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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 '60s' most powerful superhuman! And all he's fit for now is soaking up whiskey like blotting paper and burning the toast!"
Zenith
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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.

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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. Compare Villain Decay.


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • 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 
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • The life of Fallen Prince Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass. Even his Zero persona goes through this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 most powerful being 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 both Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ and 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. By the end of Super and the beginning of Broly, Frieza and his empire has gained some of their clout back, but are still struggling to regain the foothold they had earlier.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Several of the countries from Hetalia: Axis Powers 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.
  • The core premise of Jahy-Sama Won't be Discouraged! is how Jahy, the second-in-command of the Demon Realm gets reduced to Perpetual Poverty after the Demon Realm's destruction.
  • 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?"
  • A common theme that occurs in Legend of Galactic Heroes when it comes to wide-spanning empires and nations.
    • Chronologically, the first one is the United Earth Government, which is the naturally the birthplace of humanity and focal point of all human civilization. However, shortly after colonization, they had already became decedent as their military grew way too large, their resources exhausted, and the native people lacking any intelligence and imagination as they focused more on financial and military power than self-sufficiency. As a result, the government became corrupt with Earth financiers and military lobbyists technically owning the government, allowing them to abuse colonies however they pleased. When the colonists has enough and rebelled, the military itself had become so decadent that they were more interested in killing people and plundering for jewels and treasures rather than hunting down the insurgents. By the time the colonies finally regained the upper hand, they were drastically on the receiving end of the abuse that was a hundred times worse than theirs. When the story finally starts, the Earth barely recognizable and nearly uninhabitable to the point it’s almost completely forgotten.
  • 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.
  • 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 by Doflamingo, 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.
    • 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.
    • Donquixote Doflamingo and his crew in the Dressrosa Arc. During the end of Punk Hazard Arc/beginning of Dressrosa Arc, Doflamingo was a well-respected King of Dressrosa and one of the 'heroes' who helped to get rid of the tyrannical ruler whom he and his crew framed with Doflamingo being a World Noble and his crew was wildly popular, so much that even the underlings had followers and fans of their own. By the end of the day (and 2 and a half real-world years) and a lot of chaos later, Doflamingo is exposed as the mastermind behind the above mentioned tragedy and is given a thorough Humiliation Conga by Law and Luffy, stripped of his Warlord status and his World Noble status is rendered void with his last appearance in said arc being a Villainous Breakdown regarding how he was the lynchpin of the New World and no one in particular listening to him, and his top executives defeated by Luffy, the gladiators and the rest of the Straw Hats, and arrested (with the less evil members pulling a Heel–Face Turn and getting away).
    • 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.
  • Slayers: NEXT has Martina, a princess whose kingdom is blown up by Lina, and who takes to following the heroine around seeking revenge.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Viral at beginning of season 2, Simon (by choice) at the end.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 no 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.
  • In The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village the Youkai-policing organization Hyakki Yakou was once the most powerful shadow organization of Japan. However after the Zashiki Warashi left, they went into a steep decline. While having their headquarters on a massive flying wing seems impressive at first, it actually demonstrates just how far they've fallen: Hyakki Yakou no longer feels safe to maintain a single base on the ground and must instead constantly stay on the move.
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    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Lord Drakkon in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (Boom! Studios) was once a feared monster who took over his world and nearly destroyed the multiverse in the name of power. When he returns sometime later, he's a babbling madman talking to the ripped-off head of Saba after having seen... something. Even worse, his heroic counterpart, Tommy Oliver, drops him in one punch and this was the guy who killed him temporarily.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 that 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.
  • Adam Taurus starts out as the deadliest member of the White Fang in Remnant Inferis: DOOM. Come Chapter 20, and he gets beaten by the Doom Slayer and gets his Semblance stolen by Marcus Black, who basically turns him into the demon cult's errand boy. He's reduced to a pathetic wreck who can no longer fight and has lost any and all respect within the White Fang.

    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 
  • Avengers: Endgame: After the Time Skip, Thor's depression and trauma have made him into a shell of his former self. He's drastically out of shape, living on pizza and alcohol, and almost never leaves his house, trading in noble battles against the forces of evil for threatening children who beat his friends at Fortnite. Bruce and Rocket are especially taken aback.
  • The French war movie Captain Conan (1996) ends with the title character, a fearless soldier and leader of men, as a debilitated shell of a man from illness.
  • In Creed II, Ivan Drago, the walking Soviet propaganda device from Rocky IV and one of the strongest boxers of his time, has been reduced to living destitute in the streets of Kiev, Ukraine with his son Viktor in the decades since he was defeated by Rocky on Soviet ground. His downfall culminated in his wife divorcing him, forcing him to raise Viktor alone. He now tirelessly trains Viktor to be a boxer hoping to restore his reputation.
  • For Your Eyes Only: At the beginning of the film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond's biggest Arch-Enemy, suddenly resurfaced years after laying low with a plan to exact revenge on 007 for foiling his numerous Evil Plans and causing the downfall of his criminal organization. By this time, he's not only lost a lot of money and resources, but he's also permanently crippled, bald and wearing a neck-brace, presumably from the injuries he sustained from the exploding oil rig at the end of Diamonds Are Forever. In a few minutes of screentime, he tries to kill Bond while the latter is visiting the grave of his dead wife, kills one of his own men and sadistically toys with Bond by attempting to kill him via a remote-controlled helicopter. But when Bond naturally manages to gain control of the chopper by disconnecting the wire which allowed Blofeld to control the helicopter, Blofeld goes into Villainous Breakdown mode, pathetically pleading with 007 to spare him, but Bond won't have any and drops him off an industrial smokestack, killing him for good and finally getting his revenge for killing his wife in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  • Happens to the entire Dwarven race in The Hobbit. Their kingdom in the mountain, Erebor, was once one of the (if not the) wealthiest, mightiest and most industrious city-states in Middle Earth. Then the dragon Smaug came and sacked it single-handedly, leaving the Dwarves as a destitute and scattered people, wandering the wilderness. Their prince, Thorin, is shown ironically labouring away in a human smithy just to scrape enough money to get by.
  • In the slowly dying future Earth of Interstellar, the New York Yankees have been reduced to a barnstorming team of college-age players and local stars.
  • Truth in Television example from The Last Emperor, in which an aging Puyi returns to the Forbidden City as an ex-convict tourist, to view the throne from which he'd once reigned.
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960): Two of the Seven have wound up on the scrap heap and take the job to defend the villagers for lack of better options.
    • Bernardo O'Reilly was a well-paid Bounty Hunter who, after some unknown event, was reduced to being a woodcutter.
    • Lee was once a dangerous gunfighter whose life has led him to become paranoid and lonely, reduced to living in stables because innkeepers are afraid of the losses they'll incur if they let him have a room. His skills have washed up as well; while observing three flies he muses that in his prime he would have caught all three.
  • Shadow of the Vampire. Schreck reads the book Dracula in order to study for his role 'playing' a vampire and is saddened by the scene where Dracula leaves a meal for Jonathon Harker. Schreck then remembers when he used to have servants to do such tasks for him, which reminds him of when he had a wife, family, estates, etc, whereas now he's just a scavenger living in a ruined castle.
  • One scene in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon shows the burial of one of the older enlisted men of the regiment. He is revealed to be a former Confederate general.
  • Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He went from being a leader in the Eugenics Wars and ruler of India to being stranded on a dead world, leading to his desire for revenge on Kirk.
    "On Earth, two hundred years ago, I was a prince with power over millions..."
  • A recurring theme in Star Wars:
  • The Third Man. Baron Kurtz now works as a black marketeer in post-war Vienna.
  • Megatron in the Transformers Film Series, by the third film, he's been left grievously wounded by Prime at the end of the previous film, scheming and hiding out in Africa.
  • You Can't Take It with You. Russian Grand Duchess Olga Katrina works as a waitress at Child's restaurant. Her uncle the Grand Duke is an elevator operator.

    Literature 
  • The same sentiment was also expressed in The Aeneid: "quantum mutatus ab illo / Hectore" note 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the Trope Namer. 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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."
  • 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."
  • Kentucky Fried Politics: Post-reelection in a landslide, the Denton administration is riding high on both the capture of Gaddafi and managing the US through the dissolution of the Soviet Union, with an approval rating of 91%. Then, an avalanche of scandals involving members of his Cabinet come to light along with his part in covering them up, and after a mid-term "donkey tidal wave" turning both chambers of Congress Democratic, Denton decides to resign before he can be impeached, with an approval rating of just 25%.
  • 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 historical short story Limes the protagonist is a Roman patrician visiting the city two centuries after the fall of the Western Empire. He laments how Rome is in ruins: the once-mighty senators, those who have made and decided history, are now deprived of their meaning and doing just mundane burocracy, the ancient forum is in state of disrepair with sheep and goats grazing there.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Paradise Lost goes for both of them because John Milton loves his erudition: "If thou be'est he but oh how fallen / How changed..."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Snow Crash: Chuck Wrightson. Once the president of Kenai and Kodiak, now a homeless drunk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • In Will Save the Galaxy for Food, star-pilots lost their purpose after quantunnelling made the job 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 were now space pirates.
  • 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 1920s Mexico, curses the glandular problem that caused his fall from grace.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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 1) his ass in one-on-one combat. By the end of Season 4, 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 2, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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''.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pennyworth: At the end of the pilot, Raven Society leader Lord Harwood is captured by the government and spends the next two episodes being tortured, at the end of which he's left heavily maimed (missing a foot and his nose), brainwashed into forgetting his identity, and tossed out into the street to live as a homeless beggar. Though this gets subverted shortly after, as his lieutenant Bet Sykes finds him and nurses him back to both physical and mental health, setting him on the path to reclaiming his position as the Big Bad.
    • It ends up happening to him again in Season 2, when Colonel Salt gaslights him, turning him into a paranoid maniac whose own troops eventually put him under indefinite house arrest until he commits Suicide by Cop in order to spite Salt.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Supernatural: At the end of the series, God himself gets stripped of all his power and is doomed to live a mortal life, grow old, get sick, and die. And considering everything he did in the series, he deserves it more then anyone else.

    Music 
  • Several Bruce Springsteen songs, most notably "Glory Days", which is the Trope Namer 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.")

    Mythology 
  • 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). A 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.

    Roleplay 
  • 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 

    Theatre 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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. And then, in Knight DLC, Red Hood murders him and destroys his gang.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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'.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fallout
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is a barely functioning shell of what it once was.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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?
  • 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 Dagon, making its power his own.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Invoked by Slithe in ThunderCats (2011)
    "How quickly things change for the cats. From top predator to endangered species... in a single day!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
 
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Ghetto Batman

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

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