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Honking Arriving Car

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A common, very versatile Sound FX Trope. In fiction, automobile drivers—be they livery drivers in taxicabs, limos, or minibuses or just friends or relatives in normal cars—frequently sound their horn to herald their arrival.

Most typically, characters are observed in the middle of one type of activity, such as a dialogue or packing for a trip, when the sound of a car horn suddenly interrupts the on-screen action, principally to aid in the transition for either a character's departure from a scene/location or an additional character's entrance. Inversely, characters shown arriving at locations in cars will honk their horn to get the attention of someone else unseen indoors.

When intended for a character's exit, if the driver's expected passenger isn't prompt about leaving after the first sounding of the horn, the tooting and blaring will likely persist as the driver grows impatient.

Particularly in live-action media, this concept is often used for its simple conveyance. The sound effect can function as a simple audio cue for actors; moreover, it can be a far cheaper, more practical alternative to finding a physical vehicle and driver to fit into a shot or scene. Especially in stage plays or televised sitcoms filmed on soundstages, it may be outright impossible for a production to otherwise establish a vehicle outside of a character's home or apartment.

Even when a car can be shown in another location, the honking horn is still frequently used to establish a car's sudden presence before it actually appears on screen so new scenes or different camera angles that physically establish the vehicle feel less disorienting or jarring.

The sound effect will often be acknowledged by a character to give it context, usually with somebody saying something to the effect of, "That's my ride" or "They're here."

When Played for Drama, the arrival of a honking car or taxi may be the setup for a final sentimental goodbye or one last chance for a character to beg another not to leave.

Played for Laughs, a broken car horn can help introduce or add character to The Alleged Car. Alternatively, a novelty car horn can do the same for a wacky Cool Car.

In real life, this is becoming a Discredited Trope as, nowadays, drivers are more likely to call or text their passenger through mobile phones when they arrive. It's widely considered bad etiquette for a driver to use a car horn in these kinds of situations, and many towns or regions may also have noise ordinances that prohibit stationary vehicles from sounding horns. Plus, horns might not be heard in modern houses with good insulation.

Compare Big Honking Traffic Jam, where fictional traffic jams are frequently accompanied by the sounding of horns.

See Also: Dead Man Honking, when a blaring car horn signifies a dead driver behind the wheel.


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  • "American Honda Presents DC Comics Supergirl": Supergirl, her wards, and the Little Old Lady's students are singing one song while travelling when they hear a blaring, insistent honk. The group turns around to see B. B. Wolf's truck speeding towards them and then shoving them out of the road.

    Comic Books 
  • Amazing Fantasy #15: The car that almost hits the freshly-bit Peter Parker honks right before Peter jumps towards a wall to dodge it, and in the process discover his newly acquired superpowers when he sticks to it laying some of the groundwork for him becoming Spider-Man.
  • In at least one issue of 1940s romance comic Patsy Walker one of Patricia "Patsy / Pat" Walker's love interests, Buzz, loudly honks his car horn when he comes to pick her up for a date. His by modern standards rudeness is a mix of both Hilarious in Hindsight and Harsher in Hindsight as after comics retool in the 1970s Patsy became the superheroine Hellcat and Buzz became her supervillain ex-husband Mad-Dog.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the beginning of Adventures in Babysitting, as Chris is getting ready for an evening date with her boyfriend while dancing to The Crystals song "And Then He Kissed Me," he pulls into her driveway and honks his horn, and Chris instantly knows, "He's here."
  • Early in Back to the Future, Marty and Jennifer are suddenly interrupted pre-kiss by a honking horn and a male voice shouting, "Jennifer!" Jennifer acknowledges her dad has shown up to give her a ride home.
  • In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, outside the high school, as it occurs to Bill that he and Ted are "in danger of flunking most heinously," Bill's stepmom, Missy, pulls up and honks her car horn to offer Bill and Ted a ride.
  • The Black Dahlia. The detective is interviewing a woman dressed up for work as an Fanservice Extra on a film set. A truck filled with similarly dressed women pulls up outside and honks its horn and she tells the detective that it won't wait for her, but he insists on carrying on with the interview.
  • Played With in The Car. The killer automobile blares its horn just before driving through Lauren's home and running her over while she's on the phone.
  • In Car Wash, one of Duane/Abdullah's unexplained absences from the titular car wash (that ultimately gets him fired) is shown to involve, in part, one of his Black Muslim peers rolling up in a customized VW Bus and honking the horn to call him over.
  • In the American remake of Death at a Funeral, as Norman and Derek roll up to the senior living home to pick up Uncle Russel, who is waiting outside, Norman honks the car horn to get his attention.
  • In Dirty Work, Mitch subverts one of Sam's pranks, causing Sam much embarrassment, by turning to this trope. Sam decides to moon a line of people outside a movie theater as they are driving down the street. Mitch obnoxiously honks his horn to draw attention to themselves, especially Sam, only to immediately park the car directly in front of the crowd of people and promptly get out of the vehicle and walk away. Literally caught with his pants down, Sam hangs a lampshade on it when he explains to the crowd of people he mooned that Mitch was supposed to keep driving.
  • In The Gate, a honking car horn interrupts Alexandra and Glen while Alexandra is putting Glen's rockets in the trash. Alexandra explains to Glen that she's going out shopping with her friends. The honking is then heard again as Alexandra's friends grow friends impatient while Glen continues arguing with her. When the scene finally cuts to the friends waiting in the car, they actually start to drive away without Alexandra, before she shouts at them that she's indeed coming with them.
  • In Hobgoblins, Nick, after two months of basic training, pulls up in his blue van in front of Kevin's house and sounds a novelty car horn, much to the delight of his girlfriend Daphne.
    Daphne: I'd recognize that horn anywhere!
  • Played With in The Hot Chick. After Jessica repeatedly drives over a gas station's dinger hose in efforts bring out a station attendant to no avail, she finally tries using her car horn. Meanwhile, inside the station, the attendant is actually tied up by Clive, who is robbing the place. When Clive exits the station and attempts to flee the scene, she makes him service her car.
  • House II: The Second Story begins with Jesse as a baby to be handed off to his adoptive parents. His birth mother calls out to her husband, "Clarence, they're here!" As soon as he responds, "I'll be there in a minute," an outside car begins honking loudly.
  • Innerspace plays this for drama when an impatient cabby honks outside of Tuck's apartment. Lydia immediately comes out to scold him for it, as she had told the cab company that she specifically did not want the cab to honk so she could leave Tuck's apartment without alerting Tuck. Cue Tuck coming outside in a bath towel, sparking an argument in which Lydia tells him she's leaving him.
  • A recurring motif in La La Land. At the beginning of the film, Sebastian blares his horn angrily at Mia while stuck in a traffic jam, but as they grow closer to each other, Sebastian sounds his car horn in the same manner whenever he picks Mia up for a date at her apartment. This also comes into play towards the end of the film after Mia returns to Colorado, and Sebastian goes looking for her. When she hears his car horn, she immediately knows that he came all the way from Los Angeles just for her.
  • A variant in Major League II. A muted trumpet on the movie's musical score emulates the sound of a novelty car horn when Willie Mays Hayes reports to spring training in a six-wheeled limousine with an exceptionally large entourage.
  • At the beginning of Mr. Mom, Jack sits down for breakfast with his family and has barely enough time for a sip of coffee before a car horn is heard outside the house, which Jack understands is his office carpool heading to work, beckoning his departure.
  • In Mrs. Doubtfire, following the divorce, when Daniel has his kids over for a Chinese food dinner at his apartment, Miranda pulls up outside in her car an hour early, and she honks the horn. All the kids immediately know it's their mother and are about to get up to leave, but Daniel insists they sit and stay, forcing Miranda to come up to the apartment.
    Daniel: You don't have to run off when she honks the horn. C'mon, you're on my time now.
  • At the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), a honking car horn is heard as Nancy stands with her mother at her front porch, just before Glen, Tina, and Rod pull up to Nancy's house in the red convertible.
  • One Dark Night inverts the premise, showing the scene from the car occupants' point of view. The Sisters repeatedly lay on a car horn until their club's latest prospect, Julie, finally steps out of her house.
  • In Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, the arriving car horn is used in tandem with a Gilligan Cut from Officer Mahoney being fitted for a wire and him working undercover at a pool hall. The car horn sounds from outside the pool hall, and two members of Zed's gang pick up Mahoney in a stolen car to take him to their hideout. They also honk the car horn to herald their arrival once they are inside the hideout.
  • In The Screaming Skull, the Reverend Snow and Mrs. Snow arrive at Eric and Jenni's palatial country home in a honking car. The horn toots off camera while Eric and Jenni are having a private moment, and Jenni suddenly wonders who it could be.
  • In Son in Law, when the Thanksgiving turkey that Crawl had "killed" springs back to life inside the Warners' home and starts wreaking havoc, Travis rolls up outside in his truck to pick up Crawl for his "bachelor party" and blares the horn, cuing Crawl to slip out while everyone else is left to deal with the wild turkey.
  • Inverted in The Stuff. Upon his arrival in Stader, Virginia, "Mo" Rutherford honks his horn to get the attention of a gas station attendant, who is unseen indoors. The attendant comes out to fill Rutherford's tank, and Rutherford asks him questions about the area.
  • Sugar & Spice:
    • Justified. On the day of the girls' supermarket robbery, the breaks on their getaway van don't work, so while picking up Kansas, they honk the horn as they approach her house. When she runs out within earshot, the other girls explain the situation, and Kansas has to jump into the van while it's still moving.
    • Also at the end of the movie, when the girls leave the police station, and *beep-beep* Lisa is the one there to offer them rides home.
  • In Thrashin, while Corey is busy trying on hats and sunglasses and looking at himself in the mirror, Bozo is waiting outside and repeatedly honking his car horn to tell Corey to hurry up.
  • In The Wraith, at the sun-and-swim gathering by the river, Skank and Gutterboy sound the horn at their arrival to call over Packard but not before Skank takes a swig of breaker fluid first.
  • Waitress: Earl blares his horn every time he arrives somewhere.

  • A local police chief is reluctantly forced to raid the local bordello. He secretly sends a message to the madam that the cops will provide plenty of warning so the staff can hide the evidence of their activities, but she never gets it. On the day of the raid, the police cars circle the block and repeatedly honk their horns, until two of the hookers drag a mattress out the front door. When the police chief asks what they're doing, one of them says, "Hey, some jerk is honking for curb service!"

  • In Adrian Mole, Adrian quickly writes in his diary before heading off on a survival weekend, finishing his entry with "Must stop, the minibus is outside papping its hooter".
  • And Then There Were None: Anthony Marston is introduced speeding down a cliff road in his car, blaring his his horn. His appearance makes them think of a Germanic hero, unfortunately he soon proves to be anything but (the murderer justifies bumping him off first because he's incapable of seeing that running over two children was in any way his fault).
  • In The Famous Five book Five Fall into Adventure, the taxi driver toots when arriving to take Uncle Quentin to the airport, starting a chaotic scene at Kirrin Cottage. Uncle Quentin is shut up in his study, sorting out his precious notebooks; his wife tells him they will miss the plane, and the driver keeps on hooting, causing Timmy to bark, and Uncle Quentin to tell the driver what he thinks of people who keep hooting their horns.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
    • In "The Tale of the Twisted Claw", after Dougie offhandedly wishes for his deceased grandfather to be at his house, the sound of a car horn is heard outside, and Dougie and Kevin look out the window to see the eerie sight of his grandfather's old car pulling into the driveway.
    • In the episode "The Tale of the Unexpected Visitor", as Perch and Jeff are meddling with their dad's computer and the Peabody Project to send a message into deep space while their parents are out for the night, the sound of a car horn outside signals their parents' return back home and prompts Perch and Jeff to shut down the computer in haste.
  • Boardwalk Empire: This is how Manny's driver lets him know he has arrived. Unfortunately for Manny, this turns out to have been Richard Harrow honking the horn just after having shot the driver, with the horn distracting from the gunshot noise. Manny discovers this the hard way upon opening his door.
  • Part of a punchline at the end of the Eerie, Indiana episode "The Broken Record." Syndi spends much of the episode doing a ride-along project with Eerie policemen. Her parents wish she'd have a safer assignment, and in the last scene, they are relieved when she tells them that she asked her teacher for a new project assignment... only for a truck horn to blare outside, cuing Syndi and her parents to her new ride-along project following the Eerie fire department in their firetruck.
  • In Gilmore Girls, in the first season episode "Rory's Dance", Rory and Dean decide to go to the Chilton Prom together, and Dean honks his horn when he's outside Rory's house to pick her up. Emily, however, has other ideas and tells Rory to wait for Dean come to the door to ask for her because it's "proper" (also so she can meet him). Dean does come to the door, and Rory has to tell him it wasn't her idea.
  • In The Goes Wrong Show Series 2 play, "Summer Once Again," Robert playing "Roger" makes his grand entrance to Northwood Manor in a car preceded by the honking horn. After Robert calls for a reset of "Scene One" for a second time, because of numerous mistakes, the car horn sound effect is mistakenly cued "three pages early."
  • In the pilot of Hunter (1984), Rick Hunter asks Dee Dee McCall to become his partner while she's in undercover as a Dirty Harriet. Hunter starts honking his horn while she's talking to her pimp, who naturally thinks she's letting a potential customer go to waste. "I hear your tune being played."
  • In the finale of Justified: City Primeval, "The Question," the arrival of the car carrying Raylan's ex-wife Winona and their daughter Willa is signified by three honks. As Raylan heads outside, Winona announces from the passenger's seat "She got her learner's permit!," revealing that Willa is the one driving.
  • The Law & Order episode "Promote This" from Season 19 begins with a Hispanic day laborer sitting on a corner waiting for a job offer until a car pulls up and honks its horn. The man hurries to the car and gets inside.
  • The TV series of Mr. Majeika has one character arrive or depart with the car horn, playing Colonel Bogey March.
  • In M*A*S*H, when Col. Potter first comes to the camp while Radar is sunning himself, Potter has to honk his horn a few times to get Radar's attention.
  • Inverted in the Peaky Blinders Series 4 episode "Dangerous." Alfie Solomons arrives outside Tommy's residence and instructs Ishmael to "hit the call of prayer," which cues him to sound the car horn, but he doesn't do it aggressively enough for Alfie's liking so Alfie lays on the horn for an extended period of time, not even letting up when Tommy steps out of his house and continuing to let it blare out until Tommy walks straight up to him.
  • In the Supergirl Season 6 episode "Prom Again!" Kara and Kenny Li have a conversation in which Kara reveals her decision to attend college in National City. When a car horn honks outside the high school, indicating Alex is there to pick them up, they slowly walk out of the gym.

  • The song "Stay in Touch" by German musician Alligatoah uses this motif in a narrative about two people in a relationship who know that the time for a final farewell has come but don't want to leave each other just yet. The pre-hook translates to, "They are calling, they are honking," referring to an idle taxi cab, and the second verse starts with a statement that the taxi driver can smoke an entire carton of cigarettes while waiting for them to finish.
  • The song "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by John Denver mentions the taxi driver waiting, and blowing his horn.

    Music Videos 
  • In the Ren & Stimpy music video for "Cat Hairballs", when the idea is mentioned of creating an Italian sports car from the hairballs, Stimpy is shown pulling up in a car and honking. However, instead of a traditional car horn, it's a bike horn attached to a helmet.

  • Played for Laughs and a Running Gag throughout Peter Pan Goes Wrong. A car horn sound effect is used for a just-arrived cab outside the Darling residence... only for the sound effect to mistakenly repeat twice more in the ensuing scene, prompting the cast to ad-lib that "three cabs" have arrived outside. The sound effect is inadvertently heard at other inopportune times throughout the rest of the Peter Pan performance in Neverland, prompting Chris, playing Captain Hook, to absurdly acknowledge "a cab's" off-screen presence in the most preposterous scenes.
    Liza (Annie): Your cab's here, Mr. Darling.
    Mr. Darling (Chris): Excellent, let's go down—
    Liza: Another cab's here, Mr. Darling.
    Mr. Darling: Excellent, let's go down—
    Liza: ...A third cab's here, Mr. Darling.
    Mr. Darling: Three cabs... One for Mary... One for me... And one for... my... hat.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • In Grand Theft Auto III, the mission "Drive Misty For Me" requires the player to honk a car horn while parked outside Misty's apartment to let her know they've arrived.
    • Likewise, a few early-game missions in Grand Theft Auto IV require the player to honk their vehicle's horn to get the attention of someone they're giving a ride to. The player also has the option of doing this when picking up a friend to hang out with them, which will get them to enter the player's vehicle without having to park too close to them.
  • In The Sims series, a car horn can be heard whenever the school bus or carpool arrives to take the Sim to school/work.

    Web Animation 
  • In Season 6, episode 3 of The Champions (2018), as Cristiano Ronaldo builds a football utopia in an alternate universe without football, three busses roll up and sound their horns together in a way that resembles notes from the anthem for the UEFA Champions League.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Party", just as Gumball and Penny were about to share a kiss, Richard arrives to pick his sons up and ruins the moment by honking the horn.
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • In the 1928 short The Barn Dance, Pete shows up at Minnie's house in his newfangled automobile and honks his horn to get her attention. Mickey, not wanting to be shown up, grabs a nearby goose and squeezes it to make it go honk. Minnie's pet parrot ends up annoyed by the incessant honking.
    • Played With in the 1937 short Don Donald, Donald Duck arrives at Donna's casa on his pet burro, and he gets her attention by pulling its tail to make it "honk." A little later, after having a rough ride on the stubborn beast, she hears what sounds like the donkey's braying outside and comes out to give Donald what for, only to find that he actually traded it in for a shiny new runabout and was merely honking the horn.
  • In the The Fairly Oddparents episode "Nectar of the Odds", as Doug Dimmadome, the owner of the Dimmsdale Dimmmadome, arrives so he can pick up his long lost son, Dale Dimmadome, his limo honks the opening notes of "La Cucaracha."
  • In Painted Tales, George mutters that he'll miss his plane while he waits for his taxi. When the taxi finally arrives, sounding its horn, the driver hustles him out so quickly that he forgets his suitcases, meaning that he has to come back, for the process to be repeated.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Mom often honks her horn whenever she arrives home. Candace calls it her distinct "three-horn honk".
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played with in "The Way We Was". Teenage Homer is walking on the side of the road after he ran out of money to pay for his limousine rental for the prom, and Marge arrives in her own car to offer Homer a ride, after Artie Ziff brought her back home. However, Homer initially mistakes Marge's friendly tooting of the horn on her arrival for some blowhard driver being overly aggressive.
    [Toot Toot!]
    Homer: Shut up!
    [Toot Toot!]
    Homer: I'm over as far as I can go!
    [Toot Toot!]
    Homer: Alright! Alright! I'll walk in the MUD!
    • Also played with in a flashback from "I Married Marge", as Homer arrives to take Marge out on a date while she's talking to her mother and sisters.
      Marge: You don't know Homer like I do. He's sensitive and sweet.
      Homer: (HONK!) Marge! Get your butt out here!
    • In "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)", The Southern Gentleman honks a novelty car horn when he arrives outside the Simpsons home in his RV at dawn for his duel with Homer.
    • In "The Old Man and the Key", after Lisa comments that they have no way of traveling to Branson, Missouri, a novelty horn interrupts, and a bus headed to Branson, MO stops directly in front of the Simpsons' house. However, when Ned, Rod, and Todd Flanders get on the bus, Homer insists that they "wait for the next one."
    • In "Fat Man and Little Boy", Goose Gladwell makes several entrances in a wacky Cool Car while sounding a novelty horn that plays "La Cucaracha."
    • In "The Mook, The Chef, The Wife, and Her Homer", the arriving car horn is heard three times in the Fell Off the Back of a Truck gag. Homer honks a horn as he pulls into his driveway in a new pickup truck which he says fell off a truck, "You know, a truck-truck." A deeper truck horn is heard, and Bart pulls up in a car carrier loaded with pickup trucks that he says "fell off a truck-truck-truck." Then, an even deeper truck horn blares as the "truck-truck-truck" loaded with car carriers pulls up.


Jennifer's Dad

Marty and Jennifer are interrupted by the Honking Arriving Car.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / HonkingArrivingCar

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