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Big Red Button

I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

The activation control of choice for any truly powerful effect, usually located dead center on the control console, sometimes under a molly-guard. It's usually colored red, as a hazard warning.

Pressing the Big Red Button activates the function of a given machine that is important to the plot, be it firing the superweapon, activating the Self-Destruct Mechanism, or emergency shutdown.

In live action, this will often be the only control big enough to make out on camera. In animation, this will often be the only control, period. (At least the only one that's not painted on the background layer.)

Sometimes, it's used as an excellent piece of Schmuck Bait to lure someone into a trap by making it Forbidden Fruit; tell someone not to press it, list all the negative side effects it will cause and all the terrible consequences if they do press it, and you can almost guarantee they will press it.

Of course, if you don't tell them about it, they might walk right up to it and discover by experimentation the answer to the question "What Does This Button Do?"

Almost every piece of factory equipment or free-standing power tool sold in the real world has an actual Big Red Button. It is always an emergency shutdown or power disconnect, intended to save the life of the operator or bystanders by stopping the machine in a big hurry. In nuclear reactors, this is referred to as a SCRAM Switch (quite the meaningful name, due to the incredibly strong urge to run like hell away from the malfunctioning nuclear reactor).

It is not, however, found in real-world examples of certain weapons.

There are several common things which pushing the big red button may do, including initiating the Self-Destruct Sequence, activating the Ejection Seat, using the Nitro Boost, sounding the Red Alert, and launching a missile, rocket, or air strike. It may also be there to confuse people infiltrating the secret base and it will immediately cause the pusher of the button to fall into a trap. Or it may do absolutely nothing.

Compare Big Electric Switch. See also Plot-Sensitive Button, What Does This Button Do?.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertisements 
  • Parodied with the "Easy Button", in ads for Staples office supply stores. Which one may also buy in real life. "That was easy."
  • An Australian beer add had a yobbo tourist taking one of those "Fly a Russian Mig" tours.
    Pilot: [subtitles] Don't push the red button!
    Tourist: What?
    [Pilot taps the red star on his helmet] Red button!
    Tourist: OK! [hits the red button and fires the Ejector Seat]

     Anime and Manga  
  • In Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, the firing button for the God Phoenix's bird missiles is big and red and Condor Joe, being the team's gunner, just loves to push it. To emphasize that, the button has a glass cover that retracts when the missile system is armed, but sometimes Joe doesn't wait and punches through it to push the button.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has one of these, and it might be one of the more realistic things in the series in that it's an emergency shutdown switch for the Eva. Not that it ever seems to help.
  • Lampshaded in a strip of Ah! My Goddess where Skuld writes under a Big Red Button "don't push." Urd wants to push it because it's stated not to do so. Skuld finally writes "push it" to prevent her sister from using it. It ends with Belldandy (whose personality is markedly different from Urd's) pushing the button.
  • In GaoGaiGar, Final Fusion is initiated with one of these. While it, like the Gatchaman example above, has a glass cover over it that can, presumably, be flipped up with relative ease, Mikoto never bothers to do so, instead always opting to smash her fist right down through it.

    In one episode, Mikoto is out of action, leaving Swan to engage Final Fusion instead...she, too, opts for the fist-smashing-through-glass option. You gotta wonder how many of those little glass panels they go through in a month.
  • In Wandaba Style, Susumu always gets his experiments started by exclaiming "Wandaba Style A Go!" and pushing a large button labeled "Wandaba."
  • Used in One Piece when Franky pushed the "Pirate" button in Vegapunk's lab, thus blowing the whole place up
  • In Future War 198X the Minister of Defense ignores orders and presses the large red button, which launches a massive second wave assault. Miami, New York City, Chicago, and Tokyo are all destroyed and from space the earth turns red.
  • There was an episode in Axis Powers Hetalia movie "Paint it, white" when nations tried to find a way to control UFO, Russia presses one and activates an alert
  • The Demon sisters' vehicle G-Sting from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has a particularly noticeable self-destruct button built inside, that Scanty accidentally pushed out of rage in "If Angels Wore Swimsuits". Way to go, dumbass.

     Comic Books  
  • Doktor Sleepless causes a temporary city-wide blackout using a touchscreen tablet which he's set up to display the image of a Big Red Button labeled "DO NOT PRESS".
  • In the Blake and Mortimer story "SOS Meteors", there is such a button standing out in the control panel of the Big Bad's base. Mortimer wonders what it does multiple times, before accidentally pushing it. It is the Self-Destruct Sequence
  • Deliberately in "Superman and the Legion of Substitute Heroes", as a trap for the Ambush Bug. They provide the Superman Museum with just two signs in 20th century English instead of Interlac. One is a KEEP OUT. The other is the DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON sign on the Phantom Zone projector. Of course, AB enters the room and pushes the button.

    Fan Fic 

    Film - Animated 
  • The Incredibles: both of Syndrome's consoles have Big Red Buttons. One of them launches missiles, the other launches the rocket.
  • In Cats Don't Dance, Darla Dimple finds all her other efforts to ruin the animals' big musical number flummoxed by way of her being the villain of the picture. Then, she throws a Big Red Button (er...switch) bigger than she is, labelled "Granddaddy of All Switches"...which sets off all manner of fantastic special effects, making the performance that much more spectacular.
  • Lampshaded in Monsters vs. Aliens, where there are two big red buttons in the bunker: one that launches all of America's nuclear weapons, and the identical one right next to it which makes coffee. In a credits tag, one of the other characters asks for a cup of coffee from the President, who proceeds to press the wrong button.
  • In The Iron Giant, a power plant has a giant shut-off switch on the side of the building. Granted, there was a fence around the building, but still...
  • WALL•E ends up pushing the big red button repeatedly to stop his doomed escape pod, with no visible result.
  • There is actually a big, red button on Buzz Lightyear's chest. Pushing it will cause his wings to pop out.
  • In Twice Upon a Time, one of these — labeled "The Big Red One" — will set off the nightmares sent to the land of Din in a plot to trap everyone there in waking nightmares. The hero Ralph tricks the baddie into hitting it early, and the nightmares go to waste.

     Film - Live-Action 
  • The Cabin in the Woods has a Big Red Button under a clear box labeled "System Purge" which plays a pivotal role in the storyline. This is an obvious joke on the trope as well as a Deus ex Machina.
  • Spaceballs has a Big Red Button on Spaceball One note  that triggers the self-destruction of the ship. Lone Starr knocks Dark Helmet into it, setting off the countdown to the big boom. The bad guys later try to stop the self-destruct sequence with a second smaller, yellow button, only to find it's out of order, prompting Dark Helmet's cry of "Even in the future, nothing works!"
  • While not as big as most, the button to activate the LTD's turbo engines in Men In Black definitely qualifies. "Remember the little red button? Push the little red button."
  • In the classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, the Big Red Button is a switch that, when thrown, initiates a chain reaction that will destroy the planet.
    • It's not actually big, or red, and has to be activated by turning a disc. In other words, a disappointingly safe example.
  • In Undercover Brother, Conspiracy Brother pushes a button labeled "Atomic Core" and starts a Self-Destruct Mechanism that will destroy The Man's headquarters.
    "Let's see what this so called button does!"
  • In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Dr. Evil's lair has a button that, when pressed, aborts the nuclear-armed probe that will cause all of the world's volcanoes to erupt simultaneously.
  • James Bond examples:
    • In Goldfinger, the red button that activates the James Bond car's famous ejector seat is under the stick shift.
    • In Dr. No, there's a big red wheel on the wall in the title Big Bad's nuclear reactor control room labeled "Danger Level." Bond turns it to overload the reactor.
    • Two in You Only Live Twice: One pushed by Bond to destroy the SPECTRE space ship, one used by Blofeld to activate his base's Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, some bounty hunters coming in for a hard landing on a planet are told to hit the "Party Poppers" by their leader. Said "poppers" are retro-rockets on strings, much like a drag chute. The relevant button is simply named "Party Poppers".
  • In the 2008 film Iron Man 1, Tony Stark activates the untested flight system for the Mark I to fly away from the terrorist camp by punching the big red button on his arm.
  • The Millennium Falcon has one of these to activate its hyperdrive, natch.
    • And the van in Fanboys (a Star Wars homage) has an exact duplicate of the Falcon's Big Red Button, which activates the engine's nitro cylinder.
    • In Attack of the Clones, Padme appears to press the same big red button twice in order to activate two different functions: first to forward a message from Obi-Wan to Coruscant, then to pull up a map of Geonosis.
  • Alien: Resurrection. Liquid helium sprays activated by a Big Red Button are set up to control the aliens in their cells. Unfortunately the Mad Scientist fumbles at removing the pin and raising the mollyguard in time to stop the aliens escaping. One alien is clever enough to deduce the connection between the sprays and the Big Red Button, which serves to bite the ass of a security mook.
  • In the beginning of the film The Crawling Hand a hysterical astronaut begs the main characters at command central to "Push... the red... Button!" They do, and it blows him up.
  • In the comedy Ali G Indahouse, after pseudo gangsta Ali G becomes a member of Parliament, he asks the Prime Minister to see the red button for the nukes. After the PM shows it to him he pretends to slip and fall on the button.
  • In the first Resident Evil movie there's a Big Red Button in the subway car that opens and closes the door in the floor.
  • Flash Gordon (1980). Hans Zarkov's spaceship has a Big Red launch button.
  • The Fifth Element. Not Big, but definitely red. We'll let Mr. Zorg tell it, shall we? "I hate warriors, too narrow-minded. I'll tell you what I do like though: a killer, a dyed-in-the-wool killer. Cold blooded, clean, methodical and thorough. Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun." Immediately after, Arnot the Mangalore pushes that button, and the weapon self destructs. Impressively.
    • While the doctors are reassembling the Sole Survivor of the Mangalore vessel, General Munro keeps his hand hovering over a large red dome, warning that their patient had better be polite. On revealing that their patient is a beautiful woman, the doctor gently moves a gaping Munro's hand away from the button.
  • During the Wacky Racing sequence from Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, one of the racers tells Juni Cortez to press a red button on his speeder labeled "Do not push." He presses it, and it triggers an Ejector Seat that knocks Juni off the speeder.
  • In the 2009 movie The Box, a family is given a small box which has a Big Red Button. If anyone in the family pushes the button, they get 1 million dollars, tax free (this is set in the 1970s), but someone they do not know will die. Naturally, someone does, setting off the plot.
  • Deconstructed in Heathers, where the time bomb has three red buttons. The reason isn't given but we can assume they are meant to complicate a defusing.
  • Outpost Rise Of The Spetsnaz. Dolokhov escapes from his cell where the Nazis where holding him so they could do experiments on him. He comes across a surgeon who has his comrade Strapped to an Operating Table. The surgeon casts a desperate look at the red button that will call the guards. Dolokhov just shrugs in mock apology, because he's standing between the surgeon and the button.

     Game Shows  
  • Many such shows feature these as the method of buzzing in.
  • The "Deal" button on Deal or No Deal (well, maybe not the button itself, but it at least contains a big pulsing red light).
  • The button used for the "Cash or Clunkers" game on the current incarnation of Lets Make A Deal.
  • Press Your Luck used them to both buzz in when answering questions and stopping the Big Board.
  • The Price Is Right features them in several pricing games, including ten of them serving as the reveal mechanism for "Ten Chances" and the method of stopping the range finder on "Range Game".
  • Later seasons of Supermarket Sweep featured these on the bottom of television monitors located throughout the store; finding one and hitting the button revealed a clue to the bonus item located in the store. (Originally, the monitors were touchscreens).

    Literature 
  • This was parodied in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. When Arthur Dent encounters an inviting Big Red Button and pushes it, a sign lights up saying "Please do not press this button again." Later in the book, Arthur encounters a different button labeled, "This is probably the best button to press."
  • Subverted in Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Dirk Gently's I Ching calculator is supposed to be able to answer any question by consulting internal references to the I Ching if the user has his question in mind and presses the red button. There is no red button, but there is a blue button marked "red".
  • In the Russian novel Death or Glory by Vladimir Vasilyev, the main character finds a mysterious black box with a big red button on it. He muses on how cliché situation is, but knows that he will press the button no matter the consequences, simply because it must be pressed. This ends up being a "blessing in disguise" of sorts. While their colony is destroyed, the characters manage to elevate humanity to a greater status in the galaxy.
  • As in the Evil Overlord List, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Valhalla had Bashir push a big red button on an abandoned alien ship, only to have one of the other characters tell him about a race which wires up its big red obvious buttons to a fatal electric shock to prevent exactly this situation.
  • Lampshaded heavily in Discworld where it is explained that no matter what a big red button always attracts attention and that even if you tell everyone the dire consequences of pressing it and putting up a sign to warn them off, someone is going to press it just to see what it does. Especially if they're a wizard.
  • The Richard Matheson short story "Button, Button" features a stranger who offers a couple a box with a red button in it. Push the button, they are awarded a hefty sum of money... and someone they don't know dies. The short story was made into a Twilight Zone episode (also called Button, Button) in 1986, and into a 2009 film starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella (The Box).
    • And a Rooster Teeth short. Considerably more important than Cameron Diaz.
  • In "Eagle Strike" of the Alex Rider book series, there is one such button on board Air Force One, but it is sensitive to the President's fingerprint. The villain (an evil Elton John) being crazy prepared, has a mold of the Prez's hand on hand.
  • A non-technological predecessor in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia novel The Magician's Nephew when Digory releases the \White Witch. There is a bell with a sign that urges the viewer to strike it, "Or wonder till it drives you mad, What would have happened if you had".
  • Subverted in Forever Free (sequel of The Forever War). While pressing the big red button, the hero wonders how many people guessed that it has absolutely no use, everything being automatic.

     Live Action TV  
  • Firefly - the episode "Out of Gas" features a jerry-rigged Big Red Button to call Serenity's shuttles back in the event of a miracle. When Mal gets his miracle, he goes to hit the button, but collapses before he can, though luckily the ships came back anyway. note 
  • An episode of The Outer Limits inverts this, with several people in silos tasked to push a Big Red Button (after completing a retina and handprint scan) to STOP the world from blowing up, making it a Dead Man's Switch.
  • Doctor Who
    • In the 2005 Christmas special, the villains have a literal Big Red Button that activates the hostage-killing mechanism. The Doctor presses it himself, citing the allure of Big Red Buttons That Must Never Ever Be Pressed — and reveals that (he had deduced) the threatened hostage-killing mechanism was just a bluff.
    • In the series 3 premiere "Smith and Jones" Martha is told to activate a radioactive machine to take down one of the slabs. Not knowing how to do that she tries reading the operators manual, but time being of the essence, eventually gives up and plums for the big red button. It works.
    • In the 2009 Easter special "Planet Of The Dead", the Doctor tells Christina to deactivate the security force field by pressing the big red button (right above the forcefield).
    • Opposingly, in the series 5 episode "The Time of Angels", River Song and the Doctor scramble to drive the wheezing TARDIS in pursuit of another Cool Starship.
      River: Use the stabilizers!
      Doctor: I don't have any stabilizers!
      River: The BLUE switches!
      Doctor: The blue ones don't do anything. They're just...BLUE.
      River: Of course they're BLUE, they're the blue STABILIZERS! *pushes buttons, pulls the switches, TARDIS calms down* See?
      Doctor: Yeah. well, it's just boring now, isn't it? They're boringers, BLUE...*presses a bunch of other buttons* ...BORINGERS.
    • In The Day of The Doctor the War Doctor complains about dealing with an unintuitive activation mechanism, wondering why he can't just have a big red button. Later when he makes the decision to activate the Sentient Weapon, it creates one for him in the form of a large glowing red crystal.
  • This was played completely straight, with lots of unintentional humor, in an episode of The X-Files "First Person Shooter", where a video game development company had a literal big red button to erase all data on their computers. In real life people go to great lengths to have backups, especially when developing something as expensive and work-intensive as a game, but apparently in that universe accidental evil AIs with physics-breaking abilities are an ever-present threat that justify installing a big red bankruptcy button.
  • In an episode of Father Ted, Dougal is unfortunately confronted with one of these while visiting the cockpit of a jumbo jet. It is not only very Big and very Red but clearly labelled DO NOT PRESS. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the episode deals with the consequences of jettisoning most of the fuel in mid-air.
  • Episode six of the UK version of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? had a challenge with this labeled "Do not touch", though it didn't actually do anything. Some of the superheroes actually pressed the buttons thinking it was the method to win the challenge (to save the world, or a model of it anyway).
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
  • Battlestar Galactica. A red-lit button is used to release the outer doors of the Viper launch bay, as seen in several execution scenes.
  • Derren Brown is a British hypnotist/magician who specialises in messing with other people's minds. In one episode of his Trick or Treat series, he locked a young woman in a room with a Big Red Button which said 'Do Not Press.' The button was connected to a cage, and in the cage was a cute little kitten. Derren Brown told her that pressing the button would fatally electrocute the kitten, and if she could go for just 5 minutes without pressing the button, she'd get a cool £500. With one second left, she pressed the button. The kitten didn't die, however, as Derren had been lying about that.
  • Solitary is a Reality Show where contestants are eliminated when they are tired of torturing themselves. Guess how they signify this.
  • In an episode of The Pretender, Miss Parker and Mr. Lyle are investigating one of Jarod's "lairs" (a shipping container) when they see a Big Red Button with a sign saying "DANGER - DO NOT PUSH" in Jarod's handwriting. Parker tells Lyle not to push it, saying it's probably a trap. Lyle pushes it...and it IS a trap.
    • In the "lair", there's also a red lever marked "DANGER - DO NOT PULL". After the experience with the Big Red Button, Parker is understandably reluctant to pull it...until the container arrives at The Centre and Broots reads a note that tells them to pull the lever. Parker pulls it...and the container unlocks.
  • Douglas Fargo of Eureka is incapable of going by a big red button without pushing it. This has become a running joke.
  • The Suite Life Movie averts this - A Big Red Button is seen as the Big Bad moves to initialize Stage Four of the Gemini Project - only to be pushed aside while a smaller button on a keychain is pushed.
  • Kamen Rider Fourze has the Cosmic Switch, which activates Fourze's Super Mode.
  • In Rudy Coby: The Coolest Magician on Earth, for the Most Dangerous Card Trick, Rudy wires himself to a "cardboard bomb", which he tells a volunteer to detonate at the "appropriate" time. Detonating it ejects a load of confetti.
  • In the live-action cartoon Far Out Space Nuts, the main premise was that two bumbling NASA employees were loading astronauts' meals onto spacecraft. They pressed the buttons for "breakfast" and "dinner", but accidentally pressed LAUNCH instead of "lunch", sending the pair out into space.
  • In the Leverage episode "The (Very) Big Bird Job", the final stage of the con involves a big red button marked "Crash".
  • The Avengers. In "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station" the villain proudly shows off the red button that will blow up the railway carriage carrying the Prime Minister of Britain. Later Emma Peel (who wasn't present to hear this) accidentally puts her hand on the button giving everyone an Oh Crap moment; fortunately Steed has already disconnected the wires.

    Music 
  • In the end of the "Land of Confusion" music video by Genesis, it is shown that Reagan had two Big Red Buttons in his bedroom. One was for "NUKE", the other for "NURSE". Guess which one he pressed.
  • In the Rush 2010 Time Machine Tour, every show opened with a very funny short video featuring Gershon (Geddy Lee), Slobovitch (Alex Lifeson) and cop O'Malley (Neil Peart). In the video, Herr Slobovitz activates the "Gefilter", a contraption designed to improve the sound of the bar band playing at Gershon's Haus of Sausage. The device has a BIG OL' red button with a TIME MACHINE label, which is accidentally pressed. Watch the results here.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a Prickly City Sunday cartoon, Winslow sees a button with a "Do not push" sign. After some careful idleness, he pushes it in the penultimate panel. In the ultimate one, he complains, "If you break the rules you deserve a boom."

    Pinball 
  • While it isn't red, the Fire Button in Stern Pinball's Star Trek definitely qualifies. The game even tells you to PUNCH IT! at certain times during the game.

    Radio 
  • The Imagination Station in Adventures in Odyssey activates at the press of "The Red Button". It was changed to "The Flashing White Button" for one episode due to the machine having been rebuilt but it has been "The Red Button" ever since.

     Tabletop Games  
  • Munchkin has "The most fiendish trap of all!". It's this. The problem is, apparently, not pressing it. Everybody who gets it must.
  • In Transhuman Space, the "C-Brown" gardening cybershell (robot body) has large red buttons on the front and back that shut it down instantly. This is because berserk gardener shells attacking with their built-in shears are a popular threat in the setting's fiction, although it's never actually happened.

     Video Games  
  • In Pokémon Red and Blue, the player is prompted as to whether or not he wants to push the buttons he finds in Team Rocket's hideout. Choosing "Yes" makes the game reply, "Who wouldn't?"
    • Played straight in Pokemon Xand Y. In Team Flare's lab, the player is given a choice of two buttons. The blue one deactivates the ultimate weapon, while the red one (obviously) activates it. However, even if you press the blue one, they activate it anyway.
  • Maniac Mansion has a Big Red Button at the bottom of the pool, with the warning "Do not press!" written above. You just had to find out what the button did, and ended up detonating the mansion in the process.
  • Blasto has an interesting version of this; pressing a large button with the sign "Do Not Press" displayed above it will result in Blasto getting disintegrated by a lightning bolt.
    • In a slightly later section of the game, a second, identical button is encountered, with the same "Do Not Press" sign. If, against all logic, you fall for the same trick and press this one... a bunch of health and powerups spawn nearby.
  • Pandemonium also uses this, in the level Fantabulous, there exists a button (though green) with "Press this button" printed above it. Kicking the button triggers an alarm and flashing red lights, the camera pans up to see "DON'T!" spray-painted in red above it, and the air station proceeds to count a self-destruct. The button turns red. Pressing this button is a must anyway, as it opens a path to escape the air station.
  • Comically obvious in Brain Dead 13, which has a huge and very convenient self destruct button sitting on the Big Bad's doomsday device.
  • Portal has the "Fifteen Hundred Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super Button". The biggest red button ever, and generally used in combination with the Aperture Science Weighted Storage Cube to solve puzzles. There are also small red buttons that function as switches.
    • Portal 2, in addition to the above, has various highly prominent red buttons in the areas outside the test environments. They operate whatever key piece of machinery you need to resolve the current puzzle. The Old Aperture test chambers also feature a version of the Super Button with a retro 50's look.
  • The 1st Ratchet & Clank had a level that took place in a spaceship. On the console in the bridge is a big red button. What makes this more notable than most is the fact that the Action Command when you approach it is, word for word, "Press the big red shiny button?" It's the self-destruct. It's also a Shout-Out, and proves that the Insomniacs watched The Ren & Stimpy Show.
  • World of Warcraft: In the Ulduar raid dungeon, mechagnome boss Mimiron has one of these, conveniently labeled "DO NOT PRESS THIS BUTTON", that sets off his lair's self destruct mechanism. If you defeat him after activating it, you get more loot. However, it also covers half the room with fire, causes him to go into a frenzy that increases the damage of all of his attacks, gives him several methods of combating said fires that also hurt you if you happen to be in the wrong place, and finally, places a timer on how long you have to kill him before the room goes kablooey. Good luck.
    • There's another one in a newbie questchain for goblins to destroy an oil rig. Oh, and this button is VERY BIG! (Also very red. And the character comments on it.)
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, the TEC Starbase can be upgraded to have the big red button. With the second level of this, the starbase explodes in a sizable area (More than the range of most attackers), causing enough damage to kill all but high leveled, full HP capital ships.
  • Mass Effect has no actual buttons but lampshades this trope anyway if Tali is in the party on Noveria. When Mira is explaining the neutron purge, Tali will provide immortal line:
    Tali "Don't press big red buttons."
  • Independent game Liberal Crime Squad allows you to push a "big red button" in a nuclear power plant to release waste into the environment. The catch is you need a character with the right skill to push the big red button.
  • Conkers Bad Furday use this, the mechanical boss' weakness is a Big Red Button on his back.
  • In Evil Genius, one can be used as a Death Trap. Popping up out of the ground with a big sign that says "Do Not Press", it compels low-willpower enemy agents to press it anyway, giving them a shock.
  • Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren't So Frightening gets the game rolling with this trope. The titular protagonist pays a visit to the factory that apparently is responsible for the world's weather, with the intent to stop the thunderstorms that have been creeping him out so much. He gets an explanation that enlightens his viewpoint almost right off the bat, but he trips on his cape, causing him to fly into and press a giant red button on the control panel; said button inexplicably causes partial destruction of the factory. Sam ends up with the responsibility of locating the missing parts, a task that covers the rest of the game.
  • In AdventureQuest, the Big Red Button is an armor, which deals five times normal damage at the cost of losing 100 HP.
  • In Star Wars: Empire at War when you engage in a space battle above an enemy plant with a fleet that contains the Death Star, the dead space on your HUD becomes a big red button you just have to hold out until the timer counts down, then Death Star, ready to fire then lots of pretty explody doom.
  • In Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, Eggman activates his All-Star move with one of these. The announcer even references this trope. "Watch out, everyone! Eggman's pushed his Big Red Button!"
  • Steel Battalion has a Big Red Button with a flip-up plastic cover and yellow diagonal stripes to trigger the Ejection Seat. Failing to use it before your VT explodes or floods will result in a deleted save game.
  • One such button can be found in each of three later factory levels in Donkey Kong Country Returns. You must find and activate all three to open the rocket level that leads to the world's boss.
  • Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon has the Big Red LEVER - at the beginning of the game, there's a DO NOT TOUCH sign with a lever in front of it. Once a butterfly lands on it, Pep sees it and jumps for it, only to land on the lever and pull it, causing the fireworks factory to go haywire. This summons a rocket that carries Putt-Putt into space and eventually landing on the moon.
  • Modern Warfare 2's Museum level (A couple rooms with museum-style setpieces of all the levels) has two Big Red Buttons on the desks in the entrances of the rooms. Going up to them brings up a prompt "DO NOT press x". Doing so causes the enemies to attack en masse.
  • Whacked! has these, which causes various things to happen. The world turns upside-down, zombie stars attack everyone, everyone's vision gets distorted, all weapons disappear, etc.
  • The sandbox in World of Goo can be reset with one of these, molly-guard included.

     Web Animation  

     Web Comics  

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  
  • Subverted in VeggieTales. Bob and Larry are chasing after Madame Blueberry in a motorized shopping cart, and Bob asks "Can't this thing go any faster?" Right on cue, the big red button starts blinking. Bob pushes it and then flinches, expecting something incredible to happen. Instead, it prints a coupon.
  • Coop's Big Red Button in Megas XLR. Its label and effect would change depending on the situation, like when Coop yells "Maybe you'll like this better, then!", the button is actually labeled "This Better Then". He even has a button labeled "Big Red Button of Irony".
    • A couple episodes draw attention to this, in fact. One episode had the button marked "Five Minutes Until End of Episode," activating a brand-new power that saves the day.
    • Another episode had Coop use it twice, for two different results. The second time, it's labeled "The Exact Same Button Coop Used Like Five Minutes Ago."
    • And then there's "The Button That Does The Same Thing As The Other Button" button.
    • Still better, Megas does, in fact, have a "Save the World" button (right under "Destroy the World", "Smite the World", and "Destroy the World Worse".) But it's been removed.
    • He also has a button that is simply titled "The Button", which has the following warning posted around it: "Danger", "Do Not Touch", "This Means You!", and "Never ever press!". Said button launches an arsenal of nukes from Megas, though Kiva stops him from using it (to which he replies "What's the point of having nukes if I never get to use them?")
  • Monsters vs. Aliens parodies this nicely. When the President wants to order a coffee, he pushes a Big Red Button. Right next to it, on the same big panel, is one that looks just like it. The other button launches all of the nukes. Neither is labeled.
  • Cadet Stimpson is forced to guard the History Eraser Button in The Ren & Stimpy Show's "Space Madness" episode. The jolly, candy-like button! He eventually caves to the pressure of the voice-over announcer and pushes the button, erasing himself, Ren, and the narrator from history.
  • Parodied (naturally) in Invader Zim:
    • The Megadoomer's self-destruct button was also a Big Red Button with a crazy smiley face on it.
  • Johnny Bravo
    Man: No! Don't press that button!
    Johnny: (pause) Aw, now I got to.
  • In Dexter's Laboratory, Dee-Dee was fond of pushing the Big Red Button that would wreck one of Dexter's inventions or otherwise cause trouble. A vapid "Oooh! What Does This Button Do?" became her main Catch Phrase. One would think that eventually, Dex would learn to stop putting Big Red Buttons on everything he builds.
  • In one episode of Johnny Test, Dukey tries to constantly edge Johnny away from pushing said button, mainly because more often than not, said Big Red Button tends to cause the trouble that they have to stop. This is the one time where pushing the red button actually saves the day.
  • In Madballs: Escape from Orb, Freakella correctly guesses that this is the button to press in order to start Aargh and Slobulous's ship:
    Freakella: Just hit the big red button!
    Aargh & Slobulus: Why?
    Freakella: Because it's always the big red button!
  • In The Simpsons episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Sideshow Bob hooked an atomic bomb up to one of these. Lisa and Bart barged in as he was tracing his finger around the button. Lisa objected, saying: "Don't you see? That would be taking the easy way out." , to which he replied "I agree." spoiler:and pressed it. The bomb turns out to be a dud.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Design for Leaving", Daffy Duck equips Elmer Fudd's home with "time-saving gadgets" operated from a push-button control panel. The panel includes one Big Red Button which Daffy warns to never touch. At the end of the cartoon, curiosity gets the better of Elmer and he pushes it. A display lights up reading "IN CASE OF TIDAL WAVE", and the entire house rises up hundreds of feet over the ground. Daffy arrives by helicopter and says "For a small price, I can install this little blue button to get you down."
  • Parodied in Family Guy; Peter finds himself in front of a big red button with accompanying sign reading "Do not press this button". When he presses it, the only observable result is an elderly Asian black belt who enters the room, bows to Peter, and then roundhouse kicks him in the face.
  • Lampshaded in the Tom and Jerry movie in which our cat and mouse heroes are attempting to stow away on a river boat and Tom is searching wildly for the start button. Jerry says that he should push the red button because "It's always a red one!" They push it aaand... yup. It is the start button they were looking for.
  • As seen above, in Kim Possible one of Dr. Drakken's temporary lairs includes one of these, which Shego gleefully employes.
    • And in the series finale:
      Drakken: Oh! This is highly advanced alien technology! It's not going to be as simple as finding an...
      (Rufus finds the off switch and switches it to the off position. The noise suddenly quiets down and goes away.)
      Drakken: ...off switch...mmmmmmmhhh...
      (Rufus just snickers. The ship begins to lose power and fall to earth. The scene switches to the ship's bridge.)
      Warmonga: Oh! What madness is this?
      Warhok: They found the off switch!
      Warmonga: Ugh! Long have I questioned the wisdom of that accursed switch!
  • Bonkers lampshaded this trope after a criminal toon told Bonkers not to push a very obviously hazardous-to-himself-and-his-human-partner big shiny red button, citing that it's a built-in rule for cartoon characters to push big red buttons once it's pointed out - making it a literal Rule of Funny.
  • Used in every episode of Phineas and Ferb, by Dr. Doofensmirtz, to the point that he laments in one episode "Someone always finds my self-destruct button."
    • In "Hail Doofania!", Phineas and Ferb build a big red self destruct button on their rainbow generator. Naturally, it gets activated, which prompts Ferb to comment, "In hindsight, I question the logistics of including a self-destruct button in the first place."
  • An episode of Gerald McBoingBoing has the family buy a car. Gerald's dad sees the car has a big red button (alright it wasn't that big but it was red) in the car and presses it, activating an ejector seat.
  • From the Donkey Kong Country episode "The Big Chill Out":
    K. Rool: With my KCCBM, we'll be up to our tails in Coconut Chills before you can say "Blast off!"
    (Klump pushes the big red button and launches the KCCBM)
    Kritters: Hooray!!
    K. Rool: I wanted to push the big red button!!
    Klump: But you said "blast off" and I didn't get to say anything!
  • Jonny Quest TOS episode "The Robot Spy". The duty officer of an Air Force base pushes such a button to call a Red Alert and scramble jet fighters.
  • Played with quite elaborately in The Penguins of Madagascar episode "Tagged." While confined due to electronic bracelets, the penguins enlist the lemurs' help in fixing a heating/cooling unit that they had started to work on before being confined. Seven buttons appear before the three lemurs, each button an almost-imperceptible shade of red (ruby, brick, crimson, scarlet, etc.). Kowalski instructs the lemurs that they are supposed to press only the scarlet button, which leads to King Julien and Maurice arguing over which one is scarlet. King Julien starts to play eenie-meenie-minie-moe, until Mort, The Chew Toy of the group, pads up and presses a button at random. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Both Road Rovers ' first and last episodes had Colleen pushing a not-exactly-Big Red Button on a vehicle dashboard causing it to go ludicrously fast.man
  • Lampshaded in Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Spider-man points the big red button they must press to save the day. Why? Because in films, it's always the big red one.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Beyond the Farthest Star". The auxiliary warp drive controls are activated with a red button. Kirk presses it to send the Enterprise on a desperate slingshot maneuver to escape the dead star's gravity and get rid of the alien intruder.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold - The Joker gets to ride in the Batmobile during an Enemy Mine, and is in full What Does This Button Do? mode, with Batman repeatedly telling him not to touch anything. He spots a Big Red Button, which Batman warns him he really doesn't want to touch. He touches it - and gets hit in the face with knock-out gas. It's like Bats read the Evil Overlord List example at the top of the page and made it non-lethal.
  • The Herculoids episode "Malak and the Metal Apes". Zandor sneaks into Malak's base inside one of the Metal Apes (robots). When he reveals himself, Malak orders his henchman to push a red button to activate the Ape's Self-Destruct Mechanism and destroy him.
  • In an episode of The Problem Solverz, there is a magic clock with a red button on it that is capable of ripping a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum. Naturally, crazy fangirl Katrina Rad steals the clock and threatens to press the button if Roba doesn't marry her.
  • This probably wouldn't count, but there was an episode in Rocko's Modern Life where Rocko's boss left him in charge while he was gone and told him not the press the GREEN button. Rocko, of course, presses the button anyway, and becomes a power-hungry Jerk Ass.
  • The indie computer-animation short Pigeon: Impossible involves a bird falling into a suitcase containing a Big Red Button (among other spy gadgets). The pigeon taps it, but doesn't fully press the button, only for the CIA agent to accidentally do so, whereupon the Washington Monument turns into a nuclear missile launcher.

    Other 

  • Android app "Instant Buttons".
  • Thinkgeek's Doomsday Device USB Hub
  • Thinkgeek's Big Red Button
  • The October 1983 issue of Fantasy Empire featured a Doctor Who-related quiz called "Would You Make a Fit Companion?". Question #41 was:
    Can you guess what button to push to save the Universe from the giant mutant space-goat?
    A. Yes. It's always been the red one.
    B. No. I'm colorblind.

     Truth In Television  
  • The infamous Stanley Milgram experiment instructed participants to press a button (though it wasn't big and red) that they were told would deliver an electric shock to a human victim. In spite of clear warnings written on the switches and vocal complaints from the victim, most people pressed the button repeatedly when the experimenter told them to do so.
    • The "electrocutions" got progressively worse, with the victims (who were merely voice actors in another room) eventually screaming in horrible agony, and then finally going silent to imply that they had been killed or at least knocked unconscious.
  • British artist Damien Hirst has spoken of an exhibition he will never be allowed to mount: it would consist of a big red button and a "Do Not Press" sign. If anyone did give in and press it, a boxing glove would come out and punch them in the face.
  • When color programming was introduced in German television, there was an actual big red button that the Chancellor of Germany was supposed to push in order to switch on the new technology. The technicians behind the scenes were a little trigger-happy and turned on colour transmission shortly before he actually pushed it, ruining the effect... for those few people who actually had color TV sets at that time. (Video in colour, complete with early switch-on)
    • When the clip was shown in a local documentary on television, the producers tried to "fix" it by showing the clip in B&W. Although not as obvious, the button still changes hue a bit.
  • The New York Stock Exchange has a Big Green Button that triggers the bells that signal the opening and closing of business. The Exchange invites guests to press the button almost every business day. Guests include representatives of corporations on the company's first trading day, political officials and foreign dignitaries.
  • For a 2009 diplomatic visit to Russia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought a big red reset button (connected to nothing) that she would offer for a Russian official to push, symbolically forgiving previous tensions.
    • It was hillariously screwed up, as the button was supposed to be labeled "Перезагрузка" (Reload, as in reload Russian/USA relations), but was instead labeled "Перегрузка" (Overload).
  • Most modern elevators have a Big Red Button, which may be an emergency stop or a fire alarm. Surprisingly, most elevator riders seem to be able to keep their hands off it.
    • Understandably, as most pushy urges come from not knowing what would happen or if anything bad would occur at all. It's common knowledge that any said button would usually stop an elevator dead, which is a common station of terror for some.
  • Parodied in the European Nuclear Research Center CERN, of all places. The experiment station Atlas's control room has a big red button placed in the anteroom, labelled: "Your Unique Chance to Press an Emergency Button!" When pressed, the only thing that happens is that the screen above the button switches on and you get a lecture.
  • The closest thing to a Big Red Button on cars turns on the four-way hazard warning flashers. On European cars it's a Big Red Button going back as far as The Sixties, but on most American ones from before The Nineties it's hidden on the underside of the steering column for some reason.
    • Many cars modified for racing are equipped with an externally accessible kill switch, so safety crews can shut the engine down from outside the car in the event of a serious crash or emergency. Many drivers hide them behind the car's rear license plate; the plate can be removed while the car is racing, so the button is accessible, but when the car is on the road, the license plate is attached and the button is hidden away. Very often, they are Big Red Buttons.
    • Also many sports cars have, instead of a key ignition, a Start/Stop button. Not exactly huge, but usually larger than the rest of the buttons and most often red, a more direct application of this trope.
    • On June 24, 2014, engineers from Carnegie Mellon University put on a demonstration of a prototype self-driving car in Washington D.C. The demo ended before it began when one of the VIP guests (Elanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting "Delegate" to the House of Representatives) pushed the big red "Emergency Stop" button and knocked the car's systems completely off-line.
  • The Dave Smith Instruments synth module, the Mopho, has a "Push It!" button, described on the site as " a manual trigger that lets you play a specific note or latch notes and sequences on. It can also step through a sequence to play short melodic lines without a keyboard."
  • Speaking of synths, Waldorf's trademark design element was a Big Red Knob for data entry. This tradition wasn't dropped before the Blofeld.
  • A Big Red Button control for model trains was invented by veteran rocker and model train enthusiast Neil Young. It was designed to let his quadriplegic son Ben run the family's 750-foot railway by himself.
  • There was an experiment a few years back. The subject would be locked in a room for 5 or 10 minutes with a Big Red Button. If they managed to go the whole time without pressing it, they'd get $1000. Nobody made it. The closest pressed the button with about 20 seconds left.
  • Many IT datacenters contain Big Red Buttons for various purposes, usually for the purposes of cutting power (in a disorderly fashion) to all computer systems, or engaging the fire suppression system. These typically are behind some sort of safety cover, and contain signage stating something like "Emergency power off," "Halon" (in the old days), or something to that effect. There was one datacenter where the button had a sign reading "Resumé button," as in "Have your resumé ready."
    • Supposedly, after several unplanned shutdown incidents when giving tours, one mainframe operator put a nice Big Red Button, at kid height. One kid pressed the button and stood there, shaking in fear. All the button did was light up a small sign which said "Release button to cause explosion."
  • In industries that use a good deal of automation Big Red Buttons exist as emergency shutdowns. Most have some protection over the button, and are commonly called clown noses because people really want to punch them. But since they are an emergency shutdown, they take a while to start back up and can get expensive. Very Expensive.
  • Often large pieces of machinery and heavy equipment will have one, such as forklifts. They're usually emergency shutdowns.
    • Escalators. The emergency stop buttons are very attractive to some people.
  • The Color Computer's keyboard had a bright red button in the upper right corner ominously labeled "Break". Unaware users would avoid it like the plague. Some later models relabeled the key "ESC/Break" to better explain its functionality.
  • Most industrial machines actually do have a Big Red Button as mandated by safety laws. It's usually just an emergency shut down button though, not a explosive self-destruct button.


DO NOT PUSH!


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