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Sometimes, even the greatest fail.

In every Medical Drama, almost every Cop Show, basically any show where the characters often have someone else's life/future in their hands, there will come a time when they will fail and the person they're trying to save will die (or wind up paralyzed, or in jail, or some other long-term bad thing). The character will feel incredibly guilty, but an understanding friend or colleague - sometimes even the person whose life they just ruined - will insist, "You did everything you could" or "You tried your best" or variants thereof. Sometimes the character will say the phrase him/herself, in which case the "you" becomes "I."

Usually this helps, and the character is able to move on. Sometimes they don't, and fall into depression, and after a while will have another stock phrase thrown at them: "You can't keep blaming yourself!".

On the other hand, it's sometimes countered with a taunt of "Your best wasn't good enough!" And sometimes, it may still be good enough to keep you your job.

Speaking of blaming yourself, there are other stock phrases for that. And there's also a second stock phrase for reassuring someone blaming themselves.

Compare Survivors Guilt.

Examples of You Did Everything You Could include:

Anime and Manga

  • It could be interpreted that this is what kicks off the entire plot of Naoki Urasawa's Monster. After being assigned by the higher-ups in the hospital to save the life of a famous opera singer instead of a Turkish man, Dr. Tenma tries to console himself by getting one of these during a dinner with his fiancee, Eva. She gives it to him, immediately followed by the line, "After all, not all lives are created equal." The shock of this helps him make his decision to save the life of the title character, Johann Liebert.
  • Pictured above: One of the few times Black Jack failed to save someone, that someone being the surgeon that saved Black Jack as a child and inspired him to become a doctor in the first place. Black Jack's mentor's spirit(?) assures him that he did what he could.
    • Specifically, he says, "To think that doctors are above life and death is just arrogant, don't you think?" It was his last words.
  • In Inuyasha, a dying Kikyou tells this to both Kagome and Inuyasha. According to her, even if they couldn't save her from her definitive death, Kagome did save her soul and Inuyasha did come for her.



  • Resident Evil. As Alice and Matt near the exit, Alice feels responsible for not saving all of their comrades who died.

 Alice: I failed all of them. I failed.

Matt: Listen to me. There is nothing else you could've done.


 Luke: I can't believe he's really gone.

Leia: There wasn't anything you could have done.

  • Plio says the exact phrase to Aladar on the Disney movie Dinosaur when he fails to rescue Bruton from the rockslide.



 Ron Weasley: You did everything you could. No one could win against that old hag.

  • In C. S. Goto's Warhammer 40000 Blood Ravens trilogy, fellow Blood Ravens try this on Gabriel after he had to order Exterminus and tell him another captain would have done the same. Gabriel is angry, the question is whether the other captain would have let the situation arise in the first place.

Live Action TV

  • Said a bazillion times, by almost every character, to almost every character, on ER.
  • House. Cameron says this to House in the first season episode "Damned If You Do". As expected, he doesn't respond kindly.

 Cameron: I just wanted to say that I know that you did everything you could.

House: I don’t need verification from you to know that I'm doing my job well. That's your problem, not mine.

    • Also occurs in season six, when the patient dies due to a fat embolism, after a leg amputation, which House could not have done anything to prevent. When Foreman tells House that is wasn't his fault, House is not consoled because that was exactly what was eating him up; he did everything he could (everything anyone could) and it still wasn't enough.
  • Desperate Housewives: "One Wonderful Day"

 Bree: [the doctor has just called to tell Bree that Rex is dead] No, no - of course. You did everything you could.

  • Lost: "Whatever the Case May Be"

 Rose: For what happened to Claire. It's not your fault. You did everything that you could do and you came very close to dying yourself.


 Coach Gary Gaines: [half time speech] Perfection is being able to look your friends in the eye and know you did everything you could not to let them down.

  • Parodied in Frasier; an old friend-turned-bitter rival of Martin's is in the hospital with serious problems and Frasier's trying to persuade Martin to bury the hatchet. Martin, typically stubborn, refuses. Frasier gets a phone call, and responds to the caller with a somber "I'm sure you did everything you could..." Martin, who obviously can't hear the other end of the conversation, freaks out and decides to resolve his problems with his old friend. He stubbornly refuses Frasier's offer of a ride to the hospital because he can drive himself. Except he can't; the phone call was from his mechanic, who was calling to tell him that his car's transmission is kaput.
  • Abused by Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. He tells Glenn and Olly "you tried, you really tried" when they fail to steer Nicola Murray out of an embarrassing photo opportunity... which Malcolm had deliberately steered her into as part of his latest scheme. His reassuring words were just a means of covering it up.
  • After Kima is shot in an undercover operation gone bad on The Wire, Major Rawls tells a guilt ridden Detective McNulty that even though he hates him and would like to be able to blame him, the shooting was not his fault.
  • In Deep Space Nine, Dr. Bashir thinks he has doomed Odo to his death by failing in his last-ditch effort to find the cure for the disease that he was infected with by Section 31. O'Brien attempts to use this Stock Phrase, but Bashir completes it for him and says "It's a small comfort, isn't it?"
  • In the only thing that ACTUALLY happened in the final season of Roseanne, Darlene and David's first child Harris is born two months early and David reassures a guilty Darlene that she did everything right during the pregnancy. Fortunately, Harris ultimately survives.

Web Comics

Western Animation