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If the characters are rafting, swimming, or just floating down a river, then they will either go over a waterfall or narrowly avoid going over a waterfall. Always. No exceptions. You could take it to the bank.
Despite the suspense or drama they may invoke, plunges over a waterfall will not result in significant physical injury to the characters. This is true regardless of the height of the fall, or the shallowness/rockiness of the bottom. Sometimes invokes a bit of Fridge Logic depending on the circumstances, as one wonders why a large boat was in operation or a race was planned using that specific waterway, despite the can't-miss-it waterfall.
May have a Cave Behind the Falls.
Anime & Manga
- The world of the Pokémon anime is filled with these waterfalls. And just as it is inevitable that Ash will save the Pokémon of the week from going over at the last minute, Team Rocket always end up going down it at the end of the episode.
- Akazukin Chacha: A school ice-skating race - naturally the river is frozen making the waterfall much more of an issue. Luckily Chacha's skirt turns into an impromptu parachute (though she's not too happy, especially with her two male friends hanging onto her ankles).
- The Slayers
- Midway through Ranma ½, Female-Ranma and Pantyhose Taro went over a waterfall while fighting on a drifting log. The thing is, nobody (not even the onlookers) even realized there was a waterfall there until the combatants went over the edge.
- In Dinosaur King, The Alpha Gang has a tendency to fall over these, preceded by a "this feels familiar". In the Niagara Falls episode, it occured twice!
- In Naruto, Team 7 has a mission cleaning up a river. During the entire episode, Naruto tries to prove that he's better than Sasuke. So, naturally, he gets too close to the giant waterfall, loses his footing, falls into the water, and goes screaming over the waterfall, only to be caught by an annoyed Sasuke.
- In Arashi no Yoru ni, Mei and Gabu tumble over a series of several waterfalls (culminating in one big one) when they attempt to escape from their clans' attempts to have them betray one another.
- The heroes of Monster Farm/Monster Rancher build a raft to float downstream but are diverted to a waterfall by the Baddies. This is a catalyst to get Suezo to learn his Teleportation technique.
- Tintin narrowly avoids going over one or two of these.
- Played with in Lucky Luke: As the Dalton brothers are about to fall into one, Jack (or is it William?) tells Joe not to worry, that in such situations the characters are always saved in the nick of time. In fact, nobody comes to the Daltons' rescue, and they fall over. Of course, they make it.
- In Jonah Hex #39 (original series), Jonah faces one in a flashback to Civil War days. Lampshaded by Jonah's internal monologue:
"'Cause the only worse predicament thet could happen tuh me right now would be if'n thar turned out tuh be some kind of obstacle on this here stretch of river thet wazn't marked on the general's campaign map! Like mebbe a - Gasp! - W-waterfall!"
- Ice Age 3 with a lavafall.
- Without a Paddle. Also in the sequel.
- George of the Jungle
- The Wrong Guys
- Last of the Mohicans
- Disney Films:
- Aladdin II: The Return of Jafar
- The Emperors New Groove, with Lampshade Hanging as outlined in the above quote. They go over, and Kuzco screams "BOOYAHAHA!!" on the way down.
- The Rescuers Down Under: Notable because it was actually how the Big Bad met his end.
- Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
- In Pocahontas, the title character willingly went over a cascading waterfall in her boat.
- In the first Mulan film, the main characters are carried over an Inevitable Cliff by an avalanche. It's essentially identical to an Inevitable Waterfall scene.
- Mulan II has a straight version, resulting in the most obvious Disney Death of all time.
- A Goofy Movie
- Some Disney shorts, where a huge waterfall is just downstream of where a whole bunch of people are skating on a frozen river.
- The Mr. Magoo movie.
- Star Wars:
- The Phantom Menace. Originally, there was going to be a scene involving one, but it was deleted. You can still see it on the DVD. Removed with good reason, as Darths and Droids points out.
- Revenge of the Sith has a fall of lava, though both Obi-Wan and Anakin manage to escape the piece of wreckage they're on before it goes over.
- The Lord of the Rings, with Boromir, though he was kind of already dead.
- Indiana Jones:
- Averted in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, probably because they'd already fallen off a mountain while in their raft moments before landing in the river.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull actually has three of them, one right after another. Verges into an Overly Long Gag.
- Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Ace is tied, along with his capuchin monkey Spike, to a log-raft that Ace deduces is going over said waterfall. The monkey escapes from the ropes and is about to free Ace, then changes his mind and jumps to shore while he still can, leaving Ace to go over the edge.
- In the first Homeward Bound, Sassy goes over the Inevitable Waterfall.
- Jaws falls afoul of one in The Amazon in Moonraker.
- The Odyssey.
- Used tragically in The Mission. With the Distant Reaction Shot of the denouement providing the art for the Film Poster and the cover art for the Ennio Morricone soundtrack album.
- Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, where the boat somehow manages to go over a waterfall while heading up the river.
- Give My Regards to Broad Street, during the "Eleanor's Dream" sequence.
- Cat City
- Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality.
- Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol.
- Evan Almighty. A real trick, considering it involves an ark and a flood.
- Probably justified in Apocalypto, as Jaguar Paw knew it was there and could well have headed there intentionally.
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
- Milo and Otis is about a kitten who gets too curious for his own good and climbs in a box floating down the river, only to be washed away down into a waterfall and the rest is history.
- The ending of Pure Luck.
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible gets thrown over a waterfall.
- Witches Abroad: the witches end up heading for a waterfall. ("The dwarfs didn't say anything about a waterfall." "I expect they thought we'd find out for ourselves.") Magrat tries to use her Fairy Godmother wand to save them and, just as they're about to go over, manages to turn the boat into a pumpkin. This doesn't help.
- The Fifth Elephant: Vimes goes over one while he's on the run from the werewolf pack. Prior to going over he sees Death because he is having a near-death experience and thus Death must be having a near-Vimes experience (because of Quantum).
- The Colour of Magic: The crowning champ for scale: Rincewind goes off the edge of the world, over the Rimfall.
- In William King's Warhammer 40000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, when Ragnor and Haegr escape a Cult by swimming in an underground river, they go over a waterfall.
- The Niagara Falls themselves show up in Jules Verne's novel Master Of The World. Two torpedo ships chase a mysterious vehicle, called the Terror, across Lake Erie, until they corner it before the falls. Instead of either letting the ships catch or sink the Terror, or perishing by being dragged down the falls, the vehicle's inventor and captain takes a third option: The Terror spreads its wings and flies away.
- In The Beyonders, Jason's first encounter in the world of Lyrian is with a band who are floating down a raft toward a waterfall... by their own choice. He attempts to save them anyway. Things go downhill--in the most literal fashion--soon after.
- In Jurassic Park, with a friggin' T-rex at the bottom.
- In Patrimony by Alan Dean Foster, Flinx has to deal with one of these things.
- In The Hour Of The Gate, also by Foster, Jon-Tom's party only survive the Inevitable Waterfall because the wizard Clothahump levitates their boat over the Helldrink. This was even more harrowing than most examples, as they were on a subterranean river with no way to change course or land, and were being pursued by an Eldritch Abomination at the time.
- In Snakehead, seventh installment in Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, Alex steals a float and oar from a seaplane, and uses them to form a kayak. He then navigates through treacherous rapids and tries to avoid a marksman aiming at him from a helicopter, and only after getting through this does he tumble down the 50-yard high Bora Falls...and, being the protagonist, survives. This is not the first time that it is made blindingly obvious that the kid is Born Lucky, nor is it the last.
- In the Warrior Cats series, this happens in Moonrise. The traveling Clan cats end up having trouble in bad weather, fall into a mountain stream, and go over a waterfall, landing in a pool of water at the bottom. Fortunately, there is a Tribe of cats that lives in a Cave Behind the Falls, so even though the Clan cats are pretty battered, they are able to recover because the Tribe takes them in for a little while.
Live Action TV
- An episode of Rentaghost had Mr. and Mrs. Meeker narrowly avoid going over Niagara Falls. In England.
- Seen in the opening credits of Land of the Lost.
- Pooch Cafe: "We live in a flat, urban environment. Where did that waterfall come from?"
- The Lion King Broadway musical.
- Gears of War 2 - While underground and headed towards Nexus, Marcus and Dom are riding a commandeered Locus Gunboat. Of course, there's a waterfall, which prompts Marcus to shout "You've got to be kidding me!"
- In Final Fantasy VI, Sabin and Cyan jump down a waterfall in order to reach their destination. Cyan will hesitate and Shadow will calmly leave your party if he's still with you at that point, but there's still very little pause given before jumping off a waterfall so large you've got time for a few random encounters and a minor boss battle on the way down.
- The two do end up unconscious, but they float to shore and wake up in short order. You don't take any hp damage from this incident.
- Okami has an interactive challenge involving one of these on a log rushing towards a waterfall
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has one at the finale, when you are chasing Gen Shepherd's helicopter in a Zodiac raft. Made doubly badass because you could have escaped going over, but you and Price deliberately stayed in order to take the killer shots.
- Exile: Warns you shortly before a long series of them. The final set is multiple in a row. You are pre-warned, but, by then, you've long since crossed the Point of No Return.
- Fan Film Dead Fantasy II does this... with lava. See also Convection, Schmonvection.
- Darths and Droids: #35 Qui-Gon, Obi-wan and Jar-jar, after traveling though the underwater core of Naboo, only to emerge right in front of one. It even links to this very page!
- Here it quotes the quote at the top.
- The Perry Bible Fellowship: comic Raft Friends has one of these. It ends the way most PBFs do.
- Ruby-Spears' Mega Man had one of these in the final episode. Thing is, Megaman and Protoman are fighting in the river when they notice this--and it doesn't stop them.
- The Simpsons
- "Simpson Tide": Homer joins the Naval Reserve. In one scene, Homer is tying a ship to the dock, but forgets to actually tie the rope to the ship. The ship then sails off into the ocean only to fall off a giant waterfall.
- Also in "Milhouse of Sand and Fog".
- In "Catch em if you Can", Homer and Marge have sex while falling off Niagra Falls on one of those bouncy castles.
- There's also the season 1 episode where Homer and Bart go over one, lose their clothes, and Homer ends up being mistaken for Bigfoot.
- The Futurama episode "Mars University".
- Transformers: Beast Wars
- Avatar: The Last Airbender. The boats in question had somehow traveled up the same river from the sea earlier, with no mention of how they got up the waterfall in the first place.
- Makes sense if you assume the harbor is connected to a delta system- the boats travel up one fork (without the fall) and end up going down another (with the fall). And of course the heroes would head the boat in the direction opposite from the origin of attack, unaware of the danger such a path entailed.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation.
- Shana dealt with this trope in the Jem episode, 'Last Resorts'.
- The Perils of Penelope Pitstop
- From a short on Oh Yeah Cartoons:
Jelly's Sister: Hey big brother, what's that?
- Shows up in the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Gimme Gimme Never Ed".
- Peanuts: Shows up in Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Given that this is during a camp-sponsored raft race, the possibility of this happening to a bunch of young children who are rafting without adult supervision makes this an even more egregious example of Adults Are Useless than is usually present in Peanuts cartoons.
- Occurs quite often on Looney Tunes. Usually, a character is in a motorboat that won't start until it goes over the falls. If it does and the character manages to escape, chances are there's another waterfall at the other end of the river.
- In the Hasty But Tasty episode of The Ant and the Aardvark this was averted and then inverted when the aardvark, on a motorcycle, falls over a cliff into a river. He restarted the bike at the last possible moment to do a miracle 180... only to fall off the other waterfall behind him.
- Happens on The Fairly Odd Parents on the episode where Timmy and the fairies visit Niagara Falls. The fact that they were visiting Niagara Falls made it even more inevitable than normal.
- In one sketch on The Mr. Men Show, Mr. Stubborn goes over a waterfall while going to a calm stream.
- The Super Mario World cartoon had an inevitable LAVA waterfall. Kind of fits with the Platform Game source.
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
- Parodied on Jimmy Two-Shoes. While on a cruise, the boat hits a waterfall...which is so small it just rocks the boat a little. Then there are two more just like it, so Lucius doesn't worry about the fourth one...which is a big one.
- The Bongo segment of Fun and Fancy Free
- The Classic Disney Short featuring Donald Duck as Commando Duck. Unlike most of the examples in fiction, the waterfall's relevance doesn't end when Don falls thru it. It immediately takes over the plot and leads to a glorious Crowning Moment of Awesome for Donald. Watch the short so it makes more sense.
- Magic School Bus: Occasionally subverted. In a few episodes where the class finds themselves drifting down a river and you're expecting them to go over the waterfall, they actually come across rapids.
- Niagara Fools. The famous Woody Woodpecker cartoon in which Woody deliberately tries to go down the Niagara Falls in a barrel for how cool and fun that would be. A guard keeps trying to stop him and succeds, only to ironically end inside the barrel and fall down the waterfall over and over again.
- In the "It's a Wonderful Nine Lives" episode of Eek the Cat, Eek is in the water with his blonde-haired pig friend during one of his Amusing Injuries. They go over a waterfall (much to Eek's cowardice) and the pig somehow disappears. Then Eek gets trapped inside a sewer and fortunately swims out of it.
- Taz-Mania: "Doubting Dingo" contains a ludicrously tall example, with Taz's fall almost veering into Overly Long Gag territory.
- But you actually can't, because you're going over a waterfall - you'd swim to the bank if you could... 'cause the side of a river is called a bank, and um... never mind.