"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.
— #1606 of the Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG
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Anime And Manga
- Ouran High School Host Club has Honey getting angry represented with a pink bunny mushroom cloud.
- In Aldnoah.Zero, the Landing Castles used by the Martian Orbital Knights create these when they land on a planet. Completely Justified: each Castle is a Aldnoah-powered spacecraft over two kilometers in length, and their version of "landing" is simply dropping down from orbit. The impact blast is more or less a nuclear strike minus the fallout, complete with incinerating shockwave and massive mushroom cloud.
- A flaming mushroom cloud is on O'Brien's "Fire Back" card in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. (Ironically, it special summons a monster from his Graveyard, so it restores life, even though said life is a Pyro monster.
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.
- A small mushroom cloud is caused by an exploding gas station in Home.
Films — Live-Action
- As previously mentioned, any powerful enough explosive will create a mushroom cloud, but few conventional explosives are that powerful. The Tall Boy bomb, as seen in Rambo, is one that is that powerful, something many internet "comedians" failed to realize when snarking about how Rambo should have been poisoned by nuclear fallout.
- In the Yahoo Serious comedy Young Einstein, his outhouse goes up in a small mushroom cloud when he "splits" a "beer atom".
- In the second book of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Tyson and Percy, playing with chemicals, make an "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
- At one point in Take It Back by Pink Floyd a mushroom appears over skyscrapers of a distant city, the road the viewer is on is quickly destroyed and everything is blown away. Only it's not an explosion. The mushroom is an enormous puffball, and the whole event is nature destroying concrete jungle.
- 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.
- 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: Going Commando has the Mini Nuke, an explosive grenade that isn't nuclear.
- 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.
- And then Persona 4 Golden took a step further with a pink, skull-shaped mushrooom cloud with ponytails on the sides of the skull if you have sufficiently leveled up Rise's S.Link to allow her to pitch in during the All-Out Attack.
- 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.
- In Duke Nukem 3D a mushroom cloud is literally the only explosion effect, which is used on everything from demolished buildings, blown-up cracks in the wall, rockets, and even the miniature Devastator missiles.
- In the first two X-COM games, every explosion of a grenade or anything bigger creates several skull-shaped mushrooms.
- In MechWarrior Living Legends, a battlemech's fusion reactor Going Critical goes off like a nuke; a blinding flash, an expanding pressure wave, and a massive mushroom cloud. The effect is powerful enough to level entire forests.
- Homestar Runner:
- In the Strong Bad Email "bedtime story", Maggot-Man explodes in a mushroom cloud after getting kicked across a football field by Moses Malone.
- When Strong Bad blows up the Tandy 400 in "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.
- In a later e-mail, when Strong Bad presses the USB self-destruct button on his Lappy, it explodes in a hundred-foot-tall mushroom cloud, complete with two of "those blast-wavy Saturn rings that have become so popular lately". Strong Bad and his house are conspicuously unharmed.
- 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.
- The Simpsons:
- In "So Its Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show, Homer is put into a coma due to Bart's April Fools prank. He took a can of Duff beer and stuck it in a paint mixer at the hardware store, then tricks Homer into opening it. The resulting mushroom cloud of beer ends up blowing the roof off the house, and can be seen by Chief Wiggum from a few blocks away. He initially pays no mind to it until Lou points out that it's beer.
- In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming," Sideshow Bob takes 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". The nuclear bomb had a very explicit expiration date written on it: "Best Used Before 1959."
- 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.
Doctor: We can control that with medication.
- 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.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- In "Lesson Zero", Rainbow Dash makes a rainbow-colored mushroom cloud while helping to tear down Applejack's old barn (which she accomplishes by slamming into the ground at supersonic speeds).
- In "Maud Pie", Maud throws a boulder to the horizon, and it makes a mushroom cloud on landing.
- In "Tanks for the Memories", a snow mushroom is unleashed on Ponyville after Rainbow Dash messes with the weather factory.
- Seems to happen a lot in Spongebob Squarepants, where even being thrown off of a seahorse or falling off your bike and 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.
- In real life, aside from nuclear weapons, mushroom clouds can be caused by very powerful volcanic eruptions and certain very powerful military bombs such as the conventional GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb and thermobaric (such as "fuel-air") bombs.
- When the German city of Hamburg was deliberately targeted with thousand-bomber raids loaded up with incendiary bombs, the weather conditions were such that all the smaller fires joined up into one enormous firestorm. RAF pilots reported seeing the city as one enormous mushroom-shaped cloud, created by the intensity of the fire and the ground-draft piling it up into one huge plume.