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"And so the tale begins...
As a tragedy."

Most stories that involve disasters, genocide, rape, murder or whatever horror imaginable wait a little bit before things turn totally awful. Let the plot develop for a while and show some signs that things are about to turn nasty. Some works, however, prefer to kickstart the action by letting whatever unspeakable horror the story is about take place in the very first scene. Better to get the really bad stuff over with quickly, right? It can only go up from there.

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Alternatively, the beginning can make the work look very dark and depressing — but it gets better pretty quick and it turns out that the story is not at all as dark as the beginning would have us believe.

Likely to lead to Back from the Brink... But if the story is truly depressing or takes place in a true Crapsack World, the Downer Beginning will lead to a Downer Ending, as all hope of solving the problem has been crushed (or going From Bad to Worse), making the beginning a Foregone Conclusion.

Backstory counts only if it is shown rather than merely mentioned, and only if it's at the beginning of the actual story.

An After the End story may begin by showing the horrible event(s) of the apocalypse that began it.

Compare Start to Corpse, which in itself is not a subtrope of this, because in many cases neither the characters nor the audience get any chance to develop a sympathy for the victim. Also compare You Can't Thwart Stage One, which can be jumpstarted by this trope. See also R-Rated Opening, where a work opens with something gruesome or inappropriate, which may overlap with this, for example if it involves a good guy dying horribly.

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Warning: Unmarked spoilers ahead - some spoilers are marked, but having a work on this list can be a spoiler in itself.


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    Multiple Media 
  • All versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy begin with Earth destroyed by a Vogon constructor fleet.
  • Every version of Batman's origin begins with his parents being shot dead in front of him.
  • All versions of Superman's origin begin with an infant Kal-El being sent to Earth as his home planet Krypton is destroyed.
  • Almost all versions of Spider-Man's origin start with his uncle's death, and it's always because he neglected to stop the killer when he could have.

    Asian Animation 
  • Season 2 episode 30 of Happy Heroes begins with the Superstar School being destroyed by a storm, thus throwing thousands of children out of their education and, naturally, leaving the school's principle Headmaster Tele devastated.

    Audio Play 
  • Sonic and Tails R begins with Eggman using a tractor beam to try and steal the Chaos Emeralds from Sonic, with the ensuing struggle causing them to shatter and disperse across the world.
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    Comic Books 
  • The story of All Fall Down begins with heroes and villains dropping out of the sky to their deaths.
  • Amulet starts with Emily and Navin's father dying in a rather traumatic car accident. Additionally, the first volume ends with their mother badly poisoned and on the verge of death as they search for a cure.
  • Doomsday Clock shows that after seven years of worldwide peace, tensions between the United States and Russia have throttled back up again thanks to a news gazette publishing Rorschach's Journal containing significant evidence in Ozymandias's scheme in New York. The conditions became so bad that Ozymandias thinks finding Doctor Manhattan in another universe will solve the consequences of achieving his idyllic 'peace'.
  • In Issue #1 of Future Quest, we watch as the man who would become Space Ghost is the last survivor of a galactic space team who stopped an incursion through a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Identity Crisis begins with Sue Dibny dying in the hands of Jean Loring, the latter which gave Captain Boomerang a mission to kill Jack Drake, the father of Tim Drake.
  • Irredeemable begins with the Plutonian going on an unstoppable murderous rampage. More specifically, it opens with him brutally murdering his teammate and best friend the Hornet (and his family, kids included), with the story behind his Face–Heel Turn being told in flashbacks over the course of the series.
  • Kick-Ass starts off like this (though it's an introduction to a flashback that explains How We Got Here), with Kick-Ass getting his testes electrocuted.
  • Midnight Nation starts out with the hero getting killed. And then it goes downhill from there, as he discovers that the devil has taken his soul and that his guardian angel REALLY hates her job.
  • The first issue of the Power of the Atom series began with the Morlaidhan tribe Ray Palmer was living with throughout the Sword of the Atom storyline killed by government agents posing as loggers. Ray escaped, but ended up trapped at three feet tall for a time.
  • Kathryn Immonen's run on Runaways opens with most of the team in such bad moods that Nico is organizing a party to try and cheer them up, and even that falls apart when Karolina starts hitting on Chase. And then something attacks the house, killing Old Lace and driving Klara into such a panic that she traps everyone inside the house. Things rapidly deteriorate from there.
  • Every Sin City story starts out rather bleak but the best example is probably The Hard Goodbye, which opens with protagonist Marv having the night of his life, only for Goldie, the lady he was with, to be killed after the second page and the cops moving in loaded for bear to frame him for the murder.
  • Star Wars: Legacy begins with the Sith allying with the Fel Empire, successfully defeating the Galactic Alliance and carrying out the first Jedi Purge since Order 66, with the remaining Jedi once again being sent into hiding. Afterwards the Sith betray the new Empire, resulting in a three-way war in the galaxy.
  • The Superman storyline "The Fall of Metropolis" is not only a Downer Ending for the storyline that immediately preceeded it, "The Battle For Metropolis", but a Downer Beginning, with Project Cadmus and the entirety of Metropolis ravaged by Lex Luthor, though the latter was done by one of Luthor's lackeys having a Villainous Breakdown.
  • The Transformers: All Hail Megatron starts in New York during a nice day. Then the Constructicons show up and explain how their here to spread peace and happiness, having apparently turned over a new leaf.... Then Scrapper and Hook laugh evilly before promptly starting a massive all out Decepticon attack on New York. The first two issues is pretty much made up of the Decepticons slaughtering their way through the hundreds of civilians and U.S. soldiers trying to survive or maybe fight back.
  • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: A weird recording of aliens dying is seen in all the media. Then we find out what is it all about.
  • Issue #1 of Y: The Last Man has all but two male mammals on the planet die a sudden, horrific, and bloody death.

    Films — Animation 
  • An American Tail opens with the Mousekewitz family's village being burned by Cossacks.
  • The start of Beauty and the Beast shows how a prince got transformed into a monster, and how he begged for forgiveness but received none. Being so ashamed of his new form, he concealed himself inside his castle and lost all hope in the Curse Escape Clause. All of this happens with that beautiful yet melancholy music in the background.
    Narrator: For who could ever learn to love a beast?
  • Brother Bear starts with one character sacrificing himself to save his brothers from a bear and given a funeral pyre.
  • Downplayed in The Emperor's New Groove. The film’s Cue the Rain opening is purposefully over dramatic and Played for Laughs. But it still has a more somber tone than the rest of the movie, especially when you learn why Kuzco is crying in the jungle: he’s a kid trapped in a Forced Transformation who just learned his parental figure wants to kill him and has lost the only real friend he’s ever had. All on his eighteenth birthday.
  • Flash Gordon (1979) begins with fire falling from the sky and chaos in the city.
  • The prologue of Disney's Frozen (2013) started with Anna and Elsa as little kids who joyfully played with each other until Elsa nearly killed her little sister by accident, continued with the two of them growing up isolated from each other as Anna lost her memory of Elsa's ice powers due to the trolls altering her thoughts, and Elsa lived in fear of her own powers, and ended with them as teenagers mourning the death of their parents. As co-director Chris Buck also co-directed Disney's Tarzan, Simon Brew of Den of Geek jokingly pointed out in an interview that he seemed to be Disney's go-to-guy for killing off parents at the beginning.
  • How to Catch a Cold: The short begins with the man lamenting his poor health.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 opens with the story of how Lord Shen tried to avert a prophecy by exterminating the Giant Pandas.
  • The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning begins with the death of Ariel's mother and the banning of all music from Atlantica.
  • Madeline:
    • The third film, My Fair Madeline, starts as Madeline tries to stop some thieves, only to be dismissed as telling Blatant Lies and sent to finishing school for "misbehaving".
      • Dividing the film into acts causes the beginning act to have a Downer Ending, invoking the second act's Downer Beginning. The final act's Downer Beginning is where Madeline gets thrown in jail, invoked by the penultimate act's Downer Ending where she is arrested.
  • One Stormy Night begins with Mei's mother being ripped apart by a pack of wolves (she even bites off one of the alpha wolf's ears!) and telling her son to run away as she does so, in what appears to be a very bleak beginning for an otherwise lighthearted tale about the friendship between a goat and a wolf.
  • Pixar has done this more than once:
    • Finding Nemo: The movie begins with the death of Nemo's mother and all but one of their eggs.
    • Up. It starts with the main character Carl as a child, and shows him and the love of his life meeting, getting married, and growing old together. Since they were children, they had dreamed of going to Venezuela together to follow in the footsteps of their idol, but they kept having to postpone the trip. Carl finally buys two plane tickets, and his wife falls ill and dies before they can go. They also wanted to have kids, but at least one of them was infertile (or there was a miscarriage). We see Ellie in tears at the doctor's office when she is informed of the situation.
    • WALL•E, with its opening-scene depiction of Earth as an apocalyptic wasteland populated by roaches and a single still-functioning robot, is one of the most depressing openings ever.
    • The Incredibles starts with the incident that caused the superheroes' fall from grace, and then describes the Super Registration Act through a montage. Next we see several scenes showing just how depressed they are, pretending to be normal.
    • Ratatouille starts with the main character losing his home and family.
    • Toy Story 2: Not the film itself, but Rex's attempt at playing the Buzz Lightyear video game sees him get disintegrated by Zurg right as the battle starts. It's implied at the end that Hamm had the same thing happen to him.
    • Toy Story 3 opens with a sequence of Andy with his toys in their heyday, then timeskips to the stark contrast of them having been sitting in a chest, not having been played with for years.
    • The prologue of Brave started with the loss of Fergus's left leg to the demon bear Mor'du.
    • Cars 3 begins with Lightning McQueen enjoying his time as a race car until a new racer named Jackson Storm shows up and several of the veterans are replaced by next-gens as a result; eventually at the Los Angeles 500, when Lightning tries to catch up after being overtaken, one of his tires blows out, he swerves dangerously, then hits the wall sending him into a near-fatal crash, forcing him out of the race. Jackson eventually wins the Piston Cup, and Lightning spends the next four months worrying that he'll be forced to retire from racing for good.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie opens rather dimly, with a dark background and crime rampant. Even the narrator's heart isn't in it.
  • Even the cheerful film Rio is not exempt from this, showing the child Blu falling from a failed attempt to learn to fly and getting captured by a group of humans along with all the other birds - and shipped from Rio de Janeiro to the United States of America against his will.
  • Not to be confused with Frozen, but in The Snow Queen (2012), the story starts with Gerda and Kai's parents being frozen into ice, killing them.
  • Tangled zig-zags through this. The opening sentence is Flynn Rider saying "This is the story about how I died", however he goes on to assure the audience that things get better. It then goes on to show how the queen is dying of something, only to show her recover through a miraculous cure that is found. But then, it goes on to show the newly-born princess being kidnapped by Mother Gothel.
  • Tarzan begins with Tarzan's future ape family losing their son to a vicious predator. Then Tarzan's human parents are killed, by the same predator. What's interesting is that it happens during an upbeat opening song by Phil Collins, of all people, who is known for his more dark and depressing stuff. The song did at least slow down and become more melancholic during and right after the death of Kala and Kerchak's son. This is, of course, a Disneyfied version of what happened in the novel, which also fits this trope, although it takes a lot longer. In the book, Kala loses her child not due to a predator but her own clumsiness, when she is running away from Kerchak, who goes apeshit and begins to attack the females of his tribe (he already bludgeons another female to death with a stick by this point). The child falls from a tree and dies. Tarzan's mother dies from a sickness, while his father is killed by Kerchak, who almost kills Tarzan before Kala grabs him.
  • Titan A.E. begins with another race destroying planet Earth.
  • Remember sweet, gentle Mole from The Wind in the Willows (1995)? Well, the sequel film The Willows in Winter (1996) begins with him seemingly drowning in an icy river and his friends breaking down in tears over it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 14 Amazons starts with the Imperial army being defeated by the invading Mongols, the heroic general of the royal army being Forced to Watch as his surviving men gets brutally flogged to death by Mongol soldiers, before getting executed himself. Then cue opening titles.
  • Who can forget the start of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, which parodies the Downer Beginning of Cliffhanger, where Ace attempts a solo rescue mission to save a raccoon who has been stranded on the top of a mountain and sadly fails to get a grip on its paw. The kicker is it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie which is as wacky and lighthearted as any Ace Ventura film would be expected to be.
  • Alien³: The third act of the preceding film (in which lead character Ellen Ripley rescues Newt from the xenomorph hive and defeats the Xenomorph Queen) is rendered null and void when it's revealed that the Queen was able to lay a facehugger egg onboard the Sulaco. The egg hatches, impregnates one of the survivors and is injured by broken glass, causing enough damage to create a fire and force the evacuation of the cryopods the survivors are in. The escape pod crashes on a backwater prison planet, causing Newt to drown and soldier Cpl. Dwayne Hicks to be impaled by a support beam, with Ripley barely surviving.
  • All About My Mother: Manuela's beloved teenaged son Esteban is struck and killed by a car 12 minutes into the movie. The rest of the film is about how Manuela grows and changes after the tragedy.
  • Arrival begins with Louise's 12-year-old daughter Hannah dying of cancer. The twist is that this hasn't happened yet. In fact, her daughter won't even be born until after the events of the movie.
  • The opening narration of Ballad of a Soldier, about a Russian soldier in World War II, states plainly that at some date after the film's time frame, poor Alyosha will be killed in combat and buried near some town with "a foreign name".
  • Beyond the Lights begins with young Noni proudly getting 2nd place in a talent competition...and then her mother forcing her to throw out the trophy because second place isn't good enough for her, crushing Noni's excitement and joy.
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever begins with T'Challa dying of an unknown disease, which then cuts to his funeral a few scenes later.
  • Blondie Johnson begins with Blondie's mother dying, her not unable to get welfare, and becoming homeless.
  • Broken Blossoms begins with the protagonist starting off as a bright-eyed Chinese missionary moving to England to teach foreigners about Buddha. It then cuts to him a while later, more cynical and now addicted to opium.
  • Carlito's Way begins with the protagonist being wheeled out of a train station on a gurney, critically wounded and narrating on his dismal prospects, which precedes another How We Got Here story.
  • The Dark Knight Rises begins eight years after the last movie with Bruce emotionally stunted, Wayne Enterprises in financial trouble and cracks starting to show in Gotham's peace time.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins with what might be the mother of all bummer beginnings in film; it picks off right where the previous movie left off, with the ALZ-113 virus (now dubbed the Simian Flu) being spread globally, resulting in the fall of civilization and the near-extinction of the human race.
  • The very first scene of Deadpool 2 is Wade (trying) to commit suicide, with the implication that Vanessa is also dead. It happens a few scenes later.
  • The Dirty Dozen starts with a hanging scene. An American GI is being hanged in a British military prison for robbery and murder.
  • The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter begins with the eight brothers of the yang family, the only survivors of their army after losing a war, fighting their way through hordes and hordes of Mongol invaders, only to be killed in battle, one by one before the opening titles. There are only two surviving brothers by the time they escaped the battlefield, and one of them goes insane by the first act.
  • A Far Off Place starts with the protagonist's parents getting killed when poachers invade their African reserve.
  • Fly Away Home begins with the heroine's mother dying in a car accident. The heroine survives with injuries.
  • Godzilla (1954) begins with a doozy — a group of innocent Japanese fishermen are heading home, playing the violin and dancing happily, when suddenly something erupts from the water, killing them all in a blinding flash of radiation. As if that wasn't bad enough, the whole scene is a reference to the real-life Lucky Dragon No. 5 tragedy, an event that was still fresh in the minds of the Japanese people at the time of release.
  • The film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah begins with an island being destroyed, Godzilla Junior presumed missing (or possibly dead. He shows up later in the film.), and Godzilla attacking Hong Kong with parts of his flesh literally burning orange as he is slowly dying of nuclear overload.
  • Grandmother's House: The movie begins at the funeral for David and Lynn's father. Since their mother isn't in the picture, it can be assumed that they are orphans.
  • The first words of Happy Accidents are "Murder? Sam, Murder?" as Ruby confronts him tearfully.
  • Hostage: The opening scene features a failed hostage negotiation where a woman and child are killed.
  • Hounds of Love begins with the antagonists, a serial killer couple, abducting a teenager and keeping her chained to a bed before torturing her, murdering her, and burying her body in the woods.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 begins with Katniss hiding from hospital doctors, desperately trying to keep her mind stable by saying things that she knows are true, like her name. Then she meets her friend Finnick who wishes for everyone to be dead, including himself.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 has Katniss visiting her love interest Peeta in hospital, only to watch in horror as Peeta totally freaks out with aggression against Katniss.
  • Inglourious Basterds starts with Shoshanna's (one of the protagonists') parents and siblings being massacred by Hans Landa and his Nazis, while she miraculously escapes the massacre.
  • Irréversible is in the same vein due to its Back to Front nature. The gruesome No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that concludes the story is put at the beginning, while the idyllic shots of an unharmed Monica Bellucci are the last thing we see. Let's talk about Downers.
  • It (2017) opens with six year old Georgie Denbrough having his arm torn off and dragged into the sewers by a killer clown while screaming out his brother's name.
  • James Bond: Some of the series' trademark Action Prologues don't start that well for 007.
    • You Only Live Twice: An American spacecraft is swallowed by a bigger spacecraft, cutting the lifeline of an astronaut and leaving him to die in space. Then Bond is seemingly gunned down to death in Hong Kong. Fortunately, he was just Faking the Dead.
    • The World Is Not Enough: The man Bond was tasked to protect, Sir Robert King, is assassinated, and the woman who killed him kills herself out of fear for what Renard could do to her without Bond having had time to gain informations from her.
    • Die Another Day: After seemingly killing Colonel Moon, Bond is captured by the colonel's father's men and tortured for months.
    • Skyfall: Bond is shot by mistake during a chase atop a train in Turkey and falls in a river, presumed dead.
    • No Time to Die: In the Distant Prologue, Safin kills a young Madeleine's mother and tires to kill her. In the present, the Action Prologue ends with Bond and Madeleine separating after being ambushed by Spectre agents.
  • Jaws, Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge all open with horrific, fatal shark attacks that set the tone. Jaws 3D averts this by teasing an attack on the Sea World water skiing team. Unless you count the poor fish that gets eaten in the title sequence as a "victim."
  • Joker (2019) begins with visibly distressed and down-on-his-luck clown Arthur Fleck putting on his makeup, trying desperately to smile. When he's on the job at a closing-down music store, Arthur gets his "Everything Must Go" sign stolen by some punk kids who proceed to run off with it, lead him down into an alley, then smash the sign right over his head and beat the living shit out of him. All of this is in the first three minutes and forty seconds of the film, and considering that this is a villain origin story, things don't get much happier for him from here.
  • The first and third of the Jurassic Park films start with someone getting attacked by a dinosaur. Though misremembered as otherwise, the little girl attacked in the second film survives.
  • Kick-Ass starts off with a Black Humor downer, as a guy dressed as a superhero takes a swan dive off a building. (The comic version has another Downer Beginning.)
  • Kung Pow! Enter the Fist begins with the Chosen One as a newborn on a rainy night as the villain enters his house and kills his parents. Then, the Chosen One pees onto the villain's face, setting the tone for the rest of the movie.
  • In The Ledge, Hollis finding out that he is sterile, that he is not the real father of his children, and that he must now try to talk Gavin out of suicide.
  • For the first fifteen minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road, Max is captured, beaten, tortured, and made a blood bag. He also loses his equipment and his car.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Guardians of the Galaxy starts with a young Peter at his mother's death bed. Stricken by grief, he runs away before being abducted by aliens.
    • Avengers: Infinity War starts with Thanos claiming two Infinity Stones, killing half the Asgardians, including Heimdall and Loki, and leaving badly injured Thor alone before the ship explodes.
    • Avengers: Endgame starts off with Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and his family having a nice picnic. Clint turns his back on them for a second and when he turns back, he sees that they have all been disintergrated thanks to Thanos' snap. Three weeks later, the surviving Avengers and Captain Marvel ambush Thanos on his farm with the intention of getting the Infinity Stones and undoing the snap. To their horror, they learn that Thanos had destroyed the stones to prevent further use. An enraged Thor decapitates Thanos, and the entire group is shell-shocked at the fact there is no hope to restore the executed half of the universe.
  • Memento: You see Leonard kill Teddy despite his protests, and then you have to spend the rest of the movie watching the poor guy interact with Leonard.
  • Midsommar: The movie starts with the main character's family dying when her mentally unstable sister commits suicide by inhaling car smoke and gassing her parent's room, killing them as well. That happens right after a cut to her boyfriend revealing he is thinking of dumping her because she is too needy, which he doesn't just because of that tragedy.
  • New Police Story: The film opens with Inspector Chan's entire police team attempting to capture Joe and his gang of Cop Killer professionals, only to screw up royally with the entire team dying, Chan being completely humiliated and barely surviving, and ultimately resulting in Chan drinking himself to near unconsciousness every day for a whole year.
  • Olympus Has Fallen starts with Mike Banning failing to save the First Lady from falling off the bridge to her death when the President's limo crashes in the snowstorm, which gives Banning a motivation to become a Action Hero for the rest of the movie.
  • Oslo, August 31st starts with the lead, Anders, attempting suicide in a river after getting permission for an overnight leave from his rehab facility. It fails, but it doesn't improve the tone of the movie.
  • The Panic in Needle Park opens with Helen riding home on the subway, alone, in distress, after getting an illegal abortion from a Back-Alley Doctor. Then it gets worse when she has to go the hospital because she won't stop bleeding. (The rest of the movie has her becoming a heroin addict so it doesn't get more cheerful.)
  • Fitting its title, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End opens with the mass execution of anyone showing the slightest hint of sympathizing with a pirate. A child starts singing the coded song Hoist the Colours in defiance, which leads to the rest of the gallows joining in. This brief hint of hope is crushed when the villainous Cutler Beckett reveals that's precisely what he wanted them to do. "Finally."
  • A Quiet Place opens up with the youngest son getting killed by one of the monsters after it hears noise coming from the toy rocket the boy was playing with.
  • Sinister opens with an extremely graphic Super 8 video of a family (mother and children included) being hanged.
  • Less than five minutes into Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Sonic is chased by a violent echidna tribe, is forced to leave his home forever, and his adoptive mother is presumably killed by said tribe. And he was just a little child when it all happened. He then talks about the next ten years of his life in a positive tone but it becomes quickly apparent to the audience that he is lying to himself and is desperately lonely and unfulfilled.
  • Slumdog Millionaire. First, a scene from near the end with Jamal being tortured. Then, Jamal and friends are chased by angry cops. And the flashbacks that follow are far from happy.
  • Special Female Force: The movie begins with the first iteration of the eponymous "Special Female Force" suffering a near Total Party Kill in a botched mission. The movie then Time Skips 20 years in the future where the Sole Survivor trains the new generation.
  • Spring in a Small Town: The opening scene has Yuwen, a young wife in a Chinese village just after the end of World War II, walking along the village's shattered walls. She talks in voiceover narration about how the town is boring, how she wishes she could leave, how her family's once-lavish mansion was mostly destroyed by the war, and how her marriage has failed so badly that she and her husband hardly ever talk.
  • Star Trek (2009) starts with the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin and the Heroic Sacrifice of Acting Captain George Kirk (though his wife and newborn son James survive).
  • Star Wars; all of them to various degrees of "downer". Let's take them in canonical chronological order:
    • The Phantom Menace: The greedy Trade Federation is behind a blockade of Naboo, but as few know, there's a far-more sinister motive in the works.
    • Attack of the Clones: As the scrolling text says, "There is unrest in the Galactic Senate. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic" Most of this due to Palpatine's underhanded work. The film itself the opens by Padme's ship being blown up.
    • Revenge of the Sith: The film starts with the Clone Wars at their worst and no end in sight. "The Republic is crumbling", as the text says.
    • Solo: The teenaged Han Solo is trying to escape gangsters after his job failed.
    • Rogue One: The Empire finds Jyn Erso's family, killing her mother and kidnapping her father. The first time we see Jyn as an adult, she's waking up in an Imperial prison.
    • A New Hope: Despite the name of the movie, little actual hope exists, with the Empire's new super-weapon almost complete, the Tantive IV being overrun by the Empire, Darth Vader making a personal appearance, and Princess Leia, the leader of the Rebellion, being captured.
    • The Empire Strikes Back: The scrolling text does not mince words. "It is a dark time for the Rebellion" for sure, as they're on the defensive with the Empire in hot pursuit.
    • Return of the Jedi: The disaster carried over from the previous film sees Han Solo a prisoner of Jabba the Hutt, and a new Death Star being built, although the scrolling text is more optimistic.
    • The Force Awakens: Luke has disappeared during the Time Skip, and the First Order is threatening to become as bad as the Empire was.
    • The Last Jedi: The rebel base on D'Qar is evacuated before being bombed by First Order fleet and their Dreadnought.
    • The Rise of Skywalker: Emperor Sheev Palpatine is alive thanks to cloning techniques preserving his remains on the Sith homeworld of Exegol, and gives Kylo Ren a fleet of starships, each one armed with the full destructive power of the Death Star, with the intent to wipe out the Resistance once and for all.
  • Sucker Punch opens with Babydoll's mother dying, her younger sister being killed by her stepfather, and finally being dropped off for a lobotomy at the local sanitarium.
  • Sudden Death starts with Darren failing to save a little girl in a fire, resulting in him quitting his job as a firefighter before becoming a security guard for the rest of the movie.
  • Super 8 opens with the funeral of the protagonist's mother.
  • The Terminator series, by virtue of being a franchise dealing with the potential genocide of the human race, dabbles with these openings frequently.
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day starts with footage of the titular Judgment Day, followed by a futuristic battle that shows Resistance forces being killed in droves, humanity barely hanging on, and John Connor surveying the (close) battle before his scars are revealed.
    • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines shows flashes of the Robot War before revealing that Sarah Connor is dead (having died at some point between the two films) and John is a paranoid wreck who works a menial job and is prone to alcoholism.
    • Terminator Salvation begins with a mission John and other Resistance forces undertake during the opening years of the Future War, only to discover that it was a trap. The hostages they were trying to save (and the entire Resistance team, save for John) are wiped out in the ambush.
    • Terminator: Dark Fate goes one step further when it reveals that (as a result of an Alternate Continuity to the previous sequels past the second) John Connor is anticlimactically killed by a T-800 three years after the events of Judgment Day, with Sarah powerless to stop it and her holding her dead son in her arms.
  • Who Am I (2014) starts with the hero entering a hotel room with three dead bodies inside. The rest of the movie tells the story of How We Got Here.
  • The World of Kanako: The start of the movie is very dark in many ways: Akikazu finds out that his wife has a lover and he loses his job after a violent outburst. Some bloody murders are detected. The narrator gives a saddening speech about how helpless his situation is. Kanako's first boyfriend Ogata commits suicide and nobody takes notice.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men starts in a concentration camp. So does X-Men: First Class.
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: James Howlett's father is murdered, leading the boy to kill the assassin, Thomas Logan... and he discovers that Logan is his real father. So Jimmy is forced to run away along with Logan's other son, Victor.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: In the year 2023, we get a glimpse of a post-apocalyptic world where mutants (who are near extinction) and their human allies are either placed in internment camps, or are outright murdered en masse.

    Literature 
  • American Dirt begins with the slaughter of protagonist Lydia's entire family, including her beloved husband, her mother, her fifteen-year-old niece, and her eight-year-old nephew. The only survivors are herself and her eight-year-old son Luca, but as the cartel who killed their family has eyes in the entire city of Acapulco, the two are forced to leave everything they've ever known to El Norte in hopes of sanctuary.
  • Animorphs: In the very first book, 43 pages in, the kids watch Elfangor get Eaten Alive by Visser Three. By the end of the book, Tobias is trapped as a hawk. It goes downhill from there.
  • Rashel goes through a major Trauma Conga Line at the start of The Chosen (1997). She witnesses a vampire murdering her mother and best friend, and no one believes her. She's sent to live with her aunt Corinne, who is killed when the vampire returns and sets fire to her house in an attempt to kill Rashel, who gets put into the foster system. Her trauma compels her to become a vampire hunter and it's mentioned she started killing vampires at the age of twelve.
  • The Broken Earth Trilogy starts with both The End of the World as We Know It and the protagonist Essun's three-year-old son being killed by her husband.
  • Chronicles of Ancient Darkness begins with the protagonist Torak's father dying after a bear attack. Then he has to survive on his own in the forest, with only a wolf cub for companionship.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant start with the protagonist somehow catching leprosy. Doctors show him the horrible fate that awaits him, another man with the same disease seriously advise him to commit suicide, his wife and daughter leave, his friends and family reject him, his neighbours avoid him, and nobody wants to have anything to do with him. Then he is abducted by a powerful evil deity from another universe who intends to use him to fulfil his agenda. Thomas is, quite understandably, a bit crazy, paranoid and hopeless after all of that, and it takes him a long time (during which he commits some really despicable acts of his own) to start recovering.
  • The first chapter of the first book of Circle of Magic is not fun. It tells the stories of four children in terrible situations: a neglected girl being ruthlessly bullied, a young street rat being sent to a life of hard-labour for his crimes, another girl who's marooned out in the ocean after her ship went down in a storm, killing everyone on board, and another girl who was locked in a supply closet in the hopes of protecting her from the plague that killed her parents, but now cannot escape. Even though they're all rescued, its tough.
  • The first book in the Demonata series has the protagonist find his family horribly murdered in the second chapter. The third has him in an asylum dealing with both the grief of the mentioned tragedy and with the knowledge that demons exist.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series starts with the Second Battle of the Java Sea, where the remaining Allied warships near Java are being curb-stomped by the heavily-armed Japanese fleet. Then two of the American destroyers suddenly find themselves in a parallel world, where evolution took a completely different course. Humans never evolved on this world. Instead, a race of peaceful (some of them, at least) descendants of giant lemurs from Madagascar prowl the seas of the East Indies on giant wooden ships. The Lemurians reveal that they are being hunted to extinction by a race of velociraptor-descended Lizard Folk called the Grik, who sail in three-masted ships remarkably similar to British East Indiamen and hail from Africa. The Americans agree to help the Lemurians, and the outdated destroyers, which are cannon fodder in their own world, become the most powerful warships in this one. Then things get worse, especially when it's discovered that the Grik have an armada of hundreds of ships, and they are being aided by a Japanese battlecruiser. In fact, most novels in the series start on this note.
  • The Divine Comedy starts with middle-aged Dante lost in the woods with no place in life, unable to get anywhere due to the heinous beasts who block his way. Metaphorically, the beasts represents the sins that plague our hero and the dark forest he's in is suspiciously similar to the forest where suicides spend eternity. It's a good thing Virgil comes in to bring Dante to a better place: Hell.
  • Doctor Zhivago begins with the funeral of Marya Nikolayevna Zhivago, the mother of Yuri Zhivago, which leaves the ten-year-old living with his Uncle Kolya. The opening chapter also has his deadbeat father Driven to Suicide without any of the main characters finding out until much later.
  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne starts with the nation of Ferelden in the middle of the Orlesian Occupation, with the Usurper-King Meghren being a typical Caligula. The protagonist, Prince Maric has just witnessed his mother Queen Moira betrayed and murdered by her former subjects and is running for his life. On the other hand, since this is a prequel, any player should already know how it ends.
  • Some of the trilogies from Dragons of Requiem begin with tragedy. Dragonlore, for one, starts with Prince Orin's death, followed by her younger sister, Mori, getting raped, and Queen Solina ready to attack Requiem with her army of phoenixes. Also Mori's pet mouse dies.
  • The first book of The Ember War Saga has the civilian and Atlantic Union fleet unexpectedly find themselves sent to 30 years in the future (technically, they've been placed in stasis) and learn that the rest of humanity has been wiped out by a vast alien armada. They are all that's left, the embers of humanity.
  • Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo begins with all the animals sick and the hyenas crying.
  • Michael Connelly novel The Gods of Guilt starts by revealing that Mickey Haller's campaign to be DA, the Sequel Hook at the end of previous novel The Fifth Witness, ended with humiliating defeat. A client that Mickey got off of a DUI charge killed two people in another DUI. Not only did this wreck his political career, and badly damage his legal practice, it turns out that it estranged him from his daughter, who was a classmate of one of the two people killed.
  • Gone starts the instant after all the adults disappear.
  • The Graveyard Book begins with the murder of Bod's family.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's opening chapter - it involves the caretaker of the Riddle mansion being accused of murdering the Riddles, being suspected by everyone in village for the rest of his life, and finally killed by Voldemort.
    • The first three chapters of the first book, which begins by detailing the past eleven years of Harry's life with his abusive relatives, the Dursleys, years after the murder of his parents.
    • The death of an anti-Death Eater teacher in the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is not encouraging, even if she was a Red Shirt. The next chapter involves Harry mourning Dumbledore and learning that Rita Skeeter is publishing an unflattering book about him.
  • One of the sequels to Gorky Park, Havana Bay, starts out with our hero going to Cuba to investigate the mysterious death of an old friend of his. He is shown to already be planning to commit suicide, because of the accidental death of his wife, due to a lazy nurse not reading her medical chart to find she was allergic to penicillin. Of course, just as he's about to kill himself, he's interrupted by a hitman sent to kill him, who he instinctively uses his suicide weapon to kill in self defense. Poor bastard can't even off himself without some mishap getting in his way.
  • If I Stay opens with the protagonist, Mia, being put into a coma after a car crash killed her parents and younger brother and being given the choice as to stay or go to the afterlife.
  • It. The first three chapters detail the gruesome murder of Georgie Denbrough, the beating and murder of Adrian Mellon, and the suicide of Stan Uris, respectively. It is not for the squeamish.
  • The Killing Star. Humanity finds the first irrefutable proof of spacfaring aliens in the form of gamma rays consistent with antimatter-powered engines. Almost immediately afterward, every inhabited body in the Solar system is hit with relativistic bombs moving at 92% the speed of light, instantly destroying civilization and annihilating most of the human species. That's all within the first four chapters.
  • L.A. Confidential: In the prologue, a lone crooked cop loses a shootout with a group of crooked cops. Before he dies, he, and the reader, learn that the leader of the crooked cops is a senior officer in the Los Angeles Police Department.
  • The Land Of Oblivion begins with heroine's brother dying in a freak accident.
  • The Lost Fleet series starts with John Geary waking up from cold sleep to find out that the war with the Syndicate Worlds, the start of which he witnessed, has lasted for over 100 years. Worse, The Alliance fleet has just been lured into an ambush far from Alliance space and crippled. The admiral in charge and his entire staff are dead, and Geary, who has been elevated to myth-like status by propaganda, is expected to take command and save everyone. Even worse, the near-constant brutal war has not only concepts like fleet tactics a thing of the past, but morality has been one of the first casualties of the war, with the Alliance fleet matching the Syndics atrocity-for-atrocity. Also, one of the first casualties Geary experiences is his grandnephew.
  • Many of the novels in The Lost Regiment series start on this note. Alternatively, they might start with something good happening, which immediately turns into something bad. For example, the first novel has the 35th Maine retreating from Gettysburg after sustaining heavy casualties (including the protagonist's brother). Before they know it, they find themselves on another world, ruled by hordes of mounted 9-foot-tall Human Aliens with a taste for human flesh. The local humans (also transplanted) are hopelessly stagnated, their religious leaders are corrupt beyond measure, and the political leaders are little more than warlords fighting among one another.
  • In the first book of The Night Angel Trilogy, before any of the action has even started, 12-year-old Azoth's guild leader dies, making the Rat the new leader. Rat then threatens Azoth with homelessness, kidnaps and rapes his best friend, Jarl, and mutilates Doll Girl.
  • The first chapter of the third Noob novel reveals that the player presented as The Ace in the two previous got his avatar erased and all his accomplishments taken off record. Due to said avatar being illegally enhanced without him knowing about it.
  • Noobtown begins with the main character being killed in a car accident and being reborn in another world.
  • Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel Rosemary And Rue opens with the heroine being turned into a fish for fourteen years, and as a consequence losing both her fiance and child, and turning into an almost complete basket case.
  • Off Armageddon Reef opens with the last human fleet preparing for a battle they know they will lose against a foe that has exterminated all human colonies and they know will do the same to Earth itself.
  • The Posterchildren opens with Corbin Underwood's funeral.
  • The beginning of the third book in Beka Cooper begins with the funeral of the protagonist's abusive fiancée.
  • By the second chapter of Reckless , Will is already turning into living stone. What happened in the twelve years since chapter one? You can catch up on that later.
  • Remnants, by K.A. Applegate, starts with the end of the world.
  • Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute: The protagonist returns from England to Australia to take over his family's farm, and in the first few pages we learn that he had lost his feet in the war and that his parents are becoming old and frail. He is met at the airport by one of the farm staff instead of his father, because one of the house maids had killed herself that morning.
  • The Secret Garden: The book opens with Mary's entire household (including her parents) dying of the cholera.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire books starts with a prologue where a POV character, who is not really part of the cast, dies at the end of the chapter. The prologue of the first book, A Game of Thrones, showcased the return of The Others/White Walkers with the POV character dead at the end of the chapter.
  • The Wild Ones starts with Kit's parents being murdered after the Flealess raid his home, and him left to fend for himself in Ankle Snap City.
  • Survivors begins with an earthquake, forcing the humans to evacuate and leave their dogs behind to fend for themselves. Lucky and Sweet are the only survivors of the rescue they were staying at after the building collapses.
  • Bravelands starts off with Fearless and his pride being attacked by a group of males. The males murder Fearless' father Gallant, take over the pride, and try to kill Fearless and his sister. Fearless runs off and ends up rescued by a group of baboons, where he lives for the next year.
  • The Stand, as an After the End story, begins with the outbreak of "Captain Trips", the weaponized virus that kills the vast majority of humanity.
  • The Cold Moons starts with all the badgers in Bamber's region, including his brother, his mate, and his newborn cubs, being poisoned to death in human badger cullings. This leaves Bamber the only badger in Yellow Copse and causes him to flee.
  • The Kid begins with Precious, the protagonist of the previous novel dying of AIDS and her son Abdul being placed into foster care.
  • The Kaiju Preservation Society starts with Jamie being fired by his boss and forced to work as a food delivery driver, just as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the nation.
  • Roys Bedoys:
    • “Get Well Soon, Roys Bedoys!” begins with Roys telling Mrs. Bedoys that he feels unwell.
    • “Easter is Cancelled, Roys Bedoys!” begins with Roys and Loys crying about an Easter egg hunt being cancelled.
    • “You Have No Friends, Roys Bedoys!” begins with Roys crying about his friends allegedly ignoring him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • Season 1 begins with Mandy bombing a passenger plane.
    • Season 4 begins with a suicide bomber blowing up a train.
    • At the start of season 5, two main characters are killed, a third badly wounded, and Jack is forced out of a quiet life in hiding.
    • Season 6 starts with a bus getting bombed and Jack almost getting tortured to death.
    • Season 9 (24: Live Another Day) begins with British soldiers being killed by a hacked drone and one of their own framed for it. It's also revealed that President Heller (formerly Secretary of Defense) has developed dementia.
  • Andromeda starts with a massive rebellion. The protagonist is betrayed by his Number Two and best friend and is forced to kill him. He and his ship are trapped at the event horizon of a black hole and come out 300 years later, only to learn that the rebellion succeeded, and the once-mighty Commonwealth is gone. The three galaxies have been plunged into chaos for all this time. Things get worse from there.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The series starts with humanity almost being destroyed by aliens. Things get really bad after that.
    • Especially notable is the intro for Season Three, in which Susan Ivanova (the most cynical character on the show) outright states that the characters and the entire premise of the station didn't succeed, and as a result, an entirely new phase for the show has begun. "The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed."
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978) and Battlestar Galactica (2003): Both versions of this show begin with the Cylons nuking the Twelve Colonies and killing nearly 50 billion people.
  • Blake's 7: The first episode starts with the massacre of an Earth resistance group and ends with the murder of Blake's lawyer and the man's girlfriend, while Blake himself is tried under false evidence and exiled to the penal colony Cygnus Alpha. Now begins a four-year caper which leads...nowhere. Except perhaps down.
  • "Swan Song", the penultimate episode of The Big Leap's first season, starts just after Paula and Mike's wedding, and shows her decline as her cancer starts taking it's toll over the next few weeks. She passes away from an embolism before the opening credits.
  • A Chef's Life: You can't get a series premiere for a documentary about a chef more downer than her new restaurant burning down. The rest of the first season, particularly the next episode or so, concentrates on the rebuilding efforts for Chef and the Farmer.
  • Deadliest Catch:
    • The opilio crab fishing season during Season 17note  started with this when Summer Bay captain "Wild Bill" Wichrowski got a phone call telling him that his deck boss Nick McGlashan had died from a drug overdose.
    • Season 18 started with the announcement that the Alaska government had shut down the 2021–22 red king crab season, forcing the fleet to scramble for different ways to make a living.
  • Colombian telenovela Decisiones Extremas had an episode "Las pulseras del sexo" that began with a high school teacher finding a girl lying on the classroom floor with her uniform made a mess and the tights torn off, implying she was raped to death.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Falling Skies: The pilot has a child recall the Alien Invasion (and the death of his mother in the attack), illustrating it with a series of drawings. The actual show takes place six months after the invasion and the resulting devastation.
  • Firefly opens with the Independents losing the Battle of Serenity Valley, the deciding battle of the civil war, and the Despair Event Horizon for the main character.
  • The Flash starts with Barry's mom being killed by a strange yellow figure, and his father is sent to jail for her murder.
  • Similar to its original source, Game of Thrones starts with three Night Watch rangers scouting beyond the Wall until two of them were killed by a White Walker which showcased their return to Westeros.
  • The Jim Davidson sitcom Up the Elephant and Round the Castle had a sequel Home James, which saw the main character lose the house he inherited that was the setting for the series and lose his factory job.
  • JAG: Most of the openings start with an accident occurring or a crime being committed.
  • Jericho (2006): The pilot has the people of the titular town witness a mushroom cloud on the horizon, which signifies the destruction of Denver. It's not until later that they learn that 32 major cities across the US have been nuked. Things get worse for the town, as the infrastructure starts to crumble almost immediately.
  • Kamen Rider Drive starts off with quite possibly one of the most BRUTAL opening scenes in the history of the franchise. To elaborate, the show starts with people just going about their own business. Then everything starts to dramatically slow down. But rather than this being the case of slowing time itself, everyone caught up in it is fully aware of their surroundings but unable to move or even scream. And then to make the matter worse, the Roidmudes start going around destroying everything in sight... all the while people are living statues and can't even scream for help. And to hammer the point home, this was a GLOBAL occurrence.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The episodes tend to start with a really gruesome intro where some random citizen stumbles over someone who just got traumatized or murdered. This is also the case of the mother series, Law & Order, and it is true of the whole Law & Order franchise as well.
  • You wouldn't expect a program like Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to have one of these, but episode 1210 begins with an unusually sour Mr. Rogers singing the opening theme, which is played in an unusually staccato-ish and overall downbeat manner, and instead of changing into a sweater and sneakers, fiddles with a parking ticket he'd just gotten. Instead of "Hi, neighbor!", he then proceeds to say the following:
    Mister Rogers: I don't feel like singing "a beautiful day in this neighborhood." Oh, it's beautiful enough outside, all right, but I don't feel beautiful. In fact, I'd like to take this ticket and rip it up. This is a parking ticket. Yes, I parked my car in a... in one of those places that has a meter. You ever seen a parking meter? You know, you have to put nickels or dimes or something in and then... turn the thing and then this... [demonstrates with his hand] this just goes up like that? Pay for parking. Well, I drove downtown, and all I had was a dollar bill in my pocket. I didn't have change to put in there. Well, I went into the drug store and got some change, and when I came out again, there was a lady writing out this ticket. And I had the change right there and I said, "L-Look, I just went in there to get the change. Don't give me a ticket." And she said, "Here's your ticket. Tell your story to the judge."
  • One Foot in the Grave begins with Victor losing his job (to an electronic box no less) and having to deal with early retirement.
  • Poirot: Not the series itself, but the final episode ("Curtain") starts with Margaret Litchfield getting hanged during the opening credits... a victim of the Miscarriage of Justice and of a Gambit Roulette started by Manipulative Bastard Stephen Norton.
  • Power Rangers in Space begins with the forces of evil celebrating the defeat of the Power Rangers after Divatox destroyed the Power Chamber, Zordon in captivity, and the Turbo Rangers left adrift in space.
  • Power Rangers RPM: Starts off with 99% of humanity dead from nuclear Robot War, and only one city left.
  • The Prisoner (1967): The episode "Hammer Into Anvil" begins with a woman throwing herself to her death from a window to escape a brutal interrogation. What follows is one of the most comedic episodes of the show, with one of its happiest individual endings.
  • Red Dwarf starts off with everybody dying from a radiation leak in what is surely the bleakest beginning any sitcom has ever had.
    • In the first act of "Better Than Life", Rimmer receives a letter from his mother telling him that his father has died. While obviously everyone he'd ever known prior to the radiation leak besides Lister and Holly had been dead for millions of years, hearing the news makes the reality sink in.
    • "The Inquisitor" starts with Lister and Kryten being erased from history, although inevitably they're able to reverse this.
  • Revolution: The pilot episode begins with the blackout occurring worldwide, acting as an unusual form of the apocalypse.
  • Supernatural:
    • The pilot kicks off with Sam and Dean's mother, Mary Winchester, dying a gruesome, nightmarish death- stabbed, pinned to the ceiling, and consumed by flames. The same episode ends with Sam's girlfriend Jessica dying the same way. Between that, Sam is ripped from his happy, normal life when Dean tells him they have to save their missing father.
    • The first episode of Season 2 ends with John Winchester trading his life for Dean's, and leaving Dean with feelings of immense self-hatred out of John's sacrifice. Not only that, but the sacrifice itself is the starting point of the series-wide trend of the Winchester brothers sacrificing their lives for the other over and over again. And it's revealed several episodes later that John's last words to Dean were to kill Sam if Sam's demon powers from Azazel went out of control.
    • Season 13 opens with Castiel and Crowley dead, Mary Winchester stuck in a post-apocalyptic Alternate Dimension with Lucifer, causing the brothers to believe she's dead too, and Dean stuck in grieving over the former three.
  • Twin Peaks: Begins with Laura Palmer's body being discovered and nearly the entire town grieving for her death.
  • Veronica Mars: At the beginning of this show, Veronica's dad has been voted out of office, her alcoholic mom has abandoned them, and none of her former friends are speaking to her...and those are just the things that are actually shown in the first episode. If we count things that are talked about and then shown later, we also get Rape as Backstory and a murdered best friend.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine begins with the Battle of Wolf 359, and Jennifer Sisko's death along the way.
  • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger starts off with eighty-eight constellations of the universe (including the planet Earth) suffers under the tyrannical Space Shogunate Jark Matter. While it's spiritual predecessor started off with a similar invasion of Earth, in that series, all the previous 34 teams stopped the initial invasion. Kyuranger is confirmed to take place in alternate universe without previous teams, allowing Jark Matter to conquer Earth without a bigger struggle. Not any better.
  • Ultra Series:
    • Ultraman Leo starts off with Ultraseven disabled and an entire island-city being destroyed by the villains, while the planet L77 is shown blowing up in the opening credits. And it only gets worse from there...
    • Of course, Leo's opening seems outright optimistic in direct comparison to it's Spiritual Successor, Ultraman Geed, which has Belial win within the first few minutes of the first episode, causing the destruction of the entire universe - while Ultraman King manages to restore the universe, much like with Leo, another Ultra ends up injured and stranded on Earth to help the titular Ultra of this series (in this case, it's Seven's son, Ultraman Zero, who was injured after failing to stop Belial). And the kicker this time? The titular Ultra is Belial's own son.
  • The First Episode of For the People ends with Sandra losing her case defending a young man accused of terrorism (in a situation which was clearly entrapment and Seth and Allison breaking up over their case.
  • Stargirl starts with most of the Justice Society of America being wiped out by the Injustice Society, leaving only Stripsey and Hourman alive. Before dying, Starman asks Stripsey to take care of the Cosmic Staff and to find a new wielder for it. Years later, Stripsey reveals that Hourman was killed in a car crash while following up on some leads into the Injustice Society.

    Manhwa 
  • Kiss Wood starts with explaining how nature is slowly being weeded out of the world and how Sul, an ex-gardener, has the only garden left in the entire city. Nobody else in the city likes this and have demanded numerous times for him to remove it; his niece, who lives with him, leaves as she feels he pays all of his attention to the garden and none to her. Then Sul's garden and house is set on fire, during which he is blinded and is sent to the hospital. End of Chapter One. He then gets trapped in a dangerous world from which he needs to escape, fast.

    Music 
  • Blutengel's song "Frozen Heart" starts out just as bleak as the name sounds like, but it turns out to be more about Defrosting Ice Queen.
  • Daniel Amos's album Fearful Symmetry opens with "A Sigh for You", a meditation on sorrow that would be wangst if it weren't paired with such an upbeat melody. The lyrics become far more hopeful on the rest of the songs.
  • "Prelude" opens Bad Ideas, Tessa Violet's darkest album yet, with a quiet, resigned description of an unhealthy relationship, admissions that this isn't the first relationship of this sort they've had, and the protagonist speculating that they might be the problem, and not their cold, taciturn lover.
  • "Little Kings" by Paul Kelly from his Words and Music album is darker and more political than anything else on the album. Kelly has said that this song and the closing track "Melting" were the most difficult songs to sequence.

    Podcast 
  • The beginning of Guiders of Our Dreams shows the apocalypse occurring while Artemis making a deal with Eclipse to create a new Earth, and Eclipse removing the atmosphere from it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Kingdom Death opens with a doozy: humanity is reduced to the dregs of the Stone Age, trapped in a realm of near-eternal darkness, and beset on all sides by grotesque monsters. A handful of starving people gather together by one of the few sources of light to try and build some kind of civilization. In most campaigns the story has a Downer Ending, too, as the survivors are wiped out in a suitably ironic fashion.

    Theatre 
  • The first minute of Jasper in Deadland establishes that Jasper's life sucks for a number of reasons - his mother is leaving, his father is an Addled Addict, he has bad grades and no chance of getting into college, and the only real good thing in his life is his best friend, Agnes. And then Agnes drowns and he gets pulled into The Underworld when he tries to save her.
  • The plot of the first scene of La Forza Del Destino goes like this: Don Alvaro of Incan descent and Spanish noblewoman Leonora love each othe to the immense disapproval of her father the Marquis of Calatrava because of the former's origins to the point that when he interrupts the lovers right in the middle of their attempted elopement her wants to get Alvaro executed (he also thinks he 'dishonoured' his daughter). To show he has no ill will, Alvaro tries to surrender and throws his pistol on the floor. Tragically, the pistol fires on its own upon hitting ground mortally wounding the Marquis who curses Leonora with his last words. The lovers have no choice but to run away only to get quickly separated (they won't see each other until the very last scene and their reunion goes horribly wrong).
  • Orfeo ed Euridice starts with Orpheus and the chorus in extreme grief over Eurydice's recent death.

    Visual Novels 
  • Daughter for Dessert begins with Lainie dying while giving birth to Amanda.
  • At the beginning of Double Homework, the protagonist causes an incident that kills 12 people. It is later revealed to be an avalanche.
  • Princess Evangile begins with Masaya broke, his Con Man of a father selling him out to the Yakuza, and being forced to run away with nothing but 160 yen in his pocket just to survive.
  • Katawa Shoujo opens with a Love Confession. Normally a happy event, especially as both parts want a relationship. Except this time it's directly responsible for the main character suffering a heart attack, which leads to extended hospitalisation and eventually forcing him to enter the high school the majority of game takes place at.
  • Melody begins with Bethany breaking up with the protagonist and kicking him out of their house. He has to sell a bunch of his stuff and move far away just to get away from her.
  • Minotaur Hotel: The place you start off isn't very pretty, and once you actually get to the hotel itself, it's in absolute ruin, indicating the foul event that destroyed the place, with the servant of the hotel being in a miserable weakened state.
  • Ace Attorney, being a series where every case is a murder case, starts many games this way:

    Webcomics 
  • My Impossible Soulmate:
    • The prologue starts with Chiaki's crush getting into a relationship before she could confess her love (a relationship which quickly turns out toxic) and ends with her being sent to another world when running to break up a screaming match between them.
    • The first chapter begins on a similarly downbeat note, with Chiaki having a Heroic BSoD upon finding out where she is.
  • Boxdog begins with the introduction of the title character as homeless. From there on, it only continues with exploring the hardships of her life.
  • In I'm the Grim Reaper, we begin with Scarlet arriving in hell, subsequently meeting the devil, being momentarily sent to the 9th circle of hell, and becoming a grim reaper.
  • Heartcore opens with the near-genocide of the beastmen at the hands of the demons, and the demonic princess Amethyst having her energy forcibly siphoned and her body horrifically scarred by her Archnemesis Dad Royce.
  • Little Step is a Period Piece that starts with a Native American child waking up to the sight of half of his tribe having been massacred.
  • The first scene of Vápnthjófr saga after the prologue takes place in a prison, with prisoners lingering at deaths' door.
  • Friends Till Death: And HOW. It literally starts off with Herz begging God to let him die!

    Web Original 
  • Right Wing Radio Duck starts off with Donald Duck learning about the large income gap between the upper and middle classes, followed by him getting fired and unable to find a new job, and finally facing foreclosure on his house. The rest of the short follows Donald as he discovers a new idol in the form of Glenn Beck.
  • The sixth episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared opens with Yellow Guy alone in his room, crying over the loss of his best friends after the events of 4 and 5. Before going to sleep, he looks at his buddies' now-empty beds and tearfully says, "Good night, guys. I miss you..."
  • Reversal of the Heart starts with a man killing a baby dragon to give its chest gem to his love.
  • By the start of Corruptus, the third and final installment of the Abandoned by Disney trilogy, the Narrator has had his ISP drop him, his phone bricked, his library card revoked, and he's been subjected to stalking, harassment, vandalism, and paranoia-inducing incidents for the last two years. He's understandably quite bitter and tired, and wonders how long its been since there was a culling of the wealthy elite.
  • Dinosauria; the third short "A More Ancient Spring" opens with a male Lambeosaurus returning to his nest to find his mate's fresh corpse in the jaws of a Gorgosaurus.
  • Lift You Up starts with Iris in a spaceship, video chatting with Mike while they're watching soccer, planning to leave her space mission to go home in a few weeks. But suddenly, a mysterious orange laser blasts the Earth, killing Mike and forcing Robot to move the spaceship to flee while a horrified Iris watches the explosion, tearfully calling out Mike's name. This starts the plot.

    Western Animation 
  • Galaxy Rangers: The Crown stages a sudden, brutal attack on Kirwin, capturing dozens of humans and (is implied to be) killing the Kiwi residents. The Hero is captured by SpacePirates, brutally gunned down and paralyzed, requiring an Emergency Transformation to save his life. His wife makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save their kids, but is marched off to a Fate Worse than Death. (In the original demo reel, the kids also didn't make it). Now humanity is embroiled in a nasty interstellar war with an Evil Overlord who wants to mash them down for Life Energy.
  • Arcane's very first scene shows a young Vi and Powder walking across a bridge where a violent conflict has taken place, only to discover the dead bodies of their parents. It firmly establishes that the series will be a good deal Darker and Edgier than the game on which it's based.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender. The opening narration basically tells us that the world has been at war for a hundred years, an entire nation of Air Benders (core to the very balance of the world itself) have been wiped out entirely and that the forces of good have been losing the entire time. Even worse, the Avatar, who is supposed to bring balance to the world (due to the unique ability to master all four elements, among other abilities) has been missing since the beginning of the war. The next scene is the reawakening of the Avatar (a 12 year old boy, and the Last of His Kind). Back from the Brink indeed.
  • Centaurworld: The first minute of "Hello Rainbow Road" is Horse's monologue about the war and how it has ravaged hers and Rider's world. Rider and Horse meant to bring the artifact back to their village for a contingency plan, only to find the flaming ruins of the village.
  • My Little Pony: Rescue at Midnight Castle: About two minutes into the special, a bunch of dragons come flying in and steal several ponies.
  • Thundarr the Barbarian: "The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin!"
  • Transformers: Generation 1: In the beginning, the Decepticons have dominated Cybertron, run it low on energon, and the Autobots are struggling to survive by building the Ark to escape the planet.
  • "Blue Cat Blues" (1956), an abnormally depressing Tom and Jerry cartoon. It begins with a depressed Tom sitting on a railway track, Spurned into Suicide. Jerry internally narrates his sad story; the dame he loves has left him for his more affluent rival, Butch. Tom tries everything he can to win her back, but to no avail. Broken, he takes to drinking, and has to be saved from his first suicide attempt by Jerry. Close narration, Jerry sees that the mouse he loves has also left him for a wealthier mouse; dejected, he sits next to Tom on the track, and together they wait for the train to come so they can pass into the next world. As you can imagine, there is little to nothing funny about it in the slightest.
  • Batman Beyond, which begins with a prologue of an older Bruce Wayne having to retire as Batman after developing a heart condition that nearly gets him killed in a battle and forces him to use a gun during the fight. When the setting then fast forwards to the contemporary era, the show's other protagonist Terry McGinnis promptly suffers a tragedy of his own when his father is murdered. Things do gradually get better for both characters over the remainder of the series.
  • Capitol Critters: The first episode begins with Max's family including various younger siblings being killed by exterminators.
  • In Samurai Jack, the first episode ends with the title character almost defeating Aku after a brutal battle and at the verge of ending him, and Aku opening a Time Portal, and throwing him millennia into the future, where he's the supreme ruler. Season 5 finale shows us Future Jack actually defeated him immediately after that.
  • Madeline:
    • The second act of the original begins when Madeline contracts appendicitis. Fortunately, when the doctors remove fix her damaged appendix, a Happy Ending is triggered.
    • The third part of Madeline's Rescue starts with Genevieve being stolen by Lord Cucuface and abandoned where she would have a hard time surviving on her own, invoking the third act's Downer Ending. However, these tropes get flipped on their heads for the next act when Genevieve arrives home. In the final act, Lord Cucuface shows up again to do his inspection, but this time, the Downer Ending gets turned on its head when he has a change of heart.
    • Some of the specials have this:
      • Part three of Madeline & the Can-can Cliques involves Yvette forming her own club, at which Danielle forms hers and the girls start hating those from the different club. Cue that part's Downer Ending where the girls warp their prayer into a hateful "But most of all we... hate each other!" and refuse to sleep together except with those from the same club. The fourth act begins as the taxi vanishes and they have to walk, and they get lost. Fortunately, Madeline and Miss Clavel use this to defeat The Power of Hate that the girls got infected by, paving the way for a Happy Ending.
  • Masters of the Universe: Revelation: Teela being promoted as her father's successor as Man-At-Arms is immediately overshadowed by Skeletor and Evil-Lyn successfully infiltrating Castle Grayskull and almost stealing its secret, which would've resulted in the end of the universe had been not for the Sorceress stopping time so that He-Man can perform a Heroic Sacrifice. In the process, He-Man is revealed to be Adam and seemingly dies along with Skeletor, but the revelation of kept secrets and the loss of Eternia's prince causes King Randor to banish Man-At-Arms while Teela leaves.
  • In The Owl House episode "Reaching Out", Luz wakes up only to find a note on her phone about an event with her mom, which makes her depressed as she ignores it at the cold opening. It turns out that she has a very good reason for it.
  • Transformers: The Movie starts after a Time Skip where the Decepticons have conquered Cybertron over the interim. It's not a nice place, to say the least. The opening act of the movie also contains many battles where beloved characters from the cartoon are Killed Off for Real in brutal ways.
  • Jem has one hell of a Mood Whiplash at the start of the series. At the start of the first episode all the Holograms are seen going to a premiere and surrounded by screaming fans. Then it cuts to the rainy funeral of their father.
    Jerrica: "I remember how it all began.. With the unexpected death of my father."
  • The Five-Episode Pilot of She-Ra: Princess of Power begins with Etheria in a bad state, Hordak having succeeded there where Skeletor has failed on Eternia. The entirety of the series dealt with the protagonists as La Résistance trying to overthrow the Evil Horde. (A goal they never truly achieved, due to well, the plot of the show.)
  • Visionaries started with the mysterious event that caused technology to stop functioning, leading to the Age of Magic and a medieval-like After the End setting.
  • In Highlander: The Animated Series, the series started 700 years after an asteroid hit the Earth and plunged the world in chaos. One immortal, Kortan, rule over the world unchallenged and it's up to a new immortal, Quentin, to defeat him.
  • Simba: è nato un re starts with Simba's father being shot by humans. He's then taken in by wolves.
  • The Herself the Elf special starts with Herself being captured and imprisoned for a year while her friends fruitlessly search for her.
  • The first half of Class of 3000's pilot episode, "Home" is this. Sunny leaves the music business, the class loses their music teacher (and fears being separated), and their attempts to sell tickets for a benefit concert fall flat.


 
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Joker (2019)

The film opens with a visibly distressed Arthur forcing himself to smile. The following scene is when delinquents steal his sign and then beat him up with it. It doesn't get any happier from there.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

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