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You Can't Fight Fate
aka: You Can Not Fight Fate

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And you're still hungry.

"It is written."
Tamil Proverb

A character gains knowledge of an event that is about to happen whether by prophecy or time travel and they attempt to change it, but it comes true anyway. (Often it happens because of those attempts). It's as old as Oedipus Rex, used by Shakespeare and Tolkien, and still fresh at least as recently as the mid-80s sitcom!

This trope will usually turn out one of three ways:

  1. The event comes true exactly as expected. Depending on the mood of the series, the final fulfillment of the prophecy may or may not be a Downer Ending. One technical term for the Time Travel version of this trope is the predestination paradox, a concept very popular with the Ancient Greeks, who believed you cannot change the future. There is only one possible future, and if you think otherwise, it's because you were destined to take a different path. Sometimes, the heroes still manage to put right the wrong the prophecy promises. In such situations, they usually conclude that fate only said something bad would happen, not that they couldn't eventually right it. An Aesop usually follows about free will being stronger than destiny.

  2. The event comes true but not quite as expected. Usually this involves a Prophecy Twist, where the prophecy hinges on some Ambiguous Syntax or metaphor that make it technically true. If it's the specific subtrope where a character cheats death only to die in a separate, but equally cruel and unusual, circumstances, that's Cheated Death, Died Anyway.

  3. Everything does change, except for the one thing that the characters actually want to change. This is more common with Time Travel stories, where a time traveller tries to Set Right What Once Went Wrong (saving one particular loved one, hometown, etc.) but find that no matter how hard they try and how many times they time travel back, their attempts to do so still result in their loved one or hometown being gone. There might be an explanation involving some form of the grandfather paradox where the time traveller can't change that particular event because it's what led them to time travel in the first place; thus if they succeeded they would never have started time traveling, which of course means that their loved one or hometown wouldn't have been saved. In any case, expect An Aesop about how there's no use crying over spilt milk and that it's important to move on.

Note that this is the exact inverse of the common Western portrayal of fate as an outside force of some sort, acting to "guide" outcomes in real time as they progress — both of these opposite notions fall under the concept of "You Can't Fight Fate".

If the prophecy comes true because of being made (in the most common scenario, because of everyone's attempts to prevent it), it's a case of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. If the universe appears to self-correct any attempt at change, then Ontological Inertia is in play. In any case, on the Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate, stories where You Can't Fight Fate register as Type 1 on the scale.

Since it's Older Than Dirt, most examples rely on a Prophecy Twist. If time travel is involved, You Already Changed the Past. See also Stable Time Loop and Prescience Is Predictable.


The Fatalist is characterized by their strong belief in fate.

Compare with Because Destiny Says So, But Thou Must!, Prophecies Are Always Right and In Spite of a Nail. Contrast with Screw Destiny and Immune to Fate. A way to get around it can be Tricked Out Time.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In ½ Prince a different kind of fate takes place when it comes to NPCs in Second Life. The game is programmed for things to happen, which is explored in a rather sad tale when Prince meets two NPCs on the Eastern Continent. Prince has to complete a quest by taking Kenshin the demon lord to see his game-programmed lover, but they find her grave. Even though the game was programmed for this to happen, because Kenshin developed a conscience it made it a very sad experience for him, because to kenshin it was as if she really did exist and she'd waited for him until the end of her days.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, fate is described as an unbreakable law of nature. Several people and Stands predicting the future are always correct, at least technically because Prophecy Twist still applies. However, the series presents it in a better light because: 1. the heroes' struggle still has a meaning as despite their destinies, they all make a conscious choice to fight evil at the risk of their lives; 2. sometimes, good is meant to triumph at the end.
    • Will Zeppeli, from Part 1, subverts this trope in that he's given more or less the exact circumstances of his death, but makes no move to avert it because his death will help achieve his ultimate goal. Instead, he demands to know the manner of his death so he can plan on how to live from then on.
    • Two of the Stands, Bohemian Rhapsody and Under World, actually manage to turn this into a weapon. Bohemian Rhapsody fates people to re-enact stories that they have particular attachments to. This turns downright ugly, or even fatal, if the character they're most like met an unpleasant and/or deadly end. Under World, meanwhile, fates people to live through an unearthed memory of their current location (which its Stand user uses to trap the heroes in the memory of a crashing airplane). Under World is a little more flexible because Donatello's victims aren't necessarily incorporated into the memory like Bohemian Rhapsody incorporates victims into stories. This means it's possible to circumvent the bad portions of a memory, as long as you wouldn't keep the memory from repeating its original form.
    • A third (and notably dangerous) example is Yoshikage Kira's Bites the Dust, which uses this in combination with "Groundhog Day" Loop. It causes somebody to explode, rewinding time by one hour. When it gets to the point in time where Bites the Dust originally activated, fate sets in motion and the target dies again.
    • Boingo's Stand, Thoth, takes the form of a comic book that predicts the immediate future. These predictions are boasted by Boingo as being 100% absolute. While this is true, they are also highly prone to Prophecy Twists; especially if someone actively tries to avoid the predictions of the book. For example, when Boingo's brother Oingo is about to be caught planting a trap that Thoth has prophecised will blow up Jotaro, he uses his Stand to transform himself into Jotaro to escape detection and ends up being the one who is injured in the trap. However, one of Thoth's predictions shows Jotaro's face being split in half with "blood everywhere". While this doesn't happen immediately, 22 years later, Jotaro is killed by Enrico Pucci's Stand Made in Heaven. The scenario? His face is split in half.
    • This trope is the main driving force behind Enrico Pucci's actions in Part 6. After experiencing the loss of his sister due to a separated-at-birth incestuous misunderstanding between her and Pucci's brother, he plummeted into despair, and through the wisdom of DIO, Pucci believed that fate was a cruel mistress, and that for everybody to be truly happy, they should know their fate in full and come to accept it. Of course, given that humanity as a whole functions independently from each other, this comes across as a case of Utopia Justifies the Means. Ultimately, however, Pucci does come out victorious for a while, with everybody in the new universe created by Made in Heaven's time acceleration not being in control of their bodies, but knowing exactly what they're about to do ahead of time. Though, Pucci ends up becoming Hoist by His Own Petard, as this knowledge of fate allows Emporio, whom he failed to kill during his Total Party Kill, to kill Pucci through oxygen poisoning via borrowing the Weather Report Stand, declaring that fate ultimately favors the side of good.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, this is embodied in the sympathetic Dark Magical Girl who is actually named "Fate". She feels that she has no choice in her life and in her actions, and thus no hope. Ironically, this is her power at first, as her ruthlessness (as there are no other options to her) gives her the edge. The Heroine contemplates a few times on how she, on the other hand, chose to be a Magical Girl, because it's something she wants to be. (Rather rare; most Magical Girls are that way Because Destiny Says So.) Thus, Fate and Nanoha's battle in the first season is symbolic of Fate vs. Free Will.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, it's possible to fight Fate. But look out, he can turn people to stone and his power level is around 3,000, so...what? Wrong Fate? Oh. Um...never mind, then.
    • Recent events show that even Jack Rakan has a hard time, given Fate's abilities.
    • And in the most recent chapter, it turns out there are six of him, two of which are unaccounted for. And they can be brought back from the dead due to their nature as constructs. Unless your last name is Springfield, it seems, you really can't fight Fate. Even then...
      • Right now? Five of the Fates have already been defeated. The only one standing is the original, and he and Negi are fighting their last and more definitive duel. So it seems that you STILL can fight Fate.
      • However, the other five have all been resurrected...again.
      • Update! You don't even need to fight Fate anymore. He's on Negi's side. Unless you mean having Fate as your romantic rival for Negi, that is.
    • Asuna Kagurazaka in the first anime's alternate story was doomed to die on her 15th birthday due to a Deal with the Devil so the demons would stop following her and bringing destruction wherever she went. The series' lead's Disappeared Dad attempted to save her and was promptly crushed under a bridge. She has to die and comes back in time to break the deal. And not before Negi has a Heroic BSoD upon seeing her death.
  • In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Lucia Nanami is prophesied to go through great hardship, so she is raised as a civilian. It happens anyway, but it could be argued that because she didn't know she was a princess, she met Kaito, gave away her pearl, and caused everything to happen that gave her True Companions to get through it. The anime, however, has all this happen while she does know.
  • Neji Hyuuga in Naruto used to be a firm believer in this, until Naruto shows him that Defeat Means Friendship. While he ultimately was right about everyone sharing the fate of death, he ends up dying for Hinata's sake on his own terms.
  • Henyoku No Labyrinth: Miyako travels back in time to prevent that her crush Hiroto falls in love with her sister but she fails to do so because he falls in love with her the first time they meet.
  • Played with in Sonic X with the character Cosmo, whose actual destiny (i.e. turn into a tree, die, save the universe, in that order), is not revealed until the final two episodes of the series where the spirit of her mother reveals to her that the stone she wears around her neck, similar to that worn by all species is in fact a Magical Amulet which, when activated, will accelerate her growth into maturity, allowing her to become a tree, attach herself to the Big Bad and weaken it to the point at which it can be destroyed. Because she had spent most of the series struggling with survivor's guilt, abject terror, and low self esteem, Cosmo saw this sudden revelation of her destiny as her redemption - she no longer felt that she had to stand by and watch their enemies destroy everything; she has a purpose at last. As such, she follows her newfound destiny willingly.
  • Sartorius (Takuma Saiou) was always talking about this in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX when he was the Big Bad. Aster (Edo) Phoenix did a bit, too, although this is more in the dub (where his catchphrase is "You can't fight destiny").
    • The original series, at least in the dub, had a lot of this with talk about things being fated to happen, the character named Ishizu Ishstar was the main instigator of this. Being the keeper of the millennium necklace, which grants her the power to see the future, she would accurately prophesize the great battle between good and evil, and would warn the main cast of the terrible things to come. She was also the one to reveal to Yugi and his friends of his ancient past and his greater destiny, she attempted to do the same with seto kaiba but kaiba practically mocks her every single time and always screwed destiny. Even after she gives away her necklace, Ishizu continues to prophesize the coming battle, so, so much, its like her most common dialogue. The 2nd season Yu-Gi-Oh! GX went with Screw Destiny with Jaden (Judai) having the power to defy fate. Somewhat similar deal with talk between Goodwin and Yusei in 5Ds.
    • Judai's rival in the second series Edo Phoenix was a moderate example. At first, he believed Saiou's predictions and that this Trope was true (mostly because they turned out in his favor) but once Judai started to defy those predictions, he started to have his doubts, until finally deciding that if Fate existed at all, it was not written in stone. (Curiously, Edo's Destiny Hero monsters have effects that suggest altering time and destiny for the player's benefit, so it seems odd that Edo ever believed that the future could not be changed.
    • This situation came up in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL too. it was revealed that both Shark and Rio were two of the Seven Barian Emperors in their past lives, and one of the current Emperors, Durbe, tryed to convince Shark that this Trope applied to them. Shark and Rio eventually did switch sides and join the Barians, but not for the reason Durbe wanted; they felt that, as rulers, they were responsible for the welfare of their people. In the end, Shark and most of the other Barians stood with the heroes against the Don Thousand, the true Big Bad, ending the crisis and proving that in this case, surrendering to Fate is not always a bad thing.
  • In episode 26 of Psychic Squad, an Esper dolphin whose visions have always been 100% accurate is introduced. He has two particularly dire predictions: the first being his death by several gunshots; and the second one, where a war erupts between Normals and Espers, and a grown Kaoru has become the Queen of Catastrophe leading the Espers. Minamoto ends up gunning her down. Needless to say, Minamoto is determined to Screw Destiny. He actually manages to subvert the first vision; his interference causes the dolphin to die from only ONE bullet, proving that just maybe the visions aren't infallible.
  • In Rave Master, if your a guy whose last name is Raregroove you are destined to be a good person who suffers a horrible tragedy that causes you to turn evil and try to destroy the world. If you're a guy whose last name is Glory you are destined to stop whichever Raregroove guy from the same generation as you (who always shares your birthday, apparently). Gale and King don't believe this since they're best buddies. How could they possibly fight against one another when they're trying to save the world together? ...Until Gale accidentally gets King's wife and kid killed when the later thinks they need to dirty there hands to accomplish their goal. They later try to put an end to this when King kills himself and Gale sacrifices himself to save Haru, but it turns out King's kid wasn't dead after all, so the cycle repeats.
  • X/1999's main theme is that the future has already been decided and it can't be changed. Every time a dreamgazer looks at the future, they see the destruction of the world and the extinction of mankind. This did not end up coming true in the anime, and it remains to be seen if it will in the manga (if they ever finish it).
    • Not every time. Kotori's Famous Last Words to her fellow dreamseer Kakyou explicitly said that "the future is still undecided", which in the anime turned out to be true via Kamui taking a third option and going through a Heroic Sacrifice. The manga, eh, is something else.
  • This is actually very prominent in CLAMP works. As the time witch Yuuko Ichihara herself's catchphrase goes "There is no such thing as a coincidence in this world, there is only the inevitable." It's to the point that everything that happened in one story will affect the others.
  • The theme in Berserk, where the Big Bad seems to control fate, while Guts and the Skull Knight are people who "struggle against fate/causality." Guts' power to do this stems from surviving his fated time of death on the day he was born (as well as again during the living hell that was the Eclipse). It is very much implied that 'whatever' Griffith did before or even during the Eclipse, some factor will always happen to make him say yes. The recent events imply that even the 'struggling' is a part of a much greater plan by the Godhand, as Griffith (sorry, Femto) managed to usher a Hell on Earth as well as an Utopia.
  • Lots of things in Eureka Seven are predestined and many things happen for a reason. Its revealed that whoever makes Eureka smile is her destined partner - Holland refuses to acknowledge that he was The Unchosen One by Eureka and tried ways to gain back her attention and trust (involving beating up Renton), which ultimately backfired and nailed the coffin on his chance with Eureka during their quarrel in the second season finale. Renton and Eureka meeting each other and falling in love, as well as them being together ever after, is also proven by the events in both TV series and movie to be a destined thing. One good example is Eureka being always able to make a come back in some form in the ending and stay with Renton, one way or another (Tv, movie, manga). There's a dialogue said by Talho in the movie when Renton reunites with Eureka after 8 years: "A first-timer breaking through a net of monsters...Is this just a coincidence? Or is it the work of a mysterious power?"
  • In Bokurano, it's next-to-impossible to even make a serious attempt to fight fate, given how it toys around with laws of physics you've never even heard of. And if you do somehow try to fight it, you'll only make things worse. All you can do is try to make the best of it.
  • Teeki of Muhyo and Roji makes a Hannibal Lecture on this point after Julio immobilizes the heroes, claiming that Enchu, who had worked hard to try to catch up with Muhyo and become an Executor to support his mother, is a prime example of how people cannot change their destiny by their own efforts. Roji, however, responds that Enchu merely couldn't deal with his grief, before breaking Julio's curse.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has a rule that karma cannot be averted; Homura can Time Travel all she wants but it won't prevent certain characters from dying, becoming Witches, or becoming Puella Magi in the first place. There's no rule against changing the rules, though.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball Z: Bardock – The Father of Goku: In spite of Bardock's visions of the future, the destruction of Vegeta was inevitable. Bright side, his vision about his son defeating Frieza was also inevitable as well!
    • In fact, Frieza's attempt to stop the rise of a Super Saiyan (and unbeknownst to him, subvert Bardock's vision) ended up with him creating the means to his defeat. In Dragon Ball – Episode of Bardock, after his defeat by Frieza, Bardock gets sent to the past and finds himself in a conflict with Frieza's ancestor, Lord Chilled. It also turned out that the Legendary Super Saiyan was Bardock, meaning Frieza created the very legend that would eventually lead to his death.
    • In Dragon Ball Z Gohan muses on whether the dark future Trunks comes from is inevitable, voicing his concerns to his father Goku by citing how the Androids were supposed to kill his friends and then one day kill Gohan himself. Goku notes that the future is far from set since his own death detailed in Trunks' timeline has been prevented thanks to the antidote which cured his heart virus. Though despite the future not being ruined by Androids some small echoes of the future do come true Goku dies sacrificing himself to stop Cell, and Cell cripples Gohan's left arm echoing the future Gohan who had his left arm blasted off in a battle with the androids. Fortunately, both are fixable in this timeline.
  • Discussed in High School Dx D. Ddraig tells Issei a rivalry with Vali is inevitable, since Issei possesses Boosted Gear (read: Ddraig himself) and Vali wields Divine Dividing, which houses Albion. When questioned, though, Ddraig admits this isn't certain, past generations have had one wielder die before meeting the other (Issei was asking because he narrowly avoided being an example); it's only extremely likely since wielders of such powerful Sacred Gears tend to make a lot of noise and attract each other, and the two dragons will encourage the rivalry, since they were sealed into their current forms mid-fight. Ultimately it's completely subverted when it becomes obvious that the once-Divine Conflict has boiled down to a centuries-old pissing match, and Albion and Ddraig eventually reconcile, removing the driving force of the rivalry.
  • Zig-zagged in one of the earliest chapters of Doraemon, where one of Doraemon's gadgets lets Nobita see that getting hit by a truck is in his future. Nobita understandably spends the entire chapter trying to avoid this, to little avail. But it turns out that fate is flexible enough to settle for a metaphorical version of this future, like Nobita getting punched by a trucker, or almost getting crushed by a car billboard, and it's implied that fate is satisfied when Nobita makes it to his original destination and gets beaned in the face by a little kid's toy car.
  • Superbook:
    • Because some of the stories Chris and Joy visit have bad endings, they often try to prevent them, but because how the stories have to end that way, there would be some obstacles. The first episode has the kids trying to prevent both Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit from the serpent. That unfortunately cannot change as the serpent blocks the kids from getting near them.
    • The only exception was in Jesus' birth, where two of the guards are planning to kill the newborn king, but Chris prevents them.
  • Similar to Superbook, Flying House did this on Jesus' death. The three kids try to prevent it, but other actions prevent them from stopping it.
  • My Monster Secret has several time-traveling characters join the cast, coming from a Bad Future that's partly comical (the future is overrun by perverted women with masochistic male followers while La Résistance tries to restore some modicum of decency and modesty) and partly legitimately tragic (most of the cast didn't get their happy endings, becoming depressed and lonely adults). They tell the present-day characters that nobody who's time traveled has ever successfully managed to change the past...but this only serves as motivation for them to try even harder. It turns out that while time travelers can't change the past, the present-day characters are absolutely in control of their future, and the characters manage to earn their happy endings by learning from their experiences and making better choices.
  • Almost in place (and maliciously so) in Steins;Gate: every world line has Attractor Fields which will prevent anyone from changing established pasts, especially the timing of deaths, which is why Okabe keeps failing to save Mayuri in the Alpha world line and Kurisu in the Beta world line. However, changes to the events surrounding the development of time travel itself can alter the path of history into another world line. Additionally, Tricked Out Time allows Okabe and Suzuha to alter events and enter the Steins;Gate world line by only changing what wasn't witnessed.
    • Returns in the "sequel" Steins;Gate 0 only this time Okabe actually figures out how to exploit it in his own favor. While he's running for the Time Leap Machine in the year 2025, his friends act as decoys to interfere with the enemy tracking them down, banking on the fact that he saw them alive up to the year 2036 to keep them alive. Much later, the heroes are trying to send Mayuri and Suzuha back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but unfortunately, a missile is destined to be launched at them to prevent them from changing the future. Okabe manages to alter events enough that the time machine leaves just before the missile destroys it, and to make sure it sticks, he observes the event to make sure the Attractor Fields prevent it from being changed.
  • In Date A Live, Origami Tobiichi's parents were killed five years prior by what was considered to be a Spirit, and at one point, after being turned into a Spirit herself, she traveled back in time with Kurumi's help to try and save them, only for it to be revealed that it was her own present self's actions that accidentally killed her parents. Later, after Shido goes back in time and manages to prevent the deaths of Origami's parents, Origami's past is considerably altered. However, it turns out that Origami's parents ended up dying anyway a year after in a traffic accident.
  • Ghost Talkers Daydream: Misaki gets told this, while she's on vacation and meets Hiratsuka, who's a retired medium. She tells Misaki that even if she tried to quit being a necromancer, the spirits would still be drawn to her anyway because she's got the gift and she's their only hope of tying up any loose ends that're binding them to their world.
  • Mirai Sasaki, aka Sir Nighteye from My Hero Academia has a Quirk that allows him to see the future of a person and his predictions always come to pass no matter what he does to change them. As a result, he absolutely refuses to use his Quirk on anybody until he's fully certain of success because he believes that if he sees the death of someone, they will irrevocably die. That is, until Izuku Midoriya manages to alter one of his predictions, defeating the villain and ensuring the success of the mission, when Nighteye previously foresaw they would be killed and the villain would get away.
  • In the Laplace's Demon arc of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, Sakuta gets caught in a "Groundhog Day" Loop with a girl who has a crush on him, Tomoe Koga. Koga is "rolling the dice" to try to find an iteration of a month of July where Sakuta falls for her, but he's already in love with Mai. He finally gets her to give it up and accept that she's just going to have to deal with the angst of an unrequited crush for a while, and the loop ends.
  • According to Word of God, this seems to be the fate of the Gundam multiverse with ∀ Gundam, that the timelines will merge to create the Dark History and the Turn A will wipe it out with the Moonlight Butterfly. Just which universes will be affected is unknown as the series was created after After War Gundam X and that implied everything before then would be affected with Gundam: Reconguista in G, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn and Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative retroactively joining them due to being part of the Universal Century timeline, but the franchise continued afterwards with no official ideal as to the fates of the others.

    Comic Books 
  • Present throughout Booster Gold, but particularly in the issue where he tries to keep Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) from getting shot by The Joker. He tries and fails to stop the event from happening multiple times before accepting that there are some things he isn't capable of changing because of solidified time (i.e. changing the past purposely, already extremely dangerous in "normal" cases, becomes impossible because certain events are too important to change, such as preventing Barbara Gordon from being crippled, thus preventing her from becoming Oracle, or saving Blue Beetle, preventing the Max Lord/Checkmate conspiracy from being revealed).
    • It later turns out, as revealed in DC Rebirth, that time can be changed in regards to these events, whether changing their outcome (so Barbara regains the use of her legs), or rewinding/removing them so they haven't happened (so Ted Kord is alive, but hasn't become Blue Beetle) - but only when the timestream's vulnerable, such as in the aftermath of Flashpoint.
  • Universal War One: When the group of heroes are trapped in the past, one of them realises that all the attempts to avoid the death of one of them is in fact leading to his death.
  • Doctor Manhattan of Watchmen states that he can't change the future that he sees because when he sees it, that means it's "already" "there"; the future is ostensibly present to him like the present is, so changing it would be like making something unhappen that already happened. This applies even to his own reactions, since sometimes he reacts with surprise to things he already knew about because that's what causality has him do. Thus, he has no free will. ("We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings.") But while he claims he can't react to information from the future, he does do so when he explains to people things he sees will happen. At around this point at the latest, it all turns into a huge Mind Screw if you try to think about how it should really work. It helps that he's so absolutely neutral he's not really motivated to change the future anyway.
  • X-Men villain Vargas (the Big Bad for part of the early 2000s X-Treme X-Men title) was seeking out the diaries of Destiny, a long-dead Blind Seer with the ability to predict the future. Being convinced that the prophecies favoured him, he boasted to the X-Men that they couldn't fight fate. When he comes across a diary that depicts Rogue killing him in battle, he changes his tune. Vargas changed destiny... only to be killed around X-Men #200 by one of the Marauders.
  • In The Metabarons, the Metabarons are fated to never be happy and lead a tragic existence; son slaying father to succeed as Metabaron, wives dying, mutilation and general unhappiness.
  • Hellboy gets this a lot from demons who want him to assume his role as The Anti-Christ. His response is usually rather realistic: "Says who?" followed by a punch to the face.
  • Subverted in the crossover Spawn / WildCats, where future versions of Grifter and Zealot (the former being the original's future self but the latter being a new Zealot) are sent into the past to slay Spawn to prevent him becoming a ruthless dictator known as the Ipsissimus. When they fail to kill him, the present Wildcats and Spawn agree to go with them into the future to defeat the Ipsissimus, but it turns out this was part of a predestination paradox, as the Ipsissimus uses the opportunity to give Spawn the medallion that corrupted him and caused him to turn evil to begin with. When back to the present, the influence stats, and Spawn starts Evil Gloating... until the future Wildcats realize their mistake and make a last attempt to modify a minor action in the past. This causes Spawn to recognize future Zealot as an adult version of his widow's daughter Cyan, come back to his senses and hand the medallion to her, thus preventing the future.
  • In one Star Wars comicbook, Boba Fett was hired by Darth Vader to capture an Imperial officer who went rogue after killing his superior. He later learns the true reason Darth Vader was so interested in this case: the rogue officer had in his possession the severed (but still alive) head of an alien seer. Every prediction she makes comes true, no matter what. She predicted that Boba Fett would kill the rogue officer, and despite his attempts to avert his death, it comes to pass. Boba Fett was wise enough to refuse to listen to anything she has to say, claiming that he would make his own future. The only plans he has for her is to auction her off. Boba Fett eventually loses the seer to Vader. The seer warns Vader against trying to exploit her power by first showing him two false visions. The first depicted Vader being brought to Palpatine in chains, accused of treachery, and casually shocked to death with Force Lightning. The second depicted Vader triumphantly slicing Palpatine in half. The seer explained that she spared Vader the truth because she hoped he would kill her. In the end, he does kill her to keep her away from Palpatine...just as she predicted.
  • In a Tharg's Future Shocks story in 2000 AD an American actor sees a vision of his death: Being hit on the street by a characteristic yellow New York taxi cab. In an effort to avoid this fate, the actor moves to Great Britain and manages to continue his successful acting career there. Some time later he's acting in a movie which takes place in New York but is filmed locally, so the studio has built a reproduction of a New York street, and the production also involves a yellow taxi cab. I'm sure you can guess what happens next.
  • The "Marvel NOW" restart of the Fantastic Four reveals this for Doctor Doom: Ben Grimm had carried the guilt of altering Victor Von Doom's work — something that Reed Richards had caught and tried to warn Victor about — and, when he had the chance to stop Victor from performing his experiment thanks to the wonders of time travel, he takes it only to be stopped by dozens of other Dooms watching his birth. Reed gets Ben to calm down and allows the experiment to continue. As he later ruefully tells Ben, "Doom is inevitable."
  • Superman:
    • In pre-Crisis Superman comics, it was established that although Superman could time travel by flying faster than light, he was physically incapable of changing the past - some obstacle would always crop up to prevent it, even a highly improbable obstacle.
    • He first learned this lesson as Superboy when, after having just discovered he could time travel, he went back to prevent Lincoln's assassination. Against all likelihood, he bumps into the adult Lex Luthor, who had simply been time traveling to take a break from the stresses of supervillainy. The encounter with Luthor delays Supes so he can't stop Booth's bullet. When Luthor realizes that he has inadvertently helped kill Lincoln, even he is aghast, and he goes home, badly shaken.
    • In War World, The Spectre tries to show this to Superman, so he gives him a chance to save Krypton and prevent his foster parents' deaths. Superman fails both times.
    • Supergirl also travels back in time sometimes to try to change the past, and she always fails.
    • In Superman's Return to Krypton, Superman accidentally time-travels and ends up in pre-destruction Krypton. Albeit depowered, he sets out to prevent future tragedies, but he's unable to get the Science Council listen to his father, he can't build an evacuation fleet, he can't stop Brainiac from stealing Kandor, and he can't save his family. Then Superman's launched into space due to a weird accident, and instead of flying back to Krypton he reluctantly accepts he can't change the past and travels back to his own time.
      Superman: If I return to Krypton, I will lose my super-powers again! Fate can't be changed! It's impossible for me to save Lyla or my parents! Earth needs me!
    • In A Mind Switch In Time, Superman swaps minds with his Superboy self. While in the past, Superman escapes from still another Lex Luthor's deadly trap. Nonetheless, Superman's patience at last has been exhausted, and he actually considers to get rid of young Lex "before [he grows] up to be an even greater menace", but he's talked down by Smallville's chief cop. Feeling ashamed, Superman reminds himself once again he can NOT change the past.
      Superman: Wh-What came over me? I... I almost killed him...! B-but that's insane! As Superman, I know I couldn't have done it! I can't change the past... and Luthor is still alive in my time!
    • In Many Happy Returns, Linda Danvers goes back in time to save the original Supergirl's life, but she's told she only succeeded in creating a parallel reality and cannot save Kara, no matter what. Overwhelmed by her failure to change Kara's fate, Linda gives up her hero identity.
    • In Convergence, The Flash Barry Allen and the original Supergirl find out they'll die battling the Anti-Monitor if they leave Brainiac's domed cities. They become convinced that their deaths are inevitable but they find comfort in knowing they'll help save the universe.
    • Valor is told this by the Waverider:
      Waverider: "Like it or not you are a child of destiny[...]Haven't you wondered about the familiarity of this Khund attack? Before Glorith fouled history, this was young Valor's very next mission! He—you—vaporized this prototype craft![...]Despite your best efforts your flight here wasn't random. You're still at fate's mercy. You can't reject your destiny Valor. You're seizing it...whether you realize it or not."
  • Brother Blood from the Teen Titans is a strange Legacy Character. Back in the time of the crusades, he got Power at a Price: he would be powerful, charismatic and immortal, but only up to the age of 100, when his son would kill him and become the new Brother Blood (with a similar curse to die at the age of 100 at the hands of his own son, and so on). Brother Blood Nº 6 and his son were both aware of this curse, and they both tried to escape from it. The father wants to be truly immortal and be Brother Blood forever, and the son despises his father and his activities. He escaped from him, to avoid that, but when Brother Blood killed his mother (who was just one of his several wives) the kid began a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and killed his father next to the pool of blood. And, after the deed was done, he accepted his fate, got into the pool of blood, and became Brother Blood.note 
  • A key part of King Sombra's Start of Darkness in My Little Pony: Fiendship is Magic. As a child, he and a friend see visions of their future selves; his friend as a princess, and himself as a monster. When it appears that his friend's future is coming to pass, the realization is a large part of what drives him over the edge.
  • Averting this was the goal of the original Days of Future Past: Kitty Pryde was sent back in time to prevent the assassination of Senator Kelly, which would result in a sequence of events leading to the virtual extermination of mutants. Kitty succeeds in saving Kelly's life, but she returns to the future to discover that nothing had changed. It turns out, the "future" was a completely different universe altogether (Earth-811), and because of the laws of time travel in the Marvel Multiverse that one cannot alter their own reality's past, her actions were only able to prevent the same catastrophe from befalling the main Marvel Universe (Earth-616).
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Hippolyta learns that Wonder Woman is prophesied to die, so she arranges The Contest and rigs it so that her daughter is stripped of the title and Artemis becomes the new Wonder Woman. In the end this ensures that both Diana and Artemis die. (They get better).
    • Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark is told repeatedly by her half brother Hercules that she can't alter her fate of serving and protecting their father Zeus. Her Screw Destiny goes much better than Hippolyta's, but Zeus does manage to manipulate her actions far more than she'd like anyway.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: In "Of Ducks, Dimes, and Destinies", Magica de Spell goes back in time to the day Scrooge earned the dime so she can get it before he ever owns it. After some hijinks she succeeds, and it's while waiting for the return trip to start that she realizes the implications — by preventing Scrooge from ever owning the dime, it's no longer the first coin owned by the richest duck in the world, therefore it's worthless to her, and she's forced to give it back to him and return to the future empty-handed.
  • In Age of Bronze, Achilles is fated to be killed if he ever kills a descendant of the sun god. Thetis tells Memnon to stick close to Achilles to point out any of them so Achilles can avoid them, but naturally Achilles runs ahead and kills two of them before Memnon can catch up. It gets him killed.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Catherine and Her Fate", Catherine had told her Fate that given a choice, she would rather be happy in her old age than her youth. In her miserable and impoverished youth, she reminds herself of this trope to inspire herself to go on.
  • The moral of The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate, and many other tales.
  • In "The Nix In The Mill Pond", the hero's father is tricked into promising his newborn son as payment for the riches offered by the titular water sprite. The family manages to keep him away from the pond long enough for him to grow up, but she eventually comes calling and forces his wife into an adventure to get him back.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Discussed and defied. During a conversation Shinji asks Asuka if she has ever wondered what would happen if they had the chance to travel back in time and avert all what had gone wrong with their lives, including Third Impact. Asuka automatically replies that they would be incapable to avert the end of the world, not matter what. Shortly after they met Asuka's future self who told Asuka that they CAN fix things and if her younger self thinks otherwise is because she is so thoroughly broken and burned-out that she is afraid to try to.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic A Rose and a Thorn 4, Project: Mirage goes back in time to try and stop Ashura from causing the fall of the ARK. It turns out that BECAUSE she did this while knowing what was going to happen, she made Sonic blue, and gave birth to Knuckles. The experiment she mated with fell in love with her because she was so determined to change things, and then released the Artificial Chaos because he'd been told it would happen (assuming that it would happen with or without him). She still couldn't save Maria even though she knew about it, but kept Shadow from being shot, and heard Maria's last words (as named in Sonic Battle).
    • But she did manage to kill Ashura so that A Rose And A Thorn 3 didn't happen, breaking a time loop that may have been going around for centuries, and because it didn't happen, A Rose And A Thorn 5 happened instead. So there was a point to it after all.
  • Invoked in Evil Be Thou My Good, when Pinhead notes that he spared Harry when Harry accidentally opened the Lament Configuration as a child because he recognised that Harry had been marked by Fate and Destiny, Pinhead explicitly stating that Fate and Destiny will sweep aside all who try to stand against them.
  • Discussed in Lost in Camelot, as Bo encourages Merlin to consider the idea that just because he’s been told it’s his destiny to serve Arthur doesn’t mean he has to do so, without suggesting that he actually turn against Camelot.
  • In Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past, Harry manages to come back in time, with the idea of preventing his future from happening. However, there are still things that happen no matter what he does - Voldemort trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone, Ginny falling under the control of Tom Riddle's Diary, Sirius escaping Azkaban, Dementors posted at Hogwarts...which makes him despair that maybe he can't fight fate, and worries that everything may end as it did in his past. However, there seems to be someone that is trying to force things to happen as they did during the books.
  • In The Three Kings: Hunt the Thief King comes back from the dead despite the Department's attempts to prevent this from happening.
  • The Second Try: Shinji wonders if this is the case when he's forced to be absorbed into EVA-01 to defeat Zeruel. It's ultimately averted since events start to majorly deviate from canon after that battle.
  • The first season finale of Children of Time takes this trope and runs with it, built on a Whole Plot Reference to "The Wedding of River Song". The three-parter shows what happens when Fixed Points in Time are broken: Time Stands Still. To cap it off, even when things are set right, one married couple has to be separated, because the wife has a destiny in her own time, two centuries in the future for the husband. There appears to be Foreshadowing for this theme in the fourth episode, when the heroes meet a woman from their future who has a brief but charged conversation with the Doctor in this vein.
  • The Star Trek (2009) fanfic Written in the Stars is about Fem!Kirk trying to follow her own path instead of falling in love with Spock like her counterpart did. But when she starts falling for him herself, and discovers that two other versions of herself fell for him, she eventually decides to just go with it instead of fighting back and making herself unhappy.
  • The Slender Man fic By the Fire's Light, Detective Carl Rourke and Mira Grolinsky try to fight against the Slender Man's snowballing ascent to power, being the first protagonists to truly offer any resistance to it. Ultimately, though, their attempts to use the Slender Man's meta nature against it end up backfiring and giving it the last power boost it needs to win.
  • Fist of the Moon averts this repeatedly.
    • The bad guys' entire plan is based on going back in time and changing the past. Unfortunately, while you can fight fate, it is a massively bad idea, because the universe protects itself by making the fighter massively unlucky.
    • Also, Mamoru's (incorrect) feelings about this are a part of why he breaks up with Usagi.
  • The Infinite Loops: Belief that this is true is a possible cause of Setsuna Syndrome, wherein the person attempts to Railroad canon events into place. This usually places them at odds with most other loopers, who tend to cause severe timeline changes out of boredom.
  • In How To Drill Your Way Through Your Problems a crossover between Worm and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Lagann cleans out Taylor's locker over the winter break. She still triggers the first day back, and if anything, it's worse. Averted in the long run, since Owl/Taylor joined Team Neo-Gurren, rather than the Undersiders.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, this is why Miss Kimber lets Tarakudo take the Oni mask in her possession — she's already foreseen that he's going to end up with it, so there's no point in trying to prevent the inevitable.
  • The Rosario + Vampire fanfic The Gaikohima Invasion has a variation of this in Chapter 3, where Kurumu and Mizore, while having accepted that Tsukune ended up with Moka, decide to ask Yukari and Ruby if there was ever a possibility that one of them could have ended up with him instead. They're given looks at various alternate universes and timelines, but regardless of which one they see, only one of two outcomes happens, that Tsukune either ends up with Moka, or with no one. Basically, if Tsukune falls in love, it's always with Moka.
  • Defied in Pony POV Series: fate isn't ridged and in fact Rota Fortuna, the Concept of Fate, is also the Concept of Free Will and outright says she doesn't force any fate on anyone: whatever fate one meets is the result of their actions and those of others. She makes the roads, but there are lots of them and everyone decides which one they will take. Ironically enough, those who think fate has to be fought against and resisted often play this trope straight because they're so preoccupied trying to avoid fate they lock themselves into their path, as opposed to someone who just lives their life and continues making choices normally. Nightmare Eclipse falls victim to this, locking herself and every single one of her alternate selves into one fate (as she merged with every Twilight to become her at the moment of their transformation, meaning she effectively tied every last one to herself), so when she's defeated all her alternates are likewise doomed to be defeated as well. The irony is, Rota herself plays this trope straightest of all: she will always lose one of her wings that becomes the Blank Wolf in some way, be it by Discord during the war of the gods (prime Rota), to intentionally create the Blank Wolf (her EG self), or countless other ways.
  • Played with in Young Justice: Darkness Falls. Bart left his future 40 years in the future to stop the Reach from taking over. When he goes 5 years into the future, he finds almost the same conditions as before, only now it's Darkseid who's taken over. The only difference is that he can still go back and give it one more try first.
  • Adrien/Chat Noir takes this attitude towards his relationship with Ladybug in Leave for Mendeleiev. He's convinced that because the Ladybug and the Black Cat are 'meant to be partners', they're destined to be together, to the point that when Ladybug's rightfully enraged at him for lying about their relationship and helping spread rumors that they're dating, he outright refuses to apologize and tells her that there's no point in her denying it: they are going to be together someday. So why does she keep resisting...?
  • This same attitude rears its ugly head in LadyBugOut, to the point that Chat grabs Ladybug and launches into an angry, blistering rant blaming her for all their problems:
    Chat: "Why are you trying to ruin what we have together?! We're meant to be! The ladybug and the cat! Ladybug and Chat Noir! What do you have against destiny?! We're partners; special partners! We were chosen! We're soulmates! What's so hard about that?"
  • In The Phantom Thieves of New Game+, Akira, after being forced to relive the events of his year in Shujin, manages to stop Shiho from committing suicide after being raped by Kamoshida, and offer her a chance to bring down their common enemy. Unfortunately, a greater power refuses to accept this change, forcing Akira back to the start of another loop.
  • Persona 5 Adult Confidant AU: Fortune Teller Chihaya Mifune was initially a believer of this. After stopping Sojiro and the other Phantom Thieves from heading down to the train station before a train crashes into it when its conductor receives a mental shutdown, she felt that all she did was delay their inevitable deaths, whether by the disaster or by a Shadow that has captured her. Sojiro snaps her out of it, telling her that the Phantom Thieves will steal their future from fate by rescuing her and fighting for their beliefs.
  • The Infinite Loops: Sufferers of Setsuna Syndrome can be firm believers in this, which is why they developed it in the first place. They often get rather annoyed with usual looper antics that cause their loop to go Off the Rails, believing something bad will happen if they diverge from the baseline. Some loopers suffering from it can get rather...forceful about staying consistent with baseline, causing them to be rather disliked by the other loopers.

    Films – Animation 
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the antagonist peacock Shen ordered the massacre of the entire panda population in China because of the prophecy that he will be brought down by a warrior in "black and white". In the end, his efforts to change his fate became the very beginning of his downfall (Shen's parents banished him for it) and sets up the chain of events that will fulfill this prophecy.
    • "One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."
    • The Soothsayer does acknowledge that this will only happen if Shen continues on his current path. So he could fight fate, he just tried to fight the wrong part of it.
    • Extra irony points because Po, the one destined to defeat him, doesn't even know that Shen EXISTS until a week before he fights him. Shen assumes that Po is looking for revenge for the deaths of his parents and his entire people, when as far as Po knows, he's only there because Shen stole a bunch of pots and took over a city on the other end of China and has no external reasons for vengeance.
    • Also worth noting is that as an albino peacock, Shen himself is a black-and-white warrior. All the events of the film that conspire to bring about his doom are things that he directly or indirectly set into motion.
  • In The Lion King 1½, Timon tries to fit in with the other meerkats at first, but eventually his aspirations (and distaste for their humble lifestyle) motivate him to leave the colony. But this means that- years later- he is in exactly the place he needs to be to save Prince Simba's life after the latter has been exiled. In this case, the 'letter' of Pridelands hierarchy had to be defied to preserve its spirit.

    Films – Live-Action 
  • Deconstructed in The Adjustment Bureau. Destiny needs its little helpers (called "The Adjusters") to ensure the proper unfolding of the great plan.
  • Played rather frustratingly in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010), in that every character tells Alice she can't fight fate, and despite her numerous attempts to Screw Destiny, the White Queen, who has the power but refuses to slay the Jabberwocky on principle, passive-aggressively guilt trips Alice into doing it for her. Ironically, being railroaded into taking a level in badass like this ultimately gives her the self-confidence to Screw Destiny back in the "real" world.
  • The Devil in the form of The Anti-Christ Franco Maccalusso in the Apocalypse series knows he's doomed for the Lake Of Fire, and so decides to take as many souls with him in the Tribulation through the Mark of the Beast.
  • This is the whole plot of The Butterfly Effect.
  • In Deewaar, Vijay references this idea when Anita suggests getting his tattoo removed after Anand's funeral – if he were to change his palm lines, would that alter his fate?
  • The Devil's Messenger: This is the central theme of "Condemned in Crystal". The fortune teller Madame Germaine tells John Radian that he is destined to die that night, and that she will be the one to kill him. Every action John takes to avoid his fate inevitably draws him closer to it; even killing Madame Germaine before she can kill him.
  • In Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Dr. Schreck's Tarot draws apparently reveal that there is no way for the five passengers to escape the fates he predicts for them. However, what the fifth card (Death) is actually saying is that will avoid these fates because they are already dead.
  • The Final Destination series is a variation, which says "If you're supposed to die, you will".
  • Knowing (2009) stars Nicolas Cage as a Hollywood Atheist who rushes around trying to find a way to prevent (or personally survive) The End of the World as We Know It, but by the end we see there was nothing he could have done to change it.
  • Horrific: In ''Masters of Death", six people trapped in a cabin a presented with a prophecy that three of them will be killed by the other three. Roz is convinced that Len is going to kill, and winds up killing him. She believes she has cheated the prophecy (he can't kill her if he's dead), but the others point out she has changed nothing: the prophecy never specified who would kill whom, and there is still one murderer and one victim.
  • In the backstory of Krull, the Cyclops race made a deal with The Beast: they would trade one of their eyes in exchange for the ability to see the future. The Beast took their eyes and gave them the ability to see the future. Specifically, their future deaths. Any Cyclops who tries to avoid their fated end always ends up dying in an even more painful way instead. The Cyclops Rell leaves the rest of the heroes near the end because his time has come. He goes back to help them anyway and holds open a pair of moving walls just long enough for the others to enter the lair. Sadly, they are unable to save him as the walls slowly crush him to death.
  • In Lawrence of Arabia during the trek across the intensely hot Nefud Desert to Aqaba, one of Prince Faisal's men, Gasim falls off his camel during the night. Ali says it's too late to go back and that it is "Written" that he die. Lawrence goes back and saves him proving "Nothing is written!" Later, after they forge an alliance with the tribe of Auda Abu Tayi, one of his men is killed by one of Faisal's. Lawrence decides to settle the dispute and save the alliance by killing the guilty man. It turns out to be Gasim. Lawrence then has to execute him with a pistol. Afterwards, when Auda asks Ali why Lawrence is upset, he tells him he brought the man he killed out of the Nefud. "Ah," Auda says, "It was written, then."
  • This is revealed to be the crux of The Matrix movies. Towards the end of The Matrix Reloaded, Neo finally reaches the "source" of the Matrix and meets the Architect, the computer program who designed the Matrix. He informs Neo that Zion will ultimately be destroyed and that it cannot be saved. At the end of their conversation, he also mentions that Neo's "destiny", like that of his five predecessors, was to enter the source and restart the program, allowing 23 humans to be selected to rebuild Zion. Thus, the "prophecy" will be fulfilled that after a century of warfare between humans and machines, the fight will finally come to an end. However, Neo would only be restarting the war, not ending it. Finally, the Architect mentions that Trinity will inevitably die in order to save Neo. The Architect tells him that there is nothing he can do to stop that from happening. In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo tells the Oracle about the Architect's warnings, and she responds that the Architect is full of crap and can't predict the future worth a damn. Guess what? Zion is not destroyed and the war comes to a permanent end. Both Neo and Trinity die, though.
  • The Outlaw and His Wife: "None can escape his fate, even if he were to move more swiftly than the wind." The news that Kari is actually an escaped convict comes soon after.
  • The Prophecy in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides states that a one-legged man will be the doom of Blackbeard. In the end, that's exactly what happened despite Blackbeard's efforts to try to reach out to the fountain of youth to avoid that fate.
  • The Sandra Bullock film Premonition mixes this trope with a partial Temporal Paradox. In the future Linda sees, her husband Jim dies, she goes crazy, is suspected of hurting her daughter, and gets committed to an insane asylum. Her efforts to prevent Jim's death create Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and the film's "happy" ending consists of a reveal that she was eventually released from the asylum, now pregnant with another child.
  • In Sex And Death 101 (2008), the main character is emailed (by a Magical Computer) a list of 101 women's names. It turns out to be a list of all the people he has slept with, or is going to sleep with, before he dies. Initially, he thinks it's just a joke, as his current fiance happens to be #29 out of 101, but, regardless of how he tries to avoid it, he ends up sleeping with every woman on the list, in exactly the order in which they appear, and, to his dismay, the last name on the list happens to match that of a notorious Femme Fatale Serial Killer who seduces men before drugging them into permanent comas. Indeed, she is the last woman he ever sleeps with, because they get married and live Happily Ever After.
  • Sound of My Voice: Maggie claims to be a time traveler from a post-apocalyptic future. Based on her statements about time, this trope applies. She never suggests that any of her cult members can change the events that cause society to break down. She can only give a select few people the skills they'll need to prosper when it does. She also states that she's already met most of the people in her cult in the future, and says that the reason she kicks one man out is because she'd never met him, meaning he was always going to drop out at some point.
  • Star Wars as a whole. In Episode I, we find out that Anakin Skywalker (just a kid by then) is The Chosen One, destined to bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith. At the end of Episode III, he does the opposite thing: he joins the Sith Lord, and helps him to destroy all the Jedi order as Darth Vader. Episodes IV, V and VI follow, and in the end Darth Vader kills the Sith Lord and dies shortly after... and thus the prophecy takes place: the Sith are no more, thanks to the actions of Anakin Skywalker.note 
    • In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin had foreseen his beloved Padmé's death and tried to find ways to prevent it, which led him to the dark side. Ultimately, he failed to prevent Padmé's death. Not only did he fail to prevent Padmé's death, he was the direct cause of it. She "gave up on life" because she had lost him to the dark side. Also, the force choking didn't help matters too much either.
  • Surf Ninjas lampshades it repeatedly. Every time Zatch proposes a new even more difficult task for Johnny, someone will protest that it is impossible and he can't possibly do it, and someone will say "He can if it's his destiny". By the end of the movie, multiple people will join together in a resigned chorus of "He can if it's his destiny".
  • The Terminator films, as a whole, are an example of this. In the first movie, Sarah Connor learns that the fate of her unborn child, John, is to lead the remaining humans against the machines After the End; the second movie is all about Sarah and John trying to stop the end from happening, and seemingly succeeding. However, both continuities which Alternate Continuity explain that Sarah's actions did not prevent, but only delayed the rise of SkyNet and the nuclear holocaust, from 1997 when it was originally supposed to happen, until 2004.
    • Then there's Skynet's attempts to avert it's own destruction by repeatedly sending Terminators back in time to stop John Connor from being born or kill him. Not only does it's Terminators never succeed, they are indirectly responsible for multiple attempts to prevent the existence of Skynet. Worst of all, The Sarah Connor Chronicles shows by sending him into the future that even if John Connor wasn't a factor there would still be a Resistance there fighting Skynet anyway, so killing John Connor wouldn't have actually made a difference.
  • Played with in the 2014 sci-fi thriller Time Lapse. A group of friends discover that their neighbor was a scientist who built a camera that can take pictures of the future. From his diary, they read that he saw his death in the future and tried to stop it, then discover his horribly mangled body and assume this means that if you try to change the course of time, your timeline stops right there and you die horribly. The truth is that You Can't Fight Fate for a different reason - it is literally impossible to alter the predicted future, no matter how hard you try, it will come true. The scientist died in a mundane accident involving dangerous gases, failing to prevent his death. Similarly, Callie learns the hard way that you cannot use the camera to "reset" your timeline to a more favorable one by sending a new message to your past self. One way or another, circumstances will cause the message to revert to the previous one, preventing any alteration of the timeline.
  • The 2002 adaptation of The Time Machine. Dr. Alexander Hartdegen creates a time machine to try to prevent his girlfriend from getting killed. She was mugged in Central Park, so they stop by a flower stand instead. But while Alexander is buying her flowers, she gets run over by a carriage. No matter how many times he travels back and does things differently, she always dies. This is later revealed to be because if she doesn't die, he'll never build the time machine in the first place, which would be a Temporal Paradox.
  • Discussed in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Hank theorizes that the flow of reality eventually corrects itself, so one can't change the future by changing events in the past. At it seem averted when Xavier decides to Screw Destiny and succeeds. However Logan suggests this trope may ultimately be played straight: Though set in the "Good Future" timeline, mutants are still apparently gone.
  • Young Frankenstein:
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: All right, you win. You win. I give. I'll say it. I'll say it. DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME! DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME!

  • Stories with this trope are at least Older Than Feudalism. One of the best-known of these stories is from The Histories of Herodotus. While Herodotus has many stories of inevitable fates (reflecting the ancient Greek worldview), one story is still widely known 2500 years later. Herodotus reports that when Croesus, King of Lydia (a country in western Anatolia—now Turkey—which was one of the Great Powers of its day, and famous for its wealth) sent a massive convoy to the Oracle at Delphi carrying literal tons of gold, silver, and other luxuries to ask the Oracle a question: Should Croesus attack the Persians? And the Oracle famously answered: "If Croesus attacks the Persians, he will destroy a great empire." Croesus apparently read that to mean he would win, and proceeds to attack the Persians. Problem is, the Persians are led by this guy named Cyrus, and he beats the snot out of the Lydians, taking their whole empire and capturing Croesus (whom he makes an advisor). But the Oracle was right—Croesus did destroy a great empire, just not the one he was thinking of.
  • In Before I Fall, after dying in a car crash while leaving a party, Samantha is forced to relive the last day of her life. No matter what, at 12:39 am, she always dies (or starts over on the same day), and she finds that Juliet Sykes always kills herself, until Samantha jumps in front of her, thus ending the "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • In David Eddings' Belgariad, Ce'Nedra stubbornly refuses to accept the truth: that she is in love with Garion, whether she likes it or not, and that she has to go to Riva. It takes a god with a stare to die for to change her mind. The series makes a point of driving this home with a large hammer. Numerous times Polgara and Belgarath say that "Everything has already been decided." Which turns out to be true. Even minor, never to be seen again characters were born just for one particular purpose (such as the soldier heckling Ce'Nedra when she needs prodding to make an important speech).
    • Possible lampshading in the related books Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress. In those books, the titular characters spend thousands of years on assorted errands to ensure that the prophecy will be fulfilled. For example, Belgarath and Polgara practically dictated a major treaty to a sovereign power at swordpoint to make sure that, 500 years later, Ce'Nedra would be sent to Riva.
      • Definite lampshading in the former. The Prophecy's method of revealing information (concealing it in cryptic words until the right moment) is a necessary ploy to keep Belgarath (who hates the implications this trope) from doing things he's not supposed to.
    • While the characters can't fight their fates, at the same time, the core of the plot actually concerns two competing prophecies. One prophecy triumphing ultimately means the other gets screwed.
    • It's later revealed that it's possible to escape both fates. But it would make the universe go so far Off the Rails that the "third fate"'s outcome is unpredictable, and neither side is willing to risk that rather than accomplish the Prophecy that's good for them.
  • Subverted in A Christmas Carol, when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge shadows of things prophesied by the Ghost of Christmas Present, including Scrooge dying sooner than expected with his belongings being plundered by his maid, laundress and undertaker, as well as the impending death of Tiny Tim:
    Ghost of Christmas Present: I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die... If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race will find him here.
After seeing the vision, and pleading for a second chance, Scrooge makes good on his promise by buying a huge turkey for Bob Cratchit's family, promoting Bob to Scrooge's partner, donating generously to the charity solicitors, and finding physicians for Tiny Tim.
  • Discworld:
    • Comes up a few times. There's a plan for the world, and the world doesn't particularly care what the people think or even do. In Mort, Mort saves the life of a princess he was supposed to reap. That part goes fine, but the princess quickly discovers that everyone is still acting like she died, with mourning colors being raised in the halls and repeatedly forgetting about the princess even when she's standing right there. Even when she recruits a wizard (who can see her) as the "royal recognizer," it doesn't really help. In the end, Death talks to the gods, and they agree to change the plan because they're a bunch of romantic saps.
    • Played straight and subverted in The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
      • Early in the book a psychic sees the future burning of Ankh-Morpork, and races off away only to be killed in an avalanche - proving that Death also has a sense of humour
      • Later, Rincewind sees Death, who's surprised to meet the failed wizard, since he has an appointment with Rincewind the next day in another city. Death even offers to lend Rincewind a fast horse, but wisely he doesn't take up the offer. (This is Pratchett's take on an old Arab legend - see below under Myth & Folklore.)
  • In H. Beam Piper's short story The Edge of the Knife, a history professor remembers flashes of the future as well as the past; what he doesn't always remember is "the edge of the knife" - the knife-blade moment of the present separating the two - and so he gets into trouble for things like looking for books in the university library that won't be written for several hundred years, because he wants to draw analogies between two different historical situations. He copes with all this by thinking of events being just as much historical facts if they happened yesterday or will happen in the future.
  • Brought home in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods when his mom contracts the plague; Gregor acknowledges mentally that there was no other way to ensure the prophecy would happen the way it needed to.
  • This is one of the two overriding themes in all of Thomas Hardy's work, the other being From Bad to Worse. Hardy did believe in a philosophy called "fatalism", in which this trope is the central tenet.
  • A major theme of The Licanius Trilogy. Due to the pre-destined nature of events, even seeing an Augur's vision of the future will not enable anyone to change what is destined to happen. It's a series-spanning debate whether this means life is meaningless or whether free will isn't required for meaning.
  • I Am Mordred: Morgan le Fay believes this, and explicitly warns Mordred that no matter what, he'll never be able to avert the prophecy about him. He tries anyway. In the end, he fails.
  • Journey to Chaos: According to Wiol, the goddess of the Element Wind and Knowledge of the Future, there are certain things that are guaranteed to happen, but there are many ways in which they could happen. For instance, say there are two people who are destined to marry each other, they could either do just that, go Undercover as Lovers, engage in Courtly Love, jointly become parental substitutes for the same kid, etc. There is no possible future where something along the lines of "these two people marry each other" does not happen.
  • The final book of the Left Behind series, Kingdom Come has the case of the Other Light, an organization of Luciferians dedicated to overthrowing Jesus and God and subverting the Biblical prophecies that preordain their ultimate defeat. The hopeless nature of their fight, and the rather unsympathetic nature of the Christian characters has caused some to view the Other Light as doomed moral victors or at worst ineffectual sympathetic villains rather than the forces of pure evil.
    • This is in fact a central theme of the entire series, and one of the many elements that drew criticism: Not only is the whole sequence of events from beginning to end literally divinely pre-ordained, making every viewpoint character a total Pinball Protagonist who can do nothing but watch it all happen Because Destiny Says So, but the only people who even attempt to avert these events (which are the literal end of the world and the total extinction of human life, with everyone who doesn't pass God's very high and seemingly rather arbitrary standards being condemned to hell for eternity) are treated as antagonists. Reviewers often invoke the Eight Deadly Words as a result.
  • This is a major theme of Dean Koontz's Lightning: It's very difficult to change the future, because "destiny struggles to reassert the pattern that was meant to be."
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has the Golden Age Prophecy, which predicts that two Sons of Adam (the Narnians' terms for a male human) and two Daughters of Eve (the Narnians' terms for a female human) will defeat the White Witch and restore peace in Narnia. It turns out that the Pevensie children are indeed the prophesied four. Although the White Witch tries to kill them to maintain her rule over Narnia, the siblings successfully defeat her and become the sworn protectors of Narnia.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Ilúvatar (God) acts mostly through fate: Gandalf tells Frodo that "there are other forces at work in the could say Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it."
    • The basic plot point of the story of Túrin Turambar, thanks to Morgoth's curse on Húrin's family. His attempts to fight it only lead to more misery, for him and everyone else. This leads to a really depressing conclusion.
    • Also the point of the Doom of Mandos, which states that the Feanorians will never complete their oath.
    • In the aftermath of Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Huor (Man) prophesied to Turgon (Elf) that new hope would spring from the two of them, saying "...from you and from me a new star will arise." This later proved to be true, for his son Tuor wedded Turgon's daughter Idril, and their son was Eärendil The Mariner, who sailed to Undying Lands to plead mercy for Two Kindreds. Eärendil himself was set to sail to sky with Silmaril on his ship, thus becoming the Morningstar.
  • This trope is actually part of the draw of Machine of Death Many characters try to subvert their, or other people's, predictions out of fear or wanting to prove the machine wrong. You explicitly know they die of whatever their paper says anyway, but according to the comic that spawned the project "part of the fun would be seeing how".
  • Matched by Ally Condie. Somewhat of a variation, actually; Cassia tries to go against the society, but they've seen it all before. No matter how hard Cassia tries, the society's data is always one step ahead.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians and its sequel series has this in spades. In keeping with the heavy ties to Greek Mythology, all prophecies in the story come to pass in some form or another. Trying to avoid or fight off destiny only results in either nothing happening, or worse causing the prophecy to come true in the attempt to change it. That being said the prophecies themselves are very cryptic, and as a result are open to several, sometime positive, interpretations. (In fact, in the second series, Zeus refuses to accept the excuse of acting solely to help bring a prophecy to fulfillment as excuse, saying that there are always several ways to read them and for them to come true and actively trying to make sure they do happen in the way you think they will limits the possibilities.)
  • In Powerless, Rowan uses this explanation, verbatim, when trying to convince Daniel not to try to find out what happens when the super kids turn 13 and lose their powers and memories. Daniel ignores this, and it turns out that you can fight fate...if fate turns out to be a power hungry old man covered in shadows, and not actually fate.
  • In The Saga of Arrow-Odd, a witch prophecies that Odd will live three hundred years, then be killed at the place where he grew up by the skull of the horse Faxi. Odd kills Faxi and becomes a viking, planning never to return home. When Odd is three hundred years old, he suddenly grows homesick and returns home, where he is killed by a viper nesting in the skull of Faxi.
  • Discussed in Septimus Heap, where Septimus questions Marcellus Pye's intentions on creating a potion that gives eternal life along with eternal youth, since Marcellus has already taken the potion for eternal life already and Septimus saw him a withered old man 500 years later in Septimus's own time.
  • Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five takes this to the extreme, with the protagonist hallucinating himself a theory about the non-existence of free will, involving Mental Time Travel and aliens. He does this in to make sense of what he saw during World War II.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Slithering Shadow", Thalis urges this on Conan the Barbarian about the Living Shadow Thog.
    "Be at ease," she advised. "If Thog wishes you, he will take you, wherever you are. That man you mentioned, who screamed and ran did you not hear him give one great cry, and then fall silent? In his frenzy, he must have run full into that which he sought to escape. No man can avoid his fate."
  • Somewhither: This is what everyone in the Dark Tower generally believes, to the point where it serves to handicap them. For example, when the astrologers predict that a force attacking the heroes will fail and reinforcements will be necessary, they won't just strengthen the first force - because they're afraid that acting contrary to the stars' predictions will curse them. In another case, a wolf-headed woman leaves the protagonist be instead of fighting him, because she had no victories or losses predicted by the astrologers for that day.
  • Cersei Lannister in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is haunted by a childhood prophecy that has successfully predicted several events of her life; this prophecy also predicts that she will outlive all her children, that she will be supplanted by someone younger and more beautiful, and that her little brother will strangle her. All of her attempts to prevent these things from happening only serve to alienate those around her.
    • Running tally: Joffrey is dead, Tommen's fate is largely dependent on her own (outlook not good), and Myrcella is surrounded by people who, while they don't wish her harm, will use her to gain power. Sansa Stark is being groomed for rulership by Littlefinger, Margaery Tyrell isn't dead yet, and there's Dany Targaryen. And she has begun to alienate Jaime—also her younger brother, if only by minutes—while Tyrion yet lives.
    • On the other hand, The Stallion That Mounts the World, a prophesied warrior destined to become the greatest of kings and lead the Dothraki across the sea died, stillborn. Unless the prophecy actually referred to Dany and the ones speaking got it wrong. Given that this is apparently the case with Stannis and Melisandre, it's quite possible.
  • Seems to be the case in Shaman of the Undead universe. If Ida foresees something, you can be sure that it will happen. If she foresees your death, no matter what you do, you'll still die, even if in the Prophecy Twist she'll be the one to kill you by accident.
  • The Thebaid: Most of the gods are horrified to learn that the people of Thebes and Argos will be massacred in a great war and lobby to stop it. Most except Jupiter, who orders his lessers to carry out the decrees of Fate or suffer the wrath of his thunderbolt. Unable to challenge the king of the universe, all the unhappy gods can do is delay the inevitable:
    • Juno is the most successful at fitting fate to her designs, since she leverages Jupiter's many adulteries to make him concede that Argos shouldn't be totally destroyed.
    • Venus stops Mars from rousing the Argive army by breaking into tears in front of his chariot and waxing poetic about how Thebes' destruction will end the bloodline of their child Cadmus. Not wanting to upset his lover, Mars lets the men of Argos laze around for a week or two before Jupiter makes him stop procrastinating.
    • Bacchus orders all his nymphs to dry up their rivers with the exception of one near Nemea. This forces King Adrastus to take his men their and sets up a chain of events that delays the war another few weeks.
    • Phoebus knows a thing or two about fate, so he doesn't work against Jupiter and is content to give one of his doomed oracles a noble death.
    • Diana almost rebels against Jupiter to save the life of one of her devotees, but her twin Phoebus makes sure she doesn't commit suicide like that. Instead, she gives her arrows to the boy who loves her, allowing him to end his life having killed many men in glorious battle.
  • The Tim Powers novel Three Days to Never has an interesting twist on this: one character, a Mossad agent, keeps having premonitions of things he will never do again (e.g. he hears a ringing phone and realizes that's the last time he will ever hear a ringing phone). The first time it happened — he touched something and received the premonition that he would never touch it again — he immediately tried to prove the premonition wrong, and not only failed but got his hand horribly disfigured instead. In the end, we're never actually shown why he has these premonitions, but they all come right when he dies.
  • This is explicitly the case in Time Scout. You can act in the past, picking things up, talking to people, even killing people. However, if someone is crucial to some later act, he cannot be killed. YOU can, though, so you should be careful not to anger the wrong person. Paradox will be averted through a convenient coincidence.
  • A major plot point in Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. Henry realizes there is absolutely nothing he can do to change the past, when he tried (and failed) numerous times to warn a mother that her child is about to be in an accident, and when he had to witness his mother's death over 50 times without being able to prevent it. The story doesn't delve into what would happen if any of the characters ever did try to change their fate - they simply accepted the fact that they couldn't.
  • In the Warrior Cats novella Goosefeather's Curse, Goosefeather comes to accept this idea by the end of the book. He had known that he'd be attacked by a badger and nearly die, but even with expecting it to happen he was unable to do anything. He also had a vision of his Clanmates starving around him, and tried to prevent it by coming up with a strategy to "refrigerate" prey in the frozen ground, but the plan failed due to the weather and several of his Clanmates starved to death.
  • Norman Spinrad's short story "The Weed of Time". The victim - er, narrator - remembered the entirety of his 110-year life from the moment of his birth. An expedition to another planet brought back the weed which caused the precognition effect and it had been released accidentally and grew wild. The experience drives him insane, because he cannot change any of the events he experiences.
  • Explicitly the case in The Wheel of Time. Several events that occur, occur because they are in the Pattern woven by the Wheel. The Power Trio in particular cause people to take their fated roles in prophecy, and conversely have their own actions dictated by the Pattern at many points.
  • This is a primary theme of the Wolfsangel cycle. The main characters are bound to play their roles in the birth and death of Odin and Fenris across many reincarnations. This is due to Odin, who is trying to fight/delay his fate by having his destiny play out on Earth; once the cycle of deaths is broken, the Norns will set Ragnarok in motion and end the era of the Norse gods for good. A Hope Spot appears in Lord of Slaughter with a way to break the cycle at last, but even with the Norns themselves pushing for it, things do not go as planned.
  • The plot of Philip K. Dick's novel The World Jones Made is driven by the titular Floyd Jones, who has the power to see one year into the future. Unfortunately, after he sees the future, he loses the ability to change the decisions he makes in that future - possibly because he's actually sending his memories back through time to his younger self.
  • Worm: This is what makes The Simurgh so dangerous. Anyone and everyone in close proximity to her can potentially be selected by her to become a Manchurian Agent, where their lives will fall apart, they'll break, and become another catalyst for the already shitty situation in this world. All you have to do is hear her singing. It doesn't matter what you do to try and counteract this happening, since she's already seen it happen and found a way to counteract it. Cities destroyed by her aren't rebuilt, but walled off and the inhabitants tattooed, sealed inside, and treated as pariahs for the rest of their lives because there's nothing else that can be done. And even then, not only does she put no real effort behind doing any of this (the song is literally just for dramatic effect), but even these quarantine procedures are incorporated into her plans too. She sees everything about every possible future.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Dreaming is a Private Thing": Dreamers, like Hillary, might try to stop working, but it can't last. It is their destiny to create stories and entertainment for other people to enjoy.
    "This is our job, not our life. But not Sherman Hillary. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he'll dream. While he lives, he must think; while he thinks, he must dream. We don't hold him prisoner, our contract isn't an iron wall for him. His own skull is his prisoner, Frank." — Jesse Weill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Despite the main premise of 12 Monkeys being using time travel to change history and prevent a global pandemic, it becomes increasingly clear over the course of the series that the protagonists are stuck in a massive Stable Time Loop, with all their attempts to change history only enabling the timeline they're trying to avert. In this, they're Not So Different from their enemies, the Army of the 12 Monkeys, who are also aware of the time loop they're all trapped in and are trying to break it as well (though it their case, they want to destroy time itself to do so). In the end, the heroes do succeed in their goal, breaking the loop and creating a new timeline where the plague, the 12 Monkeys, and the Witness never existed.
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., everything a future-foretelling Inhuman sees comes true, no matter what. He'd gone nearly mad trying to stop disasters and fail every time. Fitz explains it as the meaning of time being the fourth dimension, one just like the usual three (height, width, depth.) As a two-dimensional creature traveling along a line on a page wouldn't know what's on the other side until it got there, every moment in time already exists, complete and fixed, and just isn't seen by us until we get there. In the end, the Tonight, Someone Dies situation the man foresaw goes exactly as he saw despite everything.
  • Angel is Playing with a Trope here. A dark and seemingly inevitable prophecy forming one of the major plots of Season Three was ultimately revealed to be an elaborate Gambit Roulette on the part of time-traveling Big Bad Sajjhan, who wanted Connor killed off before he could fulfill the true prophecy: causing the death of Sajjhan. Ultimately, however, the true prophecy comes to does the fake one.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Help": A teenager has had premonitions about her own untimely death. Buffy saves her from homicidal maniacs, a demon, and a Death Trap, but she has a heart condition and dies anyway.
  • Dark Oracle: Attempts at preventing the comic's predictions from coming true inevitably result in a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Dead Like Me: After the Reapers get notice of a given human's death, they ''will' die at the listed time on the following day, whether by heart attack or Disaster Dominoes. Subverted when a Reaper uses their foreknowledge to save a doomed human. Double Subverted when it's revealed that a human who misses their scheduled death has their soul "wither and rot and die inside [them]", so death is by far the better option.
  • Doctor Who:
    • First discussed in the First Doctor story "The Aztecs". Barbara is mistaken for a high priestess, yet refuses to sacrifice a man in the hope it will reform the Aztecs and the Conquistadores won't feel justified in destroying them. However, the man believes it's the will of the gods and commits suicide instead.
    • In "Frontios", Turlough has Norna pick a hand and when that chosen hand has a good luck piece in, claims that it clearly shows that he can't fight destiny. In fact, he had one in both hands, because he knew what he ought to do.
    • "Father's Day" and "The Angels Take Manhattan" further clarify this: you can change the future all you want... unless you know it. Once you know something is going to happen, you can't change it, even if somebody who doesn't know still can.
    • The Time Lords of Gallifrey (currently personified in one remaining member) are able to see the bend and flow of space-time to the point that they know when an event inevitably MUST happen in the grand cosmic scheme, and when certain things are permissibly malleable. The latter fact results in Donna convincing the Doctor to save a Roman family that they've befriended in Pompeii in 79 CE, even while he will not stop the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, no matter how many may be perishing. note 
    • In "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor handles a fixed point differently, instead breaking his own rules and challenging time. Everything then goes wrong and the woman he saved kills herself to stop him.
    • "The End of Time": "He will knock four times and then you will die." There were an awful lot of dangerous but non-deadly four-beat noises before the end came.
    • "The Wedding of River Song": River's attempt to stop the Doctor's death. It was a fixed point in time and, when it failed to happen, time literally began to disintegrate. Incidentally the Doctor had already worked out a way to survive this through Tricked Out Time, using a shapeshifting robot which was shot in his place while the minutarised Doctor hid inside it.
    • In "The Time of the Doctor", this is invoked as part of the Stable Time Loop that explains why the Kovarian sect of the Silence couldn't stop the Doctor. In particular, they mention the attempt to steal the TARDIS and blow it up, which actually opened the very crack in the universe that the Time Lords are using to relay their distress call, leading the Doctor to Trenzalore and causing the war to occur in the first place.
      The Doctor: The Destiny Trap. You can't change history if you're a part of it.
  • The Flash (2014): Played with. Towards the end of Season One, Eddie Thawne breaks up with Iris West after learning that Iris will marry her best friend Barry Allen in the future, and not him. However, the revelation itself was not the exact reason why he broke up with Iris, so much as the fact that it forced him to confront what he knew all along, but didn't want to admit — that Barry's feelings for Iris were not unrequited, and that ultimately, she loved Barry more than she did him. Iris did not react well to this at all, and her immediate reaction was Screw Destiny. Eddie did come around to her way of thinking eventually, and they got engaged as a result. Unfortunately, it was played depressingly straight in the Season One finale after Eddie commits Heroic Suicide to stop Eobard Thawne. Ultimately, Eddie and Iris weren't meant to be.
    • This trope is part of why fans thought Season 3 was too dark, arguably even darker than Season 2. In the mid-season finale, Barry accidentally travels to the future after making sure Savitar can't escape the Speed Force, and sees him kill Iris. Earlier in the season, Caitlin reveals she has the same powers as Killer Frost, and Cisco has a vision of the two of them fighting. Everyone spends the episodes after that trying to prevent those events from happening, but after Savitar is freed from the Speed Force and Caitlin becomes Killer Frost after almost dying, things start to look more bleak. Barry even travels several years into the future and sees how worse things are (Wally is physically and mentally damaged after trying to get revenge, Killer Frost caused Cisco to lose his hands and the use of his powers, and Joe and Barry are both past the Despair Event Horizon). In the end, Iris' death is only prevented by H.R using technology from Earth-19 to disguise himself as her and take her place, at the cost of his own life. However, this leads to Savitar interrupting Cisco and Killer Frost's fight, meaning Cisco doesn't lose his hands and Caitlin eventually gains control again.
  • The entire point of FlashForward's plot, where everyone on earth blacks out and, if they survived, sees a Flash Forward of themselves six months into the future (except for Harold and Kumar). For instance, Joseph Fienne's character sees that he's on a taskforce to find the source of the blackouts, and when he wakes up his investigations land him on...a taskforce to discover the source of the blackouts.
    • Subverted when Harold's character, Demetri, survives March 15, the day that he was predicted to have been killed. The episode still plays it straight with villain Dyson Frost (who also predicted his own death on that date) dies.
    • Olivia highlights a major piece of Fridge Logic: since the flash forwards are everyone's precise vision of the same 2-minute period, you can avert your flash forward simply by ensuring that on April 29th you are as far away from where you saw yourself in your vision.
    • Quadruple-subverted with the Blue Hand Group: people who didn't have flash forwards since they'll be dead before April 29th and engage in risky behavior, as they think they have nothing to live for. When some of them live because others decided to Screw Destiny, their members start dying before April 29th anyway, in the same manner as they were predicted to. Lloyd thinks its fate trying to correct discrepancies but it turns out to be the Blue Hand's former leader doing what he thinks is fate's work. Double-subverted again when the FBI tries to stop him from running over his last victim, only for one agent to accidentally hit her with her car, proving Lloyd's theory that if you prevent your flash forward, someone else will just take your place in the sequence of events.
  • Game of Thrones: It's implied that the Three-Eyed Raven was aware that Hodor would be thrown in a mind-loop, though the event appears to have been accidental due to the chaos and urgency that the attack on the cave caused, and Bran's inexperience in controlling his warging powers. In context, Hodor's mind-loop had to happen just because Hodor exists, meaning that it already happened even decades before Bran was born. He also made Bran concentrate on Meera's instruction, prompting the boy to create the loop. Whether he intended for this to happen (making Bran create "Hodor" in a desperate attempt to save his life) is not clear.
  • In the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys two part adventure "Armageddon Now", Callisto goes back in time to prevent who she thinks was Xena (because her army was in the village) from killing her parents. While trying to protect her family from Xena's army, the adult Callisto accidentally kills her own father & mother.
  • Heroes:
    • The episode "Six Months Ago" has Hiro finding out that the waitress that he's been trying to save from Sylar is already dying from a blood clot on her brain.
    • In season two, Hiro's father Kaito is thrown to his death from a rooftop, and Hiro travels back in time to try to prevent it. However, Kaito is resigned to his death, telling Hiro that it's his fate and they can't use their powers to play God. Hiro eventually accepts that and lets the murder play out, but nonetheless uses the opportunity to discover that Adam Monroe was the killer.
  • The grim and sad conclusion that Ted and Lily in How I Met Your Mother come to in "Band or DJ" when they admit to each other that there are times when Lily wished she wasn't a mother and Ted wished Robin was marrying him instead of Barney.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Miyuki Tezuka/Kamen Rider Raia from Kamen Rider Ryuki, a psychic who claims his visions are always accurate, believes this. When he foresees the death of his friend Shinji Kido/Ryuki, however, he lies and tells Shinji that he foresaw his own death. During a later battle, Miyuki takes the metaphorical bullet for Shinji, averting his own prediction but turning his lie into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O is a show entirely about the rest of the cast trying to prevent Zi-O from becoming Oma Zi-O, the godlike despot who rules over the Bad Future they come from. Despite all their efforts, eventually Sougo dons the mantle of Oma Zi-O anyway. Thankfully, it's only so that he can use Oma's omnipotence to turn the entire show into The Story That Never Was.
    • Kamen Rider Saber has the Sword of Darkness Kurayami, which grants its bearer the power to see the future and has a tendency to turn them into a Well-Intentioned Extremist as a result. The third wielder adopts this mindset after being shown not just one but every possible Bad Future by Kurayami, gaining a habit of speaking aloud what's going to happen shortly before it does and reacting with confusion whenever Saber manages to defy destiny.
  • In Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the Zyurangers learn of a life-granting elixir that could potentially grant Burai extra time, especially after Witch Bandora destroys the room he's been staying in to halt the remaining time he had. Goushi and Dan go after the water and go through various trials to find it. Ultimately, they're confronted by Clotho, who tells them that, even with the elixir, Burai can't be revived again. On the plus side, however, they do use it to save a kid that was gravely injured, allowing Burai to pass on guilt free.
  • In Lexx, time is forever looping and repeating itself identically. The Time Prophet, whose predictions drive several plot points, cannot actually see the future; what she sees is actually the events of a previous loop. This does not stop some from trying to avert prophecy, particularly the first-season villain, His Divine Shadow. He fails.
  • On seasons 3 & 4 of Lost many characters cannot be killed or die (Michael, Locke, Widmore, Ben, Tom, Jack) because "the island needs them". Similarly, many characters are fated to die and any attempts to save them only postpone the inevitable.
    • Also done with the main law of time travel, "Whatever happened, happened", meaning no matter what the characters do, the universe falls back into place.
    • Also done in season 3 with Desmond's mental time flashes. No matter how he tries to save Charlie's life, he still needs to die.
  • Merlin:
    • In the pilot, Merlin is told that it is his fate to protect Arthur. Since he has a less than stellar opinion of him, he avoids him for the rest of the day. Then nighttime comes and an enchantress puts the court to sleep and throws a knife at Arthur. Merlin pulls him out of the way without thinking. By the time he's realized who he rescued, the king has made him the prince's new manservant as a "reward".
    • The entirety of the last season. In the first episode, Merlin is shown a vision of Arthur being fatally wounded by Mordred. Try as he might, he ultimately failed in preventing it and actually cemented its coming through his actions.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "The Cycling Tour" plays with this trope for comic effect. Mr. Pither accepts a lift from Mr. Gulliver, whose company has been developing food that can predict accidents and avoid them ("Even if it's in your stomach, and it senses an accident it will come up your throat and out of the window"). While Gulliver is explaining this one of his experimental tomatoes ejects itself from the car. Gulliver is so excited that it works that he loses control of the car, causing the very accident that the tomato had predicted.
  • "A Determined Woman", an episode of the Dawn French comedy anthology series Murder Most Horrid, tells the tragicomic story of an inventor (French) working on a time machine, who gets so annoyed with her idiot husband disrupting her work that she hits him with a spanner, a little harder than she intended... some years later, after serving time for his manslaughter, she completes her time machine and goes back to try and save him, only to discover that her attempts to prevent his death were what caused it in the first place.
  • Episode 6 of MythQuest sees Alex wanting to change the outcome of Lancelot and Guinevere's affair. When he asks Merlin about it, he says "Never had much luck changing fate. You throw a rock in the river, and the water just sort of... moves around it."
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • The series had its own tendency to mess with this concept. "Gettysburg" is a great example. A mysterious time traveler, who had appeared in previous episodes, returns. However, this time, instead of attempting to arrange "justice" against villains from the past while remaining consistent with recorded history, he is attempting to directly change what happened. Specifically, he hopes to avoid the assassination of the first black president in 2013, regarded as one of America's greatest leaders, by a Southern Sympathizer whose beliefs are all tied up in the Glory of the Confederacy. The time traveler sends the guy back from a Gettysburg re-enactment to the real battle where he serves under an insane commander and faces the true harshness of the war and his supported side. He learns his lesson, and comes face-to-face with his ancestor, whose self-serving cowardice contradicts the impressive legend that he had idolized during his youth, and he rejects extremism and the no-longer noble rebellion against the government. However, the insane commander from Gettysburg is accidentally transported to the 2013 date and, while trying to kill "Lincoln" (in truth, an impersonator at the memorial event), manages to assassinate the president anyway.
    • Played with in "Breaking Point". Andrew McLaren travels forward in time two days and finds his wife Susan dead in their house, having been shot. It turns out that his attempts to prevent her death are what resulted in it happening in the first place. He then travels back in time to 1993 and kills his younger self just before he was about to meet Susan so that she will live. However, Susan was severely depressed at the time and Andrew was the one who helped her get her life back together. The episode ends with Susan taking an entire bottle of pills with alcohol. The clear implication is that she will not survive the night.
  • Power Rangers features a variant across several series- you can change the future, but it makes things worse. Much worse. In Power Rangers Turbo, a robot goes back in time to prevent a war that was to happen two years later. It happened the next year instead. To say that the war ended well is lying.
    • For a Sentai example, the original Sixth Ranger Burai of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger is told shortly after his introduction that he will die in 40 hours. This can be halted for awhile so long as he doesn't try to fight the bad guys but he needs to save the others often and whenever he does more of his remaining time ticks away. Every moment he appears in has somebody trying to find a way to prevent this, but they eventually find out that no, not even the gods can save him, his time has come. Sure enough he dies shortly before the finale, although he managed to make peace with himself and his impending death and dies with no regrets.
      • Another variant for another Sentai is another Sixth Ranger of Mirai Sentai Timeranger TimeFire who is also destined to die. Here it's not as specific. TimeFire will die, but as the ranger and not the person, meaning anybody could fulfill this destiny as TimeFire. The original TimeFire found this out and did his best to make sure somebody else took over for him ASAP. Sure enough the new TimeFire dies in the battle he was destined to die in, but the original's selfish scheme is discovered by the other Rangers, who promptly kill him anyway.
      • In Mahou Sentai Magiranger any time prophetic flashes, visions, or just straight up prophecies are brought up, they will come true. But once they have come true, there's nothing to stop anyone from undoing them.
  • Quantum Leap played with this. In each episode, Sam's goal was to fight a particular piece of fate, and he invariably won. However, when he and Al occasionally tried to change other things in their own personal interest, they were unable to do so. For example, in "MIA", Al lied to Sam about what his goal was, and had him try to stop Al's own wife Beth from remarrying while he was a prisoner of war. Whatever Sam did to keep Beth away from her future second husband, they kept bumping into each other in unlikely places. Sam was actually there to stop a cop getting shot and Al just never ran alternative scenarios. In "The Leap Home, Part 1", Sam could not convince his father to take up a healthier lifestyle and live longer, or stop his brother from going to Vietnam and getting killed, because his only goal for the episode was to win a basketball game (albeit win a game where victory would allow two of his classmates to go to college on scholarships and his coach to move into the professional leagues). It seems the Unknown Force only unlocked little bits of fate at a time. Sam did save both his brother's life and Al's marriage in later episodes, though.
  • On Reaper, one guy manages to weasel out of his Deal with the Devil. The Devil gets his soul anyway.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • "Cassandra" provided a perfect example with a computer that could tell the future. After it had foretold that certain characters would be left alive, a gun was pointed in their face and the trigger pulled; naturally, it jammed. When pointed at another character who she foretold would die, it worked perfectly. This trope was then used almost word for word to seduce another character, since the computer had foretold he'd die while having sex with her (When her boyfriend caught them in the act). But in the end, it turned out that the computer was lying to cause jealousy. She foresaw that the boyfriend would kill her. He realized this and tried to avoid it, saying he wasn't going to kill her, but through a Rube Goldberg series of events ends up killing her anyway.
    • Lister, who was foretold would kill Cassandra, wasn't dating Kochanski but it was foretold that he would kill Arnold with a harpoon gun as 'Rimmer' died of a heart attack after being told he would, but it was actually the captain of the squad wearing Rimmer's jacket with Rimmer's name on it. This was Rimmer's attempt at screwing destiny. This was all part of Cassandra's scheme as she knew she would die and rather sees 'visions' of the future rather than actual predictions as some of her 'predictions' are unclear even to her and thus attempts to take down whoever she can before she dies.
    • "Future Echoes". Each character sees "future echoes" which are events happening in the future, which will happen to the characters at some point as the ship is going past light speed. As they go faster past it, the echoes are in the more distant future. At one point, Lister sees the Cat with a broken tooth. Lister runs off to find the Cat to prevent it, and just as the Cat is about to eat the robotic fish inside the tank (which would break his tooth), the two struggle, with Lister trying to stop the Cat eating the fish. In this struggle, the Cat knocks his tooth off a corner of the ledge where the tank is, thereby breaking his tooth anyway.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever", Edith Keeler must die so that Germany doesn't win World War II and wipe the Federation from existence. (Had she lived, she would have founded a peace movement that would have delayed the United States' entry into the European front of WWII, allowing Nazi Germany sufficient time to develop the atomic bomb and thus win the war.)
  • The classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect'' makes a point of this trope when Dr Crusher very deliberately tries to avoid breaking her glass in the next loop but just ends up breaking it another way.
  • In Star Trek, if you attempt the Kobayashi Maru scenario, it will result in failure, no matter what you do. Unless you hack the simulation program.
  • Parodied in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations". After flirting with an attractive Lt who shares his ancestor's last name, Bashir wonders if he is supposed to sleep with her to make sure he is born. O'Brian immediately points out that he's being ridiculous.
  • Supernatural:
    • Every Deal with the Devil ends with hell, no matter if you're a guest star or one of the leads. Well, they did save the one guy who only made the deal to save his wife...but no one since. As the season 4 opener reveals, you can still get out with a little help from above.
    • In a more typical example of the trope, the episode "The Monster at the End of This Book" reveals that there's a man with the gift of divine prophecy whose prophecies always come true, even when Sam and Dean try to avert them—which doesn't discount the possibility of a Prophecy Twist if the prophet doesn't see the whole scene.
    • Majorly subverted with the end of season 5. Sam and Dean are meant to be Lucifer and Michael's vessels and battle it out.... they refuse and form Team Free Will.
    • Discussed by Dean and Tessa in "Appointment in Samarra". Dean questions why some have to die and others don't, and Tessa replies that it's all part of a larger plan. Dean rejects this and goes on a tirade about destiny being nothing but a lie, but Tessa notes that he doesn't actually believe that.
    • Happens literally in "My Heart Will Go On" when the Monster of the Week turns out to be one of the Fates. An Alternate History has been created (the Titanic never sunk) without her approval, so Fate is killing (via freak accidents) anyone descended from the passengers and crew. Hilarity Ensues when the Winchester also get on her hit list.
  • Tales from the Crypt: The main character of the episode "Showdown" witnesses a scene showing the town where the plot takes place has become a Ghost Town-turned tourist attraction in the future decades from the present, with a tour guide informing his group of tourists about the way said character's life ended. The episode concludes with his life ending the way the tour guide did/would claim to end.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles twists the whole notion around at the end of the second season: John travels forward in time past Judgment Day, and discovers that he was superfluous; humanity is still around and kicking without him.
  • In That's So Raven, Raven Baxter's visions of the future will never be prevented. Most of the time she's the one causing them to happen in the first place.
  • Played with in the 1989 TV movie Turn Back the Clock as Stephanie (Connie Sellecca) shoots her abusive, cheating husband in self-defense on New Year's Eve. About to be arrested, he remarks to friend William how "I wish I could just do this year over again." In a flash, she finds herself exactly one year in the past, hoping to prevent what happens. But no matter what she does, Stephanie is helpless to stop her husband's affair or circumstances that ruin William's own life. It builds to the same New Year's Eve with her husband about to kill her...only for William to show up and shoot him instead.
    William: You can't change destiny...but fate doesn't care about the details.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • "Profile in Silver", an episode of the 80s revival, played with this trope. A historian from the future (who happened to be a direct descendant of John F. Kennedy) prevented Kennedy's assassination, only to set in motion events that would bring about a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia. He manages to set things right by taking JFK's place in the motorcade, and Kennedy himself becomes a history teacher in his descendant's future.
    • Several 60s-era episodes used this, both times in the form of time travel - one tries to prevent Lincoln's assassination, the other tries to avert catastrophes (Hiroshima, killing Adolf Hitler, etc). Neither of them can change anything, obviously.
    • In "What's in the Box", Joe Britt attempts to avert the future that he saw on television in which he killed his wife Phyllis but his efforts lead directly to the brutal physical attack on her that resulted in her death. It happens exactly as he had seen on TV.
    • The 2002 series episode "Cradle of Darkness" has the "killing Hitler" kind of plot. Andrea Collins goes back in time to when Hitler was an infant and succeeds in killing him then, but then the baby's nanny finds another child and that's passed off as Hitler.
    • The 2019 revival naturally also displays this trope. In "Nightmare At 30,000 Feet", no matter what Justin does, he can't stop the plane from going down exactly as the podcast said it would. "Replay" too has this implied by the Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Number Five in The Umbrella Academy time travels to 2019 in order to prevent the apocalypse he found when he time traveled as a child. Unfortunately, all his and his siblings' attempts to stop the apocalypse just lead to the apocalypse happening anyway. Then they cause a new one when they time travel to the 1960s. Oops.
  • In The Unusuals episode "42" Detective Banks has to keep saving a woman who foresees several bus robberies and tries to die during one (and tries again, and again, because Banks keeps saving her) because she believes she's fated to do so. He finally convinces her that you make your own fate, only for her to die in a bus crash at like 11:50pm.
  • Watchmen (2019): Due to being almost completely omniscient, Doctor Manhattan experiences past, present and future all at once. Therefore what will happen is going to for him, no matter what. Because of this, he never even tries to stop being teleported away by the Kavalry's tachyon cannon, even though it seems like he could.
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place, Justin, Alex and Max will battle for the family's wizard power. The winner is the only one who gets to be a wizard, hence the whole serious Sibling Rivalry.
    • Also, there's the children growing up to be (almost) like Jerry, Megan, and Kelbo.
    • The finale of the series ended up averting this trope. Alex wins the final challenge and thus receives all of the Russo family's magical power. However, there's nothing that states that other forces can't grant people magic: Justin is appointed the future headmaster of Wiz Tech, and also becomes a full wizard. Max is the only one who doesn't receive any magical ability, but he's OK with it, and Jerry promises to give him the sandwich shop.
  • In The Worst Year of My Life, Again, Alex finds himself reliving the previous year. Although he tries to change things to make it go better for him, either the same things happen in a different way or something even worse happens.
  • In WWE, whoever competes against The Undertaker at WrestleMania is destined to lose. Long live the Streak. Averted when Brock Lesnar defeated him at Wrestlemania 30 thus ending the Streak at 21 victories. Undertaker would be defeated a second time by Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 33 before retiring.
  • The X-Files episode "Synchrony" presents the case of a strange old man warning an MIT student and professor that the student is going to die at a specific time - because of this warning the professor, attempting to save the student, ends up accidentally pushing him into the path of an oncoming bus and thus the warning is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The old man is actually the professor from the future, who has traveled back in time attempting to set right what will go wrong and prevent an impending scientific breakthrough that would be made by the professor in collaboration with his girlfriend, also a scientist, and the student, and which would be a catalyst for a catastrophic technological development. Mulder cites an old theory of Scully's about how the future can't be altered, and so the old man's efforts are probably doomed. Although the professor manages to kill both his present and future selves and erase all of his files, as the episode ends, the girlfriend is continuing the research on her own with backups of the erased data. And said scientific breakthrough? Something enabling Time Travel itself. What goes wrong is that it generalized knowledge of the future and knowledge that it can't be changed.

  • In the eponymous song by Diane Warren, a guy (?) sings about how his ex-lover will eventually come back to him, because they're soulmates. It's left ambiguous whether this is actually true, or the delusion of a crazed stalker.
    When it's meant to be it's gonna be that way
    You can't fight fate
    You can drive your car, drive it night and day
    But you won't ever drive me away...
  • In the Spanish romance "Enamorado y la muerte" a young man wakes up to see Death walk into his room. (He mistakes her for his beloved at first.) He begs her for one more day of life, but Death tells him he has only one hour to live. The young man flees to his mistress' house and convinces her to let him in through the window. The girl throws him a rope, the rope breaks, and the young man falls to his death. The hour had passed.
  • Lia Marie Johnson's song "DNA" explains how some kids in bad families wind up being just like their parents. The singer is a child telling an alcoholic, possibly incarcerated parent that they're determined not to become them when they grow up. But the last line of the chorus suggests that the child is exactly doomed to become the bad parent, regardless of what they try to avoid it.
    I won't be, no, I won't be like you
    Fighting back, I'm fighting back the truth
    Eyes like yours can't look away
    But you can't stop DNA...
  • It's sung verbatim in U2's "Out of Control".
    One day I'll die
    The choice will not be mine
    Will it be too late?
    You can't fight fate.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The ancient Greeks loved these types of stories:
    • Gaia and Ouranos prophesied that Kronos would be overthrown by one of his children, so he ate each child as it was born (that's both sons and daughters, just to be clear). His wife kept their last son, Zeus, hidden, so that Zeus could eventually fulfill the prophesy (as told in Theogony by Hesiod).
    • It was prophesied that Achilles, the Trope Namer of the Achilles' Heel, was to die young in battle. His mother, Thetis, attempted to defy this prophecy by dipping his body in the River Styx, attempting to render him invincible, but holding Achilles by the heel, which proved to be his one weakness. His father, Peleus, sent him to train with Chiron, and gave him a suit of bronze armor. Unfortunately, all of his prowess in battle was not enough to prevent a spear or arrow from striking Achilles on the heel and his dying at a young age as prophesied
    • Sisyphus, who tried to cheat death for as long as possible, when Thanatos, the Greeks' equivalent of The Grim Reaper, came to summon Sisyphus to Tartarus, the dark, abyssmal pit section of the Underworld reserved for big-time offenders. Just as Thanatos came to Sisyphus' door, he locked Thanatos in chains after asking him for a demonstration. Other versions have Sisyphus knocking Thanatos unconscious with a heavy object, like a huge pestle or millstone, with Ares watching the warriors slashing at each other with their swords bloody and wounded but never dying because Sisyphus held an unconscious Thanatos captive in his house. Ares was not happy about this, sending him to the Underworld when he discovered Thanatos in Sisyphus's house, where he pleaded that he didn't receive proper burial rites from his wife, so he asked Hades' permission to go back to Earth to rebuke her, living for a time, until Thanatos wondered what became of Sisyphus, with Hermes dragging Sisyphus to Hades, where Sisyphus was doomed to roll a gigantic boulder up a steep hill, which took every bit of remaining strength, only to have the boulder roll downhill and he would be stuck trying to push it uphill and failing time after time...
    • Oedipus and his story revolve around this trope: He was prophesied to slay his father and wed his mother. It is an especially ironic example because after receiving the same prophecy his parents received and abandoned him for, Oedipus in turn exiles himself away from his foster father for fear of killing him, with no suspicion that his adoptive parents are not his real parents. In short, everything that the characters do to avoid the prophecy is necessary to make the prophecy come true.
    • Two other famous cases involve the Oracle at Delphi; in the first, a man prophesied to die in the sea spends his life avoiding the ocean, only to die in a forest the locals call "The Sea"; another is the Croesus story reported with The Histories under Literature above.
    • Another example is Meleager, who was fated to die young, specifically when a log of firewood burned out. His mother took the log and hid it away, and Meleager grew up to be a well-respected hero. But during the Calydonian Boar Hunt, he murdered his uncles in a rage after they insulted his martial prowess. His mother was furious and threw the log into the fire, and Meleager died.
    • This (plus it being an accident) was actually the reason Perseus pretty much got away with a slap on the wrist for killing his grandfather Acrisius. See, said grandfather, a king, received a prophecy that if his daughter, Danae, was ever to have a son, that son would kill him. So the king locked his daughter into a room to prevent any men from getting to her (as she wasn't pregnant yet). Zeus however heard her cries and next thing you know, Danae was pregnant by a shower of gold. When the baby, named Perseusnote  was born, the king put the mother and the baby in a wooden box or casket and had it dropped into the sea. Zeus pulled strings with his brother Poseidon and together they ensured the two got a safe landing at an island. Said island's ruler wanted Danae as wife but Perseus refused to allow it (in lieu of a father or husband, he was Danae's closest male relative even if he was her son) so Perseus got sent on an assumed suicide mission to get Medusa's head. After he did and he freed Danae plus princess Andromeda, who he married, Perseus returned to his mother's homeland to find his grandfather the king ran away in terror at the news of his arrival. He took the throne that was rightfully his and ruled happily, then one day, partaking in the games in another city, the discus he meant to throw accidentally hit an old beggar living near on the streets. That beggar? Perseus' grandfather.
  • This trope is also all over Norse Mythology. If anything, this was the real Norse hat, having four different words meaning inescapable fate, one of them being "dom". Even the gods can't fight their fate, when Ragnarok hits the fan. It's interesting to note that "rök" not only means "fate" but also "development", "cause" and surprisingly "origin".
  • An ancient Arab legend tells about a man who saw Death staring at him and fled to faraway Samarra to avoid him. When somebody asked Death why he'd been staring at the man he said, "I was surprised to see him here because I'm appointed to meet him in Samarra next week."
  • Older Than Dirt: In the ancient Egyptian story Princess Ahura: The Magic Book, the prince and his family cannot escape the punishment the gods decree for their sacrilege of stealing the holy Book of Thoth. They try, but it catches up no matter what they do. In the end the prince, his sister/wife, and their son die.
  • The concept of predestination, which is common in Western Christianity, especially in Calvinist denominations, less so in Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, but also in Islam. While the idea that the ultimate fate of every human being is foreknown by God is accepted by most, "Predestination" is normally associated with the idea that God picks who he will save completely independently of what that person does in life, i.e., no one actually has any true choice or free will in choosing or rejecting God and their final fate in the afterlife, it's all just destiny and what God wants to do with them. The reason given is usually that salvation is a freely given gift, and not something one can earn. In Christianity this ranges from hardcore Calvinism (God actively predestines people to Hell) to a lighter form in Catholicism (what God knows will happen must inevitably happen, but he does not cause it).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering this is what Green mostly believes in and why it is an enemy of Black and Blue: Green fully believes in fate as a force and that everyone needs to accept their place in the universe, while Blue believes that anyone can be anything they want to be and that everyone is born a Blank Slate while Black believes that anyone can do anything and that there is no real purpose to existence.
  • In GURPS: Thaumatology there are items that force a Destiny on the owner, causing them to fulfill it whether they want to or not. The Destiny doesn't run out either, an item that makes one person King of England will also make the next person who picks it up into the King of England.
  • Duke Rowan Darkwood in Planescape gets screwed over by this in spades, becoming destined to be the person who instigates (as the ancient wizard rumored to have crafted a spell that can destroy the Lady of Pain), starts (as Rowan Darkwood), and ends (as Gifad, who coaxes the party to help him cast the Sigil Spell) the Faction War all in one go. And all this time, the Lady of Pain had controlled everything...
  • True to its source material, Fate is one of the overarching themes in The Witcher: Game of Imagination. Regardless of anything else, players must either make a roll from secret table or outright leave it to GM's decision what will be the Fate of their characters. Fate remains secret for players and Story-tellers are obligated to create such plot structure that will eventually lead to fulfillment of it. That might include death, constant persecution, Perpetual Poverty, being always in the wrong place in the wrong moment or being mistaken for hero/villain. On the bright side, certain paths of Fate are can be beneficial, like dying out of old age or becoming famous and/or rich. If rolls are used, the most common outcome is having your Fate tied with somebody.
  • Exalted generally averts this trope- pretty much anyone or anything capable of using Essence can alter Fate, and the mere presence of a creature from Outside Fate can cause a disruption in the Loom of Fate. The Pattern Spiders were created to smooth out the constant problems that these disruptions create, but bigger problems may necessitate the Sidereal Exalted coming out.
    • Played with by samsara, the nebulous order that exists above and beyond Fate which the Maidens of Destiny may look to in order to foresee the future. The upside is that samsara is far more accurate as a predictive tool than Fate; the downside is that the Maidens are compelled to act in accordance with samsara whenever they view it. For this reason, they try not to use that particular power that much. Also, unlike Fate, samsara has no active power - except that the only beings that can perceive it (the Maidens) are also bound to bring about its predictions.
    • Fear of this trope is also the reason why everyone wants Sacheverell to stay asleep. Supposedly, everything he sees becomes real, and while he's asleep, he can only see the present. When he's awake, however, he can see everything, past, present and future, which would result in the end of free will as they know it. For this reason, even his fellow Yozis want him to stay asleep- they fear that even they would not be able to escape his predetermination.
  • In Continuum, this is not an inherent property of the universe as such. However, nearly all sapient life throughout time and space agrees on maintaining the universe the way it is (because not doing so causes damage to the timestream; more specifically, to the continuity of individual sapient beings), and accordingly it's going to stay that way; there's simply nothing in existence that can defeat the Clock Roaches when they come to fix things. Narcissists (the guys who fight fate) are destined to lose, though for this reason the War must be fought. Except that it's possible that Narcissists may escape into alternate timelines instead.

  • Subverted in Calderon's Life is a Dream, where Segismund is prophesied to kill his father, King Basil of Poland, and become an Evil Overlord. Because of this, Basil locks Segismund away in a tower in the mountains, which angers him. For a while, the play really, really looks like it's going to end with Segismund killing Basil. It doesn't. Although he does actually kill his mother, but that was an accident.
  • Everyman, the central character of the allegorical English morality play, who is summoned by Death to give a reckoning of his life, with Fellowship, his kindred and cousins, goods, strength, beauty, discretion, his five senses leaving him, with Knowledge departing from him at the end, and his only companion to the grave is his Good Deeds.
  • A tear-jerking example is the theme of Our Town.
  • Macbeth. A whole bunch of Macbeth.
  • The point of most Greek tragedies.
  • In The Adding Machine, this is the lesson Zero is taught with a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
    Charles: You can't change the rules—nobody can—they've got it all fixed. It's a rotten system—but what are you going to do about it?

  • In BIONICLE, generally speaking, anyone who tries to avoid their destiny fails. Makuta was supposed to help Mata Nui repair the shattered planet Spheres Magna, but turned evil and tried to take over. When the two eventually fought, Makuta ended up drawing in the two fragments in an attempt to attack Mata Nui, one of which hit him in the back of the head and killed him. Thanks to Makuta pulling the planet chunks closer, Mata Nui is able to finish the job on his own.
    • Prior to that Makuta actually exploited this to his advantage: He had put Mata Nui to sleep, but a group of Toa heroes were destined to wake him up again. Rather than try to stop the heroes at all costs, he arranged things so that reviving Mata Nui could give him even more power.
    • Even earlier, both Mata Nui and Makuta tried to exploit this at the same time. Mata Nui determined which Matoran would become the Toa Metru, and a prophecy of their identities leaked out. The prophecy was quickly suppressed, but not before Makuta learned of it. He then tricked Toa Lhikan into deciding that the prophecized Matoran were not the ones truly destined to be Toa and caused Lhikan to pick six others who Lhikan thought would do the job. These six were, in fact, chosen by Makuta as six who would never be able to work together and therefor fail (and even if by some miracle they did succeed, he could at least have the satisfaction of knowing he screwed Mata Nui over). These six became the Toa and Makuta seemingly won (at least for a little while). Future averted, right? Nope. The prophecy was a lie created by Mata Nui for just such an occasion. The six Matoran Makuta planted in Lhikan's mind were in turn planted into HIS mind by Mata Nui, thus allowing those truly destined to take the power. Not bad for a guy who was asleep most of the series.

    Video Games 
  • The "Constant and Variable" concept in BioShock Infinite fits this trope, no matter what action is taken by the characters, the outcome still remains the same.
  • Braid: There are mistakes even Tim can't erase with his time powers, to wit...
    • Green sparkling items and creatures cannot be manipulated by any sort of time travel.
    • You can't fix attempting to use a key on the wrong door by rewinding time.
    • A secret star cannot be gotten if you solve the World 4 jigsaw puzzle too early.
    • Time can no longer be rewound once you see the ending.
  • In Call of Duty: Zombies, this is essentially what ends the Aether arc in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. 3 seemed to end the story on a neat, paradox-free Stable Time Loop, but 4 clarifies that such means any actions taken within the loop do nothing but prolong the cycle, and as such are meaningless. The Apothicons may lose the Great War to the Keepers but, as pointed out in this review of Tag Der Toten, they will always put the MPD and Divinium into countless realities, kicking off the events of the mode from "Nacht" to "Revelations" before starting again, and there's nothing Primis can do about it. The Apothicons lose the battle, but always win the war. Both Richtofen and Monty believe in this trope via a deep fear of life after death, and as such keep the cycle going; it takes Nikolai taking over and realising this folly to finally break the cycle via the killing of Primis and their alternates, plunging the multiverse into the Dark Aether and closing the loop for good.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has Gabriel Belmont attempting to Screw Destiny, but no matter how hard he does, he cannot change it, and he cannot avoid it. Not only does he fail to save his love from death, but he also becomes Dracula as the prophecy plays out; he also falls victim to Satan's Evil Plan all along...
  • In Chrono Cross, you fight fate, or rather, FATE. Things don't exactly go smoothly afterwards...
    • You get several opportunities (and multiple playthroughs) to try and avoid the stabbing scene which was foreshadowed in the opening sequences. It doesn't work.
  • Chrono Trigger (pictured above) has the Bad Ending where you fail to defeat Lavos, followed by it ultimately destroying the earth. Sleep tight, kiddies.
    • (SNES Version) But... The Future Refused to Change.
    • (DS Updated Re Release) In the End, the Future Refused to Change.
  • It seems that fate is quite determined to have Alexander, main character of Cirque De Zale, become the hero who will save the world. Once Alexander accomplishes his goal of getting a circus together, he is kidnapped by the sorceror he was supposed to stop. Once he escapes and ends up on a deserted island, he decides to just stay in the fancy mansion that another inhabitant of the island built, resulting in said mansion getting destroyed. In the end, Alexander destroys the device of destruction, but claims that he just did it because he wanted to, not because he was destined to.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series: In spite of the Time Travel, Allies will always win.
  • In Corpse Party, anyone who dies in Tenjin Elementary is destined to die in any and all future time loops. What's more, the method of death will get progressively worse and worse with every loop.
  • In Dark Souls, no matter how many Chosen Undeads relinked the fire, the prolonged Age of Fire will eventually end, and the Age of Dark will inevitably come. Until Dark Souls III, at least, which has a decently well hidden ending where you Take a Third Option to link the Fire with the Dark Sign, creating an "age of humanity" separate from the Age of Dark, whether this ends up being a good thing or a bad thing for the world... well, who knows?
  • Devil Survivor 2:
    • The Anguished One eventually reveals that the Akashic Records exist and that everything is written in them, ranging from small events to bigger events. Nicaea attempts to prove the Akashic Records wrong by handing out the Death Videos and seeing if people can prevent the foreordained deaths.
    • The Triangulum Arc reveals that after defeating Polaris and its Septentriones, the next batch of higher existences arrives in the form of Arcturus and its Triangulum, out to destroy the world and mankind, instead of merely testing them. And the Triangulum already appeared twice. One of the endings even includes realizing this trope and deciding to fight a never-ending war with every Administrator coming to earth and trying to destroy humanity, with the party out to defend the world and regressing it over and over, until every Administrator is defeated. This ending is even implied to eventually not end well.
  • In Diablo III the Scroll of Fate dictates the fate of everything in existence. The only ones who can fight fate are the Nephalem (the player characters) since the Scroll of Fate doesn't mention them. Their fate is unwritten. This is good news for Heaven, since the Angels are otherwise destined to fall to the Prime Evil.
  • Dragon Quest V: In the Faerie Palace, the Hero goes through a portal to the past, meets his then-living father and warns him he will end up dead if he goes to Coburg. Unfortunately, Pankraz does not believe the Hero is his time-travelling grown-up son, and writes his warnings off as silly prophecies.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Physical God Vivec gives this as his reason for persecuting the Nerevarine. He actually appears to have believed the Nerevarine prophecy himself, and knew that when the real Nerevarine came along, all attempts to stop him/her would fail, giving proof of his/her legitimacy.
  • Enderal begins with a prophecy that a great cleansing will occur, slowly devouring millions of lives, because the Abusive Precursors order it. And that it cannot be fought because the cycle of world destruction has happened endless times. Seeing as they also created the heroes of each iteration and manipulated their journey to the point they can make each generation speak the same exact fallacies word-for-word, it was practically inevitable. No matter what you do, even when one of their servants goes Off the Rails and gives the player a second chance, Enderal is destroyed.
  • Fear Effect. The second game strongly gives off this message, if the things the Eight Immortals say are anything to go by.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The Stable Time Loop in Final Fantasy VIII involves some elements of this trope. Ellone repeatedly sends Squall's consciousness into the past in an effort to change it, but concludes after repeated failures that changing the past is impossible. The Big Bad also mucks around in the past in an effort to change it, but although the meddling causes quite a bit of trouble for everyone involved, it ends up causing the very results it was intended to prevent.
      • Squall himself also catches some You Can't Fight Fate; he doesn't want to be in charge of anything and takes it very badly when he's summarily appointed leader of SeeD thanks to Cid's knowledge of the Stable Time Loop, but not only does he grow into and accept the role as his destiny, he also gives Edea the information which she and Cid use to found SeeD and put him in charge in the first place.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, the main plot of the big bad is to win the power of the gods to control humanity's own history.
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2 focuses on Time Travel to avoid a Bad Future. Despite going into various decades, centuries, alternate centuries or even obtaining the paradox endings, it always ends with Etro dying, time itself being destroyed and the Caius achieving his goal.
      • Many people see Final Fantasy XIII as the same thing: The party resolves to fight fate by saving their world and escaping the curse of the L'cie (turning to crystal or turning into a monster), however while they do save their home, they are only saved from the curse by the intervention of one of the Gods (Who's intervention causes the events of the sequel to take place).
    • Present for the Big Bad in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time. Larkeicus's plan is to stop an event that's about to happen from causing crystals to disappear from the world 2,000 years in the past (...somehow). He calculates the exact time and location of the event, which is in the middle of the air. So he builds a tower to reach that point. After you defeat him, Sherlotta tells him something along the lines of, "If there wasn't this tower, what could have possibly happened, all the way up here?". She then follows up by essentially stating this trope.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Discussed, but ultimately subverted in Fire Emblem Awakening. Lucina travels back in time from a Bad Future where the Fell Dragon Grima was resurrected and destroyed most of humanity, hoping to stop his resurrection by changing history. When she only manages to change the circumstances of events leading up to its return like Emmeryn's death rather than outright preventing them, she begins to fear this is the case. Eventually, however, it's revealed that the Grima from her timeline followed her back (in its human form) and has been subtly manipulating events to ensure its resurrection.
    • Played straight in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. After what looks like a victory, Jeralt is killed at the hands of Kronya after disguising herself as a hostage. Byleth sees this right in front of their eyes and attempts to turn back time using Divine Pulse. However, this too is fruitless, and they are forced to accept the inevitable with a heavy heart.
  • In the God of War series, Kratos was able to fight the Sisters of Fate, but in the game itself and the more recent ones it was revealed Kratos was fated to destroy Olympus. The implication being even the Sisters were bound by some higher power they could not control.
  • In the world of Grim Fandango, you must pay off the "debt" you accumulated in life by staying in the Eighth Underworld for a certain amount of time, before being allowed to leave and reach the Ninth Underworld - the "true" eternal rest. If you haven't paid off your debt, you can't cross the gate. If you try to cheat the system by stealing a Double N Ticket (which are reserved for good souls), the Afterlife Express will jump into Hell instead of crossing the gate. The Gate Keeper says it best, "Your destiny...cannot be purchased."
  • The villains in the House of the Dead frequently use this as a part of their Hannibal Lecture.
  • A good part of the common backstory of the Kusanagi, Yasakani/Yagami, and Yata/Kagura clans in The King of Fighters relates to how they cannot escape from fighting the Orochi clan.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • In Kingdom Hearts χ, the Master of Masters could see into the future and wrote what he saw down in the Book of Prophecies. The last page of the book foretells of a great battle in which darkness will prevail and the light will expire, the end of the world. When one of his students, Ira, asks if there's any way to prevent this future, the Master tells him it's not possible and they need to plan for what comes After the End. The Master is proven right, and the events he saw play out in what is known in the franchise as the Keyblade War.
    • There is the matter with Young Xehanort. He is one of the few things the Guardians of Light simply can't do jackshit about due to the rules of time travel that, while preventing someone from accessing their time travel memories, still allow them to have precognition about what is to come. Whether they defeat him or not, Young Xehanort will return back in time and gain an urge to leave the islands and become the Xehanort as we know today.
  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, this was the case since the dawn of time. The Fateless One is special because he/she is Immune to Fate, and thus is the only person in existence who can Screw Destiny. Everyone else, even gods, can't change their fates.
  • Half of the Legacy of Kain series revolves around this trope. The other half revolves around Screw Destiny. It's...complicated.
    • In Soul Reaver 2 despite rampant time-travel, different versions of the Reaver existing at the same time, and killing himself with his own soul, at the end Raziel realizes that he never escaped his terrible destiny; he had merely postponed it. History abhors a paradox.
    • Finally in Defiance, Raziel finally realizes that he can alter the timeline and thus his own fate. But he ultimately embraces it anyway because he believes it's the only way to defeat the true villain behind all of Nosgoth's suffering.
  • It didn't matter what Rean and Class VII did in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III despite their best efforts. There is no way to prevent the Nameless One from dying just like according to the Black Records prophecy and unleashing the curse all over Erebonia and the continent. What's worse is that Rean does the deed himself when he loses it in his Unstoppable Rage.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, King Rhoam attempted to stop Calamity Ganon's reawakening after hearing a prophecy of it. His efforts to revive the Guardians and the Divine Beasts, funding a massive military, assembling the Champions and getting Zelda to unlock her powers quickly were all done to prevent the Hyrule kingdom's fall. It fell nevertheless, as it was foreseen 10,000 years ago. The towers and shrines did not activate during the king's reign. It was not the right time. It would not occur until well after the fall of Hyrule.
  • Mega Man X5 has three different scenarios (two for X, one of which is non-canon, and one for Zero), depending on the Luck-Based Mission of the game. However, whichever scenario is played out, the Boss Battle in the penultimate stage will always be X vs. Zero, their prophecy finally being carried out.
  • The Armageddon in Odin Sphere. You can't stop it, but you can make it even worse if you don't fulfill the prophecy exactly.
  • In Ōkami, the guy making the 'prophecy' (that Issun would become a Celestial Envoy) didn't have as good an idea of the big picture as he thought he did. Ishaku always pushed Issun to be perfect, and eventually Issun got fed up and left to wander the world. Which is good because Amaterasu awakens in Kamiki, miles away from the Poncles' village, and serendipitously Issun is right there to help. Turns out Amaterasu doesn't care about an Envoy's artistic skill so much as his willingness to accompany and speak for her.
  • In Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, you are chased by an unstoppable monster sent to kill you because you changed the timeline and it was bad. It is implied that it was sent by the gods. So, what do you do? In the alternative/proper ending you find a magical mask that lets you exist in two places at once. You let your other self get killed to free yourself from destiny and then you stop destiny again using a magical sword to destroy the monster.
  • In the crossover Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney features a girl whose fate as written in the 'storytellers' book' is to die. The girl thinks that her death is her fate while Phoenix is sure that she will not die.
  • In Radiant Historia, all the things that happened were The Plan from the twins to, not only save the world, but also to make Heiss accept his fate of being the sacrifice.
  • Randal's Monday: It seems more and more like this is the case as the game goes on. Randal has to make a deal with demons to subvert this.
  • Game Mod Red Alert 3: Paradox plays with this trope by having it in its motto: "You can't change the universe without repercussions...", as in "Time Travel can only make the universe worse".
  • The Big Bad Dierker in The Saboteur said to Devlin in the Zeppelin "You should have died under my knife. Not like this.". Despite Dierker's Devil Luck to survive every ambush and attacks Devlin throws at him throughout the game, ultimately Devlin gets to kill him for good in the ending, showing Dierker can't fight his fate of dying.
  • Sailor Moon: Another Story is about you teaching bad guys about this. Well...yeah.
  • The main plot of Summoner. The evil emperor Murod is told that his reign will be brought to an end by a summoner. So he spends his life finding the summoner, causing the destruction of his village, and later of the kingdom the summoner is from. This causes the summoner to fight and eventually kill Murod. Ironically, had he done nothing about it, said Summoner would have lived a happy life as a mere farmer.
  • Sunset Over Imdahl is particularly evil about this trope, since the entire plot is the main character's attempt to Set Right What Once Went Wrong (and his supposed ally's successful attempt to make it go wrong in the first place.) There's only one apparent change: while in the beginning the hero was the last survivor, in the end he gets a decent burial and a tombstone, while others are dumped in a mass grave.
  • Tales Series:
    • In the ending of Tales of Destiny 2, Kyle STILL ends up meeting Reala in the very same place they did before despite what happened after the final battle. Coincidence?
    • Kratos from Tales of Symphonia tends to mention fate a lot in his battle quotes, such as saying "You can never escape fate." Considering what happened to him, it might be very justified. This trope is zigzagged in the game in general. Reala coming back at all was a case of Screw Destiny, as was Judas maybe coming back.
  • Combined with Prophecy Twist in Um Jammer Lammy: In the original version of Stage 6 ("Vital Idol"), Lammy avoids getting hit and run by an out-of-control car so as not to end up in hell (as Chop Chop Master Onion has foretold in her dream). As she keeps running, she doesn't notice the Banana Peel that PJ Berri has left because she is in too much of a hurry, then slips on it, falls down, breaks her neck and dies, thus fulfilling Chop Chop Master Onion's dream prophecy.
  • In The Walking Dead, regardless of alternate choices made, the outcome of certain events; such as Doug's or Carley's death will exactly be the same.
  • In The Whispered World, the main character Sadwick is shocked and bewildered when he receives a prophecy from a forest oracle, foretelling that he will be responsible for the end of the world. As Sadwick is actually the subconscious of a comatose boy, and his world is just a figment of his imagination, this comes to pass at the end of the game.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • This is a large part of the character of Nozdormu, the Aspect of Time; he was shown the exact moment and cause of his death when he was first given his powers, but can do nothing to change it because of his role as leader of the Time Police. Plus, he knew about the betrayal of his friend Neltharion and subsequent transformation to Deathwing, and that Malygos would snap when the Blue dragons nearly went extinct. The best example of this, though, is that Nozdormu also knows that he will eventually become Murozond, the leader of the Infinite Dragons who are screwing with history. And he accepts it, even if the thought terrifies him. He got better about it as of Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, deciding to only focus on the here and now, even if he knows for a fact what the future holds. "All that matters is this moment."
    • In Warlords of Draenor, after being deposed as leader of the Horde on Azeroth, Garrosh Hellscream escapes to an alternate version of Draenor several decades in the past. He initially prevents the orcs from making their pact with the Burning Legion and supplies them with Azerothian technology, allowing them to form the Iron Horde, but they eventually turn against his father Grommash and side with the Legion, becoming the Fel Horde. This only applies to the corrupted orcs, however, as Grommash remains uncorrupted and Draenor itself escapes its main universe counterpart's fate of being split into Outland.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, Gae Bolg works on this principle. It's a weapon that reverses causality: instead of the attack puncturing the heart, the heart is punctured and THEN the attack lands.
    • Still doesn't keep Saber from avoiding death, using her canonical luckiness and extreme skill to ensure it only grazes her heart. Fate is thus unavoidable, but you can escape the worst of it.
    • The Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] adaptation ends with the possible interpretation that our Shirou became Archer in spite of it all... but he doesn't regret any of it this time.
    • The lesson that the Tragic Heroes of the franchise learn. Many of them want to use the victory wish of the Holy Grail War to undo whatever ending they got, but usually learn to accept the past and find peace in death (for a while anyways, considering TYPE-MOON's lore).
  • Even if Ange from Umineko: When They Cry changes the past and helps Battler come home, Battler still won't have come home, because it already didn't happen that way. Though in the canonical ending, Battler is one of the only two survivors of the incident on the island, and the whole series is how he tries to figure out what happened during those two days on Rokkenjima. The whole scenario is flipped around: No matter what happens, everyone but Battler and Eva are going to die on the island since that's simply how it happened.
  • In Steins;Gate, the concept of Attractor Fields plays with this. Certain groups of World Lines (alternate timelines) will always converge on the same result. Using Time Travel, you can change World Lines, and thus change certain events, but unless the World Line changes to that of a different Attractor Field, then that specific event will always occur. For example, if you witness a person die on October 13th, then that person will always die that day, no matter what the cause is. However, the True Ending reveals that Tricked Out Time is possible.

    Web Animation 
  • Done for laughs in Red vs. Blue, when Church repeatedly goes back in time, to try to keep "a lot of really weird and totally inexplicable stuff" from happening. It doesn't work. Mostly, either his plan fails, or he actually causes the event he was trying to prevent, including his own death. He also seems to selectively forget his mistakes, since he still blames Caboose for the tank incident, even though Caboose wasn't really at fault at all. Subverted in that he never even went back time to begin, as confirmed by Word of God, the whole thing was just a simulation Garry/Gamma was using to toy with The Alpha/Church.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Killer Monster was destined for evil, and not even Koden could prevent that.

  • Zoe being burned in Sluggy Freelance.
  • Happens all the time in Hitmen for Destiny for example here. Characters who have prophecies predicting their death tend to die right on time (though sometimes they die earlier than predicted, destiny being fallible and damageable).
  • Played with in this Oglaf strip.
  • Far Star Summer School: Slightly downplayed; as much as Constanza wants to change it, Falguni makes it clear that what has been foreseen is next to impossible to change.
    Falguni: ”- the course of destiny is not an easy thing to deviate from.”
  • Goblins pulls this on a magnificent scale - Goblins are named after prophecies of their future so Saves a Fox attempts to thwart destiny by killing a fox. Guess what? It was suffering from a disease which would have left it to die a slow painful death - in context, she actually saved a fox.
  • Homestuck has several methods of gleaning into the future or traveling through time, but the course of time cannot truly be changed. Any attempt to alter the alpha timeline is doomed to failure. If you're lucky, it'll turn out You Already Changed the Past. In a worst-case scenario, it creates a paradoxical offshoot, doomed to veer off into nonexistence (as one character puts it, "The Universe eats paradoxes for breakfast"). Ultimately, the only thing one can hope to do is set up a series of Stable Time Loops to profit from what's bound to happen anyways, or to use an offshoot timeline to work on something which will aid the "fated" progression of the alpha timeline.
    Our otherworldly antagonists have assured us of our inevitable failure repeatedly, while the gods whisper corroboration in my sleep. I believe them now. I just blew up my first gate. I'm not sure why I did it, really. I'm not playing by the rules anymore. I will fly around this candy-coated rock and comb the white sand until I find answers. No one can tell me our fate can't be repaired. We've come too far. I jumped out of the way of a fucking burning tree, for God's sake.
    • Offshoots don't always veer off into non-existence though, as sometimes Paradox Space finds ways to make sure that all parties that would be altered in the new timeline meet a swift demise, as a Dave and one set of Trolls found out the hard way.
    • It also doesn't help the issue that we as the reader know the future, but characters in canon do not.
      • In short, in Homestuck not only can you not fight fate, if you do manage to split away from the main timeline, a quasi magical force known as Paradox Space will doom you all to a horrible death. Probably.
    • Interestingly, this only applies to major characters; Miss Exposition claims that the universe only really cares that much about the actions of people who will have a major impact on the universe itself and its survival/reproduction, while those without potential for such impact have traditional free will and the universe will not split into a doomed timeline regardless of their choices.
    • John is the only person able to actually fight this, as since he's no longer tied down to the basic causality of the Incipisphere, his actions as he flits across time and space can actually change the alpha timeline. Considering how narrowly the kid's made it out alive, this is more than a little scary for him.
    • This also a major reason why nobody ever tries preventing the rise of the Big Bad, Lord English, who doesn't even make a proper appearance in the comic until very late. Every time the possibility of mucking with time to prevent his arrival is raised, someone iterates that "You can't. He is already here."
    • And when the above two examples are mixed together, it still ends up that this trope is played straight. Even when John teleports the Kids in using his Retcon powers to stop Lord English's younger self before he can become Lord English, it still ends up being the event that creates him anyways.
    • It really doesn't help that Lord English is also able to manipulate Fate for his own ends, being a Lord of Time who gained game-breaking powers thanks to playing and beating a Dead Session. The very juju that granted John his power was originally Caliborn's.
  • This is Wanda's philosophy in Erfworld after her and Jillian's experiences with trying to fight Fate just made things harder on them. Wanda chose to submit to Fate and became rather stoic and hopeless as a result, but generally gets what she wants. Jillian herself keeps fighting Fate despite the futility and is usually happier and more fulfilled even though she always seems to end up suffering and losing eventually. So, who won?
    • Later, an actual Predictamancer calls Wanda's worldview simplistic after it causes yet another screw up. Fate itself is a part of the world of magical disciplines and clever people can get around it or stall it for a time if they know how. Tricking a prophecy, moving the goal conditions further along and bizarre strategies that ensure maximum safety and no risk. The best people to cheat Fate are usually Carnymancers, but even they lose in the end. To beat the strongest known Carnymancer, Charlie, though, Wanda needs to stop being so inflexible and start searching for loopholes herself.
    • Theoretically, one could prevent a prophecy by killing the person that the prophecy is about, but on the occasions when somebody actually had the opportunity to do this, they were to scared to try because they believed that fate would retaliate by sending somebody worse to fulfil the prophecy.
  • Bob and George: I knew he was going to say that.
  • In Sinfest, [1] Squigley, after a moment dramatically contemplating a universe where free will is mockery, says, "sure, why not?"
  • In Spinnerette this rule is what gives Benjamin Franklin superpowers.
  • In Rusty and Co., Mimic doesn't like the prophecy. He likes it still less after hearing what they are after, but he still gets hooked in.
  • Roommates: The characters are aware of their fictionality, the stories they are from AND the Theory of Narrative Causality so the destiny that says so and/or the fate they can't fight. More directly: Jareth desperately tries to be a hero but always fails and got villainous backlash because of it. Tallahassee tried to escape his canon to bring back his son...and failed.
  • 8-Bit Theater has Sarda espouse this philosophy. This is due to his failures at Time Travel, thinking that something that happened cannot be avoided. Chaos claims to be able to turn that on its head, but since he's defeated before he can change the timeline it's not clear if he actually could have.
  • In Casey and Andy, veteran time traveller J.J. knows that any event that she personally observes becomes immutable. However, if she looks away, she can leave the outcome ambiguous enough for her to go back and change things.
  • Subverted in L's Empire. While you can't change the past, you can't know the future, therefore the existence of fate is irrelevant.
  • Scary Go Round: The "Hard Yards" storyline in 2017 involved a massive Retcon, according to which, much of the history of the Bobbinsverse was probably generated by a time travelling Scout Jones attempting to prevent the break-up of her parents' marriage and the births of her half-sisters — and actually causing many of the events involved.

    Web Videos 
  • In The End, whenever Brendon meets someone new he receives a vision of the end of that relationship and he cannot change what he sees. His only choices are to accept fate or not to pursue that relationship at all.
  • In The Nostalgia Critic's editorial on Unbreakable, he discusses the darker side of this, asking about the people who hadn't wanted to be mean and the people destined to be victims.
  • In The King Dragon Canon, Dennis plays a Telltale-Games-esque version of the game, but due to a Plotline Death in the original, a certain choice reeks of But Thou Must! (Much to his dismay.)

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in South Park, in the 'Pandemic' two-parter. The kids rope Craig into becoming a member of their Peruvian flute band and end up in a hidden Peruvian temple as giant Guinea-pigs try to take over the world. They see a picture of Craig on a temple wall and insist that he's part of a prophecy to defeat them, so he has to keep going. Even the evil Guinea-Pirate calls him The Chosen One. Craig decides he's had enough, and tries to prove that he does have a choice, and that you can just walk away - pretty gutsy when you're a kid and it's four against one. Except in doing so, he steps on a stone that leads to him defeating the evil Guinea-Pirate. Sorry Craig, but you're going to have lasers shooting out of your eyes whether you like it or not.
  • In the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Seer No Evil", a gypsy moth named Cassandra gives a series of unlikely predictions to everyone except Zipper, but they all end in different ways than expected. Monterey Jack gets a pink fur coat (he gets covered in cotton candy), Gadget would have a run-in with a tall, dark stranger (specifically, the Villain of the Week's monkey), Dale would fly without wings (a magnet picks him up after he gets his foot stuck in a thimble), and Chip would end up running into an elephant and get crushed by a trunk, implying that he would die. However, it was an automated elephant at the entrance of the fun house, and the trunk in question had all of the stolen loot as well as Dale, Monty, and Gadget trapped inside, and they used force to knock it down and pry it open. Luckily, Chip didn't die, because there was a hole in the floor.
  • Danny Phantom's future self. The circumstances will be different, but the outcome generally the same. His present/past self says "Screw Destiny" and appears to have avoided that fate...but did gain a useful ability.
    • While Clockwork speculates that Danny's future self now exists outside of time due to a Temporal Paradox, Danny's future self thinks it's a Stable Time Loop, and his final taunt to himself from the present is essentially this trope.
      Future Danny: I still exist! That means you still turn into me!
    • The Observants see time linearly, which is why they demanded Clockwork kill Danny to prevent Future Danny's existence. Subverted with Clockwork himself, who has the ability to see all possible timelines, instead of a linear future. That being said, he can't simply Set Right What Once Went Wrong, though he will intervene if someone were to manipulate the time stream to produce a favorable outcome for themselves, instead of trying to fix their issues in the present.
  • The Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue" (also a Fully Absorbed Finale for Batman Beyond) has former CADMUS leader Amanda Waller explaining to Terry how her branch engineered his entire life to be the next Batman, from arranging for him to be conceived with Bruce Wayne's DNA instead of his actual father's, to setting up the Death by Origin Story of his parents. The assassin they contracted for that purpose refused to go through with it, leaving the McGinnis family alive. Fate had other plans, however and Terry's father was later murdered by Derek Powers, coincidentally around the same time that Terry met the aged Bruce Wayne and managed to connect the dots about his identity as the former Batman. On the other hand, the very same episode emphasizes the choice Terry had in becoming who he is and how he's grown, considering the vast number of psychopathic or self-destructive nut-jobs CADMUS also ended up creating. It may have been fate that turned Terry into Batman, but it's Terry himself that became a hero.
  • The Fairly OddParents, "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker": Timmy finds out that Crocker became the man who he is after losing his fairies, which turn out to be Cosmo and Wanda. Timmy tries to prevent this, but Present!Cosmo fumbles this up, revealing Crocker's secret to the world and resulting in him losing his fairies anyway. The Jorgens from the present and past then forbid him from trying to fix it by banning him from that particular month.
    Crocker: Do you know what you've done?! DO YOU?!
    Timmy: NO! This is exactly what I was trying... to... prevent!
  • Comes up several times in Gargoyles, thanks to the Phoenix Gate's ability to Time Travel:
    • During his first experience with Time Travel, Goliath ends up in his own past and implores the past version of Demona not to make the same bad decisions that led to her becoming his enemy. When he returns to the present, Demona taunts him with the knowledge that she remembered that confrontation all along and that his efforts changed nothing. Interestingly, the bad guy she had teamed up with, Xanatos, already understands what the gargoyles will only later pick up about time travel, he's just there to arrange what he already knew happened, not to change anything.
    • Later, Goliath attempts to use the time-travelling Phoenix Gate to save Griff from being killed during the Blitz in WWII London, after being accused of abandoning or murdering Griff by his companions. With increasingly improbable incidents occurring that indicate the universe has decided Griff is its new Chew Toy, Goliath ultimately concludes that fate will not allow Griff to get home and uses the Phoenix Gate to bring Griff back with him to the present, thus causing his original disappearance.
    • A particularly strange time loop appears when the archmage, while falling to his death, is saved by his future self. This future self gives him some extra powers and instructions and after what can't have been more than a few hours sends him off to save what now is his past self.
    • By the end of the Avalon arc, Goliath has learned his lesson enough that, faced with a dystopian future vision of things that will happen to his friends and allies and asked by Elisa to give her the Phoenix Gate in order to fix things, he refuses, stating that time and fate are immutable and cannot be changed. As it turns out, the whole experience was staged by Puck to obtain the Phoenix Gate for himself, so Goliath is presented as making the right choice.
    • A Xanatos and Goliath exchange explains this perfectly:
    Goliath: If I did not fear the damage you would do to the time stream, I would leave you here.
    Xanatos: But you won't, because you didn't. Time travel is funny like that.
    • Eventually, Goliath decides to hurl the Gate into the timestream by itself, effectively removing it from reality, as he's clearly sick of people who think they can change history with it coming after him and his allies.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: After some Time Travel, Mojo Jojo chucks a young Utonium into the town volcano. However, the PPGs have travelled as well, and not only do they save Utonium, it turns out that this incident is what got him into science...and eventually led to the PPGs' creation.
  • This trope was done on The Simpsons in "The Ned Zone" segment of "Treehouse of Horror XV" where Ned can foretell people's deaths, and has a vision showing himself killing Homer. He believes he's managed to avert the vision, but then has another vision of Homer causing an explosion at the nuclear power plant that destroys the town. In the course of stopping Homer from causing the explosion, he ends up fulfilling the original prediction, but Homer manages to cause the explosion anyway.
  • Teen Titans spent several episodes of the fourth season dealing with Raven's prophesied role as the instrument by which her father would enter and end the world. Despite hers and her friends' efforts of preventing it, she does become the portal for Trigon to get to Earth and destroy it...they just fix it afterward.
    • In a way, Raven kind of retroactively says Screw Destiny. She realizes the prophecy only came true because she let it (having given up fighting because she thought it wouldn't go any good), and then turns the Deus ex Machina Up to Eleven.
      • Another interpretation involves the prophecy's Exact Words. It says "Trigon comes to claim, he comes to sire the end of all things mortal", thus correctly predicting what Trigon intends to do. It never says that he succeeds.
    • In "The End, Part II", Robin calls Slade out on helping Trigon destroy the world. Slade responds that while he did play a part in it, even if he wasn't there, it wouldn't have changed anything. Trigon's coming was inevitable.
    • Season 2's episode "How Long is Forever?" has Starfire sent 20 years into the future during a battle with a time-traveling villain named Warp. In the future, her friends split apart after her absence and Warp tells her, despite believing his interference caused it, that nothing has changed, as everything is as history says it is. Of course, reuniting her friends proves otherwise.
  • An episode of Jacob Two-Two starts with Jacob accidentally destroying his older brother's priceless, never-been-played Beatles record, and discovering a time machine that will let him go back to when he broke it. But every single time he tries to fix it, things turn out worse, culminating in the complete destruction of their entire house. And the record gets destroyed in all instances. Jacob finally gives up trying to save the record, and uses the time machine one last time to recreate the original incident (where just the record is broken and nothing else). And then he happens upon another copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand. Yay! And then Daniel accidentally breaks that copy, too.
  • In Futurama Fry kills his own grandfather, but turns out to be his own grandfather after all (explaining his unusual brain structure, or lack thereof), so the Futurama timespace seems to be either impossible to change, or self-correcting.
    • Doom coefficient, anyone?
  • An Aladdin: The Series episode has the Anthropomorphic Personification of Chaos convinced that Fate is on Aladdin's side after hearing about his many victories against impossible odds. This upsets him, to say the least, and that's when the episode gets a little more serious.
    Chaos: To always win against such odds, Fate must have smiled on you.
    Aladdin: Well, I try not to...brag...
    Chaos: But I never liked Fate. Predestination goes against the grain. Besides, he cheats at cards. But if Fate has decreed that Aladdin always wins, what can I do? I mean, where’s the unpredictability in that? I’ve got it! Allow me to produce a little scenario I call "Evil Twin". I have no problem with Aladdin winning all his battles. The question is, which Aladdin?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • One episode has Twilight Sparkle meeting her future self, who has messed-up hair, a torn-up catsuit, an eyepatch, and a scar. Because Present Twilight talks so much, Future Twilight can't deliver a warning about the future, so Present Twilight panics and tries to prevent a potential disaster, not only causing the changes her future self wound up with, but it turns out there was no disaster in the first place. The warning was to not worry about what the future brings.
    • In the season 3 finale, Twilight's main friends have had their Cutie Marks accidentally switched by the former and are forced to perform the task each Cutie Mark brings, it being their supposed fate to do so. Subverted when everything goes back to normal.
  • In Young Justice, one episode shows the Flash's grandson Impulse going back in time through a one-way time machine to prevent his grandfather from being killed by a supervillain named Neutron which he believes will prevent the world from being devastated by Neutron's uncontrollable power. He succeeds in saving Flash and also eliminating Neutron's power with a blue pill that the future Neutron gave him. Neutron is changed by Impulse's actions, but the world continues to be devastated. However, he does later help change the outcome of the Reach invasion; by helping prevent Blue Beetle's Face–Heel Turn, the Reach are ultimately prevented from taking over Earth like they did in Impulse's Bad Future. The season finale (which until the revival was thought to be the last episode) suggests that there would be other threats to the Earth that might lead to the same (or similar) outcome, but until Season 3, this can't be known for certain.
  • In Code Lyoko, Odd's very useful ability to see the future provides endless examples of this. The first season seems pretty convinced that his real superpower is watching things like Yumi falling into the Digital Sea without actually doing anything to change the future, until Jérémie finally realizes how useless it is and doesn't bother coding it back after an update erased it.
  • In Adventure Time, at every alternate universe shown so far, some event happens that makes Finn lose an arm: his life in the Pillow World, a world where he had wished the Lich never existed, visions of the future, and his previous life as Shoko. As of "Escape from the Citadel", this happens to Main!Finn canonically. He seems to Screw Destiny by getting it back a few episodes later...only to lose it again not long after, forcing him to use a robotic one for the rest of the series. You really can't fight fate here.
  • Jughead lampshades this trope in an episode of Archie's Weird Mysteries, which involves Archie experiencing a "Groundhog Day" Loop due to time travel shenanigans, and a Running Gag where he gets a milkshake dumped on him. Though after sorting things out, Archie still delivers An Aesop with his closing narration.
    "I can tell you from personal experience that time travel is overrated. For a while there, I was beginning to believe that Jughead was right, that you really can't fight fate. But when I took charge of the situation, I proved that a bad day is just a bad day, even if you have to repeat it, in a little town called Riverdale."
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: This is the main reason why Esther stopped pursuing Ben and started dating Antonio. While she really does like him, she realizes that her feelings can't compare to what's happening between him and Kai — added with the knowledge from Spanner that the two are married in the future, she realizes that there's no point in fighting for him anymore since Ben and Kai are meant to be together.
  • The Gravity Falls episode "The Time Travelers Pig" has Dipper getting a time-traveling device in order to go back in time and not hit Wendy in the eye with a baseball. But it's shown that no matter how many times Dipper goes back in time, he will always hit Wendy and she'll always start dating Robbie. The one timeline where he doesn't hit Wendy also prevents Mabel from getting her pet pig. Dipper decides that he can't take away Mabel's happiness and goes back in time to help Mabel win her pig, but also lose Wendy.
  • Beast Wars heavily discusses this. After briefly getting ahold of the Golden Disks, Dinobot reads them and foresees his own death in battle. He spends much of Season Two agonizing over whether he can Screw Destiny or not. He sees evidence that seems to confirm that you can fight fate and change history...but ultimately goes to his death anyway, because he can't bring himself to stand idle as innocents die. Overall, the series leaves it very ambiguous whether this trope is in effect or not. Aside from Dinobot's situation, there are various other moments that seem to indicate history can be changed (most notably, Megatron almost rewriting the timeline by shooting Optimus Prime), but by the end of the series, events have "conveniently" played out in such a way as to perfectly line up with the events of Generation One (the Nemesis is moved to the location it was found in G1, Earth only has one moon, the Ark's shuttle is missing, etc.). Stable Time Loop? Divine Intervention? People just making a successful effort to leave history as they remember it? The answer is unclear.
    Blackarachnia: The history tracks never mentioned this...
    Rhinox: History's still being written.
  • Static Shock: After befriending Timezone, a Bang Baby with time powers, Static wants to go back five years into the past and help quell the Dakota Riots... and save Static's mom, who died working as an EMT that night. He saves her from a collapsing building and begs her to stay away from danger. However, just as they have to return to the present, he sees her rush into a dangerous situation to help, having rejoined her team against his wishes.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): You Can Not Fight Fate


"...Not Today..."

No matter what Phil Connors does on Groundhog Day: the old homeless man from the street is always going to die later that same evening.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / YouCantFightFate

Media sources:

Main / YouCantFightFate