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Million to One Chance

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"A 10% chance is pretty unlikely, but everyone knows that a one-in-a-million chance is a sure thing!"

In layman's terms: if there's a million to one chance against something of vital importance happening, then it's that one time rather than the other nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine times. This is Truth in Television in a sense, that if an extremely improbable event occurs to someone, chances are that it's his story that's told. What the trope hinges on is the reality that each audience member is an individual, and, thus, their own "number one": undeniably, each audience member is one in an increasing number from eight billion, so, that single chance offers each of them the avenue to imbue it with themselves — "you are the single chance"; if the chance is missed, it can break catharsis for the viewer, as they may feel, in a sense, that they are being left behind.

This comes up most frequently when characters say Never Tell Me the Odds!, and occasionally when someone makes a few calculations. A good approximation of these odds is the chance of flipping a coin twenty times and getting heads every time.

It is still played straight, but it is also widely parodied.

Incidentally, in statistics, odds are defined as a ratio of the probability of an event happening to the probability of it not happening. Saying that the odds of something happening are "a million to one" is actually equivalent to saying that it's a million times more likely to happen than not. The correct expression for something extremely improbable would be a million to one odds against. Many examples omit that bit, but given the nature of this trope, they may not be entirely wrong.

A corollary of the Theory of Narrative Causality. May involve Finagle's Law, or a Coincidental Broadcast.

Not to be confused with One to Million to One, or the web game One Chance.

As a narrative trope, no real life examples.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dr. Akagi and her subordinates were fond of proclaiming that the chances of something necessary/spectacular would happen were zero-point-(Eleventy Zillion zeroes)-one percent; naturally, these things always happened.
  • Played straight in Mermaid Saga. However, in this case, the million to one chance of mermaid's flesh granting immortality (without the disturbing side effects) probably is really a million to one. Over the last eight hundred years, only four appear to have gained complete and uninhibited immortality, and a few dozen have attained some form of extended life but with body horror or insanity included.
  • GaoGaiGar actually lampshaded it with its famous catchphrase: "With courage, 1% becomes 100%!".
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the odds of success were once calculated to be 0%. Not 0% as in "so close to zero it might as well be zero", but flat-out impossible. The heroes make it a habit to defy the odds and succeed anyway. The main character also declares that if the odds of success are "nearly 0%", they might as well be 100%.
    "The chances of this operation succeeding were zero, but I see now that theoretical calculations are useless with you people."
  • A smattering of All There in the Manual makes this happen in Death Note: Tsugumi Ohba claims that any time L throws out a percentage chance of Light being Kira (normally 4 to 10 percent), it's really over 90%.
  • The premise of Case Closed lies in the Million To One Chance that a poisonous pill would shrink him into a 6-year-old body instead of killing him. Fortunately for him the creator of the drug was the other person to shrink, so that she could help him.
  • Exploited in every episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and all animes based on card games, for that matter: The Magic Poker Equation is in effect. Although technically, in most cases the chances of a player "miraculously" drawing the card he needs at the right moment (a "topdeck" as some players call it) is one in 40 or better (depending on how many cards are left in his deck, or better if there are multiple copies)), much better odds than a million to one.
  • Also happens near the end of Code Geass. For Lelouch and Suzaku to break through the shield of and thus board the Damocles, they have to fly through the opening in the shield made to fire F.L.E.I.J.A.s. In order to do that, they essentially have to disarm a fired F.L.E.I.J.A. using Nina's F.L.E.I.J.A. Eliminator, but that requires real-time environment conditions to be input by Lelouch for 19 seconds before detonation and the Eliminator has to hit within .04 seconds of detonation. Odds of success: outrageously low, but the definition of this trope can tell you what happened...
    • This was probably not used to show how miraculous the move was, but to show how skilled Lelouch was and how disciplined Suzaku was. The Million to One Chance bit probably failed to calculate that Suzaku would magically know the exact moment to throw the eliminator thanks to the Geass effect.
  • At the end of Rocket Girls, the main characters, falling from 3000 km above the Earth, are expected to disintegrate and burn during reentry. However, they figure they can skip over the top of the atmosphere to shed the excess momentum that threatens them, but that doesn't work when Akane faints from the G-forces; since she can't provide the timing for rocket burns they need, Yukari has to fire and time the burns by instinct. The result is this charred body of the Mangosteen's pod... but somehow their luck held up and they survived.
  • Averted with Kaiji; whenever something extremely unlikely happens, it's always due to cheating of some type. When not Kaiji doing so, he tends to blame himself for not having good enough luck!
  • Subverted in a chapter of Franken Fran. A Born Lucky serial killer dies to the astronomically high odds of being struck by lightning. It's implied that every time he survives something impossible, his odds of surviving in total go down, until they hit zero and the lightning strikes.
  • Subverted in Puella Magi Madoka Magica; Kyubey implies to Kyouko that it's theoretically possible to make witch!Sayaka human again, but extremely unlikely that it would work. Kyouko tries it anyway...and fails, because there's no indication that it is possible either. Kyubey was just using Exact Words to avoid saying that it's outright impossible. And then Double-Subverted in Puella Magi Kazumi Magica, where the backstory shows it was technically possible insofar as making a witch human again, but not through any method Kyoko could hope to implement on her own, had a very high failure rate, and even the "successful" result wouldn't have been truly "Sayaka".
  • Digimon Data Squad: The entire time the heroes are fighting Yggdrasil, the Computer God of the Digital World, it constantly calculates their chances of winning. "You're chances of winning are exceedingly close to zero." "I calculate a 0.000001% change of you succeeding." And so forth.
  • Naruto downplays this when Tsunade is about to perform a surgery on the paraplegic Lee. She bluntly states beforehand that the surgery will have 50% chance of killing him in the process, giving him a choice to preemptively quit being a ninja. Lee undergoes it anyway and it ends up becoming a success.
  • Brave Police J-Decker: Due to Deckerd's combination data having been corrupted from the nature of his Super A.I., it was revealed that if J-Decker and Duke Fire did the Fusion Dance to form Fire J-Decker, there was a high probability that one of them would completely lose his memory, with only a 0.002% chance of them both coming through it with their memories intact. Naturally, when they were forced to go through with it, they both had their memories intact.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superhero comics, one-in-a-million chance is code for 100% certainty.
  • In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, Gladstone Gander's luck usually beats all odds. Huey, Dewey and Louie even tried to use it against him in the Don Rosa story "Oolated Luck". Donald and Gladstone entered a raffle and Donald's nephews had one entry ticket with Donald's name and the others for Gladstone. Donald won the first prize (a trip in a cruise ship) and Gladstone won the Second Prize (a lifetime supply of oolated squigs). It turned out Gladstone was lucky for not winning the trip since the ship got stuck in an iceberg. The lucky bastard didn't seem to be concerned for his cousin) And one of the squigs had swallowed a diamond.

    Fan Works 
  • In Ponies After People, the number of people left behind is between 1/250,000 and 1/1,000,000 depending on the area. However, it is possible for small towns to have multiple ponies, or big cities to have none at all.
  • In the story Yet again, with a little extra help, during a swordsman tournament in the Land of Iron, Sasuke and Tenten are facing each other, and Naruto makes his bet. The two fight out to a tie, and Naruto won all the money on that fight.
    Scabbard: You flipped a coin when you placed bets on this fight didn't you.
    Naruto: Yeah, you got me.
    Scabbard: And it landed on its side... didn't it?
  • The Powers of Harmony: One of the abilities of the Element of Laughter is to invoke this trope to the bearer's advantage or that of their allies. Inversely, it can also be used to cause your enemies bad luck.
  • The odds might be better than a million to one in this example, but in the tournament finals of Yu-Gi-Oh The Thousand Year Door Redux, both Drake and Kyle are in a no-win situation. It became obvious days ago that this was Not Just a Tournament, and whoever wins the duel between them will duel one of the Queen's three Designated Victims, a situation which, judging by what happened in the first three duels of the semi-finals, will be bad for whoever wins their duel, and worse for whoever the winner duels next. But Kyle does have an idea, although he doesn't have much time to explain it to Drake:
    Drake: This better be a good plan, Kyle.
    Kyle: Actually, it's a stupid plan, As in, the type you try when you're desperate, and people tell you 'it would never work', but it's the only thing you can think of because you're in a pretty bad situation?
    Drake: Like the kind we're in now?
    Kyle: Exactly. Still, I seem to remember that when Kaiba gave Yugi that Fiend's Sanctuary card before his duel with Marik, he claimed it would improve Yugi's chances from 3% to 20%. Not the best improvement, but it was enough. So start hoping that slightly improving the odds in our favor will help me pull it off…
  • Experiments with the Zoolinef drug in Manehattan's Lone Guardian, prior to being used on an actual pony, gave every indication that it would work without fail. Juniper Leaf later admits that they didn't account for the one-in-a-million chance that it would fail, resulting in Gray's mind being tampered with instead of her body.
  • Mobile Haro SD Aerial: Following the duel between Earth House and Grassley House, Nuno reveals that Suletta asked him to place a small bet on the outcome, with odds explicitly being a million to one. Said outcome was Earth House defeating Grassley House without taking a single hit, which Suletta and Aerial pulled off, meaning that Earth House now has 100,000,000 million units in the bank.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Titan A.E., Cale Tucker space-floats around a docking bay, when his friend warns him against the chance of an actual docking ship. He responds with, "Coward! You know the odds of a ship docking are a thousand-to-one!" Once the Valkyrie shows up, Cale then turns around and utters the line, "...and that would be the one."
  • Played straight by Chicken Run in the spirit of Screw Destiny. Bunty tells Ginger that the chickens ever escaping Tweedy's Farm is a million to one chance, Ginger retorts "Then there's still a chance." Of course, even Ginger is only able to keep up the straight face until she's outside and alone, at which point she cries and rages angrily at the hopelessness of their situation. And there's the sound of far-off thunder or rather cannonfire...
  • The Adventures of Tintin (2011):
    Tintin: Bad news, Captain. We've only got one bullet.
    Haddock: And what's the good news?
    Tintin: We've got ONE bullet.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the original Ghostbusters movie, our heroes manage to stop Gozer by crossing the streams of their proton packs. Egon had earlier warned his comrades against "crossing the streams" on pain of being vaporized, but here states that there's "a very slim chance" they'll survive. Since they're the heroes, they do.
  • Played totally and completely straight in Baby Mama, where Tina Fey's chances of conceiving are a million to one. She goes out and gets a surrogate etc, but by the end of the movie, guess who's pregnant.
  • Subverted in Dumb and Dumber. When the woman Lloyd is in love with tells him their chances of getting together are one in a million, his response is "So you're telling me there's a chance? YES!" Later he's outraged to find she's married: "What was all that one in a million talk?"
  • Star Wars:
    • C3P0 does this many times in The Empire Strikes Back, sort of a Running Gag. Every time, the heroes seem able to beat the odds he gives them.
      "Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1!"
      "Never tell me the odds!"
    • "Great shot kid, that was one in a million!" Of course, it was really done using the Force, but then again, the Force can also steer destiny to make million-to-one chances succeed.
    • A weird, kind of reversednote  example appears with the "Holdo maneuver" in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. In the earlier movie, Vice Admiral Holdo does the maneuver, namely a devastatingly effective suicide attack against enemy spaceships by jumping with your ship into lightspeed while going right at them. It doesn't look remotely chancy, it looks like exactly what should happen if you do that. Only it raises Fridge Logic about why nobody ever does that before or since. This is Hand Waved in the latter movie by someone saying that the odds for it succeeding are a million to one. (There's also a brief scene suggesting someone did do it, but not at a plot-important point.)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: "Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?"
  • In Run Lola Run, Lola wins back-to-back spins at roulette on the number 20. Not exactly one in a million, but one in 1,369 — A 0.073% chance of happening. This film is an interesting case. Because multiple outcomes of the same situation are shown, they probably all happened. The other possibilities are just not shown.
  • The Gamers gives us a twenty-to-one chance - mainly on account of there being no one-million-sided dice.
    • In the sequel, a player once again insists on being allowed to attempt something that would only succeed on a roll of twenty. He rolls a one.
  • Lampshaded by Harry in When Harry Met Sally...:
    "It had to happen at some point. In a city of eight million people you're bound to run into your former wife."
  • In October Sky, combined with I Like Those Odds:
    O'Dell: God's honest truth, Homer. What are the chances... a bunch of kids from Coalwood... actually winning the national science fair?
    Homer: A million to one, O'Dell.
    O'Dell: That good? Well, why didn't you say so?
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce uses this to justify attacking Superman, claiming that even if there was a 1% chance that Superman could turn rogue, he has to take him down or there would be an even worse casualty number than the Battle of Metropolis.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): During the climax, Donatello remarks that they have a 0.00000000003% chance of stopping the spire on Sacks' tower from falling, and the toxin from contaminating a ten-block radius. Leonardo's response?
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange uses the Time Stone to view 14,000,605 possible futures in order to determine the best strategy for the upcoming fight with Thanos. Wanting to know what their chances are, Iron Man asks how many of those futures showed them winning. Strange replies, "One." Despite Thanos's seemingly complete victory, Strange's last words are to tell Iron Man that they are in fact still on the path to that one future where the heroes win.
  • This is a plot-point in Sunshine. The crew is perfectly aware that, once the Icarus II reaches the Sun's horizon, everything about the mission goes into the realm of the theoretical. Not even the computer can calculate the outcome. This causes them to make what turns out to be a fatally flawed decision when they discover that the first Icarus spacecraft (assumed destroyed) is still out there. They detour to investigate it, figuring that having a second payload can only increase their odds.
  • The Martian: Subverted. The team putting together Watney's care package need more time, so they opt to skip pre-flight checks on the rocket they're using, since they only detect errors 5% of the time. Sadly, 5% of the time is not none of the time, probability is a harsh, harsh mistress, and the rocket explodes shortly after launch.

  • At some point in Animorphs the reader may sit back and think, "Hey, wait a second. Yeerks are a race with insanely superior weapons. Not only that, but anyone can be a Controller. And this is a worldwide invasion. The heroes are six teenagers who live in a small town in California that can turn into animals? How can they stop the invasion? A bunch of animals couldn't beat the U.S. Army, never mind the Yeerks." This is lampshaded many, many times throughout the series, as the kids admit that at best all they do is slow down the Yeerks from time to time. Most of their battles end up as stalemates and they agree that they'll never really be able to beat the Yeerks, with their best chance for victory being to just hope the Andalites eventually show up. When that option stops being viable, they resort to increasingly risky strategies and eventually win, due in large part to the morphing technology being so dangerous and versatile. Rachel sums it up pretty well during David's betrayal when the kids are reflecting on how hard it is to kill an Animorph:
    Rachel: Just us. Just us against an enemy that could become any living thing. An enemy that could be anywhere, at any time. An owl in a tree, a spider in your house, a cat in the night, and then... Then, when you were unprepared, when you were vulnerable, a lion or a tiger or a bear.
    I was starting to see why Visser Three hated us so much.
  • A running theme in the Discworld novels.
    • Memorably invoked in the novel Guards! Guards!. The men of the City Watch are camped out on a rooftop to try to bring down a dragon by shooting it in its "voolnerables." Problem is, they're all Genre Savvy about it, and after considering the situation - their archer used to win prizes for his marksmanship, he's using his lucky arrow, a dragon's "voolnerables" might be quite big - they think that it might not be a million-to-one-chance of success, but could be a near-certainty, or some awkward number like 999,943-to-one. So they end up trying to handicap their bowman by blindfolding him, putting soot on his face, and making him stand facing the wrong way on one leg while singing the Hedgehog Song, but still end up missing the shot. Then the dragon retaliates by flaming the building they are standing on. Which is a distillery. Luckily, as the narration points out, the odds of the Watch surviving a jump from the (exploding) roof into a nearby pond do happen to be exactly a-million-to-one. Later we learn their odds of hitting the dragon's "voolnerables" were more like zero - it was female.
    • In the very next book Eric, Death informs the mages that Rincewind has exactly one chance in a million of returning from the Dungeon Dimensions. At this stage, the book doesn't even bother to remind the reader of the rule. Mentioning the odds here also refreshes and emphasizes Rincewind's Action Survivor nature as well as alluding to the fact he's due to return.
    • Equal Rites, the third book in the series, is the first one to state that "one-in-a-million chances crop up nine times out of ten", because of narrativium. This phrase itself crops up again in many future Discworld novels.
    • Viciously questioned in The Last Hero by Cohen, one of the last surviving barbarian heroes. When he meets the Lady, he tears into her about how many of his fellow heroes died due to taking million-to-one chances that failed them. As he points out, she's the million-to-one chance, and also all the chances of dying. As such, Cohen has no respect whatsoever for her.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (book, radio show, tv show, movie, etc.), the spaceship "Heart of Gold" has an Infinite Improbability Drive which causes Million to One Chance events to occur all the time.
    • Not just Million to One, infinity to one, hence the name of the drive. Million to One Chance events are generated by much simpler (finite) improbability generators, and it is by using one of these that the Infinite Improbability Drive was brought into existence; since such a device is a "virtual impossibility" but not completely impossible, its existence was a finite, calculable probability. The man who programmed the computers to calculate the precise probability of the Drive's potential existence wound up discovering the exact scientific principles behind the Drive in his results. And then got lynched by the various eminent physicists who'd tried to create it by more conventional means for being a smartass.
    • In the Hitchhiker's guide universe, most probabilities are distinct (i.e. rarely do two highly improbable events have the same probability) which is why it's possible to specify the event you want to occur using a finite/infinite improbability drive. You induce all events with that probability, but usually there's only one or the side-effects of the others are trivial or at least benign. What's even more mindboggling is that the probability that a particularly notable improbable event will have a probability whose digits are particularly notable such as Ford and Arthur being rescued / 1 over 2 to the phone number of the party where Arthur first met Trillian is itself a number which can be plugged into the drive.
    • In addition, any event that is infinitely improbable is most likely to instantly happen as soon as the field is turned on.
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! consciously exploits this. He usually justifies doing so in the narrative by saying that a Million To One Chance is better than no chance at all in those situations, which is what he would have if he didn't take the risk.
  • Subverted viciously in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Book of the War, where the Remote, a race whose hat is being a living receiver for mass media, have been primed for battle by being exposed to endless transmissions glorifying battle in an effort to make them spontaneous and unpredictable. What the architects of this plan didn't realize was that the transmissions were so formulaic and full of cliches that it had the exact opposite effect. As a consequence, the Remote's first assault had the entire army take the Million to One Shot against the Evil Tower of Ominousness.... and get mowed down by sniper fire. Also an interesting case of Death by Genre Savviness.
  • From Bridge of Birds:
    The gods will be forbidden to help you, and none but a mortal can restore you to heaven, and at a conservative estimate the odds against somebody pulling off a trick like that are one in ten thousand billion trillion.
    • Of course, it happens by the end of the book. It turns out the Jade Emperor is very good at cheating.
  • In Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy books, heroine Phèdre nó Delaunay is very frequently told (or admits herself) that her plans are madness and suicide. Yet, with the exception of a few Unwitting Pawn moments, they always work.
  • Played straight as an arrow in "Day of the Ants". The one ant that was carrying a message from the humans trapped under the colony in the mad scientist's lair finds its way to the protagonist, who happens to be the cousin of one of the trapped human. The friend who was with her lampshades this by saying that even if it's a one to a million possibility, there's still one chance of it happening.
  • Lucifer's Hammer: Odds of the Hamner-Brown comet hitting the earth start out at a zillion to one, then they're a million to one, then they're a thousand to one, and then Oh, Crap!!
  • Death Lands. In "Crater Lake" Finnigan faces off with a sec man holding a laser pistol that's so unreliable it only fires one time out of every hundred. This makes Finnigan cocky. And rather gruesomely dead.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there are only five Golden Tickets in the entire world to be found amongst the millions upon millions of Wonka Bars on store shelves. People with the means to buy many candy bars per day still don't have a guaranteed shot at finding one, so Charlie Bucket, whose family is so poor that a bar of chocolate is a once-a-year birthday treat for him, seems to have no chance at all. Ultimately, he gets four chances at finding a ticket, and the fourth time is the charm — on the day before the tour to be held, no less. This is such a good example of this trope that more recent adaptations tend to lampshade/play with it, as in the 2013 musical — Willy Wonka, while getting acquainted with the tour group, asks Charlie "Aren't you the boy who got his ticket at the very last moment? Don't leave it so late next time." Taken even further in the first movie adaptation since Charlie thinks the last Golden Ticket had already been found when he bought his two bars. The moment he starts unwrapping his second bar, a news broadcast reveals that the last ticket was a forgery. The only reason he could even afford the chocolate bar with the ticket was because he just happened to find a discarded fifty-pence/dollar bill (practically a fortune to Charlie due to his family's poverty) on the street.
  • This comes up a lot in The Affix because the titular gem is a causality warper and it's growing in power. One of the weirdest cases is when it makes all six phones in a room ring simultaneously, with six completely different callers with totally unrelated reasons for calling.
  • Worm: The audience has known for a while that a "world-ending" event is coming. The heroes have spent years doing everything they can to avert it, but a precognitive parahuman keeps noting an increasingly lower chance of preventing it. When the critical moment comes, the last estimation she gives is a mere 3% chance of stopping the end of the world. What happens? The heroes fail. They do not hit that 3%. A few days later somewhere around 15 billion people are dead (the cataclysm hit multiple parallel realities, not just the Earth the characters live on).
  • In the beginning of Darth Bane: The Path of Destruction, Bane plays a card game and gets an extremely unlikely hand twice in the same game. Since this kicks off his history-altering path, it's probably due to the influence of the Force.
  • The story of The Hunger Games is started with this. Prim is selected to be the female tribute of District 12 over any other older girls who have more tickets submitted, on her first day of Reaping, when she doesn't pick Tesserae so she doesn't have to insert additional tickets. There is literally just one ticket with Prim's name on it in a container full of other names, some duplicates of each other, yet she is selected anyway. Katniss, who herself has 20 tickets by virtue of picking Tesseare for the whole family for five years straight, even lampshades this bitterly after the Reaping: why it has to be Prim?
  • On the first page of The War of the Worlds Ogilvy asserts that “The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a million to one”. Most of the book is about the Martians invading Earth. Given the age of the book it is plausibly the Trope Namer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Played for Laughs in the episode "Quarantine" with the luck virus. Lister, Cat, and Kryten travel to a certain planet to investigate the death of a bacteriologist. While there, Lister is injected with the virus, which allows him to pick all the aces out of a deck of cards. He also tries to hit a dartboard's bullseye while throwing over his shoulder, but the virus wears off and he instead hits the center of Kryten's forehead. In the climax of the episode, Rimmer goes insane and locks the three in quarantine, slowly draining out the oxygen. Due to the virus however, Lister successfully guesses the code to unlock the door, then manages to trip over the necessary components to cure the insanity while running backwards down a hallway.
    • Lister, in another episode: "The chances of it happening are one in..." [big explosion] ""
  • Doctor Who
  • The Seinfeld episode "The Fusilli Jerry" has Kramer marvelling at stories told by proctologists, which all end with the statement "It was a million to one shot, doc. Million to one," since none of their patients want to admit they stuck something up there on purpose. At the end of the episode, Frank is the victim of such a million to one shot for real, falling on the titular Fusilli Jerry (a sculpture of Jerry that Kramer had made out of fusilli pasta). The final line of the episode (before The Tag) is Frank uttering the same statement.
  • Tomica Hero Rescue Force did this, When the Big Bad (Baatsu) is unhurt by the "Great God Striker" "Super Final Rescue" attack which cannot be used again Hikaru is told that there is a "Less than 0.1 percent chance of victory" instead of giving up he burrows into Baatsu's head and blows him apart from the inside delivering the line:
    Hikaru: Your calculations were wrong to begin with! Humans have hearts for helping those in need! With that even 0.1 can be changed into 100 or 1000!
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Captain James T. Kirk is a master at this — Spock repeatedly computes incredibly long odds for a successful execution of whatever Kirk's latest daring plan is, often citing denominators in the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, and Kirk almost always wins. Eventually, they start lampshading this.
    • In "The Naked Time", they have to implode the anti-matter engines to prevent themselves from crashing into a planet that is itself imploding. The procedure has never been done before: Spock and Scotty have only minutes to prep the engines, and they only have one shot to get it right. Kirk insists, "We've got to take that 10,000 to 1 chance!" They do. It works.
    • An inversion of sorts occurs in "The Devil in the Dark", when Spock calculates extremely low odds that both he and Kirk would be killed by the Monster of the Week, and (unsurprisingly) neither one dies. (Spock's point is raised after Kirk suggests he stay out of the hunt for the monster — ostensibly for his own safety, but really out of concern about Spock's science-minded pacifistic approach.)
    • A rare aversion is in "Errand of Mercy". Kirk decides to break into the Klingon headquarters and kidnap the commander. Spock calculates very long odds against success. They get as far as the commander's office... and are captured.note  Kirk and Spock are only saved by the Organian Deus ex Machina.
  • In Covert Affairs at the end of season 1, Annie is undercover in London and needs to lose a lot of money, in a non-suspicious way, so that she will not be allowed to the leave the country. She loses all her money playing craps, then takes out a loan for a few thousand dollars, and bets it all on snake eyes -which is very risky. She acts confident that she'll win, but is secretly hoping she'll lose. The roll comes up snake eyes. She cheers, but internally she's freaking out because the whole point was to rack up massive debts. She bets it all on snake eyes again, and his time, she loses.
  • This sometimes makes the difference on MythBusters when a myth has to be busted. While the possibility that an occurrence could happen, the myth's conditions are so difficult to replicate beyond pure fluke that the myth has to be busted (usually when dealing with myths that question the practicality of some far-fetched idea).
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981), Arthur and Ford are rescued by the Heart of Gold seconds before they would have died after being ejected from a Vogon ship. Arthur states that the chances against it were astronomical after Ford tries to act as if he was counting on it as a certainty. Because Arthur had lived his entire life on Earth and Ford had been stuck there for over a decade, the ensuing weirdness such as Ford turning into a penguin and an infinite number of monkeys with a revised script for Hamlet didn't tip them off to the fact that they had an advantage in the form of the Infinite Improbability Drive.
  • Not at all rare in the Stargate-verse, but a particularly well-lampshaded version happens in Stargate Atlantis when Rodney and Jeannie almost destroy an alternate universe. The goal is to draw energy from a parallel universe but the process would create dangerous exotic particles in the alternate reality. Carter assure them this won't be an issue, though, since "the odds of us choosing at random one that’s inhabited are astronomically slim." Surprise, surprise: they choose an inhabited one. And not just any inhabited universe, but one similar enough to their own that everyone in the main cast has counterparts there.
  • In an episode of Gilligan's Island, a radioative meteorite falls on the island, and the crew is in danger of the radiation killing them. They learn of an incoming storm, and the Professor gets the idea of trying to put a lightning rod on it and hope lightning strikes it, but admits the chance is a million to one. When the Skipper asks what could be worse than that, Gilligan suggests, "A million to none?" Realizing that he has a point (slim chance is better than no chance) they try it, and it works.
  • Invoked in Castle when Beckett was trapped on a pressure-sensitive bomb;
    Beckett: Castle, please, you have to leave me, there's no reason for both of us to die.
    Castle: Oh, I didn't come here to die, I came here to defuse the bomb. There's still a chance.
    Beckett: Yes, a one-in-one-hundred-thousand chance!
    Castle: Great, while there's still a chance, I'm not giving up.
  • Played for Drama in, of all things, Hannah Montana. When Miley needs surgery done on her vocal cords and she's worried about the surgery being botched, ending her career. The doctor reassures her that the likelihood is one in a million. Considering that's what Miley was told her chances at stardom was, she's even more worried because of her track record for million-to-one chances. However the surgery goes off fine.
  • Subverted in Parks and Recreation in "Win, Lose, or Draw," the climax of season five's election arc. Throughout the episode, there are several hints that the end result will be an exact tie between Leslie and Bobby Newportnote —not one in a million, but astoundingly improbable, in an election with several candidates and many thousands of voters. At first, it appears that Leslie has lost by twenty-two votes, but a recount proves that she actually won by the same number.
  • In Mork & Mindy, the music store's landlord tries to get Fred to move out so he (the landlord) can make more money. When said landlord suffers a fatal heart attack in the store, Fred and Mindy talk up the man to his grieving widow. Mork, believing their platitudes, goes into the back room and "jumps starts" the man. Later, Fred tries to wrap his head around what happened:
    Fred: You can do that? A million to one shot?"
    Mork: No, a billion to one!


    Myth & Religion 
  • In the story of Gideon in the biblical Book of Judges, God instructs Gideon to reduce his army to only 300 men and arm them only with torches and pitchers, just so it would be even more obvious that the battle was won thanks to divine intervention.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a 1963 Peanuts comic strip, Schroeder says the odds of him marrying Lucy are a googol (10^100) to one. She asks how much that is and the comic actually shows one followed by a hundred zeroes. It's pretty much a Wall of Text.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This trope is very common among the top babyfaces in Professonal Wrestling. So common, in fact, that the fans became very Genre Savvy when WWE attempted to invoke this trope on John Cena. Thanks to this, his already simmering and vocal Hatedom just got louder, citing his status as an Invincible Hero, and each pay per view ended up as a monthly "pay to watch John Cena overcome impossible odds once again" event to them. The culmination was at 2006's New Year's Revolution pay per view, where Cena was the first in the Elimination Chamber, surviving through 5 men while having about 90% of the fans in attendance against him. The crowd seemed ready to riot. Then Edge, one of the most hated men in the company at that time, backdoored his way into a match right after this and subverted this trope, defeating Cena to win his title despite being fresh and Cena having just fought through five men in a steel cage. The crowd was so happy to see this subverted that Edge became one of the biggest stars in the company almost overnight. Cena's hatedom has since cooled down when WWE downplayed him being a one-man odds beating machine.
  • Of course, John Cena is far from the worst offender of invoking this trope. Hulk Hogan in WCW was doing this to such a degree that C-3PO's head would explode trying to calculate the odds. The 1996 Uncensored PPV had Hulk Hogan team up with his then buddy Randy Savage to take on the Alliance to End Hulkamania. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Meng, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, Kevin Sullivan, Z-Gangsta (Zeus), and The Ultimate Solution. That's right, an 8 on 2 advantage, in a triple-decker steel cage! Hogan wins.

    Video Games 
  • In Half-Life, Gordon is cheerfully reminded by his fellow scientists that Explosive Overclocking of their Applied Phlebotinum is perfectly okay, because a "resonance cascade scenario is extremely unlikely". They also assure you that "nothing will go wrong"...
  • Kyosuke Nanbu from Super Robot Wars loves this trope. After all, his catchphrase is "I don't mind betting on the tough odds!"
  • Mario Party 5: This game introduces the Miracle Capsule, which gives all the Stars of the player in first place to the player in last place. However, the huge catch is that this action (which is the the most powerful single action in the series' history) requires one player to have THREE Miracle Capsules in their inventory to activate and the odds of getting even just one Miracle Capsule are very low. To give you an idea of how bad the odds are, most 50-Turn games will only see two Miracle Capsules appear at most.
  • Played with in Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 1, where the chance of a summon working is stated as 1 in millions (if not billions), but it's really more like 1 in 4.
  • The final battle of Star Fox: Assault has the final boss mention a zero chance of victory for the protagonists. It is entirely possible to win the battle; however, the announcement of the zero chance is in fact an attempted Mind Screw by the Big Bad.
  • In Portal 2, GLaDOS gives this evaluation of the player character's chances of winning the final battle:
    GLaDOS: I'll be honest, the odds are a million to one, and that's with some generous rounding. But if we're going to explode, let's at least explode with some dignity!
  • In Discworld, Rincewind has to collect a number of Plot Coupons (tattoo, sword that goes ting, secret identity, camouflage...), but not before determining, with the aid of Nobby, which ones would land his chance of success at exactly a million to one.
  • Lampshaded in Amakusa Shirou's second interlude in Fate/Grand Order as he confidently declares he is "ninety-nine point nine percent sure to win!", with the protagonist immediately declaring he has doomed them. He gets his comeuppance when the protagonist tells the story about it the next day and it becomes a fad, and is mortified over how it sounds coming from somebody else.
    Osakabehime: I'm still amazed you actually won after saying something like that. I mean, that kind of line is just begging for dramatic irony to come and smack you down!
  • In Disco Elysium, Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi's eyesight is so terrible that he can barely hit a stationary target a couple meters away with his sidearm. During the climatic Tribunal event, he manages to shoot the most heavily-armored of the mercenaries right in his only weak point — the eyeslits of his helmet — from a much further distance, with only a fraction of a second to aim. The Player Character's inner monologue notes that landing that shot in his condition was an honest-to-god miracle.

    Visual Novels 
  • When They Cry:
    • A recurring theme in The 'Verse. In Umineko: When They Cry, Kinzo relies on a huge gamble involving the epitaph to give Yasu the headship and get them to forgive him as evidenced by the quote on top of the chapel: "You will only be blessed at a probability of a quadrillion to one." In the same EP, Bernkastel tells Lion and Will that the chances of Lion existing in a fragment is about 1 out of 2,578,917. And later on, cruelly reveals that in all those fragments, Beatrice/Lion suffers the same dead-end fate. Not that it stopped either Will or Lion.
    • Higurashi: When They Cry has its entire premise based around this. It's about Rika living through every possible world in a Ground Hog Day Loop, to try to find the one world where she doesn't get horribly killed.
  • Zero Time Dilemma has a scenario that puts several main characters in a room in which the "puzzle" is that they will soon be killed by automated machine guns unless they roll 6-6-6 on a set of three dice on the first try. One out of 216 isn't quite as unlikely as one in a million, but it's still pretty bad. So what do you do? There is no clever solution to the puzzle; you just have to roll the dice. The characters will indeed get killed the first time you try, but if you replay the scenario, they survive by rolling 666 through sheer luck.

    Web Animation 
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device Special 6: Tabletop Adventures, the characters play a Tabletop Roleplaying Game. Naturally, the Player Characters go Off the Rails, ending up in a battle against a way-too-powerful enemy called the Gorger-Lord. One of them tries to attack him, but the Game Master informs him that the Gorger-Lord has a Toughness of 70 — meaning he ignores that much damage from every attack. Since the player character's attack only does damage based on the throw of a ten-sided die plus three, there's no way he can harm the Gorger-Lord. Except, of course, that when you throw a 10, you can throw again for more damage. Still, it would take getting a 10 seven times in a row to get more than 70 damage. Though these numbers are not pointed out in the story, the possibility of that happening is one out of ten multiplied by one out of ten etc. seven times — one out of 10,000,000. So naturally the player rolls a 10 eleven times (chance one in 100,000,000,000).
  • The video where a guy playing Team Fortress 2 gets killed though a exploit involving a tiny unnoticeable crack in the wall. While he's looking for the crack in the wall a week or so later, the same guy that did that to him randomly joins the game and runs into the correct spot (which should be mentioned needs to be near pixel perfect) seconds after the guy finds the crack for the first time, allowing him to get revenge by killing him in the same exact manner. Seriously... What Are The Odds!?

  • In El Goonish Shive, Arthur is quick to point out that a seven-million-to-one chance of a given person being born a seer isn't low enough to assume the number of seers that exist is negligible when there are seven billion people on earth.
  • Subversion in Girl Genius:
    Abner: There's a million reasons why that is not going to work.
    Dimo: [referring to himself, Maxim, and Oggie] Dun vorry. Dere's three reasonz it iz.
  • In Homestuck, Vriska's entire plan to take out Jack Noir relies on rolling the best possible result on eight magical eight-sided dice (a 16,777,216 to 1 chance), unleashing their ultimate magical attack. It would have worked — because she'd been "stealing ALL of the luck" from her entire team.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Subverted and lampshaded in strip #454, when Haley relies on her Genre Savviness a bit too much.
      Durkon: Lass, it were an awful difficult shot.
      Haley: Exactly! It was totally dramatic! How did I miss?
    • Spoofed and lampshaded again in #584. Being even more Genre Savvy than the rest of the group (Durkon's response in #454 is "I think maybe ye been spendin' too much time wit Elan"), Elan realizes that a 10% chance of an imp summoning a demonic ally isn't anything to worry about, but a million-to-one chance of the imp summoning a monster that could actually kill them is a sure thing. This results in one of the page quotes.
      Vaarsuvius: [sigh] And once again, Probability proves itself willing to sneak into a back alley and service Drama as would a copper-piece harlot.
  • Justified in Schlock Mercenary when Gav goes through a wormgate and immediately dies at the hands of a hostile guard that he had sent through the wormgate before. And meets up with his scientist buddies out of harm's way. Turns out that Gav went through the wormgate when it was set to send duplicates to all the other wormgates — meaning that Gav hit both those million-to-one shots by simply playing the odds 950 million times.
    Aylee Bot: There are now 950 million of you. According to the latest available galactic census data, blue-haired, Caucasian human males are now the largest single sapient ethnicity in the galaxy. You outnumber several entire sapient species. You are no longer merely human. You have become your own, weird demographic.
  • In We're Misguided, an experimental billion-sided die is unveiled. Rolling it is not a good idea.
    Minty Fool: Finally gamers will be able to calculate even the slimmest odds.
    Miss Guided: Like their chances of ever finding dates?
  • In The Water Phoenix King, this is actually used as a THREAT. Anthem points out that even though she only has a one in twenty chance of killing Demon-Dragon Darumatha, this is still a one in twenty chance that Darumatha permanently dies because she wanted to swat a fly and had little else to gain. This is actually enough to make the demon-dragon concede.
  • Apricot Cookie(s)!: Double Subverted in chapter 4's raffle. At first it seems that Apricot didn't win the raffle, but then it turns out that they just said her name wrong.

    Web Videos 
  • In TableTop, The odds of Ryan Higa's feat of rolling ten brains on his first turn in Zombie Dice approach infinity. Wil Wheaton speculates that, in order to balance his luck out, somewhere in the universe a planet spontaneously imploded.
  • Some of Chuggaaconroy's victories throughout his Pokémon LPs definitely count:
    • Finding and catching a shiny Koffing.note 
    • Catching Groudon in a freaking Nest Ball. His reaction certainly says so as well.
      • Likewise, the capture of Latias from the same LP. Given the very improbable conditions at the time (a level 50 Pokémon at full health, also with a Nest Ball), his odds were just 0.4%.
  • When the Game Grumps played the Playstation 2 Wheel of Fortune game, Danny landed on "Lose a Turn" four times in a row. As one comment points out:
    Supermutant6112: Alright, there are 24 spaces on the board. Every single turn, there is a 1 in 24 chance of landing on the "Lose a turn" spot. This means that Danny had a (1/24)^4 chance of getting FOUR turns lost. That is one in three-hundred-thirty-three-thousand-seven-hundred-seventy-six, or, to put it in simpler terms, three in a million.
  • During a 2021 Fortune Cookie stream, ProtonJon rolled the same game twice in a row (with a safeguard message noting how lucky that was to roll the same game in a regular cookie poll). This has happened before, but it was when Jon had a fraction of the games he does now (which is still a rather large collection).

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: In "Grounder the Genius", Dr. Robotnik researches a program designed to make him a thousand times smarter so he can download it onto a microchip and have enough knowledge to successfully rule all of Mobius. This program has a one-in-a-million chance of successfully being created. Unfortunately for Robotnik, his program gets stolen by Hacker, an adolescent mole, who downloads it onto a microchip of his own. When Robotnik tries to recreate the program, his computer informs him that he'd be once again subject to that probability if he were to do that.
  • Adventure Time: In "The Light Cloud", Minerva tells Finn, her son, that he and Jake have a 0.00001% of making it past the gargantuan mechanical automaton that guards Founders' Island, so he should just stay with her, forever. At the end of the episode, they do make it past the guardian, although they have Susan, Frieda, and Minerva's help to distract and deactivate the robot before it can kill them.
  • Inverted in an episode of Dynomutt, Dog Wonder. Dynomutt is reprogrammed for evil and given the task of killing his master, Blue Falcon. Falcon, knowing Dynomutt's tendencies all too well, announces that the odds are a million to one... in his favor. (And yes, the odds do hold up this time.)
  • Played straight in Thunderbirds, of course. "That thing [aircraft heading towards the tower they're in] is never going to hit us! It's a million to one chance!" Guess what happens. Go on.
    • Subverted in the first episode when the authorities try a desperate plan to board a plane in mid-air and the chances are explicitly described as a one in a million chance. As it happens, it doesn't work.
  • In the Freakazoid! 2-part Origins Episode “The Chip”, Roddy Macstew discovers the flaw in the Pinnacle Chip, and after explaining that it’s activated by entering an exact sequence of keys followed by hitting the “delete” key, he calculates the odds of this happening at 450 million to one. The very next day, after Dexter Douglas installs the Pinnacle Chip he got as a Christmas present into his computer, his pet cat Mr. Chubbikins walks across his keyboard while chasing a moth, entering the very sequence of keys Roddy had described. And once Dexter hit “delete”, he was zapped into cyberspace and absorbed all of the knowledge of the internet, becoming that 1 in 450 million; Freakazoid.
  • Futurama:
    • It hangs a lampshade on it when Fry tries to use the Earth's most powerful radio telescope to find Bender somewhere in the universe. After spending a few days searching, Leela notes that even if he spends his whole life looking for Bender, he'll have searched less than a ten-thousandth of the universe. As he gives up, he spins the viewfinder aimlessly and says "I wish I had Bender back!" - which just happens to reach the ears of a God-like being that is conversing with Bender, and promptly sends him back to Earth. Leela's comment on this is priceless:
      Leela: This is, by a wide margin, the least likely thing that has ever happened!
    • Futurama has another brush with odds when Bender becomes an Ultimate Robot Fighter. After his manager notes that his antics are getting stale, he is pitted against 500-ton Destructor while wearing a tutu. The announcers note that the odds on Bender are infinitely low:
      Rich Little: The Vegas odds tonight stand at an unprecedented 1000:0. A bet of zero dollars on Bender pays $1000 if he wins. Still, very few takers.
      George Foreman: It's not-not a smart bet.
    • It ends up being subverted as Bender loses when Destructor falls on him.
    • In another extreme subversion, Kif tells Zapp Brannigan that at present speed, there is a one hundred percent chance of the ship being sliced in half. Brannigan says to maintain present speed, and the ship is sliced in half, losing all crew.

Alternative Title(s): One In A Million Chance