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Always a Bigger Fish

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Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

"'Monster' is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cat."
Dr. Henry Wu, Jurassic World

Pursued by a Big Bad Wolf? Wait till' the Bigger Badder Wolf comes in.

Our heroes are cornered or trapped by one scary thing or group, only to be saved by another, bigger, scarier thing or group. Sometimes the "savior" has been introduced earlier in the plot, making this an instance of Chekhov's Gunman.

If the "savior" was previously the main antagonist, this may set up an unusual reaction in the viewer, who notes how his feelings about that antagonist are changed in this scene. The characters may notice the same; they may say, "I never thought I'd be so happy to see you!".

In this case, the "savior" isn't actively trying to save the protagonists. He's just there, and hungry, and the heroes had best not be there once it finishes its present meal.

May result when the hero asking "Why Isn't It Attacking?" has the bigger fish behind him.


It is commonly used as a Deus ex Machina, unless (as noted above) it is set up in advance. See also Colliding Criminal Conspiracies when the "Bigger Fish" arrives early and threatens heroes and villains equally.

Compare to Always Someone Better, Save the Villain, Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, Self-Disposing Villain, Eviler Than Thou, and The Worf Effect (in which the "big fish" character keeps encountering bigger fish). If invoked, see Summon Bigger Fish. If it's a videogame, and you have to also fight the bigger fish, it's a Bait-and-Switch Boss. For actual bigger fish (and other things), see Sea Monster. If someone thinks they're scaring off an antagonist and it's really because there's a bigger fish around that they can't see, then that's Scared of What's Behind You. (That version is usually Played for Laughs.) See also Cub Cues Protective Parent where the hero is the "middle" fish.



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  • There is an Australian advertisement where a tourist asks locals if there are any crocodiles in the water.
    Aussie: No. No crocodiles, mate.
    Tourist: (dives in)
    Aussie: Sharks ate 'em.
  • A McDonald's ad shows a kid using french fries as bait while fishing. Soon a fish bites...and a bigger one...and an even bigger one...which ends with a long chain of fish, ending with a huge sperm whale.
  • The HEXBUG Spider XL advertisement introduces two Spiders... and then the giants come, and they're scared into pooping batteries.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, Team Touden are attacked by a group of merfolk who are then driven off by a kraken.
  • In Overlord (2012), the protagonist himself, Ainz Ooal Gown, is the bigger fish. As the former leader of one of the most powerful guilds in Yggdrasil before being transported to the New World, he is easily able to brush off even the most powerful of this world's monsters without so much as wasting a breath.
  • In Monster, Nina is saved from Professor Geidlitz by Johan. What makes this better is that they were using her as bait to lure Johan in to convince him to lead their group and make "the master race" dominant once again, seeing him as the next Hitler. Anna tried to warn them that Johan didn't care about their cause or any cause. They discover too late that she's correct.
  • Used to great effect during the Batman Cold Open of the One Piece movie Strong World. Luffy is pursued by a giant alligator, which is defeated by a Forest Octopus, which is in turn defeated by a giant preying mantis, which is itself defeated by a gorilla-bear, only to have that thing finished off by Luffy himself once he gets sick of this. This is inverted with the giant shark from said opening, who is devoured by a group of ravenous ant warriors.
    • Also happens in the manga. One example being after the Fishman Island arc, where a fish the crew catches is then eaten by a bigger fish, which is eaten by an even bigger fish, which is then killed by Zoro.
  • A heroic variant in the Rurouni Kenshin episode, "Birth of a Child Swordsman": Yahiko is being chased by the gang of thugs he's been dealing with the entire episode. He leads them into an narrow alleyway where he can fight them one-on-one, but the thugs wise up and approach en masse, knives drawn. Then the thugs look up and notice Kenshin and Sanosuke on the wall behind Yahiko (either of whom would've been enough to make the thugs pause). Most of the thugs flee, but the leader wants to settle the score with Yahiko. He ends up giving Yahiko his first victory in a real fight.
  • A(n even more) sinister variant in Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The only way to defeat The Walpurgis Night is by making Madoka fight her. Doing this promptly turns her into the even more devastating Kriemhild Gretchen.
    • In the finale Kriemhild Gretchen is defeated by Madoka via a Wishplosion.
  • And then the even more sinister version with Homura Akemi in Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, when they Summon Bigger Fish using the forces of two witches and most of the Puella Magi at their best to defeat Kyubey... Only for Homura to turn out to be even more powerful than everyone, and she promptly seals the power of both Kyubey and Madoka...
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In Dragon Ball Z, Frieza and his even stronger father are coming. This could mean the end of all life on Earth. As soon as they arrive, a person we've never seen before shows up and cuts them both in half with a sword.
    • Done very extensively with the gods of the setting. In Dragon Ball, Kami is God? Actually, he's just the god of Earth. King Kai, the guardian of the whole universe in Dragon Ball Z? Actually, he's just one of four guardians of the universe, with the Grand Kai above him. And above the Grand Kai we have the Supreme Kais, the gods of creation, (though that reveal came pretty soon after the Grand Kai was revealed,) who in turn are ruled over by the Grand Supreme Kai, the ruler of the universe.
    • And then, in Dragon Ball Super, we learn that equal to the Supreme Kais are the gods of destruction, and above them all is the King of Everything, the creator of the multiverse.
  • Extremely prominent in Toriko, where high level predatory monsters will be dined upon by even higher level ones. Case in point, recently when the Four Beasts awoke from their centuries old slumber to invade the human world, one of them killed a Regal Mammoth with one attack. In earlier chapters, said Regal Mammoth was probably the largest creature seen in the series so far (being approximately one kilometer in height), and had the ability to inhale hundreds of smaller beasts through one of its two trunks and spitting bones out the other.
  • In the Pokémon episode "Attack of the Prehistoric Pokemon", Ash, Pikachu, and Team Rocket are stuck underground with some recently-awoken and very grumpy Omanytes, Omastars, Kabuto, and Kabutops. After some back-and-forth battling, the ancient Pokemon have them on the ropes when they suddenly look around in a panic and flee. Ash wonders why they're running. Cue Aerodactyl.
  • In Gate, the heroes see a dragon in the distance moving towards them, when it is suddenly devoured by a much larger one, which then attacks them.
  • In Killing Bites's first battle scene, Leo is boasting about his strength makes him better than everyone else when Ratel gets back up and curb-stomps him. (The irony is lost on him.)
  • Durarara!!:
    • Kasane Kujiragi has spent twenty episodes plotting and planning her way around everyone else in the series. She's out-thought the infamous Information Broker, out-fought an Evil Weapon, and captured the Headless Horseman. Just as she's closing a business deal where she sells the Headless Horseman and the Evil Weapon to a client, Shizuo Heiwajima walks up. He has no idea who she is, he just wants to help his friend the Headless Horseman. Kasane briefly tries to talk him into leaving, but when that fails, she turns around and walks away without a second glance. When her client demands she come back and protect him from Shizuo, Kasane just says she wasn't hired to die for him.
    • Takashi Nasujima starts a Zombie Apocalypse and almost takes over the city, with plans to take over the entire world. While he does get surprisingly close to succeeding, it's mostly because no one important was paying attention to him at the moment. When people do realize what he's doing, it just becomes a question of who is going to stop him. Celty Sturleson stops him without any real difficulty, only a few minutes before Anri Sonohara was about to step in.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • This trope is exemplified in the card Reef Worm, which has a mechanic signifying a succession of animals being eaten by bigger predators. When Reef Worm dies, a fish card is put in play; when the fish dies, a whale is put in play; when the whale dies, a kraken is put in play.
    • The card Gigantosaurus shows a large, predatory theropod standing over the corpse of a freshly slain dragon.

    Comic Books 
  • The climax of Bone is an interesting double-helping of this trope: the dragon-goddess Mim's roaring rampage is set to wipe most of the heroes (most of the planet) off the map. Meanwhile, Thorn and Fone Bone are being pursued by the rest of the dragons, in a blind rage. The dragons pursue Thorn and Fone to the surface, at which point they see Mim, and they break off their pursuit to go calm their queen down.
  • In an early Sunday strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin shrinks down suddenly to the size of a bug from the perspective of other bugs. A fly tries to step on him until a frog eats it.
  • One Sherman's Lagoon comic has a progression of Bigger Fish eating each other. When Sherman, a Great White Shark, shows up to eat the third, another fish protests, "You're going out of turn. I eat that guy, then you eat me."
  • Occurs in Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja when Reality Warper Alfie O'Meagan is waiting for a cosmic being called M'Gubgub. He barely avoids being stepped on by a massive alien who dwarfs the planet and proceeds to praise M'Gubgub... only for the alien to run away in a panic, as the galaxy-dwarfing M'Gubgub arrives.
  • In one Doctor Strange story arc, Strange is menaced by the cosmically powerful sorceress Umar. He finds and releases an artificial Eldritch Abomination called Zom which is the one thing that scares her. Needless to say this quickly backfires (if Strange couldn't handle Umar, he has no chance of containing something bigger than her), and he has to find a bigger fish yet, going through a chain of deals which ends with the Living Tribunal, the single biggest fish in the entire Marvel Multiverse (apart from an unseen, vaguely-defined "One-Above-All"). The Tribunal himself was defeated in the leadup to Infinity. It seems this was done by the mysterious 'Rabum Alal' - Sumerian (yes, really) for "Great Destroyer" - as Black Swan, kind of his herald in a sense, calls him. And now, as of Secret Wars (2015), the Living Tribunal is dead at the hands of the Beyonders.
  • Staggeringly, even Darkseid has a Bigger Fish - his own father, Yuga Khan. Thankfully for Darkseid and the universe, all he cares about is learning the truth about the Source, and was trapped, as everybody else is, attempting to penetrate it. However, when he freed himself, he briefly terrorized Apokolips even worse than his son did, and caused Darkseid to attempt to hide. Having learned nothing from his previous attempt, Yuga Khan once again attempted to invade the Source and ended up once again trapped.
  • In Ultimate Marvel, Gah Lak Tus is one of the biggest threats in that universe. When 616 Galactus arrives through a tear in reality, Gah lak Tus tries to consume him. Upon realizing that Galactus is both a kindred spirit and far more powerful, Gah Lak Tus immediately chooses to merge with him and serve him as his new Heralds.
  • A common theme throughout most iterations of Superman, especially in the case of Doomsday. Clark Kent is the most powerful being in the world so the only times he can really face a challenge is when he faces someone with more power than him.
  • Judge Dredd: In The Dead Man, Yassa Povey is saved from being eaten by feral grunts by a sinister phantom who scares them off and then pursues him. It later turns out to be the Sisters of Death looking for the Dead Man.
  • Hellmachine is a giant monstrosity, with what appears to be a city on its head, and is apparently the "third angel of despair". After being driven off by the heroes in The Multiversity #2, it's promptly devoured by the hideous things dwelling inside the Bleed.

    Comic Strips 
  • Cul de Sac: Used and ultimately inverted in this strip, where two kids have a "drawing fight" — one draws a giant duck, the other draws the Moon which hits the duck, the first draws a rocket to push it away, the rocket is bitten by a dog, which is eaten by the larger dog Big Shirley, which is eaten by Bigger Shirley, which is eaten by Biggest Shirley, which uses up all the paper.
    "Nothing beats Biggest Shirley."

  • Intentionally heroic example in The Bridge, when we get to see what happens when a giant from one franchise meets an even bigger giant from another. Garble and his gang greed-growth into fully grown, rampaging, 50-70 meter dragons... Cue the 90 meter tall Anguirus to show them who's the alpha predator. BIG damn heroes indeed.
    • Flashbacks and the universe timeline reveal that the Anteverse kaiju ended up on the receiving end of this — in addition to the Jaegers, they also had to deal with various other human mecha, in addition to all the heroic kaiju in Godzilla's faction. The couple of examples we're shown reveal that the Anteverse bunch didn't stand a chance.
  • In Game Theory, Nanoha and Fate are outmatched by one of the Jewel Seed monsters until Zest makes his appearance by killing it in one blow.
  • In The Universiad, the Forum's Forerunner-derived tech base is still dwarfed by several others, among them The Culture.
  • In A Dream of Dawn, Nightmare Moon has overthrown Celestia, shattered the Elements of Harmony and rules Equestria with an iron hoof. Her reign lasts about five minutes after Discord returns.
  • Between Minds: What's worse than a Combine battalion irrevocably capturing the hero? A Xenian water monster, of course!
  • In Shadows of Giants, an Oodako stalks a giant squid, only to be caught and eaten by Godzilla.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: AvengerS, what will happen if the TSAB have a diplomatic meeting with Earth? The Asgardians will join in, obviously!

    Films — Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie when Dennis the Bounty Hunter finally catches up to SpongeBob and Patrick. Dennis goes to step on SpongeBob and Patrick, only to be stomped on by the "Cyclops". Patrick even yells out "Bigger Boot!"
    • Played straight earlier in the film when the frogfish that just ate their car is itself eaten by an enormous deep-sea eel. SpongeBob and Patrick's shocked expressions are priceless, to the point of becoming a meme - at least, Patrick did.
  • In Help! I'm a Fish, the main characters are collecting ingredients to make a potion to turn them back into humans, but run into trouble getting an octopus to squirt ink, as it is much bigger than they are and thus just grabs them. It does eventually squirt ink and swim away, which Fly attributes to their screaming scaring it off, but was really because of the great white shark approaching...
  • In the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of Fun and Fancy Free, when Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy arrive at Willie the Giant's castle after their house is carried upwards by a beanstalk, a giant dragonfly swoops down and tries to attack the three, but a giant catfish living in Willie's moat jumps up and eats the dragonfly.
  • Minions:
    • The opening credits sequence has a gag where the minions find a boss, that boss is eaten, and the minions want to serve the new creature... until that creature is eaten as well, culminating in the Minions serving a Tyrannosaurus rex.
    • Done in a more subtle way at the end. Scarlet Overkill makes off with the crown of England... only to be literally frozen in her tracks by a young Felonious Gru, who takes the crown right out of her hands and flies off.
    Scarlet: You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With! I'm Scarlet Overkill! The world's greatest super villain!
    Gru: Oh, were you now?
  • A pretty hilarious example in Finding Dory. When the truck containing the fish falls into the ocean, a small fish gets eaten by a bigger fish, which gets eaten by an even bigger fish. Suddenly, the even bigger fish sneezes and spits out the slightly smaller fish, which in turn spits out the smallest fish.
  • In Moana, a giant eel-like creature tries to eat Moana when she arrives in the Realm of Monsters, but is itself eaten by a giant plant monster in the nick of time.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Star Wars The Phantom Menace, as Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Jar Jar travel in a sub through the watery core of Naboo, this happens twice in a row: their sub is first attacked by a crablike Opee Sea Killer, and then later by a serpentine Colo Claw Fish. On both occasions, a massive Sando Aqua Monster comes along and eats the smaller predator.
    Qui-Gon: There's always a bigger fish.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • The heroes of Jurassic Park are about to get eaten by Velociraptors, but the T. rex shows up, trounces the raptors and saves the day. How it appeared there without anyone noticing, or why the protagonists are now less terrified than they were earlier, remains completely unexplained (there was a barely noticeable hole in the wall it possibly came in through). According to the producers, they were struggling with the ending when they came to the realization that it was really the hero of the movie, and that was when everything fell into place.
    • In Jurassic Park III, the heroes run from a Spinosaurus straight into the hunting grounds of a T. rex. The Spinosaurus "rescues" the heroes by killing the T. rex, but later begins chasing them again.
    • In Jurassic World, the Indominus rex proves too much for everything thrown at her until the T. rex knocks her through a fence to the edge of the lagoon and the mosasaur eats her.
    • In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a Carnotaurus sees Owen and is ready to pounce on him for its dinner. That's when Rexy comes to the rescue again and easily subdues the smaller theropod with a Mighty Roar.
  • In The Fellowship of the Ring, the eponymous gang of nine are in the deeps of Moria surrounded by countless goblins... until the goblins themselves start running for their very lives. Guess who had woken up and was really mad?
  • Star Trek (2009) has this happen when Kirk is abandoned on an ice planet. He gets chased by some sort of space polar bear. After a while another massive creature smashes through the ice and kills it — and then promptly throws the large slab of meat it just caught to chase down Kirk.
  • Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005),:
    • The heroine hides from a huge carnivorous lizard in a hollow log, and it tears at the wood to try to get her. Suddenly it stops, and she seems safe... until half the same lizard is seen dangling from the jaws of a ginormous V. rex, which just bit it in two.
    • Kong himself is a near constant example of this trope in the first half of the movie, as he repeatedly kills a number of animals that are trying to eat Anne Darrow.
  • In Alien vs. Predator, a Predator attacks Alexa, but is killed by an Alien.
  • In the Brendan Fraser version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, the heroes are saved from vicious coelacanth-type fish by plesiosaur-type sea monsters.
  • In Avatar, Jake faces down a huge, charging rhino-like titanothere. When it stops and retreats, he thinks he's won, only to have to run from what really scared it off: the bigger and nastier-looking carnivorous thanator that was creeping up behind him.
  • Godzilla:
  • Subverted in The Colour of Magic, where a sinking pirate ship is devoured by a sea monster the size of a village... which shortly washes up dead on an island, as the smaller fish it swallowed along with the ship just happened to be the Luggage. Which kicked it to death from the inside.
  • In Lake Placid, the protagonists are arguing near the lakeside when a bear appears and attacks them. Then the crocodile unexpectedly pops out of the water and drags the bear in by its leg.
  • Sharktopus: In the beginning of the movie, a beach girl is attacked by a shark while swimming off the shoreline, but the Sharktopus saves her by devouring it.
  • In Saving Private Ryan, the (very religious) sniper finishes off wave after wave of German infantry - until he stares down the barrel of a Marder Self-Propelled Gun. From a clocktower, no less.
  • Sharknado: The 4th Awakens: Taken Up to Eleven: Finn gets swallowed by a shark, which is then swallowed by a larger shark, which is swallowed by an even larger shark, which is swallowed by a still larger shark, which is swallowed by... a blue whale.
  • Blood Surf: Memorably, at one point the crocodile saves one of the main characters from a shark. Then later eats him too.
  • Rim of the World: The Purge Mask gang is about to kill the kids to steal and sell their key, and it's clear that the kids have no way to get out of the situation. Then the alien comes along and wipes out the gang in a few minutes.

