"Hey, jerkwad, you're going the wrong way! The Enchanted Meadow is in that spooky cave, and the deadly Manticore is in that happy meadow! Can't you read?"The racecourse or other path is marked off by arrows. Either a villain or a prankster mucks things up by flipping the sign so the arrows point the other way. Can also include incidents where someone who, with honest intentions, by mistake thinks the sign is wrong and "fixes" it, whereupon Hilarity Ensues. See also: Rules of the Road, and Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat, as this is one of the ways he does it.
— Dean Toadblatt, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
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- A '90s French Cheerios commercial had the hare doing this to send the tortoise into a much longer, windier path, but the cereal give so much strength and speed that the tortoise wins the race anyway.
Anime & Manga
- Yu-Gi-Oh!. The Marik-brainwashed Bandit Keith has set up arrows to lure Yugi into a trap. Yami Bakura flips the arrows around so Yugi's friends can't follow.
- Dragon Ball had an episode where Bulma was fleeing from General Blue through an abandoned pirate hideout. She came to an intersection and drew an arrow on the ground in dust to tell Goku which way she went, but Blue got to it first and changed it to point the opposite direction.
- El-Hazard: The Magnificent World: Subverted that while Jinnai sabotages a sign to get the heroes going onto a dangerous path, Mr. Fujisawa knows all along they are taking the tough path, but takes it anyway because he relishes the challenge.
- In Magical Play, Zucchini switches a sign with arrows pointing to "Town" and "Desert." However, since the sign was one large board, he does this by flipping it upside down, words and all. The main characters still fall for it.
- In the Ranma ½ anime, Ranma, Genma and Happōsai travel back in time. Happōsai reverses a sign pointing to Jusenkyō so the past selves will go the wrong way. But a bag thrown by past Genma reverses it again. It wouldn't have worked anyway, because the whole thing takes place inside Ranma's dream.
- Bashin and Striker do this in ep. 11 of Battle Spirits Shonen Toppa Bashin to try and lure My Sunshine to the Battle Spirits Center.
- Transformers Cybertron: Ransack does this in episode 15, "Detour."
- Reggie does this to Richie on a ski trail in one Richie Rich comic. The twist is that the wind has already blown the arrows around, so Reggie actually sends Richie down the right trail and himself down the dangerous slope.
- In "Two-Way Gem Caper" in Batman #164, a crook does this to misdirect the tour bus of the Hootenay Hotshots as part of a needlessly complicated plan to steal a jewel from a museum.
- Mortadelo y Filemón: Mortadelo does this at the end of "Los mercenarios", to lead a squad of mercenaries to the country that hired them, instead of their intended destination.
- In one FoxTrot sequence, Jason and Marcus strike out into the wilds of suburbia in search of adventure (wearing pith helmets, no less). Along their way they encounter the streets of "Maple" and "Oak;" Maple Street is lined with oak trees and Oak Street is lined with maples. Helpfully, they decide to switch the street signs around to correct the error, but wind up attracting the attention of the police in the process.
- One of the Shapoklyak's pranks in Cheburashka.
Films — Animation
- Listed as one of the things Stitch is programmed to do in Lilo & Stitch, along with backing up sewers and stealing everyone's left shoe.
Films — Live-Action
- The Love Bug:
- In the first movie of the series, some road sign spoofing sends all the following racers into a mine.
- Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. The misdirecting arrow sends our heroes onto a very narrow cliff edge and almost causes them to die via avalanche.
- Battle of the Bulge (1965). During the attack, German infiltrators switch the road signs around, making it appear that the road to Malmedy leads to Ambleve. The U.S. troops going to Ambleve follow the sign and are captured by the Germans, leading to the Malmedy Massacre.
- Played for Laughs in Jurassic Park when Nedry was attempting to leave the island, but in his haste, drove over the road sign showing the way to the docks. Nedry spins it like a roulette wheel and follows where it lands.
- The reedited-for-TV version of Blazing Saddles includes a scene that was originally left on the cutting room floor. While Bart and the Waco Kid are being chased by the villains, the duo come to an arrow-sign mounted on a post, smack it so that it starts spinning in circles, and run on. The villains ride up, wait for the sign to finish spinning, and charge off in the indicated direction.
- In the Disney movie Diamonds on Wheels, the crooks attempt to waylay one of the cars competing in a rally by removing the real arrows and laying new ones for the driver to follow.
- Labyrinth: Sarah draws arrows on the ground to show which path she's already taken. When she's not looking, goblins flip and turn the tiles with the arrows on them, so she loses her way.
- Done by the Red Feathers in Troop Beverly Hills.
- In Quick Change, the three bank robbers must get to Kennedy Airport as soon as possible. They inadvertently exit the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and traverse an unfamiliar Brooklyn neighborhood where the road signs are being replaced by city workers. When they ask which way the original signs were pointing, the workers respond by showing them the arrow spinning freely on the plate, saying they have no idea either. This scene is even funnier if one has ever tried to get back onto the BQE.
- The Little Rascals movie: Porky pushed the race track arrow from right to straight.
- Two Thousand Maniacs! gets its plot going with a fake diversion sign.
- Something similar in intention is done by a British villager in the beginning of Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks. He's painting out the signposts in order to confuse any possible invading Nazis.
- A Reversed Road Sign to Sainte-Mère-Église briefly confuses invading Allied forces in The Longest Day, until an American officer sees through the trick and orders the sign cut down.
- Done to spring a trap in "Dolan's Cadillac", by Stephen King.
- James Bond does this during the car chase scene in the novel version of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
- The very first trick Macha and Bodhb try to pull on Pidge in The Hounds of the Morrigan. It's much eerier than the usual examples, because, of course, they have magic.
- In the third series of Deltora Quest the main characters are caught out by one of these.
- Alex Rider:
- In Stormbreaker, a new sign is posted on the footpath to Port Tallon to send Alex into an ambush.
- In Skeleton Key, General Sarov rigs a second set of runway lights, which causes a plane to crash into a swamp while attempting to take off.
- The 2007 To the Manor Born 25th Anniversary special.
- In Home and Away, a guy on the race turns the arrow around and his competitor (who is already going the wrong way) just follows it.
- Gang members do this in The Wire. It's not played for laughs at all because it confuses a group of cops and prevents them from coming to the aid of one of their own when she gets shot.
- In the series finale of Grange Hill, a boy does this with the arrow of a sign saying something like "Year 7s this way".
- Doctor Who: The Master does this to delay the Doctor's journey to the town of Devil's End in "The Daemons".
- In the Amazing Stories episode "Mummy Daddy", an actor playing the role of the Mummy in a horror film receives a phone call that his wife has gone into labour. On the way to the maternity hospital, he is mistaken for a real Mummy by superstitious villagers. They start shooting at him, and one of the shots spins the road sign for the maternity hospital.
- Ethel does it in the Lucy Desi Comedy Hour episode "Lucy Hunts Uranium." When everyone gets into a madcap race back to town to claim the money for the uranium they've discovered, Ethel moves a detour sign to throw off the Ricardos.
- The Janitor does this to JD during his birthday triathlon in Scrubs. JD ends up biking uncontrollably down a near-vertical hill.
- In the MI High episode "The Others", Blane foils the government agents testing the team by swapping the signs pointing to the library and the cafeteria.
- The wind blowing a road sign around is how Miranda and Skye Sailendra end up in the remote town of Barren Barren in the first episode of Snake Tales.
- In the 1960s live-action Dennis the Menace, Dennis mistakenly believes the street sign at the corner is reversed, so he turns it, whereupon a swimming pool company goes to the wrong house and basically destroys Mr. Wilson's backyard.
- Doesn't involve arrows or directional signs, but in an episode of Corner Gas, Oscar changes a sign warning about a pothole in the road to one warning about a speed bump that was built over it by flipping the sign upside down. He tries to do it again when they go back to the pothole at the end of the episode (because it "looks more natural"), but it won't hold in place, so he says they have to build the speed bump again.
- This is an important plot point in an episode of Mathnet. George Frankly had two invitations to a mystery weekend at The Qualms, a quaint inn in the woods, where he would essentially be roleplaying as Sherlock Holmes. While making their way there, he and partner Pat Tuesday fail to notice that the wind blew the sign in a different direction until later. The butler informs them that they're not at the inn they thought they were, meaning that the kidnappings they thought were part of the roleplay are in fact real.
- The 'removing road signs to confuse invading troops' version happens in All Creatures Great and Small. A local tells the soldier who is removing a sign that, if he wants to confuse the Germans, he should leave that particular sign up as it has been pointing the wrong way for years.
- In Hi-de-Hi!, Ted does this in order to stop Clive's relatives from getting to the church to prevent Clive and Gladys' wedding.
- Done in The Legend of Dick and Dom Wacky Racing episode "The Cabbage Ball Run".
- Robbie Rotten does this in "Little Pink Riding Hood" on LazyTown to trick Stephanie into getting lost in a forest.
- This is one of the pranks De Plaaggeest plays on Bassie & Adriaan. Because of it, the two accidentally set up their tent on a soccer field rather than the camping place they were looking for.
- JAG: A sign marking an entrance into the Free Fire Zone in "Desert Son" has been knocked down, which nearly gets Harm and Meg killed.
- Frontier Circus: In "Winter Quarters", horse thieves move one of Tony's trail markers to send the circus up the wrong trail and strand them on top of a mountain.
- On Kenan & Kel, Kel accidentally knocks down the arrow in a restaurant pointing to the bathrooms and puts it back up the wrong way, causing everyone who was looking for the bathroom to end up getting trapped in the restaurant's walk-in freezer instead.
- CSI: A variation in "Anatomy of a Lye". A man deliberately alters the trail map his fiancee is using so she will not beat his time on a particular trail run. However, his alteration causes her to be trapped in the mountains during a flash flood and she drowns.
- Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: Wile E. Coyote tries this a few times with the Road Runner and a detour sign. The gag being that the way the Road Runner goes turns safe, while Wile E.'s way turns out to be the one with the road out... cue whistling sound...
- One of Dick Dastardly's favourite dirty tricks in the Wacky Races. Not surprising since, as has been mentioned elsewhere, Wacky Races (ahem) borrowed a lot of Road Runner gags.
- In an episode of the Viva Piñata cartoon, the heroes flip a road sign to get the bad guy off their trail and send him towards a volcano. Of course, as he's driving a really slow forklift, it takes him 50 years to actually reach the volcano.
- This is one of the dirty tricks the three bullies in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown pull during the raft race.
- Happens in an episode of Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics. The cheaters mistakenly switch the signs back, resulting in disgust from their teammates (although they DO get a 50 point bonus for "chivalry" because the judges think they did it to help their opponents).
- Subverted in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "Cajun Granny Stew", where he does this to try trick a Fox (who has kidnapped Muriel) into driving into some rocks. The Fox doesn't buy it, and runs over the sign and Courage (who wisely decided to stand directly behind the sign). Subverted again when the Fox immediately falls off a cliff.
- In the Robot Chicken spoof of The Cannonball Run, Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane does this to trick, "them Duke Boys," possibly as an homage to the actual show, The Dukes of Hazzard.
- Subverted in Family Guy. Peter looks as if he's going to do this in the episode "Chitty Chitty Death Bang," in order to get the circus parade to come to Stewie's birthday party. Instead, he beans the parade leader with the sign and takes his place.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle:
- Used by Boris Badenov in one of the openings (see it towards the end of this video). However, instead of rotating the entire arrow he's able to remove the arrowhead from one end and attach it to the other instead.
- And, during the Upsidaisium arc, Boris and Natasha decide to switch the sign pointing to a 900-foot cliff with the one pointing to the mountain to which they (and the heroes) are going. The catch is that they come up with this plan independently, and cancel each other's efforts out. Boris and Natasha fall down the cliff (nonfatally), while Rocky and Bullwinkle continue on without noticing at all.
- In an episode of The Busy World Of Richard Scarry, an inadequately supported sign flips and sends people looking for a stall selling corn into the middle of a cornfield, causing them to become Lost in the Maize.
- Superfriends 1973-74 episode "The Fantastic Frerps". This is how King Plasto diverts a shipment of raw plastic from the real GREPS building to his imitation.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Fall Weather Friends," Rainbow Dash flips the sign marking the path for the Running of the Leaves, sending Applejack off the track. She hastily flips it back when she hears Twilight Sparkle coming, to keep from being caught.
- In the Harry Potter parody of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, when sabotaging Gunderstank. Billy spins the signs when Grim leads a field trip, so the signs are reversed yet upside down.
- In the first episode of Around the World in 80 Days, Fix does this to prevent Fog and Passepartout from reaching Buckingham Palace.
- Occurs in the first episode of 101 Dalmatians: The Series to lure Cruella away from the three main puppies she's chasing after in her car.
- A non-racing version occurs in one episode of Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures. While trying to deliver a package, Strawberry encounters a sign that tells her the way to go, only for a breeze to flip the markers, knocking off the one she needs.
- In an episode of Danger Rangers about pedestrian safety, a kid does this during a race in a failed attempt at cheating.
- In Little Red Riding Rabbit, the wolf does this to send Red on the long way to Grandma's house.
- Inspector Gadget: In "Monster Lake", Dr. Claw swaps a road sign to send the Gadgetmobile plunging off a cliff.
- Taz-Mania: In "Road to Tazmania", a spy does this to send Hugh, Drew and Taz to the Spy Mart.
- A vintage Popeye cartoon had him and Bluto in a car race - Bluto moves the letters around on a sign reading "Route D" to read "Detour", sending Popeye up a long, twisty mountain road.
- In the first episode of Camp Lakebottom, Jordan does this to send the bus carrying McGee, Gretchen and Squirt to Camp Lakebottom instead of Camp Sunnysmiles.
- Dennis the Menace and Gnasher: Dennis does this to temporarily confuse the Greytowers Prep triathlete (who is already cheating). It delays him long enough for Gnasher to disable his bike.
- The Duke employs this in an episode of Gawayn in order to send the questers off into the wrong direction.
Rex: That is the lamest plan ever! You're gonna get them lost?! How exciting...
- In the Sofia the First episode "Enchanted Science Fair", Amber turns an arrow pointing to the top of the mountain (where a flower all the kids need grows) to keep the others from following, but when Sofia and James come to it, James switches it back, thinking he's doing the same thing.
- At the beginning of the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "High Toon", Beaky Buzzard sits above two signs, one leading to the amusement park, AcmeLand, and the other to No Man's Land, otherwise known as Prairie Junction. Beaky sneezes and switches the signs around, and as a result, Buster and Babs, who are on their way to AcmeLand, go to Prairie Gulch, which at first, they think is the Wild West section of the park.
- In "Parade Problem" on Ella the Elephant, one of these kicks off the problem described in the title. An unwitting seagull reverses a sign, causing a delivery van with frozen bananas to go the wrong way.
- In "You're My Hero" from Mack And Moxy, the villain Shellfish Sheldon switches a sign with two directions, one that leads to the "town square" and the other to "very deep pit," causing the heroes to end up in the very deep pit, leading to a lesson about calling 911. This is probably the closest Sheldon actually comes to succeeding on the show, as he actually manages to get the "Great Helpee," but the heroes manage to get it back from him before it hatches. Then Sheldon has to call 911 because he ended up in the very deep pit.
- In "It's Wrong to Cheat" from Bali, after Bali's friend Tito suggests cheating on a game during Bali's birthday party, Bali has an Imagine Spot in which he's in a boat race and he his friends initially lose to another racer who cheats by doing this, but then ends up losing after an on-camera review of the race shows his cheating. Back at Bali's, Bali tells Tito that he only wants to win if they play fairly. And they do.
- Totally subverted in Die Sendung mit der Maus. An arrow in the mountains points to...wherever, we'll never know, the slope is far to steep for the free-climbing mouse and elephant. The mouse solves it pragmatically by turning the arrow around to point to the earth and make an impromptu picnic.
- The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Prankster", Superman switches a pair of signs to cause the Prankster to drive his scooter into a river.
- During the War of 1812, "Walnut St." in Washington DC was changed to "Tunlaw St." to confuse the British.
- There's a sign the wrong way near Monument Tube station in London, implying that Cannon Street is to the East.
- Mentioned in The Longest Day entry above, the switching (or removal) of signs did regularly happen in WWII. In fact it was one of neutral Ireland's main defenses. Road signs were arranged so that following them would lead the invaders in a big circle. Still practiced by some locals today, though that's more so that they can troll the tourists who get lost and stop to ask for directions.
- Also during WWII, in the battle of the bulge, the Germans devised Operation Greif, intended to confuse Allied troop movements by doing things like reversing road signs, placing phony minefield warnings, and giving wrong verbal directions to any Allied units they encountered.
- Similar tactics were used inside Britain, in case of Nazi invasion. Road signs were routinely removed, often confusing domestic military units traveling through the countryside. This was often made worse by the fact that villagers would be very suspicious of any stranger asking for directions while using the "wrong" accent — i.e., one that marked him as from out of town.
- During the Prague Spring, the inhabitants of Prague removed or painted over street names to confuse the invading Red Army.