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"If I ever MUST put a digital timer on my doomsday device, I will buy one free from quantum mechanical anomalies. So many brands on the market keep perfectly good time while you're looking at them, but whenever you turn away for a couple minutes then turn back, you find that the countdown has progressed by only a few seconds."
Rule #216 of The Evil Overlord List

Any kind of stated time limit or countdown in fiction seems to know when it's Being Watched, and will cheat accordingly for maximum drama. This phenomenon tends to occur especially as a countdown starts approaching zero.

For instance, the large digital readout on a Time Bomb may show thirty seconds to detonation, but after cutting to and from a climactic two-minute fight between The Hero and the Big Bad, the clock somehow has ten seconds left for The Hero to defuse it before it goes off.

This can be done subtly, to stretch things out a bit without the audience really noticing, but in most cases it's pretty obvious — there have been times, in fact, when literally no time passes at all while the countdown's out of shot.

Sometimes the reverse effect takes place — the character has a good forty seconds to stop or get out of the way of the destruction, then six seconds later the timer starts counting down from ten, which is a fairly cheap way of ratcheting up the suspense. This version, at least, can occasionally be explained by the Law of Conservation of Detail — the action we saw isn't necessarily all the action that took place.

This doesn't have to involve an actually displayed timer. Sometimes a character will just yell that "There's only ten seconds left!" and the heroes will prevent the calamity 25 seconds later.

A variation is a fuse or Powder Trail which burns slower or faster when the camera's not on it. Another common visual equivalent is the falling object or descending gate which is accelerating down at something. The shot cuts just before it hits to people trying to stop it or get out the way. When the camera goes back, the thing will mysteriously have farther to fall than it did before the cut, just enough to allow the characters to make a narrow escape.

This can be handwaved by arguing that part of the fight scene (since rarely are there splitscreens showing the fight and the timer) started when or before the last shot of the timer was shown, thus, the fight and the countdown are happening at the same time chronologically but are shown separately to build tension and suspense (an editing technique known as "cross-cutting").

When applied to a Timed Mission in Video Games, it becomes Always Close (and when applied to non-timed missions in video games, Take Your Time). See also Exact Time to Failure, which may give us the countdown in the first place, and Instant Cooldown or Magic Antidote for the miraculous events that occur when it is stopped. May be also applied to a Descending Ceiling or when The Walls Are Closing In —the crusher keeps conveniently moving back between shots. Compare Clock Discrepancy. It sometimes involves Weapon Running Time, when the time a projectile takes to hit its target stretches so things can happen.

In instances where it's not a timer that's out of proportion, but rather the speed at which off-screen travel is conducted, see Traveling at the Speed of Plot.

Often occurs because Talking Is a Free Action.

Contrast Real Time. Compare On Three.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baki the Grappler: In Baki Dou, Sukune boasts that his most powerful attack can defeat Baki within ten seconds, and their subsequent fight in Chapter 147 is accordingly accompanied by an on-page timer counting the passing seconds. However, the depiction of the passing time seems symbolic at best: between the panel where Sukune swings at Baki, and the panel where his blow lands, the timer goes from 4 seconds to 6 seconds — that would be an absurdly slow attack.
  • In episode 139 of Bleach (which was titled "Ichigo vs Grimmjow, the 11 Second Battle"), Ichigo can use his Hollow mask and the subsequent power up for 11 seconds. Just the scenes with Ichigo using the mask already take up about a minute, so even assuming everything's simultaneous doesn't explain it. The concept of events happening at extremely high speed is rather stretched.
  • Factoring in all ecstatic collapses, dramatic slow-motion door-opening, and lengthy yet vital inner expository monologues, the forty seconds in the Death Note finale are inflated by approximately 850%. In the anime at least the inner expository of Light is justified, as every other movement is shown to stop. So his thoughts actually happen "instantly".
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • During the final fight between Goku and Freeza during the Namek saga, the planet Namek was minutes away from collapse for 10 episodes or 9 chapters. Ridiculously, one episode actually says "two minutes" at the beginning and "one minute" at the end. Lampshaded later by the fact that Frieza flat-out admits he screwed up the whole "destroying Namek" thing, and it was supposed to explode instantly...he just made up the "five minutes left" thing to not look like an idiot.
    • A lot of this sort of thing on the show is implicitly explained as the fight being slowed down so that the audience can actually follow it. The implication is that every major fight beyond a certain point would be too fast for the human eye. Some fans have taken this explanation and ran with it, creating videos which show how the SSJ-Goku vs Frieza fight might look like in "real time." In truth, it largely has to do with all of the posing, grunting, powering up, and voice over that is added to pad about 10 pages of comic into a 30 minute episode, since the show was decided to have one episode per chapter of manga made, even when there isn't enough content to fill up the time.
    • In Dragon Ball Z Kai, Frieza was stated to have messed up because he held back too much for fear of killing himself in the blast right after he did it, and the "five minutes" clearly is just him making up a number. This also nicely explains why the flashback showing his destruction of planet Vegeta has it instantly exploding despite being a planet of similar size and density to Namek: Frieza normally destroys planets from the safety of orbit, not when he's standing on the surface.
    • There's even a few people who argue that he might have been referring to five Namekian minutes (or even possibly five minutes on Frieza's home planet), not five Earth minutes. Since they were on another planet, time simply could have been measured differently, like how a Namekian year is only 130 Earth days.
    • In a later episode, they even comment on this when Goku needs time to regather his energy and asks Vegeta to stall Kid Buu for one minute. Vegeta comments that this is a really long time for a fight against Buu and the minute does last at least an episode.
    • The trope is still around in Super: when Vegeta's power is stolen by Commeson, he is told that Commeson's victims will disappear three to five minutes after being attacked. Vegeta sticks around for two entire episodes before finally beginning to disappear.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, the Tournament of Power is stated by the Grand Priest to last 48 minutes. 1-2 minutes pass by every episode and it took 14 episodes for the 24 minute mark to pass the tournament.
    • This also occurs in the original Dragon Ball when Commander Blue plants a bomb at Kame House that will kill the tied-up Dragon Ball Gang in 5 minutes; the bomb explodes 3 minutes and 46 seconds later, although there are spots where time could have been jumped over, such as Launch looking for a knife.
      • The internal time fluctuations get especially silly. At 2:50 to go the clock has an extra 20 seconds on it, with 2:33 left the clock has hit 3 minutes, at 2:14 Turtle says there's only 2 minutes left (although the shot of the clock after is off by only 7 seconds), and at 25 seconds left the clock shows 55 seconds to go. The end gets much closer however: at 15 seconds Krillin says there's only 10 seconds, and at the action 10 second mark the clock is shown at 5 seconds left. However, this only 14 seconds after the clock was shown to have 55 seconds left! 50 seconds passed in the space of 20!
  • In the last episodes of Season 1 of Fairy Tail, The Thunder Castle spell is said to have 1:30 til it goes off. After 5 minutes of telepathic discussion, there is still time to stop the spell from destroying everything.
  • In the Stardust Crusaders portion of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, DIO has the power to completely stop time for a few seconds. There are a few scenes where he monologues to himself during stopped time, and each passing second during then is really close to about eight in real time. The same thing happens with Jotaro after his stand develops the same power, both in Stardust Crusaders and his appearances in later parts.
  • Used painfully straight and with reckless abandon in Kuroko's Basketball, where characters can engage in a full minute's worth of conversation when there are only four seconds left on the clock.
  • During the climactic arc of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, it's established that the heroes have two hours to prevent the Cradle from reaching orbit, or else all of Mid-Childa will be in danger. At the end of Episode 22, the timer stands at one hour, 44 minutes. At the end of Episode 24, forty minutes of screentime later, the timer has advanced by just nine minutes. Possibly justified by the sheer number of parallel plot threads the anime bounces between during those episodes, but it's still kind of jarring.
  • Naruto:
    • In the OVA Battle at Hidden Falls. I Am the Hero!, Shibuki is told he has 10 seconds to reveal his location before Suien kills a villager. Naruto's short speech about bravery takes considerably longer.
    • During her fight with Sasori in Naruto Shippuden, Sakura counts down the time left before her antidote wears off. Apparently one entire episode is just under two minutes.
    • At the end of their battle, Pain notes he still has four seconds left until he can use his Shinra Tensei ability again, thinks on Naruto's strategy for a bit, then notes he has three seconds left. The entire sequence takes twelve seconds. While the whole five second cooldown taking over a minute could be handwaved as multiple things happening at once and the characters moving superhumanly fast, that moment was nothing but Pain thinking on how much time he has left.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion lives by this trope. Whenever an Eva gets disconnected from its umbilical cable, huge digital timers show up to indicate how much internal power is left. The amount varies with the activity: at full-blown battle, it only lasts one minute - in theory. In practice, battles always last longer than one minute - especially if the Eva goes berserk. For example, in episode 19 Shinji topped the minute with a good 14 seconds and he was fighting like a madman. Once he ran out of power, the Eva had gone berserk, curbstomped and ate the Angel in another three minutes.
    • Partially justified - Berserk is stated multiple times to allow an EVA to act on its own without any power supply. Don't ask how does that work, we're talking about pilotable giant cyborg alien clones here, that's not the weirdest thing EVAs can do.
    • A theory is that the power is what's stopping the armor from locking down the Eva. However, when an Eva goes berserk no amount of restraints are going to hinder it.
  • In One Piece, during the Alabasta arc, there's a bomb. Not just any bomb, but one to destroy the entire town and everyone inside of it. The countdown read 5 minutes... For two episodes.
  • Arc Big Bad Shishio of Rurouni Kenshin is only capable of fighting for fifteen minutes at a stretch before he is in danger of his pre-existing health condition killing him. The duel between him and Kenshin (with other members of the cast joining in) lasts five half-hour episodes before said health condition kicks in.
  • An entire episode of Slam Dunk not only takes place during a single shot, from release to entering the basket, but during the last few seconds of a game. While the flashbacks can be attributed to moving at the speed of thought, the internal monologue shouldn't.
  • Sonic X has the timer on Eggman's detonator during his second attack on Prison Island. We see it count down to ten seconds, then nine... then we cut to Chris pleading with Shadow to go back and rescue Sonic... about thirty seconds later, the timer ticks down to zero.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds episode 3, Yusei is trying to escape through the maintenance shaft before trash from Neo Domino City comes rushing into Satellite like a tsunami. On the way, he duels Ushio, which in itself takes roughly 15 minutes. Yusei only has three minutes from entering the tunnel 'till the maintenance hatch closes. 10 minutes of the duel are spent in said tunnel. Furthermore, at one point, the timer says 1:40. 2 minutes later, it says 1:30.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Challenge #2 (1985). The bomb, which is far away, is about to detonate in 8 seconds. Batman is confronting the villain at a power plant. The following exchange takes place in the time it takes the bomb to count down from 0:08 to 0:05:
    Villain: Now do you believe me, Batman? You can't radio for help because I'm jamming all the channels — and all the phones are dead as well, so you cannot contact your butler!
    Batman: You lousy little maniac!! You're going to tell me how to stop that bomb, or I swear I'll—!
    Villain: Really, Batman — wasting what precious little time you have left on empty threats? Frankly, I had thought you above such childish displays!
    Batman: (thoughts) He's right... can't afford to lose control now... have to focus... have to think... there has to be some way to disarm that device...''

