More than 60 million soldiers fought in "The War to End All Wars."
It ended nothing, yet it changed the world forever.
It ended nothing, yet it changed the world forever.
— Battlefield 1, Opening narration
Any war described in universe as being final, whether or not it actually is. It usually isn't. May come under different names, but they are all clearly intended to end the current conflict and prevent future conflict in one fell swoop.
The Trope Namer was World War I, as noted in the Real Life section. Which wasn't, so they called it World War I instead.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- One of these is a major part of the backstory in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; it ended with humankind forced to live underground in a misguided attempt to save it from the Anti-Spiral. A more literal example takes place during the course of the series, in which humanity fights back against the Anti-Spiral and defeats it, and the newly-liberated civilizations of the universe join with humanity in peace.
- It seems Nagato's plan was to create a weapon so powerful it could (and would) destroy an entire country in a single attack. Thus ending all wars out of fear of the weapon's use and ushering in an era of true peace. Of course, he's also cynical/realistic enough to expect that this won't really last as people begin to forget how terrifying the weapon is, war will flare up again, and the weapon will be used to enforce peace, over and over…
- Tobi's plan, he started the next "world war" with the goal of trapping the entire world in a Lotus-Eater Machine of world peace and dead loved ones brought back to life. It turns out the plan originally belonged to Madara Uchiha, who also wanted the world peace...and the chance to become its God and prove to his old friend Hashirama that his ideal of such a peace was the correct one.
- And Sasuke sought to exploit the war Tobi started in order to end wars in his own way, which had more in common with Nagato's plan. By killing all of the world's leaders he would establish himself as an absolute dictator, who nobody left would have enough power to oppose. This led to the final battle of the series, between Sasuke and the one person who still did have enough power to oppose him: Naruto.
- What Treize and Zechs brought about in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. All of Treize's scheming and manipulations across the series were intended to create a war so horrific and destructive that humanity would swear off the idea of doing it ever again. It worked... for a year, and then humanity backslid in The Movie.
- This is Lord Ezelcant's plan in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. Although his stated goal is to return the exiled Martian colonists to Earth, his real intention is to kill of everyone on both sides who has aggressive tendencies, forcing humanity to "evolve" into a more pacifistic species. (Unfortunately for him, a war that lasts 70 years is a great way to select for belligerent, survive-at-all-costs behavior. Guy should have taken an evolutionary biology class.)
- In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Master Asia refers to the Gundam Fight by calling it "the ideal war" during his battle with Domon (although he's not implying the Gundam Fight is in effect this, but rather bitterly asking Domon "why call (the Gundam Fight) an ideal war" — he's Lampshade Hanging how futile it was in preventing destruction to Earth). In this series, the Gundam Fight was a tournament (fought by Humongous Mecha no less) held by the nations of the world to decide which one of them would rule Earth until the next Gundam Fight. While this competition prevented armed conflict between the various nations, it could not avoid the devastation brought to Earth by the continued fighting of the Gundam battles.
- The war of Zaibach vs. everyone in The Vision of Escaflowne is meant to end all war by securing for Dornkirk certain MacGuffins necessary to build a machine that will grant everyone on the planet their deepest desires. Unfortunately, it turns out that some people really desire war.
- In Crest of the Stars, the Abh have declared that should they win the galaxy-spanning war the series depicts, it will be the last war humanity ever fights... at least with itself. Because if the Abh win, the entire human race will be unified under their government, which admittedly has done a pretty good job maintaining peace within its borders for nearly a thousand years. As the series continues, it remains to be seen who will eventually win the war.
- Final Crisis ends with the resolution of what is meant to be a final war, but if Flashpoint (DC Comics) is any indication, the Crisis events will function as they did before, but won't have Crisis in the title.
Films — Live-Action
- Independence Day: the War of 1996 is this, as the following timeline goes into an alternate 20 years where the world avoids any major war or genocide, after avoiding extinction from an invading alien race. Only the aliens' return sparks a new war, the War of 2016.
- Wonder Woman (2017) has Steve Trevor drop the trope name when telling the Amazons about the Trope Namer. Diana/Wonder Woman sets out with him to make the name true, but finds out that humanity is far too complicated and aggressive to halt all war simply by ending one conflict.
- Frank Herbert's Dune series. Children of Dune mentions Kralizec: in the oldest Fremen beliefs it is the Typhoon Struggle, the war at the end of the universe.
- Honor Harrington:
- The Final War, and as far as the planet Earth is concerned it really was final. For human colonized space, not so much.
- The war between Manticore and Haven was initially supposed to be this, too. Time and again, David Weber reminded us that the only possible outcomes are either the end of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, or the end of the People's Republic of Haven. In the end that was technically true, as Haven dropped the "People's."
- The Last Battle in The Chronicles of Narnia ends with the destruction of all Narnia. The goodies get their happy ending in "True Narnia", a thinly-disguised version of Heaven after the Apocalypse.
- The Prophecy of the Stones seems to be leading up to this but the ending reminds us that evil cannot be permanently defeated.
- In Mark S Geston's novel Out of the Mouth of the Dragon armies are constantly battling to determine whether good or evil will ultimately triumph. To everybody's dismay, however, none of the battles are ever final or decisive, and the world ends with a protracted whimper.
- The Nine Years War in Brave New World, which happened approximately 500 years before the novel sets.
- The war between the the Draka and the Alliance for Democracy in S.M. Stirling's The Stone Dogs is called "The Final War", as afterwards there is no power left on Earth capable of challenging Drakan dominance. From the ashes of the Final War emerges the Final Society, as the Draka genetically engineer themselves and their serfs into two codependent post-human races. Afterwards, the Draka still find themselves in conflict with the descendants of defeated Americans who fled the Solar System to found a colony on Alpha Centauri.
- In Keith Laumer's Bolo series, the war is really this. Both interstellar empires are annihilated, each sterilizing all known worlds of the other. The few overlooked colonies have neither the desire nor the ability to keep fighting.
- The "Autumn Rain" trilogy by David J. Williams culminates in WW III, with weaponized space. The nuclear destruction of a continent takes roughly three paragraphs of writing, and perhaps a few hours. Most of the Earth is more or less saturated with nuclear weapons, space-dropped kinetic energy weapons, high powered directed energy pin-point strikes against anything trying to shoot down those weapons, and deliberate destruction of any and all communications and electronic infrastructure either physically or through hacking. The fate of the moon and the fleets stationed at the libation points is not much better...though it takes a few days for them.
- In M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter at one point bitterly toasts the last of his friends to die with the toast "Here's to you, boys. To Ryan, who died in WWI: the War to End All Wars. To Gianelli, who died in the war after that."
- Played for Drama (with the benefit of 100+ years of hindsight) by Sabaton's duology of albums about World War I, The Great War (2019) and The War to End All Wars (2022). Both albums include songs discussing how people thought and/or hoped it would be mankind's last war, but of course new Eurasian conflicts were starting up even before the last bullets flew on 11 November 1918. The Fade to Black on "Versailles" from the second album says it best:
From a shot that would change the world
Tensions rise, and a war's unfurled
Nothing like what had gone before
It's the War that Will End All Wars
Will this war really end all wars?
Can a war really end all war?
Will this war bring another war?
It's the War that Will End All Wars!
Myths & Religion
- Ragnarok was expected by the Norse to be the final battle between the gods and their opponents (the giants, Fenrir, etc.)
- The End Time/End Times/End of Days of Christianity.
- Eberron: The Dungeons & Dragons setting has this as part of its Backstory, known as "The Last War". Long ago, the rulers of the Five Nations of Khorvaire waged war against one another in a Succession Crisis for the throne of Galifar. The war went on for a century until one of the aforementioned nations, Cyre, was wiped out by a Fantastic Nuke with no definite answer as to who or what was responsible for its destruction. Following the incident, which became known as "The Day of Mourning", the four remaining nations decided to call off the war through a peace treaty. Despite this, lingering tensions between said nations has lead to a Cold War-esque political landscape in Khorvaire which persists up until the present day.
- EndWar, true to its name, has this going for it.
- Battlefield 1, which takes place during the Trope Namer period, even lampshades the ironic nature of its name in the opening narration, used as the quote above.
- World War I was said to be this by some. The phrase was originally coined by H. G. Wells as early as August 1914 in a series of newspaper articles that were collected into the brochure The War That Will End War. It then became "The War to End War" and "The War to End All Wars" and later became associated with Woodrow Wilson, who actually only used it once in a speech. But some soon took a more cynical point of view. The future Field Marshal Earl Wavell commented about the 1919 Peace Conference: "After the 'war to end war', they seem to have been in Paris at making the 'Peace to end Peace'", a sentiment that was also echoed by the exiled Kaiser in the Netherlands, foreseeing the later events. Originally an idealistic slogan, it is now mainly used sardonically, since not only was the First World War not history's final war, but its aftermath also indirectly contributed to the outbreak of the even more devastating World War 2.
- In Soviet culture, WW2 was often referred to as "the war against war itself" or "a war to be never repeated".
- There has been one war between the Great Powers since World War II — or, more accurately between a Superpower and a Great Power. The Korean War pitted primarily American forcesnote against the newly formed People's Republic of China. By the end, 40,000 UNnote and 400,000 Chinese soldiers were dead- as well as millions of Korean soldiers and civilians from both sidesnote . Notably though, this took place entirely on the Korean Peninsula, so although the soldiers were from all over the world, the conflict was not. This is subverted by Insistent Terminology in case of the Korean War. It was not a "war," but "police action," United States and its allies fought in it only as part of the United Nations force, Russian pilots simply did not fight in this war at all, and all Chinese soldiers were technically "volunteers." In fact, adding the fact that neither Korea saw the other as a legitimate entity, no "country" fought in Korea at all, to paraphrase Russian scholar Andrei Lankov.