Revan's quest against the real Sith Empire and nothing else. Completely wiping out the remains of the Jedi and the local bunch of Sith was an incidental bonus (she seemed quite annoyed that she had to wipe out the Jedi in fact).
- That and she also wanted, y'know, to kill the Force.
- Well, maybe. Or she wanted the Exile to kill her, completing his/her training in typical Sith fashion. Or she had some bad cheese. With Kreia, it's impossible to know for sure about anything she ever said or did. She basically never tells the full truth, and it's difficult to impossible to figure out which parts are the truth and which are the lies.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, it's revealed that Darth Zash chose the Sith Inquisitor as her apprentice due to having foreseen them in a vision where they quiet the newly reawakened spirit of Lord Kallig, who's influence had killed or driven mad nearly every soul to enter the Dark Temple on Dromund Kaas. She didn't realise however that this was because not only does the Inquisitor have the rare ability to draw forth Force Ghosts, but is a direct descendant of Kallig himself, who had long since been awaiting their arrival at that time.
- Furthermore, she has two visions where she sees the Inquisitor standing over her body and leading the Empire into a new future. However, her vision fails to take into account the possibility that her plan to steal the Inquisitor's body would fail and that "she" is possessing the Inquisitor's body at the time. She herself ends up trapped in Khem Val's body and unable to raise a hand to her former apprentice, watching as they later ascend to the Dark Council.
- In Legacy of Kain, depending on how you interpret the prophecy that Raziel will kill Kain, either it foretells both Raziel killing Kain (which happens) AND Kain killing Raziel (which happens), or Raziel destroying himself (which happens). The series has always been a bit of a Mind Screw with temporal mechanics.
- All of this is actually an inuniverse misninterpretation of the prophecy; the two precursor races each foretold of a champion. The prophecy showed two possible outcomes, one with each champion winning. Everyone assumes that Kain is the vampire champion and that Raziel is the other one. In truth, Raziel is both champions, and the multiple choice prophecy is due to his own free will, something that only he has in the setting.
- Overlapping with the self-fulfilling variation, the wizard whose prophesies form the narrative of the Myth 2 mod The Seventh God can see everything about the war but the identity of the Big Bad, a foreigner who had united the scattered goblin tribes. He tries to prevent the game's events by traveling to their lands and trying to unite them and "lead them to greater glory." This trope is actually a rule of prophesies in the setting, as seers can't see their own future.
- In Odin Sphere, the Fire King Onyx believes himself to be invincible since the prophecy of the Worlds End clearly states that he can only be defeated by the World Tree. Because there is no World Tree in Erion, he basically assumes that he can stomp his way through the fairy kingdom. This gives Mercedes the reason to attack and kill him. She is mortally wounded herself and with her last breath reveals her true name: Yggdrasil
- In In FAMOUS, the prophecy is that a supremely powerful Conduit called the Beast will rise in the near future and utterly destroy civilization. The character who brings the warning knows it because he's from the future and witnessed the destruction first hand. What neither he nor anyone else ever realizes is that this information is missing one important detail: the Beast's motivation. It turns out that the Beast isn't committing genocide For the Evulz, he's sacrificing the non-Conduit population to bring as many Conduits into their powers as possible, and he's doing this because only Conduits can survive a plague unleashed by the event that began giving them their powers. If the player chooses the good ending in the sequel, Cole decides that this new information changes nothing and he still has an obligation to stop the Beast, even though the only alternative is to reverse the direction of the genocide, killing himself and all Conduits as part of the process needed to cure the plague.
- Little Big Adventure II/Twinsen's Odyssey has an old prophecy hijacked by a character who removed the final part of it, since it predicted the downfall of a deity he was impersonating. Naturally, his actions eventually made the full version of the prophecy self-fulfilling (and it did turn out to be true in the end).
- In The Last Days Of FOXHOUND, Vulcan Raven, having the gift of future sight, is puzzled when he is unable to see past his upcoming encounter with Solid Snake. Somewhat inverted when, near the end, he guesses that the reason he can't see past that point is that he will die in that battle. Since the webcomic is based off of the game Metal Gear Solid and Raven had a role as a simple boss and only appeared in that one game, one can guess how this prophecy plays out.
- In Arthur, King of Time and Space, Merlin tells King Rience that if he attacks Arthur a great king will fall. You can't beat the classics.
- Some of Jade's prophetic dreams in Homestuck. She sees individual scenes, but not necessarily the context, which winds up causing a few severe Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moments. For example, she sees that John will end up facing the Big Bad, so she sends him a Disc One Nuke to protect him. It winds up allowing the Big Bad's rise to power in the first place.
- In the Ciem Webcomic Series, Arfaas keeps trying to kill Candi because he believes "liPo" refers to "Flippo." It really means library position, so it actually referred to Dolly the whole time! Worse, believing it to be Candi so long only resulted in him inadvertently motivating and giving both of them the means to undo the Hebbleskin Gang!
- Happens in Kim Possible with a prophecy about how the leader of the monkey ninjas will be unstoppable. At the end of the episode the prophecy spirit rather sheepishly shows up to explain to the disgruntled monkey ninjas that due to a typo he actually meant something else (Ron Stoppable).
- Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender had a vision when he was young that he'd be the one successfully claim the city of Ba Sing Se for the Fire Nation — only to end the siege in his grief at his son's death. Years later, he finally did claim the city — from the Fire Nation, in the name of the Earth Kingdom. As he says "Destiny is a funny thing".
- There's also the entirety of the Fortune Teller episode, which SEEMS to be leading this way. Everything she prophesises is either incredibly vague or self-fulfilling ("I'll meet my wife on the day I wear red shoes, so every day I wear red shoes!" type of self-fulfilling.) Then she makes a series of predictions that not only fly in the face of logic concerning the local about-to-erupt volcano, and everyone adopts a very laissez faire approach. It gets so bad that the Gaang has to fly up and literally rearrange the clouds to get her to change her prophecy, which FINALLY gets everyone off their asses, proving that her initial prediction was the wrong one.... The subversion, pointed out explicitly by her, is that it ended up that everything turned out literally as she predicted (the village itself was not destroyed by the volcano).