— John Wayne after kicking down a door in Brannigan (1975).
There's a door the heroes must get through! But there's a lock (often involving a complex computer combination lock) in the way. Our heroes have to get past it, to get the weapon, or the artifact or whatever MacGuffin is important to the plot right now. They don't have a brilliant hacker kid like young John Connor or mutant kid like Micah. Somebody tries to pick the lock, or to blow powder on it to see what the most used key combinations may be, or find some way to get the lock open before time runs out. Time to use the master key:
Along comes The Big Guy who just punches it in, smashes it with a rock, kicks it, blasts it with a weapon, or runs into it head first. The lock gets crushed, sputters feebly, and the door obligingly opens. Occasionally you have a speedster or a robot picking the lock by blazing through all combinations faster than the human eye can follow.
One of the more common variants is the hero putting his (or her) shoulder to the door, which obligingly opens, usually on the first try. This has led to the common subversion: hero applies shoulder, Newton's third law tells the hero to lie down on the ground and whimper. The "subversion" is what would actually happen. If you really want to open a door, kick it. Otherwise you'll have a closed door and an injured shoulder.
This trope is responsible for Evil Overlord List entry #96: "My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa." It's also a subtrope of Cutting the Knot. And when the magic phrase Open Sesame fails, you still have this as an alternative; sometimes the party using force to open the door will even say "Open, says me!"
See also Dungeon Bypass and Steal the Surroundings. Related to Axe Before Entering and Shoot Out the Lock. The Subverted Trope, where they bust down the door, and an ally notes they didn't need to, is We Have The Keys. And the trope wherein they could've used the door but smash through the wall instead is There Was a Door.
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In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Togusa suggests that he pick a lock, while Bato just kicks the door down.
At the beginning of the Bount Arc in Bleach, Ichigo and Co are trying to get into their kidnapped friend's house. They consider knocking the door down but Ichida calmly picks it instead. Later when they need to get in again, they decide that they're in too much of a hurry but the door's opened from the inside before they can open it.
In Busou Renkin, during the attack on the school, one of the L.X.E.'s familiars is telling the students to throw things at everything in the courtyard (the homunculi are immune, the heroes aren't). To get through the looked door, Daihama smashed it with a cry of "DIE DOOR!"
In one episode of The Big O, Roger is with his snarky Robot Girl companion Dorothy and they come to a locked door. Roger takes out a lock picking device he had stowed away, and gets ready to use it, but Dorothy just calmly pushes the door open and gives him a look.
Played with in Berserk during the Griffith Rescue mini arc. When the team finally reached Griffith's cell at the bottom of the Tower of Rebirth, the warden/torturer locks them in the room behind a door that was four times the thickness of a normal door. He then proceed to gloat about how he tortured and maimed Griffith for a year... which only served to piss Guts off even more before he eventually decided to ram his BFS through the door, at the same time skewering the warden, cutting off the warden's tongue, and finally allowing him to slide from the sword to his death down into the pit.
In Miracleman, Miracleman and a secret agent approach a giant vault door. The secret agent discusses finding finding some explosives to open it up. Miracleman dismissively embeds his fingers into the vault door, rips it out and throws it over his shoulder.
The Flash does this with the 'push every button until sparks fly out' method.
A humorous version occurs when Mortadelo y Filemón pay a visit to the President of the USA. A security guard goes through a number of scans and checks (iris scan, voice recognition, access code, etc.) to open a door in the White House, prompting Mortadelo to remark that "Security sure is tight." Then along comes the cleaning lady, who just kicks the door a few times to open it. Perhaps she is an Almighty Janitor.
Superman, being the ultimate Flying Brick, does this occasionally. If you're super-strong and invulnerable, any door is only locked if you want it to be...But it's not enough to avoid the Bucket Booby-Trap.
In The Authority, Jack remarks how much he hates kicking in doors because he feels bad for the people who clean up afterwards. Fortunately it turns out that Midnighter can pick locks faster than Jack can kick anyway.
I, Robot: While Dr. Calvin is trying to hack into V.I.K.I., the control panel suddenly locks her out with a small sliding door. She barely gets a chance to fret over how to bypass this when a very tense Spooner comes right up and punches the door (with his robot arm!). The crumpled door surrenders.
Spooner: I'm uncomfortable...with heights.
Iron Man: Pepper Potts is leading several S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives to Stane's secret lab. Her key card doesn't work on his door, so the operatives place a device on the lock. Pepper starts asking if the device picks the lock mechanically or electronically before they tell her to stand back from the imminent explosion.
Aaand she covers her ears expecting a loud bang, but it turns out to be a thermite charge about as loud as a dropped textbook.
Sherlock Holmes: In the 2009 Guy Ritchie adaptation, Holmes is fiddling with a lock when Watson kicks it in. Later Irene Adler pulls open a door to again find a Holmes fiddling with his lockpicks on the other side.
Sneakers: Played for Laughs: Bishop has lockpicks ready to open the mechanical lock to the office holding the MacGuffin. He comes up to it, and discovers the mechanical lock has been replaced with an electronic keypad. He radios the guys down in the truck and asks if anyone knows how to defeat a keypad. Crease picks up the mic and says, "Try this..." After a few seconds of listening to Crease's advice (which we don't hear) Bishop says he'll give it a shot. He then kicks down the door, and radios back, "It worked."
In Red the protagonist points out that while a door to a CIA file room is protected by a state-of-the-art biometric lock, the surrounding wall was built by the lowest bidder. He simply kicks the wall and easily breaks through the shoddy drywall.
In Superman, Superman breaks into Lex Luthor's lair under Metropolis through the door.
Luthor: It's open, come on in. My attorney will be in touch with you about damage to the door. (turning) Otis, take the gentleman's cape.
Masked Dog by Raymond Obstfeld. The title character, the result of a government experiment giving him perfect memory and superhuman strength, has escaped and decided to become the perfect assassin. He memorizes a book on lock-picking techniques, but finds that it requires more patience and skill than he has; so he just smashes down the door.
There is a children's book about a band of thieves trying to break into a castle. The lead character, has trained for years and years by his master and is able to open any lock. After the first series of heavy doors, the group gets closer to the throne room, but the locks become more and more complicated. At one door, the character realizes he's faced with the lock his mentor had always warned him about: a hexagonal Devil Hole. He spends a good number of pages agonizing about his abilities until he realizes that the whole point of the Devil Hole is pure mindfuck: it's not a lock. It's just a hole. The door was open all along.
When Hagrid comes to collect Harry Potter from the shack in the first book, he knocks the door completely off its hinges while knocking.
On the other hand, this is less of him deliberately doing it and more of his The Big Guy nature and the door being shoddy.
#38: The Arrival from the Animorphs series: Jake: <Too bad there's no door. Rachel? Marco? Ax? Make a door.> The three, being in highly powerful and destructive morphs at the time, proceed to bash the wall in.
When Jake got a rhino morph, he became the official door-opener for much of the book. He'd often not even notice the door until he was in the process of smashing through it.
In the David Eddings series Elenium/Tamuli, the queen is locked in a room. Mirtai, a warrior giantess, smashes through the heavy wood door easily. She comments that many old doors have wood rot after so long, making them fragile, subverting and discussing the trope.
Later on, during Sephrenia's emotional meltdown, Kalten goes to her room to deliver a Cooldown Hug. She's locked the door, and refuses to open it, so Kalten invokes "Elene magic" (breaking it).
In the Discworld City Watch books, Detritus, a huge troll whose weapon is a siege bow, is sometimes ordered to open doors. To quote Vimes "When he opens a door it stays open if you get what I mean."
The Mysterious Benedict Society has a curious variation. While the doorways leading to some of the secret, but not super-secret areas in the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened are not locked, they're actually designed in such a way that they're opened only by ramming or kicking, as the main protagonist Reynie Muldoon discovers when he grows so frustrated in trying to open one of them that he kicks it. The reason for this is that the Big Bad, Mr. Curtain, enjoys ramming through doors in his souped-up wheelchair. The super-secret areas, however, are protected by numeric keypads, and no amount of kicking will get you through them. This is something that Sticky Washington, another of the protagonists, discovers to his chagrin before the keypad is spotted.
Steel: It's locked. [Lead thumps the door, which falls off its hinges.] Lead: It isn't now.
In Warehouse13 Myka has no time to wait for Claudia to hack the lock again if they're going to rescue Pete, so she gives the computer lock a roundhouse kick.
In Smallville, Clark breaks through high-sercuity doors by simply ripping them off.. a lot. Humourly subverted in the episode "Mortal", where Clark has been Brought Down to Normal, and therefore has to break into a lab and steal a chemical subtly, and points out he misses just speeding in a smashing open the safe. (Yeah, Clark breaks into high-security labs a lot. Don't worry, they're owned by the Luthors, so it's OK.)
On Criminal Minds, this happens practically Once an Episode with Morgan. On a gag reel, they once unscrewed the door so that when Shemar Moore tried to kick it down, it merely fell.
In recent episodes, Morgan hasn't kicked down a lot of doors because Moore broke his foot.
In the Torchwood episode "Something Borrowed," Jack Harkness kicks a door open because he thinks there's a murderous alien shapeshifter behind it (which turns out to just be Rhys's mother, and the shapeshifter is elsewhere).
In the Hilarious Outtakes, John Barrowman actually kicks the entire door off its hinges by accident and tromps over it on his way into the scene. He manages to stay in character and continue the scene for about fifteen seconds before he cracks up.
Subverted on one episode of The O.C., when Seth Cohenattempts to break open a door in a badass way while talking on his cell phone... and fails miserably. It turns out he could have just opened it.
Buffy's habit of breaking down doors is lampshaded on a couple of occasions, such as when she breaks into the Magic Shop only to be told by Riley that he's got a master key, or when Spike gripes at her habit of barging into his crypt whereas he needs an invitation. Spoofed in "Grave" when Xander is seen hammering ineffectually at the type of crypt door Buffy breaks down on a regular basis.
Angel did it once or twice as well, usually with demons since he needed an invite for human homes.
On an episode of American Pickers, a man was just starting to get an old storage unit cleaned out.
"And, ah, I don't know where the key is, so we found this key." (holds up an electric saw and cuts through the lock)
That '70s Show: Eric storms up to Donna's door and attempts to kick it in. He falls backward on his ass. Donna throws open the door and when she incredulously asks if he just kicked her door, he denies it, despite the damning evidence of his shoeprint on the door.
A variation in The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon wants Penny to retrieve a USB drive from a box with a complex puzzle lock - and is giving her detailed instructions on how to open it. She chooses to just smash it open.
Michael Weston of Burn Notice LOOOOVES this. Especially using the wall.
Supernatural episode "Time after Time": Dean gets zapped back to 1944 and is working with Elliot Ness.
Dean: [looks into a house through a window] Looks empty. You got a key?
Ness: Sure. [kicks in the door]
In "Monster Movie" the Winchesters find themselves up against a demon who's a fan of old monster movies. Sam goes to kick open the heavy double doors of a Mad Scientist Laboratory, only to have his foot go through what turns out to be a flimsy wooden mockup. A second kick takes it off its hinges.
Nearly everyone who played a tabletop dungeon crawl RPG has had this happen at some point.
Troper in party without a rogue: How are we going to open this door?
Rest of party: *points at the barbarian*
And the magic users have the "Knock" spell, or its equivalent.
The 3.0 and 3.5 versions of the Dungeon Master's Guide have a barbarian opening a chest as an example of how damage to objects works. The 3.0 version even calls it "the barbarian way".
Munchkin lampshades it; "kicking down the door" is the official name for the action which begins each turn.
Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright has something of a history of killing doors, to the point where even the judge admits it was pretty cool.
In Super Mario RPG, Bowser will perform this for the party quite a few times. In a few scenarios, Mario will need to barge into the door at the same time as Bowser in order to move the story forward.
In Tales of Eternia, there is a certain door that seems to be locked by some sort of puzzle. While the group wonders how they're going to solve it when the Smart Guy of the group is currently doing some other work somewhere else, Max just walks up and body-slams it open.
Subverted in Army Of Two: The 40th Day. The guys attempt this by ramming a bulldozer into a mall, but it just causes the entrance to collapse into an impassible wall of rubble.
In Nethack, this is allowed but carries some risk. Prying open a chest with a bladed weapon could break the weapon; bashing it with a blunt weapon could destroy the contents. Even kicking a door risks injuring your foot.
Penumbra contains one locked door and several locked cabinets that are opened merely by smashing them, and another door that is opened by breaking the lock.
In Nimona, while Ballister tries to explain his hacking through a high-security door with Techno Babble, Nimona just rams through it as a rhinoceros. Ballister is less than amused.
In Clockwork Game, Maelzel busts down Schlumberger's door, because he thinks Schlumberger is too drunk to perform. He's wrong.
On The Secret Saturdays, Fiskerton is the family's designated locked-door opener or blank-wall smasher-downer, but the entire Saturday family except Zak seems capable of pulling off the same feat if required.
In The World's Finest movie, Superman knocks down a door and then gives Batman a sarcastic "after you" gesture, to which Batman sardonically remarks, "You're learning."
Popeye uses the exact line "Open Says Me" when punching a stone door open, in a cartoon inspired by the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Actually, the "Open sez me!" line opened his can of spinach.
In an episode of Justice League Unlimited, in what is undoubtedly a Rorschach reference, The Question walks up to a security door with a card reader, examines it intently, then walks away. Moments later, he returns with a metal trash can and hurls it through the glass.
In an episode of DuckTales, Magica de Spell magically turns the combination lock on her own safe, but it fails to open when she orders, "Open, says me!" She finally groans, "Oh, why do I bother?!" and smashes the safe with a sledgehammer she apparently just happened to have lying around.
The Looney Tunes cartoon Ali Baba Bunny had Bugs and Daffy accidentally burrow under the door to Ali Baba's treasure cave. This enrages Hassan the guard, who can't get in himself because he can't remember the password. (Even though he's drawn as a Big Guy who could probably have just broken the door down had he tried.)
Truth In Television
Averted in Real Life, sort of: on Mythbusters, Jamie was about to kick open a door when Adam picked it. In a previous episode, Grant had failed to open a similar door by shooting the lock.
In another episode, they demonstrated that it is quite possible to break through a standard door by force, even against deadbolts. The only reason the deadbolt held fast in the show was that the build team had used a stronger set of screws than the standard; had they used the standard screws, Jamie likely would have broken through the door on the first try.
This is the entire point of breaching charges - blowing in the door. May cross into There Was a Door when the team using the charges decides to use the wall instead of the door because the people inside will most likely have guns trained on the doors.