Similar to Vapor Trail but generally with a different intent.
A trail of gunpowder is laid as a makeshift fuse, leading to a pile of explosives (usually barrels of gunpowder). Once lit, the trail smokes and sparks impressively and the hero will have to race the burning powder to scuff out the line before it reaches the explosives. In a comedic variation, a character will unknowingly leave a trail of powder behind him as he is stockpiling explosives, allowing another character to casually light it, blowing the first character to kingdom come.
Tested and confirmed by the MythBusters. This is one of the few explosive myths they've tested that worked in real life pretty much exactly the way it is portrayed in movies. And, just like the movies, it was also possible for a person to outrun it or just scatter the trail. And if you're carrying a leaky barrel of powder that is producing a trail in your wake, it is entirely possible that, should that trail be ignited, the fire will catch up to the barrel and light it off if you're traveling at a slow walk.
If the powder is too wet, the trail may prove to be a Hard-to-Light Fire.
May lead to a case of Explosive Stupidity.
- Pokémon did this in "Attack of the Prehistoric Pokemon", but with a really long fuse line leading to a stack of dynamite (one could argue that it was smart of Team Rocket, but they ended up following Ash anyway to stop the defusing). One pile-up later and it all goes to naught, however, as Pikachu zaps the entire load. "Chaaaaa..." indeed.
- Gaston Lagaffe once accidentally left a trail of his home-made rocket fuel behind and unknowingly lit it. The running fire ended up igniting the Mesmaeker's contracts.
- Pulled off in issue #78 of the original series of Jonah Hex, where Jonah ignites the powder trail with a rifle shot.
- The cover of Knights of the Dinner Table Special Edition #1, as seen in the page image.
- Batman, disguised as Matches Malone, ignites one he had prepared earlier to escape from the League of Assassins Carnival of Killers in Batman, Incorporated #4.
- The Adventures Of Tin Tin features this. Sir Francis Haddock sets it off, Red Rackham snuffs it out, repeat, repeat...
- In one of the first color movies of all time, The Black Pirate, the villainous pirates use this technique to blow up ships after they have left to leave no witnesses.
- In the movie The Return of the Musketeers, the powder fuse is used to blow up a ship.
- Used in film The Mask of Zorro by Montero and Love in an attempt to destroy the gold mine with the slave workers still inside. When Zorro sabotages the lift transporting the gold this becomes a bad idea, so Love cuts the trail. Later, the fight starts a fire which then reignites the trail.
- B-Movie Ator The Invincible ("Cave Dwellers" on MST3K) had a character do this with rock dust. Cue the guys: "She's making flash powder out of her own filth!"
- Muppet Treasure Island. Freaking hilarious, Rizzo and Gonzo scared witless trying to load a gun to fend off pirates.... Kaboom!!
- Not to mention the sparks follow them as they try to escape.
- That's because they still had the leaky barrel of powder under Gonzo's arm.
- Not to mention the sparks follow them as they try to escape.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the Black Pearl crew does this in a ship. Though it was rather elaborate, running along a board over open water, on an already sinking ship, which makes one wonder how the hell did it not get wet or lose a critical few inches halfway through...
- As indicated by the page quote, in The Producers, the protagonists come to regret using one of these.
- Although that is an actual fuse rather than a powder trail. The end result is the same.
- In Cutthroat Island, the Mexican Standoff in the tavern between Dawg's men and Morgan's men is broken when Shaw removes the cork from an enemy pirate's powder-horn. Bowen sees him do this and tosses him a lit candle. The other pirate takes a few steps away, and Shaw drops the candle, literally starting off the ensuing fight scene with a bang.
- In the comedy western The Villain, Cactus Jack accidentally creates one of these, and has to be saved from being blown up by his horse Whiskey.
- In It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, this is one of the many methods by which the Crumps attempt to escape from the hardware-store basement in which they have been accidentally locked.
- Leon (Anthony Quinn) uses a powder trail to blow the dam and drown the attacking Indians in Guns For San Sebastian.
- In Carry On Henry, Guy Fawkes lays a trail of gun powder to the kegs of gunpowder to blow up Parliament. The fuse goes out inches from the kegs, until, of course, the conspirators go close to see what went wrong. "OH FAWKES!" was the exclamation when the kegs blew up at just that moment.
- Film Serial S.O.S. Coast Guard had an initial fuse hanging blow a trap door. When it was lit, it ignited a gunpowder trail, which in turn lead to explosives that would blow up the warehouse the bad guys were escaping from. The plan was to kill the members of the coast guard as they were raiding the warehouse, and caused the classic end-of-episode cliffhanger with the main characters in the building (who simply survived without explanation.)
- Used to blow up the bridge at the end of The Horse Soldiers.
- Viva Zapata!: Diaz's solders, manning a fort, take little notice of the old ladies that are hauling bags of produce to market. They do not realize that the old ladies aren't hauling bags of produce, they're hauling bags of gunpowder, and they're leaving trails on the ground via holes cut in the bags. The soldiers start shooting when the old ladies get too close to the gates but it's too late, as the trails are lit, the gates are blown, and Zapata's men take the fort.
