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Bombs away! Try stopping this, Golbez! My once-in-a-lifetime unaided flight!!!
—Cid Pollendina, Final Fantasy IV DS, as he dives from the Enterprise with a bomb in hand.
At the end of Stanley Kubrick's Cold War dark comedy Dr. Strangelove, B-52 pilot Maj. "King" Kong—a straight-shootin' Texan played by cowboy character actor Slim Pickens—goes to the bomb bay to manually release the stuck bay doors on his damaged aircraft, thus enabling him to complete his nuclear attack run on a Soviet target. He succeeds, but just as he celebrates his accomplishment with a bit of hootin' and hollerin', the bomb on which he was seated is dropped. He rides the device all the way in to the target, wildly whipping his Stetson hat around as he plummets to a thermonuclear death and a blaze of glory.
The image is much more famous than the film, at this point. It symbolically associates zealotry, jingoism, nuclear war, and cowboy diplomacy. Mostly, it just gets used whenever air-dropped weapons appear in comedy, which is surprisingly frequent. For reasons which may be obvious to some, it also gets associated with wartime politicians quite a bit these days - for example, JibJab used it with Bush in the "This Land" video. Especially common in Editorial Comics.
Anime and Manga
- Sonic X has this with Knuckles riding a missile in an episode and is shown in the title sequence as well.
- Sonic the Hedgehog The Movie did this too with Sonic being onboard instead.
- "Not so fast, Metal Robotnik!"
- In One Piece, Kizaru rides one of the cannonballs that signals his arrival on Sabaody Archipelago.
- In a Strontium Dog story guest starring Ronald Reagan, Reagan had a dream where he rode a giant bomb into Moscow dressed as a Cowboy and killed everyone.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 Deff Skwadron comic Da Sekret Weapon, Killboy has to open the bomb bay manually:
Smartboy Gimzod: Bommz away boss! Payload Sukkesfully deployed!
- The 'secret weapon' in this case wasn't a bomb to ride on so much as a full bay of particularly vicious new breed of squigs. They already ate bommbadeer boyz and "must 'have bit through the hydrauliks". Killboy, not having much meat left on him, was mostly ignored and only had to contend with the ground.
- In the Dark Avengers Ares miniseries, Ares rides a missile into ground zero, for no other reason then Rule of Cool.
- Dr. Strangelove is the Trope Maker. In it, Slim Pickens orders the bomb dropped, and then wonders why it didn't release. He goes down to the cargo hold and starts hotwiring the drop system to get the bomb to drop, while sitting on it. He then rides the bomb to a thermonuclear death.
- In the movie Armageddon, when they're trying to lower the bomb into the core of the asteroid, Steve "Rockhound" Buscemi duplicates this scene, and everyone yells at him. Although he claims that he was actually getting the idea from The Lone Ranger.
- Mushu, but with a firecracker in Mulan.
- A scene in The Mummy Returns has a log bridge being blown up to allow the heroes to escape from frenzied mummified pygmies at Am-Shere. The pygmies that were on the log at the time plummet to their eventual doom; one of the pygmies, seeing the utter futility of it all, rides a large piece of the broken log.
- One of the many tall tales about Baron von Münchausen claimed he once rode a cannonball. The Josef von Baky, Terry Gilliam and animated movies based on the Baron had him perform this feat as well.
- In the movie version of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets when the pixies are destroying the classroom, one of the pixies steals a wand and makes a huge dinosaur skeleton drop to the floor. A few pixies are then seen riding it to the ground like the bomb in Dr. Strangelove complete with cries of yee-hah.
- A Three Stooges short has them inducted in the army - at films' end, they've broken into enemy headquarters and are getting bombarded by their own side. After a laughing gas bomb puts them in laughing fits, a large shell blows through, scooping them up. They ride it, laughing, into a gorgeous sunset. Just a typical day for them.
- Played literally and subverted in Captain America: The First Avenger. Johann Schmidt's ultimate HYDRA weapon, a massive Tesseract bomber known as "Valkyrie", contained various plane bombs that were presumably going to use to attack the targets specified on the hull and are pilotable, making it the most literal use of the trope. The subversion comes in where Captain America manages to dispose a mook by opening up the cargo doors and releasing the latch before the HYDRA mook could get himself secured into the plane bomb.
- Played straight and horribly in Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (where entire cities are put on giant tracks and try to eat each other - this is not played for comedy, by the way). The extremist Green Storm faction regularly use "Tumblers", a low-tech version of guided bombs. They're bombs with pilots on them that guide their fall and ensure they land on target.
- The Isaac Asimov short story The Feeling of Power takes place in a society where computers can make more computers, and those computers can do all the calculations people need, so even basic mathematics has been lost. One fellow reinvents addition and subtraction, and discovers to his horror that this allows for the "manned missile," since people can now guide the missiles based on a coordinate system and a human life is much less valuable than a computer guidance system.
- Even older than Dr. Strangelove is this quote from Holden from The Catcher in The Rye:
I'm sort of glad they got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to god I will.
Live Action TV
- Weird Science: In the ending shot of an episode involving some flying basketball shoes Lisa created and a close call with FBI agents "Scolder" and "Molly", the gang is almost shot down by an Air Force surface-to-air missile. In the closing shot, all are seen barebacking on the device, complete with cowboy hats.
- Doctor Who: Used with rather different symbolism, as Captain Jack teleports himself on top of a Nazi bomb he's immobilized with a tractor beam to shout a goodbye to the Doctor and Rose, in "The Doctor Dances".
- Subverted by the Farscape mini-series. Over the course of the television series, the protagonist, Crichton, had an AI construct implanted in his mind. Causing a vivid hallucination, this "Harvey" finally dies off at the end as his purpose is fullfilled. Crichton has been dropping sci-fi and pop-culture references throughout the series, and Harvey with him. As such, he shows himself dying in lieu of the (rather obscure) ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but concedes he found Riding the Bomb an attractive way to go as well.
- Parodied in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Moon Zero Two. The bad guys have been left stranded on a meteor which is karmically racing towards the moon's surface. As they're about to hit, Joel and the bots start whooping it up cowboy-style like Slim Pickens.
- The climax of the third season The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Super-Colossal Affair" found Illya Kuryakin riding and defusing a 10 ton stink bomb which was part of a crime syndicate plot to render Las Vegas uninhabitable.
- A sketch on SNL featured an interview with then-Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, who was riding a missile at the time. And eating a Lunchables snack-pack.
- On Jack of All Trades, the legendary Pirate Blackbeard rides a missile down from a hot air balloon to destroy a submarine captained by the great-great-great-great-great grandson of Leonardo da Vinci before it can sink a ship carrying most of America's Founding Fathers on a "Founding Father-Son Cruise." It Makes Sense in Context... kinda.
- The video of "Boom" from System of a Down shows Bush, Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Tony Blair riding each one a bomb, dressed like the Riders of the Apocalypse.
- Also seen in the video for "A Complete History of the Soviet Union Through the Eyes of a Humble Worker," by Pig With The Face Of A Boy.
- One of the crocs in Pearls Before Swine is seen doing this. He survives.
- In Australian Rules Football, the WEG poster for the Essendon Bombers' 1984 premiership depicts Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy doing this.
- In Warhammer 40,000 the orks have grot-guided bombs, which are are based on the above-mentioned manned bombs. A gretchin (small orkoid subspecie, similar to goblins in the fantasy setting) will steer to bomb to it's target, increasing it's accuarracy. Ofcourse the mekboys tend to forget to tell the pilot that it's a one-way flight.
- In Halo 2, Master Chief Rides the Bomb.
- An even older computer game example appears in the intro scene to the
originalcomputerized adaptation of Nuclear War.
- An even older computer game example appears in the intro scene to the
- Dante surfs on a missile in Devil May Cry 3.
- Not to be outdone by Dante, at the end of Just Cause 2, Rico Rodriguez surfs on FOUR NUCLEAR MISSILES, exchanging gunfire with the midget president of a corrupt nation and disarming said missiles as he goes, before eventually jamming said president into one of the missiles.
- Contra games regularly involve heroes hanging from and steering missiles as a mode of transportation.
- Contra 3's fourth stage ends with you hopping from missile to missile, trying to destroy the shields of an alien mothership.
- In Contra: Shattered Soldier's second mission, you encounter mooks riding missiles.
- Played completely straight in Contra 4, during the harbour stage you have to cling onto a warhead. While shooting missiles down, avoiding Weaponized Exhaust, and even fighting a Mini Boss on it!
- A similar sequence is also present in one of the endings to Contra: Hard Corps. The Alien Cell hijacked by the Big Bad, in this particular ending, ends up as a warhead for his doomsday missile. You have to chase said missile while jumping on smaller ones, climb up, and then destroy the cell which by now seems to have evolved into a full fledged final boss.
- Mischief Makers has Marina riding missiles quite a few times. As well as riding on a cat that is itself riding on a missile.
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has a different take on this - after chasing the Space Pirates away from the Spire Pod and commencing the engines' shutdown sequence, Samus has five minutes to repair the escape pod and blast off in it before she literally rides the bomb into the Leviathan. If this happens, or the Space Pirates successfully shoot down the Spire Pod, you get a scene of the pod falling before Game Over-induced sudden blackout - if the fall and storms don't kill Samus, the bomb certainly will.
- The custom Strangelove mutator for the Unreal Tournament series (which is obviously a giant Shout-Out to Dr. Strangelove as its name implies) is a superweapon similiar in functionality to the Redeemer (A nuclear warhead launcher) except for its secondary fire, which allows you to... take a wild guess.
- There's a couple of quests in World of Warcraft where the player has to ride on a Goblin-made rocket. It's also possible to get a similar rocket as a mount via a code that can be gotten from a pack of Warcraft TCG cards.
- A reskin of said mount is available as a very rare drop on Valentine's Day. It's bright pink, sports zebra pimpmobile decorations and is naturally called "Big Love Rocket." Presumably, it can also get past radars.
- And now, a TWO-SEATER model is gifted to people who have subscribed a friend through a referral program. Lucky owners tend to get constantly poked by low level characters looking for a quick taxi.
- Then there is also one which after you defeat the Vry'kul air raid and destroying some of their building using their own ballista, you return to your encampment by riding on one of the said flaming ballista bolt.
- For his most powerful special move, Laharl rides a meteor. Laughing maniacally the whole way.
- A mission in Jak 3 has Daxter ride a missile.
- One half of a stage in Mega Man Zero 3 takes place inside the biggest missile ever as Zero tries to prevent it from reaching its target. He fails.
- Actually, it's more than that. The missile in question contained Omega, so the trope applies to Omega more.
- In Spore, in the civilization stage, a military nation gets access to their final super-power, the ICBM (although the naming is off). Upon launch, cheesy music plays and it is implied that some of the creatures are riding the missiles, due to all the yehawwing going on during the sequence. Of course, using this will indeed capture the cities quickly so you can advance to the space stage, but there's going to be piles of nuclear rubble you won't be able to build up on...
- At least, that's the way it should be. In fact, the nukes just instantly capture the cities and no actual damage is done. Neutron Bomb, perhaps?
- In Metal Slug, on Mission Six of Metal Slug X (a remake of 2), you can ride the missiles while crossing the bridge. Unfortunately, they're going the wrong way and when you go too close to the missiles' nose, you die.
- Exterminatus Now at one point has a crude chalkboard-style stick-figure sketch of what Exterminatus actually does (complete with a sketch of Cthulhu labelled "A Bad Thing"). The warhead plummeting from space onto the planet? It has a stick-figure cowboy wavin' his hat.
- Used for comedy in Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth. In this strip of the first comic's run, the script-kiddy-run gnome Lowping apparently ended up riding the Ultimate Goblin Engineered Weapon "like a pony," complete with cowboy hat, moments before it was dropped out of a hijacked Goblin dirigible, and him along with it.
- Schlock Mercenary had Petey evacuating DoytHaban and Ennesby with a teraport-equipped missile.
- Rusty and Co. once had Presti riding a magic missile.
- Daffy Duck pulls this in the Looney Tunes short Conrad The Sailor. Wile E. Coyote has done this at least once accidentally.
- The Simpsons: When Homer becomes leader of a group of vigilantes, he goes to the local army surplus store to stock up on implements of destruction. One of the things the proprietor shows him is a miniature nuke that was designed to be used against Beatniks in The Sixties. Cut to an Imagine Spot of Homer, with cowboy hat, trying to drop the bomb, and ending up riding it in. Cut back, he's straddling the device, and the shopkeeper points out a nearby sign reading "Do not ride the bomb". The imagery was also used as a Couch Gag in another episode.
- Sealab 2021: In "Red Dawn", when Quinn learns Debbie slept with the President, he bombs Washington, DC in a fit of jealousy, shouting "Nobody shucks my corn but meeeeeee!" as he rides the bomb. (Inexplicably enough, however, the cityscape he's dropping into is clearly San Diego, CA.)
- Blossom does it in one episode of The Powerpuff Girls.
- Transformers: Beast Wars has Rattrap Riding the Bomb attached to former Decepticon Ravage's stealth ship after forcing it to crash. The twist: the bomb remained unexploded until after the crash, and Rattrap was blown clear into the arms of his comrades, nice and safe.
- The Season 1 Finale for Beast Wars had Optimus Primal unwittingly riding the bomb into the Planet Buster, thanks to Megatron making additional modifications that essentially sealed Optimus inside.
- In the Swat Kats episode "The Wrath of Dark Kat", Razor rides a bomb while trying to disarm it, leading to a Wire Dilemma.
- Real Life example, sort of: The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka.
- There was a manned version of the V-1 Flying Bomb.
- Supposedly the Reichenbergs (manned V-1s) were not suicide weapons, the pilot would eject before impact. Considering how much trouble pilots had getting the canopy open when the thing was parked on the ground, odds are that had the Reichenberg ever seen active service it would have been purely this trope.
- While an ejection mechanism was provided as a courtesy, it was understood to be an effective suicide mission, and the pilots were required to sign disclaimers that they fully realised that they should not expect to survive, before joining the unit. That said, the test pilots did survive crashes more often than not.
- The US tried to build one, too. It was designed to be flown by a trained pigeon.
- A chicken works too.
- A similar project that actually got the go ahead was the Bat Bomb, essentially a b-25 would drop a large canister during a dawn raid over a japanese city. The canister was loaded with hundreds of bats, each with a little napalm bomb strapped to their chests, at night they would go off to hunt and roost all over the city. A timer set all the bombs off in the middle of the day after the bats went to sleep, since most japanese architecture was wood at the time this would have been very effective. The only reason it wasnt used was that the atomic bomb was finished first