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The Greatest Story Never Told

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"The problem with being a secret agent," he thought as he soaked among the soap bubbles, "is that your mission is so secret that nobody knows how jolly brave you were."

So the character has finally rescued his friends, saved the world and done whatever deeds that prove he is a true hero. But nobody will ever know. Maybe he's a mere buffoon or a comedy sidekick, or the outcast of the society. Sometimes the media just hates him and ended up turning his story upside-down. Sometimes the Fake Ultimate Hero takes all the spotlights. Sometimes nobody believes his story (or he doesn't even try to tell it because it's so implausible). Sometimes his memory gets erased. Sometimes a weird time travel mechanism makes it so whatever happened didn't actually happen at all. Maybe it ends with everyone dying. Maybe the whole incident needs to be hushed up to protect important secrets. Or sometimes, for reasons of his own, he chooses not to tell anyone.

And occasionally, usually only in works that can comfortably invoke Rule of Funny, all the spectators are utter dimwits and can't even grasp what they've just seen (a Confused Bystander Interview sometimes follows).

At any rate, none of the other characters (or at a larger scale, history itself) have to change their opinions about him. This can overlap with the Wild Wilderness trope often as no one outside the setting would know who the heroes were or what they did. In worst cases, by dealing with the greatest story never told, The Hero has missed less-urgent but more well-known events and thus the public thinks of him as a Fallen Hero.

May be A Day in the Limelight, and can be a clever way to introduce a character through a retcon or a remake in a series where he is never mentioned again. Often features What You Are in the Dark.

Contrast Famed In-Story, Can't Stop the Signal, Based on a Great Big Lie, and Self-Made Myth. Compare Victory-Guided Amnesia, in which not even the hero gets to remember, and Hero of Another Story, in which someone other than the main character(s) is having their own adventures, and may or may not be recognized for it in-universe but will only be given token attention story-wise. Also compare with Lower-Deck Episode.


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  • "American Honda Presents DC Comics Supergirl": Supergirl travels into the mind of a comatose victim of a traffic accident to help him wake up, risking her life in the process since she will die if he dies while their minds are connected. Steve manages to wake from his coma thanks to Kara, but neither he nor his family ever find out about Kara's actions since she never tells them.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Gin spends an entire century as Aizen's Number Two for the sole purpose of finding a way to kill him in retribution for stealing a fragment of Rangiku's soul, only to ultimately fail and die in front of a crying Rangiku. While this stalls Aizen long enough that Ichigo gains the power to defeat him, virtually no one knows what he did or why he died. Supplemental materials strongly imply that the truth came to light some time afterwards after people put two and two together.
    • By the end of the manga, Ichigo has saved his home town from being destroyed by Aizen and the entire world from being merged with Soul Society and Hueco Mundo by Yhwach, but less than a dozen or so people among the living (mostly a few of Ichigo's friends from high school plus Don Kanonji, Karin and maybe Yuzu) even know that anything happened at all or that Ichigo was involved, and even then they don't specifically know what he did or what was really going on at the time.
  • In a sense, it could be said about the ending of Bokurano. The fifteen kids fight and die to save the world, but nobody except for Machi's brother (who's going to die at the end of his battle), their closest relatives and a few selected government people know about it. And the relatives know just because Machi and Ushiro took their time to travel through Japan and bothered to tell them, otherwise they would be in the dark too.
  • In episode 7 of A Certain Scientific Railgun, Touma saves everyone from the Graviton Bomber's bomb, but since everybody else ducked and closed their eyes, only Mikoto saw it. Everybody assumed Mikoto was the one who blocked the explosion. Later, Mikoto asks Touma why he didn't step up and explain that he was the one who saved the day. Touma says that as long as no one got hurt, it doesn't matter who did it.
  • The Zero Requiem plan of Code Geass involves creating world peace with no one ever knowing the real details behind how it came to be. Well, a chosen few know, but the truth certainly isn't going to make it into the history books. After all, if the world as a whole knew that Zero's defeat of the Demon Emperor was in fact a staged suicide rather than the triumph of good over evil, the peace that this created would likely fall apart.
  • Cyborg 009: The 00 Cyborgs get precisely zero public acknowledgement for what they do for the sake of the world - even in situations where the public realizes they needed to be saved, nobody who wasn't physically present when the 00 Cyborgs saved the day ever realizes that they were the ones who did it. Which in most cases is just the Cyborgs, Gilmore, and any villains who survive to flee.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, two examples amounts by the end of the series:
    • The strongest demon slayer to ever exist, Yoriichi Tsugikuni, lived a rather tragic life of constant loss, culminating in him failing to kill Muzan out of a technicality despite being stronger than demon king himself, and soon after his older twin betrayed the Corps to become a demon, both factors completely disgraced Yoriichi as he was expelled from the demon slayer corps; after entertaining the Kamado ancestors with his visit one last time, Yoriichi vanished, 60 full years of his life remained a dark spot in history, albeit highly implied Yoriichi just kept killing demons thereafter until his final fight is seen, against Kokushibo, his twin, dying in that battle even though he had the upper hand, his old body just perished out of natural causes mid-fight. Yoriichi's life was not chronicled by any official documents as the centuries went by as the demon slayers wanted to distance themselves from him as much as possible, but Yoriichi's importance towards creating the Breathing Arts was too important so at least his contributions to the five main elements was kept, but not his own Sun Breathing as it was too difficult to replicate.
    • Beyond the silly and biased personal chronicle written by Zenitsu, kept only by his family down the line as a memento they don't even believe in (save one who's a fan), the world at large never gets to know the tremendous struggle the demon slayers passed through over centuries to fight against Muzan Kibutsuji and his horde of demons, much to do with the fact the existence of demons and the demon slayers themselves were mostly a secret from the general public, save very few individuals who supported the corps in secret in Wisteria Houses and victims who survived demonic assaults.
  • Dr. STONE reboot: Byakuya: Rei, Byakuya's Robot Buddy manages to avert a planetary life-destroying meteor-strike all by itself. But, due to the fact that it's stuck in space, and its fine memory circuits are slowly being fried by the sun, nobody will ever find out. Senku does witness Rei blasting the meteor off-course, but he is still Taken for Granite and he doesn't know it was Rei that did it. The final few pages of the story confirm that like Byakuya, Senku thinks Rei and the ISS perished a long time ago.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Hundreds of years ago, Master Mutaito sacrificed his life to stop King Piccolo's original rampage. In the present, only his still-alive students Master Roshi and the Crane Hermit remember this.
    • Almost all of Goku's adventures and world-saving isn't known by the general public. Only a few people know that he's the one who killed King Piccolo and beat his son three years later at the 23rd Martial Arts Tournament. No one knows who destroyed the Red Ribbon Army, who stopped the Saiyan Invasion, and the entire mess with Frieza happened on another planet and he was killed before he could terrorize the Earth. This gets Deconstructed when Goku begs the people of Earth for energy to fuel the Spirit Bomb and gets almost nothing since the public has no clue who he is.
    • After Gohan destroys Cell, Mr. Satan steps in and takes all the credit instead. Not that the heroes mind — they like their privacy, although they're still annoyed by Mr. Satan being a shameless Glory Hound. This would become a plot point in the next arc, as Mr. Satan, being the Fake Ultimate Hero, is responsible for most of the energy granted from the Earth's population into Goku's Spirit Bomb, destroying Buu. Even then, the Dragon grants a wish for everyone to forget what Buu looks like, but not devastation he caused, which is how the people still remember Mr. Satan as the savior.
    • Played for Laughs in Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn when Mr. Satan defeats a horde of zombies, then laments that there were no witnesses to him facing an actual threat he could defeat.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has this as the entire premise: everyone thinks Celestial Being is just a terrorist group that just happens to be capable of curbstomping everyone into the ground all by themselves. It does change a little at the end of the second season when they get some recognition for exposing A-LAWS but they're still regarded as terrorists. The Distant Finale at the end of The Movie may have seen them eventually recognized as heroes if humanity's first two interstellar spaceships (the Sumeragi and the Tieria) being named after members of Celestial Being is any indication. Not to mention the start of the movie, where there's Celestial Being: The Movie, where they're heroes fighting to defeat A-Laws in an inaccurate retelling of the second season.
    • In the Mobile Fighter G Gundam prequel manga Fight 7th, Shuji Kurosu and his friends AKA the future Master Asia and Shuffle Alliance go to the South Pole to keep a crazed terrorist from destroying the space colonies. They succeed, but fail to make it to Gundam Fight's Finals in time and are eliminated. Not only is their story is untold, but their home nations also consider them cowards and traitors.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory is all about this trope. The Federation builds a Gundam specifically designed to deliver a nuclear warhead, which gets stolen by Zeon remnants, all as part of a plan to use a Colony Drop to weaken the Federation's authority. All evidence of the incident is hushed up afterwards and the data of the GP-series Gundams is completely erased, though some elements of them show up in Zeta-era machinesnote .
    • The manga Gundam Legacy has a similar tack, especially in the final volume (ironically set one year after 0083). Another group of Zeon holdovers has plans to nuke their home colony as punishment for "knuckling under" to the Federation, and an alliance of Federation, Zeon, and Titans characters forms to prevent the crisis. Again, the incident is hushed up afterwards, and the characters involved either disappear into history or get Reassigned to Antarctica.
  • A good chunk of the Nations' actions and even relationships in Hetalia: Axis Powers would likely be publicly hushed up or disguised.
    • For instance, Russia's direct involvement in Bloody Sunday and the subsequent pain can be nauseating to watch. But at the same time, the viewer/reader somehow knows that most people would never get to hear his side of the story.
    • It's also implied in a strip involving France and one of his soldiers that even if people knew their Nation's tales, they would be too incredible to actually be believable.
  • Subverted in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood. After Jonathan and his allies have destroyed Dio's zombie army, Jonathan himself sacrifices his life to save his wife Erina, their unborn child and an orphaned baby girl, destroying and taking Dio with him to the bottom of the sea for 100 years. Erina thinks to herself how, with everyone else involved either dead or resolving to keep it secret, history will never know of his accomplishments. But his descendants will.
  • The short film Kigeki is about a young girl who seeks out the Black Swordsman to save her village from an approaching army, in return for a special book. The Swordsman agrees and decimates all 200 soldiers in one night, then, being a vampire, he devours the corpses. The girl sees it all, and before he goes the Swordsman tells her that if she ever breathes a word of it he'll return and kill her too. Many years later, she has continued to keep the secret.
  • Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story: Alluded in the final episode. The Magical Girls speak out on how nobody will be aware of the struggles, loss, and hardships they had and will continue to endure. Which Ultimate Madoka makes sure their tales are written in the Magia Record.
  • Moriarty the Patriot tells the story of William James Moriarty, why he became a criminal murderer, and what his noble motivations were... and why they were excluded from John Watson's narrative.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Izuku, Todoroki, and Iida were the ones who defeated Stain and saved Mr. Native but because they committed a violation of performing heroics without a license, the tales of their heroics cannot be told or else they would be punished. The police chief tries to soften the blow at least, by telling the three of them, even if the public can't know, at least he knows and is personally very grateful for their help.
    • Played With in regards to Izuku's fight with Gentle: when the latter is defeated, he tries to make it look like the fight never happened, so as to try and prevent his partner La Brava from being implicated in his attempts to break into U.A. Izuku goes along with it, knowing that if word had gotten out, the Culture Festival would have been canceled. However, Ectoplasm and Hound Dog (and by extension, All Might after they told him) end up catching on to the truth anyway, though they decide to silence it and let the police deal with it.
  • Naruto:
    • Itachi assassinating the entire Uchiha clan to protect Konoha from a civil war and another Ninja World War that would inevitably follow it.
    • The battle between Minato and Tobi which took place during the Kyuubi attack. Because the only people involved died or went into hiding, nobody knew what really happened that night.
  • In Now and Then, Here and There, Shuzo Matsutani comes from a happy family in modern-day earth and is a happy clumsy kid who's a bit jealous of his kendo rival for winning over his crush. He ends up Trapped in Another World, tortured, witnessing multiple murders, the aftermath of a multiple rape victims, and becoming a child soldier. At the end, he's sent right back to his own time. The other person from his time chooses to stay behind to lead the new world.
  • One Piece:
    • After Luffy defeats Buggy and the rest of the Buggy Pirates in Orange Town, the rest of the townspeople (who were hiding in the outskirts) show up. When they see their Mayor Boodle has been knocked out, they quickly accuse Luffy and co. of hurting their leader and being pirates- which Luffy happily admits. (He knocked out Boodle to keep him from getting in the way of he and Zoro's pawning of Buggy's crew.) And so the future Straw Hat crew is chased out by the very people they saved, who had no idea about what happened. A mini-arc after the Time Skip implies that Boodle cleared up the confusion.
    • In the aftermath of the Syrup Village arc, Usopp swears the "Usopp Pirates" and Kaya to secrecy about them defeating Captain Kuro and the Black Cat Pirates, despite the fact that it would clear his reputation as a liar. He does this so that the villagers would not worry about pirate attacks.
    • The Alabasta Arc, as well, features the world at large never knowing the full events about the Civil War and Crocodile's defeat.
    • This continues to happen as the story progresses - the World Government usually goes to great lengths to cover up their failures and mistakes to make sure its enemies do not gain support.
    • The Straw Hat Pirates' adventure in Skypiea. Said sky island is unaffiliated with the World Government. Hell, it's likely that they don't even know it exists, so keeping track of any activity there would be impossible. If only they knew about how much of a threat Eneru was, thanks to his lightning powers gained after eating the Rumble-Rumble Fruit. And if that wasn't enough, Eneru escapes to the Moon after his defeat by Luffy and is now the ruler of its robotic inhabitants. No one else knows that he's up there. Had he been a pirate on the ocean surface, he would likely have been arrested by the Marines. In Luffy's case, he already gained quite the reputation as a rookie pirate by the Government at that point, so hearing how he was able to defeat someone like Eneru would've made him more infamous!
    • Subverted near the end of Thriller Bark. The Government decides that they can't let the people know that Luffy toppled another member of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and order Bartholomew Kuma to kill everyone on Thriller Bark. Luckily, Kuma decides, for his own reasons, to simply make a show of force and leave the heroes alive. That said, Garp assures Sengoku that Luffy isn't the type to brag, so nobody, save Moria's crewmates and a few dozen pirates that were stuck there, finds out either way.
    • During the Fish-Man Island arc, the Straw Hats save the entire island from being destroyed and prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people by a coup staged by the New Fish-Man Pirates and Vander Decken IX, who planned to begin a genocidal campaign on the human world afterwards (although it's questionable if they actually would've succeeded, given how easily the Straw Hats demolished them). Due to how far removed Fish-Man Island is from the rest of the world (being located on the ocean floor, ten kilometres from the surface), no knowledge of this conflict ever gets found out on the surface beyond some of Hody's enslaved human pirates being interrogated by Smoker. But at the very least, the inhabitants of Fish-Man Island are eternally grateful.
    • Defied at the end of the Dressrosa Arc. Admiral Fujitora, aware that the Government would spin the official report on what happened to show themselves in a favorable light, publicly discloses the full truth on Luffy's victory over Doflamingo to the people before telling his superiors anything. Once found out, Vice-Admiral Smoker (who was falsely rewarded for the events of the above Alabasta Arc) thanks him and Fleet Admiral Sakazuki (Akainu) is livid.
    • The reason Luffy's grandfather Garp is considered the "Hero of the Navy", is because of the "God Valley Incident", where he helped defeat the notorious Rocks Pirates, a pirate crew that almost tried to Take Over the World. The reason the Incident is hushed up is that Garp had to work alongside the future Pirate King Gold Roger, which would have been embarrassing to the World Government. Garp himself doesn't like talking about it because he ended up defending the lives of the World Nobles, a social group he hates.
  • Saitama from One-Punch Man can defeat anything with one punch but he never seems to get proper credit for this: whether it's because he's not a registered hero, he is assumed to be a fraud because of his low ranking, somebody else gets credit for his work, or he is intentionally playing the Heel. That said, Saitama still moves up in rank after each victory, because the Hero Association at least recognizes that he is responsible (and if he's not, they figure promoting him will prove it). He's also slowly gaining the respect of various heroes, who do realize that Saitama really is as powerful as advertised.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Ash Ketchum is occasionally recognized by random people who saw him lose in regional tournaments. Nobody seems to know he saves the world a few times every year on the side. Ash himself can't remember the first time he did so. Even more bizarre, no one even mentioned him bringing down two legendaries on live television. And being the ONLY person in the whole of Sinnoh to have managed to take down even one of said legendaries, you'd think that'd earn him some street cred.
  • Pokémon 2000: The Team Rocket trio laments that they helped save the world, but only Ash saw what they did, so they'll never get any credit for it. Slowking comforts them by saying the audience saw and appreciated what they did.
  • Played for drama in Pokémon Adventures: After a climactic battle with Team Flare, the heroes return to Lumiose City, only to find the people acting as if nothing's happened with some even assuming them to be Lumiose Gang members for their dirty looks. The quintet then wonders if their hard work was ever worth it.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • The entire series ends up being a GSNT due to Madoka's wish—only Homura remembers what happened, and even Kyubey only acknowledges that she might be telling the truth.
    • Homura's backstory goes unknown for most of the series. It turns out she has been trying to protect Madoka in over 100 timelines and keeps repeating the same month trying to find a way to save her.
  • Record of Ragnarok: The spinoff Jack the Ripper Case Files reveals that while Jack the Ripper is a depraved murderer, he killed the one actually responsible for the Ripper murders. He was later recruited into MI6 and performed several assassinations that saved Great Britain several times. His heroics were never recorded, so everyone only knows him as a killer.
  • The ending of Revolutionary Girl Utena shows everyone slowly forgetting about Utena and everything she did. Well, almost everyone. While Akio muses on how, despite what she managed to do, she failed to achieve revolution because of this trope, Anthy proves him wrong by voluntarily walking out of the fairytale-like world of Ohtori Academy to find Utena, signifying the end of Akio's machinations.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • All the events of the Kyoto arc involving Shishio Makoto will always be kept secret, even if the heroes' actions have saved the Meiji Government from chaos.
    • In one filler episode, Kenshin is taking a walk and sees some thugs threatening a little boy. Kenshin is about to intervene when an Old Master takes out the thugs at Super-Speed. Because of his own Super-Speed, Kenshin is the only one who sees this. To everybody else, the thugs just fell unconscious for no reason. The boy and his grown up brother, who just arrived, even mistake the old man for working with the thugs and the brother punches him in the gut and knocks him down before leaving with the boy. Kenshin meets with the old man, who explains that, like Kenshin, he is atoning for being a killer, so he helps people and is not interested in fame.
  • Sailor Moon: The anime was originally intended to only run for one season, with Usagi's final wish for a normal life reviving her, Mamoru and the other girls but with no memories of meeting each other or of anything else that happened. Had the show ended there, this means that they fought and died to save the world, but nobody will ever know including themselves (though Artemis has hope that they will all meet again).
  • Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas: It almost happens. If Sasha had arrived some minutes later, no one would ever know of Aspros's Heel–Face Turn and that he sacrificed his own life in order to defeat Youma/Kairos and seal him for good. She's the only one to know because she arrived on the spot little time before his death.
  • In the first Slayers feature film, Lina defeats Joyrock by going back in time a hundred years and slaying him when he first arrived on Mipross Island. Meaning that nobody in the present day apart from Naga (who had been with her) and Rowdy (who had cast the time-travel spell) knows that she did anything noteworthy at all.
  • Spy X Family: Loid muses that if a spy is doing their job right, no one will ever find out about it. He takes simple joy in knowing that children are safe because of his actions, even though no one will ever know. The irony here is that in some ways this makes his daughter Anya an even better spy than him. Since she's a telepath, she knows all about his mission, but she hasn't told anyone. She just quietly helps her parents out behind the scenes. She personally stops the war from reigniting at one point, and in another she terrifies a man out for revenge into giving up his quest.
  • Played With in Yu-Gi-Oh!, as in Ancient Egypt, Atem could only defeat Zorc and Bakura by sealing his soul in the Puzzle, killing all three in the process and using his own name as a seal on the ancient power. This gives him Victory-Guided Amnesia, and the villains aid his quest to regain his memories as they want to get his name and take his power to resummon the evil god. However, part of the seal was that Atem erased himself from history, so in the original Japanese no one knows that he saved the world. The tournaments he wins while in Yugi's body also get credited wholly to Yugi since no one but Yugi's friends knows of his existence.

    Comic Books 
  • Ballad for Sophie is a deconstruction. Its narrator, retired musician Julien Dubois, tells the reporter who's interviewing him that he doesn't want the story to be about himself but rather his one-sided rival: the elusive genius pianist François Samson. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that he never really knew François, having never spoken to him, with his most meaningful interactions amounting to a single handshake when they were children and a whirlwind affair with Samson's wife Anne-Marie "Isabelle" Landrain. However, Julien is still able to set the record straight on his real life story, allowing him to squirrel out of the shadow of his megastar stage persona Eric Bonjour, including the actual way he lost two of his fingers.
  • Booster Gold is going through his entire superhero career as The Greatest Story Never Told, as he deals with Time Travel, so he has to be an idiot in the history books in order to prevent anyone messing with the timeline from having 'Eliminate Booster Gold' as step one. Batman knows because Booster's failed attempt to prevent Batgirl's handicapping as per The Killing Joke results in Joker's camera having pictures of a beaten Booster. When he revealed this to Booster, he offered himself as a Secret-Keeper. Later on, Booster would explain himself to Dick Grayson, Bruce's successor as Batman. Dick also kept the secret.
  • Deadman's entire superhero career. Few know who he is since he's a ghost who can possess anyone. This means whoever he possesses is the one who will get credit (if at all in the first place). Christmas Episode Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot had Boston Brand finally cracking and dealing with this trope. A Ret Goned Supergirl counsels him.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In Don Rosa's Donald Duck stories, Donald saves the feathers of his uncle and his nephews numerous times on each of Scrooge's treasure ventures. Most of the time no one seems to notice his involuntary self-sacrifices, though the trope might feel a bit ignored, as Scrooge often observes the hapless heroics while commenting calmly on the situation. The answer might be that Donald has saved them so many times the bravado has lost all effect. Finally, finally subverted in Rosa's final Donald story, The Magnificent Seven (Minus Four) Caballeros, in which Pancho Pistolas and Jose Carioca are flabbergasted by Donald's off-hand comments about his adventures with his rich uncle, particularly when he backs it up by saving their bacon repeatedly. Actually being noticed, much less praised, did wonders for Don's self-esteem (as opposed to his ego).
  • An issue of Invincible Universe has Best Tiger killing the Guardians of the Globe. it turns out to be him keeping a villain busy who had been trying to brainwash him into killing them for real but he's able to track him down and shoot him in the exact spot to take away his power without killing him. The issue ends with the hero of the story being told off for ignoring their main responsibility and that they need to "pull their weight".
  • A six-issue limited series from Marvel Comics told the story of a normal human who was down on his luck and borderline suicidal who gets killed right as an extra-dimensional big bad is opening a rift with a magic artifact intending to unleash the embodiment of Death upon the multiverse. His resulting passage through the gate closes it and bonds him to the weapon making him immortal and causing him to be reborn into another universe anytime he dies as only the weapon can end his life. He eventually foolishly returns the weapon to the Big Bad after getting a promise to leave Earth alone and return him there but upon seeing all the deaths occurring, sacrifices his life and dies a noble hero to end the Big Bad's scheme once and for all. Meanwhile back on earth, you see the heartbreaking disposal of his worldly possessions such as family photos in a trash can while being called a worthless loser.
  • The League of Losers from the Marvel Universe. After a time-traveling supervillain called Chronok wipes out pretty much every superbeing on the planet thanks to future knowledge and technology, a group of little-known heroes (and one villain) are the only survivors. They manage to stop Chronok before he can kill everyone, saving the entire timeline... and are stuck in the alternate future. Not only will nobody in the 'core' reality ever know who saved the world, but they also won't even know it needed saving.
  • In one My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) story, a water creature called Cassie brainwashes the citizens of Ponyville with her Mind-Control Music. Their pets are unaffected and work together to break the control, but afterwards, nobody remembers what happened while they were brainwashed and they have no idea who saved them. Angel the bunny gets a little upset about it, but the other pets say he did a good job and that's what's important.
  • In Saga Of The Swamp Thing, even the other DC superheroes are surprised and stymied by Woodrue's attempts to unleash Gaia's Vengeance, as none of them had ever seen fit to include backwoods Louisiana as part of their protected territory. After Swamp Thing get the Green to settle down and quit listening to the Floronic Man's ravings, the Justice League (and presumably the world at large) has no clue what it was that stopped the plants from attacking, they're just relieved that somebody is looking out for all those little unregarded dots on the map.
  • The Swamp Thing tie-in to Crisis on Infinite Earths showcased a Satanist cult taking advantage of the weakening fabric of reality to summon the Original Darkness back into existence. The Darkness is strongly implied to exceed even the Anti-Monitor in power, but as most of the world's heroes are preoccupied with the latter it falls to Swamp Thing and a small group of mystics to stop it.
  • The Sandman (1989): One of the many, many spinoffs was a miniseries called, Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of D.R.E.A.M. in which the eponymous character — who mostly exists in the main series as comic relief — saves the Earth from a madman who wants to use Morpheus' dream-sand to conquer it. Predictably, nobody in the Dreamworld believes a word of it.
  • Sonic the Comic:
    • Miles "Tails" Prower's early appearances. He had several comics where he would return to the Nameless Zone or join the Zonerunners in Chemical Plant Zone where he would perform great feats (usually by fluke), save the day, but on return not be able to say anything to Sonic either because it's hard for him to explain what happened or because Sonic is just too damn eager to move onto the next thing. A Summer Special issue continued this tradition by having a comic where Tails took out a whole swarm of badniks, only to have the last one catch him off guard and have Sonic to save him from it. Sonic admonishes Tails for not being able to defeat "one measly badnik" and doesn't believe Tails' protests that there were many more of them.
    • In another story, Dr. Robotnik becomes all-powerful after stealing the power of the Chaos emeralds. Sonic and Knuckles defeat him and revert the changes he made to reality, then Sonic complains that it was the toughest challenge he'd ever won and nobody would ever know it happened.
  • Spider-Man:
    • In The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Annual 15 from 1981, Doctor Octopus attempts to extort New York City by poisoning the ink in the entire Daily Bugle morning run. Spider-Man and The Punisher thwart him in the paper's print room. J. Jonah Jameson intends to run a story valorizing his own part in the standoff, but Robbie reminds him that any story that even implies a chance that the paper could be poisoned will keep people from buying it. Jameson winds up running a standard anti-Spidey editorial on the front page.
    • A Spider-Man/Doctor Strange team-up involved Spidey's associates (including J.J.) being abducted to another dimension through the manipulations of Baron Mordo. After Strange and Spider-Man freed them, they could see how badly the experience had traumatized them, and Spidey asked Doctor Strange to erase their memories, knowing they would forget his heroism too.
  • Star Wars: Kanan: Caleb's experience during Order 66 justifiably caused him to grow distrustful towards all surviving clone troopers all the way up to Rebels, even to those who had their chips removed and did not carry out the order such as Rex. Little does he know he owes his life to Commander Grey, who came to realize what he had done under Order 66 and deliberately sabotaged his own ship's shields in order for Caleb's rescuers to get him to safety. Those who witness his redemption perish alongside him, as the loss of the shields allow Kasmir and Kleeve to blow the ship up with relative ease. Grey is the only known clone to go against Order 66 without removing or disabling his control chip.
  • Superman:
    • In All-Star Superman, at the end of "The Superman-Olsen War", Jimmy laments that his turning into Doomsday to stop an out-of-control Superman is the coolest "what-I-spent-my-day-doing" story ever and he can't tell anyone. No one except some of the P.R.O.J.E.C.T. staff, Jimmy, and Superman himself know.
    • In The Jungle Line, NASA announces the discovery of a meteor that contains plant spores that have somehow survived being flung through the vacuum of space for God knows how long. Unfortunately, the meteor is actually a shard of Krypton, and the spores are an infectuous disease known as the Red Death that end up infecting Superman. Feverish, slowly dying, and haunted by visions of the dead biosphere of Krypton, Superman ends up stranded in the swamps of Louisiana, where Swamp Thing finds him. Using his powers over Earth's plant life, Swamp Thing is able to put Superman into a peaceful, dreamless sleep, and purges the alien spores from his system, allowing his body to heal itself. Upon waking, Superman has no memory of meeting Swamp Thing and flies off, thinking he had beaten the disease by himself. Swamp Thing watches him leave, then wanders off into the swamps, content knowing that he had succeeded.
    • In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Supergirl fought the Anti-Monitor when he was trying to devour what little was left of The Multiverse. She was killed by him, but she hurt him, shattered his armor, and destroyed his reality-eating machines, buying the surviving heroes a little time to regroup and defeat him. However, when the new universe was rebooted, Kara Zor-El and all memory of her was erased from existence. She saved the universe but no one remembered it. In Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot, she explains that acknowledgement and popularity were never her motivations, anyway.
      Kara: "We don't do it for the glory. We don't do it for the recognition ... We do it because it needs to be done. Because if we don't, no one else will. And we do it even if no one knows what we've done. Even if no one knows we exist. Even if no one remembers we ever existed."
    • In the third issue of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Supergirl goes back in time to save her school. She succeeds, and since she's erased the original timeline, no one knows that she saved everybody.
    • In the Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen comic "The Disappearance of Superman", Jimmy starts tracking down the missing hero's last known location. It turns out that some crooks used a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to trap him in a mine with Kryptonite. After digging him out, Jimmy says he thinks they should keep the rescue between themselves so that criminals will think Kryptonite doesn't work. He returns to a grouchy Perry White, who berates him for missing potential stories and laughs at the very idea that Jimmy could have helped Superman had he found him. Jimmy does get a consolation prize; Superman prints up a newspaper about the rescue for his eyes only.
    • Superman: Secret Identity: Even after The Unmasqued World in the Distant Finale, Clark states that he is keeping his superpowers secret, along with the rest of his family, apparently just because he likes having a quiet life.
    • In The Unknown Supergirl, Kara takes advantage of getting shrunk by a chunk of Red Kryptonite to go into her boyfriend's sick father's bloodstream and help the leukocytes fight the infection off. Afterwards, she decides against revealing the Malvernes she saved her life, and they never learn about her involvement.
    • All of the Legion of Substitute Heroes' Silver Age adventures ended with the Substitute Heroes having a magnificent adventure that nobody would ever learn of.
    • In The Immortal Superman, nobody ever learns that Superman traveled to the far, far future and restored a post-apocalyptic dead Earth.
    • In Supergirl (1984), Kara Zor-El battles the witch Selena and destroys both her and her world-conquering scheme before heading back home. However, she was only seen by three persons who promised to not say a word to anybody about her. The people of Midvale never knew their savior, and they never knew why Selena simply and suddenly vanished without a trace after arrogantly taking over the town.
    • "The Super-Steed of Steel": Comet has just been temporarily transformed into human when he sees Kara is being tricked into drinking a potion which will turn her into a living statue. Comet quickly knocks the cup off Supergirl's hand, but Kara never found out who saved her life because Comet never told her, and he kept his human form a secret from her.
    • In "The Unknown Legionnaire": Supergirl helps save the Protean homeworld from mad scientist Norm Eldor, under the identity of masked Legionnaire Unknown Boy. Later, the Proteans built a statue to honour the memory of Unknown Boy, but they never found out her real identity, so they simply engraved "To the Unknown Legionnaire" on the plaque.
    • In Superboy 1949 #204 "The Legionnaire Nobody Remembered", a teen of the 75th century accidentally changes history, causing Superboy to both his Legion's entry test. Determined to fix his mistake, the unnamed youth travels to the 20th century, joins the Legion under the codename "Anti-Lad", and then makes them believe he ruined Superboy's test with the intent of taking his place. Whereupon, he teleports back to his own time, hypnotizing them into forgetting everything about him (except for the feeling that they must give Superboy another initiation test for some reason). The only evidence left of Anti-Lad's time-fixing adventure is a picture of a forgotten, unknown stranger which the Legionnaires get puzzled over.
    • In the Dark Nights: Death Metal tie-in The Secret Origin, Superboy-Prime battles the Darkest Knight to a standstill and sacrifices himself to give the heroes and villains of the main multiverse a fighting chance and he is reborn on his Earth-Prime, given a second chance at heroism. However, the only one who saw him do this was Krypto, who howls mournfully at his death. The other heroes are certain someone did die to save them, but they do not know who and may never know.
    • One short story in the original Action Comics (before it was just stories of the Super-family) centered around a man who developed a formula that would grant him incredible Super-Speed, living an entire year in just one second. Over the course of that subjective year, he saved several lives, killed the kingpin of a major crime ring, gathered evidence that would avert an international crisis, and delivered it to the White House where he left it all on the President's desk so it would be put to prompt use. Then the formula wears off while he's crossing the street and he gets run over by a car. The next day, the papers are filled with stories of a mob boss committing suicide to avoid arrest and the President averting war. The only mention of the man responsible is an obituary that boils down to "John Doe killed in traffic accident".
  • Depending on your views on Adrian, the main plot of Watchmen may or may not play it straight. He claims to be saving the world- by killing millions of people and creating enough fear to prevent a nuclear holocaust that would kill billions instead. For obvious reasons, he doesn't admit to it, but he also loses likely trillions of dollars and his own peace of mind as well in the process and doesn't benefit from it at all. Technically, assuming that his predictions of the nuclear war and its prevention are right on the money (questionable but possible), he does save his own life and business by saving the world. Hard to sell anything after the civilization is gone, even if you personally survive the holocaust in some remote location. It's also left deliberately ambiguous as to whether the story ever gets told or not. Two different Alternate Universe continuations have the revelation of this secret as a major plot point. In both of them, the results aren't pretty.
  • Believe it or not, Venom once single-handedly kept an Eldritch Abomination called Knull, god of the symbiotes from breaking lose while the rest of Earth's heroes were busy dealing with the Final Host... and because no other heroes were around, none of them know about it. The Maker even taunts Eddie about the fact that despite saving possibly the universe, as far as anyone is concerned, Venom is still just a Spider-Man villain.
  • A running theme in several stories by Will Eisner who noted that the fact that people in real life were heroic in all kinds of small, invisible ways that people will never know, made him "angry at life". Several stories in The Spirit qualify, most famously, "The Story of Gerhard Schnobble".
  • Happens in an X-Men storyline where the sorcerer Kulan Gath reverted New York City to the Hyborian Age. While the combined efforts of the X-Men and Dr. Strange save the day, the only people who remember the X-Men's heroism are Strange and the Avengers, meaning the mutants had to go back to being feared and mistrusted by the general public.

    Fan Works 
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, the Citadel Council (who by this point in the story doesn't do much governing) hopes to exploit the inversion of this trope (somebody did something horrible and nobody knows about it) so that their planned pardons of Shepard and Sarah might not bring angry mobs down on their heads.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, All Might and Firestorm cover up Izuku's involvement in the Ultra-Humanite's defeat to protect Izuku's identity and keep him out of trouble with the law.
  • In Personal Reality Marbles, Mikoto Misaka and Ritsuka Fujimaru battle the AIM Burst creature. Ritsuka accidentally interfaces with the creature's Hive Mind and ends up stabbing its creator Harumi Kiyama with Rule Breaker, causing the creature to disappear. However, to everybody else, Ritsuka simply fell unconscious and everybody thinks Mikoto's attacks were what destroyed the creature. Realizing no one would believe her, Ritsuka keeps silent.
  • In A Song of Ice, Fire and Heart, Robb is awed when he learns of Ventus' fight against the Unversed and wonders why people don't know about the Keybearer, leading Luwin to lament over the whole venture being "barely a footnote" that happened in the background of Robert's Rebellion. Apparently, overthrowing a three-centuries-old roal dynasty and bigotry against magic-wielders will speak louder than genuine heroism.
  • In the Mass Effect/StarCraft crossover series Sudden Contact, Liara T'Soni ensures the defeat of Sovereign and the Zerg by brokering a ceasefire with the geth, which prompts them to seek out aid from the protoss. Meaning Liara pretty much singlehandedly saves the galaxy. However, as she spends much of the story as a prisoner of Sovereign, who is working behind the scenes, the galactic community is never made aware of Liara's involvement until nearly a decade later.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Thousand Year Door applies this to the entire fic. While the protagonists are likely seen as heroes and saviors to the citizens of Arcadia, they specifically ask that the news of their heroics be kept on its shores, in effect, forfeiting any fame or glory, even going so far as to give the Shadow Spawn Cortez's horde. They realize no-one would likely believe them and might think they were crazy.
  • In the Sasha and the Frogs chapter "What A Wonderful Hiber-Day", Sasha wakes up to discover the entire town is frozen over, and all the residents little more than frozen statues stuck with expressions of horror. She spends the next five days alone completely alone while caring for them, moving them into buildings for safety and protecting them from local predators. At the end, not only are her adoptive family the only ones aware that she did any of this, they're also the only ones that don't mock her for crying at the sight of them waking up (as for all she knew, she was protecting corpses). Sasha, traumatized by the experience, is too relieved to see them all alive to care that she won't get any recognition for her actions.
  • In Back to the Future, Jordan is upset that some people don't believe that Yeerks exist, because that would mean Rachel died for nothing. Tom tells her that her sacrifice did matter, because she stopped Visser Seventeen from killing all the inhabitants of a planet called Anarres, even though none of them will ever know who she was.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: The Story We Never Told treats the whole Digimon Adventure 02 series as a much more idealized version of their true story, and were it not for Kari calling out TK for not writing their true story, their triumphs and achievements would have not been talked about at all.
  • Blame It on the Brain references this idea due to Fry’s defeats of the Brainspawn being unknown, and it is also implied at the conclusion of the storyline, as Fry’s role in the defeat of Onespawn and the salvation of the universe in general and Earth in particular is only explicitly known to a few key people.
  • Cheating Death: Those That Lived: District 7's second victor, Fir, is the amnesia daughter of refugees who left District 13, but the narrative explicitly notes that no one ever finds the bodies of her parents or the evidence that would have revealed her origins.
  • The events of the movie become this in I am Superman since the government deleted all files on the incident in Rockport, so almost nobody outside of certain government officials, Hogarth, or Taylor know about what happened. Not even Dragon can find anything about the incident barring that there was a government cover-up.
  • Zelda and the Manacle of Cahla ends with the Time Goddess Cahla undoing Ganondorf's changes to the past and restoring the timestream, so Zelda's adventure is erased. Fortunately, Zelda's having restored Cahla's faith in humanity convinces the goddess to place Zelda's diary in the hands of her ancestors, setting off some benevolent changes to the present.
  • The Karma of Lies: While requesting financial assistance from Chloe, Ladybug stresses that she cannot let anyone know about her involvement. This comes as a bitter pill to Chloe, but she still agrees to help anyway.
  • In Bleeding-Heart, Hitoshi points out to Izuku that even if they successfully manage to expose the illegal experiments going on, the truth about their involvement in bringing this to light can never come out. Izuku doesn't care:
    Izuku: What, you think I want to do this for a medal? She's in trouble and I want to help her. I'd like your help, if you want to give it, but I'm doing this whether or not you're in.
  • Naruto and his lovers in Eroninja work tirelessly towards world peace. However, they all realize that if the world found out a secret group manipulated everyone towards peace, many would view it as justification to go to war again. As such, it's been agreed that even after peace is achieved, they can never claim any credit.
  • Because they're a sabotage squad, Team 8 (consisting of Kiba, Sakura, and Shino) in Now You See It have an official mission record that's both flawless and mediocre. Their actual mission record is far more impressive but they also leave no evidence of their presence, including witnesses. It's actually considered a compliment when their temporary commander notes he'd have never guessed they were a sabotage squad.
  • When Naruto meets Roshi in Son of the Sannin, the latter talks to the former about the journals he's written about his travels, the places he's visited, and the ninjas he's met across the land, although he's never had the chance to publish them. Naruto becomes excited when Roshi offers to write about him too, but sadly it never comes to pass since he's captured by Akatsuki. Left with Roshi's journals himself, he's suggested by Tsunade that he should publish them so Roshi's adventures become known to the world.
  • sunflower: While Konoha strives to honor most of their "fallen heroes" by teaching Academy students about their final resting places, they covered up the noble self-sacrifice of Maito Dai, deeming that to be more convenient than acknowledging what happened.
  • Hearts of Ice: Yuki-Onna gives her life in exchange for Emma-O forgiving Ranma breaking the rules of life and death. Nonetheless, Ranma and Akane never find out about it.
  • In Kara of Rokyn, Kara helps to save her mainstream counterpart as well as The Multiverse during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, ensuring the survival of realities where she doesn't get killed, Barbara Gordon doesn't get shot through her spine, Hal Jordan doesn’t go nuts... but no one will ever know about it. Not even her, because the memory of events is erased from her mind right afterwards.
  • In Superman and Man, Superman and Christopher Reeve swap bodies for one day. Christopher got Lex Luthor to drop his grudge against Superman and work on a cure for spinally injured people. Superman had to deliver a speech at a local fundraiser. Neither of them ever told someone else about it.
    As for Destiny, he is said to keep his own counsel and to be very busy, and is seen by only a few persons throughout eternity. Only the Endless saw him more than Superman. But he would probably assure you that many lessons were learned from the day two men would never forget, though they mentioned them to none.
    And perhaps among the two greatest lessons were these:
    That one of those men knew what it was like not to walk, but that someday, all such men might walk again.
    And that the other believed indeed that somewhere, in a world he would never reach again, a man could truly fly.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged plays with canon's example, as lots of people know Kirito saved 6000 people from its mad creator, Akihiko Kayaba (in fact Kirito is so famous here, Alfheim Online had a lot of usernames with variations of 'Kirito'). Played straight with the fact that Kayaba will still go down as a mass murderer, rather than him actually being an overworked sleepless VR designer who just needed some sleep and time to make the death glitch go away in time, and his resulting villainy being a series of accidents he inflicted on himself.
  • Purposely averted by Kayaba in Unyielding. Not only did he broadcast the boss fights to the other players in the Town of Beginnings. But he also deliberately leaks the live footages of the most notable players in the game, including Kirito, Asuna and the rest of Resolute Renegades, to the outside world. Not only it results in newfound fame that those players are not even aware of, but also major events that otherwise weren't happening in canon storyline such as the official pardons of players who were forced to kill during the raid against Laughing Coffin, and Asuna's family finding out about her marriage with Kirito and Sugou's abusive behaviors towards her.
  • In The Land of What Might-Have-Been, after the main threat has been publicly defeated by the heroes, Dorothy's new insight from the Hellion allows her to see the Nome King essence discreetly possessing Elphaba and talk him out of his plan to use her to attack the Wizard back in Oz, with nobody else aware that the Nome King was even a threat.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Batman vs. Dracula: Due to the antidote erasing the memories of Dracula’s victims being vampires, and Penguin being blamed for all the people who disappeared, Gotham City never learns of how Batman stopped the King of Vampires with his plans. Alfred considers it for the best as he does think not the city can handle learning the truth about vampires, when they have barely accepted Batman.
  • The movie The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars features a song called Home Again, which lampshades this trope by describing that all they need is to be home safe; they consider it their "prize" and accept that not many people will ever know about what they did.
    Toaster: No photographs, no souvenirs, no proof we traveled far / No welcome back, with bands and cheers / But our reward is where we are.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head Do America ends this way with them saving the US (unwittingly and unknowingly) from a deadly virus, but since the virus was top secret, their actions have to be classified as well. They get their TV back in the end, though.
  • Coco: Miguel got to meet Frida Kahlo, his dead relatives, and uncovered the truth about a renowned musician along with the real musical genius. As far as Miguel's family knows, he ran out. Once Miguel returns, he never specifically mentions where he went or what happened. After all, it would sound too bizarre for any of them to believe, and the family only learns about Héctor from what Coco tells them plus the letters and works she has kept all those years.
  • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: As a result of their camera being dropped and lost in the mud, the gang realizes that they'll have no way of proving their claims if they try to make a story about the titular island.
  • In Turning Red, according to Jin, Ming in her giant red panda form almost took out half of the family temple but apparently the incident was very well covered up as Mei shows no indication of having heard anything of it previously despite living there all her life.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The ending of the Shaw Brothers revolutionary kung-fu drama, The Anonymous Heroes, where the titular heroes - a trio of young volunteers seeking to end a war - sets out to steal a cache of weapons from a powerful warlord tyrant, delivering them to the La Résistance and getting themselves killed in the ending, without anyone knowing of their deeds. The movie's called "Anonymous" heroes, for a reason, after all. Lampshaded by the ending's Title Drop:
    "Our revolution can finally proceed. We shall overthrow the warlord, and victory will soon be ours... we all owe this to The Anonymous Heroes of this mission."
  • Citizen Kane: Everyone knows the ending, but nobody In-Universe will learn. The mystery of Rosebud is something entirely private and special to Charles Foster Kane and something he never shared with anybody. When he died, he took that with him. It will remain a Riddle for the Ages. Thompson hangs a Lampshade on it at the end:
    Thompson: Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything... I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a... piece in a jigsaw puzzle... a missing piece.
  • In The Core, it's stated that, even with the electrical superstorms popping up all over the planet as the magnetic field weakens, the mission to set the earth's core spinning again will be classified. Ultimately defied by Rat, who later spreads files on the mission in honor of those who gave their lives, and to blow the whistle on Project DESTINI, the program that started it all, to all the major news services around the world.
  • At the end of Edge of Tomorrow, only one person knows that Cage, Vrataski, Dr. Carter, and J Squad saved the world — and there are, at most, two people in the world who might believe Cage if he tried telling them about it - Vrataski and Dr Carter. On a smaller scale, every time Cage participates in the battle on the beach he sees many acts of heroism as well as countless pointless deaths. Every time the timeline resets, only he remembers any of it.
  • Evil Ambitions (on DVD as Satanic Yuppies) has a reporter uncover a Satanic plot to hand the world over to a group of wine-cooler-drinking yuppies. He stops the forces of Hell but Satan simply lets him go, knowing that he'll never be able to write the biggest story of his career.
  • In Gangster Squad, the Squad's actions were not recorded in history and the Chief of Police got all the credit for stopping notorious crime lord Mickey Cohen, so only the Squad's friends and family know what they did.
  • In The Kid Who Would Be King, Morgana's attempts to recover Excalibur result in a time bubble where anyone but the King and those he has knighted is functionally removed from the setting and remains that way until the mooks are defeated. This includes the climax, and the characters realize the world will never know what happened.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Harry Hart has decorated his study with the front pages of various newspapers, all featuring mundane stories about sports results or politics. Each one is from a day when Hart prevented some scheme or plot that would've killed hundreds, if not thousands or millions, of innocent people.
    Harry: Front page news on all these occasions was nonsense. It's the nature of Kingsman that our achievements remain secret.
  • The Legend of 1900 is in essence about one such story: that of a brilliant pianist who's stayed his entire life aboard the ocean liner he was born in. If not for a repaired LP record of the man's music (and the memory of a friend who kept said record), his tale would have literally gone down with the ship forever.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance tells the story of Senator Ransom Stoddard, who came to the western town of Shinbone as a naive lawyer and got himself robbed and beaten by the titular outlaw menacing the town, of whom the Marshall is too scared to do anything. Ransom goes on to bravely stand up to and defeat said outlaw in a duel, is pushed into running for office on the story of his duel, and wins, becoming that rare combination of a good man and a politician. Only, Ransom didn't kill Liberty Valance. It was the last cowboy in town, Tom Doniphon, who saved Ransom's life - Ransom is a terrible shot. But, as the present-day editor of the Shinbone Star paper says, "this is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Stoddard doesn't take it well.
  • Men in Black II mentions this as one of the downsides of being a MIB: "You ever hear of a guy named James Edwards? He saved 80 people on a subway car tonight, and nobody knows he even exists."
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie: When Ivan Ooze orders the adults of Angel Grove to kill themselves, Bulk and Skull help the children stop the adults until the Power Rangers can defeat Ooze and break the spell. Afterwards, Angel Grove thanks the Power Rangers for saving them. Bulk and Skull are offended that they didn't get any credit.
  • General Custer's speech at the end of the second Night at the Museum. "The greatest battle the world will never know."
  • One of the circumstances putting the "bitter" in Red Dawn (1984)'s Bittersweet Ending: America managed to fend off the Soviet invasion and remain independent, and yet the memorial dedicated to the Wolverines is barely visited.
  • Salt featured this in the ending, where the main character (Salt) saves America, Russia, the Middle East, and probably the rest of the world from nuclear holocaust by defeating the real villain, a Russian double agent in the CIA. The rest of the CIA arrives to see Salt and the Russian fighting, and because of the circumstances leading up to the ending, the CIA assumes Salt is one trying to kill the President and the world. In reality, she is stopping an Evil Plan by killing the Russian double agents, and no one will ever know except for one CIA agent that can never tell anyone.
  • The 1980 WWII film The Sea Wolves is about a group of middle-aged reservists from a unit that hadn't seen war in forty years being called up to destroy a German communications post that is bird-dogging Allied shipping for U-boats in the Indian Ocean. Because the communications post is in a boat anchored in a neutral port, the mission has to be kept top secret (hence why middle-aged reservists are called in, so that the whole raid can be claimed to be an act of drunken vacationers rather than an act of war should they be caught), and as such, the reservists go in knowing they will receive no pay, honor or recognition for their service, and will never be able to tell anyone about it afterwards. The film was Based on a True Story, the events of which were declassified thirty-five years after the fact, making it technically an aversion, but most of the Calcutta Light Horse likely died long before anyone outside the unit or the intelligence department that called them up knew that they were more than a social club for ex-soldiers who hadn't fought since the Boer War.
  • Silence tells the story of Christians persecuted in feudal Japan who proscribe it as an Illegal Religion. At the end of the film, a Dutch trader states that all of Europe, the world, and history will remember the protagonist Fr. Rodrigues as an apostate sellout who abjured God forever and that he died receiving a Buddhist burial. However, Rodrigues apostatized to spare the sufferings of Japanese Christian and he did so believing that God told him to act. He spent all his life hiding his faith to spare further persecutions on hidden Christians who were allowed to practice their faith so long as he served the Japanese government as a stooge. The last scene reveals that he kept a crucifix in his palm, that he still kept his faith privately till the end. The Dutch trader notes that only God can judge Rodrigues for his actions.
  • In Source Code, the main character is sent to find out who destroyed a train, a few minutes before it happens. After many failed attempts (after each, he is sent back to the time a few minutes before it happens), this trope is invoked when he succeeds so well that nobody knew what he did—apparently he created an alternate world.
  • Mel Brooks' adaptation of To Be or Not to Be. An actor impersonates several Nazi officers, including Hitler, and when the whole deception is over, he remarks to himself, "My greatest performance ever... and no one saw it."
    • A similar comment is made by Harrison in Gettysburg, stating that the problem with having an actor be a spy is that there's no audience: if anyone realizes that they're acting, then they have failed to play their role by definition.
  • Violent Night, is about a wealthy family being home invaded on Christmas Eve, and how the Santa Claus, not an impersonator saves the family while delivering gifts, because of a young girl in the family who believes in him and is on his good list, plus she made him delicious homemade cookies. However, given how most people don't believe Santa Claus is real, the family can never tell this story without looking crazy. Most of the family, themselves, didn't even believe the girl, until the very end after he flys away on his chariot.
  • In Wag the Dog, Hollywood producer Stanley Motss is initially enthusiastic about the fictional war he'll be "producing" just because of the challenge, but as time goes on the fact that he can't tell anyone about it eats at him more and more. Eventually his refusal to keep quiet gets him killed.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), Diana and her friends break the trench warfare stalemate in WWI, save the world from being bombed with poison gas, and kill Ares to end the war. Diana then disappears from the public eye for a century and her deeds were apparently not recorded in history.
    • This is later brought up in Justice League (2017). Batman comments that he had never heard of Diana until she showed up in modern times again, but he did some research and found some vague references to her exploits in WWI. He then calls her out on disappearing for so long, pointing out if she had continued to be a hero, she could have made a real difference in the world and been the hero everyone looks up to instead of Superman.

  • When Turtle wins The Westing Game, she never tells any of the other heirs (including her husband) what the answer was, or that it had a winner at all.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Several times in The Lord of the Rings it is implied that the majority of the peoples populating Middle-earth have forgotten almost everything about the First and Second Ages, including the existence of The One Ring of Power. Even Gandalf is unsure about the details until he spends almost a year in research. This, of course, changes.
    • Upon reading The Silmarillion and History of Middle-earth, it eventually becomes clear that the ultimate victory over Sauron was partially contingent on the activities of two people, the Blue Wizards, who are never mentioned by name nor barely alluded to in the trilogy, but whose impact must have lasted for millennia. (They organized and supported resistance against Sauron in the lands under his control and influence, and thus kept most of Sauron's forces tied up deeper within his domain and well away from the events of the books, preventing him from simply crushing the allied armies through sheer numbers and flooding Mordor with so many troops that the hobbits likely wouldn't have successfully slipped by.)
    • Also, despite the fact that Frodo essentially saved the world, among his fellow hobbits, he is much less famous than Sam, Merry, or Pippin. This is mostly due to the hobbits' remarkable focus on their own culture over all others, so that Merry and Pippin, as the defeaters of Saruman, and Sam, the Mayor, are respected and immortalized while Frodo, who participated only marginally in the battle with Saruman and then retreated to a life of solitude until his departure a few years later, is generally ignored.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Touma Kamijou saves the day all the time, yet no one in Academy City (besides his True Companions, enemies, and Unwanted Harem) have a clue who he is. There are urban legends about the things he's done (like defeating Accelerator), but few people take these seriously. Touma doesn't mind much, as fame doesn't interest him. Touma's adventures are well-known in the world of magic, where he is regarded as The Dreaded.
    • Touma almost single-handedly defeats some terrorists who hijacked the plane he was on, then leaves to his destination when the plane lands. Despite several people, including the pilot and a flight attendant witnessing this, they don't mention him at all when they get interviewed by reporters.
    • Later, Touma helps save the world and ends World War III, but goes missing for a while, with the people who know him thinking he is dead. When he returns, his friends are relieved, but everybody else yells at him for skipping so much school for "no reason".
    • The conflict with Othinus is probably the greatest example of this in the series. Touma fights a Physical God singlehandedly for an unspecified but extremely long time, eventually talking her into a Heel–Face Turn. This is completely unknown to everyone except the Will of the Misaka Network, Othinus, the other Magic Gods, and Aleister Crowley. Touma then fights against the rest of the world to stop Othinus being killed. He never fully explains the reasons for this, since it's simply too unbelievable. In the end, he's congratulated by various world leaders on international television for managing to save Othinus. However, since his personal details weren't mentioned, most people still have no idea that it was Touma who did this.
  • Momo: The title character defeats and destroys the Grey Men, humanoid parasites who were turning men into joyless husks by tricking them into giving them their time. Their disappearance instantly causes people to feel happier and carefree. However, they never knew why; and they would have not believed it, either. Only Momo's friends knew and believed what she had saved humanity.
  • Ciaphas Cain: Gunner Ferik Jurgen, aide to the main character and often directly responsible for many of his greatest feats, is nevertheless omitted from pretty much all media that deals with the Commissar's life, a fact that irritates Cain to no end.
  • In the Rynn's World Warhammer 40,000 novel, several of these are mentioned in passing, most notably the last actions of a particular artillery crew who died in sending their co-ordinates to other crews, in order to wipe out at least some of the massive Ork horde at their location. The sergeant's last words? "For the glory of Rynn's World, shining gem of the Imperium, second only to Terra itself."
  • Timothy Zahn wrote a pair of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels called "Survivor's Quest" and "Outbound Flight"; "Survivor's Quest" has Luke and Mara looking at the ruin of Outbound Flight and finding survivors, "Outbound Flight" deals with Outbound Flight and the circumstances that led to its crash. They're set several decades apart and were written in that order.
    • From Survivor's Quest we know that the survivor civilization hates the Jedi for having a hand in their situation, and Luke and Mara find a lightsaber and a distinct Chiss weapon. Chiss forces shot down Outbound Flight; thus, the two Jedi assume that this was the site where a Jedi fought invading Chiss and both died. Reading Outbound Flight, we find that this Jedi and that Chiss were working together to save those survivors, knowing that in doing so they were going to die. And no one ever knew. It's a little heartbreaking. Even Luke and Mara, Jedi themselves, never knew.
    • In the new canon, the Broad Strokes of this still happen, but the details are deliberately left vague. We don't know the name of the ship, and the Chiss's fellow hero is not labeled as a Jedi. All we know is that both sacrificed their lives for others, who will never know. There's even a parallel to this in the Chiss's own past, as his father gave his life to save another Chiss he didn't even know.
  • G. K. Chesterton 's Father Brown story "The Sign of the Broken Sword" has Father Brown piece together what really happened in a battle where, according to the official version, "one of the wisest men in the world acted like an idiot for no reason. One of the best men in the world acted like a fiend for no reason." According to Fr. Brown, "First there is what everybody knows; and then there is what I know. Now, what everybody knows is short and plain enough. It is also entirely wrong." For context, a general lead his troops into a hopeless battle as an Uriah Gambit. He was later captured by a principled man who realized that the whole thing was a cover-up for a murder and executed him on those grounds. History, not knowing the reason behind the battle, thought the general was being a Leeroy Jenkins and that his captor executed him For the Evulz. Fr. Brown, respecting the will of the participants of the events, chooses to keep his (public) silence about what really happened because in none of the memorials of the event does he see anyone wrongly condemned, only wrongly praised.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jaime Lannister is villainized as the Kingslayer for murdering the king he had sworn to protect, even though everyone knew the king was insane. What they didn't know was that King Aerys was so insane that he had rigged his entire capital to explode if his army was defeated, and Jaime killed him to save the lives of the half-million people who lived in the city. The reason Jaime never told anyone this is (probably) that even though he broke his oath to protect the king, he still has a lot more honor than people give him credit for, and it could be he saw no reason to break his oath to keep the king's secrets. A need to be liked isn't really a part of his character, but he is still too proud to make excuses for his actions. It's also implied that the guilt he feels over all the other things he stood by and watched Aerys do plays a part (ironically nobody besmirches his honor for standing by and watching innocent men be burned alive, strangled to death, etc). In the TV show, Jamie makes it clear that he just doesn't think anyone would believe him.
  • In Sheri S. Tepper's The Fresco, when a miracle is faked to allow the eponymous fresco to be repainted.
  • In Cthulhu Mythos. None other than The Call of Cthulhu, Gustav Johansen manages to avert Cthulhu's awakening by ramming his head with a steamship, so he's stuck in R'yleh once more as he begins to regenerate - saving mankind from global madness. Johansen never tells anyone and only the narrator knows this from his diary.
  • Tales From Alcatraz: It is heavily implied that the dramatic (and fictional) escape attempt from the second book will be hidden from the public due to the embarrassment of how the escapees manipulated the warden and only got foiled by a group of the guards' kids.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, Miles Vorkosigan undergoes this, somewhat on purpose. He is basically a highly decorated covert ops agent, while in his public persona he projects a spoiled noble who got a cushy job because of his father's influence. In Memory, to make a point, he puts on his dress uniform and all the medals he's accrued over the course his career, the first time they've been displayed together in one place, and even he is surprised by how many there are. In Gentleman Jole, he mentions that in a few years his career will finally be declassified and he'll be able to tell people what he did while in uniform.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry witnesses Voldemort's resurrection, duels him, and sort of defeats him. In the process, Harry manages to bring home Cedric Diggory's body (killed by Peter Pettigrew on Voldemort's orders). Unfortunately, even though the agent that sent Harry and Cedric to Voldemort is captured, almost no one besides his friends and colleagues believe Harry's story that Voldemort is back. Even Dumbledore is pilloried in both the press and by the Minister for Magic for supporting Harry's version of events. This is eventually resolved when everyone accepts Voldemort is back a year later.
    • Word of God states that Snape was never fully vindicated; while Harry spreads the story of who Snape really was and everything Snape did to save him and the students of Hogwarts, a good portion of the public is skeptical and remain unconvinced.
    • The series offers more poignant examples in the form of Frank Bryce. He took a stand against Voldemort, but no one was there to see it and he died alone. Frank Bryce likewise is Misblamed for murders committed by Voldemort himself and on his death, the townsfolk still believe he had done it.
    • Subverted for Regulus, as Word of God states that his actions gained much attention in the aftermath of the war along with Slughorn's and helped to redeem Slytherin House's reputation.
  • Patrick McLanahan from Dale Brown books experiences both this and Famed In-Story. While he is recognised as a hero for such events as the counterattack against the American Holocaust, there are also many of his world-saving missions that the public will never know about until he's dead if not years after due to being black ops. This is lampshaded in the short story "Leadership Material", in which an officer sitting on a promotion board for [Mc Lanahan=], with access only to his (heavily redacted) personnel file, is inclined to not only deny him a promotion but to also recommend his dismissal from the Air Force!
  • The very nature of the Oblivion War in The Dresden Files makes all battles the Venatori fight to protect humanity this trope by default. In fact, if any of said battles became known to an outsider, it would automatically become a sound defeat.
  • Star Wars: This is how it is for all of the clone troopers. Non-clones can't tell them apart, many have no idea that they even are individuals (unless they work with them on a regular basis)—for all intents and purposes, they are the same. Which means that any heroism that an individual clone performs will be forgotten in the grand scheme of the entire army. In one novel, The Cestus Deception, a clone named Nate berates a woman who rants at him for his apparent lack of empathy.
    Nate: Men like me protect you.
    Sheeka: From other men like you.
    Nate: No. Men like me don't start the wars. We just die in them. We've always died in them, and we always will. We don't expect any praise for it, no parades. No one knows our names. In fact, by your standards, we have no names at all... We don't have names, and no one will ever know who we are. But we do. We always do.
  • In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, this is the fate of King Eahlstan Fiskerne and his battle with the great red dragon, Shurakai. Beloved as he was, it is only known publicly that the dragon killed him, and that decades later, Prester John came and finally slew the dragon, ascending to the kingship as a result. The League of the Scroll (and the Sithi), however, preserve the true secret of the Fiskerne line: he killed the dragon, taking his death-wound in the process. John took his sword Minneyar, renamed it Bright-Nail, and claimed to be the dragon's killer. This lie festers beneath the plot like an untreated wound and is largely responsible for the Sithi's failure to come to the aid of humanity in its struggle against the Storm King until it's almost too late.
  • In Qualia the Purple, only Hatou knows what happens in all the parallel worlds/all the possibilities, due to being able to communicate and share memories, knowledge, and experience with her alternate selves. Thus, no one else knows the whole story.
  • The Star Trek: Vanguard series concerns itself with this (focusing on a highly classified Starfleet operation in the Taurus Reach), particularly given that one of its characters, Tim Pennington, is a journalist trying to get the facts made public. One of the books in Star Trek: The Lost Era demonstrates that a century after Project Vanguard the existence of the Scary Dogmatic Aliens at the heart of it all is common knowledge in the Federation, at least on the level of "they were here", but much of what the characters did in the Taurus Reach remains unacknowledged. The Star Trek: Typhon Pact novel Paths of Disharmony features classified records of Project Vanguard as an essential part of its plot, confirming that although some of the events are widely known (the Tholians won't let the memories die, for one thing), much of the true picture is deeply buried beyond the reach of anyone but the highest members of the Federation government and Starfleet Command. The final page of the Vanguard series finale, Storming Heaven, pretty much confirms that this trope is the major theme of the series.
  • Kirito/Kazuto from Sword Art Online may apply. He saved thousands of people by winning a duel against Kayaba to end the death game earlier. Then, he saved another three hundred from a Fate Worse than Death by the hands of Sugou. Not satisfied, he was essential for the capture of a serial killer trio. What did he get as a reward? A book that talks about his deeds in SAO (without telling who the "Black Swordsman" really is) and money for helping the police.
  • A secondary character in Area 7 by Matthew Reilly is a brilliant computer analyst and mathematician, at one point cracking a supposedly uncrackable encryption for the CIA. However, since you can't let your opponent know you've broken his encryption, his highest honor was a medal and a pat on the back.
  • This is the life story of Alex Rider. He saves the world, or at least the country, over and over and over again, and all he gets is everyone thinking that he's a "druggie" because he misses school all the time in order to save their lives.
  • In The Barrow this trope is initially averted as Stjepan makes sure that the family and friends of the people who died in their expedition to the first barrow, all know what happened and how everyone died. However, it is played straight in the end of the book as the expedition to the second barrow ends up costing most of the characters their lives and what happened there will be only known to a few key people who will keep it secret. In fact, a number of brave and honorable knights who died on the expedition will instead be remembered back home as traitors and renegades because they never got the chance to return and clear their names.
  • Jean Valjean's exploits in Les Misérables are epic yet he dies in obscurity. The epilogue is clear that his grave hasn't been visited in a while.
  • The plot of the first half of Permutation City is to create a fully functional simulated reality. They succeed, but nobody will ever know. Once the computer is turned off, the resulting universe is forever separated from the real world, so its inhabitants can never communicate with the original universe. Even worse, because the leader of the operation has questionable sanity and kills himself once the task is complete, everybody else involved thinks he's just delusional and accomplished nothing. For these reasons, nobody knows about the events of the novel's second half, set entirely within the simulated universe, either.
  • It's noted at the end of the first The Mysterious Benedict Society book that the government covered up the children's achievements saving the world. They're disappointed but don't mind too much.
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: When Diana returns to Themiscyra after her adventure, she finds that barely any time has passed there, and nobody has noticed she was gone. As saving Alia in the first place and bringing her to Themiscyra could mean banishment, Diana keeps her adventure to herself. The oracle, who is the only other person on Themiscyra that knows about everything, swears to keep quiet.
  • Worm: The Echidna attack on June 20, 2011. Only those involved are knowledgeable about it, and the entire thing is heavily Classified Information, to the point that the general populace has no clue why such drastic changes happened in the world, and most don’t even know who or what Echidna even is.
  • The Shadow of Kyoshi: In all previous Avatar media (including the book immediately preceding this one), Avatar Kuruk, Kyoshi's predecessor, was dismissed as a lazy screw-up who partied himself to an early grave after doing nothing of significance besides getting his wife captured by a spirit. In Shadow, we find out that Kuruk was a genius innovator planning to spend his reign inventing new bending techniques and maintaining the world harmony that his legendary predecessor, Yangchen, managed to create. Then he found out that Yangchen's peace in the human realm was the result of constantly favoring humans over spirits. By his time, the spirits were rampaging, and would have destroyed whole villages each. Kuruk hunted down and killed the dark spirits one by one, but doing so damaged his own soul, and the only thing that barely helped was partying and alcohol. Since he refused to explain this to anyone, only one person besides his own reincarnation would ever know.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, this happens to the victors of the Shadow War when Earth restricts news about that conflict.
    Marcus Cole: Typical. First time in my life I'm a war hero, and nobody knows about it.
  • In an early episode of Bones, Booth threatens a gangster with his gun, warning him to stay away from Brennan (who had provoked him to the point of putting a price on her head). Booth is subsequently late to a funeral, which she berates him for...but he never tells her what made him late.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander chooses not to tell anyone about his role in saving the day in "The Zeppo." Namely, while the rest of the cast is in a battle to save the universe with each character getting a high drama moment, Xander escapes from a gang of reanimated corpses, roots gets rooted by Faith, then works out the gang had built a bomb and plan to blow up the school. For the Evulz. As the rest of the cast was fighting in the school to stop the Hellmouth from opening, the bomb would have killed them and allowed the Hellmouth to stay open. Near the end of the same episode, the other characters (unwittingly) lampshade the fact that they never got to see Xander kill most of the gang and make the leader stop the bomb with the line "The world will never know how close it came to ending last night".
    • "I'm oddly full for some reason." Oz was going out of control as a werewolf and was placed in the school basement, where he eats the gang leader after Xander makes him switch off the bomb. This happened after Xander left, so even Xander and Oz are unaware of it.
    • Perfect capper to this episode; all throughout the episode, Cordelia has been making snide comments to Xander about how useless and redundant he is, which has affected his confidence. In the end, she sneers another one at him... only this time, he just smirks back and walks away. Cordelia, flustered, is reduced to yelling "What? What?!" at his back. He doesn't answer, realizing that he is, in fact, Made of Win and doesn't need anyone's validation to be sure of it.
    • Also virtually every slayer that ever lived. Very few people know they exist, they routinely put their lives on the line to save people and are almost certainly going to die very young and very messily. At one point, Buffy is trying to research how previous slayers died (in order to avert it herself) and discovers that even the secret records kept by their Watchers are pretty sparse on the details of how most of them met their end. She brings it up with Giles, who reasons that, if they were anything like him, the Watchers simply found it ''too painful'' to record the details of the how the slayer died, so the stories go mostly untold.
  • Cousin Skeeter accidentally warps his friends on a space-faring adventure, thwarts a stereotypical bug queen overlord, and even plants a mole so that her 50,000,000-year-old plot for world domination will be thwarted in the long run. Then his friends get deneuralized by Kay. IN GOLF PANTS. He rolled a natural 20 on dodge, the others call him stupid.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Painless", a social pariah stares down a Mad Bomber and survives. Technically, his story is told — but by the guy who steals it for his own, passing himself off as the hero while the pariah is hospitalized. The real events of that day are left untold until the UnSub finally snaps.
  • The entirety of Doctor Who is arguably a Greatest Story Never Told. With the exception of Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor (most of which was spent with him stranded on Earth) the Doctor rarely, if ever, sticks around after saving the world/galaxy/universe, with only a handful of survivors to know that he even exists, let alone about his involvement. On the other hand, he has justified this as far as "The Power of the Daleks" — he just doesn't want to get stuck with the bill.
    • "The Unquiet Dead": Rose laments that no one but her, the Doctor and Charles Dickens will know that servant girl Gwyneth saved the world.
    • A touching version of this trope appears in "Father's Day". Pete Tyler sacrifices his life to save the world — but nobody will ever know except for the one person who matters most; his daughter.
    • A more specific example is the Series 3 finale episodes: During the Year That Never Was, Martha Jones became known worldwide as she traveled the Earth as part of her plan to defeat the Master. But because the plan involved the year, well, never being, the only people who know what happened were those on the Valiant.
    • Inverted in the Series 4 finale, "Journey's End". Donna Noble saves the damn universe and isn't allowed to remember it or ANY of her travels with the Doctor else she'll die — although everyone else knows, including a few alien civilizations. Some viewers still haven't finished spewing vulgarities at Russell T. Davies for it.
    • As a matter of fact, a track on the Series 4 OST is named "The Greatest Story Never Told", which is used so extensively throughout Series 3 and 4 (from at least "Gridlock", through "The Fires of Pompeii" to at least River Song's magnificent death) that it is hard to resist the conclusion that RTD knew exactly which trope's chain he was yanking.
    • Actually pointed out and then averted at the end of "The Next Doctor", where the Doctor saves the day from the Cybermen, and Jackson calls out to the entire crowd on the streets about what the Doctor does, how he never gets any credit for saving the world time and time again and then gets the crowd to clap and cheer for him. The Doctor can't help but show a small grin.
    • This trope found frustrating new heights in Series 5, as the Doctor gradually discovers that the cracks in time have erased Donna's sacrifice and the Cybermen attack on Victorian London from history, making these instead The Greatest Stories That Never Actually Happened, leaving the Doctor alone with the painful memories. And then he presses the Reset Button, and that's a problem no longer.
    • The Doctor winds up personally enforcing this trope when he realized how dangerous his notoriety as The Dreaded is for him and the people around him — he fakes his death and goes around erasing himself from the records of history. Eventually even the Daleks get their memories of him wiped — which, unsurprisingly, was a state of affairs that did not last.
  • Bates from Downton Abbey tries constantly to be this, but is increasingly thwarted by Lord Grantham and the rest of the household staff's affection and concern for him. Anna, in particular, is very good at weaseling the (always very noble) truth from Bates about his past, especially once they become a couple. It takes nearly the entire first season of the show for the characters and the audience to find out where Bates lived before coming to Downton, and still longer for them to find out why such an evidently kind and honorable man would have spent time in prison for theft. Turns out he was covering for his Jerkass wife, who had actually stolen the silver.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Isaiah Bradley was a Korean War veteran who was given the Super-Soldier serum and had many adventures saving lives and even once defeated the Winter Soldier in a fight. Because the government didn't want the world to know about a Black Captain America, he was betrayed, imprisoned, and experimented on for over 30 years. When he managed to escape, he was embittered to learn he had not been recorded in history but decided to live as a civilian instead of fight it. In the episode "One World, One People", Sam Wilson manages to get Bradley an exhibit in the Smithsonian that tells his story, cheering him up.
  • Fame: The TV Series had an episode entitled "The Crimson Blade" where the main character of a swashbuckling play inspires the students to fight back against an oppressive substitute principal. Everyone assumes the Blade is Jesse, the popular student playing the role in the play. It's actually the unlikable Miltie, and in the end, only Jesse and Miltie know the truth.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • There's a healthy dose of this in that Ned kept the greatest secret in Westeros. Ned brings a baby boy home from the war, names him Jon, and tells everyone that Jon is his illegitimate son when, in reality, Jon is Ned's nephew as Jon is the son of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Ned died convincing the whole world that he fathered an illegitimate son and had broken his marital vows when, in actuality, this was a cover story Ned told to save his nephew (Jon), the only child of his beloved sister, from the wrath of the Baratheon regime. Ned spent the rest of his life protecting Jon, raising and loving him as his own son alongside his lawful children, and honoring his sister's Dying Wish. This means Ned never dishonored his wife; Jon is the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms while his illegitimate status is the very thing that saved his life; and no one, not even Jon himself has the slightest idea about any of this, except Jon's adoptive brother and cousin Bran and now his best friend Sam — as of the Season 7 finale.
    • As of Season 7, it's revealed that Jon is a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne since Rhaegar annulled his marriage with Elia Martell and secretly married Lyanna Stark. Jon's birth name is Aegon Targaryen, given to him by his mother Lyanna. Ned names him 'Jon' to protect him from the fatal consequences from the Baratheon regime as King Robert Baratheon wanted to kill anyone with Targaryen blood.
    • When The Cavalry reaps all the credit for rescuing King's Landing, Tyrion (who was pivotal in holding off the attackers until they arrived) is left feeling unappreciated until Varys points out that some men will never forget.
    • Jaime Lannister never told anyone (except Brienne) that the real reason he killed his king was to prevent said king from incinerating the entire city and killing half a million people out of spite.
    • In the final episode, a book is written chronicling the events of the series. To Tyrion's chagrin, he's not mentioned in it despite his important role in events.
  • Kamen Rider Build ends with Sento merging his universe with a universe where Evolt never existed and did all the horrible things he did. As a result, Japan is at peace and everyone is living much happier lives. However, Sento and Ryuga are both anomalies since their existences are the things that happened in the old world (namely, Sento being an existing person who had their memory wiped and face changed by Evolt, and Ryuga having Evolt's DNA). Thus, even though they managed to carry over, they technically shouldn't exist in the new world, meaning that none of their friends remember who they are, and there are already people living the lives they could have in the new world. However, the last scene of the series is Sento deciding to avert this by recording a 49-episode script of his adventures with the world.
  • Beautifully used in Lost for scrappies Nikki and Paulo. It was revealed in Exposé that they were in fact the first to find an important Dharma Initiative station and find that the Others are real after overhearing Ben and Juliet. But by the end of the episode they were killed off.
  • Merlin is built on the trope. Magic is punishable by death, and so to everyone except the court physician, Merlin is Arthur's clumsy, moronic servant who can't wield a sword and mainly serves as the Plucky Comic Relief and Butt-Monkey of the team. Behind the scenes, Merlin defeats dragons, two immortal armies, and countless magical foes. Also deconstructed to a point, as Merlin has dealt with the emotional baggage that being treated as a useless coward while you save everyone's skins.
    Merlin: I just want Arthur to trust me, and to see me for who I really am. Everything I do is for him, and he still thinks I'm an idiot.
  • M.I. High:
    • The high school spies constantly save the country, and sometimes the world, but nobody knows because they cannot let the opposition know that there are teenage spies in MI Nine.
  • Early episodes of NCIS played with this, as they would be referred to at best as 'a federal agency' when their actions made the news if their contributions were mentioned at all. Other times, other law enforcement members or agencies would take all the credit entirely, even if the team did all the actual work. This has fallen by the wayside as the show's gone on, though there are still a couple of occasions where civilians don't recognize the name.
    Halloween Party Guest: Nice costumes, but you spelled CSI wrong.
    • Gibbs does this to a serial killer in one episode. The killer killed multiple people in bizarre ways so when caught the trial would become a media sensation. Gibbs has enough of the case classified secret for (flimsy) national security reasons that the killer is barely mentioned on TV.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • "The Voyage Home" revolved around a trio of astronauts traveling back to Earth from Mars. Earlier, two of the astronauts had been replaced by aliens, leaving just the one human who eventually learns about the impostor. Forced to choose between making it back to Earth and the fame and glory he would receive and preventing the alien species from spreading to Earth, the final astronaut finally decides to be a hero and sabotages the re-entry procedure causing the ship to burn up, with Ground Control believing it to be a disastrous malfunction. The ending narration: "The true measure of a hero is when a man lays down his life with the knowledge that those he saves... will never know." However, the episode "The Voice of Reason" reveals the ship's black box was recovered and recordings of the incident are played for a government committee.
    • Although not referenced as blatantly by the narrator, "Feasibility Study" ends similarly, with an entire suburban community of alien abductees choosing to expose themselves to a deadly virus, so they'll all die and their abductors will conclude that humans can't survive on their planet, hence are unsuitable as slaves. The closing scenes show the abductees all holding hands in death, while baffled people back on Earth stare anxiously at the barren gap where the stolen neighborhood used to be, mercifully ignorant of how they've been spared en masse enslavement.
    • In "Better Luck Next Time", two detectives are used as pawns by two men possessed by evil Body Surfing aliens. After tricking one detective into shooting the other, the aliens confess that they have been murdering and playing games to trick people into killing each other for centuries. To stop them, the detectives shoot the aliens' host bodies, then the surviving one shoots herself. Since they are in a big empty warehouse, the aliens are unable to find new host bodies before they disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere. Without any evidence, when their bodies are found, no one will know that they stopped two mass murderers and everyone will likely think the detectives went mad, killed two people, then themselves.
  • Person of Interest has "Prisoner's Dilemma", an episode with an incredibly small B-plot in which Detective Fusco (usually the series Butt-Monkey) has to protect the POI while the others are trying to get John Reese out of jail. Even we aren't sure what happened, as it's told with just bits and pieces, but it includes Fusco going Guns Akimbo with Armenian gangsters and getting a Smooch of Victory from supermodel Karolína Kurková (As Herself)!
    • Then there's the antepenultimate episode, which reveals that three numbers from past episodes were brought together by the Machine to do the same thing Reese and Finch have been doing, only in DC. Which raises the further possibility of other teams...
    • At the end of the final episode, it's entirely possible that the only people in the world that know that it came dangerously close to being taken over by an evil AI if not for the actions of Team Machine are Finch, Shaw and Fusco.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Bulk and Skull in "When is a Ranger Not a Ranger?". Unfortunately the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Monster of the Week erases memories, so no one knows what happened.
    • They get another in Power Rangers Zeo when the two are warped to an alien planet controlled by the Big Bad and help start a successful rebellion. On the planet, they're deemed heroes. But as usual, once they get back to Earth, no one believes them.
    • In general, most Power Ranger teams won't be remembered for their actions save amongst themselves. Generally, they fight to protect others and preserve the innocent, but their Secret Identity means that the world will remember how The Power Rangers saved the day rather than any individual person. Though this is averted in some seasons where the rangers have more public identities.
  • In the Scrubs episode "Their Story", Ted secretly gives the nurses the means to get the pay increase they deserve from Kelso. He doesn't care that they don't know it was him.
    Kelso: Ted! Did you have something to do with this?
    Ted: Of course, not sir, I don't have the guts.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "In The Pale Moonlight" has the framing device of Benjamin Sisko narrating to his personal log how he tricked Romulans to join the Federation in the war against the Dominion, and how he crossed more than one personal Moral Event Horizon in the process. He summarizes at the end: "I lied, I cheated, I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men, I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all, I think I can live with it". Once he's finished describing everything that happened, he calmly instructs the computer to erase the entire log. Nobody can know the truth or any good that came from these actions will be undone.
  • Star Trek: Voyager has "Course:Oblivion" which depicts the adventures of a "fake" (copied) Voyager. They all are destroyed moments before being found by real Voyager, which never finds out what happened. Tear Jerker and Shoot the Shaggy Dog in the same Package.
    • "Before and After" and "Year of Hell" feature two separate resets of the same series of events. The first is remembered by only a single crew member, who has to keep most of it to herself to avoid contaminating the timeline, and the later incident is forgotten entirely.
  • On The West Wing, Vice-President Hoynes, while not a bad guy, occupies a significantly different spot on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism than most of the characters, rarely doing anything that's not at least partly for his own political gain, and is constantly resentful of having to live in the president's shadow (among other things, he was originally the favorite for the party's nomination). In one episode, though ("Stirred"), he stops sponsoring an Internet education bill that's been his pet project for years, because the Republican-controlled Congress doesn't want to pass such a popular bill with the Democratic VP's name attached to it while he and the president are running for reelection.
    • Also notable because most of the White House senior staff spend the episode considering whether or not they want to replace Hoynes on the ticket, and it's revealed near the end of the episode that Hoynes was able to guess what they were doing.
    • Another example has Toby realizing a Republican senator would be interested in sponsoring a bill to reform Social Security so it won't go bankrupt. He does all the legwork to get a Democrat who's willing to also co-sponsor, and (after having to write up a letter of resignation because one of his earlier attempts embarrassed the White House) the staff discover that both senators won't do it unless they can say they approached each other. Toby, President Bartlet, and the White House get no credit at all.
    • Invoked in "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail", where an FBI agent (played by a guy who'd play another G-Man a few years later) says in response to accusing the wrong people of being Russian spies that the FBI's failures are public while their successes are private, and they don't take a curtain call even with a big win.

  • As far as the public in Embers in the Dusk knows, Seamus Lin's death came from natural (under the circumstances) causes. The Trust can't afford drawing attention by revealing to everyone that the Last Saint actually healed Primarch Guilliman at the cost of his own life.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure I5 Lost Tomb of Martek. At the end of the adventure, the title wizard tells the PCs that:
    Martek: Those people that cast you into this desert land will no longer remember you. You are once again free to travel the face of this world as you want. All to whom you tell this tale will believe it to be but a fable. Only you shall know the truth of what you have seen.
  • Exalted: The Lunars' sacrifice during the Balorian Crusade. Creation knows that the Scarlet Empress Fantastic Nuke'd The Fair Folk, but they don't know who bought time for her to do that. Even worse, the Lunars remain anathema in the Scarlet Empress' reign.
    • Though this should be taken with a grain of salt. While there is no question that the Scarlet Empress saved Creation, there are several books that "reveal" that the only reason she succeeded was that some other group helped her. So far the Lunars, Sidereals, and Fair Folk themselves have all taken credit for her victory, which really brings into question whether any of them actually are responsible for what happened, or whether they just tell themselves that they are.
    • This is inevitable for the Sidereals. It's not that no one knows their deed; it's that there's a strong magic that removes them from the public memory. It's a necessity, really.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has the Rat Catchers. They brave the medieval sewers of the cities of the Empire with nothing more than a club and a small (but vicious) dog to kill Skaven, and they do it all for minimum wage. Oh, and they're not even allowed to tell anybody what they really do because the Empire would collapse if word got out that a whole empire of evil ratmen was living right under their feet. And you thought your job was thankless.

    Video Games 

  • The subtitle of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War refers to the late-game missions, which involve rescuing the kidnapped leaders of both Osea and Yuktobania and preventing two atomic bombings, one doomsday scenario, and a Colony Drop, all while flying as the Ghosts of Razgriz—a unit whose very existence is denied by the government for a decade thereafter.
  • By the end of ARMA 2, you - having gotten a promotion to leading an ultra-secret USMC detachment to the unstable allied nation of Chernarus - have cut through at least a hundred Mooks and have been in dozens of battles. And that won't get you much alone. But, if you get the best ending, the death toll is more than likely in the couple hundred range, while you have also fought your way through extremely inhospitable terrain often cut off from allied forces, have almost singlehandedly destroyed the Communist insurgency, have engineered an alliance between the Chernarusian government and the underground Nationalist party, have hunted down several very nasty terrorists, and have helped stave off Russian intervention if not all-out war. The ending you get? "The war that never was."
  • By their nature, the Assassin's Creed series is built on this. The assassins will have their hands in historical moments, protecting or killing countless historical figures, changing history left and right, promoting figures to power, or bringing them down. But because of the nature of their order, none but their own order will truly remember what they have done. Even the famous friends they make won't mention them too strongly either. Subverted with some of it, as Abstergo Entertainment likes turning their lives into games for the public enjoyment (although heavily edited to conceal the true history).
  • The 1998 RTS/FPS game, BattleZone, has the entire campaign taking place in a covered-up war between the Soviet Union and the United States on the planets of the Solar System to gain control of the Bio-Metal. The protagonist, Grizzly One, ultimately saves humanity from the Furies, the man-biometal abominations that the Russians were building. His story is completely forgotten and/or covered up by the events of BattleZone II, set 40 years later, in the high tech future of 2004, where the Bio-Metal Wars are (mostly) public knowledge.
  • Betrayal at Krondor ends up being this in the context of the series on which the game was based, because it ties into the secret of the Lifestone beneath Sethanon, which is where the final struggle takes place. As a result, Gorath may have died a hero and the best proof that the moredhel and enemies of the Kingdom are not Always Chaotic Evil, but aside from his travelling companions, no one will ever know.
  • In BlazBlue, during the ten-year-long Dark War when the Black Beast attacked the world killing off over half the population of the entire world, it mysteriously disappeared for a year. During that time humanity was able to recuperate and had made and gathered many weapons for when the Beast would appear again and even developed a type of magic called Ars Magus. The reason for its disappearance was because a man called Bloodedge spent that year fighting it to a standstill before inevitably losing. You would think that this would be told as a legend, but only Jubei knows about this until he tells Ragna, who probably told no one. At the same time, Jubei gives Ragna Bloodedge's sword and red jacket, after which Ragna starts calling himself "Ragna the Bloodedge" in his honor. Also, Bloodedge is Ragna, sent back to the past with amnesia. Evidently, he managed to remember his title but not his name.
  • Brütal Legend: In the ending, Lars and Lita Halford are hailed as the great heroes who defeated the Tainted Coil, brought down the slaving regime of General Lionwhyte and freed humanity. Eddie Riggs, who made it all possible, is barely acknowledged and expects to fade from history. This is because he doesn't view himself as the star, he views himself as the star's roadie. In his own words:
    Eddie Riggs: A good roadie knows that it's his job to make someone else look good, keep someone else safe, help someone else do what they were put here to do. A good roadie stays out of the spotlight; if he's doing his job right, you don't even know he was there. Once in a while, they might step on stage to fix a problem, to set something right, but then before you realize why he was there, or what he did, he's gone.
  • As per its setting, Call of Duty: Black Ops is all about this trope, as it turns out the main character was responsible for saving the United States from a catastrophic mass attack with nerve gas in 1968.
    • And firing a rifle in Dallas, Texas in 1963. But the less said about that the better.
  • In the last act of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, you save at least 15 million people, kill a major international figure, and watch your friends die. It's written off as missile tests and skirmishes. Only you and a handful of others, either in the highest echelons of NATO or on-site, know the truth.
  • The plot of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia in the game universe's timeline. Shanoa defeats Dracula and wins back her emotions and memories, but she and the story of her adventure vanish from history.
    • Kind of justified in context, given where Ecclesia derives from. Ecclesiastes 9:5: "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten." Furthermore, the villagers she saved are descendants of the Belmont line that had lost their way- by saving them she spurred them to train in the ways of vampire slaying again, and they remember Shanoa even if no one else does.
  • Dead Rising turns out to be this, one way or another. In three out of five endings, Frank manages to get most-to-all of the details of the story he's chasing but never leaves the mall. He finally does in the ending to Overtime mode, but exactly what happens after that is hard to say aside from heavy implication that eventually became a zombie. In the other endings in which he makes it out safely with whatever survivors he's rounded up, the epilogue states that he was able to write several articles on the events at Willamette themselves, but then again, never learned the truth behind the Zombie Apocalypse.
    • The official ending states that, as with any society overflowing with information, America quickly forgot about the Willamette Incident.
    • The sequel, however, ignores the endings in which this happens, though Frank isn't famous regardless.
  • The ending of the DLC storyline of Dishonored has Daud save Emily from being possessed by the witch Delilah Copperspoon, with no one but The Outsider knowing about it.
    "No one will ever know exactly what it took to save Emily Kaldwin from a living death as Delilah's puppet."
  • Zigzagged with the escape from the avalanche in Double Homework. While the news media report that the protagonist saved six people from the avalanche, a number of people are inclined to believe that he caused it, just like the first one. And it was indeed a man-made event.
  • A variant in Dragon Age II: nobody but Hawke and his/her compatriots (and now Cassandra) know the real story of the events of the game. Everyone else idolizes Hawke as the greatest of heroes or curses his/her name as the darkest of villains despite the fact that Hawke was just a refugee who got thrown in way over his/her head. Also, the events of the "Legacy" DLC campaign were left out of the official account of Hawke's adventures specifically because the story is so fantastical that no one would believe it.
  • Happens in the Prologue of EarthBound Beginnings: George returns home and tells nobody what happened to him and his wife, who by the way never returned.
  • The epilogue of Einhänder mentions that both the Earth Force and Selene have deleted every record of the protagonist's existence and endeavours. Only "those who actually fought and were wounded in the war know the name of 'EINHÄNDER'."
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the in-game book Father of the Niben details the travels of Topal the Pilot, the Aldmeri Bold Explorer and poet, who was the first to discover and explore Tamriel during the Merethic Era, encountering primitive versions of the Khajiit and Argonians, as well as a now-extinct race of bird people. Unfortunately, details of large portions of his trip are missing from the historical record. Most notable is an 80 month period between landing in modern-day High Rock and being on the northeast coast of Morrowind.
  • Fate/stay night mentions this in the conclusion to the Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel routes. In the first, he can never reveal the existence of his Reality Marble, and thus his defeat of Archer and Gilgamesh, for fear of receiving a Sealing Designation. In the second, Rin only tells the Association that Shirou was a normal human who died during the War, rather than revealing his role and sacrifices.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • The heroes of Chaldea have many time traveling adventures to save the world from demons screwing with history. Unfortunately, no one notices their efforts because of the timeline resets, which leads to the Mages Association to accuse Chaldea of not doing anything and being nothing but a waste of resources.
    • In the Agartha Singularity, several civilian men are transported into a deadly Lady Land and struggle to survive, forming a resistance force against the women. The heroes of Chaldea eventually rescue them, but when they come home and talk about what happened, nobody believes them.
    • According to the female Miyamoto Musashi's profile, she wasn't acknowledged as a swordsmaster by her society because she was a woman, and fell into historical obscurity. The swordsmasters of her era who knew of her, however, esteemed her greatly (though her obscurity meant each of them thought they were the only one to know about her).
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy ends with no one remembering the Light Warriors because they repaired the time loop. Even the Light Warriors themselves are rendered unaware of what they did. In fact, the text-only ending breaks the fourth wall to say that the only one who will remember the events of the game is the player, and that it's incumbent on the player to do so, or it was all meaningless.
    • The whole plot of Final Fantasy Tactics. The Church erases Ramza from history to hide its corruption. It then subverts this trope through the game's narrator, who is a historian who reveals the truth of the events, and is a descendant of one of Ramza's (very few) allies.
  • Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem uses this to justify the insertion of the player's Avatar into the story. Even before the game begins, the intro spells out that Marth's friend and confidant, known as the "Hero of Shadow", was forgotten by history. Only at the end do you find out why: When Marth offers it, the Avatar refuses to take credit for his/her role in the war, believing the glory is better left to Marth so people will unite around him (as he is about to become king of Archanea).
  • In the end, nobody except Jowd, Missile and one of the Big Bads from Ghost Trick knows the hardships and feats of Player Character Sissel through the game, AKA one night. He foiled the plans of a dangerous criminal organization and saved nine lives, but this Great Story is lost when Sissel creates a new timeline where Sissel never needs to save anyone from the Big Bads.
  • Getting the bad ending in Giga Wing with Shinnosuke yields an ending in which he commits Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the Medallion, but is forgotten from history.
  • Subverted in the Half-Life series. Halfway through the original game, US Marines special forces arrive, with the intent of killing everyone and covering up the whole event. At the end of Opposing Force, we find out the military detonated a nuke which destroyed the facility. Unfortunately, this caused the portal storms, the Seven Hour War and the Combine occupation, and Gordon Freeman, instead of a story never told, was lifted to messianic status as "The One Free Man."
  • Halo:
    • The story of Halo 3: ODST, being a mere aside to the fantastic adventures of the Master Chief.
    • Halo: Reach shares this to some extent with Noble Team's role, though bonus materials indicate that their heroics became famous after the war, to the point where the public even built a statue to honor them.
    • Halo Wars ends like this; with the Spirit of Fire left adrift without an FTL drive, its crew have no way of telling their friends back home that they stopped the Covenant from acquiring a fleet of Forerunner ships.
  • This happens every time you do one of the story missions in Infamous, both the voice of survival and the USTV network providing different stories as to what happened. A particular example is the first train mission to save a bunch of civilians from the abandoned trains: the voice claims it was a "group of concerned citizens" and also trashes Cole and USTV says something about a bunch of paratroopers that didn't exist.
    • It is a justified trope, as in Truth's last message it's made clear that it was Kessler who was keeping him quiet.
    • It's heavily implied that while the rest of the country doesn't know about Cole's existence, the citizens of Empire City know who their hero is. This is enforced by the times in the sequel where side missions will involve people who know he helped specific people in the first game and thank him for it, and of course by the end of the game, everyone in the city knows about what Cole did for them.
  • Inverted in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories; at the end of the game Sora and company's memories are erased of their adventures during the game, but everyone else (Namine, Riku, Ansem the Wise) still remember everything that happened.
  • Jewel Master ends with the titular hero retrieving the twelve Jewels of the Elemental Masters, slaying Jardine the Demon Lord and all his minions, restoring order to the lands and then going into exile after his victory. With the ending credits stating "There is no mention in history of the battle waged between the Jewel Master and the forces of evil. But legends do speak of twelve magical gems and an ancient kingdom that flourished in peace."
  • At the end of "The Quarter Moon Murders" chapter in L.A. Noire, Cole Phelps and Rusty Galloway finally put a stop to the man who murdered several women throughout each chapter of the homicide desk. However, Captain Donelley says that the story behind the murderer will never be released to the public because said murderer is the half brother of a very high ranking politician. Going public would mean not only a nationwide scandal in the political field, but the LAPD would face a massive scandal due to them having arrested several innocent people who were locked up for murders they were set up for by the real killer. Ergo, to prevent a fallout, the story would be kept secret while the suspects would be let go through staged flubs and errors during their trials so they can be let go on a technicality.
  • In the prologue and chapter 5 of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Class VII singlehandedly stops a terrorist assault intended to seize control of a pair of enormous cannons and use them to bombard a major international trade conference. They never received any public recognition for this, as the entire incident was classified (not to mention rendered moot when the entire base that was attacked in the incident was completely destroyed two months later). When they return to Thors, only one member of the student body outside of Class VII was aware of the attack, and she knew because she had been present at the conference that was nearly fired upon.
  • Most notably on display in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where Link is sent back in time following the events of the game in order to regain the seven years of life that he lost. This decision led to two primary timelines - the "adult" timeline where the trope is averted and the Hero of Time is loved and revered for generations to follow even after Hyrule itself is long destroyed, and then the "child" timeline where it's played almost completely straight and Link is able to avoid the catastrophic events of the game by warning of Ganondorf's treachery in advance. This Hero of Time later goes on to rescue Termina from imminent destruction in the sequel game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and it's left ambiguous as to whether anyone other than a few individuals are even aware of the reality of what happened or Link's hand in stopping it.
  • Subverted in The Logomancer. No one can consciously remember the major conflict due to Laser-Guided Amnesia, but Ardus retained enough subconscious details to reconstruct the story in his next novel. So, the story quite literally will be told, just as fiction rather than fact.
  • Mage Gauntlet: Inverted with every legend involving Whitebeard; Hurgoth is a fairly weak demon, and Whitebeard played up his deeds to get the local mage council's permission to experiment with illegal magic. Played straight in the ending, too: in the final battle, Lexi attacks Hurgoth and his minions while Whitebeard performs a ritual to renew the portal seal, well away from harm. At the end of the ritual, Lexi is sucked through the portal as an unwilling sacrifice. The resulting legend tells that Whitebeard fought valiantly alongside his apprentice and defeated Hurgoth once again, but that the apprentice fell in battle. It's heavily implied by notes found throughout the game that this is the usual fate of Whitebeard's apprentices.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The entire plot of Mass Effect 2 features this. It's made fairly clear from the get-go that neither the Council nor the Alliance knows or cares what you're doing against the Collectors. All you've got is yourself, the Illusive Man, and your crew of unstable maniacs and if you all die in the ensuing suicide mission, no one will probably know until it's too late.
      • It's subverted in the last DLC for the game though, where Shepard ends up doing something to stop the Reapers that everyone takes notice and blames him/her for.
      • Invoked by Jacob when he tells Shepard about his background and what he did to get noticed and recruited by Cerberus - stopping an assassination plot on the Citadel that was covered up for political reasons. As he puts it:
        Jacob: "Good deeds are like pissing yourself in dark pants - warm feeling but nobody notices"
    • Narrowly averted in the original Mass Effect. If not for discovering Vigil on Ilos, no subsequent race would have ever known about the Protheans sacrificing themselves on the Citadel in order to derail the Reaper fleet. The trope also is referenced in the "hold the line" speech; Kirrahe's team would be legendary if the records weren't all sealed.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda: One feature in Cora's backstory, during her time with the asari commandos. One mission had them find a group of pirates who had taken hostages. The team managed to assassinate their leader, leaving the pirates to turn on one another, while they got the hostages out unharmed, with the pirates none the wiser. Hearing this story, Liam asks what's the point of doing good deeds if no one knows. Cora replies "I know."
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the truth behind The Boss's actions can never be known because she deliberately adopted the persona of a traitor. In reality, she was one of the greatest patriots of all time. However, in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots it's revealed that through Big Boss's actions, The Boss's record as a traitor was eventually cleansed and she was recognized as the hero those who were close to her knew her to be, with Big Boss himself subject to similar acclaim.
    • Solid Snake, the series's original protagonist, ends up falling into this, since he manages to free the world from the grip of his megalomaniac brother and the Patriots (by accident no less), and yet not only will no one ever find out, but he is still technically labeled as a terrorist.
  • The ending of Metal Max Returns after you choose to return home after defeating Noah.
  • In Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, you have to save Seoul from destruction in one mission. When you finish it, Fiona would joke about how they would never know you saved them. The mercenary responds that fortune would be preferable to fame.
  • Muv-Luv Alternative: Second Lieutenant Takeru Shirogane's achievements and central role in completing Alternative IV, and even his existence, will never be revealed to the rest of the world, due to him ceasing to exist and consequently getting wiped from the memories of everyone except Kasumi and Yuuko, who had vowed to take the secret of his existence, and therefore that of parallel worlds, to the grave. With all of his comrades dead, no one else will ever know that a certain bratty hero saved the world. No one.
  • A staple of the mainline Persona games:
    • While the events of the first Persona gain media attention, nobody but the heroes themselves know that it was a rag-tag band of high school students who saved the day.
    • Applies to both halves of Persona 2. In Innocent Sin, the heroes have to accept a full timeline reset in order to save the world, and Eternal Punishment's ending implies that only Persona users know the truth of what happened.
    • Persona 3: Nobody but SEES will remember the Dark Hour, the world almost ending, or the protagonist sacrificing themselves to seal the goddess of death away. They themselves would have forgotten as well, had it not been for their promise to reunite on graduation day.
    • In Persona 4, the public will never know that a small band of teenagers in a sleepy rural town not only solved a supernatural murder mystery, but saved the world from the machinations of a Shinto goddess.
    • Downplayed in Persona 5. The Phantom Thieves became famous for their exploits, even if their true identities and the supernatural nature of their hijinks remain unknown to the general public. However, thanks to Laser-Guided Amnesia, only a tiny minority remember that the Phantom Thieves saved the world on Christmas Eve, and after the adventure ends, the public becomes divided on whether the Phantom Thieves actually ever existed.
  • In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, the Player Character saves the region from an Introduced Species Calamity after entering the Forbidden Zone, and Director Clavell tells them and their friends that they're not in trouble but their adventure can never reach the public. That extends to the Pokédex since that's also public record, and as a result the entries for the Paradox Pokémon are very sparse and primarily draw from tabloid magazines rather than any observations made by the player.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. After falling in love with the Princess, and watching her plummet to her death, the Prince returns to the Hourglass of Time (which contained the Sands of Time whose released turned everyone in the kingdom into baddies) and used the Dagger of Time to re-seal the Sands into the Hourglass, and undoing the events of the night. The Prince wakes up in his camp with the Dagger in his hand and steals his way in to the Princess's chambers to tell her the story. She doesn't remember a bit of it.
    • And then in the third game, the Prince altering history has resulted in the Princess having no memories of him at all, although it's implied that he does tell his story to her at the end.
  • In Professor Layton and the Curious Village, at the end, Layton tells Luke that the world must never know about the village populated entirely by robots (and their caretaker). The village was created to care for and protect the orphaned Flora, the Baron's daughter, whom Layton hereafter adopts as his own; he wants the story kept quiet because he doesn't want the media to make a spectacle of her.
  • At the end of the original Resistance, Nathan is taken by Black Ops and put into the top-secret "Sentinel Program" while the Army is left to believe that he died in the destruction of the conversion center. After the end of the second game, only a few people know the truth about what happened: what's left of SRPA, Capelli, and Malikov.
  • Despite what Rance has done to the whole world, no one really knows about him. Of course, there are a ton of reasons behind it from a queen who's a Clingy Jealous Girl to the fact that the entire country had a civil war. Sengoku Rance may probably be the first time that he'll be mentioned as the savior of JAPAN.
  • Shadow of the Colossus focuses on a boy named Wander single-handedly fighting more than a dozen giants, all to revive his dead girlfriend. At the end of the game, Wander gets transformed into a baby just before the girl is revived. She finds him crying, completely unaware of who he is or what he's done for her.
  • The neutral ending of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne ends with the main character undoing The End of the World as We Know It and restoring it to its previous state. Because everyone else was either destroyed by said ending of the world or killed during your quest to restore the world, only one person aside from the main character will ever know he did it. It's subverted by the fact that all the demons remember it. And, apparently, YHVH. And according to Lucifer, He will not be happy about it...
  • If the player chooses the good ending in Singularity, he goes back in time and shoots himself to prevent his past self from unintentionally saving the Big Bad. Doing so causes him to fall down, then wake up at the beginning of the game with all of his memories intact. He saved the world, and nobody knows it — hell, there isn't even a shred of evidence that it happened. However, since Mission Control goes by Hammer-21 instead of Titan-1, the Soviets still managed to take over the world under the guidance of Dr. Barisov.
  • Par for the course for the single-player campaigns in the Splatoon series:
    • The first game has Agent 3 set out on a mission to retrieve the Great Zapfish from the Octarian Army Corps, guided only by the elderly Cap'n Cuttlefish (and later Agents 1 and 2 of the New Squidbeak Splatoon, better known as the Squid Sisters Callie and Marie). In the end, only those four know the truth, with the Callie and Marie deliberately playing dumb to their involvement.
    • Splatoon 2 has new recruit Agent 4 on a mission to both retake the Great Zapfish, which has been stolen again, and to find the missing Callie. Only Agent 4, the Squid Sisters, and weapons expert Sheldon know anything about the adventure by the time things return to normal. Meanwhile, the "Octo Expansion" DLC (which takes place concurrently) has the inhabitants of Inkopolis blissfully unaware of how close to extinction they came at the hands of a genocidal telephone. Pearl, Marina, Cap'n Cuttlefish, Agent 3 and Agent 8 are the only ones who know, though the wreckage of the Final Boss remains in the city's harbor.
    • Splatoon 3 has New Agent 3 and Smallfry both recovering the Great Zapfish (once again) and saving the world from being turned into a fuzzball at the paws of Mr. Grizz, with only the Captain (the original Agent 3), ex-Cap'n Cuttlefish, the Squid Sisters, Frye, Shiver, Big Man, and DJ Octavio aware of their adventures by the end. Callie even lampshades it after the end credits.
  • Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell series can never receive any recognition for saving the world on multiple occasions due to belonging to the Third Echelon, a branch within the NSA that is even more secretive than the CIA. The Big Bad in the third game even comments on Sam getting no recognition or glory for his actions.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Imperial Agent storyline can be summed up as this since you're part of the Imperial Intelligence. Can be especially frustrating considering that, at the end of their questline, the Agent had just destroyed an Ancient Conspiracy that was very close to wiping out the Sith and the Jedi, but nobody will ever know. Though to be fair, Keeper warned you in the prologue that you were doing the dirty work and that you would never know glory.
  • At the end of Super Robot Wars Compact 3, Shion, Silky, and the Sirbine return to their world after beating the Shura King Alkaid with the Londo Bell. Remuru sees the Sirbine warping out in front of her with Shion shouting where are they this time and she asks Shion where he had been to all this time. Silky notes that they're back to their world and Shion says that he's been to another world. Remuru asks what the heck he is talking about. He just went off wandering didn't he? Silky says to believe them, but Shion tells Remuru, "Oh, I guess I didn't fool you" and Shion tells Silky that no one will believe their tales of another world. Remuru asks for Shion's help since things has gotten a bit hectic since Shion went away and Shion says that he got it and tells Silky, "Let's go Silky."
  • In Tales of Vesperia, the guild Brave Vesperia saves the world from multiple threats including the designs of a madman and the horrific doom he inadvertently unleashes upon the world. They also save many people along the way such as the victims of an incredibly corrupt nobleman. The only people who know of all their deeds and are not actually members of Brave Vesperia can be counted on one hand. Granted some of them are very important people but it is implied that the protagonist at least never gets the recognition he is due because of the circumstances. Namely Yuri allows Flynn to take the credit for most of his accomplishments, and by extension Brave Vesperia's, because this allows Flynn to affect change from within the system in a position of strength. Due to taking all their credit, Flynn gets promoted to Commandant in the end, head of the Empire's armed forces and now has the authority to affect lasting change. Helps that the members of Brave Vesperia are large and by content to let the greater good win rather than claim the glory.
  • While it is not emphasized, in the Thief series, most of the cataclysmic events that Garret is again and again embroiled in never reach the general public's attention. In fact, the only people who know about most of his exploits are the Keepers, whose very existence itself is unknown to Normal People. Also, Garret himself is referred to as "The Greatest Thief the World Has Never Seen".
  • The adventure game Timelapse centers on exploring three ancient time periods, which Professor Alexander Nichols had claimed for years were connected by Atlantis, despite having been shot down over and over by his colleagues. Throughout the game, the player follows Nichols' footsteps through these time periods, who boasts that what he found would make him and the player famous. It turns out at the end that Atlantis does exist, being built on top of a giant sunken Drop Ship, three genetic pods were manufactured by benevolent aliens to elevate the 3 civilizations, and that a hostile robot had trapped Nichols inside the time gates. This trope plays straight when you set him free, leaving Nichols empty-handed with no more than fantastic stories to tell. Inverted if you use an Escape Pod after launching the ship, where the Atlantean data on-board grants you millions of dollars, Hollywood deals, and a Nobel Prize.
  • In the Touhou Project game Touhou Eiyashou ~ Imperishable Night, the real incident is not the eponymous unending night; that's actually a spell that the protagonists are casting to buy time so that they can resolve the problem of the corrupted full moon. However, it appears that only the protagonists you choose, the villains causing the corrupted moon, and possibly Keine, know about this. Everyone else assumes that the imperishable night is the true incident; indeed, the stage four boss is either Reimu or Marisa, who confront your characters to end the imperishable night in their usual way, thinking you to be the "final boss".
    • This happens often in Gensokyou, actually. Many of the incidents are found and solved outside the public's knowledge, which makes it a bit hard for Reimu when no one comes to donate to her...
  • The instructions to Ultima II mention that, should you succeed, your victory will be this.
  • The entirety of Valkyria Chronicles III. Ordinary Gallians will never know of Squad 422's deeds, the unholy alliance between Cardinal Borgia and Carl Isler, and how the world is spared from the devastation by an ancient Valkyric superweapon. To make it worse, Kurt and co. are still considered bad people by the rest of society. Hm, I wonder why that sounds familiar...
    • However, the developers have stated in the artbook that the entire game is framed as an in-universe documentary show, implying that an incomplete and fragmented version of the main cast's story eventually becomes public knowledge, with Squad 422 being finally recognized as heroes.
  • One very important plot point in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is that Bolvar Fordragon became the new Lich King, and almost nobody knows it. There has to be a Lich King to control the Scourge, otherwise it would run amok, so when Arthas was killed, someone had to take his place; but for Azeroth to be free of fear of the Scourge, the people must not know there is another man sitting on the Frozen Throne wearing the Helm of Domination. It later gets Deconstructed in the leadup to the Shadowlands since with only the leaders of the world aware that the Lich King was still in play, Sylvanas caught everyone with their metaphorical pants down when she shattered the Helm of Domination to open the way to the Maw, causing widespread confusion for weeks.
    • The rogue class campaign in Legion is a classic example of this trope, since it's literally an espionage story enabled by a semi-mythical council of thieves, spies, and assassins. Over the course of the story the adventurer discovers that an important NPC has been replaced by a demon and helps to foil the plot - but no one outside those directly involved ever knows about it.
    • On a more meta level: almost every Player Character, bar those who didn't participate in raids, has saved the world several times. Even those who didn't, were still - over the course of regular PvE questlines - elevated from recruits to champions, commanders, generals, and recently, heads of their "class order". Lorewise, however, while they do exist and are canonically known as "the adventurers", it's usually the lore characters who fight alongside you or the players from a specific faction, that get the credit for defeating one of the franchise's Big Bads. The Horde adventurers killed Hakkar the Soulflayer. The Alliance adventurers fought C'Thun. Varian slew Onyxia. Tirion defeated the Lich King. Thrall put an end to Deathwing. Yrel freed Grommash and saved Draenor. Your own achievements are almost completely separated from the actual story. Even fellow players, at least the ones who actually roleplay, will frown - or worse - at your claims of "being there".
  • At the end of Xargon, Malvineous, who'd been teleported to another world, defeats the eponymous villain and returns home. He realizes that if he were to tell anyone what happened, people would think that he'd gone insane from spending so long working on archaeology alone. That said, he considers publishing his story as a fictional novel.
  • In Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, very few people know what the Monstrums actually do for the city, namely holding back the Grimwald Nox. Given that few people outside the Monstrums can even see Lemures, if they tried explaining that they are Balduq's sole protection against invisible monsters spawned from an obscure myth of a long dead religion, they'd likely be laughed at.

    Web Comics 
  • One-Punch Man: Uses this to parody the superhero genre. Saitama (One punch man) never gets the recognition he deserves for his heroism. At first, it was because he wasn't advertised since he wasn't an official hero, but even after he becomes one and saves thousands of people from disasters they still respond with "who are you?" or outright blame him for their problems after he saves them.
  • In the "A Girl And Her Blob" arc of The Wotch, Mingmei and Myrrh have A Day in the Limelight as a massive battle goes on elsewhere... we get bits and pieces of what's going on there as Ming and Myrrh pass through and the plots intersect.
    • At the end, the writer actually credits Justice League's "The Greatest Story Never Told" for inspiration. The next arc has Jason reading a Booster Gold comic book if you look closely.
  • This strip of Questionable Content is a prime example. It seems to be all in his head, until Tortura shows up again and Steve starts getting noticeably more badass.
  • It is implied in Tales of the Questor that Quentyn's victory in "Hunter of Shadows" is the victim of a governmental coverup.
  • One of the points of tension that leads to the break up of the older "Order of the Scribble" adventuring party in the backstory of The Order of the Stick is the fact that their struggle to contain the Snarl and the heroic sacrifice of their friend, Kraagor, must be kept secret.
  • 8-Bit Theater: When White Mage kills Chaos, no-one will give her the credit. Since White Mage refuses to let the Light Warriors be recognized as heroes, she lets the Dark Warriors take it, as they're the next best option. She does eventually apologize to Red Mage for doing so and admits to Thief that despite all the wanton destruction and other sociopathic behavior that the Light Warriors' actions did ultimately lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy.
  • This xkcd strip deconstructs it by showing that the guy whose story is "never told" can't help but feel immense disappointment as a result.

    Web Original 
  • For all their goofiness, stupidity, and raging insanity, at the very end of Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles the Blood Gulch soldiers actually do manage to finally defeat their Omnicidal Maniac nemesis, Omega, and prevent him from gaining control of an entire army of Aliens (heavy implied in the sequel series to be The Covenant) with which he could have brought great destruction to the galaxy. And no one will ever know or care about it. Hell, more than half of the Blood Gulch soldiers themselves don't even realize the implications of their final act.
    • Happens once more in the Singularity (seventeenth) season in that, while they realize they saved the entire universe/time itself from a very haughty-yet-dangerous mechanical being who thinks its God, no one but them will know they truly did such a thing, not even the Cosmic Powers themselves.
  • Played with by College Humor. Poor, poor Gary...
  • One of SF Debris' reviews of Star Trek: Enterprise makes this a Discussed Trope: whether or not using a Negative Space Wedgie as a result of the Temporal Cold War and the Enterprise crew's Heroic Sacrifice to shut it down making them Ret-Gone (essentially turning the whole series into In-Universe Canon Discontinuity and this, with a good dose of Tear Jerker as well) would have been a good way for the series to end rather than the somewhat disappointing use of seeing the last adventure of the Enterprise through a Holosuite simulation that William Riker plays (and becomes an extra of) many years in the future.
  • Critical Role: Unlike Vox Machina before them, the Might Nein (the adventuring party of Campaign 2) never really receive widespread fame or recognition for their achievements, though they do receive the recognition and thanks of some incredibly powerful and prominent people, so it’s not completely untold. Still, their Final Battle had them save the world from a would-be-god in control of a sanity-defying living city from the astral plane, with the world never even having known it needed saving to begin with, which does not go un-Lampshaded.

    Western Animation 
  • In the premiere episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Cavin stops Duke Igthorn with the help of the Gummis. However, since he can't tell anyone about the Gummis' existence, he has to claim Igthorn's plan fell apart on its own.
  • Amphibia: Due to the music box being destroyed, servering the connection between dimensions in the process, none of what Anne, Marcy and Sasha went through in Amphibia will ever be known by the vast majority of humans (even Frogvasion, which happened on Earth, is written off by people as just a promotional stunt by a movie studio).
  • In the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "So Long, And Thanks For All The Smoothies", the universe is destroyed. Ben uses Alien X to restore it (albeit imperfectly), but nobody remembers this, and anyone Ben tells the story to finds it more likely that he's just hallucinating until several dozen episodes later, when he's put on trial for having committed the act... with the episode ending on everyone still believing he didn't do it, at least on purpose.
  • The kids in Code Lyoko risk their lives saving the world from XANA all the time, but thanks to frequent returns to the past, no one remembers it but themselves.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door, "Training": Cadets Tommy, Sonia, and Lee are left behind at the KND Arctic base by regular agents as they fly off to the moonbase. Turns out to be a decoy by the Big Bad to steal the "Codemodule" stored at the Arctic base. After they wash out the Big Bad and his minions, Sonia says when the regular agents return, "Oh, it was just a simulation" (they were supposed to be doing simulation training).
  • Futurama did this many times:
    • In "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" Fry, the only person on Earth not affected by the flying brains is the only one who remembers them after he defeats them. When he saves the universe a second time in "The Why of Fry," the Nibblonians erase his memory of both incidents, although they do give him a flower for Leela. A smaller-scale example occurs in "Time Keeps on Slippin'": due to temporal shifts Fry finds himself married to Leela: neither of them has any memory of the really nifty thing he did to win her love. He finds out just before the evidence of his act is destroyed.
      Narrator (actually Nibbler): Only Fry remembered what had happened. And nobody listened to him or cared what he had to say.
    • The movies eventually bring to light most of what happened, except for the part about Fry's message to Leela.
    • Fry's own life is this. In the 20th century, he was an underachieving, overworked bullied kid who one day mysteriously vanished, and nobody who was alive and knew him ever learned, or could learn what happened to him. Later episodes such as "Jurassic Bark", "Game of Tones" and "The Luck of the Fryish" deal with how his family reacted to his disappearance in many ways.
    • In "The Inhuman Torch," perennial Glory Hound Bender selflessly saves the entire world and becomes "the greatest hero in Earth's history"...but no one knows except Fry, and the circumstances are so bizarre that no one will ever believe either of them. Fry agrees not to even try to tell anyone what happened, since doing so will only serve to further implicate Bender for a series of crimes he didn't commit.
  • The Christmas Episode of Hey Arnold! ends with Helga giving up a pair of boots she desperately wanted in order to get information that will lead to reuniting Mr. Hyunh with his long lost daughter. When the two are reunited, Helga watches, standing alone out in the snow. Helga gets no credit, never tells anyone what she did, and walks away knowing that she gave them a merry Christmas.
  • Named for an episode of Justice League Unlimited, where glory-grabbing newbie hero Booster Gold saves the world from a man turned into a living black hole while everyone else is off saving the world from something else (specifically, from a powerful sorcerer named Mordru). Afterwards, Batman warns that he will have a long talk with him for not following orders. Between this and Booster's main series, he really likes this trope. It's no accident he's called, "The Greatest Hero History Will Never Know." At least he gets the girl in the end, who is the one person who actually knows what he has done... not to mention a sexy scientist. He also got out of the subversion of Hero Insurance by the other Leaguers.
  • Another example featuring the Trope Namer in the Justice League Action episode "Time Out". After chiding Booster Gold for being lazy and incompetent, Batman ends up trapped in a temporal anomaly with him, where he learns that Booster is actually a pretty effective time hero. In the climax of the episode, Booster has to send Batman back to before the anomaly started, so he can have enough power to defeat the time creature that was causing it. Booster ends up being the only one to remember what happened and Batman forgets his newfound respect for him.
  • Kim Possible:
    • Ron's heroism in "Exchange" has to be kept secret to protect the secrecy of the ninja school he saved. Unlike most other instances, this is actually followed up on. In "Gorilla Fist", Kim spends much of the episode confused about a major character from that episode, wondering why Ron won't explain how they met or why that girl considers Ron to be a great hero.
    • Also from "A Sitch in Time" where Ron saves Kim by using his Mystical Monkey Kung Fu, throwing Drakken across the room just by grabbing his ankle - the same muscle-enhanced Drakken who had just defeated Kim and Monique with ease. The catch is that the time-travel device was destroyed, leading everything that happened to be written out of existence. He gets to repeat the "use Monkey powers to save Kim" act in the Grand Finale, though.
  • One episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee had June's littler brother, Ray Ray, suddenly become the Te Xuan Ze due to time wraiths rewriting history so that June never existed. Ray Ray manages to find the cause of the problem and save June, but in doing so erases all knowledge of the events save for his own. June doesn't believe him when he tries to tell her, writing it off as a dream he was having. Ray Ray starts to doubt too... least till he sees a photograph their older brother, Dennis, took of him in the alternate timeline.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Ladybug", Lila has successfully managed to frame Marinette for cheating on a test, stealing an alleged family heirloom from her, and pushing her down the stairs, resulting in the latter's expulsion from school. Alya tries to prove Marinette's innocence but fails to find any clues because Lila covered her tracks extremely well. The following day, Lila confesses that she lied and Marinette is re-admitted to school. As far as everyone knows, Lila's conscience kicked in and made her do the right thing. The truth is that Adrien gave Lila an ultimatum: either she fixes this mess of he'll cut all ties with her.
  • Occurs in Ōban Star-Racers. When everything's been said and done, the surviving human protagonists are forced to keep their adventures in the Great Race of Oban a secret by a Government Conspiracy, and return to their normal lives.
  • Subverted in The Owl House episode "Hooty's Moving Hassle". Willow laments that they didn't get an opportunity to show off their conjuration to Amity, but it turns out that people tend to notice a house walking around town and got pictures of the three controlling it, which Amity sees posted all over Penstagram.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In "Blundercup", a boy with a body of living butter manages to swap bodies with Buttercup, then disposes of her by melting her butter body and letting it flow down the drain so that he can live her life. Buttercup spends several hours learning how to control and reform her body, then master her body's powers. She then returns and manages to defeat the boy and get her body back. However, it turns out Blossom and Bubbles didn't even notice the body swap and don't believe her when she talks about her ordeal, thinking she's just making excuses about why she didn't make dinner.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King, for once Shaggy and Scooby save the day without any help from the others and are pretty much heroes - only to have the Goblin King erase everyone's memories.
  • Also, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. After Mystery Incorporated destroys the evil alien that's been controlling everyone, the world recreates itself with only Mystery Incorporated and the new Mr. E remembering what happened. They are so out of place in this new world that they head across the country, solving every mystery they come across along the way.
  • The Simpsons:
  • On Spider-Man: The Animated Series, attorney Matt Murdock was hired to defend Peter Parker when the latter was framed by Richard Fisk. The source of Murdock's hiring was not revealed to Parker nor the viewer until the end of the two-parter when the viewer discovers that it was Parker's often antagonistic boss J. Jonah Jameson who had hired Murdock to defend one of his better photographers... And demanded Murdock tell nobody.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "The Triple Dark", Kaz helps stop a pirate attack on the Colossus by broadcasting an earsplitting feedback loop over their communications channel, with BB-8 the only other witness. The station's defenders, the Aces, don't know what happened, and when Kaz tries to tell his boss what happened, Yeager doesn't believe him.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In "New Kids In Town", a future version of Brainiac travels through time to kill the future Superman, Clark Kent, when he's still a teenager, and the Legion of Superheroes goes after him. After Brainiac is beaten by Clark, Saturn Girl erases everybody's memories, making them think that the damage caused by Brainiac's attack was caused by a tornado that passed through Smallville.
  • The only people in Wakfu to ever know Nox as anything other than a power-motivated Evil Overlord are Alibert, Grougaloragran, and Yugo. Only the last one cares.
  • What If…? (2021): In the Season Finale of season 1, "What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath?", after the newly formed Guardians of the Multiverse stopped Infinity Ultron from destorying the Multiverse, Uatu tells them that nobody in their individual universes will ever know about before returning them to the exact moment they left.

    Real Life 
  • In recounting the history of the Battle of the Bulge (during World War 2), one historian says with regret that it proved to be impossible to track down all the stories of heroism during the early phases of the battle, as most of the records were lost in the confusion. He describes one such action, in particular, with the following words:
    A platoon of engineers appears in one terse sentence of a German commander's report. They have fought bravely, says the foe, and forced him to waste a couple of hours in deployment and maneuver. In this brief emergence from the fog of war, the engineer platoon makes its bid for recognition in history. That is all.
  • The 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska was run by some 150 dogs and 20 mushers, and the run saved the city of Nome from an epidemic. Now, the only one at all known was the lead dog of the last leg, Balto; this is regardless of the fact that Togo led the run on the longest leg, almost twice as long as the next longest, and also the most dangerous.
  • This is a major downside of working in the espionage business; sure, a spy might have done something truly badass and heroic to get information that saved hundreds or thousands of lives (see Alan Turing, below), but in a business based entirely around the transfer of information, even telling people that you had said knowledge would severely hamper your sources' ability to do their jobs at best and put them in serious danger at worst. So spy agencies keep mum about everything until they're sure it can do no more damage, which generally takes a while, if it's ever noticed at all.
  • Averted now, but for years and years after World War II, Alan Turing and the rest of Bletchley Park weren't allowed to tell anyone about what they had done - namely working on deciphering intercepted messages which had been encrypted using Enigma. This meant they were despised as cowards for not fighting rather than recognized as just as vital to the war effort as the soldiers. Nowadays, fortunately, the site in Buckinghamshire has been turned into a museum so that visitors can learn about what went on there.
    • In fact, part of the reason they weren't spoken of was because their work was just that good and remained useful in espionage long after the war was over, so if the Allies ever did admit to what they did, they'd lose a major intelligence advantage- for example, the Allies allowed Enigma tech to be sold to developing nations because they knew how to break the codes.
    • What makes this worse is Alan Turing's conviction for buggery, sentencing to chemical castration, and eventual suicide. One wonders if had his work been known, he might have been given some clemency and survived. Thankfully, Turing has finally gotten his due and received a royal pardon for his "crime". At least now he's receiving the recognition he rightfully deserves.
    • Ironically, few people outside Poland realize that the task undertaken in Bletchley Park would've been much harder without the contribution of Polish cryptographers stationed in Kabaty (currently the southernmost part of Warsaw) before the war. Their role in decoding the Enigma is known mostly to historians specializing in WWII history, although they've been gaining recognition in recent years.
  • For about 10 years, the story of Russian Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was this. In 1983 -during an extremely tense period in the Cold War, Petrov's new system for detecting a nuclear weapons launch at Russia incorrectly showed a missile being fired by the US and heading toward Russia. Petrov correctly believed that it was a system glitch, but the story remained buried and untold to the Russian public until the '90s and didn't become widely known in the US until 2006.note 
  • "The Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw", an intrasquad scrimmage played by the Dream Team in 1992.
  • Terence S. Kirk was a Japanese POW in WWII. Now, this is a very undesirable position on its own, but what he did, with the help of a handful of collaborators, was secretly make an improvised camera and document what happened, so that it could be used in court about war crimes. Once he got out, he showed it to the authorities, who then gave him a gag order not to discuss what happened, which he reluctantly signed. He then complied with the gag order for many years, but later defied it and published the pictures and his memoir. You can read about it in the book The Secret Camera.
  • Downplayed with the Millennium Bug, or Y2K: On account of the media blowing the issue out of proportion, when January 1st rolled around and nothing happened most people believe that Y2K was never an issue in the first place. The truth is that nothing happened because computer scientists and engineers fixed everything before they could go wrong, and while admittedly the world was not going to end either way there was likely going to be major inconvenience for a few weeks if no action was taken. Unfortunately, people outside the computer industry tend not to know of the effort put in.
  • Much of pre-history is this by definition. We will never know who invented the wheel, the sword, the axe, or the shield. We will never know who the first king of men was. At one point about 70,000 years ago, humanity was cut down to 3,000 to 10,000 individuals and we almost went extinct. We will never know of their struggles to survive. Stories like Beowolf, King Arthur, and Gilgamesh are probably about real people, but their stories are twisted into myth and legends that is nothing like the true reality. Civilizations have fallen and their great heroes and leaders have been forgotten and so on.
  • Think about it, pretty much every person in the world, and throughout history, had their own unique lives that not many people will know about. It could be your friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. It could be you. Everyone has their own journey that would sound to be something from a movie or book but doesn't discuss it with anyone or only with people they trust. We all have amazing stories to tell that make us special.


Video Example(s):


Lilian the Devil

The Din Republic and the United States of Mouzaia agreed to conceal the Dinnian operation to capture Purple Ant, a Galgad agent operating in Mouzaian soil, as a case of a serial killer who committed suicide to avoid being arrested by police. Lily is not pleased by the fact that the two countries agreed to put her actions as the scapeagoat.

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Main / TheGreatestStoryNeverTold

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