Crop circles are large geometric patterns that appear in fields of crops, usually corn (because cornfields are creepy), and are created by flattening the stalks in such a way that each individual one remains undamaged. They are usually presented as being paranormal or supernatural in origin, with the most common explanation being that they were created by extraterrestrials, although the reasons behind why aliens visiting Earth would want to do such a thing varies. This area is a staple of publications such as Fortean Times.
In fiction, the question of who's going to pay for the vandalized crops never seems to arise. Not to be confused with crop rotation.
Compare/contrast Aliens Steal Cattle, a much more comedic way for aliens to attack a farm, First Contact Farmer, where farmers are the first people aliens meet and Circle of Standing Stones, another circular formation that is quite often attributed to otherworldly origins.
- In one of the Jay Bush and Duke commercials for Bush's Baked Beans, Jay Bush and his dog Duke are walking through a cornfield. Jay gives his usual spiel about the secret family recipe and how he's only shared it with Duke, but Duke would never tell. They then come upon a crop circle. "You don't think... UFOs?" wonders Jay as the camera zooms out to reveal that the "crop circles" actually form the message "SECRET FAMILY RECIPE FOR SALE CONTACT DUKE". "Yeah. That's it. UFOs," agrees Duke.
- According to Tony from Hetalia: Axis Powers, they're the result of aliens playing a Photoshop-esque game.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Josuke and Okuyasu see a crop circle while walking to school and, to their surprise, find a young man sleeping under the cut grass who claims to be an alien and says he's responsible for the circle.
- Pokémon: The Series: Parodied in "Wish Upon a Star Shape" where Ken and Mary of the Pokemon Mystery Club investigate crop circles in a field and discover they were actually caused by a Snorlax rolling around in its sleep.
- In a Duck comic, Donald Duck and Daisy visit Ireland and discover crop circles are created by dancing fairies.
- One of The X-Files comics (Published in TV Guide) has Mulder and Scully go to a Crop Circle in progress, discovering a kid with a board and a flashlight flattening the stalks. The kid gets away, but advises that the farmer is "A sick old freak". The crop circles on the farmer's land are around graves of people he killed. The boy making the circles was a ghost of one of his victims.
- In Wild's End the survivors wander into a gigantic circular crop circle.
- In The Bird Feeder #55, "Grass Circles," Gramps is blamed for some grass circles created by Exotic.
- In a story in Penthouse Comix, an Occult Detective investigates reports of crop circles, only to discover they are being manufactured by a local farmer to attract tourists to the area so he can charge them to visit his land and view the circles.
- In a Zits strip, Pierce thinks aliens are leaving crop circles in his hair in an attempt to communicate with him. It turns out just to be bed head.
- In Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, when Jumbaa excuse himself from breakfast, Nani warns him not to make any more of these. Jumbaa moans that other aliens get to do it.
- The intelligent ants of Phase IV did this while it was still an Unbuilt Trope.
- The movie Signs features a few of these, as it's a movie about aliens.
- Parodied in Scary Movie 3. The aliens forgo tracing intricate symbols and simply draw a huge arrow with the words "ATTACK HERE". The aliens are not, in fact, here to invade, but to stop the Sadako Expy who lives underneath the farmhouse pointed to by the arrow.
- In Waiting for Guffman, a UFO expert uses the presence of a crop circle to prove that aliens visited Blaine, Missouri in the early twentieth century. He also notes that it's always the same temperature inside the circle: "67 degrees with a 40% chance of rain."
- Arly Hanks: In Martians in Maggody, the appearance of crop circles in moonshiner Raz Buchanon's field draws a horde of UFO fanatics to the little Arkansas town, eager to photograph (for $10 a head, payable to a grinning Raz) this "inexplicable" phenomenon.
- The Collegium Chronicles: In Foundation, Mags encounters a group of prankster Trainees. Dallen tells him that their previous pranks included creating crop circles at nearby farms.
- In one of the books in the Elemental Masters series, it's mentioned that while a Muggle can't see any of the Elementals, they can see the effects, among which are crop circles.
- According to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, crop circles are caused by Mooncalfs doing their mating dance in fields of wheat.
- In Lords and Ladies (of the Discworld universe), the impending visitation of the elves causes crop circles to spontaneously generate in everything from an herb garden to a handful of seeds sprouting in a damp cloth and even Archchancellor Ridcully's "crop" of hair. Probably a reference to Fairy Rings, mixed with the ufology trope for some Alien Fair Folk fun.
- In James Herbert's Once, crop circles are said to have been initially caused by magnetic interference from UFOs; then, for laughs, by pixies, and eventually, humans.
- Crop circles appear in the Past Doctor Adventures novel The Algebra of Ice, except they're not circles, since the conceptual aliens attempting to break through are based on rational mathematical concepts. The Doctor is able to put a Spanner in the Works by adding an actual circle to their nice straight lines, which puts the irrational pi into the equations.
- In Stolen Skies, crop circles are genuine phenomena created by the same aliens responsible for UFO sightings — at least, the ones that aren't being faked by the disinformation division of US military intelligence to confuse the issue. The nature of UFOs and the reason why they create crop circles (or equivalents in areas with no crops) when they touch Earth is central to the story.
- In the Temps short story "Playing Safe" by Marcus Rowland, a paranorm working for the secret service jokes to his boss that he tells his old DPR friends he's with the Department of Agriculture, in the crop circle division. After he completely screws up his mission, he is indeed put on crop circle investigations ... and told it's no good turning up after the event, he needs to camp out in fields until he sees one happen.
- Dark Skies: they build a crop circle to try to lure the aliens into landing, so they could capture them. (Trivia: this episode came out very shortly after the guys who claimed to have started the crop circle phenomenon revealed themselves as hoaxers.)
- In the Doctor Who episode "Let's Kill Hitler", Amy and Rory contact the Doctor by making a crop circle of his name when he wasn't answering his phone. Which does summon the Doctor with an exasperated "Seriously?!" while holding up an aerial picture in the following day's newspaper. Rory studies it and points out a line they didn't make and look up to see a car coming right at them.
- The BBC One ident "Lawn Mowers" (one of the Circles series) has some Stepford Suburbia housewives mowing their lawns; an overhead shot shows they've created an alien symbol in the grass. Interestingly, it was one of the idents interrupted by the Doctor in pre-publicity for "The Day of the Doctor", and the symbol does look vaguely Gallifreyan.
- In an episode of Drop the Dead Donkey Damien is in the newsroom when Dave takes a phone call, covers the mouthpiece with his hand and shouts across to him, "It's the farmer on the phone, wants to know how big you want him to make the crop circles."
- An episode of Eureka has several people watch a bad B-movie about an alien invasion. Shortly after that, one of them disappears only to be found in field surrounded by crop circles. It's quickly discovered that he used a log to make the circle, having been affected by a "psycho-beam" while watching the movie.
- In the episode "Vanished" of NCIS the team investigates crop circles and discovers one was caused by a helicopter and the others by the murderers attempting to cover up their crime.
- The Neighbors: Everyone in Hidden Hills, a perfect suburban community, is an alien. Jackie makes one of these Crop Circles things in a field when she is upset.
- Supernatural "Clap Your Hands If You Believe...": Sam and Dean investigate a series of people disappearing in flashes of light and while examining a crop circle left at one of the abduction sites, Dean himself is taken. The Fair Folk are behind the abductions and are encouraging the idea of aliens to divert suspicion from themselves.
- The X-Files:
- In episode "Genderbender", there were human-looking aliens residing on Earth in a community that resembled Amish lifestyle with sect-like vibe. When they leave at the end of the episode, Mulder and Scully come to a large Crop Circle in the field. It's implied it's a print of their spaceship.
- "all things": Agent Mulder plans a trip to England to investigate a case of highly complex formations of Crop Circles that keep appearing in a pattern. Agent Scully is of course not interested in tracking down some sneaky farmers who happened to ace geometry in high school.
- Kaamelott has them offscreen when Arthur finds out his wife and mother-in-law went picnicking in one (the day after they did the same in a Circle of Standing Stones and broke out in tattoo-like markings). Strangely, Arthur and Léodagan appear aware of what causes them.
Arthur and Leodagan: You sat right in the middle of a crop circle!
Seli: A what circle?
Guenièvre: We thought the peasants made it to look pretty.
Léodagan: Of course! It's not like they have anything better to do than ruin crops by making big circles in the middle.
Seli: Well where'd they come from, the sky?
Arthur: Look, it's simple, tomorrow you build a stone wall around every field of wheat that has a crop circle.
- Appear in an episode of Midsomer Murders, with the murder victims found with blackened fingers and wounds around their kidneys. The circles were made by the local UFO believer who also dumped an accidentally-electrocuted thief in the middle, starting the episode. He just wanted other people to accept the existence of aliens (didn't stop him from ending up in one as a corpse).
- Mystery Hunters: Araya investigates what has been causing some of these to be formed in England and whether aliens have anything to do with them though it is shown that it isn't hard for humans to make one. Araya even assists in making one.
- Crop circles were discussed on QI, bringing in experts and even commissioning them to do a piece in the shape of the show's logo.
- Taken: In "Acid Tests", Owen Crawford, his son Eric and Marty Erickson investigate a crop circle in a cornfield in eastern Indiana as the colonel believes that it may be one of a series of landing strips that the aliens placed around the world in preparation for their invasion. He stakes his career on it and asks Richard Nixon to personally inspect the site. Nixon instead sends Toby Woodruff of the Department of Defense and Ted Olsen of the NSA. While observing the crop circle in a helicopter, Crawford and the others see another in the vicinity. It is in the shape of a peace symbol and the word "Howdy" written beside it. As a result, Crawford's career is ruined. He later learns that it was a prank orchestrated by Tom, a leading debunker, in revenge for Crawford breaking his mother Sally's heart and kidnapping his younger half-brother Jacob in 1959.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun, episode Fun with Dick and Janet: Part 2, has Tommy cover for the alien landing spot, by confessing to a crop circle prank where he ran laps with a flaming 2x4 behind him.
- One episode of Kingdom (2007) features a very elaborate crop circle appearing in a Norfolk field, which draws attention from local sci-fi fans who hold an impromptu sci-fi con on the spot. It was drawn by one fan's son with a golf cart in an attempt to get his father's attention near the anniversary of his mother's death, and the farmer drew a second one to keep the con going.
- Wellington Paranormal: The officers find a crop circle made by Plant Aliens in the "Cop Circles" episode.
Minogue: So, uh, we appear to have come across a large circle within some crops. We're not quite sure what to call it.
- On Resident Alien, crop circles are alien emojis. When Harry Vanderspeigle believes that the Alpha Draconians are on Earth, he sends them rude messages using crop circles until The Greys set him straight that they're the ones who are on Earth.
- Beyond Paradise (2023): Episode four of season one starts with lights in the sky and a man's body discovered at the centre of a newly created crop circle. A local farmer is deliberately creating them to draw tourists. The light in the sky was his drone.
- The outer cover◊ of Led Zeppelin's Box Set shows the shadow of a zeppelin passing over an elaborate set of crop circles, although on closer inspection the "cornfield" in which the circles have been cut looks suspiciously like a carpet.
- Korn's "concert video", The Happening, (included in the deluxe version of The Path Of Totality) has the band performing live in a crop circle in the middle of a field. They did it as a homage to Pink Floyd's Live At Pompeii, as they are playing live but there is no audience.
- In the 1990’s radio spoof ‘’The X Fools’’, Agent Smoulder and Sulky discover the crop circles are being created by a secret conspiracy of English nerds armed with rulers and string who call themselves Circle Jerks. They solve this problem by introducing them to the internet instead.
- In another episode, the agents rush over to a famous actor's house because they think he's being abducted by aliens, but he denies everything. Sulky realies he's lying from the crop circle burnt into his shag carpet.
- Crop Circles: Escape From Planet 3 is about a flying saucer creating crop circles and stealing cattle.
- In Spore, during the Space Stage, you can use Crop Circles to "communicate" with more primitive (meaning "not in space yet") species. There doesn't seem to be any real game effect, but they look cool.
- Crop circles can appear in farm fields in SimCity 3000 when UFO attacks occur.
- In Universe at War, Hierarchy Glyph Carvers can create crop circles by carving out glyphs in the ground (not necessarily in corn crops). These are actually "bar codes" which the orbiting motherships scan and drop/teleport in the appropriate buildings/walkers. If you see a crop circle in your area, chances are that a nuclear powered Humongous Mecha with lots of dakka is going to drop in and start blowing up stuff.
- Appears as an Easter egg in Metal Gear Solid 4.
- In The Feeble Files creating crop circles is the job of the protagonist at the beginning of the story.
- In The Simpsons Hit & Run, a crop circle designed like Bart Simpson can be found in a tomato field in levels 4 and 7. In a cutscene, Abe also describes seeing a crop circle shaped like a planet with an antenna, and Marge came to the conclusion that the planet with an antenna matches the design of Buzz Cola.
- In Touhou Project, crop circles (or sunflower circles as the case may be) serves as meeting spots for the fairies high council during emergencies.
- In Stellaris, crop circles really are of alien origin. They are also a prank. As in, bored Observation Teams watching from orbit can decide to mess with the primitives.
- Very simplistic crop circles (a big circle connected to a little one by a stick) connote landing pads for Crypto's Flying Saucer in Destroy All Humans!. They only appear in one or two maps.
- In the first episode of Bounty Hamster, two people are pondering what created a crop circle, and conclude that they may never know the answer. Then thanks to our heroes, a circular space station crashes into the cropfield, leaving another circle.
- Grojband: In the episode "Space Jammin'", the title band uses a crop harvester to clear out a cornfield for a concert, only for the machine to malfunction and run rampant due to sabotage. When a Flying Saucer promptly drops out of the sky, it's revealed Grojband accidentally created a crop circle that was a challenge to the aliens for a Battle of the Bands.
- One episode of Invader Zim has Dib job-shadowing a paranormal investigator who takes him out to investigate some crop circles. Dib quickly points out that they're caused by a cow which is rolling back and forth across the field.
- In the "Teed Off" episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Heffer is working as a groundskeeper in a golf course and he keeps making crop circles with his lawn mower. At the end of the episode, aliens find the circles and one of them asks "Who keeps writing this stuff?"
- The Alliance in Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends stages these in their efforts to keep people thinking the Roswell Conspiracy is real.
- On the "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" episode of South Park, a report on alien sightings features a crop circle formation in the exact likeness of Cartman, who has been implanted with an alien probe.
Cartman: Hey! That looks just like... Tom Selleck.
- The Pixar Short "Unidentified Flying Mater" has Mater create crop circles shaped like tires.
- Spongebob Squarepants:
- In the episode "Sandy's Rocket", one of the points Spongebob brings up about the existence of aliens is "Those mysterious circles that pop up in kelp fields overnight" and then freaks out when he notices a circle in the sand (which he made while pacing around Sandy) "AHH! There's one now!"
- In "Farmer Bob", while helping Farmer Jenkins harvest his kelp patch, Patrick accidentally causes the tractor to go out of control. Later on, it's revealed that the tractor had made crop circles that translated to aliens as an invitation to Jenkins' barnyard hoedown. Patrick reveals he has a license to make crop circles.
- Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet had some of these show up in one episode, apparently as a side effect of some Mysteron technology. Complete with some visual effects for their spontaneous creation.
- Inside Job (2021): Cognito Inc. makes these for unclear purposes (they might not even know). In the second episode, JR declares that due to budget cuts, they're rolling back from the artsy patterns to just easy circles.
- Big City Greens: After Cricket destroys the garden after another one of his shenanigans, he lies about destroying it, saying that it was a crop circle set up by aliens. Alice and Tilly are on board with the theory, but Bill is still rather skeptical, and spends the rest of the episode trying to prove that Cricket is the one who laid it there.
- Crop circles are usually made by farmers or others out to prank people. They take a board with a string, and stand on the board, moving it by the string, so that it flattens the cornstalks without breaking them. Or something like that. Note that crop circles' frequency of appearance closely follows the change in value of the crops. They have also caused several major law suits when the circle creator was not the farmer - these things frequently destroy tens of thousands of dollars worth of crops per glyph.
- Crop circle pranksters can fall victim to Poe's Law since many of the more ardent UFO conspiracy believers decide that the circle makers must have been possessed by the alien designers of the circles. Or that the people with boards and string are really part of The Conspiracy covering up the real crop circles that were actually created by aliens.
- At first, crop circles were invariably just that: simple circles. These didn't require UFO believers to come up with any particular motive for aliens to messing around with cornfields; they could and did simply suggest it was the result of a Flying Saucer landing on the field. But after a pair of British pranksters admitted in 1991 that they'd been creating crop circles since 1978,note new crop circles started getting increasingly more elaborate. Which ironically makes it far less plausible that aliens would be responsible, since why would anybody bother to travel to another planet just to flatten cornfields into elaborate shapes? Well unless aliens are themselves just interstellar pranksters, coming here to troll the ignorant humans.
- In Tasmania and Australia, it's been found that wallabies were found as the culprit for a string of crop circles springing up. Turns out, when wallabies gorge themselves in the local poppy fields (grown legally as a medicinal crop), they get high and hop around in circles.
- Snow circles are a seasonal variation on crop circles.