TV Tropes Needs Your Help
View Kickstarter Project
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here
and discuss here
Bolt of Divine Retribution
: Offler is a vengeful god! High Priest
: Trigger happy is what he is.
Whether your local god is evil (in either sense
) or a nice guy
, you do not
want to piss him off. Annoying the Lord of the cosmos with such things as common blasphemy, refusing to go along
with Because Destiny Says So
, and refusing to believe in him despite all evidence to the contrary
tends to invoke his wrath. The most common form of aforementioned wrath? A lightning bolt to the face.
Said lightning tends to come out of nowhere (even indoors) and sends the very clear message that the big guy upstairs is not to be trifled with.
Occurs in both Classical Mythology
and The Bible
, making this Older Than Feudalism
In Tabletop Games
, this may be used as a more localized form of Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies
, designed to let the Game Master
strike down the annoying Munchkin
ruining the game without too much collateral damage.
In a commonly seen sub-trope, a character will swear
that if they're lying, may God strike them down
. God, of course, immediately obliges. Compare Holy Hand Grenade
and Death from Above
. Not to be confused with Dramatic Thunder
. Unrelated to Personal Raincloud
, though that often involves bespoke lightning bolts as well.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Excel Saga, as cruel children pelt a Puchuu to death with rocks.
- Subverted in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, as God fails to hit Takano. Turned around in the final arc, when Takano gets her chance to kill a god, and also misses.
- One Piece have two examples
- The first one is Eneru, who thanks to his electric powers, mind reading ability and god complex, kills anybody who goes against him with a lightning bolt.
- And the other example is early on the series when Luffy is saved from a public execution when his executioner gets struck by lightning. Following that, attempts to light his ship on fire are foiled by rain and a strong tailwind allows Luffy and his crew to get away, prompting local marines to question if some divine force wanted to make sure Luffy survives. It's implied that a man later revealed to be Luffy's father caused the bizarre storm.
- In Wild Wind, in exchange for God not killing the manbeasts, Olgrius gets hit by divine lightning, physically scarring him (and his descendents) for life.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Team Ragnarok's Dragan plays a card called Polar God King, which is basically the card incarnation of the Norse god himself. When ever Thor is destroyed by the opponent, he revives himself and gives a couple of bolts to his enemy which not only inflict damage to their life points, but also inflicts real damage. Jack got hit by this twice.
- In The Circumstances Leading To Waltraute's Marriage, Waltraute often zaps people who piss her off. It's Played for Laughs.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has Divine Wrath.
- Magic: The Gathering features divine smiting on a number of cards, like Divine Retribution and of course the (in)famous Wrath of God. Special mention to Keranos, God of Storms - who will frequently hurl Lightning Bolts at people, making him one of the few cards to be able to call down multiple bolts of divine retribution.
- Johnny Hart's B.C. often features these, accompanied by the word "ZOT".
- Cacofonix from Astérix occasionally has his musical performances interrupted by divine lightning, if one of the villagers (especially Fulliautomatix) isn't faster.
- Subverted in Garfield. He does the lying variant, but as soon as he says "may lightning strike", he notices storm clouds rumbling overhead. He quickly changes the end of his sentence to "...the dog next door". Cue the sound effect of an off-panel "Kerpow!" followed by a "Yip!"
- Calvin laments the absence of this trope in "Real Life":
It's hard to be religious when certain people
are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.
- In FoxTrot, Jason once sculpted a nativity scene out of snow where his "savior of Christmas" in the crib isn't the baby Jesus, but a baby credit card instead. As he's showing it to Peter, he looks up in time to see lightning clouds suddenly forming out of nowhere.
- Inverted with Atrocitus, the head Red Lantern. Even the Spectre, God's current hand of vengeance, can't do anything to him because his mission is considered a holy one by the Almighty. And this happens after Atrocitus melts a busload of convicts with his red plasma weapon. Yeah.
- In Vampirella, Huitzilopochtli's are technically concentrated sunlight but otherwise fit the trope.
- Madoka Crisis Magica:
"The Fan Fiction God appeared and blast Homura with a lightning strike. "NO TIME RESETTING!" said the Fan Fiction God. "Damn it!" said Homura."
- From "LPS: Galebreak REDONE" on DeviantArt, the little gem where the characters are enjoying very loud and annoying music on their vacation. Oh, and they aren't the only one's ready to lose patience...
Unicron: "MORTAL PARASITES! MAKE THAT RACKET STOP!!!" (grabs a lighthouse and tries to squish everybody before the music finally stops)
Films — Animation
Films — Live Action
- In Caddyshack, Bishop Pickering is winning a Bizarre and Improbable Golf Game during a heavy rainstorm, at one point declaring, "The Good Lord would never disrupt the best game of my life." When he misses his final putt on the 18th hole, he shakes his fist at the sky yelling, "Oh, rat farts!" Cue lightning bolt.
- Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life:
General (Graham Chapman): Well, of course, warfare isn't all fun. Right — stop that! It's all very well to laugh at the military, but when one considers the meaning of life, it is a struggle between alternative viewpoints of life itself. And without the ability to defend one's own viewpoint against other perhaps more aggressive ideologies, then reasonableness and moderation could, quite simply, disappear! That is why we'll always need an army, and may God strike me down were it to be otherwise.
(a lightning bolt destroys the general; cut to outside, where the Hand of God rises into the clouds; a sergeant major stands before his troops)
Sergeant Major (Michael Palin): DON'T STAND THERE GAWPING LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THE HAND O' GOD BEFORE!
- The film version of The Bad Seed. Apparently, it was thrown in at the last second because The Bad Guy Wins wasn't expected to go over well.
- In the Clash of the Titans remake, King Acrisius tosses his wife and Perseus into the sea. He decides this would be a great time to tell Zeus (Perseus's real father) to suck it. Zeus does not hesitate to respond.
- In Rat Race, when a mechanic threatens two contestants in a race out of money for car repair. One of the contestants calls him out on how un-Christian it is, to which he laughs and calls out to God to give him a sign of his displeasure. Seconds later, a rocket shoots past (ironically manned by two other contestants), creating a sonic boom that collapses the mechanic's garage.
- In The Terror, when the protagonist forces the witch to enter the hallowed ground (the graveyard), she is struck by lightning.
- Purgatory: The townsfolk of Refuge are pacifistic. When the sheriff can't keep people from throwing knives at the church door in any other way, he just stands in front of it. The bandit cocking his arm back to throw is suddenly struck by lightning and killed, and a storm starts. The bandits don't take the hint, but insist on playing with the Villain Ball.
- This happens in the direct-to-DVD kid flick EZ Money when a man in a phone booth talking on a phone states "May God strike me down if I'm not at work." He gets his wish.
- Dracula is defeated in Scars of Dracula when one lightning bolt from the thunderstorm surrounding his castle strikes the metal rod in his hands, setting him on fire and careening down to ground.
- In the Pakistani film International Guerillas, the Big Bad is international crime lord...Salman Rushdie. Yes, that Salman Rushdie. (The film came out about the time of the Satanic Verses controversy.) But that's not even the most memorable thing about the film, as in the end, Rushdie gets his comeuppance (in a scene that must be seen to be believed) by being lasered to death by giant flying Qur'ans.
Live Action TV
Myths & Religion
- In many cultures, including Ancient Hellenic ones, "lightning" is described as "divine fire."
- The common Indo-European pantheon has this as the primary attribute of the sky god Dyeus, from which developed the Greek Zeus, the Hindu Indra, and Norse Tyr; later, other gods got this attribute as religion changed over time (for instance, as Tyr was displaced in the Norse pantheon by Odin and Thor, they took on some of his attributes).
- Classical Mythology: Zeus was well known for throwing lightning bolts. Makes sense, as besides being king of the gods, he was also god of the sky. The story of Ixion—zapped for flagrant abuses of Sacred Hospitality (e.g. trying to bone Hera while a guest in Zeus' own house)—is probably the most notable.
- Norse Mythology:
- Thor's thunderbolt hammer, Mjölnir.
- Odin's spear Gungnir, which is sometimes compared to a thunderbolt and said to never miss.
- In Hinduism, the king of the Devas Indra wields the thunderbolt and tends to throw it at people who might one day be a threat to him.
- The NIV translation of The Bible has God raining down lightning strikes during the plague of hail, although another common interpretation of this passage is that the hail itself was on fire.
- Ukko Ylijumala (Ukko the High God), the head of the pantheon of gods worshipped in Finland before Christianity, did this. In fact, the Finnish word for thunder is derived from his name.
- In ancient China, it's said that children who don't show proper filial piety or people who don't repay debts (usually a life debt, which both were rather Serious Business back then) will get struck by lightning as punishment. The phrase "You want to get struck by lightning?!" shows up often in period dramas, although thunder sounding is sometimes used for comedic effect in dramas that occur in present day.
- Several of the 36 Triad Oaths mention being killed by thunderbolts as punishment for breaking them. These being The Triads and the Tongs, gunshots were often a fair substitute for lightning.
- Yoruba tradition plays with it. Shango could fry his enemies with lightning but is most known for throwing it at people destined to follow his path. He was once a man gifted with the power to wield lighting who shared it with other Orishas after being promoted to their ranks but because of this, each one of them has a stronger association with something else. Jakuta's meteorites are what are really associated with divine retribution.
- Amadioha in Odinani religion if he deems you guilty. He can also send bees.
- According to hagiography, more than one persecutor of Christian saints and martyrs was killed this way as punishment for their deeds. The most famous example is Saint Barbara's father, Dioscorus; he had his own daughter tortured and executed for converting to Christianity despite him locking her away from the world, then he was killed by a lightning bolt later that day.
- Welsh Mythology: According to Historia Brittonum, King Vortigern of Britain, having refused to better his sinful life despite the exhortations of Saint Germanus, was killed when "fire fell suddenly from heaven" and burned him with his entire castle. Even before Vortigern, the very same thing happened to the pagan king Benlli, who had refused to admit Germanus to his city.
- In the Judge Dredd pinball, tapping a red button at the end of the "Safecracker" mission will cause a bolt of lightning to strike the criminal.
- Gary Gygax suggested blue bolts from the heavens as a possible punishment for unruly, disruptive or obnoxious characters in the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide - there is considerable disagreement about how serious he was, given Gygax's odd sense of humour, but there's no question the text is there and was taken seriously by at least some DMs.
- A number of priest spells involve directly or indirectly calling down the wrath of your patron deity. The most traditional one is probably Flame Strike, which explicitly calls a column of fire (in some editions with some other damage type mixed in) down upon its target area.
- In The Dark Eye this is a power of the priests of the sun god Praios, they can only harm demons and knock out magic users though.
- Played with (though without actual lightning) in the play My Sister Eileen and the musical adaptation Wonderful Town. Wreck's girlfriend Helen bursts out angrily at him after noticing that he's done Eileen's laundry. As Helen hastens to leave with him, he exclaims, "If I thought about Eileen that way—may God strike me dead on this spot!" He raises his hand to heaven, and is stunned by a tremendous blast from the subway tunnel under construction. Ruth looks up and says, "He's everywhere, all right."
- In The Adding Machine, when Charles tells Mr. Zero that he's been a slave in all his incarnations throughout history because he wasn't good for anything else, Zero protests and says he's had enough of playing the universe's Butt Monkey. A sudden outburst of thunder and flash of lightning intimidates him, and he clings to Charles, who reassures him: "Nobody's going to hurt you. It's just their way of telling you they don't like you to talk that way."
- The Nostalgia Critic had the balls to claim that Chuck Norris Facts are a bunch of bullshit, thus God (with Chuck Norris as head) struck him dead with lightning. A-CHUCK-A-NORRIIIIIIIIISSSS!!!!
- During one Global Guardians campaign, the Blood Red King mocked the heroes for their inability to stop him while standing over the corpses of children he had murdered. Hammer-wielding superhero Byelobog, who in reality really is the Slavic "White God" of the Sun that he is named after, promptly called down one of these to justly smite the villain. The Blood Red King never mocked Byelobog again.
- In the second episode of the web series Fear of Girls, the neurotic and irritable GM Doug Douglason gets fed up with a fawning fangirl constantly interrupting him right at the start of the game. She fails the roll.
Doug: You are hit in the neck with a poison dart and die.
Jasmine: Well...what are my options?
- On the list of Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG, one item says that it's a bad idea to taunt Greek heroes with "Who's your daddy?".
- In Fine Structure, some scientists discover a wide variety of superscience-based technologies. As they apply them, they discover through trial and error that using them is a fast track to being killed in various lightning-related ways, such as reprogramming your teleportation machine to bury you alive. The entity responsible for this is eventually dubbed the "Imprisoning God".
- In Marik Plays Bloodlines episode 6, Marik, freaked out by a very angry Mel Gibson, admits that he's gay. Immediately after, he denies that he's gay, asking god to strike him down if he's lying. Immediately after, an elevator falls from the sky directly towards him, and Marik just barely manages to jump out of the way in time. When he realises it missed him, he claims this is proof that he is straight.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged - Freeza was on the receiving end for making a Blasphemous Boast.
"If I'm really as evil as you say I am, then let God strike me down where I stand." (Bolt strikes, Freeza is completely unharmed.) "Ha! Nice try, jackass! Next time, give it your A-game!"
- Happens in Casey and Andy, at least once. As Andy put it, after walking in somewhat charred, "What really sucks is that I was indoors and grounded."
- In Men In Hats:
- In The Order of the Stick, Banjo the Clown smites people with very small lightning bolts, since his worshipers can be counted in the single digits.
- In Pibgorn, when she sings the Dies Irae, it does indeed summon the Day of Wrath, in this form.
- In Sinfest, the end of Lil Evil's expedition to get the apples of paradise.
- In Freefall, after Florence refers to humans as her creators, Winston assures her he left his lightning bolts at home, so she's safe from smiting.
- Happens off screen to Fraenir in The Senkari.
- The Boondocks has a lightning strike that serve two purposes: as a retort to one of the characters who said "and if I am wrong may God strike me down" (or something similar) and it also caused the power to go out for a minute, which saved the life of a wrongly accused man who was on death row.
- In the Donald Duck short Trombone Trouble, the gods Jupiter and Vulcan send down a thunderbolt to imbue Donald with divine power so he can punish Pete for his terrible trombone playing. It doesn't end well.
- Sponge Bob Square Pants has a funny subversion, from the episode Spongeguard on Duty:
I'm every bit as cool as Larry. And if I'm not, let me be struck by... (lightning storm flares up, Spongebob confidently snaps his fingers)
A flying ice cream truck! (cue Bomb Whistle and Shadow of Impending Doom and the bells of an ice cream truck)
AND LIVE! (truck stops in midair, lands on top of him and drives off) Larry:
(over megaphone) Please do not land ice cream trucks on the bathers.
- Bugs Bunny has been subject to the lying version at least twice, once with a bolt of lightning and once with a train. Both times, he was underground, and in the latter case there were no train tracks nearby.
- Foghorn Leghorn once had a moment of starting to assert his statement with a threat of lightning, but as the screen darkens and he hears thunder, he has a moment of Genre Savviness and doesn't finish the remark.
- Animaniacs has the song "Hello, Nurse!", in which Yakko and Wakko say of Hello Nurse at one point "If she's not everything we've said, then may lightning strike us dead." Cue lightning bolts.
- Note it didn't actually kill them. Simply sent them to the hospital... to be cared for by Hello Nurse!
- Robot Chicken has a sketch where a little kid is frying ants with a magnifying glass. He laughs "ha ha", and not two seconds later is struck (non-fatally) by a bolt of lightning followed by a much deeper "ha ha".
- One episode of The Simpsons tells the story of the Mayflower. During a harsh storm, Reverend Lovejoy is praising God when he gets struck by lightning. He concludes that clearly kissing God's ass is getting him nowhere.
- In “Pray Anything”, Homer starts praying for all sorts of things but when he commands God to turn the rain into wine, he gets struck by lightning.
- After getting the part of Jesus in a Passion play, Homer starts going around in costume to openings of a local loan shark's businesses, proclaiming them to be honest or his name isn't Jesus H . . . needless to say, he gets hit, then proceeds to shout at the sky to find out if that's going to happen every time (he's on his fiftieth opening at this point).
- Subverted in the animated adventures of Rockyand Bullwinkle: In one episode Boris Badenov tells the cadre of criminals if he was lying, he'd be struck by lightning. It does, but the little rat was wearing a lightning rod under his hat!
- Ren calling juju out.
- South Park:
- "Christian Rock Hard:" When Cartman is trying to sign on with a Christian label, he says he's not in it for the money and "If I'm lying, may God strike me down." Butters and Token nervously edge away from him, though nothing comes of it.
- At the end of "HUMANCENTiPAD," Cartman flies off the handle and starts screaming at the sky and trash-talking God. The scene ends with Cartman getting struck by lightning and ending up in a hospital room.
- Being a Fallen Angel Physical Goddess with notoriously foul temper, Nightmare Moon from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic did this to the trio of Royal Guards attempting to rush and arrest her.
- In the third act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Hipster Tripster", Bogus, while interacting in an Indian exhibit at the Natural History Museum, finds himself caught in the middle of a thunderstorm, before one of the Indians comes up to him and hands him an umbrella to keep him dry in the rain. However, just seconds after Bogus receives the umbrella, a bolt of lightning shoots out from the sky and strikes the umbrella, destroying it, before Bogus finds himself being chased by lightning bolts.
- In Family Guy, God uses this to light a woman's cigarette. Unfortunately, he makes a gesture a second time and blows her up.
- In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Zanzibar", when Ed Bighead is confronted by a big unruly mob about how he's now forced to make sure his company's factories stop dumping waste into the water, he tries to sing a song to counter them. Then a hole in the ozone layer opens right over his house and gives him a terrible sun-burn.
- During the filming of The Passion of the Christ, Jim Caviezel, the actor playing Jesus, was struck by lightning, and assistant director Jam Michelini was struck by lightning twice.
- Even weirder: Jim Caviezel was struck while performing the Sermon on the Mount - arguably one of the most important parts of Jesus's teachings. That is some harsh criticism...
- One of the Darwin Awards in 1999 was won by a man who, standing on a boat in the middle of a lake during a lightning storm, screamed "HERE I AM LORD, LET ME HAVE IT!". For those not familiar with those awards - they are normally only given post mortem (a few lucky ones, if you want to call them that, had to settle for being unable to reproduce instead of dying, but this is rare).
- On the same day that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, lightning struck the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Though that happens frequently, seen as St. Peter's is one of the tallest buildings in Rome - so frequently, in fact, that the Vatican had a lightning rod installed on top in 2005. Which makes it even more likely that lightning will strike there. Lightning rods provide a safe path to Earth so that lightning doesn't strike the rest of the structure.
- According to the Other Wiki, Park Ranger Roy Sullivan holds the record for the most lightning strikes survived by a human being with seven. He subsequently took his own life.