Why do cars have horns? In Real Life, to alert other drivers of danger, or to let them know of the car's presence if they're not looking. However, in fiction, the horn's main purpose is to announce that traffic has stopped; a traffic jam in fiction will inevitably resound with the noise of dozens of car horns, being honked as if the drivers expect the car in front of them to just floor it into the back of the next car.
Related to Percussive Therapy. A driver enveloped in traffic that's crawling along or at a standstill can't get out of there, nor change lanes, nor reverse course, nor anything really. His sole recourse is to lay on the horn, as if this signal of impatience will somehow unsnarl the obstacle. Though drivers can vent their anger and frustration this way, it significantly increases stress in other road users and onlookers. Also, the image of cars crawling silently along isn't very interesting for the audience, so adding the honking creates auditory involvement and makes for a less bland scene.
Usually, there is a law against this practice in Real Life, prohibiting drivers from sounding their horn in stationary traffic. (Despite this, frequently Truth in Television - which is why there are specific laws against it.)
See Also: Dead Man Honking and Honking Arriving Car for more tropes based around car horn sound effects. The Post-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam is when this trope is used to symbolize a disaster and a massive evacuation.
Big Honking Examples:
- In AKIRA, two tanks and a detachment of soldiers are blocking a road during Tetsuo's rampage. At first, the motorists stuck behind the roadblock are annoyed, honking their horns and shouting, until they see a helicopter crash in the intersection ahead.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, when DIO forcibly has Senator Phillips drives him around Egypt to hunt for the heroes, upon reaching a traffic jam, DIO orders Phillips to move onto the sidewalk packed with civilians while speeding up.
- An episode of the 90's Tamagotchi anime series Anime de Hakken!! Tamagotchi casts Mametchi in the role of a traffic cop who unwittingly interrupts the drivers he's supposed to directing twice - once during a lunch break, and once when he somehow decides it's a good idea to go to sleep for the night while he's still at the intersection - with both holdups resulting in a bunch of audible honks from the none-too-pleased Tamagotchis.
- Happy Heroes: Season 10 episode 3 begins with a traffic jam, complete with frustrated drivers honking their horns, being interrupted by one of Big M.'s monsters flipping all the vehicles into the air, followed by Smart S. saving a little girl from being smashed by one of said vehicles.
- A scene in The Incredibles shows Bob stuck in honking traffic on the way home from work.
- Inside Out: When the Andersens arrive at San Franciso, they get quickly inducted by the city's massive traffic jam. They move very slowly and all of the cars surrounding them are very horn-happy. Anger comments that the drivers are just his type of people.
- Several drivers impatiently honk their horns at the stalled traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge in Dreamworks' Monsters vs. Aliens. Although the bottleneck is caused by a fifty foot tall young woman engaged in combat with a colossal alien robot, leadfoot drivers nevertheless honk at them for the delay.
- The Cloverfield Paradox opens with a long line of cars waiting to get into a gas station. Michael Hamilton tells off his wife Ava for hitting the horn, as it won't get them moving and only encourages everyone else to do so (which they do).
- Brassed Off has a brief moment when there is a traffic jam heading into London, complete with car horns (loud enough to be heard above the background brass band), while the band player's bus sails past in the bus lane.
- Falling Down opens with one that serves as the Rage Breaking Point for its Villain Protagonist. He later encounters another one and blames it on overpaid, feather-bedding construction workers trying to justify their inflated budget, and successfully intimidates a worker into agreeing with him.
- Godzilla (2014): Naturally, once the MUTOs' rampage becomes a public-known national disaster, roads become packed with a Mid-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam. Made worse by the fact that the female MUTO emits an EMP sphere of influence that causes electronics to stop working. We’re treated to a shot of a crashed plane with safety slides deployed, sitting on top of a highway overpass, which is absolutely crowded with bumper-to-bumper cars, while the more intrepid drivers whose vehicles still work are cutting across the grass to try and avoid the jam, while car horns echo.
- The 1980's Made-for-TV Movie "The Great American Traffic Jam", also known as "Gridlock", follows a day in the lives of Los Angeles citizens trapped in a massive traffic jam (massive enough that port-a-potties need to be flown in by the National Guard, to "Ride of the Valkyries"). As expected, most scenes of the movie set on the highway have a constant background noise of people honking their car horns.
- Horse Feathers has Pinky (Harpo) taking a lunch break with his horse in the middle of a city street. A crescendo of car horns begins around him, a policeman comes up to write him a ticket, and Hilarity Ensues.
- The musical La La Land opens with everyone stuck in LA traffic and honking their horns. It's done subtly, since there's an upbeat Crowd Song to follow. However, after the Crowd Song is over, everyone gets into their cars and goes right back to honking at each other.
- Cartoon cars are inching along the approach road to the basketball arena in Space Jam, honking horns and bumping each other to make progress.
- In Bruce Almighty, Bruce seems to get stuck in a loud, honking traffic jam during his commute almost every day.
- Played for Drama in The Day Britain Stopped: the big honking traffic jam envelops the whole nation and is the cause of many disasters that ruin people's lives, and even get them killed, and on Christmas, too.
- Early in Weekend (1967), Villain Protagonists Roland and Corinne hit the road to visit Corinne's terminally ill father, and they get stuck in a traffic jam that goes on for several miles. Several drivers have become so bored with the wait that they have begun playing cards or chess, and there is a constant din of car horns.
- Lampshaded in the Able Team novel "Cairo Countdown", when a Cairo taxi driver notes how everyone's shouting abuse and honking their horns at a bus with a broken rear axle, as if that's somehow going to get the bus moving again.
- CSI: NY: In "Summer in the City", Mac Taylor - who should know better - is one of those honking his horn in the middle of stopped traffic blocking the way to a crime scene. He finally says, "Grab your kit, Hawkes. We're walking."
- In Keeping Up Appearances, car horns are heard when Hyacinth and Richard are in an immobile traffic jam on their way to the QE2.
- In the late 1980s novelty song "Car Phone" (a parody of C. W. McCall's "Convoy"), a yuppie executive sings about his car phone; traffic-jam horns honking can be heard periodically throughout.
- The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Traffic Jam" starts with a bunch of cars blowing their horns. The song itself is about the singer being caught in a traffic jam.
- "Expressway to Your Heart" by The Soul Survivors (1967) opens with honking horns, and brings them back for the chorus to go with the line "At five o'clock it's much too crowded".
- In Chapter 2 of Deltarune, to keep the player from wandering around where they don't need to, a traffic jam was made with much honking, along with some Musical Nods from Undertale.
- EarthBound (1994): Taking the bus to Fourside from Threed the first time has it being stopped by a traffic jam at Dusty Dunes Desert, requiring Ness and the others to take the long way around.
- During the first Laguna sequence in Final Fantasy VIII, you can go back out of the Galbadia Hotel before going up to Julia's room. If you do, you discover that Laguna's carelessly parking his vehicle in the middle of the street has resulted in a city-wide traffic jam, with sounds of honking playing constantly so long as you remain outside.
- Traffic jams in SimCopter feature this. Part of this is so the player will know how close they are to the traffic jam if they are not looking at the ground.
- In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "The Mobius 5000", Sonic enters the titular race to win the 10,000 Mobium grand prize and save the porcupine orphanage when Robotnik threatens to foreclose on a loan to it, with Robotnik's Race-Bots trying to stop him. When X-Moto is the only Race-Bot left, he and Sonic arrive at Casino Night Zone, where they get stuck behind a huge traffic jam. X-Moto gets past it by sprouting suction cups on his wheels and driving over the cars (as well as up a building), while Sonic uses a Special Stage post to warp past the traffic.
- The Animaniacs episode "Plane Pals" uses this trope, with a shot of airplanes honking because the runway has too much traffic appearing in the midst of the safety video everyone on the plane is required to watch.
- In Big City Greens episode "Green Greens", Bill, Tilly, and Gloria's trip to the recycling center gets halted by traffic.
- In The Flintstones, one episode has Fred, stuck in stationary bumper-to-bumper traffic, comment that the highway is "the world's biggest parking lot".
- The Jetsons: When George is stuck in a jam, the radio broadcast talks about moving to a different highway, which is clear of traffic. As they're in flying cars, he decides to fly his car straight over—and all of the other cars in the jam follow him to that highway too, causing it to become jammed instead. However, the drivers have stopped honking.
- The Johnny Bravo episode "The Day the Earth Didn't Move Around Too Much." has two lanes of traffic at a standstill, honking fervently. Then one driver decides that mindless honking solves nothing, and the standstill would make a fine opportunity for a nap. All other drivers concur until the entire motorcade is dozing quietly. Johnny comes along, sees a mass of cars not moving, nor honking, and interprets this as further proof that time has stopped for everyone but himself.
- Mamemo: One episode began with Mamemo and her green cow friend stuck in a road stuffed with cars that are honking all over the place.
- In the The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode, "Super Zeroes", Blossom takes on the identity of Liberty Belle, inspired by her favorite comic book superhero, Freedom Gal. When she tries to rush to Townsville to save it from a giant monster in the Freedom Mobile, she gets caught in a large traffic jam where every driver is honking their horn. This makes her arrive too late to stop the monster, and The Mayor reprimands her along with Bubbles and Buttercup for showing up late.
- The Simpsons:
- In "Itchy and Scratchy Land", Homer finds himself right in the middle of a traffic jam on his way to the titular amusement park. He tells his family, "I've got an ace up my sleeve"; the "ace" turns out to be... sounding the horn repeatedly.
- In "Two Bad Neighbors", Homer sounds his horn at former president George Bush (senior) when the latter is taking too long to order something from the drive-thru at Krusty Burger; Bush has his Secret Service agent disable Homer's horn.
- Stymied traffic seen by the Martian probe in What on Earth! begin honking, which brings a "worker" (caterpillar construction machinery) on the double. The "worker" chews up the obstructive mountains, and lays down more smooth roadway in mere seconds, alleviating the backlog, which quiets the honking.