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Fight to Survive

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The hero is going about his business on a perfectly normal day — when an earthquake hits! Suddenly the hero must guide himself and all the other survivors out of the burning building to safety.

Or the hero might be enjoying a perfectly pleasant flight — when his plane crashes in the mountains! Suddenly the hero and all the other survivors must struggle to escape, while also struggling with whom to eat first.

Works such as these are examples of the Fight to Survive, a plot in which the main conflict is the simple struggle for survival. Many different things may cause the protagonist or protagonists to be placed in a perilous situation, but whatever the MacGuffin-disaster may be, the story will be centered around the protagonist's struggle to survive.

Many, probably most, Disaster Movies will use this trope. Sinking Ship Scenario is a subtrope. No Antagonist will often feature in a Fight to Survive work, assuming that the event that put the protagonist's life in peril is something impersonal. There may be an antagonist who is somehow to blame for the situation or who is seeking to exploit the situation, the most common example being a party member snapping under the pressure and endangering everyone else, or trying to cover up the cause of the disaster. Dwindling Party may appear in a Fight For Life work if the story involves a group of people fighting for life, and the dangerous situation starts picking them off. The Determinator may appear and refuse to give up and die, even when others are throwing in the towel. Compare Survival Horror, a mainly video game trope about being stuck in some terrible place amidst zombies or monsters.

If the story involves the protagonist fighting to survive a specific antagonist that is out to kill them — a Serial Killer, hostile aliens, or whatever — it is not this trope. Battles for survival against life-threatening illnesses also are not this trope.

Not to be confused with the Just for Fun page, Fighting for Survival.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Angel Beats!: Otonashi's backstory, which is revealed well into the anime, involves an underground train catastrophy, followed by attempts to find evacuation routes and manage the resources properly. It leads to his death with little justice in it — as is normally the case for the inhabitants of the place he comes to at the story start.
  • Wolf Children: After the death of her Wolf Man lover, Hana fights and struggles to provide for and take care of her children having to learn how to realistically farm.

  • As noted in the introduction, Alive is the infamous true story of the plane crash that left surviving passengers trapped in the Andes Mountains, without any food or any obvious means of escape.
  • All Is Lost is about a yachtsman whose life is placed in mortal peril after his yacht is struck and badly damaged by an errant cargo container.
  • Apollo 13 is the Based on a True Story account of the in-flight explosion that crippled the Apollo 13 spacecraft, and the frantic efforts by the astronauts and Mission Control to get them home alive.
  • Dante's Peak. More running-away-from-a-volcano action featuring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton
  • Deep Blue Sea is about scientists experimenting on genetically-enhanced sharks in an underwater research facility, and all the bad stuff that happens when a hurricane damages the facility and allows the sharks to escape.
  • Earthquake. A massive earthquake hits Los Angeles and a large cast of characters must struggle to survive in the aftermath.
  • A Far Off Place is about three young teens who must trek through the Kalahari desert after a poacher raids one of their homes. They must survive sandstorms, wild animals, dehydration and poachers trying to kill them.
  • Five Came Back is about a plane crash in the Amazon jungle. The passengers and crew of the plane must fix it, hack a runway out of the jungle, and get out of there before the local tribe of headhunters finds and kills them.
  • Flight of the Eagle is a Based on a True Story dramatization of S.A. Andree's attempt to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon in 1897. The balloon crashes on the Arctic ice pack and the three men of the balloon crew are left battling hunger and the elements as they try to make it to safety. Unlike most examples of this trope, all of them die, just as in Real Life.
  • In Gravity, three astronauts are conducting an EVA from the Space Shuttle when they are hit by a storm of debris from a destroyed satellite. Afer the Shuttle is found to be wrecked, a desperate struggle to survive in the unforgiving environment of space follows.
  • The Grey is about a group of oil men stuck in the Arctic after their plane crashes, being stalked by a pack of wolves.
  • Interstellar is an After the End version. With the Earth's ability to sustain human life rapidly declining — there has already been massive population loss, most of the crops have died off and the ones that are left are doomed, and the atmosphere soon won't have enough oxygen — the people that are left must find a refuge somewhere in the universe for humanity.
  • The Last Voyage. The SS Claridon suffers a boiler explosion that damages the ship so much that it begins to sink. One passenger is trapped in her cabin by a falling beam and her husband and a crewman must cut her free before the ship goes under.
  • In 127 Hours, a young man out rock-climbing slips into a crevasse and gets his arm tightly wedged in a crack between rocks. He has to figure out how to escape.
  • The Perfect Storm is the Based on a True Story tale of the fishing boat Andrea Gail and its voyage into the massive "perfect storm" that hit the north Atlantic in October 1991.
  • The Poseidon Adventure and its remake Poseidon are both stories about a cruise ship that capsizes and inverts while at sea, leaving the passengers battling to climb up the upside-down interior and escape.
  • The two-part TV Movie Shackleton, starring Kenneth Branagh as Ernest Shackleton, is about the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914. After their ship becomes stuck in Antarctic ice, and is eventually crushed, Shackleton and his men must make a difficult journey to windswept Elephant Island. Then Shackleton and a picked crew have to make an even more difficult voyage across the open ocean to South Georgia Island, the nearest human settlement.
  • Every film about the RMS TitanicA Night to Remember, Titanic (1997), and several others — is about the passengers of the unfortunate ocean liner trying to avoid drowning or freezing to death in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Towering Inferno is about a skyscraper that catches fire, and all the endangered people trapped within.
  • Volcano. An earthquake in Los Angeles causes a volcanic eruption to begin. Can Tommy Lee Jones save thousands of people from being incinerated?

