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Underestimating Badassery

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"That? That is the whelp? You mean to tell me this girlish boy is the devastator of my army? I don't believe you. I refuse to believe you. I have better warriors than that in slave collars!"
Queen Meave, meeting Cuchulainn, Táin Bó Cúailnge

We, the audience, know just how awesome the badass is, whether they look the part or not. Unfortunately, not everyone else in the story does, even when the former is the case.

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So maybe our hero walks into a bar, where some of the regulars don't take too kindly to him. Or maybe a couple of thugs accost him on the street. Sure, he might look dangerous, but he's outnumbered and outgunned, so he shouldn't be a problem, right?

The viewers watch with bated breath for the moment that these guys find out that they've woefully underestimated the level of badassery involved. Let the curb stomping begin.

Compare Beware the Nice Ones, Good Is Not Soft, The So-Called Coward, Mugging the Monster, You Wouldn't Shoot Me, Dude, Where's My Respect? and Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. For the villainous example, see Not-So-Harmless Villain and Do Not Taunt Cthulhu. For the video game version see Suicidal Overconfidence. Contrast with Bullying a Dragon, where the perpetrator antagonizes someone despite knowing full and well how Badass they are and without any perceived advantage, and Badass on Paper and Mistaken for Badass, cases of Overestimating Badassery.

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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Even big guns like Superman and Green Lantern sometimes are on the receiving end of this trope:
    • Many villains assume Superman is the Dumb Muscle Flying Brick, and fail to realize he's also Super-Intelligent, learns faster than the average human and has access to Kryptonian technology.
    • Many of them also are under the impression both Superman and Green Lantern can easily be Curb-Stomped as long as you bring Kryptonite or something yellow to the fight. Rarely does it occur to them Superman might just bring a Kryptonite-Proof Suit and Green Lantern might be smart enough to go around his weakness to yellow. Or that Superman could Fight Off the Kryptonite through sheer Heroic Willpower (it has happened on occasions).
    • Superman also is frequently mistaken for naive and not that scary because of his reputation as a boy scout, especially compared to the much more anti-heroic Batman. These people will usually learn the hard way that he can be downright terrifying when you piss him off.
    • Several examples in Krypton No More: one-time villain Radion traps Superman in an energy sphere which increases his atomic weight to a hundred thousand tons. He thinks Superman is helpless, but the Man of Steel manages to rip his prison apart. Later on, Superman busts a gang's lair. A thug thinks Superman's reputation is overblown and he can kill Supes with a flamethrower. He finds out -painfully- he cannot.
    • Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man: In the beginning of their mandatory introductory fight, Spider-Man has unknowingly been bathed by Lex Luthor in red sunlight which weakens Superman. Spidey connects several hits and is thinking Superman is an overrated pushover when the red energy wears off and Peter nearly breaks his hands as punching Clark.
    • War World gives several examples:
      • Mongul forces Superman and Martian Manhunter to fight each other... and both Leaguers underestimate each other. Superman thinks J'onn is not match for him and J'onn thinks a Kryptonite weapon is all he needs to tackle Kal-El.
      • Mongul steals a planet-buster super-weapon and Superman and Supergirl face up to it. Mongul thinks they are a pair of idiots and have no one chance... shortly before they blow Warworld up.
    • In The Third Kryptonian, Amalak sends his minions to destroy the Superman Family, expecting an easy victory. Instead, all of his men are defeated.
  • People who don't know Deadpool tend to dismiss him as a scatterbrained lunatic with the attention span of a gnat. And he is a scatterbrained lunatic with the attention span of a gnat. Most of the time. Opinions are divided as to whether he's really that way, or if he just pretends to be that way in order to manipulate opponents into underestimating him. Either way, he's still a scarily efficient mercenary, multilingual, an expert with just about any weapon he can get his hands on, an effective planner, and consistently shows he's able to grasp complex situations very quickly.
  • Supergirl gets this a lot. Because she's a temperamental teenager, her enemies assume she is an easily manipulable, naive little girl. Because she's a super-strong Kryptonian, her enemies assume she's dumb muscle. She always shows she isn't a pushover.
    • In Justice League of America #134, Supergirl joins the League to help find a missing Superman. They find an alien race called the Krill, who force the Leaguers to fight Despero, one of their worst and oldest enemies. Despero is sent up against Supergirl, and one of the Krills thinks she can't possibly win... and then she trashes him. First she grabs him and throws him hard enough to put him into orbit, and then she flies out of the planet, meets Despero in space and knocks him out with one punch.
    • In New Krypton, Reactron brought golden kryptonite (which nullifies the powers of a Kryptonian) to the fight, thinking he'd kill Supergirl easily. It turns out that Supergirl has been trained by both Batman and Wonder Woman and knows Klurkor (a Kryptonian martial art).
    • General Sam Lane has the habit of declaring that his daughter Lucy Lane -a. k. a. Superwoman- is a soldier who will not be bested by a "teenage hussy" two minutes before Supergirl mops the floor with Superwoman.
    • In Red Daughter of Krypton Lobo thought that Supergirl would fight worse if he pressed her buttons. It turned out that Kara doesn't get careless when she gets angry: she gets more dangerous.
    • Later, Guy Gardner ordered Supergirl not to let Bleez - who was wounded - leave med bay. Bleez stated that she had no time to socialize with children and tried to shove Kara away of the door she was blocking. Yup. Good luck with that.
    • Worldkiller-1 thought that Supergirl couldn't do anything to stop him. But it appears that fighting a Kryptonian after she's just taken a bath in the Sun isn't a good idea.
    • In Many Happy Returns, Post-Crisis Linda Danvers sees Pre-Crisis Kara trying to push Earth out of its orbit. Linda thinks Kara is being ridiculous, believing she can move a planet, but that feat is possible to an Earth-One Kryptonian.
  • Power Girl gets this the whole time. People see her and think: "Blonde, buxom and muscled equal dumb". One of her enemies -Ultrahumanite- calls her brainless and quips that her brain is her less used body part... even though she always, always, always outsmarts him. It irks Power Girl, but she admits that it's good being underestimated.
    Power Girl: He believes he's already won. He thinks I'm stupid. It's okay. I like being underestimated.
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman has taken over the world. He's crushed almost all resistance, including Batman. He has armies cowering before him. So who is the one person who actually gets the most success against him? Plastic Man. To free his son, Eel breaks into the supposedly unbreakable prison, takes out all the guards and frees all the prisoners.
    • Notable is that in this world, all the heroes actually know and respect how dangerous Plastic Man is. Sinestro dismisses him as a clown but is quickly proven wrong.
    • In Injustice 2, Batman declares Plastic Man is the only choice to break into Ra's al Ghul's lair. Green Arrow just offers up a "seriously?" but sure enough, Plas pulls it off.
  • Aquaman gets this a lot, especially since the "all he can do is talk to fish" meme is widespread even in-universe. What many of his opponents tend to forget though, is that he has super strength and speed, and happens to be one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet. Needless to say, people who underestimate him usually end up regretting it.
  • This happens a few times in Watchmen, especially a number of times with Rorschach: attacked by bullies when he was a kid, when he and Nite Owl hunt for info in a bar, when he's attacked in prison...
  • This is why Apollo and Midnighter lose to Captain Atom in Captain Atom: Armageddon. The pair think Atom is just another super-powered mook, not realizing that Atom is more powerful than all the members of The Authority combined, including Jenny Quantum. The only reason they last as long as they did is that Cap refuses to go all out against people he barely knows, even ones who are currently trying very hard to kill him. Really, just about every superhero in the Wildstorm universe was guilty of this. Midnighter and Apollo were just the most egregious case because they were the last. They knew, or should have known, that Cap had already beaten Mr. Majestic, the Wild CA Ts, and the Engineer, all of whom were also guilty of severely underestimating Cap, to the point where the Wild CA Ts deliberately attacked one at a time, as if it were a game.
  • Usually, The Kingpin is the one underestimated. First, by various super-villains with powers who think they can easily beat a regular human, not grasping Fisk is an utter genius and Chess Master of the highest order. Second, by thinking he's just a fat guy, not getting it's all muscle and he's an expert martial artist.
    • The Kingpin fell into this himself when he discovered HYDRA was trying to attack his territory. Fisk treated it as if it was another gang war and he could handle it easily. In the space of five minutes, HYDRA has emptied the Kingpin's bank accounts, destroyed most of his business fronts (legal and illicit) across the city and sent a helicopter gunship to blow apart his office.
    Garrote: You are merely a criminal, Mr. Fisk. And we...we are conquerors.
    • He also thought he could always take on superpowered characters, based on how he went toe-on-toe with Spider-Man. Then in Back in Black a sniper at his orders mortally wounded Aunt May, and Spidey for once did not hold back. Before thousands of criminals, Kingpin was beaten within an inch of his life, and survived only because Spidey decided not to.
      • A "What If?" scenario of the above has the sniper kill Mary Jane, and when Spider-Man tracks him down he has Aunt May as hostage with two corrupt cops keeping her at gunpoint. He comes near to beat him to death... And Spidey rips his heart out and makes the cops stand down by pointing out that if they kill Aunt May they won't be paid, showing just how much Kingpin underestimated Spider-Man's strength and smarts.
  • Countless Super Villains: Batman's just a guy in a costume. One of the most famous examples being when the Hyperclan, really White Martians, capture or incapacitate the entire Justice League, except Batman who they dismiss as Just One Man. Batman proceeds to find out their secret (and lets them know it in an awesome fashion), reduce them to paranoid wrecks and practically dismantle their entire plan singlehandedly.
    • And a few super heroes think The Joker's just a clown with too much free time.
      • When the Midnighter faced the Joker, he naturally assumed he'd kill the clown in seconds as the Midnighter is able to take one look at a guy and figure out a thousand ways to defeat him by how he thinks. When the Midnighter tried it, he was stuck dumb to realize there was no way possible to figure out the Joker's next move as even he doesn't know how his mind works.
    • Psh, Robin's just some Tag Along Kid Sidekick. And Nightwing's just a pretty boy in spandex.
    • Robins are generally trying to invoke this trope, or at the very least exploit it, Tim Drake in particular is stated to do so.
  • Speaking of Nightwing...Oh, look at that the "Kid Sidekicks" think they're going to form a hero team of their own. Ha! Go back to school kiddies. Oh...you just knocked a world-destroying demon into next week and fought the JLA to a standstill in your first outing?
  • In the fourth and final issue of the JLA/Avengers crossover, the supervillain Prometheus, who can pretty much download any fighting capabilities he wants, confronts Captain America and says, "I've just uploaded Batman's fighting skills. That'll be more than enough to defeat you." Cap replies, "Oh?" On the next page, Cap is seen hitting Prometheus hard enough to break his helmet.
  • Happens to Spider-Man quite frequently. He's a lithe guy who swings around a lot, wears silly pajamas, and makes stupid jokes. New villains tend to forget that he's held his own with the Avengers, the X-Men, and fought just about every villain in the Marvel Universe. (The rule of thumb is, when he stops cracking wise, start running and don't stop till you're out of New York state.)
  • Iron Man: Has happened a few times to Tony Stark, whether because his identity was still secret and therefore it's assumed that he's just a rich playboy who needs a bodyguard to protect him, or because it's assumed that he's helpless without his armor. The thing is, it's generally a bad idea to attack someone who's been taking lessons from Captain America for about a decade unless you're a professional, considering Tony once beat the crap out of a bunch of Skrulls who were pretending to be The Avengers, and he did so with his bare hands while naked and while his heart was slowly giving out. And then there is, of course, this immortal exchange:
    Tony: [to his kidnapper] I was just wondering, does your guard here know what a clavicle is?
    Guard: Huh?
    Tony: [karate chop] Surprise! It's what I just broke!
  • X-23 gets sexually harassed pretty regularly. Yes, that X-23. Of course, she appears to be a normal and quite attractive teenage girl but still...
  • In Volume 2 of The Invisibles, a stereotypical redneck learns the hard way not to insult a sexy transvestite and then go pick a fight with her bald associate...
    King Mob: [after taking the unlucky local firmly in hand] I'm telling you you're in the wrong film, Fatboy. You're not in the cowboy film you thought you were in. This is a different kind of movie. And you're in the scene where the redneck shitkicker picks on the stranger in town, only it's Big Arnie or a gang of vampires. I'll bet you've seen that a million times, Cowboy.
  • In The Hard Goodbye arc of Sin City, the bouncer for Katie's Bar throws out a customer, looks at Marv and tells him to leave. Marv calmly grabs his face, breaks his nose and goes in. The rest of the staff apologizes for the bouncer. That entire story is set up by the fact that the all-powerful Roarks thought it would be a piece of cake to frame a murder on a big, ugly drunk, unaware that he was extremely dangerous.
  • Les Légendaires:
    • Most people of Alysia mainly remember the Legendaries as a bunch of failed heroes who caused the infamous Jovenia Incident that turned everyone into a child when trying to save the world. As such, in the first books, their name isn't even impressive to anyone, to the point two thugs are shown laughing when they introduce themselves. What those people tend to forget is that the Legendaries also foiled several times the plans of a much feared Sorcerous Overlord with a massive body count, and actually succeeded in defeating said Sorcerous Overlord. They fortunately get their respect back after the Anathos Cycle.
    • One especially hilarious example is during the fight between Razzia and Dark-Razzia, when Razzia announce he is going to kick his ass in memory of his sister:
      Dark-Razzia: Ah Ah Ah! You, kick my ass? I would like to see tha... (Razzia punches him through the face with Amy, sending him flying meters away]
      Razzia: I warned him, didn't I?
      Amy: I confirm!
  • Happens surprisingly often in Diabolik with the titular protagonist, Ginko, Eva Kant and Altea. While understandable with Eva (who doesn't look that dangerous, even if she's a Killer Rabbit) and Altea (a socialite and not that good a fighter, but damn smart and determinated), it's pure Bullying the Dragon with Diabolik, AKA the King of Terror, and Ginko (the one cop who can actually hold Diabolik in check, and who has personally punched him out in more than one occasion).
  • Poor Empowered is often dismissed because her superpowers depend on an easily ripped suit. Thing is, she's really smart and Genre Savvy, and more than one supervillain found themselves defeated in ways they could have never seen coming. Most devastatingly, she picks up on any little piece of information supervillains mention in her presence whenever they capture her, has no qualm using it or putting it into the superhero database, and is smart enough to not gloat about it.
  • Happens very often in the Disney Mouse and Duck Comics, especially with the shorter characters:
    • Many a newcoming villain has thought they could easily outsmart Mickey Mouse, even when Pete warns them specifically against this, or that they could take him in a fight. Then a squadron of cops walk on them with a warrant for their arrest procured on Mickey's deductions, or they attack him and find out that he can go toe-on-toe with Pete.
    • Pete himself is sometimes mistaken for Dumb Muscle. That tends to end with Pete giving them a hard lesson.
    • In his youth, Scrooge McDuck was constantly underestimated because he's just a short guy. Poor Argus Whiskerville found out the hard way why Sitting Bull couldn't walk for a week after their knife fight at the Wild West Show, and over a dozen's baker of assorted thugs (and at least one baker) were beaten up as Scrooge trashed the river boat they were on.
    • Donald Duck gets the same treatment. This is the same Donald that can do anything whenever he gets serious enough, has beaten up dozens of foes when provoked enough and laughed in the face of the Grim Reaper just to brag that "Donald Duck LAUGHS in the face of Death."
  • Batman '66: The Legion of Super-Heroes underestimates Batman's detective skills because he's from a "primitive" era and doesn't expect Robin to be useful to them because he doesn't have superpowers.
  • This is Hit-Girl's entire gimmick. Who would think a ten year old girl is capable of wielding anything from an automatic rifle to samurai swords to kill a dozen seasoned mobsters?
  • In an early issue of The Unbelievable Gwenpool, the titular character laughs in the face of M.O.D.O.K. when he threatens her life, because she's a comic book fan who somehow wound up in the Marvel universe and, consequently, she's fallen for M.O.D.O.K's modern reputation as a stupid-looking loser. Unfortunately for her, the Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing may look stupid to modern readers, but he is and always has been a deadly serious threat in-universe. She is given a very firm demonstration of this fact when he casually vaporizes her then-only friend in the Marvel world with a psi-bolt, leaving her on her knees weeping in grief and fear as she clutches her dead friend's skull and meekly telling M.O.D.O.K that she'll be his henchgirl when he conversationally asks if she'd rather serve or die.

    Films — Animation 
  • Po Ping of the Kung Fu Panda franchise tends to get this a lot due to being, well... a panda. The underestimating isn't limited to the bad guys, either, as even his own allies tend to be surprised by what he can actually pull off.
    • Tai Lung in particular REALLY underestimates Po. About a minute later, Po actually does sit on him, on the stairs.
      Tai Lung: [to Shifu] Him? He's a panda! [to Po] You're a panda! What are you going do do, big guy? Sit on me?
      Po: Don't tempt me.
    • The sequel has Lord Shen do this as well, despite him literally being destined to lose to him. Although Shen does kill a far more well-known kung fu master at the beginning of the film, so he can at least be forgiven.
  • In The Book of Life, Manolo gets this treatment from Xibalba, when the god arrogantly believes that Manolo can't warn La Muerte about his cheating or pass his final test. He's proven wrong both times.
  • The Prince of Egypt shows Rameses and his priests initially viewing the Hebrew God with careless contempt. Then the Plagues start.
  • Zootopia has Nick Wilde initially dismissing Judy Hopps as just another naive bunny, smugly telling her she's always going to be a meter maid before she eventually gives up and moves back to the carrot farm. Then he becomes a witness in her case, and she easily blackmails him into working for her using a tax loophole and a recording of his own gloating.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Scorpion, after being the victim of an Anvil on Head gag, doesn't think of Spider-Ham as major threat due to being a "silly cartoon". Scorpion then learns the hard way that you do not want to mess with someone who's not only a Spider but also uses Toon Physics as well.
  • The Secret Life of Pets 2: Snowball expects Little Sergei not to be a match for him and pays dearly for that mistake. He knows better during their next fight and wins.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The kidnappers in Big Jake assume, just like everybody else in the movie, that Jacob McCandless (grandfather of the boy they kidnap) is dead. Naturally, it never occurs to them that he might be the one coming after them. Had they known, it is very likely that they would have chosen to kidnap somebody else's grandson. The head kidnapper (Richard Boone) can tell that the man following them is a badass, and says as much; what he doesn't know is just how much of a badass he is, or how personally invested he is in the outcome of the situation.
  • Billy Jack catches a lot of this, as the page quote shows.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Considering the reputation Riddick has, being more or less the single most wanted person in the galaxy and arguably the most dangerous, it's amazing how many people seem eager to pick a fight with him. Bounty hunters, lawmen, criminals, Necromongers. Even when they have superior numbers, they're never enough. Even when all he has is a teacup, that just means he gets creative with how he kills. Eventually, the survivors learn, until the next batch shows up.
  • Almost a running gag in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Saga, even among people who theoretically know what they're dealing with:
    • The Dark Knight: When the Joker appears, Batman, somewhat hypocritically, dismisses him as just one man who couldn't possibly be more dangerous than the mob. He ends up destroying quite a bit of the city, putting the last nail into the mob's coffin, almost doing the same for Batman, and drives Harvey Dent to madness.
    • The Dark Knight Rises: Batman, who has been out of action for roughly eight years, gets back in the batsuit, and is able to hunt down and capture several League of Shadow members who were trying to escape a bank robbery. The primary villain Bane manages to get away. Batman dismisses Bane as just another one of Ra's al Ghul's flunkies. When Bruce and Alfred review tapes of Bane's assault on the bank, Bruce brushes away Alfred's assessment of Bane's combat abilities, stating that he'll simply "fight harder". He teams up with Catwoman to go underground and take out Bane, only to be outsmarted by Bane and lured into a trap. It's only thanks to the ensuing Curb-Stomp Battle that Batman realizes just how dangerous Bane really is.
  • In Dracula Untold, the Ottomans dismiss Vlad's past as "the Impaler" as being "what [he was]". Several of them get impaled for it.
  • Freddy vs. Jason: Freddy spends most of the film utterly contemptuous of Jason, calling him "a big, stupid dog who won't stop eating." He begins to realize his mistake when Jason effortlessly tanks his initial assault in the dream world, then completely falls apart when he finds himself in the real world, with a very angry Jason bearing down on him.
  • In Godzilla (2014), Admiral Stenz has some doubts about Godzilla's ability to defeat the Mutos, in spite of chasing one of the Muto out of Honolulu and hardly being affected by the Navy's gunnery in San Francisco Bay.
  • When the title character of Hancock is serving time in prison, he is accosted by some thugs he'd gotten thrown in there. They attempt to threaten him, apparently forgetting that Hancock is a superhero on par with Superman, but with none of his sense of fair play or justice.
  • In Ip Man 2, the friends of Wong Leung who he calls to challenge Ip think he looks like a laundryman, while one of the Hong Kong masters thinks his name sounds lame. They have no idea.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service:
    • Galahad is underestimated by a group of thugs who tell him to leave so they can jump Eggsy. Instead of leaving, he locks the doors and knocks them all out.
    • Arthur himself get this treatment when he underestimates Eggsy, who had switched out his poisoned drink.
    • Eggsy is underestimated by his stepdad and accompanying thugs, none of whom realise that Eggsy is fresh from Kingsman training and saving the world. The thugs get worried after they see him lock the doors like Galahad did earlier.
  • In Knockaround Guys local big shot Brucker seriously underestimates Taylor, and gets this little speech and a serious beat down for his trouble:
    Taylor: 500.
    Brucker: 500 what, douche bag?
    Taylor: 500 fights, that's the number I figured when I was a kid. 500 street fights and you could consider yourself a legitimate tough guy. You need them for experience. To develop leather skin. So I got started. Of course along the way you stop thinking about being tough and all that. It stops being the point. You get past the silliness of it all. But then, after, you realize that's what you are.
  • Elle in Legally Blonde is constantly underestimated and looked down on, simply because most people see her as a Dumb Blonde. She proves them all wrong when she gets into Harvard with a 179 (one mark away from the perfect test) score on the LSAT and again, when she uses her knowledge of hair care to win her first case. And she's only a first-year law student!
  • The entire plot of Major Payne is fueled by the R.O.T.C. Boys repeatedly underestimating just how Badass Major Payne actually is. They hit him with enough laxative to "take out an entire football team" and it merely makes him gassy. They try to snap incriminating photos while he sleeps, but he sleeps with his eyes open. They send a biker after him, and Payne calmly claims he's going to "put his boot across the left side of the biker's face" and proceeds to do exactly that.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger, shortly after becoming a super soldier, thanks in part to Dr. Erskine's death, he is pretty much placed onto a USO entertainment group seeing how they don't really have much of a use for the supersoldier program. When entertaining American troops in Italy, the soldiers are not impressed with his performance (one of the soldiers is also implied to have mooned him, and they eventually pelt tomatoes at him while demanding for the girls to return). Of course, after he single-handedly rescues 400 soldiers in one of Schmidt's bases, they begin to realize he really is that badass.
    • In The Avengers, Loki starts ranting at the Hulk as a mindless brute and his inferior. While this is a stupid act on anyone's part, Loki is quite arrogant, and most importantly, a god. The idea that the Hulk could defeat him probably never entered into his mind. The Hulk proceeds to beat the "puny god" down like a rag doll.
      • In the beginning of the movie, some Russian mobsters thought that Black Widow would be defenseless while tied to a chair. She proved them wrong, kicking their asses while still tied to the chair. Even before that, they underestimated her intellectual badassery as well: they thought they were interrogating her, but she was the one extracting useful information from them.
    • Captain America: Civil War: At the beginning of the airport battle, nobody on Team Iron Man seems to take Ant-Man's size-change powers seriously. Before the fight is over he manages to overpower Black Widow, nearly disable every weapon in Tony's suit, and almost single-handedly enable Cap and Bucky's escape by unveiling his new growth powers to turn into a giant and force Team Iron Man to focus all of their attacks on him.
    • Antman And The Wasp: Hank Pym and Hope van Dayne had been acquiring the tech they needed to build the quantum tunnel from Sonny Burch. When Hope goes to get the last part that they need, Sonny reveals that an FBI Agent who works for him had informed him of who she is, and he tries to convince her to do business with him. When Hope refuses, and proceeds to wipe the floor with Sonny’s goons in her new suit, Sonny then tries to go after Hank, Hope, and Scott Lang, but quickly gets shoved to the side by Ghost. And when he persists, Sonny is ultimately taken out by Scott’s friends by the end of the movie, who weren’t even taking him seriously when Sonny was trying to interrogate them for Scott's location.
    • Iron Man has a very bad habit of this. He's focused on major cosmic threats such as the Chitauri and Thanos, but keeps underestimating local threats and dismissing ordinary criminals as "below the pay-grade," both his own and that of the Avengers as a team:
      • In Iron Man 2, he argues that he had privatized world peace and believes he was untouchable with no one able to match his technology or trigger a real arms race. Ivan Vanko arrives and proves him wrong, and backed by Hammer does manage to field a force that rivals his.
      • In Iron Man 3, he goads the Mandarin to attack his house and gives him his address on live TV, believing that Mandarin won't be able to touch him. He ends up with his house destroyed, a fugitive on the run, captured by Killian, the real Mandarin, and in the end is nearly killed by him.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron and Civil War, Ultron, Crossbones, and later Zemo prove him wrong. Collectively they undo the gains made by the Avengers, eroding their goodwill, internally dividing them, and handicapping them before they face Thanos.
    • In Spider-Man: Homecoming he underestimates the Vulture, believing that the feds can handle a guy who has operated Beneath Suspicion for four years evading both the Avengers and law enforcement, and whose technology easily outplays and outmatches the FBI in their only confrontation. Had Spider-Man not intervened, the Vulture would have succeeded in robbing the vein of the Avengers' big weapon cache right under Stark's nose.
  • The opening scene of The Matrix has this with the cops ignoring the Agents' orders and trying to apprehend Trinity themselves.
    "No, Lieutenant, your men are already dead."
  • The Next Karate Kid: Ned is shocked to the heavens when Julie, his Butt-Monkey for much of the film, utterly wrecks him in the climax.
  • Romeo Is Bleeding: When Jack first meets Mona, he's expecting to be impressed due to her fearsome reputation, but he "doesn't see it." She deadpans, "Keep lookin'."
  • In The Rundown, The Rock plays a "retrieval expert", and in the opening scene a client has sent him to collect a debt from a professional football player. Having approached the player in a club, he gets a drink thrown in his face before looking round to see that half the team has surrounded him. Sighing, he explains that they can do this the easy way or the hard way — they choose the hard way. Cue one guy beating up seven or eight huge athletes with ease.
  • Secondhand Lions: When Hub is harassed by a group of ne'er-do-well greasers in a tavern, he not only kicks their asses (FOUR to ONE) but takes them home with him and teaches them what it means to be a man. Bad. Ass.
  • Shaolin Soccer:
    • Mighty Steel Leg is beaten up in a bar because he's not allowed to fight back. The same thugs meet him on the street and throw insults. One of them throws a football at him, he kicks it back HARD.
    • Later, the film's antagonist actually pays the Shaolin team's entry fee because they look too pathetic to be any threat to his team.
  • The Specialist. The bus is crowded. Ray Quick gets up from his seat to give it to a nice pregnant strap-hanging lady. One member of a group of punks instantly jumps into the seat. Even though Ray is built like a refrigerator with a head, the punk tells him "Fuck you" when Ray says "That seat's taken." His boys have got his back, after all. Hilarity Ensues, and the lady gets the seat.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Another "punk on a bus" moment. This guy likes his boombox loud, and he's not going to turn it down for anybody, let alone this older guy in his pajamas or his weird friend wearing a bathrobe and headband. So he responds to the guy's request to turn the thing down by turning it up, and giving him a one-finger salute. Then he becomes aware that the bathrobe guy is reaching for his ne—
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, when being questioned by Kirk, John Harrison makes a snide comment about Spock being a Vulcan and how Spock wouldn't know savagery like him. Spock proves him wrong when he delivers a brutal beatdown on Harrison/Khan after Kirk's death. There is a good reason why Vulcans suppress their emotions.
  • Star Wars:
    • The cantina scene in A New Hope. A couple of criminals don't take too kindly to Luke Skywalker, and probably don't think the old guy with him would be much help in a fight. A few seconds later someone's lost an arm.
    • Shortly afterwards, Greedo the Rodian bounty hunter thinks he has smuggler Han Solo helplessly cornered. Unfortunately for him, Han prepares his blaster under the table, with which he fries him.
    • Jabba the Hutt came to power during the Republic's heyday. He survived the Clone Wars. He was positively thriving with the Empire. The Rebellion and Luke Skywalker probably seemed small potatoes compared to them. He was wrong.
    • Yoda is severely underestimated by both Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones and by Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. While the latter manages to take the win, it isn't an easy one and more due to luck.
  • Tap (1988): "But since you ain't got no legs..."
    Mo: You know what this young man said? We ain't got no legs! Dat means, I ain't got no legs, you ain't got no legs, and dem men in there ain't got no legs! Now what's dat sound like to you?
    Sandman: A challenge!
And the rest of the gang comes storming in to show Max a thing or two.
  • Terminator
    • The biker punks of the original The Terminator learn the hard way that they are Too Dumb to Live when the naked big guy wants clothes. They're lucky that the Terminator in question just let them live. Well, mostly.
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The T-101 walks into a bar in the buff, and tells some punk to give him his clothes and his motorcycle. The punk starts a fight. Guess what happens?
    • This was also infamously used on the audience when Judgment Day came out, as there was no indication Robert Patrick's character was the villain and people assumed the villain would be Big Arnie again rather than the much smaller and leaner police officer. Cue the T-1000 going toe-to-toe with the T-101, and winning, and this is before he even reveals how creative he is with his liquid metal...
  • This happens to Frank Martin a lot in The Transporter movies. No-one seems to expect a chauffeur to be a Badass. Frank and Lai do it to The Dragon in the first film, whom they believe to be a sleazy Amoral Attorney, and not the Blood Knight he really is.
  • True Lies: Harry has been captured by the bad guys and is tied up. The torture technician asks him if there is anything he would like to tell him before the torture begins. Harry, unable to lie, gives a detailed description of how he intends to escape and kill his captors. All through this his captors listen in amusement. Until he proceeds to do exactly what he said he would.
  • Under Siege: Casey Ryback? Yeah, he's just a cook.
  • The Zatoichi series in Japan lives on the basis that people are always underestimating Zatoichi because he is blind, but is really an extremely deadly swordsman.
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    Music 
  • Kenny Rogers' "Coward of the County" - a man who took an oath to never resort to violence, comes home and discovers that three men had gang-raped his wife. He tracks them down to the bar they were drinking at. One goes to confront him and he turns right around and, as they laugh, walks back to the front door. Then he locks it so they won't be able to run away from the aggression he's been bottling up for 20 years. When he's done, not one of them is still standing.
    • He then stands there and apologises to the soul of his dead father for not being strong enough to walk away from this one.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Pretty much anyone who picks a fight with a pro wrestler thinking it's going to be easy because wrestling isn't real. First of all, even though the finishes are decided before hand, the levels of strength and toughness required to be a pro wrestler are immense. Second, although pro wrestling has been predetermined and show biz for about a century, catch-wrestling techniques form the base of pro wrestling, and catch-wrestling is absolutely a real style of fighting. There are far too many stories of wrestlers winning bar fights against football players and boxers and other assorted hooligans to recount here individually - the point is, don't start trouble with a wrestler unless you want to get dropped on your head.
  • The only Canadian Wrestling Revolution women's champion, Sara Del Rey, had reason to be confident in her abilities, but not enough to call a match against The Super hardcore Anime(aka, LuFisto) easy, much less a title defense. LuFisto was in earshot and immediately interrupted Del Rey's promo to call her out.
  • Gregory Helms, aka The Hurricane, is a Lethal Joke Character so this is to be expected... But his match against The Rock takes this to its zenith point. The first part of the match is a very uphill battle for Hurricane with Rock and the announcers treating the match as little more than a joke. Every time the Rock assumes that Hurricane is finished he manages to shoot back to life and fight back with some damn fine wrestling, but even then the Rock seems more surprised than actually hurt. But near the end of the match Hurricane EXPLODES out of a near minute long choke hold and proceeds spends the next five minutes pounding the ever-loving crap out of the Rock and making him look like an amateur. Rock manages to survive the three count only by the slimmest of milliseconds. Stone Cold makes an appearance a little later and Hurricane uses the distraction to once again spring to life and land a schoolboy on the Rock for the win.
  • In NWA Ring Warriors, Sienna Duvall relished at the chance to beat Su Yung, whom she viewed as a "diva" due to training in the WWE revived FCW. La Rosa Negra, who was already in a prolonged feud with Duvall, had little to say about Yung, just told Duvall to remember she was not a diva. After La Rosa initially brushed Yung aside though Su ended up becoming the top contender to her title and one of her most respected adversaries (though Yung's big moment was slightly spoiled by the champ actually being hospitalized from it)
  • Cheerleader Melissa did not think much of Ivelisse Vélez, whom she had to defend her women's title against when Pro Wrestling Revolution sent her to Puerto Rico to get them more exposure with the World Wrestling League and made this feeling clear by beating her all around the ring and even canceling what would have been a successful pin to slap her around some more. Vélez rallied and ended up pinning Melissa for the title belt. Her reign lasted only three weeks but in that time she successfully retained against Melissa again before she finally learned to take Vélez more seriously. Ironically, Melissa had to face Sarah Stock, whom she had previously underestimated in SHIMMER to get back into title contention.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Traveller one of the main reasons the Terran Confederation defeated the Vilani Imperium was that the Vilani, at first didn't think much of Terra and effectively thought of themselves as trying to "arrest" it rather then trying to "conquer" it. They found out that Terrans were warriors.
  • Happens absurdly often in Warhammer 40,000, to the point where one wonders how these individuals have managed to survive for so long considering they tend to die horribly after severely underestimating their opponent. Examples include but are definitely not limited to Imperial Guard thinking that Orks are mindless brutes, Orks thinking Imperial Guard are just skwishy humies, Space Marines thinking filthy Eldar are no match for their zeal, Eldar thinking Space Marines are foolish primitives, everyone else thinking Necrons are just machines, Necrons thinking everyone else is just defenseless food... it happens a lot, is what I'm saying.
    • The most ironic example is Ciaphas Cain, who honestly believes he's an abject coward. Except events and his own better nature keep conspiring to make him a hero. Despite his claims, he is genuinely brave on more than one occasion. At one point, he tries desperately to get back to an isolated friend who's about to be overrun, and blames it on some sort of head injury.
    • It's rather rare to underestimate a Space Marine, but a squad of Orks including their gigantic Warboss saw an unarmed Space Marine with broken armour digging his way out of a pile of rubble. Thinking this is going to be an easy skull on his boss pole, the Warboss and his boyz attack. Rather than being a quick kill, the Space Marine instead charges into the fray and is killing Orks per second with his barehands. It finally ends when the Space Marine hoists the Warboss up and yanks out his heart. This is the first appearance of Mephiston, the Blood Angel's Lord of Death.
    • The planet Nocturne was a frequent target of Dark Eldar raids until the super human primarch Vulkan came along and decided to fight back. Inspiring the natives humans, ordinary people who up until then had given up fighting in favor of hiding to give their super advanced, nigh immortal and better equipped tormentors such a beating that they never came back.
  • A common meta example in Vampire: The Masquerade - often, many fights are between the player characters and human gangbangers who don't know that the people in front of them can, among other things, punch through walls, take a shotgun blast to the face, outrun a high-speed train or swing a longsword with one hand. And how the players love it.
  • As a general example, NPCs have an alarming tendency to underestimate the player characters' ability to get the job done.
  • During Magic: The Gathering's Alara block, Nicol Bolas is an eons-old Elder Dragon Planeswalker (there is only one other Planeswalker older than him in the entire series). Ajani Goldmane is a newly Ignited leonin Planeswalker. Bolas taunts Ajani with a badass boast about how old he is, and Ajani responds by using his soul magic to create the one foe Bolas would never be able to ignore: a copy of Bolas himself.
  • Chronicles of Darkness

    Video Games 
  • Like the example listed above in Tabletop Games, most video games, specifically RPGs and Sandbox games, have a disproportionately high number of NPCs who consistently underestimate the badassery of the player character. While it could be justified in the early portions of a game due to the player starting off either weak, underleveled, etc., once the player progresses later, you would think the NPCs could have shifted their way of thinking about the player character and know better by then; yet there are some individuals who still refuse to acknowledge the player as having proved themselves worthy of their respect. This labels most NPCs as either living under a rock, acting smug by thinking they're still better than the player, and/or Too Dumb to Live.
  • There are plenty of "Stop Having Fun" Guys in the Fighting Game Community that frown upon supposedly "low-tier" characters. That said, a good enough player can unleash the Hidden Badass within said allegedly-bad characters.
    • Though it should also be noted that it typically takes a massive disparity in skill between players for this to happen, meaning the badassery in such a situation is often coming solely from the player, not necessarily from the character.
    • So if you're playing a game online and you see a low-tier character, don't breathe easy!
  • Assassin's Creed II: Likewise for Duccio de Luca picking a fight with Ezio Auditore da Firenze thirty years after Ezio publicly beat him for infidelity against Ezio's sister. The reason Duccio dares to do so? He's got a few unarmed thugs for muscle, while Ezio's alone. Veers into Too Dumb to Live though, that Ezio by now was the man who fought off the would-be killers of Lorenzo de' Medici, participated in the Forli succession conflict, killed Girolamo Savanarola, fought the Borgia family guards at the bridge to the Vatican district, and even openly took to the streets to drive Cesare Borgia from Rome� all of these incidents being in public, with witnesses, and Ezio wearing the Assassin Robes. On top of that, before this Ezio was (even after his exile from Florence) had been a recognized absentee lord of the castle-town of Monteriggioni, making him a semi-public figure.
  • In Belladonna, the mad scientist who killed and reanimated his wife didn't think she was even fully conscious, let alone learning his secrets and plotting to kill him.
  • This trope is twisted in the BlazBlue series in the sense that the underestimating is on a tactical level than a physical one. While one could easily chalk up Makoto as a Spanner in the Works due to her effing up Hazama's plans in Slight Hope, she was also conducting a survey of the Ibukido ruins on Hazama's orders, gathered information during her trip to a parallel Kagutsuchi, and used that information to reshape her plans - you know, the things an Intelligence officer should be doing. The reason it counts as this trope is simple: not only is Hazama an extracontinuual entity who witnessed multiple timelines, but in every one of them Makoto was his lieutenant, meaning that if he was competent at his job as her Captain, there is no excuse for him to not know better. In fact, the mission to Ibukido sealed a Stable Time Loop he was trying to destroy by killing her in a Uriah Gambit, and that mistake continues to find new and inventive ways to haunt him. By the end of Chronophantasma, that mistake along with others almost costs him his life and only his own back-up plans save him from getting erased from existence.
  • In Borderlands 2, Marcus reveals that the entire reason he's fat is because Moxxi advised him to put on weight when they were married, so that his enemies would underestimate him. He also implies that Moxxi is Ms. Fanservice for the exact same reason.
  • In the Civilization games, the NPC leaders will often make disparaging comments such as "your army is the laughinstock of the world" if you happen to have a smaller military than they do. They tend to fail to take into account things like technological advances.
    • This also happens in Galactic Civilizations, despite the designers claiming that their AI is markedly superior to that of other 4X games. A computer player may have a bigger fleet than you and may even be slightly more advanced but will completely discount your industrial capacity. What this means is that you can build a fleet twice the size of his in the time it takes him to get his fleet to your planets (and computer planets are notorious for declaring war first and preparing for it after).
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, there are only two Grey Wardens remaining. One is you, the other one is in your party. Everybody still thinks they got a chance against you. Lampshaded by a guard after witnessing you fight:
    Sergeant Kylon: And people actually attack you voluntarily. Are they just stupid?
    • In the sequel, this tends to happen as well, despite the entire point of the start of the game being about increasing your reputation/infamy. You still get people thinking you're "all hype" even after you get to Act 2, wherein you've reclaimed your family's noble status and bought back your ancestral home through acts of sheer heroism - specifically delving into parts of the Deep Roads that makes everyone short of the Legion of the Dead soil their armor - and have everyone up to the Arishok respecting you... Or at least having a "growing lack of disgust" for you. The fact that anything short of an entire army is willing to stand up to you and your comrades by Act 3 is the height of foolishness.
    • In the third game, one of the bad guys is actually counting on this. Grand Duchess Florianne, cousin and lady-in-waiting to the Empress of Orlais, is secretly in league with the Big Bad. She has a reputation for being quiet and retiring, rarely any sort of focus in court politics, and is easily overlooked. She's using all that to her advantage, fully convinced that no one will suspect her of being the assassin prowling the ballroom. And she's almost right.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • One would think that a memo would have been sent to all of the Nine Holds warning everyone not to threaten the Dragonborn, who routinely fights Dragons single-handedly. They generally learn their error within a few moments of hearing "FUS RO DAH!"
    • Taken to an extreme by the Thalmor, who despite having the military strength to threaten the Empire, only ever bother to send up to 3 mooks after you at a time, even though they potentially may have suffered dozens of casualties at your hands.
    • The Vigil of Stendarr, while noble in their cause, seem to consistently underestimate their villainous enemies. The Vigil, despite their best efforts, are often unprepared for just how nasty their enemies can get. The Vigilant investigating a cultist's house in Markarth is dominated and driven to murderous violence by Molag Bal, and the entire Hall of the Vigilant, the group's headquarters, is wiped out by the Volkihar vampire clan at the start of the Dawnguard DLC.
  • In the Fable series, even after the history of superhuman exploits you have well into the game, common thugs and bandits will still voluntarily attack you. This is particularly Too Dumb to Live-ish in Fable 3, where people will attack you when you're King, despite knowing of your Badass lineage and the fact that you are the only thing capable of saving Albion from certain doom.
  • The Godfather 2: Every one of the enemy mob bosses you meet talks smack to you, with Michael himself joining in at times. Regrettably, there's no Enemy Chatter for you to get the satisfaction of hearing them take their words back as you kill them off.
  • The Organization XIII elite assassin and second strongest member of the organization, Axel is underestimated by many characters in Kingdom Hearts. They always turned out to be their worst (and often last) mistakes. All the Organization members who were sent to Castle Oblivion except Lexaeus, underestimated him. Axel tricked them all and killed them one by one, by both direct and indirect means.
    • Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, and rest of the remaining members of the organization underestimated Axel, after his treachery. He alone destroyed the biggest part of the organization's army and paved the path of their fall.
    • The main villain of the franchise, Master Xenahort, did not take note of his return in his human form, eventually allowing him to spoil the evil genius' plan.
    • Master Xehanort underestimated Master Aqua, which was why his first plan failed.
  • You'd be surprised how many people think they can take on Shepard and his/her Badass Crew, even after s/he is Famed In-Story, in Mass Effect 2. (It never ends well for them).
    • For example, Jedore, the leader of the Blue Suns on Korlus:
    Jedore: There are three of them. THREE! Anything can be killed if you do your damn jobs!
    • During the mission to track down Morinth, a pair of turian muggers are convinced Shepard is just a puny human. Beatdowns ensue.
    • During the same mission Shepard can order a turian to stop harassing an asari. If Shepard is female, the turian will even make an advance on her. No matter the gender, it ends with said turian being thrown across the room.
    • Despite knowing that Wrex, the most powerful krogan on Tuchanka, has nothing but respect for Shepard, that Shepard has the balls (regardless of gender) to headbutt a krogan chieftain to get him to shut up (a species strong enough to snap a human's neck by backhanding them), and has personally witnessed Shepard and buddies not only survive but possibly kill a thresher maw on foot, something that has not been done in centuries (and the last time was by Wrex), said aforementioned chieftain still thinks he can take Shepard in a fight.
    • In the Arrival DLC, Shepard is captured and sedated by an indoctrinated scientist, who has him/her locked up with a small army of indoctrinated soldiers outside. This... doesn't work out.
    • Shepard was the last person for who knows how long to kill a Reaper. The Reapers and the Collectors still believe him/her to be just one person... at least until the end of ME 2.
      Garrus: Honestly? The Collectors killed you once and all it did is piss you off. I can't imagine they'll stop you this time.
      • And Harbinger has actually acknowledged that s/he is disrupting their plans. Coming from a member of a race of ultra powerful Cthulhu-esque starships, that is SERIOUS badass cred.
    • The Illusive Man, even after being indoctrinated by the Reapers, has a great deal of respect for Shepard. His underling Kai Leng, on the other hand, ignores his advice on how dangerous Shepard can be. It ends badly for Kai Leng.
    • Less destructively, Vega challenges you to spar when you get the Normandy in 3, on the logic that you're just as human as he is. After the opening to 2, as a result of which you're 30% cybernetics and able to wield shotguns and sniper rifles with enough recoil to break a normal human's arm... yeah, you're not quite as human as he is, and despite Vega's massive muscle development, it's almost certainly going to end with him getting flipped, quite possibly by the comparatively slim female Shepard.
    • The salarians tend to get this treatment a lot. As Mordin points out, salarians may not look very physically imposing, but being easily dismissable and also highly adept at stealth and subterfuge means that nobody ever sees them coming. The salarians were the forerunners of the Citadel's Spectre program, basing it heavily on their already existing STG force and even drawing on STG agents to be the first members. In 3, you actually uncover a Prothean Popsicle who expresses surprise that the salarians actually evolved at all, let alone that they became one of the dominant species of this Cycle. In fact, given the fact that the salarians discovered the Citadel only a few decades after the asari did, it's possible that if the protheans didn't intervene in the asari's evolution, that these unassuming skinny amphibians would've been the rulers of the galaxy.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Not to anywhere near the same extent as Shepard, due to Ryder not getting a full badass reputation until halfway through the game, but they still have a lot of criminals who think it's a good idea to try and kill them for the loot.
  • Mega Man X suffers from this quite a few times. Being a centuries-old "robotic relic" who is also a Technical Pacifist, many reploids think he'd be a cinch to defeat despite the fact he's a famous Maverick Hunter. They're more than a little surprised when he destroys them.
    • The Day of Sigma OVA basically centers around Sigma vastly underestimating X.
    • Many Mega Man Zero bosses mock Zero's "Legendary Hero" status and the fact that he was out of commission for about 100 years since the X era. How wrong they are.
  • Inverted in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance with the Final Boss. When Senator Steven Armstrong steps out of his destroyed Humongous Mecha to challenge Raiden, Raiden assumes he's just some Non-Action Big Bad getting in way over his head.
    Raiden: Oh, you've gotta be kidding me!
    Armstrong: Let's go!
    Raiden: The hell are you thinking... [Armstrong tackles him 10 feet in the air]
  • Thugs treat Nightwing, Robin, and Catwoman this way in Batman: Arkham City. After all, Catwoman's just a girl, Robin's Just a Kid, and Nightwing... wait, who the hell is Nightwing? As expected, their cavalier attitude doesn't last long.
  • In the backstory of Star Trek Online, Ja'rod, son of Torg, a Klingon Defense Force officer and a minor nobleman, was on vacation when a trio of Undine infiltrators attempted to Kill and Replace him. He killed two of them and tortured the third into revealing its species' Evil Plan. For reference, the Undine (also known as Species 8472), as large, three-legged creatures who have engineered their bodies to be powerful bioweapons. Even a scratch from an Undine is a death sentence, as its cells will spread through your body like cancer in a matter of minutes.
  • Star Wars:
    • Anyone who looks down on or doubts the Bounty Hunter in Star Wars: The Old Republic, particularly force users, are quickly set straight.
    • The Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords gets this a lot for someone whose status as a Jedi Knight and ex-war general is common knowledge. Early on in the game, your party is being held under arrest on Telos and a bounty hunter breaks into your cell to try and take you in to collect on a bounty. Because it's not as if a Jedi Knight has the power of the Force or anything, ri—...oh wait...
      • Averted on one occasion when s/he's Storming the Castle by a pair of mooks who run away after they see you kill a lot of them. One of the possible answers to that is approximately:
        The Exile: Finally, someone's sane. Run while you can!
    • In The Force Unleashed, General Rahm Kota seriously underestimated Starkiller in their first meeting.
      Kota: A boy? Months of attacking Imperial targets, and Vader sends a boy to fight me?!
  • The Mario Brothers tend to be underestimated by villains when Mario, Luigi, or both first meet them. Even the villains who recognize them underestimate just how strong they are.
  • Touhou characters never seem to realize that fighting Reimu or Marisa is a bad idea. Considering the former can make herself completely invincible at will, the latter can obliterate continents, and both of them have fought and won against some of the most horrifically powerful beings in existence, it is no wonder the string of pathetically weak individuals that keep challenging them to fights don't exactly leave unscathed.
  • A rather interesting example in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines: for most of the game, all of your enemies underestimate the "newbie vampire". It's semi-subverted near the end when everyone seems to realize "holy cow, how is this days-old vampire surviving all of these suicide missions?!" By that point, half of the Elder vampires want you on their side. The other half, sadly, see you as a threat and fall back into this trope by trying to kill you.
    • Potentially a Justified Trope. The relative power of vampires is usually a combination of generation and the amount of time since being embraced. Typically, the player character would be expected to be thirteenth generation, at best, which used to be believed to be the weakest possible generation for a vampire for most of the setting's timeline. The blood points at character creation indicates the player is an eighth generation vampire (although this is never explicitly mentioned). It has been over 700 years since it was common for newly embraced vampires to be eighth generation, so it's hardly surprising there is a tendency to underestimate them.

    Webcomics 
  • Girl Genius: This happens with a significant number of characters.
    • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach. Check yourself. Incidentally, this also happens to be his Berserk Button, making it an even bigger mistake than it usually is.
    • Gilgamesh had that trope reversed on him later on, not realizing that Vole was holding back to avoid seriously hurting the Baron's son. However, he is no longer worried about that. The end of this fight also makes him one of the very few people who managed to scare a Jäger.
    • Later, Tarvek happens upon a crying woman cradling the bodies of two dead animals that she failed to save. They are attacked again. This happens. He apparently didn't learn though as five minutes later he needs to be reminded.
    • How dangerous could Gil's valet be? First Bangladesh DuPree and then Boris Dolokov find out.
    • Zola makes the mistake of stabbing someone the apparently-ordinary Airman Higgs was just starting to like, prompting a truly EPIC beatdown.
    • And of course, who would ever think a fluffy white cat was an evil mastermind?
    • Even the title character frequently gets underestimated, though she also has almost as many problems with people OVERestimating her and reacting accordingly.
  • In Gosu this typically happens to those that face Gang Ryong without knowing who he is, sometimes even after finding out. This is mainly due to the fact that he is a chubby young man whose day job is a dumpling delivery boy.
  • Magick Chicks: Faith counts as both an In-Universe and meta example.
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: "You know what we pirates do with naked tied-up women, don't you?" SMACK. "Underestimate them, apparently."
  • Tales of the Questor: Quentyn gets this a lot when he first starts out. Chances are it'll happen again; he does, after all, look like an animate plush toy...
  • Erfworld: As the quote on the quotes page indicates, Parson Gotti is subjected to this a lot, mainly because, coming from Earth to, well, Erf, he doesn't know anything the "perfect warlord" should know. They get enlightened. Forcibly. Apparently, Rules Lawyering is the greatest ability a warlord on Erf can possess.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Tsukiko assumes she can threaten Redcloak to his face, figuring he is the spineless wimp Xykon always treated him as. Further boosting her confidence is her belief that Xykon would side with her over Redcloak (he probably would too, if only to cheese off Redcloak, but he doesn't have any emotional investment beyond that), as well as several other advantages ranging from her ghoul entourage, her massive spell selection, and her comparative advantage in terms of teleport spells. Instead, Redcloak proceeds to take control of her wights, counter all her spells, block her teleportation, give her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, and have the wights kill her.
    • Xykon runs into this a lot. Most people who meet or see him for the first time assume that, as a "walking villainy cliché", he must be very easy to get rid of. And while Xykon is in no hurry to prove them wrong, he's incredibly powerful and devious. Both Roy and Vaarsuvius thought they could take on the lich single-handedly, and nearly paid the price. Roy died in his second attempt, but got better. So far, the only real threat to his existence was the ghost-martyr of Soon Kim.
    • During his occupation of Durkon's body, the High Priest of Hel dismissed him as a threat to his plans, constantly belittled him and said he was powerless to stop him. Through a combination of strong will and inviolate morality, Durkon managed to overwhelm the vampire spirit and gave Belkar an opening to finish him off.
  • In Spying with Lana, Lana's opponents tend to do this to her. They usually get a physical (or verbal) smackdown in return. Sometimes, they get both.
  • TwoKinds: A group of hooded, alleged Templars attacking a village gathering spot the approach of the village's guardian, the dragoness Reni. One of the "Templars" tries to calm the rest, saying that Reni's only a juvenile and that their magic shields will stand up to even a dragon's fire. Cue Reni swatting one of them (and a chunk of the wall he was standing on) to the ground with her claws.note 
    Templar: ...We've played our part. [teleports out]
  • Schlock Mercenary: When General Tagon comes at the crime boss Damico with a knife-wielding remote-controlled headless cybernetic monkey, she is a bit nonplussed, but resolves not to underestimate it, so she orders a sergeant (wearing full Powered Armor) to handle it. The sergeant notes that he doesn't want to be known as the guy who died because he underestimated a monkey, so he orders his best marksman to shoot it. Then a robot cuts everyone's hands off while they're distracted by the guy about to shoot a monkey.

    Web Original 
  • Erin's chess skills in TheWanderingInn. A crooked shopkeeper tries to con her into playing against the best player in the city. Back on Earth she was a borderline chess prodigy. In her new reality, chess has only been around for a couple years...making Erin probably the best in the world.
  • Jade Sinclair (Generator) of the Whateley Universe gets this a lot, because she's a petite, pretty teenager who looks like a ten year old Japanese girl. When she is attacked by Bloodwolf and Maggot and Killstench simultaneously, she knocks two out (breaking one's jaw) and takes out the unstoppable Bloodwolf (who can heal from any injury) by nailing him to a tree. With railroad spikes.
  • "Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" ends with Mister Rogers as the ultimate victor. It also features Abraham Lincoln and Optimus Prime being taken out by a Care-Bear Stare.
  • In the Cell Games videos for Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Cell considers Kenshiro to be a crazy homeless person... Up until the point where Kenshiro makes Cell explode. Twice.
  • In Tales Out of Tallis, Rutger tries to manipulate the situation to get his brother Lammert executed, only to learn Lammert had outplayed him before Rutger even got started.
  • Cobra Kai: About half-way through season 1, Yasmine tries her "mean girl"-routine on Aisha. Since Aisha out-bulks Yasmine by six inches and fifty pounds, this is borderline "Too Dumb to Live" to begin with, but Aisha has at that point been through Cobra Kai's Training from Hell, is counted as the dojo's second-best student, and managed to impress the intensely sexist Johnny Lawrence with her capacity for swift, uncompromising brutality to the point that he called her "... a natural cobra.". Aisha proceeds to deadlift Yasmine off the ground, one-handed, by her panties, and leave her in a fetal ball of pain and failure on the ground.
  • Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Abridged: Shirou Emiya assumes that Rin Tohsaka would logically be a Squishy Wizard and that all he'd have to do to win is close the distance. He's shocked when she reveals herself to be a Kung-Fu Wizard capable of Le Parkour.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • At the beginning, Commander Zhao regards Prince Zuko as a weak, bratty teenage punk. They get into an argument, and Zuko challenges him to a duel, which Zhao fully expects to win. Not only does Zuko soundly beat him, but he spares his life as well.
    • And Zhao does it again against Aang in a later episode; when warned by his former master that he is not ready to fight the Avatar, Zhao arrogantly replies "I think I can handle a child." The result? Aang makes him look like a fool by tricking him into destroying his own fleet, thus defeating him without landing a blow. Obviously, Zhao never learns.
    • On the surface, Zuko's Uncle Iroh looks like a quirky old man who'd rather do little else besides sleep and drink tea. Of course, he's exactly that, but he's also the Dragon of the West and will kick your ass six ways from Sunday if you give him a reason to. There's more than a few of his foes that don't seem to get that.
    • Long Feng saw Princess Azula as a smart and potentially dangerous teenager who was still in way over her head, believing that she would be easy to manipulate and betray. Unfortunately for him, she was actually a full-fledged Magnificent Bastard beyond even his level, who only played along with that idea before turning his own men against him with her cunning and ruthlessness.
  • When Captain America escapes imprisonment inside the Skrulls' ship in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, the Skrull commander immediately assumes there is no need to bother because "This man isn't a threat. There is nothing special about him." A few minutes later, Cap has freed all prisoners on board, convinces all of them (some of them being villains) to team up, and leads them to a ship which they use to escape. The Super-Skrull even lampshades his commander's stupidity and tries to kill Captain America, declaring him too dangerous to be left alive.
    • Similarly, in The Deadliest Man Alive, Red Hulk pulled out a plan to forcibly make the Hulk act even more violent than he usually does in order to get rid of him, be accepted as a replacement for him amongst the Avengers, and gradually take control of the team. When his act is revealed after a failed attempt to frame Captain America, he arrogantly mocks the Avengers, calling them a joke and gloating about how he could have easily taken over had he not been discovered... then Iron Man reveals he never trusted him in the first place and put a failsafe in his ID card to neutralize him should he be a traitor. Next second, Red Hulk is immobilized by the failsafe and forcibly turned back into his human alter ego, General Ross.
  • Ben 10:
    • The title protagonist tends to get this a lot, especially in the original show, because he is 1) a human in a universe where his species is considered primitive and 2) a kid who happened to end up accidentally in charge of the most powerful weapon in the universe which he barely understands. However, he turns out to be quite good at using it, and only gets better with time. Eventually, the villains who already clashed with him before are Genre Savvy enough to warn their minions about not underestimating him (Ghostfreak once beat up his Dragon Dr Vicktor for believing Ben was not worth killing). In the sequels, however, Ben's multiple exploits ended up making him a Living Legend, and most villains are careful about not underestimating him.
    • One of the most noticeable cases of this trope is Simian, an Arachnichimp Con Man who wrongly assumes he could easily fool Ben into doing his job for him by making up a sad story to gain his sympathy. Ben goes along with it, but, by the end of the episode, we find out he actually had started to figure out the truth about midway through the episode, and already Out-Gambitted Simian. The poor alien con man ends up finding out about that far too late, when he is already in the presence of his very pissed-off employer...
    • Ben himself severely underestimated Vilgax's lackey Psyphon twice, seeing as Vilgax is basically The Juggernaut, while Psyphon would almost never fight and just built tech for his master or advised him. Due to this, Ben assumed he wouldn't be much of a threat once his master was absent. The first time they fight, Psyphon actually proves a challenge to Ultimate Spider-Monkey; the second time, he messes with his nerves, forcing him to go back to human form in order to not hurt anyone. Both times, Ben survived mostly thanks to an interruption of the fight.
    • Ironically, Psyphon himself underestimates Rook during their first fight:
      Rook: The Body Armor is not for sell, Psyphon!
      Psyphon: [shooting at him] Oooo, I don't want to buy it! I will pry it from your lifeless body. How green are you?
      [Rook dodges his Eye Beams and tricks him into causing the whole place to collapse on him]
      Rook: Not so green that I let a tunnel collapse on me!
    • In a moment of Bond Villain Stupidity, Dr. Psychobos assumes Ben isn't a threat to the Faction's plan... even though at this point, Ben has pretty much already become a Living Legend who saved the Universe several times. Malware even calls him out for it.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • From Justice League Unlimited: Lex Luthor has just taken out the founding members of the Justice League and is smirking at The Flash. Cue one of the greatest awesome moments of the whole show.
      Luthor /Brainiac: Are you going to fight me, boy?
    • Batman gets this too, just like in the comics — notably from Dr. Destiny in "Only a Dream":
      Dr. Destiny: But you're different. You don't have any special powers.
      Batman: Oh, I have one, Johnny: I never give up.
    • Killer Frost and Toyman in the penultimate episode of JLU. She's a stone-cold killer with ice powers, and he's a dwarfish man with toys, it's an easy win, right? She doesn't even get a single hit in.
    • There's also Batman's attempt to intimidate Amanda Waller. He expects her to crumble like most super villains do, and she effortlessly shuts him right up:
      Waller: We know more than you think... Rich Boy.
    • Batman gets one back later on Waller when he reveals that if his identity is outed, he'll drag Waller's secrets out into the public as well, and which one of them is going to look worse? Bonus points for telling this to Waller while they're standing in her bathroom, where she's just emerged from the shower in her supposedly secret and secure home to find the "rich boy" standing there.
    • Elderly Bruce Wayne does this all the frickin' time on Batman Beyond. Proof? Go to the Batman Beyond CMOA page and find all of the Old Bruce Entries. 99.9% of those are this, the other .1% is ass-kicking resulting from this.
    Jokerz Leader: Who do you think you're talking to, old man? We're the Jokerz!
    Bruce Wayne: [dryly] Sure you are.

    Payback: You're a mean old man, you know that?
    Bruce: Mm-hmm. And what are you?
    Payback: I'm your worst nightmare!
    Bruce: You have no idea what my nightmares are like.
    • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry is contemptuously dismissed by the Joker before their final confrontation:
      Joker: You're out of your league, McGinnis. I know every trick the original Batman and Robin knew at their peak.
      Terry: Maybe. But you don't know a thing about me.
      Joker: You?! What's to know?! You're a punk! A rank amateur! A costumed errand boy taking orders from a senile old man!
    • Superman: The Animated Series:
      • This is one of the primary themes behind the episode "World's Finest", which brought Batman and the Joker into the picture. Both Superman and Lex Luthor see both the Joker and Batman as non-superpowered beings not worth their time and energy. By the end, Batman has scared the crap out of Luthor (something even Superman never even managed) by breaking into his penthouse, and the Joker comes closer to killing Superman than just about any other villain had previously, almost kills Luthor, takes over the mob, and almost levels a good portion of Metropolis to the ground.
      • "A Fish Story", which introduces Aquaman, has him attacking Luthor's assets for endangering seal life by testing explosives in international waters. While Luthor doesn't question Aquaman's powers, he does sees him as nothing but an eco-terrorist who should just be taken care of and is a nuisance at best. Cue The Reveal Aquaman is the king of Atlantis, his army showing up to wreck a ship in a matter of seconds, and Luthor realizing he just almost started a war with an entire nation whose technology is more than capable of slaughtering humanity.
    • Batman: The Animated Series:
      • Batman once did this when first dealing with the bespectacled and nerdy efficiency expert Temple Fugate. Rather than hitting fast and hard, he announces his entry and declares that he's going to "clean [Fugate's] clock." After a brief bit of boasting, Fugate says "en garde" and proceeds to visibly shock Batman by giving him an impressive fight. As it turned out, Fugate had prepared for this by studying news footage of Batman's fights. He practically chases Batman around the clock tower, only "losing" because Batman manages to get the guy's own sword stuck in the clockwork mechanisms, making the clock tower collapse.
      • The next time Fugate appears, Batman has learned from the above mistake. He sets up a trap to blind Fugate and then tranquilize him. It still doesn't work, partially because Fugate offhand backhands him away when he tries to grab him from behind, but points for trying.
  • Kim Possible: Ron Stoppable is constantly considered a fool and harmless by villains...at least until he causes their lairs to blow up. The ones who really underestimated him and paid the price were the Alien Invaders that attacked the Earth in the Grand Finale, who planned to make Kim into a trophy. Big mistake.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • While Yakone wasn't exactly a poor villain (he was a dangerously skilled Bloodbender and a Crime Lord), he did underestimate Aang according to the flashbacks, mocking him and telling him he dealt with people like him before and would do it again. Apparently, he forgot Aang was the Avatar, meaning a guy connected to the Spirit World and controlling all elements. So it's not that much of a surprise when, during their confrontation, Aang just went avatar state, immobilized him and took away his bending.
    • Similarly, Yakone's son Tarrlok severely underestimated Amon when confronted by him and ended up with the same fate.
    • Also from Legend of Korra, Vaatu disregards Wan, saying that a mere human is no match for an immortal spirit like him. He's right, until Wan fuses with Vaatu's Arch-Enemy Raava and becomes the Avatar.
    • The Season 3 Episode "Long Live The Queen" has two; first, the Earth Kingdom soldiers do everything they can to restrain Korra, but only chain Asami to a loose pipe, from which she proceeds to break free with ease. The second example involves Earth Queen Hou-Ting and Zaheer's gang, whom she thinks are nothing more than common bounty hunters she can push around. They kill her.
    • The Red Lotus planned to end the Avatar cycle by suspending Korra in platinum chains and poisoning her with mercury. The idea was that the Avatar State would activate to try and save her, but ultimately fail. They didn't count on Korra being able to rip the chains from the rock, fly after and subdue Zaheer, and survive the poison altogether thanks to Suyin's metalbending.
  • A unique case of someone underestimating the potential of one of their own creations appeared in Lilo & Stitch: The Series where Mad Scientist Jumba believed Experiment 523 aka Slushy wasn't very dangerous and only capable of making things cold, until he discovered that Slushy could take the entire island into the next ice age.
    Jumba: It's very evil after all! Hahahahaha!
  • ReBoot: At the end of Season 3, Megabyte encounters Enzo Matrix, now an adult. Still thinking he'll be the same weak boy he was before, even as Matrix draws his gun and is preparing to shoot, Megabyte goads him into discarding the gun and fighting like a "real Sprite." Matrix obliges, and promptly punches Megabyte across the room, bashing a dent in his chest in the process. Megabyte promptly goes Oh, Crap! when he realizes that Matrix didn't toss his gun aside out of bravado; he tossed it aside because he doesn't need it.

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