Follow TV Tropes


Self-Destruct Mechanism

Go To

Ripley: When we throw the switches, how long before the ship blows?...
Parker: We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space.
Alien (1979)

Any relatively simple (compared to the scope of the result) device or process which can cause the complete destruction of a building, spaceship, planet, empire, Weapon of Mass Destruction, etc. Effectively an Achilles' Heel for non-living things. The Evil Overlord seems particularly fond of this trope, frequently installing it in almost all of his ships, buildings and other whatnot, even when there is no obvious reason why such things need an integrated self-destruct system when a non-explosive instant shutdown mechanism will suffice.

Though usually activated by a Big Red Button, some self-destruct mechanisms require two (or even three) people to enter codes, turn keys or push buttons simultaneously, etc. The latter sort almost always comes with a countdown (or even a Magic Countdown) until it actually goes off. All of this fussing about builds suspense and also allows the Self Destruct process to be halted once set in motion.

Sometimes the heroes change their minds, or they weren't the ones who started the countdown. Depending on the situation, the off switch may be uncooperative (or there may not be an off switch); this often results in a Wire Dilemma. Other times it's simply a question of getting back to where the switch is. Either way, the stopping always happens Just in Time. If the countdown can't be stopped, then this functions similarly to a Collapsing Lair, and it's up to the heroes to get out of Dodge and/or rescue whoever else is in danger.

In Real Life, scuttling a large ship is a complicated process involving detonating explosive charges at various points on the superstructure — for obvious reasons, these charges are not in place and armed at all times, but are usually placed just before the fact if it becomes necessary to destroy a ship. Soldiers and intelligence operatives working with Top Secret equipment or data are often provided with a more practical "self-destruct mechanism" to use if capture is a possibility — a large hammer, fire axe, or other heavy implement used to destroy the equipment and thus stop it being reverse-engineered.

Real world self destructs do exist, such as special microwave ovens for destroying integrated circuits, electrically self-frying storage media, and self erasing disks are used in many intelligence situations; in all cases "won't smoke excessively, no toxic smoke, won't damage the vehicle or occupants" are pretty hard and fast contractual requirements.

Marginally more forgivable in the case of advanced spaceships; the Kzinti Lesson, "A reaction drive's efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a drive", can be made to apply just as well to the ship itself as to other ships.

This can also apply when Antimatter is used as fuel, weaponry or both. Simply releasing all of the antimatter from whatever containment system is used keep it from coming into contact with matter can quite reasonably be expected cause extreme damage to the spaceship, even if there's not enough antimatter to outright annihilate it.

Overclocking Attack takes this to the next step. See also Cyanide Pill, Self-Destructing Security, and This Page Will Self-Destruct. Compare Load-Bearing Boss. Sometimes related to Taking You with Me.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Crazy-Prepared Mad Scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi reveals during his battle with Szayel that he has tinkered with his Bankai to ensure it will self destruct if it is ever used against him.
    • There are four types of soul power: Human, Quincy, Hollow, and Shinigami. Human is opposite to Hollow and Quincy is opposite to Shinigami. If souls mix, they break the boundaries and create beings much more powerful than having one soul alone. However, the soul becomes unstable and self-destructs in a process known as soul suicide. Visoreds are Hollowfied Shinigami who were stabilised by a Quincy/Human vaccine. Masaki was a Hollowfied Quincy whose self-destructing soul was stabilised by being bound for life to "Humanified" Shinigami soul (Isshin).
  • The Cyborg 009 episode "Mystical Island" has a self-destruct mechanism for the island base which is triggered by the destruction of security robots. The self-destruct sequence was disabled when the scarecrow robot removed the circuit control card from the main power circuit, causing the base's main power systems to shut down and the self-destruct countdown to stop with 6 seconds left on the timer.
  • Twice used as a way to escape and buy some time by the protagonists in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The first one requires a fairly lengthy code, while the second one required them to log into a computer first.
  • Gundam:
    • The self-destruct mechanism plays a prominent role in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, most famously the moment when the main character blows himself up...and lives. Somewhat subverted by Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, where it's revealed that the Gundams' self-destruct mechanisms were intended not to destroy them, but to kill the pilots in order to preserve confidentiality. In spite of this, the self-destruct mechanisms never kill the pilots either.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Athrun uses the Aegis Gundam's self-destruct mechanism to take out an enemy (Kira and the Strike Gundam) after Aegis has run out of ammunition and energy. It would have worked if not for an Ass Pull explanation. Later in the series, he plans on self-destructing the Justice Gundam to take out GENESIS. He intended to kill himself too as penance for his father's creation of GENESIS, but his Love Interest Cagalli convinces him not to.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny and Mobile Suit Gundam AGE have it with the ZAFT and Veigan MS, when Kira took out the mobile non lethally, usually the immediate recourse for the pilots is to pull the switch, self-destructing their mechs. Uzumi Nara Athha self-destructs Orb's mass driver and himself and there's even the stereotypical Big Red Button.
  • In Halo Legends, the prototype's nuclear reactor can be set to self-destruct in an emergency.
  • Hanaukyō Maid Team. During the hacking incident in episode 8, it's mentioned that the mansion has a self-destruct system accessible through the MEMOL supercomputer.
  • Dr. Jail Scaglietti's lab in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has a self-destruct mechanism that Quattro remotely activates after Fate's group manages to subdue the Mad Scientist and the Numbers Cyborgs with him. Unfortunately for Fate, the lab has a lot of innocents stuck in People Jars so she has to deactivate it to save them, and Scaglietti isn't cooperating since the backup clone in Quattro means it doesn't matter if he gets killed.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • At least Unit 00 and Provisional Unit 05 is equipped with "Mode D" that is activated via a handle in the pilot seat. It requires the pilot to actually get out of the seat, remove the handle's cover then grab and pull it upwards so it's impossible to set off accidentally. And THAT is a good thing, seeing that when Rei used it, Tokyo-3 turned into a huge crater lake. She didn't eject because if she would've done, the Eva's AT-field would've collapsed and Armisael would've escaped. Mari actually used it in a proper kamikaze attack: when she saw that she's likely going to run out of power before the Angel is fragged, she armed the self-destruct and ejected. The explosion completely vaporized the Eva, the Angel and the surface portion of NERV-Bethany.
    • NERV HQ also has a self-destruct mechanism that can be triggered by the MAGI and would destroy the upper portion of the Geofront, Tokyo-3 included. It is also programmed to automatically activate if an Angel is detected in Terminal Dogma; seemingly justified but actually a complete waste of effort since 1) if an Angel does get there, it means the Evas have failed and nothing can stop it as well as 2) Adam's not even there to begin with so the Angels can't trigger Third Impact anyway.
    • In episode 13 of the series, "Lilliputian Hitcher", NERV HQ's self-destruct sequence is triggered by Balthasar-2 being taken over by Ireul (the 11th Angel). As the self-destruct countdown is in motion, Ritsuko programs a self-termination kill-code on her laptop, cancelling the self-destruct sequence and Special Command 582 as well. At the same time, the MAGI Super-Computer recovers and Ireul's biological circuits break down, and the Angel vanishes from existence, never to be seen again.
  • One Piece:
    • Franky encounters one of these while exploring Vegapunk's old lab. Despite having been repeatedly warned not to activate it, take one guess what happens when he encounters the big skull-marked button.
    • The laboratory of Punk Hazard has one, which would destroy the whole thing, and if it happens, the poisonous Shinokuni would kill everyone but Caesar Clown. Donquixote Doflamingo orders Monet to press the self-destruct button, but when she's about to push it, her heart gets impaled and she drops dead.
    • The long flashback about Kuma reveals that St. Saturn ordered Dr. Vegapunk to install a remote self-destruct mechanism which would kill Bartholomew Kuma just to further ensure that the Five Elder Stars have absolute control over him. Vegapunk completed the order, but via Loophole Abuse he decided that the self-destruct mechanism would simply turn off all of Kuma's functions, which would make him unresponsive and unable to operate. However, after Saturn pushed the self-destruct button in the present, Kuma's body continues to run on instinct and even goes so far as to physically defy the World Nobles and Five Elder Stars, such as punching Saturn in the face. Even Vegapunk is surprised that Kuma is still able to move because he was certain that the self-destruct mechanism would shut him down completely.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: In If Angels Wore Swimsuits, Scanty furiously slams her fist down on a button in the middle of their Humvee, G-String. Kneesocks shouts out that she just pressed the self-destruct button, and the car blows up. An Ash Faced Kneesocks lampshaded it afterward.
    Kneesocks: What is the point of that button? Who would CHOOSE to use it?
  • In Witch Hunter Robin, Factory is an Elaborate Underground Base whose self-destruct mechanism involves slamming a huge chunk of concrete on top of it, causing a collapse. The destruction occurred in episode 26, "Time to Tell" (the final episode).
  • In Yatterman, and possibly in other Time Bokan series too, the Terrible Trio always installed a useless self-destructing mechanism on their mechas. This, combined with their stupidity, was often the cause of their demise. Also, the Big Bad almost always left them self-destructing messages with the mission objectives, often hidden in the weirdest objects.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, KaibaCorp Island has a self-destruct that requires both Seto and Mokuba Kaiba to activate with their keycards.

    Comic Books 
  • Irredeemable: When the Plutonian does a Face–Heel Turn and kills his former superhero colleague Inferno, a group of supervillains investigate Inferno's secret headquarters in the hope of finding something they can use in case they're next on the list. Instead, they discover Plutonian there, who proposes an alliance with his former enemies. As a test of this alliance, he hands them several Big Red Buttons, which he claims activate a device that will kill him. The villains all press them before he's finished talking, whereupon Plutonian asks if they seriously believed he'd hand them a weapon that could kill him, even if such a weapon did exist.
    Plutonian: What would you build into a headquarters to keep it out of your enemies' hands when you die?
    Recorded voice: Four... three... two... one...
    The Fixer: [Oh, Crap!] A self destru— [bomb goes off]

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • In Resident Evil: Degeneration, WillPharma's research building has one of these that seems almost excessive... until you remember that they are experimenting with bio-weapons and killer viruses, up to and including the T and G Viruses.
  • Transformers: The Movie shows that one of Cybertron's two moons has a self-destruct mechanism. It didn't affect Unicron at all. The planet Quintessa was also rigged to explode in the five-part season three opener in an attempt to kill the Autobots.
  • Taken to the most unlogical extreme in Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, when after the heroes have saved the girl and taken over the villain's flagship. Dagg presses the Self Destruct Button and it proceeds to blow up EVERY other ship in the villain's fleet, except the flagship.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the titular monsters defeat Gallaxhar by activating the self-destruct on his ship. Played for Laughs at the end:
    Computer: Three... two... one... [Beat] ...hmm. Nothing happened. Maybe my count was— [BOOM]
  • Early on in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, when Phineas, Ferb, and Dr. Doofenshmirtz first meet, it's mentioned that the reason Doofenshmirtz's Otherdimensioninator doesn't work is that he improperly wired the self-destruct button. Phineas asks him why it's necessary, and Doofenshmirtz slowly realizes that he doesn't need it. He also mentions attempting to take over with an army of robots...and put the self destruct buttons on the bottoms of their feet. It is eventually revealed that Doofenshmirtz-2 also installed a self-destruct button on his robot army, but being more competent than his original counterpart he is smart enough to keep the button on his person rather than on the robots themselves.
  • Treasure Planet has the titular planet (though not actually a planet but a decaying mechanism) come with a self-destruct mechanism. BEN knew about the mechanism but has his memory chip removed by Captain Flint to prevent BEN from warning someone that Flint had the planet booby-trapped so that no one can make off with his treasure trove.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "Blade: Trinity'' - Blade & Whistler's hideout has computers with a "data protection routine" that blows up the hard drives. When they are invaded; Whistler alternates triggering these with shooting people. When he gets shot, he triggers the larger charges that destroy the whole building.
  • Spaceballs has a Big Red Button on Spaceball One that triggers the self-destruction of the ship, labeled with a sign that warns, "Do not push unless you really, really mean it!" Lone Starr knocks Dark Helmet into it, setting off the countdown to the big boom. Later, the main computer gently informs Colonel Sandurz, President Skroob, and Dark Helmet (the only ones left on the ship after everyone else uses the escape pods) that they have one last chance at pressing another Big Red Button that cancels the procedure. They rush to do so, only to discover it's out of order, leading Helmet to lament "Even in the future, nothing works!". This is after, of course, Helmet unleashes an extremely loud, first-in-the-show curse.
  • In the classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, the Big Red Button (actually a switch... well, a plunger switch, so kinda button-like) initiates a chain reaction that will destroy the planet. A 1990s Comic Book adaptation lampshades this by having one of the Earth crewmen ask something along the lines of: "Why would the Krel build that?"
  • Galaxy Quest: Weirdly, given the way the movie plays with tropes, the Protector actually doesn't have a self-destruct mechanism; the bad guys have to wire the ship's Applied Phlebotinum reactor to explode when they want to destroy it. But there's still a Magic Countdown, and it still stops at the last second. Lampshaded in that while they press the abort button with about 16 seconds to spare, the ship is rigged so that the countdowns always stop with one second left.
  • The Predators don't want their hunting gear to fall into local hands and don't mess about, so they have a personal version of these that can destroy an area equal to 300 city blocks. In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, it was explained as a way to keep Xenomorphs from spreading if a hunt on a friendly planet went wrong.
  • Undercover Brother. Conspiracy Brother foolishly presses the Big Red Button and activates the Atomic Core device in The Man's island headquarters, causing the HQ to be destroyed after a countdown of several minutes.
  • Alien. The Nostromo's engines could be used as a self-destruct mechanism with a ten-minute delay before detonation ("We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space."). If the cooling units were turned back on with at least five minutes left, the countdown would be aborted.
  • The Avengers (1998). After Mrs. Peel deactivates Sir August's weather control machine, it activates an "Auto Destruct" that destroys not only it but also the island base it's on.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk and company activate the self-destruct before inviting some Klingons aboard and beaming out, making this film very technically the final voyage of the starship Enterprise as advertised. As a Call-Back, the steps they need to go through for activating the destruct sequence are the same as they were in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."
    • The auto-destruct was used again in Star Trek: First Contact: faced with the Enterprise-E being overrun by the Borg (and eventual assimilation of Earth) the crew attempt to abandon ship and destroy the Borg with it. Things don't go quite to plan.
    • Picard tries again in Star Trek: Nemesis as a last-ditch Taking You with Me against the Scimitar. However, the damage from the battle and the resulting ramming of said ship disabled it.
  • Dreamcatcher based on the Stephen King book has a race of parasitic aliens whose biology is based on fungus — like those fungal parasites that eat ants from the inside out. This allows them to blow up their Living Ship like a puffball if attacked.
  • Escape to Athena (1979). A Nazi sets the self-destruct on the secret V2 silo before passing out. Telly Savalas is unable to avert the countdown but gets all the good guys out while all the Nazi Faceless Mooks die. Given that there was plenty of liquid oxygen around, and secret missile equipment the Nazis wouldn't want to fall into Allied hands, at least there was a plausible reason for the existence of a destruct mechanism.
  • The Fifth Element: The Mangalore mercenaries successfully manage to muscle Zorg into providing them with a crate of his newest multipurpose infantry weapon. However, Zorg judiciously neglects to inform them about what the red button on the side of the gun does...
    Zorg: "I hate warriors, too narrow-minded! I'll tell you what I do like though: a killer, a dyed-in-the-wool killer. Cold blooded, clean, methodical and thorough. Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun..."
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Used to prevent the Red Lectroids from capturing the Black Thermopod.
  • The Andromeda Strain, both the book and the movie, has an atomic self destruct device in the Wildfire complex in the event of biological contamination. So figure what happens when the eponymous organism begins to eat through the seal gaskets...
  • In the intro to Wing Commander, the NavCom AI navigational aid with information on approaching Earth safely is set up with a self destruct mechanism to prevent the data from falling into enemy hands. It doesn't work. The subplot was cut from the movie, but the novelization makes it clear that it was due to sabotage by a mole.
  • Older Than Television example: In Bride of Frankenstein, an entire castle has one for some reason.
  • In The Muppets (2011), Gonzo had set up his plumbing business with one of these, in case he had a chance to return to showbiz.
    Fozzie: That looked like a very expensive explosion. I can't believe we had that in the budget.
    • Which given the explosion happens off-screen, they didn't.
  • James Bond movies:
    • The Aston Martin is fitted with a self-destruct mechanism. Of course, having James Bond as the driver usually makes said mechanism unnecessary. Only twice did one of the cars explode, and only in The Living Daylights Bond armed the Auto-Destruct.
    • Two of them in You Only Live Twice:
      • The SPECTRE spaceship has a built-in self-destruct device that's activated by an "exploder button" in the SPECTRE base. Blofeld orders Hans to push the button once the American astronauts have been seized. Bond overhears this conversation and uses the button to blow up the spaceship before this happens (Just in Time, as usual).
      • The SPECTRE base has one too. When it is stormed, Blofeld throws a switch that sets off explosions and (somehow) a volcanic eruption. This may be standard SPECTRE procedure. When Bond points out to Dr. No that his Island Base might become very vulnerable once his enemies find out about it, Dr. No calmly states that he will destroy his base and move on once he has finished with it. It certainly blows up easily enough, but that's down to No OSHA Compliance.
    • For Your Eyes Only
  • The Empire Strikes Back. According to Han Solo, the Imperial probe droid that discovered the Rebel base in the Hoth system had one, presumably to prevent anyone from capturing and identifying/analyzing it. It initially fought back when discovered, but when Chewbacca rendered the droid vulnerable to capture by destroying its blaster cannon, it immediately self-destructed.
  • Event Horizon has the odd variation of fitting explosives to the connecting walkway between the command section and the engine section of the ship, for the event that the engines do something inexplicably stupid. Like, for instance, trying to drag the ship into Hell itself. For some reason, the charges are always in place and can be armed whether they are attached to the ship or not. One main character who is Not Himself uses one such explosive to destroy the Lewis And Clark. The setup is used by the survivors to escape by the command section as the engine section returned to the pit from whence it had once been.
  • In Armor of God, the base filled with Nazi Gold is equipped with one.
  • Subject of a brief gag in Dr. Strangelove: "I think the auto-destruct mechanism got hit and blew itself up." The crew also tests the self-destruct circuits when departing on the mission. It seems to be a fairly low-key mechanism intended to destroy classified equipment, like the CRM-114 discriminator used for encrypted communications.
  • In Robot and Frank, when a group of kids taunts the robot, Frank teaches it to say "Initiating self-destruct" and then to count down from ten to scare them off. It later turns into a Chekhov's Gag when the police try to dump the robot's memory.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, the holo that reveals the location of the pods has a self-destruct code in case of capture. Katniss uses it to Mercy Kill Finnick when he's attacked by a dozen mutts.
  • In Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, the Red Bamboo terrorists activate a self destruct mechanism on their base that apparently has the force of a nuke before escaping, only to be eaten by Ebirah. The human heroes, Mothra, and Godzilla barely manage to escape before the island blows up.
  • In Godzilla: Final Wars, when X is defeated, he spitefully sets his spaceship to self destruct. The heroes manage to escape, resulting in only X and his minions getting killed.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: When Captain America shows up at a HYDRA base and starts wrecking it, Red Skull quickly realizes his forces can't win and sets the base's self destruct. Somewhat unusually for this trope, rather than one large explosive device it was several small ones, each of which had to be activated individually.
  • Cosmic Sin (2021). General Ryle decides to destroy the alien portal gate by detonating the fuel in his spacesuit. Unfortunately the suit's AI won't activate the self-destruct because it detects a live person inside the suit. So he gives an order to blast him with the orbital cannon, and his own nephew is the one who has to pull the trigger.
  • Shocking Dark: Once he is exposed as The Mole, Fuller sets the bunker to self-destruct within thirty minutes.
  • The appearance of a self-destruct mechanism turns My Favorite Martian into a Race Against the Clock. Uncle Martin's rental spaceship is installed with an I.S.S., a powerful explosive meant to keep Martian technology from falling into alien hands. It armed itself after the crash landing and if Martin can't repair the ship and fly out of Earth's orbit in time, it will detonate.

  • This occurs in both the book and movie The Andromeda Strain, where the Wildfire Lab in which most of the story takes place was constructed on top of a nuclear bomb, that is activated automatically in case of a lab breach. No Buttons or wacky codes here, just an automatic kaboom if the bug gets out. One man on the team has a key that can turn it off and save everyone — though the stations where he can put his key in on the last level are still being worked on. Then, of course, they Receive the Call, start investigating the Alien Space Bug...and it gets loose. Adding insult to injury, of course, is that the Alien Space Bug feeds on pure energy, so if the bomb does go off, the bug will mutate and spell the End of the World as We Know It ... He stops the countdown with 34 seconds to spare, which "hardly seems exciting". The other scientists then inform him that the system also evacuates all the air from the level they were in 30 seconds before detonation.
  • An early version of this trope appears in Robert E. Howard's planetary adventure Almuric.
  • In the Known Space series, the Puppeteers have transparent, indestructible hulls. In one book, a Puppeteer scientist discovers a way to destroy said hulls by destroying the optical computer holding it together, which is used in Destroyer of Worlds.
  • In the prose Daredevil novel Predator's Smile, Gary Wieczack had a self-destruct button in his warehouse to destroy incriminating evidence.
  • Harry Harrison books:
    • In Deathworld, the two cold-warring planets Cassylia and Darkhan still engage in commerce with each other, but equip any ship they send to the other planet with a self-destruct that will detonate the fission pile, creating a multi-kiloton explosion. While landed on the enemy planet, the self-destruct can be activated instantly from a convenient button near the hatch, which the crew will cheerfully push if the filthy Cassylians try to enter a sovereign Darkhan ship (or vice versa) for any reason.
    • The Mothballed Spaceship, in the Deathworld series. The protagonists are trying to reactivate a derelict battleship that has been set to self-destruct to prevent it from falling into the hands of anyone who doesn't have the correct codeword. Just in time they discover what the codeword is; a simple five-letter word in Esperanto — "Haltu" or, "Stop".
    • In the The Stainless Steel Rat, the title character steals a spaceship from his employers the Special Corps. Each spaceship has a remotely-activated bomb in case they are captured, so Jim diGriz decides to remove it as a precaution, even though he doesn't think they'd actually kill him. He discovers otherwise when the detonator goes off shortly after he removes it. Turns out the Chief of the Special Corps had anticipated that the Rat would steal a spaceship, and the detonator was wired to do this to motivate him further.
  • Largely avoided in BattleTech fiction. In the famous scene in which Kai Allard-Liao wipes out the Falcon Guard by blowing up his own 'Mech (and thereby setting off the explosive charges earlier placed in the canyon walls), he has to wreck his own machine by pulling out circuit boards until the engine goes into overload because there is no convenient self-destruct trigger otherwise. Units actually wired to self-destruct on purpose are usually simple decoys such as those used during the battle for Luthien.
  • Inverted in E.E. Smith and Stephen Goldin's "Eclipsing Binaries": the face-off is between the Good Guys and the Dragon, when the Big Bad calls up and informs all that a self-destruct mechanism is ticking aboard their space station, then orders the Dragon to stay and die to atone for her repeated failures. She disobeys, holding off the heroes at gunpoint and stealing the Escape Pod... in which the actual destruct mechanism was planted. The Big Bad was relying on the heroes' repeatedly demonstrated ability to escape from a lethal situation in order to coax them into it but hadn't counted on her minion taking independent action for once.
  • Naturally, this shows up in Star Trek Novel 'Verse.
    • Starfleet introduces them for the first time in Beneath the Raptor's Wing, part of the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch. In the same novel, a Tellarite captain activates his ship's self-destruct mechanism to prevent the Romulans from taking control of the vessel. In fact, there are quite a few examples; two Vulcan ships and at least one Klingon use the same technique, denying the Romulans capture of their craft.
    • Lampshaded in the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel The Pandora Principle when Chekov, as the computer counts down, thinks to himself: "This is it. It's really going to happen this time."
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, the computers on human spacecraft are equipped with self-destruct mechanisms to prevent sensitive information from falling into enemy hands. The one example we see of the device being used for this purpose is subverted, as the task force admiral kept a personal log of important data contrary to Peacekeeper regulations, which the Zhirrzh found when sifting through the wreckage of the Kinshasa.
  • Spaceships in The Expanse series have self-destruct systems which work by making the fusion engines explode. Military ships carrying sensitive technology generally have three self-destruct buttons: one on the bridge, one in engineering, and one in tactical. When the ship is boarded, the Space Marines will barricade themselves in those three rooms. If one is breached, the people in the other two press the buttons. The self-destruct buttons on the Donnager and the King end up getting used.
  • Military starship captains in David Weber's Honor Harrington series will commonly scuttle their ships before handing themselves over as prisoners of war.
    • In In Enemy Hands, when Honor's flagship is overpowered by Havenite forces, she orders her flag captain to surrender, and has him tell the crew that they should destroy any sensitive equipment and documents aboard before the enemy boarding parties arrive.
    • In Shadow of Freedom, when Solarian Captain Myau witnesses the complete destruction of four battlecruisers at the hand of the Manticoran Navy, she has her engineers rig her destroyers' fusion plants to blow if enemy boarders approach, then gives orders to abandon ship.
  • Subverted in Tomorrow Town, a short story by Kim Newman. The villain's mad attempt to destroy the community by having Master Computer Big Thinks overclock the climate control is thwarted when Big Thinks helpfully informs the heroes that they might want to pull Circuit Breaker 15 about now. This also works to underscore the theme of how inaccurate the community's whole idea about the future is; upon confronting the villain after this, Jeperson notes that even in the far-flung world of the twenty-first century, it's unlikely that local communities or public offices will have self-destruct mechanisms just in case the incumbent doesn't feel like giving up office after their term is completed.
  • The Dresden Files:
  • In Ten Thousand Miles Up captain Ateri learns that his krakun masters have decided to put multiple redundant self-destruct mechanisms into their Terraformer ships to prevent them from being stolen, right after he makes a deal with some pirates to steal the Terraformer that will be sent to the planet his ship just discovered. At the battle, he suggests scuttling the Terraformer, and it looks like it happened, but really he hid it behind a cloak so his crew could steal it for themselves and colonize the planet.
  • Great lengths are taken to avert this in The Hunt for Red October: When the plan is drawn up to detonate the Ethan Allen to trick everyone into thinking it was the Red October, six fuel-air bombs are placed at specific locations in the sub, releasing the explosive gas into the empty sub until the air is saturated, then igniting it all at once. When the GRU operative on the Red October tries to blow up the Soviet sub, he has to jury-rig a nuclear missile to detonate its solid rocket fuel all at once to do some, something that he specifically has to bypass several safeguards to enable.
  • The Chrysalis Research Facility in Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars has a nuclear fission reactor specifically designed to potentially self destruct with the proper authorization. It was installed in case one of the genetically engineered viruses were to get loose and possibly escape to the outside world.
  • In Trigger Mortis, the novel's title comes from the nickname for a self-destruct mechanism that is meant to be used on space rockets that experience technical difficulties and are unable to fly into space.
  • Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain: Penny mentions that during mad science, self-destructs "just happen". She puts a self-destruct on her otherwise perfectly ordinary smelter, and in the second book Remmy doesn't see anything weird about someone asking where the station's self-destruct is. When Penny needs to blow up a biotech base built by Blue-and-Orange Morality pacifists, she asks the base's AI if it has one. He is initially horrified and offended... before sheepishly admitting that yes, it does.
    Penny: Mad science was truly the same everywhere.
  • In The Truce at Bakura, part of Star Wars Legends, it's revealed Imperial ships have one consisting of two levers at opposing walls of the command bridge that will trigger an immediate reactor overload when pulled at the same time. The commander and the first officer have orders to pull the levers to prevent capture, though they're free to evacuate the crew first. Attempting to instead surrender the ship will cause the hidden Imperial Security Bureau Mole to reveal themselves to execute the commander and trigger the self-destruct themselves.
  • Star Wars: Lost Stars: The Rebels board the Inflictor, the Star Destroyer commanded by Ciena, and she seeks to trigger its self-destruct sequence per protocol. However, they anticipated this and sabotaged it, so she tries to fly the ship into the planet below instead. Thane stops her however.
  • Daemon: When the FBI attempt a raid on Matthew Sobol's heavily trapped mansion (That goes horribly wrong), Roy Merritt goes on a rampage through the house to try and reach the datacenter. The moment he goes through the datacenter's door an automated voice announces that it's been breached and will initiate a self-destruct sequence... with no countdown. He only survives by falling into a pitfall trap while trying to escape.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • A humorous take on the self-destruct button is offered in one of the 2010-11 ESPN promos for its NBA basketball coverage. A rookie player and one of ESPN's announcers are at the front of the RV the crew drives to games when the rookie starts playing with the buttons and knobs on the dashboard. One of the buttons is a Big Red Button, which the announcer tells him not to push. He does, initiating the RV's self-destruct sequence. As several ESPN and NBA personalities evacuate the RV, the rookie can be heard asking, "Why would you even install one of those?"

By Series:

  • Dark Matter (2015): When the android Ruac gets severely damaged, one of these is activated to wipe his mind.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Genesis of the Daleks", Davros has a button on the control panel of his life support chair that turns it off. Later, he tries to press a red button that would destroy the Daleks.
    • Even the TARDIS itself is revealed to have a self-destruct mechanism in "Attack of the Cybermen". Except it doesn't. Doesn't stop the Doctor from threatening to activate it around those who don't know better, though.
    • "Forest of the Dead": The Library's self-destruct is activated when the central computer starts freaking out upon being made to remember that she is a computer, with 20 minutes before the planet "cracks like an egg". Preventing the detonation comes down to the wire.
    • In "Journey's End", it's revealed that UNIT installed multiple nuclear warheads in the Earth in order to destroy it if necessary. Mildly subverted in that the destruct timer is never activated; it requires three people to set off, and the Daleks transport Martha out of the third station while she's issuing an ultimatum.
    • "The Tsuranga Conundrum": All Tsuranga ambulance ships have self-destructs in case of hijacking or contamination. The Doctor eventually removes the ship's bomb and feeds it to the energy-eating Pting so it will have enough of a meal that it won't put another ship in danger for a long time.
  • In the JAG season eight episode "Need to Know", Harm, Mac, and Sturgis are investigating why a submarine on a CIA mission in 1968 foundered off the Russian coast. There are rumors floating that so-called spec-boats had self-destruct charges aboard but this is flat out denied and the cause of the sinking was rather a collision with a Soviet sub.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • Averted in the Season 2 finale of Lost in Space (2018), when the Resolute is overrun by alien Killer Robots. John asks Maureen how to activate the self-destruct sequence, and she replies that it doesn't have one.
  • The Mandalorian. Played for Black Comedy in the first episode when Mando teams up with an IG-11 and has to keep talking it out of self-destructing to avoid capture (which is forbidden by its programming). In the season finale, it finally does so to help Mando and The Child escape, taking out many Stormtroopers in the process.
  • In the Stacy Keach adaptation of Mike Hammer episode "Murder Me, Murder You", Mike has to bring a briefcase of money to the people holding his daughter hostage. To guard against the Villain of the Week just killing him and taking the money, he transports it in an embassy briefcase used for transporting secret documents, designed to incinerate the contents if not opened correctly.
  • Mission: Impossible was a frequent offen-THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN FIVE SECONDS.
    • Although that line wasn't used nearly as often as people think. Plenty of episodes had the mission broadcast once over a secure line or the agents destroying the tape/message themselves.
    • Famously spoofed in Inspector Gadget, with the message self-destructing all over the Chief's face.
    • Also famously spoofed in Filmation's Ghostbusters: Zero's messages (disguised variously as a tuba, a rubber chicken, and other strange objects) exploded to comedic effect.
    • Naturally in Get Smart as well, with the explosion destroying everything except the tape player, so Max has to walk off with it under his arm.
  • In the original Grand Finale of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Pearl attempts to destroy the Satellite of Love with one of these when she accidentally sets it to return to Earth. Fortunately for Mike and the Bots, it malfunctions, though Crow calls out Tom for his I "Uh" You, Too as the others were saying their goodbyes.
  • Odd Squad:
    • Precinct 13579's Headquarters is rigged to self-destruct if the "un-self-destruct" button, located in the South Control Room, is not pressed every 10 minutes. Usually, this duty is handled by agents in the Maintenance section of the Maintenance/Transportation department, but in "High Maintenance", Olympia and Otis, who are demoted to the Maintenance department, become so preoccupied with fixing other things around Headquarters that they forget to press the button, nearly causing Headquarters to self-destruct with people still inside of it. Luckily, they manage to figure out which button is the un-self-destruct button and press it with 10 seconds left on the clock.
    • The Mobile Unit van has a self-destruct mode, which is activated by pushing a button that looks similar to the inside of a waffle maker. In one of the flashbacks from "The B-Team", Arctic Mr. O ends up pressing it because he thinks that it's the button to open the hatch door, and as a result, the mode is initiated as the Van Computer tells everyone to evacuate, causing Oswald to freak out while Orla and Arctic Mr. O can only stand in place in shock. Luckily, Orla, Oswald, Omar and Opal take off their What-It-Would-Have-Been-Like-inator helmets before things get explosive (and potentially gory).
  • Power Rangers:
    • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Robot Buddy Alpha Five had one of these. He can activate it himself, but can't turn it off. The Rangers saved him at the last moment, of course. (And, if it's the 'kaboom' kind, they also saved the kid Alpha had been protecting. Alpha didn't seem too concerned about his proximity.)
    • The finale of Power Rangers Turbo featured the rangers using the Rescue Megazord in battle. It was badly damaged and had not left a scratch on the enemy. Figuring that they were going to lose any way since there was no time to repair the megazord, T.J set it on a collision course with the enemy and activated the self-destruct, hoping the blast would take it out. It didn't.
      • This was actually Japanese footage, and thus also happened in Gekisou Sentai Carranger. In both shows, the team switches to their other giant robot, only for that to be destroyed as well.
    • Power Rangers in Space: The Crossover episode with Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation has Astronema hijacking the Astro Megaship with the help of the brainwashed turtles. After they break out of the spell, she orders D.E.C.A to self-destruct the ship before bailing out, but thankfully Donatello manages to stop it in the last few seconds.
    • The self-destruct mechanism is revisited in the finale of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, when the Rangers ram the Megaship against Trakeena's scorpion ship, and initiate the self-destruct sequence to take it down before escaping to Mirinoi in the Jet Jammers.
  • Princess Agents: The Tower of the Eyes of God has a mechanism to blow up the whole place. Yuwen Huai activates it while arguing with Yuwen Yue, and promptly has to run for his life when the building goes up in flames.
  • Spoofed in Red Dwarf, when Lister accidentally activates the self-destruct through the vending machine... and when the countdown finishes, he gets his order delivered. Turns out Holly chucked the self-destruct mechanism ages ago just because of the chance that would happen.
  • Averted Trope in the premiere of Something is Out There (a short-lived sci-fi series on NBC). The male human protagonist's plan for defeating the The Assimilator is to get the female alien protagonist to activate the self-destruct mechanism on her spaceship. She asks a) why a spaceship would have a self-destruct system and b) even if it did, why would she know how to activate it, which would be like a naval seaman knowing how to destroy an aircraft carrier.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1. Stargate Command features a self-destruct in the form of a Really Big Nuke that requires two ranking officers to turn their keys and enter their passwords simultaneously. Its usual role in the story is to emphasise how the heroes really don't want the current threat escaping the base, and it's usually deactivated in plenty of time. Early on it was standard procedure to start the nuke's countdown every time the Gate was activated from off-world and only stop it once the gate closed.
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • Atlantis has one too, usually used to prevent the city from falling into enemy hands. Of course, the day is always saved just in time.
      • The midway station between the galaxies also had one. And when the Wraith tampered with it, it was NOT stopped just in time. The protagonists ended up floating around in a puddle jumper for days until a ship came to the rescue.
  • In Star Trek, the self-destruct mechanism aboard the starship Enterprise in its various incarnations is an example of the kind that requires multiple activators and includes a Magic Countdown. All of the Star Trek series, with the exception of Enterprise, had Magic Countdown episodes involving the self-destruct mechanism, as did the third movie.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In "Balance of Terror", the Romulan commander destroys his ship rather than surrender. Notably, the Romulan ship's destruct mechanism does not feature the usual count-down or multi-person activation. The Romulan commander simply pulls a lever and the ship goes boom immediately.
    • In "The Doomsday Machine", Scotty turns the U.S.S. Constellation's impulse engines into a jury-rigged self-destruct device with a 30-second countdown. Note that once he enables the device, he warns Kirk that activating it is irreversible, presumably due to the considerable damage the ship has already taken. In his own words: "The way things are it's hard to keep it from blowin'!"
    • In "By Any Other Name", Scotty rigs the engines to detonate while the Enterprise is passing through the energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy.
    • In "Assignment Earth", the missile carrying the orbital nuclear warhead platform has a self-destruct device to destroy it in case it goes off course. Gary Seven deactivates it as part of his plan to scare the Earth governments into not using such weapons.
    • Used and aborted (complete with Magic Countdown) in the episode "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield". The same code sequence to arm the device is used again in the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, this time destroying the Enterprise.
    • According to the extended universe and various technical manuals, most ships implement their self-destruct by simply turning off the force-fields that keep their antimatter fuel contained. Some ships, including the original Enterprise, also have the option of using regular scuttling charges to cripple the ship without causing too much collateral damage to anything nearby.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • In "11001001", Riker and Picard activate the Enterprise-D's self-destruct when they realize someone has taken the ship. Once they determine what's going on, they shut it down.
    • Picard activates it in "Where Silence Has Lease", finding it Better to Die than Be Killed when Nagilum decides to kill a large portion of the crew For Science!. Fortunately, Nagilum finds this decision to be more interesting than anything else and lets them go.
    • In "Contagion", both the Enterprise and a Romulan ship have had their computers invaded by Alien Phlebotinum. In a scene inside the Romulan ship, there's a computer-voice speaking (in Romulan) counting down a self-destruct countdown. Fortunately, Geordi gives the Romulans instructions about how to fix their systems in time.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "Civil Defense", this was part of Dukat's "Counter-insurgency program" should the Bajorans take control of the station. When ops restablishes contact with Sisko, they explain to him how the self-destruct is supposed to work by a main reactor overload. Sisko decides overriding the computer to stop the countdown wouldn't work so he reroutes the fusion reator to output the energy away from the station. When the countdown completes the energy is harmlessly released into DS9's shields, leaving the station intact.
    • In "The Adversary", when a Founder takes control of the Defiant, Sisko and Kira activate the self-destruct countdown to keep the ship from being used to start a war with the Tzenkethi. Fortunately, they defeat the Founder in time to abort the countdown.
    • In "One Little Ship", Jem'hadar take the Defiant and force the crew to repair the damaged warp core so they can claim the ship. Sisko's Plan A is to try and reroute command to Engineering. His Plan B is to blow up the ship rather than let it fall into the Dominion's hands.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In "Basics", Kazon ships had repeatedly hit one specific spot on Voyager in hit-and-run raids, damaging the secondary command processors. The reason became apparent when Voyager fell into a massive ambush and tried to activate the autodestruct to prevent capture. Turns out the secondary command processors are vital to the job, and the Kazon had been notified to this fact by a Cardassian spy on Voyager who had defected to them upon her discovery.
    • When a sentient Weapon of Mass Destruction takes over the Doctor, he threatens to detonate right in Sickbay if Janeway doesn't give him a ride to his target. Janeway complies for long enough to try and finagle a way out of the situation, but when the weapon repeats his threat later she answers that she finds that preferable to letting him finish his mission.
    • The Borg Queen can order her ships to self-destruct, as she demonstrates when drones on various ships start breaking free of the Hive Mind.
  • Mocked in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, when Zack and Cody get a message from a spy that's set to self-destruct. It's a text message, which leads to this exchange.
    Zack: There's no way he can make a text message explode.
    [countdown terminates and smoke flows from the phone]
  • In Supergirl, the Fortress of Solitude has one. Supergirl threatens to activate it at one point to get Mxyzptlk to back off, claiming the explosion is powerful enough to kill even a Kryptonian.
  • In the 3-part mini-series V: The Final Battle, the Visitors activate the Mothership's self-destruct mechanism which will destroy not only the ship but the planet Earth as well. The self-destruct procedure begins with a 5-minute countdown until the machine reaches critical mass. When the machine reaches critical mass, a 30-second countdown to detonation begins. But then a young girl named Elizabeth uses her magical human powers and deactivates the machine, thus cancelling the self-destruct.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger has encountered quite a lot of these, and usually set off by the villains:
    • In Season 3's "War Zone", an armored car dispatcher is killed in his home by the villains, who were committing robberies by dressing up like clowns. When Walker and Trivette find his corpse hanging from a noose and cut him down, they find out too late it was rigged with a fishing line that is connected to explosives that'll blow the house to smithereens the moment his corpse hits the floor.
    • A mainstay for Max Kale, a mad bomber Walker put away a long time ago and the villain of Season 4's "Blown Apart", to the point he is eventually killed by his own handiwork.
    • Plenty to go around in Season 6's "Iceman". During the prologue of the episode, the titular villain is cornered in his hideout by the FBI, and as Walker, Trivette and Agent Doug Foster enter the house, Walker quickly discovers a bomb in the microwave, upon which he, Trivette and Foster flee the house before it explodes, and an explosive high-speed chase ensues.
    • Season 7's "" had one of Trivette's girlfriends and several other budding models being kidnapped by Sex Slave traders, and when Trivette posed as a bidder to trace their location, the kidnappers catch on to the ruse and have a bomb waiting for him and Walker when they raid their warehouse. Walker quickly discovers the bomb and the two Rangers flee the building before they are caught in the explosion.
    • "Full Recovery" in Season 8 had the CEO of a genetics lab plotting to blow up a military base with sarin, a deadly nerve gas, which one of his employees (played by Scott Weinger) and his younger brother stole so they can show it to the Rangers. After the genetics lab employee is killed, his brother develops amnesia while the company's mercenaries pursue him and try to assassinate him before he tells any authorities of their plans. Walker, Gage and Sydney are able to jog his memory and then stop the scheme in time by removing the sarin from the rig before it blew.
    • In "The Day of Cleansing", also in Season 8, which serves as a crossover with Martial Law (serving as Part 2 of "Honor Among Strangers") and rips the Oklahoma City Bombing from the headlines, Cliff Eagleton and his militia group rig up semi trucks with explosive chemicals to go off within four minutes after the driver pulls the loop, with their intended targets being police stations, banks, churches, courthouses and other government and diverse locations at exactly 9:00 AM. After Eagleton's men are captured, the semi operated by Eagleton had Sydney, whose cover was blown while she and Gage were undercover, tied up, but Walker and Sammo free her and manage to drive the truck as far away from Dallas as possible before it exploded. Afterwards, the explosion was strong enough to trigger a seismic reaction.
    • This was done to a meth lab in Season 9's "Unsafe Speed" after Sydney and Gage, who were posing as outlaw bikers to infiltrate it, have their cover blown by a mule who witnessed them arrest a drug dealer earlier in the episode. The leader of the bikers gets his meth lab ready to blow sky-high by mixing all the chemicals together and leaves Sydney to die in there while he and his gang escape, but Walker and Gage arrive in time to save her. Gage had to free Sydney after she was cuffed to the leg of a table by the lead biker using her own handcuffs while Walker dukes it out with the leader himself. At the same time Gage frees Sydney, Walker had just given the lead biker the finishing blow, but they weren't about to let him die in the explosion.
  • The Center for Disease Control in The Walking Dead (2010) is equipped with a high powered explosive device that is intended to incinerate everything in the facility in the event of total power loss.

  • Midway through "Death of a Carjacka" by Public Enemy, a skit begins where two thieves steal Chuck D's car—only to find out that it's armed with one of these and there's no way to get out of the car once it's initiated. Boom.

    Other Sites 

  • Destroy the Godmodder: Used sometimes, usually whatever it is gets busted before dying, but sometimes... The UOSS took out close to half of the battlefield.
    • The Mech entities from DTG2 get a special mention for having a guaranteed kamikaze attack upon hitting 0 HP, which was perhaps just as devastating as some of their charged specials.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth. Dr. Dieter's laboratory has a self destruct device that will blow up the entire installation three minutes after the switch is thrown.
  • If you're playing Paranoia, you work from the assumption that every robot or vehicle you encounter in Alpha Complex will be equipped with one of these, and the button activating it will be mislabeled. Ditto the Bouncy Bubble Beverage vending machines, the toilet stalls and many of the light switches.
  • Used in the OGRE tabletop game. If you decide your Ogre is in a hopeless situation, you may cause it to self-destruct, which automatically takes out any unit in the same hexagon (which would have to be a unit which just rammed the Ogre) and all non-armour units and disabled armour units in all surrounding hexagons, and instantly disables all armour units in the surrounding hexagons. Obviously, this would be of no real advantage unless you are playing a non-standard game since there is only one Ogre in the standard game.
  • Rocket Age's titular rocket ships are often equipped with self-destruct mechanisms to scuttle the ship and prevent it from falling into enemy hands, as well as potentially take out the enemy with it.
  • One of the upgrades available for the Brute player in the 4th Edition Warhammer 40,000 version of Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team is the 'Doomsday Device', a weapon of last resort designed to destroy the battlefield to prevent the Kill-team from completing their mission. The Brute player could activate this device once there were more Kill-team models on the board then Brutes, resulting in a random chance of the battlefield exploding at the beginning of each turn.

    Video Games 
  • PAYDAY 3: Stealth-only heist Turbid Station involves stealing prototype satellites with kill-switches loaded into them. Trip the alarm at any point, and QUANTZ will set it off after a limited timenote , bricking the prototypes and causing an automatic heist failure.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire: Tec starbases have the Safety Override Protocol upgrade, which turns them into giant bombs. When triggering the self destruct ability (labled as Last Resort) the resulting explosion deals a hilarious amount of damage, enough to kill most regular ships three times over, and potentially one shot lower level capital ships as well.
  • AI: The Somnium Files: Aiba informs Date early on in the Resolution route about a self-destruct module she possesses that he can activate in emergency scenarios; the module is locked behind a mandatory code that they decide on. Date is forced to activate it in the true ending, resulting in Aiba blowing up to kill Saito. It's unknown if other AI-Balls share this function.
  • XenoGears: In the intro cinematic, the captain of The Eldridge resorts to activating the ship's self-destruct mechanism to prevent it from being fully taken over.
  • In the Resident Evil series, the Umbrella Corporation is famous for simply loving its self destruct mechanisms, installing them in nearly everything it builds, from secret laboratories to Victorian mansions to trains. Justified, since their specialization is in infectious bioweaponry, and destroying the entire area is worth it if it prevents the bioweapon breaking out and all hell breaking loose.
    • Self destruct mechanisms also come in handy for destroying evidence.
    • Resident Evil 4 actually parodies the series' love of self-destruct sequences. In the finale, Ada has rigged the entire island with explosives and set a timer, and gives Leon a heads up and a means to escape. Leon's more than accustomed to escaping such sequences at this point. Ashley Graham, not so much.
    Leon (Calmly): We have to get off this island now. It's going to blow any minute.
    Ashley (Panicked): IT'S GONNA WHAT?!
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • Code ATA standing for Ashes to Ashes from Super Robot Wars Original Generation series combines this with the Cyanide Pill by having Lamia be able to blow up not only herself but the Angelg and any surrounding units. Dunamis plans for the Brainwashed and Crazy Lamia to pretend to escape so that Excellen and Kyosuke can follow her only to blow herself killing both of them as well and sending everyone else into a Heroic BSoD. Axel stops her with the code DTD Units piloted by Shadow Mirror bioroids will initiate Code ATA on their own rides once its HP is depleted.
    • In the various mainstream SRW entries, there's a Command Skill called "Self-Destruct" that certain characters, like the Gundam Wing pilots and Boss. These create a diamond-patterned explosion that can catch friend or foe in its path for Massive Damage at the cost of the unit it is performed with. It's best to be used with Boss and his Boss Borot as his unit is insanely cheap to repair at the end of each stage.
  • Every ship in the MMORPG EVE Online has a self-destruct feature. Self-destructing is a viable tactic in a hopeless PvP fight, as it denies your opponent any chance of looting your ship's remains.
  • All but one of the Metroid games feature at least one place triggering self-destruction, mostly due to Load-Bearing Boss. Sometimes planets come with a self-destruct.
  • The titular house of the computer game Maniac Mansion has a nuclear reactor installed in its basement, which can easily explode, destroying the house, everything within it and everything within a five-mile radius in a meltdown. The player can cause this in several different ways, including draining the mansion's swimming pool (which doubles as a cooling mechanism), pressing a very large red button that says "Do Not Press", or shutting off the power and allowing the electrical system to go haywire. One particularly bizarre way is if the player sets off the mansion's security system, which triggers a self-destruct sequence that blows up the entire mansion. This, of course, raises the question of just how stupid (or crazy) Dr. Fred is to install a nuclear reactor in his basement, much less buy a security system that triggers it to explode if it's activated.
  • Fallout
    • The first two games have these. Nice for Technical Pacifist and diplomatic PCs, 'cause it enables one to finish the game without firing a single shot.
    • Fallout 3 has an optional one in Raven Rock, the Enclave's main base. At the end of the Broken Steel DLC, you destroy the Mobile Base Crawler by targeting it with the Enclave's own Kill Sat.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Brotherhood of Steel's subterranean bunker in Hidden Valley comes equipped with one. Several of the various quest lines involve the option of triggering it to remove their faction from the field of play before the battle at Hoover Dam.
    • In Fallout 4, you find out during "The Lost Patrol" that Power Armor suits have a failsafe mechanism that overloads the fusion core and fuses the servo joints in place, preventing the armor from being used or salvaged by the enemy.
  • In Gradius III and Galaxies, inputting the regular Konami Code will cause your ship to self-destruct. On the other hand, substituting Left with the L button and Right for the R button will yield full powerups.
  • An optional $10 'Super Booster Pack' for City of Heroes gives all your characters a Self-Destruct power on a long recharge timer. It looks very cool and does quite a bit of damage, in return for causing you to be defeated and being slightly harder to resurrect, since Death Is a Slap on the Wrist in this game.
  • CyClones ends with you triggering the self-destruct system of an alien mothership to put an end to an Alien Invasion.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour:
  • Deus Ex Universe:
    • Averted in Deus Ex. At one point the main character has to destroy an oil tanker. This is done through the above-mentioned method for scuttling large ships.
    • Played straight in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. One of the choices for the ending is to destroy the Panchaea by depressurizing the structure with a press of a button, killing everyone in it, including yourself, but not pushing anyone's agenda.
  • In Wing Commander: Privateer if you don't want to wait to get blown up or just are in a hurry to go back to an earlier saved game, you're given the option of self-destructing your ship, which takes you back to the main menu screen.
  • The entire point of the first two Descent games is to find the mine's fusion reactor, and shoot it a bunch until a nuclear meltdown occurs (in the mines with boss robots, the robots are Load Bearing Bosses, although exactly why blowing them up still blows the mine is not explained). Then, of course, it's a mad dash to the emergency exit...
  • Most of the levels in Overload feature a rush to the exit after the reactor or boss is destroyed, very much like Descent.
  • The Harkonnen's Devastator tanks in Dune II possess these. Strange design decision since there doesn't seem to be any real use to them... unless if you're fighting against them as the Ordos. Suddenly, the Deviator's gimmicky but not too useful temporary side-switching attack becomes very useful as you order the tank to self-destruct in a huge and damaging blast radius while it's sitting in the middle of the enemy ranks.
    • They also have this same ability in Dune 2000, where it qualifies as Worst Design Decision Ever - due to the game's primitive controls (left-click did everything - click the ground and it's a move order, click the enemy and it's 'attack'... but click the tank itself and it's 'arm self-destruct' with no way to cancel) it was terribly easy to set off the self-destruct by accident in the middle of your own army.
  • In Quake II, the Strogg homeworld is riddled with self-destruct mechanisms that are activated by single buttons about ten times larger than the protagonist's head. It would have been impossible for him to have single-handedly defeat the Strogg without this being a ubiqutous design feature.
  • World of Warcraft makes use of this trope in the Ulduar raid dungeon. Mimiron's lair has a Big Red Button labeled "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!". Pushing the button, naturally, activates the lair's self-destruct mechanism and the boss encounter's hard mode.
  • Every building and machine in Machines: Wired For War comes with one, their purpose is unclear but could potentially be used with quick timing if your opponent uses Enemy Exchange Program techniques against you.
  • Iji:
    • All of the enemies do this upon death. Usually, it's a harmless version that destroys their bodies and weapons, but some have more explosive deaths. Iji herself also used to do this upon death before the 1.7 version.
    • One of the Komato logbooks talks about the various self-destruct devices for their bigger troops - Berserkers explode when killed, Beasts spray Splinters when they blow up, and Annihilators have massive explosions for when they finally bite off more than they can chew. The reason for this is that the Komato want to ensure that none of these big guns fall in the wrong hands - namely, that these measures do less harm to themselves than they do to the Tasen.
    • There's also a mention in one logbook that Komato Generals used to have nuclear-grade warheads in their suit's self destruct. One ended up destroying multiple cities when he went out (which prompted the decision to use regular explosives instead).
  • Mega Man:
    • In Mega Man X: Command Mission there is an extremely tough enemy called - appropriately enough - Meltdown. It will shrug off countless blows from your strongest party members while it slowly raises one arm that is shaped like a mine with a skull and spanners emblazoned on the side (no, seriously) during each turn. You have 3 turns to run away/kill it, and if you fail the Meltdown self-destructs, dealing the maximum damage you can be dealt. Obviously, your best chance of survival is to run away whenever you encounter it.
    • Mega Man Zero: The final boss of the first game, Copy X, self-destructs after defeat in his Armed Phenomenon form, leaving Zero in the desert where he stays even in the intro stage of the second game. In the third game, Copy X self-destructs when trying to achieve his aforementioned Armed Phenomenon due to a trap set by Dr. Weil when the doctor rebuilt the Reploid.
    • Mega Man Star Force 3 has Joker, who when defeated as Dread Joker, has his self destruction mechanism activated by Mr. King to blow up the entire secret Dealer base in order to kill everyone in the building, including Geo, Zack and Tia. The blow is absorbed entirely by Ace, killing him.
  • Averted by name in Sudeki - the most Elco can do to delay activation of the "Peace Shield" is to perform some sabotage that ends up easily repaired. He later tells Tal point-blank that it "...Took years to construct, [destroying it] isn't as simple as flipping a self-destruct switch!"
  • Alien vs. Predator
    • Aliens vs. Predator (2010) has the 10,000+ year old pyramid have a self-destruct sequence. Note that this pyramid was a large shrine to the first Predator to find the xenomorphs and the first captured Queen was buried along with him so maybe it was a defence mechanism but still, does everything their race builds have to blow up?
    • Alien vs. Predator (Capcom) has the Predator's self-destruct mechanism appear in the continue screen if you lose all your lives as a Predator (the human characters have an Alien creeping upon them instead).
  • Subversion: Certain Pokémon from the eponymous series have a self-destruct move, even though they're living creatures. Seeing as the Pokémon in question, Voltorb and Electrode, may originally have been Poké Balls, this makes some sort of sense. On the other hand, there's the question of why a Poké Ball would develop a self-destruct mechanism in the first place.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek Online, one of the ship skills you get is a self destruct with a 15-second countdown timer.
    • In the Virtual Voyager mode for Star Trek: Elite Force, you first need to get yourself maximum security clearance in Voyager's computer core. Then, on the bridge, you can activate a self-destruct sequence via the Conn between the Captain and First Officer seats. Chakotay calls you out once it's activated and will even level a phaser at you to get you to deactivate it.
    • Both of the Star Trek: Armada games featured this as an ability for the cruiser (e.g. the Galaxy class) and flagship vessels (such as the Sovereign) constructed at the advanced shipyards, the resulting explosion causes splash damage.
  • Space Quest V: The Next Mutation:
    • The SCS Eureka is equipped with a jury-rigged self-destruct mechanism with an Astro Chicken egg timer. Using it before the right moment is a good way to get a Nonstandard Game Over. However, it is necessary to stop the Big Bad.
    • WD-40's ship also has one that activates if an incorrect code is entered. Justified, if you don't expect your gynoids to ever have a glitch.
  • The giant base in OverBlood started a twenty-four self-destruct countdown after an earthquake, giving people enough time to evacuate.
  • Halo:
    • In accordance with the Cole Protocol, all UNSC vessels in danger of capture by the Covenant must self-destruct.
    • In Halo: Combat Evolved, the Master Chief and Cortana decide to destroy the Pillar of Autumn in order to prevent the Flood was spreading and the ring from being fired. Once they've recovered Captain Keyes' neural implants, containing the codes necessary to destroy the ship, they head to the Autumn and are rebuffed by Guilty Spark, who locks Cortana out and stops the countdown. So the Chief comes up with an alternate plan: crack the engine's shields and induce a reactor overload. They're successful.
    • In Halo 2, Cortana plans on activating the In Amber Clad's self-destruct, to destroy High Charity, Delta Halo and Gravemind. She fails.
    • In Halo 3, the Master Chief destroys High Charity's backup reactors in order to destroy it and Gravemind. The Chief is successful, but somehow Gravemind makes it to the replacement Alpha Halo and starts rebuilding himself on it. The Master Chief, Cortana, and the Arbiter finally kill him for good by activating the incomplete ring: the ensuing firing destroys the replacement Halo. Halo Wars 2 reveals that the Ark survived and the "Awakening the Nightmare" DLC reveals that High Charity was still intact enough to harbor an infestation of Flood.
    • Halo 4's Spartan Ops has a variation of this; Jul 'Mdama destroys Requiem by pressing a button which sends the Shield World straight into its sun. Justified by the lore; the feature is there so that if Requiem is ever overrun by the Flood, it and everything on it can be completely destroyed.
  • Pretty much every Final Fantasy game has the Bomb family of monsters. Once attacked they begin a count down to explode in your face—unless you kill them first.
  • Overlaps with real life, but many arcade games starting from the mid-80s on had suicide batteries. The way this works is that the game ROM data is encrypted and the manufacturer stores the decryption key on volatile RAM that is powered by a battery. The game becames unplayable in that the key becomes lost once the battery drains, as the RAM loses the decryption key once it loses power. Once the battery drains, the operator is forced to call the manufacturer, which will either offer to "replace" the board's battery and key at a incredibly high price to the operator, or offer a trade in for a newer version of the game at a discount (note that suicide batteries and Capcom Sequel Stagnation go hand in hand). Since the 2000s, when arcade machines started using off the shelf PC hardware, suicide batteries fell into disuse and was replaced with licensing dongles with expiry dates on them, or games that refused to run once a certain date on the machine passed. However, the ruse is the same: operator calls and is offered a new license dongle or a patch to extend the game's expiry at a higher price, or an upgrade at a discount.
  • Master of Orion allows manual self-destruct, which causes a ship to damage everything around. A special device increases the power of explosion and probability it will happen on capture — preventing ship from being captured (and possibly reverse-engineered) by enemy is the main reason to do this.
  • The main plot of Mass Effect 2 has Shepard trying to find a way to stop the Collectors from abducting humans from across the galaxy. At first, it's assumed that they live on their homeworld reachable only through the Omega 4 mass relay. Upon traveling through the relay, it's revealed that the Collectors actually reside on board a large space station, complete with a reactor core that can be overloaded to go boom. Setting the thing to go off only takes Shepard about fifteen seconds, so the entire mission basically amounts to fighting your way in, pressing a self-destruct, and getting the hell out before it blows.
  • In XIII, in the final part of the SSH1 Base mission, the base's self-destruct mechanism is activated and you must cancel the self-destruct procedure (by destroying the self-destruct computers) before the base explodes.
  • In Crystalis, after the final battle with DYNA, a self-destruct mechanism is activated when the player throws Crystalis into the main reactor. The two characters are then shown running off screen as the alarm goes off and the reactor goes critical. The tower in the sky then gets struck by lightning and falls to the surface of the earth.
  • In the NES version of Bionic Commando, the base's self-destruct mechanism is activated after the player shoots the cockpit of Hitler's escape helicopter with the Hyper Bazooka. He then has 60 seconds to escape before the base explodes.
  • Blow Out ends the game with you triggering the station's self-destruct sequence in order to contain the mutant outbreak, leading to you making an escape with less than two minutes to spare (or suffer a Kaizo Trap as you die seconds before the credits).
  • In Abadox: The Deadly Inner War, destroying the final boss activates the Living Planet's self-destruct sequence. The player must then fly his way through the tunnels and out of the planet before it explodes.
  • In the NES version of Batman: Return of The Joker, the self-destruct sequence for the Joker's secret base is activated when Batman destroys the final boss. The screen then shows Batman flying away in the Batjet as the base explodes before the credits start rolling.
  • In the NES game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project, destroying Super Shredder (the Final Boss) activates the self-destruct mechanism for Krang's spaceship. At this point, the screen shows the Turtles escaping in the Turtle Blimp as the ship explodes.
  • In Starcraft II one of the SCV's Stop Poking Me! lines is where he accidentally hits the self-destruct and frantically tries to deactivate it.
  • In Cake Mania 2 buying the second-fastest cake topping machine prompts the quip "Self-destruct button is on the back panel."
  • In Mystery Trackers 4: The Four Aces the villain activates the self-destruct mechanism in his bunker shortly before the end of the game.
  • In the Sega Master System game Zillion, when you reach the base's main computer near the end of the game, you must enter the code to activate the base's self-destruct sequence. After this, you have 300 seconds (5 minutes) to escape to the surface and back to the ship before the base explodes. If you do not escape the base in time, the explosion will kill you instantly and the game will end.
  • The NES game Air Fortress has a similar setup: Each of the eight Air Fortresses contains a Power Reactor, which you must locate and blow up; once done, you have about two minutes to get to the escape hatch and your ship before the entire Fortress blows up with you in it. The challenge in later levels comes from the warp tubes not leading back to the same places they came from, forcing you to find an alternate way back.
  • Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus: In Max's prologue, he hits the pirate ship's self-destruct button on his way out. It was discount.
    One time unit to destruction. Thank you for choosing Dynablast, Inc, the company that puts the “pal” in “astro-napalm”...
  • The very last bit of gameplay in Rockman 4 Minus ∞ has you escaping an exploding Wily Castle, "Revenge of Meta Knight"-style. The two games even use similar powers (Wheelie Rider for Kirby, Hell Wheel for Mega Man).
  • In Escape Velocity you trigger the one hard-coded to every ship by holding down Cmd-D (Ctrl-D in the Windows port of EV Nova) for ten seconds. You can escape if you have an Escape Pod or fighter aboard.
  • The X-Universe series has one aboard player-owned ships and space stations with a ten-second timer. Undock or eject before it goes off or the obvious happens.
  • Andrew Ryan has one built into Rapture in BioShock. Completely justified in that Ryan has an extremely warped perspective - if he cannot control Rapture, he will see it reduced to nothing before he'll see it in the hands of another. It's even foreshadowed in Arcadia when he tells you of the time he set fire to a forest he owned when ordered to turn it over to the government. At that time, he set parts of Rapture to self-destruct by poisoning the trees in Arcadia, destroying Rapture's main source of oxygen.
  • BioShock 2:
    • Lamb sets the prison area to self-destruct when it's obvious that her daughter, who was the crux of her whole operation, is utterly defying her by becoming a Big Sister.
    • And in Minerva's Den DLC, turning off The Thinker, Rapture's Core AI, means that all of the city-supporting AI systems like, say, "pressure regulation" and "air supply systems" are dumbed down to morons. Tenenbaum panics and urges Sigma to kill Wahl quickly.
  • Star Control
    • The Shofixti Scout has a "Glory Device" strapped to its hull as a secondary weapon. The blast can destroy much larger ships. It requires three switches to activate, but most pilots (including higher-difficulty AIs that know how to use the secondary weapons) throw the first two immediately and then keep one finger hovering over the trigger.
    • The Slylandro Probes that are destroying everybody for replication materials very fortunately have an override code that can be transmitted to order them to immediately blow themselves up. Even better, sending the code to one Probe causes it to first retransmit the code to all other Probes in existence, so it only has to be used once. It's obtaining the code that's an issue...
  • In Hidden Expedition 7: The Crown of Solomon the villain's late partner's laptop self-destructs after your character reads a message identifying said villain and locates his current position via GPS.
  • Arcade Game Xenophobe. Each base had a self destruct device that counted down. A player could temporarily deactivate the device by finding and entering a code. If the timer ever reached zero, the players would be beamed off the base and the base would explode.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the SHIELD helicarrier houses nuclear missiles equipped with a self-destruct mechanism using conventional explosives. When one such missile is hijacked in the opening mission, the heroes have to rush to the appropriate console to trigger its self-destruction.
  • The robotic Guardians of the Ancients in Might and Magic all have the same self destruct code "0-0-1". When Sheltem the Dark went rogue, Corak attempted to trigger Sheltem's self-destruct by repeating the code. Unfortunately, Sheltem had predicted this and shut off his own auditory receptors so he couldn't hear it. During their final battle in the fifth game, Corak triggers his own self-destruct to destroy Sheltem once and for all.
  • In Rite of Passage 3: Hide & Seek when the main character first activates the robot in the souvenir shop in Hope's Edge it says "Initiating self-destruct sequence: 4, 3, 2, 1..." before giving a tinny laugh and adding "Just kidding, madam."
  • XCOM:
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown has Unusable Enemy Equipment because alien weapons self-destruct when the operator dies. When you research a Static Stun Gun to take down the aliens without killing them, you can not only interrogate them but also reverse engineer their weapons to give them to your soldiers.
    • In XCOM 2, Unusable Enemy Equipment remains in play, and most enemy weapons self-destruct when their owner dies. Sometimes, however, a weapon may be left behind on the battlefield, and a nimble-enough player can collect it and take tech from it before it is lost.
  • The MechWarrior series traditionally allows the player to activate their Ejection Seat and overload the fusion reactor that powers their battlemech as a self-destruct mechanism, which can also be used as a Suicide Attack in some games' multiplayer. Bizarrely, Mechwarrior Living Legends provides no self destruct mechanism despite it being the only game where your battlemech can be stolen and used against you after ejection.
  • In Overwatch, D.Va's ultimate ability involves setting her Mini-Mecha to self-destruct and sending it towards her opponents. "Nerf THIS!"
  • In Paper Mario: Color Splash Bowser has a self-destruct button on one of his airships. Mario presses it in an attempt to release the giant paint bucket it is carrying. He succeeds but not without blowing up the ship, leaving Huey to ask why anyone would install such a device on their airship.
  • The androids in NieR: Automata can self-destruct at will, provided they've enabled the ability in their settings (yes, the options menu is a Diegetic Interface). It leaves them only barely functional and destroys their clothes, but the blast deals heavy damage and sends anything caught in the radius flying back. There's also what happens if two androids touch their incredibly volatile black boxes together, but that one's plot-only.
  • Shadow of the Wool Ball: Every single level has one for some unexplained reason, and the exit only opens once you trigger it, giving you ten second or so to get the hell out.
  • Elite Dangerous gives all ships one, blowing the ship after 10 seconds. It's mainly used when your ship is too damaged (or otherwise incapacitated) to make it to a space station, and blowing yourself up would be quicker than, say, exhausting your O2 supply.
  • SOON: Atlas makes a mental note of destroying the time machine if the robots ever figure out what Atlas' research is really about.
  • Sega's arcade games such as maimai and CHUNITHM will self-brick if they go too long without connections to the service, in order to prevent them from being run outside of authorized locations. Have fun importing a cabinet! Fortunately, Sega now sells conversion kits to remove the mandatory requirement from the now discontinued game since maimai DX is now available in most markets.
  • Subverted in Sonic Battle with E-102 Chaos Gamma and his Gamma Clones. When KO'd, he self destructs, hurting anyone standing by. The subversion comes in with his KO voice line: "Initiating Recovery Mode". Seeing as he respawns (as everyone does) soon after, this might imply a sort of Percussive Maintenance or at least that he himself is not exploding, though it looks like he is.
    • Played straight with the fight against Eggman, who does completely self destruct on Ko.
  • Mortal Kombat: After being automated forcefully, all Lin Kuei Cyber Ninjas can use it against their defeated opponents, leaving nothing but body parts and electronics.
  • Invasion: The Abductors: In the final stage, you hack into the mothership's computer and are given the option to activate the self-destruct feature. Doing so puts a time limit on the rest of the stage, but nets the best ending.
  • A purchasable upgrade for your computer in Uplink allows you to blow it up. This allows you to avoid being arrested by the FBI (since you just blew up the evidence); if you have enough money on hand to purchase a new computer, you can carry on with the game. Running the Revelation virus on your computer will also destroy it, with the same results as a self-destruct device - and as a bonus, it's free.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3:
    • One optional upgrade for the Empire is the Honorable Discharge, which equips their vehicles with explosives that deal damage to nearby units on death (of course it also damages your own units, and so can be turned against you). One side effect is that it makes the Balloon Bomb and Sunburst Squadron support powers deal even more damage, since they're units designed to explode in the first place.
    • It's never explained in-game, but killing all an enemy's structures (save for turrets) will defeat him, instantly destroying all remaining units and turrets.
  • Granblue Fantasy: Tyrias, one of the antagonists of the "Robomi" series of events, has a self-destruct mechanism built into himself that he activates after being defeated by Robomi and Nicholas, one that is believed would level the entire island that they're on. However, at the last second, Tyrias also activates a repulsor field so he only blows himself up, leaving everything else unscathed.

    Web Animation 
  • Haloid. MC's Spartan armor has a detachable breastplate that can be set to detonate like a nuclear bomb.
  • When Julia gets beaten by Scrooge McDuck and Vegeta in Ducktalez 7, Julia activates it, causing the two to run away. Julia then deactivates it, but the money bin's AI reactivates it, hoping to take Julia with her.
  • In the DEATH BATTLE! between Batman and Iron Man, this trope comes into effect with The finishing move: Tony traps Bruce in the Nano Armor and has it self-destruct, reducing Batman to a charred skeleton.

  • Sluggy Freelance
    • In the "Isle of Dr. Steve", Dr. Steve's lab naturally has a self-destruct mechanism. It gets activated solely for the reason that Bun-bun asks Kiki to press a button on Dr. Steve's computer.
    "Kiki, did you hit the override button like I told you?"
    "I hit them all, so I must have hit that one!"
  • Subverted and parodied in Exterminatus Now, where, while trying to foil the plot of a bunch of evil scientists in the Arctic, Lothar mocks Virus for suggesting the possibility of a self-destruct switch, which Virus indeed finds in the form of a Big Red Button. As it happened, the resident villains were smart, as the button instead triggered the alarm.
    Alarm: You have activated the decoy self-destruct. Please remain where you are. Armed guards will arrive immediately to capture you or shoot you in the head, depending on their mood. Real evil labs don't have "self-destruct" systems in their control room, what are you, stupid?
    Virus: Dammit!
    Lothar: Ha! I win! Wait, shit.
  • Played with in Real Life Comics, when Tony's clone activates the self-destruct on his space station before being killed. When Tony's friends ask for the override code, he points out that having an override code would defeat the entire purpose of a self-destruct system.
  • In this The B-Movie Comic strip, Biff *cough* "discovers" such a mechanism in pharaoh Rutentuten's pyramid.
  • As usual, this trope gets a mention in The Order of the Stick with this strip. The question "why would you even have a self-destruct on that?" is later made into a plot point.
  • Featured in a Welcome to Pixelton strip... except the button was in a guy's stomach.
  • Bob and George Self-Destruct will occur in two minutes!
  • A subversion of this in Two Evil Scientists became a Running Gag for the comic
  • Fans! has this on handguns, for the occasional Desperation Attack.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • It's demonstrated that any ship with a suicidal AI essentially has one of these; as long as they have access to the reactor, they can send it into overdrive. Whether warships have a self-destruct so that the AI doesn't have to destroy themselves is not made clear.
    • The Credomar arc shows one of the reasons for these — Brad wanted one in his flying tank, to keep it from crashing into an occupied condominium.
  • In Freefall, the Savage Chicken is said to have a self-destruct mechanism. When Niomi and Tangent first show up to answer Florence's call for a repair crew, Helix's overenthusiasm and lack of thinking out things before acting results in her asking if he is said mechanism.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Lucrezia's lab is equipped with one of these, though it's soon revealed that she can casually shut it off if she wants to.
    • Also subverted in this scene here.
    • Played straight with The undersea dome in England officialy housing the local society of Sparks.
  • Scary Go Round: In this strip, The Boy claims that the boat which he's improvised out of a caravan has "a rudimentary self-destruct mode". However, he may just be making excuses for the fact that it's falling to pieces.
  • Skin Horse: Evil government agency Anasigma seems to employ a lot of mad scientists for special design jobs. This strip shows where that philosophy leads.
  • In Daisy Owl, the space orphanage has a self-destruct mechanism on the same panel as the airlock controls, because why not? Steve activates it by accident.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in this News Biscuit article, "Self-destruct buttons are 'a needless risk'".
  • In the Channel 101 short "Homeless James Bond" one of the villains' lair is just a very large conglomerate of cardboard boxes and the self-destruct mechanism which the titular hero activates is a long strip of duct tape which once pulled away causes the "lair" to collapse, accompanied by a Big "NO!" courtesy of the villain.
  • A Running Gag on Villain Source (Your Online Source For Everything Evil) in which every advertised Supervillain Lair comes with an "obvious and accessible self-destruct mechanism". There's even a portable version!
  • The Evil Overlord List says that if you must include a self destruct on your evil lair it shouldn't be triggered by the Big Red Button labeled "Self Destruct Mechanism", that button just triggers a hail of bullets
  • In Worm, Coil's base has a phone-activated demolition command that Tattletale activates to trap Noelle/Echidna.
  • In Phaeton the UD, Planet Shield and The Orphange all incorporate these into their bases and some other machines, that way nobody can swipe their tech that "adams just aren't ready for".
  • All SCP Foundation sites housing Keter class SCPs (and even some sites that don't) have an armed nuclear warhead on site, to be set off if things go really bad. For some of the more deadly Keter SCPs, this would only slow them down.
  • The Final Minutes: The Path’s compound locations are fitted with a Magno Loop, an underground ring that acts as the compounds’ main defense system. It’s also fitted with Complete Destruction mode, which causes the loop to cycle through all of its defense modes before detonating and vaporizing anything in a 25 kilometer radius, and even expose the Earth's mantle and cause a magnetic reversal. This is ultimately how Zombie Plague ends, as the Tokyo Confederacy and the Commonwealth of United Territories not only reject The Path's airborne virus cure and attack their compounds, but betray each other and start fighting.
    The Path: There is no hope. Our communities are being destroyed. The Earth must be returned to the heavens. Total Destruction mode is authorized.

    Western Animation 
  • Goddard from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius has a self-destruct mechanism that can be activated by voice command; afterward, he can reassemble himself. Specifically: "Play dead, Goddard!"
  • On an episode of Arthur Brain designed a tooth extraction machine to remove Arthur's loose tooth. After he attempts to use a melon to demonstrate the machine goes crazy and tries to run away, leaving him to press a self destruct button he built into the machine's remote, causing the machine to explode rather violently (seen as only a flash and boom).
  • In Atomic Puppet, Captain Atomic's old secret lair has one disguised as a videotape labelled "Mookie's Greatest Hits". AP explains the choice of appearance is because nobody would want to watch anything about Mookie. Unfortunately, Mookie himself proves to be the exception.
  • The Omnitrix in Ben 10 has such a mechanism, with the resulting blast depending on how long the countdown is. 30 seconds was enough to sever Vilgax's arm, but given a few days it could take the Universe with it. The function can be voice-activated and deactivated by Ben.
    Ben: Omnitrix, command function override, code ten.
    Omnitrix: Override accepted. Voice command activated.
    Ben: Omnitrix, self-destruct in thirty seconds, command code zero, zero, zero, destruct, zero.
    Omnitrix: Destruct sequence completed and engaged. Detonation in T minus thirty seconds.
  • Birdman (1967)
    • "Versus Dr. Freezoids". When Birdman defeats him, the title villain sets his Freezoid Generator to overfreeze. This causes his base to become a block of ice, expand and explode.
    • "Number One". The main body of the title villain's pirate satellite has a timer-controlled bomb activated by a "destruct switch".
    • "The Deadly Duplicator". Professor Taggert's duplicate uses a Destruct Bomb to destroy his lab.
    • "Avenger for Ransom". Zardo captures Birdman and Avenger, puts them into a rocket and launches them into space. Just to make sure they don't survive there's an explosive device aboard the space capsule they're in that will blow it up ten minutes after launch.
    • "Serpents of the Deep". At the end of the episode, Dr. Shark flees his submarine and leaves a self-destruct bomb on board with a time delay in the hope that Birdman and Avenger will land on it and be destroyed. Luckily Birdman recognizes the ploy and avoids the trap.
  • Snap gets a new car in the ChalkZone episode "Snap's New Car". After Queen Rapsheeba tells Snap his new car is "the bomb" the voice-activated car hears the word "bomb" and proceeds to explode on command.
  • Lampshade Hanging on Codename: Kids Next Door: in one episode, Cree is en route to the KND HQ on the moon to have her memories erased, but escapes when the two KND agents piloting the ship accidentally activate the "Blow Up The Engines" button, which prompts her to incredulously ask Numbuh 5 why a spaceship would need such a device. (Actually, Fridge Brilliance would suggest that it would need one for exactly what happened: a prisoner getting free and taking over the ship. If she had been able to commandeer the ship, it would have been really bad.)
  • Danger Mouse: Dr. Frankenstoat's vampoid-creating machine didn't really have a self-destruct option ("Duckula Meets Frankenstoat"), but when DM tells Penfold to "self-destruct!" as a means to stop him from telling lame golf puns, the machine hears it and blows itself up.
  • Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: The Squadron is usually quite capable of destroying their own planes without any mechanical assistance, but Klunk actually kits out a plane with a self-destruct button in "The Cuckoo Patrol" when the mission turns out to be a bust.
  • Dexter's Laboratory, Dial M for Monkey episode "Huntor". After Monkey captures him, Huntor activates a device that will destroy the asteroid they're on in 30 seconds. Huntor assumes that Monkey will be distracted rescuing his friends (including Agent Honeydew), allowing Huntor to get away in his escape ship. Monkey was fast enough to save his friends and grab Huntor again before flying to safety.
  • In an episode of Doug, the class gets snowed into their school after hours, but Bebe Bluff is prepared with a laptop that can connect to the Internet via her own personal satellite. Unfortunately, before they succeed in actually contacting help, someone pushes the button on the laptop that causes the satellite to self-destruct. Bebe berates the person for being an idiot, but they then reply that having a button that does that is even more idiotic, which Bebe realizes is true.
  • Final Space: In episode 7, Nightfall’s ship/time machine turns out to have one, and Little Cato accidentally activates it when trying to steal the ship. He and KVN are saved just in time, but the ship is destroyed.
  • Parodied in Futurama:
    George Takei: Do you guys have a self-destruct code, like, "Destruct sequence 1-A, 2-B, 3—" [Bender's head explodes]
    Bender: Thanks a lot, Takei. Now everybody knows!
  • The Herculoids episode "Malak and the Metal Apes". The Metal Apes (robots) have one, which can be activated by a Big Red Button in Malak's observation room inside his base.
  • Invader Zim:
    • Apparently all Irkens and S.I.R units have one. This is shown in the first episode, when Dib first tells everyone Zim's an alien; Zim panics and pulls it out, but puts it away when everyone dismisses Dib as crazy, and it's never seen again. And in "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom" Zim commands GIR to self destruct, which he gleefully does.
      GIR: Finally!
    • The Mega-Doomer stealth mech is also equipped with such a device (causing the Tallest to briefly hope Zim was destroyed with it after they find that it's been activated) and the Resisty's ship has a "Shrinky Self Destruct", which, when deployed, shrank the ship down so small that it blipped out of existence so that nobody would be able to uncover their plans.
  • Averted in Johnny Test when the Darth Vader Expy was Genre Savvy enough to have it disabled to prevent failure.
  • Jonny Quest: The missile in the TOS episode "Arctic Splashdown" has a self destruct mechanism so it can be destroyed in mid-flight if it goes off course.
  • Kid Cosmic: Chuck tries to contact his people to Earth while on the ship, but accidentally triggers this instead.
  • Kim Possible:
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: As the Cluster Robots are suffering their final defeat in the Big Damn Movie, Smytus activates his personal self-destruct to take Jenny with him... but thanks to his eternal obsession with dramatic villainous countdowns, the self-destruct has a time delay (in pretty much the one situation where that is unnecessary) and Jenny just hurls him into the middle of nowhere where nothing gets damaged by him blowing up except him.
  • The Oblongs: Yvette, the alien girl from the first episode, had one in her hovercraft pod which was remotely activated due to "cost effectiveness" by her commander when she believed that Milo, who she believed had been killed in a collapse of his clubhouse. Milo arrived just in time to see Yvette and her pod reduced to a small pile of dust in an explosion.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Dr. Doofenshmirtz puts self-destruct buttons on practically everything; the first time we see one activated is in "The Magnificent Few", where the button installed inside Perry's trap blows up the island hideout. And by "everything", we mean "everything"; in "Bee Story", Doofenshmirtz reveals he has a self-destruct button on his underwear... which he promptly activates.
    • Phineas and Ferb include one in their Rainbow-Inator:
    Ferb: You know in retrospect, I question the inclusion of a self-destruct button in the first place.
  • Spoofed in the Ren & Stimpy episode "Space Madness", where the narrator ends up badgering Stimpy into pressing the "History Eraser Button". The jolly, candy-like button!
  • The Simpsons: "Homer Goes to College" shows the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant has a Big Red Button with no cover on Homer's control panel which causes the reactor to go critical. Fortunately, there's a shutoff lever right next to it, but then why does a nuclear power plant need a self-destruct switch to begin with? It's implied that Homer presses the button on accident so often there's a designated shutoff lever-pulling dog just for him.
  • Sonic Boom: The Cubot prototypes from "Beyond the Valley of the Cubots" all have self-destruct buttons on their heads. They're all dumb enough to press them, which is why they need Tails' tools to repair themselves.
    Sonic: Before Eggman returns, we need to move you all to a place where you'll be safe.
    (The Bowler Hat Cubot presses his self-destruct button and explodes.)
    Sonic: Relatively safe.
  • Space Ghost
    • "The Drone". At the end of the episode, after the title robot was captured it blew itself up with (as Space Ghost put it) a "destruct mechanism".
    • "Homing Device". Before leaving Metallus' headquarters Space Ghost activates the HQ's destruct mechanism, causing it to blow up.
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends: The Kingpin gets his mitts on an experimental Swiss-Army Weapon that shoots all kinds of rays. Unfortunately for him, it also comes equipped with an unlabeled self-destruct button.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants; "Imitation Krabs" one of Plankton's schemes is foiled thanks to the coin-operated self destruct he foolishly installed into his mechanical replica of Mr. Krabs.
    Plankton: Coin operated self-destruct. Not one of my better ideas.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Crisis Point":
    • Vindicta uses a remote control to overload her ship's warp core, disabling the Cerritos with the resulting explosion.
    • Holo-Mariner takes out Vindicta and herself using Cerritos's self-destruct mechanism.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Bound for Rescue", when Obi-Wan Kenobi's cruiser gets boarded and is being overrun by General Grievous' forces, he cleverly sets the self-destruct mechanism without the computer displaying or vocalizing any countdown warnings before making his escape. Unfortunately, since this effort is Doomed by Canon (Grievous has to survive until Revenge of the Sith), Obi-Wan can't resist the urge to leave a recorded message on the bridge to gloat to Grievous... giving him just enough warning to get off the ship seconds before it explodes.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Lex Luthor is fond of these in his labs, since they're a useful way of destroying incriminating evidence, with the possible added bonus of possibly killing any nosy reporters or interfering aliens.
  • In the The Transformers episode "B.O.T." (widely considered one of their worst episodes of all time) Megatron's Orbital Disruptor Cannon is equipped with a clearly labelled Overload button. Its sole function is, as the name implies, to make the cannon overload and explode. Yes, Megatron, putting this button on your cannon was a wonderful idea.
  • Subverted in The Venture Brothers: the old Team Venture once raided an enemy base that was set to self destruct, but malfunctioned. They then decided to move in. Then double subverted when the thing comes back online from someone touching the control panel. Thankfully Richard Impossible absorbed the explosion by eating the bomb in an attempted Heroic Sacrifice/failed suicide attempt.
  • Young Samson and Goliath:
    • Episode "The Secret of Evil Island". In the end, the Big Bad Voltor throws a Big Electric Switch to activate a device that causes the Island Base he's on to sink into the ocean.
    • Episode "From Out of the Deep". After being defeated by Samson and Goliath, the enemy activates a self destruct device inside their ship before escaping. Goliath detects the device's activation and warns Samson, allowing them to escape before it detonates.

    Real Life 
  • Space launch vehicles usually have "Range Safety" systems. Typically it involves a linear-shaped explosive charge that splits open the side of the rocket, allowing the propellant to disperse. They're there primarily to guard against the scenario of a malfunctioning rocket flying into a Bus Full of Innocents. There's even a guy (the Range Safety Officer) specifically tasked with pushing the Big Red Button if the rocket goes out of control and the safety of the public is at stake. Manned craft from Apollo onwards include a Launch Escape System to propel the capsule clear of the blast radius before triggering it; the Shuttle notably did not, depending solely on its aerodynamic properties to bring the crew safely back to the surface. Whether this would have worked is difficult to say.
    • In the case of solid-fueled rockets, it is actually impossible to stop firing once they're lit, so triggering destruct is often the only way to terminate thrust in the event of a range safety concern.note  Doing this typically results in the entire booster going up in a massive explosion, with lots of chunks of flaming debris.
    • The Mariner 1 spacecraft was launched on an Atlas rocket in 1962. A typographical error in the guidance software caused the rocket to go off course towards shipping lanes in the North Atlantic. The range safety officer triggered the self-destruct and the rocket was blown up just under five minutes after launch.
    • The Ariane 5 rocket's maiden flight: A bug in the navigation system caused the rocket to attempt a wild course change. Structural damage resulted, triggering range safety destruct.
    • Averted with most Russian launches, as Baikonur Cosmodrome was intentionally sited in one of the least densely populated regions of the old Soviet Union so that the odds of a failed launch crashing in a populated area were negligible.
  • Naval vessels are sometimes fitted with "scuttling charges" — explosives designed to blow holes in the hull and sink the ship, to prevent capture by the enemy. Of course, depending on the design, scuttling is sometimes as simple as opening all the valves and shutting off the ballast pumps, effectively pulling the plug and letting the ship fill with sea water.
    • The crew of a nuclear-powered vessel could (at least in theory) intentionally cause a reactor incident... assuming it wasn't already armed with nuclear weapons. Nuclear reactors physically cannot cause an actual nuclear blast, but a meltdown would nonetheless cause catastrophic damage to the ship, including secondary effects like steam explosions from the coolant.
  • When any US Military plane or helicopter goes down, one of the primary jobs of any surviving crew member or rescuer is to destroy what's left of the downed aircraft.
  • In a lot of US Military gear, such as mobile generators or anything where shutdown would endanger lives in combat, there's a "Battle Short" switch. This isn't a self-destruct per se, but a bypass of any fuses or circuit breakers so that the gear will continue to function until it physically fails, as opposed to being shut down by a tripped breaker or blown fuse; it has been shorted for battle, hence "battle short". Once the need has passed, the equipment can be returned to normal (protected) operation.
    • Not to be confused with Battle Short, certain nuclear weapons are fitted with a "command-disable" mechanism. This uses a thermal battery to melt down the internal firing circuitry, rendering the weapon unusable by anyone until it has been returned to the manufacturer for rebuilding.
    • A civilian application of "Battle Short" is in the pumps of fire sprinkler systems. The pump motors do not have fuse/CB protection (or such protection is bypassed when the fire alarm goes off), with the justification that any destruction of the motor is outweighed by the damage to the building from an uncontrolled blaze.
  • "Spiking the guns" referred to the act of driving a spike into the touch hole of a cannon to prevent it from being fired. While it could be fixed, doing so was an extremely difficult proposition. This was generally done to prevent the enemy from using a captured cannon. Modern military uses thermite charges, which when placed into a gun breech will melt it into slag.
    • Modern procedure for "scuttling" a tank that must be abandoned for whatever reason is to place thermite charges on the breech and the engine, to prevent either the gun or the vehicle itself from being reused if they're captured. In the US Army there are standard locations for placing the charges, so that even in a disastrous situation where multiple tanks have to be abandoned, it will be the same components destroyed in all of them, and it would be impossible to cannibalize one captured tank for the parts to repair the other. If there's no realistic chance of recovering the abandoned tank any time soon, an airstrike will then be called in to more thoroughly destroy it.
  • Probably overlapping with This Page Will Self-Destruct: in January 2014, DARPA hired IBM to create "new class of electronics" — Vanishing Programmable Resources — that would be easy to physically destroy by radio command. The plan is to manufacture chips on a strained glass substrate that would easily shatter into a fine powder, and to initiate shattering with a fuse or a reactive metal layer.
  • Blackberry smartphones hooked up to an enterprise server had a self-destruct built in. Someone who lost their equipment could phone a company helpdesk. The helpdesk would remote into the Blackberry server and initiate a remote wipe that would render the phone and any data on it to a useless brick.
  • Some computers designed for use with illegal activities use various methods to melt their hard-drives.
  • A standard feature of large safes is a glass relocker. Any attempt to drill through the door or around the lock will shatter an internal sheet of glass, which holds back spring-loaded mechanisms that jam the locking bolts in place. This makes the safe impossible to open without recourse to other time-consuming and/or extremely noisy methods, though it is possible to blast the safe open, often destroying the contents in the process. For extra security, triggering the relocker will often activate a silent alarm.
  • Many German tanks in WW2 were fitted with destruction charges if they had to be abandoned and there was no realistic chance of retrieving them. This could be tactically useful if it was one of the monster vehicles used in the later war, where the last-ditch abandonment of, say, a seventy-ton Jagdtiger SPG, could be a very expensive and hard-to-move road-block slowing up the advance of enemy forces.
  • iOS devices, through another iOS device running on the same iCloud account or while logged into said account, can be set to have all data on them erased remotely (e.g. if the device is stolen). Of course, that's assuming the device is still on and connected online, either through wifi or cellular data.
  • The Green Bay Packers are unique in North American sports in that they are the only major professional sports franchise owned by the community rather than by a small group of really rich people— their 361,169 official shareholders would be an egregious violation of current NFL ownership rules (which limit franchise-ownership groups to 24 people; most only have one) if their situation hadn't been grandfathered in. Besides the civic pride that Packer Nation has in being the last remaining vestige of the NFL's small-town roots (Green Bay is by far the smallest city in North America to have a major pro team), this situation is reinforced by the Packers' original 1923 charter, which stipulated that if the franchise were ever sold (i.e. with the intent to move it out of Green Bay), any post-sale profits must be donated to the Sullivan-Wallen Post of the American Legion to build "a proper soldier's memorial" (it was changed to the Green Bay Packers Foundation charity in 1997)— this "poison pill provision" ensures that there would never be any financial incentive to move the team.
  • The Sonos line of smart speakers does this with Recycle Mode. When activated, it begins an irreversible 21-day countdown; at the end of this countdown, the speaker will brick itself. The idea behind having this mechanism is that the user can then send it in to Sonos to get credit towards a new Sonos device.
  • Starting in 1940; Switzerld had thousands of locations along tunnels, bridges, highways, and railroads rigged to blow in times of war to deny any invader transportation [1]. The last demolition charges were only removed at the end of 2014, when the danger from the hundred-kilogram masses of decaying TNT was decided to be too great to keep them in place.
    • Similarly, many major European bridges built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were rigged to be easily destroyed, especially those crossing major rivers. They were built with niches for placing demolition charges at critical points, as well as protected conduits to carry wires back to the detonator. During times of foreign hostility, engineers would place and arm the charges and troops set up defensive positions, with orders to blast the bridge if they couldn't hold off the enemy, or on a command from headquarters. This exact situation played out several times in both World Wars. In World War II, a common goal of airborne operations was to seize a key bridge by surprise, so that the defenders wouldn't have time to blow it up.
  • Subverted with kill-switches, which despite the dramatic name generally don't destroy the machine, but just turn it off. This is only in general, though, as a rule for kill-switches is that it's more important to protect the operator than the machine, so sometimes it may destroy itself if the machine-safe shut-off routine is too long.
  • In 1996, Tim Lloyd, a long-time network administrator for OMEGA Engineering, left the company for a new job. Before he did, he installed in their system a series of commands that investigators would come to refer to as a "time bomb." This series of commands deleted the software that ran all of OMEGA's manufacturing operations at its factory in Bridgeport, New Jersey, almost ruining the company and putting 80 employees out of work. Tim Lloyd was convicted of computer sabotage and was sentenced to 41 months in Federal prison. The Tim Lloyd case is considered one of the largest employee sabotage cases in United States business history. The case is detailed in a ''Forensic Files'' episode, "Hack Attack."

Alternative Title(s): Self Destruct Button, Self Destruct Sequence



Why a device would ever need an "overload" button is anyone's guess.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / InventionalWisdom

Media sources: