Gut Feeling

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"I don't like him. I don't have any evidence, but like you humans say, I feel it in my gut."
Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect

One thing you can count on in virtually any genre of fiction is that the heroes will have an uncanny sense of intuition, often bordering on being psychic. If a main character says something and justifies it as being a hunch, gut feeling, or an "I just know", then about 90% of the time he will turn out to be right. There are certain exceptions such as if a character says about another "I got a sudden feeling we might not see each other again", then the chances are only about 50-50 of the main character being right, and if he is wrong it is still guaranteed to be a while (unless this trope is purposely subverted). Gut feeling can be broken down into three categories:

1) Judge of character.

The main character is an infallible judge of character: his gut feeling about a person, not necessarily based on more than a couple minutes of interaction, is by far the most accurate measurement available of how good or evil that person is. For example: If a person has an "honest face," we can probably trust them. Perhaps writers think this is a subtler way to quickly point out who the bad guys are.

Often the main character isn't aware of this, it's just that the villain conveniently turns out to be someone they were uneasy about all along. Sometimes, though, characters are willing to risk a lot on that gut feeling; when this happens they're usually right. This is also common trait of the Mary Sue; they're perfect, so anyone who they don't like has to be the bad guy.

Compare Evil-Detecting Dog. Opposite the Horrible Judge of Character.

2) Reading the villain's mind.

Another well established piece of heroic gut feeling is that the hero can read the villain's mind. Or close enough. If the hero has a gut feeling about where the villain is hiding, (or the bank robber's getaway method, or where the terrorists have hidden the bomb, or where the arms dealers are meeting, or where the killer hid the body, etc), you can safely disregard any and all evidence to the contrary because the hero will inevitably be proved right.

For example, it won't matter if the police have a gang's written plans, recorded phone calls, and the like saying they're going to rob Bank A, if the lead character/detective has a gut feeling they'll rob Bank B it will all turn out to be an elaborate fake-out, or the gang knew they were Being Watched and recorded and were speaking in code. Particularly common in summer action movies and film noir. (In fact, regardless of a detective's condition, including being constantly drunk, paranoid, insane, and otherwise idiotic, his gut feeling will be his redeeming factor. Usually the only exception is if the crooks are the main characters, in which case the detective's Gut Feeling will be known about and used to their advantage).

Compare: I Just Knew

3) He's okay, I can feel it

If major characters are separated and/or there's a question about one of them surviving or succeeding in their task, but one character says calmly, "I know he's okay, I can feel it," then you can all but guarantee that this character will in fact be okay, despite the character not having anything to base this on. Common in cheesy movies of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and still often found in manga and anime, where such is often attributed to The Power of Friendship or The Power of Love.

Gut Feeling Related Tropes

Examples of Gut Feeling include:

Category 1

Anime & Manga

  • This is often used in manga and anime on Worthy Opponents, particularly those whose opposition is caused by a misunderstanding, and those who will be making a Heel Face Turn.
  • Dragonball Z, while having numerous straight examples of this trope, has subverted it at least once. Before a tournament arc, all the heroes are uneasy about a short blue guy. That short blue guy was (one of the) the Supreme Kais and just about the only good guy there besides the main characters. They'd completely missed the real bad guys there.
    • Though in this example the characters were basing their assumptions based on how strong the others were. The Supreme Kai was far stronger than the villians, who turned out to be disposable mooks anyway.
  • My-HiME, episode 2: Haruka tells Yukino that she doesn't trust Mai, and tries to convince her skeptic friend that Mai's arrival by ferry is somehow connected to the weirdness in their school. It turns out Haruka's suspicion is well-founded, as Mai's HiME abilities kick in later that night while defending Takumi from an Orphan.
  • L and Near in Death Note both have this, and Light as well, to a lesser extent. L is immediately able to narrow down all suspects to one (the right one) within his first chat with the suspect. Near literally looks at a television screen and figures out that the man on the screen is his main suspect, even though he says nothing incriminating. (The manga explained the latter conclusion much better.)
  • Runge from Monster is purportedly able to reconstruct a crime scene based on the emotions and other similarly nebulous traces of human presence he senses in it.
  • Tsuna from Katekyo Hitman Reborn has the "vongola hyper-intuition" which gives him various insights over the course of the show about everybody's character; including both knowing which current villians are really good and will defect, and being able to tell when his guardians are either not themselves or have been replaced by the first-generation guardians he is so good at this that even when HIS first generation guardian attempts to block his intuition it doesn't work.


  • Perhaps slightly better justified in Return of the Jedi, with Luke and Vader.
  • Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs correctly picks out The Mole in the gang of crooks he recruited, based on his gut. When Mr. White objects Joe just says, "You don't need proof when you've got instinct!"
  • In The Return of the King, Gandalf not only Knows that Frodo is OK, he expects Aragorn to Know it as well: "What does your heart tell you?"


  • The Lord of the Rings: Frodo chooses to trust Aragorn at their first meeting based largely on a gut feeling.
    • Well, that and his logic that if Aragorn was an agent of the Enemy, he would make more effort not to look so dark and threatening. "An enemy would look fairer and feel fouler".
    • Also in The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf is such an incredible judge of character that he actually knows that the ending will be Gollum's doing, "for good or ill." (And he has to know, deep down that it's for good, or he would advise Frodo differently.
    • And in the backstory, Galadriel is the only Elf in Eregion who thinks there's something fishy about this Annatar fellow. he's actually Sauron.
  • Belgarath The Sorcerer, prequel to the Belgariad: everyone who interacts with Zedar feels vaguely uneasy, making his Face Heel Turn little surprise to the reader (If there was any surprise left, since it's a prequel).
  • Subverted in Harry Potter: Harry distrusts Snape from the moment he meets him, and his opinion never changes. At the end of Half-Blood Prince, he is apparently proved right, but then finds out in Deathly Hallows that his Gut Feeling was entirely wrong.
    • It should be pointed out, however, that Snape hated Harry with a vengeance and had actively worked to ensure that Harry hated him just as much. Harry's gut feeling may have been wrong, but with good reason.
    • Also, at the end of Deathly Hallows Harry has named one of his sons after both Dumbledore and Snape, and tells the boy that Snape was one of the most courageous men he ever knew
    • Harry tends to be an intuitive and perceptive person, but he's also very emotional, and his feelings cloud his judgement - which leads to him mistaking his personal dislike of characters like Malfoy and Snape for evidence that they're up to something (which they may or may not be).
  • Kahlan decided that the men who objected to her taking command of their forces, who had previously been fighting a hopeless battle against the Imperial Order, intended to side with them and ordered all but one of them killed. Surprise, the survivor admitted they did intend to go up to the enemy army and try to join up.
  • Invoked in Men At Arms when Angua attributes knowing that an explosion had been caused by a dragon blowing itself up to women's intuition. In fact it's because she's a werewolf and talked to a dog who was at the scene, but decided "Because a little dog told me" was a worse explanation.
  • In The Stand, Lloyd's first reaction to hearing Randall Flagg wandering around in the prison looking for survivors is to hide under his bunk and hope that he'll go away. Since Lloyd is also dying of starvation in his cell, he quickly reveals himself and begs Flagg for help when Flagg pretends to get ready to leave.
  • Herald Talia in the Heralds of Valdemar series is The Empath, but the Queen's most trusted advisor makes her profoundly uneasy because she cannot sense anything from him. He turns out to be a traitor of the highest order, though tragically he isn't found out before he gets Talia's close friend (his own nephew) killed.

Live Action TV

  • Data, of all people, in the Next Generation episode Data's Day; though, being Data, he doesn't recognise his uneasiness as a gut feeling and wishes he could have gut feelings to back up the information he has on the Enterprise's passenger.
  • In NCIS, Special Agent Gibbs' gut instincts are legendary. Give him two minutes with a perp in the interrogation room and he'll either beat a confession out of him or walk calmly out of the room and say "it wasn't him." It's been played to the point where the possibility of his gut feeling being wrong caused a serious mental conflict with himself and an even more serious conflict for Abbey, his groupie down in forensics.
    • Be fair. He doesn't beat it out of them. He doesn't have to. He's Gibbs.
  • Jack O'Neill in Stargate SG-1. Every. Single. Episode.
    • This troper is delighted to see she is not the only one to have noticed that Jack's instincts are infallible. However NOBODY on the show, including Jack himself, ever seems to have recognized it!
    • Compare with Genre Savvy - when it comes to Jack, there's very little between the two tropes. He could well be acting based entirely on his instinct, or he has all but memorised the 'scripts' for each of the Large Ham villains he fights every week. They are, after all, thousands of years old and somewhat set in their ways, as the show mentions several times.
  • "Warehouse13": Pete and Myka were chosen for the team based on their inverse personalities. Myka bases her work on cold, calculating facts and logic. Pete, however, goes by feelings and intuition. This is shown in his distrust of HG Wells
  • Brennan from Bones comments on FBI partner Booth's frequent use of his gut, as opposed to her "facts and logic" method. Booth's skill as an agent come from his judge of character and even some uses of number 3.
  • Horatio Caine in CSI: Miami. In fact, one wonders why the Miami-Dade police department even needs crime scene investigators, given the guilty party always turns out to be the person H doesn't like.
  • Zoe also uses this in the Firefly episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds," when she points out (rather angrily) to Wash that Saffron is "trouble".
    • Of course, her gut feeling was rather wrong in "Out of Gas," when she tells Mal that something about Wash bothered her. Later she marries him. Oh, and somewhere in between those he shaves his mustache, presumably.
      • No, she was absolutely right. The mustache was wrong.
  • Several people use this as a basis for their treatment of Baltar in Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, most notably Laura Roslin but also Adama and Tigh. All three judge him to be shifty, eccentric and irritating at best and their gut feelings are that he cannot be trusted. All of which is perfectly true. Roslin actually describes using her gut feeling when Baltar is accused of aiding the Cylon attack, which he did do, just not as intentionally or personally as he was being framed as doing, although her feeling is only partially correct in that she believes him to be the kind of man who would intentionally sell out his people before it was a life or death decision for him, when in fact he was just a dupe.
    • A major problem that their gut feelings frequently result in is they underestimate Baltar, as while he is cowardly, shifty and untrustworthy as they believe, they begin to forget he is also a genius when it comes to securing an advantage for himself, always reinventing himself and gaining new popularity at their expense, a measure of power coming along with that, such that even outright hating him, they have no choice but to work with him.
  • The only two occasions that Buffy took a seemingly-irrational dislike to someone, that person later turned out to be evil and nonhuman - Ted was a robot serial killer, while Kathy was a demon trying to steal Buffy's soul.
    • She also veers into Category 2 and maybe 3, as there's constantly things she simply couldn't know - but does. This may or may not be related to her Slayer abilities, as Faith all but literally reads minds.
  • Used to show double standards in one murder mystery (unfortunately I've forgotten which one) where a female detective's opinion was derided as "women's intuition" by her male superior, who a few sentences later was talking about how his "copper's instinct" was telling him who the real killer was.
  • Garibaldi from Babylon 5 has frequently commented on his reliance on gut feelings, and has displayed the judge of character variation on several occasions.
  • Betty, from Dead Like Me had a lightbulb that went off in her stomach whenever she looked at someone. This lightbulb would immediately tell her what kind of person they were, although the types they were sorted into were or seemed frivolous, such as: Mouth-breather people or talks-on-airplane people.

Tabletop Games

  • In 7th Sea, Scryers (male and female alike) can, on top of a buttload of other advantages, automatically tell if another character is a Hero, Villain, or Scoundrel just by looking at them. That's just one of the reasons why most 7th Sea Game Masters don't usually allow the Sophia's Daughters in their games...

Video Games

  • In the third Metal Gear Solid game, a prequel set in the 60s, the player's character stops the Femme Fatale from shooting an adversary for no particular reason (Word of God suggests a naive crush - ). Later it turns out that adversary is both The Mole in the organization of the Big Bad and a very significant character in the timeline of the entire series.
  • Issei of Fate/stay night. He's right about Saber, the main heroine, being a good person, even though he only just met her. He's right about Rin not being what she appears and he's right about Shinji not being a good person. On the other hand, he's wrong about Rin being evil (she's not), the man he considers to be a brother is an amoral teacher, and he thinks Caster is a good person. She kills him in one Bad End.

Category 2

Comic Books

  • Happens in Watchmen with Rorschach's mask-killer theory.


  • Subverted in The Usual Suspects. Although it could be considered playing to the trope as the crooks are the main characters, the main detective's obsession with one of those crooks leads him to completely miss the true Diabolical Mastermind (who is responsible for killing off the rest of his Five-Man Band of crooks), until it's too late.
  • In the cop movie Heat, Al Pacino's character and Robert De Niro's have a bit of this towards each other. De Niro's character, the crook, stops in the middle of a heist because he can sense that Pacino is watching him. Later, Pacino's investigation team is following De Niro's crooks as they seem to be casing a job. Everyone on the team is puzzled, as there seems to be nothing there worth stealing, until after a few seconds Pacino reads De Niro's mind and figures out that what De Niro and company have actually done is lure the police into exposing their surveillance team.


  • Harry Potter. thanks to Harry's mental connection to Voldy, he literally can read the villain's mind. So this is played straight all through Deathly Hallows. He can roughly chart what Voldemort is doing by his gut feelings. However, in Order of the Phoenix, his firm belief that the Death Eaters captured Sirius turns out to have been planted by Voldemort himself, resulting in Sirius getting Killed Off for Real. Unless you ask the fangirls.

Live Action TV

Web Original

  • The Water Human correctly guessed the identity, and the aims, of the Spy who tried to impersonate the Large Beetle. Not because the spy looked nothing like the Beetle, but because Water-Human just guessed at random.
    • Later on, the Large Beetle, upon realizing that Water-Human is in a city, somehow correctly deduces the entire plot so far, even though he had no idea what was going on since episode one.

Western Animation

  • Teen Titans: Raven's psychic flash when Terra returns leads to instant (accurate) distrust, but the reclusive loner disliking someone doesn't raise any alarms.
    • Interestingly, in the original comics Raven never trusted Terra, but felt she should wait for evidence before doing anything about it. Considering that she was an actual empath, and Terra was a vicious psychotic, you'd have thought just standing next to her would have been enough.

Category 3

Anime & Manga

  • Particularly in Digimon Adventure, but continuing into Digimon Adventure 02, Hikari has this ability for both 1 and 3 (definitely 1, and I think I remember an instance of 3). This is Justified with her crest of light, which supposedly gives her extra good v. evil-related abilities that are vaguely alluded to throughout 02 without ever actually explained. Convenient, right?


  • The following conversation from the third Lord of the Rings movie: "How do we know Frodo is still alive?" "What does your heart tell you?"
  • Star Wars - Return of the Jedi: Leia is completely calm at seeing the explosion of the Death Star, despite knowing that Luke was on it. When Han tries to reassure her that Luke made it off the Death Star, she nonchalantly says "I know he did, I can feel it". (May be a case of My Significance Sense Is Tingling, despite the fact that Leia doesn't have any Force training.) And of course, whenever someone has a bad feeling about this, they're right.
  • Firefly movie Serenity. When Zoe, the second-in-command is asked if she thinks their captain succeeded in carrying out the goal of their near suicide mission, Zoe confidently replies that she knows he did. The next scene begins with the captain, not only not having done so but getting knocked flat on his face by the Necessarily Evil Worthy Opponent who is preventing him from doing so. However he eventually wins the fight and proves Zoe right.


  • Subverted in the Left Behind book series, where one character's wife is believed to have died when a plane crashed into the ocean, but he has a gut feeling she's alive. He investigates the wreckage... and finds her body.

Live Action TV

  • Halfway through the second season of Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard insists that Ford is still alive despite being caught in a No One Could Survive That situation, and not escaping with him. Apparently subverted in that Ford is never heard from again, and Sheppard has reason to engage in wishful thinking, as he has obvious issues stemming from his poor (for The Hero) track record in saving comrades.
  • On Lost the entire first season, Rose calmly asserts to the other survivors that her husband Bernard was alive and that she can feel it despite Bernard being in the tail section that separated during the crash. Early in season two she is proven correct.


Video Games

  • Carth Onasi insists in Knights of the Old Republic II that Revan is not dead: "I feel like I would know!" By this point, of course, Carth has demonstrated a degree of prescience on several occasions (his Wookieepedia entry questions whether or not he's Force Sensitive), so he's not pulling this particular gut feeling out of nowhere.
    • Carth appears to have an extremely well-honed BS detector. Part of it is borderline paranoia after being betrayed so horribly, but even when he's over most of those issues, he will frequently point out that something is very wrong with the whole setup, the Jedi, and your Player Character. And he turns out dead right on all fronts. In the comic story, his instincts about Zayne Carrick also turn out to be right, despite the bounty on Zayne's head.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, at the onset of the quest to find Thorald Gray-Mane, the quest giver, Thorald's mother, displays this heavily when told her son is dead. So does Thorald's brother when you talk to him.


  • In Order of the Stick, Elan emphatically insisted that Haley "is NOT dead," even though he had no proof and three months' worth of attempts to magically contact her or see what had happened to her had all been unsuccessful. Despite nearly everyone else having given up hope, it turns out he was right.

Western Animation

  • An American Tail: Tanya still believes Fievel is alive and somewhere out there... and even sings a song to that effect.
  • Subverted in the episode of The Simpsons with Sherry Robins (or whatever the Mary Poppins-clone's name was). At the end, as she's flying off with her umbrella, Homer tells the kids that he has a feeling they'll be seeing her again real soon. Meanwhile, in the background behind him, we see Sherry get sucked into a jet engine and ripped to shreds.

Other Examples


  • Averted In Return of the Jedi, Han Solo says, "I've just got a feeling I might not see her again," as the Millennium Falcon flies off to do battle with the Death Star. He does.
    • This led to an annoying persistent Urban Legend saying that the "original script" had Lando actually dying at the end, but was changed because "test audiences" (which Star Wars movies never are screened for) disapproved. Thankfully, it's since been debunked.
    • Twisted a little in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones; when Anakin leaves his mother behind on Tatooine, she tries to convince him that they will meet again. They do, a film later, but only when she's dying.
  • Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity can always detect a phony insurance claim by gut feeling, personified as a "little man" who lives in his stomach and ties knots in it when something is wrong with a claim. Subverted in that he apparently fails to get any bad feelings about the guy who actually committed the murder, and almost pins it on an innocent man instead.


  • The concept is discussed in one story of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers as something P8 "Pattie" Blue has learnt to respect, due to influence from the other races she works with:

Though she knew she'd be checking out other facilities, Pattie had a good feeling about this one. One thing she'd learned from softs was to trust intuition. More times than she cared to recall, one of her crewmates had said something along the lines of "I have a bad feeling about this," and the feeling had proved to be an accurate barometer of the situation. As she walked down the corridor, she fingered the pouch containing the datachip. Yes, I definitely have a good feeling about this.

  • In Star Trek: Titan, another alien character, very Literal-Minded, tests the phenomenon by putting nanites in the food to monitor his crewmates' intestines.
  • In Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations, Agent Dulmur has one of these regarding a connection between a temporal anomaly from the previous year and the vortex phenomenon he's currently investigating. His senior partner Lucsly advises against "gut feelings", saying that everything their Department deals with is counter-intuitive anyway. Nonetheless, Lucsly doesn't entirely dismiss Dulmur's insight, but insists on waiting until he has supporting evidence.
  • Finally, the concept is discussed in Star Trek: Cast No Shadow, in which Elias Vaughn is frustrated when his superior dismisses gut feelings.

Live Action TV

  • Stephen Colbert pokes fun at politicians who rely on their gut over facts (see quotes page).

Western Animation