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Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat

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"No Muttley, we can't win fairly! We are villains! Ergo, we have to cheat!"
Dick Dastardly (while his car is three feet away from the finish line), Wacky Races Forever pilot

After a bad guy gets ahead (legitimately or otherwise), they'll stop coasting to an easy victory in order to grab the Villain Ball and set up yet another plan to screw up the good guys. This always results in the plan either backfiring or wasting the villain's time and effort, thereby giving the advantage back to the good guys.

Why a bad guy would do something so foolish depends on the context and the villain in question. It can usually be seen from personalities that feel compelled to be evil regardless of utility, or people who are so obsessed with humiliating the good guys that they let it override their common sense. Either way, the villain ends up fixing a situation he broke and becoming his own Spanner in the Works when he had the win all but assured, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It doesn't apply specifically to Wacky Racing, but to any competitive endeavor (for cases that are Wacky Racing, a Road-Sign Reversal is a common tactic). This behavior may be deliberately indulged in by a Card-Carrying Villain who cares more about Villain Cred than actual success. See also Cut Lex Luthor a Check, of which this could almost be considered a subtrope. Overlaps with Greed Makes You Dumb if the villain loses profit out of greed. This is a subtrope of Two Rights Make a Wrong.

Compare and contrast the heroic version of this trope, Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help. See also Cheaters Never Prosper, Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, Complexity Addiction, Stupid Evil, Evil Is Petty, Hoist by His Own Petard, Slow and Steady Wins the Race. It is related in spirit to the Revealing Cover Up. Also compare Defeating the Cheating Opponent, when our hero is able to outmatch the cheater anyway. The polar opposite of Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat is (of course) Pragmatic Villainy.

Funnily, this is often Truth in Television (though the "villain" part, less so). While it may seem silly for an already-dominant competitor to cheat anyway, oftentimes people who are already dominant tend to know enough of the ins and outs of what they're doing to cover up their cheating, and play for fairly high stakes. If anything, being highly experienced can prove as something of a defense; after all, if they're so good at what they do, surely they wouldn't need to cheat, so people tend to pass off extraordinary results from them as business-as-usual.

If you were looking for tropes on Adultery, go to Infidelity Index.note 


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Pokémon: The Series, the Terrible Trio of Team Rocket almost always falls victim to this whenever they get ahead, legitimately or otherwise. It's shown that Jessie, James, and Meowth are surprisingly competent when they're not trying to be greedy jerks, and are generally better people than the "twerps" often fight. But they just can't help themselves but try to cheat or go for the bigger prize when they already have a lead or a chance to escape. Quite often, they'll try and steal Ash's Pikachu even if they already have a chance to get away with some rare Pokémon, valuable object, or priceless treasure. This always ends up leading to the Rockets losing and getting blasted off again.
    • In one episode, they planned to steal a set of four Eevee evolutions, each one individually extremely valuable. The Rockets get three of them and a huge lead, easily enough to escape — but Jessie insists on going back for the fourth one, resulting in their capture and arrest.
    • James defies this trope in "Off the Unbeaten Path" where he participated in an orienteering race. During the race, James competed fairly with his Mime Jr. despite Jessie urging him to cheat like she was doing. In the end, James wins the contest fair and square, and Jessie gets "blasted off" by herself.
    • Team Rocket double subverted this in an episode where one of their evil plots begins with hawking cheap merchandise at a Pokémon tournament. The Rockets make so much money doing this, they decide to call off the rest of the plan and just focus on selling the cheap merch. But by the time they opened up an even bigger shop, the tournament was over and they were out of money. Back to a life of crime.
    • In an episode with a hot air balloon race, Team Rocket was actually winning the race fair and square before Jessie and James screwed them up by cheating. This was despite Meowth's vigorous objections that they were going to win anyways and there was no need to cheat. But cheat they did, and they blasted off again when their balloon popped.
    • There was an episode in Advanced where James practically admits to this trope. The contest was going through a Fun House and the winner would get a year's supply of Poké blocks. Team Rocket would get ahead of the twerps in every single phase, only to wait for them to catch up so they can knock them back again. At the final phase, James admits "We could have crossed the finish line, but we wanted Pikachu and Whismur too." They end up losing again.
  • In Naruto, the acting Hokage, Danzo, tries to hypnotize Mifune so the Kages will elect him leader of their alliance. It doesn't work. Mifune then informs him that he was going to nominate him, but no longer intends to do so, and Danzo attempts to justify his action by claiming that he had to be certain.
  • Mazinger Z: In one of the Gosaku Ota manga chapters, Dr. Hell plots the next scheme: overwhelm Mazinger-Z with a Macross Missile Massacre as another of his Mechanical Beasts — Deathcross V9 — attacks him, and as the Humongous Mecha is weakened and disoriented by the constant battering of missiles and the onslaught of the Beast, shooting a freaking huge missile to finish him off. It was a good plan. It could have even worked... Should Baron Ashura and Count Brocken have worked together. However, they were so eager and impatient for upstaging each other they attacked separately. Brocken shot the big missile without waiting for Ashura — wasting it and forcing them to rebuild the strategy — and Ashura decided he could use that chance to defeat Mazinger-Z using the Mechanical Beast (because that tactic had worked so well in the past, right?) and humiliating Brocken.
  • Girls und Panzer:
    • Alisa during a match between her team, Saunders, and Oarai Academy. Her team has numerical superiority (they outnumber the other team two to one), superior weapons and equipment and experienced tank crews compared to Oarai's new, inexperienced team and tanks rescued from the scrap heap. Despite this, she still feels to need to listen in on the other team's radio communications, which technically isn't cheating, but it certainly isn't cricket either. This comes back to bite her in the ass when the other team, and her own team captain, realize what she is doing and both work to undo it — specifically, Oarai's leader, Miho, manages to turn the eavesdropping against Alisa by sending false orders by radio and real orders by text message, while Alisa's captain, Kay, willingly forgoes the numerical superiority to make up for the trickery.
    • Same series, the Head of MEXT School Carriers Department: Have a team of high schoolers slated to go against a college-level Dream Team? Not enough: have it be 8 vs. 30. Have an 8 vs. 30 battle? Not enough: have it be an annihilation battle and not the standard flag battle so that the numeric advantage has maximum effect. Have it be an annihilation battle? Not enough: substitute the college team's late-war Pershings for their usual Shermans. Have Pershings instead of Shermans? Not enough: use Pershings whose speed indicates they are the post-war M26E2 model (which is only possible through a Loophole Abuse that would usually not pass approval). Have all the above? Not enough. Change the rules to allow a siege gun. While the extent of his deck-stacking is only fully revealed during the battle, making it an 8 vs. 30 annihilation match alone tipped the scales so hard that all of Oarai's previous opponents (plus some others) went so far as to file temporary transfers to Oarai so that they could join the match and make the numbers even (and the wide variety of tanks that they brought also enabled them to pull off all kinds of trickery and unconventional tactics that the more homogeneous college team couldn't react to). Had his cheating been more subtle, he could've buried Oarai.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The first game played in the manga was one where both players had a stack of yen bills on the back of their left hand, and the challenge was to pick up as many as possible by stabbing them with a knife without injuring themselves. By the end of the game, Ushio has collected most of the money and could easily go home happy, but he instead decides that he should get all of it and tries to kill Dark Yugi with the knife. This... doesn't work out for him.
    • Marik in the Battle City arc makes a variation that could be called "Dick Dastardly Stops to Order You to Cheat". During Odion/Rishid's duel with Joey/Jonouchi, the former has the upper hand and is only one attack from winning. But Marik insists that Odion uses the (fake) Winged Dragon of Ra so as to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that he is the "real" Marik. Doing so enrages the real Ra in Marik's deck, which strikes both duelists with lightning bolts from the sky, and Joey ends up winning by TKO.
  • Nanamine in Bakuman。 is portrayed as a skilled manga artist who could more than likely end up as a legitimate rival to Ashirogi Muto if he found himself a good writer to make up for his inability to write characters with heart. Unfortunately, he's incredibly arrogant and obsessed with utilizing dubious, underhanded tactics to push his manga up in the ranks, a practice that eventually gets him banned from Jump.
  • Osomatsu-san: Iyami turns a straightforward case of Pragmatic Villainy into this. He manages to take the lead in a race to become main character by killing everybody else, and he would have coasted to the end if he just walked the resulting wasteland to the finish — but the Matsunos barely survived, and he couldn't have that. He spends so much time fighting with Osomatsu that the two end up letting segway-riding Shonosuke Hijirisawa take the prize while they pass out inches away from the goal.
  • Sasa from Puella Magi Oriko Magica Sadness Prayer seemingly defeated all her opponents and could have easily gone back to the territory she was forced to abandon... Except she spots Madoka on the road and decides to kill her for fun. Cue Homura's anger.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
    • Telence T. D'Arby's Stand can steal people's souls by betting them in video games. While he is skilled in them, his Stand also gives him Mind Reading abilities that he uses to get another unfair advantage, by asking a yes/no question and always getting the correct answer. Once Jotaro figured out how to start cheating in a way that circumvented the Stand's mind reading, Telence insisted on still using his Stand like a crutch to win and trying to fruitlessly figure out how Jotaro was cheating (it was Joseph secretly using the controller via his own Stand) rather than fall back and use his own natural video game skills, which were superior to Jotaro's, to close the gap and possibly take the win.
    • During the final battle with Jotaro, Dio managed to get a sufficient power-up which allowed him to stop time for longer durations, but was cornered by Jotaro, who managed to perfect his own time stop as well. Dio decides to blind Jotaro temporarily to take away his advantage, and uses his leg to brutally kill Jotaro instead of just using his time stop. The problem was that the kick was made with The World's weak leg (caused by Jotaro badly injuring Dio's own leg just seconds prior), which almost immediately shattered on contact with Star Platinum's fists, leading to The World getting shattered completely, and as Stands are linked to the user's life, well...
  • Both of Komi Can't Communicate's school culture festival arcs involve a competition over which class can raise the most of a special currency. Komi's class run a very successful maid café the first year, and perform two plays that quickly sell out the second. They likely would have won fairly both times, but thanks to Najimi making shady business decisions running the café and reselling tickets for the plays at a mark-up, they ended up getting disqualified.
  • Adventures of the Little Koala: In "Lost in a Race", Walter, Horsey and Colt take a commanding lead in an orienteering race. They decide to change one of the signs to throw off the other racers which works when Roobear, Laura, and Betty take the wrong path and get lost. Walter and his brothers lose their bearings and come across the same sign while backtracking. They forget which path is correct and also get lost. They are eventually disqualified for altering the sign.
  • In The Quintessential Quintuplets, Ichika grows increasingly paranoiac and desperate in her bid to win Fuutarou's affections. It gets to the point that she resorts to posing as her sister Miku to confess her feelings for him because Ichika doesn't have the courage to do it as herself. This kills her chances with him because Fuutarou sees through the disguise and reprimands her for it. Later, Ichika realizes that she and Fuutarou had met once as children when they played cards together. But when she tries to tell Fuutarou this, he doesn't believe her, even though Ichika is telling the truth. Had Ichika been honest from the beginning, she could have had a legitimate chance at Fuutarou's heart without resorting to deception and betrayal of her sisters. But because she lied, her chances are shot to pieces, and she has no one to blame but herself.
  • Megalo Box has Shark Samejima, a boxer who is ranked much lower than his true skill level. This is because he loves using illegal blows, forcing him to forfeit matches he would have been able to win had he fought fairly.
  • Dotto! Koni-chan had one episode that was a full-on Wacky Races homage, with Koni's friends being the ones who insist on trying to cheat to take out the other competitors with the expected results. Towards the end Koni makes them realize that they always get ahead to set up the traps, so they could take advantage of that to win fairly. They still lose, though, and to add insult to injury, Koni laughs at them just like Muttley.
  • In Time Patrol Tai Otasukeman, the two Time Patrol teams take flight from the base together. The villains always sabotage the other spaceship in order to arrive on Earth first, transform into the Ojamamen and have more time to do their evil plan. The other squad manages to fix the issue quickly and stop their plans anyway.

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk: Several of the Leader's plans over the years would've gone fine if he hadn't decided to involve getting at the Hulk in some form, inevitably giving the big guy a chance to sabotage them.
  • Lampooned in Lili Put - While all characters race towards a treasure (in a Wacky Races homage of all things), Ivan and his gang of dwarfs gets ahead of everyone else. As they cross the bridge Ivan stops and orders his men to destroy the bridge. Rupert questions this idea and gives a speech in which he deconstructs the practicality of this trope, point by point, just long enough for all the rivals to cross the bridge without the dwarfs noticing... and then they decide to destroy the bridge anyway, never being aware that they are now far behind. Doesn't stop them from having an Evil Laugh.
  • One French comic named L'élève Ducobu follows an utterly lazy student who constantly attempts to steal and copy the answers of a Child Prodigy during exams. It doesn't work out too well. When said Child Prodigy tells him that she would gladly actually pass her the answers to copy if he asked her politely, he (hesitantly) does so and she does give him the answers, only for him to immediately give them back to her dramatically, stating that he can't do it like this. He then immediately resumes his schemes.
  • Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four: In Issue #17 after Jennifer reveals to The Thing that she was a False Friend who only wanted to get a piece of his skin for her company to research, Ben's response is to rip a piece of it off and hand it to her. She's left in tears at what he says to her, especially since she mocks the idea anyone could like him.
    The Thing: The last couple of weeks were really great, Jennifer. I... I actually thought you were my friend. You could have just asked...
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
    • Getaway hates Megatron being on the Lost Light, and thinks Rodimus is a bad captain (which, in all fairness, is pretty true), so he comes up with a plan to kill two birds with one stone, going around the crew asking everyone whether they'd stand with him in a mutiny, erasing the memories of anyone who says "no". An awful lot of crewmembers say "yes", but when they learn what Getaway did, his approval plummets. Since Getaway has a severe inferiority-superiority complex going on, rather than admit, or try and make amends, Getaway resorts to a hideous scheme involving more Laser-Guided Amnesia and a serial killer.
    • The Decepticon Justice Division have gotten a bit high on being The Dreaded, and as a result, they tend to waste time and resources on inflicting really graphic kills. Their flipout upon encountering alternate!Drift meant that instead of finishing off Overlord, they butchered the entire crew of the ship their target was on, leading to two of them nearly being killed while they were recovering their energy.
  • A tragic example in a "Batman Adventures" comic: the Riddler pulled off a robbery so flawless he could have easily gotten away and Batman couldn't have stopped him. Still, he was compelled to leave behind a clue like he always does, and Batman ends up arresting him after solving it. Nygma's riddles are no longer a villainous gimmick, but a compulsion he can no longer control.
    Riddler: I didn't plan on going back to Arkham, but I think I need to now. I think I need help. I'm afraid I might actually be crazy...

    Fan Works 
  • In the penultimate episode of Cast Swap's “All-Stars” season, Sugar chooses to waste time sabotaging Cody and Gwen before retrieving the item she needs to win her challenge. Had she not bothered and instead chosen to retrieve her item and turn it in to Chris ASAP, she would have placed first in the challenge and earned a guaranteed spot in the finale. Instead, not only does Shawn get first place, but Cody manages to place before Sugar despite her sabotaging him, not that it would have mattered if she had placed before him because Shawn had the choice of whether to compete against Sugar or Cody, and he chose Cody.
  • Dangan-Pinguino: Played with, as the Trope Namer himself is shown committing this during his official introduction, despite having become a respected champion since. While he could easily win his current race without cheating, he proceeds to do so anyway because that’s how he rolls as a villain, sabotaging the rest of the racers long after he receives his award.
  • Earth and Sky: Despite having a rocket-powered flight harness that would allow them to easily outpace every other contestant in the Grand Pegalathon, the Flim-Flam brothers keep stopping to set up booby traps to delay everyone else, which usually only end up backfiring on them, not to mention increasingly angering the Princesses until they finally disqualify the brothers and order them arrested. Afterwards, they eventually admit that they let their egos and shortsightedness get the better of them and sabotaged themselves.
  • Queen of All Oni has Jade directly reference the Trope Namer during the hunt for the third tablet of the Teachings of Eternal Shadow — despite having a lead on the J-Team, when she senses them catching up, she decides to stop and set up an ambush. However, it ends up subverted, as Blankman points out that such a fight might actually cost them their lead rather than ensure it, and convinces her to just boobytrap the path behind them and keep going.
  • Seventh Horcrux's adaptation of Goblet of Fire plays this for humor when Harry (with Voldemort's mind) enters the Triwizard Tournament. As he is far stronger than any other competitor, he could win conventionally with ease. However, he's so competitive and jerkish that he insists on cheating or attacking the other Champions, leading to him scoring awfully.
  • Service with a Smile: Jaune's small coffee shop attracts the attention of a much larger chain called Cafe Prime, who quickly move to destroy him before he can establish a foothold and become a real problem. Their initial tactics (offering free coffee to Jaune's primary customer base, opening up a new location just down the street) aren't particularly nice, but they are absolutely legal and nearly guaranteed to ruin Jaune pretty quickly. But then the owner, Alexander Sterling, decides to up the ante by hiring a street gang to bust up Jaune's shop, buys the location from the landlord, sues Jaune for libel when Jaune didn't say a word, and then tries to evict Jaune because Jaune's renter's agreement says he can be kicked out if somebody sues him for anything. These overt actions attract a lot of attention, and Cafe Prime quickly becomes reviled by the city. That being said, Weiss points out that now that everything is public Sterling has to continue. If he publicly apologizes then Jaune will survive in a much better position and gain the respect of the city for surviving past this... while if he continues then Jaune will eventually be crushed, Cafe Prime will have a monopoly like Sterling wants, and the public will soon forget about what he did to one little coffee shop. Ultimately, Cafe Prime just gets rid of Sterling, since they already dominate Vale's coffee market and this grudge match against a single independent shop on a small street is literally not worth their company's time or money, and threatens to get Cafe Prime into legal trouble. It's an anti-climax, and Jaune feels a little disappointed, but it is the best outcome he could expect.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, after Joshua loses his League match to Ash, Iris confronts him and observes that he has little faith in his own skills, telling him that if he spent more time working on his own abilities rather than trying to find ways to cheat he might have done better in his match against Ash.
  • In Someone to Watch Over Me, Hawk Moth has actually managed to make arrangements for his wife to be revived from her magical coma, but he still can't resist trying to steal the Cat and Ladybug Miraculouses when the ritual is half complete. This enrages Adrien so much that he almost loses control of his vital role, and Hawk Moth ends up having to sacrifice his own life force to make the ritual a success, taking his wife's place in magical stasis.
  • This is noted in-universe as one of the fatal flaws of the eponymous Villain Protagonist in The Rise of Darth Vulcan. His loathing and hatred of Equestria is such that he will always choose the plan with the greatest likelihood of making the Equestrians feel stupid and being able to rub his victories in their snouts, even when a simpler plan would be far safer or would net him greater rewards. This has backfired several times, including getting him very badly injured once. Other characters have repeatedly tried to talk Darth Vulcan into simpler plans, and even when Vulcan knows he should be smarter about it, he just can't bring himself to stop.
  • In The Hero and the Veela Cedric and Viktor waste their head start during the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament by setting an ambush for Harry and Fleur, who sneak through it while disillusioned and turn the tables.
  • Top of the Line (Editor-Bug): If Tak hadn't felt the need to sabotage all the other SIR Units, GIR would have been eliminated from the tournament early on. Instead, letting him get to the last round gives Zim a chance to win with GIR's Ultimate Duty Mode.
  • In Total Drama Legacy, the campers are challenged to race each other in go-karts, and Emilia seems to be doing quite well. However, she's so desperate to destroy her arch-rival Storm that she focuses more on obstructing her than maintaining her lead, and Link ends up passing both of them and placing first. Chris even compares her to the Trope Namer during that night's elimination ceremony.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Woodward and Bernstein's theory that Watergate is tied to the White House faces some skepticism from a Washington Post editor because of this trope. With the Democrats in disarray going into the 1972 election, there was no need for Nixon to stoop to dirty tricks and jeopardize his reelection prospects. It later emerged that Watergate was merely the last and least-competent of the Nixon team's dirty tricks; the Democrats were in disarray because of previous ones. Thus the Watergate scheme, by itself, is a straight example of the trope.
  • In Rat Race, while everybody is doing everything they can to keep moving, the Cody Brothers stop to actively cheat more than any of the others. First of all, they decide that since they can't get a plane flight, they'll sabotage an airport (it worked, but they needed a new car). Next, they pause to steal another competitor's car engine. And most of all, when they decide to split up for a better chance to win, they end up in a cross-country chase, starting with a hot-air-balloon and ending with their car crashing into a lake.
  • Trip from Herbie: Fully Loaded felt compelled to ram Herbie into the wall even though he was in the lead, causing him to crash spectacularly and allowing Herbie to win the race.
  • The Great Race, starring Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie, and Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate. Professor Fate lives this trope. Professor Fate actually originated this trope, as Dick Dastardly is based on him. For starters, his race car is made entirely of stolen parts. Beyond that: His henchman sabotages all the other racers (sans Leslie and late-entry Maggie) at the start line, he takes illegal shortcuts, blows up the gasoline stocks at refueling points, picks fights along the way so those behind him get caught up in the melees, and, if all else fails, he uses his car's built-in cannon to just blast everyone out of the way. Also inverted in the final scene, where the hero stops his car a few yards from the finish line to snog Natalie Wood's character. This actually allows Fate to win, but he refuses to accept victory on those terms and immediately challenges the Great Leslie to another race.
  • In One Crazy Summer, despite Teddy's protests that he can win the sailing race fairly, his bullying father insists on cheating and even goes so far as to say it's "the only way to win." Naturally, this time, they don't.
  • In Monte Carlo Or Bust this happens several times to Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage; in fact, after accidentally blowing up his own car, Perkins picks him up on this.
  • A Running Gag in the Austin Powers films is how Number Two's front companies are making tons of money legally, causing him lots of frustration when Dr. Evil doesn't care and still wants to Take Over the World, just because. Number Two even says that "There is no 'world' anymore; it's only corporations." But Dr. Evil is such a Card-Carrying Villain that he still wants to try anyways. In every movie, Austin Powers steps in and puts a stop to the evil plans of Dr. Evil.
    Number Two: Virtucon alone makes over nine billion dollars a year.
  • In the Disney Channel Original Movie Brink!, the titular character's rival is actually quite a skilled skater as leader of the X-Blades, but his animosity towards the main character ends up getting him exposed as a cheater.
  • In The Mummy, Beni — who spent the entire first movie as the Big Bad's lackey — manages to escape the ruins with scores of bags laden with gold and a ride to safety. He is this close to being a Karma Houdini... but he can't abate the urge to go back in for even more loot, and meets his end inside. The heroes, on the other hand, leave using Beni's camels, unaware that they are loaded with treasure (until the second film, where they have clearly put that money to good use).
  • Casino: Nicky's job in Vegas is to be the mob's enforcer and protect their control of the casinos and the skim from potential rivals. He even owns a successful restaurant and hobnobs with its celebrity patrons. He can't help but start loan sharking, fencing, and burglary teams. He even goes on some burglaries himself. Since his bosses don't want him doing such things because they don't want any extra attention on the casino operations, he keeps most of the money for himself.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes: When McCullough's army is being attacked by the Northern Army, one of the machine gunners notices the group of escaping apes and opens fire, despite the fact the apes were unarmed and that a literal army was bearing down on them. This causes one of their donkeys (traitor apes) to turn on them at a critical moment and save Caesar.
  • The various murders in Hot Fuzz are revealed to have the motive of bumping off people who might reflect badly on the town winning an annual competition for Village of the Year. Given that the town was in basically tip-top shape, it's unlikely it'd need the edge or that it'd lose it because of one tacky house or annoying street performer. Needless to say, when the murder plot is discovered, it ends up impacting the town's standings in that competition far more than any house or performer might. It's mostly due to Frank Butterman being madly determined to never go below first place in that competition because the last time the town lost the competition (thanks to some travellers arriving to town and ruining it all), his wife (who worked herself to the bone cleaning up the town) got so depressed from her efforts becoming All for Nothing that she killed herself. Still, at the climax of the film after Inspector Butterman explains his Freudian Excuse, his own son Danny tells him off by pointing out that if his mother could see the bloodbath Frank had caused, she would "kill herself all over again!"
  • In Hidalgo Katib and by extension his boss Big Bad Louise Lombard may have won the race as they wanted if not for all the stopping to kill or maim the main character Hopkins.
  • In The Karate Kid Bobby says he can beat Daniel in a fair fight at the tournament without breaking the rules, and probably could have. He's bigger, stronger, and has more experience with karate. Kreese, instead, orders him to cheat so Lawrence can fight Daniel in the finale for an easy victory. Despite the fact that if Bobby won, his dojo would win either way. Guess who wins the finale?
  • The Karate Kid Part III shows Kreese from the first film has lost all his students. He partners with an old friend, Terry Silver, to help rebrand his dojo Cobra Kai and even franchise it across the region. They find a new, highly skilled and nigh unstoppable student Mike Barnes to join, thereby almost guaranteeing a victory in the next All-Valley Tournament. But for whatever reason, they decide their main course of action is to target Daniel and Mr. Miyagi for their surprise victory in the previous tournament, which involves Kreese faking his death, criminal harassment of their local business, forcing Daniel to sign up for the next tournament, foster a dissent between the two, recruit Daniel for training to sabotage his focus and thereby guarantee his humiliation. The tournament itself had Daniel outmatched at every turn, but Barnes was told to keep losing points to ensure Down to the Last Play, where of course Daniel manages to recover and score a decisive victory point. The sheer dedication to this whole scheme made for an infamous Motive Decay, thinking revenge was the only way to recover their business.
  • Slumdog Millionaire: After Jamal sees his question for ten million rupees, the show takes a commercial break. The host follows Jamal to the restroom where they have a brief chat. Before Jamal leaves, he notices that the host has written the letter "B" on a foggy mirror. When the show comes back, Jamal plays this move like a fiddle. He uses his 50:50 lifeline which leaves the host's answer among the choices. Despite the host's attempts to sway Jamal into picking "B", Jamal makes the other choice his final answer which turns out to be correct.
  • In Troop Beverly Hills, the Culver City "Red Feathers" do this twice during the final competition weekend, both aimed at the eponymous troop:
    • In the first day, they swap a sign behind them, leading TBH in the wrong direction. This backfires when they get chased to the finish line by a Smelly Skunk.
    • The second day, the Red Feathers cut down a bridge over a ravine, leading to TBH leader Phyllis Neffler crossing over a log so they can go refasten it. Though the Red Feathers finish first, they are disqualified because they abandoned their injured troop leader along the way, giving TBH, who finished second, the win.

  • In A Brother's Price, the villains are quite successful, having killed half of the royal family, with the intent to become Queens themselves, but then make the mistake of messing with the Whistler family. Instead of asking to marry one of the Whistler cousins, who have just as much royal ancestry (which is the thing they're after), they kidnap the recently engaged Jerin Whistler. This ends badly for them.
  • The Big Match at the end of Unseen Academicals. Since most of Ankh-Morpork United are professional footballers, it's quite likely they could have beaten UU fair and square, but attempting to do so never even occurs to Andy Shank, whose fouling of opposition players ensures that Trev Likely is on the field, and by judicious application of the rules becomes unstoppable. The United captain tries and fails to reign him in, and in the end points this out and punches him out for it.
  • The Malloreon: Zandramas often takes time off from her mission as agent of the Dark Prophecy to Kick the Dog and set traps for the heroes pursuing her. Not only does her scheming repeatedly let the heroes catch up to her despite her huge initial lead, her blatant interference with The Prophecy antagonizes Cyradis, whose job is to choose between the Dark and Light Prophecies at the end.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: A protagonist example appears in The Name of the Wind driven by the Kvothe's immaturity and pride. The lecturer surrenders the class to Kvothe believing that Kvothe will embarrass himself by his own ignorance. Highly intelligent and educated, Kvothe could easily lecture the class or even conduct a demonstration. Instead, he uses magic to attack the lecturer and blames the victim for not stopping him.
  • Harry Potter: The Slytherin Quidditch team seems to have a problem with this overall, with their own hubris and drive to win sabotaging their own success.
    • Chamber of Secrets has the Slytherins at a distinct advantage over Gryffindor due to their new brooms, as well as a rogue Bludger forcing the Gryffindor Beaters to protect Harry instead of watching out for the rest of the team. This means that Slytherin is able to take an early 60-0 lead without much trouble. But Draco, instead of immediately trying to find the Snitch and win the game, gets so caught up in taunting Harry that he doesn't even notice the Snitch hovering inches above his own ear - but Harry does. This ends up costing Slytherin the game, and Flint tears a strip off of Draco for it.
    • By the time of the Quidditch finals in Prisoner of Azkaban, the Slytherins start off with a huge points advantage — they're far enough ahead on the scoreboard that Harry can't catch the Snitch until the Gryffindor Chasers score enough goals to close the gap, or else Gryffindor will win the game but lose the cup. But rather than utilize what is essentially free time for Malfoy to catch the Snitch and win the game, the Slytherins insist on repeatedly trying (and failing) to injure the Gryffindor players, causing Madam Hooch to award Gryffindor multiple free penalty shots. The end result is that Gryffindor is able to close the points gap and, once Harry grabs the Snitch, win the cup.
  • In Pugs of the Frozen North, Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling is determined to win the Race To The Top Of The World and regain his family fortune, and is willing to do anything to ensure a victory, even setting up traps to knock the other racers out.
  • In Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, Theopolis has a handsome income collecting bounties on behalf of Silence Montane, who is secretly The Dreaded bounty hunter White Fox. Being an avaricious Jerkass, he tries to repossess Silence's business, then repeatedly sabotages her most dangerous bounty hunt and endangers her daughter's life. When he shows up again to claim control of the business, he slaps her and draws blood, violating one of the Simple Rules of the forest and meeting his death at the hands of an enraged Shade.
  • The Wheel of Time: When the side villain Galina and Faile's party are (separately) captured by the Shaido, she offers to help them escape in exchange for a favour, but then traps them in a cave-in and leaves alone. Consequently, she's immediately recaptured and subjected to a Fate Worse than Death, whereas Faile's group make it to freedom.
  • Captive Prince: Makon, the antagonist of "The Adventures of Charls the Veretian Cloth Merchant", starts out as an Unknown Rival to Charls' group, but his escalating acts of sabotage cause them to pay closer attention to him, which gets him exposed as an illegal slaver and probably killed.
  • The Murderbot Diaries
    • In Artificial Condition, Tlacey breaks her contract with Tapan's group, steals their research, and repeatedly tries to have them killed when they try to recover it. As a representative of an interstellar MegaCorp, it would have been trivial for her to hire them or buy their work fairly. Instead, her efforts get her a crushed windpipe from a very angry SecUnit who doesn't like seeing innocents endangered.
    • In Network Effect they return a lost crewmember and provide relief supplies to a damaged corporation vessel. Apparently out of a fear of looking weak, the chief executive of that vessel tries to hold them for ransom rather than pay for the supplies. Murderbot immediately leaps across the table, grabs hold of her bodyguard and forces him to point his gun at his own boss, who quickly adopts a more reasonable attitude.
  • In The Great Balloon Race, Count Pommodoro could have won the the race if he had just continued on to the finish line while the Professor and Charles were repairing their balloon. Instead, he decided to stop and cut their balloon adrift to ensure that they couldn't finish at all. However, the Professor and Charles manage to get back into their balloon after he has caught it loose, and when he returns to the Mako Shark PT-700, he discovers it has been disassembled by the Arabs.
  • The Mummy Monster Game: In book 1, during the chariot race for the second arm of Osiris, the pharaoh Rameses has apparently ensured his victory by using his sword — his third weapon — to cut the reins on Josh's chariot, causing it to come to a halt. Then, rather than going on to win the final lap, he stops and comes back to kill Josh directly before going on to win. This costs him, as Josh evades the attack and pulls off an unexpected tactic to continue the race and make it across the finish line.
  • The Dresden Files: In Death Masks, Ortega was winning the duel when he decided to taunt Harry (thus pissing him off and strengthening his will), and then tried to shoot Harry with a gun hidden under his flesh mask.
  • In Oath of Gold by Elizabeth Moon, Liart's Religion of Evil has been working for decades to destroy the country of Lyonya by manufacturing a Succession Crisis. In the endgame, they succeed in capturing the recently revealed heir to the throne, main character Paksenarrion's former employer Duke Kieri Phelan. And then they freely give all that up in exchange for getting to torture a paladin of the High Lord, i.e. Paks herself, for a few days. Paks brokers the deal expecting not to survive but hoping her martyrdom can buy Phelan the time he needs to reach the capital safely. She does make it out thanks to Divine Intervention, and fights one more battle at the head of a militia to seal the deal.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: All of the incoming students at an evil Wizarding School have to race in heats through a lethal obstacle course for orientation, and only the winners of each heat are guaranteed to 'pass' orientation altogether and be fully accepted into the school. During the protagonist's run, her rival Lily passed her and almost finished the course first, but then Lily stopped to attack another girl in the heat who was far behind them and had no real chance of winning. This both slowed Lily down and also enraged the protagonist that, after she saved the other girl, she overtook and beat down Lily. The result was the protagonist finishing first, the other girl finishing second, and Lily failing on account of not completing the course.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Shirley Holmes has an episode where the leading candidate at the election for Student Council President was believed to have invoked the trope (he even pointed out he was leading when he was accused) but was actually framed. The heroine found out but was unable to expose the deception, and it became a case of The Bad Guy Wins.
  • The Amazing Race: On the American version, Season 14 contestants Mark & Michael do this. One option in Episode 7's Detour is transportation by rickshaw with air pumps provided in the case of a flat tire. Mark & Michael hide the pumps which they get penalized for when they arrive at the Pit Stop. If that isn't bad enough, they are assessed another time penalty for following a taxi along the way. As a result, they miss out on a trip to Hawaii when another team checks in a few minutes before their penalties time out.
  • This led to Anand's firing in season 10 of the U.S. version of The Apprentice. During task 5, in which he was Project Manager, he sent a bunch of text messages to his friends in an attempt to sell chariot rides. Nobody responded, but his team easily won anyway. Trump eventually found out and confronted Anand about it a few episodes later. Anand proceeded to lie right to Trump's face, claiming he hadn't sent any illegal texts, and only confessing to the deed when a few of them were read aloud.
  • In an episode of Babylon 5, Matthew Stoner's empathic powers are discovered when he manipulates Lou Welch into giving him supper an hour early.
  • In Bates Motel (1987), a Morally Bankrupt Banker decides to dress up as Norman Bates's mother in an attempt to scare Alex West, the motel's newest owner away, thus allowing said banker to foreclose on the motel and sell it off to developers for an extortionate fee. However, Alex had spent around three-quarters of his life in a mental institution and had absolutely no idea how to run a motel, meaning that the banker would have been able to legitimately foreclose on him the next day, if not for the scheme blowing up in his face.
  • Casey Jones: The pilot episode deals with this trope right off the bat, when Casey is asked to compete in a race between the Midwest and Central and the Southern and Panhandle over a mail contract. Casey comments that the S&P has the better chance in this race; not only is their train, the Swamp Tiger, almost as fast as The Cannonball, but their route is 25 miles shorter thanks to running on relatively flat plains compared to M&C's more mountainous tracks. Nevertheless, they are so desperate to win the race that they commit all sorts of sabotage to their competitors, giving Casey the inspiration to rip up his track and connect it to S&P's, allowing his train to overtake the Swamp Tiger and win!
  • The Good Place: In hindsight, this is what causes the events in "Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis" (and eventually the rest of Season 1) to unfold in the way that they do. Michael's goal was to torture Eleanor and Chidi by forcing them to stay in lockdown and drive each other insane. That is exactly what happens - and then Michael decides to twist the knife further by telling them that they'll need to house a couple of guests (actually demons posing as humans) who claim to have spent their lives as a marriage counselor and fraud investigator. But the demons end up playing their roles a little too well, and by forcing Chidi to tell Eleanor how he really feels, Eleanor has a Jerkass Realization and decides to make it up to him. They end up becoming much closer as a result, which eventually leads to Eleanor confessing that she doesn't belong in the Good Place and completely derailing Michael's plans.
  • Played with in Gotham during Cobblepot's mayoral run. Nygma has run the numbers and knows Cobblepot will win, but the unconvinced Cobblepot tries to bribe the vote-counters just to be sure. So Nygma quietly blocks the bribery attempts, making the win legally unassailable (it's a safe bet Gordon would have eventually found out and wrecked things otherwise), and as a bonus showing Cobblepot that the city really likes him.
  • This ended up being the undoing of the Korilla BBQ team on season two of Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race. They were consistently powerful in the first four weeks, but in week 5, after a Speed Bump forced them to go vegetarian and they put out a performance that made them fear elimination. As such, they added $2700 of their own money to their cash box to make it look like they sold more than they actually did. But without the necessary receipts, they were caught and disqualified. The real clincher? The team actually made enough money legitimately to earn third place that week, and wouldn't have been eliminated had they not resorted to cheating.
  • Kamen Rider Geats centers around participants in a Deadly Game where the player with the lowest score at the end of a round may be Eliminated from the Race, with the second round having the two lowest scores belong to Neon and Kanato, the resident Griefer. Both also become Zombie Infectees during the round and believe they'll die soon regardless of their scores. While Neon is encouraged to bank on previously-established No Ontological Inertia and puts in a valiant effort to end the final wave of the round before she turns, Kanato takes a Doomed Defeatist attitude and attacks the other players in an attempt to drag them into (un)death with him. Once the players succeed in wiping out the zombies and causing the infection to vanish, the end result between Neon's zombie-killing spree and Kanato's penalties for attacking other players is that Neon narrowly edges out Kanato in points and the latter is eliminated. Given that his backstabbing was responsible for Neon getting bit in the first place, even the people running the game express relief that his cheating finally got him out.
  • LazyTown's Robbie Rotten, whose goal is to return the town to its original lazy state, is the most active person in the town due to his schemes. In the episode "Roboticus" he's mail-ordered a robot superhero that's stronger and faster than Sportacus, and a race is held to determine who will be the town's hero. If Robbie hadn't insisted on stopping and putting everyone in harm's way Roboticus might have won fair and square.
  • One episode of MacGyver involved a stock car race between the title character and an old rival. The rival had nitrous oxide installed in his car without his permission ("That's illegal"), but even though he was already ahead of MacGyver and would have won had he just kept the course, he decides to use the nitrous oxide he criticized anyway and ends up spinning out on the shoulder.
  • Reese turns out to be a surprisingly good cook on Malcolm in the Middle, and would have easily won an amateur cook-off, but still decided to sabotage the other dishes. Though this isn't because he wanted to win, he is just a Jerkass. It does give his parents incentive on a unique way to punish Reese for his actions, by banning him from preparing any food of any kind for a month.
  • In the first-season finale of Pose, the House of Ferocity went into the Princess Ball, the biggest ball of the year, with nearly the entire former lineup from House of Abundance, who had been the reigning champions before their sudden disbandment, plus a handful of passing trans women. If they had competed purely on numbers, looks, and talent, they would have won the Princess Ball handily. But Candy and Lulu decide to be Stupid Evil and try to cripple the House of Evangelista by taunting Blanca, hoping to get her upset enough that she would drop out. This backfires massively, as it brings down the wrath of Elektra, former Mother of Abundance and ballroom champion, who owes Blanca a favor and thus joins her House of Evangelista and then shames her former children into quitting Ferocity. Suddenly reduced to only four members, the House of Ferocity suffers a humiliating defeat in its premiere ball.
  • The Shannara Chronicles: In the test to become the Chosen, a contestant already ahead of Amberle tries to trip her. Not only does he fall doing this, but she trips him when he tries to get back up, and two contestants cross the finish while they're struggling. She ultimately gets up and across the finish line to become one of the Chosen, but not him. Had he just kept running, they both would've made it.
  • In "Earthbound", an episode of Space: 1999, a passing ship on its way to Earth offers to take one human along with them (there is only one free cryogenic capsule). The computer is asked to choose who goes. While the program is running, an obnoxious bureaucrat is busy nagging Koenig about how important he is and why he should go, finally forcing his way onto the alien ship (it doesn't end well since the capsule isn't set up properly for him). So who did the computer eventually choose? The obnoxious bureaucrat!
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Space Race", the villainous human supremacists sabotage every other vehicle in the race so their favorite will win. In doing so, they take out most of the legitimate competition for Sam and her partner, and convince another enemy pilot to disable the favorite's ship out of spite. Not to mention that the favorite's one true threat managed to overcome the sabotage and probably would have beaten him fairly anyway.
  • In the Tomica Hero Rescue Force movie, Neo Terror blows up a bridge, causing its car to fall out of the race while Rescue Force carries on.
  • The Wire
    • Even after Bunny Colvin creates Hamsterdam (where any drugs can be bought, sold, and used completely legally), some of the gangsters in the city defiantly refuse to use it and just go about riskily doing their business where they always have, despite knowing perfectly well that a safer alternative is available to them.
    • Implied with Marlo. In the series finale, thanks to Levy's legal wrangling, Marlo is able to dodge his many, many charges almost completely unscathed and set himself up as a legitimate businessman, wholly apart from his prior gangster lifestyle... but his very last scene, where he leaves an upper-class party and starts a pointless physical altercation on a rough street, implies that he's just not cut out for the world of legitimate business and that it won't be long before he becomes active in street crime again despite the fact that he has everything to lose by doing so.
  • The Season 1 Arc Villain Edward Vogler falls victim to this in House, albeit in a more restrained way. His attempts to fire House from the hospital eventually become so underhanded and sadistic that the hospital board decides they'd rather be saddled with the misanthropic House than Vogler, leading to the latter's dismissal from the board.

  • The hosts of The Last Podcast on the Left note this as a common theme amongst serial killers, especially sociopaths. They cannot prevent themselves from getting bored and escalating their crimes in a stupid fashion. A prime example of this is H. H. Holmes, who was gearing up to build a second "murder castle" in Texas which would have potentially allowed him to continue his crimes for decades undetected only to end up being run out of town after Holmes decided to make an unprecedented and inexplicable attempt at horse theft.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • Meet Boris Onischenko, Soviet fencer and pentathlete. At the 1976 Summer Olympics, the British team caught him using an epee rigged to score points at the press of a button. While it was being checked out, Boris won eight of his nine matches with a regular epee but was disqualified once the examination was completed.
  • Since the 2007 season, The Washington Nationals NL baseball team has had a mascot competition called the "President's Race", featuring likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, with William Howard Taft added in 2013. Teddy was winless for about the first six years, mostly because of resorting to such diverse underhanded tactics as riding past his competitors in a golf cart, riding in a bicycle-powered rickshaw, hiding in the visiting dugout and popping up in the final stretch, zip-lining into the stadium, cutting the outfield corner, riding a motor scooter, hiring another mascot to hinder the others, and even having someone dressed up in a shark suit to tackle the other runners.
  • Mixed Martial Arts:
    • During a UFC title fight, defending champion Petr Yan was well on his way to defeating Aljamain Sterling. Not only was he winning on the scorecards, he seemed likely to knock Sterling out. With six minutes to go in the fight, Yan threw a blatantly illegal knee strike... and became the first-ever champion to lose a world title by disqualification.
    • Jon Jones been described as one of the most elite natural talents the sport has ever seen, and many predicted he would surpass Anderson Silva as the greatest fighter of all time. Yet despite his great talent and only losing once in the Octagon (due to a disqualification in a fight he was very clearly dominating), he was caught using banned substances and was banned for a year. After serving his time, he made a triumphant return in 2017 with a rematch win over his rival Daniel Cormier who he beat the first time, only to test positive for banned substances again before the fight.
  • Formula One:
    • The Renault team hadn't won for nearly two years when two senior team members conspired with driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to deliberately crash during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to assist teammate Fernando Alonso to win the race. When the truth emerged in 2009 there was a huge uproar, the plotters were banned from racing, sponsors pulled out early, and Renault's brand image was tarnished. Funny thing is that Alonso and Renault won the next race in 2008 (in Japan) entirely fair and square.
    • Renault's forerunner Benetton tried their best to cheat despite them and Michael Schumacher being the best car/driver combination in 1994 after Ayrton Senna died. The Benetton was found to have illegal traction control software hidden in its computer, which the FIA couldn't punish them for as they couldn't prove the software was actually being used. The team left out a filter in their refueling rig to speed up pit stops, which infamously led to Jos Verstappen's car igniting in a massive (though thankfully harmless) ball of flame at the German Grand Prix. Schumacher overtook Damon Hill on the formation lap at the British Grand Prix and then ignored the penalty for doing so, which got him disqualified from the race and banned from two more. In the end, Schumacher won by one point over Hill after their controversial collision in Australia.
    • Perhaps the most literal F1 example ever happened during qualifying for the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix. Simply put, Michael Schumacher stopped to cheat (yes, him again). After setting the fastest lap in qualifying, he parked his car against the outside wall at the Rascasse corner and stalled his engine, bringing out the yellow flags and preventing rival Fernando Alonso from beating his time. Schumacher alleged it was an accident. Needless to say, it didn't fly, and he was demoted to the back of the grid. He went on to finish fifth. Of course, had he not stopped in qualifying, his speed in the race was such that he could still have won or at least finished on the podium.
    • After clinching pole at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, the McLaren team forced Lewis Hamilton to stop on his in-lap because he didn't have enough fuel to get back to the pits and produce the minimum 1-litre fuel sample to the FIA. While he had gotten away with the same trick at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix, the rules had since been changed to prevent it, and the team's explanation of "force majeure" (i.e. an act of God) didn't help their case. Hamilton was forced to start at the back of the grid.
  • Jimmie Johnson had hands-down the best car in NASCAR, especially since it was financed by Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon. So why crew chief Chad Knaus was caught illegally altering the car prior to the 2006 Daytona 500 was anyone's guess. Knaus was suspended, the car was impounded, Johnson had to start the race from the rear of the field in a backup car — and he won the race anyway.
  • Much like Schumacher, rally racer Andrew Nesbitt literally stopped to cheat, blocking other cars from passing a stage in the 2004 Donegal Rally.
  • In 2007, the New England Patriots were caught illegally taping the hand signals of their Week 1 opponent New York Jets. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team ended up forfeiting their first-round draft pick. They were the first team to go undefeated in a 16-game regular season and ended the season with 589 points scored and a +315 point differential (difference between points the team scored and points the team allowed over the course of the season), while their quarterback Tom Brady threw 50 touchdown passes and wide receiver Randy Moss had 23 touchdown receptions, all NFL records. (On the other hand, they lost Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants.)
  • Andrew Golota. A heavyweight boxer who was twice ahead of former world champion Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe on points until he proceeded to low blow him until disqualification. Both times. One of these bouts ended in a riot at Madison Square Garden, with HBO's commentators (including George Foreman himself) caught in the chaos.
  • In late 2019, the Houston Astros were discovered to have illegally used cameras to steal signs throughout the 2017 season, including during their first World Series win. Several commentators noted that the Astros were a talented enough team that they could've won the Series legitimately, with several star players such as Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Justin Verlander. Indeed, in the years since, they would consistently make deep runs in the playoffs the next several years with much of the same core, including several more World Series appearances and would finally win a legitimate title in 2022.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blood Bowl:
    • Delaying your touchdown to tackle or foul opposing players can be a good way of improving your team's long-term position, but also risks your own player being knocked down or sent off, either of which ends your turn and lets your opponent regain the initiative.
    • Inverted by the Goblins. They take cheating to the point where it's practically their hat, and that's because at every level of the game, they are hilariously incompetent.
  • In every group playing Diplomacy, there's one guy who, upon hearing that you can backstab people, believes that the whole game is about backstabbing people. So, he does so for some very short-term gains, derailing everybody else's carefully-laid plans, sending the victim on a long Humiliation Conga as he loses all of his states, and screwing himself over since nobody will deal with him, effectively making victory impossible.

    Video Games 
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: General Shepard would've likely gotten away with everything if he had simply not tried to wipe out Task Force 141. Everyone already knew Shepard assigned PFC. Allen to infiltrate the Russian Ultranationalists and participate in the Moscow airport massacre, but no one would have known Allen getting killed and revealing America's involvement in the attack was part of the plan. Even if the DSM recovered by Roach and Ghost had anything on it that could reveal the plan, he could have simply given it to the Shadow Company soldiers who were also in on it and have them delete anything incriminating. It's possible the DSM really did have info on it that could lead them to Makarov and he would have gone down as a hero. Instead, he needlessly tries to kill some of the most dangerous soldiers on Earth and gets himself killed for the trouble.
  • In the Eternal Conflict of Diablo, the forces of the Burning Hells once came within a hair's breadth of destroying the High Heavens and claiming all of Creation. But with the promise of victory in sight, the inherent selfishness of those Made of Evil drove the Great Evils to fight each other over the potential spoils. This gave the angels time to recover and rally, driving back the demons and securing their future.
  • Infamous Challenge Gamer Billy Mitchell was discovered to have cheated in his attempt to be the first to score a million in Donkey Kong, resulting in him being stripped of all his scores, and casting doubt on all his other records. Many commentators on the issue noted that Mitchell was a genuinely skilled gamer and could likely have reached a million legitimately, or even just sat on his current laurels (among others, Mitchell's record for the first perfect Pac-Man run is almost unanimously thought to be real).
  • Players in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout sometime behave like this in obstacle courses, stopping just before the finish line and trying to prevent people behind them from finishing the course by holding them down or throwing them off the platform. This often results in the trolling players' loss, as they wait too long to cross the finish line themselves before people running past them fill the quota of players qualified in the given round.
  • Freelancer has a starfighter race as a campaign mission. Near the end of the race, the other pilot will stop near the finish line to activate some turrets. (The cleaner you race — i.e., the less you bump him — the later he'll activate the weapons. A totally clean race means you'll only have to endure a couple seconds of firepower, assuming you've kept up with him.) His stopping to activate the turrets gives you an opportunity to pass him if you're behind or even with him, and essentially counts as a forfeit if you're ahead.
  • In F-Zero, this can actually happen to the player: attack your opponents in the wrong place and you might send yourself flying off the track. F-Zero X and F-Zero GX actually encourage such behavior by not only giving you an extra life if you smash five people off the track, but placing a huge RIVAL sign above the opponent who is highest on the leaderboard. Should that racer suffer an unfortunate "accident", the sign moves to the highest remaining opponent... Even then, it's still played straight if you're going on the offense: Attacking costs you speed — a LOT of it (especially the Spin Attack), and even on Master difficulty, the best way to win is simply to stay on the course, and use as much boost as physically possible whenever you can — not wasting speed to attack... not that killing your rival doesn't help, especially since the game's Rubber-Band A.I. will often put the two of you in striking range of one another regardless of how well you're driving. (Not to mention that in X, the controls are finicky enough that it's genuinely difficult to attack.)
  • Genshin Impact: The culprit in Yelan's story quest could have easily secured a seat on the Liyue Qixing without resorting to treachery. Zhiyi is shown to be very knowledgeable in a variety of matters, aces his interview with Yelan, and is shown to be close with Uncle Tian, the current Tianshu of the Qixing who was planning to retire. However, Zhiyi came from a more modest background than his two competitors (one of whom was a Shrinking Violet and the other an abrasive jerkass), and the resulting low self-esteem leads him to secretly poison Uncle Tian and throw his lot in with the Fatui. After he's caught out by the Traveler and Yelan, he not only loses his shot at the position, but has the Fatui after him as well after he poisoned the representative who was working with him.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has a few such incidents, but the most obvious is the Mandalorian genocide of the Cathar over little more than bad blood from the Exar Kun rising or before. They get away with it for quite some time, but when their responsibility was confirmed by the Revanchists, the entire things blew up in their faces. Not only did they fail to completely exterminate the Cathar and they gave the Republic's denizens yet more reason to rally to the banner, but this proved to be such a PR explosion for Revan and his followers that the Jedi Council — which had previously been on the verge of trying to forcibly disband them — stayed its hand and allowed the Revanchists to join the fray with little more than a stern word, thus paving the way for Revan's tactics and the addition of his Jedi followers to turn the tide. Although if Mandalorian companion Canderous can be believed, this was a deliberate setup; as a culture built on Blood Knight ideals, baiting the full might of the Republic and Jedi into open war was the entire point of the campaign.
  • A non-villainous variant happens in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam gameplay-wise. The last Yoshi you face challenges you into a race, and fights dirty with eggs and quakes. The race is hard, and it's possible for the Yoshi to get ahead close to the finish line. If the opponent does so, instead of just crossing the finish line, he will hold still and shoot eggs at you to delay you further. Dodge all of them and you can still pass him, winning the race.
  • In the Mega Man series, Dr. Wily will generally insist on trying to defeat Mega Man in a final battle as often as possible, even when there is a chance for him to get away scot-free with his dignity intact. The most blatant occurrence is when his Mr. X disguise was exposed; he left in his floating chair and the game could have ended right there and then, yet he made Mega Man go through a second castle.
  • At the climax of Night in the Woods, a member of the Big Bad's team ends up accidentally screwing over every other bad guy thanks to a misguided attempt at vengeance. The Cult of the Black Goat would have gotten away with everything if Eide didn't just have to have his revenge for getting shot in the shoulder by Gregg. Because Eide attacked Mae, not only did Eide get his arm lopped off by a falling elevator (most likely bleeding to death as a result), he trapped himself and the other cultists at the bottom of the mineshaft with no way out. This was after explicit orders by the rest of the villain's allies to just let it go.
  • In the Platform Racing 2 level Zerostar(¬¬), there's a way to block players behind you from finishing the race. However, doing so takes enough time where anyone reasonably close will catch up, and if anyone is that far behind, you can almost certainly win outright.
  • In Postknight, in the second entry of the series, Osric wants the Postknights dismantled for the Greater Good and acts like an asshole to them. He even shamelessly exploits Dark Knight Kraig's attempt to defame them. However, he doesn't get comeuppance because he technically did nothing wrong. Until he, two scenarios later, has the brilliant idea of repeating Kraig's scheme and personally endanger people through a scheme to frame the Postknights. That is foiled and gets him arrested.
  • Resident Evil
    • Resident Evil 4 has this trope as its motivation for eighty percent of the game. At the end of Chapter 2-1, Leon has rescued Ashley and signalled for the rescue chopper, when Saddler appears and starts monologuing about his big plan, which is already complete — inject Ashley with Las Plagas and have her under Saddler's control when she gets home. He then notes that Leon can't stop him since he was injected as well while unconscious. But then, despite the fact that Saddler literally has to do nothing to win (no monologuing, pretend to let them escape, resulting in total victory), his toadies show up and shoot flaming crossbow darts at them. Then they shoot down the chopper as well and proceed to try and kill Leon and Ashley for the rest of the game. Why? Because, as Saddler states just after rattling off his entire plan, he suddenly wants to squeeze the US for some ransom money before sending her back. If he simply does not give in to simple greed, he would have won. The worst part? If he'd had the sense to stick to his plan to the letter, he would've gained access to the entire United States Treasury!
    • Resident Evil 6 confounds things further: It turns out that Resident Evil's secret government conspiracy is The Family, a collection of old-money families who have been secretly controlling the United States government and its corporations (including Umbrella) since colonial times... so Saddler's bumbling is likely the result of constant panic and insanity from realizing he's trying to take over from the long-established secret rulers who won't be happy that some small-time cult leader is muscling in on their turf with a mere puppet. However, blatantly explaining his motives just makes things worse, as said rulers send in their agents to screw him over further.
  • Super Mario Kart: A frequent strategy used when playing against the computer in Grand Prix mode of a racing game like this is to hang back a bit near the end to sabotage the leading AI opponent so that the player would gain a greater point advantage. This is actually much better with two players, at least before the latest version specifically disallowed this strategy. One player hugs the turns and goes for speed, while the other plays demolition derby, hangs back in third or fourth place, where they get the good weapons, and mows down the competition for the speed player.
  • In one mission in Scribblenauts Unmasked, Maxwell and The Flash are in a charity race against Doppelganger and Professor Zoom to win a Starite, and the latter makes several attempts to sabotage the former. They would've won legitimately had Doppelganger not made the desperate last-minute decision to give Zoom a jetpack, which sends them flying offscreen.
  • In Tropico, the player (El Presidente) has the option of rigging elections, which moves about 10% of the votes to your favor. You can do this even if you are going to win the election in a landslide, although this will upset your people.
  • The introduction of Wacky Races: Crash & Dash shows Dick Dastardly zooming past all of the other racers without any trickery whatsoever — only for him and Muttley to stop so they can try to blow up a bridge. He also does this during the game, speeding ahead of everyone else fairly and then trying to cheat again.

    Visual Novels 
  • A recurring theme in Ace Attorney is the prosecution bringing on forged evidence or witnesses that are heavily coached, in an effort to turn a case already leaning in their favor into an open-and-shut victory. Given how the series is notorious for its constant Kangaroo Court issue — being accused is enough to turn the world against the defendant, all by itself — just letting the current testimony stand would probably get a conviction. However, given that Phoenix and his students are infamous for their ability to nitpick an untrue testimony to shreds, this usually just gives them a big pile of ammo and casts doubt on the prosecution. In many cases, it even results in the actual criminal being found among the witnesses.
    • Redd White in the first game had so much pull with the law that he was able to casually assault Phoenix and have him arrested, and he was only loosely related to a case where there was already someone being framed. If he'd just stayed out of the case or made an alibi, he'd likely have gotten away scot-free. However, after Phoenix confronts him, he decides that he's going to twist the knife by testifying in court that Phoenix is the real murderer. Once he's on the stand, though, his testimony ends up being placed under a magnifying glass, and it crumbles quickly. And it certainly doesn't help that Mia Fey had blackmail on him and was able to use the opportunity to threaten him into confessing in front of the whole courtroom.
    • Manfred von Karma was given a single penalty in a trial he won, the only penalty of his forty-year long career. The resulting Disproportionate Retribution ended in him being convicted for first-degree murder.
    • In Justice for All, Matt Engarde. His plan was nearly perfect; hire Shelly de Killer, an assassin known for his code of honor and making sure his clients don't get blamed for the crimes they pay him for, to murder Juan Corrida before Juan could use a fake suicide note to ruin his reputation. The plan was even good enough to get past someone Framing the Guilty Party, as while Matt was arrested, Shelly then blackmailed Phoenix Wright into defending him by threatening Maya's life, which just leads to the framer being suspected of the crime. But he just had to get "insurance" for blackmail purposes by filming the crime scene, which Phoenix, after finding his client's guilt through the filming itself, is able to reveal to de Killer. Had the guy just played honest, he would've gotten off, but by trying to cheat de Killer he just gave the Professional Killer known for being very good at his job and for hating betrayal above all other things a reason to drop the contract and turn Matt into an example of what he thinks of traitorous clients. Matt changes his plea to 'guilty' because it's safer in prison.
    • Dahlia Hawthorne is a clear case of this, along with Crime After Crime. The original crime they killed to cover up didn't even involve murder, and there was no clear evidence incriminating them. They then killed an accomplice and got away with it by blaming her boyfriend and getting him to commit suicide before the trial could end. That could've been the end of it, but Dahlia couldn't stand even the potential of anyone finding out (even if they couldn't get enough evidence for a conviction), so they poisoned a defense lawyer investigating them, then killed the guy who'd unwittingly helped them get the poison and framed someone for it. This brought them back to court, where Mia Fey was able to prove their guilt and get Dahlia executed. Then she returned from the dead for one last crime, but this allowed two of her previous victims, the last person she framed and the lawyer she poisoned, to verbally beat her down and stab her respectively.
    • The villain of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney would've gotten away scot free with ruining Phoenix's career if he hadn't decided to go murder people connected to the case. His first murder (the defendant) gets him caught and put in prison, and the second (technically the first planned, but delayed by 7 years) winds up with Apollo proving that he was the one who forged evidence to set Phoenix up, simultaneously clearing Phoenix's name and tarnishing Kristoph Gavin's.
    • Joining the club of people who incriminate themselves with pointlessly evil actions is the Big Bad of Dual Destinies, the phantom. Solomon Starbuck was about to have been convicted for their crimes, but they just had to present fake evidence to pin the crime on Athena. All Phoenix had to do was ask for somebody to re-check if that lighter presented really had Athena's fingerprints (the prints actually belonged to the victim), and suddenly Bobby Fulbright is in the hot seat for framing her, when beforehand they were under no suspicion whatsoever.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: The third chapter's culprit counts. They came up with an elaborate deathtrap to kill a victim, but got caught setting it up, forcing them to kill the witness. They then did such a good job covering up the witness's murder that there was little to no evidence pointing to them as the culprit. They would have gotten away with it scot-free and "graduated" without any hassle... if they didn't decide that they put too much work into the deathtrap to just let it go to waste. That murder ends up leaving enough evidence to not only convict the culprit for it, but tie the two murders together.
  • One of the pivotal moments in the background of Fate/stay night is the Third Holy Grail War, where the Einzbern family had the option and materials to summon a Berserker, who would no doubt possess indomitable strength, as well as very close loyalty—in most of the Grail Wars seen by the audience, the Berserker Servants dominate the war for much of its run, and this would be a Berserker backed up by an exceptional mage family operating at the height of its power. However, they instead tried to cheat and summon something outside of history and the traditional classes, convinced they could pick up a God of Evil to steamroll the competition. They actually got Angra Mainyu, who was a random civilian condemned to death by a superstitious village for supposedly being a God of Evil. Needless to say, Angra had essentially no useful powers to speak of, and the Einzberns lost the Grail War almost immediately. This also had the unfortunate side effect of shoving an embodiment of evil and hatred (albeit a very weak one) inside a nigh-omnipotent wish-granting device, and screwing over just about everyone in the process (including leading indirectly to the Einzberns dying out).

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: In “The Most Epically Inspirational Sports Movie Ever”, Ridiculously Epic did surprisingly well in the skateboarding competition. But then he tried to interfere with Little Miss Epic’s run and completely failed, looking like a doofus in the process. His victory wasn’t guaranteed, but he at least would have stood a better chance if he didn’t go out of his way to try to cheat, resulting in leaving a much worse impression of his skateboarding abilities.
  • RWBY:
    • Cinder Fall has a big problem with this. While she is a genuinely competent villain and pulls off some clever plots, an Inferiority Superiority Complex related to her Freudian Excuse means that she feels the need to go the extra mile on villainy, even when that means she overreaches. For example, her murder of a defeated Pyrrha causes Ruby's Silver Eyes to activate and maim her, her attacking Vernal, Fria, and Penny for their Maiden powers just results in her getting her ass kicked, and impaling Weiss just to spite Jaune led to Jaune discovering he has Healing Hands.
    • Adam Taurus would be a much better leader for the White Fang if he'd focus on actually promoting their cause instead of ordering hits on his ex-girlfriend's parents. Even if they hadn't been a Badass Family and kicked his assassains' asses (or if Sun hadn't been there to stop Blake from being kidnapped so they could join in), that would have been serious trouble for him.
  • The Strong Bad Email "pet show" focuses on Strong Bad and the Cheat flagrantly... well, cheating, in order to win a pet show. The competitors they sabotage are a low-fat grill and a cookie jar shaped like a dog, going up against a sapient critter polished to a mirror sheen. Even with one of the judges having it out for them, any contest that includes a dance portion ought to have been one where inanimate contestants wouldn't have been able to hold their own either way. Ironically, the one competitor they don't sabotage is also the only one besides them to actually have some chance of winning — Homestar Runner, who gets a good score and sabotages them right back, leading to them being inexplicably disqualified for "relish-foot".

    Web Videos 
  • Achievement Hunter:
    • Ryan Haywood and Gavin Free have something of this problem, as they'll attempt to do something to screw over the other AH members and get hit with karma in return. The most infamous example, though, is with Caleb Denecour, who derailed episode 28 of Let's Play Minecraft, angering both the AH crew and the fanbase. This act has led to the term "Calebing". It should be noted, though, that what makes Caleb's incident stand out more than what Ryan and Gavin have done is that while the latter's attempts are cartoonish and tend to backfire, especially if it's done in Let's Play Grand Theft Auto, Caleb's was purposeful and ruined the game they were playing.
    • This trope plus the Prisoner's Dilemma is what led to Uno: The Movie clocking in at nearly three hours.
  • Similarly, Simon Minter and Vikram Barn of the Sidemen exhibit this during GTA races. Vik "stabilizes" races by pinning down or knocking away whoever is in the lead, often giving up finishing the race in order to do so. When Simon builds a large lead in a race, he usually turns around or stops at the finish line to screw with the others and often gets dealt with karma for doing so, as this race shows.
  • In GACKT Game Center, GACKT usually tries to play fair. Unless it's Xevious. GACKT haaaates Xevious and tried cheat codes by the second video.
  • Lythero's video SRB2Kartastrophe has a clip where Lee, firmly in the lead and right in front of the finish line, turns around and attempts to hit the racer in second place with a spiked ball rather than just taking the win. He openly admits he's "pull(ing) a Dick Dastardly", prompting a short discussion on how Dick Dastardly could have easily won any of the races he took part in if he didn't go out of his way to cause trouble for the other racers. The second place racer drives straight past him with an invincibility powerup, costing him the race.
  • AverageTrey touches on an example involving Super Mario Sunshine speedrunner ramel1234567/innom1ne in "The World Record History of Super Mario Sunshine any%".note  Ramel tried to fake a world record run by splicing together a video of his fastest segments and streaming it during a live race of the game. He was quickly caught, and recieved a lifetime ban from the leaderboards as a result. Despite this, Ramel would continue to stream Sunshine, eventually achieving a time that was almost as fast as his fake one and by all accounts seemed to be done legitimately, showing he did have the skill to achieve a world record the honest way. However, thanks to his previous cheating attempt, none of his times would ever be officially recognised.
  • Karl Jobst:
    • The introduction to the video "The Worst Fake Speedrun on Youtube" discusses the reasons why so many speedrunners turn to cheating and making fake runs, even when they have the skills to get a record legitimately. The grind can grow frustrating, and after putting in the time to get good at a game only to keep squandering promising runs, it can be easy to justify cheating to yourself as a way to get the time you deserve for all your hard work. This is compounded by the fact that top players tend to be experts on the games they play, which only makes cheating more tempting since they'd know better than most what to do to avoid getting caught. The titular run discussed for the bulk of the video is not an example of this, however, as it's clear from the stolen footage and the "player"'s unfamiliarity with the game that he'd have no hope of getting a good time without cheating.
    • Karl's video on the Dream cheating controversy also touches on this in his rebuttal to claims that someone as skilled at Minecraft speedrunning as Dream would have no reason to cheat. Karl argues that since the category Dream was playing is reliant on finding Rare Random Drops, it doesn't matter how skilled you are, if you don't get the luck required, you'll never have a world record-pace run. As such, even a good player would have an incentive to cheat; modding the game to boost the chances of getting those items would dramatically reduce the number of runs killed by bad luck. Or as he succinctly puts it:
      Karl: When it comes to luck-based games, players don't cheat to get a faster time. They cheat to get a time, faster.

    Western Animation 
  • Wacky Races:
    • The Trope Namer is Dick Dastardly, who frequently stopped to cheat with some evil scheme to slow down every other racer. Each of these would inevitably backfire, allowing his opponents to overtake him. These failed schemes would always put him in last place, but every time he'd be back in first to try again. This would repeat 3-5 times an episode. Think about that for a minute; Dastardly could go from dead-last to a commanding lead, several times a race. The Mean Machine had to be far and away the best vehicle in the race, and he'd always piss that away, because he's the baddie and he just has to cheat. Even his dog Muttley has seen this and soon began to think cheating was a bad idea. If Dastardly tried racing fairly, he would have won every time.
    • The 2017 reboot gives us that Dick Dastardly the pigeon chaser is the grandfather of the present Dick Dastardly. In this case, grandfather Dastardly stresses it out in plain English — just cross the finish line. But grandson Dastardly, in spite of having an insurmountable lead, has to stop with a plan that backfires.
    • Issue #4 of the Gold Key comic book (Aug. 1971) has all the racers employing a book entitled How to Win a Race by Hook or Crook, written by Dastardly himself. Penelope Pitstop would effectively eliminate Peter Perfect and Red Max by getting them to fight over her.
    • The Wacky Races Forever pilot lampshaded the hell out of this. Dick manages to get so far ahead of the other racers that he has time to take a nap, have a conversation with a Corrupt Corporate Executive, creatively reinterpret said executive's orders, and opts to instead do some wacky scheme involving a giant cheese wedge. When Muttley tries to point out they are three feet from the finish line and can just win right then and there, Dastardly scolds and bonks Muttley, proudly declares they're villains and therefore must cheat.
    • Dastardly and Muttley would later appear in Fender Bender 500, a series of short cartoons very similar to Wacky Races featuring other Hanna Barbera characters. This trope gets subverted in "The Russian Around 500" where Dick stops to cheat, ends up with his car encased in ice, and is subsequently blasted into the sky like a rocket. The out-of-control rocket finally comes a rest past the finish line in first place, handing Dastardly an accidental victory. Alas, the prize for winning turns out to be absolutely nothing.
  • The same is true of the Really Rottens on Laff-A-Lympics and Phantom Phink, the bearded Dastardly expy, on Yogi's Space Race. When the Really Rottens won legitimately, they got angry when the announcers pointed it out. They're such Card-Carrying Villains that they want to not just win, but win by cheating.
    • Issue #13 of the Laff-a-Lympics comic book (Marvel, Mar. 1979) shows that Really Rottens team co-captain Dread Baron is Dick Dastardly's brother.
    • The most blatant evidence they care more about cheating than winning is the episode where the first half was in desert and the second in Scotland. After three of the four events, the Rottens were leading with 95 points while the other teams had 40 points each. Then the last event started: a three-legged kilt race. (A three-legged race where the racers wear kilts.) The Rottens race on a threadmill attached to a car driven by Dread Baron, who produced a rulebook stating that, for as long as they run in three-leg style, that wasn't cheating. Also, Dirty and Dastardly Dalton disguised themselves as Snagglepuss and created a fake Finish Line to delay the Yogi Yahooeys. In the end, the Rottens lose 25 points for using the threadmill, 25 points for forging the rulebook that made the use of the threadmill seem legal, and 25 points for delaying the Yogis. (Who got 5 points of bonus in reparation, allowing them to beat the Scoobies for the gold medal.)
    • Dick Dastardly was supposed to be on the team himself, but he was cut.
  • Spike, the bulldog who opposed Tex Avery's Droopy in various competitions, was practically built on this concept. The biggest evidence of this is the episode "Mutts About Racing", that features Droopy and Spike as rival racecar drivers. One would think Spike and Dick were driving school buddies or something like that.
  • South Park:
    • This is parodied in the episode "Asspen", where Stan gets stuck in a crappy 1980s-style "win-the-race-to-save-the-old-rec-center" plot. In the final climactic race between Stan and the annoying jerk, the jerk takes a ridiculous amount of time sabotaging the course to keep Stan from winning. Of course, the jerk is an excellent skier, while Stan can barely ski faster than a crawl. He's so slow that the obstacles don't slow him down any further. He just climbs over them. Ultimately the villain is defeated when the "unpopular nice girl" stock character distracts him with her bare breasts long enough for Stan to get across the finish line, which would have never even been a posibility had he not wasted so much time cheating.
    • In yet another episode, Dick Dastardly and Muttley make an actual appearance, wherein they enter the Wacky Races in South Park (made up of various vehicles belonging to numerous transportation companies), and all of the adults remark how they're going to cheat like they always did. Sure enough, they do, and actually succeed in taking out two cars, although they still lose to Timmy and his Handi-Car. The events of the episode itself were triggered by Nathan wanting to sabotage Timmy's Handi-Car business, but, like Dastardly, all of his attempts to cheat and run it into the ground just made Timmy that more successful.
  • Since Jack Spicer in Xiaolin Showdown wants to be as stereotypically evil as possible, he tends to do this a lot, even when just playing by the rules will get him an easy victory. In fact, he does this in the very first showdown, where even though he could very easily just reach into the finish line, he apparently decides to summon Jack Bots to stop Omi despite being in the clear lead and Omi is currently using the Two-Ton Tunic, aka a Wu that weighs him down.
  • In C.O.P.S., Classy Cat-Burglar Nightshade enters a Beauty Contest to get at the "fabulous prizes" offered (and to rub it in the faces of the C.O.P.S. that she hadn't done anything wrong). Naturally, she can't resist making off with the entire prize hoard. Equally naturally, once she's caught, she's informed that if she'd held off for five minutes, she would've won legitimately.
  • Johnny Test: In "Johnny Cart Racing", Brain Freezer stops to cheat (or plan to) twice while he and his teammate, Mr. Mittens are already in the lead. Mittens tries to tell Brain Freezer that they're already winning. Brain Freezer says that his plan is going to make sure they stay in the lead. Then he proceeds to destroy a bridge ''before'' they cross it.
  • Constantly employed by the Vanguard of Justice in the Heavy Gear CGI TV series.
  • A Cow and Chicken episode featured Cow and Chicken's snail cousin, who entered a relay race because it was the only way Chicken's team would not be disqualified for not having enough members. Being a snail, he was quite slow but his opponent insisted on stopping to cheat despite the fact they could have easily won. (Even Chicken pointed it out to the cheaters. Snail crossed the finish line first and then revealed to have a normal set of legs and started running. He later admitted he didn't think about doing it during the race.
  • Done in Thundarr the Barbarian, well except that there wasn't really any cheating in a race that explicitly had no rules. Nonetheless, everyone else in the race took a commanding lead in their wizard-provided vehicles and robots, and only lost because they decided to hang back and kill their competition instead of, you know, just winning.
  • Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har once applied for a job as truckers and, to get it, they had to defeat the other applicant in a truck race. Their opponent invoked the trope, which allowed them to take the lead, then they invoked the trope, which allowed the opponent to regain the lead.
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon "Tortoise Wins by a Hare," Bugs Bunny's attempt to win the race against Cecil Turtle by cheating backfires gruesomely in a downplayed way: while some underground bunnies wait near the track to beat up the turtle when he comes along unbestknown to either of them, he puts on a turtle suit that supposedly makes him more aerodynamic. Meanwhile, Cecil is wearing a rabbit suit, so he isn't totally playing by the rules either (Bugs plays way worse by their next cartoon interestingly enough and actually the only case of the trope is stopping to put on the suit despite already being faster than Cecil). It must be said that the rabbit mob beating him up only wanted to stop the turtle because they waged a lot of money and at no point was it stated that Bugs was even acquainted with any of them before the race, making even more ironic that this small slip-up is the cause of his downfall.
  • Super Secret Secret Squirrel was involved in a road race against a conceited Southern rooster named Hot Rodney, who hedged his bet by kidnapping Morocco Mole. Secret Squirrel rescues him but not before holding Rodney up at a staged red light. As the race resumes, the heroes are in the lead but Rodney is catching up. Morocco jettisons everything from Secret's car—including the engine, which allowed Rodney to win. But the good guys get the last laugh as they give Rodney the booby-trapped belt Morocco was strapped to earlier.
  • Inspector Gadget has a Wacky Racing episode called "Race to the Finish". At the end, Dr. Claw tries to win by converting his car into the MAD Jet... and succeeds, only to be disqualified when the announcer pointed out that his car wasn't touching the ground. Gadget doesn't win either because he's on duty, so the win goes to one of the racers that Dr. Claw sabotaged earlier who crosses the finish line before his vehicle totals.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters has a unique example in "The Beastly Buggy", another racing-themed episode. It's the end of the race, and the Ghostbuggy is neck-to-neck with Beastly Buggy. Mere yards before the finish, the ghostly Hot Rod decides to use the turbo boost... and runs out of gas right at the finish line, allowing the Ghostbusters to win the race. Unique in that Hot Rod wasn't technically cheating that time, even after he spent the whole episode using dirty tricks.
  • The Dexter's Laboratory episode "Dexter's Wacky Races" has Mandark in the Dick Dastardly role with the show's other cast members (including Monkey, Agent Honeydew and the Justice Friends) as the other racers.
  • Borax Karoff does this in the 1936 Porky Pig cartoon Porky's Road Race. Zig-zagged as Karoff maintains a healthy lead throughout the race, stopping occasionally to pull dirty tricks.
  • Lampshaded/spoofed in a Tom Slick short: when asked by his flunkie what could be more important than winning, the Dick Dastardly Expy says "CHEATING!", even striking a lovelorn pose.
    Crowd: BOOO!
    • That character, Baron Otto Matic, predates Dick Dastardly by a season.
  • The Simpsons;
    • In “Homer at Bat”, Burns wastes approximately $450,000 hiring nine professional baseball players to work at the power plant so that they can compete in an upcoming game with the team of a rival plant. Ultimately, the nuclear plant's solidly-excellent team could have probably won said game on their own, and in the end only one of the players even gets to play due to Burns having them mingle in Springfield, resulting in such events as one player being arrested on trumped-up charges and two more being hospitalised due to illnesses they contracted in Burns' employ. In the process, the morale of the original team gets shot by Burns's dismissal and their lack of practice, and Homer's Wonderbat, a home-made bat that had become a symbol for the team, gets broken.
    • In "Sideshow Bob Roberts", Sideshow Bob steals the mayoral election, in a race where Quimby may have legitimately received 0% of the vote.
  • The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: After crossing a bridge during a race, Tweeg stopped to destroy it and even waited to see how the Wooly What's It would cross it. And he wasn't even in the lead.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Fall Weather Friends", Rainbow Dash stops to cheat in the Running of the Leaves by way of a Road-Sign Reversal, and then stands perfectly still as every other racer runs past her. Rainbow and Applejack attempt to sabotage each other back and forth throughout the race, ultimately tying for last place. This is despite Rainbow and Applejack being far and away the fastest runners in the group, all because they couldn't try and run the race fairly. Meanwhile, Twilight Sparkle manages to take 5th place despite never racing before just by pacing herself.
    • In "Wonderbolts Academy", Lightning Dust convinces Rainbow Dash to form a tornado to ensure they win the cloud-clearing competition against the other Wonderbolt recruits. At the time Lightning Dust suggests this plan, she and Rainbow are not only winning, they're ahead seven-to-one to the next-closest pair. The resulting tornado nearly sends Rainbow's friends plummeting to their doom. When Captain Spitfire finds out what happened, Spitfire strips Lightning Dust of her rank and kicks her out of the Wonderbolts. Had Lightning Dust played fair, she and Rainbow would have coasted to an easy win.
  • One episode of the 1986 adaptation of Care Bears plays with this. Beastly enters a race to determine who gets to be Leader For A Day of Care-A-Lot, and Swift Heart Rabbit gives Beastly a giant head start. During the race, when the Care Bears enter a hollow log, Beastly spins it around, making the Bears run back to the start without them noticing. At this point, instead of racing to the finish, Beastly wastes time setting a trap for each bear, then gets lost after witnessing all of them work and ends up all the way back at the start line—just in time for Swift Heart to start. When Swiftheart fails to fall into the trap Beastly set up for her, Beastly crashes into it. Swift Heart stops to brag about how she's "unbeatable", runs off... and promptly gets caught on a cactus. Beastly, who can't believe his sudden good luck, starts bragging about everything he'll make the Care Bears do when he's Leader For A Day. While he's talking, Lotsa Heart Elephant — the only other racer remaining — passes him and ultimately wins the race. In short: Beastly had three good chances to win, and blew them all because he just had to get in some Evil Gloating.
  • In one episode of the 2013 Dennis the Menace and Gnasher animated series, Greytowers Prep takes on Beanotown School in a triathlon. The Greytowers team is so much fitter than the Beanotown team (consisting of Dennis, Walter and Angel Face) that they could easily have won. Instead they cheat and, even though they initially win, they are exposed and disqualified.
  • In episode of Dennis the Menace, Dennis competes in a bike race against a bully. The bully pulls over to raise a drawbridge despite this only affecting Dennis who is in dead last. Averted when the bully wins anyway.
  • Dog City: In one episode, Bugsy enters a series of games and has his henchmen get rid of his adversaries so he'll win by default. When one henchman points out that the adversaries are too unfit to challenge him anyway, he explains that he doesn't want to sweat. Ace foils the plan by entering the competition.
  • This is a major part of Plankton's Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain schtick in SpongeBob SquarePants. Part of the reason that he never manages to get any customers in the Chum Bucket is that he's apparently incapable of coming up with a business model that doesn't require stealing the Krabby Patty recipe.
  • Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers: Enforced, Zedd-36 thinks he can win without cheating but Gelorum forces him to anyway. As he is Kurt Wylder, one of the favorites to win, he's not wrong to think so, though his reluctance to cheat isn't so much out of pride as it is he doesn't really want to hurt or kill anyone else.
  • Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race:
    • In "None Down, Eighteen to Go - Part 2," Leonard and Tammy stop to cast a slow motion spell, despite being ahead of the other stragglers. Naturally, this doesn't work, and they get eliminated that episode.
    • The Ice Dancers are both The Ace of the competition, in no small part due to their excellent physical condition. By simply concentrating on staying in first place rather than trying to sabotage the other contestants, they would probably win the race. However, In Darjeel, they have a close call after disconnecting the train cars gives them a one hour penalty, even though their position on the train would give them a comfortable finish. Then, in the finale, by causing The Surfers' taxi to crash, they inadvertently provide a shortcut for the other team. By driving carefully, the two teams could be neck and neck into the next leg, where the Ice Dancers' superior athleticism would give them the edge.
  • The Dofus: Kerub's Bazaar episode that parodies Wacky Races has expies for Dastardly and Muttley, named Sanata and Dialobo, who of course do this trope and end up in 9th place.
  • Roland And Rattfink: Rattfink does this throughout "Flying Feet". He even nearly made the finish line, but his rocket boot malfunctioned just as he was about to cross it.
    • Averted in "The Great Continental Overland Cross-Country Race". Rattfink doesn't cheat at all throughout the race, but he didn't have to, because Roland's race car wouldn't even start at the starting line. By the time Roland finally fixed his car, Rattfink is just about to make it to the finish line, only to run out of gas. Then Roland speeds up, having managed to drive through the entire course in only a few seconds, and looked like he was about to win...except he accidentally pushed Rattfink's car through the finish line, making him the winner.
  • One episode of WordGirl involves Dr. Two-Brains and his two henchmen entering a Barbershop Quartet singing competition (he counts himself twice because he's got two brains). The henchmen actually want to sing and would just as soon do the whole thing fairly, but Two-Brains invents a gizmo to sabotage everyone else's voices. Naturally, WordGirl exposes them, but before she can cart them off, the henchmen beg to be able to sing their song, and they and Two-Brains get to perform their act. They're really good, and the judge tells them they'd have won if they weren't disqualified for cheating.
  • In the series finale of Beast Wars, Megatron has eliminated his greatest physical threat and is on his way to destabilize a Stable Time Loop, the result of which would retcon all of human and Cybertronian history into his personal victory. Instead, a thought crosses his mind: "Hmm, I suppose, given my imminent godhood, these primitives should really be beneath my intention. Ah, still, no score is too small to settle, I always say." As a result of this attempt to attack a single primitive human, Megatron vaporizes two of his longest-serving subordinates, weakens his master weapon preventing it from being useful on his final plan, convinces his last loyal servant that he is completely insane and must be stopped, and is complicit in the stalling tactics that led to his defeat. And on top of that, he missed.
  • Ready Jet Go!: In season 2's "Asteroid Belt Space Race", Eggplant stops at one point to use her anti-gravity fluxinators, a device that sucks the gravity out of the other saucers. Using this, she and Zerk end up winning the race, making this a subversion of the trope.
  • Aku from Samurai Jack pulls this constantly, especially in regards to his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. There are several episodes where he could have defeated Jack ("Jack Under the Sea" is a good example) if he could just not cheat and betray everyone he meets for just a minute. Unfortunately for Aku, he is Made of Evil and as such is always compelled to go for the most evil method of doing things, at the expense of pragmatism.
  • Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: As Hulk even tells the Leader at one point, what constantly trips up his schemes is including "get revenge on the Hulk and his friends" somewhere in there, because they inevitably thwart him.


Video Example(s):


"We're Heading East!"

One of the ways Hacker tries to cheat the race in Tikiville is by having Buzz and Delete spin a sign showing the cardinal directions so that the other racers go the wrong way.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / RoadSignReversal

Media sources: