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Race Against the Clock
aka: Race Against Time

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Whatever was due to happen at 00:00:00 was unlikely to be good.

In many cases, for whatever reason — be it the alignment of planets, a scheduled public event to sabotage, a "you have one hour to comply or..." threat, or just a plain old Time Bomb — the villain's plot is time-sensitive: It will succeed at a given moment and not one second sooner. The hero has until that moment to stop the villain.

Naturally, things will go down to the wire and the hero will foil the evil scheme at the last possible second. It's especially powerful when combined with Real Time... even if it takes a Magic Countdown to line things up properly. This is a frequently used but still effective method of adding more tension to the story. Compare When the Clock Strikes Twelve and Right on the Tick. Often combined with Celestial Deadline.

One variant is that a specific time isn't the point of success; the villain must instead be stopped before he collects all the Plot Coupons or kills all of his intended victims. In this case, the hero will stop the last, and only the last, step in the evil plan. This sucks in the case of victims, since all but the last victim are still dead, but hey, at least the villain didn't win...

In other cases, time itself is the foe with the help of some random coincidences that impede the hero's progress. Interestingly, the audience will probably buy these coincidences since they come off, if done well, as an application of Finagle's Law. Usually, such a sequence will serve as a dramatic finale.

The video game equivalent is the Timed Mission. The video game subversion is Take Your Time, where they tell you that it's a Race Against The Clock, but you're not penalized for going at your own pace.

Contrast Delaying the Rescue.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom: On March 13th of the next year, Koro-sensei plans to blow up the Earth. The students, along with the handful of people aware of the threat, only have a year to kill him. The final opening of the anime even reminds us of how many days are left. This gets sped up to hours and minutes when the government decides to prepare a Kill Sat in the climax.
  • A subplot in Captain Tsubasa has Ken "Karate Keeper" Wakashimazu defying his parents because he wants to play soccer and not become the Heir to the Dojo. In the original manga and old series, his father gives him one year to reach the championship with the Toho team; if not, he'll have to come back home and inherit the dojo. When Ken fulfills his word, Mr. Wakashimazu gives him his blessings.
  • In Ceres, Celestial Legend, its last third has Ceres lay down a time-limit of six months. If Aya does not manage to stop the Mikages or return Ceres' celestial robe to her by then, Ceres will take Aya's body over by force and kill every Mikage. It's because Aya is pregnant, and Ceres wants to finish things before the baby gets dragged into the mess.
  • In one episode of Code Geass, Lelouch is given five hours to find his sister Nunnally who has been kidnapped by a Geass-using psychopath, who may or may not have stuck to the assigned limit.
  • Digimon:
    • In Digimon: The Movie - Our War Game, a virus called Diablomon has caused a nuclear missile to launch, somewhere in the world. Diablomon sends a menacing but childish email to them, asking, "which one has the clock?". They then have ten minutes to destroy the various copies he's making of himself, finding the one with the clock that controls the missile. Could be considered a Time Bomb.
    • Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna makes it a lot more personal; because the group has grown up and quickly approaching adulthood, the spark that powered their Digivices when they were kids is starting to fade and in turn, their partnership with their Digimon will soon end. With a new Digimon going around and assaulting new DigiDestined, the group only has a limited time to stop them before they can't do anything to help. And every Digivolution only shortens the time they have left.
  • In Dr. STONE, Senku claims that it only takes 20 seconds for an enemy to get over their Oh, Crap! panic and start to think naturally, so the assault on the Cave of Miracles has to be completed in less than that. Chapter 75 has a timer counting down to zero as they attack.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, following his defeat of Frieza, Goku is put into one of these situations where he has to get off Planet Namek before it explodes. At first it looks like he didn't make it due to Frieza's ship falling into molten lava, but it's eventually revealed that he spotted one of the Ginyu Force's pods and used it to get off the planet in time.
  • Fairy Tail: In the Tartaros Arc, the Fairies have to stop Face, a magic pulse bomb from erasing all magic from the continent, which will render them powerless, but will let the dark guild Tartaros, comprised of demons, to use their curses. An attempt from Wendy didn't work, as it was 1 down...2,999 more to go, leaving the guild an hour for them to stop Face before the magic gets erased. They actually fail despite defeating Tartaros as the countdown finishes and Face activates, but The Dragons Come Back to destroy them before things can reach the point of no return.
  • Food Wars! has the Training Camp arc have a trial where the students have to serve egg-themed breakfast dishes with eggs, and have at least 200 finished plates within 2 hours. However, Soma Yukihira had only sold a tiny amount of dishes with only 30 minutes left due to poor dish choices. He makes a mad rush to reach the required 200 by putting on a live cooking performance to draw the crowds which manages to reach 200 with only less than 10 seconds to spare.
  • In Future War 198X Wataru has only one hour of oxygen left up in outer space and must find some way to stop the Communists from pressing the Big Red Button and destroying the world with nukes.
  • As stated by the Conductor of Galaxy Express 999, the train sticks to a strict schedule. It stays at each stop for exactly one local day and then departs for the next stop whether you're on the train or not, so always keep an eye on the time if you don't want to be left behind.
  • In Glass Mask, Tsukikage gives her pupil Maya Kitajima two years to win an award as prestigious as one that her rival Ayumi Himekawa has just won, or else Ayumi gets the ''Crimson Goddess role without further contest.
  • The time limit of the Emergency Escape Program in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya was two days. Complicated by the fact that the message didn't state whether the 48 hour count started from when the note was first written, or from the time when Kyon later discovered it. And that was probably the least of the temporal complications involved, too.
  • This is one of the central plot points of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit - a Chosen receives the titular document 24 hours before they are killed by the nanocapsule imbedded in their heart rupturing. Each Episode revolves around what that particular Chosen chooses to do with that time.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Stardust Crusaders: When DIO obtained his Stand, The World, the same power awakened to the entire Joestar family, since he has the body of their deceased ancestor, Jonathan, from the neck down. While both Jotaro and his grandpa Joseph got unique Stands out of that, his mother Holly doesn't have enough willpower to control or deactivate her Stand. Because of that, her newfound power slowly starts killing her, and the only way to save her is to kill DIO before she dies (around fifty days to be precise). Thus, the entirety of the third part is a race against time. The race becomes even more hurried once they learn how strong The World is, leaving them no choice but to stop DIO from mastering his Stand's temporal powers before he becomes completely unstoppable.
    • Stone Ocean: The heroes have to defeat Pucci at Cape Canaveral before the next New Moon. Unfortunately, Pucci figures out he doesn't actually need the New Moon; he only needs to recreate the gravitational conditions that the New Moon brings, allowing him to get Made In Heaven two days earlier.
  • The School Festival arc of My Hero Academia has the laughably petty thief Gentle plan to invade the aforementioned school festival. While he just plans to simply sneak onto the school grounds without any intention of harm and film himself doing so in an online fame grab attempt, this simple act is actually Played for Drama due to the school being on high alert because of the increasingly lethal villain attacks involving the alumni, meaning that if an alarm of any kind from false to legit is triggered, the entire festival will be cancelled, rendering Class 1-A's efforts moot and Midoriya will break his promise to Eri since she wanted to see him perform. Due to a chance encounter before Gentle started heading to the school, Midoriya has to stop him from reaching the grounds. Even though he succeeds in preventing him from doing so, the clock is still running as he needs to pick up the supplies he bought and dropped before his class starts performing.
  • There's a few in One Piece:
    • In the Alabasta Arc, Crocodile hid a huge Time Bomb somewhere in Alabasta, prompting the Straw Hats and Vivi to search for it. The Marines even helped them out because the situation was that bad. To make things worse, they didn't know that the bomb was a Time Bomb at all. All they knew was that the bomb was supposed to be fired as a cannonball in a specific time. While Vivi managed to stop the cannon, she could not defuse the bomb itself as there was only less than a minute left. Pell is prompted to pull a Heroic Sacrifice to have it explode high enough that no one else will die.
    • In the Enies Lobby Arc, Spandam accidentally triggers the Buster Call, an all-out bombardment by a fleet of giant warships on whatever location it's activated from, leaving no survivors. Since Enies Lobby is so close to the Marines' headquarters, they can arrive there in only half an hour, giving the Straw Hats that much time to defeat the remaining CP9 agents, rescue Robin, and escape the island.
    • In the Thriller Bark Arc, some of the Straw Hats' shadows, as well as their allies', were stolen by Gekko Moriah, and as a result will die should they get hit by direct sunlight. This means they have to kick Moriah and Oars' asses before the sun rises.
    • In the final act of the Punk Hazard arc, the Straw Hats (and Law) have to team up with the Marines once again to defeat Caesar Clown, round up the children he kidnapped, and get the hell out of the laboratory before the Deadly Gas Shinokuni floods the whole place.
    • In the final act of the Dressrosa Arc, Doflamingo causes the Birdcage he has set over the country to shrink, leaving Luffy only one hour to kick his ass, or else the entire country will be slaughtered.
    • In the climactic battle of the Wano Arc, Kaido uses his dragon powers to create clouds that lift up Onigashima and begin carrying it to Flower Capital, at which point he will drop the island onto the city, killing countless thousands of innocent civilians. This means Luffy has until the island reaches the capital to defeat Kaido, although Momo is able to extend this time by using his own dragon powers to pull on Kaido's clouds to keep the island from floating forward any further. Inversely, when Kaido is defeated, the clouds he generated will dissipate, which will also drop Onigashima, but far more violently, meaning Momo only has until Luffy defeats Kaido to learn how to generate his own clouds to replace them.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Hitomi gives Sayaka 24 hours to confess her love to Kyosuke before she confesses her own instead. Unfortunately, because Sayaka's just learned she's essentially no longer human, she doesn't think she can ever confess, and knowing that Hitomi has already won leads her to cross the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Saint Seiya: The Saints of Athena have 12 hours to save Saori/Athena from...
    • ...the Golden Arrow making her way to her heart (Sanctuary Saga.) They need to reach the top of Sanctuary, retrieve the Shield of Athena, and shine its holy light upon her. The Clock of Flames on a hill of Sanctuary keeps precise track of this schedule.
    • ...dying of exhaustion and exposure at the North Pole, due to her keeping the eternal ice from melting and flooding the Earth (Asgard Saga, anime-only.) The Saints need to de-brainwash Queen Hilda, the true caretaker, and release her from Poseidon's thrall so Saori passes the task back to her.
    • ...drowning within the Main Breadwinner (a gigantic pillar that holds up the ocean above Poseidon's temple) before it floods completely (Poseidon Saga.) They need to defeat the Seven Marine Shoguns and destroy their pillars before getting to the Main, which is guarded by Poseidon himself.
    • ...getting killed by Hades' Specters invading Sanctuary (Hades Saga, Sanctuary Chapter.) In an inversion, the Specters themselves only have 12 hours to accomplish their task, because that's all the time they have allowed back on the world of the living before their bodies disintegrate. So, the Saints only need to hold them back for so long.
    • ...having all her blood drained out by Hades' jar deep in the Underworld, in the heavenly land of Elysium (Hades Saga, Underworld Chapter.) The Saints need to remove her from the jar and give her the Divine Cloth of Athena so she can defeat Hades and end the war.
  • The second half of Steins;Gate features Okabe trying to get enough clues as to how to undo the changes he previously did to the past before Mayuri dies, always at 8 PM. Every time he succeeds, the deadline gets delayed for 24 more hours.
  • Summer Time Rendering: At 9:00 pm on July 24th, the shadows will invoke a mass murder ritual that will consume every single human on the island. Shinpei only has three days and a limited number of retries to figure out who or what is behind this scheme and how to prevent this future from taking place.
  • World Trigger: A variation in the Large-Scale Invasion, where the enemy isn't aware of the importance of the time. There's a specific moment — which the chapters count down to — where the crossroads of the future meet, as foreseen by Jin, and determine whether Osamu lives or dies. Once that second has ticked by, he's officially safe, but until then, anything goes.
  • Yugi, Judai and Yusei in Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time need to defeat Paradox before Pegasus arrives at Domino City for his event after the Crimson Dragon gave them another chance to stop Paradox from destroying Domino City and killing Pegasus and everyone else in the city. Not to mention stopping Paradox from destroying reality as they know it.

    Card Games 
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, there is a card called Final Countdown that will end the game making the user the winner in 20 turns after being used, it can even be sped up by 1 turn by using the Pyro Clock of Destiny Trap Card. So it turns out to be a Race against the clock to defeat the opponent before the 20th turn is reached.
    • The Magic: The Gathering card Darksteel Reactor has the exact same effect. Since it uses charge counters to mark how many turns have passed and comes from a block in which charge counters are a major mechanic, there are many ways to speed it up. (For example, Energy Chamber puts a charge counter on any of your artifacts once each turn, thus functionally cutting the Reactor's "clock" in half.)

