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"Everybody looks down when you tell them not to look down, do you know that?!"—Bill Rago (Danny DeVito), Renaissance Man
A Stock Phrase you have certainly heard a million times. Insert in nearly any situation where the characters have to traverse some area where the penalty for a misstep or equipment failure is a one way trip courtesy of gravity. Or, they're hanging over such an area by their fingernails or a very unsteady rope, branch or other dubious support. "Just stay calm, and don't look down" or some variant is uttered.
Why? Because you really don't want to know what's down there.
When invoked in a comedy or an animated work, may lead to the realization that Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress... two seconds before you start falling.
Plummet Perspective describes one of the things that might happen if the character does look down.
- Inverted in The Castleof Cagliostro: Lupin tells Clarisse to look down in order to calm her so she realizes they're hanging several hundred feet in the air from a thin line and screaming and flailing at the strange man holding her is a really bad idea.
- Inverted in a different manner in an episode of Slayers. The gang is clinging to a rope across a chasm, and Filia tells Gourry to not look up. This is because he's holding on to her legs and she's wearing a dress.
- Back to The Future Part III: Doc to Clara.
- Dumbo: Timothy Mouse to the title character.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Frodo to Sam.
- Also done humorously in the third film when Aragorn tells Gimli not to look down because they were walking on skulls.
- The Poseidon Adventure (1972) - Reverend Scott to Linda Rogo.
- War of the Worlds (2005): Ray Ferrier
- Shrek says this to Donkey as they're crossing the rope bridge to Dragon's castle. When Donkey looks down and freaks out, Shrek teases him and has a good laugh about it.
Donkey: Shrek, I'm looking down! Aaaaah!!!!!
- Used hilariously in The Incredibles: Helen and Jack-Jack are falling, with the huge explosion above them, and Helen reassures Jack-Jack in this way.
- The quote from Renaissance Man above, when Bill Rago is about to rappel down the large victory tower.
- In So You Want To Be A Wizard, precognitive macaw Macchu Picchu offers Nita and Kit three pieces of advice: don't be afraid to make corrections, don't be afraid to lend a hand, and don't look down.
- Neverwhere: The Marquis de Carabas says this to Richard, who, predictably, doesn't listen.
- The 80s music group Go West has the trope as the title as well as the lyrics:
Don't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)Don't look down, girl! (Don't look down!)
You know you're holding aces
—Don't give the game away!
- Shadow the Hedgehog: Eggman says it to Shadow when he passes through a Chao room.
- During the sequence on the outside of the Shadow Broker's ship in Mass Effect 2, Liara mistakenly looks down and then tells herself not to.
- Portal 2: It seems that the older parts of the Aperture Science facility are full of fathomless drops, and when Wheatley is carried over one of them by Chell, he says this to her. She doesn't react, naturally, but he immediately takes his own Schmuck Bait and regrets it - twice.
Elan: Woooooo! Wind Walk is the best cleric spell ever!!!
Durkon: Dinnae look down, dinnae look down, dinnae look down...
Yakko: Now don't look down.
Wakko: Do you get vertigo?
Wakko: Me neither.
Yakko: Yeah, I watched that movie six times and I still don't get it.
- Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, which combine Toon Physics with Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress. The classic case: a cartoon character can run over or stand on thin air untill he realizes something is wrong and looks down. Only then does gravity take over.
- The Simpsons in "The Neptune Adventure"
Lenny (on the ladder; panicking): Whatever you do, don't look down! I mean up! I can't do this anymore! It's too confusing! (falls to his death)
Carl: It's not that confusing.
- The Magic School Bus: in "Under Construction" (about engineering), Wanda says this to Arnold as he's slowly crawling across a suspension bridge made of Q-tips, dental floss, and bandages over a bathtub with a baby alligator in it. He looks down, alligator snaps jaws shut, and Arnold books it to the other side.
- In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, after Pinkie Pie's antics allowed Fluttershy to temporarily get over her fear of heights in "Dragonshy", she finally attempts to jump over a mountain chasm only for Twilight Sparkle to say this phrase as words of encouragement. Sure enough, Fluttershy does just that and immediately loses her momentum in fright, causing her to drop like a rock... on top of a narrow gap that she could have just walked over.
- In one episode of Kim Possible, Ron says this to himself as he's being chased through a towering collection of machinery in Drakken's lair, and promptly steps on and breaks through a flimsy grillwork, falling into the tube it is covering.