Riding the Bomb
Master Chief: Sir, permission to leave the station?At the end of Stanley Kubrick's Cold War dark comedy Dr. Strangelove, B-52 pilot Maj. "King" Kong — a straight-shootin' Texan played by cowboy character actor Slim Pickens — goes to the bomb bay to manually release the stuck bay doors on his damaged aircraft, thus enabling him to complete his nuclear attack run on a Soviet target. He succeeds, but just as he celebrates his accomplishment with a bit of hootin' and hollerin', the bomb on which he was seated is dropped. He rides the device all the way in to the target, wildly whipping his Stetson hat around as he plummets to a thermonuclear death and a blaze of glory. The image is much more famous than the film, at this point. It symbolically associates zealotry, jingoism, nuclear war, and cowboy diplomacy. Mostly, it just gets used whenever air-dropped weapons appear in comedy, which is surprisingly frequent. Especially common in Editorial Comics. See Also: Action Bomb, Rocket Ride.
Lord Hood: For what purpose, Master Chief?
Master Chief: To give the Covenant back their bomb.
Lord Hood: For what purpose, Master Chief?
Master Chief: To give the Covenant back their bomb.
— Halo 2
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Anime and Manga
- Sonic X has this with Knuckles riding a missile in an episode and is shown in the title sequence as well.
- Sonic The Hedgehog The Movie did this too with Sonic being onboard instead.
"Not so fast, Metal Robotnik!"
- In One Piece, Kizaru rides one of the cannonballs that signals his arrival on Sabaody Archipelago.
- A slight variant, but A-Ko uses missiles as stepping stones to fight alien invaders.
- In a Strontium Dog story guest starring Ronald Reagan, Reagan had a dream where he rode a giant bomb into Moscow dressed as a cowboy and killed everyone.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 Deff Skwadron comic Da Sekret Weapon, Killboy has to open the bomb bay manually:
Smartboy Gimzod: Bommz away boss! Payload sukkesfully deployed!
Kommanda Uzgob: An' Killboy?
Smartboy Gimzod: Oh yeah, 'e's been deployed too!
- The 'secret weapon' in this case wasn't a bomb to ride on so much as a carpet-bombing of specially bred flesh-eating squigs. Killboy, not having much meat left on him, was mostly ignored and only had to contend with the ground.
- In the Dark Avengers Ares miniseries, Ares rides a missile into ground zero, for no other reason then Rule of Cool.
- A variant cover for Uncanny X-Men #522 (the issue where Magneto rescued Kitty Pryde from the giant bullet she was stuck on at the end of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run) features Kitty riding a missile.
- Dr. Strangelove is the Trope Maker. In it, Slim Pickens orders the bomb dropped, and then wonders why it didn't release. He goes down to the bomb bay and starts hotwiring the drop system to get the bomb to drop, while sitting on it. He then rides the bomb to a thermonuclear death.
- Probably worth mentioning for those who have only seen the "falling" scene: Kong isn't intentionally riding the bomb. He climbs atop it in the plane to reach the jammed mechanism over it. It releases before he has time to get clear, and he apparently decides "I'm going to die anyway, might as well enjoy the ride while it lasts."
- In the movie Armageddon, when they're trying to lower the bomb into the core of the asteroid, Steve "Rockhound" Buscemi duplicates this scene, and everyone yells at him. Although he claims that he was actually getting the idea from The Lone Ranger.
Colonel Sharp: GET OFF. THE NUCLEAR. WARHEAD.
- Mushu, but with a firecracker in Mulan.
- A scene in The Mummy Returns has a log bridge being blown up to allow the heroes to escape from frenzied mummified pygmies at Am-Shere. The pygmies that were on the log at the time plummet to their eventual doom; one of the pygmies, seeing the utter futility of it all, rides a large piece of the broken log.
- One of the many tall tales about Baron von Münchausen claimed he once rode a cannonball. The Josef von Baky, Terry Gilliam and animated movies based on the Baron had him perform this feat as well.
- In the movie version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when the pixies are destroying the classroom, one of the pixies steals a wand and makes a huge dinosaur skeleton drop to the floor. A few pixies are then seen riding it to the ground like the bomb in Dr. Strangelove complete with cries of yee-hah.
- A The Three Stooges short has them inducted in the army - at films' end, they've broken into enemy headquarters and are getting bombarded by their own side. After a laughing gas bomb puts them in laughing fits, a large shell blows through, scooping them up. They ride it, laughing, into a gorgeous sunset. Just a typical day for them.
- Played literally and subverted in Captain America: The First Avenger. Johann Schmidt's ultimate HYDRA weapon, a massive Tesseract bomber known as "Valkyrie", contained various plane bombs that were presumably going to use to attack the targets specified on their hulls and are pilotable, making it the most literal use of the trope. The subversion comes in where Captain America manages to dispose a mook by opening up the cargo doors and releasing the latch before the HYDRA mook could get himself secured into the plane bomb.
- In Space Cowboys, one of the astronauts straps himself to the end of a satellite loaded with nuclear missiles and rides it to the Moon.
- True Lies: The Big Bad is offed when his vest catches on an anti-air missile just before Ahnold's character fires it at a helicopter full of mooks.
- Older Than Radio: The adventures of Baron Münchhausen (Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen, 1720-1797) describe him as riding a cannonball (and leaping onto another cannonball in mid-air to get back to his point of departure). This is often supposed to have happened when Münchhausen served as a Russian officer at the siege of the Turkish fortress of Ochakov in 1737, however the stay in Russia of the historical Münchhausen only began in December of that year.
- Played straight and horribly in Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (where entire cities are put on giant tracks and try to eat each other - this is not played for comedy, by the way). The extremist Green Storm faction regularly use "Tumblers", a low-tech version of guided bombs. They're bombs with pilots on them that guide their fall and ensure they land on target.
- The Isaac Asimov short story The Feeling of Power takes place in a society where computers can make more computers, and those computers can do all the calculations people need, so even basic mathematics has been lost. One fellow reinvents addition and subtraction, and discovers to his horror that this allows for the "manned missile," since people can now guide the missiles based on a coordinate system and a human life is much less valuable than a computer guidance system.
- This quote from Holden from The Catcher in the Rye:
I'm sort of glad they got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to god I will.
- Used for an escape from an airplane in The Survivor. Justified in that the bomb was rigged for an airburst, so it has a functional parachute.
- Used in The Lost Fleet in the Beyond the Frontier sequels by a race of homicidal herbivores who attack anything that isn't theirs. They launch a barrage of piloted rockets.
Live Action TV
- Weird Science: In the ending shot of an episode involving some flying basketball shoes Lisa created and a close call with FBI agents "Scolder" and "Molly", the gang is almost shot down by an Air Force surface-to-air missile. In the closing shot, all are seen barebacking on the device, complete with cowboy hats.
- Doctor Who: Used with rather different symbolism, as Captain Jack teleports himself on top of a Nazi bomb he's immobilized with a tractor beam to shout a goodbye to the Doctor and Rose, in "The Doctor Dances". The Eagleland associations are relevant, though, since Jack is pretty much the series' token American.
- Subverted by the Farscape mini-series. Over the course of the television series, the protagonist, Crichton, had an AI construct implanted in his mind. Causing a vivid hallucination, this "Harvey" finally dies off at the end as his purpose is fullfilled. Crichton has been dropping sci-fi and pop-culture references throughout the series, and Harvey with him. As such, he shows himself dying in lieu of the (rather obscure) ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but concedes he found Riding the Bomb an attractive way to go as well.
- Parodied in the MST3K episode Moon Zero Two. The bad guys have been left stranded on a meteor which is karmically racing towards the moon's surface. As they're about to hit, Joel and the bots start whooping it up cowboy-style like Slim Pickens.
- Also used in MST3K: The Movie (spoofing This Island Earth) when Exeter's burning spaceship enters Earth's atmosphere at the ending.
- The climax of the third season The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Super-Colossal Affair" found Illya Kuryakin riding and defusing a 10 ton stink bomb which was part of a crime syndicate plot to render Las Vegas uninhabitable.
- A sketch on Saturday Night Live featured an interview with then-Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, who was riding a missile at the time. And eating a Lunchables snack-pack.
- On Jack-of-All-Trades, the legendary Pirate Blackbeard rides a missile down from a hot air balloon to destroy a submarine captained by the great-great-great-great-great grandson of Leonardo da Vinci before it can sink a ship carrying most of America's Founding Fathers on a "Founding Father-Son Cruise." It Makes Sense in Context... kinda.
- Honorable Mention to John Sheridan in "Z'Ha'Dum". (Purists might object that there was a White Star around the nukes. And that Sheridan technically jumped ahead of them; he didn't ride them himself.)
- The video of "Boom" from System of a Down shows Bush, Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Tony Blair riding each one a bomb, dressed like the Riders of the Apocalypse.
- Also seen in the video for "A Complete History of the Soviet Union Through the Eyes of a Humble Worker," by Pig With The Face Of A Boy.
- The Offspring have a song called Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell. About greed, stupidity, end of the world and gasoline.
- The combined video for that song and "Dividing by Zero" plays it literally, with the protagonist, a fighter pilot, hanging on to a chain attached to a missile after his plane is downed, performing various death-defying feats and even attempting to take out the enemy leader's flying fortress though he ultimately fails.
- Surfing on a Rocket music video by Air. Rocket riders include a microcephalic bodybuilder, a rich shark, a mad scientist, George Bush in a cowboy hat with a gasoline hose, a man with a tentacled TV for head, a Playboy Bunny in a US-flag swimsuit, a cannibal emperor and a man with a nuclear mushroom for head.
- One of the crocs in Pearls Before Swine is seen doing this. He survives.
- In Australian Rules Football, the WEG poster for the Essendon Bombers' 1984 premiership depicts Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy doing this.
- In Warhammer 40,000 the orks have grot-guided bombs, which are are based on the above-mentioned manned bombs. A gretchin (small orkoid subspecie, similar to goblins in the fantasy setting) will steer to bomb to it's target, increasing it's accuarracy. Ofcourse the mekboys tend to forget to tell the pilot that it's a one-way flight. Their assault troops are called Storm Boyz and are full-sized Orkz whose jump-packs look like someone just strapped a live rocket to their back... Because that's exactly what they did. Whether or not the rocket explodes on a bad roll rather than just fly off in a random direction depends on the edition being played.
- In Halo 2, Master Chief Rides the Bomb. Somewhat unusually for this trope, it wasn't actually a UNSC bomb.
- An even older computer game example appears in the intro scene to the
originalcomputerized adaptation of Nuclear War.
- An even older computer game example appears in the intro scene to the
- Dante surfs on a missile in Devil May Cry 3.
- Not to be outdone by Dante, at the end of Just Cause 2, Rico Rodriguez surfs on FOUR NUCLEAR MISSILES, exchanging gunfire with the midget president of a corrupt nation and disarming said missiles as he goes, before eventually jamming said president into one of the missiles.
- Contra games regularly involve heroes hanging from and steering missiles as a mode of transportation.
- Contra 3's fourth stage ends with you hopping from missile to missile, trying to destroy the shields of an alien mothership.
- In Contra: Shattered Soldier's second mission, you encounter mooks riding missiles.
- Played completely straight in Contra 4, during the harbour stage you have to cling onto a warhead. While shooting missiles down, avoiding Weaponized Exhaust, and even fighting a Mini-Boss on it!
- A similar sequence is also present in one of the endings to Contra: Hard Corps. The Alien Cell hijacked by the Big Bad, in this particular ending, ends up as a warhead for his doomsday missile. You have to chase said missile while jumping on smaller ones, climb up, and then destroy the cell which by now seems to have evolved into a full fledged final boss.
- Mischief Makers has Marina riding missiles quite a few times. As well as riding on a cat that is itself riding on a missile.
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has a different take on this - after chasing the Space Pirates away from the Spire Pod and commencing the engines' shutdown sequence, Samus has five minutes to repair the Escape Pod and blast off in it before she literally rides the bomb into the Leviathan. If this happens, or the Space Pirates successfully shoot down the Spire Pod, you get a scene of the pod falling before Game Over-induced sudden blackout - if the fall and storms don't kill Samus, the bomb certainly will.
- The custom Strangelove mutator for the Unreal Tournament series (which is obviously a giant Shout-Out to Dr. Strangelove as its name implies) is a superweapon similiar in functionality to the Redeemer (A nuclear warhead launcher) except for its secondary fire, which allows you to... take a wild guess.
- There's a couple of quests in World of Warcraft where the player has to ride on a Goblin-made rocket. It's also possible to get a similar rocket as a mount via a code that can be gotten from a pack of Warcraft TCG cards.
- A reskin of said mount is available as a very rare drop on Valentine's Day. It's bright pink, sports zebra pimpmobile decorations and is naturally called "Big Love Rocket." Presumably, it can also get past radars.
- And now, a TWO-SEATER model is gifted to people who have subscribed a friend through a referral program. Lucky owners tend to get constantly poked by low level characters looking for a quick taxi.
- Then there is also one which after you defeat the Vry'kul air raid and destroying some of their building using their own ballista, you return to your encampment by riding on one of the said flaming ballista bolt.
- Disgaea: Hour of Darkness: For his most powerful special move, Laharl rides a meteor. Laughing maniacally the whole way.
- A mission in Jak 3 has Daxter ride a missile.
- One half of a stage in Mega Man Zero 3 takes place inside the biggest missile ever as Zero tries to prevent it from reaching its target. He fails.
- Actually, it's more than that. The missile in question contained Omega, so the trope applies to Omega more.
- In Spore, in the civilization stage, a military nation gets access to their final super-power, the ICBM (although the naming is off). Upon launch, cheesy music plays and it is implied that some of the creatures are riding the missiles, due to all the yehawwing going on during the sequence. Of course, using this will indeed capture the cities quickly so you can advance to the space stage, but there's going to be piles of nuclear rubble you won't be able to build up on...
- At least, that's the way it should be. In fact, the nukes just instantly capture the cities and no actual damage is done. Neutron Bomb, perhaps?
- In Metal Slug, on Mission Six of Metal Slug X (a remake of 2), you can ride the missiles while crossing the bridge. Unfortunately, they're going the wrong way and when you go too close to the missiles' nose, you die.
- In the first Gungrave game, one type of enemy during the train level is two guys with machine guns riding a missile.
- Jinx of League of Legends gets her Establishing Character Moment by riding on the lead of a rainstorm of missiles into Piltover in her introductory music video "Get Jinxed".
- Burrito Bison has rockets you can ride. The pilots you replace are wearing cowboy hats, that your player character holds in one hand while riding.
- In the first mission of Saints Row IV, the Boss rides a nuke to disable it before it hits Washington, D.C.
- Rayman 2 combines this with Action Bomb by having missiles with legs in some levels, which can be mounted once they've tuckered out and stopped chasing you. They're needed to traverse harmful terrain you normally wouldn't be able to cross, but doing so requires some precision, due to the obvious result of colliding with something.
- Tales from the Borderlands has Scooter getting his hand stuck in a faulty booster rocket that will explodes destroy the ship that the protagonists are on if he can't get it off their ship. He knows he can't get his hand out in time, so he decides to Face Death with Dignity and make a Heroic Sacrifice instead, detaching the damaged booster from the ship. His last moments with Fiona are a poignant, heartfelt exchange before he pushes himself and the booster away from the ship and rides it into Pandora's atmosphere, bellowing his Catch Phrase all the while. He still thinks that it's an awesome way to go.
- Exterminatus Now at one point has a crude chalkboard-style stick-figure sketch of what Exterminatus actually does (complete with a sketch of Cthulhu labelled "A Bad Thing"). The warhead plummeting from space onto the planet? It has a stick-figure cowboy wavin' his hat.
- Used for comedy in Flintlockes Guide To Azeroth. In this strip of the first comic's run, the script-kiddy-run gnome Lowping apparently ended up riding the Ultimate Goblin Engineered Weapon "like a pony," complete with cowboy hat, moments before it was dropped out of a hijacked Goblin dirigible, and him along with it.
- Daffy Duck pulls this in the Looney Tunes short Conrad The Sailor. Wile E. Coyote has done this at least once accidentally.
- The Simpsons: When Homer becomes leader of a group of vigilantes, he goes to the local army surplus store to stock up on implements of destruction. One of the things the proprietor shows him is a miniature nuke that was designed to be used against Beatniks in The Sixties. Cut to an Imagine Spot of Homer, with cowboy hat, trying to drop the bomb, and ending up riding it in. Cut back, he's straddling the device, and the shopkeeper points out a nearby sign reading "Do not ride the bomb". The imagery was also used as a Couch Gag in another episode.◊
- Sealab 2021: In "Red Dawn", when Quinn learns Debbie slept with the President, he bombs Washington, DC in a fit of jealousy, shouting "Nobody shucks my corn but meeeeeee!" as he rides the bomb. (Inexplicably enough, however, the cityscape he's dropping into is clearly San Diego, CA.)
- Blossom does it in one episode of The Powerpuff Girls.
- Transformers: Beast Wars has Rattrap Riding the Bomb attached to former Decepticon Ravage's stealth ship after forcing it to crash. The twist: the bomb remained unexploded until after the crash, and Rattrap was blown clear into the arms of his comrades, nice and safe.
- The Season 1 Finale for Beast Wars had Optimus Primal unwittingly riding the bomb into the Planet Buster, thanks to Megatron making additional modifications that essentially sealed Optimus inside.
- In the SWAT Kats episode "The Wrath of Dark Kat", Razor rides a bomb while trying to disarm it, leading to a Wire Dilemma.
- The Penguins of Madagascar: In a scene of "The Lost Treasure of the Golden Squirrel" Skipper hallucinates riding the bomb, in a direct parody of the original. Fan recreation, referring also to the above-mentioned Offspring song: here◊
- During the closing stages of WWII, the Japanese developed the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka, essentially a 1200kg bomb with wings and a cockpit attached. The mothership would approach to within twenty nautical miles of the target and release the Ohka. The Okha would glide to the target, before firing three Type 4 rocket motors for the final approach. Despite having a production run of 838 bombs, thankfully most were sunk along with the Japanese carriers Shinano and Unryu; those that did see service accounted for only seven Allied ships, largely due to the excellent defensive tactics of the Allied navies. US sailors nicknamed them "baka bombs", after the Japanese word for "idiot".
- Maritime equivalents to the Ohka were also developed; the Kaiten and Kairyu. The Kaiten was a Type-93 torpedo with a crude cockpit into which one very brave individual would be locked, then fired at an enemy vessel, which was an excellent way to turn an effective weapon into a machine for killing pilots. The Kaitens, rather predictably, killed more of their own (either directly or through the launching submarines being lost) than they did Americans. One is on display on the shore side of Hawaii's USS Arizona Memorial Museum. The Kairyu was more elaborate; it was a midget submarine that carried two torpedoes and a single 600kg warhead, which was to be used for a ramming attack after the torpedoes were fired. They were stationed in Tokyo Bay, intended to be the first line of defence against an anticipated Allied invasion fleet. Due to the atomic bombs, none ever saw action.
- The US tried to build one, too. It was designed to be flown by a trained pigeon; the idea was that the pigeon would be trained to peck at the image of potential targets, and then the target would be projected onto a lens in front of the pigeon; the pigeon would peck it, and thus through a system of electronic controls attached to the unfortunate bird, the missile would self-correct. Despite some actual successes, the US military never picked it up because electronic guidance was coming in anyway, training the pigeons to recognize enough enemy targets took too much time, and they considered the whole thing absurd.
- The Germans, towards the end of the war, developed the Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg, which was a V-1 flying bomb with a small cockpit mounted just before the pulsejet. It was to be flown by the 5th Staffel of Kampfsgeschwader 200, the so-called "Leonidas Squadron". Technically speaking, it was not a suicide weapon; the pilot was supposed to aim the craft at the target, pop the canopy, and bail out. However, the chances of the pilot surviving the exit (which would, after all, take place directly in front of the pulsejet's intake) were estimated at less than one in twenty. Pilots were required to sign waivers before joining the Leonidas Squadron accepting that its operations would result in certain deathnote . Test pilots actually managed to pull this off, and the Reichenberg, although it crashed very often, rarely killed its test pilots (Hanna Reitsch survived several crashes unscathed); though test versions, of course, were not fitted with the giant bomb the operation version would carry. Minister of Armaments Albert Speer and the commander of KG 200, Geschwaderkommodore Werner Baumbach, eventually convinced Hitler than suicide attacks were "not in the German warrior tradition" and it was cancelled. However, during the early stages of the Battle for Berlin, the concept was revived, and Leonidas Squadron pilots flying modified Fw-190s attacked Soviet bridgeheads at Kuestrin, destroying a railway bridge, which was, like the Kaiten described above, a waste of good men and good platforms.
- A similar project that actually got the go ahead was the Bat Bomb, essentially a bomber would drop a large canister during a dawn raid over a Japanese city. The canister was loaded with hundreds of bats, each with a little napalm bomb strapped to their chests, at night they would go off to hunt and roost all over the city. A timer set all the bombs off in the middle of the day after the bats went to sleep, since most Japanese architecture was wood at the time this would have been very effective. The only reason it wasn't used was that the atomic bomb was finished first.
- This is probably for the best. Nuclear weapons were bad enough. Being beaten by bat bombs would have been outright embarrassing.
- Suicide bombers, especially those who drive automobiles laden with explosives.
- A subversion during the Battle of Midway, the Japanese carrier Kaga was in the process of being abandoned by her crew due to severe damage and fires caused by the American dive bomber attack from the Enterprise. An American submarine saw the opportunity to launch a Coup de Grâce on the vulnerable ship (in case the Japanese may have managed to save her). American torpedos of the time being what they were, the torpedo struck dead on, then promptly didn't explode. The warhead snapped off and sank, leaving the body of the torpedo bobbing in the water, whereupon the Japanese sailors swimming in the water clambered on to it as a life raft, cursing and pounding on the torpedo. For their trouble, the submarine crew spent the rest of the day being chased by Japanese destroyers and being pummeled by depth charge near-misses before they escaped to fight another day.