    Comic Books 
  • Bookhunter: The Oakland Library Police are investigating the theft of an irreplaceable book which was on loan from the Library of Congress. The book was scheduled to be returned in three days, so our protagonists have that long to solve the case before the feds learn of the theft and take over the investigation.
  • In Final Crisis, the human Green Lanterns are given 24 hours to save the universe.
  • Firefly: The Sting: By the end, the mission becomes breaking Inara out of the convent before dawn, after which she will be forced to join them.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992): In Chapter 5, Link decides to lie down and rest for a bit, only to be woken up by Zelda, who reminds him that he only has until sundown before Agahnim casts his final incantation on her.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW), the Mane 6 have to find and rescue the CMC in three days, and it will apparently take three days just to reach the Changeling Kingdom. Secretariat Comet will also be flying over Equestria in three days, which Twilight believes is connected to Queen Chrysalis's plot.
  • Shakara: In the climax Shakara has to stop the Big Bad from activating his universe-destroying Doomsday Device before it's too late. At the same time, he's also dying of the same disease that wiped out its creators.
  • White Sand: Kenton is given two weeks to convince all members of the Taishin (Kezare parliament of sorts) that Sand Mastery should be preserved rather than abolished.
  • The first book of Górsky & Butch starts when it turns out that their comic makes no sense. So Da Chief tasks the two heroes with finding it. And they have 48 pages to do it.
  • An early issue of the Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) comics has Sonic being told by Princess Sally to find Nack the Weasel or be exiled for disobeying a royal order. Because really, giving a super speedster 48 hours is like telling them "take your time".
  • The climax segment of Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW)'s Metal Virus Saga is one of these. After the Zombots created by Dr. Eggman's Metal Virus are taken over by the Deadly Six, the survivors of the plague have mere hours to retrieve the seven Chaos Emeralds before an infected Sonic becomes a Zombot himself and Angel Island, their last safe haven, is compromised. However, they've only obtained six Emeralds when Zavok and his Zombot army attack the Island. A Last Stand ensues, during which Sonic almost succumbs to his infection as he goes for the final Emerald. At the last microsecond, he and Silver go Super, curing Sonic, and the two hedgehogs unleash a World-Healing Wave to get rid of the Metal Virus for good.
  • Superman:
    • The very first Superman story, in Action Comics #1, featured this, as Superman had to deliver exonerating evidence to a state governor before an innocent prisoner was executed.
    • In Superman vs. Shazam!, the group of four heroes have two hours to find and dismantle Karmang's devices -without triggering the safeties- before they activate and smash two parallel Earths together.
    • In Reign of Doomsday, Superman and his allies are trapped in a spaceship which is speeding towards Earth at terminal velocity. The Superman Family have only ten minutes to defeat a squad of Doomsday clones hunting them and disable the spaceship before Earth, the spaceship and them become cosmic dust.
    • The Condemned Legionnaires provides a villain example. Since she is an artificial construct created by Supergirl being exposed to Red Kryptonite, whose effects are reverted after forty-eight hours, Satan Girl has only two days to transfer the Red-K radiation to someone else or she will vanish.
    • "Superman and Spider-Man": Variant. In order to halt Hulk's rampage, Superman challenges the Emerald Giant to punch him again, hoping Hulk will wear himself out trying. At the beginning, Superman simply tanks' Hulk savage blows, but he realizes that Hulk's fury-fueled strength is growing geometrically with each second, so that he must find another way to calm him down before losing the upper advantage.
  • Watchmen: Subverted by Ozymandias at the climax: "Do it? Dan, I'm not a Republic Serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago."