  • An Arms Race between the Yooks and Zooks in The Butter Battle Book, where both sides are feuding about whether to butter your toast on the top or bottom, and they go from whips to slingshots to catapults to guns to bombs to mega-bombs, with the Zooks frequently one-upping the Yooks' weapons until it reaches an Ambiguous Ending with both sides involved in a Mexican Standoff...
  • In Two Serpents Rise, the Caleb woke the King in Red to curb-stomp high priest Temoc when the fanatic tried to sacrifice his best friend.
  • Flipped on its head by Jonathan Swift:
    So nat'ralists observe, a flea
    Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
    And these have smaller fleas that bite 'em,
    And so proceed
    ad infinitum.
  • In Watership Down, after Hazel and Co. are attacked by General Woundwort, a massive dog is led into General Woundwort's forces, who naturally run. General Woundwort himself stays to beat up the dog. It’s worth noting that most of the characters are non-anthropomorphic rabbits, with the exception of Kehaar the seagull.
    • It's also worth mentioning that they Never Found the Body.
    • Well, they wouldn't, would they? Bigger Fish are often Hungrier Fish also.
  • Subverted in Tuf Voyaging. Wild Card Rica Dawnstar has Tuf outgunned and at her mercy, and refuses to believe him when he tries to point out the T. rex creeping up behind her. It looks like this trope will kick in...then it turns out she was toying with Tuf, and had the Phlebotinium to control the T. rex all along.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • In Cain's Last Stand, the schola and PDF are completely swamped by the forces of Chaos. They've fallen back to the secret facility containing the Shadowlight, and are about to be overwhelmed when the Necrons decide to show up. They butcher the forces of Chaos pretty handily, giving Ciaphas Cain note  and company an opportunity to evacuate.
    • Earlier in Cain's career in Caves of Ice, some Necrons save his butt again by fending off the Ork attack long enough for them to evacuate, but not before Cain sets the whole facility to explode.
    • In The Traitor's Hand Cain and Co. have to fight through a horde of well-entrenched Chaos cultists before they complete a ritual that will plunge the planet into the Warp, with no certainty they'll succeed. Cue the sudden appearance of five Chaos Berserkers who worship another Chaos God, and who proceed to slaughter their way through the cultists with abandon, leaving Cain to only follow the trail of destruction to reach their goal.
  • Alan Dean Foster loves this trope, especially as an excuse to show off his weird alien ecologies in the Humanx Commonwealth series.
    • In Drowning World, characters menaced by a branch-clambering maccaluca are saved when it's snapped up by a vuniwai leaping up from the water.
    • Mid-Flinx is essentially one long string of Bigger Fish: Flinx's initial human pursuers are killed and supplanted by AAnn pursuers, and both groups of enemies are gradually picked off by one bizarre jungle predator after another.
    • It's played with in For Love Of Mother-Not when the penestral (roughly speaking, a pike that's 50 feet long) that attacks the bad guys doesn't save the heroes from them (it eats their boat, but the real villains has just escaped onto a flyer). The fisherwoman escorting Flinx scoffs at its size, pointing out that it wasn't terribly big for a penestral, and that the penestral is only a mid-range predator anyway. She offers to take Flinx fishing for oboweir sometime, and when he asks the inevitable "What's an oboweir?", her reply is "A fish that eats penestral."
  • In Casino Royale (book and movie), Bond is rescued from Le Chiffre when Le Chiffre's own superiors (SMERSH or QUANTUM, depending on the source) assassinate him.
    • Bond himself is the Bigger Fish in The Spy Who Loved Me (the original novel onlynote ) when, while checking into a hotel, he walks in on two small-time mobsters who are attempting to rape Viv Michel.
  • In Book Three of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a quad of undead warriors who had been attacking the heroes was chased off by the Erymanthian Boar.
  • A couple of times in The Dresden Files.
    • In Proven Guilty, Harry has just escaped from where Madrigal Raith and his lackey have been holding him hostage and they've started fighting... Only for the bad guys to end up running away as fast as possible when the book's actual Big Bad shows up.
    • Small Favor also has a sequence where Harry's trying to get away from a Fallen Angel, only for fairy assassin Eldest Brother Gruff to show up and take out the guy without even trying.
  • Used in Nightingale's Lament, when a limo Taylor is riding in is about to be attacked by a predator camouflaged as another car. Before it can do any damage, the critter is picked up and carried off by something HUGE with talons and wings. Possibly a subversion, as the limo might've been able to hold off the car-mimicking monster with its built-in defenses.
  • In the 11th book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaire orphans are in a submarine which is being attacked by the main villain. However, when a mysterious question mark appears on the radar, everyone is scared, including the attackers. To make matters worse/better, the author never says just what the question mark was.
  • In Rudyard Kipling's "The Butterfly That Stamped" in his Just So Stories, the following paragraph tells of King Solomon:
    Once he tried to feed all the animals in all the world in one day, but when the food was ready an Animal came out of the deep sea and ate it up in three mouthfuls. Suleiman-bin-Daoud was very surprised and said, "O Animal, who are you?" And the Animal said, "O King, live for ever! I am the smallest of thirty thousand brothers, and our home is at the bottom of the sea. We heard that you were going to feed all the animals in all the world, and my brothers sent me to ask when dinner would be ready."
  • The Empire plays this role at the end of Shadows of the Empire, just as it looks like the rebels are about to be obliterated by Xizor's forces.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry and Hermione are surrounded by an angry mob of centaurs. Just as the situation is looking rather grim, a giant shows up, scattering the herd and chasing them into the forest. Hermione, characteristically, is worried about the centaurs. It's worth noting that these centaurs, in turn, had gotten rid of Delores Umbridge, the Faux Affably Evil Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, and the centaurs were angry BECAUSE Hermione had manipulated them into getting rid of Umbridge.
  • In Robert E. Howard's The Scarlet Citadel, Conan the Barbarian, as Distressed Dude, is menaced by a giant snake, which is scared away by a man coming to kill Conan for killing his brother. The snake then comes back and eats that man. (The keys that he taunted Conan with land at Conan's feet.) Then the snake pops up again...and he's scared of the wizard Conan has freed and races off again for real this time.
  • In Peter Benchley's "Beast", the titular giant squid is moments from finishing the remaining characters when it is attacked, killed, and presumably eaten by an equally massive sperm whale.
  • In 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, there's a story by Martin Gardner called "Thang," in which the titular being started eating the solar system but was interrupted by an even larger being scooping him up and swallowing him. "For there are other gods than Thang."
  • In the third book of Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy, Bingtown, the town in which much of the action takes place, is being completely overrun by the Chalcedonians... when the last of the ancient race of dragons wakes from her unexpectedly lengthy slumber, and goes looking in Bingtown for those responsible for her awakening. The Chalcedonians fire arrows at her in terror, and in response, she effortlessly kills them all.
  • Shel Silverstein wrote about this trope here.
  • Steelheart opens with an Epic named Deathpoint robbing a bank and generally murdering everyone inside. With his ability to kill people by pointing at them, he seems an extremely formidable guy. Then Steelheart (who is basically an evil version of Superman) shows up. When Deathpoint tried to kill him, his power is only able to burn away a bit of Steelheart's shirt, where it had instantly vaporized everyone else.
  • In Heroes Die, Hari spends much of the book being harassed by Administrator Kollberg. At the end, he is arrested by the Social Police.
  • The Crusaders has the Earth almost destroyed by the first arc's villain, Dr. Anarchy, who was legitimately a big deal. Then, the Brutikai warrior, Glorien, walks in and recruits him.
    • Darkstar shows up in Volume Two, and is powerful enough to annihilate Mind Master and Starbolt in combat, without resting between the fights, something even Glorien couldn't pull off.
  • Journey to Chaos: There are all kinds of monstrous creatures in a Chaotic Zone. Kallen once faced a giant lizard thing when a much bigger monster came out of the Fog and ate it. She ran away to make sure she wasn't next on the menu.
  • The One Who Eats Monsters: Ryn is the bigger fish. She mentions early on that there is absolutely nothing in the city that can truly challenge her—the really dangerous monsters are out in the wilds, and she's killed most of those anyway. When the villains attack her with a weapon forged by their master, that can kill any god weaker than him, Ryn performs a Bullet Catch with only minimal difficulty and destroys the weapon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bored to Death: Our protagonist is saved from a scary murderous thug by driving into the back of a police car. While high.
  • At least once per season, Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured a scene in which some minor vampiric menace (who is convinced he's the Monster of the Week, or even Big Bad) shows up to kill Buffy just in time to get eaten by the true Monster of the Week.
  • Community: In "Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps", Annie tells a story about a vampire version of Jeff getting eaten by a werewolf version of herself.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday": An army of several thousand Cybermen has just managed to conquer Earth. Then a spaceship stored in Torchwood's basement opens up, and out come four Daleks. A large part of the next episode has the Daleks effortlessly killing Cybermen.
    • The "Predator of the Daleks" is one of the names for the Doctor, given to him by the Daleks themselves.
    • The Time Lords are generally considered the most powerful civilization in the universe (though the Daleks are a close second). The critical bit there is the phrase "in the universe" — there are beings from outside our universe like the Guardians, the Eternals, and the Chronovores who aren't impressed with the Time Lords at all.
  • On Justified Boyd Crowder has just been 'arrested' by a mob hitman pretending to be a sheriff's deputy and is about to be taken to his death. US Marshall Raylan Givens wants to talk to Boyd about a related matter and is not amused when the 'deputy' gives him lip. The hitman draws his gun and Raylan shoots him dead. Later in the episode Boyd uses Summon Bigger Fish and asks the Detroit mob to help him deal with some corrupt local businessmen who made him An Offer You Can't Refuse. Later he notes that there are only two fish bigger than the Detroit mob: God and Uncle Sam. If Boyd gets on the bad side of the Detroit Don Theo Tonnin, he is screwed unless Raylan and the Marshalls take out Theo for him.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: CR riders were fighting what was supposed to be the final fight with the Bugsters. Then Kamen Rider Cronus comes in, knocks everyone down and appoints himself as the true final boss.
  • Lost season 4 is all over this trope. One group of Losties hides from the freighties in the Others' Barracks. Later, a group cornered in a house are able to leave because the smoke monster (the series' original antagonist) attacks the bad guys. In the finale, when the Others showed up, fans at TWoP commented that they felt like the cavalry had arrived, quite a sharp contrast to the Others' first appearance in "Exodus Part 2".
  • One of the animation segues in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus has a section involving people being squashed on the streets by "killer cars", which were destroyed by a gigantic building-swallowing Siamese Cat, which was then killed by a several-hundred-foot-tall disembodied hand... and then it transitions into something else completely different.
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode King Dinosaur features two astronauts trapped in a cave by a Tyrannosaurus rex that is actually an iguana. The arrival of a baby alligator with a fin glued on its back, and the ensuing "dinosaur" battle, allows them to make their getaway.
  • For the first three seasons of Parks and Recreation, Librarian "Tammy Two" (Ron Swanson's second ex-wife-named-Tammy) is the clear Big Bad of the series. Then at the end of season three, the cast are informed that "Tammy One" is on the scene. Tammy Two immediately flees in terror.
  • In Person of Interest, whenever there's a story arc about a villain containing elements of conspiracy, there seems to almost always be a more powerful, more mysterious bad guy behind them. The episode "Matsya Nyaya"note  is all about this concept in which an armored car guard tries to rob his own shipment before running afoul of HR.
  • Primeval:
    • Episode 3 features Nick being attacked by a mosasaur, only to have said mosasaur eaten by an even larger mosasaur right before it's about to chomp down on him.
    • Episode 6 features a scene in which Nick is rescued from a future predator when said predator is attacked by a gorgonopsid.
  • In Star Trek, the Borg are one of the most terrifying and unstoppable alien forces in the franchise. In the Battle of Wolf 359, a single Borg cube annihilated 40 Federation ships without taking a scratch. In Star Trek: Voyager, we finally meet their bigger fish: Species 8472. Their introduction shows two Borg cubes being effortlessly destroyed, in the middle of saying Resistance Is Futile no less. The possibility of this was Foreshadowed in the episode "Unity", where the crew encounter a powerless Borg cube. B'Elanna suggests the cube was either damaged by an "electro-kinetic storm" or someone more powerful than them. Everyone is visibly unnerved by the possibility of that.
  • Supernatural:
    • The rings of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the key to defeating Lucifer. Three of them have to be taken by force, but Death voluntarily gives them his because he considers it an insult to be bound by "a bratty child throwing a temper tantrum" (Yes, that's actually how he describes Satan.)
    • There's also the scene in "Hammer of the Gods" where an entire roomful of pagan gods is effortlessly slaughtered by Lucifer.
    • Amara, a.k.a. The Darkness, is the biggest fish in the series so far. She effortlessly slaps around everyone who goes after her, including Lucifer, and even God himself acknowledges he can't beat her on his own.
    • The mysterious Cosmic Entity may have taken the title, as it has existed before God or Amara. It had no trouble beating around Castiel, though because he was already did, it couldn't do much else.
  • In "The Little People", an episode of The Twilight Zone, spaceman Peter Craig discovers a race of ant-size people and uses his size to proclaim himself their god threatening to kill them all unless they obey, yet he still constantly terrorizes them anyways...until two spacemen who are giants even to him show up.
  • This occurs several times in Walking with Dinosaurs. The best example occurs in Cruel Sea, where a Eustreptospondylus is dragged into the water by an (impossibly large) Liopleurodon. Said Liopleurodon is now the god of this trope.

  • I know an old lady who swallowed a fly... and an increasing sequence of critters each swallowed to catch the previous one.
  • Pink Floyd's "The Wall": When we grew up and went to school / There were certain teachers who would / Hurt the children in any way they could ... But in the town, it was well known / When they got home at night, their fat and Psychopathic wives would thrash them / Within inches of their lives.
  • Marty Robbins' song "Big Iron" describes a duel between the outlaw Texas Red and an unnamed ranger. Texas Red, despite being only twenty-four years old, has already killed twenty men in such gunfights, and the townsfolk fully believe that they're about to watch him put one more notch on his gunbelt. When it comes time for the duel, the ranger draws, fires, and kills Texas Red before his opponent had even fully drawn his own pistol.


  • Thomas from Old Harry's Game was a murder-rapist in life, and was able to completely get away with it until he went to Hell and was reduced to a punching bag for Satan.
  • Sir Gregory Pitkin in The Men from the Ministry is an archetypal Bad Boss of General Assistance Department, but his own superior Lord Stilton sometimes plays this role saving (mostly unknowingly) the staff of Department from Sir Gregory's wrath.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: It's hinted that the Tyranids are not actually invading the Milky Way, but instead fleeing from something in their home galaxy.
  • In Sentinels of the Multiverse, the Environment deck can lead to various critters finishing off the supervillain you're fighting. For example, if you can get the villain down to 1-2HP, they can be considered the "target with the lowest HP" for the Chupacabra in the Final Wasteland or the Raptor Packs in Insula Primalis. Chomp.
  • Pathfinder: In the Bad Ending of Rise of the Runelords, if Karzoug returns to the Material Plane and the PCs don't sabotage the the denizens of Leng's plans in time, Karzoug's entrance into the world completes a ritual that allows Mhar, a volcanic horror trapped and gestating beneath the mountain Karzoug's fortress city of Xin-Shalast is built on, to be born aeons ahead of schedule. Its cataclysmic birth annihilates Xin-Shalast — Karzoug himself survives, but all his followers there perish and he is forced to flee. The side-effects of Mhar's birth alone are devastating enough to completely overshadow any threat Karzoug's plans pose, let alone what a newborn Great Old One let loose in the physical world would do, and the scenario explicitly mentions that the PCs and Karzoug may be forced to ally with each other to face Mhar.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Near the end of Outlast, Chris Walker, who up to that point has been the recurring/main antagonist of the game, as well as being a hulking behemoth of a man, is just about to deliver the finishing blow to the protagonist, Miles Upshur, before he is grabbed by the Walrider, which proceeds to throw him around the room like a ragdoll, finally shredding him to bits in a vent grate.
  • Half-Life:
    • While Gordon Freeman doesn't exactly need the help, there are numerous places in the series where members of different factions fight and kill each other, effectively clearing Freeman's path (Marines and Xen aliens in Half-Life, Combine, Antlions and Headcrab Zombies in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes). Closer to the trope, this leads to at least two instances where a rampaging Antlion Guard slaughters a squad of Combine soldiers.
    • This is essentially what happened between Half-Life 1 and 2. At some point after or during the Alien Invasion by Xen forces, a different alien invasion by the Combine happened. They curb-stomped both Earth and Xen forces easily, and took over the planet.
  • This trope is the major point of Feeding Frenzy. Eat small fish, become large fish, and avoid the even larger fish while doing that. Most levels have non-edible fish (which means, they eat you), or something else capable of killing you (mines or birds, or both!) but in several levels you get to be top dog of the seas.
  • Hungry Shark Evolution is based on this, with the food chain going from tiny fish through various sharks all the way up to Prehistoric Monsters.
  • Hungry Shark World, sequel to Evolution, continues to be based on this trope.
  • No matter what fish you are in Odell Down Under, there is always something that can eat you. Even the largest fish, the great white shark, can still be eaten... by another great white shark.
  • In God of War: Chains of Olympus, Kratos fights a Cyclops, which is then eaten by a basilisk.
  • In AdventureQuest when you do the "Big Trouble in Little Granemor" quest you're attacked by a Giant Hungry Zombie after fighting off some vampires. The zombie makes about one attack before a Ribber randomly comes up and drags it away (with its mouth).
  • Spore features this trope quite prominently, particularly in the Cell Stage. If you happen to be in the middle of being attacked by a large organism, once in a while a larger creature comes along and scares off or eats your attacker.
  • In RuneScape's "Ritual of the Mahjarrat" quest, Lucien is killed by the dragonkin.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: You barely avoid a beheading in the opener thanks to a dragon rampage.
    • It can happen in-game, too: dragons can randomly attack while the player is fighting off weaker enemies.
    • The Dragonborn themself is one. According to lore, Akatosh bestowed upon mortals the gift of Dragons-blood so that they may serve as guardians of mankind and as natural predators to Dragonkind. Indeed, part of what makes the Dragonborn so greatly feared is their ability to simply show up in the middle of a Dragon-attack, tear them apart, devour their very soul... and then promptly go on their way. There's a reason the Dragonborn is referred to in-universe as "The One They Fear".
  • In Parasite Eve 2, ANMC's are running rampant throughout the Shelter, having killed or converted the humans inside and many in a nearby town. It's only after Aya kills the generators in the Neo Ark that the Golems show up. If you thought the ANMC's were bad, you are going to get a very rude surprise. The Golems eventually run into their own bigger fish...The United States Marine Corps..
  • Musashi Samurai Legend had a literal example with the Crimson Gorger. After the fight, it's about to eat Musashi, it then gets eaten by the Great Crimson Gorger, who then proceeds to continue the chase and therefore the boss fight.
  • BioShock:
    • This trope is used early on to introduce the Little Sister and Big Daddies. After injecting himself with the Electro Bolt plasmid, Jack is left nearly unconscious as two splicers poke his body, searching for Adam. They are scared off by the approaching footsteps of a big daddy.
    • Later on, Jack witnesses a scene where a splicer tries to harvest a Little Sister that's supposedly all alone, only for her scream to alert a Big Daddy that proceeds to beat the ever-loving crud out of the unlucky splicer.
  • Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One pulls this in one of its enemy introductions; a Tank Minion flies in to confront the heroes at Terawatt Forest, only for a Guardian to activate, pull the Minion in with its tractor beam and smash it to pieces with its hands.
  • Castlevania:
    • In Aria of Sorrow, when you enter one boss fight room, a large number of smaller bats immediately form into a giant bat… Which then gets crushed by a giant hand belonging to Balore, the boss you actually end up fighting.
    • In Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance where the Talos (the massive suit of armor that chases you in the beginning of the game) crushes a smaller Living Armor that is set up to be the boss.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines: You play as a badass vampire. You have cool powers, you're resistant to gunfire, and you have incredible strength and speed. Muggles pose little to no challenge at all. Werewolves, on the other hand, are an entirely different story. There will be one instance in the game where you have to face one, and all you can do is run away. RUN. Or lure up to the observatory and crush it between the doors.
  • It's possible for this to happen in Monster Hunter. Example: Qurupeco summons Deviljho. Deviljho kills Qurupeco. Objective complete! Returning to village in 1 min.
  • In Jurassic Park: The Game, the Tyrannosaurus rex reprises her role in eating raptors to the protagonists' benefit.
  • Fallout:
    • In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC, Lonesome Road, a Deathclaw can be seen running in a cave. When you follow it you see its corpse and what follows is probably the first encounter with the Tunnelers, reptilian humanoids that hit as hard as Deathclaws, attack in packs, travel underground, and breed like rabbits.
    • In Fallout 4, there's a ruined town that you can find remnants of a Raider encampment in. They were wiped out when Super Mutants moved in. By the time you get there, the town is full of dead Super Mutants and live Deathclaws.
  • In Chapter 6 of Xenoblade Chronicles X, the party have just finished a fairly tough boss fight with a Tainted Sphinx when three more show up. Then the colossal Telethia swoops in and tosses the beasts around like ragdolls before flying away. The characters are left wondering whether it intended to save them or toy with them.
  • Medieval II: Total War: No matter how powerful you think you are, the Mongols and later the Timurids will cream you and all your big Europe-bestriding armies.
  • In Pokémon, Gyarados have a well-deserved reputation as terrifying, powerful and destructive monsters, but even they flee from Wishiwashi's powerful School Form, called the Demon of the Seas... and even then, Wailords have been known to devour entire schools of Wishiwashi whole...and Wailords themselves are preyed on by Dhelmise, who wrap them in seaweed tentacles and drain their life force.
    • Mareanie, a poisonous and spiky starfish-like Pokémon, is a predator of Corsola, but Mareanie themselves are prey for Bruxish, whose skin is too thick to be pierced by Mareanie's spikes.
    • This comes full circle in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, where a school of Wishiwashi forms and the player expects the Totem battle against a School Forme Wishiwashi from Pokémon Sun and Moon to take place... and then a Totem Araquanid pounces on the forming school and takes it's place as the boss battle.
  • In the second The Force Unleashed, upon entering the arena on Cato Neimoidia, a cutscene plays out in which a huge gate opens to reveal a rancor. The rancor only takes a few steps forward before an absolutely enormous arm reaches out from below the arena and grabs the beast, dragging it down below. Then you're introduced to the Gorog.
  • The Reaper Leviathan of Subnautica is a fearsome, best avoided beast. But as the game goes on, the once seemingly apex predator is revealed to be both the smallest of the Leviathan class beasts and food for the other members of the class. Subverted! The Sea Emperor and the Ghost Leviathan are both filter-feeders. However, the Sea Dragon Leviathan does apparently eat Reapers, and the Ghost is territorial and vicious enough to kill Reapers anyway.
  • Mass Effect features an example on one uncharted world: you can discover a number of corpses and wrecked vehicles bearing signs of geth weapons fire. Unfortunately for the geth, this happened in a thresher maw nest. For another layer, you'll likely find this after killing said thresher maw.
  • One hilarious example comes in Final Fantasy XIII, where a sidequest includes hunting down Zenobia The Butcher, a huge undead abomination with tendrils for hands... and when you encounter it, a hooded little lizard with a lantern and a kitchen knife walks up to Zenobia and rams its knife into the ankle of the thing, killing it instantly. It's absolutely hilarious... unless you've fought a Tonberry in a prevoius game and know that the little lizard that's currently waddling towards you is more dangerous than any undead abomination could ever even hope to be...
  • In one of Fe's early quests, one of the Silent Ones who stole the giant bird's eggs gets killed by a bear-like creature, then you can lure it using the bunch of berries in its cave to the main Silent encampment for an achievement. Later on, deer or other large animals may be utilized to take out Silent One patrols.
  • In Dino Crisis 2, the Tyrannosaurus rex stalking Regina and Dylan is taken down by a Giganotosaurus.


    Web Original 
  • In the KateModern episode "Answers", Michelle Clore orders her Shadow to carry off Lauren. As he is doing so, Terrence arrives and beats the Shadow in the face repeatedly with a golf club, apparently just for the hell of it. Lauren escapes.
    • In "Love on the 436", Terrence advances on the K-Team, only to get beaten up by the Shadow.
  • Ask That Guy with the Glasses: Ask That Guy is a thoroughly depraved, devil-worshipping murder-rapist who prides himself on answering every question in the most disturbing possible way. In Episode 44, he gives Bennett the Sage the chance to answer some questions for him, which ends with Ask That Guy lying on the floor in the fetal position as Sage rapes him.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall feature Lord Vyce, an interdimensional conqueror who has been slowly accumulating alternate realities into his multiversal empire. It later turns out that Vyce was a Well-Intentioned Extremist who was conquering realities specifically to protect them from something called the Entity. Which means that since Vyce was the only one who could go toe-to-toe with the Entity in a physical battle, when Linkara takes Vyce out, he attracts the Entity's attention...
  • Breaking Trail's most popular videos are an ever-growing escalation of "What stings harder than the last animal?", which started at fire ant level, and kept going to velvet ants, tarantula hawks, bullet ants, warrior wasps and finally the executioner wasp. Coyote decided he had enough with the last one, gladly crowned it King of the Sting and decided that, if something worse pops up, he wouldn't try it.
  • Princess Luna proves herself to be this to Freddy Krueger in My Little Pony Meets, first in his cameo in Superman Meets, where she is shown delivering a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to him in the dream world and later in his own episode, where she pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment, as he's about to kill Applebloom and casually throwing him through a portal to hell.
  • DSBT InsaniT: In 'Untamed and Uncut', an Ice Beast ends up getting squashed by K-Seal before it can really do anything.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Black Dynamite the titular hero is on an island lost to time similar to King Kong's when he's attacked by a giant white wolf. He pulls his weapon but waits until the wolf is eaten by a bigger raptor. Then waits for the raptor to be eaten by a giant spider before finally taking said spider down with a single bullet. Now THAT is how you conserve ammo.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In the fourth episode, Aang stops at Kyoshi Island to ride the elephant koi, koi-like fish at least 15 metres long. Later, we meet the Unagi, the sea serpent that eats them.
    • In the first episode of the third season, a giant serpent attacks the ship of the group, and then goes after the enemy ship that was attacking them, after a Tempting Fate phrase by Sokka.
  • In several classic Warner Bros. & MGM cartoons, one throwaway gag would be for a fish to eat something, then a bigger fish would eat that fish, then a bigger fish would eat that fish, then a punch line to the bit. Parodied on The Simpsons, where the 3-eyed fish is eaten by a 6-eyed fish, which is then eaten by a 9-eyed fish. Which is then eaten by a swimming Homer. Parodied even earlier by Felix the Cat in "Neptune Nonsense": When the goldfish Felix was trying to catch has this happen to it, Felix manages to free the goldfish, only for it to turn around and eat all four fish that ate it. Felix quickly decides to find another fish.
  • The Tex Avery classic King Size Canary has an alley cat, bulldog, mouse, and canary all squaring off against each other, and thanks to a bottle of miracle-growth tonic, they all take turns being the bigger fish and even growing bigger than the Earth itself...
  • In the Family Guy episode "Lois Kills Stewie", Lois describes via flashback that she took a job at a fat camp. At one point she has to take one of the campers out of another camper's mouth ('cause he's fat see, so he'd want to eat whatever he could), and then she has to pull another camper out of the mouth of the camper she'd just rescued.
  • In the episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy where the zombies attack, Billy is attacked by a rope of zombie sausages, which were then eaten by a zombie dog.
  • There's always the classic gag from Looney Tunes, in which Granny picks up the dog and hits it until it spits out Sylvester, only to then pick up Sylvester and hit him until he spits out Tweety.
  • Wild Kratts: This happens no fewer than two times in quick succession in an almost Xanatos-like way. A giant squid and a mama sperm whale are battling it out over the baby sperm whale, when a net comes out of nowhere and takes Mama out of the fight. Enter colossal squid. And then Big Daddy Sperm Whale shows up and promptly makes calamari of the colossal squid.
  • Played with in an episode of The Angry Beavers where Norbert is admiring a rare fish in the river where their dam is. The fish is promptly eaten by a larger fish, which is eaten by another. This continues until the largest fish is eaten by a fish that was even smaller than the first one. Then that one is eaten by a orca whale. That episode centered all around the orca/killer whale Daggit brought to their pond after seeing it perform at a water theme park. It eventually started eating everything and everyONE, including the beavers. They were saved by a T-rex that happens to eat it... and this one too was brought home by Daggett, ready to eat them in the whale's place.
  • The Transformers episode "Child's Play" begins In Medias Res as the Decepticons capture a bunch of humans and treat them like toys before the Autobots arrive to save the day. Then, both sides end up on a planet where the inhabitants are so huge that Transformers are like toys to them.
  • At the end of the Wander over Yonder episode "The Egg", a dragon-like creature tries to eat the newborn Bug-monster . . . until its much larger mother scares him off.
  • Spoofed in the Rick and Morty episode "Anatomy Park", where Morty and Annie are rescued from a rampaging Hepatitis A when a larger Hepatitis C snatches it in its jaws; it then gives them both a friendly thumbs-up before going on its way. The pair is somewhat confused as to why it saved them, and Annie theorizes that Hepatitis C is just a really swell virus.
  • One amusing sequence in Wakfu has the girls falling into a swamp and being subjected to this repeatedly. First they run from a huge monster. Then they and the monster start running in the opposite direction from a bigger feline monster. Then all of them start running from an even bigger dinosaur. The dinosaur is puzzled when its prey suddenly run past it...only to get crushed underfoot by a much bigger dinosaur.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball has this happen in musical form after Gumball and Darwin ask a squirrel about the meaning of life.
    Squirrel: The meaning of life has a single rule,
    I know it makes sense though it may seem cruel.
    The logic of the rule cannot be beaten,
    but the meaning of life is to eat or be -
    Snake: [Eats squirrel] The truth our friend was trying to sweeten,
    but the meaning of life is to eat or be -
    Bird: [Eats snake] Alas, poor snake! His life was fleeting.
    For the meaning of life is to eat or be -
    Small creature: [Eats bird] Allow me to finish what the bird was tweeting
    the meaning of life is to eat or be -
    Large creature: [Eats creature] I'm sorry our song just keeps repeating,
    but the meaning of life is to eaaat, or be- (Beat) Well I guess that the biggest remains unhurt.

    Real Life 
  • The food chain, or more accurately the food web. However, fictional depictions often do it wrong by having the bigger fish be not that much bigger than the one it takes out. In real life, a predator will rarely attack another predator that's close to its own size (aside from pack predators), because even if it's successful, the odds of getting injured are high, and thus, hunting something that can put up a credible fight is high risk for low reward.
  • There is a Permian fossil of a shark that ate an amphibian that had eaten a fish.
  • In 2009 off the eastern seaboard of Australia, a three metre (ten feet) great white shark was found entangled in shark nets. The nets hadn't killed the shark, in fact, the shark had been bitten clean in half by something twice as large. Only in Australia, folks.
    • If you're wondering what could have done that: Another Great White, a Saltwater Crocodile, or an Orca.
    • Point of order: The shark was still alive when it was hauled out of the water. Great whites are amazingly tough to survive a wound like that.
  • Speaking of orcas, they are almost the perfect example of this trope in real life. Nigh-universally feared by people, the mighty great white shark is little more than prey for the even bigger and stronger orca. In fact, when scientists tagged a group of great whites around the Southern California coastline in 2000, they all vanished very quickly after a local pod of orcas decided to snack on them. One of the great whites was satellite-tracked, and was found to have pretty much immediately high-tailed it to Hawaii, over two thousand miles distant.
    • In an inversion, it's hypothesized that early orcas drove the Megalodon, the infamous monster shark, into extinction. Being half the size of Megalodon and pack hunters they would have been competing for the same prey (baleen whales and large fish) and even possibly hunting the sharks themselves.
  • Another animal that's often considered to be a terrifying sea monster are Giant Squids, but even they're preyed on by the largest predator, living or extinct, the Sperm Whale. The only animals larger then it are the filter feeding baleen whales.
  • Proponents of globalization and similar trends point to this as a way to ensure world peace. The bigger fish in this case is economics. If two or more countries are intimately tied together economically, then they can't attack each other because even the victor would be greatly damaged by the economic repercussions. This was one of the driving forces behind the founding of the European Union and is cited as a major (if not predominant) reason why war between China and the United States is almost impossible in the current economic climate — which is one reason China is working hard to find other markets for its products so it has more options in its foreign policy, especially when it comes to such hot topics as Taiwan. Whether this will work in practice, only time will tell; after all this same theory was applied to Europe between roughly 1870 and 1914. Didn't work out so well.
    • War between Canada, the United States, and Mexico was once a likely scenario and became reality in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War of 1848. Nowadays, war between the three countries is almost unthinkable, mainly because large percentages of their imports and exports circulate among each other-in Canada and Mexico's cases, the overwhelming majority of exports go to the US. Only 21% of the US's exports go to Canada and Mexico, but that's still 5 times more than goes to China.
  • In 2016, a Canadian woman was stalked for hours by a starving wolf. She escaped by leading it between a mother bear and her cub. No more wolf!
  • Starting in the 1st century and continuing until the 5th, the Roman Empire was almost constantly being invaded by Germanic tribes with names like the Vandals, the Goths and the Alans. It turned out that all of these barbarians, who inspired fear and loathing in the Roman mind, were in fact fleeing from their version of big, scary barbarians: the Huns.
  • In the 1220s and 1230s, Hungary had a dire problem with a nomad incursion, the Cumans. Turned out the Cumans were themselves fleeing even bigger fish: the Mongols.
  • In the 260s BC, a group of mercenaries called the Mamertines holed themselves up in the Sicilian city of Messana, having seriously pissed off Carthage, the closest thing that the Mediterranean had to a superpower at the time. The Mamertines asked an up-and-coming Italian city state called Rome for help. Cue twenty years of the Romans proving they are the bigger fish in that particular pond, and Carthage was forever after relegated to "slightly smaller fish."


Example of: