Things are bad. In fact, it's all going to hell. Your family's been murdered. Your Humongous Mecha ran out of juice at the worst possible moment. An army of flesh-eating orcs is about to storm your castle. People are dying left and right. We're talking May Sweeps stuff, series finale situations. It's as bad as you've ever seen and just when you'd thought the shit had gone down, just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse...
To qualify for this trope, a terrible situation must have some final perfect push over the edge. Sometimes characters within a story, usually when recounting dramatic events to others will, when asked "And then?" say, "It got worse," right before the narrative cuts to the events in question.
- Cue the Rain, for when this comes in the form of a sudden downpour.
- Out of the Frying Pan, which involves the solution of one problem causing a worse one.
NOTE: An important distinction between Out of the Frying Pan and vanilla From Bad to Worse is that requires a causal link between the initial problem and the getting worse (in this case, that solving the former ends up causing the latter), whereas FBTW does not require such a link. If you're in a pool of water with a bunch of jellyfish, and then someone releases sharks into the water, that's From Bad to Worse. If you're in a pool of water with a bunch of jellyfish, and in the act of climbing out you fall into a different pool with a bunch of sharks, that's Out of the Frying Pan; the same goes for if in the act of climbing out, you accidentally trigger a Self-Destruct Mechanism for the entire building that you're in.
See also Rock Bottom, where it's the characters who are Tempting Fate by thinking things can't get worse just before they do. Darkest Hour is the logical conclusion of such a chain of events. Hope Spot is a common double subversion; after things get really bad, they seem to get better before suddenly getting even worse.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
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- There's an old joke that is the essence of this trope. A farmer who's been away from home for a week drives back into town and stops for some cigarettes before he reaches his house. The sheriff pulls up and tells him some bad news...
Sheriff: John, I have some bad news for you. Your dog is dead.Farmer: Aw damn, old Sport? What happened to him?Sheriff: He died from eatin' too much horseflesh.Farmer: Horseflesh?...wait a minute, you don't mean MY horses?!Sheriff: Yup, they perished when your barn burnt down.Farmer: My barn?!Sheriff: Oh, it was the spark from the house fire that done it.Farmer: My HOUSE burned?!Sheriff: To the ground, thanks to those damn candles at your mother-in-law's funeral.Farmer: Mother Sloan is dead?Sheriff: And buried! 'Twas the shock of her only daughter runnin' off with that hired man what did her in.Farmer: WHAT?! My wife has left me? You're telling me that on top of all that I have to raise three children without their mother?!Sheriff: What? Oh, no, no... your kids all died in the barn fire!
- A Witney Darrow cartoon for The New Yorker magazine depicts a woman sprawled unconscious on her floor after receiving some stunning/horrific news via phone. Meanwhile, the voice at the other end is saying "...And that's not the half of it! Wait until you hear this!"
- This trope of all things was subjected to this. It was originally called "It Got Worse" and defined as "a terrible situation getting some final perfect push over the edge". It became a Pothole Magnet for pretty much any situation, In-Universe and out, that might fit this trope. Not surprisingly, the situation got worse and attracted massive sinkholes and misuse as a catchphrase for anything that the editor at least thought is a bad situation, thus leading to a rename to From Bad to Worse and the original name is now a deliberate redlink.
- Russian Guy Suffers Most: prior to the dawn of the second millennium, the Vikings attacked Europe and gained a reputation as Memetic Badasses who were out to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. After about 200 years the raids stopped but then the crusades were going on. Then Genghis Khan came along...
- In Spanish a very common expression for this is "Ir de Guatemala a Guatepeor" (mala/malo means bad, peor means worse). It makes fun of the fact that the name of the country Guatemala, ends in "mala" (bad).
- The first line of a New York Times article on the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center summed up the day's events with grim perfection:
"It kept getting worse."
- A classic Jewish joke/folk tale deliberately invokes this trope for laughs. A poor farmer visits the local rabbi and complains—he, his wife, the wife's mother, and their many children are forced to live in a one-room house. It's crowded, it's noisy, and he never gets a moment's peace, so what can he do to improve his lot? The rabbi thinks for a moment and tells him to bring the farm's chicken into the house. The man is confused, but agrees, only to come back a week later and complain that the chicken has only made things noisier and messier. The rabbi then recommends that the farmer bring the farm's pig into the house, and the man reluctantly does so. After another week, he comes back steaming mad—now the house is a (literal) pigsty, and everyone is furious. The nonplussed rabbi tells him to bring the farm's cow inside; the man sobs as he agrees. By the end of the week, the man's on his last shred of sanity and can barely talk to the rabbi about the huge mess, the endless noise, and the misery of everyone in his home. The rabbi then tells the man to bring the cow, pig, and chicken back outside. A week later, the now-joyous man returns and praises the sage—his house has never been quieter, cleaner, and roomier, and he's ecstatic.
- May 12, 1989: A freight train loses control descending into San Bernardino due to not having enough brakes, and derails on a curve at over 100 mph, destroying several houses and killing four people. During cleanup, undetected damage is made to a pipeline running alongside the tracks. 13 days later, the pipeline ruptures, causing a fire that destroys several more homes and kills two more people.