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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

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"This is the crystace [blade] they shall sheathe in my heart if... I use these powers for capricious or selfish purposes."
Part of the Sentinel's oath, as given in Fusion Fire

The Super Hero people are expected to have a higher moral standard. No abusing your powers for personal gain. Sometimes this is enforced by the authority that granted their abilities, but most often, even if they are aware of the Mundane Utility, it is self-imposed.

What constitutes "abuse"? That gets into a nebulous area. This trope usually involves the more obviously violent powers that could kill someone in a few seconds or violate a person's integrity, but even good powers can make bad people. However, if your family is down on their luck financially, what's a little arm wrestling wager at the pub?

Mostly this is a moral stance superheroes took early in their career to make sure they never hit the slippery slope to evil-dom. This happens fast; arm-wrestling for money at the pub will often signal temptation to evil within a few episodes, if not that very one.

In the hands of a poor writer, it is easy for this to turn into a character Cursed with Awesome powers and unable to enjoy them in any way, trapped in a life they didn't choose. Or it can easily become You Can't Fight Fate and Hard Work Hardly Works, which is usually a one way ticket to Wangst-Ville. It can also degenerate into the idea that benefiting from one's own talents or skills is wrong, and that trying to help others will only end in disaster, but that you are still obligated to do so even knowing that Failure Is the Only Option. The weight of the responsibility of the said great powers is often why heroes have Chronic Hero Syndrome.

Superheroes who follow this trope often become The Cape.

Outside the superhero genre, this is not often a trope relating to the main characters, but many a Reasonable Authority Figure is deeply aware of the responsibilities that come with his post. Indeed, one way to detect whether such a figure is good is how he regards the misery or deaths of the faceless masses; even not knowing any of them, the Reasonable Authority Figure will not regard them as A Million Is a Statistic and if he must sacrifice them, will regard it as Dirty Business.

Contrasted by Muggle Power and With Great Power Comes Great Perks. If the powers result in the character losing any sense of responsibility, see Drunk with Power and With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.

Example subpages

Comic Books

Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Alice 19th, Alice is encouraged to use her powers to help her studies. However, in a side story, a character loses her powers when she tries to charge money for the water she created using them.
  • Devil Survivor 2 has main protagonist Hibiki Kuze feel this way about his savant-like ability to summon the powerful demon Byakko.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • While the Dragon Team has fought powerful villains or villain organizations and saved the world in the process, only Gohan chose to use his Charles Atlas Superpower to fight Earthling-level crimes as a superhero.
    • Subverted with Kuririn, who has become a policeman in his middle age, but for him, it's just a job and earns money with it. It is never explicitly stated that he chose the job to help people with his Charles Atlas Superpower and he only uses them when he thinks he needs them or if it makes his job easier.
    • Played straight with Videl, who, while not as strong as the fighters of the Dragon Team, still went crime-fighting during her high school days by using her martial arts. Her father, Mister Satan, who is the world's champion, instead chose a life of luxury.
  • It's kind of subverted in the anime Eden of the East, in which twelve people called Seleçao are enrolled in a "game" where they get 10 billion yen and a concierge that allows them to do almost anything they want with it. It is later revealed that the goal of the "game" is for one of the Seleçao to use the money responsibly to "become a Messiah" who will "save Japan": Those who fail to do so are killed when they run out of money (or killed when one of the others win). "Noblesse Oblige" and "The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power" are Arc Words in the story.
  • Gundam
    • In ∀ Gundam Loran feels this way about the titular mobile suit. He's even unhappy about using the beam saber when he first finds it, long before he learns that he's piloting the most powerful mobile suit ever built.
    • In Gundam SEED, Mu La Flaga throws this at Kira near the beginning, one of the prime reasons Kira continues to take up arms and fight.
  • Joey Jones from Heroman struggles with this once he get's the titular robot. Comes with the territory seeing as the series is the brainchild of none other than Stan Lee.
  • Inuyasha: Inuyasha isn't allowed to obtain Tessaiga without learning that he must protect humans if he wants to wield it. Thereafter, his ability to strengthen and master Tessaiga goes hand in hand with his increasing compassion.
    • Sesshoumaru has to learn the same lesson. In his case, he is forced to inherit Tenseiga as a way of forcing him to learn the value of compassion. Only after he has learned this lesson is he able to realise his full potential and obtain Bakusaiga.
  • I Wish has Wye talk about how Dee is in desperate need to learn this lesson. She's too carefree and willing to flaunt her magic powers on everything and everyone and it often leads to causing more problems than help. He's afraid that she'll eventually go down the same path as he once did, using his magic to resurrect people, becoming feared by previous admirers, and ultimately doing something that could lead to the end of the world if she were not stopped. Dee does learn the lesson when her love-obsessed, stalking servants try to kill her and Wye takes the hit for her to keep her safe and she is much more responsible.
  • The protagonist of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Josuke Higashikata, despite his Chronic Hero Syndrome is originally content to allow his older nephew Jotaro handle the Stand-using Serial Killer that is menacing his town. After his grandfather is murdered and he realizes his Healing Hands cannot solve all his problems, he resolves to rid Morioh of evil Stand users.
  • Satoru Gojo in Jujutsu Kaisen is an incredibly confident Jujutsu sorcerer, due to being Born Lucky with an incredibly rare and powerful Cursed Technique, but he was even more arrogant when he was younger, to the point that he believed he didn't need to protect those weaker than him. It takes the death of his ward that he cared for and was tasked to protect, as well as his best friend Suguru Geto betraying him, to humble him and make him realize the responsibility that comes with his immense power, as well as what he isn't capable of alone, namely changing the conservative Jujutsu society he lives in.
  • My Hero Academia both subverts and averts this trope. While there are heroes who become heroes for the sake of protecting people and society, most heroes become heroes for fame, money, and recognition, thinking it's no different than being a pop culture icon. It's the latter reasons that motivate the Hero Killer Stain as he believes being a hero has become too tainted by "fakers". The League of Villains uses Stain's motivation as a stepping stone for their own plans.
  • In My-HiME, the applications of the HiMEs' powers were explicitly unrestricted, which Dark Magical Girl Nao used to justify using her powers to rob unsuspecting men, posing as a child prostitute.
  • Inverted in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: After the secret is revealed Nadia's firm belief in this trope combined with her own self-hatred leads her to attempt suicide because she's convinced she could never handle such power responsibly.
  • Averted early in the Chuunin Exam Arc of Naruto, wherein everyone in the room is subtly encouraged to use their ninja abilities to cheat on the written portion, which is so impossibly hard that this is the only way they will be able to finish. They were really being marked on their ability to cheat without being caught.
  • Yet another trope that Revolutionary Girl Utena rips to shreds. MAJOR SPOILER: Prince Dios' backstory highlights the cost to the "powerful": the world is too big and too full of problems to save, and you'll break yourself if you try to fix it on your own. Anthy's arc during the series itself delivers two even sharper truths: "trying to save someone against their will only makes things worse" and "people who are endangered need love and support far more than some token heroic intervention".
  • In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, the Saints are absolutely forbidden from using their Clothes for personal gain, having to don them exclusively to protect Athena and humankind. If they do use their Clothes for personal gain, Sanctuary law has it that they shall be executed.
    • This is also present in the original series: at the start, the protagonist Saints are using their Clothes to fight in the Galaxy Tournament, and the Sanctuary, upon hearing of this, sends another powerful Saint (Hyoga in the manga, Ikki in the anime) to execute the lot of them.
  • The final episodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann carry this theme in the revelation that reckless use of Spiral Energy can potentially destroy the universe.
  • Nozomi, The Ditz of Yes! Precure 5, wanted to use the Dream Collet's any-wish-your-heart-desires to do all her homework for her.
  • Something interesting — fansub group Janime translates a line from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX as "With great responsibility comes great power." The speaker is not referring to any superpower, but Judai's super-charisma and inherent ability to inspire people and get them to follow him just by being himself. Which isn't as good as it sounds.

  • Thomas (the artist) has mentioned on his website and his presentations the importance of an accurate yet respectful depiction of Real Life locations.
    It progressed reasonably fast at first. But my skills kept improving, as did my mind for geography. I learned that no place could be rushed. Drawing real places comes with a responsibility you must take seriously. These aren’t just abstract pretty pictures, nor do you want them to be cartoony. You’re making art out of people’s homes! Places are complicated, and place is integral to who we are. It's hard to define right or wrong with map art, but you must proceed with care and patience.

