Follow TV Tropes


Reusable Lighter Toss

Go To

Need a light?

This trope does.

But this trope doesn't just need a light, it needs a light that stays lit when you toss it. Disposable lighters do not stay lit by design, as a safety measure. A cigarette, cigar, or flare just doesn't fit the scene (and the former two don't actually burn hot enough to ignite gasoline). A match might go out before it lights the fire. So what do you do? Zippo to the rescue! Zippo lighters have a distinctive design that was originally based on a similar Austrian lighter made by IMCO. It is "windproof" (as described by The Other Wiki) and uses a wick and oil to keep the flame lit until you close the top. They have been in use for decades, but this trope seems to be relatively new.

The main reason for this trope is about the mechanics of the device and how it can keep a flame while being tossed from the hand. While the character lighting the fire could use a disposable lighter, they would have to bend down to light the flammable item on fire, and that is just not cool. Often this trope is used for dramatic effect as well. While the character flicks open the lighter and snaps the flame into existence, he or she can do a bit of monologuing (and possibly light a smoke for themselves or their victim into the bargain). At the end of the scene, they toss the lighter, the flames begin, and often this leads to someone's death by fire, or a very big explosion. Equally often a character will do an Unflinching Walk as the flames rage behind them.

The main elements of this trope are:

  • A clearly reusable lighter - something you would purchase for a smoker as a gift for example.
  • A focus of some sort on the lighter - either by "camera" or character(s).
  • A disposal of the lighter - no character reacting to the lighter being "thrown away" (unless of course it gets Lampshaded).

This can often be a Death Trope as it can result in a person being lit on fire. Usually a subtrope of Rule of Cool.

Compare with Cigar-Fuse Lighting. May be combined with Hard-to-Light Fire, if the combustible material won't catch immediately or an alternative ignition-source fails to work first.

Vapor Trail sometimes leads into this.

Can often end with Man on Fire or Stuff Blowing Up

Please no Real Life examples. And Don't Try This at Home.

Note: As a potential Death Trope there may be spoilers ahead!


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Weaponized by Colonel Roy Mustang and his subordinate Havoc. After Lust manages to get his special ignition cloth gloves wet which he needs to use his fire alchemy by slicing the sprinkler system, Roy uses alchemy to separate hydrogen from water with his wet gloves. When the room where Lust is has filled with hydrogen, Havoc chucks his lighter in, causing a huge gas explosion. The lighter is of course ruined, which Havoc Lampshades about it being a gift from his ex-girlfriend afterwards.
  • In the Naruto anime, after Shikamaru managed to trap Hidan with lots of wires with explosive Paper Talismans attached (above a giant hole), he deals the final blow by throwing his dead mentor Asuma's zippo lighter (as a Revenge by Proxy), dealing nasty blow on Hidan's body and burying him. In the manga, he used a cigarette instead.
  • In Tokyo Shinobi Squad, Jin throws a lighter to ignite the gasoline leaking from Shuriken's car in the first chapter. It quickly explodes soon afterward, covering En's escape.

  • In Black Magick #1, the man who tries to set fire to Rowan does so by tossing his Zippo into a pool of gasoline he spread on the floor.
  • In Detective Comics #44, Harvey Bullock tosses a Zippo in to the spilled fuel from a wrecked vehicle to create an explosion to allow Detective Yip to fake her death.
  • In the Swords Of Sorrow: Lady Zorro and Black Sparrow one-shot, Black Sparrow lights her lighter and tosses it into a pool of gasoline leaking from a wrecked car to cause an explosion to allow her and Lady Zorro to escape from the demon Shard.
  • After Wolverine was attacked by a man with a flamethrower, his assailant gets his fuel tank pierced, leaving him in a puddle of fuel. Then the burned-but-regenerating Wolvie notes that even though his clothes were burned off, his Zippo still works...

  • ABCs of Death 2: In "I is for Invincible", the eldest son soaks his mother in gasoline and lights her up by throwing his Zippo into her lap.
  • In American Ultra the character of Laugher tosses gas on a car, then tosses a lit Zippo after it to "do something bad".note 
  • Art of the Dead: After dousing the collected canvases in paint thinner, Louis turns them into a bonfire by tossing a lit Zippo on top of them.
  • In Black Sheep (2007), the eponymous mutant sheep are ended via a toss of a Zippo and their own methane gas. It's an explosive combination.
  • Bloody Reunion: After dousing Mrs Park in gasoline, Myung-Ho is about to immolate her by tossing his Zippo on her when his tackled by the killer.
  • In The Blues Brothers Jake tries to use the car's cigarette lighter to light a cigarette, but it doesn't work, so he tosses the lighter out the window and uses his Zippo. He seems unimpressed by Elwood's car. Elwood then proves the car has value via speed and Jake returns with the line "Fix the cigarette lighter."
  • The Butchers: After being soaked in kerosene when Kip smashes a lantern on him, the Zodiac Killer is set alight when Daisy tosses Simon JB's lighter, who ignites it and drops it in the spilled fuel.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury tosses a Zippo to light up the remains of some evidence of his existence alive.
  • The Car: Road to Revenge: Almost as an afterthought, Talen tosses his lighter into the lap of the ADA who is soaked in alcohol, turning him into a Man on Fire.
  • The Crow. The titular character tosses a reusable lighter after killing one of his targets for vengeance. The flames make a crow outline.
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004): tossed to light a pool of gas to burn up some zombies. A classic.
  • One of the apes in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes tosses a zippo (taken from a human) to incite bad relations between apes and man.
  • In The Death of Stalin, Zhukov sets fire to Beria's petrol-soaked corpse by tossing his lighter on to it.
  • LL Cool J tosses a Zippo at a gas leaking stove to blow up a super smart shark in Deep Blue Sea. "You ate my bird."
  • Die Hard 2: As the jet carrying the treacherous soldiers and General Esperanza takes off, John McClane gets onto the wing and opens a gas tank valve so the plane leaves a trail of aviation fuel. After he returns to the ground, he pulls out a lighter, ignites it and drops it on the gas trail. The flame runs up the trail to the gas tank and causes the gas to explode, destroying the jet.
  • In The Dry, the killer douses himself in petrol and then drops his own Zippo in his lap in an attempt to commit suicide by Self-Immolation. Obviously, in this case, he felt he was never going to need the lighter again.
  • In Face/Off, Castor Troy burns all the evidence of anyone that knew about the "out of body experience" mission that Sean Archer is currently involved in by dousing everything (and everyone) in gas and tossing his gold Zippo on them.
  • In the film Fast Five, Dominic Toretto tosses a zippo on a stack of cash he covered in gas, in order to get a drug kingpin to move his cash from other safe houses.
  • First Blood: After knocking over some fuel pumps with his stolen truck, Rambo tosses a lighter on the puddle of gas.note 
  • Fright Night 2: New Blood: A young woman is attacked by a vampire at a deserted gas station who crawls on top of her car. She drops the fuel dispenser in the process, creating a pool of gasoline which she then sets on fire with a zippo lighter after running away.
  • In Hatchet, Ben tosses Misty's zippo at Victor Crowley to turn him into a Man on Fire after first dousing him in gasoline.
  • In Headless Horseman, Liam spreads gasoline around Rusk's garage and then lights it by tossing Doc's lighter inside.
  • At the end of Intruders, Anna lights J.P's lighter and tosses it into the house, which J.P. had earlier soaked in gasoline, to burn the whole thing to the ground.
  • In Jason Bourne, Nicky tosses a zippo to burn up some stuff. Though it is hard to actually see due to the "realism cam" aka shaky cam, you can hear that distinctive metal tink sound of a Zippo opening right before she tosses it.
  • In KickAss it appears it will be played straight, but is averted at the last second due to the man holding the lighter getting shot. Then it is averted again when another person lights the fuel up but seems to hang on to the lighter. It is a bit hard to see however since the lights are out and the only source of light in the scene is gun fire!
  • Tossed in Kill Me Three Times to set up a death.
  • Kong: Skull Island: During the fight in bone yard, Weaver tosses Conrad's lighter into the crater to ignite a gas pocket. Justified as it was the only source of fire she had available.
  • In Kung Fu Hustle, the leader of the Axe Gang dramatically holds up a lit lighter as he threatens to set a woman and her son on fire to punish the denizens of Pig Sty Alley. When nobody confesses to the earlier attack on one of the gang members, Brother Sum shrugs and tosses the lighter. The Coolie steps forward to catch the lighter in the air before it hits the gasoline, and he closes the lid on-screen to extinguish the flame.
  • Proud and Confident have one of Wah's first action scenes, a hostage standoff in a petrol station where a psychopath had drenched himself and a child in gasoline, and is about to drop an ignited Zippo lighter. Wah then shows the audience why he's one of the Special Forces' best by sniping the lighter as it's dropping, two feet above the gasoline pool.
  • Averted in The Punisher (2004) when the Mafia hood soaks the jetty Frank Castle is lying on up to the stairway, then just holds his gold-plated Zippo against the fuel to set it alight.
  • In Rambo IV, after killing all its occupants the previous night, Rambo returns to a pirate skiff, dumps all of its spare fuel across the deck, and then chucks a beat-up old Zippo onboard to destroy the boat.
  • In Showdown in Little Tokyo, Brandon Lee's character ends a fight that involves using the Miranda rights as Trash Talk by knocking his opponent into a vat, flicking on his lighter, saying "You have the right to be dead," and tossing the lighter in. It causes a violent explosion and sets off a chain reaction throughout the factory they're in.
  • In the movie Survivor (2015) a generic terrorist bad guy tosses a zippo on a soldier because he is not worth a ransom.
  • Tenet: After Sator crashes The Protagonist's car, he gives a little speech and then walks away, tossing a Zippo lighter onto the fuel trail leaking from the car. This blows the car up and The Protagonist nearly dies of hypothermia.
  • Transit: During a standoff with Marek, Robyn holds a lit Zippo over the pile of alcohol-soaked cash while he is holding a gun on her. When he attempts to call her bluff, she drops the lighter, setting fire to the money.
  • One of the characters in Twilight Saga: Eclipse tosses a lighter on a dead vampire to burn her up completely.
  • In 2 Fast 2 Furious Roman Pierce tosses a zippo on a henchmen's car after covering it in lighter fluid in order to stop the henchmen from following him and Brian.
  • At the beginning of 2 Guns, Stig (Mark Wahlberg) tosses a Zippo lighter in a diner to start a fire for a distraction.
  • In The Usual Suspects, a zippo is dropped on a police car covered in flammable fluid.
  • In The Windmill Massacre, Kurt sets fire to the mill by tossing Jennifer's lighter into the pool of petrol she had spread earlier. Justified as this is an act of desperation rather than any kind of gesture.
  • The protagonist of Without Remorse tosses a zippo on a fuel covered car to intimidate the occupant during an interrogation... inside the burning car.
  • Ice Cube finishes off The Dragon in xXx: State of the Union this way, tossing a lit Zippo through the stream of leaking flammable gas from a ruptured hose of some sort (they were fighting in a kitchen). Bonus points for both a Pre-Mortem One-Liner and using the method of death they claimed took out Gibbons - a gas explosion.
    Darius: Hillbilly! You need to lighten up! [tosses the lighter]

    Live Action TV 
  • Agatha Raisin: Used to ignite the Letterbox Arson that destroys James' cottage in "Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage": the arsonist pours fuel through the letterbox and then drops a lit Zippo through after.
  • In season 3 episode 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a zippo is left behind to blow up a building. Interesting note is it is not actually seen being dropped or tossed, but the camera focuses on it left on the floor to light the gas pool. Later in episode 6, of the same season, the scene is replayed and the zippo appears to be tossed, but again, not on camera.
  • Arrow
    • In the episode "Burned", a pyromaniac attempts to light someone on fire by tossing a lit zippo but Arrow in typical superhero fashion fires an arrow to deflect it. The poor lighter is still gone and never recovered.
    • In "Brothers and Sisters", Ricardo Diaz is murdered in his prison cell by being soaked with gasoline pumped through the sprinkler system, then someone throws a lit Zippo into the cell. He actually catches the lighter before it hits the ground, only for his hand and then the rest of his body to go up in flame.
  • In Season 2 of Burn Notice Fiona tosses a Zippo onto a bar covered in alcohol to burn everything in the episode Hot Spot.
    • Season 3 finale, Michael tosses a zippo into a van to get rid of... nothing important. tho Simon thinks he got rid of some FBI survailence
    • In season 4 episode 16 Dead or Alive, Mike tosses a lighter on a pre-set line of fuel to create a ring of fire.
    • In another 16th episode of season 5, Jesse casually tosses a zippo into a car filled with lighter fluid to destroy DNA evidence so a dirty banker can be "dead" and disappear.
    • In the second to last episode of the series, Fiona tosses a Zippo lighter like it is a simple match to burn down Michael's mom's place.
  • In the third episode of season one of Cloak & Dagger (2018) a cleaner tosses a combustible liquid on evidence and tosses a lighter to destroy everything. including a body the assassin created.
  • Cobra Kai: A biker tosses a lighter on a car covered in gas to make a point in Episode 8 of Season 1.
  • Constantine. In the first episode "Non Est Asylum", John Constantine tosses a lighter on a magic circle to help him trap a demon and send it back to hell. note 
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). In "Blue Crow Waltz", Vicious tortures and murders a member of the rival Neptune Cartel, setting the body on fire using this trope. It's a sign of his stupidity as the slow motion shot of the lighter flying through the air shows it's marked with the Syndicate crest! All Vicious has done is spark a Mob War.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "A Good Drop", the arsonist drops a lit cigarette lighter to ignite the Vapor Trail of sump oil he has spread over the farmer's paddock.
  • Father Brown: Used by the killer in "The Lair of the Libertines" to ignite a Vapor Trail that destroys a motorbike and nearly kills Lady Felecia and Mrs McCarthy.
  • FBI: Most Wanted: In "Dopesick", the leader of the outlaw biker gang who helps Dr. Brock disappear has Brock's car crushed and douses it in gasoline. He tosses a Zippo to one of his underlings who lights it and tosses it on to the car.
  • The Haunting of Hill House: Tossed to start a fire in episode 8, but the fire does not start despite there being a pool of gas.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): Will Simpson tosses a zippo with an American Flag on it to get rid of evidence including Oscar Clemons' dead body.
  • The Last of Us (2023): Theresa combines a few fire tropes as she drops her zippo in a puddle of fuel and explosives to immolate herself and as many infected as she can so they won't follow Joel and Ellie.
  • Motive: In "Abandoned", the killer uses a Zippo to ignite her Fiery Cover Up: turning on all the gas in the diner kitchen and dropping the lit Zippo on the floor. Justified as a) she hadn't planned the crime and needed a source of flame in a hurry, b) she knew exactly where the lighter was kept in the kitchen, and c) it wasn't her lighter.
  • Pennyworth: In episode 3 "Martha Kane" the character of Martha Kane is told by Alfred Pennyworth to count to 15 slowly and then light a trail of gas that is spilling from a truck he is driving. At the end of her count she lits the Zippo and drops it on the gas.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: In "Love Taps", a woman ties her husband to a chair and soaks him in gasoline before attempting to immolate him by tossing a lit Zippo on him. Fortunately, Korsak manages to catch the lighter while it is in the air.
  • Smallville
    • In "Slumber", the bad guy of the week tries to toss a reusable lighter to light a fire that would lead to a big explosion. Clark catches the lighter before it can light anything up.
    • In "Hereafter", the Monster of the Week tosses a Zippo to light up a big fire to burn himself as well as Lana and another girl from the school.
  • Stranger Things on Netflix has a zippo toss onto a pool of gas to light the monster on fire in the final episode of season 1 and a similar scene in the final episode of season 2 with a bigger pool of gas.
  • On Supernatural the brothers use salt, lighter fluid, and a disposable Zippo so often this show might just be the Trope Codifier. They do this to properly dispose of the creatures they kill so that they don't come back. In more recent seasons they seem to be using matches more often, but typically they do so by lighting the entire book on fire and lobbing it. Perhaps it's still cheaper than buying dozens of lighters, since we never see them fishing around in the remains for the lighters.
    • After a number of seasons of using a book of matches instead, season 13 episode one ends with a heartfelt moment and Dean following this trope to the letter as he tosses a zippo on a funeral pyre for Rule of Drama.
    • and tho it is less often seen - as body clean up seems to be mostly "off camera" after so many seasons establishing the concept - when they do show a body being burned, the series seems to have returned to the Zippo for the last seasons, right up to one last toss in the series finale.
    • It's also lampshaded in a very meta episode where they meet a couple of cosplayers dressed as the boys and enlist their help in burning the body. One of them has a lot of trouble getting the lighter to stay lit and complains that Dean (who he thinks is a fictional character in-universe) always manages to get the stupid lighter lit on the first try.
  • The fifth season of True Blood: In the episode "Let's Boot and Rally," when Terry Bellefleur recalls his time in Iraq, there is a scene of him setting a pile of dead bodies on fire with a Zippo lighter.
  • On The Walking Dead Carl drops one in a barn to light the walkers on fire as a distraction. I don't think anyone is going to go back for it.
  • Warehouse 13 season 2, episode 4, the villain of the week tosses a lighter to get rid of evidence. And in season 4 episode 6 the villain of the week tosses one on a gas covered gas station to escape the area.


    Video Games 
  • Mafia II: The Betrayal of Jimmy has Jimmy do this at the end of the second DLC campaign, in order to remove any traces of his handiwork.
  • In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, Shikamaru's Limit Break is a recreation of the scene from the anime where he defeats Hidan: he reveals a booby-trap which leaves the opponent wrapped in metal wires and explosive tags, then throws a lighter at them to blow them up.
  • In Mortal Kombat 11, Kano during his one of his special moves douses the opponent in flammable chemicals and then tosses his lighter at them, setting them on fire. He can even burn them to the bone as a Brutality.
  • During Leon's route in Resident Evil 2 (Remake), he and Ada come across Annette Birkin in the sewers, who tosses a zippo on a zombie corpse, burning it as she runs away.
  • In Resident Evil: Outbreak's "Outbreak" scenario, the Raccoon City citizens dump the contents of a fuel tank alongside a canal and toss a lighter into the gas, igniting it and taking out a group of either zombies or mutant scorpions, depending on the difficulty level.
  • In Spy Fiction a lighter is tossed to kill the Big Bad in the True Ending, Die Hard 2 style.
  • In Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, after having used it constantly in Strong Badia the Free, one puzzle in Baddest of the Bands has Strong Bad toss his lighter onto an oil spill by an old car, removing it from his inventory permanently. The car remains on fire for the rest of the episode.

    Web Originals 
  • In the web short Dirty Laundry the "main character" subverts this trope by dousing the villain in alcohol, then placing the lighter on the ground nearby and walking off. Then it's played straight by one of the villain's victims as she picks it up and tosses it on him.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad! episode Delorean Story-An, Steve tosses a lighter on a trail of gas to replicate a moment from Back to the Future.
  • When Dan does this in Dan Vs. he promptly realizes he just threw away his good lighter.


Video Example(s):


Tess and the Lighter

Tess drops her zippo in a puddle of fuel and explosives to immolate herself and as many infected as she can so they won't follow Joel and Ellie.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ReusableLighterToss

Media sources: