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Break the Badass

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"Check it out, I am the ultimate badass."
[half a dead unit, and a crashed ship later]
"We're finished man, game over man, game over."
Private Hudson, Aliens

When the audience needs to be shown how physically dangerous an enemy is, the creators invoke The Worf Effect, or maybe they throw a Sacrificial Lamb (or worse, a Sacrificial Lion) in the path of the bad guy. But when the producers don't feel like killing one of their characters yet, but still need to show the audience just how dangerous the situation is, they often resort to breaking the badass by having the hardest, coldest, roughest, toughest, most jaded and violent, seen-it-all character become shocked out of their wits by it.

When this is done to villains, it is often in the form of Even Evil Has Standards. Related to Not So Above It All and Sarcasm Failure. Contrast Admiring the Abomination, where scientific curiosity makes a character get excited (if still scared) at the sight of a monster.

Expect Oh, Crap! or Mass "Oh, Crap!" reactions. Can sometimes invoke Anyone Can Die.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Akame ga Kill!, Numa Seika gets this from Esdeath. He was a badass warrior with a spear who ruled the north and was loved by his men. Esdeath makes Numa Seika lick her boots, on his knees, naked, and on a chain. She also tortured him enough to where he's euphoric about this
  • This happens when Miche encounters the Beast Titan in Attack on Titan.
  • Berserk:
    • Guts isn't immune to this. Nosferatu Zodd did this by simply transforming into his Apostle form. When they meet again after the Eclipse, Guts is better prepared for it since he's fought many Apostles up to that point.
    • And of course, there's the Eclipse, during which Griffith finally shows his true colors, starts a demonic invasion and rapes Casca while forcing Guts to watch, and would have killed them both if not for the Skull Knight's intervention. It turns Casca into a helpless empty shell of her former self while Guts take about fifty levels in badass... and quite a few in jerkass.
  • Bleach:
    • The Thousand Year Blood War Arc does this to just about every single protagonist capable of combat. It started with a few unlucky Captains who happened to be on the receiving end of their Bankai and the Schrift of the Sternritter, with Byakuya being the most prominent as he is broken by fear and begs half-dying to Ichigo to save the Soul Society. Then comes the rest of the Gotei 13 with the death of their Head Captain Yamamoto by Yhwach, who proceeds to shatter Ichigo’s will along with his Bankai. By the time the first attack is over, even with their time for reprieve, everyone is so broken that almost no one seems willing to fight anymore.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • We get a hint of how much bad news Frieza is when Vegeta, the same person who beat up every strong character in the previous story arc and whose arrogance is legendary, outright refuses to fight him head-on until he becomes immortal, well aware that he would lose. When they do fight, Vegeta finds himself so outmatched that he actually sheds tears at the hopelessness of his situation.
    • Similar, Vegeta panics when he learns that the Ginyu Force is coming and immediately teams up with Krillin and Gohan. Keep in mind, he murdered all of Frieza's men up to this point with little trouble except for Zarbon.
    • Trunks, whose Establishing Character Moment was killing Frieza and his father like they were mooks, is terrified of the androids who murdered everyone he knew save for his mother.
    • From the original series, Master Roshi nearly has a heart attack when he learns King Piccolo has returned. For reference, he was one of the most powerful characters in the series, on par with Tien and Goku at the time.
  • Fairy Tail:
  • Hunter × Hunter:
    • The Chimera Ant Royal Guard Neferpitou has a Nen aura so powerful and malicious that it terrifies almost everyone who sees it. Kaito immediately warns Killua and Gon to run when he realizes that Neferpitou is coming for him. Killua knocks out Gon and carries him away when he realizes that Gon is too furious about Kaito losing an arm to Neferpitou to run.
    • Knov gets it the worst. The moment he senses Shaiapoufs aura his hair turns white and he completely loses the will to fight. It's worth mentioning that Knov was under a lot more pressure than Kaito, Gon or Killua when they had sensed Pitou's aura. He was in the middle of the enemy stronghold. He knew that at any time, Pitou could turn her En back on at which point he would be immediately caught, tortured for information and then killed. He was already at the edge when he saw Pouf's aura, which just pushed him over it.
  • Medaka Box: The debut of Kumagawa has Zenkichi, the Badass Normal protector of Medaka reduced to a shivering wreck just by being in his presence.. Even Medaka herself is visibly distressed when she first sees Kumagawa again.
  • In a chapter of Negima! Magister Negi Magi, to show how unstoppable the old Big Bad was (he was the Final Boss), one of the Hot-Blooded (and otherwise invincible) characters was given an uncharacteristic fear of him, just to emphasize the point. Rakan was incapable of beating him due to the Lifemaker's power and got killed. He got better later, kind of.
  • In One Piece, the normally stoic and calm Robin is left completely terrified when the Straw Hats meet Admiral Aokiji. Beyond the crew meeting an Admiral (one of the Marine's strongest forces and showing how much the crew needs to catch up), it also hints the connection to her past. The same thing also happened when a seemingly random mask man whispers CP9 to her.
  • In Pokémon Adventures' FireRed & LeafGreen arc, Red suffers an almost uncharacteristic Heroic BSoD after losing a fight to Deoxys (though there were some other factors that contributed to rattling his confidence as well, like Ungrateful Townsfolk and being told to give up his Pokédex).
  • In the Sailor Moon anime's last season, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune pretend to defect from the Sailor Senshi and join Sailor Galaxia, which they prove by killing Sailor Pluto and Saturn. The two wait for a moment to attack Galaxia, and when they do, realize she doesn't have a Star Seed. The two completely break when they realize they murdered their friends and sold their souls for nothing.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: When Marik is about to summon his Sun God Ra, and all the characters present who are aware of its strength have their eyes widened with shock. Aside from Kaiba, who practically orgasms at the sight of Ra instead.

    Comic Books 
  • DCU:
    • In one issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth, Kyle Rayner relates how Guy Gardner (a Green Lantern notable for not just being able to "overcome great fear", but being honest-to-God fearless) used to tell funny stories about some of the truly ridiculous villains Hal Jordan used to fight. But, Rayner notes, "Guy never told any funny stories about Sinestro", the one villain who ever scared the crap out of Gardner.
    • In Superman: Brainiac, Supergirl reveals she is terrified of Brainiac. After invading Krypton and stealing Kandor, Brainiac is "what kept [Kryptonians] from going out after dark".
    • When Alan Moore had Anton Arcane Take a Level in Badass during his run on Swamp Thing, one of the first things he did was have Arcane's very presence launch a World-Wrecking Wave so unholy that it makes The Joker, hundreds of miles away, stop laughing and enter a drooling coma.
    • In Underworld Unleashed, the Trickster comments that when villains want to scare each other, "They tell each other Joker stories." It's a running theme among henchmen as well; whenever you see henchman engage in small talk, invariably the Joker will come up.
    • Batman:
      • When Batman discovers that an ancient conspiracy — the Court of Owls — has been living in Gotham for hundreds of years, he's a little alarmed. When he discovers that they've never acted against Batman until now because they never even considered him to be a threat, he's a little more alarmed. But when he's captured, drugged and psychologically tortured in a vast labyrinth beneath Gotham City and nearly driven to madness and hopelessness, that's when the readers start to feel the horrors really sinking in. Being Batman, he manages to escape. It's still a chilling sequence, however.
      • The one who did it more successfully was The Joker, during his brief stint as Emperor Joker. Killing him over and over while forcing him to see the atrocities only the Joker's mind could come up with in a reality made of bubblegum would break anyone, though. At the end, after Joker's beaten, Batman's seen huddling and weeping in horror. Superman is forced to take his memories of Joker's atrocities to heal him.
      • Dark Nights: Metal: Barbatos deals him the worst beatdown of his career by revealing all this time he's been a fake propped by the demon as the world's greatest detective, so that when he fell, so would everyone who had ever believed in him. Also, his fears and regrets were used with the properties of the Dark Multiverse to create Barbatos' army when the time came to conquer reality. At the end, the revelations are so horrible Batman begs to be sent back into a Lotus-Eater Machine.
      • Predating all of these is Batman: The Cult which saw a wounded Bruce captured by the titular cult led by Deacon Blackfire, who drugged and brainwashed Bruce into joining their group and it's implied that many of the other members were the same way, given they scattered once a freed and recovered Bruce and Jason defeat Blackfire and don't remember what they did.
    • In DCeased Superman is put through the wringer, having friends, colleagues, and his father get infected and turn on him. His mental health and stability decline further and further with each issue.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Incredible Hulk: The only villain that the Hulk will admit to being scared of is The Sentry's evil alter ego, the Void.
    • X-Men:
      • In Uncanny X-Men #125, the X-Men had to fight the Reality Warper, Proteus. He was so terrifying that Wolverine was shaken by the first battle.
      • In the animated series, the encounter doesn't just "shake" Wolverine, it leaves him huddled on his knees, sobbing.
      • In Ultimate X Men, Wolverine is briefly possessed by Proteus. Proteus' hatred towards his father Professor Xavier was so strong that it scared Wolverine.
  • Marv in Sin City only seems to be afraid of the woods. This makes sense considering he was tied up to a tree as a child and left overnight.
  • In Watchmen:
    • When The Comedian (a guy who shoots a Vietnamese woman who was pregnant with his child, possibly assassinated Kennedy, and killed other heroes to repay long past slights) discovers the main antagonist's plan, he completely breaks down, and shows up at the home of one of his old enemies drunk out of his mind, praying for help, sobbing with horror and demanding to know how anyone can come up with such a thing.
    • Rorschach's final speech also qualifies.