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): One of the Titan battles begins in the late evening, and ends a few minutes before dawn breaks, all in the same chapter. Possibly justified/averted, as the In-Universe date is early summer and the battle's location is far enough north of the equator that it would probably see very short nights at that time of year.
  • Lampshaded in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, where a malfunctioning transmitter chip is successfully extracted with ten seconds to go before it explodes, leading to Calvin remarking:
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami employs this during the finale. Cyber Takeda fires a rocket hacking rocket to hack every single nuclear weapon in the world. At every army bass in the world, there are 10 seconds until the nukes fire. During the first second, there is a good portion of dialogue between the soldiers and the general, then when the timer hits 9 seconds, the general shouts "STOP HER!", during this short exclamation, the countdown hits 1 second, prompting the general to let out a Big "NO!" as every nuke fires at once.

    Films — Animation 
  • The clock in Cinderella takes a very long time to strike midnight, giving Cinderella plenty of time to get well clear of the castle. Obviously, no clock would take that long striking midnight.
  • The opening credits of G.I. Joe: The Movie have Cobra attempting to blow up the Statue of Liberty. First, when Cobra Commander starts bringing out the bomb they intend to use, the clock is shown at 5 minutes and then shifts to 3 minutes a few seconds later. Then Duke moves the bomb from the statue to Cobra's airship, taking about 20 seconds longer than the clock should have allowed.
  • Johnny Mnemonic: If Johnny can't get the 320 gigs of data out of his head in 24 hours, he will die and the data will be lost forever. However, Johnny always seems to have the maximum 24 hours available to him to complete his quest. After Johnny travels halfway around the world from Beijing to Newark (which should take up a chunk of time one way or another), the Everything Sensor at customs in Newark still estimates that Johnny has a full 24 hours to seek medical attention. Then, later, halfway through the movie and after Johnny has survived three further attempts by the yakuza to capture him and/or cut off his head and takes a nap in a subway tunnel, Takahashi still gives the Street Preacher a 24-hour deadline to bring him Johnny's head when, at this point in the movie, it would be much more plausible if there are only 12 or 13 hours left (at best) before the data is lost.
  • Lampshaded but not explained, except just as being magic, in The Polar Express.
  • Shrek Forever After: Rumpelstiltskin's sand timer, that measures the 'day' Shrek has before he'll vanish away forever if he doesn't get love's true kiss. When it first appears, only a tiny bit of sand has fallen, even though Shrek must have spent a good part of the day scaring villagers, getting captured, and being carried to Far Far Away.
  • The bakery mini-game in Wreck-It Ralph is supposed to take precisely "one minute to win it", yet it lasts about thirteen seconds longer. Most of the extra time comes from the Mixing stage, where the clock starts to count down about half as fast as it should to hide that it takes a majority of the time. Toward the end of the Baking stage, the timer jumps down so that it's at 0:15 by the time Vanellope announces "Fifteen seconds!", but then it actually stops for a few seconds during the Decorating stage to leave enough time for the kart to finish.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The inverse variety occurs in Apollo 13. The loss of communications during re-entry is said to last 4-1/2 minutes, but actually takes about 3 minutes of the movie. Given how tense that scene is watching the movie, knowing how it comes out, one can imagine how tense it was in real life, taking half again as long. But the 14-second manual course correction burn of the LM engine was changed to 39 seconds, which still took 63 seconds of screen time in the movie.
  • The "one minute" it takes for the DeLorean in Back to the Future to reappear is actually about one minute and twenty seconds. Also, in the third movie time runs very slowly after the engine and time machine crash through the sign marking the last half mile of track. Covering the remaining distance at 88 mph should not take more than 20 seconds, but the engine takes the plunge much later. A possible in-universe example towards the end of the first part: The Doc sets a timer to indicate the precise moment Marty should begin his run at the cable so he'll hit it at the same time as the lightning strike. Although the Delorean cuts out causing Marty to leave late, he hits the cable at the right time anyway.
  • Justified Trope in Battle Beyond the Stars by having Nell suffer battle damage and get confused as to what part of the countdown to self-destruct she's at. She pulls herself together in time to blow up Sador's ship and win the eponymous battle.
  • The Dark Knight Rises has a timer that obligingly slows down to let people hear one character's last words and for another to have a brief farewell conversation, while still having time left to fly a nuclear bomb far enough from the city to leave it untouched.
  • Fight Club: It takes about five minutes from the point where Tyler says "60 seconds", before the bombs actually go off. No countdown is shown or mentioned during that time, though.
  • Flash Gordon (1980): The countdown timer to the destruction of the Earth that Flash sets in War Rocket Ajax. Flash originally set the clock for 3 minutes 20 seconds. It finally counts down to zero more than 7 minutes of screen time later. It's blatantly clear at the very end. Just before Flash jumps out of the ship it shows 19 seconds left. After Ming is destroyed (?) it shows 2 seconds left, but it took 52 seconds of screen time for Flash to kill Ming.
  • In the climax of The Fly (1986), the countdown to Romantic Fusion between Brundlefly and Veronica is set for two minutes, but the actual elapsed time to zero is about two minutes and 45 seconds. Beyond it not being that much longer, it could be justified as cross-cutting between the timer, Seth/Brundlefly's final One-Winged Angel transformation, and Stathis managing to come to, get his gun, and shoot out the cables to Veronica's telepod. (Interestingly averts Transformation Is a Free Action; the One-Winged Angel moment unfolds in less than 40 seconds of screentime and no one stops what they're doing during it because of that countdown.)
  • Future War is probably the only example where the countdown goes faster than reality on screen.
  • Subverted for comedic effect in Galaxy Quest, where the crew have to cancel the ship's self-destruct. They press the big red button with 20 seconds to spare, but it continues to count down. As they panic, the countdown reaches 1 second and then stops all by itself - because "it always stops at 1 on the show".
  • Godzilla (2014): A soldier sets a nuke's timer to about an hour and a half in what appears to be midday. The active bomb gets stolen and has to be taken out of the city before it detonates. The soldiers assigned to retrieve it enter the city at sunset and find the nuke with 30 minutes left on the clock. By the time it reads five minutes (and it's nighttime), the nuke manages to be put on a boat and driven out of range from the city. The nuke was earlier stated to have made the 15-ton Castle Bravo, which produced a 7.2-kilometer fireball within one second, look like "a firecracker". Assuming a one-second fireball size of about 10 kilometers for the Godzilla nuke, and an end fireball size of, perhaps, twice that, the boat would have had to be moving at 240 kilometers per hour (almost 150 miles per hour) to reach minimum safe distance in time - and that's not even accounting for the shockwave! Talk about Outrunning the Fireball.
  • In Gravity, the time it takes for Stone's oxygen supply to drop from 5% to 1% is roughly the same time it takes it to drop from 1% to 0%. It's at least noted that Stone has a backup in the form of the air inside her suit itself (instead of the air tank), but that too lasts a surprisingly long time.
  • Independence Day: "Can you get us out of here in 30 seconds?" More like 1 minute and 30 seconds. Yet cut back to the bomb, which still has five seconds on it.
  • Indiana Jones:
    • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, during the opening scene in the dungeon when the stone door is about to close down in front of Indy, time seems to stand still until Indy manages to sneak through under the door.
    • Played both ways in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: when the nuclear bomb is about to go off, an announcement says "one minute to zero time." The first 45 seconds take 30 seconds, and then the last 15 seconds take another 30 seconds.
  • James Bond
    • Goldfinger: During the countdown to the detonation of the nuclear bomb in Fort Knox. It manages to get stopped at 007, too. Imagine that.
    • Octopussy uses it on a detonator instead of an entire bomb (and since Science Marches On, the counter is digital). Bond disarms it right as the timer reaches zero.
    • On Her Majesty's Secret Service features a detonator set for 5 minutes. Then the camera cuts to other characters talking for 10 seconds. When we cut back to the detonator, only 10 seconds have passed. Cut to a fight scene for 10 more seconds. OK, now 2 minutes have passed on the detonator. Cut to another 10-second scene. Now the detonator has 10 seconds left before detonating. Cut to a character counting down "5... 4... 3... 2... 1.... Now!" Both Bond and Blofeld jump out of the building scheduled to blow up, with Bond only just making it out a good eight seconds after the countdown is supposed to be over, and only then does the explosion actually happen.
  • In The Manhattan Project, a nuclear bomb's timer is damaged by radiation, causing it to start the timer... With 999 hours until detonation. It seems the army has more than a month to deal with it until they discover that the timer counts down exponentially, to the point that it eventually counts down several hours per second. Might be a justification or outright parody.
  • The Mask: the countdown to the detonation of the conventional explosives in the club.
  • During the climax of The Matrix the sentinels start cutting into the interior of the Nebuchadnezzar and it looks like only seconds are left for the crew. But then Trinity starts giving her The Power of Love speech to Neo during which the sentinels don't progress because Talking Is a Free Action. Then Neo has his Heroic Second Wind and overpowers Agent Smith in the Matrix, all while the sentinels still don't seem to make any progress on the Nebuchadnezzar. Only by the time Neo is finally able to get out of the Matrix, do the sentinels charge the crew, but the EMP disables them Just in Time.
  • The first Men in Black movie averts this in the climax- the countdown at MIB headquarters until the Arquillians destroy the Earth is at 8 minutes right before K and J shoot down the first ship the Bug attempts to escape in. About 7 minutes later, K has retrieved the Galaxy and calls Zed to tell him to tell the Arquillians they have their Galaxy back.
    • Not so much in the second with the countdown to Sirleena's ship with Laura in it being launched; J's fight with Jarra takes a bit longer than the allotted time and ends with J awkwardly on a pile of flimsy tubing that he has to fight out of...and the countdown actually goes quicker. He stops it with 1 second left, naturally.
  • In Minority Report, an officer says they have 51 minutes and 28 seconds to stop Tom Cruise from committing a murder. Since the murder occurs much sooner in the movie, this appears to be a reversal of this trope, until one realizes that the time period mentioned was the exact amount of running time left in the movie.
  • Mission: Impossible II has one of these when a bomb is planted on Luther's van.
  • Saw:
    • In Saw, the clock in the Bathroom passes through significantly more than a half-hour throughout the sequence where Lawrence and Adam focus on the mirror, which only lasts a few minutes.
    • In Saw II, after John explains his motivation to Eric for four minutes, the timer for everyone in the Nerve Gas House to die drops by 23 minutes from the last time it was seen (which was just before).
    • In Saw 3D, the 36 seconds that Bobby has to save Suzanne take about a minute and a half.
  • Inverted in SpaceCamp. The accidentally launched shuttle is low on air, so the cadets fly to the partially assembled space station, where there is a cache of oxygen tanks. Ignoring the fact that the movie compresses the transit time to a few minutes, if you take the estimated amount of air left when they start the trip, and subtract the estimated transit time, the answer is considerably larger than the estimated amount of air left in the shuttle when they arrive. What were they doing to use up all that extra air?
  • Stargate (the original one). When O'Neil sets the timer on the nuke, it also beeps constantly in all the scenes. In most scenes, counting the beeps is pretty accurate between timer shots, but the time between beeps varies widely between shots. In one scene, it counts down normally, in another it's almost rapid fire. And the last 45 seconds on the timer? Takes about 4 minutes. Not due to dramatic cross-cutting either, it's played straight.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan features the title character counting down 60 seconds to the Enterprise crew before he does something really nasty. Naturally, this takes a good deal longer than 60 seconds, giving the heroes enough time to come up with a bluff. Possibly invoked: Khan was counting down similar to a parent counting down for a child on a time limit they KNOW is too short - "I'm going to count to three and it better be done - one, two, two and a half, pause - task finishes - good you just made it." Khan is basically saying, "You have until I feel like blowing you up to get me what I want" - since he really wanted the Genesis data so he could use it as a weapon, as long as they (so he thought) were giving him what he wanted, Khan was willing to stretch his countdown.
    • In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk et al. activate the Enterprise's 60-second auto-destruct sequence and then go down to the transporter room where they beam off the ship. The Klingons then beam onto the ship and cautiously make their way to the bridge, where they find the countdown nearly complete and promptly get blown up real good. But of course, roughly 100 seconds of film have elapsed between the beginning and the end of the 60-second countdown, and even at that, the trips to and from the transporter room have obviously been compressed.
  • In the first Star Wars movie (A New Hope), Death Star's going around the planet to be able to target the moon with the rebel base is represented onboard by an odd graphic that, when shown, most certainly isn't moving slowly enough for the time it takes, either on-screen or in-universe. In fact, every time it's shown, it picks off right where it was the last time it was shown.
  • Superman II. The H-bomb is supposed to have a 1-minute timer. It takes at least 1 minute 24 seconds to detonate after the timer starts.
  • In The Terror of Tiny Town, Nita lights the fuse on a bundle of dynamite and plants it under the floor of Haines' cabin. She flees and then Haines enters the cabin, followed by Buck. The two men get into a fight, but every time the camera cuts back to the dynamite, the fuse is still burning at the same point it was when Nita planted it. It eventually explodes just after Buck leaves the cabin in response to Nancy's yell.
  • Demonstrated brilliantly in the MST rendition of Time Chasers:
    [Nick activates the Time Transport countdown]
    Servo: Ten... Nine... Eight... Seven...
    [Cut away to Nick and J.K. fighting over a gun]
    Servo: S-Seven... Six... Five... Four...
    [Computer warns of low altitude]
    Servo: Three... Two... One... Zero... F-Four... Three... Two... One... Th-Three... Two... One... Two...
    [Plane crashes]
    Servo: One.
    • Related, in the episode Soultaker, they mock the movie for continuing to show the clock after the midnight deadline has passed:
      Mike: Stop showing the clock! You spent that nickel!
  • In Timecop, there's a bomb in the protagonist's house with a mere 10 seconds left on the clock. Even though the scene is going in slow motion, he somehow manages to make it from the second story to the outside of the house while carrying his wife in both arms. He isn't even running down the steps, either.
  • The 30 seconds that Grandpa Seth freezes time for in Troll 2 must be some of the slowest seconds in the history of the world.
  • Happens in Van Helsing: it sure takes that clock a long time to strike twelve (specifically, it takes at least three minutes).

  • A literal example in the climax of Artemis Fowl: the Lost Colony. Due to the decaying of a spell that kept an island of demons out of time in Limbo, the timer on a bomb in a suitcase moves forward at differing speeds for different periods of time and at one point goes backwards a short time, all on a constant loop. Artemis is able use this indicator to save Holly's life by firing a bullet into the past and preventing her death from happening in the first place.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Funnily enough, 24 has some examples of this: sometimes an episode ends with something important (like an explosion) and the next episode begins with the timer exactly following, but the events ahead — the emergency units have already arrived, etc. The title screen, Previously on… segments, and "The following takes place..." take about 2 minutes. Only once in Season 1 (1:00am-2:00am aka episode 2) does it show the clock immediately after "The following takes place...". So there's a small amount of unseen time between episodes. Also the credits for the previous episode as well, which take about 30 seconds.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In "Maveth", Simmons states the portal to the alien world will only stay open for 61 seconds. This is long enough for Coulson and Ward to have an extensive fight sequence while Fitz is simultaneously trying to stop "It" from reaching the portal, Coulson to stop and waste precious time executing Ward after he's been neutralized, Coulson and Fitz to run to the portal, "It" to crawl out of Will's body, cross a considerable distance to Ward's, possess him, and go through the portal itself. In real time, it's roughly 5 minutes, and we didn't even see the entire escape onscreen. However, it's possible that Daisy was using her powers to extend that time artificially, which she had been shown to be capable of doing earlier in the season.
  • Batman (1966): In "While Gotham City Burns", Batman and Chief O'Hara have only a minute to drive to a church and save Robin from being killed in the Bookworm's Death Trap. The minute is shown on a clock dial on the screen, with a series of scenes showing their progress. There's no way that they could have done it within a minute. Batman even takes time out to explain something unimportant to Chief O'Hara.
  • On the children's TV show The Big Comfy Couch, one of the usual devices employed in every episode was that Loonette would look around for items inside the couch while making a mess, and then at the end of the episode she would clean the mess up in a "ten-second tidy". Usually these would last over a minute. Very likely this was done under the assumption that children can't count.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "The Zeppo", Xander is having a Circling Monologue with the bad guy as a nearby bomb timer is counting down. It switches between them and the bomb, and the timer seems to jump around at random, gaining and losing time, until it is of course stopped at 1 second left.
  • An odd inversion: The Japanese Game Show Dasshutsu Game DERO! and its Spiritual Successor TORE! both have rounds where a team of contestants are given a series of puzzles to solve via Linked List Clue Methodology within a total time limit. Whenever a stumped team spent a long time making no progress, the footage is edited out, but the show often briefly cuts away to something else to make the edit less obvious. This leads to situations where the show cuts away for about 15 seconds, but over a minute ticks away on the countdown while it's not onscreen.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Daleks": A Dalek suddenly stops counting down when it became clear to the director that the action sequence would take much longer than the countdown.
    • "Destiny of the Daleks": The countdown runs at normal speed when demoed, but too slowly when Romana is actually in peril from the bomb.
    • Despite being averted in "42" (see below), this was played straight in "Last of the Time Lords", which is ironic, as the countdown was critical to the Doctor's plan.
    • "The Eleventh Hour": The Doctor calculates that it will take the Atraxi 20 minutes to be ready to incinerate the Earth, so that's how much time he has to locate Prisoner Zero. The DVD commentary lampshades that more time than that (humourously exaggerated to 45 minutes in the commentary) passes onscreen before the Doctor says that he's got three minutes left.
  • In one Season 4 episode of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, Lewis Hamilton is shown coming into the pits to serve a ten-second time penalty. Thanks to a constant barrage of camera cuts, this ten-second penalty is stretched out to 32 seconds.
  • The time limit for the entire game on Fort Boyard doesn't really exist, and is only there so the editors can add some drama to the show. One example on the UK version where the team had about 2:00 left on the clock when a woman attempted a challenge at some height. After about 4 minutes of faffing about, she gave up, and only about 1:00 had gone off the clock.
  • In Friends when Joey makes a Game Show Appearance on Pyramid. During the game, the team is given 20 seconds per round to give a set of clues. But here when Joey plays, the clock only displays when there's only 5 seconds left and you clearly know the round went longer than 20 seconds. Opposite is true in the bonus round when the countdown ended sooner than the intended 60 seconds.
  • The Makai Knights in GARO can only remain in armour for 99.9 seconds. This is enforced in most episodes, but once in a while, it is blatantly broken with no explanation.
  • H₂O: Just Add Water: It's established in the first episode that in the event that the girls don't want to transform, they have ten seconds in between getting splashed and forcibly turning into mermaids. The actual time varies, with the most egregious instance being Rikki getting splashed by Nate, followed by forty seconds of her freezing up, getting reassurance from Zane that he'll cover for her, and running across the pier to transform off-screen.
  • Knight Rider (2008) "Knight Fever": Trying to abort the destruction of a recently nanovirus-infected command center, Carrie and Alex find that the security device has malfunctioned and won't read their handprints. It repairs itself just in time to stop when the countdown reaches 1 second.
  • LazyTown has one of the more extreme versions of this trope in "The Laziest Town". 15 in-universe seconds take about 2 minutes of runtime and there's about 30 seconds between the clock almost hitting zero and when it actually hits zero.
  • Lost:
    • In the episode "The Other Woman", Daniel is attempting to neutralize poison gas. "Forty seconds to contamination," the computer says. Forty seconds later, it says, "Twenty seconds to contamination."
    • The timer in the Hatch tends to do this a lot. "Henry Gale" gets from the armory to the computer in under ten seconds (although we can't see the timer, another alarm starts to sound when the counter reaches ten seconds.)
  • In the Season 16 premiere of NCIS, a countdown jumps from 15 seconds to 6 in about two seconds, then the final five take about 10 seconds.
  • In the Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide episode "Dismissal", an 11-minute countdown clock is displayed in the corner throughout the episode to represent the time everyone has to get on the bus before it departs. While it does count down in real time at some points, the clock "cheats" by slightly speeding up and slowing down throughout the rest of the episode, especially near the end when it's very slow, likely for dramatic effect.
  • Power Rangers:
    • In the first episode of Power Rangers in Space, Dark Specter has captured Zordon in a jar, which gradually fills up with a lava-like substance. When it is full, Dark Specter will have drained all of Zordon's power. At the rate that jar is filling up, Zordon ought to be history before that episode was up, yet somehow he held out until the end of the season. In the last episode, Zordon's tube goes from half-full at the beginning to empty at the end. That was a plot point, Dark Specter had been killed by Darkonda and it apparently reversed the energy drain.
    • In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, the Rangers have a more agile alternate mode for their Humongous Mecha which can only be maintained for sixty seconds. The first time it's used, it stays transformed for precisely sixty seconds in the end, though Cam's countdown is often wildly off. Almost every use after that, though, had battles carry on for much longer than one minute.
    • In Power Rangers RPM, one Monster of the Week throws bombs as his whole schtick. The bombs have no visible timer but beep faster and faster leading up to kaboom. At one point, when the monster throws a bomb, the beeping accelerates... and then stops when a Ranger catches the bomb. It starts over when the Ranger throws it back.
  • The Professionals: A lunatic holds a nurse hostage via a grenade with the pin removed shoved down her blouse, and Bodie says it has a ten-second fuse. It takes the grenade 25 seconds to explode. You could handwave this as the grenade's safety lever being caught inside her blouse and not springing free until Bodie cut it loose.
  • In Pushing Daisies, Ned can bring the dead back to life by touching them and make them go back to being dead with a second touch, but failing to touch them again within a minute results in someone else in proximity dying. This minute doesn't always equal a real-life minute.
  • Sci Fi Channel once ran a marathon of RoboCop: The Series with humorous running commentary. One episode had a bomb set for five minutes. The running commentary points out that it takes 7:04 for the bomb to eventually be shut off.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My 15 Seconds", the timer which displays during the "15-second visits" with Nicole Sullivan sometimes visibly slows to half speed.
  • Occurs during the autodestruct sequence in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "11001001".
  • In episode 5 of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the Zangyack's timer to set off missiles is down to one minute when Marvelous arrives. It takes him around a minute and six seconds to prevent the missile launch.

  • In the Met performance of Doctor Atomic, about Dr. Oppenheimer and the Trinity nuclear test, a voice announces five minutes to the test firing. Eight minutes later, the two-minute buzzer sounds. Eight minutes later, the bomb goes off.

