Named for a frequent setup gag in Bugs Bunny cartoons, Wrong Turn at Albuquerque describes a single wrong or missed turn in a journey that will inevitably land the traveler in a place far divorced from their original goal. The plot then unfolds in one of three ways:
- Comedy: The traveler encounters many wacky mishaps and quaint natives during their efforts to get back on track.
- Drama: The traveler encounters survival situations like finding food and shelter, or else dealing with increasingly limited resources while trying to avoid being eaten by predators or angering local peoples. See Deadly Road Trip.
- Horror: The traveler finds themself being actively hunted down by some menace (natural or supernatural), not necessarily because of anything the traveler themself has done, but just because It's What I Do. Or alternatively, the traveler ends up in the Dark World.
The gag originates from the fact that Route 66 (opened in 1926) actually intersects itself in the middle of downtown resulting where you could stand on the corner of Route 66 and Route 66 resulting in a lot of people getting turned around and taking the wrong turn.
Can be caused by Road Sign Reversal, Your Other Left, Short Cuts Make Long Delays, No Sense of Direction, or trying to follow overly complicated directions. When done in a science-fiction setting, it's Teleportation Misfire. Frequently the way to enter a Dark World or Down the Rabbit Hole. Once the traveler gets in, they may not be able to get back out, thanks to it being a Closed Circle.
- Bloom County, during the 1984 presidential election:
Narrator: Hence, the mighty Bloom County delegation proceeded to speed westward toward San Francisco. Onward they went! Through the sun-blessed warmth of the Kansas heartland... Past the awesome grandeur of the Colorado Rockies... Through the towering majesty of the Arizona desert... Through the sunblessed warmth of the Kansas heart—
Cutter John: Somebody get out the damned map!
- In one Brother Juniper strip the small sailboat Juniper and another monk are crewing somehow ends up off the coast of what's obviously Italy.
Brother Juniper: Something tells me I took the wrong tack at Montauk!
- Hägar the Horrible once took a wrong turn at Moscow and ended up sailing on top of the Great Wall of China.
- The Bolt Chronicles: When Mittens gets lost trying to find Sainte-Chapelle in The Paris Trip, she invokes this trope, saying I think I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque instead of Pont des Artes.
- In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, it's mentioned that while doing his Gyarados research, Jared Kowalski was heading for Dandelion Island in Sinnoh, yet somehow his Gyarados made a wrong turn that landed him near Pinkan Island (which is in the Orange Archipelago).
- It's not uncommon in Ranma ½ fanfics for Ryoga to end up pretty much everywhere when he's trying to find his way to the Dojo Tendo to see Akane. Sometimes even across dimensions.
- In Stargate Equestria, the SG-1 team winds up on Equestria when Daniel misdials a Stargate trying to get them home.
- Lightning McQueen's excursion at Radiator Springs pretty much entirely results from taking a wrong turn on Route 66.
- Also applies to Minny and Van, the couple of lost tourists.
- In Ace of Aces, a Bavarian celebrational cart pulled by oxen inadvertently causes a Road Sign Reversal just as Jo Cavalier (the main protagonist) is driving a Jewish family down South, directly leading them to Adolf Hitler's house in Berchtesgaden instead of the Austrian border.
- John Cleese's role in Clockwise turns this trope Up to Eleven. Fastidious time-keeper headmaster Brian Stimpson allows plenty of time for his train journey to a Headmasters' Conference, but unfortunately he gets on the wrong train and misses his connection and Hilarity Ensues.
- In Doc Hollywood, Michael J. Fox gets lost in the Deep South. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Dumb and Dumber, the two leads are driving across the country. When they swap driving duties, the new driver takes the wrong freeway ramp and ends up going back several states before he wises up.
- In A Hard Day's Night, a reporter interviews John Lennon about the Beatles' U.S. tour:
Reporter: How did you find America?
Lennon: Turned left at Greenland.
- In Jurassic Park, Nedry, who is trying to get to the island dock to get on the last ship during a typhoon, crashes into the sign at the fork in the road marking the path. When he picks it up, the arrow is pointing uselessly upward. He takes the fork to the right. (Freeze-Frame Bonus, the correct path was to the left.)
- At the end of the Kamen Rider movie, Movie War CORE, Eiji Hino returns to the surface from a subterranean battle by crawling out of a manhole in Brazil.
- Kermit and Fozzie's duet "Movin' Right Along" from The Muppet Movie has Fozzie get lost and drive from Rhode Island to Canada to another planetnote in a matter of almost thirty seconds.
Kermit: We're movin' right along
Hey L.A., where've you gone?
Fozzie: Send someone to fetch us
We're in Saskatchewan!
Both: We're movin' right along!
Kermit: You take it! You know best!
Fozzie: Hey, I've never seen the Sun come up in the west?
- Occurs in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Brad takes a wrong turn at a fork in the road leading him and Janet to a dead end, getting a flat tire, and having to seek shelter in Frank N. Furter's castle.
- Without a Paddle. Having already lost most their gear to an encounter with a grizzly bear, the protagonists take off into the river but are unable to read the map, causing them to go the wrong way. They fall off a waterfall, and while they survive, their canoe is destroyed.
- In Mark Twain's story "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven", the dead protagonist must fly through space for thirty years or so in order to reach the gate to Heaven. On his way, he makes a single, minute deviation from his course, and ends up reaching an entirely different gate "billions of leagues from the right one."
- In The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo takes a wrong turn at a fork in the road while driving to Dictionopolis, and he ends up (quite literally) stuck in the Doldrums, where the Lethargians dwell.
- Doctor Who gives us Jack, who tells them a story which involved fifteen naked Time Agents running from something big and covered in tusks, where he turned to his friend and shouted: "I knew we should have turned left!"
- Supergirl (2015) has the titular character name-drop the trope while pretending to be a Dumb Blonde tourist on Mars. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- Invoked by name (probably in reference to Bugs Bunny) in Bermuda Syndrome.
- The missed turn at Albuquerque is once again the cause of all the trouble in Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time. Only this time it was a right turn.
- Sam in Poker Night 2 says this during a fold.
- The Plumber from Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time somehow ended up inside Clank's subconscious by taking a wrong turn "somewhere". It's The Plumber, so it's not hard to believe.
- Multiple instances of this trope are said to be the cause of Nagi's ending up in Pensee, in Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale.
- In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, when Guybrush and Morgan are asked, "What say you, digested SCUMM?" while in the belly of the manatee, Guybrush can choose one of the topics that says, "I'm sorry, we must have taken a wrong turn at Alcatraz."
- Repeated almost literally by the shadowy guy from Bob and George here.
- A strip from Dinosaur Comics repeats the trope name almost word-for-word.
- Grrl Power: Invoked by Sydney the first time she tries flying to the comic store and has trouble orienting herself.
Sydney: [looking at road signs] That doesn't help at all! I thought I was following the road but I guess I missed that left turn at Albuquerque Drive.
- In Rusty and Co., a Xorn (a burrowing monster from the Elemental Plane of Earth) made a wrong turn at Abeir-Toril.
- The Whiteboard: This strip is a Shout-Out to the trope namer, when Swampy steps out onto a rather tall snowdrift and falls through it completely.
- At the end of the Scott The Woz episode "Let's Make a Game Console!", Scott tried to go to the Microsoft offices to pitch his idea for a new Xbox console, but thanks to Google Maps and a few wrong turns he ended up in the W. K. Kellogg Institute for Food and Nutrition Research.
- The Trope Namer: Bugs Bunny frequently missed "da left toin at Alba-coiky" while traveling via wormsign, an event that has landed him in, variously, a Mexican bullfight, the Roman Coliseum, Antarctica, Australia, the American Civil War, the Wild West, medieval Europe, Scotland, the Southern United States in the middle of a clan feud, the Black Forest during WWII (which, interestingly enough, was the first time it was said), Ali Baba's treasure cave, the Himalayas, and even an opera or two. Can be seen on a YouTube video.
- Herr Meets Hare: The first cartoon in which he said this, after accidentally digging to the Black Forest in Germany.
- Hare-abian Nights, a sort of Clip Show short directed by Ken Harris, has Bugs declaring that he should have taken "dat left toin at Dess Moins."
- Napoleon Bunny-Part — Bugs pops up in Napoleon's headquarters, and credits it to a "wrong turn off the Hollywood freeway."
- Ali Baba Bunny has Bugs and Daffy Duck tunneling towards a vacation at Pismo Beach, only to wind up in Ali Baba's treasure cave.
- In DC's Looney Tunes comic book, one issue's storyline centered on the apparent disappearance of Bugs, with Daffy as the investigating detective. The last page of the book shows Bugs relaxing on a distant beach, surrounded by attractive female rabbits. In the last frame of the story, he informs the reader, "I finally made that left turn at Albuquerque."
- In the made-for-TV cartoon "Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court", Bugs is en route to the Georgia Peanut Festival, only to find himself in Camelot (which he initially thinks is Pittsburgh). Following the obligatory left-turn-at-Albuquerque line, and a brief encounter with a dragon, Bugs declares, "Never again, never never again do I take travel hints from Ray Bradbury! Him and his shortcuts."
- In a Cartoon Network short You have questions, that's..understandable, one of the old headscratchers the short ponders is "what if Bugs Bunny took the RIGHT turn at Alburquerue". It shows an impatient Elmer Fudd and Wile E. Coyote standing at a rabbit hole, and nothing happens.
- Since it's canon that Bugs lives in Los Angeles, and in most of these he asks directions to the Co-a-chella Valley, he's really lost anyway to be anywhere near Albuquerque. He's off by a factor of Arizona. (In fact, if he starts in Los Angeles and goes anywhere near Albuquerque, then he's already gone past Coachella Valley.)
- The Warners' attempt to dig their way to Six Flags over Flushing put them in Hades.
- In "Draculee, Draculaa", a wrong turn at Albuquerque lands the Animaniacs in Transylvania (instead of Pennsylvania, as they intended). When they leave Transylvania and make another attempt to reach Pennsylvania, they instead arrive at Tasmania.
- Ben 10 — In the Omniverse episode "A Fistful of Brains", Ditto uses the same line after getting lost while burrowing underground. Ditto shares the same voice actor as Animaniacs' Yacko Warner.
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: "Ceiling Zero Zero" concludes with a Klunk-created tornado whisking the Vulture Squadron (in Dastardly's report to the General) "about 10,000 miles east of Albuquerque... that is, as the pigeon flies."
- In the The Garfield Show episode "Boris the Iceman", Paddy the Leprechaun pops up from behind the fireplace, when Garfield has woken up from a nap while Jon and Odie are out in the snow. Paddy mutters about "must have taken a wrong turn at Alburquerque" on his way to Hawaii.
- Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: Trying to get rid of the team's pet dinosaur, Red Hulk tries to take it to some forest but a wrong turn (and yes, Red Hulk mentions Albuquerque) leads them to Latveria.
- The Mr. Men Show — When Mr. Lazy and Mr. Scatterbrain end up at the South Pole in the episode Boats, Mr. Scatterbrain says he must have taken a wrong turn at Tahiti.
- The Christmas Episode of The Super Mario Bros Super Show! has Mario's group wind up at the North Pole when they were trying to go to Hawaiiland. When asked by Mario about it, Toad says "I guess I made a wrong turn at that last iceberg!"
- Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Bunny's version of it is "the left turn at Kennebunkport."
- Yogi's Ark Lark has "the Pismo Beach turnoff."
- Cast Away. Chuck wound up so far off the beaten path it took him five years to get home, and the search and rescue team was looking for him hundreds of miles away.
- The Doctor Who episode "Turn Left" examines an Alternate Universe where Donna Noble never met the Doctor, because she took a right turn instead of a left.
- The reason the survivors on Lost were on their own: their plane was 1000 miles off-course when it crashed.
- Happens in Stargate SG-1 at least once. With the Stargate itself.
- A frequent setup for the survival situations featured in Survivorman and Man vs. Wild.
- A lot of Hillbilly Horror movies:
- The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and its remake.
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.
- Two Thousand Maniacs! and its remake, 2001 Maniacs!, have the villains invoke this by putting up fake detour signs leading to their town.
- Wrong Turn features this trope as the central plot point for the entire film.
- Stephen King is really fond of the trope:
- In You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, a family couple lost in Oregon ends up in a strange, 1950s-style town called "Rock and Roll Heaven", which is populated by the ghosts of famous rock and roll musicians.
- In Crouch End, another family couple ends up in an unfamiliar district of London populated by Lovecraftian horrors.
- In Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, the titular Mrs. Todd discovers a mysterious road called "Motorway B", which is not on any roadmap, and the forests around it are inhabited by fantastic creatures.
- The Twilight Zone: "The Beacon"
- This guy was going to the kitchen.
- Happens around Albuquerque more than anyone would care to admit.
- Turn-by-turn GPS-based navigation systems are designed for car drivers, and do not include information on bridge clearances or mountain passes. Truckers using them may have to backtrack dozens of miles around a low bridge or narrow pass that the GPS didn't know about, if they're lucky. If they're unlucky, they get stuck and do thousands of dollars' damage to the truck. Newer models now have "car" and "truck" settings to specifically try and prevent this.
- Failing to make sure that the destination you think you input is the one the GPS accepted is another source of chaos — the story is told of a truck driver who meant to go to Spain and ended up nearly driving into the North Sea because of a name mixup.
- Devices that contain dated map data can also lead the user the wrong way completely.
- In 2012, Apple launched its own version of Maps, but received a storm of criticism as their maps turned out to be horribly inaccurate. The Australian police even issued an official warning not to use it to get to the town of Mildura, because the application would leave the user stranded in the Murray-Sunset National Park, 70 kilometers off target and a very dangerous area to be in without proper preparation.
- In 1992, Jim and Jennifer Stolpa, along with their baby son Clayton, took the wrong turn in Nevada and ended up stranded in the middle of a barren ice desert. The mother stayed with her baby in a cave, keeping him alive by melting snow in her mouth and letting the baby drink it, while the father walked for 50 miles in the freezing cold looking for a road. This was also the subject of the 1994 Neil Patrick Harris film Snowbound.
- In January 2013, Sabine Moreau had intended to drive to a train station in Brussels, Belgium that was 38 miles away from her home to pick up a friend. Led along by her (supposedly defective) TomTom GPS, she eventually ended up 900 miles away from her original destination in Zagreb, Croatia, equating to a two-day trip that involves traveling through five different countries (Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia). When asked whether or not she thought the journey's length or the change in language of the traffic signs was strange, she replied "Maybe, but I was just preoccupied.".
- Easy enough to do at a fair number of highway interchanges in the US, Especially from an Interstate to a US Highway or one Interstate to another. There will be two different exits, one for each direction the cross-road runs in, usually labelled as <number>A and <same number>B. Within Cities, it can be even worse, with exits for two or more different streets all exiting in quick succession.
- I-95/I-495 in the Washington, D.C., area are the same road for most of the eastern half the 495's loop. The good news is both sides will eventually connect to the other side of 95. The bad news is your GPS will only take you on the 95 half if your journey is going further north and will try to course correct for several miles if you decide to take the exclusive 495 portion of the loop. Also frustrating in that the 95/495 stretch crosses through three different federal jurisdictions in the span of less than a mile. If you're heading south, you'll get a series of "Welcome to the District of Columbia, Welcome to Virginia, followed by instructions which are not far off. Some GPS systems count crossing state borders as a direction and will wait until they are crossed before issuing the next step... which can add a reminder to stay on 495 in DC and then prepare for a left ramp to continue on 95. And the Virginia portion of all these roads are maddening complex and seems to be the nations laboratory for highway traffic control solutions.
- On June 28, 1914, the driver escorting Archduke Franz Ferdinand made a wrong turn down a sideroad, forgetting they had been detoured. As he was turning the car around, Gavrilo Princip walked up and fatally shot Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. This is generally thought to have sparked the beginning of World War One.
- At the start of the 1982 baseball season, Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Perez was scheduled to make his major league debut at the Braves' home park of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium but was late getting there. He was on the city's Perimeter Highway (Interstate 285, which circles around Atlanta) and didn't know how to turn off onto Interstate 20 to get to the stadium. He earned the dubious kickname "Perimeter Pascual".