Fan blades are dangerous. So dangerous, in fiction, that if you get too close, even a humble household ceiling fan might take your head clean off. Sometimes the blades are sharp or serrated, but the most blunted of fans turn into deadly shredding machines when moving fast enough.
These are most commonly encountered in narrow spaces where they cannot be easily avoided, sometimes as part of a Death Course. In video games, it is sometimes possible to slow them down or break them by jamming a rod or beam between the blades, allowing the player to get past. Some characters employ them as weapons. They can also be deadly if a rope is involved, with one end looped around the victim and the other end looped around the axis of the fan.
This is Truth in Television to an extent, as metallic fans, including airplane propellers, can be very destructive and very deadly; after all, this is the same principle on which a blender or lawnmower operates. That said, in fiction, this effect tends to be greatly exaggerated; an ordinary domestic fan with ordinary plastic or wooden blades typically won't give you worse than a nasty bruise, and in some cases, the fan itself suffers more damage.
Supertrope of Helicopter Blender and Turbine Blender. Compare Deadly Disc. Not to be confused with Paper Fan of Doom or that Urban Legend prevalent in Korea that says sleeping in an enclosed room with a fan on can be fatal.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
- A TV commercial has a man get around quickly by hopping around on bent stilts. At the end of the commercial, he hops up and down in his apartment, right under a spinning fan. He hops a little too high and is immediately turned into fine red paste, despite the fan barely touching him.
- Rick Chalker from X-Factor attempts to use rotors grafted in place of his hands as weapons, extremely incompetently.
- Discussed at least twice in Titeuf.
- There is a time where the kids tell about gruesome deaths they heard of, one of them is about a helicopter cleaner who got sliced by the blades.
- Titeuf once metaphorically says that french kissing is like crossing a fast-spinning blade because you must not do any false movement to not get cut.
- Taken to its most absurd conclusion in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series when Electro captures Andy, Socrates, and Sherman, dangled from the ceiling by power cords, and set to slowly descend into a blender. As in, a normal, household blender.
- The Great Alicorn Hunt: This trope is both Discussed and Averted in chapter 38 when three batponies find themselves dealing with a runaway airplane.
"What do we do? We can't land this thing!!" Moonpenny shrieked over the redlining motor. "It'll just lawnmower its way down the Midway!"
- In Finding Nemo, during the Tank Gang's first attempt at jamming the filter, Nemo swims inside the filter to jam the fan with a pebble, but unfortunately it turns out that Nemo didn't jam the filter hard enough, and as a result, the other fish actually had to stick a fake plant inside the filter to get Nemo out before he gets sliced into sushi.
- Subverted at the end of Rio where the evil cockatoo Nigel is actually revealed to have survived being shredded alive by an airplane's propellers, and as a result, it also caused him to lose all of his feathers.
- In Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Jack the Ripper attempts to force Batman's head into the propeller of police airship. The ears on Batman's cowl get sliced off before he is able to break loose.
- In Alien³, one of the prisoners (Murphy) is killed in a ventilation fan. Then another draws attention to the fact the fan wasn't sucking, it was blowing, so Murphy had no reason to fall into it.
- Army of Darkness: Ash incorporates a windmill's vanes into his battle-refitted Oldsmobile, then drives this whirling mega-fan into the undead horde and sends flying every one that fails to evade.
- In Becky, Becky kills Hammond by slowly reversing an outboard motor into him so he is cut to pieces by the propeller.
- At the end of Cat's Eye the little troll is thrown into a normal-sized fan and gets sliced as a result.
- Chucky gets thrown into a giant, flashing ventilation fan at the end of Child's Play 3.
- Frankie's head is shredded by an engine block fan in Final Destination 3.
- In Frankenfish, the gigantic male fish is killed when it runs into the equally gigantic propeller on the back of the protagonist's boat.
- In Hardcore Henry, Henry breaks off the grate of an air conditioner unit, then throws a mook headfirst into the fan, which shreds him.
- In Idle Hands, one of the girls is killed by the fan in the school ceiling.
- Indiana Jones examples:
- Played straight in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where a burly German mook is fighting with Indy and ends up getting hit with an airplane propeller.
- Averted in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when Indy wraps one end of his whip around a Mook's neck and the other end around the ceiling fan in his room; the thug is pulled into the fan blades and breaks his neck.
- Both of the above mooks were played by the same actor, Pat Roach.
- And a ship's propeller tears apart a boat in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, although nobody dies this time.
- Jonah Hex: Jonah kills Burke, the man responsible for the death of his wife and son, by shoving his face into a rotating fan.
- A man has his skullcap sliced off by a ceiling fan that has machetes attached to the blades in Killing Spree.
- Leprechaun 2: The Leprechaun kills Ian by casting an illusion of a girl he's interested in taking her top off in front of him, but he's actually sticking his head into two rotary blades.
- Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Brandt has to infiltrate a computer server room via the heating vents, which involves leaping 25 feet into a vertical shaft at the bottom of which is a large cooling fan, and hope his metallic suit will keep him suspended above a remote-controlled robot with a large magnet trundling beneath it. As a Running Gag in the movie is the failure of the various gadgets the IMF team is equipped with, this plan does not fill him with confidence.
- The Mummy (1999): Rick O'Connell hoists Beni up as an interrogation technique as if he's about to ram the little creep's head into a ceiling fan. Subverted because Beni spills his guts rather than field-test this trope's validity. Bonus points for the metallic ring of the fan's blunt wooden blades.
- One character in The Outing is decapitated with a rotary fan when the genie lifts him to it.
- The lead character in The Parole Officer tries this. With a desk fan. Nobody is very impressed. Especially when he accidentally pulls the cord out.
- In Razorback, the eponymous boar gets killed by a giant industrial cooling fan.
- The Refrigerator in... The Refrigerator brings some fans to life and has them obliterate a man's face.
- Wesker uses one of these to kill a member of the group in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
- Stranger in Hong Kong have this happening to a henchman in the warehouse final confrontation, when said henchman tried making an escape from the police surrounding the warehouse through an inactive ventilation fan. One of the cops suddenly turns the fan on, cutting the henchman into half by the waist.
- One slimy bit character in the absolutely terrible B-movie Superfights is killed by the villain's mooks by having his head held up to an ordinary bedroom ceiling fan which cleanly slices off the top of his skull.
- Charlie and Grandpa Joe narrowly escape one of these in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, during the Fizzy Lifting Drinks scene.
- Eliminators has Kuji using his martial arts prowess to time diving through one of these.
- Konrad Knabe, in his Lapin lentotiedustelijat (Lappland Reconnaissance Squadron) describes a situation when the wife of one of the pilots accidentally walks into the spinning propellers of Dornier Do 17. Messy.
- Alias: One episode ended on a Cliffhanger with Sydney struggling not to get pulled upwards through an air vent into a huge fan.
- Doctor Who: In "The End of the World", the Doctor must navigate a series of these in order to reach an otherwise inaccessible switch.
- In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, one villain used deadly metal fans as part of his method of brainwashing people into being loyal followers of his cult. Iolaus manages to trick the villain into falling into the fans during their fight, shredding him in the process.
- Subverted on My Name Is Earl. After Earl tipped over his ex-wife's trailer home on a bender and was unable to rent a crane to lift it up again, Joy and Darnell were making do with the sideways trailer. The ceiling fan ended up being on a wall instead of on the ceiling, and it lopped off one of Joy's pigtails, much to her anger. Otherwise, it did no real harm or damage.
- The ceiling fan decapitation variant was busted by MythBusters, who found that even an industrial fan, while probably lethal, would be unable to decapitate a person.
- Twiggy's character bites it this way in the Tales from the Crypt episode "The New Arrival". The ceiling fan has some sort of jagged blades affixed to it and lowers itself down to take off her noggin.
- In Ruby Quest, one room has a catwalk crossing over a pair of giant fans. They're proven deadly in a flashback when Ruby shoves Stitches into them.
- In Atomic Robo-Kid, one type of enemy resembles a corridor-spanning rotary fan (with a central eye) that slowly advances toward the player. Apparently, its name is Brade.
- In Banjo-Kazooie, Clanker's belly contains rapidly-moving fans with serrated blades, while the Rusty Bucket is fitted with deadly propellers. The sequel Banjo-Tooie has these in areas of Jolly Roger Lagoon that link to the Glitter Gulch Mine and Grunty Industries levels. Unlike the previous game, there actually is a way to get rid of them (for good) to make your life easier; to do so all you need to do is freeze them with ice eggs and then blast them with grenade eggs to destroy them.
- Battletoads has the Sucka traps, which pull 'Toads in with Vent Physics and will grind them up head first.
- Bulletstorm has a skillshot called "Sucker" for killing an enemy by knocking them into a fan.
- At one point during Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth you have to flee into the sewers, but the way is blocked by a sharp fan. You have to break one of the blades to slow it down and open a passage and even then you'll get chopped (but not always killed) if you're hit.
- In Conker's Bad Fur Day, underwater rotating fans are encountered during the U-Bend Blues segment.
- Dead Rising and its sequels feature the auger - a man-portable giant drill. Drilling it into a zombie will cause it to stick to the drill, turning the zombie itself into a deadly rotary fan. (Until after its limbs fly off after striking a few other zombies, leaving only a torso on the drill.)
- Dead Space contains several menacing ventilation fans.
- Deus Ex has the occasional deadly fan, normally large metal fans only accessed by doing the usual vent-crawling. Bob Page seems to be a fan of them.
- The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim features large rotating blades coming from the ground in Dwemer ruins.
- There are a series of these in Epic Mickey's "World of Gremlins" dungeon (which imitates the "It's a Small World" ride). They spin too quickly for Mickey to easily get through unharmed, but he can use paint thinner to erase some of the blades long enough to pass by unscathed.
- One of the stage fatalities (Blade's stage) in Eternal Champions lets the player knock their opponent into the huge fan in the center of the stage. Ludicrous Gibs ensue.
- The "Whirligig" course in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout has giant fans that act as obstacles. Fortunately, they are slow enough that you can slip between them, and if you do get hit, the worst that happens is that you fall down.
- Fear Effect: In the second game, Retro Helix, during Glas' flashback; one scenario had the players (as Glas) navigating their way through a dozen air vents, each with razor-sharp rotary fans, attempting to find a safe, disabled vent to infiltrate a Siberian facility. Choose the wrong vent and players are treated to a cutscene where Glas enters what he assumes is a safe vent... only for the rotary fan to suddenly activate and cuts him into half from the waist.
- One of the Nightmare Realm levels in Gauntlet: Dark Legacy has several huge fans blocking your way. You can hit the "slow down" switch to make it past them.
- In Half-Life, there are several instances of this. The first time you have to pass by an exposed fan, a headcrab demonstrates exactly what will happen if you touch the fan blades. The trope returns in Half-Life 2, in the "Nova Prospekt" chapter: the only way to cross the fan in the vent shaft safely is by jamming the blades with something sturdy enough to break the motor.
- In Lab of the Dead, the Handheld Fan rotor can cut a zombie's jaw off.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, Peahats attack using these.
- Some levels in Super Meat Boy have giant fans that can propel you through the air. Get too close to the blades, though, and SPLORCH!
- In Monster Bash there are spinning ceiling fans which you have to shoot the motors off in order to stop them from hurting/killing you.
- Mortal Kombat
- This is the stage fatality in the Prison stage of Mortal Kombat 4, naturally. Though the fan is starting up at the beginning of the match and gains momentum, it starts speeding up when the stage finisher starts. It's also unique in that it doesn't have the winner simply uppercut the opponent into the thing, but rather grabbing an arm and a leg and spinning just fast enough to throw them into the blender without missing.
- In Mortal Kombat X, we have Kenshi, basically a blind samurai with telekinetic powers, whose fatality involves throwing his sword and commanding it to spin mid-air, then lifting up his opponent and moving them towards the spinning blade.
- The second stage of The Ninja Warriors Again has these. They will pause for a while, giving an opportunity for the player to get through. Mooks, on the other hand, blindly walk into these when they are spinning.
- OpenArena's deathmatch level pxlfan also features a big deadly rotary fan at the very bottom of the level.
- Philip has to pass such a fan in Penumbra. He even comments that it "could slice meat in a millisecond". Like in Half-Life 2, he has to take an object and jam it in the blades to stop the motor.
- This is one of the special interrogations in The Punisher video game.
- Some levels of Quake II have these. One level has an alternate route that requires you to swim through one. In another, the fan has to be turned off to proceed.
- Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus has rotating blades within the ventilation of the Meero Museum. Fortunately, they do not spin fast enough to pose a threat to the player and only serves to point them in the right direction.
- Roombo: First Blood allows you to turn on ceiling fans and drop them on intruders, to bloody effect (which you can then clean up).
- This is one possible way to deal with the mooks in the SNES video game adaptation of The Shadow. It reduces the tediousness of the game somewhat.
- This is one of the very many environmental attacks in Sleeping Dogs where Wei can literally shove a man's head to a rotary fan and the result can be bloody.
- In one of Soldier of Fortune's cutscenes, a mook is sucked into a fan and reduced to Ludicrous Gibs when Mullins activates the ventilation system. The player can also suffer the same fate if they're not careful.
- The Sonic Adventure enemies E-06 Spinner and E-16 Electro Spinner are fitted with these. The game also features a Helicopter Blender obstacle in Speed Highway.
- The infamously Nintendo Hard Star Trek: Deep Space Nine video game for the Sega Genesis had this on the Bajoran Cave level, with fans that created air currents that would either suck Commander Sisko in and take most of his health or push him away and cause him to fall off platforms.
- In the expansion of Splatoon 2 the main antagonist Telephone traps Captain Cuttlefish and 10,008 in a giant blender and proceeds to lower a spinning blender blade of doom to basically turn them into a DNA smoothie. Luckily Agent 3 shows up and knocks out Telephone to keep the E10+ rating.
- Star Wars Legends:
- An obstacle in some levels of Shadows of the Empire.
- In Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, one early level has your character traversing ventilation shafts containing spinning fans that can be fallen onto. If you fall onto one, you are instantly chopped into small pieces, with the pieces still screaming for a moment afterwards.
- When Ark confronts Dr. Beruga on his giant airship near the end of Terranigma, Beruga gloats that his jet boots will allow him to simply fly away from the crashing ship to safety, leaving Ark and his friends to die in the wreckage, only for a large fan behind him to unexpectedly begin spinning, dragging him towards it. The screen fades to black before he contacts it, only to suddenly flash blood red with a sickening crunching sound.
- Titanfall 2's campaign features a level in a laboratory where Jack, the game's protagonist, has access to a handheld device that can blink him forward or backward in time. One section has you repeatedly switching time to avoid falling into rapidly moving fans that, in the future, have fallen just slightly further down a ventilation shaft than they were in the past.
- Tomb Raider II and III use giant fans in vents that can quickly kill you if you get too close. The ones underwater can also drag you into them if you aren't careful. Most fans have to either be avoided, turned off, or have the fans spin slower so you can pass through without harm.
- In addition to providing air currents that the player can utilize, the fans in Turok 2's Primagen Lightship stage can also be a death trap.
- The Unreal Deathmatch level DmDeathFan features a big rotary fan at the very bottom of the level. Players being pushed into it, naturally, die. This is also one of the things the player has to avoid in the singleplayer level "Rrajigar Mines". Unreal Tournament 2004's Deathmatch level DM-Insidious also features one, in the center of the map.
- From the white chamber, there is a giant fan located on the ship. Later on in the game, you find out that Sarah threw one of her colleagues into it, killing him.
- World of Goo features these as hazards on some levels.
- Seen in World of Warcraft, in a quick shoutout to Indiana Jones in the Uldum questline. At one point "Harrison Jones" is in a fistfight with an enemy while you finish a nearby quest. You have plenty of time to finish it, of course, but those who remember the movies will know exactly what will happen when you hop in a nearby airplane...
- In Deepholm, Stormcaller Myra uses the rotary fan of an airship to interrogate a Twilight's Hammer leader into giving you some information. After all is said and done, Myra reveals she had air elementals supporting the Ogre's weight and he wasn't in any real danger. The Ogre, knowing that his superiors would give him a Fate Worse than Death if they found him decides to kill the air elementals and let himself fall into the fans, dying in a spray of Ludicrous Gibs.
- Happy Tree Friends: In this Summer short, Petunia gets her face shredded by a pinwheel once the winds blow too strongly for her liking.
- Llamas with Hats:
"The people have spoken. Viva la Resistance!"
"You pushed the resistance leader into a giant fan."
"He was a traitor and a scoundrel!"
"He was trying to stop you from pushing other people into a giant fan."
- Red vs. Blue mocks the trope in the third season, using the giant fan in Zanzibar:
Tex: Then we'll have to get past the giant fan...
Tucker: What, that thing? It's moving at like two miles per hour!
Tex: I didn't say it'd be hard to get past.
- The Celebrity Deathmatch episode "Fandemonium I" features a giant killer fan wheel during the Adam Sandler vs Chris Rock fight.
- Subverted in one episode of Family Guy where a fight against Peter Griffin and Ernie the Chicken Man ended with Ernie supposedly being shredded alive by propellers at an airport... but like always, it turned out that Ernie survived.
- In Futurama's "Benders Game", The Planet Express team have to pass through giant ventilation fan blades to infiltrate Mom's dark matter facility. Oh, and the blades are also red hot.
- In the Happy Tree Friends episode "Party Animal", Cuddles gets shredded by a ceiling fan.
- One of Kenny's deaths in South Park occurs when "Jimmy the Don't-Hold-On-To-A-Magnet-While-Someone-Else-Uses-A-Fan-Nearby Falcon" demonstrates on him by handing Kenny the magnet while turning on a giant fan.
- The Simpsons: In "Angry Dad: The Movie", Bart has some fun while his family is out by trying a long rope to himself and a ceiling fan so he can get pulled through the room and break many objects as it spins. When he realizes he's close to the end of his rope, Bart manages to untie himself before he gets shredded.
- In "Marge Gets a Job", the Simpsons' house starts to tilt as the foundation sinks. Maggie slides toward a fan and tries desperately to crawl away. Homer rescues her.
- In "24 Minutes" (a Whole Plot Reference to 24) a tied up Bart and Groundskeeper Willie end up trapped in a room while flooding hot dog water starts to float them towards a vent fan at the top of the room.
Bart: The hot dog water is gonna push us into the fan!
Willie: And I just sharpened those blades!
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Holocron Heist", Bounty Hunter Cad Bane and his droid Todo-360, while breaking into the Jedi Temple through its extremely large vents, run into two of these, and nearly get sucked into one before Todo turns it off.
- Star Wars Rebels: In "Vision of Hope", while escaping through the Absurdly Spacious Sewers of Lothal City, Hera and Ezra come across one of these. Kanan ends up having to use the Force to stop the fan's movement so the Ghost crew can get past it and escape the Imperials.
- The well-known phenomenon of birds getting killed by airplane propellers or jet turbines. Not likely to turn out too well for the plane, either.
- Airplane propeller blades and/or blade tips are usually marked with yellow and/or stripes to warn anyone from walking into the spinning propeller when the propeller is revolving. Still, accidents do happen. Amazingly, people are known to have survived such incidents.
- Skydivers are taught always to approach an airplane for boarding from behind. In Estonia, an experienced skydiver walked into the propeller of the jump plane in 2008, with fatal results.
- During the sinking of the HMHS Britannic in 1916, 30 people were killed when two lifeboats were lowered without permission and got sucked into the still-turning propellers that had begun to rise out of the water.
- To avoid this trope being a problem with small handheld and desktop fans, sometimes the blades are made of soft foam that is harmless to your fingers.
- One of the possible means of making ceiling fans less dangerous is to use large, softer blades that would deform or detach from the fixture if it strikes an obstruction so that the potential for severe damage to someone is reduced.
- Even the apparently slow-moving wind-farm windmills are estimated to kill 8 to 57 million birds every year. Due to their sheer size, parts of the blades are moving at very high speed, and generate huge vortexes that suck birds and bats in. This is fewer than the number that are killed by domestic cats or crashing into buildings, but it is a concern nonetheless.
- Catholic theologian and anti-war activist Thomas Merton most likely died from stepping on an electric fan after getting out of a bath, although in his case the operative word was "electric".