A hero tries a desperate, futile attack against the enemy, charging in against an armored killing machine armed with, say, a pointed stick.
The enemy falls down dead. The hero looks at his weapon in baffled amazement. Then we see that the villain was actually shot by another hero who'd sneaked up behind him. (If there's no killing, but only the villain being scared off by the appearance of a second person or creature with the hero being unaware of their presence, then that's Scared of What's Behind You.)
- Berserk: In volume 16, Farnese catches up to Guts while he's heavily wounded from having just fought an Apostle and orders her knights to capture him. Guts slaughters the rank and file, but then Vice Commander Azan challenges him to single combat and succeeds in wearing him down. Seeing that his only chance is to go for the leader, Guts breaks away and charges Farnese, who blindly thrusts out her sword in a feeble attempt to defend herself. Just as Guts is about to deflect her blow with his iron hand, a piece of wood comes flying out of nowhere and hits the crossbow bolt embedded in Guts' thigh, causing his knee to buckle so that he falls on Farnese's point and collapses from his wounds. The knights and Azan all cheer Farnese for single-handedly defeating the Black Swordsman, and since she had her eyes closed even Farnese thinks she did it by some fluke, but it was actually Serpico, her Obfuscating Stupidity-using valet, who threw that piece of wood and saved his mistress without taking the credit for himself.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Mr. Satan tried to shoot Buu with a pistol, and it seemed like it had cut Buu in half, but it was actually Goku that did it
- In the second Sakura Wars OVA series, there is a point where Li Kohran, in costume as a character she plays on the radio, faces down a mecha with a prop gun; her teammate Maria is actually the one who makes the shot.
- Trigun: During Meryl and Millie's Day in the Limelight, Vash takes care of a couple of baddies for them as payback for their help in a previous episode. Then there's an Iris Out on him as he complains about not having a bigger role in this story.
- Inverted in One-Punch Man. Saitama kills the Deep Sea King in plain view of everyone, but makes it seem like it was the other heroes who defeated him. Claiming that they weakened the monster enough for him to swoop in and deal the final blow. Making himself look like a credit stealing jerk in order to ensure that everyone else will get the recognition they deserve.
- In the Tintin album The Crab With The Golden Claws, Captain Haddock charges a whole band of desert raiders alone. They flee, and he believes for a moment that they did because they were scared of him. In fact, reinforcements were arriving behind him.
- Spider-Man: Norman Osborn killing the Skrull Queen Veranke in Secret Invasion. While the others have been battling for days, doing most of the dirty work, his team of maniacs, criminals, and lunatics comes in and steals the show. What really makes it a Downer Ending is that he kills the Skrull queen seconds before Wolverine was able to. Naturally, he was placed in charge of every registered superhero, the Avengers Initiative was renamed the Thunderbolts Initiative, and SHIELD was disbanded and replaced with HAMMER, which is also run by Osborn.
- Played with in SnarfQuest, where an evil wizard whom Snarf is facing off with suddenly goes "Urk!" and dies. The humanoid characters assume that Snarf actually scared him to death, but the readers learn that their gaggaleech companion (actually a highly venomous death leech) had secretly dropped onto the wizard's back and bitten him.
- Happens in the John Ford movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, former trope namer. Ransom Stoddard is a pacifist lawyer in a bad town in the old west. Throughout the film the outlaw and murderer Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) constantly assaults and belittles him, only stopping from outright murdering the whole town due to the presence of the badass but uncaring Tom Doniphon. After Valance beats the town's eccentric newspaper man, Stoddard grabs a pistol and attempts to kill Valance on the town's main street. He misses the first five shots and is horribly wounded by the outlaw. Tom Doniphon, witnessing the scene from a secluded spot, fires from an alley at the same time Stoddard does and kills Valance. The town only sees Stoddard who gets the girl and the glory, and later on becomes a Senator. Doniphon dies bitter and alone after drunkenly burning down his own house. When Stoddard tries to set the record straight, the reporter replies "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact... print the legend.". In the final scene Stoddard seems to be haunted by his breakout action and base of his career being nothing but a lie people keeps bringing up.
- In Saving Private Ryan, Captain Miller starts shooting at a tank with a pistol, and the tank suddenly blows up. He stares at the pistol in shock for a moment before he sees the American P-51 Mustangs who really blew up the tank fly overhead.
- The Brazilian movie Lisbela e o Prisioneiro does this twice in the same scene, using a Bait-and-Switch Gunshot to boot. Frederico is about to shoot Leleu, the camera cuts and a shot is heard. It's revealed that Lisbela shot Frederico. Later on, it's revealed that Lisbela's gun was in fact empty and Frederico's wife was the one who shot him.
- In Ghostbusters II, Rick Moranis's character Louis Tully, who has spent the film bumbling about, gets to the climactic battle, and clumsily fires up his laser stream just as the other guys take down the main villain Vigo. The crowd doesn't see them, and cheers and starts parading him around instead.
- The movie Sahara (2005) has a minor subversion at the climax. After Dirk Pitt and friends shoot down the local warlord's helicopter with lucky shot from a Civil War era cannon, the enemy army surrenders while the heroes marvel that their plan actually worked. Realizing something's not quite right, they turn and see an entire (friendly) Toureg army positioned on the top of the cliffs behind them. The subversion is that while the army surrenders because of the Touregs, the heroes really did shoot down the helicopter with a 150 year old Confederate cannon.
- Blackbeard's Ghost has a variant where the "hero" knows he's not winning the day by himself, but no one else does. Steve takes on a gang of mob toughs while he's armed only with Finger Guns. His foes find to their surprise that they are too. However, Steve's actually work; whoever he shoots falls down. When the thugs try the same, nothing happens, and Steve wins the fight. In fact, Steve has an ally in the Ghost Pirate Blackbeard, whom only he can see. Blackbeard lifted the real guns, and he's simply bashing Steve's targets on the head.
- Oceans Thirteen features an intentional example when Terry Benedict tries to screw over his fellow thieves after helping them rob a rival Jerkass casino owner, and the thieves retaliate by donating his cut of the stolen cash to charity and drawing very public attention to his "generosity". He ends up on talk shows having to humbly play down his apparent philanthropy while privately angry that he lost his money.
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy combines this with a Gambit Pileup for its depiction of the JFK assassination.
- In the X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge and his team are vastly outnumbered, so despite their superior skills, they are being worn down. After Janson's ship is damaged, he ejects. Janson is also known as something of a gunslinger with a blaster (rivaling Han Solo for skills with a blaster pistol), so in desperation, he draws his sidearm and fires at a fighter about to make a run on him. The fighter explodes. Wedge makes a mental note to ask what kind of pistol he carries, when he sees that Janson's wingman Hobbie was the one who took it down.
- In Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Sergeant Shadwell mistakes Aziraphale for a demon and decides to attempt an exorcism. After gathering up a rough approximation of the required supplies, Shadwell threatens Aziraphale with an outstretched finger. Aziraphale isn't particularly worried about the exorcism, but Shadwell entering the magic circle he'd been using to communicate with Heaven is another story; unfortunately, Shadwell manages to agitate him enough that he accidentally stumbles into the circle himself. The result? Aziraphale vanishes back to Heaven in a flash of light while the clueless Shadwell becomes convinced that his finger has somehow become a potent weapon against evil.
- Discworld This happens to Rincewind, the incompetent wizard, all the time:
- In Interesting Times he gets used by La Résistance as a figurehead. Most of them think he's a powerful wizard except for the leader who knows he's a snivelling coward. On the few occasions he has to actually do wizardly things, the characters in the other story arc provide timely explosions that keep the mystique alive.
- In Eric he gets summoned 'accidentally' instead of a demon by a teenage boy who wants three wishes granted. Normally, Rincewind has the wish granting ability of a dead haddock, but thanks to a powerful demon using him as a pawn, clicking his fingers actually does things.
- The Last Continent: The actual source of Rincewind's powerful curse turns out to be a particularly venomous spider that was hiding in his hat.
- In one of the Left Behind books, Rayford attempts to fulfill the part in Revelation about The Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia, getting killed. After accidentally firing his gun and actually wishing he hadn't, it turns out that Chaim Rosensweig had actually stuck a blade through his back.
- The battleship USS Missouri, in the second book of the Legacy of the Aldenata, fires a full salvo from one of its main turrets at a Posleen warship in a desperate attempt at destroying the vessel. The craft is destroyed, but it wasn't the battleship's rounds that did it: a nearby Planetary Defense Center armed with a gun designed to defend against those kinds of ships actually made the killing shot. However, from the perspective of the battleship's crew, their rounds were the fatal shot, as the PDC was completely destroyed by orbital bombardment from another Posleen warship immediately after firing. The notion of the battleship's rounds making the kill was ultimately responsible for the creation of the SheVa mobile artillery pieces featured in the third and fourth books.
- In the Relativity story "Game Night", Sara is the one who defeats the bad guys, but she doesn't want anyone knowing she's a superhero, so she makes it look as if Bluebird was responsible instead... even though Bluebird's tactic was to call upon a goddess for divine help.
- In the Mackenzie Calhoun installment of the Captain's Table series, we find out why Captain Calhoun decked an Admiral and resigned (temporarily) from Starfleet. While Mackenzie was still first officer of the USS Grissom, his captain's brother and niece came aboard as ambassadors to try and negotiate a peace between two planetary governments. Even when threatened with being instantly killed if they beamed down to the warmongering planet, they still did so. One missed hourly check later, and two mutilated corpses are beamed back to the ship, while Kradius, leader of the planet, calls the ship to gloat. Captain Norman Kenyon has a breakdown, but hides it almost perfectly due to his massive popularity among and loyalty from the crew. Mackenzie is pretty much the only person who notices something amiss, but decides not to confront Kenyon, as a first officer's job is to support his captain. After contacting HQ for further orders, they upgrade the weapons of the main butt monkeys for Kradius' planet so that they have a chance to actually defend themselves, then warp off. Two months later they come back, because Starfleet is concerned about the military buildup in the sector. Kradius' planet's victims have all banded together to wipe out Kradius and his people, and the USS Grissom is invited to take part. Mackenzie realizes that he's been fooled, there were no orders to upgrade the locals' weapons, and Captain Kenyon is here for revenge. Due to his popularity, Kenyon is able to charge Mackenzie with mutiny, and only after the alliance fleet is victorious does anyone admit that the captain has lost it and Mackenzie isn't a mutineer. Mackenzie beams down and tries to talk Kenyon out of executing Kradius, but Kenyon has lost his mind with grief over the death of his brother and niece, and cannot have peace until Kradius is dead. Mackenzie shoots Kradius to give Kenyon closure - and it is only when the corpse falls down does anyone realize that Kradius had palmed a phaser and was about to shoot Kenyon. Everyone thinks Mackenzie is a hero for shooting so quickly, but Mackenzie can only see it as the culmination of his greatest failure, for not intervening sooner. The investigatory panel exonerates him, so he decks the presiding admiral, previously one of his greatest supporters, and resigns.
- Battlestar Galactica 2005:
- First happens when Crashdown threatens to shoot Cally on the count of three if she doesn't follow orders. Crashdown hits three, and a shot rings out. Crashdown falls forward, shot dead by Gaius Baltar.
- Then Chief Tyrol starts shooting at a squad of Centurions, who become engulfed in a fireball and are destroyed. Tyrol looks at his gun in amazement, then realizes Lee Adama just pulled a Gunship Rescue.
- In Chuck, our eponymous hero is on a 'Red test', where he must kill someone to graduate as a fully-fledged CIA agent. Since Chuck has never killed anyone, preferring to carry a tranq-pistol, he faces a moral dilemma until Casey shoots the target from a hidden position nearby.
- In the second season of Deep Space 9 Li Nalas, a famed Bajoran resistance fighter, reveals to Sisko that the "heroic deed" at the heart of his legend was really him accidentally stumbling upon and killing a Cardassian officer who had been taking a bath. He never wanted to be the mythic hero the Bajorans made him out to be, and eventually finds a way out of it.
Li: Off the hook...after all...
- Gemini Man (and probably other Invisibility series) do this a lot, with the invisible hero backing up someone less assuming in a Bar Brawl.
- Andromeda did an interesting variation on this: in the series premiere, "Under The Night", Dylan survives a fight which Rhade clearly dominates. We are led to believe that it's his strength of character and force of will that bought his victory. But the Flashback episode "The Unconquerable Man" reveals the truth seasons later: Rhade threw the fight, having witnessed the dire consequences for the universe should he take the role of leading man.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode Prototype an Anubis clone with telekinetic powers is shot at repeatedly by Mitchell. He makes the hand movement to stop the bullets and for a second the audience believes he blocked them, then blood starts pouring from his wounds. The camera pans from Mitchell who is still holding his gun, to Daniel, who sneaked up and shot him while the clone's focus was on Mitchell.
- In the Torchwood episode "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", Ianto is forced to do a double-take at his unfired gun when a fish-alien drops dead seconds after insisting he wouldn't have the nerve to shoot. Then we pan over to Captain Jack, who's returned just in time.
- In the Mortified episode "The Talk", Taylor attempts to scare off some bullies using her (non-existant) karate skills. They flee and Taylor is convinced that they are terrified of her martial arts prowess, unaware that they actually left because of the two police officers slowly approaching behind her.
- In one episode of Gunsmoke, Matt is facing off against a tyrannical marshal (and former best friend) who has beaten him at every friendly Quick Draw they've ever had, and has used his skills to take over a town. The two (naturally) agree to a final showdown, take the usual positions...and then the marshal's lover sneaks down a side street and shoots him the very instant they draw.
- Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett in Orange Is the New Black goes through a villainous variant of this trope in her backstory, where everyone misunderstands the reasons behind her actions. She winds up at Litchfield Penitentiary for shooting a nurse at an abortion clinic, and gets hailed as a hero by a conservative Christian group in the process. In truth, she actually shot the nurse for making a snide remark at her, and she was going to the clinic to get an abortion herself (her fifth abortion, in fact, which was why the nurse was snarky) when it happened. She decides to stay quiet after a high-profile Christian lawyer offers to defend her at her trial, knowing that Pennsatucky is the perfect poster child for the group's pro-life efforts.
- In Arrow, during the big group battle scene in the "This is Your Sword" episode, Felicity Smoak has her tablet computer ruined by a member of the League of Assassins, she retaliates by throwing the tablet at him, hitting him in the throat, and becomes giddy as he falls down dead, then realizes his death was due to Malcolm Merlyn shooting the guy in the back with an arrow, to which she responds, "Oh, that makes way more sense", but for a moment, both she and the audience believe it was her that killed the League member.
- In the video game Snatcher, there is a scene where "junker" Gillian Seed is being choked to death from behind by Freddie Nielsen, the Snatcher who killed your co-agent Jean Jack Gibson. In order to pass this action scene, you have to use the mirror to aim behind you and make a shot. When you do, the Snatcher's head explodes, and it is revealed that it is not your shot that killed the Snatcher, but that of ace bounty hunter Random Hajile, who just happened to wander in.
- In a sidequest in Tales of Symphonia, Genis and Mithos are going out by themselves to try to find a cure for Raine's sickness, but Lloyd follows them secretly. At one point the two are assaulted by a monster. Genis tries to attack it. He clearly misses, but Lloyd dashes out behind the monster and kills it. Mithos gives Genis the credit for beating the monster. Later on, after everyone has yelled at Lloyd for being useless during the crisis, Genis tells Lloyd that he knows what Lloyd did.
- In Ōkami, Amaterasu does this to Susano constantly, to the point where it's a major surprise when Susano reveals that he knows Ammy has been helping him, tells Ammy not to help him, and deals a serious blow with his stick unassisted.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has the Doctor's frantic "stop"-button pressing to save Penny from a van while Captain Hammer is prepared to stop the van with hands outstretched. Dr. Horrible's stop button works just before Captain Hammer grabs the van, but Penny just sees the Captain stop a moving van. Dr. Horrible remains the universe's Butt-Monkey.
- I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC: The appears during the finale of the second season of After Hours. The Joker holds Harley Quinn hostage, and eggs Batman and Spider-Man, the only two heroes left in the room, to shoot him with a gun he threw earlier at Batman. As the morals of the two prevent them from murdering anyone, the Joker prepares to leave; however, a gunshot is heard, and the Joker drops to the floor, seemingly dead (though he isn't). Both Batman and Spider-Man are baffled, until they see The Punisher, who had been imprisoned earlier on, holding the gun.
The Punisher: See, you have to take the safety cap off.
- Batman: The Animated Series has an excellent episode, titled "The Man Who Killed Batman". It's told from the perspective of a nobody mob underling voiced by Matt Frewer, "Sid the Squid", who was the lookout on a job in which Batman is apparently killed. From Sid's perspective, Bats fell into a gas explosion, but everyone else thought Sid pushed him. He has to deal with a jealous Joker, an obsessed Commissioner Gordon, and a few rival mob bosses who can't believe his story. In the end, Bats turns out to have survived unharmed. In prison, a fulfilled Sid becomes, "The Man Who Almost Killed Batman, and who also made a fool of the Joker".
- The Boondocks has a rather strange subversion. In The Story of Catcher Freeman, each of The Rashomon tellings of the story give Catcher credit for killing the slavemaster, when every possible witness saw first-hand that Thelma did it. Since she's dead, we can't know for sure if this is a Dude, Where's My Reward?.
- In The Simpsons, Homer is confronted by
a mobthe Mob in front of his house. After they're about to shoot him, each of them fall over, hit with an incapacitating gunshot. After Chief Wiggum arrives on the scene, Homer and Marge assume it was him. After he denies credit, the camera pans up to one of the windows in the house, revealing Maggie holding an old rifle, barrel still smoking.
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon Windblown Hare, Bugs gets involved in the story of the Three Little Pigs, when the pigs con him into buying their straw and stick houses before the Big Bad Wolf comes along. When he realizes that the pigs had conned him, Bugs has the Wolf try and blow down their brick house, which then blows up.
Wolf: I did it!
Pigs (in unison): He did it!
Bugs (standing next to dynamite plunger): Eh, we did it!
- Cow and Chicken: In the episode "Karate Chick", Chicken thinks his flying kick does the Red Guy in. It is actually Super Cow, doing an udder attack just microseconds before Chicken's foot connects.
- American Dad!: In the episode "The 42 Year Old Virgin" Stan reveals that he's never killed anyone, and that all the times he was praised for doing so were just fortunate accidents. His first ever kill was carried out by a mugger, and, after he reveals his secret, his latest kill (shown at the start of the episode) is shown to have been made by the exact same mugger.
- The downfall of the Red Baron may be this. It was long credited to a Canadian pilot, Arthur Roy Brown, but in recent years, reexaminations of the Baron's injuries and the events of that day indicated that he may have instead been killed by a bullet from an Australian machine-gunner.