Tensions have been increasing for many years, and open conflict could break out at any time. Now it seems that time has come. Angry mobs pour out onto the streets. Internal security forces gather. Armies and fleets mobilize for war. It looks like this can only end badly. But what's this? The leaders of the opposing sides are calling for passive resistance? Moments ago, it looked like only a long and bloody war could possibly end the long-simmering conflict, but change comes relatively peacefully instead. Sometimes violence does occur, but instead of thousands of bodies in the streets only a few hundred are seriously injured.
A Subversion of the Final Battle, sometimes using a Deus ex Machina, and can be used as a Happy Ending. It can also be a Bittersweet Ending, as The Hero, The Mentor, a highly sympathetic Anti-Villain, etc. may be among the relatively few casualties or may sacrifice their home, fortune, dreams, etc., for peace.
What happens after can vary:
Scenario 1. It's peaceful now, but a standoff is taking place, and violence is expected. It never comes. The conflict just... ends. The sitting government and the dissents comes to a (at the very least for the most part) amicable agreement and at worst a few were trampled in the confusion.
Scenario 2. A bloody war is already underway, but a relatively bloodless internal coup, unexpected surrender, etc. resolves the conflict suddenly without too many more deaths.
Scenario 3. Violence occurs, and while it left bodies in the streets, a lengthy conflict is averted. A war that might have lasted several years, killed several percent of the population, and plunged the country into debt and bitterness for generations to come is resolved in a single campaign that kills only a (tiny) fraction of that number.
Compare Reconcile the Bitter Foes, and (in The Other Wiki) Quiet Revolution. Contrast The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized and The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified. The Reign of Terror is what happens when it goes wrong.
Often used as an Ending Trope or major plot twist, so beware of spoilers!
A standoff takes place, but violence is averted
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Tails's father Amadeus starts advocating the end of the monarchy, and after tensions rise he ends up facing Elias one-on-one. Before they really get into it, however, Sally steps in and tells them to knock it off. By the time Sonic and Tails show up, the two have come to an agreement.
- In V for Vendetta (the movie): The government troops are understandably uneasy about firing on the populace and an order saying they must fire never comes. V for Vendetta case is probably based on the Czechoslovakia one (see Real Life, below). Both had similar amounts of people (about 100,000) advancing on a heavily-defended central government building. In both cases the defenders were police who avoided shooting because a) they were greatly outnumbered and b) they were police, not soldiers.
- The live-action scene closing the 2011 documentary/activist film Zeitgeist: Moving Forward depicts such a scenario.
- In The Bible, some of Jesus's followers expect a bloody revolution; instead Jesus surrenders peacefully. The whole thing is, of course, all part of God's plan....
- Breaking Dawn has the Volturi leaving peacefully without any fighting whatsoever.
- Night Watch. No more cake? However, a few dozen or so people are killed, including several policemen and at least one main character.
- In the ending to Jingo, two whole armies are technically arrested and Vetinari has to manipulate the situation, but the war doesn't actually start. The nearest they get is a football game.
- Eva Luna's country manages to mostly pull this off, though there's still the guerrilla led by Commander Rogelio aka Eva's First Love Huberto to deal with.
- In Philip K. Dick's short story "The Defenders": When nuclear war breaks out between the USA and the USSR, everyone on both sides goes into huge bunkers deep under ground and set robots to wage the war on their behalf. At the time of the story, no one has been above ground for eight years. In reality, the robots ended the war as soon as all of the people were underground; all of the reports, photographs, and so forth that show the war's progress have been faked. The robots are waiting until the people are so tired of the war that they are willing to form one world government; in the meantime, they have repaired all of the cities and are keeping them in perfect condition.
- In The Marvelous Land of Oz, General Jinjur's Army of Revolt, comprising entirely of women tired of doing house chores, overtake the Emerald City and force the Scarecrow to abdicate the throne using nothing but sewing needles and relying on the fact that Oz's (single person) army Wouldn't Hit a Girl. A few people get poked with needles but that is the extent of the violence. Later in the story, the armies of Glinda the Good surround the city in a standoff (who are not only women themselves but formidable fighters, unlike Jinjur's army), but Jinjur surrenders without violence, allowing the rightful Princess Ozma to take the throne.
- On Babylon 5, the dockworkers threaten to go on strike, the senior staff has been kicked out of their own quarters due to a legal technicality, and the nightwatch is running amuck. A reallocation of funds solves the legal issues, and life returns to normal... for a few episodes.
- In the Doctor Who episode, The Happiness Patrol, the Doctor brings down an entire Fascist regime overnight.
- One story arc in Spooks has a Well-Intentioned Extremist faction attempt a palace coup against Her Majesty's Government to install a more authoritarian system. Harry Pierce's MI-5 team manages to counter them amid massive peaceful protests against the coup leaders, despite their attempts to turn the protests violent. In the end there are only two casualties, one MI-5 analyst murdered by the coup faction, one protester shot by a police officer misled by them, and the bad guys all land in jail.
- In Tropico, this is one possible way for your Presidente to rise to power. Intellectuals and the United States love it, but the people will be rather miffed if it doesn't lead to democracy. In Tropic 4, it also pisses off China.
- In ending route 4B (Égalité) of Aviary Attorney an ugly escalation on both sides is averted, reason prevails, and the lawyer heroes go to prosecute and punish the King of France preemptively to satisfy the revolutionaries. The [[Warhawk saboteurs who so badly want a bloody revolt]] are the only casualties, even when explosives are used.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice the final case, Turnabout Revolution, has Queen Garan sic her guards on everyone who had gathered their to protest her regime and its corrupt criminal justice system. Apollo Justice and the defense team are literally held at gun point. Naturally, as this game is still about lawyers, the Queen is defeated not by violent means, but by Apollo exposing her inability to channel spirits. This makes her an illegitimate queen according to Khura'inese law. Afterwards, her niece, the fourteen-year old Rayfa, takes over the throne, with her older brother Nahyuta acting as her regent until she's old enough to rule.
- The end of the Cold War and the Eastern Bloc, in comparison to the nuclear cataclysm many had expected the cold war to end in, was relatively bloodless. (Keyword being "relative")
- The Trope Namer comes from the former state of Czechoslovakia, where the transition from a communist state to a democratic one in 1989 was accomplished bloodlessly. See also Wikipedia article here.
- The collapse of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany was bloodless.
- In Estonia and nearly so in the other Baltic Countries. The Baltics are interesting in that they are quite possibly the only countries in history to win their independence by literally holding hands and singing.
- During the Prague Spring Liberation in 1968 in socialist Czechoslovakia governed by communists, it looked like things were going to turn out this way and that Czechoslovakia would gradually turn into a more liberal socialist state, possibly even on its way to becoming a truly democratic state. Then the Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks rolled in.
- Chile's transition from dictatorship to democracy in the late 80s/early 90s. Pinochet ended up recognizing the results of the referendum on his rule (he lost) and about a year later, a new president (Patricio Aylwin) was elected. It's still discussed, however, whether Pinochet actually recognized the results as the "best" way out, or only did it because the dictatorship had lost almost all support in the world and wouldn't survive if he refused to back down.
- In The Arab Spring, Tunisia's revolution played like this. Admittedly, there were several hundred dead bodies, but the anticlimactic departure of Ben Ali just hours after his official declaration that he had no intention of leaving means it counts.
- The "Constitutional standoff" in Norway during the breakthrough of parliamentarism in the early 1880s. Not a single shot was fired, but the leftists (who had the public on their side) were under surveillance, and the king and government plotted on countermeasures in case things got out of hand. Sensible people on all sides talked the parts from going militant (but the government secured the army rifles in case they might be used by the other fraction).
- In former Soviet Republic Armenia, then-President Serge Sargsyan oversaw constitutional amendments which transferred most of the President's powers to the Prime Minister, and shortly after his final term as President became the Prime Minister, thereby extending his grip on power. The people, tired of government corruption which had caused a large class gap and rampant emigration from the country, revolted; but peacefully. From April to May 2018 protesters blocked streets for ten full days, holding dances and barbecues, while demanding Sargsyan resign. It was called a Velvet Revolution in the media. This gave the government two choices: violently put an end to the protests and incite an even worse reaction from their own people and look much worse internationally than they already did, or give in to their demands. Sargsyan resigned as Prime Minister, and protest leader Nikol Pashinian took his place a couple weeks later, after parliament very reluctantly elected him.
A bloody war is suddenly resolved without further casualty
- In Robotech, after years of bloody conflict, the Invid Regis, and the remaining invid, just... leave. But according to Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, they leave with the Earth's entire supply of protoculture, and their own means to produce more, which is why they had come to Earth in the first place, so it's not like they leave empty-handed.
- In Code Geass, Lelouch arranges things so that Britannia ends up letting the Black Knights go.
- In Heat Guy J, a battle ensues for control of the entertainment district, Kabuki Road. Clair and his team fight against Judoh's military, while Daisuke confronts his brother, who is the one behind all this. Long story short, everything goes back to normal.
- RideBack: The GGP, the world's leading military superpower, decide to accede to terrorist demands and loosen their iron grip on the world, starting with Japan. This is mostly because they started out as an insurgent cell doomed to failure, won a one-in-a-million death-wish battle that surprised themselves, and just rolled with it until they conquered the entire world. They've been growing up for the past decade and started playing the part of The Empire once they realized nobody would want to tear them down if they stopped being so fascist.
- Tintin and the Picaros ends with a peaceful coup (on Tintin's repeated insistance) after a longer period of guerrilla warfare.
- The ending of The Matrix Revolutions, in which the war against the machines ends in something of a draw. The machines agree that anyone who wishes to leave the Matrix is free to do so. Of course, according to Morpheus's speech in the first film, most adults aren't likely to leave the comfortable virtual prison for the grim underground reality. The specifics of how precisely this truce would be implemented are not explored.
- The crisis that sparks the events of Crimson Tide ends when Radchenko's forces in the Russian Far East surrender to loyalist Russian forces. Total casualties number less than a hundred, much lower than what could have potentially been.
- In Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon. The Chinese government starts a war with Russia over gold and oil reserves in Siberia, and conceals information about when it starts going badly. A bunch of students find out what's really going on from the internet, and eventually bring down the government. It is portrayed as fortuitous timing. The students decide to storm the seat of government right as the news of a massive Chinese defeat leaves the government and army temporally paralyzed. At the same time a moderate member of the Chinese Politburo, realizes that if he does not act, he will be purged by the hardliners looking for a scapegoat. Seeing the students somehow get past the guards, he seizes the opportunist to stage a coup and orders the guards to arrest the other Politburo members for treason. The army leadership could have stopped it but they are also afraid of purges so they go along with it. A bloody civil war is averted and the war with Russia stopped soon after.
- In Red Storm Rising, a relatively bloodless coup by the Soviet army over the civilian government that had started the non-nuclear World War III ends the war.
- Bloodily subverted in Shatterpoint: Mace Windu hopes to end the Summertime War swiftly by capturing the Geptun, the militia leader. When he finally catches up to Geptun, he surrenders without a fight, but a rogue agent on Mace's side has already begun sacking the city.
- Not just any rogue agent but his own clanmate.
- On Babylon 5, the Earth - Minbari War ends when the Minbari, who had been winning very handily, inexplicably surrendered. The real explanation is that the Minbari discovered that Minbari and Human souls are one and the same, and realized in horror that they were slaughtering their distant kinsmen.
- Also, the Shadow War is ended when Sheridan's "Now get the hell out of our galaxy!" speech convinces the Shadows and Vorlons that neither of them can truly win: the younger races might be destroyed, but they can no longer be manipulated.
- Rule of Three: In the climactic battle of the Earth Alliance Civil War, a massive fleet of Omega-class destroyers are arrayed defending the Sol system under Clark-loyalist General Lefcourt. Sheridan's rebel fleet is much smaller, but is backed by a larger force from the League of Nonaligned Worlds. Neither leader really wants things to end in a bloodbath, but they won't back down either. Fortunately, Sheridan is able to arrange for several Shadow-augmented telepaths seen in a previous episode to be smuggled aboard Lefcourt's key warships, drawing them out of position and crippling their engines. With the loyalist fleet thus occupied, the rebels jump directly to Earth. Clark, knowing the jig is up, kills himself before the loyalists can get back into the fight.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine kind of ends this way, after 2+ years of war with the Dominion, when the Dominion surrenders abruptly following Odo's intercession and offer to cure the Founders. "Kind of" because the Dominion forces on the capital in the Alpha quadrant had already destroyed several major cities and killed millions of civilians in retaliation for the people rising up against them. Relative to the Founder's plan to eradicate everyone on the planet, this still probably counts.
- Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn (Wii) has a long and bloody battle stopped short by almost everyone being turned into stone.
- In 4C (Fraternité) of Aviary Attorney the deescalation mentioned above fails and people die. A hard-working protagonist can persuade the Rebel Leader that she should stick to the ideals she considers impractical, which winds up persuading the police that there's no need for violence. Unfortunately those saboteurs work to avert this horribly at the last minute.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang defeats
Fire LordPhoenix King Ozai, Zuko and Katara take down PrincessFire Lord Azula, and the Fire Nation's war of conquest ends.
- The surrender of Japan in World War II, when an invasion of the home islands seemed inevitable, must have seemed this way to many who would have been involved. In reality, it only occurred after (atomic) bombings and invasions of territory controlled by the Japanese by US and Soviet forces, each of which killed many thousands. Still, Emperor Hirohito and his staff had to defy their own army to declare the war actually over.
- The fall of Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in the 50's.
- The Portuguese Carnation Revolution planned by the Armed Forces that brought an end to 60 years of dictatorship and the Colonial War was almost bloodless. The Carnation became the symbol of the revolution due to the soldiers marching the streets with those flowers on the tip of their guns. Only four people were killed by the state police before surrendering. Also, the start of the revolution was signaled by playing Portugal's Eurovision entry.
- The Second Liberian Civil War was ended by peaceful demonstrations of over 3,000 Christian and Muslim women, who forced a meeting with President Charles Taylor to convince him to attend peace talks in Ghana, and kept the various warring factions in check while the peace process was ongoing. This ended decades of extreme violence, including several coups and two civil wars, and allowed the country to begin rebuilding. This was covered in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
Violence occurs, but a long bloody war is averted
- One Piece: This is how the Alabasta arc ends for said kingdom. There are probably thousand of casualties, but there were about two and a half million people fighting. Kohza was trying to keep things from getting too bad the entire time, and the king was trying to avoid fighting at all.
- In Heat Guy J, Daisuke's brother Shun takes over the city of Judoh and places it under martial law. The various Mafia factions, as well as an underground group from the Absurdly Spacious Sewer fight his forces in the streets (actually, just one, Kabuki Road, the entertainment district). Meanwhile, Antonia helps Daisuke infiltrate the government building, and he fights Shun with both words and martial arts. Yes, things got violent, but not as violent as anyone In-Universe expected, and the events appear to cover only a day or two.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fanfic The First Tile ends with one of these. Prime Minister Odan was aiming to resolve things bloodlessly by coming out of hiding and making a speech supporting sweeping reform of the Trill government, but it quickly escalates when The Azure Guard decides to try and assassinate her and Dr. Crusher in full public view. There are still plenty of deaths and casualties, but the revolt is thankfully brief, with the monarch's son and an old general deciding enough is enough and ordering a stand-down.
- In the Farsala Trilogy, this is one of the Hrum army's policies. After conquering a nation in a lengthy war that all but destroyed both armies, the Hrum made a law that they can only have one year to conquer another country by force. When the year is up, victory is granted to the defending country.
- Small Gods almost breaks into war thanks to Omnia's rather nasty actions, but a kind prophet and a god who has learned compassion manage to force a peaceful resolution.
- The Trickster's Duet has this as a series premise. The raka could take back their country from the luarin but the war would be so long and bloody they'd probably destroy themselves trying. Instead they hid their royal family as a minor house for centuries, until eventually their descendants were a position to inherit the luarin throne. Meanwhile, they create a huge, complex underground resistance to handle the political and social revolution needed for a biracial woman to rule their country and free the slaves. A few battles are fought and people are killed, but all out war is avoided.
- Kingdom (2019): Chang's ousting of the Queen is relatively quick and bloodless. First, he tips the scale of balance by diverting the Queen's army away from the city and smuggling his own men inside. Once there, they seal off the gates and trap the Queen inside with no army left. Court officials promptly defect to the Prince's side and arrest all of the Queen's remaining loyalists. With that, the Queen is rendered completely defenseless and Chang is able to take back his throne with minimal loss of life on both sides. That is, until the Queen pulls one last card from under her sleeves...
- The rebellion in Mount & Blade can become this if you have done enough deeds for all the lords of that faction to like you, so you only have to conquer the last city belonging to the king, who will never surrender to you.
- The end of the Cold War, as stated above.
- In Romania, the leadership ordered the army and secret police to put down the revolution. The army commanders refused to fire on unarmed civilians. The Romanian Revolution did leave a lot of dead bodies, yet maybe not so many as might have been. About 1,000 people died in the violence.
- The EDSA Revolution of 1986 in the Philippines was also a case of this. President Marcos ordered to crush troops loyal to former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then General Fidel Ramos as they both questioned the results of the 1986 snap elections. Marcos also had troops ready to train at the protesters in EDSA Avenue. Bloodshed is mostly averted, apart from a seizure by pro-Enrile rebels of a pro-government TV station which left a TV cameraman having a heart attack and died, and Marcos quietly left the Philippines.
- In The Arab Spring, Egypt's revolution played out like this.
- Israel has been on the verge of a civil war during the Altalena incident.
- The Iranian Revolution played out like this. Unfortunately, the revolutionary government turned out to be little better than the monarchy before it.
- The Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 gained its name precisely because of how bloodless it was. A few soldiers did die in minor skirmishes, but an all-out civil war was avoided, at least for a little while. Then the Hanover-Stuart Wars broke out anyway.
- The October Revolution went down with very little bloodshed, later propaganda films added a lot more resistance to make the Revolution seem more effective. Like the Glorious Revolution, it was followed by a civil war.
- The Norwegian "Cat war" in August 1814 was the only real bloodshed during the transition from Danish rule to a budding democracy under Swedish rule. The whole thing was so civilized it can hardly be called a revolution at all. But the war in August cost some hundred lives both on the Swedish and Norwegian side. For a more detailed account on this, see Norwegian Constituent Assembly.
- Slovenian War of Independence, also known as Ten-Day War, especially compared to years of brutal warfare that ensued later in the rest of Yugoslavia.