You're in the middle of a Stealth-Based Mission. Your path is blocked by an inconveniently placed patrolling guard; he turns around too quickly for you to sneak past him while his back is turned, and if you knock him out his body will raise suspicion. What do you do?
Easy: you pick up a rock and toss it past him. When it lands, the noise will catch his attention, and he'll go to investigate, giving you ample time to slip past. This trick is what we call Throwing The Distraction. Alternatively if you're making an action movie, you can pass on the low budget rock and use a grandiose explosion or a massive fire instead. It's less likely to be dismissed and looks cooler.
In almost all cases, expect the guard to investigate the noise even if they've seen the object being thrown, rather than heading towards where it was thrown from.
In real life, tropish as it is, admit it; if you're patrolling solo you're a lot more likely to investigate where the sound came from than the opposite side of the room. Of course if there's more than one of you, it should be only one who goes to check.
Subtrope of The Guards Must Be Crazy. Closely related to So Much for Stealth, where this is done by accident and alerts every guard to your presence. Both tropes depend on guards being incredibly sensitive to noise, even though It's Probably Nothing. See also Go Fetch when this is done with an Angry Guard Dog or any other sort of animal. Not to be confused with Cat Scare, nor Throw the Pin.
Ninjas call this "throwing the toothpick".
- Used by Johan in Johan Et Pirlouit while going around bad guys in a darkened cave. He even refers to it as "a trick as old as the world".
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW): In issues #22, Trixie uses a timed smoke bomb to lure away the two police ponies that are guarding the museum.
Trixie: Always makes the audience look somewhere else! That's the power of misdirection!
- Robin Series: Tim lets go of his whistling staff and kicks it to ensure it spins to make its signature sound in the middle of attacking Blind Weaponmaster Edmund Dorrance, which allows him to misdirect his larger, stronger better trained opponent enough to allow Tim to kick him out a window.
- Ultimate Wolverine: Black Box threw the video will of Wolverine during the fight with Wildchild, modified to display several holograms of Wolverine at once instead of one. This distracted Wildchild for a second, enough for Jimmy to destroy his artificial claws.
- Naruto arranges a very elaborate one in A Growing Affection, tying his jacket to a kunai and throwing it through tall grass, so the person in question will not only hear the sound, but will see a flash of orange, too.
- Pony POV Series: Diamond Tiara attempts to throw a rock to distract guards, but Discord warns her they will head to the opposite direction of the sound and find her. Instead, she drops the rock where she is standing. The guards assume the rock was thrown from somewhere else and walk away, allowing her to sneak in.
- In Bolt, Penny (the character on the show) likes to roll an actual penny into the field of vision of whomever she's trying to sidestep. Eventually, Bolt (in reality) would try the same trick — yes, it really does work.
- Capture the Flag: Amy distracts the night guard at the retirement home with a rock so she and Mike can get inside and meet Mike's grandfather. The guard ignores the first rock, but investigates the second one (which hits a lamp post), and when doing so discovers 3 residents secretly working on their own model rocket.
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible beans a guard in the head with a rock—all the other guards nearby leave their post to look at the unconscious guard. In fairness, it looks like the guard slipped and fell from an upper landing.
- In The Iron Giant, Hogarth throws a penny into the kitchen to divert his mom's attention away while he sneaks out one of the Giant's hands, which has detached and is wandering around the house. The penny knocks over the spice rack by accident.
- Monsters University: When Sullivan's reckless attempt to retrieve the flag in the library attracts the Librarian's attention, Mike and the Oozma Kappa create a series of noisy activities in various parts of the library to distract her from Sullivan and the flag.
- Parodied in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension. When Perry the platypus needs to slip away without his owners noticing him, he throws a rock, leading to this exchange:
Baljeet: What was that small noise?
Phineas: Let's all go walk over to it!
- Toy Story 2: Very early on, Al does this with a skateboard. Justified in that it does create an audible crash, and the person he's distracting (Andy's mother) isn't a highly trained guard.
- Subverted in ¡Three Amigos! One of the amigos throws a rock to distract a guard they're trying to sneak past, but accidentally hits the guard's head and knocks him out.
- Specifically mentioned in-universe in Batman Begins as a "cheap parlor trick" to distract and confuse one's enemies.
- This is one of the uses of the Bat-Shuriken in The Dark Knight Trilogy. *thwing* "Huh, what was that? Oh, it's a little metal ba-" [Vertical Kidnap]
- The Decalogue: Majka, while hiding behind a wall, throws a small wooden ball down the stairs, thus distracting an old woman watching over the entrance to the back of the stage.
- Dungeons & Dragons has the heroes distract a patrolling Beholder — a creature covered in eyes — with a thrown rock.
- The Guns of Navarone. Andrea and Mallory have reached the top of the cliff, but there's a German sentry guarding it. Mallory tosses a piton to distract the guard. A variant because they end up killing the guard.
- Harry Potter:
- In The Movie of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry tosses a broken stone to distract the blinded basilisk who was cornering him.
- As in the book Harry uses a loud Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes product to distract Ministry of Magic workers so that he can sneak in and search Umbridge's office in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- Johnny of Johnny Mnemonic throws a small rock, which sends Baldy looking for him in the wrong direction.
- In Jurassic Park, Lex uses something like this to draw a Velociraptor's attention away from Tim (and very bravely, closer to herself).
- Earlier in the middle of the film, Alan tries to lure the Tyrannosaurus away from the kids - who were trapped in one of the cars that is attacked by the same dinosaur - with a torch flare. This almost works, until Ian Malcolm intervenes with another flare.
- The Lord of the Rings: In "The Fellowship of the Ring", Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Sam are hiding from a black rider (Nazgûl/Ringwraith) under some tree roots. As the rider is peering overhead, and it seems they are close to being discovered, Merry throws his and Pippin's sack of (stolen) vegetables, which gives the four of them enough time to escape the scene.
- The high-tech version occurs in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol — the IMF team use a sound projector to make a Kremlin guard leave the corridor he's guarding and go into the next room.
- Used against the good guys in The Name of the Rose, after they've unwittingly stumbled across the book that's the motive of the murders. The assistant librarian (who was reading it, and is now hiding in a dark corner) picks up a hammer with the apparent intention of doing violence, but then tosses it across the flagstones. When Brother William and novice Adso run to investigate, the librarian steals the book and flees.
- Star Wars: Obi-Wan uses the Force to pop a gasket to distract two guards, allowing him to sneak away from the tractor beam controls.
- Water (1985): Michael Caine's character sees a mercenary attaching limpet mines to the oil well, so he throws a bolt, then sneaks up behind the mercenary while he's pointing a gun in that direction and hooks a crane hook into his belt, lifting him into the air.
- In the first Animorphs book, Jake uses this to escape from some aliens in a dark construction site. As he's doing it, he thinks to himself what a cliche it is and hopes the aliens have never watched any TV or else they'd probably recognize the trick.
- In the book and film of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry distracts some Ministry workers with a rambunctious Weasley toy in order to sneak into Umbridge's office. Justified, both because that's what the toy was built for and because, apparently, the Ministry sees that sort of thing fairly often.
- In Rose Madder Rosie distracts Erinyes the blind bull from killing her by throwing a blood-soaked rock and running in the opposite direction.
- Subverted in Vagabonds of Gor: Tarl throws a stone and the guy he's trying to draw away from his position turns towards him.
- Lampshaded on Battlestar Galactica when Apollo throws a grenade into a passageway, yelling for everyone to clear out (they do). It turns out he didn't pull the pin, and tells Starbuck that she would have thought it was a brilliant idea if she'd come up with it.
- Subverted in an episode of Dark Angel, Max throws a stone to distract the guard, who goes to investigate where the stone came from.
- In Doctor Who Series 4, the Doctor distracts a guard with a wind-up mouse. Almost as soon as he picks it up, he is knocked unconscious by the Doctor's cloned daughter Jenny. The Doctor is quick to call her out on what she's done.
- An episode of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues does this — earlier, Kwai Chang is showing Peter how to blow a candle out using the gust of air from a palm strike. Later, when facing sentries in the woods, Peter sarcastically asks, "what are we going to, throw a rock and divert their attention?" as Kwai Chang performs a palm strike and rustles a bush instead to distract the guards.
- In the Midnight Caller episode "Wait Until Midnight'', Annie Driscoll, who is blind, manages to knock her attacker unconscious and steal his gun. After he regains consciousness, he throws his shoes past her, causing her to fire in the wrong direction.
- Mission: Impossible: Used in "The Council, part 1", to draw someone away from a buried man that the team needed access to.
- In the Starsky & Hutch episode "The Committee," Starsky throws his pet rock away so he can get the drop on one of the villains. Once everyone has been arrested, he runs back to look for it.
- In an episode of Game of Thrones, Arya throws a book across the room to distract the white walkers prowling the library.
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Hyeon throws his iPod away in the hopes that the music will distract the smoke snakes that are attacking him. It does manage to halt them for a few seconds, though it doesn't last long.
- Elly sets off her personal alarm and then throws it aside in the hopes that Daigo's monster will follow it rather than her. It gives her and her brother a few seconds, but the monster eventually turns its attention back to them.
- Alien: Isolation: Amanda has a few options for doing this, including lighting up a flare and tossing it, or MacGyvering up a noise-maker. These work on various armed humans and Working Joes, but they also work on getting the xenomorph's attention away from her. However, in its case it will not fall for the same trick twice in a row, requiring her to mix it up with different methods of drawing it offnote .
- Assassin's Creed
- In any game, kill a guard and other guards will come by to investigate so you can sneak around them or use the hidden blade on them.
- In the second game, throwing money will distract the guards just as well as a body.
- Assassin's Creed: Revelations ups the ante considerably by including a dozen different possible types of harmless distraction bombs. There's a weak smoke bomb designed to look like a smoldering fire that will only attract guards facing that direction but make no noise, a cherry bomb that just makes a loud bang that draws guards, and even a coin bomb that attracts a crowd to a spot by exploding money there.
- Both Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry and Assassin's Creed: Rogue provide the player character with firecrackers, which can be used to distract guards or, in the latter case, draw enemy assassins out of hiding.
- Augustus: You can toss coins in this stealth game, thought more often that not it would result in the guards running towards your hiding spot instead.
- Part of chapter 4 of Bendy and the Ink Machine requires you to distract the Butcher Gang by throwing empty cans of bacon soup.
- You can do this in Beyond Good & Evil with the disk-launcher, but the guards are so stupid it's usually easier to just walk slowly around them.
- In Call of Duty: Black Ops, there is a tactical grenade that is called a decoy that can be used to simulate gunfire and shows up on the enemy's radar, making it seem as if there is someone firing in that location.
- Commandos allows you to throw rocks to distract the guards. You can also throw them on the guards if feeling suicidal.
- Death To Spies: This stealth game allows you to do this with cutlery and dishes. The mini-map even shows you how far the sound travels.
- Deus Ex: Can be done, as pointed out in the training mission by Anna Navarre.
- Dragon Age II: One of Hawke's options during the stealth section of the Mark of the Assassin DLC.
Tallis: We'll have to try our best to stay out of sight — or we could try to create distractions. Provided you're good at throwing stones.
Guard: What was that scrabbling noise?
- Escape From St. Mary's: A thrown bottle of tang does the trick.
- The Far Cry series gives the player an infinite amount of throwable stones. Just don't throw them in a trajectory that the mook you want to distract sees, because he'll figure out where it came from and beeline towards your position with his buddies.
- In keeping with its theme, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon replaces the stones with throwable dice. Being tounge-in-cheek they are refered to as "nerd rocks"... and Rex's onboard A.I. calls him a nerd for having them.
- Henry Stickmin Series: This is one of Henry's few tricks that consistently works (probably because it's so mundane). He distracts a guard by throwing a penny in Stealing the Diamond, and two guards by throwing a guard's hat in Fleeing the Complex.
- Hitman series:
- In the first mission of Blood Money, you're encouraged to toss a coin to distract some guards. 47 seems to have a Mint in his back pocket - a coin is always available in the inventory, no matter how many you've already thrown. You can even carry them through metal detectors without setting them off.
- In Absolution, you lose the coin but can pick up other random objects to throw around. It has the same effect, but you won't always have something to throw, and can only carry one throwable object at a time.
- The Last of Us has bricks, bottles, etc that can be thrown to distract/attract enemies or simply smack them in the head.
- Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 gives you grenades in the forms of pipe bombs and Boomer Bile. The Infected are distracted by the Loud beeping and/or scent and will chase after them, even if they were just clawing you apart a second ago.
- During a Stealth-Based Mission in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Link must invoke this trope to distract one guard who doesn't turn around when spoken to. What the guard says when spoken to is immortalized above as the page quote.
- All Metal Gear games have some sort of variant. Can even be done with grenades, but enemies will freeze in terror or take cover, depending on the soldier. In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and later, you can throw empty ammo magazines to distract guards. The only way to get one is to fire all the bullets in a full mag, which isn't very useful in a stealth game.
- No One Lives Forever: One of the gadgets Cate can equip for any mission is a few coins. That's all, just coins. Plain, ordinary currency. Not even enhanced in the usual ridiculous manner other common items are made into spy gadgets in this game. At first, it seems absurd that carrying a few coins in your pocket takes up an equipment slot that could be held by, say, lipstick grenades, until you see just how stupid the guards can be when a coin is chucked across the room...
- A viable strategy in Shinobido: thrown objects are an excellent way to distract a guard on patrol and lure him/her away, so that you can sneak past them or stealth-kill them as they're distracted. Sometimes, the distraction is even explosive, so that it will damage (and possibly kill) the victim and draw even more guards on the spot.
- In Skyrim you can fire an arrow into a room and any enemies present will visible on your compass while rushing to investigate it.
- Sly 2: Band of Thieves has the alarm clock gadget as Sly, trigger bombs as Bentley, and other guards as Murray.
- Sniper Elite V2 and Sniper Elite III allow you to throw rocks to distract enemies. Like the Hitman example, you're encouraged to do so in the tutorial stage and have an infinite number of them in your inventory. Unlike most examples, this will only get the guards out of your hair for a second or two before they start searching the area just to be sure — you have a pretty small window if you want to actually get past anyone that way.
- A puzzle late in Space Quest 2 requires you to get past a guard to a door. You can just sneak by with careful movements, but it's easier to throw a stone to distract him and get him to leave. But the most points are for throwing a stone with your athletic supporter and pegging him in the head, killing him.
- Early in Spider and Web, you throw your electronic lockpick to sneak past a guard. Subverted as part of the Unreliable Narrator theme of the game. You actually left the pick in a lock when the guard came along and you were forced to hide.
- Splinter Cell has this in spades, allowing you to pick up items for no other purpose than to throw them and distract the enemies. However, the AI is smart enough to register not only the point of impact, but also the trajectory they have seen, therefore, doing the same thing as on the image above would actually make any guard run towards you. Even if they don't find you, they'll be more vigilant.
- Of course, if you nail them in the head with the object, they simply get knocked out.
- In Conviction, where there aren't any throwable objects, a silenced pistol can serve the same purpose, as pistols get unlimited reloads only in that game. Fire a shot and nearby guards will investigate the point of impact.
- This is an option in the Tenchu games. Throwing bombs, or shuriken, or rice balls can distract guards letting you sneak past them, or kill them.
- Thief likewise has throwable objects. It also has noisemaker arrows, which do just that: cause a lot of noise upon impact. Even normal arrows can work as distractions if fired at a hard surface. However, trying this trick isn't always a good idea; while it may draw the guards' attention elsewhere, it will also make them alert for intruders, which mitigates the advantage to some degree.
- World of Warcraft: The "Distract" skill Rogues have. It doesn't cause a monster or guard to walk toward the noise, but it does turn them around, leaving you free to stab them in the back.
- Princess Peach demonstrates the technique perfectly in this Brawl in the Family strip.
- A recurring gag in Dragon Tails: involves Lemuel throwing rocks in the bushes to distract enemies. The targets found the sound to be distracting but never investigated the noise beyond standing and thinking about how annoying it is, opening a window of opportunity for the other dragons.
- Done in Girly to sneak into a women's dorm, with some heavy lampshading:
Lisa: I dunno, Beth. The last eight times that happened, it resulted in men sneaking...
Beth: Lisa, that was a rock! A rock, for God's sake! Are you suggesting we let it be!?
- Triply subverted humorously in Goblins: the GAP try to distract the Brassmoon City gate guards by throwing a rock, but instead of going to investigate the noise, one of them shouts "Someone's throwing rocks at us from the woods!" However, the guards still go to investigate the place whence the rock was thrown, and start arguing there. Being distracted, they let a couple goblins enter the city (a double subversion). But then, the distraction doesn't last long enough, and the last two members for the GAP are spotted while trying to get in (a triple subversion!).
- The Order of the Stick: This is the subject of one of "Tarquin's Tips", a handy guide distributed to all his guard patrols. "Sound in the Bushes: Someone is throwing a rock to distract you. Try looking in the opposite direction."
- Stardroids: Roll does this. What makes it unique, however, is that she does it in plain sight of the foes. Oh, and did we mention — she's using a pair of her own panties. Slingshot-style.
- Item #160 on the Evil Overlord List says to make sure guards can tell when someone's doing this:
Before being accepted into my Legions of Terror, potential recruits will have to pass peripheral vision and hearing tests, and be able to recognize the sound of a pebble thrown to distract them.
- Ace Ventura The Animated Series: Toyed with — Ace Ventura tries this by throwing a rock to distract the Burly Guard. The Guard looks over at the sound, turns to where the rock came from and shouts "I know you're over there and I'm coming to get you!" Oh, Crap!!
- Bubble Guppies: In "The Puppy and the Ring", Molly and Gil, who are making lemon slushies, get chased by an army of soldiers sent by the episode's Big Bad. They climb up a tree, and Gil throws a lemon on the ground to distract the soldiers.
Commander: What was that?
Soldier: It sounded like a lemon, sir!
- ''Dinotrux has Ty throw a small bolt to distract Scraptool guards. As they are scrap collectors easily Distracted by the Shiny, they aren't going to investigate a suspicious noise, they are going to fetch the extremely attractive spare part.
- Jonny Quest TOS episodes.
- "The Dreadful Doll". Hadji throws a rock to distract Korbay so Jonny can free Race Bannon.
- "Terror Island". Race Bannon throws a coin to distract some guards.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Stranger Than Fan Fiction": While he and Rainbow Dash are Caballeron's prisoners, Quibble Pants throws a pin away to make a suspicious noise, alerting the goons. Quibble then pretends that it's Daring Do coming to rescue them. It works, and they disperse in search of their nemesis. As Quibble points out, they're stupid enough to leave nopony looking after the captives.
- SpongeBob SquarePants, "Imitation Krabs": to get Mr. Krabs out of the way, Plankton throws a penny, and the greedy Krabs follows it as it rolls out the front door. Unfortunately, the penny eventually rolls back, leading Krabs to Plankton and his robotic Krabs imposter.
- In one episode of SWAT Kats, "The Giant Bacteria," villain Morbulus does a variant of this trope wherein he is dropped in the water and takes off his clothes, then reassembles them to make it look like he's still in them. While the Enforcers are fishing what they think is his body out of the water, he is able to slip away in his underwear unnoticed.
- A common urban legend for soldiers using the M1 Garand (the standard US service rifle in WW2 and the Korean War) was to keep one of the empty en bloc clips on them at all times. The Garand's self-loading mechanism would fire out the clip when the last round was used, which would make a very distinctive metallic "ping" noise. Supposedly, soldiers would throw empty clips to trick the enemy into thinking that their gun had run empty and encourage them to pop up out of cover. In reality, there's no evidence that this took place and it's unlikely that the ping could have been heard over the gunfire anyway (to say nothing of the risk of popping up because you heard one rifle go empty and facing an entire squad).
- This is a good way to distract non-trained dogs if they aren't fully on attack mode. A solid object like a small stone will distract them for at least two seconds. Or dog biscuits or meat. Can be taken to almost parodying lengths with some dogs, with whom you don't even have to actually throw the object, or even have any object in your hand at all, and they'll still run off in the direction they thought they saw you throw it.