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.
- At the beginning of the Pokémon 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Music and the Spoken Word Program #4056: A Prayer In Music discusses the significance of this little piece.
- 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 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.
- 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 "Slide Whistle Stooges", after Squidward crashes the gasoline truck he's been steering, Spongebob and Patrick play Taps using slide whistles.
- 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".