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Cut the Juice

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"I just took it out."

"Sometimes it's easier if you just turn off the power."
Chloe Sullivan, Smallville

Considering how much our society relies on computers and machinery, it makes sense that we have often considered the possible effects of such things being used against us. Thus, we have many stories where a computer runs rampant or a bomb is set to explode, or someone just built your average everyday doomsday machine.

But there's hope yet. Machines simply don't work unless they have a power supply. Thus, when in such a dangerous situation, even if there's no Big Red Button available for the hero's pushing pleasure, it is still possible for the hero to escape the predicament without a scratch.

All you have to do is unplug the thing. Simple as that.

Scenes in which characters Cut the Juice usually fall into one of three categories:

  1. Played straight. The plug is being guarded, and it is only through struggling or with the help of a scientific expert that the device can finally be shut down.
  2. Used as an anticlimax. After trying everything to stop the device, everyone is about to give in when the device suddenly shuts down. Cut to someone (often a Non-Action Guy) holding the plug (or, if he/she's a Deadpan Snarker, twirling the plug from the end of the cable, pocket-watch style, with one hand on his/her hip). Or the hero tripping over the cable for extra Rule of Funny. In this form, a version of Cutting the Knot as well as the juice.
  3. Dramatically ignored. You can tell that this one is coming when unplugging the device is one of the first options considered (especially if it has been introduced before as a "failsafe"). Simply put, the machine's power supply cannot be compromised so easily, especially if its inventors (or the AI itself) manages to reroute power, relocate its source, or program it to trigger a Dead Man's Switch. Incidentally, if you are not a hero and you are ever in this situation, run.

So really, this trope is used in just about any situation where it can be effective or dramatic. Now if only we could do the same thing with those pesky defective robots...

See also Have You Tried Rebooting?, It Won't Turn Off, Achilles' Power Cord, Cut Phone Lines. Compare Percussive Shutdown for a more bellicose deactivation method. Contrast Pull the Plug on the Title, when the Title Sequence involves plugging on/off the title.


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Played Straight

  • In an animated commercial for Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, the bumbling superheroes Apple and Cinnaman are menaced by a Mad Scientist with a giant vacuum cleaner. After the heroes are caught by the device's powerful suction, Cinnaman defeats the villain by unplugging it.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ishikawa uses this as an emergency countermeasure for a hacking attempt. Unable to stop a hacker and virus from taking over Section Nine's systems, he grabs a fire axe, pulls up a floor panel, and severs an electrical main. (Which also takes out Section Nine's power.)

    Comic Books 
  • MAD Magazine's satire of Star Wars: A New Hope (although then it was still just called Star Wars) featured this gag as the explanation for why Ben Kenobi's lightsaber went out just before Vader killed him.
  • Paperinik New Adventures:
    • Paperinik tries this against One when he believes he shows signs of going insane. Actually the "evidence" was planted by Two, who wanted his twin to be shut down while he has plenty of backup generators, as he gleefully informs Paperinik.
    • Also done with the Evronians in issue #0/3: they have trapped Paperinik and Xadhoom in an inescapable force field, but as the force field is fueled by Duckburg's power plant One is able to free them by hacking that and cutting the juice of the generator.
  • In the climax of the six-part Spider-Man story "Revenge of the Sinister Six", where the villains (including the titanic monster Gog) have broken into a military base with the controls to a Doomsday Device, when the Fantastic Four pulls a Big Damn Heroes entrance to back Spidey and some other heroes up. Doctor Octopus reaches the controls to the device and threatens to push "the button" if anyone comes near; then he sees that Reed has unplugged it. Cue Oh, Crap! from Ock, right before the Hulk pummels him.
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake is a rare example of a comic book hacker who knows to just cut the power when the security of his system is compromised by another hacker. He's not happy about shutting down the Batcomputer but he has done so.

    Fan Works 
  • Variation in pony.exe: one of the first things that the protagonist does when he thinks he has a virus is to unplug his internet connection, thinking someone is trying to contact him through the internet and access his files. He soon finds out that cutting the juice would most likely kill Twilight, so he sets the computer to sleep mode when he goes to sleep instead.
  • A non-computer example appears in Naruto: the Secret Songs of the Ninja when Jiraiya puts a delayed variant of the Five Elements Seal that Orochimaru used in canon to seal away the Kyuubi on Naruto's stomach that he can activate at will to cut the Kyuubi off from his chakra network if it looks like the demon fox is getting out of control. Jiraiya warns him that doing so will also disrupt Naruto's control over his own chakra as well, so it should only be done in battle if there's no other choice. He has to use it in chapter 10 to keep the Kyuubi from taking over his body altogether.
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. When a Tin-Can Robot tries to arrest them, Captain Proton and Buster Kincaid keep it busy while TuMok sneaks up behind it and yanks out its power cord.
    "Are you sure you've tried everything?"
    "Yes, Captain. I have reversed the polarity of the neutron flow, boosted the power to the containment fields, depolarized the coupling on the negative access, crossed the streams causing total protonic reversal, carried out a Level One diagnostic, reinitialized the dilithium matrix, conducted an inverse tachyon sweep with the forward deflector array__"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spider-Man 2 uses it twice. The first time it works; the second time subverts it, as the ongoing fusion that had previously required power had become self-sustaining.
  • In 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the salvage team sent to retrieve HAL take the precaution of installing a wire-cutting device on his power cord, just in case HAL tried to kill them as well. It is not used. They consider activating it at the climax of the plot, but decide against it. Later, Dr. Chandra reveals that he disabled it because he felt it would be unfair to HAL and he didn't believe it would be necessary. On the latter point, he is proved correct.
  • In Ocean's Thirteen, Danny Ocean proposes doing this to disable the Bank Casino's ultra high-tech player monitoring system. "Why don't we just kill the power?" Roman Nagel scoffs at the idea. "That could work... failing that, you could just kick the plug out of the socket." They figure out that they could shut it down temporarily, if only they could get a magnetron into the control room. So they get a magnetron into the control room.
  • In Die Hard, the FBI cuts all power to the building (and a big chunk of the surrounding area) during the hostage situation. This is exactly what the Big Bad has been relying on to deactivate the otherwise insurmountable final lock on the vault.
  • The Matrix Reloaded: In order to bypass security measures at the door to The Source, the group decides to shut off the power. By blowing up an entire nuclear powerplant. Even then, there is a contingency system which has to be shut off simultaneously from an entirely different place.
  • Transformers (2007) actually got this one right: when Blackout attacks the US Special Forces military base in Qatar and begins hacking into the main computer server, the commander grabs an emergency axe and severs the main power line, turning the machine off. This slows the Decepticons down considerably and forces them to find another way to finish getting the data they need (it doesn't stop Blackout from trashing the base, though).
  • In Ghostbusters, Walter Peck orders a utility worker to do this to the team's ghost containment unit. This turns out to be a really bad idea.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness. Bones and Carol Marcus are trying to defuse a photon torpedo when a hatch shuts on Bones' arm, trapping him in place, and a timer starts counting down. Carol frantically tries to defuse the weapon, but with only seconds left she resorts to yanking out the power core. Fortunately that works.
  • Averted in The Avengers which opens with S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters being evacuated because the Tesseract has turned itself on, which is universally regarded as Bad News.
    Nick Fury: I assume you've pulled the plug?
    Dr Selvig: She's an energy source! We turn off the power, she turns it back on.

  • Ben and Me: A variant; when Ben's demonstration of electricity starts to go awry and electrify some of the spectators, Ben starts forward to do something. However, Amos, realizing it's a bad idea to touch anything that might make them part of the circuit, nips him on the ear and tells him to stop the apprentice who's been turning the wheel instead. This solves the problem without putting anyone else in the electricity's way.
  • The 1997 version of the Dean Koontz novel Demon Seed plays with this. In this version, the story is told from the point-of-view of the evil A.I. The story abruptly ends in midsentence when it is powered down.
  • In The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi, Steve Seaborg shuts down the Obin BrainPal jammer by blowing up the power generator — and himself.
  • Mr. Lemoncello: To save Haley from being stuck on a conveyor belt, Akimi simply flips the emergency shutoff switch.
  • Star Trek: Federation: Data is taken over by the personality of 21st century dictator Adrik Thorsen, who uses the android's brute strength and resistance to damage to take over the Enterprise. He's finally dealt with when Wesley Crusher finds an opportunity to hit Data's main power switch.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory
    • Wolowitz gets a robotic hand stuck on his... well... gentleman parts. The guys are told not to turn it off because it's programmed as a screwdriver, and will start to twist. The nurse in the ER, not knowing this, simply turns off the computer and it releases.
    • Subversion (comedic, not dramatic) when Sheldon tries to blackmail Leonard into signing a new agreement by blackmailing him with the "self-destruct function" on his laptop (which will send an e-mail to Leonard's girlfriend's unapproving parents revealing their relationship). Leonard runs up and unplugs his computer, but... "It's a laptop with a full charge. What do you see in him?"
  • Doctor Who: In "The Daleks", the plan to defeat the Daleks revolves around trying to unplug their city's electricity supply. It works because the original Daleks drew their power from the floors of their city and had no internal power supply.
  • Person of Interest:
    • "Root Cause": Finch backtraces a hacker, then realizes it's a honeypot and they're attacking his systems. He could try to counter-hack her, but just kills the power, unplugs everything, destroys his phone, and tells Reese to do the same.
    • In season 4, a series of flashbacks show Finch experimenting with prototypes of the Machine. In one flashback, the fledgling A.I. tricks Nathan into providing it with his admin password, which it used to access Nathan's nearby laptop to try and escape into the real world. When Finch realized what was happening, he tried to erase the AI's program - but the A.I. overrode his deletion command. His next response was to simply pull the computer's plug out of the wall.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia: At one point, Friend Computer decides to learn more about Commies by simulating a Commie Complex, with memory-altered humans and a compnode presenting itself as "Tovarisch Computer". Naturally, actual Commies snuck in some malware to make it actually support the Commies, eventually driving Friend Computer to cut off its power before it could infect the other compnodes. (Kind of like self-lobotomy, but given the alternative...)

    Video Games 
  • If a GameCube, Wii or Wii U game freezes up with a loud noise, you'll have to unplug it because no buttons will work once that happens; not even the reset button.
  • Used in Treasure of the Rudra. You have to deactivate Sodom's Power source for the Moonlight or you will be unable to fight it, since it will repel you every time you enter the chamber it is in.
  • Used accidentally by Roger Wilco in the second Space Quest game. After being shrunk to a height of an inch by Big Bad Vohaul, he climbs into a nearby air duct and pushes a big red button marked "Stop". He then discovers that he just stopped Vohaul's life support system, killing the guy.
  • Used frequently in Half-Life 2 as a combat-puzzle mechanic.
  • Used in YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG, Alex realizes the only way to defeat Proto-Alex and Essentia is to disconnect their division that will make them whole and leave them vulnerable, allowing Alex's alternate self to destroy them for good.
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon gives us "Punch the nuclear reactor!"
  • In any game following a Command & Conquer Economy where power is a resource, targeting enemy power plants to cause a blackout in the enemy base is a valid tactic. But odds are the other player knows it too and protected his power plants.

    Web Original 
  • In Episode 6 of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, Red Guy unplugs the machine that controls the teachers. It apparently causes the world to reset.
    Red Guy: I wonder what will happen.

    Real Life 
  • Played completely straight by necessity, as part of averting No OSHA Compliance. That Big Red Button on the heavy machinery is, more often than not, a kill switch, which is designed to rapidly stop anything that machinery is currently doing. Especially important on things like forklifts or wood chippers, which can cause massive injury if one isn't careful.
  • As mentioned under Bavarian Fire Drill, one computer programmer was challenged by a colleague to bring down his shiny new server. After a few failed attempts, the guy just threw on an old jumpsuit, went to where his colleague worked, waltzed past the receptionist and through the entire office in order to simply unplug the server and carry it out with him.


  • Spoofed in an ad for an insurance company. Police cordon of a downtown block because there is a very large bomb in an office building. The only person near the bomb who could defuse it in time is a dumbfounded cleaning woman. Just as it looks like the bomb is going to blow up, the cleaning woman simply unplugs it. It is that simple and so is getting insurance from the company.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Right before Sonia's badass-looking giant robot can smash the main characters in the second season of Hayate the Combat Butler, it suddenly freezes. Cut to a puzzled Hinagiku standing next to an oversized outlet holding an equally oversized plug. (See the current page image.) Unfortunately, Yukiji has been taken over by evil spirits, who can power the robot with just their evil spirit-ness.
  • In Dragon Ball, Goku has been completely unable to defeat the robotic Sgt. Metallic, even after blowing Metallic's head off. He seems indestructable until he suddenly stops moving. Turns out his batteries died. Goku shrugs it off and continues to the next floor of Muscle Tower.
  • Patlabor: In the anime, Kanuka Clancy wins her sparring match against Noa Izumi during the Labor pilot selection because Alphonse's batteries run dry due to wasted movements by Noa.
  • SSSS.GRIDMAN: In Episode 4, after Gridman and all four of the Assist Weapons freeze due to Junk not being able to handle all five being out at the same time. Rikka pulls the plug on Junk to reset it and then did some Percussive Maintenance to boot it up. While Utsumi is horrified, luckily it fixes the problem without harming Gridman, Yuta, or any of the Assist Weapons.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of XIII, the protagonist must stop a military base from self-destructing, but the computer console that can abort the process has a small bomb attached that will kill him if he tries it. The solution? Trace the console's conduit up to the equipment cage it controls and blow it up! The exact same scenario happens near the end of the video game based on the comic.
  • Used in the Richie Rich story, The Great Weather Mystery. When Richie's weather computer tries to take over the world by controlling the weather instead of simply reporting it, Richie finally realises he can defeat the computer with two fingers... to pull out the computer's power plug.

    Fan Works 
  • Parodied with the climax of Out of Character 3, a Ranma ˝ Hentai dōjinshi. Kasumi Tendō, after having all the fun she could with a Tentacle Monster, then stops it by... simply pulling out a pair of small batteries.
    Nabiki: A battery-powered demon? What kind of lame production is this?
    Ye Old Writer's Box: Hey now, you know we're on a tight budget. What do you expect?
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. Captain Proton and Martian agent TuMok are trying to deactivate a Doomsday Device. TuMok states he's tried numerous technobabble solutions to no avail. Proton asks if he's tried pulling out the power cord by his foot. TuMok reaches down... and picks up a dropped weapon which he points at Proton, as he wants the device to go off to soften Earth up for an Alien Invasion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Naked Gun features a nuclear bomb that is defused only when Frank Drebin, deciding to flee with three seconds to spare, accidentally trips over the cord.
  • Goldfinger uses this as a subversion of the classic bomb plot. The bomb expert that arrives to stop the atomic device does so by merely hitting a switch. (You'd better believe that it stopped at 0:07.) The counter was originally going to stop at 0:03 — Connery has a line of dialogue to that effect immediately after the shutdown — but for obvious reasons, they changed it in the edit.

  • In one of the later Ender books, a MD Devicenote  is on countdown to destroy a ship. The technician flips a switch and turns the Device off. When it's pointed out that disarming it was considerably simpler than originally arming it, he responds along the lines of "It's designed that way for a reason."
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Guns of Tanith, a squad of Ghosts are trying to figure out how to disable the force fields the enemy has wired into the city they are trying to take while in the main control room. The problem is solved by Major Kolea, who pulls one lever and shuts down the entire power grid.
  • In Kim Newman's Deconstruction of sci-fi tropes, Tomorrow Town, the villain's attempt to cobble together a Doomsday Device by setting the heating system to overload is thwarted by the supercomputer advising that for safety reasons, Circuit Breaker 15 should be pulled. Once done, the hero points out that despite what the villain appears to think, in the future (which the titular community is attempting to predict) it's unlikely that communities and public offices will come equipped with self-destruct mechanisms or Doomsday Devices just in case an incumbent doesn't feel like giving up power once their term of office is up.
  • After her jinx makes her computer go homicidal in The Woman Who Made Machines Go Haywire, Iris defeats it with a simple pull of the plug.
  • X-Wing: Rogue Squadron uses this when the Rogues and some Y-Wings get jumped by a Lancer-class frigate, an Imperial capital ship designed solely to kill starfighters. Corran Horn volunteers to deal with it by having the Y-Wings, which are too cumbersome to get within torpedo range of the frigate without getting mauled, instead lock onto his X-Wing's signal, so he can lead the torpedoes into the frigate while he dodges its defensive fire with the help of some randomized inputs to his ship's controls, courtesy of his R2 unit. The plan works, except one Y-Wing pilot fires his torps a little too late, so they avoid the Lancer and keep following the X-Wing. Corran desperately tries a High-Speed Missile Dodge but is still fighting those randomized controls, yells at his astromech to "Cut it out!" ...and his R2 unit promptly shuts off the signal the torpedoes were locked onto, causing them to harmlessly self-destruct.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Castle, a dirty bomb is counting down. Castle and Beckett are the only ones on-scene and neither of them know how to defuse a bomb. The music swells dramatically as the timer counts down until Castle rips all the wires out at once, separating the bomb from the power source.
  • Doctor Who: In "School Reunion", Mickey pulls the plug on the Evil Computer Cluster of Doom. He looks around first, clearly expecting the solution to be a bit more dramatic, then does it anyway. Because sixty-odd computers are plugged into a single socket, it unexpectedly sparks back at him.
  • Gibbs in NCIS: A hacker is determined to hack the NCIS computers and McGee and Abby are just as determined to stop him. They are typing on the same keyboard once, and just as it seems as the hacker is going to win, the screens go black. They think that they managed to do it but when they all look to Gibbs, they see him holding the plug with a "duh" look on his face.
    • This could be a great example of "even when they get it right, they get it wrong." If the hacker's attacking the NCIS mainframe, and Gibbs just unplugged a terminal... In any case, Gibbs has the right idea, in that the best way to stop an intrusion into a system is to get the system off the network (by either pulling the cord or the ethernet cable). Indeed, many governments actually isolate computers with sensitive information from the internet for this exact reason.
  • In one episode of Stargate SG-1, the team infiltrates a Goa'uld ship with the intention of shutting down the Deflector Shields. Resident old guy Bra'tac states that they will have to descend many floors, defeat many warriors and security measures in order to get close to the shield generator... and O'Neill pops the pin on a couple of grenades and drops them down a shaft to the shield generator. "Hey look! Grenades."

  • Inverted in "The IBM Computer", a comedy song to the tune of "Mary Ellen Carter". After hours of frustrated and increasingly-strained attempts to get an office's out-of-order computers working, one small voice finally suggests: "let's plug the damn thing in!"

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Played for Laughs. After seeing her dad being distracted by a computer game, Ann silently pulls the plug to shut it off and get Holtz out of it, though he's a bit dismayed that he couldn't save his progress.
  • In Mass Effect, a subquest pits you against a suicidal A.I., who has decided to take you along for the ride. Now, you can try to figure out the shutdown override code for its self-destruct system by trial-and-error before the timer runs out... or you can take out your shotgun and blow up a nearby fusebox. Brute-force hacking at its best.
  • EarthBound Series
    • In EarthBound (1994), the Monotoli building is guarded by a clumsy robot with a particularly unusual moveset. After the heroes survive its attacks for a while, The Runaway Five bursts into the room in a Big Damn Heroes moment... and flips the switch on the robot's back. Success! If you use the power shield to bounce its missile back at the clumsy robot, you get to see the same scene twice.
    • This is used again in Mother 3. Lucas, Boney, and Dr. Andonuts are being chased by the nigh-unbeatable Ultimate Chimera. As it pounces for its meal, Salsa runs in and hits the button on its back, effectively killing the power. The duck on its back flips it back on long after you've left, which should explain why it appears later on in the Empire Porky Building. Minor Robots in Thunder Tower are also vulnerable to the effects of this trope, as their batteries tend to run out after a few battle rounds, rendering them motionless... Unless, of course, they're being accompanied by a Battery Man, who, if one is still alive when the Minor Robot runs out of power, will remove itself from the battlefield to repower the Robot.
  • In Nicktoons Unite!, the heroes have just defeated the Big Bad Duumvirate, only to find out that their doomsday device is still set to go off. The majority of the heroes are stumped as to how to stop it...and then Spongebob pulls the plug at the last second.
  • Used in Safe Cracker to unlock a safe. The safe has a keypad with no code to be found anywhere, and it's plugged into a plainly visible power strip. Turning the strip off actually opens the safe.
    *safe opens*
    Player character: Uh-huh, yeah... right.
  • A mission in Saints Row: The Third to steal a complex Virtual Reality chair from the Deckers hits a brief snag when Kinzie panics that the chair is still operational even after you shut off all the routers going into to the chair. She immediately calms down once The Boss points out that the power cord is still plugged in.
  • Splatoon: One of the first game's Sunken Scrolls explains how the Octarians used several powerful war machines known as the Great Octoweapons during the Great Turf War. These weapons seemed to almost guarantee the Octarians' victory over the Inklings... until the plug was pulled from its socket, rendering the Octoweapons inoperable.
  • Parodied in Disgaea 3. After facing down the trauma inside Mao's heart (a rematch with the Chapter 1 boss, the gigantic hand and digits of Mao's father), the boss suddenly revives itself, leading the party into a panic. Almaz, however, notices that the trauma is plugged into a large socket, and pulls the plug. Subverted a few minutes later when we learn of the outright damaging effect unplugging the trauma had on Mao.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius: "The controls are fused! I can't shut it down! He's going to FRY— AND NO POWER ON EARTH CAN STOP IT!" Cue Moloch having done the sensible thing and unplugged the power cord.
  • Bigger Than Cheeses: Oh crap! HACKERS!
  • Sluggy Freelance: The entire 4U city arc leads up to the big confrontation between Riff and the enigmatic dictator of the eponymous dystopia, known as His Masterness. When it's revealed that His Masterness is actually well intentioned, and any actually bad things attributed to him were actually done by a rogue AI, Riff instantly solves all problems by pulling the computer's plug, rebooting it only for a short time to ward off a mutant invasion before pulling the plug again.
  • In Real Life Comics after PAL tries to take over the household, and everyone is a bit concerned that he might try to kill them all, Dave concocts a zany plan and asks that Tony help him enact it. Tony, ever the pragmatist, just shuts off the breaker box, because while all of Tony's inventions are Mad Science, Dave's are all a little more down to Earth.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    • An episode that parodies 24 uses an amusing version. The bomb inside Hillary Clinton (don't ask) is set to explode once the 24 clock hit 1:00. Just before it reaches then the power goes out, leaving the timer flashing 12:00.
    • Also in the Season 12 episode "Over Logging", where Kyle restores the broken-down Internet by un- and replugging the giant modem that apparently is the Internet. Of course, after Adults try to communicate with bullhorns, bullets and music.
  • In the Men in Black animated series, one episode featured an evil Time Traveler assassinating founding MIB agents, resulting in a Rubber-Band History where the eponymous agency uses "unreliable" human technology. Agent J stops the antagonist from finding the location of his last victim by pulling the plug on the PC being used as a database.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Parodied in one episode of the 1987 cartoon: an alien "toy" threatens the existence of Earth and as it powers up, things look hopeless for our heroes... then it stops. As it turns out, April knew that "every toy has batteries", showing a massive cylindrical battery to the turtles.
    • Another time, she stops a generator from overloading by pulling the power plug. She stops a GENERATOR by UNPLUGGING it.
    • In yet another example, one episode saw an evil supercomputer draining electricity from the entire city to both bring machinery to life and open a portal to Dimension X for Shredder. The Turtles are at a loss to stop it, until it abruptly turns off. As Shredder hightails it out of the building, April emerges from her hiding place and remarks that she defeated the AI by unplugging it. It's promptly lampshaded by Raphael who calls the plan "simple, but effective."
    • Played straight in the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, where Serling stops a toy robot from killing the Turtles by removing its batteries.
    • Inverted in Turtles Forever, where cutting the juice almost results in the multiverse getting wiped out.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The episode "Almost Got 'Im" has Harley Quinn sending Catwoman down a Conveyor Belt o' Doom. When Batman turns up, Harley claims that he doesn't have enough time to beat her and save Catwoman. Cue the camera panning out slightly to show Batman standing right next to the master switch, which he promptly flips.
    Harley Quinn: Heh heh. Good call. Help!
  • Used in Xiaolin Showdown, with one episode having Jack Spicer attack the heroes with a massive robot made of junk in a landfill site type area, except he had the thing plugged into the mains via an extension cord, so before a proper battle got underway, the thing just moved slightly forward, the plug came out and it immediately lost all power.
  • Played with in the "Megadoomer" episode of Invader Zim when The Tallest accidentally send Zim a Megadoomer X-3 Combat Stealth Mech. The giant mech was incredible, but it came without batteries and had to be plugged into an outlet at all times in order to function. As a result, it loses power mid-rampage when the extension cord gets yanked out of the socket. Afterwards, Zim has GIR plug it into a new outlet each time it powers down.
  • American Dad!: In "Rabbit Ears", as Stan and Tuttle escape from the supernatural TV show they've been trapped in, they're pursued by the demonic entity that runs it, which begins to force itself through the television screen...until the TV suddenly shuts off, and Tuttle reveals that he pulled the plug ("Look what I got!" *twirls plug*).
  • Young Justice. After our heroes defeat The Brain, he deploys a sinister array from his chassis as if he's going to activate a Self-Destruct Mechanism or Death Ray. Everyone raises their weapons or ducks for cover...and all the lights go out. When they come back on, the Brain has vanished.
    Kid Flash: Wait, that big weapon was...a light switch?

    Real Life 
  • Invoked by David Langford at a convention, when he tried to get an interesting debate going by asking William Gibson why the hackers in his novels couldn't have a deadman's switch to protect them from black ice. Instead, Gibson conceded the point and (according to Langford) spent the rest of the panel worrying about it.

Dramatic Subversions

    Anime & Manga 
  • Devil Survivor 2: The Animation: When the JP's headquarters come under a hacking attack, the group suggests they just cut the power. Unfortunately they can't do that since if they did it would also kill the barriers protecting them as well leaving them horribly exposed to attack.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Pulling the plug on an Eva is one of NERV's main failsafes. It doesn't go well when you charge the Eva's internal batteries, giving it anywhere between thirty seconds and five minutes to destroy your headquarters.
    • Cutting the juice to Bardiel is useless.
    • Not to mention both times they try to shut down Magi.
  • In the Pokémon the Series: XY episode "Mega-Mega Meowth Madness", it looks as if the titular unstoppable mech Meowth is using is going to be stopped by simply pulling out the power cord- only for James to order Meowth to switch the mech to diesel power. The mech ultimately gets destroyed the normal way- being blown up.

    Comic Books 
  • A Spider-Man comic subverts this. In a brief display of bravery, J. Jonah Jameson unplugs a device that he believes is keeping Spidey from using his powers. Peter doesn't have the heart to tell him that Jameson merely unplugged the coffee machine.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Angry Birds Movie 2, while on a mission to stop the purple eagle Zeta from destroying Bird Island and Piggy Island with an ice cannon, Red tries to disable it at her base by cutting off what appeared to be its power cord, but was actually the power cord for a microwave in the base's breakroom. And sure enough, that arouses enough suspicion from the eagle guards, including a big one named Hank who shows up and catches Red and Silver. Ouch.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman contemplates cutting HAL's powersupply, but since HAL also controls the ship's life support, Bowman realizes that he can't simply cut off the power. In addition to the fact that HAL is powered by a nuclear reactor.
  • In 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Floyd has the engineer Curnow install a device on HAL's main power supply to let them shut him down remotely, if he goes nuts again. Dr. Chandra knew that they'd do that, and disconnected it.
  • Superman III: Subverted. Gus Gorman, geek-for-hire, has built a supercomputer with a self-defense arsenal capable of taking down even Superman. As Superman crumbles under the computer's assault, the boss triumphantly congratulates him on building the machine that Kills Superman. Gorman has an Oh, Crap! (despite this not being the first time in the movie it was made clear to him that this was the goal) and tries to Cut the Juice (which somehow can be performed by removing a single ordinary screw with a single pocket screwdriver from a panel. Apparently giant knife-switches or Big Red Buttons weren't dramatic enough, or at least wouldn't have given the boss time to realize his henchman wasn't all the way on board with this plan and try to keep him from disabling the computer before it can finish). This works for a few seconds. Then, although supposedly without power, the supercomputer restarts and creates its own reroutes straight to the nearest power lines. Gus shouts in horror, "It's feeding itself... it wants to LIVE!"
  • The backstory to The Matrix trilogy. The machines were solar powered, so the humans took the logical (if horrible) step of blackening the sky. The machines retaliated by switching to a much nastier power source.
  • WarGames: The idea is lifted, but quickly shot down. WOPR was built with a deliberate fail-deadly, meaning that if power to the master computer is cut, the silo computers would assume that Cheyenne Mountain had been nuked (since they are at Defcon 1), and launch their missiles in response.
  • Del's execution in The Green Mile (book and film) goes horribly wrong when Percy Wetmore deliberately fails to soak a sponge in brine before putting it inside the electrode cap. As a result, Del catches fire in the electric chair and suffers a drawn-out, agonizing death. Paul Edgecombe orders his men not to shut off the current, as it would be even more cruel to have to do the execution all over again.

  • In The Night Mayor, a master criminal in maximum security prison smuggles in the parts to build a device that lets him plug himself into cyberspace and take over The Alternet from the inside. When the protagonist is recruited to go into cyberspace after him, one of the first questions she asks is why they don't just switch the device off. The prison governor explains that if they do that while he's still plugged in he'll be killed, and the experts are still arguing about the legal consequences. Before that question is settled, he's gained enough control over the prison's systems to prevent the device being switched off.
  • In the James P. Hogan novel The Two Faces of Tomorrow, an A.I. is constructed (on an isolated space station) in order to test whether or not it can learn to defend itself from attempts to Cut the Juice if it goes out of control. The A.I. learns to defend itself all too well. Eventually, it also learns to peacefully coexist with humans despite their initial attempts to destroy it, so things work out in the end.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most of the time you hear someone in the Stargate-verse say "Shut it down", the response is invariably either "I can't" or "I already tried to". In that universe destructive things seem to have an uncanny ability to power themselves. The Stargate is capable of drawing power from just about anything, so the justification will usually be that it's being fed constant power by whatever's causing the problem.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Ultimate Computer", the computer finds a way to draw power directly from the engines (that it controls) while killing the Red Shirt who tries it. In the end, it takes one of Kirk's patented Logic Bombs to do it.

    Video Games 
  • Cruelly subverted in Digital Devil Saga 2. The party launches a raid on a power plant to destroy the machine that's destroying the world, and many members of La Résistance are backing them up. It turns out that the machine doesn't need the plant's power to operate, rendering everyone's sacrifices meaningless.
  • Implied in Half-Life (and by extension Black Mesa). When the sample of "anomalous material" starts to react badly to whatever it is that overclocked "anti-mass spectrometer" is supposed to be doing, one of the scientists orders a coworker to shut it off. The other scientist calls out that "It's not shutting down!", and never gets a chance to elaborate as to why because the resonance cascade kicks in, and seconds later the only bits of the control room not on fire are the parts that exploded.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe: In "Arcade Mania", Steven tries to stop Garnet from playing the arcade machine by unplugging it, but she just uses her powers to turn it back on.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, "Marge vs. the Monorail", two guys discuss the speeding out of control monorail:
    Guy 1: I got it! We can just shut off the power!
    Guy 2: No such luck. It's solar powered.
    Guy 1: Solar power. When will people learn!?
  • Code Lyoko:
    • During the first two seasons, XANA could have been defeated by simply turning off the Supercomputer. But that would have meant killing Aelita, too, so the main objective for said seasons was to materialize Aelita and free her from her link with Lyoko so they could Cut the Juice. Of course, by the time they've done so, XANA has escaped from the Supercomputer, and now they need to use Lyoko as a staging ground, and XANA is trying to destroy it.
    • Also, in a couple of Season 1 episodes, XANA's dastardly plan involves electricity, and everything up to and including physically cutting power lines to the site of the attack fails to do anything.
  • Not so much dramatically ignored, but comedically subverted in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Realizing that Plankton's computer-wife is loading the Krabby Patty formula, Spongebob dives for an outlet to unplug her. He ends up unplugging the coffee maker instead.
  • In Archer, a viral worm has infected the ISIS computers and threatens to upload the entire list of covert ISIS agents to a villain's hard drive. The ISIS tech team can't access the mainframe directly because it is sealed inside a magnetically-locked room. Instead, they try to stop the upload by cutting power to their mainframe, but this fails to work, and Doctor Krieger then realizes that the worm has made the ISIS mainframe become self-aware! No, he's just fucking around, it's just got a backup battery in the same room as the mainframe.
  • In a Super Friends story, a team of scientists invent an artificially intelligent computer and it instantly turns evil. In a panic, the scientists immediately pull the plug on it and the situation seems resolved. Unfortunately, the robot then turns itself back on, saying it has all the power it needs to operate, which means this is now a job for the superheroes to deal with.
  • In "Attack of the Mousers" from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), April explains to the turtles that she wasn't able to shut down Dr. Stockman mouser-robots — the only way she could stop them was by activating an overload sequence. Thankfully, April and the turtles are able to escape before the mousers explode and subsequently destroy the Stocktronics Labs.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: In "System Failure", Entrapta tries to analyze a computer chip with her computer, but the chip has a virus that infects the computer and spreads to her robots, turning them homicidal. Bow and Entrapta fight past the robots and manage to unplug the computer, but the chip turns out to have modified the computer to be self-sustaining.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has a variant during the series Finale. Star opts not to fight Mina alongside Eclipsa and Moon. Instead, she decides that magic is stupid and everyone who uses it is an idiot before promptly heading to the realm of magic and destroying it altogether thereby killing every magical being in existence including Glossaryk and the Magical High Commission. This depowers Mina and her army.
  • Monsters at Work: In "The Vending Machine", everyone at MIFT gets Fritz a brand new vending machine after their old one, Vendy, accidentally gets broken by Tylor. However, when Duncan tries to repair it when it breaks, he removes some important doohickeys from it, which causes it to go rogue. Duncan tries to shut it down by pulling the plug, but it activates its backup battery power and continues to attack him.
    Real Life 
  • Diesel engines, especially older ones, can experience a "runaway" situation when oil begins leaking into the combustion chamber. Since motor oil and diesel fuel have about the same amount of combustibility, the engine can start feeding off the oil rather than the diesel fuel itself. Diesel engines have no spark plugs, relying on pressure instead, so the only "juice" to cut is the fuel...which is useless when the engine is burning its own lubricant. In these cases the only real way to stop the engine is either to find a way to block the air intake and choke the engine out, or allow the engine to run its course and either explode or burn up all of its oil and seize. A runaway diesel engine triggered a particularly destructive explosion at the Texas City oil refinery in 2005 after a blowdown stack had malfunctioned and began spraying raffinate into the air; because some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to leave their diesel-engined pickup truck idling in an environment where this should absolutely not be allowed, the truck got engulfed by the vapour cloud and began ingesting fuel vapour through its air intake, leaving the engine completely unable to be stopped; when the truck backfired, it ignited the vapour cloud, triggering a massive explosion that killed 15 people, injured 180 others and inflicted severe damage to both the refinery and the surrounding area.
  • Nuclear reactors typically have a switch that initiates an emergency shutdown (called a scram) located in various places in the reactor plant. Scrams generally work by rapidly inserting enough control rods into the core to stop the reaction; the rods are made out of a neutron-absorbing material, which stops the reaction by preventing the neutrons produced by fission from getting back to the fuel and continuing the reaction. Thus, shutting down the core if something is going wrong is simple as finding a scram switch and throwing it. Due to quirks in their design, however, the RBMK reactors used at Chernobyl had a graphite tips on the end of their control rods, which displaced the water in the core as they were inserted before the neutron-absorbing material could move into place. The water is there as coolant, but it does also absorb some neutrons itself...or did, until the graphite pushed it out of the way. This actually caused the reaction rate to increase every time the rods were inserted, before then decreasing and shutting down. On April 26, 1986, however, the operators were performing some unusual testing that put the core in a state way outside of design parameters. When they finally decided there was a problem and the reaction needed to be shut down, the small bump in reaction rate caused by the scram itself spiraled out of control in milliseconds and caused the explosion of No. 4 reactor and the worst nuclear disaster in history.


Video Example(s):


Time for Us to Save Superman

Lois gives one to Metropolis via Jimmy's livestream about how they need to help Superman despite the recent public backlash against him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / RousingSpeech

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