- Happens in the Animorphs book Elfangor's Secret. The villain plans to destroy HMS Victory during the battle at Trafalgar, and uses the powder trail to give him extra time to make his escape via Time Travel. Ax managed to cut the Powder Trail in the nick of time, using his tail blade — only to accidentally strike a spark that ignites the rest of the trail.
- In the fourth Gotrek & Felix novel, the dwarfs lay a powder trail (and a couple kegs of powder) to collapse the tunnel leading into a dragon's lair in case they're overrun by orcs or bandits. Their engineer's rocket launcher accidentally sets it off, leading to much swearing since the dragon had quite a large hoard.
- Used by Richard Sharpe to destroy a friendly fortress in Sharpe's Gold.
- Solomon Kane uses one to kill the majority of Le Loup's gang in Red Shadows.
- Done on Lost to open the hatch.
- MacGyver (1985) improvises a powder trail—using black powder from an antique grenade—to blow up an arms shipment in "The Escape".
- A staple on the various Zorro TV series.
- The Queen uses one to set off an explosion that collapses a mine (and allows her to escape the soldiers in the ensuing confusion) in the Queen of Swords episode "Death to the Queen".
- Done by the hero in The Swamp Fox to give him a chance to drag the villain he captured out the door of a Tory tavern.
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Framed for Murder", the murderer uses a long line of celluloid film like a powder trail to ignite a huge pile of unspooled film he is planning to use to burn his victim to death.
- Frontier Circus: Used by Ben and Tony as part of their plan to break out of the mine in "Patriarch of Purgatory".
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "Civil Defense," Sisko, Jake, and O'Brien use this with a cart of unprocessed ore to blow open a door that was locked down due to the computer thinking a coup was taking place on the station (long story).
- In The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush knocks over a keg of rum, leaving a trail of the alcohol down the grassy knoll and to the keg, which happens to be sitting next to a rubber tree. He lights the trail with a match (would work since pure rum is flammable), and proceeds to be blown right off the cliff and into town by the blast. After coming to, he drowsily declares, "Woah, my head is spinning. I gotta lay off the rum!"
- One mission in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has General Tsao doing this to a captive Murray. Penelope uses one of her RC cars to save the day.
- In Time Splitters 2, the player character is required to do this to get an NPC out of a wild west jail. One must create a powder trail from underneath a lantern inside the jail to a wagon loaded with powder barrels pushed against the wall outside, then shoot the lantern off the ceiling. Yo can also just shoot the barrels, which will also light the trail when they explode.
- Sam in Desperados can set these in certain missions, typically to blow up fortified gates.
- In World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor an introductory quest has the player steal a keg of powder from an armory which causes you to leave a trail wherever you walk. The idea is to take it to a detonator to blow up the armory but you can take your time and draw a massive trail which will burn impressively.
- The comedic variation happened frequently to Wile E. Coyote and Yosemite Sam in Looney Tunes shorts.
- Also to Tom of Tom and Jerry.
- It's one of the many penalties in "Early to Bet," #36: Roll out the Barrel.
- A memorable example occurs on "Bunker Hill Bunny". Sam carries a powder keg over to Bugs' fort, not realizing that it's leaking powder into the back flap of his pants and overflowing into a trail behind him. Bugs extinguishes the keg's fuse, then lights the trail on fire, which then follows Sam everywhere he goes. It eventually catches up to him on top of a tree he's hiding in.
- Jonny Quest TOS episode "Riddle of the Gold". After a villain ties up the Quest team and lays a trail of gunpowder to a barrel full of the stuff, Bandit saves the day by putting out the flame with his...err, tail. Race hangs a lampshade on it even then: "Isn't that a bit of an old routine?"
- The Hooded Claw uses one in an attempt to dispose of Penelope in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "Jungle Jeopardy". This works about as well as any of the Hooded Claw's schemes do.
- Billy Bob Scruggins blows himself up with the accidental variety in Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers. Because he has the leaking powder horn stuffed in his back pocket, the burning trail chases him around.
- Such powder trails are Truth in Television, as this was a common way of setting off early cannon on land (back when there was a real chance of explosion so you did not want to stand near it when you fired it; not believing that one was needed was what did for King James II of Scotland.)
- Before the invention of percussion caps, this was essentially how all firearms worked to a very minor degree. After the weapon was loaded, powder was poured into a pan on top of the weapon and ignited, and an opening at the bottom of the pan allowed the flame to ignite the powder in the chamber. This method could be prone to malfunction, particularly in bad weather.
- An accidental example of this trope is believed to have been the cause of the fall of the Fortress of Almeida, during the Peninsular War. A leaky powder keg left a trail between the powder storage and the courtyard; it was ignited by a stray shell, and in turn ignited over 70 tons of powder, causing one of the largest explosions of that era and forcing the defenders to capitulate.
- Truth in Television: Guy Fawkes was caught making sure the gunpowder trail leading to the explosives he planted under the house of parliament were perfect before lighting it.