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Rube Goldberg Device

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A really simple plan.note 

Spencer: Hey, come check out my automatic fish feeder! I'm making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be!
Freddie: Why?
Spencer: Because it's fun!

One small thing happens, causing something else to happen, causing something else to happen, causing something else to happen, and so on until after all of that, something (usually quite trivial, like turning on a shower) happens. The joke is that it would have been easier to just turn on the shower than set it all up. Essentially it's a Zany Scheme performed by a machine with a bit of Complexity Addiction thrown in.

The name is taken from the drawings of American cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883–1970), which had a ridiculously complicated sequence of events to do something as trivial as giving someone a back scrub. Obviously, this is different from a traditional invention in that it gives a complicated solution to a simple problem, not the other way around. This device is also known as a Heath Robinson contraption in Britain (after cartoonist William Heath Robinson whose ideas came before Goldberg), or a Pythagoras switch (ピタゴラスイッチ) in Japan, among other terms used around the world.

As with the Unspoken Plan Guarantee, the efficacy of a planned contraption is generally inversely proportional to the amount of its workings known to the audience.

You often find one of these in a Gadgeteer's House. Necro Non Sequitur is often an example of this. Compare Disaster Dominoes, and Butterfly of Doom. The Chessmaster is often responsible for these, either for fun or as part of the plot. Gambit Roulette is the using the same principle when compared to plans of some kind. If the contraption is lethal, then it's safe to say that Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts.

A commonly-related concept is commonly invoked by players in games featuring a Level Editor (such as Line Rider, Happy Wheels and Geometry Dash), which are referred to as "auto" or "don't move" levels. Closely resembling a Rube Goldberg Machine, they follow the main character being transported through bizarre (and possibly dangerous) means through a purpose-built course, as opposed to a chain of distinct but still connected events. Such courses are almost always hilariously convoluted paths that lead to the finish line, with no player input required.

Awesome, but Impractical and Mundane Made Awesome are in full play here since many things they do are easily done by hand but they look damn cool!

You can read more under Rube-Goldberg Machine on The Other Wiki.


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  • This commercial for the Honda Accord: Apart from merging footage from two shots, there's no CGI involved (although they did have to cheat to get the tires to roll up the ramp by putting weights inside them). Three Accords were cannibalized for the commercial.
  • This spot promoting the 25th anniversary of Pokémon sends a Poké Ball, then a tiny Pikachu toy, down a complicated machine composed of Pokémon products representing the company's various eras, before the toy hits a disco ball that starts a record player, teasing a then-upcoming crossover song with Katy Perry.
  • Southwest Airlines has this commercial about a father and daughter who put together a complicated rube goldberg machine that was supposed to end in a soccer ball launched into their backyard basketball hoop. Unfortunately, they had it aimed wrong.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Doctor Slump: In a special two-part chapter, Sembei builds an especially ridiculous one (to the point that it involves the Sun sweating) to get a Panty Shot of Ms. Yamabuki just because Arale told him that she was wearing strawberry panties. The machine works perfectly, but the plan fails, of course.
  • Hamtaro has Oxnard's robot repair machine. He says that with a push of a button, he'll repair Robo-Joe in a blink of an eye.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 2 episode 1, Big M. makes a device to shoot meatballs at some guard dogs as a distraction. How does it work? Big M. scares a squirrel, which runs in fear and bumps into a hammer that knocks over a bunch of balls. The balls are dispensed onto a wheel which dumps them onto a little cardboard platform which, when weighed down, push a button that causes a robotic arm to appear and, finally, flick a meatball at the dogs.
  • In the Motu Patlu episode "Tuition Teacher", Motu, who has decided to come with Patlu to get Bunty and Pinky to pay attention to their schoolwork, notices a sign on the bell on the teacher's desk saying not to press it. Motu presses it to see what it does, and it sets of a complicated Rube Goldberg device set up by Bunty and Pinky. The Rube Goldberg device culminates in Motu and Patlu being covered in flour.

    Comic Books 
  • If any character in The Beano or The Dandy invents a machine, it will invariably be made out of bits of 2x4 sloppily nailed together, knotted together bits of string, old bicycle wheels and anything else that was lying around in the shed. A Wellington boot on a stick is often part of the design, regardless of the machine's intended function.
  • The Italian comic book Cattivik once was published a story that consisted of just the workings of a gargantuan Robinson Goldberg Contraption.
  • In an issue of Exiles, the titular team's mission is to buy a danish. Buying said danish leads to a sequence of events that thwarts an alien invasion.
  • In Violine, the mansion has one at the front door which washes and clothes anyone who comes in, due to its germophobic inhabitant.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Zits Sunday strip has a device for getting teens out of beds that starts with the sun focusing through a pair of spectacles on the windowsill and ends with Jeremy getting hit in the face by his phone. One of the intermediate steps involves a squirrel nibbling stale pizza.

    Eastern Animation 
  • Pat and Mat seem to have a variant of Complexity Addiction, as they never just transport things normally — they build the most complex Rube Goldberg device they can instead, and it always fails. Hilariously. Then again, to put a jack under a car, these two dig a hole in the road, so...

    Fan Works 
  • Always Visible: D.O.O.R. is a supercomputer into which scientists downloaded a lot of information just so that it could simulate a virtual personality inside itself. There is no benefit from this.

    Films — Animation 
  • The various inventions that Maurice constructs in Beauty and the Beast. They actually do what he wants them to do, but some of them (e.g., the wood-chopping contraption) are rather overly convoluted. The log chopper borders on Not an Example, since from a technical standpoint it does work like a traditional invention: chopping wood into logs by hand is a very labor-intensive and time-consuming job. And since the movie is apparently set in an unspecified time when sawmills don't exist, any machine capable of speeding the process up considerably is a technological improvement.
  • Brave: The witch uses such a contraption to activate her Magic Cauldron the second time Merida visits her hut. She's not present to do it herself, after all.
  • In The Great Mouse Detective, a Rube Goldberg Death Trap designed for one purpose has its operation deliberately interrupted at the climactic point, resulting in a new Goldberg/Robinson sequence which does the exact opposite using the same parts. Two for the price of one.
  • The Mind's Eye: In The Gate to the Mind's Eye, one such device exists in the confines of a simple-looking box. A folded piece of paper placed in a slot triggers a number of devices that eventually produces an "IOU" card through the second slot.
  • Tamagotchi: The Movie shows that Mametchi has one in his bedroom. It activates a platform next to the house, acting as an elevator to his bedroom from the outside.
  • The climax of The Thief and the Cobbler includes an impossible Rube Goldberg device-like sequence resulting in the destruction of a highly advanced war machine. The sequence is started by the Cobbler of the story shooting a tack at the main villain and missing. What really kills the machine, however, is the giant vats of molten lava that are tipped over by the Rube Goldberg sequence, setting the machine on fire.
  • In Toy Story 3, when the toys try to escape from the Caterpillar room, they employ a complicated sequence of events to get Buzz up on the transom.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future:
    • The opening sequence to the original movie had such a device to prepare Doc's coffee and open a can of dog food for Einstein, Doc Brown's dog.
    • The ice-making machine Doc made in the Wild West in Back to the Future Part III. Its status as a Rube Goldberg Device is primarily due to the fact that Doc was constrained to 1885 technology. Later on in the movie, there's a downplayed breakfast machine which fries two eggs and some bacon.
  • In The City of Lost Children, this happens most notably in an elaborate sequence in which a single tear drop causes a chain reaction of events happening all around the city, ultimately leading to a barge crashing into a dock. Jean-Pierre Jeunet even mentions Rube Goldberg by name in the DVD's commentary track.
  • At the start of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, the title character is shown in his arctic Fortress of Solitude laboring on inventions that (the Narrator declares) may one day be useful to Mankind! After gazing at the stars through a telescope, Doc appears to be building a Retro Rocket to take him there, but it turns out to be a tiny rocket he uses for ice fishing that launches into the air when a fish takes the bait, pulling the fish out of the water while simultaneously ringing a bell to let Doc know dinner's ready.
  • In Edward Scissorhands, there is a highly stylized contraption used to prepare and bake cookies by the Inventor early in the film.
  • Enola Holmes 2: There's a recurring flashback to Eudoria and a young Enola putting together a complicated machine with many steps that simply ends up cracking an egg. It fits with the story's theme of small, random things affecting change. In the climax, Enola remembers it while looking at the pulleys on the ceiling of the Paragon Theatre, and it lets her defeat Grail.
  • Ernest's house in Ernest Goes to Jail is full of these types of machines. They're all even synchronized to Ernest's walking speed.
  • In the Final Destination series of films, a number of characters escape Death's original design due to a premonition. In an attempt to restore order, they are killed one by one by a series of seemingly unrelated events in this fashion, with some sort of malfunction leading to another and so forth.
  • The automatic gate opener at Mikey's house in The Goonies is one of these.
  • In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the Dwarves use one where the end result is dipping Smaug in molten gold. Unfortunately, this doesn't faze the dragon and only pisses him off even more.
  • Inspector Gadget 2: The opening credits take place in a gigantic machine which creates the letters of the title.
  • In The Last Leprechaun, Finn uses one to wake him up and make breakfast.
  • Modern Times: In the eating machine scene, a device that makes people eat without using their hands is tested on the Tramp. Due to a malfunction, it ends up rubbing a corn in the Tramp's face and pouring soup on his shirt, among other things.
  • Now You See Me 2: Lula sets one up in Atlas' apartment that, once triggered, ends with her apparent decapitation. This is an Establishing Character Moment that sets her up as a prop magician with a wicked sense of humour.
  • Pee-Wee Herman uses one of these in Pee-wee's Big Adventure to prepare his breakfast. Ironically, the only part he actually eats is cereal, which he pours himself.
  • One such contraption is seen at work at the beginning of The Rock. The characters don't pretend it's anything but a way to fight boredom.
  • Shoot 'Em Up: In order to get into the Abandoned Warehouse he's using as a home, Smith takes a rat out of a cage, removes a brick from the wall and pushes the rat inside. The rat runs down a tunnel into a wire basket on a pulley which drops from the rat's weight, pushing down a latch to open the door.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) opens with one of these made by Doctor Robotnik to prepare a kind of coffee made from the endless mushrooms that surround him, to little success. The machine is made from Bamboo Technology and contains various visual gags within, most notably a miniature Sonic that gets crushed by a large rock with Eggman's logo on it.
  • Rube Goldberg wrote the 1930 film Soup To Nuts to showcase his namesake inventions, demonstrated by The Three Stooges.
  • At the very end of Waiting..., it turns out that the seemingly random items adorning a wall of the restaurant comprise one of these. (The director merely wanted it to look like it might work, going for the "random crap" look the restaurant was based on; it was the set designers who went out of their way to make sure the thing actually worked.)
  • The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge), by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, records a giant, 100-foot-long Robinson Goldberg Contraption as it slowly destroys itself with fire, gas, gravity and chemistry. The entire process takes 29 minutes, 45 seconds. Unlike most examples, this machine does not actually accomplish anything outside of a chain reaction of moving, melting, popping and exploding.

  • Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn is a children's book about a young boy whose contraptions drive his family crazy. Feeling unappreciated, Andrew Henry runs away and builds himself a house in the titular meadow. Other local children who also feel unappreciated by their families (for various reasons) soon follow and Andrew Henry builds specialized houses for each of them.
  • One of the pages of I Spy: School Days has an elaborate Rube Goldberg puzzle to pop a balloon, which the photographer had built from scratch. The best part? It actually works.
  • Not set up or planned by any of the characters,note  but the sequence of events which lead up to the final resolution of Adam Felber's comic novel Schroedinger's Ball fits the trope perfectly. The book even comes with a helpful diagram. One could argue this results in a Necro Non Sequitur. However, the only one who actually died was dead anyway, only nobody had observed that he was dead, so the possibility of him being alive existed until somebody actually looked in the basement... which just happened to be the exact same time the truck hit him. It Makes Sense in Context, really — at least as much as anything does.
  • The minor Reality Warper "Hazard" tends to do this in the Whateley Universe — usually to win a bet.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Bunk'd episode "Inn Trouble", while in quarantine, Ava and Destiny created one of these, however, while in the bathroom finding one more object to use, Gwen comes in to tell them they are free unintentionally triggering it. While Gwen was entertained watching it, Ava and Destiny were aghast at not being able to watch their work come to fruition.
  • In one episode of Columbo, the murderer uses a Rube Goldberg Device to create a loud bang - not to cover the sound of the fatal gunshot, but to make it sound like there were two gunshots instead of one. When Colombo demonstrates an incorrect replica of the device, the murderer corrects it at the last second, incriminating himself and leading to his arrest.
  • An episode of the Hulu original series Deadbeat, "Ghost in the Machine", features the ghost of Rube Goldberg himself trying to set up one of these on a metaphysical level. Once set into motion, it triggered a series of events that resulted in Goldberg's long-lost descendants finally meeting each other.
  • The deaths in Dead Like Me were frequently caused by things like this. The Movie starts with a textbook example. Naturally, it's a suicide machine. The man was an engineer, and is more pleased that it worked than anything else.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Parts of the TARDIS herself can be considered to approach this trope, considering the absurd materials and work-arounds used to try keeping her together and almost fully functional.
    • In "Human Nature", John Smith (the Doctor in human form) saves a baby from a falling piano by improvising such a contraption in a few seconds. It's a pretty good sign the Time Lord is still in there somewhere.
  • Elementary's title sequence follows one whose end result is to drop a cage on a figurine. It's probably meant as a metaphor for how Sherlock Holmes ties together seemingly meaningless scraps of information to catch criminals. Also, it's modeled on the device from The Great Mouse Detective.
  • iCarly: Spencer builds one so that he won't forget to feed his fish. It works until Carly tells him that he has to remember to reset the machine every day, thus rendering the device pointless.
    Spencer: I'm going to bed.
  • In Modern Family, Luke and Manny prepared one to get even with Lily (whom they were jealous of for everyone else thinking she was so cute), triggered by picking up a cookie to make a mess in the kitchen. Cameron takes the cookie instead and ends up slipping on spilt milk and breaking his back.note 
  • The MythBusters occasionally built these for special challenges. The earliest was likely in their Christmas special. Then there was the myth about buttered toast always landing butter-side-down...
  • In Not the Nine O'Clock News, the sequence starts with Rowan Atkinson as a bored policeman turning a handle. The camera follows the linkage from the handle, until it ends up at the rotating "New Scotland Yard" sign.
  • Pob's Programme has a segment set in the garden where a series of rotating umbrellas, swinging poles, winding windlasses and so on result in a display of colors or similar. The creator then asks "again?" before the whole thing magically resets itself for another go.
  • Scorpion: In "Dominoes", the Scorpion team sets up an elaborate Rube Goldberg — initially triggered by falling dominoes — to dump artificial snow inside the garage to help Ralph celebrate Christmas.
  • Sesame Street:
    • One skit has Oscar the Grouch creating such a device for opening his trash can lid. An animated short also displays the alphabet using one of these.
    • Kermit the Frog demonstrated one in the early days, but none of the components of the machine worked.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Curious Case of Edgar Witherspoon", the title character has been maintaining a contraption built from odds and ends such as dolls' heads, bicycle spokes, baseball cards, paper clips and broken instruments for eleven years. He regularly rummages through trash cans and dumps to find things that he desperately needs for it. Both his niece Cynthia and his landlady Mrs. Milligan are concerned by his behavior and ask the psychiatrist Dr. Jeremy Sinclair to look in on him. Edgar explains to Dr. Sinclair that a strange voice told him that the contraption was necessary in order to keep the world from going puff. Sinclair initially does not believe Edgar, thinking that he is suffering from a psychosis, but eventually realizes that it is all true when Tatoa, a tiny island in the South Pacific, is destroyed exactly as Edgar said it would be. After Edgar is relieved of his duty, it falls to Sinclair to keep the world in balance.
  • Unchained Reaction has Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from MythBusters hosting teams that compete to build these.
  • The X-Files has an episode titled "The Goldberg Variation" involving an extremely lucky man. Any attempt on his life is foiled by absolutely ridiculous coincidences, usually caused by Goldberg/Robinson sequences. He also constructs Goldberg-type devices just for fun.
  • The kids in the second and third seasons of the 1999 revival of Zoom try to build their own Rube Goldberg machines; in the second season, they build a device which ssqueezes toothpaste onto a toothbrush, and in the third season, they build a device which pours a glass of milk. The kids who built the milk-pouring device later reported that it took them all summer (i.e., the entire taping season!) to do so. Both seasons also feature home video submissions of kids who made Rube Goldberg devices of their own.

    Music Videos 
  • The bizarre CGI instruments in Animusic's videos often fall into this category. For example, the xylophone used in the "Pipe Dream" video is played by shooting a ball at a wooden bar being transported by rail at exactly the right time.
  • The music video for X-Press 2 and David Byrne's "Lazy"note  features a man who stays on the couch all day, doing things like combing hair, getting food, and doing chores via many of these (ironically, it's implied that he built all of it himself). Eventually, the machine designed to give him his breakfast short-circuits after spilling coffee on itself, forcing the man to settle for a dirty, half-eaten Snickers bar that he finds on the floor.
  • OK Go's music video for "This Too Shall Pass" features a quite complex and blissfully pointless contraption. That eventually includes the band members themselves.
  • In the video for "We Live in a Dump" by They Might Be Giants, the puppet characters make one designed to put spray cheese on crackers.
  • A variant appears with Wintergatan's music video of a marble-powered machine that plays about five different instruments. While it requires constant maintenance by the "player", the actual instrumentation is largely autonomous.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Nearly everything ever made by tinker gnomes, from the Dragon Lance setting (and spread in the Spelljammer 'verse). Justified in that they are a divinely created species cursed with Science-Related Memetic Disorder, which outright compels them to go about creating devices in the most ridiculously complicated and unlikely manners possible, to the point they are the number one cause of Fantasy Gun Control in-setting.
  • The Kobold Quest hack for Goblin Quest involves the players constructing an elaborate machine from whatever they can hastily find to complete whatever task the Great Dragon King assigns them, and then hoping each component works as intended using a sequence of consecutive dice rolls.
  • Mouse Trap (1963): Players assemble an absurd collection of parts that ultimately aim to drop a cage on a mouse. The preposterousness of this device is a huge part of the game's charm.

    Video Games 
  • A few levels in Angry Birds have Goldbergian layouts, especially the Golden Egg levels — fling a bird at a pebble or TNT pack and watch as it sets off a chain reaction of flying stones and TNT explosions.
  • Bad Rats: the Rats' Revenge is about a gang of rats who build elaborate death traps to exact gruesome revenge on their cat oppressors.
  • The DOS game Creative Contraptions revolves entirely around building these.
  • Donkey Kong 64: Whenever a Kong gives Snide a blueprint, the latter character activates a sequence of contraptions, with each one triggering the next, that eventually drops a Golden Banana for the Kong to collect; the assets vary depending on the world. Snide was the one who designed the structure of K. Rool's Blast-O-Matic and also knows how to delay its activation during the final level, so it's not surprising.
  • Part of the fun of Dwarf Fortress is building these. The community calls them Stupid Dwarf Tricks and has devoted a page of their Wiki to them.
  • Evil Genius allows you to create chains of traps that trigger one another. The more traps an enemy agent triggers in rapid succession, the more bonus cash you are awarded. A single trap triggering does not offer any reward (other than dealing with that pesky, pesky agent).
  • Fallout:
    • There's the Gold Ribbon Grocers in Fallout 3, where an entire Rube Goldberg Device has been set up as an Easter Egg. Upon entering, painted arrows on the floor lead you to a pressure plate to deliberately set off so you can watch it go off (it includes a domino effect using a row of boxes of detergent and several small explosions) and get several goodies when it's finished.
    • The Contraptions Workshop DLC of Fallout 4 allows you to build your own Rube Goldberg devices.
  • Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse: Freddi plans to build an elaborate contraption in order to capture the ghost stealing all the toys. The purpose of the trap is to drop a chandelier on the ghost, which involves a bunch of unnecessary moving parts (such as a bowling ball launching a helmet via a seesaw) for what is effectively a simple snare. Most of the game involves Freddi and Luther needing to collect all of the missing components needed to finish the contraption.
  • Garry's Mod users are fond of constructing these, usually relying on little more than Source's physics engine, spawned props, some ropes, and high explosives.
  • Ghost Trick:
    • Puzzles are often solved by tweaking seemingly unrelated objects until they react to each other and set each other off in just the right way.
    • A more traditional application is the murder machine in the junkyard basement, which was based on the one Kamila built for her mother that 'accidentally' killed her. It was only supposed to light the candles on her birthday cake. However, the Big Bad used his powers to make it so it killed her out of revenge. One of the side characters spent years finding out how the 'murder' happened and concluded that it shouldn't have.
  • In the Halo series's Forge Mode, it is a common pastime to build an elaborate suicide deathtrap that can be triggered by tossing a grenade into a mancannon or just pushing a box sideways, just for fun.
  • In order to get a Babel fish in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984), you have to set up a completely absurd series of events that will ultimately cause the fish to land right in your ear.
  • The Incredible Machine:
    • This computer game series has its gameplay based on this trope, as what you need to do in each level is complete one of these.
    • The Incredible Toon Machine is much the same, only with cartoon cats and mice killing each other for laughs.
    • A Spiritual Successor, Crazy Machines, was released, which seems to use roughly the same concept with more of an emphasis on not only physics, but also element-based reactions.
  • The PC adaptation of I Spy School Days features a mini-game involving the balloon popper from the book the game is based on. There are three different tracks the ball can go down, but you need to find the correct pieces and put them in the correct places in order for the balloon to pop. Track One simply has you find the train or grocery cart hidden in the same screen, while Tracks Two and Three require you to find pieces from the riddle sections of the game.
  • While Minecraft's physics do not seem to allow the construction of many mechanical devices, this video will show you how it's done.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge had LeChuck capturing Guybrush and putting him in one of these, whose ultimate goal was to lower him into a pit of acid. There's no actual reason for it, as opposed to just dropping him into the pit, other than to give Guybrush a chance to escape.
  • The bizarre door puzzles in Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst and most of the other MCF are very much like this, to the point that Wikipedia makes the direct comparison between the two. The biggest difference is the player has to trigger each step: i.e., solving a puzzle placing NESW in correct order on a dial will open up a puzzle that requires the sides to be balanced, which lights a flame that opens another puzzle that requires sliding around blocks to make a picture, which opens another.
  • Nancy Drew's friend Bess has to build one in Legend of the Crystal Skull (Mystery #17). This is justified because the beyond-improbable setup keeps its victim enthralled long enough to catch him off-guard.
  • Lucasfilm Games' Night Shift is essentially about keeping a Rube Goldberg machine running smoothly.
  • Pirate101 has a quest involving one of these. You get an anchor and a cannon both hanging from opposite ends of a rope stretched between two pullies in a shipwreck's rigging. You then go to the top of a nearby cliff and orient a telescope in just the right way so that the sunlight burns the rope near the anchor's end of the rigging, causing them both to fall. The burning end of the rope snakes out of the pully and swings down to light the fuse of the cannon, blasting open a gate in the side of the cliff you're standing on. It doesn't have quite as many steps as most other examples, but it's impressive because the whole thing was designed years before you performed the final steps.
  • In the Interactive Fiction game Rematch, the protagonist is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where he and his two friends are killed when an SUV crashes through the front window of the pool hall. Each cycle allows you one move before disaster strikes: undoing resets the world to just before the accident, but with some things slightly rearranged. So while the given solution will not work on every cycle, eventually you learn that Ines will do anything Nick dares her to do, that she can hit the loudmouth with a page from her Far Side calendar if it's wrapped around the cueball, that the loudmouth will yell out anything that has a number in it, that the distracted girl behind the counter will repeat the number the loudmouth yells when she calls time on one of the tables, that one particular table has an irate player who nearly strikes the ceiling fan control switch with his cuestick before someone tells him that it's not their table being called. Accomplishing this will in turn cause a ceiling fan to fall, meaning everyone's attention is on the front window when the SUV crashes through and react in time to avoid it.
  • This is basically what R.O.B. the Robotic Operating Buddy is. To move a column in Gyromite, you have to get it to pick up a gyro, place it in the spinner, and then lower the spinning gyro onto a lever to push a button on the second controller. This could be much more quickly and easily accomplished by simply pressing the button yourself.
  • Rube Works, the official game of Rube Golderg's cartoons, combines the concept of The Incredible Machine with faithful conversions of the cartoons. Rather than rewarding elegant solutions, the game rewards inelegant solutions, awarding the player more points the more parts are used, all the way up to the original design. Since the engine includes pre-programmed interactions between certain pairs of objects, there's even some cases of Developer's Foresight.
  • Super Mario Maker, and before that several ROM hacks of Mario games, feature "auto Mario" levels. The player has to release the controls and let the level move Mario forward through the use of bouncing blocks, conveyor belts and other contraptions. These levels are usually used to play music.
  • The Surprising Adventures Of Munchausen includes several sequences where you have to manipulate objects to perform a chain of events resulting in such feats as shooting a duck and then having it land on your plate fully cooked or filling all of the glasses in a tavern with beer within a minute.
  • Trapt gives you large bonuses for setting up traps in such a way that a victim will fall into several in quick succession before getting flung into one of the mansion's in-built hazards.
  • Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey: The gadget Odysseus set up to keep his bow away from intruders is very complicated. Working out how to deactivate it serves as the penultimate puzzle of the game.
  • Witches' Legacy 8: Dark Days to Come has one which starts with a toy train pushing a metal ball onto a scale and ends with lightning-sparked chemistry equipment creating the letter "A" you need for a certain hot spot.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Kaede tells Shuichi that she loves these kinds of contraptions. Which is why when she attempted the first murder, she used one: she made a course to roll a shot put ball down by using a vent and arranging books on top of a bookshelf, followed by using a flash camera to lure the victim into the right spot for the shot put ball to drop on his head. Tsumugi also notices it and name-drops the Rube Goldberg connection. She's lying; she knows damn well that the device failed because she killed the victim by clobbering him on the head when his back was turned.

    Web Animation 
  • On July 4, 2010, Google commemorated both Independence Day and Rube Goldberg's birthday by displaying a special logo on its homepage, in which a Goldberg-style contraption hoisted a U.S. flag and shot off a skyrocket. Watch it in action on YouTube.
  • Some of the animation entries for The Internet Raytracing Competition. Of note is the round with the theme Unnecessarily Complicated Devices.
  • For Pencilmation, Pencilmate and Pencilmiss create a little something called the Trap-your-average-number-two-pencil-kiss-your-butt-goodbye-murder mystery-dumbest idea ever machine!
  • Invoked by Johny in two Siblings episodes.
    • "Don't Wake Robby!":
      Johny: Rob will smell the biscuits and gravy on the plate and come to try and eat it, tugging on the rope which'll pull the needle and the bowling ball will roll down and hit Abraham Lincoln, who'll get pissed off and throw his top hat, pressing the button that'll set the mice loose that'll stampede on the gunpowder that'll ignite on the hot oven which will set the smoke alarm off and make Rob get up. My elaborate plan cannot fail!
    • "Don't Sleep, Robby!":
      Johny: Haha! Rob will smell this burrito on the plate and come to try and eat it, tugging on the rope that'll pull the thumb tack so the tennis rack will fall and hit George Washington in the face, who'll get pissed off and throw an axe that'll release the gerbils that'll chew through the string that'll trigger the catapult that'll shoot the golfball at the button that'll turn on the...
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers has one of these featured in "Cooking with Bowser and Mario 2!", all just to get a Yoshi egg from a pack of Yoshis sitting at a table for use in an omelet (here called "Yoshi Omelette").

  • Diego from Because I'm Depressed designs one in order to elaborately end his life.
  • In Dumbing of Age, Carla constructs one that spells her name out in lasers, as well as a box that slams a pie into Mary's face. Why did she do that? Because there's nothing that pisses Mary off more than the fact that a trans woman like Carla exists.
    Carla: Oh, and I'll be billing you for the pie.
  • In Skin Horse, the Dane sets up a remarkable death trap out of office cafeteria supplies, and then rigs it to turn on with the fall of a chain of dominoes, because when you're a genocidal evil genius, you have to take pleasure in the little things.
    Dr. Walske: You can rig a pizza oven to vaporize skin, but you can't build a button?
    The Dane: Dr. Walske, you lack joy.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The 9th Life of Sherman Phelps: In the episode "Moving Target", Ronalsd, while possessed by one of the ghosts of Sherman's previous lives, constructs a device out of a slide, a tricycle, a bear trap, a piranha in a bowl, meat on a string, and other assorted things. Its aim is to kill Sherman, but the elephant character falls into it, and is then mad at Ronald for putting him through it.
  • Adventure Time:
    • Finn and Princess Bubblegum use one to wake up Earl Lemongrab and display a note to him which reads, "You really smell like dog buns."
    • The James clones build a rather large one in "James II" as a trap for the Banana Guards. It topples under its own weight.
  • In American Dad!, Roger is planning a steak dinner for Francine and Stan, and wants to get an expensive bottle of wine, which isn't made anymore. They show a montage of one, then the power goes out. Roger's intent is to wait for Greg and Terry (who have the last bottle) to notice and steal the bottle. Francine is annoyed and simply takes it from the two. Roger's plan wasn't finished; Francine grabs a cord and gets cannonballed out. Roger wanted both of the steaks.
  • Animaniacs:
    • One short, "Wakko's Gizmo", centers entirely around perhaps the most complex example of this kind of device. Its purpose: to set off a Whoopee Cushion.
      Yakko: [to Dot] You should see how he brushes his teeth.
    • Another short includes a Rube Goldberg machine which is powered by a man in a shed named Rube Goldberg.
  • Todd from BoJack Horseman attempts to make one to catch the zombie clown dentists (Makes Just as Much Sense in Context), but this being Todd, it fails miserably.
  • In the first episode of Darkwing Duck, Darkwing has an invention to make breakfast while training. Dodging knives, catching cereal shot from a gun, karate chopping oranges to make juice, dodging flames while using them to heat his eggs, etc. He also times himself while doing this. But he always forgets to grab the milk from the fridge, the punishment for which is the entire fridge launching into the air and landing on top of him. In the second episode, Gosalyn tries her hand at it and scores an impressive time, but she also forgets the milk, and Darkwing just so happens to be standing in the same spot he was before... This is used in the comic, too, where it becomes a hybrid of Chekhov's Gun and Running Gag. Goslyn actually uses this to combat the bad guys coming after her. (This doesn't stop them that much, until the fridge flies on them.)
  • One episode of Dexter's Laboratory begins with Dexter trying to create "free energy" with his highest-of-high-tech new invention. It fails. The plot quickly shifts to an unwanted visit to his grandfather's house... where the old man succeeds in creating free energy with one of these.
  • In the Family Guy episode "8 Simple Rules for Buying My Teenage Daughter", Peter orders a breakfast-making machine that works just like this in a parody of the breakfast machine from Pee-wee's Big Adventure, complete with a Suspiciously Similar Song. After going through the sequence, all it does it shoot him, causing Peter to wonder what the point of it all was.
  • Fillmore! has a criminal use one of these as a full-size version of the Start the Symphony game (a parody of the aforementioned Mouse Trap game).
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters includes one of these as part of the Transformation Sequence.
  • Futurama:
    • In "The Duh-Vinci Code", the devices in Da Vinci's workshop are arranged so they could form a spaceship when the right lever is pulled.
    • Parodied in "The Tip of the Zoidberg" with the Murdolator. About halfway through, it gets damaged and the whole thing falls apart catastrophically. Bender calls for a reset.
  • The title sequence for I Spy features Spyler operating the balloon popper from School Days as he sings the theme song. The show's title appears when the balloon pops.
  • In Captain Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Jake and the others raise the Team Treasure Chest from a vault under the sand via use of a Rube Goldberg Device.
  • Several Looney Tunes shorts make use of this trope, usually accompanied by a version of Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" music.
    • In "Tweetie Pie", Sylvester builds an elaborate device to lure Tweety out of his cage so a bowling ball will fall on him. Everything works perfectly, until the bowling ball somehow falls on Sylvester instead.
    • All Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons. All of them. Of course, they (nearly) all backfire. Acme Products must have outsourced all their manufacturing to the lowest bidder.
    • In a cartoon with Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog, Ralph has one wired to his alarm clock which grooms him and makes him breakfast.
  • Ned's Newt: Ned and Newton do a short one at the start of "Jurassic Joyride". Basically, it involves a vehicle on a racetrack, which takes a pair of scissors with it. The vehicle then reaches a rope that the scissors cut, causing a toy dog tied to a balloon to start floating. The balloon then gets popped by a drawing pin, making the dog fall and trigger its parachute, but not before finally landing on a bucket of water.
  • Subverted in the Phineas and Ferb episode "I, Brobot". After Phineas explains his plans to build robot versions of himself and Ferb, you see a ridiculous contraption, which includes a tuba, a plunger, and a banana peel. When Phineas and Ferb activate the robot building device, they turn away from the ridiculous contraption towards a simple box which the robots walk out of.
    Phineas: I'm so glad we used our new android building device instead of that old dinosaur.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Sunspot and Sean design and build one in "Sean Has a Cold" in order to entertain Sean while he's sick.
  • ReBoot: While in a game cube in "Life's a Glitch", a Rube Goldberg Device is constructed out of objects within the kitchen, designed to defeat Rocky the Rodent. The contraption's final move ends up opening a cupboard door hard enough to send Rocky flying through the doggy door and back outside, taking a life in the process.
  • Scooby-Doo: It doesn't matter what version it is, it is a guarantee that a Robinson Goldberg Contraption is going to show up at least Once per Episode, and quite a few times in each movie. Unfortunately, they seldom work as planned. For example, in one incarnation, Fred's overly complicated plan successfully traps himself and the gang, leaving the monster standing there.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Rosebud", Homer is in a dungeon at the plant, manually turning a massive gear around while a masked man whips him. Pan up past a complicated series of gears, and we find Lenny and Carl in the cafeteria... wondering what makes the dessert sampler rotate.
    • In "The Cartridge Family", an out-of-control soccer riot leads Homer to build a Goldberg-like device involving a flashlight, a magnifying glass, an alarm clock, and a fish, for the apparent purpose of alerting them when someone tries to open their front door. Since he and Marge were watching the door to see if the device would work, it's kind of pointless. Then someone steals the fish.
  • Two of Disney's The Three Little Pigs shorts have Practical Pig build elaborate machines to punish The Big Bad Wolf.
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon "Designs on Jerry", there's an entire blueprint worth of this — and the blueprint Jerry asking for the real Jerry's help to rewrite the trap so it gets Tom instead.
  • How Fig travels from the upper decks to the lower in his wrecked ship house in Tumble Leaf. It involves a shower, a slide, and a bag of bananas.
  • Wallace's devices in Wallace & Gromit (especially the whole system for arranging breakfast). Justified, sorta, in that Wallace is an inventor by trade.
    • The Wrong Trousers: There is a device that drops a person out of bed, dresses them, shoots a bit of jam that collides with a toast and then lands the toast on the plate. Later, Gromit drops from the bed, but he faces the wrong way, the clothes are put on backwards, and when the drop of jam shoots out, there's no toast to intercept it, so it lands on his face.
    • A Close Shave: Applies to when Wallace gets ready to wash someone's windows. Wallace goes through a Thunderbirds-esque sequence of going down slides and having machines put his helmet on and sitting him on his bike, and then has Gromit just walking through a door next to the bike and climbing into the sidecar. Wallace then uses a mechanical foot to start his bike for him, which involves moving his OWN foot out of the way.
    • The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: There's a sequelce that involves a mechanical hand cranking the van for them. He probably had to modify the van to use a hand-crank instead of an ignition key to begin with.
  • In the Wild Kratts episode "Platypus Cafe", Chris rigs a Rube Goldberg booby trap in Gourmand's kitchen.
  • Work It Out Wombats!: The theme song demonstrates the characters creating a Rube Goldberg machine to unveil the show's logo.
  • Widget from Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! is often prone to this, except they are more of machine form. In the season one Easter Special "Eggs Over Easy," she finds the process of decorating eggs to be complicated, so she ends up building a machine that decorates eggs. And then there is the invention that cleans Walden's glasses and an un-named invention that holds up a picture frame.
  • In Yogi Bear, as originally seen on Season 2 of Huckleberry Hound, in the 1959 episode "Lullaby-Bye Bear", the final scene uses a Rube Goldeberg, at Yogi's hands, to wake him up. It's to keep him from hibernating as he wishes.

    Real Life 
  • Obviously, the drawings of Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson were the inspiration for this trope. The Danish cartoonist Storm P did similar drawings. As did several successive cartoonists working for the Spanish comic magazine TBO (the inventions were credited to "Professor Franz from Copenhaguen")
  • Vaudeville comic Joe Cook relied on devices of this type as a gimmick.
  • Also Turkish cartoon character Prof. Zihni Sinir
  • Many devices by Heron of Alexandria approach this trope, but still a bit simpler. And really work.
  • Creme that Egg.
  • Some modern artists specialize in creating these, though for the most part they don't do anything except look interesting as they operate.
  • Toronto-based 2D Photography brings you a photography device. There are a couple Shout Outs to other Rube Goldberg Machines like OK Go and the Honda Accord commercial both at 2:35.
  • The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia has a few perpetual motion devices of this nature. They don't really accomplish anything, but they're fun to watch.
  • Games magazine had a contest once where readers sent in their own plans for a Rube Goldberg device.
  • Elaborate toppling-domino shows often incorporate elements of this trope, such as mousetraps, weight-triggered hanging baskets, or pivoting rods.
  • This Rube Goldberg Passover, with history thrown in for good measure.
  • A desperate expedient in wartime New Zealand, the Semple Tank, consisted of a civilian tracked bulldozer given an armoured shell out of anything that happened to be immediately available. This lash-up desperation vehicle had more than a look of the Heath Robinson device about it, and was utterly useless for any sort of combat. The Semple tank was scrapped when better purpose-built vehicles were made available.
  • If Rube Goldberg had actually designed something practical, it would be Ottmar Mergenthaler's Linotype.

Alternative Title(s): Rube Goldberg Machine, Heath Robinson Machine, Robinson Goldberg Contraption, Rube Goldberg Contraption


Snack Machine

Sean and Jet come up with an invention to get snacks more conveniently. They show Sydney, and it includes a Goonies-like set of contraptions to get a donut to Sunspot, but it doesn't work.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / RubeGoldbergDevice

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