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How the Mighty Have Fallen

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"This is the guy who used to be able to turn solid stone into lava just by thinking hard at it. The 60's most powerful superhuman! And all he's fit for now is soaking up whiskey like blotting paper and burning the toast!"

This person once had it all. They were wealthy and powerful, sycophants hung on their every word, and it seemed like the world was their oyster. Then they fell, hard. Now their empire has crumbled, their money is gone, and they are scorned by the people who once admired them; there's nothing left for them to do but long for the Glory Days.


Other characters may shake their heads in pity and comment, "How the mighty have fallen".

Someone powerful and prideful who suffers a Humiliation Conga or Break the Haughty can have this fate waiting for them at the end. However, it can just as easily happen offscreen, or to someone who wasn't excessively prideful.

Depending on how sympathetic the character is, this can be played for comedy, tragedy, or karmic justice. It may even prove to be a Happy Ending; he avoids Lonely at the Top for true friendship and true love.

The Trope Namer comes from the Second Book of Samuel, as the soon-to-be-King David laments the death of King Saul.

The Fallen Princess copes with it; the Princess in Rags pretends it hasn't happened. Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! is when it happens to civilization, or Vestigial Empire when it happens to a nation-state.



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  • The first 2017 UFO Kamen Yakisoban ad is about former 90's hero Yakisoban falling from grace, unable to hold a job, and his once-adoring public finding him washed-up, weird, and annoying. He turns evil as a result.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Viral at beginning of season 2, Simon (by choice) at the end.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Yoki. He goes from leader of a prosperous mining town to Scar's snivelling lackey.
    • In the anime, he is reduced to scavenging in a junkyard to survive.
  • Slayers: NEXT has Martina, a princess whose kingdom is blown up by Lina, and who takes to following the heroine around seeking revenge.
  • Death Note's ending leaves Light broken both physically and mentally, with all his sycophants either dead or not having a clue who he is. The anime scene with him running sobbing from the warehouse to be killed by a heart attack a few minutes later is the nice version of his death, and within a few years, the world's gone back to normal. In the original manga, he's killed while writhing in agony and whining that he doesn't want to die.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, the fourth season manga of the Nanoha franchise gives this treatment to Signum in spades. Fortunately, after recovery, she's working her ass off to subvert this.
  • The life of Fallen Prince Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass. Even his Zero persona goes through this.
  • In Black Butler, Sebastian says this of Ash/Angela in the first Season Finale. In this case, he's referring to three things exactly: first, the Irony that someone who adored Purity is now drawing power from human corruption, second that is a literal Fallen Angel, and third, that s/he is about to go DOWN.
  • Several of the countries from Axis Powers Hetalia have moments like this. The Roman Empire himself, for starters, is said to have had everything, but then vanished one day (although, as a young Italy remarks, he had many scars and was in pain beforehand, probably for a long time). Prussia used to be a great fighter, and now, he isn't a nation anymore. During the Revolution, America remarks on how England "used to be so big." Kind of played with in the case of France, when he isn't invited to one of the Allies' meetings and tries to remember some of his "finest hours," all of them ruthlessly destroyed/parodied (in the cases of Joan of Arc and Napoleon, because of England, and in two cases he just jumped into the fight when the enemy was already weak).
    • Portugal cheerfully says to Spain's face that he's happy that Spain's fallen into dire straits since his empire days since it makes him feel better about his own fate.
  • This happened to Kotetsu's old boss in Tiger & Bunny. Ben Jackson was the director of TopMag's HERO division before it closed down and he became a mere taxi driver. Unlike most examples of this trope, he was a genuinely caring boss to Kotetsu. Later episodes show that he doesn't mind it though he still looks out after Kotetsu especially when he realizes that Kotetsu is losing his powers. In the epilogue, this is ultimately subverted as he becomes the new president of Apollon Media.
  • One Piece:
    • The death of his crew at the hands of Kaido left Gekko Moriah really screwed up — by the time the protagonists first meet him, he's let himself go and uses others' strength instead of his own to get the job done. His Badass Decay eventually got him kicked out of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, as he was deemed too weak for the position.
    • Earlier on, during Usopp's introduction arc, Kuro, upon seeing his crew struggling against the Straw Hats, almost says this trope word for word expressing his frustration/anger at their "inexcusable" weakness.
    • A recurring element in the Wano Arc, to show just how badly things have gone in Wano since Kaido took control. Hyogoro was one of the most powerful yakuza, but is now just a malnourished, small elder imprisoned in Udon. Queen lampshades how pathetic a legendary yakuza has become. Shinobu was once a beautiful kunoichi, but went to seed and is now an obese old woman of questionable skill. The country itself used to be a picturesque Theme Park Version of Feudal Japan, but Kaido's factories have poisoned the landscape, turning the entire nation, bar the Flower Capital into a polluted wasteland.
    • During the Baratie Arc, it's stated that Don Krieg had a fleet of 50 ships with 5,000 men...which he lost when he entered the Grand Line and ran afoul of "Hawk-Eye" Mihawk. When he first appears, Krieg's Pirate Armada has been reduced to one battered ship and about 100 starving men. Krieg's motivation for stealing the oceangoing restaurant is using it to build a new fleet.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: When first introduced, Rize Kamishiro is The Dreaded "Binge Eater," having thrown several wards into chaos by herself. After her attempt to eat Kaneki results in him getting an organ transplant from her that turns him into a Half-Human Hybrid, she's used as a kakuhou farm by Dr. Kanou; by the time she's rescued from such a fate, Rize is now nothing more than an insane shell of her former self who can do nothing more than cry, drool, and beg for food.
  • Fairy Tail: The titular guild itself suffers a tremendous one following the Time Skip. After their master and strongest members go missing, most of the guild's remaining members leave the guild out of frustration or shame, the ones left behind are forced to foreclose their guildhall as it has become too expensive (the replacement building not-withstanding), they are constantly being hit up for money that they borrowed from a neighboring guild filled with jerkasses, and they lose their reputation by losing six consecutive years of the Grand Magic Games in a row. Of course, the lost guildmates finally return after seven years and things begin to improve.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku more or less expresses this when he mocked Frieza's final attack after he deemed him too weak and Not Worth Killing. He states this again after Frieza was cut himself in half by his own attack. Finally, after being forced to blast Frieza after he tried to shoot him in the back, Goku has an expression that practically embodies this trope. For someone who was once called the strongest in the universe, it was indeed a mighty fall.
    • Vegeta's demise during the Frieza Saga has shades of this. He's the Saiyan Prince and the strongest his race has to offer... and is left totally helpless and reduced to tears against Frieza's power. After being literally beaten to a bloody pulp, Vegeta is given an anti-climactic end by being shot through the heart and spends his last moments tearfully begging Goku, a lower-class warrior, to defeat Frieza and avenge their race.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, this has happened to Frieza's entire empire. They went from being the most feared and powerful force in the universe, who controlled 70% of the known universe, to barely qualifying as an army after not only losing Frieza and his father but all their best fighters on Namek. According to Sorbet, they're on their last legs and are considered a laughing stock.
    • Frost, Frieza's Universe 6 counterpart. He's initially depicted as the Emperor of his universe, beloved by all as a hero, but during the Universe 6 Saga, it turns out that he's, in fact, a villain just like Frieza who does such things as start wars so he can end them and gain good publicity, which he openly brags about. Upon this reveal, he's one-shotted by Vegeta, beaten up by Hit after trying to steal Champa's cube, and becomes a fugitive on the run. Come the Universe Survival Saga, Hit finds him huddled in an alleyway, with nothing but a worn cloth to protect him from the elements.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Joseph Joestar, main character of Part 2 (1938), was almost as powerful in Part 3 (1987). But in Part 4 (1999), time has finally done its dirty work to him - he's withered, nearly deaf, partly senile, and generally on death's door. Josuke, his illegitimate son, can't bring himself to accept Joseph as his father for several reasons, and one of them is, "How could that seduce my mother?"
  • The Animatrix: As shown in the euphemistically-named short film, The Second Renaissance, humanity entered a new age with the birth of artificial intelligence in the 21st Century, and then showed a profound lack of appreciation for their offspring, treating them as slaves. Despite efforts to show appreciation and cooperation, the AI gathered in the world of Zero One eventually formed an army, soundly defeated humanity and turned the roles about, enslaving humanity with a similar level of prejudice and contempt as biomechanical batteries for the Machine City and the virtual world known as The Matrix. A few humans and Machines regret the error.
  • In The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, the titular Devil is transported from his world (where he is the commander of a massive army of demons and possesses extraordinary magical power) to our mundane world, where he is no more powerful than a regular human and has to take a job at a fast food restaurant to survive. The same winds up being true for the Hero that tried to oppose him, as well as his most powerful subordinates.
    • However, unlike most cases of this trope, he doesn't seem overly distressed about his fall from power. Instead, he sees it as an opportunity to climb the ranks and amass power in this world just like he did in his original world. When the destined Hero also shows up, she has a similar attitude towards her own position in this world.
  • Ghost Sweeper Mikami Doctor Chaos was once a renowned alchemist, exorcist, and inventor with a genius-level intellect, his greatest achievements being attained immortality and the creation of Maria. In the series proper, he's a senile old crackpot living in a cheap, rundown department and working on a bunch of odd jobs for peanuts to survive.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, this ends up happening to Othinus, a virtually unbeatable Magic God, who gets all of her powers taken away by even stronger Magic Gods after her Heel–Face Turn.
  • This happened to Ono Imoko from Battle Club. She was a rising judo star whom everyone sang the praise of. Yet when she lost everyone abandoned her, her coach, even the boy who claimed had a crush on her hated her. Wanting to escape the solitude she became a brawler.
  • Yume No Shizuku Kin No Torikago: Mahidevran Gulbahar. She was the mother of Prince Mustafa, the first and only son of Emperor Suleiman, giving her the second-highest position in the harem — surpassed only if Suleiman had a legal wife, and the current Valide Sultan, Suleiman's mother. She used her status and manipulation to strike fear into the other women in the harem, ruling them with an iron fist, and had any pregnant concubine killed to ensure her status as mother to the only heir remains. When Hurrem enters the harem, Gulbahar begins to lose her status as Hurrem ends up liked by most of the other concubines, and she has such good protection through Grand Vizier Ibrahim that Hurrem even manages to give birth to a son for Suleiman. Gulbahar loses her unique position, and her influence lessens until Hurrem is not only on-par with her in terms of position, but Hurrem also becomes the first ever Hasekinote  to the emperor, putting her position above Gulbahar's. The former only mother now has little to not power left in the harem, resting her last hope of retaining anything worth the status she's fought for into making her son Suleiman's chosen successor.

    Comic Books 
  • In Common Grounds, the once-prominent superhero Blackwatch is now a slovenly homeless man after serving a long prison term for accidentally killing newbie hero Snowflame in one of those superhero fights.
  • In Lucifer, when Perdissa thinks she's killed Lucifer, she indulges in a bit of Evil Gloating by quoting Isaiah 14:12 - "Oh how art thou fallen from grace oh Lucifer, son of the morning."
  • Death of the Family: While the Penguin was distracted by the Joker's return, his Number Two, Ogilvy, took advantage of the situation to steal his boss' position as top crime boss of Gotham, coercing the loyalty of Penguin's lieutenants and buying out all his assets. By the time Penguin realizes what's happened, he's been rendered homeless, powerless, and completely broke.
  • Ratbat's fall from Cybertronian senator to Casetticon minion is chronicled across the IDW Transformers line but concludes in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise where an attempt to seize control of the defeated Decepticon army and restart the war ends in his murder.
  • Judge Dredd: Chief Judge Silver was once the highest authority of Mega City One. He fell from power hard after the defective Judge Kraken, whom he approved against the wishes of the retiring Judge Dredd to take his place, fell under the control of the Sisters of Death and released the Dark Judges. After the fiends took over, Judge Death decided to make Silver a zombie so that his torment would never end. When Necropolis ended, Silver hid out of fear that he'd be burned as an abomination. When he finally tried to take back power, Dredd ruled in his favor on being entitled to his old post, but then executes him for criminal neglect of duty. Silver is incinerated and ignominiously disposed of by the sweepers.
  • Lester Majak of Revival got famous decades ago for his fitness book Strong Century. He's still a local celebrity and quite fit for his age, but he's been coasting downward from that one success ever since.
  • Count Dracula in Marvel's The Tomb of Dracula was the Lord of Vampires after being blessed by Varnae himself until he was stripped of his vampirism one time and was so distraught by his loss of power that he begged his hated vampire daughter Lilith to turn him; she refused but he would regain his lost power later on. In a more recent example, after a crushing defeat at the hands of Old Man Logan (who was displaced from his reality and ended up in the prime Marvel universe), he was retreated to an old lady's home and became a Basement-Dweller that plays video games all day long. Quite the step down from the guy that ruled his own nation.
  • Thanos is like this for a while after Thane depowers him. The once god-like Galactic Conqueror is left to scrabble together a living in the ruins of Titan, eating vermin just to survive and getting his ass kicked by other scavengers, people who he once could have killed without even noticing.
  • Arkhalla, the titular Queen of Vampires, is the first vampire, and as the "Undying Queen", she created armies of vampires and a terrifying empire where humans are food and slaves. But when her inner circle tries to kill her, she escapes but loses everything. Reduced to a lone, injured, starving, sickened, naked fugitive, the overthrown queen suffers further degrading from a gang of men who capture and imprison her as their rape slave. Although she eventually kills and feeds off them and regains her strength to begin plotting to take back her empire, the ugly experience adds to the Heel–Face Turn that she is already feeling due to having experienced love and loss just when her followers turned on her. And then later she also makes the first real friend she's ever had. When a human mob capture and prepare to burn her to death, Arkhalla is nearly a Death Seeker by then.

    Fan Works 
  • Evangelion 303: When the history starts Asuka is the best pilot of all Children and she openly declares that she is the best there is. Several events later her self-confidence and self-esteem were shattered, she (mis)blamed herself for the failure of several missions and her friend's death and she saw herself like a pathetic failure.
  • HERZ:
    • In the backstory, Asuka went from considering herself the top pilot and a prodigy child to regard herself as an ugly, scarred, worthless freak and a failure due to being repeatedly beaten, humiliated, mind-raped, brutally scarred and nearly killed.
    • In chapter 10 SEELE kidnaps Gendo. While one of their members is torturing him, he mocks him quoting the line verbatim:
      The SEELE member looked in disdain at the quivering piece of humanity before him. "How the mighty have fallen. The Commander of NERV. Once a powerful man before whom nations and peoples trembled. Now reduced to this," he sneered noting that Gendou's right forearm was missing. An old injury. 'Pity,' he thought, 'five less fingers to break.'
  • The One I Love Is: Asuka was the best Eva pilot, a genius and a beautiful girl. She gloated about it because her very fragile self-esteem depended on being the best at all what she did. However, throughout the fic, she got routinely beaten by her teammates, defeated by the Angels and the guy she loves is incapable to choose between her and another girl. When she is mind raped, that is the final blow and humiliation and she feels that she is worthless and she has nothing to live for. She even quotes the line verbatim:
    Asuka: "How the mighty have fallen. Look at me... I'm crying... I hate crying... only a weak person cries. I hate Wonder Girl... she showed everyone how pathetic I was. I hate you... you made me cry, now you can see how disgusting I am. I hate everybody... but most of all... I hate myself..."
  • A side story of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines pits a young Professor Oak and Elite Four Agatha as rookie trainers against the Ghost-type Pokémon lurking in Drowning Woods led by an evil Gengar who kills Agatha's younger brother Tony and turns his soul into a Gastly, and they're only saved by the timely arrival of an Elite Four patrolling the area. Decades later, Agatha encounters the Gengar again, who is now but a shadow of its former self, old and weakened due to time and malnourishment, with just a few followers remaining after Agatha caught most of the Ghost-types living in the woods so they won't harm anyone ever again.
  • In the Triptych Continuum fic "Bitter / Sweet", Worthy's Chocolate was the oldest chocolate shop in Equestria. Its founder and the first few generations of the family gave Worthy's Chocolate a reputation for perfect chocolate. Over the centuries, they expanded their operations and became renowned across all of Equestria. But in the last couple of centuries, the Worthy family prioritized making bits over making chocolate (with Cutie Marks to reflect that). It all came crashing down when new customers actually tasted their chocolate and realized it was terrible — a consequence of embracing automation, cheaper ingredients, and unskilled labor. The Worthy brand name had lost its appeal and became a joke. By the time the fic takes place, the first and now last Worthy's Chocolate shop is closing down for the night for the last time.
  • The Raven's Plan: Tywin Lannister. Once The Dreaded and the true power behind the Iron Throne, post-Remembering he's lost all the respect and fear people once had for him. Two thirds of that is due to his notoriously undignified death and the antics of the other Lannisters, particularly Cersei and Joffrey, in the previous timeline. The last third is due to everyone being too scared of other threats (mostly the Others) to really be concerned about him — to the point that he only Remembers himself because Bran Stark forgot about him. This culminates in Tyrion usurping his authority in a couple of hours with a bloodless coup and interring Tywin in his own rooms. The icing on the cake, however, is when it's revealed that Tywin was an Unwitting Pawn to the Conclave, who were using him to bring down the Targaryens. So it turns he was never quite the great manipulator he and everyone else thought he was to begin with.
  • In This Bites!, Gecko Moria's state as this is emphasized compared to his depiction in One Piece, with an increased attention to how psychologically scarred he was by seeing his companions slaughtered by Kaido. Even Luffy bluntly assesses that Moria is, to all practical purposes, dead and simply hasn't had the decency to lay down in his coffin yet, instead continuing to sail the seas and hurt others in a hollow attempt to avoid his own pain and misery. Not even undergoing a Traumatic Superpower Awakening can help Moria overcome just how damaged he is, and he's ultimately left broken and defeated for the second time.
  • One Day at a Time:
    • In the first flashback arc, David Cain. Formerly a master assassin, The Dragon to Ra's al Ghul and the man who created Lady Shiva, in the present he's a Jaded Washout well past his prime who regularly gets his ass kicked at the local fight club for money. Cass, who still loves him despite everything, is saddened by his current state, while Jason, who is far less sympathetic, finds it so pathetic he almost pities him.
    • The First Families of Gotham were once the five richest and most powerful families in Gotham, who helped the city recover from the American Revolution. Fast forward three hundred years later and only the Waynes are still thriving. The Crownes have died out, the Kanes are on the verge of dying out due to only having two female heirs, and the Elliots have only one male heir who has shown no interest in continuing the family line. Worst off is the Cobblepots, who lost almost all of their fortune by Bruce's time and have diminished to one male heir like the Elliots. That one male heir then rebuilt the family fortune with his connections as a crime boss and a supervillain, permanently shaming the Cobblepot name and ensuring that history would only ever remember them as a family of crooks. In Jason's timeline, all of the families (sans, of course, the Waynes) went extinct by the next generation.

