Han Solo: Never tell me the odds!
A character is told by The Smart Guy or Straw Vulcan that If His Calculations Are Correct then it's a Million to One Chance of them succeeding and/or surviving. Naturally, the Determinator presses on anyway. Naturally, he succeeds, proving statistical analysis to be useless.
And yes, no matter what, the moment ridiculous odds are mentioned, the probability of failure approaches zero (mostly due to the Million to One Chance).
- Code Geass:
- The penultimate episode has a countermeasure for the FLEIJA superweapon; however, in order to work properly the user needs to input critical information 19 seconds before the explosion, and activated, the window of opportunity is only four-hundredths of a second. Lelouch and Suzaku, working together, manage to pull it off.
- In episode 2 Cecile says to Suzaku that "It's possible, but the chances are close to zero." In one of the previous scenes he asked Cecile if his friend Lelouch can be alive. Unsurprisingly it turns out that he is alive and leads terrorist force against Britanian army.
- Inverted in an episode of Dai-Guard: the Humongous Mecha's primary weapon is damaged. When it goes back into combat with a backup, one pilot asks their chances of winning. The response: "You'll fight much better if you don't know."
- Inverted in Eyeshield 21, where not only does everyone want to know the odds, at one point Hiruma reminds the team that 99% chance of winning is still 1% chance of losing.
- Although Hiruma will take the chance of winning if it is anything more than 0% (and he rarely says the odds are 0%)
- GaoGaiGar does this several times. "With courage, 1% becomes 100%!"
- Averted in Kaiji, which is about gambling — the path to success is to find a strategy or cheat that leaves as little as possible to chance. In the first season finale, Kaiji's rigged lottery fails and he panics, taking a blind chance for the first time and missing an opening purposefully left him by the Big Bad. He suffers a humiliating defeat.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Misato ignores Ritsuko's estimations of the probability of success catching the tenth angel being 0.0000001% (one in a billion). Once you know more about the EVA-01, the odds may have been way higher in the first place...
- The operations against Ramiel and Sahaquiel have a higher probability of success (still only a small fraction of a percent), which makes you wonder whether Ritsuko and the Magi supercomputers are cooking up numbers out of thin air.
- Rebuild of Evangelion has Misato defying impossible odds practically Once an Episode.
- One Piece: When Kid, Killer, Apoo, and Hawkins are ambushed by Kaido (because Apoo was already one of Kaido's underlings and had tricked the others into a meeting) who gives them an ultimatum: submit to him, or die. Hawkins used his clairvoyance to see they would have a 0% chance of survival if they fought back or attempted to flee, and a 40% chance of survival if he surrendered. While he gave up, Kid and Killer refused to submit despite the impossible odds and fought Kaido until they couldn't stand anymore. Nonetheless, they survived, if only because Kaido admired their tenacity and planned to torture them until they changed their minds or died.
- In the first arc of Slayers Lina expresses a logical explanation for this trope: If you dwell on the fact that you only have a Million to One Chance, you'll go in expecting to fail, which guarantees that you will.
- Also happens enough times in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. When anti-spiral Nia tells Simon that the probability of success is less than one percent, Simon says that as long as it is not zero, it's as good as 100%. Lampshaded and taken Beyond the Impossible when the Dai-Gurren Dan is faced with an actual zero percent chance. As Lordgenome's head states: "This operation had a zero percent chance of succeeding, but it seems that theoretical calculations are pointless with you."
- Dr. Ichigaki in YuYu Hakusho
- In the two-part episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL where Yuma duels Charlie McCoy, Charlie's Number gives him unearthly luck, enabling him to roll a six on his gamble-cards every time. Astral - who seems to have incredible skills with mathematics - keeps calculating how unlikely the odds of are of so many lucky rolls, and it gets annoying until it reaches the Annoying Video Game Helper level.
- Said word for word by Naruto in Team 8 about passing the chuunin exams.
- Apollo 13: When President Nixon starts asking for odds on the astronauts' safe return, Gene Kranz simply says, "We're not losing those men!" Inverted, in that he already knows the odds, but refuses to give them out.
- Barbarella. Barbarella's spaceship is damaged in a space hurricane. The computer tells her that chances of survival are 0 point 00000h..0h...0h...0hhhhh.... Our heroine, of course, survives unharmed.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Before the Battle of Beruna in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a Narnian soldier informs Peter and his centaur general Oreius that the enemy has greater numbers.
Oreius: Numbers do not win a battle.
Peter: No... but I bet they help.
- In Interstellar, Cooper tries to dock the shuttle with the out of control spinning main vessel, in probably the most intense action scene in the whole movie.
CASE: It is not possible.
Cooper: No. It's necessary.
- I, Robot has the premise of Will Smith as a robot-hating cop, due to a traffic accident in which a robot chose to save him instead of a small girl, simply because his chances of survival were better.note In a flashback, Smith's character can be seen begging the NS-4 to save the girl instead of him.
Spooner: That girl was somebody's baby. 11% was more than enough. A human being would've known that.
- Iron Man features this exchange between Tony and his onboard AI during the final fight:
Tony: Take me to maximum altitude.
JARVIS: With only 15% power, the odds of reaching that altitude are—
Tony: I know the math! Do it!
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, when Aragorn suggests that Gondor march against Mordor as a diversion, Gimli comments, "Certainty of death, small chance of success... What are we waiting for?" On the other hand, Gimli is almost definitely well-aware of their history of not only surviving such odds, but winning outright, so he may just be working off a different set of statistics.
- This exchange between Spock and Kirk in Star Trek (2009):
Spock: Jim... the statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than 4.3%.
Kirk: It'll work.
Spock: In the event that I do not return, please tell Lieutenant Uhura...
Kirk: Spock. It'll work.
- Star Wars:
- The Empire Strikes Back is the Trope Namer here, although it happens elsewhere in the Star Wars works.
- Rogue One. K-2SO is always able to provide the unfavorable odds. Unlike 3PO, he's able to understand people don't want to hear them.
K-2SO: Would you like to know the probability of her using it against you? [referring to a blaster Jyn has]
[Cassian just looks at K-2SO]
K-2SO: It's high.
Cassian Andor: Let's get going.
K-2SO: It's very high.
- Because Discworld runs on the Theory of Narrative Causality, it's a universal law that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.
- In Guards! Guards!, the characters note that saying "It's a million to one chance but it just might work" practically guarantees success. Needless to say, this leads to the comic relief team engaging in a painstaking process of rebalancing their odds of success to be EXACTLY one in a million. By the time they're done, the archer who's supposed to hit the dragon's weak point as it flies overhead has been handicapped to truly amazing levels. He then misses, naturally.
- In Equal Rites, Esk tries a feat of magic which, if she'd actually studied magic, she'd know is impossible. As she hasn't and doesn't, she succeeds. (It does have consequences later, though.)
- Star Wars Legends:
- Rogue Squadron (mostly in the X-Wing novels, but also everywhere else) succeeds in so many "impossible" and "one-in-a-million" missions that their unofficial motto is, "Impossible is our stock in trade". Given that they were founded by the only two X-Wing pilots to survive the first Death Star...
- In fact, disdain for the odds practically becomes Corellia's hat: Han Solo, Wedge Antilles, and Corran Horn all explain their Never Tell Me the Odds! styles with "I'm Corellian." Though Wedge, at least, does look at the odds and try to compensate for them, and Corran is annoyed that Han's managed to reinforce that hat to the point where Corellians are commonly seen as reckless gamblers.
- In Isard's Revenge, it's revealed that this has even rubbed off on Wedge's astromech droid, who considers calculation of odds to be a waste of its valuable microprocessor time. Ironically, Corran's own droid "Whistler" (which was built and programmed on Corellia), is the one who received this response from Wedge's droid.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy parodies this with the Heart of Gold that's essentially powered by extremely slim odds of something happening.
- In Towers of Midnight Birgette tells Mat that the odds of getting back from the Tower of Ghenji are one in a thousand. Mat responds by taking out ten coins and predicting that when he throws them every single one will land heads up (1/1024 chance if you were wondering). They do, and Mat remarks that "for me, one in a thousand is good odds." Being ta'veren means that when Mat is around one in a thousand actually IS good odds.
- The Phantom Tollbooth: Milo's quest was impossible, but he did it anyway, because nobody told him it was impossible until after he was done.
- Literal variant: In Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky, two students discuss whether to drop a survival course before their practical wilderness exam. One (who drops it) asks if the other has seen the casualty statistics on last year's class, and the other (who takes the exam and prevails) replies that he doesn't want to see them.
- At one point, Belgarion, the rather impetuous hero (and newly empowered sorcerer) of David Eddings' The Belgariad, attempts to bring a stillborn colt back to life. His grandfather, the ancient sorcerer Belgarath, tries to stop him, but he won't listen. When it works, his grandfather explains to him that he could have hurt or killed himself (which is what often happens to sorcerers who try to do the impossible,) because to bring something back to life you have to understand Death. Up to now, it's turned out nobody understood Death that well. This becomes important later.
- The Murderbot Diaries. Murderbot has a risk assessment module, but always complains about it being a cheap and inaccurate program whenever Murderbot is about do something risky. In Exit Strategy Murderbot goes to rescue Dr. Mensah and just turns the risk assessment module off.
- Averted in Blake's 7 where battle computers are consulted as a routine strategy, especially by stoic computer expert Avon. In "Horizon", when Avon considers abandoning his colleagues and fleeing with the Liberator, he has Orac calculate the odds of succeeding with a Crew of One. Sometimes though he is disappointed.
- And this line from "Ultraworld":
Tarrant: It's a calculated risk.Avon: Calculated on what — your fingers?
- Doctor Who:
- Inverted in "The Doctor Dances", where Captain Jack actually asks for his odds of survival (and then, of course, defies them anyway). Notably, he doesn't try to fight them. Having been told he is dead, he has a drink and then gets rescued.
- From "The Doctor's Wife":
Idris: You were thinking you could build a working TARDIS console out of broken remnants of a hundred different models, and you don't care that it's impossible.
The Doctor: It's not impossible as long as we're alive.
- Halo (2022). In the Season One finale, Cortana tells Vannack that he has to pilot the exact path she's calculated through the gravitational forces or be "spaghettified". When Vannak wants to know why she didn't mention this before, Cortana cheerfully says their odds of success were already so low she didn't want to worry them.
- In the series premiere of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, "Honey, We've Been Swallowed by Grandpa", Diane says it word-for-word when she, Wayne and Amy are navigating a kidney stone field when they end up inside Diane's father's body.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Solitudes", Jack and Sam are stranded on a glacier on an unknown planet, and Sam starts calculating the odds that another team will find them before they freeze to death. Jack cuts her off before she can actually get to a number, and she sheepishly admits, "I think too much." It turns out she's right — going through all the possible gate addresses wouldn't have been helpful. Fortunately, they're actually in Antarctica...
- In Star Trek, Spock mentions the odds of the crew's success being very low. Naturally, Kirk presses on anyway.
- Averted in "Errand of Mercy". Spock calculates very poor odds of attacking the Klingon headquarters. They attack anyway, and fail and are surrounded—though they do make it as far as the commander's office.
- Also averted in "Devil of the Dark". Spock predicts with extremely high odds that either he, Kirk, or both will survive the attempt to locate the Horta together. Unsurprisingly, he is correct.
- Lampshaded in the film Star Trek: Generations
Kirk: I take it the odds are against us and the situation is grim.
Picard: You could say that.
Kirk: You know, if Spock were here, he'd say that I was an irrational, illogical human being by taking on a mission like that. Sounds like fun!
- Lampshaded in Star Trek: Voyager: Seven of Nine and Tuvok are discussing the captain's latest plan, Tuvok points out it isn't the first time the captain has beaten the odds. To which Seven replies "She does seem to succeed more than random chance would allow. I'll add that to my calculations."
- In the episode "Scientific Method" where the crew discovers they have been boarded by cloaked aliens performing medical experiments, Captain Janeway has the ship fly into a binary pulsar (two stars close together) to force the aliens to evacuate before their cloaked ships are destroyed along with Voyager, despite Tuvok's warning that their odds of escaping certain death is 1 in 20.
Janeway: I hope you were exaggerating about those odds, Tuvok.
Tuvok: I was not.
- The finale of Tomica Hero Rescue Force has the team repeatedly told that they only have a 0.1% chance of defeating the Big Bad. This just prompts Hikaru to claim that with the power of their "Rescue Souls", they'll make it one thousand percent.
- Inverted in Left 4 Dead 2
Rochelle: Nick, what do you think the odds are that the swamp people are still alive?
Nick: You mean, alive Infected, or alive and not zombies?
Rochelle: Not zombies.
Nick: 100 to 1.
Rochelle: Sounds about right.
- In Space Quest VI: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier, the shuttle's automatic co-pilot, Manuel Auxverride, tells Roger he's "97.2 percent certain" he can get the shuttle to Delta Burksulon V after damage caused by a Negative Space Wedgie is repaired. Roger questions the odds:
Roger: Why only 97.2 percent?
Manuel: I judged 97.2 to sound more hip to our audience than would 100. You would have to mention it.
Manuel: Don't apologize to me. It's the players you ruined it for.
- In Derelict, during the mission "Hail Mary", Lieutenant Mackie dismisses the odds and tells everyone to just get the job done. Considering the consequence for not getting the job done is The End of the World as We Know It, this is a rather sensible reaction.
- In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal:
Big Al: I estimate our odds at approximately 1 in 63 Million... give or take.
Ratchet: Hey, that's uhh... well you know, not so bad.
- Halo 3 gives us this charmer:
Elite XO: Brute Ships! Staggered Line. Ship Master! They outnumber us 3 to 1!
Ship Master: Then it is an even fight. All ships fire at will! Burn their mongrel hides!
- The Elites naturally win this fight in a landslide, likely applying the same tactics they've been using against the UNSC for decades against the Brutes.
- In Minecraft: Story Mode, this is directly referenced.
PAMA: The odds of you successfully defeating me are 3720 to 1.
Jesse: Never tell me the odds!
- Lampshaded in this Schlock Mercenary strip. True enough, they escape afterward, but they find an alternate — and more statistically sound — method to do so.
- Both Elan and Vaarsuvius lampshade this trope in The Order of the Stick when a tiny demon succeeds in summoning a hugely powerful ally against all probability.
Vaarsuvius: [sigh] And once again, Probability proves itself willing to sneak into a back alley and service Drama as would a copper-piece harlot.
- Parodied in Starslip here.
- The classic Star Wars example is mocked and inverted in this Irregular Webcomic! strip.
- This page of Spacetrawler.
- El Goonish Shive references the Star Wars example here.
- Inverted in the author's notes of this Leftover Soup comic. The captain asks the android where the hell four significant digits came from. Logically enough, the android exploited the fact that Computers Are Fast and did a weighted average of about two million similar cases — and even took into account the fact that the captain defies the odds on a regular basis! Even after all that, the odds are abysmal, so the captain decides to accept the android's advice and take the long route.
- Spoofed in Vexxarr when Minionbot tells about how he's now living his dream to fight implacable enemies and beat them against impossible odds.
Minionbot: It turns out the modifier impossible was chosen more for accuracy than color.
- Forgath lifts the exact quote in this page of Goblins.
- In Family Guy's The Empire Strikes Back parody "Something, Something, Something Dark Side":
C-3PO/Quagmire: Sir, the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 2-1!
Han/Peter: Never tell me the o...oh. Actually, that's not bad. Yeah, let's, let's keep going.
- One smart astronaut in the Samurai Jack episode "Jack in Space" kept giving impossibly high odds throughout the entire episode. Jack beat his odds every time.
- Star Wars Rebels: "The Wynkahthu Job" has a variant:
AP-5: I am estimating mission success at 38.5%.
Kanan: 38.5%? This was your plan!
AP-5: I know. I calculated that without me, this mission would be at 0%.
- This exchange from Titan Maximum:
Palmer: Willie! What are the odds [Titan] Maximum could make it through that beam without all our genitals fusing into glass?
Willie: Um... zero percent.
Palmer: Zero zero? Or 'I'm a wah wah sissy baby and I want my blankie and my baa-baa' zero? Which one, I'm just curious.
Willie: Point zero zero three percent.
- In Transformers: Animated, Sentinel Prime orders Jazz to bring the ship to full power and take the route through an ion storm, as it is the quickest way back to Cybertron. Jazz states why both reasons are a bad idea. His response: He pulls rank on him and threatens to throw him into the brig with the Decepticons imprisoned on the ship. It doesn't end well. But for different reasons...
- During the 1950s Korean war, General MacArthur gave his plan of landing 70,000 US troops far behind the North Korean lines a chance of 5000 to 1 of succeeding. It proved to be a dramatic turning point in a previously losing war.
- Admiral John Jervis at the Battle of Cape St Vincent came up with a fairly good version of this. As his captain called out the number of enemy ships and reached 27 to Jervis's 15 he responded "Enough, sir, no more of that; the die is cast, and if there are fifty sail I will go through them". There were 28 ships in all, he did go through them and he did win.
- Sun Tzu said the strength of an army is not measured in its numbers but in its unity. This has been borne out time and time again in history.
- During the Imjin War, Korea wanted to scrap its navy because it had 13 ships left after a major defeat, while the Japanese still had hundreds. Korean admiral Yi-Sun Sin instead decided to use those ships in a last stand, and through masterful use of the currents at the Myeongnyang Strait he defeated an enemy force of 130 warships.