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Big Dam Plot

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The Giant Wall of Watery Doom is a pretty scary threat. Consider that a dam needs to contain an outright gigantic amount of water, a bit of Monumental Battle, or worse, threat of Monumental Damage can be VERY scary. In the United States, the prototypical dam for this to happen at is Hoover Dam, thanks to The Eiffel Tower Effect and the big potential for Scenery Porn.

That's how you get a Disaster Movie with a Big Dam Plot, where a dam is threatened with destruction or actually destroyed in whole or part. Though a Monumental Damage threat can be very effective indeed, sometimes the attackers do manage to destroy it, or it just happens kind of randomly. In any case, you don't want to stay around.

The outdoor equivalent of the Exploding Fish Tanks. See Seal the Breach for attempts to fix damages to the dam.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Detective Conan movie Detective Conan Film 15: Quarter of Silence, a jewel thief had hidden his booty in a village, and while he was imprisoned for the theft, the village was bought out by the government and a dam erected. So, when he gets out of prison, he blows up the dam, which threatens the new town further down the valley. Conan, in desperation, creates an avalanche to divert the disastrous deluge.
  • The whole Yuda arc in Fist of the North Star ends in a dam being destroyed, as Yuda intends to use the dam's water to ensure Rei cannot use his techniques while they fight. This plan works well up until Kenshiro plugs the dam up, allowing Rei to get the upper hand and defeat Yuda.
  • This trope, and the conflict that accompanies it, makes up a large part of Higurashi: When They Cry's backstory. At first, it's mentioned as your typical 'humble country folk band together to fight the oppressive government' plot, but later reveals show it...wasn't as simple as all that. Even years later, the actions people took during that conflict strongly influence the present day.
  • Monster Rancher has The Courageous Seven face this problem in the episode of the same name: Evil Hares see them entering a town and decide to destroy the dam, wiping out the whole place just to take care of them.
  • One of the earlier episodes of The☆Ultraman has a monster called Red Smogy attacking a dam, with the climatic final battle being Ultraman Joneus fending off the monster while preventing the dam's destruction.

    Comic Books 

    Film — Animation 
  • In Flushed Away, Toad's plan is to open the floodgates protecting the rat's sewer city so that it gets washed away during The World Cup halftime.
  • Frozen II: King Runeard built a dam for the Northuldra, which has built up enough water that were it to break, much of Arendelle would be washed away. The climax involves Elsa and Anna learning that King Runeard built it in order to weaken the inhabitants of Northuldra before subduing them under his rule. Anna, realizing this crime has to be righted and that this is why the spirits have made people evacuate Arendelle, provokes the Earth Giants into destroying the dam that her grandfather built, and Elsa freezes the wave of water before it floods Arendelle.
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown: The melting glacier creates a natural dam as most of the ice melts, leaving a thin wall. The animals try to get to the other end of the valley before it bursts.
  • In Osmosis Jones, the dam is in Frank's nose and it holds not water but mucus. A pollen allergy, compounded by Thrax's sabotage, causes it to break.
  • In Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Black Adam destroys a dam during his fight with Superman and Captain Marvel. Superman easily stops the water with his Arctic Breath.
  • Just right after the Snuggly Duckling scene (and hence the song "I've Got a Dream") from Tangled, Rapunzel and Flynn can actually be seen escaping a collapsing aqueduct when the latter is spotted by the palace guards outside the Snuggly Duckling.
  • Thumbelina has a breaking dam as a plot point; Thumbelina must warn the prince about the dam or else, the prairie will be in a flood and the Little People will drown probably alongside many animals.
  • Team America: World Police uses the Panama Canal to the same effect.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation, Buster and Babs' subplot is kicked off when an escalating water fight ends with Babs intentionally opening a dam and flooding Acme Acres.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • One of the key action scenes in the historical epic, The 14 Amazons, has the heroes purposely destroying a dam in order to wipe out a legion of Mongol reinforcements, preventing them from ambushing their army. Naturally, the loyal sergeant who is The Big Guy among the heroes have to pull of a Heroic Sacrifice, staying behind at the dam to fulfil the mission.
  • The Dambusters, as you'd expect, but then this is the dramatisation of Operation Chastise.
  • Dante's Peak also has a dam destruction at some point.
  • One of the major set pieces in Earthquake is the destruction of a dam.
  • In The Emerald Forest, the natives plan to destroy the dam that's going to flood their forest by singing to the frogs. Kinda makes sense in context... the American hero thinks their beliefs are quaint and plans to use dynamite instead. The dynamite fails, but the dam is brought down in a storm anyway. Did the frogs do it? You decide.
  • Evan Almighty's climax has a dam breaking to justify the construction of the ark.
  • Force 10 from Navarone: In this Film of the Book (and the original book), a dam is destroyed in order to wash away a bridge and prevent Nazi troops from wiping out a group of Yugoslavian Partisans.
  • The duel at the climax of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man ends in a draw when one of the nearby villagers blows up a dam to drown out Castle Frankenstein and kill the monsters.
  • The threat of a bursting dam - which will drown the entire town - if one of the elements that adds urgency to the plot of Hard Rain.
  • Destroying the Della Norte Dam in Italy is the main objective in the film Hornets' Nest. It blows up real good.
  • The piranha in Killer Fish become a bigger threat after the dam that they were behind of bursts due to a hurricane, and they end up in a larger body of water.
  • The Ents destroy a dam to wash away Isengard in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
  • Once Upon a Spy: After his test fires on the aircraft carrier and the missile silos, Marcus Valorium intends the first real target for his Shrink Ray to be the Hoover Dam: causing widespread flooding and spreading panic and disorder.
  • Our Man Flint. The Galaxy organization uses its Weather-Control Machine to destroy a dam.
  • In San Andreas, an earthquake hits the Hoover Dam, and it goes down.
  • The fight between the Hebrews and the Elamites in Sodom and Gomorrah climaxes when the Hebrews voluntarily destroy the dam they have built across the Jordan to wash their attackers away with a Giant Wall of Watery Doom.
  • The destruction of a Hoover lookalike dam figures prominently in Superman: The Movie .
  • X2: X-Men United ends up with the destruction of the power station that houses the bad guy's anti-mutant operation.

  • In Animorphs, the heroes supersize a beaver dam so that they can unleash a Giant Wall of Watery Doom on attacking Yeerks.
  • Given all the attention given to Count Ugo Carnifex's aqueduct, and the unstable nature of its construction, a reader can make a shrewd guess about how the Young Bond novel Blood Fever is going to end.
  • The 1982 disaster novel The Dam by Robert Byrne.
  • In Death Or Glory, Ciaphas Cain finds his ramshackle band of survivors pinned in a canyon between a hydroelectric dam and an Ork army. After discovering a tunnel through a nearby mountain to the other side, he decides to blow the dam to cover his retreat. A few decades later, he wants to try the same trick against a Chaos army, but is prevented from doing so by Necrons teleporting in, stealing the Artifact of Doom and shutting down all the machines. We still get a climatic battle on top of the dam though.
  • In The Eve of April 20, a neo-Nazi organisation holds a rally beneath a dam as a suitably imposing backdrop before launching a coup, which is foiled when the protagonist blows not the dam, but the cliffs of the lake behind it, causing water to displace over the dam and wash away the Day of the Jackboot before it happens.
  • The Lord of the Rings has the inverse of this trope: the Ents build a dam to temporarily reroute the river into Isengard.
  • The first chapter of the second book in The Tale Of Magic focuses on how the Western Kingdom’s dam has a leak and the Fairy Council fixing it. It’s a very quick fix until Lucy uses her magical speciality for trouble to break the entire dam. Five out of the six Fairy Council use all their effort to repair the dam, the only one excluded being Lucy for...obvious reasons.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The bomber is aiming at bringing down Glen Canyon Dam.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Aftermath: Population Zero: The Glen Canyon Dam, which is the 2nd largest dam on the Colorado River, collapses after 200 years due to erosion, creating a massive surge of water that rushes down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and eventually reaches the still standing Hoover Dam 300 miles downriver. However, despite also having spent two centuries without any human maintenance, it has suffered far less erosion than it's counterpart and is still strong enough to withstand the crushing forces of the flood impacting it. But due to how massive the surge is, the Hoover Dam is ultimately overtopped within seconds. A massive cascade of water pours over the dam and continues downstream. Wiping out everything in it's path, while also swamping numerous other eroding and degrading dams on it's way before eventually reaching the Gulf of California. Causing the Colorado River for the first time in centuries to reach the ocean as a flood rather than a small stream.
  • Casey Jones: In "Night Run," a heavy storm stops the Cannonball at Valley Junction for a layover to switch over onto a safer stretch of track. However, the storm causes the nearby dam to overflow and eventually collapse, right as the train is waiting to evacuate the population.
  • Doctor Who: In "Before the Flood", the Doctor is trapped in a fake town beneath a dam that knows is going to break and flood the valley. He ultimately ends up blowing open the dam and causing the flood himself in order to kill the Fisher King.
  • Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot: The episode "Destroy the Dam" as the title characters needing to bust open a dam to flood the water to deactivate the Monster of the Week.
  • In an episode of Return of Ultraman, the monster Magnedon crashes into a dam, breaking it and threatening the livelihood of a small village downstream. Ultraman Jack arrives to fight the monster, the first thing he did being turning his Ultra Bracelet into an impromptu plug to seal the dam, and then fight Magnedon.
  • Scorpion: In "Dam Breakthrough", Scorpion receives a mission on Christmas Eve from the DWP at the Augustine Power Station on Mount Baldy, which may go critical after a 50-foot pine tree uproots and crushes the building's wall. If the transformer gets flooded and shorts, 100,000 people will lose power on Christmas Day. After they re-boot the computer and engineer the roof, they notice a mudslide spilling into the reservoir has put a crack in the nearby dam's wall following torrential rains. Now, they have to stop the dam from breaking and wiping out the town down in the valley by repairing it.

    Video Games 
  • In Anno 2070, the first campaign missions revolve around the aftermath of the disastrous destruction of a hydroelectric power plant built into a giant dam.
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 includes a multiplayer map involving control of a village beneath a dam. If the Americans win, they blow it up.
  • In City of Heroes, the Positron Task Force revolves around the Clockwork, Circle of Thorns, and Vahzilok all hatching plots involving the city dam in Faultline. The finale of the second partnote  – which awards the Dam Hero badge – has all three plans coming together simultaneously.
  • Cloud Cutter have a level where you're tasked with destroying a fortified dam. Said dam acts like a boss itself, having a thick life-bar you must deplete by shooting selected areas while fending off turrets and enemy jets, and if you win the dam then collapses and wipes out an enemy base downstream. Cue next stage.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals has one of these once per single-player campaign, and on two out of three occasions the player-controlled faction are the ones tasked with blowing it up. One suspects it was a royal pain to do in-engine, so the developers wanted to get their time and money's worth. It did look pretty cool though.
  • In the first Commandos game, an early mission has you take out a dam.
  • In Crysis 3, the third mission is to sabotage and destroy a dam operated by C.E.L.L..
  • Dinosaurs For Hire have a level where you fight a dinosaurian abomination monster attacking the Hoover Dam, to prevent said monster from collapsing it. The entire fight have you climbing on platforms around the structure and shooting away as the monster climbs on the sides.
  • Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas has a series of levels set at Hoover Dam where McClane has to disarm a virus bomb.
  • Duke Nukem Forever has this in the penultimate level, appropriately titled "Blowin' The Dam".
  • Emergency! and Emergency! 4 both include dam break scenarios. In the second case, the dam is already broken and a town is completely flooded when your crews get there.
  • F/A-18 Hornet and its Korea expansion pack both have missions where you have to nuke a dam, namely "Pull the Plug" in the former and "Water Fall" in the latter.
  • Fallout: New Vegas features the Hoover Dam as a major resource, since it's one of the only sources of power in the Mojave Wasteland. The end of the game involves a huge battle for control of the dam. Your character has to either defend it or take it over depending on which faction they're aligned with, and it's possible to destroy the dam or at least render it unusable.
  • Ganbare Goemon 3: Shishijurokube no Karakuri Manji Gatame: One segment of the game has the team using the Impact mecha to destroy one, for the purpose of un-flooding/opening the town in the northeast as well as allowing access to a healing waterfall and one of the life-extension cats.
  • One of the missions in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent has the protagonist searching and activating a seismic bomb in the Hoover Dam.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • In Grand Theft Auto 2, there's a mission where you must put bombs into a dam.
    • One of the missions in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas features CJ doing a parachute jump onto a dam similar to the Hoover Dam and plant bombs on the power generators in preparation for the heist on Caligula's Casino.
  • In Phantasy Star II, after Climatrol blows up, water starts pumping into the central lake of Motavia, forcing Rolf and his party to travel to four dams and use their central consoles to unlock them and prevent the lake from flooding over.
  • Speedy Dave's arc in Mega Man Battle Network 2 involves a dam going to be destroyed by explosives.
  • Syphon Filter Logan's Shadow has this in the final mission.
  • Stage 2 of the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game has you attempting to stop the Foot Clan from blowing up a dam. It is the only stage in the game where you are required to swim, you're on a time limit that will give you a Non Standard Game Over if you fail to find and disarm all eight bombs before time runs out (which you'll be hard-pressed to do without a map), and you have to do it while avoiding electric traps and electric seaweed that want to kill you. Yeah. It's That One Level for a reason.
  • Unreal II: The Awakening has an interesting twist on this plot. Rather than protect a dam from suffering this trope, you are supposed to invoke this trope and destroy an enemy dam on Severnaya.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: The mission "Deluge" has XCOM battling the aliens atop a heavily damaged dam, over a transport vehicle containing a "weapon" that turns out to be Annette Durand, a human with powerful latent psionic abilities. In addition to the threat posed by the aliens, there is a timer counting down the number of turns until the dam becomes too unstable for the mission to continue, though there are several spillway valves that XCOM can activate to take pressure off the dam and increase the timer.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in The Amazing World of Gumball, where an evil plot to blow up Elmore's dam is foiled by the fact that Elmore doesn't have a dam.
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Jet" revolves around the titular character trying to destroy a dam so that the resulting flood will wipe out the valley and kill the Fire Nation soldiers occupying a village. Surprisingly, despite Aang and Katara's best efforts they fail to stop Jet, and the dam is successfully bombed. Sokka, expecting that halting the destruction might fail, instead got the village to evacuate to safety instead.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: Episode 16 resolves around Boo-Boom, his animal friends, and a local story teller stopping the Germans from blowing up a dam.
  • Class of the Titans' second episode ("Chaos 102", part of the three-episode special) has the heroes fighting at the city dam. It's not clear whether the dam is ever actually threatened, though.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy becomes evil thanks to a wish with some poor Exact Words, and plans to use a volcano to destroy the Dimmsdale Dam, causing a flood that would destroy the makeup factory. Apparently, everyone is so ugly without makeup (especially the men) that this would collapse everyone's social life, and thus Dimmsdale would cease to be, the flood and lava flow notwithstanding. Luckily, the same Exact Words change him back to normal before it's too late.
  • The Grojband episode "Six Strings of Evil" involved this, even though Corey smashed the evil guitar with help from his fellow bandmates and Trina's Once an Episode Diary Mode, it didn't end well for the dam.
  • Inverted in Inspector Gadget. MAD creates a dam so that it can sell water to Metro City at ridiculously inflated prices, and Gadget has to break MAD's dam and bring water back to the city.
  • Looney Tunes: In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Wet Hare", villain Blaque Jacques Shellaque dams the stream that feeds the waterfall Bugs is using to shower. Bugs keeps destroying the dam and Jacques keeps rebuilding it, until Bugs builds a dam of his own. Jacques blows it up, but Bugs has built a series of dams for him to destroy, leading up to the Grand Cooler Dam. In an inversion of this trope, Jacques' cannon doesn't destroy it; instead, the cannonball bounces back and knocks Jacques into a waiting police wagon.
  • Seen in the "Mega X" episode of the Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) cartoon.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Mysterious Mare Do Well," a burst dam threatens to destroy Ponyville.
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Tree Man of Arborea", the tree man destroys a dam in his insatiable thirst for water, forcing Superman to find a way of stopping the flood before it reaches the town below the dam.
  • The villain's plot in Scooby-Doo: Camp Scare involves dynamiting a dam to get to a Buried Treasure in a Sunken City.
  • The Simpsons episode "Brother from Another Series" involves Sideshow Bob's brother trying to frame Bob for destroying a dam he's building.
  • The Smurfs (1981) have a dam protecting their village from flooding. Many stories have the dam breaking or threatening to break, like in Smurfette's initial storyline, where she is actually an agent of Gargamel's trying to flood the village.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
    • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Baby Sitter Jitters", Dr. Robotnik plans to destroy the Beaverville Dam to flood the valley and make room for Lake Robotnik Golf and Fishing Estates. His first attempt to destroy the dam is foiled by Sonic rebuilding it, and his second is foiled by a trio of baby beavers that Sonic and Tails were babysitting.
    • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Guilt Tripped", when Sonic and Tails finally get back home from the Gogoba Village, they find four messages on their answering machine, all of which are from Dr. Eggman, who tells them that he is planning to blow up the dam. However, because they spent a long time trying to get out of the Gogoba Village, Eggman thinks they're not showing up at all and promptly goes to their house to find out why.
  • In the South Park episode "Two Days Before the Day After Tommorow", Cartman and Stan crash a boat into the world's largest beaver dam protecting the town of Beaverton. People blame Global Warming for the flood.
  • Thunderbirds Are Go:
    • In "Power Play", the Mechanic takes over the Grand Sequoia Dam in North America and steals power for a project the Hood abandoned because he considered it to be too extreme. When the turbines are pushed to the limit the dam starts to break up. Scott crawls inside to rescue the trapped workers while Virgil, Alan and Gordon attempt to seal a growing crack.
    • In "Firebreak", after Thunderbird 2 runs out of fire-suppressant grenades battling a forest fire, Virgil goes up to a derelict reservoir to fill up his module for a conventional water-drop. When even that doesn't work, Alan suggests that they open the reservoir's dam. When Chief Carter points out that the flood doors are rusted shut, she then adds "that old dam should've been demolished years ago", which Virgil interprets as permission to do so, and after the pods are reconfigured accordingly (TB2 itself being needed to airlift a derelict Crablogger), the resulting tsunami extinguishes the entire forest in one go.
  • In the first episode of The Tick, the Idea Men hold the city dam for ransom with explosives.
  • Tom Goes to the Mayor episode "Bassfest" where the Mayor has the wonderful idea to hold a concert near a dam (excuse me, a darn). A poorly built dam. Tom realizes that the vibrations from the music will cause it to break and tries to warn everyone or at least have the concert moved. But if you're familiar with the gist of this show, you know how well that goes.
  • In the X-Men: Evolution episode "The Stuff of Heroes", the X-Men have to stop The Juggernaut from destroying a dam.

    Real Life 
  • Operation Chastise is the best-remembered wartime example of this. Although the actual damage and disruption was minor compared to the fire-bombing that came later in WW2, it provided an important morale booster to the British public. It also showcased the engineering abilities of Barnes Wallis, who designed the "bouncing bombs" used in the mission.
  • The Japanese I-400 class submarines (each of which could carry three seaplane torpedo bombers) were intended to destroy the outer locks of the Panama Canal, causing the canal (which is above sea level) to drain and become unusable for American warships. Later it was decided that torpedo attacks against dams and locks were unreliable, and that kamikaze attacks would be more successful, but by this point it was too late in the war to matter and the plan was cancelled.
  • In 1977, bombing dams was outlawed in the Geneva Convention "if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces from the works or installations and consequent severe losses among the civilian population".
  • In peace-time, various dam failures have occurred throughout history. The deadliest one was when the Banqiao and Shimantan Dams in China collapsed in 1975 due to excess rainfall from Typhoon Nina, killing over 170,000 people.