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Surprise Car Crash

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Nothing says wham like a wham episode!

In a moving vehicle, a standard drive-and-talk scene plays out, usually an En Route Sum-Up or similarly mundane Shot/Reverse Shot conversation as generic scenery passes in the background, until WHAM! — the scene is violently interrupted by another car crashing into our unsuspecting characters, appearing suddenly in the heretofore innocuous view through the windows.

Sometimes we see what's coming a moment before the characters do, but often it is played extremely suddenly for maximum shock. One middle ground is to deliberately include a lot of Driver Faces Passenger dialogue to unsettle the audience and subtly foreshadow something going wrong. The crash itself may cause a Smash to Black. Frequently done deliberately with malicious intent (though this usage has largely become a Discredited Trope).

May result in characters Killed Mid-Sentence, unless they're Made of Iron. Compare Look Both Ways, where someone runs across a street and is suddenly hit by a car.

Unfortunately Truth in Television as the many people who have been in a car accident can attest.

Compare Jump Scare.


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  • Many Public information films about road safety would end up in this trope.
  • One advertisement by Volkswagen played prior to a movie simulates a person driving. Behind the scenes, someone who works for the ad campaign sends a text to the moviegoers via a computer. As they read the messages on their cell phones, the car crashes, followed by a reminder to keep their eyes on the road when driving.
  • Two commercials for Volkswagen showed the occupants of the car talking about something. In one, we see a car come out of a side street and hit the side of the Volkswagen. In the other, we see the view through the windshield as a truck backs out of a driveway into their path. After the impact in both commercials, we see the occupants seemingly uninjured looking over the smashed-up cars.
  • One French PSA is a POV sequence from a speeding vehicle, running red lights, etc. At the end, the camera pans out, revealing the vehicle to be an ambulance, which stops next to a crashed car.
  • The Canadian Don't Drive High PSA features this as a consequence of a driver who smoked before driving. Even more disturbing, in the Eye-Opener version of the commercial it shows a POV of the driver being rushed to the hospital. Then we get a view of the driver looking at a woman (who was using a phone) ending up dying in the hospital.
    Anime & Manga 
  • Lady!!: This is how Lynn's mother died - she was reminsicing about finally reuniting with George at the Marble Mansion with Lynn, but suddenly, another vehicle appeared and the driver swerved to avoid them....
    • In the manga, she died when a little girl chasing her ball appeared in front of the car and the driver tried to avoid running over the child. The anime changes it to a vehicular collision.
    Fan Fiction 
  • In Gift of A Diamond, as Greg was driving from a family reunion in Korea with Steven and the Gems, a giant multi-handed creature no doubt one of the cluster gems appears on the road, inciting a car crash that separates Steven from the others, eventually leading to him meeting Blue Diamond.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Adaptation., Chris Cooper's character retells the story of how he lost his front teeth. The flashback shows him in the process of backing out of the driveway when his station wagon is hit by a truck. His parents in the backseat are instantly dead.
  • Part of the backstory of Baby in Baby Driver, who was in the backseat while his parents were arguing at front. The crash kills both of them and deafens Baby, partly explaining his child-like attachment to both classic iPods and driving.
  • The car accident in The Body (2012) that kills Jaime's wife comes unexpectedly.
  • Clockwise: Having berated Laura for driving without a licence, Brian Stimpson takes the wheel himself; he immediately crashes into a police car which had reversed to just in front of where they were parked. In a case of Obscured Special Effects, the crash is heard before the result is seen.
  • In The Cobbler, the hero is kidnapped and put into the backseat of a car. While the co-driver talks to him, the car inexplicably collides with an obstacle. The scene fades to white and the hero awakes at his friend's place, implying his friend rammed the baddies with his own car to save the hero.
  • Done in the beginning of Constantine (2005) to show the strength of the supernatural threat. When the man it's possessing is suddenly hit by a truck, the vehicle is left with a huge dent in its grille and a mangled driver while he just keeps walking.
  • Detective Sophie Neveu from The Da Vinci Code became an orphan in a head-on collision. In a childhood memory flashback, Sophie remembers being in the back seat of a sedan, with both parents turned to dote upon her; they never saw the tractor trailer that came looming into the windshield.
  • Disturbia: The car crash that kills Kale's dad happens without warning after another car pulls up in front of them and changes lanes seconds before they hit a different, broken-down car parked right in front of them.
  • Djinn: Salama's family is driving on a desert road when their car is attacked by an evil djinn. When the noise stops, the father goes outside to investigate, looks under the car... and then another car hits theirs at full speed.
  • In Emelie, the Thompsons take a cab from the restaurant, while we see Emelie message the Skinny Man to indicate that she needs more time. Cue a few minutes of quiet conversation interrupted by the crash...
  • In Enter the Void, we see a flashback to the sudden and fatal car crash that made the protagonist and his sister Conveniently an Orphan, when the family car is hit by a truck in a car tunnel. It's made even more jarring because the entire segment leading up to this was a whimsical family memory, with sweet lullaby music right up until the truck comes barreling out of nowhere.
  • The theatrical trailer for the movie Focus begins with a man in a car putting on a helmet. It's quiet for a beat or two while he drives until he crashes headfirst into the main characters.
  • In Grudge Match, Razor is out on a date with his former girlfriend; as they're driving along he gets slammed into. Nobody is seriously hurt, but it reveals that he's blind in his left eye.
  • In Haywire, Mallory escapes from the trap at the beginning of the film in a car, but a deer suddenly strays across her path causing her to swerve and hit a tree.
  • In the first dream level of Inception, the team gets blindsided by a train. Of course, they are in a dream, so being snuck up on by a train isn't exactly the weirdest thing they experience. It's also understandable that they weren't expecting a train to be driving down the middle of the street with no tracks in sight.
  • No Country for Old Men uses this as part of its Anti-Climax ending. After Anton Chigurh kills his targets, he sets off for Mexico to track down the stolen money—before he can leave the neighborhood, another car comes out of nowhere and hits him, breaking his arm.
  • Downplayed in No Time to Die as it happens in the middle of a car chase, but Madeleine Swann is earnestly trying to convince James Bond she didn't set him up to be ambushed by the SPECTRE goons who are trying to kill him when a car suddenly rams them from the side, bringing the chase to an abrupt halt.
    Madeleine: James! James, listen to me! I would rather die than you think I'm—(screams as car slams into them)
  • In Remember the Titans, Gerry Bertier is driving down a street where everyone is celebrating the Titans' semifinal victory — and he gets T-boned by a truck. Cut to the hospital where he's been paralyzed from the waist down, ending his football career.
  • Buster Keaton does this in Seven Chances for comedic effect, as seen here.
  • Andrew Neiman, the main character of Whiplash, gets into this type of crash on the way to a jazz concert to end a Trauma Conga Line that starts with a bus breakdown and continues with a pair of forgotten drumsticks.

  • Desert Star: Detective Harry Bosch, who was tailing Serial Killer suspect Ted Rawls, has lost track of him. Harry tells his partner Renee Ballard where to go to look for Rawls, and is saying "I'll do the—" when Rawls plows into the back of his Cherokee.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used to set up the end-of-season cliffhanger from season 4 of Alias. The bad guys are defeated and Sidney & Michael Vaughn decide to elope instead of having the big wedding ceremony that's being planned. As they drive off:
    Vaughn: I need to tell you something. Just so there's no secrets between us.
    Sydney: Okay, whatever it is, I can handle it. Just don't tell me you're a bad guy. (pause) You're not a bad guy, are you?
    Vaughn: I guess that depends on who you ask.
    Sydney: Vaughn. . .
    Vaughn: It's from a long time ago. It's before we met. Actually it's the reason we met. It's no accident that I was the one you came to when you walked in the CIA with your story about SD-6.
    Sydney: Wait. I don't understand. Vaughn, what are you telling me?
    Vaughn: Well, for starters, my name isn't Michael Vaughn.
    [CRASH. Another car crashes into them.]
  • Kirk Douglas starred in the title role of Amos, a televison movie from 1985. Elderly Amos is driving while debating with his wife; neither has their eyes on the road. A collision at an intersection results in Mildred's death, and Amos being housed in a Bleak Abyss Retirement Home.
  • Happens towards the second season of Arrow when a car crashes into Oliver and his mother. However, it's no accident; Big Bad Slade Wilson deliberately crashed into them as part of his plan for revenge.
  • Better Call Saul
  • This was how the protagonist became a Bionic Woman in the 2007 reboot. The trope is used again showing her Evil Counterpart Sarah Corvus in flashback to the car crash that killed her sister. Corvus recreated the accident with Jaime Sommers for reasons that aren't revealed as the series was Cut Short.
  • Black Mirror, "Loch Henry": Davis, Pia and Stuart are singing as Davis drives on a dark country road, trying to make light of the horrific experience they just saw. Cue incoming farm vehicle.
  • CSI: NY: In "Life Sentence," a guy Mac and his first partner, Bill Hunt, put away 17 years earlier is out of jail and out for revenge. He t-bones Mac's vehicle as he and Hunt are headed to the precinct. Mac escapes with cuts and scrapes, but Hunt dies from internal injuries at the scene.
  • At one point in the third season of Damages, Patty is suddenly rammed in her car by her own son, Michael, who is upset that she arranged for his lover, who she disliked, to be arrested.
  • Daredevil (2015): Karen ends up killing her brother Kevin. While driving him home on a dark windy road, after having rescued him from her drug-dealing boyfriend Todd, she's distracted by arguing with him to the point that she doesn't notice she's drifting out of the lane...until the car abruptly hits a bridge guardrail, and is flipped over several times before landing on its roof. Kevin is killed on impact, while Karen survives with a few cuts and bruises.
  • Extraordinary Attorney Woo: The asshole client in episode 11 gets behind the wheel of his new luxury sports car and pursues his wife, who is on foot. He's screaming at her to give him a divorce, when a semi-truck comes barreling into the intersection and plows right into him. Consequently, the wife inherits the whole $1.4 million that Hanbada just won for her husband.
  • Fargo: Starts the series off in season one episode one when Malvo crashes his car into a bounding deer. Season two episode one also features this when Peggy crashes into a wounded Rye.
  • Glee episode "On My Way" ends with Quinn, while texting Rachel to say that she's on her way to the latter's wedding, quite suddenly getting T-boned by a truck, and immediately cutting to black. She spends a few episodes in a wheelchair and then gets better.
  • In Plain Sight had Marshal get into one of these during their final season. Surprisingly he came out mostly unscathed.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): Jessica loses her father and brother when the family car crashes into a truck carrying a container of chemicals because Phillip is too distracted by his children arguing. Jessica and her mother end up in the hands of Dr. Karl Malus, who ends up giving them superpowers in the course of treating their injuries.
  • Law & Order:
    • Law & Order: The season 6 finale concludes with Claire driving an inebriated Lenny home from a bar and them getting t-boned out of nowhere by another drunk driver. She doesn't survive.
    • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Olivia is in an accident with Stabler's pregnant wife Kathy after a drunk driver hits them. Benson is able to get out of the car and assist the firefighters with freeing/stabilizing her, but the trauma causes Kathy to go into premature labor. Both she and the baby boy she delivers survive.
  • At the end of the episode "Lady Parts" in Lucifer (2016), an SUV crashes into Detective Decker's Crown Victoria after she had ended a call regarding a move to a new apartment.
  • The Showtime series Shameless (US) plays with this in season 3 (episode 9). Karen, Lip's on-again, off-again girlfriend, pisses off Mandy Milkovich, Lip's other interest. After a heated conversation, Karen walks home alone, and as she crosses the street a car veers very close to her and she has to leap out of the way. As it speeds off, she flips it the finger — only to be hit by another car coming from the other direction, driven by Mandy.
  • In the cliffhanger of Supernatural's first season finale episode, a semi-truck from out of nowhere slams into the side of the main characters' Impala and knocking them off the road.
  • One episode of Without a Trace had Agent Fitzgerald and a Love Interest of his have a cute little Ship Tease moment when a car runs a red light right into them.
  • Near the end of the episode "Blame it on Leo" in Zoo, the car Jamie rides with Leo Butler gets smashed up when Evan crashes the pickup on the side to secure a sample of the mother cell the latter kept hidden from Reiden Global.