    Fan Works 
  • During the Tamers Forever Series, Renamon desperately tries to warn the Tamers to run when she sees Chaos Biomerging
    Rika: Renamon, if I didn't know you, I'd think you were frightened.
    Renamon: Rika, I'm TERRIFIED!
  • In the introductory arc of KOTOR: The Prodigy of Revan, Fleet Admiral Michael Knight is implied to be a heavy example of this through much of Jack's childhood.
  • In Fractured (SovereignGFC), a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover and its sequel, Origins, Samantha Shepard goes through a lot of crap. First, Liara and several others end up dying, for which she blames herself. This drives her into depression, making her an easy convert to the ways of an insane admiral, whereupon she engages in some highly questionable missions. Due to her Face–Heel Turn, her now-former friends abandon Shepard, even going so far as to administer a savage beating in order to keep Sam out of the final fight, though she is recovered afterward with severe injuries. Once reawoken, a continuous losing battle against a Force-wielding Siren combined with the arrival of Flood breaks her again, causing Shepard to hang up her uniform. Only some pep talks from Garrus and Wrex combined with the magnitude of what's at stake manage to convince her to step back into the fight. Even then, she initially leaves command to others.
  • In the Star Wars Rebels fanfiction Ezra Lost, Kanan Jarrus (as well as the rest of his rebel crew) go through an extreme ton of crap trying to get Ezra Bridger back home. Even worse, it's pretty much all Kanan's fault, and he keeps internally beating himself up about it and almost losing hope.
  • Kings of Revolution breaks the Aces and the Wolkenritter. How? Just slaughter a ton of their own students with a Mage Killer Mecha-Mook or even show her childhood friend is a terrorist.
  • In Origin Story, despite Alex's attempts to present herself as nothing but helpful and unthreatening, Buffy Summers is freaked out of the fact that Alex casually took out Glory the Hell-God, a foe that managed to Curb-Stomp Battle Buffy on a regular basis. Buffy ends up treating Alex like the potential threat she unfortunately is.
  • Happens to Steven in Pokémon Strangled Red during the eponymous hacked game. He beats the Pokémon League, only to throw everything away out of grief after Miki's death.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, every hero's reaction to learning Darkseid is finally going ahead with his master plan is a massive "Oh, Crap". Previously, Darkseid barged in a super-villain gathering, killed Brainiac with one single blast, and Lex Luthor, who had been previously bickering over leadership, suddenly decided he was happy with following orders.
  • The Mirror Universe Dark Fic RWBY: Dark sees this happen to Yang as Ruby murders their father and Ruby's own mother, then proceeds to mutilate Yang by slicing off her arms and gouging out her eyes, then brainwashed and programmed to be a slave for Ruby.
  • Illudere in Manehattan's Lone Guardian successfully does this to Leviathan by trapping her in a serious Lotus-Eater Machine of an illusion, making her experience over 230 years of life in a world where Dr. Weil and Omega never existed. After spending all of that time seeing humans and Reploids at their best, she wakes up back in Manehattan and realizes that everything she experienced was false—including the joy of marrying her first real friend. This shatters her self-confidence, reducing her to a sobbing wreck.
  • In the My Hero Academia Pay No Mind series, the raid to rescue Eri fails and Aizawa gets caught. Things get twisted as he’s tortured somewhat physically but mainly psychologically manipulated to forcibly regress him to a toddler like state. He’s presumed dead but Hizashi happens to spot him alive and manages to organize a rescue.He *does* regain his adult mind but it’s only a partial recovery as he’ll revert to “Shota-chan” a couple times a week and it can take several hours to a couple days come out of it. He still feels somewhat broken between not seeing how he can ever do hero work or even teach again and feeling like he’s burdening Hizashi since Hizashi has to care for him during the episodes. And things can get extremely embarrassing like the time he comes out of an episode while Hizashi is changing him.
  • Another My Hero Academia fic called Contingent has Aizawa survive a brutal captivity and gang rape and end up with severe PTSD. He struggles with needing things as clean as possible, always being on alert and pressing himself into corners so no one can surprise him. He has nightmares and goes between seeking comfort and being repulsed by touch. He struggles with feeling broken and disgusting and even tells Hizashi he can leave if he needs to, though Hozashi won’t hear of it and Aizawa ultimately begs him to stay.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Transformers: The Movie Autobot veteran Kup has Seen It All and is unfazed by everything. Enter Unicron: "Nope...Never seen anything like this before." He sounds remarkably quiet, either from awe and shock at the sight, or just from the utter horror of watching Unicron, who in robot form can stand on Cybertron's surface and look horrifying doing it and still have just enough room to spare for his feet that he could move around to some extent, basically rip parts of the planet, and the Decepticon forces trying to drive him off, to shreds, and doing so with seemingly casual ease. The look on his face goes a long way towards selling the moment as well.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dark Knight: Harvey Dent, who goes from a pretty thoroughgoing idealist to the villain Two-Face, due to the Joker killing his girlfriend, destroying his appearance, and giving him a truly brutal speech.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Said by Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring: "A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you. RUN!"
      • The book version had Legolas, who is old enough to remember the Balrogs, freaking out.
    • A minor example from Gandalf again is his giving a rousing speech in The Return of the King to the men of Gondor that whatever comes through that door, they can fight it. His expression at the giant armored battle trolls that smash through is priceless.
  • Predator: The first half of the film is used to build up the fact that the mercenary rescue team is made up of the six deadliest men on the planet. This makes the the human-hunting alien that much more formidable when it causes Mac to start undergoing a traumatic Sanity Slippage after having seen it, and Billy to bluntly admit that, for the first time in his life, he is genuinely terrified and bluntly says they were all going to die.
  • Serenity:
    • The fact that Jayne Cobb is the most comfortable with gore and violence made it all the more significant when he was the one to demand the transmission of the Reavers messily killing the scientist be turned off.
    • Jayne's fear of the Reavers in general seems to evoke this trope.
    • Also, when the Reaver fleet appears out of the cloud in front of the Alliance fleet, it is the Operative himself, shown to be perhaps the baddest badass in the Firefly universe, who completely freaks out. Although perhaps what shocks him is not the appearance of the Reaver fleet, so much as the fact that everyone around him is so paralyzed that they cannot fire on their own initiative. Though, you can DEFINITELY see the terror in his face when he sees them pop out of the ion field.
      The Operative: Target the Reavers! Target the Reavers! Target everyone! SOMEBODY FIRE!

  • Angel in the Charlie Parker Series, starting with his torture at the end of The Killing Kind. The backstory reveal in The White Road kind of retroactively applies this trope as well, and he gets steadily more broken throughout the series from then on as his age and lifestyle catch up with him.
  • Discworld: Vetinari does this to Vimes by accident. He would often obstruct Vimes' investigation, knowing it would make him try even harder. Each time, Vimes punches the wall of Vetinari's office on the way out. Except one time he doesn't, and Vetinari realizes later that it means he's finally found Vimes' limit.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In Turn Coat, Harry breaks down when Madeline Raith turns him in to the White Council for shielding Morgan, to the point where it crosses into a Heroic BSoD. Murphy snaps him out of it by point out that (a) he's a badass, man up, and (b) bureaucracies take time to get things done; he has time, man up. Also segues into an awesome scene where Murphy takes Harry to task for his inaccurate self image of an unpredictable lone ranger.
    • Even more so in Changes when he breaks his back. He gets better, after making a deal with a very powerful faerie and some rather painful (for him) plot twists.
    • Tessa shooting Michael. The Denarians torturing Ivy. The Denarians killing Shiro. The Denarians like this trope — it makes them stronger.
    • The Naagloshi is also fueled by this trope. It gains power by killing wizards (and a bit from one-trick-ponies like the Alphas). However, it gets crowning mention for what it did to Thomas.
    • Harry essentially became a hero by having these moments, and then thinking and acting instead of despairing. The thinking started a bit later, though, so his reputation as a magical thug isn't unfounded.
      • One in particular would be seeing Stan killed so casually in his flashback in Ghost Story. In a moment that's both heartbreaking and badass, Harry snaps out of it and blows up the assailant, He Who Walks Behind, the foremost warrior of the immune-to-magic Outsiders.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay shows the jaded Action Girl Johanna Mason, who describes herself offhandedly as unbreakable because "there's no one left I love" without seeming affected by these losses at all, return from her imprisonment in the Capitol (including quite a lot of Cold-Blooded Torture) completely traumatized. Katniss even mentions how, without her normal badass attitude, she looks like nothing more than another Broken Bird.
  • The advent of the appearance of the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings has Gimli (gruff and tough dwarf warrior) stunned and shaking, Legolas (Elf prince, fearsome archer, and tends to be either The Stoic or Mr. Sunshine) freaking out, and Gandalf (one of the most powerful beings inhabiting Middle-Earth) actually afraid.
  • In World War Z narrator Todd Wainio describes how one of his fellow soldiers, a former wrestler, "an ogre with a two-g body count", who once tore off a ghoul's arm and bashed its skull in with it, broke down crying and had to be carried off on a stretcher when he came across a jackknifed big rig filled with broken bottles of cheap perfume that reminded him of someone he lost.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: In "Tomorrow", Justine Cooper, Holtz's former Dragon, helps Connor trap Angel in a steel coffin and sink him to the bottom of the sea. As revealed in "Deep Down", Justine was kidnapped by Wesley, who forced her to help him track Angel down during the Time Skip while having her Bound and Gagged and locked in a closet with a little food, water, and a bucket to be used as a bathroom; by the time of the premiere, Wesley has so thoroughly broken Justine that he can dissuade her from attacking him by simply threatening to take said bucket away.
  • Eobard Thawne (the Reverse-Flash) from the Arrowverse. He's a calculating, evil, genius-level SOB, who casually kills even those he considers friends. What's the only thing that can scare him shitless? The Black Flash (a zombie speedster, who used to be Hunter Zolomon, AKA Zoom), who's faster than pretty much any speedster out there and can smell the usage of the Speed Force. Eobard is right to fear him, since that's how he dies in the end (again). The Black Flash is so scary that even Savitar (the self-described God of Speed) dares not try to ascend to godhood while the Black Flash is still alive (luckily for him, he manages to convince Killer Frost to help him out, and ice is the only thing that can kill something like the Black Flash).
  • In Band of Brothers, Buck Compton's breakdown in reaction to the loss of his friends in "The Breaking Point" was used to not only relate Compton's personal story, but to help show the viewers just how shitty it was for the troops during the Battle of the Bulge.
  • Chuck: Beginning in Season 2, hardened criminals, professional spies, and even terrorist organizations speak of Chuck's alias, Charles Carmichael, with reverence, awe, and, in some cases, even fear.
    • A heroic example: John Casey is an unflappable badass who shrugs off gunshots and knife wounds like they're nothing, is freakishly strong, and his resistance to drugs, tranq darts, and just plain pain has been shown to almost superhuman extremes. He shows fear in the series precisely once: when Clyde Decker makes his first appearance.
      Casey: I know that voice.
      Chuck: Casey, you're going pale. I go pale. You don't go pale.
      Casey: Remember when I told you that opening the Agent X file would draw out a remorseless son-of-a-bitch who would destroy our whole team without breaking a sweat? This is the guy they hired to kill that guy.
    • Done with, of all people, Freddy Krueger himself aka Mr. Robert Englund, in one Season 4 episode; Englund plays a Scarecrow-style scientist who develops a fear toxin for Volkoff, and who enjoys inflicting fear on his victims. He's defeated when he runs afoul of a combination of his own toxin and a Halloween display set up by Jeff and Lester, which drives him mad with terror.
      • Volkoff himself is a highly-unstable and dangerous killer who scares and unnerves his underlings and anyone else he deals with. He's also so thoroughly terrified of Orion—Chuck's slain father, Stephen Bartowski — that Chuck was able to manipulate Volkoff into a trap and apprehend him just by planting the idea that Orion was actually still alive in Volkoff's mind via a clever computer hack.
  • In Deadliest Warrior, the vampires are terrified of the zombie hordes (this is obvious because some of the vampires are killed by the zombies), but the vampires fight so aggressively that it shows that they weren't being cowards, they just knew the threat. As the zombies' numbers drop, the last vampire seeks revenge on the last of the zombies, showing no mercy.
    • In fact, many 'badasses' on the show (Spetsnaz, Zande, Jesse James, Medellín Cartel members, Navy SEALs) run away from their foes because they always seem to run out of ammo and need to run away long enough to switch their weapons or ambush their enemy. (If the enemy also runs out of gun ammo, it normally leads to a knife fight.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Power of the Daleks" has a Cliffhanger of the Second Doctor completely freaking out about the Dalek presence on Vulcan, begging the humans to listen to him about how evil they truly are. Since this is the Second Doctor's first story and the First Doctor never acted afraid of anything at all (except loneliness), this has the effect of making it ambiguous as to whether the Doctor is still the Doctor.
    • This was something of a signature trope of the Hinchcliffe (Fourth Doctor) era, which delighted in demonstrating things were getting bad by having the powerful, deep-voiced, jolly Nightmare Fetishist seeming genuinely scared, though this was expressed through acting rather than dialogue for the most part. Just a handful of the more obvious examples:
      • "The Ark in Space": The Doctor is far too masochistic to freak out about directly connecting his brain to a psychic space-wasp eyeball even though this is the most directly dangerous thing he does in the story, but becomes slowly more and more afraid of the Wirrn as he begins to understand more and more what it actually is. As this was still an early story this sets up a clear contrast with his predecessor, who usually got much less scared of the monster the better he understood it.
        The Doctor: I'm afraid he's been digested.
        Sarah: Don't make jokes like that.
        The Doctor: When I say I'm afraid, Sarah, I'm not making jokes.
      • "Pyramids of Mars": The Doctor is clearly absolutely terrified of Sutekh. Overlaps with The Worf Effect since, despite being a powerful psychic, Sutekh is able to Mind Rape him into worshipping him with willpower alone.
      • The Doctor is genuinely afraid of the Krynoid in "The Seeds of Doom". This was not part of the original script — Tom Baker insisted upon playing the Doctor in this way because the serial was unusually violent and he felt it was required as justification.
      • In "The Deadly Assassin", when realising he's going to have to directly confront the assassin, he is clearly expecting to die. There is a long shot of him staring at his opponent, shaking with determination and fear. This was Enforced Method Acting as Tom Baker cannot swim and is deathly afraid of water, and the scene involved him being drowned...
      • In "The Robots of Death", while he comfortably confronts the robots and murderers, the thought of what may result from robot terrorism seems to genuinely scare him.
      • Not quite the Hinchcliffe era, but in a script originally commissioned for that era — being trapped in the lighthouse with a monster that will kill them all by morning in "Horror of Fang Rock" has a clear negative effect on the Doctor's mind, sending him moody and paranoid and, most of all, pants-wettingly terrified.
      • Also not quite the Hinchcliffe era but in a script originally commissioned for it — after getting an almost literal Mind Rape in "The Invisible Enemy" when a space parasite lays its eggs in his brain and mind controls him into being evil, as soon as he realises what has happened he is so scared he's almost panicking.
    • After two seasons of the Doctor being an Invincible Hero, "The Leisure Hive" gives us a cliffhanger of the Doctor screaming in terror as his limbs are ripped off. The Mood Whiplash is massive and suggests a lot about what this season is going to be like.
    • In "Dalek", when the (up to that point in the episode) jovial, flippant, cool-headed Ninth Doctor realizes the alien he's been locked in a room with is a Dalek, the way he immediately flings himself at the door in a panic, pounding on it and frantically begging van Statten to let him out is by far the most effective way to make new viewers (and jaded old viewers) take the Daleks seriously again.
    • "The Stolen Earth" gives us not one but several broken badasses: Sarah Jane, Jack and (to a much lesser extent) Martha and Rose. All four are them are tough, and ready to face anything... until they find out that the Daleks are invading, upon which every single one of these tough, experienced, ready-for-anything heroes starts to fall apart out of sheer, agonizing terror.
    • "The End of Time" gives us a double-whammy with the return of the Time Lords... along with Gallifrey itself and everything else locked away in the Time War. Their re-emergence sends the Doctor into a Heroic BSoD so badly, the Doctor picks up a gun. Then, to show just how horrific Rassilon himself is, we get a Break the Badass moment from the Master, of all people.
      The Doctor: You weren't there in the final days of the war. But if the Time Locks are broken, then everything is coming out. Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations. The Horde of Travesties. The Nightmare Child. The Could've-Been King and his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. The war turned into hell. And that's what you opened, right above the Earth. Hell is descending.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", it's revealed that the Pandorica is summoning not just the Daleks, not just the Cybermen, but every single enemy the Doctor has ever opposed. The way the Doctor unconsciously backs away from the person delivering this news, a look of complete and utter terror on his face that goes waaay beyond Oh, Crap!. Later, he gets put inside of the titular box and screams in terror that the TARDIS will explode. He is absolutely terrified, and it falls on deaf ears.
    • Also done in "The Impossible Astronaut". The Doctor, after going to meet the mysterious astronaut and telling his companions not to interfere whatever happens, is shot by the astronaut and starts to regenerate. Amy lets out a Big "NO!" and starts to run toward the Doctor, but River and Rory hold her back. Then the astronaut shoots again, killing the Doctor in the middle of his regeneration. This time, it's the normally implacable River who screams and runs for him, and we know that whatever just happened, something is very, very wrong. Then again, both the Doctor (actually, the Teselecta) and River (thanks to the reverse way her timeline lines up with the Doctor's) already know the truth.
    • In "Asylum of the Daleks", there is a special IC ward full of Daleks considered so insane they're not only too insane for the Dalek species, they're too insane for the Dalek asylum where all the Daleks who are too insane for this Absolute Xenophobe species of Omnicidal Maniacs are thrown. The reason these ones are so unimaginably insane? They're the ones who have had the misfortune of fighting the Doctor and losing. And to run this trope in the opposite direction as well, nothing conveys the horror of the situation quite like the way the Doctor, after realizing who they are, collapses against the wall, literally sobbing and screaming for help in sheer mindless terror, as they corner him and move in for the kill.
  • Game of Thrones: Locke's intention in cutting off Jaime's sword hand. It works for awhile.
  • In the final episode of Season 3 of Parks and Recreation, Tammy the Second (Ron's second ex-wife named Tammy, a librarian, and up to that point the undisputed Big Bad) has dropped around to mess with Ron. Then Tommy shows up with news that Tammy The First is waiting in Ron's office. Tammy The Second flees in terror.
  • Sharpe: When Perkins is killed in Sharpe's Battle, with Harper, Hagman and Harris to comfort him in his dying moments, these three hardened soldiers are reduced to Manly Tears by the event, and Harper promptly forgets about everything else to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against his murderer. Sharpe was elsewhere at the time, but the look on his face when he comes back and sees Perkins' body cradled in Harper's arms also qualifies.
  • Will Riker was more or less the charming swaggering Kirk-type of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unflappable, brave, and perfectly willing to knuckle up when necessary, he was never nonplussed. So in the classic episode "The Best of Both Worlds", when even he has an Oh, Crap! look on his face when the Borg-busting weapon fails, we know how far the situation has deteriorated.
    • Picard's experience with the Borg in the same episode absolutely qualifies as well: he is assimilated by the Borg and used to decimate Starfleet and kill thousands of people. His subplot in the followup episode, "Family", is all about his guilt and trauma over the events; he explicitly blames himself for not being strong enough to stop it.
    • In one episode, a Negative Space Wedgie causes hundreds to thousands of Enterprises from multiple universes (timelines that had different outcomes) to show up in one place. The way to fix it was to put a piece of one universe that had fallen into another by accident (Worf) back. The heroes of the story (not the main timeline crew we watch in the series) are getting ready to patch the universe back together. One of the Enterprises contacts the ship, it's a ragged crew missing several members (including Picard) and that Riker is almost half-mad screaming that the Borg in their universe has taken over/destroyed everything. The heroes try to talk him down and reassure him, but the spooked Riker opens fire on the heroes who are forced to return in an attempt to disable them only, which instantly annihilates the other ship.
      Wesley: (alt timeline) Their warp containment field must have been weak.
      Riker: (alt timeline) [gravely] Probably from fighting with the Borg.
  • Supernatural: Dean fears no man, no demon, no god. He will cheerfully snark, insult, and threaten the things that go bump in the night, no matter their pedigree, and then proceed to make good on the aforementioned threats. The sole exception to this is Death, who upon meeting the poor Winchester calmly and bluntly lays out just how tiny Dean is compared to him. Dean offers no argument, and when he speaks, he does so with absolute respect.
  • The Walking Dead (2010): Just how scary is Negan? He reduces Rick to a sniveling, pleading wreck of a man desperately begging on his hands and knees. Rick, the same man who spent 6 seasons slaughtering walkers, bandits, cannibals, and homicidal maniacs, is beaten into submission by one man. That is how scary Negan is.
    Negan: Oh, in case you haven't caught on... I just slid my dick down your throat, and you thanked me for it.
  • Most people in The Wire are terrified of the drug gangs that all but own the streets of Baltimore... and those gangs are scared of Omar Little, a shotgun totting stick up artist who only targets the drug dealers or their fronts for his robberies. Most of his victims immediately surrender rather than try to resist when Omar robs them, and the only ones who attempt to fight him are the Barksdale and Stanfield gangs, and both do so when each is at the peak of their power and the most powerful drug empire in town. Unusually for this trope Omar is a sympathetic character, as he's a badass Justified Criminal who has a strict moral code that includes never robbing or threatening anyone who isn't a gangster and being a Friend to All Children.
    • Prop Joe, who claimed he can have an entire family killed, said he might as well just kill himself if he finds out the hitman Brother Mouzone is after him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer: Kazador Dragonslayer, the king of Karak Azul was once a jovial Boisterous Bruiser who loved monster-hunting and great feasts. Then, while he was away, Karak Azul was invaded by a horde of Greenskins led by Gorfang Rotgut, destroyed most of the hold's treasures, and horrifically mutilated and killed many of the inhabitants, including Kazador's only son. Kazador became a shadow of his former self and went almost catatonic with grief, and the only thing that can rouse him is the prospect of killing Greenskins.

    Video Games 
  • Darkest Dungeon: This is expected to happen on a regular monthly basis. Even your strongest warriors are susceptible to fear, paranoia, insanity, hatred, hopelessness, masochism, and selfishness if they reach the breaking point; some of the monsters will spend their turns and sacrifice their lives just to screw your party's brains, and it works.
    • Examples include a giant undead horror choosing to throw the skulls of the dead instead of raking your party to shreds, female cultists who will spend their turns freaking your party out and shuffling them around, madmen who will accuse and curse and scream like there's no tomorrow, and every boss has their own version of a stress attack. And if one of your characters loses it, they'll passively stress out the rest of the party. No matter how strong your party gets their greatest weakness is their minds.
    • The titular Darkest Dungeon also accomplishes this a little more directly. Anyone who's gotten powerful enough to even brave it has survived all the above and more and remained stalwart. But every single one of them, no matter how determined and badass, will refuse to ever go in again. Anything else is fair game, but the experience is so traumatizing they'll never come back to that one.
  • Dark Souls: Artorias in the backstory (and DLC). Solaire around the time he gets to Lost Izalith, possibly fatally.
  • The protagonist of Double Homework feels crushing guilt over causing the avalanche on Barbarossa. He’s so upset that he stays in his room for months playing video games.
  • Halo: This is shown to have happened to the Master Chief by the time Halo 5: Guardians rolls around. The strain of a long war and the loss of many people who were close to him (especially Cortana) has had a detrimental effect on the Chief. The opening cutscene of Halo 4 even has Halsey's interrogator pointing that Spartans are so psychologically damaged they can't interact very well with ordinary people, inferring that John had to be broken to become the badass he became.
    • The signs were visible even before that, as there are several moments in 4 where the Chief just sounds... Tired.
    • Even as far back as the first game, there are limits to his Nerves of Steel: At the end of the cutscene in which the Flood are introduced, there's a sudden pounding on the door to the room he's in. The Chief spins around and brings a gun up, appreciably alarmed even though his One-Way Visor conceals his expression. And so he should be.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: There is one particular dark side act which will make Canderous tell you you've overstepped the limit. Only one. Mind-controlling Zaalbar into choking his teenage friend, a girl who trusts and respects you and believes that you can still be saved, to death.
  • Mass Effect: Commander Shepard. First Human Spectre. Hero of the Citadel. Vanquisher of the Collectors. All-around badass who can break every bone in your body in more ways than you have bones in your body. And, by the third game, Shepard may be so emotionally strained and haunted by the fate of the galaxy on his/her shoulders, by the men and women he/she couldn't save, by the simple fact that he/she has literally been going ninety-to-nothing since the series began that you just want to hug him/her and tell them it will be alright. If Mass Effect has taught us anything, it's the simple fact that being a hero is anything but easy. Depending on the events of the game (read: your choices), Shepard may be barely keeping it together by sheer force of will alone. Even if everything has been going as well as possible due to your play through the first two games, Shepard is still showing significant signs of wear.
  • In what is perhaps the most controversial scene in Metroid: Other M, Samus Aran, the badass bounty hunter who leaves a trail of destroyed planets in her wake, is reduced to a terrified little girl at the sight of her old nemesis, Ridley, Back from the Dead when she believed him gone for good after the destruction of Zebes. Fortunately, she snaps out of it in time to deliver yet another beatdown.
  • PAYDAY 2: In the Jacket Character Pack Trailer, a Cloaker, who normally cockily taunts the heisters as he runs around One Hit Killing them, is reduced to broken, terrified sobbing as Jacket approaches.
  • In Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, the game over sequence is plenty scary, being such a wonderful failure, but what makes it downright terrifying is the realization (sometimes Fridge Logic) that Raidou, normally very cool, collected, and poker-faced, looks horrified, and is very visibly panicking.
  • Team Fortress 2's cast is a Badass Army of Thieves and Whores, each of them managing to deliver hilarious amounts of destruction, but they're united in one thing: their sheer and unadulterated fear of The Pyro.
    The Scout: No, I'm not gonna talk about that...that freak, alright? [suddenly looks up in a panic and begins fiddling with his clip mic] He's not here, is she? How do I get this f[*bleep*]ing thing off?!
    The Heavy: I fear no man! But that...thing... [looks over his shoulder, then leans forward and lowers his voice to a whisper] scares me.
    The Spy: [Whilst smoking a Cigarette of Anxiety] One shudders to think what hideous thoughts lie behind that mask...What dreams of chronic, unrestrained cruelty...
  • Virtue's Last Reward does this in one of its many endings to generate suspense just before you find out what actually happened. Phi is consistently portrayed as a character with a mind of steel that rarely, if ever loses her cool. Such characterization is what makes seeing Phi succumb to Radical-6 with her eyes glazed over, no longer displaying even the slightest bit of reason so horrifying to watch in Clover's ending.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Tex is one of the best fighters in the series, easily able to kick almost everyone's butt single-handedly, as well as being nigh-unkillable because she's a ghost and AI. Omega is her former AI, fresh off an attempt to take over the entire galaxy, who Body Surfs and takes over people's minds, including Tex's a long time before. While it happens offscreen, by all accounts both freak out and desperately try to escape when the Meta shows up and ultimately takes down both.
  • RWBY:
    • Yang enjoys fighting and wants to become a Huntress for the thrill of adventure. In Volume 3, she undergoes a series of traumatic events that leave her reeling and broken by the end of the volume. During the tournament, she is tricked by Emerald into seemingly breaking Mercury's legs in front a live global audience, who believe she ruthlessly attacked an innocent man; she's disqualified, with her reputation destroyed. When Beacon is invaded, Yang's attempt to save Blake from Adam results in him severing her arm with a single stroke. She ends the volume, broken and bed-ridden. It takes her the whole of Volume 4 for her to get back to her feet and back in the game... along with a state-of-the-art Atlesian cyberarm.
    • Pyrrha Nikos is a world-famous student who has won the Mistral Tournament a record-breaking four times. In Volume 3, she is given an offer that threatens to break her spirit if she accepts it. She is asked by Ozpin's inner circle to replace the comatose Amber as Fall Maiden, a girl with magical power the world believes is just a fairy tale. While it may stop the villains from stealing unimaginable power for their own use, the catch is that the artificial process to transfer the power may destroy her identity. While she is stressed by the weight of the choice, the villains fix her match to fight Penny; with her magnetism power and Emerald's trickery, she accidentally kills the Robot Girl in front of a live audience, triggering such negativity that the Grimm begin invading Vale. She decides to become the Fall Maiden, but is prevented by Cinder, who obtains the power instead. Believing that only she can try to stop Cinder until help arrives, she fights The Heavy alone and dies seconds before help arrives.
    • In Volume 6, Maria Calavera reveals she used to be The Grimm Reaper, a legendary Huntress whom Qrow so idolised he designed his weapon after hers. However, she disappeared in mysterious circumstances, never to be heard from again. Maria reveals that her final fight left her blinded, and too terrified to ever fight again. She believes she failed her calling and betrayed what it means to be a Huntress. The Big Bad sent assassins after her because she was a Silver-Eyed Warrior. They only succeeded in blinding her, and she killed them all, but she was so terrified more would come to finish the job that she went into hiding for the rest of her life. She decides to mentor Ruby's developing silver eyes power as a way of atoning for her failures.

  • In Girl Genius the moment the Dreen shows up, the reaction of a Jager General is "Doze tings is unschtoppable! Vorse -- dey's scary!"
  • In Homestuck, Jack Noir is established as a nigh-omnipotent, destructive, murderous Reality Warper, the cancer of a universe made manifest, against whom absolutely nothing could stand in a direct fight (up to the arrival of PM with the ring, anyway), and half the story is about finding a way to defeat him... is positively shocked when he discovers what Lord English can do.
  • Unsounded: When Anadyne fails to save Stockyard and he and Toby's corpses fall to land at her feet she drops to her knees and stops fighting, or even really acknowledging the hellish fight around her. The Silver ends up taking her as she wallows in dispair.

    Web Original 
  • Captain Owen Powell of The Jenkinsverse is a veteran officer of the British Special Boat Service and has seen action both on Earth and against horrifying alien cannibals off it. Witnessing the death of fourteen-year-old colonist Sara Tisdale, however, badly affects him, and he later seeks counselling for PTSD.

    Western Animation 
  • In the season 1 finale of Arcane, Jinx does this to Vi with a fake-out Decapitation Presentation. Despite everything Vi's been through before, we've never seen her this horrified. For a moment, she was convinced that her sister was about to give her Caitlyn's severed head.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Amon does this to Korra in Book 1. She was already scared witless into becoming uncharacteristically hesitant and stoic after witnessing Amon's ability, but her first personal encounter with him, in which his Equalists ambush and restrain her in seconds and he himself promises that he will destroy her utterly and personally once the time is right, leaves her crying into Tenzin's arms, admitting she had never felt so helpless and afraid. And considering the entire sequence was played as if she was about to be raped, we believe it.
    • This happens to Korra again in Book 3, when the Red Lotus bends poison into Korra so that she could enter the Avatar State and they could kill her. It fails, yet the experience left Korra not only physically drained, but wrecked emotionally and plagued by hallucinations for years afterward.
  • On The Simpsons, Bart is usually completely unafraid of pissing off Principal Skinner with his constant pranking and antisocial behavior, but on the episode "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" Bart plays hooky and Skinner goes on a manhunt to try to catch him. The Trope Namer scene for "Non-Giving-Up School Guy" has Skinner pulling a Terminator (or rather, Gunslinger)-style Implacable Man move that actually scares the living hell out of Bart and he spends the rest of the episode afraid of having to testify on behalf of the defense of Freddy Quimby because it would mean having to confess he got out of school.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: During the Zygerria arc, Obi-Wan Kenobi goes through a serious case of this. He and the rest of the main characters are captured after trying to infiltrate a slave trading ring. Obi-Wan and Captain Rex are sent to work in the mines. Count Dooku is very interested in Obi-Wan, but not if he's going to constantly fight back, so the slavers start trying to break him. Besides punishing any disobedience or defiance from him, they punish or kill some of the other slaves when he tries to help them, including dumping a bunch of the Togruta into the crater the place is on top of. The goal is to force him into thinking that he can't fight back or someone will get hurt, and to induce hopelessness and compliance, leaving him as broken as any other slave, at which point he'll be handed over to Dooku... Fortunately, he gets rescued soon, as he is dangerously close to breaking.
  • TRON: Uprising: Part of the reason we know Dyson is bad news is everyone's reaction to him. Tessler is visibly shaken just looking at the guy. And then we find out that Dyson broke the badass by torturing Tron within a micron of de-rez, an act that sends Tron on a murderous rampage where Beck's attempt to talk Tron down almost gets the younger Program killed...
  • This happened with The Venture Brothers' Brock Samson at one point. Dr. Venture responded along the lines of, "I've seen you yank a man's eyes out of their sockets with the veins still attached and dance him around like a marionette, but THIS shocks you?!"


Video Example(s):


Larry breaks Attila the Hun

Larry psychologically evaluates Attila the Hun and it leaves him in tears.

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Example of:

Main / BreakTheBadass

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