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Dead Man Honking

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Somebody just got killed while sitting in the driver's seat of a vehicle. Said person's body will, almost inevitably, fall forward, their head hitting the steering wheel and activating the horn. The constant droning draws everyone's attention and punctuates what just transpired.

This is effective because such a sound imitates the constant drone associated with a related auditory trope connected to death: Flatline.

If you thought this trope refers to a man frantically trying to honk Godzilla/a tank/a skyscraper/Cthulhu off the street (no chance to avoid the crash, they have the right of way), look if it can be filed as Impending Doom P.O.V..

Sister trope to Dead Foot Leadfoot. See also Big Honking Traffic Jam and Honking Arriving Car for more tropes based around car horn sound effects.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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  • Double Subverted in the end of the so-called "Banned Xbox Commercial," where a taxi driver seemingly refuses to participate in the on-going flashmob (where the participants pretend to shoot each other) because he is taking a call, but then does it, anyway, falling "dead" on the steering wheel (and the horn).

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The opening credits of Accident end with the car crash that kills the Brain's wife. She is shown smashing through the windscreen, followed by a prolonged blaring off the horn.
  • The Batman (2022): When the Riddler chokes Colson into unconsciousness from the backseat of his car, Colson falls forward and his head plants on the steering wheel causing the horn to blare.
  • Birds of Prey (2020). Harley Quinn jumps into the back of a Mercedes while its moving and beats up the goons inside, intermittently pounding the driver's head against the steering wheel causing it to honk each time, until he's eventually knocked unconscious and falls forward making the horn blare constantly.
  • Black Zoo: When the Killer Gorilla murders Jenny in her garage, she falls against the steering wheel of her car: causing the horn to blare and summoning the neighbours.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: When the zombie hiding in the back of the camper stabs Holden, Holden falls forward on to the horn, which beeps as the camper drives off the road into the lake.
  • The California Kid: In the opening scene, Roy kills Don McCord and his friend Charley by running their car off the road. He steps out of his car and looks down at the crash while their horn blares.
  • Chinatown ends with Evelyn jumping in her car and trying to escape from the Big Bad, her insanely evil father Noah Cross. Shots are fired, there's a sound of a crash, and the sound of a droning car horn. A dead Evelyn has collapsed on the car horn. Cue Downer Ending.
  • D-Tox: When the truck carrying Hank and Gilbert crashes, Hank face plants on the steering wheel, setting the horn blaring. This alerts Malloy inside the rehab centre that something has gone wrong.
  • Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning: One victim of Jason get his throat slit by a machete and his head falls down on the steering wheel and the horn.
  • Non-lethal version near the end of Get Out (2017). When Chris crashes the car against a tree, his head comes to rest on the wheel which activates the horn. It only stops when Chris comes to and lifts his head.
  • Halloween (1978) has Annie Brackett fall dead on her car horn after Michael Myers cuts her throat.
  • Subverted in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, after his car crashes into a tree. Initially, the three people he's been pursuing are relieved at the sound of the car horn, assuming this trope. Their facial expressions turn to horror when the noise stops, revealing that of course, Myers has survived.
  • In The Hand, Brian slams his hand down on the car horn repeatedly as he is being strangled by the hand.
  • Hell's Highway: The video shows Lucinda trying to start the car when Lucinda appears at the window at shoots her. The video keeps rolling as Julie pitches forward and plants her head on the steering wheel, causing the horn to start blaring.
  • In Infernal Affairs this is how Keung signs off after he tells Chan he covered for him so his criminal bosses wouldn't suspect his absence and succumbs to a mortal gunshot wound he suffered in the shootout.
  • In Killer Workout, the killer stabs one of the girl vandals through the roof of her car. When the knife is pulled out, she falls forward and her forehead plants on the horn.
  • Lethal Weapon: Murtaugh shooting McAllister's driver is punctuated by the driver falling onto the car horn.
  • Scarecrow Slayer: When Karl swerves to avoid the Scarecrow, he crashes and face plants on the steering wheel, causing the horn to blare.
  • In the Lifetime movie Sleeping With The Devil, a woman deliberately invokes this (although she's merely injured, not dead) in an attempt to call for help, having just been shot several times by the hitman hired by her ex-boyfriend to kill her.
  • Triple 9: When the gang are meeting to discuss Irina's offer, Russel's car rolls slowly round the corner, hits the wall, and stops. The horn starts blaring. When the door is opened, the gang finds a mortally wounded Russell slumped forward on the wheel.
  • In Trog, Murdock has just opened his car door when Trog shows up and beats him to death. Trog finishes the job off by throwing Murdock into his car, where he hits the steering wheel and triggers the alarm. Dr. Brockton turns it off after she and the staff find him.
  • Wunschkonzert: Not with a car. Two German soldiers are holed up in a church, in a combat zone, apparently France or Belgium. They know that the rest of The Squad is out there, but the squad is lost in the fog, and there is a minefield. It so happens that one of the two men in the church is a musician, and he plays the church organ in order to signal the rest of the squad where to go. It works, but right at the end of the piece the organist holds the last note and keeps holding it. His buddy comes over and finds that the organist has been killed by Allied artillery and has flopped over onto the keyboard.

    Live Action TV 
  • Amen. When the gang tries to break into a piano store to return one that was stolen, they appoint the elderly Rolly as the lookout for the police. When the cops bust them anyway, they realize that Rolly has fallen asleep when they hear the sound of the car horn.
  • Not dead but merely dazed: In the Better Call Saul episode "Nailed", Mike lays down an improvised spike strip made from a garden hose to ambush one of Hector Salamanca's couriers. When the courier's truck hits the strip, he loses control and swerves off the road into a ditch, striking his head on the steering wheel and activates the horn.
  • Between: When Chuck and his small band of cohorts makes their escape attempt, Samantha is shot by a sniper as they stop to make plans; resulting in this trope.
  • Cannon: Happens in "Flight Plan", when Cannon is knocked unconscious and placed in car with the engine running in an attempt to asphyxiate him. He slumps on the steering wheel causing the horn to blare and making the bad guy come back and shove him off the horn.
  • CSI:
    • Happens when a drugged driver falls asleep at the wheel and runs off the road in "Jackpot".
    • Happens again in "Disarmed & Dangerous". A crook shoots at Brass and Ray from a moving car. Brass returns fire and kills the driver, and the car crashes into a parked car where the driver faceplants on the horn.
  • A non-lethal version in Frequency. After Frank's car gets t-boned by another car, his head hits the steering wheel which causes a continuous honking.
  • Ghosts (UK): In "Happy Death Day", a flashback to Pat's death shows that after being shot in the neck with an arrow, he got in the troop bus and tried to drive himself to the hospital. He passes out at the wheel and drives into a tree, followed by the horn blaring.
  • In the Honey West episode "Live a Little... Kill a Little," Honey finds a dying man slumped against his steering wheel. She pulls him back long enough to hear his Last Words. When she lets him go, he slumps back onto the steering wheel, setting off the horn.
  • The Magician: In "Illusion of Stainless Steel Lady", Tony fakes his death by Animal Assassin by slumping forward in his car, his head on the steering wheel and the horse blaring.
  • Midsomer Murders:
  • Murder, She Wrote: Happens when a van crashes during an attempted prison breakout at the start of "Trials and Tribulations".
  • The Sopranos: When The Mafia disposes of two would-be assassins to be absolutely certain that they won't tell tales, they crash their car so the dead driver slumps over and sounds the horn as the mobsters make their own getaway.
  • In the first few minutes of the Starsky & Hutch pilot, two teenagers are shot to death while kissing in the front seat of a car. The scene ends with the horn blaring.
  • AMC's The Walking Dead had a long story arc with the protagonists trying to lead an incredibly large zombie herd away from their safe haven, Alexandria. The ruse fails when a semi-trailer crashes into the town walls, and the driver, slumping over, sounds the horn, leading much of the horde back to them.

  • Geto Boys: The closing skit of "I Just Wanna Die". After Bill shoots himself with Willie's gun, their car veers off track and crashes, resulting in this.

    Video Games 
  • In Demolition Racer, this can sometimes happen after a car is completely destroyed.
  • This can happen in the Grand Theft Auto series from Grand Theft Auto IV onward when the driver of a vehicle is killed, whether from being shot or from a particularly nasty collision.
  • Interstate '76: Killing a car with the chemical mortar or your sidearm causes it to slow to a stop while the horn blares. Killing a vehicle any other way causes it to explode.
  • Towards the end of the prologue of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Snake and Ishmael commandeer an ambulance to escape from the chaos at Dhekelia Hospital. During their getaway an XOF helicopter opens fire on the ambulance; Ishmael gets hit and slumps onto the steering wheel, setting off the horn until Snake pushes him aside in a futile attempt to regain control of the vehicle.
  • In the Modern Warfare 2 mission "Takedown", Roach, Soap, and their unnamed driver are trailing a van that's meant to lead them to the right-hand associate of an arms dealer they're searching for. The van stops and several men get out and approach the right-hand man, who suddenly draws a gun and shoots them. He then shoots at the car Roach and Soap are in, killing the driver of their vehicle, who slumps forward. The honking is audible as they continue the chase on foot for several blocks.
  • The (non-canon) Bad ending of Silent Hill reveals that Harry never survived the car crash at the beginning of the story, as shown by him slumped over the steering wheel while the horn continuously blares.
  • Implied in Vigilante 8 when you wear down your opponent's life bar completely and the horn goes off. You now have a few seconds to "Total" his vehicle.

    Western Animation 
  • Bluey: Not actually dead, but when playing "Rag Doll", Bandit is placed in the driver seat and just falls forward onto the horn until Wendy pushes him aside and takes the wheel.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In "The Deadly Venom", Raphael is bitten by one of Karai's snakes while driving the Turtle Van. The van crashes and overturns, and the horn is heard blaring as the scene cuts.

    Real Life 
  • This can happen even without a death occurring, if the collision is serious enough. The damage to the front end can damage the horn or short-out the vehicle's electrical system, causing the horn to malfunction and activate without input from the driver. In most cases, however, the trope is played straight anyways, since the amount of force needed to damage a vehicle to that point can mean very bad news for anyone in the car at the time of impact.
    • Another common cause of this phenomenon IRL is that many modern cars have the horn switch integrated into the soft plastic of the steering wheel hub. Guess what else is in that hub? The airbag. The act of the airbag exploding through the steering wheel hub can trigger (or completely rip off) the horn switch, causing it to continually sound until the car's battery is disconnected or the ECU reset.
    • Note that, in a real car crash, having the horn keep blaring after impact is a good thing, as it may help attract rescuers to the site and can warn approaching drivers to avoid the wrecked vehicle.


Video Example(s):


Dead Android Honking

The combat in the car ends with the horn getting activated by the android driver hitting the steering wheel with its head.

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeadManHonking

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