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Backseat Driver

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A literal version of the old phrase.

When a passenger gives constant advice or orders to the person behind the wheel. The Henpecked Husband's wife or mother-in-law will do this a LOT. The Logical Extreme is a passenger who actually grabs for car controls (usually the wheel). In Real Life, there are legal consequences for this.note 

The role can occasionally be played by the Guy in Back, reminding the Ace Pilot not to burn up all of their fuel, or warning him of enemies coming up on their six. Of course, this is part of his job, but too much implies a lack of trust between them, or a certain fresh inexperienced quality about the guy in back.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Robin (1993), Tim Drake has to grab the wheel and shove Ives' foot off the gas pedal after Drury Walker tries to carjack Ives and Ives goes into shock and floors it. Ives only comes back to himself sometime after Tim has the car parked. Tim was doing some lighthearted backseat driving before the attempted carjacking as Ives was driving incredibly slowly in an effort to protect his mom's car.
  • A severely injured and distressed Dwight McCarthy becomes one in the Sin City story A Dame To Kill For. Subverted in that Marv, the driver, takes his advice.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Car," Penny's mom gives her daughter continual running advice during the latter's disastrous first driving experience. Given how badly the girl does, it's more than justified. Mittens, who is stranded in the back seat, adds plenty of snark of her own.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Broadcast News, Jane gives specific, practically turn-by-turn directions to cabbies on a regular basis as part of her "need to be in control at all times"-ness.
  • Quite literally in Cannonball Run 2 when two of the characters participating go in a car with a very visible driver seat that has a orangutan suppose chauffeuring them. Turns out they're really driving the car from the backseat.
  • Driving Miss Daisy - Daisy starts off like this because she is angry about needing a chauffeur.
  • Independence Day has the space ship variant where Jeff Goldblum constantly shouts orders to Will Smith who tells him not to be a "side-seat driver".
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - Milton Berle's character has his mother-in law (Ethel Merman) taking this role to heart in a race to buried treasure. She bellows "We're the ones in the Imperial and we're in last place?" Later, she continues barking orders to different drivers in different vehicles.
  • Comedy example: The Naked Gun has Frank entering a vehicle asking them to Follow That Car... and it's a driving school car.
  • Pitch Black gives us "co-pilot" Owens. For pretty much all of his screen time, all he does is heap demands on Fry, bitch when she tries to take any action, and generally be an unhelpful noisemaker during an emergency.
  • A plane varient in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, where Polly and Joe argue on the best route through town during rush hour.
  • In Star Trek Beyond, Spock and McCoy hijack one of Krall's drone ships. McCoy, who has some experience piloting one, grabs the controls that are slightly above the main compartment, while Spock is busy with the communications equipment in the forward area. As Spock continues to give McCoy advice, the Doctor exclaims, "Damn backseat driver!", causing Spock to shut up about the piloting.
  • Serious example: Taken 2 has Bryan guiding his kidnapped daughter Kim by cellphone (in the car of her abductors) as he both checks the GPS on directions to the US Embassy and fires some shots into the air. Her responses regarding where the shots sound like they are coming from helps him to roughly triangulate her position.
  • Thor: The Dark World: Loki, of all people, is this to Thor:
    Loki: Don't hit the buttons, press them gently.
    Thor: [hitting the buttons harder] I am pressing them gently!
    Loki: Look, why don't you let me take over, I'm clearly the best pilot.
    Thor: Is that so? Of the two of us which one can actually fly?
    Loki: Now they're following us. [shots] Now they're firing at us!
    Thor: Yes, thank you for the commentary, Loki! It's not at all distracting!
  • Played with thrice in Tomorrow Never Dies:
    • Bond escapes the arms bazaar at the beginning by flying a fighter jet out, only to have a terrorist in the backseat try to strangle him. "Backseat driver" is literally the Bond One-Liner when he ejects the bad guy!
    • Needing a quick escape, Bond is forced to dive into the rear seat of his BMW and drive it from a cell phone screen. Fridge Horror ensues when one realizes, with the extent of the damage suffered to the BMW, Bond would be a dead man had he driven "properly" - and lampshaded with the soundtrack title.
    • Later, both he and Wei Lin are handcuffed together and must jointly ride a motorcycle, complete with bickering.

  • Animorphs: When Marco steals Cassie's dad's truck, Jake spends the entire trip yelling at him. For good reason.
    Jake: Do you hate trash cans? Is that it? Do you just HATE TRASH CANS?!!
    Marco: I can't drive with you screaming in my ear.
    Jake: You can't drive at all!
  • Rose Howard from Rain Reign corrects people who don't obey the traffic laws. She ends up getting kicked off the school bus because the driver doesn't use a directional, and Rose yells "Mrs. Ringwood, stop right now!" causing a minor traffic jam.
  • Averted in The Silkworm. Protagonist Cormoran Strike lets his pretty assistant drive on the Motorway because of his prosthetic lower leg; when they encounter a dangerous collision close up, he tries to emergency-coach her. It turns out that Robin has taken advanced driving classes and handles the danger far better than he ever could have.

    Live Action TV 
  • Happens all the time on The Amazing Race when teams are tasked with driving themselves. As a bonus, because of the way the camera crew positions themselves in the car, the non-driving teammate is always positioned directly behind the driver.
  • Very prevalent and always Deconstructed in Canada's Worst Driver. At times, the nominator needs more rehab than the driver does.
  • Perhaps the epitome of a Henpecked Husband, Richard Bucket (pronounced "Bouquet") suffers this from his wife in Keeping Up Appearances.
    Hyacinth: Mind the pedestrian, Richard.
    Richard: (panicked and braking) Where?!
    Hyacinth: On the pavement, Richard.
    • As this is a British show, "the pavement" means the sidewalk.
    • Hyacinth has also been known to reach over and honk the horn. At a policeman.
  • Red Dwarf: In "Dimension Jump", when Kryten is flying Starbug, Rimmer, who has seated himself next to him, insists on trying to boss him around and micromanage the flight. When it becomes clear that all the orders he is giving are unnecessary, Rimmer — being Rimmer — becomes annoyed at Kryten for being a frontseat driver.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Game At Clay City", Mr. Conklin appoints himself navigator and gives a steady stream of orders to Miss Brooks.
  • A sketch on the British radio show Week Ending featured the car itself as this. The Austin Maestro featured a voice synthesiser to issue warnings to the driver - a supposedly amazingly futuristic innovation which was universally derided by the public. The sketch portrayed the synthesiser as a Backseat Driver which continually nagged and hassled the driver, annoying and distracting him so much that he ended up wrecking the car.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Gorkamorka has a skill called Backseat Driver. When a character with the skill is in a vehicle, the driver can use their stats instead of his own for some driving checks.

    Video Games 
  • During the Sequence 9 mission A Bitter End in Assassin's Creed III, Haythan Kenway cridicizes Connor for the way he steers the Aquila and urges him to hurry up and catch up with Benjamin Church.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony has Luis do jobs for various VIPs hanging around at the club. One of them is a drunken celebrity, Cloe Parker, who makes sexual advances on Luis by grabbing the wheel.

  • Outsider: In ch. 2, as a Loroi shuttle is trying to outrun Umiak torpedoes closing in on it, the pilot snaps a bit at the main character as he's asking questions while she's concentrating on piloting.
    This shuttle does not fly from the rear seat, enzin!

    Western Animation 
  • In a Mother's Day episode of Bobby's World, Bobby is asked to come up at an amusement park to give a speech about what he loves about his mother. He starts giving out a lot of personal information about his family including that his dad said she could drive a car from the backseat. She was not happy to hear about that.
  • DuckTales (1987), "Super DuckTales": When Launchpad is attempting to start the U.S.S. Jumpstart, both Scrooge and GizmoDuck yell instructions at him from their chairs. Launchpad dismissively calls them "backseat astronauts."
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "Spaced Out" proves this trope applies to spaceships as well.
  • In an early episode of Kim Possible, Mr Barkin is driving several students in the school's Driver's Ed car, who keep commenting on his driving.
    Don't distract the driver!
  • Molly of Denali: Parodied/referenced in "Wise Raven and Old Crow." Tooey is feeding milk to Bonky the baby moose, and Trini keeps telling him what to do without actually doing anything herself. Tooey tells her to quit "backseat milking."
  • The Owl House: In "King's Tide", Hunter keeps walking around Alador while he's flying the airship and messing with the controls, insinuating he may be able to get them to the Head faster if he took the wheel. This sparks a loud argument between the two, quickly escalating when Gus and Amity start yelling as well. Their Palismen calm everyone down by offering them food, and after Hunter has eaten, Alador lets him take the helm so he can eat something himself.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode, "The Big Question", while chasing down a motorcycle, Rocko is given this treatment by Heffer, Filburt and a third unknown person outside of Rocko's driver window. Rocko tells Heffer and Filburt "if you don't like the way I'm driving, then drive yourself"; so they do.
  • Done quite literally in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "That's Snow Ghost", while being chased by the titular Snow Ghost, Scooby and Shaggy jump in a snowmobile with Shaggy driving and Scoob behind him. Seeing the Snow Ghost gaining on them, Scooby reaches over Shaggy's shoulder to take the wheel.
  • Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons sometimes acts like this. For example, from "Homer the Heretic"...
    Lisa: Give it a little more gas. No, no, that's too much. You know what I think would help?
    Lisa: ...Nothing.
  • Master Splinter became quite a backseat driver in the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, regularly commenting on the driver's actions.
  • The Tex Avery cartoon "Car of Tomorrow" features a car (currently the page image) specifically built for Backseat Drivers... with the steering wheel and controls literally in the backseat!

    Real Life 
  • Implied — some vehicles, notably the Toyota Yaris, have the instrument cluster mounted in the center of the dashboard, between the driver and front passenger. While there's no proof that any manufacturer's implementation of this design is to explicitly support backseat drivers (though it does simplify manufacturing left and right hand drive models), there's no proof that it isn't either.
  • The valid case of the trope is a driving instructor to assist new drivers. Their vehicles are equipped with passenger-side controls in case the inexperienced driver is about to make a collision. Similarly, many airplanes are designed with this trope in mind, with two sets of pilot controls so that the crew can divide the work of flying the aircraft between them, or to aid in instruction of newer pilots. In the case of tandem-seat aircraft, the Guy in Back can literally be a Back Seat Driver if he takes the controls from the guy in front.
    • And some types of attack helicopters, such as the AH-64 Apache, are designed so the pilot sits in the back seat (elevated so he can see over the top of his Guy In Front), leaving the Gunner up front with an unobstructed view of his targets.
    • Another valid version is a backseat (or passenger seat) navigator who handles the map/directions and cues the driver to upcoming turns and exits so the driver can focus on the immediate surroundings.
  • A tank is typically arranged with the commander in the turret, and the driver in the hull in front of the turret. The commander, of course, determines where the tank should be driven to. And before intercoms, communication was maintained by kicking the driver's shoulders.
  • In a very literal form of this trope, cars like the page image did exist early on in automotive history, such as the Woods Spider and the Dudgeon Steam Wagon (look where the controls are).
  • A twist on this idea is "backseat gaming", which tends to crop up in livestreams and Let's Play videos, and involves giving unsolicited advice or directions to the player (or more severely, ordering them around). While everyone has their own thresholds, the general rule of thumb is that you should only offer help if the player specifically asks for it; otherwise you're just going to piss off the player, and more than likely incur the wrath of the moderators.
  • Have you dreamed you were the backseat driver? Relax. It's a very, very common recurring dream. There are many folk explanations for this dream, but none have yet earned scientific validation, so take any explanation or interpretation with a grain of salt.
  • Many two-seat aircraft (including biplanes and fighter jets) often have the cockpit controls on the second seat.