Follow TV Tropes


1-Dimensional Thinking

Go To

Azusa: Wait! Why are we running away in a straight line!?
Karina: Oh, right! [steers the M3 to the side]

Logically, the fastest way to avoid something dangerous that's stuck on a straight course is to move a few steps aside of its path and let it pass by, but in fiction nobody ever seems to do this. At all.

So like a flightless version of Acrophobic Bird, characters being chased by a car, falling rocks, or anything else that travels in one direction will inevitably run straight ahead and try to outrun the threat. They appear to only be able to think in one dimension—escaping that oncoming freight train by jumping off the track just doesn't occur to them.

This looks very dramatic on camera, but Fridge Logic kicks in a little while later and you ask "Well, why didn't she enter one of the buildings instead of letting the car chase her down the freeway?"

They seem to have lost the ability to use their brain after the chase is initiated. The ability to think is sometimes hindered by panic, often leading to deaths that could easily be avoided with a single turn.

Note that this doesn't apply when there's an actual reason that the character can't simply leap to the side: Maybe that car is cruising down a narrow alley where there is no "sideways" for the runner to go, that boulder is rolling down a tunnel with no sidepaths, or those railroad tracks are currently crossing a bridge over a hundred-foot canyon. (These highly specific examples are highly specific because they're some of the few times there's ever been a good justification for outrunning the danger.)

Naturally, it also doesn't always apply when the danger is something sentient either, which is why this trope can be Truth in Television. In nature, most threats coming towards you would be a predator of some sort, so simply leaping to the side would be of little help because predators are living things that are capable of thought. Ergo, they would take note and redirect their path — in fact, you might actually be worse off, since said predator is now able to cut a corner, traverse the shorter diagonal, and gain distance on you. Savvy military conquerors have exploited this fact for centuries to herd panicked civilian crowds to where they want them, although they need to keep the crowd in a state of panic so that no one has a chance to consider the tactical advantages of veering off to the side.

See also 2-D Space, No Peripheral Vision and Blind Alley. Slower than a Speeding Bullet is a common subtrope of this. Can easily come off as "What an Idiot!", or Too Dumb to Live in especially egregious cases.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Played with in Angel Beats!, where one of the traps in the hallways leading to Guild is a rolling boulder. Most of the characters are able to avoid it: the resident ninja Shiina managed to find a small nook to hide from the boulder and pulls several of the group with her, while Hinata similarly tackles Otonashi to the corner of the hallway where there's enough room to avoid it as well. The only casualty is the guy who kept running.
  • In the second Cardcaptor Sakura movie, Sakura is on a roller coaster track with the coaster coming right at her. She first tries running straight along the track rather than taking one step sideways onto the emergency walkway. Then, when it's about to hit her, she stops time.
  • In episode 7 of Di Gi Charat (1999), Gema grows huge while drinking up an entire river that Dejiko kicks him into, and proceeds to chase Dejiko and Puchiko down. Puchiko realizes halfway through that he has no reason to chase her, and steps out of the way while he continues pursuing Dejiko. It makes enough sense that he traps her at the end of an alleyway, until one notices that there's a narrow opening on each side that she could have easily escaped into.
  • Played with in episode 17 of Digimon Adventure. The Digidestined first dodge the cruise liner in the middle of the desert by, sensibly, running to the side. Then it actually start chasing them, though, the trope promptly kicks in full force. Later, in Episode 49, it shows up again as they are fleeing a balled-up Waru Monzaemon.
  • In the Gantz manga and anime, after being caught on the train tracks, Kurono and Katou decide to try and outrun the train to get beyond where the front car will stop. Even if the train hadn't turned out to be a non-stop express, it's unlikely they would have been able to run far enough in time, and the fact that they break off an attempt to climb onto the platform in favor of running seems pretty counterintuitive. They probably would have made it up with help from the bystanders. Then again, the theme of this scene seems to be general apathy and the onlookers' interest in seeing someone die.
  • In Girls' Last Tour the girls come across machinery, including a conveyor belt. Yuri activates it while Chito is standing on it. She runs against the conveyor until Yuuri shuts it off. Then Yuuri turns it on again and repeats the process. When Chito expresses her annoyance at this, Yuuri notes that all Chito had to do was run sideways.
  • Lampshaded in Girls und Panzer der Film, when Rabbit Team's tank is running away from a giant Ferris Wheel.
    Azusa: Wait, why are we running away in a straight line!?
    Karina: Oh, right! [makes a sharp turn out of danger's way]
  • During Asuna's Training from Hell in Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Evangeline uses her Malleus Aquilonis spell to suddenly send an ice boulder rolling down a mountain after Asuna. Having just been thrown out into the icy wilderness naked and now scared out of her wits, Asuna naturally tries to outrun the boulder until she luckily falls on a lower ledge.
  • Averted in episode 8 of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye. Honoka and her tank, Bogie, find themselves on the wrong end of a stampeding herd of sand dragons. Bogie's response, rather than drive away from the dragons, is to drive off to the side and get out of their path. They aren't quite fast enough to get out without damage, but do survive nonetheless.
  • In Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, the Tokyo Tower falls, but the characters run parallel to the direction of the falling tower rather than running off to the side.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: During the Orichalcos arc, Joey and Tristan are stranded in the desert and walk along a train track to try to find civilization. At one point, they find a rattlesnake on the track and are too scared to advance. They don't even think of going around it. They are later seen advancing again, so presumably, the rattlesnake moved.
  • At the end of the second third of YuYu Hakusho, the defeated and tiny demon Rando is tasked with escaping his opponent's final gambit: an elbow drop. Rather than run six inches to either side, he instead chooses to flee in a straight line, getting squashed and captured for his trouble.

    Comic Books 
  • The title hero of the comic book Night Man also realizes there is space when a circle (a giant ball) rolls down a square hall. He lies down and rolls to the left, where the floor meets the wall.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): When Empress, Wonder Girl and Monster Girl knock down Giganta during "The Witch and the Warrior" Mustang Sally tries to escape being squashed by riding her bike in a straight line along the same trajectory as Giganta's fall. She ends up underneath her ally.

    Fan Works 
  • A lampshaded aversion in Beyond the Borders — a character who runs perpendicularly from a collapsing building is specifically noted to be doing so by virtue of not being a cartoon character.

    Films — Animation 
  • Finding Nemo: When Marlin and Dory have to escape the sinking submarine, they swim directly away from it in the same direction it's sliding, and when they and the submarine finally hit an obstacle, they miss being crushed by luckily being just a few inches under its nose. They could have just swum sideways and avoided all that...
  • Frozen: Kristoff and Sven would have had a much easier time escaping the ship capsizing upon them on the frozen fjord just by swerving a bit to the right; it would have barely slowed them down from reaching Anna. Instead, they ride at full speed in a straight line, right along the ship's length, barely avoiding being crushed.
  • In Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons, the dog Rantanplan flees before a derailed train for a quite lengthy sequence. He could have easily swerved at any time, but of course he's too stupid to ever think of that.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: Susan ran forward away from the meteor, instead of, you know, going left or right. For that matter, she would've been fine where she was at originally, it only hit her because she ran straight into its path.
  • Inverted in Shrek: Upon seeing Shrek approaching, a terrified mascot at Lord Farquaad's castle attempts to run away... by weaving through the entire queuing line at the entrance. Shrek simply walks straight through the ropes.
  • Double subverted in Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear runs away from a globe in a straight line, a direct visual homage to ''Raiders of the Lost Ark''. He slips on some pencils and rolls off to the side to the windowsill out of its path, but then the globe hits a lamp, which swings around and knocks him out of the window.
  • Trolls: In the climax, Chef tries to force-feed Branch to Gristle, but Branch doesn't attempt to avoid her or fight back, in contrast to his usual Crazy-Prepared attitude. Given that Chef is only guarding the front of Gristle's tongue, Branch could've escaped by running to the sides; this is proven when Poppy pulls a Diving Save to rescue Branch.
  • The Twelve Tasks of Asterix: The Persian Javelin Thrower could have just plunged aside when being chased by the javelin Obelix threw instead of running in its path.
  • The Rule of Funny gives an interesting twist to this one in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: A way too amorous toon is running full bore towards Eddie Valiant. Instead of running away or stepping to the side, he takes the white line on the road that she's running on and directs it into the wall. Naturally, a wall pizza ensues.
    Eddie: Toons. Gets 'em every time.
  • Subverted in Zootopia when a sheep mook is trying to outrun a subway car. He initially runs away from it (which is fair, as there is nowhere to run to in this case) and pleads for Nick, who is driving, to stop the car but when Judy orders him to keep going, he flattens himself against a side wall to dodge the car as it speeds by. The sheep is left with a nasty friction burn where his belly fur used to be, but is otherwise unharmed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. While being pursued by a Red Lectroid driving a truck, Buckaroo runs straight ahead down the road, where he would have inevitably been run down if a Blue Blaze Irregular helicopter hadn't arrived to rescue him.
  • Alien:
    • In the film Aliens, everyone runs forward when the Drop Ship crashes, instead of moving sideways out of the path of the oncoming debris.
    • In Prometheus, Elizabeth Shaw and Meredith Vickers are running away from a collapsing Space Jockey ship, which hits the ground sideways and begins rolling towards them. They run in a straight line for several moments before Shaw falls down, and only then does she roll away sideways, while Vickers stays the course and gets crushed as a result.note 
  • In Apocalypto, the Mayan slavers play a sadistic game where they allow their prisoners to run away. The first few run in a straight line and get shot with arrows. The next few run in a zigzag, but get hit eventually. Jaguar Paw is the only one who escapes.
  • Parodied in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. As the protagonists escape on a very slow Road Roller, a lone security guard screams in terror as the roller approaches and proceeds to scream "STOOOOOP!!" multiple times as it approaches, making no attempt to move to the left or right, or you know, get the hell out of there until finally being run over. As he's about 50 feet in front of it when he starts, this takes more than a few seconds.
  • Back to the Future:
    • Justified in the second film. When Biff tries to run down Marty, they're inside a tunnel and Biff has the speed advantage (and can swerve his car if Marty attempts to dodge.) Then later on, it's subverted as Marty does eventually dodge in a second dimension — upward.
    • In the third film, Marty has to think fourth-dimensionally. He's in the DeLorean being pushed along an incomplete train track, but he travels forward in time, to a point where the track is complete.
  • The poster for Bullshot shows the Comedic Hero carrying a Damsel in Distress to safety while fleeing from a train straight down the railway.
  • Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers: When Mei Ling attempts to run Chen down, he has an empty empty parking lot to escape in, including pillars he could duck behind. Instead, he chooses to run directly in front of her car.
  • This Cracked article, which also brings up the Prometheus example, talks about how this applies to Christine as well. Namely, when the car traps one of the bullies in an alleyway so narrow the car has to slowly squeeze herself through and comes to a complete stop at least once, the bully doesn't recognize the concept of "up" and never considers climbing over the car and escaping. Even better, the alleyway he's trapped in has narrow ledges all the way around it, meaning that even if he was understandably scared to actually touch the car, he still could have easily climbed out.
  • When Otis is being chased by the tractor through the pumpkin field in Dark Night of the Scarecrow, he runs in a straight line in front of it 'til he collides with the Scarecrow.
  • In Daylight, Sylvester Stallone runs straight away from a metal tank that's rolling toward him through waist-deep water. Initially it's this trope, but when the terrified woman who's helping him freezes in the tank's path, he has to keep going straight to intercept her and drag her sideways to safety.
  • Averted in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: In the Underdark, when the dragon Themberchaud smashes against one of the gigantic chains holding up the platform, this dislodges it from the ceiling and it starts crashing to the ground below link by link, threatening to fall on Simon and Doric who begin to run away, but they soon enough swerve to the side and avoid being crushed.
  • In Final Destination, Alex Browning runs away from a falling tree in a straight line. This trope is averted later in the movie, however, when he jumps out of the way of a bus after Clear Rivers alerts him.
  • Subverted in Firestarter. Three men try and run away from a line of fire sent at them by the Tyke Bomb. It seems to be played straight until two of them try changing direction. All for nought when the fire just splits in three and follows them anyway.
  • Countess Lisl from For Your Eyes Only is killed when she tries to run away from a car in a straight line.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Luna are running away from shelves of crystal balls falling like dominoes in a straight line, initially they don't run to the side out of the path of the falling shelves. They eventually turn around and run in another straight line to the emergency exit door, but the shelves also fall to the sides as well because the shelves falling in one direction also touched the ones to the sides.
  • The first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark: Close investigation of the scene where Indy is being chased by the boulder will reveal it is on rails (big viney ones) and he could have run towards it, past said rails, when it first appeared, then safely followed its path out of the cave — though he would have needed to get past it at some point, as at the end of the scene it blocks what's apparently the only way out. This is justified in the novelization and the script, where it is explained that the ball would seal Dr. Jones in by blocking the entrance and he knows it. Indy has a very good reason to outrun the boulder.
  • Inglourious Basterds: As Shosanna flees from the Nazis that killed her family, Colonel Landa levels his pistol at her and aims to fire. She runs in a straight line, making her seemingly an easy target, but by this point she's so far away that it would have taken a miraculous shot to actually hit her with a handgun. After considering a bit, he doesn't shoot.
  • Played with in The Inlaws: Vince Ricardo has taken Sheldon Kornpett into a situation where they are being shot at by the bad guys. As Vince, a trained CIA officer, takes cover, he runs back and forth, avoiding the bullets. Sheldon, a dentist, runs directly after him. As Vince yells back, "Serpentine, Shelly, serpentine!" Sheldon runs back to where he was (after almost making it to Vince), and runs back and forth, following Vince' example.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • An unusual vertical example from Jurassic Park (1993): when Alan is rescuing Tim from the park jeep caught up a tree, and the jeep starts to break through the branches above them and fall, how do they escape? By rapidly climbing down the tree. Not, say, around to the side of the tree trunk where there isn't a falling car.
    • Played with in the sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park. During the T. rex's rampage in San Diego, it chases a group of people down a road. One man in said group has the bright idea to run to the side to escape into a building, but is eaten before he can get the door open.
  • Parodied in Land of the Lost. When Rick Marshall is being chased by a T. rex, he declares the proper procedure is to run in serpentine motion and does so. However, his serpentine motion is so narrow that the T. rex casually follows him anyway.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when Arwen causes the river to rise, the Nazgûl flee along the river, allowing the waters to overtake them.
  • Inverted in Mad Max: Fury Road: this time around, it's the chasers who don't bother to think of going around one single blocking object and let the heroes get away, as if they were in some sort of narrow passage instead of the middle of the vast desert where there are no walls or boundaries whatsoever.
  • Played with in Mars Attacks! when a flying saucer, planning to crush a group of Boy Scouts, demolishes the base of the Washington Monument, only for them to run out of the way. The saucer then flies around to the other side of the falling obelisk to make it fall the other way. Rinse, repeat.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark runs away from a falling water tower in a straight line before it crashes and causes a flood.
    • Averted in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where the eponymous soldier flips Fury's SUV with a smart mine, causing it to slide toward him at speed. He casually steps to the side and watches it careen past.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, after Thanos collects all six Infinity Stones, Thor throws Stormbreaker, his recently forged axe to kill Thanos. Thanos tries to blast Stormbreaker away with the Infinity Gauntlet and gets impaled in the chest, even though he could have sidestepped the axe's path and avoided it entirely.
  • In Maximum Overdrive, Camp Loman finds himself in the path of a big rig. Instead of dodging to the left or right, he simply tries to outrun the truck. Naturally, he gets hit and knocked into a ditch.
  • MonsterVerse:
    • In Godzilla, except for the unnamed couple with the cute daughter, the crowd running from the tsunami doesn't flee into the buildings to gain height. Averted with the soldiers on the railway bridge, as there's only one direction to run. However, this is a realistic way of dealing with Tsunamis in Hawaii — usually, routes to take along surface streets to avoid being hit by waves are clearly marked. It's just that Godzilla hasn't brought just a normal tsunami.
    • In Kong: Skull Island, two soldiers run away from an enraged Kong. One yells to the other, "Run to the side, you idiot!" and runs to the side. The other one who runs straight gets stepped on, but the one who turns get killed anyway by being flung into the intake of a helicopter.
  • The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street has the human-Krueger do this for a while as angry parents pursue him through an abandoned factory complex.
  • Pacific Rim: In Mako's memory of being chased by a Kaiju when she was little, she flees from it in a straight line, but then ducks into a side alley. However, this only worsens her status, as the alley is a dead end and the Kaiju now has her cornered.
  • In Pixels, Ludlow Lamonsoff runs away from a giant Pac-Man in the road in a straight line when he could have easily at least tried to avoid Pac-Man by running towards the sidewalk. He almost gets eaten before Eddie Plant saves him by driving a car from the side of the intersection and destroys the giant Pac-Man.
  • In Plan 9 from Outer Space, detective Clay is approached by two zombies from opposing sides. Rather than to run sideways, he is trapped.
  • Zigzagged in Ready or Not. When Stevens attempts to run her down in the woods, Grace initially runs in a straight line directly in front of the car. However, at the last second, it occurs to her to dive to the side.
  • Justified in Stand by Me. The kids are on a trestle (train bridge) when the train comes. They have to run a substantial distance before they can jump out of the way.
  • In Sharknado, no one being chased by the rolling dismounted Ferris wheel thinks to run sideways.
  • In Sleepy Hollow High, Mr. E attempts to escape from the Headless Horseman by running directly along the road ahead of him, instead of running into the woods on either side where the horse might have trouble following.
  • In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Count Dooku uses the Force to push over a giant pillar, directly in the path of a helpless Anakin and Obi-Wan. Yoda just uses the Force to push the pillar off to the side and set it down gently on the floor, right? Nope, he pushes directly against the pillar's momentum, brings it to a stop directly above them, and keeps it floating in the air for a moment. This visibly exhausts him, and it stalls him for long enough for Dooku to escape.
  • UHF parodies the trope by showing Al's character running through country after country with a boulder still hot on his heels, apparently never thinking to jump aside. Then the trope is subverted when he does round a corner and the boulder inexplicably follows him.
  • In The Warriors, the team attempts to outrun a gang of thugs chasing them in a graffitoed bus by running directly down the roadway. Made even more astounding by the fact that there was an elevated train running over the road, and thus the entire roadway was lined with steel girders that would have made the sidewalk totally inaccessible for the bus and totally safe for running on. Partly justified, as they were trying to get to the train platform at the end of the street, but nothing would have prevented them from running along the sidewalk to get there either.
  • Parodied in Wrongfully Accused, when Harisson flees a runaway train by running into the woods — whereupon the train promptly follows him.

  • Averted in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, where the Technical Boy is able to run down Bilquis with his limo because she was trapped on a road with a sheer, muddy climb up on one side and a sheer drop off a cliff on the other. She tried to get out of the way, but the surroundings themselves had her trapped.
  • Naturally, the narrator of Flatland visits Lineland, a world where this is literally true. The inhabitants of Lineland can't pass each other, and each being only ever sees two things: his two immediate neighbors' eyes/asses. Reproduction is pulled off by having sex partners sing to each other over long distances, which is handy, since at least one of a Linelander's neighbors will always be a parent or sibling.
  • Abusive Aunts Spiker and Sponge from James and the Giant Peach take advantage of the magic titular peach to profit off of tourists, but when James' new insect friends help break the peach off its stem and it starts rolling towards them, they panic and try to outrun it. Naturally, they trip and are crushed to death.
  • Deconstructed/Parodied/somethinged in Dr. Seuss' "The Zax", a short tale in his book The Sneetches and Other Stories. A creature called a North-going Zax and another called a South-going Zax run into each other, and both refuse to go around the other since it would require them to move, very slightly, in a direction different than they're used to. Their refusal to compromise means they basically stand glaring at each other forever while a highway overpass is built over their heads.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon, who is shown as afraid of hospitals, dodges a gurney carrying a sick person by ducking into a nearby door. Unfortunately for him, the room is an isolation ward for a patient with a highly infectious disease.
  • Appears in an episode of Criminal Minds, where a serial killer runs over people with a truck. What makes it worse is that he's a serial killer, so he has done this repeatedly without anyone just running off the side of the road.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Ghost Monument", this is Ryan, Graham and Angstrom's response to a spaceship crashing in their direction. However, they're doing it in a gully, where veering to the side would slow them down considerably; in a way it's fortunate that said gully was aligned parallel to the crashing ship's trajectory.
  • In the Game of Thrones episode "Battle of the Bastards", Rickon runs straight away from Ramsay, who is shooting at him with arrows, rather than run in serpentine fashion to make it harder for Ramsay to hit him, which gets him killed. This is a rather egregious example, since Ramsay is firing his arrows at great distance in a high arc, with seemingly several seconds between loosing the arrow and impact.
  • In Generation Kill, this trope is deliberately inverted. The Marines are fired at in their own forward-operating base by an off-screen sniper. Although they are behind some cover, they need to run through an area that is exposed to fire in order to reach actual safety. All of the Marines make a direct bee-line for cover, but the embedded reporter deliberately overthinks this trope and zig-zags down the alleyway. Everyone makes it, but the Marines then ask the reporter what he was doing. The reporter confirms he was running "serpentine", so the soldiers smirk and quickly assert that if he had simply made a straight run for cover, he'd have spent less time in the kill zone and would have been much safer.
  • Downplayed in the Volume 4 opener of Heroes: Mohinder is being pursued by government agents in a parking garage. He's on foot, they're in a car. Nonetheless, he takes the vehicle ramp, for vehicles, instead of taking the stairs, for pedestrians, so the guys in the car have all the advantage and he has to jog his little ass off down a big spiral ramp. (Plus, he has the power of Super-Strength, which, later, when Peter Petrelli has it, apparently lets him do sick parkour, which would have helped in that parking-garage chase scene if Mohinder ever thought to try it. At least Mohinder is consistent in his inability to think outside of the box.)
  • In the pilot episode of Lost, Jack, Hurley, and Claire run from the plane's falling wing. None thinks to run sideways out of its path.
  • An appearance of this trope in MacGyver, episode "Fire and Ice" almost suggests that there is a mystical force that compels people to run in a straight line in front of oncoming objects. A man hit by a truck at the beginning of the episode would have been perfectly safe if he had not gone out of his way to run in front of the truck.
  • A bicyclist is pursued by a car at night on Major Crimes, eventually being knocked down and dragged to his death across the roadway. Although he does turn on to another street in an attempt to evade the vehicle, it never seems to occur to him to veer onto the safety of the sidewalk.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Shot at Dawn", a woman being chased by a hay baler attempts to flee directly away from it. Granted that turning may not have helped as the baler was being steered, but she could have at least tried, as it would have taken time for the baler to turn.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror", the Enterprise flies directly away from the Romulan ship's blasts rather than trying to evade. However, the angle at which the weapon is fired is above the center of the screen, while in the next shot, it's in the center, suggesting the attack can both maneuver and keep up at warp.
    • Justified in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "New Ground", when the Enterprise is deliberately holding position in front of the speeding Soliton Wave so as to be able to disperse it. Also inverted, since to get into that position, the Enterprise has to take a rough ride through the wave. Although dialogue suggests the wave is too big to fly around, special effects suggest it is no bigger than the Enterprise.
    • Played hilariously straight in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, in which Chakotay is running from the bad guys, and he stays on a winding path instead of just cutting across the grass.
    • Justified in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. The crew learn that a highly radioactive Negative Space Wedgie is heading straight towards them, and it's going faster than the ship can. They proceed to evacuate the whole crew into heavily shielded areas to survive. They do consider the idea of simply getting out of its way, but it's too large for them to try to get out of its way before it hits them, and going too fast to outrun.
  • In the TV mini-series 10.5, a bicyclist tries to outrace the Space Needle as it breaks from its base and comes crashing to the ground... when he could have easily biked all of six feet to either side of or behind the base, and avoided the whole problem.
  • In Walking with Monsters, a fish is being chased by a sea scorpion. Despite the fact that the fish can swim, but the sea scorpion can only walk on the bottom of the ocean, the fish tries to go faster than the scorpion. It takes the appearance of a larger scorpion for the fish to finally swim up where neither scorpion can get it.

  • Radiohead's music video for "Karma Police" features nothing but a long, straight road, a car, and a man on that road running away from the car. He never once thinks to run off either side of the road. However, the expected outcome of such a chase is subverted, since the car actually slows down to match the man's running speed. The man later gets revenge on the car by lighting a trail of gasoline leaking from it, which inverts the trope when car's unseen driver exhibits One-Dimensional Thinking by driving backwards on the road in a futile attempt to escape the flames.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is/was prevalent sometimes in Dungeons & Dragons. In cases where the players get in a minor fight and the DM decides it's not worth drawing a map, or when they go Off the Rails into a space the DM hadn't mapped, everything tends to become one-dimensional, since all you generally know is everyone's distance from you.

    Video Games 
  • Dead Island has this trope filled when you face a Ram (an special zombie) that runs you over if the player tries to simply outrun and/or don't dodge it in time.
  • Fatal Fury and its sequels introduced a second plane which characters could jump to to avoid attacks along the two-dimensional plane.
  • Grand Theft Auto V has a random event where your character gets tasered and wakes up lying on some train tracks with a train bearing down on you. Every panicked player ran off the tracks... right?
  • Guilty Gear Isuka had a second plane for jumping into to avoid attacks.
  • INSIDE (2016) has a section in which you open a door and three large barrels are on the opposite side. Because the floor is not level, you need to run away from the barrels and dive into a nearby pool of water. You cannot simply step out of the way, even though there's clearly enough room to do so.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team:
    • True of nearly every boss battle and giant boss battle, where Mario and Luigi will end up running straight away from the boss in a straight line rather than just stepping a bit to the side. Or in the case of the giant battles, take on a charging foe/fired projectile head on rather than step to the left or right and let it pass by. See, the battles with Grobot, Bowser, Antasma, Pi'illodium, Drilldigger...It is pretty epic though. It is averted with Mammoshka who moves left and right while trying to suck the Mario Bros. into his trunk meaning stepping a bit to the side wouldn't have worked.
    • Subverted to humorous effect when battling Giant Bowser. One of Bowser's attacks first tries to shove Luigi in the lava, then after putting him on the edge, Bowser charges at Luigi to ram him in. You have to dodge in the right direction to let Bowser run right by Luigi and stumble into the lava himself. Given the narrow platform they're battling on, Luigi barely has enough room to do this and clearly is desperately keeping his balance on the edge as Bowser runs by him.
  • In Monster Hunter, doing this when a monster is charging toward you is usually a bad idea since most of them can move faster than you, so players will often avoid these attacks by running to the side. However, the Jade Barroth in Portable 3rd and 3 Ultimate actually encourages this, because it can make a u-turn when it charges, catching anyone that moved to the side, meaning the easiest way to avoid it is to actually play this trope straight.
  • In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, a giant sword is about to crash into the ground blade side down. Sasuke tries to dodge this by running parallel directly underneath the sword. (Whether it works or not is up to Press X to Not Die).
  • In Overwatch, Hanzo's Dragonstrike fires out two enormous spirit dragons (or wolves, if you have the right skin equipped) that travel in a straight line, can go through terrain, and do enough damage on contact to kill a player caught in it in a couple of seconds. Outrunning the dragons is impossible, since they continue until they reach the edge of the map. Players who don't get out of the way when Hanzo uses it in an open area have been soundly mocked by the fandom.
  • In Pepsi Man, the first chase stage has you running away from a giant Pepsi can rolling down the street, yet Pepsi Man never thinks to just move over to either of the sidewalks next to him that would give him a good 5-6 feet of distance to stop and watch the can roll by. Justified for the rest of the chase stages, since they take place in narrow places, so running is the best option.
  • Double subverted in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. When the Professor and Luke are being chased by a giant ferris wheel that broke loose from its frame, they try to avoid being run over by taking a turn, only for the wheel to continue to tail them.
  • Another rare justification pops up in Resident Evil 4. Leon appears to be playing this straight by sprinting ahead of two rolling boulder traps when he has room to dodge them, but he does it to get enough distance from them so he can safely dive off to the side without getting caught in its path and crushed.
  • Samurai Shodown is the first and probably only Fighting Game franchise in which you can lie down on the floor to dodge a horizontal swipe or a projectile. It is possible (sometimes) in Super Smash Bros. as well.
  • Happens repeatedly throughout the Sonic the Hedgehog video games. In the 2-D platformers, him running directly away is logical due to the nature of the genre. In 3-D platformers, when Sonic is being chased by something non-sentient, it's always either in narrow corridors (such as with the boulder in Sonic Adventure, as it's inside a Mayan-inspired temple) or with steep precipices on both sides (such as with the giant rolling wheels in Sonic Heroes, set on a small stone path surrounded by deep ocean). The home console version of Sonic Generations takes the cake, however, with no less than six stages where something is chasing Sonic and he must run away, plus a boss fight where Sonic's opponent creates a giant ball of scrap parts that he then rolls at Sonic down a highway. Mitigated somewhat by Sonic's main gimmick, as he usually is fast enough to simply outrun most threats.
  • In Twisted Metal (2012), at the end of the final campaign, Dollface wishes to model on the "biggest runway in the world", and gets deposited on the tarmac at an airport runway. She sees a plane headed directly towards the runway she's standing on, and instead of running off to the side, she runs in the opposite direction. She then breaks her heel and stays on the ground monologuing (instead of rolling out of the way) until the plane crushes her.
  • World of Warcraft has a variation caused by MMORPG mechanics. Many people will run away from an enemy attacking them, maybe also using abilities to hide, which is close to 100 percent reliable in solo play. In group combat, though, the smartest thing to do when under attack by a monster you can't handle is to run towards the biggest monster around. Crazy as that may sound, it's because that big monster is probably beating on your party's tank, whose job is to keep the monster's attention on them and usually can easily survive just one more.


    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Abby Hatcher features Abby unable to get through the door because of the humongous fancy dress she's wearing. Given that it's narrow on the edges, she could've just turned to the side and shimmied out.
  • Lampshaded in The Amazing World of Gumball's The Allergy, which has Gumball telling Darwin and Anais to run away from a falling panda truck in a straight line. Anais points out how stupid that was when they could have run to the side after the fact, but they still managed to outrun the truck in a straight line anyway.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In an episode of The New Batman Adventures, the police have found the batcave. Luckily, Batman has a giant penny on display, which is knocked out of its stand and rolled towards the cops. They all run directly away from it.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers:
    • In "Last of Her Kind", when Kwame gets trapped in front of a stampeding elephant, he keeps running forward, only barely managing to stay ahead of it, rather than to the side. He avoids getting trampled because Captain Planet arrives to scoop him up and deposit him safely with the others.
    • In "Deadly Ransom", MAL unleashes an avalanche on the Planeteers, who manage to escape by jumping a gorge on skis. Despite the avalanche gaining on them, none of them ever thinks of going to the side.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In "Mock 5", a Whole-Plot Reference and parody of Speed Racer, Dexter is in a race and sees an overturned turtle in his path. He tries to activate his car's gadgets to jump over it, but they fail because his car was sabotaged. Instead of simply swerving out of the way, he panics. Dee Dee saves him by using her own car to nudge his out of the way.
  • Drawn Together has Foxxy Love running away from a giant marshmallow in a straight line similar to when Indiana Jones ran away from the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark until Wooldoor Sockbat gets her out of the way.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q", Quagmire kills Jeffrey Fecalman by ramming him into a tree in his car, a fate Jeff could have avoided by sidestepping said car.
    • Peter Griffin also does this in "Internal Affairs" when he runs away from an ice cream truck driven by Ernie the Giant Chicken in a straight line. Just when Ernie thinks he ran Peter over, Peter hangs onto the front of the truck.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • Lumpy runs away from a falling tree in a straight line in the episode "Out on a Limb" before tripping on a rock and the tree falls on his right leg and he has to cut it off.
    • This is also how Lifty and Shifty run away from Splendid's laser vision in "Gems the Breaks" before hiding in a lake.
  • Mentioned and Lampshaded in Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, where it's revealed that the flight path of the Almighty Tallest's flagship is always in a straight line, conquering or destroying every planet in their way. When Zim finds this out, he decides to teleport the Earth directly in their way, causing the Tallest to panic as they want nothing to do with Zim. The ship's pilot suggests simply directing the ship around the Earth, but the Tallest insist on keeping course and blowing up Earth instead. The Earth eventually gets teleported away, but the Florpus created by Zim's plan is still in front of them, and the Tallest still want to go straight instead of turning the ship around. Needless to say, their foolishness gets them killed.
  • In the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode "Daisy's Dance", Mickey and the gang come to a hedge maze which is spherical so they can simply run around it, but they go through it instead, to drive the plot forward.
  • Lampshaded/Subverted in Milo Murphy's Law's Backward to School Night, when a Lard Boy promotional statue is rolling after the main characters. After a while of this, the driver of the truck it rolled off says, "Just run to the right or left!" In the next shot of the rolling figure, two of the main characters are chasing it instead, with the third on top.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998):
    • In "Mommy Fearest", the girls sneak out to fight crime and are caught by Ima Goodlady (Sedusa in disguise) who watches them from the front door and grounds them. If the girls thought better, they could have flown through their bedroom windows instead of the front door to avoid being seen.
    • The episode "Mo Job" has Princess Morbucks getting hit by a de-powering ray because she's too evil to simply fly out of its way.
    • In "Cootie Gras", Mojo has trapped the girls in a pit and leaves them alone with gross boy Harry Pitt, freaking out over his potential cooties, but completely unaware they have superpowers and they can simply escape by just flying out. Naturally, they only remember this after Harry kisses them and they learn he doesn't have cooties at all.
  • Just jump down from the conveyor belt or away from the runaway coal cart, Scooby-Doo.
  • The second Halloween episode in The Simpsons features Mr. Burns being crushed by a robot. He hobbles as fast as he can — straight ahead, in the direction the statue is falling, rather than a few steps to the side, which would have allowed him to avoid it entirely.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Valentine's Day", Patrick goes on a love-inducing rampage and eventually has SpongeBob and all the carnival patrons cornered against the end of a dock, just before Sandy arrives with the giant chocolate balloon meant for him. If they thought better, SpongeBob and the patrons would have escaped Patrick's wrath by either running around him, or jumping into the goo and swimming to safety.
    • In "That Sinking Feeling" when SpongeBob and Patrick are faced with a rock in their way when running and digging away from a furious Squidward, they are too stupid to think of digging around, above or below it.
    • In "Lockdown for Love", Mr. Krabs accidentally loses the secret formula and it rolls over to the Chum Bucket. But since the Chum Bucket is under lockdown, Plankton can't immediately get to it. He manages to melt a hole in the wall just big enough for him to reach through and grab it. But when Plankton grabs the secret formula and tries pulling it through the hole, he points it upright and it continually hits the wall instead. Thus, Krabs steals the formula back in time. If Plankton had rotated the bottle facing forward, he could have fit it through the hole and secured it for good.
  • Subverted in Star vs. the Forces of Evil's "The Banagic Incident", where Star Butterfly is in a shopping cart going down a slope road in a straight line away from people from a pirate-themed restaurant (whom she mistook for actual pirates), and almost hits a bus going in the opposite direction towards her when she doesn't turn the cart to the side, but then uses magic to conjure up a horse in the road who kicks her cart over the bus and in front of the As Featured On TV store.
  • One episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! sees Mario, Luigi, and Toad get chased by a boulder in the Wild West. Throughout the entire chase, the Ostros they’re riding stay on the road, which the boulder follows. Only when the heroes notice a sign advertising free Italian food do they actually think to jump off the Ostros and leave the road(the Ostros follow suit right after they get off). A group of Pokeysnote  who attempted to ambush the heroes meanwhile, don't think to follow their example, and promptly end up Bowled Over.
  • Thomas & Friends:
    • In "Splish Splash Splosh", Thomas has fun splashing muddy water everywhere despite the fact he has to be hosed down for Alicia Botti's concert that afternoon. When he splashed through a gigantic puddle which happened to be near a bridge that Sir Topham Hatt and Alicia were crossing, the mud falls on them and Thomas is punished; when Sir Topham and Alicia noticed the falling water, they would have protected themselves from getting wet by running quickly off the bridge before getting hit.
    • In "Snow Tracks", Gordon pushes so much snow up Gordon's Hill that it makes a giant snowball; it chases he and Thomas, who is behind him, back downhill; Gordon stays on the mainline while Thomas runs into a siding, but the snowball rolls right in Thomas' direction. Since the siding is a loop that runs back onto the mainline, Thomas should have quickly reversed back onto the mainline away from the snowball until it couldn't follow him anymore (like how Boulder chased the narrow gauge engines in "Rusty and the Boulder") but instead he chooses to stay in the siding and cry for help as the snowball crashes into him.
  • Totally Spies!: In episode 18 of season 3 titled "Truth or Scare", Clover and Sam are tied together on a conveyor belt toward a printing guillotine. They try to escape by rolling to the opposite direction of the belt toward a dead end full of printing paper instead of, well, rolling to the side where there's nothing in their way.

    Real Life 
  • In real life, human beings have a natural instinct to run directly away from a threat during times of panic. Panicked crowds behave the same way, a fact that has been exploited for centuries by conquering hordes. A specific example is running away from shooters. It is sometimes said, on the off-chance you are being shot at, it's better to run in a zig-zag pattern, thus presenting the shooter with a moving target, not just a shrinking but stable one. In a completely flat area with nowhere to go, this is probably true. However in general if you're being shot at the best advice is get out of the open and into cover as soon as possible, meaning making a bee-line for cover is your best bet for survival. Trying to be clever with zig-zagging will just slow you down. (And as just mentioned, you probably won't have the presence of mind to think to attempt zig-zagging in the first place.)
  • Similar to a train, if you are in a vehicle caught in the path of an oncoming tornado, and you have the option to escape in the vehicle, you want to move at a right angle to the tornado's apparent direction. While the average tornado moves at a forward speed of about 35 mph, some tornadoes have been known to move at up to 80 mph, meaning they can outpace a car, as can the debris they throw. While it is uncommon, they can also double back without warning, and in worst-case scenarios, can make a sudden left turn (usually to the north), so moving in the opposite direction the tornado seems to be moving in is not a reliable means of escaping.
  • Most people don't realize that riptides are usually very narrow and surprisingly easy to escape from if you know what to do. Hundreds of people die every year because they didn't realize that they could swim 30 feet to the side to escape the current that's dragging them out — riptides are narrow "corridors" of water that pull people out to an area of calmer but deeper water at the end. As a result, nearly every death or rescue as a result of riptides occurs within sight of the beach. On the contrary, surfers will use riptides for this exact same purpose, riding on their board atop the water to be carried out straight to the best location to begin catching waves.
  • When the Gimli Glider was making its emergency landing at the decommissioned runway in Gimli, Manitoba, the pilots were horrified to see two kids riding bikes on the runway, who, when they saw the plane, turned and tried to outrun a 767 coming in at 200+ knots. Fortunately they had enough of a head start, and the 767's collapsed front gear slowed the plane fast enough, that they actually made it. This was dramatically/hilariously depicted in the TV movie. The kid in question is clearly so terrified that he can't take the obvious step, but he eventually figures it out just in time and the plane whizzes by him.
  • Averted by default and taken advantage of in police chases — officers are taught that when the car in front of them goes around a turn they'll slow down, and this can be good time to ram the car. Many police cars have reinforced bumpers for this purpose.
  • Animals often run directly away from danger, as this is a better way of escaping from a predator. Turning while running will put them at a disadvantage, as the predator can cut the corner to catch up. This causes a problem with cars, as they don't know the car is not (usually) actively chasing them, moving at a speed they could never hope to run away from, or stuck on a marked path.
    • Emus take this fallacy one step further: when approached by a car, they have a nasty habit of dashing in front of it for a few meters before crossing to the other side of the road. The roads in the Outback are littered with emu corpses, for good reason.
    • Sheep are apparently known for doing this too.
    • Averted by eastern gray squirrels, but poorly. When presented with a threat, they run towards the nearest tree or the tree they came down from. They will do this even if it takes them into the path of danger more so than sitting still.
      • Small mammals in general tend to go for shelter rather than try to put distance between themselves and threats. This can lead to unwise decisions, like running under a car that's paused at a stop sign.
    • There are a lot of videos of cows, moose and camels getting run over by trains as they try and outrun the thing on the track.
      • Arctic foxes will do the same thing, in part because they're used to being the fastest thing around.
  • Rabbits and hares have an interesting tactic which avoids this trope, and serves them well against vehicles: They try to outrun a predator in a fairly straight line, but when it has closed in too much, make an instant turn of ninety degrees or more. Most predators will overshoot the turn, increasing the distance again.
    • This would indeed be a good means for avoiding vehicles if performed only once; unfortunately in practice jackrabbits repeat this over and over, zigzagging in front of the vehicle until it's actually difficult to pass on a dirt road since they seemingly kamikaze under the vehicle's tires every time it is about to pull ahead.
    • Gazelles and the like do this as well, and for good reason. Most of the predators they face are bigger than them, and can only chase in short bursts, and stopping in one direction and speeding up in another is more exhausting for bigger animals than smaller ones.
  • Bullfighting is humans taking advantage of this trope vs. bulls. See Western Animation above for a fictional example.
    • A very specific variant is that, when being chased by an angry rhinoceros of any species, the best situation is not to try and outrun an animal with that kind of momentum, but to stand one's ground and quickly jump to the side at just the right moment. Of course, you still have a somewhat slim chance of survival any time an animal the size of a truck is angry at you — this is just slightly better. Though if your timing and reflexes are particularly bad, you may be better off trying to run.
    • On the other hand, if a dangerous hoofed animal hasn't noticed you yet, moving directly away from it is better than moving across its field of vision, as such animals' eyesight is better-attuned to spot lateral movement than motion straight towards or away from them. Retreating slowly, and doing so only when it lowers its head to browse, is better than running in such a situation.
  • One of the (many) plans to prevent Earth from being hit by a civilization-ending asteroid is not to slow it down or divert it, but accelerate the rock so it crosses Earth's orbit long before the planet does. Although this seems counterintuitive to conventional physics (which says the energy required to accelerate in any direction is the same), when using rocket motors, the Oberth effect means that accelerating a mass co-linear with its existing momentum in a given gravitational reference frame is more efficient than accelerating it perpendicularly or retrograde.
  • Inverted in air combat in the pure gunnery era, i.e. up to the mid-1950s. When trying to escape or outrun a pursuing enemy, zigzagging is a bad idea as it reduces your forward velocity away from your pursuer. Only when they get within gun range and can start taking accurate shots at you does zigzagging begin to make sense. Clever pursuers would sometimes open fire out of range to spook their prey into zigzagging too early. Perversely, in the missile era it's almost a better idea to stay and fight, all else being equal, as all but the shortest-range missiles are much faster at any height than a combat aircraft trying to run away in a straight line.
  • Ultimately averted by this crab who, according to the subtitles, believes himself to be "hella smart" for figuring it out.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Prometheus School Of Running Away From Things


Ferris Wheel of Doom

No one being chased by the rolling dismounted Ferris wheel thinks to run sideways.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / OneDimensionalThinking

Media sources: