As a rule, much of fiction ends with the villain being defeated by the hero. This should be dramatic, but if the true villain isn't that physically powerful, then this is going to be a rather short fight.
Sure, a writer could give their master manipulator a Humongous Mecha or have your amoral industrialist secretly be a martial arts master, but there's also something satisfying in bringing the invincible hero down a few pegs. Many pegs. To the point where they're already a few moments from death when they meet; this has the effect of showing that the character isn't fearless simply due to having superior power, but superior character-strength even when stripped of those abilities.
You Can Barely Stand is a scene where the villain meets the hero when he's in no fit state to fight. The threat of blood loss or collapse is as much a threat as the bad guy slapping him about and telling him he's failed and that he's not that invincible after all. The reason for the injuries can include a special weakness, having been poisoned, having been tortured, magical influence, or having just gotten the crap kicked out of him by either the Mooks or The Dragon.
Either way, the hero will eventually get a dramatic burst and fight on despite his weakened state, and will usually defeat their foe by the slightest of margins. Only once they've won will they be allowed the luxury of collapsing. For a truly Bittersweet Ending, they might never get up again.
On the flip-side, The Hero may be fighting a lackey who's just too stubborn to quit. In pity, the hero tells the lackey that they should surrender, or just leaves the fight themselves. This often happens in the leadup to a HeelFace Turn.
A common form of Drama-Preserving Handicap. A villainous version of Tempting Fate. If the hero is at their physical best when meeting the villain face-to-face, expect the hero to suffer a Game-Breaking Injury. May manifest as Injured Player Character Stage.
- A staple in every single climactic battle in Dragon Ball, each tending to go upwards from there in the following arcs. Expect title pages of manga chapters after one of these is over to be the victor sitting exhausted and battered on the ground. The most iconic examples would be:
- Goku Vs. Jackie Chun. The Tournament final results in a double knockout, so per the rules, the first person to stand up and say "I am the champion" will be declared the winner. Both take over a minute to stand up, but while Goku says "I am the champi..." he faints before he can finish the sentence, giving Jackie the chance to do it himself and win.
- Goku Vs. King Piccolo. Goku gets his left arm and both of his legs broken. Still, Goku manages to win by focusing all of his strength in his right arm to fire a Kamehameha that propels him into the air and punch through Piccolo.
- Goku Vs. Piccolo Jr. Being aware of that leaving Goku one healthy arm was a mistake, Piccolo now completely incapacitates Goku by breaking all of his limbs. Still, Goku manages to win by charging with his own body, using all of his remaining Ki to fly.
- Goku Vs. Vegeta: Goku gets his whole body incapacitated through desperate use of the Kai-Ken and getting wrecked by Oozaru Vegeta, but still manages to form a small Spirit Bomb and pass it to Krillin, who returns alongside Gohan. In a notable exception to most other fights, nearly every single combatant at the end of the fight is barely able to sit up by the end.
- Goku Vs. Frieza: After Frieza manages to cut himself in half, he's reduced to this state, and he pleads Goku for some ki. Goku relents, and Frieza rubs his empathy in his face before firing an attack at him while he leaves. Goku responds in kind, easily killing his opponent.
- Gohan Vs. Cell: Gohan gets his right arm maimed while trying to save Vegeta from Cell. Still, thanks to Goku's encouragement, Gohan forms a Kamehameha with a single arm that destroys Cell in a Beam-O-War, once Vegeta distracts him for a split second.
- In Berserk, after the fight with Rosine, Guts is a complete mess. That also happens to be when he runs into the Holy Iron Chain Knights. He still puts up a hell of a fight but gets captured at the end of it. In any other condition, he would have killed them all.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang takes down a deadly, deadly Lust after being stabbed in the stomach and cauterizing the wounds himself. It was awesome.
- At the end of the fight, he appears to remain unflinching as an enemy attack comes flying towards his face only to stop mere inches away. His Post-Victory Collapse reveals he probably couldn't have dodged even if he wanted to.
- In the final battle, Greed tells everyone who's been injured to get off the "elevator", including Roy whose eyesight was removed as a toll for seeing the Truth. He still chooses to fight.
- In the 2003 anime version, Roy kills Pride after being sliced, impaled, and altogether getting the crap kicked out of him. And immediately after that, he's shot in the eye!
- Ed attempts this after being impaled by a support beam, and...makes it about five feet before collapsing.
- In Higurashi: When They Cry, Rika has one of these during her when she stands up against Shion and kills herself rather than die by torture.
- This trope is so overused in Saint Seiya, the heroes are brought down to this level in pretty much every story arc after facing a few mooks. This trope needs to be renamed "You Can't Even Stand" to refer to the more serious instances.
- In the Sanctuary arc, Hyoga was entombed by Camus using his Freezing Coffin technique and left for dead. Shiryu broke him free with the libra sword. This left him in a semi-comatose state (but he could Barely Stand). After lampshading this trope, Camus intended to finish him off with an Aurora Excusion. Hyoga learns Camus's Aurora Excusion technique and defeats him in a Power Struggle while barely conscious.
- Seiya is poisoned by Royal Demon Roses on his way to the Pope's chamber, until all he could manage was crawl his way to the chamber. Once there, the Pope made him blind, deaf, dumb, and robbed him of his sense of smell and touch as well, then banished him to another dimension. He won anyway.
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Simon is lifted out of his Lagann mini mecha by Lordgenome, looking bruised and almost totally defeated. However, just as Lordgenome is about to finish him off for good he summons his remaining strength and slams his drill pendant into his enemy's chest before twisting it and blowing him apart with the spiral energy it contains.
- And before that, this trope is the start of Kamina's Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Early on in One Piece, Zoro had to take on a clearly inferior swordsfishman after having been nearly cut in half diagonally across the chest in a previous fight.
- Even earlier in the Manga, Zoro fights Buggy's first mate Cabaji, a swordsman, after being stabbed through the side by one of Buggy's knives. Cabaji makes it a point to go after the wound repeatedly...and after repelling him, Zoro cuts the wound WIDER, just to prove he can beat Cabaji even with that handicap.
- Also Zoro — the post-Oz Kuma encounter when he is so injured he can't stand, and yet uses Kuma's magic paw-bubble to take all of Luffy's damage too, and the post-Kuma multi-Kuma fight where his injuries from the Kuma encounter make him collapse, whereupon he gets up again to use his most powerful technique, whereupon he is struck with a light beam/laser thing, whereupon he gets up again to face down Kuma (who is surprised that he survived that first encounter) whereupon he has vanished away to Nightmare Before Christmas-land. Where, upon waking, he tries to get up again but luckily has been semi-mummified by Perona.
- Whitebeard during the Marineford Arc, for multiple reasons. First of all, whilst he holds the title of 'Strongest Man in the World', he is very old and has multiple health problems. This does not stop him almost taking down the entire Marine HQ with his earthquake powers, and casually curbstomping some of the most powerful individuals in the series.
- Then, once he is fatally injured by Sakazuki after said health problems begin to affect him during a fight, following Ace's death, he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Sakazuki, and then when Blackbeard shows up to kill him, he manages to defeat Blackbeard with two huge holes in his torso.
- Every single fight in Bleach, notably during the Soul Society Arc. Subverted twice in the Hueco Mundo arc when Grimmjow encounters Ichigo barely able to stand, and has Orihime heal him; and Nnoitra beats the hell out of an already-almost-dead Ichigo.
- Lampshaded when Ichigo gets a nasty cut as usual during said fight — except this time his torso is sliced almost in half. On the topic of standing, his opponent gleefully informs him, "It isn't a matter of willpower; it's a structural impossibility." Ouch.
- Every Bleach reader already knows that everything in Bleach depends entirely on Rule of Cool. Usually, this means Ichigo takes a ton of injuries and then pulls something super crazy awesome out of nowhere and defeats his opponent. Then again, that's just about every shonen ever.
- Uryu, on the other hand, has a technique that overcomes "structural impossibility" by turning his own body into what amounts to a telekinetically-controlled puppet. This allows him to keep fighting even after his body is paralyzed by a poison that shuts down all voluntary muscle movement.
- Lampshaded when Ichigo gets a nasty cut as usual during said fight — except this time his torso is sliced almost in half. On the topic of standing, his opponent gleefully informs him, "It isn't a matter of willpower; it's a structural impossibility." Ouch.
- In Wolf's Rain, Toboe tries to bite Darcia's arm off despite being seriously wounded and dying from it shortly afterward.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Jounouchi/Joey is worn out from his duel with Varon, but doesn't hesitate to duel his Psycho Ex-Girlfriend Mai as soon as it's over. He collapses at just the right time to give Mai a teary My God, What Have I Done? scene.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, the final battle between Kenshin and Shishio is like this, and Kenshin actually does collapse during the fight before getting back up.
- Applies to his allies in the fight as well, as they've all been through serious fights to get there. Saitou has had his thighs slashed (and spends most of the fight after his contribution on his knees) and Aoshi took Kenshin's ultimate attack ten minutes before he got there. Saitou and Aoshi are implied to be able to stand a serious chance against Shishio in a fair fight, but injured as they are all they can do is buy Kenshin time to get up again.
- Also in the anime when he fights Shura, Kenshin is hit by a poisoned dart and can't exactly see properly or stand up straight.
- Happens a lot to Allen Walker in D.Gray-Man. Sometimes it works (For example, when he literally can't stand during the Level 4 attack and keeps fighting it anyway by dragging himself around with Crown Clown) and sometimes it... doesn't (Like after the whole mess with Suman Dark, when Tyki effortlessly dissolves his arm and puts a hole in his heart).
- Gintama has its main character Gintoki have several moments like this when there's serious arc and he's so badly beaten he can barely stand. Yet somehow, he always gets up from the ground. Never mind the countless broken bones and him throwing up blood...
- The cast of Inuyasha get this a lot. One example is when Inuyasha is human and must fight the Peach Man. During that time, he is shrunk, eaten, thrown back up, bled, tossed around, and fell from a cliff. Not even Sesshomaru is immune. He finally comes up against an enemy that knows how to fight a one-armed man - by tearing that arm to shreds, then entwining him in tentacles to prevent Inuyasha from using his sword, before finally stabbing him through the chest.
Inuyasha: [to Sesshomaru] You just stay back! This isn't the place for an injured person!
- My Hero Academia
- During his fight with Todoroki during the Sports Festival Tournament, Midoriya pushed his body past their limits with One For All, using the power repeatedly on his injured arms and risking grave injury. While he would recover, his right hand would remain scarred as a result.
- Later, when the League of Villains attack at the summer training camp, Midoriya puts himself in harm's way again when he fights Muscular to protect a boy named Kota. Midoriya ends up with two broken arms (one from Muscular, the other from using One For All at full power) and nearly getting killed, but pushing on and keeping Muscular at bay, even as he bled profusely and mangled his arms.
- The various Egrigori experiments in Project ARMS get this bad. Ryo has especially bad luck. His ARMS - the Jabberwock - will only come out if he is in serious danger. The result of this is that almost every enemy sent to kill the Jabberwock will try to make it come out by beating the stuffing out of Ryo. And since he hates the Jabberwock, he always puts in a great deal of effort to just let himself get pummeled and not release the ARMS.
- Sword of the Stranger invokes this during its famed final fight sequence. Nanashi, after already being completely spent fighting the other soldiers and sustaining a few fairly series injuries, not only stands up to Luo-Lang but refuses his offer of performance-enhancing drugs that would dull his pain and still ends up the victor in the end.
- Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks. Lancer basically takes out a major villain and a minor one, both non-heroic spirits, while suffering one such wound. That wound is being stabbed through the heart with his own magic spear. His response? "As if I would die from a wound like this." We must emphasize this wound is through the heart. With a spear that causes wounds that cannot be healed.
- And appropriately enough in the scene happening parallel to that one, we have Shirou. During the course of his fight, he's broken his fingers, gotten covered in cuts, has various other broken appendages, and is all but dead due to being outmatched. Quite literally the only thing keeping him swinging is a full-on Determinator mode.
- Touma in A Certain Magical Index was like this during his first fight against Accelerator. the funny part? it was Misaka, the one who he was helping, that put him in that state.
- Space Battleship Yamato: In the final confrontation between Wildstar and Desslok, Wildstar is bleeding badly and can barely stand—and he does, in fact, collapse as his legs give out under him. Nova rushes to Wildstar's side, and as Desslok stands over them with his gun, both of them finally at his mercy, he realizes that Wildstar has fought him with everything he had simply to protect his home and his loved ones, and Desslok realizes he's come to respect his enemy too much to pull the trigger. He declares an end to their conflict, and leaves in peace.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Yami Yugi demands his friends stay back to avoid danger, even when this is pointed out by the others.
- Yami Yugi says this to himself in episode 5 as he struggles through a sand hurricane.
- In Brave10, in the finale of the sequel, several of the Braves are yelling at Rokuro to stop casting from HP and stay down as Susanoo approaches. This ends up leading to Kakei's Heroic Sacrifice instead.
- Holyland: It's invoked by Yoshii in chapter 67, where he has two thugs try to ambush Masaki and weaken him before the fight with Taka.
- In AKIRA, Kei is taunted with this line during a brutal fight with Tetsuo.
- Examples from Superman stories:
- Superman himself gets to do this a lot, including fighting weakened by a red sun and having just come out of a coma, or just having been stabbed with Kryptonite.
- Done with somewhat different implications in the animated series finale "Legacy," where a depowered Superman lets out his anger on Lex Luthor, shattering the latter's jaw in one punch.
- Subverted in one instance in the comics (fighting a makeshift squad of villains). He's very ill, but still very strong. The conflict is that, as he says to the villains, he is so sick he has no idea if his punches will remove heads from necks.
- After a long battle in Superman: Up, Up and Away!, Superman is tired, injured and making Luthor boast he'll beat the alien to death with his bare punches. He's summarily knocked down.
- In Red Daughter of Krypton, Supergirl is seriously weakened after fighting a parasitic lifeform known as Worldkiller-1 in a Kryptonite-poisoned atmosphere. Barely alive, she uses her Red Lantern Ring to teleport both of them to the Sun and tricks Worldkiller-1 into dumping her into the star. Revived by the sudden flood of sunlight charging up her cells, Kara flies after Worldkiller-1 and curbstomps him.
- Almost said word-for-word in Anya's Ghost when Emily crawls out of the well, bones and all, to try and drag Anya down with her. But it's obvious it's taking all she has just to move her remains. Her apparent weakness and anguish make this scene a bit of a Tear Jerker.
- Black Adam gets to this point towards the end of World War Three. It doesn't slow him down.
- Spider-Man fought the Black Widow in Amazing Spider-Man #86. He had a case of pneumonia that would have put an ordinary man into the hospital, but it just slowed and weakened him down enough that the Black Widow thought he been toying with her when he broke free of her swing line at the end of the fight.
- In ElfQuest, Cutter refuses to be healed during the first battle with the Northern Trolls because it would take him out of the fighting for too long, and his tribe needed every fighter they had.
- A non-combat version from The Sandman: an unnamed country punishes criminals by hanging. The big cities always have enough people willing to become professional hangmen, but in smaller towns, people aren't willing to face the social stigma. So what the small towns do is choose a condemned prisoner who's unlikely to be too much trouble and offer to suspend his sentence if he'll act as hangman. That "suspend" is key; if the prisoner isn't hanged sooner or later, the town loses its right to have a hangman. One character accepts the offer, but as natural death approaches, he decides that he'd really prefer to die in his own bed. When the enforcers arrive, he's standing to meet them, although he was too ill to move, let alone stand, a mere panel or two before. Once the enforcers leave, we find that the character was supported by one of his own hangman's ropes, strung to a roof beam.
- During Batman: No Man's Land Robin ends up facing off against Croc when he's running a high fever to the point of suffering mild hallucinations. Croc quickly defeats him and uses him as a hostage but he gets a second wind and turns the tables on his captor after waking up and realizing he's giving Croc an advantage.
- In the Firefly fanfic Forward story "Business," River and Jayne are in this state when they fight the Hands of Blue at the climax. This is because they had been captured and tortured by Niska previously, and had only just escaped that. In this case, Jayne actually proves to be the better fighter, if only because, being larger, stronger, and tougher, he was able to withstand the torture better than the much physically weaker River, who was reduced to a gibbering wreck following the ordeal and was so battered that she needed Jayne to carry her on his back. River is only able to fight because Jayne injects her with a syringe of synthetic adrenaline.
- The final scene of I Did Not Want To Die is this.
- Multiple times during the finale of the Tamers Forever Series, several people say this to the dying Takato, right before he does something insanely badass.
- In Discworld fic Whyand Were, Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes has to conclude an inhumation of a were-creature despite the fact it has broken her shooting arm and that her assistant has seemingly defected to the enemy camp.
- Han Solo is in this state in the end of the Star Wars fic Important Information. He's spent days being tortured and raped, has multiple broken bones including both arms, but when he sees that he's lying near the guy that arranged the capture, he crawls to Luke's dropped blaster and forces himself to his feet to confront the guy, blasting a Stormtrooper as he does so. He's almost done in by a second Stormtrooper sneaking up behind, but Luke warns him in time to blast the trooper, then, despite being choked by the guy who started it all, Han still manages to blast him before collapsing.
- The infamous Goku/Hitler fight in Until the End of Time has Hitler become a Super Saiyan and demolish Goku with a single punch, then gloat: "You still want to fight? Don't you know when to give up, boy? You can hardly walk. And you expect to beat ME? Conqueror of Europe?", before Goku suddenly becomes a "Super Ultra Power Saiyan" through The Power of Love and destroys Hitler.
- In Dreaming of Sunshine, Shikako faces off against the Sound genin by herself while concussed, sleep deprived, low on chakra, and nursing several broken ribs and a broken arm from the encounter with Orochimaru - and she kills all three of them.
- Star Wars: The Sith, Zero: It happens to Louise at the climax of the Dxun-arch. Louise has been beaten brutally by Darth Desolus with the Force; thrown from walls to walls, electrocuted, and broken. The only reason she can stand, if bearly due to her shattered leg, is because of the Gandalfr runes.
- The Order of Koaxia: Again, cracked/broken bones, inordinate amounts of bloodloss, and countless wounds will typically put someone on their back. Again, not when you're Rainbow Dash.
- Hellsister Trilogy: Still physically and emotionally exhausted after fighting Mordru in Hell, Supergirl is teleported right in front of her omnicidal, psychotic evil counterpart Satan Girl. Supergirl doesn't know how she can walk out of that battle alive, let alone win, but she manages to survive her evil duplicate's relentless assault and hurl her into an antimatter star.
She was tired, on the brink of exhaustion, emotionally wrung-out after the trip to the Netherworld and the fight with Mordru. Now, to be flung against a fresh, raging Satan Girl...it was simply too much.
It was hard enough fighting her when she had been prepared and in good condition. How in the hell was she supposed to win against her now?
- Fail to the King!: Jericho's injury, a burnt hole where his left lung should be, should relegate him to bed rest. Instead, he 'appeals' a petition in the Dark Assembly and, more seriously, charges off to distract a giant lava serpent from destroying Holt, all while only being held together by his own mana and resolve.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Boromir gets up and keeps fighting after taking an arrow in the chest - twice!
- In the Daredevil film, Daredevil goes to the climactic fight with Kingpin while still seriously injured from his fight with Kingpin's Dragon, Bullseye. Kingpin proceeds to own him in seconds, and even gloats about wishing he could fight Daredevil "in his prime".
- Both Inigo and Westley do this in the climax of The Princess Bride (see page quote).
- In Gladiator, Commodus stabs Maximus in the lung just before their climactic battle in the Colosseum. Maximus, a seasoned general mind you, proves to be able to defeat the reasonably skilled but nonetheless inferior Commodus, but dies from the wound afterward.
- Sin City gives us a gem, when Detective Hartigan, an aging cop with a heart condition, staggers over to confront the Big Bad of his arc.
Roark Jr.: Look at you, you can't even lift that cannon you carry!
Hartigan: ...Sure I can.
- In the conclusion of Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl does this again and again, finally seeming to meet her match in the mob boss D'Amico. When she can't pull out one more Heroic Second Wind (give her credit, she'd already done that about five times) she's rescued by Kick-Ass.
- At the end of Mission: Impossible III, Davian activates a mini-bomb implanted inside Ethan Hunt's skull before attacking him. With the enormous pain of the activated bomb inside his head, Ethan is significantly crippled during the ensuing fight, which compensates for Davian's lack of formal combat training, at least to the level of an IMF agent.
- At the end of Mission: Impossible Fallout, Ethan Hunt faces off against John Lark. While both are highly trained combatants, both have also suffered significant injuries prior to the fight. As a result, the ensuing brawl is much cruder and less elaborate than the much earlier bathroom fight with John Lark's body double.
- The final confrontation between Huo An and Tiberius in Dragon Blade. Huo An had been stabbed and shot by arrows a huge number of times before this, and when he confronts Tiberius he is literally trying his hardest to stand. Reality Ensues as Tiberius easily overpowers him, but right as the villain tries to execute him Huo An suddenly uses his arm shield to break Tiberius' arm, then fatally slice Tiberius in the neck with a knife.
- In the finale of Fearless (2006), Jet Li's character Huo Yuanjia has been poisoned and is is coughing up blood. His Japanese rival offers to stop the match but since Huo is representing China, he can't back down. Huo loses but because he visibly spares his opponent from his Dangerous Forbidden Technique One-Hit Kill move, his opponent declares him the victor.
- This is the case with the titular character at the end of Eisenhorn. His solution is to strap himself to a metal frame to ''let'' him stand.
- In the fourth book of The Sword of Truth, Richard defeats his evil brother, despite the fact that he can barely stand due to disease, and the fact that his brother has the titular magic sword. Shortly afterwards this is taken even further when his brother then tries to kill Richard despite the fact that Richard had just ripped his spine out. It should also be noted that this played entirely straight, and said brother apparently has no superhuman abilities whatsoever.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's short story "The Long Watch", the hero Lieutenant John Dahlquist barricades himself in an Interplanetary Patrol nuclear weapons bay on the Moon, while dying from the radiation dose he's getting from impromptu hammer-sabotage of a bunch of nuclear warheads sought by Colonel Towers, the leader of an attempted coup. It's sort of a You Can Barely Stand-off.
- Vimes in Thud! fights off a small army of dwarfs while badly beaten from a fall, cold and wet, and highly disorientated. However, this is (probably) because of the Summoning Dark trying to control him. Where he really shows his Heroic Resolve is that, once he's run out of armed opponents, he stops. The effort involved to STOP...nearly tore his body apart, literally.
- Harry Dresden. In nearly every book. In Fool Moon he basically uses up his magic— and that's before he even has a chance to confront the pack of werewolves he came to fight.
- Played with in Turn Coat: While it's really obvious that he can barely stand (numerous bandages, about to fall over from lack of sleep, and what have you) and he's hopelessly outnumbered, none of the other Wardens want to attack him because they've all heard about the crazy crap he's pulled when he's running on nothing but sheer bloodymindedness.
- Subverted in Changes, where the traditional early book injury is his back being broken, leaving him completely unable to fight or even move his legs. He accepts Mab's offer to be the Winter Knight, and for once goes into the fight not just fresh but stronger than he was when the book started.
- The RPG rulebook lampshades it. Harry asks why all the pictures of him show him beat to crap. Billy says it's because they're pictures of him on the case, and when he's on a case he's usually beat to crap. A little later on, Harry singles out one picture from a case file where he's not all beat up—only for Billy to point out it's from early in the case, and there's already a visible bruise on Harry's face.
- Old literary example: In Ivanhoe, the title character Wilfred of Ivanhoe meets Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert as the challenger in a trial by combat despite barely being able to maintain his seat in the saddle due to severe wounds from a tournament earlier. Then Bois-Guilbert has a stroke and falls dead despite not even being touched by Ivanhoe's lance. This is of course taken as a sign from God.
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Death-eaters are able to attack Hogwarts only because Dumbledore is severely weakened— likewise he is also able to be killed by Snape for this reason
- Although in Deathly Hallows, it's revealed that this killing arranged by Dumbledore and Snape themselves, it still was only believable because Dumbledore was in a severely-weakened state).
- Ron fits this trope literally in Prisoner of Azkaban. His leg is broken and he still gets up to protect Harry from an escaped convict (curse the movie for removing it).
- In The Inheritance Cycle's third book Brisingr, Roran takes charge of a group of Varden soldiers as they work to repel several Imperial incursions into Surda. In one battle, Roran kills 193 Imperial soldiers alone, taking several gashes and hits in the process, can barely hold himself up, and still insists his division's wizard heal the other men of his platoon first.
Carn: Roran, just look at yourself!
Roran': *looks himself over, grimaces* Fine, make it quick.
- Northern Lights: Lyra sets up a fight-to-the-death between Iorek Byrnison and the usurper of the throne of the Armored Bears, Iofur, in a last ditch effort to help Iorek, only to realize later that Iorek, after a battle with cliff-ghasts and days of journeying through the tundra with no food and rest, will not be in the best condition to fight. The alethiometer eventually gets tired of telling her she has nothing to worry about.
- In Tad Williams' Otherland, Orlando Gardiner spends much of the story in this state, because he is suffering from a terminal disease in real life. Ironically, he should be the strongest of all the characters, since his online persona is a strapping barbarian warrior.
- In the Star Wars Legends novel Shatterpoint, Mace Windu has operated with little sleep for several days, gone through at least three separate battles that day, and been stabbed in the stomach with a lightsaber, and finds himself wobbling on his feet as he faces a man twice his size and much more powerful in the Force, who already beat him senseless once. it turns out the enemy's vibroblade weapons cut straight through each other, and a dead Elite Mook happened to leave one where Mace can Force-throw it. The fight lasts maybe two seconds.
Tycho: Get some sleep, Wedge.
- In X-Wing Series Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge is preparing for a marathon session of war planning, followed by a Dawn Attack, after having spent the whole night running, flying, and sneaking out of a hostile city. His XO Tycho gently points out that this is a bad idea.
- In the Dale Brown novel Flight of the Old Dog, the titular Airstrike Impossible starts with the titular Cool Plane already damaged from a takeoff under enemy fire, with its operators not at 100% due to needs must, and gets into steadily worse straits along the way, including damaged/malfunctioning engines, compromised fuel tanks and failing sensors.
- Honor Harrington does this in Flag in Exile where after the best part of three days of awake activity, being shot out of the sky, having a bomb go off next to her, and being in a life-or-death duel, she still has to fight her ship. Good thing she sits in her command chair.
- Also an example: that duel itself. She was already a wreck when she staggered into the Parliament session to denounce the Big Bad in front of everybody, and then he tried to outfox her by demanding a duel when she was clearly in no state to fight. He was one of the most accomplished duelers on the planet, and she had never so much as picked up a sword until she came to Grayson. She killed him in one stroke.
- In the Dragonlance series, Raistlin Majere is a rare case of the villain suffering from this. Suffering from the most severe Incurable Cough of Death in all of fiction because of his Test, Raistlin is almost constantly on the verge of keeling over or being blown away by a stiff breeze. Even Crysania, when she opposed him at first, sees him as a pitiable figure. And when Caramon confronts him in the Abyss, Raistlin had been burnt, stabbed, frozen, sheared and skewered to within an inch of his life, and yet Caramon still holds back. Not only because of lingering brotherly concern but because even then Raistlin is still dangerous. 98% of his magic had been expended, but that last 2% was still enough to be worried about, not to mention his dagger of last resort that he had no compunctions to using.
- During the climactic battle in The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, Dean Moth fights a dragon offstage. When the protagonists do arrive on the scene some four chapters later, the duel is still going on and the dean is only standing upright because she's tied herself to a tree.
- Many of his David Gemmell's prominent heroes continue to kick ass literally until the moment of death, and certainly sometime after the moment of mere fatal wounding. A special mention must go to Ananis from The King Beyond the Gate, who after taking a boar spear in the back grabs another (ten-foot tall monster) opponent and skewers him to death with the spearhead that is sticking out of his chest.
- Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive): In the climax, Kaladin has a broken leg, multiple internal injuries, and gets a few ribs broken when a Shardbearer punches him in the gut. But he still stands between Elhokar and Moash.
- When Angel loses his soul for the umpteenth time, his sidekick calls in fallen Slayer Faith to hunt him down. This might have been a short fight since Angel has a long record of getting soundly beaten every time he fights a Slayer (Faith herself managed to bounce him off the ceiling while attempting Suicide by Cop) so before the big fight, she gets beaten to a bloody pulp by The Juggernaut. Oh, and gives herself a massive dose of magical opiates. She still nearly beats him, because Slayers are just that badass.
- Played straight in the original Battlestar Galactica series episode "Lost Planet of the Gods" two-parter.
Lt. Boomer: Colonel, Blue Squadron reporting for duty, sir.
Col. Tigh: Lieutenant, obviously you can't even stand.
Lt. Boomer: A Viper is flown from the seated position, sir.
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy gets a rather cool line in the season four opener:
- In Chuck, when Shaw has taken over the Buy More and has chained Sarah to a thick bar at the base of the Nerd Herd desk, Sarah tells Shaw that Chuck won't show up to save her because he can barely stand. Yet, lo, and behold, Chuck shows up while injured, gets a reboot, and takes the Paragon Path when he won't kill Shaw. Of course, that doesn't stop Sarah from whacking him across the skull with the object of her restraint.
- Booth on Bones, in "Two Bodies In The Lab", after he's injured by the fridge bomb. He leaves the hospital against medical advice and makes Hodgins take him to where he realizes Brennan is being held. He can barely stay on his feet but manages to stop the corrupt FBI agent and save Brennan. After which, he has to go back to the hospital.
- Very common in Professional Wrestling: the heel weakens the face before the big title match by getting his friends to beat him up, or forcing the face to have another match just before the title match, usually a handicap match, hardcore match or another grueling type. (This is referred to as the "Spirit of '76" spot when the bandaged and battered face comes staggering out for the match anyway.)
- More commonly used now since the advent of the Money In The Bank match, which gives the winner the right to challenge the champion at any time, even right after a grueling title match where the title holder has been beaten brutally. Use of it this way often starts a FaceHeel Turn for the wrestler who wins the title this way.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- Link gets a moment like this near the end of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. After Link meets up with Ganondorf for his last battle, the Gerudo rushes over and beats the stuffing out of Link. Thankfully, Zelda awakens, and the fight soon commences. Then, at the end of his sword-to-swordfight with Ganondorf and some assistance from Zelda, Link sends the Master Sword through Ganondorf's head, jumps back, and proceeds to bend over and collapse into the approaching Zelda's arms. But after a fight like that, who wouldn't be tired?
- The final retrievable memory of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild shows a very battered and exhausted Link defending Zelda from a huge wave of Guardians with a rusted and decayed Master Sword. Zelda is, fortunately, able to awaken her Royalty Super Power at this moment of desperation to deactivate all the Guardians, but Link ultimately falls after that, requiring Zelda to have him placed in the Shrine of Resurrection for the next century to heal.
- Call of Duty
- Modern Warfare ends with your character taking multiple air-to-surface missiles to the face, leaving you in a half-unconscious state as the Big Bad walks over and starts gunning down your squadmates one by one. Your dying captain tosses you his sidearm, and the game's final action is a blurry slow-motion sequence where you shoot down the Big Bad and his two bodyguards before they can react and kill you.
- Modern Warfare 2's climax has you falling off a few hundred-foot high waterfall after shooting down the Big Bad's helicopter. You recover, limping and badly injured, just in time for a hand-to-hand CQC fight with the Big Bad who is in much better condition following the crash.
- Modern Warfare 3's ending has you storm a gigantic Hotel highrise chasing after Makarov. As per usual in the Modern Warfare series you lose your weaponry (due to almost falling off the building), are critically injured (due to hijacking the escape helicopter but crashing it), and have to kill the Big Bad with basic weaponry (except this time you have to do it with your bare hands!)
- The final mission in Project Snowblind disables all the cool nanotech powers your character spent the game building up... but you're still left with standard FPS character Made of Iron durability, and there aren't many enemies in the last level anyway.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: after dealing with a bad heart/rebellious nanomachines, crawling through a hallway full of microwave radiation, and barely surviving a final assault by a bunch of mini-bots, Snake is captured by Liquid Ocelot, who challenges him to one last fight to the death. To ensure that it will be a fair match, Liquid injects Snake with some awesome drug, then, as they Cutscene Power to the Max, they continue to inject themselves with more and more of the drug, until despite their advanced ages, they are able to fight as if they were in their prime. This quickly devolves, however, to a You Can Barely Stand battle, as, in the end, the drug wears out, and it goes from two accomplished hand-to-hand combatants duking it out to two old men savagely slugging each other with whatever power they can muster. Note that Ocelot has a good 4 life bars, one for each game in the solid series, in different styles!
- In the opening chapter of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raiden finds himself quickly outclassed by Jetstream Sam, who cuts off his left arm and his left eye; this leaves Raiden badly bleeding, barely able to stand, and unable to fight. Later in the game, Sam tries to break Raiden by forcing him to experience the fearful thoughts of the cyborgs he fought, the experience leaving Raiden dazed and similarly handicapped until he awakens his Superpowered Evil Side.
- Amusingly used in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. A villain springs one of Larharl's weaknesses, forcing you to go into a fight with his stats halved. That weakness? Giant breasts....and speeches about love. Or giant-breasted women speaking about love.
- Inverted in Golden Sun. 4 teenagers face the powerful villain Saturos in Mercury Lighthouse. Normally they would be no match for him, but the Mercury (Water) energy drastically weakens Saturos's Mars (Fire) Psynergy and gives Mia, who is a Mercury Adept, Psy Point regeneration. Still a somewhat challenging boss fight.
- Later in the game, at Venus Lighthouse, you fight Saturos and his partner Menardi to prevent them from lighting the lighthouse. Due to your massive increase in strength since the previous fight at Mercury, you defeat them with (relative) ease. After the fight, Mia actually says outright, "You can barely stand," in response to a comment from the injured Saturos. Cue Mia eating her words, dragon style. This trope, but with the roles reversed.
- The sequel Lost Age also has two incidents of this trope after the fight with replacement baddies Agatio and Karst atop the Jupiter Lighthouse. Regardless of how the fight goes, they're forced to make a hasty retreat because the fight with Felix and Co. took too much out of them, and the heroes from the last game are on their way up. Once the villains leave, Isaac and co. arrive and a tense standoff ensues between the two teams (long story). Ivan defuses the situation by suggesting they return to the local village to resolve things, as both teams are too tired to fight.
- By the time the last fight in video game Def Jam: Fight for New York comes around, your character has done the Charles Atlas Superpower power-ups for so long he has become a virtually Made of Iron fighting machine, so fighting the cowardly Manipulative Bastard Bad Boss who has never shown any sign of having any fighting ability seems like it should be pretty anti-climactic... except that he stabs you in the back with a cane sword before the bout begins, significantly lowering your health.
- And Crow isn't exactly a lightweight in the ring, either. (figuratively speaking; It is still Snoop Dog.)
- This happens in the fight with Incarose in Tales of Hearts when other characters tell Shing to step down because of his recent state of being stabbed through the stomach. The weird thing is, you can't even put him in your party that fight. The lines are only known about because of the Sound Museum, although hacking him in does trigger the lines and even the victory animation.
- At the end of Sleeping Dogs the player is seriously injured in a massive explosion just before confronting the Big Bad. As a result, in the final fight, you're too injured to attack, and can only fight by countering.
- At the beginning of the Climax Boss fight about 90% through Assassin's Creed III, Connor and the Big Bad are both seriously injured by an explosion, and the ensuing fight to the death between the two of them turns into a slow, brutal, and clumsy beatdown rather than a more elaborate duel between two highly trained combatants. Likewise, during the final sequence, Connor is severely injured and unable to fight; his opponent, however, is equally injured and so the two enemies are reduced to staring at each other across a tavern table.
- Gilgamesh Wulfenbach in Girl Genius, here. Near passing out at the start of the fight.
- In A Miracle of Science, Vorstellen Policeman Benjamin Prester ends up invoking this from Dr. Haas to treat the latter's Science-Related Memetic Disorder.
- In Kill Six Billion Demons, the Physical Goddess Mother Om taunts her rival, recently-empowered sorority girl Allison, with a variation: not only can't she stand, but our heroine is also so frightened she can hardly speak. And yet... (Lampshaded by at least one reader, who notes in the comments that this is the surest way to make one's foe get up again.)
- In the finale of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the Doctor fights a Villain Team-Up led by King Radical, and his Starter Villain manages to run him through in the very first encounter, leaving him badly wounded for the rest of the episode. (He has to suture himself using a pine needle.) It doesn't slow him down that much, but his clone Old McNinja gets the upper hand on him by hitting the wound, and when King Radical turns out to be a perfectly badass fighter himself, it doesn't make things any easier.
- In Worm, Chevalier, leader of the Protectorate, is hospitalized after an assassination attempt that involved carving out his guts with a high-intensity cutting laser. Having just undergone major surgery to stabilize him, Chevalier awakens to find that in his absence the defense against Behemoth has gone poorly, with the city of New Delhi almost destroyed and most of the defending superheroes injured or dead. After getting some information on Behemoth's weaknesses from Tattletale, Chevalier grabs his sword, limps out of the hospital, charges Behemoth-a forty-five foot tall horned abomination that can instantly kill anything within thirty meters-and then hurts him badly enough to make him run.
- Khepri pulls this off late in the series, due to mental rather than physical damage. Terrifyingly enough, this doesn't make them any less dangerous.
- Beast Wars: Megatron speaks these lines verbatim when Dinobot, after a long battle with several other Predacons is reduced to using a large stick against an upgraded Megatron. Of course, Dinobot "improvises" and smashes Megatron with a makeshift hammer.
- In the very first episode of ThunderCats (1985), the Mutants invade the Thundarian flagship, seeking to steal the Sword of Omens, and particularly the Eye Of Thundara set in its hilt. When they find it, it lies in the hands of a young Lion-O, and when he tries to threaten them, they laughingly reply that "You can barely hold that sword, much less lift it." Which is, of course, the sword's cue to start glowing. Moments later, Lion-O is swinging the full-sized sword around despite his young age, and the Mutants are running scared.
- Played for Laughs in Samurai Jack in the Scotsman's debut episode. After Jack and the Scotsman meet each other on an extremely long bridge, their argument culminates in a duel that is shown to last literally a full 24 hours. When the camera cuts back to them, Jack is on his knees, supporting himself on the bridge's rope, declaring he will hold his ground. "Hold yer ground? Ye can barely hold yer sword!" the Scotsman declares. He himself is unable to then lift his own sword.
- Real life sports examples:
- Kirk Gibson was a lot closer to being crippled when he hit the game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersley in the '88 World Series. Steve Yzerman helped the Red Wings win the early series in the 2002 NHL playoffs despite having virtually no knee cartilage left. And Willis Reed famously started Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals despite a torn muscle in his thigh, which is often credited with helping rally the Knicks to victory.
- Gerry Byrne was an English soccer player famous for remaining in goal during the 1966 FA Cup Final despite having a broken collar bone.
- Another British soccer player Bert Trautmann, broke his neck in a collision in the 75th minute of the 1956 FA Cup Final. No substitutes were permitted back then, so he carried on for the remaining fifteen minutes, and even intercepted a shot. Hard bastards, these football players.
- This sort of thing is popular in sports, where people doped up on adrenaline, cortisone shots, or even just Advil and, naturally, are still competitive and don't want to abandon teammates. Even more so in contact sports like American football, rugby, and hockey, and sports where legs get tangled up frequently, like soccer and basketball.
- QB Ben Roethlisberger played against the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl with a broken foot and nose.
- In college, QB Byron Leftwich played with a broken leg, eventually needing his linemen to carry him down the field after successful passes.
- Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open through four 18 holes rounds, an 18 hole playoff, and 1 sudden death playoff hole after still being tied with Rocco Mediate after 90 holes. He did all of this with a torn ACL and double spiral fracture in his shin, which caused him to exhibit some serious trouble walking at times. Both injuries were in his left leg, which is the leg that for a righty like him absorbs a lot of torque during the downswing and follow through.
- Michael Jordan played Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals with what was either the flu or food poisoning. Whatever the exact ailment, he could barely move the morning of the game, dragged himself out of bed at 5:30 PM that evening, an hour and a half before tip-off, played 44 minutes, scored 38 points in a very close game, before needing his teammate, Scottie Pippen, to basically carry him off of the court after the final buzzer.
- Real life music example: Yoshiki in the March 28, 2008 X Japan reunion concert. He tries to play the full set of the show that he played 11 years before, despite years away from drumming in concerts and serious injuries to his neck and back from his career as a drummer. He collapsed on his drums halfway through the last song Art of Life. He would have major neck surgery the next year in a successful bid to save his ability to play drums (and a somewhat less successful one to spare his health), and recovered to do another two tours - which were also examples of this trope, though he had no on-stage collapses, due to ongoing health issues. Nevertheless, he's planning yet another tour...
- In the 2012 Australian Open tennis final, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played such a grueling and merciless match that completely obliterated the former record for longest Grand Slam final with a length of six hours that Djokovic's dramatic collapse to the floor after a 31-ball rally in the fifth set looked like more than just his usual theatrics. To top it off, the match left both Djokovic and Nadal so physically drained afterward that they visibly struggled to stay upright during the lengthy closing speech with Nadal having to lean on the net for support and Djokovic all but on his knees before chairs were brought out for them.
- At the 1996 Olympics, U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug performed her second vault attempt with a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage in one ankle. She landed on both feet but stood on one foot while saluting the judges. After receiving a score of 9.712 (cinching the gold medal for her team), she collapsed to the mat and had to be carried to the medals podium.
- During the second Siege of Osaka at the end of the Sengoku Jidai, Sanada Yukimura fought a desperate battle against Tokugawa Ieyasu's army. Outnumbered, Yukimura took so many injuries that by the time he had an opening to attack Tokugawa head-on, he was too exhausted to even stand. Realizing he could no longer fight, Yukimura welcomed Tokugawa's army to take his head, thus ending the siege on Osaka Castle, and with it, the Warring States era of Japanese history.
- In the 2018 soccer World Cup quarterfinal between Croatia and Russia, Croatia ended up with several players seriously injured at once near the beginning of extra time (since they had been tied at 90 minutes in), but only had one substitution left. Croatia chose their substitution, but still had two injured players including their goalkeeper with a hamstring injury. Despite this, they managed to end extra time tied and win a penalty shootout (with said injured goalie making a save) to advance to the semifinals.