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Bookshelf Dominoes

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In the library or archive, there are always stacks upon stacks of books, and so many bookcases in so many rows. The fight begins, and a bookcase falls... into its neighbor, which falls onto its neighbor, and causes a chain reaction that levels the whole library.

See also: Disaster Dominoes, the Super-Trope.

Note: This is not possible in Real Life, as bookcases are both designed to be very stable, and when loaded with books, are very heavy. Not to mention, most library bookcases are anchored.


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  • In an ad for Australian insurance company AAMI, a stripper jumping out of a cake at a party supplies store sets one of these off. The last shelf hits electrical wiring, setting the store on fire...
  • An ad for some laxative brand showed a librarian who had taken "the leading brand" laxative, causing her to double over with intestinal cramps, knocking over a bunch of shelves. The ad then goes on to say that if she had taken the brand they were advertising, she would have gotten the relief she needed without the cramping, and none of that would have happened.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Case Closed, they set one up on purpose in order to nail a perp.
  • This happens momentarily in Negima! Magister Negi Magi when Nodoka came under the effects of the Love Potion Negi had just drunk. A large section of the library ends up toppled over.
  • Happens in an early chapter of Yu-Gi-Oh!, when Yugi tries to debunk a classmate claiming to be psychic. Said classmate predicts that Yugi would be crushed by "countless letters", and tries to make this prediction come true by pushing a bookshelf onto Yugi.

    Film — Animation 
  • In the beginning of DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, Launchpad's airplane landing knocked down two columns causing a chain reaction from both sides.
  • An Extremely Goofy Movie: During the scene where Goofy apologizes to Sylvia. He stuck his head in a bookshelf to talk to her, and when he tries to extricate himself, this happens.
  • Turned into a sight gag in Disney's Hercules. While attempting to catch a discus, Hercules crashes into a column, which tips over and falls into its neighbor, causing a chain reaction to go all the way around the agora.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film version of Angels & Demons, Robert Langdon intentionally topples the shelves in the Vatican Archives in an attempt to escape the hermetically sealed (and locked) library, which is quickly running out of breathable air. The glass is reinforced and bulletproof, however, so it fails to work... initially. Also takes much longer because the shelf is indeed anchored to the floor.
  • Done deliberately in Foul Play. Tony is in a shootout with Stiltskin, the lead hitman, in a wine cellar. After trading shots, Tony realizes the shelves of wine bottles are lined up, and he knocks the first one down, causing the others to follow suit. Then he runs out while the Stiltskin is distracted and opens fire. It's not clear whether Tony got Stiltskin with his shot or Stiltskin was crushed by the falling shelf, but either way he's just as dead.
  • In Geo Storm, this happens to actual buildings in Hong Kong as a heat wave strikes and the underground gas lines explode.
  • In Giant, Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) does this to Jett Rink (James Dean)'s wine cellar.
  • Done intentionally in GoldenEye, forcing the mooks to go downstairs and shoot through the floor.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Indy kicks over the rows of shelves in the college archives, causing the shelves to topple over on top of Giant Mook Hauke.
  • Jury Duty used this to signal the security guard, only to knock him out.
  • The Mummy Trilogy:
    • In the first movie, Evey's introduction has her doing this by accident because she's a klutz.
    • This is echoed in The Mummy Returns, where the child of the main characters causes a series of pillars in an ancient temple to smash into each other, one by one. They can hardly be mad at him, though, as the last pillar broke open the wall to the sealed room where they were "drinking from the Nile".
  • In Three O'Clock High, a fight in a library leads to entire bookshelves getting knocked down like dominoes.
  • Happens in Tremors in a grocery store. This time, it's the monster's fault, forcing the heroes to escape onto the roof. In this case, the heroine happens to be standing on top of the shelves, and is flung out the window by their collapse!
  • Done in Zombieland in the souvenir shop.

  • Occurs in the book Angels & Demons so Robert Langdon can break out of the sealed chambers in the Vatican Archives.
  • Freddy is beaten this way in Freddy Kruegers Tales Of Terror Twice Burned, being pinned under knocked-over bookshelves while the library is burning to the ground.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has a variation of this, where the shelves in question do not contain books, but glass receptacles of spoken and recorded prophecies. This doesn't make the shelves themselves any lighter however, and it is implied one of the Death Eaters unlucky enough to be caught underneath the whole collapse is so badly injured that the others, though all skilled and wand-bearing adult wizards, would rather leave him to his fate than try to heal him, as it would take too much of their time away from the pursuit of Harry and his friends.
  • In the climax of the Stephen King novella The Library Policeman, during the battle with the parasitic Ardelia, one character manages to topple all the library bookshelves in an attempt to stop her advance.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, the Spelling Bee and Humbug start brawling in the Word Market of Dictionopolis, and knock down all the dealers' stalls this way.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: The Academy's library, according to Book 1, it looked:
    like a children's game of dominoes. All it would take was one push and it would all come tumbling down. From the look of things, this may have happened in the past, on more than one occasion.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used in a sketch in The Armstrong and Miller Show, a British comedy clip show.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Happens in the episode when there is an earthquake.
    • And again later on during a large fight, with Willow getting crushed underneath them and being put in a coma.
  • Happens in the Doctor Who two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" when the Doctor, River Song, and the archeological team are running from the Vashta Nerada.
  • A David Letterman Top Ten list, "Top Ten Ways to Get Kicked Out of a Bookstore"; has as its number one method, "Knock over the bookshelves like giant dominoes."
  • Subverted in the "Bull in a China Shop" episode of MythBusters. Bulls have very sensitive ears and will be careful to avoid crashing ceramics.
  • Happens in The Office in the episode "Boys and Girls" when Michael accidentally drives the warehouse forklift into a large metal storage rack causing the other racks to topple over like dominoes.

    Video Games 
  • In the second Manor level of the original Max Payne, triggering a landmine on one of the massive archive shelves makes them fall like this, allowing Max to climb up to the otherwise inaccessible catwalk.


    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: In The Three Little Witches:
    Palantir and Abra reached up and applied all their might into keeping the shelf from falling. Clover scrambled to her feet and pushed. Together, they shoved the tall bookshelf back-
    -so far back that the bookcase tipped over the other way, hitting the bookcase on the other side, tipping IT over, creating a domino effect. Fortunately, it only tipped over three more bookcases, but from where the Three Little Witches stood, it was a scene of horrific devastation.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In The Mystery, The Bet and The Society.
  • Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil: The episode "If Books Could Kill" has Kick escaping from an evil librarian. The last shelf misses her when it falls against a statue, but then the books fall and bury her.
  • In Megas XLR, a flashback shows Coop doing this while trying to get a book off a high shelf. The same episode ends with the same thing happening to an alien ringworld library.
  • Monster Buster Club: It happens in the episode "Comic Book Heroes", with enormous piles of comics toppling each other at the end of the fight against a giant robot clown.
  • Happened in Rugrats when Tommy wanders around the high school library when Didi brought him to class.
  • SheZow: In "She Phat", SheZow's super-heavy footsteps cause this to happen to the shelves full of delicate china in the delicate china warehouse.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "Unsound Smurfs", the Smurflings cause this to happen when they look through the Noisemaker's sounds to find the one that would be sufficient enough to break the magical sound barrier cast over the entire Smurf Village.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Duel of the Droids" Ahsoka knocks over several shelves in a storage room by pushing the first into its neighbor while escaping from Grievous.
  • El Tigre: causes it in his mother's library because the bad guys duck his Rocket Punch. The falling bookcases end up getting them in the end.
  • Happened in the first arc of W.I.T.C.H..
  • Young Justice (2010): Red Inferno does this in an attempt to trap Robin and Artemis as the two heroes flee through the base library in "Homefront". They can't just jump out of the way as they're trying to open a Bookcase Passage to escape.

     Real Life 
  • In 1978, when architecture student Diane Hartley reported a dangerous flaw in the stilted design of Manhattan's Citicorp Center (now 601 Lexington), civil engineers calculated that if a windstorm struck the building at the right angle, it could topple over sideways, potentially striking adjacent buildings and setting off a domino-effect mass collapse. Ultimately averted via emergency repairs to reinforce the skyscraper's structural supports, although a close call with Hurricane Ella nearly kicked off this trope on a catastrophic scale in the middle of Midtown.


Video Example(s):


Three O'Clock High

With one punch, Buddy not knocks out Craig and much of the library.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

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Main / BookshelfDominoes

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