    Films — Animated 
  • At the end of Cats Don't Dance, child actress Darla Dimple loses her career and becomes a janitor.
    • A similar demotion awaits the Mayor of Frank at the end of Osmosis Jones, and as one last bit of humiliation, he's accidentally expelled from Frank's body when he inadvertently causes him to fart.
  • Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove, who goes from scary sorceress of the palace in the movie to itty bitty kitten in the sequels.
  • Inverted in The Swan Princess with Jean-Bob, a frog who only thinks that he is a prince when in actuality, he is not.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Trope Namer is The Bible; the phrase occurs in 2 Samuel 1:19, 1:25, and 1:27.
    • Interestingly, not quite an example despite being TropeNamer. The mighty in question, Saul, has literally fallen in battle, not merely fallen from power.
    • See also Isaiah 14:12 - "How art thou fallen from heaven, star of Morning, son of the Dawn! How art thou cut down to the ground, who laid the nations low!"
    • In the book of 1st Maccabees, when Judah Maccabee was slain in battle, his brothers Jonathan and Simon, as well as all Israel, lamented for him, saying "How is the mighty fallen, the savior of Israel!" Although, like in the case of King Saul, Judah has only fallen in battle instead of in power.
  • The same sentiment was also expressed in The Aeneid: "quantum mutatus ab illo / Hectore" note 
  • Paradise Lost goes for both of them because John Milton loves his erudition: "If thou be'est he but oh how fallen / How changed..."
  • Snow Crash: Chuck Wrightson. Once the president of Kenai and Kodiak, now a homeless drunk.
  • A recurring theme in the Nightside books; John Taylor notes that even gods can end up living on the streets. Herne the Hunter is one of the biggest examples.
  • Ozymandias in Percy Shelley's famous poem (the point being that such a fate is inevitable):
    "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!!"
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away
  • In Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, the Greek Gods are holed up in a dilapidated house in contemporary London, much diminished in power because no-one believes in them anymore, what with "the upstart carpenter" and all.
  • An incidence of this being the Happy Ending occurs in Juliet E McKenna's Aldabreshin Compass with warlord Kheda having lost two separate kingdoms but is now free to be with the woman he loves and travel as he wishes instead of being tied to his throne.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Thoth-amon used to be a powerful magician, until he lost his Ring of Power. Then he had to flee for his life and ended up being Made a Slave.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman goes from being a demigod and head of the wizard's order to boss of a small group of Orcs bullying hobbits in the Shire. Pretty much every adaptation ignores this bit of the book.
  • Kallor in The Malazan Book of the Fallen once ruled a kingdom that spanned two continents, but was such a monster that his mages were willing to destroy an entire continent in the hopes of killing him. He survived the devastation and was later cursed to live forever and fail at whatever task he took upon himself as punishment for exterminating his own huge empire; man, woman, and child by the millions when he knew it would be taken away by beings more powerful.
  • The Wrath of God, a novel by Jack Higgins (this trope seems to involve lots of wrath!) Janos, a grossly overweight ex-soldier in the Hungarian imperial guard, now working as an Arms Dealer in 1920's Mexico, curses the glandular problem that caused his fall from grace.
  • Antichrist villain Nicolae Carpathia in the Left Behind book series went from being a terrifying Evil Overlord who ruled the world with an iron fist and Satan indwelt to a pathetic and humiliated rotting shell of a human being who has to suffer for eternity in the Lake of Fire.
  • According to the Legend of Belisarius, the Eastern Roman general Belisarius ended up as a blind beggar on the streets of Rome.
  • In the fourth The Wheel of Time book the recently overthrown former Amyrlin exploits this trope in order to get past a guard and flee the city:
    Yesterday, I was perhaps the most powerful ruler in the entire world, able to summon kings and queens and have them answer; today, I must hope I can find a farm where I will be allowed to sleep in the barn. Whatever crimes you think I have committed, isn't this punishment enough?
  • The Machine Gunners: Having received a crushing defeat from schoolyard rival Chas McGill, Boddser Brown finds his followers have deserted him, people are no longer afraid of him and openly mock his turban-like bandages and his position of power and popularity at school is gone.
  • Young George Amberson Minafer of The Magnificent Ambersons suffered this when his 'rich' grandfather died and it turned out that he had lost all his fortune and he just didn't tell him for the sake of pride. He went from living in a gorgeous mansion to living in a boarding house with a job involving explosives.
  • One of the two fates offered by Historia Brittonum for King Vortigern, the supreme ruler of Britain blamed for bringing the Saxons to Britain, is that he was dethroned and ostracized by his former subjects, so
    "... that, deserted and a wanderer, he sought a place of refuge, until broken-hearted, he made an ignominious end."
  • William Wordsworth's poem, "On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic":
    "And what if she had seen those glories fade,
    Those titles vanish, and that strength decay;
    Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid
    When her long life hath reached its final day:
    Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
    Of that which once was great is passed away."
  • The third act of A Clockwork Orange operates on this for Villain Protagonist Alex, a vicious criminal (in the first act) whose "treatment" in jail has rendered him incapable of even thinking about a violent act without becoming cripplingly ill. It becomes particularly noticeable when some of his old peers find him being mercilessly beaten by the elderly and then decide to beat on him themselves - all of these people he'd easily crushed earlier in the story.
  • The Authors of The House of Night tend to favour the Break the Haughty method:
    • Aphrodite went from being the most popular fledgling, High Priestess-in-training, dating the hottest guy at the House of Night to being friendless, completely powerless, and spending her meal times sitting out in the courtyard eating alone.
    • Rephaim - "The favourite son of an ancient immortal reduced to hiding in refuse and talking to the ghost of a human child."
  • The German ballad "Trutz, blanke Hans!" by Detlev von Liliencron, about the rich city Rungholt wiped out by the Northern Sea. ("Blanke Hans"note  is an Affectionate Nickname for the sea.) You may mentally exchange Rungholt with Atlantis, Vineta, etc.
  • Arch-Imager Vagel from Mordant's Need. Once the most powerful Imager in the world and arch-enemy of Big Good King Joyce during the founding of Mordant, at the start of the series, many believe that he's the mastermind behind the recent troubles. Once he actually appears, it turns out that he's a wreck, passively serving the real mastermind Eremis in the dreary hope that by doing so he'll at least get to see the people who brought him low fall. In the end even his final defeat is anticlimactic. While Gilbur goes down fighting and Eremis gets satisfyingly Hoist by His Own Petard, Vagel is last seen fleeing in panic from a crazy old man, who then kills him off-screen by impaling him on a tree branch.
  • In Updraft, Tobiat, a scruffy, mad-seeming vagrant in Kirit's home tower, was once one of the exalted Singers, the closest thing the city has to rulers.
  • Vicar Zahmsyn Trynair starts the Safehold series as one of the driving members of the antagonistic church leaders known as the Group of Four. His position as Chancellor makes him the man in charge of Mother Church's diplomacy. As the series progresses, he never loses that position but between the escalation of the war with the protagonist Empire of Charis being managed by Captain General Allayn Maigwair, fear of reprisal following the naked power grabs by Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn, and Treasurer Rhobair Duchairn being the only one willing to stand up to Clyntahn, Trynair's relevance vanishes to the point that he is essentially another of Clyntahn's lackeys. Duchairn notes by that point that for all intents they've become the Group of Three. In the end, he ends up arrested and executed for heresy after saying that they've lost the jihad and need to reach a negotiated settlement with Charis now if the Group of Four wants to survive within Clytahn's hearing.
  • The Age of Fire series has several examples of this:
    • When Auron first meets the dwarven Chartered Company, his friend Djer describes it as being more powerful than some nations. However, after their devastating war with the Wrymmaster's forces, they are left as a shadow of their former self.
    • Which is nothing compared to their rivals, the Wheel of Fire. After Wistala engineers their downfall, all that's left is small groups huddling in filthy squalor and starvation, hiding from the many vengeful enemies they've made over the years.
    • By the end of the fifth book, Dragon Rule, this is the case of the Copper, as he's ousted in a coup and exiled from his own empire, with his mate held hostage to ensure he stays gone. This leaves him in a depression that lasts twelve years until he learns of a group of dragons living independent of the empire, which inspires him to take back what's his.
  • Edgedancer (a novella of The Stormlight Archive): A retroactive example - after facing Nale, Lift gets a glimpse on what he was like before immortality and guilt drove him insane. The difference between an intelligent, honorable Herald he was and the Ax-Crazy lunatic he is now is rather dramatic.
  • In Will Save the Galaxy for Food, star-piloting lost their purpose after quantunnelling made their jobs obsolete. Those who were once heroes who explored space and saved worlds were now homeless bums who either gave cheap transport for tourists or have "gone to the black" and became space pirates.
  • This is the premise for the protagonist of Lucifer's Star by C.T. Phipps. Cassius Mass is the greatest starpilot in the galaxy, a genetically engineered superhuman, and a nobleman who might as well be a Prince. The first chapter strips him of everything and then it is a Trauma Conga Line after that, culminating in him becoming a Broken Ace who works as an alcoholic navigator on a freighter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • After Jaime loses his hand, this happens to him both figuratively and literally.
    • The entire series is essentially this for all of House Lannister. At one point the true power behind the Iron Throne, come the series finale they have practically lost everything. Their gold mines have run dry, leaving them impoverished, their name has been shamed thanks to the antics of Joffrey and Cersei (among which include Cersei's Open Secret affair with Jaime and spectacular destruction of the Sept of Baelor using Mad King Aerys' wildfire caches), and finally, they're borderline extinct, with the sole remaining Lannister, Tyrion, having become celibate in the wake of his former lover Shae's death. As if to rub even more salt into the wound, Tyrion is pressganged into becoming Hand of the King to Brandon Stark, the same boy Jaime threw out the window in the first episode, which started the Disaster Dominoes that led to House Lannister's downfall.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Said by Stretch Snodgrass (of all people) of Mr. Conklin, in the episode "Spare That Rod". Walter Denton had forged a letter threatening Mr. Conklin with dismissal for being "flagrantly dictatorial" in his disciplinary methods. Mr. Conklin was forcing himself to be meek and humble as a result.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Said by Guinan of the recently depowered Q in the episode "Deja Q".
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Obsidian Order was Cardassia. Enabran Tain was the Obsidian Order. Not even the Central Command dared challenge him, and Garak was his official protégé. In Cardassia, it doesn't get much more powerful than that. Then Garak ended up in exile for an unrevealed crime, and now the Cardassians have this view of him. Gul Toran even quotes this trope verbatim to him in the episode "Profit and Loss".
  • In Angel, Illyria used to be worshiped by millions and held dominion over multiple dimensions. Due to her reincarnation in a mortal body, as of series end, she's capable of being defeated by a minion of creatures she previously barely noticed. And the closest thing she has to a worshiper just drinks a lot and called her a smurf.
  • Conan O'Brien discussed this trope in his opening skit to the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards, mocking NBC in the Broadway-style musical number "Trouble At NBC''.
  • In Rome, the defeated king of the Gauls, Vercingetorix, is thrown before Julius Caesar, stripped of his clothes, and made to kiss the Imperial standard. Then he's dragged to Rome in a cage, displayed in a triumph and strangled.
  • Breaking Bad: Walter White is hit HARD by this in the series' antepenultimate episode, fittingly titled "Ozymandias". After spending five seasons building up his drug empire and sacrificing all of his morality to do so, we see every sin and mistake he's made in the series come back all at once. By the end of the episode, a former close family member is dead, the rest of his family have all had their lives ruined, all of them despise him (or in the case of his baby daughter, would rather stay with her mother), and he becomes one of the most wanted men in America and is forced to go on the run. Its use of this trope was so hard-hitting that it's led to it being called one of the best episodes of television ever made.
  • Invoked in NBC's Hannibal when Dr. Lecter is finally behind bars. Facing the new warden, Dr. Bloom, he gets a speech warning him to stop toying with Will Graham:
    "I know what you're afraid of. It's not pain or solitude. It's indignity. You're a little bit like a cat that way. I'll take your books, I'll take your drawings, I'll take your toilet. You'll have nothing but indignity and the company of the dead."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • When first introduced in season 2, Spike is a well established Hero Killer and a very dangerous threat to Buffy and the Scoobies. Come season 3, he's a drunken wreck after Drusilla dumps him, and it's taken even further in season 4; after being captured by the Initiative and implanted with a cerebral microchip that prevents him from harming humans, he becomes the series' Butt-Monkey and tries to stake himself.
    • Angel/Angelus suffered a similar fall. In the past, he was the most evil and brutal vampire in recorded history... until his soul was restored by a Gypsy Curse. From there, he began a downward spiral while Walking the Earth, until Whistler finds him on the streets of New York, living in the gutters and feeding on rats. Seeing Buffy and her struggles as the Slayer inspires Angel to claw his way back up and make something of himself again.
  • Arrow: Malcolm Merlyn was once a billionaire and a well-beloved citizen of Star(ling) City, while also a diabolical mastermind that was planning to destroy the Glades for revenge for his wife's murder and a skilled enough combatant to hand Oliver Queen (who was no slouch in Season One) his ass in one-on-one combat. By the end of Season Four, he's legally dead and has lost his company and reputation "post-mortem", his plan to destroy the Glades has killed his son, his daughter hates him, and Oliver has become so skilled that he can casually curb-stop him in a sword duel, to the point that he has to hold back so he doesn't accidentally kill Malcolm, and settles for cutting off his hand instead. In Legends of Tomorrow Season Two, when Eobard Thawne and Past!Damien Darhk arrive at his dilapidated apartment to recruit him, he's on his couch, nursing a drink and lamenting his status as a Jaded Washout. His existence has become so pitiful that after the Legion of Doom is defeated, Sara doesn't even bother punishing him further and instead just sends him back to his crappy apartment. Not long afterwards in the Season 5 finale, he commits a Heroic Sacrifice to save Thea's life and kill Digger Harkness.
  • The Flash (2014): Around a year or so before the beginning of the series when Barry Allen was a Junior CSI, Ralph Dibny was a handsome and well-respected detective of the CCPD. Then, during a case eerily reminiscent of Nora Allen's murder, he planted evidence to get the primary suspect (who he believed to be guilty) convicted. While Ralph was being lauded as a hero, Barry, suspicious of how suddenly that evidence popped up, analyzed it, found it fabricated, and busted Ralph, getting him fired. Now, in the show's original timeline, Ralph's troubles more-or-less ended there because he was killed by the Particle Accelerator Explosion. However, he was revived thanks to Flashpoint, and life continued downhill for him. When we finally meet him in Season 4, he's a sleazy Private Detective whose once-chiseled physique has turned into a beer belly and is so poor he can't even afford bus fare, not to mention spending most of his debut episode as a Butt-Monkey. Barry's reappearance in his life is a bitter reminder of how bad things have been for him for the last few years, and ironically the moment when things finally start to turn around for him.
  • The last two episodes of the second season of Narcos show how far Pablo Escobar fell. Once the biggest drug kingpin in the world, the terror of Columbia, in the second to last episode Pablo spends his time puttering around his dad's isolated farm, and at one point gets covered in goat's blood and denounced by his father. In the last episode, Pablo returns to Medellin, but only has the one henchman as he hides out in his safehouse, and has to disguise himself just to get some ice cream. In both episodes, he's clearly gotten fatter and grown a nasty Beard of Sorrow.
  • House of Saddam: Saddam spends the last episode hiding from US forces outside his own hometown on the Euphrates river, becoming unlikely friends with a local boy who doesn't know who the now powerless old man with the scraggly beard really is.
  • A recurring theme in The Mandalorian is how the fall of the Empire has devastated a lot of people and factions, both those affiliated with the Empire and those who weren't, leaving the galaxy in turmoil as the New Republic transitions into power. The Bounty Hunter's Guild has been reduced to a bunch of scumbags and misfits chasing bail-jumpers, Mos Eisley Spaceport is a Ghost Town, high-ranking Imperials like the Client are reduced to glorified thugs hiding in the shadows of society, and so on. On a larger scale, the Empire's Collapse has led to an economic recession thanks to credits suffering massive devaluation, leaving many wealthy people destitute.

