There is a car. The car is involved in a close accident, but somehow manages to avoid any kind of major damage. Or perhaps the vehicle is involved in some ridiculously destructive accident — bouncing off other cars, flying off a bridge, etc. Car safely (or eventually as the case may be) comes to a halt. Driver and passenger may share a relieved glance and a sigh that it's over.
Then the airbags go "FOOM!"
This also happens a lot with parachutes and ejector seats, for a similar comedic effect.
- Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye has Brainstorm attempt to avert this through the creation of an Early Early Warning System; his regular Early Warning System was this trope. It helpfully says "Uh-Oh" when things start getting dicey, but he insists that there's no need to worry until it starts saying "Run for your life!". But it never does that until things have clearly gone to hell, making it still an example of this trope.
- Heavy Metal segment "Soft Landing". An astronaut pilots a car as it enters a planet's atmosphere. After it hits the ground, the astronaut pulls a lever and a parachute deploys.
- In Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, the bus filled with produce heading to a concert, after a scene of downhill driving, finally stops when the airbags go off, much to Bob's dismay. The commentary "starring" Larry and Mr. Lunt even points out this trope and mentions how the children didn't have the then-new side airbags.
- In the Monsters, Inc. short film "Mike's New Car", after Mike finally Offscreen Crashes the thing, Sully comments "Hmm, that's funny... the airbag didn't go off." Airbags immediately go off, apparently with enough force to send Mike flying.
- In Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Gromit deploys the car's lasso and successfully lassoes the Were-Rabbit. After a bumpy, high-speed tow-along where the car slips, skids and bumps into things, eventually the rope snaps and the Were-Rabbit escapes. Gromit pounds the steering wheel with his fist in disappointment, and that is when the airbag deploys in his face.
- In Wreck-It Ralph, the spacecraft ejector seat only works once Ralph has already crash-landed.
- In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, during the montage in which the Grinch assembles his rocket sled for the titular scheme, he crash-tests the sled's safety features at one point. After an incredibly gruesome crash that the Grinch survives because he's Made of Iron, he stumbles out of the wreck and groans out that the sled's airbag is "a little slow", and it is right then that the airbag goes off.
- Played for Laughs in the Inspector Gadget movie when Gadget and Brenda fall off a skyscraper. He frantically tries to find the keyphrase for his parachute and eventually ends up with a Parasol Parachute. They land safely, and then the actual parachute opens.
- In the first Iron Man movie, after Tony tests his first flying armor, he crashes spectacularly, but unharmed (and most certainly not on fire). Then his robot sprays him with a fire extinguisher.
- In Iron Man 2, during the fight with Whiplash in Monaco, Happy Hogan rams him into a crash barricade with Stark's limousine, then backs up to hit him again. On the third impactnote the airbag goes off in Hogan's face.
- Nicholas Cage's borrowed Ferrari does this in The Rock. After pinballing down a San Francisco hill, plowing through at least a half dozen parking meters head on, and a rather bumpy spin-out, there's a half second delay of calm before the airbag detonates. Also delayed recovery, as the bag stays inflated forcing him to shoot it.
- Used to deadly effect in Final Destination 2. A character is stuck in the driver seat of her car with a metal beam sticking through the back of her seat where her head would normally be. Firefighters are attempting to break open the door and get her out. She is smoking a cigarette and trying not to freak out each time they bash the door of the car when the airbag suddenly deploys. As it deflates, we are shown her head, now impaled on the metal beam as the firefighters look on in horror.
- Mentioned in passing in X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar when Wes Jansen runs into a former squadron-mate who had it happen to him: He managed to nurse a severely damaged starfighter through an extremely rough but ultimately safe forced landing, only for the electrics to short out and cause the ejection system to trigger moments after he'd come to a halt. And since this was happening a small, airless planetoid with very light gravity, he ended up making escape velocity and went sailing off into the void and had to be retrieved by search-and-rescue shuttle.
- Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time has this when the Aphelion is hit by a time shockwave in the opening of the game. Ratchet and Qwark gawk at how time around them is frozen still until the airbags pop in their faces. Considering the Aphelion is also frozen in time mid-crash, this might explain the delayed reaction.
- In the intro to Math Blaster Ages 9-12, the Blasterpals crash-land their ship on a seemingly barren planet and only when they come to a complete stop does the severe impact avoidance inflatable device deploys, filling the entire ship and then expanding out of the airlock when they exit.
- A delayed parachute gag example from Batman: The Animated Series: After crashing a plane, the Joker stumbles out of the flaming wreck (without a scratch naturally) only for his parachute to go off.
- A recurring joke in Code Name Kids Next Door. Every time H.I.P.P.I.E.-H.O.P. gets demolished, it would eject Numbuh Three out of the cockpit and crash hard on the ground, then her parachutes pop.
- One bumper for Johnny Bravo on Cartoon Network has Johnny driving alongside a pretty lady in another car. Johnny is so focused on laying out the schmooze that he fails to avoid a lane divider and crashes into it. After a moment to assess the damage, Johnny remarks to the Fourth Wall: "Man, I hate women drivers." The airbag deploys at that moment to shut him up.
- In The Simpsons episode "The Debarted", well after Marge rear-ends Hans Moleman's car, the airbag deploys and smothers him.
- DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp: After Launchpad lands the plane upside-down with the roof on the sand, the landing gear pointlessly extends.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball episode The Question, as the ghost of a skydiver whose parachute failed tries to chase after Gumball and Darwin, his parachute suddenly deploys to hold him in place.