"Everybody looks down when you tell them not to look down, do you know that?!"A Stock Phrase you have certainly heard a million times. Insert in nearly any situation where the characters have to traverse some area where the penalty for a misstep or equipment failure is a one way trip courtesy of gravity. Or, they're hanging over such an area by their fingernails or a very unsteady rope, branch or other dubious support. "Just stay calm, and don't look down" or some variant is uttered. Why? Because you really don't want to know what's down there. However, sometimes the person won't listen and they will look down anyway. Cue Freak Out. A massive source of Schmuck Bait. When invoked in a comedy or an animated work, may lead to the realization that Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress... two seconds before you start falling. Plummet Perspective describes one of the things that might happen if the character does look down.
— Bill Rago (Danny DeVito), Renaissance Man
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Anime & Manga
- Inverted in The Castle of Cagliostro: Lupin tells Clarisse to look down in order to calm her so she realizes they're hanging several hundred feet in the air from a thin line and screaming and flailing at the strange man holding her is a really bad idea.
- Inverted in a different manner in an episode of Slayers. The gang is clinging to a rope across a chasm, and Filia tells Gourry to not look up. This is because he's holding on to her legs and she's wearing a dress.
- One example in Digimon Fusion when the fighters get to the forest zone they're teleported there, several hundred feet up in the air. At first they wonder where the zone is (since when they're teleported there there's nothing there at all. Then Mikey decides to look down. He then tells the one person in their party with a height phobia how his fear of heights is doing then tells him this trope's name. Cue Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress.
Films — Animated
- Dumbo: Timothy Mouse to the title character.
- Shrek says this to Donkey as they're crossing the rope bridge to Dragon's castle. When Donkey looks down and freaks out, Shrek teases him and has a good laugh about it.
Donkey: Shrek, I'm looking down! Aaaaah!!!!!
- Used hilariously in The Incredibles: Helen and Jack-Jack are falling, with the huge explosion above them, and Helen reassures Jack-Jack in this way.
Films — Live-Action
- Back to the Future Part III: Doc to Clara.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Frodo to Sam.
- Also done humorously in the third film when Aragorn tells Gimli not to look down because they were walking on skulls.
- The Poseidon Adventure (1972) - Reverend Scott to Linda Rogo.
- The War of the Worlds (2005): Ray Ferrier
- The quote from Renaissance Man above, when Bill Rago is about to rappel down the large victory tower.
- Averted in Need for Speed. Early on, Julia is shown to have a severe fear of heights. Later in the movie, when she and Tobey are in a car dangling from a helicopter a mile in the air, Tobey calms her down by telling her to look into his eyes and getting her riled up about them. ("They're a lot bluer than yours." "...No, they're not!") He never once says the phrase.
- In So You Want To Be A Wizard, precognitive macaw Macchu Picchu offers Nita and Kit three pieces of advice: don't be afraid to make corrections, don't be afraid to lend a hand, and don't look down.
Live Action TV
- The 80s music group Go West has the trope as the title as well as the lyrics:
Don't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)You know you're holding acesDon't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)Don't give the game away!
- During the sequence on the outside of the Shadow Broker's ship in Mass Effect 2, Liara mistakenly looks down and then tells herself not to.
- Portal 2: It seems that the older parts of the Aperture Science facility are full of fathomless drops, and when Wheatley is carried over one of them by Chell, he says this to her. She doesn't react, naturally, but he immediately takes his own Schmuck Bait and regrets it - twice.
- Shadow the Hedgehog: Eggman says it to Shadow when he passes through a Chao room.
- In the Dragon Age: Inquisition "Jaws of Hakkon" DLC, Dorian will advise everyone not to look down while climbing tall trees. The Inquisitor can admit they may have already done so, or ask if he's saying that because he's looked.
- Ménage à 3: Invoked in highly unusual circumstances here. Kiley has a massive case of A-Cup Angst, DiDi has truly epic breasts, and for reasons that defy summary, they're naked, they're face to face at close quarters, and Kiley is romancing DiDi. Actually, symbolically, Kiley has it right; she's walking one heck of a tightrope there.
- The Order of the Stick #647:
Elan: Woooooo! Wind Walk is the best cleric spell ever!!!Durkon: Dinnae look down, dinnae look down, dinnae look down...
- Lampshaded in Aladdin: The Series episode "The Lost Ones", after Al & co. go through a magic portal into a place that seems to be in midair.
- Done in the Animaniacs episode "The Big Candy Store":
Dot: Don't look down! You might fall and hit your head and die and your brains would leak out all over!
Yakko: Whoa! Just don't look down.Wakko: Do you get vertigo?Yakko: No.Wakko: Me neither.Yakko: Yeah, I've seen that movie three times and I still don't get it.
- Also used in Wakko's Wish:
- Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, which combine Toon Physics with Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress. The classic case: a cartoon character can run over or stand on thin air untill he realizes something is wrong and looks down. Only then does gravity take over.
- The Simpsons in "The Neptune Adventure"
Lenny: (on the ladder; panicking) Whatever you do, don't look down! I mean up! I can't do this anymore! It's too confusing! (falls to his death)Carl: It's not that confusing.
- The Magic School Bus: in "Under Construction" (about engineering), Wanda says this to Arnold as he's slowly crawling across a suspension bridge made of Q-tips, dental floss, and bandages over a bathtub with a baby alligator in it. He looks down, alligator snaps jaws shut, and Arnold books it to the other side.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, after Pinkie Pie's antics allowed Fluttershy to temporarily get over her fear of heights in "Dragonshy", she finally attempts to jump over a mountain chasm only for Twilight Sparkle to say this phrase as words of encouragement. Sure enough, Fluttershy does just that and immediately loses her momentum in fright, causing her to drop like a rock... on top of a narrow gap that she could have just walked over.
- In one episode of Kim Possible, Ron says this to himself as he's being chased through a towering collection of machinery in Drakken's lair, and promptly steps on and breaks through a flimsy grillwork, falling into the tube it is covering.
- Anais uses this in an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball
Anais (while telling Gumball and Darwin to cross a log): It's OK, just don't look down.(Gumball and Darwin look down)Gumball: AAAHHH! Why did you do that?!Anais: What? I said, don't look down.(Gumball and Darwin look down again)Gumball: AAAHHH! You did it again!!
- In Transformers Prime Bulkhead gets a little nervous when going out to fight in space. "Don't look down. Or up. Or left."
- Simon says to to Theodor in The Chipmunk Adventure when the two are crossing a bridge. The second he finishes speaking, Theodore looks down.