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Alone in a Crowd

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"Because nothing sucks worse than feeling alone, no matter how many people are around."
JD, Scrubs

Something has happened to The Hero. A shocking revelation, new information brought to light, revealing their best friend is a traitor or that nothing they did changed anything or maybe they can finally see the world the way it is. Or perhaps it's something even simpler, perhaps they just simply lose their idealism and plunge into contemplation of existential meaninglessness. Or maybe they're just feeling alone and unloved in the world. They don't go into a Heroic BSoD, they just simply stand there, as a crowd of people moves around them (sometimes in fast-forward, even further isolating them). They're simply alone in a crowd. Sometimes known as "calm in a chaotic world" if the crowd moves in fast-forward.

Compare Heroic BSoD, Freak Out, and Lonely Among People. See also Friendless Background. Contrast Alone Among the Couples. Sister trope to Symbolic Distance, where distance is employed to represent emotional separation or yearning. It is almost always used to achieve this trope.

If you are looking for the webcomic by Thomas D. Szewc, go here.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 91 Days: In part of the opening credits sequence, Avilio is walking down the sidewalk as crowds of people pass him in fast-forward, and a short distance away he sees his slain parents and little brother walking together at normal speed as if they were still alive. This isolation in a crowd represents how he is alienated from society and unable to move on with his life since the night when they were murdered, while the memories that continue to haunt him spur his quest for vengeance.
  • In the first episode of Angelic Layer, Misaki watches a match between two "Angels", although she didn't know what they were at that time. When it looked like the smaller of the competitors (Athena) was about to lose, she undergoes this state, thinking how people of her own stature could never go far, but breaks from it when Athena wins the battle.
  • In Death Note, in a half-episode dedicated to a character's Start of Darkness as the "Hand of Kira" — who's started to gain real influence in the larger world — there's a brief scene close to the present watching, distinct to the camera out of a crowd of banner-waving enthusiasts.
  • The eighth volume of Gals! has Yoko standing in the middle of a busy street at Shibuya, commenting on the shallowness of the world, as snippets of various phone calls and lively conversations buzz around her.
  • Played with in the opening to the first Hell Girl season. Near the end of it, we see a greyed-out, bustling crowd, with the Hell Girl herself in the middle of the crush, staring in full color at the camera. Possibly used in this case to highlight that Ai is not part of this world and as such literally alone in the crowd.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha:
    • The new manga of The Movie explores this. The titular character is loved, has a family, has friends; she smiles for all of them ...but something's ...wrong.
    • In the first season, Yuuno talks about how he grew up without parents, being raised communally by his clan. In the drama CDs, he mentions the Scyra family tent, which was often full of a lively, bustling crowd of people, and how comforting he finds such an atmosphere. He tells Nanoha that he's always been alone in the crowd, but he appreciates what they did for him, and he's happy to bear the name "Scrya".
  • The ending of the theatrical version of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz shows Heero in this shot.
    • Except, in this case, it's a bit of a subversion, considering that he's walking through the crowd because his mission is over and the world is now a place where he can live like anyone else.
  • 95% of the opening theme of Monster is Tenma doing this.
  • In Monster Rancher, Genki has a nightmare about this early on, dreaming about being dumped back in the boring real world without Holly, Mocchi, and all the friends he made in the monster world. This turns out to be Foreshadowing for his actual return at the end of the second season, which is jarringly traumatic.
  • Mireille in Noir quotes Ernest Hemingway after a done job, which earns her a confused reaction from Kirika. While she says she simply quoted Hemingway and doesn't exactly feel that way, it does fit the whole situation the two are in - no parents, no other relatives, and being Professional Killers, they can't have real relationships with anyone else, either.
  • The day after Mami's death in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka feels like she's in a foreign country, surrounded by strangers. Sayaka agrees and explains that it's because no one else knows what happened. The visual version of the trope is used a few times, such as at Sayaka's funeral.

    Comic Books 
  • In the second Atari Force series, Morphea the Canopean empath in a flashback to her past as a child expresses her feeling of loneliness to the Hive Mother, which the Mother disdains on the basis of her being alone among a multitude of sister Canopeans and daring to identify herself as an individual with a need instead of part of a collective, thus driving the Mother to punish Morphea with a mind assault.
  • In one Batman comic during Tim Drake's tenure as Robin, Tim complains to Alfred about Bruce's moodiness and how it probably means that Batman will be going alone for the night. Alfred replies to Tim that even in a crowd, Bruce is always alone.
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake finds himself feeling alone in the crowd during the massive gang war that started after he retired from the role of Robin. This in addition to feeling like a heel for not helping as much as his training meant he could lead to him diving back into the Batfamily permanently during the mess.
  • The Ultimates: Bruce Banner in the center of Manhattan, trying to call Betty and warn her that he will become the Hulk again.

    Fan Works 
  • New Reality: When Sheena runs away from a difficult conversation about Volt, she does so in the middle of a crowd. Aside from Brittany, nobody who witnesses her fleeing the scene does anything to try and stop or comfort her.
  • A Pikachu in Love: Pikachu feels this way at the start of the fic, being unable to communicate directly with Ash like Brock and Misty can and feeling alienated by Ash's other Pokemon due to being Ash's ace Pokemon.
  • Pony POV Series: Trixie's Inferiority Superiority Complex comes from feeling like she's average at every field of magic and unable to stand out from her six siblings, including four sisters who look exactly like her. When Discord curses her, he makes her perceive that nopony at all notices that she exists. She cries out for someone to listen to her and sees all of them ignoring her, while in reality several ponies are surrounding her and asking what's wrong, but she can't respond to any of them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Beauty and the Beast: Belle, during the song that has her name. Asides from the baker, who dismisses her when Belle starts talking about books, her time in the bookshop, and Gaston's harassment, she spends the rest of her stroll in the village on her own with the villagers sneering at her behind her back. A woman goes as far as stopping her laundry and going away because Belle is singing to a sheep in the same fountain the woman was doing her work.
  • In the music video for "1 True Love" from Turning Red, Tyler is portrayed like this; surrounded by classmates who openly express their love for 4*Town while he feels he cannot.
  • Andrew Stanton stated that in WALL•E, a major theme was the contrast between WALL•E's isolation in the first part of the film to the presence of this trope on board the Axiom.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Accepted, this happens to Bartleby Gaines. He is visiting Harmon College to get an idea of how college works. He quickly becomes jaded by the students, who are either apathetic or stressed out. He freezes in the middle of the frame as a speeded-up crowd rushes around him.
  • Army: Dramatically so, when a weeping, desperate Maka is trying to find her son as he marches away — while everyone else in the crowd is waving flags, giddy with patriotic enthusiasm.
  • The opening sequence of the remake of Bedazzled (2000).
  • In Cavalcade, the main character finds out that her son has been killed in World War I just as the bells toll announcing the armistice that ended the war. She staggers out of her house and wanders through the joyful crowds, dazed with grief.
  • The central theme of the 1928 silent classic The Crowd, in which the protagonist discovers how indifferent The Crowd is when his life falls apart.
  • Equilibrium: John Preston after he goes off his emotion-suppressing meds. Probably many of the sense offenders as well, but the movie doesn't focus on them.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark does this when he finds out Obadiah Stane tried to get him fired from the company board.
  • Discussed Trope in Lonesome, which is about two single, lonely people who live in the teeming mass of humanity that is Manhattan.
    Jim: It's funny how lonesome a fella can be, especially with a million people around him.
  • Man of Iron: Winkel is thrown out of Solidarity headquarters, the movement having discovered that he was sent to infiltrate them by the government. He walks out in a daze, alone in the triumphal crowd of people leaving the shipyard after the Gdansk agreement was signed.
  • Another final shot: in Joseph Mankiewicz's adaptation of The Quiet American (1958), protagonist Thomas Fowler (played by Michael Redgrave) is a broken man, having been rejected by the woman he loves and wracked with guilt for having instigated the death of an American man who was his rival in love - all for nothing. He rejects an offer to go to the church for solace and instead walks away dejectedly through a crowded Vietnamese street, where he is eventually lost from view.
  • In the Ian McKellen film version of Richard III, before the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech Richard moves through a party but stays isolated from the celebrating nobles.
  • The final shot of Fritz Lang film Scarlet Street shows Chris, who has gotten away with murder but is now homeless and wracked with guilt, shuffling down a crowded city sidewalk. Then the other people fade away, and Chris is shuffling down the street alone.
  • A Discussed Trope in Separate Tables. Ann is portrayed as a sexy seductress (she's played by Rita Hayworth!) but she admits to John that she is terrified of growing old alone, and she doesn't have any friends.
    Ann: Being alone in a crowd is worse. It's more painful, more frightening.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, during the Sanity Slippage Song "Epiphany". He's just lost the chance to slit the throat of the man who ruined his life and is running through the streets in a rage, singing and brandishing his straight razors. Nobody takes any notice, and it's eventually revealed to be an Imagine Spot, more relevant to how he feels than to the actual state of reality.
  • Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. As he puts it: "Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, and cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man."
  • The protagonist in The Tiger Makes Out, a disgruntled postal worker who sees himself as an intellectual in a world of sheep, walks the streets of New York angrily talking to himself while people stream around him at double speed (done by speeding up footage of him walking at half-speed.)
  • In Titanic (1997), right before Rose attempts suicide, she's sitting at the table in the lobby, narrating, but her body doesn't move. This has less to do with a shocking revelation, and more to do with her feeling that if she screamed, no one would hear, or even care.
  • Bruce Willis does it in Unbreakable — slight variation in that he's deliberately expecting people to bump into him in order to trigger his newly discovered Detect Evil power.

  • The second Alex Rider book reintroduces us to the main character with this trope.
  • In The Return, one of the last books in the Animorphs series, Rachel at one point walks through the hallway of her school - a setting that has not been featured in several books as the war has taken an increasingly grim turn - and reflects that she no longer feels like she belongs there at all and can't even pretend to anymore. Sure enough, she has a breakdown in class a chapter later and flees the school. This is the last time school is visited, as in the next book the Animorphs all become fugitives and have to go into hiding.
  • Conan the Barbarian - In Robert E. Howard's Beyond the Black River, the presence of Conan does not keep Balthus from feeling alone in the wilderness, because Conan is native to the wild. Unusual in that Conan is the only person there, but he actively reflects on how the other person does not keep him from feeling alone.
  • In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion Menelaus goes to a ball after Blackie rouses him, and he feels this.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Freckles always felt lonely in the orphanage, and not lonely in the solitude of Limberlost Swamp.
  • Nick in The Great Gatsby. Everyone in the story uses him for some purpose or other, but basically nobody ever acknowledges him as a person. Even when intense interpersonal dramas are taking place in the same room as him, he realizes he can't do much besides observe.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: In A Game of Thrones, Tyrion's isolation because of his dwarfism is emphasized as he walks through his father's war camp:
    The Lannister camp sprawled for miles between the river and the kingsroad. In amongst the men and the horses and the trees, it was easy to get lost, and Tyrion did. He passed a dozen great pavilions and a hundred cookfires [...] No one looked at him. No one spoke to him. No one paid him any mind. He was surrounded by men sworn to House Lannister, a vast host twenty thousand strong, and yet he was alone.
  • This trope is almost synonymous with Mika Waltari's stories but most prevalent in The Egyptian and The Wanderer.
  • Played out literally in Fritz Leiber's "You're All Alone" where the awakened, such as the protagonist, are surrounded by people acting out the automaton of everyday life while the awakened find themselves getting more and more out of sync with the script as time passes.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • Korean Series use this camera shot a lot, especially two people standing a distance apart, unmoving while crowds of people walk by.
    • The City Hunter: Na Na and Yoon Sung with their backs to each other in a crowded plaza.
    • Pasta: The Official Couple are standing in the middle of a crosswalk after the light turns green for the cars.
    • Twinkle Twinkle: Jung Won and Seung Joon meet at a busy movie theater.
    • You Are Beautiful: Mi Nam and Shin Wo just miss each other in a crowded marketplace, even though they are standing mere meters apart.

By Series:

  • Cordelia describes her life this way in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Buffy asks if she's so miserable, why does she work so hard to stay popular, Cordy replies that it's better than being alone and a loser.
  • Doctor Who:
    • At the end of "The End of the World", after the Sun expands to swallow the Earth in the year five billion and change, the Ninth Doctor takes Rose back to an ordinary, bustling city street in her own time. The two of them stand there for some time, with the Doctor explaining how he's now the Last of His Kind. They don't join the flow of the crowd until Rose decides they need to get some chips.
    • "Midnight" uses this at the end, when the Doctor is sitting in the aisle of the bus after the trouble has passed.
  • Homeland literalizes the trope to chilling effect during an episode in series 1, when Dana Brody fast-forwards a video she took of her father during a visit to Gettysburg — and shows him standing completely still as the crowd blurs around him.
  • In the NCIS season 7 premiere, after Tony believes that Ziva is dead, he is shown at his desk just sitting there in shock, the rest of the world whirling at a fast pace around him.
  • The opening titles of British comedy series Rev..
  • Happens in the AMC series Rubicon, in the first episode. The protagonist is in a diner and sees on the TV that the train his father-in-law was on was involved in a deadly crash. He then walks out onto the street in a daze, amidst a crowd of people.
  • In the first episode of Scrubs, J.D. struggles to cope with his first day as a doctor, rubbing his temples while blurred, fast-motion people swarm around him. Happens again in "My TCW", J.D. wanders despondently down a hallway surrounded by busy hospital staff as he narrates how it's important to hold on to the relationships you have and laments how awful it feels to be alone - and providing the page quote.
  • The Shokojo Sera episode "A Sad Farewell" is a good example - after leaving the Seminary, Sara walks around the streets of London in a daze.
  • In Smallville, Clark is this when he sees Lana and Lex hugging.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985) episode called "To See the Invisible Man". The protagonist is sentenced to be "invisible" for a year (really just aggressively ignored by everyone), and so spends most of the episode with people moving around him as if he wasn't there.
  • In the pilot of Veronica Mars, Veronica sits at the lunch table, reading a book, as the entire student body moves around her in fast-forward. This isn't exactly the same, however, as Veronica has already been jaded by the death of her best friend, the disgrace of her father, and her own date-rape, she has simply accepted her status as a loner. Then the new kid sits down beside her...

  • The ABBA song "Super Trouper" takes its name from the massive spotlights that are used to isolate the singer while she performs on stage, which in turn act as a metaphor for her loneliness and isolation despite performing in front of thousands of people.
  • "Home" by Michael Bublé is a combo with this and the world-weary traveler.
  • City and Colour's "Hello, I'm In Delaware".
  • I Live in Silence by Fireaxe.
    I live in silence, where no one knows my name
    I live in silence, where no one speaks my name
    I love my silence, I love my peace within the void
    I love my silence, far away from every voice
  • "Dreamboat Annie" by Heart:
    Going down the city sidewalk, alone in the crowd
    No one knows the lonely one, whose head's in the clouds
  • * In the Bruce Hornsby song "Lost Soul," the song's protagonist is a "man of confused and sad nature" who doubts that anyone truly loves him. Well aware of his pain, his friends try to make him feel like he belongs. In the end he is still filled with self-doubt: "You show me love but maybe I don't deserve it/
I've been called but not been found."
  • Used to describe depression in "Tears of a Clown" by Iron Maiden.
    All alone in a crowded room
    He tries to force a smile
    The smile it beamed, or so it seemed
  • The cover for Avril Lavigne's album Let Go.
  • "The Invisible Man" by Marillion
    I shout my name in the public places
    No one seems to notice
    No one understands
    I stand perfectly still
    In the middle of the road
    I hold my nerve
    I hold my nerve
    Hold my nerve
    But the cars don't swerve
  • "All the Love in the World" by Nine Inch Nails.
    Hiding in the crowd I'm all alone.
    No one's heard a single word I've said.
    They don't sound as good outside my head.
    It looks as though the past is here to stay.
    I've become a million miles a- Why do you get all the love in the world?
  • "Have You Ever", by The Offspring:
    Have you ever been at someplace
    Recognizing everybody's face
    Until you realized that there was no one there you knew
  • "La Foule" by Édith Piaf
  • The Vampyre of Time and Memory by Queens of the Stone Age
  • Mentioned in "Million Miles" by Reamonn:
    To walk these streets without you, I hate being on my own
    So many souls around you, but it never feels like home
  • Happy Little Pill by Troye Sivan
    In the crowd alone
    And every second passing reminds me I'm not home

    Music Videos 
  • The "fast-forward" variation is used in Linkin Park's video for "Numb".
  • Parts of the video for "Again" by YUI features the singer standing alone in a crowd that moves both fast-forwardly and in slow-motion.
  • "Spring Day" by BTS has a variation (during the second chorus) where Jungkook stands still while the other members walk around at low-shutter speed, making them blurry. This being from the album WINGS: You Never Walk Alone, however, Jungkook eventually starts walking around, too, becoming a blur with the others.
  • Euzen's Judged By does this with a woman with dwarfism.

  • Summed up in Spamalot with the song "I'm All Alone".
  • In Vanities: The Musical, after losing her boyfriend, Kathy describes herself in this situation in the song Cute Boys with Short Haircuts.

    Video Games 
"When I look at the sea of clouds in Jueyun Karst, I merely feel the loneliness of a solitary cloud gazer. When I step into the sea of people in Liyue, I feel the loneliness of an inhuman that doesn't belong in the human world."
  • The Good Ending of inFAMOUS has Cole state, after his best friend Zeke betrayed him, his girlfriend was murdered, and it turned out that this was all orchestrated by himself from the future, how he couldn't feel more alone.
  • In the second game of Jack French, the protagonist is briefly shown standing at an intersection while people whiz around him after the car crash that kills Elizabeth.
  • The animated intro for Hanako's route in Katawa Shoujo has her standing alone in a fast-forwarded crowd. Then subverted: she notices Hisao is also there, and the rest of the crowd vanishes as they walk toward each other.
  • The World Ends with You: Despite the Reaper's Game taking place in the oh-so-crowded district of Shibuya, the players of the game are alone in the crowd — non-players can't see them, can't hear them, and definitely can't help them.


    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation gives us SCP-451 quite possibly the most literal and horrific form of this trope: A man who, thanks to exposure to an artifact, is unable to perceive or interact with the people around him in any way.

    Web Videos 
  • Due to a Heroic BSoD after watching Baby Geniuses, The Nostalgia Critic forces himself to go out of his hotel room but is still completely lost and broken even with all the con-goers around. While not seen, he also goes by himself to amusement parks and eats alone at Chuck E Cheese's, just to blend in with everyone else.

    Western Animation 
  • Referenced, though not verbatim, in BoJack Horseman when Sarah Lynn, an extremely popular singer and ex-child actor at the time, tells BoJack that everyone just wants to be her 'friend' for her fame. She refers to him as her only genuine friend left... up until he reveals he's there in an attempt to get her on his new TV show, leaving her in a completely new level of isolation amongst a crowd.
    Sarah Lynn: BoJack! Bring him in! It's always nice to see an old friend!
    [BoJack reveals his ulterior motive after some minutes then is indirectly cued to leave via Sarah Lynn mentioning how exhausted she is.]
    Sarah Lynn: It's always nice to see a—
  • Referenced verbatim in the obscure cartoon Captain Star. "Limbs" Jones, who has nine heads with independent personalities, is upset because he is alone. The Captain points out that he has nine heads, and Scarlet replies "One can get lonely in a crowd."
  • The Little Match Girl: The little match girl is dashing around through the huge crowds of New Year's Eve revelers at the stroke of midnight, trying to sell her matches. No one even sees her.
  • A truly heartbreaking version happens in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "The Return Of Harmony Part 2". Discord has broken Twilight completely and sent her over the Despair Event Horizon by turning her friends against her by breaking and brainwashing them. He then one-ups this by driving all of Equestria insane except Twilight. We see her walking dejectedly through town, surrounded by the citizens of Ponyville she's spent the entire last season with, but unable to turn to a single one for help because of Discord's actions, not even her True Companions.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Zigzagged with Entrapta during Princess Prom. Due to her lack of social abilities (including coming to the party in her overalls), she spends most of the time alone. The only ones to interact with her on their own will are Adora (to distract Glimmer from her fear of losing Bow's friendship) and Catra (to make Adora jealous). It's hinted in Season 5 that, after being rescued from Beast Island, the princesses avoided her because of her actions in the Horde; even after Entrapta's atonement by helping Adora's gang in the space, she keeps most of her time alone among the rebels, interacting only with Wrong Hordak, Bow and, occasionally, with Swift Wind, which makes her reunion to Hordak even more touching:
    Entrapta: I'm so glad you're back! Oh, we have so much to talk!!