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Gordon: Where is he?
Joker: What's the time?
Gordon: What difference does that make?
Joker: Well, depending on the time, he may be in one spot, or several.

You have ten seconds to read this entry. Start reading.

This is one of the tropes popular in all forms of film and TV writing, as it adds a sense of urgency to the story — whatever the characters must do, they must do it within the time limit or the bomb will go off (the hostage will be killed, the poison will be released...).


The hero will succeed in their task only within a few seconds of the deadline — especially if there is an actual digital readout involved, counting down the seconds until Sudden Doom. If the hero is James Bond, the time remaining when the clock stops will always be 0:07. For other heroes, three seconds and one second seem common. (There's even the movie Canadian Bacon, where the clock's stopped at .7 seconds.)


Often there's the illusion of Real Time when we see the timer, but if you count the seconds and watch the clock, a 30 second countdown can often stretch as long as two minutes. Or it may ramp up and tick off far more time than has passed. (See Magic Countdown.)



In many cases, the bomb will not go off until one or two seconds after the timer reaches zero, even though the timer itself had tenths- or hundredths-of-a-second precision.

There are also rare instances where the bomb isn't defused: instead, it is made so that the explosion doesn't affect anyone (except maybe the bad guys). If this happens, there will be an Outrun the Fireball moment.


This trope is actually in contrast to real-life bombs which are camouflaged and seldom, if ever, include a visible timer. Most bombs these days even lack a timer entirely, and are remote detonated from a safe distance, but it is much less dramatic. Television bombs must include a countdown to add tension, and often include blinky blinking lights to let the audience, and the heroes, know that it is a bomb they are looking at, otherwise there would probably be a lot more dead TV heroes.


If you were looking for a situation where time itself explodes, see Time Crash.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The countdown to Graceland's destruction in Coyote Ragtime Show is not only displayed on the bomb itself, but publicly announced daily by the Galactic President.
  • Constantly in Spiral. Almost every other episode seems to be about some kind of time bomb.
  • Bloody Monday: Bloody-X gives you a 2 hour time limit.
    • ...and the bomb itself...
  • Summer Wars: Love Machine eventually sets a two-hour countdown on OZ's worldwide clock. When it hit zero, it was supposed to crash a Japanese satellite, which it had recently taken over, to crash into a nuclear power plant. Once Love Machine is thwarted, and the timer stops, it starts up again, this time with the satellite aiming right at the house the main characters are sitting in.
  • In one episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion one of the Eldritch Abominations has taken the form of a microscopic parasite that infects the organic components of the Elaborate Underground Base and spreads into the main computer to trigger the Self-Destruct Mechanism. Ritsuko climbs inside the computer core to make modifications that would prevent this, but is soon running out of time. With only 10 seconds left, Misato say that they've lost, to which Ritsuko replies that that's even one second more than she needs.
  • The Digimon movie "Our War Game" had the clock stop with it after it and Diabolomon were stabbed by Omnimon, fluctuating at .01 and .02 seconds. After this, the nuclear missile that was going to land and destroy Tokyo fell harmlessly into the river next to the main characters' apartment.
  • The When They Cry series has included multiple time bombs:
    • In Tsumihoroboshi-hen in Higurashi: When They Cry, Rena becomes paranoid and in order to convince the village that the madness that keeps recurring is due to an alien invasion, takes her class hostage and sets a time bomb to blow up the school unless the info she has is thoroughly investigated and sent to the media.
    • In Umineko: When They Cry, the solution to the "Who am I?" riddle in "Alliance" is a time bomb that will always blow up the Ushiromiya mansion at midnight of the second day but leave the Kuwadorian mansion on the other side of the island untouched.
  • Detective Conan is full of this trope.
    • In "Trembling Metropolitan Police Headquarters and 12 Million Hostages", Conan and Takagi must defuse one inside the Touto Tower. However, three seconds before it explodes, a clue is set to play across the screen hinting at the location of an even bigger bomb. What makes it worse is that the incident replicates one from ten years ago that killed another officer in a similar position as Takagi. In the end, Conan cuts the final wire with one second left, receiving only part of the clue. Luckily, he can figure it out.
    • In the film "Countdown to Heaven", the Twin Tower building is set to explode with Conan and the Detective Boys trapped in the room with the bomb. In order to escape, they must drive a car through the window at just the right time so that the explosion propels them to the next building.
  • In Episode 6 of Death Parade, this is revealed to be the cause of Harada's death. Lisa, the last girl he was dating, turned out to be a sister of his previous girlfriend who killed herself after he broke up with her. Lisa left him a time bomb (in the shape of a heart and with attached note) hidden under the plate lid. He realize too late what it was.
  • Golgo 13. Duke Togo finds out another hitman is also stalking his target. He teeth-pulls the pin from a grenade (presumably to show he's just as cool as Togo) and tosses it back into the room where he just kneecap-interrogated a man. Duke shows he's even cooler by calmly looking at his watch, whereupon half the buildings around them blow up.
  • Outlaw Star features an episode where the ship is hired to act as a tugboat for a vessel that turns out to be a terrorist's trap. Gene finds a time bomb inside the trapped ship and has to figure out how to disarm it. It turns out that the whole thing is actually a Kansas City Shuffle: the "terrorist" is actually a thief who's using the bomb plot to cover his attempt to rob a space station.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 4, Wolffy gives a new coat to Master Pao Pao with a time bomb attached to it, and Pao Pao and the goats have to figure out how to stop its countdown before it explodes. When the time bomb does "explode", it's revealed that it wasn't actually a bomb and a little cuckoo-bird chicken pops out of it.