  • Several Bruce Springsteen songs, most notably "Glory Days", which is the TropeNamer for another trope.
  • "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay tells the story of a man who overthrew a corrupt king and took his place. He had money, power, and an admiring kingdom, but he soon became corrupt just like the first king. Upon realizing how far he had fallen, he became disillusioned with his position of power and allowed himself to be removed from the throne and [assumedly] spent the rest of his days looking back on his reign and laments his fate.
  • The Depression-era number "Brother Can You Spare A Dime", famously performed by Bing Crosby.
  • Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone":
    Once upon a time you dressed so fine,
    You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
    People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
    You thought they were all kiddin’ you.
    Now you don’t talk so loud,
    Now you don’t seem so proud
    About having to be scrounging for your next meal.
  • The Laura Marling song "Failure" starts like this:
    He used to be the life and soul of everyone around.
    You'd never catch him looking up and never see him down but oh, la laa.
    He couldn't raise a smile oh, not for a while, and he's a failure now.
  • "Fortune Plango Vulnera" from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana".
    "Fortune rota volvitur;
    descendo minoratus;
    alter in altum tollitur;
    nimis exaltatus
    rex sedet in vertice
    caveat ruinam!
    nam sub axe legimus
    Hecubam reginam.
    (English translation: "The wheel of Fortune turns/I go down, demeaned/another is carried to the top;/far too high/the king sits at the summit/let him fear ruin/for under the axis is written/Queen Hecuba.")

  • Classical Mythology:
    • Theseus, the King of Athens, lived a life full of adventure and was considered up there with Heracles and Achilles in terms of Greek heroes. His accomplishments include: 1) Killing the Minotaur single-handedly and liberating Athens from Crete's control, 2) Disposing of his step-uncle and his fifty sons from Athens and ending their mafia-esque control of the kingdom, 3) Uniting the region of Attica under a single kingdom with Athens as its capital, 4) Defeated the Amazons, 5) Sailed with the Argonauts, 6) Participated in the Calydonian Hunt, 7) Fought in the Centaur wars, 8) Made the roads to Athens safer by personally hunting down every single bandit he could find. So what became of this legendary warrior king and adventurer? Due to a series of bad life choices and personality flaws he lost his position as king, having been usurped by a political rival of his, banished from Athens and dumped on an island to rot, having lost everything he had ever had. To add insult to injury how does he die? The king of the island he was on, fearing that Theseus might overthrow him, shoved Theseus off a cliff while the latter's guard was down. Not exactly a death befitting a king.
    • Similarly, Jason escaped his murderous uncle, was pretty much the only mortal Hera ever showed favor towards, assembled the Argonauts, made it past the sirens, found the golden fleece and gained the love of Medea, defeated Talos (well, Medea did anyway), and returned triumphantly to his home to remove his usurping uncle. And a few years later, after dumping Medea, the gods withdrew their favor, leaving him to wander around and stumbling upon a half-buried, rotting ship. He realizes it's the Argo, once a magnificent ship carrying heroes to glory, and as he sits under the prow weeping for all that he's lost, the rotten wood finally breaks off and crushes his head.
  • Marcus Manlius Capitolinus, according to the mostly-mythical early History of Ancient Rome, became illustrious for saving the Capitol from a Gaulish invasion (hence his cognomen). Few years later, he was accused of aspiring to kingship, and was condemned to be hurled to his death from the Tarpeian rock. This story was the origin of the Latin saying, Arx tarpeia Capitoli proxima ('the Tarpeian Rock is close to the Capitol'), a warning that one's fall from grace can come swiftly.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A WWE RAW angle had Shawn Michaels so broke that he was reduced to working for John "Bradshaw" Layfield.
  • In a real-life example, Ric Flair was a 16-time world champion and considered one of the greatest wrestlers ever. Between bad investments, messy divorces and living the jet-set lifestyle character he played on TV left him seriously in debt later on in life.
    • Hulk Hogan has exhibited some similarities to Flair above. Recognized as the icon of professional wrestling (known not just in his own industry but as a beacon to non-viewers as well just because he's so damn iconic), the 2000s have been less than kind. Divorcing his wife and the legal problems that hounded his son following an accident that took the life of the passenger in his car has seen the Hulkster looking less-than-stellar. A lot of the opportunities he's taken in the 2000s are often seen by longtime wrestling fans as desperate grabs to keep him in the spotlight and otherwise give him a recurring income flow (such as his stint on American Gladiators and the fact he came to WWE one night pretty much just to shill it). It's even worse when a tape about him uttering a racial slur was discovered, which caused him to be released from WWE and then have his records there erased.
  • TNA. While not as mighty as, say, WCW, for many years it was indisputably the #2 Professional Wrestling promotion in the United States. Many recognized that the company had the potential to one day compete with the WWE. Hoping to capitalize on that, they decided to bring in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff — and what followed can basically amount to as "WCW-lite", including but not limited to: a failed attempt to restart the Monday Night Wars, a massive amount financial mismanagement, much of the younger talent being pushed down the card, and the Power Stable Immortal, which was basically nWo: Take 2.
    • After Hogan and Bischoff left four or so years later, the company was in such disrepair that they lost their TV deal with Spike, while many of the TNA Originals (most notably AJ Styles) quit when they were told they were to face significant pay cuts; in spite of A: the fact that their talents were already being misused during the Hogan-Bischoff era and B: Many wrestlers under their promotion were struggling to make the ends meet as is! Some really nasty examples: Awesome Kong just wanted a raise to buy a car, Taylor Wilde was seen working at a Sunglasses Hut (and she was the Knockouts Champion at the time, too), Jesse Neal was able to qualify for food stamps, and Gail Kim was only bringing in $30,000 a year for her work (garbagemen make more, with better benefits to boot), in spite of the fact that she and Kong had the highest rated segments on the show.
    • Jeff Jarrett, the original founder of the promotion, tried to buy the company back, but his offer was rebuffed since Dixie Carter's position in the corporate structure would not be as secure — he eventually ended up starting another wrestling promotion instead. TNA is now desperately trying to grasp the glory that was once so closely in its grasp, only to continuously fall short and be eclipsed by ROH. If all this weren't humiliating enough, PWI no longer considers the TNA World Heavyweight Championship a world title, basically declaring that to them, the company has dropped to indy status. There was a time when this company was lauded as the future of Professional Wrestling; today, many wrestling fans are just begging for it to be put out of its misery.
  • Chyna. It seemed like a lifetime ago when this woman was a superstar with an assured future in the Hall of Fame. The only women from her time period that could ever compare to the impact she had were Sable, Trish Stratus, and Lita. At one point an international sex symbol, her fall from grace has reduced her to doing porn. That's only scratching the surface of how much the former Joanie Laurer's life has fallen apart, and she couldn't recover from it until her death at the age 45. Ironically, it's only after that event that WWE finally plans to get her to the Hall of Fame.
  • WCW. At one point the most successful wrestling promotion in the world, the only promotion to ever drive Vince McMahon to the brink of defeat, its disastrous twilight years are what it's best remembered for (where it became infamous among fans) — that, and having a book that illustrates everything that could go wrong in a wrestling promotion by outlining the circumstances surrounding its fall, and the eventual impact it had on the industry. It's history, more-or-less.
  • Matt Hardy had a mental breakdown after Lita cheated on him with Edge. At one point one of the most popular wrestlers of the early '00s, Matt entered a downward spiral that lasted years, culminating in him faking a suicide note for cheap publicity. It utterly destroyed his reputation, to the extent that his drug-addled younger brother, who, earlier that same year, arrived at a PPV he was main eventing stoned out of his gourd, forcing the match to end in ninety seconds just so he wouldn't hurt anybody, was regarded as more responsible than him. While Matt has worked to get his life back together since then, his legacy will forever be marred by his actions. All the same, he was able to hang on to a bit of his popularity on the independent circuit, particularly as a part of SCUM and The Kingdom in ROH, and ended up regaining his popularity after TNA gave him a second chance.
  • The career of Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP) from 2006 to 2010 followed a complicated trajectory. Originally introduced as an "all-talk-no-action" blowhard who could (fairly) beat only people much weaker than he was, MVP eventually proved he really could be as tough as he said he was, surviving an Inferno match with Kane and competing afterward even though he still had burns on his body. Then he won the United States Championship in 2007 and held on to it for quite some time, even getting some clean wins while still being a heel - which encouraged him to become even more arrogant. Then, in the summer of 2008, he began losing every match and continued his losing streak for the rest of the year; this led to him being denied the trademark inflatable tunnel through which he entered arenas. MVP finally starting picking up some wins in January 2009, resulting in a face turn.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Finn used to be at the top of the school's social ladder thanks to his father's position as the City Mayor. Then it was discovered that his father was embezzling city funds. He was arrested and Finn plummeted down in popularity, leaving him now as an outcast who collects gossip on others.

    Tabletop Games 

  • One of the most prevalent themes in Greek tragedy; it'd be easier to list the exceptions, which are very few indeed.
  • Oedipus the King is an especially good version of this. Over the course of the play, he goes from King of Thebes to a blind beggar who everyone knows killed his father and slept with his mother.
    "Men of Thebes, look upon Oedipus
    the king who solved the famous riddle
    and towered up, most powerful of men.
    No mortal eye but looked on him with envy,
    yet in the end ruin swept over him."
  • The song "King of the World" from the musical Songs for a New World is about this — the singer used to be very powerful and is now in prison. (Beyond this, the details are open to interpretation.)
  • In the musical of The Producers, Max Bialystock reminisces about once being "the king of all Broadway" rather than, as now, a producer of serial flops. (But then the chorus responds with "We'll believe you - thousands wouldn't.")
  • Grizabella's story in Cats ("Grizabella the Glamour Cat") gives this vibe. Former celebrity, now a common, old stray shunned by the Jellicle tribe.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Series: As revealed in Origins, Black Mask was once one of Gotham's top crime lords, having most of Gotham under his thumb and most of the GCPD on his payroll. This all came to a crashing halt for him when the Joker came to town, usurped his position, and stole his identity and operation, and from that point on, Sionis is little more than the Arkhamverse's Butt-Monkey; Aaron Cash even mentions in Knight that Black Mask never managed to recover from the events of that night.
  • Dota 2 has a minor case in Zet the Arc Warden. In his backstory, he was part of the primordial mind that existed before all else until it splintered into three fragments. Zet was one of them, almighty until he expended much of his power to seal the two other fragments away in a prison, which they escaped from. With that said, he's still powerful enough that he can casually grant Zeus a piece of his godhood back.
  • Valvatorez was one of the most feared and powerful demons in his Netherworld. By the time Disgaea 4 rolls around he's a shadow of his former self, serving as an instructor to lowly Prinnies. Valvatorez doesn't mind and carries himself with the same humility and honor he had as the Tyrant.
    • Killia of Disgaea 5 exhibits this as well, known across the Netherworlds as "Tyrant Overlord Killadia" before the events of the story. In the present, he's a drifter without an Overload ability.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • This is a common theme in the Human and Dwarf Noble origin stories, both of which begin with the player character as a scion of a very powerful family (either that of the in-universe equivalent of a duke or that of the King of Orzammar). Both end with the player on the run and forced to join the Grey Wardens to escape. Of course, you do rise to prominence again at the end, but that is to be expected.
    • This happened to the Dalish long before the story started. It's mostly their fault as well.
    • The Tevinter Imperium used to rule most of Thedas, but now it's a crumbling remnant of its former glory with its one remaining claim to Bad Assness being that the Qunari are trying to destroy it, and yet it's still managing to continue existing.
  • The line is used in Eternal Darkness as Pious kills Mantorok in the second chapter. Considering he just punched out that story's equivalent of Cthulhu and consigned it to a slow and inevitable death, it is probably fitting.
  • In Hot Dog Bush, former U.S. President George W. Bush gets expelled from the White House as punishment for failing his duties and desperate for money he sinks down to street vending hot dogs and burgers.
  • The Lost MC in Grand Theft Auto V. Once a feared group of Badass Bikers, V reduces them to strung out, aimless, desert-dwelling meth addicts, who get massacred by Trevor.
  • From Portal 2:
    • The middle chapters take the player on an exploration of the old Aperture Science Innovators test facilities, far beneath the more modern chambers that you start the game in. You get to see what Aperture was like when its eccentric founder, Cave Johnson, was in his heyday, full of money and enthusiasm and with "astronauts, Olympians, and war heroes" jumping at the chance to test his products. Then you get to see it as a company struggling to survive and hiring bums off the street due to Congressional inquiries over the "missing astronauts". Lastly, you get to hear Cave's final recordings as a bitter, bankrupt old man dying of moon dust poisoning and trying desperately to preserve some kind of legacy. Aperture may have recovered and gone on without him, but he's gone, his memories buried along with the empire he built.
      • Appropriately, the chapter where you're first introduced to the crumbling remains of Old Aperture is called "The Fall".
    • GLaDOS when Wheatley takes over her body and uploads her consciousness into a potato battery. Though she gets back up again.
  • This is where Starscream ends up by the end of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
    • The whole point of the game, really. They've gone from nigh-immortal lords of technology to rats fleeing a sinking ship. Except rats know better than to fight when they should run.
  • In Starcraft II, after spending almost the entire series as the dominant race, the Zerg are decimated and scattered at the end of the Terran campaign, and you spend the entire next campaign helping them recover from the disaster.
  • A recurring theme in FromSoftware games. Mighty rulers are reduced to pathetic husks of their former selves and lose everything because of their obsessions:
    • King Allant of Demon's Souls. Once a proud king of a great kingdom, his obsession with the power of souls eventually turns him into a helpless blob feebly clinging to his sword wishing for nothing but his own death. Meanwhile, the demonic doppelganger he left behind to rule in his stead leads his kingdom to ruin and his only son is Driven to Suicide unable to bear the truth.
    • Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight of Dark Souls. He was once a lightning-wielding God-Emperor who ushered in a new age by defeating the Everlasting Dragons. In a desperate attempt to prolong the Age of Fire when the First Flame started to flicker and die, he split his own soul apart and made himself kindling for the First Flame. This turned him into a Hollow shell of his former self bereft of his former powers. In the end, Gwyn was nothing more than a crazed and lonely old man afraid of change.
    • King Vendrick of Dark Souls II. The backstory builds him up as a powerful ruler who built the kingdom of Drangleic over the corpses of an entire army of Giants. He is constantly hyped up as the ultimate challenge the player character must overcome. His attempts to stave off the Undead Curse led him to be afflicted with it himself. His own beloved queen manipulated his downfall and the ruin of his kingdom. When he is finally met in person, he's a giant naked Hollow wandering aimlessly in his tomb.
    • Dark Souls III turns the whole trope on its head by focusing on and deconstructing the Chosen Undead, the character you created and played during the first 3 games in the series. Unlike the previous games, it's the once-mighty Chosen Undead who are hunted and killed, because at some point they didn't want to complete their obligation of rekindling the flame. It comes to ahead when you fight Soul of Cinder, who is a combination of all the Chosen Undead that ever existed beginning with Gwyn. In an ironic twist, this trope applies to the player as well. Many have spent hundreds of hours building up their characters is previous games, only to kill them all off in the final game in the Soul's trilogy.
    • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice continues this trend with the fate of the Ashina Clan. When Isshin Ashina was in his prime, he was able to take back his ancestral lands and made them prosperous. But not even two generations later, it's all falling apart. Isshin himself is a sickly old man (though still very skilled with the sword), the Interior Ministry's armies are invading and clearly outmatch Ashina's forces, and the current leader of the Ashina Clan, Isshin's adoptive grandson Genichiro, is going down a dark path out of desperation to save Ashina. What's even sadder is that Isshin himself has more or less made peace with this downfall and very much doesn't want Genichiro to damn himself this way, but cannot stop him. Though in a way he's better off than the others before him. Isshin never loses his sanity or his humanity even as everything falls apart around him.
  • Dragon Ball Fighter Z has Nappa. An elite Saiyan warrior and serious threat when he appeared in Z, but by the time the game takes place, So Last Season has set in hard. No one, not even his victims among the Z-Fighters, is afraid of him anymore, and Yamcha can pay him back in a Dramatic Finish by turning his memetic Death-by-Saibaman back on Nappa, and pretty much everyone mocks him for being the only Saiyan in the game unable to turn Super Saiyan (even Bardock, who died before the original Dragon Ball, can do it), despite there being, to quote Cell, a "A bit of a bargain sale for Super Saiyans going on." Goku can't even remember his name, and calls him 'Nappy'.
  • Tomb Raider (2013): Lara's father, Richard Croft, as revealed in Rise of the Tomb Raider. He was once a well-known and respected archaeologist, but his obsession with researching immortality eventually destroyed his reputation and turned him into a laughingstock. Eventually, he was Driven to Suicide.
  • Joseph "Swing King" Clarence in Hitman: Blood Money. According to his obituary, the Swing King was once a much-beloved local personality: rich, successful, handsome and witty, no social event was complete without him making an appearance. By the time 47 catches up with him, Swing King has been reduced to a flabby, neurotic, washed-up recluse.
  • Overwatch.
    • Overwatch itself. Once a shining beacon of good around the world. In the present time, it's banned by the government, 3 of its most legendary figures (Ana, Soldier:76 and Reaper) are presumed dead by the public, and its agents are scattered around the globe.
    • The Shimada Clan. At one point in the past, they were one of the fiercest Yakuza clans in Japan. Then they forced Hanzo to (supposedly) kill Genji. After doing such a horrible thing, Hanzo ditched them. With both heirs gone and no leadership, the Shimada Clan of the games present time in a barely functioning shell of what it once was.
  • Fallout
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Dark Brotherhood, an illegal organization of assassins whose membership mostly takes a sadistic glee in killing and who practice a Religion of Evil, once had a near-monopoly on the assassin-for-hire market with agents and sanctuaries throughout Tamriel. Come the time of Skyrim however, they're down to one remote sanctuary and have lost contact with the Night Mother, their unholy leader. As such, they're forced to get their contracts through rumors about the Black Sacrament being performed rather than from the Night Mother herself. It's up to you in Skyrim whether they recover, or get completely wiped out.
    • Similarly, the Skyrim branch of the Thieves' Guild has fallen on very hard times. Their influence is limited to one city (Riften) and they've had to drop many of their standards to get by. As it turns out, this is the result of Guildmaster Mercer Frey's stealing of the Skeleton Key, leading to the Daedric Prince Nocturnal cursing the Guild with bad luck. It's up to you to help them rebound or leave them to their fate.
    • Dunmeri Great House Hlaalu was once the most powerful of the Great Houses. House Hlaalu had the closest ties to The Empire and, as a result, were the most powerful and wealthy Great House during Morrowind's time in the Third Empire. During Morrowind, both the King of Morrowind and Duke of Vvardenfell hail from House Hlaalu. Following the events of the Red Year and the withdraw of Imperial influence from Morrowind, they were reduced to becoming the weakest House and even lost their seat on the council by the time of Skyrim's Dragonborn DLC.
  • Ace Attorney: In their prime, Troupe Gramarye was an incredibly popular and famous magician troupe, becoming a staple of many TV shows and theater stages, even getting a special commemorative stamp commissioned in their honor. Sadly, it was not meant to last. Several scandals rocked the group: the ousting of a member under mysterious circumstances, the disappearance of the sole female of the group, also under mysterious circumstances, the murder of the founder of group Magnifi Gramarye with the two remaining members accused of the crime and finally culminating with one of said members, Zak Gramarye, being found guilty of the crime and for him to also disappear without a trace from the courtroom just before the judge could read the verdict. By the time of the events of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney take place, the troupe is all but forgotten. Prosecutor Klavier Gavin says that if one were to ask anyone about the troupe nowadays, we'd be lucky to get more than just blank stares.
  • Kingdom Hearts has Ventus, who in Kingdom Hearts χ is revealed to have once been one of the five leaders of the Keyblade wielders in the time immediately after the ancient Keyblade War almost destroyed the world. Some unclear events and a spell of Laser-Guided Amnesia later, his world shrunk down to just the Land of Departure and its three other inhabitants, all of who are considered better-trained and more powerful than him. Though the end of Kingdom Hearts III suggests he might be starting to remember.
  • Lahabrea in Final Fantasy XIV is an Ascian who aims to destroy Eorzea in order to cause a Rejoining. He's incredibly smug, arrogant, and sees mortals as nothing more than mere playthings that cannot comprehend his greatness. He remains defiant until his death in the Heavensward scenario, which his comrades later on describe him as a colossal idiot that screwed up royally and they think very little of him. The Shadowbringers expansion reveals that Lahabrea was once a highly esteemed and well respected scholar whose creation magicks were the best of the best. After the Ascian's homeworld was sundered, Lahabrea did not take it well and he fell from grace since that event.
  • Yakuza: The Dojima Family in general, and Sohei Dojima in particular. In the '80s, the Dojima family under Sohei's leadership were a driving force behind the Tojo clan's rise to prominence among the yakuza of Kanto. However, by the time the first game rolls around, the Dojima family has been reduced to a shred of its former self, leaving Sohei a broken man capable of little more than yapping about the Glory Days.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", Homer reunites with his long lost half-brother Herb. Herb was a Self-Made Man and the wealthy head of a major auto corporation until he foolishly trusted Homer to design a car for "the average American". The end result was such a farce it drove Herb's already-troubled company out of business. By the time we see Herb again in "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", he's literally living as a hobo.
    • In "The Old Man and the Lisa", Mr. Burns lost his fortune and the Power Plant, and Lisa helped him get it back, much to her regret.
  • Valmont from Jackie Chan Adventures goes from a major villain in the first two seasons to a homeless petty criminal in the third. By the fifth season, he's resorted to becoming a bus driver with a small cameo in the last episode.
  • Subverted by Vilgax in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Ben mocks his old foe's fall, but Vilgax has every intention of regaining everything he lost and more. In fact, he turns out even more dangerous than he used to be with his empire, as he is enough of a Magnificent Bastard to take over a cult of human followers, and eventually manipulate Diagon, making its power his own.
  • This happened to Mandarin in the second season of the Iron Man 90's animated series. After losing the Ten Rings of Power in the first season finale, Mandarin was reduced to working as a laborer, whipped daily by a cruel overseer. Then he notices the overseer's ring... and after regaining his power, he falls even harder in the series finale. Half of his rings are destroyed, his memories are gone, and he loses the other five rings when lowly mountain bandits chop off his hand.
  • Invoked by Slithe in ThunderCats (2011)
    "How quickly things change for the cats. From top predator to endangered species... in a single day!"
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: On the heroes' side, The Earth Kingdom, the only world power to even come close to rivalling Fire Nation, is overrun by the latter at the end of the second season. On the villain's side, Fire Lord Ozai and Princess Azula start off as the God-Emperor and The Chessmaster / The Ace, respectively. By the end, Ozai's been Brought Down to Normal and Azula's lost her mind. Karma's a bitch, innit?
  • Blossom in The Powerpuff Girls episode "A Very Special Blossom". She steals a set of golf clubs to give the Professor for Father's Day then tries to frame Mojo Jojo for it. When the jig is up, we see her in an orange prison suit performing community service.
  • Johnny Test villain Dark Vegan started out as an alien warlord, but after his second appearance he ends up stuck on Earth and another member of Johnny's Harmless Villain Rogues Gallery. He even lampshades this; "I used to be ruler of my planet, but now I'm an unemployable loser!"
  • Azul Falcone of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is introduced as partner at the law firm. He's more successful and popular than Harvey, despite being a much less competent lawyer. However, after his first appearance, he slides down the firm's pecking order until he is a mere bathroom attendant.
    • This trope seems to inform both this series and its sister series Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Hanna-Barbera stars long past their respective heydays trying to survive post-fame.
  • Maul throws this Obi-Wan Kenobi's face when they face each other for the final time in Star Wars Rebels. Kenobi's fallen from Jedi Master and hero of the Clone Wars to forgotten hermit, hiding on a backwater world from the government he used to serve. For his part, Obi-Wan turns this right back on him, a former Lord of the Sith reduced to a half-crazy drifter abandoned by his former master and galaxy at large.
  • Many, many characters and institutions in The Venture Bros., but Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture is perhaps the best example. Formerly, a famous and successful boy adventurer and heir to the prodigious Venture Industries, he is now a bitter, unsuccessful CEO to a floundering science firm.
  • Samurai Jack: Jack's father was once the emperor of Japan and the one who originally defeated Aku. When Aku later returned, he made sure to abduct the aged emperor before he could retrieve his sword again, allowing Aku to Take Over the World. By the time Jack returns, his father has been reduced to an old, emaciated slave, thoroughly weakened in both body and spirit.
  • In the first season of Young Justice, Orm, younger brother of Aquaman, was Prince of Atlantis, and, in his guise of Ocean-Master, held a high-ranking position with The Light. However, after being discovered, disgraced, and left to rot in an Atlantean prison for six years, he returned in the third season; impoverished, physically ragged, and emotionally deranged. At least he didn't have to stay that way for long, before he could prematurely carry out The Light's Nuclear Option.
  • Final Space: The Lord Commander. All through season 1, he is the Big Bad with a huge army and various Psychic Powers. Come season 2, and (following a huge battle in the season 1 finale) he has lost all his forces, and is himself on the brink of death since his powers are Cast from Lifespan. He can't even put up a fight anymore when Nightfall comes to finish him off.
  • DuckTales (2017): At the height of her power, Magica De Spell was a powerful sorceress and considered to be one of the most dangerous members of Scrooge's Rogues Gallery. She loses everything in the season one finale, ending up homeless and performing for children's birthday parties at the local Suck E. Cheese's in order to make ends meet. Her niece Lena loses pretty much all fear of her after seeing just how pathetic she's become.

    Real Life 
  • Subverted in this joke: Three refugees from talk about the old times. First one: "Here I live in a one-room apartment, but in the old country, I had a house with twelve rooms." Second one: "Here I am an ordinary secretary, but in the old country, I was a CEO." Third one (with a Mister Muffykins on his lap): "I'll admit, I'm a poor devil now as well as then. But in the old country, my dog was a St. Bernard."
  • People during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance saw Ancient Rome as this.
  • The Hudson's Bay Company, once, a real-life Mega-Corp. For 200 years, they owned and ruled over more than a third of what is now Canada, even having its own currency, before the British forced them to sell the land to the Canadian government. Now they're just a chain of mid-range department stores, destined for the same fate as many other major retailers.
  • Joe Paterno. He retires in disgrace after the horrifying Penn State sex scandal blew up. And after his death, a statue outside the campus erected to honor his achievements gets taken down after numerous pieces of evidence and implications pile up that he was involved in the whole cover-up.
  • In the late 1990s, Leeds United emerged as the most likely team to challenge Manchester United and Arsenal in the English Premier League, launching a sustained title challenge and reaching the semifinals of European competitions. However, in doing so, they spent too much money, and after losing their champions league place to Newcastle United, they were forced to offload players to recoup debts. They were relegated in 2004, and again in 2007 after losing the promotion playoff the previous year. They returned to the first division in 2010, but are still yet to return to the top flight.
  • The Enron Corporation. They were the fastest growing and most praised technology corporation of the late 90s and into the 2000s. Only for them to surprisingly declare bankruptcy, which later exposed them as a fraudulent operation from the very beginning.
  • One of the greatest examples of this in modern American politics is the case of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Highly popular and effective after being elected in 2009, he cruised to reelection in 2013 and was considered an early favorite for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. However, after being implicated in the Bridgegate scandal, his image was heavily tainted, to the point he ended up one of the first candidates to drop out of the running, and (at least according to Christie himself) this is also why Donald Trump didn't select him as a running mate or cabinet selection, despite throwing support behind Trump almost immediately after suspending his own campaign.note  After this, he spent the remainder of his term of office only growing more and more unpopular with his constituents (such as when he publicly attended a beach closed to the public during a government shutdown). Ultimately, he left office one of the least popular Governors in state history, and merely being associated with him caused his Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno to lose the subsequent election in a landslide.
  • Alex Jones, a radio personality from Texas whom for years made a living shouting (literally) out conspiracy theories. When the internet took off, he created a website called Info Wars which also focused on conspiracy theories and made several documentaries and he allowed most of them to be watched for free on the internet. He was one of if not THE leading force in pushing the 9/11 conspiracy theory among many others. By the 2010s, Alex Jones became huge, becoming a multimillionaire through his work and sponsors he gained over the years. Then it started to fall apart when Alex Jones accused genuine victims of crimes as being fake crisis actors, verbally attacking anyone who disagreed with him in a manner that incited violence, which sometimes his supporters would create, and that is just the mild stuff. Then it was revealed that he was going through a divorce with his wife and a custody battle for the children. During the hearings, Alex Jones' lawyer admitted that Jones is an actor playing a role and really doesn't believe anything he is saying. His wife claimed he was unstable and dangerous. Not long afterwards, Jones started getting sued by many of the victims of tragic shootings, who he claimed were crisis actors and frauds. On top of that, Alex Jones began supporting Alt-Right personalities who repeated many of his conspiracy theories for their personal agendas. This eventually resulted in Jones getting banned from many of the top social media sites, including Facebook, Youtube, and more. There was a small Hope Spot for Jones when he was able to hold on to Twitter because according to them, he didn't violate any rules. This changed in September 2018, when in a public confrontation with politician Marco Rubio, Twitter banned Jones for breaking the behavior policy. Jones still has his website and an audience, even getting interviews on various social media websites he's been banned off, but comparing his current state to his peak shows a definite fall indeed.
  • As a video game company, Konami can count as this. When it started, it was one of the best and more well known video game companies, creating classic series like Castlevania and Contra amongst others, having extremely strong arcade presence, and eventually became well known for the Metal Gear franchise. Come 2010's, however, there has been a change in upper management, in which they decided to focus on either pachinko or mobile gaming, avoiding AAA games, something that their flagship series Metal Gear is best known for. It culminates in them abusing their employers to increase their chances of venture towards pachinko, abuses the Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima until he resigned and then barred him from getting awards for his last game, all of which did not endear the fandom towards Konami. To rub the salt in the wound, shortly after all these happened and they looked as if they could move forward to pachinko, Japan itself, without realizing what's going on, passed a law that practically would curb profits from pachinko, meaning that they had to actually reduce the profits from their venture. And thus, Konami had to return to video game-making, after they have practically made themselves be known as an unforgivable devil of video game companies in a lot of fans, and lost a lot of their manpower there that they could no longer make quality or well received games again, even if they carry on their franchises' big names (their only successful franchise that didn't attract bile was a soccer simulation, Pro Evolution Soccer/Winning Eleven series), the only thing they could receive an okay reception was when they do a Compilation Re Release of their classic titles (but even they had enough sense not to touch Metal Gear again for this). Looking at the past Konami and comparing it to the present day Konami may end up generating feelings of this trope. Just about the thing that stayed in the hearts of people was their cheat code, which is usually unused these days.
  • Earlier, Atari was by far the absolute king of video games. Having made its name (and really built the entire industry) with the release of Pong, its Atari 2600 console dominated the industry and it put out far more games than anyone else. But Atari's refusal to change its business plan (lose money on consoles and make it back selling games) as the industry changed around it with the introduction of new consoles and personal computers cost it much business. Its refusal to allow the game designers to be credited for their work caused the best programmers to leave and found Activision. Finally, poor decision making and rushed schedules for the home port of Pac-Man and the adaptation of blockbuster film caused them to release (and overproduce in hopes of selling consoles) what are considered two of the worst video games in history and usher in The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Millions of cartridges were returned and ended up crushed and buried in a New Mexico landfill. Atari's frontline failure cause a 97% reduction in sales across the video game industry. Its computer division failed soon after and Atari never had another great success in consoles, despite releasing the handheld Lynx and fifth-generation system Jaguar, neither was a success due to hardware disappointments. After going through a breakup and selloff of the company, it was restructured into a game design company. While it has had several successes, it has never gotten anywhere near the top of the pyramid it once built.
  • Pablo Escobar was one of the most powerful drug lords of all time, with his vast fortune and army of hitmen allowing him to essentially make himself de facto ruler of Colombia, by bribing or killing anyone in the government who opposed him, all while living a life of luxury. Eventually, however, the tide turned against him as anti-corruption forces did manage to come to power and start cracking down on his cartel. With the aid of both the American government and Vigilante Militias formed from the loved ones of people killed in Escobar's reign of terror, the Colombians chipped away at his power base, killing or imprisoning all his allies and sending him on the run, eventually reducing him to hiding in a small apartment with only a single bodyguard. At this point, he was tracked down and shot dead while trying to flee across a roof, with his corpse then being used as a showpiece for a victory picture by the soldiers who'd killed him.

Video Example(s):


Ghetto Batman

Once the protector of Gotham, Batman is reduced to working at a dollar store.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / HowTheMightyHaveFallen

Media sources:

Main / HowTheMightyHaveFallen