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Disaster Dominoes

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"So it was the mosquito
who annoyed the iguana,
who frightened the python,
who scared the rabbit,
who startled the crow,
who alarmed the monkey,
who killed the owlet,
and now Mother Owl won't wake the sun
so that the day can come."

Basically, instead of a single mess-up, the character manages to chain a lot of them into a bigger one. Slipping on the Banana Peel while holding a two-by-four, hitting someone behind him holding a lit cigarette who lands in a pool of gasoline... etc. Usually ends with the site of said mess-up being completely destroyed (and/or Stuff Blowing Up). When working backward from effect to cause, you usually have this trope when at some point you get to ask "Yes, but why was there a green motorcycle balanced on the balcony railing in the first place?"

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To some extent, it's a For Want of a Nail setup when Played for Laughs. Cute Clumsy Girls/Guys, as well as young or especially ignorant characters who are Just Trying to Help, are especially prone to this phenomenon.

If someone sets off (or claims to have set off) Disaster Domino(e)s on purpose, it may be Exactly What I Aimed At.

If the end result is someone's death, it can double as a Necro Non Sequitur.

Note that in Real Life, most catastrophic disasters are caused by a combination of different failures, which ultimately manage to defeat normal safety measures (making this somewhat Truth in Television), though the various factors are usually only realized... post-mortem.

Note that Motorcycle Dominoes and Bookshelf Dominoes are not strictly related, as those involve literally knocking objects over in a domino-like fashion, the devastation of which is pretty much limited to the objects themselves.

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Compare Rube Goldberg Device and Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts, where the chain of events is set up intentionally, and Humiliation Conga, where the chain of events lead into even bigger humiliation.

Often caused by a Sneeze of Doom. A specialty of the Lethal Klutz. Very commonly seen as part of an Epic Failure. Can be particularly problematic during a Damage Control scenario, where the escalating damage makes it even more difficult to contain the situation.

Not to be confused with Chain Reaction Destruction.


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Examples

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    Advertising 
  • A whole series of TV ads for Dutch insurance Centraal Beheer use this trope as well, ending in the phrase "Even Apeldoorn bellen" ("I should call Apeldoorn" — the place where Centraal Beheer is headquartered.)
  • A brand of disinfectant and detergent produced in Britain, named Dettol, features a prime example of Disaster Dominoes in this video. A giggling baby throws her cup at a blender, which throws its contents over the worktop. The spray from the blender hits a group of hanging pans, which fall off and take a shelf down with it. The cans on the shelf roll along the worktop as they fall, pushing a prepared chicken in a roasting tin right underneath a bag of flour, which falls on the edge of the tin and throws the chicken across the room.
  • A GE medical technology ad involved a guy, distracted by a pretty girl, running into a guy on a bicycle and then stumbles into a vegetable stall which collapses over onto something else, et cetera, et cetera... Eventually, the camera cuts away from the mayhem to show this huge dust cloud over the city. Then it cuts away to the doctor's office, where the guy that caused the mess is being treated for multiple broken bones; his doctor walks in... and it turns out to be the pretty girl. The rest of the merchants in the bazaar are also in the waiting room. See it here.
  • In one of The Discovery Channel's "Know More Than You Should" ads, a woman witnesses a squirrel run out into the street. She remarks to a coworker, "Great, now there'll be cats everywhere." Her coworker gives her a funny look, but as she predicted, a car swerves to avoid the squirrel, a truck swerves to avoid the car and tips over. Said truck was a tank-truck full of milk, and as milk pours out onto the street, hundreds of cats arrive to lap it up.
  • This ad campaign from DirecTV, where buying other cable services leads to people:
    • Waking up in a roadside ditch.
    • Attending their own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley.
    • Reenacting scenes from Platoon with Charlie Sheen.
    • Having a grandson with a dog collar.
    • Selling their hair to a wig shop.
    • Having their house explode.
    • Having their father getting punched in the stomach over a can of soup]].
  • This Smokey Bear ad.
  • Played for Laughs in a Toshiba commercial, where a man is buying a laptop and is told he can get it that day if he doesn't want an impact-protected hard drive. He considers the ramifications of not getting said drive, and immediately imagines a series of events that culminates in a Zombie Apocalypse. He requests the protected drive.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Played straight in Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru with the main character Hotori Arashiyama being able to pull off clumsy combos.
  • Played seriously in a rapidly-escalating disaster in Macross Frontier episode 20. A few Vajra hatch within Island 1 and attend Ranka's concert. Ranka finds Alto and Sheryl together on the roof and misunderstands, unwittingly sending her pain out to the Vajra, who become hostile and start attacking.
  • Done in Nichijou, where an attempt to make a donation turns a shrine into ruins within seconds.
  • In the fifth Fairy Tail OVA, Ichiya and Natsu trip in the local pool and Natsu slams into Erza. Erza sends him flying, and he crashes into Gray and Lyon, sending them down the lover's slide, then breaks down a heart-shaped ornament. Things escalate until the entire pool is laid to ruins.

    Comic Books 
  • Played straight in Watchmen, when Jon's transformation into Dr. Manhattan is triggered by his date dropping her wristwatch at a carnival. Or, taken even further back, the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima could be the first domino. The news report on the bomb prompted his father, a watchmaker who had been training his son to follow in his footsteps, to instead push his son into a career in nuclear physics. Which results in Jon meeting said girlfriend at his first job after getting his PhD and in him volunteering to fix her watch when it is broken using the skills his father taught him as a young man.
  • A rather less amusing example was Humpty Dumpty in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, whose attempts to take things apart and put them back together, with increasingly disastrous results, culminated in a rain of collapsing novelty signs on the Gotham skyline.
  • DC villain Major Disaster had this as an actual power after a deal with the demon Neron in the Underworld Unleashed event. In Flash #125, he throws a sandwich into the street, causing a dog to chase it, the dog's owner spills her bag of apples, a bicyclist falls off his bike from hitting the apples, the bike hits a man on the other side of the street and scatters the papers he's carrying, and the papers fly into the windshield of a bus, which swerves and kills the bus passenger who has been annoying Disaster for hours.
  • X-Factor: Layla Miller seems to be able to set these up, although it's more a case of her being aware of what's going to happen.
  • Etrigan: Jason Blood's demonic aspect allows him to see these in some cases. An example from Swamp Thing:
    "At 5:32 this evening you will be impaled by a swordfish. There is nothing to be done. It is written. Selena has already decided not to buy the lawn furniture."
  • Supergirl:
    • Kara Zor-El's post-Crisis introduction in The Supergirl from Krypton (and adapted into Superman/Batman: Apocalypse) involved crashing the Batboat, having a dock worker come onto her, her breaking his fingers, one of his co-workers get smacked when he tried to defend to the man, Kara disrupting traffic, having the GCPD fire at her, and accidentally trashing a blimp.
    • In Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Linda dozes off during Science Class, gets caught and sentenced to write lines on a blackboard. She breaks the blackboard and the wall, and looks for tools to fix it. She falls out a box storing a collection of minerals -including a chunk of Kryptonite-, which scatter everywhere. Linda steps back, trips over and starts an overhead projector. The light projector combined with the Kryptonite radiation creates a Linda's duplicate. Or so Linda believes. She’s wrong.
  • In an issue of The Superman Adventures actually titled "Dominoes", a kid's baseball rolling into the street leads to all of Metropolis being devastated by an errant missile. The twist is that we start with the city being destroyed, and then Mxyzptlk shows up to rewind time, allowing Superman to work out the chain of events and prevent it from happening.

    Fan Works 
  • Like the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic example below, Getting Back on Your Hooves has one when Trixie causes an accident in Carousel Boutique after seeing her sister's name on a dress. Rarity hangs a humorous lampshade on it by talking about how Sweetie Belle has made bigger messes than Trixie, and how she really needs to stop setting up her shop in such a way that one little thing toppling over somehow sets off a chain reaction that wrecks the entire room.
  • This trope is weaponized in the (very slow to update) Worm fanfic It Gets Worse. The main character gets an independently-acting power that sets up these for anyone who intends to hurt her, ranging from simple slips to barely-dodging falling anvils. One such event results in an entire group of Supervillains getting KO'd by blue ice.
  • In Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness, one of these starts when Megas makes its accidental high-speed entrance into Gensokyo, ending with Marisa injured and trapped beneath her massive collection of trash. She doesn't hold it against Coop, thankfully.
  • The second Peace Conference in Lords Among The Ashes definitely qualifies. Ruby's denouncement of Sherwood (which would have given a bonus to her other actions) fails, as does her demand for disarmament, and a blockade. Since all of her proposals were aggressive in nature, the majority of the other players saw her as a second Lily and refused to ally with her when she declared war. Seeing that she didn't have the support she had been looking for, Ruby decided to ally with Alexandria. As Alexandria's stated goal is the conquest of the Central Continent, Varric immediately allies with Lily to prevent such a thing, prompting his ally, Neil, to do the same. Ruby almost irreparably damaged her relationship with Cardin since she declared war at the peace conference that had taken years to establish and this official declaration prompted Lily to have her agents in Silversun ransack its academy and steal their advanced ship designs. Nice Job Breaking It, Ruby.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hercules: Young Herc goes to the market, and he ends up crashing into a stone pillar, causing the rest to topple over likewise.
  • Chicken Little's title hero sets off a few of these. Twice when he tries to sound the town alarm, and again when an attempt to stand up to Foxey ends with him thrown into a window and smacking the fire alarm.
  • The title character in Dumbo has to jump on top of a pyramid of elephants. He trips on his ears, which causes him to knock over the pyramid, which in turn topples the entire circus tent. They could probably have spotted the problem during rehearsal... if only they had any.
  • Toy Story: Woody tries to knock Buzz down the back of a dresser with a remote control car. The car causes a bulletin board to fall off and hit a globe, which rolls into a lamp, which then swings and knocks Buzz out the window, setting in motion the second part of the film.
  • How to Train Your Dragon has Hiccup, who in the first scene does succeed in shooting a Night Fury (although nobody believes him, but then stumbles and causes a chain reaction that allows all the captured Dragons to escape and injures several Vikings.
  • The Prince of Egypt: Moses horsing about causes a set of disaster dominoes that ultimately causes the Sphinx to lose its nose.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler goes overboard with this. Starting at 2:50 here (and continuing into the whole of part 10), the last 15 minutes of the film are essentially one big game of Disaster Dominoes, causing the destruction of the Big Bad's death machine and his entire army due to Tack's Tack.
  • A scene of this nature from Mickey Donald Goofy The Three Musketeers is initiated when Goofy bumps Mickey and causes him to drop shoe polish into the bucket of water Goofy was using to mop. Amazingly this leads to Pete's bathtub to fall through several floors. Later, a sequence where Goofy runs through a window from a high tower not only causes a chain reaction of painful events, but also proves to be a solution when Goofy gets the idea to use the perfectly duplicatable sequence to his advantage.
  • Happens in Flushed Away when Toad is showing Roddy around his shrine dedicated to British royalty. Roddy backs into a statue, knocking it over but just managing to stop it crashing on the ground. However, the impact from this leads to a domino effect with many of the other artifacts in the room ending up being broken.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks: Sunset Shimmer tackling Rainbow Dash to stop her from showing pony ears (long story) results in them bumping into Twilight, who lose her balance and grab Rarity's keytar by reflex, dragging her down in turn and making her involuntarily kick Applejack's guitar, which flies over and lands neck-first into one of Pinkie's drums. Then the lights come back, startling Fluttershy into fleeing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The hilarious German short film Forklift Driver Klaus shows the disaster dominoes that happen from carelessness.
  • Two epic ones in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, destroying a library and an ancient temple, respectively. Alex takes after his mother in that aspect.
  • Happens in Wasabi: During a case, detective Hubert accidentally injured the son of a nightclub owner and went to visit him in the hospital to apologize. Hubert gives him flowers (putting them in the boy's glass of water) but when he leaves he slams the door, which causes all the shelves of flowers the boy had received to fall. The glass of water spills onto the son's hospital bed, frying the switch, which makes the bed collapse. He has to go back into surgery because of it.
  • In Garfield: Garfield gets so infuriated by all the attention Odie's getting, that he accidentally causes a chain reaction that knocks over various things in Jon's house—ending with the shelf falling and nearly crushing him. When Jon arrives to see his office completely trashed, he shuts Garfield outside.
  • Maybe the best moment of The City of Lost Children. It starts with a seagull pooping and ends with a big ship sinking.
  • Rat Race:
    • People are racing toward New Mexico to get a lot of money. The rival family decides to steal a Nazi car. The car's lighter burns his middle finger so he accidentally shows it to a biker. She calls her friends to attack the car. The father gets black lipstick smeared on his lip in the shape of a Hitler mustache. He burns his tongue, rendering his speech into incomprehensible German-sounding gibberish. This whole mess crashes into a reunion of World War II veterans. And while trying to explain what happened to him, he continues to be Flipping the Bird while showing the burnt finger is again. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Also happens to the contestant who dresses as a bus driver for a tour of Lucy-lookalikes. He asks one to put out her cigarette, which gets caught in another Lucy's hair, which ignites... and it just goes downhill from there.
  • King Ralph: When the title character is at a royal banquet with the King, Queen, and Princess of Finland, he tries to cut into a roasted miniature chicken, but the pressure from the knife causes the chicken to shoot off Ralph's plate, knocking over his drinking glass. The chicken and glass set off a chain reaction that topples all the other glasses from one end of the very long table to the other.
  • The whole of the Blues Brothers can be seen as a long, long sequence of these, especially after the mall chase. The number of policemen just keeps growing...
  • In Jabberwocky, the main character manages to destroy a knight-in-armour repair shop by moving a bowl of rivets.
  • The usual setup for so many slapstick routines in The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges era. Someone gets slapped in the face, they attempt to retaliate, the other person ducks resulting in someone else getting slapped who then smacks right back, knocking someone into the waiter who spills a tray of soup on someone who jumps up, pulling the tablecloth off ... next thing you know it's a full-on pie fight.
  • In Beerfest, singing the wrong drinking song at first seems to work out (BOOBS!), but it's too much for one old German fellow's heart. His stumbling around eventually leads to the entire festival tent falling down.
  • The Pathfinder's Moment of Awesome that sets up the climax in Ink.
  • Several of the freak accidents in the Final Destination franchise start out this way. A truly epic example is Mrs. Lewton's death in the first one, which starts with her making tea and ends with her house exploding. Examples in later additions to the series delve into the patently absurd.
  • The character Fackler in the Police Academy franchise often unwittingly sets these off.
  • In The Birds a crowd in a cafe sees a gull swoop and knock down a gas station attendant. He drops the pump nozzle and a stream of gasoline flows down the street, puddling under a salesman leaning on his car while lighting a cigar. The crowd tries to warn him, but he drops the match and he and his car go up in flames. The crowd watches in horror as the flame travels up the stream of gas to the gas station, which erupts. In all this chaos the fire draws in a huge flock of gulls, who attack the already panicking throngs.
  • Played for Drama with the ablation cascade that sets up the events of Gravity.
  • In Godzilla (2014), a crashing helicopter takes out no less than three passenger jets.
  • The fireworks scene from Yogi Bear.
  • A Bridge Too Far offers a film-length example, showing how a combination of errors by Allied commanders caused the failure of Operation Market-Garden in WWII.
  • Played for Drama in Avengers: Infinity War, when Star-Lord’s grief and anger over Gamora’s death causes him to reflexively attack Thanos at the worst possible moment, setting off a chain of events that ends in Thanos getting the last Infinity Stones and destroying half the universe.
  • Meet the Parents: While on the roof trying to get Jinxy the cat, Greg tosses aside a lit cigarette that then ignites leaves in the gutter. While trying to put out that small fire, he inadvertently kicks the gutter, which swings down from the house, hitting and dislodging an electrical wire that falls to the ground and setting several things on fire, including a tree and newly built wedding gazebo.

    Folklore 
  • A few Urban Legends are about this:
    • There's always the bricklayer story, which inspired this song, and an episode of MythBusters.
    • Also the story of how the dog died He died from eating all that horse meat after your barn caught on fire due to the candles from your mother's funeral after she died of a heart attack after catching your wife cheating with the farm hand and the death of a family of four The mom died after slipping on the stairs that were wet because she left the bathtub running which drowned the children; the husband died after trying to open the door which became electrified due to the water soaking the floor.
    • And then there's the piece of sheet metal that came loose, decapitating a biker, and the motorcycle rides past the driver's window with the headless corpse on it, giving the driver a fatal heart attack, causing his truck to plow right into a bus stop full of people.

    Literature 
  • Anything written by Michael Crichton. The plot of a typical Crichton novel starts with a bad decision, which is then compounded by additional people making bad decisions and/or minor technological glitches that just happen to be the worst possible thing that could happen.
  • Played straight in Bernard Werber's "The Thanatonauts", in which the angels use a rat to engineer a series of events, eventually leading to a plane crashing into the main characters' apartment building, killing them all.
  • Done with a series of mummified relics in Nation. The main characters flee the cloud of noxious dust that is quickly filling the cave, stopping halfway because there's a gap in the mummies and they think the chain will stop... until a flying rib manages to score a perfect hit.
  • The Hunt for Red October introduces a Soviet submarine, with an overworked technician failing to notice that one gauge is a bit too high. Ten pages later, a sphere of molten metal has destroyed the sub. Worse than that: he noticed the gauge was a bit too high, but he was prevented from fixing it by the urgency of their mission. The book then goes into detail about how, to save money, the Soviet Navy used steel instead of titanium for a small "flapper" valve which, when subjected to the hot radioactive water of the nuclear power plant cooling system, warped ever so slightly, causing small "waves" in the cooling pipe water. These waves grew larger and larger over time until eventually the system, not designed to deal with the pressure variation, sprung a leak. This then results in the reactor going critical, melting down, and every single person on the submarine dying from either drowning or asphyxiation. Because of a ten-cent savings in metal costs. As if that's not bad enough, the US then uses the sunken submarine to steal the Soviet Navy's highly advanced and extremely expensive new missile submarine. So really, because of a ten-cent savings in metal costs, the Soviet Navy loses the Red October.
  • The Belgariad:
    • Lelldorin's escape from Arendia starts with him getting into a fight with his cousin and ends with him instigating a minor war and having a price on his head. All because he fell for a Mimbrate girl and was forced to elope. On the plus side, he did get the girl. This is implied to happen rather frequently in Arendia, always ending in war. Garion notes that this is tragically typical of Lelldorin.
    • In The Malloreon it's played very seriously when Garion learns he nearly caused a global environmental catastrophe after creating one little thunderstorm for special effects triggered off a series of natural disasters around the globe that were acting and reacting with each other trigger more and more that was eventually going to culminate in a full-blown globally-affecting ice age. It's only then that he learns not to tamper with the weather.
  • In David Eddings' The Sapphire Rose, Disaster Dominoes is taken to hilarious and literal levels when Talen decides on a good way to deal with undead soldiers who guard a single flagstone: push one onto the flagstone of another. It gets messy.
  • Dr. Seuss:
  • The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash: Jimmy took his boa constrictor along during a class trip to the farm and the snake ate the farmer's wife's washing, then crawled into the hen-house, which frightened the hens, which caused one to lay an egg, which broke on a student's head and lead to an all-out egg fight amongst the students, which then resulted in them using up all the eggs and running to use the pigs' corn instead, which then caused the pigs to raid the bus to eat the kids' lunches, which distracted the farmer who crashed his tractor into a hay bale and pushed it on top of a cow, which quite understandably burst into tears. Amusingly enough, the story is told Back to Front.
  • The West African folk tale "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears" (which the page quote is from) tells the tail of Mosquito, who tells a lie to an iguana and sets off a chain of events that results in one of Mother Owl's children being killed, and thus she refused to wake the sun so the day would come until she knew who was responsible.
  • Similarly, there's the Western "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly", which couples this with Serial Escalation (she ate a spider to catch the fly, a mouse to catch the spider, etc.), until finally dying from eating a horse.
  • This story from the British naval communications magazine. The captain of an aircraft carrier sailing into Hong Kong harbor orders a midshipman to "let go" of a signal flag. The first officer overhears and "let's go" the starboard anchor. Through a comedy of errors, this inexorably leads to the loss of multiple ships, aircraft, seabirds, and the goodwill of the city of Hong Kong.
  • In the Revelation Space Series, the Glitter Belt, a vast ring of thousands of space stations over the planet Yellowstone is hit by the Melding Plague, a technological Grey Goo virus that corrupts higher technology. The Plague initially only destroyed a few space stations, but the destruction of the stations spawned more debris which took out further stations, creating even more debris which took out more stations, recursively, creating Kessler Syndrome (see Real Life). When the Glitter Belt is shown ~10 years later in Chasm City, it has been reduced to a few dozen aging enclaves in the so-called "Rust Belt", with the lower orbits clogged with debris that the Banshees use as cover.
  • The Ten Plagues of Egypt are what happens when God decides to have a go with this trope. After He turns the Nile river into blood, frogs and flies swarm in abundance, disease runs rampant, the weather takes a turn for the worst, livestock rapidly die off and grain stores become contaminated, and thousands drop dead more or less overnight.
  • In Worm, this is the Simurgh's most dangerous method of attacking humanity. As a Precog so powerful that she is effectively omniscient, and being the only telepath in the setting, she uses her powers to influence people that she knows will be in critical positions some time in the future, at which point they abruptly go insane and begin sabotaging whatever efforts to save humanity they are involved in. This is made even worse by the fact that she's a city-destroying monstrosity who broadcasts a psychic scream across geographic distances whenever she attacks, creating potentially hundreds of thousands of sleeper agents. People caught on after the first few attacks and began implementing countermeasures, but it's suggested that many of these countermeasures play directly into her hands.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Joan of Arcadia had one at the end of the first season episode "Jump".
  • In the CSI episode "Loco Motives", an ordinary man begins by dropping a bowl of Jell-O and ends up accidentally killing his wife and neighbor and is caught when he gets stuck in quick-set concrete trying to bury his wife's body. After his crime, his pocket is picked and he loses a bet with Brass (and confesses) when his neighbor's daughter accidentally identifies him as he is being released.
  • An interesting variation from an episode of The X-Files: a man unconsciously caused improbable chains of events to happen around him. However, the results were always good for him — for example, knocking out the mobsters who were after his wife and freeing him from the closet they'd locked him in. He couldn't control this ability, and usually didn't even begin the specific chain of events. However, his good fortune meant that in order to balance the cosmic scales almost anyone around him was just as likely to suffer from something horrible happening to them as a direct consequence.
  • Happens to Basil Fawlty in every episode of Fawlty Towers.
  • Subverted in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Carlton says they're falling into "the domino effect", and foresees a chain of events that will end with (paraphrasing) "Dad getting fired and all of us having to work at Domino's to make a living".
  • Red Dwarf:
    • The accident which caused the deaths of 99.9% of the crew of was described in the novels as happening this way.
    • The way Lister accidentally causes the death of Cassandra (a computer that predicts future) is a hilarious example of this trope.
  • Used frequently on Seinfeld. In one episode George accidentally got his coworker fired and then got his position. Kramer promised a little kid a Yankees baseball player would catch a fly ball in his hat, Elaine ruined her friendship with her cousin, several New-Yorkers missed their wake-up calls, and Seinfeld broke up with the aforementioned cousin due to her bad cooking. The trigger event was Jerry eating a grapefruit.
    • The series finale is another prime example. If only Kramer didn't go to the beach and get water stuck in his ear...
  • German comedian Vicco von Bülow, better known as Loriot, did a classic sketch that starts with him trying to straighten a picture hanging askew and ends in the destruction of every item of furniture in the room.
  • In a sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus, a man is waiting in a room for someone, and a piece of furniture inexplicably falls apart. By the end, a butler, a maid, the man he's waiting for, and a policeman are all dead, and then the house inexplicably collapses, and he's left standing in the middle of the rubble, saying, "Sorry!"
  • Father Ted attempts to bang out a minor dent in a new car with a hammer. After a cut, all four windows are now smashed and bits of metal are hanging off it. Dougal comments that he almost had it for a while there.
  • Kamen Rider Den-O's Ryotaro Nogami has this sort of thing happen to him on a regular basis. His very first appearance in the series has him stuck on his bike at the top of a tree; a flashback shows that he lost control of the bike just as a sign fell over, launching him skyward. When someone comes by with a ladder to help, he replies that he's used to this sort of thing.
  • This happens in one sketch on the One-Episode Wonder sketch show Out of the Trees written by Douglas Adams and Graham Chapman. A young couple pick a flower from a peony shrub, and this sets in motion a chain of events that ends with the world blowing up.
  • Although a pretty frequent occurrence on Frasier, one notable example involves Niles preparing for a date. It begins with Niles noticing a tiny crease in his trousers. It ends with Niles unconscious without pants and Frasier's apartment on fire.
  • Fringe:
    • In episode "The Plateau", a man puts a pen on a mailbox. Another man eating nearby leans over to examine the pen as it falls a few moments later. A bike messenger swerves to avoid him, and crashes into a fruit stand. Meanwhile, a woman walks out of a florist's shop next to the incident. A hobo tries to grab some of the fallen fruit and gets in an argument with the vendor, which distracts a bus driver coming down the street. He does not see the woman as she steps out into the street and collides with her, killing her instantly. The man who left the pen in the first place actually planned all of it.
    • Another such chain is narrowly subverted only because Olivia does something very stupid and thus actually avoids the final danger that would have killed her. This Olivia is from an alternate universe and does not know all the proper safety protocols.
  • In the Corner Gas episode "Telescope Trouble," Hank borrows Wanda's TV. As he's walking down the porch steps with it, he bumps into her birdbath and breaks it. This causes the TV to fly out of his arms... right through the window of Wanda's car. And this cycle only repeats itself. Hank decides to get Wanda a new birdbath. He leaves it outside the gas station, where Wanda promptly bumps into it while trying to carry her large telescope. The birdbath breaks and the telescope flies through Brent's car window.
  • Sister, Sister: Lisa causes one of these to happen when she picks an apple at the supermarket at the end of one episode. The apples roll and cause some shoppers to trip, and one employee on a ladder is forced to cling to a banner during the disaster that ensues.
  • In Alphas, Marcus is able to deliberately engineer these situations, thanks to his ability to intuitively understand how everything around him will act and react. He throws a single quarter and causes a four-car pileup in the opening scene, and that's just for starters.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: The season 6 episode 'Tissues'. Ray complains that his wife won't allow him to make household decisions, like the style of kitchen curtains to buy, and she gives him more freedom. His decisions are all critized by the family: the garden hose is too short, the tissues he buys are oily, etc. Later, he is alone in the kitchen and distracted by a phone call, when every decision he made contributes to the chaos. the oily tissues catch fire, which spreads quickly because of a flammable bug spray he purchased. Ray scrambles for his hose, which doesn't reach the kitchen. Finally, Debra stops the domino rally by grabbing a fire extinguisher she purchased and putting out the flames.
  • Every second or third episode of Casualty is based around this idea. In the first episode of 2012 for example, a dog escapes from a back garden, this leads to a major traffic accident taking out 5 or 6 cars, which leads to one man being delayed in stopping a suicide attempt, in trying to save the suicide victim and dealing with the traffic caused by an accident, a gas main is accidentally destroyed causing an explosion which rips apart a housing estate. This in turn causes some nearby chemical drums to burst, creating a huge cloud of Hydrogen chloride, which ends up getting into the drain system causing part of the town to be evacuated. We end up seeing several hundred people affected by various burns. All this happens on the same morning that the A&E department first reopens after a major fire so all the equipment is new and most of it untested. And this is just one episode.
  • In the fourth season of Castle, it's the entire plot of a Double Episode where a CIA mathematician found a small, almost insignificant action that will trigger World War III. After the Detectives manage to prevent the thing that starts it (the assassination of a child), Castle asks Beckett if she thinks the Disaster Dominoes was real. She concludes that they saved a child, and that's good enough.
  • In the second season Ever Decreasing Circles episode "Housework", Schedule Fanatic Martin concocts an ambitious plan to give his house a complete spring clean from top to bottom while his wife is in hospital recovering from surgery. He meticulously schedules both the cleaning and his usual Sunday "to do" list of planning the neighbourhood's group social activities, but his lack of housework experience means things soon go wrong: He overloads the washing machine, and when he hears it jolting across the kitchen floor, he takes his eyes off a carpet shampooer for just long enough for it to swamp the entire hallway with foam. As he tries feebly to clean up the foam with a dustpan and brush, he stops paying attention to the absurdly large amount of rice he is boiling for his lunch, which soon covers half the top of the cooker. His attempts to vacuum up the rice lead to the vacuum cleaner breaking, and when he tries putting the remaining rice down the kitchen sink, it quickly becomes clogged. Finally, his nerves completely frayed thanks to both the housework chaos and a neighbour who won't stop calling him with questions about forthcoming social activities, he throws a porkchop into a plastic tub and puts it in the oven to cook for dinner; the melting plastic soon fills the entire kitchen with smoke, and the oven is ruined.
  • Community: In The Darkest Timeline in "Remedial Chaos Theory", Troy hurriedly leaves the apartment for the pizza delivery — he dislodges the rolling boulder from the "Raiders" set model which lands on the floor — Annie trips on it and falls into the coffee table, smashing Pierce's bottle of overproof rum — Pierce jumps up from the game table and Annie's purse hits the floor — a gun inside it fires, shooting Pierce in the thigh and hitting an artery — as the others frantically try to stop the bleeding Britta steps out of the bathroom, and as she gapes in alarm the marijuana cigarette she's smoking falls and ignites the rum. Eventually, one is dead, one is driven mad from guilt, one lapses into chronic drunkenness, one's larynx is destroyed, one loses an arm in the fire, one thinks they should invade the Prime Timeline, and one dyes a strand of her hair blue.
  • Air Crash Investigation: It's basically one long sequence of these. For example, Crash of the Century (the story of the Tenerife disaster of 1977; see Real Life section for details) has the dominoes from lack of ground radar, an overloaded airport, bad communication, foggy weather and a captain too eager to take off.
  • Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em is one of British television's great Walking Disaster Areas, and had a flair for setting off disaster dominoes. Perhaps the crowning example is the 1973 episode "Have a Break, Take a Husband", in which he starts by tearing a hole in the cheap linoleum of the hotel room in which he and his wife Betty are staying for their second honeymoon. By the end of the episode, through a combination of his own ineptitude and the room's shoddy construction, he has torn a floor mat in half, broken several drawers apart, broken the door off the wardrobe, smashed a hole through the floor in the middle of the room, convinced a nervous fellow guest that his dead grandfather is trying to contact him, put two more holes in the floor under the bed, ripped the washbasin from the wall, and demolished the hotel bar.
  • On the episode "Arrhythmia" of Almost Human, a former police DRN unit riding with Kennex and Dorian jumps out of Kennex's car to arrest a man he thinks is a fugitive. This results in an SUV rolling forward down a hill and smashing into a parked car which hits a fire hydrant which is blown into the air and hits a police drone which is damaged and thrown out of control, ricocheting off a building and smashing into a police android who is stopped nearby writing a ticket and carrying him through the door of a third vehicle. Kennex and Dorian watch the entire thing unable to say anything.
  • The Doctor in the House franchise featured numerous examples over the years, but perhaps the most noteworthy happens in the climax of "Honeymoon Special" from Doctor in Charge. Drs. Stuart-Clark and Collier put Dr. Bingham's leg in plaster as a prank before he leaves on his honeymoon, and Dr. Waring is forced to drive Bingham and his wife to their honeymoon hotel in a hired car and then stay the night; when the prank is revealed, he forces Collier to come to the hotel with a set of plaster cutters. Collier nearly misses the turn for the hotel, and reverses his car into a ditch as he tries to correct his mistake. As he forgets the plaster cutters in the car, the other doctors try to pull it out with Bingham driving the hired car, but his plastered foot gets stuck on the accelerator, dragging both cars on a wild ride down country roads and stopping on a level crossing — just as the barriers lower for an oncoming train. A mad scramble ensues to get the cars off the crossing in time, but then the still plaster-encased Bingham gets his foot stuck under the rails... fortunately, the train is going in the other direction and he is unharmed. (Collier's car gets front-ended by the other car, however, and his leg really does get broken in the impact.)
  • Happens multiple times in The Worst Year of My Life, Again, as Alex seems to have a talent for causing this kind of event. In the final episode, a pair of bathers hit Parker in the face and get flung away, causing a chain of events that knocks multiple people into the pool.
  • Breaking Bad: the Twist Ending of season 2 goes something like this: protagonist Walter White dislikes his partner Jesse's girlfriend, Jane Margolis, who has gotten him addicted to heroin; Jane blackmails Walter with the threat of revealing his drug dealing to his family and the police; Walter visits Jesse's flat to try to make amends, and finds both of them asleep; while trying to wake Jesse, Walter accidentally rolls Jane over onto her back, whereupon she starts choking on her own vomit; Walter deliberately fails to intervene, allowing her to die; Jane's father Don is distraught and takes some time off work; he returns to his job as an air traffic controller several weeks later; he becomes distracted at work due to his grief over Jane's death, as a result of which he accidentally issues incorrect directions to two planes, resulting in a mid-air collision which kills 167 people. Viewers are generally in agreement that Walter's actions indirectly led to the plane crash, but opinions are sharply divided on whether it's appropriate to actually blame him for the crash (which the show appears to).
  • This is the plot of the How I Met Your Mother "Lucky Penny":
    • Ted finds a 60s penny in the subway.
    • He invites Robin for hot dogs using the penny and they come across a Bridal Boutique store on the way home.
    • Lily decides to camp out next to the store with Robin in order to be first when it opens.
    • After being tired of waiting outside, Robin goes to Ted's apartment and accidentally scares Marshall who is training for the marathon, causing him to fall down and break his toe.
    • Marshall's toe injury leads to a bet with Barney that he will take Marshall's place in the marathon. Barney win the marathon and gets a free subway ride, only to become paralyzed and physically incapable of leaving the subway.
    • Ted, trying to rescue him, accidentally jumps off the subway turnstile and is sent to court causing him to miss the flight for his dream job in Chicago.
  • Doctor Who: The favorite technique of the Eighth Doctor across every medium he's portrayed in, who's stories put him somewhere on a sliding scale between this trope and the Rube Goldberg device in direct contrast to the Fourth Doctor who was more of a Spanner in the Works and the Seventh, who was portrayed as The Chessmaster.
    • "Vampire Science" for example has him inciting a faction war between moderate and extremist vampires while investigating a murder, facing a showdown where death is certain, and then killing off all the vampires without lifting a finger and saving the only sympathetic figure whilst his companion wonders if he just got everything he wanted accidentally or if it was an intricate plan.
    • "Seasons of Fear" has him undermining an invincible roman for thousands of years while he slowly goes insane from having the Doctor show up at his every moment of triumph to stop him until at the end, he is accidentally thrown back in time and his younger self is horrified and the entire story is rendered moot, the disaster dominoes coming from this being the distortion in time that allows beings made up of the erased possibilities and distortions of the timeline to invade the normal timeline and eventually breaks the universe that started with the first story in the series. Oops.
    • In "Night of the Doctor", this trait came back to bite him when ignoring the universal war throughout time and space in the background that he caused by visiting a planet accidentally 7 lives ago ends up indirectly killing him and leaving him distraught, depressed and alone.
  • One sketch by Dave Allen has a priest accidentally knock over a pew, which knocks over the next one, and so on. By the end, the interior of his church has collapsed.
  • Lucifer. The angel Uriel has the ability to see all possible futures. At the start of one episode he's shown rearranging the position of a skateboard slightly. A mother trips on the skateboard, goes to yell at her son about it, causing their dog to run out of the house, causing a car to swerve and impact the car driven by Detective Chloe Decker.
  • The Game Show Play The Percentages had an odd form of this, relating to format changes it went through- after the first week, part of the display in the Bonus Round stopped working, but rather than fix it, the producers (Barry & Enright) decided to change the rules instead- in turn, more and more of the rules were changed, until the whole format was overhauled into essentially a clone of B&E's infamous 21; the show ended after only onr season (popular consensus amongst game show fans is that the second format is a downgrade from the first, and the show would've lasted longer had they just fixed the bonus round display and left the format alone).
  • In The Flash, Becky Sharpe (AKA Hazard) can do it, both intentionally and unintentionally, thanks to her luck manipulation ability. During her second appearance, a trio of other metas are about to attack her. She tells them "good luck with that" and activates her power. Here's the sequence: a rat runs across a prison yard control panel, activating a spotlight; the light blinds Mina, causing her to lose control of the metal eagle she's sending at Becky; the eagle smashes into Rundine, who is send flying at a bench press; the overturned weights knock out Ramsey Deacon. Just then, Amunet shows up. Becky starts another chain: Amunet lowers the rifle of a guard; the guard accidentally fires a gas grenade at her feet; Amunet starts feeling the effects of the gas and falls, while spinning and accidentally firing her metal shards, killing all of the guards.

    Music 
  • In a general example, as a live band, there are four situations that qualify as Disaster Dominoes for a live band — in that they produce a cascading series of failures and are nigh-impossible to stop without stopping the song and either starting over (a huge faux pas that calls your professionalism into question, and is almost only forgivable in the case of massive technical problems or danger to life/health) or picking up where things went so pear-shaped it had to stop.
    • The first: the drummer is off rhythm. Unless the bassist or rhythm guitarist realize what's going on and try to get the drummer back into the groove or give up on him or her entirely and try to up their volume to cover it, both will proceed to go off rhythm as well, leaving the lead and singer to try to keep up to something entirely different than what they've rehearsed, and usually very badly failing at it.
    • The second: an intro solo (usually guitar or bass) is very badly botched. Unless the singer is relying on a cue other than a point in that solo or a note on teleprompter or notes, he or she will come in at the wrong place and either singing too fast or too slow to avoid dead air. The guitarist(s) will then usually try to start compensating for the singer and getting the song back on track, only making the problem worse when they and the bass speed up to an already out of breath singer and go out of tempo with the drums. An experienced drummer might stop the cascade of failure by keeping his original rhythm, though this itself will make the song sound awful until they reach a break. An inexperienced one will go faster himself.
    • The third: The soundboard guy sucks, and therefore everyone's playing does. This is often the one that is an exception to starting over being seen as unprofessional, and has occasionally led to bands walking out on the show or demanding no live adjustments (e.g. demanding the soundboard guy set to their/their tour manager's specs and leave it alone)
    • The fourth: a major technical failure or someone's out sick, specifically for the drummer, the lead guitarist, or the singer. A band can play without bass (though it will sound worse) or without a rhythm guitar (there's many bands that don't have one to begin with), but the drums or lead guitar or vocals not being there will often lead to everything related to the performance collapsing, unless it's a very experienced band that can rework their music on the fly to work as drumless or instrumental.
  • In Joe Diffe's Third Rock from the Sun a man in Smokey's Bar sees a beautiful woman walk into the bar and calls up his wife to tell her he is working late (so he can make time with the lady in question). The wife calls up her sister and asks her to come over to comfort her, which gives her boyfriend time to go out and get a beer from a nearby store. He leaves the keys in his car, allowing some teenagers to take a joyride in his car. The teenagers end up in the path of a semi truck, which crashes into them, goes across a bank parking lot, and hits a nearby clocktower. The clocktower falls over and takes out a power line, making the entire town go dark. A waitress calls the police in panic, claiming aliens are landing, and the police call the mayor, waking him up, because they can't find the sheriff. The mayor tells the police to use their heads - if he isn't in his car, he's probably hiding from his wife down at Smokey's Bar. So he is going to have to work late after all.
  • "The Wreck of the Crash of the Easthill Mining Disaster" by Brooke Lundeville. But did she have to bring in the puppies?
  • And from Flanders and Swann, we have "The Gasman Cometh".
  • Green Day s Walking Contradiction music video
  • Sabotage by Daybroke. A broken off guitar knob hits some unstable makeshift table, things start to fall, roll and hit other things. Resulting in a global catastrophe.
  • The French song "Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise" has the Marquise calling home. Every member of staff tells her everything's just fine, except for a minor detail, starting with the death of her favorite horse who died in the stable, which burned down after the castle caught fire, caused by the candles falling over after the Marquis shot himself on learning he was bankrupt. But other than that, everything's fine.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In one episode of Between the Lions, Theo puts a pen on a stack of books. But by pulling a book out from the middle of the stack, he knocks the pen off, causing a chain reaction that practically destroys the library and sends Cleo flying through the air to land on Theo!

    Tabletop Games 
  • A staple of Paranoia, especially in the adventure Send In The Clones... where the Gamemaster is given instructions on how to make this happen even if the PCs are specifically guarding against it and still make them think it's their own fault.
  • Mousetrap! I guarantee! It's the craziest trap you'll ever see!
  • Most players of Dungeons & Dragons will claim that any session (or encounter) which killed at least two characters invoked this trope.

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • Your inevitable fate in Dwarf Fortress.
    • Dwarves can be aggravated through grief or dissatisfaction to a point of murderous, crazy rage. The thing is, one dwarf rampaging around smashing property and killing friends, pets and spouses will often upset other dwarves enough to go nuts too. Players refer to this situation as a "tantrum spiral". Cases often follow a pattern like:
      Dwarves A B and C are unhappy, but not enough so for madness.
      Dwarf A doesn't get enough sleep and goes over the edge into madness, in the process cutting Dwarf B's wife in half.
      Dwarf B finds out his wife is dead, pushing his grief over the edge too. He promptly goes and smashes a statue Dwarf C really likes.
      Dwarf C finds out about the statue and... well you see where this is going.
    • See the saga of Boatmurdered, an epic tale of mismanagement and bloody death which ends with legendary former leaders beating dwarves to death while on fire and the inferno causes the entire fortress to devolve into a massive flaming brawl while the flaming corpse of a monarch butterfly wedges open the front gates and keeps the Doomsday Device from being activated. For many players this is the biggest appeal of the game.
  • In the game, Eric the Unready, the titular protagonist manages to set off one of these during a banquet, burning down the entire building.
  • The climactic scene of the text adventure, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, features Trent (or Tiffany) deploying the Anti-Leather Goddesses Attack Machine, which works in this way.
  • Spectacular failures in Left 4 Dead can often be traced back to a single event, most likely a Boomer vomiting on all four survivors at once. On harder difficulties the AI director seems to play up the smallest mistakes into really, really big and tragic messes. One stray bullet hitting a car, alerting the horde, and wouldn't you know it, a Boomer spawns 15 seconds later, which is almost impossible to avoid since the players are already getting swarmed. Inevitably, one or two will be dead, the remainder near death, and no medpacks to be found... wait, what's that rumbling noise?
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Leeroy Jenkins Video. Everything that happens after Leeroy Jenkins runs in qualifies - though The Plan in the first place would have ended up the same way, due to the protection spell the paladins were supposed to cast neutralizing their own mages.
    • Some raid bosses such as Archimonde and Anub'Rekhan are based around this; something bad happens whenever a character dies, which may end up killing another, then another two, then... And in a more literal "dominoes" sense, there are a few raid bosses, such as Kel'thuzad in Naxxramas, who have attacks that can "jump" from player to player. One player makes the wrong move at the wrong time and everyone can quickly end up dead from the chain reaction.
    • The Lich King. One of his attacks called Defile targets a player to create a black puddle at his feet. Every tick of damage it does, it grows a bit larger in radius. If a player gets caught as it grows, it keeps growing. If another player who had cleared the danger radius stopped just short of the edge, it gets caught again, taking more damage, growing it a bit more. All it takes is two players doing this two step forward cha-cha a couple of times, and the puddle soon covers the entire playfield, wiping out the raid.
    • His Valkyrs are pretty awful too. They will pick three random players and drag them to the edge to drop them over, and they cannot do anything until the other players kill the valkyr (preferably before EFORE being over the edge). If one or more players get dropped, there will be fewer players for the next wave of valkyrs, who will more easily throw more off the edge, and so on, until the wipe is inevitable. And defile still gets cast through all of this.
  • Any with any strategy game where morale is a major issue, X-COM is a good example. One of your soldier dies, causing another to panic and drop his gun, leading to him dying as well, which causes a third guy to snap and start firing wildly, killing two of his allies, and next thing you know, your entire squad is wiped out without even engaging the enemy. Enemies with Psionics don't even need to raise their guns — a handful of Panic Attacks later, the squad that was assigned to fight them will end up killing itself for them through berserked firing of HE rounds and panicked dropping of primed explosives.
  • Fallout:
    • Can be a frequent occurrence in the series. A stray bullet can graze an innocent bystander who then returns fire, he misses and grazes another bystander. It's sometimes an option to avoid conflict by letting a town kill itself.
    • In Fallout 3 alone, the abandoned cars are nuclear powered, explode if damaged, and there may be strings of them on the ruined roads, ready to set each other off. It's a highly entertaining way to kill enemies, just be careful you're a good distance away from the fun.
    • One trap in Fallout 3 uses a row of boxes set up like dominoes to start a chain reaction. Battering ram hits domino boxes, last domino triggers pitching machine which knocks fire extinguisher into bear trap, setting off grenades and gas explosions that will kill the player if they're in the wrong place.
    • Antagonize a member of a faction (by petty theft, trespassing, pickpocketing) in Fallout: New Vegas, turning them hostile, kill them in self-defense, causing infamy to be gained and other nearby members to attack you, until your reputation hits bottom and they are permanently shot at on sight. Even if you are only "shunned" by the NCR or Legion, they will send hit squads after you, and killing these will completely destroy your standing with them.
    • In the Nellis generator facility, the ants explode when killed with certain weapons. If set off next to one of the stored howitzer shells, they may cause a chain reaction of detonations that blows you and your companions to smithereens.
  • This is similarly a common strategy in Doom; get one enemy to shoot another, often by strafing/streaking through, and next thing you know, they're fighting each other.
  • The goal of many levels in The Incredible Machine is to place the last missing domino for this to happen.
  • Many of the deaths in Scorched Earth and other tank games can cause a cascading ladder of death from a single kill.
  • This is extremely common when playing a strategy game on the hardest difficulty or when the game is always just that hard. To succeed you need to spread your resources very thin indeed, and with multiple aspects of your defense or offense relying on the proper functioning of other aspects, all it takes is one bad decision or unlucky RNG result and your entire army falls apart. For example, you're playing a that one mission where you start with one dysfunctional base and your enemy has several fully-powered bases opposing you. You have -just- enough supply or power to keep your base running and your army full and can't spare any money at all to get more supply/power, as you're massing for an attack to take out one of the bases before you get overwhelmed. While your defensive line kills a hundred small, fast units, a single one gets through to melee range. Your artillery kills that unit plus all of your units that were in nearby with Splash Damage. The next wave runs through the hole in your defenses, kills your artillery and blows up a power plant/farm/overlord, and then you can't rebuild those lost defenders quite fast enough, and before you know it your whole base is on fire and your army crushed. Every strategy gamer who flirts with masochistic difficulty has experienced this many times.
  • This can occur in Skyrim. In Markarth, the Dragonborn gets involved in a conspiracy that climaxes with a prison riot and the Forsworn carving a bloody path across the city, killing an important nobleman in the process. And depending on the order in which the player completed the quests and visited cities, all started with a drinking contest with a stranger in a tavern across the continent, and the game itself is in on the joke and encourages you to play that way to get that result.
  • In MOBA games like Dota 2, a lot of things can go wrong. The genre as a whole is very, very unforgiving and the players are punished severly by the mechanics themselves, but with the help of smart play from the enemy a small fault can result in an even bigger disadvantage for the team who made a mistake.
    • Most of games in this genre even have a character who specializes in causing dominoes to fall by resetting their ability cooldowns on every kill or assist, like Katarina in League of Legends or Li-Ming in Heroes of the Storm. They can easily throw their combo on one of opponents, score a kill, then unload on another opponent, rinse and repeat until either they or entire enemy team is dead.
  • Every event that takes place in the second Knights of the Old Republic game is sparked by the Exile's return to known space. The Sith come out of hiding to capture her, destroying Peragus in the process, the restoration efforts on Telos depends on the fuel from Peragus, and all other planets devastated by the Jedi Civil War depend on Telos to set the example that it can be done. If Telos fails, then the Republic will have bankrupted itself in the attempt with no result and will collapse. The ripple effect of the consequences of even a small act, in fact, is one of the themes of the game.
  • LEGO Star Wars. Vader gets a medal this time as he's won the sequel to Star Wars. An entire legion of Stormtroopers are lined up on the steps, so Vader gives on of them a hearty slap on the back, sending the lego figures toppling like dominoes.
  • When Crowe comes back in Saisei-hen, the first thing that happens is that he gets a debt of a few thousand dollars because of a highway accident which then turned into a million dollars worth of debt. By the end of the game, he's not even close to paying off those debts.
  • Due to the physics involved in Worms, a single shot can result in a chain reaction of explosions from mines, oil barrels, crates being torched by the aforementioned items, dying worms self-destructing, and so on. This can contain equal amounts of awesome, fail, and hilarity, as any veteran Worms player will attest to. Quite often entire island formations and reduced into gutted, swiss-cheese-like shells of their original forms during the process. For extra points, sometimes this involves the worm who pulled the trigger getting caught up in the carnage that ensues.
  • Kessler Syndrome (see Real Life) appears in Endless Space as one of the most potent negative anomalies that can affect a planet. Many planets are host to the remains of long dead civilizations, and Kessler Syndrome is the result of a space-faring civilization dying back without taking their satellites with them, causing derelict satellites to smash into each other, generating debris which smashes into more satellite ad infinitum, turning the low and high orbits into rings of lethal debris, making space travel dangerous and expensive.
  • Yuuki Terumi of BlazBlue fame is a good example of why manipulating affairs across space and time for a singular desirable objective is best left to absolute professionals, and he doesn't count. Everything was going well up until he sent a certain subordinate to a certain Hierarchical City for a certain mission. Said mission throws Makoto to a parallel world where her best bud Noel was obliterated in Ibukido, and Makoto got to see how things worked out, up to and including Tsubaki's desperation to be at Jin's side despite taking the seat Noel was moved into, and before Terumi could eliminate her, Rachel gets her out of there and helps her get back to her own world. After that, said subordinate started doing her own thing, but while he sought to mitigate her actions, he succeeded in the short term. Only not as thoroughly as he wanted: Rachel used her encounter with Makoto to rethink her interactions with Ragna, guiding him towards a solution that worked for both of them; Makoto lifting Noel's spirits left enough of the girl behind for Ragna to save; Makoto's encounter of Jin which Terumi (as Hazama) interrupted failed to mindrape Jin, leaving him to reawaken to the power of order undeterred; Makoto saved Tsubaki from a messy end at Carl's hands, which left plenty of her behind once Mind Eater came into play; and she delivered Kagura's data pack to Kokonoe uninterrupted, with Lambda covering her and Tager's tracks when Relius came calling. Come Chronophantasma, however, she's at it again: in addition to all the previous damage, Makoto's plan to save Tsubaki blinded Izanami to Noel's movements and vulnerability, allowing her and Kagura to catch up to Ragna while Kagura himself later fetched Makoto; said plan also blinded Izanami to Jin's encounter with Hakumen, whereupon he got information relevant to Tsubaki; Kagura got enough of a glimpse of Tsubaki's mental degeneration to engineer a trap to capture her and dispel Mind Eater, with Makoto, Noel and Jin conducting the dirty work in that order; and with Izanami's Takamagahara-enhanced gaze fixated upon the spectacle that preluded the trap, Rachel, Jubei and Trinity could carry out their plan to draw Terumi into the real world unhindered. Long story short, what Terumi thought was a brilliant scheme to wrap up a potential loose end only empowered the target to start a colossal chain reaction that ended up with Relius dispirited and Terumi himself dead. While Terumi self-observed to avoid the worst-case scenario, only Amaterasu knows if there's another trail of falling dominoes in the background waiting to crush him for good.
  • Extremely common in the Tower Defense game Defense Grid: The Awakening and its sequel. In Defense Grid enemies are aiming to steal power cores from your core housing and escape with them rather than destroying the object you're trying to protect like in most TD games. When you kill an enemy it drops the core it's carrying, which will slowly float back towards the housing again, unless another enemy picks it up again. The most common way to lose cores is for an enemy to grab some and head back out the way it came in, passing through another incoming wave of fresh enemies as it does so. Even if your towers pick off the core carrier (as they're programmed to do automatically), this will just result in the core being passed over to a new, fresh enemy, possibly an even tougher one than the one that initially grabbed it (particularly annoying when a Fragile Speedster like a Racer passes a core to a Mighty Glacier like a Crasher). And of course, the new carrier can pass the core on again to another wave, resulting in a core changing hands in a relay all the way back to the enemy entrance zone, where it's lost for good. If you let a core get taken far enough from the housing and your Grid isn't strong enough to eliminate the enemies as soon as they come onto the field, the core is as good as lost.note 

    Visual Novels 
  • Little Busters!: Haruka's imagined scenario of how cleaning could kill you involves this. First, she trips over while mopping. Then she bumps into a locker. The shock of this makes the club room collapse. This causes an earthquake. As the room happened to be the pivotal point of earth, the earth's crust starts moving and Japan sinks into the ocean, which causes the continents to drift apart. This makes the poles shift. As a result, all of mankind is wiped out. And that's why Haruka absolutely cannot clean. Except that Riki then points out that none of that could ever actually happen, which Haruka thinks is boring.
  • Zero Time Dilemma: It is eventually, slowly revealed that everything that went wrong in the entire Zero Escape series can be traced back to Mira killing Eric's mother, who was walking on a different path...all because of a snail.
  • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 reveals that the IS-7 Incident is one stretching the entire series. Someone cheats to win a contest, ultimately leading to a fatality. Then, as a result, Gregory Edgeworth spoils Manfred von Karma's perfect record and is shot, leading his son Miles to become a prosecutor and eventually be framed by the vengeful other party. The same case caused Misty Fey to be disgraced and go into exile, leading her daughter Mia to become a defense attorney and get murdered, motivating her protege Phoenix, who has to eventually deal with the murder of Misty herself by her jealous sister and the ghost of a woman Mia put away for murder earlier, all in order to pin the blame on Phoenix's assistant Maya, Mia's little sister. And that's not even counting the many, many collateral deaths along the way...
  • It happens again for the second trilogy, as revealed in Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Spiritof Justice. Ga'ran sets fire to her sister's home, which kills Jove Justice, Apollo's biological father. As a result, Thalassa searches for Apollo to no avail, goes back to Troupe Gramarye, and marries Zak, eventually giving birth to Trucy. She is caught in an accident as a result, which makes her lose her memories and gets sent to Borginia, where she eventually becomes Lamiroir, meets Klavier Gavin, gives him a guitar which Daryan Crescend uses to smuggle a Borginian Cocoon, which leads to the murder of Romein Le Touse. Meanwhile, as a result of Thalassa's disappearance, Magnifi uses this to blackmail Zak and Valant, which eventually culminates in his asking one of them to shoot him. Zak is framed for his death, which leads to him choosing Phoenix over Kristoph, and causes his murder as well as the murder of Drew Misham and murder attempt of Vera Misham, as well as Phoenix losing his badge, which is one event that starts the Dark Age of the Law. Meanwhile, Dhurke Sahdmadhi has taken in the infant Apollo and raised him, inspiring him to become a lawyer, then sent him back to America, where he meets Clay Terran. Eventually, Apollo grows up to become a lawyer under Kristoph Gavin. It's really amazing how one small crime can have such far reaching circumstances.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in the notorious flash cartoon The Demented Cartoon Movie, in which tiny accidents cause massive cascades of toppling city buildings, ultimately winding up with the earth falling into the sun.
  • In The TV Show a sequence of events that starts with a man in a ski mask holding up a video game store ends with what appears to be a city in ruins. And it was awesome.]
  • Happens in an episode of the Knights of the Dinner Table Flash cartoon when the GM, B.A., starts implementing his new chart of randomly-determined consequences for critical failures. A single roll of natural 1 on an attack leads to major injury for the whole party.
  • There is an animation called Safety @ Work that reminds us the importance of workplace safety. One man fails to wear his hard hat, and, well...
  • This fan video to the song You're the One That I Want. A couple enters a carnival funhouse which is already falling apart. Their obliviousness to surroundings and disregard for safety accelerate the process. By the end the carnival and a nearby building are destroyed and many visitors suffer Amusing Injuries.
  • The appropriately named "Smoke Kills" has a fit of anger from a nobody trying to quit smoking resulting in global nuclear war.
  • RWBY: This is basically what makes Remnant a Death World and the Grimm so dangerous. Grimm are drawn to negative emotions in high concentrations. A prolonged period of public dread and worry followed by a disaster, like a bandit attack or a famine or someone being maimed or even killed in a widely-respected and globally televised martial arts tournament will cause a spike in Grimm activity, and the approaching Grimm cause even more panic and fear, which draws even more in. Eventually even the mighty defences of the Kingdoms can be overwhelmed by the tidal wave of terrifying monsters bumrushing at the tasty humans.

    Web Comics 
  • Teh Gladiators features Vallant, master of the Pinball Projectile, the epitome of Accidental Aiming Skills. When he gets to Booty Bay and is asked to "commemorate" the launch of a new ship, well... see for yourself.
  • In the backstory of Drowtales, the collapse of a project known as the Skyhole caused a chain of these.
    • It effectively destroyed a great Clan, leaving a power gap that was eventually filled by the Jaal'darya.
    • The area around the collapse was rendered next to uninhabitable thanks to the dust and debris.
    • The collapse trapped many Sarghress troops on the surface and cut them off from the rest of Chel.
    • Taking advantage of this, Diva'ratrika had the Sharen led by Sarv'swati attack the weakened Sarghress.
    • This led directly to the battle where Sarv'swati fought Quain'tana and made her barren which has huge effects on the main story.
    • The Sarghress survived thanks to their cavalry making a forced march from the surface and coming to the rescue to their clanmates and Ill'haress just in time.
    • The collapse and its after effects ruined the good will that had been building among the clans, setting the stage for the distrust and indifference that would later show itself in the Nidraa'chal War.
    • The collapse also took many of Chel's most creative and progressive thinkers with it, and set back the colonization effort for many years.
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl has an incentive arc named after this, wherein every bad turn the characters could have made is taken.
  • The raccoon in Dubious Company has a tendency to cause these by scaring Elly with a glomp.
  • During the Hivebent arc of Homestuck, Equius makes an e%ample of a robot. It starts here, and goes from there for several pages.

    Web Original 
  • It's not uncommon for something to go completely wrong that causes a lot of explosions in Achievement Hunter's Lets Play Grand Theft Auto Series and, nine times out of ten, it's usually Gavin's fault.
  • This fanmade sketch animation from Touhou starts out with Remilia throwing her Gungnir into the distance, triggering a chain of events that eventually wrecks, in order: Reimu's shrine; the Moriya shrine; the Human Village; and finally Byakuren's shrine, with some collateral casualties like Eirin's Clinic and Yuuka's garden; before Byakuren herself throws Hisoutensoku's arm back at the Scarlet Devil Mansion, right in Remilia's face.
  • Captain Disillusion manages one at the end of the episode "Miss Ping Debunk", where he bats a ping-pong ball off screen that sets off a largely-unseen chain of catastrophes that within a few seconds causes the entire set to collapse on top of him.

    Western Animation 
  • Mocked in a Robot Chicken skit that's a Crossover between Final Destination and Archie. In a mirror of Mrs. Lewton's aforementioned death scene, Mrs. Grundy is killed after an overly elaborate series of gags practically ripped from the Mouse Trap board game (eventually) results in a somehow previously-unnoticed car suspended above her head dropping on her.
  • In the What A Cartoon! Show short "Larry and Steve", Larry's car gets cut in half, and the one with Steve in it crashes first through a house, then through a barn full of chickens, and when Steve sees the car headed towards a big pile of explosives lying (in)conveniently in the middle of the road, he briefly stops screaming to say, "Waaait a minute, isn't this a bit contrived?"
  • Happened once to Blossom in The Powerpuff Girls. The weird thing is that she could fly away when she tripped the first time, but she was carrying the Idiot Ball that day.
  • Played seriously in an episode of The Batman, where the simple theft of a watch escalates into a tumult of destruction that lands the thief in prison for fifteen years.
  • A set of disaster dominoes creates the Clock King in Batman: The Animated Series. Fugate fears he'll be ruined if he loses his legal hearing. When he breaks his schedule and dares to relax, he gets hit by a ball some children were playing with, a Dramatic Wind blows up the papers he needs for his hearing, and a playful dog accidentally gets him to fall into a park fountain. While he's physically unscathed by it all, he still ends up late to court and loses.
    • This is the entire plot of Harley's Holiday in a nutshell. Having been released from Arkham as rehabilitised, Harley goes to a clothes shop to get some new threads. Unfortunately, being used to doing things the criminal way, although she pays for her new dress, she does so by whipping out enough cash for it, leaving it on the counter, and then taking off with the dress... which still has an anti-theft security tag attached. Naturally, it sets off an alarm at the door and Harley panics. A security guard approaches, intending to just remove the clip after having been told by the cashier what's happening, but Harley thinks he's refusing to accept that she paid and taking the dress back. She attacks him, runs off into the changing room, and redons her Villainous Harlequin costume. In her attempt to flee the shop, she accidentally kidnaps Veronica Vreeland. This gets her on the list of Harvey Bullock. She goes to see a mobster for help, but when he wants to ransom off Veronica, she picks a fight. Then Veronica's Papa Wolf Four-Star Badass father shows up, in a tank, and starts blasting her in the middle of the street. If Batman hadn't spent the whole day chasing her to try and stop things, she could have gotten killed.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: This is how Ed manages to destroy the Eds' cardboard city in "Urban Ed".
    Ed: Dominoes! Let's do it again!
  • The Venture Bros.: The Monarch needs to create a diversion at the Venture yard sale (so he can sneak inside and use the bathroom). The place is full of super-scientists and archvillains, so one well-placed flying projectile starts a fight that becomes an all-out riot in seconds.
  • Played with in a Time Travel-"Groundhog Day" Loop episode of Jacob Two-Two. Jacob broke his brother's priceless record and every attempt to save it makes the situation worse. He puts it down to keep it from falling out of its case and his brother sits on it, he doesn't put it down and it falls out, rolls away and his brother trips on a skateboard and suffers a broken arm, he warns his brother about the skateboard and gets him in a full body cast instead, one more reset and their entire house ends up completely demolished. And the record ends up broken in all cases.
  • Nickelodeon Shorts and Interstitials: In "The Non-Adventures of Safety Queen", Safety Queen would try to warn off kids from doing some moderately risky activity (like pulling off a loose band-aid, jumping off the high dive at the public pool, or getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night) on the grounds that it could cause a chain of implausible disasters. While she was busy explaining, however, the kid would just go through with the act without any difficulty.
  • The stories of Pat and Mat have a tendency to go this way, usually as a result of causing disasters of ever-increasing magnitude to cover up their tracks. They often start from a minor everyday annoyance, like a stain on the wall
  • Happens in Happy Tree Friends regularly. Someone will get hurt, the others will panic, leading to more severe, fatal mistakes being made, which leads to more panic, leading to...
    • For example, in the school play episode "Class Act", Nutty, who is obsessed with candy and will eat anything remotely resembling it, bites a chunk out of Sniffles, who was dressed like a massive candy cane, who runs off screaming and somehow manages to get Giggles' face sliced off. The sliced off face manages to fly off and hit The Mole, who is controlling the spotlight, which he fumbles and directs straight into Lifty and Shiftys eyes, who were holding Flaky upside down and who, blinded, drop her, which causes her to get skinned falling down a chimney, before getting deposited on the stage floor with her muscles exposed. All this finally triggers a panic, leading to one of the characters dropping a candle and creating a fire while Cuddles blocks the escape route with his costume, leading to him being pushed out of it in a cylindrical shape. Most of the characters get out safely, but are all killed when the school explodes at the end.
  • Seen in a few episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Winter Wrap-Up", Twilight Sparkle's attempt to use magic to help clear the snow from the farmlands literally snowballs out of control, causing a small avalanche that covers the fields again.
    • At the start of "Stare Master", Sweetie Belle's attempt to help Rarity by retrieving some ribbon leads to this, creating a huge mess in Rarity's shop.
    • The climax of "The Best Night Ever". Applejack makes a fancy layer cake to impress the upper-class ponies at the Grand Galloping Gala, and carts it into the ballroom. Pinkie, who's trying to liven things up, does a stage dive onto the dessert cart, sending the cake flying towards Rarity and Prince Blueblood. Blueblood hides behind Rarity, who decides that getting Covered in Gunge is the last straw and chews Blueblood out for being so self-centered all night, splattering cake on him in the process. Blueblood backs into a pedestal, causing a statue to fall towards the partygoers. Rainbow Dash decides this is her chance to save the day and impress the Wonderbolts, and manages to catch the statue, only to end up knocking over a row of columns. Just when Princess Celestia and Twilight Sparkle stumble upon the tableau produced and Twilight thinks things can't possibly get any worse, an angry Fluttershy chases a horde of panicked animals into the ballroom, causing complete pandemonium.
  • Dexter's Laboratory had this happen to an ice cream man: Dexter paid him for a very expensive ice cream with a heavy jar of pennies, which he dropped when trying to put it in the safe, leading to him being unable to account with the daily income, causing him to lose his job, his car, his apartment, and his girlfriend, and live under a bridge. Plus he chipped a tooth. It's his Disproportionate Retribution to Dexter as he refuses to stop to give ice cream to him.
  • Fillmore!: the ruination of the train convention in "Next Stop: Armageddon".
  • The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol : The Smurf of Christmas Present shows that, if Grouchy doesn't show up to do his part at decorating the Christmas tree, Clumsy will volunteer, leading into this.
  • The Rainbow Magic has this happen to the villains in the movie's prologue. The goblins crash into Jack Frost several times, ruining his dramatic entrance and eventually getting themselves trapped in their own net.
  • A staple of Milo Murphy's Law. The first episode, in particular, revolves around a single, continuous, episode-long chain of one disaster causing another.
  • The Wild Thornberrys had this as a plot regarding the food chain. Eliza saw a starving Lynch using a cactus needle which was ineffective, so she gave it a regular threading needle to help it eat its weight. She believed she was doing the right thing to help it eat. However, other birds came flocking to her for threading needles as well. She gave them all threading needles, and then set off a bigger calamity. It's not until the Wham Line she realizes that if Lynchs eat all the larvae, there are no flies to feed the next animal up in line, then there's nothing for them to be preyed on, and so the food chain falls apart.
  • In Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas, when George and the Man with the Yellow Hat are selecting a Christmas tree, George climbing atop one of the trees causes the whole yard to collapse. The assistant at the yard quickly realizes that wasn't the correct way to set it up.
  • Kaeloo:
    • Invoked by Stumpy when he tries to put himself in danger on the first season finale. He throws a pebble and says that with his luck, anything is dangerous. Sure enough, the pebble sets off a chain reaction resulting in a boulder almost falling on Stumpy's head.
    • Happens again in Episode 92, where Quack Quack drops a yogurt container which rolls into a tree, causing an apple to fall... this continues for about half the episode before it eventually launches a barrage of sharp weapons at Kaeloo, Stumpy and Mr. Cat, almost killing them.
  • Invoked in The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Downer": Gumball can't find anyone in his house and tries to see if he can get their attention by knocking a lamp over, causing it to knock over the TV, which then knocks over a bookshelf, but a rubber ball and a vase fall off the shelf, the vase bounces off the ball and back on the shelf, straightening it and the TV and knocking the lamp against his head.
  • Wander over Yonder: In "The Good Deed", Wander and Sylvia find that every one of their attempts to do good backfires somehow and causes trouble for someone else.


Ouch. Bad day all around.

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