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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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Wanda: What could go wrong?
Darryl: Alphabetically or likely in order of occurrence!?

When said sarcastically, it's telegraphing a disaster. When said more seriously, it's an open invitation for the world to go to hell in a handbasket.

Say there is one critical thing that could happen that would cause a catastrophe that, left unchecked, would directly or indirectly result in disaster. But everyone in the story is assured that this critical thing will never, ever happen. Ever. The audience knows better.

If anyone ever mentions a component in a reactor that is the only thing stopping a meltdown, or a lockout chip that is the only thing stopping a superhuman robot from going on a rampage, rest assured that it will either fail, be stolen, or be destroyed, and things will Go Horribly Wrong.

In the event that someone in the know tries to warn his superiors to get the situation fixed, expect them to be flat-out ignored or hints of actual impending face-melting doom dismissed as being Within Parameters and that It's Probably Nothing. Again, the audience will know better.

The Law of Conservation of Detail helps this along; the scientist isn't going to bother to mention the failsafe unless it's going to, well, you know. When is the last time you were watching a movie, and someone mentioned "if this object was damaged, there would be a catastrophe!" and the object was never mentioned again for the rest of the movie? Frequently combined with Einstein Sue, where one person in the work's universe sees the incoming problem (and is powerless to stop it).

It's often used to drive a plot. Everything is normal and then this happens and all hell breaks loose. Very often triggers the Disaster Dominoes.

A sub-trope of Million to One Chance. Often, but not always, combined with the Stock Phrase "What could possibly go wrong?". In these cases, it's often said seriously by characters performing a "simple" task where it does indeed appear that nothing can go wrong, but is said sarcastically by the audience. Other times it’s said sarcastically by the aforementioned Genre Savvy character in the story, when a very obvious danger is being foreshadowed.

Usually exaggerated in fiction for the Rule of Funny, but it is Truth in Television — asking "What could possibly go wrong?" unironically is a sign of overconfidence in a plan's success, which can easily result in not considering the situation thoroughly and making mistakes that could have been easily avoided if the planner had taken precautions for anything that could go wrong.

See Finagle's Law, Tempting Fate, Mugging the Monster, Phlebotinum Rebel, Failsafe Failure, and Nothing Can Stop Us Now!. Compare Gone Horribly Right.

Here is a compilation with a lot of examples of this trope.

NB: The trope title is being said sarcastically. Before editing, see Other Stock Phrases for the Stock Phrase, which, as described above, is different from the trope. A use of this phrase in a non-ironic manner usually falls under Tempting Fate.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • Said by Morpheus the first time he summons the Kindly Ones. It is unknown whether this is an indication of how out of touch he was with stories due to his 80 year imprisonment or if he knew that this phrase was Tempting Fate (all three of them, actually) and it was the first step in his intricate plan to engineer his own death.
    • Said by Morpheus again when he decides to help his little sister Delirum look for their missing brother. He assures Lucien that he doesn't think for a second they'll actually find their brother, but it'll get his mind off his recent break-up. By the end of the arc, several bystanders have been killed and Morpheus has had to Mercy Kill his own son.
  • Fantastic Four Vol. 6 #15 has this little gem from Ben Grimm after he's been punted over the wall of an alien city:
    Thing: Ow. "Let's rebuild the rocket, Ben. Let's finish our first-ever mission, Ben. What could possibly go wrong, Ben?
  • The Ultimates: After wifebeating Jan and leaving her almost dead, Henry Pym escaped from his home, and was at a bar, drowning his sorrows. The barman asks if he wants another drink, "Sure, why not? What's the worst that can happen?". 30 seconds later, Captain America wants to have some words with him about what he did...

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Mass Effect: Clash of Civilizations: At one point Valern says, "And besides, even if they prove to be hostile to us, they don't even use element zero. How advanced can they be?" He's talking about the UNSC.
  • Came Out of the Darkness:
    Crookshanks ran in with the Sorting Hat in his mouth. Hat was grinning. "[Hogwarts] Castle and I believe that it is a perfect idea."
    "See," Cedric said, "Castle and Hat are on my side, what can go wrong?"
    Hermione groaned, "The last thing said before any catastrophe, 'what could go wrong'."
  • It's in the title of 3 Doctors, 9 Companions, What Could Go Wrong?. Needless to say, a lot of things go wrong.
  • In Frozen Hearts, just after Hans and Heins make their escape by boat, they say these exact words. They soon realize they hadn't counted on a raging storm turning up.
  • In Not of Blood Fred and George say exactly this when Remus and Sirius invite Harry's Hogwarts friends to a surprise birthday party some Muggle friends he made over the summer are also attending.
  • In Harry the Hufflepuff 2 Hannah and Susan drag a reluctant Harry to the dueling club meeting second year.
    Susan: Don't worry Harry. Nothing bad is going to happen. Professor Lockhart is just going to show us some basic dueling.
    Hannah: It's not like anything can go wrong.
  • In In Love of Quidditch Hermione says this word for word after she, Harry and Neville discover the dragon egg in Hagrid's hut.
  • Age Of Dragons: One of the alternate world stories is titled What's the Worst that Could Happen?. The author definitely answers the question.
  • Kitsune: Said right at the end of Chapter 6, about a clear mutant leaving the house and trying to hide it:
    I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
  • The characters in The Secret Return of Alex Mack are usually Genre Savvy enough to either avoid saying this, immediately regret saying it, or chastise the people around them for saying it. Alex at one point wonders what else could possibly go wrong today, and then apologises to the ceiling when her Terawatt phone goes off.
    Alex: I’m really, really sorry I said it, and I’ll never say it again, okay? Don’t make it be something bad!
  • Metro: As an Epigraph in "Metro 1: Chewing Through The Straps": Chapter 7: Communication Breakdowns:
    "What could possibly go wrong?"
    —No known surviving Whateley instructor. Ever.
  • Used and lampshaded twice in The Pros and Cons to living a triple life:
    • The first time, Ai Chihana asks Riku to help her with a creative writing assignment, wanting to write a trashy tabloid about Sora and Kairi's relationship. Ironically, in this case nothing actually does go wrong.
    Riku: What if your fake article leaks?
    Ai: Aw, don't be so serious, Miyano-senpai! It's just a bogus class assignment. I'll even clear it with Kairi-chan before I submit it for grading. What could possibly go wrong?
    Akira: Well that's a giant flag of doom and despair. If anyone asks, Ryuji and I had nothing to do with this.
    • The second time is when Naminé asks it before taking Ann to a modelling appointment with Yusuke. In response, Xion darkly warns her that literally everything could go wrong. Sure enough, the appointment results in Yusuke trying to blackmail Ann into posing nude for him, much to Naminé's disgust.
  • The Palaververse: Mr Stripes Versus A Cthonic Horror: In the second chapter, Patches's day just got worse, and this kind of phrase is referenced:
    His face twisted with confusion, before collapsing into the haunted look worn by every being who’s just found the universe interpreting the thought ‘Well, at least today can’t get any worse’ as a challenge. “Oh, thod,” he mewled. “It’th you.”

    Films — Animated 
  • Said literally by Genie in a musical number from Aladdin and the King of Thieves, as a comment to the post-Jafar Agrabah. Shortly afterward, the titular King of Thieves reveals his plan to crash and rob Aladdin's and Jasmine's wedding.
  • Invoked in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs:
    Sam: So, you're sure this is safe?
    Flint: Don't worry. I have a dangeometer that lets us know if the food is going to overmutate.
    Sam: What happens if the food overmutates?
    Flint: I dunno. But that'll never happen.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Stoick decides to put Gobber in charge of training the kids to fight dragons while he's away.
    Gobber: Oh, perfect. And while I'm busy, Hiccup can cover the store. Molten steel, razor-sharp blades, lots of time to himself... what could possibly go wrong?
  • The Incredibles has "We're superheroes. What could happen?" Cue a montage of the history of superheroes getting sued, and the eventual banishment of the superhero identity altogether. Then the second time: "We're superheroes. What could happen?" Cue giant robot.
  • As the prologue of Inside Out ends, Joy notes how perfect everything is for Riley and asks "What could happen?" This is followed by Riley's world being shaken up by her move to San Francisco. Joy repeats this at the end of the film, right after their new console has been installed with a puberty alarm light.
  • In Megamind, the titular character is bored after he defeats his nemesis, Metroman. So he decides to create a new nemesis by giving someone else Metroman's superpowers. "What could possibly Go wrong?" Minion asks. Well, instead of giving an altruistic person superpowers, he accidentally gives them to an average joe (at best). He decides to go along with the plan anyway. Then, after said average joe decides he would rather be a supervillain, Megamind starts mocking him in every way possible.
  • Played for Laughs in The Mitchells vs. the Machines, when during the montage of their family road trip Rick says that he booked the family for a seven-hour donkey hike. When Katie says it sounds dangerous, Rick replies "What could go wrong?" with a Gilligan Cut to the family getting caught in a rainstorm with Rick shouting "Get to the bridge if you want to live!" and one of the donkeys drowning in a river behind them.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie: Jojo assures the girls that Townsville will love them after they help him with his plan. Suuuuuure, they will.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Deep Blue Sea. A research base experimenting with genetically enhanced super-intelligent sharks is placed in the middle of the ocean.
  • Fantastic Four (2005) sees Reed Richards trying to assuage Ben Grimm's concerns over the mission at the beginning of the film with the assurance that it's just a few days in space "What's the worst that could happen?" Once Ben becomes the Thing, he sarcastically repeats Reed's assurances to himself.
  • Lampshaded by Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters: "Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back".
  • Hot Shots!: Pete "Dead Meat" Thompson is being treated for his injuries. When his friends express concern, Dead Meat says, "I'm in a hospital! What could go wrong?: The next scene is Dead Meat's funeral.
  • The Ladykillers (1955): Professor Marcus says this when Mrs. Wilberforce has unknowingly collected the stolen money. From then on, everything goes wrong.
  • This trope is such a central part of the movie License to Drive, not only is the exact phrase used, not only is it used by the main character, not only is the moment he says it featured prominently in the movie's trailer... but he addresses the question directly to the audience! Of course, as it turns out, the answer is "practically everything that could."
  • From The Mummy. They find the ancient Egyptian "Book of the Dead", and Evey decides to read from it. "No harm ever came from reading a book", she says. Cue the eponymous Mummy waking up and trying to kill everybody.
    • Played through again in the sequel and lampshaded.
      Eve: It's only a chest. No harm ever came from opening a chest.
      Rick: Yeah, and no harm ever came from reading a book. Remember how that one went?
  • RoboCop (1987): Let's test a new model of robot police enforcer with live ammunition! What Could Possibly Go Wrong? OCP never learned their lesson - they do the same again later on with the "new and improved" RoboCop 2.
  • In Star Wars - A New Hope:
    Commander #1: We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?
    Grand Moff Tarkin: Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.
    • The radio adaptation puts his overconfidence down to having just been told by Motti that he could use the Death Star to overthrow the Emperor and rule in his place.
  • The Terminator: "There's over 30 cops in this building. You're perfectly safe here." Oh, how wrong you are, Detective Traxler.
  • Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact: The JSDF Commander and resident millstone, Commander Shigemura, approaches every problem by ordering his fleet of drones to fire missiles until the problem goes away, including the benevolent, gentle monster Don Dragon, and later, on Psycho Baltan. The latter ends up deciding that humanity is too much of a threat to be left alive, and promptly decides to invade Tokyo.
  • The print ad for the 1973 movie Westworld reads "where nothing can possibly go worng [sic]".
  • In Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Zack uses the fateful words "What Can Go Wrong?" the night before the crew was planning to shoot the real action for their movie. Since this happens only halfway in the movie, you don't need to be a genius to know what to expect after that phrase.

    Literature 
  • In the novel The Amorous Umbrella the hero is trapped in a world based on the more melodramatic 1950s soap operas. By that world's natural laws, the surest way of committing suicide is to say "I've never felt better in my life".
  • Animorphs: Since improvising is a big part of their plans, this tends to happen often. Tobias even lampshades this in his own plan at one point.
  • This is the plot of the book and film Fail Safe. An accidental nuclear attack on the USSR is impossible, Mr. President. Ditto Dr. Strangelove. In fact, they sued Fail Safe because it was so similar.
  • This is often said by many characters in the Goosebumps novels, mainly the protagonists, when they are about to do a task that is sure to end in dire consequences. Expect this to end as you would expect.
  • Jurassic Park. Although in this one, the critical "thing" that could happen (the control system being hacked, among other things) isn't clearly foreshadowed. But c'mon, an island full of vicious dinosaurs run by a man who continuously insists everything is perfectly safe is just asking for trouble. (In the book, this is all but Ian Malcolm's sarcastic catchphrase.)
  • Ramayana:
    • A Rakshasa general leads his 14,000 troops against one man: Rama. His last words: "He's only one man."
    • Ravanna the Demon-King was so hard to kill because of blessings he extorted from Brahma that prevented gods and demons and such-like from killing him. He disdained to get immunities from humans or animals, because they were mere food. What could they possibly do?
  • One of Spike Milligan's silly poems for kids has the King of China declare "I've never felt finer!" — and then promptly keel over and die.
  • W. D. Robert's children's mystery, entitled "What could go wrong?" The answer? Just about everything that could when you have three kids (one of whom is very accident prone) and send them off to visit their aunt—alone. Oh, and don't forget the guys with guns.
  • In Septimus Heap, Marcia's comments about Septimus's Darke Week opening up channels for the Darke to come out and Septimus's reassurance against it already foreshadow the outbreak of the Darke Domaine in Darke.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Ron asks "Have you ever heard of a plan where so many things could go wrong?" and while things don't go exactly according to plan, it does go mostly right.
  • Parodied by Saintess Summons Skeletons when Sofia is making grand plans for her necromancy career.
    Who could stop her if she wanted to be a helpful necromancer? Besides the church, and the king, and the guards, and anyone physically stronger than her.
  • There Is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns: Delta is choosing a guardian for her new waterfall pool, and spots an option to generate a random one. And actually asks aloud, "I mean, what's the worst that can happen?" How about a tremendous bobbit worm?
  • Jerome K Jerome 's Three Men On The Bummel:Three Englishmen go on a cycling trip through the Black Forest area of Germany around the turn of the last century. One of them speaks fluent German. Exercise, beautiful countryside, good beer. What could possibly go wrong?
  • John Ringo 's Tiger By The Tail has the Kildar and Adams watching their team perform an assault, when the following exchange occurs:
    Adams: So far so good. You know what that means.
    Kildar: Yeah, it's bound to go to hell sooner or later. Wait, let me make sure. What's the worst that could happen?
    Adams: Oh, you evil bastard.
  • What's The Worst That Could Happen? takes its title from an offhand remark Dortmunder makes before he embarks on the initial crime of the novel; burgling an empty house. Needless to say, this crime goes horribly awry and Dortmunder gets arrested. After he escapes, he embarks upon a series of crimes in an attempt to recover the ring that was stolen off him by the householder who caught him. The phrase gets repeated before each of these crimes. Atypically, these crimes are spectacularly successful and net Dortmunder the biggest profits he ever makes in the books, but he fails to obtain the one thing he actually wants: his ring.
  • Green-Sky Trilogy: The highly intelligent and cynical teenaged son of poor drug-addicts. The priest caste could find an excuse to exile the kid Beneath the Earth, or they could decide to co-opt him by making him one of the elevated priest caste. Sure, let's go for the latter option. He'll be so grateful for his Rags to Riches elevation and so spoiled by his new status that he can turn that cynicism against his fellow Kindar and not us, right? That's how Green-Sky ended up with D'ol Neric, who is quite determined to find out every dirty secret he can possibly uncover.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth: While Milo, Tock, and the Humbug are happily driving along a coastal road to Digitopolis, the Humbug says “Nothing can possibly go wrong now!” and is immediately lifted out of the car and onto the Island of Conclusions by an unseen force (known as “jumping to Conclusions”). Tock & Milo then jump there as well by making similar statements.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

Award Shows:

  • Jimmy Fallon used this in a joke while hosting the 2010 Primetime Emmys:
    "NBC asking the host of Late Night to come to Los Angeles to host a different show, what could possibly go wrong?" Camera cuts to Conan O'Brien in the audience.

Series:

  • Angel:
  • A fine example in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Once More With Feeling":
    Dawn: Come on, songs, dancing around... What's gonna be wrong with that?
    • Snap cut to the demon Sweet looking at one of the dancers burst into flames.
    • Lampshaded in "School Hard":
      Xander: As long as nothing really bad happens between now and then, you'll be fine.
      Buffy: Are you crazy? What did you say that for? Now something bad is gonna happen!
      Xander: Whaddaya mean? Nothing's gonna happen.
      Willow: Not until some dummy says, 'as long as nothing bad happens!'
      Buffy: It's the ultimate jinx!
      Willow: What Were You Thinking? Or were you even thinking at all?
      • He then goes on to compound the error by saying
        Xander: You don't know. Maybe this time it'll be different.
  • Being very Genre Savvy, Chuck and Morgan on Chuck are very quick to comment if someone says it. Hilariously, even Casey calls Sarah out when she invokes this trope.
  • The premise of every episode of the 1984-86 US TV series Crazy Like a Fox. The series starred Jack Warden as Harry Fox, a free-spirited private detective who lived by his wits and John Rubinstein as his high-strung attorney son Harrison who unwillingly and frequently found himself dragged into his father's cases. The show's opening would always feature Harry and Harrison talking on the phone in their offices like this:
    Harrison: Hello?
    Harry: Harrison, I need your help.
    Harrison: Dad, you keep forgetting. I'm a lawyer. You're the detective!
    Harry: Aw, come on son. All I need is a ride. What could possibly happen?
    (cue opening credits scene of the two leaping out a window)
  • Doctor Who:
    • Lampshaded in "The Horns of Nimon". Unfortunately, the Doctor does not learn...
      Romana: Don't you think that's a bit dangerous?
      The Doctor: No, I don't. What could possibly go–
      [lurch; the Doctor falls]
      The Doctor: Ow! Wrong. You know, I've simply got to stop saying that. Every single time I say what could possibly go wrong, something goes–
      [lurch]
    • "The Satan Pit":
      Ida: We've come this far, there's no turning back.
      The Doctor: Oh, did you have to? "No turning back"? That's almost as bad as "Nothing could possibly go wrong" or "This is gonna be the best Christmas Walford's ever had."
    • The Doctor later lets loose with this at the start of "Midnight"; his tone suggests he wants something to go wrong. It does, and he's very sorry by the end of the episode.
    • "Amy's Choice": At one point, Rory insists that nothing bad could ever happen in his idyllic life in Upper Leadworth — seconds before the Doctor discovers, via the remains of a class of disintegrated schoolchildren, that things have gone badly wrong in said idyllic life.
    • "The Lodger": The Eleventh Doctor uses this to describe his plan to pass as a normal person for a few days. Nothing catastrophic happens, but "normal" is the last word anyone would use to describe Eleven.
      The Doctor: Now all I've got to do is pass as an ordinary human being. Simple. What could possibly go wrong?
      Amy: Have you seen you?
    • In "The Doctor's Wife", he's knocked together an improvised TARDIS from spare parts.
      The Doctor: Right, perfect, look at that; what could possibly go wrong? [A bit falls off the console with a crash] That's fine; that always happens.
  • On Doogie Howser, M.D., Doogie's best friend is trying to convince him to go with him to check out a car after work. He warns Doogie not to try to get out of it with some gallbladder emergency. Doogie assures him it's a Wednesday and nothing ever happens on a Wednesday. Then he walks away from the TV where the news announcer says "The Verdict in the Rodney King Trial has just come in," and the Intro begins.
  • Crichton on Farscape has said this non-ironically several times, and immediately tries to take it back afterwards. It doesn't help.
  • In the Father Ted Christmas episode Mrs. Doyle informs Ted that in his absence Dougal has conducted a funeral service. Ted is horrified but Mrs. Doyle asks how bad it could be. Cut to the cemetery, where the mourners are distraught, the hearse is on fire in the grave and Dougal is looking even more bewildered than usual.
  • In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, when Wayne says it, the dog he's talking to leaves the room.
  • Subverted in Malcolm in the Middle: Reese and Malcolm blackmail a pervert to facilitate underage gambling, and Malcolm says this trope to the audience. Nothing really bad comes of the scheme, and they're never found out - the only problems come from what they spend all their winnings on.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode covering Soultaker, during one of the host segments, when Mike declares that despite all expectations he's fixed the Satellite of Love.
    Mike: ...what could possibly go wrong?
    [warning beep, overhead oxygen masks drop]
    Servo: How about everything?!
    [all scream as SoL nosedives]
  • MythBusters: The narrator often uses this phrase, as do the hosts on occasion. When the Narrator uses it, something usually (but not always) goes wrong; when the hosts use it, they're usually using it as ironic Lampshade Hanging of how dangerous the situation is, so it's a toss-up as to whether something actually will go wrong.
  • These exact words are uttered in the Season 4 episode 22 of Raising Hope. "We have three days, your father's credit card, and a wedding planned by an eight yearold. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"
  • Saturday Night Live: In the Feb. 4, 2017 cold open, a cranky Trump (Alec Baldwin) agrees to call other heads-of-state without getting briefed first, asking what could go wrong.
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Arthur's Mantle", Carter is fiddling around with an Ancient device and discovers the device is emitting a fluctuating energy signature.
    Carter: I'm gonna try to stabilize it.
    Mitchell: Sure. What have you got to lose?
    [They're both immediately put "out of phase" and can't interact with the rest of the cast. Mitchell is usually so Genre Savvy...]
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Our Man Bashir", Garak ends the teaser by saying "What could possibly go wrong?" Well, it's probably a Lampshade Hanging for the frequency of a Holodeck Malfunction in a fairly trope-heavy episode. The holodeck later malfunctions and they're stuck in a James Bond simulation for the entire episode.
  • At the end of the finale of Star Trek: Picard, Seven of Nine—now Captain of the USS Enterprise-G—says this word-for-word when now-First Officer Commander Raffaela Musiker and now-Counselor Ensign Jack Crusher Jr. lampshade that they were given this command despite having recently been criminals who were pardoned for literally saving the entire Federation from dual Borg/Changeling threats.
    Raffi: I still can't believe Starfleet saw fit to give a thief, a pirate, and a spy their own ship.
    Jack: A bunch of ne'er-do-wells and rule-breakers, really.
    Seven: What could possibly go wrong?
  • Said word for word by Dean in the season 7 finale of Supernatural, about making a bargain with Crowley.
  • The predictable Sitcom variety is parodied on That Mitchell and Webb Look, in the "Get Me Hennimore" sketches. The boss gives his The Ditz employee a truly preposterous set of tasks to do, with maximum scope for confusion, embarrassment and general disarray, and tops it off by wondering aloud how his instructions could possibly be misconstrued; Gilligan Cut to the smoking aftermath. "HenniMOOOORE!"
  • Jeremy Clarkson saying, "How hard can it be?" on Top Gear, always uttered before they show a segment where the presenters have to work on cars.
    Richard: Oh, how I've missed the pang of dread every time you say the words "How hard can it be?"
    • Lampshaded by Clarkson himself quite often when he says, after discovering just how hard it can be,
  • Lampshaded on The West Wing:
    Toby: It's not going to be a big deal.
    Sam: Isn't that what we usually say right before something becomes a big deal?
    • Played straight in "Mr. Willis of Ohio":
      Josh: The President's daughter, chief of staff's daughter, a Georgetown bar and Sam. What could possibly go wrong?
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong? is the title of a show on Discovery revolving around this trope. The initial idea/inspiration for a build is never terribly well thought through, but that won't stop the hosts from trying it anyway.

    Newspapers 
  • Oh, boy! It's a title of a oddball story from about Tour De Paris for prisoners. If you don't believe us, check this out.

    Theatre 
  • In the opening scene of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown says "How could anything go wrong on a day like this?" And of course, chaos follows. Good grief!

    Theme Parks 
  • In Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast at Universal Studios, Jimmy responds, "What could go wrong?" when Carl questions how safe it is to have mere guests help chase down Ooblar in the "slightly unpredictable" Mark I rocket. Even further foreshadowing the chaotic events of the ride, Jimmy proceeds to turn on the Mark I rocket, which immediately sparks and sputters in response.
  • In Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Seeker says "What could go wrong?" when convincing the guests to trust him in his mission to rescue an Iguanadon. Naturally, things go wrong.

    Video Games 
  • Bubsy is responsible for the Trope Namer, with it being his catchphrase. He also extensively says it in the unaired pilot, and the saying is even the pilot's title!
  • RuneScape: "A creepy child in a dark clearing. What could go wrong here?" She turns out to be an immensely powerful vampyre, that's what.
  • Dead Space; breaking down entire planets for their mineral resources, hmm, not too bad, already pretty dangerous, but it's mundane dangerous, what are the odds of finding some VERY unwanted cargo when you start mining the place? Though you eventually discover it's closer to Gone Horribly Right. Given how much Hollywood Biology you need to justify a species surviving having its planet torn apart...About a Million to One Chance.
  • In Dr. Muto, Dr. Muto says this before turning on his everlasting power source, which five seconds after being turned on blows up the entire planet, except for his house.
  • Half-Life. Black Mesa. "The possibility of a Resonance Cascade scenario is extremely unlikely". Of course, there wouldn't have been a game without it. (Freeman's Mind: "Yeah, well, that's why we have insurance.")
  • Usedd in Dragon Age II, in which Varric observes that 'I don't like this' is right up there with 'What could possibly go wrong?' when it comes to Tempting Fate. This is also one of Snarky! Hawke's lines during their last talk with Varric before the final battle, and he will call you on it again.
  • Homeworld Cataclysm. Let's open a million years old alien pod after having tucked ourselves in the furthest corner of the galaxy, where no one can come to our aid in case something goes wrong!
  • Persona 2: Innocent Sin, when the party is at Xibalba, where it's revealed later on that their thoughts become reality there: (Fan Translation version.)
    Ginko: I've had just about enough! The scenery here never changes!! Enough, enough, enough!
    Eikichi: Quit whining!! How about this idea? Would you be happier if there had been a waterfall or somethin'? Huh!?
    Maya: Shh! Be quiet... That noise... Could it be!?
    (Cue Waterfall up ahead.)
  • BioShock: Andrew Ryan wakes up one day and goes, "I know, I'll create a submerged city with 1940 technology where the law of the jungle is the only real rule, and everyone is free to do whatever they wish as long as it profits them. What Could Possibly Go Wrong" When the player stumbles upon it, the question that comes to mind is "What didn't?"
  • In Seven Days A Skeptic practically everything on the ship is built on the assumption that nothing will go wrong (whereas in Real Life the opposite holds true). Examples include escape pods that need to be fueled up for hours before use and the captain's suite emergency unlock, which is installed on the inside. The ship's scanners can also track the number of living beings on board but not their locations, the power source is mounted in a huge shaft with no railings, there's a glass-domed observation deck with no apparent protections against micrometeorites (or radiation, for that matter) and the prison cell uses a force field instead of metal bars that won't vanish in case of power failure. No wonder the engineer spent most of his time hiding in the dining area and making the counselor fix things for him - he must've had a breakdown on the first day and been in denial since.
  • In Mass Effect, the Reapers play the Batman Gambit by letting species of the galaxy find their technology littered across several star systems just so they can advance to a desirable state, ripe for a galactic harvesting. Really, how can this backfire?
  • In Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Jaden Korr is tasked by Kyle Katarn to destroy illegal weapon caches in the planet Ord Mantell. He says: "This should be easy. Just plant some charges, watch the fireworks and come home. What can go wrong?" Well, one notorious clone bounty hunter might just appear.
  • Super Mario Party: The description for Wario's Dice Block, referencing that there's a 1/3 chance of the character not only moving no spaces, but losing two coins in the process.
    Sure, there are some downsides, but every other face has a 6! What could go wrong?
  • Hana says this at the end of Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix. It shows the King of Hell surrounded by fire and laughing hysterically. Those who have played the first game should know exactly what could go wrong.
  • The haiku that describes the Black Cat familiar in Kingdom of Loathing is "What a cute kitty!/What could possibly go wrong,/with her at your side?" It is one of the two most actively harmful familiars in the game, reducing experience gains, depleting MP, destroying randomly dropped items, and occasionally preventing the use of skills and items in combat.
  • In World of Warcraft:
    • An Alliance quest in Vashj'ir has you go kill some demonic octopi that are mind-controlling some of the gilblins and take their heads. The NPC who gives you the quest then suggests you put one of them on your own head, quoting this trope. It turns out the demonic octopus wasn't quite dead...
    • Also in Mt. Hyjal, a quest giver who wants you to save panicked bear cubs stuck in trees by throwing them onto a trampoline states "Nothing can go wrong with this plan.". Unless, of course, you miss the trampoline and throw the cubs to an untimely, squishy death.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, after blowing up a S.T.A.G. aircraft carrier, Pierce will ask what more S.T.A.G. could possibly throw at them. One cutscene later, S.T.A.G. has imposed martial law, raised all of the bridges, and filled the streets with tank squads.
  • In Halo 4's Spartan Ops, there is one chapter titled "Nothing Can Go Wrong". The next chapter is, of course, titled "Everything Has Gone Wrong".
  • In Dungeons & Dragons Online, in the level 7-8 Sentinels of Stormreach quest chain, at the beginning of the Island Assault quest, you are discussing with a House Deneith captain how to go about approaching the island fortress of pirates that are attacking Stormreach, where you are supposed to sabotage its defenses to allow for a full House Deneith invasion. The Captain and the House Deneith Spymaster both offer to bring you to a sensible, remote spot on the island, from where you'd have to make your way inside. The House Deneith archmage however, suggests to magically teleport you, despite a teleport lock protecting the island, by going as close as the teleport lock allows. Following his plan, your character proclaims "Of course! Clearly, nothing could go wrong with this plan!" Jump Cut to your teleport transporting you right onto the bridge of an anchored pirate ship, immediately being attacked by a red, named Minotaur Mini-Boss.
  • Almost said word-for-word in the job application ad at the beginning of Five Nights at Freddy's 2. Let's just say that it starts at murderous animatronics and gets worse from there.
  • In the introduction to the "Tool Fool" quest in Archie: Riverdale Rescue Archie, who plans on using a calculator to help him with his algebra homework, says this word for word before realizing that he forgot to get new batteries.
  • Subverted by The Book of Unwritten Tales:
    Nate: Oh come on, this temple is ancient. What could happen to us here?
    Beat
    Nate: Shouldn't something unexpected have happened there?
    • Double Subverted a moment later, when the floor collapses under the characters.
  • Fallen London:
    • If you want to convert a large number of Maniac's Prayers into Correspondence Plaques (a process that involves endless repetition of several Madness Mantras without being sure what they mean), the associated option is described entirely with the phrase, "This is a plan without a flaw nor any possibility of error!".
    • In your Laboratory, one of your options for getting rid of Unwise Ideas is to Perform an Unsafe Experiment. It comes with the phrase "What's the worst that could happen? Well, you could die." Though in all fairness, dying isn't that bad.
  • In The Darkside Detective, McQueen wonders if it's safe to leave Dooley's nephew unattended in the queue to Santa's Grotto, and Dooley remarks, "It's Christmas Eve in Twin Lakes, what could possibly go wrong?" before acknowledging that that was a foolish question. Magical mischief ensues soon after, with the Grotto at ground zero.
  • In Matchington Mansion Tiffany says this word for word after she suggests doubling the temperature for a recipe to make it cook twice as fast.
  • World of Horror: Many of the opening preambles for the various mysteries include some turn on the phrase "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Despite the fact that the protagonist is trying to prevent an Eldritch Abomination from awakening.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has an early quest where you have to convince local former prospector Easy Pete to loan you his dynamite for a coming fight. However, he refuses to do so unless you seem to actually know how to use dynamite (that is to say, unless you've put points in the Explosives skill), since he thinks you'll blow yourself otherwise. If you do have points in the skill, you professionally tell him you're trained and experienced in handling dynamite. If you haven't, you can respond with "How hard can it be? Just light them and throw." Needless to say, it fails to convince him.
  • Love of Magic: MC asks this word-for-word just before the Confluence shows up and causes a Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario with Emily.
  • In Spore there used to be a "Bad Baby!" achievement, which you could only get if a creation of yours was banned from the servers. Naturally, everyone and their mother started deliberately uploading offensive creations in order to get this achievement. It got so bad that the achievement was eventually removed from the game.
  • At the beginning of The Last of Us: Left Behind, Riley convinces Ellie to sneak out with her asking, 'Come on, when have we ever gotten into trouble?' They both end up getting bitten by infected.
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn, Ted Faro demanded from the designers and programmers of Faro Automated Solutions that the new "Chariot Line" of "Peacekeeping Robots" be a) Completely impervious to being hacked, b) Capable of converting biomass into fuel for themselves "in emergencies", and c) Capable of self-replication. So, what could possible go wrong? The complete and utter extinction of life on Earth, that's what.

    Webcomics 
  • In Monster of the Week strip Tunguska Mulder forgets that he's in a TV show and asks Scully what could go wrong. Well... he's in Russia. With Krycek. Seconds later, they're attacked by angry Russians on horses and captured.
  • Said several times in Schlock Mercenary, and started many more, but the speakers were cut off by someone else.
    Ventura: Oh come on what's the wor…
    Kevyn: You have not worked here long enough to be allowed to finish that sentence.
    • Or this classic :
      Thurl: It'll be a perfect, low risk shakedown tour. I've run a cost-benefit analysis, and it remains profitable even in extreme contingencies.
      Tagon: Did you weasel-word your way around saying "What's the worst that can happen?"
      Thurl: Hey, you just now invoked Murphy, not me. Those weasel-words are there for our protection.

    Web Original 
  • DeceasedCrab likes this trope a lot as he often says "What's the worst thing that could happen? Please don't answer that." Since he has played every game that he LPs before, things often do go wrong afterwards.
  • Rebecca from Demo Reel says this right before things start going diabolusly wrong. As an actress who has produced her own one-woman shows, she really should have known better.
  • The two Michaels in Doomsday Arcade often, in early episodes, come up with ideas, complete with Imagine Spot, and say "I see no other possible outcome". Naturally, none of these plans work at all, which leads to their eventual observation that they should really stop saying that.
  • Common scenario of GeminiLaser's Blooper and Tricks videos. But this one takes the cake.
  • Raising Angels: The author literally invokes this trope in the story's tagline.
  • Whateley Universe: Phase said it in an early chapter of Ayla and the Birthday Brawl. Readers know what Phase doesn't: an internationally feared supervillains with a major grudge against Team Kimba was told about Ayla's planned party, and has a week to plot something really nasty.
    • Phase probably knows just what's going to go wrong, seeing as it's happened on both of his previous trips... and has had everyone else telling him exactly just that for a few episodes. In consideration of this, he's managed to invite - in a relatively roundabout way - enough students with oddball and incredible powers, alongside an ex-Admiral with a nanite swarm guiding her every move. Obviously, this means that he's prepared for nearly every eventuality.
  • In Noob, the secret that got revealed in the franchise-wide Wham Episode must have been in this situation prior to being uncovered. On one side, the creator of the game was getting his star player's gaming avatar illegally boosted as a marketing ploy to make him an unattainable goal for other players, without said star player's knowledge; in other words, a situation that would be quite bad for him if it ever got discovered. On the other hand, a hacker who wants to drive people off the MMORPG in which the story is set is known to be regularly breaking into the game's system. It was totally not a matter of time before the secret would become public.
  • Used sarcastically in the PC Gamer Saturday Crapshoot article written by Richard Cobbett on the Leisure Suit Larry wannabe Les Manley: Lost in LA.
    Cobbett: Normally, a sequel is the game that takes the good bits of the original and makes the most of them. Since Search for THE KING had no good bits, Lost in LA was in trouble. Its solution? Grab a camera, hire some bikini girls, and hope like hell that sexism would sell. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Invoked almost word for word with a dash of scientific illiteracy and innumeracy, commenting on the decision to dump 777,000 tons of water mildly contaminated with tritium into the Pacific Ocean. The resulting radiation will be lost in the noise of background radiation.
  • The Music Video Show does this in the Kanye West episode for Touch The Sky when he says that they didn't have enough time to do any test runs with the rocket, didn't put any gasoline in the gasoline tank or an emergency parachute or an ejector's seat and then asking if anyone brought the fireproof suit from the cleaners. Oh Kanye crashes,dies and bursts into flames. Was there a mention of the workers giving Kanye LIFE INSURANCE forms for him and his girlfriend...?
  • Frequently in Farce of the Three Kingdoms, usually when a plan has several incredibly obvious flaws that the genius who suggested it helpfully described.
    Advisor: “You know what you could do? You could not give him any food, call off his backup, and leave him to go all 300 on the enemy. We’re just holding a shaky alliance together against a ruthless common foe, what’s the worst that could happen?”

    Western Animation 
  • At the end of the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Earth King" Sokka says "Come on. What could possibly go wrong?". Cue cuts to different plot revealing ways it will, by Ba Sing Se being taken over by Azula and the Fire Nation.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse has an episode with Ben in an alternate universe. His counterpart says the phrase. Ben expects it to be bad, but nothing happens because they're in another universe and apparently, in that universe the phrase isn't associated with bad things happening.
  • This is literally the title of the pilot (and only) episode of the cartoon based on Bubsy. It's also his catchphrase during said show.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: This is one of Gadget's replies whenever she is testing a new invention or device. The other Rangers tend to know that this means something will go wrong and dive for cover.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Sector V is out of power due to the hamsters taking a vacation (courtesy of Numbah 3). This leaves them vulnerable to attack from any adult forces, as Numbah 1 proclaims. Numbuh 5 asks what's the worst that could happen, which is immediately followed by Gramma Stuffum crashing through the wall behind Numbah 1.
    Numbuh 5: "Relax. What's the worst that could happen?"
    Numbuh 1: "What Could Happen?!" (Stuffum breaks into the base)
    Numbuh 1: (pointing at Stuffum) "That Could Happen!!!"
  • The basis of virtually every mission the Vulture Squadron encounters on Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
  • This becomes Spanky Ham's catchphrase on Drawn Together.
  • In the Duckman episode "Clear and Presidente Danger", Duckman begins wondering out-loud about becoming the new leader of the third-world country Porto Guano and ends with "What Could Possibly go Wrong?" Cornfed breaks the fourth wall to say to the audience "For a complete list, please send $12 to Journal Graphics, Washington, DC, 20300."
  • The Fairly OddParents!: When Timmy gets his daily life turned into a reality TV show, Executive Meddling forces him to adopt the trope title as his Catchphrase. Then, when Timmy invokes the phrase while referring to his mom's cooking, she thinks Timmy is insulting her and promptly grounds him. In turn, Timmy's mom ends up getting replaced by Florence Henderson.
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Curly's Girl", Rhonda plans to wear her mother's birthday present mink coat, thinking nothing can go wrong. Surprise, she gets a candy apple stuck on the white coat, leaving a big red stain. This sets up Rhonda's problems for the rest of the episode, when Curly uses her predicament to blackmail her into pretending to be his girlfriend.
    Rhonda: I can't believe this! My mother's mink!
  • Looney Tunes: Wile E. Coyote usually asks a variation on the theme, shortly thereafter finding out exactly what can go wrong.
  • Jet says this in the Ready Jet Go! special Back to Bortron 7, after Sean says that he hopes that he doesn't regret going to Bortron 7. Tons of things go wrong. The group finds out that after Carrot and Celery do their presentation, they will be done with Earth, and they will be assigned to another planet. They can't go back to Earth, meaning that Sean and Sydney will never go back to Earth. Also, Mitchell almost exposes Jet's alien identity to the public.
  • Regular Show has quite a few examples, especially "Appreciation Day", which has a manager's book in which only the truth can be written. Rigby and Mordecai write tall tales in it.
  • Robot Chicken:
    • In the Star Wars special, a segment focuses on Palpatine having a very bad day as he first arrives on the second Death Star, culminating in the air conditioning duct over his chair breaking and blasting him continuously with frigid air. He turns to his red-robed guard and says:
      Palpatine: Wanna see me tempt fate? "Could this day get any worse?" I did it ironically, so I think I'm safe.
    • Cut to Darth Vader throwing him into the reactor shaft.
  • Rocket Power: In "Down the Drain", Sam asks what could go wrong when he's about to drain the Stimpletons' pool so he and his friends could skateboard there. Instead of sending the water down the drain, he flooded the Rockets' basement.
  • Implied in an episode of Slacker Cats. Buckley, wanting to get some cash, convinces Dooper to climb inside the body of a dead cat so that he can collect the "lost pet" reward offered for it. Later, when Dooper tells him it's "pretty horrible living inside a dead cat", Buckley comes up with the new plan of having Dooper pretend to die so that the family will bury the dead cat, then they will dig him up before he really dies. Dooper has reservations, but Buckley reassures him that, "It's a good plan Dooper, now die please". The family has the dead pet cremated rather than bury it.
  • The Simpsons: In "Itchy & Scratchy Land", the family is taking a helicopter into the park when the pilot comes over the PA: "Welcome to Itchy & Scratchy Land, the advanced amusement park where nothing can possi-blye go wrong. ...Possibly go wrong. That's...the first thing that's ever gone wrong." Most of the rest of the episode is an homage to Westworld, featuring murderous Itchy and Scratchy robots malfunctioning and trying to kill everyone.
  • In the South Park episode "Free Hat", the boys form a club to save movies from their directors. When they get an appearance on Nightline, Cartman says he will speak because he's the spokesman. When Kyle tells him not to screw up, he says the trope. Besides immediately relinquishing the job to Tweek when Ted Koppel asks why they advocate toddler murder (It Makes Sense in Context), the appearance also gives Steven Spielberg the idea to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Wishfart: In the episode "Team Shazamrock", the young leprechauns who join Dez's eponymous Scout-Out declare this to be the group's motto with wish-granting. Dez (who has more than his fair share of experiences of wishes gone wrong) voices surprise and concern about this.
    Dez: It is? That doesn't sound like a very smart motto.
  • Used for effect in Young Justice (2010), Season 2 features Artermis coming out of retirement to help the Team one more time, with her reassuring Wally "What could happen?" Smash Cut to Nightwing frantically giving her mouth-to-mouth before declaring her dead. Subverted in that Artemis's death was faked. The discussion was serious, but actually directed towards what could happen afterwards, which actually ended well... for Artemis at least. Double Subverted in that something bad ultimately happens to Wally.

 
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How Hard Can It Be?

When Rafael makes the point that if humans have invented ways to fly then how hard can it really be for Blu to fly. Cue a hang glider with two people taking off with the man on the bottom screaming ''Mommy!'' while his camera, money and wallet fall out causing Blu to get very nervous.

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