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Miles Gloriosus

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"I hear you been tellin' about how you killed all them Jenkins brothers. With one bullet, wasn't it? Ain't that right? All these good folks here believe your little stories, don't they? Why, they believe you're just a stone killer, don't they? Seems these folks trust you. They think you're gonna save their little town. They think you're gonna save their little souls! But we know better, don't we?"
Rattlesnake Jake, Rango

He's a soldier; he's a real man! Just listen to all his exploits and how the very gods are afraid of him! Admire his pristine uniform and shiny medals that prove his valour! Behold the physique that has been honed over years of adventure and peril! He loves danger! He will seek out any peril to test himself against!

Just don't put him near an actual fight.

The Miles Gloriosus (pronounced "ME-lace glor-ee-OH-soos", not "MYLES GLOR-ee-oh-SUS") claims to be some sort of mighty warrior or doer of the impossible. A soldier, Great White Hunter, Gentleman Adventurer, Hunter of Monsters, Superhero or other dangerous occupations are all possible. He is full of boasts about his many adventures, making himself out to be the ultimate badass. But when real danger rears its ugly head, Miles reveals what's Beneath the Mask and proves to be a Dirty Coward, anything but what his stories make him out to be, leaving whoever was foolish enough to be taken in by them to fend for themselves.

Miles is Always Male, as women aren't usually expected to distinguish themselves in danger. This doesn't mean they wouldn't boast on how they brave through such quests, however.

The Foil of The So-Called Coward or the Cowardly Lion. Since he is invariably all talk, falling for his stories is a mark of the Naïve Newcomer. Those who are not taken in may, in peace and quiet, find him more or less amusing, which depends on his skill on storytelling, but when trouble arises, he is always The Load. May be No Hero to His Valet, Type 1 only. Often considering himself God's personal gift to women, he is frequently part of a Love Triangle, his stories making him triumphant, until danger reveals to the heroine which man really is admirable.

May be a Small Name, Big Ego, but may also be running a con and may be proud of himself for reasons other than his boasted prowess. It can be hard to tell because one of his chief traits is his utter shamelessness. No matter how clearly he was reduced to quivering terror by the merest hint of danger, as soon as the danger ends he will snap back to the boasting mode, making it hard to tell whether Believing Their Own Lies is in effect. He is incapable of realizing that people might think better of him if he says Think Nothing of It. Sympathetic examples may suffer from an Inferiority Superiority Complex, and hiding their own insecurities under a braggart façade.

Any annoying braggart may be taken for the Miles Gloriosus, which is why subverting this, having them turn out to be brave and good at fighting — or even just competent — is a surprise. (See Boisterous Bruiser for the character most likely to subvert it.) Such surprises often fall under Glory Seeker; he may also go for glory at the expense of others: Glory Hound. Similar in ego to The Fighting Narcissist, but the latter generally has the fighting ability to back it up.

Named for a stock character in ancient Roman theater: the term translates to "boasting soldier."

Particularly annoying subtrope of Fake Ultimate Hero and particularly egotistical subtrope of The Münchausen (the latter of whom can actually back it up). Inverse of the Cowardly Lion. Similar to Lord Error-Prone. If the plot ever forces him to stand and actually act like the badass he claims to be, then it's Becoming the Boast. Villainous versions may overlap with Engineered Heroics. May be inclined to say Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!... right before saying Screw This, I'm Outta Here

Compare Boisterous Weakling, Smug Super, Nominal Hero, Legendary Impostor, and Phony Veteran.

Contrast Shrouded in Myth, Armchair Military, Badass on Paper and Let's Get Dangerous!. Subtrope of Paper Tiger.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Angel Densetsu, Kuroda is one, Ogisu is usually treated as one although he isn't really one.
  • Subverted in Attack on Titan by Oluo. He is an obnoxious and loud-mouthed jerk towards Eren, keeps inflicting Amusing Injuries on himself, and does a not-terribly-good job of imitating his squad leader's cool collected badass persona, so it's easy to believe he's all talk. After Levi, he has the highest solo titan kills (39) in the elite squad, and acquits himself remarkably well when we actually do see him fight.
  • Carta Issue of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. She commands the Outer Earth Orbit Regulatory Joint Fleet and hams it up, using her position to order Gaelio around and behaving as though she's holding the thin red line between Earth and all the enemies of the solar system. Her position, while carrying some authority over the power blocs, is actually a ceremonial one and her forces have never been in a true battle. When she attempts parade-ground battle formations against Tekkaden, they wipe the floor with her.
  • Usopp from One Piece was this when he was introduced, but Character Development made him into a true badass.
    "I am the great Captain Usopp! I have destroyed islands with my 8000 followers!" note 
  • Ash's Oshawott from Pokémon the Series: Black & White. While this crops up occasionally in the anime, he makes it apparent, putting on a cocky attitude until he faces an opponent that is actually challenging, such as the Grass-type Pansage or his own evolved form.
  • Subverted with Nanael from Queen's Blade. Yeah, yeah, glorious, strong, smart, perfect. Then why are you so skittish around danger, hmmm? Play it cool. Oh look, here come the bad guys, and its time to live up to your talk. And these ain't mooks. You've got Melona who's basically the T-1000 except harder to kill, you've got an ancient spell-casting necromancer princess, and a scythe-wielding ghost girl with an army of evil spirits at her command. They give many of our main characters trouble one-on-one. You've gotten yourself into a mess this time, girl. And... she blows the ghost girl and her evil spirits up with a slice. Then hammers the revived ancient necromancer princess in the face. Then turns our resident T-1000 into a goo tornado with a drill kick, sending the ghost girl and ancient princess right along with her. Pretty much effortlessly. Then she flexes her arm, places her other hand on her bicep, and declares "Nanael is so cool!" Yeah, it turns out that not only is Nanael not the Miles Gloriosus, she is easily the strongest character that we've seen fight to date. She had to be nerfed in season 2 just to give the protagonist a chance at winning the tourney.
  • During one Filler episode of Rurouni Kenshin, the protagonists encounter one of these... who not only lays claim to enormous feats of blood-soaked bravery, but also the name of 'Battosai'. In other words, he's claiming to be Kenshin, the man who pretty much singlehandedly saved the country but then retired from his killing ways to be a man of peace. Kenshin doesn't particularly care, but his friends are incensed when they find that the fake has been pressing the local shopkeepers for money based on his proclaimed reputation. In the end, a professional killer shows up wanting a fight with the 'Battosai', however, and the fake is proven quite incapable of actually fighting...eventually, it's found out find out that the fake has been using his drummed up reputation AND the money it's earned him, to run and protect an orphanage, and all is forgiven.
    • Of course, when the kids he was protecting were threatened not long after, he redeemed himself by completely ignoring a sword slash on his arm, grabbing a mook by his HEAD and throwing him at another mook...WOAH.
  • In an episode of Slayers, the characters meet a warrior who brags about killing all kinds of monsters, including the recently revived and defeated (by the heroes) Dark Lord Shabaranigdo. He's not a coward however, as when confronted with a dragon on a boat ride (He volunteered to defend the ship during passage) he tried to stop it bravely, he was just completely ineffectual.
    • In one episode of the Slayers Special OVA, Lina and Naga get hired by a woman to help out her son Jeffrey, who is a pathetic aspiring knight overconfident in his abilities. Jeffrey actually faints at the sight of blood, but luckily his mother comes along in disguise and beats up anyone who badmouths her son with a warhammer.
  • Zonge in Toriko. The first hint that he's actually a cowardly weakling of a Gourmet Hunter is that every dish on his Full Course has a very low capture level. Fortunately for him and his two followers he is just lucky enough to avoid getting them killed when he inevitably gets in over his head.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Jean-Claude Magnum from Yu-Gi-Oh!. An action/adventure movie star, he would have everyone believe that he's the same as his characters. He isn't even close. In fact, Joey, a legitimately badass street-fighter, was originally a fan of his, but completely lost any respect for him after he was beaten by Mai in a duel, tried to kidnap her, and then acted like a Dirty Coward when Mai was in danger.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
      • Shadow Riders member Abidos III, who was somewhat of a subversion. His great reputation as a powerful Shadow Duelist was fraudulent, but he honestly believed that he did, indeed, have the skills that he claimed to have. He only won all the time because people were losing on purpose to please him. This was a subversion for another reason: When he figured this out during his duel with Jaden, he was brave enough to fight for real, and was actually somewhat competent.
      • One-off character Mitsuo claims to be an expert gambler and gamer, which is conveyed by his use of a highly risky cointoss-based deck. However, despite his claims of being a master of chance, he's actually incredibly cautious and cagey with his gamble cards, relying on the effects of the card Second Coin Toss to always get a second shot when one of his gambles might fail. Asuka, his opponent, figures this out when he foregoes a gamble that had a 50-50 shot of straight-up winning him the game at the risk of taking some fairly survivable damage, solely because he had already used Second Coin Toss that turn and couldn't use it again. In fact, contrary to his attitude, he seems to be, if anything, Born Unlucky; he fails every single coin toss on the first try.

    Audio Drama 

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, Crackerjack subverts this trope. He is a skilled brawler, excellent acrobat and master of disguise, as well as a true hero in every sense, but hearing him talk, the resident Superman Substitute is a poseur next to him. An alien assumes his arrogance and bragging indicate his true character, and even when seeing his heroism wrestles with the idea that he might really be The Hero.
    • When he's badly injured and may never walk again, Quarrel notes that "he may not have been the best or the brightest but there are thousands, maybe millions, of people who owe their lives to him."
  • The current trope picture is Volstagg the Voluminous, of Marvel Comics' Warriors Three. A blowhard who called himself "The Lion of Asgard" and lays claim to several improbable feats of strength, cunning, and bravery, he proves ineffectual and cowardly in actual combat, his only excuse being that he supposedly did them when he was younger. He started showing Hidden Depths under Walt Simonson's pen, transforming into a Cowardly Lion and Papa Wolf, whose particular Berserk Button was children being hurt or threatened. More recently in the comics, he has been retooled into a Boisterous Bruiser, fond of food, drink, and women and given to much merriment, in more equal contrast with his friends Fandral the Dashing and Hogun the Grim. He's still a braggart—such as considering himself the equal of any three or four human Avengers—but not for no reason.
    • Even early on, he had his moments of badassery, typically when his back is against the wall, when his friends are in danger, or simply due to his own clumsiness. He has also been mind controlled into fighting Thor before and proven himself a good challenge to the God of Thunder.
    • Played for laughs at times such as when he sees a child attacked by a demon and charges into the fray to the shock of Fandral and Hogun.
    Fandral: Hogun...mine eyes did deceive me there, correct?
    • More recently, he's still a comical figure, he's consistently a genuine badass, even if he does still brag - and his old bragging habits actually make him a surprisingly capable politician, having mastered the art of the Filibuster. He just doesn't usually show it unless he has to. Or unless there are children in danger. Then his wrath is something spectacular to behold. During the War of Realms, a bunch of Light Elf children, refugees, he was trying to protect - and likely would have adopted - were burned to ash in his arms by fire-demons from Muspelheim. He then descends into nihilistic despair, takes up the Ultimate Thor's hammer (which amplifies rage, among other things), becoming the War Thor, and makes a very creditable effort at wiping out every fire-demon in Muspelheim - and is so lost in his Berserker Rage that he nearly slaughters innocent fire-demon children in the process. Thankfully, Jane!Thor manages to get him away from Muspelheim, gets in a brutal fight with him, then finally tries Talking the Monster to Death as herself, which persuades him to put down the hammer and grieve.
    • In the movie although he still has a hefty appetite, Volstagg is more of a case of Stout Strength, and is able to carry himself in a fight as well as any of Thor's companions (it takes a veritable dog pile of Asgardian soldiers to subdue him when covering Thor's escape with Loki), averting the trope (but subverting the character as written in some of the comics).
  • Several of the members of the new Infinity, Inc. in 52 were very fearless when they were Lex Luthor's media darlings beloved by the public and taking down minor thugs to widespread acclaim, even going so far as to smugly lecture members of the Justice Society that they were the new generation replacing them and that there was nothing they could do about it. Then, when Black Adam declared war on the world and a real crisis ensued, they were last seen cowering in some rubble before running away (although one member, the new Jade, actually went back and fought with the rest of the heroes).
  • The dashing and charming warrior Arcadio from Sergio Aragones' Groo the Wanderer. Despite the quests that Arcadio embarks on, he is almost never the one to actually complete them. Yet will both take the credit and believe that he completed them on his own regardless. (Unlike many examples, Arcadio is not depicted as cowardly so much as narcissistic and having rather too much faith in his own press releases; he's been shown multiple times to be willing to take on an army by himself, only to have Groo beat him to it, defeat the army, and leave before Arcadio arrives, leading Arcadio to conclude the army "must have heard I was coming and slaughtered each other in their fear and despair at having to face me.")
  • The Rival Herminus in Swordquest frequently boasts about his expert thieving skills and cutthroat nature, but never demonstrates anything out of the ordinary.
  • Raznuts, Uzgob's scheming sekond-in-kommand in Deff Skwadron. 156 klaimed kills. 4 konfirmed.
  • De Argonautjes: Jason, the leader of the heroes. He always presents himself as a hero, but when faced with actual danger he is usually the first one to turn and run (if he doesn’t faint before he gets the chance).
  • Shazam! had Uncle Marvel, an elderly, balding, overweight man who dressed up in a costume similar to that of Captain Marvel and claimed to have similar powers. When it came time to actually fight, though, Uncle Marvel would generally invent some excuse to delay coming to grips with the foe until they had already been defeated by Captain Marvel (and/or Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, and the three Lieutenants Marvel, all of whom actually did have superpowers). In stories where he was forced to fight, he typically did so with one or more of the other Marvels (none of whom were fooled by his claims) using the "speed of Mercury" to help him too quickly to be seen.
  • The Ultimates: Abomination boasts about his strength and intellect, believing this will give him the upper hand over the Hulk. But when the actual fight starts, he just manages to land a couple of hits before the Hulk gets the upper hand due to being far more vicious in combat.
  • SpongeBob Comics has the story "Scaredy Snail". Sandy and SpongeBob hear a roaring noise from the bottom of a trench. Sandy wants to investigate, and SpongeBob tries to keep up a macho facade for fear of being accused of being afraid. It turns out that Sandy was scared out of her wits the whole time and was banking on SpongeBob to get cold feet so they wouldn’t have to go down the trench. At first, it’s revealed that the roaring noise was Patrick's echoing belches. But then it turns out there really is a monster down there. Sandy and SpongeBob run for their lives at the sight of it.

    Fan Works 
  • The End of the World: The District Two boy in the 70th Hunger Games brags about killing two raiders who attacked the tribute train, but his district partner's eye roll suggests "this may not be entirely true."
  • Naturally the usual characterization of Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter fanfiction. Note however an interesting subversion in Like a Red-Headed Stepchild, where he ends up actually believing his own stories due to Mind Rape gone wrong, and actually delivering on his usual bragging.
  • In Savior of Demons, Haabu is a total Glory Hound, as his internal monologues reveal. Judging from his questionable involvement in any actual fights (he only appeared on New Arcos to shout orders at the Saiyans and look important), he is likely a Miles Gloriosus as well.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K: Admiral Borvant — the commander of the Separatist fleet responsible for protecting Raxus Secundus, the Confederate capital world — considers himself to be both an unbeatable leader and a genius admiral. However, he shows himself to be extremely inadequate when facing Davik Thune's fleet and the Separatists suffer a brutal Curb-Stomp Battle that ends with their fleet obliterated and the planet burnt. While it was true that the Imperial fleet did badly outmatch the Confederacy, the admiral does not help matters by daydreaming about how awesome he is and not paying attention to the rapidly losing battle, remaining blindly optimistic despite losing half his fleet, and panicking after seeing Thune destroy a squad of commando droids.
  • In The Weaver Option, Ormuz Vandire is a Naval Admiral commanding a battlegroup that hasn't seen battle in one hundred and fifty years. Despite this he boasts that his fleet could wipe out Taylor's battle-hardened fleet in just an hour. When Ormuz is actually deployed to defend Cadia against a Black Crusade, he suffers a panic attack when Magnus engages his fleet and has to be forcibly relieved of command. As a result of the delay in orders, the battlegroup suffers the most severe losses of any Imperial element in the battle.

    Film – Animated 
  • Ronno, the secondary antagonist of Bambi II, is the epitome of this trope. When he first appears, he introduces Bambi and his friends to his “trusty antlers” that he apparently used to ambush Man after sneaking up on him. In the climax, when Mena stumbles into a trap that alerts Man, and his hounds are fast approaching, Ronno instantly bails, screaming for his mother.
  • Gaston in Beauty and the Beast could probably fit this. He is thought of very highly in the village for his various accomplishments (which are not really explained beyond hunting, being good-looking, spitting, eating 60 eggs, stomping around in boots, and decorating with antlers) and is brave enough to hunt down the Beast only when he has a mob in front of him. When he's held over a cliff, he starts crying and begging to be saved.
    Gaston: Let me go! Please! I'll do anything! Anything!
  • Agent Kent Mansley from The Iron Giant. He talks tough, professing Patriotic Fervor and the will to do whatever it takes to defend America from Dirty Communists. His actions against Hogarth (who is smaller than him) demonstrate that he Would Hurt a Child. When he faces The Giant (who is bigger than him) his cowardice is revealed. Not only does he cower, he shoves innocent bystanders between himself and the threat.
    • Despite his militaristic talk, Mansley is an Obstructive Bureaucrat who is not part of the military. This is clear in his interactions with General Rogard, who is a competent and unflappable Four-Star Badass — the genuine version of what Mansley is merely pretending to be. Rogard can barely stand Mansley and his Jerkass behavior.
    • He finally drops the pretense when he realizes he is about to die. Just as the general calls off the attack against The Giant, Mansley grabs the radio and screams the order to Nuke 'em. Rogard furiously explains to Mansley that he has sentenced them all to nuclear death. Mansley looks ready to cry, then ineffectually tries to run away.
      Mansley: Screw our country, I wanna live! [hops into a jeep, which The Giant stops with one hand]
      Rogard: Hold him, men! Make sure he stays here like a good soldier.
  • Rango starts out his way, concocting a wild story about killing a group of local thugs; a little sheer luck convinces the townsfolk of it and gets him made sheriff. He later subverts the trope after being run out of town by The Heavy when he decides to become the legend he's made up for himself.
  • Roland from the film Strange Magic. He wants to lead an army and claims to have fought off a dozen goblins. He really just hid while all the other guards were taken down by the goblins.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Foreman Spike acts extremely macho and tough when dealing with people smaller and weaker than him, such as the Mario Bros., but is left cowering in fear when some of Bowser’s minions attack him during the final battle and has to be saved by Luigi.

    Film – Live-Action 
  • Aliens featured Bill Paxton as Hudson, the wisecracking PFC. In the extended edition, he even claims himself to be the "Ultimate Badass". That said, it's kind of understandable that he would freak out (Game over man! Game over!) the moment the aliens actually showed up, since as demonstrated in the first movie, they are pure horror. However, despite varying between making sarcastic comments and making scared sarcastic comments, he actually proves useful throughout the film, and his "Last Stand" certainly makes him CMOA worthy.
  • Christina in Any Given Sunday is the daughter of a legendary American football owner who led his team, the Sharks, to many championships. She took over the team after he died and carries herself like a no nonsense manager who demands respect and in quick to point out how her father left her in charge. The problem is, no one respects her. While some of it is because of sexism, being she is a woman owner in an aggressively male dominated game, the main reason is because she comes across as a heartless mercenary who doesn't care about the game of football, the team, coaches, players etc. She is quick to make business deals, one of them being her willingness to sell the team, thinking she is a Magnificent Bastard, but is clearly in way over her head.
  • In Atlantic City, Lou the two-bit hood likes to tell stories about how he worked for the likes of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel, and how he had to kill people from time to time as part of his duties as a mob enforcer. Towards the end of the film he admits to Sally that he never killed anybody and the sum total of his experience with Bugsy Siegel was ten minutes in a shared holding cell.
  • Biff Tannen from Back to the Future; guy is a sadistic bully who terrorized Marty's dad for years, whom everyone was afraid of, yet as it turned out, had a pretty bad glass jaw.
  • Steve Martin's character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is doing this as part of a con.
  • The Scorpio killer in Dirty Harry shows signs of being this. When he has the advantage and his victim is defenseless he makes all sorts of bravado-fueled threats and boasts, but all of that crumbles the moment Harry manages to stab him in the leg. And when later is cornered and further wounded, he is left as nothing but a wimpering mess pathetically begging for mercy.
  • Subverted in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A braggart army captain is named Miles Gloriosus, but turns out to be boisterous and violent rather than boisterous and incompetent.
    • He underscores his nature in his introductory, and first line, "Stand aside, I take large steps!"
  • Britt Reed, the titular hero of The Green Hornet movie is pretty close to this throughout the film, boasting about how awesome he is, taking credit for his partner Kato's achievements and generally being a barely competent blowhard. There's even one scene where a villain is about to hit them with a cement truck. Kato picks up a rock to shatter the truck's front window so Britt can shoot his gas gun at the driver, but all we see of Britt is him running away, firing his gas gun in all directions shouting "EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!!!!" By the end of the film, Britt does gain a measure of competence.
  • In The Immortals, Deke relates an account of his robbery which paints himself as badass action hero and Gina as a Damsel in Distress. The tale keeps growing as he tells it until he is taking down multiple gunmen and a kung fu master armed with nunchuks. None of the other thieves belive him, and the fuming Gina looks ready to shoot him.
  • The Interview: While Kim acts as a god to everyone in Korea, which would even allow relatives of his to inherent his throne if he were killed, this was proven to be false as he is just as weak-minded as everyone else. He starves his citizens by selling Fake Food and secretly likes listening to Firework by Katy Perry. Both of these elements were used by Dave to humiliate him on live TV which made him cry.
  • Played With in Juice. Bishop tends to act extremely cocky when he knows his friends will back him up. Later in the film, when Q and Steel decline helping him, he fights them off and shoots Radames in an ally.
  • John Kreese, the thuggish martial arts instructor from the first three Karate Kid movies is this and a bully of the worst kind. He talks like a Drill Sergeant Nasty among his students, encourages them to fight dirty, and even sank so low as to order one of them to use an blatantly illegal move on Daniel, hoping to injure him to knock him out of the tournament. But in the beginning of the second movie, it becomes obvious he's hopeless in any kind of actual fight. When Miyagi stops him from strangling Johnny, Kreese tries to punch the old man, only for Miyagi to simply move aside, resulting in Kreese putting his arm through a glass car window; and if that weren't enough, he falls for it a second time, hurting his other arm. Even worse, for him, Miyagi then humiliates him in front of his students, comically tweaking his nose and letting him go when it looks like he's about to really hit him. (Showing himself to be the superior teacher both in skill and morals.)
  • "General" Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights. Koskov implies Whitaker is one of these. Pushkin does more than imply, he goes into extremely unimpressed detail about the multiple ways that Whitaker fails to live up to the image he tries to present.
  • Max Payne: B.B. Hensley is fine with shooting Lupino in the back or bragging about how killing Michelle and her baby awakened a badass inside him, but he immediately panics the moment he's in real danger.
  • "Brave" Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who has a troupe of troubadours to follow him about and sing of his praises. Unfortunately he runs away at the first sign of danger, and they incorporate his cowardice into their song.
  • In Pixels, both British and American commanders boast about how they're going to beat the alien threat, but when the threat attacks, they panic and aren't even able to run.
  • Captain Harris is definitely this in the Police Academy movies. Ironically, while he chides the more likable cops because they're incompetent, he's no better, and a coward on top of it.
  • The Quick and the Dead:
    • Ace Hanlon is a moderately skilled gunslinger who specialises in trick shots. Despite his constant boasting, he doesn't run from a fight. However this is due to his fatal mistake of thinking he won't encounter a gunfighter who is quicker on the draw than him. Nor does he expect to run into the man who really killed the Terrence brothers, for which Ace has been taking credit. He quickly gets Feet of Clay when confronted by a true ace.
    • Virgil Sparks, the self-proclaimed "Pride of Texas", is another example, who doesn't get past the first round of the tournament.
  • Spence from Ronin (1998) makes himself out to be just as much of a deadly badass as all the other operatives chasing after the MacGuffin. However, he is eventually exposed as a poser and told to get lost, which he does.
  • In Scream (1996), one of the Ghostface killers, starting out cocky and wisecracking as he prepares to kill the protagonist Sidney during the climax, absolutely loses it when she gains the upper hand. After Sidney spells it out to him just how screwed he is from a legal perspective even if he survives the severe injuries he's already taken, all he can do is meekly blame "peer pressure" for his crimes and stammer about how his parents are gonna be furious when they find out.
  • In the Bud Spencer movie Soldier of Fortune (Il Soldato di Ventura), several times the defenders of Barletta mentions The Dreaded Maliano da Trani, a ferocious Black Knight whose name is whispered in terror (and outright banned in holy sites) and is said to be busy in various quests, such as retaking the Holy Land on his own, and performs a Big Damn Heroes by joining the good guys just in time for the challenge against the French knights, sporting an impressive armor, skull-adorned helmet and roaring his name at any given chance... only to go down at the first hit from his opponent, confessing to Ettore that he's a useless nobody who's using his fabricated reputation to scare others in avoiding him.
  • The Suicide Squad: Team A is being creamed by the Corto Maltese military. Savant, who sardonically complained about being saddled with incompetent fools, hangs back and watches the carnage. His teammates are gunned down, impaled by splinters, and cut to ribbons. Savant, who has been built up to be a stoic tough guy, screams and retreats into the sea. He is given a chance to turn back, but continues trying to run, and his handlers detonate his Explosive Leash and kill him for desertion.
  • Tropic Thunder: After the Film Within a Film's prima-donna actors start causing problems on a controlled film set, "Four Leaf" Tayback, author of the memoir that the film is based on, suggests dropping them in the middle of the jungle and filming the movie "guerrilla style". After the shoot goes awry, Tayback tries to leave as soon as possible, but he and the helicopter pilot Cody are captured by a drug gang. While captured, Tayback reveals to a disillusioned Cody that he never saw combat because he spent the war in the Coast Guard in the sanitation department (i.e. doing laundry), and wrote the book as a "tribute" to those who did serve in Vietnam.
  • English Bob from Unforgiven. Hero of countless DimeNovels and known as the Duke of Death. However, in spite of his excellent gun skills, he has no stomach for stand-up fighting, preferring to attack drunk opponents from behind.
  • V for Vendetta: Prothero likes to play up his military service and make himself out to be a war hero, when he was only the head warden of a prison camp. While watching himself on the TV while showering, he gloats about how he'd fight V if he ever met him, but when he turns off the set to see V's mask smirking back at him, he's reduced to a gibbering wreck cowering on the floor.
  • The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz: East German agent Weber brags that he's single-handedly recaptured four defectors. The colonel sneers that the oldest of those defectors was fifteen and the youngest was five.
  • In The Wild Hunt, Bjorn is the big cheese of his Viking faction of LARPers and is always talking in Large Ham voice about being a warrior and going on adventures. When shit gets dangerous, however, he completely freezes. A girl lampshades it by screaming at him to justify all his talk and do something.
  • Madmartigan from Willow is a subversion. He spends about half the film bragging about being "the greatest swordsman ever!" and the second half proving it. It even gets a lampshade after Willow sees him fight for the first time:
    Willow: You are great!
  • Curiously, although this Trope is the Inverse of Cowardly Lion, the Trope Namer for that one fit this Trope when he first appeared in The Wizard of Oz, daring both the Scarecrow and Tin Man to fight him, saying he take them both at once (with one hand behind his back, standing on one leg, and with his eyes closed). He lost the attitude quickly when he went after Toto (proving himself a coward) and got slapped by Dorothy for his trouble.

  • Ghost In the Noonday Sun: Captain Scratch is prone to boasting about his skills as a pirate and sailor, but is pretty cowardly and incompetent and freaks out when he mistakes some intruders for ghosts out to take him to Hell.
  • Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is famous for the series of books he published detailing his exploits in defeating various monsters. He frequently brags about his abilities and achievements but it becomes clear very soon that he can't back it up. When asked to use his skills to help with the current crisis, he tries to run away, gets caught by Harry and Ron, admits he's a fraud who took credit for other people's work, then realizes he said too much and tries to wipe their memories.
  • Fflewddur Fflam, from Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain. Slightly mocked in that he suffers a consequence every time he lies or tells an exaggeration (namely, a string on his lyre breaks). This consequence is used to highlight the fact that he Took a Level in Badass at the end of the first book, when he claims to have fought in the last battle with unbelievable bravery and skill, and turns out to be telling the exact truth. He's a very sympathetic take on the trope; in the subsequent books it becomes clear he really is brave and a hero, he just can't resist exaggerating.
    • A prequel short story makes it clear that he was always a badass, almost to the point of foolhardiness; at one point, he defended a lone man attacked by a group of bandits without hesitating and lept into a raging current to save a stranger from drowning. In fact, most of his early lies in the prequel story are simple modesty ("No, no... it was no trouble at all, and I needed a bath anyways...")
  • One Forgotten Realms anthology had a short story of the member of an explorers club and how he was hailed by everyone as a hero and an example to look up to. The 'Hero' makes a living getting free drinks and meals telling of his adventures. Eventually Cyric, god of lies, captures him and points out all his lies such as he was the sole survivor of a battle because he ran away. The 'Hero' is dragged down to Hell to the sounds of everyone abusing him. Although you'd think the God of Lies would commend him for this, he's also the god of murder and insanity. Don't look for too much logic in his actions.
  • Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal from Mortal Engines claims to be an explorer / gentleman adventurer in a series of best-selling books, but turns out to be a liar and a coward.
  • Inspector Friedland Chymes in Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy is the best detective ever! He's a genius who always gets his man, who singlehandedly put away an Axe-Crazy Serial Killer, and whose exploits are the most read in all the magazines and papers. Except, of course, that he makes all his cases up, he stole the credit for his greatest success from his partner (who was the man who actually caught the Axe-Crazy Serial Killer) and who runs away from the first hint of danger in a cowardly panic.
  • Major Jones in Graham Greene's novel The Comedians. He claims to be an arms dealer and a seasoned soldier with expertise in guerilla warfare when he arrives in Haiti. In reality, he has absolutely no connections in the arms trade, no combat experience, and no knowledge whatsoever of guerilla warfare tactics. Additionally, he tries to style himself as something of a lady's man, and later admits that the only women he's ever been with were prostitutes. Played memorably by Alec Guinness in the film adaptation.
  • Ciaphas Cain takes this trope all over the place. Cain is hailed as one of the great HEROES OF THE IMPERIUM!!! His demeanour in person is the very humble and modest "it was a team effort" of any true badass. Cain himself thinks he's a rank coward, who is more than willing to milk his reputation and play the "bluff old campaigner" to reinforce that reputation. However, a bit of reading between the lines shows that while Cain tries to avoid danger whenever possible, he is highly skilled and effective in his duties as a commissar, and when pushed into danger, he will pretty much always come up smelling like roses. He downplays his successes because success in The Imperium just means you get a more difficult suicide mission.
  • The hero of most of the Vorkosigan Saga, Miles. A rare sympathetic example; he wants desperately to have the status that comes from Military Service on his homeworld of Barrayar, to prove that he is not just his father's son but someone in his own right. He has to avoid direct combat whenever possible, however, as he's under five feet tall and (at least initially) has bones like glass. His solution? Copious quantities of smarts and an utter refusal to ever, under any circumstances, give in.
    • Later in the series, Miles becomes a complete inversion of this trope: He has been responsible for saving the Empire on several occasions, his cover identity has been awarded medals by several different planets, and he is regarded as such an important asset that he is a strong contender to be the next Chief of Imperial Security... but since every single act of heroism he's performed is highly classified, he can't tell anyone about it.
  • Surprisingly, Sir Lancelot is one of these in Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles. He employs the spinmeisters of the day (bards) to tell his "Great deeds", plunders the battlefield after the fighting has ended for his "Spoils of victory" and is not above giving himself cosmetic cuts to show how hard he had fought. This policy is so successful that, even though the narrator actually knew Lancelot and was responsible for his execution for treason, he is told by one of those to whom he's recounting the tale that his tale is clearly wrong, as it doesn't match his "legend".
    • This is something the narrator is quite irritated about. Lancelot is so bad, that the narrator - by now a gentle, softly spoken and kindly old man - struggles to come up with anything good about him - though he does grudgingly admit that he is own (entirely justified) hatred of Lancelot might be colouring his account. This is possibly the only moment when Derfel (the narrator) is actually bitter.
  • The Iliad:
    • Paris, making this trope Older Than Feudalism. He jumps in front of the Trojan lines (wearing a leopard skin no less) and challenges the best of the Greeks to face him. Menelaus is happy for a chance to punish him for stealing his wife, but as soon as Paris sees Menelaus he falls back behind the Trojan lines, much to the chagrin of his more valiant brother Hector.
    • Ares, of all people, shows a touch of this in The Iliad. He's helping his humans of choice, the Trojans, by running amok on the battlefield with Hector. Athena and Hera, patrons of the Greeks, decide they've had enough, with Athena asking Zeus' permission to interfere. He grants it, and Athena goes down to the battlefield, gives Diomedes divine assistance, allowing him to wound Ares in the gut. Ares lets out a scream that stuns the entire battlefield... and then flees back to Olympus, complaining to Zeus about how his bitchy daughter and an uppity mortal dared to hurt him. Zeus basically replies, "Oh shut up. You're just like your mother."
  • Warden Ramirez is this regarding his success with the ladies in The Dresden Files. He's actually a virgin. The timing of the reveal is unfortunate from his point of view. When this is revealed (by a succubus no less), Harry spends the rest of the time teasing him mercilessly. During the middle of pitched battle, no less. In actual combat, he is extremely competent. It takes a lot more than just a smart mouth and confidence to make regional commander in the Wardens on a war footing before you're 25.
    • The Eebs from Changes seem to be a villainous example, as they're evidently hailed as the best assassins in the Red Court, yet spend most of their run-ins with Dresden fleeing for their lives or shoving their own mooks in his path to die in their stead. On the other hand, as Dresden notes, their tactics are low risk (to them) but effective - few of them have a serious chance of success, but sooner or later, one is going to work and Dresden would be dead, while they'd be untouched. Plus, as the previous dozen or so books have shown, when Dresden's in a foul mood, fleeing for your life is a very sensible strategy. And even though they don't manage to kill him, they do manage to destroy his house and damage his spine, something which, in anyone without Dresden's extensive contacts and willingness to call on, say, Mab to become the new Winter Knight, would have kept him out of the game.
  • Captain Jack Fosdyke - the Great White Hunter from the P. G. Wodehouse short story Monkey Business comes on like a great hero who can strangle a gorilla with his bare hands, but when a gorilla actually an actor in a gorilla suit escapes from his cage, he turns out to be quite the coward.
    "Not gor-illas dear lady, por-illas. A species of South American wombat, and very good eating they make, too"
  • Iorwerth from The Valkyrie's Tale. He presents himself as a knight whose stories about the battles he's fought are brilliant and entertaining. Of course, this is because he's a bard pretending to be a knight; making up stories is what he's best at.
  • The comedic Robert Ludlum novel The Road to Omaha has former soldier Cyrus meeting the Suicidal Six, the most legendary anti-terrorist force on the planet, a squad even Delta Force consider impressive, who have an incredible success rate...and discovers they're a bunch of actors who have never fired a shot in battle. Their success is from their ability to take on roles and make themselves appear intimidating while finding peaceful outcomes for various missions. Cyrus cannot believe this group is talking about the cares of acting and character when they're dealing with ruthless terrorists.
  • Jan Onufry Zagłoba from Sienkiewicz Trilogy. He boasts about his accomplishments (others had achieved with little to no help from him) and is prone to overplay his courage and battle prowess. To be fair to him, however, he's incredibly cunning, which has saved the heroes from serious trouble more than a few times, and isn't really that much of a coward (he just doesn't like to put himself in unnecessary danger).
  • The Imperial Commander Fuzzel in Galaxy of Fear: The Brain Spiders is believed to be this. He's very gung ho about tracking down criminals and talking about how they'll regret meeting him and the pain he'll deal out, but no one really believes it's more than talk. His weight is a factor in this. When he actually does face one of the criminals... said criminal is unrecognizable thanks to a Grand Theft Me, and Fuzzel's caught by surprise and killed before he could display courage or a lack of it.
  • British statesman Lord Chesterfield in Letters to His Son: "I say suspect them, for they are commonly impostors; but do not be sure that they are always so; for I have sometimes known [...] blusterers really brave"
  • The man himself shows up at The Captain's Table in the Star Trek: New Frontier novel The Captain's Table #5: Once Burned. He's a Roman legionnaire who blusters about how a 16-year-old boy (one M'k'n'zy of Calhoun) has taken his table. He relents after said boy gains the upper hand and pins his beard to the table with his own knife.
  • Played with in Jókai Mór's "The Man Who Knew Everything" (A parody of the Renaissance Man trope). The main character never actually boasts of his experience, just his knowledge of military history and his skills as a tactician. Problem is, none of that matter when he's facing an enemy squadron all by himself and his revolver case had a stick of salami in it.
  • Scourge from Warrior Cats used to be one, claiming to have killed foxes and ripped teeth out of the mouth of dogs. Then he Took a Level in Badass and was actually able to do the stuff he claimed to be able to do.
  • The Wolf from the short story "The Wolf and the Man" by The Brothers Grimm. In the story, a fox decides to challenge the wolf's claims of being powerful enough to defeat a man. The fox brings the wolf to a clearing and directs him to a hunter. The wolf loses the fight and barely escapes with his life. Causing the fox to tell him.
    You see what a braggart you are? You have overreached yourself, you have thrown your hatchet so far that you cannot fetch it back.
  • In Forced Perspectives by Tim Powers, Foster, one of the villain's underlings, is boastful about his combat prowess to the point that even his colleagues find it irritating, and the first time he comes up against an opponent who knows how to fight back it becomes apparent how little of his boasting has substance to back it up.
  • Earth and...: Felipe tells thrilling stories where he rescues people under dangerous circumstances, but those stories are stolen from other people to make him look cool. In a truly stressful situation, he's a pathetic whiner, freaking people out with his dire theories about what could be wrong. Worse; he steals medicine from a twelve-year-old girl on the assumption that his life is worth more than hers. To be clear, there was plenty for everyone, she was just getting hers earlier.
  • The Marvellous Land of Snergs: Sir Percival claims to be a great knight, out to defeat rival knights, vanquish wicked men and slay monsters for the sake of winning his lady's heart. But at the very first sign of a real fight, he blanches, runs all the way back to his home, takes off his armor and decides to devote his life to raising pigs from now on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Best Friends Whenever: After traveling back to sixth grade in "A Time To Jump And Jam", Cyd starts hanging out with a childhood classmate named Jen who acts all street-tough like her. However, this was revealed to be the opposite when Jen started crying about them being arrested. Also, the tattoos on her knuckles rub off her face while she was wiping her tears because they are temporary and she gives them to children at the orphanage. This likely ended the short-lived friendship.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: During season 3, Wesley brags to Giles that he can handle himself, since he dealt with vampires "under controlled circumstances." When he get in a real fight, however, he proves completely useless and has to be saved by Giles. During his time on Angel, he gets steadily more and more dangerous, to the point where he's probably the most dangerous Badass Normal in the Buffyverse.
  • Cobra Kai:
    • Magnificently subverted by Eli in Season 1. We first see the quiet and insecure bullying victim re-enter the dojo with a huge mohawk, badass new "Hawk" moniker and a matching full-back tattoo. Every indication is given afterward that he's gone over-the-top with a badass new image to compensate for being that same geeky kid, and he's mainly going to serve as Cobra Kai's designated comic relief. Then comes the All-Valley tournament, and we see that Hawk really does have the viciousness and skill to back up his tough-guy posturing when he tears his way through each opponent and only loses by DQ after he sneak attacks Robby from behind.
    • Played straight by Daniel LaRusso's son Anthony. Season 4 reveals that he has convinced his classmates that he's trained in karate due to his dad's reputation. However, this is a complete lie as he previously turned down all of Daniel's offers to teach him because he's a Lazy Bum who prefers video games and is disdainful of the Wax On, Wax Off approach to learning. Therefore, every time an opportunity arises where he could show off some moves or actually fight a person, he makes excuses for why he can't. This comes back to bite him hard when his bullying victim Kenny, who decided to train at Cobra Kai because he believed Anthony's claims and wanted to defend himself, realizes he's not actually able to back up all of his talk and he gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Kevin Webster in Coronation Street often mentions how he's going beat up/flatten/decapitate people he's angry with, but he only has the bottle to pick fights with a teenage goth, and even then, said Goth sends Kevin running with his tail between his legs. He was also frightened of David Platt, when he went on his rampage, instead leaving it up to Ken Barlow to stop him. He's also terrified of what will happen if Tyrone finds out that Kevin's been having an affair with his wife. Kevin's father Bill is similar, with his boasting about how he'd swing for David Platt if he didn't have his grandmother Audrey to hide behind. Tyrone Dobbs recently told Bill that he sees where Kevin gets his cowardice from. While Kevin did wallop the crap out of John Stape after discovering Stape's affair with his daughter Rosie (and got a prison sentence for assault), John Stape is not exactly much of a fighter.
  • Several from Doctor Who.
    • The Brigade Leader, the Brigadier's Mirror Universe Evil Twin, in the Third Doctor serial "Inferno". Unlike the no-nonsense Deadpan Snarker Brigadier, the Brigade Leader is a rude and erratic Large Ham.
    • Pex, a Parody of '80's Action Heros from "Paradise Towers", though he ultimately redeems himself.
    • Captain Cook from "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy" is a particularly boring, particularly cowardly and a particularly villainous and reprehensible version of this trope. Its a minor moment of awesome when the Doctor, even as he's at Cook's mercy with his life is on the line, finally has all he can take of Cook's waffling and tells him to shut up.
  • Ross Kemp in Extras, until he has a run-in with Vinnie Jones.
  • Farscape brings us Durka, one of the most legendary heroes in all of Peacekeeper history, who turns out to actually be a Dirty Coward who killed one of his own officers, faked his own death, and abandoned his crew to be slaughtered when a battle finally went against him. Unlike some examples, his cowardice doesn't stop him from being a serious threat if he gets the drop on someone or manages to persuade people to do what he tells them.
  • Foyle's War:
    • In an episode, the Asshole Victim was a sailor who'd been given a medal and showered in praise for "rescuing" several of his comrades when their ship was sunk; it turned out that saving them had been purely incidental to saving himself, and that he'd actually shot one of them to keep him off a piece of wreckage he didn't think could hold them both.
    • In another episode, an old wounded WWI veteran who is considered a hero by the people in the area turns out to have shot himself in the leg to escape the trenches (and thus has a possible motive for the murder, since the victim was the only person who knew this). It's played with, however, in that rather than just being a coward and a braggart it's implied he was a victim of 'shell shock' who just couldn't handle the pressure of the trenches anymore, and he's portrayed as deeply uncomfortable and guilt-ridden about his reputation to the point of nursing suicidal tendencies.
  • Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones is a coddled Royal Brat who pretends to be a warrior prince, but actually got beaten up by a girl with a stick, and whenever actual danger nears, he cowers. In "Blackwater", he vows to give Stannis "A red smile". When it actually comes to fighting, he hides with his mother, leaving the defence to his uncle Tyrion. This is perhaps best exemplified by his Monument of Humiliation and Defeat, a statue of him killing the symbol of one of his enemies with his crossbow, while their defeat actually came about by an act of vicious treachery that he didn't even have anything to do with arranging, and happened while he was hundreds of miles away. The real orchestrator was his Chessmaster grandfather, Tywin Lannister.
  • Finn Hudson from Glee, who talks a much better game than he plays when it comes to being a leader, and who tends to reinterpret his own ignoble actions in a much more heroic light in hindsight. His habit of claiming others' achievements (or a whole group's achievements) exclusively as his own - particularly in the matter of football game victories in which he was actually a minor player at best - puts him in this camp.
  • Ted and Barney become this in an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Doug, a bouncer, singlehandedly fights three booth stealing outsiders at MacLaren's and they claim to have helped him. They instantly become heroes to the other patrons, and capitalise on their newfound fame…until they’re indicted with assault. They quickly drop the facade and plead with Marshall to prove they weren’t actually fighting.
  • In Living Color!, parody this trope by having a skit with brothers Snuff and Roam, played by Shawn and Marlon Wayans. They act like they're tough gangsters from the hood with street cred until someone real dangerous challenges them, then they back down making all kinds of excuses, or they turn their fake gangster act up to eleven hoping it works. It doesn't and its played for laughs. One notable skit in the one where they're in a holding jail with other people inside and they try to intmidate the other prisoners, only for a big guy to challenge them. If not for their mother showing up and bailing them out, things could have gone bad.
  • Mac in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia constantly claims to be a master of karate and have the skills of an eighties action hero. He's repeatedly shown to be a coward and gets beaten up in fights. In one episode, Charlie tells him to take at least one karate class if he's going to claim to be a master. This was perhaps best exemplified in an episode where he tries to finally fulfill his duties as a bouncer and kick Charlie out. Charlie merely goes limp, and Mac passes out from exhaustion trying to drag him out.
  • On Knight Squad, the team meet Sir Swayze, a cool knight who boasts of surviving "The Great Mummy Invasion" and shows new methods of combat. Sir Gareth warns that he expelled Swayze for taking shortcuts and that his home nation has very low standards for knighthood. The gang ignore him to listen to Swayze more. They decide to test themselves by waking up a mummy only for it to attack with magic. They race to Swayze for help...and his immediate reaction is to panic and start packing. It turns out he survived that invasion by running away and openly admits he's a fraud and none of his methods would be effective in a fight. The only reason he opened a school was to get back at Gareth by stealing his students and is a massive coward. Gareth ends up saving the day and the gang apologize for falling for Swayze's act.
  • Doctor Zachary Smith from Lost in Space is a classic example. He regularly boasts of being able to "imitate the actions of a Tiger" if provoked and also of being able to fight his "weight in Tigers" too. However when faced with any actual danger he either cries, screams, faints or cowers behind an 8 year old boy.
  • M*A*S*H.
    • Frank Burns was often one of these.
    • Sergeant Zale talked a big game, but when a bar brawl broke out (which he gave Klinger a hard time for not joining in), he just stood on the sidelines urging others to "get him."
  • Howard Moon of The Mighty Boosh claims to be a "man of action", but when threatened habitually blurts, "Don't kill me! I've got so much to give!"
  • Reg Trotter from Only Fools and Horses. Del describes him as "a bit of a hard nut" with women and children, but not much bottle when it comes to other men.
  • Parks and Recreation: April Ludgate makes a lot of violent and creepy threats towards multiple people throughout the show, at one point threatening to murder one of Ben's employees if he doesn't start showing his boss some respect, and at another point telling Leslie that she can kill her with her mind. However, whenever the gang seems to be in real danger, she always hides behind her husband and screams just as easily as the rest of them. She also turns out to be incredibly physically weak, to the point where Ann suspects she has an iron deficiency.
  • Plebs has Hector, a veteran of the Third Legion turned self-defense instructor who constantly boasts about his exploits at Philippi. He bullies his nebbishy student Marcus, who happens to meet former centurion Maximus of the Third Legion and invites him to visit the class. Maximus delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about Hector "crawling away under his shield like a fucking turtle" that leaves him sobbing on the ground.
  • Rimmer in Red Dwarf idolizes Napoléon Bonaparte, Rommel and Patton, and would love to be thought of as a daring and heroic military strategist. Too bad he's a complete coward and utterly incompetent. Sometimes he is a self-confessed coward, other times he will claim to have sound tactical reasons for hiding in a box. He has also been known to feign bravery if he's absolutely sure (rightly or wrongly) that the enemy can't fight back, even a little bit.
  • Saturday Night Live: Played for Laughs in the Bill Swerski's Superfans sketches. They respect no practical limits in their prognostications about the Bears and other Chicago sports teams. They shamelessly predict the Bears and Bulls to win by ridiculous margins, even with ridiculous handicaps like the Bears all being 14 inches tall (but with full-size Ditka). They even predicted that Ditka could defeat the Giants team all by himself.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "The Valiant" has Jake and Nog rescued by the title ship which is almost totally made up of cadets after the main officers were killed. The self-promoted Captain Watters is taking stimulants to keep awake and clearly dismissing Jake for not being in Starfleet. The rest of his crew idolize him as he has taken their orders to merely find out about a new Jem'Hadar battleship and now plans to destroy it. Jake is the only one who sees this is suicide as even his father wouldn't try this, let alone with a crew of raw cadets and Watters just wants glory rather than go back to being a cadet. But everyone (including Nog) is totally on board as Watters even gives a Rousing Speech on how great Red Squad is and can do anything. They approach the battleship, fire off their super-slick weapon...and it doesn't so much as scratch the enemy vessel. In one instant, Watters goes from a confident and charismatic leader to a scared punk who's in totally over his head and can't even gather his thoughts to order a retreat. The Jem'Hadar ship attacks and the "elite" Red Squad are swiftly exposed as the inexperienced and terrified kids they really are, completely unable to handle real combat. The crew, including Watters, are killed as only Jake, Nog and another crewmember manage to escape and be rescued. Nog admits he got caught up in the hype of Watters but the other crewmember insists he was a great man and the blame lies with them, ignoring how Watters' ego and need for glory killed all her friends.
    Nog: He may have been a hero. He may even have been a great man. But in the end...he was a bad captain.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: It's almost a guarantee that any skill Neelix claims to possess will be proven to be a lie as the episode plays out. Until his very last appearance on the show, where we're reminded that he's actually a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass (we also have to remember that he not only survived reasonably well on his own in the Delta Quadrant, but also saved Kes and won her love). During his last appearance, he goes direct into Let's Get Dangerous! mode when he fights to save a Talaxian colony, nearly has a Last Stand when he fights alone to save them, and chooses to stay to protect them.
  • On The Strange Calls, Sgt. Neil is a strapping police chief with a Manly Facial Hair who has a reputation of killing sharks and possums. When confronted by an actual dangerous police situation (Gregor and Banks are tied up by a crazed florist), Sarge collapses into incoherent sobbing and is comically useless, while Butt-Monkey Banks ends up rescuing them all. As soon as they leave the situation, Sarge tries to take credit for the whole daring escape.
  • The West Wing had a general who C.J. found out was planning, as his last act before retirement, to do a bunch of TV interviews claiming the U.S. was unprepared to defend itself with a wishy-washy liberal president in office. She shuts him up by threatening to point out in public that among his chestful of medals he wears (and has a phony explanation for) one he was never awarded. It's subverted, however, when Bartlet calls her in to tell her to back off; he might not have earned that particular medal, but he's got a lot of genuine ones which in Bartlet's eyes have earned him the right to express his views.
  • The Wire: While Jimmy and Kima are at the FBI investigating a serial killer, an officer wanders in and starts casually bragging about how he led the hunt for the Unabomber. He is also quite vocal in pointing out how many TV shows and movies he's consulted on. After he leaves, Jimmy notes that the Unabomber was only caught because his brother ratted him out.

  • A non-warrior example occurs in the Russian children's song "The Vaccine", which is about a kid boasting that he's not afraid of getting a vaccine because clearly, only a coward would be, right? Naturally, come the time of the actual vaccine, he finds himself against a wall with trembling knees...
  • A song from the American Civil War entitled 'the Valiant Conscript' pokes fun at this tendency among green recruits. The speaker, said conscript, spends the first several verses boasting of how he's going to whip the Yankees, and eventually ascend to command the entire Confederate Army, until 'poets sing his story'. When the Yankees actually show up he sings this verse instead:
    [On hearing a gunshot] What's that? Oh dear, a boiler's burst, a gas-pipe has exploded!
    Maybe the Yankees are hardby with muskets ready loaded
    Oh, gallant soldiers, beat them back, I'd join you in the frolic
    But I've a chill from head to toe, and symptoms of the colic!

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Greek Mythology: While recognized as the god of war and embodiment of physical power, Ares only fought when he had a clear advantage; any time he faced anything close to a fair fight, he had his ass handed to him. To his credit, it's not that he didn't try; he just couldn't win. He was trapped and humiliated by Hephaestus when he and Aphrodite (Hephaestus' consort) were caught in an illicit love affair, fled in fear from the monster Typhon, lost a boxing match to Apollo, was wounded by the hero Diomedes with the aid of Athena forcing him to flee the battle, was defeated by Hercules twice (stripped of his armor one of the times) was stuffed in a bronze jar by the Aloadae (Hermes had to get him out) and defeated in battle with Athena every time they came to blows. Zeus himself - his father - once told him he was worthless. It must be noted that Ares was generally regarded as the god of carnage and bloodlust associated with war, whereas Athena was the goddess of strategy and military prowess. The characteristics of the two were combined in the god Mars, who was held in much higher regard by the Romans than the Greeks ever regarded Ares. Also, note that this form of Ares is the form we have recorded from the city-states—like Thebes and Athens (which had Athena as their patron goddess)—which held Ares in relatively low esteem. Other, more warlike Greek cities had a higher opinion of Ares; Sparta's warlike society had a much higher opinion of Ares, but they didn't write as much, so their myths are not as well attested.
  • The Bible: In Galatians 6:3, Paul has some words on the subject: "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." (KJV)
  • Nicolas Chauvin is a probably mythical soldier who served in the First Army of the French Republic and later in La Grande Armée of Napoléon Bonaparte. He is said to have been very loyal and dedicated to Napoleon despite having been wounded 17 times in his nation's service, resulting in his severe disfigurement and maiming, as well as Napoleon himself awarding him a Sabre of Honor and a pension of 200 francs, as well as ridicule during the post-Napoleon Bourbon Restoration. His last name is the origin of the word "chauvinism", originally meaning extreme nationalism, nowadays meaning any kind of extreme bigotry where one's group is considered superior and others are inferior.

  • In "Relative Disasters" Gregor MacGregor can be characterized as one of these; fleeing the battlefield every time the tide turned against him and leaving the men under his command. to be slaughtered.

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]

  • This is the traditional personality of a heel in Professional Wrestling. They talk a good game about how badass they are, and usually love to smack around the lower level guys, but they turn into a Dirty Coward when facing the top-tier faces (or sometimes even when the lower level ones put up too much of an even-handed fight), revealing that all their talk was a bunch of hot air. In the territorial days, this was an Enforced Trope in Memphis.

    Tabletop Games 

  • Titus Maccius Plautus's ancient Roman play Miles Gloriosus is the Trope Namer, making this one Older Than Feudalism. Modern audiences may recognize the vainglorious soldier from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The play's comedic nature means we never learn for sure, but he at least is implied to be every bit as badass as he claims.
    • "Miles Gloriosus" is Latin for "boastful soldier", and even before Plautus the term was used for a comic stock character in Roman theater.
    • As usual with Plautus, there is some influence from an older Greek stock character: "alazon" (αλαζών) which means braggart and/or arrogant, depending on the context. "The alazôn is an impostor that sees himself as greater than he actually is." He might be a soldier, a scholar, an artist, etc. He is typically coupled with a sarcastic character whose comments undermine the seriousness of any given argument. A particularly memorable example exists in "The Acharnians" (425 BC) by Aristophanes. Lamachus, a historical general, is presented as a "rabid militarist" who makes a speech as to the reasons the ongoing war should be prolonged. Dikaiopolis (the protagonist) mocks the rather pompous arguments and attire of his opponent. Reducing Lamachus to a laughing stock. That Lamachus was using empty threats of violence but fails to react to even the greatest insults, probably points to the brave general being just another blowhard.
  • The figure of the Captain (Il Capitano) from Commedia dell'Arte is a Miles Gloriosus.
  • William Shakespeare has a few of these:
    • Don Armado in Love's Labour's Lost
    • Parolles from All's Well That Ends Well.
    • Pistol from Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V.
    • Falstaff comes close, though his protestations of bravery tend to be so absurd that even he probably doesn't take them seriously.
    • Rodrigo of Othello fits the "God's gift to women" version of this, paying a character who seems to fit the traditional clever servant role to help him in his quest to seduce Desdemona. Unfortunately, that other character happens to be Iago, and rather than the Humiliation Conga these characters often get, Rodrigo ends up as one of several corpses in the play.
  • Shakespeare's use of this trope may be credited to John Lyly, who was one of England's preeminent writers in the 1580s. Lyly's play Endymion includes the braggart Sir Tophas who boasts of his prowess in war and his disdain of women. Natually, the pageboys think he's a hoot.
  • Subverted and lampshaded in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The character named Miles Gloriosus actually does appear to be everything they say, although he's still a fame hogging, pigheaded fool.
    Miles: Stand aside everyone! I take LARGE STEPS!
  • Józef Papkin, the Lion of the North (only he calls himself that...) from the Polish play Zemsta.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan give us a few interesting examples:
    • Dick Dauntless in Ruddigore. His entrance song is about how his sloop turned tail and fled from a formidable French frigate, which of course they could have taken on... but... um... decided not to, just now. Because fighting them would be mean. Yeah, that's it.
    • Played with in The Pirates of Penzance. The "modern Major-General" Stanley claims to know pretty much everything and is extremely, gloriously proud of it... but he finally mentions at the end of his song that he happens to be inept at his actual job. Result: the related trope (named after him, naturally), Modern Major General!
    • Subverted by the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers - he sings a song boasting (quite truthfully) about his cowardice.
  • Lewis in Pippin, a strong stupid type who likes wearing shiny breastplates, swinging a sword around and boasting about the number of enemies slain by his hand.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: At Act II Scene III, The Muskeeter is identified as this by Raguenau, who doesn't seem to realize (or care) that he is his wife's lover.
    Ragueneau: 'Tis a friend of my wife — a terrible warriorat least so says he himself.
    • When he thinks that now it's safe to, he sneers at Cyrano's nose, inviting his lover to look on. Bad mistake.
  • Henrik Ibsen has several as well:
    • Hjalmar Ekdal from The Wild Duck, mostly to impress his daughter and wife.
    • Hilmar Tønnesen from The Pillars of Society as well. He may brag about hunting buffalo on the Dakota prairie, but don´t ask him do go there, he will blame his poor health. Note that Hjalmar and Hilmar are similar names (did Ibsen have a friend he liked to exploit in those plays?).
    • And then, of course, the title character in Peer Gynt. This goes for the original Real Life Per Gynt as well. Both of them were known for telling stories of experiences ripped from someone else's lives.
  • In The Iceman Cometh, Boer war veterans Captain Lewis (Brit) and General Wetjoen (Boer) like to reminisce about their glory days as "war heroes" on opposite sides of the conflict. In reality, Wetjoen was disowned by his family and held as a pariah among the Boers for his cowardice, while Lewis was equally reviled by the British Army for embezzling money from his regiment to support his gambling and drinking. It's safe to say that neither man distinguished himself on the battlefield.
  • In Blood Brothers, Mickey and Linda try to impress their new friend Edward by telling him that they mess with policemen by giving fake names and alibis. For example, Mickey says his name is “Adolf Hitler” and he's “waiting for the ninety-two bus”. When a policeman confronts the trio note , Edward gleefully practices their stories on him. Mickey and Linda visibly panic and Edward's laughter dissolves into pathetic crying.

    Video Games 
  • Advance Wars:
    • Zigzagged with Olaf in the original series. On one hand, he all the hallmarks of a Miles Gloriosus: he's a rather bumbling buffoon of a CO, one who makes constant mistakes, one who has no day-to-day power besides being strong in snow, one who constantly brags and gloats about his prowess, and one who is often treated as comic relief both by the story and his Hyper-Competent Sidekick Grit. However, on the other hand he is an effective CO — just not nearly as effective as he likes to think — with no real weaknesses (beyond a weakness to the very uncommon rain) whose comparably cheap 7-star Super Power Winter Fury devastates the enemy by inflicting 2HP to all their units and bogging them down in snow for a turn. Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising even lampshades it by describing him as "A pompous braggart whose tactical prowess has earned him the respect of his peers" on his officer dossier.
    • Played very straight by Admiral Greyfield in Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin. An absolute stark-raving psychopath, he rises to power and forms the "New Rubinelle Army" which he rules over with an iron fist. In his final mission however, Lin calls him out for what he really is: a pathetic commander desperate for the glory and power he never had the skill, charisma, or bravery to have before the world was destroyed and he managed to stumble ass-backward into a position of leadership by lying his ass off and talking a huge game:
      Lin: I've seen your records. I know you were a subpar commander at best. And you know it too. That's why you strut around like a playground bully. You hid your shame by faking results and taking credit for the work of—
      Greyfield: Silence! Enough of your loathsome falsehoods, you treasonous hound!
      Lin: No! That's enough of YOU, you lying, sniveling, fat man! You're a coward and a liar and I have had enough of it! You started this fight. Now I'm going to end it.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, Franklin Payne seems to be this before you meet him, since you hear many NPC's telling of his nearly impossible feats and others who claim that he's really a coward. Subverted when you meet him and see that he is really that good.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood had a Borgia captain giving a speech to his soldiers, saying that he knows the Assassins inside and out, that he has survived numerous scraps with them, and how he will defend his soldiers if they do attack. Reveal your prescence, and he spurs his horse to head for the hills.
  • Baldur's Gate II:
    • Anomen — a mild example, since he is a competent warrior in-game. The game's actual Knight in Shining Armor and The Münchausen (Keldorn and Jan Jansen, respectively) aren't fooled by his tall tales (like killing a Wyvern single-handedly, or having defeated several hill giants during a battle) for a second, however. Neither are just about anyone else, come to that, though most of them are too polite or disinterested to call him out on it.
    • The Protagonist can also call Anomen on his exploits, and tend to run into a few enemies of non-importance who have an overinflated sense of might.
  • BioShock Infinite: Zachary Hale Comstock, hero of Wounded Knee and of the Battle of Peking, is a hero of neither. Since he's the one who runs Columbia, he can make up whatever Blatant Lies he wants and get away with it. His exploits in those battles are only Metaphorically True at best, and outright fiction in most cases. This is why Cornelius Slate opposes Comstock as much as he does, because Slate absolutely hates it when people talk about Comstock's "achievements" when Comstock wasn't even there. Meanwhile, Slate was there, and consistently gets pushed aside to make Comstock look better. Indeed, when you actually get to Comstock, he's a Cutscene Boss who doesn't even put up a fight, killed unceremoniously by Booker drowning him in a shallow pool of water.
  • Borderlands:
    • Captain Blade, a Posthumous Character in the Borderlands 2 "Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty" campaign. Though no coward, he was a pacifist who manufactured the image of a bloodthirsty, fearless cutthroat in order to keep his pirate crew in line. When his crew discovered that he had faked the execution of an insubordinate crew member and had never killed anyone in his life, they banded together to violently depose him. Blade was unwilling to kill his own men even in self-defence and so decided to just sit back and wait to be murdered. But at the last moment, he just couldn't bring himself go through with it and ended up killing the lot of them.
    Captain Blade: [devastated] They're all dead. They attacked just after daybreak. I promised myself I'd let 'em kill me but I... I couldn't let it— I... I fought back. The deck is sticky with their blood. Today... they finally met... "The Fearsome Captain Blade"...
    • Piston, the main enemy of Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage, is a very large, very scary man who holds the #1 rank in Torgue's badass tournament. However, he's a blowhard and a Dirty Coward, afraid of any kind of fair man-to-man confrontation. When you finally face him one on one, he's relatively easy to beat.
  • Chrono Cross has Pierre, who boasts himself to be a great hero, despite having abysmal stats. However, you can help him become a real hero by bringing him the Prop Sword and the Hero Medal, after which he becomes much stronger.
  • The Golem Boss in Chrono Trigger tries to scare you with a big countdown. The problem is he's afraid of heights. And you're fighting him on the wing of a plane. His true nature reveals itself after about ten seconds.
  • Dragon Quest V: Dwight Dwarf considers himself a revolutionary super hero, despite just being a level one dwarf with his facts mixed up. When the party meets him again he considers himself to be both The Rival and The Lancer despite being... a level one dwarf.
  • In Drakensang, you have Prancelot of Scufflewick (German: Parzalon von Streitzig) who comes over as such - claiming the glory and rewards for being a hero, but disappearing as soon as any fight might begin. After the abduction at Rattle Farm has been solved, he even runs ahead to the questgiver to claim all the glory. In the prequel River of Time a younger version can be encountered, who already acts exactly the same.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Morrowind:
      • There is an NPC named this. NPCs of the "Warrior" class will state that he is pretty much the ideal model of a warrior and offers unique dialogue about weapon and armor types if asked about his trade. Considering this, and that he's working out of Maar Gan to kill the blighted monsters who sneak through the Ghost Fence, he would seem to be a Subversion.
      • Farvyn Oreyn is the last descendent of the (supposedly) legendary hero Oreyn Bearclaw and has a reputation as a great hero. Malacath, the Daedric Prince of Pariahs and patron of the Orcs, reveals in his quest that Oreyn's deeds were actually accomplished by his Orcish companion. In retaliation, Malacath orders you to slay Farvyn Oreyn. Like his ancestor, he is accompanied by two very tough companions, but he himself is a complete pushover who will likely die in two good hits.
    • Oblivion has an inversion. When closing one of the Oblivion gates you need to find a group of arrogant squires, who have created their own knightly order. When you meet them they are indeed arrogant and boastful, but are actually capable of defending themselves. When you close the Oblivion gate and return to Cyrodiil, their attitude changes completely: they admit they were scared and thank you for saving their lives.
    • Skyrim has the song "Ragnar the Red", about one of these who bragged so much about his deeds that a local girl named Matilda lost her patience and killed him. See the Quotes tab.
  • At the outset of the Happy Trails expedition in Fallout: New Vegas: Honest Hearts, one of the expedition members is "Deadeye" Ricky, a badass who fought deathjaws (which are like deathclaws, but have bigger teeth), sniped a Brotherhood of Steel paladin through the eye-slits with his 11mm submachine gun, is an honorary member of Vault 22, and has a third nut that glows in the dark. All of that is a lie. The only things he has are a broken PipBoy, a scavenged or stolen Vault 22 suitnote , a 10mm SMGnote , and a crippling addiction to Psycho. If the Courier can see through his lies, he can get Ricky booted out of the caravan, or blackmail him into acting as a pack mule to let you carry more of your own stuff along for the trip.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The Head Editor in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a perfect mold of this trope. He claims to be able to handle his own, but no matter what mission you do with him, he's ALWAYS at level 10 and half of the time, he gets too scared or nervous to fight, relying on your clan to do the dirty work. His only ability is Camouflage, which lets him hide. In one mission, he brags that the Owner (his boss) is more powerful than he is, but he is only at level 1!
    • Ziegfried in Final Fantasy VI, who tries to disguise himself as the greatest swordsman alive. The first time he attacks you, he opens with a flurry of eight weak physicals when you have a character who can inherently counter randomly, and an item that lets someone else counter randomly too. Hilarity Ensues. After the Time Skip, he also turns out to be a Celebrity Impersonator; the champion of the Colosseum (named Siegfried in the SNES translation) claims that someone was running around pretending to be him, and he turns out be a very powerful opponent.
    • Final Fantasy XIV:
      • Master Hamon "the Holyfist" is shown to be this during the level 15 Pugilist class quest, but he gets better later on. Notably, he was every bit as powerful as he likes to claim... but then years of idle retirement as well as old age turned him into a shadow of his former self.
      • Trachtoum is a boastful farmhand who shows up in the quest chain leading to the fight with Titan. He claims to have slain "Tidus" as a member of the legendary Company of Heroes, but he's quickly proven to be a liar and a blowhard who was just looking for attention (and people to foist his chores upon). He shows up again in "Into the Heart of the Whorl", claiming to have faced "Leviabeetus", but when he sees the Warrior of Light he panics and quickly confesses to his lies.
  • One of your targets in Hitman (2016) is a Moroccan army general named Reza Zaydan, who loves to brag to his troops about all the highly classified secret missions he's been on in his career. Listening in on his officers, however, reveals that he got his post entirely through Nepotism, he has no real combat experience and all of his "secret missions" are completely fictional.
  • Daxter in Jak and Daxter makes little hesitance when he talks proudly about his "many heroic deeds". The only one who believes or is even remotely impressed by this is his love interest, Tess. He does have his heroic moments, being the one who gets Jak out of prison, and defeating The Dragon just before that. Of course, the latter depends entirely on what you believe, as his entire Gaiden Game is either him telling the truth, or more yarn spinning.
  • Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard from Jade Empire fits this trope to a T. He's an obnoxious blowhard who seems to be a cross between Don Quixote and a British Imperialist. Subverted in that you can fight him, and he has the strongest weapon in the game (a blunderbuss! In a game based on ancient China! Not quite fair).
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Captain Linebeck acts the part of the dashing hero, but it's obvious to everyone that he's really just an enormous coward. Still, even he proves useful, if largely ineffectual, when the chips are down. Thanks to Character Development, he's made the move from this trope to Cowardly Lion by the end of the story. He even tops off Ciela's thanks for taking on the Big Bad single-handedly when Link was rendered a Badass in Distress with a Think Nothing of It. Unfortunately, the Big Bad possesses him and becomes an Eldritch Abomination of himself, the Big Bad, and a Phantom.
  • Avalon Centrifuge of LittleBigPlanet 2. He apparently created science, in addition to being the Face of Science. But you can't call him that.
    Clive: Hello, Science Face.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect 2, there's Conrad Verner, a crazy fan of Commander Shepard (the player character) that can be found essentially cosplaying as the Commander and attempting to go around the galaxy righting wrongs and helping people. Although he claims to be a badass he can be scared off by shooting him in the foot or kneeing him, and overall he's incredibly incompetent. There is one ending to his side quest that shows he has some guts, but the end result is that he is killed attempting to stop a petty crime. If you choose the paragon solution of pretending that he actually helped to solve a real crime he walks away transformed and you later hear on the Illium PA system that he is now leading a charitable organization that helps out the orphan victims of slave raiders. In Mass Effect 3, he is still somewhat incompetent (inadvertently supporting the bad guys), but when you point it out he tries to take a bullet for Shepard. If you completed a certain sidequest in Mass Effect, it turns out that someone else had replaced the shooter's ammunition with blanks.
    • Niftu Cal, the self-proclaimed "Biotic God". He's actually high off whatever passes for tits on a volus. You can either convince him he's for real (which gets him killed) or convince him to go sleep it off.
  • In MediEvil, Sir Daniel Fortesque earned his knighthood during times of peace by being a very entertaining, and convincing, storyteller. When a real enemy appeared, he took the first arrow right in the eye. Not that this stopped him: the king (sensing that the public needed to hear something hopeful after the horrific battle) gave him a hero's funeral for "killing" the Big Bad. While certainly a braggart, leading the charge proved he had the courage to be a real hero. After returning, Fortesque subsequently Took a Level in Badass and turned out to be a real hero after all when he destroyed the Big Bad several centuries later.
  • Downplayed in Minecraft: Story Mode. The original Order of the Stone were a group of brave and brilliant heroes who did fought great battles, took on many great quests and saved lives. However, the feat they're the most famous for, defeating the Enderdragon in battle, was a lie. They used a command block to defeat him because it was too powerful, and lied to the world about it. This is what ultimately made Ivor betray his comrades and unleash the Wither Storm to teach them a lesson. That being said, the members of the original Order are still mostly capable heroes, if only a bit out of shape.
  • Ōkami: The 'great swordsman' Susano is actually an incompetent coward. The main character, a magical wolf-goddess named Amaterasu, sometimes hangs around and helps him fight, although he never seems to notice that his techniques only work when the 'annoying wolf' is around. Interestingly, by the time you fight Orochi, this trope has been largely deconstructed. Susano doesn't want the reputation he's been bragging about, to the point that he started the whole incident by trying to prove the legend of his ancestor false to free himself from the burden of living up to it. Issun mocks him for quivering in fear in his sleep, unaware that his dreams contain things worth being afraid of. And he catches on to the fact that his heroic feats are not truly his own, embittering him to the idea that the gods expect him to save the world... and even then, Susano's Amaterasu-assisted slices are more effective than when Ammy does them on her own.
  • Godot's introduction in Case 2 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations. He brags that he's never lost a case. Technically, this is true, because it's his first case as a prosecutor.
  • In Psychonauts, Coach Oleander makes claims about his impressive army background to the point that the inside of his head appears as a twisted battlefield and contains memories of himself seemingly single-handedly winning some type of war. Upon a second visit, however, you can find his true memories which show him being kicked out of the army, air force, navy, and even the army kitchens (though this is more due to his height than his cowardice or incompetence).
  • Captain Qwark from Ratchet & Clank. He becomes much more heroic in the later games but remains an idiot with a vastly overblown sense of self-importance.
  • Flint/Magpie from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. The first time you get to Yanov station, you'll probably hear him bragging about his exploits, like finding a new route between Zaton and Yanov, killing a Controller, finding the Oasis, clearing out a bloodsucker lair and killing a Chimera. The catch? All of these are things that you did. Fortunately, you get multiple opportunities to call him out on his bullshit. He probably qualifies as Too Dumb to Live as well, given he is bragging about "his" accomplishments when people standing in the same building can confirm he is lying through his teeth. He predictably gets killed when you finish up his quest chain by either Freedom (for robbing their customers), Duty (for backstabbing artifact hunters) or the Loners (for leaving poor Crab to die in a mutant lair).
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Maniac in the Wing Commander series, at least outside of the cockpit (in the cockpit, he's the 11th highest ranking ace in a 3 decade galactic war). The commanding officer even tells you to shoot him down if he gets in your way - and to use your guns, because it'd be a waste of missiles. See his and Blair's original encounter with "Seether" in the Wing Commander IV intro. Later in that game, when forced to back up his words in an argument with "Gash" Dekker if the player decides to not intervene, the viewer gets a practical demonstration of Maniac not living up to his boasting.
  • Yes, Your Grace: Sir Friderick considers Noaksey the Dragonslayer, a famous Hunter of Monsters, to be a fraud, on the basis that nobody ever actually witnessed his accomplishments. Sir Friderick is telling the truth, but Noaksey considers people's troubles are frequently more manageable than they think, and that he's helping people by claiming to have slain monsters they only think they saw.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Adventures of The League of S.T.E.A.M. episode, "Tall Tails", Crackitus, Thaddeus and Jasper boast about encounters they've had with the Kraken. Until it actually arrives...
  • Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a variant: he's an arrogant blowhard, but he's also as tough and brave as he says. The only reason he's brave, however, is because he is so super-strong and Nigh-Invulnerable that he has never been injured in his life. It's telling that he flees, crying like a baby, the very second that he feels pain for the first time.
    "I think this is what pain feels like!"
  • Drea of Watch Girls Play. By far the most likely to boast and swear at the screen while playing horror games. Also the most likely to give a Girly Scream when the monster confronts her.
  • Illustrated well in this Skyrim machinima, which paints the Dragonborn as a cocky mercenary who brags about his dragonslaying skills but runs away screaming when he encounters an actual dragon (or even a wolf). Naturally, one great battle of which he was the Sole Survivor turns out to have been because he ran away and hid, only coming back after both sides had wiped each other out, before lying to the guards who'd come to investigate.
  • Manga-Waido: Sano keeps bragging about how he's a former gang member and uses that fact to bully his subordinates. When he poured beer on Maina, she revealed that she was a former deliquent and gave him a good scare, forcing him to admit that it was all a lie.
  • The Navy Seal Copypasta is a parody of the Internet Tough Guy described below. The "story" essentially involves a loser on an internet forum getting mad at the person he's arguing with and than trying way too hard to make himself seem scary to get back at the guy.
  • More Internet Tough Guys get duly mocked on the subreddit I Am Very Badass.
  • Trouble Busters: Some punks attempted to challenge Alan to a beatdown bragging about how they know karate. Unfortunately for them, Alan turned out to have actual karate skills and was able to defeat one of them. The other punk backed down afterwards.
  • R. H. Talltales of World's Greatest Adventures is a massive example of the "adventurer" type, constantly boasting about "exciting discoveries" that are actually completely mundane.
  • YouTube sketch comedian Druski made a skit about these kinds of people, called "Dudes say "Standin On Business" but DO THE OPPOSITE" that ends with him walking up to a group of fifty people, boasting that he's a "one-man army" against all of them. As soon as they advance on him, he books it back to his car.

    Western Animation 
  • Zigzagged with Sir Tuxford in Adventures of the Gummi Bears. He's like this most of the time, but he can be somewhat brave if the situation warrants it; he's just slowing down in his old age.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: Christopher is this. He really likes to see himself as the hero and most important member of the group, and constantly brags about his many skills, but his coward nature and being the Plucky Comic Relief makes it impossible for him to live up to these claims.
  • Woofer, the bloodhound from Clue Club, can be this. He and Wimper (his basset sidekick) are usually obedient to Larry, Pepper and D.D., but Woofer tends to brag about how he solved the crime when for the most part he hadn't done squat.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • Numbuh 86 is a rare female example. She yells at, insults, and intimidates any operatives who are subordinate to her like some Drill Sergeant Nasty, and is a textbook Straw Feminist... But then she quickly cowers and grovels when Numbuh 362 - her superior - gets angry at her. And in "Operation: E.N.D." when Chad tried to send the Moonbase hurtling into the sun, she did nothing but panic and lie on the floor sobbing.
    • And in "Operation P.O.O.L", Negative Numbuh 4 qualifies just as much. To all the kids, especially his own minions, he is seen as a fearmonging tyrant bullying everyone into doing his bidding. However, his Fatal Flaw is that, like everyone from the Mirror Universe, he is the opposite of his own real world counterpart and thus a Dirty Coward in contrast to Numbuh 4's bravery and boldness. This was revealed when he started shivering in fear to Numbuh 4 challenging him to a duel and even orders his minions to fire in an act of cowardice. It's also possible that he might secretly love Rainbow Monkeys since the real Numbuh 4 hates them.
  • The Braggart from season one of The Dragon Prince zigzags this trope. He's taken out rather easily by Rayla, but Rayla is a trained assassin, while this guy was a mercenary at best. His boasts about taking out countless creatures in Xadia are clearly overblown, but he's still a competent swordsman, using his speed, agility and enchanted weapon to defeat a far larger enemy.
  • Captain Hero of Drawn Together is a superhero who frequently ignores his super powers and whose catchphrase is "Save yourselves!" Despite being fairly invincible (as the plot demands) his "Hero Shield" power is just grabbing an innocent bystander and using them to soak up bullets for him.
  • DuckTales (1987): Major Courage, a boastful actor who plays a Captain Space, Defender of Earth! on TV in "Where No Duck Has Gone Before". Not realizing that Gyro's rocket has taken him, Launchpad, and the boys into space for real, or that the aliens they've been captured by are also real, Courage walks around making hammy heroic declarations and challenging the aliens to fights as if he's on set. Then he attacks Bulvan and gets smacked down. Realizing that the situation isn't just an act, he promptly escapes in the only ship, leaving the boys and Launchpad behind with the aliens.
  • On Ed, Edd n Eddy, Eddy's cruel older brother fits; in The Movie, it took relatively little to take him down, compared to the standards of the show. Word of God claims this is because he had been dishing out abuse his whole life and almost never experienced it himself.
  • Zapp Brannigan from Futurama is the patron saint of this trope. He will never rush in to a fight, but obtained a reputation of being a good fighter through his willingness to sacrifice wave after wave of his own men, while avoiding any risk to himself. If he does end up fighting, it's because he believes he has an overwhelming advantage, or is too stupid to realize that he's in danger.
  • Lucius from Jimmy Two-Shoes. In one episode when he believed that a moon beast might threaten Miseryville, he rode up into space to defeat it. The moment he came across resistance, he freaked out and was defeated.
  • Felix the Cat, during the Van Beuren Studios era, encounters Old King Cole, who brags about his supposed heroics but then runs an hides from anything he perceives as a threat. Eventually, the spirits of pasts kings get tired of his bragging and proceed to "knock the wind out of the old windbag", and Felix has to face his own fears to rescue him.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee: Ezekiel Tugbottom, the town hero of Brighton, is depicted by history books as a larger-than life folk hero who performed such improbable feats as taming a bear and wrestling a tornado. In reality, he is a lazy, selfish coward who stole the credit for his sister Sally’s heroic deeds; the reason history books praised him is that he’s the one who published them. When Molly threatens to expose the truth, his ghost attacks her in the form of a tornado in an attempt to silence her, until Scratch summons the ghost of Sally to drag him back to the afterlife. With Ezekiel defeated, the town finally embraces Sally as its true hero.
  • Kim Possible: Adrena Lynn, the villain of the episode "All the News", is a TV action star who claims to do "extreme" death-defying stunts, but in reality, she faked all of said stunts. Kim forces her to admit to being a coward who can't handle real danger by flying her around on a jet-pack.
  • In the The Land Before Time TV series, episode "The Brave Longneck Scheme", the gang encounters a young Longneck named Rhett, who loves to brag about his bravery and how he singlehandedly can fight off an adult Sharptooth. Worse, Littlefoot's friend Ali actually believes him. To prove to her Rhett is just bragging, they have their own Sharptooth friend Chomper pretend to attack them. As expected, Rhett runs away in terror at the sight of Chomper.
  • Bumi from The Legend of Korra plays with this trope. On the one hand, he likes telling tales of his exploits, many of which sound completely implausible and no one believes him. However, in the season 2 finale, he manages to destroy an entire enemy base and rescue Team Avatar almost single-handedly. But the way he does it is mainly through completely implausible methods, like stumbling around in a blind panic avoiding enemy fire and jumping into an enemy mecha-tank that gets possessed by hostile spirits before accidentally using it to trash the enemy fortifications. The implication is that Bumi isn't lying about his exploits, merely the degree of professionalism he used to accomplish them.
  • The Little Rascals episode "The Zero Hero" has two examples. When Darla is on her date with Captain Muscles, he stops the bank robbers, but one of them deflates his costume. After Captain Muscles runs away, Alfalfa comes along dressed as Alpha-Man, but faints after Darla tells him that the bank robbers are not his disguised friends.
  • Looney Tunes: Daffy Duck starts out as one of these in Draftee Daffy, right up until the moment when he gets a phone call informing him that "the little man from the draft board" is on the way to see him.
    • Still, it can considered mildly averted when noting Daffy's exploits in other wartime cartoons; he may be a coward, but he does have his moments.
  • Captain K'nuckles from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack claims to be a great adventurer, but truth be told, he's more of a glorified bum.
  • The cartoon Mickey's Rival introduces the character of Mortimer Mouse: romantic rival, shiny new car owner, taller than Mickey ever hopes to be...and an obnoxious braggart. Mortimer tries to impress Minnie by waving a red picnic blanket in a bull's face. Oh, how courageous he is, taunting a slobbering, snorting brute...while there's a fence in between them. The fence of course is actually open, and Mortimer only needs two seconds upon realizing this to not only haul ass out of there, but to throw the offending red blanket on top of the girl he was trying to impress. What a guy.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has The Great and Powerful Trixie, a traveling magician-type unicorn whose show involves boasting of her magical superiority and using cruel tricks to show up anyone who dares call her out. Even outside of her show, Trixie's massive ego is easily her biggest flaw, getting her into all kinds of trouble. She's certainly talented with magic, just nowhere near as good as she claims to be. That doesn't stop Trixie from boasting all the same.
    • The episode "Boast Busters" introduces Trixie, where she claims to have vanquished an Ursa Major, a giant bear-like monster made out of the night sky. So when two young unicorns who buy into her stories are told not to believe it unless they see it, they go out and bring an Ursa Major to town, eager to see their new hero in action. Trixie, naturally, freaks out at the sight of a giant star bear monster, and is forced to admit that she made up the story of having vanquished one so she would look good. Once the creature is defeated by Twilight Sparkle (who reveals that it wasn't even an Ursa Major, but an Ursa Minor), Trixie promptly falls back on her old arrogance.
    • Played with in her return appearance, "Magic Duel", where Trixie's sub-par magical prowess is greatly boosted thanks to the powers of the Alicorn Amulet. The fact that the Amulet is simultaneously corrupting her mind means this doesn't go well. In the end, Twilight deceives Trixie into believing that she has unparalleled magical talent, in order to trick her into removing the Amulet.
    • This is played around with further after she becomes a regular character, where she's become a bit of a Cowardly Lion. She's quick to downplay her power and run to more competent heroes in a crisis. Yet Trixie is surprisingly useful in a pinch by dint of her cunning, dirty tricks, resourcefulness and half-decent magical power (even if it's not nearly as impressive as she likes to claim it is).
  • Major Man from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) was a one-shot character who at first seemed like an exaggerated Expy of Superman and a hero who might even replace the girls. But as it later turned out, he was not only Miles Gloriosus, but an Attention Whore who was purposely arranging for crimes and disasters to happen so he could fly in to stop them; he couldn't handle a real one if his life depended on it, and it wasn't hard for the Girls to expose him as the fraud he was when the newest giant monster came into town. The monster was a friend of theirs doing them a favor, apparently.
  • Samurai Jack: Da Samurai shows up at a tavern and boasts of being a highly skilled samurai, bullying the other customers who are afraid of him, but he ends up Mugging the Monster by provoking Jack, who reluctantly agrees to fight him outside. Jack already knows that his opponent is nothing but hot air: he cuts two sticks of bamboo and tells Da Samurai to take one, saying he's not worthy to face Jack's sword. The result is a Curb-Stomp Battle in which Jack runs circles around his increasingly angry opponent, effortlessly thwarting all of his attacks while humiliating him with smarting blows; each time, Jack gives Da Samurai an aphorism about the self-defeating nature of arrogance, and eventually cracks through his suit of Fake Muscles to reveal him as a scrawny guy with a pot belly. Then an army of robot bounty hunters appears out of the woods. Da Samurai is incapacitated while trying to flee, and Jack saves them both by destroying every single one. In the immediate aftermath he apologizes to Jack, admitting he isn't hot stuff like he thought he was, and what Jack did was amazing. Just then he sees that the destroyed robots have reconstituted themselves into a giant monstrosity which is rearing up behind Jack, and pushes Jack away from its beam weapon while getting hit himself. After putting it down for good, Jack tells Da Samurai that he has taken the first step on the true path of the samurai, and the next moment he's calling Jack sensei and begging for more instruction.
  • Tiger from Skunk Fu! did fight Dragon (the Big Bad, not The Dragon), but becomes this trope after the fact. However, when angered, he is known to fight ferociously.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • SpongeBob becomes one in the episode "Blackened Sponge". After he gives himself a black eye by accidentally hitting it with a monkey wrench, he tries to save face by telling heavily glorified tall tales about how he got it while fighting a villain from his dreams named Jack M. Crazyfish. Once he discovers that Crazyfish is Real After All, he drops the facade immediately, tells the truth about his black eye, and begs for mercy.
    • Kevin C. Cucumber, the self-proclaimed king of Jellyfishing, is exposed as this after his Queen Jellyfish robot inadvertently attracts a King Jellyfish. When he, SpongeBob and the Jellyspotters are trapped in a cave by the furious King, Kevin forces one of his entourage to go outside to check whether the Jellyfish is gone. He then tearfully admits that he doesn’t know a thing about Jellyfishing, gets into a Troubled Fetal Position, and wails for his mother.
  • The 2003 version of Strawberry Shortcake has this happen in one episode. There, Apricot claims to be able to skate despite being unable to do so. She gets exposed at the end, but is forgiven by the others.
  • Die Fledermaus from The Tick, who looks and talks the part of superhero but is the first to flee when danger is afoot. In fact, he doesn't just flee, he sometimes faints! Note that while "Fledermaus" is German for "bat", the literal translation is "flying/fleeing mouse", a perfect description for a total coward.
  • Slugslinger from The Transformers always claims to be a fearless and talented gunman, which seems to be backed up by his results on the battlefield, but in reality he is nothing without his gun Caliburst. When Caliburt's ammo dries up, Slugslinger's true cowardice is revealed.
    • In Transformers: Animated, Sentinel Prime is one of these. While being Optimus Prime's equal, he considers himself superior, and is constantly bragging about how he should be fighting Decepticons while Optimus should be repairing Space Bridges. Then Starscream falls out of the sky, and Sentinel goes straight into Coward Mode.
    Sentinel: What is that thing?
    Optimus: Oh that's right, you've never seen one up close. It's called: a Decepticon.
    • And, unlike Optimus Prime, he's kept his fear of organics from when they abused both of them.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures:
    • Montana Max will bully and push around anybody who he knows won’t stand up to him. The moment his victim shows any bravery, he runs for the hills.
    • Plucky Duck in "Kon Ducki". He’s portrayed as an illustrious member of the Explorer's Club. He gives grand speeches to boost the morale of his crew. He knows just what to do in an emergency. Whenever danger appears, he instantly falls to pieces.
    Plucky: Mommy, make it stop!

    Real Life 
  • The term "Mall Ninja" is a pejorative term for someone who is boastful about their abilities in martial arts, military experience, and/or hand-to-hand weapon skills, especially online. But the boasting is empty, because the mall ninja has no experience in an actual fight of any kind. It's a person who desires to be cool without putting in the effort, compensates for their lack of skill by just buying a bunch of gear in the hopes it gives off the impression of being a badass, has childish ideas about what's "cool" or not, and is boasting under the assumption that they'll never have to back up all this boasting. Here are the exploits of one example of the species who was delusional in how much he wanted to be seen as a badass, but just came off as pathetic.
    The Mall Ninja is easily distinguished by an abundance of "tactical" gear, such as fatigues, a thigh holster (with, of course, a Glock), combat boots, bandolier and other accouterments that you’d usually only see on a SWAT operative. Median age is usually 19-25, and they tend to boast about their various exploits with certain Special Forces units, all of which they’re too young and idiotic to have joined (real Special Forces types don’t brag). They typically have opinions on everything, regardless of expertise, they are uniformly poor shots, and they tend to exhibit a frightening lack of safety training.
  • Military impostors have existed for as long as there have been professional armies; throughout history, people have claimed to have served with Roman legions, with George Washington at Valley Forge, or with any other fabled military unit of the recent past. For a modern example, the FBI estimates that, for every genuine former Navy SEAL alive today (about seven thousand, not counting active-duty servicemen), there are about three hundred impostors.
    • In America, it's legal to make such claims due to the First Amendment's protections on free speech. But if the faker then tries to also dress the part or gain any material benefits from their supposed military status, they're in legal trouble, because that's fraud. Plus, even if the liar doesn't try to gain any benefits besides bragging rights, actual military veterans tend to humiliate this kind of liar as payback. The term for it in American military culture is "stolen valor", and it's one of the few things that almost every American soldier comes down hard on.
  • North Korea. Despite constantly making threats against other countries and singing about their own amazing badassery and power, they have probably one of the worst military strengths in the world, and hide behind China every time someone might actually bother retaliating (usually the US or South Korea). The only reason North Korea hasn't collapsed in on itself is because China props it up, and even the Chinese are getting sick of the act.
  • The Internet Tough Guy is essentially this. They'll go on spectacularly long rants and speeches about how they'd kick their opponent's ass if they met in person, then crumple like wet paper the second something potentially dangerous or scary appears - see the aforementioned Navy SEAL copypasta.
  • The infamous Westboro Baptist Church. They'll provoke, insult, and piss off anyone from average citizens to hardened soldiers, but the second someone retaliates they fall apart begging for help and file a Frivolous Lawsuit. Many believe that they do this intentionally; since they're hated by basically everyone, the only way they can get money is to play the Wounded Gazelle Gambit and provoke people into attacking them so they can then sue for damage.
  • General George McClellan of the Union forces during the American Civil War has been described like this. While he was rightly praised as talented at raising and training armies for battle, McClellan has also been lambasted as an incompetent, insubordinate braggart who was so cowardly as a fighting commander that he directly prolonged the war. Abraham Lincoln once famously asked if he could borrow the army for a short while, since McClellan didn't seem to be doing much with it.
    • Several of the commanders of the Army of the Potomac (the same army raised and trained by McClellan) also turned out to be this. General Joseph Hooker, for example, boasted that he would bring victory, but was manhandled by Robert E Lee. One of the things that allegedly made Ulysses S Grant popular with the rank-and-file is that he didn't make such promises.
    • Future Union General William Tecumseh Sherman (at the time a colonel who helped set up what would become the Louisiana State Seminary) felt that many of the Southerners clamoring for war with the North were this. He outright stated as such during a dinner with many of prominent Southern politicians and personages when invited to present his views on the increasing turmoil between the North and South.
  • Hugues De Vermandois, younger son of Henry I of France, Count of Vermandois, and leader of a Crusader army during the First Crusade. He was a terrible soldier and military leader, but thought very highly of himself; he fits this trope so much that The Other Wiki described him as 'an ineffectual leader and soldier, great only in his boasting.' He sent this laughably arrogant letter to the Eastern Roman Emperor Alexius I Comnenus demanding a proper welcome to the Byzantine Empire:
    • While sailing across the Adriatic Sea, Hugues had his fleet hit by storms, sinking most of the ships and throwing his own ship upon the shore. He quickly came under the control of Alexius, who persuaded him to become his liegemen and wouldn't let his small force of Crusaders go anywhere until he swore not only to restore to the Byzantine Empire all the territories conquered by the Turks, but to let him have all the land he took in his conquests become his fiefs (essentially, in order to possess them, they would have to swear allegiance and enter into service to Alexius). He then tried to persuade Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the leaders of the First Crusade, to pledge allegiance to the Emperor; when Godfrey pointed out that Hugues was now basically a slave, Hugues said that they wouldn't be able to progress any further without his protection.
    • Later, he was sent back to Alexius to appeal for reinforcements to siege Jerusalem; Alexius was uninterested, so Hugues went back to France, where he was promptly hated for achieving basically nothing as a Crusader, and threatened with excommunication for his failure. Throughout all of this, Hugues was convinced he was a brilliant military leader.
  • Dan Bilzerian, son of jailed '80s corporate raider Paul Bilzerian, exposed himself as one of these. A washout from Navy SEAL school, he ran a popular Instagram feed showing off, in addition to things like sports cars and attractive women he was allegedly dating, his vast gun collection, with captions like "My biggest fear is that someone will break in and I won't be able to decide which of my guns to shoot them with." He might not have been joking. Caught in the middle of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history, he started running back to his house, ostensibly to pick the right gun out and go back to save the day, passing many mortally wounded victims along the way, only to stop at a police car when he realized the shooting was over. And then he posted a video of this to his feed.
  • Todd Rogers is the world's first professional videogame player, and used to hold many high-scores in videogames, most of them given to him in the 80s. He didn't have any sort of photo or video proof of these scores, but they were still accepted by the organization Twin Galaxies, a partner of the Guinness World Records. A lot of these records were either impossible, way higher than the second place, or would take days of constant play to achieve. He never managed to repeat his feats near cameras when asked. And his most infamous record is 5.51 in Dragster even though analysis of the code claims the lowest time possible is 5.57. He had fans that claimed anyone who questioned his records was just jealous, as well as people in Twin Galaxies making sure his records stayed valid. In 2018, all his records were removed and he was banned from Twin Galaxies. Here's a list of his suspicious records.
  • Neo-nazi Chris Cantwell appeared at the "Unite the Right" white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he gave media interviews bragging about how he's always armed and ready for a fight, dismissed all the violence at the event, and even seemed to be wishing for more. He's also previously been featured on The Colbert Show for his brave defense of freedom in Keane, NH, which consisted of him and his buddies harassing parking enforcement officers. Then he found out there was a warrant for his arrest and the video of his Inelegant Blubbering quickly went viral, gaining him the nickname "the Weeping Nazi".
  • A lot of young doctors in hospital, who have just started from university, are often stereotyped as this. They will talk about the years of education they've been through and how they'll keep calm and collected in an emergency. When said emergency happens, they conveniently remember they have to be somewhere else.
    "When the emergency buzzer goes off, clear a path for the new doctor, so he can run the other way."

Alternative Title(s): Boasting Soldier, Miles Glossorius