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There Are No Coincidences

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"I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences."

As any student of cause and effect can tell you, a coincidence is when two or more events happen either simultaneously or in sequence, without any sort of obvious (and in most cases, inobvious) causal connection. Generally coincidences surprise us because, given their nature, we weren't expecting them. Most people know that sometimes things happen at the same time, but some people just refuse to believe it. There are, after all, reasons people say "where there's smoke there's fire." They also often say "There Are No Coincidences."

Interestingly, this line can be made by both the Agent Scully and the Agent Mulder. One believes that the improbable has a simpler explanation and one believes that it has a fantastic one. Both are Genre Savvy in that Contrived Coincidence is something that should usually be avoided in serious plots.

Usually used either

  1. to motivate investigation into possible reasons why an apparent coincidence sprung from a common cause — the Conspiracy Theorist has an advanced case of it,note  and no willingness to stop the investigation.
  2. as a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane way to say Because Destiny Says So.
  3. to show that there is something worse waiting in the shadows than mere "shit happening", and looking into it was a better idea than it looked at first.
  4. to show that there is such a thing as coincidences, the world is full of shit happening and people with astonishingly bad luck, and that characters that are determined to believe otherwise are too narrow-minded and end up being part of the problem (them saying this line inevitably becomes Ironic Echo fodder).

This belief is Rule One of Wild Mass Guessing. The Genre Savvy are prone to it, because fictionally, the Law of Conservation of Detail militiates against its falsity. The Coincidence Magnet and related character tropes (Doom Magnet, Mystery Magnet, Weirdness Magnet et al.) is a natural enemy of this trope, especially if there is no In-Universe explanation for the coincidences beyond "having the absolute worst luck".

Compare Chekhov's Gun.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • ×××HOLiC: This idea is Yuuko's shtick and a major plot point, if not the major point of the series; though she also comments that the ultimate cause of an event may be an incident so minor that it's next to impossible to recognize the connection, even with supernatural help. She has a point — for example, the only reason that we, the readers, know that Doumeki's destroying one specific spiderweb while housecleaning is at all relevant to the story is that the manga devotes an entire page to depicting it, as opposed to the many other spiderwebs that have presumably been destroyed at some point or another without being shown. (Watanuki's job is being Yuuko's live-in slave, after all.) Unlike real life, fictional works have limited space, so only the significant events are depicted.
  • In The World of Narue, sudden Contrived Coincidences are a sign of impending interference by the mysterious "Serpents" which exist beyond space and time, and which can send causality out to lunch. There are no coincidences, but there are acausal side effects.
  • No Game No Life: The siblings don't believe that a game of "pure chance" exists. Whether its Black Jack or the probability that the next person to walk into a given alley is a given gender, there are any number of invisible factors that make the outcome inevitable. This is why information is so important.
  • Naruto:
    • Naruto's birth was the source of this speculation for several years. It was too much of a coincidence that the Kyuubi attacked on the day the Fourth Hokage's son was born, leaving him a convenient vessel for him to seal the biju in. Left at a loss due to missing pieces, most believed the stress of the attack caused Kushina to go into labor prematurely, which presumably killed her. The truth reveals that none of it was a coincidence at all. Kushina was Kurama's previous jinchuriki, and female jinchuriki are at risk of having their biju being released during childbirth due to the seal weakening. Kurama attacked that day because someone was able to release him from Kushina after Naruto's birth.
    • While confronting Obito, Madara points out that the events surrounding Rin's death happened a little too conveniently to turn Obito to darkness, and reveals that he orchestrated the whole thing to make sure Obito would help him. The only thing in that situation that was a coincidence was Kakashi, who Rin used to kill herself via Suicide by Cop.
    • Madara’s resurrection in the 4th Ninja War was also a case of this. Obito never intended to resurrect him as he aimed to take control of the Moon’s Eye Plan. He would have succeeded if not for Kabuto resurrecting Madara with the Edo Tensei. It’s ultimately revealed that Black Zetsu was the one who led Kabuto to the location of Madara’s corpse as part of his plan to bring back Kaguya Ootsutsuki.
  • Discussed often in One Piece, often in regards to the Luffy's outrageous luck working against his total lack of survival abilities:
    • In Loguetown, Smoker wonders if the storm hitting the island working in the Straw Hats' favor- a bolt of lightning saving Luffy from Buggy's sword, the rain making the Navy's gunpowder wet, the wind just right for a getaway- means if some divine force is trying to get Luffy off the island. It's implied, but not proven, that the enigmatic Dragon has something to do with it.
    • Later on, in Totto Land, Baron Tamago wonders if the Big Mom Pirates have been Underestimating Badassery when it came to the Straw Hats, considering that Whole Cake Chaeau collapsed just as Big Mom crew was about to kill the heroes, and now their surveillance system no longer working. Mort D'Or insists it's all a coincidence, but Tamago notes that lately there have been nothing but accidents in Luffy's favor. In these cases, the explosion that destroyed the Chateau was due to King Neptune hiding a bomb in the Tamate Box for unrelated reasons, the Sun Pirates were sabotaging Totto Land's spy network.
  • This is part of Teru Mikami's backstory in Death Note. As a child, he was a Bully Hunter with a sense of Black-and-White Morality who stood up to bullying whenever he saw it, but all this really accomplished was getting himself beaten up. When his mother tried to convince him he shouldn't fight the bullies because he's only getting himself hurt, he takes this to mean she's taking the bullies' side and is just as bad as they are. When his mother and those very same bullies he spent his school years fighting were all killed in the same accident completely by chance, he takes this as a sign from God that he was right and that they all deserved to be punished.
  • Kaguya and Shirogane end up getting trapped in a storeroom together in Chapter 78 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War and are so used to their ongoing Battle of Wits that they both automatically assume the reason the door won't open is that it's part of some scheme that the other hatched and decide to play along. In reality, a twig had fallen off an overhanging tree and gotten caught in the track for the sliding door and both of them remain completely oblivious to the fact that they were actually trapped until Iino comes along.
  • Mocked in The Saga of Tanya the Evil. A very, very long series of completely unrelated events leaves the intelligence agency of the Kingdom of Albion with the absolute certainty that the enemy Germanian Empire has completely infiltrated them to the point they're preparing for an invasion and laughing at the very idea of any resistance. Germania has no spies in Albion. However, the idea alone spooks the Albish to the point of kickstarting a Lensman Arms Race against Germania, joining forces with the Unified States and covertly beginning a cold war.
  • My Girlfriend Gives Me Goosebumps!: Kisaki ends up in the same school as Haruka by “coincidence” and also volunteers to be a library helper by “coincidence”. As explained by Rinko, those are not coincidences at all.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman has a hard time accepting that coincidence is the reason for anything happening. Batman is right most of the time.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • All-New Ultimates: Miles Morales pointed that they fought against Crossbones, Taskmaster and Scourge, three guys with skulls. He thinks that they must be related (they are not). Black Widow thinks that it's just that skulls are cool, and Kitty that they are fans of The Misfits.
    • The Ultimates: S.H.I.E.L.D. does not confirm or deny the allegations about Pym's wifebeating, but... a history of violent relations? An addiction to prescription painkillers? As a TV News anchor puts it: "It hardly takes a genius to put two and two together here". Cap: "I believe the expression for that is 'cosmic coincidence'".
    • Utilized against Cap when Loki puts his schemes together, making it look like he was The Mole. Because what were the chances SHIELD just happen to find the body of the world's only successful super soldier just when they were putting a super-team together?
  • Wasp (2023): The day Nadia Pym's mother was killed, her father died in a "freak lab accident". Nadia believes this isn't remotely true, but hasn't been able to find any corroborating evidence. But there's a lot of evidence that Nadia was right to be suspicious.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfic Abraxas (Hrodvitnon), Madison Russell takes on this mindset when her father Mark has chosen one of the worst possible times to not be quick to conclusions for once. She correctly deduces that the phenomena in Berezniki, Russia are linked to Monster X after the latter's recent abduction by a Ghidorah shed skin, since the region is where the fic's plot kicked off and Ghidorah began regenerating to begin with; in Chapter 16.
  • You Obey demonstrates that in an interrogation, not only is nothing a coincidence, but also that convenient coincidences are prime targets for scrutiny.
  • The The Legend of Zelda fic Wisdom and Courage reveals that it was no accident that Link showed up in Termina just in time to stop Majora from dropping the moon; rather, Farore guided him there after Terminus, Termina's guardian deity, begged the Golden Goddesses for aid in containing the threat.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the narrator believes this to the point of using Insane Troll Logic to justify her theories.
    • In Chapter 10, she reveals that she was motivated to write this essay because she found a Celestia-shaped Dorito chip and was convinced it was a sign from destiny, invoking this trope.
  • In the Star Trek (2009) fanfic Written in the Stars, both Spock Prime and Fem!Kirk Prime make it clear to Alt Reality Fem!Kirk that it's no coincidence all the original crew ended up on the same ship.
  • Peace Forged in Fire: Morgan notes that the timing of the Tal'Shiar false-flag attack against ch'R Maens is more than a little coincidental. Tovan responds:
    "I stopped believing in coincidence after I became a cop, Morgan. My guess? Somebody sprang a leak."
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: Kuyou just happens to call the gang to warn them he's coming back to settle the score with Tsukune a few chapters after Hokuto himself enrolls in Yokai Academy; it's ultimately revealed that Hokuto himself personally orchestrated Kuyou's return in order to steal an Artifact of Doom from the school while everyone else was distracted with Kuyou.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Inko Midoriya invokes this trope while trying to convince her husband Hisashi to adopt the baby alien child they found in the spaceship that crashed near their campsite just days after they discovered they are infertile. He doesn't buy into it at first, but eventually relents, as the alternatives would be to kill the child, leave him at an orphanage, or hand him over to the authorities, none of which are particularly appealing.
    Inko: Hisashi, don't you think that we need to be doing this? The whole reason we were there was because we wanted to forget about the fact that we could never have a child of our own, and then a baby falls into our laps? That can't just be a coincidence.
    Hisashi: It is absolutely a coincidence! If you looked up coincidence in the dictionary, the definition would read "What is happening to Hisashi and Inko", right now!
  • Lampshaded in Child of the Storm sequel Ghosts of the Past when Draco notices that Harry's new sword looks awfully a lot like a shashka. note .
    Harry: Coincidence?
    Draco: Harry, Doctor Strange is heavily involved in your life. I'm not sure if, for you, coincidence still exists.
    Harry: Allow me to cling to my delusions a little while longer, please?
    • Ironically, the shape of the sword was a coincidence. Ulthred, being Asgardian, had never heard of shashka swords in his life and just forged it to fit Harry's fighting style - one suited to sabres.
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton: When Danny asks how Barbara Gordon figured out his secret, she points out, among other things, that both Fenton and Phantom are from Amity Park and both of them showing up in her home town around the same time was too big of a coincidence.
  • Blackbird (Arrow): When Oliver learns that Laurel vanished from Starling City shortly before Sara returned, he's convinced that isn't a coincidence and the two events are related. He's right.
    • Shortly after it becomes apparent Laurel was in fact kidnapped and an investigation is started, Walter Steele vanishes. Thea panics and thinks the two events are connected. This time however, it really is a coincidence.
  • In Days of Justice Power Girl believes it isn't a coincidence that the superheroes who would form the Justice League would just happen to be in Metropolis during Brainiac's invasion. As it turns out, she's right; Martian Manhunter used his powers to summon them.
  • In the final Bakerix segment of How Miraculous Should Have Ended, Cat Noir finds it suspicious that Ronald Dupain, who gets upset very easily, has never once got akumatized until after his granddaughter Marinette meets him for the first time and tries to invite him to her father's birthday so they can reconcile. The fact that she happens to get caught up with various akumas despite not intentionally upsetting people causes him to conclude that Hawkmoth is deliberately targeting her.
  • Whispered Tribulation: "Eraserhead" Aizawa believes this very, very firmly, and thus when he notices that Izuku Midoriya, on top of other allegedly suspicious behavior (such as his Quirk assessment notes) has constantly appeared around the locations of tragedies that have affected Class 1-A (even if he is a Regular Studies student and not a Hero), he jumps on the conclusion that Izuku is the traitor within UA and drags him away for interrogation.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Master Oogway tells Master Shifu, "There are no accidents," in relation to Po being chosen as the Dragon Warrior. Master Shifu later repeats this to Po.
  • In The Incredibles, Dash Parr's homeroom teacher Bernie Kropp has been finding thumbtacks in his chair just as he sits down and he suspects Dash of doing so, but never caught him doing so in his eyes. So he uses a hidden video camera to record one incident and find that right when he sits down, the camera shows Dash blurring before the thumbtacks appear, which he takes as proof that he's involved. While Helen and the audience know Dash used his superspeed to put the thumbtacks right when Bernie sat down, the principle thinks his colleague is being paranoid and allows the Parrs to go home.
    Bernie: Coincidence? I think not!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The 51st State has this conversation on coincidence...
    Felix DeSouza: Yeah, well, Shit Happens!
    Elmo McElroy: No, Shit don't just Happen. Shit takes time. Shit takes effort. Twenty million dollars worth of effort.
    • In other words, your car breaking down just in time to strand you in the middle of nowhere as a snowstorm starts is a coincidence. A twenty-million-dollar drug deal being busted up by dozens of skinheads with automatic weapons just before you close escrow? That's somebody with more cash than he knows what to do with wanting to make your life hell.
  • The Air I Breathe: "There are some people who believe in coincidences. I am not one of them."
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: At the end of the movie, Thor points out that in the years since the Avengers formed, they've ran into three of the Infinity Stones. His refusal to believe this is a coincidence is what spurs him to leave, and investigate further.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Gordon tells Blake that, as a detective, "[he's] not allowed to believe in coincidences anymore".
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Mark Russell seems to have this mindset throughout the movie, a notable example being when he quickly assumes that Godzilla's agitated activity means he'll lead them to the ORCA. Regardless of how well-founded or rational his assumptions are, he tends to be right.
  • In The Matrix, Morpheus believes in fate and prophecy, and thus does not believe in coincidence.
  • Jim Williams airily drops the line in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil after John Kelso spots a copy of his book, which wasn't exactly a bestseller, on Jim's bookshelf while doing a puff piece for a magazine on Jim's annual Christmas party. Actually a justified use: Jim then explains that liked the book and specifically requested Kelso for the article.
  • In The Mummy Returns, Rick tries to shrug everything off as a coincidence and Ardeth tells him "There's a fine line between coincidence and fate."
  • In Signs, Graham Hess phrases the statement as a means to deny the existence of God.
    "See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?"
  • Star Wars:
    • In Obi-Wan Kenobi's experience, there is no such thing as luck, since the Force pervades everything. He probably got it from his own master, who believed that meeting Anakin Skywalker was no coincidence.
    • In the Expanded Universe, this is a Force-user's philosophy in general. If something really improbable happens, it's because the Force wanted it to go that way. The more coincidences pile up, the more the Force is at work.
  • V for Vendetta: "I, like God, do not play with dice and I don't believe in coincidences."
    • Later in that movie, V tells another character, "There are no coincidences, Delia. Only the illusion of coincidence."
    • Chief Inspector Finch also says "When you're at this as long as I have, you stop believing in coincidence."
  • This is part of the Central Theme of The Sun Is Also a Star, in which the protagonists wonder how is it that so many factors intervened for them to meet and fall in love, and how those same circumstances now want to split them.
  • In Race to Witch Mountain Dr. Alex Friedman calls this chaos theory.
    Dr. Friedman: "Think about it: what are the odds that they would crash near Vegas during a UFO convention? I got in your cab, then they got in your cab and now we're all in Harlan's mobile home loaded with his intel on where their ship is. That is not luck. That is a predetermined order of how things work in the universe."

  • In Ancillary Justice, this is the view of the dominant religion in Radch space which holds that all things are the will of the god Amaat so every seeming coincidence is significant. Breq uses this belief to her advantage several times throughout the book.
  • This is a major plot point in Bridge of Birds, with Master Li slowly realizing that all the unlikely events and reappearances of characters and side stories that keep happening to him and Number Ten Ox are the work of a god doing his best to clue them in on their Fetch Quest being part of a much bigger quest without breaking the rule of gods not being allowed to intervene directly in mortals' affairs. The chapter where he explains all this to Ten Ox is even titled "There Are No Coincidences in the Great Way of Tao".
  • In Andre Norton's Catseye, Dragur observes that one coincidence is so beneficial as to almost make him believe in Fate.
  • In Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess, Madame Karitska discusses the possibility with Mr. Faber-Jones, that his meeting with a criminal, enabling his capture, was no coincidence.
  • A common theme in A Column of Fire (part 3 of The Pillars of the Earth), a Historical Fiction novel where main protagonist Ned Willard is second in command of Elizabeth I's secret service. Secret service as in the predecessor to MI6. "I don't believe in coincidences" might as well be Ned's catchphrase.
  • The Dresden Files: This applies to the Knights of the Cross. Each knight has one of the three three swords, each with a nail from the Crucifixion and they're specifically meant for fighting Fallen Angel, but the knights generally help anyone in need and fight evil. God doesn't specifically assign the Knights to do anything, but through Divine Intervention via Contrived Coincidence he both puts them in the right place to helps people and ensures that side issues are taken care of so they can focus on their work. When a woman cries out "God in Heaven Help us," Sanya just happens to show up to help out. Or when Michael needs a babysitter so he can go out on Knight business, Father Forthills car break down just in front of his house. Forthill's comment implies that this is not the first time something like this has happened either.
  • Eddie LaCrosse: In Burn Me Deadly, the protagonist acts on the assumption that this is the case, but actually, it's specifically averted — most things are connected, but not everything. Eddie assumes that the murder of Mother Bennings was orchestrated by the same people whose attack Mother Bennings healed him from, and not the marginally-connected guy who Gary Bunson is planning to execute. In fact, it really is the Open-and-Shut Case Gary thinks it is, and the killer's choice of victim had nothing to do with a connection to Eddie.
  • Flight to the Lonesome Place: Anna Maria Rosalita believed this, especially with Ronnie making his way to the ship on which she was on.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Phaethon ponders whether a meeting is coincidence or arranged by the Earthmind, an AI with a trillion times the brain power of a human such as himself.
  • Good Omens. At first glance it seems that a bunch of random stuff (starting with the babies getting mixed up, and escalating from there) came together to interfere with the Divine Plan. It's not until it's over that the protagonists start to wonder if the Divine Plan they've been told about is the actual Divine Plan.
  • Tony Hillerman's detective Joe Leaphorn explicitly gives "There are no coincidences" as his philosophy in solving mysteries, as stated in The First Eagle for instance.
  • Just after Honor Harrington has made her grand escape from the prison planet Hades with over half a million escapees, apparently coming back from the dead to do so, Rob Pierre and Oscar Saint-Just discuss her apparent ability to have been in just the right spots to screw with Haven's war planning for a decade or more. Pierre admits that half his strategic analysts believe it's just coincidence. The other half think she's in league with Satan.
  • In Goldfinger, James Bond tries to convince Goldfinger that their third meeting is a coincidence. He fails.
    "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it's enemy action."
  • In Bryan Miranda's The Journey to Atlantis, the main characters' ship sinks during a violent thunderstorm, which strands them on the island. Obviously, it wasn't just a normal storm, but was created by Loki to get the kids on the island so he could have his twisted fun with them.
  • In the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, fate often seems to be an active agent with a will of its own. Characters refer to it as "event" or "the Luck", and it is said to move in strange ways around those of Clan Korval and Line yos'Phelium in particular, making them the ultimate Weirdness Magnet. Individuals who are Genre Savvy enough to recognize it (including those of Korval themselves) make allowances for it in their plans—Bechimo's builders who warned him to steer clear of Clan yos'Phelium in Ghost Ship, and Zaneth Katrina who wishes nothing to do with Clan Korval at the present time because the Luck is too unsettled in Dragon Ship. Those who don't believe in the Luck or the powers of the dramliza end up puzzled by the way Korval is always at the nexus of extraordinary happenstance and often assign human intentions to utter coincidence. (Or what would be utter coincidence if it weren't for the Luck causing it.)
    • For example: what are the odds that a half-brainwashed Agent of Change disengaging from a mission would meet, become companions with, and eventually lifemate a woman who happens to be the granddaughter of a missing member of a long-lost clan with whom his is allied—a woman who grew up on the planet that his cousin is shortly going to civilize so Clan Korval can move to? And that this woman's own clan's world is about to be invaded by Yxtrang, bringing with them the very member of that race he had encountered ten years before? The entire series is one long chain of increasingly unlikely "coincidences". (It drives the Department of the Interior, and more than a few people who are in the know about Clan Korval's history with the Luck, right up the wall.)
  • In The Licanius Trilogy, this is meant in a very literal sense. Everything that happens to Davian and Caeden in the first book was a direct result of Caeden's plan before he wiped his own memory.
  • In the Lord Peter Wimsey book The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Lord Peter explains that he suspected murder because it was certainly possible for the timing of General Fentiman's death to be coincidental, but it was more believable if it had been deliberate.
    Aristotle... says, you know, that one should always prefer the probable impossible to the improbable possible.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet, some characters declare it can't be chance that they found Black Jack Geary's survival pod.
  • In the Japanese-occupied San Francisco of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, there are no coincidences. There is only the Tao, and its messenger the I-Ching.
  • Used and justified in the first Pandora Jones book. One of Pandora's more vivid apocalypse memories is of a little girl in a white dress, playing with a doll, who coughed up so much blood that her dress turned red. When she reads Cara's diary, she finds that Cara remembered the exact same thing, and when she later talks to Sanjit, she finds that he remembers the same thing. Given that the three of them came from completely different places, Pan concludes that their remembering the exact same scenario is possible, but just too unlikely to be believable, and it's part of the evidence that leads Pan to conclude that the memories are fake, as is the School.
  • A theme in Shadow Song, in which Avrum Feldman in particular believes very strongly in destiny. In particular, he claims it's no coincidence that he should meet and form an Intergenerational Friendship with the protagonist, Bobo Murphy, despite the meeting occurring in an unlikely place and the 51 years between their ages.
  • In Kate Seredy's The Singing Tree, when arguing that they should take Marton Nagy home despite his lack of papers, one argument is that it was obviously Destiny that brought them there to recognize him and jog his memory loose — they had only stopped there because a cat had stowed away in the cart and started to have kittens — and who are they to argue with destiny?
  • Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm: In Up Jim River, when she hears of a murder of a woman she spoke with, the harper thinks it can't be a coincidence. She tells Donovan, and he agrees.
  • This is a central belief of the two cults featured in The Tenets of Futilism. The titular cult believes there are two gods, one representing fortune and the other misfortune, who fight for control of humanity's fate. The gods are known as Crescis and Decrescis, respectively. Everything that happens is ultimately a result of one of their wills. Nothing is truly random. Sasha, the novel's protagonist, doesn't initially buy the cult's teachings. That changes after a few very unlikely coincidences occur. So unlikely, in fact, they leave her believing they're not coincidences at all. Sasha ends starting a cult of her own known as the Disciples of Waxing (or Waxers). Their belief system is much the same as the Futilists, only with a few changes Sasha makes to fit her ideals. Waxers believe that Crescis overcame his twin brother on December 21st 2012 when he prevented the Mayan apocalypse from occurring.
  • Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next: In The Eyre Affair, when Thursday meets the activists who want her to speak against the war, they declare it can't be a coincidence.
  • Robyn from The Tomorrow Series believes that "coincidences are God's way of telling you to wake up".
  • The basis of Aaron's worldview in Unsong to the point that his signature quote is "This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence." This is pretty reasonable, considering that he practices magic based on the reverse engineering the nature of God from so-called coincidences (and the omnipresent puns) and the settings main other form of magic is based on Narrative Causality.
  • In David Brin's The Uplift War, an alien is annoyed with the human word "accident", which is muddy in meaning, and the humans even say, "There are no accidents." At the end, contemplating the events that led to their defeat and thinking that if some of them hadn't happened, victory might have been possible — but, the alien realizes, "There are no accidents."
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, when Uriel meets Colonel Leonid, who can tell him what is in the Chaos fortress, Uriel tells him that it was not chance that brought him to meet Leonid.
    • In C. S. Goto's Dawn of War trilogy, "Coincidences are for the weak-minded and the ignorant."
  • Comes up several times in The Wheel of Time, in particular thanks to three incredibly powerful ta'veren traipsing around, distorting probability with their presence. Invoked memorably when Verin tried for days to leave a particular town but was repeatedly flummoxed by random delays, until finally she decided that she was supposed to be there and settled down to see who would show up. In broader terms, resident pragmatist Gareth Bryne sums it up:
    Once is happenstance, twice coincidence, three times a conspiracy.
  • The Xanth novels define "coincidence" as a word used by Mundanes to explain away something magical happening.
  • This is repeated several times in the Young Wizards series.
    • When people regularly find themselves going on vacation, only to discover that locals need someone with just their expertise to solve the dire problem that recently cropped up, and when their bosses are Reality Warpers that make most gods look tame, this attitude is more than slightly justified. Granted, this is usually used to get wizards to the problem; once there, they're usually on their own.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 7 Yüz: Used to disturbing effect in the episode "Karşılaşmalar". After learning she crossed paths with her husband Onur hundreds of times before actually meeting him, Gözde seeks to assign meaning to the events — specifically, the four times they passed within ten meters of each other. Far from finding a fatefully romantic narrative, she uncovers the unsettling truth: the passing encounters and their first meeting were not due to mere coincidence, but Onur watching her every move.
  • Angel: During the Season 3 finale, Connor, fooled by Holtz's Thanatos Gambit into thinking Angel killed him, traps Angel in a metal coffin and sinks him to the bottom of the ocean to starve and go mad; around the same time, Cordelia is approached by Skip and accepts his offer to become a higher being. Come the Season 4 premiere, when they find out what Connor did, Gunn and Fred are outraged and convinced that Connor did something to Cordelia as well, pointing out that Cordelia couldn't have just "happened" to disappear the same night Connor dumped Angel into the ocean. Connor didn't do anything to Cordelia, however, and Angel is able to deduce that he didn't from his words, saying Connor has lied to him enough that he can tell the difference.
    Angel: The truth has a better sound to it, less nasal.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Michael Garibaldi prefers to make his own luck rather than just relying on chance.
    • When Ambassador Sinclair unexpectedly returns to Babylon Five in the two-parter "War Without End", Sheridan says his timing seems like more than just a coincidence. Sinclair enigmatically replies that there are no coincidences; in fact, he's aware that there's a Stable Time Loop in effect, and is holding information back to avoid causing a paradox or a Bad Future.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    "Giles, there are two things that I don't believe in: coincidence and leprechauns."
  • One episode of El Chapulín Colorado featured the hero at an area where it's usual to have falling rocks from space. Not believing it, Chapulin sarcastically announced the arrival of one that made stops in Jupiter and Saturn. Then a rock falls and hits someone nearby. Chapulin dismissed it as a coincidence that could happen anywhere on the world and challenged another one to appear. It did, hitting the same someone. "Two coincidences", the hero said and then challenged again. A third rock fell and Chapulin decided to hide just in case a "fourth coincidence" appeared. Several rocks fell later, and the hero weakly dismissed them as coincidences.
  • In the Community episode "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design", a Gambit Pileup caused by everyone involved explains the bizarre occurrences in this episode.
  • Criminal Minds: In the episode "A Higher Power", a detective enlists the help of the BAU to search for an "angel of death" Serial Killer who is targeting the grieving families of the people who died in a fire and "helping" them perform the suicides he thinks they "want" to do when the detective's brother kills himself. After all is said and done, the BAU team has to look at the detective in the eye and tell him that while his initial suspicion about the spike of suicides was correct, unfortunately the brother's suicide was a coincidence - the killer had absolutely nothing to do with it. Understandably, this leaves the detective in utter shock.
  • On CSI Gil Grissom has repeatedly said in a handful of episodes that he does not believe in coincidences. He even quoted Goldfinger at one point:
    "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy's action."
    • However, in the episode "Chaos Theory", Grissom is forced, at the end of the episode's investigation, to accept that the death and disappearance of college student Paige Rycoff was the result of a series of unfortunate random events that, when taken in sequence, were only connected because, together, they directly led to the girl dying in a tragic accident that merely appeared at first blush, to be murder.
      • At the end of the aforementioned episode, Gil is forced to look into the mirror when the parents of Paige refuse to believe the explanation even with all the evidence, the one thing that Gil absolutely believes in an investigation, due to grief.
  • Dexter - in a season seven flashback to much earlier, the title character quotes a saying that Doakes found in another killer's diary. He tries to pass it off as a coincidence, but Doakes doesn't buy it. "Fuck coincidences, I don't believe in 'em."
  • Doctor Who:
    • The First Doctor was more likely to call things that were obviously enemy action coincidence and to call a coincidence fate.
    • Later Doctors have a tendency to say this, usually while figuring out the plot. By now he's had nine hundred years of experience in how these things work.
    • One of Eleven's rules is "never ignore a coincidence. Unless you're in a hurry, then always ignore a coincidence".
    • The TARDIS, while in a human body basically tells the Doctor there is no coincidence that the Doctor arrives just before some trouble happens because the TARDIS is taking him to where he is needed.
  • Farscape references Albert Einstein just to hammer in, "Yeah, Scorpius has your number, Crichton, and he will never stop screwing with you!"
    Harvey: Scorpius... Iz... Like Gohd! He doez not play dize vit ze univerze!
    • Harvey, the invisible friend in Crichton's head is dressed like Einstein. Complete with Einstein Hair. Farscape's that kind of show.
  • The Flash (2014): On his deathbed, Eddie Thawne came to believe this was the case in regards to his unexpected presence in the timeline. It just so happened that the timeline Eobard Thawne altered by murdering Nora Allen was one where Eddie became a member of Team Flash, as Barry Allen's friend, Iris West's boyfriend/fiancee, and Joe West's partner, thus causing him to have a vested interest in stopping Eobard. He just so happens to be in the right place, at the right time, to do it by committing a Heroic Suicide, causing a Grandfather Paradox. Through this, it's heavily implied that the Speed Force allowed Eobard to run amok because it knew Eddie would one day kill himself to erase the latter from existence.
  • Happens in one episode of Flashpoint, "Clean Hands". Parker believes a would-be murderer had conspired with his boss to take out a serial killer, until he learns that he had served in the Sudan, the same place where the customs agent on the case had worked. He decides this is one coincidence too many. (Additional evidence quickly validates his suspicions.)
  • Frasier episode "Bla-Z-Boy" has Frasier invoke the Trope when Martin spills oil on his Berber rug, thinking Martin did it on purpose, whether consciously or subconsciously. Martin's reply is priceless.
    Martin: For the last time, this was not malicious, it was an accident!
    Frasier: I don't think you know the difference!
    Martin: Yes, I do! (points at rug) That was an accident! (angrily squirts oil all over Frasier's shirt and face) THIS IS MALICIOUS!
    • Later in the episode, Frasier (somehow) lights Martin's chair on fire and it falls 19 floors to the ground, slamming in front of Martin and Daphne below, thoroughly destroying itself. Martin rightfully gives Frasier a loud What the Hell, Hero? that Frasier could have killed someone, leading up to this Armor-Piercing Response:
      Frasier: It was an accident!
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: After discovering that Halbrand has kingly blood, Galadriel is convinced that her meeting Halbrand in the open sea was not the product of a mere coincidence.
    Galadriel: Ours was not chance meeting. Not fate, nor destiny, nor any other words Men use to speak of the forces they lack the conviction to name. Ours was the work of something greater.
    • Later, her own conviction comes back and bite her in the ass when it turns out that Halbrand is Sauron, who did take her words to his heart and wants her to be by his side to reshape Middle-earth together.
  • Lost's central theme was whether the crazy stuff happening to the main characters has any sort of meaning or purpose, or if they're all just deluding themselves or being conned into thinking that because of their psychological issues.
  • Comes up a few times on NUMB3RS. In this case, Charlie does allow for the possibility of coincidences, but he's also able to see when an apparent coincidence is a little too improbable. In one episode, he realizes that a bus accident was staged due to the sheer number of factors that had to come together at the exact right moment; in a later episode, he uncovers a murder plot after discovering that five people who worked together all died within a few weeks of each other in a series of supposedly random incidents (four "accidents" and one "suicide"), the odds of which, according to Charlie, are about 700 million to one.
  • Gibbs, from NCIS. Rule #39, in fact.
    Anthony DiNozzo: In the immortal words of Leroy Jethro Gibbs [puts on a deep voice] "I don't believe in coincidences."

    Gibbs: You know how I feel about coincidences, Abs.
    Abby: Equatorial pygmies know how you feel about coincidences, Gibbs.
    • However, after Gibbs rules a group of chop-shop employees out of the investigation of a dead body found in the trunk of a car they stole:
      Anthony DiNozzo: I thought you didn't believe in coincidences, Boss.
      Gibbs: I don't. But I do believe in bad luck.
  • Once Upon a Time: Other characters have this, too, but Baelfire explicitly states that it's one of the few things that he and his father, Rumplestiltskin, agree on.
  • Laverne in Scrubs. "Everything happens for a reason."
    • Then JD's narration comments on how this is subverted at the end of the same episode when Laverne is left in a coma by a random car accident.
      • Then played straight in the next episode, Laverne holds on to life just long enough for her best friend Carla to get past denial of the situation and say goodbye.
  • Sherlock
    • Inverted in "The Hounds of Baskerville" when a joke about a little girl's escaped rabbit turns out to be part of the A-plot. "People say there's no such thing as coincidence. What dull lives they must lead."
    • Played straight in a third season episode, "The Sign of Three":
      Mycroft: Oh Sherlock, what do we say about coincidences?
      Sherlock: The universe is rarely so lazy.
  • The Romulans of Star Trek, as a species, do not believe in luck. If something goes wrong, it is because someone either intentionally made things go wrong, or else someone messed up and unintentionally made things go wrong.
    Bashir: "Don't tell me you don't believe in coincidences."
    Garak: "I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences."
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead," a Klingon spy was exposed aboard the Enterprise at about the same time that a component of the warp core exploded, crippling the ship. The two were naturally assumed to be connected, making the spy a saboteur as well. Ultimately subverted, however, when the explosion was determined to have been an accident.
  • Supernatural: As Bobby said in "The Magnificent Seven", "I believe in a lot of things. Coincidences ain't one of them."
  • Doctor Tony Hill, from Wire in the Blood, has a psychological justification for not believing in coincidences:
    "Jung's theory of synchronicity says there are links between events beyond cause and effect. Patterns the conscious mind can't perceive. [pause] There is no such thing as coincidence or accident."

  • Mr. Whittaker from Adventures in Odyssey believes this. (Although in a very early episode he comments on something being a coincidence.)

    Video Games 
  • In Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver II, Vorador refuses to believe that Raziel's sudden appearance and the imminent destruction of the Pillars is a coincidence.
  • Metal Gear Solid
    Solid Snake: Well, I don't believe in coincidences.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri plays with this trope by suggesting there are coincidences, but these coincidences might have their own perverse reasons for happening:
    Einstein would turn in his grave. Not only does God play dice, the dice are loaded.
    Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, Looking God in the Eye
  • In Record of Agarest War, Duran thinks that it's just a coincidence that they found a hot spring on their camping site, but Winfield thinks the other way.
    Winfield: Ha! Coincidence, you say? Divine providence, say I! The gods love us!
  • A common theme throughout The Elder Scrolls series. Given that the series gets its surtitle from prophetic Tomes Of Eldritch Lore, this shouldn't be too surprising. The Septim dynasty in particular repeatedly learns this the hard way, with Uriel Septim VII uttering the trope name immediately before being assassinated while Martin Septim goes from from feeling in control of his destiny to believing things are pre-planned. One exception are the "heroes", an in-universe metaphysical concept. These are rare individuals not bound in any way by fate and who have the ability to rule their own destiny. Heroes are closely related to the prophecies revealed in the Elder Scrolls, but are not bound by them, and they often grow to become far more powerful than most other mortals (sometimes to the point of becoming Physical Gods or outright Deities Of Human Origin). Each Player Character in the series to date has been such a hero, and many others are mentioned in the series' lore (often as Long Dead Badasses and Founders Of Their Kingdoms).
  • Star Wars: Republic Commando: "One's an anomaly, two's a trend. Rule 89, Boss."
  • In the bonus chapter of The World Ends with You, one NPC talks about this. Given the way the story goes, he is probably right.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: While not a complete rejection of coincidences, Kreia believed that true coincidences were rare and that events usually chalked up to coincidence actually happened because of the Force.
    • Bastila also lampshades it in the first game, saying such things are so commonplace to those who are active Force Users that they simply "get used to" it.
  • Persona 2: Innocent Sin is one long journey in discovering that no, there are no coincidences. Your entire party comes together as playing pieces in a game between two gods, chosen because you were conveniently there - almost any group of childhood friends would have suited. Everything is part of some horrible grand scheme, especially the bits that look pulled out of nowhere.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: The sheer number of coincidences responsible for the Inquisitor's survival and rise to power convinces one skeptic that the Inquisitor is The Chosen One.
  • RuneScape: In sort of a meta-example, during the quest Doric's Quest, a dwarf will ask you to gather certain ores for him (12 in total). To save time, experienced and informed players tend to gather these ores before starting the quest so they can immediately complete it. Doing so will lead to a funny conversation with the player happily exclaiming that—by pure coincidence—they already have the exact ores he requires. Doric will amazedly respond that the odds of having these exact items on you when you have only 28 inventory spots at a time are incredibly low.
  • In Hitman 3, Jiao will say in Berlin's "Apex Predator" mission that there are no coincidences when Agent 47 is around. Given that the Hitman series has long featured ways for 47 to set up kills that look like accidents, 47 is known within the ICA for specializing in these kinds of hits, and that said line is triggered by 47 setting up such an accident that kills two of the agents that Jiao is overseeing to kill 47, Jiao is clearly Genre Savvy enough to know just what's going on (even if she's powerless to prevent it).

    Visual Novels 
  • During Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, you end up having to cross-examine a parrot, in a desperate attempt to link the owner to the current case. One press gets you nowhere, as it's a small clue that has no meaning, with the prosecutor and the judge calling it a coincidence. A second press gets a different answer, which is also a small clue which has no meaning on its own. The prosecutor calls it a coincidence, but the Judge isn't so sure...
    Judge: Two coincidences at the same time seems like a connection to me.
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Chiaki Nanami takes note of the fact that Nagito Komaeda was picked for cleaning duty and standing next to the cord of the lamp are two coincidences happening one after another, leading to him being a suspicious person in the case.


    Web Video 
  • In episode 91 of Critical Role, Caduceus shares the story of the three clans that serve The Wildmother: Dust, Clay, and Stone. Fjord, who had recently become a paladin of the Wildmother due to Caduceus's influence, then bemusedly reveals that the last name he'd been given at the orphanage was Stone. While Fjord is convinced it was just a very strange coincidence, Caduceus takes this as a sign that fate was guiding the two of them down their respective paths. Ironically enough, it genuinely was a coincidence. Travis and Taliesin developed this aspect of their character's backstories independently, and were as surprised as anyone when it came out in game.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Hunted arc of Ninjago, the teenage Wu doesn't use the words, but he does voice the same sentiment. He doesn't actually know the location of his father's armor or the way back home, but he believes there's a reason he had a dream where his father told him "You have to have faith" immediately before meeting an ally whose name is literally Faith, so he takes it as a sign to trust his instincts.
  • Young Justice (2010): The third time the Team's actions interfere with the Light's plans, they begin to take action against them, citing the old proverb:
    "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times is enemy action, and enemies of the Light must not stand."

    Real Life 
  • The reason Einstein did not like quantum mechanics relating to chance was because of this. "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing, but an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one'. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice." note 
    • Niels Bohr responded, "Stop telling God what to do!" - cautioning Einstein that just because he didn't like the theory didn't necessarily mean it wasn't true.
    • Stephen Hawking's take on the matter is "Not only does He play dice, He sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen!"
    • The secular version of Einstein's statement is that the Schroedinger Equation (or the equations in general of quantum mechanics) is deterministic. The problem of quantum measurement is a serious Mind Screw.note 
  • The Yoruba tribe in Africa believe there is only one reason people die: witchcraft. They refuse to accept such things as "natural causes" or "horrible accident" as causes of death.
  • A Soviet-era phrase, "This was no accident, comrade," referred to both the Marxist ideological notion that powerful and inexorable historical forces drive human progress, and that more mundane human agents (i.e., the KGB or other parts of the totalitarian state) were secretly behind events that seemed to occur by happenstance. It was also said that every major accident has a first, second and last name.
  • Fortean Times talks about this sort of thing a lot but makes no judgement on whether it's down to synchronicity, serendipity, conspiracy theory, or just plain ordinary random coincidence.
  • A proper understanding of probability and statistics leads to the conclusion that this trope is badly averted in Real Life. On the other hand, such an understanding may also lead one in a particular situation to realize that certain coincidences are extremely unlikely, and the apparent coincidence is a clue rather than a coincidence.
  • Robert Anton Wilson once wrote about the researcher's dilemma; trying to locate a particular half-remembered example from a very big library of books, so as to be able to refresh his memory and quote it in an article. He was moved to close his eyes and select a book from random off a shelf so as to open it at random, just on the Million to One Chance. He was interested first by the fact he'd selected a book by his namesake, Colin Wilson, which covered the subject field he was researching. Opening it at random, the first thing he read was (Colin) Wilson's account of how another author, faced with the problem of locating the exact information he wanted quickly, had opened a random book to a random page and found what he wanted, first time out. (Robert Anton) Wilson says he never found the information he was looking for. But he was so struck by this double, and recursive, coincidence that he chose to write about this instead.
  • An old soldier's maxim: Once is an accident, twice is coincidence. But three times is enemy action.
  • The belief in the platitude "Everything happens for a reason". Some religions also integrate this as a part of their faith, that all of the things happening in the world are "part of God's plan". These are known as Thought-terminating clichés in skeptical circles; the explanation they proffer is often unsatisfactory on examination, but the whole point of deploying one is to stop further examination of the situation, including the terminating cliché itself. Interestingly, "There Are No Coincidences" is potentially a thought-terminating cliché in and of itself, because one possible explanation for an unlikely confluence of events is that it really is just a coincidence, which "There Are No Coincidences" removes from consideration without actually doing the work of proving that it isn't a coincidence.
  • In New Age, "synchronicity" describes personal coincidences as a theme, lesson, or message from the universe rather than being a Contrived Coincidence.
  • This trope is the staple of conspiracy theories; no bad things happen naturally, but there must be a sinister plot behind all ills.
  • Babies who've had siblings or cousins die of Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) / Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) are at higher risk, but close investigation of families where multiple SIDS deaths happened revealed a high fraction of infanticide, leading investigators to the phrase "Once is a tragedy, twice is suspicious, three times is murder".