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I guess I'll never get to call you mine!—Simple Plan, "When I'm With You"
A rare case where the hero -- who is clearly not a Celibate Hero -- doesn't end up with the romantic female lead. The cocky Lancer wins her heart or she has no choice but to marry someone to save her family or something, but for whatever reason the hero ends up alone. Can be played either for comedy or tragedy. It isn't always a Downer Ending, but it sure does tend that way.
Despite the name this trope can just as easily apply to not getting the guy.
Compare to Better as Friends and Romantic Runner-Up. Contrast Everything but the Girl, where the protagonist usually does get the girl eventually. Not to be confused with two leads not ending up together because one of them dies -- that is a different trope, and Platonic Life Partners where neither of them wanted each other in the first place.
Anime and Manga
- A running gag for Sanji in One Piece. For a womanizer, no single woman was ever seen falling for him.
- That, and the whole No Hugging, No Kissing thing...
- Zoro and Kuina is probably a more straight example. Life was unkind to the guy.
- Despite having three potential Love Interests, the main character of FLCL ends up with no one. It does imply that he will end up with Ninamori though. But only after they're not kids anymore and are more mature. Thank God.
- He ends up with Haruko in the manga, but he has to chase after her.
- Yamcha gets a hardcore case of this in the Cell Saga of Dragonball Z. Bulma, whom he spent more than half of his life after, ends up with Vegeta, and he never finds anyone else.
- Inevitable in nearly all installments of Weiss Kreuz due to the protagonists being massive Doom Magnets - the few potential love interests who don't end up dead get the It's Not You, It's My Enemies treatment. The only exception here is Farfarello, who leaves with his love interest in the end of the Schwarz audio drama to lead a happy, killfree life. Huh.
- In Vision of Escaflowne, the heroine, Hitomi, chooses to go back to Earth while Van stays behind in Gaia for a reason that's never made clear. The show was supposed to last another 13 episodes, where Hitomi and Van would have presumably gotten back together, but they never happened and the series was wrapped up in a hurry.
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Simon and Nia do get married, but immediately afterward, she finally allows herself to die. Earlier in the series, Kamina dies shortly he and Yoko admit their feelings towards each other.
- In The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Makoto doesn't get together with Chiaki, which is especially egregious considering he asked her first and through how much trouble and grief she went through to make it happen. Although it is indicated that they plan to meet again in his time:
Chiaki: I'll be waiting in the future.
Makoto: I'll be right there. I'll run there.
- Now and Then Here and There: According to most anime conventions, Shu should deserve to live happily with Lala Ru after all the suffering both have been through together. Nope. Lala Ru dies, and any chances of Shu getting together with her Earth Expy Sarah are effectively dashed when he returns to his world without her. However, the audience knows from watching his character throughout the story that he'll be able to live happily anyway.
- The anime version of Revolutionary Girl Utena: Touga tries to win over Utena because she's the only girl at their school who doesn't immediately fall for him - in fact, she rebuffs him many times, and they ultimately don't end up together, with Utena being lost in another dimension and all. There's also the movie, Adolescence of Utena, where Touga is already dead from the beginning.
- In the Slayers Light Novel series, the bounty hunter Luke constantly tries to win the affections of his perpetually grumpy partner Millina, all to no avail. This ultimately comes to a climax in the fourteenth novel when Millina is stabbed with a poisoned knife and denied any medical care. She more or less tells him off, telling him to keep on living and don't bother worrying about her. This is pretty much All Love Is Unrequited played cruelly, cruelly straight.
- Princess Tutu: Ahiru does not get the boy. Either of them. But it is heavily implied that she'll fall in love with Fakir the way Mytho fell for Rue. (Stupid lack of funds for the third season the creators wanted...)
- Welcome to The NHK: though they stay friends. At least in most versions. The anime and novel both end fairly ambiguously, but the manga has Satou promise to rekindle their relationship after he cleans up.
- Hazuki from Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito never gets her girl Hatsumi, at least in the anime, despite her valiant efforts of chasing her through several alternate dimensions. It is heavily implied that Hatsumi grants Hazuki one night with her, but then erases her memory afterward, which caused quite a bit of outrage among yuri fans.
- You could apply this trope to Kikaider: the Animation, although it's really more a case of the hero getting Hannibal Lectured into walking out on the girl.
- In Naruto, this trope has been displayed between Jiraiya and Tsunade. Even in his final moments, Jiraiya reflects that he failed in winning Tsunade's affection.
- Believe it or not, this happened to Mario in The Great Mission to Save Princess Peach. Needless to say, Prince Haru (the character he lost Princess Peach to), was never featured in any Super Mario Bros.. media again.
- Fantastic Children fits this perfectly and its even a large part of the plot. He seems to eventually accepts to live with it. The guy she picks is a good guy and all, but it is still a bit of a downer.
- School Rumble. Tenma is the lead female. Kenji is the lead male. Tenma never returns Kenji's feelings; she doesn't even know about them. Not that it would really make a difference though, since she's too much in love with the second male lead.
- Tenma ends up with the amnesiac, brain damaged Karasuma. It's strongly suggested Harima ended up with Eri. The one who Did Not Get the Girl actually didn't get the guy: Yakumo. She's the only main character who definitely didn't get anyone.
- This is played completely straight in the third act of 5 Centimeters Per Second, despite a good taunting/glimmer of hope thrown in for good measure at the end--which doesn't pan out.
- In Digimon Adventure the kids are really too young to be concerned with dating, but when Digimon Adventure 02 rolls around, Taichi/Tai does not end up with childhood friend Sora, as she instead hooks up with Yamato/Matt.
- Note that this only applies to the English dub, as Sora and Tai were Just Friends in the Japanese dub.
- In To Aru Majutsu no Index and its spinoff, Kuroko goes to great lengths to get a hold of Mikoto. Mikoto doesn't seem to "swing that way" though and is herself mostly focused on the male lead Touma.
- Kuroko is pretty blatantly attracted to anyone who looks like Mikoto, and Mikoto has ten thousand clones. At least one of them has to be a lesbian who would be interested in Kuroko. Of course, Mikoto has quite wisely been hiding their existence from Kuroko, so who knows.
- In Pokémon Special, Steven teases Wallace, knowing that the real reason that the Water-type trainer stepped down from being the Champion to become a Gym Leader was for an excuse to spend more time with Winona. Too bad that is one of the reasons that is implied why they broke up. (The main reason was that Winona felt uncomfortable having someone stronger than her for a boyfriend.)
- Likewise with Meowth in the in the Pokémon episode "Go West, Young Meowth", who tries to help his love interest who spurned him in the past. He manages to defeat his long hated rival Persian but the girl Meowth chooses the Persian over him. Say the least, he better off without her.
- The final chapter of Ciguatera reveals that protagonist Ogino eventually broke up with his hot girlfriend Nagumo, after realizing he has become dependent on her and lacks the maturity to give her a happy life. Nagumo is last shown 9 months pregnant and married to someone else, while Ogino got his act together and found a new love. It's probably for the best and they're both shown to be happy.
- Code Geass had a field day with trope; Shirley died shortly after her Anguished Declaration of Love so she and Lelouch didn't end up together. Season 2 also spent a lot of episodes teasing the sexual tension between Lelouch and Kallen. That also came a to a halt however when Lelouch willing pushed her away so she wouldn't get involved in his final plan. Finally, Lelouch also didn't end up with C.C. because of his own death.
- The manga ending of Tsubasa Chronicle whereby Sakura did not accompany Syoran on his neverending journey. What a letdown.
- However, he does have the opportunity to visit her world again. No mention on how often or when, though.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion appears to end this way. It is a very real possibility that Shinji and Asuka are the only humans left in existence and he tried to kill her on sight. Of course, it's also possible that he has gone permanently insane due to Instrumentality and doesn't know what he's doing anymore.
- Played straight, then played straight again, then subverted in Onani Master Kurosawa. Kurosawa starts an unholy alliance with Kitahara, which later stars blackmailing him. It's the perfect set-up for an eventual love story, right? Guess again; Neither Kitahara nor Kurosawa seem particularly interested in each other, aside from their common goals. In fact, Kurosawa is in love with cute, bookish Takagawa during most of the manga. At first she seems to have an interest on him, but eventually she starts dating Nagaoka, afro-otaku extraordinaire. That can't last, right? She's the princess of the High School and he's a clown. Wrong. Kurosawa gets over Takagawa, who seems quite happy with Nagaoka, and ends dating Sugawa, the yankee that beat his ass because he came over her uniform to avenge Kitahara.
- In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka and San fall in love. However, at the end, they realize that neither of them could give up their lives for each other, and the two part, promising to still meet as friends.
- Gender-inverted examples are common in the Macross series:
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross: At the end of the series, Hikaru Ichijo picks Misa Hayase instead of Lynn Minmay. However, Lynn becomes the couple's friend and joins them in the SDF-2 Megaroad-01.
- A similar fate happens to Ranka Lee in the second Movie of Macross Frontier, where Alto Saotome declares that he loves Sheryl Nome, but Ranka believes that one day Alto will come back and Sheryl will be awake from the coma.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Poor Homura. After fighting (shooting, blasting, cluster-bombing) her way through multiple iteration of living hell, in the end she didn't get Madoka. About the only thing that Averted Bittersweet Ending is that Madoka is technically not dead and will always be by her side. Technically, that is.
- Inverted with Sayaka, who in every timeline gets screwed over in not getting Kyousuke.
- The 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist ends this way (twice): in the TV ending, Ed is trapped in our world searching for a way to get back while Winry and Rose are left behind, and in The Movie after finding a way back to Amestris and reuniting with Winry, he realizes that our world needs him more than Amestris and seizes his last chance to return and seals off the portal connecting the two worlds for good, leaving Winry behind yet again.
- No. 6: Shion Did Not Get The Guy Or Girl: Not only does Nezumi leave him behind when they're done, but Safu, his Het Option, Ascends to A Higher Plane of Existence. However, there might be hope because Shion promises that he'll meet Nezumi again at the end of the anime and novels.
- Dave Lizewski in Kick-Ass has a brutal encounter with this trope. After months of pretending to be her gay best friend, Dave finally bares his soul to Katie Deuxma. Expecting her to reciprocate his feelings, Katie instead gets her boyfriend Carl to beat the crap out of him and later sends him a pornographic picture of herself with said boyfriend, which Dave later uses. Ouch.
- Yorick in Y: The Last Man in two different ways. First, he discovers that his girlfriend Beth, who he has been right around the world to find again, was planning to break up with him (and even the death of all other men doesn't help.) But he realised that he'd fallen in love with his bodyguard, and the feeling is mutual...until she's shot by a sniper. Regardless, Beth ends up with Yorrick's sister, Hero. So, you might say that Hero gets the girl, even if "the hero" doesn't.
- In the Uncle Scrooge comics, one of the most attractive things for shippers about Scrooge and Goldie is that they only spent that one month together and then, driven apart by their Pride, went their separate ways, never to see each other again for fifty some years. Don Rosa was strongly tempted to write more meetings between them when he took over the Scrooge McDuck Universe but resisted the temptation to ruin the tragic romanticism of this trope.
- Empire State: Jimmy screws up the courage to confess his feelings for Sara, only to discover that she's found a boyfriend since she moved away. She does let Jimmy kiss her, which is implied to be more out of pity than romantic attraction ("Listen, kiddo, that's just to get you through the next year or two."); if you tilt your head and squint, you could interpret it as a Maybe Ever After ending.
- For all the troubles Weakling Smurf went through in The Smurfs comic book story "The Olympic Smurfs", he winds up not getting Smurfette (or at least, not getting a kiss from Smurfette) by the story's end.
- Played with in a very gruesome way in Les Legendaires during the Anathos Cycle. As the protagonists prepare to fight the God of Evil Anathos, Danael, feeling tired with everything that happened so far, eventually fully confess his feeling to Jadina once and for all, and proposes her to marry after the fight. She agrees and they share a kiss... then after the fight, Anathos ends up taking over Danael's body. And when the heroes fianlly defeat Anathos at the end of the Cycle, Jadina is forced to stab Danael in order to succeed. Though he's then ressurrected, he has left the group and is convinced to leave the past behind him, while Jadina replaces him as The Hero.
- Annie Hall ends with the main characters breaking up.
- Toward the end of Harold Ramis' remake of Bedazzled, the hero finally finds the courage to ask out his Love Interest. As it turns out, she's seeing someone. This is actually a plot point: at the beginning of the movie the main character mentions that she's recently split up with her [unseen] boyfriend, and his final wish, that she have a happy life, apparently undoes the break-up. He handles it admirably, given what he's been through. Although, bizarrely, the hero does then end up with another, kookier, more down-to-earth girl who is played by the same actress, so he sort of ... does get her? Hooray?
- Definitely hooray. The girl he had been pining for throughout the movie was actually something of a stuck-up bitch, and the new (nearly physically identical) girl not only is attractive to the hero, she also shares many of his interests.
- Jack Burton returns to being a loner after getting his truck back at the end of Big Trouble in Little China.
- This was the less sad part of the Downer Ending to The Butterfly Effect.
- Casablanca is probably the quintessential example.
- Chasing Amy (arguably twice)
- Charlie Chaplin's The Circus is an early film example.
- Batman Begins, in which Rachel decides Batman's commitment to Gotham won't allow him a fulfilling relationship with her. This door slams shut for good when she is murdered in The Dark Knight.
- The original ending to Eurotrip, as a subversion of the standard formula for teen comedies; the writers eventually went with a more traditional ending.
- Unsurprisingly, it happens in He's Just Not That Into You. Surprisingly, it's played pretty brutally straight.
- To clarify, out of the three relationships followed, only two of the three result in a relationship in the end.
- The Rainmaker: "So long, beautiful!" Averted in the book.
- In Dumb and Dumber, the "hero" doesn't get the girl, and kills her husband in a rage-filled Indulgent Fantasy Segue before leaving quietly.
- A Few Good Men. Tom Cruise doesn't get the girl. This aspect of the film could be considered a parody of the typical movie conventions of protagonists always getting with the heroine regardless of their relationship working out in reality. In the case of this film, the pair were only brought together due to the legal case the plot follows. Though they had chemistry, it is noted that they have no grounds for a dedicated relationship once the trial is over.
- Charles Laughton Did Not Get the Girl in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).
- Happens in The Last American Virgin. Unusual is that it was supposed to be a light teen comedy. According to The Other Wiki, this is the only film of the kind where it happens.
- In My Best Friend's Wedding, the female lead Did Not Get The Guy.
- Notably used in recent James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
- In Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare can't have his love because he is a common man, while she is a noblewoman. His frustration over this leads him to write Romeo and Juliet.
- The Star Wars films between Luke and Leia (rather fortunately, as a revelation in Return Of The Jedi makes clear).
- Streets of Fire. Hero gets the tough girl instead of the singer he loved.
- Superman Returns plays with this; Superman isn't ever going to wind up with Lois because she's engaged to Richard, but Richard will never see her fully commit to him either because she still loves Superman. The real 'fun' comes in when you realize that the only way that the situation will ever be resolved is by eliminating a corner of the triangle. And then there's the little revelation that Superman is the biological father of Lois's son, Jason, yet the guy who Jason has seen as his father for his entire life has been Richard.
- The Third Man, with its famous ending shot of the hero's love interest walking coldly past him without even a sidelong glance. The film pulled this off so well that its ending was lifted almost verbatim in both The Departed and Miller's Crossing.
- Star Trek. Uhura ends up with Spock, not the Handsome Lech hero Captain Kirk, who only scores with Uhura's Really Gets Around Orion roommate.
- In The Terminal, Viktor, despite his huge effort and all the sweet things he tried, did not end up with Amelia, who ended up resuming her affair with the married official. Definitely was a bit of a downer, though quite a few reviewers later admitted that if she's like that, he's better off without her.
- In Darkman, Peyton leaves Julie immediately after rescuing her. Not because he's disfigured (which she has faith he'll be able to fix), but because he's done so many terrible things for the sake of revenge that he now feels unworthy of her love, or anyone's.
- Up in the Air
- Love Actually - Part of the Bittersweet Ending, Sarah and Karl don't end up together.
- A lesser extent is with Mark. He cares deeply for his friend Peter and was in love with Peter's girlfriend/wife Juliet for some time (to the point he even pushed her away out of loyalty for Peter and to save himself from the pain) but couldn't reconcile his feelings towards both because they were getting married. It arguably ends well as Mark never expected to get Juliet from Peter and she gave him a pity kiss and they are able to get along as friends.
- Roman Holiday in a particularly classy version of this trope.
- The original Conan the Barbarian film has Conan gain wealth, vengeance, and the favor of a king... but in doing so he lost Valeria, his love. Even the epilogue, showing him as a king in the distant future, reveals he is still alone.
- (500) Days of Summer. It's right there in the title.
- Streets of Fire.
- In Cast Away, when Chuck returns, his wife is already married to another man, since she thought him dead (he was away for several years).
- J from Men In Black 2 mainly cause the love interest is an alien princess and needs to return home to ensure the safety of Earth. This line pretty much sums it up.
Laura: It's not fair.
Jay: It never is.
- In the novelization, Laura was not an Alien princess. Instead, Jay has to neuralize her.
- That's actually a little worse.
- In the novelization, Laura was not an Alien princess. Instead, Jay has to neuralize her.
- The protagonist from White Men Can't Jump. He actully does start out with her as his girlfriend. But she leaves him to start fresh and manages to becomes a champion on Jeopardy. He goes on to win her back. But is pulled back into basketball hustling to save his friend who had been robbed. They win the game but she leaves him without saying goodbye, the irony to this was that it was meant to be his last game.
- Also doubles as a Pyrrhic Victory.
- The Wrestler has the female lead reject Mickey Rourke, accept him, reject him, and then accept again fr all of five minutes until she realizes that she can't live with his self-destructive lifestyle and apparently leaves him for a good.
- Possibly, anyway...
- The romantic comedy/road movie Forces of Nature, where said forces seemingly conspire to make single mom Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck a couple, but which ends with them going their separate ways.
- An unusual version is done in The Brothers Grimm - both of the brothers love Angelika and both get a kiss with her at the end, but she never actually hooks up with either of them. This is even lampshaded.
Jacob: I always thought that you would end up with the girl.
William: Well you see that? *points up*
Jacob: What, the sun?
William: The day is not over yet!
- In Tron, Flynn does not permanently hook up with either Lora, his former girlfriend (for whom he still has feelings) at the start of the film, or Yori, her program counterpart, although he kisses the latter just before he leaves the electronic world, believing that he's about to die.
- The Green Hornet, refreshingly, has neither of the lead men get with Cameron Diaz's character despite repeated attempts to woo her, because (sensibly) she is not crazy about being treated like an object for them to use and fight over.
- At the end of The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade turns in Brigid O'Shaughnessy for the murder of his partner.
- There's a Subversion in the dance movie Centre Stage. Peter Gallagher's character has married Ethan Stiefel's ex-girlfriend, and at one stage he snarks: "I got the girl." Later on, Stiefel wins over a rich, elderly woman who promises to fund his own dancing company and in doing so, allow him to leave Gallagher's theatre. He tells Gallagher: "I guess this time, I get the girl."
- Wild Wild West - the female lead reveals that Dr. Escobar is not her father, but her husband.
- The Town - Doug is forced to flee Boston and can likely never return due to the FBI manhunt.
- Due to actress Megan Fox refusing to participate in the film's production, Mikaela Banes for some reason actually left Sam Witwicky somewhere between the events of Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon. According to Wheelie in a tie-in comic that supposedly took place within this timeframe, Sam and Mikaela actually broke up. However, Sam got a new girlfriend named Carly in Dark of the Moon.
- Lucas - Though Lucas Bly tries desperately to win the heart of new girl Maggie (even joining the football team), she sees them as being better off as friends and goes for Cappie Roew. Maggie even says, "We're just friends, Lucas," at one point.
- In Brick Brendan's first love interest dies at the beginning, and his second turns out to have orchestrated her murder.
- Thor did not manage to end up with his love interest Jane since he destroyed the bridge that connects Earth to Asgard by the end of the film.
- Played rather tragically straight in Captain America: The First Avenger. In a great adaptation of a famous plotline from the comics, Steve Rogers forces the Red Skull's flying wing down in the Arctic to save New York and other major U.S. cities. Peggy Carter, Steve's comrade and love interest, has him promise to take her dancing the next week, with both knowing he's all but guaranteed to die in the crash. Once Steve awakens seventy years in the future, the realization must set in that even if Peggy is still alive, and he somehow managed to find her again, she'd be an old woman of at least ninety, almost certainly with a family. Needless to say, a date to go dancing would most likely be out of the question.
Nick Fury-(after just breaking the time issue to Steve) "Are you going to be okay?"
Steve- "Yeah. Yeah, I just... I had a date."
- Marvel's Cinematic Universe seems to have a Did Not Get the Girl theme going on because Bruce Banner also didn't end up with the girl in his film. It would seem only Tony Stark did.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World's original ending. Scott goes back to Knives, and Ramona disappears into Subspace alone. The test audiences didn't like this ending, however, so a new ending was filmed.
- Invoked straight in an early work of Francis Ford Coppola titled You're a Big Boy Now. In this movie from 1966 Bernard, the protagonist, suffer this fate at the end, after spending all the movie chasing Barbara Darling. Actually, he doesn't get that girl...
- In "Experiment in Terror" FBI agent Glenn Ford does not wind up with victim Lee Remick. They never have a moment, they do not have sex, there is nothing between them. This is the rare example of Truth In Television because it's his job and just being in a stressful situation together doesn't lead to two entirely different people who did not know each other before falling in love and living their lives together.
Quasimodo: (to a statue, sobbing) Why was I not made of stone like thee?
- Despite all of the eponymous characters attempts to win the girl in The Great Gatsby, she stays with her husband. Gatsby takes a lie for her that gets him killed.
- Severus Snape did not get the girl, the girl being Lily Potter nee Evans, before the events of the Harry Potter series, as revealed in the 7th book.
- Adrian Mole never manages to get his most constant love interest, Pandora Braithwaite, back after the final end of their on-off (and unconsummated) relationship in their early teens. Every time he falls in love with another woman, the relationship ends disastrously, leaving him with two failed marriages behind him.
- Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden. He's had four love interests in 11 books, and it hasn't worked out with any of them. In order:
- Elaine (who shows up later in the books than Susan, but who Harry has known longer): She and Harry fall in love when they teenagers both apprenticed to a dark wizard; when Harry turns against the dark wizard Elaine betrays and nearly kills him (we later find out she was under a geas); and now they've run into each other occasionally but are in no kind of relationship.
- Susan Rodriguez was the steadiest girlfriend he had, and they were genuinely in love Literally; Susan's love for Harry protects him from the White Court. Unfortunately, bad decisions on both their parts ended with Susan becoming a half-vampire and forced to go on the run for the rest of her life, though not without carrying Harry's child. In the end, Harry ends up killing her to trigger a bloodline curse that kills all of the Red Court vampires in the world. Ouch....
- Shiela, a girl working at an occult bookstore with perfect memory recall, seems like a good possibility. Turns out she's just a psychic projection created by the Fallen Angel residing in Harry's head. He does actually manage to redeem the demonic entity, right before she kills herself to save his life. Oof.
- Anastasia Luccio, fellow wizard born three centuries ago, who got dumped in a pretty young girl's body via magic and developed a budding relationship with Harry. Turns out she was mind-controlled by an agent of the Black Council into being attracted to Harry to keep tabs on him. That...really puts a downer on that romance.
- Karrin Murphy, who Harry has the most ongoing chemistry with. They planned to take the "unresolved" out of their Unresolved Sexual Tension at the end of Changes, but then Harry catches a bad case of sniper. Well, shit.
- And Harry did manage to bed Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie, Queen of Air and Darkness. But nothing good is coming out of that.
- Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's. The film adaptation, of course, changed this.
- Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid did not get her Prince though in every way she deserved to. Here, too, the film adaptation changed this (and even added a sequel about the daughter born to the marriage which did not happen in the original...).
- Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
- Also, the original ending of Great Expectations.
- This is more or less the ending of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Moonraker, where Gala Brand (the Girl of the week) tells Bond she's engaged.
- Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda
- The ending of the classic Robert Munsch children's tale The Paper Bag Princess has the eponymous heroine not getting the prince because she looks too unkempt. She therefore decides that the prince isn't good for her if he won't accept the way she looks, and calls him a bum. The last line of it is "They didn't get married after all." In the short animated adaption of this story, she hooks up with the dragon instead. Dead serious.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Sourcery. And several other novels, among them Pyramids (see also: Star Wars) and Interesting Times, but notably not Guards! Guards!, despite Vimes' tendency to quote Casablanca (see).
- Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials: Will and Lyra. While they do share a mutual attraction to each other and eventually
consummate their relationshipspend some romantic time together, it can't last since the laws of the multiverse decree that they live in their separate universes and try to make the world a better place individually. (No complaining about the ending, here, just hanky-filled reminisces.)
- Little Women: The One Guy Laurie does not get the member of the starring Four-Girl Ensemble he originally wanted and both the original and the modern fanbase wanted him to get. It's not like there isn't a Fritz/Jo fandom or their Together Umbrella scene isn't the very essence of sweet and romantic. Laurie/Amy, on the other hand...
- Daisy Miller is not a Tear Jerker because the girl dies but because the guy doesn't realize her worth while she's alive.
- The First Law plays this straight with Logen/Ferro and Jezal/Ardee, making two heroes who did not get the girl...but, at Jezal's expense, deliciously subverts it with Glokta, Hero #3... depending, of course, on how you define "hero."
- Dean Koontz's novel Your Heart Belongs to Me ends like this, which is something of a break in formula for him.
- Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. Subverted in that he does get a girl, but she's not the main romantic lead and she's a complete harpy. Played straight in that Sue decides to go back to Philloston after the big tragedy.
- Bella really needs to re-read Wuthering Heights because, far from Heathcliff and Catherine not letting anything keep them apart, Heathcliff does not get Catherine. In fact, he marries her sister-in-law Isabella.
- Kim Stanley Robinson's Pacific Edge. Kevin Claiborne does not get Ramona; instead, she goes back to her Jerkass boyfriend, Alfredo.
- Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park. Arkady Renko tells damaged love interest Irina Asanova to stay in America while he'll return to Cold War era Russia. It was her dream to escape the Soviet Union, and Renko doesn't find America to be any better than the USSR.
- Book of the New Sun: Severian's first love, Thecla ends up killing herself to avoid the torture and his amnesiac second love, Dorcas leaves him when she finds out that she is his grandmother. It should be noted that although Thecla dies, Severian's persona is merged with hers through a sort of cannibalistic Eucharist.
- Warrior Cats: Ashfur did not get Squirrelflight.
- Happens in the James Bond novels more regularly than the films would have you believe. (In the very first novel, the love interest commits suicide, in Moonraker she's engaged to another man, in OHMSS his wife is murdered at the end, in From Russia With Love Bond is poisoned before any consumation can occur).
- Circe and Calypso in The Odyssey - both fall in love with Odysseus and want to keep him on their islands, but due to divine intervention (Hermes usually is involved) they have to let him go eventually. Calypso even lampshades it, complaining that goddesses are always quickly separated from their mortal lovers, usually by a male god killing them.
- Eragon from The Inheritance Cycle. Never mind that Arya got a dragon, and her dragon and Saphira immediately shacked up, so both she and Eragon had a mental link to sex... except Eragon has spent a long time learning to control the link, and she hasn't. The girl he's been drooling over for the better part of four books and a year or two, they're both horny beyond their control, alone, and... they sit and chat. If Forever Alone has a patron saint, it's this guy.
- Doubly weird because the author's a young guy.
- This is what kickstarts the philosophizing in Repetition.
- Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy is possibly one of the most depressing examples. Remedied at the end of the Tawny Man trilogy, in which Fitz Chivalry finally does get the girl he had wanted to be with the entire time after her husband dies, something like thirty or forty years later. A clear case of Earn Your Happy Ending.
- Occasionally happens in the Jack Reacher novels. Die Trying is an example; while Reacher and the female lead have a mutual attraction and once engage in "Glad to Be Alive" Sex, she is in love with someone else and moves in with (and possibly marries) him at the end of the novel.
Live Action TV
- The Blackadder II episode "Bells".
- Buffy and Angel in Season 3 and then Buffy and Spike in Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Not to mention Buffy and Riley, Willow and Tara, Xander and Anya, and Giles and Jenny for Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Along with Angel and Cordelia, Gunn and Fred, and Wesley and Fred all of Angel
- And rounding out the gang, we've got November and Paul, Alpha and Echo, Topher and Bennett, and Echo and Paul, all from Dollhouse... Joss Whedon may as well have been the Trope Namer
Neil Patrick Harris: You do kill a lot of women.
Joss Whedon: Hey, my personal life is not on trial here.
- Dawson's Creek
- Night Court - though Harry and Christine gave it an honest shot.
- Smallville - It should be extremely obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of Superman lore that Clark and Lana do not end up together.
- In the BBC version of Casanova, the titular character tragically Did Not Get the Girl. The Hollywood version cheapens the story with a tacked-on happy ending.
- Brian Kinney at the end of the US version of Queer as Folk. Despite having declared his love for Justin and even proposing marriage, which was what Justin wanted even though it went against everything playboy Brian believed in, the couple split up so that Justin could pursue an art career in NYC.
- Shua in Sky Blue manages to bring down Ecoban, but thanks to Locke, it's almost certain Jay will die.
- Allan-a-Dale from Robin Hood was given two possible love interests and lost them both to other characters. And then they killed him off.
- Tony and Michelle in Skins end up going their separate ways because of different universities.
- Lee "Apollo" Adama on the new Battlestar Galactica Reimagined is practically the patron saint of this trope. He blows it with at least four women over the course of the show: Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, his Star-Crossed Lover, who marries another man, dies suddenly, comes back, then disappears again leaving him standing all alone in the middle of a field and that's literally the last that's seen of him in the series. Anastasia Dualla, who he sniped away from the show's Dogged Nice Guy Billy Keikeya. She married him, divorced him, then killed herself. Gianne, his ex-fiance, who he ran out on when she was pregnant with his child no less. And Shevon, a prostitute he frequents for all of one episode and Replacement Goldfish for Gianne, who pushes him away because, well, she's a prostitute.
- Played for laughs with Simon Cooper in The Inbetweeners. He spends the course of the entire show trying to win her over, usually blowing it in hilarious ways. He does get to kiss her in the final episode of series 2, but she goes back to her boyfriend.
- Kamen Rider Double hinted in early episodes that Shotaro would eventually get together with Akiko, only for her to end up with Terui instead.
- The Doctor occasionally does this on Doctor Who, although mostly in the Revival. He didn't get together with Rose due to a combination of Cannot Spit It Out and her getting stuck in an alternate universe. Even if he does succeed in romance, it's probably not going to last, because of his near-immortality.
- They do get a somewhat happy ending at the end of Series 4. Due to a complicated series of events wherein the Doctor undergoes a partial regeneration which he aborts by channelling into his spare hand, the hand later grows into a Half-Human clone of the Doctor after absorbing some of Donna's DNA. The Doctor decides to leave his doppleganger with Rose in the alternate-universe, knowing that he can grow old with her and give her a life that he never could.
- Maddigan's Quest made it clear from the beginning that this would be how the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Garland and Timon, since whether they won or lost, Timon would have to return to the future.
- Lancelot from Merlin. In this version, Arthur/Guinevere is not a political marriage, but a real love connection.
- ICarly: Carly Shay doesn't get the guy at the end of "iOMG", but since this is a season finale cliffhanger, the next season could resolve it differently. Resolved (for now at least) and subverted. Sam doesn't end up with Freddie either.
- George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, but not the musical My Fair Lady or for that matter most other Pygmalion Plot adaptations.
- Sweet Charity. Although all signs point to the contrary, Oscar winds up leaving Charity.
- Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard plays it tragically straight.
- On a more comical note, Patience is subtitled Bunthorne's Bride. Guess who is the only male character in the play to end up without a bride...
- The Student Prince: In a huge Tear Jerker moment, just as the titular prince is about to defy his father and marry the commoner he's fallen in love with... he learns his father is dying. He agrees to marry for diplomatic reasons, and takes up the crown, but goes to see his true love once more before he does.
- A Did Not Get The Guy example: Kathy in Vanities. And she apparently never finds another.
- Cyrano De Bergerac: Cyrano, Christian and De Guiche love Roxane. No one of them will get her. Roxane won’t get any guy too, because she's been Loving a Shadow. Even Raguenau is abandoned by his wife, Lisa. Nobody gets anyone.
- Peter Ustinov's play The Love of the Four Colonels is set in Germany shortly after World War 2, where the four titular officers - one from each occupying power - come across Sleeping Beauty's castle and fall in love with her. Due to the machinations of the good and evil fairy, none of them gets the princess - the British and the Soviet colonel return to their wives (even though e. g. the Russian one has in the meantime given birth to another man's child), while the American and the Frenchman have themselves put to sleep so that in another 100 years they'll have another go at wooing her, even though they just know that the fairies will ensure that neither of them is successful.
- The ending to Metal Gear Solid shows Snake and Meryl riding off together into the sunset. Cue the fourth game where Snake's an old man and Meryl gets married to the very guard she knocked out at the beginning of the first game. (See Cartwright Curse.) In addition, it seems like this in Raiden's case but it's later subverted when it's revealed it was a cover story he wasn't in on. See also Ellen Madnar and Holly White from the first two games.
- And there's also Otacon. In each of the three games he appears in, there is also a woman he has a special relationship with. It never turns out well. Not well at all.
- Full Throttle has the woman-not-getting-man version when Mo takes over Corley Motors, thus losing access to the free roaming lifestyle that would have kept her together with Ben.
- In Bahamut Lagoon, Byuu does not end up with Princess Yoyo. She ends up falling for Palpaleos, the enemy general who keeps her kidnapped.
- While the ending of Persona 2: Innocent Sin is an example of that other trope, Eternal Punishment plays this straight as Tatsuya ends up returning to the Other Side, and if Maya ever gets involved with This Side's Tatsuya there'd be a risk of screwing over the world again, so seeing him or his brother isn't really an option either. The ending movie with Maya accepting this and walking by Tatsuya without saying anything is a real Tear Jerker.
- Alundra's Distaff Counterpart, who is subtly teased as being a potential Love Interest from the moment she appears at the game's midpoint, walks the earth with him for a while in the ending, and then leaves him to his own devices, no kiss or anything. Cock tease.
- In Fire Emblem 7, this happens with two of Priscilla's potential love interests, as her noble status prevents her from being able to continue a relationship with both Guy, a poor swordsmen, and Heath, a Wyvern Knight deserter. Sain is another potential partner, but his duties to his kingdom prevent him from leaving for her and their support chat ends with them coming to this realization. Erk, her fourth option, is the only one that actually can stay with Priscilla due to him having friends in high places.
- In the same title, Harken and Vaida must part ways due to their dedication to their respective lords.
- Most of the origin stories in Dragon Age include an extra one-sided-or-not Love Interest, and in fact, every female Warden can run into one in hers. Needless to say, she won't get to keep him even if she wants to, a fact which is sometimes presented rather painfully.
- Any male Warden who romanced Morrigan has this occur prior to end-game. The entire plot of "Witch Hunt" has the Warden attempting to track down Morrigan and their child.
- Dragon Age 2 reveals this to be the fate of a Warden who romanced Leliana or Zevran, as the Warden seems to have vanished.
- Dragon Age 2 has this occur repeatedly. Notably exampes are if Hawke slept with Isabela but later romanced another character, several lines of dialogue hint that Isabela still has lingering feelings and regret over the relationship ending. Similarly, if a female Hawke romances Sebastian, but sides with the Mages and refuses to kill Anders, he breaks up with Hawke and leaves to raise an army to wage war on Kirkwall.
- Neverwinter Nights Hordes of the Underdark reveals that the Hero of Neverwinter was good, male, and completed the romance subquest with Aribeth. And then Aribeth was executed for treason with the Hero protesting every step of the process and the Hero leaves the city, estranged from its lords and his friends.
- The fan-made module The Bastard of Kosigan has the hero's former Love Interest die an unavoidable death at the hands of French assassins, even if you attempt to renew your relationship with her.
- Neverwinter Nights 2. Both possible Love Interests die in the collapsing fortress at the end, unless you drove Elanee off.
- Knights of the Old Republic and the sequel has both Revan and the Jedi Exile vanish into the Unknown Regions to seek out the old Sith Empire to finish the fight, leaving behind a Love Interest (and all their allies, for that matter) in both cases.
- It's later revealed in a novel that Revan did get the girl; he and Bastila were married between the two games, and she was pregnant with his son when he vanished (on a trip that was supposed to only be temporary).
- The 2008 Prince of Persia: Epilogue ends on this note. After an entire game's worth of semi-witty Will They or Won't They? sexual tension, Elika finally has enough and literally runs off on the Prince because he freed the God of Darkness who they spent the entire time trying to seal away, on the misguided notion that he could bring Elika back to life and use her to defeat it once and for all. Only, she didn't think she could, and didn't want to even try. Nice Job Breaking It, Dumbass.
- Adol in the Ys series, almost every time. Of course, apart from Feena in I/II, it was more like the various girls Did Not Get The Guy.
- Played with in the Bittersweet Ending of Deadly Premonition. York does, but Zach (the player character) does not.
- Soul Series: According to the Soulcalibur 5 profile for Leixia (daughter of Xianghua), her father is not Kilik, her Love Interest for the first four Soulcalibur games.
- Link's Implied Love Interest Midna returns back to the Twilight Realm in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, and no way is left to return there as she breaks the only known pathway to it herself.
- Fate/stay night's Fate route: In the most tearjerking way, Shirou doesn't get to keep Saber, and life moves on. However, in Realta Nua's bonus ending of Fate they meet again.
- In Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors, Akane and Aoi flee Building Q before Junpei catches up to her. And Junpei spends the rest of his days trying to find her.
- The Phoenix Requiem ended with Jonas and Anya splitting over his need to become the Grim Reaper. Though the ending left it ambiguous as to whether it would stay that way for good.
- Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog plays this horribly, brutally straight.
- Red vs. Blue. While Tex does not die at the end of the series, neither is Church able to keep her in his life.
- In Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs Bashful is actually in love with Snow White. We all know how that turns out.
- The Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is still a step up from the Kill'Em All ending of the book. He does get a different girl in the sequel, though.
- At the end of Disney's Pocahontas, John Smith, severely injured, returns to Europe, leaving Pocahontas behind. Possibly the only truth in television moment in the entire movie, acknowledging that, no, Pocahontas and John Smith did not end up together.
- This carries over into the sequel, when John Smith still loves Pocahontas, but she hooks up with John Rolfe.
- Batman Beyond: Throughout the DCAU, Bruce Wayne has had many love interests: Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Zatanna (one-sided only, Bruce always considered them Just Friends), Talia Al'Ghul, Andrea Beaumont, Wonder Woman, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl... He doesn't end up with any of them and ends up a single, old man.
Bruce Wayne: When I was young, women used to throw themselves at my feet all the time.
Terry McGinnis: What did you do?
Bruce Wayne: Step over them.
Terry McGinnis: Smooth.
Bruce Wayne: I thought so.
- Only by choice because he believed (arguably correctly) that relationships with any of them could lead to their deaths at the hands of his enemies. Or, it could be interpreted that Bruce could never commit to a relationship since it would always get in the way of "the mission."
- Given that Wonder Woman of all people is hardly somebody who'd be imperiled by Batman's mostly non-powered enemies, it's probably the latter.
- Only by choice because he believed (arguably correctly) that relationships with any of them could lead to their deaths at the hands of his enemies. Or, it could be interpreted that Bruce could never commit to a relationship since it would always get in the way of "the mission."
- The Rankin/Bass Jack Frost special follows the titular sprite as he tries to gain the things he needs to become human: a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife. He set his sights on the one girl who loved Jack Frost, the sprite... but he couldn't get her to love him as Jack Snip, the human. In the end he returns to being a sprite and she marries someone else.
- Toy Story 3: Although Buzz Lightyear and Jessie, and to a much lesser extent, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and Barbie and Ken are now finally united with each other, Woody and Bo Peep, unfortunately aren't. (At the very beginning of the film, Bo Peep was seen only in a flashback, and Mr. Potato Head actually tells him that she, along with Wheezy, RC, and the other toys; were actually all have been either sold or given away prior to the film's events.)
- That poor squirrel lady from Disney's The Sword in the Stone. She falls in love with Wart while he's a squirrel, but once he turns human, she's heartbroken.
- According to Disney's Melody Time, this is actually the main reason why coyotes always howl at the Moon.
- Peter in The Spectacular Spider-Man, due to premature cancellation. The season two finale ends with Gwen remaining with Harry out of pity.
- Also lampshaded in Spider-Man: The Animated Series at the end of the episode that introduced Kraven, where Peter complains to himself that it's supposed to be the hero (him) that gets the girl, not the reformed villain (Kraven).
- Cody on Total Drama loses Gwen to another guy twice. It's possible he Hooks Up Afterwards with Sierra, though at the end of season three he insists they remain Just Friends.
- Beast Boy and Cyborg in Teen Titans. With Beast Boy: first Terra had a Face Heel Turn; then a Heel Face Turn that resulted in her being turned to stone; then she may or may not have been brought back to life, but either way Beast Boy lets her go. With Cyborg: he and Sarasim do kiss, but he's transported back into the future soon after, since they do come from different times. He knows that she survived the battle, though.
- A gender reversed version happens in Family Guy with Meg twice with both Joe's son and the nudist boy. She does get Neil, but then drives him away when he proves annoying.
- Played for Drama in ThunderCats (2011) when Rebel Prince and royal heir Lion-O develops a crush on Cheetara, a woman he discovers is a member of his Church Militant Praetorian Guard, he realizes his Lancer brother Tygra, also has feelings for her. As they set off on a shared journey, the two develop a passive-aggressive, increasingly toxic Sibling Triangle rivalry for her affections to which she remains largely oblivious, with both brothers interpreting the attention she pays Lion-O as romantic interest. After they come to blows over her, Cheetara takes Tygra aside and apologizes for failing to confess her feelings. She and Tygra share a childhood history, and she's carried a torch ever since he did her a favor that helped her join the Clericy. They kiss just as Lion-O walks into view, confident he's avoided a prophecy fortelling Tygra's betrayal.