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Monumental Damage Resistance

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A major city has been completely leveled, whether by a marauding monster, Alien Invasion, nuclear attack, or anything that has a tendency to cause massive collateral damage. The town is nothing but a smoking pile of smouldering rubble. But wait! What's that over there? A few buildings are still standing. And what do you know! It's The White House! It might be a little worse-for-wear, and probably has chunks taken out of it and bits broken off, but it's still standing and easily recognizable.

Basically, this trope is when widely recognized monuments are left remarkably whole in an otherwise devastated city. This occurs because, otherwise, no one would be able to tell just which city this wasteland used to be.

The inverse of Monumental Damage. Sometimes occurs after a Monumental Battle. A specific type of The Constant. It's often related to the Eiffel Tower Effect. Compare and contrast Ragnarök Proofing.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Naruto, Pain's Shinra Tensei destroys the whole Leaf Village, but does no damage to the Hokage mountain. This meant that when Naruto was reverse summoned there, he could still be sure where he was.

    Comic Books 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the Distant Finale of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, New York City has been covered by glaciers, but the World Trade Center and the other recognizable buildings of downtown Manhattan are intact, sticking through the ice. (Glaciers, of course, move, and would flatten anything in their path.)
  • Downplayed example in 1983's The Day After. Towards the end, Dr. Oakes is wandering the ruins of what was Kansas City, and finds the stump of the Liberty Memorial tower; some of words on the monument are still visible even though the tower itself is gone.
  • Played straight in The Day After Tomorrow, where pretty much every New York City landmark survives the flooding of the city and the subsequent hard freeze. Roland Emmerich confided that the Statue of Liberty would be turned over by the force of the massive amount of water flowing around it but said he wanted to create a symbol of American values that stood up to the forces.
  • Older Than Television: In the 1933 film Deluge, New York City is flooded. The Empire State Building is knocked down by the wall of water, but the Statue of Liberty remains standing.
  • Deep Impact: A brief (but iconic) shot of New York after it is flooded by the impact's tidal wave shows the Statue of Liberty's head and a seemingly intact yellow taxi being slowly moved by the current. This is after we've seen the statue, Brooklyn Bridge and Washington Square Arch destroyed with the detail that the best computer effects allowed in 1998.
  • Dreamscape. During the President's final dream, a train car is passing through a landscape blasted by a nuclear explosion. We see a partially destroyed Capitol building to let the audience know it's the ruins of Washington D.C.
  • Also played straight in 1975's Earthquake, which restricted most of the destruction to Los Angeles's outlying areas, leaving nearly all the city's landmarks fundamentally untouched.
  • The 1956 film Earth vs. the Flying Saucers sees Washington, DC destroyed... again... and yet the White House is left standing.
  • In Idiocracy, when Paris is briefly shown, the Eiffel Tower (in perfect condition) is the only thing that remains there; everything else is an uninhabited flattened wasteland.
  • Independence Day becomes Harsher in Hindsight at one point in a shot of a devastated New York City. The World Trade Center is still standing, with only a few large chunks ripped out of it here and there. Also, most everything in Los Angeles is reduced to rubble except the scorched and battered but still recognisable palm trees.note  To let you know that yes, that was Los Angeles.
  • In the movie version of Logan's Run, when Logan 5 and Jessica 6 reach the ruined city, we know its Washington DC because the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and National Archives are still standing. Vine-covered and weathered, but still standing.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: Appearing at the end of the movie, Sydney Opera House and many of the skyscrapers of downtown Sydney, Australia seem to be in pretty good condition, given that everything else around them (including even the ocean) has been blasted into sand. Though the Sydney Harbour Bridge next to it is in a much worse state, its middle span completely collapsed.
  • In Oblivion (2013), during the Opening Narration explaining how it's currently the 2070s and the world was blown to Hell and back by an Alien Invasion (to the point that the Iceland wastelands stand in for New York State), we get a few shots of the destroyed Washington, D.C., and the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and the Pentagon are free and still standing, while everything else is gone and replaced by mud flats and the Pentagon has a neat bomb crater (implied to have been made by a nuclear weapon) smack in the middle of it.
  • Planet of the Apes (1968): In the 40th century (the time period during which the first and second films take place), the Statue of Liberty lets the audience know that most of the movie takes place in a very post-apocalyptic New York.
  • Reign of Fire gives us some dramatic shots of Big Ben, semi-ruined and covered in perching dragons, but still entirely recognizable.
  • In Resident Evil: Extinction, Las Vegas is buried in sand, but the monuments of the strip are still there and recognizable.

  • By the Waters of Babylon: A statue of George Washington and Federal Hall remain standing in New York City (not that the protagonist recognizes them as such) when it's mostly in ruins, although both are quite worn down, with only fragments from their inscriptions left.
  • The novelization of Metro 2033 mentions that the Kremlin is standing and is in pretty good shape, compared to the rest of Moscow after the city was nuked. It is explained that NATO specifically avoided hitting Kremlin, preferring to test a new biological weapon instead. Said weapon consumed everyone holed up there and eventually became something much worse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, the Lincoln Memorial seems to be the only piece of Washington D.C. to have survived the nuclear war and the anarchic century that followed.
  • The St. Louis arch is a prominent background feature in Defiance, which is set in what used to be St. Louis.
    • The second season premiere shows the Hollywood sign and Grauman's Chinese Theater still standing in Angelarc to make it clear that it was once Los Angeles.
  • While the entire point of Life After People is to subvert this and nearly every episode ends with a world famous monument being toppled, in some cases where the landmark in question is made of solid bronze or stone it will take hundreds or thousands of years to reach that point, and during this time this trope will be played instead. All too often, a cathedral or a castle will still remain standing after everything else in a city has been replaced by a forest or a swamp.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): The episode "Dead Man's Switch" ends with a view of Washington DC destroyed. Inexplicably, the Washington Monument is still standing while everything around it is rubble.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon: During the final mission of the game, Washington D.C is overrun by invading Russian forces. The Washington Monument gets directly struck by a stray missile, and yet it is completely unfazed.
  • No matter how many nukes you drop on a city in Civilization IV, you can never destroy a World Wonder. Razing a city by conventional means will still destroy them, however.
  • Crusader Kings in the After the End mod for the sequel, one of the pictures shows the statue of Lincoln, partially covered in vines, being knelt to.
  • Earth Eternal is set long After the End — humans have blasted themselves into oblivion with nuclear war, the ruins of our civilizations have long fallen to ruin, the radiation has been cleaned up, and the Beasts have reclaimed the world. But the Eiffel Tower is still intact, somehow.
  • Seen throughout the Fallout series:
    • It's most noticeable in Fallout 3. Despite the general devastation of the DC area, most of the landmarks are left remarkably intact. The Washington Monument, the National Archives, the Jefferson Memorial, the Museum of Natural History, and the Lincoln Memorial all feature prominently in in-game quests. The US Capitol building also dominates the view of one end of the National Mall, with the iconic rotunda still standing (albeit with a hole in the side). The setting tries to justify this: the extended Cold War between the US and China led to the government reinforcing major landmarks in anticipation of a nuclear apocalypse, while the weapons technology of the Fallout universe favored low-yield weapons that did less explosive damage but left far more... well, fallout. It's also subverted in the same game. With so much of the city still standing, you'd expect to eventually be able to explore the White House, but all you'll find at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a deep, highly-irradiated crater and a few Glowing One ghouls.
    • Fallout: New Vegas plays this straight with the Hoover Dam, though in real life many scientists have estimated that the Dam will remain more or less functional for thousands of years after it is abandoned, so indeed quite justified. The New Vegas Strip was also entirely preserved due to Mr. House's missile defense system shooting down any nukes aimed directly at the city (several did explode in the area surrounding Las/New Vegas, but damage to the city is minimal).
    • Continuing the tradition, Fallout 4 prominently features Boston monuments such as the USS Constitution, Fenway Park, the Bunker Hill Monument, the Paul Revere Memorial, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, and even Walden Pond. Justified in that only one nuke was aimed at Boston, and it missed and landed somewhere Southwest of the city, in a heavily destroyed and still-irradiated area now called the Glowing Sea.
  • Prominent at one point in the first Guilty Gear: Sol Badguy's stage takes place right next to the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Played with in Mass Effect 3, where the final cutscene will show Big Ben either surviving (albeit heavily damaged), or outright destroyed, depending on the amount of War Assets that have been gathered over the course of the game.
  • Metro: Last Light expands on what the book said about the Kremlin, and Artyom actually gets to explore it and Red Square during the game. His diary notes mention the nameless superweapon that left buildings standing while devouring all organic matter, and the agony experienced by those who died has resulted in the entire capital area being haunted by some of the most tortured spirits in all of post-apocalyptic Moscow.
  • This trope is in full effect for the Washington DC levels in Modern Warfare 2. Both the Washington Monument and White House ("Whiskey Hotel") suffer damage but are still iconically standing. That said, they still take quite a beating, especially the White House, which gets quite a few walls knocked down and its interior utterly totalled. Its later shown repaired.
    • In Modern Warfare 3, though pretty much the entire New York City skyline is in flames, One World Trade Centre is conspicuously untouched. This one's pretty justified, though, for obvious sensitivity-related reasons. The Statue of Liberty is also untouched.
  • The intro-movie of Star Ocean: The Last Hope features the Earth consumed in the nuclear fires of World War III... and yet the White House and the Arc de Triomphe are both shown to be standing tall while their respective cities (Washington, DC, and Paris respectively) are flat fields of rubble.
  • World in Conflict has the Space Needle and the Statue of Liberty survive untouched, though the latter is threatened in one mission.

    Real Life 
  • The Hiroshima Peace Memorial, aka the A-Bomb Dome, survived the atomic bombing despite being less than 500 feet away from the epicenter of the blast. It currently survives as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Cologne Cathedral - hit by seventy bombs, but the only building in the city to survive.
  • There's an iconic photo from the London Blitz during 1940-1941 of St. Paul's Cathedral surrounded by smoke and fire from incendiary bombs falling all around it. However, while the area surrounding the Cathedral was practically wiped out, the Cathedral itself survived more or less unscathed.
    • Some have said that the reason the Luftwaffe deliberately left St Paul's untouched was because it was a prominent landmark and useful as a waypoint for estimating distance to targets. However, the cathedral was hit in 1940 and would have burnt down without the intervention of firefighters.
    • Similarly, one raid saw a bomb fall right on the Houses of Parliament, completely wiping out the House of Commons. The iconic clock tower housing Big Ben, however, was slightly damaged but otherwise okay.
  • In fact, the Nazis organized an entire series of air raids that targeted cities that were strategically unimportant but contained famous architecture (the Baedeker Blitz; apparently, the Luftwaffe high command chose the targets from the Baedeker's Tourist Guide to Great Britain, and all of them were ranked three stars or higher). Fortunately, most of the targets like Canterbury Cathedral, Exeter Cathedral, and York Minster escaped mostly unscathed.
  • Generally justified with any castle or other large stone structure dating from the Roman Empire onwards. Architects couldn't calculate the minimum thickness of stone needed to hold up for the building's design lifespan with the same degree of accuracy as is possible in this day and age, so they'd err on the side of caution; by modern standards, the end product is hugely over-engineered, and will remain recognisable -if not necessarily useable for their intended purpose- for hundreds of years after being abandoned. To give a general idea of just how over-engineered some Roman buildings were; there are Roman bridges which are able to carry cars two thousand years after they were built to deal with horse carriages. The Pantheon in Rome similarly survived to this day and still holds the record for the biggest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
  • After Hurricane Sandy swept away the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk, the roller coaster in Seaside Heights remained in place and was perfectly recognizable.
  • The Pyramids of Giza and Mesoamerica, the Roman Coliseum, Stonehenge, and the Great Wall of China, among others, have survived for thousands of years, but not unscathed. None of them are intact due to multiple natural disasters and plunderings by people carrying off souvenirs or reusing their materials for other local building projects. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the reigning champion for MDR; it is approximately 4,573 years old and has only lost its funerary contents, limestone casing, and a bit off the top during the millennia. note 
  • The church at Old Belchite, a town destroyed during a battle in the Spanish Civil War and never rebuilt, is still perfectly recognizable (and visitable).
  • The Vukovar water tower in Croatia was riddled with artillery fire during the Croatian War of Independence but ultimately survived the devastating battle. The city decided to not restore the tower which now serves as a monument to the war.


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