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"What Do They Fear?" Episode

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"So suddenly everyone's having this big share-fest around the fire. Like Beth went on and on about how her mortal fear is being covered by bugs. Harold's afraid of ninjas, even Heather admitted that she's afraid of sumo wrestlers!"
Gwen, Total Drama Island, "Phobia Factor"

An episode where the cast ends up in a situation where their worst fears come to life and must stand up to their phobias to defeat the villain that conjured them.

Related to Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? May be part of Hiccup Hijinks since a common way to get rid of hiccups is with fear. At least one character may have an Absurd Phobia that sticks out among the fears.

It is very popular to name this episode "Fear Itself" or "Nothing To Fear."

See also I Know What You Fear, Face Your Fears, Fear Is Normal.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: When a quincy with the power to incite primal fear in his opponents confronts the Sixth Division, there's an entire chapter devoted to what Byakuya himself is afraid of. The consequences end up being one of the most Family-Unfriendly Violence moments in the entire manga. Paralysed by the sight of Rukia's gruesomely decomposing face, Byakuya suffers one of the most graphically drawn defeats in the entire manga. He is literally shredded to the bone by his own bankai and left pinned to a wall by his own blood, his chest ripped open to the ribcage.
  • One episode of Digimon Data Squad had the main cast captured and made to face their worst fears courtesy of MetalPhantomon's powers.
  • In Dorohedoro, En has Fujita, Ebisu, and Chota consume a special brand of mushroom he intends to sell on the market called "Dream Machine", which causes consumers to fall into a immediate sleep and live out their desired dreams. Unfortunately as En and the others found out, after a short period, a side-effect occurs that causes them to experience their deepest fears; Ebisu had to relive watching her past-self with her family, Fujita is scared of being abandoned by his comrades, and En is terrified of turning into a mushroom and getting wilted.
  • In Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, the characters pay a visit to a Abandoned Hospital and Sousuke, completely unaffected by appearances of ghosts, zombies, and whatever, nearly freaks out in panic when it seems that Kaname has been injured.
  • An early episode of Galaxy Angel revealed that Forte is deathly afraid of (and allergic to) rodents. Despite Normad's clear intent to use this for blackmail, it's never brought up again in the anime.
  • Similarly, Inuyasha also has an episode dedicated to this trope, in which the whole main cast is trapped and forced to see their worst fears.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the club members try to scare Haruhi and fail. It turns out she is only scared of thunder/lightning.
  • Ranma ½'s Ranma has one of these. They find out that he's afraid of cats, which is because he was trapped in a pit of hungry cats whilst covered in fish by his father, on the advice of a training book.
  • In an episode of Ronin Warriors, Dais revealed to Kento that the more he used his Hardrock Armor, the more bloodlust he would experience. Instead of being able to use the armor for good, he would use it for evil. For a while, Kento was afraid to summon his full armor in fear of hurting his loved ones. But when saw Yuli get hurt, he decided to push aside his fear, armored up, and defeated Dais.
  • Yusei of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is practically crippled by fear after losing his duel with Kiryu (once his best friend and Big Brother Mentor now brought Back from the Dead — which Yusei blames himself for — and psychotically evil), as if he's so unfamiliar with the emotion, he has no idea how to deal with it (dialogue Dub Induced Plot Holes regarding visually non-existent entomophobia aside).

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in the Batman storyline Knightfall. The Scarecrow turns his toxin on The Joker to discover what he fears. The answer: Nothing.
    • In the same storyline, Batman's biggest fear is revealed to be Jason Todd's death - which already happened. Cue Unstoppable Rage at Joker.
    • Really, this happens to everyone, heroes and villains, who comes into contact with fear gas. Bats has also been beaten with memories of his parents' deaths (in both The Long Halloween and Batman: Arkham Asylum); Catwoman had a good ol' wrestle with her relationship with Batman in Catwoman: When in Rome; and the Riddler is scared of the Joker. (But then, so is half the DC universe.)
    • Incidentally, if Blackest Night is to be believed, the only thing that scares Scarecrow is Batman. The only thing - using his fear gas so much has made Scarecrow not just immune to its effects but to feeling fear period. Except, as stated, the fear of Batman, to which there is no immunity.
    • A crossover with Judge Dredd had Scarecrow using his fear gas on Judge Death. It seems Death is afraid of plushies.
  • In the Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines story "Spy in the Sky" (Gold Key, Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #3), Dick Dastardly sends Muttley on a spy mission to find out what Yankee Doodle Pigeon fears. Yankee Doodle suspects he's being spied upon so he makes Muttley think he's afraid of lightning. Armed with this info, Dastardly has the Squadron round up lightning clouds and push them towards the pigeon. Of course, it backfires: the pigeon kitted his flight helmet with lightning rods while the lightning grounds the Squadron.
    Dastardly: (to Muttley) "Afraid of lightning," you said... give me those medals!!
  • In ElfQuest's Trial of Head, Hand and Heart arc, the Trial of Heart involves Savah mind-probing Cutter and Rayek to learn their deepest fears, and then setting challenges to see whether they can overcome them. The twist is that Cutter's challenge turns out to be Rayek's as well.
  • The Captain America/Thor-centric Marvel Crisis Crossover Fear Itself is one of these. The main plot involves Red Skull find the hammer of and resurrecting the spirit of the long dead Norse fear god. In the first issue as soon as Odin becomes aware of this he immediately tells Thor and the rest of Asgardians to pack their bags because they're leaving earth while they're still alive. Also, solicitations for tie-ins seem to indicate that there will be a lot of stories featuring the heroes of the Marvel universe facing their deepest fears head on.
  • A He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) comic depicted the old toyline character Scare-Glow as having I Know What You Fear powers, and after being pressed into Skeletor's employ he forced He-Man, Teela, and Man-at-Arms to confront their greatest fears. For Man-at-Arms, it was growing old and weak; for Teela, it was failure; for He-Man, it was disappointing his parents (really). Man-at-Arms and Teela are totally cowed by the illusions Scare-Glow shows them, but He-Man snaps out of his with help from Orko and saves the day.
  • In the arc The Terror of Trigon, the Teen Titans were subjected to their greatest fears while Raven and Trigon rampaged throughout the city (and the world, even).
    • Nightwing, Dick Grayson (the first Robin), feared that he had to remain Robin (otherwise, Batman would be in danger - none of his successors were good enough of a Robin) and wouldn't be allowed to grow up and become his own man.
    • Kid Flash (Wally West) was afraid of becoming Evil-Raven's love slave due to her powers influencing him into joining the Titans (which emphasizes his struggle with indecision).
    • Wonder Girl, Donna Troy, feared killing her husband, which illustrates that she felt forced to choose between being either a mortal woman or an Amazon - not both.
    • Changeling (Beast Boy) feared that he was the reason for his loved ones' deaths (his parents, adoptive mother Elastigirl from Doom Patrol, Terra, and so on) and that he was nothing but a monster.
    • Cyborg feared that he was not a true man, but rather a cold machine, and that his family and friends would reject him thusly.
    • Starfire feared her friends betraying her, her homeworld being destroyed, and being forced into slavery for the second time by her sister.
  • In Spotlight: Hoist, the titular Autobot is trapped on a planet with Swerve, Perceptor, Sunstreaker, and Bob the Insecticon being stalked by a fear projector that physically manifests the greatest fear of whichever Autobot it locks onto; Hoist realizes this when he is attacked by Swerve's greatest fear, a combiner formed from Megatron, Shockwave, and Tarn, and is almost killed by Bob's greatest fear, Metroplex's foot.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has a version of this in the sequel, with the spirit inhabiting the Fallen Fortress mining Harry, Sirius, Ron, and Hermione's minds for fears to use against them (sometimes as solid constructs, sometimes mere illusions). Harry and Sirius are a little rattled, but actually find it rather cathartic, being used to this sort of thing. Ron and Hermione aren't, so... don't.
  • Dark Studios Kids Next Door: During Operation NIGHT, the Boogeyman invades all of Sector V's dreams and gives them nightmares based on what they fear. Numbuh 1 fears not being respected by his teammates because of his girlier hobbies, Numbuh 2 fears that nobody respects his humor, Numbuh 4 fears drowning, and Numbuh 5 fears growing up into a teenager, losing her friends, and becoming just like her sister. Only Numbuh 3's fears aren't shown and she's the one who helps the other break free from their own nightmares, revealing, ironically what the Boogeyman is afraid of: not being viewed as scary.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: In Season 2 Episode 13, a Nightmare Weaver traps most of the main characters in nightmares based on their fears and insecurities — Zim and Tak find themselves back in their banishment jobs on Foodcourtia and Dirt, Skoodge is chased by Slaughtering Rat People on Blorch, Tenn is caught by the Meekrob and thrown to the malfunctioning SIR Units that ruined her mission, Dib finds himself in a post-Alien Invasion world ruled by Zim, Viera is mocked and harassed for believing in magic while no longer remembering anything that proves its existence, and Steve is rendered invisible with no one remembering he exists. After Gaz and Nyx go into their dreams to free them and the combined groups go up against the Weaver, it also provides looks at the former two's nightmares too — Nyx fears being turned back into a mindless drone by the Control Brains, while Gaz fears being made to relive the "Pig Girl" incident.
  • Lord of the Castle: The fic adapts "Only A Dream", and Alucard, Wonder Woman, and Jonn's worst nightmares are exposed alongside the canon examples.
    • For Alucard, it's watching his mother burn at the stake again and when he tries to explain that the real Lisa would never want him to take revenge on humanity, she starts beating and abusing him as the rest of the Justice League turns on him.
    • For Wonder Woman, it's Themyscira being set on fire while her mother is made into an unwilling servant of Hades, who has also killed the entire Justice League because Wonder Woman, desperate to save her mother, sold out their weaknesses to him, and he plans on killing and reviving the Justice League over and over again.
    • For J'onn, it's the Imperium threatening and killing his family and the Justice League, lambasting him for poisoning them and making it clear they will raze Earth as well.
  • Total Drama Everything: The fear factor challenge is brought back for the first story, using a mix of fears that characters had expressed in their own works and fears created for the series. Amusingly, Shrek is quick to realize that if everyone discusses their fears over the campfire, it will lead to this challenge, but he's ignored.
  • Total Drama: Unfinished Business: The fear factor challenge returns and while some characters keep their old fears, such Harold's fear of ninjas, Gwen's fear of being buried alive, and Geoff's fear of hail, others have new fears, such as Duncan now being afraid of snapping turtles.
  • Total Drama Legacy: In this fic, which is about the children of Total Drama contestants competing for the million, the Phobia Factor challenge is one of the challenges that returns. Some of the campers have understandable fears (Marlin's fear of clowns, Serena's fear of centipedes, Emilia's fear of dental appointments), while some of them have more unusual ones (Keith's fear of horses, Violet's fear of fish, Storm's fear of getting anything less than a C+ on a test).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: Brought to the team by Scarlet Witch's illusions.
    • Tony sees his friends die.
    • Natasha is forced to relieve her traumatic training.
    • Thor witnesses Hell coming to Asgard.
    • Steve is faced with no war to fight, leaving him without purpose. But he also shows signs of PTSD: When he hears cymbals crash, he ducks and covers his head. A man spills wine on his shirt, and he thinks it's a bullet wound. A woman's lipstick looks like blood splatter. The people dancing look like they're fighting, and two men almost do start a fight. His eyes nervously scan the room as though he's waiting for an attack, and he flinches when he sees Peggy's face. Steve's worst fear may not be having nothing to fight for - it may be never being able to stop fighting.
    • We never see what she shows to Bruce, but he has enough demons of his own.
  • Ultraman Ginga S The Movie: Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors!: The Big Damn Movie of Ultraman Ginga features the Space Demon Etelgar whose schtick is to summon copies of a person's worse fear when confronting them. This even applies to the various Ultramen in the film, in the form of various copies of past monsters and enemies which are their greatest fears: namely, Golza and Melba for Ultraman Tiga, Reicuras for Ultraman Dyna, Gan-Q and COV for Ultraman Gaia, Dark Mephisto for Ultraman Nexus, Sran-Seijin for Ultraman Max, Alien Empera for Ultraman Mebius, and Ultraman Belial for Ultraman Zero.

  • In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Room 101 is where the prisoners of the Ministry of Love experience their worst fear, as a part of their brainwashing.
  • In David Eddings's The Belgariad and The Malloreon, the sorceress Polgara is able to force people to tell the truth by showing them pictures of whatever they fear most.
  • Doctor Who Meets Scratchman: Scratchman seeks the Doctor's greatest nightmare, and places him in various scenarios that he thinks might prompt it (fear of not being the Doctor, fear of boredom, fear of failing his friends). When he does discover the Doctor's worst nightmare, it's too much for him. Because, it's hinted in the epilogue, the thought of being overwhelmed by fear is the Doctor's greatest nightmare.
  • Robert Sheckley's short story Ghost V serves as this for his recurring characters Arnold and Gregor, when they are stranded on the title planet, whose atmosphere contains an unknown agent turning everyone's childhood fears into unreasonably realistic hallucinations.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has the third-year Defense Against the Dark Arts students taking on a boggart, a Shapeshifting creature which can take on the form of whatever its viewer fears the most. This provides a pretty funny chapter in which the students conquer the boggart by using the Riddikulus spell to turn it into something laughable, but it also shows the reader what some of the students fear most. Hermione, during her final exam, is terrified by her boggart, whose appearance (Professor McGonagall telling her she failed all of her classes) illustrates her deep-rooted fear of failure; Harry, by comparison, sees Dementors when he faces boggarts, which Professor Lupin says means that what he fears most is fear itself. The boggart scene also includes a clue as to Lupin's true nature: his boggart is a "silvery orb" which the students misinterpret as a crystal ball. However, Hermione realises that it is in fact the full moon, and this allows her to figure out Remus's secret and become his Secret Secret-Keeper.
    • There is a Tear Jerker echo two books later where Mama Bear Molly Weasley confronts a boggart who turns into her biggest fear — the dead forms of her beloved husband, her children, and Harry. This turns out to be the most heartbreaking bit of foreshadowing in the entire series, since one of her children is killed by Voldemort's forces later.
  • The Fright Trial in the first Nevermoor book. In order to get into the Wundrous Society, applicants have to complete four trials, some of which have been used multiple times over the years. Jupiter refers to this one as the "Nervous Breakdown Trial," and is glad that it was banned a couple decades ago, but unfortunately for Morrigan, the ban was recently lifted. It has the applicants face off against a realistic simulation of their greatest fear... without telling them that it's only a simulation, meaning they all really do believe their lives are in danger. Morrigan is led to believe that the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow is coming after her, and only barely manages to keep her wits about her.
    Welcome to the Fright Trial. If you continue, we accept no responsibility for the consequences.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400: In "Fear Itself", Ryan Powell injected his autistic son Brandon with promicin in the hope that he would gain a Disability-Negating Superpower and be able to live a normal life. However, Brandon developed the ability to induce fear in people, causing them to experience hallucinations of their greatest fears come to life. His power manifests whenever he is upset and he has no way of controlling it.
  • An episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? handles this, with one group member claiming to have exactly what The Stoic fears in a box. After the story is over (and The Stoic is incredibly rattled), the box is opened to reveal his biggest fear: nothing.
  • In one episode of Big Bad Beetleborgs, the cast stumble across the brain of a monster called Dicehead that if held for too long can bring a person's worst fear to life. The first victim is Wolfgang, who gets attacked by giant fleas. Next is Jo, who gets an illusion of her scary looking aunt, and then Fangula, who sees an illusion of his ex-wife, who he claims is a "living nightmare." Mums, who doesn't believe any of this is real, is next to pick up the brain, and gets chased around the house by a giant pair of scissors. The next victim is Drew, who gets attacked by giant broccoli, which also scares Jo and Ronan. The last victim is Ronan's grandmother, who gets attacked by ninjas.
  • Big Wolf on Campus, "Fear & Loathing in Pleasantville". The Monster of the Week is a "Phobiist" who traps people in waking dreams of their worst fear - which will literally scare them to death in a matter of hours. The three protagonists have to face and overcome their fears to defeat him.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Nightmares" all the worst nightmares of Sunnydale residents come to life. These range in severity from embarrassment—showing up in class in your underwear or forgetting how to read—to Buffy getting buried alive and turned into a vampire, to Xander being attacked by a knife-wielding Monster Clown.
      • This one also had a Face Your Fears theme. Xander figured this out, and then just punched his Monster Clown out. Buffy couldn't exactly face being turned into a vampire, but she did use its strength to fight a different monster.
    • In "Fear Itself" everyone trapped inside a Haunted House begins to manifest their worst fears and insecurities courtesy of a fear demon. Xander becomes invisible and inaudible to his friends, Willow's innocent magical lights go out of control and attack her, Oz begins to turn into a werewolf and injures Willow, etc. Somewhat distressingly, upon subsequent viewings it becomes apparent Xander was invisible/inaudible to his friends for awhile before they noticed, indicating he's right to feel that way.
    • The season four finale "Restless" had this element too, being centered another dream episode. Willow gets her old stage fright dream from "Nightmares" combined with a scene where Buffy "unmasks" her as the timid girl she used to be, while Xander is berated by his father. There is another Call-Back to "Nightmares" when Willow hopes that they are not performing "Madame Butterfly".
  • Whenever Barbas is the Demon of the Week in Charmed, this is the basis of the episode. Well, he is the Demon of Fear.
  • The Corner Gas episode "Whataphobia" dealt with the gang trying to figure out what Wanda was afraid of, despite her insistence that she had no fears. At the end of the episode, she looks out on the flat open plains of Saskatchewan and abruptly develops agoraphobia.
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina episode "Dreams In A Witch's House?": the Nightmares reveal the greatest fears of the Spellman’s.
    • Sabrina is afraid that her mortal friends will turn on her, when they find out that she is a witch.
    • Ambrose is scared of being trapped in the Spellman house for eternity.
    • Hilda fears she will never be able to get away from Zelda.
    • Zelda’s greatest fear is that she could loose Hilda Forever.
  • In the Dark Matter (2015) season 2 episode "Take the Shot", Two, Three and Four have their memory imprints used against them, with Two forced to relive the experiments on her, Four having to face his doubts over having to retake the throne of Zairon by force, and Three almost Driven to Suicide by the loss of his lover Sarah.
  • Doctor Who has done this several times:
    • Enjoyably subverted in one episode of "The Chase". The Doctor thinks, and pontificates upon the fact, that they've arrived in a world that reflects their worst fears. Ian, however, deduces they landed in a futuristic haunted house theme park populated by robots but chooses not to tell the Doctor to spare his feelings. It's a very silly episode.
    • "The Mind of Evil" has the Doctor encounter a mental parasite that projected its victim's worst fear. His was the horrific memory of seeing a world burst into flames (from the serial "Inferno"). Later, the Master fell victim to it — his worst fear is the Doctor laughing at him.
    • "The God Complex" has the cast trapped in a hotel where each room contains someone's worst fear:
      • The Eleventh Doctor's worst fear is not shown, but the audience can hear the Cloister Bell ringing; and when he sees it, he is not surprised. Matt Smith speculated that it was a line of dead previous incarnations swinging from nooses. Revelations in later episodes strongly hint that it was the War Doctor he saw. This was eventually retconned in "The Time of the Doctor" to be the Crack through which the Time Lords were begging to return.
      • Amy sees herself as a little girl. It is implied that her greatest fear is (once again) having to wait for the Doctor. Alternately, there's a subtle hint that the room was actually the Doctor's greatest fear, i.e. letting down/screwing up his beloved and innocent Companions.
      • They're shown their fears by entering the room which contains it. Rory, rather than being shown a room, sees an exit. The Doctor said Rory was seeing an exit because the Monster of the Week had no reason to target him (because of his lack or fear or faith due to his centuries as the Last Centurion), and instead wanted him to escape. However, it would not be the first time the Doctor was wrong, or lied.
    • In "Heaven Sent", the Twelfth Doctor is trapped in an isolated castle and pursued by a relentless entity known as The Veil. Twelve's running monologue reveals that the creature's form recapitulates a traumatic childhood experience in which he'd viewed the dead body of an old woman, wrapped in veils and beset by flies.
    • "Can You Hear Me?": The Thirteenth Doctor and her companions fall victim to a Nightmare Weaver who makes everyone experience their worst fear.
      • Ryan dreams of the burning Earth and the Dregs from the Bad Future of "Orphan 55", along with an elderly version of his friend Tibo who castigates him for making him wait a lifetime for his return.
      • Yaz dreams of the moment when she tried to run away from home several years earlier, with a subtle inference that she had been suicidal as well.
      • Graham dreams that his cancer has come back, and is confronted by his late wife Grace who asks him why he couldn't save her life.
      • The Doctor dreams of the vision of the Timeless Child first shown in "Spyfall", which is hinted to be some long-buried Awful Truth related to the origins of the Time Lords.
    • A Fourth Doctor annual comic, "The Psychic Jungle", showed the Doctor taking Sarah and Harry to a planet with a psychically reflective atmosphere that shows vivid hallucinations of deep-seated fears - Harry sees mostly snakes, scanty-clad women and other such Adam and Eve symbolism stated by the Doctor to be deep ancestral fears of his culture, Sarah sees mostly demons and monsters (which, in a lovely moment, the Doctor points out is was because of her irrational woman brain) and a race of spider aliens that had also crashed on the planet see the giant birds that predate on them back on their world. The story ends with the implication that the Doctor went there deliberately to come face-to-face with his own worst fear, though we do not see what it is and when Sarah Jane presses him on it he pretends not to know.
    • The Telos novella Ghost Ship has the TARDIS trap the Doctor in a Psychological Torment Zone specifically selected to hit his personal childhood phobias in order to force him to face and conquer the negative thoughts causing the Depression he was experiencing. It turns out that the Fourth Doctor's worst fear is ghosts trapped in eternal suffering out for revenge against him - or possibly being proven wrong.
  • The "Nightmare Clowns" episode of Face/Off required each of the competitors to create an Evil Clown that evoked their own worst childhood fear. Memorable examples included fear of tornadoes, dark water, or monsters under the bed.
  • On one episode of The Golden Girls, Rose reveals that her aunt has died and she's been picked to deliver the eulogy. This is a problem for her because she's afraid of public speaking. To comfort her, Dorothy admits she's afraid of flying. Blanche doesn't have any actual fears, but she once had a recurring nightmare about being trapped in a room full of bald men. To support Rose, Dorothy and Blanche agree to go with her to the funeral, only for Rose to reveal it's being held in the Bahamas and they have to take a plane there. On the plane, it's revealed the other passengers are all bald men. note  The plane suffers some mechanical issue, but returns safely, allaying Dorothy's and Blanche's fears. Dorothy then has Rose deliver the eulogy over the plane's PA system to get over hers.
  • House of Anubis: The season 2 episode aptly named "House of Phobias" centers around Sibuna trying to conquer their fears in order to explore a tunnel that combines many of said fears. Amber and Fabian both have to learn to handle being around bugs and worms, while Alfie spends the day hiding in small spaces to combat his claustrophobia. The only ones who aren't shown practicing are Nina, who is organizing the aversion therapy for the others, and Patricia, whose fear is feet and thus exempt from the ordeal.
  • I'm in the Band: "Spiders, Snakes, and Clowns" has Tripp get Iron Weasel a role in a horror film, only to discover that the film contains the three things everybody in the band fears — Burger is afraid of spiders, Derek is afraid of snakes, and Ash is afraid of clowns. They have to confront these fears in the episode in order to write a song about them.
  • Sort of used in the M*A*S*H episode "Dreams", which feature the main characters' nightmares — all of which are highly tailored to the characters' histories and psyches.
  • Several episodes of Maury have guests who fear really odd and crazy things, ranging from balloons, pickles, cotton balls, birds, mustard, peaches, and other things. Usually played at the expense of the guests where Maury brings out the stuff they fear and they go running scared for a while.
  • The Orville episode "Firestorm" reveals that Alara has an unconscious fear of fire due to a close call when she was too young to remember. The end of the episode reveals the fears of the main cast: Ed is afraid of spiders, Kelly fears isolation, Claire has a thing about heights, LaMarr is afraid of clowns, Gordon is afraid of surgery, and Bortus fears being defeated by a superior foe.
  • Samurai Sentai Shinkenger does an episode in which Sixth Ranger Genta develops a crippling phobia of sushi after the events of the previous episode. Each of the other teammates confronts his or her own fear, some of which (Ryuunosuke's fear of cacti after sitting on one as a kid) are lamer than others (Takeru's fear of horror houses, which causes him to faint).
  • Smallville's "Scare" involved an industrial toxin that caused everyone to experience their worst fear before falling into a lethal coma. Lex's was fun; it was also somewhat tragic, since it was essentially the same as the prophecy Cassandra saw in Season 1's "Hourglass".
  • Space: Above and Beyond had one episode where the Wildcards end up on a planet where the Chigs have unleashed some kind of nightmare weapon, cranking everybody's phobias up. They are able to make it out alive thanks only to The Power of Friendship and trusting each other while marching through a minefield while singing a jodie.
  • Supergirl (2015): In "Fear Knot", when the team enter the Phantom Zone to rescue Supergirl, Alex, Lena, Kelly, Nia and Brainy are all given visions of their worst fears by a Phantom. Brainy's worst fear turns out to be balloons.
  • Teen Wolf episode "Party Guessed" had this briefly in the form of hallucinations caused by drugged punch at Lydia's birthday bash. The unhappily adopted Jackson fears losing his identity, Allison feared becoming a sociopathic killer, Stiles fears being blamed for his mother's death and Scott worries about his relationship with Allison.

  • The "FAKE LOVE" music video is this to the BTS Universe (the universe within BTS's music video series). Being a World of Symbolism, the seven boys are shown in a "house" of sorts, with each one locked in a room filled with his fears and past (rests of a Trauma Button amusement park, mirrors that show your Loss of Identity, a burned room like the one Yoongi's mother had, and so on). The only one who isn't in one room is Jungkook, who runs through the house only able to watch them helplessly, which is also a fear of his: seeing his friends suffer with no way to do anything about it.

  • The monster in the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town often takes the forms of the characters' worst fears, such as Spencer drowning, Katie seeing a giant spider, and Veronica seeing the hall on fire.
  • In episode 52 of Pokemon: Adventures in the Millennium, the player characters have to go through a labyrinth filled with hallucinations of their greatest fears in order to reach Baba Yamask's house.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • Batman: Arkham Asylum has literal episodes; Batman gets doused with fear gas 3 times; the first time he hallucinates his allies dying because of him, aka Batman's greatest fear. The second time he has to relive the events of Crime Alley, Bruce Wayne's biggest fear. The third time fakes a game crash and replays the opening cutscene... with Joker driving Batman into the Asylum, probably causing the unfortunate player freak out.
    • Batman: Arkham Knight: Batman is afraid of going insane for most of the game, because he is still affected by Joker's blood; and other's who weren't cured slowly turn into Joker. The endgame also shows that The Joker is afraid of being forgotten after death.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Inquisitor and their companions are dragged into the Fade where they are preyed on by a fear demon, who mocks them every step of the way. You can come across a small graveyard with tombstones of all your party members revealing their darkest fears:
  • In Ensemble Stars!, the Onibi gacha story is this - a group of the second-year boys end up travelling through the school at nighttime and in the spooky atmosphere start talking about what scares them the most. Subaru can't think of anything, which the others grumble about but accept as plausible for such a relentlessly cheery kid. But when the group gets separated, Subaru quickly realises he does fear something - being alone, especially when it's dark.
  • A bit of a Running Gag in the Paper Mario games, where the villain or one of their underlings will ask Mario or one of his allies what Mario is most afraid of, but will gladly accept that he's terrified of the normal items he'd been using the whole game.
  • A Temple in Starfox Adventures had this, making Fox remain calm in the face of some frightful experiences in order to get a Krazoa spirit.
  • Wild AR Ms 1 subverts this in the Guardian Shrine. For starters, it's the Guardians forcing the protagonists to face their worst fears and to top things off, all three of them fail. For the record; Rudy fears he's a monster due to his ARM abilities, Jack fears he'll never be able to leave his past behind and Cecilia fears nobody will ever love her because she's a princess.
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, when visiting Skellige Geralt is tasked with helping a Jarl's son Blueboy Lugos and his friends explore the Cave of Dreams, in which they're forced to face their fears during a Mushroom Samba. The Speechless Uve "Jabberjaw" was forced to cut out his own tongue after insulting the king and the team has to fight his nightmare of soldiers attacking them after repeating the act, then Jorluf's fear of sirens who had caused his father's death in a shipwreck by distracting him, Blueboy's fear is his father's shadow, and last there's Geralt's fear of the Big Bad Eredin.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Every Scarecrow appearance in Batman: The Animated Series went like this, but it was taken to its peak in "Over the Edge", in which Batgirl hallucinates her own death, and her father turning against Batman, whom he blames for it. Add in the scarier redesign of the Scarecrow for the last season and the voice of Jeffery Combs, and it's horrifying.
    • Batman can be Batman not only because of his conditioning and money but also because he has conquered his own fears and demons. And if he comes across something he hasn't, he just plows on through anyway.
    • One time it's subverted; the Scarecrow makes a gas which removes fear; causing people to engage in reckless and dangerous behaviors, putting the lives and limbs of themselves and others in danger. Unfortunately for Crane, this also removed Batman's aversion to using excessive force — he isn't afraid of what killing a criminal would do to him.
  • Big Mouth: The penultimate episode of Season 4, "Horrority House," is a Halloween Episode where the main cast goes to a haunted house, and they all get drugged and have gruesome hallucinations representing the fears they've been grappling with all season. Jessi imagines being in a mental asylum due to her severe anxiety, Missy imagines being trapped in a bloody fight between several fragmented versions of herself (representing her identity crisis, especially regarding her racial identity), Andrew has several death hallucinations due to his newfound fear of death, Matthew's struggle choosing between his homophobic mother and his boyfriend is represented by a Sadistic Choice where both of them are tied up to be slaughtered, and Nick gets chased by Nick Starr, a vision of his sadistic adult self that represents Nick's paranoia that he's going to be a terrible person forever. Most of the characters learn to cope with these fears, although Nick still grapples with Nick Starr in the season finale.
  • Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys used this in the episode "Mind Over Monkey", where Rhesus-2 had the Space Monkeys face illusions of their worst fears as a safeguard against defusing his bomb. Spydor is afraid of pitbulls, Gor-illa is afraid of forest fires, Splitzy is afraid of being locked in a cage, Shao Lin is afraid of being taken from the people she cares about, and Captain Simian is afraid of letting his team down. Captain Simian manages to get rid of the bomb in time after overcoming the illusion of Rhesus-2's worst nightmare, which turns out to be when Lord Nebula first converted him into a cyborg.
  • The second Halloween Episode of Danger Mouse, "A Fear to Remember", has the Queen of Weevils making everyone experience their worst fear, and then get Taken for Granite. Colonel K turns out to be afraid of goats, Professor Squawkencluck of clowns, and Penfold of a Gym Class Rope Climb. DM insists he's fearless, but it turns out he's afraid of something happening to Penfold. We also see the fears of Innocent Bystanders, including that Mike of Mike's Pies is afraid of salad. In the end, DM turns the tables, realising that what the Queen is frightened of is nobody being frightened of her.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode titled (naturally) "Nothing to Fear," the cast are tormented by their fears coming to life courtesy of Magica de Spell's rain cloud. Interestingly, the visions start with fantastic or shallow fears (video games coming to life, the limousine turning into a monster) and become increasingly down-to-earth personal. The final, worst manifestations are mirror images: Uncle Scrooge sees delinquent versions of his nephews that don't respect him, and the nephews see an abusive version of their uncle who considers them a burden.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons (1983) episode "Quest of the Skeleton Warrior" was one of these; the bulk of the episode was devoted to exploring the kids' fears to the point where the Skeleton Warrior himself pretty much got demoted to a walk-on.
  • In an episode of Earthworm Jim, Jim, Peter, and Princess What's-Her-Name are sent to the realm of nightmares, but since they're superheroes who fight monsters on a daily basis, none of the things there actually scare them. That is until the lord of nightmares appears and conjures up their darkest fears. Jim's worst fear is a public washroom with no wax paper seat protectors, Peter's worst fear is a Scottish chef who tries to force feed him haggis, and the princess' worst fear is a perfume seller who keeps spraying her with perfume and repeatably saying "Sample a fragrance."
  • In the Extreme Ghostbusters episode "Fear Itself", the titular Ghostbusters encounter a Ghost who can manifest their greatest fears; Gothgirl Kylie is afraid of Maggots, Tech-Guy Roland is afraid of his own machines turning against him, Slacker Eduardo is afraid of Death, and gung-ho Paraplegic Garrett is claustrophobic, though he refuses to admit it. Also Slimer is terrified of... broccoli.
    • It's worth noting that unlike most cases where there is some kind of magic at hand, the whole thing is a test of character or a villain is trying to best his foes, in this episode it turns out to be a defense mechanism caused by a ghost that is tiny, weak and utterly terrified of humans.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Dreamscapers", Bill Cipher hits, Mabel, her dream boys, and Soos with a beam that brings to life their worst nightmares. Mabel loses her cuteness, Soos has to face a British dog-man, and the Dream Boys are burned alive.
  • The end of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy - Big Boogey's Adventure culminates in one of these, as, in order to lay claim to Horror's Hand, one has to Face Their Fears. Billy sees a Spider-Clown-Mailman, Irwin envisions trying to do stand-up comedy to an audience of bears (who subsequently attack him), and Mandy gets traumatised by the possibility that she would grow up to be a nice person, and end up marrying Irwin. And then she gets mauled by the bears, too. Grim, on the other hand, picks up the artifact with relative ease, as he faces his fear on a daily basis: being picked on and humiliated by Billy and Mandy. It then gets subverted in the finale: Boogie is defeated when the hand seems to start making his fear (not being taken seriously) come true. In actuallity, Grim had turned off the hand and just relied on the idea that nobody would take Boogie that seriously.
  • Hilda: Episode 6 deals with the Marra, creatures that give people nightmares based on their fears. For David, he's afraid of pretty much everything, but the Marra specifically focuses on his fears for the Rat King and Trolls. Hilda proves a more difficult target, but eventually the Marra finds something she fears; her inability to ride a bike.
  • Happens in Justice League, "Only a Dream", when Doctor Destiny sticks the core seven into their own worst nightmares. Superman was afraid of his powers going out of control and killing all his loved ones. Hawkgirl is trapped in a coffin and buried alive (this was foreshadowed earlier in the episode). Flash fears that he would run so fast that the rest of the world would freeze in time. Green Lantern is afraid that he was becoming nothing more than a tool for his ring, and losing touch with where he came from—reflected in people being afraid of him and being unable to communicate with him, as though it were just another of the alien worlds he's been tasked to protect. Batman cheats—despite telling Dr Destiny how "My mind is not a nice place to be" he just chugs coffee and stays awake until he takes him down, so we never do find out what he fears.
  • Subverted in the The Legend of Tarzan. Jane spends an entire episode trying to find something which scares the titular character. In the end he freaks out over her powderpuff, however the last scene reveals that he pretended to be scared so she would stop trying to scare him.
  • The Legion of Super Heroes (2006) episode "Fear Factory" had several Legionnaires confronted with their fears in a space station that feeds on their fears.
  • The Halloween Episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series ("Spooky") focused on a experiment that could shapeshift into a person's deepest fears. Of them we learn Stitch is afraid of water (due to his increased molecular density), Lilo is afraid of clowns (this from a girl who loves monster movies by the way), Jumba is afraid of his ex-wife, Pleakley is afraid of his mother, Mertle and her posse are scared of Lilo herself (though that could've been the costume she was wearing at the moment—being an undead hula girl with a rubber axe in her head) and perhaps the most shocking is Nani's—it's being told that she's an unfit guardian and having her sister taken away by child services (which actually happened in the original movie).
  • In a Martin Mystery episode, the Monster of the Week was a Sandman creature that forced people into slumber and traps them in nightmares of their fears. Diana was afraid of failing in school, Java is terrified of kittens, and Martin is scared of losing his job.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Sandboy", the titular villain has the power to bring people's nightmares to life. Curiously, the heroes have different fears in their civilian and superhero forms. Marinette is accosted by a zombie-like Adrien professing his love for Chloé, and Adrien finds himself trapped with bars closing in on him; meanwhile, Ladybug's worst fear is being powerless so she gets Brought Down to Normal, while Cat Noir is attacked by his nightmare of a Ladybug who hates him. Master Fu is confronted by the ghosts of the Order of Guardians blaming him for their deaths, and Marinette's dad Tom finds the bread he's baking coming to life and trying to eat him.
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023): "Coney Island, Baby!" is about Lunella overcoming her fear of Coney Island after a traumatic memory where she got separated from Mimi and wandered into a scary funhouse. The Beyonder is present at Coney Island to study eating, but he is intrigued by human fear after seeing Lunella and decides to force her to confront it. Though Lunella specifically acts afraid of a clown prop from the haunted house, the Beyonder deduces that her underlying fear is losing people she loves, so he puts her through that by abducting Mimi and hiding her in that same haunted house. Devil Dinosaur's fear of jellyfish is also shown, as he has to swim through the ocean (getting stung by them multiple times) to go help Lunella.
  • The Motorcity episode "Mayhem Night". The Terras use these devices/plants that when inhaled by one of the Burners, allows them to see their greatest fears. Texas and Claire get comedic examples (giant man-eating candy and being married to Chuck, respectively) while Julie and Mike's hallucinations are a bit more serious (her father Kane discovering she's a burner and his past working for Kane, respectively).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The season 3 premiere has Twilight Sparkle and Spike go to a secret door that hides the Crystal Heart that they've been looking for. The door has a spell placed on it so any intruder lives out his/her worst fear. It's revealed that Twilight Sparkle's fear is disappointing her beloved mentor to the point where she refuses to teach her anymore, and Spike's fear is Twilight abandoning him against his will.
    • "Sleepless in Ponyville" has Scootaloo haunted by nightmares brought on by Rainbow Dash telling ghost stories while they're out camping. After being visited by Princess Luna during one of her bad dreams, Scoots admits the real reason she's having them is because she fears admitting the stories scare her will make Rainbow Dash think she's pathetic.
    • In "What Lies Beneath", the students are all trapped inside a cave underneath the school and are put through tests by the Tree of Harmony where they must face their worst fears. Sandbar is scared of disappointing the Mane Six, who he idolizes, Smolder is scared to admit that she likes girly stuff like tea parties and dresses, Gallus is afraid of tight spaces, Ocellus is afraid of the Changelings' past as love-devouring monsters coming back to haunt her, Yona is scared of spiders, and Silverstream is afraid of the Storm King returning.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: The episode "Face Your Fears" is this. A VR arcade game called the Face Of Fear makes its players face their fears and updates their POW cards to reflect how brave they are. Mr. Gar realizes that his card hasn't been updated in years and, embarrassed, sets the game to maximum difficulty to prove his bravery... only to become overwhelmed by the scenario the game puts him into. KO, Rad, and Enid try to help him by using extra VR helmets to join the game, but due to their convoluted setup, KO must face Enid's fear, and both of them have to face Rad's before all three can face Mr. Gar's. Enid's fear is the parts of herself that she considers dorky and embarrassing. Rad's fear is admitting his own vulnerability. Mr. Gar's fear is his past mistakes, which contributed to the disappearance of his former teammate Laserblast and led to a rift between himself and his other former teammate Carol. KO's plan for facing the scenario based on Mr. Gar's fear involves harnessing the power of his own fear, which he encountered while playing previously - his inner darkness.
  • The Owl House episode "Enchanting Grom Fright" combines this premise with a High-School Dance, where every year the equivelant of prom king or queen has to face off against a shapeshifting monster that lives beneath the school and takes on its opponent's worst fear. Interestingly, while Luz and Amity manage to defeat the monster, neither of them is actually able to stand up to their fear (her mother finding out that she's been lying about where she's been for the past several weeks and being rejected by Luz respectively).
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): Him once finds out what each of the girls feared the most and exploits this: Blossom, the leader, is afraid of failure (represented by failure in school); Bubbles is afraid of the dark, as had been seen before; and Buttercup, so vehemently prides herself on fearing nothing that the sisters' mutual minor fear of bugs and spiders makes her feel completely powerless.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Viceroy once invented a robot that created personifications of people's fears. Randy fears chickens (McFist and Viceroy were disappointed); Heidi Weinerman fears looking like her mother in the future; Viceroy fears the kid who used to bully him at school; McFist fears clowns; and Bucky is afraid of minotaurs playing smooth jazz.
  • Regular Show does this in the sixth "Teror Tales of the Park" Halloween special. In "Fear Planet", Mordecai, Rigby, Pops, Skips, and Benson land on a planet that brings inner fears to life while trying to get gas. Benson's fear are sharks, Skips finds people with flying discs creepy, Pops is afraid of the dark, Mordecai's fear isn't shown, and Rigby is afraid of amusement park mascots, along with everyone else's fears.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! featured "Night of Fear," in which we learn that Sprx's worst fear is going blind, Gibson's worst fear is losing his intelligence and becoming a Talkative Loon, Antauri fears losing control of his robot body, Nova fears becoming a coward, Chiro fears being reverted back into a little kid, and Otto fears clams with feet.
  • The "Shaman of Fear" episode of Sym-Bionic Titan. The Monster of the Week, a Shaman causes Lance and Ilana to see visions in their dreams, regarding Lance's past and Ilana's fear of the fate of her planet, believing she abandoned her people.
  • Tangled: The Series has the episode Be Very Afraid, in which Cassandra sends red rocks into Corona that cause people to see visions of their worst fears, and paralyze them if they are under the rocks’ effects for too long. Some are Played for Laughs, such as Eugene’s worst fear being a cowlick, but others are serious.
  • Teen Titans (2003), Episode 18, "Fear Itself" - The Titans pick up a horror movie called Wicked Scary. After watching it, they are scared out of their wits, although Raven refuses to admit this to the others. During the night, strange things start to happen in the Tower. Raven's suppressed fear acts out by using her powers to pick off the Titans one by one in increasingly nightmarish ways. Only by admitting that she was afraid is she able to regain control and free her friends.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episode "The Darkness Within" had a Cthulhu like monster capture the Turtles and force them to endure their worst nightmares. For Leo, it was both failing to save Splinter's life and being denounced by him as a disappointment (being a failure). Don fails to save Angel, a little girl the heroes befriended, from falling to her death (watching a close friend die). Raph faces the Shredder who unmasks himself to reveal another Raph (losing to his anger). Mike faces a version of Leo that took the monster's offer and underwent Body Horror (being betrayed). Most of these fears have been established in some manner before or was explored in later episodes.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) episode "Fungus Humongous" did this through mutant fungi that spread fear-hallucination inducing spores. Unusually for these types of episodes in Western animation, every fear encountered had been established before, or were completely reasonable given experiences from previous episodes. Raph and Casey had already been explicitly shown to have a phobia of cockroaches and rats respectively, Mikey was scared of the Squirrelanoids they'd encountered before, Donny feared that April hated him both for the more shallow reason of him being a mutant and for the much more guilt-ridden reason of accidentally mutating her father, April was terrified of bats due to having seen her father turn into a particularly grotesque version of one that kidnapped her, and Leo has been shown several times throughout the show to worry about his duties and capabilities as team leader. Leonardo manages to overcome the effects and destroy the source of the fungus, saying that he has to face his fear every day.
  • Total Drama: There are two fear-related challenges in the series, the latter an homage to the former.
    • In the Island episode "Phobia Factor", the campers make the horrible mistake to bond over sharing their worst fears. It all gets caught on tape and inspires Chris to set up tailor-made challenges for each contestant according to their fears. Gwen has to accept being buried alive, Trent has to face a mime, Cody has to defuse a bomb, Lindsay and Sadie have to suffer awful wigs, Owen and Izzy have to take a trip on a faulty plane, Tyler has to confront chickens, DJ has to confront a snake, Leshawna has to confront Chef dressed as a huge spider, Heather has to fight a sumo wrestler, Harold has to fight ninjas, Beth has to accept a bug bath, Duncan has to hug a cardboard Céline Dion standee, Bridgette has to spend time alone in the woods, Courtney has to accept a green jelly bath, and Geoff has to deal with hail.
    • In the All-Stars episode "Suckers Punched", in homage to "I Triple Dog Dare You!" and secretly "Phobia Factor", the contestants have to enter the boxing ring to fight whatever the wheel happens to land on. They are told the matches are random, but in truth the wheel is rigged and all challengers are hand-picked to be the worst opponent a contestant could face. Scott is up against Fang, Sierra fights the mother of the mutants she had adopted, Alejandro battles José, Duncan faces a cute bird he'd befriended the previous episode (the bird is not his fear, but rather being exposed as a softie), and Gwen is pitted against Courtney. Mal and Cameron escape the trickery because Cameron realizes that the wheel is rigged and demands a random match as promised. Chris promises, but instead fixes it so that Mal is up against Cameron's most feared opponent, Izzy dressed as a huge spider, and Cameron is up against Mike's, mutant gophers.
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise did an episode where a robot vampire bat paralyzed the main characters by showing them their worst fears. Bumblebee sees Optimus telling him he's a failure; Strongarm sees herself being chased by the police; Sideswipe sees himself trapped and unable to move; Fixit sees himself being obsolete and useless; Grimlock sees an adorable kitten.
  • In the Trollhunters episode "Where Is My Mind", Angor Rot unleashes a horde of Pixies on the school, which causes everyone to see their worst fear. At the end of the episode, Angor Rot himself gets a taste of that medicine.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) episode "Strange Days" everyone in New York and possibly the world (except for Spider-Man, Iron Fist, and Doctor Strange) are put to sleep by Nightmare who feeds on their worst fears in their dreams. White Tiger's fear is failing her exams, Power Man's fear is not being able to save his friends, Iron Fist's fear is thinking that he isn't worthy of his powers, Doctor Strange's fear is realizing that magic isn't real, and Nova is afraid of rabbits. Nightmare tries to pull one on Spidey by making him look back at his failure to save Uncle Ben, but Spider-Man accepted his guilt and overcomes his fear, allowing him to beat Nightmare, because he figured out that nightmares aren't real.
  • In the final episode of Voltron: The Third Dimension, Voltron Force is attacked by a spider whose venom sends the victim into a coma where they live out their worst fears.
  • An episode of Xiaolin Showdown did this; it consisted of Jack Spicer breaking into the Xiaolin temple and swiping a certain Shen Gong Wu that allowed him to enter the minds of the four main protagonists and find out what scared each of them the most. Hilarity Ensues when it is revealed that Omi, who normally prides himself on being the bravest of the group, is afraid of squirrels.


Video Example(s):


The Boggart in the Wardrobe

Third-year Hogwarts students must confront their worst fears to defeat a Boggart.

How well does it match the trope?

4.62 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhatDoTheyFearEpisode

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