    Fan Works 
  • Ariel & Belle: Ariel has a year to either find true love or return to the sea, and the animals decide that getting Belle and Ariel to fall in love is easier than trying to ask Belle to make arrangements to get Ariel back to the sea.
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series has a non-lethal variation in "Eggs for Calvin": the titular protagonist has to find five eggs hidden throughout town or else Hobbes and resident prankster Socrates will prank him. He manages to unwittingly jail two crooks in the process.
    • A more serious example would be much later, in "Our Solemn Hour"; Holographic Retro sets up an extremely hazardous maze that Calvin and Hobbes must escape from within an hour, or else they'll be crushed by the ceiling. They just barely make it, and then Calvin and Retro have their showdown...
  • Never an explicit issue, but in the Doctor Who/Resident Evil crossover Dangerous Tenant, the Doctor acknowledges that he has a time limit even before Wesker sets up his plans, as he has to get the TARDIS back to his universe before the recharging ship overloads and explodes.
  • Halloween Unspectacular: The story "The Eve of Battle", chapter 27 of the eighth collection, sets the stage for the Final Battle with PURITY. Simultaneously to this, it's established that Galactus is on his way to destroy Earth, because he views a PURITY-controlled Earth as a threat to the rest of the universe. Upon informing the assembled heroes of this, the Silver Surfer states that they only have eight hours until his arrival, in which time they need to beat PURITY in order to change his mind and leave Earth alone.
  • The Final Battle of The Immortal Game becomes one of these as the heroes have to rush to defeat Titan before his free will-removing spell is finished and unleashed. Twilight Sparkle manages to disrupt the spell at the last minute by jumping into it, inadvertently giving herself the power to defeat Titan in the process.
  • Kazuichi Strangelove follows the protagonist in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where the Killing School Trip is rerun in the Neo World Program and he's the only one that remembers. While initially it seems that he has many chances, he soon learns that his classmate Nekomaru has a life-threatening heart disease. This sets up a timelimit for Kazuichi to end the loop before Nekomaru's body dies in the real world.
  • Sort of inverted in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. When the four finally find out why they've been returned to C'hou, they're told that the world will effectively end in a year unless the Black Tower falls. Everyone estimates that it will take six months to that full year to accomplish the task. This doesn't sit well with the four, as they were hoping to take no more than a month to do whatever it was they were supposed to do (because the timeflow of C'hou is 30 times faster than that of Earth, so they would only be gone a day if they took a month).
  • In the Star Trek fanfic Memories Born of Fire, McCoy has to make an antidote to the poison Kirk consumed in 6 hours or he will die. A second race begins when Kirk has an allergic reaction to something in the first antidote.
  • Misunderstandings: Due to a sabotage of one of Twilight's experiments, Peter's connection to Earth has been cut off, and the magic he has been draining will build up in that broken tube to the critical point after which Peter will explode, in at least three weeks time. Soon ponies start assembling in the Golden Oaks Library, and Twilight's own team of scientist are racing to find a solution.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, Shepard & Co. face two after boarding Farsight. The super-dreadnaught gets placed under remote lockdown which is defeated by rebooting the ship—leaving only a small window before everything comes back online. Then, Cortana is able to place a "hold" in the ship's memory to prevent an Explosive Leash of sorts from killing helpful clone soldiers created by Jakobs—meaning that the hackers and crackers have to figure out how to block the killswitch in exactly fifteen minutes. They succeed, but not due to Cortana.
  • In OSMU: Fanfiction Friction, Omar, Opal and Oswald all have five hours to find Orla in the forest on the island of Hy-Brasil before the island disappears for another seven years.
  • PMD: Another Perspective: The Rocket grunt has to finish her mission within five months, otherwise she won't be able to return to her original world.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Right from the beginning of the story, it's made clear that the Guards only have three months to guide the Mane Six in coming into their new powers and recharging the Elements of Harmony before something happens. We gets hints and bits of information about this, until we find out that it's referring to how long until the barrier spell over the Gates of Tartarus collapses, unleashing the armies of Nightmare Moon.
  • In one installment of the fan series Quantum Leap: The Virtual Seasons (appropriately called "... tick... tick... tick..."), Sam leaps into a hostage negotiator on the day of an infamous hostage situation which resulted in nine deaths via a bomb. The catch? Sam leapt in roughly half an hour before the explosion.
  • Happens a number of times in Seeing the Pattern, due to Pinkamina only receiving her final clue to the victim's identity on the day they are fated to die.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Angry Birds Movie 2: When the Birds and Pigs, in an uneasy alliance to stop the purple eagle Zeta, ex-girlfriend of Mighty Eagle, regroup inside her base and come up with a plan to stop her, they notice an electronic timer indicating that they only have ten minutes to carry it out before her ice cannon gets enough ammunition to destroy both of their islands.
  • Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus: Princess Annika has to build the Wand of Light and use it to defeat Wenlock before the sun sets on the third day and all his spells become permanent.
  • Barbie: Mariposa: There's only a matter of time for Mariposa to find the antidote and cure Queen Maribella before she dies from Henna's poison and Flutterfield becomes vulnerable to the Skeezites. The timer is not a clock; it's the Flutterfield lights extinguishing one by one.
  • Beauty and the Beast has an enchanted rose that serves as a countdown to how long the titular beast and his servants have until being trapped as a beast and Animate Inanimate Objects forever.
  • Brave: Merida must break a beastly curse she has accidentally released on her mother by "mending the bond torn by pride" before the second sunrise.
  • The final act of Chicken Run runs on this. With the Tweedys' pie machine damaged thanks to Ginger and Rocky, the chickens race to build themselves an airplane before Mr. Tweedy fixes the machine, complete with a montage of both parties working on their projects and performing similar actions.
  • Child of Kamiari Month: Kanna and her friends have to collect all the offerings from across Japan and deliver them to Izumo-taisha Shrine before 7:00 PM or disaster — revealed to be a massive hurricane — will strike Japan.
  • Coco: Miguel has until the next sunrise to receive a blessing from a former family member of his in the Land of the Dead so he can return home, otherwise he'll be trapped there forever. Héctor is also working against a time limit: he has until his daughter (the last person alive who remembers him) forgets him entirely, and is pretty sure that he won't last the night.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show: Kevin's pursuit against the Eds becomes this when he realizes that they're going to see Eddy's brother. If the Eds make it, it's game over; if Kevin finds himself there, he can expect to be mercilessly pummeled.
  • The second half of Frozen (2013) becomes this after Elsa strikes Anna's heart with ice magic. The countdown timer isn't a clock; it's Anna's hair.
  • In Help! I'm a Fish, a potion has turned the three main characters into fish, and if they don't take the antidote within 48 hours, they'll be stuck as fish forever.
  • Hotel Transylvania: Transformania: Johnny gets changed into a monster and Dracula into a human. After some time has passed between Drac and Johnny searching for a cure and Mavis and Ericka discovering the situation, Van Helsing learns that the monster transformations are unstable. Subjects will keep mutating, eventually becoming a mindless, rampaging kaiju.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): The spell that turns Ariel into a human only lasts for three days; to make it permanent, she needs to get Eric to kiss her (specifically, "the kiss of true love," per Ursula) before the third sunset.
  • In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Melody faces this dilemma. She made a deal with the devil with Morgana. While Melody was able to become a mermaid with Morgana’s magic, it would have only been temporary. This is why Morgana instructed Melody to find King Triton’s trident and give it to her before Morgana’s magic wore off and Melody would turn back into a human.
  • Millionaire Dogs: If the pets leave the house, they must return within 48 hours or their late owner's nephew and niece get the inheritance.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Twilight Sparkle has three days to retrieve her crown and Element of Magic from Sunset Shimmer in the human world and return to Equestria before the moon reaches its peak in the sky at the end of the third day, to which the gateway between worlds will close and she'll be stuck there for another thirty moons.
  • Osmosis Jones:
    • Thrax has a Self-Imposed Challenge to be the deadliest disease ever recorded in medical history. He's killed dozens of people in the past, each one faster than the previous, and by the time he gets to Frank, the protagonist of the live-action segment and whose body it takes place in, he plans on taking him down in less than 48 hours. He gloats to Jones near the end that his next target, Frank's daughter, Shane, will die even faster. His plans are cut short after Jones lures him onto Shane's fake eyelash and gets his claw stuck in it, which then falls into a bottle of rubbing alcohol, killing him.
    • The heroes, conversely, have a Race Against The Thermometer: if they don't defeat Thrax before Frank's core body temperature hits lethal levels, the entire "city" of sentient cells dies.
  • In Shrek Forever After, after a deal with Rumplestiltskin leaves him trapped in a world where he was never born, Shrek has twenty-four hours to break the Magically-Binding Contract or else he will cease to exist and the change to the world will become permanent.
  • In The Simpsons Movie, a bomb is lowered into the giant glass dome, which will blow up in exactly 15 minutes. Then Homer kicks the bomb on the ground, making it fall over and causing the remaining time to halve.
  • The first half of Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie deals with Sonic and Tails racing to Eggman Land/Robotropolis to stop its core from exploding, which is on an Exact Time to Failure timer. Unbeknownst to them, it's actually a trap for Hyper Metal Sonic to copy Sonic's life force data.
  • Lampshaded in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut when the Mole looks at his watch when they arrive at the USO show. Under the time is the label "Act Three: The Ticking Clock".
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: SpongeBob and Patrick have six days to retrieve King Neptune's crown from Shell City and bring it back, otherwise he'll fry Mr. Krabs to death.note 
  • Steven Universe: The Movie: Spinel's Injector will kill all organic life on Earth in 41 hours if not stopped.
  • Spoofed in Superman: Red Son. Batman kidnaps Wonder Woman and gives Superman ten seconds to find her—he blasts into their midst in eight, and Batman expresses disappointment as he was betting on six.
  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: At the will reading, Benny learns he must wait for 48 hours before he can inherit a fortune. Should anything happen to him during that time, the evil butler and his dog would get it. Subverted in that the urgency doesn't start until 24 hours have passed and Snerdly sets a plan into motion that nearly works. Also subverted in that the original heiress returned and the benefactress faked her death to trick the butler into revealing his true colors.
  • Turning Red: In the climax, Mei and her family have to race to organize and conduct the sealing ritual again, in order to re-seal Ming's panda and return her to normal before the red moon ends.
  • Zootopia: Judy Hopps is given 48 hours to find the missing Mr. Otterton or she'll have to resign — despite the entire police force having little success with any of their own missing mammal cases over the past two weeks.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Against a Crooked Sky, Sam is told that there's only one way he can prevent Charlotte's execution: by running across a plain and climbing a giant mesa during the short period of time that the shadow of a statue falls across a vein of gold that runs under it, at which point he will be executed in her place. He's just a second too late, but she ends up suffering a Disney Death anyway.
  • In Aliens, the "Big Computer That Controls Everything" announces that the coolant system has shut down and the reactors will overheat and explode. Bishop estimates that they have approximately four hours before that, and later on the computer inside the reactor starts giving them a precise countdown.
  • Back to the Future franchise:
    • Back to the Future has Doc Brown and Marty racing in spite of setbacks to implement their plan to cross a certain point at the right speed at the very moment a lightning bolt hits.
    • Back to the Future Part III has a race against distance, in which the protagonists much reach a certain speed before their train topples off into a ravine.
  • Downplayed in Battle of the Bulge. Hessler is told that because of shortages of fuel he has 50 hours to reach the River Meuse, and the German command bunker has a special 50 hour clock. When the attack starts we see the clock start ticking, but after that we hear very little about the deadline and never see the clock again. Instead the dramatic tension is over the German efforts to capture fuel supplies from their American opponents.
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: Rufus explains that the clock in San Dimas is always running, so Bill and Ted have only one day of their subjective time to travel back in time to get various historical figures for their history report, or Ted will be shipped off to military school in Alaska.
  • David from A Boy Called Po is an engineer working on a game-changing airplane. The board points out that he's been working on the plane for two years with no concrete results, and gives him thirty days to finish the design. He fails to finish the plane on time and is fired, although he does eventually finish it much later.
  • Brewster's Millions (1985): Monty Brewster will inherit $300 million dollars, but only if he can completely waste $30 million dollars in 30 days. It comes down to a confrontation in the office of the lawyers overseeing the bequest, as a clock loudly ticks down to midnight on the final day.
  • Lampshaded thoroughly in Capricorn One. Elliot Gould's heroic journalist is on the verge of being pulled away from the scoop of the century by his editor. Bargaining for time, he argues that "the assignment editor is supposed to say "you've got 48 hours, kids, and you'd better come up with something good or it's going to be your neck!" That's what he's supposed to say, I saw it in a movie." The editor then gives him 24 hours, "Not forty-eight. I saw the movie too; it was twenty-four."
  • The Cell: A serial killer has locked his latest victim in a timed death trap, so our heroes have a limited amount of time to find her before she drowns. The film occasionally cuts to her in the death trap, with the water level always rising.
  • Commando: John Matrix has 11 hours to figure out where the bad guy's base is and get to it to rescue his daughter before the plane he was supposed to be on arrives in Val Verde to perform his assassination mission on the president and they realize he's not on it (and learn the dead henchman he disguised as sleeping through the flight before jumping off the plane during its takeoff). He "technically" fails, in that Arius learns he wasn't on the plane before he can get to his daughter...but also while Matrix is infiltrating the island base and about to start blowing buildings up and shooting mooks left and right (and Jenny manages to escape her cell before her execution and avoid recapture until her father catches up), so it works out.
  • The Crossing: George Washington has until December 31 to win some kind of victory so that his troops will have any motivation to re-enlist and continue The American Revolution.
  • Cut to the Chase: Travis, the Man's enforcer, gives Max 24 hours to come up with the money he owes... or else (this was after having threatened that he'd cut off his finger).
  • The Dark Crystal: Jen has to get the shard back into the Crystal before the Great Conjunction ends (the read-along storybook version also says this Great Conjunction is the last, but the movie contradicts this). The narration indicates that both the Mystics and Skeksis are dying, suggesting that they won't survive until the next conjunction.
  • The climax of Dark Star revolves around three astronauts trying to stop the detonation sequence of a bomb after it wouldn't drop out of the space ship's bomb bay. They succeed to stop the timer at 00:00:00, but later it goes off anyway.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel: General Zod delivers an ominous message when his spaceship arrives in Earth's orbit. Then he addresses the lone Kryptonian on the planet. "To Kal-El, I say this: Surrender within 24 hours, or watch this world suffer the consequences." In the climax, Superman must stop the World Engine's Hostile Terraforming before it causes the extinction of the human race.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: While holding Martha Kent hostage, Lex Luthor gives Superman a one hour ultimatum to kill Batman and bring him his head. If he doesn't, Martha dies. The fight between Superman and Batman ends without a casualty, and Batman locates and manages to curb stomp Luthor's mooks and save Martha just in time.
    • Wonder Woman (2017): In the climax, Steve Trevor and the other humans of his team must stop Ludendorff's secret weapon (a plane filled with Deadly Gas with London as target) before it takes off while Diana deals with Ares.
    • Zack Snyder's Justice League: The Justice League must stop Steppenwolf before the Unity of the Mother Boxes is completed. They fail at first, but Flash is able to undo this via Speed Force Time Travel.
  • Similar to the games the films are based on, Dead Rising: Watchtower and Dead Rising: Endgame places its protagonists under a time crunch. In the first film, it's a race against time to reveal the truth of the East Mission outbreak before the city is firebombed; while in the sequel, it's a race against time to stop a Government Conspiracy from killing over a million citizens.
  • Subverted in Donnie Darko when the titular protagonist learns of the countdown very early in the movie, but does very little to stop it, only morosely goes through life waiting for it to happen.
    Frank: 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, 12 seconds. That is when the world will end.
  • Snake in Escape from New York had 24 hours to save the President, or the tiny explosives they injected him with would detonate, open up his jugular veins, and kill him.
  • Eve of Destruction: After getting into a car crash, EVE's internal nuclear device is activated and set to go off within 24 hours. Col. Jim McQuade is pissed that his superiors didn't inform him of this before sending him out to catch her. The race to disarm her gets even more dire when EVE's rogue moves take her into New York City in the climax, endangering millions of people.
  • Fantastic Voyage: A defecting scientist develops a blood clot in his brain after almost being assassinated and a submarine crew consisting of surgeons, a CIA Agent and a navy officer has 60 minutes to travel into his body and remove the clot before the shrink effect wears off.
  • The premise of Fermat's Room. The Walls Are Closing In on the group of scientists. The only way to suspend the deadly trap is by solving mathematical riddles.
  • The ending of Ferris Bueller's Day Off involves Ferris running through a series of obstacles as he tries to beat his family back to his house.
  • The Fifth Element: The main characters have 48 hours before the Great Evil clashes against the Earth. Zorg also gives such an ultimatum to one of his underlings, and the President is even stricter, often stating a firm "You have twenty seconds to" explain/complete/whatever it is he's telling you to do.
    Cornelius: You have 48 hours. That's the length of time it needs to adapt itself to our living conditions.
    President: And then?
    Cornelius: And then it will be too late.
  • Flash Gordon (1980): Flash only has a limited amount to time to stop Emperor Ming before the Moon crashes into the Earth. This is mentioned periodically throughout the movie and has a timed countdown at the end.
    Dale Arden: Flash! Flash I love you but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!
  • In the climax of The Fly (1986), a two-minute countdown is set to culminate in Seth/Brundlefly's fusion program merging him, Veronica, and their unborn child into one entity via the telepods. In a twist on this trope, with thirty seconds to go Stathis manages to shoot out the cords connecting Veronica's pod to the others, saving her. Enraged, Brundlefly smashes the window of his pod open, but the clock reaches zero before he's completely out of it. Not only is he teleported, but the computer merges him with broken pieces of his pod.
  • Fly Away Home: As Amy and her father prepare to lead their rescued geese south for the winter, her uncle finds a bird sanctuary that's a prime location. However, the sanctuary has been abandoned by wild birds, and an agreement is made to turn the land over to a developer, with the caveat that he can only take possession if no birds arrive by sundown on November 1st. The rest of the movie is spent trying to get the geese from Ontario to the sanctuary in North Carolina before the deadline expires.
  • Lampshaded in Galaxy Quest when Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver fight their way through numerous obstacles to the "Big Red Button" which stops the explosion and press it with 17 seconds left ... only to see it continue to count down, eventually to stop with one second left ... because that was a requirement of this trope.
  • A variation is used in the film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. In the film, Godzilla himself becomes something of a ticking nuclear time bomb as he's quickly going to explode/meltdown as soon as his heart reaches critical mass. The human characters even measure how high his body temperature is before he goes critical.
  • Sheriff Will Kane has roughly one hour to raise a posse to confront notorious villain Frank Miller before Miller's train arrives at High Noon. He doesn't.
  • In Highway to Hell, if Charlie and Rachel don't escape Hell within 24 hours, they'll be stuck there for eternity.
  • In The Hot Chick, Jessica steals a pair of earrings, misplaces one of them and ends up switching bodies with a man named Clive. Jessica is informed that if she doesn't find the missing earring before the full moon ends, then she'll be permanently stuck in Clive's body.
  • Used in numerous James Bond films:
    • In Goldfinger, Goldfinger's dirty bomb is defused at 0-0-7 seconds on the clock.
    • In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond has to stop two stolen nuclear missile submarines from launching their missiles at noon.
    • In Octopussy, Bond has to race from East Germany to an American air base in West Germany to stop a warhead from exploding at 3:45 pm.
    • In Tomorrow Never Dies, James Bond has 48 hours to stop a global war from starting.
    • In Spectre, Bond has three minutes to rescue Madeleine from the rigged MI6 headquarters.
  • Johnny Mnemonic: Although this trope is intended to be a central part of the film's plot, it is never properly utilized to escalate tension or generate any increasing sense of urgency as the story approaches its climax. Johnny is supposed to be facing a 24-hour deadline to remove all the computer data from his head, or else it will kill him. However, nothing is ever done to inform the viewer of how much time is remaining for Johnny to complete his task as the story plays out. Whenever anybody (or anything) refers to a specific deadline, the full 24 hours is always restated no matter how much time may have (or should have) actually passed, and after the Street Preacher is introduced roughly halfway through the movie, a given timeframe is never brought up again.
  • In The Killing Room (2009), the protagonists are locked in a room and told that only one of them will get out alive. They're given a test question that requires a numerical answer, and the person whose answer is furthest from the correct one will be killed. A digital clock counts down the time until they have to give the answer. There's actually plenty of time to think up the answer (several hours), as the point is to put as much psychological pressure on the occupants as possible and seeing the clock adds to this.
  • In a twist, it is the heroes' unfortunate actions in L: change the WorLd that are time-sensitive. Maki is the one who injected herself with a lethal virus to begin with, and it has to be cured before it becomes active or she could kill innocent bystanders. L likewise has 23 more days to live after writing his own name in the Death Note to catch Kira and has to get the new problem solved before he dies.
  • "You have thirteen hours in which to solve the Labyrinth before your baby brother...becomes one of us forever. Such a pity..."
  • Les Visiteurs: Bastille Day: 12th century knight Godefroy and his squire Jacquouille, who are stuck at the time of The French Revolution due to a Time Travel mishap in the previous film, must travel back to their century as fast as possible, otherwise they will die from the tumors that grow on them and old age.
  • A common plot element in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man, Tony has a week to build a Jericho missile for the Ten Rings. He uses it instead to build his Mark 1 armor.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap and his allies have minutes in which to sabotage the Project Insight helicarriers before they reach operational altitude and begin their mission for HYDRA.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, Ross gives Tony 36 hours to bring in Cap, Falcon, and Barnes.
  • Subverted in Matrimony's Speed Limit. Fraunie receives a telegram informing him that he will receive a large inheritance, but only if he gets married by 12 noon that very day. He goes on a frantic search for a woman, any woman, who will marry him by noon. What he doesn't know is that the telegram was a fake, sent by his girlfriend in a Zany Scheme to get him to marry her.
  • In Midnight Run, bounty hunter Robert De Niro has to get fugitive Charles Grodin back to Los Angeles by midnight on Friday or bondsman Joe Pantoliano loses the bond.
  • In Mission: Impossible III, Ethan Hunt gets 48 hours to complete a Hostage for MacGuffin scheme.
  • Moon has the imminent arrival of a maintenance crew that our hero knows is just a couple of hitmen.
  • A Most Violent Year: Abel has 30 days to secure $1.5 million to purchase the shipping terminal. He very nearly fails, due to Julian's breakdown and the charges levelled against his company.
  • In Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Mr. and Mrs. Smith had orders from their respective assassin contracting firms to kill the other Smith in forty-eight hours before said companies kill them both.
  • In The Naked Gun, Frank Drebin has 48 hours to prove that Nordberg is innocent.
  • A New York Christmas Wedding: Jennifer has until the end of Christmas to experience what could have been and see her real life differently.
  • In the 1948 film adaptation of On the Town, the three protagonists have 24 hours of liberty (6 AM to 6 AM) to see all of New York City. Occasionally, the time scrolls across the bottom of the screen in the manner of the original 1928 news "zipper" mounted on One Times Square.
  • Outland: In the space-mining colony on Io, a large digital clock is in the bar showing the exact time-till-arrival of the weekly supply shuttle. When word gets out that two hitmen are arriving on the 12:00 shuttle to kill the protagonist, the clock takes on the role of the Ticking Countdown of Doom. The protagonist has actually completed his preparations hours before; the deadline only serves to rack up his (and the audience's) tension.
  • Quantum Apocalypse is a Disaster Movie about a strangelet moving towards Earth. Scientists only have a few days to figure out how to stop it before it destroys the planet.
  • Run Lola Run: Lola's boyfriend Manny has a meeting with some mobsters, and he just lost the money he was supposed to hand off to them. The meeting's in twenty minutes, so Lola and Manny have that long to get the money back.
  • In The Shallows, Nancy gets stranded on a rock far from shore with a Threatening Shark circling her. To make matters worse, the rock is low enough in the water that it's submerged during high tide. If she can't get off before then, she'll be fair game for the shark.
  • Happens literally in the climax of Sherlock Holmes (2009). Lord Blackwood announces that when Big Ben chimes twelve, everyone in Parliament who's not part of his cult will die. In the sewers below, Holmes and Watson are struggling with a Giant Mook while Irene Adler tries to defuse a Steampunk Deadly Gas device.
  • Among the many moments in Space Mutiny, the mutineers give The Captain 12 hours to surrender after seizing his daughter as a hostage. One would think 12 minutes would be enough — how long does it take to surrender? The extra time only encourages our hero to launch a rescue mission.
  • When a dying Khan activates the Genesis device in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it begins a four-minute countdown before it detonates. This is the amount of time Spock has to get down to Enterprise's engine room and repair the warp drive (which would subject him to a lethal dose of radiation) so that the ship can escape the blast radius.
  • Star Wars:
    • During the final battle in A New Hope, the Rebel pilots have 15 minutes to destroy the Death Star before it opens fire on their base.
    • In The Rise of Skywalker, the Resistance must discover how to go to Exegol and stop the Final Order fleet from launching in 16 hours.
  • In Stardust, Tristan has a week to travel into a neighboring magical universe and bring back a fallen star to Victoria before her birthday, or she'll marry Humphrey instead of him. Ironically, he eventually leaves the heroine, his actual true love, after making love to her so he can let Victoria down within that time frame — leading to the heroine's instant near-suicidal depression, as she doesn't realize he's going to (literally) dump his former crush and come back to her the same day.
  • The Swap: After Ellie's mom assigns her a new phone, both she and Jack have until 12:00 noon on the day of Ellie's gymnastics show and Jack's hockey tournament to swap back their bodies before Ellie's old phone aka her totem loses its service, and the swap will become permanent.
  • The hero of Taken is told, based on prior experience, that he has 96 hours to find his kidnapped daughter before the trail runs cold.
  • In Tiny Christmas, Emma and Barkley have to find Elfhonzo's goggles to return to normal size before Christmas Morning, or they'll remain shrunken forever.
  • WarGames: David hacks into WOPR, NORAD's Master Computer, believing he'd gotten into a video game company computer systems and mistakes the "Global Thermonuclear War" tactical simulation as one of the company's games. However, WOPR's AI, Joshua, is unable to tell fiction from reality, and David has 52 hours to stop it from launching NORAD's nuclear missiles and starting World War III.
  • In The Wave (2015), once the geologists on guard sound the alarm in Geiranger, everyone in town has 10 minutes to get the hell outta dodge before a 300ft Giant Wall of Watery Doom splashes down on them. Kristian and Idun set their clocks accordingly. Also, this scenario will eventually happen.
  • The X-Files: Fight the Future: Agent Mulder has 96 hours to reach specific coordinates in Antarctica, find Agent Scully in a giant spacecraft and administer her with a weak vaccine against the virus she's been infected with.


