Sometimes the villain is so bad that he scorches the earth beneath his feet (see also Walking Wasteland). Sometimes his evil diffuses around the world and literally sets the world on fire. Sometimes the world is set on fire by some mishap.
See also World-Wrecking Wave.
- In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the world burned for seven days when the God-Warriors were first unleashed.
- Last Days of the Justice Society: The world, as well as the whole universe, burns in 1945 as Hitler has linked the fate of the world to that of the Norse gods' Ragnarok.
- Reign of Fire has dragons emerging from the depths of the Earth and burning the world. This was apparently what did in the dinosaurs the first time around.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: In the film, the major plot is that the Earth's Van Allen belts are on fire and slowly roasting the planet.
- Used as a metaphor in probably the most well-known line from The Dark Knight, although this particular incarnation of The Joker is the kind of guy who would literally act out this trope if he could manage it.
Alfred: "Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."
- Animorphs: According to Ax, if the Yeerks wanted to kill a lot of humans, they'd just use their Dracon beams to ignite the atmosphere from orbit.
- Artemis Fowl: In The Time Paradox, Mulch remarks that Opal Koboi seems like the kind of person who would set the world on fire just to watch it burn. Opal jots down a note about that and thanks him for his suggestion.
- "Nightfall (1941)", by Isaac Asimov: People set their cities aflame when darkness comes (about every 2,000 years), since being suddenly plunged into darkness and seeing the stars — something the people of the setting have no actual knowledge of — drives them insane with fear.
- In Seveneves this is how the destruction of the Moon (and the following "hard rain" sterilizes Earth's surface: the impacts themselves are pretty bad too, but the heating of the atmosphere caused by the bolides is the ultimate killer, roasting everything.
- In The Survivalist series by Jerry Ahern, our title character's ability to survive is tasked when ionization of the atmosphere after WW3 causes this trope. This starts a race between our hero and his KGB counterpart to secure the equipment necessary for some to survive in suspended animation until the atmosphere recovers.
- Doctor Who: An entire alternate Earth is destroyed by fire and lava in "Inferno".
- Babylon 5: On the eve of defeat, President Clark programms the Earth's network of defense satellites to turn on his own planet. If he can't rule, no one can.
- Smallville: An old psychic has a heart attack and dies when she sees Lex Luthor's future: standing in the Oval Office as the world burns.
- Defied in The Ink Spots' song "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire". "...I just want to start a flame in your heart".
- In Jonathan Coulton's "Skullcrusher Mountain", the singer's plan involves being in a submarine while igniting the atmosphere.
- "Ian Campbell's The Sun is Burning" (later Covered Up by Simon & Garfunkel).
Now the sun has come to Earth
Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death
Death comes in a blinding flash
Of hellish heat and leaves a smear of ash
And the sun has come to Earth
- Insane Clown Posse's "F**k The World", from The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, includes the hook, "If I only could I'd set the world on fire."
- The Bible:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2nd Peter 3:10-13)
- In Peter's second epistle, he foretells that on the day of the Lord's coming the earth and the heavens will be burned up.
- Jesus himself says, in Luke 12:49, "I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" Whether this is metaphorical or not is uncertain.
- In Norse Mythology, the Ragnarok ends with the fire giant Surtr setting the world on fire and killing everything. Well, everything except for Yggdrasil and those beings hiding under its roots.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 sourcebook Elder Evils, one of the generic Signs of the End Times which can herald the awakening of an Elder Evil is the onset of hot, dry winds which gradually raise the global temperature, evaporate water, and prevent all forms of precipitation from falling. As the Elder Evil comes closer to waking, the winds get stronger and hotter, eventually becoming hot enough to ignite whatever they touch and kick off worldwide firestorms.
- Warhammer 40,000: The end result of Exterminatus by virus bombs is this. The virus eats every organic thing on the planet and turns them into organic sludge, high in oxygen content. Then an orbital strike engulfs the world in a firestorm. The Modalis Atmospheric Missile, instead, directly destroys a planet's atmosphere and surface via extreme temperatures and chemical contamination.
- The page image comes from Halo: Reach were during the story campaign the Covenant begin bombarding Reach to turn the surface into glass.
- Happens in Homeworld to Kharak.
- Primal Rage has this in the backstory, and it's also indicated to happen when you play as Diablo and see his ending.
- Mass Effect 3: we see several worlds under attack by the Reapers, but none are hit harder than the homeworlds of humanity and the turians: Earth and Palaven. Entire chunks of the planets are aglow with orange flames visible all the way to their moons... and most of the rest is covered in smoke.
Garrus: See that bright orange spot right there? That's where I was born.
- Persona 4: Arena Ultimax: Shadow Yukiko literally says this to you after clearing a mode with her.
Shadow Yukiko: "Now, let's go set the world on fire together, my love!"
- Happens in the Dresden Codak strip Caveman Science Fiction, when a caveman's invention of fire ends up setting the world ablaze in a parody of the Scale of Scientific Sins.
- One of the planets in Homestuck was set entirely on fire. The main character blew the fire out anyway
- Spacetrawler: The ship of Eebs who lack brain clamps toast the entire surface of first one planet and then several more, as part of their whole Omnicidal Maniac schtick.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Attempted in the finale by Firelord Ozai. After an entire century of attempting and failing to conquer the Earth Kingdom, he attempts to use Sozin's Comet and the power boost it gives him to literally burn the entire kingdom down within a day. The Earth Kingdom, it should be noted, is by far the largest nation on the planet and occupies more than half the landmass.
- Ben 10: While not a planet per se, Ben's Heat Blast form comes from a species originating from a star, meaning that their home "planet" is constantly on fire.
- Beast Wars: In the season 1 finale, the Vok decide that "the project" has been contaminated by our stranded heroes and villains. Cue one of the two moons turning into a giant laser gun of fiery death. Hey! One moon! That means we're on Earth, after all!
- Futurama: In one Christmas Episode, the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere is elevated by mutant Christmas trees. Then Bender lights a cigar...
- Phineas and Ferb: An old associate of Doctor Doofenshmirtz's was single-mindedly obsessed with setting fire to the Sun, despite the Sun already being a superheated sphere of incandescent plasma.
- The Simpsons: The Treehouse Of Horror XVII episode has Kang and Kodos invade Earth in the third segment The Day The Earth Looked Stupid. Jumping forward to three years later Springfield is in ruins and the aliens wonder why they were not greeted as liberators, as they planned the invasion to rid Earth of "weapons of mass disintegration" which they refer to as "Operation Enduring Occupation" (in a clear reference to the war on Iraq). The segment ends with the camera pulling away from the smoking ruins of what was once Springfield, as the song "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" by the The Ink Spots plays.
- Teen Titans: When Trigon emerges on Earth, his presence causes the world to look like a volcanic wasteland complete with people frozen as statues. They get better.
- The possibility of setting the entire atmosphere on fire was one of concerns about exploding the atomic bomb. Lucky it wasn't true, and we now know it didn't happen, but insofar as most people knew it was still a possibility when the first experimental blasts were detonated.
- The 1980s Scare 'Em Straight documentary The Nuclear Holocaust: a Scientific Forecast shows how a full-scale nuclear exchange would set fire to almost every bit of combustible material on Earth that wasn't vaporized. "The whole world is burning," says the show's surprisingly cheerful host.
I just want to start a flame in your heart.