The temperature is 115 plus degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius), and people are soaked with sweat. It's the hottest it's ever been since June 26, 1889. You could fry an egg on the sidewalk. Everyone has their air conditioner cranked up, and those not fortunate enough to own one are desperately looking to cool down. Just staying outside for a prolonged period of time can be dangerous. No one wants to move. Everyone is understandably cranky because of the hot weather, but according to the weatherman, there's no sign of things cooling down.
It's the Heat Wave, a common device employed by writers to increase irritability and stress among characters Locked in a Room and Getting Hot in Here, in a Hostage Situation, in a Die Hard Plot, or in a climactic Courtroom Battle. In TV episodes and movies in which the entire plot takes place in one day, the Heat Wave will be dubbed in-universe as The Hottest Day of the Year. Alternatively, or additionally, the Heat Wave may serve as a symbolic metaphor for the tension or anger that builds up among the characters throughout the story.
Of course, the heat can also serve as a good excuse for having characters walk around in skimpy or soaked-to-the-skin clothing.
See also Big Blackout. Like Snowed-In and Rain, Rain, Go Away, an aversion of It's Always Spring. Contrast Cold Snap, the other temperature extreme. Often a sign that A Storm Is Coming, in fiction as in real life.
AKA Long Hot Summer (media shorthand for the urban riots of the '60s-70s) or The Dog Days Of Summer.
- Ranma ½: Escaping a Heatwave kicks off the plot of the 2nd movie. Needless to say it goes From Bad to Worse and Hilarity Ensues.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion takes place towards the end of a 15 year long heat wave. While this sounds impossible, it's a consequence of Second Impact shifting the planet's axis, eliminating the Antarctic
icecapcontinent and screwing up every weather pattern.
- Macross 7 does it as well, with the heat wave being caused by the titular spacecraft heading dangerously close to a sun.
- An early episode of Gintama has an increasingly irate Gintoki searching for a place to get a new electric fan after the one in his house breaks down during a heat wave.
- A recurring gag in Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku. The first heatwave chapter (27) went high as 52.4C.
- A Certain Magical Index: The plot of one of the later New Testament novels has Academy City get hit with an extreme heat wave in the middle of winter, such that the city completely shuts down and everyone starts wearing only their swimsuits in an effort to cool off. On top of that, bizarre monsters known as "Elements" being appearing and attacking anyone they find. It turns out that the intense heat was created by one of Kamisato's girls using a satellite to literally microwave the city... and she was doing this because it weakened the Elements enough that they could be fought and resisted by the Esper population. Without the heat, they would have been unstoppable.
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is set during a heat (and crime) wave. The local anchors seem to think the former excuses the latter. By the end of the first volume, Bruce Wayne is back in the suit and it's pouring rain. One of the newscasters in the animated version refers to the oncoming storm (and, by symbolism, Batman's return) as coming down on Gotham like "the wrath of God."
- Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's The Long Halloween opens on the super-hot night of Johnny Viti's marriage. As the nephew of Carmine Falcone, this mob-marriage sees the very brief peace in Gotham before 1) Gordon, Batman, and Harvey Dent ally to take Falcone down, 2) the eventual war between the old school gangs and the new wave of costumed freaks, and 3) the beginning of the Halloween killer's serial murders.
- Has a call back in the sequel, Dark Victory, where The Remnant of the Falcone crime family gathers in the cemetery before a similar series of events. Catwoman, who'd predicted the previous hot night's reputation, says "It's hot. But, not as hot as the night Johnny Viti got married."
- During the Confessor Arc of Astro City, a major heatwave heightens the amount of paranoia and short-fuses that accompanied a Serial Killing, with the narrator Lampshading this trope.
- Milestone Comics had a quasi-Crisis Crossover called Long Hot Summer, where the stories of its titles converged around the construction of the "Utopia Park" theme park in the middle of the worst part of Dakota City, and the stresses caused during the summer when the park was built culminating in the Blood Syndicate crashing the gates on opening day and unintentionally inciting a massive riot.
- Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Racist attitudes collide on The Hottest Day of The Year.
- Summer of Sam: Old school Italian street toughs beat on their punk rocker ex-friend, The Son of Sam killer commits several murders, and a full blown blackout/riot breaks out, all against the backdrop of the infamous NY summer of 1977.
- 12 Angry Men. A jury deliberates the fate of a young man accused of murder on The Hottest Day of The Year.
- Body Heat takes place during an especially hot Florida summer.
- Falling Down. A man having a mental breakdown wanders the streets of Los Angeles and, alienated by his experiences, turns to vigilantism on The Hottest Day of The Year.
- Dog Day Afternoon. Al Pacino unsuccessfully robs a bank and winds up creating a hostage situation on The Hottest Day of The Year.
- A Time to Kill. Matthew McConaughey defends a Mississippi black man played by Samuel L. Jackson who has killed his daughter's murderers during a Heatwave. See any Southern summer courtroom scene, really.
- Hundstage. Taking place during the titular "dog days", traditional considered the hottest period of the year, this film is about suburban Austrians being unkind, sleazy or downright malevolent to each other.
- A native informs the military that the titular creature in Predator only appears during the hottest years. The sequel has another one stalk the streets of Los Angeles during a heat wave.
- Rear Window: At the beginning of the film, the camera lingers on a thermometer showing the temperature as 90 degrees (32.2 °C). The same day, one of the characters remarks that trouble seems to be brewing. Sure enough, it is. At the end of the film, the thermometer is shown again—and it reads 70 degrees (21 °C), showing that things have cooled down in the neighborhood now that the murderer has been caught.
- A Streetcar Named Desire. You can feel the sweat pouring off Marlon Brando. It's set in The Big Easy of course, where it's like this 9 months of the year.
- In Ingmar Bergman's The Silence, the tension between the two sisters is emphasized by the high temperatures. The heat prompts Anna to go back home, leaving her sister to die alone.
- A heatwave is mentioned at the start of Resident Evil: Apocalypse; behind the scenes, the film-makers decided to bring it up as an excuse to get the characters (especially Jill Valentine) in summer clothes, even during the night. Unfortunately for the actors, filming took place in Vancouver, during the winter.
- The New York heatwave in The Seven Year Itch not only inspires Richard Sherman to contemplate illicit things with The Girl in the upstairs apartment while his wife and kids are escaping the heat in the country, but also leads to the Trope Naming Marilyn Maneuver.
- Akira Kurosawa's Stray Dog (Nora Inu) has an empathic heat wave going on throughout the movie.
- Meta example: In Throw Momma from the Train, the writer protagonist spends the entire movie trying to find a synonym for "It was a hot night" as an intro for his new thriller, only to be informed by Momma that the night was "sultry. It's too goddamn sultry in here!" He then attempts to strangle the poor lady.
- Barton Fink takes place in a heat wave as oppressive as the protagonist's mental state.
- In Passport to Pimlico, the rebel state of Burgundy is established in central London during an un-British heatwave. When the more traditional London rain returns, so does normality.
- Laura begins with Waldo recalling the day of Laura's death as "the hottest Sunday in my recollection."
- The Long, Hot Summer is set at Mississippi in the middle of the summer.
- Hunky Dory is set in Wales during the summer of 1976, during which the hottest weather ever recorded hit the United Kingdom.
- tick... tick... tick..., a 1970 film about racial tensions in a small Mississippi town, opens with a scene of an egg literally being fried on a sidewalk.
- To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch defends an innocent black man on a brutally hot day, accused of rape on a brutally hot day.
- The first (and crucial) part of the novel Atonement takes place during a record heat wave, and characters comment at least once on how all this heat will make young people behave recklessly. They do.
- "Red Wind": This Raymond Chandler story takes place during the Santa Ana winds. The well-known introductory passage is quoted up top.
- This happens at the end of Ray Bradbury's ode to summer Dandelion Wine.
- Several books into The Wheel of Time, the Dark One's influence on the world extends to causing a heat wave that covers the entire known world. This leads to a lengthy arc in the 6-8th books in which the characters must put the weather back into order.
- The Ray Bradbury short story "Touched With Fire" (in the anthology The October Country) has its main characters theorizing about heat and its effects on people: one character asserts that the most murderous temperature is 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.6 °C). Cooler than that you can cope with; hotter than that and you don't want to expend energy in violent behavior.
- In The Great Gatsby, the love triangle between Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom comes to a climax during what is described by all characters present as the hottest day of the year, the temperature obviously representing the high emotions running. This trope is then inverted in the next chapter, in which the now cool weather symbolizes the ending of Gatsby and Daisy's love affair, something he remains in complete denial of until the very end.
- The murder in Albert Camus's The Stranger takes place in an overwhelmingly hot and bright day; the heat wave assaulting all the senses of the murderer-protagonist.
- Heat is a recurring theme; it's also brutally hot on the day of Mme. Meursault's funeral. Meursault himself lampshades the trope before his trial when he muses that when it became hot again, he knew something was going to happen.
- In Alfred Bester's "Fondly Fahrenheit", the main character has a Three-Laws Compliant android, except that it will malfunction and kill people in hot weather (over 90°F / 32.2 °C). And he keeps on bringing it to hot planets.
- Cujo by Stephen King involves a woman and her son trapped in a car by a rabid dog. The stifling weather just makes things worse.
- A frequent device in The Dresden Files. Summer Knight makes the most use of the heat wave motif, feeding into Harry's irritability given his recent defeat and helping to highlight how things are going seriously wrong with the Summer fae. It tends to be inverted in later books, though: after Harry becomes the Winter Knight, most books are set during cold snaps.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix starts with a heat wave, which is possibly supposed to symbolize Harry being irritable because he hasn't been able to get any information about Voldemort and the Dursleys are irritable because there's a drought and they're busy making sure their neighbors don't cheat on the "no water sprinklers" ban. Ironically, the more dangerous part occurs when temperatures DROP, because that signifies the entrance of dementors.
- Crime and Punishment begins on an "exceptionally hot evening early in July".
- Heat Wave, the first book Richard Castle's first Nikki Heat book takes place in the middle of one in NYC
- The events recalled by Leo Colston in LP Hartley's The Go-Between take place in the long hot summer of 1900. The temperatures rise as the plot unfolds, but the weather breaks at the climax with a thunderstorm.
- The Rainbow Magic series has this in Autumn the Falling Leaves Fairy's book. Jack Frost wanted to skip fall and go from summer to winter, but instead he created an endless summer.
- In G.R.R.Martin's Dunk and Egg novella The Sworn Sword, the feud between Ser Eustace Osgrey and Lady Rohanne Webber starts during a heat wave and is kick-started by Lady Rohanne cutting Ser Eustace's water supply in the middle of a drought.
- The Discworld novel Men at Arms takes place during a heatwave in Ankh-Morpork. This is a bad thing tension-wise because Ankh-Morporkians frequently start fires during riots and if anyone sets fire to anything in this heat, the whole city will go up.
- Used twice in Provost's Dog:
- Beka describes the weather as being very hot and stifling during the climax, when the Guard finally discovers where the bodies of the latest batch of disappeared miners have gone, and thus proof of who's responsible. A riot breaks out in short order.
- Bloodhound opens during a heatwave, which signifies food shortage from a bad harvest as well as rising tension in the Lower City. Soon enough, a bread riot breaks out that results in every one of Beka's comrades being injured.
- Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The heat at Lake Powell is giving characters who are recreating there discomfort.
- Ma Brindle causes a localized heatwave when she turns her oven all the way up to the "Special" setting, in order to bake a very unique dessert in the children's book "Sweet Dream Pie."
- The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Midnight Sun" featured a catastrophic heat wave caused by the Earth moving closer to the sun. It turns out in the Karmic Twist Ending that it was All Just a Dream, but reality isn't much better: the Earth is moving away from the sun, resulting in the Earth gradually freezing.
- The aforementioned Ray Bradbury story (see Literature above) was adapted into an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called "Shopping for Death".
- Another episode, "Toby", takes place during a heat wave in 1910 New York.
- "Wild Onions", the eighth episode of The Chicago Code, takes place during a brutal Chicago heat wave, and references the statistical correlation of above-average heat and violent crime.
- Black Books: All three main characters go insane during a heat wave. Fran can't sleep, partly due to the heat and partly because her landlord has moved her wall, shrinking her flat. Bernard is stalking Fran's new neighbour and trying to make her his summer girlfriend. If Manny's temperature exceeds 88 degrees (31 °C) it will trigger "Dave's Syndrome" and, naturally, Bernard does everything he can to set Manny off: insisting he wear a winter jacket, a hot water bottle and "Heat B Gone Booties", storing books in the oven.
- A clever touch in The Flash (1990) series was Captain Cold making his debut while Central City was in the middle of a brutal heat wave.
- Taken to the absolute extreme in National Geographic's Swallowed by the Sun, a hypothetical look at what would happen if our sun aged fast enough to become a red giant in our lifetime. Temperatures quickly rise past the boiling point of water, making the Earth's surface uninhabitable. Humanity is able to survive at first by moving underground, but eventually even this fails as the sun ages rapidly. It actually becomes so hot at one point, that for a while there's no longer enough oxygen for fire, and anything made of concrete is destroyed because the water it was created with vaporizes from the inside. By the time the oxygen does come back, Earth's temperature is thousands of degrees, which straight-up melts even hardy structures like the Pyramids and Stonehenge.
- The iCarly episode "iBeat the Heat".
- In Victorious one of these days prompts the characters to go to the beach. Instead of being a Beach Episode however, they get stuck in an RV (except for The Ditz who spends the episode flirting with guys and oblivious to her friends' calls and texts). Hilarity Ensues as they try to keep cool.
- In Prison Break Michael sabotages the air conditioning during a heat wave. This works out exactly as planned, i.e. triggers a prison riot.
- At least a few episodes of Hill Street Blues (such as episodes 2-3 of season 3), deal with the problems caused by high summer temperatures in a northern city where people aren't used to the heat. The heat causes domestic violence to flare and stresses the tempers of criminals, ordinary citizens as well as the police officers (neither the police cars nor the station house are air conditioned).
- The '70s Made-for-TV Disaster Movie Heatwave! involves one of these, naturally.
- The Adventures of Pete & Pete: In "The Call", Big Pete and Little Pete spend the hottest day of the summer trying to find out why a mysterious phone booth on the edge of town has been ringing nonstop for twenty-seven years.
- The Starsky & Hutch episode "Death in a Different Place" takes place during one. After the heat causes the Torino to break down in the same spot on the third day in a row, the guys use Hutch's car for the rest of the episode.
- In spite of the title, "Long Hot Summer" by The Style Council isn't explicitly about this. Coincidentally, when the song reached the UK top 5 charts in the (northern) summer of 1983, Britain experienced its hottest summer to date.
- William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has one of its most pivotal scenes, where Tybalt kills Mercutio and Romeo kills Tybalt in vengeance, happen during an unusually hot day, setting the stage for the tragedy to come.
- Street Scene takes place over two brutally hot days in June. Many characters complain about the weather, though the ice cream vendors seem to be doing good business. The first song in the musical adaptation is "Ain't It Awful, The Heat?"
- 1776 takes place during what really was an especially hot summer, which didn't do much for the Congressional delegates' tempers. The characters comment on it in more than one musical number.
- "Sit Down, John":
It's 90 degrees,
Have mercy, John, please,
It's hot as hell
- "The Egg":
God knows the temperature's hot enough
To hatch a stone, let alone an egg.
- "Sit Down, John":
- Kiss Me Kate has the song "Too Darn Hot."
- Inherit the Wind takes place during the Hottest Week of the Year. (Which the Scopes Trial, on which the plot is based, did too.) The characters frequently comment on how hot it is, and there's a small running gag of church-sponsored fans. Drummond doesn't get one.
- The Irving Berlin song "Heat Wave," originally written for Ethel Waters in the revue As Thousands Cheer but later featured in more than one movie musical, including, ironically, White Christmas.
- The Tony-award winning musical In the Heights is set during a heat wave in New York.
- In Plants vs. Zombies, the DS version has a minigame set during a literal heat wave.
- The Olympus Mon Groudon can cause a supernatural and apocalyptic heat wave just by being awake, which even affects the overworld in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. As Primal Groudon, it gains the even more devastating Desolate Land Ability — it lasts for as long as it's out, can't be overwritten without Primordial Sea or Delta Stream, and is so hot that Water-type moves completely fail to work (and yet Ice-type moves work just fine).
- In battle, Pokémon with the move Sunny Day or the ability Drought can cause harsh sunlight to shine down for up to five turns, causing various effects (such as strengthing Fire-type attacks, weakening Water-type attacks, and cutting out the charge time of the Grass-type move Solar Beam).
- There's also the move literally called Heat Wave, which is slightly stronger (though less accurate) than Flamethrower. Though the move mentions the user exhaling hot breath, a lot of Flying-type Pokémon are able to learn it through Move Tutors (suggesting they spread hot wind with their wings).
- A random event in the Jagged Alliance series that negatively affects the mercenaries' stamina for the day. Naturally, some are affected more and some aren't affected at all, introducing some variation into the game dynamic.
- Heat Wave is an actual weather condition in Persona 5 with actual effects on Mementos, a Mental World belonging to Tokyo residents. During a Heat Wave, enemies start with the Burn Standard Status Effect.
- The DuckTales (1987) episode A Whale of a Bad Time, starts with Huey, Dewey and Louie complaining about a heat wave and a broken air conditioner.
- The Hey Arnold! episode "Heat," in which a heat wave caused the neighborhood children to rebel against a megalomaniac ice cream salesman.
- The Simpsons
- When Homer gets Lisa a sax instead of an air conditioner. Twice.
- Occurred in another episode when the whole Springfield cranked up the air conditioners during the heatwave and one more electric output will cause a blackout. Unfortunately, it was Homer's fault for plugging in the dancing Santa Claus.
- And again in the episode when the family decides to get an above-ground pool, leading Lisa to become popular and Bart to live out a Rear Window spoof with a broken leg.
- Futurama where global warming and lack of ice on a nearby comet combine to make a heat wave.
- In The Boondocks episode "The Block Is Hot", there's a sudden heat wave in the middle of February. Huey (who is wearing a jacket in case it starts snowing again) notes how the heat seems to drive people crazy. Eventually, the events of the episode culminate in mobs of people rioting over a lemonade stand. And then the snow starts falling again, so everyone comes back to their senses.
- This occurred in a Danny Phantom episode. Naturally, the emotional Danny has a mean case of the frownies because of it. Mayor Vlad solves the problem by forcing a weather ghost to cool the temperature, but as always, all hell breaks loose when he creates violent storms afterwards. It takes Danny's emotions (and a machine to enhance it) to actually win this battle.
- 1973-74 Superfriends. One episode ("Too Hot To Handle") had a worldwide heat wave caused by alien interference. They used a satellite to draw the Earth closer to the Sun so it would be xenoformed to make it hotter and thus more comfortable for them when they arrived.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Burne's Blues" becomes this with someone destroying the air conditioners. Also in "Too Hot to Handle" but this time caused by Vernon's nephew's solar magnet.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes: Miseryville is usually a very sweltering place given its nature, but the episode "Heat Blanket Jimmy" sees temperatures become unbearable for even the demonic populace. While Jimmy, Beezy, and Heloise attempt to beat this with a trip to the beach, Lucius prances around Miseryville to torment his subjects with his tempting (but-can't-have) ice cream.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: "Pop Goes the Ed" involved the culdesac suffering a severe heat wave. The Eds solve their initial problem by stuffing themselves into Ed's freezer, but when Sarah kicks them out they find a new source of refreshment by bombing the neighborhood pool party... and wind up trapped in a pool with no trunks until night comes in and they start freezing.
- Camp Lazlo: The episode "Over Cooked Beans" shows all of Prickly Pines in a heatwave, and when Jelly Cabin finds salvation in an air conditioner that fell from the sky, the entire camp ends up fighting each other for it.
- The Smurfs had a few episodes that started with them. One notable episode was "The Magnifying Mixture", which kicked off the Attack Of The 50-Inch Whatever plot.
- An episode of The Mr. Men Show, appropriately titled "Heatwave."
- The Recess episode "The Coolest Heatwave Ever", when the gang search for the backup water valve during a heatwave.
- Rugrats had an episode entitled "Heat Wave," in which the babies visit the park on a sweltering summer day. After the water fountain breaks down, they befriend another baby and set out on an adventure to find "the land of many waters" (ie, the sprinklers on the other side of the park).
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Ice Sore" has Townsville dealing with an extreme heatwave which is when Blossom conveniently discovers her ice breath ability.
- One study showed that incidence of mental disorders with violent presentations increased when the temperature rose above 80 degrees Fahrenheit / 26.6 °C. Also, the FBI found an average increase of between 35-40% in the murder rate in urban areas from February to July over a span of five years of records.
- Another study shows that with each degree of temperature rise, violence increases by up to 20%.
- Summer heat is frequently cited as a contributing factor to urban riots. The disturbances in Watts (1965) and in Newark and Detroit (1967) all took place during periods of higher-than-normal temperatures in those cities. And it was 90°F / 32.2 °C in April when the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles started.
- As in 1776 above, it was unbearably hot in Philadelphia near the end (May-July, 1776) of the Second Continental Congress, during which the American Declaration of Independence was drafted and voted on. It would also have been incredibly muggy: Philadelphia, being in the Delaware River valley, is very humid, and various features of geography give it very still air, as well.
- The 2003 Big Blackout in the northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada came on a blisteringly hot August day, especially in New York City. Think of the people stuck in the subways and elevators, where it would be even hotter...
- During the summer of 1977, described as the "summer that New York lost its mind", temperatures were skyrocketing, corruption was rampant, and the Serial Killer Son of Sam had made the city his personal hunting ground. A Big Blackout that July capped everything off, leading to riots and looting—it took decades for some neighborhoods to recover.
- The summer of 2011 was an aversion of the "heat waves cause crime" trope. Temperature records were broken all across the U.S. with many cities reporting 50+ (and even 90+) days of serial temperatures over 100°F / 37.7 °C. Several states also recorded the hottest months of June, July, August, and September ever, with similar drought records being set. Despite this, reported crime was actually lower compared to years previous. Presumably, it's not worth the energy to commit high crime in sizzling temperatures.
- The period of late 2012 - early 2013 is often referred to in Australia as the "Angry Summer", where over 123 weather records were broken in Australia's hottest summer on average, and may have contributed to the rise in violence (particularly gang-related incidents in Sydney) throughout the rest of the year. It also brought about nature's anger with bushfires across Tasmania and floods in coastal Queensland.
- The Cronulla riots in Sydney in 2005 took place in December, during the Southern Hemisphere summer.
- In 2017, power was intentionally cut for thousands of homes throughout Adelaide in the middle of a major heatwave to save energy. Despite lasting for less than an hour, the entire city was furious at the government for the cut, as well as not keeping enough power stations and making it clear that they did not learn from the infamous statewide blackout in September 2016. The reigning government lost at the following election, with the power cut as a cited reason.
- The heat wave that affected Europe in 2003 deserves mention as it was the strongest one recorded since at least 1540, claiming 70,000 deaths and hitting France especially hard.
- Spain suffered in July 2015 the longest-lasting heat wave since registers exist, with three hot weeks of temperatures above or around 95°F / 35 °C even in those regions where summer temperatures are far milder.