Named for a frequent setup gag in Bugs Bunny cartoons, Wrong Turn At Albuquerque describes a single wrong or missed turn in a journey that will inevitably land the traveler in a place far divorced from their original goal. The plot then unfolds in one of three ways:
- Comedy: The traveler encounters many wacky mishaps and quaint natives during their efforts to get back on track.
- Drama: The traveler encounters survival situations like finding food and shelter, or else dealing with increasingly limited resources while trying to avoid being eaten by predators or angering local peoples.
- Horror: The traveler finds himself being actively hunted down by some menace (natural or supernatural), not necessarily because of anything the traveler himself has done, but just because It's What I Do.
A type of Epic Fail. Can be caused by Road Sign Reversal, Your Other Left, Short Cuts Make Long Delays, or trying to follow overly complicated directions. When done in a science-fiction setting, it's Random Teleportation. Frequently the way to enter a Dark World or Down the Rabbit Hole. Once the traveler gets in, he may not be able to get back out, thanks to it being a Closed Circle.
- In Cars, Lightning McQueen's excursion at Radiator Springs pretty much entirely results from taking a wrong turn on Route 66.
- All the National Lampoon's Vacation movies except for Christmas Vacation.
- Without a Paddle.
- In Dumb and Dumber, the two leads are driving across the country. When they swap driving duties, the new driver takes the wrong freeway ramp and ends up going back several states before he wises up.
- Occurs in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Brad takes a wrong turn at a fork in the road leading him and Janet to a dead end, getting a flat tire, and having to seek shelter in Frank N. Furter's castle.
- In Doc Hollywood, Michael J. Fox gets lost in the Deep South. Hilarity Ensues.
- In The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo takes a wrong turn at the fork in the road where he ends up in The Doldrums where the Lethargians dwell.
- At the end of the Kamen Rider movie, Movie War CORE, Eiji Hino returns to the surface from a subterranean battle by crawling out of a manhole in Brazil.
- John Cleese's role in Clockwise turns this trope Up to Eleven.
- Multiple instances of this trope are said to be the cause of Nagi's ending up in Pensee, in Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale.
- Invoked by name (probably in reference to Bugs Bunny) in Bermuda Syndrome.
- In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, when Guybrush and Morgan are asked, "What say you, digested SCUMM™?" while in the belly of the manatee, Guybrush can choose one of the topics that says, "I'm sorry, we must have taken a wrong turn at Alcatraz."
- The Trope Namer: Bugs Bunny missed "da left toin at Alba-coiky," an event that has landed him in, variously, a Mexican bullfight, the Roman Coliseum, Antarctica, Australia, the American Civil War, the Wild West, medieval Europe, Scotland, the Southern United States in the middle of a clan feud, the Black Forest during WWII, Ali Baba's treasure cave, the Himalayas, and even an opera or two. See this YouTube video for them.
- Hare-abian Nights, a sort of Clip Show short directed by Ken Harris, has Bugs declaring that he should have taken "dat left toin at Dess Moins."
- Napoleon Bunny-Part—Bugs pops up in Napoleon's headquarters, and credits it to a "wrong turn off the Hollywood freeway."
- Ali Baba Bunny has Bugs and Daffy tunneling towards a vacation at Pismo Beach, only to wind up in Ali Baba's treasure cave.
- In DC's Looney Tunes comic book, one issue's storyline centered on the apparent disappearance of Bugs, with Daffy as the investigating detective. The last page of the book shows Bugs relaxing on a distant beach, surrounded by attractive female rabbits. In the last frame of the story, he informs the reader, "I finally made that left turn at Albuquerque."
- Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Bunny's version of it is "the left turn at Kennebunkport."
- On Animaniacs, the Warners' attempt to dig their way to Six Flags over Flushing put them in Hades.
- Yogi Bear has "the Pismo Beach turnoff."
- The Christmas Episode of Super Mario Bros Super Show has Mario's group wind up at the North Pole when they were trying to go to Hawaiiland. When asked by Mario about it, Toad says "I guess I made a wrong turn at that last iceberg!"
Anime and Manga
- In the Alabasta Arc of One Piece, the crew goes where they think Crocodile will be and waste 30-50 episodes on that road, of which many are fillers (much to our own drama). Seems much would have been avoided if a certain camel would have thought of explaining where certain guns go at the beginning of the filler arc.
- Lost in Space[context?]
- Happens in Stargate SG-1 at least once. With the Stargate itself.
- The Doctor Who episode "Turn Left" examines an Alternate Universe where Donna Noble never met the Doctor, because she took a right turn instead of a left.
- A frequent setup for the survival situations featured in Survivorman and Man vs. Wild.
- Stephen King's short story "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" begins with the protagonists making a wrong turn and ending up in the little town of Rock and Roll Heaven, where things aren't as bucolic as they appear.
- The Twilight Zone: "The Beacon"
- Turn-by-turn GPS-based navigation systems are designed for car drivers, and do not include information on bridge clearances or mountain passes. Truckers using them may have to backtrack dozens of miles around a low bridge or narrow pass that the GPS didn't know about, if they're lucky. If they're unlucky, they get stuck and do thousands of dollars' damage to the truck. Newer models now have "car" and "truck" settings to specifically try and prevent this.
- Devices which contain dated map data can lead the user the wrong way completely.
- In 1992, Jim and Jennifer Stolpa, along with their baby son Clayton, took the wrong turn in Nevada and ended up stranded in the middle of a barren ice desert. The mother stayed with her baby in a cave, keeping him alive by melting snow in her mouth and letting the baby drink it, while the father walked for 50 miles in the freezing cold looking for a road. Was also the subject of the 1994 Neil Patrick Harris film Snowbound