They said it was a weather balloonThe aliens are closing in, the terrorists are priming the warhead, the President's hijacked motorcade is arriving, or perhaps the loveable band of hackers is about to uncover the Government Conspiracy. Whatever the situation, The Men in Black need to arrive in style, and there is only one way to do that: the Black Helicopter. Half Cool Plane, half Silent Runner, the Black Helicopter is to secret agents what the Batmobile is to Batman. Fast, quiet, stealthy, powerful, almost invisible and, of course, pitch-black, nothing screams cover-up quite like a black helicopter. Black Vans with radar dishes provide ground support, but aren't nearly as cool. A somewhat dubious Truth in Television, as Black Helicopters are an ingredient of many real-life conspiracy theories. Possibly influenced by dark painted helicopters that get mistaken for black in poor lighting conditions while performing disappointingly mundane operations. Though it should be obvious, helicopters are actually very, very terrible at stealth. There is simply no way to make them completely quiet, they have next to zero endurance, they are slow, vulnerable, ruinously expensive, and restricted to low altitudesnote . Even the now-infamous super-secret Seal Team 6 choppers had slight noise reduction and were only cloaked to radar, and even that was imperfect. Military Plane-Spotters, take note. In Real Life if a helicopter was involved in sinister operations it would probably not be painted black — to avoid the trope and avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.
— Soul Coughing
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Hypnos from Digimon Tamers has black helicopters, though their effectiveness quickly fades against Mons.
- In Ghost in the Shell, Section 9 use gray V-22 Type tiltrotors and smaller Hind-like helicopters, while the JSDF use transport helicopters and gunships, including AI-piloted Jigabachi AV helicopter (the most menacing in the series). They are designed to look like their namesakes — Jigabachi is the Japanese name for a type of mud-dauber wasp — the Jigabachi AV has a large gun pod that hangs beneath the rest of the helicopter and can swivel in any direction to unleash Death from Above. The most sinister aspect is that the AI pilots have gone rogue. note
- Team Rocket from Pokémon has several black helicopters, often used as Giovanni's transportation of choice.
- The Ministry of Defense uses these in Ga Rei Zero to move their Red Shirt Army about. Lampshaded by the MOE countermeasure team (who've been using Humvees thus far), who comment they're probably trying to show off. Until the final episode, in which the team gets stuck in traffic while moving to intercept Yomi and the SDF gives them a lift.
- Munchkin Impossible has a 'In a black helicopter' monster enchantment.
- In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman has the Batcopter. It has the appropriate colour scheme. note
- The last time Batman had a Batcopter in any other franchise or medium it wasn't one of these owing to Batman's comic book color schemes.
- Sheba, the black helicopter used to transport the Suicide Squad.
- In Sin City: Hell And Back, the Big Bad has a black military helicopter which factors heavily in the climax.
- The 2010 Taskmaster miniseries references this trope with the Black Choppers, a motorcycle gang comprised exclusively of aliens doing the arcane bidding of an unrevealed conspiratorial organization.
Films — Animated
- Cars 2: A black helicopter used by the Lemons is used to carry Finn McMissile away from the race in Italy with his magnet near the end as an attempt to prevent him from foiling their evil plans. The Lemon helicopter then flies McMissile to London and leaves him, Mater, and Holly Shiftwell to be crushed to death by the gears of a giant clock as the Lemons proceed to wreak havoc on the final race there.
Films — Live-Action
- Conspiracy Theory had Mel Gibson's character paranoid about (among other things) undetectable, silent, black CIA helicopters. At the end of the movie it's revealed that it's one of his many paranoias that are true.
- Blackout from the Transformers movie. Megatron in Transformers Animated is also a futuristic helicopter. The Sector 7 agency also has a few of these choppers, which are used to try and track down the Autobots and for prisoner transport.
- The titular machine in Blue Thunder is a Black Helicopter with stealth capabilities, advanced surveillance equipment, and a really big freaking gun. The movie involves a Government Conspiracy centered around its use, and the hero ends up stealing it for the climactic aerial showdown.
- Blade is carried to a meeting with a vampire lord in Blade II by a black helicopter.
- Minority Report: The scary black future helicopters/jump-jets used by the police, bordering on all-out Cool Plane.
- Capricorn One has a government conspiracy to fake a human landing on Mars. The conspiracy is enforced by black helicopters to creepy effect, with behavior more like dark wraiths than human piloted machines.
- Given the premise of They Live!, it would be almost more surprising if there weren't some of these. With fun bonus of alien helicopter sound silencers, no less.
- In Big Game, incidentally, the helicopter Hazar and his mooks hijack is pitch black. They're actually CIA operatives and part of government conspiracy.
- James Bond
- Air Force One begins with a black helicopter operation.
- The original Predator (1987) has Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team being inserted into the guerrillas' jungle hideout area by a genuine, CIA-owned UH-1N Huey, painted semigloss black. However, the two escorting Huey gunships, being owned by the local friendly government's army, are painted a more sensible jungle green.
- In Cypher, the legendary spy Sebastian Rooks designs and pilots a black helicopter.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, while Bane's minions cruise around in stolen and retooled Batmobiles, Batman zips around in a gunship prototype dubbed "The Bat".
- Zero Dark Thirty recreates the stealth-variant Black Hawk helicopters for the Abottabad raid, though the models presumably had to be based off a little bit of guesswork, given that the actual design details are still classified. True to reality, they trade payload, performance, and armament in exchange for being nearly invisible on radar, though it's nearly a moot point when one crashes and the conventional CSAR helicopter is sent in.
- The 1970 film Figures in a Landscape sees hapless protagonists MacConnachie and Ansell pursued by a black Aérospatiale Alouette, the motivations of its Faceless Goon occupants totally unknown. Similar to the later Capricorn One, the helicopter becomes an almost primal enemy for the heroes to overcome as they struggle to survive in the wilderness. This is especially true of MacConnachie, whose desire to kill the helicopter's pilots becomes an obsession and part of his Sanity Slippage.
MacConnachie: [as the helicopter appears] Great... black... bat!
- An obscure '90s Russian war movie called Black Shark features the Kamov KA-50 used for the page image. It is notable for giving the helicopter its now very common nickname. The movie is strange in way that the helicopter almost acts like a character itself, with its pilot never saying anything while flying it, blowing up Afghan drugdealer mercenaries, and it is painted completely black.
- In Dan Brown's Deception Point, late in the novel, the antagonists use an unmarked black Kiowa Warrior helicopter.
- American Gods: The valkyries in Neil Gaiman's novel manifested as black helicopters.
- In the Heroes in Hell series, Achilles had picked up pilot training and flew a stealthy black helicopter loaded with spy gear and a 30mm chain gun on covert operations for, among others, Gaius Julius Caesar.
- Futuretrack Five by Robert Westall featured a special police force known as Paramils who flew around in black psycopters, named because of the psycho-radar they carried, which allowed them to monitor the mental states of the population and detect people via the presence of human brain patterns.
Live Action TV
- Martin Lloyd in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Point of No Return" believes in black helicopters, among other things. Ironically, this one of his conspiracy theories that is incorrect in the Stargate Verse — everything else is true, including The Men in Black, aliens, and even his belief that he is an alien. note
- Airwolf was intended to be one of these, until its test pilot made off with it to become Heroes "R" Us. Its actually painted dark brown with a white belly.
- JAG: In 1st season episode “Sightings”, Colombian drug smugglers use a helicopter equipped with lights and low-frequency emitters, appearing as a UFO, to scare away the locals from an abandoned navy base in Texas where they had an underground processing facility.
- Parodied in Mystery Science Theater 3000, when one movie shows the hero being tailed by a private helicopter.
Crow: It's one of those UN black helicopters, except...white and orange.
Mike: Exactly what they would do!
- House: House refuses to believe the guy who just asked for his services is really with the CIA until they step onto the roof and find a Black Helicopter waiting.
CIA guy: It helps when you have props.
- The Cold War Day of the Jackboot mini-series Amerika has the Dirty Communists flying over the United States in helicopters reused from Blue Thunder. Except they're no longer blue.
- The Mentalist: Invoked in the "Black Helicopters" episode. While Jane is infiltrating an anti-government homestead commune, he has his FBI superiors fly an unmarked black helicopter over the commune to make the whole group paranoid as part of his plan sniff out a murderer that is hiding amongst them.
- The Nikita episode "Kill Jill" had the black helicopters turn out to be from a Division cleanup crew covering up the fact that the crashed airliner they were cleaning was running drugs.
- Used on The X-Files in various episodes and in the 1998 movie, as is appropriate for a series full of mysterious conspiracies.
- The band Soul Coughing has a song called "Unmarked Helicopters" all about this trope. Appropriately enough, it first appeared on a soundtrack CD for The X-Files.
- Non-Phixion "Black Helicopters":
"Open up your third eye, Black Helicopters in the sky"
- Canadian artist Matthew Good has a song called "Black Helicopter" on his 2007 album Hospital Music.
- Mentioned in "Foil" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, along with such other conspiracy staples as The Illuminati, the New World Order, and the Moon Landing Hoax.
- The music video for Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." features a couple of helicopters chasing Noodle's floating island. In the video for "El Mańana" they catch up and bomb it to pieces, sending Noodle with a cloud of debris hurtling into a ravine.
- L.O.U.G.H.B.O.R.O.U.G.H. from Nebulous maintain a fleet of black copters.
- In Mage: The Ascension, the black helicopters belong to the Technocracy. Many of them are magic, which explains how a helicopter can have stealth capabilities.
- Conspiracy X: The National Defense Directorate AKA the Black Book has two types of black helicopter, their standard transport, the Raven Stealth Helicopter and the Ghost Surveillance Helicopter which handle their spying needs. Not only can they both fly silently, they have biomimetic sheaths that allow them to blend into the surroundings.
- In the GURPS Technomancer setting, the American government has mysterious, stealth black dragons.
- In Pokémon Live! Giovanni carries Professor Oak and Delia away by dangling them in cages from an (offscreen) helicopter.
- The protagonist of Deus Ex gets ferried around in one, and there are references to others throughout the game. Amusingly, the stealth aspect does not work — an in-game newspaper article mentions sightings. Naturally, UNATCO use this as a reason for why they aren't real:
Manderly: If black helicopters were really being used for 'covert operations,' then those responsible are doing a poor job of it.
- Conspiracy nut Boyd Cooper's level on Psychonauts is packed with black helicopters.
- Appropriately, the Black Ops teams from Half-Life: Opposing Force use black helicopters.
- Max Payne is attacked by an unmarked black helicopter gunship during the final stages of the game, which the Big Bad, Nicole Horne, tries to use to make her getaway. Max sends an antenna crashing down right on top of it, killing everyone inside.
- The Turks in Final Fantasy VII and its spinoffs travel around in black helicopters.
- The black helicopters in Mirrors Edge serve the purpose of deploying Pirandello Krueger's Elite Mooks (which is as close as it gets to The Men in Black in that game) to wherever they are most likely to gun Faith down. Oh, and there's a Government Conspiracy, alright.
- The protagonist of the Douglas Adams text adventure Bureaucracy doesn't encounter any black helicopters, but they're the topic of one of the Copy Protection questions you may be asked.
- The Demonic Spiders of Spy Hunter.
- Done with some twists in [PROTOTYPE]. What these helicopters lack in silence, they make up for with firepower; starting out with one Blackhawk that deploys a squad of fast-roping Marines every now and then, and eventually working up to three Black Apaches determined to send you to Missile Hell. However, they still evoke that cool paranoia factor whenever they show up.
A player can actually tell apart the Marine and Blackwatch vehicles (the latter of which are actually slightly tougher) from each other. Marine vehicles are have a typically military tan-color, while Blackwatches stuff is... well black. So not only are there Black Helicopters, but also Black Tanks as well.
- The villains in Far Cry use black V-22 Ospreys.
- The Russian Mafia in Mercenaries have an exceedingly rare helicopter that may show up once or twice, and is obviously a Ka-50 or Ka-52, much like the page image. You have to steal it from them/steal one back for them (after the NK seized it) for one mission.
- The Soviet army in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 fields Twinblades, commissar helicopters. One of them tries to assassinate Premier Cherdenko, although he faked it to frame Krukov in a cutscene.
- Starcraft II: Fluff suggests this was the idea behind the Banshee gunship, a fast, cloak-capable turbofan gunship built by The Empire to terrorize colonies who got funny ideas.
- In The PK Girl, ROSA utilizes Black Helicopters for all of their cute-girl-with-superpowers-kidnapping plots. (Of which it is suggested there are many.)
- The R-Shobu from the Metal Slug games. Modeled after the AH-64 Apache Chopper, it is the main attack helicopter of the Rebel Army. It attacks by dropping bombs at ground targets and deploying missiles against aerial targets. A red variant exist, called R Shobu MK II or R.R. Shobu, which is faster (Naturally) and more powerful.
- A black Apache helicopter, aptly named "Black Thunder", is a recurring Mid Boss in the first Viewtiful Joe game.
- Sluggy Freelance - Choppers are among the equipment used by the Black Ops Christmas Elves.
- How about a sentient black helicopter with dual tilting rotors? Read Skin Horse.
Tip: We've got a black helicopter! You know what that makes us? An officially intimidating secret organization!
- Nick loves being this trope; his Character Blog used to have the subtitle "They said I was a weather balloon".
- The Llewellyn clan in Ozy and Millie have a few of these, being conspirators of various quality; when Ozy tells Isolde her "babysitter conspiracy" isn't too hot, she retorts with "I don't see YOU riding around in a black helicopter." Of course, none are really seen (unless you count Orbital Windmill I).
- Inquisition in Exterminatus Now, naturally, does not have such ludicrous things as "black helicopters with silenced counter-rotating blades and light-absorbing paint". Now, VTOL aircraft with active noise cancellation, on the other hand...
- Mentioned in this Sandra and Woo strip.
- In lonelygirl15, black helicopters are used by the Order. Helicopters - not always black — also fly overhead in a number of episodes, often foreshadowing danger.
- The Last Stage by Nat One Productions has a squad of Operatives arrive on scene at Seattle in silent helicopters after things go horribly wrong.
- The Register made a regular feature of looking for black helicopters on Google Earth.
- Usenet has featured the newsgroup alt.conspiracy.black.helicopters for years now.
- Welcome to Night Vale features them as (probably) helicopters of the World Government, which are "not safe" for children to play around, for unspecified reasons. On the other hand, the Night Vale Sheriff's Secret Police have Blue helicopters, which "only occasionally" take children. Then there are the helicopters painted with murals of diving birds of prey. Nobody knows who owns these helicopters, and the Sheriff's Secret Police advises parents who see these helicopters to take their children home immediately and lock themselves in until a Secret Policeman leaves a carnation at the door. These helicopters--black, blue, and diving-bird-of-prey-painted--are probably the most "normal" thing in Night Vale.
- And it turns out the real threat comes from yellow helicopters...owned by Strexcorp Synernists, Inc..
- Incidentally, the people with the diving-bird-of-prey-painted helicopters eventually did take all of Night Vale's children...but brought them back, essentially unharmed. When the owners of the yellow helicopters were accused of something nefarious, the (still unidentified) owners of the diving-bird-of-prey helicopters evinced disgust, and pointed out that they at least had returned the children.
- The TRUTH About Black Helicopters
- Their frequent use was lampshaded in Kim Possible:
Ron: So, what are the chances that they're not after us?
Kim: They're black helicopters, Ron. They're always after us.
- South Park - Black helicopters appear in the background throughout the conspiracy-themed episode "Cartman Gets An Anal Probe".
Rancher: What the hell was that?
Officer Barbrady: That...that was just a pigeon.
- The Metalocalypse black helicopter is sinister for other reasons.
- In the 2003 animated series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in the third season, the turtles manage to acquire a government helicopter belonging to a secret government agency, and make it their own.
- Of coure Dale Gribble in King of the Hill makes a mention of it after hearing a suspicious noise
Dale Gribble: Must be one of those new silent UN black helicopters, as you can hear they're still working out the bugs.
- American Dad!: In "G-String Circus", when Deputy CIA Director Bullock finds out they need to spend their remaining budget immediately or face cutbacks, Stan's whole department immediately rolls out in Black Vans and Black Helicopters to the nearest strip club, XanaBoobs.
- Parodied in The Simpsons Movie, where they are used by the EPA.
- Airachnid from Transformers Prime has a Black Helicopter as her alt form.
- The dictatorial regime in TRON: Uprising has those. Paige crashes hers every time she pilots it.
- The man in this video is under the firm belief that a "rogue" helicopter is following him for reasons that are unclear but have something to do with the government... probably. Subverted in that this one is white for some reason.
- Helicopters are said to routinely patrol the border of the fabled Area 51 military facility in the Nevada desert. Some claim the helicopters more or less harass you by flying low and stiring up dust.
- The page image is Kamov's Ka-50 Black Shark. Notice how it has no tail rotor? It's a coaxial design, meaning the two rotors rotate in opposite directions on the same shaft, thereby stopping the helicopter from spinning like a top, and also lacking that much more vulnerable tail rotor.
- The US Navy SEALs who took out Osama bin Laden apparently operated helicopters that while not exactly black, were designed with stealth capability, the tail section of one being shown ad-nauseam on international news when the chopper crashed and the SEALs had to blow the rest of it up to keep it secret. The helicopter was apparently a heavily modified version of the UH-60 Blackhawk that was not known to exist outside of high-level military and government circles.
- The US Department of Homeland Security operates black-painted helicopters. They are not very mysterious, being gloss black with a gold band, large Homeland Security markings, and a blue flashing light.
- The Quiet One, a "Hughes 500 Penetrator". Built in the 1970s with experimental noise reduction technology, these were used for at least one intelligence gathering mission in Vietnam. Of course they were not black but looked exactly like other civilian machines used by the cover company
- 23 such helicopters (identified as Boeing CH-47 Chinooks) were said to have surrounded a mysterious object that irradiated three civilians, in the Cash-Landrum Incident.
- In reality covert helicopters used domestically are simply unmarked with civilian paintjobs as having no markings would make it extremely distinctive. The NYPD is known to operate one.
They said it was a weather balloon —