Scared of What's Behind You
The Hero believes that they intimidated an enemy, usually complete with said hero getting cocky and/or grinning like a goof until they realize that what was truly scary was either a bigger fish, an Enemy Rising Behind, or that The Cavalry arriving Just in Time to save them. Depending on the situation, the hero's reaction is usually either an Oh, Crap, or getting deflated about the fact that they're not as intimidating and badass as they thought. Related to and often overlaps with Always a Bigger Fish, but not always. May also overlap with Enemy Rising Behind in some cases. Compare and contrast Right Behind Me. May involve Failed a Spot Check on The Hero's part if he really should have noticed something sooner than he did. Compare Framed for Heroism.
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Anime and Manga
- In the first episode/chapter of Attack on Titan, young Armin is being bullied by some older kids about the outside world (which Armin believes in but the other kids don't), and Eren and Mikasa rush to the rescue. When the bullies see Eren, they get ready to take him, but when they see Mikasa behind him, they run for the hills. Eren, being the cocky kid he is, thinks he scared the bullies off, but Armin corrects him that it was actually Mikasa.
- When the members of Fairy Tail try to pull of a Zero-Approval Gambit in Edolas, Wendy starts roaring ineffectually at some random civilian. Then Gajeel shows up behind her and scares the man away without Wendy appearing to notice.
- Rurouni Kenshin did this in a filler episode when Yahiko is trying to protect his love interest from some thugs and leads them into a narrow space to attack them one at a time. The lead thug gets wise and starts to order his group to attack en masse only them to notice Kenshin and Sano standing on the roof above him threatening to come even the odds if they try it. Everyone save the leader get intimidated and wisely runs off without Yahiko knowing (least till the end of the fight).
- In Tintin book "The Crab with the Golden Claws", Captain Haddock is pinned down behind a sand dune by enemy troops. When they shoot his bottle of whisky, he charges their position screaming at the top of his lungs and spinning his rifle around his head like a club. The enemy flees. Haddock calms down, turns around, and discovers that they were fleeing because The Cavalry have finally arrived, not because they were afraid of him.
- In The Maxx, a group of kids scare off some older people because of Maxx towering up behind them. The kids just think they were intimidating.
- Happens to Ord of the Breakworld twice. First with Lockheed the Dragon, then a newly resurrected and extremely pissed off Colossus.
Ord: Let's finish this.Wolverine stunned: Yeah. Okay. Let's do that.
- In a truly bizarre Punisher story by Garth Ennis, Frank is being pursued by a low-level mobster and amateur cryptozoological oceanographer who's being coerced into revenge by the ghosts of all his friends Punisher killed (that might just be hallucinations resulting from a brain injury). He finally corners Punisher on a dock, and Frank looks uncharacteristically scared, but not of the mobster. It turns out he finally found a living Colossal Squid.
Films — Animated
- In The Lion King, Simba and Nala get trapped by the hyenas while exploring the elephant graveyard. Simba tries to roar at them to scare them off, but only a little wimpy roar comes out, him being a cub and all. Amused, the hyenas encourage him to try again, and this time there's a huge, scary roar. They hyenas, Simba and the audience all have a moment to be shocked before Mufasa (obviously the real source of the second roar) jumps in to save the day.
- In the opening of Monsters University, Mike, as a kid monster, gives a little roar that all his classmates turn around at. At first he thinks he's got them all impressed, but then also turns to see that they're actually in awe of the scarers marching in behind him.
- On Balto, Boris scolds the polar bear cubs Muk and Luk for horsing around. He things he's getting through to them when they stand petrified, but then he bumps into what they're really scared of: a huge grizzly bear.
- In The Rescuers Down Under, the Big Bad, McLeach, starts bragging about having "whooped" a bunch of crocodiles...only to turn around and see that they were really trying to avoid the Inevitable Waterfall.
- At the climax of The Rugrats Movie, the babies are cornered on a bridge by the escaped circus monkeys. Suddenly, the monkeys flee, shrieking with fear. The babies start cheering...only to turn and spot a huge vicious wolf ready to pounce at them. Thankfully, Spike saves them just in time.
Films — Live-Action
- In Willow Master Swordsman Madmartigan prepares to make a Last Stand against the Evil Army. He does some fancy sword kata and the army rushing at him stops, then starts running away. Madmartigan grins until he notices a shadow and turns to see a giant, two headed dragon that rose up out of the moat behind him.
- Towards the end of the Street Fighter film, Guile gets cornered by a bunch of Bison's mooks, who are all armed with assault rifles. Guile pulls the only weapon he has; a knife. The mooks start backing up. Guile acts cocky until Cammy calls to him and he sees that The Cavalry arrived behind him without him noticing it, at which point he deflates like a balloon that's been pricked with a pin.
- This occurs in the movie Avatar, when Jake Sully stands his ground against a large native creature trying to assert dominance. The creature promptly runs away and Jake proceeds to jeer at it pompously until he notices a far larger creature behind him.
- Happens in Batman Begins. Rachel is being followed by two Falcone's thugs, and they confront her outside the subway. One is behind her and another in front. She smacks the one behind her with her purse, then turns around and points a taser at the one in front of her. He looks afraid and runs off, which causes her to jeer at him ("Yeah, you better run!") until she turns around and sees that Batman was behind her. (And had take care of the other thug.)
- The Three Musketeers (1993): At the end, our heroes are confronted by the goons that have been pursuing D'Artagnan throughout the movie. Suddenly the goons' leader screams like a girl and the goons turn and run away. The heroes think they scared the goons away when suddenly the entire Musketeer Corps appears from behind the heroes, chasing after the goons. The goons could see them coming but the heroes couldn't.
- During their trek through Moria in the Fellowship of the Rings movie the fellowship gets surrounded by every orc in Moria and prepares to make a Last Stand. Suddenly the Balrog is heard growling from out of sight, which causes the orcs to panic and flee. Gimli jeers at them as if the orcs were running from the party, but everyone else is much more concerned about the new threat.
- The French film The Bear (L'Ours) ends this way. The cub is being chased by a cougar, who corners it near a stream. The cub gives little roars trying to scare the coagar away... only to last unleash a powerful roar that turns out to be coming from a full grown grizzly bear, who is the younger cub's surrogate parent. Terrified by the adult grizzly, the cougar runs away.
- The titular St. Bernard in Beethoven does this for the timid, mousy Ted when bullies harass him. As Ted overcomes his fear and raises his fists to challenge the bullies, he doesn't see Beethoven behind him, silently and ominously baring his teeth. Ted thinks the bullies got scared and ran merely because he stood up to them.
- There are several stories and fables where a small, non-threatening animal (such as a mouse) invokes this with a much larger and more threatening animal in order to keep the larger animal from eating it. The smaller animal will claim that he's actually a Pintsized Powerhouse that all creatures are afraid of, and invites the larger animal to walk with it and see how animals flee from it. After seeing multiple animals supposedly fleeing from the smaller animal, (naturally they're actually fleeing from the larger and scarier animal) the larger animal becomes impressed and leaves the smaller creature alone. Variants include this being done with a mouse and a lion, a mouse and the Gruffalo from The Gruffalo, and a fox and a tiger from a Chinese legend.
- The page image is the last two panels of a Garfield strip where Garfield goes to a zoo and starts imagining and acting out what it would be like if he were a wild animal. At the end he takes a swipe at the patrons and thinks that he's intimidating them when they react, unaware of the huge lion that has come out and is sitting right behind him.
- In The Order of the Stick collection Don't Split the Party, during Elan and Lien's underwater fact-finding mission, the two are attacked by a giant crab. Elan tries to use sea creature telepathy to convince the crab to go awaynote , and when the crab scuttles away, he thinks it worked until Lien points to the shadow of the bigger monster (an ancient black dragon that's stalking Vaarsuvius) that scared the crab away.
- Done in several Looney Tunes episodes. In one case, there was a variation where Sylvester is being chased by a Bully Bulldog named Spike and his little Hero-Worshipper Chester. Spike tries several times to beat up on Sylvester, but keeps getting mauled by an escaped puma. The variant is that neither Sylvester or Spike ever see the puma, and both are convinced that Sylvester is responsible. When Sylvester tries to menace both dogs at once, (now far away from where the puma is hiding) little Chester cleans his clock.
- Another variant with the same characters: Sylvester drinks a Jekyll & Hyde potion, and keeps switching between forms. He repeatedly mauls the bulldog while in Hyde form, then switches back to his normal, Jekyll form. Eventually Sylvester becomes convinced that he can scare the dogs while in normal form. The result is the same as above.
- In his first appearance, Henery Hawk sneaks out in the night to try and get his first chicken, but runs into trouble with a rooster who is less than impressed with the tiny hawkling. In the end, the rooster runs away, and Henery thinks he finally scared him off. But then he turns around to find his mother, who's come looking for him.
- When Danny Phantom breaks into the Fright Knight's castle to steal his blade, the Soul Shredder, he wakes up all the skeletons who were guarding it. Danny poises himself to attack with the stolen sword, but instead they all bow down to him. It takes Danny a second to realize that they are all bowing to the Fright Knight himself, who was released after Danny pulled out the blade.
- In the Archer episode, "Smugglers' Blues" while Archer is in a standoff with the Columbian paramilitary, the paramilitary drop their guns and surrender. Archer thinks he intimidated them but later notices the feared Cali Cartel that pulled up behind him armed with a tank.