  • The Martian is about a manned mission to Mars that is aborted due to damage caused by a violent dust storm. One astronaut is left for dead on the planet — except unbeknownst to his comrades, he actually isn't dead. Left marooned on the surface, he must figure out how to use the tools he has to stay alive on Mars until a way to get back to Earth can be achieved.
  • Men Against The Sea, the second novel in The Bounty Trilogy, recounts the epic voyage of William Bligh and the loyal members of his crew, who traveled 3000 miles across the Pacific Ocean in an open boat before finally making landfall at the island of Timor.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Arrow. The backstory of Oliver Queen showing How We Got Here via a series of flashbacks during the first five seasons, mirroring the "five years of hell" required to turn him into the Arrow. In fact "Survive" is the last thing his father says to Oliver before committing suicide to ensure his son has enough food and water to do so, and the word (and it's Chinese equivalent) is an Arc Word in Season One.
  • The Last Place on Earth is a TV miniseries about the Scott and Amundsen expeditions to the South Pole in 1911-12. Unlike most of these examples, Scott's Fight to Survive fails, as there's a Downer Ending where he and the other four men in his crew all die of starvation, scurvy, and frostbite on their way back from the Pole.
  • Yellowjackets: In 1996, the titular girls soccer team takes a flight to compete in Nationals, but their plane crashes. It leaves the survivors stranded in the Canadian Wilderness for 19 months. The 1996 timeline deals with their struggle to survive until they are rescued. The 2021 timeline is about the survivors dealing with the trauma and keeping secret their alleged actions while out there.

    Video Games 
  • Disaster: Day of Crisis: The bulk of the game has the player trying to survive the various disasters that befall Raymond.
  • Disaster Report. You are some normal journalist dude trapped in a city on an artificial island that is sinking due to horrible earthquakes. The environment itself is your enemy and often the buildings you're in will collapse even as you pass through them. This was particularly impressive as this was made in the era before Havok engine physics.
  • City Shrouded in Shadow has the player character try to make it out of the city as kaiju attack. The creators Granzella state that the game is a Spiritual Successor to the Disaster Report series.

    Western Animation 
  • Quest is about a magical sandman creature who is hunting for the water that he needs to remain a sandman, rather than dissolving into individual grains of sand as he dries out.


Video Example(s):


Titanic's Sinking

With the ship sinking rapidly & all the lifeboats gone, everyone forced to remain aboard the Titanic as well as those in the water enter a state of panic in a vain attempt at survival.

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