Follow TV Tropes


Deus Ex Machina / Live-Action Films

Go To

Robin: Gosh, Batman. The nobility of the almost-human porpoise.
Batman: True, Robin. It was noble of that animal to hurl himself into the path of that final torpedo. He gave his life for ours.

  • At the end of the flimsily plotted ABBA: The Movie, Ashley, the disc jockey who has chased ABBA all over Australia to get an interview arrives at their hotel after the band's already left for the airport. Despondent, Ashley returns to his own hotel and gets on the elevator... and finds all four members of ABBA inside. ...Cue the trippy song sequence!
  • Advertisement:
  • Discussed in Adaptation., in which Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is told by a screenwriting guru (Brian Cox) never to use a deus ex machina under any circumstances, which leads Kaufman to employ it at a crucial moment at the end of the film by turning it into a Chekhov's Gun instead.
  • Infamously done in The Adjustment Bureau, where the main characters are predictably surrounded with no escape. Realizing they're about to be separated forever or worse, they kiss passionately...for quite a while...and then they're alone, with the one good "bad" guy telling them that, LITERALLY, God decided to give them a happy ending because they tried really hard.
  • In The Apple: Alphie, Bibi and their friends are surrounded by the forces of BIM and Mr. Boogalow, when Mr. Topps - a completely new character - appears and apparently whisks the good guys off to Heaven.
  • Advertisement:
  • In the climactic battle of Avengers: Endgame, Carol Danvers — who had been missing for pretty much the entire run of the film — conveniently appears just in time to shoot Thanos's warship out of the sky, right when the Avengers need her to. As one critic said, "It was almost like Captain Marvel was waiting around on the moon for that exact moment to make her appearance!"
  • In The Bad Seed, Rhoda has gotten away with murder, so in the last second of the movie, she is hit by a bolt of lightning and falls into the nearby wharf, supposedly from God's wrath. This is due to The Hays Code not allowing characters to get away with being evil. In the book she survives the entire story.
  • Parodied in Batman: The Movie, where the dynamic duo are seemingly killed by a torpedo. We then cut to them driving away in a speedboat, talking about how a dolphin leaped in front of the torpedo at the last second, offscreen no less.
    • Later on, they end up crashing the batcopter. Good thing they landed right in the middle of the national foam rubber convention!
  • Advertisement:
  • Casino: Though based on a real-life event, the metal plate under the driver's seat of Sam's car comes across as this.
  • Semi-literal in Contact, where after the original alien machine was blown up, we find out that a totally separate yet completely identical machine was built half-way across the world, thus not only solving the problem but also putting the main character in the driver's seat of the machine. This also occurred in the novel the film is based on.
  • Cool World may have one of the worst. "Noid" (real person) Frank Harris is killed by "doodle" (cartoon character) Holli Would but is brought back to life by turning into a doodle, because that's exactly what happens when a noid is killed by a doodle in the real world and then his body is brought to Cool World. This is never mentioned until the very end of the film.
  • The Crazies (2010) pulls one several times. Each time a crazy person with a melee weapon is about to kill off one of the good guys. As they raise their weapon to strike... they get shot by someone off screen - one time, through a second floor window by someone outside the building.
  • Day of the Dead (2008): The zombified Bud, despite being a zombie, suddenly remembers how to shoot a gun and wants to help humans instead of eat them, and shoots a zombie attacking the lead character, letting her escape and kill them all. Towards the beginning of the movie, Bud explains that he is a vegetarian.
  • In Day Watch, the second film of the series based on the Night Watch series of books, The Chalk of Fate is introduced as a device for Rewriting Reality.
  • Lampshade Hanging in DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, where the treasure chest that allows Vince Vaughn to not only save his gym, but buy out his competitor, is clearly labeled "Deus Ex Machina". An unusual example of a deus ex machina as a Take That!: Executive Meddling forced the creators to change the ending from the heroes losing to them finding the aforementioned treasure chest. Hence the obvious Lampshade Hanging. The director's commentary mentions a scene that was never shot that would've actually given the above example some foreshadowing and made it less of an example when Vince Vaughn's character gets the idea to take the money White gave him for selling him his gym and bet on his team to win the game.
  • In Dresden the protagonist and his love interest are holed up to avoid the carbon monoxide poisoning and fires, while their oxygen slowly runs out. Then, suddenly the protagonist sees a miraculous chink of light, where fresh air is coming in! They dig themselves out into another room, which has an iron-rung staircase leading out - saved!
  • In Ella Cinders, Waite the ice man, Ella's admirer, turns out to be Secretly Wealthy, which is nice for Ella.
  • The astonishingly horrific ending to the travesty of modern cinema that was Epic Movie when one of the characters found the remote from Click and paused time to defeat the White ***, who had turned into Davy Jones.
  • The Family That Preys had one at the end when Alice, Pam, and Nick come in to the board room meeting as major stockholders, something never explained prior, and voted to prevent Charlotte from getting voted out of her own company.
  • At the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, all seems lost when the villain has accomplished a sort of Pyrrhic Victory, when two previously introduced elements interact in a new way that undoes the damage. Grindelwald's attack has caused such havoc in New York that it's impossible for the wizards to erase the memories of every witness and keep the wizarding world a secret. Thankfully, it turns out the Thunderbird the protagonist kept can infuse the venom of another of the fantastic beasts into a storm, which selectively erases non-wizards memories of the attack.
  • For Love or Money (1993): Doug gets the girl but loses the guy who has agreed to finance the construction of his hotel. On his wedding day, Mike is called by a real estate tycoon who agrees to bankroll the project. The tycoon was the man who's marriage Mike helped rekindle.
  • George of the Jungle 2 uses a #2 version for laughs. The villain has the heroes at gunpoint then begins arguing with and then insulting the narrator. Then he asks the narrator what he is going to do. It turns out the narrator is the big man himself and a giant hand descends from the sky and carries off the villain while giving him a wedgie.
  • In Give My Regards to Broad Street, the main conflicts are resolved by the protagonist spotting the tape box just sitting on a bench, untouched (after 24 hours), then hearing a muffled cry for help from his employee, who is locked inside a maintenance shed. The protagonist is able to get in, retrieve the employee and listen to his explanation, get out, and report his success. At less than five minutes from the midnight deadline. His call is made to someone who then has to make another phone call to the people who need to know before midnight, someone whom the audience didn't know had the number. That call does get through before midnight.
  • The Godzilla films of the 1960s-1970s were notorious for this. The two most infamous examples are the "Flying Godzilla" scene from Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster and Jet Jaguar somehow programming himself to grow to the size of Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Megalon.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron follow the spiders to question Aragog, the patriarch gives his spidery children permission to eat them. Harry then admits to only knowing one fighting spell and that it wouldn't be powerful enough for so many enemies. Then, suddenly the flying Ford Anglia appears from the trees, scaring a crowd of spiders away and giving them a hand in escaping. This is a very literal example of a machine saving the day.
  • Parodied in History of the World Part I when the horse with the Meaningful Name of "Miracle" manages to Time Travel in order to arrive to save the hero.
  • The god out of the machine that saved the protagonist in The Hudsucker Proxy was fairly literally a god working in a big machine.
  • Done also in I Wanna Hold Your Hand. The 2 main characters end up missing The Beatles at the Ed Sullivan Show. But the Fab 4 (dressed as cops to escape the fans) end up getting in their car.
  • James Bond films liberally feature number 3. Typically the writers would put Bond in the most impossible situation they could come up with, and then figure out what kind of weird gadget could get him out of it before going back to the Q Branch scene to write in a bit of dialogue about it. Though sometimes they didn't even bother; witness Bond's magnet watch in Live and Let Die which in the climax turns out to also be able to cut through ropes with zero setup beforehand. Ironically, that was one of the more plausible Bond gadgets.
    • Also, the watch laser that Bond uses in GoldenEye to escape from the train car. Not too far-fetched since it's James Bond movie, but what makes it fall under this category is it not being shown during the scene with Q, where all the other gadgets are introduced and talked about. Bond just pulls the laser out of nowhere and it's conveniently the perfect gadget to use in such a situation.
  • Jurassic Park's case could be called a "Deus Rex Machina". Just when it looks like the heroes are about to be devoured by hungry Velociraptors, the T. rex bursts out of nowhere and eats the raptors up. No one has any idea how the T. rex got inside the visitor center. But nobody cares when it leads to the epic sight of one roaring over the ruins of its own species' skeleton while the "When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth" banner falls by.
  • In the 2009 movie, Knowing, two children seem to be doomed just like the rest of humanity, but at the end they're rescued by something resembling Ezekiel's Wheel - almost literally a "god from the machine."
  • The ending of The Lost Boys; excusable under Rule of Cool, Rule of Funny, and coming right on the heels of a Diabolus ex Machina, after the villains had already been defeated.
  • A literal example in The Matrix Revolutions. Just as it looks like the Sentinel army is about to completely destroy Zion, Neo travels to the Machine City and asks the god-like supercomputer that rules the Machines (who has never been mentioned before this point) to consider peace. The supercomputer agrees, and the Machines immediately break off their attack. The supercomputer's name? "Deus Ex Machina"—a literal and figurative "God from the Machine".
  • Lampshaded/subverted/amazingly executed in a triple entendre by Woody Allen in Mighty Aphrodite. Mira Sorvino's character finally finds love with a good-looking pilot whose helicopter needs to make an emergency landing right next to her. Woody's voiceover exclaims, "Talk about your deus ex machina!" - a surprise resolution achieved through outside intervention, with an Adonis-like figure emerging from a literal machine. The icing on this trope cake is that this ending occurs as an ostensible result of the Greek chorus appealing to Zeus, only to get his answering machine, advising them to leave a message and he'll get back to them. God from the machine, indeed.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
    • the truck
    • At the end of the movie, when Henrik gives Mikael the proof he needed to take down Wennerström, Mikael discovers that the files point to crimes Wennerström had committed years ago and that have already prescribed. Lizbeth then says, out of the blue, that she may find incriminating evidence if she breaks into his computer. In the last ten minutes of the movie, Wennerström is taken down, Lizbeth is a millionaire and the evidence Mikael fought the whole movie to get his hands on were completely useless.
  • Help!: Sort of.
  • Monster a-Go Go takes this to ridiculous levels as it features a guy who was turned into a radioactive giant. At the end, people are going after him only to find out the guy was found elsewhere and the giant just disappeared like it never existed. It was actually released when it was only half completed, so the creators had no logical way of wrapping up the story.
  • Used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, both times for laughs. When the characters are being chased by a large animated monster, the animator abruptly has a heart-attack and the monster disappears. The cops at the end are a #4 example, as the movie had been setting them up throughout. The instigation for the police involvement - i.e. the somewhat random killing of the historian - also serves as a sort of Chekhov's Gun in an Unwitting Instigator of Doom fashion.
  • Parodied In Monty Python's Life of Brian, where Brian nearly falls to his death, a passing UFO just happens to abduct him and then crash-lands shortly afterwards. Brian is fine.
  • A very amusing one happens near the end of Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. The villain survives falling out of a window thanks to an awning cushioning his fall. When he gets up, it seems like he is going to escape. Just then, a lion appears out of nowhere and kills him on the spot. Drebin had earlier released a bunch of animals from the zoo.
  • In National Treasure, the characters follow cryptic clues all over the world to discover a massive treasure hidden under Trinity Church, but only after the Big Bad has left them stranded underground with no way out... except for the convenient back door exit to the treasure room. Somewhat justified, seeing as the main characters tricked the Big Bad into leaving them stranded, specifically because they had guessed that there would be a back door.
  • Used magnificently in the climax of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, in which after saying their prayers, the four main characters are miraculously saved from hanging by a scheduled flood, lightly mentioned earlier within the film.
  • On Our Own ends with Uncle Jack miraculously flying in on his plane to adopt the kids, thus ending an otherwise unwinnable police chase in the middle of nowhere.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones fails in his mission to stop the Nazis using The Ark of the Covenant, and its power kills them; Indy and Marian are saved from it by shutting their eyes. While not mentioned in the film, this trait is something that's mentioned in The Bible, so the writers have Shown Their Work.
  • The Red Kimono: Former prostitute Gabrielle, unable to get a job in the straight world, decides to go back to the life. In shame and desperation, she travels all the way from Los Angeles back to her old brothel in New Orleans, only to get hit by a car right outside the building. This actually turns out to be a good thing, as she fully recovers and her hospital stay results in her getting the trainee nurse job she desperately wanted.
  • The Rise of Skywalker: Some critics contend that the plot's resolution hinges upon this, with previously unseen Force powers such as Force Ghosts able to interact with the normal world physically or lend others' energy, and Force healing being able to raise the dead.
  • The conflict in the Italian movie Scialla! (Stai Sereno) came from Luca, a rebellious teenager who had fallen with bad companies, having been stupid enough to steal drugs from the home of "The Poet", a gang leader that was planning to recruit him, and Bruno, a former literature teacher and his father who had only just found out he had a son, trying to help him deal with the mess. At the end the Poet was about to beat Bruno up for what his son had done... Then he suddenly recognizes in Bruno his favorite teacher from when he was in high school and decides to let everything slide, with Luca and the Poet's two henchmen exchanging bemused looks.
  • Billy Preston's character in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He appears just before the end as a weather vane brought to life, then brings Strawberry Fields back to life and basically sets the rest of the action back to the beginning of the movie, all while singing "Get Back." Shame he couldn't have done something similar with the Beatles themselves...
  • In Shakespeare in Love, The Bard's latest play is about to be shut down due to rules against letting women on stage, but then Queen Elizabeth stands up and inspects Viola, and strongly implies Viola isn't female — and that this queen should know such things. There's also the line where she asks Shakespeare to come as "himself", heavily implying that she knew when he was disguised as "Wilhelmina" at the court in Greenwich.
  • An example in Sky High (2005). Medulla retaining his intelligence in baby form comes off as something like this.
  • In Six: The Mark Unleashed, Elijah Cohen, the mysterious man of God, miraculously appears when the heroes are about to be killed by the Community's forces and takes them safely away.
  • At the end of The Spanish Prisoner, the protagonist has been betrayed by all his previous allies and is seemingly left without any options. The "Japanese tourists", mentioned in passing by Steve Martin's character in the middle of the movie and whom we never see otherwise, turn out to be secret agents who have been monitoring the situation the whole time and whisk our hero away to safety.
  • Spider-Man 3: The butler suddenly revealing the true nature of Norman's death to Harry. Word of God states that he was supposed to be a hallucination, representing Harry's good side, but he's seen interacting with Harry in Peter's presence, who doesn't act as if anything's wrong. Perhaps you can make sense of it by assuming the butler does exist, but Harry hallucinated his realization in the form of said butler..
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, Kay Eiffel uses one to save Harold Crick. From his real death. This was foreshadowed from the beginning. But, given the overall plot, it could have been retroactively included by Eiffel to foreshadow the one that she came up with at the end. Indeed, she even says she'll need to re-write other parts of the story to justify the new ending.
  • Suspect: Roger Ebert felt the film's ending was this, feeling it hadn't been well established.
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has a classic example. When Devastator climbs the pyramid, Simmons manages to somehow contact a nearby warship captain on a hand radio and convinces him to use a "railgun" super weapon. This weapon obliterates Devastator and yet was not mentioned previously in either of the two movies, nor was it used again. It seems like a pretty handy weapon to have and even of a superior technology to that of The Transformers. It also seems odd that it was not used again, since The Fallen stands in the exact same place only a few moments later.
    • To a lesser extent, The Matrix of Leadership might also be considered a Deus Ex Machina as near the end it is revealed that this tool which is used to power a super weapon, is also the only thing that can bring Optimus Prime (and Sam) back to life.
    • An almost literal example of the classic meaning in Revenge of the Fallen. When Sam dies at the end of the film, he is pretty clearly dead. Resuscitation isn't working, the medic calls it, this is one downer of an ending as our hero is dead and gone. Then, we are suddenly transported to some sort of weird robot Fluffy Cloud Heaven, where the original Primes tell him he has earned the Matrix of Leadership, and he comes back to life.
  • In the climax finale of The Traveler, Detective Black stumbled upon his daughter Mary's ghost and acquired a life-saving tip that can enable him to defeat Mr Nobody.
  • Inverted in the western Ulzana's Raid. The renegade Apaches have a settler trapped inside his house, which appears to be well-built to resist such an occurrence. Suddenly there's the sound of a bugler sounding "Charge", the Apaches disappear, and the settler exits his house, praising God. It turns out that one of the Apaches had a bugle and they were just luring him out of his house. When the real cavalry arrives hours later, they find the man tortured to death.
  • Undersea Kingdom, just like the many weekly serials around that time, is notorious for this. The end of each episode has a Cliffhanger but they rewrite part of the script to allow a Character Shield. (For example, they have important characters collapse on the floor at the end of one episode in a dangerous area, but the beginning of the next, they add a hole that to show they fell on the floor below in a safe area, hoping that people won't remember the nearby dangerous sparks shown while they were collapsing.)
  • Played dead straight in Wizards of Waverly Place the movie with the Stone of Dreams, the MacGuffin that Alex and Justin spend most of the movie chasing.
  • One of the oldest film examples from The Wizard of Oz. The heroes are cornered, surrounded by all the guards of the Wicked Witch of the West. The Witch herself, gloating in victory, lights the Scarecrow on fire and Dorothy tosses a bucket of water to put him out, some of it splashing the Witch. Lo and behold, water turns out to be the Witch's weakness and she suddenly begins melting for no explainable reason. And all those guards that were surrounding the heroes don't go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge but instead are all cheering that she's dead. Makes one wonder why they didn't splash some water on her themselves if they hated her so much, or why the Witch kept such a lethal substance lying around in the castle.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: