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Underestimating Badassery

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Billy Jack: I'm gonna take this right foot, and I'm gonna whop you on that side of your face... and you wanna know something? There's not a damn thing you're gonna be able to do about it.
Mr. Posner: [sarcastically] Really.
Billy Jack: [nodding] Really. [does exactly what he promised]
Billy Jack

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.


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.


No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Beast Titan in Attack on Titan, despite being warned about Levi by both his subordinates, dismisses him as a mere human unworthy of consideration. This gets his Titan form cut to pieces, his army slaughtered, and forces him to retreat after nearly getting killed himself.
  • North Italy/Feliciano in Axis Powers Hetalia. This could arguably apply as well to Austria and Finland, given their histories.
  • Firo Prochainezo from Baccano! is one of the Martillo family's top fighters, second only to Ronnie (who's more or less an Eldritch Abomination). He also a small, baby-faced pretty boy that looks so harmless that children think they can take him on without much trouble. Czeslaw finds this amusing.
  • A lot of people in Berserk tend to underestimate Guts. Many of them just don't buy that somebody can actually swing that ridiculously large sword of his or kill as many men as he has singlehandedly, while the Apostles refuse to acknowledge that a mere human can kill or even defeat them, despite knowing very well that he fought countless other Apostles, killed them and lived to kill others.
  • When the Noah's Ark Circus launches an attack on Phantomhive Manor in Black Butler, they completely write off the household staff. Turns out Ciel didn't hire his staff for their household abilities - he has Sebastian, after all - but as security. None of the circus crew survive the attack.
  • In Black Clover the Black Bulls get this a lot, specially Asta and Noelle, the former for his lack of magic and commoner origins and the latter for being the Chew Toy of the royal family, pushed away from the Silver Eagles because her family was ashamed of her. The Black Bulls are actually amazingly powerful, but their rowdy, quirky nature gets in the way of people noticing that.
  • In Black Lagoon,
    • At the beginning of the first "Killer Meido" arc, some local yahoos make the mistake of thinking that Roberta is an easy target because she's a milk-drinking Meido. Bad mistake. At the beginning of El Baile De La Muerte, some of them make the same stupid mistake about Roberta's protege Fabiola. You'd think they'd learn...
    • Anytime an outsider comes to Roanapur, they're either the biggest badasses around or complete morons. A perfect example would be when a Florida mafia enforcer tries to boss around the mercenaries he hired to capture Jane. Shenhua calmly explains to him that they're not a bunch of "gangbangers who get off on graffiti-ing walls"; every one of them is a professional killer.
    • In the Japan arc, Chaka thinks that Rock is perfectly safe to abuse and mistreat, even though he's part of the Hotel Moscow delegation and his bodyguard is right there. To top it off, he thinks that wantonly messing about with the heiress of the Washimine-gumi, toward whom both Rock and a true Samurai on par with Revy herself have a protective streak, is a good idea.
  • Bleach
    • Both Kenpachi and Nnoitra manage to underestimate each other during their battle. Specifically, Nnoitra finds out that Kenpachi doesn't care at all about being hit, won't stop attacking no matter what he throws at him, and is actually strong enough to bypass his resistance; meanwhile, Kenpachi is forced to reconsider his usual tactic after taking so many wounds from Nnoitra's scythes, since dragging the fight long as he usually does will result in him dying from blood loss.
    • Aizen is a tremendous threat, being a very powerful captain-class villain. However, the protagonists are so focused on avoiding Aizen's unique zanpakutou ability to manipulate all the senses of everyone around it that they completely overlook the most important thing: even without his zanpakutou, he's still powerful and exceptionally skilled in all shinigami arts. As a result, Aizen single-handedly takes down multiple captain-class opponents at the same time.
    • Aizen is so focused on defeating Yamamoto's zanpakutou, the most powerful offensive weapon in Soul Society history, that he completely underestimates Yamamoto's undefeatable skills in all shinigami arts. He also forgets about Yamamoto's resolve to win at all costs — even if he has to blow himself up to take out Aizen. Aizen acknowledges to himself that he completely underestimated Yamamoto.
    • Ichibei is fully aware that Yhwach possesses unique abilities and is exceptionally powerful and dangerous. However, he's so confident in his own exceptional and unique abilities that he completely misunderstands the nature of Yhwach's power. As a result, Yhwach is able to overcome and negate Ichibei's abilities.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Mikoto Misaka is the third strongest esper in Academy City, and everyone knows about her, yet for some reason delinquents frequently try to hit on her, generally resulting in them getting electrocuted. In fact, in the first scene of the first episode of the anime the main character is running from delinquents that he got to chase him because they approached her carelessly. In the end, she still zapped them. Made even worse by the fact that she's always wearing the uniform of a highly prestigious school known to only accept espers of Level 3 or higher, and is the only facility in the city to boast two Level 5s among its students, so anyone wearing that uniform is likely not someone to be trifled with.
    • There are only seven Level 5 espers in Academy City. Each is a One-Man Army and the stronger ones like Accelerator, Dark Matter, Railgun and Meltdowner are an outright Person of Mass Destruction. One would think that punks would get their photographs and avoid any of them at all costs but no, if you thought trying to punch out Mikoto was bad, there are idiots who try to attack Accelerator!
    • It only gets worse from there. Later in the series, God (yes that one) is somewhere around the fifth strongest entity in the series, and the ones stronger than he/she/it are severely underestimated. Like that one time Accelerator (not on that exclusive stronger than God list) tried to attack Aiwass (the strongest entity in the series). Aiwass' passive defenses would have killed him in his Super Mode. To give a comparison of their powers, Accelerator is to Aiwass what your average Level 1 is to Accelerator.
    • A lot of villains end up underestimating Touma Kamijou. Of special note is Rensa. Since she had never heard of him, when he shows up to stop her, she dismisses him as some street punk pretending to be a hero to act cool. She doesn't take it well when he easily wards off her attacks and creams her with ease.
  • It happens regularly in Claymore When the titular warriors fight a monster they have not enough informations about or conversly when one of the monsters meets a top-ranked claymore. However One example in particular stands out: a human bandit, confident in his sword technique though aware that claymores are formidable warriors dares defying in combat Teresa. Little did he know that Teresa is actually the most powerful warrior and likely being to have ever lived.
  • In Darker Than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini, Section 3 underestimates Hei after they Depower him, and Genma thinks that he's "just a gloomy gigolo." But remember that this guy was called "Black Reaper" before he became a Contractor. Somewhat justified in that prior to Hei's He's Back moment solidified in this episode, Genma had pummeled him fairly easily in an earlier fight, although the ability of Hei to survive a beating from a psycho with Instant Armor power is itself impressive.
    • It's not the only time, either. Witness the woefully-overconfident assassin teams sent to kill him during the interquels; you'd think that nickname would be a bit of a tip-off, but this is apparently not the case.
  • Many groups in Demon King Daimao seem to have Akuto in the sights of their manipulations, and casually talk about pushing him aside or disposing of him or some such, which would be incredibly stupid considering his "Demon Lord" status. And this isn't even getting into those dumb thugs that tried to pick a fight with him and instead ended up with broken limbs.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • The Supreme Kai both underestimates and overestimates badassery. He overestimates his enemies and is repeatedly surprised by how freakishly strong the Saiyans are. Had he come to Earth with a rational assessment of their power, rather than a poor assumption, things would have gone a lot better, something that he lampshades after Buu's awakening. Deconstructed as this led to Vegeta and some of the others underestimating the threat of Majin Buu, especially once revealed. The cheerful pink chubby being is also one of the most dangerous beings ever and succeeded in destroying the Earth and killing many, due to his virtual indestructability (being a being of magic, he can restore himself from molecules) and being able to absorb blows, copy abilities, absorb others and transform others into anything.
    • Special mention should be made of Buu's true and final form Kid Buu, after barely defeating Super Buu, who Goku and Vegeta clearly feared, Buu, at the end of his transformation, shrinks to the size of a little kid, The duo start LAUGHING, clearly it will be easy as pie, right? No.
    • Several bad guys end up underestimating the power of the Z fighters due to being over reliant on using their scouters to read their Power Level, unaware that they can increase their strength in battle and keep it low when not fighting. Android 17 and 18 can't sense energy, so they cannot tell that Cell is much more powerful than they are, and their future counterparts likewise can't tell that Future Trunks has become powerful enough to beat them. Babidi can't sense energy, so he does not understand the significance of going Super Saiyan and mocks Goku for such a "useless transformation".
    • Probably the most spectacular example in the whole series was Pui Pui. To say that he underestimated Vegeta would be an Understatement. Put this way: when he realizes he's outmatched he uses Babadi's magic to transport them to Pui Pui's home planet, which has 10x Earth's normal gravity - Vegeta fails to take the opportunity to point out the coincidence that his own homeworld had that level of gravity, but does point to Pui Pui's horror that he's long been training in conditions which are hundreds of times Earth gravity. Vegeta effortlessly blows the clown away and he doesn't even need to go Super Saiyan for it.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods and the adaptation Dragon Ball Super, all the characters underestimate Beerus and Whis, two gods of such unfathomable power that pretty much everyone are ants before them. This is because, as gods, their power is literally unfathomable to mere mortals, so only other gods can tell just how powerful they are. Much like the issue with scouters, this is a case where the characters' power sensing backfires on them.
  • Durarara!!'s Shizuo Heiwajima, Ikebukuro's resident God of Destruction, doesn't particularly look like the sort of person who would (or even could) uproot vending machines and beat people half to death with them when he's not actively doing so. Thus, many people don't realize that it's a bad idea to pick a fight with the skinny guy in a bartender suit until it's far too late.
  • The bad guys in Fairy Tail tend to underestimate the titular guild quite a bit, either because they're just that overconfident or they're convinced their own admitted badassery trumps Natsu and company. More often than not, they find out how badly they screwed up the hard way.
    • Exemplified during the Grand Magic Games when Natsu and Gajeel fight fellow Dragon Slayers Sting and Rogue of Saber Tooth. The entire time before this Saber Tooth has been lording their assumed superiority over Fairy Tail due to being declared the #1 guild in Fiore due to the Fairy Tail elite being trapped on Sirius Island for the seven year Timeskip, and Sting in particular made a point of antagonizing the guild so Natsu would come at him full strength and let him prove his superiority. Turns out, Natsu and Gajeel were more than strong enough to do so without using their full power, to the point Natsu fought both of the Slayers alone at their absolute best and still won without going all-out. Rogue even lampshades it as he collapses, wondering just how badly they overestimated themselves.
    • For an example not related to the titular guild, Brain of Oracion Seis saw the Lamia Scale wizard Jura as a simple lightweight during the Nirvana arc, mostly thanks to how his subordinate Angel managed to so easily trick and defeat him early on. Unfortunately for him, Jura is a Wizard Saint (albeit the weakest of the ten), and when they come to blows he's fully healed and ready for combat, and proceeds to hand Brain his ass without taking a scratch.
    • Sting gets this himself when he fights Larcade of Alvarez's Spriggan 12, who mocks him as nothing but a small fry since he's not a Fairy Tail member and thus beneath notice. Unfortunately for him, Sting's his Achilles' Heel since he can counter most of his magic, and with the aid of fellow Saber Tooth's Rogue and Mermaid Heel's Kagura (also "small fry" in Larcade's opinion), Sting proceeds to wipe the grin off his face and make him one of two members of the 12 who were defeated without the aid of a Fairy Tail member.
  • It's not uncommon in Fist of the North Star for a minor or sometimes major villain to underestimate Kenshiro, a man who can make your body explode. Usually, said villain thinks their techniques are better than his, and they pay with their lives for it.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric is often underestimated due to his height. Bad idea.
  • A lot of vampires sent to defeat Alucard in the earlier chapters of Hellsing (mainly Luke Valentine and Allambra) have the bad habit, while perfectly aware of his reputation, of thinking of him as merely a very powerful vampire and believing they can take care of him easily. This usually lead them to a gruesome and horrible death when finding out Alucard is actually a Humanoid Abomination at his weakest, and will turn into an Eldritch Abomination if he happens to take the fight seriously.
    • Similarly, Zorin disobeys orders and attacks the Hellsing mansion, assuming it was helpless without Alucard around. She ends up killing and insulting Seras' Love Interest, leading her to evolve into an actual vampire and granting Zorin a death that would have made Alucard proud. The Major even tried to warn her about it beforehand, saying that while he himself isn't certain why, Alucard had to have chosen Seras for a reason, and if Alucard sees something in her, then she's not to be taken lightly.
  • This trope leads to nearly every fatality featured in Juni Taisen: Zodiac War, because almost every participant is so short sighted that they can't see that their opponent might have something up their sleeve:
    • Boar was so preoccupied thinking about a way to easily dispatch Rabbit that it opened up a blind spot while she was mentally preoccupied, and she dies unceremoniously when Snake's corpse grabs her from behind, giving Rabbit an opening to plant a knife in her chest.
    • Dog thought Rooster wasn't worth much physically or mentally, but he needed a distraction for Rabbit, so he dopes her up on a strength inducing poison. She immediately crushes his skull after getting the dosage.
    • Rooster thought she could fight on par with Ox due to her newly enhanced strength. He quickly stabs her through the eyes before she knew what hit her.
    • Monkey thought she could easily subdue and restrain Rabbit because the latter was not a trained fighter. She did not realize that Rabbit could use Snake's severed head as a camera to see his blind spots, and thus, Rabbit was able to stab her when she tried to get behind him to incapacitate him.
    • Sheep witnessed Tiger sitting on a bench and downing mass amounts of alcohol, causing him to view as nothing more than an incoherent drunk and the weakest of the fighters. He's forced to eat his words after she shreds him apart with her nails.
    • Horse thought that Snake's corpse could not use its abilities and weaponry, and thus decides to ignore a warning from Rat that said corpse might come to the bank he was hiding in. He meets his end when Snake's corpse, looking for Rat, torches the bank with Horse inside, causing him to suffocate from oxygen deprivation.
    • Snake dismissed Rabbit as a threat due to his bizarre behavior, and thus let his guard down around the latter when he detects Monkey planting explosives underneath the floor. When he tries to warn Dragon, it creates an opening for Rabbit to decapitate him.
    • Dragon thought he was untouchable because he could fly beyond the detection of the other fighters, and focused all his attention on Snake's corpse fighting Ox and Tiger. This caused him to forget that Rabbit and Monkey's corpse are probably nearby. As such, when he tries to ambush Ox and Tiger, he left himself open to be distracted by Monkey tossing Snake's head at him, giving Rabbit an opportunity to bisect him at the waist when he also gets thrown to Dragon's altitude by Monkey.
    • Rabbit initially seems to play this straight when he confronts Ox and Tiger on his own despite their superior combat prowess and predictably gets hacked to pieces by them. However, he averts this as he committed suicide just before Ox and Tiger manage to touch him, which enables his power to work on his corpse, just as he had planned.
    • After hacking Rabbit to pieces, Tiger and Ox were so focused on their promised duel that they overlooked the fact Rabbit committed suicide just before confronting them. As such, they did not notice that Rabbit could use his power on his own corpse until he managed to fatally wound Tiger by stabbing her In the Back.
    • Ox was so focused on the reanimated Rabbit's grotesque appearance that he did not realize the corpse's bizarre shape was designed to hide a reanimated Monkey inside itself. He pays for this lapse when Monkey's corpse bursts out of Rabbit and manages to restrain him, necessitating a Mercy Kill from Rat to prevent him from being reanimated himself.
    • Rat completely averts this trope due to his ability giving him foreknowledge of what every other participant is capable of, and as such, knew to stay out of everyone else's way. This ultimately wins him the Zodiac War.
  • A recurring problem in Goblin Slayer. Goblins are seen as a low priority, domestic threat by the adventures. Frequently leaving the job of killing them to newbie adventures looking for an easy first quest. Many of these newbie's learn that the Goblins are smarter than people give them credit for. Not by much, but clever and devious enough to tear inexperienced adventures to bits.
  • In the early volumes of Gunnm, Alita/Gally was underestimated by many of her enemies and paid the price, starting with the arrogant bounty hunter named Zapan. In the sequel Manga, Last Order, her reputation as one of the strongest warriors in the universe precedes her.
  • Due to his history as a loser, not to mention his overall idiotic and embarrassing behavior, antagonists and even allies are constantly underestimating Kinnikuman. However, there are some exceptions;
    • Before the final match of the 20th Choujin Olympics, Robin Mask stuck to a strict training regime, even though his opponent was the bungling Kinnikuman. When questioned why he was taking the upcoming match seriously, Robin insisted that Kin was actually Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • During the fight against Devil Choujin Black Hole, Black Hole pointed out that he wouldn't be easing up on his attacks, as he knows that Kinnikuman tended to get a Heroic Second Wind at the worse moments. It turns out that he reads the Kinnikuman manga, so he knows how all of Kinnikuman's matches turned out due to this trope.
  • Happens surprisingly often in Lupin III, with people underestimating both Lupin and his gang's ability as thieves and Zenigata as a cop.
    • Zenigata is the most notable, as many mistake him for a bumbling detective due what happens when he deals with Lupin. Then the guy chases Lupin around the world, beats up groups of criminals, single-handedly brings down criminal organizations, rides torpedoes on dry land...
    • Almost as notably as Zenigata, Fujiko is often dismissed as a vain woman who is harmless without Lupin. As of this writing, the last time this happened ended with Fujiko tricking the police into helping her free an arrested Lupin and steal an Awesome Personnel Carrier from Zenigata before driving through multiple roadblocks, the last of which was armed with a cannon (Fujiko drove over it after throwing the APC's roof on it).
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid, new character Einhart vocally questions whether such warm, caring people like Nanoha and Fate could be good at magical combat. For the record, Nanoha is a legendary combat instructor, Fate is an equally legendary enforcer, and they are respectively referred to as the "Ace of Aces" and "Ace of the Navy". Nove almost falls over keeping herself from laughing at this.
    • Happens again in ViVid Strike! this time with Fuka thinking that acting as a sparring partner for Vivio, Corona, Rio, and Mirua would be easy. Cue four Curb-Stomp Battles in a row.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, upon arriving in a Magic world bar, Negi is attacked by a random thug because he resembles a guy who beat him sorry many years ago - actually Negi's infamous father "The Thousand Master". In retrospect that should got him thinking...
    "You made the mistake of thinking of me as a mere powerless girl, Mr. Mage."
    • Anyone who ever thought that fighting Jack "Thousand Blades" Rakan is a good idea. Like Fate's minions believing they could take him on a 4 on 1 fight. He's the personification of awesome for a reason, people.
  • Monster: Several characters made the mistake of underestimating a certain blonde haired gentleman by the name of Johan Liebert.
  • In Mother Keeper Zelik is a man in his 50s, he's short and disabled, but underestimating him will be the biggest mistake of your life. Proven by the time Syal made this mistake and narrowly avoided him punching a hole through her.
  • Naruto:
    • Characters underestimating Naruto more often comes because they simply knew him as a struggling ninja academy student. Post time skip it became less common, especially since he started win enough fights that would more liken make other afraid to take him on. Surprisingly averted by [[spoiler:Madara (the real one), of all people. He actually respects Naruto's abilities, and this is a guy who considers everyone but the First Hokage an unworthy challenge.
    • Despite his reputation, Kakashi is underestimated surprisingly often, such as Zabuza thinking he stood a good chance when in reality Kakashi ended up beating Zabuza in a few moves. This is not so surprising given that Kakashi seems to purposefully make himself look weak; he slouches, moves slowly, seems to be half-blind to the uneducated, and goes around reading porn everywhere. If you saw someone like that your first impression wouldn't be that he is a powerful ninja, let alone that he'd be Hokage in a few years' time.
      • Obito underestimated the speed and efficiency with which Kakashi could use Kamui. He quickly learned not to do so again.
    • Kabuto is a repeat offender, even when, by all rights, experience should have taught him better. Then again, he is Smug Super and a colossal Jerkass.
  • Happened all over the place in One Piece. The villains and minor assholes often underestimated Straw Hat Luffy or Zoro when they first meet, but sometimes the Straw Hats themselves fall prey to this. Somewhat justified since this series is filled with Cloudcuckoolanders and Crouching Moron Hidden Badasses.
    • The very beginning of the series has a mountain bandit with a bounty of eight million (which to be fair, is nearly triple the average bounty in the East Blue) pick a fight with Shanks and his crew. Luckily for him, Shanks simply ignores the man. Unluckily for him, he later tries to kill Luffy, whom Shanks is rather fond of.
    • Which makes at least one major aversion rather notable. When Luffy learns that his brother is on death row, he resolves to rescue him, despite knowing that said brother is in the pirate crew of Whitebeard, who is absolutely guaranteed to make a move to rescue him already, and is far better equipped to do so. Everyone tells Luffy that he'll be in completely over his head if he tries to butt in, and they're absolutely right. Luffy spends the entire battle getting repeatedly curbstomped by pretty much every antagonistic named character he encounters, needing to get bailed out by either a member of Whitebeard's crew, or one of the allies he made in Impel Down.
    • Donquixote Doflamingo is a stand-out aversion, as he has actually observed other people underestimating Luffy and his crew many times in the past and suffer humiliating losses. His approach against them is to finish them off as quickly as possible.
      • That said, once he gets the upper hand, he starts falling prey to this. Law even pointed this out by asking him if he's going to be one of the countless many that would come to regret underestimating the Straw Hat Pirates. He is.
    • The Donquixote Family is altogether guilty of this towards Law, as several had a hand in training him as a child, so much so that when speaking about him he's referred to as a 'brat' and all are confident in their knowledge of his fighting style to face him in battle. This comes to bite Trebol and Doflamingo in the ass when they continuously fail to take Law's Op-Op Fruit abilities into account, often flying straight into the bubble of his "Room" and warning one another when it's too late to retreat, leaving slim windows of opportunity for him to sneak in a critical blow. As a result, Law successfully knocks Trebol out of the fight and manages to deal Doflamingo a devastating blow that obliterates his internal organs.
    • The arc before this, Punk Hazard, had both his subordinates, Monet and Vergo, thinking they could take the Straw Hats and Law easily. Monet likewise taking care to not to underestimate them. Granted she gives Luffy, Nami, Chopper and Robin a hard time. But when came time to fight Zoro, she instantly fell prey to this as she figured he Wouldn't Hit a Girl. Zoro proved her dead wrong after letting Tashigi have a go at her, revealing he was holding back and could've killed her - a logia user mind you - at any time. As for Vergo, he takes on both Law and Smoker back to the back. He does seem to have the upper hand but only because he had Law's heart at the time and Smoker throwing his fight to get it back. Once Law does get his heart back, he ends the fight in one hit and Vergo was fully Haki covered at the time. What makes it even more satisfying? Doflamingo is listening in on a Den Den Mushi gloating how badly Vergo beat him up the last time and how "traumatized" Law is to face him. Yeah Doffy really doesn't know his enemies well.
    • Sugar lampshades this to the dwarves. After all, she may look like a kid, but that's only because her Devil Fruit had the side-effect of halting her aging. More importantly, she can use her power on anyone with a mere touch, so she's still unspeakably dangerous regardless of how physically powerful she may or may not be.
    • When Sanji is taken into Big Mom's territory, a team consisting of Luffy, Nami, Chopper, Brook, and some friends, goes to save him. Almost instantly they are separated in a Lost Woods, and Chopper realizes that for once, they were the ones who underestimated their opposition.
    • This trope keeps happening throughout the Totto Land Arc to varying degrees; Vinsmoke Judge figures he can use Big Mom's name to intimidate his enemies easily by giving his estranged son as a bridegroom, never taking into account of just how unreliable and two-faced Big Mom is, when in fact she just wants to kill his family and take his army's technology. Capone "Gang" Bege cooks up a plan to kill Big Mom by pushing her Trauma Button and firing several poisoned missiles at her — one missile could kill a man easily, but why take chances? —only to be shocked when her hysterical screams have enough force to destroy the missiles easily. The Big Mom Pirates are so used to dealing with pesky rookies entering their territory, so while they get a good start against the Straw Hats, they write them off on vague reports despite having Never Found the Body, allowing the heroes to regroup and plan a counterattack. After the Straw Hats ruin the Tea Party assassination, the Charlotte Family abandons this attitude and send all of their forces to where they expect the Straw Hats to be, as after so many near misses, they can no longer takes chances and give Luffy and co. even the slightest hope of escaping. And even then they keep underestimating the Straw Hats, thinking Luffy couldn't possibly have beaten their strongest brother and paragon fair and square, one on one.
  • One-Punch Man: No one ever gives Saitama the respect he deserves, except a number of assorted people who can be counted on two hands, likely due to his laughably bland appearance and lackluster personality. This is despite the fact that Saitama's level of power is so monumentally out of context of the setting that the most dangerous opponent that he (and the EARTH) have ever faced took three semi-serious blows from Saitama before he was dead. About the only villain to ever realize just how dead Saitama could make him before seeing him in action was a genetically-enhanced beastman, who then proceeded to rethink his assessment, attacks, and got the entirety of his torso ripped off for his trouble.
  • In Pokémon, Damien, a Jerkass of a trainer, abandoned his Charmander for thinking it was too weak and not up to snuff. Later, witnessing Charmander demonstrate his power to save Ash's Pikachu from Team Rocket, Damien would try to get Charmander back. Fortunately, Charmander, previously a paragon of Undying Loyalty, finally saw Damien for what he truly was, and chases him off with a powerful Flamethrower, and then join Ash's team.
    • Team Rocket often ends up on the receiving end of this trope as well, particularly if they're trying to steal a Gym Leader's or any other powerful Trainer's Pokémon. They'll grossly underestimate their strength, and may even throw in some premature taunts or gloating. Expect an all-out, Ash-assisted beatdown to follow shortly after.
  • War Relief Section III in Pumpkin Scissors has a reputation as a "cheery little unit" which was only put together by the government as a public relations gesture. By far most of the antagonists of the series assume they're a bunch of incompetent, ineffectual idealists, only to discover that the "cheery little unit" is bringing all of their plans crashing down upon their heads. Especially applies to Gentle Giant Randel, a Super Soldier who successfully fights tanks on foot.
  • Rurouni Kenshin has two varieties of people underestimating Kenshin. One, they know about his reputation that earned him the nickname Hitokiri Battousai (roughly translates as 'God-like drawn sword' the manslayer) and try to fight him anyways, or they take his refusal to kill as a weakness. Either way, the results for them prove very painful.
  • In 3-gatsu no Lion, this is one character's fatal mistake during a shogi tournament semi-final match that results in that character's loss. He initially writes him off as just another opponent (reducing him down to just his rank) in his fervor to go up against another character in the finals, not realizing the accomplishments under his semi-final opponent's belt would indicate the true strength in his abilities.
  • Shimoneta: It may not be apparent at first, but Oboro has his job for a reason:
    • After his first inspection of Tokioka Academy, in episode 8, Ayame and Tanukichi assume he's no threat to SOX's operations. But the following day, Oboro begins drafting students SOX had taught about lewd material, as part of his Prefect Squad. Under his leadership, they become so efficient that they locate nearly all of SOX's hidden porn caches within a week's time and confiscate them.
    • Oboro's second duty is to protect the Nishikomiya's daughter, Anna. While her father, Matsukage, has absolute faith in Oboro's ability, his wife has no confidence in him at all. So when they learn Anna had become involved in the hostage situation in episode 11, it prompts the following exchange:
    Sophia: "Tell me you're joking! Why is Anna there with those terrorists??"
    Matsukage: (smirks and steeples fingers) "Calm down, dear."
    Sophia: "Huh?"
    Matsukage: "I'm sure she's just gathering intel. Oboro is with her."
    Sophia: (angrily) "Do you really think that clueless dummy can protect our little girl?!"
    (scene immediately shifts, showing Oboro sprinting down the hall to Anna's rescue)
  • In Shokugeki no Soma, one of every antagonist's mistakes through all the manga is the fact that nobody takes in consideration that a Book Dumb upbeat boy that worked on his dad's simple restaurant or a young, sweet Shrinking Violet who is constantly apologizing are able and experienced in kicking ass on a kitchen. This happened to Ikumi, the Central, Erina, Alice, Hisako, Myoko, random students... basically everybody but the smartest ones.
  • The Thompson sisters in Soul Eater make this mistake regarding the skinny boy in the suit who comes looking for them. It's also noted in canon by Maka that Kid looks so 'low-key' and unimpressive that it's easy to forget he's a death god and so a very formidable opponent when he feels like it. His eccentric behavior only enhances that impression. A similar claim could be made about his father Shinigami, although all who have encountered him so far know what they're dealing with and are appropriately wary.
    • Not to mention Blair. Disregarding the fact that the series began with the protagonists overestimating her badassery, in the Clown arc she takes up about a third of the action fighting the Flying Dutchman, who thinks she's just an annoying cat. She kills him by stealing his hat and tricking him into committing suicide to get it back.
  • This tends to happen to Nanashi in Sword of the Stranger, since most of his enemies don't expect some random guy, armed only with a sword that he can't unsheath, to be able to kill several simultaneously attacking samurai. Which he does. Multiple times.
  • The title character of SWOT, Manabizaki, is a bespectacled nerd who studies too much. He has a Hair-Trigger Temper and a tendency to mouth off to people. Naturally, every delinquent in school was practically lining up to beat the crap out of him and put him in his place. After all, he's just an overly-studious nerd, ain't he? They're always weaklings, right?
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Because Simon is a skinny young kid, no one (except Kamina) ever respects him as much as they respected his muscular older bro, even though Simon is and always has been infinitely more powerful than Kamina. This even sort of applies to the fans, who tend to play up Kamina's badassery and either forget how powerful Simon is, or use his pre-Nia timid self.
  • Samurai Executioner:
    • Asaemon is the shogun's blade-tester and executioner, which involves cutting corpses and decapitating bound and kneeling prisoners respectively. As a result, most of his enemies think that he's helpless in a real battle... and are very quickly proven wrong.
    • A non-lethal variant in one story, where Asaemon is challenged to test three hundred blades in exchange for bringing a criminal to justice. The challengers only knew about testing on corpses, and it didn't occur to them that you could test them on water (and certainly didn't occur to them that the water would win).

    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.
  • People who don't know Deadpool tend to dismiss him as a scatterbrained lunatic with the attention span of a gnat. Those who know him also know better.
    • 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. 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.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Although he was a paranoid, Jinnai never took Shinji and Asuka — the only people who could pilot an Evangelion and the reason he had been capable to overthrow his predecessor — seriously. He thought he would have an alternative would render them obsolete very soon and they were only two broken kids could not threaten him. He was very, very wrong.
  • Advice and Trust: Gendo thinks that his pilots are easily manipulable tools with no real power -so that he fires Shinji and Asuka without second thoughts-. Yet those kids were helping Rei to become her own person (without his knowledge), were slowly discovering the secret of the Evas together (again, without his knowledge), and when the dummy plug system failed they returned on their own and defeated the enemy.
  • In Power Girl fanfic A Force of Four, the trio of Kryptonian criminals are initially reluctant to take part in Badra's plan... until she tells them Superman is dead and his female cousin is the world’s guardian now. They think they can take on Power Girl easily. Big mistake.
    Mala's eyes went wide with pain and surprise. He'd expected this job to be a walk. Two of them against a girl? No problem. Three of them had taken down the great Superman.
    Now, the pain in his abdomen and his lack of breath were forcing him to reconsider matters.
  • Doing It Right This Time: When Rei sorties to fight Sachiel, Misato informs her of the location of the nearest weaponry building. Rei, though, answers she would prefer to solve that situation with her bare hands. Misato thinks that Rei is underestimating her enemy and about to get beaten... until Rei starts destroying Sachiel in spectacular fashion.
    Misato: Rei, there's a weapon locker a hundred metres to the north of your position.
    Rei: Thank you for the thought, Captain, but that will not be necessary. [...] I would prefer to solve this problem in a more... hands-on fashion.
    Misato: Rei, I really don't think that's a good idea!
    Rei: Excuse me, Captain, I have an Angel to kill.
    Misato:"This is not going to end... Holy shit.
    Ritsuko: I'm not wild about her methods, [...] but I can't argue with her results. I wonder if they even have reproductive organs there?
  • Evangelion 303: Asuka thought that she could deal with a rookie any day of the week. It turned out that rookie –Shinji- was just as good as her and won their friendly duel.
  • In the Firefly fanfic Forward, this happens multiple times. The bad guys repeatedly underestimate the crew in general and River and Jayne in particular, assuming the former is just a small teenage girl and the latter is just dumb muscle. In the "Last Man" story, the Six Rifles especially underestimate just how resourceful a young Jayne Cobb is when they take a contract to kill the robbery crew he was on.
    • In the Wrath arc, the Academy agents who defeated, captured, and interrogated River eventually conclude that she is a psychological wreck who underestimated their capabilities simply because she's a very dangerous psychic assassin. Then River reveals that she planned the whole thing and then cuts the power to the building while still tied to a chair.
  • Discussed in Supergirl fanfiction Hellsister Trilogy. Berserker thinks he can just gut Orion, and Darkseid warns him that underestimating their enemies is downright foolish.
    Berserker: I would like to meet him, in Armagetto or any other place. I would take his Astro-Force and force it into his guts, before I ripped his body asunder.
    Darkseid: Underestimating my first son’s power would be like unto underestimating my own. All too many battles are lost thru one’s own arrogance, and thru underestimation of the enemy. This will not be done. Agreed?
  • HERZ: SEELE is utterly convinced that nothing can stop them and the Children are not an obstacle. When the Final Battle started Shinji, Asuka and Rei working together ruined SEELE's plan forever. And they only took five minutes!
  • The four, who mostly look normal and wimpy, take advantage of being underestimated whenever possible in With Strings Attached. In fact, they win the day because the skahs (and Jeft, for that matter) cannot conceive of them being competent, especially after George and Ringo are depowered.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, the four are simultaneously recognized as four of the most powerful people in the world and underestimated because of their (apparent) age and pacifism. Part of the problem for observers is that they cannot extrapolate exactly what any of the four can do because A) the four won't show them; B) nobody is used to people with that depth of power, which gives them considerable versatility that no-one can predict; and C) nobody is used to people who primarily use their power to avoid conflict. In particular, Ringo and George are completely underestimated, because George's ring does not radiate much magic at all, and because Ringo spends most of the story magically crippled. Though to be fair, the Guardians figured out how useful he could be if they could teach him to penetrate masks... to the point where they were willing to mind control him (and the others) to keep him when it was obvious the others wanted to leave. On the other hand, they had no idea of the true extent of his telekinesis, since even at his most vulnerable he couldn't bring himself to tell them.
  • In Things We Don't Tell Humans, Jolt does this to Bumblebee. In the flashbacks, most of Terratron's other students do this to Prowl when they first meet, and Megatron does this to Optimus Prime when they have their first "argument" as rulers. Starscream severely underestimates Faust, too.
  • Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams features Psycho for Hire Bullseye, who brags about being an A-list supervillain and mocks the supposedly C-list 8-Ball when they end up fighting during a Mob War. The ensuing fight ends with 8-Ball using his jet-propelled cue stick to flick Bullseye's detached head into a garbage can.
  • After Luso in The Tainted Grimoire failed the mission he gave him, several months later, Baron Popple doesn't think he could win against Suzuka. He was wrong.
  • Friendship Is Magic: The Adventures of Spike: According to Spitfire, ponies tend to do this about the Wonderbolts,note often forgetting that despite being most well known for stunt shows, they are part of the military. And they show it during the changeling invasion. Though this admittedly isn't saying much, considering how easy it is to beat a changeling.
  • In the Harry Potter Alternate Universe Fic Empire, the Sorting Hat puts Harry in Hufflepuff so that he can have the advantage of everyone underestimating him.
  • In The Jaded Eyes Series aspiring Evil Overlord Tristan Winter (a.k.a. Harry Potter) tells Voldemort that he may permit him to rule along side him.. At first Voldemort thought he was joking. Then Tristan proceeds to demonstrate just how very powerful and well-connected he and his minions are.
  • A common theme with the newly human Biju in Eroninja is to underestimate everyone else. This includes Nel/Sanbi who was turned into a child, Urd who was born from a fragment of the Hachibi, and human opponents as well. They quickly learn that despite their appearance and origin respectively, Nel and Urd are Biju and that some humans can hold their own against a Biju, even if they can't win.
  • The Veela leader in Wizard Runemaster tells Onyxia her people are "far more than [the] mere parlor trick" that is their Allure. In response, Harry tells Onyxia to "undo her parlor trick", transforming back into a massive dragon.
  • In the Resident Evil/Doctor Who crossover Dangerous Tenant, Wesker not only repeatedly underestimates his enemies, but in the final confrontation he underestimates the Doctor’s skill at viral genetics, as Wesker's attempt to re-mutate himself causes his body to collapse due to the Doctor’s anti-virus clashing with Wesker’s new virus and destroying him on the cellular level.
  • In Pokémon fanfic Symbiosis Poison Lance, a Weedle, tells off the Houndooms chasing after Ash and Mareep, saying that if they turn away he will spare their lives. The Houndooms laugh in his face, which turns out to be a big mistake.
  • In the Stardust sequel Mente Materia, recovered documents reveal that Vide doesn't consider the changelings, griffons or minotaurs a threat to their operations, to the point of not even including details on their capabilities or recommended countermeasures.
  • In Four Deadly Secrets, People are constantly surprised by just how dangerous Ruby is.
    • Weiss exploits this when Venus and India are trying to provoke her into challenging them.
    • India, despite being flattened by Ruby in a single attack, is still shocked when Pyrrha points out he's only alive because Ruby had no intention of killing him, and that she herself is a little nervous about facing her.
      India: You know, suddenly she doesn't seem nearly so adorable.
  • Saito in Zero no Tsukaima: Saito the Onmyoji gets extremely underestimated by the students at the academy for a bit as they don't know/realize that he's actually a fully accredited mage. Once he has an exhibition duel with Colbert, this quickly stops, especially after he's made a professor at the academy (teaching "Magical Morals").
  • In Zero Interface one of the professors challenges Kirche to use her strongest attack so he can demonstrate why wind is the strongest element. Unfortunately for the man, Kirche recently upgraded from a triangle mage to a square mage and his attempt to use wind magic to rip apart her fireball results in destroying nearly everything in the room and burning him rather badly.
  • In the Naruto fanfiction Catch Your Breath where one special moment of Badassery will remain in the memory of readers for a while — mostly because it's when one stops and thinks about what happened that the epicness of the moment hits them in the face: When the poor, poor idiots sealed the Three Tailed Beast into Kei, the story's protagonist, and implanted the Mind Control seal into her, it was with the "foolproof" assumption that she would be helpless to both. However, they were very, very wrong, as absolutely no one counted on Kei having split personalities and successfully holding back the Three Tails, fighting the compulsion seal AND fighting them, simultaneously.
    Kei says, "(...)Sealing the Tailed Beast inside us allowed another seal implant, which was placed over our heart. The Puppet Master Seal demands that we head for Konoha and unleash the Three-Tails on it." Kakashi goes pale under his mask, and I feel the bottom drop out of my stomach. Kei goes on, "We’re not going to let that happen." She almost smiles, but the expression doesn't reach her eyes, "Because neither seal was designed for a shinobi with multiple personalities, like us. Even if it results in a war on three fronts."
  • Sort of Running Gag in the Robotech/Babylon 5 crossover The Battle of Narn:
  • The Two Sides of Daring Do: A clone of Daring Do severely underestimates Ahuizotl because her memories are of the Daring Do books, where Ahuizotl is a complete joke of a villain. The real one is much smarter, has Super Strength, and is an Omnicidal Maniac. He ends up giving her and AK Yearling a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • God Slaying Blade Works: Luo Hao has a bad habit of not taking non-divine magic and weapons seriously, as she believes a Campione's natural Anti-Magic will prevent them from harming her. Unfortunately for her, certain things like Shirou's Traced weapons can harm her despite being non-divine.
  • In Thousand Shinji:
    • Gendo utterly underestimated his son and all remaining pilots, believing neither of them could ruin his plans. He was very, very wrong.
    • Kaworu also completely underestimated Shinji, believing he could defeat him easily.
  • The Second Try: Gendo thought that Asuka wasn't in a position to make threats after being arrested and handcuffed. He taunted her, and she nearly killed him.
  • Quicken: Gang members always underestimate Emma when they run into her because they think she’s only a helpless teenager. Then they find out that she’s a power-stealing berserker with regenerative skills.
  • In Blood Man Luffy, Smoker severely underestimates Luffy due to thinking Luffy ate a paramecia devil fruit when he'd actually eaten a logia. Though to be fair to Smoker, virtually all information on the particular fruit had been erased from existence by the World Government before he became a marine.
  • Pony POV Series: One of Queen Chrysalis' biggest flaws is constantly dismissing "background characters" as unimportant and not taking them into consideration when forming her plans.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: During the big fight against Kuyou in chapter 41, the gang is smacking him around, leading to Rason stating the fight isn't so hard and Ahakon outright calling him a joke. However, Kurumu and Moka, who have faced Kuyou before, quickly inform them that the only reason they've been doing so well in the fight is because Kuyou hasn't actually been trying, and right on cue, Kuyou goes One-Winged Angel and turns the tables on them in mere seconds.
  • Janine in The Sanctuary Telepath is often underestimated besides her more openly badass friends/family (the founder of the Sanctuary Network, the vampire Nikola Tesla, the real-life Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, respectively), but she had a century to develop and weaponize her telepathic abilities and she's not afraid to use them. Adam Worth learns this the hard way.
    Janine: I haven't spent a century mentally linked to a teleporter to be defeated by one!
  • A group of rebels in To Dethrone a Princess use an artifact to cut off Princess Celestia from the sun and thus most of her magic, reducing her magical power to a bit above a rather powerful unicorn. Then General Iron Hammer learns that not only is Celestia far, far older than a mere thousand years, but that she was an Earth Pony before becoming an alicorn. Lastly, she asks him a simple question:
    Celestia: What was the ancient Romane word for "brawler"?
    General Iron Hammer: Brawler, brawler... let's see... Started with a "K"... no, "C". Calasta? No... cel... celastiar? Yes, celastiar! ...Oh, no...
    Celestia: That's right, General. They named it after me.
  • Kiba severely underestimates Naruto in Swapping the Cage because he remembers Naruto as the "dead last" and doesn't have the security clearance to know this Naruto is from an Alternate Universe and even in his new weakened body is well above Chuunin level. Once Naruto kicks his ass to prove he's capable of training him, Kiba easily accepts Naruto's much stronger than he thought.
  • My Huntsman Academia: Izuku's shortness, crybaby tendencies, and mousy demeanor tends to get people to underestimate just how fearsome and determined he is in a fight. Crooks who write him off as "just a kid" are taken aback when his Super Strength gets them Punched Across the Room. More humorously, the people he tries to help in the sidestory "Charitable Disadvantage" can't believe that he's a Huntsman-in-Training. When he declares this fact to cheer up a young Faunus boy named Noir, the kid doesn't buy it for a second, neatly popping the larger-than-life personality Izuku was trying to project.
    Izuku: [after Noir was told he couldn't become a Huntsman] Noir, the people who told you that were wrong. I promise.
    Noir: How would you know?
    Izuku: [straightens up and juts his chin out] Cause I’m a Huntsman-in-Training myself, in fact, I was on my way back to Beacon when I saw you, and guess what? Some of my best friends and classmates are Faunus.
    Noir: [dubiously] You're a Huntsman?
    Izuku: [deflating] Ouch.
  • In Origin Story, Captain America notes that Spider-Man's main battle advantage is that, despite all his well-known abilities and feats that make him one of the toughest street-level heroes, he's still consistently underestimated by friend and foe alike. This gives Peter a great edge in most fights, as he proves in a Curb-Stomp Battle against the U.S. Agent.
    • People constantly underestimate Alex. Initially it's due to her holding back when being tested on her powers; afterwards, no one generally assumes that since she hasn't killed anyone (besides the Thunderbolts), she must not be holding back. It doesn't help that unlike most supers, Alex is continuously growing stronger due to feeding on solar radiation.
    • Alex in turn underestimates the Wrecking Crew since they're hardly A List villains. Because they use magical weapons, the group nearly kills her when she tries to tank their attacks.
  • A Running Gag in Anything Goes Game Changer comes from everyone in the Sekirei Game to assume the various members of the Nerima Wrecking Crew are Sekirei, only to be beaten effortlessly when they try to either attack them or worse, wing them. Ranma helps a Sekirei in a four-on-one battle and win handily, while Kodachi not only beats two of Hayato's Sekirei, she also spanks him for his "dishonorable actions".
  • One of Naruto's complaints in God of War is that everyone he fights thinks they're "worth the axe". Naruto is a physical clone of Angron, Primarch of the World Eaters and wields his axe Gorefather, making him superhuman even without chakra. Furthermore, unlike his classmates, Naruto spends the entire Time Skip fighting in a war to get a handle on his abilities. When Naruto spars against his classmates upon his return, they're all frustrated by how he doesn't take them seriously, not realizing how much Naruto has to hold back to avoid accidentally killing one of them.
  • Due to her refusal to believe Sakura could have gotten stronger than her in Black Flames Dance in the Wind: Rise of Naruto, Ino severely underestimates the other girl. By contrast, because she's used to being inferior to Ino and always comparing herself to Naruto and Sasuke, Sakura massively overestimates Ino and what she thought was Ino taking her lightly was actually Ino fighting all out. Sakura realizes this after she knocks Ino out (along with fracturing several bones) with a single jab.
  • The Watcher's Council severely underestimates Buffy in Severing Ties after the latter is turned into Supergirl, believing that since she no longer has her old resistance to magic, Kendra can defeat her with magical weapons. Even though both have superhuman strength, speed, and durability, Kendra is functionally a Super Soldier while Buffy is at worst just below Physical God. Buffy simply flies above Kendra then uses heat vision to turn her magical weapons red hot, badly burning the Slayer in the process. Worse for the Council is they almost completely ignore Xander and Willow.
  • Invoked in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird, when Varric recounts an incident back in Kirkwall. He and Bethany had been cornered by some gang members in Hightown, and their leader brazenly announced that once they had disposed of the crossbow-wielding dwarf who appeared to be shielding her, they'd have some fun with the pretty human. Somehow, they neglected to notice the mage staff she was carrying.
    Varric: I said, "What makes you think that I'm the one you have to worry about?"
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Supergirl tries to dissuade the Scooby Gang from engaging a Kryptonian vampire on grounds of being powerless to fight someone who can disintegrate them in a split-second. Nonetheless, the Gang proves to be crucial to defeat Zol-Am.
  • War of the Biju: Many of the Edo Tensei underestimate the younger, alive shinobi they're forced to fight. Unlike most examples, however, they're nominally happy when they're proven wrong, because the people they're fighting are their comrades, even if they're dead. This attitude is due to lack of foreknowledge and an extension of their summoner, Kabuto's, will, who has made this mistake constantly even though he should know better by now.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku's scrawny frame combined with his mousy personality tends to make people underestimate him when they first meet. Kendo Rappa brazenly challenges Izuku to an arm wrestle, Itsuka calls him arrogant for declaring that none of the robots at the U.A. Entrance Exam could hurt him, and Shouto wonders why Endeavor warned him to be wary of a kid who didn't look like he would last five seconds against Kite Man. They quickly revise their opinions after seeing him in action with his Kryptonian powerset.
  • Infinity Crisis: In Powers and Marvels, the Rangers fall into this, figuring a normal human ilke the Mandarin can never stand up to them. Between his rings and his martial arts skills, the Mandarin easily takes them down. The Rangers later lampshade how they were holding back and made the mistake of underestimating him.
  • The Very Secret Diary: Tom doesn't think much of Ginny's intelligence or bravery, to the extent that all his lies are so transparent, Ginny only had to fact-check one or two things for the whole thing to come apart at the seams. After all, Tom thinks, there's no way this talkative, annoying little girl could stand between him and his massacre on Muggle-borns... right? Yeah, about that...
  • In Juxtapose, Shouto spends his Sports Festival match slowly whittling away at Hitoshi with ice when he could have ended the fight in an instant just to spite Endeavor. It proves his undoing when Hitoshi reveals that he's learned to activate his Quirk based on body language, costing Shouto the match.
  • In Lessons From The Mountain, Maedhros admits he underestimated Morgoth because an elf-maiden was able to slip past his defenses. It never occurred to him that Luthien achieved her deed through sheer cleverness and resourcefulness.
  • A Gem in the Rough has Garnet and Pearl thinking they could fight An Ice Person Admiral Aokiji and have any shot at winning. For those uninformed about One Piece, Aokiji's powers make him an Elemental Shapeshifter to anyone without Armament Haki, so neither of them even had a way to actually hurt him in the first place.

    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.

    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.
    • 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.
  • 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.

  • People outside the circle of protagonists in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga consistently underestimate Kestel Falke. It's easy to discern why: she's a beautiful redheaded woman who used to work as a high-society courtesan. What many people aren't aware of: she was also a Professional Killer. To begin with, it's mentioned that female inmates at the Velant Penal Colony are often taken advantage of by the guards, but the first two to force themselves on Kestel both turned up dead. In book four another assassin tries to take her hostage after she spent the whole evening playing the part of a noblewoman, but she overpowers him in seconds despite having a garrote wrapped around her throat.
  • Belgarath spends most of The Belgariad talking smack about the Big Bad Torak's high priest Ctuchik, all but outright calling him a two-penny warlock with delusions of adequacy. However, when forced into a magical duel with Ctuchik, the two are extremely evenly matched (it's worth mentioning that Belgarath is widely considered the world's most powerful sorcerer, a master of several other magical disciplines, over seven thousand years old and Ctuchik's religion's Satan-analogue). Belgarath only wins thanks to Ctuchik's firm grasp on the Villain Ball, and even then he is left severely weakened and near-dead by the ordeal.
  • In A Brother's Price, the kidnappers who take Jerin are clever enough to search him for hidden weapons, and even find his set of lockpicks. However, they still underestimate him, as he pretends to stumble against them, and steals his stuff back just a moment after they took it.
  • Codex Alera: Anyone who gets in a fight with Tavi quickly learns, much to their cost, that lacking access to Furycrafting does not make him an easy target; quite the opposite, in fact, because having to get by without Furies to help him out forced him to rely on his wits instead. Tavi's knack for improvisation and out of the box thinking ends up saving the day at least once per book. And then it turns out his furycrafting abilities are simply manifesting late...
  • Chloe from Darkest Powers. She is five feet tall and weighs a hundred pounds, maybe. She's in decent shape, but considering her size and her lack of any real self-defense training, she's not that much of a physical threat. She can raise an army of zombies in under five minutes just by thinking about it too hard.
  • Discworld: "Sure, she's wearing the uniform of the City Watch, but she's just some pretty blonde. How tough can she really be? Let's take her hostage again!" Protip, criminals: Captain Angua von Uberwald is also a werewolf, and one of the toughest and most dangerous members of the City Watch.
    Carrot: [As Angua is taken into a bar] Try not to hurt anyone.
    Thug: As long as you do what we say, she'll be fine.
    Carrot: Sorry, was I talking to you?
    • Also from the Watch, almost every antagonist will eventually underestimate Vimes and/or Carrot's ability to foil any Evil Scheme, regardless of the odds involved.
    • Cohen the Barbarian often gets this. He is a very, very old barbarian hero, but people tend to forget that in this line of work, one doesn't live that long unless they are very, very good at it.
    • Lu Tze does his bit to spread rule number one: "Do not act incautiously when confronting little bald wrinkly smiling men." Most of the population is more than willing to go along with this rule. When he meets those few who don't, he has to educate them in why the rule is in place.
    • This seems to happen to Granny Weatherwax in about half the books she's in. The other witches get it too, but it's generally Granny who puts them down.
    • This is how Mustrum Ridcully became Archchancellor of Unseen University in Moving Pictures; the other wizards needed a break from the rampant Klingon Promotion going on, and decided that a 7th-level wizard who went out to live in the countryside should be the right choice. They figured that as a 'country-man', he was one of those animal-loving softies and therefore very easy to get rid of once the time had come. Unfortunately, Ridcully turns out to be a Boistrous Bruiser of wizards, and very much unkillable. However, most people, particularly Ponder Stibbons, underestimate how smart Ridcully can be.
  • Tris from Divergent is a small teenage girl. Far too often, she's assumed to be a non-threat — even when she's pointing a gun at them.
  • In The Dresden Files, there are a good dozen or more of persons or entities who look weak, pathetic, foolish, dim, and easy prey. They are not to be laughed at. They are not to be looked down upon. They can and will kick your ass, if they don't just kill you. Here is just a small sample of the most frequently occurring examples.
    • So there's this guy. He's a tall but gangly fellow, looks perpetually unshaven, wears a big coat and walks around with a big stick and generally seems like a scruffy, weird sort, but is otherwise not really all that much of a threat. A great many people, both Muggle and supernatural, consider him to just be some freaky guy with eclectic fashion sense. Except this guy's name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, titular character of The Dresden Files. Conjure by it at your own risk. After all, this is the man who has taken on all kinds of supernatural beings and survived every encounter. He killed a Faerie Queen, stared down and nearly killed Nicodemus Archleone- twice, reanimated a dinosaur and marched it through the streets of Chicago, and annihilated the entire Red Court of vampires because they took his daughter. The supernatural types eventually start coming to realize how dangerous he is, but the muggles? Not so much.
    • So, there's this short woman, 5 foot tall, and like the example below, about 100 pounds. Head of the Special Investigations department for at least 8 years, while most last 2 weeks. Shot a half-ton werewolf monster from point-blank range. Once killed a plant monster with a chainsaw, and hamstrung an ogre with the same. One-hit-killed a Physical God with a holy sword, after having cut through countless Elite Mooks, any one of whom could tear an ordinary human to pieces. She drove away a Fallen Angel by drawing the same sword about 2 inches out of its sheath. Later, she killed a Faerie Queen that was about to kill the man she loves. And that is only the beginning of how extremely badass Karrin Murphy is.
    • Ebenezer McCoy: An old Scottish redneck living on a farm in the Ozarks. Sounds relatively harmless? He's one of the most powerful wizards in the White Council, and fuck with him or his loved ones and he will pull a satellite out of orbit and drop it on your head like squashing a bug. If that is not a viable option, he will simply kill you with a wave of his staff. With one wave, he killed about 100 Muggle mercenaries.
    • Thomas Raith. Drunken bishonen playboy who doesn't seem to care about much but enjoying himself. Until you hurt someone he cares about. Then he can and will rip your arm off and beat you to death with it before you have time to blink. A surprising number of people don't quite realize what it means that even though Lord Raith habitually kills his sons, Thomas is still alive.
    • Ivy, the Archive: A tiny slip of a girl who is the repository of all human knowledge, and can blast a fallen angel into oblivion with an Offhand Backhand. Remember, knowledge is power. She has a LOT of knowledge. Ergo, she has a LOT of power. Q.E.D.
    • So, there is this small fairy named Toot-toot. He is about 12 inches tall. He cannot understand complex orders as he has a very Literal-Minded. And he is a pizza addict. But he is incredibly quick, able to change directions on a dime, and with his trusty box cutter, he will take on a Skinwalker. Slicing into the ancient evil. Even one of the most powerful wizards in the world was impressed by how well he handled himself against a Physical God-tier force.
    • So, there's this guy dressed in what seems to be a pretty authentic recreation of a full set of Roman Centurion armor. He has a cigar and is just generally wandering around being smug and arrogant. Then he uses half of Harry's Name to bring him to his knees with no particular effort when Harry starts giving him lip. This guy just so happens to be Ferrovax, the single oldest Dragon alive and is by Word of Jim a being that could go toe-to-toe with Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Oh, and that suit of armor? It's not a recreation. It's a trophy.
    • Donar Vadderung is not the head of the organization that hires out people like Gard as hired guns for no reason. When Harry seems to be taking his power lightly (specifically, the power of a dozen beings he describes as being not quite as strong as he is), he gives a little demonstration via slamming Harry into the ground with his raw will, leaving Harry as helpless as an "insect watching the shoe coming down". Even weakened, the guy is still a Person of Mass Destruction. This makes sense, considering that Mr. Vadderung is actually, literally, a Physical God. Odin, to be precise. And if you're to young to comprehend how scary that is, he's also Santa Claus. Be afraid.
  • In the backstory of Empire of the Ants, the whole ant population of France severely underestimated the Dwarf Ants, believing them to merely be small, weaker ants. In the following days, they took over Black Ants, Red Ants, Wasps, Termites... When the protagonists Red Wood Ants finally confront them, they discovered to their horror the Dwarf Ants had several queens in each of their colony, making them dangerous Zerg Rush specialists, and possessed high intelligence for the specie. By the time the story has started, the two species has become nemeses to each other.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Molly Weasley's "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" followed by her killing Bellatrix Lestrange, who laughs at her and has only a second to be shocked when she realizes what's just happened.
    • Most people don't take the three main characters too seriously, either, until they start winning. Meanwhile, Neville, Luna and Ginny run a successful resistance against Voldemort's followers' rule of Hogwarts for the better part of the school year although it was made easier by Snape being Good All Along.
    • Especially in the earlier books, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are usually dismissed by older wizards because of their young age. Even in some of the later books, information is intentionally kept from them because other characters are worried it'll be too much for them to handle (which is sometimes true).
    • It seems that everyone (including himself) thought that Peter Pettigrew was a weakling. He was able to accomplish many feats of difficult magic, and was eventually responsible for the death of two of his old friends.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Golgomath, the giant with Death Eater ties who ripped off Karkus's head, assumes that Hagrid and Madame Maxime will be easy prey. They escape from him handily, though many of the giants who wanted to ally themselves to the Order were killed in the ensuing bloodbath.
  • As you might expect in a military SF series, Honor Harrington contains a goodly number of examples:
    • Right off the bat, the enemies of the titular heroine regularly find, to their regret, that she's not as easy a target as they first thought:
      • In the backstory, a fellow midshipman at the academy tried to rape her in the shower, not realizing she was a heavyworlder in Earthlike gravity. She beat the shit out of him, but unfortunately wasn't brave enough to press charges.
      • In Field of Dishonor, a professional duelist hired to kill Honor dismisses her as a serious threat on the dueling field, though he grants that she is a capable starship captain. He doesn't get a chance to even aim.
      • In the next book, Flag in Exile, she gutted and decapitated a trained swordsmen in one movement after having only spent a few months learning the sword, in part because her opponent was in the mindset of winning swordsmanship tournaments, not killing opponents. This was a few hours after she'd survived a crash after her shuttle had been shot down, had barely escaped armed gunmen trying to finish the job, and looked like she should be in a hospital, not a duel.
      • One of the major villains in Honor Among Enemies dismisses Honor as a threat when taking her as a hostage... right before she guns down some pirates in cold blood with an antique weapon, and reveals that she has arranged for the pirate shuttle that was trying to escape to be rigged with a bomb, destroying them before they could get away.
      • After that point, everyone in the universe suddenly became Genre Savvy and now want absolutely nothing to do with Honor Harrington if it might involve a face-to-face fight.
    • A less conventional example comes in the form of Manticoran Admiral Augustus Khumalo: his own navy considered him to be a by-the-book political appointee lacking both imagination and tactical and strategic experience, but when Terekhov discovered Mesa's plan to conquer the Talbott Quadrant, he demonstrated a tough-mindedness and adaptability that none of his fellow officers anticipated by backing his subordinate to the hilt, even at risk of war with the Solarian League.
    • On the level of fleets, rather than individuals, the outcomes of not a few battles are radically affected by one side learning that the other's hardware is a lot better than anticipated — starting in the very first book, when the Manticoran light cruiser Fearless goes toe-to-toe with a massive Havenite Q-ship. The Lensman Arms Race that follows results in a lot more such surprises from both sides, especially when the Solarian League — whose peacetime navy was, as of the first book, roughly on par with Manticore — discovers what happens when you join the arms race late.
    • The aforementioned Terekhov rather succinctly described the trope when the local dictatorship of a backwater planet threatened to start mass executions of civilians if he didn't leave which they are confident he will do because the Manticorans make a point of being the good guys. In his last message to them before a kinetic weapon strike from orbit utterly obliterates their headquarters and leadership, he asks:
    • Also on the level of fleets — or in this case, entire star systems — Haven tried attacking Yeltsin's Star, home of the planet Grayson, four times. On none of those occasions did they succeed, and they lost a hefty amount of tonnage in warships to boot. After Fourth Yeltsin, the Peep government rather prudently decides that Yeltsin's Star is a black hole for its navy and refuses to go anywhere near it. At any time. Ever.
  • The Jenkinsverse:
    • Many, many aliens underestimate humans and pay the price for it. Considering humans can ignore small-arms fire, survive multiple shots from anti-tank weapons, and rip apart heavy mechs with their bare hands, it's only understandable that aliens (who are invariably much more fragile) would have trouble dealing with them. Furthermore, humans are much better at adapting to changing combat situations, thinking outside the box, and just basic deception, making them difficult to handle even for people who have successfully accounted for their strength. One alien commander who is in the process of successfully killing a squad of human soldiers notes that while his traps are killing them one by one, if he runs out of tricks before they run out of men, he's dead. And indeed, they manage to figure out enough of his traps to survive the rest of them, and one man is able to take over the ship.
    • A Russian special forces squad has this turned around on them. They had been fighting aliens for so long they had forgotten what it was like to fight people who had any tactics more advanced than "shoot straight and take cover occasionally." They weren't idiots, of course, they still played things by the book and were careful, but half of them got killed because they weren't paying quite enough attention.
  • Journey to Chaos: Lots of enemies think that Tiza is an easy target because she's not a mage. They typically end up Bound and Gagged and humiliated.
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space setting, the Kzin first encountered humanity in the form of an unarmed colony ship from a pacifist world, carrying only a skeleton crew. Seeing easy prey, they attacked. Unfortunately, "unarmed" and "pacifist" don't add up to "harmless" and a communications laser is still a laser...
  • Vin from the Mistborn series is another one of those five-nothing, hundred-pound girls who's constantly overlooked and underestimated because of how unimposing she looks. She killed a Physical God, vertically bisected a man and his horse, headbutted someone in the face hard enough to reduce his head to Pink Mist, and has abused her Super Strength so much that she's essentially dependent on it to function, but also gets about three times more power out of it than anyone else. Most amusing when she's facing Koloss; they tend to get very confused while she slaughters them by the hundreds because they don't get how it's even possible for someone so little to beat someone much bigger.
  • In the Robert Browning telling of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", the Mayor and Corporation (his advisors) decide to renege on their promise to pay the Piper the agreed-upon fee for ridding the town of rats. Their thinking is that since the rats were drowned and "What's dead can't come back to life", there's nothing the Piper (a wanderer whom they regard as beneath them) can do in retaliation for the promise being broken. He warns them that he can use his music as an instrument (so to speak) of revenge, but they don't take the threat seriously and effectively dare him to try it. They learn to their eternal sorrow that his music also works on humans — specifically, children.
  • This happens a couple of times in The Queen's Thief series. In The King of Attolia, Eugenides spends the whole book practicing only basic sword routines in the public practice courts, and then reveals himself to be the best swordsman any of the soldiers have ever seen by trouncing an entire squad. People always forget that he had two grandfathers.
    • This often happens to Eugenides, most notably when he manages to single-handedly destroy the house of Erondites, which was powerful enough to pose a significant threat to the the Queen's reign, and, in the same scene, scares the crap out of his attendants and thus gains their loyalty.
    Attolia: Ninety-eight days. You said it would take six months.
    Eugenides: I like to give myself a margin when I can.
    • He even lampshades it: "Has it occurred to you, Costis, that the only reason I'm alive is that those three assassins took me for a prancing lightweight?"
  • Ranger's Apprentice: Halt is rather short, wears a mottled cloak, rides a shaggy pony, and has unevenly cut, greying hair. Underestimate him at your own risk.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Also true to history, this is one of the factors of the downfall of Guan Yu. His advisors warned him that Wu has been setting its eye on the Jing Province that he's in charge of, and their new strategists, Lu Meng and Lu Xun, were up and coming brilliant strategists on their own. Guan Yu dismissed them, assured that his general badass prowess and war experience will make him prevail over these newbies. These newbies eventually formed a cunning plan that exploited some of Guan Yu's flaws in people management, backstab him in the best opportunity available, captured him and had him executed.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Speckled Band", Dr. Roylett, having learned that his stepdaughter paid Holmes a visit concerning the suspicious nature of her sister's death and the strange atmosphere now surrounding her, attempts to intimidate Holmes by bending an iron poker with his bare hands. After Roylett's departure, Holmes, now even more interested in the case than he already was, informs Dr. Watson that had Roylett stayed, he would have seen that Holmes possessed an even level of strength by bending the poker back to its proper form.
  • The Sinister Six Trilogy features this from the main villain, the Gentleman, in his dealings with the Sinister Six; after evading law enforcement all his life, the Gentleman is finally defeated because he underestimates the Chameleon and Doctor Octopus, believing that he could always see through the Chameleon's disguises and that he had the perfect means to control Octavius, only to be shot by the Chameleon just before Doc Ock reveals that he had already deduced how the Gentleman intended to betray them.
  • The Sienkiewicz Trilogy has a glorious example at the beginning of the second book. The protagonist, Andrzej Kmicic, mocks his opponent, Michał Wołodyjowski, before their duel. What happens next is such a one sided fight that Kmicic ends up begging his opponent to just kill him already and spare him more humiliation.
  • Happens from time to time in A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Taking time out of your life expectancy to gloat at, belittle or threaten Arya Stark basically just gives her more time to make you feel very, very sorry you bothered, for instance.
    • Or, how about laughing in the white-haired old man's face or just dismissing him as "old" as you square off against him? If that's Ser Barristan Selmy, you've just proved what a jackass you are.
    • And, heaven help you if you insult Tyrion's intelligence by assuming he can't talk himself out of the bind you've just put him in: the odds are good that he can.
    • Finding yourself facing a plain woman in *snicker* armour? Go ahead, attack like a demon in a frenzy because 1) you don't want to be beaten by a girl and/or 2) you want to look impressive when you beat her for mates points. Unfortunately... it's probably going to result in 3) you being wiped along the floor. That's Brienne of Tarth, and she's a Badass Stone Wall who just suckered you into a loss.
    • But, to win a Crowning Moment of Underestimation... you have to beat Kraznys mo Nakloz, a Good Master of Astrapor, for his underestimation of Daenerys Targaryen. Repeatedly insulting somebody you should very well know for a fact is descended from an exiled branch of Valyrian Dragon Lords in a derivative of the Valyrian language over several days is... a bit crass, but kind of understandable. They were the historical masters of your city and you hate them, so getting your digs into one of their few remaining descendants makes a little sense. Convincing yourself, however, that this mere slip of a girl without much visible backup won't be able to understand you or the nature of the very dragon you hope to gain in trade is... dumb. Handing her the army of invincible, obedient slaves in the middle of your (now) poorly defended city before full receipt (and control or containment) of the mobile flame-thrower whose chain you're very busy yanking (literally)? And, um... you were calling her stupidly new, uncultured and unschooled in this whole tactical negotiation thing, Mr. Charcoal Briquette?
  • Spenser, despite being a pretty big guy, is often underestimated by the mooks he encounters, though their overconfidence is usually justified due to their outnumbering him. It rarely does them any good.
  • Star Trek: Prey:
    • The villain Korgh's plan to undermine the Federation/Klingon alliance so that the Klingon Empire secedes from Khitomer Accords and puts him in charge fails because he basically fell victim to this, as Korgh both underestimates what his enemies are capable of and overestimates his own influence over his 'allies', resulting in his plans being exposed and his supposedly loyal partners betraying him.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The Novelization of Revenge of the Sith has Count Dooku make this mistake with regards to Anakin and Obi-Wan, starting their duel in full Smug Snake mode as he refuses to believe that any Jedi can defeat him. He spends several minutes Just Toying with Them as he outmaneuvers them—until they suddenly switch to their favored lightsaber styles and start outdueling him, at which point he has "a sudden, unexpected, overpowering, and entirely distressing bad feeling about this..."
    • Ahsoka: The Sixth Brother assumes that the title character, based on her age, is just a Jedi Padawan and thus will be easy to defeat. Fans of The Clone Wars will know that she's an extremely experienced combatant who was offered the rank of Jedi Knight before leaving the Order. He pays for this underestimation with his life.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • It's not a real fight, but in Wraith Squadron, the Wraiths ask Wes who the greatest pilot alive is, and Wes considers for a bit, then says it's their commanding officer, Wedge Antilles, because of his kill count and time in active service. Falynn Sandskimmer scoffs at this, says that he might have been good in the past but got old and became washed up. Wedge tolerates this for a bit, then challenges her to a race in ore haulers and wins handily after toying with her a bit.
      • How does he win? Amongst other things, he drops his ore hauler on top of hers, pushes off hers, and plops down right at the finish line. The only thing she can say? "You cheated." His response is yes, of course, because combat isn't a game. And if she wants to live through the war, she had best learn to cheat better. Of course, teaching Wraith Squadron to cheat might have been an example of Gone Horribly Right.
    • Also not a direct fight, but in several of Wedge's appearances in the New Jedi Order and later Legacy of the Force, people underestimate his abilities in all kinds of things. Not piloting, but things like the ability to tell when he's being used as a political pawn about to be sacrificed, and in general his extraordinary resourcefulness and endless skill with the Indy Ploy and, sometimes, Xanatos Speed Chess.
    • The heroes spend the latter half of Galaxy of Fear on the run from the Empire, which finally puts up a bounty on them for any random hunters to see. While the first one the heroes encounter is an amateur, he's aware of Hoole's capabilities and prepared to counter them, taking Zak hostage at blasterpoint and planning to just shoot Hoole and bring the kids in alive. However, he's clearly not aware that Tash has been developing her skills with the Force.
  • In The Tome of Bill, Sally is frequently subject to this. Marlene and Jeff/Night Razor knew her before she became a vampire and was just a normal human. They learn the hard way that Sally's probably the biggest badass in the series.
  • The Wheel of Time: Gawyn and Galad, both of whom are highly-trained swordsmen, together take on a just-recovering Mat Cauthon who is armed with only a quarterstaff. Mat wins.
  • The protagonist of Worm is a skinny teenage girl whose only power is the ability to control bugs. This is in a world where gamebreaking superpowers are common. Do not underestimate her. A Running Gag in the comments section is that pretty much everyone's reactions to Skitter is "Meh, I could take her." Eventually, the PRT learns not to do this: they specifically say, "Look, take our rankings for her, and treat her as though she were two rankings higher across the board." They decide to treat her as though she were a Brute, a Breaker, and especially a Trump of some degree.
  • The Wandering Inn: After being scammed, Erin is challenged to a game of chess against a Level 24 [Tactician] to win her money back. Everyone tells her she is an idiot for taking the bet, as she has no levels in that class at all. It turns out that she is probably the best chess player in the world.
  • Warrior Cats: When Firestar, then known as Rusty, joined ThunderClan the other cats just thought he was a timid kittypet. He then managed to beat up a seasoned apprentice despite having no fighting experience.
  • Sunny from Wings of Fire is unusually small and very friendly. She's seen as the "little sister" of the dragonets and gets looked down upon by others, even her friends. Despite this, she is still a dragon.
  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: Discussed when the main character recognize that their superior officer Blevins believes that everyone from the distant past is an ignorant simpleton who will be easily managed when transported to modern times. Grainne, a brilliant witch and spy from the Elizabethan era, and Magnus, a cunning Viking war chief, prove Blevins wrong and become a huge problem when they go AWOL.

    Live-Action TV 
  • How often do the bad guys of 24 think they've got enough security to protect themselves from Jack Bauer?
  • Agent Carter:
    • Peggy's coworkers and superiors are all genuinely convinced that behind her bluster, Peggy is just another fragile English Rose who needs to be protected because she hasn't "grown up" and "learned her place" as a woman. As Peggy points out in the penultimate episode, everyone ignores her unless she has coffee or reports because they all think of her as a "stray kitten" in need of shelter or a "secretary turned damsel" in need of protection. Thompson himself only realizes that Peggy is quite the badass when he finally sees her pick up a machine gun and start shooting people alongside her war buddies, the Howling Commandos. Peggy decides to be more aggressive in her career and start showing this amongst her coworkers. After pointing out that the intelligence gathering mission would be more effective with a plan she would have no idea her superiors had just dismissed as impossible with their resources, they mock her by stating that they would need a team familiar with the area but don't have access to one. Peggy suggests a team like the Howling Commandos, and her chief jokingly agrees to let her go if she can get them. After she walks off, the two men give each other a look and a chuckle, only for her to walk in a few minutes later to state that the Howling Commandos would meet them at the rendezvous point. The chief follows through with his promise to put her on the team.
    • In season two everyone underestimates Whitney Frost, who at first appears to be simply a Hollywood actress past her prime and the Trophy Wife to a prominent industrialist. She is actually a scientific genius and the real brains behind her husband's massive corporation. Then she is infected by Zero Matter and acquires lethal powers. She almost kills Peggy and becomes the true Big Bad of the season.
  • Airwolf:
    • Happens surprisingly often. Of course, most people don't count on a helicopter being more well-armored than a tank, being capable of flying at speeds up to Mach 2.5, flying into the stratosphere, and carrying enough firepower to wipe a small country off the face of the earth.
    • According to Tang Von Soong (referring to String, who is perhaps the world's best combat pilot), "Fortunately such people have little stomach for the nature of war."
    • Also happened with Robert Winchester, who was able to give String a run for his money in the Airwolf Simulator. The Firm restricted his role from potential Airwolf pilot to scientist because he didn't quite have the same "natural talent" for flying that String had.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Episode "Ceremonies of Light and Dark". Marcus the Ranger is looking for information on some crooks who have kidnapped his friend Delenn. He joins a poker game at a tough bar in down-below and asks his contacts in the criminal underworld if they have any information to share. They decline, and ask why they should help him with this.
    • When we come back from commercial, Marcus is holding the beaten and bloodied last person from the entire room of thugs who isn't quite unconscious yet, who is quickly blubbering out that he doesn't know anything anyways, before collapsing into unconsciousness. An exasperated Marcus complains to no-one in particular, "Bugger! Now I have to wait for someone to wake up!" He is then surprised when someone else comes into the bar: Lennier, the mousy, quiet, inoffensive diplomatic aide to the kidnapped Delenn. When Marcus grabs Lennier during their discussion, Lennier picks him up by the neck and calmly reminds Marcus not to underestimate him. Marcus, who has just kicked the crap out of several dozen criminal thugs and assorted underworld hard-cases, thus proving his badassitude beyond doubt, is forced to back down—to another character whose badassitude is perhaps even more underestimated. (Of course, a few moments later another thug finally wakes up, and out of fear, gives Marcus the information he wanted.)
    • As might be expected from the above example, Lennier is also prone to this. During the first season, his fighting skill is a surprise to the audience, but once it's established, he continues to use it to surprise other characters.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Angel played with this trope in the first episode. Cordelia suddenly realised her potential sponsor was actually a vampire and Angel appears on the scene. When her fake sponsor doesn't seem at all bothered by Angel's appearance, Cordelia realises that it's because he not only doesn't know Angel's a vampire, but doesn't know just how dangerous a vampire Angel is. Unfortunately, her gloat of "You don't know who he is, do you? Oh, boy, you're about to get your ass kicked!" backfires. Not only did the vampire not know who Angel was, but Angel and Cordelia didn't know who he was. Turns out, the ones doing the underestimating were actually Angel and Cordelia. By the end of the episode, this situation has been very much reversed. Permanently, one might say.
    • Angel's son Connor seems to think just because he's super strong, he fails to see what is so special about Slayers, and as such thinks Faith should at most be a speed bump. She proceeds to mop the floor with him.
    • And in the season 5 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right after a Previously On summing up the entire series to date:
      Vampire: [moving towards Buffy] I don't mind a little appetizer...
      Buffy: You ever heard the expression, "biting off more than you can chew"? Okay... um, how about the expression, "Vampire Slayer"?
      Vampire: What the hell are you talking about?
      Buffy: Wow! Never heard that one? Okay, how about, "Oh God, my leg, my leg?" ''[breaks his leg]'
      Vampire: Oh God, my leg! Ah!
    • The basic premise of the franchise is to make the 90-pound cheerleader that the monster corners in an alley capable of ripping its arm off.
    • A non-monster instance occurs when Buffy squares off against Tara's father in "Family". Mr. Maclay has no idea that Buffy could kill him with her bare hands and, given what a misogynistic Abusive Parent he is, it's a real shame we don't get to see her show him.
    • Xander, who has no powers of any kind, takes out a goddess with a wrecking ball.
      Xander: And the glorified bricklayer picks up a spare.
    • When Spike first appears on the show in season 2, Giles initially dismisses him as a major threat, especially when compared to the Master, since vampires are Stronger with Age and Spike is "barely 200." He quickly reconsiders this assessment when he discovers that Spike has killed two previous Slayers.
  • Burn Notice
    • In "Rough Seas", when Michael poses as a nervous nerd with an inhaler... only to turn on the group of drug dealers he's infiltrated when they least expect it.
    • Also notable is "Bad Breaks", in which a bank robber has the bad luck to rob a bank with both Michael and Agent Jason Bly inside.
    • He's had it done on him once or twice; Lucy Lawless as an assassin pretending to be a "battered housewife" who needs Mike to find her husband comes to mind, as does Harlan and the nerdy "auditor" who is a good enough killer to pose a challenge to Mike in hand-to-hand.
    • Michael lampshades that the Coast Guard is generally seen as not very powerful. He then explains why this is not truly so.
      Most people don't think the Coast Guard as being particularly well-armed. Most people are wrong. A Coast Guard patrol boat carries three .50-caliber M2 Browning machine guns and a 25-millimeter cannon, which means it can take out anything short of a battleship.
  • Chuck does this a lot to enemy agents who don't know what he is — his fight scene in "Chuck Versus the Beard" is a prime example.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor is consistently on the receiving end of this trope, even from those who should really know better, like the Daleks.
      • "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" involves a family of short-lived aliens named the Family of Blood chasing him in order to consume him and gain immortality. The Doctor initially tries to escape from them by sealing his alien self while he turns human with his companion Martha as the one in charge of his former self. The Family then goes after them, killing several people in the process and bombing a village to force the Doctor to come back. When it finally happens, an infuriated Doctor easily Out-Gambits them and punishes them by putting them in various And I Must Scream situations that specifically grant them eternal life in the process. They then realize he wasn't running from them because he was afraid of them... but because he was afraid of what he could do to them.
    • Daleks have an unwavering belief in the superiority of Daleks to all other forms of life, which causes them to underestimate the Doctor's companions just as frequently as they do the Doctor himself. They've been on the receiving end of this as well, from people who don't realize that what looks like a salt shaker with a suction cup sticking out of it is one of the most fearsome creatures in the universe.
    • Rory Williams is a nurse whose greatest claim to fame is being madly in love with Amelia Pond. It gets him a lot further than you'd think, as the Cybermen find out the hard way when he blows up one of their space stations.
    • "Rosa": The antagonist, a time traveller trying to Make Wrong What Once Went Right, clearly doesn't take the Doctor and her friends seriously, even trying to threaten them and thinking he can intimidate them into leaving. Unfortunately for him, the Doctor absolutely refuses to be intimidated, first trapping him in the '50s by destroying his vortex manipulator, than goading him into attacking her and revealing his Restraining Bolt, which prevents him from directly attacking anyone and means he can't stop them from reversing his efforts to change the course of history, culminating in Ryan zapping him into the distant past with his own temporal displacement weapon.
    • "Resolution": The villain, a Dalek recon scout, has been out of commission via Sealed Evil in a Six Pack for 1,200 years. So, while it recognizes the Doctor as an enemy of itself and its species, it doesn't regard her as seriously as Daleks usually do, which plays a major factor in its defeat.
  • Farscape:
    • John Crichton is a human from Earth — a planet that hasn't even been to its own moon in almost 30 years at the time the series started — who in early episodes is constantly dealing with the scorn of the more "advanced" members of Moya's crew. And he saves their asses every. Single. Time. By the end of the first season he's finally earned their respect and friendship. And then it's time for him to do the same with his enemies.
    • Crais spent almost a cycle trying to capture him before Scorpius finally gets his hands on him purely by chance. Crais' failure to bring Moya in didn't exactly sit well and made him something of a laughingstock. Then Scorpius found out first hand just how dangerous and resourceful Crichton is.
    • Genre Savvy that he is, Scorpius was less likely to underestimate Crichton, but even then John still had his moments where he took him by surprise. Grayza, on the other hand, was completely incapable of recognizing the threat Crichton actually posed. Especially when the rest of the galaxy was pointing and laughing at the Peacekeepers' inability to recapture Moya.
  • In a The Flash (2014) and Arrow crossover, Flash is affected by a Hate Plague so Arrow has to stop him. Flash's allies laugh and say Arrow has no chance, since Flash has superpowers while Arrow is just a guy with a bow and arrow. He quickly proves them wrong. Also, when Arrow offers to train Flash earlier, Flash gets cocky, thinking there's nothing someone who doesn't have super speed can teach him, until he gets shot in the back with two arrows.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Most of King's Landing seems to be under the impression that water dancing is a literal kind of dancing and that Syrio is actually just a dancing instructor rather than the First Sword of Braavos, which is why it is so surprising for Ser Meryn and the Lannister guards when Syrio hands the redcloaks their asses on a silver platter — with a training sword.
    • Tywin's arrogance and successful record often leads him to assume that his foes are incompetent more often than they actually are, which sometimes comes to bite him:
      • He totally underestimates Robb's skill as a commander in their early battles, especially glaring given 1: who his father was, and 2: the fact that Tywin himself was treated the same way as a youth. However, he quickly learns from his previous mistake and successfully conspires with Walder Frey and Roose Bolton to have Robb brutally assassinated.
      • More subtly, on the diplomatic field it happens with Olenna Tyrell. While negotiating marriage arrangements between the families, he acts willfully and blackmails the Queen of Thorns into accepting his ultimatum. Olenna relents... and then goes the long way around to protect her family's interests — by murdering Tywin's grandson, the king, right under Tywin's nose. The best part? Tywin doesn't even know.
      • And, of course, he underestimated Tyrion's ability to survive time and time again... until Tyrion held him at crossbowpoint.
    • Kevan Lannister is on the receiving end of this. Cersei thinks that he'll be a Yes-Man to her due to his loyal service to Tywin. She's surprised to learn that he ain't a pushover.
    • Whether due to her own guile or their foolishness, people who underestimate Daenerys and slight her or try to manipulate her end up dead, often in gruesome fashion. By the time she gets to Yunkai her reputation has begun to precede her, and they offer her ships and gold if she leaves them in peace, though by the time her meeting with Razdal ends it turns out they haven't learned enough.
  • Nick Burkhardt from Grimm is subject to this a lot, like when a group of coyotls thinks he and Hank are just two cops with no idea what they are getting themselves into in addition to being outnumbered, or in the rare instance where he gets to pull this on someone who knew he was a Grimm when the Reaper dispatcher sends two Reapers to catch him by surprise, only to get a rather disturbing package in the mail.
    • This can be said of pretty much all Grimms. The pilot has Nick's aunt Marie showing up, in the final stages of cancer, looking like everybody's favorite grandma. She proceeds to kill a Hässlich Reaper with his own scythe. Even when lying in a hospital bed and approached by Munroe (who's not violent, normally), she opens her eyes and tells him to do his worst. She even identifies him as a Blutbad without him even wogeing. The trend continues with Nick's mom and Trubel. On the Wesen side, this can also apply to many, especially since not all of them appear imposing when not woged. Munroe is tall and in a fairly good shape, but he's vegetarian, speaks fairly softly, and wears sweaters. He's the last guy you expect to turn rip your arm off if you really piss him off. Then again, he used to be pretty violent in his youth.
  • In Highlander, a lot of people underestimate Methos because he's a rather unassuming man and he's very reluctant to get involved in fights. As he points out, just because a guy doesn't enjoy fighting doesn't mean he can't, and a guy doesn't survive to be 5000+ years old without picking up some serious skills.
  • Happens a lot to Mia in Hit And Miss, as she's a transgender hitwoman.
  • Season 3 of Justified is built around this trope. Detroit mobster Robert Quarles repeatedly underestimates just how smart local gangster Boyd Crowder is. Boyd, for his part, expects that Quarles being a Fish out of Water will be completely ineffective in Harlan County. He's right, but what he doesn't take into account is just how physically dangerous Quarles can become when cornered.
    • Season 4 gives us Bob, a pudgy constable (a law enforcement position that pays almost nothing and has no real authority) who is a constant Butt-Monkey and is played by Patton Oswalt. While most people do not take him seriously, Genre Savvy characters remember that back in elementary school Bob hit a bully in the head with a hammer and put the kid in a coma. When two drunk Corrupt Hicks start firing their rifles at Bob, they discover that Bob has an automatic assault rifle in his car. A mobster captures Bob and tortures him for information but Failed a Spot Check and does not realize that Bob carries a hidden knife on him at all times. Bob simply waits for the mobster to drop his guard and then fatally stabs him. In the confrontation at the high school, an injured Bob is fully prepared to back up Raylan in a Last Stand gunfight against a dozen mobsters.
  • This gets deconstructed in Kamen Rider Wizard. One of the villains is a quirky character by the name of Sora who manages to be an annoyance to the other villains, including the Big Bad Wiseman once he frees a rather destructive Phantom. Almost everyone underestimates Sora's true potential and just consider him write him off as "that annoying Phantom". Heck, even the main character, Haruto, began to underestimate him. At that point, we find out that, yes, there's more to Sora than meets the eye. He was a serial killer prior to being a Phantom and has his sights on the Philosopher's Stone, a MacGuffin that the Big Bad has in his possession. Once it's made clear he's after the stone, The Wiseman tries everything in his power to kick his ass, though leaves him just kicking, underestimating him. It becomes Wiseman's hubris as Gremlin, on his second attempt, snatches a weapon from him and kills him with it, then steals the role of Big Bad. Bottom line: Never underestimate the quirky Phantom, or else everyone is screwed.
    • This is something that the Big Bad had a case of twice. The only reason his plans were foiled in the first place was because he didn't account for Nitoh, a Big Eater, unleashing his Phantom, an even bigger eater to consume all the Mana he needed to execute his plan. You can say that underestimating badassery is a Fatal Flaw for him.
  • Caine on Kung Fu is always underestimated by people who end up getting their ass kicked by him.
  • On one episode of Magnum, P.I., a Chinese assassin is asking a big hairy sailor where the MacGuffin is hidden. The Chinese assassin is an insignificant looking fellow with glasses. But when the bargaining becomes heated, the assassin kills the sailor with his bare hands in half a second and isn't even breathing hard.
    • In another episode, Higgins goes off to an island on a camping trip with some boys from juvenile in a rehab program. They mutiny, but find out that Higgins is a Retired Badass.
  • How much of a threat can a gangly, clumsy servant be? Well, quite a bit if your name is Merlin!
  • NCIS:
  • Person of Interest has thugs constantly underestimating Reese due to him wearing nice suits and working alone. Half of these encounters only show the thugs getting ready to attack and later Reese walking away from a pile of groaning men.
  • The Romans are very guilty of this in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, frequently calling Spartacus and his army of gladiators "common slaves" or "mere savages", even when the fighting force has trained day and night on nothing more to fight and kill. It's pointed out by Ashur in "Chosen Path" of Vengeance on how the slaves can pose a threat to the average Roman soldier. Glaber responds by pitting Ashur against several soldiers, whom Ashur easily defeats.
    Ashur: And I was considered lowest among the Brotherhood.
  • Happens occasionally to Dr. Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1. In one particular instance, someone called him a geek while he was under the influence of a physically enhancing alien device. This device also increased aggression and impulsiveness (Dr. Jackson is not usually a hothead). It... didn't end well for said someone.
    • Also happened to Carter on occasion, due to her being an attractive woman. In particular, in the episode "The Warrior", a group of free Jaffa are disappointed by the Earth-based weapons they have been provided so O'Neill has Carter demonstrate how effective the weapons are. You can see the patronizing expressions as the Jaffa doubt both the weapons and the female's shooting abilities. Needless to say, Carter proved them wrong on both accounts.
      O'Neill: This [Jaffa staff weapon] is a weapon of terror; it's made to intimidate the enemy. This [Earth P90] is a weapon of war; it's made to kill your enemy.
      • Ba'al, as a Politically Incorrect Villain, insults Carter's intelligence REPEATEDLY, even after she's saved the world a few times. After she slugged him in the face, though, he seems to have wised up.
  • In Supernatural, no matter how many monsters, demons, or other enemies the Winchesters have killed, they're almost always underestimated by whatever enemy they're facing. One notable exception is Crowley, who even lampshades the other villains' tendency to do so:
    Crowley: "Don't worry about them?" What, like Lucifer didn't worry? Or Michael, or Lilith, or Alastair, or Azazel didn't worry? Am I the only game piece on the board who doesn't underestimate those denim-wrapped nightmares?!
  • Pretty much the entire point behind Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' Cameron. As the show's producers pointed out, and was demonstrated throughout the series, people do not expect a slender, cute, harmless-looking girl who looks like she's not even out of her teens to be a cold, implacable and utterly lethal killing machine.
  • Rick makes the fatal mistake of underestimating The Saviours in The Walking Dead. After years of dominating every group they have come into conflict with, Rick firmly believes that The Saviours are just a small group of violent bandits that can be easily taken care of. He soon discovers that they're actually a very large group of violent bandits, with hundreds of men at their disposal. When their leader shows up, he utterly destroys Rick.

  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • 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 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.