Follow TV Tropes



Go To

As the "Taps" article on That Other Wiki states, "Taps" is a musical piece sounded at dusk, and at funerals, particularly by the U.S. military. It is sounded during flag ceremonies and funerals, on single bugle or trumpet, and often at Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Girl Guide meetings and camps.

The history of the tune (and its rarely-heard lyrics) is the mother of all tear-jerkers.

In fiction, "Taps" is usually used to mourn an honorable person, especially military characters, though in comedy it can be used for just about anyone. Often combined with a Moment of Silence, hats off. "Taps" can also mean a metaphorical death, like a death of one's hope. If a civilian has died, Amazing Freaking Grace is much more likely to be heard. However, in the case of first responders like police, firefighters, and medical personnel, expect a combination of both Taps and Amazing Grace to be heard to honor the fallen, especially on bagpipes.

This is not the page for The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), or the film Taps.

A part of the Funeral Tropes. See also Standard Snippet. May be accompanied by a 21-Gun Salute.


    open/close all folders 


    Anime & Manga 
  • At the beginning of the Pok√©mon: The Original Series episode "Pokemon Shipwreck", Officer Jenny and the other survivors of the sinking of the St. Anne are mourning the apparent deaths of Ash, Misty, Brock, Pikachu, Jessie, James, and Meowth, after they were unable to get off the ship. After Jenny tosses a bouquet of flowers overboard, she tells everyone to give a salute while a trumpeter starts playing "Taps", as the flowers sink into the ocean waters.

    Comic Strips 
  • Jason and Marcus from FoxTrot once planned to build a space shuttle, and wrote a computer program to model how particular designs might work out. The first time they use it, the disaster it depicts is so horrible that the program actually starts playing "Taps" at them.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, the main characters — a bunch of household appliances — are first seen remaining in an abandoned house, and awaiting eagerly the return of a kid who used to live there and who they consider their Master. However, when one day they see someone hammering a "For Sale" sign into the ground in front of their house, Radio starts playing "Taps", realizing that any hopes for the Master's return just died. In the Czech 1992 and Flemish dubs, Radio plays Chopin's funeral march instead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In A Christmas Story, Ralphie's Old Man buries the broken lamp in the back yard. Ralphie couldn't be sure, but he thought he heard "Taps" playing.
  • In the film version of From Here to Eternity, Prewitt (a bugle player) plays this when his best friend is killed.
  • As you might guess, Taps has this a number of times, at the beginning when the school reads off the names and dates of alumni who fell in battle, and when they have their memorial service for General Bache. The movie's title also indicates the impending death of the academy.
  • In Mr. Holland's Opus this is heard at Louis Russ' funeral.
  • Run Silent, Run Deep: Becomes part of the soundtrack at the very end, right after Richardson's body has been committed to the sea.

  • In Alan Brennert's novel Moloka'i, the murderer of Rachel Kalama's husband, who belongs to the military, is buried. No one shows up to his funeral, and a harmonica player plays "Taps".
  • The Killer Angels notes that the bugle call in question was known back then as "Butterfield's Lullaby" and had no connotation of death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Magnum, P.I. had him thinking back to his father's funeral, after he'd been killed in Korea, and "Taps" is played following a 21-Gun Salute by his fellow Marines.
  • When Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show, the band would play "Taps" whenever an attempted comic bit died.
  • The Cold Case episode Shore Leave is about a marine in the 1950s who is murdered. "Taps" is played at the end.
  • In Home Improvement, "Taps" is the title of the episode in which Jill's Veteran father dies.
  • Babylon 5: In the third season, After the station breaks away from Earth control, there is a memorial held to honor those who dies in the fighting in which "Taps" is heard in the background.
  • A rare Played for Laughs version is played in a season 9 episode of The Big Bang Theory. When Amy arrives at Sheldon's apartment when she heard that his computer was dying, he says it is too late and begins to play the song. Amy tells him it is silly, but Sheldon reminds her that she got emotional when her lab monkey died. When it is done, Sheldon says it is going to be stuck in his head all day.

  • A swing version is used for the opening of The Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" about a boogie-woogie trumpeter who gets drafted.
  • Running Wild's "Little Big Horn" ends with "Taps" playing, signifying the senseless loss of General Custer's men.
  • In Paul Hindemith's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd: A Requiem for Those We Love", an Army bugle plays "Taps" over the orchestral interlude that follows "and the armies remain'd suffer'd" in the tenth movement.
  • "There's a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere," made famous by Elton Britt, uses the first few measures of "Taps" as part of the intro to the song and each chorus. The somber tones of the melody undercut the jingoism of what otherwise would be a fairly banal, patriotic WWII song.

  • Music and the Spoken Word Program #4056: A Prayer In Music discusses the significance of this little piece.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Command & Conquer: Red Alert, if Tanya is killed in one of her missions, a cutscene will play of her white cross in a cemetery as "Taps" is heard in the background.
  • In the Monkey Island games, the graveyard theme ends with the first four notes of "Taps".
  • In BitLife, when you die during a Minesweeper-like minigame after being deployed in the military, the first four notes of "Taps" play when your grave is shown.
  • In Wing Commander, the theme that accompanies funeral scenes ends with a full playing of "Taps".
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Soldier's Shotgun Taunt is him doing a Three Gun Salute while "Taps" plays.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Heard in the Allied campaign at General Carville's funeral.
  • Once Link defeats Skull Keeta in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, he gives Link a salute as "Taps" plays in the background.
  • In Civil War Generals II, "Taps" plays whenever the player views the Casualty Report screen during a battle.
  • Serial Killer Milton Pike's leitmotif in Shadow Man begins with a haunting, hollow rendition of "Taps" that fades into the sounds of distant radio chatter, machine-gun fire and screams (Pike was a Vietnam Vet before taking up his gruesome hobby).
  • Graphic Simulations' Hellcats, and its spiritual successor F/A-18 Hornet, both play the last three notes of "Taps" when a pilot is killed in action.
  • In Spore, if your Captain dies in an adventure, either "Taps" or the Funeral March play.
  • Prince of Persia plays the first/last three notes of "Taps' if the Prince suffers an "accidental" death, and a variation of Chopin's Funeral March if he dies in battle.


    Web Original 
  • Beginning with the 2018 NFL season, the ending segment of UrinatingTree's "This Week in Sportsball" videos is dedicated to listing off the players who were injured over the past week while "Taps" plays in the background. As "Taps" plays, it shows footage of a candle burning as headlines about the injured players flash by on screen, each one accompanied by a Sickening "Crunch!". Season-ending injuries also trigger the "Unit Lost" clip. Actual deaths in the football world swap out the other SFX for church bells. During the 2020 NFL season, injuries related to COVID-19 were accompanied by the sound of coughing.

     Western Animation  
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Band Geeks", Squidward and the Bikini Bottom citizens are practicing in a marching band. Squidward tells the flag spinners in the front to spin the flag faster, and eventually, so fast that they fly and collide with a zeppelin, which explodes. The trumpeter of the band then plays "Taps" as the rest of them hold their hats on their chest, except for Squidward who just goes into a Troubled Fetal Position.
    • In "Chimps Ahoy", SpongeBob uses one of Sandy's inventions, a helmet that lets you talk to nuts, to communicate with a peanut. Sandy then uses another invention to turn the peanut into coffee, which mortifies SpongeBob when he hears its agonized screams. "Taps" then plays in the background as he takes the helmet off.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons examples:
    • In "The Cuckoo Clock", a cat tries to catch a cuckoo bird. When he finally catches it and eats it, he realizes the sadness of his death and tries to do a Moment of Silence. The bird — who just fooled the cat into believing he ate him, when it was actually a wind-up toy filled with TNT — starts playing "Taps"... and then the TNT explodes off-screen and the bird switches to a cheery tune.
    • A similar gag is used also in "The Early Bird Dood It".
  • Powerful Pierre thinks he's gotten rid of mounties Heckle and Jeckle, tying them to a cache of dynamite and tossing them over a cliff, so he plays "Taps" on a bugle. But the two magpies show up behind him to finish the second half of the passage, and when Pierre turns back to his bugle, it has a lit stick of dynamite in it. From the cartoon "Sno' Fun."
  • In Rhapsody Rabbit, Bugs Bunny is pestered by a mouse disrupting his performance of Liszt's second rhapsody. Bugs slams the piano lid on the mouse, who proceeds to play "Chopsticks," prompting Bugs to toss in a lit stick of dynamite. When it explodes, "Taps" suddenly can be heard up to the last note which was conspicuously absent. Bugs lifts the lid and gets bonked on the head by the mouse with a mallet, the last note finally played.
  • King of the Hill: In "Propane Boom II: Death Of A Propane Salesman", at Buckley's funeral, Chuck Mangione plays the opening of "Taps" before segueing into "Feels So Good".
  • The Simpsons: In "The Secret War Of Lisa Simpson", as Lisa starts to get across "The Eliminator" at the military academy, her classmates mockingly play "Taps".

     Real Life  


Video Example(s):


"They Still Have the Bush!"

After Rocky and Bullwinkle go over an icy ledge, Boris is delighted they have been buried alive and has Natasha play 'Taps'. Unfortunately, during his mocking song, he realizes he and Natasha need to save them, much to Natasha's dismay.

How well does it match the trope?

4.95 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExplainExplainOhCrap

Media sources: