Contrived Coincidence

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search


"Now let's explore the improbable chain of events that led to this amusing yet tragic farce."
Ray MaginiThe Simpsons

In order to keep a story moving, things need to happen a certain way. Sometimes everything is carefully set up and orchestrated, so that events unfold in an organic, natural fashion. More often than not, though, things happen the way they do simply Because Destiny Says So.

There's just one tiny little problem with that theory: Sometimes, Destiny doesn't say so.

Contrived Coincidence describes a highly improbable occurrence in a story which is required by the plot, but which has absolutely no outward justification—not so much as a character saying There Are No Coincidences. The concept of "destiny" is glossed over altogether, and the events in question are simply disguised as mere happenstance. This would be jarring, but most of the time no attention is drawn to the event at all. It's just a narrative convention designed to skip over lots of irrelevant stuff by putting the important events all together, leaving the audience to forget the improbability of the event.

For example, when two characters are separated in a huge battle involving millions of combatants, they will bump into each other again just in time for one to save the other's life. This is not highlighted as an example of destiny or fortuity in any way, and in fact the improbability of the two people meeting again at such a convenient moment is ignored altogether.

In many an action/adventure show or movie, the protagonists are introduced to at the very beginning or portrayed to retain various gadgets that invariably play perfectly into a dire situation they find themselves in later on. It has the potential to be reasonable, such as bringing hiking equipment to a mountainous terrain mission, but more often than not it's just a flat-out Ass Pull. Honestly, what didn't Batman "just so happen to" carry in that little belt of his? (For that matter, RPGs and Adventure games are particularly common offenders, as inventory coincidences are often used to maintain the progression of gameplay.)

It's not Destiny, it's not By Design; heck, the writer may not even bother calling it a coincidence. It just happens. Deal with it and move on.

In cases where the coincidence is acknowledged, it's likely a Lampshade Hanging. Characters may invoke Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane for that.

Can be Justified Trope to a limited extent by the Anthropic Principle (see also The Other Wiki). Unlikely coincidences are bound to happen once in a while. Exceptional things don't happen to the main characters because they are main characters; rather, they are designated main characters because exceptional things happen to them. In other words, there would be no story without this first exceptional coincidence. The earlier in the story the plot-driving coincidences occur, the more leeway the writer has with them.

Except for Farce. Contrived Coincidence is one of the driving forces of Farce, decreed by the Rule of Funny. This is a major reason why wariness is needed in other genres; too much of it will make the story farcial.

Make note that this is one of the most pervasive tropes out there. Just about any work of fiction, no matter how excruciatingly well-written, is sure to use this as much as they are allowed.

For a more grandiose or plot-wrapping version, see Deus Ex Machina. See also Fridge Logic for the moment it sinks in, and Not My Driver for the vehicular version.

It's a Small World After All is a subtrope of this. So is the variant of Framing the Guilty Party where the one doing the framing didn't know that party was guilty. Too many contrived coincidences may result in One Degree of Separation. Often, these can disguise a Gambit Roulette as a Xanatos Gambit.

Examples of Contrived Coincidence include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Done especially so in the Zatch Bell. A poor innocent girl in the story get's brainwashed into partnering with an evil demon and attacks her very best friend. But what's this? It turns out the attack was blocked by another demon who happens to be both said friend's partner and that demon's worst enemy. Really, out of 6 billion human beings on earth for the scattered 100 demons to choose from, these two pick two human friends that grew up together? Well that's just dandy. It's also rather dandy that 50% of the demons fought are at one point found in Japan, and everyone in the cast all speaks English/Japanese. And why doesn't the Brainwashing demon just use his physic powers to raise an army to avoid fighting the latter demon? Maybe because it in turn will be the only reason he's able to find and fight the him in the first place by attracting his partner's attention.
    • Skip a little bit to where this story takes those conveniences. In order for Sherry to rescue Koko, she conveniently has her jump off a cliff and then black out, only to be rescued in the very same manner as a callback occurring in their childhood. Which allows Sherry to interrogate the kidnapper and have him brainwash her back to normal. It's so contrived to the very point that if Koko hadn't randomly decided to do that at that, Sherry's entire rescue mission would have been rendered a failure at that instant. Discussed and ridiculed here [dead link].
  • The Straw Hats in One Piece seem to be particularly lucky to show up at Fishman Island at the exact same day that Hody stages his coup d'état after years of planning, allowing them to prevent the whole island from falling to his elite soldiers and 100,000 strong slave army.
    • This happens to the Straw Hats a lot. Luffy arrives at Shell Town to save Zoro and the villagers from Captain Morgan, they end up in Orange Town to save Nami from Buggy's thugs, arrives at Ussop's village the day Captain Kuro plans come to fruition, stops at the Baratie when Don Krieg floats by...it seems like most of the time they gets into trouble just from being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn't help that Luffy's an active thrill-seeker who enjoys throwing himself into danger.
  • Uchuu Senkan Yamato:
    • A couple of characters are on Titan being chased by an alien mook. One of the characters comes across a blaster lying on the ground and shoots the mook with it. After doing so, he notices that the blaster belongs to his brother, who was thought to have been KIA in the area (his brother's abandoned ship is also close by). It would have been quite a stroke of luck for anybody to stumble upon these items after landing on a random area of the planet, much less the missing pilot's own brother...
    • The fact that the main (human) heroine of the series is a dead lookalike for (the alien queen) Starsha and her sister is also an unexplained and apparently random coincidence.
  • Keroro Gunsou uses it for humor in episode 37, pointing out the four different coincidences (including one that seems to have nothing to do with anything) that just so happen to resolve the plot in exactly the right way.

Narrator: Eh? Why did this happen? Well... we can't help it now that it's done with.

  • Elfen Lied, both fortunately and unfortunately, happens to be chock full of this trope. This is basically the reason why all of the characters meet in the first place, as the chances for these select few individuals encountering one another (especially Lucy and Kouta) is next to impossible.
    • That none of them remember each other is a whole 'nother web of improbability.
  • In Rose of Versailles, Rosalie sees her foster mother get run over by a carriage being driven by the noblewoman who is none other than her birth mother. Continuing the stretch of crazy coincidences, Rosalie meets Oscar when attempting to prostitute herself, then meets Oscar again later when she mistakes Oscar's home for Versailles. Rosalie just can't avoid the contrived coincidence....
  • While a lot of things in Code Geass can be explained by Lelouch using his Geass off screen, the second episode of the second season is just a little convenient. Lelouch, having lost his memory, decides to go gambling in a skyscraper that just happens to be at the start of a street that goes straight to the Chinese consulate, the skyscraper also exactly tall enough to be stretched out along the street, has a spacy ventilation shaft inside it which would protect people in the unlikely event that it would topple over... Starting to guess what's going to happen?
    • The first season's episode 22 is just as bad. See my mind control eye? I can make you do anything, all of which being horribly bad for everyone involved, and none of them funny, even though I'm trying to make a joke. It would be horrible if my power forced you to do one of them, now - er... Whoops?
  • In Maison Ikkoku, Kyoko just happens to walk by when Kozue tricks Godai into a goodbye kiss—which turns out to be a turning point in the series.
  • The second episode of Sailor Moon R reunites the Sailor Senshi for another season of adventure. How does it do this? The bad guys stage a fake casting call for a TV show and out of untold millions of girls, they just happen to completely randomly stumble upon four of the five Senshi and the best friend (and favored Victim of the Week) of the fifth. Let it be noted that it wasn't even as though the bad guys chose these people based on some vague explanation of them having a ton of energy or whatever. It was the original TV staff that just happened to choose them.
    • Kaolinite (from Sailor Moon S) explains that the senshi's powers orchestrate events so that senshi are always close to a place of a future attack. This makes sense given that just five senshi (nine for outerplanetary attacks) have to protect a planet.
  • In the very first episode of Witch Hunter Robin, the eponymous character shows up at a warehouse where the squad is fighting a witch and saves the day, with no explanation for why she happened to go there. No one ever comments on it.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam - The kid who finds a prototype mobile suit turns out to be a powerful psychic. In six completely different wars.
  • In Macross Frontier, the three characters in the primary Love Triangle have the amazing ability to randomly run into each other where ever they go, in a city that's home to millions of people. Even when a character decides to randomly visit places they've never been before, the other two happen to show up there as well.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima is filled with numerous contrived coincidences. Among some samples:
    • The first student to find out about Negi's secret, Asuna, is not only a magic world princess who had her memories of her past wiped out, but it appears that she is also a creation of Negi's ancestor.
    • Nodoka, after receiving her Pactio card, just happens to be walking by when she overhears Chamo and Asuna discuss how the card can be used to summon magical items. This starts a series of events (and other coincidences) that results in Nodoka not only discovering her Pactio ability of Mind Reading, but also discovering that Negi is actually a mage.
      • Interestingly enough, this isn?t the only time Nodoka was walking by when Negi, Asuna, and Chamo are discussing important stuff, as this also happens first when Negi tells Asuna about his past, and later when Negi invites Asuna to go with him to the Magic World during summer break.
    • Taken even further when you consider the sheer improbability of Negi's class being assembled. Asuna, magical world princess Konoka, daughter of his father's fighting companion Evangeline, sealed there by his father Mana, half-demonfolk mercenary, Ku Fei; apparently the most talented martial artist on campus, Chao, his descendent Kaede; exceedingly talented ninja, and Zazie demonfolk princess. It's possible the headmaster just meddled, but then it's still a case of Improbable Age that everyone is in the same grade.
  • In Monster, Johan Liebert is able to find another family named Liebert, who lost a son named Johan, who would be the same age that he is, allowing him to slip right into the community. This is after meeting a family named Liebert as a child who named him Johan. Fortunately, it's a fairly common name in Real Life.
  • Butterflies, Flowers: When Choko goes job-hunting at the beginning of the book, the only company hiring is the one where her family's ex-servant has become director of the department she is applying to...
  • It's a good thing "old habits die hard" for Death Note's Light, otherwise he wouldn't be wearing that watch at just the right time. Also fortune he never, not once, decided to open his watch while he was still suffering plot induced amnesia. Also fortunate that the guy who ended up with the death note acted exactly as he did and didn't opt to be more secretive with the book, or bungle himself into getting caught another way or decide to off himself instead of go down to the police or any number of the near infinite ways things could've played out. In fact, the entirety of Light's gambit on getting the death note back relies on a number of things working out just right without any conscious involvement on Light's part. And of course, they all do.
    • He states that he never takes the watch off under normal circumstances. Wearing something you always wear isn't a coincidence. Also, he doesn't know how to open his watch and the mechanism to open it was one he was highly unlikely to trigger by accident.
    • Doesn't stop with Light, though. It was just a coincidence that both Mikami and Light knew Kiyomi Takada, that Takada was a Kira supporter, and that Light had a history with her. It was just a coincidence that all the people Mikami rejected died. It was just a coincidence that Misa Amane and Light happened to live within a train ride of each other—at one point in the anime, they're shown having coffee in the same little shop, completely unaware that the other one is actually a Kira. When you get down to it, it was a coincidence that Light just happened to have the TV on, considering how much studying he's shown to do with it off, when L first broadcasts his Lind L Tailor message. The list doesn't end; Death Note has a ton of these.
  • The main character of Gakuen Alice just happens to befriend a kid with a superpower, who just happens to have avoided being sent to the special school for those people long enough to befriend the main character, and just happens to have one of her letters reach the main character despite the faculty of the school doing everything they can to prevent the students having any contact at all with the outside world, which just happens to prompt the main character to travel to the school, where she just so happens to be allowed in because she has a power of her own, one which just happens to be so situational that neither she nor anybody else knew that she had it until the plot demanded it.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha There are a lot of these thought out the series also mix with One Degree of Separation.
    • Season 1:
      • After Arf Rebelled and fled to Earth. She ended up being found by Alisa, One of Nanoha's Friends.
    • Season 2 (A's):
      • Hayate, the master of the antagonist and is unaware of what's going on, happens to meet Suzuka, another friend of Nanoha.
    • Season 3 (Strikers):
      • Subaru and Ginga, were found and rescued by Quint. Quint ended up adopting them because their eyes are similar to her. Turns out their DNA matches with Quint.
      • Quint was also partnered with Zest and Megane. Zest ended up dying and resurrected to take care of Megane's daughter. During their walk around the Mid-Childa, they found Agito, a unison device, whom very effect to Signum.
      • The first and only time Section 6 have a vacation. Erio and Caro stumbled upon Vivio.
    • Vivid:
      • currently Avoided.
    • Force:
      • Thoma happens to be found by Subaru on that fated day when he's the sole survivor of a massacre. Years later he goes on a Journey of Self Discovery, and runs across Lily and Isis.
  • In Haou Airen, the Triad hitman Hakuron is sent to Tokyo twice to deal with the Yakuza. Both times, he saw the female lead Kurumi. The first time, he took a glimpse of her grieving self during her father's funeral; the second, she was the person who saved his life when he was badly injured after he finished the mission but was injured.
  • Ranma ½. Carelessly thrown/dumped water (often with a Lampshade Hanging of "of course nobody will be there"). Koi pond. Thunder Equals Downpour. Convenient trajectories from propulsive attacks. Oh yeah, did I mention his curse is triggered by cold water?


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Most people go their entire life without seeing a crime that would require them to step in to help. No superhero, particularly one who has resolved to give up his cape, can last a day without seeing someone being mugged in an alley, or stumbling across a burning building with a woman screaming for help from a window.
    • Brian Garfield realized this when writing a sequel novel to Death Wish: "Long ago Paul [the Vigilante] had learned not to waste time in fruitless search for felons in the act of committing crimes; the odds were too long. A robbery took place in the city every three minutes... but it was an enormous city and there were three million potential victims".
    • Paul Benjamin, besides using himself as bait, comes up with the idea of shadowing the court houses. After all, criminals often are repeat offenders who have to show up for parole hearings, methadone treatment, etc. So, he tails them from the court house. See page 56 of Death Sentence. Other writers averted this through the use of police scanners; the Spider usually an early version in The Cholera King, while Hero at Large with John Ritter and The Exterminator 2 showed the protagonists using police scanners.
    • Some superheroes, like Batman, don't stumble upon things as often as set out to find them and have all sorts of explained ways of knowing how to do that.
    • This exact point made in the original point was used in Zot!. There's an issue called "Looking for Crime" in which Zot looks all over New York for a crime. The closest he gets to finding one is finding a homeless person stabbed, and even then he didn't witness it.
  • If you are a superhero, then someone you know will be murdered horribly, or develop superpowers, or at least have some slightly odd seemingly innocuous problem that will be intimately connected with a supervillain's latest Evil Plan. If you're lucky, this will be because your enemies know who you are and are targeting them because of the connection. Probably not though.
  • A recent Superman/Batman story featured Jor-El using a probe to take the mind of a human to Krypton, so he could ask what kind of planet Earth was. The human he selected went on to use the advanced technology of the probe as the basis of a great company called Wayne Enterprises.
    • In the very first Batman/Superman crossover, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne happen to take a cruise at the same time and are coincidentally assigned to be roommates. Why Wayne can't afford a single occupancy cabin or, for that matter, his own cruise liner, is unexplained. They are both in the cabin at the same time, changing into costume, when a bright ray of light beams through a port hole, lighting up the room and revealing the two superheroes' identities to each other.
      • And Lois Lane wound up on the same cruise, because a female passenger chickened out at the beginning. Apparently only one person disappeared from the cruise, so Clark couldn't be given his own room.
      • A later comic retcons this story, saying that due to an overbooking error, there are only two rooms to share between Clark, Bruce, and Lois, and obviously Lois isn't going to share a bed with either of them.
        • You'd still think that out of all the passengers on board, the absolute last one the ship's purser would choose to bump or stick with an unwanted roommate is the single richest person on his passenger list. Bruce Wayne could probably buy out any of the cruise line's shareholders out of petty cash -- this should have gotten him a free upgrade to the VIP suite even if he'd bought a steerage ticket, seats at the captain's table, and his own full-time personal steward.
    • In The Silver Age of Comic Books continuity, as well as in the current one, both Superman and his archenemy Lex Luthor spent most of their life in Smallville before moving to Metropolis.
      • That actually does have an in-setting justification: Clark wants to work for one of the most famous newspapers in the world, and Lex wants to dominate one of the greatest business and economic hubs in the world, and both of those are in Metropolis. It's about as much of a coincidence as someone wanting to become a huge success on Wall Street and someone wanting to be ace reporter of the New York Times both ending up in New York.
  • This deliberately happened in Cable and Deadpool. In the wake of House of M, Deadpool was searching for the real Cable trapped somewhere in an alternative timeline. But just as he teleported to the real world with the real Cable, Scarlet Witch had changed the real world into her image, thus the middle aged Cable was transported into a baby (It Makes Sense in Context). And despite everything changing to normal, baby Cable stayed as a baby (but not for long). It was all to being sold as a tie-in to House of M, and apart from some breather issues forward it didn't do much for the plot.
  • Y: The Last Man - The most successful human cloning scientist in the United States happens to be a woman who is the daughter of another scientist who may or may not have wiped out all the men in the world except him and Yorick and he tested on Yorick's monkey, Ampersand, who was probably the reason Yorick survived the Gendercide and Yorick happened to get Ampersand through a shipping error because it was next to the monkey Yorick was supposed to get but didn't because they both escaped and the shipping guys didn't know which was which. There are plenty more, but I'd have to reread the entire series and double the page length to get them all.
    • The latter one isn't as much a coincidence when you realize that, once you grant the existence of the shipping error, someone would have gotten the vaccinated monkey, and they would probably be the last man instead of Yorick.
    • Very few names start with Y, so it's a pretty big coincidence that the only person (in fact, the only mammal) with a Y chromosome after the Gendercide would just happen to have a name that starts with the letter Y.
      • But on the other hand, that's the selective reporting fallacy. M is a much more common initial letter (Mark, Matt, etc.), so if someone with one of those names had got the monkey he would have been "M: the Last Man", which also looks coincidental. Likewise, L (for "last"), V (for "vir", Latin for "man" in the masculine sense, "Homo" means Man in the human sense) and even T (for "testosterone", which he has more of than anyone) are also common initial letters. It doesn't take too much imagination to come up with an epithet that goes with almost any initial letter, so the name thing isn't actually much of a coincidence even though it looks that way.
    • It's also not a huge coincidence that a successful biologist has a father who's also a successful biologist, given that parents often encourage their children to choose the same profession they have, and help them on their way. Which seems to be exactly the case in Y: The Last Man. Since cloning is implied to be both the cause and the solution to the gendercide, it doesn't take a huge leap of faith to accept that the expert they seek to help with the problem is also the daughter of the man who might've caused the problem.
    • However, the fact that at the exact same moment Yorick is proposing to his girlfriend, 355 is carrying an ancient artifact that's prophesied to kill an exorbitant amount of men when it leaves the country it's in, and Dr. Mann and the woman her father impregnated give birth to their clone babies fits this trope rather well.
    • Another is that the last man's mother just happens to be the highest ranking female in the line of succession for President of the United States.
  • Cry for Justice opens with heroes all across the world, all completely independently of each other, deciding to Rage Against the Heavens with "I want justice!" at the exact same time.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, there was a need for a Dimensional Anchor. The item found in Tsuruya's backyard during the events of the seventh light novel? Guess what it is.
  • The story of Caitlin in Hogwarts Exposed is built on Contrived Coincidence. The girl with a ridiculously tragic backstory who Hermione takes pity on just happens to have exceptional magical potential that gets revealed later on and a twenty million Galleon inheritance.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Spider-Man 3: The Venom symbiote just happens to fall out of the sky and land near Peter Parker, and the Sandman just happens to be the guy who killed Uncle Ben.
    • Spider-Man 2 was worse. First, Peter just happened to be crossing the same street and area in which some thugs were escaping from the police that very moment and got his bike destroyed. Next, Peter just happened to walk past some bullies beating up a guy. Then, Peter just happened to cross a house on fire. Notice that he wasn't in his Spider-Man costume in any of those events; he was merely a bystander minding his own business. And that's not even counting the beginning of the movie in which Peter just happened to be present when the accident with Otto's experiment with fusion power happened.
      • That last one is explained: Peter likes to attend scientific demonstrations whenever possible because he's very interested in science. It's how he got bit by a radioactive spider in the first place. And as a member of the Daily Bugle's staff, however junior, he can usually get into any press conference he wants to.
  • Iron Man 2 has a subplot involving Tony Stark's father hiding the blueprints to a new element that, once engineered, turns out to be just the thing Tony needed to not die from his arc reactor.
  • Independence Day has loads of this, being a massive Homage to old Disaster Movie and sci-fi movies, which were also loaded with this. To take just one of the many examples, Will Smith, an astronaut wannabe and the only fighter jock to survive an attack on his base, who has shot down an alien fighter and captured its pilot, just happens to crash nearly in front of a convoy of refugees who happen to be driving in the general vicinity of Area 51, which Will just happened to notice in the middle of a dogfight. Of course, the most contrived coincidence is Jeff Goldblum's Eureka Moment on how to beat the aliens...triggered by his father's admonishment to bundle up to avoid catching a cold...
    • Some of that isn't quite so contrived. Remember that they were dogfighting over a featureless salt flat. The refugee column would be blatantly visible from the air, and Will's character is only exercising common sense in taking the most direct route from the crash site towards the nearest group of people he knows about.
  • Lampshade Hanging in The Great Muppet Caper: When Miss Piggy is stranded and needs to get across town in time to foil a museum heist, a motorcycle just happens to drop off a passing box van, to which she remarks, "What an unbelievable coincidence!"
  • In Star Wars Episode IV, the odds of Luke meeting up with childhood friend Biggs at the Rebel base (as shown in the Special Edition) is next to nothing—as the two characters themselves acknowledge earlier in the film (this part of the footage was not restored). All six films are riddled with bizarre It's a Small World After All (or rather galaxy) moments, starting with the two droids just happening to be brought to the Lars homestead. There's some justification, since "There's no such thing as luck," and KOTOR lampshades the matter by having most Jedi characters interpret the massive coincidences and unlikely happenings coming their way as part of the Will of the Force.

Mission: Wow. What are the chances of that happening?
Canderous: Remember, we're talking about the Force here. At this point, Malak himself could drop out of the sky, and I wouldn't bat an eyelash.
Mission: Good point.

    • It becomes less contrived that the droids wound up with the Lars's when you consider that Leia was coming to Tatooine at the behest of her father to find Obi Wan and when she realized she would be captured; Leia sent R2 to find Obi Wan in her stead. R2 programmed the escape pod to land as close as he could to Obi Wan (whose coordinates he would have been given by Leia) and was headed to find him when the jawas captured him. When you consider that Obi Wan was there to watch and protect Luke should Vader ever come looking, he wouldn't have lived far from the Lars's. The jawas' territory was obviously near the Lars's farm (and therefore, by extension, Obi Wan's abode) and they showed up looking for a translator and an R2 unit. The true contrived coincidence is that the other R2 unit blew up so they took R2.
      • Which the Radio Drama fixes by having R2 sabotage the other R2 unit while standing in line waiting for Owen and Luke to notice him.
        • In a non-canon Star Wars tale, the other droid is in fact Force-sentient, the one and only droid ever to be attuned to the Force. This lets him see that for destiny to work its course, Luke has to get R2-D2, and so he uses his newly found Force power to sacrifice himself for the good of the galaxy!
  • Quite a bit of it goes down in Crash, most conspicuously the car crash scene with the cop and the woman he had molested earlier.
  • In Borat, the titular character falls for Pam Anderson at first sight, but doesn't wish to cheat on his wife. A few hours later, Borat receives a letter telling that his wife is dead. High five!
  • Tokusatsu action film Casshern literally runs on this in almost every single scene, with the broken lightning bolt from a giant mountaintop statue accidentally landing in a scientist's mystical Neo-Cell soup and reanimating a bunch of dismembered body parts into the baddass Shinzo-Ningen...who then just happen to stumble during their escape into the funeral of the scientist's dead war-hero son and kidnap his mother and then just happen to find a giant war factory in the middle of nowhere with an army of robots for them to use...while the scientist resurrects his dead son whose expanded musculature can only be contained by a super-suit coincidentally designed by the scientist dad of his girlfriend... and that's only the beginning! The only excuse this movie has for any of it is its stylized weirdness and the epic, Gotterdammerung-esque tone that hints that, though not explicitly stated, literal Deus Ex Machina may be involved. After all, that was a hell of a convenient lightning bolt.
  • In Vantage Point, watching the Contrived Coincidences come together is half the fun. The other half is figuring out the stinking Gambit Roulette.
  • In The Fifth Element, the taxi Leeloo falls into just happens to be that of the ex-special forces major who was chosen to bring back the four elemental stones.
  • Receives a Lampshade Hanging in George of the Jungle, with the narrator's line, "Every story has a really big coincidence and here's ours..."
  • Music and Lyrics: Alex is a musician and former pop-band singer/songwriter who has been commissioned to write a pop song for a current pop queen, but only ever wrote the music and can't write lyrics. Sophie, the girl who waters his plants, turns out to be a budding lyrical prodigy. What a happy coincidence!
  • Not every nasty turn of events in The Dark Knight Saga can be chalked up to the Joker's work. In particular, there is the moment when Harvey Dent gets half his face neatly burned off, and the same fire renders one side of his trick quarter distinct from the other. This was well after he'd earned the nickname "Two-Face."
    • Also, if that quarter turned up the wrong side when Joker talked Harvey into "introducing a little bit of chaos," the third act of the movie would not have happened.
      • Well, at least there was a 50% chance of that happening.
        • Ah, but that's the genius of the Joker. Had Harvey pulled the trigger, he would have killed the Joker, turning Gotham's White Knight into a killer; if he hadn't, he would have gone on to kill those who've wronged him, also turning him into a killer. In either case, heads or tails, Harvey would end up as a murderer. Joker would, either way, succeed in "Turning Gotham's White Knight and push him down to [my] level." Even if he would die in the process. The Joker actually planned everything from the start.
          • If you look closer, you'd notice that Joker had his thumb on the hammer. Even if he would have pulled the trigger, the gun wouldn't fire.
          • If Harvey had pulled the trigger and the Joker survived, wouldn't Harvey lose faith in the Joker and not become a killer, unless the Joker acted surprised that it didn't kill him.
  • In Lantana the number of coincidences builds up to become a theme. All of the major characters bump into each other randomly.
    • Taken further in the original play, Speaking in Tongues. In the first act, Leon and Jane's tryst takes place simultaneously with Sonja and Pete, and with nearly all the same dialogue. This occurs again when Sonja and Pete confess their near-affair to Leon and Jane only to find that their spouse cheated on them. In later acts, it is revealed that Sarah is having an affair with John behind her therapist/his wife's back, and that Leon, the detective investigating Valerie's disappearance, ran into Sarah's ex-boyfriend while jogging. In the film, Sarah is changed into a male gay patient of Valerie's who she wrongly suspects of having an affair with her husband. The jogger ends up dating Leon's police partner. In addition, Jane lives next door to Nick, who is suspected of Valerie's murder, while Pete was accosted in the street by Valerie the night she died, shortly before meeting Leon and having a drink with him.
  • In Star Trek, no attempt is made to explain the immense improbability of Kirk running into Spock Prime in a cave on the ice planet and thereby getting the exposition he needs to save the day. Even if we assume that both Nero and current Spock dropped their respective people off near the outpost, what are the chances of running into another person within a 14 km radius? They're both going to the same place, but the most likely place for them to encounter each other is near the facility, not in a random ice cave. The Novelization lampshades it by suggesting that the timeline is attempting to restore itself.
    • Then there's the fact that Scotty just happens to have been Reassigned to Antarctica in an outpost a mile away from the cave…
      • The only coincidence is Spock picking the same planet that Scotty happens to be on. Picking the same part of the same planet that Scotty was on is not any coincidence at all -- it's said in-dialogue that Spock deliberately aimed to put Kirk within walking distance of a Federation outpost so that he'd get rescued eventually. He wasn't trying to murder Kirk, after all, just get him out of the way.
    • Also the Enterprise's Chief Medical Officer and Chief Engineer are killed leaving those posts vacant for McCoy and Scotty respectively, Uhura has the specific linguistic knowledge to bump her up to the Communications station and Kirk gets an implausibly rapid promotion from cadet (on probation!) to Starship Captain, all so we can get the classic crew together in their correct places by the end of the film.
  • Legally Blonde gets its ending from one of these. Seriously, the main character wins the case with her knowledge of perms, which was the key to unraveling the alibi of the real murderer. If the killer had had any other hairstyle, or had at least not gotten a perm that day, she'd have gotten off scot-free.
    • You could make that argument of any alibi that falls apart in a suitably dramatic fashion. It seems like it should be its own trope.
  • Run Lola Run is one long Lampshade Hanging, hung on variations on a theme.
  • In Terminator 2, a film which argues that there is no fate but what we make for ourselves, all the main characters just so happen to crash all at once into the one place where the T-1000 might be destroyed.
    • To be fair, they'd spent the entire film crashing into various places where no method of killing the T-1000 existed. They were bound to find themselves near some method of destroying it eventually.
      • Also, if you look closely you'll notice that they deliberately drive towards the steel mill after their car is disabled. Once their ability to outrun the T-1000 is lost they have no choice but to find something that can possibly destroy him, and so they headed straight for the nearest thing within line-of-sight that could qualify. Given that the T-800 has detailed files on the T-1000's construction and an extensive geographical database, its even less of a coincidence than it might otherwise be.
  • In Hackers, a hacker breaks into a massive corporate supercomputer with zillions of files. The directory he picks at random to copy as a "trophy" turns out to be a worm belonging to the villain.
  • Played for laughs in Without a Clue. Holmes' (and Watson's) contrived method of solving the final clue turns out to be true, but the real solution is far simpler. To elaborate: Holmes and Watson read the final clue, a partial serial number (234) as being part of a kidnap victim's code. The victim's favourite book of the bible was the book of Psalms. Psalm 23, verse 4 leads them to a passage that referenced an In-Universe famous play: The Shadow Of Death, which played at a local theatre which was, in fact, where he was being held captive. Of course, 234 was also the address of the theatre, which was what the victim really intended.
  • Brooklyn's Finest has its climax as one of these when all three cops end up in the same area as each other for different reasons. Its still done well though.
  • Jake happens to see and stop a random schoolgirl from being raped in Training Day. Afterwards, she runs off and he takes her wallet to give back to her later. Several hours later, Alonzo betrays Jake by turning him over to some gang bangers. The lead of those gangbangers happens to be the girl's cousin and they discover her wallet seconds before blowing Jake's head off. It's the only thing that saves him.
  • Indiana Jones
    • Subverted in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy finding Marion coincidentally in the first tent he happens to stumble in? Lame. He deciding to leave her there since he can't take her that easily out of the camp? That's a new twist.
    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. As a teenager, Indy used a whip for the first time (giving him his chin scar), gets his fear of snakes, and his signature fedora all in the same day.
  • The Great Dictator: Let's see...there's a random barber who happens to look exactly the same as Adenoid Hynkel, the fascist dictator of Tomania. He happens to be Jewish. And he happens to wake from a coma in which he's been trapped for twenty years, just around the same time that Hynkel is planning on invading Austerlich. Moreover, it turns out that this barber's old war buddy is now a high-ranking member (turned Defector From Decadence) of the fascist party. Oh...and Hynkel just happens to get lost on a fishing trip at exactly the right moment for the barber to take his place.
  • Done in The Truman Show, where the producers' increasing reliance on Contrived Coincidences as desperate attempts to convince Truman everything's normal and stop him from suspecting the sham he's living in backfire spectacularly and only drive him ever more paranoid. The 'return' of his father -- previously thought dead -- is only the most prominent example, but this one also backfires, in that it helps Truman not only see through the artifice he's surrounded with but helps overcome the fear of water that was previously the best method of keeping him there.
  • In Top Secret, this receives a Lampshade Hanging courtesy of the protagonist.

Nick: I'm not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to her childhood lover whom she last saw on a deserted island who then turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground.
Hillary: I know. It all sounds like some bad movie. (Aside Glance)

  • Lampshaded in The Emperors New Groove when Yzma (in cat form) has finally gotten the potion back from Kuzco and is promptly squished by Kronk throwing open the other opening of the chute he had fallen into a good while ago (too long ago to have taken this long, but this movie runs on pure Rule of Funny). His quote—while still oblivious to what he had just done -- "Wow. What are the odds of that trap door leading way out here?"
    • The Emperor's New Groove is full of this trope. Before that, there was Yzma's miraculous survival when she fell off of the top of the palace. For no reason at all, at that very moment, a trampoline had been accidentally delivered to the palace and set up where she was falling.
  • In An American Tail, Fievel gets washed overboard in a raging storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of drowning, he somehow ends up inside a floating glass bottle, which somehow ends up washing ashore right onto Ellis Island, which coincidentally is of course near New York, where Fievel's family was headed. Luck and the ocean currents were definitely on little Fievel's side, apparently.
  • The film Tokyo Godfathers has quite a bit of this, to the point of being a plot point. One of the main characters repeatedly mentions that the baby they've found is a gift from God, and we see many times that she might be what's making everything fall into place so perfectly.
  • Lampshaded in Waynes World when, upon stepping out of an Alice Cooper concert for a moment, they conveniently talk to a security guard who tells them the travel plans of a producer who could help the career of Wayne's girlfriend Cassandra.

Garth: Aren't we lucky we were there to get all that information?
Wayne: Yes. It seemed extraneous at the time.

  • The plot of The Perfect Host kicks off when an escaping bank robber goes into a convenience store to treat his injury. It just happens to get robbed by a completely unrelated criminal, which delays him and gets him noticed by the store clerk. So he talks his way into a nearby house to hide out, the occupant of which just happens to be a lunatic who likes drugging strangers and having all night "dinner parties" with them. And it gets more ridiculous from there. Oh, and the lunatic just happens to be the LAPD Lieutenant assigned to his case. Told ya this film was nutty.
  • The Road to El Dorado: The guy the duo gambles against happens to have a map to El Dorado just as the Spanish Fleet is leaving for South America, the duo happen to wash up right on its shores after days adrift at sea, and a volcanic eruption happens (and cancels itself) just as the duo are asked for proof of their divinity.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Captain Underpants: The Captain had these in a few books. For example, the 4th book The Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, opened with George and Harold having to stay at school during a class trip. For revenge, they rig the teacher's lounge to spray the teachers with glue and Styrofoam pellets, turning them into "snowmen". This leads to the science teacher retiring after seeing them, thinking he's gone nuts. Thus, Professor Poopypants takes up the now-open job of science teacher, leading to the main plot.
    • The aliens attacking the school in the third book use "Zombie Nerd Juice" to turn all the students into zombie nerds. All it takes to change them back is a dose of the conveniently available, lampshaded generously, "Anti-Evil Zombie Nerd Juice".
    • A dandelion happens to grow right outside the window where George pours the "Ultra-Evil Growth Juice" out of. It goes horribly wrong.
    • Subverted for laughs in the 7th book, where the Captain jumps out a window to take flight, unaware that he has lost his superpowers. He falls several stories to the ground, and crashes onto the only patch of ground not covered by extra fluffy pillows, a trampoline, or a haystack.
  • Pick a Charlotte Bronte novel. Any novel.
    • Jane Eyre: When Jane, penniless and homeless, passes out in the middle of a field, it just so happens to be on the property of her long lost cousins. Also, right before she's planning on leaving for India with St. John, she just happens to hallucinate someone calling her name, making her go back to Mr. Rochester and his burnt down house. And we cannot forget the mysterious rich uncle who bequeathed her the money necessary for her to marry Rochester "as an equal".
      • The first Thursday Next novel, The Eyre Affair, does an External Retcon on many of these, revealing that before Thursday's tampering Jane Eyre was a largely contrivance-free book with a Downer Ending.
        • Even The Eyre Affair offers no explanation for the fact that Jane ended up getting taken in by the Rivers family.
      • Jane is not "hallucinating" someone calling her name. In the novel's universe, Rochester is calling Jane mentally. It sounds like a hallucination to modern readers, but in the 1840s many people, even scientists, believed that such a thing could happen.
    • Villette is an even worse offender. British heroine Lucy Snowe goes to work at a school for girls in some French-type country (most likely Belgium), and it so happens to be the school where her god-brother serves as a doctor. Also, her potential romance with Dr. John is stopped abruptly when the woman in France he mysteriously rescues from a burning theatre happens to be the former ward of Dr. John's mother. From England.
    • Let's not forget Shirley, in which Shirley Keeldar's governess also turns out to be Caroline Helstone's mother.
  • Charles Dickens was the Grand Champion of coincidentally plunking long lost relatives together in convoluted plots. In fact, it would probably be easier to list the books of his that don't employ this type of plot twist.
    • David Copperfield: At one point the entire denouement hinges on Mr Micawber a) just happening to be in Canterbury, and b) just happening to walk past the Heeps' door (which is of course c) wide open due to nice weather) on d) the one day - and hour - that David has been invited to tea within. This, in a book that already depends pretty heavily on characters just happening to run into one another, frequently on the streets of London, then as now one of the biggest and busiest urban metropolises in the world.
    • In Martin Chuzzlewit, to wrap things up during the happy ending, Mark Tapley happens to randomly bump into the couple that they left behind as their nextdoor neighbours in the "town" of Eden. This despite the fact that the couple were last seen in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in central USA, and the ending happens in London. (The fact that the woman in the couple is the same woman that Mark befriended on the boat to America was already a coincidence in itself.) With Dickens it's easier just to think of it as a form of Narrative Causality by which his universe ensures that anybody necessary for the plot happens to be exactly where they need to be, even if they're on the wrong continent.
    • Oliver Twist: Oliver is an orphan in a town 75 miles from London who runs away to the big city and falls in with a gang of thieves. Obviously, the mark in the first pickpocketing caper he's involved with turns out to be an old friend of his father's. After getting kidnapped by the crooks, he's forced to get involved in a burglary. This time the victim turns out to be his mother's sister.
    • In Great Expectations, a coincidence that is central to the plot is the fact that Miss Havisham has the same lawyer as Pip's real benefactor, Magwitch the convict. However, for no good reason other than to tie up loose ends, it also turns out that Magwitch's nemesis is the same man who left Miss Havisham at the altar, and that Magwitch is Estella's father.
  • Thomas Hardy did this a lot as well - The dénouement of Tess of the D'Urbervilles required the title character to run into the man who raped her earlier in the book, while yomping across Dorset, in just the state of mind to consider taking up with him again, and, by the way, he's given up being a country gentleman to be an itinerant preacher in the intervening time...
  • In The Dresden Files, this goes hand-in-hand with being a Knight of the Cross. When Michael needs to go out in the evening to help Harry save the day, Father Forthill shows up at his doorstep asking to use the phone because his car has broken down - and, having some previous experience with this sort of thing, immediately guesses that Michael needs a babysitter. When an old women in a desperate situation prays "Dear God in Heaven, help us!" the very next instant Sanya shows up.
    • The RPG (which uses the Fudge spinoff FATE) explicitly has this as a mechanic. Players can spend a Fate Point to make a Declaration, which the book describes as letting one create a convenient coincidence. The examples given are a character having a cigarette lighter right when he needs one despite never smoking, or showing up during a dramatic scene just in time to help out. One of the Faith powers (Guide My Hand) lets a character do this without spending the fate point.
  • Dracula. Dracula's first victim upon his arrival in England happens to be the best friend of the fiance of the solicitor whom he left for dead in Transylvania. Oh, and she's also beloved by three young suitors, all of whose skills come in handy later, and one of whom is the protege of Professor Van Helsing, probably the only man in the Victorian world to instantly recognise a vampire attack and know exactly what to do about it. This helps, as the heroes otherwise seem to be clutching the Idiot Ball throughout the entire book...
  • In Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court the eponymous Yankee's time of execution happens to coincide with a solar eclipse. (Not to even mention that he knew the exact date and time said eclipse would occur despite its status as obscure fourteen-hundred-year-old history.)
    • The real coincidence being that he was the kind of person who would calculate all the solar eclipse dates in the past few millenia for fun... just before getting time warped into the past.
  • The narrator of Betty Miles' The Real Me writes an essay in which she describes such coincidences in the "horse books" girls her age are supposed to love, in which a poor girl who wants a horse conveniently wins one. When the family wonders where they're going to put it, a nice man offers her father a job in the country, and their new house has a big barn out back. You'd expect someone to say "If you expect this whole family to pack up and move fifty miles just because of some damn horse, you're crazy," she says, but "nobody ever says that in horse books".
  • The Wheel of Time actually averts this. Not by there not being coincidences, those happen all the time. Chance events interact across entire books, as well as generations in-story. The main character's birth is shown to depend on a small act of charity around three thousand years beforehand, among other causes. However none of these coincidences are contrived as we see just as many coincidences that are completely insignificant to the plot. All this is explained as the Pattern explicitly making these sorts of things happen taking every life into account for a grander design.
  • Xkcd: As Randal Munroe complains in this comic, the Redwall books often have the main characters discover some hitherto unnoticed riddle somewhere in the titular abbey, the solution to which just happens to provide them with some necessary advantage against the Monster of the Week.
  • Les Misérables has some of the more spectacular Contrived Coincidences in literature. One example: Marius's grandfather is (apparently) the father of two little bastards by his housemaid; he fires her, but pays her a substantial allowance to support them. When they die, to keep from losing her income, she takes in two children about their ages—who just happen to be the two youngest Thenardier kids. And when these two are thrown out onto the streets, who do they take up with? Why, Gavroche... who never uses the name "Thenardier", and who's forgotten that he ever had two younger brothers.
    • Also, Valjean is being pursued by the police through the alleyways of Paris. He climbs over a wall into a convent. And who's that working as the gardener? Why, it's that guy whose life he saved a few chapters ago! (Parisian population at the time: over 600,000...)
    • Another spectacular example: The Thenardiers lure a wealthy man into their home, first to beg for money, later to extract it from him. This man is Jean Valjean, his adopted daughter is Cosette, who has lived with the Thenardiers before. Their neighbour is Marius, who fell in love with Cosette after watching her on the streets of Paris, and whose father was saved by Thenardier at the Battle of Waterloo. When Marius informs the police of the plot, he meets Inspector Javert, who is pursuing Jean Valjean. Additionally, this all happens in exactly the same house Jean Valjean and Cosette had lived in years ago.
    • Also, there's the two incidents Valjean using his great strength to save two separate men, who are trapped in similar accidents. Both incidents are witnessed by Javert, decades apart.
  • The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy pokes fun at this a lot. Most famously, when Douglas Adams had his main characters thrown out an airlock into space, he realised anything that saved their lives at this point would be a Contrived Coincidence. Rather than Hand Wave this, he gave it the biggest Lampshade Hanging he could think of, by inventing a space drive that creates Contrived Coincidences as a side-effect of its nonsensoleum.
    • And let's not forget that the space ship in question just happens to contain not only Arthur's old almost-lover, who by coincidence was originally introduced to him at a party in an Islington flat that had the same phone number as the probability of them being saved, but it is also piloted by Prefect's long-lost cousin, who JUST SO HAPPENED to be the guy who blew up the Earth because of his astounding negligence.
      • Eddie calculated the odds of the above actually happening to be one in two to the power of infinity minus one. When DNA contrives coincidences he takes the cake... and makes the Total Perspective Vortex out of it.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Guards! Guards!, it is stated that a chance of one in a million holds true in nine of ten cases. This "universal truth" is later used by a bunch of people in a (failed) attempt to slay a dragon.
    • And then totally accidentally, when it's a million-to-one chance that they won't die in the ensuing chaos. Naturally, they're fine.
    • Rincewind's entire life is one Contrived Coincidence after another. Of course this is explained as the interference of Luck The Lady herself.
    • In fact, the entire plot of Interesting Times is explained away as a battle between the personifications of Luck and Fate.
    • In Maskerade, the supposedly foreign Enrico Basilica announces on stage that he is returning to his Morporkian birth-name of Henry Slug. A woman in the audience, who has never attended the opera before and probably never will again, is present to recognise the name of her long-lost beau. Agnes refuses to believe this sort of thing happens, but Nanny Ogg points out reality is currently conforming to the rules of opera, where it happens all the time.
    • In Jingo, it looks as though Vimes is about to become a victim on 'friendly fire' when he comes face-to-face with one of the few men in the city who'd recognise him instantly his own butler.
  • In the Young Wizards series this is both Lampshaded and justified by the phrase "There's no such thing as coincidence", meaning that the Powers That Be and/or God set things up so they'd happen that way. One example is the fact that whenever Nita and Kit go on anything resembling a vacation, whatever their destination is just happens to be the exact place they need to be in order to fight the Lone Power.
    • In the books, this is known as a "Wizard's Holiday". Sounds like it happens pretty often, for it to get a name.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs (who created Tarzan, among other things) is another classic example; he was particularly fond of having separated characters be unexpectedly reunited while lost in the middle of thousands of square kilometers of jungle, ocean, and/or trackless wasteland.
    • A non-Tarzan example is Burroughs' At the Earth's Core. The Marty Stu main character, after coming to the inner world of Pellucidar immediately meets a beautiful girl who happens to be a princess, an old man who happens to be a king, and soon after a young man who happens to be yet another king. Needless to say, he will need the help of all these royals and their kingdoms later in the story.
    • In Gods of Mars, John Carter is talking to a fellow prisoner, who speaks of his father. When John Carter asks who is his father is, he gets to "My father is -- " before they are interrupted. So they get to escape before a third companion calls Carter by name, to get the reaction, "I am his son."
    • A Tarzan example is Tarzan's cousin of all people being marooned on the African coast.
  • The heroes of SM Stirling's Emberverse novels at first appear to be the beneficiaries of a whole honking string of these, but it gradually becomes clear they are getting very powerful behind-the-scenes help from somewhere.
  • A particularly Egregious case of this trope occurs towards the end of A Clockwork Orange in which the brainwashed and rehabilitated ex-hoodlum Alex just so happens to bump into every single person he ever wronged throughout the course of the book, all within in the same evening. The consequences were dire.
  • Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood features an end-of-the-world scenario where Blanco, the mafioso who raped Toby, just happens to survive multiple rounds of prison gladiatorial combat, kills everyone in Ren's workplace, and ends up surviving an apocalypse which happens to kill 99.99 percent of humanity, only to be finally found and poisoned by Toby.
  • Lampshaded in several Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey stories, in which Peter discusses with an author the annoying fact that coincidences look contrived in stories, even though they happen all the time in real life.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Vor Game Miles just happens to get tossed into a jail cell several light years from home with his runaway emperor, later runs into a former Barrayaran general, that he had caused to be cashiered from the service. She then lampshades all the coincidences when Miles runs into yet another old friend, and responds to their surprised "What are you doing here?" with "Somehow, I figured that might be your first question."
    • Actually, the brilliance is that while it looks like the worst coincidence ever its actually not. If you look at the astrographic map, the space station that Miles and Gregor both end up arrested on is on the only route leading away from the Komarr nexus junction[1] that doesn't lead back towards Barrayaran space (where the runaway Gregor is trying to get away from), Escobaran space (which was recently at war with Barrayar), or Cetagandan space (which is at war with Barrayar, however covertly). So Gregor pretty much has to take the jump route out to Pol when leaving Komarr, as all the other ones will lead to his immediate 'recapture'... and the Pol route is where Miles was assigned. The only coincidence is that they both end up arrested on the same space station -- except that between Gregor's total lack of experience at dealing with life outside the Imperial bubble, and Miles being a world-class trouble magnet, both of them ending up in the drunk tank in Jacksonian space, an area known for infamously brutal and corrupt law enforcement, is pretty much a foregone conclusion. And said space station was the first stop on the Pol-Vervain area jump route in Jacksonian jurisdiction (the prior legs of the journey being notably less trouble-prone).
    • Likewise, General Metzov's being there is actually a probable conclusion. Having been cashiered from the Barrayaran Imperial Service for brutality, he is going to need a new job -- but virtually no one will want to give him one because the Barrayaran normal reputation of brutality is still pretty dire, so actually being court-martialed out of its military for brutality is taken by most people as proof positive that someone is a Complete Monster. Which to be fair, Metzov kinda is. Going straight to the nearest impending war zone (i.e., the Pol-Vervain area, where all the other main characters are already going precisely because it is the impending crisis zone) and signing on with the single least ethical group of mercenaries he can find there (who are of course the villains that our hero will be investigating first, because they are the worst people involved) is Metzov's most logical course of action to find paying work, so of course he does exactly that.
  • Quite a lot of straight romance novels may be use this as well. After all, what are the chances of any two random people meeting and falling in love with each other at first sight?
  • In George Eliot's Middlemarch, Bulstrode turns out to be Will Ladislaw's step-grandfather. This, together with the way in which Raffles tracks down Bulstrode in the first place, is quite a large coincidence. Raffles's surprise on his discovery acknowledges that it's a coincidence, but Bulstrode's relationship to Ladislaw is glossed over. How did Bulstrode come to be living in the same area as Will, when one would have thought he'd want to avoid any association? A relatively subtle example by 19th-century standards, though, and nothing on Dickens.
  • Tom Clancy's novels enjoy this. Pretty much any Jack Ryan novel features some coincidental happening that forces Ryan to play some greater role than his job actual requires, often leading to him saving the day. It started small in The Hunt for Red October, with a helicopter carrying a pair of CIA operatives being lost in a storm, resulting in Ryan being flown out to supervise the "rescue" of a Soviet submarine despite his not speaking a word of Russian, and finally culminated in Debt of Honor when the President, the Supreme Court and most of Congress is killed by a pilot who'd managed to steal and pilot a 747 across the Pacific Ocean and the continental United States by himself to crash it into the Capitol, all moments after Ryan is confirmed as Vice President.
    • The coincidence in Red October is less contrived than most. We see Ryan's own flight to the carrier battlegroup only a day before having to fly through extremely rough weather to get there, so flight conditions in the area being marginal is something already established by the time the reinforcements in the second helicopter end up crashing in a storm.
  • A few in Remote Man but only one is all that implausible: The protagonist Ned runs into an American tourist while staying with his aunt and uncle in the Northern Territory. After joining his mother in Concord, Massachusetts on her long service leave, he stumbles onto a wildlife smuggling operation being run by the same tourist, whose son is incarcerated in Concord Prison.
  • Millennium Falcon by James Luceno has way too many to preserve willing suspension of disbelief. The heroes decide to figure out the ship's history just as one of its previous pilots regains conscience after a 60-year-long coma. Said pilot starts out from a medical facility one of whose members just so happens to have piloted the Falcon in the past as well. The pilot, the heroes and the mastermind behind the whole thing just so happen to be in the same city of the same planet at the same time. Then they finally get to their target planet right as it's about to blow up.
  • In the Jack Reacher novel The Killing Floor, Reacher just happens to wander into the same town that his brother, who he hasn't spoken to in years, is murdered in just before his arrival.
  • In Harry Potter, a servant of Voldemort looking for his master just so happens to meet with the only person in the world who can give the location of another, much more capable servant.
    • The plot of Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban kicks off because 1) The Weasley's win the wizard lottery, 2) This gets them a large front-page picture, 3) Ron's pet rat is in said picture, and 4) Cornelius Fudge just happens to be carrying this exact issue when he goes to visit Sirius Black. Of course, the only reason the entire series doesn't end with that novel is that the climax happens to take place on a night with a full moon.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron, and Hermione save a group of people kidnapped by Snatchers. There just happens to be a goblin in that group (the same goblin Harry met on his first day at Gringotts, no less), which makes it very convenient when they need to figure out how to break into Gringotts.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Thoth-amon was enslaved because of the loss of his Ring of Power, which just happens to turn up in the hand of a noble he is guarding.
  • Lampshaded in The Avenging Chance: At the beginning, Sheringham mentions how many mysteries are solved by such a coincidence, as if chance itself were avenging the victim. The case is ultimately solved by such an event.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Phaethon ponders whether a meeting is coincidence or arranged by the Earthmind, an AI with a trillion times the brain power of a human such as himself.
    • Subverted, in that later events show that it was anything but a coincidence. Earthmind did indeed set the whole thing up. Also, the concept of 'meeting' a distributed AI intelligence who is essentially your planet's entire data network is a tad hard to work with, given that its literally everywhere.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Mab thinks that Father Christmas being nearby in a mall so they can take refuge is an enormous coincidence. Miranda argues it would only be if they were looking for Father Christmas; instead, they were looking for somewhere, anywhere, safe, and it just happened to be Father Christmas who could swing it.
  • Lampshaded in Malevil. Emmanuel is stunned by the unlikelihood of the following events: Vilmain's men take La Roque the night before he planned to, they would have walked into a trap the next night when attempting it themselves. The only reason they don't is because of the scouts caught investigating Malevil in the morning; Emmanuel breaks his own orders and captures one rather then killing him, and the scout turns out to be a friend who wants to defect and warns them of their new enemies.

"Realizing that your life depends on such absurd coincidences, that's something that makes for modesty".

  • In The Merchant Princes Series, Miriam's ex-boyfriend is a DEA agent. Given that fact, it's not a coincidence that he was pulled in by The Men in Black to hunt down the Clan (any government agent of any kind would do), but it is a huge coincidence that he's the guy Matthias defected to, spilling the whole story about the Clan itself.
  • The Adventures of Blue Avenger by Norma Howe argues that this trope falls under Reality Is Unrealistic. Unlikely coincidences happen all the time, and Million-to-One Chance events are pretty common in a world with nearly seven billion people. So here comes one...
  • In Dune, House Atreides and all its retainers are scattered to the winds all across the planet Arrakis, and some even father, after the family is attacked by the Harkonnens. Two years later, Paul spots a smugglers' ship and sets a trap for it...and this just so happens to be the same group of smugglers that his mentor Gurney Halleck fell in with after the attack, and he's on that very ship.
    • This is Paul Atreides though, so he could easily have created the coincidence on purpose.
    • For a more prosaic cause, Gurney will still be on Arrakis years later because the people wants vengeance against are there, he will be with the smugglers because there is nowhere else he could practicably hide, he will still be alive fifteen years later because he's one of the toughest badasses in known space and as one of Duke Leto's seniormost special forces officers he has training and experience vastly superior to any normal smuggler's, and it will be his group of smugglers that gets caught by the Fremen first because Paul first went after the ones who'd penetrated deepest into Fremen territory (logically enough). And the smugglers doing that are of course going to be the band captained by the smuggler chieftain who is simultaneously one of the boldest and most competent -- i.e., Gurney Halleck -- but who is not an Arrakeen native because the ones who grew up here never screw with the Fremen regardless of how bold they are, because they know those guys -- IOW, Gurney Halleck.
  • After several days of fruitless searching in the Knight and Rogue Series Fisk points to a stable boy and says they may as well ask him for all the good it would do, and the boy just happens to be the only person in town with information they can use.
  • Flashman and the Angel of the Lord requires Flashman to join John Brown on his famous raid. The only way this could be arranged is so contrived that Flash himself points it out; "I'd not have been a within a thousand miles of Harper's Ferry, or blaster Brown, but for the ghastliest series of mischances: three hellish coincidences-three mark you!-that even Dickens wouldn't have dared use for fear of being hooted at in the street.
  • Subverted in The Robots of Dawn. Baley states that it is an amazing coincidence that Daneel was ready in time to be critical for The Caves of Steel case. Dr. Fastolfe remarks there must have been many occasions where he would have been useful, but without him, other means have been found.
  • In Time Scout, paradox doesn't happen. Period. Don't even try. Because something will happen to make it not happen.
  • Similarly, in To Say Nothing of the Dog, the space-time continuum will pick causality over plausibility any day. Erm, any time. Erm, always.
  • In Rule of Four, the four leads try to relax a little before graduation at Princeton by playing laser tag in the underground steam tunnels. When they are cornered by campus cops, they escape by joining a public naked party celebrating the first snowstorm of the year. Graduation is in May, and it would be one hell of a dry winter if the first New Jersey snow fell in May.
  • Gene Wolfe's Soldier of Sidon is the sequel to Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete. The first two novels are supposedly translated into English by Wolfe from ancient Greek scrolls found in the British Museum. The third volume is said to be a translation of another scroll, found hundreds of miles away in Egypt, which coincidentally turned out to have the same author.
  • A Little Princess: well, it is by a Victorian novelist: the old gent who moves in next door turns out to be looking for a particular young lady who is due to inherit a great deal of money. Since the 'Indian Gentleman' is not even sure which CITY the little girl was sent to school in, it's somewhat serendipitous that he happens to move in next door from the right girl.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Angel goes to the orphanage to track down the clothing left with Freckles, to find she's just in time to have missed it; his aunt and uncle have just taken them in their despair, and are just about to leave America for Ireland, being unable to find their nephew.
  • In Beastly, Kyle just happens to meet Lindsy, the girl who would break his curse, on the same night he was cursed. He also just happened to give her a rose corsage, which was the only thing that convinced Kendra to give him a chance to break the curse at all. At the end of the book, there's one that's also a Shout-Out to Jane Eyre, when Kyle hears Lindsy screaming for help through the magic mirror, giving him enough warning to find and rescue her from a kidnapper. This happens the last night in his time period to break the curse and happens to be the event that leads to the curse being broken.
  • Actually used in-universe in the second book of The Hunger Games. The Capitol claims that the rules for the special edition of the titular games were written seventy-five years ago. And gosh, wouldn't you know it, this years rules make it so the person who's been giving them so much trouble has to go into the arena. What. Are. The. Odds.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Many episodes of Monk rely on a Contrived Coincidence to help Monk solve a case, which sometimes results in a Eureka Moment. For example, in the episode "Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame," Monk discovers the killer's identity only because a TV playing a commercial that featured the killer happened to be on while Monk was questioning a suspect.
  • Almost every episode of House involves an unlikely occurrence at just the right moment for House to realise the solution to his case. For example, in "Here Kitty" he diagnoses his patient with Cushing's. Just before she is about to undergo surgery, the cat she claims predicted her death enters the room and jumps onto House's laptop. This causes him to realise how the cat 'predicted' deaths. She was just trying to keep warm by lying on patients that were feverish or had a heating blanket, making it seem as if she 'knew' they were going to die. In turn, this causes him to figure out that his patient does not have Cushing's, but cancer of the appendix. Another such occurrence is in "Clueless" when he reveals to a clinic patient's wife that her husband is cheating on her and she throws her gold wedding ring down onto the floor. This prompts House to realise that his main patient was being poisoned by his wife with gold sodium thiamilate.
    • This trope is beautifully lampshaded in the episode '5 to 9' where Cuddy asks House what he's going to do if his latest theory doesn't pan out. House responds with "Go talk to Wilson about something completely unrelated and see what happens."
  • Subverted and/or lampshaded in Life On Mars. In both versions of the show, the heavy-drinking Gene is shot—but it turns out he's okay because the bullet hit the flask he keeps in his jacket pocket. "What are the odds of THAT," one of the characters asks; Gene, pulling flasks from several other pockets, says "Pretty good, actually."
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Quarantine" features a man-made virus which temporarily gives the "infectee" insane amounts of luck, eventually leading to the use of a rapid string of Contrived Coincidences to save the day.
  • It sure was lucky that the Farscape crew happened to land on Earth just when Hallowe'en came around, so they could (nearly) get away with being aliens on an earth which had only seen the first Star Trek.
  • In Tokusatsu Kamen Rider Den-O, the Transformation Trinket that Ryoutaro receives in episode one has four coloured buttons, each corresponding to one of his four forms. This despite the fact that he only has one form at the beginning, and the monsters he goes on to make contracts with for his remaining forms just happen to have the same colour schemes as the remaining buttons. You'd think it wouldn't really matter, but on some forums, you'd be deadly wrong.
    • Possibly justified; the Imagin (as the monsters are called) take every aspect of their new bodies from the mind of the person they bind themselves to. It's possible they found thoughts of the Den-O belt and simply used the colors of the buttons to determine the main colors for their bodies.
      • This does not explain Kintaros, whose body is primarily yellow, as he first possessed a different man, one who's desire was to be a karate champion.
  • On Heroes, mainly during the first season, the main characters -who mostly lived in different parts of the USA- ran into each other several times, mostly by sheer coincidence. The worst example was when Hiro, Nathan and Sylar ALL HAPPENED TO STOP TO EAT AT THE SAME ROADSIDE DINNER AT THE SAME TIME. Though there has been talk about some characters having a "destiny" in the series, it has not been proven yet. (In fact, history has been changed at least twice.)
    • Two different diners: Hiro meets Nathan in one after seeing him land outside. Then Hiro and Ando stop at the one in Texas, where Sylar kills Charlie.
    • In Season 2, this trope is brought into contrast, as a guy asks the girl he's dating if he is meant to believe that the fact that her father once abducted him as a boy and now she's going out with him is just a coincidence. Also probably the only time the word "coincidence" is used in the show.
    • In Season 3, Sylar is ambushed by a paramilitary group in his father's home. He takes a member of the paramilitary group that tried to capture him to a nearby house, to do the whole torture others the guy cracks routine. This house, which Sylar picked at random, just happened to house a local boy who had superpowers of his own AND who knows where Sylar's father is AND who wants to go on a roadtrip with him.
    • Mohinder's cab in Season 1. Seriously, it must be the only taxi in New York or something, because whenever a character hails a cab, there he is.
  • In the first episode of The Tick (animation)'s live action show, The Red Scare, a communist assassin robot built in 1979 and programmed to hunt down and kill Jimmy Carter, is deployed in The City by a group of neo-commies who were trying to reprogram it to kill the postmaster general. Unfortunately, The Tick and Arthur foil them and accidentally activate the robot before the commies could reprogram it. Upon interrogating the communists and learning the latter, Arthur suddenly notices the title of that day's local newspaper. I'll give you three guesses as to what it says, and the latter two do not count.

The Tick: Jimmy Carter is in town? Heavens to Betsy, what are the odds?!

  • On Lost, pretty much all of the passengers of flight 815 have unknowingly crossed paths before meeting on the plane, to the extent that the series also falls into the One Degree of Separation trope. For instance, only in season 3 we find out that Claire and Jack are half siblings; this remains unbeknownst to Claire until her supposed death, while Jack finds out only in S4. These past connections eventually end up looking slightly less contrived now that it's clearly stated that one of the main themes of the show is "destiny".
    • The trope in this case would be subverted. At first it seemed like the writers were just throwing in little connections to please fans, but as of season six it is pretty obvious the fact they have all crossed paths is an important aspect of the show, and it may not be fate that brought them to the island in the first place.
  • Lampshaded in a fourth-season episode of The OC, where Ryan and Taylor are trapped in an alternate reality. When the two have to split up, Taylor assures Ryan that since it's an alternate reality, they'll "just find each other". Sure enough, they do.
  • In the first season of 24, Jack Bauer and his annoying daughter wind up in apparently separate dangerous circumstances. Because this was the Big Bad intentionally targeting Jack and his family for revenge, this turns out not to be a case of Contrived Coincidence, and the lack of same makes it seem like rather clever plotting. However, in the second season, Jack and his daughter wind up in completely unrelated dangerous circumstances on the same day, apparently because the writers decided not to mess with a successful formula but couldn't be bothered to make it seem remotely plausible. It culminated in the Trope Namer Trapped by Mountain Lions.
    • In season 6, Morris O'Brien (CTU analyst Chloe O'Brien's ex-husband, and a major character) is identified as one of the handful of people in Los Angeles who are capable of assembling and arming a nuclear bomb, which is a perfect justification for the Big Bad Fayed to kidnap and coerce him into doing the same thing for a terrorist device.
  • On Doctor Who, the Doctor and Donna investigating in the same building simultaneously, questioning workers in the same office at the same time, using the same printer, running down parallel streets and parking their transports in the same street without ever seeing the other is portrayed as pure coincidence.
    • That is until "Journey's End" went and blamed it all on fate via the Timey-Wimey Ball and one rebellious Dalek.
    • A repeated Missed Him by That Much may have been a Contrived Coincidence, but Donna was intentionally investigating weirdness in hopes of finding the Doctor. Given how much he likes modern Earth, and England in particular, it's not all that much of a coincidence that she would eventually find him.
    • "The End of Time" takes it even further, suggesting that even meeting Donna to begin with might have been simply to put the Tenth Doctor in contact with her grandfather Wilfred, who is destined to cause his death.
    • Then again, the setup for almost every Doctor Who episode seems like a contrived coincidence. It seems that the TARDIS can't land anywhere that some sort of galactic peril isn't unfolding.
      • It's likely that the TARDIS is doing that itself.
        • Now confirmed, when the TARDIS matrix was temporarily put in a living body.
      • The Doctor has stated he "skips the boring ones."
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm practically runs on this—each and every episode will have a good four or five subplots, which inevitably come together at the end to totally and completely screw Larry over. Sometimes it's not that out there, but nine out of ten times the end of an episode is this trope at work.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of CSI when the killer, a bitter TV actress, sarcastically suggests how the "hypothetical" murderer could have pulled off her crime, which ends up evolving into an increasingly convoluted, soap opera-ish plot. When Brass interrupts to snark about how much of a Contrived Coincidence one development in her scenario is, her response is, "that's alright, you're allowed to have one per episode."
  • In How I Met Your Mother, this specific coincidence shows no significant plot relevance YET, but: What are the chances that the mother forgets her yellow umbrella at a party, and then Ted happens to take that umbrella, only for him in later years to briefly date a girl, who happens to be the mother's roommate, and, coincidentally, the time when Ted goes to that girl's apartment it was raining, and Ted happened to be using the yellow umbrella and conveniently forgetting the umbrella at the apartment, where the mother resides?! SERIOUSLY?!? Out of all of the women he dated and the rainy days, he happens to forget the umbrella at his ex-girlfriend's apartment who happens to be roommates with the original owner of the umbrella.
  • Happened all the time in Seinfeld (usually for comedic effect).
  • Prison Break is full of this, with things only getting more contrived as the show goes on. For instance, the premise of the show is that Lincoln Burrows has been framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother. Fortunately for him, his brother Michael happens to be a structural engineer, and happens to work for the company that designed the prison he is sentenced to. Furthermore, the firm designed the prison in a shady under the table deal, and due to family circumstances Lincoln and Michael have different surnames, thus ensuring that few other people know these things. Thus allowing Michael to put in place a complicated plan to free Lincoln that involves getting himself thrown in the same prison (which itself borders on this trope, though there are Hand Waves). And that's just the start...
  • The "Chicago Holiday" two-parter from the first season of Due South. Detective Ray Vecchio is trying to track down the contact list of a murdered mobster - which is written inside a book of matches. The matchbook is passed from a mob enforcer (who subsequently loses it) to several random bystanders who either throw it away or give it to someone else, and eventually winds up in the hands of the mobster's girlfriend, who then gives it to a high-ranking Canadian diplomat's daughter - who just so happens to be under protection from Fraser (Ray's partner and the main character of the show).


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]


Radio[edit | hide]

  • In The BBC's science fiction drama Earthsearch there's an episode where the four-person crew of the starship involved in the titular search defeat an evil robot that tried to take over. Having done so they decide it's time to set course for their next destination, but it turns out that they don't have to, because out of all the infinite directions it could have chosen the evil robot randomly selected the very course they wanted to take.
    • In another episode, somewhere in the vastness of interstellar space they just happen to accidentally run into one of the only two other ships in the fleet, just so they can have an adventure on board.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Older Than Steam: The Bard is not immune to this.
    • There's no reason at all that Romeo didn't get the message about Juliet's sleeping potion, except to make the story a "tragedy" in the loosest sense of the word. (There's an explanation, involving a plague outbreak and a quarantine, but it's still a contrived coincidence that the quarantine happens at that particular time.) Arthur Laurents, librettist of West Side Story, was very proud of inventing a more compelling reason the message was lost, as Tony's gang very nearly rapes the messenger.
    • The Comedy of Errors requires unimaginable coincidences, as do most of Shakespeare's comedies.
    • In The Taming of the Shrew, Bianca's many suitors need someone brave enough to marry the shrewish Katherine so that Bianca will be eligible for marriage. Just about when they decide that, in rides Petruchio, who thinks that a beautiful, rich wife sounds fantastic, and finds the idea of "taming" her to be thrilling.
    • In Othello, Iago's wife doesn't see fit to tell Othello what a scoundrel her husband is until after he murders Desdemona.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Final Fantasy V. The party needs to cross the ocean. They just so happen to find a cavern used by pirates. They try to steal the ship, and it just so happens that Faris, the goofy male pirate with pink hair, is pink-haired princess Lenna's long lost sister Sarisa. Which is great timing since Faris needs to be around to watch her father die and give her a motive to save the world.
  • Final Fantasy VI. The player party needs to get across the ocean, but ships are too tightly watched by The Empire for them to go by sea. The following series of coincidences allows them to make the trip:
    • The only airship in the world is held by a Sky Pirate named Setzer, who has a thing for an opera soprano named Maria.
    • Maria is supposed to be playing in an opera just near the party's current location.
    • Maria is afraid of being kidnapped by Setzer, and therefore won't play. However, party-member Celes resembles her closely enough to take her place.
    • Celes is a proficient enough musician to convincingly pass for a world-renowned soprano after at most a few days of rehearsal, despite being an 18-year-old ex-general.
  • Final Fantasy VII. Cloud, a former comrade of Sephiroth (who becomes the Big Bad), meets Aeris, who is the last survivor of her race (and just so happens to be the only one able of stopping Sephiroth) and who just happens to be Zack's ex-girlfriend, who was another comrade of Cloud and Sephiroth, and Cloud & Zack were experimented on (as adults) by Hojo in the basement of a mansion in Cloud's childhood hometown, and Hojo turns out to be Sephiroth's father...
    • Crisis Core takes it to a whole new level, with Zack Fair actually meeting many characters seen in the original game, including some of the playable characters who join Cloud's party, with the exception of Red XIII, Barret and the sleeping Vincent Valentine. Why none of them remember seeing a guy with the same haircut as Cloud carrying the exact same sword…
    • Before Crisis is even worse than Crisis Core, with the player Turk encountering virtually everyone in the original game (including Cid, Red XIII, Barret, and Vincent) as well as Zack.
  • Final Fantasy VIII. Right around the time that Squall and Rinoa are apparently lost and drifting in space forever...a giant disused space ship floats by. Sure they have to clean out the monsters before they can use it, but it's apparently still got useable oxygen and enough fuel to fly it back to Esthar. And apparently both Squall and Selphie (as well as Zell and Quistis) can pilot it perfectly!
  • In God of War II, it would appear that every hero in Greece scheduled an appointment with the Fates the same day Kratos did.
    • Justified in at least one case (Theseus serves the Fates, so would be around most of the time), and possibly justified in the others if you think of the Fates as being sort of "outside of time."
    • Or it could be the Fates are throwing people into his path to stop him.
      • It was actively stated that The Fates freed the Barbarian King from Hades to stop Kratos, Perseus had been trapped in that small room for an indefinite amount of time, and the last Spartan would have set off roughly the same time as Kratos. The only real coincidence is Icarus, and even he looks like he spent so long on that ledge he went mad.
      • So you could say.. They were FATED to be there! ...YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.
  • Regal from Tales of Symphonia manages to keep his true identity secret for almost half of an entire disc. Yes, he emphasizes his role as a criminal to hide it, but the secret would have been revealed if anyone ever mentioned him (and he's well known) using both his first and last name.
    • It helps that he never actually says his full name (before The Reveal)... and that the one person who figured it out (Zelos) decided not to call attention to it.
  • Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney and its sequels run on these. Almost all the cases would be unwinnable if it weren't for at least one witness being in the right place at the right time. Any specific example would be woefully spoileriffic, though.
    • Still, here's a particularly Egregious one: a ringmaster goes to meet with someone, instead of his daughter. He just so happens to borrow your defendant's cloak. The murder drops what just so happens to be a golden bust of your client on the ringmaster, killing him. The bust just so happens to snag on the cloak when he pulls it up, and to a witness from exactly the right spot, it looks like your client is flying away from the corpse.
      • Note that everyone realizes just how much of a Contrived Coincidence each act is, and even when the evidence supports the theory, actively rebel against anyone accepting it as the truth. In the case of the above spoiler, Phoenix himself acknowledges that it's incredibly unlikely and damn near impossible, and, in his words, "But that's exactly what happened." This happens all the time.
    • The plot arcs of each game have a few coincidences, but are usually explained as the long-term plans of people involved with the cases. Not so with the events of Investigations. It seems that when Edgeworth was first starting out as a prosecutor several years ago, he got involved in an incident involving a smuggling ring. Cut to the present day, where he ends up investigating three crimes that are all in some way related to the group. None of them are directly related to each other. His presence for all three is pure coincidence. And this happens over a period of two days.
  • EarthBound has a number of these, usually played tongue-in-cheek. The most flagrant example? After the Moonside segment, you receive a phone call from Apple Kid, who tells you that he is sending you his latest invention: a yogurt machine that, as of now, can only make trout-flavored yogurt. Then you are approached by a monkey who lives in a cave in the desert, whose master wants to meet you. Then a delivery man says that he brought the yogurt machine, but lost it in a cave out in the desert. (Yes, the same one.) And then one of the maids from the building you've been trying to enter all this time asks if you could bring her some trout-flavored yogurt. And all of this happens in immediate succession.
  • The scene early in Kira Kira where Tonoya gives concert tickets to Kirari and Shika, thereby putting the plot in motion. When Shika is being interviewed later on in the game, both he and the interviewer lambaste the event, claiming that things like that just don't happen in real life.
  • The Half-Life series is brimming with this trope, from fortuitous weapons acquired immediately before they would be most useful to people and indeed entire organisations functioning almost entirely to benefit the player. This is even used as a pervasive story element, as the almost omnipresent GMan is shown to manipulate things both important and seemingly inconsequential for his own purposes, blurring the line between coincidence and intent and further emphasising Gordon's complete lack of control. Need to get somewhere but rubble just fell and is blocking your way? It's all good, because nearby there will happen to be a hole in the wall/an underground tunnel/junk usable as stairs/broken prison bars that lets you get to exactly where you need to go. In fact, it's more likely that what was behind the rubble that fell wasn't where you needed to go.
    • Portal 2, a non-plot critical example: In the finale, Chell is knocked flat on her back and dazed by an explosion which exposes the moon through the ceiling. Chell fires a random portal at it, which happens to hit within yards of an Apollo Program landing site.
  • Done especially badly in Homeworld 2. In order to acquire the MacGuffin you need a Precursor Dreadnought - very powerful, very well hidden and ostensibly unique spaceship. It takes aid and and self-sacrifice of the last remnant of an ancient alien race to liberate the thing from the Goddamn Bats and put it back into shape. Just as you wipe you forehead and proceed to get you prise you receive an out-of-the-blue message in casual, nonchalant tone: "There is another Dreadnought...and Makaan has it." Well, isn't that a surprise, I ask you?!
  • The Nasuverse is full of this. Take Fate Stay Night. Most of the Masters in the war attend the same school. Caster just happens to find someone in a forest, at night, in the rain, who will form a contract for no reason. The unwanted girl Zouken adopts (Sakura) just happens to have an elemental affinity that allows her to channel Angra Mainyu's power and be corrupted by it (plus the extreme mental strength necessary not to have broken long ago). The child Kiritsugu adopts happens to have an awesome Reality Marble that allows him to fight against servants.
    • Or Tsukihime. Shiki has amnesia, and doesn't remember he's a from a line of people specializing in killing the supernatural. He was adopted by people who are, go figure, supernatural. He happens to run into (and kill) a True Ancestor. His classmate (who loves him) is turned into a vampire by his forgotten brother, SHIKI. Possibly a Justified Trope; in that in one side-story, That One Guy comments on how Shiki gives off this "vibe" that repels normal people who are afraid of death.
    • Though some of Contrived Coincidences in Fate Stay Night are justified. Shirou is capable of using his reality marble as an after-effect of surviving that fire and having gotten Avalon implanted inside of him (so it's Kiritsugu's fault; it's also worth saying that it's specifically because of the trauma of that day). And it's not completely by chance that Kiritsugu had found him, because he was looking for survivors, and pretty desperately at that. Granted, he had a number of magic circuits above average humans, but that's not that unlikely to happen. Medea had found a master because she was searching for one, and it's merely unlikely, and not near impossible, to find one for any servant if he/she really wishes to do it (though it's worth noting that the fact she had met a person as unique as Kuzuki is a Contrived Coincidence in itself). Sakura wasn't as much "adopted" by Zouken, but bought by him, and her original affinity really didn't matter that much in controlling the grail. The affinity that did help her with that was one that Zouken artificially changed her body to, in a rather painful way, and specifically because he wanted her to bear that role. The one with them going to the same school (four of them, anyway; five if you also count Sakura) is a little more difficult to justify, since we know pretty much nothing about Fuyuki, but it's possible that all magi families live on the same side of the city, and there is only one school on that side.
  • Subverted in Canvas 2; it's implied that Kiri started working at Nadesico precisely because Hiroki worked there and she wanted to see him again.
  • A lot of Heavy Rain: Scott Shelby just happens to be across the street to witness Ethan and Jason's car accident. The contrived part is that Ethan develops blackouts as a result of this crash that coincide with Shelby's kidnappings. Since the blackouts begin before media coverage of the kidnappings, this is unbelievable coincidence. What's worse, he always comes to at a specific intersection which just happens to be emotionally significant to Shelby, even though nobody knows this at the time so he couldn't have picked it up from the news. Later, Shelby goes to Manfred's Clock Shop to get his typewriter repair invoices, but Lauren insists on coming along. While there, Manfred steps into the back file room and Lauren gets entranced by a music box exactly at the top of the hour, allowing the cacophony of all the chiming clocks to cover the sound of Manfred's murder.
    • Interestingly, most of the explanation for the above originally existed in the game but was cut for various reasons.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Shadow the Hedgehog's strikingly similar appearance to Sonic is noted often by the various characters, but he was created 50 years prior to the series and only looks like Sonic out of sheer chance.
  • Skies of Arcadia has a point where our trio of heroes get separated in an attack. Two happen to be found by a kind sky pirate while the other gets stranded on and island before being rescued by another sky pirate who just happened to be the love interest for the latter. Then they all head to a secret island to find a hidden treasure at the same time. This island just so happened to have mechanisms that was set up so that only two groups of people could get the treasure.
  • Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh: Hoo, boy, does the game have a number of these! Arguably the biggest instance is when Curtis has to break into a small locked room in his workplace, where he finds a toolbox. Inside it he finds a girl's dress his mother made him wear as a child, as well as a letter from his boss Paul Allen Warner to Curtis's father. He ends up finding a letter to him from his father, saying a number of things, like hoping that WynTech is treating him well. It's weird that his father puts this letter in such a spot and hopes that Curtis will one day work at that place, get some wild hair to break into this room and find this letter and the other contents of the toolbox, while his boss is starting up his illegal and immoral science project! If that's not this trope, then we're all the rulers of Siam!
  • How Thorny Towers goes down in the climactic cutscene of Psychonauts. Let's see here. Gloria turns on the gas pipes for the asylum, having confused the crank for a sprinkler in a garden. Edgar pulls his chain out of the floor, pulling a gaping hole in a pipe just below the surface, releasing gas into the asylum grounds. Then he spills all of his turpentine and acetone. Then, Boyd, just outside the asylum, ready with a molotov-cocktail milk bottle, is coaxed by Fred to "blow this popsicle stand." He throws the bottle into the courtyard, igniting it, and finally the tower itself, thanks to the previously mentioned gas leak. Then, at the top of the tower, in the psychic showdown, Ford enters and uses Oleander's weaponized sneezing powder on him to make him sneeze up his own brain. This causes the top of the tower to explode, and the rest of the already weakened tower to collapse (upon Raz and Lili, who have to hurriedly navigate to escape). Damn.
  • Secret Files does this. In the first game, Max Gruber works at the same museum as Nina's father. In the second game, the two are on two completely unrelated missions: Nina is taking a vacation and Max is visiting a classmate in Indonesia photographing her archaeological find. Puritas Cordis happens to be in both locations.
    • In Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis in one place you need to gather several small blue stones to solve a puzzle. Those stones were removed from the cemetery to be used in constructions. For some reason, all of them were used in visible places and not buried under other stones.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

Elan: Wow, what were the chances?
Julio: Pretty good, considering we wouldn't be having this scene if it didn't forward the plot in some way.

  • Megatokyo has quite a few of these, most notably the significance of nearly every member of the Sonoda family (Yuki is Piro's student, Meimi has a hit on Largo, the Inspector knows half the cast and Erika was engaged to his brother). Oddly, the example quoted above is one of the few that can make any sense, if you're willing to believe that Largo actually CAN sense evil (given everything else in the comic, it isn't too far a stretch).
    • Besides, the inspector's son hasn't had any significance yet. Well, he was a mild fan of Erika, but she had a lot of those.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Torg accidentally stumbles upon Dr. Steve's laboratory and becomes the object of Oasis's affections. By sheer coincidence, one of his friends is secretly employed by Steve's old company, Hereti Corp, which is desperately searching for Oasis.
    • Lampshaded towards the end of "Love Potion": "That is a great story, Kenny! All kinds of good fortune! And I guess the final one is that Gwynn would happen to sit next to the only other demon-possessed person on the train, allowing us to exchange stories."
    • Also lampshaded in "28 Geeks Later", although it's not really plot-significant. "Aw man! Brain-bug right up the nose! How plain silly! What are the chances it'd be shooting out of the drain right when my nose was over it? What's the word I'm looking for? ARGH!!!" [gets made slightly nerdier by brain-bug] "...'Contrived'!"
  • Lampshaded and subverted in Digger, when the title character is told she's a descendant of Helix, one of the wombats who worked on the chains binding the dead god:

Digger: What? Me? Isn't that a little... improbable?
Helix: I had eight sons a thousand years ago. You do the math.

  • El Goonish Shive has an interesting subversion. During the party, a lightbulb explodes, interrupting Susan and Justin's ill-advised hook-up. They see this as a fortunate coincidence. It's actually the Demonic Duck saving their friendship. He owed Justin a favor after a joke went very wrong.
  • Chapter 3 of Gunnerkrigg Court. All the other parts of the comic's Generation Xerox have a reasonable in-universe explanation, but in this chapter Reynardine, attempting to escape from the Court, smashes through several roofs. And one of these roofs just happens to be the dorm of Antimony Carver, the daughter of Rey's old friend Surma. This then gets practically lampshaded shortly later: Annie tries to find Rey again, but has no idea where he is. Then she finds a train, clearly labeled "Secret Train To Large Animal Holding Cells (Very Hush Hush, You Know.)" which naturally takes her straight to Reynardine.

Headmaster Llanwellyn: Tell me, do you find strange things seem to happen around you?
Antimony: ... On occasion.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Super Mario Bros Z had one in the second episode when Mario, at the mercy of Bowser and his metal powers, is saved by the arrival on Sonic and Shadow's capsule, which crash-lands on Bowser's head and shatters his metal coating, giving Mario a chance to fight back.
  • Simon Wood in Survival of the Fittest version three managing to navigate his way across an entire island and find his girlfriend just in time to rescue her from an attacker.
    • To some extent, this also occurs when groups of friends manage to meet up with one another very quickly: the Deserted Islands upon which the games take place are rather large, and the odds of meeting your friends that fast are rather slim, to say the least.
  • In a Running Gag in Final Fantasy Trilogy, Sabin, Setzer and Terra survive their falls off Narshe's cliffs by landing on Relm, Relm's corpse and Strago respectively.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • It's a good thing Scooby Doo and co. never stopped being scared of the fake ghosts, because there's probably not a single episode in which a chase scene didn't by pure blind luck lead them to a clue they wouldn't have seen otherwise.
    • It was also good that they never bought a new van/fixed the old one, since it would stop breaking down in front of creepy old haunted buildings.
  • There was a Lampshade Hanging on an episode of Futurama, where Bender, after having spent quite some time hurtling through space at the speed of light and encountering all sorts of circumstances along the way, gets thrown back to his worried friends, Leela and Fry, while they just happened to have started giving up on ever actually finding him. When he lands in front of them with a parachute to somehow slow his descent, Leela in incredible disbelief states, "This is, by a wide margin the least likely thing that has ever happened." Justified, because actual literal God was involved.
    • Or possibly just the remains of a satellite that collided with God.
    • Further lampshaded on the commentary when one of the writers notes "And that's how we wrote our way out of that one".
    • Futurama's first xmas special: Leela and Fry are saved from Santa's TOW missile when the parrot Fry bought earlier flies into the way.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Even though it is unquestionably a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Azula's conquest of Ba Sing Se has elements of this. It's an amazing coincidence that everyone who knows who she is just so happens to be conveniently absent the moment she sets foot in Ba Sing Se. Sokka especially could have waited a mere hour before leaving to greet the Kyoshi Warriors when they arrived, which would have derailed everything. Of course, it all makes sense in context, and Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Captain Flamingo uses this a lot in the workings of the eponymous character's Bird Brain—his "super power" to misinterpret his sidekick's suggestions in such a way that his actions end up solving everything. One of the most extreme examples is Lampshaded and Handwaved by Lizbeth (the aforementioned sidekick) and the Captain. "Isn't it awfully convenient that the book you checked out just happened to be on the exact subject you needed to return it?" "My Bird Brain works in mysterious ways. I don't question it, and neither should you. *Aside Glance* And neither should anyone else."
  • One episode of Word Girl was entirely built around Lampshading this trope, starting from normal usage and becoming territory by the end of the episode.
  • Contrived Coincidences happen frequently in Kim Possible, usually neatly lampshaded, but the episode "Rewriting History" is the most blatant and over the top example: Kim and Ron discover that Ron's great-grandfather Jon Stoppable was a police constable with the same kind of relationship to Mr. Barkin's ancestor, the chief of police. Most of Jon's success in police work is down to ace reporter Miriam "Mim" Possible, Kim's great-grandmother. Professor Dementor's ancestor is demonstrating his device at the World's Fair, and is just like his modern equivalent. Chasing this up, Wade discovers that his ten-year-old ancestor was there too. Ron finds this pile-up of coincidences unlikely, and when Drakken's great-grandfather enters the picture (with a sidekick resembling Shego), Ron declares the whole thing ludicrous. Having just discovered all this, it turns out that after a hundred years, the device is due to go off that day. With sixty seconds left on the clock and no idea how to disable it, Drakken and Shego burst in to steal it. Their craft takes the device far enough to go off harmlessly. Ron notes that the villains arriving in the nick of time is so unlikely, it's like a dream - and it was (though according to Word of God all the persons were real).
    • The episode ended with a statue of Ron's ancestor in Rome, who was the enemy of Dr. Drakken's ancestor. His victories may really be due to a mysterious masked Amazon who resembles Kim...
  • The Simpsons
    • The entire episode "Trilogy of Error". Everything that happens to each character is a direct result of something (usually stupid) that another character has done, always with no idea that their actions are influencing the rest of the family. Eventually everyone's paths have crossed and re-crossed until, at the end of the episode, everyone's in the same situation.
    • In the episode "Don't Fear the Roofer", where Homer befriend a man named Ray Magini and ends up in therapy because his friends and family are convinced Ray is an imaginary friend (note the Significant Anagram) Homer made because he was feeling unappreciated. In the end it turns out Ray is real, and everyone just happened to miss seeing him for one reason or another. Turns into outright parody with Bart, who saw Homer talking to thin air because there was some kind of odd spacial phenomenon (requiring explanation by Stephen Hawking) that prevented him from seeing Ray.
      • That's not even how micro black holes(odd spacial phenomenon) work.
  • Parodied in Road Rovers where the character of Hunter had the catchphrase "yet another unexpected twist", even if the twist is completely expected or just a wild coincidence.
  • In every episode of Phineas and Ferb, the eponymous young boys build a spectacular creation and Heinz Doofenshmirtz builds an invention of evil. Whenever Doofenshmirtz loses control of his invention, no matter how far away it is, it will inevitably destroy, directly or indirectly, any evidence of what Phineas and Ferb built that day before their mother can see it (much to the bafflement of their sister Candace). Less often, Phineas and Ferb will do something that seems inconsequential at the time but actually helps their pet platypus Perry (who's a secret agent) defeat Doofenshmirtz later on. One or the other (or both) happens Once an Episode. Perry the Platypus is the only one who's aware how much the characters affect each other's lives on a daily basis.
    • In addition, the two subplots are always near each other. Phineas and Ferb are on a trip to see Mr. Rushmore? Doofenshmirtz's base is in Mt. Rushmore! Phineas and Ferb are visiting their grandparents in England? Doofenshmirtz is attending an evil convention in England! Phineas and Ferb are in space... (That one got semi-lampshaded.)
    • When they build a super computer it takes advantage of the coincidences to let them do the nicest thing possible for their mother, fixing her hair after a horrible hair day. The computer even gets a Literal Genie moment but it is Made of Explodium, all things it anticipated.
    • Then there are the even less likely moments where Perry's two dual lives meet, such as when Dr. Doofenshmirtz takes his girlfriend to the restaurant Phineas and Ferb built in their backyard, or when Candace delivered girl scout cookies to Doof's apartment, while Perry was still there. Jeremy once went to Doof's home to teach him how to play the guitar. Doof once dated Linda. He once went to a garage sale at the Flynn-Fletcher household. (It's not known if he knows Linda lives there) It goes to the point where pretty much every character has interacted with the doctor at some point, bar, of course, Phineas and Ferb themselves, and even they have gotten close at points.
      • Averted Trope in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, where the boys land in Doof's building, destroy the machine (an "Other-Dimension-Inator"), and then cheerfully help him fix it. And then Perry busts in, freezes when he sees them, and attempts to stop the doctor in 'mindless pet mode'. He fails. They travel to another dimension, and then gets outed as a secret agent, but then Laser-Guided Amnesia allows the characters to press the Reset Button and forget all about it.
      • The same Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension has both Perry and Candace invoke the coincidence to save the day. Perry knows the boys can build incredible things, and has been saving all of their disappeared inventions for use by the boys, their friends and allies to defeat Alternate-Doof's invasion. While it's still not going well, Candace forces their mom out so see what's happening, reasoning the "Mysterious Force" preventing her from busting her brothers, now that they are involved due to their saved inventions, will clean up the entire city. She was right.
    • In "A Real Boy", Candace finally gets Mom to see Phineas and Ferb in the middle of their big project for the day. As luck would have it, Doofenshmirtz accidentally hits himself with his "Forget-about-it-inator" (it makes you forget about whatever you're thinking about at that moment), then pulls a "What Does This Button Do??" and erases Linda witnessing the project...several times in a row, no less.
    • In the episode "Don't Even Blink", the characters decide to watch the boys' latest invention to see where it goes. On the day where Doofenshmirtz has built an invisibility ray. Every time Linda comes to look it goes invisible, and it turns visible again when she leaves... and when Candace realises you can still feel it, her attempt to cover it in paint is thwarted by Doof deciding to screw the whole thing, and convert the machine to a disintegrator ray.
    • Many of the patches that the Fireside Girls earn are conveniently linked to Phineas and Ferb's project of the day.
  • Lampshaded at least once in Pinky and The Brain.[context?]
  • Jonny Quest episode "Mystery of the Lizard Men". Out of all of the wrecked ships in the Sargasso Sea, the one that Jonny wants to explore is the one the Big Bad is using as his base.
  • There was an episode of G.I. Joe in the eighties in which the Joes repeatedly received menacing telephone calls throughout the episode warning them that "the viper is coming," which they naturally assumed referred to their archenemy Cobra. They were able to interpret apparent clues in the calls to upcoming Cobra attacks, and so anticipate and thwart the attacks, and so throughout the episode enjoyed great success against Cobra, but the calls keep coming. Then, at the end of the episode, an old man shows up with cleaning equipment and announces that he is "the viper," and that he was there "to vipe the vindows." Cue laughter. So there just happened to be critical clues to upcoming Cobra attacks in a series of totally unrelated phone calls. Sure, why not?
  • Lampshaded with a heavy dose of meta-humor in an early episode of Family Guy: Peter has given up TV and Lois tries to entice him back by talking about the broadly-drawn characters, cliché storylines, and convenient coincidences that bring the plot around just in time. Immediately after she says this, William Shatner enters the house, his car having broken down outside on his way to give a speech on how TV keeps families together. (And yes, Shatner's appearance does resolve the plot and get things back to Status Quo Is God.)
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth". The Enterprise encounters an alien who was the basis for the Mayan/Aztec deity Kukulkan. He's coming to Earth to wipe out the human race because he's angry that humanity hasn't contacted him. One of the officers on duty on the bridge is Ensign Walking Bear, who just happens to be an expert on ancient Earth cultures and recognizes the shape of Kukulkan's ship. Walking Bear says the name "Kukulkan", which not only prevents Kukulkan from destroying the Enterprise but convinces him to allow several Enterprise crew members to try to solve a puzzle. If they solve the puzzle, Kukulkan will give up his plan to destroy humanity. Ensign Walking Bear didn't appear in any previous or subsequent episodes, just this one. What are the odds?
  • The episode "The Best Night Ever" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has everything go horribly wrong at the Galloping Gala in an unlikely way. True, Princess Celestia claimed the Gala was always horrible, but most egregrious are the forest animals who are scared of Fluttershy. The guests at the Gala can't control what the animals think, and it seems unlikely there would just happen to be animals who are scared of Fluttershy at a place where everything else is horrible.
    • Actually, Fluttershy's the least unlikely one in that you can trace the root cause of her failure back to something that both makes sense and has an explained cause -- notably, Fluttershy is approaching strange animals in exactly the wrong way to approach strange animals (i.e., rapidly and as if you are already familiar to them). Which is an uncharacteristic mistake for a professional animal handler like Fluttershy, but justifiable in that the theme of the episode is that everyone has been building up their expectations for the Gala for so long that they're completely overexcited and have lost most of their self-restraint and good sense. Now if you want contrived coincidence, that whole sequence with Rainbow Dash requires Diabolus Ex Machina split-second timing throughout the entire night explainable only by the wrath of a particularly malicious god. It's not even explainable by Rainbow Dash being overexcited -- for anybody else that level of rashness would be notable but for Rainbow Dash that's how she acts all the time, and the rest of her life doesn't usually suck that hard.
  • In Street Sharks, Melvin just happens to stay at the same hotel that the Sharks' father is hiding in, leading to him accidentally eating mutagen popcorn and turning into a shark hybrid himself.
  1. Which is Barrayar's entry point to the galactic travel network