    Video Games 
  • In the first mission of Final Fantasy VII, the bomb timer is set at 10 minutes. Now, the timer keeps perfect time through battles, menus, and passages from one area to the next. The magic countdown effect becomes present right as your party reaches the exit. No matter how much time is left on the timer when it's last displayed, the bomb explodes right as your party leaves the reactor. It is possible that the timer was simply a failsafe, and Avalanche had a trigger switch they set off as they escape. That's just Fan Wank, though...
  • The timer until the ship's engines explode in Halo: Combat Evolved seems precise… but when it disappears for a scripted event, the timer actually pauses and doesn't restart until it appears on screen again. This is probably to let the player watch the scripted event without feeling the need to just drive straight past it (since driving past the event triggers the timer to restart earlier), but it's still a case of this trope.
  • A Hat in Time: One of the attacks used by the second boss is attaching a bomb to Hat Kid, who will then need to get it defused before the bomb explodes. The countdown on the bomb starts going much slower once it reaches 10. This might be Justified though, as all of the boss's attacks are repurposed movie props, so this might be a timer specifically meant to Invoke this trope in-universe that just happened to be put on an actual bomb.
  • The 5th and 6th levels of House of the Dead 4 have the AMS agents racing to reach Goldman's computer to deactivate his nuclear missiles before they launch. At three points, they note how much time is left, none of the three figures even remotely corresponding to how much time has passed in-game.
  • In the original Metal Gear Solid during the final battle, Liquid starts a 3-minute countdown and proceeds to explain how it works for 30 seconds, giving you only 2 1/2 minutes for the actual battle. Should you die and continue, however, the game skips the exposition and goes straight to the battle where you have a full 3 minutes instead.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has a truly bizarre example. All the gameplay countdowns do this, but during one of them, there's a codec conversation in which a bomb is announced to have less than thirty seconds left on the clock. Twenty-odd seconds later, it blows up, averting the trope while the other countdown is frozen until you reach the next area.
  • The boat you are trapped on in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is supposed to sink in nine hours, but you can take as much time as you want solving the puzzles needed for your escape, and characters often engage in lengthy conversations that definitely should make them go over their nine-hour time limit if you added them all up. Part of this can be justified by the fact that you aren't actually on a sinking ship in the first place, and the players are meant to survive, so there really could be an artificial countdown that starts and stops when it's necessary. However, it's still played unambiguously straight in the final puzzle, in which you explicitly have six minutes to save young Akane, but the game lets you take as much time as you want like normal, instead of making it a Timed Mission.
  • Occurs in the Final Boss fight of Portal 2. At the beginning, a timer shows you have five minutes before you succumb to the neurotoxin the final boss is pumping into the room. After you finish the first stage (which knocks out the neurotoxin emitters...somehow), the second stage gives you four minutes before the entire Enrichment Center explodes in an atomic fireball due to a reactor meltdown. You can beat that stage with as little as one second left, but the third stage starts over at precisely two minutes, and even after you finish that, the conclusion is a Take Your Time. You could go eat lunch and the place will still be about to explode. There is a subtle Lampshade Hanging of this when the automated announcer declares after the second stage that the reactor explosion timer has been destroyed. Not the explosion itself, mind you, the timer for the explosion. Of course, this being Aperture, the third timernote  is a self-destruction timer to prevent the uncertainty that would result if they didn't know exactly when they were going to die.
  • Zig-zagged in Sonic Adventure 2. Eggman explicitly instructs that a bomb be set to blow in fifteen minutes. After the five minutes of the Security Hall stage go by, we see that Rouge is in a holding cell with the bomb counting down past 10 minutes. The following stage has a time limit of 10 minutes, so not counting the duration of the boss battles and cutscenes it's accurate… then there's a stage with an eight-minute timer. A more traditional example occurs when Shadow reaches the bomb. The bomb bleeps to indicate when a second passes, even when the camera isn't facing it. There are more bleeps than there are seconds on the clock. The 8-minute level is on the hero path, however, while the 10-minute level is on the villain path. It's possible to complete the 10-minute level in under two minutes, followed by a quick boss fight, leaving eight minutes for the hero path to get out of there (and for Shadow to actually reach Rouge in the vault).
  • The final battle in Time Crisis 2 pits you against the fanatical Ernesto Diaz and the prototype of his nuclear satellite, with the real one just seconds from being launched into space. How many there are supposed to be is unclear, because no matter how long this battle takes, Diaz always goes down just as the rocket is about to launch, whereupon the ruined prototype smashes a hole in the rocket, causing it and the entire launch pad to dramatically get blown up real good. Presumably the Namco staff wanted to maintain a semblance of the every-second-counts tension of the first game but didn't feel like making three endings.
  • SCP: Secret Laboratory: C.A.S.S.I.E. states that the Decontamination Process (which renders the Light Containment Zone inaccessible and kills all players inside) is set to begin in 15 minutes at the start of the round, and the displays the Light Containment show a 15-minute timer. In actuality, Decontamination begins in 11 minutes and 45 seconds, and the timers are slightly sped up to account for this (slowing down at the 10-minute, 5-minute, 1-minute, and 30-second marks).

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The End", the countdown to the eclipse shown makes no sense whatsoever: it starts counting down from 24 hours after recess, indicating the eclipse is at the same time the next day, but the eclipse seems to happen the evening of the same day. Gumball and Darwin get three hours' detention between two scenes, but the time shown for both indicate about thirty minutes passing. After dinner Gumball, Darwin, and Richard seemingly rush to get supplies, but the time stamps show it took them eight hours just to get into the car, and it's somehow still daytime.
    • In "The Bet", Bobert counts down to ten seconds to detonation, but each "second" takes more like three to ten seconds.
  • Amphibia: In “Olm Town Road”, a massive robotic drill announces that it will dig through the earth and reach the underground city of Proteus in ten seconds. It counts down from 10 to 6, then we don’t hear the timer at all as Anne and friends try to stop it. After 14 seconds of them futilely mashing the controls, the countdown is heard again, going from 5 to 2. This is followed by a full 25 seconds in which Lysil and Angwin jam the drill, seemingly all in the timer’s last second. All in all, ten seconds on the timer lasts up to a minute.
  • A variant of the fast-burning fuse is seen in Batman: The Animated Series. In "Dreams in Darkness", the Scarecrow has a huge machine mixing fear-inducing chemicals to dump in Gotham's water supply. Batman shuts it off, stopping the big clock at 01:45. Scarecrow starts it up with the backup controls and the clock begins counting down again, from 20 seconds. And furthermore, the timer beeped with every passing second, even when it was offscreen, but the beeps didn't correspond to how much time had passed. At the 20-second mark, it plainly beeped more times than there were seconds remaining.
  • In the episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, "Invasion of the Secret Santas!", where, after noticing a doll is a bomb with a 10-second timer, Batman exclaims, "It's a Bomb!" for 5 seconds, before cutting to a commercial break.
  • In the "Our Neighborhood Festival" episode of Blue's Clues, Periwinkle states that there's five seconds till the fireworks start. Joe and guest star Marlee Matlin then step forward so that Joe can address the viewers and he suggests that everyone count down together from five. Only after the countdown (which itself takes a fair bit longer than five seconds) is complete do the fireworks actually start.
  • The Fairly OddParents!
    • Happens in an episode where roaches have taken over and are going to destroy the world. Cosmo and Timmy plead with Wanda to help save them as the clock ticks down ten seconds, which takes more like thirty.
    • Happens again in another episode while Mark contemplates whether or not to destroy the Earth with a Time Bomb. He's clearly taking more than a few seconds to do this, while the timer counts down about 5 seconds. Of course, being The Fairly OddParents! and all, the timer in question might have actually been magic.
  • Nearly every episode of FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman has a "Half-Time Quiz Show" where any Fetchers not doing a challenge are asked questions involving the challenges in the first half of the show. They are given 10 questions and have to answer as many as possible within a time limit (90 seconds in Seasons 1-2, 60 seconds in Seasons 3-5). In many episodes, Ruff announces "Time's up" either before or after the 60/90 seconds have elapsed.
  • This happens all the time in Code Lyoko Season 2 and 3 with the countdown before hitting the key to avoid the reconfiguration of Sector 5. It is supposed to be 3 minutes, but it jumps forward, and sometimes backward, quite haphazardly. And in the episode "The Secret", where a detonator for a series of charges set to destroy the Factory has a digital clock. Once, it advanced only 15 seconds while almost 2 minutes went by. Afterward, it seemed to have hurried back and caught up exactly with the lapsed time... but then it jumped forward 45 seconds while William and Ulrich were speaking, that is with no jump-scene in-between, only a change of focus.
  • In the Captain N: The Game Master episode where Simon is marrying Mother Brain, Mega Man and Kid Icarus have 30 seconds to shoot Simon with an antidote arrow before the spell becomes permanent. It takes them one minute and 17 seconds to hit him. In this fanfiction parody of the episode, Samus Aran (who wasn't in the series) lampshades this by telling Mega Man that he needs to get his chronometer fixed.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • In the first episode, a Sealed Evil in a Can is due to be released When the Planets Align — specifically, the stars are supposed to aid in her escape from the moon that very night. As Twilight Sparkle reflects on this, she looks at the moon, and four nearby stars can clearly be seen approaching it at a visible rate. Then the viewpoint shifts, the scene switches to another place, and the events there go on for a moment. And then Twilight looks at the sky again, and the stars continue practically from where they were when last seen and merge with the moon.
    • In "Stare Master", Fluttershy is staring down a cockatrice even while its gaze is turning her to stone, the petrification starting from the tail and advancing towards her head. As the perspective shifts during the scene, the layer of stone never gets past midway over her body but is shown reaching the middle point more than once, as if it receded when the camera was not looking.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Homerpalooza", when Homer is waiting to deliberately take a cannonball to the stomach that he knows will kill him, the fuse on the cannon is shown burning most of the way from beginning to end several times between shots of something else.
  • In the opening of Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM), the timer Sally sets actually counts down faster when it's not on-screen. Potentially justified in that a few seconds could have been skipped between some of the camera changes (though that would be odd).
  • Played for Laughs in a Tiny Toon Adventures short, "One Minute Till Three", which has a ten-minute running time. There's one minute left in the school day, and Granny is asking all the students impossible questions and assigning increasingly large amounts of homework as punishment for wrong answers. The focus is on Plucky Duck, as he desperately hopes that the clock will reach 3:00 before Granny calls on him. Highlights include Plucky saying "This must be the longest sixty seconds in the history of Acme Acres" and the clock (which has no second hand) moving backwards while Plucky watches.
  • An episode of Total Drama has the contestants being given the task of escaping a building set to blow up in 30 seconds. After 1 minute and 13 seconds, the timer is at 15 seconds. When the countdown ends, a total of 2 minutes and 10 seconds has passed. Some possible Fridge Brilliance: since that season's challenges were based on movies, of course it would follow this.

    Real Life 
  • Temporal perception and memory formation in the brain are regulated by stress hormones; the more intensely we feel a sense of impending doom (i.e. the amount the adrenaline in our systems) the more events around us which are perceived by our senses get marked for remembering. This causes us to remember 'time slowing down' during stressful events. On the opposite end, rote behavior is never marked for memory, so habitual things become completely forgotten, like driving home from work every day, or walking up the stairs (you suddenly find yourself where you intended to be with no recollection of the journey.)
  • The more of your attention you focus on any process the more of it gets marked for analysis and memory, causing your brain to perceive it as taking more time to accomplish; ignoring something will cause it not to get marked. Thus a watched pot seems to take longer to boil than an unwatched pot. In other words, the Law of Conservation of Detail and Travelling at the Speed of Plot are both neurological imperatives.
  • Attempt any file transfer in any version of Windows and watch the time remaining jump about like a nervous salmon in a particularly fast river.
    • Lucky Star poked at this.
    • Also parodied by this xkcd strip.
    • The same principle applies to file downloading, especially a torrent since the estimate for time remaining assumes that the current speeds will remain constant, which is almost never true.
    • And the windows install which seems to take a very long time between 39 and 38 minutes left for no good reason. The "less than a minute" at the very end of the installation usually takes a couple of minutes.
    • It seems to take longer to go from 99% to 100% than it took to get to 99% in the first place.
    • While Windows is pretty much a poster-child case, almost any OS can be guilty of this because predicting a transfer time is, for the most part, nondeterministic. The initial guess the OS gives you may just be how fast the files are transferring now with how big the total transfer is. However, file transfer times are not based on how fast the hard drive can actually work, but how many files it has to write. It's actually much faster to transfer a 4GB file than 10,000 files that equal 4GB. Coupled with the fact that the hard drive you're using is probably the only one and it's constantly in use because of things like swap file and caching etc., it's basically a good idea to never trust any file transfer timer regardless of the OS, file system, etc.
  • While not technically possible in real life, that last hour of work before punch out time can feel like this. Even Albert Einstein pointed it out.
  • The time remaining clock in an American football game. The closer it gets to zero, the more the losing team will call time-outs in order to plan out strategy. The final two minutes of the game can take half an hour to play.
  • Basketball games often see something similar, especially if the game is close, as the team that is behind will commit fouls to prevent the team ahead from wasting time.
  • The quantum Zeno effect. If a particle is continuously observed, it will never decay.
  • An old saying: "a watched pot never boils". Go ahead and try it; while it will boil eventually, it will seemingly happen much faster if you focus on something else.


    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Digimon (a kids' show!) movie "Our War Game", a virus called Diaboromon has launched a missile somewhere in the world. Diaboromon sends a menacing but childish email to them, asking, "which one has the clock?". They then have ten minutes to destroy him and the million copies he's made of himself. Despite not actually showing the clock constantly, it keeps counting with near-perfect accuracy. When the missile crashes in full view of their window, they find that they prevented the detonation of a nuclear warhead by 1/100 of a second. Justified because it took ten minutes for the missile to reach Odaiba, Tokyo from the US.
    • In the Japanese version, the entire countdown took 9 minutes and 51 seconds of screen time, with everything before the last minute being slightly fast. The last half-minute took 45 seconds to elapse. (The half-minute before that took exactly 30 seconds, though.) You could hear the one-second beeps in the background.
    • The English version is slightly faster, at 9 minutes and 7 seconds. Mostly it's because they edited lots of stuff out.
  • Averted in one Hokuto no Ken episode, in which Kenshiro used the Hokuto Zankai Ken on Spade, the King Mook of the Week. After explaining to Spade that he would die 7 seconds after being released (or 3 in the manga), he removes his thumbs from Spade's temples. A counter appears on the bottom of the screen, and Spade dies painfully and gruesomely at the near-exact moment the counter reaches zero. Badass indeed.
    • In the episode after that, he goes up against another minion belonging to the same group named Club. He hits a point that causes Club to contort in such a way that he will break his back in thirty seconds. While it’s debatable about how long it takes for the first twenty, when Ken leaves and we hit the final ten seconds, a counter appears just like before, and Club dies once it hits zero.
  • On Neon Genesis Evangelion, in the episode "Both of You, Dance Like You Want To Win!", the timer that counts down until the EVA units run out of power is actually shown on screen as the action sequence is played out.
    • The timer counts down starting from 30 milliseconds, though.
    • Averted again in the Ramiel fight in Rebuild: they say there's 20 seconds remaining until the BFG is ready to fire again, and Shinji pulls the trigger almost exactly 21 seconds later.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Any film that takes place in "real time", that is the length of the film is how much time passes In-Universe, such as Nick of Time or Timecode.
  • Notably averted in Aliens. When the computer announces how much time there is until the place goes up, that's exactly how much in-movie time it takes for the place to blow up.
  • In the climax of The Avengers, two minutes and thirty seconds of screen time actually pass between the deployment and explosion of the nuke intended for Manhattan.
  • Averted in Battle Beyond the Stars by having Sapient Ship Nell malfunctioning due to battle damage, so she keeps messing up the Self-Destruct Mechanism's countdown.
  • The shrink ray in Fantastic Voyage lasts for 60 minutes, accompanied by a real-time clock in the operating room.
  • It's averted in Fight Club although it does not seem to be at first. In the final sequence waiting for the bombs to go off Tyler states "Two minutes" but it's two minutes later that he shoots himself (non-fatally) in the head.
  • Averted in Judge Dredd; in order to get back into Mega City 1, Dredd and Fergie need to run through a furnace that activates every 30 seconds (as Dredd explains). Upon running in, Fergie begins counting down until he falls over, leading to Dredd having to create an impromptu exit as the fire reaches them. Counting down from where Fergie left off yourself reveals that it was 30 seconds and they both narrowly avoid being roasted.
  • In Kick-Ass, D'Amico's goons are torturing someone with a large microwave and sets it on for five minutes. 30 seconds later, his head explodes at 4 minutes 30 seconds.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, the Big Bad is told that his anhidrosis will kill him if he spends more than fifteen minutes in intense physical activity. The final climax battle lasts about that long, at which point it kills him.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact Picard sets the auto destruct for a fifteen-minute silent countdown. It is deactivated by Data after about 11 minutes.
  • Somewhat averted in Virtuosity, because Sid's last bomb speeds up the countdown whenever it detects countermeasures... and then breaks down.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Survivors", the climactic 30-second countdown lasts 29 seconds, ending with 1 second to spare.
  • Averted in the Chuck episode "Chuck vs the Third Dimension", which keeps a digital timer in the corner of the screen throughout the (hilarious) disposal sequence.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Mostly averted in "42". After the initial setup scenes, the counter and the depicted events happen in real time, give or take some wobble in the times shown in the middle of the countdown.
    • Averted in "Forest of the Dead": River Song takes the Doctor's place when he intends to use his brain for storage to restore the "saved" humans in the Library's memory core. During a 2-minute countdown (that actually takes 2 minutes) she says a tearful farewell to him. Great scene... and exactly on time.
    • Averted in "Mummy on the Orient Express". In all cases, the Foretold kills its victim in exactly 66 seconds, complete with the on-screen countdown. There's some flexibility in when the timer starts, however.
  • Stargate:
    • Played with in the Stargate SG-1 episode "A Matter of Time", in which the bomb does this because of a Time Dilation field.
    • Also mentioned in the Stargate SG-1 episode "200", in which a movie writer proposes a scene in which SG-1 has to escape a situation in ten seconds and debates on how long the time should be.
      Daniel: What difference does it make, I mean it's not like you have an actual ticking clock on the screen.
      Marty: That's brilliant!
      Daniel: That's ridiculous...
    • Also averted in the Stargate Atlantis episode "Thirty-Eight Minutes". It really is 38 minutes from the Gate opening to it closing, and the countdown towards the resolution is accurate.
    • The whole "38 minutes to Gate shutdown" thing is lampshaded in "200" as well, where they go on to discuss how the countdown timer can be set to something completely arbitrary.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack & Cody episode "Risk it All", the twins appear on a game show involving stunts. During these stunts, an onscreen timer is used that counts down in actual seconds, and even though it occasionally disappears during cutaways to the game show's audience cheering them on, the timer remains consistent.

