Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.In some stories, you have no way of knowing what's going to happen, largely because it comes out of nowhere. And the next plot event also comes out of nowhere. And so on - without being set up or having any sort of logical lead-up from previous events. The characters primarily exist to react to whatever the writer throws their way. When this happens, it's a Random Events Plot. Randomness is something that happens every day in Real Life. Many things happen for a reason, but a lot of them don't. Well, fine, every event has a cause, but often those reasons will be so small or irrelevant that they appear random. Despite the occurrence of random things in real life, their portrayal is not always appreciated in fictional works. Audiences automatically search for reasons for someone's behaviour. If things just happen without any logical explanation or build up, events can come across as a product of bad writing or being absurd for the sake of being absurd. Comedies do this all the time, as the Rule of Funny means that they don't have to make sense. Video games often do it as well, thanks to the Rule of Fun. When non-comedic works of fiction do this, however, it can be quite jarring. How well they pull it off and how enjoyable they manage to be often has to do with the execution of the story. If it's good, then the story may be random, but at least it's the fun kind of random, rather than the confusing, annoying kind of random. Artsy works can showcase random scenes to show we live in a World of Symbolism. It's up to the audience to find the hidden meanings. Exploitation works or low level art (pulp novels, Exploitation Film,...) just randomly add cheap thrills like violence, shock, sex, action, gags, Product Placement,... because the creators want to make a quick buck without bothering too much about the story. Most of the time the audience will notice and refuse to suspend their disbelief. But when in the right mood or with the right audience they will enjoy these random scenes because they provide them with the cheap thrills they would like to encounter in the story. Or they enjoy the "Anything goes" atmosphere. In Poetics, Aristotle denounced the "episodic" as the worst of all plots, where there is neither probability nor necessity in the sequence of events, so bungling it has been around a while. See Also: Chandler's Law, Halfway Plot Switch, Narrative Filigree, "Shaggy Dog" Story. Might occur when the story has a Pinball Protagonist.
Homer: Exactly! It's just a bunch of stuff that happened.
Marge: But it certainly was a memorable few days.
Homer: Amen to that!
Homer: Exactly! It's just a bunch of stuff that happened.
Marge: But it certainly was a memorable few days.
Homer: Amen to that!
— The Simpsons, "Blood Feud"
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- Superman: At Earth's End. Go on, try to explain where any of this came from. What was the first apocalypse, who designed the biomechs, what's with the children, and the Broken Aesop (Guns are bad, after Superman clearly used guns to solve his problem.) was horrible. And it's part of The Dark Age of Comic Books. The last one should be a turnoff for most people...
- The story is actually a sequel to Kamandi at Earth's End, a similarly terrible re-imagining of Kamandi the Last Boy On Earth. And while the biomechs and the cause of the apocalypse were explained, there's still plenty of stuff (including the twin clones of Hitler) that wasn't.
- Early Tintin books are this. Hergé tossed his protagonist from one solved situation into the next unsolved one or rather tossed situations at him. Only the location remained constant. It goes to show that Hergé had no experience in writing comics at all when he started at the age of 19. This wasn't received poorly, though; Tintin was originally released in a weekly kids' magazine page by page instead of in books all at once, and the Belgians in the late 1920s didn't have that many comics to compare Tintin with anyway. The third story in the series, Tintin in America started moving away from this formula, adopting a more focused theme of Tintin taking on gangsters, and then the fourth story, Cigars of the Pharaoh moved to having a fully coherent storyline.
- A few action-packed stories of the Disney Ducks Comic Universe can feel like the writers just tried to connect as many setpieces possible. An example is the DuckTales seven-part comic "The Gold Odyssey".
Film — Animated
- Bambi deliberately eschews traditional narrative in favor of episodic mood pieces with an overarching theme of friendship, love and growing up tying it all together. Considering the film is meant to be a naturalistic portrayal of nature, this works perfectly in the film's favor.note
- Don Bluth intentionally structured and paced The Secret Of NIMH like a novel more than a standard animated movie, believing it allowed more subtext to be incorporated into the film. The plot starts off fairly straightforward (Mrs. Brisby is coping with the loss of her husband and has to save her sick kid from harm) with some backstory foreshadowed a couple times and having a very minor subplot of Jeremy the Crow trying to find a love interest. Half an hour into the film, when Mrs. Brisby enters the rose bush and finds the Rats of NIMH, the film veers way off the main plot and into a grand total of four other plots, largely consisting of subplots and backstory; the Rats coming to terms with their newfound intelligence and responsibilities, Nicodemus helping Mrs. Brisby out of obligation and coping with the rats situation, Jenner trying to stage a coup to usurp power, and NIMH trying to seek out and destroy the rats. This half is practically its own self contained story, and has little relevance to the main conflict other than the additional problems they unwittingly bring in—the only thing that directly ties them into it is that Mrs. Brisby was related to one of their own kind, Jonathan, and gets their help solely because of that). Throw in some unexplained loose ends (just where did Nicodemus get that amulet or those magic powers?) and the plot can ultimately feel rather disjointed. Much of this was a result of changes from the book, namely playing up Mrs. Brisby's role in the story (the Rats were the central characters of the novel, with Mrs. Brisby being a vehicle for the audience), adding magical fantasy elements (Nicodemus had none of his supernatural powers in the book), and upgrading a minor character (Jenner) into the villain (the book had no real antagonist).
- Rock-A-Doodle, seems to be a series of random events slapped together to sort of create a story based on The Canterbury Tales.
- Titanic: The Legend Goes On strongly suggests the guy who pitched it wasn't even aware that the Titanic disaster was an actual thing that happened. Plot elements and random-ass shit come out of nowhere, including an occasion where a character responds to an expression of gratitude by breaking out into a completely irrelevant rap song. It suggests nothing so much as that the creators played an old adventure game to figure out how to make the movie; "To make a BLOCKBUSTER HIT, you'll need A STAR-CROSSED ROMANCE, TALKING ANIMALS, WACKY HIJINX, and A RAP SONG to show we're hip with the kids."
- Once The Pagemaster becomes animated, it's a bunch of encounters between the protagonist, his book companions, and various literary characters.
Film — Live-Action
- Lady Bird is comprised of vignettes from the titular character's senior year in high school and acceptance into college.
- Adam Elliot's films trilogy of short films (Uncle, Cousin, and Brother) that he made before Harvie Krumpet and Mary and Max were this, although for a good reason — they're supposed to emulate the feeling you're looking through a photo album.
- Miami Connection has a relatively basic plot involving a taekwondo band going to college and drug dealing, but it drifts away from it and has some scenes happen with no buildup or explanation for them. It gets worse when you put the missing father subplot, band rivalry, petty biker gang violence, and drug dealing ninjas into the equation.
- Red Zone Cuba. It sort of makes sense as the three protagonists join the army, invade Cuba, get captured, and escape from Cuba. Then the story completely falls apart as they decided to find the wife of a guy they left behind in the Cuban POW camp, committing a series of petty and not-so-petty crimes along the way
- Spice World is just a sequence of random things happening that involve the Spice Girls.
- Monster a-Go Go is an accidental example of this that became MST3K fodder due to being an Obvious Beta patched together from multiple unfinished movies and clumsy narration.
- Cry Wilderness has many plot points that are poorly connected and are often unceremoniously dropped into the viewers' laps with no foreshadowing. We don't even find out that the animal Paul's dad and the others are looking for is a tiger escaped from the circus until the tiger actually shows up. And Red Hawk? Comes right the flip outta nowhere.
- The Last Exorcism Part II has no discernable plot, and barely connects to the original. It's just the main character acting weird as weird things happen (or do they?)
- Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks has Dave put the Chipmunks and the Chipettes under the care of a woman named Lalu for a few days, and the screentime is filled out with things varying from Theodore overflowing the toilet with toys, to Alvin and Simon fighting over a cape, to Jeanette eating Brittany's lipstick and having to make money to buy a new one for her while wearing a ridiculous costume to help Lalu clean up.
- Mortal Kombat: Annihilation tries to cram in as much of the enormous roster of Mortal Kombat 3 as possible, and thus it's the protagonists finding and fighting some people while the story supposedly moves forward.
- The Holy Mountain is made of this. The first scene is about some guy in black with a giant hat cutting some twins' hair, the next thing you know there's a guy covered in bees laying over a pool of his own piss and some naked kids throwing rocks at him. To be fair, the director/writer, cast, and filming team were on LSD or psychedelic mushrooms.
- Richard Linklater is fond of this trope. Dazed and Confused, Waking Life and especially Slacker are films of Ensemble Casts, or sometimes random unrelated people, going through a plotless series of events.
- Jean-Luc Godard loves these.
- The Room has maybe half an hour of actual plot. The rest of it is completely meaningless events and unresolved B-plots that add nothing to the story.
- Deeply weird experimental short film Un Chien Andalou (1928) is probably the Ur-Example. There's a scene where a man slices a woman's eyeball open. A man in a nun's habit is run down in the street by a truck, after finding a severed hand on a sidewalk. A man has a huge hole in his palm that ants are crawling out of. A man gives a second man two books, which turn into two guns, which he uses to shoot the first man. And some other stuff happens, too.
- Moonwalker. The film is mostly a string of unconnected vignettes. The "Smooth Criminal" section, which attempts a longer-form plot, is itself an example. It starts with Michael and his kid friends playing soccer in a verdant meadow. It ends with him performing a concert at a club. In between, we have a dance number in a 1930s club that's deserted one moment and inhabited the next, Michael transforming into a spaceship to defeat an evil drug lord wielding a giant laser, and other stuff. Why? As with much of the film, Jackson wills it.
- Marketa Lazarová seems to have a plot, but it embraces Anachronic Order to the extreme and adds a liberal amount of Mind Screw to obscure it.
- Both Birdemic and Birdemic 2: The Resurrection have two halves of this. The first half of both films consists of the characters being overly successful in their careers and romances; the second half of both films is a series of adventures throughout the birdpocalypse. The latter is emphasized by the fact that literally every scene in the second half of both films begins with the characters driving along and saying something to the effect of, "Hey, look, there's [something happening]. Let's pull over and [investigate/rescue/etc.]."
- Atlanta Nights, but it wasn't meant to be taken very seriously to begin with.
- Almost everything by Bret Easton Ellis.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, often Conan deals with several unrelated perils. "Shadows In The Moonlight" has him face an ape-man, Eldritch Abomination statues that come to life, and pirates. Generally carried off by sheer vigor.
- The Grey Griffins book series. The kid heroes encounter goblins that attack them in the forest, portals that show up at convenient times to warp them away - or into - danger, zombies in a graveyard, and a bunch of Deus ex Machina rescues. It's pretty fun, too, but definitely random. The events are somewhat related to the main evil that's out there, but what exactly that evil causes is definitely a bunch of random threats all over the place. One of the co-authors mentions in his public school appearances "the importance of keeping your story unpredictable." No kidding!
On the other hand, the randomness can really get out of hand and feel like Ass Pulls galore whenever they're not used because the author randomly thought this or that might make a cool place to take the story, even if it makes no sense.
- Lonely Werewolf Girl. A major theme is that things never work out the way you wish they would.
- The Maximum Ride series, although it only really becomes noticeable during the third book, Saving The World and Other Extreme Sports. At least one or two new plot developments comes up every chapter, and without fail are never explained, elaborated, or even mentioned again.
- The Odyssey... well, more specifically, the most famous part of it, the story of Odysseus' voyage that he recounts to a room full of people.
- Catch-22 is like this, to the point where many first time readers are just advised to read it without attempting to make too much sense of it. Luckily, this is also played for many, many laughs early on. By the last fifteen chapters, however, things start to make sense.
- Several episodes of Law & Order seem to be exercises in how many off-the-wall plot twists the writers can throw up on the screen. For example, there's an episode where Briscoe and Green start investigating a homicide like any other, only to come across a woman running her husband over repeatedly. Then another murder. Then more nonsense. By the end of the episode, they've dealt with something like four homicides and an assault, and some random woman hitting Green. It's the funniest episode of the series.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
- An episode starts off with a murdered Asian woman. In short order the detectives find out that the victim had been imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese government. Then comes a revelation that she had actually married her husband for a green card, which leads them to suspect him, but it turns out he was cool with it since he only wanted to get married to cover the fact that he was gay. After a series of even more bizarre twists, it turns out the killer is a boy at the local bakery who essentially killed her for her shoes. (He had a foot fetish.) Then the episode ends with the squad arresting his abusive mother for damaging his impulse control centers and essentially making him psychotic with repeated blows to the head over the years.
- Another good example is the episode that ends up with the SVU detectives (who specialize in rape and sexual assault cases) investigating an ANIMAL SMUGGLING RING. That episode also included a gratuitous shot of half-naked Benson and Stabler pawing each other to maintain Stabler's undercover persona.
- Lost ran on this trope when it was first starting out. Within just the first few episodes, it threw in magical healing powers, the walking dead, an inexplicable polar bear and some giant unseen monster, and each new episode just introduced new, unexplained weirdness. One of the first season's longer arcs involved characters unearthing a hatch and trying to open it. The writers admit having no idea what was inside at the time - they just thought it would be cool to include a hatch.
- Many of the episodes in the third season of Robin Hood are like this. Prime example is "Let the Games Begin", which involves the outlaws just running around the forest, chased by Prince John's "elite guards" who are defeated when giant fishing nets are thrown over them. Guy of Gisborne has a pet lion that he releases in order to kill the outlaws. The outlaws respond by throwing mustard powder at it. Meanwhile, Little John has been drafted into a rigged gladiator school. Guy's never-before-mentioned sister turns up, and Robin quite fancies her...then he finds out she's Gisborne's sister...then he insists to the outlaws that she's trustworthy...then he grabs her face, pushes her into a tree and steals her belongings, acting as though they've been in a lengthy relationship instead of having known her for about five minutes.
- The 24 producers openly admit to making the plot up as the season goes along, as scripting an inflexible story for a medium very dependent on flexibility would be outright impossible. Still, the better structured seasons cover up this weakness pretty well, while the other ones...less so. Examples of the latter case vary by person, but most fans agree that season six was the most obvious one. When a suitcase nuke goes off in the L.A. suburbs at 10 AM (10:00 24h), you expect mass hysteria for the rest of the day (i.e., season). Mere hours later, people are going about their day like nothing happened. Meanwhile, the terrorist threat bounces between the Islamic extremists, Russian nationalists, the Chinese who captured Jack, and...Jack's immediate family. Uh...
- Michael Jackson: The full-length "Black or White" video. It starts with a suburban kid blasting his grouchy dad to Africa with a powerfully amplified guitar chord, continues through an "It's a Small World"-style celebration of diversity climaxing with a morphing montage, and then goes into an extended — and music-free — dance sequence in which a black panther turns into Jackson, smashes up a car and streetfront windows, and grabs his crotch a lot before changing back. A coda reveals that Bart Simpson is watching all this on TV, much to Homer's displeasure.
- Almost any RPG system out there is capable of producing one of these, depending on the whims of the GM and the players. To create an exhaustive list of specific examples is superfluous.
- More to the point: ever since the original Dungeons & Dragons, most games feature a "random encounter table" or "random adventure creation table" so that gamemasters with no time to prepare can still come up with something for the players to do. Some games do try to put a story structure into the random creation system, others just provide a list of possible encounters.
- Even William Shakespeare did it, in Pericles.
- Act 1 of Into the Woods is a clear narrative that interweaves the plots of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel with the original story of a baker and his wife trying to find various items in order to lift a curse. By Act 1's end, they have all achieved their goals and are sure to live happily ever after...until Act 2, when the repercussions of their actions come back to bite them, and the Narrator ends up dying, throwing the world into chaos and destroying any semblance of a plot.
- Einstein on the Beach manages to subvert this. Sure, there's a couple of scenes that the opera bounces between—the beach, the courthouse and prison, the train, the field and spaceship—but there isn't any actual plot. It's more a series of freeze-frames into the life and work of Einstein than a coherent narrative.
- Jak 3: Wastelander. Haven City gets attacked by Metal Heads and KG robots, Jak is blamed for it and is banished to the Wasteland where he is rescued by Wastelanders of Spargus City. He begins undergoing a series of trials and tasks to be accepted as a Wastelander. Then Jak, Daxter and Pecker use some old Precursor-techno-railway-catacombs to return to Haven City. Then they find that Count Veger has some Knight Templar plan to rid the world of all shadows. They then start helping Torn battle Metal Heads and KG robots. Then it turns out Vin is still alive as a holographic AI in the Haven City control room. Then it turns out that Erol (formerly Jak's racing rival, now a cybernatic Omnicidal Maniac) is still alive and is commanding the KG robots. Then it turns out there's a bunch of Dark Precursor entities called "Dark Makers" preparing to invade the planet and
ErolErrol is working for them. Then it turns out Damas, King of Spargus is Jak's father. Then it turns out the Precursors are really Ottsels like Daxter. Then it turns out Jak may actually be Mar, the founder of Haven City.
- Mega Man Battle Network 4 is this to the extreme due to its odd structure: 75% of the game consists of tournaments where your opponents are randomized. However, each opponent has his/her own obligatory pre-match sidequest. While some of these quest are par for the course for the series (opponents trying to sabotage/threaten/blackmail you into losing the match or causing havok somewhere else) you get inane Big Lipped Alligator Moments such as laying ghost Navis to rest summoned by your opponent who turns out to be a ghost herself due to having died in the womb, getting roped into sparring against kendo dummies scattered across the net for no reason, getting challenged to a game of explosive virtual soccer, getting challenged to a cooking match, etc. While this idiocy is happening, we have two B plots of insignificant stuff like an evil syndicate spreading Navi corrupting chips throught the net and a killer asteroid headed towards Earth. Both these plots are handled in the remaining 25% of the game and come together quite clumsily. There's a reason why this game is the most hated of the franchise.
- The majority of Resonance of Fate consists of your three party members running errands and interacting with each other while shadowy Anti Villains plot something far, far away. The two groups only cross paths near the very end, mostly because one of the random events made a party member upset, and the other two didn't like that.
- Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume has a limited variant of this in the first half of the game. The game is divided into six "chapters," of which all except the first have a good, neutral, and evil version. Chapters 1 and 2 and two versions of chapter 3 each have multiple possibilities for which version they lead into, and the determination is made not from any storyline choice, but through how often you sacrifice the lives of your allies (a standard gameplay action.) This means that while each chapter makes sense in and of itself, each of the first three chapters is self-contained, and the outcome of each is completely irrelevant to what happens in later chapters. (Once you're in the second half the chapter versions you'll get for the rest of the game are determined, so this stops applying and the chapters lead into one another.)
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- Shadow the Hedgehog suffers from this trope badly, due to the way the game was structured. You could pick 3 different paths per level, Good, Evil, or Neutral. Depending on your choice, you end up in a completely different level, but the game always has to justify why Shadow ends up there, and more often than not, especially when it goes against every other moral choice you've made up to that point, the justifications are piss-poor or completely arbitrary.
- Before one of the final ARK levels in the game, Shadow himself complains on how nothing is really making sense. You can take it as an unintentional, yet amusing lampshade.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Sonic's story without the other two seems like a random series of events where a princess is kidnapped for no reason multiple times, he is attacked by a silver hedgehog, and Shadow comes to save him from said hedgehog. Only after playing Shadow and Silver's stories does any of what's happening and why begin to come together and make sense.
- Sluggish Morss is like a video-game-length Mushroom Samba loosely bound together by some sort of sci-fi narrative. The sequel seems to be slightly less random.
- The plot of arcade beat-em-up DJ Boy is as follows: Some thugs steal your stereo, so you beat the crap out of everyone in your way, including obese farting old black ladies, Chippendale dancers, robot clowns, glam rockers and members of the Village People. Then in the final stage you suddenly go from an urban environment to the Wild West for no explained reason, fight through the exact same enemies until you battle two of the same farting black ladies you fought in the first stage, and then...the game just ends. And you never do get your stereo back.
Anime & Manga
- Baccano!! stars a colorful cast of characters with varying degrees of sanity as they ride a train for some purpose or another. We have one set of characters trying to rob people as hilariously as possible, another set of characters out to kill everyone, a third set orchestrating grandiose schemes, a fourth set trying to figure out just what is going on, and that's probably not even half the characters featured. When all of them come together on a curiously-named train the sheer mayhem that erupts can be described as any number of things, but predictable is definitely not one of them. In this case the author of the original book pursued this trope deliberately, citing the title as Italian for "stupid commotion," or "ruckus." This could qualify as either a comedic or non-comedic example.
- The anime incorporates two other plotlines (one where a bunch of gangsters struggle over the Elixir of Eternal Life, the other where the younger sister of one of the gangsters in the previous story tries to track down her brother) randomly intercut with the plot mentioned above, plus a one episode flashback to 200 years in the past to explain the backstory of some of the characters. There were 3 additional episodes released with the DVD which introduced yet another storyline, where some of the characters from the Flying Pussyfoot storyline try to track down another character who's been kidnapped by a fan boy of the leader of the guys who wanted to kill everyone
- Durarara!!, based on a series of light novels by the author who wrote the Baccano! books, and set in the same universe. It revolves around the weird inhabitants of the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, including a seemingly normal high school kid who is the creator of an internet-based gang made up of random city dwellers including members of the cast, a guy who's an internet troll brought to real life who spends a significant chunk of the show playing a complicated combination of chess, shogi, and poker with himself, his arch-nemesis who's a bartender with super-strength and a ridiculously short fuse, a headless horsewoman riding a motorcycle around the district, a scientist in love with her, a crazy high school kid in love with her head, a stalker in love with him, his older sister who's also in love with him, a Russian of African descent who stands outside of a sushi restaurant trying to get people to buy his sushi which he insists is not made of people, a random foreigner who asks people to write questions and messages onto her pad, a sad teenage girl who's secretly the wielder of an evil sword that causes its wielder to control whoever is cut by it, a quartet of eccentric Otaku who drive around in a van and occasionally torture people for hire, and a happy-go-lucky Casanova Wannabe kid who's secretly the head of one of the biggest gangs in the city
- FLCL: The main character is a elementary school kid who gets run over by a Vespa and then hit on the head with an electric guitar by a weird girl who claims to be a space policewoman trying to track down a giant space pirate, who starts working undercover as a maid at the main character's house, where she alternates between flirting with the main character and his Cloud Cuckoolander father. Random giant robots emerge from the bruise on the main character's head, the first of which eats him in order to defeat the others. There's a government agent with ridiculously fake giant eyebrows (they're heavily implied to be nori—seaweed—he's stuck on his face) who's trying to catch the alien girl, and occasionally gives the main character unsolicited advice about growing up.
- Cromartie High School:
- The Baseball Episode ends with the lines "It's a different gorilla!" "...so, what happened to ours?", and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
- Even the Rule of Drama episode gets this. It's the first episode to center on (who else?) Gorilla, and has a coherent plot. However, it has absolutely nothing to do with the show. Throughout the episode, reminders are issued that the viewer is watching Cromartie High School, and at the end, there's a quiz for how many actual students were seen in the episode.
- Each episode of Lucky Star, except for the last one, is this. Granted, that show isn't about any kind of "plot" to begin with, so much as about nostalgia and everyday life, but at least Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&! typically focused on one thing for each episode/chapter. In just the first episode of this show, we start with Konata running one lap around the track, and then a scene with Konata, Tsukasa, and Miyuki talking about food, a scene where Kagami has the flu, and ending with Konata talking to Tsukasa and Kagami about her online gaming experiences while Kagami suggests that she get a real life, among other stuff. Even in episodes that spend the lion's share of their time focusing on one thing, such as the sports festival or Comiket, eventually shift to stuff completely unrelated.
- Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo: After all of the establishing shots and exposition are finished, even each panel depicts something different from the previous one.
- Excalibur in Soul Eater's anime spends an episode telling tales about himself to a bewildered student who has hunted him down. Several of the stories are contradictory and make absolutely no sense.
- Heybot manages to be even more random than Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo above. As an anime about joke-telling contests, it has absurd episode plots that don't have much relation (ex: one episode somehow ends up with the heroes fighting space alien grannies from Saturn).
- My Immortal. Ebony bounces between classes, concerts, and sex with just about everyone without rhyme or reason, then a time travel plot is thrown into the later chapters, only for the fic to have No Ending.
- Garfield in: "Along Came a Splut" runs on this. It starts with Garfield enjoying a normal day by casually destroying objects and throwing Odie to the moon for being in his way, and then he gets chased by the recurring Splut pie, which then leads to a chase involving the car from Back to the Future, Terminator and Blade Runner, which then leads to a space chase involving the Death Star, and then a chase well beyond light speed, which then climaxes with a direct homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Garfield becomes a star child, and then it ends with him looking into the camera, giving a Dreamworks Face and saying "Drink More Ovaltine".
- An in-universe example in The Vinyl Scratch Tapes, when Vinyl writes a Rock Opera. Celestia starts a nuclear war and builds a dystopia inhabited by robots. Then Luna returns from space on a chariot made of lasers and "fire, vengeance and more fire" and throws the mysteriously explosive moon at Celestia. And then Celestia turns into a serpent.
- Octavia: Look, I will admit this is ... creative ... but you just can’t have an opera where nonsensical things happen for no reason!
Vinyl: Clearly you’ve never heard a rock opera before.
- Robo Bando, There is no plot. Just people being mocked and blown up by Bando.
- Ultra Fast Pony's episode "Makin' Babies". Sweetie Belle casts a spell that de-ages most of the main cast. These kids then scatter and get up to completely unrelated shenanigans, and none of those individual stories have any dramatic payoff, either. The episode ends with the characters still de-aged, yet they're back to normal in the next episode, with no explanation.
- Madoka Crisis Magica is the cast of Puella Magi Madoka Magica being forced to suffer this. It starts with Homura getting hit with a Bolt of Divine Retribution by the Fan Fiction God for trying to reset the time loop after Madoka makes a contract, and only gets more chaotic from there. Every chapter involves a new, random Witch appearing with no rhyme nor reason, along with a bunch of random characters from another show. Sometimes they're helpful, sometimes they get Worfed.
- Homestuck High starts off as a mediocre High School A.U.. At the end of the first chapter, Gamzee announces that Karkat killed himself, and from then on it turns into a horrifying mishmash of identity-swapping and demon battling.
Film — Animated
- Alice in Wonderland: Like with the original book, there is no real story going on; the whole film is about Alice going through a stream of conscious series of Random Encounters with the bizarre residents of Wonderland.
- Invoked in Ralph Bakshi's first films (Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Coonskin and Hey Good Lookin'); they deliberately eschewed traditional story structure and narrative in favor of a collage-like, improvisational approach, juggling together seemingly unrelated character vignettes or seemingly non sequitur scenes with an overarching theme or subtext tying them all together, allowing the films to juggle multiple point of views on a subject, as well as aiding his films' biographical and satirical undertones.
Film — Live-Action
- Many Abbott and Costello films could qualify. If you were to tear out every scene that has little or nothing to do with the plot, you'd wind up with about twenty minutes of film per movie.
- Note that, of course, Tropes Are Not Bad; many of these gratuitous scenes, while not being plot-relevant, are still funny.
- American Graffiti is one of the sterling examples. It works, for the most part, because it shows how a large and diverse group of people handle a normal rite of passage, rather than focusing on a few characters or a single, famous event. Tying a series of random events to a leitmotif is also handled fairly well in the movies Dazed and Confused and Go.
- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! really doesn't have a lot of scenes actually featuring said tomatoes, and many of the events seem to be random, like the assassination plot until The Reveal of the villain's plots at the end.
- The Big Lebowski. Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski is likened through song to a "tumbling tumbleweed" who randomly blows through a variety of plots and situations while trying to get his spoiled rug replaced. In the end, a lot has happened but the Dude has not accomplished much.
- Blonde in Black Leather, to fill its screentime beyond "get from point A to point B", places its main characters in incredibly bizarre situations that serve little purpose beyond slowing them down.
- The Cannonball Run and other movies about an illegal, cross-country road race. Next time you watch one, compare how many scenes are about the race and how many happen to take place during it. Cannonball Run II is particularly notable for this, to the extent that the filmmakers didn't even pretend that the race mattered to the structure of the film. Once all the amusing business is settled, the last 80% or so of the race is shown as animated cartoon depicting where the racers are relative to each other and takes maybe two minutes.
- Clerks. There is one "normal" plotline (Dante's relationship) and a few callbacks to earlier gags, but for the most part someone watching different scenes in random order would be seeing almost the same movie.
- Any of the films of Jacques Tati, particularly the Monsieur Hulot films, which were so character-driven that a coherent plot would have detracted from the experience. Jour de Fete sort of had a plot.
- Magical Mystery Tour. Whether the comedy actually works in this movie is debatable, although it did inspire the fantasy sequences in Marc Bolan's Born to Booglie.
- Even if it wasn't intentionally comedic, quite a few fans watch it simply for the So Bad, It's Good value of its bizarre "plot"
- Napoleon Dynamite. Even the supposedly main story about Pedro running for Class President is shuffled all over the place. Practically lampshaded in the first two lines:
Kid on bus: What are you going to do today, Napoleon?
Napoleon: Whatever I feel like I'm gonna do. Gosh!
- Pulp Fiction, given it's kind of an anthology of connected stories.
- M*A*S*H, the 1970 feature film, is a series of random happenings at the 4077th, culminating in a football game. No wonder it was considered a good candidate to adapt into a TV series. In fact, the majority of Robert Altman's films (comedic and non-comedic) are examples of this trope, by their very nature.
- Monty Python movies are built on this trope, at least whenever they even bother to have an over-arcing plot in the first place. And Now For Something Completely Different is really just doing you a favor with that title.
- In Fred The Movie, the first half of the movie is this. Although Fred does have a goal (to find and sing with his crush Judy), the events that happen when he's trying to accomplish that goal seem random.
- Tommy Boy was described as this by Roger Ebert:
"Tommy Boy" is one of those movies that plays like an explosion down at the screenplay factory. You can almost picture a bewildered office boy, his face smudged with soot, wandering through the ruins and rescuing pages at random. Too bad they didn't mail them to the insurance company instead of filming them.
- The first half of Cheech and Chong's Next Movie is this. The second half has Chong hanging out with Cheech's identical cousin while Cheech prepares for a woman to come over, and yet it's still random.
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, as opposed to the other Vacation movies which have a definite goal, is about Clark Griswold wanting a nice family get together with no real goal in mind, and the movie just goes from Christmas activity to Christmas activity with a subplot about Clark worrying about his Christmas bonus.
- Caddyshack was originally written to focus on working-class kid Danny Noonan and his adventures working at a swanky country club. This quickly took a backseat when the filmmakers decided to give the A-list comedian costars free reign to do what they did best, and the finished film is a large collection of hilarious and largely self-contained vignettes, with Danny only being treated as the protagonist at the beginning and end of the story. Tropes Are Not Bad, since the movie probably wouldn't have become the beloved classic it is today had they stuck to the original plan.
- Animal House operates similarly, with the only overarching goals for Delta House being to have fun and cause trouble, with most of the movie consisting of a bunch of humorous subplots that rarely intertwine with each other. Writer Doug Kenney worked on both this and Caddyshack, which might explain some of the spontaneity, but often it seems to be a case of the writers and director simply stepping aside and letting the experts do their thing.
- Help!: The Beatles just run from one country to another and encounter surreal events.
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, and just sort of keeps bumping into odd characters. That's it. Arguably the weakest parts of the new Tim Burton adaptation are when they wander away from the whimsical randomness and kick off the tacked-on Chosen One plot.
- The Colour of Magic is far more gag-oriented than the later Discworld books.
- The Marvelous Land of Oz (the first sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) by L. Frank Baum. Most everything that happens in the story either comes out of nowhere or has virtually no impact on aynthing that happens afterwards. Perhaps the best example is when the Main Characters accidentally fly out of Oz, land in a jackdaw nest, use some magical wish-granting pills to fly back to Oz, but forget to take the pills with them. What does this episode add to the story? The world may never know.
- Don Quixote: Given that the first part of the novel is a Deconstructive Parody of Chivalric Romance, and those books were not more than a Knight Errant in the road reacting to the events that happened to him, the first part of the novel is this, (the second part has a plot in Dulcinea’s rescue). Only that instead of being boring or confusing, Cervantes aimed, and was able, to reproduce the feel of Real Life in his book.
- An In-Universe example in Mostly Harmless: Bartledan literature is supposed to be the greatest in the galaxy, but Arthur can't get into it because the Bartledanians have no hopes or desires, and therefore from a human perspective their books aren't about anything; stuff just happens. In one of them, the main character dies, with no real set-up, two thirds of the way through and random stuff continues to happen without him.
- Every episode of The Young Ones, to the extent that sometimes it feels more like a sketch show that happens to use the same set of characters repeatedly.
- The Wonder Years has a few episodes that seem to be this.
- Pilot: The first episode goes from the end of summer to the start of junior high school. The first few high school scenes have no real connection besides taking place at school, then Kevin gets in trouble at school, worries about what his father will do to him, and then comes the announcement that Winnie's brother Brian died in Vietnam.
- Lunch Stories: Taking place during lunch period, a lot of conflicts and plotlines occur, including Winnie talking Kevin into donating blood, a group of kids pressuring Kevin to cut class with them so they can see an X-rated movie (since Kevin has a car and they don't), Paul getting his pants stained before having to give a speech, Wayne trying to learn the name of a scary student, Chuck trying to aska girl out, and Ricky having to write a 1000-word essay that he didn't know was due the next class.
- Full Moon Rising: Most of the episode is Kevin and his friends cruisin' in Rickey's car after Ricky gets his license. Among the few plotlines include Kevin breaking a date to go riding, the gang getting mooned and then deciding to moon another car, and them challenging the people who mooned them into a drag race.
- Sam & Cat had an episode #Drone Baby Drone where the first half of the episode was just the cast learning about the drone service. No real conflict set in until halfway through. Even the jokes seemed utterly random.
- "Albuquerque" by "Weird Al" Yankovic. The Lemony Narrator endures a Hilariously Abusive Childhood before
crashing intomoving to the titular city. The rest consists of Dissimiles, Monty Python homages, non sequiturs, true love, Blunt Metaphors Trauma, and a Spoof Aesop (not mention being a "Shaggy Dog" Story).
- There's also a Brick Joke in there.
- Also, "Everything You Know Is Wrong".
- The music Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny by Lemon Demon. First, we have Godzilla in Tokyo, suddenly Batman threw a grenade at him. Then Shaquille O'Neal intervened in the fight. Then Aaron Carter "came out of the blue" before started beating up Shaq. Then Abraham Lincoln popped out of his grave and took an AK-47 from his hat. And that's just the first one-third of the song.
- Conker's Bad Fur Day is unusual for a platformer game in that doesn't seem to have any real story, other than the overarching theme of the Panther King trying to kidnap Conker to fix his table (and Conker isn't even aware of him until the very end of the game) and Conker just trying to find his way home. Otherwise, it's a series of episodic vignettes as Conker visits strange places with even weirder characters and helps them out (whether he wants to or not). Fortunately, this goes hand in hand with the games parodic nature.
- The WarioWare series is random events distilled into a game. It works on three levels: On the smallest scale are the hundreds of 4-second games the gameplay is made up of, each of which are connected only by art style or by basic gameplay mechanic, and from the second playthrough and onwards, appear in random order. Next up are each chapter in the game, which have different characters acting independently of each other, which themselves are sometimes non-sequiturs (in the same game, for instance, you have a pizza delivery girl with animal sidekicks shooting soccer balls; and then later you have a mad scientist building a karaoke robot to do janitorial work). At the highest level is the series itself, where not only is there some level of Negative Continuity (along with some real continuity—it's confusing), every game in the series to date has used a radically different control gimmick.
- Revenge of the Sunfish consists of a series of scenarios that make very little sense when considered on their own and even less sense in relation to each other.
- Gruntz has no logic behind the progression between each world. While at first it's reasonable with the gruntz going from a forest to an ice world and then to tropics, it stops making sense when they somehow wind up in the clouds high above the ground, and then... in a casino? And then in a gigantic kitchen? And then on a big golf course? And then in space? (This could be rectified a bit if there were more cutscenes in the game than just intro and outro...)
- Then again, this can be chalked up to Rule of Fun.
- All Charlie the Unicorn episodes. As well as most other Filmcow videos.
- The Demented Cartoon Movie: 30 minutes of stuff happening. Mostly Stuff Blowing Up.
- Bad Days often uses this.
- The Big Lez Show uses this for the series.
- Youtube Poops are usually this, often depending on the video.
- Machinimas made with Garry's Mod, such as Mass Defect, tend to veer in this direction.
- Com'c is fairly random. Oddevices may be the clearest example of this trope in the comic: They are devices that appear out of nowhere, activate for no apparent reason and do something odd to anyone near it while also disappearing.
- MS Paint Adventures:
- Jailbreak, as you'd expect from a forum game in which every action taken in-universe is nothing more well-thought-out than the first suggestion given by any of the other forumites at the time. It helps that said forumites had a rather...odd sense of humour.
- Problem Sleuth started out as this, but it gathered a plot revolving around defeating Mobster Kingpin fairly early on. Since suggested commands were used throughout, however, it still remained very random and prone to going off on tangents.
- Homestuck, in contrast to earlier stories, not only has had a plot since the very beginning, but has evolved a ridiculously complicated one with mind-boggling continuity. The creator has argued out that leaving out details during exposition would keep the story from making much sense at all. What may seem random at first usually has some relevance to the story later.
- Any Dada Comic counts, but Listening to 11.975 MHz deserves a special mention for sheer incomprehensibility. The first few strips alone feature bizarrely-drawn characters spouting off Word Salad in several different languages, and Deco Blue's surreal adventures don't make any more sense than this.
- The story of Tunselous has one of these, but as it's the audio equivalent to a Room Full of Crazy, there should be no surprise there. The first part seems to be about a search for a lost UFO, however, Tunselous is eventually granted a new one by the king of UFOs. The second part is about his quest to bring fairness to a society where what one is allowed to eat depends on their level of magical skill. In the final part, he uses Insane Troll Logic to become rich by stealing a crossbow.
- Many Golden Age cartoons, not unlike the live-action comedies they paralleled, didn't even bother to have real stories, focusing more on collections of vignettes that set up gags relating to the shorts general theme. Since the bulk of them were comedies or animated music videos, this usually worked out fine.
- Plenty of episodes of Family Guy.
- Nearly every episode of The Simpsons in the last ten or so years. Sometimes there's a teeny-tiny thread holding events together. Usually there isn't. Rule of Funny may or may not apply here.
- They actually did a Lampshade Hanging about this very early on, before most of the plots even fit this trope. In the Spoof Aesop ending of "Blood Feud", the family concludes that the episode had no moral, that it was "just a bunch of stuff that happened" but "certainly was a memorable few days". Just a Bunch of Stuff That Happened could have been another name for this trope.
- Lampshade Hanging in the episode "Tennis the Menace." It starts with the family going to a funeral house to look for caskets for Grandpa Simpson (while he's alive, natch), the plot segues into tennis. Homer's comment was "Betcha didn't see that coming."
- In another episode, Bart finds a badger in the dog's house. Homer tries to get it to leave; unable, he decides to call animal control. He discovers that he can't if he uses the old number because the phone company has run out of phone numbers and has divided the town in two, assigning a new area code to each half. Homer then makes a row about wanting his old phone number back. At this point the badger climbs to the kitchen window seeking attention, only for Homer to shush it away saying that he has more important matters at hand now.note
- In the episode "Fear of Flying," Homer gets thrown out of Moe's, which leads to him finding a new bar to drink in, which results in him wrecking an airliner, leading to a coverup that uncovers Marge being afraid to fly, and the rest of the episode is about Marge getting therapy for it.
- The norm for the plot structure is "Something happens, there is an inept attempt to deal with it which leads into some completely unrelated adventure that goes terribly, terribly wrong."
- Game: Write down the opening scene/problem and the episode's resolution on separate cards, make a stack of each, then try to match one with the other. How did that Tomacco episode start out again?
- The Venture Bros., "Escape to the House of the Mummies, Part II" (there is no part I, and a part III that is implied never comes, so it isn't even resolved) which includes such disparate elements as mummies (duh), time travel, and Edgar Allen Poe in a headlock. The plot involving the boys and Brock is an interconnected set of Noodle Incidents, with the main plot of the episode being a fairly cohesive and self-contained one focusing on Dr. Venture and Dr. Orpheus's competition.
- Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose
- Flip the Frog is one of those old cartoons that time forgot, not least of all because of this trope (compared to other shorts like Betty Boop and Popeye). Case in point: Room Runners. Flip doesn't have the money to pay for a hotel room he rented. A bunch of random stuff ensues as he tries to flee the angry owner, which also involves someone repeatedly asking him to help pull a loose tooth out, until he finally scores a jackpot on a slot machine to make his payment.
- Weirder episodes of The Amazing World of Gumball reach this territory. Some of them technically have a plot, such as "The Countdown" which manages to go from a Race Against the Clock story to a Time Stands Still story to a Time Travel story in the span of about 11 minutes, but some episodes (such as "The World" or "The Extras") are literally a series of sketches with no plot whatsoever.