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Don't Look Down

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"Everybody looks down when you tell them not to look down, do you know that?!"
Bill Rago, Renaissance Man

A Stock Phrase you have certainly heard a million times. Insert in nearly any situation where the characters have to traverse some area where the penalty for a misstep or equipment failure is a one way trip courtesy of gravity. Or, they're hanging over such an area by their fingernails or a very unsteady rope, branch or other dubious support. "Just stay calm, and don't look down" or some variant is uttered.

Why? Because you really don't want to know what's down there.

If it's a long drop, the looker is liable to experience vertigo, which will certain not help with avoiding taking the plunge.

However, sometimes the person won't listen and they will look down anyway. Cue Freak Out. A massive source of Schmuck Bait.

When invoked in a comedy or an animated work, may lead to the realization that Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress... two seconds before you start falling.

Plummet Perspective describes one of the things that might happen if the character does look down.

See Don't Look At Me for when a character demands not to be looked at due to their appearance. See Death by Looking Up when a character gets squished just as they look up. See Look Behind You for when a character tricks someone else into looking away as a distraction. See "No Peeking!" Request when a character requests another to not look while they perform an action.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in The Castle of Cagliostro: Lupin tells Clarisse to look down in order to calm her so she realizes they're hanging several hundred feet in the air from a thin line and screaming and flailing at the strange man holding her is a really bad idea.
  • Inverted in a different manner in an episode of Slayers. The gang is clinging to a rope across a chasm, and Filia tells Gourry to not look up. This is because he's holding on to her legs and she's wearing a dress.
  • One example in Digimon Fusion when the fighters get to the forest zone they're teleported there, several hundred feet up in the air. At first they wonder where the zone is (since when they're teleported there there's nothing there at all.) Then Taiki decides to look down. He then tells the one person in their party with a height phobia how his fear of heights is doing then tells him this trope's name. Cue Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Spiral City have Doraemon and gang crossing a deep chasm using a narrow, improvised bridge (made from a stolen fireman's ladder) while being chased by a gigantic golden monster. Doraemon said this trope word-for-word.

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Simple Samosa episode "Simple Hitchki", Chewlypso says this as he explains to a blindfolded Samosa that each step he makes will open a chakra that will bring him at peace (all of this is to cure Samosa's hiccups). Samosa takes off his blindfold anyway and freaks out upon realizing he's on a rope high above the town, leading to him slowly falling back down to the ground; as for the hiccups, it doesn't cure them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Dumbo: Timothy tells this to Dumbo when the two wake up from a hangover and find themselves lying on a tree branch.
    Jim Crow: And ah suppose you and no elephant ain't up in no tree, either.
    Timothy: No! No, me and no tree ain't up no... Huh? Tree?
    (both look down)
    Timothy: (gasp) YOOOW! Dumbo... Dumbo! Wake up! Wake up, Dumbo! (gulp) Don't look now, but I think we're up in a tree!
  • Used hilariously in The Incredibles: Helen and Jack-Jack are falling, with a huge explosion above them, and Helen reassures Jack-Jack in this way.
  • Shrek says this to Donkey as they're crossing the Rope Bridge to Dragon's castle. When Donkey looks down and freaks out, Shrek teases him and has a good laugh about it.
    Donkey: Shrek, I'm looking down! Aaaaah!!!!!
  • In the teaser for Turning Red, Mei repeats this to herself when she's travelling across the rooftops on her way home. This line isn't said in the movie proper.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The quote from Renaissance Man above, when Bill Rago is about to rappel down the large victory tower.
  • Averted in Need for Speed. Early on, Julia is shown to have a severe fear of heights. Later in the movie, when she and Tobey are in a car dangling from a helicopter a mile in the air, Tobey calms her down by telling her to look into his eyes and getting her riled up about them. ("They're a lot bluer than yours." "...No, they're not!") He never once says the phrase.
  • Said by Jason to Gwen in Galaxy Quest when they pass over a giant spinning duct deep inside the underbelly of the Omega 13. Also Jason tells everyone not to look back while they are escaping with the berylliums sphere from the mine. Gwen does of course and screams when she sees the hordes of miners coming after them.
  • In Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Ace tells the racoon that he's rescuing not to look down the crevice that they're roping across. Naturally, the racoon looks down.
  • Free Solo is a film about the mountaineer Alex Honnold. In a Q&A session in the DVD Bonus Content, he is asked if he ever looks down. He replies that he has to look where he puts his feet, so he is continuously looking down.
  • The Jungle Book (2016): Bagheera says this to assure Baloo, who has severe acrophobia, as they scale a tall cliff on their way to rescue Mowgli from King Louie's temple.

  • In So You Want To Be A Wizard, precognitive macaw Macchu Picchu offers Nita and Kit three pieces of advice: don't be afraid to make corrections, don't be afraid to lend a hand, and don't look down.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Altered Carbon. Takeshi Kovacs gets thrown off a cliff for the cliffhanger ending of "I Wake Up Screaming". In the next episode, he wakes up to hear Trepp Imani telling him repeatedly: "Don't move, don't look down, don't open your left hand." Turns out his left hand is clutching onto a tiny ledge on the cliff face, thanks to the subconscious survival instincts built into his military-grade body.
  • Blue Peter: John Leslie comments that it is best not to look down, when scaling the heights of the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • The Borrowers: Pod tells Homily not to look down, when crossing an improvised bridge over a fast-flowing river.
  • Neverwhere: The Marquis de Carabas says this to Richard, who, predictably, doesn't listen. It doesn't help that they're underground, and Richard doesn't expect to suddenly find himself high up.
  • In The Outer Limits (1963) episode "Demon with a Glass Hand", Trent says this to Consuelo while placing her outside on the ledge of the high rise where she'd be safe from the enemy.

  • The '80s music group Go West has the trope as the title as well as the lyrics:
    Don't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)
    You know you're holding aces
    Don't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)
    Don't give the game away!

    Theme Parks 
  • Oblivion at Alton Towers has this phrase painted on the ground just above the Bottomless Pit that the main drop leads into. The ride originally had a voiceover that played as the train paused at the top of the drop, but it was eventually turned off due to noise complaints from people who lived near the park.

    Video Games 
  • Gemini: Heroes Reborn have Cassandra saying this to herself in a level where she's crossing a deep shaft by jumping on pipes, railings and girders.
  • During the sequence on the outside of the Shadow Broker's ship in Mass Effect 2, Liara mistakenly looks down and then tells herself not to.
  • Portal 2: It seems that the older parts of the Aperture Science facility are full of fathomless drops, and when Wheatley is carried over one of them by Chell, he says this to her. She doesn't react, naturally, but he immediately takes his own Schmuck Bait and regrets it - twice.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog: Eggman says it to Shadow when he passes through a Chao room.
  • In the Dragon Age: Inquisition "Jaws of Hakkon" DLC, Dorian will advise everyone not to look down while climbing tall trees. The Inquisitor can admit they may have already done so, or ask if he's saying that because he's looked.
    Dorian: Let's not start a whole game of, "who looked down and suddenly felt the weight of their own mortality", shall we? Some of us have to concentrate on walking.

  • Ménage à 3: Invoked in highly unusual circumstances here. Kiley has a massive case of A-Cup Angst, DiDi has truly epic breasts, and for reasons that defy summary, they're naked, they're face to face at close quarters, and Kiley is romancing DiDi. Actually, symbolically, Kiley has it right; she's walking one heck of a tightrope there.
  • The Order of the Stick #647:
    Elan: Woooooo! Wind Walk is the best cleric spell ever!!!
    Durkon: (To himself) Dinnae look down, dinnae look down, dinnae look down...

    Western Animation 

In General:


  • Lampshaded in Aladdin: The Series episode "The Lost Ones", after Al & co. go through a magic portal into a place that seems to be in midair.
  • Anais uses this in an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball
    Anais: [while telling Gumball and Darwin to cross a log] It's OK, just don't look down.
    [Gumball and Darwin look down]
    Gumball: AAAHHH! Why did you do that?!
    Anais: What? I said, don't look down.
    [Gumball and Darwin look down again]
    Gumball: AAAHHH! You did it again!!
  • Animaniacs:
    • Done in the episode "The Big Candy Store":
      Dot: Don't look down! You might fall and hit your head and die and your brains would leak out all over!
    • Also used in Wakko's Wish:
      Yakko: Whoa! Just don't look down.
      Wakko: Do you get vertigo?
      Yakko: No.
      Wakko: Me neither.
      Yakko: Yeah, I've seen that movie three times and I still don't get it.
  • Simon says this to Theodore in The Chipmunk Adventure when the two are crossing a bridge. The second he finishes speaking, Theodore looks down.
  • Chowder features Shnitzel trying to cross over to a rooftop by balancing on a chain hanging between two buildings, with Mung not helping in the least.
    Mung: Shnitzel! Just don't think about falling! Or slipping! (Shnitzel tries to take a step) Or gravity! Or plummeting! Or losing your balance! And especially don't think about-
    Shnitzel: RADDA!
  • In one episode of Kim Possible, Ron says this to himself as he's being chased through a towering collection of machinery in Drakken's lair, and promptly steps on and breaks through a flimsy grillwork, falling into the tube it is covering.
  • Zig-zag: In the Laff-A-Lympics episode taking place at the Grand Canyon, Huckleberry Hound uses this reasoning as to why the tightrope walk across the canyon doesn't make him nervous.
  • The Magic School Bus: in "Under Construction" (about engineering), Wanda says this to Arnold as he's slowly crawling across a suspension bridge made of Q-tips, dental floss, and bandages over a bathtub with a baby alligator in it. He looks down, alligator snaps jaws shut, and Arnold books it to the other side.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, after Pinkie Pie's antics allowed Fluttershy to temporarily get over her fear of heights in "Dragonshy", she finally attempts to jump over a mountain chasm only for Twilight Sparkle to say this phrase as words of encouragement. Sure enough, Fluttershy does just that and immediately loses her momentum in fright, causing her to drop like a rock... on top of a narrow gap that she could have just walked over.
  • The Simpsons in "The Neptune Adventure"
    Lenny: [on the ladder; panicking] Whatever you do, don't look down! I mean up! I can't do this anymore! It's too confusing! [falls to his death]
    Carl: It's not that confusing.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "On the Wings of Keeradaks", Wrecker, who is afraid of heights, is advised to do this when the team has to cross a long, narrow pipe in midair to get to a building with a landing pad. When he inevitably fails, he says he thinks he's going to be sick.
  • In Transformers: Prime, Bulkhead gets a little nervous when going out to fight in space. "Don't look down. Or up. Or left."


Video Example(s):


"I'm Looking Down!"

When Shrek and Donkey have to cross a rickety rope bridge over a moat of lava to reach the Dragon's Keep, Shrek advises the nervous Donkey not to look down. When that doesn't work, he uses more "persuasive" methods.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / RopeBridge

Media sources: