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What Does This Button Do?

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"Do You know the button song?
The Button Song, the Button Song
When you play the Button Song
You'll find out what goes wrong!"
Wander (while pressing random buttons on Lord Hater's ship controls), Wander over Yonder, "The Prisoner"

When it comes to curiosity, there are generally two main types. The first type is patient enough to wait for an explanation to be given, usually by an expert on a subject and/or its creator. Someone who can break it down into a more simplified language, to a point where it can be easily understood, what its benefits are, what dangers it may impose, and the like. The second type...does not have that kind of patience. Or insight. Or anything resembling restraint. They're willing to stumble blindly towards a control panel and start randomly pressing buttons. Usually, they'll ask the all-important question, "What Does This Button Do?" just before doing so, or just after doing so if the work emphasizes them being unthinking rather than reckless.

This is the kind of thing that can result in self-destruct sequences being set off, Wave Motion Guns made to be even more dangerous without anyone who knows what they're doing to run them, all while someone with half a brain will scream warnings (and insults to their intelligence) just before things get wrecked.


A very bad way to tempt fate. The proper response to anyone who asks this question is, "Don't Touch It, You Idiot!", although "What Were You Thinking?!" also crops up as a regular post-press reaction in either frustrated hiss or yelling flavours. Note, however, that Big Red Buttons are usually a Chekhov's Gun: even in the event that a curious character is prevented from pushing it, rest assured that you'll eventually find out what the button does. Compare and contrast Are These Wires Important?, for cases where the character is deliberately trying to make something malfunction, and Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock, when the button's placement means that it's highly likely to be pressed by accident.

Beware! Savvy villains may leave them lying out in the open as Schmuck Bait...



    open/close all folders 

  • An ad for Cable One, in which a supervillain has his plans to destroy Earth from his outer-space lair spoiled by a slow Internet connection, has "Common Sense" say the trope name and push the self-destruct button.
  • The Metro ad Dumb Ways to Die has a character die saying "I wonder what this red button'll do". *Earth-Shattering Kaboom*
  • In the 1995 Philips CD-i informercial A Day with Sid, Ed & Cd-i, in a scene deriding PCs, a woman tries and fails to start a game in DOS for her son. While she goes looking for the manual, the boy instantly becomes bored and, having been told not to touch anything, immediately starts pressing random keys. Two keypresses in and a Windows 3.1-style dialog box appears asking if he wants to erase the hard drive. Up to five keypresses later and the screen is literally flashing red. A dramatic press of the enter key (while his mother helplessly tries and fails to run across the room) later and the obvious happens.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Tomo from Azumanga Daioh once found a button that would kill Chiyo when pressed. She pressed it anyway. It was only in a dream, though (not that it alleviated Chiyo's anxieties about Tomo, anyway).
    Chiyo: Please don't kill me. Even in a dream.
  • Bleach: This shows up in the Beast Swords filler arc, where Senbonzakura finds himself in a room in the 12th division that has surveillance cameras all over Seireitei. He starts pressing buttons at random and ends up messing with the Shinigami on the cameras in various ways: Renji gets his bathwater superheated, Omaeda's barbecue explodes, Matsumoto's treadmill suddenly stops, adn so on.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Steel Troops has Chizuka messing around with a button of a Humongous Mecha. The robot then fires laser beam that destroys an empty building nearby.
  • Mazinger Z: This series mixed this trope with Falling into the Cockpit, and deconstructed both of them (funny and ironic, keeping in mind that Mazinger Z was the first mecha show where the pilot fell into the cockpit). When The Hero Kouji sat in the Hover Pilder (the flying device that controls the Super Robot) for the first time, he knew absolutely nothing about piloting. His little brother suggested to him that maybe it was a really bad idea, and he angrily replied he only needed to figure out what each button did. So then he began pressing random buttons to ascertain which did what... and he nearly got himself and his brother killed. Mazinger-Z went on a rampage, destroying everything on its path, and it only stopped when Sayaka showed up and carefully explained to Kouji what he had to do (after getting baffled at the thought of someone doing something SO stupid). And it was way worse in the original manga version since Kouji activated Mazinger-Z in the middle of a big city. To be fair, though, the person who had built Mazinger-Z was dead, so it was not like if Kouji could consult someone about it at the time.
  • Asked in Episode 15 of Bodacious Space Pirates when Marika brings the yacht club aboard the Bentenmaru to fill in for her quarantined crew. Answer: It fires the ship's main cannons.
  • In One Piece, Franky goes searching through the laboratory of the world's most brilliant scientist for a ship that can take him to the rest of the Straw Hats. He comes across a "Pirate button", and...
    The world refers to this incident as the Future Kingdom's great disaster: "The Nightmare of Baldimore".
  • Combattler V: In episode 16, Kotaro — a little kid of Hyoma's acquaintance — visited the Nanbara Connection. When Ropetto shows him the team's vehicles, Kotaro can't help to get in Hyoma's jet fighter, point at a random button and ask what it does. Ropetto tried to talk him out of touching it, but Kotaro pressed it anyway.
    Kotaro: What does this button do?
    Ropetto: That's the ignition button. Don't touch it.
  • Isekai Quartet: When the Konosuba group finds a mysterious button, Aqua immediately wants to press it. Kazuma holds her back, pointing out it could do something dangerous. Megumin says she agrees with his logic but presses it anyway. Pressing it whisks the group away to the series' school setting.

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, Laurie is exploring Nite Owl's aircraft and starts pressing buttons on the panel. She presses one and it turns off the lights. Then, she taps another button with the fire marked on it for the cigarette lighter. It's not a cigarette lighter. After the fire is put out and Dan mentions the air-to-air missiles, Laurie announces that she has just quit smoking forever. In a nice bit of Foreshadowing, Dan mentions that The Comedian did the same thing back 1977... In the film version she doesn't smoke, but still pushes the button just to see what it does.
  • Teen Titans; Tim Drake manages to smuggle a batmobile to California under the 'Batarang budget' and tells the group not to touch the blue button after being asked that question. A page later reveals it most likely contacts Batman, right after Kid Flash has managed to crash the car upside down.
  • Done in Górsky & Butch, in a direct Dexter's Laboratory parody. (Unfortunately, the button was in the middle of a bomb that Gorsky was trying to disarm.)
  • One Archie Comics story has Mr. Lodge having trouble with his kitchen because every appliance is built into the wall, and the buttons are unlabeled. On Archie's suggestion, the two of them test each button which results in variations of The Door Slams You until Mr. Lodge gives up, has Archie gather firewood, and cooks lunch over a campfire in the kitchen.
  • A gag in Achille Talon has just a single button labeled "do not push". The main character gets more and more unhinged as he desperately tries to resist the temptation of pushing it until he finally gives in. It electrocutes the pusher.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): After Diana and the Holliday Girls "borrow" an experimental aircraft in order to go join the fight against the Duke of Deception and try to prevent him from awakening the Titan they pass an allied aircraft and when Diana talks about contacting them on the radio Tilly Heyday pushes the giant red button covered in caution tape while cheerfully chirping that maybe it's the radio while the other's tell her not to in horror. It turns out to be the button to turn the plane invisible.

    Comic Strips 
  • This rather surreal Dilbert comic.
  • This Greenside, though it's never made explicit whether it's because the character in question is a Marine, or simply because he's a Private.
  • In the German comic Rudi, the button in question automatically moves the kickstand of a motorbike. Cue the Motorcycle Dominoes.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Invincible Technomage (a fanfiction in which Harry Potter is adopted by Tony Stark) the Dursleys and Harry go to a Stark International factory. Dudley decides to apply this trope Up to Eleven, and his father not only doesn't do a thing to stop his son but prevents some people from stopping the kid. The result? The Dursleys die, another family that was there dies, a technician dies, and the only survivor is Harry thanks to his magical powers.
  • Defied by Hermione in The Problem With Purity when she notices dormant wards that, if her calcuations are correct, would probably separate the tables in the Great Hall from each other if they were activated. She's tempted to activate the wards just to see them working, but has enough sense to restrain herself.
  • The Judge asks this in case 1 of Brendan Namron: Ace Attorney just before pressing the power switch of the flashlight — and getting hit by its light.
  • In this Titanfall 2 fansong, "Wait, what's this button for?" "Eject eject, that's the nuclear core
  • In The Portal, Thomas Smith pushes a strange button which causes him to fall into the basement where he finds the portal to the Dragon Realms.

    Films — Animation 
  • Titan A.E.: Played with, in a way that suggests that the crew's Genius Ditz weapon specialist is savvier than he might at first appear. We never do find out what it does.
    Gune: Does this look familiar? Do you know what it is? Neither do I. I made it last night in my sleep. Apparently, I used Gindrogac. Highly unstable. I put at button on it. Yes. I wish to press it, but I'm not sure what will happen if I do.
  • Rex in Toy Story asks this while pointing to a big red button on Buzz Lightyear's armor. Subverted in that it just plays a voice recording. In the same scene, there's also a bit in which one of the toys activates Buzz's laser, though without the line.
  • In Yellow Submarine, Ringo presses a button just after he's told not to do so. It is a panic button/ejector seat that puts him in the Sea of Monsters... (Ringo Starr himself said children all over the world asked him "why did you push the button?")
    • Earlier in the same film, Ringo and Fred are wandering around the Beatles' house looking for the rest of the band and they find a giant Frankenstein's monster with a lever next to it. Fred warns Ringo to leave it alone, but Ringo pulls the lever anyway, insisting "Can't help it, I'm a born lever-puller"note . The monster wakes up, but fortunately, it then drinks a potion and transforms into John.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, as Ralph is trying to figure out how Vanellope's racecar works, Vanellope asks, "What does this joystick do?", pulls it, and reverses, smacking Ralph in the face. She does this two more times.
  • In Penguins of Madagascar, Private can't stop pushing the buttons on Dave's submarine, each one sending them deeper into the ship. Later he presses another one to save the North Wind from Dave's death trap.
  • The VeggieTales movie, Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space plays this straight within the Larrymobile. There's a panel of multicolored buttons that Alfred didn't take the time to label, and he tells Larry this while he's driving towards the city's water tower. Larry's trying to find the button for the 'Mobile's flight system, but Alfred can't remember which one it is until the last second.
  • At the start of Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, Johnny Rico is commanding a squad of rookie soldiers. The Ensign Newbie tries to activate his infrared and shoots off a backpack nuclear missile instead, blowing them all up. Fortunately it's a Danger Room Cold Open.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 1983 film WarGames, this concept is spoofed, when a tourist at NORAD is tricked by a military tour guide into pushing a big red button that simulates an emergency response, for comedic effect.note 
  • Will Smith's character in Men in Black is firmly instructed early in the movie to never, ever touch the red button. In the crisis of the climax scene, Tommy Lee Jones tells him to push it. It activates turbo engines that allow the car to drive on walls and ceilings to get through a traffic-clogged tunnel.
  • In The Fifth Element, the Big Bad promises his Swiss Army Weapons to the alien mercenaries in exchange for the MacGuffin he seeks. The container turns out to be empty; he gives them one weapon crate anyway for trying, but one discovers a little red button on the gun whose purpose Zorg didn't explain. That was his insurance in case he got ripped off. The alien presses it, which causes the gun to self-destruct, killing (almost) all of them.
    Zorg: Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun.
  • In Undercover Brother, Conspiracy Brother sees a Big Red Button in the control room of The Man's base labelled "Atomic Core". He goes ahead and presses it anyway, starting the self destruct sequence.
  • David curiously touches all the alien-buttons he sees in Prometheus. Heavily overlaps with Don't Touch It, You Idiot!. No, seriously, DON'T!
  • Subverted in the 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, at the very end, in the Great Glass Wonkavator, Wonka lets him know that he has pushed every button in the compartment besides the one with a red ring around it, which he encourages Charlie to do, claiming he doesn't know what'll happen, eventually revealing he actually knew it would lead them up and out of the factory.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Rocket shows Groot an explosive device (with the yield of a nuke) and gives him specific instructions not to press the Big Red Button, as it would set the nuke off immediately, killing them all. Groot has trouble understanding. Luckily, when Groot has to press the button, the instant explosion one is cracked and possibly broken, meaning the right one is the only choice.
  • Thor: Ragnarok. On finding the spacecraft they stole doesn't have any weapons because it's a pleasure yacht used by the Grandmaster for his orgies, Banner is told not to push any buttons, presumably for fear of activating some kind of Orgasmatron. However when they're being shot at, Banner in desperation pushes the biggest button he can see. This activates the Grandmaster's birthday celebration fireworks which distract the craft shooting at them, causing it to crash.
  • In TRON: Legacy, Sam ends up zapping himself onto the Grid by ignorantly repeating the last issued command on the console. Even when faced with the warning message, he makes only a token effort to look for the indicated "aperture" before confirming the command.


  • Discussed several times in Discworld.
    • Wizards will always pull anything marked "Do Not Pull" just to see what all the fuss is about, and if you put a sign saying "End of the World Switch" on a lever in a remote cave somewhere, the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.
    • Soul Music: The shop full of magical musical instruments, where the question was "What happens if I pick up this instrument and play it?" One of the scarier ones in the shop was the horn of either Heimdall or Gabriel.
    • Hogfather: The wizards find a nailed-shut door in Unseen University, and naturally have Modo the handyman un-nail it. After Ridcully has explored the full capabilities of the B. S. Johnson bathroom behind the door, he has Modo nail it up again; but Modo leaves the nail-heads sticking out a little to make it easier next time the Gentlemen want it opened.
  • Alk and Ilke's adventure starts out like this in Phenomena, where Ilke can't help it but grab some handles.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy plays this trope straight, while subverting the Shmuck Bait element and averting the Chekhov's Gun of it: "[Arthur] reached out and pressed an invitingly large button on a nearby panel. The panel lit up with the words 'Please do not press this button again.'" At no point is this button ever mentioned again.
  • One character in Finder's Stone trilogy thought the best way to learn what unknown magical devices do is to tell them all known stock command words and look what will happen.
    "Nonsense," Olive said with a sniff. "There's no danger as long as you know the right way to deal with these things. All you have to do is hold your hand over your head—" the halfling demonstrated, while Akabar stepped backward and Alias rose to her feet "—and command the ring, 'Show your power to me.' If that doesn't work then there are certain keywords you should—"
    They never heard the rest of the bard's lecture. Suddenly the ring's power did indeed display itself.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew:
    ''Make your choice, adventurous stranger
    Strike the bell and bide the danger
    Or wonder 'till it drives you mad
    What would have happened if you had
  • In Artemis Fowl The Atlantis Complex Mulch amuses himself on a long trip in a stolen shuttle by doing this repeatedly, activating the emergency braking system and dumping a load of "waste" on some very surprised fishermen.
    "I should have guessed that one. There's a little picture of a toilet on the button."
  • The Illustrated Star Wars Universe has an image of an Ewok examining a blaster, with the caption saying that Ewoks are curious about Imperial technology, often to their own detriment.
  • In the novelisation for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, having forced his way into command of Enterprise, Admiral Kirk finds himself thrown when he realises he doesn't know which button unlocks the restraints on the captain's chair. It's played more seriously later when he worries that his unfamiliarity with the systems might have lead to the deaths from a transporter malfunction because he didn't fix the problem quickly enough.
  • The Mr. Men story "Adventures with Minibeasts" ends with Little Miss Curious coming across Miss Inventor's Shrinkometer and wondering how it works, presses a button on it and makes Little Miss Tiny grow to the size of a giant. It may also be a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer.
  • Castle Hangnail: During the introductory tour of the castle, Molly is shown a device of uncertain purpose built by a Mad Scientist who used to occupy the castle; it features a button with a prominent label saying NEVER EVER PRESS THIS BUTTON — and the button has been pressed so hard it's stuck in the 'on' position.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Pretty much the set up for every plot in Aquila as the boys press buttons on the titular craft with no idea of what will happen. There was once a whole episode focused around Jeff wanting to try out all the buttons just to see what happens... generally something odd.
  • Blake's 7. Played for Drama in "Cygnus Alpha". When our heroes first get hold of the Liberator, they have no idea how to operate the alien vessel and so must make educated guesses about every button. One sends them hurling across the galaxy at Ludicrous Speed, the next button does nothing at all. Then when Blake is in urgent need of a Teleportation Rescue, the button they thought would teleport him up does nothing, so they have to try buttons at random until it works.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Scooby Gang capture a taser blaster from the Initiative and try to figure out how it works. Willow suggests just pushing buttons to see what happens, but Xander replies that since they're fiddling with a "blaster," randomly hitting buttons is not high on his agenda. He then adds that if it were called the "Orgasminator," that would, in fact, be his desired approach.
  • Castle: Detective Beckett often laments that Castle is prone to this. Hilarity Ensues in one episode when his curiosity results in him believing he has been cursed by a Mayan mummy!
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fourth Doctor's companion, Harry Sullivan, has a bad habit of pushing buttons to see what will happen. He gets over it after about the third time he nearly kills Sarah.
    • At the end of her first adventure, Leela invites herself into the TARDIS, and it dematerializes as the Doctor says "Don't touch that button!" (i.e. the dematerialization button). The only consequence is that she becomes the Doctor's new companion.
    • In his first episode, the Tenth Doctor parodies this Trope when he finds a big red button whilst exploring his new personality and dubs it "The Great Big Threatening Button Which Should Never Be Pressed Under Any Circumstances" and presses it, resulting in the freedom, as opposed to the deaths, of one-third of the humans on Earth.
    • Eleven also has his moments: "There's something here that doesn't make sense. Let's go and poke it with a stick!"
    • Amy learns this from him. When she is stuck on an alien spaceship, she and two others find a console and she tells the others, "Well, I've spent enough time with the Doctor to know whenever you enter somewhere new, press buttons."
    • "In the Forest of the Night": When Clara and Danny's students wind up on the TARDIS, as might be expected from a group of children, there are lots of fun buttons they feel compelled to play with. Fortunately, doing so does nothing other than annoy the Doctor.
    • "The Woman Who Fell to Earth": Ryan Sinclair sees a glowing golden square appear in the air, which expands to form a glowing button. He presses it, summoning the Monster of the Week. Later in the episode, when he admits this, the others give him flack for it but the Doctor admits she'd have done the same.
  • Eureka
    • Fargo's GD personnel file contains the phrase "inappropriately pushed button" 37 times.
    • In one of the episodes, Fargo finds a strange device and, naturally, turns it on. It turns out to be a force-field generator, whose field is constantly increasing in size, threatening to destroy Eureka. When Carter finds out that someone gave the device to Fargo, he berates that person, who claims he didn't think that Fargo would activate it. Carter looks at him incredulously and points out that it's Fargo they're talking about.
  • Lampshaded in the Father Ted episode "Flight into Terror". We're explicitly told that the Big Red Button dumps all the fuel, but for some reason, it's placed next to another Big Red Button, which is to be pressed when the plane is in trouble (in this case, an old priest in the cockpit going a bit mad and molesting the pilot). When the pilot asks Dougal to press the button...
  • Dr. Smith on Lost in Space is made of this trope. For all his raving cowardice, the man never met a button he wouldn't push. Probably the best example is when he finds a giant machine, stupidly activates it. and it produces an android which tries to kill him. The Robinsons destroy the android and forbid him to go near the machine again. So of course, he sneaks back and does exactly the same thing again.
  • The Mandalorian: The Child loves to play with the buttons and switches that control the Razor Crest, much to the dismay of the Mandalorian who has to keep telling the kid to stop doing that while they're flying as it causes the entire ship to shake.
  • One episode of Married... with Children revolved around Al and the rest of No Ma'am trying to figure out what a button in the Bundys' kitchen did. The button itself was harmless enough; Al's electrician skills, less so.
  • In part 3 of the Father and Music episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood when his son (Jimmy Rogers) and his grandson (Alex Rogers) visits him. While playing the trolley, Alex was about to play with the trolley control switch, Fred reminds his baby grandson that it does not work unless the trolley is on the tracks.
  • Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000. In one movie Servo greets a nuclear blast with the line "Oh, that's what that button does!"
  • Primeval:
    Connor: What does this button d—
    Lester: Please don't touch anything. I don't want you changing my settings.
    Connor: ...Sorry.
  • In the pilot episode of Special Unit 2, Benson is patting down O'Malley and takes out his strange-looking gun. He tries to warn her about the infrared hairline trigger, but too late. She ends up blowing up a car with a single shot.
  • Stargate:
    • McKay in Stargate Atlantis claims the rights to this trope in "Sunday" and berates two other scientists for using it, since he has the ability to fix whatever he might screw up, while they will usually turn to him for the same. Doesn't always turn out that way, but does in this episode.
    • Likewise, in Stargate SG-1 Dr. Jackson explains that him fiddling with alien control panels is acceptable whereas Colonel Mitchell doing the same is stupid because "I know how to read 'that'."
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", McCoy, under the influence of cordrazine, passes out in the street of a Depression-era city. A tramp picks up his phaser, curious, and hits a button or two. Oops.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Message in a Bottle", two Emergency Medical Holograms have to take control of a vessel being attacked by Romulans. As neither have been on the bridge before the LCARS interface throws them into confusion and they have to make educated guesses on what to press. Hilarity Ensues.
    EMH-1: All we have to do now is find a way to send Starfleet a distress signal, and —
    [warning beeps]
    EMH-2: Be-be-beep? Be-be-beep? I've never heard that one before.
    EMH-1: Oh, no.
    EMH-2: What?
    EMH-1: I'm not sure, but I think whatever I did initiated a warp core overload.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. Trip creates a new captain's chair for Archer in "Borderland". As they're about to go on a mission he says they don't have time to go over the controls, "...but try not to hit that button." This is a Mythology Gag too, as the chair is a recycled prop from Star Trek: Nemesis that activates the seatbelts. ST:ENT takes place when they still have No Seat Belts.
  • On Top Gear, James May built a limousine from an Alfa Romeo and a Saab, creating a two-headed Frankenvehicle. Richard Hammond couldn't resist pulling a lever on the Alfa side... which uncoupled the steering and left the "Alfaab" fishtailing wildly while Jeremy Clarkson tried to regain control.

  • In Genesis' music video for "Land of Confusion" starring Spitting Image dolls, Reagan presses "Nuke" instead of "Nurse". That earns him a slap on the back of the head from Nancy.
  • In the music video for The Young Ones' "Living Doll", Vyvyan says "What does this button do?", pushes a button on the mixing desk, and blows up the studio.
  • The Filk Song "Don't Push That Button" describes a few misadventures of someone who never heeds that advice.
  • At the end of Laszlo & Gary's "Don't Touch That", a recording engineer begs him not to touch a big red button on the control panel even though he's curious about what it does; he touches the button and the song ends with a loud explosion.
  • The intro to "Doomsday" by Mephiskapheles has an idiot saying: "Ayayayayayay! Ay, what's this button for?"
  • One of the lines in "Dumb Ways to Die" is, "I wonder what this red button do." It detonates a nuke.
  • Kids Praise: Said word-for-word when a little girl named Hanna is checking out a machine Psalty invented that was supposed to stretch time. Turns out the machine travels through time instead; they found this out when she pressed it.

  • Lampshaded on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the original radio series).
    Arthur Dent: What happens if I press this button?
    Ford Prefect: I wouldn't—
    Arthur Dent: Oh.
    Ford Prefect: What happened?
    Arthur Dent: A sign lit up, saying "Please do not press this button again."

    Tabletop Games 

    Theme Parks 
  • Right at the end of The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios, Krusty asks this when he sees a mysterious button next to him. He pushes it, which makes the ride vehicle vibrate.

    Video Games 
  • Ling Xiaoyu says this in Panda's Tekken 5 ending. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Xenoblade, while Alvis is informing the party about the traps scattered around the High Entia Tomb, Reyn wanders off, delivers the line, and pushes the button in front of him. Cue trapdoor sending everyone (and eventually Riki) to the Catacombs.
  • Marle in Chrono Trigger. While searching for a way back from the post-apocalyptic future at Arris Dome, Marle says this exact phrase before pressing a button on Arris Dome's supercomputer that plays a recording of the Day of Lavos, the very day the world "ended". Though, she and her friends take it upon themselves to try and prevent this future. One could argue that pressing it has disastrous effects to the timeline...
  • In Gotcha Force, Yuji will occasionally say this when one of his borgs is destroyed. Given that he does occasionally use borgs that specialize in kamikaze tactics, like the aptly-named Walking Bomb, the implication is (mostly) clear.
  • In the RPG Albion you enter a dungeon with red and green pressure plates. The green plates have positive effects (they open doors that block your way or treasure rooms), while red ones more or less negative ones (they release monsters or open rooms with cursed items). At one point you enter a room with a blue pressure plate — and a party member, curious what it does, steps on it, which opens a trap door and sends the party crashing down below.
  • The controls in SimAnt included an unmarked white "mystery button" whose effects changed at random with each click. It might tell you a joke, rapidly play every single sound effect, let the spider shoot lasers from its eyes, or annihilate most of your colony. (There were plenty of other effects, some beneficial but on average, clicking the button was disadvantageous to the player.)
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mentioned in Mass Effect with the right party-members on Noveria where there is a button which sets off a deadly Neutron purge. Kaidan (or Ashley) will actually mention that it's always a good idea to RTFM before pressing any buttons, to Liara's confusion. Tali will offer the priceless advice "Nobody push any Big Red Buttons".
    • In Mass Effect 3 there's a random button on Sur'Kesh that Shepard can repeatedly press, with no effect other than causing a nearby salarian to get incredibly annoyed. Eventually, the salarian informs Shepard that if they're so enamoured with that button, they should get their own feces analyser.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, there's another random button on Kadara, with another salarian standing nearby asking you not to touch it. Not that it matters. It's broken.
  • Beat, from The World Ends with You: "Yo, you show me a button, and I want to push it." To which Neku replies "They design traps like this with you in mind..." (What does it do? Nothing, unless you've solved the puzzle; if you have, the box opens, granting you a key needed to get past a barrier and progress.)
  • In Starcraft II, when Tychus gets his hand on his very own Humongous Mecha, he invokes this trope twice. The first one is simply the big red "fire all cannons" button. The second is his Moment of Awesome.
    Tychus: Now how did I miss this button with a skull on it?
    Adjutant: Nuclear launch detected. (final Dominion Valhalla base flattened seconds later)
  • Starship Titanic has a button that says, "Push button to disarm bomb." You can guess what it actually does.
  • In World of Warcraft, the boss Mimiron is an inventor, fought in his main workshop. Behind the tank he's adjusting when you encounter him is a massive red button, which is labelled "Do No Press This Button". Pressing it triggers the self-destruct mechanism and the boss hard mode, with a short timer and flames everywhere, as well as provoking an angry rant from the boss on how stupid it was to press that button.
    • In the Mogu'shan Vaults instance, the guide NPC, Lorewalker Cho, announces one section of the instance with "Ah, the ancient vaults of the Kings of Mogu'shan! Hmm... what might this button do?" Turns out it displays to Cho a history of the rule of the (evil) mogu emperors - and also conjures material phantasms that attempt to use your raid as object lessons in the brutality of said emperors. (You must complete this sequence to proceed, as the final set of phantasms are the next boss encounter, and open a secret passage upon their demise.)
  • During the Dr. Lugae and Barnabas boss battle in Final Fantasy IV, if you defeat Barnabas first, Lugae will pilot a new one afterward, and accidentally press a self-destruct button wondering what it does, despite the fact that he was the one who created that robot in the first place.
  • At the beginning of Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, De Cava wonders what the button on the locket does after Guybrush has handed said trinket over to him. It turns out that pressing the button initiates the Voodoo Lady's Grand Theft Me of De Cava as she tells Guybrush his next mission.
  • Ratchet & Clank (2002), has a mission on the Blarg Tactical Station where it asks you if you want to "Press the shiny red button?" Doing so will cause the ship you're on to activate a self-destruct, and now you have to get out before it explodes.
  • In Pokémon Red and Blue, examining a statue in the Cinnabar Mansion causes the game to tell you there's a button on it, then asks if you want to press it. Once you press it, the game replies, "Who wouldn't?".
  • In a mission of Grand Theft Auto V in which he steals a working Weaponized Car from the set of a spy movie, Franklin wonders aloud what a certain button on the dashboard does, and the player is invited to find out. It's the Ejection Seat, and the obnoxious starlet in the passenger seat goes flying out through the roof.
  • One section near the end of the game in Another World has the player riding a giant armed vehicle into a packed arena while armed guards fire on it. The player is then presented with a panel of buttons without context, which they're supposed to deduce the correct order in which to push them in order to activate the vehicle's escape pods, though it's much easier to just hammer on every single button (which also activates the vehicles' mounted laser cannons) until the scene ends.
  • The Control Panel Gives you an unspecified device with buttons to push, switches to switch, cables to wire and more! It blows up the world once you figure out all the challenges. Complete with a message not to mess with stuff you don't understand.
  • Obligatory Buffy the Vampire Slayer example: Buffy is trying to gain access to a control room at the docks. The only way seems to be a shorting out and sparking control panel. Using it sends her flying twenty feet through the glass of the control room so she can progress at least.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, Please, Don't Touch Anything, which is the game version of this trope.
  • Mirai from THE iDOLM@STER: Million Live! has this as one of her lines when sent on jobs. This comes up again in one of the offers in Theater Days where Haruka mentions having to stop her from pressing random buttons when doing a radio show.
  • In the Halo 4 Spartan Ops mission "Gagarin", triggering the Red vs. Blue Easter Egg, wil lead to this exchange:
    Caboose: What does this button do?
    Church: Caboose, don't touch anything.

    Web Animation 
  • In The Demented Cartoon Movie, a Blah Guy comes across a set of three buttons, each with a picture beside it. The first is of a brick wall, the second is of a kamikaze watermelon, and the third is an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. He doesn't speak, but seems to do some thinking before he presses each one — yes, he does press the third one, which has predictable consequences.
  • In GEOWeasel, as Jimbob pokes around in the buttons of the flying machine, he accidentally hits the AOL instant messenger button.
  • ASDF Movie:
    • Parodied in asdfmovie1, with the Pointless Button. The button is pointless.
    • Again in asdfmovie9.
      Guy: Ooh, I wonder what this one does.
      [clicks button]
      Guy: Oh, I'm gay now. Huh.
    • In another episode, we have this where one character pushes a button and changes the world from black and white and into color, which promptly reveals that the characters are naked. Panic ensues.
  • Said (or rather, sung) almost word for word in Dumb Ways to Die. In this case, causes an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • A very common theme in Freeman's Mind. Freeman will frequently say variations on this as he recklessly presses any unlabeled button that the player would normally press in-game without question or justification.
  • Minilife TV: In "The Man With The Box Sketch", when Chris wonders what a button on his remote does, the platform that he and Ian are on is raised seemingly endlessly when he presses it. Fortunately, he manages to bring it back down by pressing the button again.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The red button at a multi-site site, run by Sprint, that says "push now". The old version of the site opened with a USB device plugging into a computer. It does nothing, and nearly 300,000 people have fallen for it. However, now that the site redirects to this new version, over 120,100 people have fallen for the one there.
  • This LOL from Pundit Kitchen.
  • In the third episode of Rooster Teeth's Minecraft series, there's a small button innocuously located on the outskirts of Achievement City. When Michael finds and presses it, Geoff and Gavin can be seen quickly backing away from the city square shortly before several hundred blocks of TNT that were hidden under the city detonate, turning the city into a giant crater.
  • When Roman Torchwick takes control of a military airship in RWBY Volume 3, he invokes this trope while merrily wreaking havoc. It's downplayed, though; while the first button causes an offScreen explosion, ("Oh, fun!") the second button just dumps a squad of robots out, causing no serious harm.

    Western Animation 
  • Dexter's Laboratory has Dexter's big sister DeeDee as the arguable Trope Codifier, having elevated this to an art form and having "What does this button do?" as her catchphrase.
    • This would usually be the last thing Dexter would hear before one of his inventions goes awry. Even she lampshades it on occasion, such as one episode where Dexter's trying to sleep:
      DeeDee: I went into your lab... and I pushed this button...
      Dexter: Oh, just like the last thousand times?
      DeeDee: I think it's really serious this time... [cut to self-destruct device counting down]
    • Doing this has sometimes served as the solution to a problem. One episode has Dexter deliberately invoke it when his new supercomputer has turned against him.
  • The Simpsons: Bart Simpson turned this attitude up to eleven on an invisible (read: made with transparent casing) computer. He managed to crash the hard drive to the point where it caught fire.
  • Darkwing Duck
    • This is the attitude that Darkwing approaches the Ramrod with in the pilot. He is deliberately trying to disable it or at least break it — he ends up overloading it. The explosion is visible from miles and miles away.
    • Gosalyn can be pretty bad about it as well.
      Gosalyn: What else does it do?
      "Don't touch that!!"
      Gosalyn: Why not? [presses the button anyway]
  • Kim Possible
    • Ron Stoppable. One major example is in A Sitch in Time whereby foolishly pressing the dangerous button he destroys an evil giant monkey statue.
    • Another time Ron got into the control room of a powerful laser beam and proceeds to call it a precision instrument, before repeatedly pushing every button and lever on it, intentionally overloading it.
  • in the Back at the Barnyard episode, Saving Mrs. Beady, the plot starts off with using the titular neighbor's car for Abby's driving lesson. She starts to play this trope, only to subvert is as she just activates the windshield wipers. Later in the episode she plays it straight when she accidentally crushes Peck in a hospital bed.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold:
    • When Batman and the Joker team up, the Joker asks this about every button in the Batmobile.note  Finally, when Batman warns him to especially not push the big red button, the Joker does, getting sprayed with sleep gas as a consequence. Even better, he does it twice. Bruce smirks at the second one.
    • Joker does this once more in the Kamandi Cold Open of "The Vile and the Villainous!". Cue Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • In an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Harvey Bullock asks this about one of the Batmobile's buttons. Batman half-grins and says, "Passenger ejector seat". Doubles as a Shout-Out to a rather similar event in which Batman duped the Joker with that button.
  • Flash does it in Justice League (said button is in the cockpit of a Thanagarian gunship)... and blows a giant hole in the wall of Wayne Manor, almost killing Alfred. Batman immediately rounds on him, saying "THAT'S. NOT. HELPING!"
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Family Guy. Peter presses a button clearly marked "Do Not Press This Button". A small Asian man walks up to him, bows then kicks Peter in the head.
    • In Space Cadet, this isn't said but the first thing Stewie does is push a big red button in the space shuttle Chris was giving a tour of, saying, "Ooh, big red button, I don't care what it does!"
  • In an episode of Invader Zim, specifically "Battle of the Planets", GIR is sent to distract Dib. He goes off and makes it look like he's going to do something evil and actually competent, when all he ends up doing is randomly pushing buttons on Dib's controls, saying, "What's this do? What's that do?" And somehow this manages to fulfill his given assignment regardless.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: In "Rocket Jimmy", Jimmy is messing around in Dr. Scientist's observatory, and we get this:
    Jimmy: Oooh, what's this do? (presses button)
    (a missile is launched, blowing up a large laboratory on a nearby hill)
    Dr. Scientist: (surprised) Apparently, it destroys my house.
  • The classic The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Space Madness" ends with Commander Hoek, driven mad by... well, by space madness, brings Cadet Stimpy around the bend with him by ordering him to guard the History Eraser Button, with a very strict order not to let anyone touch it. Finding out what that button does is already tantalizing enough before the narrator decides to pile on the excruciating suspense.
    Narrator: Oh, how long can trusty Cadet Stimpy hold out? How can he possibly resist the diabolical urge to push the button that could erase his very existence? Will his tortured mind give in to its uncontrollable desires? Can he withstand the temptation to push the button that even now beckons him ever closer? Will he succumb to the maddening urge to eradicate history at the mere push of a single button? The beautiful, shiny button? The jolly, candy-like button? Will he hold out, folks? Can he hold out?!
    Stimpy: NO I CAN'T! (pushes button)
    Narrator: Tune in next week as—
  • Phineas and Ferb: This exchange (although it might have been more panic than curiosity):
    Phineas: Alright, Candace, you'll be fine as long as you don't push any buttons randomly.
    • In another episode, Perry of all people does this while riding in British Agent Double-00's car. Turns out it was the eject button.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): During their first off-planet adventure, the Turtles end up fleeing from some Triceratons in a flying car, with Mikey in the "sidecar".
    Donny: Uh, leave the shiney buttons alone, Mikey!
    Mikey: But it might be something really good. (his segment starts to detach) Or not.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The Bugs Bunny cartoon "Lighter Than Hare" has Bugs' robot facing off against Yosemite Sam of Outer Space's robot:
      [all lines delivered stiltedly robotic]
      Bugs robot: Eh, what's up, doc?
      Sam's robot: I'll show you what's up. [pulls ray gun] You're coming with me.
      Bugs robot: I'll go with you on one condition. That you don't press this button. [points to button on body frame]
      Sam's robot: Oh, yeah? No Earth robot is going to tell me what button to press. I'm a-pressin'!
      [presses button; gets clobbered by forward-plunging mallet]
    • Bertie Mouse in the Warner Bros. cartoon "House-Hunting Mice" (the last button he presses causes him and Hubie to be taken to the cleaners by the house's remote-controlled units):
      Bertie: [sing-song] I get to push the next button! I get to push the next button!
    • The Daffy Duck / Elmer Fudd cartoon "Design For Leaving": Daffy turns Elmer's house into a "Push-button" home, with each button controlling a different gadget. The entire short is this trope with Daffy and Elmer testing different buttons and comical results therein. At one point, Elmer takes in interest in a Big Red Button that Daffy warns never to touch("Not the WED ONE! Don't ever push the wed one!") At the end of the short, curiosity gets the better of Elmer and he pushes the button. It's for a "In Case of Tidal Wave" device, and raises the house hundreds of feet into the air on a piston. Daffy then flies by in a helicopter, offering to install a blue button to get the house down.
  • Little Miss Whoops from The Mr. Men Show usually has problems with what button to push.
    Little Miss Whoops: Which one of these is the brake? Better try them all.
  • Sal from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, hence the line (when he was in Oblina's stomach), "One of these has got to be hunger. Which one?"
  • An episode of Total Drama World Tour has Izzy in the cockpit, pressing random buttons and asking "Ooh, what does this button do, and this button...", eventually landing the plane in a French canal and ejecting herself.
  • Wander of Wander over Yonder does this on Lord Hater's ship in the episode "The Prisoner".
    Do you know the button song?
    The button song?
    The button song?
    When you play the button song
    You find out what goes wrong!
  • The subject of Megamind: The Button of Doom. Having renounced his villainous ways, Megamind auctions off all his weapons and evil devices. At the end of the day, the only thing left is a Big Red Button. Megamind suggests it probably just opens the garage door. It turns out to activate a Humongous Mecha. Oops!

    Real Life 
  • There's even a T-shirt for this trope.
  • The annals of IT horror are rife with tales of clueless bosses/interns/contractors who simply could not resist pressing the big red emergency shutdown button. And that's when you're lucky and they don't bring their kids to work.
  • An employee at Robotoki's office pushed a button because he was apparently curious about what it did. It was the studio's panic button; their building was subsequently raided by an LAPD SWAT team.
  • Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton was supposed to be given a ride in Google's driverless car. The first thing she did after sitting inside it was to push the "Emergency Stop" button, which deactivated the car.
  • A milder, but still embarrassing example are these countless examples of kids in schools and college pushing the button of the fire-alarm that instantly calls the firemen (said buttons are usually red). Which is why most fire alarm buttons are now encased behind glass, which you have to break in order to set off the alarm.
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets contain two buttons that are designed to test the outlet's circuit interruption followed by resetting it. Older ones labeled the buttons "Test" and "Reset" but newer ones usually do not. Any curious child could push the "Test" button not knowing what it does and create an electrical outlet that seems totally dead, but a quick and firm push of "Reset" is all it takes to fix it.
  • Doctor Who actress Jenna Coleman often tells conventions about a time while filming in a power plant that her co-star, Peter Capaldi, out of curiosity, pushed a button which he found out too late activated an emergency shower. Capaldi claims he thought it was a door-opener.
  • Burnie Burns of Rooster Teeth was shocked to find out that there was a "death switch" to the machinima offices in their kitchen - a poor schmoe found the switch and began flipping it, innocently wondering why the kitchen lights weren't turning off. Gus Sorola, Barbara Dunkleman and Gavin Free postulated that, had the switch existed during the early days of the company, Burnie would have flipped and ripped it out Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style.
  • Gallows Humor about the space shuttle: What was the last thing said on the Challenger space shuttle? 'Gee, what does this button do?'


Video Example(s):


Of Course I Did

Bow turns a valve, ignoring the danger warning on it.

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Example of:

Main / WhatDoesThisButtonDo

Media sources:

Main / WhatDoesThisButtonDo