It's a good thing signs are held on by one nail and never have writing on them!
: 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.
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Anime and 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 Ranma ˝, Ranma and Genma travel back in time, switching the arrows pointing to Jusenkyo so their past selves will go the wrong way. Happosai sabotages the attempt by reversing them 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.
- 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 Ste.-Mčre-Eglise briefly confuses invading Allied forces in The Longest Day, until an American officer sees through the trick and orders the sign cut down.
Live Action TV
- The 2007 To The Manor Born 25th Anniversary special.
- I saw this happen in Home and Away once, 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.
- 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.
- The "plot" of the Popeye-themed water ride at Universal Studios' Island of Adventure begins with Bluto switching signs so that the riders go down some "dangerous" rapids instead of the idyllic river. A thorough soaking ensues.
- 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 Film 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.
- During the Prague Spring, the inhabitants of Prague removed or painted over street names to confuse the invading Red Army.
- During the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, 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.