Big Dam Plot

The Giant Wall of Watery Doom is a pretty scary threat. Consider that a dam needs to contain outright gigantic amount of water, a bit of Monumental Battle, or worse, threat of Monumental Damage can be VERY scary. In the United States, the prototypical dam for this to happen at is Hoover Dam, thanks to The Eiffel Tower Effect and the big potential for Scenery Porn.

That's how you get a Disaster Movie with a Big Dam Plot, where a dam is threatened with destruction or actually destroyed in whole or part. Though a Monumental Damage threat can be very effective indeed, sometimes the attackers do manage to destroy it, or it just happens kind of randomly. In any case, you don't want to stay around.

The outdoor equivalent of the Exploding Fish Tanks.
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     Anime and Manga 
  • The whole Yuda arc in Fist of the North Star ends in a dam being destroyed
  • Monster Rancher has The Courageous Seven face this problem in the episode of the same name: Evil Hares see them entering a town and decide to destroy the dam, wiping out the whole place just to take care of them.
  • In the Detective Conan movie "Quarter of Silence", a jewel thief had hidden his booty in a village, and while he was imprisoned for the theft, the village was bought out by the government and a dam erected. So, when he gets out of prison, he blows up the dam, which threatens the new town further down the valley. Conan, in desperation, creates an avalanche to divert the disastrous deluge.
  • This trope, and the conflict that accompanies it, makes up a large part of Higurashi: When They Cry's backstory. At first, it's mentioned as your typical 'humble country folk band together to fight the oppressive government' plot, but later reveals show it...wasn't as simple as all that. Even years later, the actions people took during that conflict strongly influence the present day.


  • Aftermath: Population Zero: The Hoover Dam eventually collapses after 200 years, restoring the Colorado river's free access to the sea.

     Film - Animation 
  • Ice Age 2: The Meltdown: The melting glacier creates a natural dam as most of the ice melts, leaving a thin wall. The animals try to get to the other end of the valley before it bursts.
  • In Osmosis Jones, the dam is in Frank's nose and it holds not water but mucus. A pollen allergy, compounded by Thrax's sabotage, causes it to break.
  • In Flushed Away, Toad's plan is to open the floodgates protecting the rat's sewer city so that it gets washed away during the World Cup halftime.
  • Team America: World Police uses the Panama Canal to the same effect.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation, Buster and Babs' subplot is kicked off when an escalating water fight ends with Babs intentionally opening a dam and flooding Acme Acres.
  • Just right after the Snuggly Duckling scene (and hence the song "I've Got a Dream") from Tangled, Rapunzel and Flynn can actually be seen escaping a collapsing aquaduct when the latter is spotted by the palace guards outside the Snuggly Duckling.
  • In Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Black Adam destroys a dam during his fight with Superman and Captain Marvel. Superman easily stops the water with his Arctic Breath.

     Film - Live-Action 
  • The destruction of a Hoover lookalike dam figures prominently in the first Superman movie.
  • The Ents destroy a dam to wash away Isengard in The Lord of the Rings movies.
    • The books have the inverse of this trope: the Ents build a dam to temporarily reroute the river into Isengard.
  • Evan Almighty's climax has a dam breaking to justify the construction of the ark.
  • X2: X-Men United ends up with the destruction of the power station that houses the bad guy's anti-mutant operation.
  • Dante's Peak also has a dam destruction at some point
  • The Dambusters, as you'd expect, but then this is the dramatisation of Operation Chastise.
  • Force 10 From Navarone: In this Film of the Book (and the original book), a dam is destroyed in order to wash away a bridge and prevent Nazi troops from wiping out a group of Yugoslavian Partisans.
  • The duel at the climax of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man ends in a draw when one of the nearby villagers blow up a dam to drown out Castle Frankenstein and kill the monsters.
  • Our Man Flint. The Galaxy organization uses its Weather-Control Machine to destroy a dam.
  • One of the major set pieces in Earthquake is the destruction of a dam.
  • In The Emerald Forest, the natives plan to destroy the dam that's going to flood their forest by singing to the frogs. Kinda makes sense in context... the American hero thinks their beliefs are quaint and plans to use dynamite instead. The dynamite fails, but the dam is brought down in a storm anyway. Did the frogs do it? You decide.
  • The threat of a bursting dam - which will drown the entire town - if one of the elements that adds urgency to the plot of Hard Rain.
  • Destroying the Della Norte Dam in Italy is the main objective in the film Hornets' Nest. It blows up real good.
  • The piranha in Killer Fish become a bigger threat after the dam that they were behind of bursts due to a hurricane, and they end up in a larger body of water.

  • In Death Or Glory, Ciaphas Cain finds his ramshackle band of survivors pinned in a canyon between a hydroelectric dam and an Ork army. After discovering a tunnel through a nearby mountain to the other side, he decides to blow the dam to cover his retreat.
  • In Animorphs, the heroes supersize a beaver dam so that they can unleash a Giant Wall of Watery Doom on attacking Yeerks.
  • Given all the attention given to Count Ugo Carnifex's aquaduct, and the unstable nature of its construction, a Genre Savvy reader can make a shrewd guess about how the Young Bond novel Blood Fever is going to end.
  • The 1982 disaster novel The Dam by Robert Byrne.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Before the Flood", the Doctor is trapped in a fake town beneath a dam that knows is going to break and flood the valley. He ultimately ends up blowing open the dam and causing the flood himself in order to kill the Fisher King.

     Video Games 

     Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode "Brother from Another Series" involves Sideshow Bob's brother trying to frame Bob for destroying a dam he's building.
  • Class of the Titans' second episode ("Chaos 102", part of the three-episode special) has the heroes fighting at the city dam. It's not clear whether the dam is ever actually threatened, though.
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Jet" revolves around the titular character trying to destroy a dam so that the resulting flood will wipe out the valley and kill the Fire Nation soldiers occupying a village. Surprisingly, despite Aang and Katara's best efforts they fail to stop Jet, and the dam is successfully bombed. Sokka, expecting that halting the destruction might fail, instead got the village to evacuate to safety instead.
  • The Smurfs have a dam protecting their village from flooding. Many stories have the dam breaking or threatening to break, like in Smurfette's initial storyline, where she is actually an agent of Gargamel's trying to flood the village.
  • The villain's plot in Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare involves dynamiting a dam to get to a Buried Treasure in a Sunken City.
  • In the first episode of The Tick, the Idea Men hold the city dam for ransom with explosives.
  • In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Wet Hare", villain Blaque Jacques Shellaque dams the stream that feeds the waterfall Bugs is using to shower. Bugs keeps destroying the dam and Jacques keeps rebuilding it, until Bugs builds a dam of his own. Jacques blows it up, but Bugs has built a series of dams for him to destroy, leading up to the Grand Cooler Dam. In an inversion of this trope, Jacques' cannon doesn't destroy it; instead, the cannonball bounces back and knocks Jacques into a waiting police wagon.
  • Seen in the "Mega X" episode of the Mega Man cartoon.
  • Tom Goes To The Mayor episode "Bassfest" where the Mayor has the wonderful idea to hold a concert near a dam. A poorly built dam. Tom realizes that the vibrations from the music will cause it to break and tries to warn everyone or at least have the concert moved. But if you're familar with the gist of this show, you know how well that goes.
  • Inverted in Inspector Gadget. MAD creates a dam so that it can sell water to Metro City at ridiculously inflated prices, and Gadget has to break MAD's dam and bring water back to the city.
  • In the X-Men: Evolution episode "The Stuff of Heroes", the X-Men have to stop The Juggernaut from destroying a dam.
  • The Grojband episode "Six Strings of Evil" involved this, even though Corey smashed the evil guitar with help from his fellow bandmates and Trina's Once an Episode Diary Mode, it didn't end well for the dam.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
    • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Baby Sitter Jitters", Dr. Robotnik plans to destroy the Beaverville Dam to flood the valley and make room for Lake Robotnik Golf and Fishing Estates. His first attempt to destroy the dam is foiled by Sonic rebuilding it, and his second is foiled by a trio of baby beavers that Sonic and Tails were babysitting.
    • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Guilt Tripped", when Sonic and Tails finally get back home from the Gogoba Village, they find four messages on their answering machine, all of which are from Dr. Eggman, who tells them that he is planning to blow up the dam. However, because they spent a long time trying to get out of the Gogoba Village, Eggman thinks they're not showing up at all and promptly goes to their house to find out why.

    Real Life 
  • Operation Chastise is the best-remembered wartime example of this. Although the actual damage and disruption was minor compared to the fire-bombing that came later in WW2, it provided an important morale booster to the British public. It also showcased the engineering abilities of Barnes Wallis, who designed the 'bouncing bombs' used in the mission.
  • The Japanese I-400 class submarines (each of which could carry three seaplane torpedo bombers) were intended to destroy the outer locks of the Panama Canal, causing the canal (which is above sea level) to drain and become unusable for American warships. Later it was decided that torpedo attacks against dams and locks were unreliable, and that kamakize attacks would be more successful, but by this point it was too late in the war to matter and the plan was cancelled.
  • In 1977, bombing dams was outlawed in the Geneva Convention "if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces from the works or installations and consequent severe losses among the civilian population".
  • In peace-time, various dam failures have occurred throughout history. The deadliest one was when the Banqiao and Shimantan Dams in China collapsed in 1975 due to excess rainfall from Typhoon Nina, killing over 170,000 people.