  • Mark Owen's note  song "Four Minute Warning" is about the last four minutes in the lives of various people who are about to be killed by a nuclear strike, and with each chorus he counts down the remaining minutes. While he's admittedly slightly off, the line "one minute left to go" is delivered with exactly that much left of the song, and the entire song lasts pretty much bang on four minutes.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Nicely averted in the Thunderbirds episode "The Perils of Penelope". Near the end, it is said that 3 minutes are left until Penelope is hit by the monorail. It takes exactly 3 minutes for the train to come (they save her at the last second).

  • Very subtly averted in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. If you check the complete vocal score, you'll discover that there are actually twelve chimes that lead up to each midnight, and that they're timed and written into the underscore.

    Video Games 
  • Many sports games will have a clock that starts with the same amount of time as a real-life game, but the clock will run at very fast speed except at the beginning of each play and for the last minute or so. This results in oddities in some games, such as EA's line of NHL games that, on top of the above examples, also slows down during penalties (so the speed of the penalty clock matches that of the game clock); a game with more penalties will actually last longer.
  • Averted in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. After Snake plants the C3 to blow up the Shagohod, a timer starts which can be checked in the following cut-scene by looking at a hidden countdown. It's promptly played straight, though for the mid- and post-Volgin battle cutscenes.
  • Mostly averted in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. After Crump sets the timer to destroy the tree, it's possible for the timer to expire during a dialogue scene.
  • Averted in Resident Evil 4: during the final escape scene, the three minutes countdown takes cinematics into account. Skipping said cinematics will NOT give you three full minutes.
  • Alpha Warhead countdown in SCP: Secret Laboratory not only is precise but actually is extended from whatever length it was set to/was paused at so that it matches precisely with what the announcement says it is. This is sometimes used to allow whoever is still inside the warhead room to get some extra seconds to escape.
  • Played with in SpyParty, where the Spy has a limited amount of time to complete their objectives, and both the Spy and the Sniper have a timer on top of the screen. The Spy can extend the timer by checking their watch, which will graphically change the clock on a normal success or a failure (a failure plays a loud noise as well, tipping off the Sniper). A critical success will slow down the clock instead, making it harder for the Sniper to notice.
  • Averted in Super Smash Bros. Brawl with the first Subspace bomb. When the picture cuts away from the bomb, it has 7 seconds to go. Exactly 5 seconds later, the timer is at 2 seconds. On the other hand, there are several situations where, within moments, it will jump from almost 3 minutes to less than 5 seconds.

    Web Animation 
  • In Bleach (S) Abridged, the above-mentioned Ichigo vs. Grimmjow battle is not subjected to this (with the end of the episode even helpfully showing the time elapsed between Ichigo putting on his Hollow mask and it breaking is exactly 11 seconds), with the fight sped up as Ichigo yells No Time to Explain to Grimmjow's repeated questioning of what the hell is going on.
  • In Charlie the Unicorn 4, the time bomb the other two unicorns set up to blow up the moon stays consistent. Made obvious since there's a beep every time a second ticks down, even when the bomb is offscreen.
  • The Homestar Runner short "79 Seconds Left", which indeed takes almost exactly 79 seconds from start to finish.
  • RWBY: Tock's Semblance renders her indestructible for one minute at the cost of using up all of her Aura at once and uses a clock to help her keep track of how much tie she has left. The one time she is shown using her power, it lasts for exactly sixty seconds, complete with a ticking sound in the background.

  • In Homestuck, in the famous "[S] Cascade" flash, The Tumor displays a countdown to its detonation as the flash goes on. This countdown is fully accurate and even remains on screen for some events that are happening elsewhere.

    Western Animation 
  • At one point on Archer, Kreiger has to stop a missile being launched at an unknown country with the fairly lengthy time span of three hours.
  • Averted in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" when Batman and Black Canary are in a death trap that includes a time bomb. The timer counts down in real time. It better be accurate. The timer runs on a metronome!
  • A segment of Garfield and Friends, named appropriately "Five Minute Warning," has Garfield needing to avoid eating for five minutes to receive a cake. When the countdown starts, a timer appears in the corner of the screen and counts down in real time.
  • Played with heavily in the Justice League episode "Wild Cards". The Joker has 25 bombs hidden throughout Las Vegas and he's televising the Justice League's attempts to stop it. He even has the timer in the lower right corner that stays consistent throughout the episode. Subverted when Batman disables the first bomb. The timer stops, then drops to 3 seconds, and starts again (it was a fake bomb).
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Rainbow Dash says she can clear out the clouds over Ponyville in "ten seconds flat." It indeed takes exactly ten seconds in real time.
  • In the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Waiting For Edward", Moltar pulls a lever to initiate the destruction of the planet, mostly because he just feels like it (and he's holding a sale!). The timer appears on his viewscreen and is visible any time the action cuts back to him. This being Space Ghost, it's all but forgotten until the end of the episode when the planet blows up exactly when the timer said it would, in real time.


    Anime & Manga 

  • Done in two different ways in François Pérusse's skit "Cricket sauve le monde". First, the nuclear bomb mentioned at the beginning is said to explode in ten seconds, yet only counts down when Cricket reaches it at the end. Second, when Cricket actually reaches the bomb, the countdown goes down to three then "A bit less than three", "not quite two yet", "well, let's say two", "back to three", "two and a half" and then only "one".

    Fan Works 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Considering how infamous it is in the fandom, the abridged series naturally parodied the entire exploding Namek sequence, with Goku of all people calling out Freeza's way off estimates.
      Freeza: You're scared, aren't you? Afraid knowing this planet has one minute left before it explodes!
      Goku: Question.
      Freeza: Huh?
      Goku: Do you have a watch?
      Freeza: No, why?
      Goku: Do you know what a minute is?
      Freeza: What? Of course I do!
      Goku: I don't think you do...
      Freeza: Bu— I— Uh—
    • The same sequence is parodied in different way in the English (Canada) subtitles. After Freeza makes his proclamation, they start a timer counting down in real time, only to exasperatedly re-set it whenever Freeza gives another (incorrect) estimate of how much time is left. They even get to negative numbers at one point before Goku calls Freeza out and they just give the whole thing up.

    Films — Animation 
  • Parodied in Monsters vs. Aliens when the countdown ends with nothing happening. The computer starts saying that it must have made a mistake... then the spaceship blows up mid-sentence.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Dr. Evil stops Frau from the usual ten-second countdown to his rocket blasting off, as he won't be able to get inside in time. He has her start over at thirty, but this leaves quite some time to go after everything's ready. Finally, he tells her to just say "Go" when the doors close.
  • In Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, a bomb is set off with only four seconds on it. Those four seconds are just long enough for Toxie to go home and impregnate his wife, have a heart-to-heart with a young drug addict, and then get the survivors out before his sidekick eats the bomb.
  • Invoked in Galaxy Quest, where the self-destruct bomb is disarmed well before it goes off, but the timer continues counting down until it reaches one second. This happened because the alien race that made the bomb was imitating a sci-fi TV show, and it always stopped at One.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • There's a scene where two lazy guards standing at a gate see Sir Lancelot running towards them from a distance. The scene shifts between them and him repeatedly, and he's always just emerging into view at about the same distance. Then he's suddenly right upon them.
    • It is explained at length that when the Holy Hand Grenade is primed one should hold it for a count of absolutely no more than three. King Arthur proceeds to count 1, 2, 5. Then when someone corrects him says three. Then he throws it. It blows up at the right time anyway.
  • Spoofed in Spaceballs, with the countdown on Mega-Maid's Self-Destruct Mechanism:
    Computer: Ten... nine... eight... six...
    President Skroob: Six? What happened to seven?!
    Computer: Just kidding!
    • Also averted, since the actual three-minute self-destruct countdown only runs ten seconds too long, even with the argument over "seven" and an additional "Have a nice day" tacked on to the end.

  • In one of The Destroyer novels, since there's no time to get anyone remotely qualified, Chiun ends up making an attempt to disarm a nuclear bomb and the timer just keeps on ticking down to zero (causing everyone else to become rightly worried) and then nothing happens...
    Chiun: Of course it's still ticking. I destroyed the bomb, not the clock.
  • Subverted in the Freehold novel. A trainee is trying to disarm a bomb with a timer. He takes a moment of respite, as there's plenty of time left... then the (fake) bomb goes off. An Aesop on how bad guys in the Freehold future have read the Evil Overlord List.
  • Subverted in The Lost Fleet. While nobody actually sets one off, everybody on both sides firmly believes that the timers on humpnums (Human Portable Nuclear Munitions) are fake and that the bomb will go off almost immediately after starting the clock to prevent anyone on the other side from disarming it.
  • Parodied in the book and game Starship Titanic, wherein a nuclear bomb (voiced by John Cleese) can be made to forget its place during the countdown, at which point it starts counting down from one thousand again. It will explode however, if you finish the game before defusing it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied (like everything else) in the Angie Tribeca episode "The One With the Bomb" — Angie has to solve a Wire Dilemma to free her partner from a bomb vest that's about to explode in five seconds. He abruptly grabs her face in his hands and gives her a long, passionate kiss... that's much longer than five seconds. He then pulls away and tells her they have four seconds left.
  • Parodied on The Ben Stiller Show, where Andy Dick seems to find plenty to do while trying to defuse a bomb.
  • Doctor Who: In "Death in Heaven", Missy announces that she intends to kill Osgood For the Evulz, and even starts to count down the seconds from ten... nine... eight... three...
    Osgood: Three?
    Missy: I'm accelerating for dramatic effect.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Bodyswap", the self-destruct is accidentally set off. Kryten's plan to stop the countdown fails, and everyone braces themselves for the explosion...which never comes. Turns out Holly threw out the bomb months ago.
  • Each installment of the Saturday Night Live sketch MacGruber, a parody of MacGyver, involves a countdown (usually of twenty seconds) before a bomb goes off. The twenty seconds tend to last about a minute.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street's parody of 24 was supposedly a program that took place in 24 seconds per episode, but the counter which appeared on-screen throughout clearly counted down at a rather slower rate than one per second.
  • Wonder Showzen parodied this when everyone was counting down for a rocket launch:
    "Ten! Nine! Ei—"
    "-wo! One!"

  • At the beginning of Act 1, part 4 of Starship the computer announces three minutes to drop down. 30 seconds later, the computer correctly announces two minutes, thirty seconds. About three minutes later, the drop down is in two minutes, and two more minutes progress to get to one minute left. Two more minutes later, there are five seconds on the clock, then to one second (30 seconds later), before jumping to twenty seconds. It takes about ten more minutes for them to land.

    Video Games 
  • The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark: At the climax of the section set in Castle Dooley, McQueen and Dooley have to fix a problem before a mechanical countdown reaches zero. The game doesn't have real-time progression, so the countdown is implemented in a way where each time they move to a new location the countdown voice announces the next number, no matter how long they actually spend in that location. The geography of the castle is set up so that the number of locations between where they are when the problem is discovered (in a basement) and where they need to be to fix it (up on the roof) uses up the whole ten-second countdown, with the countdown voice announcing "One" as they arrive on the roof, so if the player does the obvious thing and heads directly for the roof as quickly as possible the countdown will play out in a fairly natural manner. Except that then they will almost certainly discover that they're missing at least one of the objects required to actually solve the problem and will have to climb back down off the roof and go fetch it. No matter how long that takes, when they return to the roof the countdown voice will announce that there is, "inexplicably", still one second remaining.
  • In the timed bonus levels of Gauntlet (the original), the narrator's voice (you know, the Wizard Needs Food Badly guy) would count down the last ten seconds before you failed to clear the level and get the bonus. Sometimes he'd mix up the numbers as a joke.
  • Spoofed in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal:
    Biobliterator CPU: Warning, reactor detonation in 60 seconds.
    Dr. Nefarious: Lawrence, engage the teleporter.
    Lawrence: Would you care to specify a destination, sir?
    Dr. Nefarious: Who cares? Just get us out of here!
    Biobliterator CPU: Time's up!
    Dr. Nefarious: What? That wasn't even close to 60 seconds!
    Biobliterator CPU: Bye-bye! [explodes]
  • Starship Titanic had a bomb that, once armed, would audibly count down, get distracted, and have to start over repeatedly. The player could also distract it, annoy it, and even make it break down in tears. It did have to be defused before the game was over.
  • Subtly parodied in Undertale. Mettaton gives you two minutes to defuse six bombs, and the countdown is visible on-screen at all times, but the later seconds stretch out much longer than they ought to, and if you actually do run out of time, Mettaton baldfacedly claims you had three minutes all along. Much like everything else involving Mettaton, this is a hint that all his apparent threat is a ploy by Alphys to have an excuse to save you.

    Web Animation 
  • Minilife TV: In "Starsaber Duel", Chris and Ian pay for a 30-minute duel at the Starsaber place, but it ends much sooner than they expect. When they go to complain to the cashier, he tells them that the duels run on Hollywood time, meaning their promised 30-minute duel is equal to 2 minutes in actual time. Chris and Ian feel like they've been ripped off.

    Web Original 
  • The Evil Overlord List parodies this multiple times, including entry Rule #216 (see the page quote) and Rule #15 ("I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 1:17 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.")

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in an episode of the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! cartoon (much like every trope used in the cartoon—it was that kind of show) when the heroes have to escape an exploding enemy base before a bomb's timer runs out.
  • DuckTales (2017): In one episode, Della ends up trapped in a room with a Descending Ceiling while Dewey is in the other room with a video counting down to crushing. The video takes a comedically long time to count down from ten to the point where entire seconds pass between counting fractions of seconds.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: In "Scary Oddparents", Crash Nebula arrives in the nick of time to stop the evil Pumpkinator: "I can stop you in LESS than ten seconds!" Unfortunately, the Pumpkinator reacts by cheating and speeding up the timer. (Cue Big Kaboom followed by Big "NO!".)
  • Futurama:
    • Spoofed in "A Tale of Two Santas". Bender is arrested for being Robot Santa Claus and sentenced to death by electromagnets. Instead of a countdown timer, they use a random number generator to turn the magnets on. And the generator also gives negative numbers, and repeats numbers, leading to the possibility that they could wait a ridiculous length of time before ever getting to zero. Ironically, this is a reference to how LFSR, a common random number generator, makes a better counter than normal counting.
    • In "A Big Piece of Garbage":
      • The crew is sent to destroy a giant ball of garbage heading directly towards the Earth along with an explosive set to detonate after 25 minutes. Once they activate it, the digital timer counts down "25:00...15:00...05:00...6h:00" to the crew's surprise. The reason? The timer was upside down and thus set to 52 seconds. Way to go, Farnsworth.
      • The same episode featured a countdown for a rocket launch:
        Professor Farnsworth: Five, four, three, two, three, four, five, six...
        Leela: Just fire the damn thing.
    • Spoofed yet again in "Love's Labors Lost in Space". Leela tells the team they have to hurry because the planet they're on will implode "in approximately two hours ago."
    • The last episode "Meanwhile" involves a button that rewinds the Universe by exactly ten seconds, but takes exactly ten seconds to recharge, resulting in a scene with the same ten seconds taking place over and over. The writers clearly don't care about the accuracy of "ten seconds", which varies wildly during the episode.
  • Averted in one Kim Possible episode, when Dr. Drakken wises up enough to dispense with a countdown because of this trope.
    Drakken: During the time it takes the computer voice to count backwards from ten, you always manage to defeat me. Not anymore!
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "King Size Homer", Homer is charged with manually venting the gas on a reactor (the switch placed on top of the reactor in question). The plant's workers are currently occupied doing Mr. Burns's exercise routine, and their current and final stretch is set for ten reps. These reps are then treated as a substitute countdown timer despite no causal link between the exercise and the reactor.
    • In the beginning of "The Trouble with Trillions", the new year's ball malfunctions when it gets to 8. Chief Wiggum shoots the ball and it falls down immediately, causing everybody counting down to say "sevensixfivefourthreetwoone!"
  • Parodied on South Park in the episode "The Snuke": In a parody of 24, a bomb is set to go off when a digital clock with the requisite seven-segment display reaches 1:00. With just minutes to go, the authorities cut the power... and when it comes back, the digital clock controlling the detonator is flashing 12:00.
  • Subverted in an early episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, as Squidward counts down to what he thinks is an explosion that will kill SpongeBob.
    SpongeBob: Five! You do the rest, buddy!
    Sqidward: Four... Three... Two... ONE!
    SpongeBob: I guess we started too early. Let's go again!
    Squidward: 5... 4... 3...
    Squidward: Twooooooo!


Video Example(s):


Olm Town Road

When the drill announces it will reach Proteus in ten seconds, it takes up to a minute for the heroes to stop it, with the machine counting down from 10 throughout the scene.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / MagicCountdown

Media sources: