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Black Helicopter

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"Unmarked helicopters
They said it was a weather balloon."
Soul Coughing, "Unmarked Helicopters"

The aliens are closing in, the terrorists are priming the warhead, the President's hijacked motorcade is arriving, or perhaps the loveable band of hackers is about to uncover the Government Conspiracy. Whatever the situation, The Men in Black are the first on the scene, and there's is only one way they can arrive: via a Black Helicopter.

Half Cool Plane, half Silent Runner, the Black Helicopter is to secret agents what the Batmobile is to Batman. Fast, quiet (in a way that real helicopters never are), stealthy, powerful, almost invisible and, of course, pitch-black, nothing screams cover-up quite like a black helicopter. Black Vans with radar dishes provide ground support, but aren't nearly as cool.

A somewhat dubious Truth in Television, as Black Helicopters are an ingredient of many real-life conspiracy theories. Possibly influenced by dark painted helicopters that get mistaken for black in poor lighting conditions while performing disappointingly mundane operations. Though it should be obvious, helicopters are actually very, very terrible at stealth. There is simply no way to make them completely quiet, they have next to zero endurance, they are slow, vulnerable, ruinously expensive, and restricted to low altitudesnote . Even the now-infamous super-secret SEAL Team Six choppers had slight noise reduction and were only cloaked to radar, and even that was imperfect. Military Plane-Spotters, take note.

In Real Life, if a helicopter was involved in sinister operations, it would probably not be painted black — to avoid the trope and avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hypnos from Digimon Tamers has black helicopters, though their effectiveness quickly fades against Mons.
  • The Ministry of Defense uses these in Ga-Rei -Zero- to move their Red Shirt Army about. Lampshaded by the MOE countermeasure team (who've been using Humvees thus far), who comment they're probably trying to show off. Until the final episode, in which the team gets stuck in traffic while moving to intercept Yomi and the SDF gives them a lift.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Section 9 use gray V-22 Type tiltrotors and smaller Hind-like helicopters, while the JSDF use transport helicopters and gunships, including A.I.-piloted Jigabachi AV helicopter (the most menacing in the series). They are designed to look like their namesakes — Jigabachi is the Japanese name for a type of mud-dauber wasp — the Jigabachi AV has a large gun pod that hangs beneath the rest of the helicopter and can swivel in any direction to unleash Death from Above. The most sinister aspect is that the A.I. pilots have gone rogue.note 
  • Team Rocket from Pokémon: The Series has several black helicopters, often used as Giovanni's transportation of choice (although the trio have used them to attack Ash and company on a few occasions).

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman has the Batcopter. It has the appropriate color scheme.note 
    • The last time Batman had a Batcopter in any other franchise or medium, it wasn't one of these, owing to Batman's comic book color schemes.
  • In Sin City: Hell And Back, the Big Bad has a black military helicopter which factors heavily in the climax.
  • Sheba, the black helicopter used to transport the Suicide Squad.
  • The 2010 Taskmaster miniseries references this trope with the Black Choppers, a motorcycle gang comprised exclusively of aliens doing the arcane bidding of an unrevealed conspiratorial organization.

    Films — Animated 
  • Cars 2: A black helicopter used by the Lemons is used to carry Finn McMissile away from the race in Italy with his magnet near the end as an attempt to prevent him from foiling their evil plans. The Lemon helicopter then flies McMissile to London and leaves him, Mater, and Holly Shiftwell to be crushed to death by the gears of a giant clock as the Lemons proceed to wreak havoc on the final race there.
  • In The Simpsons Movie, these are used by the EPA.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Air Force One begins with a black helicopter operation.
  • In Big Game, incidentally, the helicopter Hazar and his mooks hijack is pitch black. They're actually CIA operatives and part of a government conspiracy.
  • An obscure '90s Russian war movie called Black Shark features the Kamov KA-50. It is notable for giving the helicopter its now very common nickname. The movie is strange in way that the helicopter almost acts like a character itself, with its pilot never saying anything while flying it, blowing up Afghan drug dealer mercenaries, and it is painted completely black.
  • Blade is carried to a meeting with a vampire lord in Blade II by a black helicopter.
  • The titular machine in Blue Thunder is a dark blue helicopter with stealth capabilities, advanced surveillance equipment, and a really big freaking gun. The movie involves a Government Conspiracy centered around its use, and the hero ends up stealing it for the climactic aerial showdown.
  • Capricorn One uses this to creepy effect. OK, they're actually olive drab, but a matched set of Army Loaches (LOH-6 Cayuses) hunt the astronaut crew as they're trying to escape through the desert. You don't actually see much of the search other than the helicopters and their flight helmet-wearing pilots, so they end up being an abstract representation of the conspiracy. They fly and maneuver in a way that makes them seem alive and predatorial (pointing and looking with their "noses") and at one point a delirious astronaut sees them as Circling Vultures.
  • Conspiracy Theory has Jerry paranoid about (among other things) undetectable, silent, black CIA helicopters. At the end of the movie, it's revealed that it's one of his many paranoias that are true.
  • In Cypher, the legendary spy Sebastian Rooks designs and pilots a black helicopter.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, while Bane's minions cruise around in stolen and retooled Batmobiles, Batman zips around in a gunship prototype dubbed "The Bat".
  • The 1970 film Figures In A Landscape sees hapless protagonists MacConnachie and Ansell pursued by a black Aérospatiale Alouette, the motivations of its Faceless Goon occupants totally unknown. Similar to the later Capricorn One, the helicopter becomes an almost primal enemy for the heroes to overcome as they struggle to survive in the wilderness. This is especially true of MacConnachie, whose desire to kill the helicopter's pilots becomes an obsession and part of his Sanity Slippage.
    MacConnachie: [as the helicopter appears] Great... black... bat!
  • James Bond:
    • GoldenEye: A super-helicopter, immune to EMP effects, is hijacked and promptly used to steal the GoldenEye.
    • In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond is menaced by such a helicopter, and at one point he evades it by jumping over the spinning rotors in slow-motion with a motorcycle.
  • Minority Report: The scary black future helicopters/jump-jets used by the police, bordering on all-out Cool Plane.
  • MonsterVerse: Zig-zagged. Monarch tends to use black Osprey tiltrotors instead, which have a higher max altitude and speed, lower fuel usage, and higher weight capacity than helicopters, making them much more practical. However, Monarch’s military attachments use fighter jets, and in the first film, Drs. Serizawa and Graham arrive at the mine in the Philippines via a small blue-and-white helicopter. Furthermore, Helicopter Flyswatter antics that would normally occur in a Kaiju film get played out with the Ospreys or fighter jets instead. There is the exception of Kong: Skull Island, but those helicopters weren’t technically Monarch’s, they were on loan from the US military (and painted a sensible jungle green, as they were fresh from use in Vietnam). The only time aircraft that are both black and helicopters appear is a few during a scene in Godzilla (2014), flying in the distance around the Janjira Black Site.
  • Predator has Dutch and his team being inserted into the guerrillas' jungle hideout area by a genuine, CIA-owned UH-1N Huey, painted semigloss black. However, the two escorting Huey gunships, being owned by the local friendly government's army, are painted a more sensible jungle green. Averted in Predator 2 when The Men in Black use an all-silver Alouette helicopter, perhaps a visual reference to the silver thermal suits they wear to hunt the alien Predator.
  • The Batman Cold Open of The Soldier has the Heroes "R" Us squad, all dressed in black uniforms and berets, being picked up by a black helicopter along with the dead bodies of the terrorists they just killed. The whole scene runs on Rule of Cool, so no-one asks why a deniable government dirty tricks team are outfitted like Highly-Visible Ninja.
  • These Are the Damned ends with a British army helicopter (though not painted black) hovering over the boat used by the protagonists, patiently waiting for them to die of radiation poisoning, whereupon the boat will be sunk to preserve the Government Conspiracy they stumbled across.
  • Given the premise of They Live!, it would be almost more surprising if there weren't some of these. With fun bonus of alien helicopter sound silencers, no less.
  • Blackout from Transformers (2007) transforms into a Sikorsky MH-53 helicopter. The Sector 7 agency also has a few of these choppers, which are used to try and track down the Autobots and for prisoner transport.
  • Zero Dark Thirty recreates the stealth-variant Black Hawk helicopters for the Abottabad raid, though the models presumably had to be based off a little bit of guesswork, given that the actual design details are still classified. True to reality, they trade payload, performance, and armament in exchange for being nearly invisible on radar, though it's nearly a moot point when one crashes and the conventional CSAR helicopter is sent in.

  • American Gods: The valkyries manifest as black helicopters.
  • Area 51: Majic 12's covert ops, Nightscape, uses them when on their clandestine missions. It's justified as they do these at night (like their name implies).
  • In Debt of Honor, the Comanche is depicted like this: a helicopter so stealthy it can be used to assassinate major corporate figures in central Tokyo and get away none the wiser.
  • Late in Deception Point, the antagonists use an unmarked black Kiowa Warrior helicopter.
  • In the Heroes in Hell series, Achilles had picked up pilot training and flew a stealthy black helicopter loaded with spy gear and a 30mm chain gun on covert operations for, among others, Julius Caesar.
  • Futuretrack Five features a special police force known as Paramils who fly around in black psycopters, named because of the psycho-radar they carry, which allows them to monitor the mental states of the population and detect people via the presence of human brain patterns.
  • Played with in Jago, with white helicopters seen hovering at various times, and are speculated to be surveillance by the government or some sinister conspiracy. It turns out that they're part of a rock band's publicity stunt, and nothing to do with the supernatural goings-on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Airwolf was intended to be one of these, until its test pilot made off with it to become Heroes "R" Us. It's actually painted a very dark graynote  with a white belly.
  • Amerika has the United Nations Special Service Unit flying over the Invaded States of America in helicopters reused from the Blue Thunder TV series, except they're no longer blue.
  • House: House refuses to believe the guy who just asked for his services is really with the CIA until they step onto the roof and find a black helicopter waiting.
    CIA guy: It helps when you have props.
  • JAG: In the first-season episode "Sightings", Colombian drug smugglers use a helicopter equipped with lights and low-frequency emitters, appearing as a UFO, to scare away the locals from an abandoned navy base in Texas where they have an underground processing facility.
  • The Mentalist: Invoked in the "Black Helicopters" episode. While Jane is infiltrating an anti-government homestead commune, he has his FBI superiors fly an unmarked black helicopter over the commune to make the whole group paranoid as part of his plan sniff out a murderer that is hiding amongst them.
  • Parodied in Mystery Science Theater 3000, when one movie shows the hero being tailed by a private helicopter.
    Crow: It's one of those UN black helicopters, except... white and orange.
    Mike: Exactly what they would do!
  • The Nikita episode "Kill Jill" had the black helicopters turn out to be from a Division Cleanup Crew covering up the fact that the crashed airliner they were cleaning was running drugs.
  • In Oliver's Travels, one of the signs that Oliver and Diane are on the trail of a real conspiracy is that a black helicopter appears and starts shooting at them.
  • Martin Lloyd in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Point of No Return" believes in black helicopters, among other things. Ironically, this one of his conspiracy theories that is incorrect in the Stargate-verse — everything else is true, including The Men in Black, aliens, and even his belief that he is an alien. note 
  • Used on The X-Files in various episodes and in The X-Files: Fight the Future, as is appropriate for a series full of mysterious conspiracies.

  • Canadian artist Matthew Good has a song called "Black Helicopter" on his 2007 album Hospital Music.
  • The music video for Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." features a couple of helicopters chasing Noodle's floating island. In the video for "El Mañana" they catch up and bomb it to pieces, sending Noodle with a cloud of debris hurtling into a ravine.
  • Non-Phixion "Black Helicopters":
    "Open up your third eye, Black Helicopters in the sky"
  • The band Soul Coughing has a song called "Unmarked Helicopters" all about this trope. Appropriately enough, it first appeared on a soundtrack CD for The X-Files.
  • Mentioned in "Foil" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, along with such other conspiracy staples as The Illuminati, the New World Order, and the Moon-Landing Hoax.

  • Welcome to Night Vale features them as (probably) helicopters of the World Government, which are "not safe" for children to play around, for unspecified reasons. On the other hand, the Night Vale Sheriff's Secret Police have Blue helicopters, which "only occasionally" take children. Then there are the helicopters painted with murals of diving birds of prey. Nobody knows who owns these helicopters, and the Sheriff's Secret Police advises parents who see these helicopters to take their children home immediately and lock themselves in until a Secret Policeman leaves a carnation at the door. These helicopters — black, blue, and diving-bird-of-prey-painted — are probably the most "normal" thing in Night Vale.
    • And it turns out that the real threat comes from yellow helicopters... owned by Strexcorp Synernists, Inc..
    • Incidentally, the people with the diving-bird-of-prey-painted helicopters eventually did take all of Night Vale's children... but brought them back, essentially unharmed. When the owners of the yellow helicopters were accused of something nefarious, the (still unidentified) owners of the diving-bird-of-prey helicopters evinced disgust, and pointed out that they at least had returned the children.

  • L.O.U.G.H.B.O.R.O.U.G.H. from Nebulous maintain a fleet of black copters.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Conspiracy X: The National Defense Directorate AKA the Black Book has two types of black helicopter, their standard transport, the Raven Stealth Helicopter and the Ghost Surveillance Helicopter which handle their spying needs. Not only can they both fly silently, they have biomimetic sheaths that allow them to blend into the surroundings.
  • d20 Modern: One of the villainous organizations that appear on the "Menace Manual" has a bunch of these as transportation, coated with a radar-spoofing super-tech alloy that can change shape as necessary to become more aerodynamic or harden to provide better armor protection. When it's necessary to use less distinct choppers, they also have access to various Black Hawk helicopters.
  • Delta Green: Operated by the NRO Delta, appears in the end of the scenario Convergence.
  • In the GURPS Technomancer setting, the American government has mysterious, stealth black dragons.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, the black helicopters belong to the Technocracy. Many of them are magic, which explains how a helicopter can have stealth capabilities.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the Corvus Blackstar of the Deathwatch Space Marines, a militant arm of the Inquisiton's Ordo Xenos. Like many examples of this trope, it's stated to be both uncharacteristically agile and stealthy owing to its superior construction and small size. Unlike most examples however, it's armed to the teeth and capable of functioning both as an air superiority and air-to-ground support platform on top of being a troop transport for a full squad of some of the most elite of the Adeptus Astartes.

  • In Pokémon Live! Giovanni carries Professor Oak and Delia away by dangling them in cages from an (offscreen) helicopter.

    Video Games 
  • The protagonist of the Douglas Adams text adventure Bureaucracy doesn't encounter any black helicopters, but they're the topic of one of the Copy Protection questions you may be asked.
  • The Soviet army in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 fields Twinblades, commissar helicopters (used in the backstory to find and execute deserters) with self-reloading rocket barrages and machine guns. One of them tries to assassinate Premier Cherdenko, although he faked it to frame Krukov in a cutscene.
  • Deus Ex Universe:
    • The protagonist of Deus Ex gets ferried around in one, and there are references to others throughout the game. Amusingly, the stealth aspect does not work — an in-game newspaper article mentions sightings. Naturally, UNATCO use this as a reason for why they aren't real:
      Manderley: If black helicopters were really being used for "covert operations", then those responsible are doing a poor job of it.
    • Deus Ex: Invisible War gives the player the choice of being ferried around in either an AI controlled black helicopter or a conventionally piloted, black Harrier jump jet. While the Harrier pilot is Only in It for the Money, the AI in command of the chopper is on her own quest to find a mysterious "passenger" — JC Denton, the protagonist of the original game.
  • The villains in Far Cry use black V-22 Ospreys.
  • The Turks in Final Fantasy VII and its spinoffs travel around in black helicopters.
  • Appropriately, the Black Ops teams from Half-Life: Opposing Force use black AH-64 Apache helicopters. Cut content also shows a V-22 Osprey transport in black as well.
    • The Combine's Hunter-Choppers from Half-Life 2 are also black (really a variety of shades of grey) helicopters, except they are not stealthy and are dedicated attack helicopters.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, several black helicopters are used by The Men in Black in "Interdiction" to destroy the helicopter that transports Toreno's package.
  • Max is attacked by an unmarked black helicopter gunship during the final stages of Max Payne, which the Big Bad, Nicole Horne, tries to use to make her getaway. Max sends an antenna crashing down right on top of it, killing everyone inside.
  • The Russian Mafia in Mercenaries have an exceedingly rare helicopter that may show up once or twice, and is obviously a Ka-50 or Ka-52, much like the page image. You have to steal it from them/steal one back for them (after the NK seized it) for one mission.
  • The R-Shobu from the Metal Slug games. Modeled after the AH-64 Apache Chopper, it is the main attack helicopter of the Rebel Army. It attacks by dropping bombs at ground targets and deploying missiles against aerial targets. A red variant exist, called R Shobu MK II or R.R. Shobu, which is faster (naturally) and more powerful.
  • The black helicopters in Mirror's Edge serve the purpose of deploying Pirandello Krueger's Elite Mooks (which is as close as it gets to The Men in Black in the game) to wherever they are most likely to gun Faith down. Oh, and there's a Government Conspiracy, alright.
  • In The PK Girl, ROSA utilizes Black Helicopters for all of their cute-girl-with-superpowers-kidnapping plots. (Of which it is suggested there are many.)
  • Done with some twists in [PROTOTYPE]. What these helicopters lack in silence, they make up for with firepower; starting out with one Blackhawk that deploys a squad of fast-roping Marines every now and then, and eventually working up to three Black Apaches determined to send you to Missile Hell. However, they still evoke that cool paranoia factor whenever they show up.
    • A player can actually tell apart the Marine and Blackwatch vehicles (the latter of which are actually slightly tougher) from each other. Marine vehicles have a typical military tan-color, while Blackwatch's stuff is... well, black. So not only are there Black Helicopters, but also Black Tanks as well.
  • Conspiracy nut Boyd Cooper's level on Psychonauts is packed with black helicopters.
  • The Demonic Spiders of Spy Hunter.
  • StarCraft II: Fluff suggests that this was the idea behind the Banshee gunship, a fast, cloak-capable turbofan gunship built by The Empire to terrorize colonies who got funny ideas.
  • A black Apache helicopter, aptly named "Black Thunder", is a recurring Mid-Boss in the first Viewtiful Joe game.


    Web Original 
  • In lonelygirl15, black helicopters are used by the Order. Helicopters — not always black — also fly overhead in a number of episodes, often foreshadowing danger.
  • The Last Stage by NatOne Productions has a squad of Operatives arrive on scene at Seattle in silent helicopters after things go horribly wrong.
  • The Register made a regular feature of looking for black helicopters on Google Earth.
  • The TRUTH About Black Helicopters
  • Usenet has featured the newsgroup for years now.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "G-String Circus", when Deputy CIA Director Bullock finds out they need to spend their remaining budget immediately or face cutbacks, Stan's whole department immediately rolls out in black vans and black helicopters to the nearest strip club, XanaBoobs.
  • Their frequent use is lampshaded in Kim Possible:
    Ron: So, what are the chances that they're not after us?
    Kim: They're black helicopters, Ron. They're always after us.
  • Naturally, Dale Gribble in King of the Hill makes a mention of these after hearing a suspicious noise.
    Dale Gribble: Must be one of those new silent UN black helicopters. As you can hear, they're still working out the bugs.
  • The Metalocalypse black helicopter is sinister for other reasons.
  • South Park: Black helicopters appear in the background throughout the conspiracy-themed episode "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe".
    Rancher: What the hell was that?
    Officer Barbrady: That... that was just a pigeon.
  • In the third season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), the turtles manage to acquire a government helicopter belonging to a secret government agency and make it their own.
  • Transformers:
  • The dictatorial regime in TRON: Uprising has those. Paige crashes hers every time she pilots it.

    Real Life 
  • The man in this video is under the firm belief that a "rogue" helicopter is following him for reasons that are unclear but have something to do with the government... probably. Subverted in that this one is white for some reason.
  • Helicopters are said to routinely patrol the border of the fabled Area 51 military facility in the Nevada desert. Given that the area is one of the most fortified in the world, and home to some of the most secretive branches of the American military, it makes sense to have choppers patrolling the area to scare off anyone intent on snooping around on foot. Some claim the helicopters more or less harass you by flying low and stirring up dust.
  • The US Navy SEALs who took out Osama bin Laden apparently operated helicopters that while not exactly black, were designed with stealth capability, the tail section of one being shown ad nauseam on international news when the chopper crashed and the SEALs had to blow the rest of it up to keep it secret. The helicopter was apparently a heavily modified version of the UH-60 Blackhawk that was not known to exist outside of high-level military and government circles.
  • The US Department of Homeland Security operates black-painted helicopters. They are not very mysterious, being gloss black with a gold band, large Homeland Security markings, and a blue flashing light. They also have ones white and, of course, the Coast Guard.
  • The Quiet One, a "Hughes 500 Penetrator". Built in the 1970s with experimental noise reduction technology, these were used for at least one intelligence gathering mission in Vietnam. Of course they were not black but looked exactly like other civilian machines used by the cover company.
  • 23 such helicopters (identified as Boeing CH-47 Chinooks) were said to have surrounded a mysterious object that irradiated three civilians, in the Cash-Landrum Incident. Conspiracy theories about the sighting claim it was either an alien spaceship or a top-secret nuclear-powered aircraft.
  • In reality covert helicopters used domestically are simply unmarked with civilian paint jobs as having no markings would make it extremely distinctive. The NYPD is known to operate one.
  • Many aircraft used by the Russian Navy (VTOLs and helicopters, mostly) are painted matte black.

Dun-dudu-DUHN-Dun, Dun-dudu-DUHHN-DUN...
They said it was a weather balloon


Video Example(s):



Combat helicopters armed to the teeth with guns and rockets. Can haul troops or vehicles.

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