The Unchosen One is the hero or heroine who stands up to do what's right not because of a prophecy, but because they feel the need or desire to stop the Big Bad (sometimes doing so in spite of a prophecy). The Unchosen One is, in essence, a Chosen One who chooses themselves.
The reasons for this can vary. Perhaps the Chosen One missed or refused the call, or was killed or incapacitated by a Destiny-Screwing villain. Or, in a twist, the Chosen One is the villain and the Unchosen One decides to stop them. If all the prophecies say evil will triumph, the Unchosen One's reply would be "screw that." Perhaps they were Refused by the Call and decided that they should go on adventuring anyway on their own terms. It could also be nothing more than a simple chance encounter allowing them to intercept the Call to Adventure in place of the real Chosen One. Every so often, the Unchosen is also a Chosen One who's decided to save the world of their own will, regardless of what fate has in store for them.
Of course, because they aren't The Chosen One, things won't be laid out on a silver platter like a proper Chosen Hero often gets. They'll more often have to earn their place as The Hero. If there is a being or force doing the Choosing, they'll eventually have to acknowledge the Hero even if he wasn't the Chosen One. They may also have to deal with the possibility that the Chosen One will get the credit for all of their hard work. On the other hand, even the Chosen One might look in awe of this hero who created great things on his own efforts and is beholden to no one and no destiny.
An Unchosen One has high odds of being a Heroic Wannabe, a Determinator, or any other hero type that is likely to jump at the call. There's also the possibility of the Unchosen One being a Badass Unintentional, someone who actually doesn't want to save the world but may be the only one in a position to do so. A possible fate for those who Missed the Call.
Some writers can't escape from this frame of thinking, though, and they occasionally write in that the character really was the Chosen One after all. Another common way to work around it is an ontological argument: someone was bound to eventually take up the sword against Emperor Evulz and lead the revolution to overthrow him; otherwise there wouldn't be a story. There could even be many heroes working together or independently to take him down. The "Chosen One" just happened to be the one who ultimately succeeded, and could easily have been replaced by any of the others had circumstances been different.
Compare Anti Anti Christ where someone is the Dark Messiah for the bad guys and tells them to take a hike. Not to be confused with The Poorly Chosen One, who is a Chosen One who does a bad job being one, though that may necessitate an Unchosen One to do what the Chosen One failed to.
- In Kung Fu Panda, becoming the Dragon Warrior is presented as a matter of destiny, but is revealed to fall more into this trope. The reveal of the Dragon Scroll is that there isn't any secret technique and the Dragon Warrior is not really “chosen” by a higher power. The real “secret ingredient” that makes up the criteria to be a Dragon Warrior is the personal growth and training to earn the scroll in the first place. This is why Po is chosen while Tai Lung isn’t. Tai Lung’s status as an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy who had no doubts about himself means that the scroll and its lesson would’ve been meaningless for him.
- The "Special One" of Vitruvius's prophecy in The LEGO Movie doesn't really exist. At the beginning of the movie, Lord Business dismisses the prophecy as something Vitruvius made up on the spot, and it turns out that he was right — there really is no Special One, at least, not in the way that is implied. This devastates Emmet when Vitruvius dies, but Vitruvius returns as a ghost to reveal the true purpose of the prophecy to Emmet — he made it up because the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that they are special, and to turn whoever found the piece into someone extraordinary. At the end of the movie, Emmet talks down Lord Business by telling him he could be the special one, too — although the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane nature of the movie leaves it ambiguous if this is just symbolic of Finn and his father working through their issues.
- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse reveals that Miles Morales was never meant to be a Spider-Man. Specifically, the spider that gave him his power came from another universe. In fact, Miguel O'Hara even considers him an "Anomaly" whose very existence goes against the established "canon" of Spideys and serves to potentially destabilize the multiverse. It also meant that the universe where the spider was from never got it's Spider-Man and that version of Miles instead became the Prowler.
- In Blade Runner 2049, Officer K initially believes that he is the Replicant child of Rick Deckard and Rachael Tyrell that he's been searching for. Nope. Not only is he just a regular Replicant, but as he learns, the memories he had that supposedly proved he was the real child were common to all Nexus-9 Replicants, meaning that every one of them falsely believes themself to be the chosen one. This revelation drives his decision be more than just a machine by fighting for Rick Deckard even though Deckard is not his father, laying down his own life in the process.
- John McClane from the Die Hard films largely views himself as this, typically being just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time who has every reason to do nothing, no obligation to do anything, and every opportunity to just say Screw This, I'm Outta Here. He always chooses to be the hero instead, explaining to a panicked Matt Farrel in Live Free or Die Hard to encourage the boy that, despite being a punk kid with low blood sugar and no experience doing that sort of thing, that he can be a hero too:
McClane: Do you know what you get for being a hero? Nothing! You get shot at. Pat on the back, bla bla bla. That a boy! You get divorced... Your wife can't remember your last name, kids don't want to talk to you... You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me kid, nobody wants to be that guy.
Matt: Then why you doing this?
McClane: Because there is nobody else to do it right now. Believe me if there was somebody else to do it I would let them do it. There's not, so we're doing it. That's what makes you that guy.
- The Fourth Wise Man: Artaban wishes very much to find the foretold savior and gift him with precious gems, but is delayed tending to a seriously ill man and misses the caravan the other three magi take to Judea. Undaunted, he spends the next several decades trying to find the Christ, except whenever his quest is again interrupted by people in need.
- The Matrix:
- While The Matrix plays The Chosen One fairly straight, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions reveal the prophecy was a lie. Thus, when Neo continues to fight on against the Machines, he has made himself an Unchosen One.
- The script/art book reveals that originally Neo is the sixth Chosen One by Morpheus, whose poor track record is part of the reason why Cypher wants back into the Matrix.
- An alternate interpretation suggests that The Matrix subverts this one, zig zagging the entire messianic concept: The prophecy was intended by the Architect to be an Evil Plan aimed at a continued recycling of the Matrix as a means of keeping the system in place. He is Out-Gambitted by the Oracle, however, who actually intended for Neo to evolve slightly with each rebooting until he'd eventually reject the Architect's offer to reboot the system and force the machines to reach a settlement with Zion that she believed was necessary for the Machines to evolve. This is possible because Neo was the only one who could beat Smith, who was otherwise poised to bring down the entire machine network (whew!). One hell of a Chessmaster, that Oracle.
- In the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, the main hero Rey plays with this. The Last Jedi shows she and many around her believe she's just a nobody from nowhere. Her parents were nothing but filthy junk trading drunks who sold their child for drinking money and eventually ended up dead in unmarked graves under the sands of a lawless desert planet. Rey only became a hero of the galaxy by choosing to help BB-8, to go with Han Solo and Finn to find the Resistance, to fight back against Kylo Ren's Mind Probe (inadvertently giving her part of his knowledge of using the Force) to seek out Luke Skywalker, and to never stop trying to help her friends or those in need. The Rise of Skywalker throws this for a loop by showing she's actually the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, meaning she very much isn't a nobody. However, it was still very much her choice to act as she did with no expectations of some great destiny for herself.
Kylo Ren: You have no place in this story. You come from nothing. You're nothing. ...but not to me.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze the Turtles are disappointed when Professor Perry reveals that the formation of the ooze that mutated them and the accident that led to the canister finding its way into the sewer was simply one large accident. No Turtle was more disappointed than Donatello. He believes there's got to be more to the accident.
- Top Gun: Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has been Refused by the Call twice. The Naval Academy had rejected him, and in the beginning of the movie, his section lead pilot Cougar was supposed to attend Top Gun. Then an enemy MiG outmaneuvered Cougar in a non-lethal engagement, causing Cougar to lose his nerve and quit naval aviation completely. Since someone has to represent the squadron at Top Gun, Maverick gets to go.
- In Willow, the then-infant princess Elora Danan is prophesied to destroy the evil queen Bavmorda. However, it is Willow and others striving to protect the princess who actually stop her. On the other hand, novels that continue the story after the movie play The Chosen One straight, as Bavmorda returns and the now-grown Elora Danan must fulfill her original destiny. The main villain of the books is actually a version of Elora from an alternate future, who's angst over being a Chosen One who never actually did anything kind of snowballed into conquering several planets and accidentally destroying the universe. It's complicated.