    Video Games 
  • During the beginning of The Last of Us. Joel, his daughter, and his brother are driving through a panicked city in the midst of an infected outbreak. Suddenly and without warning, a car crashes into the side of their car, knocking the car on its head and forcing them to further face the apocalypse.
  • Lucas Rivera from Need for Speed Heat does this by using his father's '67 Camaro he just repaired and rams it straight on Frank Mercer's car, saving both and the player and his sister, Ana from getting arrested.
  • The opening cinematic of Painkiller has protagonist Daniel Garner and his wife Catherine driving out for a birthday dinner. Daniel takes his eyes off the road for a split-second to hold hands with her and a truck crosses the center line and kills both of them in a head-on collision.
  • SOMA starts with one. A man and a woman are in a car, talking about a medical appointment that the man will have, then SLAM! Then he wakes up. It was a dream conflating a real crash (in which the woman died) and a forthcoming appointment for a brain scan.
  • The Walking Dead (Telltale) opens with Lee Everett in the back of a police car, which suddenly runs off the road when the officer driving it accidentally hits a zombie. The player is given a split second to try to warn the officer to look out, but the result is always the same.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • In "Bully for Steve", Stan tries to drive away from an enraged Francine when she finds out he's been bullying Steve in yet another hair-brained scheme to toughen him up. Just when Stan thinks he's evaded her, she suddenly rams him into a tree from the side.
      Stan: Francine! You t-boned me, bro!
    • In "She Swill Survive", Stan and Hayley, both drunk, hail a cab to avoid being pursued by CIA assassins (since Bullock fears Hayley will blab classified information he drunkenly told her). As they talk to the driver, the assassins ram their van into the cab at an intersection, killing the diver but leaving Stan and Hayley with nary a scratch.
  • At the end of Oliverand Company, Sykes dies as a result of his car colliding with a subway train, with Fagin and his scooter carrying Jenny, Georgette, Tito, Einstein, Rita, and Francis getting out of the way in time by driving up the bridge supports, although both Oliver and Dodger are later revealed to have survived the crash due to Sykes throwing them both out of the way before the train kills him.


Video Example(s):


The death of Misuzu Midorikawa

In the first episode of ''Lady'', the Japanese Misuzu Midorikawa takes her daughter Lynn to meet her British father, George Russell. After they arrive in England, the car that is meant to take them to his house crashes, and Misuzu dies shielding Lynn with her body.<br><br><br><br>When Lynn wakes up, George can't bring himself to tell Lynn she died, so he tells her Misuzu has "gone away for a while".

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Main / TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth

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