    Comic Books 
  • In Excalibur, team enemy Gatecrasher devises an...unusual example: as Excalibur is making breakfast, one of the eggs jumps off the counter, breaks open, and reveals a cartoony bird who starts shouting at the team. As they stare at it in complete bogglement, it starts counting down...
  • The Joker likes bombs with flashy displays of the time left counting down, however with him it's a toss up as to whether the timer has anything to do with the actual detonator, or if the time displayed is accurate.
  • The Ultimates: The Chitauri left one in Micronesia. The soldiers found it when it was already in 0.
  • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): Diana finds a bomb at Etta's brother's wedding with only seconds left on the timer. The only thing she has time to do in hold it to her own chest and curl around it to try to limit the damage it does and protect the other guests.
  • Spider-Man
    • During The Clone Saga, Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider is trying to defuse a bomb that the Jackal left behind and is in no shape to deactivate it, seeing as he fell off a very tall building. Spidey is able to detach the Carrion Virus container that would have been unleashed with the explosion, but they can’t deactivate the bomb, so the Scarlet Spider swings it out over to the ocean with the idea of that if he doesn’t make it, Peter can keep going on with his life, clone or not.
    • At the start of Dan Slotts Spider Man era, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are trying to deactivate Dr. Octopus’ time bombs and they’re running out of time. Thanks to the Human Torch giving Spidey an Eureka Moment, he buys them the time to get the bombs out safely.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Referenced in "Beryl's Plan" when Ami, a.k.a Keeper Mercury, uses Jadeite's lap as one, after she gets drunk, and he's nervous due to her heavy scrutiny of him due to their unclear relationship status:
    Jadeite couldn't have been more nervous if someone had dumped a ticking time bomb onto his lap. The comparison was uncharitable to the red-faced girl who was using his legs as a pillow, but he found it fitting.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Simpsons Movie. Homer actually causes the timer to advance when he kicks the bomb dejectedly. In another scene, a bomb defusal robot shoots itself with Chief Wiggum's gun, in a scene similar to one from Full Metal Jacket.
  • Disney's Peter Pan. The bomb Captain Hook leaves for the title character, which is set to go off at 6 o'clock.
  • In the climax of Cars 2, Tow Mater gets a bomb on his hood that activates either by manually pressing a button or on a timer, the latter of which is invoked upon Mater attempting to deactivate the bomb through a voice command. The bomb is secured using rare bolts and the only way to deactivate it is through the voice of the one who activated the bomb. The bomb is ultimately disabled when Sir Miles Axlerod, the Evil All Along Big Bad of the film, gives the command to deactivate the bomb upon Mater interrogating him up close.
  • During the action packed opening to G.I. Joe: The Movie, Cobra Commander places a bomb with a five minute time limit on it at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Near the end of the sequence, Duke grabs the bomb and attaches it to Cobra's airship, blowing it up.
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood: After being beaten horribly by the Joker and left in a warehouse Jason is barely able to make it to the door, only to find he can't open it and realize there's a bomb with hardly any time left on it locked in with him to seal his fate.


    Films — Live-Action 
  • Airplane II: The Sequel. Sonny Bono buys a time bomb at the airport convenience store.
  • The Star Trek films have used this. The Wrath of Khan (the Genesis device activating), The Search for Spock (the Enterprise Self-Destruct Mechanism) and Nemesis (the Scimitar activating its primary weapon) all feature variants of this trope. This extends to the television series as well.
  • Beverly Hills Ninja, Cloak & Dagger, and Speed are all movies where the bomb goes off without hurting anyone, although the last wasn't a time bomb per se.
    • Speed has fun with the fact it's not a time bomb, but a speed bomb, so the speedometer acts as a readout meter. When the bus encounters a problem, director Jan De Bont likes to show the speedometer getting ohsoclose to the 50-mph point.
  • Galaxy Quest subverts this beautifully when the characters defuse an overloading reactor with about 20 seconds to spare...but to their consternation the countdown keeps going until it reaches 1, then stops. They then comment, relieved, that "it always did that on the show" the real ship was based on.
  • Subverted in The Naked Gun 2 1/2: an attempt to stop the bomb actually increases the rate of countdown. When all is lost, the fleeing hero trips over the power cord, deactivating the bomb.
  • Subverted in Lethal Weapon 3: a foolhardy attempt by Riggs to defuse the bomb speeds up the counter. The only thing left to do is run, and let the building be destroyed. On a related note: why do the heroes never, ever just pull the detonators out of the plastic explosives?
  • James Bond:
    • The nuclear bomb in Goldfinger, which stops with 0:07 seconds left.
    • Subverted (somewhat) in You Only Live Twice, when Bond detonates the enemy spacecraft with five seconds left on the timer.
    • And more appropriately, subverted again in The Living Daylights.
    • In Diamonds Are Forever Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd used timed bombs (without visual counters) twice - first to destroy the diamond-smuggling helicopter, and at the end in an attempt to kill Bond and Tiffany Case.
    • This is Blofeld's last resort plan to kill Bond and Madeleine in the climax of Spectre.
  • The bundle of explosives in The Mask, which The Mask disposes of by swallowing it.
  • In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the nuclear warhead is cancelled 1 second before detonation. Good thing there is no transmission latency.
    • In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Lane kidnapps Benji, and puts him on a public place with a time bomb strapped to him, leaving Ethan time until midnight to hand him the unlocked disk. It gets stopped 0,19 seconds before exploding.
  • The nuclear Self-Destruct Mechanism in The Andromeda Strain (1971), which is disarmed with 8 seconds to spare.
    • In the novel, it was 34 seconds, to which Dr Hall says "Plenty of time. Hardly even exciting." But not to the people still stuck on Level V; "... to improve the subterranean detonation characteristics of the atomic device, all air is evacuated from Level V, beginning 30 seconds before detonation." Hall's response: "Oh."
  • Richie Rich: While Richard is hunting for the (queen's) chocolates on the jet (against his wife's orders), the sniffer turns up a "TriNitroToluene" in one of the wrapped boxes.
  • In the The Shadow movie starring one of the Baldwin brothers there is a nuclear device (in a pre-World War II 1930's setting America) which was going to blow up in 13 hours or something similar, but of course tampering with it trying to shut it off lead to ... 0.1 seconds left on the timer. Hooray!
  • In A Shot in the Dark, Inspector Clouseau receives a clock-shaped time bomb from a "Phantom Killer" (his neurotic boss, Dreyfus). When it strikes three, it explodes, but Clouseau is pretty much perfectly okay.
  • Stargate: One of the most egregious Magic Countdown examples, as O'Neil says they have five minutes to activate the Stargate and leave. However, once he cues up the Digital Readout, it counts down at a rate of about two seconds per actual second.
  • Played with in Last Action Hero. Slater realizes a bomb is about to go off when a series of cards show decreasing numbers counting down.
  • 1986 movie The Manhattan Project. The radiation from the home-made nuclear weapon causes its own electronic timer to count down with increasing speed. It is finally stopped, reading 7:16:45, which refers to the date, July 16th, 1945, of the first atomic bomb test detonation.
  • John Woo's Broken Arrow. Hale jumps off the train pressing the cancel button on the remote trigger exactly at two seconds.
  • In Armageddon, the timer on a nuclear bomb is remotely canceled from Earth, only to be restarted after a direct order from the President. Back on board the asteroid, the bomb is stopped again manually, the timer freezing at 2.46 seconds.
  • Face/Off. Castor Troy (as Sean Archer) casually disarms his own bomb with 2 seconds left on the clock.
  • In the British disaster film Juggernaut (aka Terror on the Britannic), an extortionist puts six identical, booby-trapped bombs on a cruise ship, promising the plans to defuse them if a ransom is paid by dawn tomorrow. Cue Richard Harris para-drops in to try to defuse them.
  • One is found strapped to a man in The Hurt Locker. This is one of the rare cases where it can't be disarmed, and the man (who claims he was forced to wear it, and is not a terrorist) is killed.
  • The Fifth Element has one in the hotel room. Somewhat subverted, in that the heroes take a moment to decide whether or not they can disarm it, then decide to just run away from the thing. The villain who set it up does disarm it with five seconds on the timer. Then one of the aliens he pissed off earlier arms his own - starting with a five second timer. Presumably just so that anyone who saw it when it was activated would have time to soil themselves before they died.
  • In Detective Conan: The Private Eye's Requiem, Conan must deactivate the wristband bombs attached to Ran and the kids which will set off at the clock's hour or if they exit the amusement park's boundaries. He needs to input the correct computer password, accomplishing it, and successfully resets the timer with 9/10 of a second to spare.
  • In Team America: World Police, Kim Jong Il invokes the ticking crock.
  • In the Saw franchise almost every trap has the classic timer attached. Subverted in that the the victim is usually about 3 seconds away from defusing it when it goes off. Justified in the sense that the series would have very little following if people actually got out and the devices never went off while being close increases tension and their attempts to get out typically provides the torture portion of the "torture porn".
  • The Nostromo's Self-Destruct Mechanism in Alien counts, since it gives Ripley only ten minutes to leave the ship before it explodes. She makes it out just in time, including stopping to pick up the cat, and discovering and mercy-killing her cocooned crewmates in the director's cut and novelization.
  • In Heathers, the heroine tries to prevent her high school from being blown up by a time bomb.
  • The Killer Elite opens on a time bomb being planted to the sound of nearby children counting while jumping rope.
  • In one script for the now cancelled The Flash movie, Vandal Savage declared he'd set a time bomb, and if the Flash, the "Fastest Man Alive" couldn't find it in time, it would kill his wife. Flash checks literally everywhere for it, but couldn't find it in time, and had to escape, saving himself and not carrying her away. A few decades later, Savage offhand mentions: "What bomb? I used a rocket to blow up Wifey-Poo".

  • Bruce Coville's Rod Albright Alien Adventures series includes a different sort of time bomb. It's a bomb that blows up time.
  • A throwaway bit in Heinlein's Starship Troopers involves a talking time bomb. Rico jumps into a building full of Skinnies, throws something at them, and jumps back out. It begins yelling at them in their language: "I'm a thirty second bomb! I'm a thirty second bomb! Twenty-nine... twenty-eight..." The explosion is not described.
    • It's specifically notes that this is intended as an intimidation tactic, to frighten them and give them a chance to flee in terror.
  • El Filibusterismo has a 19th-century version in the form of a gas lamp.
  • Boba Fett uses one to pull a Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb on Bossk in The Mandalorian Armor so he can steal Bossk's ship (long story). As Fett gets away in the Hound's Tooth, Bossk hears a voice aboard Slave I counting down. The timer reaches zero and ... nothing happens. Fett was planning to come back to retrieve Slave I after he got the price on his own head lifted. That's kinda hard to do if it's free hydrogen.
  • Dan Brown's Angels & Demons has a capsule storing a quarter-gram sample of antimatter hydrogen. The capsule itself won't explode, but what will happen is that the power suspending the antimatter fails, it comes into contact with anything, and boom, annihilation.
  • Softly Tread The Brave (an abridged children's version is called 17 Seconds) by Ivan Southall, about two Australian aerial mine defusers in WW2. 17 seconds is the amount of time you have to flee once the mine starts ticking.
  • Subverted in Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain. Penny sets a time bomb up in the school yard with a hundred second countdown as a distraction, but tells Claire and Ray that nothing will actually happen when the timer reaches zero. This also lets her dispose of the powerful explosive she accidentally made without hurting anyone.
  • Able Team. Carl Lyons tries to create an improvised version when he has to dispose of the body of a guard. He sets the timer on a video recorder, then puts the wires in a pool of gasoline so the short-circuit will start a fire. Unfortunately this method is unreliable as the fire starts too late, after the body has been discovered.
  • Live and Let Die. James Bond hears a ticking in his apartment and throws himself behind cover. He's beginning to think It's Probably Nothing when there's a loud bang. Turns out the bomb was connected to a blank cartridge, and was only meant to frighten Bond. There's also a note.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The ignition mechanism for the bomb at Glen Canyon Dam ignites the bomb 18 seconds after triggering the elevator, so that the bomb will have been transported down the dam and can thus cause more damage.
  • In a The Avengers and Thunderbolts crossover novel, Hydra planted a bomb at an experimental power plant that both the Avengers and Thunderbolts arrived to stop. Iron Man went to disarm it, only for Hawkeye to appear and reveal that he'd disarmed the bomb twenty minutes before the Avengers made it there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: One actually went off and did some fairly major damage to CTU.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a variant: The heroes find a countdown for a bomb, but discover that the timer is merely a clock and not actually connected to the detonator at all. Since they only know the bomb is "somewhere in the building", they can't even try to defuse it and end up having to escape instead.
  • Alias, too many times to count.
  • Leoben claims to have planted one in the first season of Battlestar Galactica, but he's a perpetual liar who loves to Mind Frak people.
  • Done in the pilot episode of The Blacklist, where the bomb is strapped to a little girl, and is discovered with only 2:30 to go. The demolition expert defuses it with 10 seconds to go.
  • Blake's 7. In "Countdown", the rebels must disarm a Doomsday Device that will kill everyone on the planet. They deactivate the timer, but it turns out to be just a transmitter used to send the arming signal to the bomb which is thousands of miles away.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a time bomb in "The Zeppo" built by undead school sociopath Jack O'Toole - in a game of chicken, Xander convinces Jack to disarm it, pointing out being undead wouldn't be as much fun in little pieces.
    • And then Angel had an ep actually named 'Time Bomb', where the team had to drain some of Illyria's power before she blew the whole world sky high.
  • Truth in Television subversion: On Build It Bigger, the host accompanies an excavation-crew in Peru as they set up explosives to expand a tunnel in the Andes. After lighting the fuse and retreating to a safe distance, their foreman shows him the 8-minute countdown that's running on his cell phone, which indicates there are about four minutes left before the blast. The explosives go off prematurely while they're filming this scene.
  • Castle: "Countdown" has a dirty bomb with a timer set to go off in New York. Castle and Beckett find the bomb with less than 2 minutes. They send a picture of the bomb to an expert, but he can't see any way to disarm it in time. Castle and Beckett brace for the explosion, only for Castle to yank all the wires with the timer reaching 0. No boom, averting the Wire Dilemma trope.
    • In the episode "Still", a crazy guy sets a booby-trap for someone in his apartment, which Beckett accidentally steps on, and then proceeds to commit suicide in his cell. The bomb defusal team discovers the trap is basically immune to being defused, and also has a timer that will trigger about half an hour from then - the only way to stop the explosion is to guess the 5-digit number to the guy's detonation switch. Which of course they do, with like 3 seconds to go.
    • Castle loves this one. Not technically a bomb, but in the episode "Meme is Murder", the murderer desperately seems infamy, so he kidnaps the two founders of the totally-not-Snapchat Snapomatic, wires a device to kill them in exactly an hour, then rigs it to post pictures of the countdown to their site. Once again, they find the two and rip the wires literally the second the device goes off, because of course they do.
  • Played straight more than once in Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Intersect", "Chuck Versus the Sandworm") but also subverted, as Chuck and Sarah encounter a large device with a countdown timer that they believe to be a bomb. After an unsuccessful attempt to defuse the bomb, as the timer nears zero, they share a Now or Never Kiss, but the device turns out not to be a bomb. All three of those in the first nine episodes of the series. Also played straight in "Chuck Versus the Third Dimension", in which the device has to be taken away from the crowd.
  • Spoofed in Danger 5 when the Femme Fatale Spy puts a bomb in a microwave oven, then sets the timer. She then finds out her friends are nearby and tries to stop the countdown, but the oven dial comes off in her hand.
  • Danger: UXB, being about a Bomb Disposal unit during World War II, is a more realistic portrayal of this trope. The Germans keep dropping bombs with timed detonators because they know they'll cause more disruption and panic. Naturally no-one knows when the bomb will go off. An exception is in "Seventeen Seconds to Glory" when a naval mine is being defused. Once the timer starts they explode in seventeen seconds regardless. The naval officer drops the tiny device used to deactivate the timer — and at that point the timer starts whirring. While the man with him runs like hell, the officer scrabbles desperately in the rubble for the device. He's able to find it at the last moment.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Daleks": The Daleks attempted to detonate a neutron bomb on Skaro in order to increase radiation levels on the planet and allow them to survive outside their city (wiping out the other native race, the Thals, in the process). The countdown is stopped with just a few seconds remaining.
    • "Last of the Time Lords": The Master's 3-minute countdown clock to the launch of his fleet of spaceships bent on universal conquest, while not a bomb, has a similar effect. Fortunately, the Doctor is well aware of his archenemy's propensity for countdowns and uses that against him.
    • The Reality Bomb in "Journey's End", built by Davros and his new army of Daleks.. When detonated, it would turn all forms of matter into dust, the dust into atoms and the atoms into nothing, effectively cleaning out the entire universe and all parallel dimensions. Thank you, Doctor Donna, for stopping it.
  • A common plot device in Hogan's Heroes, although in this case it's usually the heroes who set the bomb. Much drama comes of having to escape the area before it goes off and much comedy comes of Carter's bombs going off a few seconds later than his eager countdown.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Compromised", Damian Darhk hides a Time Bomb in the White House (under a table at a State Dinner attended by both Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, no less).
  • MacGyver featured ridiculously large numbers of time bombs, especially in earlier episodes. Pretty much the first MacGyvering we see is done to keep a time-delayed missile from exploding. There was even a time bomb in the opening credits, and an entire early episode focused on defusing some bombs on a cruise liner. Handily, Mac happens to have served in Vietnam as an expert in bomb defusing.
  • The "MacGruber" skits from Saturday Night Live, which are themselves a parody of MacGyver, always take place in a locked room with some sort of time bomb. One of his allies (Maya Rudolph, later Kristen Wiig) is always on hand, counting down the time on her watch. However, the bomb always ends up exploding.
  • The Mandalorian. In "Sanctuary", Mando and Cara set up a thermal detonator on countdown. Unfortunately, more and more mooks keep barging into the tent where they placed the bomb, slowing down their escape as they have to fight them. They barely make it out Just in Time before it explodes.
  • NCIS:
    • Subverted when a military bomb disposal officer confidently proclaims that he has several minutes to defuse a bomb, which promptly blows up in his face in a cloud of dust a la Unwinnable Training Simulation. His training officer then explains that one should never assume the timer on a bomb is accurate and smugly comments that "the bad guys watch movies too."
    • Subverted again in a different episode when Gibbs finds a bomb under a bed in the house they are investigating. The team races out of the house and dives to hide behind a car. Over an hour later the bomb goes off just as the ME arrives to ask what they're all doing sitting there.
  • Nick Arcade: If a team moves Mikey onto a space that had already been in play, a Time Bomb event occurs. To keep control of Mikey, both players have ten seconds to spell a word, alternating one letter at a time. Regardless of the outcome, no points are awarded.
  • Person of Interest:
    • The above-mentioned gag is played straight in "Identity Crisis". The Villain of the Week puts a tray of chemicals wrapped in tinfoil in the microwave, then sets the timer. Fusco defuses the bomb just by pressing the Stop button.
    • Another improvised version in "RAM". Root turns on the gas, then stuffs a newspaper inside the grill of a heater and sets the timer.
  • In the Australian series Police Rescue, the protagonists are trapped in a cave with an unexploded bomb from WW2. The bomb has a delayed action timer in order to kill rescue parties treating the wounded from the initial attack. The irony of being Locked in a Room with a bomb designed to kill rescuers is not lost on the Rescue Squad.
  • The Rescue 911 episode "University Pipe Bomb" reenacts the Real Life story of a time bomb placed near a dormitory at the University of Kansas in 1991.
  • An episode of Robocop The Series involved the title character having to dispose a nuclear bomb in the OCP building, having to align two triangle-shaped switches into an hourglass. This is accomplished with (you guessed it) one second to spare.
  • In an early episode of Sledge Hammer!, Sledge has to find and disarm a time bomb hidden in a clock store.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • "Resurrection": the bomb is Imported Alien Phlebotinum.
    • "Avatar", where the SGC's built-in Self-Destruct Mechanism is used in this way by invaders in the virtual reality game.
    • Honorable mention to the fireworks O'Neill threatens his SGC recruits with during a training exercise in "Proving Ground". The recruits can't figure out how to disarm the "bomb" before the timer goes off, so the team leader aborts the exercise.
    • Then, there's "Fail Safe". In an attempt to destroy/divert an asteroid headed towards Earth, SG-1 places a bomb on it. Unfortunately, Carter then discovers that the asteroid itself is Made of Explodium, and their bomb will trigger an explosion large enough to destroy Earth. With only a few minutes to go before the timer reaches zero, the team climbs back out to their bomb, only to discover that the control mechanism has been damaged by a falling rock. To make matters worse, instead of the classic red-wire, blue-wire, it turns out that all of the control wires are the same color; as O'Neill puts it, "This is a very poorly designed bomb!"
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes "Obsession", "The Immunity Syndrome" and "The Doomsday Machine", the bomb was used by the Enterprise crew to destroy a Monster of the Week. In each case crew members or the Enterprise had to get out of the blast radius before the bomb detonated.
  • The Nickelodeon Game Show Think Fast featured one in the first version of its "Locker Room" Bonus Round. While being given 30 seconds to match items or characters behind lockers, the first contestant had to open the locker containing the Time Bomb in 20 seconds; otherwise, the second contestant would only be given 20 seconds (instead of 30) to find the remaining matches.
  • Played with in Ultraviolet when a character is locked in an Abandoned Warehouse with several vampire coffins that have time locks set to open after the sun goes down. Ironically he escapes by using one of the vampires as a bomb to blast open the door.
  • The second season opening episode of War of the Worlds (1988), in which the base of the Blackwood Project was blown sky-high.


    Tabletop Games 
  • A lesser-seen card in the BattleTech card game was Time Bomb, which had three particularly nasty effects.
    • Firstly, it had no upper limit on its power—every subsequent round would increase its damage up until it was either used or destroyed. Left alone, this meant an early Time Bomb could quickly balloon up to a 15-point explosion, wiping out any unit in the game.
    • Secondly, it could target any 'Mech or site regardless of its defenses, including the all important deck, as each point of damage suffered to the deck forces an opponent to discard a card and Time Bomb's explosion cannot be blocked by defenders.
    • Lastly, thanks to the unique rules of the game (players must reveal attacking cards one turn before they attack, but not necessarily declare their target), you can always trigger a Time Bomb. If the Time Bomb card was in danger of being destroyed by your opponent's next attack, just detonate the bomb and deal easy damage. One strategy involved deploying multiple Time Bombs and setting up Stone Wall defenses to protect them, then detonating the bombs at an opportune time to mill your opponent's deck (which served as their hit points).
  • Mario Party-e has Time Bomb Ticks!, where two players compete to press the 16 buttons in numerical order in the best time.

    Video Games 
  • Done and re-done in the 2D Metroid series, where at the end of each 2-D game (and at the beginning of Super Metroid) to boot, where after the Big Bad is defeated, Samus has 5 minutes of Real Time to escape wherever she's in before a time bomb explodes. Always followed by an Outrun the Fireball moment as we see Samus' ship escape the explosion with seconds to spare, regardless of how much time was actually left on the clock.
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has Samus escaping the Dark World before it is reabsorbed. Naturally, her Evil Counterpart is blocking the exit. Cue timed Final Boss battle.
    • They pulled that same trick in Metroid Fusion where you think that after beating the SA-X silly, you set off the bomb yourself that you're homefree. Nuhuh. One little old Metroid escaped and... has grown into an Omega.
  • The Game Over screen in Final Fight features one.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has Lord Crump whip one out to escape, but turns it off when he faces the Puni Elder blocking his way.
  • Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow had an interesting example. A bomb set to release GM smallpox into the ventilation in Los Angeles Airport has only a few minutes left on the timer, not enough to defuse it or get it anywhere containable. Sam's solution? Carry it into the main terminal building and just leave it lying on the floor. The bomb squad gets called in and they contain the blast Just in Time.
  • In Illusion of Gaia, one particularly frustrating boss fight occurs with one of your best friends strapped to a time bomb, and you still have to defuse it once the boss is defeated. Luckily, whichever wire you pick turns out to be the right one.
  • Call of Duty games feature this trope in multiplayer. In Modern Warfare, planting the bomb involves opening up a briefcase filled with stacked C4 and punching in a code on a cell phone (whose screen is covered with a sticker that says BOOM.) World At War, the bomb is a few blocks of explosive, and is armed by winding a key several times, much like a clock. In both cases, the timer is always 30 seconds, with no way to change it. Also, disarming the bomb seems to be as easy as doing the exact same thing as arming it - and performing that action a third time will rearm it with the timer reset, ad nauseum.
  • Subverted in the beginning of Halo 2. You can take as much time as you want, but when you reach the bomb and killed all the aliens protecting it, a cutscene starts that has the Master Chief hurrying to the bomb and getting Cortana into the bombs computer.
    Master Chief: How much time was left?
    Cortana: You DON'T wanna know!
    • Then he "gives the Covenant back their bomb".
    • Played straight however at the end of the first game. After Chief destabilizes the Pillar of Autumn's engines, a timer at the bottom right of the HUD appears giving you six minutes (five on legendary) to make it to a hangar on the other end of the ship. If the timer reaches zero the Autumn detonates with Chief still on board.
  • Trauma Center: Under the Knife has you disarming one as one of the missions. Fortunately, surgical skills carry over into delicate mechanical work.
  • In Syphon Filter, the first level of the first game has you racing to disarm one at the bottom of a subway station. The second level of the game has you trying to get out of the same subway station after you fail to stop the bomb.
  • Grand Theft Auto 2: You in the demo.
  • In Police Quest II, an otherwise normal flight to a neighboring city is hijacked by Middle Eastern Terrorists. After you gun them down, one of them activates a time bomb, which you then have to find and disarm. The sequence is made particularly nerve-wracking because you can hear the ticking of the bomb as soon as it's armed, and you have to search the bodies of the terrorists to find both the wire cutters and the bomb-making instructions: because you're on a timer, you have to specify what part of which terrorist you want to search (jacket, pants, turban, shoes), and each search takes several seconds. You then have to find the bomb and figure out how to disarm it. Cutting the wires in the opposite order of the bomb-building instructions, which includes connecting a wire before cutting another one, is the correct solution. As the game is otherwise a straightforward search for a rampaging escaped convict, this entire sequence ends up being a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • Two examples in the first entry of The Journeyman Project series. First is the paper-thin Access Card Bomb that was set by a robot to blow up the Mars Colony's atmospheric shield generator; you have to disarm it by playing a variant of Mastermind. The remake, Pegasus Prime, adds a nuke set by Elliot Sinclair to blow up the flying city of Caldoria. Disarming this requires solving a set of geometric puzzles inside a virtual cube. And yes, both of these are timed, and taking too long kills you in very gruesome ways.
  • You get the option to make one of these at the end of Lighthouse: The Dark Being, provided you'd collected an alarm clock and a circuit board along the way. Building it sets up an hour-long time limit to finish the final area of the game before the bomb destroys it.
  • The three nukes in Rama, as a safeguard. When some of the humans arm them, you're given six hours to find and disarm one and thus simultaneously shut down all of them...except there's a glitch that subtracts more time on the fly as you're moving from screen to screen.
  • In The Godfather: The Game game, you can carry a number of these. They are mainly used for building demolition.
  • The central premise of the Intellivision game Bomb Squad.
  • Parodied with the Mega-Scuttler bomb in Starship Titanic. This bomb, voiced by John Cleese, counts down from 1000, but clicking it makes it lose count and start over each time, gradually getting more annoyed the more you touch it. And if you stick around long enough for the countdown to reach zero, the bomb will get nervous and start over again anyway, only detonating at the very end, taking the parrot with it. The code to disarm it is actually dropped by various robot crewmembers, and Titania at the very end: "NOBODY LIKES A SMARTASS".
  • Played with during the limited-time world event in World of Warcraft to recapture Gnomeregan. As a last-ditch effort to halt the counter-attack, the villain activated a time bomb with a lengthy timer. The lead NPC cheerfully noted it was more than enough time to deactivate the bomb... until the villain, griping about factory settings, reset the timer to a few seconds.
  • The characters who participate in the Nonary Game in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors have a small explosive inside their digestive tract. The detonator starts counting down from 81 seconds after going through a numbered door, and the people who used their bracelets to open the door and walk through must deactivate it within the time limit, else the bomb explodes. The Ninth Man learned it the hard way by going through the numbered door solitarily.
  • The Flash games Four Second Fury, Four Second Frenzy, and Four Second Firestorm are all a bunch of microgames in which you have four seconds to perform some task. One of the microgames is a time bomb with an averted Wire Dilemma - you are told which wire to cut. Still, four seconds on the timer.
  • Every level in McPixel revolves around locating and disarming a bomb. The results often require a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer.
  • Some games in the classic Mega Man series use these as platforms, the countdown being triggered when Mega Man jumps on them. Fortunately, the explosion is barely larger then the platform itself.
    • In the fifth game of the Mega Man X series, a multitude of these can be found in Spiral Pegasus/The Skiver's level, giving you only a few seconds to destroy them before they detonate in a screen-filling explosion that'll remove most of your health.
    • The Handy viruses in the Mega Man Battle Network series use these as their sole method of attack, giving you three seconds to destroy the bomb before it detonates in an unavoidable explosion. The same bombs can be used a weapon by Mega Man once the appropriate battle chip is earned and are a very convenient way to delete viruses. They can even be combined together to create an even stronger bomb (Just make sure it doesn't get pushed back onto your side of the field).
  • The SNES video game Rushing Beat Shura has a time bomb near the end of the "airplane" part of the Alan Bradley Airport stage. You must destroy the plane's controls within 15 seconds or the bomb will explode causing the plane to crash. If the plane does crash, you'll be forced to go through the streets instead of Ozymandias Island.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies has its opening cutscene showing a time bomb counting down, as a cop warns the courtroom that a bomb's about to go off, which it does, destroying said courtroom. The first episode involves titular character Phoenix Wright defending the suspect in the bombing.
  • Gruntz has them both as a reusable tool that a grunt can use as many times as he wants, and as a surprise variant that can be uncovered when a rock is destroyed. Both types have the traditional look of a bundle of dynamite sticks with wires and a clock attached to them, and they start ticking faster when about to go off.
  • During a train battle in Transarctica, both sides can send soldiers with timed explosives to destroy enemy train cars. It is possible to defuse a bomb if you're quick enough to send an infantry unit.
  • Gyromancer has things amounting to time bombs as part of its Puzzle Game aspect. Jewels which have been empowered by the enemy have a countdown which progresses as players make their moves, and if they reach zero before being cleared from the board, they deal damage (and usually do something else as well).
  • Counter-Strike is best known for its Defuse maps. The terrorist team must plant a bomb (whose activation passcode is always 7355608) on either of two different bomb sites; if the bomb is planted, the counter-terrorist team must defuse it. If the bomb explodes, the terrorist team wins; if the bomb is defused, the counter-terrorist team wins. The bomb explodes 40 seconds after it's planted.
    • Global Offensive adds audio cues about the status of the bomb: dramatic music that kicks in when the bomb is planted, the music crescendoes on the last 10 seconds, then in the last two seconds you hear a coil whine, a quick series of beeps, then BOOM — "TERRORISTS WIN". Additionally, if you're on the terrorist team, your character will say something like "We are going to do it!" or "Our victory is near, brothers!" on the last few seconds, on counter-terrorist team - "Too late, run!" or “Clear the area!” .
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a VR multiplayer party game in which one player wears a VR headset and must defuse a complicated time bomb by solving a series of puzzles attached to it while the other players, who are outside of the game, consult a PDF manual and guide them through the complex instructions for solving each puzzle.
  • You spend the sixth level of MDK2 defusing time bombs BFB has planted aboard the Jim Dandy by noting which ring on the bomb pulsates red and tracking a big button leading to it. Press the wrong button and the bomb will detonate prematurely. Or, in the PC version, you can just quicksave upon pressing the correct button and quickload when pressing the wrong one.
  • The first mission in Mass Effect culminates in defusing five time bombs Saren and his geth troops planted on a tram station on Eden Prime.
  • The Countdown Ending of The Stanley Parable has a two minute timer until the bomb goes off. When it reaches 34 seconds, the narrator will decide to add extra time because of how fun it is. The narrator will then proceed to tell you that there's no way to shut it off, taunting you for thinking you could defuse it.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, your party (the terrorist group AVALANCHE) uses time bombs to blow up Shinra mako reactors, with the game making it a Timed Mission to escape before the bomb goes off. Additionally, Shinra itself uses what the party at first thinks is a time bomb to blow up the plate holding up the pillar in Sector 7, though as the party discovers when they try to disarm it...
    Cloud: ...It's not a normal time bomb.
    Tseng: That's right. You'll have the hard time disarming that one. It'll blow the second some stupid jerk touches it.
  • In Streets of Rogue one of the mission reward items can be one of these. The tooltip warns you to stand FAR back after placing it.
    • One of the disaster events, Live Bombs, replaces all mission objectives with finding these within three minutes, else they go off and you instantly die.
  • The Thing (2002): At the end of one level, Blake discovers a time bomb and has to make a run for the elevator to escape it, which magically shields him, and only him, from the blast. Hilariously, no matter what you do, any Guest Star Party Members who you've kept alive until this point are screwed either way, exploding into Ludicrous Gibs right in front of you.
  • The "Rat Race" stage of Battletoads has you racing to the bottom of a shaft, where you must kick said bomb away before the rat gets to it.
  • The one at the end of Clash at Demonhead must be defused by placing the six medallions in it—The order is different every time, but the correct ones don't need to be placed again.
  • Beans get two different kinds of these to equip in Contra Force, the better one having a quicker detonation time.
  • Streets Of Rage 3 has one in the first cutscene, which is successfully deactivated with only a couple seconds to spare. However, there's still the matter of the ones armed by Mr. X and littered about the city during the "true" final stage, which only beating Robot Y can stop.

    Web Comics 
  • The "Changing of the Guard" arc in Bruno the Bandit featured a time bomb intended to kill the chief of the Rothland guard, complete with a decreasing timer in every panel after the bomb was activated. Subverted when it turned out to be a fake bomb which played a recorded message implicating Bruno.
  • Dead of Summer has a fifteen-minute time bomb. It goes off, but by then everyone's evacuated. Except the man it was forcibly wired to.
  • Homestuck has The Tumor, a bomb with the explosive capability to destroy a sun, which has ten hours and twenty five minutes from when John finds it to its detonation.
  • Two Guys and Guy exploits the trope here.


    Web Original 
  • SF Debris noted that a time bomb used by Janeway would've neatly solved the final moral conflictnote  of Star Trek: Voyager's series premiere. Of course if Janeway had thought of it, they wouldn't have had a series. However, Tuvok made an easily missed line that even the writers seemed to forget about, noting that without the Caretaker it would take several hours to boot up, and the Caretaker's last action was to activate the self-destruct mechanism instead of helping them. Janeway only had a chance to have this moral dilemma because a crashed Kazon ship took out the self-destruct, and probably God knows how-many-other systems critical to safely launching a ship 70'000 lightyears.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Futurama episode "A Big Ball of Garbage" the gang installs a time bomb on the giant garbage ball set to blow up in 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the timer was installed upside down, so it is actually set for 52 seconds.
  • Semi-lampshaded in the Justice League episode "Wild Cards", where the Joker plants twenty-five time bombs all over Las Vegas, challenges the league to find them, sends the Royal Flush Gang to stop them, and sets the entire thing up as a reality show, complete with actual timer on the screen.
    • Subverted: The league finds most of the bombs, but two go off:
      • The Joker manually detonates one and nearly kills Green Lantern.
      • The other one, the final one, is grabbed by the Flash and moved to the desert while it's going off.
  • A Batman: The Animated Series episode involved the Clock King using a portable device to slow down time so he could sneak in and plant a bomb. Batman winds up grabbing the bomb, slowing time down and driving it out of town. There's a nice shot of Batman holding the bomb as it detonates in super-slow motion.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of TaleSpin:
    Baloo: How long before that bomb goes off?
    Wildcat: We should still have five minutes!
    [building explodes]
    Wildcat: Of course, my watch is a little slow...
  • Multiple times on Totally Spies!. Including one time when the Big Red Button to stop the bomb was easily accessible, but Clover, Sam, and Britney had their bodies slowed down to the point that they would never make it to the bomb in time. They are saved by Alex.
  • Used several times in Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, notably in "Escape from Questworld," and "Future Rage," in both of which cases Dr. Quest manages to stop the countdown with one second left.
  • The New Adventures of Superman episode "APE Strikes Again". Lex Luthor tries to use a bomb in an alarm clock to blow up a generator.
  • The Mega Man cartoon had this a couple times, with Mega escaping or removing the bomb rather than defusing it.
  • An episode of Johnny Test introducing Mr. Mittens has a time bomb that would turn all of Porkbelly into cats in one minute. His butler, Albert, lampshades how bombs always have a timer and wonders why the other villains always put a timer instead of immediately detonating them. Mr. Mittens justifies his reasoning with his bomb that they needed the time to get them out of the blast radius and keep Albert human, so he can clean his litter box.
  • Parodied in the new series of Danger Mouse. Racing to stop a Self-Destruct Mechanism, DM triumphantly declares "Just in the nick of time!"...and realises there's still five seconds on the clock. So he waits four seconds, triumphantly declares "Just in the nick of time!", and hits the button with a second left on the clock.
  • In the first episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Natasha hands Bullwinkle a gift box that contains a bomb that will go off in 30 seconds. However, when she finds that the door out of the place is locked and can't find the key, she throws the bomb out the window and onto the ground below, blowing her partner Boris sky-high.
    Boris: That's what I like: precision timing.
  • In a 1968 The Pink Panther cartoon "The Pink Package Plot," a terrorist forces the Panther to deliver a package containing a ticking time bomb to an estate before twelve noon, or he will be shot. But an Angry Guard Dog keeps preventing the Panther from getting into the estate to deliver the package. In another attempt to evade the dog, the Panther accidentally drops the package from the sky into an open manhole, where it floats down the sewer line, and just as the clock strikes twelve, the bomb explodes right under the manhole the terrorist is standing on, sending him flying into the estate yard where the guard dog chases him away!
  • Looney Tunes: The Road Runner cartoon "Sugar and Spies" has the Coyote using a spy kit in his quest to catch the Road Runner. Among the items is a time bomb which he sends parcel post. It immediately gets returned to him for insufficient postage, so as he's going back to get more stamps, the package explodes.
  • The Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode Scarebear has Shaggy and Scooby-Doo discover a traditional example of one of these at the Destroido corporation, complete with alarm clock strapped to sticks of dynamite. Thanks to Fred's trapping skills, they are able to send the bomb sailing out of Destroido before it explodes, destroying a farm in the process. We later learn Mr. E had planted the bomb to try and kill Mystery Inc.
  • The Venture Bros. episode, "The Terminus Mandate" has Red Death tying his (current, underwhelming) arch-nemesis, Blind Rage to railroad tracks; in his monologue about Old School Villainy, he reminisces on these kinds of bombs and explains why he loves them so, as part of a whole metaphor on the combination of effectiveness and sheer spectacle of the old ways:
    Red Death: Now, the gentleman villain had these old school time-bombs; three sticks of dynamite wired to an alarm clock. And what was so poetic about that is that they ticked. You could hear them — tick, tick, tick. Nowadays they're just digital; no sound, no peril... [train horn in the approaching distance] Oh, ohoho! Do you hear that? There's the tick! The train is coming! Is it on this track? Tick, tick, tick. Maybe it's on the other track! Tick tick tick!

One... *earthshatteringka-* What the - you finished? How is that even possible!? ...Fine then. Go. Be on your merry way.

Video Example(s):


Emergency 4

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DecapitationStrike

Media sources:

Main / DecapitationStrike