Follow TV Tropes


Down in the Dumps

Go To
It all ends here, one way or another...
SpongeBob: Hey! Our box is gone!
Patrick: Oh, well...
SpongeBob: I know! Let's go see Squidward!
Patrick: I hope he's not too down in the dumps today.
(timpani roll)

Dumps, scrapyards and junkyards are, just like Abandoned Warehouses, a common setting for fights, club houses, secret meetings, and other fantastic situations fictional characters get themselves into. There's something about dumps — everything there is dirty, old, worn out, and broken.

Symbolically, it's a place of decay. Pragmatically, there's lots of junk to play with, and it can be broken or blown up without having to worry about property damage. You could hide old vehicles and shipping containers easily here, as they blend in with the scrap. There might even be rewards for anyone willing to sift through the scrap, such as a rusted Cool Car or old military surplus gear you can weld into impressive improvised weapons.

Expect towering columns of crushed cars and piles of assorted garbage, perfect for hiding behind; a giant magnet or claw that can be easily operated by someone without training; a Conveyor Belt o' Doom leading into a crushing machine or incinerator; at least one junkyard dog; plenty of Trash Talk; and brown.

The junkyard manager is likely to be a similarly rough and worn out person with a Dark and Troubled Past (possibly some odd jobs for the Big Bad); as such, you can likely bribe them to allow off-the-books or illegal activities, if you need a bullet-holed getaway car to disappear, or if you need to dispose of a rolled-up carpet. More benign scrapyard managers might have a Mysterious Past that gives them an encyclopedic knowledge of spare parts and old technology.

There may be homeless people living in the junkyard, mingling with scavengers and junk pickers. In a grim post-apocalyptic dump, you'll see Disaster Scavengers.

Taken to extremes, this idea can lead to an all-out Landfill Beyond the Stars. Our heroes might end up here after escaping via Trash Landing. Expect to see a scrap-loving Metal Muncher living there in more fantastical works. See also Trash of the Titans. Not to be confused with Sadness Tropes.

For the Adventure Game, see Down in the Dumps.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Robin (1993): Tim faces off against Scott Lowe, also known as "Junkyard Dog", in a junkyard after the villain controls a bunch of dogs to try and kill Robin. Tim is exceptionally pissed at Lowe because all the dogs Lowe turned into killers via mind control are going to be put down.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, after Charlie and Itchy rescue Anne-Marie from Carface, they take shelter in a junkyard.
  • Earth, in the 2009 Astro Boy film, has become a sort of Landfill Beyond the Stars to the residents of Cloud City, who have since forgotten that they left quite a few people behind.
  • The climax of The Brave Little Toaster is in a dump, with a giant magnet chasing the heroes around and tossing them into the Conveyor Belt o' Doom. Particularly depressing since all the cars being discarded are sentient and singing about their glory days before their owners abandoned them as "worthless", while on a conveyor belt leading them into a machine that is going to crush and kill them.
  • One of the characters in The Iron Giant lives in a scrap metal yard; he's a modern artist who uses the trash to make sculptures. It's also a useful place to hide (and feed) the eponymous giant.
  • Toy Story 3: After trying to avoid it the whole movie, the heroes wind up in the dump, and nearly die in the Conveyor Belt o' Doom. Luckily, there's a claw machine.
  • The first half of WALL•E is set in a giant dump, a.k.a. the planet Earth.
  • Wreck-It Ralph lives in the dump. His game's backstory says his home in the forest was demolished for a pretty apartment building... that he isn't allowed to live in. Ralph is more depressed over the loneliness of his situation than the actual living conditions.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Pretty much all of Richard Lester's post-apocalyptic black comedy The Bed Sitting Room is filmed in real-life junk pile locations.
  • Blade Runner 2049. San Diego is now a vast garbage dump with child labor used to scavenge and recycle useful materials, regardless of the long term cost to the children of handling toxic materials.
  • Corvette Summer (1978) starts in an auto junkyard, as a group of high school kids look for a car to fix up as their auto shop project for the year.
  • In Dick Tracy's Dilemma, the final showdown between Tracy and the Claw take place in the junkyard the Claw is using as a hideout.
  • Dog Bite Dog: Much of the film's scenes is set in a massive landfill in downtown Hong Kong. It is over here where the protagonist meets his new girlfriend, and later wife, a Cambodian immigrant who had to eke out a living in the wastes.
  • Eraser features one of these after John Krueger makes a daring escape from enemy agents by leaping from a plane via parachute, which have him landing in a massive junkyard with his chute stuck on the junkyard's entrance sign.
  • In GoldenEye, James Bond meets his long-lost nemesis in a sort of junkyard for statues of Soviet heroes.
  • The Hoodlum starts and ends in the city landfill, with the scenes in-between telling us How We Got Here. This landfill is the one that the Lubeck's first apartment overlooked, the one that Vincent grew up seeing and smelling, and the one that he has spent his entire life running away from. And that Vincent's rottenness has cost his brother Johnny everything he loved, Johnny has brought Vince here to kill him: so he can die in the garbage like he deserves. Ultimately Johnny can’t bring himself to do it; Lt. Burdick, however, has been trailing them, and has no such compunctions. Vince is shot to death in the dump as he attempts to flee, and dies in a heap of garbage, old tires, and industrial refuse.
  • Kid Detective (2020): After a night of unchecked drug use at a party, the depressed protagonist wakes up in the apartment block's trash collector, having apparently thrown out with the junk by the other partygoers.
  • In Labyrinth, Sarah wakes up from her dream with the enchanted peach to find herself in a junkyard, with the Junk Lady showing her a facsimile of her own bedroom that's buried under a pile of junk.
  • Larger than Life: During Jack's first night as an elephant owner, he and Vera are forced to sleep in a junkyard, since none of the hotels allow elephants.
  • Maniac Cop 2 opens on a junkyard section that is conveniently filled with old police cars.
  • In Mario (1984), the kids collect metal from a scrapyard to build their fortress.
  • In Max Keeble's Big Move, Max sets up a meeting between the Evil Ice Cream Man and a Young Entrepreneur in one. Pretty sure a giant magnet shows up to wreak havok.
  • In Mortal Engines, the characters live in huge wheeled cities that rove over Europe. The largest city, London, consumes small towns, after which point scrap workers pull apart the wreckage and sift through the debris for valuable resources and artifacts.
  • In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy Krueger's body was hidden in the trunk of an old car at the dump after the parents of Elm Street burned him alive, and to defeat Krueger his body has to be recovered from the dump and given a proper burial. The same dump appears as a setting in the fourth movie, when Freddy reawakens.
  • In Psych-Out, the protagonists' search for Steve leads them to a junkyard, where Steve used to live in an abandoned car.
  • The Redwood Massacre: The final showdown between the killer and the Final Girl happens in a junkyard.
  • In The Sadist, three people driving into Los Angeles for a Dodgers game have car trouble and pull off into an old wrecking yard where they are held at bay by a bloodthirsty psycho and his crazy girlfriend.
  • The trash planet in Soldier.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope: Leia, Luke, Han Solo and Chewbacca drop down a garbage chute into the disposal to avoid being trapped by stormtroopers. Now they're trapped in the garbage with a monster and walls that close in on themselves.
    • The Phantom Menace: Watto's junkyard on Tatooine is pivotal to the plot as it is where Qui-Gon goes to find a replacement part for the disabled starship and this leads him and Padme to meet Anakin, who works there.
    • The Force Awakens: The planet Jakku is essentially a giant junkyard, littered with the wreckage of downed ships and vehicles from the last great battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Rey lives inside a wrecked Imperial AT-AT and spends her days scavenging for parts she can sell.
  • Superman's good self vs. evil self fight with himself in Superman III takes place in a junkyard, with the evil self almost coming out on top by putting his good self into a crusher before his good self busts out in a rage and permanently subdues his evil self.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze has the remnants of the Foot Clan reunite in a junk yard, which serves as their base for most of the movie.
  • Thor: Ragnarok had Thor ending up in Sakaar, an artificial trash planet created by the Grandmaster surrounded by numerous wormholes that deposit space waste.
  • Tommy Walker in the film version of Tommy is led to a junkyard in one of his visions, where he comes across a pinball machine that he ends up being good at.
  • Vengeance 2009, a 2009 Heroic Bloodshed drama, has a shootout in a junkyard between the heroes and multiple mooks. Those mooks are actually smart enough to use rolling cubes of garbage as impromptu shields as they advance on the heroes.

  • Angie's First Case: While Mr. Donovan's business is an auto body shop, there are enough discarded car parts scattered everywhere to make it look like a "baby junkyard", an Angry Guard Dog roams the area, and Donovan and his workers are running a chop shop.
  • In the children's book Barney Bin Down In The Dumps, Barney Bin is scolded by the other household objects (Kitty Kettle, Sam Spade among others) for dropping rubbish everywhere. He vows to leave the house for good, and spends the night in a dump, making a bed for himself from newspapers and an old mattress. The morning after, the others plead for him to return, so he can take away their rubbish.
  • In the Burke novels by Andrew Vachss, Burke's friend The Mole lives in a junkyard, partly because he has No Social Skills but also because there's plenty of stuff for him to play with. There's also a pack of mean junkyard dogs keeping away anyone who might do him harm.
  • De Griezelbus: The second book takes place in a car scrapyard. A group of kids end up in the Griezelbus after it's been condemned as scrap, hearing Onnoval's stories over the radio as a pack of Savage Wolves prevent them from leaving.
  • The Barrens in IT, the place where all the kids go to do just about anything.
  • The climactic confrontation in Lean Mean Thirteen takes place in a car wrecking yard and involves a compactor.
  • Billy ends up in one in Ollie's Odyssey where he finds a whole bunch of thrown out objects who just sit around reminiscing about when they were useful. Billy raises their spirits and makes them a rescue team to help him save Ollie.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan's Curse, Percy and crew fight the giant automaton Talos in the junkyard of the the gods.
  • The main setting of the 1960s children's novel and later 1980s TV series Stig of the Dump, where Stig is a caveman who scavenges rubbish in the dump for his home.
  • The Three Investigators had their HQ in a junkyard.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Breaking Bad, Heisenberg arranges for his first major drug deal to go down in a junkyard.
    Jesse, hanging a lampshade: This is like a non-criminal's idea of a drug meet. This is like "Oh, I saw this in a movie, ooh, look at me!"
    Tuco: What, was the mall closed?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer The Scooby Gang hunt for a demon in Sunnydales' dump. Riley laments that "People say they're recycling. They're not recycling."
  • The very first episode of Doctor Who, "An Unearthly Child" has the TARDIS located in a junkyard. Much later and much, much farther away, the episode "The Doctor's Wife" also took place in a junk yard.
  • The Good Doctor: After Shaun and Steve run away from home, they live in an abandoned bus in a junkyard.
  • Here Come The Double Deckers, a 17-part British children's TV series from 1970–71, revolved around the adventures of seven children who had made a den in an old double-decker London bus in a disused junk yard.
  • Junkyard Wars is a series where contestants attempt to build various machines to accomplish different tasks out of stuff found in a junkyard.
  • The Batman Cold Open of an early MacGyver (1985) episode takes place in a junk yard, complete with big magnet.
  • In the 1979 serialisation of the final Quatermass story, a badly injured Professor Quatermass, stumbling through the streets of a London in the late stages of urban collapse, is saved by a community of elderly people hiding out in an ingenious labyrinth made out of old vehicles in a scrapyard.
  • Salvage 1 mostly took place in a junkyard.
  • Steptoe and Son & Sanford and Son both took place in junkyards.
  • Stranger Things:
    • The party hangs out in the Hawkins junkyard, hides there when the "bad men" are looking for them, and fight demodogs there with Steve.
    • After moving to California Jonathan hangs out and smokes pot in a a junkyard with Argyle. They later bury one of Owens' agents there when he dies in Argyle's van.
  • Bobby Singer, one of the main characters on Supernatural runs a junk yard as a day job. His house is also located on the junk yard grounds. Several scenes have included using random rusted cars and parts to dispatch ghosts, leviathans, etc.
  • Seasons 7 and 8 of The Walking Dead include a group of survivors called the Scavengers who make their home in a junkyard.

  • The Gorillaz' current studio, Plastic Beach, is essentially a giant floating landfill.
    • It gets sort of horrific when you realize that it's based on a real location. Though the "real" version is only noticeable through sampling; the average density is around 4 (usually microscopic) particles per square meter, so it's not like you can get out of a boat and walk around on it or anything.
    • Their old home base, Kong Studios, was surrounded by a dump as well. The song "We Are Happy Landfill" is about it.
  • Part of Huey Lewis and the News' "Perfect World" video takes place in a junkyard, probably to underscore what the lyrics are saying "there's no living in a perfect world; there ain't no perfect world anyway."
  • The Mark Knopfler song So Far From The Clyde is about a British ship that's being decommissioned in a scrap yard in India. The titular Clyde refers to the Clyde Shipping Company's shipyard in Glasgow, Scotland, where the ship had been constructed.
  • The video for Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)" takes place in a junkyard, with Peter and his band sitting within a stack of old abandoned cars.
  • The cover of Joe Walsh's album, There Goes The Neighborhood, has Joe driving a tank in a junkyard. The video for the song, "Life Of Illusion", takes place at the photo shoot for it.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu: The supplement Cthulhu Now includes the adventure "The Killer Out of Space", where an auto junkyard is of prime importance: it has giant electromagnets that can be used to trap the main opponent, a Colour Out of Space.
  • The Discworld Roleplaying Game scenario "Full Court Press" has a scene set in a rubbish dump (Municipal Tip no. 5 in the first edition; Retconned to be Harry King's recycling yard in the second edition, after that was established in the books), where one part of the Dismantled MacGuffin has been, well, dumped.

  • The main setting of Cats is in a dump, with giant-sized objects so that the actors appear cat-sized.
  • In the 2013 musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and his family live near a dump, and both he and his father frequently stop there to scrounge for potentially useful items. The setting symbolizes not only decay and waste, but also possibility for those with a creative bent.

    Video Games 
  • Effluvia the garbage planet in The Adventures of Rad Gravity.
  • Awesome Possum... Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt has "Dr. Machino's Domain" and "The Fortress of Garbage", landfills complete with the additional dark skies, menacing mechas and jefferies tubes, which serve as the last two worlds in the game.
  • Bendy in Nightmare Run episode "Bendy in Soup Gone Bad" occurs in the dumps - and the boss is an empty, sentient soup can.
  • The New Haven area in Borderlands is right next to a gigantic landfill, that actually takes up two thirds of the whole map. The trash is so dense that a cave system, the Tetanus Warrens, exist under it.
  • Breath of Fire III has Junk Town, a coastal town that collects and repairs scrap machinery parts washed ashore.
  • The Burnable Garbage Day: Every area starts out as a garbage-filled wasteland. Your waste disposal robot's initial goal is to remove enough garbage from each area to access the next.
  • The Level "The Enemy Of My Enemy" from Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 is set in U.S. Vehicle Disposal Yard 437 Aka "The Boneyard", a dump for old military vehicles. The Special Ops mission "Snatch and Grab" and the multiplayer levels "Scrapyard" and "Trailer Park" are set in the same location while the map "Salvage" is based on a different snow-covered junk yard.
  • Blighttown in Dark Souls, a ramshackle, vertical collection of platforms and ladders that stretches from the Undead Burg Sewers to a poisonous swamp.
  • Taito's arena shooter Dead Connection has its second stage set in a junkyard, with heaps of junked cars and stacks of discarded tires.
  • The Division has an interesting take on this. The game is set entirely in Midtown Manhattan; with land averaging more than $100 per square foot, it's no surprise that there are no working garbage dumps in this area. However, the setting is the near future, weeks or months after super-smallpox has caused the breakdown of order and all municipal services. There is garbage everywhere. Some areas, above-ground and below, have trash bags stacked twice as high as the player, for yards in all directions. This is completely realistic, of course. Even under normal conditions, Manhattan sidewalks are routinely compromised on garbage day. With New Yorkers producing thousands of tons of trash per day, and all of it meant to leave the island (which in this case is quarantined), a serious interruption of waste collection would look exactly like that, and fast. It's even more believable when you find out what the sanitation workers have been doing instead...
  • The Land of the Orbs from Dome Keeper looks a whole lot like an alien waste dump. One of the earlier aliens to attack your Dome even appears to be sentient toxic waste.
  • Adventure game Down in the Dumps mainly takes place, well, in the dumps.
  • Gordon Freeman gets caught in a Star Wars-esque trash compactor in Half-Life, as does Adrian Shepard in Opposing Force
  • New Junk City, the first level of the first Earthworm Jim game, is a giant junk heap complete with guard dogs and a construction worker boss.
  • The dungeon in Edge of Eternity's fourth chapter is a scrapyard in the techno-magical city of Tyr-Caelum.
  • Epic Mickey has Mickey Mouse traversing Mickeyjunk Mountain, which is a huge heap of old Mickey Mouse merchandise. Oh, the irony...
  • While you could argue that the wastes of Fallout are one huge junkyard, Fallout 4 is the first game in the series that has locations that are explicitly junkyards such as the Rotten Landfill and the Massachusetts Fusion Disposal sites.
  • Gaia Attack 4 has a level set in an Australian junkyard which is haunted by Poltergeists. The cars and wreckage notably transforms into various mecha which you'll need to destroy in order to proceed.
  • In Ghost Trick, the protagonist, Sissel, wakes up in a junkyard as a ghost with Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Obscure Puzzle Game Junkland Jam is set in the eponymous Junkland, which is inhabited by bizarre Cartoon Creatures and sentient lightbulbs.
  • The Junkyard from Legend of Mana combines this with Toy Time. All the derelict toys found here are actually weapons employed in a war long time ago that were eventually discarded.
  • No More Heroes III: There are two missions (each one also having three levels), where Travis has to remove cans and other debris from a swampy depository. The large containers present in the area make up for a maze-like area, but that's the least of Travis' problems: Hiding in the waters are large crocodiles waiting to catch unsuspecting preys. Travis can tell where they are thanks to the bubbles above them, but some will move from side to side while other stand still. If Travis is caught by one, the player has to press a button quickly so he defeats it with a powerful suplex move and no time is wasted; but if another button is pressed or none is pressed after a while, Travis will be knocked down and waste precious time. After time runs out, he'll be paid according to how many cans he seized; in both missions, he'll fail if the crocodiles knock him down three times.
  • Raging Justice have a level set in a junkyard filled with dismantled cars, though amidst the wreckage you manage to find a still-functioning ATV and uses that to ram into mooks with some Car Fu.
  • The third level of Redneck Rampage is a gigantic junkyard. Attractions include the tender's shack, the car crusher, and lots upon lots of gaps between piles of cars leading to secret areas.
  • The Secret World has Edgar's Scrapyard in Kingsmouth, which contains hundreds of wrecked cars, aggressive junk-golems, and at least one corpse stuffed in a car's trunk.
  • Shadows of the Empire has the Ord Mantell Junkyard, a massive junkyard the size of an entire city filled with trash and junk as far as the eye can see. If you pay attention you will see stuff like an AT-AT, the Sandcrawler, X-Wings and TIE fighters.
  • The fourth area, Delphinus, in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, is modeled after a massive junkyard. It represents mankind's wasteful nature, and is ruled over by the Tyrant Asura, a Social Darwinist who is convinced that the only way mankind can survive is to abandon all civilized impulses. To that end, the instant the investigative team sets foot in Delphinus, they get hit with a Hate Plague...
  • The Simpsons: Bartman Meets Radioactive Man: The game's first stage is "Swamp Hag's Junkyard of Doom", which has a few junkyard dogs, rodents, and homeless folk attack Bartman. The main hazards are junk launched from various places, compactors, and scaling two different trash mountains where one wrong jump can send the player into a Bottomless Pit.
  • Oil Desert Zone Act 3 from Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
  • The Garbage in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a place full of enormous garbage heaps from the time the Chernobyl reactor had a meltdown. There's much to be scavenged in it, from weapons and ammunition to valuable artifacts and even food. Whether the piles are radioactive or not seems to depend on the Zone's "mood" between emissionsnote .
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures Licensed Game for the NES, the second act of the fourth world takes place in a junkyard. Enemies include cats that throw tin cans, and Rhubella Rat, who jumps from behind the fence. There are also barrels in that hurt you if you stand on them.
  • Unbound Saga have a stage in a junkyard... right after the Absurdly Spacious Sewer. Your character lampshades that the game's creator really hates him.
    Out of the sewer stink, into the landfill. The Maker must be laughing his butt off.
  • The second stage of Vigilante takes place in a junkyard.
  • The Toxic Landfill stage in Wario Land 4 takes place in a giant junkyard full of compacted trash and noxious water.
  • The Scrapyard level from Wonder Dog.

    Visual Novels 
  • The fifth trial in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc ends with Naegi escaping his execution thanks to Alter Ego infecting the school's computer system, where he gets thrown into the school's trash dump instead of being squashed to death by a trash compactor. Eventually, Kirigiri makes her way down disguised as a garbage bag to rescue him.

  • The kids of Project 0 frequent a 'Machine Graveyard.' Owen's home probably counts too.
  • The Season 2 preview of Tower of God shows the new protagonist confidently claming to conquer the tower while lying in a dumpster.

    Web Original 
  • /trash/ in world-building threads is, logically enough, depicted as a garbage dump stacked with Trash of the Titans and filled with tubes that dump all manner of junk in daily. (It's where Off the Rails threads end up, or ones about things the mods don't like.)
  • The setting of Outcast Corner's holographic simulation in the Whateley Universe tale "Ayla and the Great Shoulder angel Conspiracy".

    Western Animation 


We're In To Win

Daffy Duck sings about collecting scrap to help the war effort.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / ListSong

Media sources: