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Giant Wall of Watery Doom

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S-surf's up?

"They say the wave was 400 meters high when it hit the cities! Three billion dead, Gendo!"
Kozo Fuyutsuki, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Water, in large amounts and at anything above a modest velocity, is very dangerous stuff. Storm surges and flash floods claim hundreds of lives and cause millions of dollars in damage every year, while major disasters such as dam collapses and tsunamis can cause widespread destruction.

When someone steps out of their house and sees a 200-foot-high wall of the stuff stretching away to the horizon and moving at a deceptively patient pace toward them it usually results in an intense Oh, Crap! moment.

Inversion of Soft Water — or an aversion, as even being buried by an avalanche of fluffy pillows would likely be quite lethal if there were a few million tons of them moving at 70 miles an hour. Can occur when a character who makes a splash really pushes himself to the limit.

Perspective and point of view can play with this trope. If you are out on the open ocean, a wave only needs to be big enough to capsize your vessel to fully qualify. If you can haul your boat on a trailer behind the family automobile, a 10 foot / 3 meter wave can be a major problem. If you are on a cruise ship or an aircraft carrier, a wave big enough to qualify for this trope could wipe out entire small coastal villages once it hits land.

As mentioned under the Real Life section of this page, while tsunamis in reality tend to resemble a tide that doesn't stop rising, there are a variety of scenarios where they do take on the classic 'great wave' shape, making this trope Truth in Television.

For a slower, but just as dramatic, form of watery doom, see Rising Water, Rising Tension.


    open/close all folders 

  • One commercial for Jameson Irish Whiskey had the namesake founder of the distillery smash open a dam and use the ensuing flood, led by a massive wall of water, to extinguish a fire that was consuming a town and threatening the distillery.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Astra Lost in Space: On Arispade, an earthquake causes a tidal wave which threatens to drown the crew. Most of them manage to get to the ship in time, but Luca and Ulgar, having been further away, are caught by the wave, necessitating a dramatic rescue by Kanata.
  • Banner of the Stars 2 demonstrates a tidal wave launched by emergency takeoff of a starship from water surface nearby. With appropriately lethal consequences.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Goku created several of these, as well as earthquakes, around the world while powering up to SSJ3. Apparently he never thought about the consequences of his actions.
  • Aquarius in Fairy Tail has this as her main attack. Unfortunately for Lucy, it has pretty bad friendly fire so she tends to open the Gate of the Water Bearer as a last resort.
  • The mermaids in Hekikai No AION use tsunamis to hunt down humans for their psyche.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, in the mission to rescue Allelujah, Ptolemaios II crashed into the sea creating a wall of water that caused quite substantial damage to the A-Laws base.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion when Adam/Antarctica blew up during Second Impact, a "ripple" almost a quarter-mile (four-hundred meters) tall in places spreads outward, wiping out every coastal city in the southern hemisphere, and continues to wreak havoc in the northern. Pity we didn't get to see it.
  • One Piece:
    • In the beginning of the Davy Back Fight Arc, a school of Sea Monkeys (in this series, "Sea Monkeys" are giant fish with monkey faces), stir up a giant wave that the Straw Hats need to escape.
    • In Water 7, we learn that an annual tidal wave hits the island once a year, and submerges the outer districts in sea water. In the story, this particular wave is apparently so strong that the mere lapping damages the town. When the Straw Hats have to follow the CP9 to Enies Lobby for Robin, they have to brave this wave.
    • Whitebeard's first action in the Paramount War is to generate two of these with his earthquake powers. Aokiji stops the waves by freezing them with his ice powers.
    • As she chases the Straw Hats across the sea, Big Mom uses one of her Homies to create a massive tidal wave to attack them with. Jimbei saves the crew by steering the ship into the wave's green room, the space that forms inside the wave's curl.
  • The climax of Pokémon Heroes has Latios and Latias stopping one of these from destroying Altomare.
  • In the Happy Science film The Rebirth of Buddha, the main villain Tousaku Arai takes over all of Japan's TV stations through NBK to predict an inescapable tsunami will engulf all of Japan and claim countless lives. Cue a gigantic tidal wave approaching Japanese coasts, driving all people mad and open to Demonic Possession as they try to survive such an event. However, when Sayako and co. arrive to Yamato TV on Mari Kimura's request, the latter reveals it's all fake; he's sending psychic waves to fool those who look at him.
  • The last thing Shuji sees before the world apparently ends in Saikano is a gigantic tidal wave sweeping away his home city and destroying everything he ever knew. Chise attempts to protect him from it with her ultimate weapon form, and apparently succeeds since Shuji survives the end of the world.
  • Scrapped Princess: When the High Council elected to use the Ginnungagap spell, they plunked it right in the center of the ocean, directly atop the SKID. The sheer immensity of its Area of Effect and the shockwave generated by it, resulted in a mega-tsunami that devastated the vast majority of the continental coast!
  • A story in the Tenchi Muyo! manga has Ryoko, Sasami, and Mihoshi try a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax to scare some developers from destroying a local beach. (Made real believable thanks to Ryoko's energy blasts) Seeing Tenchi approve of their actions, Ayeka decides to cause one of these to "help", because if a destructive monster is good, then a major disaster must be really good...
  • In Train to the End of the World, a massive tidal wave forms on the Agano river while the train is crossing it. The girls outrun the wave and reach high ground, but the track to their hometown is destroyed behind them.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: An early battle pits Kurogane and Fay against a powerful sorceress who conjures large quantities of liquid acid to hurl at them. Eventually, she summons a towering wave of acid.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: In the Waking Dragons arc, Dartz's awakening of the Leviathan causes a large wave to approach a city. 4Kids would remove this scene.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Moon Chronicles: When the Black Moon leaves its orbit to crash into the world, the moon's gravitational pull starts to cause earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and massive tidal waves. The old naval Empire of Tharque is destroyed by the mother of all tsunamis.
  • Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk once caused one of these when throwing down in the middle of the ocean.
    • Namor also inundated New York with one of these once by having a bunch of whales line up and flip their tails in unison. Comics, everybody!
  • Generally whenever incredibly super strong characters such as the Hulk fight someone in a large body of water, this is the result.
  • The Infinity Gauntlet: Fallout from the cosmic battles against Thanos causes one of these to destroy Atlantic City, NJ.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: In The Dreamtime Duck of Never-Never, Scrooge runs away from a massive wave in the Australian desert.
  • Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man: As their Evil Plan unfolds, Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus unleash one of these that threatens the entire East Coast of the US. Of course, our eponymous heroes stop it Just in Time — but come on, is that really a spoiler?
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Themyscira's fall causes a huge tsunami. Diana is able to prevent it from reaching land but at the cost of most of the Lansanarian Disk's functions, most importantly it's ability to act as a dome shield for Themyscira.
  • In Worlds Collide (1994), Reality Warper Rift casually tosses Paris Island from the Milestone Universe to the ocean towards Metropolis in the DC Universe. Both Superman and the Blood Syndicate try to figure out a way to stop the massive wave resulting from it from ravaging the already-ravaged Metropolis even worse.

    Films — Animation 
  • A total solar eclipse triggers one at the end of the "Rite of Spring" segment of Fantasia.
  • This nearly happens to Arendelle at the climax of Frozen II after Anna destroys the dam to break a curse and address the damage the dam was doing after Anna's grandfather built it to weaken another nation and to subjugate them under his rule. Arendelle has been evacuated first, but the wave still poses a threat to the town structures. Fortunately, Elsa appears in the nick of time to freeze it before it hits land.
  • One of these appears in Home on the Range and acts as both an action sequence and a Despair Event Horizon for the protagonists.
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown features the titular meltdown. The movie is a Race Against the Clock while all the prehistoric animals rush to the end of the valley to hop on a boat made from the hollow remains of a giant tree, the only safe haven for when the Northern dam finally breaks. When it does, the water comes fast, destroying every location the protagonists had visited in seconds.
  • Played for Laughs in The Iron Giant, when the Giant creates one by doing a cannonball into a lake.
  • In Kubo and the Two Strings, Kubo's mother calms one in the prologue with her magic. Unfortunately there was another one right behind her which causes her head injury and almost kills her and baby Kubo.
  • The Land Before Time V: The Mysterious Island when the characters reach the island followed by an earth shake.
  • In Tangled, Maximus destroys a dam, bringing down a flood that nearly drowns everyone who was in the cavern then, himself included.
  • The War to End All Wars – The Movie: When the Belgians open the Yperlee Canal locks, the water level downstream begins to rise just slowly enough for the Germans to have a Mass "Oh, Crap!" before the rapidly moving water sweeps them away.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 2012, several waves are created that are kilometers high and cause additional damage to already destroyed places globally; one such tsunami manages to travel all the way across India and still retain enough height to flood out the Himalayas. It would require an 8 km high wave to cover the highest peaks, but in the movie the wave is stated to be around 1.5 km tall, and it's later shown that Mount Everest and many of the other tall mountains in the Himalayas are far above the water level. The reason it manages to overtop several shorter mountains is because the continental plate that the Himalayas rested on sank several thousand meters in the preceding earthquakes.
  • The Abyss: At the climax in the director's cut, the undersea creatures create gigantic walls of water near major coastal cities as a warning to humans to stop warfare.
  • Adrift: When they get caught in the storm, Richard and Tami are hit with a giant wave that flips the boat completely over.
  • The war epic, The 14 Amazons pulls this off on purpose as part of a Big Dam Plot to wipe out an incoming platoon of enemy reinforcements. Naturally, the Boisterous Bruiser sergeant working for the good guys will need to stay behind and perform a Heroic Sacrifice to break open the dam.
  • Aquaman (2018). In the first shot of their war with the surface, the Atlanteans send tsunami that throw ships up onto the coast along with all the garbage the surface dwellers have dumped into the ocean. Our first sign of this is when the protagonist is driving down a coastal road with his father and sees this giant wave bearing down on them. Arthur Curry steps on the gas but can't outrun it and it's only thanks to Mera's help that his father doesn't drown.
  • In Atlantics, it's revealed at the end that while out at sea, the boys encounter what they think is a mountain. They rejoice, thinking they've reached Spain, but it was actually an enormous wave that destroys their boat, killing them all.
  • In Bait 3D, a tsunami strands the characters in a flooded Australian grocery store, along with a Threatening Shark that was swept into the market by the seawater.
  • The Batman: Once The Riddler destroys the breakwaters with car bombs, the ocean starts to flood Gotham.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981) depicts Poseidon unleashing the Kraken to cause one of these upon a coastal city that has angered Zeus.
  • The Day After Tomorrow has a 40 foot tall storm surge swamp Manhattan.
  • The 1933 disaster movie Deluge has a model of New York City crumbling in an earthquake and then swamped by the subsequent 'tidal wave'. Thanks to Republic Pictures buying the rights to the film so they could use it as Stock Footage, the scene reappears in the film serials King Of The Rocket Men and Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe.
  • Godzilla displaces so much water in Godzilla (2014) that he kills hundreds of people in a massive tsunami just from rising out of the ocean.
  • The Guns of Navarone: The heroes crash their ship into the coast of Navarone in a storm. As they're trying to unload it, they see a huge wall of water approaching. They desperately try to get away before it hits.
    • In the sequel, such a wall destroys the bridge being used by the Nazis. From what we can see, most of the fleeing Nazis manage to get off in time, unlike the unfortunate General Zimmerman and his troops in the novel.
  • The page-image is from the 2009 South Korean disaster flick titled Haeundae, the name of the city the movie is set in. In English, it is simply Tidal Wave.
  • The Impossible is entirely about this, namely the the tsunami that happened on December 26, 2004.
  • Miller's planet in Interstellar is located close to a black hole. Given that the planet is not perfectly spherical, and is 'tidally locked' to the black hole, this causes huge tidal waves to circle the planet as they lag behind the planet's rotation. Waves so huge that the protagonists initially mistake them for mountains.
  • For one of the stunts in Jackass, Johnny Knoxville (with diving mask, snorkel, and flippers) stands in front of a massive water tank perched in front of a ramp. The camera looks up at him from below, and over the course of three seconds he's standing there, water rushes over the camera, and when it clears he's completely vanished.
  • Last Sentinel (2023) takes place on a tiny sea fort on a Flooded Future World that's swept by regular storms. In the Action Prologue a storm surge the same height as the fort hits it hard enough to knock it slightly off kilter. Given that the fort is already suffering from metal fatigue, this doesn't reassure the soldiers manning the fort as to their chances of survival.
  • The Last Wave that appears at the very end of the movie to wipe out one era and bring in another. Assuming it wasn't All Just a Dream of the protagonist.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Arwen makes the Bruinen river rise against the Black Riders with an incantation to splash them away; for added awesomeness, the waves are shaped into horses. The Black Riders have an Oh, Crap! and try to run away from it, to no avail. In this case it's actually a "Giant Wall of Watery Salvation" to the good guys, especially Frodo.
  • The Syfy Channel Original Movie Malibu Shark Attack uses the same device to trap some victims in a shark-besieged lifeguard shack.
  • In The Mummy Returns, Imhotep controls the water in a canyon river, turning it into a giant water wall with his face on it, to chase down the protagonists in their dirigible.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?, with the sheriff's eventual demise.
  • The climax of The Perfect Storm has the Andrea Gail encounter a monstrous rogue wave, flipping her end over end and sinking her.
  • Point Break has Swayze playing a surfer robs banks to fund his search for the largest wave ever. It turns out to be so large no other surfer goes near it. He does, as a way of committing suicide rather than be jailed for the robberies.
  • The Poseidon Adventure, and its remake Poseidon, feature a luxury liner getting struck by a massive rogue wave and capsizing.
  • San Andreas features a giant wave inundating San Francisco after a 9.6 earthquake strikes it. Ray and Emma, plus a few hundred other people, figure out that in order to survive, they must travel over the wave in their boats before it crests. But then, there's a cargo ship looming over the wave to add to the difficulty.
  • The battle between the Hebrews and Elamites in Sodom and Gomorrah ends when the Hebrews voluntarily break the dam they have built across the River Jordan, sending millions of gallons of water pouring into the valley and washing away the Elamite cavalry.
  • Supervolcano early in the film, a precursor earthquake to the eruption causes a landslide that in turn causes a flood that kills nine people.
  • The Wave features a massive rockslide triggering an 80 meter (300 foot) wave headed straight for a Norwegian town named Geiranger, with the citizens having less than ten minutes to get the hell out. Truth in Television, as the rockslide will inevitably happen in real life. Scientists have estimated that the real wave will be even bigger.
  • At the end of the X2: X-Men United a dam bursts and threatens to wipe out the X-Men. Jean Grey makes a heroic sacrifice to save the others from it.
  • At the end of Take Shelter the main character looks out towards the ocean and sees a large tsunami coming towards the Myrtle Beach beachhouse he and his family have rented. The fact that his wife can see the giant wave as well suggests its not another creation of his damaged mind, which may mean the other strange things he experienced earlier in the movie may have been real as well...or, perhaps the whole thing, including the wave and his wife's reaction, is another hallucination as well, signifying his final break with reality. Which is true is left for the viewer to decide, as this is the last scene in the movie.

  • The Big Wave is about the destruction of a seaside Japanese village by a tsunami.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): When the ants are besieged, one of the traps at their gate unleashes twenty million liters of acid, flooding the tunnels and threatening to completely wash their attackers away. And the ants have tanks set up underneath to collect the acid, so given time, they can pump it back up to reset the trap.
    "Anyone else think our guests look thirsty?" I ask nobody in particular. "Let's give them a drink."
    A moment of silence.
    "Should we release the acid?" comes a hesitant scent from behind the ceiling above me.
    "Yes. That's what I meant when I said give them a drink. I don't mean for them to actually drink the acid, but rather insinuating… never mind. Just tip it out."
  • Discworld, The Wee Free Men: While trying to escape from Fairyland with her little brother Wentworth and the Baron's son Roland, Tiffany and the Feegles end up in a dream of the seaside. The Queen of the Elves tries to get them by manipulating the dream to create an enormous tidal wave, and while Wentworth and the Feegles are stunned with shock, Tiffany barely escapes from the dream with Roland in tow. Fortunately, the Feegles and Wentworth show up, alive but slightly damp, in time for the final confrontation with the Queen.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: In the short story "The Liar, the Glitch and the War Zone", Missy destroys Venice's flood barrier with bombs that phase away sections of it to create one so enough matter is sent through a temporal rift that she can use it to power up and repair her broken TARDIS. Fortunately, this allows for the Reset Button to be pressed so it never happened.
  • In The Eve of April 20, a neo-Nazi organisation holds a rally beneath a dam as a suitably imposing backdrop before launching a coup to take over South Africa, which is foiled when the protagonist blows not the dam but the cliffs of the lake behind it, causing water to displace over the dam and wash away the Day of the Jackboot before it happens.
  • The 5th Wave: The 2nd Wave consisted of these. The Others dropped massive rods onto the Earth's fault lines, triggering massive earthquakes and tsunamis that wiped out the world's coastal cities and killed three billion people.
  • Happens multiple times in Stephen Baxter's Flood, as water released from below the surface of the ocean eventually submerges the entire planet. A giant tsunami finished off most of the UK, and towards the end of the book, the lack of dry land led to the formation of a giant tide-powered wave that would continuously circle the planet.
  • Footfall shows the results of a giant asteroid intentionally dropping into the Indian Ocean, with pretty much all of the surrounding coasts completely scoured by the resultant wave.
  • In Catherine Marshall's novel Julie, half of the heroine's hometown is destroyed by a wall of water resulting from a dam failure.
  • In the Dramatic Audio version of Soul Harvest from the Left Behind book series, one of the Christians on board a cruise liner in the middle of the ocean barely has time to lead the people in a prayer of salvation before a giant wave of water caused from the impact of a giant mountain crashing into the seas (one of God's Trumpet Judgments) reaches the ship.
  • In the book Lucifer's Hammer a giant tidal wave created by the impact of the Hammer wipes out Los Angeles, and presumably other west coast cities that the reader doesn't see.
  • In The Man Who Could Work Miracles by HG Wells, the world stops revolving. And the sea doesn't.
  • In Mother of Storms by John Barnes, tens of millions are killed by storm surges.
  • At the beginning of Nation, a tsunami caused by a nearby volcanic explosion wipes out most of the island.
  • Old Kingdom:
    • The primary danger of the Third Precinct of Death are the massive, powerful waves, which nothing, Dead or alive, can resist. The spells that allow passage to and from the precinct temporarily halt the waves, but there's a reason people crossing do so at a dead run.
    • At the climax of Goldenhand, Chlorr's death causes the spell-net she created to hold back the Greenwash River to fail, causing one to come down on the Greenwash Bridge and the participants in the battle raging on the river banks and riverbed. The bridge's deck is washed out, and many of the combatants, largely members of the barbarian tribes, but also one of the Trained Bands from the Kingdom, drown.
  • The Poseidon Adventure, about an ocean liner that capsizes after being hit by one of these. The author, Paul Gallico, was inspired by his own real-life experience of being aboard the Queen Mary when she was hit by a rogue wave in 1942 and nearly turned over.
  • Rogue Wavenote  by Boyd Morrison is about a meteor impact in the central Pacific which creates a series of tsunamis that devastate Hawaii.
  • In Frank Schätzing's Der Schwarm/The Swarm (not to be confused with the film or trope of the same name), the Yrr cause one of these by triggering a huge underwater landslide in the North Sea and pretty much wrecking the whole of coastal northern Europe.
  • They had this during a typhoon in Silent Ship, Silent Sea.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
  • In Sharon Creech's The Wanderer, the crew encounters a wave like this during a horrific storm. It's important later because Sophie remembers the wave as having been black, when according to everyone else, it was white. Sophie is flashing back to another such storm that she survived, but which killed her biological parents, though Sophie has no conscious memory of this.
  • Young Wizards: Used in an attempt to Murder the Hypotenuse in A Wizard of Mars, but Nita stops it in mid-air and threatens to send it back through a portal at the girl who just tried to kill her. And the city she's in.
  • In Surfeit by Alan Dean Foster a planet with 3 moons experiences a time of 100 foot tall waves every 3 years. The protagonist takes part in a surfing competition and barely survives but wins. Despite almost dying he skips the award ceremony to go surfing.
  • This is what kills Nazi villain General Zimmerman and almost all of his troops when they're crossing the bridge to reach the Partisans in Force 10 from Navarone (the sequel to The Guns of Navarone). After Mallory and Miller blow the Neretva Dam, it sends a huge wave roaring down the gorge. It's described as being almost Biblical in proportions, and although Zimmerman screams at his driver to floor it, the wave takes the bridge out, knocking everyone into the river and washing them away. Only about 100 of the crossing Nazis manage to make it to safety before the wave hits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bering Sea Gold: To a sub-25 foot pontoon boat suction dredge, 2 foot waves can be a problem. 5 foot waves can swamp you and a 10 foot wave can capsize or even sink your dredge. To the 100-plus foot bucket dredges, it takes slightly rougher seas to convince the captain to pull the plug and make the 2 mile run back to port.
  • CSI: Spells doom for a Victim of the Week trapped in a storm drain during a flash flood in "Down the Drain".
  • One episode of CSI: Miami had Florida hit by a tsunami while some bank robbers took advantage of the confusion to swipe a fortune in gold bullion.
  • Deadliest Catch: Once per season per boat in red king crab season, once per episode per boat in opilio season.
    • Special mention goes to the Aleutian Ballad, which got smacked by a 60-foot rogue wave in 2005 and nearly capsized.
    • The Science Channel show Mysteries of the Missing episode "Ghost Ship of the Desert" spends the majority of the episode discussing rogue waves. The producers used Deadliest Catch footage and interview footage with Time Bandit's Captain Hillstrand to highlight the rogue wave's obvious hazards.
  • Entourage: A moment showing one of these about to hit a pier, dwarfing the hero as he runs toward it, is about all we get to see of the film version of Aquaman starring Vincent Chase.
  • This is Weather Wizard's chosen method to destroy Central City in The Flash (2014). And it really was unstoppable; the only reason the city wasn't destroyed is that the Flash accidentally broke the time barrier and returned to the previous night when trying to create a wind shield against the tsunami by running faster than ever.
  • Hawaii Five-0 New Series Season 1 Episode "Kai e'e". The Tsunami warning system is taken over and a false warning sent out. This is going to be used by the bad guys to facilitate their robbing the police headquarters.
  • In the Hallmark version of Jason and the Argonauts the god Poseidon has a little fun with the crew by pretending to be an island and then standing up to create a tidal wave which destroys most of the ship. The only reason they survive is probably because Zeus blows them onto the Isle of Lemnos where they get repairs.
  • Krakatoa: The Last Days. Realising that the volcanic eruption will cause a tsunami, Captain Lindeman ties himself to the wheel and steers his ship into the wave. The ship survives, but those landward of the wave are not so lucky.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Queen Miriel has prophetic dreams in which a giant tsunami engulfs the kingdom island of Numenor under water.
  • Power Rangers: Dino Thunder: One episode had the Monster of the Week summoning a colossal wave to destroy the city.
  • The Rise of Phoenixes has an invoked and downplayed example when Ning Yi and Helian Zheng flood Puyuan to rescue Zhi Wei. The wave isn't incredibly tall, but it hits the city with enough force to sweep away everything in its path. And "everything" really does mean "everything", including buildings, bridges, and people.
  • One of the first season episodes of Sliders ended with the group reaching a San Francisco which is just about to get hit by a wave.
  • The Stargate Atlantis two-parter "The Storm"/"The Eye" deals with a massive tsunami that will hit the floating city and obliterate it. The main characters have to find a way to power the city shield to block the wave, while also dealing with Genii commandos that use the opportunity to raid them for supplies.
  • More than once in the Ultra Series, thanks to certain kaiju having Weather Manipulation powers:
    • In Return of Ultraman, a mating pair of kaiju called Seamons and Seagoras have the ability to control the weather, and their mating results in a tidal wave threatening to destroy a fishing village. Ultraman Jack managed to split the wave using the Ultra tornado, but this drains his energy too much and leaves him helpless to a beating from both monsters.
    • The pilot episode of Ultraman Leo, complete with people getting drowned and covered in debris as the wave levels buildings, thanks to the tidal-wave creating kaiju called the Gillas brothers.
  • Happens fairly often on Whale Wars; one 30 foot rogue wave in particular struck the left side of the Brigitte Bardot and nearly snapped the trimaran's port-side pontoon clean off!
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: In one UK edition of "World's Worst" where the subject was "Outtakes of a News Program", Colin Mochrie's one joke was a doomed reporter being caught in one.
    Colin: (while running) IT'S A TIDAL WAVE!!

  • Daniel Amos' "(Near Sighted Girl with Approaching) Tidal Wave", from their album Horrendous Disc. Most people on the beach survived by fleeing, but the girl in the title ignored the warning signs and wasn't so lucky.
    It's a tidal wave
    It's a watery grave
    She really tried to swim
    She couldn't in the end.
  • The band Great Big Sea took their name from an old Newfoundland folk song about the 1929 tsunami described below.
  • Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (see below)
  • During the Matthew Good song Last Parade, specifically the lyrics
    Like we're taking pictures of a tidal wave
    On the shore, grinnin', a hundred feet away
  • In "Suddenly There Is a Tidal Wave", the final song on The Wayward Bus LP by The Magnetic Fields, the chorus goes:
    The boys talk like they own the world
    The women keep their stupid diaries
    But suddenly there's a tidal wave
    And everything is sucked out to sea
Later in the song the chorus is repeated, twice, back-to-back. Three seconds later the music abruptly stops. Then—if you happen to be listening to the two-fer CD The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees—enjoy four-and-a-half minutes of silence, followed by the songs on the Distant Plastic Trees LP. Perhaps (analogous with "hidden tracks"), this qualifies as a HiddenAlbum?
  • Was The Wayward Bus ever released, standalone, in any format? If not—and, let's say you're listening to The Wayward Bus—then you can be certain Distant Plastic Trees will follow.
  • The song "Wall of Water" by Mayhem from their fourth album Ordo Ad Chao describes this on an apocalyptic scale:
    Rivers and oceans rush where the earth sinks
    Great conflagration quenched by raging flood
    Enormous surge of water
    Wipe out humanity
    Wall of water
    Sweep across the earth
    Wall of water
    Fossilize all
  • Finnish new wave artist Pelle Miljoona's Moottoritie on kuuma insists:
    Aallot ovat jossain kuuskyt metrii korkeat
    kun tuulet suuttuvat
(translation 'Waves are somewhere sixty metres tall / when winds get angered')

  • Time Machine (Zaccaria) combines this with Time Crash, as the collision of Past and Future eras is represented by two tidal waves colliding to form a massive waterspout that dwarfs mountains.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Anno 2070's Deep Ocean expansion pack introduces tsunamis as a natural disaster that occurs when a geothermic power plant collapses into its deep sea trench. The wave expands circularly from the late plant, destroys all ships at or near the coast and can reach quite far inland on any island it hits, demolishing any building that happens to be in its path. Affected areas can't be rebuilt until the water has receded, and the only real defense against these tsunamis consists of high mountains between the power plant's location and the surrounding settlements — which is something the player has very little influence on.
  • Batman: Dark Tomorrow: If Batman defeats Ra's Al Ghul before disabling his weapon, the machine is activated and flood waves decimate the planet.
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: One of the bosses will produce some moai heads, then follow it up with a massive tidal wave. Make sure you don't destroy them.
  • Happens in Chrono Trigger, as a result of a floating chain of islands crashing into the sea. Results are about as catastrophic as you'd think. In Chrono Cross, you visit the Dead Sea, a city where time broke as it was being destroyed by these. Most of the time you'll be walking on top of the time-frozen waves.
  • Destiny:
    • Half the reason the Hive became what they are was to escape one of these that would have swept clean their entire homeworld. They lived on rocky continents floating in a gas giant, deep enough for the pressure to turn the gas into something like liquid. The gas giant had 52 moons. Imagine those moons aligning for a moment, their combined gravities pulling the ocean into a colossal bulge at a single point... and then imagine what happens to all that "water" when the moons pass and the bulge collapses.
    • This is also how the Darkness attacked the moon of Titan during the Collapse, as detailed in the lore book The Last Days of Kraken Mare, from Destiny 2: Shadowkeep. The Darkness manipulated gravity, pulling the methane ocean of Titan into a teardrop shape, then released it.
  • One stage in Donkey Kong Country Returns has you taking shelter from these at regular intervals. Being exposed will kill you.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Strago's "Clean Sweep" lore in Final Fantasy VI takes this form. As does the summon Bismark in the same game, and possibly some forms of Leviathan. Also the "El Nino" result of Mog's Water Rondo dance, which is the strongest water-based attack in the game.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, one of Balthier's Quickenings is a tsunami.
  • Tsunamis are one of the earlier and constant threats in From Dust.
  • In the first level of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, giant tidal waves repeatedly rear up in the background while you're jumping across a series of platforms. Although the waves don't actually affect Arthur directly, they will wash away large parts of the terrain, killing you instantly if you're not standing on a "safe" part.
  • Jimmy Neutron vs. Jimmy Negatron: Jimmy uses Goddard's flycycle mode to evade one in a ravine after teleporting from Negatron's lab early on.
  • Kaiju Wars: Alphazaurus Prime's Tsunami ability, which lets it destroy an adjacent building and/or unit when starting its turn on an ocean tile, is depicted as the creature sweeping its arm through the water to "splash" the victim with a massive tidal wave.
  • League of Legends: Nami's ultimate, Tidal Wave, practically summons this trope. It won't kill, mostly... but will set up a lot of it.
  • Lord Monarch: In story mode of sega version there are couple of stages where lower levels of land will be flooded at certain day.
  • Metro: Last Light: This was the fate of Vladivostok during World War III. Rather than a direct strike, all the warheads aimed at the city detonated offshore, creating a monstrous tidal wave that wiped out the city.
  • At one point in Out of This World, Lester has to run from a watery Advancing Wall of Doom.
  • Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye takes place on an ancient ringworld with a decrepit interior habitat designed to look like a river running through hills and woodland, and a dam on one end to keep the water moving. Unfortunately, soon after you board the station, its Solar Sails deploy, and the shock of the ringworld moving for the first time in millennia proves to be The Last Straw for the habitat's dam, causing it to leak and eventually collapse. This lets you watch the resulting wave sweep through the interior of the ring, smashing ancient structures until the water level equalizes... and potentially sweeping you up and dashing you against a rock.
  • In Pokémon, the moves Surf and Muddy Water both use this trope.
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions: Deadpool uses bombs to trigger three of those in a row in Ultimate Spidey's second level. You have to web-sling towards them across a floating obstacle course in order to reach high ground, all while Deadpool calls it like a horse race.
  • Smite: He Bo's ultimate Crushing Wave literally turns him into the trope, heavily damaging anyone caught in his path and can kill a lot.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: This is one of a few reasons not to hurt the ChaoChaos will get angry and cause one of these. The ancient echidnas learned that the hard way.
  • Stellaris: Aquatic empires with the Hydroascension perk get access to the Deluge Machine superweapon, which drops a humongous volume of water onto the offending planet in one go and turns it into an Ocean World no matter its former biome, leaving nothing but former mountaintops untouched by water. Needless to say, any pops who aren't themselves Aquatic are wiped out instantly by the giant tidal wave.
  • In Super Robot Wars Alpha 2, Yuu Brain and Hime Brain use their Chakara Shields to hold back a massive tidal wave long enough for ChouRyuJin to use Eraserhead to disperse it.
  • This is how the aptly named Tidal Wave spell looks in the 2D games of the Tales Series.
  • In Vacation Story,a tsunami is the final challenge. It approaches suddenly and the only way to escape is by climbing to higher ground.
  • Warcraft III: The Crushing Wave spell sends a huge wall of water into enemies, though the animation for it is entirely 2D.
  • In War of the Monsters, throwing enough objects at the UFO in the Tsunopolis stage will trigger a tsunami that will engulf the map. The water can be avoided by flying on climbing on buildings.
  • Happens twice in the World of Warcraft Cataclysm cinematic, at Booty Bay and Thousand Needles.

    Web Animation 
  • Subverted in The Demented Cartoon Movie, where a so-called "tidal wave" turns out to only be of above-average size, and splashes harmlessly against a Blah.

    Web Comics 
  • Unsounded: Sette overloads the locks beneath the Deadly Nevergreen, before blowing the system and flooding the basement to flush the first silver based abomination out and into the river, forcing it to let go of the building it was winding through and stopping it from killing any more survivors.

    Web Original 
  • Gali, Toa of Water, pulled this off in a BIONICLE web serial. She usually just goes for bursts of water, but this time she decided the enemy was strong enough to warrant the of use very single drop of elemental energy she could muster. The wave was described as being "a thousand feet high" and destroyed every building in the land of Karzahni.
  • RealLifeLore has examined several massive real-life tsunamis that qualify, including Vajont and La Palma noted below. However, he also notes that megatsunamis normally caused by the impact of a huge amount of earth entering the water, rather than "normal" tsunamis that are caused by earthquakes.
  • The nightmarish Alternate History tale For All Time has a few examples, mostly caused by nukes.
    • On December 20, 1945, just hours before the Soviet invasion of Hokkaido, a nuke is detonated off the coast of Wakkanai. Barely a second after the town is set ablaze, a seven meter tsunami smashes into the habor and kills virtually all its inhabitants.
    • Later, during the Soviet-Middle East war, one of their targets is Egypt's High Nasser Dam. After it's destroyed, the resulting radioactive flood sweeps north along the Nile and kills over 39 million people.
    • While specifics aren't given, there's also Indian president Attri giving the personal order to flood Bangladesh. The world map shows the entire area is now an inland sea, which implies millions more deaths.
  • Twilight Of The Red Tsar: When the U.S. bombs Manchuria, one of their targets is the Fengman Dam. The groundburst completely annihilates the dam and unleashes a murky, almost black, radioactive flood into Jilin, adding thousands more casualties to the disaster.
  • In the Whateley Universe, Riptide is a side character. But when Chaka gets hurt in "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl" and Riptide gets really upset, and there's a lake handy, a bad guy in a getaway van finds out there's nowhere to run.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, waterbenders can do small scale versions of this. The Avatar, being much more powerful, can conjure tsunamis. Aang once nailed Sokka with one by accident.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: In "Global Grilling", Shake's reactor powered grill breaks a hole in the ozone layer, causing a polar cap to melt and bringing a tidal wave to the city.
  • Invader Zim once flattened an entire city... with a water balloon containing all of the water on Earth that created a 200-story (660 m) high wall of water.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Maud Pie" has a humorous version when a rock tossed by Maud Pie lands so hard the results are like a nuke going off, the shock wave causing a tsunami in the swimming pond that thoroughly drenches everypony.
  • Phineas and Ferb subverts and then proceeds to lampshade this in the episode "The Belly of the Beast", in which the titular characters drop a giant mechanical shark into Danville Harbor, causing what appears to be a giant wave. It then miraculously manages to avoid everyone on the crowded boardwalk except Candace, who then proclaims, "OK, now how did that only hit me?"
  • South Park: In "Pee", when there is all piss and no H20 in the water, not only do all the nooks and crannies spit out pee, but monumental tsunamis are created, drowning the waterpark and the patrons.
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch: In a Breather Episode, the Batchers have to help the inhabitants of an island community escape one of these when an earthquake triggers a tsunami.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "No Escape, Part II", Kaz, Torra and CB-23 have to outrun several of these in the Colossus's corridors as part of a plan to flush all of the stormtroopers still onboard the Colossus into the ocean.
  • The opening credits of Thundarr the Barbarian memorably depicts a city being destroyed by one of these.
  • The Transformers: In "Triple Changer Takeover" Astrotrain's Astro Force accidentally destroys a water line, causing a huge flood in the middle of a city that nearly drowns Spike. The Autobots get rid of the flood water by basically having Trailbreaker scream at it until it flows away.

    Real Life 
  • Generally, real-life tsunamis are not as visually spectacular as the "wall of water" that many trope examples portray: they're more like a very rapidly rising tide. They most often look very tame when they are approaching the shore, not much different from a normal wave. They are extremely deceptive, though; rather than stopping at the shore like other waves, they just keep on going and going inland without stopping.
    • However, if the seabed topography, shoreline shape, and wave characteristics come together right, the "gigantic comber" is in fact possible, thus making this trope Truth in Television when these caveats are applied. There is one particular video of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami coming in in this manner at Noda, a small fishing port in Iwate Prefecture. The people filming the video stand in shock and horror, watching the coast, and then the cameraman zooms in on the wave; what first seemed to be the surface of the sea is quickly revealed as a gigantic, looming wall of water when the top begins to break. By this point, the wave had reached a height of at least 35 metres tall.
    • The word tsunami comes from Japanese and means "harbour wave". It implies, according to Bernoulli's principle, that the narrower a channel the tsunami passes through, the higher it will get, and a tsunami is at its most destructive in a harbour. The first to understand the connection between an earthquake and the following gigantic wave was Thucydides.
  • Rogue waves. They can be up to 35 m high (yup, that's 115 feet) and they are preceded with a trough so deep and steep they've been described as "like a hole in the ocean". Their existence was long doubted, but they do exist, likely because until the time of metal ships there wasn't any hope of unfortunate victims surviving an encounter. A rogue wave is steep and resembles a vertical wall of water, and can sink even an ocean-going ship, never mind yachts and fishing vessels.
    • Two of them infamously sank the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. To scale the idea, it was a massive 700-foot-long iron ore carrier and it was sunk so fast that they never even had a chance to make a distress call.
    • In another infamous example, the RMS Queen Mary, during a 1942 troop carrying mission for World War 2, was struck by a 92-foot-tall rogue wave causing it to roll 52 degrees before righting itself, with it later being calulated that if the ship had rolled only three more degrees, it would have capsized completely. This incident would go on to inspire The Poseidon Adventure and its adaptations.
  • The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, thanks to it occurring at a time when inexpensive digital cameras and mobile phones with improved camera technology were becoming easier than ever to obtain, is likely to be one of the most documented natural disasters in history, with much of the footage being found on YouTube, posted either by civilians who happened to be there at the time, or news agencies which obtained the rights to the footage in its aftermath.
  • In Alaska, a piece of a mountain fell into Lituya Bay, and it is estimated that the resulting splash was around 100-300 feet high. The wave had enough speed and energy to ride up the opposite slope to a height of around 1,700 feet.
  • The only tsunami known to kill people in Canada occurred in 1929, off the coast of Newfoundland. An earthquake in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge created a wave of water that swept houses completely off the land. The locals called it the "great big sea".
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was caused by an earthquake that uplifted a 100 mile long section of sea floor, releasing a titanic amount of energy. It is also one of the deadliest natural disasters in history with over 220,000 people casualties, since most of the affected countries had never experienced a tsunami of this scale and have highly populated and highly touristic seashores.
  • The 1700 Cascadia earthquake occurred off the coast of what's now the state of Washington and British Columbia, devastating that coastline with waves up to 30 meters. It existed in the historical record only in Japan, which had an orphan tsunami with no apparent cause at the same time. It wasn't until 300 years later that physical proof was found of origin in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Sometime in February 1933, the US Navy oil tanker USS Ramapo was steaming through a nasty Pacific gale when she encountered a massive wave. Fortunately, she escaped with minor damage. Geometric calculations, however, showed the wave to have been 112 feet tall. To this day, it remains the tallest wind-driven wave ever recorded.
    • Estimations by oceanographers suggest that the tallest height possible for a wind-driven wave is 198 feet. Of course, it would take a freakishly rare combination of events and geography to produce such a monster; but still, a wave of that size could severely damage or even sink any ship unfortunate enough to encounter it.
  • One analysis of the Thera eruption in the 17th Century B.C. states that in Turkey, "two peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea confined the wave... building it higher and higher and ultimately funneling it thirty miles inland. To penetrate so far, it had to be eight hundred feet tall when it hit the shore." Thera is almost a hundred miles from the peninsulas mentioned, and there are other islands in the way which would've robbed the wave of some of its force... but it was still 800 feet tall.
  • Between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago were the Missoula Floods. Glacial Lake Missoula, in what is now Montana, was held back by an ice dam—and it was the largest known ice-dammed lake. Towards the end of the Last Glacial Period, with all the pressure from the growing amount of water putting cracks in said dam, it broke and released ninety times as much energy as the Tsar Bomba. And then the dam reformed, and did that about forty more times. Over 2,000 cubic kilometers of water were discharged, creating water marks 280 to 300 meters high and ripple marks as large as 15 meters (49 feet). Just to get an idea of how big this lake was: its maximum length was 320 kilometers (200 mi), its maximum depth was 610 meters (2000 ft), and it held half as much water as Lake Michigan. It’s gone now.
  • For a long time, the Biblical Flood has been considered legend or myth and without evidence, but there are theories it was indeed based on an actual event.
    • The leading hypothesis that the Flood was inspired by the flooding of the Black Sea at some point around 5600 BC, which presumably would have looked a lot like this to the people present.
    • The Burckle Crater in the Indian Ocean, if indeed it turns out to be a crater, is hypothesized to have caused waves up to four kilometers tall when the object that created it impacted, which would have hit most of the cradles of humanity at the time.
  • The volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands could cause one; an eruption could potentially send part of the island sliding into the Atlantic, causing a MEGAtsunami that could obliterate the east coast of the United States from Florida to Maine.
  • Tsunamis caused by underwater/into-water landslides are the largest and most powerful type after impact-generated tsunamis. Both are termed "megatsunamis", in Japanese ''iminami'', and there have been several in recorded times, the most recent being in 1980 with the eruption of Mount St. Helens and its avalanche into Spirit Lake. Several areas are likely to produce a major landslide and megatsunami in the future, the most alarming being at the Hawaiian Islands, where a large chunk of the Big Island is slowly cracking away from the rest of the island. For another potential example, see above.
  • The biggest tsunamis, speaking of which, are actually caused by meteorites crashing into the ocean.
    • For example, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was thought to have created a megatsunami several kilometres high that was large enough to completely submerge islands as large as Madagascar.
    • Although some simulations indicate that the wave height could not have exceeded 100 meters, as the water where the asteroid struck was just not deep enough to create anything bigger. If it had fallen in a deeper part of the ocean, however...
    • The incredible force of the Chicxulub impactor hitting the Earth also created seiche waves as a result of the seismic waves generated by the impact travelling through the Earth; it is believed that the now-fossil-rich site of Tanis in North Dakota - which was a sandy river bank on the edge of the Interior Seaway at the time - was inundated and destroyed by one such seiche. Giant earthquakes in the present day, such as the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, have also been observed to create seiche waves at incredible distances from the actual shaking, though they're naturally much smaller than the ones that would have taken place during the K-Pg boundary extinction - the churning water seen here is a whole continent away from Japan, in the picturesque Sognefjord in Norway!
  • Sometimes, such tsunamis can take place in the least expected of places. In Vajont, Italy — in the mountains half a kilometer above sea level and nearly 100 kilometers from the coast - an entire mountainside (270 million cubic meters) collapsed into a reservoir half the size (shielded from a valley by a 200 meter dam). The dam itself withstood the pressure just fine, but the displaced water flushed over in a 250 meter-high wall of water and rolled through the valley beneath in a gigantic wave, destroying several villages and killing 2000 locals. It was the biggest man-made tsunami of all times.
  • During the high tide next to shallow rivers and bays, the result might be a very strong wave that manages to flow against the current - the ones in the Amazon river are up to 4 meters (13 ft) high, running at up to 13 mph (21 km/h), and travel as much as 800 km (500 mi) inland upstream. And there are surfing championships in it! Even if it's possibly more dangerous than those at sea, given the bore carries lots of debris, including entire trees.
  • Less extreme than the others here, but in 1952, the English village of Lynmouth was devastated by a flash flood that swept away houses, bridges and a lifeboat station as well as causing the collapse of a lighthouse. The wall of water was "only" about fifty feet high and carrying tree trunks and boulders.
  • One of the most unusual real life variations on this was the Great Molasses Flood of Boston in 1919. Almost nine thousand cubic meters of molasses were released when a tank of it burst and released an eight meter wave of molasses. Small buildings were ripped off their foundations and crushed. Unlike water, the molasses was almost impossible to escape from once people were ensnared. A reporter described vague shapes (people and horses) struggling inside the the sticky mass.
  • This trope, scaled down proportionately, brings an end to untold millions of beach-built sand castles.


Video Example(s):


Fahai's Barrier

The snake sisters try to destroy Fahai's temple by creating a tidal wave, but he deflects it using the powers of his Buddhist cloak.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / CloakOfDefense

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