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A handheld variant of the Big Red Button.

You want to have a character be able to do something like activate a machine or detonate a bomb in a cool way without the need to be right up next to it? The obvious plot solution would be for the character to reach into their pocket and produce a little remote control device. It often has a big button (sometimes red) to push and an incredible range to activate something miles away. It can also be a Context Sensitive Button if it does different things depending on the current need.

This allows a way for the character to show confidently that he's had a trump card all along and was waiting to use it.

Examples of Handy Remote Control include:


  • In .hack: Legend of the Twilight, Shugo gets the Twilight Bracelet, that basically does whatever is convenient to the storyline.
    • It has also been in the possession of Kite and possibly Tsukasa.
  • Lelouch of Code Geass fame is fond of these. He often carries a Handy Remote Control, sometimes shaped like a chesspiece, that lets him detonate strategically-placed bombs, perform basic maneuvers (i.e. opening fire) with a fifteen-foot gun-toting robot, or activate various forms of phlebotinum such as the technology-paralyzing Gefjun disruptor EMP rays.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, Roto uses one of these during the Dark Tournament to threaten Kurama's mother by saying that pressing the red button will signal his brother, who has been stalking her, to kill her. It appears from other character comments to be his single strategy in any given fight.
  • Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z has a remote to recall his spacepod to his location. With the amount of punishment Vegeta has taken at the point he uses it it must be one tough piece of machinery. The same remote can also be used to self-destruct another spaceship.

Comic Book

  • Subverted in the comic Global Frequency, where a terrorist threatens that he can blow a bomb remotely any time with one. The heroes jam transmissions, but it turns out that he lied; it's hardwired to the bomb. So they shoot the guy's entire lower arm arm off with dual uzis and pistols.
  • Batman usually has at least one in his Utility Belt. The Joker sometimes carries one too.
  • Watchmen:

 Dr Manhattan: What's that in your hand, Veidt? Another ultimate weapon?

Ozymandias: Yes. Yes, you could say that. (The remote is for Ozymandias' television, showing Manhattan how he has saved the world from nuclear war.)


  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, James Bond has a Chase Scene using his remote control, which allows him not only to control his gadget car without being exposed in the driver's seat, but also to see where he's going in the device's video screen.
  • Inverted in Swordfish as the hostages wore bomb vests and they would be detonated when they left a certain proximity. As long as they stayed within the building, they were safe.
  • The bank robber has one of these for the hostages' bomb vests in Hancock.
  • In Star Trek Generations, Soran has a remote to activate his missile, and cloak it.
  • The Joker uses one to blow up a hospital in The Dark Knight.
  • Jason Bourne has one in The Bourne Identity that makes cars' alarms go off, creating handy distractions.


  • Nadia has one in the first book of the Red Mars Trilogy. It was pressed on her by Arkady, her lover and the leader of the rebellion, in a moment of madness, then mostly forgotten. Then, long after Arkady's death, the peaceful caravan she's travelling with gets targeted by the government/metanational forces on Phobos just because there are members of the first hundred with it. Nadia used the remote, and we're reminded that Arkady led the team that build the Phobos base.

Live Action TV

  • Michael Weston is a fan of these.
  • In The A-Team, the team is helping a firefighter group end the interference of a rival group. The heroes placed a firebomb in the enemy's firehouse early in the story. When the villains interfere with a dispatch, a member of the A-Team calmly produces a remote control, pushes the button and notes, "Your firehouse is on fire." The villains radio back to their firehouse and are stunned to hear that the team was not bluffing.
  • Multiple examples in Babylon 5
    • The Comm Links used by Babylon 5's staff is shown to be useful for this function, including as a remote control for their video screens and for remote-controled Cool Starships rigged with thermonuclear warheads.
    • And, on occasion, a purpose-built remote:
  • In the original Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain", Spock's brainless body is hooked up to a remote with perhaps twelve buttons that allows the operator to cause Spock to walk, turn, and (somehow) grab the antagonist's arms and deactivate her wrist control (itself a sort of Handy Remote Control).
  • Al's handheld device in Quantum Leap.
  • The original Mission Impossible television series abounds with these, containing a single pushbutton, which can cause whatever action is next called for in the plot. So common that it's one of the stock shots that appears in the closing credits of many eps. Barney also rigged entire cars for remote control and drove them under pretty tough routes, at least once per season; sometimes with people inside, sometimes not.
  • SG teams in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis routinely use remote detonators with their bricks of C4. These became a substantial plot point in one or two episodes, such as the incident where the Atlantis team rigged a Wraith base to explode, then talked their way out by brandishing the remote detonator. They left the detonator in the base with the guy who had been stuck in the Face Heel Revolving Door for a couple episodes, and he activated it as soon as the Atlantis team was clear.
  • One of the opening sequences to News Radio showed Joe using a small device to force a traffic light to change.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000's Pearl Forrester once installed electrodes in Professor Bobo's brain, allowing his body to be controlled by an "all-in-one universal remote we got at Target for nine bucks".

Newspaper Comics

  • In Garfield the remote control for the TV has only one button, as does the remote for the garage-door causing a mixup once.

Video Games

  • Snake does this in Super Smash Bros Brawl to set off his C4. He even strikes a dramatic pose and says "Now!" dramatically.
  • Dr. Fetus from Super Meat Boy has one of these remotes.
  • One of the unlockable weapons for the Engineer in Team Fortress 2 is a remote control with a laser pointer which allows you to take manual control of your sentry.
  • Danzaiver, the Super Sentai stand-in from Evil Zone, uses one of these to call in a Kill Sat strike in one of his super moves.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty, Revolver Ocelot is surrounded by two opposing armies. He's killed both their commanding officers, and his six-shot revolver is out of bullets, yet not a single round is fired in his direction, because he's holding a detonator for explosives to sink the tanker they're all aboard.

Web Comic

Web Original

  • In one story of the Whateley Universe, Generator (Jade Sinclair) is being harassed by Peeper, the 'Howard Stern' of Super-Hero School Whateley Academy. She pulls out a remote control and uses it to drive a caterpillar-sized robot down his shirt, inside his pants, making it grab hold of the back of his tighty-whiteys, then give him a wedgie, and then lift him forty feet in the air by the back of his shorts in the worst wedgie ever. Subversion: the remote control is a fake; the 'robot' is actually possessed by a copy of her own mind.

Western Animation

  • In Speed Buggy, the living car's freedom of movement can be overridden by Tinker's remote control.
  • Done a few times in Kim Possible. One of the MacGuffins was a universal remote for any device.
  • Parodied in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls. The girls have been captured and are being lowered into acid by the villain, who is using one of these to control the lowering mechanism. The police arrive, arrest the villain, and try to use the remote to save the girls, but can't find the right button in time. Fortunately, turns out the girls were invulnerable to acid.
  • Professor Nimnul on Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers has one in a few episodes. Unlike most examples, Nimnul's one is pretty bulky and most of the time that he uses it, he has to press several buttons in sequence to activate a certain function.
  • In an episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Green Goblin has a remote control device that activates a nanobot armor, turning Mark Allen from a regular boy into Molten Man at the press of a button.
  • Almost all of Dexter's remote controlled inventions in Dexter's Laboratory are controlled by a single red button (and optionally a joystick).
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