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Green Shirt: Are you waiting to get some punch?
Yellow Shirt: No, they're still setting it up.
Green Shirt: Then where's the punch line?
Yellow Shirt: I don't think there is one.
— A complete comic strip from Cyanide and Happiness

The Climax is one of the oldest devices in storytelling. For those who don't know, the climax is when the story reaches its head, when the most important or exciting part occurs; in an action film, the climax is almost always a large, spectacular fight.

As a result, the subversion of the climax, the Anticlimax, is probably almost as old. The anticlimax is when you're set up for a climax, such as a spectacular, battle-to-end-all-battles between the hero and the villain. It's built up more and more until the suspense is extremely exciting, and the reader/viewer can't wait for it...then the hero kills the villain in one hit, or the villain spontaneously drops dead, or some other random guy shows up and destroys the villain before the hero does anything. Thus is the anticlimax. A "Shaggy Dog" Story almost always features an anticlimax. Interestingly, however, cases of Shoot the Shaggy Dog usually do have a climax.

Not all anticlimaxes are intentional, though. Oftentimes, they are caused when the story writes itself into a corner. Other times, it's caused when the writer realizes that their planned solution just wouldn't make sense compared with the logical one. Sometimes, it's caused when there are teams of writers that don't communicate very well. The planned resolution of a Story Arc is nullified by another writer, who might have written out the plot device intended. Sometimes, in the case of film and television, it's caused by budget constraints or unexpected cancellation. It's rather rare for unintentional anticlimaxes to show up in single works, usually popping up in long serials where there isn't a chance to unobtrusively go back and rewrite some pivotal moments to set up the proper climax.

Anticlimaxes can work well if it's clear that the subversion of audience expectations is the point, either for humorous purposes (such as the Anti-Climax Cut) or as a more serious commentary on the genre of the work. If the anticlimax is unintentional, however, or if the author's purpose just isn't sufficiently clear to the audience, the result is serious audience frustration. Use caution.

Not to Be Confused with a Gainax Ending. A story with an anticlimax will train a pilot, build his jet, fuel his jet, prepare the runway, prepare the radio tower, prime the jet to launch, then cancel the launch as the pilot reads a book in the cockpit. A story with a Gainax Ending will train the pilot, build the jet, fuel the jet, prepare the runway, prepare the radio tower, prime the jet to launch, then take the jet to its destination via the talons of a giant eagle. An anticlimax is a climax that isn't: a Gainax Ending is a climax that comes from nowhere.

Compare No Ending. For anti-climactic deaths, see Dropped a Bridge on Him. For anti-climactic boss battles, see Anti-Climax Boss.

Examples, which are somewhat spoilerish:

    open/close all folders 

  • Waltz with Bashir: Near the end of the movie, after the true intention of the Phalangists is discovered, we see how the news of the massacre wanders up the ranks of the IDF. When it finally hits an Israeli officer who cares and takes action, it's already morning. We then see a military jeep driving up to the Phalangists, a man gets out, picks up a bullhorn... and says in a deadpan voice: "Stop the shooting". The Phalangists stop, the surviving refugees return to their destroyed camp, and the man drives off again.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The final episode of .hack//SIGN ends with the player-character heroes facing up with one of Morgana's Phases, and it looks as if there's going to be a big climactic fight scene. Instead, the uber-hacker Helba just switches off the World's server and kicks them back to the real world. The ending that kinda makes up for it, though. The whole thing was a lead-up/prologue for the .hack games from one person's perspective (that person being Tsukasa). Considering the fact that Skeith can't be defeated without subverting the physics of the game world with Data Drain (without a Twilight Bracelet or Macha/Mia's own abilities, Skeith and the other Phases are completely invulnerable), it would have been even more anticlimactic and a Downer Ending for everyone to get Data Drained by him and end up as more Lost Ones.
  • Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.:
    • Maple & Sally encounter a squid boss. The arena is a pocket of air surrounded by water. The boss mostly hides in the water while attacking with regenerating tentacles and flying fish. While Sally swims in and out, Maple accidently pollutes the water with poison, thus they could no longer use that strategy. After a while the boss is almost defeated and it's using charge attacks which even hurts Maple. Sally prepares to dodge and for her final attack... and then the boss suddenly dies, due to the poison in the water. They find this ending unsatisfying.
    • In the anime version, after attacking and dodging the tentacles for a bit, Maple floods the water with as much poison as she can. The boss's health rapidly drops to 0. Sally alone finds this unsatisfying but is also glad it was easily dealt with.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • The series essentially plays ping pong with this one during the Negi/Rakan fight, which starts off with an apparent anticlimax (Negi Rakan), before having 3 or 4 climactic moments, only to keep going. Ultimately, Negi's final massive attack fails to knock Rakan out, but drains him enough that they resort to Good Old Fisticuffs before fainting from exhaustion in a tie. Whether this is an actual Anti-Climax, a subversion thereof, or some kind of combination is up for debate.
    • The Lifemaker. He showed up (flashbacks aside) for less than a dozen chapters, did pretty much nothing but oneshotting Negi and Fate and immobilizing Ala Rubra, literally did nothing else as Class 3-A freed Asuna, on whom his plans hinged, and then he was vanquished away by Negi and Asuna in a single chapter. And his final defeat after that happened out of panel and only mentioned away in passing in the final chapter. Fortunately, Ken Akamatsu would correct this by finally showing the battle in UQ Holder!.
  • Rumiko Takahashi seems to love these ones, ending a "will they/won't they" romantic comedy with an "I don't know" not once, but twice.
  • School Rumble. Harima & Eri get engaged. He moves to Yakumo's house. Timeskip a couple of years. Harima has left a long time ago and nobody knew where he was.
  • After being filled with all sorts of cool, awesome fights, the final battle of the X/1999 movie between Messianic Archetype and the Dark Messiah, built up over about two hours, lasted literally all of five seconds.
  • There's a decent amount of complaints that the Chrono Crusade anime's final battle between Chrono and Aion is much, much too short, particularly after all the build up. The fact that the ending is a Downer Ending in the end probably doesn't help. (Parodied amusingly in this fanart.)
  • Maria†Holic ends almost every episode by introducing some dangerous situation or even a monster, only to have it resolved within the first two minutes of the next episode and never mentioned again.
  • This happens pretty frequently in Bleach, especially toward the end of arcs. Kubo will normally set up a lot of battles to give whatever of the large amount of characters still standing something to do. Once the final battle is over, the resolution of the fights set up during this time oftentimes taking place off screen, some of them even going so far as to not even reveal who won.
    • At the end of the Arrancar arc, Yammy becomes a Kaiju and demolishes Rukia, Renji, and Chad (in the manga, off-panel no less) and tanks everything Ichigo can throw at him and more. Once Kenpachi and Byakuya take over, they treat him as a joke and spend half the fight focusing on each other. Even after he transforms again into something even bigger, the end of the arc reveals that they simply killed him off screen.
    • 3rd Espada Tia Harribel is about to take on Hiyori, Lisa, and Hitsugaya at the same time. Before we see a single exchange of blows as the two Vizards prepare to fight seriously for the first time, Aizen attacks Harribel for no reason.
    • Tousen reveals his One-Winged Angel form, only to get stabbed in the head and killed by his ex-lieutenant.
    • The final episode of the anime ended with the Lost Substitute Shinigami arc, where the final battles were very one-sided in favor of the Soul Reapers, more so than any other arc so far ( Kenpachi's battle against Giriko Kutsuzawa is quite possibly the shortest "fight" in the series' history). Ichigo didn't even have a hard time defeating Kugo Ginjo. What a way for the anime to end. The Bleach fans who don't bother with the manga and watch the anime exclusively must be pissed.
    • The Big Bad of the first half, Aizen, is built up to be unstoppable, defeating the entire supporting cast with one blow on average. After the main character trains for three months/an hour (consisting mostly of him being stabbed) the enemy who has been hyped up throughout the entire series is defeated in three chapters with absolutely no effort on the part of Ichigo.
    • Even worse than The Espada was Ginjo. After all the buildup after The Reveal about him being both the Big Bad of the arc and his talk of his strength, Ichigo proceeds to fight him for one chapter in bankai before one-shotting him.
    • Due to the manga's early cancellation, the final fight with Yhwach goes shorter than it was likely originally intended. The last leg of it in Soul Society takes only a few chapters, ending with a last-minute power-up from Uryu turning his powers against him and giving Ichigo a chance to cut him down.
  • Irresponsible Captain Tylor: epic use of the William Tell Overture heralds what is an Anti-Climax for the titular character: having been given command of the entire UPSF fleet, Tylor gives one order: advance. Eventually, he gets so close to Ru Baraba Dom's ship that the two can see each other; he raises his hand, as if he was giving the order to fire (Dom does the same), and then instead of ordering the attack he salutes the Raalgon commander. The fleets pass each other and the conflict is resolved with no losses.
  • The ending to the animé adaptation of Chobits drastically differs from the manga and many anime fans feel that it was anti-climactic.
  • Digimon:
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Gon spends the entire series searching for his father Ging. When he finally makes his first present-day appearance, he's just shown talking with the fellow members of the Zodiac with no build-up or fanfare whatsoever. Even better, the Zodiac itself gets a huge build-up, culminating in a two-page spread of them walking towards Hunter HQ. Except that they're all facing away from the reader, so it's impossible to tell that one of them is Ging.
    • Most story arcs ends in what is at least partially an anti-climax:
      • The Hunter Exam ends in a tournament. Instead of a typical win by knockout or win by kill, the contestants must make their opponents surrender. The winner of each round passes the exam, while the loser moves on. This builds the expectation of a full-fledged tournament that will function as a contest of wills, as only one of the finalists can actually fail at this point. However after Killua ends up facing his manipulative brother Illumi, he snaps and kills another contestant, automatically forfeiting the tournament and ending it prematurely. Those who passed the exam are left will little chance to celebrate, as their focus is quickly drawn to what needs to be done next.
      • The Zoldyck family mini-arc is set up with Gon, Kurapika, and Leorio making their way through the Zoldyck Estate. We expect them to fight through a series of professional killers, and possibly even a series of booby-traps. Instead Killua's father Silva gives him permission to leave with Gon, and Killua simply walks out the front gate with his friends.
      • During the Heaven's Arena arc, we learn that fighters who advance far enough and earn enough victories at the Tower of Heaven may challenge a "Floor Master" for the position. Every other year, the floor masters take part in the Battle Olympia tournament, where the winner receives an exclusive penthouse suite. Gon and Killua mostly ignore this information, and ultimately decide to leave after Gon's fight with Hisoka. Gon was only there to train for that battle anyway, and once it's over, he can return his attention to finding Ging.
      • During the Greed Island arc, Gon learns that Ging created the game at least in part to train Gon. Once Gon has beaten the game, he expects to be reunited with Ging. However, Ging decided that if Gon tried to take anyone with him to meet Ging, the card they were using would instead send them to Kite.
      • The Chimera Ant arc builds up the King as the ultimate life form, far stronger than any human. Chairman Netero is still determined to face him, and their battle does indeed prove to be the stuff of legends. Netero's full power isn't enough to kill Mereum, but he came to the fight with a bomb in his body set to go off once his heart stopped. Meruem survives the explosion by feeding on his guards, which makes him even stronger. Things seem to be at their darkest, but it turns out the poison/radiation from the bomb is slowly killing Meruem anyway. He it at least able to die with his rival and friend Komugi by his side.
      • During the Election arc, multiple notorious hunters engage in a game of manipulations in order to determine the outcome of the election. Ultimately, Pariston wins, only to immediately resign, passing the position on to Cheadle as he was trolling everyone from the start.
  • In Umi Monogatari, there is no final battle, as Sedna's nature and the accompanying sorrow is accepted by the islanders rather than sealed away. There is, however, an emotional battle to save Urin.
  • In the TV series of Hellsing, the final villain comes out of nowhere. While some of the craziest action takes place during the final battle, it was still short lived and not entirely tense due to the lack of buildup and plot value.
  • In Devil and Devil, the characters arrive to prevent Satan's resurrection, only to find that he's already been dispatched by an Angelic Assassin Team
  • The second time Kotaro shows up in order to face Yaiba he's bisected by Rokuemon Ishida's attack. Justified, because Kotaro was totally unaware of his plans.
  • Laxus vs the Raven Tail team on Fairy Tail turned out to be this. Despite being hyped as having been trained to specifically combat Fairy Tail members, outnumbering him 5 to 1, and one of these five, Ivan, being the Guild Master AND Makarov's son, Laxus defeats the five of them without breaking a sweat. With one hit each.
  • Henkei Shoujo: Nana leaps out of a plane to rescue Hiromi from a leaky raft, transforms into a battleship, and makes a giant splash in the water. It is then revealed that Nana's battleship form is somehow smaller than her human one, and tinier than Hiromi's raft to boot.
  • The Obsidian Lord in My-HiME, largely because the rest of the Himes have had their Most Important People revived (and a few were revived themselves) and are working together to defeat him. After the Hime Star is destroyed, he gets incinerated in one attack from Kagutsuchi.
  • Naruto:
    • The first half of the third part of the Chuunin Exam in Naruto consisted of a series of knockout battles to halve the contestants. The penultimate three battles were Naruto vs Kiba, Hinata vs Neji and finally Lee vs Gaara (which lasted three episodes, caused several minor earthquakes and ended with the grievously injured Lee being carted off to hospital). The final battle was between Choji and Dosu — so short it was embarrassing.
    • Hanzo from Naruto was seen as one by a large portion of the fanbase when he fought against Mifune, his perfect counter. Considering their battle only lasted a single chapter, when Kinkaku and Ginkaku got a three page battle and Kinkaku was demolishing two entire divisions with his Superpowered Evil Side, they do have a point, and Asuma got a two chapter fight with his team a chapter later, they have a point. However, Mifune was still his perfect counter and Hanzo did take down an entire division beforehand without trouble.
    • Madara Uchiha, hyped as an Invincible Villain and apparently the Big Bad of Naruto responsible for the entire conflict, is disposed off and body-snatched in 4 panels by Black Zetsu who is later revealed to contain the will of Kaguya, aka the first human to ever wield chakra.
  • Of all the characters who got anti-climatically killed in High School D×D, it's Freed who gets killed in seconds by Kiba.
  • Yugi of Tenchi in Tokyo is built up to be a very dangerous Tyke Bomb that has actively screwed with Tenchi and the girls for the entire series. By the end of the series, Tenchi restores his "family", gets back his BFS and confronts Yugi... by slapping her, then giving her a Cooldown Hug.
  • One Piece:
    • Hody Jones loses to Luffy rather easily despite having a few advantages- he's a Fishmen, a species that is several times stronger than humans, amplified strength further by taking steroids and is fighting underwater, where Fishman techniques are stronger. Justified by two factors: first, the crew just came from two years of intense training in order to face the New World, and second, he basically was a Small Name, Big Ego without much experience.
    • Bellamy, whose only justification is the latter reason. He got beat by Luffy with one punch, long before any of the Straw Hats got really strong.
    • The next villain after Hody Jones is Caesar Clown, a sadistic scientist who ate the Gas-Gas Fruit who is taken down easily by Luffy who now has the ability to touch Logia in their Super Smoke forms. Justified in that that the Logia he had fought previously were much stronger than this one for two reasons, one they were some of the strongest characters in the series, and two they had back-ups to when their abilities are cancelled, while Caesar completely relies on his. So it is a case of Small Name, Big Ego.
    • Caesar may have been the Big Bad of the arc, but to be quite honest, of the three main villains of the arc (him, Monet, and Vergo), it became clear that he was the weakest of them. Monet, asides from being a snow logia (meaning she has weaker and more smoke-like powers of Aokiji's), also used some icepicks as weapons, yet even she was somewhat of an Anti-Climax Boss, being taken down by Zoro by just fear, and then finished off by Tashigi. Vergo however was the only subversion during this arc — he was not only the most dangerous, he was also the most effective — he had Law's heart, allowing him take out one of the five people who could possibly beat him that were on the island (Smoker, Law, Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji). Sanji had tremendous difficulty with him and soon got distracted by Tashigi and the Marines of G-5, Law couldn't beat him until he regained his heart, and since neither Luffy nor Zoro had any personable desire to face him as they were too busy with the other two, that just left Smoker to take him on.
    • The Zou arc features this in a way that manages to be both anticlimactic and epic. Jack the Drought, one of Emperor Kaido's top men, with the highest bounty revealed to that point in the series (one billion Berries), shown to be an incredibly powerful and insanely ruthless warrior that fought for days without slowing down, with a fleet of ships and monsters under his command... gets taken out in one shot. How is that epic? Because the one who does it is Zunisha, an elephant several miles tall, to protect the citizens who dwell in the city on his back, just with a single sweep of its trunk that took out the entire rest of the fleet as collateral damage. Ending an entire threat in a literal minute is rather an anticlimax, but when it's a nation-sized creature doing so it's still quite amazing. Of course, Jack later turns up during the battle for Onigashima, and loses to the Sulong-powered Duke Dogstorm and Cat Vipr off-panel.
  • The final Big Bad of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is Darkness. He's already pretty near this territory, given that he had a total of one onscreen win to his name, and lost to protagonist Judai no less than three times. But we're four episodes from the end, and all the other times were just warmups. It's time to see his real Deck... and it's a gamble deck. A gamble deck that takes up his entire Spell and Trap zone. Then he proceeds to give Judai everything he needs to bring out the superpowered Neos Wiseman. Then he finally brings out his ace, Darkness Neosphere... but before he can even use its effect, Judai copies it with Black Panther and proceeds to use it on him and ruin his entire strategy. All told, the progenitor of the World of Darkness goes down in one and a half episodes.
  • V in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL was heavily hyped as the most powerful of the Arclight siblings, and his two brothers both demonstrated substantial skills in their respective duels. When he finally duels Kaito (supposedly his apprentice), he brings out the largest monster in the entire series, Dyson Sphere... and that's basically it. He uses no complex tactics or intelligent plays; he just sits on Dyson Sphere and uses it to tank Kaito's first few attacks. When Kaito proceeds to pull out Neo Galaxy-Eyes, which V knew he had and had seen him use to defeat the other two Arclights, he had absolutely nothing to counter it.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • The rivalry between Ash and Gary is set up in the show's very first episode and establishes that a victory over Gary is one of Ash's important long-term goals. After "Showdown at the Po-ké Corral" has Ash promise Gary that they would finally fight during the Indigo League, Gary is eliminated in a fight against a different trainer during the first round of the tournament.
    • In Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire, Team Aqua and Magma's two-part finale suffered from a rushed pace and horrid animation.
    • In Diamond & Pearl: Galactic Battles, Team Galactic is thwarted by Cyrus disappearing into a portal after he nearly succeeds in his plans to remake the universe. There is no real explanation as to why this happens and no climatic battle to lead up to this, he just up and vanishes. Then Dialga and Palkia are stopped from going out of control by Ash, Dawn and Brock just...wishing really hard.
    • In Black & White: Adventures in Unova, Ghetsis never battles with Reshiram, who is brought back to his senses with one shot from Pikachu. N then stops Reshiram from rampaging by talking it down. The promised Reshiram vs Charizard battle never happens either, though that could be a case of Never Trust an Opening.
  • Sgt. Frog: All through the Episode 101-103 arc, it was being set that there was going to be a huge epic showdown between Dororo and Zoruru. Of course, right when it was going to begin, Dororo revealed that he didn't remember Zoruru, and well, Zoruru just left. HE JUST LEFT.
    • Events in Volume 17 and Season 7 correct this error.
    • This gets played for laughs too, several times. In the fourth movie, the climax sees Keroro willingly undergoing the ritual to evolve himself into a dragon, and Shion starts reciting from the spellbook, as Keroro starts to glow and the music slowly builds up — so slowly that Keroro catches a cold first.
  • Cahe Detective Club: In Machi's introduction her on-going bet with her cousin Shizuka is explained. If Machi gets her ribbon she'll switch to her fighting club and consequently the cafe would be shut down due to not enough people. After they both demonstrate superhuman martial arts for the day, Machi plans to win with her hidden strength on the final day tomorrow. At the end of the next day Machi got a cold so she admits defeat.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: One occurs at the end of "Friends and Relations". The big fight between Honor Guard and several dozen massive battle robots ends when Ellie gently orders the robots to stand down, restrain the villain, and fly off.
  • Batman:
    • It's established at the end of the first story arc of Batman Beyond 2016 that the Joker is still alive. His eventual return follows him terrorising the city once again, effortlessly outmaneuvering the police, taking command of the remnants of the Jokerz, setting a psychotic cyborg on Terry and torturing the location of the Batcave out of Matt. When he arrives at the cave, he squares off with Bruce for a final showdown, and after a few panels of cane vs. crowbar duelling, keels over dead of a heart attack. An autopsy in the next issue confirms that this is definitely the real Joker and he is definitely dead, and he will not be coming back to life.
    • The return of Deacon Blackfire was built up huge in Batman Eternal, his rise from hell being one of the story's longest-running subplots. How does it conclude? After being sufficiently beaten, The Spectre awakens within Jim Corrigan, gives Blackfire a big fat "nope" and boots him and his legions of hellspawns right back to the other side like it's nothing.
  • Hitman: Played for laughs. Tommy finds a video of a man who's the son of the only gunman Tommy has ever feared, a master marksman Tommy beat by pure luck. He sees the guy is even better than his father, a master shooter who hits the bulls-eye without even looking. In a huge shootout, Tommy finds the guy getting the drop on him, gun to his head, no way he can miss...*click*. He's forgotten to remove the safety. It hits Tommy (and the reader) that we've only seen this guy shooting targets as he's never shot a real person in a real gunfight in his life. Grinning, Tommy empties his chamber into the guy.
  • Jennifer Blood: Pete Blute is built up as the smartest, toughest, and all-around deadliest of the eponymous antiheroine's uncles, so much so that she repeatedly says she's not sure if she can kill him. Issue seven begins with her already having given him a mortal wound. Of course, she then proceeds to taunt him as he lies dying by giving a major anti-villainous monologue, so readers spend the issue waiting for the other shoe to drop...
  • Mega Man (Archie Comics): An issue commonly cited about the comic was how easily Mega Man took down each of the first six Robot Masters, wiping them out in two issues with relative ease, making Mega Man look like an Invincible Hero. It may be justified in that Mega Man was using their weakness weapons and gaining more combat experience while the original six were meant to be maintenance robots. This was remedied by later foes like the fortress bosses, Oil Man, Time Man, and the second games Robot Masters being much tougher.
  • The Mighty Thor: The "World Engine" arc Warren Ellis did for Thor. The story involves Thor contracting a mysterious illness and someone tampering with Yggdrasil to create a new race of humans. Thor assumes this is the work of one of his well-known foes like Loki, but instead, the mastermind is revealed to be a new villain named Price, an ex-college professor who gained strange visions after eating psychedelic mushrooms. The new humans all die due to a biological flaw Price failed to predict, and Price himself is then killed by his clone assistants. The whole thing was lampshaded and foreshadowed just a few pages earlier.
    Enchantress: I must confess, I was expecting someone a little more dramatic, Mr. Price.
    Price: Am I an anti-climax, madam? Well, it is often the way of things.
  • The Punisher: In Punisher Max, The Punisher's fight with The Heavy/Jigsaw in "Girls in White Dresses" is a three-page fight scene that ends with Frank knocking him out a window and onto a passing freight train.
  • Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire has Sonja chasing six world-famous artists with a 30-day deadline. With one day to go, she kicks in the door of the inn where her last target performs stating that she's taking him and killing anyone who gets in the way. The innkeeper informs her that everyone already knows her quest and wants to help; the target comes along willingly. Sonja herself finds it underwhelming.
  • Runaways: An all-too-frequent occurrence in the post-Vaughan arcs. "Dead End Kids" builds up to a huge battle between the Upward Path and the Sinners that the Runaways choose to flee, while "Rock Zombies" ends with the Arc Villain disappearing, his second-in-command stealing Nico's Staff of One and then immediately dying from its new magical anti-theft enchantment, and Molly somehow figuring out a way to undo the enchantment that has turned most of the population of LA into zombies. And then the final arc got cut off halfway through, leaving the series on a cliffhanger that was later halfheartedly resolved in other series. Runaways (2015) continues this grand tradition, with Team Puce being allowed to run away after Sanna defects and Bucky agrees to take the fall for their escape. He is killed by the Doombots, and Valeria, disheartened at the loss of her favorite minion, decides to shut down the Institute.
  • Scooby Apocalypse: Secret Squirrel's self-proclaimed arch-enemy Le Loup Astucieux a.k.a. the Wily Wolf spends a few chapters preparing for an eventual confrontation between them. When it finally happens, he's so perplexed by Secret not remembering him Agent Bea easily knocks him down.
  • Scott Pilgrim: Lucas Lee is defeated when Scott goads him into an impossible skating trick and he fails. Also, Roxanne is beaten with a Single-Stroke Battle, but there's plenty of buildup.
  • Sin City: The comic does this from time to time:
    • The Yellow Bastard is pretty ineffectual in battle and the final scene is no different. He is quickly stabbed, dismembered, castrated, and beaten to death.
    • Manute is set up as the main villain in A Dame To Kill For but it turns out he's more of a Mini-Boss. When it comes time for his first battle against Marv, a similar Made of Iron character, he's beaten senseless and gets an eye torn out. He does get to come back for the climax, however.
    • The Colonel, the Big Bad from Hell And Back ends up captured off-panel and we see him briefly before he gets a bullet through his head. The protagonist, meanwhile is rescuing his love interest and relegates himself to diving for cover with her in his arms while his friend blows up the attacking Black Helicopter that had caused him trouble earlier. This was all orchestrated by the main character but it serves as a little anti-climatic considering how badass the story had been up until that point.
    • Jackie Boy in The Big Fat Kill combines this with Disc-One Final Boss, formerly named Decoy Antagonist. He shows up with a few of his friends to menace Dwight's girlfriend Shelly and then leaves for Old Town. Dwight decides to follow with the firm belief that he and his friends are going to harm more women that night. This seemingly sets Jackie Boy up as the Big Bad of the story until he and his friends are slaughtered by Dark Action Girl Miho mere moments after entering Old Town. The conflict occurs when they realize Jackie Boy was a cop and his murder might start a mob war.
  • Spider-Man: This is the case with the penultimate issue of Superior Spider-Man (2013) as Doc Ock just gives up and gives Peter back control of his body when things go belly up.
  • Superman: In the The Superman Adventures issue "Jimmy Olsen vs. Darkseid". Seconds after Jimmy breaks Superman out of Desaad's bindings and reverses the body swap, the lord of Apokolips himself shows up. The two heroes brace themselves for a battle, only for Darkseid to tell them he doesn't want to fight Superman now and let them go home.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Spider-Man: Kraven the Hunter, although it comes immediately after a genuinely intense fight. Spider-Man has just beaten Doc Ock when Kraven arrives (after promising to kill Spidey on live television) and demands they fight. Spidey would rather Kraven helped him get someone out of a trashed car, has no idea what his deal is, and eventually gets fed up and one-shots him, declaring, "Huh. I thought he had superpowers or something. Showbiz phony." Kraven does gain superpowers later on. And is taken down, if anything, even swifter.
    • Ultimate FF: Sue's baby is born, Ben and Jonny are there with her... and a bizarre Cyclops monster storms into the room.
      Johnny: Can't we have one major life event in this family without a villain-monster-whatever charging in to...?
  • Wanted: Mr. Rictus. At least one character told Wesley that Rictus would eat him alive if they fought, and Wesley kills him in less time than it took for me to write this sentence. Add to that the mass of supervillains that Wesley takes down just prior to this and just as easily and it's a rather disappointing climax.
  • Watchmen: "Do you seriously think I'd explain my masterstroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it 35 minutes ago." Long story short, without giving too much away: the way things end up going, none of the characters you've really been following constantly for the entire run end up having any kind of impact at all.
  • Wolverine: The second Old Man Logan series involves the titular character traversing across Battleworld during the events of Secret Wars, where he gradually begins to learn that God Doom, the supposed Big Good and ruler of Battleworld, is actually the Big Bad. The final issue has Emma Frost inform him that a massive revolution against Doom's regime will soon be at hand, and that Logan will be the one leading the charge. Before any of this can occur, Logan blacks out and wakes up on the newly restored All-New, All-Different Marvel Earth, with the (seemingly successful) final battle against Doom long over.

    Fan Works 
  • In Aeon Natum Engel the Israfel-equivalent of this fic gets owned by Asuka, avoiding the dancing. Not without consequences, though. In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion what was presumed to be a Harbinger-4 was actually a false alarm.
  • Swing123 is quite fond of this trope when writing for the Calvinverse:
    • A scene near the end of Calvin and Hobbes: The Movie lampshades this:
      Calvin: You mean to tell me that I wasted a perfectly good drama scene while Camp Pine wasn't even a mile from here!
    • While Calvin and Hobbes fend off a giant octopus in Calvin and Hobbes II: Lost at Sea, Hobbes gets it to leave by telling it that there's better prey elsewhere.
    • In the beginning of Chapter 11 of Calvin and Hobbes III: Double Trouble, the duo are about to face a group of aliens, only for the lunch bell to sound, attracting all of them
    • Subverted in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series. When a tornado that the two have been dealing with all episode appears to get sucked back up into the sky, Calvin remarks on how easy it was. Then it turns out it merely landed elsewhere.
    • Played straight in "Pug" - after a lengthy sequence where the duo attempt to find the titular dog and the MTM, it turns out the MTM was in one of the holes Calvin and Hobbes had dug, and Tug had come in the house earlier.
  • In Robo Bando every single fight is one expect for Chapter 4 and 6.
  • In Sight While at school, Ichigo senses the Grand Fisher at the Kurosaki Clinic and runs off to take care of it once and for all. Isshin kills it off-screen before Ichigo could get home. Ichigo lampshades the anticlimax, remarking that the lack of resolution has him feeling disappointed and numb.
  • A Delicate Balance: After six chapters of buildup, Twilight finally gets the nerve to ask Applejack whether or not she's willing to go out with her. Applejack's answer? "I don't know". It isn't for two more chapters that Twilight actually gets a definite response.
  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, the show's producers scrap the final episode's scheduled jury vote in an attempt to avert a major anti-climax, as they can see that one finalist has only token support at best. A winner-take-all final challenge is substituted.
  • In The World's Greatest Chunin Exam Team, Team Terumi faces a "super-powerful" team from Kiri who was hiding their abilities in order to get revenge on the Fourth Hokage for killing their parents in a border skirmish years before Naruto was born by killing his son. They boast about how they deceived their jonin-sensei and their peers, and how they are the genius users of extinct bloodlines. B... has them beat in fifteen seconds. This is lampshaded by Naruto and justified by Gaara, who points out how their deception worked against them, as because of their facade they were never given any tough missions or training. Self-training can only get you so far, causing them to lack any experience that would make them any sort of a viable threat to a team of three S-Class shinobi.
  • Tirek Gets A Righteous Beatdown: The Mane Six spend most of the story trying to open the box from the Tree of Harmony so that they can defeat Tirek, and finally do, gaining the Rainbow Power as per canon... only to find that Tirek has already suffered the titular beatdown from Crystal Champion mode Spike and is literally begging to go back to Tartarus.
  • The last shown battle in Christian Humber Reloaded is against Chaos, the forces of Chaos, the US Army and the President. Vash takes them down about as easily as most of his enemies, killing Chaos in three moves (Wind Scar -> Backlash Wave -> Hell's Warm Welcome) and the President with Hell's Warm Welcome alone.
  • Those Lacking Spines gives us the Grand Master Fangirl. The fic is all about three members of Organization XIII going through tropes and settings of bad fanfiction in order to defeat the Seme versions of the characters to restore their... you know, and by doing so, restore the Uke versions of said members. The GMF attempts to use the Semes to take over Fandom Hearts. She is defeated by none other than Fanfiction.Net's Terms of Service.
  • Robo Bando gives us Chris Chan who is hyped up to be one of Lucy's strongest insane followers only to be beaten by Robo Bando without even scoring a freaking hit on Robo Bando.
  • Anthropology: Although reaching him proves rather risky, much like in the show, Discord doesn't even try to fight back or stop Lyra when she and her new human friends use the Elements of Harmony on him, turning him into a statue with no fuss other than his screaming.
  • Friendship Contract: Tayuya, for Shikamaru and Tenten. A few seconds of teamwork does wonders.
  • Families: Olive Branch is set up as the Big Bad throughout the story... but at the climax of the story, he turns out to be a Smug Snake whose plans fall apart completely and easily. His dragon Speedy Delivery turns out to be much more of a threat.
  • Wizard Runemaster: While Sapphiron manages to overwhelm both Onyxia and Ysondre and requires Harry to use a Dangerous Forbidden Technique to defeat, Kel'thuzad is immediately destroyed by Onyxia's and Ysondre's dragon fire.
  • Zero 2: A Revision: After Shaun managed to get the upper hand against Demon and kick him out of the typhoon of fire and promptly get blasted by the entire marine army, Demon decides to throw away his clothes and unleash his full power, quickly overwhelming Shaun. Just as the Digidestined decide to join Shaun and confront Demon to an epic battle, "Piedmon" aka Myotismon decides to swoop in and kills off Demon with just a simple Soul Banishment. The entire Digidestined are appropriately shocked by this revelation.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos: Venus's death in Episode 66. Tsali and Venus had been hunting each other and battling for three decades; when Tsali finally finds and kills her, she's half-dead and completely insane thanks to Dark Tails possessing her. Tsali himself lampshades this and muses his disappointment that they couldn't have a climactic final battle.
  • Guardian has Lulu and Wakka join Father Zuke's pilgrimage after Lulu takes the step of retraining her black magic, fully intent on dying so that Yuna won't have to. But nothing much happens; the journey itself is short and uneventful, and Zuke calls it off in the Calm Lands.
  • Played for Laughs in I Am NOT Going Through Puberty Again! during the final round of the Chunin Exam Preliminaries. We get 20+ paragraphs about Karin's desire to win the fight because her crush is watching, only for her opponent to forfeit the second the match starts.
  • The Lone Traveler is a kind of multiversal fix-it man, who travels through realities trying to make things better and save people. Once his task is complete, he—involuntarily—moves on. In one trip to Babylon 5 he is incensed to find out his sole purpose was to provide cooking advice that helps make flarn taste better.
  • Crimson and Emerald: Normally in Dad for One fics such as Conversations with a Cryptid or From Muddy Waters, the revelation is usually a major reveal or major ongoing character arc. Here, Inko and Izuku find out when Inko shows All Might her wedding photos. It’s just something that Izuku and Inko have to deal with but not life-changing.
  • Legendarily Popular makes short work of the plot of each Pokémon movie, with only the fourth movie being close to a truly dramatic build-up. The Power of One, in particular, is Played for Laughs, when Lawrence captures the three Legendary Birds of Shamouti, and comes back to find that all three of them are apparently Zapdos. Turns out he actually caught a different Zapdos, plus Mew in two different disguises, with Mew having gone back and retrieved a Zorua to stand in for him while he took on the second disguise, just because he thought it would be funny.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf:
    • An In-Universe one for the Wolf: Having spent prodigious sums on magical wargear, mercenaries and weapons in preparation for killing the Night King in the name of Chaos, expecting he can reimburse the cost from whatever loot is to be found after the battle, he has nothing to show for his investment when the Night King is accidentally shattered by Arya instead.
    • Another happens when Akkarulf is dueled for command of the Silence by Gorion. The Wolf is excited to see a fight between the two about to happen, a circle of onlookers is formed... and Akkarulf concedes right away, ceding command of the ship to Gorion. He explains to a disappointed Wolf later on that Gorion is likely to get himself killed anyways, so Akkarulf just needs to wait a bit.
  • Harry Is a Dragon, and That's OK has several examples, which makes sense for a story where Voldemort is mostly a background nuisance and the focus is on life at Hogwarts.
    • In his first Quidditch game against Hufflepuff, Harry catches the Snitch in a couple of seconds. Justified by Harry having instincts for seeking out treasure and the Snitch being a ball of gold.
    • The search for Ravenclaw's lost diadem takes about 12 seconds when Dumbledore simply asks the House Elves to look for it.
    • After a year of building conflict, Dumbledore fires Dolores Umbridge with a single line at the Leaving Feast.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic Crash and Burn, Big Bad Hawk Moth is killed not in a dramatic final battle, but in a mundane car crash.
  • An In-Universe anticlimax happens in A Word for a Thousand Pictures when Midoriya's classmates show him a news article theorizing that he and Todoroki are siblings with the hope that he'll have a Freak Out of epic proportions. Not only does Midoriya barely react, he had already seen the article earlier that morning.
    Ojiro: I feel like this is getting less funny...
  • A Dragon's Roar:
    • This is how Elia feels about Jaime's duel with the Smiling Knight, seeing as it ends quite abruptly during his recounting. Jaime notes to her that, unlike in minstrels' songs where duels could take hours, actual fights usually take only minutes or even seconds.
    • The civil war ultimately ends with Rhaegar being killed offscreen by a random arrow.
  • Shadows over Meridian: The Phobos loyalists at Snowpoint feel this way about the situation when they discover that Elyon's forces have suddenly withdrawn without a showdown.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: Ash's Charizard feels this way both times he evolves during the story, due to his opponents at the time being small bugs. The first time, it happens against Lt. Surge's Joltik, and the second when he casually flicks a Weedle trying to attack him from behind without even looking. Both times he decides to make up a more exciting story about it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Tuma from BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn. Even accounting for his Badass Decay compared to his portrayal in the comics/novel/online serial, his defeat was truly pathetic, considering how the characters previously reacted to him. One of the serials at least gave retroactive justification for his weakness, showing how he got his injury that got exploited in the movie.
  • Despicable Me 2, had this big time. When the final boss, El Macho, injects himself with the serum, and becomes a huge monster, you are expected to believe that shit is going down. The fight lasts in less than a few minutes, and is defeated by something as simple as an electric shock from a lipstick compactor, followed by a fart gun shot.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the final fight between Po and Lord Shen is over in about fifteen seconds. Though this is somewhat offset by the large and appropriately climactic battle that took place just before.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:
    • A large, obviously unusual spider stalks Miles. It takes about five minutes, the tension and the music slowly ramping up, until it finally bites his hand, injecting him with its mutagenic venom and turning him into the next Spider-Man. The music then cuts out as Miles nonchalantly brushes it off. He doesn't even say "ow".
    • As Peter B., Miles, and Gwen prepare to fight Doc Ock in the Super Collider's room, an 18-wheeler immediately rams into her, never to be seen again.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler: After some fistfighting, Zigzag is defeated by having his clothes sown.
  • Trolls World Tour: The Funk Trolls get ready for an all-out battle with the Rock Trolls when they arrive, even having battle music play as the population grab their instruments and are heading off to face them... only for the Rock Trolls to cut their power, leaving them sitting ducks.
  • Wizards sets up an epic conflict between the armies of darkness and the forces of good, building up to the fight between the heroic wizard of light and his arch nemesis when the good guy pulls out a handgun and shoots the bad guy, avoiding the promised epic magical duel.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup's freedom does not come from a dramatic escape or revolt. Instead, a sympathetic figure sends a letter to his family, and they are able to send an independent witness who can identify Solomon as a free man and order his release.
  • The 47 Ronin, which is 4 hours long, is about The 47 Ronin, and their efforts to exact revenge on Lord Kira for the death of their master, Lord Asano. One might imagine that the end of the film would be the ronin getting their revenge and taking out Lord Kira. Nope. First, the attack on Lord Kira's estate and the ronin murdering Lord Kira takes place about 3/4 of the way through. Second, the attack is not even shown, being instead recounted after the fact in a letter. Third, as noted above, the film meanders for nearly an hour after the killing of Lord Kira. The ronin bring Kira's head to Asano's grave. They wait around for a while at another lord's house. After getting flowers from Lady Asano that are a signal that they will be forced to commit harakiri, the ronin proceed to—put on a variety show. (One of them dances). There's a subplot in which Mino, a character who is neither seen nor mentioned until the last half-hour of the movie, sneaks into the compound to find out if the ronin that romanced her really loved her. Then the ronin commit harakiri. Then the film ends.
  • American Mary has Ruby's husband. There is no confrontation, he and Mary don't know each other, so there is no emotional context. As for the "fight" itself, Mary gets stabbed and bites his throat out. Fight's over.
  • Batman Film Series: All of the major villains in each of the films except for Mister Freeze are physically weaker than their henchmen and not quite intelligent enough to make up for the deficiency. Particularly pathetic are the Penguin, who is defeated by a small flock of bats, and the Riddler, who is defeated instantly when his brainwave-sucking machine is blown up.
  • Bob Le Flambeur is a casino heist movie — with no heist! The gang shows up at the casino only to be met by the police, who have been tipped off. All but one of them are killed in a short firefight.
  • Every fight scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Especially the way that The Dragon and the Big Bad are killed. The Dragon practically just lets Buffy kill him, then the Big Bad shows about as much skill with a katana as a drunk sloth before he also gets killed in an anticlimactic way. While both are ostensibly played for comedy, it makes one wonder why the other slayers have been completely incapable of killing them.
  • The final battle between Selena and Claudio Perrini in Collateral Damage consists of a very short fistfight that ends with Selena getting electrocuted and Gordon throwing a firefighter's axe toward Claudio's chest.
  • In-Universe in Dangerous Moves. The world chess championship match between Liebskind and Fromm is tied at five games apiece when Liebskind has to withdraw, having suffered a heart attack. Fromm wins the championship by forfeit, with the organizers paying him a visit and handing over his winner's check.
  • At the end of Diggstown, "Honey" Roy Palmer has fought his way through nine boxers in a row, including the seemingly invincible ringer "Hammerhead" Hagan. Then it is revealed that he must now fight Menoso Torres, who is "tough as nails" and "dirty as they come" — so dirty, in fact, that when Palmer's manager Gabriel Caine orders Torres to take a fall, he immediately does so. This only partially counts, however, since Hammerhead is actually treated as the final boss until Torres's surprise appearance.
  • The Dragon in District 13: Ultimatum ticks all the boxes on the Fight Scene Buildup Checklist; Leave Him to Me!, Knuckle Cracking, Pre-Asskicking One-Liner... and is promptly finished with a single kick to the 'nads.
  • Django Unchained: One half of the Big Bad Duumvirate, Calvin Candie is shot through the chest without seeing it coming. The other half, Stephen is knee capped and left to die with a stick of dynamite. Elaborate yes, but Stephen's men don't put up a fight and Stephen is more or less a Non-Action Big Bad.
  • Downfall (2004) gives no drama or fanfare or final speech to the suicide of one of the evilest men of the 20th century. Adolf Hitler simply eats his gun offscreen during a random dinner scene, and the moment his death is announced, every single person in the bunker lights up a smoke.
  • The fight with O'Hara in Enter the Dragon. Up to that point, O'Hara has been built up as some sort of Implacable Man who has Charles Atlas Superpower-level strength and endurance (also, he was responsible for the death of Lee's sister), but Lee takes him down with just a couple of kicks.
  • In Equilibrium, the battle between Andrew Brandt and John Preston has been led up to the entire movie. In a previous training sequence, they've been shown to be an even match. Brandt dies in a Single-Stroke Battle. The Big Bad, however, puts up a much better fight.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • The Fantastic Four has Doom step into the room and start doing some Evil Gloating over his enemies, only to realize mid-sentence that they've beaten all his goons and escaped, and he's only talking to himself. He takes it surprisingly well:
      Doom: Hm.
    • Fantastic Four (2005) is often criticized for seeming like this. Dr. Doom is now a metallic being with lightning energy surging through his arms. How do the Fantastic Four stop him? Surely they would have to do something to put this power mad villain through hell. Using their all of their powers, the heroes... freeze him by turning him into a big metal statue. Movie over. Roll credits.
    • Fantastic Four movies must be cursed to have anticlimactic battles, as it happens yet again, except even worse, with Fantastic Four (2015). Thanks to a combination of Josh Trank not knowing what he was doing and the team Fox put together to replace Trank having little time to fix the mess Trank had left, the final (and only) battle in the film takes less than five minutes, and pretty much consists of Doom curb-stomping the four when they fight individually and then getting curb-stomped himself when Reed realises that teamwork would be a more effective tactic.
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare would have been a lot more climactic if Freddy hadn't just walked away from being Killed Off for Real five films in a row without so much as even a flesh wound. Of course, it was kind of Vindicated by History in the sense that they didn't continue the main franchise, but still...
  • Frog One at the very, very end of The French Connection II. This being The '70s, when Doyle catches up with the Frenchman after being humiliated and tortured for two long films, he calls out his name and shoots him. Twice. Cut to credits. It takes all of four seconds.
  • Done deliberately in Gangs of New York: the epic showdown between the Natives and the Dead Rabbits is interrupted before it can even properly begin when the New York Draft Riots (which have been simmering in the background throughout the whole movie) finally explode, and the Navy starts shelling Manhattan to quell them. Amsterdam gets to kill Bill in the end, but since the latter has already been mortally wounded by shrapnel, it's more of a Mercy Kill than anything else.
  • The Goblin King in The Hobbit. Enormous and intimidating enough to warrant a similar threat level to a troll, and he is hyped up for an epic fight with Gandalf. Glamdring ensures that the fight lasts a few seconds at most.
  • Idle Hands has a hilarious Anti-Climax ending. The plucky teen heroes are trying to save their friend from demonic sacrifice, when the Action Girl suddenly arrives and skewers the possessed hand with her magic knife. It writhes for a second then disappears in a little puff of smoke. Seth Green lampshades it, saying something like, "What, that's it? No explosions? No hellfire? No WRAAARGH? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad everyone's okay, but... that was weak!"
  • The finale of Jackie Brown tensely heats up to an imminent confrontation with Jackie and Ordell as the latter comes to take back the money she stole from him and, presumably, eliminate Jackie for the trouble. We see her practicing drawing a pistol out of the desk she sits at and trying to calm her nerves. When Ordell does enter the room, he barely has time to address her before the police suddenly come in through the back, weapons drawn, Jackie screams that Ordell has a gun and he's immediately and unceremoniously shot dead.
  • James Bond:
    • Dr. No. He gets punched. Fight over.
    • This could certainly be argued with the final stand against Auric Goldfinger. He essentially has Bond on the back foot throughout the second half of the film and comes closer to defeating him than Blofeld ever did... and it ends with him being sucked out of an aeroplane window after spending too long posturing how great he is.
    • Blofeld in the beginning of For Your Eyes Only. In previous films he was established as Bond's arch nemesis, responsible for the death of his wife and master of disguise. So how does the final confrontation between him and Bond play out? He plays RC with Bond's helicopter before Bond gets back control and promptly drops Blofeld down a smokestack. End of rivalry. This was necessary after Blofeld became off-limits due to the legal dispute between Kevin McClory and Eon Productions over the Thunderball copyright, because Disney Owns This Trope. Also note that the bald villain is never named in the movie or credits.
    • The Bond vs. Nick Nack fight at the end of the The Man with the Golden Gun. Of all the Post-Final Boss fights Bond has had, this is, by far, the easiest.
    • The start of Casino Royale (2006) has Bond on a mission to take out a Section Chief leaking MI6 secrets. The chief's contact provides one of the more intense one-on-one fights in the series, but the chief is defeated simply by having his bullets stolen by Bond before he even makes it to the office.
    • The third act of Spectre is widely regarded as the weakest portion of the movie even by its fans. A leak of the script during the Sony hacking scandal revealed that the studio executives regarded the original ending as even worse (the suppression of an important document, deemed rather boring for the plot of a Bond movie) and the film ended up having five or six writers, one of whom was Daniel Craig himself. Doesn't help that the one we ended up with — a nighttime chase in London between the hero and the leader of the resident Nebulous Evil Organisation, which culminates in the latter being captured, while the hero and his allies prevent said organization from gaining control of encrypted data files — was very similar to the finale of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, released earlier the same year.
  • The ending of Kill Bill. While there was some great dialogue between the Bride and Bill, many people were expecting a kick ass fight scene. Blink for a second, Bill is dead.
  • The Last Jedi has this multiple times as part of its Central Theme of failures, most notably with The Reveal of Rey's parentage. All the build-up and suspicion that she was part of some mythical legacy was all just fantasy on her part. Her parents were scrap-trading junkies who sold their daughter into slavery for money and ended up dead in a ditch on Jakku. No dramatic reveal, no complex plot, no justification... just a pair of scumbags who abandoned their kid. However, the next film reveals that there is more to the story.
  • In The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, the Skeleton (just a skull at this point) finally meets the monstrous Magraclop, and zooms towards it announcing "Prepare for the battle of the century!" He/it barely manages to finish saying this before the Magraclop crushes him to dust between its claws.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 2, when Rhodes brings the War Machine armor to Hammer for upgrades, Hammer installs a bunker-buster weapon he calls "The Ex-Wife" ("It takes everything!"). During the final battle with Vanko, Rhodes launches the Ex-Wife, which promptly bounces off Vanko's chest and lands sputtering on the ground. ("Hammer tech?" "Yeah...") Also, Vanko himself at the end; it takes all of two minutes to take him down with a Chekhov's Gun.
    • In Thor, after Thor recovers his powers, he winds up taking down both the Destroyer and Loki within the span of five minutes.
    • In The Avengers (2012), Loki confronts the Hulk, and begins yet another long-winded monologue about his superiority, how everyone are bugs beneath him, and how he will not be "bullied" by HULK SMASH.
      Hulk: Puny god...
    • In Iron Man 3, the Mark 42 flies in to save Tony, only to hit the side of a crane and fall apart. Subverted because Tony uses it to trap Killian, then tells Jarvis to blow it up.
      Tony: Whatever.
    • When Nick Fury appears in Captain Marvel (2019) he's yet to lose his eye and gain his iconic eyepatch, setting this movie up as the one where "the last time he trusted someone he lost an eye". It's clawed out by a cat in a bad mood when he tries to pet it.
  • The ending of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The heroes are about to storm the castle and take the holy grail... and then the budget for the movie ran out. They never shot the epic battle that was intended. Instead, everyone gets arrested.
  • Goro from Mortal Kombat: The Movie. He's set up as a major threat, but it's hard to take him seriously after Johnny Cage easily defeats him by punching him in the crotch and dropping him off a ledge.
  • Most of the plot threads in Mulholland Dr. have no conventional payoff.
  • The ending of Next (2007) reveals that half of the movie was a vision of the future where the nuclear bomb did go off. The film ends with Cris joining up with the FBI to stop the events of his vision from happening. To say audiences felt cheated by this would be an understatement.
  • No Country for Old Men: The main character gets killed offscreen, the other main character retires, the villain gets away with just a broken arm, and we never find out for sure what happens to the money.
  • This is defied in Ophelia. Having faked her death to save her own life but returned to Elsinore in disguise to save Hamlet, Ophelia pleads with her beloved to abandon his quest for vengeance and leave with her while they have a chance, stating "Not every story must end with a battle." Hamlet refuses and the story subsequently plays out much as it does in Shakespeare's tale, ending in a bloodbath that leaves nearly every named character dead.
  • The ending of the mostly mediocre and forgettable 1998 Hong Kong action film Raging Angels. Most of the movie is rather dull, with its supposed action scenes (all three of them, consisting of a thirty-second shootout and two average fistfights) being short and passes by too quickly before audiences can really savour them, but the final 6 minutes had both its Action Girl protagonists taking on the Big Bad in an intense, actually rather decent and well-choreographed fight scene... and it ends right at its peak when the police suddenly arrives and breaks up the battle by arresting everyone, cue credits.
  • The ending of the 1993 adaptation of Rising Sun sets up a great climax, as Lieutenant Smith and Captain Connor finally confront the man who murdered a high-priced call girl in an office tower. They confront the suspect, a sleazy lawyer, who manages to escape and run away. The detectives follow him, setting up either a great fight scene or a shocking twist where one of the pair dies... then the audience learns that he's been thrown into a pool of wet concrete by low-level Japanese thugs. Offscreen. It's implied that he was killed to prevent him from testifying against the company bigwigs who ordered him to commit the murder.
  • In The Running Man, it looks like there's going to be an epic final confrontation between Richards and Sven, the hulking bodyguard of the Big Bad Killian. Sven, apparently disgusted by the reveal of Killian's treachery and definitely ticked with Killian's insults to him earlier, simply walks away and leaves Killian to his fate.
  • Safe (2012), has its final conflict between Luke Wright, a One-Man Army who came out on top in the middle of a three-way war between Chinese gangsters, Russian gangsters, and a squad of Dirty Cops, versus his Evil Counterpart Adam, The Dragon for the corrupt mayor. Before a single punch can be thrown, Mei, the little girl that Wright had been protecting throughout the film, picks up Adam's gun and shoots him in the leg. Wright then quickly picks up his own gun and finishes it with a few shots to the head. Mei justifies it by pointing out that she'd seen Adam single-handedly slaughter a group of Triads and knew that if they actually fought, Wright would be in serious danger.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does this for laughs. Scott has just defeated his girlfriend's seventh and final evil ex, and it seems like all of the action is finished, until Nega-Scott shows up out of nowhere and with only the vaguest of foreshadowing. Scott and Nega-Scott get into position for an epic final battle, but the scene suddenly cuts straight to Scott and Nega-Scott leaving the building, laughing like old friends and planning to get together for brunch the following week. When pressed for details, Scott shrugs and says they have a lot in common.
  • The Sniper: Despite expectations of a violent shootout, Eddie Miller (the eponymous sniper) meekly surrenders when the police catch up with him: a pitiful figure cowering on his bedroom floor. It is a surprisingly effective ending that plays against the conventions of the Film Noir.
  • Snow Falling on Cedars: Kabuo's trial ends in one; Ishmael finds his conscience and brings to attention evidence exonerating him, and the trial simply ends, and he's freed without the matter even going to the jury.
  • The apparent "climax" of Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams is a Professional Wrestling style fight between Antonio Banderas and Mike Judge, complete with everyone else shouting advice from the sidelines. Seriously.
  • A few of the Hammer Dracula films have this problem. The worst example is probably Taste the Blood of Dracula, which ends with Dracula stumbling into a chapel by accident and collapsing to dust because of the holiness surrounding him, rather than the usual uber-violent burning or impaling scene that most of the movies opted for.
  • Ticker ends with Nettles and Glass placidly defusing two bombs whilst mumbling to each other in hushed tones, succeeding, and then strolling about in the night by what appears to be some big stadium.
  • In the best-known ending of Topaz, after two hours of intrigue and murder across the US, Cuba, and France, the villain is politely asked to leave a confidential discussion and, realizing he's exposed, leaves for the USSR without incident.
  • The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen. The final battle between Optimus Prime and the Fallen lasts about 45 seconds.
  • The Wild World of Batwoman: The "climactic" "battle" at the "end" resembles nothing so much as a hybrid of a Wimp Fight and a square dance.
  • The Silver Samurai in The Wolverine. Most complaints are about his overhyped feature in the film, yet his single fight scene dpes not last long in the climax — and he's the modern Powered Armor version, to boot.

  • 2666:
    • The big boxing match Fate was supposed to report about? It’s described plainly and barely lasts a paragraph.
    • The novel ends with Archimboldi discussing Fürst Pückler ice cream with a descendant of the inventor just before he leaves for Mexico to save Klaus.
  • Across the Nightingale Floor ended with the protagonist heroically fighting his way into the villain's inner sanctum, only to discover that he's already dead. Later, in Brilliance of the Moon, the climactic final battle is completely averted when the leader of the enemy army gets shot just as the battle is about to begin. Lian Hearn seems to be fond of this trope. It did show the Big Bad's death, and arguably the heroic fighting could be considered the climax anyhow. May count as a subversion.
  • The climax of the big fight in American Gods is anticlimactic. Shadow says a few dozen words, then everybody leaves quietly.
  • Good Omens: Just when it looks like the Apocalypse has been averted, a mighty rumble from underground signals that Crowley's boss isn't going to let this go easily. Crowley and Aziraphale arm themselves for the final battle, exchange speeches, change into their true forms, and the human characters decide to join them in the upcoming fight... then Adam waves his hand and suddenly there's no battle to be fought. Everything's back to normal now and the characters can get on with their lives! This is a deliberate form of Anti-Climax, as Adam using the supernatural powers given him by his own father to send him away and deny him even his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Ivanhoe ends with the big trial by combat to determine the fate of Rebecca. Brian DuBois-Guilbert, the invincible Templar, is facing Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the only man to have unhorsed him (but who is suffering from a crippling wound that has laid him up for most of the book so far). The horns are sounded, the horses charge, lances are leveled... and Guilbert drops dead of a heart attack. Of course, in the book it's a thinly disguised metaphor for his guilty conscience at all the evil things he's done overcoming him—he would have obliterated Ivanhoe, dooming Rebecca to an unjust death. After this, the Templars grumblingly but freely accept the verdict, allowing Rebecca and Ivanhoe to go free.
  • Oona: The buildup to Oona using the long pointy shell to grab the crown in the crevice is built up in this manner. She takes a deep breath, holds the shell out with AIM! nearby... then a tiny "Clunk!" as she gets the tiara on the shell.
  • Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. After an exciting sword/gun battle, the Protagonist, the heavily armed Mooks and cops pile onto their respective motorcycles, pickup trucks, and cop cars, and after that "it's just a chase scene." The next chapter has Hiro arriving safely at his destination.
  • The book Casino Royale has the villain Le Chiffre torture Bond, but before he can kill Bond off he is killed by a SMERSH assassin—at the end of the second act. This only seems strange after the later tradition of grand Bond vs. villain plots. The central conflict in the first novel is whether Bond will decide if being a spy is "worth" the torture, solitude, pointless involvement, etc. The (traditional) climax is actually Vesper's double-agent betrayal and suicide.
  • Lawrence Watt-Evans uses this trope very, very deliberately in The Annals of the Chosen—as usual for Watt-Evans, This Is Reality, and the death of the first book's villain is less an honorable battle than an execution. The same occurs in the third novel when Sword ambushes and kills Artil with little difficulty.
  • The Left Behind series has an anticlimax ending for the ages. The only two heroes left are dying, Carpathia's armies are storming the walls of Jerusalem, resistance is rapidly crumbling and there is no chance of turning the tide. Suddenly, Jesus! The stage is set for a titanic showdown between the Messiah and the Antichrist and his armies. Then Jesus opens up a hole in the ground leading to a fiery pit of eternal damnation and Carpathia jumps right in with a devil-may-care attitude. Presumably saying something like, "Alright, good game, guys. Time to pack it in. We had some fun the last seven years though, didn't we?" On top of this, Carpathia's Dragon jumps in right after him, plugging his nose as if jumping into a swimming pool. That doesn't compare to the biggest anticlimax of them all — the Satan vs. God battle at the end of Kingdom Come. He amasses an army larger than the one Nicolae Carpathia had a thousand years earlier, and it just gets smoked into ashes in seconds! All Satan can do is just bow in total defeat before he gets sent to the Lake of Fire.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The final battle between Harry and Voldemort: The fight is literally just Voldemort throwing one killing-curse at Harry (after Harry gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech), and Harry throwing a disarming-spell at the same time which causes said killing-curse to backfire and kill Voldemort instead.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower has dozens of storylines that almost all end in anticlimax.
    • The most notable is the fight between Roland and the Man in Black. Their conflict is resolved when the Man in Black is eaten by Mordred near the beginning of the final book. He is never mentioned again despite the fact that Roland spent the entire first book chasing him.
    • And then there is The Crimson King. After all that build-up, that's the big confrontation with the Big Bad?! A few pages of horribly written taunts and a quick erasure from reality?! The physical form that the Crimson King turns out to take doesn't exactly help. After being built up as the ultimate embodiment of evil, eclipsing even Randall Flagg, it turns out that he's actually just a doddering old man. A doddering old man whose entire final strategy against Roland amounts to hiding at the top of the Dark Tower and throwing hand grenades at him.
  • Charles Palliser's The Unburied. The solution provided by Courtine to the mystery is so elegant that it deserved to be investigated further and either proved or disproved. The whole book is an account of how an innocent man went to the gallows, sent to his family to explain what happens, but the novel itself promises a lot more in the way of an Exotic Detective story and fails to deliver. The Framing Device just feels like an afterthought, and the Romantic Plot Tumor, probably pretty irrelevant to the intended recipient of Courtine's account, is also left unresolved.
  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, just before the Universe ends, the Church of the Second Coming of the Great Prophet Zarquon excitedly greets Zarquon as he makes his prophesied appearance:
    Zarquon coughed. He peered round at the assembled gathering. The stars in his eyes twinkled uneasily. He handled the microphone with confusion.
    "Er..." he said, "hello. Er, look, I'm sorry I'm a bit late. I've had the most ghastly time, all sorts of things cropping up at the last moment."
    He seemed nervous of the expectant awed hush. He cleared his throat.
    "Er, how are we for time?" he said. "Have I just got a min—"
    And so the Universe ended.
  • In the novel version of The African Queen, the protagonists' plot to destroy the German gunboat Königin Luise fails when the eponymous river barge is sunk by a storm. Instead, the pair is captured by the Germans and — given their pathetic condition — released into the custody of their countrymen, who have already contrived to bring their own gunboats to the lake, and sink the Königin Luise on their own.
  • The poem "A Perfect Afternoon" from The D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom by Gordon Korman. The narrator talks about how he's feeling very creative today and all the wonderful things he could do. For example, he could hollow out a tree to build a kayak, carve a nearby rock into a famous sculpture, write an opera, or create a blown-glass masterpiece. Then in the last line, he reveals that he won't actually be doing any of these things because his father is making him mow the lawn instead.
  • Jaws ends with the shark dying of wounds it sustained during the battle with the heroes, and Great White Hunter Quint being pulled overboard by loose rope and drowning. The Film of the Book decides to change both of their deaths.
  • Dying of the Light is an interesting case. After a frantic chase through Challenge and the forests and the destruction of Kryne Lamiya, the main characters essentially hide out in Larteyn getting Cabin Fever while the bad guys all die off in an Enemy Civil War. However, Dirk's internal conflict is arguably the main one in the novel and that is resolved in Larteyn.
  • The Man Behind the Man in Kitty Takes a Holiday is about to attack when he sees the protection charms Ben and Kitty got from his granddaughter, realizes he can't win, and just lets them go. Arguably leads to the book being Hijacked by Ganon, since the remaining chapters are spent on the Kitty/Ben romance that drove the first third or so.
  • Just about every Redwall Big Bad whose fight is a short Curb-Stomp Battle. But the biggest one would be Slagar, who falls down a well before the protagonists can even touch him.
  • Bèbelle from Malevil. For all the talk of how dangerous and frightening he is, he gets taken down with a single shot in the night.
  • Arawn from The Chronicles of Prydain is swiftly dispatched in the last book with barely any lines and little fanfare or attention afterwards. More attention is spent on the final moments of Arawn's last victim Achren. The way he dies underscores the fact that, for all his evil and fearsome reputation, Arawn was just a man.
  • Ivar Ragnarson, Manipulative Bastard and utter sociopath, is the cause of almost all the misery in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Last Light of the Sun. Yet he's killed about three quarters of the way through, when Bern stabs him in the back mid-speech. The political ramifications of what he did, on the other hand, last far longer, and lead to the deaths of a whole lot more people, so in a way, Ivar's legacy lived on.
  • In Keys to the Kingdom, the battle with Superior Saturday is over in one page.
  • The Wheel of Time has a couple:
    • After five books worth of build-up, Sammael (a member of the Forsaken, the de facto ruler of a powerful nation, and a noted military leader and channeler in his own right) gets eaten by Mashadar after a short, not particularly spectacular fight with Rand. Word of God, however, is that the author thought Sammael was a "louse" of a character who didn't deserve a dramatic death, so this trope can be safely said to have been invoked.
    • In the last book Padan Fain/Mordeth/Shaisam, recurring villain from the first book on and all around horrifying Humanoid Abomination, thanks to running straight into Mat, who's immune to his powers from previous exposure and is therefore able to easily kill Fain's relatively frail, still mortal human body.
  • In The Chathrand Voyages, though there are much bigger villains out there, the Shaggat Ness is consistently portrayed as a seriously nasty piece of work, and one of the most hated and feared people in recent history for a reason. He's an Ax-Crazy berserker with a god complex who intends to take over the world using an Artifact of Doom and is scarily good at convincing people of his own divinity. He dies in chains, killed by a single well-placed kick to the neck by a girl barely out of her teens. However, this makes sense on several levels- not only did the heroes have much scarier things to worry about by this point, but the Shaggat was too arrogant to see death coming and make any effort to defend himself. Furthermore, the fact that she offed the most infamous monster in the world with so little fanfare- and in a way that left the body easily identifiable- cemented Neda Pathkendle's reputation in-universe as a certified badass.
  • Invoked and Played for Laughs in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Near the end of the third book, the characters begin a quest to find God's Final Message to His Creation, written in thirty-foot-high letters of flame on the side of a mountain on a distant planet, which they have been warned is guarded by "the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob." In the next book, they meet the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob—and it turns out he's a small man in a ticket booth, selling tickets to tourists wishing to see the Final Message. They pay their admission fee, and he leaves them alone.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Daenerys Targaryen's conquest of Meereen is entirely offscreen, with Dany describing it while ruling it as queen, sometime after it happened. It's notable since the city put up the most resistance to her advances among the Slaver's Bay cities. Somewhat made up by the fact that she spends the next two books dealing with the politics of the city.
    • Tywin Lannister, despite being, more-or-less, the powerful Big Bad of the first three books, gets a quick, painful, and humiliating death where he's shot in the groin and dies on the toilet.
    • The reveal of Joffrey being the one who hired the catspaw to kill Bran near the same point in time as the death above. This reveal comes two books after it was mostly relevant and the two characters most interested in solving the mystery Ned and Catelyn as well as the culprit responsible are dead, involves some very specific and bizarre motivation, and the reveal itself comes as a "by the way" conversation from two characters who aren't terribly interested in the matter at this point.
  • In Clariel, the prequel to The Old Kingdom, Guildmaster Kilp and his son Aronzo are the main villains for most of the book. In the end, though, the Free Magic-powered Clariel finishes both men off in less than a page of fight scene only to face her real challenge when her bound Free Magic spirits decide now is a great time to turn on her.
  • Transformers: Exiles ends with the Star Seekers, space pirates who hate Cybertronians, capturing Wreck-Gar and a group of Junkions, taking the powerful Requiem Blaster for themselves and being joined by Axer, who has intimate knowledge about the Autobots and Decepticons. In the sequel, Transformers: Retribution, before the main plot even begins the Star Seekers confront Megatron and his ship of Decepticons. However, using the Requiem Blaster causes their ship to quickly lose power and results in them being easily routed by the Decepticons and they don't show up again for the rest of the novel. Furthermore, Wreck-Gar and his Junkions are able to escape in the chaos of the battle while Axer tries to rejoin the Decepticons, only for Megatron to order that he be tortured and executed as a traitor.
  • "Insert Knob A in Hole B" is a build-up to a Science Fiction resolution to the elimination of unclear assembly instructions. The solution created by the best engineers on Earth is... an unassembled robot with unclear assembly instructions.
  • In the short story "A Model Life", James believes he and his wife Alexis are in danger and insists they leave the model. Their car is surrounded...and then it turns out there was no model, and that it was all an elaborate scheme to get James to realize he needs therapy.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The Ideals of the Knights Radiant are ancient, supernatural oaths that bind a Surgebinder to their Order; while the exact wording varies from person to person, they all center around the purpose of their specific Order. When a Radiant successfully swears a new Ideal, it's a Next Tier Power-Up that comes with a Level-Up Fill-Up. So it is, of course, extremely useful in the middle of a battle. A Running Gag is Lopen, a Windrunner, failing to speak the Words in battle... only to accidentally swear them after.
    Lopen: Storm me! You did it again? I almost died out there, and you accept the Words now?
    Stormfather: IT IS THE RIGHT TIME.
    Lopen: Where's the drama? The sense of timing? You're terrible at this, penhito!
  • The Twilight Saga:
    • We never see the Cullens' fight against James, because Bella, having been wounded by James biting her, blacks out midway through and wakes up at the hospital, where she learns the aftermath of the fight.
    • Breaking Dawn ends with this. After spending half of the book setting up the combatants for a confrontation with the Volturi, the problem with Bella's child ends up being resolved through talking, after which the Volturi elect to leave the Cullens in peace. The only kill count is the vampire who instigated the conflict in the first place, and she is executed without resistance.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Amazing Race has had this happen four times:
    • The Season 1 finale's final fifteen minutes were mostly filler, as the top two teams got on two different trains, fifteen minutes apart, to the Finish Line, while Joe & Bill were still stuck in Alaska.
    • Despite being one of the more memorable seasons overall, Season 17 had an Anti-Climax over the last few episodes. Nick and Vicki wound up so far behind due to a six hour penalty that there was pretty much no suspense that the final three would be anybody but Brook & Claire, Jill & Thomas, and Nat & Kat. Then in the final leg, Jill & Thomas get lost halfway through the episode, while Nat & Kat so thoroughly dominate the final leg, it became pretty obvious that they were the season's winners.
    • They suffered from this in the last episode of Season 19. Of the three teams who arrived in Atlanta on the same flight, third-place Amani and Marcus effectively eliminated themselves immediately by taking far too long on the first task. Jeremy and Sandy suffered from a miscommunication with a local who inadvertently directed them to the suburbs instead of the correct destination downtown. As a result winners Ernie and Cindy had an enormous lead by the midpoint of the episode, completing the last task and leaving for the Finish Line before Jeremy and Sandy even arrived to start the last task. This robbed the finish of all suspense.
    • Season 22, Bates & Anthony got so far ahead they did not see another team after the midpoint of the episode.
  • Typical problem in the championship rounds of robot-fighting shows, specifically BattleBots. Tournament rankings are such that the most favored to win will only meet late in the tournament... when the overall damage of fight after fight after fight severely limits their awesomeness.
  • In Season 3 of The Boys (2019), Homelander finally shows up for his dramatic showdown with Soldier Boy, and gets smacked around in a 1v3 with him, Butcher, and Hughie. Right when the three have him pinned down and Soldier Boy's charging a blast that could've potentially killed everyone in the room, Homelander gets a Villainous Second Wind and uses it to overpower them all & escape.
  • Done on purpose a couple of times in Cobra Kai:
    • When Daniel's seedy cousin Louie and some biker punks torch Johnny's car to retaliate for the duo's feud. That episode ends with Johnny riding off on a motorcycle to confront Daniel, seemingly once and for all, with the teaser for the next episode showing them ready to have their big fight. While it almost escalates to that, Amanda who has been the voice of reason this entire time and is thoroughly fed up with how Daniel has been acting lately and has no interest in an immature thuggish fistfight breaks up the fight and has them talk it out over breakfast instead— since Johnny is making an earnest effort to try and put their past behind them at this point and Daniel admits the guy was genuinely wronged by Louie, it works:
      Amanda: Yeah, you two seem to have this well in hand, just a normal Saturday afternoon, a couple of grown men about to kick each other into a pool? You know, as much as I would love to watch you and your childhood karate rival duke it out, I kind of don't want to get any blood on the patio. So what do you say we try and resolve this over some breakfast instead?
      Daniel: You wanna go inside?
      Johnny: I could eat.
    • Later, when Hawk and a couple of students trash Daniel's dojo, vandalize his car, and even steal Mr. Miyagi's medal, the fight is on. Daniel is enraged, pushed to his limit, goes straight to Johnny's dojo, stares the man down, and tells him in no uncertain terms it's time to settle this and throw the first punch. Any other day Johnny would have been on that like a dog on a side of bacon, but as luck would have it earlier that day he'd gotten some sage advice from Miguel's mother who told him from personal experience that a rivalry will only end in pain and suffering, the "victory" will never be worth it, and the only way to move past it is to just let it go. Johnny takes this to heart and matter-of-factly tells Daniel he's going to be the bigger man and refuses to fight, leaving Daniel who will never use his karate for anything other than self-defense or protection with no option but to storm out of his dojo.
  • Denshi Sentai Denziman: Since his introduction, Banriki has been build up to be this fearsome, powerful warrior who is more than a match for the heroes. In the final episode, Banriki battles Hedrian for like a second and ends up blinded, unable to fight. Come the Denzimen and they one-shot him with the Denzi Boomerang. Hedrian fairs no better. She simply escapes.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The end of "Last of the Time Lords" shows a mysterious hand with red nail varnish picking up the Master's ring, accompanied by a sinister female laugh. Fans went into overdrive speculating who it could be, most suspecting the Rani, a fellow renegade Time Lord (or Time Lady). It was finally re-visited two whole years later, and the character turned out to be someone we had never seen before, and who died moments after her introduction. (Still, at least nobody guessed her identity, for obvious reasons.)
    • The ending to The Key to Time Saga is an infamous example. The Doctor finally obtains the eponymous MacGuffin that he spent an entire season seeking and...scatters it across the universe again.
  • Savvily averted in Frasier. The writers intended for Maris to stop being She Who Must Not Be Seen and/or She Who Must Not Be Heard at some point in the series, but after realizing that the character they had built up was so outlandish and monstrous that no writer or actress could do her justice and would just end up as a big letdown for the audience, they decided to keep her offscreen to the end instead.
  • Heroes:
    • The final battle in the first season. Over half a season was spent teasing the audience for an epic showdown between the lead villain, Sylar, and main character Peter Petrelli. In every case leading up to the finale, the writers either ended the interaction between Sylar and Peter suddenly (during their second altercation, Peter is stabbed in the head after a few seconds) or takes place offscreen (as seen in "Five Years Gone"). The NBC promos hyped it to no end. A lot was riding on the epic showdown at Kirby Plaza.... until it happened. Everyone took turns whaling on Sylar (including Nikki/Jessica, who beats on Sylar with a parking meter). The fight ends with Hiro teleporting in, with his sword stuck out in front of him, landing the final blow. Sylar and Peter had a complete assortment of powers at their disposal, and never used them. A complete letdown.note 
    • Still better than the season 3 finale, in which the over-hyped battle between Peter and Nathan vs. Sylar takes place behind closed doors and all you see is Claire's eye! note 
  • Holey Moley did this for humor, spending all of season 2 hyping up the final championship hole, The Tomb of Nefer Tee-Tee, as an epic masterpiece, only for the hosts to be taken aback when it's revealed to be... a more or less standard hole with an Egyptian theme that doesn't really have anything to set it apart from any other hole except for being the final one.
  • Horrible Histories draws humor from this in Bobby Leach's Stupid Death. Leach was a Victorian stunt man who went over the Niagra Falls in a barrel and swam the rapids three times. In each case Death guesses this is what killed him but Leach points out he was rescued on all occasions. His stupid death? Slipping on an orange peel and dying of gangrene.
  • In Power Rangers Time Force, Ransik's entire army has been destroyed, his last giant robot has been destroyed, and the rangers move to face him. He blows them away, then goes after the last standing member Jen. So how does the series end? Not in a hopeless and brave final battle between the wounded rangers and Ransik, but when Ransik realizes he almost killed his daughter, and surrenders to the rangers. On the flip side though, Linkara commented that it's "rather anticlimactic for this whole big series, but I give it points for being something other than just a big battle." And lord knows, we always get those in Power Rangers.
  • An in-universe example from an episode of Lucifer. The writer of a popular YA sci-fi series is killed before she can finish the final book, which she's struggled with for five years. After various twists, Lucifer and Chloe discover the author had decided that, instead of an epic huge battle with multiple deaths, she wanted a "grounded, peaceful ending of people finally understanding one another." Her editor was utterly horrified that this wasn't the wild finale he'd been promised and "boring." He's convinced that the book would bomb and readers hate it and when she refused to use the "good" version a fanfic writer submitted, he killed her. He even defends destroying the manuscript as "no one could read that pathetic joke of an ending!"
  • Power Rangers Megaforce ends with the hilariously short legend war, and after it's over, no epilogue. The rangers run off in the distance. And unlike the other Neo-Saban seasons, there is no follow-up holiday special. We never see anyone besides Gia again.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Season six ends with Sabrina falling under the same heartbreak curse that she had just saved Hilda from, which turns witches to stone and shatters them. This gets gets resolved in the first minute of season seven, before the opening credits even, by Zelda restoring Sabrina by sacrificing her age and reverting into a child, and the episode goes on with Sabrina barely acknowledging that her aunts are no longer in her life.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Twisted", the Negative Space Wedgie that is warping the ship and everything and on it (and incapacitating the crew) is really a bunch of aliens trying to say "hello." And there is no harm done and no reference to these events ever again.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Sacrifice of Angels", the heroes have been defeated and a fleet of enemy warships is about to come through a wormhole. Sisko appeals to a group of godlike beings who inhabit the wormhole, and the enemy ships mysteriously vanish. The end of the war is one too. The fighting is bitter, the Dominion refuse to admit defeat...and then Odo comes down, performs a "link" with the female founder, and boom, the war is over.
  • The finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, a series which had been building towards the founding of the Federation throughout its run, is really just a Holodeck program being run by Riker in-between scenes of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Pegasus" and splits its focus between Riker's conflict in that episode and a relatively minor sub-plot in the Enterprise timeframe. Viewers never even get to see the legendary speech that Archer gave which was played up by the characters. Made worse by the fact that for many years, this was the last episode of a Star Trek television series. Meaning that this was not only the end of 18 continuous years of Star Trek TV series, but also 19 years of Star Trek productions that started with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger often has anticlimactic endings to episodes, and in many ways the final episode itself was. Many villains are built up to be very sinister and frightening, only to be beaten with a punch or two. One villain was even defeated off screen, only referenced with a throw away line. The final episode tried to build up the villains' evil by having them kill off a few characters (only one of those characters was a main character, and it was a retcon anyway, as he had been dead for most of the season,) but the parallel story being told about Hayes Cooper not only made the main story quite short, the villains still didn't have anywhere near the setup many other recurring, multi-part episode, or even some one-time villains did. After the dream episode in which Trivette and Walker are killed before the cavalry arrives to presumably end the threat, a biker gang isn't very epic for a final episode.
  • The West Wing brilliantly subverts its tendencies for its characters to go on epic speeches in "Gone Quiet".
    CJ: Can you answer it?
    President Bartlet: "Why do I want to be President?" [sighs] I've been thinking about it for a couple of hours. I almost had it.
    [CJ stares blankly; episode ends]
  • A few seasons of Survivor have had an anti-climax:
    • Palau: When Ian was voted out, it seemed pretty obvious that Tom had that season in the bag.
    • Exile Island - The two obvious winners (Terry and Cirie) finished third and fourth, respectively, leaving us with a final two of Aras and Danielle. This is a more subjective example - as the season wouldn't have been as predictable if the final two consisted of Terry or Cirie and one of the other two.
    • Redemption Island - About halfway through the season, it becomes practically a "Shaggy Dog" Story that Rob has the game in the bag because everyone else is too stupid to vote him out.
    • One World - About the time Toryzan is voted out, you can pretty much guess that Kim's going to win. The final episode was pretty much an Anti-Climax, since anyone can guess that Alicia and Christina are going out next, with only a legitimately interesting final immunity challenge and Christina's Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass moment to carry the episode.
  • Mythbusters:
    • The series tried to redo the JATO rocket myth, having a huge build up (both literally and thematically) till the rocket car was slowly approaching the ramp... at which point it just blew up on the ramp. The looks on everyones faces was so deliciously tragic.
    • Season 10 starts with another attempt at the rocket car. This time we get a result! The first car rolls after hitting the bump, the second car goes about 70 feet before hitting the ground and spiraling.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
  • The first two seasons of Longmire built up the fact that Walt would have to fight for reelection as sheriff against his younger, slicker and more political deputy Branch Connally. The election day finally arrives, both men give their final speeches and then Cady is in a serious car accident and both men forget all about the election to rush to her side. We only find out that Longmire won when the other candidate is told that he forgot to give his concession speech. The election is barely mentioned after that as the real climax of the second season begins.
  • Charmed:
    • The Season 5 finale features the Titans getting released after years of imprisonment. They're able to turn Paige to stone, kill most of the Elders and Leo has to give the sisters powers of Greek Gods to stop them. They're easily beaten by Piper in one fight scene - and the last ten minutes of the episode instead focus on Piper having to deal with Leo becoming an Elder.
    • Subverted in "Charmed and Dangerous". The episode opens with a big battle with the Source of All Evil - the Big Bad of the show. After trapping him in a crystal circle, he dies when one of his own fireballs is deflected onto him. However this turns out to be just a vision of the Seer's - and the eventual battle is a bit longer.
  • Smallville:
    • After Darkseid was being built up for all of the final season as the ultimate unstoppable personification of evil, he goes down fairly quickly. His Unholy Trinity (Godfrey, Desaad, Granny Goodness) also go down easily to Green Arrow, from one arrow each.
    • Doomsday from Season Eight, though at least his encounter with Clark can legitimately be called a "fight." Once again, after building up the tension in previous episodes that season, and constantly stressing how Clark could die, The battle was 3 or 4 minutes, mostly off screen and Clark was just fine afterwards. Having arguably the two most powerful Superman villains taken down so quickly is part of why the later seasons aren't looked upon so well.
  • Season 3 of The Shield had Margos Dezerian, a ruthless assassin for the Armenian mob sent to wipe out the Strike Team, who after being built up as a ruthless psychopathic badass is dispatched rather easily at point blank range in a hallway by Vic Mackey.
  • Isaak Sirko in the Season 7 of Dexter. A mafia boss, physically strong, charming, deadly, a perfect Big Bad. Except he is neither this Season's Big Bad or climax Boss. He gets killed by an enemy gang after spending half of the season chasing Dexter (who killed his lover) and then befriending him.
  • Stranger Things: The first season ends with Eleven using her telekinetic powers almost to the point of death then seemingly sacrificing herself to destroy the Demogorgon, but with a hint that she somehow survived. What happened? Well she woke up just fine in the Upside-Down shortly after her apparent death, walked down the hall, and found a portal back. Then she went through it. If she hadn't decided to stay away to avoid the government agents looking for her they'd have barely noticed she'd gone.
  • Game of Thrones: At the end of season 5, Jon Snow was killed by his fellows at the Night's Watch, as happens in the books. This caused a media sensation, with everyone wondering whether he was really Killed Off for Real, as in the book it's implied that he will remain alive, but that particular cliffhanger hasn't been resolved yet. He remains dead for the first few episodes of season 6, but is then resurrected via a simple-seeming spell and shrugs off being dead as not a big deal.
    • In an earlier season, Yara learns that her brother is being tortured by Ramsay, and sets off at the end of the season, set to stirring music, to bring a fleet to come to his rescue. Come the next season, her 'fleet' arrives (now just one small boat), and they attack Ramsay's castle. But far from hardened Ironborn warriors, they barely manage to even hold their own against the castle's dogs - and then, comedically, Ramsay comes out not just without armor, but entirely bare-chested, and somehow still manages to fight them off. Yara manages to make her way to Theon, but he's too brainwashed and traumatised to follow her willingly. So, she... just gives up and they all go home. Far from the daring rescue implied previously.
    • The Season 7 finale shows Theon and his men planning to save Yara from Euron's clutches. You'd expect a big fight against Euron and his fleet...and then the Season 8 premiere shows Theon's crew easily killing all the guards and getting Yara off the ship she's on. The whole thing takes about a minute, tops.
    • The massive battle against the White Walkers ends with Arya jumping at the Night King practically from out of nowhere and killing him with one stab from her Valaryan steel dagger. And when he dies, the rest of his army soon follows.
    • Since Season 4, the Golden Company were hyped as a hardened, well-trained private army of sellswords over 20,000 strong. When we finally see them in a real battle, there's only around a few hundred soldiers actually present...all of whom stand around doing nothing for two minutes straight before they're unceremoniously incinerated by Drogon. Their commander, Harry Strickland (who is one of only two survivors), doesn't even have the dignity of going down fighting, instead opting to futilely run from Daenarys' army before getting speared in the back by Grey Worm.
    • The rest of the Lannister's forces fare no better. Their main army and the Iron Fleet are completely decimated without ever getting the chance to do anything remotely meaningful against Dany and Drogon, with the Scorpion balistas that were specifically designed for combating dragons missing every shot fired at the two.note  The only allies of Cersei who actually put up a fight against their enemies were Euron (who manages to critically injure Jamie before getting ran through by his sword) and Gregor (who is shown to be such an unstoppable juggernaut that Sandor has to tackle him down to the fires below and die in the process to kill him). It's not uncommon for fans to point out that Gregor was harder to kill than the Night King.
  • The Good Doctor leaves episode Quarantine: Part 1 on a series of massive cliffhangers (Lim is passed out with a deadly disease, Shaun is having a mental breakdown, Park's son is collapsing in a coughing fit, Glassman's cancer is back) that promise to majorly change the cast and structure of the series. Quarantine: Part 2 resolves every single one of the problems in increasingly unbelievable ways, leaving none of the problems standing.
  • Wu Assassins: In the final episode, Kai finds himself confronted by the Wood (McCullough), Metal and Water Wu, while Lu Xin and Tommy are unable to help him, CG is possessed by the Metal Wu, but Kai does have Jenny, who holds the powers of the Fire Wu. It seems a final large battle with all the Wu's is set up, but then Kai tries to give himself an extra edge by giving Tommy the powers of the Earth Wu. This in turn transports everybody to the Dao, where al the Wu Pieces leave their hosts, stripping the Wu's of their powers and rendering them easy targets for the heroes. McCullough is subsequently defeated in a short struggle with Kai that doesn't involve either of them using their supernatural powers.
  • Eurovision Song Contest: One of the most memorable parts of the show is every participating country calling the hosts and announcing their votes. This however meant that, more often than not, the winner could be determined before the end of the sequence if there weren't enough available points to cover the gap with the other contestants. Averted starting from 2016: only the jury points are now announced by the countries and the televote points are instead given in aggregates to each entry, to maintain suspense until the last second.

  • Played with to a ridiculous extent by Five Iron Frenzy at their final live show. In the middle of the show, Reese Roper went into a long monologue about how he hated the practice of bands saving their best song for the encore, then announced instead that FIF would play the best song they ever wrote, right then in the middle of the show. It would be all downhill after that, and the fans could all go home early. And then "the best song they ever wrote" turned out to be this.
  • The old Swedish pop song Balladen om det stora slagsmalet pa Tegelbacken. (The title means "The ballad of the huge fight at Tegelbacken.") It tells the story about two gangs of young hoodlums from Stockholm, who meet in the middle of the city to have a huge fight. The two gangs spend four hours standing there, yelling at each other and waving their fists. Then, after four hours of nobody having the guts to actually start fighting, everybody turns around and goes home again.
  • In "The Battle of Epping Forest" by Genesis, there is an epic battle between rival gangs, but at the end of it everybody's dead except the rival bosses, so they just toss a coin to settle it. Played for Laughs, more or less.
  • Classic metal song "Stargazer" by Rainbow plays this in unexpectedly comical manner: First 5 minutes of song is massive build up towards the climax, where The Wizard climbs on top of his finally finished tower and steps in the air to fly... And falls straight down crushing dead in the dirt. Nevertheless, the music remains awesome.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Subverted at ROH Nowhere To Run in 2005 when Roderick Strong set up Jack Evans for an elevated double stomp on former Generation Next leader Alex Shelley only for Evans to completely miss Shelley and scream "Chicago isn't worth it!" Instead of getting the easy cover they expected the last minute pairing of Shelley and Delirious started to gain the advantage, causing Evans to come off of Strong with the stomp without hesitation at the next opportunity.
  • KENTA was known for his aerial offense early in his Pro Wrestling NOAH career, which makes sense considering his "learning trips" tended to be to South American promotions, but after being pushed into the heavyweight division (in spite of hardly qualifying as one) he became known for making impressive leaps at his opponents...only to land next to them and deliver offhand kicks.
  • Definitely an example of writing themselves into a corner, the "Fake Kane" storyline ended by the real Kane beating up his impostor, de-masking him, and just throwing him out of the building. Mind you, this is after Kane lost to the fake Kane in a match but the reaction was so overwhelmingly negative, WWE just decided to burn the whole thing down as quickly as possible. No one ever found out who was under the masknote , where it was supposed to go, or why the fake Kane had even appeared. He posed a legitimate threat to the real deal since he had successfully beaten him but he was disposed of in unceremonious fashion regardless.
  • In 1992, Jake Roberts came to WCW and targeted Sting, so they were booked to face each other in an "Unsanctioned" match at that year's Halloween Havoc which would have a stipulation chosen by a spinning wheel. Over the next few weeks on WCW Saturday Night and the other shows, this match was hyped over how dangerous it was, with special attention paid to the "Spinner's Choice" option and wondering what match the sadistic Roberts would come up with if that were chosen. Then, come the event and it ended up...a Coal Miner's Glove match, the lamest of the choices. note  Sure, the match did see Jake get bit in the face by his own cobra but that had to be one of the most unsatisfying ends to a feud ever.

  • The Goon Show:
    • Lampshaded and Played for Laughs in "The Childe Harolde Rewarde". A long sound effect of approaching footsteps is followed by Eccles saying "Um... I'm de anti-climax".
    • Several episodes end rather anti-climactically. Spike Milligan allegedly just wasn't very good at writing endings.note  In "The Africa Ship Canal" this is lampshaded by the sound of an angry audience advancing menacingly toward the stage.
    • Individual gags would also frequently use this.
      Seagoon: Suddenly...
      Long dramatic Sting
      Seagoon: ...nothing happened. But it happened suddenly, mark you!
  • The Lone Ranger: The Legion of the Black Arrow is an epic-length story arc that took months to tell. At the end of that, there are five top men still at large who were involved and have to pay for their part in the conspiracy to overthrow the US Government in the West. The problem is, the evidence linking them to the Black Arrow was destroyed, so they have to be caught for other illegal activities. The Lone Ranger and Tonto get four of them after four or five episode story arcs for each man in which they struggle to find evidence on which to convict and jail them for something. So audiences might have expected the final boss to be the biggest challenge of all. No, he's forgotten for a few weeks, and then finally captured in a single episode in a very low-key way.

  • The Book of Mormon: Nephi sees a vision of the future, first of his descendants, then the "many nations and kingdoms" of the Gentiles, then the last days, when both the church of God and the church of the devil will fill the earth and wars will break out everywhere — at which point he's instructed not to write the rest of his vision, because that is the apostle John's job.


    Theme Parks 
  • When Kings Island built Mystic Timbers in 2017, their marketing campaign for the ride revolved around its finale element in an enclosed shed after the brake run. It seemed like something big is going to happen in the shed, which amounts of three random projections.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate III: Should you have Gale in your party when you confront Ketheric Thorm and the Absolute, he will use this opportunity to blow himself up if the player doesn't talk him out of it, taking the party, the Absolute, and the Chosen with him. The game ends right there and then without any fanfare.
  • Bug Fables: A sidequest involves needing to fix a few robots in the Hive Factory after they malfunctioned. They're set up as minibosses, having defense that reduces most attacks to Scratch Damage... except they cannot attack at all. As they are simple fixer robots never built for combat, they only spend their turns saying error messages, allowing the party to freely attack them. When the quest is over, Team Snakemouth lampshade that it felt disappointingly easy.
  • The Communitree: In Giftcode Hunter, you can leave the room once you get a 1e12 multiplier. When you do so, the game just goes "ok, i'm not going to do anymore of this" and grants you a 1,000,000 multiplier to end it quickly.
  • In Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, it's possible to end the expansion's main storyline prematurely on two separate occasions:
  • Firewatch has creepy events taking place in a national park with the protagonist trying to get to the bottom of them. It turns out that the stalker was just a grieving father whose son died in a caving accident, and was trying to scare people away from the body, and none of the game's choices will impact the ending either which has caused a rift on forums discussing the game.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer'' has a staggeringly bad example of this for good-aligned characters. Throughout the entire campaign, you are told about how the Wall of the Faithless represents everything that is pointlessly cruel in the Gods' grand design. Slowly but surely you go about an epic quest to cast down the wall and rescue the tortured souls trapped within, culminating in an assault on the realm of the dead itself. Upon tearing apart the God of the Dead's city and making your way to the wall, the God of the Dead himself appears before you... and reveals you only got that far because he secretly pitied you. What's more, he's decided you've done enough damage and won't let you destroy the wall, despite admitting how evil its existence is and he just says But Thou Must! and sends you away. There is absolutely nothing you can do to stop him. Intervention on the part of Wizards of the Coast also meant that no major canon-altering changes could be present in the end-game, even if the canon is poorly thought out in this respect (discussion of the Wall in most fora is basically Flame Bait). The only way to fight him would be to take the ultra-evil ending where you become a world-devouring monstrosity. You may be evil but you actually get a good ending!
  • Deliberately invoked in Dark Souls III's "Link the Fire" ending: Much of the game details the fact that though the first linkings of the First Flame gave birth to eras of prosperity, each linking made each subsequent Age of Fire ever weaker and darker, to the point that by the time the Ashen One sets out to link the flame, all the souls in the world can no longer fuel the fire. So if you choose, despite all of this, to still link the fire once more, you're treated to seeing an ending in which the First Flame covers the Ashen One and then... nothing more... No World-Healing Wave like in the first game, just the Ashen One sitting down by the fire in the dark world as the screen fades to black. The implication is that you're only pointlessly delaying the inevitable, and your Heroic Sacrifice is a completely futile effort.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • DmC: Devil May Cry: A humorous moment where Kat warns you that you'll need to get through "five floors of hell" while ascending an office building. How do you do it? Walk into the elevator. The electronic display will then read a few random numbers, and then switch back-and-forth between the third and fourth floors above your starting position. All while elevator music is playing.
      Dante: ...She was right. This is hell.
    • Devil May Cry 5:
      • The secret ending. If you beat Urizen in the prologue, the game just ends there. No revelations, no more crazy action fights, no anything. The game will even tease you about it.
        Card: Indeed, this was the perfect conclusion all had hoped for.
      • If you do the aforementioned secret ending in Vergil Mode, there's another version of it.
        Card: Usurper slain, an empty throne the crown lies covered in blood. Power is its own reward and we have just begun. So grab your blade, the time has come we only have each other.
  • The GBC Video Game Remake of Dragon Quest III when you finally get all of the medals from all of the monsters, the Grandragon, the ultimate critter.... falls asleep.
  • The Scout Tournament in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker. You face three adversaries, one stronger than the other, and eventually face off your rival in a fight that made itself wait for the whole game up to there...and she gets disqualified for hitting your monster... victory is yours, no sweat broken.
  • Fable II. The hero spends a great deal of time gathering other heroes and preparing to defeat Lucian. When the player expects a final battle of epic proportions, Lucian is defeated simply by holding the A button and letting a magical music box kill him, and then pressing either B, X, or Y to finish him off with a single hit. (Or not, and letting Reaver shoot him instead)
  • Cave Story: This can happen in the first fight with Balrog. When he asks you if you want to fight him with "that pea shooter of yours", one would think you would have to say "yes", but if you say no, he just leaves.
  • Fallout 3 (just the game itself, not the expansion packs) does this in spades. The final mission (where you have to reclaim Project Purity) starts with a glorified escort mission, where you stay behind a giant robot as it guns down Enclave soldiers outside the Jefferson Memorial. The game then becomes a joke, as you find yourself facing a final boss (Colonel Autumn) who can either be put down in just a couple of hits, or persuaded (if your speech skills are high enough) to stop what he's doing. The entire game wraps up with a But Thou Must!-style decision, wherein you have to decide whether to kill yourself in a radiation-soaked control room or have your partner sacrifice herself for you. Despite the fact that you have multiple companions immune to radiation, you can't use them (one explains that it's "your destiny") unless you have the Broken Steel DLC. The game finishes with a 60-second cut scene that doesn't explain very much about what happened, and if you really want to know more, you'll have to buy Broken Steel. To add insult to injury, Broken Steel retcons your Heroic Sacrifice into severe radiation poisoning that causes a short term coma instead of death. Sending your partner in, on the other hand, will actually result in her death. Additionally, Broken Steel allows you to send in the radiation-immune companions, but the resulting cutscene still calls you a coward for doing the smart thing.
  • Spore: Steve, the Precursor who lives at the center of the galaxy, after an impressive-looking intro, turns out to be a cute Flying Saucer with a squeaky voice.
  • The Halloween Hack pulls this off in a frustratingly well-done manner. After spending a large chunk of the game in the hellish Magicant of the insane Dr. Andonuts and finally facing off with him, you suddenly snap back awake in his lab to find the recently deceased man sitting before you. Completely unfazed, you return home to go make out with hot chicks and get drunk. You're a bounty hunter, after all.
  • F.E.A.R. actually subverts this when you encounter Paxton Fettel. The confrontation ends with you putting a bullet in his head, and then that's it. No huge boss fight, no giant final battle, nothing particularly....wait, what's that that Harlan Wade.....what's he doi- OH SHIT ALMA'S LOOSE!
  • Pokémon has the series' famous Gotta Catch Them All goal. Achieving it nets you... a certificate.
  • In two of the final missions of Supreme Commander, you get fire control over Black Sun at the end. Literally, a button appears on the interface saying "Fire Black Sun: End the Infinite War". Clicking it causes you to win. By this point, it should be noted, you've already wiped out all the enemies on the map.
  • The manga adaptation of Kingdom Hearts pulls this full force at the end of the run. In the game's penultimate level, you fight Riku, Maleficent, Dragon!Maleficent, and Ansem!Riku, then you move on to the final level and fight Ansem, Darkside, Ansem again, then Ansem aboard his battleship. The manga adaptation of the game has absolutely none of these fights: Riku runs from the first fight, then he kills Maleficent himself, the possessed Riku then hands Sora the dark Keyblade so Sora can release his heart, and once they track down Ansem, he gives his speech, unveils his huge battleship, and is then destroyed by the light of Kingdom Hearts without Sora and friends doing a damn thing. The game had a total of eight boss fights in its final two levels and the manga skips all of them—so not only is the manga an anti-climax, it's a lot worse for anyone who played the game first and was expecting some epic fight scenes. This is a problem with the manga in general. If boss battles appear at all, they tend to be really lame Single Stroke Battles.
  • In Yo-Jin-Bo, if you are paired up with them, Jin and Muneshige will get in a fight. Then Kasumimaru will show up and interrupt them before a real victor is decided. Presumably, this is to keep the player from knowing who is the better fighter (and thus being persuaded by it). Additionally, the Big Bad of the story is only confronted and defeated in the Good endings; in most of the Bad and Forgotten Dream endings, he's still at large at the end, although there is one instance in which he's simply captured and imprisoned offscreen.
  • In The Ball, after the protagonist braves a myriad of deadly traps, fights off hordes of mummies and a handful of gigantic, vicious monsters, and explores a massive, terrifying, practically Lovecraftian factory at the center of a volcano, the aliens take their ball and go home. This is not a metaphor.
  • In World of Warcraft, the goblin starter story. At the end when you and Thrall finally defeat Trade Prince Gallywix, who has so far screwed you out of your life savings, tried to enslave you, successfully enslaved your friends and committed various other atrocities, you stand there intending to lay down some righteous retribution, right? Nope, Thrall has other plans for him, like letting him remain the trade prince without any real repercussions for what he's done.
  • In the Super NES version of Shadowrun, after a boss battle with The Dragon, the final dungeon essentially consists of several floors of enemies before a hacking sequence as the final playable part. Jake then guns down the Big Bad and his two bodyguards in a cutscene.
  • The climax of Left Alone is this. Instead of Joel being killed by the murderer or saving his friends, he finds an underground lair where a Government Conspiracy is kept.
  • Peasant's Quest involves you to try and defeat the evil Trogdor the Burninator from destroying Peasantry. When you get to Trogdor's cave, he's huge. You throw a sword, he wakes up from his sleep, explains that he's "kinda invincible", and burninates you. The game then congratulates you, saying "You didn't defeat Trogdor, but you got closer than anyone else! You win!"
  • Shin Super Robot Wars: After the final scenario, Ryuusei speaks for you all when he hopes that this really was the end, and that you're not going to hear the beep of another message calling you to battle. You do in fact hear a beeping, but it's just Watta's watch telling you all that it's time for tea. Ryuusei gives him a mostly good natured clunk on the head, which Watta's butler finally responds to in kind on Ryuusei's noggin.
  • Invoked in the "Sir Hammerlock" DLC for Borderlands 2, having finally fought your way through hordes of savages to Professor Nakayama's hideout and defeating the Mad Scientist's ultimate creation, Nakayama himself emerges, and trips, falls down a flight of stairs, and dies without ever fighting you. At least you get to loot his lab afterwards.
  • In the "Heaven's Feel" route of Fate/stay night, Shirou confronts Kotomine in the final battle. Revelations are made, lines are drawn, and the two engage in a brutal fistfight with the intent of killing one another. Just as the intensity is reaching a peak Kotomine, having dominated the fight, abruptly stops mid-punch as he finally dies due to a pre-existing injury.
  • Level 100 of Ball Revamped says, "Get ready for the Master Ball...". This is the last level of the game. There's no fight against the Master Ball.
  • Played for Laughs in Grand Theft Auto V. Trevor's rampage side-missions have him fighting members of factions that increase in threat, starting with rednecks before moving to the two major gangs of Los Santos and then climaxing with the US Army. The final group faced are Hipsters.
  • Far Cry 4 does this with its secret ending. If you choose not to escape from the palace at the beginning of the game and simply wait around for a little while, Pagan Min will eventually return and take you to Lakshmana's tomb, explain the entirety of the plot, and allow you to complete your objective and the game without firing a single shot.
  • The standalone version of Sonic the Hedgehog 3's ending is very much this, especially compared to the ending of the previous installment: Launch Base Zone is nowhere as sinister or menacing as Scrap Brain Zone or Metropolis Zone, the recurring villain Knuckles is disposed of in a cutscene where Sonic does absolutely nothing, and the final battle ends with the Death Egg exploding moments after taking off. This is fixed however by locking the game on to Sonic & Knuckles, making Launch Base Zone the halfway point of the game, retconning the explosion of the Death Egg, and featuring a confrontation with Knuckles and his Heel–Face Turn, as well as a memorable Astral Finale.
  • Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary: The ending of Amitie's story. After wondering for so long about what the mystery of Amitie's hat is, Miss Accord just brushes it off, and states that it's just Amitie's imagination, despite the events that happened earlier in the story stating otherwise.
  • Monster Bash has the villainous vampire Count Chuck constantly taunting and cursing Johnny throughout the game and daring Johnny to come and face him. Johnny eventually does so in the end of episode 3... only to find Count Chuck hanging upside down, fast asleep. Aside from a few of his bat minions coming at him, Johnny faces no resistance in this "fight" and effortlessly knocks the Count from his perch.
  • The ending of Karate Man in the first Rhythm Heaven (AKA Karate Man Returns). The music starts speeding up and becoming more and more intense... and then drops into a comedic ditty followed by one boulder. The only interesting thing is that the speed of this final bit is randomized, one of the few cases where the timing isn't the exact same each time.
  • Death Trips seems like a typical indie Survival Horror game where you explore an abandoned hotel in search of the serial killer "Lady Death"... but when you meet the killer, she runs at you only to trip over a potted plant and break her neck. Cue end credits.
  • South Park: The Fractured but Whole has you hunting down Cartman to stop him from becoming mayor of South Park in the last quarter of the game. The story builds up the lead to the confrontation by revealing that Cartman had the sixth graders experimented on to become near mindless muscle increased brutes, effectively forces the New Kid to kill one of his parents so the way forward is opened, and then he has Kyle's cousin become a huge fat and giant mutant to slow the heroes down. After some time travel shenanigans, you finally stop Cartman and expose his plans to the town (put cat urine in the alcohol to induce more crimes, get the current mayor blamed for doing a crappy job, then take over as new mayor). The end result? All the citizens decide to just go to the next town over to get drunk without the cat pee being in their drinks. Cue credits.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective" lampshades this, as the game it's riffing on ends in a spectacularly underwhelming manner. After spending the entire game trying to track down a murderer, once the player character finally finds him, this happens:
    You enter room 30...after a harrowing gun battle you conk him on the head and take him in.
    Tom: What the...?
    Crow: That's IT?!?
    Tom: We sat through the whole game for THIS?!?!
  • Crash: Mind Over Mutant: The worst that some of the villains get after their defeat is to be told to leave by Aku Aku.
  • Played for Laughs in Portal 2 when Wheatley is telling you his "scary" "ghost" story (note the quotations). Every single time he gives the slightest bit of build-up he immediately gives the next bit of info that completely negates it, culminating in a story about a bunch of robots screaming for no reason:
    "They say the old caretaker of this place went absolutely crazy. Chopped up his entire staff. Of robots. All of them robots. They say at night you can still hear the screams. Of their replicas. All of them functionally indistinguishable from the originals. No memory of the incident. Nobody knows what they're screaming about. Absolutely terrifying. Though obviously not paranormal in any meaningful way."

    Web Animation 
  • AstroLOLogy: The episode "Color Me Mad", which is about Cancer getting karate training, ends with her receiving her red belt and then declining to fight Taurus for her black belt. As it turns out, she just wanted the red belt to go with her pinafore.
  • DSBT InsaniT: There is never a fight with Psycho Man in 'VRcade', which he promised when he appears in the middle of the episode if the gang defeats all his Mooks. He just ends up leaving like a Dirty Coward. Amber even lampshades this.
  • Played for laughs in Sonic Mania Adventures. Sonic and Tails are able to defeat a Chaos Emerald-powered Metal Sonic, but Eggman pulls out the Master Emerald and Metal Sonic prepares to super-charge himself, complete with a remix of Sonic the Hedgehog 3's final boss music, making it seem like it's going to be Sonic, Tails, Mighty and Ray vs. Super Metal Sonic... until Knuckles suddenly rushes, smashes Metal Sonic in the face, punching him into Eggman and sending the villains out of Eggman's base. The four heroes can only stand there and gawk as Knuckles walks out with the Master Emerald with Sonic shrugging his shoulders in confusion. Cue Jump Cut to the four eating chili dogs while the Zone Clear theme plays.
  • FANFICTASIA: After the reveal of multiple other arenas full of enslaved fictional characters at the end of "Super-Showdown-Bowl!", the heroes are able to return and rescue them with no fuss. Justified due to Oscar's death.
  • Subverted in The Gaston Trilogy. It looks like the third video is going to end with Lefou and Gaston giving up on their Taco Bell plans, but then that's just a Credits Gag right before the episode's intermission.
  • In Pimp Lando, the Cliffhanger ending of "Pimp 2K" (episode 6) is completely resolved before the titles roll in "Love Changes Every Pimp" (episode 7).
  • Red vs. Blue: The finale of the Blood Gulch Chronicles, high drama and an exploding bomb on an escaping ship...
    Andy: 3... 2... 1!
    [Pelican transport goes pop]
    Everyone: ...
    Grif: Boo, no explosion. That sucked!
Immediately followed by a massive fireball when Grif's back is turned, but the climactic moment is still lost.
Donut: Whoa! What a cool explosion!
Grif: What explosion?! What explosion!? I missed it! Do it again!!!
  • Trypticon/Starscream spends The Transformers: Titans Return shrugging off everything thrown at him and rampaging throughout Iacon with even Metroplex and Fortress Maximus failing to stop him. Then he eats Perceptor and the Matrix of Leadership growing even larger with the heroes only looking on silently and helplessly. Then suddenly Trypticon coughs and falls over and Starscream's ghost exits the behemoth and passes on, the Matrix having cleansed Trypticon after all.

  • Sarilho: chapter 3 follows a long, action-ridden battle scene that ends up as a wounded Nikita gets ready to fight the mysterious Eurico... And we cut to chapter 4, two weeks after the scene, and we're never told what happened in the meantime.
  • Supernormal Step:
    • The comic sets up an epic battle between Van and a monster who has kidnapped two women. However, when it turns out that the women are... working with with the monster, Van points out that the fight has been rendered pointless and walks off.
      Van: Get a life, you jerks!
    • There's another great moment when Jim reveals a Big Secret. Fiona reacts very rationally given the revelation.
  • 8-Bit Theater is full of these. Indeed, Brian Clevinger has stated that his favorite jokes are on the audience. He even faked an ending twice (though the first was kind of exempt due to being on April's Fools).
    • Of the four fiends, only one was not killed by someone who entered the scene in the same panel in which they killed the fiend and two of those had been presumed dead.
    • In fact, the comic's ending turned out to be an especially epic Double Subversion. After delaying things for several months while assembled heroes and villains bicker pointlessly, we finally get what looks to be a suitably dramatic fight of the remaining Light Warriors squaring off against Villain Protagonist and apparent Final Boss Black Mage, followed by The Reveal of Sarda as the real Big Bad and a resultant Curb-Stomp Battle leading to an apparent last-minute victory by Zany Scheme. All very awesome. But then: Sarda turns out to have survived, only to be almost immediately killed by Phlebotinum Overload and Hijacked by Ganon. The last arc is a slow-paced "Shaggy Dog" Story centering around the Light Warriors trying and failing to amass enough power to beat the True Final Boss. In the end, they fail, and he's instead disposed of- offscreen- by a secondary character and a Brick Joke from one of the very first comics. All amidst several months fraught with drama-defusing Schedule Slip. "The best joke is played on the reader", indeed.
  • Hedge of El Goonish Shive pulls this enough for it to be considered a Running Gag. Some examples can be seen here, here and here (complete with Lampshade Hanging via the titles).
  • The ending of the miscarriage arc in Ctrl+Alt+Del. Seriously... weeks of exposition, then cue to Happily Ever After.
  • "Blink" from College Roomies from Hell!!!: All of the main cast are at Vernon's mercy, two of the six are technically already dead, another two are dying, one is suicidal, and...suddenly we cut to Dave's Easy Amnesia-induced hijinks two months later, when he's living idyllically with Blue and everyone else is at least physically safe.
  • Collar 6: Well, what else would you call this?
  • In Tales of the Questor, the stolen sword arc ends with an epic battle between Quentyn and two gangs of street punks—- or it WOULD have...
  • Done amusingly in Cheer! when Agent 32 and Alex (transformed into a centaur for the occasion) fight off a horde of gnome-creatures. They burst into the gym to finish them find it empty. "Well this sure is anticlimactic!".
  • Koan of the Day uses this for comic effect in this comic, where the most important truth in the universe is alluded to but never revealed.
  • Spacetrawler:
    • Kuu-Drahc is played up as a major antagonist and personal rival to Emily, culminating in a Combat by Champion scene. A random rockslide crushes Kuu-Drahc before the fight even begins. All Emily can say is, "Oh, come onnnn..."
    • Much later, one of the unclamped Eebs is revealed to have survived. He's found and disposed of within five pages and without any fanfare.
  • The Order of the Stick hilariously lampshaded this trope in its 600th strip.note  In fact, Anticlimax is deliberately invoked by Elan in dealing with Tarquin. Rather than fighting him in a climactic father-and-son battle as Tarquin wanted, Elan chose simply to strand him in the middle of the desert, thereby leaving their story arc with no real resolution, and Tarquin screaming about how this isn't how things are supposed to end.
    Tarquin: "Elan! This arc isn't over yet! Where's the growth? You didn't lose anything! Nothing has changed! YOU GET BACK HERE AND GIVE THIS PLOTLINE A SATISFYING RESOLUTION THIS INSTANT! ELAN!... ELAN, THERE'S NO SENSE OF CLOSURE! ... I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! ... THIS IS A TERRIBLE ENDING!"
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: After nearly 700 pages of build-up, XXI appears on screen for the first time. And then, the chapter ends with a bad gag before heading into a special.
  • The writers of Ménage à 3 like to keep a number of story options and character developments in hand at any time, some of which never come to much; they are also inclined to go for the quick joke rather than any sort of intricate long-term plot. As a result, some of their stories come to less climactic, faster resolutions than some of the dedicated readers expect. For example:
    • Amber mistook DiDi for Yuki, and was forming some kind of plot to save Gary from her. Then Gary showed up at her front door, so she just jumped him. Later, Zii simply corrected the DiDi-Yuki confusion in casual conversation.
    • Yuki, Zii, and Sonya woke up naked in bed together. Zii jumped to the conclusion that they'd had sex (which many readers guessed would be wrong), then discovered that their clothes were missing, then found the clothes in the bathroom with a smell on them that made her think "Oh gawd!" Then it turned out that she was remembering that they'd jumped in a swimming pool fully dressed (so presumably the smell was chlorine), and the three of them had simply dozed off after hanging the clothes up to dry.
  • In Persona 3 FTW, Strega are even more easily disposed than in the original game. In fact, the Protagonist beats both Takaya and Jin by pushing them off a bridge while on the way to defeat the Hanged Man shadow.
  • In Homestuck, it looks like a Mêlée à Trois will occur among God-Tier Vriska, Eridan, and sober!Gamzee. Before any of them can do anything, Kanaya, resurrected as a rainbow-drinker, runs over and kicks Gamzee straight in the bone bulge and punts him off a cliff. Earlier, Gamzee effortlessly garroted Equius with a bowstring and clubbed Nepeta to death and is the strongest in the trio, but was easily defeated by a bone bulge kick. And then it happens again when Karkat, Terezi, Kanaya, and Sollux all get ready to fight Gamzee but then Karkat shoos away the others and then proceeds with Talking the Monster to Death.
  • In the second episode of The Fantastic Favio Bros, The Horrors of Ecstasy, the two Evil Twins who believe that Everybody Must Get Stoned try to merge together into an "unholy combination" which embodies the evil powers of ecstasy. MaCavio gets on LeTony's back, they prepare to fight, and then they fall down and are defeated.
  • Being attacked by an ancient and powerful halfling lich in Nodwick:
    Artax: Get back in your box and we won't step on you.
  • Sonichu has this between Chris and Slaweel the Witch. One of the big events culminating a few issues worth of animosity... ends in one page.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has a number of anticlimaxes and Troll moments, as Tom Siddell likes to subvert expectations and play with the readers, but perhaps the greatest is the entirety of chapter 55, where Annie sets up a gigantic confrontation to get Reynardine back — which is resolved in one page by Annie simply making her wishes clear and her dad giving her the doll.
  • Early in The Sanity Circus, Posey makes a great reveal to Attley about her true nature - forgetting to consider that Attley never realised there was anything up in the first place.
    Posey: I suppose I should put your suspicions at ease, hm? (Turns around with Glowing Eyes of Doom) I am not human!
    Attey: Suspicious? I wasn't... I wasn't suspicious of that...?
    (Beat panel)
    Posey: But- But surely, that spell you saw me use on the demon! You must know that is far too advanced for a human to use!
    Attley: No!
    Posey: ...Oh. Do you know anything about magic?
  • Examples of this occur in several The Bird Feeder strips. A notable example is the Josh's Dream story, which had involved all of the birds gearing up to launch an all-out attack on the humans. The dream ends, however, with Josh realizing he can't go because he's in his underwear.

    Web Original 
  • Done as a fakeout in Atop the Fourth Wall. The threat of Mechakara had been building for a good thirty or so episodes and Linkara takes him down with a single pistol shot before continuing his Youngblood #1 review. And then Mechakara gets back up at the end of the review. And then the fun starts.
  • In That Guy With the glasses 2ND year anniversary event, Kickassia when Santa Christ arrives to bring harmony to everyone but the Nostalgia Critic accidentally kills him, the Critic gets people all over the world (including the user) to say "I believe in Santa Christ". Increasingly uplifting music is played as it gets closer to what might be a climax. In order to add to the comedy, Santa Christ stays dead and is thrown into a skip.
  • "Stay tuned for more exciting Tales of Disappointment!"
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • The Garlic Junior arc begin on episode 31. It also ends the Garlic Junior Arc on episode 31, due to the fact their plan relied on outmatching Mr. Popo. Given how he is characterized compared to canon, and how much Team Four Star hates the Garlic Junior arc for being useless filler, you can guess how this turned out.
    • Episode 60 Epilogue has Trunks comment that he's experiencing one of these after effortlessly atomizing Future 17, 18 and Cell.
  • The Ultra Fast Pony episode "Stay Tuned!" demonstrates how much a climax or an anti-climax depends on the context. It's an abridged version of the MLP:FIM episode "Party of One". In the unabridged "Party of One", Pinkie Pie thinks all her friends have abandoned her, and she grows increasingly unhinged until she discovers that her friends were actually organizing a surprise birthday party for her. That is a satisfying conclusion. In "Stay Tuned!", Pinkie Pie is a police detective investigating Applejack's massive criminal empire, and she grows increasingly frazzled as it becomes clear that all of her friends are in on the conspiracy. When Pinkie storms into Applejack's barn and demands an explanation... she discovers that her friends were actually organizing a surprise birthday party for her. That is an anti-climax.
  • Numerous joke Creepypasta will build a dark and spine-tingling atmosphere, then end with the phrase "...and then a skeleton popped out."
  • The first three parts of Michaels Dead Book Of Solomon Jizz chronicle Older Michael Rosen's quest to go to "The Shop Downstairs" to rescue a girl named "Eileen Ogle". In the final part, he gets there and confronts the owner, Rob, the Donkey Kong Country music gets tense...and she was just a voice from Rob's television, ending the conflict in less than two seconds.
  • Fire Sensei in Club Penguin. After winning all of the fire suit in Card Jitsu Fire, which can be very hard, you have to fight the Fire Sensei to get the fire gem. You expect Sensei to be quite hard, but when you fight him he suddenly starts using weak cards and gets beaten very quickly.
  • In the Feast Master run of Banana-nana-Ninja!, Shomaru Domatsu kills himself in lieu of having to face Baninja, who had just defeated the Feast Master Champion.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition, most of the endgame is much easier than it was in Sonic 2. The boss of Wing Fortress Zone is the same, but this time it's plot-mandated that you fight it as Super Sonic. In Death Egg Zone, Silver Sonic doesn't fight at all—he simply points out where the final boss is, then tells you to have a nice day. Said final boss (not Robotnik, but "the last piece of logic left") goes down after a single hit.
  • Roll to Dodge Princess Celestia can very well have the best Anticlimax bosses.
  • Discussed in this Cracked article of 7 Movie Badasses (Who Completely Fail To Deliver)
  • Used as a Running Gag in Kingdom Paf, where almost every boss is defeated easily by some nonsensical Deus ex Machina, thus preventing the protagonist from gaining XP and leveling up.
  • After The Angry Video Game Nerd finishes his review of the ill-fated Amiga CD32 console, he reads a warning on the Zool disc telling him not to play track 1 in a normal CD player. Curious, he does it anyway to set up a cliffhanger for a review of The Town with No Name, and at the start of the next episode, he finds his answer: the disc plays a bunch of white noise, because the disc was coded so that the game data was stored on track 1.
  • Some of Dream's Minecraft Manhunt videos end this way. For example, at the end of "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters FINALE," after defeating Sapnap and George, Bad comes out of nowhere and kills Dream.
  • When JonTron is reviewing Food Games and is gearing up to review Kool-Aid Man on Atari, the camera dramatically focuses on a brick wall... and then deftly moves to the right as a man in a shoddy Kool-Aid Man costume meekly comes through the door to hand Jon the game.
  • At the end of the first Downton Wars short, The Phantom Valet, Thomas and Bates charge screaming at each in the hallway, lightsabers at the ready... and then Carson interrupts them, ordering Thomas to come help out in the dining room. The fight is abruptly canceled, and everyone just goes back to their duties.
  • Gary: Landlord of the Flies In a tongue-in-cheek fashion, Gabe expresses his disappointment in how the trial went in his final post. In lieu of a dramatic legal showdown, Gary's defense turns out to be as weak as one would expect, and the judge quickly rules in favor of Gabe after going over evidence of Gary's unsavory behavior.
    "This whole time I had been hoping it would all play out like an epic courtroom drama, where Gary had come up with some sinister web of lies and in the end he calls his surprise witness; James (the tenant he stole from), Dan (the other tenant he evicted) or Mat (the Indian friend he called a 'spic') to the stand and unravels my entire case. Sadly this is not how it played out."
  • Since The Quintessential Mary-Sue is a commentary on the Mary Sue and how it ruins a story, it intentionally uses this trope. Mary-Sue kills the Faceless One instantly just with a flick of her wrists, the Faceless One having served only as a token villain to let Mary-Sue show off her power.
  • In Lythero's Dark Shenanigoons vs. Sonic Heroes, PaperBoxHouse is confused and annoyed that Goku Black-Who-Is-Actually-Black and Zamasu fuse into Infinite, proclaiming "How ya'll combine and make mid?", causing the rest to burst into laughter.

    Western Animation 
  • Used brilliantly to teach the lesson of "Operation: D.W.!", an episode of Arthur. D.W. learns she has to have ear surgery and spends the episode learning about it and becoming anxious and afraid. She is reassured by the other characters that the surgery will be over before she knows it since she'll be put under during it. At the end of the episode, D.W. bravely braces herself for it, and the camera fades to black... and she immediately wakes up, the surgery having been a complete success, and for her, it was over in an instant. All to help teach kids not to be afraid of surgeries.
  • The Happy Harmonies short "The Old Pioneer" ends with a very jarring anticlimax; during the battle between the indian tribe and pioneers, when the Indian Chief is just about to attack the eponymous pioneer, he finds out from the little indian kid (who they were trying to rescue) that they saved his life just beforehand, and at the drop of a hat, he changes his attitude and instantly calls off the battle. However, given it's a story told from the perspective of an old man to a kid, he may have just been embellishing.
  • In the final episode of The Animals of Farthing Wood, the confrontation between the rats and the other animals is brought to a conclusion when the rat's leader has his tail bitten off, and everyone laughs at him. Which, considering the rather darker battle that takes places in the books, is a little off the mark.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Some episodes were about Cree's plan to detach the KND moonbase from the moon and send it to the sun. In fact, the first of those episodes was about Cree stealing what she believed to be vital data for her plan but actually being fake data planted by her younger sister Abby. After finally reaching the moonbase, she was discouraged by Chad telling her he had recently tried (and failed) to do so and we never learned how the fake data would have ruined her plans. Later it turns out Chad failed on purpose just to thwart her plan.
  • Season 3 of Detentionaire revealed The Council as The Man Behind the Man to the brainwashing scheme, and they were considered a big threat, due to their immense resources and Mecha-Mooks. Then, two of them are taken out unceremoniously after only a handful of episodes note  and since "His Eminence" is basically Orcus on His Throne (and doesn't even appear not in shadow until the last few episodes), that leaves just Cassandra and The Serpent to do the group's heavy lifting. Then, the Serpent defects, and Cassandra turns on her boss, only to be defeated in virtually a few seconds in a manner that's Played for Laughs. These dangerous villains, who could make people disappear and were supposed to be a legitimate threat, end up being defeated due to a combination of their own hubris and some teens. Talk about disappointing.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Wishology", Timmy needed Crocker's help to defeat the Darkness and Crocker would only help if Timmy admits he has fairies. Timmy complied. Crocker felt it was anti-climatic but, since he was "a man of my word", he helped.
  • Winx Club:
    • The fourth season finale had the Winx beat the remaining Fairy Hunters within the first five minutes. But since one of the Fairy hunters had been killed off earlier, in addition to the fact that their magic was weakening, it makes sense somewhat that the final battle between them and the fairies was finished off rather quickly, with the Fairy hunters being frozen and then falling into a chasm. There were also several sub-plots that had to be settled. Still, it was so badly done that fans were disappointed and it's usually agreed to be not only the worst season finale, but one of the worst episodes of the entire series.
    • Chimera and Cassandra from the third season. Even if they were just minor antagonists, Chimera turned Stella into a powerless an ugly monster, and Cassandra mind controlled Stella's dad, and made him to disown Stella and appoint Chimera as princess of Solaria. When the episode in which Stela was finally going to set things straight, everybody expected a huge brawl between Stella and Chimera. Well, Chimera went down after one hit, and Cassandra surrendered without putting up a fight.
  • Celebrity Deathmatch:
    • In one episode, Johnny and Nick managed to get Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster together, and get them to fight to the death. The fight lasts precisely six seconds.
    • In another episode, Genghis Khan is brought back from the dead to fight. However, it turns out he had his brain swapped with that of Mahatma Gandhi, so he just sits there looking scared instead of actually fighting.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode Spike at Your Service, we get this cool buildup to a huge timberwolf as it slowly reassembles itself from pieces of the timberwolves that were killed at the beginning of the episode. After an entrance like that, you'd expect some epic showdown right? Wrong. Spike throws a pebble down its throat, and it dies. That's it. It isn't even on screen for thirty seconds.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show:
    • "A Visit to Anthony" features our heroes crashing at a young fan's house. Anthony's father, a big, hot-blooded man, hates cartoon characters. When Anthony gets hurt on their watch, the wrathful dad takes Ren and Stimpy to his den for a chat. The scene gets tense; the fireplace reflects in the man's eyes while he sweats profusely. He switches from simmering rage to near madness and back again. After mocking Ren and Stimpy and calling them pampered celebrity snobs, he asks them a question. Just ONE...SINGLE...SOLITARY THING: "So, what makes you guys move, anyway?" Stunned by the sudden change in tone, Stimpy vomits on Ren. Anthony and his father share a hearty laugh at the two cartoons' expense. The end!
    • Used and Played for Laughs in the episode "Robin Hoek"; before Robin (Ren) can rescue Maid Moron (Stimpy), he has to fight The Sheriff of Dodge City (George Liquor) who he quickly defeats by whipping out a turkey baster and smothering him in a shot of gravy. Liquor immediately collapses and surrenders Maid Moron.
      George Liquor: Thou hast besquirted me, O leotarded one! (falls over backwards, then raises his head) The maiden be thine! (passes out)
  • The reveal of Lin's dad in The Legend of Korra. After literally waiting four seasons, we get to know his name. Instead of the epic bruhaha surrounding Zuko's mom, it is revealed his name is Kanto and that it didn't work out between him and Toph. That was about it.
  • Batman: The Animated Series
    • While Mr. Freeze is more than a match for Batman throughout "Heart of Ice", after a brief fight during the climax, Batman quickly defeats him by spilling a thermos of hot chicken soup (which Alfred had given him to aid his cold) over Freeze's containment suit helmet, which cracks it open and leaves him powerless, struggling and gasping for breath on the floor.
    • Invoked by Charlie Collins during his Batman Gambit in "Joker's Favor". Threatening to blow himself and the Joker up with a bomb. Knowing that meeting his end at the hands of "some nobody" rather than in a final battle with Batman would scare the Joker enough to give up.
  • Ben 10:
    • Ben 10: Alien Force:Vilgax cements his Badass Decay during the finale. With his ship crippled and flooding, and Ben in one of his new ultimate alien forms, Vilgax decides to reveal his true form...a giant squid. Yes, Vilgax, feared throughout the galaxy, conqueror of worlds Vilgax, morphs into a squid. What's worse, the fight wasn't even shown onscreen, as it immediately cut to Ben escaping before the ship exploded.
    • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: For most of the first season, Aggregor was unstoppable, easily manipulating the heroes and defeating them when forced to fight. Yet, in the finale confrontation, he is easily beaten up and depowered by Kevin, who then replaces him as the Big Bad for the remain of the season. When the heroes defeat Kevin in the finale and bring him back to his sane state, his powers are stolen by Darkstar... who immediately loses them when it turns out Ben saw it coming and was ready for it.
  • A sizable portion of the villains in the Hero Factory TV show. Worst is the first season's Big Bad, Von Nebula, who was defeated without an actual fight — the Heroes simply snatched his weapon away, and that was it. Most of the "regular" bad guys are also beaten through very simplistic means. In the first season finale, Big Bad Von Nebula is defeated when the Heroes ask him to guess which one of them is holding the device that can destroy Nebula's black hole — his old teammate Stormer or the rookie Furno. Nebula picks Stormer because he thinks he's selfish, but when Furno reveals that he has the devices, the supposed mastermind acts so shocked that he lets Furno chug the things into the black hole and then the Heroes simply snag Nebula's Magic Staff out of his hand and trap him in a pocket dimension. No fight occurs, and the other villains are also defeated very easily, despite coming off as near-unbeatable in previous episodes.
  • In "House of Villains", a special episode of Mickey's House of Mouse, the villains (Led by Jafar) take over the eponymous nightclub. After Mickey manages to get back in the nightclub, an anticlimatic battle ensues between Mickey (In his sorcerer garb) and Jafar, basically playing baseball. Then all of a sudden, Aladdin sneaks out of the kitchen (The other friendly Disney characters were trapped) and throws Mickey the lamp, which Mickey just uses it to trap Jafar. What happens next? A long and epic battle? NOPE! The villains just flee. Yep, flee.
  • Mal in the finale of Total Drama: All Stars, all it took was a push of a button.
  • In the spin-off Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race, Jacques and Josee—the Big Bad pair known for winning most of the legs through cheating—get eliminated at 3rd place due to a flat tire. To make matters even more interesting, their enemies (MacArthur and Sanders) are the ones in the final two, competing with another team (Brody and Geoff) they have no bad blood with.
  • It's easier to list episodes of The Dreamstone that didn't end on an incredibly handy victory for the heroes. Those that weren't from a Curbstomp Battle usually involved some random twist of fate bringing down the villains' plans entirely. While this was somewhat expected against Harmless Villains the Urpneys, not even Zordrak was allowed to put up much of a showy fight most of the time.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Blood Moon Ball", with Tom enraged by his plot having been thwarted, he starts screaming and the whole room bursts into flames, making it seem like an epic battle with the demon will ensue. Then Star nonchalantly freezes him in a block of ice, with less effort than it takes to beat Ludo's notoriously incompetent mooks.
  • In the Teen Titans episode, "Cyborg The Barbarian", the final battle has the tribe getting overwhelmed by giant insects, Sarasim suffering a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from a monstrous Krall, and in the Darkest Hour, Cyborg ready to sacrifice what remains of his energy to turn the battle around only to be unexpectedly dragged back to the present by Raven. And then it turns out Sarasim's tribe had won, after all.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Master Splinter's third encounter with the Rat King plays out this way. Having been defeated and thrown down the same pit the Rat King fell down in their second fight, he finds himself at the Rat King's mercy. Rat King torments him and tries to get him to abandon his humanity and surrender, but Splinter refuses and stumbles further down the pit where he discovers a skeleton in the Rat King's clothes revealing that he apparently perished in their second encounter and everything up to that point was a hallucination.
  • In the episode "Free Churro" on BoJack Horseman, we find that Beatrice Horseman has passed away between scenes, and Bojack spends the entirety of the episode giving a eulogy. A huge part of his emotional turmoil was that he spent most of his life hoping that his mother loved him and wanted a grand gesture of this love or some proof of it... and then she died before it happened. Now he's left confused as to what she wanted, his feelings on the matter, and frustration at the fact that the only thing he got out of it was a free churro at a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant out of sympathy from an employee he didn't even know.
    BoJack: When you’re a kid, you convince yourself that maybe the grand gesture could be enough, that even though your parents aren’t what you need them to be over and over and over again, at any moment, they might surprise you with something… wonderful. I kept waiting for that, the proof that even though my mother was a hard woman, deep down, she loved me and cared about me and wanted me to know that I made her life a little bit brighter. Even now, I find myself waiting.
  • Pocoyo: The song "The Great Race" has all of the racers neck and neck, close to the finish line...and then their cars run out of fuel. Then they decide to move the finish line to the back of their vehicles so they can win together.
  • Played for Drama in season 2 finale of The Owl House. After 350 years of planning, Emperor Belos is poised to wipe out all life on the Boiling Isles with his Draining Spell. But before it can end up actually killing anyone, King frees The Collector from his prison, who proceeds to reduce Belos to a goopy smear on the wall with a single finger poke and end the eclipse powering the Draining Spell with all the effort of dragging an app across a touch screen. Unfortunately, this now leaves the Isles as the mercy of the Collector, who is both a frighteningly powerful Reality Warper and has little understanding of concepts like restraint or morality.

    Real Life 
  • The first "real" loss of MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko; After 32 wins and generally being considered unbeatable, he tapped out on the second minute of the first round against Fabricio Werdum.
  • The highly-publicized "Fight of the Century" between boxing champions Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, which received so much attention that even non-fans of boxing were excited for it. The problem was that the match itself wasn't conducive to an exciting turnout: Pacquiao sustained an injury to his right shoulder prior to the match, putting him at a serious disadvantage; meanwhile, Mayweather was a defensively-oriented fighter whose style, while practical, wasn't necessarily as interesting to watch as Pacquiao's more aggressive style. As a result, those who were rooting for Pacquiao were let down when Mayweather won; those who wanted to see brutal combat were disappointed when there weren't even any knockdowns; and every party that tuned in was out short of $100 for the pay-per-view event.
  • Australia's Donald Bradman is widely considered to have been the greatest batsman in the history of cricket. He entered his last Test Match in an Ashes series with a test career average of 101.39. Unfortunately, he was bowled for a duck in his first innings in that match. Still, he only needed four runs from his second innings to ensure a final Test career average of 100 — to this day nobody else has come close. England promptly collapsed to an innings defeat so that Bradman never got to bat again. He ended his Test career with an average of 99.94.
  • After cutting a bloody swath through Europe, breaking the back of the Western Empire and the Eastern's purse, Attila the Hun turned back after a chat with The Pope, and died of a nosebleed a while later.
  • At the end of World War II, everyone expected to see Hitler pay for his war crimes. Instead, he shot himself. Though in the long run, the other part of the climax was, well...
  • Almost everyone thought the United States would win The Vietnam War easily. Instead the US troops left after over 10 long years of fighting and with the reputation of warcrimes outraging the international public. Only 2 years later after US withdrawl, the Vietnamese communists redeclared war on South Vietnam and won with practically no resistance.
  • The final broadcast of UPN had no special advertising or last program specials and instead just faded to black after a broadcast of WWE Smackdown.
    • Inversion: The network that UPN merged with, The WB, to form The CW had a whole special called The Night of Favorites and Farewells for the end of the network with pilots of their most popular programming with Michigan J. Frog even making an appearance despite being phased out of the network's branding in 2004. Due to issues with various former WB affiliates, the ratings for the special were very low and not many people saw it.
    • Similarly, the final broadcast or Vortexx on The CW was treated like a normal broadcast with no special advertising. Even sadder when you realize it will probably be the last block to air non-educational Saturday Morning Cartoons in a very long time, maybe forever.
  • Every doomsday prediction (so far) has been met with this, with Y2K and the 21st of December 2012 being the biggest examples in recent history.
  • The Third Secret of Fátima is infamous for this. It was built up to be the most shocking vision in recorded history; so much that Pope John XXIII is supposed to have fainted and a few others (including, supposedly, John Paul I) reportedly died upon hearing it.note  It was finally released to the eagerly waiting public in 2000; it turned out to be a set of surrealistic images that anybody could interpret however they liked. Even Joseph Ratzinger (who was to become Pope in 2005) admitted that it was pretty underwhelming considering all the hype.note 
  • Nearly everyone expected Richard Nixon to be impeached because of Watergate. Instead, he just resigned.
  • The infamous Geraldo Rivera hosted a live broadcast of the opening of Al Capone's vault: after hyping it up massively, claiming that it could contain everything from bodies to compromising photos, the safe turned out to contain... nothing.
  • Comet ISON, after being hyped by the media as being the comet of the century that could be brighter than the full moon... just disintegrated near the sun and disappeared. Maybe somebody should have foreseen this, given that something similar had happened a generation earlier with Comet Kohoutek.
  • The Silbury Hill digs of the late 1960s and early 70s hoped to discover Buried Treasure within a neolithic earthen mound in south west England. Turns out the mound was just a mound, and didn't contain anything except earth.
  • For decades, everyone was sure that the Cold War would end in a nuclear World War III breaking out between the United States and the Soviet Union, ending with either one wiping out the other or them mutually destroying each other (and probably taking the rest of the world with them). Instead, the Soviet Union ultimately dissolved (relatively) peacefully due to internal economic and political pressures, without a single shot fired at or by the West.
  • At the 2021 Academy Awards, viewers were surprised when Best Picture, always reserved for the final award, was presented before the acting awards. It became obvious the producers were planning on closing out the show with Chadwick Boseman (who had passed away the previous August) winning Best Actor for his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and the show would end with his widow accepting for him. Instead, the award went to Anthony Hopkins who was not only not in attendance (staying in his home in Wales due to the COVID-19 pandemic) but didn't even have anyone ready to accept it on his behalf and the Academy forbade any video acceptance speeches. Thus, instead of an emotional tribute to a late beloved star taken too soon, the ceremony ended with an awkward cut to the credits.


Taskmaster - Iain's Volcano

Iain Stirling plans to make the impressive Coke-and-Mentos volcano ever made. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / AntiClimax

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