Follow TV Tropes


Human Cannonball

Go To
There are few men of his caliber.

Well, fire and smoke belched
Out of the cannon
And the earth trembled for a while
And the big gun roared
And Hugo soared
Through the air like a projectile
Ray Stevens, "Hugo, The Human Cannonball"

Shooting a person out of a cannon is done in Real Life as a stage act. In fiction, it's a practical way to travel long distances instantly. This is especially popular in video games.

Fiction treats being shot out of a cannon in a very literal way. Cannons used for this purpose in Real Life are powered by a large spring or compressed air, but those in fiction use gunpowder, and are often set off by lighting a fuse.note  Their range is even longer than that of real artillery, often on the country-wide or even interplanetary scale.

Expect the ballistic passenger to make a sudden stop by hitting a wall or a solid piece of ground (or water) at the other end. In some works, there will be no apparent effect of gravity on anyone in midflight, meaning their flight path will be a completely straight line from point A to B.

The human cannonball is, of course, an old circus staple that still sees some use today in many performance acts. Obviously, no explosive propellant is used, so springs or compressed air is used to eject the human, with the housing still structured to look like a cannon to keep the idea of the trope alive. The targets are usually nets, air bags or bodies of water, but as noted on The Other Wiki, it still comes with its share of risks, specifically during the landing part of the act.

May be done with a large medieval catapult in comical settings.

See Fastball Special and Human Hammer-Throw for when the person is thrown by another character, not a cannon.


    open/close all folders 

  • A Wilkins Coffee commercial featured Wilkins firing Wontkins from a cannon.
    Wilkins: Did you drink your Wilkins Coffee this morning?
    Wontkins: Of course not!
    Wilkins: Okay. (BOOM) That boy's got a long way to go.
  • An Australian drink-driving PSA used the slogan "RBTnote  means you need a Plan B". The ad showed a man having a series of Imagine Spots as he contemplated ways other than driving to get home as he's been drinking. One of these was being fired out of circus cannon.

    Anime & Manga  
  • During the forty-first chapter of Asteroid in Love, the cast discusses the Dobsonian telescope. After looking at a few pictures of it, Chikage thinks they look like human cannons, and Mira falls into an Imagine Spot of her using it to launch into the space to find asteroids. Ao has to tell Mira that's not possible.
  • In Bleach, Kuukaku Shiba sent Ichigo and co. to the Sereitei this way. It's also the only to get around the "Palaces" of the Zero Squad and then to the Spirit King's palace.
  • One of the gadgets in Doraemon, the Youzooka, is a big gun that can be used to shoot people into the air.
  • One filler villain in the Fist of the North Star anime has developed a martial art based on being a human cannonball. His entire army uses it.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Yahiko befriends a girl named Marimo who performs this act in the circus she works for. At the end of the episode, Sanosuke picks up the cannon and uses it as shoulder-mounted artillery to fire her at the Villain of the Week. The gunpowder question is handwaved by saying that the circus owner had a special, proprietary mix of powder that was just strong enough to launch the girl without risking injury.
  • In Sailor Moon Super S one motw has female Lemure who attacks as this.

    Asian Animation 
  • In episode 3 of Happy Heroes, Big M. and Little M. steal a cannon from a circus act and attempt to use it to launch themselves back to their home planet. As with all of their attempts to get back home, the plan doesn't work.
  • Motu Patlu: Not a human cannonball, exactly. In "Ants Attack", one of the attacks the ants use on Motu and Patlu is to shoot some of the other ants at them through cannons.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, sometimes Wolffy gets punished by getting shot out of a cannon and flying away into the sky.

    Comic Books 
  • The various Corps used Dove as one against the Anti-Monitor in Blackest Night.
  • The Circus of Crime in Marvel Comics is, you guessed it, a traveling circus that doubles as a criminal outfit. One of its mainstays is the Human Cannonball, who is fired at enemies while wearing a suit of armor that makes him invulnerable to harm.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: In issue 10 Diana has herself shot out a cannon straight into the Saturn Emperor's throne room.

    Fan Works 
  • In Fractured (SovereignGFC), a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, Lilith is placed in a canister and blasted out of a magnetic railgun. In a nod to what would normally happen in such situations, it's handwaved by saying the gun fired at "minimum power." Plus, she's a Siren, so her physiology is more robust.
  • Wonderful (Mazinja): When Wonder Shadow formed her giant crossbow, Vicky became the ammo.
    It took perhaps a few more moments than it had for her-which likely said something about the relationship between Sophia and the rest-but in a matter of moments, Sophia was holding out a massive, glimmering black crossbow.
    Despite its size, Sophia held it up with ease, took careful aim, and fired.
    Glory Girl, encased in a black forcefield shaped like a bolt, led out another startled cry as she was shot towards the tank, piercing straight through it.

    Film — Animated  

    Film — Live Action  

     Live Action TV 
  • On Glee, Sue decides to use a Human Cannonball as a gimmick in the cheerleading routine to win another National Championship. Sue has a very cartoonish way of looking at the world and in her delusion completely ignored how dangerous this stunt is outside a cartoon. Her top cheerleaders tell her she is crazy and quit the team in protest.
  • The Muppet Show had a recurring act called the Flying Zuccini Brothers Human Cannonball Act. They were rarely on stage, but their cannon was used by Bob Hope as a means of fast and cheap travel. "Eat your heart out, Concord." They also tried to make a cow-cannonball act with the live-action cow wandering around backstage in the Julie Andrews episode.
  • This is the deployment method for the Super Zeozords, Red Battlezord, and Warrior Wheel in Power Rangers Zeo: Being shot out of a cannon.
  • Sesame Street:
    • In the Elmo's World episode about hats, Dorothy at one point imagines Elmo being shot out of a cannon, wearing a special helmet required to perform this stunt.
    • In the Elmo's World episode about school, Slimey uses a cannon to launch himself to school, but only if he's running late.

  • Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, although the characters at least use a vehicle there. While Verne's calculations are surprisingly close to the truth considering the lack of data at his time, in Real Life the resulting G-forces (around 22000 g) would have crushed the vehicle and its passengers.
  • King David's Spaceship or "A Spaceship For The King" by Jerry Pournelle uses a variant of this because... supposedly they weren't sophisticated enough for orbital rockets and yet were inexplicably able to build a cannon firing a steady stream of explosive propulsion shells at the rear end of the capsule.

  • "Earl's Dead - Cadillac For Sale" by Jimmy Buffet is about the life and death of a human cannonball, followed by his widow launching his ashes out of the cannon and selling his car.
  • "Hugo the Human Cannonball" by Ray Stevens. One of his darker songs. The title character flies 250 feet into the air, looks down and realizes he's going to miss the net, then splatters all over the upper bleachers.
  • Webb Wilder's "Human Cannonball" features the title character relating how awesome his job is.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert had to use a cannon as transportation when his company was cutting back on travel budgets. A later arc involves him visiting Elbonia, which reuses this joke... except the Elbonians are both so primitive and so incompetent that they launch Dilbert to his destination via giant slingshot instead.


  • The end of P.T. Barnum's stand-up act in the Michael Crawford version of EFX... however, nothing goes as planned as the cannon is pointed at the stage and explodes with Barnum inside of it.
  • In Zarkana, Pocus winds up being one — and winds up traveling to another planet as the transition to the cyr wheel/aerial hoops act.

    Theme Parks 

  • Parker Brothers had a game in 1990 called Flying Pirates which featured nutty pirates using this method to board an enemy ship. (The game itself involved each player having a toy ship, where the objective was to launch the small figures onto the opponent's ship; first player to tip the opposing ship over wins.)

    Video Games 
  • 77p: Eggwife has one in the last stage for you to reach and shoot at the sun.
  • Averted in Aero the Acro-Bat. Aero on several occasions launches themselves out of a cannon to get somewhere, but it's the air powered circus type complete with 'FWHOOMP!' sound effect.
  • In The Sega Genesis version of Animaniacs, when Wakko first comes across a cannon, he must light the fuse with his mallet. Then, he must jump inside the cannon so it can launch him in the air.
  • Sometimes there will be cannons dotted around a map for Ed to shoot himself out of in Ben and Ed.
  • In the A Boy and His Blob Wii game, one of the jellybeans transforms a blob into a cannon. A boy is one of things that can go in the cannon to be shot and there occasionally happens to be an enemy that can be shot from there too.
  • CarnEvil has the player getting into a cannon to launch them up to the top of the tent.
  • The artillery cannon in Clonk provides a quick way of getting clonks over large canyons or mountains.
  • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the only way out of the Russian unit Bullfrog is via the "Man Cannon". It's portrayed more realistically though since the infantry units descend with parachutes after being fired from the cannon.
  • Most matches in Custom Robo start out like this, if Transforming Miniature Robot Cannon Cube doesn't stretch the definition too much.
  • Donkey Kong Country. Barrel cannons. Heck, the spinoff Donkey Kong Barrel Blast/Jet Race uses them as jetpacks!
  • Doom Eternal is a very badass example. At one point in the story, the Doom Slayer loads himself up to a giant cannon and shoots himself out of it (after kicking out the actual ammo) in order to get to a drifting space vessel. He's blasted straight through the hull like an actual cannonball and still lands on his feet and ready to start shooting.
  • DT 3 has cannons that launch the player so fast that you apparently trail rainbows
  • Used offensively in Dwarfs!? Each outpost has a cannon that can be loaded with its patrolling warrior dwarves and fired at whatever you need dead.
  • Everybody Edits: The Daredevil smiley was once named the Cannonball smiley. Its introduction update came with a promotional world where players are shot out of cannons using boost arrows.
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light Multiverse, the Clone Cannon essentially weaponizes this by firing clones of one of your crewmembers at your enemies, although it doesn't have to be a human that gets cannonballed...
  • Each level of FreezeME has one or more cannons you can use to shoot yourself around it. Some are necessary to reach new areas.
  • May's new Instant Kill move in Guilty Gear X-Sign is basically this. She grabs her opponent, stuffs him/her inside the Mayship's actual cannon and, with the help of her best friend April, she shoots him/her off from there. It's both awesome and hilarious.
  • Henry Stickmin Series:
    • A FAIL in Diamond involves Henry trying to use a cannon to launch himself past a pair of guards. He falls out, tries to get back in, and winds up crashing into the door when it fires.
    • Henry can also try this in the Thief/Ghost route of Mission, to cross a gap. The cannon instead just blows him up.
    • In the Government/Allies route of Mission, Charles's helicopter has a cannon designed to fire humans, which Henry and Ellie use to get inside the rocket, being shot through the rocket cafeteria's window.
  • A catapult version is done in Hexen 2, to get over a wall at one point in the game. However, you have to position yourself so that it only flings you far enough to pass the wall: letting it toss you high enough into the air will cause you to take falling damage when you land.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Atari 2600 video game Human Cannonball is all about this trope. The player must set the cannon's position, angle, and blast strength in order to shoot the subject into a water tank.
  • In Jumper, there are "shooters", pink boxes which Ogmo can hop in to be shot in direction indicated by spinning cursor. Variations include blue faster ones (Jumper Redux) and one-time use yellow ones (Jumper Two Editor). MoneySeize, a game by the same author, features those as well.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising Pit gets shot out as more an "Angel Cannonball". He doesn't like the idea one bit.
  • Kirby sometimes uses these to get from place to place. They serve as "beat the clock" challenges, because Kirby has to light the fuse and get inside the cannon before it goes off. Also, Donkey Kong Country-style floating cannons appear in Kirby Super Star (Ultra), and later, Kirby's Return to Dream Land and Kirby: Triple Deluxe.
  • In The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, the protagonists are offered a ride to Izumo in a "Miracle Flying Transport," which turns out to be a cannon. It misfires, and they wind up at Tengu Mountain instead.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Later stages of Life Goes On have you firing your knights around the map, they don't survive the impact.
  • A good way to get around in Little King's Story is to purchase and use giant cow cannons, which made getting back to places like the Skull Plains a lot less difficult.
  • In Lost Souls (MUD), one of the methods of getting from the ground to the floating castle Darkhold is by being launched in a catapult.
  • Mail Mole: Well, mole cannonball in this case, but Molty uses cannons to travel from level to level.
  • Maribato!: Yoshino's throw turns her oponent into this: Yoshino starts by stuffing her opponent into a trick cannon, and fires her up into the sky, slamming her against a wall.
  • In Miitopia, The Tank has a skill called Human Cannonball, which involves them loading an allied Mii into their cannon and launching them at the enemy. The launched Mii will not be happy about this.
  • In the final stage of Miner 2049er, Bounty Bob has to load a cannon with TNT and then shoot himself out of it. Overloading the cannon will produce a fatal explosion.
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate features the Artillery Mask for your Shakalaka companions to wear. The mask's special power is to turn the wearer into a cannon and fire the other Shakalaka out of it, making for a surprisingly effective projectile.
  • Used as an actual Improvised Weapon in one level on The Outfoxies.
  • A bonus event in Pilotwings 64 has you launch yourself into a target in this manner.
  • Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare: The Driftwood Shores map has cannons that launch characters (mostly the attacking Zombies) towards the final objective. Launched Zombies must dodge the anti-air Flax Cannons of the Plant defenders while trying to make a safe landing. These reappear in the Backyard Battleground of 2, used as a fast method of traveling across the map.
  • The Mistralton Gym in Pokémon Black and White is rife with this kind of transportation. The second-to-last one before your meeting with Skyla is... maladjusted.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures:
    • In the original game, King El Zebulos launches Sparkster out of a cannon as a means of getting from Stage 3 (Lethal Lava Land) to Stage 4 (airship).
    • In the SNES spin-off, Sparkster, in the seventh level, Sparkster is shot into space with a cannon, starting up an Unexpected Shmup Level.
  • In Runescape's "A Clockwork Syringe" quest, firing yourself out of the cannon directly is too dangerous, so you weld a chain to the cannonball, attach a barrel to it, and ride in that instead! In "Between a rock" quest. player is launched out of the cannonball towards a rock wall with a golden helmet on.
  • One DLC vehicle in Saints Row: The Third, the Genki Manapault, uses this as its main weapon. Driving into pedestrians, gang members, or even your own homies sucks them up, at which point they can be promptly fired out of the cannon atop the car, leaving a trail of sparkling stars along the way.
  • In Scribblenauts, you can summon a Human Cannon, which spawns with a clown already inside. Firing the cannon launches the clown, after which you can reload it with other people.
  • Near the beginning of The Secret of Monkey Island Guybrush can earn some money by letting the acrobatic Fetuccini brothers use him as a guinea pig for their human cannonball act, with a cooking pot as a makeshift helmet. Much later, he uses the same technique to shoot himself out of his ship's cannon in order to reach the shores of Monkey Island.
  • Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew: Gaëlle can load a mook or an ally into the cannon on her back and then shoot them to another location.
  • In The Simpsons: Virtual Bart, the goal of the Baby Bart level is to get Baby Bart into the cannon at the end of the circus tent. The cannon fires him out of the tent and into the ice cream truck he pursues in the following cutscene.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, one of the more fun ways of getting around Oil Ocean Zone is to shoot yourself out of the various cannons dotted throughout the level.
    • In the Carnival Night Zone in Sonic 3, circus cannons appear throughout both acts, and allow the player to launch themselves into the air, and one is used to enter the next zone after the boss battle.
    • In Sonic 3D Blast, there are two cannons in Green Grove Zone, one in each act. The one in Act 1 takes Sonic to Knuckles, who will take him to a Special Stage if he has 50 rings, and the one in Act 2 takes him back to the beginning of the stage if there's something he missed there.
    • Sonic Heroes:
      • The game features cannons where how it fires will depend on who the team leader is when you enter it.
      • During the Bullet Station Zone the player team will occasionally use a really big cannon, which is the size of an entire building.
    • In Sonic Rush Adventure, the Ghost Titan, who is the boss of Big Swell, is in the air, out of Sonic's reach. On the platform Sonic is on, there are cannons protected by force fields. Sonic has to use the Ghost Titan's projectiles to destroy these force fields, since any contact with these force fields will damage him. Once the force fields are gone, these cannons will shoot at Sonic. He then needs to hit the cannon enough times so that he can enter it and use it to launch himself at the Ghost Titan to damage it.
  • In Spanky's Quest (SNES version), both player and enemy characters can shoot out of cannons, though neither exactly qualifies as human.
  • In Spirit of the North, it's more of a vulpine cannonball to be precise. There are rings that, when powered by auroral energy, launch the player fox through the air.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon has a ninja level that allows you to do this, though human cannonball might be a bit of a misnomer.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario World: Certain levels feature diagonal pipes from which Mario and Luigi can launch by entering a nearby vertical pipe.
    • Super Mario 64: Several levels feature cannons from which Mario can launch to reach high or distant spots. However, using them requires prior permission from a Bob-omb Buddy, for which you have to find him and talk to him (and in Bob-omb Battlefield, you must also have defeated King Bob-omb).
    • Super Mario Sunshine: Delfino Plaza features a giant cannon that launches you to Pinna Park. A similar cannon can be found in the second mission of Pinna Park itself, but entering it will take you to a special obstacle course instead.
    • Super Mario Galaxy: Square-shaped cannons can be used by Mario (as well as Luigi in the New Game Plus) to launch onto distant spots. Gravity is never a problem here, so it's always a straight trajectory.
    • New Super Mario Bros.: In all games of the subseries minus the fourth (which also excludes its Luigi-based Mission-Pack Sequel), cannons are used as a Warp Zone to later worlds. You have to unlock them by reaching secret exits in nearby levels.
    • Mario Kart has many tracks, often those based on the Donkey Kong Country series, where you and your vehicle get launched out of a cannon with tremendous speed. These are, namely, DK Mountain from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Waluigi Pinball in Mario Kart DS, and DK Pass and Maple Treeway in Mario Kart Wii (DK Mountain from Double Dash!! is featured here as well).
    • Mario Party: In Wario's Battle Canyon, launching oneself from one of the cannons is the only method of transport between areas, since these are disconnected otherwise.
    • Mario Party 4: One of the 1 Vs. 3 mini-games is "Hide and Go Boom". Each of the three team players must choose one of four cannons to hide in (indicated by the controller buttons), while the single player is given three torches to light them. If the single player manages to shoot all three team players out of the cannons, then it wins, but if at least one team player is still in a cannon when the three torches are used up, then the team wins.
    • Mario Party 7: The minigame Target Tag has each player enter a cannon and get launched airborne. While they fly, they have to hit the aerial targets to earn points (the numbers they show will indicate their worth), but they must also dodge the Bowser targets to avoid losing all points. Whoever gets the most points after they land onto the ground wins, though more than one can win in case they share the same high score.
    • Mario Party: Island Tour: The aptly-named minigame Cannonball! has the four players crank their respective cannon's handles as quickly as possible during four seconds. They then hop onto the cannons to be shot. The faster they cranked the handles, the farther will they be shot. The player who lands onto the farthest spot wins.
    • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has a giant Bob-Omb-powered cannon that is used to launch Mario to the moon.
    • In Paper Mario: The Origami King, Mario can get blown out of a cannon if he answers incorrectly in the Sudden Death question in the Shy Guys Finish Last quiz show. However, since the show takes place on a Floating Continent, Mario gets blown through the roof straight into a Non-Standard Game Over.
  • Several stages in the Subspace Emissary mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl feature the barrel cannons as a Shout-Out to Donkey Kong Country.
  • In Terramex, you need to do this to cross a lake. By the time you reach the cannon, you will have collected three kegs of gunpowder of varying sizes. Use too much gunpowder and you will end up smashing yourself against a mountain, too little and you will fall into the lake. Choose wisely. It's the medium sized keg.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure, in the ice mountain levels, when Buster finds a cannon, it launches him into space. As he falls back down, he can collect airborne bonuses if he is positioned correctly.
  • Toontown Online:
    • In one case, this is used as a pun. After you beat the CEO, you get pink slips to fire enemy Cogs. By fire, of course, the game means fire from a cannon.
    • In the battle against the Chief Justice, the second round involves firing NPC Toons into the jury using a cannon to ensure at least 8 out of 12 jury spots are filled with Toons instead of Cogs.
  • Wario Land: Shake It! has this as a way of travel in several levels. Sometimes even with moving cannons.
  • Cannon travel is a staple of World of Mana games (featured in Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Trials of Mana)—just hop in and shoot off, as your characters don't ever have to worry about fall damage!
  • World of Warcraft: Not truly a cannon, but the Ultrasafe Personnel Launcher used by the gnomes in Steelgrill's Depot (and anyone allied with them, like your character) to get past the enemy and their base camp is the same idea. (Luckily, a parachute is provided when you use it, and the guy you report to assured the disorientation lasts only a minute or so.)
    • A more straightforward example is the cannon in the Darkmoon Faire, which provides some magic wings that allow you to fall down slower. Of course, the point of the attraction is to get rid of the wings at the right time so you can land in a ring floating in the coast (the closest to the bullseye, the more points you get). If you unsummon the wings too late, you'll still land in the water. The problem comes if you do it too soon...

  • In 8-Bit Theater, the main characters have once to use a cannon to travel to their next destination. Of course, the first test is with Black Mage and the explosion happens, but Black Mage isn't sent on the way.
  • In Hazard's Wake, Talon delivers Fluffy to Maple by firing him out of a cannon. Fluffy is resilient enough to survive this, but his impact destroys Maple's ship.
  • Variant in A Miracle of Science: A one-man pod is shot into space with a giant cannon, design courtesy of a mad scientist. When it fails, Ludicrous Gibs result. (Fortunately the failure rate isn't very big...)
  • Subverted in Schlock Mercenary, in the Barsoom circus arc. A human cannonball's gunpowder was replaced with higher-grade explosive and he splattered into a concrete dam miles away.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Zoe dated a professional Human Cannonball for a while. They met after he crash landed on another guy Zoe was trying to chat up.
  • In one User Friendly story arc, Pitr is launched to the moon by trebuchet.

    Web Original 
  • Dreamscape: Done in a rather spectacular fashion with Jamie by everyone working together and combining their powers in the flashback in "Over and Under" to seal the Overlord of Evil away.
  • In the Youtube video Friendship is Magic Bitch, it turns out that this is how Princess Celestia banishes her adversaries to the moon. Or not quite.
  • Cuddles is shot out of one in an episode of Happy Tree Friends, with gruesome results (due to Toothy misinterpreting Mime's instructions to put two scoops of gunpowder in; Toothy put two barrels in instead).
  • The anime-styled animation Zazel has this as its premise. In the future, Human Cannonball Racing is a sport, where contestants are fired from a series of cannons from a platform, and compete to reach the goal through the circular city hovering high in the sky. The plot happens when the titular girl who's a maintenance lady is accidentally mistaken for a contestant and is thrown into the tournament.

    Western Animation 
  • In "Unlucky Knuckles", in an attempt to shift the luck balance of the universe (the idea given to him by Sticks), Knuckles fires himself out of a cannon at the bottom of a deep pit.
  • In "Role Models", Knuckles launches Tails out of a cannon and Tails lands in a trash can. Before Knuckles can do the same with Amy, he is stopped by D.B. Platypus. When Sonic protests against D.B. calling him and his friends bad role models, he hits the cannon, launching Amy into a tree.
  • The Tick had a supporting cast member called The Human Bullet who was frequently fired at the episode's climactic battle scene by his child (or neighbor in one case). He usually had little beneficial effect on the fight, if he ever made it in time at all.
  • Total Drama: In the World Tour episode, "Sweden Sour", Owen uses himself as one to sink the other team's ship.
  • W.: William does this in one episode.
  • Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: Wile E. has attempted to fire himself out of a cannon multiple times in his neverending quest to catch the Road Runner. What he has achieved are multiple new ways to injure himself.


Minion Cannonball

A Minion does this to win a competition amongst the others.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / HumanCannonball

Media sources: