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Epic Fail

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H-how did you even manage that?note 
"There's a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the non-presence of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folk tale told to others that makes other people feel more alive because it didn't happen to them."
— Opening narration of Elizabethtown

When a normal, run-of-the-mill failure just isn't enough.

This is about something that should be fairly straightforward and typical for a character but then goes horribly, HORRIBLY wrong in a manner probably thought impossible. It's when a character seems to be facing a pass or fail situation, a do or die type of test, and then fate hands them a third option: fail in a manner so bizarre it's impressive. We're not talking, "Supervillain decides to shoot a random minion but misses." We're talking, "Supervillain decides to shoot a random minion, but misses — and the bullet ricochets off two walls, smashes the instrument panel on his Doomsday Machine and ends up inches from the minion's head, weakening a structural support and causing the base to come crashing down. And the minion is the only survivor." A failure so ludicrously, unexpectedly awesome that, despite its status as a failure, it manages also to be admirable for its uniqueness and irreproducibility.


At its best, the trope can give the viewer a much needed jolt out of a sense of boredom, it can produce a laugh out of something you wouldn't think could, it can inspire a temporary sense of fate or dramatic justice. At its worst, it can become a Deus ex Machina, rescuing the writers from the fortress of logic they have enclosed themselves within with a Hand Wave of "luck".

Often used against those who are Tempting Fate, and sometimes as a demonstration of how monumentally screwed you are in a Final Boss Preview. When epic failures come in forms that shouldn't be possible, they can be examples of Beyond the Impossible. Often this trope comes with an Incendiary Exponent, possibly because of the Rule of Cool. Disaster Dominoes are a common part of such epic failures.

Compare Critical Failure (a game mechanic meant to represent the normal ever-present danger in any action), From Bad to Worse, For Want of a Nail. This trope is the norm for Stupid Crooks, and a hallmark of the Disastrous Demonstration. If the Fail is so Epic that reality itself breaks trying to process it, then you've managed to make a Reality-Breaking Paradox. Contrast Flawless Victory.


Not to be confused with Epic Flail (or Epic Frail for that matter), though you can certainly commit an Epic Fail with an Epic Flail if you're not careful.

If you're looking for the trope that used to have this name, it's now Offscreen Moment of Awesome.

In-Universe Examples Only

Alternative Title(s): Epic Failure, Doing It Wrong