Everything Makes a Mushroom

A game of volleybomb.
1606. If my fireballs always form a mushroom cloud, time to tone it down a bit.

The shape of a mushroom cloud is indelibly associated in everyone's minds with nuclear explosions. This trope is for explosions where that isn't the case—instead, the mushroom cloud is Played for Laughs, or just to show how powerful the explosive is.

It's worth noting that the mushroom cloud effect is not actually exclusive to nuclear weapons, it's just that nuclear weapons are far beyond the heat and explosive force required to cause the effect, whereas very few non-nuclear explosions are powerful enough to result in mushroom clouds. Therefore, the two became heavily associated with each other.

Virtually always involves Stuff Blowing Up. In some cases, may be a sign of an Epic Fail.


Anime And Manga

Films — Animated
  • Over the Hedge has a scene where the cast open a bag of well-shaken cheesy puffs. Cue mushroom cloud visible from the moon.
  • Flint Lockwood gets a mushroom cloud in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs early in the movie.
  • In Chicken Run, an explosion of gravy looks an awful lot like a mushroom cloud.
  • During the opening sequence of Toy Story 3, a bomb dropped by Hamm's spaceship creates a mushroom cloud. Made of Monkeys. The whole sequence takes place in Andy's imagination.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, the impact of The Green Death into the ground results in a large mushroom cloud, which Hiccup and Toothless have to outrun.
  • In Atlantis The Lost Empire, the characters at one point throw Cookie's greasy food into their campfire. The result is a miniature, oily-looking mushroom cloud. In a non-comedic example, the Viking Prologue Deleted Scene features an unlucky longship targeted by the Leviathan's Breath Weapon, resulting in a huge mushroom cloud of vaporized seawater and a few wooden splinters.

Films — Live-Action

  • In the second book of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Tyson and Percy, playing with chemicals, make a "orange mushroom cloud in the trash can."
  • The Gamma World choose-your-own-adventure book American Knights has a large conventional explosion create a mushroom cloud. The main character nearly has a heart attack before his sentient Powered Armor explains this trope to him.

Live-Action TV

  • In Medieval Madness, destroying a castle causes it to explode in a mushroom cloud.
  • The playfield for Bally's KISS shows the band surrounding an exploding mushroom cloud shooting flames around the table.

Video Games
  • The Disgaea series is fond of having attacks produce these, sizes ranging from ones slightly bigger then a character to ones extending into outer space. Some recurring mushroom cloud producers include Zetta's Zetta Beam, the Dragon's Dragon Nova, and the Prinny's Pringer Beam.
  • Pretty much every conventional explosive, from TNT-rockets, to iron bombs in Red Alert 3 causes a small mushroom-shaped cloud to appear. And this is a setting in which nuclear weapons are specifically mentioned to have never been developed.
  • Ratchet & Clank 2 has the Mini Nuke, an explosive grenade that isn't nuclear.
  • Explosives in LittleBigPlanet create mushroom clouds in the background if you detonate many of them.
  • The Cain in Mass Effect 2 is specifically explained to not be nuclear in nature it's simply a large, explosive-filled shell launched at relativistic velocities towards a target. Since the resulting impact is powerful enough to create the characteristic mushroom cloud, it's referred to as the 'Nuke Gun' by its users in-universe, and has radioactivity symbols plastered all over it. Presumably this is just clever product marketing by the Cain's manufacturers.
  • In Fallout 3, cars found in the game, all of which are nuclear-powered, will explode into a mushroom cloud if attacked enough
  • The Doom-Shroom from Plants vs. Zombies is a black, evil-looking mushroom that explodes in a mushroom cloud. Granted, the explosion is pretty big and instantly kills anything short of a Gargantuar, but it is definitely not nuclear in nature.
  • The E3 trailer for Super Smash Bros. Brawl (semi-)ended with Wario preparing his fart attack — whereupon the camera shifts to a remote view of a lime-green mushroom cloud.
  • In Tales of Phantasia, the strongest fire spell "Exploder" creates a large mushroom-shaped explosion of fire.
  • At the end of Mega Man 4, Dr. Wily's lab explodes in a skull-shaped mushroom cloud.
  • In Lemmings, the "Nuke" (explode all lemmings) icon.
  • The All-Out Attacks in Persona 3 result in a mushroom cloud when they finish off the enemy party. Its sequel, Persona 4, added a dark gray wisps to it to give it a comical "skull-shaped" aspect, which was then put back into the Updated Re-release Persona 3 Portable.
  • In The King of Fighters XIII, Yuri Sakazaki's Haoh Raiouken Neo MAX gives her fireball in the shape of a mushroom cloud when it hits the opponent.
  • In the DS games based on the first live-action Transformers film has a cheat what causes every destroyable object and enemy create a mushroom cloud-shaped explosion upon destruction.

Web Animation
  • When Strong Bad blows up the Tandy 400 in the Strong Bad Email "retirement" using the King of Town's denture-cleaning tablets, a bottle of Mountain Dew, and a pickaxe, the computer explodes in a pixellated mushroom cloud drawn in the same style as the Bad Graphics Ghost.

Web Original
  • Played for drama in the AlternateHistory.com timeline Protect and Survive: A Timeline. The bombing of a NATO munitions depot with conventional weapons creates a mushroom cloud explosion. An American officer witnesses the explosion, mistakes it for a nuclear strike, orders a retaliatory nuclear strike, and things go downhill from there.
  • As the What If? physics blog demonstrates, a baseball can create one, provided you can throw it at relativistic speed.

Western Animation Television
  • In The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob take Bart and Lisa hostage next to a 50's A-bomb. His demands are refused, he pushes the detonator, and a mushroom cloud explodes... before the camera pans out to reveal the cloud is, at most, two inches tall. Sideshow Bob then comments that "he HAD to go for the retro charm".
  • In the episode "The Desert" of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang's airbending makes a mushroom cloud. Sokka, who is tripping on cactus juice, reacts hilariously:
    Sokka: Friendly mushroom! Mushy, giant friend!
  • In Xavier: Renegade Angel, the titular character pulls out a tobacco pipe when he starts getting philosophical at one point, and a tiny mushroom cloud puffs out of it, for whatever reason.
  • In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Malfunctioning Eddie is in the robot asylum because he explodes whenever he is told something surprising. When he's told he's being released, everyone tenses for an explosion, but all that happens is a tiny mushroom cloud erupts from his shoulder.
  • Since anything and everything explodes when thrown or handled roughly in Aqua Teen Hunger Force, mushroom clouds occasionally add a bit of emphasis.
  • Ditto on Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • In Dan Vs. "Traffic," the explosives used to blow up a car lot make a mushroom cloud.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash makes a rainbow-colored mushroom cloud while helping to tear down Applejack's old barn in "Lesson Zero" (which she accomplishes by slamming into the ground at supersonic speeds). In her title episode, Maud Pie throws a boulder to the horizon, and it makes a mushroom cloud on landing.
  • Seems to happen a lot in Spongebob Squarepants, where even being thrown off of a seahorse or crashing a bike down a cliff results in massive explosions that give off a mushroom cloud.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Fight Fighters", Rumble Mcskirmish's Super Power Ninja Turbo Neo Ultra Hyper Mega Multi Alpha Meta Extra Uber Prefix Combo produces a mushroom cloud shaped like a fist.
  • Justice League Unlimited - Green Arrow and Speedy resort to their "quantum arrows" after Wade Eiling shrugs off everything they and five other heroes can dish out. The result is a building-sized mushroom cloud.

Real Life
  • The mushroom cloud is more scientifically known as pyrocumulus. Any explosion which creates large enough temperature gradient between the place of explosion and surrounding terrain can create a pyrocumulus, not only nukes.

Alternative Title(s):

Mushroom Cloud