Cool Starship. At some point the ship suffers some catastrophe that makes it a very good idea not to remain there, because it is about to explode, fall to the planet below, go careening uncontrollably into the nearest star, or, you know, sink. What are the passengers and crew to do? Why, they must Abandon Ship! Bonus points if the trope's actual name, which is a Stock Phrase nearly omnipresent in all movies dealing with naval action, wet or otherwise, is used. If much of the story has taken place on the ship, then her death (and it will often be played as a death rather than a destruction, complete with strangely mournful sounding metallic groans and dramatic music) will be rather dramatic and played out. If our hero gets to the lifeboat only to realize that a friend or loved one has not similarly done so for some reason, a miniature quest may ensue as they make their way through the chaotic process of the ship breaking up and sinking. Some reference might be made to the Captain Going Down with the Ship. On a military airplane, the crew might be expected to make use of Ejection Seats to escape the plane. Otherwise, they'll probably have to get out the old fashioned way: Strapping on a parachute and getting to an exit before the plane crashes. Starships typically have Escape Pods for the same purpose. Not to Be Confused with Abandon Shipping, which occurs when a Shipping community suddenly abandons a given pairing (and was formerly known as Abandon Ship).
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Anime and Manga
- In Mobile Suit Gundam, the crew of the White Base is forced to abandon ship after getting shot down during the Final Battle.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, where the crew of the Dominion (along with Flay), who abandon ship when Natarle turns on her commander and the Archangel sinks the ship. Too bad the pod drifts straight into Rau le Creuset, who's more than happy to finish the job.
- After War Gundam X: the crew of the Freeden escape from their ship (in jeeps; remember that they're on Earth) after ramming an enemy battleship to clear the path for Garrod's launch into space.
- Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has the Diva "sink" in the very last arc, after three generations of steady service. It's a very emotional event for all the Feddies.
- One Piece, when the Going Merry went down.
- The crews of several damaged vessels try to escape in Banner of the Stars, but survival in unarmed escape pods is rather dicey in the middle of a battle. The Basroil crew, including Lafiel and Jinto, are also forced to abandon their ship at the end.
- Almost inevitably happens whenever Groo the Wanderer gets on board a boat.
- In Tintin The Red Sea Sharks, Tintin and Haddock's kidnappers abandon ship after the engine breaks down, only for Haddock to fix it later and take over the now-repaired ship.
- In Jonah (a comic strip in The Beano) whenever the sailors on a ship realise Jonah is aboard they would often shout 'Aaagh it's im' and attempt to leave the ship before it's inevitable sinking (Jonah would manage to sink the ship everytime).
- "From Bajor to the Black, Part II" has the crew of the USS Mosul bail out as their ship starts to undergo Chain Reaction Destruction courtesy of a mortally damaged Borg cube. Only 34 out of 200 escape and the captain is Killed Mid-Sentence while giving the order.
- The Wrong Reflection:
- In chapter three Lieutenant Commander T'Var orders her crew to abandon ship right before she uses it as a shield to stop a Terran Empire Defiant-class from ramming the USS Bajor. She doesn't make it off.
- In chapter four the Bajor destroys a smaller Terran cruiser, with the escape pods described as "boil[ing] off of what's left of its flanks, voles fleeing a sinking ship".
- Battle of Britain, being a war film about a months-long aerial battle, includes numerous scenes of airmen bailing out of bombers and fighters. Or at least trying to.
- Spaceballs plays it for comedy, evacuating everyone (including the orchestra and the zoo), but leaving behind Colonel Sandurz, President Skroob, and Dark Helmet.
- Starship Troopers. When the Roger Young is seriously damaged by Bug plasma the crew tries to get to the lifeboat deck to escape.
- Titanic (1997): Half the reason for watching the movie.
- And about the only reason to watch Titanic II is to see The Asylum subvert the hell out of Titanic.
- Happens in several Star Trek movies:
- The Search for Spock features the destruction of the Enterprise, though there weren't exactly a lot of crew members to evacuate.
- In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, our heros and a couple of humpback whales must abandon the captured bird-of-prey HMS Bounty before it sinks into San Francisco Bay.
- Star Trek: Generations has the trope implied when the Enterprise-B, under the command of Captain Harriman, arrives to rescue the passengers and crew of two El-Aurian refugee ships trapped in a Negative Space Wedgie.
- Star Trek: First Contact features a scene where the crew of the Enterprise-E evacuates the ship so as to self-destruct and kill the Borg on board. Subverted when the Borg Queen deactivates the selfdestruct sequence and gets killed shortly afterward, so the ship is saved.
- Star Trek: The prologue features the crew of the USS Kelvin abandoning ship, with the shuttles launching from the shuttle bay making for a nice visual metaphor for James T. Kirk's birth just before the Kelvin is destroyed, with Kirk's father, George Kirk, staying aboard to make sure the shuttles escape.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, Spock orders the Enterprise abandoned when she is crippled and falling from orbit over Earth. The ship's tumbling badly hinders the evacuation, as crewmembers are sent falling to their deaths via Gravity Screw and a brief view of the shuttle bay shows the escape shuttles are similarly being tossed around. The ship is saved and the evacuation averted in the end.
- Invoked in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, where Lando orders Cloud City abandoned after the Empire seizes control, then played straight in Return of the Jedi after the Emperor dies and the Super Star Destroyer crashes into the Death Star.
- The Filipino film Temptation Island forces its characters to do this, after a fire sinks their yacht.
- Red Tails depicts an aviation variation on this trope:
- In the prologue, a formation of American bombers is being attacked by German fighters. The pilot of a badly damaged bomber orders his crew to prepare to bail out. Immediately afterwards, a German fighter attacks the bomber head-on, killing both pilots. Some men can briefly be seen tumbling out and opening chutes.
- Later on, a fighter pilot's plane is shot up, and he bails out in the most expeditious manner available: He jettisons the canopy, unbuckles his seatbelt, and rolls the plane over so he falls out before opening his chute.
- Another pilot, badly injured, and his cockpit filling with gasoline from a ruptured fuel tank, tries to bail out, but is too weak to pull the emergency release for his canopy. He crashes on landing, but is pulled from the burning plane and survives.
- The movie "Abandon Ship!" (1957 starring Tyrone Power) has the survivors from a torpedoed ship in an overloaded lifeboat. The captain tries to keep it afloat by ruthlessly throwing out those who can't survive and keeping those he feels can, making no moral judgements on who is worth saving. Supposedly based on a true story.
- Also "Lifeboat"
- In the film Battleship, the destruction of the John Paul Jones via a pair of alien "Shredder" droids sees a good portion of the crew bailing out of the ship as it's taken apart beneath them. Earlier in the film, the Myouko has several bail-outs after getting blown in half by alien det-charges. However, this trope is sadly averted with the loss of the Sampson, the destruction of which is so sudden and cataclysmic that there are no survivors.
- In Pirates of Tortuga, the crew of a pirate ship is ordered to abandon ship. Hilariously, they all dive overboard and swim for it, instead of using lifeboats.
- The Hunt for Red October: A key part of the plot involves Captain Ramius having to find a way to get his crew to abandon the ship without figuring out what he's trying to do. This is exactly what happens during the film's climax, with an American frigate taking the Soviet crew aboard while unbeknown to them, Hot Sub-on-Sub Action takes place beneath them.
- Happens reasonably frequently in the Honor Harrington universe, with crew abandoning ships that have taken damage in combat. These run the range from small numbers of survivors evacuating in escape pods right before the ship explodes to an orderly evacuation of a ship that is still intact but has taken sufficient damage to its alpha nodes or hyper-generator that it cannot leave the system and has to be scuttled. For a specific example, in Shadow of Freedom Solarian Vice Admiral Dubroskaya surrenders to a Manticoran task force after witnessing the enemy's first salvo pounding her own ships. However, her surrender comes only moments before the second Manty salvo arrives, so she quickly gives orders to abandon ship. Only a few hundred of her thousands of crewmembers make it out in time. Dubroskaya and her staff don't.
- The crew of the Cerys in Septimus Heap is forced to Abandon Ship after it's overrun with Warrior Jinn. It doesn't work very well at the start.
- It's not the whole ship that's abandoned, but when an enemy attack breaches the section that Ciaphas Cain note and Jurgen are in, they are forced to abandon the ship in order to save their own lives. This being a Ciaphas Cain note book, this just drops them into even greater danger.
- In the novel "When the Ship Sank" a ship is torpedoed and sinks slowly but people cannot escape because the entire engine crew has been killed and no one can turn off the engines. It eventually sinks and the survivors spend a horrific night in the water until they are picked up by another ship. The second ship is taking them back to England, where the first ship came from, but is intercepted by another submarine (or maybe even the first one) which opens fire with its deck guns sinking it in minutes. Most of the people on board, including almost all the survivors from the first ship are killed almost instantly.
- In the Horatio Hornblower novel Ship of the Line, the Sutherland sinks in the final chapter after beating three larger ships single-handed.
- Happens twice in Old Man's War: Once towards the end of the second act, when a fleet of Colonial Defense Force ships is ambushed while trying to retake a human colony captured by the Raery. The ships are attacked so suddenly upon completing their faster-than-light trip that the only people to make it off of any of the ships are assault troops ready to launch in their shuttles, and even then only a very small handful survive. The second time is an Invoked Trope. A ship crewed entirely by members of the Ghost Brigades pops out of FTL in just the right place for the entire crew to skydive from orbit directly over their objective in specially designed reentry suits, timing their jump to make them look like more debris from the ship being attacked and destroyed.
- In The Lost Fleet, any ship that isn't completely obliterated when two fleets pass by one another at the combined speed of 0.2c but is still severely damaged usually launches Escape Pods shortly after. The victor usually sends out destroyers (The Alliance) or hunter-killers (Syndics) to pick up any surviving pods, both theirs and the enemy, although it's not uncommon for some trigger-happy officers (on both sides) to shoot at the enemy pods). The backstory for the series has the main character, John Geary, order the evacuation of his patrol ship just before charging at the Syndic warships that ambushed the convoy at the opening stages of the Alliance-Syndic war. His only intent was to delay the enemy, giving the unarmed convoy and his crew a chance to get away. He ends up surviving as a Human Popsicle and is found a century later, with the war still going on. The good news it that his sacrifice was not in vain, as his gambit worked. The bad news is that his sacrifice was used by the Alliance officials to promote an utterly ridiculous way of fighting the war: charge at the enemy in a "damn the torpedoes" style and hope your "fighting spirit" is strong enough to let you win.
- The Star Trek Expanded Universe novel The Valiant reveals that this was the fate of the SS Valiant, the first human ship to attempt to cross the Galactic Barrier. Before blowing up the nukes on his ship, Captain Tarasco ordered the evacuation of the crew in escape pods. A good number of them died anyway either from the explosion's shockwave or equipment malfunction, but the others managed to make it to an M-class planet, where they made planetfall. They founded a city called Magnia and discovered that even they were not immune to the effects of the Barrier, although to a lesser extent than the Valiant's chief engineer Geirrod Agnarsson (who was affected just like Gary Mitchell of the later USS Enterprise). Basically, they became a race of telepaths living just beyond the Barrier. Their descendants finally make contact with the Federation shortly before the TNG era to warn of a hostile alien race. The USS Stargazer with a young second officer named Jean-Luc Picard is sent to investigate.
Live Action Television
- An example from the final season of Lost. Many of the remaining characters are on board a submarine, and soon find that the Big Bad has smuggled a bomb on board. It detonates (taking out a major character in a heroic sacrifice), and proceeds to cause the sub to sink. The survivors rush to flee the sinking vessel, with the exception of Sun (who is trapped behind debris) and Jin (who chooses to remain on-board to die with his wife).
- Babylon 5: The first season episode Babylon Squared takes place aboard the space station Babylon Four, which had been lost (as in, physically misplaced, as in, a five mile long space station just disappeared in a instant for no known explanation) years previously. The station reappears, just long enough for the crew of Babylon Five to effect an evacuation. As the station is about to disappear again, the remaining crew members (and the personnel from Babylon Five who came to retrieve them) make a hasty retreat to cram onto the remaining shuttles.note
- The same episode includes a Flash Forward where Babylon Five, in flames, is being evacuated as the security personnel frantically attempt to hold off the unseen attackers to give the civilians time to escape. As a matter of fact, the visual of a lone shuttle escaping the station just before it explodes gets used for a long string of Prophecy Twists That visual does finally come true. But not the way anyone expects.
- In the episode A Voice In The Wilderness, the station is at risk of being destroyed by the planet below blowing itself to pieces. Sinclair asks Garibaldi to make sure that Ivanova makes it onto an escape ship, even if Garibaldi has to knock her out and bodily toss her in.
- Just as it happens fairly often in the films, this trope also plays out surprisingly often in the various Star Trek series:
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Doomsday Machine," Commodore Decker ordered his crew to abandon the Constellation after she was crippled by the titular weapon.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause And Effect," the Cold Open starts with Picard announcing "All hands abandon ship! All hands abando--" just before the Enterprise explodes. We then go through variations of this same scenario several more times.
- "The Battle" shows that Picard was forced to do this with his old ship, the Stargazer, after a battle with the Ferengi.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actually begins this way. The first scene of the series is a prologue, showing the starship Saratoga serving as part of a Starfleet task force assembled to stop the Borg at Wolf 359. After the Saratoga is knocked out of the fight by a single hit from the Borg Cube, the rest of the scene is the panicked crew (and passengers) abandoning the crippled and burning ship.
- Near the end, the Defiant itself, along with all but one ship from the allied fleet, gets taken out to demonstrate the Breen as being a credible threat.
- Star Trek: Voyager has this happen to the titular ship perhaps more than with any of the franchise's other ships:
- "Dreadnought": Janeway orders the crew to abandon Voyager just before trying to use the ship in a Heroic Sacrifice to stop a superweapon from destroying an innocent planet. Fortunately, it ends up not being necessary.
- "Year of Hell": Everyone minus Janeway and her senior staff is ordered to abandon the severely damaged Voyager.
- "The Haunting of Deck Twelve": A non-corporeal alien takes control of Voyager, forcing the crew to abandon her until Janeway can reason with the alien.
- "Workforce": Voyager hits a radiation mine, forcing everyone to leave—except for The Doctor (no, not that one), who is immune to radiation.
- The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly" has the Mirror Universe crew abandon Enterprise during a battle, except for Captain Forrest.
- Happens in the finale of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. Unlike most other examples, a sizable amount of the ship remains, even after the Final Battle takes place in it. Unfortunately, the Big Bad had already set it for a Colony Drop - it's possible there was enough left after impact to be turned into a galactic settlers' colony as intended, but we never get a good look.
- In the teamup with Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, we see a battle on Mirinoi taking place in an Earthlike city the likes of which had never been seen on the planet before - they lived in huts and Mirinoi native Maya was basically Tarzan as a Power Ranger. We don't get confirmation but apparently even if the Terra Venture will never fly again, the new world has that "shining capital" Commander Stanton wanted. (It was the City Dome that Trakeena had tried to crash on them.)
- Way back in the first season, Goldar says this in his "This Cannot Be!" declaration as Cyclopsis' system crashes with Ultrazord bearing down on it. Smart move.
- Happens regularly in Red Dwarf.
- In the episode 'Marooned' the crew are forced to abandon ship because 5 black holes are approaching, it turns out to be grit on the scanner scope.
- In the episode 'Polymorph' they decide to abandon ship when a chameleonic life form attempts to suck out their emotions.
- In 'Demons and Angels' the ship has a major overload after a problem with a matter replicator, once they've escaped the ship it blows up only to leave two copies in its place, a high version and a low version. Once they work out a way to replicate the original they must then get out of the new "low" Red Dwarf before it disappears.
- In 'Only the Good...' the entire resurrected crew of Red Dwarf abandon ship when a genetically engineered virus begins eating the ship from the inside out.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Ethon", the Prometheus, Earth's first starship and primary spacecraft for the preceding three seasons, is badly crippled in battle against an Ori satellite superweapon. Lacking the necessary time to repair the ship, Col. Pendergast orders a full evacuation minutes before the ship is destroyed in the next attack.
- In a Stargate Atlantis episode, Sheppard ends up in the future and is told by a hologram of McKay about the fate of the other main characters. Carter and McKay end up taking a new Daedalus-class battlecruiser and attack Michael's hive ships. However, when Michael sets a trap for Carter, she transports the entire crew to the nearby planet's surface and then rams the battlecruiser into the nearest hive ship, with the resulting explosion taking out the other two hive ships. Naturally, since Sheppard ends up going back in time, this never happens.
- JAG: The Russian destroyer in "Cowboys and Cossacks".
- The NCIS episode "Chimera" has Team Gibbs fly out to a naval research ship to investigate an officer's sudden and mysterious death; by the time they get there, the crew has already abandoned ship out of fear of a deadly pathogen.
- Less Than Jake has it as the title for one of their songs. The phrase is used to represent how life (the ship) spirals out of control and one must either find something to keep going or leave it because "it's sinking way too quick".
- Knife Party's debut album is titled Abandon Ship, reflecting on their stance that the current EDM scene "is irreparably fucked and needs to go away".
- Our Miss Brooks: In An American Tragedy, Mr. Conklin, Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton are stranded on a sinking rowboat on Crystal Lake. Subverted as they are unable to abandon ship, as none of them are wearing lifejackets and only Mr. Boynton can swim.
- In The Mercury Theatre on the Air's Oct. 9, 1938 adaptation of Hell on Ice, the crew of the Jeanette have to abandon ship when it is crushed by the Arctic ice (this was a Real Life story of an Arctic expedition that ended in disaster).
- Traveller adventure Action Aboard - Adventures on the King Richard. If there's a problem aboard the title passenger starship, all of the passengers are put onto lifeboats. The lifeboats are cast off and the passengers wait until either (a) the problem is resolved and they can be retrieved or (b) the problem can't be resolved and they're on their own.
- The first Halo game begins with this, with the Marines and crew of the Pillar Of Autumn fighting their way to the hangar deck or the life pods so that they might try and escape the ship's imminent destruction. Naturally, the Covenant forces proceed to try to destroy as many of the escape pods and drop ships as possible. Unexpectedly, the Pillar Of Autumn survives and lands intact on Alpha Halo's surface, where it waits until the Remixed Level finale.
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic begins this way as well. Given how the first film started, this seems to be a theme.
- In Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 Kota delivers this very line with extreme Narm.
- Pretty much the entire point of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Well, that, and all the Mind Screw.
- Happens in the Revenge of Meta Knight game mode of Kirby Super Star.
- The level "Crew Expendable" in Modern Warfare 1 takes place on a cargo ship. Naturally, by the end of the level you're frantically running for your chopper before the ship sinks.
- Mass Effect 2 begins with the heroes being forced to abandon The Normandy before her destruction. Joker insists that he can avoid total destruction, but is convinced to leave by Shepard at the last minute. He makes it out, but Shepard dies.
- To add insult to injury, the very next mission has Shepard having to abandon ship again, this time from a space station that is under attack. Worth noting, Mass Effect is produced by BioWare, the same company that produced Knights of the Old Republic, and this mission feels a bit like an homage to that game's first mission.
- Mass Effect 3, in a bit of Sequel Escalation, begins with the heroes being forced to abandon Earth in the face of an overwhelming attack.
- In Mass Effect 3: Omega, Aria's plan to attack the eponymous station involves sneaking very close to it in a captured Cerberus warship and then wreaking havoc on the defenders. When the stations' defense grid proves too powerful, her backup plan is to evacuate the ship, re-using the escape pods as boarding pods to continue the attack.
- When the carrier Kestrel is hit by an anti-ship missile in Ace Combat 5, the crew abandons ship after launching the player's squadron on one last mission. Captain Andersen evacuates last.
- StarCraft II the Terran Battlecruiser utters this when he gets attacked.
- Exo Squad: The loss of The Exo Carrier Resolute, and with it, Captain Marcus.
- The Titanic episode of Futurama naturally used this trope.
- Bender attempts to get everyone to do this in "Parasites Lost", uttering the phrase a few times and having to be restrained. Also, the miniature ship does wind up abandoned after the end of the journey.