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Set the World on Fire

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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.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • This is fully the intent of Brightly Burning's Lavan Firestorm, after enemy soldiers shoot his Companion, the one being who had any hope of holding back his Superpowered Evil Side. Fortunately for the world, he also wanted to die himself and allowed the flames to take him too, but before then he generated flame walls as tall as mountains and annihilated an army as well as the mountain pass they were crossing.
  • "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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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."

    Myth & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • 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.
      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)
    • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • The page image comes from Halo: Reach were during the story campaign the Covenant begin bombarding Reach to turn the surface into glass.
  • Homeworld: In the third mission the Mothership jumps back home to Kharak, only to find that the Taiidan Empire has destroyed it with an atmospheric incinerator.
    No one's left. Everything's gone. Kharak is burning..."
  • 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!"
  • In ARK: Survival Evolved: Aberration, the Aberrant Ark's climate control system was broken in the backstory (the survivors tried to battle the Overseer with nukes). As a result, the surface is exposed to radiation that will instantly incinerate anything caught out in daytime, even with a hazard suit, and most life has adapted to the extensive, somewhat less irradiated, underground cave systems.


    Western Animation 
  • 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.