Need a light?
This trope does.
But this trope doesn't just need a light, it needs a light that stays lit when you toss it. Disposable lighters do not stay lit by design. A cigarette, cigar, or flare just doesn't fit the scene. A match might go out before it lights the fire. The fact that the protagonist (or just as often antagonist) has a lighter on them has nothing to do with them smoking... or maybe it does
Often used for Rule of Cool
or Rule of Drama
, this trope needs something to be tossed to light something else on fire. As mentioned, it is often not fitting of the scene for anyone to be smoking, or to have a tool of fire lighting that is actively disposable on them. So what do you do? Zippo
to the rescue! Zippo lighters have a distinctive design that was originally based on a similar Austrian lighter made by IMCO. It is "windproof" (as described by The Other Wiki here
) and uses a wick and oil to keep the flame lit until you close the top. They have been in use for decades, but this trope seems to be relatively new.
The main reason for this trope is about the mechanics of the device and how it can keep a flame while being tossed from the hand. While the character lighting the fire could use a disposable lighter, they would have to bend down to light the flammable item on fire, and that is just not cool looking. Often this trope is used for dramatic effect as well. While the character flicks open the lighter and snaps the flame into existence, he or she can do a bit of monologuing. At the end of the scene, they toss the lighter, the flames begin, and often this leads to someone's death by fire
, or a very big explosion
. Equally often a character will do an Unflinching Walk
as the flames rage behind them.
The main elements of this trope are:
- A clearly reusable lighter - something you would purchase for a smoker as a gift for example.
- A focus of some sort on the lighter - either by "camera" or character(s).
- A disposal of the lighter - no character reacting to the lighter being "thrown away" (unless of course it gets Lampshaded).
With these three basic elements this trope comes into play and you end up with a Reusable Lighter Toss for a cool/dramatic scene and possibly a lot of flaming chaos and/or death. Exit our anti-hero/villain toward camera
... in slo-mo
This can often be a Death Trope
as it can result in a person being lit on fire. Usually a subtrope of Rule of Cool
and can cross with Rule of Drama
Compare with Cigar Fuse Lighting
sometimes leads into this.
Can often end with Man on Fire
or Stuff Blowing Up
Please no Real Life
Note: As a potential Death Trope there may be spoilers ahead!
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Anime and Manga
- In Naruto anime, after Shikamaru managed to trap Hidan with lots of wires with explosive Paper Talismans attached (above a giant hole), he deals the final blow by throwing his dead mentor Asuma's zippo lighter (as a Revenge by Proxy), dealing nasty blow on Hidan's body and burying him. In the manga, he used a cigarette instead.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Weaponized by Colonel Roy Mustang. After Lust manages to wet his special ignition cloth gloves which he needs to use his fire alchemy, Roy uses alchemy to separate hydrogen from water. When the room where Lust is has filled with hydrogen, Roy takes Havoc's lighter and throws it in causing a huge gas explosion. The lighter is of course ruined, and since it was a gift from his ex-wife, this even gets Lampshaded by Havoc afterwards.
- Die Hard 2. As the jet carrying the treacherous soldiers and General Esperanza takes off, John McClane gets onto the wing and opens a gas tank valve so the plane leaves a trail of aviation fuel. After he returns to the ground, he pulls out a lighter, ignites it and drops it on the gas trail. The flame runs up the trail to the gas tank and causes the gas to explode, destroying the jet. Watch it here.
- TheCrow. The titular character tosses a reusable lighter after killing one of his targets for vengeance. The flames make a crow outline.
- In The Blues Brothers Jake uses the cars cigarette lighter to light one of his cigarettes then tosses the lighter out the window. He seems unimpressed by Elwood's car. Elwood then proves the car has value via speed and Jake returns with the line "Fix the lighter."
- In KickAss it appears it will be played straight, but is averted at the last second due to the man holding the lighter getting shot. Then it is averted again when another person lights the fuel up but seems to hang on to the lighter. It is a bit hard to see however since the lights are out and the only source of light in the scene is gun fire! Seen here.
- LL Cool J tosses a Zippo at a gas leaking stove to blow up a super smart shark in Deep Blue Sea. "You ate my bird."
- After killing all its occupants the previous night, Rambo returns to a pirate skiff, dumps all of its spare fuel across the deck, and then chucks a beat-up old Zippo onboard to destroy the boat.
- In Showdown in Little Tokyo, Brandon Lee's character ends a fight that involves using the Miranda rights as Trash Talk by knocking his opponent into a vat, flicking on his lighter, saying "You have the right to be dead," and tossing the lighter in. It causes a violent explosion and sets off a chain reaction throughout the factory they're in.
- In Black Sheep The Movie, the titular mutant sheep are ended via a toss of a Zippo and their own methane gas. It's an explosive combination.
- In Captain America: The Winter Soldier Nick Fury tosses a Zippo to light up the remains of some evidence.
Live Action TV
- On Supernatural the brothers use salt, lighter fluid, and a disposable Zippo so often this show might just be the Trope Codifier. They do this to properly dispose of the creatures they kill so that they don't come back.
- In the second to last episode of Burn Notice Fiona tosses a Zippo lighter like it is a simple match to burn down Michael's mom's place.
- In the Smallville Season 3 episode, Slumber, the bad guy of the week tries to toss a reusable lighter to light a fire that would lead to a big explosion. Clark catches the lighter before it can light anything up.
- Also in Season 3 episode, Hereafter,the bad guy of the week tosses a Zippo to light up a big fire to burn himself as well as Lana and a random other girl from the school.
- In the web short Dirty Laundry the "main character" subverts this trope by leaving the lighter behind after dousing the villain in alcohol... then it is played straight by one of the villain's victims as she picks it up and tosses it on him.