    Comic Books 
  • A bit of a subversion and Aesop in The DCU. Rita Farr's inability to control her size-changing abilities ended her film career. The only movie she made after it was a knockoff of "The Incredible Shrinking Woman." Likewise, her adopted son (Gar "Beast Boy" Logan) also went into acting, and had a good run on a Star Trek knockoff, using his shapechanging ability to play an alien...however, neither of them were able to find more acting work, since their reputations as "freaks" made them un-castable in anything else. Other DCU examples were Victor "Cyborg" Stone and Cliff "Robot Man" Steele. Their Emergency Transformation enhanced them but rendered them ineligible to participate in the athletic abilities they loved because their cybernetics were considered cheating. For all of the above, it's arguable that they're in the hero business because they can't do anything else.
  • Spoofed by Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink:
    Athena: Just remember with great power comes—
    Major Amazing: ...great responsibility?
    Athena: ...not being a DUMBASS!
  • Various versions of Iron Man usually wrestle with this — Tony Stark's fortune is built on his engineering genius, but in the film, Tony decides to get his company out of the munitions business after seeing that his weapons were being sold in dirty deals to terrorists and criminals. In the comics, Stark quit selling weapons years ago, but he still frets about villains stealing and abusing his armor designs, sometimes to the level of paranoia that he manipulates, deceives, and attacks his own friends.
  • A recent issue of New Avengers has superhuman mobster The Hood (who is a villainous deconstruction of the Marvel teenage superhero, and whose name happens to be Parker) explaining to his gang that they owe their enhanced abilities to him:
    Hood: With power like this comes responsibility.
  • In the print- and webcomic PS238, the private school Praetorian Academy is founded on the ideals of teaching this to its (grade-school level) students. Their somewhat draconian methods of enforcing these ideals contrast it sharply to PS238 itself, which is more of a normal grade school (with a curriculum modified thereafter) for kids that happen to have superpowers.
  • Superman:
    • In War World, after helping him find Supergirl, The Spectre reminds Clark that power must be used responsibly.
      Superman: Thank you, Spectre. You have taught me a great lesson here — and I won't forget it! Fate has granted us great power — But power for power's sake is utterly worthless! Power is meaningless... until it is tempered with conscience!
    • Used in All-Star Superman, although not spelled out. Lex Luthor gains Superman's powers at the end and goes on a rampage, stopping every so often as his Super-Senses give him new insights on the universe. Just as his powers run out, he declares that life is beautiful and everyone needs to stick together — implying that anybody with Superman's godlike perspective would naturally choose to become an altruist. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue implies that he mellowed out considerably after the experience.
    • Superman isn't above using his powers to get a good news story if doing so doesn't interfere with fighting evil. In one of the earliest comics, he scooped Lois on a story about a dam bursting by outrunning her train, stopping the flood, and phoning the story in. Justified in that his heroics makes his job more difficult far more often than it makes it easier, and the guy deserves a break.
    • In Starfire's Revenge, a suitor tries to talk Supergirl into quitting her hero identity and leading the peaceful, normal life she deserves. Supergirl replies she wishes she was normal, but she is not, and she is obliged to use her powers to help humanity for as long as she is needed.
      Supergirl: I have these powers — and while sometimes I wish I didn't — and could live a normal life — I have to use them to help humanity as long as it needs me!
  • Occasionally averted in X-Men when a mutant is shown using their powers to aid in doing their day job. For example, Colossus used his superhuman strength and endurance to work as a farmer (in the comics) and a construction worker (in the TV series) before joining the team. While he is using his powers to do productive work for society, it is clear that he is getting paid for it.
    • This was (and still is) a common trait of Communist superheroes (and supervillains!) in comics. Most if not all of them are on the government payroll. It's superhumans from non-autocratic countries who have the freedom to use their powers as they choose.
    • This was also demonstrated in the 1990s Sleepwalker comics with Anti-Villain Spectra. Her initial criminal schemes give her amazing superhuman powers and transform her into a supervillain, and she seems ready to become a criminal, but by the next time Sleepwalker runs into her she's using her light-projecting abilities to make a living working for a glassware manufacturer.
  • In the 2014 run of Young Avengers, Wiccan obtains the ultimate power of the Demiurge and monologues a bit about how he could do anything with it, and how he has the responsibility to use that power. He then promptly concludes that he's way too irresponsible for that at the moment, and stops at killing the villain of the week.

    Fan Works 
  • Better Bones AU: Lionblaze learns the importance of using his great power to help others rather than for his own needs by taking part in the mission to help the Tribe. However, he takes this lesson too far in how harshly he pressures his own children to take dangerous and stressful responsibilities for their Clan.
  • Child of the Storm has the famous quote pop up occasionally, and Harry more or less lives by this maxim - though he draws a crucial distinction between choosing to involve himself in something that actually matters and being dragged into something that doesn't (a.k.a. the Triwizard Tournament). Which is to say that he takes it very, very badly.
  • Much to his own chagrin in DoofQuest Doofenshmirtz slowly comes to realize this since he now controls the Tri-State area he actually has to be responsible for actually running it and can't just randomly engage in any Zany Scheme that catches his fancy especially since if it blows up in his face he is also the one in charge of cleaning it up now.
  • Mirabel nearly says the iconic quote towards her daughter Karla in The Dragon and the Butterfly: Whiteout, who (being young and powerful) is a believer in With Great Power Comes Great Perks.
  • Stardust: Twilight's attitude towards some of her more extreme magic, like transmogrifying living beings or the Want-It, Need-It spell. She will not hear of performing such magic for X-Com, citing it as too dangerous.
  • In The Bridge, Godzilla Jr. states that because he's so powerful, it is his job to assure the safety of those around him, to face threats that he can fight but they cannot.
  • A Crown of Stars: During their conversations with Shinji and Asuka, Daniel and his wife Rayana explain to them that the more powerful they are the more responsible they must be, especially if they're gods.
  • Chloe's Lament: While Chloe constantly abused her position as the Mayor's daughter and assumes Marinette will do the same after her Wish swaps their positions, Marinette instead uses her family's connections purely to help people. When Chloe confronts her about this, she states outright that she has to set a good example to others, much to Chloe's bewilderment.
  • DC Nation: Fauna points out to a couple of her fellow (non-powered) activists that if someone obtains metahuman abilities, their options are surprisingly few. Try to hide them? Well, you don't have any control or training, so your abilities end up using you instead and you're a target for people who want to exploit you. Embrace them, but still don't take up the hero position? Well, if someone could have been helped by your abilities and you refused to use them, good luck dealing with the guilt. You can't get rid of them most of the time, even if you want to, and it still makes you a target. Heroism is a dirty, dangerous job, but at least you're not a lone target, and you might be able to eke some good out of it.
  • Yussef from Deva Series wholeheartedly believes power must be wielded responsibly.
  • In Worm/DC Universe crossover Echoes of Yesterday, Kara decides to mentor Victoria Dallon after the latter gets an undercover cop, whom she had mistaken for a regular drug dealer, badly hurt. When Victoria's mother tries to object, Kara retorts superhuman power must be used responsibly, and Vicky has obviously not been taught that.
    Kara: "At her heart, I think Glory Girl is a good person. She wants to help others however she can, which is absolutely the most important part of being a superhero. But what she did today was also inexcusable; the power we are burdened with is a tool, and just like any tool, it has to be wielded responsibly. Brockton Bay already has plenty of metahumans that don't. You might get angry at me for saying that about your daughter, but would you honestly be able to look her in the eye if she'd crippled or killed that man? Justice might be blind ma'am, but common sense isn't."
  • Very much averted in Faery Heroes with the idea of Harry teaching students Defense Against the Dark Arts. He instructs only a handful of students and when the two Hufflepuff among them try to insist that he's obligated to teach everyone because he's so good at it, Harry retorts that it's the professors' job to teach. He's doing this out of the goodness of his heart and doesn't have time to tutor more than a few students.
  • Harry in the Harry Potter x Ben 10 crossover Harry Tennyson plays with this. Despite Grandpa Max's wishes, he doesn't see having the Omnitrix to mean he has to fight every criminal he finds and rush into every dangerous situation to help people. Instead he believes using the Omnitrix responsibly means making sure he doesn't get anyone hurt with his recklessness. He outright states that he has no interest in being a hero and is only interested in helping someone if the police/firemen/etc. can't help them.
  • In Supergirl story Hellsister Trilogy, the reason Superman thinks his cousin shouldn't go on retirement:
    Superman: What I'm trying to remind her of is that our powers place us in a certain position. And it's one of obligation. No one on Earth can do what we can, and very often, to protect it and other planets, we are required to do everything we're capable of.
  • Deconstructed in I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Harry spent 1500 years saving the world from whatever dark witch or wizard was currently threatening it, to the point that the Wizarding World was completely reliant on him. When an accident with a Time-Turner sends him two hundred years into the future, Harry finds that the world has been ravaged by a war between two dark wizards. After Harry kills them both, the Wizarding World blames him for not having stepped in sooner to save them. In the present, Harry still helps people, but only if he takes an interest in them or if the situation hits close to home, such as helping out Ahsoka or rescuing a number of slaves.
  • The Infinite Loops: Twilight Sparkle takes to this attitude as soon as she realizes Equestria is stuck in a time loop. It swiftly expands to the inhabitants of the entire looping multiverse.
  • It's Over, Isn't It (it's only just begun) deconstructs this as well. In the wake of All-Might's Heroic Sacrifice, a culture of martyrdom begins to crop up among those who want to follow in his footsteps. Endeavor deliberately exploits this to encourage the heroes and interns in his employ to push themselves beyond their breaking points, which infuriates Nighteye when he finds out:
    Endeavor: "Don't talk to me of compassion when you know perfectly well that sacrifices must be made for the sake of peace—"
    Nighteye: "You are sacrificing nothing! Forcing burdens on someone else is not a sacrifice. It's cowardice."
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, Paul utters a cynical variation of this: “With great power comes a lot of people pestering you to use it on their behalf.”
  • Koihime†Musou: Tales of the Armored War Gods: Despite being in a PERFECT position to either use their powers for their gain or even manipulating events, none of the Riders have abused their power OR their knowledge, with the farthest any of them going is using their powers to make a living (often as bandit hunters at that, which is a public service). Even Masataka's actions which are more or less giving Go an advantage are all done with good intentions.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Shinji decides to use his powers to help people because he thinks it is his responsibility to use them wisely and he does not like seeing people hurt.
  • Deconstructed in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. When Sabrina first discovered her Psychic Powers, her father told her it was her responsibility to use them to help people and make the world a better place. However, over time people in her hometown began taking advantage of her goodwill and came asking for her help in very mundane tasks out of laziness, she grew more and more disgusted. It all went downhill when she decided to push them to improve themselves through fear and began using her powers to terrorize them.
  • Risk It All: Following the second attempt on his life, Ren resolves to use his powers to defend his parents from Black Mask rather than any kind of self-benefit. His sense of morality soon motivates him to go on patrol in Gotham's Chinatown and Koreatown, knowing that he would hate himself if he let something happen when he could do something about it.
    Ren: If there was a rape or a murder? If it happened nearby? Right when I decided to shrug my shoulders and go home? I would hate myself.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: After being shown Jor-El's message Asuka strives to live up to the ideal of hope that Kal-El could have been. The responsibility of being a superhero is also one of the major overarching themes of the story.
  • Played straight in the TMNT and Spiderverse fic note  Spider-Ninja. The phrase is said three times in the fic, but this dimension's spider-person learned it from Master Splinter instead of Ben Parker.
  • Reconstructed in To Intervene with regards to Spider-Man. Tony quickly realizes that Peter is consumed with the need to help anyone he possibly can, no matter how much it endangers himself. As a result, Tony does his best to train Peter, provide him with better gear, and talk to him about his guilt complex so he doesn't one day kill himself trying to save others.
  • Raise has this trope Invoked, Deconstructed, and Defied. People believe that they are entitled to Jaune's help and that any refusal or inability for him to do so is tantamount to murder. Jaune himself internalizes this, but it is clear if he actually tried as hard as was asked of him or was necessary to make a true difference, he would die and he is already burning out at his current pace. Furthermore, the people of Ansel and beyond are destroying the town and developing a terrible mob mentality to get access to Jaune, which has terrorized the Arc family. Finally, Nicholas Arc makes it clear to Jaune that literally no one has any right to his help, and those that act like they do are the least deserving.

    Film — Animation 
  • Takua in BIONICLE: Mask of Light cowers from responsibility of being The Chosen One. He tries to make everyone think it's actually his friend Jaller, as he's an already responsible guardsman and thus a better candidate. Takua relents after his attempts to run away from his fate just lead to harm, and becomes the mighty Takanuva. In his case, responsibility came before power, which sealed his fate to be a selfless hero.
  • Reconstructed in Encanto: The Madrigals were given a "miracle" where everyone born into the family gets a magical power (well, except Mirabel). They use their skills to help everyone in town, with Alma specifically stating that they strive to earn the gift that they were given. Over the course of the movie, however, it becomes clear that several family members are pushing themselves too hard for the sake of what others expect of them. By the end, everyone comes to accept a healthier version of this trope, while their Muggle neighbors make clear that they value them even after they get De Powered.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future:
    • Back to the Future: Doc Brown tells Marty that knowing information from the future can drastically alter one's intended decisions and actions. Marty tries to sneak a letter onto him containing the warning about his potential death in 1985, but Brown quickly notices it and breaks the letter while also scolding Marty. By the time Marty returns to the future and seemingly reaches too late to save his life, it turns out Brown had repaired the letter and learned the warning in advance, thus preventing his murder by using a Bulletproof Vest.
    • Back to the Future Part II: As stated by Brown in this movie, not using Time Travel for personal gain was one of his self-imposed policies on his and Marty's trips in the trilogy. In this movie, Marty considered making easy money with a time machine, but Biff Tannen beat him to using a future sports almanac to gamble on past events, which resulted in drastic changes in the timeline. However, like other rules — not using information from the future and avoiding one's other selves — Doc eventually disregarded this rule anyway after finding his love in 1885.
    • Back to the Future Part III: Doc constructed a giant machine with the sole purpose of creating ice cubes before the technology became common, which sounds like something one would do if they were trying to randomly change the timeline. But that's all it does, too; no Chekhov's Gun here since Doc never showed any intention to make this invention public.
  • The main theme of Bruce Almighty is Bruce learning to use his omnipotence to help others, rather than just himself.
  • Inverted for parodic effect in Clerks II tagline: "With no power comes no responsibility."
  • Used in Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the Safety Patrol.
  • In Iron Man after building his Iron Man suit, Tony understands that its power must be used to help people and begins an arduous transition from a glorified douchebag Arms Dealer to a humanitarian hero and champion of world peace. ...Who is still kind of a douchebag.
  • Kick-Ass sums it up with "With no power comes no responsibility. Except that's not true." In context, all the "superheroes" are normal people taking up costumes in a realistic world with realistic consequences, including the protagonist, whose combination of inexperience and naivety of becoming a vigilante is played as such a boneheaded move that he almost gets killed on his first day. However, the rest of the story details that if one does manage to survive long enough to learn the ropes, the power to fight evildoers in the pursuit of justice is very real, worth it, and AWESOME.
  • Parodied in Kung Fu Hustle — in the original Mandarin, one of the dying Kung Fu masters says this line... in English. The people surrounding him say they don't speak English, what is he saying? (The English Dub replaces this with a joke about repeating iconic movie lines.)
  • Man of Steel:
    • Jonathan tells the young Clark that he has to decide what kind of man he wants to be, since with his powers he can change the world.
    • Though Jor-El's primary concern is his son's survival, he's not ignorant of the implications Kal-El's superpowers will have on Earth, among humans, so he or his avatar tells him to live in humanity's service.
    • Martha offers a beleaguered Clark a different twist on this in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; she tells him that he should be whatever kind of person he wants to be, that other people are not entitled to his sacrifices, and that in the end, he must do what he does because he chooses to.
  • In SHAZAM! (2019), Billy initially uses his powers to goof off and become famous. However, Freddy eventually calls him out on his selfish behavior, causing him to realize he needs to accept responsibility to become a real hero.
  • The Specials plays it for laughs:
    Deadly Girl: Ted might have been right about some things. Like drinking; last week I got drunk at a bar mitzvah, unthinkingly summoned forth demons and... they... ate a kid.
  • Superman: The Movie borrows the trope and plays it straight, when Pa Kent tries to lecture the teenage Clark about not showing off. "You are here for a reason," he says... right before he dies of a heart attack that Clark can't prevent.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John realizes this when the Terminator almost kills someone after he orders it to fight off the two guys who came to see if he was ok after he had just screamed for help. In about thirty seconds, John goes from thinking about how cool it was to have his Killer Robot to realizing that it meant that he had the power of life and death at his fingertips and lecturing it about not killing. His second official order note  is Thou Shalt Not Kill.
  • The eldest immortal of the Underworld (2003) series feels that it is his responsibility to clean up after his kid's messes, to which the protagonist replies that if he was being responsible then he'd have stopped his kid a long time ago (him being the only one capable of doing so).'
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Xavier coming to terms with the responsibilities of his powers and his role as a mutant leader (and the personal sacrifice it requires) is a major plot point.

  • The Animorphs agree to an unwritten code of conduct in the way they use their powers: don't use them to steal, don't morph sentient beings, and so on. In early books, they're fairly studious about this code, aside from their tendency to use their powers for opening-chapter hijinks. Later in the David Trilogy, they break the rules for the first time, leading to new Sixth Ranger David deciding to take that idea and run with it. In the aftermath, the Animorphs swear to follow their code more strictly. They don't.
    • Jake also notes in MM3 that their power traps them in a bind: they have enough power to fight and make them responsible, but they don't have enough power to actually win.
  • In BIONICLE Adventures: Challenge of the Hordika, after Vakama discovers evidence that he and the other Toa Metru were chosen because of a villain plot rather than by destiny, Norik tells him that whether or not his team was meant to be Toa, they have the power, and so they have the responsibility to use it to help others. Though Vakama later finds out they were destined to bear Toa power, by that point he has already concluded that Toa have to be a force of good regardless.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Victor's Back Story includes a time where he made a worm and discarded it and was sternly rebuked: the stronger must protect the weaker, or those who are still stronger than they will treat them in the same manner. In the story itself, as the oldest child (with Amelia, the next oldest), he watches over and protects the younger children. At the climax, he makes his declaration of love to Amelia and regrets that he has nothing to offer her but himself; he had wanted to wait until he could provide for her.
  • Tris from Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, Tris has the most dangerous ambient magic out of the four kids, namely, weather magic. This includes the ability to create lightning and alter weather patterns (and later extends to geology). As a result, Tris has to learn iron-willed control very fast and can't support herself with her magic: she doesn't want to be a war mage, and being a weather mage would mean fouling up the weather patterns everywhere around the region she might work for.
    • Sandry also comes from a noble family and maintains the beliefs that the nobles are obligated to help those less fortunate and powerful than themselves. She sticks to this pretty well, although she has a selfish streak.
  • In C. S. Goto's Dawn of War trilogy, the amnesiac Rhamah's first serious doubts about Ahriman stem from his actions — and Rhamah's rebuke is that knowledge brings power, and power brings responsibility.
  • The noblest of the Deryni show a great awareness of this trope:
    • Alaric Morgan hangs another lampshade in The Bishop's Heir:
      Dhugal, I may have access to more and other kinds of power than most men, but I must answer for the use of that power to the same God and king that you do — or that any of the priests and bishops do — and to my conscience as well, which can be a far sterner taskmaster. Because I've been given far greater abilities, I've had to contend with far greater responsibilities. I didn't ask for them, but I have them. All I can do is serve the best way I know how.
    • Explicitly invoked in the Healer's Adsum Domine, a Gabrielite hymn in the Deryni works. Rhys Thuryn sings it in the short story "Healer's Song", and Duncan McLain sings it during the dedication of Camber's chapel in King Kelson's Bride. The English translation of the first verse makes the point:
      Here am I, Lord:
      Thou hast granted me the grace to Heal men's bodies.
      Here am I, Lord:
      Thou hast blessed me with the Sight to See men's souls.
      Here am I, Lord:
      Thou hast given me the might to bend the will of others.
      O Lord, grant strength and wisdom to wield all these gifts only as Thy will wouldst have me serve...
  • The Dresden Files
    • Wizard Harry Dresden embraces this trope, saying that he "follows the Tao of Peter Parker." He means it, too. Thomas Raith comments on this in the Dresdenverse story Backup, saying that Harry has a "half-divine, half-insane philosophy" about his responsibility that "he's cobbled together from the words of saints and comic books."
    • Subverted by many other wizards of the White Council. As long as they do not use black magic, they are free to use their powers for personal gain. If the White Council did not allow it, it would cause a civil war among the wizards.
    • The Merlin, head of the White Council, however, accepts this trope; he just interprets responsibility differently than Harry.
    • Molly Carpenter arguing against her mother cites the Parable of Talents as a reason for her to continue practicing magic. Harry immediately points out to a Father this trope says the same idea, only simpler. The Father agrees but notes that "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" is harder to work into a sermon.
    • Archangel Uriel and other angels hint at the idea of this trope. Uriel is one of God's strongest and most dangerous servants. However, as his Duty is the protection of Free Will, then respecting the choices mortals make, even if they are crimes of horrendous evil or just stupid, must be respected. Uriel states he has the power to destroy galaxies, but when a mortal villain mouths off to him and flicks the angel's nose, Uriel can only stand still.
  • The middle school novels of Seefer Elliot are heavily influenced by this trope. In the first book, the hero, Seefer, must overcome the urge to take his newfound powers and flee to safety. He ultimately decides to use them to save his peers, despite the fact they tormented him for years.
  • The Firebird Trilogy: The Sentinels are well aware of the dangers their Psychic Powers entail, and therefore hold themselves to a high moral standard.
  • The House of Night:
    • Said verbatim to Zoey by her grandmother in Marked.
    • Stevie Rae doesn't use her powers to "rule the world or anything crazy like that", because of this trope.
  • Artist Ian Hugo, the husband of Anais Nin, wrote this in an article about engraving:
    Every artist owes it as a duty to himself and to the world to know what messages he is conveying. Above all he should know when he is a free agent and when he is a prisoner of his own obsessions or of anything else. For the power of an image-maker is the power of a god or a goddess and with that power go responsibilities.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School, the Japanese government enforces this trope legally upon its genetically engineered magicians. Its interpretation of "responsibility" includes things like "marry who you're told to", "never leave the country for any reason", and "don't defend yourself once we've decided You Have Outlived Your Usefulness". Magicians also have to contend with entitled civilians who think the law means they can order any random magician nearby to serve as their personal bodyguard note , without recompense for as long as the civilian feels like.
  • Jurassic Park: Ian Malcolm talks about how a hypothetical martial artist, by the time he can kill someone with his bare hands, should also have learned the wisdom not to do so recklessly. He says that most other forms of power are similar. He then compares it to science, which allows people "to stand on the shoulders of giants" without developing the necessary wisdom. The film had a similar speech, though it was summarized by the line:
    ...Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.
  • Elijah Valentine could, theoretically, save the starving by magical means, but the world is made of connections — change one thing, you break another. So he mostly avoids using his powers, citing responsibility, and helps people in mundane ways.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, when discussing his options with Geary, Rione ironically observes that some people think that great power means doing what you want to, and not what you don't want to.
  • Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking states: If you are terribly strong, you must be terribly nice.
  • Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain: Deconstructed with Claudia, AKA "Generic Girl." She's the strongest super in the city by a fairly noticeable margin and spends all her free time stopping crime quickly and efficiently. However, she is still a 13-year-old girl who should not have to shoulder that responsibility. She's the strongest, but there are more than enough other heroes who can handle things, not to mention the fact that Claudia hates fighting and crashes hard from the adrenaline. Her arc in Henchmen revolves around realizing that the city can get by fine without her; in the climax, she's all set to solve the problem in five seconds, but Penny convinces her it's more important she spends time with her father because the other kids can handle it (albeit slower).
  • John Watson noted this of Sherlock Holmes:
    "So silent and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its defense."
  • In the A Song of Ice and Fire books, the Iron Throne is a Cool Chair made from the thousand swords of Aegon the Conqueror's enemies. It's incredibly uncomfortable to sit on and is rumored to have killed Aegon's son, Maegor. The entire point is to remind anyone who sits on it that supreme power is supremely dangerous, not something to be trifled with and one can never slouch and grow complacent while they sit on the throne. The overwhelming majority of people in these books completely miss this point.
  • In Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna is told early on that she can't hide from her magic and that she must use her Gift for healing to make up for the lives she will take as a knight.
  • The Knights Radiant of The Stormlight Archive had this as part of their oath. Specifically, "strength before weakness" is a pithy way of saying that those with power must use it for the benefit of those without.
  • In The Tales of Alvin Maker, young Alvin Miller makes this an absolute rule after his encounter with a spirit guide: he must never use his powers for evil or even selfish purposes, but only for noble ones.
  • Sarah in Tales of an Mazing Girl feels she has awesome powers. However, they cut into her lounging around time.
  • Given a stranger spin in the final part of Tuf Voyaging, where the main character, after twice failing to solve a planet's problems despite his Cool Ship's godlike powers, concludes that to give them a permanent solution to their situation, he must accept the responsibility and authority of a god alongside the powers of one.
  • In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs. the Junion Super Patriots, this is alluded to when talking about how she got her powers.
  • Virgil used this trope as the Roman ideal, making it Older Than Feudalism:
    Other peoples may yet
    more skillfully teach bronze to breathe,
    leading outward and loosing
    the life lying hidden in marble;
    Some may plead causes better,
    or using the tools of science
    better predict Heaven's moods
    and chart the stars changing courses.
    But Roman, remember you well
    that your own arts are these others:
    to govern the nations in power;
    to dictate their rule in peace;
    to raise up the peoples you have conquered,
    and throw down the proud who resist.
    Translation: Some peoples' hat is art, for others it's science, for us, it's being in charge. Don't screw it up.
  • Played with in C. S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy casts a spell to find out what her friends think of her, but when Aslan rebukes her, it is not for the personal gain, but the eavesdropping. He explicitly says that spying on people by magical means is still spying. So with great power comes — more chances to do things that would be wrong regardless of how you do them.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Uriel explicitly thinks that the Inquisitor considers the population he is willing to sacrifice as numbers, while Uriel thinks of them as people.
  • The wizards of Young Wizards have to swear an Oath before they get their power, and intentionally breaking it will result in the power being taken back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Parodied in the pilot episode, when Skye is trying to convince Mike he needs her help with his gifts:
    Skye: With great power comes...a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with.
  • Bewitched lampshaded this trope in an episode where Samantha used her powers to do something but was seen by a mortal who wasn't supposed to see her. So she's considering "freezing" them until she can figure out what to do about it. But to do that, she would have to freeze others who would miss them if they weren't around for a few weeks while the person was gone, so they'd have to be frozen. She sort of realizes the ridiculousness of this when she considers maybe she should just freeze the entire human race, i.e. all mortals. Once you get started with potentially bad actions, each subsequent one becomes easier until you've crossed every line.
  • In Charmed (1998), the sisters were prohibited from using their power for "personal gain" to the point where they couldn't even use it to save Piper's life when she was about to die from natural causes, even though it would preserve their special Power-of-Three-ness and presumably save many lives in the long run. Later on, the writers played with this trope a bit.
    • In Season 6, Phoebe's empath power is taken away because the Elders feel she abused it.
    • In Season 7, the sisters use their powers to help the avatars try and create a utopia but this comes at a heavier price than they realise and then they have to put things right.
    • Towards the end of Season 8 the magical community turns on the sisters for not living up to their responsibilities.
  • Dead Like Me: If the reapers abuse their powers they face supernatural consequences. When George tries to directly speak to her mother she finds she can no longer remember memories she could talk about to prove she is Joy's daughter (her appearance is altered to the living). Also when George tries to mess with fate, weird and unpleasant things start happening to her.
  • Gary from Early Edition once uses the paper to bet on horse races. He was so busy making money that he didn't read the part about a friend of his who died in a car crash.
    • In other episodes, he did "cheat" at horse races on a limited basis, just so he could pay the bills.
  • The Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Regrets... I've Had A Few" features this. Shortly after the Young Hercules Pilot Movie, Hercules has become brash and arrogant, acting bored and too good for Cheiron's lessons. One of the local gangs attempts to initiate a new member (Bartoc) by siccing him on Hercules. During the confrontation, Hercules treats it as a joke and just messes with Bartoc, until he accidentally breaks the guy's neck. It's a wake-up call for Herc, and he spends the remaining flashbacks dealing with the fallout (including delivering the news to Bartoc's family).
  • Hiro Nakamura, of Heroes, has explicitly quoted this trope, in full "Spider-Man" glory, to his more mercenary friend Ando — and was proved correct when Ando's argued-for cheating at cards got them in serious trouble. (Just because nobody knows how you're cheating doesn't mean they can't tell you're cheating!) And the other hero who exemplifies this philosophy is named Peter P.
  • The Invisible Man: The Official frequently tries to impress this upon Darien. He wants him to use his invisibility gland to help protect the country. Occasionally if he feels Darien is out of line he goes so far as to withhold the counteragent that prevents Darien from going mad.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): Jessica gives a rebuttal to someone who tries to pull this sort of remark on her, saying, "If you say ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, I swear I’ll throw up on you.”
  • Kamen Rider has this baked into the premise thanks to Shotaro Ishinomori's fondness for the Phlebotinum Rebel trope. In every single series, the Riders' powers come from the same source as their enemies, but the Riders choose to do good with them. This got a special notice in the Post-Script Episodes of Kamen Rider Wizard, where the villain tries to claim that the Riders hide behind a facade of "justice" but are no better than the monsters they slay; the Riders counter by saying that they fight to protect humanity's peace and freedom against those who would destroy both, rather than for some arbitrary definition of justice.
    • Actually flipped to "With Great Responsibility Comes Great Power" in Kamen Rider Kuuga. The first time Yusuke Godai transforms, it's to protect himself, and all he can manage is Kuuga's Growing Form. When he decides to transform to protect everyone's smiles, that's when he achieves Kuuga's more powerful Mighty Form.
    • In Kamen Rider Gaim, Takatora Kureshima believes in this in the form of noblesse oblige; later in the series, his brother deconstructs it while they fight each other:
      Micchy: What was that you were always droning about? Noblesse oblige? That the most gifted should be the first to sacrifice. In that was true nobility. What is "nobility" then? To get hurt for others' sake, to let them use you... You expect anyone to be happy about that?
    • In Kamen Rider Drive, Gou/Kamen Rider Mach uses the same Density Shift powers as the Roidmudes to intimidate some criminals for information; Shinnosuke/Drive chews him out for this, saying that they have a responsibility to be better than that. It helps that Shinnosuke was a By-the-Book Cop even before he became Drive.
  • In Lois & Clark, some visiting Kryptonians question Clark's refusal to kill his enemies. Clark tells them that when he discovered his power, he had to decide whether to use it for destruction or for life, and he chose life.
  • The original Power Rangers were explicitly instructed not to use their powers for anything but fighting evil. This was subverted in the later Mystic Force season, though they were punished for it and technically later teams never had Zordon's three rules.
    • Even the Theme Song says so. They know the fate of the world is lying in their hands. They know to only use their weapons for defense.
    • Dustin of Power Rangers Ninja Storm got a light scolding from Sensei for using his abilities to stop a crime — an orchestrated hit on a store. They are only supposed to fight the Monster of the Week and nothing else. Years earlier, Justin got scolded for teleporting to safety when he was falling out of a tree and could have broken his neck (or otherwise been seriously injured).
    • Appropriately, Super Sentai, and by extent Power Rangers, was inspired by Japanese Spider-Man.
  • In Powers, Walker gives Calista this speech in Season 2 when she takes up Retro Girl's moniker.
  • Michael from Roswell has been known to use his telekinetic powers to cheat at dice games.
  • In Smallville, Clark naturally feels compelled to use his powers to help others. Jonathan once had a line like that too. Chloe Sullivan too, after she received the meteor power of Empathic Healing, she insists on healing a dying Lex even though it killed her the first time. It killed her again, but she has Resurrective Immortality. Many others with powers don't.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "True Q", when trying to justify killing Amanda if she were a half human/Q hybrid, Q states "With unlimited power comes responsibility." Being that it's Q, you can't be sure if he isn't being disingenuous, but the episode still does make the point when Amanda is forced to face the fact that living as a human would mean not making use of her powers.
  • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad occasionally used their powers for fun and games, including a game of Internet hide-and-seek.
  • Poor President Bartlet from The West Wing has a very strong sense of this trope that invariably leads to enormous guilt, to the point of declaring that he would not be able to stomach the prospect of remaining President if he ever walked willingly to a bunker during a crisis. The trope was not just limited to his personal feelings: it screwed him over badly on numerous occasions, most sadistically in the third season finale, because it's part of his job.

  • The Bible in the Parable of the Faithful Servant: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Divine spellcasters in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder make this a game mechanic: in exchange for their powers, they are required to use them in ways that advance (or at least do not conflict with) a given cause, typically a deity or religion. The Paladin is an extreme example of this, losing their divinely granted powers instantly if they violate their code of conduct (or sacred oath in 5th Edition D&D).
  • Genius: The Transgression calls its Karma Meter "Obligation". High Obligation, you're a Reasonable Authority Figure and Science Hero. Low Obligation, you're either a cackling lunatic or Mengele. The Peerage's view on it subverts it slightly; you do have a responsibility, but it's a responsibility to keep your head down, remain quiet, and don't do anything too insane. To them, a Genius trying to help has the risk of getting carried away and having weird ideas on what helping means.
  • Ironclaw's section on Necromancy states "with unlimited power comes unlimited irresponsibility."
  • In the New World of Darkness:
    • Muggles can win free points on the Karma Meter for exceptional acts of heroism, whereas the various supernatural splats always have to spend Experience Points for the same. This is explicitly explained as a responsibility of the powerful to tend to the well-being of their souls.
    • Mage: The Awakening:
      • The Karma Meter is enforced more harshly for mages than for Muggles. Mages are blocked from the highest levels of Wisdom just for using magic for its Mundane Utility, a Magic Misfire is worse for low-Wisdom mages, and Spirits dislike low-Wisdom mages on sight.
      • Mages need to be careful about the spells they cast because flagrantly throwing around extremely obvious magic threatens the various Magic Misfire incidents of Paradox.
      • This belief is what separates the Silver Ladder from the Seers of the Throne. The Silver Ladder believes they're supposed to rule over Sleepers, but that this rulership is for the Sleepers' good — they're supposed to guide Sleepers towards enlightenment and generally rule well. Seers don't believe that control over Sleepers has any real responsibilities apart from not spooking the herd and abuse both mystical and manipulative power for personal gain on a grimly regular basis.
  • In Sparks of Light, one of the issues suffered by the Light is the question of "grey magic," or the use of the Light for personal benefit (ranging from using the Light to refresh yourself after an all-night study session, to rigging the stock market in your favor). The Courts of Light say "don't do that, ever," but no magical girl obeys that rule perfectly (and the Courts don't have any means of strictly enforcing it). The Twilight Courts broke away from the Light because they saw the Light's position as Lawful Stupid. However, there's a reason for the rules, because there is a slippery slope to worry about, and a lot of Twilight girls eventually fall to the Dark.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed and II both deconstruct the eponymous Badass Creed, "Nothing is true; everything is permitted." Ezio, and Altair after Character Development, remark that the Creed essentially is just an Anti-Nihilist repudiation of the concept of "natural law": the only codes of conduct that exist are the ones that human societies choose to impose on themselves for civilizations to exist, and thus the onus is entirely on individual people to act wisely.
  • In Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland, Meruru and the Masked G will have a discussion about this if the player qualifies for the requirements of the Strongest Princess ending. Meruru is excited about being the "strongest princess," but comes to wonder just what power is and why it is or isn't important.
  • In Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey, after Ilmeria decides to open an atelier of her own and sends a letter to her parents informing them of such, she receives a letter back stating that alchemy brings great power, so wielding it without purpose would be a foolish thing to do. However, by choosing her path, she has become a respectable alchemist.
  • Dishonored:
    • The Outsider grants his gifts of magic to people purely because he finds them interesting and wants to see what they'd do with an extra catalyst. He even tells Corvo outright that what he chooses to do with his newfound powers is entirely up to him.
    • In a meta sense, Corvo's (and the player's) actions throughout the game drastically alter the tone of the setting. It could thus be said that this trope is the entire game's moral.
  • In Dragon Age II, this was how the hero's father, Malcolm, viewed being a mage.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has Wynne asking the PC point-blank what it means to be a Grey Warden, and the rest of the conversation is more or less Wynne's Uncle Ben moment.
  • Subverted in Driver: San Francisco. Chapter 1 is even called With great power... but the first thing Tanner does with his ability to Body Surf into the drivers of other vehicles is gleefully abuse said power with precisely zero repercussions.
  • In Lament Mirror in the PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release of Eternal Sonata, Salsa is alone with Frederic and hankering for some food. She asks Frederic why he doesn't use his magic powers to magic up a steak for them. He replies that "Magic is not a tool of convenience," and continues that even if such a thing were possible, their first thought should be of the children starving in the cities. Salsa is not persuaded by this logical argument and breaks down in a tantrum, causing Frederic to Face Palm.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • The core tenet of the Circle of Knowing and its successor organization, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn is that those with power and knowledge must wield it to better the lives of others. All of the Scions as of the 2.0 relaunch are staunchly devoted to making the world a better place by helping to defeat the threat of the Ascians and primal summonings despite having nothing to gain from it and often suffering for it.
      Louisoix: To ignore the plight of those one might conceivably save is not wisdom─it is indolence.
    • The Company of Heroes' creed is that it's the duty of the strong to protect the weak. It's because the members of the Company are elite soldiers and heroes who possess strength far above most men that they're obligated to protect those weaker than them. This is why the surviving members of Company have taken up positions as bodyguards and protectors rather than continuing to peddle their trade as sellswords.
    • The story examines this in regards to the Warrior of Light in particular.
      • In the Level 80 Summoner quest, Jajasamu asks the Warrior how they feel about constantly being at the front of the battle against primal summonings. The Warrior can respond by saying that they're happy to be of service or say that it's just the way of things. As someone with the Echo and the ability to defeat primals, they feel obligated to help.
      • The Dark Knight questline also examines the Warrior's feelings of duty and the burdens associated with their title. Fray, the embodiment of their buried resentments against those who have taken advantage of them as well as their self-love and self-esteem, rants and raves about how the Warrior shouldn't have to risk their life for others. Meanwhile, Myste, the embodiment of their grief and regret over the people they've killed and failed to save, implies that a part of the Warrior would like nothing more than to deny it all happened. Despite this, the Warrior refuses to forsake their responsibilities because even worse tragedies await should they lose the will to fight.
  • In Geneforge, this is a major theme of the Shapers. While they're not good guys (Gray-and-Grey Morality rules the roost), they know exactly how dangerous Shaping is, and while they use this technology as the basis of their civilization, they consider containment procedures and keeping Shaping under control to be just as important as continuing to develop the art for the good of their people. Their black labs have security procedures that make the CDC look lax, and they forbid the use of Upgrade Artifacts because a core element of their philosophy is that developing one's power naturally means developing the discipline to use this power wisely while giving power to amateurs before they're ready will lead to chaos.
  • In The Godfather game, Tom Hagen tells you as Aldo Trapani that becoming Capo is an honor that comes with great responsibility, should you speak with him immediately after the promotion cutscene. Given that Aldo's at best a Sociopathic Hero and at worst an out-and-out Villain Protagonist, though, one wonders if there was meant to be any moral behind it...
  • Cole from inFAMOUS. And everything Kessler puts you through? Preparation for when the shit hits the fan. Of course, with the game's moral choice system, it's up to the player whether or not Cole embraces this trope or if he rejects it and is only looking out for himself.
  • Learning this is part of Good Delsin's Character Development in In FAMOUS Second Son.
  • In Mega Man ZX, it's noted at multiple points that the Chosen Ones who become Mega Men have the potential to change the very state of the world with the power of their Biometals. The heroes are the ones who choose to use that power to protect the innocent from Mavericks to keep them from suffering the same fates their loved ones suffered or for the sakes of those who helped them when no one else would, while most of the villains want to use their powers to rule the world and institute their brands of order on it because of their past traumas.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Athena was driven to become a lawyer because her powers showed her that a guy being hauled away for murder was innocent. She was about nine years old at the time.
  • Spoofed in Psychonauts. After Ford Crueller teaches Raz how to use pyrokinesis, he tells him not to use it unless it's REALLY important, or unless it's REALLY funny. The dev team ensured it would always be funny, encouraging guaranteeing a flagrant abuse of the power.
  • In RuneScape, when Saradomin first achieved godhood, he became drunk with power, destroyed a city, and almost wiped out an entire sapient species because they were pacifists who chose not to worship or side with him during the ancient God Wars. He now regrets his violent actions and calls them his greatest failures.
  • In StarCraft, defying this trope is the entire motivation of the ultimate Big Bad of the series. Amon enjoyed the power that came with becoming a Xel'Naga but balked when he realized that the Xel'Naga aren't gods, but shepherds.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Sith Inquisitor companion Ashara Zavros, formerly a Jedi Padawan, criticizes a revered Jedi Master for living in meditative seclusion while the galaxy is torn apart by war but also takes note that in contrast to the Jedi Code, the Sith Code is more of a description of how Sith view the Force than an instruction on how to act. She argues that since she and the Inquisitor have these powers, they should be using them to help end the galaxy's suffering.
  • Mentioned in Undertale, but only under rather specific circumstances — if you kill Papyrus, but aren't going full genocide, Sans will meet you in the Last Corridor and insinuate he knows about your Save Scumming, and ask if you have a special power, doesn't that mean you also have a responsibility to do the right thing? Regardless of what your response is, it leads to him calling you out for killing Papyrus.
  • Mentioned during King Terenas' voiceover about his son Arthas in the Wrath Of the Lich King intro. Note that by this time, Arthas has long since done a Face–Heel Turn, and this line is juxtaposed against Arthas resurrecting an undead dragon.
    "Our line has always ruled with wisdom and strength. I know you will show restraint when exercising your great power."

  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything: Dongtae is the only person who doesn't think Dice allow you to do whatever you want, and early in the series imagines being Spider-Man.
  • Erfworld is set in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse where this trope is a game mechanic: "Commander" units feel a sense of "Duty", which motivates them to use their talents for the betterment of their Faction, even to the point of enabling a Zeroth Law Rebellion if they doubt their Ruler's ability to act in their Faction's best interests.
  • Freefall: The "responsibility" part is why Sam doesn't want to hold Florence's remote control and "reset" scent vial.
    Florence: Don't you want to keep these?
    Sam: Heck, no. With great power comes great responsibility, and who wants that?
  • Grrl Power: ARCHON has this as its mission statement - literally, as it uses a (poorly translated) version of this phrase as the organization's Pretentious Latin Motto, and the agency has the remit of enlisting any superhuman who seeks to use their powers productively, broadly enforcing this trope (mostly).
  • Jupiter-Men: Once he starts getting the hang of his abilities, Quintin becomes convinced that he and Jackie have been chosen to use their powers for the greater good of mankind like Jupiter-Man. After he and Jackie stop a mugger, Quintin is eager to do it again.
  • In Keychain of Creation, Misho was a Solar of the First Age, and therefore one of the rulers of Creation. Unlike many of his brethren, he ruled wisely and well. However, one day he saw the Loom of Fate, and due to his perfect memory, he could never forget it. He spent the rest of his First Age incarnation working non-stop since with his power he knew every single second of his time could save hundreds of lives. It's implied that when the Usurpation came he didn't even notice until he was actually killed.
  • Lady Spectra & Sparky: After promising her husband that she won't let their inventions fall into the hands of the military, Lady Spectra decides to use them to become a superhero instead.
  • In Mob Psycho 100, Mob has an incredibly mundane, mediocre life...and god-like Psychic Powers. However, he almost never uses his powers because when he was younger, his future mentor Reigen told him that he shouldn't ever view himself as superior to ordinary people, and that misusing his abilities would be like misusing a knife (but on a much grander scale). An early story arc introduces a Shadow Archetype character who does use his powers to rule his school; after getting curb-stomped by Mob, he undergoes a Heel–Face Turn and becomes much more humble.
  • The Order of the Stick parodies it.
    Elan: "With moderate power comes moderate responsibility."
  • Those with powers in Pacificators are forced to either train and become T-Pacificators, or be labeled as renegades. There's no Take a Third Option at all.
  • Paranatural: Isaac brings Max with him to a secret location and gets a surprisingly effective speech considering it's coming from someone with a doorknob for a face.
  • Inverted in Questionable Content by the AnthroPCs which are fine with having no civil rights because having power would mean having to take responsibility For the Lulz. Given how most of them seem free to run around doing whatever they please instead of serving as an actual computer, it seems like they've gotten the better part of the deal.
    • Also, Hannelore points out that her mom could have never gotten to where she was as a businesswoman if she believed that.
  • Schlock Mercenary sees Petey say this to the Rev (who identifies it as "the Gospel of Uncle Benjamin"). Given that Petey's put himself in charge of a defensive war and understands that (directly) helping his friends can impact it even indirectly, he seems to believe it.
  • This is ultimately what drove Tiger to choose heroics over his family in Spinnerette. After his wife learned about his secret patrols as the hero Tiger, his wife made him promise to stop, out of fear that it would end up getting him killed. Later, the school his daughters attended had been attacked by a gunman. While his daughters turned out to be safe, they admonished him for not taking up the mantle of Tiger to try and save the victims. He couldn't help but agree with them, even as his wife threatened to divorce him if he tried to be a hero again.
  • Unordinary: John is an advocate of this and expresses to Sera that he wishes that those with abilities would use them to protect the weak rather than oppress them. After Sera confronts him about him being Joker, he declares that he doesn't believe that, which rattles her deeply.
  • Parodied in xkcd: German physicist Georg Ohm never forgot the words of his dying uncle who told him, "With great Power comes Great Current squared times Resistance" and crafted that wisdom into the foundation of modern electrical engineering. Translated, that means that with high levels of Power, one has the Responsibility to deal with the waste heat if one doesn't want their device to burn up.

    Web Originals 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall mocks this whenever it is encountered. "That's right, people, don't have anything unique or special about you, perhaps it's not 'normal.'"
  • Glowfic has some form of this/plays with this trope somehow.
    • Bells use their power to give themselves all kinds of neat perks, such as The Needless and Living Lie Detector and Resurrective Immortality and such but they also always without exception use their Functional Magic or other Applied Phlebotinum to improve worlds/people's lives, for example terraforming mars and setting up portals to it and filling it with houses and free magical healing items and free food replicators, and they fix malaria and persuade everyone around them with any power to do the same.
  • How to Hero riffs on this concept when the guide reminds its readers that "if you’ve got great powers you’re morally responsible to do lots of good stuff with them." The parenthetical voice then asks any readers with a catchier way of saying that to send them a telegram.
  • Whateley Universe: Lots of examples, including the headmistress of Whateley Academy, but Stormwolf (Adam Ironknife) is probably the best example. He's so devoted to the concepts of justice and law that he's letting bad stuff happen because he doesn't have proof of it. Also, every single person in the school club Future Superheroes of America is this way by definition.
    • On the other hand, all of Team Kimba use their powers to make their lives easier, doing everything from Fey magically drying her long hair every morning, to Generator using her powers to earn money working in the Whateley Academy sewers.
    • While Phase has few compunctions about using his powers to benefit himself through Mundane Utility, he is also very self-conscious about both the risks of misusing them and obligation to use them constructively, to the level of Chronic Hero Syndrome at times. While he explicitly denies wanting to be a superhero, he's been called out at least once for espousing this position in a lot more words.

    Western Animation 
  • Several episodes in Batman: The Animated Series show that Bruce Wayne embraces this trope both as Batman and as Bruce Wayne. Batman, as we all know, helps everyone he can, with his accomplishments ranging from stopping Ras al Ghul from killing off the human race to stopping a poor woman's ex husband from kidnapping their daughter. Bruce Wayne helps people by using his vast wealth to sponsor many charities and efforts to better Gotham and the lives of the people in it, with Bruce sometimes even befriending Batman's rogues. This is in sharp contrast with other members of Gotham's elite, who often use their wealth to simply entertain themselves at the expense of others.
  • Zig-Zagged in Ben 10. Ben uses the Omnitrix for personal gain or personal amusement every chance he gets. His immaturity, however, usually brings about the worst possible result. However, Grandpa Max's influence and his own moral fortitude ensured his childish shenanigans never became anything more than victimless crimes, especially after meeting his Evil Counterpart Kevin 11 who essentially lived by Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!. By Ben 10: Alien Force he's grown past it and embraced this trope fully. Kevin too, but to a lesser extent.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse features a Ben from Dimension 23, where Grandpa Max died before he got the Omnitrix. Because of this, Ben never learned there were both good and bad aliens and assumed all aliens were "haters". It takes the prime universe Ben and Dimension 23 Azimuth to set him straight.
  • In Danny Phantom, Danny has occasionally used his powers to retaliate against bullies. However, when he lays on Dash, he comes to regret it when a nerdish ghost confuses him as a bully.
    • Danny using his powers for any personal gain never works out well and sometimes puts Amity Park and its people in world-ending danger. One possible future that he created by cheating on an ersatz SAT led to his friends and family being killed in an extremely unlikely accident... because his English teacher wanted to make a point. Danny himself being the sole survivor wound up having his ghost half turned into a monster who killed his human half and began a ten-year reign of terror. Half-averted with Vlad Masters/Vlad Plasmius who used his powers to amass a fortune through clearly unethical means... and half-played straight in that he's a lonely and bitter man who wants to be loved. Well, that's what he says as he tries to repeatedly kill Jack Fenton and endangers innocent people regularly. You would think Vlad alone would be enough of an example to not need the other Aesops, but Danny can be an Idiot Hero on occasion.
  • On Ella the Elephant, Ella can use her magic hat to help others, but it will start acting funny and not work properly if she tries to use it to do something like getting out of doing work.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Cool Hand Peter", Peter, Joe, Quagmire, and (a visiting) Cleveland decide to take a road trip down south to get away from their wives for a bit. While traveling, they're pulled over by a corrupt hick who arrests them on trumped-up charges simply because Cleveland is black. When it looks like their stay in prison may be indefinite, the gang opts to escape on their own, back to Quahog. When they arrive, it turns out the police force followed them, only for Joe to reveal that he anticipated this and called in Quahog's police force. The episode ends when Joe gives a speech.
    Joe: You took an oath, just the same as me, Sheriff. To protect and serve, not to harass and douche. Just because you have a badge doesn't mean you can treat people any way you like, and as a law enforcement professional, you have an obligation to be more ethically upstanding than the average man, not less. Now get the hell out of my town!
  • The Canadian short Hot Stuff is about the responsibility of using fire and what could happen if one's careless with it.
  • Kim Possible has no superhuman abilities, but her ability to call in favors comes close. She can usually line up global transport and any needed equipment from people she had helped in the past, at any hour of the day, to anywhere on Earth. She is reluctant to use it for her gain from an ethical standpoint, but in a more practical sense, she knows that abusing this ability might make it go away since it's tied to her character and reputation.
  • The Legend of Korra establishes that the Avatar Cycle exists primarily because Wan dedicated himself to protecting the world.
  • S5E10 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Spike attempting to let Princess Twilight have a few hours of sleep after being up for several days in a row. As a result, he ends up making decisions in her name, eventually calling himself Princess Spike. Only near the end, after he had been warned by Princess Cadance, does Spike realize the consequences of his decisions, as the room where the convention was supposed to take place is completely flooded thanks to something that Spike wanted to be done later.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls Movie, which is a detailed telling of their Origin Story, the girls learn the hard way what using their full power recklessly can do to an innocent town; a game of tag wrecks many buildings and streets, and generally panic the citizens. In the end, the message is subverted, and by the time of the series, the ridiculously large amount of collateral damage the girls wreak on Townsville is accepted by everyone as the cost of safety.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: Bow learned this lesson when he abused the power of a wand he took from Shadow Weaver in "Bow's Magical Gift". However, the biggest problem wasn't how he used the power but how often he used it.
  • The Spectacular Spider Man: Like all incarnations of Spider-Man, Peter Parker lives by this trope, using his powers to help, save, or protect anyone he can. The episode "Intervention" reveals that he lives by this motto in honor of Uncle Ben, who taught Peter that lesson shortly before he was killed.
    Spider-Man: (to his uncle's killer): I should drop you, take from you what you took from Ben Parker. (Drops him before catching him in a web). But he wouldn't approve. (To himself) With great power comes great responsibility.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: while the main Aesop of "Lightsaber Lost" is about patience, it also touches on responsibility — Ahsoka's lightsaber is pickpocketed off her at the start of the episode and she's worried what the criminal who took it could do with it as a result of her carelessness, and the episode culminates with said criminal taking civilians hostage with the lightsaber at their throats. Ahsoka is brought to a Jedi youngling class at the end of the episode to pass this lesson on to the children.
  • On two occasions in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, Mario and Luigi have a chance to return to their home in New York. They end up going back to the Mushroom Kingdom however when they realize that King Koopa would seize the opportunity to cause trouble (once in the Mushroom Kingdom and once in their world). Also both times, they offer the Princess a chance to go with them, she firmly declines due to her responsibility to her people.
  • In the W.I.T.C.H. episode "The Stone Of Threbe", the girls have trouble getting the smelly character Blunk to take a bath, so they decide to transform to make it easier to catch him. A few minutes after doing so, their powers are stripped away by a side-effect of the Stone of Threbe's presence, and they spend the rest of the episode wishing they'd used their powers more responsibly. The loss of the girls' powers isn't directly related to their misuse, but it seems like Karma chose to bite them in the butt.
    • Which leads to Fridge Logic and a Broken Aesop since cleaning Blunk up was supposed to keep his stink from hurting Hay Lin's family-owned restaurant's business; since the restaurant's basement acts as the Guardian's HQ and Hay's grandmother/WITCH's mentor lives there it's in the best interests of the entire universe that it stay open. Karma does pay them back at the end when Blunk rolls into a car wash and gets clean.
    • The girls usually experience similar cosmic backlash when they use their Astral Drop clones to make life a bit easier for them. In the third volume of the original comic, overuse of the Astral Drops leads to the girls' lives getting wrecked for a while, while in the second season animated series episode "H is for Hunted", Nerissa uses her powers to make one of Will's Astral Drops a living, breathing person... with heartrending consequences.
      • Also in "H is for Hunted" they transform to decorate their gym for the farewell party of one of their teachers and mostly get away with it, though they do come close to getting caught. The more realistic Aesop ("Don't neglect your responsibilities") is mixed in with the Fantastic Aesop fairly well and the Astral Drops are not used at all for the rest of the season, though more likely because of Nerissa's ability instead of the girls learning their lesson.

    Real Life 
  • The doctrine of noblesse oblige teaches that the wealthy and powerful are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard and contribute more to society than those in less powerful or less fortunate positions.
  • Used as a quote in an official U.S. Department of Justice press release by Manny Muriel, the Special Agent in Charge of the IRS' Criminal Division, when announcing the 5.5-year prison sentence of former Detroit-area trash hauling CEO Charles B. Rizzo on conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges.
    With power comes great responsibility. When you willingly choose to use your power to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars and commit bribery, know that IRS-CI will be there to hold you accountable. IRS-CI Special Agents will comb through any rubbish to find evidence of a crime — in this case, shell companies and phony legal settlement agreements, especially one as egregious and offensive as this.
  • In all current variants of UNIX, there is a command called sudo, which (if your user account is allowed to use it in the first place) tells the OS to ignore any of the piddling restrictions placed on you as an ordinary user and execute the command that follows with root, or super-user, privileges - i.e. with total access to every file, process, daemon, etc, and thus the ability to seriously mess up or even completely destroy the OS. The first time you use it, the following warning will pop up before you are prompted to enter your password again to confirm you really are going to go ahead and switch to god-mode:
    "We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:
    #1) Respect the privacy of others.
    #2) Think before you type.
    #3) With great power comes great responsibility."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Comes Great Responsibility


Not a Tool of Convenience

In "Eternal Sonata" (PlayStation 3 version exclusive scene), Salsa demands that Frederic Chopin use his magic powers to create a steak for her. He tells her that magic is not a tool of convenience and that even if it could be used for such things, their first thought should be of starving children. This rationed argument utterly fails to sway the whining girl.

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Main / WithGreatPowerComesGreatResponsibility

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