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"They say the wave was 400 metres high when it hit the cities! Three billion dead, Gendo!"

Water, in large amounts and at anything above a modest velocity, is very dangerous stuff. Storm surges and flash floods claim hundreds of lives and cause millions of dollars in damage every year, while major disasters such as dam collapses and tsunamis can cause widespread destruction.

So when a character steps out of his house and sees a 200-foot-high wall of the stuff stretching on into the horizon moving at a deceptively patient pace toward him, it usually results in an intense Oh Crap moment.

Inversion of Soft Water (or an aversion, as even being buried by an avalanche of fluffy pillows would likely be quite lethal if there were a few million tons of them moving at 70 miles an hour). A very literal way to Kill It with Water. Can occur when a character who makes a splash really pushes himself to the limit.

Examples of Giant Wall of Watery Doom include:

Anime & Manga

  • In One Piece, the annual giant wave hits the city of Water 7. Later in the series, Whitebeard uses his quake-quake fruit power to create an instant tsunami.
  • Happens in Saikano.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, in the mission to rescue Allelujah, Ptolemaios II crashed into the sea creating a wall of water that caused quite substantial damage to the A-Laws base.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion when Adam/Antarctica blew up during Second Impact, a "ripple" almost a half-mile (four-hundred meters) tall in places spreads outward, wiping out every coastal city in the southern hemisphere, and continues to wreak havoc in the northern. Pity we didn't get to see it.'
  • Giant waves are part of the territory in Wa Ga Na Wa Umishi.
  • Users of Water Release: Water Formation Wall from Naruto can create one instantly. The most famous user is none other than Tobirama Senju himself. It's mostly a defensive technique hence the name, but it can be launched to rise up and strike the foe if needed.

Comic Books


  • The Poseidon Adventure, and its remake Poseidon.
  • The Perfect Storm
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou??, with the sheriff's eventual demise.
  • For one of the stunts in Jackass, Johnny Knoxville (with diving mask, snorkel, and flippers) stands in front of a massive water tank perched in front of a ramp. The camera looks up at him from below, and over the course of three seconds he's standing there, water rushes over the camera, and when it clears he's completely vanished.
  • The Abyss: Scenes near the end of where the undersea creatures create gigantic walls of water near major coastal cities as a warning to humans to stop warfare. Note that this is not always included in broadcast versions, so the aliens just seem to be there for no reason.
    • Director's Cut of the film only.
  • The Guns of Navarone: The heroes crash their ship into the coast of Navarone in a storm. As they're trying to unload it, they see a huge wall of water approaching. They desperately try to get away before it hits.
  • In Deep Impact, this provides an Obi-Wan Moment for several main characters.
  • What, no one saw The Day After Tomorrow or 2012?
  • Wrath Of The Ocean
  • In The Mummy Returns, Imhotep controls the water in a canyon river, turning it into a giant water wall with his face on it, to chase down the protagonists in their blimp.
  • The Last Airbender features one of these.
  • The Last Wave of course.
  • In the Hallmark version of Jason and the Argonauts the god Poseidon has a little fun with the crew by pretending to be an island and then standing up to create a tidal wave which destroys most of the ship. The only reason they survive is probably because Zeus blows them onto the Isle of Lemnos where they get repairs.
  • Point Break (1991, director Kathryn Bigelow and stars Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty and Gary Busey) has Reeves chasing bank robbers and Swayze playing a surfer who is planning on riding the largest wave ever. It turns out so large no other surfer goes near it. He does, as a way of committing suicide rather than be jailed for the robberies.


  • They had this during a typhoon in Silent Ship Silent Sea.
  • The beginning of Nation. A tsunami caused by a nearby volcanic explosion.
  • Used to attempt Murder the Hypotenuse in A Wizard Of Mars. Nita stops it in mid-air and threatens to send it back through a portal at the girl who just tried to kill her. And the city she's in.
  • End of Númenor The Silmarillion, based on a Real Life dream of Tolkien's.
  • Gali, Toa of Water, pulled this off in a Bionicle web serial. She usually just goes for bursts of water, but this time she decided the enemy was strong enough to warrant the of use very single drop of elemental energy she could muster. The wave was described as being "a thousand feet high" and destroyed every building in the land of Karzahni.
  • In Sharon Creech's The Wanderer, the crew encounters a wave like this during a horrific storm. It's important later because Sophie remembers the wave as having been black, when according to everyone else, it was white. Sophie is flashing back to another such storm that she survived, but which killed her biological parents, though Sophie has no conscious memory of this.
  • In the book Lucifer's Hammer.
  • In Frank Schätzing's The Swarm (not to be confused with the film or trope of the same name), the Yrr cause one of these by triggering a huge underwater landslide in the North Sea and pretty much wrecking the whole of coastal northern Europe.

Live Action TV

  • The end of the Stargate Atlantis episode "The Eye"
  • Deadliest Catch: Once per season per boat in red king crab season, once per episode per boat in opilio season.
  • One of the first season episodes of Sliders ended with the group reaching a San Francisco which is just about to get hit by a wave.


  • During the Matthew Good song Last Parade, specifically the lyrics

 Like we're taking pictures of a tidal wave

On the shore, grinnin', a hundred feet away

  • In "Suddenly There Is a Tidal Wave", the final song on The Wayward Bus LP by Magnetic Fields, the chorus goes:

 The boys talk like they own the world

The women keep their stupid diaries

But suddenly there's a tidal wave

And everything is sucked out to sea


Later in the song the chorus is repeated: twice, back-to-back. Three seconds later the music abruptly stops. (No similarity to a Three Second Silence.) Then--if you happen to be listening to the two-fer CD The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees--enjoy four-and-a-half minutes of silence, followed by the songs on the Distant Plastic Trees LP. Perhaps (analogous with "hidden tracks"), this qualifies as a HiddenAlbum?

    • Was The Wayward Bus ever released, standalone, in any format? If not--and, let's say you're listening to The Wayward Bus--then you can be certain Distant Plastic Trees will follow.
  • The band Great Big Sea took their name from an old Newfoundland folk song about the 1929 tsunami described below.

Video Games

  • Happens in Chrono Trigger, as a result of a floating chain of islands crashing into the sea. Results are about as catastrophic as you'd think.
    • In Chrono Cross, you visit the Dead Sea, a city that was frozen in time as it was being destroyed by these.
  • Strago's "Clean Sweep" lore in Final Fantasy VI takes this form.
    • As does the summon Bismark in the same game, and possibly some forms of Leviathan.
      • Also the "El Nino" result of Mog's Water Rondo dance, which is the strongest water-based attack in the game.
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions: Deadpool uses bombs to trigger three of those in a row in Ultimate Spidey's second level. You have to web-sling towards them across a floating obstacle course in order to reach high ground.
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: One of the bosses will produce some moai heads, then follow it up with a massive tidal wave. Make sure you don't destroy them.
  • In Pokémon, the moves Surf and Muddy Water both use this trope.
  • Happens twice in the World of Warcraft Cataclysm cinematic, at Booty Bay and Thousand Needles.
  • One stage in Donkey Kong Country Returns has you taking shelter from these at regular intervals. Being exposed will kill you.
  • Tsunamis are one of the earlier and constant threats in From Dust.
  • This is one of a few reasons not to hurt the Chao - Chaos will get angry and cause one of these. The ancient echidnas learned that the hard way.
  • This is how the aptly named Tidal Wave spell looks in the 2D games of the Tales (series).

Tabletop Games

  • Isn't there a Wall of Water card in Magic: The Gathering?
    • Yep, and also a Tsunami card.
  • There's also a spell by the same name in Spell Compendium, as well as the Tsunami spell.
  • Early Dungeons and Dragons:
    • Oriental Adventures had the shukenja and wu jen "Tsunami" spells, which caused a tidal wave at least 180 feet high.
    • The Forgotten Realms had the Tidal Wave spell, which was 75 feet high.


  • Gali summons one of these and destroys the realm of Kharzani in Bionicle.

Web Animation

Web Original

  • In the Whateley Universe, Riptide is a side character. But when Chaka gets hurt in "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl" and Riptide gets really upset, and there's a lake handy, a badguy in a getaway van finds out there's nowhere to run.

Western Animation

  • Ice Age: The Meltdown
  • Waterbenders in Avatar: The Last Airbender can do small scale versions of this. The Avatar, being much more powerful, can conjure tsunamis.
    • Aang once nailed Sokka with one by accident.
    • Katara pulls a massive one when she sees Aang hurt by Azula in the Crystal Caverns. Scary.
  • Zim once flattened an entire city... with a water balloon containing all of the water on Earth that created a 200-story high wall of water.
  • Phineas and Ferb subvert and then proceed to lampshade this in the episode "The Belly of the Beast" the titular characters drop a giant mechanical shark into Danville Harbor, causing what appears to be a giant wave, which then miraculously manages to avoid everyone on the crowded boardwalk except Candace, who then proclaims "Ok, now how did that only hit me?"
    • This scene is then repeated.
    • and At the end of the episode, it's played straight.
  • The title character in The Iron Giant creates one when he does a cannonball into a lake.
  • A total solar eclipse triggers one at the end of the "Rite of Spring" segment of Fantasia.

Real Life

  • The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami is possibly one of the largest, most widely youtubed disasters in history. This only makes it scarier.
  • In Alaska, a piece of a mountain fell into Lituya Bay, and it is estimated that the resulting splash was nearly one-half mile (800m) high.
  • The only tsunami to kill people in Canada occurred in 1929, off the coast of Newfoundland. An earthquake in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge created a wave of water that swept houses completely off the land. The locals called it the "great big sea".
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was caused by an earthquake on the seabed that released a titanic amount of energy, but an important interpretation of that release is in the amount of work it performed, that is, how much movement that energy generated in the matter around it (the Indian Ocean). This is important because a huge amount of the energy released in an atomic blast is spent blowing up clouds and birds and only what's directed at the ground actually performs work, whereas the earthquake achieved a much higher level of efficiency. Estimates put the total work done to be close to 4.0x1022 joules, equivalent to the work done by 9.5 gigatons of TNT -- that is, 550,000 Little Boy bombs, or to put it in better perspective, 165 Tsar Bombas. The resulting devastation was cataclysmic, and need not be further elaborated here.
    • The 1700 Cascadia earthquake, estimated to be of only slightly less magnitude, occurred off the coast of what's now Washington and British Columbia. It not only caused a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest (which fortunately was very sparsely populated at the time), but also triggered one all the way across the Pacific Ocean in Japan. It wasn't until 300 years later that scientists figured out what had caused Japan's "orphan tsunami".
  • Sometime in February 1933, the US Navy oil tanker USS Ramapo was steaming through a nasty Pacific gale when she encountered a massive wave. Fortunately, she escaped with minor damage at most. Geometric calculations, however, showed the wave to have been 112 feet tall. To this day, it remains the tallest wind-driven wave ever recorded.
    • Estimations by oceanographers suggest that the tallest height possible for a wind-driven wave is 198 feet. Of course, it would take a freakishly rare combination of events and geography to produce such a monster; but still, a wave of that size could severely damage or even sink any ship unfortunate enough to encounter it.
      • Modern oil drilling platforms aren't designed to withstand such a wave, incidentally, since until recently they were thought to be impossible. Can we say "catastrophe waiting to happen"?
  • One analysis of the Thera eruption in the 17th Century B.C.E. states that in Turkey, "two peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea confined the wave ... building it higher and higher and ultimately funneling it thirty miles inland. To penetrate so far, it had to be eight hundred feet tall when it hit the shore." Thera is almost a hundred miles from the peninsulas mentioned, and there are other islands in the way which would've robbed the wave of some of its force ... but it was still 800 feet tall.
  • During the end of the last ice age, an immense ice dam in what is now Washington state collapsed under the weight of the water behind it, causing a series of devastating floods across the eastern part of the state -- the most powerful of these generated the equivalent of 4500 megatons of TNT.
  • Tsunamis actually occur in every ocean except for the Atlantic (ironically, it's actually named after Atlantis, which was said to have been destroyed by a tidal wave known as the Mebhelmok).
    • The volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands could cause one; an eruption could potentially send part of the island sliding into the Atlantic, causing a MEGAtsunami that could obliterate the east coast of the United States from Florida to Maine.
  • Rogue waves. They can be up to 35 m high (yup, that's 115 feet) and they are preceded with a trough so deep and steep as described as "like a hole in the ocean". Their existence has been doubted, but they do exist. A rogue wave is steep and resembles a vertical wall of water, and can sink even an ocean-going ship, nevermind yachts and fishing vessels.
  • For a long time The Flood (yup, the one in The Bible) has been considered tall tale or myth at best, but there are indices it indeed has been a real-life event. The Burckle Crater in the Indian Ocean is very young, and it is an impact crater caused by an asteroid. It would have caused an iminami ("megatsunami"), and it would have travelled around the world and caused horrible havoc all around the Indian Ocean. At narrow places such as Persian Gulf it might have attained height of up to 4000 m - yup, four klicks! The description that "water covered even the highest mountaintops" is not tall tale, but a realistic description on what would have had happened. The iminami would have been preceded by intense rain caused by seawater vaporized on the impact, and condensing into rain...
  • Tsunamis caused by underwater/into-water landslides are actually the largest and most powerful type after impact-generated tsunamis. Both are termed "Megatsunamis", and there have been several in recorded times, the most recent being in 1980 with the eruption of Mount St. Helens and its avalanche into Spirit Lake. Several areas are likely to produce a major landslide and megatsunami in the future, the most alarming being at the Hawaiian Islands, where a large chunk of the Big Island is slowly cracking away from the rest of the island. For another potential example, see above.
  • The biggest tsunamis, speaking of which, are actually caused by meteorites crashing into the ocean.
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