- One interpretation of Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott's "Hero".
And they say that a hero can save us, I'm not gonna stand here and wait
I'll hold on to the wings of the eagles, watch as we all fly away
- Skillet's identically-titled song, "Hero", embodies this trope, with lyrics starting out "I am just a man/Not superhuman... I need a hero to save me now." However, the narrator gradually realizing that they themselves can do everything that a hero should be doing.
- The song "The Battle At World Stone Keep" by Clamavi de Profundis tells of how the High King, needing heroes to save his daughter and prevent an apocalyptic ritual, assembles a team of champions from each of the five races — and one orc who was explicitly not invited, but "pledged himself to fight" anyway, and is outright called "Oshrad the Unchosen." He's actually Oshrad Bonebreaker, whose story is told in more detail in the song of the same name.
- Exalted plays extensively with the idea in that Fate is an obstructive bureaucracy that the Sidereal Exalted act as agents of, and every other Exalt type tends to act in violation of Fate's decrees unless they decide to go along with it or the Sidereals con them into doing so. However, the more traditional idea is subverted in that Hard Work Hardly Works in Exalted, at least when Exalts and similarly powerful entities come into play. Without being chosen by a supernatural patron, mortals can only have a meaningful impact on the world in very large groups.
- The Discarded playbook from Interstitial: Our Hearts Intertwined is thematically all about being left behind. Mechanically it focuses on dishing out the most damage, representing the idea that the character is pushing themselves to prove their worth.
- In BIONICLE, the Toa Metru eventually hit upon evidence that reveals they weren't supposed to be Toa, but rather it should have been the six Matoran who discovered the location of the Great Disks. Makuta, anticipating that Lhikan would seek to create a new team of Toa to succeed him in protecting the Matoran of Metru Nui, divined the stars and searched out evidence that revealed to him the supposed heroes, and then he implanted the names of the Toa Metru into Lhikan's head in an attempt to Screw Destiny. As he reveals later, even if the Metru succeeded in temporarily foiling his plans (which they did), he could still take solace in that he defied his brother's plans. This knowledge crushes the Toa Metru since destiny is a big thing in this universe and makes them wonder if their failure to save the city and prevent their friends from lapsing into comas was all because they weren't the true chosen, and is just another part of catalysing the already-unstable Vakama's temporary Face–Heel Turn. However, it's subverted when Karzahni eventually revealed to Vakama that they're the real deal, and that it was Makuta who got played by Mata Nui and his Hero Secret Service in a Batman Gambit of fabricated evidence and had the Metru's names implanted in his mind by Mata Nui. This knowledge gives Vakama the resolve to face off with Makuta one final time and force a temporary truce.
- RWBY: Professor Ozpin — and his successor, Oscar — is The Chosen One, inheritor of a divine mandate to redeem humanity. However, after millennia spent fighting an Invincible Villain, Ozpin is burned out and traumatised while Oscar is young and untrained. Ruby becomes involved upon realising there's something wrong in the world and that her abilities can help. Ozpin tells Oscar that Ruby possesses an unquantifiable spark that inspires others — including him — even in the darkest times, making Ruby the de facto leader in the fight to save the world from Salem.
- 8-Bit Theater is about four Unchosen who basically steal the destiny of the actual Chosen and then proceed to completely waste the opportunity. And the ones who actually end up saving the world are White Mage, Priest, Shaman and Healer, ending up both as Unchosen Ones themselves and as sort-of Chosen Ones in that they're putting an end to the longest Brick Joke in the series.
- From the Crossover Wars, Scale. Her own comic starts with her creators (in story) talking of a planned story which was derailed when the Editor & his forces invaded the comic & captured them. Scale's "birth" was a side effect of the Editor reaching into the metaphorical womb (a computer) and pulling out her bracer into "reality". Afterwards she had to figure out what had happened & what to do next, which involved stumbling across dimensions and assembling an army to oppose the Evil Overlords & rescuing her creators.
- Almond from Cucumber Quest is truly hero material, while her brother Cucumber is rather bookish and has never held a sword in his life. However, it is Cucumber who becomes the Legendary Hero and Almond is supposed to stay home and be the damsel in distress, like the many younger sisters of the Legendary Heroes before Cucumber. Instead, she follows her brother on his journey and is determined to beat The Nightmare Knight herself, even offering to handle the quest herself. While impulsive and eager to fight, she is a capable fighter and has already decimated one of the eight Disaster Masters.
- The title character of Digger. Digger is an anthropomorphic wombat, and her people usually have the good sense to steer clear of any gods or magic they may encounter. Unfortunately, Digger has gotten herself first good and lost (on account of underground hallucinogenic gas pockets), then entangled (on account of being too nice for her own good) in strange goings on in a faraway land, in which both gods and magic are involved. Prophesies of several groups speak extensively of the other characters in the story, the events that Digger participates in, and even the tunnel that Digger digs up to the surface in the beginning of the story once she decides that she is completely and utterly lost — but strangely none of the prophesies say anything about Digger herself, or mention wombats in any way. Indeed, hardly anyone in the land Digger has found herself in has even heard of them. As it turns out, her ancestor specifically asked that his descendants be immune to divine prying and prophesying in exchange for helping to bind a mad god.
- Roy Greenhilt from The Order of the Stick fits this pretty well. Originally he took on the quest to destroy Xykon, his father's personal nemesis, out of a desire to prove himself. In the process, he discovered that Xykon represents a significant threat to the universe. After telling his father to shove it, Roy decides that he's going to take down Xykon regardless of his father's wishes, just because it needs to be done.
Roy: We're still the Order of the Stick, no matter how much stuff changes along the way. I'm sure there will be even more changes before the endgame — things we can't even hope to predict now. And I'm just as sure that we'll get through them all. Not because we're destined or chosen or fated or any of that cliched heroic garbage. Nah. We'll get through because we're the ones who are too dumb to know when to quit.
- In the Miraculous Ladybug webcomic Scarlet Lady, Chloe Bourgeois is the wielder of the Ladybug Miraculous purely because she stole the earrings from Marinette's purse in an act of petty bullying — and now that she let the power go to her head, the rest of the cast (not to mention the city of Paris and, yes, even Hawk Moth) can only grit their teeth and try to tolerate her. As a result, Marinette (the actual Chosen One of the Ladybug Miraculous) still gets involved in the Akuma fighting as a Badass Normal.
- Tower of God:
- A Downplayed case near the beginning, when all the candidates to climb the Tower have to pass a test to show they can tolerate the higher concentrations of Shinsu in the upper levels. Lero Ro puts it by saying that some people are "chosen" and some are not. Shibisu and Serena Linnen, who have been unable to pass through the Shinsu curtain so far, say something to the effect "screw being chosen" and push through with all their might, getting through even though they injure themselves in the process. (Of course, they presumably wouldn't have been able to regardless if they hadn't been at least borderline suitable to begin with.)
- Rachel tries so hard to take for herself the position of the chosen one that no-one's giving her. (What exactly she's after is something not revealed for quite a while.) Since she's got no powers or anything, she gets quite frustrated and desperate trying. Basically the only way she gets anywhere on that road is by getting help from more powerful people who want to use her as their pawn.
- The Hero Bam is initially motivated by very personal reasons, although he's never far from Chronic Hero Syndrome anyway. This phase also includes being forced to work for an evil organisation that wants to use him to kill Jahad, the King of the Tower. Later, he finds out that his origins and his powers have something to do with a destiny placed upon him to do that same thing. Finally, at the end of the Hell Train arc, he realises to look to himself for meaning instead of asking anyone else, after which he explicitly declares that he chooses his destiny to be again, defeat Jahad, but this time for his own reasons — because Jahad is, in his eyes, exactly what a king should not be.
- In Lamia Daughter Quest, the Chosen Ones of Citadel kingdom are the Lightbringers, who will come together, face a Shaper of Darkness, and perform a Heroic Sacrifice to defeat it. Ssen Patrick and her Ragtag Bunch of Misfits are not Lightbringers, but they do manage to be in the right place at the right time to defeat threats the Lightbringers were supposed to thwart. Though the Lightbringers are not actual chosen ones — they're actually victims of an elaborate form of human sacrifice designed to keep Citadel alive. The Dawnchasers being Unchosen Ones and distrupting the Lightbringers' story was a massive Spanner in the Works for them.
- While all the later incarnations of the Avatar in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are all The Chosen One, Wan, the first Avatar, was this. He went against the beliefs and lifestyles of the world at the time, refusing to accept that things could not be changed and would always stay the same. Through his efforts, he merged with the spirit Raava to stop Vaatu, and the two began the Avatar Cycle, separated human and spirit world for their mutual protection, and allowed humanity to leave the Lion Turtles for the wider world.
- The titular character of the Ben 10 franchise. In the original series, Ben is surprised and deeply disappointed to learn that the Omnitrix had actually been sent to Earth for his ex-Plumber grandfather to use. It only attached itself to him because the Omnitrix was able to scan D.N.A. and decided Ben was close enough in the genetics department. Later, the device's creator, Azmuth, muses how destiny may have chosen Ben... though this same character doesn't fully accept Ben as the bearer himself for several more years. That said, most of the alternate timelines shown throughout the original continuity do have Ben as the wielder of the Omnitrix, with a few alternate ones having his cousin Gwen receive the device.
- Zig-zagged in The Fairly OddParents! Wishology trilogy. Timmy is assumed to be the Chosen One who will defeat the Darkness, but after he first defeats it, it turns out another guy named Turbo Thunder was meant to do so, being chosen by a committee holding auditions. However, when the Darkness rises up a second time and the Chosen One must pass "the Chosen Test" to prove he's worthy of wielding the second wand to defeat it for good, Timmy is the one who passes, proving Turbo Thunder was actually the Unchosen One.
- Jamie in an episode of Megas XLR does this, and actually does the job surprisingly well... compared to Coop himself, anyway.
- The Owl House: The central focus of "Witches before Wizards" is in pointing out how Luz doesn't have some grandiose predestined path of glory laid out for her. If she wants to make a positive impact on the world around her, then she is going to have to take the initiative and make those changes happen herself. Even in the Grand Finale which shows that she is favored by the Titan, he himself makes it clear that he didn't favor Luz because of any particular prophecy, only doing so because of her kindness to his son. He also makes it clear that she has to choose to accept his blessing and his power, when he offers to return her to life.
- The titular Steven Universe is this. As the series progresses, Steven learns that his deceased mother, Rose Quartz, was not as perfect as everyone thought she was, and he begins to wonder if she gave birth to him purely to dump her problems onto somebody else. "Lion 4: Alternate Ending" has his father confirm that this was never his mother's intention; she just wanted her son to have a happy, normal life on Earth, which makes Steven feel a lot better. At least for the moment, as it still falls to Steven to fix said problems and the fallout they caused when it all inevitably comes back to him, whether by case of Mistaken Identity or Revenge by Proxy, which results in him resenting Rose later in life.
- In Teen Titans (2003), Raven is destined to be The Antichrist, and would serve as a portal for her Omnicidal Maniac father, Trigon. At first she tries hard to fight destiny, eventually succumbs Because Destiny Says So, but later rebels against her fate.
- In Transformers: The Movie, despite Optimus Prime being the one carrying the Matrix of Leadership he notes that he was simply the bearer and not the actual Chosen One. Hot Rod is revealed to be said chosen one during the climax, opening the Matrix and becoming Rodimus Prime, destroying Unicron in the process. However, in the third season of The Transformers (which picks up after The Movie), in "The Return of Optimus Prime" Rodimus himself has fallen victim to the Hate Plague that is ravaging civilised space, and in desperation the few remaining Autobots ally with the only Quintesson they could find to resurrect Optimus. After successfully recovering the Matrix from the deranged Rodimus, Optimus is able to open the Matrix himself, but only after he risks his soul in delving into the artifact for vital information, and also manages to plead that if the Matrix doesn't open for him, all will be lost. The Matrix then indeed opens when Optimus attempts to do so, judging that with Rodimus out of commission, Optimus is Closest Thing We Got.