Ashes to Crashes
aka: Chekhovs Ashes
"If you see an urn full of ash anywhere in a work of entertainment, you can guarantee the ash will come out eventually. The only factor left negotiable is what degree of slapstick is involved."If there are funeral ashes, 99.9% of the time those ashes will end up being scattered inappropriately. Since ashes and funerals usually denote the death of a character, the examples below could be very spoiler-heavy. A subtrope of The Fun in Funeral; this can also overlap with Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie when the inappropriate scattering is intentional and requested by the deceased.
open/close all folders
- Four men are playing football in the house when one of them knocks over an urn and empties the contents, which is immediately blown away by the wind. They're horrified, when one of them says he can fix the problem but it will cost $20. They all chip in and give him the money. He comes back with a bunch of cigars, a lighter, hands each guy a cigar, grabs the (empty) urn, and says, "Everybody start smoking."
- A car commercial begins with two guys driving through a bumpy forest up to a cliff to scatter the ashes of Uncle Carl (whose urn was safely buckled in the back seat). When they get to the top, they find that the ashes spilled out all over the back seat. They are then seen vacuuming up to make sure they get them all.
- This ad contains one of the best-ever Do Not Attempt disclaimers: "Drive like this and you could wind up like Uncle Carl."
- In the X-Men comics, Destiny note left very specific instructions for when Mystique was to scatter her ashes. It was to be on the fantail of a particular cruise liner, on a specific date, at a specific time. Mystique waits for the specific time, then tosses the ashes, only to have the wind blow them right back in her face. The fact that Destiny was a clairvoyant means the entire thing was a rather macabre practical joke. Mystique realizes this, and laughs her ass off.
- In Spider-Man 2099, Corrupt Corporate Executive Tyler Stone gives a mocking eulogy to the ashes of his son before flushing them down the toilet.
- A side scene in Transmetropolitan features Spider watching a TV show where two astronauts confess that they found Timothy Leary's ashes floating in space and snorted them in an attempt to get high.
- Happens in Chew, when the title character is gathering evidence.
- Double Subversion in A View to a Kill. James Bond tries to - and succeeds in - avoiding knocking over the urn containing Stacey Sutton's grandfather's ashes during a fight, but later in the same fight, she decides to smashes a vase over the head of one of the Mooks.
Bond: All the king's horses and all his men won't do much for that.Stacey: That's all right. It was Granddad's ashes, but he always loved a good fight.
- Return of the Living Dead. Don't cremate the living dead. Please, don't.
- Meet the Parents: The well-named cat Mr Jinx uses Grandma Byrnes' spilled ashes as an impromptu litterbox.
- Zathura: The game-come-alive launches meteorites through the ceiling of the boys house. One strikes the urn holding their grandmother's ashes. "Grandma!"
- The Big Lebowski: This is the fate of Donny, after his heart attack, when Walter completely botches the scattering. He doesn't account for the wind and the ashes scattered towards the Pacific Ocean end up blowing into the Dude's face.
- It was based on a real event that was even wackier. A friend of the Coen's who is a film teacher at USC had a student who died in an accident, but had nobody to bury him. So the class took it upon themselves to scatter his ashes, which came in a plastic bag. They botched it and not only did the ashes blow back on them, but a piece of bone landed in front of the dead guy's girlfriend who promptly fainted.
- Life Stinks: Mel Brooks and friend are scattering the ashes of a fellow homeless person. Just as they let the ashes go a strong wind blows the ashes back in their faces. According to Brooks, this really happened to Howard Morris (who played the character who was cremated) when spreading the ashes of his father.
- Chocolat: Definitely not played for humor.
- In Like Flint: Derek Flint has apparently been cremated and his ashes are brought (in an open urn) to Lloyd Cramden's office. Cramden's assistant absentmindedly drops the ashes from his cigarette in the urn.
- In The Frighteners, the Defective Detective dumps out the ashes on purpose to get the good guy's goat, not realizing he just let the Big Bad out to play.
- Subverted in Citizen Cohn. Roy Cohn spreads his mother's ashes into the river properly, but his mother's ghost complains, "You know where he spread my ashes? In the East River! You wouldn't let your dog swim in the East River!"
- Danger: Diabolik: Poor Ralph Valmont.
- Johnny in Red Roses and Petrol unknowingly snorts his fathers ashes, thinking it really is cocaine. The fact that he's reminiscing and watching old home movies of his dad at the same time makes it something of a (twisted) tribute.
- In The Cheap Detective the main character's partner's widow drops his ashes in a toilet. After a short scuffle the main character and the widow then shoot the ashes still in the toilet and unceremoniously flush them.
- Dragonslayer: Subverted. Ulrich's ashes were intended to be used at the Lake of Fire to resurrect him. Galen didn't figure it out til the film was almost over.
- Due Date jerks back and forth between comedy and drama. Darryl accidentally makes coffee out of his father's remains and they recover the ashes from the coffee filter but Ethan drops them and ends up sobbing on the carpet.
- Thunderstruck is all about a few young men making a pact that if one of them dies, the rest will bury said person next to AC/DC's Bon Scott. Naturally, the guy's being cremated. They steal the ashes from his ex (she demanded half of the ashes), but about three-fourths into the movie, the inevitable spilling of the ashes happens during a bar fight (people who thought the ashes actually were Bon Scot's tried to steal it). Luckily, there's the sister of said dead guy with the other half of the ashes.
- The Opposite Of Sex has Dede steal Tom's ashes and use them to blackmail Lucia and Bill for money.
- Whatever Happened to Harold Smith? opens with the title character's ashes being scattered by his son Vince while riding in a roller coaster. Vince neglects to account for wind and ends up dousing everyone behind him.
- Played with in Men with Brooms. Coach Cutter dies of a heart attack and is cremated, and his will states that his ashes are to be placed in a curling stone, and that his old team should use that stone to win the Golden Broom. The stone in question is shattered in the final delivery, and since the game of Curling evidently includes rewarding points for the ashes of a dead man landing on the ice, this gives the team just enough points to win the game.
- Throughout the rest of the movie leading up to that, the stone spends quite a bit of time sliding around on the roof of Neil's car as they drive around, or being used as a blunt weapon.
- Averted in The Way. The hero drops a box holding his son's ashes into the water, and manages to save it before it gets swept away.
- In Fletch Lives, Fletch tosses Hamilton Johnson's mother's urn at him and his biker-gang crony, creating a diversion and allowing Fletch and Becky to escape.
- The main characters of Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror are on a road trip to deliver their late friend Kirk's ashes, but a car accident causes them getting spilt all over his former girlfriend.
- One of the Nightside books mentions a local ne'er-do-well who, along with a group of friends, went to Graceland, dug up Elvis Presley's body, cremated it, and snorted the ashes in the hopes that all the drugs Presley did during his lifetime would still get them high. Alex Morrissey, the barman of Strangefellows, calls this "the most disgusting thing I've ever heard, and there's a lot of competition".
- In the Clive Cussler novel Atlantis Found, Dirk Pitt comes into possession of a number of Nazi relics, including the ashes of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Shortly before presenting the rest of them to the president, he flushes the ashes down the toilet of a White House restroom.
- In Iris Rainier Dart's I'll Be There (a sequel to Beaches), Cee Cee Bloom boards a jet and attempts to scatter the ashes of her dead friend Bertie. Due to her holding the bag the wrong way, the ashes blow back into the jet and all over her and the pilot. To add to her embarrassment, she's forced to pay a hefty fee for the cockpit to be cleaned.
- In one of David Sedaris's essays, he describes the death of a cat that came with an apartment he rented. He had it cremated, but because it had been an indoor cat, rather than scatter the ashes outside, he shook them out on the carpet and then vacuumed them up.
- From the Life Is A Road series, the protagonist is on a trip to scatter his friend's ashes. He's pulled over by a cop, who (amongst other things) field-tests the ashes for cocaine. The protagonist says his friend would have laughed his ass off.
Live Action TV
- Lost : Jacob's ashes are collected by Ilana, who carries them around for half a season before meeting her own demise. The ashes are then found in her possessions by Hurley, who carries them with him for another four episodes, until, in a very Lost-ish twist, The ashes are taken by the spiritual form of the Jacob himself. He then proceed to burn his own ashes, as it was one of the unfinished businesses he had to before his spirit could leave.
- Spin City : Involving the ashes of James' favorite cow from back home, a humongous cooling fan, and in an attempt to cover it up, ensemble-wide cigar-smoking.
- Six Feet Under :
- The Chenowich family adores this trope. First Brenda opens her father's funeral urn and literally puts her nose and eyes through the hole, with a mocking "hi daddy !" Then the rest of the family argue about where they should scatter his ashes. Her mother ends up saying "nothing was ever enough for him," suddenly takes the urn and unceremoniously scatter the ashes in the street through their apartment's balcony.
- In another episode, a young actress's friends decide to divide her ashes into several tiny urns which can be worn as a necklace around the neck. It seems sweet... But in the end they decide to open them sniff the ashes like coke. The Snark Knight is not too thrilled about this. It doesn't help that the actress had died of coke overdose.
- In "Martin Does It His Way", Aunt Louise's ashes get blown back at Frasier and Niles. Frasier is still pouring her ashes out of his shoe at the funeral, and at the end, a janitor sweeps them under the rug.
- In another episode, Frasier takes a call on his show from a woman who is concerned about the fact that her husband keeps his late wife's ashes in their bedroom. The conversation ends with the sound of breaking ceramics, and the words, "Oops... I have some vacuuming to do."
- Night Court: A bigamist named Herb dies, and his two widows get into a fight over his ashes, ending up in Harry's court. They eventually resolve their differences and agree to abide by Harry's decision. Herb's remains are left at court meanwhile, leading to the following dialog:
Harry: referring to the urn Hey, this thing's empty.Art: Yeah, sorry about that your honor. Had to use that herb tea to test the coffee maker.Harry: Art, that wasn't herb tea, that was Herb.
- Only Fools and Horses had an episode where Del and Rodney are trying to dispose of a relative's ashes. The ashes end up being sucked up by a streetsweeper. Made funnier when it turns out that the guy was actually a street cleaner himself. They eventually conclude that this was the best possible funeral for him.
- NYPD Blue: a detective who used to work in the squad died and his widow wants the squad to store half of his ashes there, because that was the man's last wish. "Just put the urn in the back of a file cabinet or something, it wouldn't be any trouble." But the Lieutenant refuses on the grounds that it isn't regulation. Sipowitz manages to get the ashes stirred into the plaster being used to repair the bathroom, so he'll be there forever.
- Dexter - The main villain in Season 4 keeps the ashes of his dead sister on his mantelpiece when he isn't scattering them next to the bodies of his victims. They're smashed by his long-suffering son in a fight. Additionally: the ashes of Dexter's real father are in a plastic ziplock bag. Dexter disperses them on a patch of grass in front of a bowling alley. They had great personal significance to Dexter's father, so this last scene is an aversion.
- Married... with Children: funerary ashes were accidentally used in a BBQ, played for laughs and drama.
- Monty Python Reunion Show: they brought out the ashes of Graham Chapman; you can probably guess what happened. They also kicked over his urn at the funeral.
- Pushing Daisies episode "Girth", but they're not human ashes.
- Just Shoot Me! episode "Bye Bye, Binnie". Nina carries around the urn of her best friend's ashes, acting as if she were still alive. One morning she finds the urn empty and realizes that putting it in the mechanical bull at a bar was maybe not the best idea.
- Desperate Housewives:
- Edie throws Mrs. Huber's ashes in Susan's face when Susan confesses that she actually burned Edie's house down. Susan then decides to get hosed down on her own front lawn.
- Mrs. Huber's evil sister Felicity accidentally knocks over the urn containing her daughter's ashes while driving and has a karmic death when, temporarily blinded, she drives into a truck.
- In John Doe, sidekick art student Karen's ashes are mixed into paint and used to paint a mural.
- An episode of Family Matters had Carl emptying the urn containing the ashes of his wife's late aunt, thinking the urn was a cookie jar that had been dropped in the ashes from the fireplace. When he realizes his mistake, he desperately fills the urn back up, but it likely contains as much fireplace ash as aunt Edna. (When copping to it, he calls the ashes "Aunt Presto-Log".)
- Grounded For Life (episode "Dust in the Wind") did this with a wild cousin (Ashton Kutcher) who wanted his ashes scattered from a water tower. The first attempt went south when the off-brand Tupperware wouldn't open and was dropped by accident.
- Subverted in Slings and Arrows with a straight spreading of the ashes over a river/pond with swans. Though it the character doing the spreading, later speaking to the ghost of the deceased tells him his ashes were eaten by swans.
- A non-comedic example occurs in Big Love, where the ashes belonging to Margene's mother are spilled on a windy boardwalk after Margene accidentally leaves the urn on the roof of one of the family cars.
- Reno 911: The deputies attempt to comply with a former officer's wish to have his ashes fired from a cannon. It doesn't end well.
- Played with in an episode of One Foot in the Grave; due to a misunderstanding, Victor thinks their neighbour Mr. Sweeney has brought over the ashes of his mother, when in fact it's just an urn of herbal tea that he found on their kitchen table. Naturally, he ends up spilling the "ashes" all over the floor and replaces them with some burned up toilet roll. We're later treated to Victor vomiting loudly after his wife makes him a nice relaxing cup of tea.
- In EastEnders, during argument with Stacey, Becca launched Bradley's urn across the room. His ashes, which were going to be scattered soon, landed all over Stacey (who was effectively responsible for his death) and the aftermath of it all is for Stacey to have a bath.
- Subverted in an episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. A girl angrily remarks that her father is just a pile of ashes somewhere. John notices the significance of this, but it's not the ashes themselves. She had earlier told him that she had picked out a grey suit for her father. He was still alive.
- In one segment of Trigger Happy TV one of the actors posed as a grieving niece, sprinkling the ashes of her uncle from a ship. She made sure to say just enough to let the father of a nearby family know what was supposedly in the urn before spreading them. She had also positioned herself so that the wind carried said ashes towards the family.
- In one episode of Estate of Panic, a contestant had brought back a $1,000 urn from one of the rooms and told Steve he accidentally spilled some of the ashes on the floor, to which Steve replied that they were his uncle.
- Mentioned as something of a Noodle Incident in an episode of Home Improvement. Tim and his brother are arguing about what happened at a funeral, Tim's brother says it wasn't his fault...
- Tim's brother: ...I got into the convertible...Tim: Now see, there was your first mistake!
- Tim also brings up that he was the one who had to smoke all those cigars...
- Two and a Half Men: After Alan gets Charlie's ashes he considers where to scatter them. After rejecting Charlie's original request ("I really don't think Pamela Anderson would agree to swallow your ashes"), he decides to scatter them on the beach. As he turns to the back door, he sees a stranger out on the deck (Walden, the new series lead) and is so startled that he spills all the ashes on the living room floor.
Berta: I'm not cleaning him up.
- It happens a couple more times, once while introducing long-lost daughter Jenny to her dad, and once when Walden is startled by a pretty stranger on the deck. Walden sheepishly lampshades it by saying at this point, Charlie's eternal remains are mostly carpet lint.
- Rescue Me: While on the way to scatter Lou's ashes, Franco and Black Shawn open their windows just as Mike opens the box of ashes in the car and the ashes turn into a cloud inside the car. They then replace the ashes with cake mix.
- Played with in the series Las Vegas episode 'For Sail by Owner'. The crazy owner of the casino, Monica, diednote and named Ed Deline as her executor. She is cremated and when her step-son, child of the billionaire Monica wed, arrives Ed gives him an urn of ashes. Angered by being given this, he threw the urn against the wall before Ed could tell him it was his father. Monica felt he would want her back. Later, when deciding where to lay Monica's ashes to rest, they decide the perfect place down the toilet in Monica's suite.
- It's pretty clear what's going to happen to Nana's ashes in The Royle Family as soon as the new Dyson vacuum cleaner is unveiled, but it's no less funny for all that.
- In Wonderfalls, Jaye decides to honor Rue McClanahan's character by throwing her ashes over Niagara Falls in a toy barrel (she had been famous for being the first woman to go over the falls in a barrel and live). Well, most of her. Some of her got in the cash register.
- Titus : After Titus' mom, Juanita, commits suicide Dave accidentally dumps the ashes on Titus' head.
- Jonathan Creek: A woman spilling her mother's ashes, and the ashes then vanishing while she is out of the room, forms a minor mystery in "The Letters of Septimus Noone". The woman is convinced that her mother's remains have been called to Heaven. Jonathan finds a more prosaic solution.
- One episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has Agents Coulson and Simmons playing the part of father and daughter, taking mom's ashes by train to be buried. This trope is invoked, so the bad guys they are tailing will step the ash. The ash has something in it that lets Agent May track them from atop the train, using special X-Ray Specs.
- An episode of the Israeli sitcom Ramzor had two of the leads house-sit for an old woman, who shows them an urn in an unoccupied room, saying it belongs to her son. After she leaves, the inevitable happens. The end of the episode reveals that those weren’t ashes, but rather the expensive cocaine her son brought over from Columbia, and he’s furious to find out what happened.
- Psych: At the beginning of the episode, there is a car chase which results with Shawn spilling something over Carlton and Juliet. Later, as they explain how they came to that point, it is revealed that, yes, it was human ashes.
Juliet: We are covered in human ash.Shawn: It's not a competition, Jules.
- Played very, very much for Tear Jerker value in Styrofoam Plates by Death Cab for Cutie, where the singer calls out the Glorified Sperm Donor father.
There's a saltwater film on the jar of your ashes; I threw them to sea,but a gust blew them backwards and the sting in my eyesthat you then inflicted was par for the course just as when you were living.
- Jeff Foxworthy, in one routine, talks about the party that he threw when his parents were away, in which the urn that contained his grandma's ashes was knocked off the mantlepiece and then vacuumed up. He talks about how his mom gets all sentimental and goes in there and starts talking to grandma and "I don't have the heart to tell her I had to smoke a carton of Marlboros just to get her back up there."
- In the "Mad Jack" module included with the rulebooks for the Masque of the Red Death setting (a Spin-Off of the Ravenloft campaign, the villain is the ghost of a woman who was either Jack the Ripper in life or another serial killer who was murdered by the real Ripper. Either way, she continues killing as an undead specter. In order for the heroes to survive and defeat her, they must take her ashes, found in an urn in a relative's house, and scatter them. (Most villains in this setting have an Achilles' Heel that heroes must discover if they are to be defeated. In this case, it's the ashes.)
- Warcraft III: When Arthas returns as a death knight and quests to retrieve the urn in which his father's ashes are held, Paladin leader Uther asks him if he's "come back to piss on his father's ashes once more."
- In MS Paint Adventures webcomic Homestuck, John topples the SACRED URN, spilling his Grandma's ashes. The strip is nothing if not Genre Savvy: "In retrospect, upon mulling cinematic tropes regarding ash-filled urns, this outcome was a virtual certainty." The ashes also ends up Turning his Nanna's ghost into a game sprite.
- Played for Laughs in Sexy Losers. (Very NSFW) The nymphomaniac mother kills her son's girlfriend via sexual exhaustion. She attends the funeral. The urn her ashes are in is vaguely phallic. She tries using it as a dildo, and it breaks ...
- She complains about that being the second time that's happened...
- Something*Positive: Peejee accidentally spills Faye's ashes down her panties.
- In The Foxfire Chronicles a funeral urn was once used to dislodge Luke from the ceiling.
- In South Park, Cartman drinks Kenny's ashes, believing them to be chocolate milk mix. As a result of this, Kenny's soul becomes trapped inside Cartman, providing a story arc for the next few episodes.
- The Simpsons: Homer's mom wants him to spread her ashes at a certain place at a certain time; it turns out it was her last act of civil disobedience, as her ashes interfere with the launch of a missile sending nuclear waste from the power plant to the Amazon rain forest.
- On King of the Hill, Cotton Hill's last wish was for his ashes to flushed down the toilet at a certain veteran's bar. However, the bar's policy expressly forbids this leading to the episode's plot.
- In an episode of Beavis And Butthead, the two knock over Stewart's grandmother's ashes after the family temporarily evacuates.
- In an interview, Keith Richards offhandedly mentioned that having snorted almost everything else in creation, he tried snorting his father's ashes, mixed with cocaine. It didn't take his publicist long to claim he was only joking.
- After his death, his family mixed the ashes of the playwright Joe Orton with those of his long-term boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell. Since Halliwell had murdered Orton in a jealous rage and then committed suicide, this gesture wasn't quite as sweet as it might seem.
- Paul Rudd described his surreal experiences with his father's ashes in Ireland on Late Night with David Letterman. Yes, he got "Lebowski'ed".
- Christopher Titus, according to the "5th Annual End of the World Tour" comedy special, was asked by his hard-drinking Jerk Ass father, Ken, to be cremated, have the ashes put in a douche bottle, and have the douche bottle used by a hooker when he died. Titus couldn't do it, so he recruited his brother, Dave, and his sister, Shannon, to spread the ashes throughout several Victoria's Secret's dressing rooms and at Caesar's Palace Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada (which Titus almost got in trouble for after he scattered the ashes all over the floor of an aisle while singing "Amazing Grace" and his sister scattered the ashes on blackjack table [causing everyone at the table to lose — which was a sign that Titus's dad was with him in spirit]). Subverted in that Ken Titus wanted this as his final wish.
- A former US Navy sailor requested in his will that he be buried at sea. Unfortunately a navy officer, instead of tipping the urn over the side, took off the lid and tried to scatter the ashes to the winds...which promptly blew the ashes back over his pristine whites.
- Real life occurrences of this trope have led to legal reforms in the United States. Under traditional law, if a person died with no surviving spouse, his or her eldest child would be in charge of funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, in the case of second marriages and families, the following situation could often occur: Bob marries Betty, and has children with her, including Junior, their eldest. The marriage doesn't work out, and Betty gets custody, poisoning the kids against Bob. Meanwhile, Bob finds someone new, Veronica, and marries her. This marriage is a happy one, and Bob and Veronica have kids and live happily until Veronica dies of old age. Soon after, Bob dies. Being widowed, his eldest son would (under the old laws) be put in charge of his burial arrangements. However, Bob's eldest son is Junior, whose mother, Betty, had convinced him that Bob was a monster who didn't love his children from his first marriage. Under the old laws, Junior could simply set aside any pre-planned funeral arrangements, and have Bob cremated. Junior would then lead the other children, from both marriages, into the nearby restroom, or to the dumpster, say "This is what I think of dear old Dad", and dump Bob's ashes down the toilet/in the dumpster. His full siblings, by Betty, would cheer, while his half-siblings, by Veronica, would be traumatized. Several States have passed laws to avert the above situation, such as requiring people to prepare advance directives designating who is in charge of their funeral arrangements, requiring appointment by the local probate court, or requiring all of one's children to agree to a specific funeral arrangement before it can go forward.
- Sacha Baron Cohen, being who he is, mocked up with this trope in the 84th Academy Awards. He arrived to the Red Carpet dressed as The Dictator and holding an urn which he said was filled with the ashes of his "doubles-tennis partner" Kim Jong-il (whose dream, Baron Cohen claimed, was "to be sprinkled over the red carpet and Halle Berry's chest again.") As Baron Cohen showed the golden urn featuring the image of Kim Jong-il, he then proceeded to view the bottom of the urn while "accidentally" spilling its contents onto E! red carpet host Ryan Seacrest. The "ashes" were reported to be pancake mix.
- Ambrose Bierce allegedly kept a relative's ashes in a cigar box and occasionally knocked his cigar into it.