The hunter is usually the one pursuing the prey, be it a literal example of one hunting animals or the Villain relentlessly hunting his victim in a sporting example of Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. But in some cases, the hunted gains resolve or the upper hand and turns the tables on his pursuer, turning the hunter into the hunted.
Once the victim pulls this off, the hunter's game falls apart, and he will be forced to recognize his victim as an actual threat to him. The turnaround embodied in this trope usually signifies that the hero will soon defeat the villains and put an end to his twisted game.
This trope has roots as far back as Greek Mythology, where a quite literal hunter, Actaeon, is transformed into a deer by Artemis and eventually torn apart by his own dogs.
The Hunter of Monsters in general lives by this trope in a supernatural context, since monsters, in general, are often portrayed as predators of human beings, and human beings tend not to like being prey.
Adventure stories and thrillers frequently invert the trope, telling the story from the point of view of the hunted one who becomes the hunter. This is especially the case in stories where the hunter is not a single person, but a conspiracy; here the intended prey has to solve the mystery of who is attacking them and why, and then find out who belongs to the conspiracy and whom they can trust as allies to help bring it down.
- Attack on Titan is about humanity being hunted to the brink of extinction by the eponymous Titans, and the humans fighting back and hunting them in return.
- In Delicious in Dungeon, Team Touden are attacked and defeated by the Red Dragon in Chapter 1. After it eats Falin, their cleric, they head back into the titular dungeon to hunt it down and kill it to get her back. After they finally confront it and their plan goes wrong, it ends up chasing them, but they regroup and finally kill it.
- One episode of Domo TV features a hungry bear attempting to catch and eat Domo for a meal. However, the tables are turned when Domo gets hungry and then proceeds to pursue the bear to eat him.
- In the first season of Dragon Ball Z, Gohan was left in the wilderness by Piccolo as part of his Training from Hell. A ferocious T-rex like dinosaur tries to eat him. As Gohan becomes stronger, the tables get turned. Gohan eventually chases down the dinosaur every day and chops off a piece of its tail for breakfast. By the end, the dinosaur's tail is all but gone and it is terrified of Gohan.
- In earlier chapters of Air Gear, Sleeping Forest in inferred as this with normal people as prey, other Storm Riders as the hunters, and the team Sleeping Forest is the forest itself who hunts back the hunters, as implied in this poem:
The trees entangle their arms and stretch upward into the sky.
The budding leaves devour the light, adding depth to the forest's darkness.
The hunter does not notice the glare nor the claws of the beast biding in the darkness.
Tonight is the night when the hunter will be hunted.
This is the Sleeping Forest.
- Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Usually Wolffy hunts the goats, but at the end of episode 173, the goats are under the effect of a certain food and suddenly want to hunt Wolffy.
- Terror Tale in Marvel Tales (1949 series ) #133 (April 1953) is about a man captured by vampires who turns into a werewolf and kills them.
- Webwork: Jade spends most of eight years in a demon dimension trying to avoid being eaten by all the other inhabitants. Near the end of her stay and the completion of her transformation into a Spider-Demon, she is the one doing the hunting and the others are scared to come near her.
- Unwelcome Storms Hunter: Father Gascoigne shows Taylor how it looks from the other end of the Hunt.
This was a nightmare, one determined to repeat itself. Any time I left the Dream, he found me. He could smell me, track me through the streets, and every time I fled he ran me down. I screamed, he snarled. I pleaded, begged, cried. He didn't care. It was all just animal noise, to him.
- A wand for Steven: When Voldemort sends his Death Eaters to invade Hogwarts, the tables are turned immediately when Alexandrite manifests, reducing the number of casualties and turning Voldemort's Badass Army invasion into a Suicide Mission in a Foe-Tossing Charge.
- Predator and Predator 2 provide a perfect example, as the consummate trophy hunter/Proud Warrior Race Guy alien stalks and kills dozens of dangerous, deadly men, only for one of his would-be victims to Take a Level in Badass and begin to hunt him in exactly the same fashion.
- Westworld. The tourist being hunted by the gunslinger android eventually turns the tables on him and destroys him.
- Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later: At the end, Laurie turns the tables on Michael Myers and starts hunting him down with an axe.
- Das Boot is this trope in spades. U-96 is on patrol to intercept Allied ships but winds up being hunted by destroyers left and right.
- The trope is a common staple in the films of Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock. Lang, for instance, played the trope straight in M and the Dr. Mabuse films, while in Die Spinnen and Spione he used the inversion, as did Hitchcock e. g. in North By Northwest and To Catch a Thief.
- The Fugitive: Another example of the inverted trope, with the added complication that most of the hunting is done by the police and FBI, not the people actually responsible for the murder of Mrs. Kimble. However, Dr. Kimble escapes and ultimately manages to turn the tables.
- The Net (1995), in which a lone computer programmer starts out being pursued by a seemingly all-powerful conspiracy but finally hunts down its leader. Angela Bennet's switch from hunted to hunter in the final act is very pronounced.
- In The Searchers the role of hunter and hunted switch several times between Ethan Edwards and Chief Scar throughout the course of the movie.
- The Warriors: Invoked by Ajax. Over the course of the film, he repeatedly expresses his displeasure at being forced to run from weaker gangs simply because the crew is Trapped Behind Enemy Lines. This comes to a head when he and Cowboy are trying to run from the Baseball Furies and Cowboy starts to fall behind.
Cowboy: [panting] I can't make it!
Ajax: You sure?
Cowboy: [pant] Yes, I'm sure!
Ajax: [beat] Good. I'm sick of running from these wimps!
- Memento plays this for dark comedy in one scene where the protagonist Leonard, who has short-term memory loss, finds himself running in parallel with a man who is obviously angry at him. His internal monologue deduces that he must be in the middle of chasing after this guy. Suddenly the man starts charging right for him, and Leonard realizes that the man is chasing him.
- In Julia X, The Stranger is a Serial Killer who preys on women he meets in online dating sites. He takes Julia on a date, intending to make her his next victim. However, Julia is one of a pair of Serial-Killer Killer sisters, and The Stranger soon finds the tables turned on him.
- Fair Game: Happens to the trio of Evil Poachers who choose Jessica as their prey when Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. After they rape her, Jessica returns and starts hunting the three of them.
- "The Most Dangerous Game": A big-game hunter falls off a yacht and finds refuge on an island that is home to a Russian aristocrat. This aristocrat is also a highly skilled big-game hunter. So highly skilled that he's hunted just about every animal and quickly became bored with simply hunting them all over again. So he forces the people who get shipwrecked on his island into a "game" in which he hunts them. Knowing the protagonist is a big-game hunter himself, the aristocrat is quite excited at the prospect of hunting an expert hunter. This gets flipped again at the end when the protagonist seems to escape the island, but this turns out to be a trick, and he actually snuck into the aristocrat's home to ambush him.
- Warrior Cats: Firestar thinks of this after Brightpaw and Swiftpaw were attacked by a pack of vicious dogs, wondering if that scared feeling is how prey animals feel when hunts them. Cats are the top predator with their forest, with only threats being badgers and hawks when they're still young. They're not used to the feeling so paranoid and cornered.
- In Rogue Male the protagonist goes from being a cool aristocrat stalking his human prey (a European dictator) with a rifle to being a hunted animal, literally driven to earth in a den he had dug as a last refuge.
- Seraphina starts shortly after the death of Goreddi Prince Rufus, who is killed after going off on his own during a hunting expedition.
- In The Millennium Trilogy this trope applies to... well, anybody who tries to victimize Lisbeth Salander. The earliest example is advocate Nils Bjurman, her legal guardian, who is under impression that Lisbeth is a mentally retarded, helpless young woman whom he can assault whenever he can. Unfortunately for him, after he rapes her, she returns to his apartment with a taser, chains him to his bed, rapes him back, reveals she has a tape showing his rape on her, gives him a tattoo saying that he is a rapist and a scumbag, and proceeds to use blackmail to keep him in check until the end of his sorry life. Bjurman actually has an Oh, Crap! moment, but it's too late.
- Savage: Trevor Bentley trying to find and kill Jack the Ripper.
- John Manifold's poem "The Griesly Wife" features a young and seemingly reluctant bride running off into the winter night, barefoot, to get away from her husband. He pursues her...only to realize, too late, that she's a were-dingo.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Obsession". Kirk has the Enterprise pursue the vampire cloud creature. Eventually, the creature gets fed up with this: it turns and attacks the Enterprise.
Spock: May I suggest that we no longer belabor the question of whether or not we should have gone after the creature. The matter has now been rendered academic. The creature is now after us.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Masks" has a ritual in which the Moon God (Korgano) chases the Sun God (Masaka) out of the sky, and then the roles are reversed, forever.
- Star Trek: Voyager once has the crew give hologram technology to aliens called the Hirogen, so they can practice their hunting skills without killing people. The Hirogen make the holograms both sentient and capable of learning, so they can adapt and become better prey to hunt. As you've probably deduced, the holograms got sick of this, Turned Against Their Masters and eventually lured several Hirogen to a toxic planet to give them a taste of their own medicine. They also kidnap Voyager's holographic doctor, who is initially sympathetic but changes his mind quite rapidly when it becomes obvious that a Full-Circle Revolution is going down, and the ringleader has started murdering innocent bystanders to boot.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Obsession". Kirk has the Enterprise pursue the vampire cloud creature. Eventually, the creature gets fed up with this: it turns and attacks the Enterprise.
- Charlie's Angels episode "Angel Hunt". A vengeful man lures the Angels to a deserted island to be hunted, but they start hunting him.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Played with all the time in seeing as Buffy is always a potential victim, but is, well...a vampire slayer.
- Spike killed two Slayers prior to the series.
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Hunt", the plot involves an illegal android hunt. The androids are prevented by inhibitor chips from harming humans. That is until they find plans for their bodies in a shack and proceed to remove their inhibitors. They kill several hunters but are ultimately gunned down, except for one who manages to escape.
- In the paranormal documentary Creepy Canada, a team of ghost hunters searches for the ghost of a sailor named Jem Horner who died in the 19th century. During the investigation, they were surrounded by a cold mist and strange noises prompting one of the ghost hunters to say that they have, at that point, become the hunted.
- Heroes: Matt Parkman goes after Emil Danko, a.k.a. The Hunter, who had abducted him and strapped him to a bomb - but only after Danko causes the death of Matt's girlfriend Daphne Millbrook.
- The song "Razor Hoof", by High On Fire, is about a moose fighting a wolf and winning.
- The song "Conquest", by The White Stripes uses this theme symbolically.
- The song "When The Hunter Becomes The Hunted", by Tank, about a photographer who returns to Vietnam after the war.
- Dungeons & Dragons adventure S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. While the ship's crewmen pursue the escaped intellect devourer, it turns on, pursues, and attacks one of them, eventually killing him.
One of the hunters soon became the hunted, and the chase eventually led to the tween decks. The crewman blasted the flesh of the body away, but the devourer then did for him.
- Hunter: The Reckoning and its counterpart Hunter: The Vigil can have this as their premise. In both directions even: the Hunters that are the Player Characters can hunt creatures that would normally hunt humans, but the Hunters in return can become hunted as well.
- In Magic: The Gathering, the story behind Avacyn Restored set is basically this trope - after angel Avacyn is released from Helvault, humanity gains the power to drive back vampires, werewolves and zombies that were preying on them. Possibly shown best on Revenge of the Hunted card, which can turn an average human into somebody able to slay an average dragon and live.
- In Euripides's Bacchae, the young king Pentheus is lured into this fate by Dionysus. He hunts down the crazed maenads, seeking to spy on them, but ends up as the hunted when they notice him — Dionysus makes the maenads hallucinate and see him as a lion to be hunted and slain. Interestingly, his fate is foreshadowed by mentions in the play of his cousin, Actaeon, whose own fate is mentioned in the trope description.
- The Elder Scrolls
- Throughout the series, Hircine, the Daedric Prince of the Hunt, has this as part of his modus operandi. Though Hunting the Most Dangerous Game as an Egomaniac Hunter is what his "sphere" is all about, he does not consider it a true hunt unless the prey has a sporting chance to do this. This is best exemplified in Morrowind's Bloodmoon expansion, where he serves as the Big Bad and Final Boss of the end game "hunt." After surviving his hunting dogs (read: werewolves) and your fellow competitors in the hunt, you'll face Hircine himself. Because a Daedric Prince at full power would easily crush any mortal, he gives you the choice of one of his three weaker "aspects" to fight to give you a sporting chance. If he defeats you, he wins. If you defeat him, he still wins, because what greater expression of this trope (which is a big part of his sphere as a Daedric Prince) is there than that?
- Hircine's servants, the Werebeasts, especially his Werewolves, embody the idea of this trope. At night, they are dangerous monsters and hunt mortals while they have the advantage. During the day, however, they revert to their own weaker mortal forms and must flee from the mortals they were just preying on.
- Any time a dragon crosses the Dragonborn, who was imbued with the soul of a dragon specifically to serve as a natural predator to dragons. Dragons, naturally, see the Dragonborn as a Humanoid Abomination.
- Hircine returns again to give a quest of this sort, where the player must hunt a Sympathetic Murderer werewolf, who's trying to isolate himself to avoid any urges to hunt innocent people. The player can continue hunting and eventually kill the werewolf, or join forces with him and kill the other hunters that hoped to kill the werewolf first. Hircine is pleased either way, as you either successfully hunted the werewolf, or turned the tables in the spirit of this trope, which also pleases him.
- Pac-Man, whenever he gets a power pellet.
- Diablo III: The Demon Hunter. Usually survivors from demonic invasions themselves, they're recruited by more experienced Hunters and devote their lives to chasing and killing the creatures of the burning hells, using a variety of ranged attacks and traps to accomplish their goals.
- Evolve: The monster has three Evolutionary Levels, the first weaker than the hunters, the second on equal terms, and the last stronger. The monster hence needs to run away during the first stage to eat wildlife and get stronger while the hunters chase it down and try to end it quickly. Once the monster evolves into its third stage, the tables are turned and it can fight the hunters with ease.
- In Monster Hunter you hunt down several dangerous creatures who would eat humans for breakfast. Or they hunt down you. It depends on your weapons, armor, and skill.
- The entire premise of Dying Light is built upon this trope. The gameplay is divided into two sections depending on the time of the day. During day time, you face weak shambling herds of zombies. They're slow, cumbersome, clumsy, and not very bright. Easy to lose, easy to bait into traps, easy to dispatch. As such, your character is an absolute badass at hunting the zombies like its nothing..... until nighttime arrives. At night, the roles reverse, with your character becoming the prey. Since at night, a special breed of super-zombie shows up, its only weakness is UV Light (which explains their absence in the day), these ones have insanely good sight, hearing, speed, strength, and intelligence. Fighting just one of them is completely brutal, but whenever they see you, they'll call a swarm of extra ones on you, and in raw speed, they're faster than you, only via liberal usage of parkour can you stand a chance to put some distance between them. At night, the only option is to hide or to run, fighting will only get you killed. All the time. Not for nothing, the official tagline of the game is "Hunter by day, Prey by night".
- In Metroid Fusion, famed bounty hunter and general badass Samus Aran spends much of the game being hunted down by the SA-X, which has all of her old power-ups and abilities. In particular, the Ice Beam is especially deadly to her because of her infusion with Metroid DNA. Up to the very end, Samus has no choice but to run from any encounter with it.
- In Bloodborne, it happens in every second, especially when Djura or Eileen decided to hunt you.
- Occurs in various Assassin's Creed games, such as Black Flag and Odyssey, which have their own specialized enemies who track you down if you cause any trouble. In Black Flag it's Pirate Hunter vessels who often carry lots of metal resources, as well as make great fleet recruits. In Odyssey it's Mercenaries who are often carrying gear that is either better than yours or if not can be broken down for resources or sold for a nice profit. Net result is that if you're going about your business and get wind of one of these nearby, you'll often seek them out intentionally.
- In Darkest Dungeon, this is invoked when you fight the Collector, a nightmarish eldritch thing made up of a pile of severed heads wearing a yellow cloak. It has a chance to appear when your inventory is filled up past a certain point (when the party is battered and stressed from a long dungeon run) and apparently collects the heads of your slain party members to add to itself. However, you can in turn hunt the Collector for valuable gems and trinkets, and the Ancestor will invoke this trope if you kill it.
- Literally the point of Deer Avenger.
- This animation involves a hungry caveman trying to crack open a large egg to eat. After much painful experiences for the caveman, the egg finally hatches into a baby dinosaur that grows huge and eats the caveman in one gulp.
- In Worm, the Slaughterhouse Nine are a band of superpowered serial killers that travel from city to city, committing mass murder as, essentially, performance art. When they come to Brockton Bay to replace their deceased ninth member with one of the local heroes or villains, they set up a series of challenges wherein the candidates are tested one by one by each member. After the first few rounds, the local supervillains decide that waiting for the Nine to come after them is exactly why the Nine are always able to pick their fights to their best advantage and survive in a world where superheroes don't pull their punches, and instead go on the hunt for the Nine. Three members of the Nine leave the city alive.
- Looney Tunes:
- At the end of the short "Rabbit Fire", as Bugs and Daffy continue to pull away posters saying "Rabbit Season" and "Duck Season" alternately, each trying to convince Elmer to shoot the other, they finally reach the final poster, which reads "Elmer Season". In the next shot, we see Bugs and Daffy dressed as hunters, carrying rifles and "Hunting for Elmers".
- Also, there's a short in which Pepe Le Pew gets painted all black and his perennial harassment-victim, Penelope Pussycat, gets a head cold that blocks her sense of smell. Sure enough, she turns the tables and starts pursuing the suddenly terrified "big strong tomcat" Pepe.
Pepe: Why is it that whenever a man is captured by a woman, all he wish to do is get away?
- In "Hyde and go Tweet", Tweety is turned into a giant, hideous monster after drinking Dr. Jekyll's potion, and he proceeds to chase and terrify Sylvester.
- In the Tom and Jerry short "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse", near the end, Tom finally drinks his own power potion which Jerry had been using throughout the short. Instead of growing stronger, however, it backfires, and Tom shrinks until he's as tall to Jerry as Jerry normally is to him. The short ends with Jerry chasing after Tom with a fly swatter.
- In Red Hot Riding Hood, the Wolf, while trying to hunt down Red, instead encounters her Granny, who becomes his Abhorrent Admirer at first sight and chases the Wolf through her building.
- Tales From The Cryptkeeper: In "Hunted", a Jerkass hunter is poaching in Africa and runs afoul of a supposedly mythical beast. Determined to catch this beast and make a profit, the hunter pursues it deeper and deeper into the jungle. Just when he thinks he has it, the beast springs its own trap to capture him instead. Turns out, the beast was once a Jerkass hunter himself and had been cursed. Forced to live in the wild, he learned to respect nature and its creatures. He regains his human form and passes the curse onto his captive to start the cycle over again.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "Farmer Hunter, Farmer Hunted", a deer, tired of him and his family being hunted, goes off to hunt man. In this case, Eustace.
- Birdman episode "Hannibal the Hunter". The title villain lures Birdman to his island and traps him, then tries to have him fed to some lions. Birdman escapes and destroys Hannibal's base, freeing the captive wild animals held in it. While fleeing the animals Hannibal is captured by one of his own traps. Luckily this is a children's show, so Birdman captures Hannibal and saves him from the same fate he was trying to inflict.
- Danny Phantom: The trope is said almost word-for-word by Danny during his first encounter with Skulker upon learning that his battle suit could be overridden by Tucker's PDA.
- Dexter's Laboratory: In the Dial M for Monkey episode "Huntor", the episode's titular villain has hunted down the most fearsome creatures throughout the universe. His favorite prey is superheroes like Monkey and he has weapons that can counter Monkey's powers. Powers or no powers, Monkey still manages to fight back in an homage to Predator, using the resources around him to turn the tables and win. After he escapes, he drops Huntor onto a planet inhabited by giant hillbilly aliens, two of which chase after him with their laser shotguns.
- ThunderCats (1985): In "Safari Joe", the antagonist Safari Joe is an intergalactic hunter of big game who spent the episode hunting down the Thundercats one by one, imprisoning all but Lion-O and Snarf. Lion-O then leads Joe into Cat's Lair where he has the advantage. After being lost in the area for some time, Joe shouts out that "he was supposed to be hunting him, not the other way around". Eventually, Lion-O corners and takes down Safari Joe, Snarf commenting that despite Joe's big ego, he was nothing but a coward.
- "Greetings Bait": A worm who has been trying to lure fish on a fisherman's hook has to run for it when a crab who knows about the hook trick tries to eat him.
- "The Worm Turns": The Courage Builder potion allows any creature it's used on to become brave and fearsome, allowing flies to turn on spiders, mice to beat up cats and cats to terrorize dogs.
- There are videos of real life incidents where a deer attacks the hunter that was trying to hunt it.
- There are various species in the animal world that specifically prey on other predators, including close cousins. These would include the portia spider and king snakes.
- Dragonfly nymphs are ravenous aquatic predators, whose preferred prey items often include tadpoles. Post-metamorphosis, however, the winged adult dragonfly is prey to its former victim: the adult frog.
- Among insects and fish, if two equally-matched predators fight, who is predator and who is prey can go either way depending on which of the two happens to win the fight.
- Most mammals during the dinosaur age were tiny, shrew-like creatures living in the shadow of the ruling reptiles. Not Repenomamus, though: a badger-sized carnivorous mammal of the Late Cretaceous whose diet included small dinosaurs.
- One species of beetle larva tricks frogs into trying to attack and consume it. However, once in the frog's grasp, it then bites the frog, paralyzes it, and then slowly eats it alive.