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"Hermione, when have any of our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose!"

The dashing heroes have set up a plan to catch a villain, gain a MacGuffin, or otherwise simply accomplish something.

The plan quickly deteriorates as someone has screwed up, an outside force has reacted unpredictably, or maybe fate just hates you. Despite that, thanks to either grace, improvisation, or just plain fast thinking, the end goal is accomplished. Sometimes characters will count on this happening. Doesn't count if they cook up a new plan or at any time go back to the drawing board (though if that new plan isn't known to the audience...)

Compare with: Plethora of Mistakes, and contrast with Unspoken Plan Guarantee. For times when the plan deteriorates beyond recovery, see A Simple Plan. For times when the initial plan has to be switched for a new one, see Time for Plan B.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • In an attempt to get out of cleaning his room, Calvin decides to build a robot to do it for him. Despite his attempt to invoke Smart People Build Robots, it turns out that a six-year-old who has never studied robotics can't actually do that. At the end of the day, he heads to bed, disappointed that he failed... until he realizes that by spending all day faffing around with his robot idea, he indeed managed to avoid cleaning his room.
    • Calvin tries to get out of having to do a creative writing assignment for school by using his time machine to retrieve it from the future when it's already done. He neglected to realize that because he never actually did the assignment, it doesn't exist in the future. It devolves into three different Calvins arguing over whose fault that is. The past and future Hobbeses, realizing almost immediately that the plan won't work, write the story for Calvin, so he ends up not having to write the assignment after all! Unfortunately for Calvin, it's a Pyrrhic Victory, because when he goes up to read the story the Hobbeses wrote in class the next day, he finds it's an insulting story about what an idiot he is for trying to weasel out of his assignment with time travel (but it does get him an A+).

    Fan Works 
  • One Naruto story has Naruto and Sasuke come up with a plan to get the bells from Kakashi, but they don't incorporate (or inform) Sakura. When Sakura manages to get the bells herself and Kakashi congratulates them on their teamwork, Sasuke is quick to remind Naruto of the "Unspoken Rule of Shinobi Combat #6": Whatever happens, it's all according to plan.
  • In chapter 18 of Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse, the Kamikaze Pirates hold up a baron's birthday party in hopes of earning some more "pirate cred". Their plan is to rob the party, then escape whilst the local Marines are distracted by the detonation of time bombs planted on their ships. Unfortunately, the baron turns out to be far stronger than they expected, and they end up having to use the bombs to escape. Despite not getting very much treasure at all, they still consider the plan a success, as Ranma's notoriety increases and they even get some useful gear, in the form of a manual to learning the Moonwalk technique and an Eternal Pose to a Dead End Race.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Just about everything in Armageddon (1998) goes wrong, but they somehow manage to destroy the asteroid anyway. Put briefly, the Russian Space Station explodes because of old, shoddy piping and wiring just after they refuel, one shuttle is destroyed by debris and crashes (but Ben Affleck survives), the other crashes on an almost undrillable section of the asteroid, Steve Buscemi has a mental breakdown and starts shooting at everybody, the President decides to detonate the nuke prematurely and then doesn't, the asteroid kills more people with geysers when they do reach the right depth, but the transmitter on the nuke is damaged, forcing Bruce Willis to make a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Marty McFly concocts a plan to get Lorraine to fall for George McFly in Back to the Future. Biff unexpectedly intervenes, shattering the plan for George to pretend to deck Marty and rescue Lorraine. Fortunately, George manages to deck Biff and rescue Lorraine for real. Ironically, Biff's intervention saves The Plan from becoming A Simple Plan with its ensuing hilarity. In concocting the plan, Marty didn't quite get how his own conduct had seriously attracted Lorraine.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy, at one point, the heroes are incarcerated in the Kyln, a high-security prison. Rocket has a plan to get them out, requiring (among other things) a power source nearby. He explains thoroughly that once the source was taken out, all hell would break loose, so they needed to get it last. Cue Groot, who'd heard that they needed it and not much more, ripping the source out just as Rocket finishes explaining.
  • Inglourious Basterds: Subverted, and gloriously so. While there are some bumps along the way (three quarters of the Basterds dying before the plan is even underway, for example), it's very satisfying seeing all three plans to kill Hitler succeed. Subverted in another way as well, since the main one was only in danger of failing because they got involved.
  • In the live action Scooby-Doo movie, the gang's plan to stop the villain does work but not at all like how they wanted.

  • Pretty much the MO of Lawence Block's accidental secret agent Evan Tanner. Faced with a ridiculous surfeit of problems (uncover a Soviet plot at the Toronto World's Fair, avoid the Canadian authorities, rescue his adopted daughter, foil an assassination attempt on the Queen of England, dispose of a quantity of heroin) he works them out on the fly with little more than connections, friends and quick thinking.
  • A cast of deserters in Death Star formulate a plan to escape it - they'll make up some datawork and a pliable droid will intercept communications to the shuttle bay, letting them take a medical shuttle out without tripping any alarms. The droid will then disable tractor beams because doubtless there will be an alert at some point. Medical shuttles are unarmed and immediately recognizable, and most people aren't quick to fire on them, so they'll just have to get far enough away to jump into hyperspace. The first thing that goes wrong is that the droid is taken in for suspicious behavior, forcing one of the characters to stay behind to take its role. It appears he's arrested or killed offscreen before he can disable the tractor beams. The deck crew at the shuttle bay are suspicious and call security, so two more characters fight them and are killed buying the others time to take off. Then Darth Vader notices a shuttle in an odd place and he's not put off by moral obligations, but they delay being shot down long enough for him to refocus on Rebels. Finally they're snagged by a tractor beam... Just in Time for the Death Star to explode, saving the ones who're left.
  • Happens frequently in the Harry Potter series, particularly in the last book, where the trio spend roughly a month planning the break-in of the Ministry of Magic, and then another month planning the break-in of Gringotts. In both cases, they focused on getting in, and overlooked things that might happen while they were inside, and in both cases this trope ensues. Lampshaded in the film version, with regard to the upcoming infiltration of Hogwarts, which they didn't have time to plan for anyway.
    Harry: Hermione, when have any of our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose!
  • The breaking into Godwin Arms and Armaments in the Science Fiction novel Profiteer by S Andrew Swann. The Heroes have been betrayed, so the enemy knows they are coming, but they somehow pull it off anyway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team! Nothing Hannibal ever planned ever went the way he planned it, but the good guys won every time. "I love it when a plan comes together!"
    Hannibal's plans never work right. They just work.
  • Farscape is very self-aware about the fact that every single plan in the series works this way.
    John: I got a plan.
    Aeryn: Don't tell me you have a plan!
    John: (insulted) Why not?
    Aeryn: They never work!
  • As quoted by Leonard Snart/Captain Cold in The Flash (2014):
    "Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go Off the Rails. [Beat)] Throw away the plan."
  • Firefly: Every single plan in the series goes like this, and the characters are quite aware of it.
    Zoe: Captain'll come up with a plan.
    Kaylee: That's good, right?
    Zoe: It's possible you're not remembering some of his previous plans.
  • Quite a few of the tests in MythBusters go wrong in ways that don't produce valid results, forcing the team to work around the issue or reconstruct the test until they finally get a valid result, either in favor of or against the myth.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang" involved an Ocean's Eleven-style casino heist where nothing went as planned, but everyone bounced back in time to pull it off.
    • They actually show us what the perfectly-performed plan looks like, too, and even mislead us a little into thinking it's the actual performance of the plan, with the characters narrating/explaining their parts. This makes the blunder-filled version that much more hilarious. And exciting. (Of course, this is the common inversion of the Unspoken Plan Guarantee: since we hear the plan, you know it won't go that smoothly in practice.)
  • Stargate SG-1, with appropriate Lampshade Hanging:
    Worrel: Do things always go according to plan in your world, Dr. Jackson?
    Jackson: [beat] No. Not usually, no.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Some of the plans in this farce work out... and given it is also a tragedy, some of them will Go Horribly Right.
    • Roxane plans to marry Christian when she sees that De Guiche plans to visit her that night.
    • De Guiche plans a Last Stand for the Gascon Cadets.
    • Cyrano plans on Playing Cyrano to Christian so he can win Roxane's love.

    Video Games 
  • Many missions in the Grand Theft Auto series don't go as planned. Bank robberies and drug deals are particularly prone to failure. The more straightforward the mission seems, the more likely someone will botch it up or betray you and leave you running for your life.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Liam's Loyalty Mission is this, which is all the more impressive given the initial plan is to put it bluntly, terrible. Namely, sneak into an unknown enemy ship, with no idea how many people are waiting for them, or how armed they are, and just hope they don't get killed. The plan goes merrily to hell in minutes, but in the end they do get the bad guys and rescue some friends of Liam's.
  • Every chapter in the Sly Cooper series ends with an Operation: [Blank] that usually doesn't go entirely to plan, but still ends with the protagonists getting what they want and setting up the Arc Villain to be arrested by the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist. For example, in the first of these operations, "Operation: Peacock Drop", the plan goes off mostly well aside from Sly having to defend a truck from Dimitri’s men and then running into Dimitri in the printing press room and getting into a fight with him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Subverted in Double Homework. Though the protagonist and the girls plan meticulously to break into Dennis’s apartment, Dennis is carrying the storage device they were looking for in his pocket the whole time. However, as the protagonist points out, they probably couldn’t have actually taken it from him anywhere else.

  • Darths & Droids: in their version of Episode One, the entire Tatooine plot arc was just a giant Gambit Roulette performed by Qui-Gon Jinn purely by accident. He made so many stupid mistakes that they came full circle and canceled each other out. Summarized wonderfully here.
  • El Goonish Shive: In "Identity", Catalina tries to dispel rumors that Elliot is gay by impulsively tacklesmooching him. Elliot was not aware of this and does not play along, but his reaction convinces onlookers that... well, less that Elliot isn't gay, and more that the rumor is boring now and not worth spreading further. Sarah is baffled to realize that this means Catalina's silly plan actually worked.

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role has the plans of its main characters almost never work out as they planned, but they usually manage to achieve their objectives anyway. This is lampshaded in the second campaign — the Mighty Nein manage to have four separate plans to go into the Big Bad's lair, get an item they need, rescue a hostage, and escape. Despite bad dice rolls and a few major mistakes, the Mighty Nein still manage to do all of what they came to do, albeit by the skin of their teeth and with several cuts and bruises to show for it.

    Western Animation 
  • Done on the PBS children's show Clifford the Big Red Dog, when Clifford tries to catch Vaz's attention away from the latter's TV binge by hopping around outside. Instead, Clifford wrecks the satellite dish by accident, causing Vaz to go investigate. However, he sees Clifford outside, so Clifford successfully gains his attention despite the failure of his original plan.
  • Done frequently in The Dreamstone. A lot of times, Rufus and Amberley's attempts to stop the Urpneys fell short or led to their capture. They always ended up with the Dreamstone back however, given the Urpneys were perfectly able at screwing up their plans on their own
  • The Iron Man: Armored Adventures episode "Field Trip", where Tony, Pepper and Rhodey's plan to get the armour back without Stane noticing only comes off at all thanks to interference from Gene, Happy and Stane's daughter.
    Pepper: Well, that went perfectly. Apart from everything.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Kuro Neko", after Adrien gives up his Miraculous, Plagg works with him to form a plan to return to the field with a revamped secret identity, as Cat Walker. This works out disastrously, as Ladybug is too enamored by Cat Walker to effectively battle Kuro Neko... leading her to the realization that Cat Noir is irreplaceable, allowing Adrien to get back into the field under his original secret identity. As Plagg points out, the plan "worked better than if it had actually worked".
  • Scooby-Doo embodies this trope so often, it would be easier to note when it doesn't.
  • Star Wars Rebels, "Steps Into Shadow": The Imperials start incinerating the Y-Wings to keep them from falling into Rebel hands, leading to Ezra deciding to change it into a full-on retrieval mission. Hondo manages to convince the Ugnaught workers to stop the incineration in exchange for safe passage off the station, and Ezra lets the station fall while everyone else fuels up and grabs a Y-Wing. It works . . . but it results in the loss of the Phantom, and if Kanan hadn't come in the last second, Ezra would've been trapped and died.

    Real Life 
  • The assassination of Franz Ferdinand. To wit, all the assassins were supposed to throw grenades, fire pistols, then drink cyanide and drown themselves in the river. Instead, all but one of them froze up or had their gun jam, and the one who acted missed with both bullets and grenades and wasn't even successful in killing himself. (The cyanide had lost its potency and the river was too low to quickly drown in — he was arrested with a broken ankle and vomiting his guts out.) Later that day, the last member of the group who didn't get a chance to shoot was walking out of a sandwich shop — probably feeling guilty about his massive failure — when the Archduke's driver got lost and wound up right in front of him.
  • So much went wrong prior to and during the D-Day Normandy landings in World War II that it's almost miraculous that the invasion succeeded as well as it did. A brief summary of the problems includes:
    • Paratroopers were dropped into Normandy the night before the landings, with the intent of attacking and weakening the enemy defenses and seizing critical bridges and roads so they could slow down or prevent German reinforcements from reaching the beach and throwing back the Allied assault there. Unfortunately those paratroopers were widely scattered due to poor weather conditions, lack of visibility, and erroneously marked drop zones. Some groups recorded only six per cent of their group being dropped accurately and safely. note 
    • Bad weather, low visibility, and cloud cover meant that the attempts of the Allied navies and bomber planes to bombard the beach defenses overnight and into the morning were ineffective at best or completely missed at worst.
    • The seas themselves were so choppy and rough that much of the infantry was seasick on the way and weakened by that when they staggered onto the beaches. The rough seas also caused many of the landing boats to go off course and come ashore a good distance from where they were supposed to land. Finally, in some locations the tanks and other vehicles meant to support the landings either could not make it to land or outright sank into the channel.
    • That said, the Allies had their bits of good fortune as well; Rommel was absent from the defenses because the German predictions for the weather was that it would be too bad for an invasion to happen, so he went home for his wife's birthday and wasn't on hand to coordinate the defense. Also hampering the coordination of a response was the fact that some high ranking officers were injured, killed, captured, or engaged in firefights by the paratroopers despite the way the paratroopers had been scattered. (There was even an upside to the paratroopers being so widely scattered, as the reports of being attacked in so many different locations caused confusion in the German response.) The biggest piece of luck though was Hitler himself, who bungled a number of things in the run up to the Normandy invasion and in the response to the landings at the beach. note 
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower once stated that, "In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable."
  • Helmuth von Moltke (or ascribed to him): "No plan survives the first contact with the enemy."
    • A more famous variation of this quote comes from Mike Tyson — a source for some crazy quotes — who noted "Everybody got a plan until they get punched in the mouth."
  • Brazilian footballer Garrincha has a quote that serves well for why goes plans go wrong - before a game in The World Cup against the USSR, coach Vicente Feola rattled out a long, detailed play that would result in a goal, to which Garrincha responded "OK, Mr. Feola... but have you already set this up with the Russians?"