Offscreen Crash

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Ah, you're taking a Wiki Jog through All The Tropes? That's ni- Oh Crap! WATCH OUT FOR THE -- *BANG* *CRASH* *RATTLE* *MREEEOW* -- spambot junkpile.

In television comedy, most major collisions/accidents are expressed through a loud crashing noise offscreen, usually accompanied by a cringing reaction shot. These crashes are Stock Sound Effects which tend to sound like a mixture of breaking glass, breaking crockery, and rattling metal objects - although in a lot of animated shows, particularly Hanna-Barbera cartoons, it sounds more like a bass drum/cymbal crash. In animated shows, the collision is often emphasised by having the screen shake rapidly up and down. And whatever else happens, That Poor Cat always seems to get the worst of it.

Frequently preceded by the words "Look out for the" or "Be careful with the", e.g., "Look out for the-" CRASH! "...china hutch." Frequently followed by a piece of debris wandering onscreen, such as a hubcap rolling lazily into frame and spinning to a stop.

Used because it's funny, sound effects are cheap, and no writer could come up with a more chaotic scene than your imagination can.


Examples of Offscreen Crash include:

Commercials[edit | hide | hide all]

Film[edit | hide]

  • It's a Wonderful Life: The crash heard offscreen before George leaves Harry's wedding reception was a stack of props that accidentally fell at just the right minute to make it sound as if a drunken Uncle Billy had crashed into something. The director decided to Throw It In and gave the stage hand responsible a bonus.
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space: The grieving old man walks off screen, his shadow freeze-frames and we hear a screech of brakes and a yell. "Confused by his great loss, the old man left that home... never to return!" Only a funny example because of Narm.
    • At B-Fest, someone will occasionally roll a single tire in front of the screen at this point.
  • The film Yellow Submarine crashes Ringo's car this way immediately after the wrong person drives.
  • Happens in Woody Allen's Scoop.
  • In the Monsters, Inc. short film Mike's New Car, Mike orders Sully to get out of the car. The camera stays focused on Sully while Mike begins to drive away, but immediately loses control. A large crash is heard, followed by six hubcaps (six-wheel drive) and Sulley catching Mike as if he was a shooting star.
  • Blackly funny example in Theatre of Blood—a cop hiding in the trunk of a car in an attempt to follow vengeful killer actor Edward Lionheart ends up with it parked on train tracks. We hear him over the walkie-talkie to the other cops:

"I can hear a train whistle... (rumbling sound) I can definitely identify it as a train... (sound grows louder) T-R-A... KERRRR-UNNCH.

  • In High School Musical, a guy tries to dance across the stage. We then see Kelsi wince as he crashes into the equipment just offstage.
  • Duck Soup:

Chicolini: I think we should have a standing army.
Firefly: Oh? Why's that?
Chicolini: We save money on chairs.
[Firefly thunders into him, pushes him out the door, and CRASH!]

  • In Mickey's Christmas Carol when Goofy (as Marley) visits Scrooge, as he leaves he gets told to watch out for the step. Before he can finish his sentence we hear the sound of crashing coming from behind the door.
  • Used at the end of Airplane!, as the Littlest Cancer Patient is being rushed off in an ambulance. It drives away, cue loud crash, a woman wailing in agony, and a hubcap rolling past. Nobody else seems to notice. There's also an earlier example with the stewardess.

Stryker: Randy, why don't you go strap yourself in; it could get dangerous up here.
(Randy leaves the cockpit, followed by a scream and a loud crash.)

  • The principal in Max Keeble's Big Move crashes his car into... something noisy offscreen after he sees Max in the animal shelter.
  • Used as a cheap excuse to avoid the cost of extra CGI: The scene in 2006 movie of The War of the Worlds where the son goes off to join the soldiers and then a few moments later some Humvees doused with gasoline and set ablaze are rolled back into the scene to show the disaster that presumably occurred offscreen.
  • And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird uses this as a lighthearted way to end a scene. Matt warns his son to watch out for the... box.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The premiere episode of Mr. Bean has the title character get in one of these with his car.
  • Live action example: Who's The Boss?, episode "Daddy's Little Montague Girl": Character shoves shopping cart out of a house in rage. House happens to be in hilly San Francisco (as opposed to the usual Connecticut locale of the show). Cart heard rolling for about 30 seconds.
  • Dawson's Creek: The death of Dawson's father is shown this way, with only a reaction shot.
  • The Whammys from Press Your Luck have several instances.
  • Beakman's World full on loved this, to the point where everything (and everyone, especially rats) that fell to the ground was given a crash, complete with shake.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: All of Mr. Pither's many bike crashes in "The Cycling Tour" occur when his bike passes behind a hedge or fence. On at least one occasion you hear the sound of a crash even though his shadow is still moving.
  • Sesame Street used this a LOT in their Muppet sketches.
  • Eureka: Australian tracker Taggart blindfolds himself to try to find his way through a building with pure intuition. As soon as he walks out of frame, we hear the sound of flesh meeting wall and a "Crikey!"
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "Chief Surgeon Who?", a visiting general storms out of the Swamp after an argument with Hawkeye:

Ugly John: Watch out for the...(*crash*)...trash cans.

  • In the pilot of Red Dwarf, Rimmer tries to attack Cat, passes right through him (because he's a hologram), and ends up doing one of these (despite being a hologram).
    • The sound effects are only there in the remastered version (one of the many questionable changes made). The original version of the episode is silent.
  • From Moonlight's '12:04 AM':

(A man has just broken into Audrey's apartment)
Audrey: Shouldn't we call the police?
(A thud and a moan are heard from offscreen.)
Beth: I...think Mick wanted to talk to him alone.

Sheldon: You're right Leonard, thank you. *glass breaks and car crashes are heard. Sheldon is unfazed.*

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In a few Calvin and Hobbes strips, all we see of Calvin's sled trips is Hobbes' reaction as he watches from the top of the hill.
    • What makes these strips hilarious isn't necessarily the reaction shots, or the implied carnage, but that inevitably, for some reason, Hobbes always looks up into the sky at the end, just before Calvin shows up again. Implying that Calvin managed to catch some serious air.
      • Not to mention that one strip has a sled ride through Hobbes's point of view, where there are only flashes of the ride. They end up in a tree, though Hobbes has no idea how because he kept closing his eyes.

Theatre[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Happens in a cutscene in Red Alert 2. As President Dugan makes a speech from an "undisclosed location", a soldier accidentally reveals a Canadian flag. Trying to grab the flag, he stumbles off-camera and a crash is heard.
  • The possible death scene of Mad Jack in Donkey Kong 64 is like this, a Looney Tunes-style Wile E Coyote falling of a cliff type scene and an extremely loud crash into what sounds like off screen metal objects to end the boss battle.
  • In the original CD-ROM remake of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe, it happens when the player finally catches up with the suspect.
  • In The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare, when Bart loses his skateboard, he skids on his butt clear off the screen, crashes into something, and then runs back to the center of the screen looking as though nothing had happened.
  • The Secret of Monkey Island has two sequences of this when you break into the governor's mansion looking for the Idol of Many Hands.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Mimic: Boris Vallejo ain't gonna paint that.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the first Powerpuff Girls short, Ms. Keene excuses the girls, but shouts, "Not through the--" CRASH! "...roof."
  • There was the old "Watch out for that--" CRASH! "...tree!" joke from George of the Jungle, except we just as often got to see George hit the tree.
  • Subverted in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, when a noise that we are led to believe is a car accident is in fact produced by a marching band.
  • On the Camp Lazlo episode "Handy Helper", after the first few times Lumpus gets run over, the camera cuts to Slinkman watching and cringing as Lumpus' screams increase in volume. Not sure whether it counts, though, because we get to see Lumpus get run over a few times before and afterwards.
  • Invader Zim, the episode with the slow-motion explosion. Zim and GIR are carrying the explosion while the screen stays focused on the doorway. They move past the doorway, muttering helpful maneuvering hints to one another. They leave the screen. A moment later you can hear them screaming as they rush into the doorway, the bouncing explosion-ball in pursuit.
  • Wacky Races has, well, a LOT of this.
  • Quite a few times on Scooby Doo "Look out the tires!"
  • It sometimes happened in Action League NOW, where all we would see would be flying plastic body parts as a result of whatever happened. Though normally on this show, they would show the crash. Averted hard in an episode where they actually showed a real car fall off a cliff and land at the bottom exploding in flames.
  • In one Tex Avery Screwy Squirrel cartoon, a dog chases Screwy into a dark cave, and the screen goes black. We hear a loud crash and other odd noises, until Screwy lights a match and says "Sure was a funny gag! Too bad you couldn't see it."
  • A later episode of Thomas the Tank Engine does this by cutting to Emily and shaking the camera for when Toby crashes into Percy. This was to avoid "traumatising" the little kiddies.
  • Batman: The Animated Series had some (plot-crucial) moments that were too intense for the censors. Rather than show these explicitly, this technique was employed—and often, was done well enough that it was more disturbing than seeing it outright.
  • In a Simpsons Episode, after Homer and Marge got a Kama Sutra book from Apu and Manjula during a fight between the two (long story short, Apu never told her that Americans weren't required to work on weekends until Homer and Marge brought it up, which left her upset at Apu as it made it seem as though he didn't wish to see her). Marge ended up taking over driving when it became apparent that Homer was far too distracted with the Kama Sutra book to pay attention to driving, and eventually Homer points out that the book stole one of their ideas in the book, beckoning to Marge to see it, causing Marge to get distracted enough to have an implied rear ender.