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Surprise Car Crash

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Nothing says wham like a wham episode!
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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. 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.

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Examples:

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  • 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 the 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 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.

     Fanfic  

  • 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.

     Film  

  • 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.
  • Done in the beginning of Constantine 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The car accident in The Body (2012) that kills Jaime's wife comes unexpectedly.
  • Djinn: Sarah'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.
  • Buster Keaton does this in Seven Chances for comedic effect, as seen here.
  • 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.

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     Live-Action TV  

  • This happens on an episode of 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), a SUV crashes into Detective Decker's Crown Victoria after she had ended a call regarding a move to a new apartment.
  • Better Call Saul
    • In the pilot, Jimmy is on the phone while driving. When he takes a turn, there is a Jump Scare of something crashing into his windshield. Turns out it was a skater trying to pull a Flopsy on him.
    • An overworked Kim falls asleep at the wheel, drifts across two lanes and slams into a guardrail. The accident is seen entirely from her perspective, cutting directly from her driving to her waking up to an airbag in her face.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Jessica Jones (2015), the title character lost her parents and brother when they all crashed into a truck carrying a container of chemicals because her father who was driving was too distracted by his children arguing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Plain Sight had Marshal get into one of these during their final season. Surprisingly he came out mostly unscathed.

     Video Games  

  • The opening cinematic of Painkiller has protagonist Daniel Garner and his wife Catherine driving out for a birthday date. 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.

     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.


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