"Bonfires burning bright,Trashcan Bonfire: a bonfire in a trashcan or oil drum. Often homeless people will be huddled around it for warmth. Will sometimes be added to a Smoke and Fire Factory. A character might burn something within it or someone might knock into it and become a Man on Fire. Or it might just stay in the background.
Pumpkin faces in the night."
Pumpkin faces in the night."
— The Misfits, "Halloween"
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Anime & Manga
- Nana from Elfen Lied does one of these... with money. Justified, because she has No Social Skills because of her background.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Pavlo Zaitsev uses one of these as a meeting place in the episode Ag2O.
- Some establishing shots in the first episode of Bubblegum Crisis 2032 show poor people warming themselves at trashcan fires.
- In Robyn Hood: I Love NY #4, Robyn talks to some homeless people warming themselves around a trashcan bonfire while looking for leads on the sewer murders. One of them tries to get handsy and Robyn deals with him in her usual fashion.
Films — Live-Action
- The Hell Hotel in The Lost Boys is absolutely full of these.
- Batman: In the 1989 film, one can be seen in two different scenes of people watching the Joker's TV broadcast while outdoors. The first scene appeared to be members of a motorcycle gang, while the other was a construction site.
- Batman & Robin uses it twice.
- When Poison Ivy and Bane break into a gang's hideout, there's a trashcan with a fire inside in the middle of the area.
- At the beginning of the motorcycle race, there are several in the background behind the gang members.
- Batman Begins had this trope: it's how Bruce Wayne disposed of his ID before heading off to the wilds of Asia. The wino warming himself there convinces Bruce not to burn his expensive longcoat too, but to give it to him instead (Bruce having already bought his jacket).
- Blade Runner. There are several visible while Roy and Leon are walking in the street and the bicyclists are riding by. There are two visible in the street where Deckard gets an identification of the snake scale, and three of them can be seen during Deckard's pursuit of Zhora.
- Terminator series.
- In the first movie, while Sarah is dreaming of the post-apocalyptic future several can be seen in the underground area where the humans are hiding.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, after the T-1000 arrives at Miles Dyson's house it discovers a fire in a barrel. The fire is burning the documents that detail Dyson's project to understand and re-create the CPU chip from the T-800 in the first movie.
- The Knife Nut villain from The Crow was killed while hanging out around one.
- Graverobber, occasional narrator of Repo! The Genetic Opera is seen disgustedly throwing a tabloid newspaper into a trashcan bonfire at the very end of the film.
- The Running Man, during the outdoor scenes with crowds betting on the game.
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In the Yoyodyne building, some are visible in the Red Lectroid bivouac as well as one in the Pitt.
- Flatliners. After being deserted by Nelson at the cemetery, Steckle and Hurley warm themselves near a burning barrel before being picked up by David Labraccio.
- Patton. Two appear in the Nazi headquarters at the end of the war, where they're being used to burn documents so the Allies won't get them.
- RoboCop 2. There some on the streets of Detroit as Robocop approaches Cain's first drug factory.
- Wild Wild West. Several are burning at the encampment of the former Confederate soldiers at Malheureux Point before the arrival of Dr. Loveless' vehicle.
- Running Scared (1986). During the scene on the basketball court there's one in the background.
- In The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne creates a distraction by tossing an aerosol can in one, creating a massive explosion.
- Featured as props in the play that the cast of StageFright -Aquarius- is rehearsing. One of them provides to be useful later when the Not Quite Dead killer grabs the main character by her ankle, and she uses it to set him on fire.
- Escape from New York. A fire burning in a trashcan can be seen on the street in the scene where Romero approaches Bob Hauk to deliver an ultimatum.
- Tekken. During one of Jin Kazama's fights there's a shot of a group of people outside watching the battle on TV. They have a fire burning in a trashcan nearby.
- Romancing the Stone has one at the abandoned fort where Ira tells Joan to come to make the exchange of the map for her sister. It's genuinely creepy.
- Resident Evil: Afterlife. In the building where the survivors are holed up, one of these can be seen in the cafeteria when they're eating.
- Demolition Man. Several are visible in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer where Edgar Friendly's people live.
- They Live. There are a number of these burning at night in the homeless camp where Nada finds shelter.
- The Darkest Hour. The Russian encampment is lit by a couple of burning trashcans.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. During the Federation attack on Paradise City, a number of oil drums with flames inside can be seen on the city's streets, providing light and heat.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the musical, during the "Walk Through the Fire" song, Buffy holds her hand up to a trashcan bonfire when singing "I touch the fire and it freezes me."
- The second episode of Angel has a Trashcan Bonfire. The Monster of the Week tries to stick Angel's head in it, but ends up getting set on fire himself.
- America's Got Talent: The 2008 contestant Flambeaux used one of these as part of his Top 40 performance. He later stated that it was a callback to the days he spent wandering the streets of New York.
- Not homeless, but characters on Mash would be seen huddling around trashcan bonfires in mid-winter.
- Dark Angel featured this in parts of the city.
- The Babylon 5 episode "Chrysalis" has a scene with, in the background, a group of homeless people huddled around a futuristic equivalent, what looks like a large orange light bulb in a frame the shape and size of an oil drum.
- Inexplicably built in Community episode Modern Warfare, even though the game has only been going for a few hours at this point.
- Hunter. A drug dealer is murdered by a Professional Killer, and at the end of the episode Hunter finds the man's fellow dealers commemorating his memory around a burning trashcan. They explain that this was the corner where the deceased made his first drug buy. Truth in Television as they're a handy way of disposing of evidence if you're busted.
- On Black Books, Bernard and Manny burn the children's book they write in one of these.
- In the Portlandia episode "Brunch Village", there is an extremely long line to get into a popular restaurant. Those who cut in line and are sent all the way to the back of it find themselves in a sketchy neighborhood, which has trashcan bonfires, as well as an intimidating gang led by Tim Robbins.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Vengeance Factor". While searching for the Gatherers, the Enterprise crew explores a facility with several barrels full of burning material.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement Fearful Passages, adventure "The Iron Ghost". There's one in the 1934 Southern Pacific car.
- Neverwhere RPG. Half-Lifers in The Arches burn cardboard in oil drums for heat.
- The Blood Of Heroes RPG. In the solo adventure, the first scene is the hero and some street people huddled around a fire in a rusty metal drum.
- Gaia Online has this as an item.
- In Deus Ex, J.C. Denton approaches a group of homeless refugees clustered around an Trashcan Bonfire.
- In the online game Kingdom of Loathing, the Hobopolis dungeon is strewn with Trashcan Bonfires.
- Max Payne has several of these. Of course, you get the option to shoot the hobos
- Blazing oil drums make several appearances in the Donkey Kong series, starting from the original arcade game.
- Left 4 Dead has one, and it hurts if you jump into it (not to mention the enemies if they're stupid-enough to jump on top of it).
- Fallout 3 has Trashcan Bonfires all over the place to indicate 'hey, this direction is important'. Earlier titles in the series just use them as decoration in town areas whose light may or may not be helpful in combat at night.
- Seen as early as Doom 2. The flaming barrels were the only ones that didn't explode.
- In The Godfather: The Game, these act as Exploding Barrels. Somehow.
- Can be seen in Mafia, in the mission where you have to pick up the racing car.
- Duke Nukem 3D has these. You can shoot them and start a fire on the ground.
- You see these here and there in the first two stages of Madworld; the game refers to them as "man heaters". Because you can kill a guy by shoving them in there. If you do, announcer Kreese Kreely commends Jack for adding fuel to the fire so it can keep more hobos warm for the day.
- Saints Row 2 will have homeless people huddled around these in the city's poor neighborhoods.
- Possible in Dwarf Fortress, if a fire-safe bin containing items made of certain flammable materials (specifically, ones that do not take heat damage) is exposed to sufficiently high temperatures, the items inside will burn for the better part of a year and cannot be extinguished, even if dumped into water. Such "dwarven fire" has been successfully used to boil away the entire ocean (and drastically reduce the frame rate), though it's also been proposed as a method for killing invaders (and likely ignite nearby objects or passing Dwarves).
- These are good places to recruit fighters for your team in Freedom Fighters, especially as the game progress towards winter (New York can be pretty cold.)
- Seen in many levels in Kingpin: Life of Crime.
- These can be found in various places in Postal 3.
- Can be found in several locations in Rage.
- These sometimes appear in levels of Monster Madness.
- Bioshock Infinite
- Many of these can be found in the Shantytown area, where they provide not only heat but necessary light.
- In the Burial at Sea DLC, there are several of these in the area where you find the Old Man Winter plasmid in Episode Two.
- In Dark Fall: Lost Souls, you must extinguish one of these to obtain an item from its ashes.
- In Rhiannon: Curse of the Four Branches, the Fire set of symbolic items must be burned in one of these.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has a few of these that float around in mid-air thanks to A Glitch in the Matrix, along with a few non-floating ones.
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has a lot of them what with hobos being the most common source of blood.
- These turn up in Achewood during the Great Outdoor Fight arc to highlight a bleak moment.
- Questionable Content brings us the concept of Emotional Hobocore, which is all about Trashcan Bonfires and cheap hooch.
- In The Glass Scientists, people in Bethnal Green have a trashcan fire to keep warm — at least until the werewolf bursts through the way..
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Shown in the flashback where Wheeler gets his fire ring-it pops out of the burning trashcan in a fireball that then fades away.
- In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode "Cold Slither", when Cobra Commander goes to a bad part of town to meet a loan shark, several homeless men can be seen warming their hands over one.
- In Futurama episode "Assie Come Home" there's a couple of aliens huddled around a burning trashcan, which itself is a robot warming itself to another Trashcan Bonfire.
- In Tuff Puppy episode "Share-A-Lair" T.U.F.F. was hanging around a barrel campfire after nearly all the buildings for a base got destroyed.