Naruto offers several examples, most glaringly the Primary Lotus and Eight Chakra Gates. The only time Rock Lee successfully taps into the chakra gates is when he needs to show how totally awesome Gaara is. He uses the Primary Lotus twice and tries to use it two more times (He pulled it off against Gaara, and one of the Sound Ninjas, who knocks him around, and attempts it on Sasuke and Kimimaro, but is stopped before he can finish it both times).
Although it should be noted that on the rare occasions Might Guy uses these powers, he wins. Apparently the problem is with Lee, not the techniques.
Despite the Sharingan's literally manga-breaking power, almost every time it's been showcased by any character not named Itachi it's been countered to an extent by other characters in the story.
Done to a hilarious degree in the Sasuke vs. Raikage fight, when Sasuke uses Amaterasu and Susanoo, two techniques which though used by Itachi to deadly effect and touted by other characters as "invincible", at the same time. The Raikage judo chops right through it. His armor even protects him from Amaterasu's heat. Though he removes his arm to prevent it from spreading and burning him when he inevitably is forced to switch off the armor. Although Sasuke wasn't using full power Susanoo at the time.
Another case would be the one time Sasuke used Tsukuyomi, which was in his fight against Killer Bee, which didn't work on him because the 8-tailed beast broke the genjustu.
Really, just about any Katon jutsu. In theory they are some of the strongest techniques around. In practice, any time they are used on anyone the person just shrugs it off without so much as a singed hair.
Amaterasu zig zags on this more than any other technique. It has been used to burn a hole through a powerful fire resitant barrier, kill off some of the snakes that form Orochimaru's body, one shotted Nagato's unkillable dog...its failures include but are not limited to Gaara, Sasuke, Killer Bee, A and most egregiously, Karin. Extremely mildly justified in most cases by the user not wanting to actually kill the target, but when you've got a technique that is hot as the sun, they wouldn't have the time to shut it off before the target is burned to ash. In A's case his Battle Aura protected him, and he only removed his arm to prevent Amaterasu from spreading when he ran out of energy to keep the Battle Aura going.
Though Sage Mode is Jiraiya's ultimate Super Mode, and gives his ninjutsu massive power boosts, all of them were rendered useless against Nagato even when he was barely using half of his full power.
Sasuke has consistently failed to kill anyone outright with the Chidori, a move that is said to be a one hit kill assassination technique. Seeing as Kakashi doesn't suffer from this, it's most likely the case that Sasuke's aim sucks.
Sasuke's aim was dead on in his fight against the Raikage, except he lacked the power to get through the latter's GARmour.
Similarly, but on a smaller scale, nearly every time Naruto attempted the Rasengan against Kabuto, he both failed to actually deal significant injury and nearly had his heart fail due to an attack received at the same time. Worse is, the second time it wasn't even actually Kabuto.
And the Third Raikage proved how ridiculously tough he was by No Selling a Rasenshuriken.
The Ten-Tails in its initial form tanked a combined Bijudama from Naruto and Bee using the powers of Kurama and Gyuki (the two strongest Tailed Beasts barring the Ten-Tails). Said Bijudama could be seen from orbit and needed to be shown via the curve of the Earth to show how monstrously powerful the technique was. The Ten-Tails lies on the ground for several moments, Naruto, Bee, Kakashi, and Gai think it's destroyed/dead...then it lifts up its head to show off its unique Eye and its not even damaged!
The Wind Scar really started to look weak when Inuyasha actually got the ability to use it whenever he wanted. Since this would make things too easy, it proves useless against Naraku. Later, he gains an extra strong cutting attack, which works for a while but then Naraku and a flunky of his can block along with this rarely used move called the Backlash Wave (which was stronger then Wind Scar, but didn't get nearly as much use because involved throwing a villain's energy attack back at them). Later he gets the ability fire out diamonds, which proves useless against Moryumaru, along with everybody else' attacks. The only move he got that never got useless was the dragon scaled Tessiaga.
The Meido Tensei that "cuts" doesn't count since it was only show cased at the climax of of the series (Inuyashi: Final Act). Of course, it can be assumed it would be unstoppable since it sends the target body's part struck by it to the underworld/hell.
Code Geass has a terrorist cell try to shoot down the Avalon with SAMs. At first, this trope appears to have been averted, when the Avalon re-appears on the radar thanks to its Blaze Luminous energy shields.
Hellsing: This is Alucard's primary battle strategy in reverse. He goads the enemy into unleashing More Dakka, then complains about how none of his enemies ever seem to survive the same. He begs them to survive his attacks.
Dragon Ball Z has the Genki Dama, or Spirit Bomb. Supposedly an all-powerful, last minute countermeasure, it only works correctly once in the entire series. Goku also has the Kaioken attack, which, while effective for all of ten minutes in the battle against Vegeta, made no impact to any of his later battles, either being totally ineffectual in closing a power gap or countered with an equally powerful countermeasure.
There was only one case that completely ignored this and it was in Dragon Ball GT. The Universal Spirit Bomb just did what it supposed to do, blowing up Omega Shenron without much of a struggle.
It was also used to defeat Kid Buu, but of course he came back as Uub.
There's also the Once a Season scene of the entire military mobilizing into one big army, trying to take down the current villain by pelting them full of missiles, gunfire and explosions... which usually lasts for a few minutes full of continuous attack, and after the smoke clears amounts to nothing. After which the villain kills them all in a single stroke. This occurred against the Saiyans and Cell, and happened several times to Majin Buu.
Arguably what happens a few times with the Kamehameha. The most clear example is what happened in the 'fight' when Cooler ascends to a higher form and flies through it.
Sailor Moon was initially shocked that her Moon Tiara Action didn't work against Jadeite. This was plausible. However, when the Mystical Silver Crystal keeps deciding that it's not going to be all-powerful today for the next four seasons, one would think that she would have another back-up plan ready. Then again, she is The Ditz.
A near identical thing happens in Sailor Stars when Sailor Moon is shocked that her Silver Moon Crystal Power fails to do anything to Galaxia. Later, she utters "Silver Moon Crystal Power!" which seems to affect Galaxia before being broken.
The supposedly almighty Dragon Slave spell in The Slayers often works like this, often being used only to show that the new villain is just badass enough to withstand it.
The novels make it clearer when they explain that while the Dragon Slave is powerful enough to hurt anything short of Ruby-Eye, it is not necessarily powerful enough to kill anything in one shot. Since humans are squishier than Mazoku, Lina and Co are less likely to be able to withstand the return blow of anything that can survive a single Dragon Slave.
The Ra Tilt spell seems to fall into this same problem. The Ra Tilt is the most powerful spell in Shamanistic magic and is supposed to be comparable to the Dragon Slave but on a single-target basis. However, especially during Slayers NEXT, any number of powerful monsters and villains shrug off Ra Tilts like they're nothing, to the point where the viewer starts to question if the Ra Tilt is really all that powerful.
This suspicion is essentially confirmed in Slayers REVOLUTION where the Ra Tilt seems to have been reduced in difficulty of casting and potency to the level of the many other perpetually ineffective spells the cast tossed around before Lina decides to get serious and then fail anyway.
Inverted in Mai-HiME, when a hero proved amazingly resistant to a villain's power. Mai's Child, Kagutsuchi, took a full blast of orbital bombardment from Artemis and survived, combining this with a subversion of Heroic Sacrifice. The blast was previously seen destroying a bridge, and was supposed to eliminate the entirety of Fuka Academy at once. There is a fan theory, however, that both it and Mai did not survive, and the Powers That Be (both good and evil) were stacking the deck in her favor and resurrected both of them. Given the ending, this is plausible.
Her power is fire. Fire. Phoenix. Do we really have to spell it out? Look closely at the scene; Mai gets reconstituted from a floating disc of flame, after apparently recreating Kagutsuchi in an upgraded form.
In Saint Seiya, the signature moves of the saints usually won't prove effective against the powerful monster of the week.
"How could he resist my Pegasus Ryuusei Ken?"
— Seiya, against every opponent he fights with.
In Mai-Otome Zwei, neither Mai's ultra-cool attack capable of destroying hundreds of Slaves at once (prominently shown in the opening credits since episode 16 of the original show) nor Arika's "Bolt from the Blue" work on the very first monster that threatens them — and the other Otome monitoring the event just give up. If even that failed, what chance do the rest of them have? Obviously, the Sorting Algorithm of Evil has come to play, but it's not a So Last Season moment because neither of them receives a power-up — instead, they win by combining their attacks.
In the last episode, Arika and Nina have to combine their attacks to take down the main villain within the window in which its Healing Factor is disabled.
Uryuu's "Lichtregen" tends to be used to show how powerful an enemy is, so often isn't as effective as a rain of 1200 arrows hitting a single target really should be. lampshaded in the final arc, where a quincy finds out from Ichigo that his arrows are stronger than Uryuu's. He says there's no way that can be possible, but then refuses to explain why, commenting that he's not allowed to give away secrets.
Despite it supposedly being his best attack, Ichigo seems to get a lot less mileage out of the Getsuga Tenshou than he does from just slicing enemies up with his sword. He's also doesn't use his bankai to the extreme level he used it in his fight with Byakuya, so the power of his Getsuga Tenshou has been questionable.
Byakuya suggested that Tensa Zangetu's power was too much for Ichigo to handle without harming himself, to the point that Ichigo was unable to so much as lift his sword. By that reasoning, it's possible that Ichigo chose to (subconciously) cut back on the power of his bankai.
It should be noted that the extreme power Ichigo had in that fight was before he learned how to fire off Getsuga Tensho in bankai, so his speed was the only venue for that power. Not releasing it (like he does in every subsequent fight) puts too much strain on his bones, and they were beginning to crack as a result. It's actually a bit of resolution on how Uryuu explained Ichigo's power: as a faucet that is always leaking to keep from getting backed up.
In Neon Genesis Evangelion, when the military uses its "colossally powerful" N2 mines/bombs on the Angels, they (at very, very best) succeed in inflicting 30% to critical damage, giving the resident Humongous Mecha an opportunity to display their capacity for badassness. Also, in the second episode, the Monster of the Week utilises a last-ditch suicide explosion, taking a large chuck of the city and (after the Smoke Shield clears) lightly damaging the armor of the Humongous Mecha.
Or, when Shinji opens fire on Shamshel (with an assault rifle in the series and a chaingun in Rebuild) and fails to scratch 'er. Or when, in Rebuild, Ramiel takes a direct hit from a gun powered by the entire power grid of Japan, bleeds profusely, then turns around and burns through a mountain to get at Shinji. Or when...
See also pretty much every time Asuka attacks an Angel without immediate support, especially in "Both of You, Dance Like You Want To Win".
The super-awesome fleet-destroying gravity-based Wave Motion Gun in Martian Successor Nadesico pretty much stops working on anything worthwhile around episode 6, apparently just to increase dramatic tension. They eventually get a new one, but ethical considerations (and an instance of sabotage) prevent them from using it on anything more than swarms of robots. If the enemies send out manned vehicles, it's time to send out the Humongous Mecha
Point-blank is his specialty. He actually managed to finish off Adiane that way.
Point-blank is still his specialty when "point-blank" is measured in thousands of lightyears. Never mind, though; they eventually resort to using probability manipulation so his missing becomes literally impossible.
Happens in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagannall the time, almost to the point of making this trope discredited all by itself. Seriously, you guys saw Simon not only survive devastating attacks, but also lay down serious ass-beatings in return, so you'd think that his teammates would show a little more faith in his durability.
Whenever Viral attacks with a set of katana in his Enki ( or in the titular Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann), they will be broken within 30 seconds. No exceptions.
Fairy Tail has the Aetherion cannon, which is actually used to help the villain's plans, as it powers the magic used to revive a dark god.
More to the point, even though the Aetherion cannon is portrayed as being their world's version of a nuclear weapon, the main character literally eats the attack, with minimal after-effects.
In the next arc, when Natsu and Gajeel team up and use their biggest attacks (ending with Iron/Fire Dragon Roars from both of them), Laxus shrugs off the attacks, which ended an arc two arcs ago, and uses his own Dragon Roar, which blows them both away.
Justified with Abyss Break with is implied to destroy a whole town but was interrupted twice.
Before the Aetherion cannon was introduced, there was the Magical Convergent Cannon, or the Jupiter Cannon. Erza Scarlett, although it broke through her strongest armor, BLOCKED the shot completely. It was suppose to be powerful enough to annihilate everything in its path. Then again, she IS called Fairy Queen Titania by others for a reason.
Dieci's cannon shots are another example, as they're supposedly S-rank in power, but Nanoha blocks one while protecting the helicopter and shoots through another to defeat Dieci. It's also implied that Vivio could survive a hit without any effort at all.
The Big O's title mecha has an ultimate beam cannon mode that was used against Big Fau. After the dust settles, Big Fau is still standing with only a piece of his gut missing. With the cannon's one shot depleted, Big O is in for a world of hurt until Deus ex Machina Big Venus shows up to reboot the universe.
But Ranma uses a variation of the move to eventually defeat Herb, and in later arcs he still can use it to some sucess.
Setsuna's Artifact in Mahou Sensei Negima!. To sum things up for those not in the know, Artifacts in Negima are items of great power given to a mage's partner, and seeing one get pulled out is always a cause of alarm for everyone. Now, let's analyze the times Setsuna's artifact, a set of flying knives, was used in battle. She attempted to use it to trap the Mahora Festival Story ArcBig Bad... and failed since the Big Bad could teleport. She used them to block the attacks of a senior Shinmeiryuu Swordswoman... whereupon they shattered. She used them to attack Fate... and failed to do any damage. Negi used them to threaten Jack Rakan... who simply grabbed them with his teeth and spat them away to the side. Hopefully, she'll have better luck with the new artifact she got from her second Pactio Partner, Konoka in Chapter 252.
Note that while for most other characters, their Artifact is their superpower (That is, they're muggles without it), Setsuna has Implausible Fencing Powers and can kick ass without the need of her Artifact. Why she didn't then get a support Artifact like Kaede, who is on the same boat, is the real question here.
Arguably, she did. Most of the time, they act as cover fire, not as an attack meant to do serious damage. Also, they can be controlled remotely, so they work well when pinned (like in her second battle with Tsukuyomi).
Hiei's Dragon of the Darkness Flame in Yu Yu Hakusho is supposed to incinerate anything caught in its path, but after its first use, it becomes ineffective against anyone stronger than a Mook.
Are you a goalkeeper in Captain Tsubasa? And was your name revealed to the audience? You'll suffer this constantly, honey, you're done.
The Worf Barrage of the Rurouni Kenshin universe would have to be Aoshi's Kaiten Kenbu Rokuren. Supposedly the Ougi of his fighting style, and practically unblockable, it only connects with three things in the series: Okina, a bookshelf, and a tree. Kenshin counters it, Shishio counters it, Wu Heishin's Elite Mook, of all people, counters it, and Okina... well, I got nothing. Kenshin's own Kuzu Ryu Sen may count as well, since nearly all his opponents are either fast enough to dodge or block it (Both of which are supposed to be nearly impossible) or tough enough to No Sell it.
Sanosuke's equivalent is the Futae no Kiwami, which is powerful enough to blow apart a jail cell door and is supposed to be an ultimate fight-ending technique that shatters the bones of anyone it is used on. The very first fight in which he uses it, both he and his opponent shrug off dozens of them. Every other opponent he attempts it on is either fast enough to dodge it or so crazy resilient that he breaks his hand without inflicting the tiniest bit of damage.
One Piece. Despite being the fandom's favorite attack, Luffy's Gomu Gomu no Gattling seems to mainly be good for dispatching mooks. When used on a main villain, they'll either shrug it off, negate it through Logia abilities, or dodge it and remark how Luffy "didn't grow any extra arms". It's even been blocked by Usopp. Even variants of the technique such as Storm and Jet Gattling start to become degraded.
Zoro's Shishi Sonson, a technique supposedly capable of cutting steel that enables him to defeat Mr. 1 in one hit, fails to make any impact on Kuma, presumably because he is a Cyborg. This trope is lampshaded in the battle with Mihawk, as Johnny and Yosaku note that Mihawk is the first one to block Zoro's sword techniques, and with a knife at that.
Played for laughes in Outlaw Star. Occasionally Gene would use various increasingly powerful weapons, culminating in Gene whipping out a bazooka. Of course, the blast doesn't work, leaving Gene (and sometimes Jim), with their jaws dropped.
Uchuu Senkan Yamato has the Argo run into this problem a couple of times. The Comet Empire citadel is able to stand up to an entire fleet of ships with planet busting super weapons, forcing the Star Force to be more clever.
The same Comet Empire citadel, once its invulnerability shield is neutralized, is blasted into fiery destruction by the Argo. Queue celebration by the crew who think they've defeated the enemy at last. Until.. from out of the wreckage it's revealed that the comet was a shell around a supermassive, ultrapowerful ship.
Following Captain Tsubasa, Inazuma Eleven is even moreso at using this trope, especially the third season, where special shots and blocks rarely work past 4-5 times without geting evolved or replaced with another and more destructive skill.
During the The Death of Superman storyline, at one point the entire Justice League hits Doomsday with their combined powers (Superman with his heat vision, Booster Gold with his hand blasts, Fire with her flame, Bloodwynd with his eye-beam, Guy Gardner with his yellow power ring, etc.), and when they're all finally drained and stop and the smoke clears, we see that the total amount of damage Doomsday endured was distributed entirely throughout his restrictive suit, which was now unrestricting him. He hadn't even been knocked down.
In a later story, Darkseid blasted Doomsday with a "full power" Omega beam. It knocked him back and caused a mountain to fall on him. Doomsday simply pushed it off of him, stood up, and KO'd Darkseid with a single punch.
Blackbolt from The Inhumans has two special moves. The first is his voice which is normally treated with a great deal of respect which has allowed him take down foes like the Hulk and even killed an alternate reality version of Apocalypse. His second is the Master Blow, which consists of all of his energy channeled into a single punch. For some reason, this Master Blow seems about as powerful as his normal punches (he has Super Strength), which makes it redundant. On top of that, it leaves him drained and weak. This is probably why most writers ignore that particular ability.
The Saint of Killers from Preacher shrugs off pretty much everything without even flinching, up to and including a nuclear warhead.
Independence Day uses this trope when they decide to deploy a nuclear missile on one of the invading ships. It levels the city in the process and produces a huge amount of smoke, leading to the war room victory for a short period of time before enough smoke clears to reveal the ship is still there.
Also happens in its cinematic ancestor, the George Pal War of the Worlds. Early on, the USAF drops an atom bomb on the invaders (from a B-49 Flying Wing!), but they turn out to be protected by a Force Field.
Word Of God subverts this. Eventually it actually did die from all the bombs.
The Satellite Orbital Weapon in AKIRA. It destroys Tetsuo's arm on its first hit, but is ineffective thereafter. Except for making him angry. In the manga, keeping it from being fired again is a bit of a plot point just because of that, and eventually it manages to piss him off enough that he goes and knocks it out of the sky... before he goes One-Winged Angel. Again. To be fair, it works against any non-psychics it's targeted at pretty well.
Mars Attacks!! has the desperate US military launching a nuclear missile against the Martian ships. Once the nuke detonates, a probe absorbs the fireball, which is brought back to the Martian leader and inhaled to produce funny helium voices.
In The Karate Kid Part II Daniel's ultimate attack, The Crane Kick, is quickly and easily reversed about halfway through the film, requiring Daniel to learn an entirely new super unbeatable technique. The third film breaks the trend by not even mentioning his new super-move.
He never had one in this movie you speak of. Instead, they built up the use of kata as a strength builder for the basics and focus instead of fancy moves, only to use it as a distraction so the The Dragon would be taken out in one move, itself facilitated by technical merits.
Godzilla movies, whenever you see the regular army set up a bunch of tanks, artillery, and lasers, the most they ever do to the giant monster, usually Godzilla, is make it angry. There was one case in which a special armor piercing missile actually appeared to damage Godzilla, but he just instantly healed from it.
It's a plot point in (some) Godzilla movies that he aggressively moves towards whatever is attacking him... thus the human weapons are at least good for leading him around.
Godzilla himself provides a few Worf Barrages, most notably in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah when his impending apocalyptic nuclear meltdown causes his default breath weapon to become the Spiral Ray that he has previously used to insta-kill such powerful opponents as Super Mechagodzilla and Spacegodzilla. It is thus an incredible testament to Destoroyah's power that s/he is able to shrug off an entire battle's worth of these attacks as if they were Godzilla's standard atomic rays; had Godzilla not been going through his meltdown at that point, he likely would have had no chance of defeating Destoroyah.
In Final Wars, Godzilla's standard atomic breath is powerful enough to kill any enemy monster with a single direct hit — until he faces off against Monster X (and, later, Kaiser Ghidorah).
Humorously done in Iron Man 2, where War Machine fires a bunker-buster warhead at Whiplash, which Hammer has previously claimed was his ultimate weapon. The warhead harmlessly bounces off Whiplash's armor, prompting Stark to immediately guess that it was developed by the inept Hammer.
Pepper spray is often treated as a Worf Barrage. It is used by an otherwise defenceless (usually female) characters, and it invariably fails to make the The Dragon even blink. Such is the case in the sequel to Under Siege and Twilight.
The Dragon in Under Siege 2 hilariously takes the pepper spray and uses it as a breath mint.
He also points out that it's not mace, as the girl claims. Mace would not feel like a breath mint, no matter how tough you are.
Harry Dresden has often suffered from this, where his spell would blow the living Hell out of the enemy, only to have it shake it off and come back at him. In Fool Moon he blasts the loup-garou through the wall of the police station and the entirety of the neighboring building, only to have it let out a howl of irritation. Some of the older and more powerful faeries from Summer Knight and Proven Guilty are almost entirely immune to magical attacks. My favorite example is in Dead Beat where Harry flips a car over on top of Cowl, who then gets up with no more effort than John Wayne recovering from a sucker punch that kicks off a bar fight. The Turn Coat has Harry against Shagnasty, an uberpowerful, shapeshifter. He uses not one, but all eight of his kinetic energy storing rings, which are made of 3 bands a piece. Just one band has enough force to knock a man off his feet. Do the math. He fires it at Shagnasty who just raises a hand and deflects it at one of Harry's allies. Yeah. Shagnasty wasn't one to tangle with.
In the Max Brooks novel World War Z, the American military stages a battle against the massive zombie infestation of Yonkers, New York. With the media watching, the military unleashes an overwhelming barrage of missiles, rockets, and artillery at the approaching zombie horde, only to see the largely unscathed tide of undead slouch through the smoke. The unprepared ground forces are totally overwhelmed, leading to a catastrophic defeat and the western retreat of the U.S government.
In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, we are told that Zeus' Master Bolt makes hydrogen bombs look like firecrackers. However, the only time we see it in action is against Typhon, who just shrugs it off
Occurs twice Feet of Clay, once when the king golem tries to kill Dorfl (it does put him out for a little bit), and once when he's hit by a lightning bolt from the gods.
Happens in the first novel of Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals From The Dark series, when a huge Faata starship engages a fleet of 12 Earth cruisers, who proceed to unleash a barrage of nuclear missiles with the combined force of 400 gigaton. The protagonist is currently aboard the mothership and triumphantly prepares to die, knowing that nothing can resist such firepower. He barely feels a bump, as the starship's Deflector Shields easily absorb the blast. Turns out 400 gigaton is nothing when your shields are rated for Antimatter.
Inverted in a Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, where the Enterprise-D has taken on board some refugees from a society that treats them like slaves because they are androids. The refugees claim asylum and want to start their own society, then a fleet from the parent civilisation turns up and wants them back. Naturally, Picard sets up a judicial hearing, but everyone is on a knife edge. Worf has a plan to calm things down: The Enterprise-D is parked in a region of space that has just experienced a weird space storm. Using this as an excuse that they are still having some system malfunctions, Picard tells the opposing fleet that they need to drain their phaser capacitors by test firing at low power on a nearby asteroid. The asteroid is actually Made of Explodium, and Worf fires the phasers on full power. Result — Earth-Shattering Kaboom, and the fleet commander deciding that it might be best to let Picard's court hearing decide the matter.
Speaking of Worf, the deflector dish weapon from Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Best of Both Worlds"—complete with a huge, dramatic build-up to the famous part-one cliffhanger—is, at the beginning of part two, simply shrugged off by the Borg. Guess who pulled the trigger.
One surprisingly good moment in the much-loathed episode "Genesis" has Worf proudly boasting of having increased the photon torpedoes' yield and improved the targetting scanners. During the subsequent weapons test, he fires a torpedo... and it spins wildly out of control, nearly blowing the Enterprise up, while the phasers can't get a lock to shoot it down. Picard's gives him a look that shows that he's clearly fighting the intense urge to start Sarcastic Clapping.
There was also a rather good example in the DS9 episode Valiant: the titular ship finds the weak point of the enormous Jem'hadar battleship and fires at the said weak spot. The battleship blows up spectacularly. And then it turns out that it's still there and in perfectly good shape. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle.
Of course, Jake Sisko did tell them it was a bad idea.
Worf's debut DS9 episode Way of the Warrior is notable for giving Worf two separate aversions. Manning the tactical station aboard Defiant, worf points out that Sisko's tactics are failing to disable the Klingon ships that they are fighting. Sisko gives Worf permission to target the Klingon ships at his discretion, and within seconds, Worf blows an enemy vessel to pieces. Later, on DS9, Worf unleashes what was the most impressive barrage of weapons fire seen on Star Trek to that point. . .and it devastates the attacking fleet.
Even TOS contains an example of this trope, when the Vulcan nerve pinch fails to work on any particularly tough opponent.
Common in Super Sentai (where Power Rangers gets its footage from). If the team uses the team finisher early on in a fight, or the Humongous Mecha pulls out its weapon or finishing attack early in a fight, chances are that it will have no effect. Works for the heroes as well, usually with their giant robots getting attacked. They'll ignore physical moves, do the Barehanded Blade Block against melee weapons, and ranged attacks result in explosions around the robot (which, in this series, indicates that the attack didn't work, not A-Team Firing.)
Power Rangers has a major example: Power Rangers Turbo and the Turbine Laser. It never, ever, ever works. Usually the power of a character or weapon is inflated when it's introduced, but the Turbine Laser actually leaves the first Monster of the Week it was used against unharmed.
In Power Rangers SPD, there's one attack that binds the monster (with superstrong crime scene tape.) When Bridge believes that a villain is actually innocent, he has them use that instead of normal attacks, and Syd even says "That never works!" (It works this time, and once more. But it is typically easily broken by the target afterward.)
This happens in Stargate a few times. The most notable examples are in the Atlantis finale. You know a ship is Bad Ass when it takes only minimal damage from Asgard plasma beams and withstands a barrage of Ancient drone weapons.
Then there's the naquadriah-enhance gatebusting nuke, the most powerful WMD in earth's arsenal at the time, which didn't do a thing to remove the Ori beachhead.
Happened in an early episode too, when two Goa'uld Ha'taks were in Earth's orbit preparing to invade. Major Samuels makes a big deal of the new Naquadah-enhanced ICBMs (modified for space flight) with the yield increased a thousandfold. The missiles harmlessly explode against Goa'uld shields. In fact, they do more damage to Earth than to the Goa'uld with the EMP taking out satellites in the vicinity. Of course, they immediately start developing the means to pierce shields and, according to Sam, succeeded. This is the last we hear of them.
In Calvin And Hobbes, Calvin's "Spaceman Spiff" daydreams almost always involve finding out the "monster" is invulnerable to his "death ray blaster" or "zorcher" (same actual gun.)
One particularly memorable sequence had him firing a laundry list of weapons at an attacking fleet, none of which have any effect. The last panel shows him in class giving a bunch of wild guesses to a question he was asked.
Also applies to the Superstars, when another superstar puts their "unbeatable" finishing move (which always ended the match on ALL prior occasions), on the top superstar (i.e. The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan or The Ultimate Warrior, etc.). The audience is led to expect that the top superstar is finished—only for the Undertaker to sit up after the DDT, the Hulkster to fight his way out of the Camel Clutch, or The Ultimate Warrior to come back after HH's "unbeatable" leg-drop (all of these were actual scenarios).
Although Warrior subverted it somewhat by getting out of the way, rather than taking it. He'd later take the trope to the most extreme example, eating FIVE of Macho Man Randy Savage's lethal top rope elbows, then surviving to pummel Savage into retirement.
But not before Savage himself would do the same to Warrior, kicking out of Warrior's drop splash finisher. Really, the match itself is a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
Taken Up to Eleven in the Undertaker/Kane match at Wrestlemania 14, where Taker got up from Kane's finisher, then needed three iterations of his own finishing move to get Kane to stay down for the three-count. After the match was officially over, Kane got up again and proceeded to pummel Undertaker, culminating in a headfirst drop on a steel chair. Taker got up as Kane was on his way out.
Another case was the Batista vs Undertaker in Wrestlemania 23, in which Undertaker was able to resist the Batista Bomb. Later that year, when the two fought again in Cyber Sunday, Undertaker resisted again the Batista Bomb, however this time Batista delivered a second bomb right after the first one, and the match was over.
And, during their next match in Survivor Series, Batista was able to resist the Tombstone Piledriver.
Many wrestlers outside of WWE slip and let their finisher become The Worf Barrage. Some notable examples include Takeshi Morishima's Backdrop Driver, which is less a finisher than a move he wins with just by doggedly using it over and over; Naruki Doi's Doi 555 to Bakutare Sliding Kick combo, which started as a finisher but was eventually survived so often that some fans joke that he no longer has a finishing move; and Nigel McGuinness's Tower of London, a rather nasty move that went from instant match-ender to a move that he could use three times in the ring and once on the apron without ending the match (at least until he went to TNA and became Desmond Wolfe). The Dragon Gate promotion is particularly notorious for finishers quickly going from Deader Than Dead to The Worf Barrage.
Recently started being averted in World Wrestling Entertainment, with the return to finishing effectiveness of such submission maneuvers as the sleeper hold (Dolph Ziggler) and the armbar (Alberto Del Rio).
Probably has something to do with rise of MMA, where both moves are frequently used.
The probability that Christian will so much as pull off a successful Killswitch during a given match is inversely proportional to the importance and impact of said match.
Randy Orton's Five Moves of Doom have hit a streak where they'll usually fail or be interrupted after the third or fourth step. Either the fourth step, a hanging DDT will get reversed, or the final step, the RKO, will be escaped. That part is subverted, as when Orton wins, it's almost exclusively from an RKO, so the RKO fails that time, but succeeds later.
In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 a lot of evocation spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt can be like this. They are flashy, but really only good for taking out mooks. It is probably better to use a different spell on the Big Bad you are fighting because a lot of the time they simply can not do enough damage. One of the main reasons for this is because the damage they do has been unchanged since AD&D 1st Edition. 10d6 may have been a lot when the dragon only had 66 hit points, but when it has 300+ and the average damage is only in the mid-30s, it can lead to a scene of a players firing off an impressive spell, only for the enemy to be relatively unharmed.
In all editions before fourth and in Pathfinder, spells such as Fireball fell into this trope against powerful enemies. First, the enemies usually had strong saves. Second, many such powerful enemies had magical counters, immunities, and spell or magical resistances. Third, such enemies usually had enough health that Critical Existence Failure did not set in until you ground out a lot of damage. Finally, in prior editions, Useless Useful Spell was definitely not in effect, and HP damage was often a terrible way to disable a single enemy. By fourth, most spells and effects (and martial powers, and so on) fall into this trope. Most powerful enemies can only really be defeated by a long slog of hit point attrition. Fandom is completely divided about that.
Warhammer 40000 averts this to varying degrees depending on exactly who is getting hit with what:
Some cases are simply a matter of the target being too heavily armoured. An anti-tank Krak Missile will reliably paste anything that isn't big enough to logically withstand the hit (giant monsters and such), but throw it at somebody wearing Terminator armour (or equivalent), and they'll walk away unharmed almost 85% of the time.
Invulnerable saves (personal forcefields, etc) are even worse, since even attacks that plow straight through any and all armour will simply bounce off of them. Anybody with an Iron Halo can take a shot square in the face from weaponry specifically designed to vapourize tanks/city blocks/cities/mountain ranges (yes, 40K has all of those and more...), and have a guaranteed 50/50 chance of survival.
But even 40K has to play it straight sometimes. The recently (re-)introduced "Vortex" weapon class is nothing short of a crackling, seething portal STRAIGHT TO HELL. Its rules expressly state that it doesn't care about your equipment, your special rules, or even the building you're hiding behind. If it touches a model, THAT MODEL DIES. HORRIBLY. END OF STORY. Oh, and it destroys any scenery pieces it touches, too — even the battlefield itself isn't safe!
Except when you hit a Garguntan Creature or Super Heavy Vehicle with Vortex Weapons, then, if you're lucky, will only cause ONE point of wound/Structure Point loss. Yes, a weapon which can literally vaporise ANYTHING will still not guarantee a straight kill of, say, Titans.
Averted (in a way) in Exalted, where everyone and their aunt has access to Perfect Defences, which is exactly what it sounds like. Ultimately, this has the effect of rendering any and all "ultimate attacks" virtually useless, due to the cost efficiency of perfect defences versus decent attack combos. That fifty-mote Titan-killing punch you just delivered? He blocked it with a toothpick for four motes. That storm of ten thousand arrows converging on his soul at the speed of light? He just dodged it for three motes. That mile-wide beam fired from the Titan Directional Fortress, which just incinerated the local mountain range? He shrugged it off for two motes.
In Fate/stay night, Servant Lancer has a cursed lance that, when unsealed, will always pierce the opponent's heart, rewriting the laws of causality to do it... Unless the opponent happens to be very lucky. Guess what, on the occasion he gets to use it, the opponent was that lucky. On the second attempt against Archer, Lancer ups the ante and unleashes its more powerful thrown form, only to have the Archer block the attack with a shield said to be proof against all missile weapons. Gae Bolg still manages to destroy it, but lacks enough force to hit Archer's heart afterwards.
Archer's Broken Caladbolg from the 'Unlimited Blade Works' route as well. Reduces an entire graveyard to a smoking pile of rubble and forces the protagonists to run for cover, but when the smoke clears it is shown that it couldn't even dent The Berserker. Then again, the fact that Berserker deigned to defend against it at all shows that it was not an attack to be trifled with.
It isn't clear since Berserker could as way be killed during this attack. The problem is, he instantly revives after being killed.
The one battle in which you control General Leo against Kefka in Final Fantasy VI also doubles as a Worf Barrage. Similarly, the battle on the floating island witnessed between the Emperor and Kefka, the Emperor's Esper-powered Merton/Meltdown serves as a Worf Barrage by having Kefka shrug off the most damaging spell in the game.
It's not that he shrugs it off, at least not in the English version. Instead, he's standing in a magic null zone. But then, Kefka is significantly less cool in the original Japanese version anyway.
In Final Fantasy IV, Tellah's use of Meteor (the most powerful spell in the game) against Golbez is used both as a Worf Barrage and a Senseless Sacrifice. If anything, at least it forces Golbez to back off and temporarily breaks his hold on Kain's mind.
At the start of the final battle, FuSoYa and Golbez use a combined Meteor attack on Zemus to defeat him. Then Zemus comes back as Zeromus and their Meteor attacks prove useless.
In Final Fantasy VIII, GF Odin appears periodically throughout the game if acquired, instantly killing any opponents in the current fight. During a showdown with Seifer towards the middle of the game, Odin shows up and tries the instakill attack, only to be himself killed by the latest incarnation of Squall's training rival.
At the start of Paper Mario, during the opening Hopeless Boss Fight Bowser will you use the Star Rod to make himself invincible, afterwhich your attacks won't hurt him. Similarly, during the 3rd and final fight with him, when you use the Star Beam which is supposed to disable the Star Rod's power, it won't work. This tradition carried in the next two games, with the final boss initially being invincible.
In [[Fallout2 Fallout 2]] the minigun serves this purpose against the Enclave. Take a guess what weapon Michael Dorn's character uses...
Subversion: The X-buster upgrade from the first Mega Man X game allows X to charge his shots to a higher level, and the attack itself is a triple helix barrage of shots. On bosses, this does no extra damage, although it does allow to hurt the final boss with the buster. Justified since the first part of the blast triggers the Mercy Invincibility of the boss, letting them soak up the rest of the attack. In the remake of the game, this part returns, but the shot is redesigned to just three spiraling shots. In addition, you can put off getting the normal version for Zero's buster which is mostly the same except the new blast trades the fancy looks for actual strength.
The trailer for the new Mech Warrior game has one of these when the POV character scores a direct hit on an Atlas, sending the massive enemy mech staggering for a moment...
Eternal Sailor Moon's final attack in Sailor Moon: Another Story has this going for it. The attack animation is a good ten seconds long and involves multiple explosions, a death beam, and a screen white-out complete with a collapsing barrier animation... and usually does about one to two damage against the final boss. Even Sailor Mercury, who has more in common with a concrete pillbox than a tank, will average 5 damage plus 10% target accuracy loss with her basic attack.
The Star Trek Online MMO mirrors this trope perfectly when encountering certain opponents. A single top rank player in the best ship and most powerful weapons can utterly unleash an initial barrage on a Dominion dreadnought or a Borg cube and barely scratch the shields. It takes a barrage from a small fleet, or sustained barrages over a long period to take such targets down. And those targets hit back a lot harder than the player does.
Late into Crysis, a tactical nuke is fired upon advanced alien technology. It only serves to jump-start the alien technology.
In the Bob and George subcomic, Jailhouse Blues, Megaman fires ''MORE AMMUNITION THAN GOD!" at Prison Toilet Man, and keeps firing into the dust cloud even while PTM is standing right behind him, berating him for his lack of Genre Savviness. The Worf Barrage effect is subverted however, as it turns out that Megaman was firing guided missiles that locked onto him, and are now waiting inside the dust cloud to destroy PTM.
As a tribute to Dragon Ball Z, Super Mario Bros. Z hasn't shied away from this trope. The Bowser battle featured a full-on Kamehame Hadoken-worthy Fireball attack from Mario that didn't even make a scratch on Metal Bowser. And during the early stages of the Mecha Sonic battle on Yoshi's Island, Axem Red decides to try out his "secret weapon," a BFG that unleashes a Wave Motion Gun-worthy blast that turns out not to have worked on him, just before the Big Bad lays into him with an Akuma-style Raging Demon and a Kamehame Hadoken of his own to finish him.
In The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon, the Ginosaji shrugs off its hapless victim's increasingly outlandish attempts to destroy it, culminating in the detonation of a huge bank of buried TNT.
Also, Bumblebee's stingers almost never do any real damage.
Until Ratchet decides to unlock their military mode in season 3 (why he didn't do it before is another story) and suddenly Bumblebee's stingers are more powerful then anyone else's weapon, the only weapon of the entire team capable of scratching Omega Supreme!
Code Lyoko: While Ulrich's Triplicata isn't specifically the Ultimate attack (after all, who need a ultimate attack in a show where most enemies can be killed in one shot as long as you hit them in the weak point ?), and was actually quite weak in season 1, but in season 2, it had become incredibly powerful, once allowing him to take down a whole army of monster of his own. In season 4, however, he used it only once against William. William immediatly finds which Ulrich is the real one and devirtualizes him instantly, ending the move in a few seconds.
The Battle of the Somme — the prelude was five days (extended to seven) of the heaviest bombardment the British Army had yet laid on for preparation of an attack: over a million shells fired in a week (although later attacks would put this in the shade). It certainly LOOKED effective, and the troops had good reason to be confident that their efforts would be crowned with success — but at zero hour, those on the left wing and much of the centre walked into an artillery-and-machine-gun-driven mincing machine that spat out twenty thousand dead and twice that number wounded IN ONE DAY for little or no gain.
Partially averted on the right wing of the assault; the troops here actually succeeded in achieving most or all of their goals, albeit at a heavy price.
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson discuss why this happened at great length, and their book "The Somme" is recommended reading.
The Toyota Hilux that was, in an episode of Top Gear, placed on top of a 20-something story building, which was then demolished, is arguably a unique example of this trope. Big clouds of dust and debris spring up, slowly clearing to reveal the truck, which is then lifted from its landing on top of the rubble, refueled, and driven away.
The last day of the Battle of Gettysburg was an unfortunate case of this. Despite general basic knowledge, Lee's plan for the infamous "Pickett's Charge" was to level all Southern artillery on the Union center, blasting apart Union infantry deposits and artillery, in order to essentially destroy the Union center before the infantry even began their assault. It was a Napoleonic tactic known as a ''feu d'enfer''. The cannonade was said to be so thunderous, Lincoln in Washington D.C. could feel the earth shake. The problem: Southern artillery shells were defective, causing them to constantly overshoot their targets. This was unknown to them at the time, so while the Southern artillery wrecked utter hell on the Union supply lines and main base, it all happened behind the Union center. When the charge itself took place, the advancing Confederates found themselves assaulted by artillery and an ambush, and when close enough to the Union line, constant rifle fire and canister shot. They managed to inflict 1,500 casualties at the cost of over four times their own number (all their senior officers were killed as well), and the fact that they managed to even reach the Union line exceeded at least Longstreet's expectations.
Adding to the Oh Crap effect, the Union commander realized what Lee was trying to do, and ordered his guns to gradually stop firing to give the impression that they'd been hit. Then, when the charge started...
American planes and naval forces (including battleships in some cases) spent days carpet bombarding and shelling Japanese held islands in World War II. The Japanese were so well dug in very few were killed.
The Normandy Landings on D-Day were also accompanied by bombing and shelling to little effect compared to the amount of bombardment, mostly due to poor weather conditions limiting visibility. The Omaha beach landing was in jeopardy of failing until destroyers steamed dangerously close to shore and fired their guns point blank into the beach defenses.
Bombing operations in the Vietnam war which included "Rolling Thunder" and "Linebacker" dropped more ordinance than had ever been previously exploded in the history of war — and did absolutely nothing to stop the Viet Cong. Their primary supply route — the Ho Chi Minh trail which was nothing more than a dirt road through the jungle — was constantly filled with bomb craters. The Viet Cong just filled in the craters and kept on moving.
Operation Linebacker and Linebacker II were actually about bringing North Vietnam back to the negotiation table, and succeeded in their mission. In fact, the type of bombing seen in these operations were the kind the Air Force had wanted to employ during Rolling Thunder, but had been denied.
When the captain of the Guerriere was returned home, he was court-martialed for losing the ship but defended himself claiming that, since the ship was originally French-built, it wasn't as sturdy as a British-made ship.
Note that every captain who loses his ship is automatically court-martialed, even if it's obvious that they will find him not to blame.
The early days of modern naval artillery often saw these in engagements before gunnery and shell design caught up. Being able to reach out and touch the enemy doesn't help when the 'touch' does little more than that and often fails to make contact at all.
Probably the most famous is the duel between the ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (built from the converted wreckage of the USS Merrimack) at the Battle of Hampton Roads. Both ships were completely immune to the enemy's cannons, although several crew were killed or deafened by the ricochets. Ironically, misinterpretation of their opponent's maneuvers meant that both claimed victory, and for various reasons both were soon sunk without ever seeing combat again.
Japanese Kamikaze planes fall into this trope when they went against British carriers. Their planes, decommissioned fighters and bombers packed to the brim with explosives, were effective against the wooden-decked American carriers, but British carriers had armored steel decks; while the explosives and fuel would ignite the wood on the American carriers, they rarely, if ever, penetrated the British carrier's deck. There is a old running joke that the announcement following a kamikaze attack on a British Carrier was "Sweepers, man your brooms."