By Author:

  • Isaac Asimov:
  • A recurring theme in the various mythological novels by Rick Riordan. Often justified, as various times (solstices, equinoxes, sunrise, sunset, birthdays) have supernatural power.
    • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
      • The Lightning Thief: they must find the Master Bolt before the summer solstice (this particular deadline was set by Zeus).
      • The Sea of Monsters: Variant - they must find the Golden Fleece before the camp's barriers fail completely, and it is overrun by monsters.
      • The Titan's Curse: they must free Artemis in time for her to attend the annual conference of the gods (held on the winter solstice), so she can push for the gods to prepare for war against the Titans.
      • The Battle of the Labyrinth: Variant — they must find Daedalus before Luke's army can find Ariadne's String and use it to attack camp via the Labyrinth. They fail, and the camp is attacked. However, Grover uses the power of Pan to help win the battle.
      • Subverted in The Last Olympian: the final battle does go down on Percy's Dangerous 16th Birthday, as per the prophecy, but that's fate itself at work.
    • The Heroes of Olympus:
      • The Lost Hero: Two that nearly coincide. Piper has until noon on the winter solstice to rescue her dad, and they all have until sundown on the same day to free Hera.
      • Before the Feast of Fortuna! Before Nico suffocates! Before Percy and Annabeth die to thousands of the worst monsters in history!
    • The Kane Chronicles:
      • The Red Pyramid: They must stop Set before dawn on his birthday.
      • In the same novel, they can't use portals during the Demon Days. As Set is in Phoenix, Arizona, and they start off in Egypt, they are in a bit of a hurry. They make it to America just in time, and get to Phoenix by other means.
      • The Throne of Fire: Apophis will rise on the spring equinox, as will Ra.
      • The Serpent's Shadow: Apophis plans to destroy the world on the autumn equinox, so the heroes have to get the key to defeating him before then.

By Work:

  • In Apparatus Infernum, the murder mystery of the first book involves a daughter of a noble House, meaning that there is very strong political pressure on the Criminal Investigation Division to produce a result immediately. Da Chief, Gunwood, tells Mikani and Ritsuko that if they can't solve the case by a certain deadline, he'll have to replace them, even though he knows it isn't really their fault.
  • Older Than Radio: Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. The original novel, the multiple film adaptations, the Michael Palin travelogue in which Palin attempts to duplicate Phileas Fogg's trip.
  • Brewster's Millions, in which the protagonist will inherit seven million dollars, but only if he can completely waste one million dollars in one year.
  • Most versions of "Cinderella" have the stipulation that Cinderella has until midnight to return home from the ball.
  • The Dark Tower (2004): Before laying siege to Algul Siento, Roland and his ka-tet are informed by the very thing the psychics who live there are trying to break that they've almost succeeded, anywhere between three days and a week at the most, and once it breaks, that's it for all existence.
  • One Discworld book says that the Theocracy of Muntab uses a calendar that counts down instead of up. What happens after isn't specified, that it's probably not a good idea to hang around to see what all the fuss is about is.
  • In The Emperor's Soul, Shai must complete her task to Forge a new soul for the Emperor before the 99-day mourning period for his wife is over, because his advisers don't want anybody else to find out that he was rendered comatose.
  • Goblins in the Castle: Goblins on the Prowl, once the giant stone toad of Toad-in-a-Cage Castle is turned back to flesh, the spell that'll turn it back into a human must be cast before the next full moon.
  • The Golden Hamster Saga: In Freddy's Final Quest, the protagonists are sent back in time to twelfth-century Assyria by Signor Goldoni in order to collect some of his ancestor's genetic material so he can cure his son's genetic blood disease. They are accompanied by the robotic hamster Tjark, who has a time machine built into him. His batteries only last 48 hours, so the protagonists need to finish their mission in that amount of time or they'll be stuck in the Middle Ages forever. In practice their time limit ends up being closer to one day because Tjark is forced to burn hours' worth of energy traveling and breaking his fall from a table, and because Tjark expends more energy under stress like any other animal. They finally complete their mission and make it back to the present with less than a second to spare.
  • In Gone, Sam and Caine have eleven days to figure out how to not disappear when they turn fifteen.
  • In Michael Connelly's books, the 48-hour rule is frequently cited by LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.
    Bosch: The chances of clearing a homicide diminish by almost half each day if you don't solve it in the first forty-eight hours.
  • In the Harry Potter books:
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort gives Harry an hour to turn himself in so as to stop the fighting, during the Final Battle at Hogwarts.
    • Whereas in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is told he only has an hour to complete the Second Task of the tournament or the hostages will not be returned—and afterward, everyone laughs at him for having taken that part of the instructions seriously.
  • In Death: Whitney gives Eve 36 hours to either book Roarke or rule him out as a suspect. Later, when Eve summons Roarke to answer questions, she says he has 48 hours to show up or the Station Guard will escort him. He complies.
  • In the Dramatic Audio version of the Left Behind book Glorious Appearing, a Global Community agent threatens the network broadcast crew to cut the signal of Chaim Rosenzweig's message by giving each member, starting from the top brass down, sixty seconds to get the signal cut before they are murdered.
  • Les Voyageurs Sans Souci: Played light-heartedly. Sébastien and Agathe's schoolmate Rosalie has been kidnapped by the queen of all birds, who will only release Rosalie if her old friend Golden Eagle -who has gone missing- returns home. Sébastien and Agathe receive a message from Rosalie stating that they have one week to find Golden Eagle or else...she will be unable to celebrate her birthday at home, which would be terrible. Both kids are not amused at Rosalie's self-centeredness, but they carry their quest out anyway.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: After Edmund has sneaked out of the Beavers' house to betray them to the White Witch, everybody else realises that they must hurry to get away before the Witch comes to find them. Mrs Beaver seems in no particular hurry, and packs slowly and methodically, to the frustration of everybody else. She even lightly berates them for it later when they are camping in an uncomfortable place, telling them that if they hadn't fussed so much, she would have brought some pillows. Later, it is a race between the Beavers' party and the White Witch to reach the Stone Table first. As the snow melts, the Beavers have an advantage, as they are walking, and the Witch is on a sledge.
  • One Louis L'Amour short story has a rancher finishing a cattle drive, and getting bank notes needed to pay off the evil Loan Shark, only to find out that the bank recently failed, causing him to spend the rest of his story riding hundreds of miles cross-country, trying to beat a steamboat (carrying news of the banks collapse) to the banks other branch so he can cash in the note and get his money before they find out about the collapse.
  • The Mummy Monster Game:
    • In book 1, while a specific time is not given, "The Mummy Monster Game" notes that the longer the player takes, the harder the challenges become, and the more monsters are released.
    • In book 3, "The Mummy Rescue Mission" is a real-time game where the players have seventy-two hours to rescue a woman archeologist before her air runs out and she suffocates to death.
  • The last phase of Aucasis’ rescue in Murderess, when their Invisibility Potion is about to wear off.
  • Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime: In "Special Delivery," Bass has to pick up a truckload of toys five hundred miles away and make it back to River City by ten a.m. Christmas morning, a task which he succeeds at despite the delay of a hijacking attempt.
  • Oto × Maho: Kanata imposes a race against the clock on himself, transforming to start fighting, then telling the student council president on the other side of the door to the roof to count to 10, then open the door. If he does not kill the enemy in ten seconds, then transform back to his normal form, his job as a Magical Girl will be exposed.
  • The Passage: It's a minor moment that is wrapped up in a couple of chapters, but this occurs when the rebels in The Haven tell Gadgeteer Genius Michael about the approaching Human Sacrifice and reveal the broken-down vehicle they hope to escape in.
    Michael: It could take me weeks to find the problem.
    Billie: We don't have weeks.
    Michael: How long have you been working on this thing?
    Gus: Four years, give or take.
    Michael: So how much time do I have?
    Billie: About three hours.
  • In the Past Doctor Adventures novel City at World's End, when the TARDIS arrives on Sarath, the Doctor soon establishes that he has just over a month to replace the TARDIS key and help the natives get their escape ship in working order before the decaying moon crashes into Sarath; the situation escalates when the moon fractures in advance of the predicted schedule, leaving them with eight hours to get everything together and off the planet.
  • In The Priory Of The Orange Tree, the prophecy that the Nameless One—a massive, world-ending dragon—will escape imprisonment after one thousand years is rapidly approaching its due date. The protagonists realize that because this prediction was made on the day of his defeat and meant exactly one thousand years, they can cross-reference the historical records of different nations to pin down an exact calendar date.
  • The central gimmick of the old novel series Race Against Time, although the actual reason for the title is a bit lame: a kid and his retired super spy-ish uncle are called to help some old friend of the uncle's who's gotten in trouble, and they have to solve the mystery/defeat the villain and then get home again before the kid's parents get home from a business trip and find out what they've been up to.
  • Red Thread Sisters: In Chapter 19, Wen finds that her best friend Shu Ling's legal age is actually a year older than her assumed age, and that she only has until Shu Ling's birthday about six weeks later to find her an adoptive family before she ages out of being adoptable under national policy. She succeeds a week before the timer runs out, but it takes another few days to coax Shu Ling into accepting the adoption offer.
  • Seven Days in May: The US President believes the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is plotting a military coup under cover of a mobilisation exercise to be held in seven days. Because the general is highly popular, the President can't dismiss him without proof, so his staff have that long to find evidence of the conspiracy.
  • In Shatterbelt, by the time Tracy figures out what her premonitions have been warning her about, she has just half an hour to act. She manages to save the visitors to Mr. Bailey's mine and the people in St. Bernard's Park before the earthquake hits.
  • In The Silver Chair, when the Green Lady lures the trio to Harfang, she tells them that they close their doors a few hours after noon and open to none. This makes them hurry there all the more, and completely distracts them from their original mission set by Aslan.
  • Star Wars Legends: During Galaxy of Fear: The Doomsday Ship the computer announces that the engines will overload in fifteen minutes. While our heroes reach an Escape Pod, they leave it to help a Kid Amid the Chaos, and then a Jerkass locks them in a closet for trying to get in front of him — when they get out there are seconds left and the escape pods have all left. Fortunately, the ship's engines don't overload.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River:
    • The sandbag dike on top of Hoover Dam needs to be finished before the floodwaters from Lake Powell reach it.
    • And Davis Dam must be repaired after the explosion before it fails or waters that are being dumped from Hoover Dam overtop it.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: A rookie witch named Emily Holland infiltrates an evil Wizarding School with the hope of undermining it and thus making up for her previous errors. However, while there she also has to maintain an acceptable performance or else get expelled. After a one-month period passes without her showing significant improvement, her mentor tells her that if she doesn't advance to the next tier of students within another month, she's dead.
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: To prevent the war she's foretold to cause, Alia has to go to the tomb of Helen of Troy and bathe in the waters of the spring before the sun sets on the first day of the Hekatombaion, leaving the group with very little time.
  • The title of Zero Minus Ten comes from tha fact that James Bond has only ten days to investigate the truth behind the assasinations in Hong Kong before it handed back to China after decades of British rule.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • Game Shows: Although game shows don't have actual villains — unless you count the producers who may deny a contestant a prize — many give contestants very short time limits (usually 30 seconds or less) to complete a task. Other game shows require a contestant to complete a task in less time than the shortest time posted by a previous contestant. Some examples:
    • Beat the Clock (duh!)
    • Countdown, as the name suggests, revolves around a time limit for the contestants to find their words or work out their sums.
    • The Crystal Maze: If you solve the puzzle in the allotted time, you get a crystal. If you don't, you won't. If you're still in the cell when time expires, you will be locked in it.
    • Interceptor gives its contestants 40 minutes to find each others' keys and meet up with each other while avoiding the Interceptor.
    • Jeopardy! (The light bars above the contestants' podiums, and that annoying music they play during Final Jeopardy)
    • The Price Is Right has several games with actual ticking clocks.
    • The Pyramid series. 30 seconds to describe items in a subject with the winner getting 60 seconds to name six subjects.
    • Truth or Consequences also had many ticking clock games and contests.
    • Whew! actually did have a Gauntlet of Villains for its end game against the clock.
  • Reality TV (aka, game shows on steroids): A few reality TV shows have contestants (or teams of contestants) race against the times of their competitors:

By Series:

  • 24. Always.
  • The CBS newsmagazine 48 Hours was titled in that manner as the stories covered by the show literally took place over a two-day period. The show kept the title even though it now covers long-term True Crime stories.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Endgame", the liberation fleet must destroy the Earth orbital defense system redirected at the planet's surface by the insane governor before it opens fire.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • Happens in an episode of Battlestar Galactica (1978). Strangely, the writers got confused and the meaning of the timer changed mid-plot.
    • The first episode (post-miniseries-pilot) of Battlestar Galactica (2003) features a recurring countdown of exactly 33 minutes between Cylon attacks on the colonial fleet.
  • In The Bill, because Reg Hollis is dumb enough to ask a prisoner a question pertinent to their inquires while he's being detained, everyone suddenly has a lot less time than expected to get the required evidence or release him.
  • A second season Bones episode has Booth and Brennan racing the clock to find evidence to stop an execution. The event is postponed, but the guy actually was guilty and later ended up escaping prison.
  • In the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "48 Hours", after making an arrest with too little proof, Detective Jake Peralta has 48 hours to get the evidence or the perp goes free, forcing the Nine-nine to work over the weekend.
    Captain Holt: Detective Peralta has made a collar in the jewelry store heist. He didn't get sufficient evidence to make it stick, so we have the next 48 hours to fix his mistake.
  • In the Cases of the 1st Department episode "48 Hours", Capt. Martin Prazak arrests a suspect even though he was instructed only to follow him and find out his identity. However, Prazak knew that he was about to attack his next victim, a frail old guy who has just collected his monthly pension from the post office. The suspect has no ID and refuses to speak. His fingerprints are not in the Czech database. They can hold him only for two days without telling him the charges and they have in fact less than 48 hours because they lost some time in transporting him to the station and they have to prepare his release with a public prosecutor in advance. Their only lead is a train ticket from Kladno to Prague and the fact that he might be a foreigner from eastern Europe as he "might have hissed something in Russian or Slovak" when he was being arrested.
  • In Chernobyl, Legasov's solution for the reactor fire is to smother it with sand and boron. He's aware that this will "create problems of its own" because the sand and boron will combine with the fuel to form a sort of lava, but he estimates that they'll have a month to figure out how to solve it and it's critical to make the fire (with its gouts of radioactive smoke) stop. Nuclear physicist Ulana Khomyuk arrives at Chernobyl to tell him that he actually has three days because the bubbler pools may have been drained, but the emergency valves and fire hoses have refilled them, and if they aren't dealt with then then steam explosion will kill most of Eastern Europe.
  • The Collector has standardized deals with the Devil: For a period of ten years the client gets what he asked for. In the last 48 hours, the benefits of the deal (and sometimes other effects) will gradually disappear, and at their end his soul would be taken. Typically that's when the local debt collector would find him and give him a chance to go early. Almost every episode, the protagonist Morgan is allowed to help a client in his last 48 hours find redemption and be freed of his deal; once he makes contact with him, the countdown starts in his collector's cellphone, which zeroes on success. In "The Yogi", the title character lampshades how artificial the round numbers seem.
  • CSI: In "Invisible Evidence", a judge throws out all of the evidence against an accused rapist-murderer because a search warrant was not obtained to search the car where the evidence was found. Gil gets a 24 hour continuance for the team to gather new evidence. In a twist, a little over halfway through those 24 hours, the team's new evidence reveals that their suspect is innocent. 
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Brotherly Love", Blake is trying to unravel a case before the suspect is hanged...
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "42", the Doctor and Martha land on a spaceship which is going to crash into a sun in 42 minutes unless they can manage to repair it.
    • In "Last of the Time Lords", the Master activates a countdown clock to when his fleet of spaceships intended for universal conquest launches. Unfortunately for him, the Doctor knows all too well of his inability to resist ticking clocks, and he and Martha have timed their plan to use said clock against him.
    • At the climax of "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor has 20 minutes to locate Prisoner Zero or the Atraxi will destroy the Earth. To make things even more difficult, he doesn't have access to either the TARDIS or the sonic screwdriver.
  • The Equalizer.
    • As part of his usual Mind Screw tactics, Robert McCall gives a crime boss 24 hours to shut down his organisation or die. The man laughs this off, but finds himself subject to various other harassment tactics, including McCall ringing up to remind him how many hours he has left.
    • In "No Conscience", an innocent bystander is mistaken for a spy and tortured for the MacGuffin. Realising he's going to be killed if he doesn't think of something, he comes up with the 48-hour trope himself. The villains give him 24 hours, but eventually agree to 36. Then he has to hire McCall (who points out that 12 hours have already passed by the time they interview their first witness) to find out what they wanted in the first place.
  • Father Brown: In "The Shadow of the Scaffold", Father Brown has three days (as authorities wait for the results of her pregnancy test to come back) to solve a murder before the woman convicted of the crime hangs.
  • The First 48 on A&E is a living and breathing example, following homicide detectives attempting to get a suspect booked and charged in that time frame.
  • Fringe:
    • In the season 1 episode "Ability", Olivia disarms a timed bomb on the top of a skyscraper by turning out a set of small lights only by staring at them, succeeding with two seconds left on the timer.
    • The season 4 episode "Worlds Apart" is a bit of an unusual example in two respects. First, the heroes still have roughly 8 minutes left on the clock when they sever the connection between the universes to stop an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Second, they could have done that at any time — they just weren't thrilled about the side effects, so they wait on doing it until it becomes clear that it's the only viable option.
  • The Greatest American Hero: In "Operation: Spoilsport", Ralph and Bill are informed by the supersuit-bestowing aliens that within a couple of days, the eponymous secret government protocol will be maliciously activated, setting off World War III.
  • Heroes plays with the trope in season two — Matt Parkman is given this limit, but only because he mind-commanded Da Chief into doing so.
  • In the pilot of Justified, Raylan has given a Miami gangster 24 hours to leave town or be killed; in the teaser, we find the gangster has not taken him seriously, which proves a big mistake.
  • Law & Order uses the final "can only be held so long" variant frequently, along with the statute of limitations.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • In "Countdown", a girl is kidnapped by a pedophile who always kills his victims after three days. The detectives have to figure out who he is and find him before the girl runs out of time.
    • A later episode involves the abduction of a woman with a high-risk pregnancy, and a doctor tells them they only have about 36 hours to find her before she and the baby could both die. They ultimately find her in time to save the baby, but the mother ends up suffering Death by Childbirth shortly thereafter.
  • Legends of the Superheroes: The first special "The Challenge" had the Justice League scrambling to find and deactivate Dr. Sivana's doomsday device within one hour.
  • In Lost, according to Ms. Hawking, Ben has only 70 hours to reunite the Oceanic 6 and (presumably) return to the island or "God help us all."
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Nightmares", an interrogator gives MacGyver a slow-acting poison, and tells him that if he doesn't get the antidote within six hours, his death will be inevitable. There is a prominently displayed countdown timer. MacGyver gets the antidote with two and a half minutes to spare, and makes a full recovery. It's never explained how they were able to state the time limit so exactly — the interrogator says that the poison was calibrated specially for MacGyver, but that just changes the question to how they got the medical information about MacGyver they'd need for the calibration.
  • Married... with Children: A radio game offered Peggy a prize if she got Al to return home that day for a nooner (sex anytime within the first hour after noon).
  • M*A*S*H: In the Real Time episode "Life Time", the surgeons have to perform a critical operation in the time frame of the episode. This is further dramatized by a ticking clock counter superposed on the lower right corner of the screen.
  • Midnight Caller: In "Baby Chase", a woman kidnaps a diabetic baby who has only a few days to live without insulin. The kidnapper makes the time limit even shorter by feeding her sugary formula. By the time she's finally rescued, she's on the verge of a coma.
  • Mission: Impossible uses this quite a bit, though one writer took it a bit too far by writing no fewer than three different episodes in which the team has to prevent something that's going to happen "in two days at 4:00".
  • NCIS:
    • In the episode "Defiance", the daughter of a foreign diplomat is kidnapped from NCIS custody, and Vance gives Gibbs' team 48 hours to find her before demanding DiNozzo's and McGee's badges.
    • Lampshaded in another episode. A group of marines in a training exercise find an armed bomb with about 3 minutes left on the clock. 10 seconds later, the bomb goes off, and the Gunnery Sgt. reminds them of Evil Overlord Rule #15: Never assume that a bomb's timer is accurate.
  • One episode of Night Court manages to use the trope. Harry and the court have been rushing to finish 200 cases in a single six-hour shift (because of a federal order to dismiss any cases not arraigned by midnight), but his last case proves a problem. While it's a felony case he can just send to a grand jury, the suspect is refusing to waive his right to have his charges read, hoping the clock runs out and he gets off. But then Dan saves the day by going Motor Mouth and reading off the entire rap sheet with 20 seconds to spare. Everyone's so stunned that Dan has to yell to Harry, "MY GOD, MAN! GAVEL!" to make him officially adjourn the court before midnight hit.
  • Parodied in The Office (US), kind of, when Michael apparently misunderstands the threat:
    Michael: [being blamed for an obscene watermark on a paper order; making a video] If I could leave you with one thought, remember... it wasn't me. They're trying to make me an escape goat. If I am fired, I swear to God, that every single piece of copier paper in this town is going to have the F-word on it. The F-word. You have one day.
    Pam: One day for what?
    Michael: That's... They always give an ultimatum.
    Pam: ...Okay.
  • Quantum Leap: In the third season episode "Last Dance Before an Execution", Sam leaps into a death row inmate right in the middle of being strapped into the electric chair, only to be immediately granted a 48 hour stay of execution. Sam and Al quickly determine they are there to prove the innocence of the leapee and his partner in regard to the murder of a priest (which landed them on death row). Except it turns out that the leapee was guilty all along. The accomplice is innocent, and Sam only manages to prove this when he's back in the chair, and only leaps out the literal second the switch is flipped.
  • Queen Sugar: The main problem facing the farm in the first season is that the siblings need to get a harvest ready before it's too late for anything to grow and the farm loses too much money.
  • In Quincy, M.E., Quincy once promises to get back to a committee within 36 hours. Queried by an assistant, he declares himself tired of the usual 48.
  • The main segment of Retro Game Master is Shinya Arino trying to clear a game within the recording day. Arino can push a bit further if he feels confident, but at midnight the staff will literally put the wall clock on his desk and forbid using Continues.
  • Robin Hood features an episode where the Sheriff goes missing, and must be found by sunset or Nottingham will be destroyed.
  • Most episodes of Scorpion involve a Ticking Clock for the mostly-genius cast to race against. Examples include an incoming tsunami, a plane flying during a blackout, and a particle collider warming up to make a black hole.
  • In Scrubs, Laverne is annoyed when Colin Farrell's character is ousted from the hospital:
    Laverne: You have one day to get us another gorgeous Irishman.
    The Todd: One day. [off JD's and Turk's looks] What? The Todd appreciates hot, regardless of gender.
  • Happens a lot on The Shield, but notably in season 7, when almost all of Vic's arc is trying to secure himself a job and immunity deal before a scheduled review board fires him from the LAPD.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • In "48 Hours", a member of SG-1 gets trapped in the Stargate's data buffer and Stargate Command shuts down operations to avoid overwriting that buffer. The rest of the team is given 48 hours to investigate the matter before normal Stargate operations resume.
      • On another occasion, Ba'al demands that Stargate Command hand over a prisoner within one day. O'Neill mocks the trope by asking if Ba'al means one Earth day. Ba'al just rolls his eyes and terminates the transmission.
      • Lampshaded in the Troperiffic "200" when the Cloudcuckoolander movie producer takes a sarcastic comment about having a ticking clock on the screen seriously.
      • "The Shroud" has Daniel Jackson claim that he's set up a plan that could allow SG-1 to destroy current adversaries the Ori with the Sangraal, a weapon devised by Merlin and constructed while his consciousness had been transferred into Daniel's body. However, Daniel claims that he only has a day or so to put his plan into action before he will lose the enhancements that would allow him to operate the weapon, and the rest of the team are uncertain if they can trust Daniel or if he has been converted to their enemies' side after spending weeks in captivity. He is ultimately revealed to be on their side and the weapon deployed as intended.
    • Stargate Atlantis has "38 Minutes", in which a puddle jumper gets stuck in a Stargate, and 38 minutes is the normal amount of time before the gate shuts down of its own accord, destroying anything that hasn't made it all the way through.
    • This is a key aspect of the premise of Stargate Universe — the main cast does not have full control of the Destiny, and it only stops at a given location for a few hours at a time before jumping back into FTL. Anyone not on board the ship at this time is left behind.
  • Star Trek:
    • Inverted in Star Trek: The Original Series when the good guys essentially give the bad guys the ultimatum "Back off or we blow ourselves — and you — to smithereens" and then start the clock ticking. This returns in every subsequent series; threatening to self-destruct seems to be a fairly common tactic among Starfleet captains.
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Extreme Measures", the subject of a Mind Probe is dying, and Bashir and O'Brien have to extract vital information on an antidote before he dies — with the added pressure that if they don't break the mind link before the onset of brain death, they'll die too. (The subject actually tries to use this against them in the final minutes, trying to tempt them to stay so this will happen, but O'Brien is savvy enough to spot the trap.)
  • Stitchers: "Stitching" (inserting a living person's consciousness into the memories of a deceased person) is inherently one of these, since there's only a short time before the deceased brain loses viability.
  • An episode of Supernatural features "ghost sickness", which kills its victims in 48 hours after causing them to fear everything. Like cats.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Whether it's an innocent man about to be executed until the real murderer is caught (Season 2's "An Innocent Man"), a state senator's daughter kidnapped by bank robbers or children aboard a school bus following a field trip, along with driver CD and chaperone Alex, being buried alive (Season 4's "Deadline" and Season 5's "Cyclone", respectively), Alex and Trivette being locked in a tank slowly filling up with cold water until they drown (Season 7's "No Way Out"), a madman threatening to release anthrax on the City of Dallas within 48 hours (Season 8's "Countdown"), or a billionaire's college-bound daughter kidnapped and about to be murdered by her traitorous bodyguard within six hours on a live feed over the internet (Season 9's "6 Hours"), this happens from time to time for the titular Ranger in his many assignments.
  • Without a Trace: As a veteran agent tells a rookie in the first episode, "Usually, after 48 hours, they're (the victim's) gone." From the moment the victim disappears and throughout the episode, the viewer is given a time stamp of how long they've been missing — ranging from 27 minutes to 4 days — to heighten the sense of urgency and the need to find them. This is explicitly cited in an episode where the Victim of the Week is found dead and an agent blasts his supervisor for pulling him off the case to focus on another one — "Twenty minutes. I missed her by twenty minutes. I wanted you to know that." Several other episodes make things even more urgent, with one victim needing to be found in time to stop an execution and others needing to be found because of medical issues.
  • The X-Files:
    • In "Beyond the Sea", the FBI and police have five days to find a pair of kidnapped teenagers who are tortured and will be found dead if the offender is not caught.
      Scully: That's a grim deadline.
    • In "731", Mulder doesn't have much time to separate a boxcar with an alien-human hybrid (or was it?) and a time bomb from the rest of the train. He also needs to find out the code to open the sealed door of the aforementioned boxcar.
    • In "S.R. 819", Mulder and Scully have one day to find out who poisoned Skinner and need to find a cure as well.

  • R&B singer Avant sings about how he has "4 Minutes" to patch things up with the lead woman. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it on time.
  • A rare music example - Madonna's hit "4 Minutes", and its accompanying video, both center around having "4 minutes to save the world"— with the video even having a countdown clock as a backdrop. (Never mind, of course, that the song lasts four seconds too long...)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Isaac Asimov's Robots: Once Kelden Amadiro, head of Spacertown, finds out about the attempted murder of Dr Fastolfe, he contacts the New York Police Commissioner, granting a 24-hour reprieve until they can apprehend the criminal. Once the time limit ends, he will be able to convince the Spacer worlds to take drastic military action against Earth.
  • Red Hand of Doom: The Red Hand operates on a timeline of roughly 65 days. At about 7 days into the adventure, the Red Hand begins its march into the vale from Cinder Hill. 12 days marks when they arrive at Drellin's Ferry and 42 days marks when they finally strike Brindol. This is meant to drive home to the players that they can't take their time searching for treasure, creating magic items or hanging out in taverns; dawdling for too long can lead to defeat. The heroes can also delay the Red Hand depending on actions taken such as destroying a bridge, recruiting allies and even enlisting the aid of a forest giant.
  • Star Trek: A Klingon Challenge: The video acts as a countdown; players must win before the Enterprise makes it to Klingon space, or "Captain" Kavok wins.
  • Talisman: The "Lightbearers" Alternate Ending introduced in the Blood Moon expansion uses the Day/Night game mechanic to incorporate this trope. The players have a number of in-game days (varying according to the number of players) to cooperate in order to ensure that a player reaches the Crown of Command. If they manage to do so before time runs out, every player wins. However if no one has reached the Crown before night falls on the final day, everyone loses.

  • Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic gives Anne-Marie until the clock strikes 6 to find her own magic to believe in.
  • In the first act of Into the Woods, the witch gives the Baker and his wife three midnights' time to get the materials required to make a potion that will undo the curse the witch laid upon their family that prevents any children from being born.

    Video Games 


  • A lot of video games from the golden and silver ages in general had a countdown timer. It was seen as strange in 1995 when Yoshi's Island came out that there was no timer counting down from 400 or 300, which gamers were used to by this point. This was likely due to their historical origins in the arcades, where Race Against the Clock and Timed Mission was employed as an anti-hogging measure. The later games (made for home audiences) wanted to encourage exploration so did away with the timer except in specific circumstances.
  • A number of video games, particularly the Grand Theft Auto games or Wide-Open Sandbox Racing games, feature missions that are little more than pretty decorations for "get from Point A to Point B fast".
  • A staple of Racing Games is an event where you need to take a specific vehicle and complete a circuit under a certain amount of time. Examples include Burnout's "Burning Laps" or Split/Second's "Detonator" events (where not only are you against the clock but the course's Power Plays trigger ahead of you automatically).
  • A relatively obscure FMV murder mystery game gave you six hours to examine the crime scene, analyze the evidence and interview suspects. This was actually more like five hours, as the last hour was split between a press conference and confronting a suspect. The justification is that after six hours, either the trail will go cold, or the murderer will get away.

Specific Titles:

  • You carry a watch throughout Assault on Vampire Island and aim to finish the game before the night finishes.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: Stop the Rock! gives you 5 days to stop the rock — that is, solve seven science riddles to convince a rogue AI that humanity is worth saving from an oncoming asteroid.
  • In Cadenza 4: Fame, Theft and Murder Michael, as the victim of Grand Theft Me, has 24 hours to get his body back before the switch becomes permanent.
  • In "Episode 1: Threading" of Code 7, the Code 7 antivirus has to be deployed before contamination to be successful. Delivering the software to Earth is the most efficient solution, with a success rate of 87%, if done before arrival of Code 7. However, that arrival is in only 4 hours. Can you make it in time?
  • Dead Rising gives you three days (six hours real-life) before your helicopter comes back to pick Frank up, as per the latter's demand. Whether you're actually there for the rendezvous is but one of the deciding factors of what ending you get.
  • The Infocom game Deadline uses the tagline: "A locked door. A dead man. And 12 hours to solve the mystery."
  • Disney's Pocahontas: In Stage 4, the player must race against the clock to reach John Smith before the sunrise (represented by a sun slowly rising above the horizon on the top of the screen). In terms of the actual amount of time, you have a little over five minutes; the sun will start blazing (with the rays and outermost part animating) with about 15 seconds to go. Justified because in the film, Chief Powhatan sentences John Smith to die at sunrise following Kocoum's death, and Ratcliffe rallied the rest of the men to attack the village in retaliation, playing on their willingness to rescue John Smith. This also sets up a Non-Standard Game Over: if you don't make it, Pocahontas's village gets burned down.
  • The protagonists of Elemental Gearbolt have 48 hours of functionality. The time limit is due to the fact that they are corpses animated by Magitek.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Breakin' Da Rules gets a little more specific with this; Timmy, Cosmo, and Wanda have 49 and a half hours to get all the pages of Da Rules back together.
  • Ghost Trick has the time limit imposed on Sissel by Ray to find his killer by sunrise the following day (about twelve hours after he was shot) before his soul disappears. Subverted by the fact that the time limit was a trick to drive Sissel's actions forward before a certain event in the endgame occurred that would permanently screw up the timeline.
  • In Hidden Expedition 15: The Curse of Mithridates you have six days before fast-acting poison enters the local water supply.
  • I Have 1 Day, where you have 24 hours to regain your body.
  • In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, you are locked in a room with a bomb. You have to communicate with your friend verbally to defuse the bomb within a time limit. Failure to defuse the bomb within the time limit will make the bomb explode, taking you out with it.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: You have three days to save the world! At least you have the ability to go back in time, but at expense of some of your achievements. It also has a race against the clock beginning, where you have to get to the Ocarina of Time (atop a clock tower no less) in order to reset time before the moon falls. Afterwards you can reset time as much as you want. Each in-game hour is 45 seconds, though with the Ocarina you can also slow down time to 1/3 of its speed in the N64 version, and 1/2 in the 3DS version.
  • Life Is Strange: Max has a vision of a giant storm destroying Arcadia Bay at the start of Episode 1. Episode 1 ends with her having the same vision- but this time finding a newspaper that dates the storm as only 4 days away.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: The end of the known universe is coming in six days when Lightning begins her adventure, although Lightning can extend that deadline via gathering souls and feeding them to the World Tree, up to as much as letting the world run for an extra seven days after the world would have ordinarily ended.
  • In Lost Dimension, the main antagonist gives the world thirteen days before he plans to blow up the world's major cities with nuclear warheads.
  • In the Mass Effect 2 DLC mission "The Arrival", you have only 2 days, and later 2 hours, to destroy a gateway that will let the Eldritch Abomination/Starfish Aliens known as the Reapers reach the galaxy. Unlike a lot of time-sensitive video game plots, you have a live timer for this, and you get a special game over if it reaches zero. Given how it should only take the player roughly 20 minutes to complete the whole section meaning there'll be over an hour left, the only real way to let this happen is if they're specifically trying to let the timer run out, so it's also an example of Earn Your Bad Ending.
  • Metroid: Almost every game. Prime starts out with a seven-minute evacuation deadline after the first boss is killed (and falls into the power generator, which goes KABOOM!). Zero Mission has two, after killing Mother Brain and Mecha Ridley. Fusion has 3 (a lot for a game that can be completed in 4 hours or less), when the Core-X holding the Wide Beam appears (you only have to get there and kill it PLUS stop an overheat in the boiler room... in 6 minutes. Later, when you send a section of the station plummeting to the planet, you have a minute or so to escape... through a rather long path and finally, when you throw the station to the ground, you have approximately 3 minutes to get to the hangar, kill the final boss, wait for your ship, board it and fly away... which can easily take more time than given (killing the final boss can take a long time...)
  • Similarly from the Nintendo stable is Wario Land 4. EVERY level has you rescue a key ghost, and once you trigger its freedom there's a bomb threatening to blow up the stage your in, forcing Wario to run back to the level entrance (In a Remixed Level style) before it blows.
  • The plot of Nancy Drew game The Final Scene focuses on Nancy Drew having to find and save her missing friend, Maya, before the theatre is demolished in three days. You're forced to stay in the theatre until you've found all of the clues for the day.
  • Most levels in Pause Ahead have a time limit, but fortunately the player keeps moving at their current velocity and clips through everything except walls while paused, allowing the player to technically finish stages in only a second or less. Which is good, because eventually the game introduces stages with 1 second time limits and scatter hourglasses around that add only 10 seconds to the timer.
  • Pikmin:
    • The first game requires you to find and recover all of Olimar's ship parts within 30 in-game days; failure to do so will have Olimar make a last ditch effort to escape the planet, only for the expected result to occur. Only 25 of the 30 ship parts are actually mandatory, with the remaining ones only being required for the Golden Ending, but players aren't going to now which are optional in a first playthrough until Olimar has already interacted with it.
    • Pikmin 3 has the juice system, where you can continue to play until you've run out of rations, at which point you starve to death (and doom your home planet to the same fate in the process). Thankfully, the very fruits you require to make juice and stay alive is the main collectible in the game, meaning skilled players can end up with in-game weeks worth of the stuff.
  • Pokémon Ranger: In the second game, after The Dragon gets defeated at arround the halfway point, he orders his minions to unplug the Cargo Ship's drainage valve in order destroy all evidence of their crimes while he flies away with a brainwashed Gliscor (his minions are forced to swim). Due to all the stolen Pokémon left aboard, you and your boss Barlow refuse to abandon the ship to save yourselves, so you have four minutes to head down and plug up the valve to slow the sinking, while Barlow (whose styler was broken in the confrontation earlier) steers the ship to shore.
  • In Portal, when you go to defeat the Big Bad, you have 5 minutes to do it before the Big Bad releases deadly neurotoxin.
  • The final part of Portal 2 plays it for laughs: turns out that not only the whole Aperture Science complex is about to collapse in five minutes, but once the countdown clock malfunctions, it turns out that in case the Exact Time to Failure was impossible to determine, a back-up self destruction system would blow everything up in 60 seconds.
  • Prince of Persia was one of the first games to use this trope: Prince has only 60 minutes to save the princess. There is no count of lives, but every death results in respawning on the start of the level without restarting the timer.
  • In Professor Layton and the Last Specter, Police Chief Jakes gives Layton 24 hours to leave Misthallery when he starts getting close to uncovering the truth. He doesn't wait that long before sending goons after Layton and later, framing him for the specter attack.
  • Automated Simulations' Rescue at Rigel. "Sudden" Smith has 60 minutes to rescue 10 captives from an asteroid. The current time (counting up from 1) is always on the screen. Then, after it became Epyx, it released the hit Impossible Mission, which was both this and Timed Mission.
  • In Shaun White Skateboarding, the final missions are timed for 5 minutes to stop the Ministry before its propaganda signals flood the city.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Adventure 2 features Dr. Eggman giving the entire world 24 hours to surrender before he fires the Eclipse Cannon. Later on, his grandfather's program is set into action, destroying everything in 27 minutes, 53 seconds.
      • Before that, the entire Prison Island arc is centered around this. The Caper only has 30 minutes to be pulled off to get three Chaos Emeralds in G.U.N.'s possession. When Tails and Amy unwittingly interfere, Eggman orders Shadow to set the timers on the bombs to 15 minutes with Rouge deciding that 5 minutes is enough time to find the Emeralds and escape from the Security Bed. Shadow has 10 minutes to race through White Jungle and Sonic, when he learns of the bombs, has eight minutes to escape.
    • In Sonic Heroes, Dr. Eggman threatens to unleash his new weapon in 3 days unless Sonic and friends can stop him. It's really Metal Sonic, who sent Team Sonic on a wild goose chase to buy the time for the Egg Fleet to launch as well as get into the position to copy their data, forcing them to scramble in order to reach the fleet. Indeed, the countdown ends at the mid-point of the story. The other teams are technically a Spanner in the Works, but Metal takes the time to copy their data too (particularly Shadow's).
    • Sonic Forces also features a premise similar to the Sonic Heroes example above. The Resistance is given 3 days before Dr. Eggman destroys the entire world with an illusory sun projected by the Phantom Ruby.
  • In Stray Gods, Grace has only one week to prove her innocence before the pantheon executes her for Calliope's murder.
  • The plot of The Three Stooges is the Stooges must earn at least $5,000 to save the orphanage in 30 days, or it will be foreclosed on by the nasty banker: I. Fleecum.
  • In Touhou Eiyashou ~ Imperishable Night, the heroines all, by some unique means, stop the sun from rising, and race to find the cause of the corrupted moon before 5:00 AM.
  • In The World Ends with You, the Reaper's Game gives Players 7 days. They have to survive each day's challenge and the onslaught of Noise for that long. Each day, they're given a challenge, and a time limit in the form of a Timer printed on the palm of their hand in which to complete it. If nobody completes the challenge for that day, then everyone is erased. Megumi Kitaniji is also cursed with a Timer. His limit was one month, in which to attempt to win his Game with the Composer.
  • In XCOM2, if the alien complete the Avatar Project, it's Game Over for humanity. La Résistance is trying to prevent that. The alien make slow but steady progress on the Avatar Project... But they can be delayed by blowing up their facilities or accomplishing objectives.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles:
    • Happens in the final chapter of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The party finally meets the Architect, who explains that he is one half of a man named Klaus who was split in two by a science experiment gone wrong and that his power is holding up the giant space station floating above the game's setting Alrest. This is a major problem because the other half of Klaus is due for an express ticket to hell courtesy of Shulk and his companions, the Architect's life force is tied to his other half, and once he goes down the space station goes with him and wipes out all life on Alrest for good measure. Therefore, you have to rush to knock Malos out of Artifice Aion so you can take it for yourself and use it to destroy the space station.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles X: The big number at the top of BLADE Tower isn't arbitrary: it's a countdown indicating how much energy the Lifehold Core has. If the heroes don't reach the Core and activate its secondary energy generator before it reaches zero, the mimeosomes (Robotic bodies housing the humans' souls) will shut down, and bye-bye humanity. While the residents of New LA do know they have a time limit, only a select few know the meaning behind the number, to prevent widespread panic.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney, the initial trial system calls for a verdict to be handed down within three days of deliberations. These days need not be consecutive (e.g. the two trial days in case 4 of Dual Destinies happen on December 16th and 20th), but the verdict must be decided on or before the third day. While this rule is still in place in-universe, only the first game has cases which use all three days; later games limit it to one or two days for better pacing.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, nine abducted people (including the Player Character) have 9 hours to escape a ship that looks a lot like the Titanic before it sinks. Ultimately subverted: the place you all were in wasn't even a ship and there was no life-endangering situation to begin with. It was just a lie made up by the kidnapper, Zero, so you would end up in the right place at the right time to save her life in the past (it's confusing even in context).

  • Aurora (2019): The first part of the fight against Tynan is based on this. Because Tynan is flooding the entire city of Zuurith in order to inspire fear in all the world, the protagonists all have to scramble to save everyone and/or slow down his onslaught long enough to be able to fight him directly.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Agatha comes to Paris to research a way out of her current predicaments, only to learn that thanks to her family's antics the Master will only allow her three days in his city. He used to issue a blanket ban for her family, but thanks to her father and uncle's turn towards good he allows them to earn visitation time. Agatha halting an attempt to hijack the city's infrastructure only bought her six hours, she inherited the rest of the time.
    • In the side-story "Ivo Sharktooth, Private Jager", the winners' trophy for a prestigious race is found to be missing just after the racers set off, and bad things will happen if it's not found in time to be presented at the end of the race. Fortunately, it's the annual Mechanicsburg Harvest Festival Snail Race, and the snails take four days to complete the course.
  • Homestuck: Nearly every time you see a countdown clock, you can be sure that a meteor is heading towards that clock, which is a pretty big impetus to get the hell out of wherever you are by whatever means necessary. The game seems to like throwing meteors at things. Oh, and there's that one countdown to the destruction of an entire universe and the creation of a sun the size of two of them.
  • Word of God is that the fifth book of The Order of the Stick had this theme. With Big Bad Xykon's phylactery lost, his forces were stuck in Azure City until they found it, while the Order raced to find the next gate for the Snarl before the villains teleported to itnote . Unfortunately, thanks to several interferences, including the Linear Guild and a Lotus-Eater Machine, by the time the heroes secured the gate, Xykon was on his way and the only option they had left was to destroy it.
  • In Sailor Moon Cosmos Arc the Sailor Senshi have to fly to reach the portal to Elysian before sundown, or the curse Servant Chaos put on them will take effect and they'll turn human, drowning in the ocean. They can't just Sailor Teleport because their powers had stagnated from lack of use.

    Web Originals 
  • Played for Black Comedy in Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice. The claymation Cowboy Cop has to save a hostage who is being systematically kicked in the balls. Chuck saves the hostage on the 249th groin kick, only to knock them out himself with a final punch when the hostage pats him on the shoulder.
    Criminal: You know, it's a little known scientific fact that if you kick a man in the nuts 250 times, his balls come out of his nose. The clock is ticking, and we just started kicking!
  • One Minute Fly: Each mainline installment revolves around a fly attempting to lead as fulfilling of a life as possible within one minute.
  • In Worm, Coil gives Skitter a time limit to defeat Dragon's suits, agreeing to release Dinah if she can accomplish it.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: You could almost make a Drinking Game out of the times Commander Walsh used "you have twenty-four hours" to the Galaxy Rangers.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: The episode "The Countdown" starts off as this: Gumball and Darwin race against time to arrive at school or they will be expelled; but then Gumball accidentally breaks the clock on-screen, causing time to stand still. The rest goes downhill from there.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: In "Switcheroo", Jake and Haley switch bodies through the use of a Magic Mirror, and when Huntsboys #88 and #89 steal it, they have to get it back so they can switch back into their proper bodies by sunset, or else they will be stuck in each others' bodies forever.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, we see an example of one of the longer races against time. There's a comet coming at the end of the summer that will give the Fire Benders incredible powers, enough to completely burn down the Earth Kingdom. So, yeah, Aang, you got till then to defeat the Fire Nation. Good luck! He loses the race, though he and his friends end up defeating the Fire Nation at the zenith of their power anyway. Fortunately, firebenders getting comet-enhanced power means Aang will benefit from the comet too, and all the more reason he needed to master firebending before then.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In "The Clock King", the Time Bomb that will suck all the air from the vault Batman is trapped has a countdown of 15:00:00. Batman escapes with 00:03:00 left.
    • In "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't you Rich?", the Riddler kidnaps his former boss, Daniel Mockridge, out of revenge for him profiting off of his video game The Riddle of the Minotaur and then firing him. In doing so, he has replicated a real-life maze based on the video game at a local amusement park filled with lethal traps and riddles. One such trap is the Minotaur robot at the very end, which the Riddler programmed to murder Mockridge at exactly 4:30 AM, which gives Batman and Robin less than ten minutes to run through the Minotaur's labyrinth and find him before he is killed.
  • Beetlejuice: In "Neitherworld's Least Wanted", Beetlejuice is tricked by a group of his fiercest enemies into using his powers of Literal Metaphor to say "I'm coming apart at the seams", which makes him literally fall to pieces. Lydia and BJ's head have to gather the missing parts from the far corners of the Neitherworld before sundown, when Beetlejuice will dissolve away into nothing. It's not a case of Exact Time to Failure, either, as near the end of the episode Beetlejuice dissolves into barely-mobile goo when he gets dangerously close to the deadline.
  • Big City Greens:
    • In "Cricket Versus", Cricket has until the sun sets to complete his Rite of Passage by wrestling a wild animal and pinning it for three seconds, or he won't be a Green anymore.
    • In "Parade Day", Cricket has to return to Big Coffee before his 15-minute break ends, or Gloria will fire him.
    • In "Elevator Action", Gloria can only afford ten minutes on her parking meter; she has until the meter expires to return her apartment key otherwise her car will be towed.
    • In "Green Greens", Tilly and Bill have to get to the e-waste center to recycle the florescent lightbulb they found before it closes at 3:00.
    • In "Long Goodbye", both Remy and Alice have to be home before 6:00; the former for his welcome home dinner, the latter to sign a permit for the café with Gloria before the man issuing it retires.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In the episode "Heat Wave", Dr. Blight sets up a small-scale greenhouse effect over Hope Island, where the Planeteers live in between their missions. Due to synchronization, as the greenhouse effect starts destroying the island, Gaia gets increasingly sick and weak. Hence, the Planeteers must stop Blight and find a way to help Gaia before the air pollution kills her.
  • CatDog's Halloween Episode "CatDogula" has Dog, later the citizens of Nearburg, being bitten by Peruvian Vampire Ticks, and Cat has eight minutes to find the cure before the clock strikes the twelfth chime at midnight or those cursed will be vampires forever.
  • Central Park: In "Live It Up Tonight", when Elwood reveals he threw away a receipt that's need for a surprise audit, the auditor, Anita, plans on reporting this to Mayor Whitebottom immediately so she doesn't miss her salsa class. Owen tells her that he and Paige will go to Brooklyn to get a copy of the receipt and return in one hour so she doesn't miss her class. They're unable to make it in time but Birdie and Elwood managed to stall her long enough for Owen and Paige to return in time with the receipt.
  • Danny Phantom: Freakshow gives the main trio three days to get all the gems for his Infinity Gauntlet or their family dies. Why three days? Because it's dramatic.
  • Dora the Explorer:
    • In "Meet Diego!", Dora, Boots, and Diego have only a matter of time to save Baby Jaguar before he falls over the waterfall.
    • In "Rescue, Rescue, Rescue!", Dora and Boots have to hurry and save Baby Jaguar, Isa, and Benny before Baby Jaguar falls into the prickers and thorns, Isa gets attacked by the sand ants, and the Gooey Geyser goes kersploosh with Benny still on it.
    • In "Catch the Babies", Dora and her family have to catch the twins riding in their baby carriage before they roll into the Gooey Geyser.
    • In "Dora' Fairytale Adventure", Dora only has until the stone wall's last leaf falls off to become a true princess and save Sleeping Boots.
    • In "Pirate Treasure Hunt", Dora, Boots, Pirate Pig, and Little Pig have to find the Monkey's Treasure before the sun sets when it sinks underwater and disappears forever.
    • In "Dora and Perrito to the Rescue!" Dora has until Boots falls over the waterfall to save him from Big River.
  • In the Detentionaire episode "Welcome to Factory Island", the amount of time the characters have before the factory explodes is cheerfully announced by a chipper computer system. "Quick update: no rush, but it is ten minutes 'till meltdown. Just saying!"
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Will Work for Ed", Rolf (as Ed's Mean Boss) demanded that Ed peel a shed full of potatoes in an hour while promising termination should Ed not peel the potatoes on time.
  • Fillmore!: The episode "Masterstroke of Malevolence" has the titular hall monitor, Ingrid, O'Farrell and several of their classmates go on a Class Trip to a museum, and when a painting is defaced, they have 20 minutes to find out who did it before the ink dries.
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Roswell that Ends Well":
    Leela: No problem. The ship's fixed except for the cup holder and I think I can have that operational within 10 hours.
    Farnsworth: You've got 8!
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • At the end of "The Halls of Time", Billy and Irwin accidentally put theirs, Mandy's, and Grim's hourglasses back upside down, causing them to age backwards, so they have to hurry back to the titular Halls of Time to turn them right side up before the sand runs out and they disappear completely. They all fail.
    • In "Jeffy's Web", Jeff lays eggs, and as a result has only 36 hours to live. The episode ends with Grim prolonging Jeff’s life by adding more sand to his hourglass.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • The episode "24 Hours to Live", that's how much time Arnold is given before the ultimate fight with the class bully Harold. While the countdown isn't shown, Helga constantly shows up throughout the episode, yelling "Only <time remaining> until you die!" at Arnold.
    • In the movie, Arnold and Gerald have two days (48 hours) to stop the evil land developer Scheck, who seeks to avenge his ancestors who suffered a humiliating defeat in the Revolutionary War, from demolishing their neighborhood and putting up a shopping mall in its place. Technically they originally had a month's worth of time at the very start of the movie, but by the time they hit on the final and best chance they have, the timer's decreased to this point.
  • In an unfinished episode of Invader Zim, appropriately named "Ten Minutes to Doom", Dib manages to knock Zim's PAK off of him. This triggers a ten-minute countdown which would have appeared in the top left corner of the screen for the rest of the episode. What's it for? Well, apparently Zim can't live for longer than ten minutes without his PAK.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures:
    • In "Escape to Questworld", Jonny, Jessie and Hadji have to get Surd to deactivate the release of his nerve gas, because their parents' protective suits will lose their effectiveness in exactly 22 hours.
    • Jonny and Jessie enter a virtual reality game and it turns out Surd infected it with a virus and they cannot leave it alive without a password set by Surd. And, sure, there's a chronometer.
  • Justice League: "Wild Cards" takes place in Real Time as the League attempts to defuse several bombs that the Joker has placed throughout Las Vegas. The whole thing is being televised by the Joker, and there is even a countdown clock in the corner of the screen, set to 22 minutes, fifty-one seconds.
    Joker: And since every good suspense show needs a ticking clock, here's mine! [timer appears on screen] Oh, what where you expecting from me? A round number?
  • The Legend of Zelda (1989): In the episode "Sing for the Unicorn", King Harkinian is kidnapped by Ganon and put into a room with a bottomless pit. The pit gradually opens within one hour and unless Link and Zelda either find him and/or hand over the Triforce of Wisdom to Ganon within that timespan, he will be falling in the pit forever until the day he dies. Luckily, he is saved in time by Sing and her unicorn.
  • The Patrick Star Show: In "Tying the Klop-Knot", Bunny and Cecil's marriage is nullified. Squidina takes it upon herself to marry them again, lest Cecil return to his bachelor lifestyle and Bunny be taken back to Klopnod. She has to complete the wedding and all of its traditions before sundown.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • The 1998 series has the episode "Him Diddle Riddle", in which the girls have to solve a series of riddles set by "Him" within the time limit set for each riddle. They have to succeed or, otherwise, the Professor will have to pay... for the pancakes he ate at "Him"'s restaurant "Otto Time". It's all a bet between "Him" and the Professor.
    • The 2016 series has the min-short "Run, Blossom, Run", in which Blossom trying to make it to school on time to protect her perfect attendance when she oversleeps, but is hindered by her need to help the citizens of Townsville. She makes it at the last second, but it turns out to be Sunday.
  • In the ReBoot episode "Painted Windows", Hexadecimal steals a paint program and goes on a reality warping tear around Mainframe, turning the city into a deranged art project. Phong informs Bob that they need to undo all of the changes until the next system backup, or Hex's work will be permanent.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played with. Fat Tony gives Marge twenty-four hours to get the money she owes him. To prove that he's serious, she only has 12 hours.
    • This little exchange:
      Mr. Burns: [after having a conversation about something totally different] Oh, and Simpson? You must find the Jade Monkey before the next full moon.
      Smithers: Uh, sir, we found the Jade Monkey. It was in your glove compartment.
    • In "Homer at the Bat", Mr. Burns tells Smithers that he has 24 hours to find him major league baseball players for his team.
  • Sofia the First:
    • In "The Floating Palace", Queen Emmaline only gives Sofia until sundown to rescue Oona before the queen creates a storm with her trident to sink the floating palace and get Oona back, believing that that's where she's being held captive.
    • In "The Princess and the Protector", Sofia has until the sun sets to reach the Isle of Forever Frost and obtain her Enchantlet, or she won't be a Protector anymore.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode "Late Fees", Sonic has 7 minutes to return Amy's book to the library, or she'll have to pay late fees. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem for Sonic, but it seems that on this day, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. He still manages to make it just in time.
  • South Park:
    • Identified explicitly as "the ticking clock" by the candy store owner, who notes that it "works great in the movies" — perhaps a reference to another Trey Parker and Matt Stone production, Team America: World Police, which uses and calls attention to it.
    • In "The Snuke", which also parodies 24, Cartman's suspicions of a new Muslim student leads him to a terrorist plot against Hillary Clinton with a countdown.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: In "Senserely Yours, Babs", the third and final segment of "The ACME Acres Zone" Babs loses her sense of humor following a backfired experiment by Calamity Coyote to make her twice as funny, and if he and Hamton don't return it to Babs's body by sundown, she will be a nerd forever.
  • In Velma, the titular character is the prime suspect of the murder of her popular classmate Brenda. Velma is told that if she doesn't find the real perpetrator in 24 hours, she will end up getting arrested and put in jail.
  • Wheel Squad:
    • In "Souab's Deadline", Mr. Souab's business (he's a grocer) is slow, and his supplier gives him one week to pay his debt. Meanwhile, Enzo, the manager of World Mart, is given one week to bring 100% of its potential customers like he promised his plan would.
    • In "Close Call", Mr. Rotter, the owner of World Mart, gives the beauty parlor's owner three days to do the needed repairs or he'll not renew the rental contract. Being friends with the owner's daughter, his stepdaughter persuades him to extend the deadline.
  • In the fifth season of Winx Club, the Winx have one lunar cycle to earn the Sirenix transformation or they’ll lose their powers forever.
  • Wunschpunsch: Once the evil wizards cast the spell of the week, the heroes have seven hours to decipher and trigger the Curse Escape Clause or the spell's effects will be permanent.
  • Young Justice (2010):
    • In the Season One episode "Coldhearted", the young Queen Perdita of Vlatava desperately needed a heart transplant. The problem is that the only viable donator heart is in Boston while she is on the other side of the country in Seattle. To make matters worse, her evil uncle Count Vertigo, with the help of the Light, attempts to indirectly kill her by unleashing four flying ice fortresses that cover the entire North American Continent in a huge blizzard, thus preventing the hospitals from being able to transport the donator heart by air. Kid Flash has to use his Super-Speed to transport the heart 3000 miles (4800km) across the country before the heart is no longer viable in four hours. He manages to successfully transport the heart and save Perdita's life while also exposing Count Vertigo's attempted murder scheme, allowing Perdita to revoke his Diplomatic Immunity and place him under arrest.
    • The finale of Season Four revolves around the heroes attempting to stop General Zod, his wife Ursa, their son from the future Lor-Zod, and Ma'alefa'ak from freeing the other Kryptonian criminals from the Phantom Zone. Making things difficult is that they need to stop the Zods before they gain full Kryptonian powers. Their only salvation is the fact that it's nighttime, so the Zods are gaining powers at a slow rate, but in a few hours the sun will rise, which will greatly expedite the process and make it that much more difficult if not impossible to defeat them, especially the more Kryptonians they manage to bring out of the zone. The heroes successfully send all the criminals back into the zone with the exception of Ursa who escapes via the Eye of Ekron and Lor who manages to escape in a Time Sphere. Although it turns out the Time Sphere was pre-programmed by the New God Metron to travel back in time to the Kryptonite bomb that Lor used to try and kill Superboy several months ago on Mars. Lor ends up being killed by his own bomb while Superboy survives by being accidentally transported into the phantom zone by Phantom Girl.

    Real Life 
  • In a broad sense, human lives are always a race against the clock to accomplish everything we want to do before we eventually pass away one day.
  • Technically, this comes into play pretty much whenever a person needs to be somewhere by a specific time, but most people only feel the sense of racing the clock when there's a significant risk of not making it in time; if the person has plenty of time to get there, the deadline is more of a formality.
  • Real crimes have a much lower chance of being solved if a major break in the case is not made within the first 48 hours. That said, 48 hours is an arbitrary point that is used because it is a convenient amount of time (and close to the 50% mark). The odds of a case being solved start going down immediately if a major break isn't found. Think about it this way: what are the odds of a case being solved if they get some solid evidence in 30 seconds? Now what if that takes 5 years?
    • On a related note, most western police forces have a limited amount of time that they can hold a suspect before they must either formally charge them with a crime - potentially opening themselves up to discipline or even prosecution if they are wrong - or release them, in an effort to curb abuses of power and stop the "Round up the usual suspects" approach. The moment a suspect is arrested, the clock starts ticking... so Police working where these laws exist usually hold off the arrest to the last possible moment, in order to give themselves more time.
    • Similarly, some jurisdictions protect the right of a defendant to a speedy trial once the charge has been formally laid, to prevent people languishing in prison for months or years while the prosecutors drag their feet; if the defendant wants to, they can put the prosecutors on a clock to present their case. Of course, doing so also puts the defence on the same clock...
  • Places that have an Honor Code (and by extension Honor Boards/Committees). If Alice catches Bob lying, cheating, stealing, or tolerating, Alice will say verbatim "You have 48 hours," after which if Bob hasn't self-reported whatever he did to the Honor Board, Alice does it for him. If he was guilty, this usually results in a stricter punishment.
  • This is how YouTube is like when it comes to getting your channel monetized. A user has 12 months to obtain 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours with the risk of starting all over (either partially or entirely, depending on the amount of hours you rack up).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Race Against Time, Countdown Sequence, Clock Tower Finale, Ticking Clock


Sozin's Comet

Roku explains to Aang how 100 years ago, the Fire Nation used the incredible power of Sozin's Comet to begin the war with the other nations, and now, it'll return at the end of the summer, giving them the power to end the conflict once and for all. In other words, if Aang is to save the world, he must master all of the elements and defeat the Fire Lord within ten months.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / RaceAgainstTheClock

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