Follow TV Tropes


Quotes / Pyrrhic Victory

Go To

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

To stop Kishin from resurrecting, we anxiously kept on attacking. But we never thought about what would happen after you knew Kishin was resurrected for certain...that moment when you felt a sense of accomplishment, you showed a weak point. What irony. I won because of Kishin. But Kishin resurrected. I lost in the end.
Stein after defeating Medusa, Soul Eater

So, your reports say you were victorious? Ignorance is a frightening thing.
The Beast Titan after the raid on Liberio, Attack on Titan

    Comic Books 

I can't believe you got him! You expert, rootin'-tootin', eagle-eyed, Goth-loving marksman! I love it, you managed to find a way to win, and everybody still loses!

The Champion of the Universe: [clinging to an asteroid] I WON! No one can stand against Champion's might! I'VE WON IT ALL!
Thanos: Have you now? It looks to me that all you've managed to do is destroy Tamarata, the prize we fought over, and strand yourself in outer space.
The Thanos Quest:


    Fan Works 

Your combat telemetry died a whopping 3.5 seconds before mine! You died first! I won!
Asuka to Mari, Evangelion 303

    Film - Live-Action 

Gamora: Did you do it?
Thanos: Yes.
Gamora: What did it cost?
Thanos: ...Everything.

Bruce: That bandit, in the forest in Burma. Did you catch him?
Alfred: Yes, Master Bruce.
Bruce: How?
Alfred: We burned the forest down.

Sometimes when you win, you lose.

So this is the number of combat troops available for these figures, twelve thousand troops [...] But that's not enough. That's the amount that are going to die. And at the end of a war you need some soldiers left, really, or else it looks like you've lost.
Gen. Miller, In the Loop

"I was fifteen when the first kaiju made land in San Francisco. By the time tanks, jets and missiles took it down, six days and 35 miles later, three cities were destroyed. Tens of thousands of lives were lost."
Raleigh Becket, Pacific Rim


But it is entirely possible to win against the enemy, it is possible even to kill the enemy, and still to be defeated by the battle.

Locke: So this is winning.
Jean: It is.
Locke: It can go fuck itself.

The first rule of prosperity is not to let yourself weaken so much in battle that you can't defend yourself against another threat.

I've lost a hand, a father, a son, a sister, and a lover, and soon enough I will lose a brother. And yet they keep telling me House Lannister has won this war.

    Live-Action TV 

You know, we were baited – baited – into an unnecessary war that cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. And, what did it really get us besides an Oscar nomination for Bradley Cooper?

Kira: This war is over. You lost.
Founder: Have I? I think you'll find that neither the Jem'Hadar or the Breen will agree with that assessment. They will fight to the last man.
Kira: And what will that accomplish?
Founder: Isn't it obvious? You may win this war, Commander; but I promise you, when it is over, you will have lost so many ships, so many lives, that your victory will taste as bitter as defeat.

Worf: Kahless himself said "Destroying an Empire to win a war is no victory."
Gowron: "And ending a battle to save an Empire is no defeat."

When Rhaenyra's last son wed Aegon's only daughter, the Dance of Dragons officially ended.
Ash and burned men: all that was left of the Riverlands.
Two scared children spouting oaths they didn't understand: all that was left of the mighty House Targaryen.


You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars.
My energy is spent at last, and my armor is destroyed.
I have used up all my weapons, and I'm helpless and bereaved.
Wounds are all I'm made of...
Did I hear you say that this is victory?
Blue Öyster Cult, "Veteran of the Psychic Wars"

His only son,
Cut down, but the battle won,
Oh, what is it worth,
When all that's left is hurt?
Florence + the Machine, "Queen of Peace"

You've crossed the finish line,
Won the race but lost your mind,
Was it worth it after all?
Lazlo Bane, "Superman"

So tell me who won here tonight
The price of winning worthless fight
Sonata Arctica, "Destruction Preventer"

For years and years I wandered the earth
Until I died and went to hell
But my despair had ascended to heaven
That's how I finally got rid of it.
They Might Be Giants, "Hopeless Bleak Despair"


    Newspaper Comics 

Dilbert: I had a great day at work. For some reason, no one interrupted me so I got a lot done.
Garbage Man: Today is a holiday.
(Beat Panel)
Dilbert: All my victories are tainted.


The entrance fee cost me
Two dollars, and then
It cost twenty more
For those burgers and fries.
My hospital bill
Was a hundred and ten.
But I won—
The five-dollar first prize!
Shel Silverstein, "Big Eating Contest"

With their tails tucked proudly 'tween their legs
Advancing towards the exit march the dregs
Of empire, whose retreat this question begs
No promised omelette, just the broken eggs?
Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller,"

    Tabletop Games 

Lands ravaged, cities in ruins, so many lives sacrificed, and yet there was no other word for it but victory.

The enemy has been destroyed, sir. So have the forest, the city, your palace, your dog...
— Keldon Soldier, Magic: The Gathering, "Obliterate"

They found themselves alive again, still bearing their mortal wounds.

Sometimes the only victory possible is to keep your opponent from winning.
The Emperor of Mankind, Warhammer 40,000

We "won" in so far as we just beat the Traditions to the hearts and and minds (and wallets and schools) of the populace. They're still out there, and we're still out there, and both groups are having a hell of a time with all the shit that's come down on our heads lately. "Won" is such a stretch. We "won" the Ascension War much like Pyrrhus won.
Mage: The Ascension - Convention Book: Iteration X (Revised)

My escape was miraculous; the Emperor must have rewarded my undying faith in those times. However, though I am physically free, my body bears the scars, the many, many scars. Every breath takes me to a new plane of agony, every heartbeat sets my jagged nerves writhing with pain. I cannot see. I cannot speak. Most horrid of all, I cannot forget. Nightmares and waking visions plague me, the drip of my own blood, the cries of anguish haunt me.
No-one escapes the Dark City.
Warhammer 40,000: Codex - Dark Eldar (2nd ed)

    Video Games 

One of my own people has been feeding Ryan evidence of my activities, and now I am to be detained. As a religion, they merely monitored us. But as a commune, they would see us crucified. And yet... though he will be the last to see it, Andrew Ryan has already lost the people. Wherever I am sent, Rapture will follow.
Sofia Lamb, Bioshock 2

Livia: Always remember, [Gadd] gave us a great victory.
Vekk: I don't know how many such victories I can stand.
Guild Wars Eye of the North

"The triumph of the Jedi teachings is a cold thing when there is no one left alive to appreciate them."

The enemy has cost you dearly. Do you even deserve to call it a victory?
— Description for battles won by a Pyrrhic Victory, Total War: Warhammer

Congratulations! You are safe... for now.


Kevyn: So we're losing?
Petey: No, we're winning expensively.

Cale: After everything... you'd think more people would have come out to say farewell. After everything we've done.
Benny: Were you expecting a parade? They're literally still burying their dead.


    Web Original 

I mean, anybody who has beaten this incredibly hard piece of shit will not have any sense of satisfaction, but rather regrets, because it is a complete waste of fuckin' time. I mean, it's like coming out of a brutal fight, being the winner, but achieving nothing for all your troubles but some bloody bruises and broken bones. It's just not worth it.

Game Grumps: Died
Jon still won though
put that in the books

Nothing will make me feel better, even the victory will be bittersweet!
Arin, after dying to the purple plant boss for the millionth time in Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril, Game Grumps

Oh?! Really? REEEAAALLLYYY?! I... you... sack of shit, god dammit! Okay, I guess that's how we're gonna end this. Anticlimactically! Even when I win, you don't let me feel good about it! I ran out of power. I - god - of course, you let me win in the most INFURIATING!! POSSIBLE!! WAY!! God, I don't need your pity! I don't need your lucky pity win! Gah-ha-ha-had dammit!
Markiplier's first 50/1 victory in Ultimate Custom Night

[George Lucas] had made Star Wars because he had dreamed of movies like those he'd seen in his youth. He made it into a trilogy because he dreamed of an independent film-maker's paradise in Skywalker Ranch. He had risked everything, sacrificed so much, given up six years of his life in order to make this dream a reality. But in the end... all he had was a building. The facility was so state-of-the-art that the only ones who could use it were big Hollywood film-makers, not little independents, and its remoteness, no doubt meant to encourage the Northern California film industry, instead discouraged people from making the long trip there. Skywalker Ranch would be used, but mostly by Lucasfilm to serve their own film-making needs and really only because it was already there and, of course, could not be sold. And in his attempt to fulfill this dream, so many people were gone now: Francis Ford Coppola, Gary Kurtz, Charles Lippincott, John Dykstra, Ralph McQuarrie... Marcia Lucas. And there remained George Lucas. His friends and colleagues wanted to make Citizen Kane, but Lucas? He lived it. After that, he was done.
SF Debris, The Shadow's Journey

The Vietnam War was America's second longest, finally ending only in 1978 with the diplomatic agreement mediated by President James E. Carter under which the guerrilla forces of the Viet Cong and the People's Army of Vietnam (formerly the North Vietnamese Army) agreed to lay down arms in exchange for the right to field their own political candidates. Only the Cuban conflict would last longer: at the time of the Vietnam memorial's groundbreaking, the guerrilla war which had begun following the April 1961 Bay of Pigs "intervention" is still in progress.
The Linebacker operations of the early seventies had broken the formal power of the Communist regime then in power in Hanoi, at the cost of several million Vietnamese dead from flooding, disease and starvation following the bombing of the North's dike system. The North Vietnamese had refused to simply surrender, however, and they and their Viet Cong allies had waged a fierce guerrilla struggle even after the occupation first of Hanoi and then of the Communists' second capital, Haiphong. At home, the seemingly endless conflict had grown increasingly unpopular, as American troops continued to fight and die even after "victory" had supposedly been won.
President Carter's negotiation of the Vietnam accords had been sharply criticized by, among others, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said that the peace agreement "granted the Communists what they could not win on the battlefield" and predicted that Vietnamese leftists would now try to subvert the unified government of Vietnam from within. Among the critics was former governor Ronald Reagan of California, who in 1980 would exploit anger over the pact in his successful run for the White House.
The influence of Reagan and his supporters would be revealed in the final design of the memorial, which featured a group of soldiers planting a flag atop a broken wall and bore the names of every American killed in the conflict.

Our homes have been returned to us... but not before they were looted. Ransacked by a megalomaniacal ship with designs to become a ruler, just like its brain-diseased masters.
...And even though Hal claims to view this as victory for us... I just can't. I really can't. Innocent people still died from the first invasion of Arkanea, the riots caused over that supposedly incurable disease, the second invasion, all the other invasions on the neighboring kingdoms... our home and many of our friends' homes have been destroyed then rebuilt into something utterly alien... many people will still be homeless or wrecked due to all the economic destruction wrought by the pilfering...
...All for what?
Because we had metal. Just because we had metal.

    Western Animation 

Random Fireman: We put out the blaze!
Peter Griffin: At what cost?!
(he lost his mustache)

We can put this defeat to political use. The charred ruins of Ryloth will demonstrate to the galaxy the cost of a Republic victory.

Savor your moment of triumph Superman, but remember, victory has its price.
Darkseid, Superman: The Animated Series right before he murders Dan Turpin out of spite

    Real Life 

The next worst thing to a battle lost is a battle won.
The Duke of Wellington a day after Waterloo

Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone.
King Pyrrhus of Epirus in the Battle of Asculum, his second Pyrrhic Victory against the Romans

If we have eight more victories such as these there shall be nobody left to bring news of them.
— A British politician learning of the "victory" at Bunker Hill (226 men dead, 828 wounded out of ~3000)

The loser of a knife fight dies at the scene. The winner of a knife fight dies in an ambulance on the way to hospital.
— Origin unknown

Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: