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The racecourse or other path is marked off by arrows. Either a villain or a prankster mucks things up by flipping the sign so the arrows point the other way. Can also include incidents where someone who, with honest intentions, by mistake thinks the sign is wrong and "fixes" it, whereupon Hilarity Ensues.

See also: Rules of the Road, and Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat, as this is one of the ways he does it.

Examples of Road Sign Reversal include:

Anime and Manga

  • Yu-Gi-Oh!. The Marik-brainwashed Bandit Keith has set up arrows to lure Yugi into a trap. Yami Bakura flips the arrows around so Yugi's friends can't follow.
  • Dragon Ball had an episode where Bulma was fleeing from General Blue through an abandoned pirate hideout. She came to an intersection and drew an arrow on the ground in dust to tell Goku which way she went, but Blue got to it first and changed it to point the opposite direction.
  • El-Hazard: The Magnificent World: Subverted that while Jinnai sabotages a sign to get the heroes going onto a dangerous path, Mr. Fujisawa knows all along they are taking the tough path, but takes it anyway because he relishes the challenge.
  • In Magical Play, Zucchini switches a sign with arrows pointing to "Town" and "Desert." However, since the sign was one large board, he does this by flipping it upside down, words and all. The main characters still fall for it.
  • In Ranma ½, Ranma and Genma travel back in time, switching the arrows pointing to Jusenkyo so their past selves will go the wrong way. Happosai sabotages the attempt by reversing them again. It wouldn't have worked anyway, because the whole thing takes place inside Ranma's dream.
  • Bashin and Striker do this in ep. 11 of Battle Spirits: Shonen Toppa Bashin to try and lure My Sunshine to the Battle Spirits Center.

Comic Books

  • Reggie does this to Richie on a ski trail in one Richie Rich comic. The twist is that the wind has already blown the arrows around, so Reggie actually sends Richie down the right trail and himself down the dangerous slope.

Eastern Animation


  • Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. The misdirecting arrow sends our heroes onto a very narrow cliff edge and almost causes them to die via avalanche.
  • Battle of the Bulge (1965). During the attack, German infiltrators switch the road signs around, making it appear that the road to Malmedy leads to Ambleve. The U.S. troops going to Ambleve follow the sign and are captured by the Germans, leading to the Malmedy Massacre.
  • Played for Laughs in Jurassic Park when Nedry was attempting to leave the island, but in his haste, drove over the road sign showing the way to the docks. Nedry spins it like a roulette wheel and follows where it lands.
  • The reedited-for-TV version of Blazing Saddles includes a scene that was originally left on the cutting room floor. While Bart and the Waco Kid are being chased by the villains, the duo come to an arrow-sign mounted on a post, smack it so that it starts spinning in circles, and run on. The villains ride up, wait for the sign to finish spinning, and charge off in the indicated direction.
  • In the Disney movie Diamonds on Wheels, the crooks attempt to waylay one of the cars competing in a rally by removing the real arrows and laying new ones for the driver to follow.
  • Labyrinth: Sarah draws arrows on the ground to show which path she's already taken. When she's not looking, goblins flip and turn the tiles with the arrows on them, so she loses her way.
  • Done by the Red Feathers in Troop Beverly Hills.
  • In Quick Change, the three bank robbers must get to Kennedy Airport as soon as possible. They inadvertently exit the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and traverse an unfamiliar Brooklyn neighborhood where the road signs are being replaced by city workers. When they ask which way the original signs were pointing, the workers respond by showing them the arrow spinning freely on the plate, saying they have no idea either. This scene is even funnier if one has ever tried to get back onto the BQE.
  • The Little Rascals movie: Porky pushed the race track arrow from right to straight.
  • Two Thousand Maniacs! gets its plot going with a fake diversion sign.
  • Something similar in intention is done by a British villager in the beginning of Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks. He's painting out the signposts in order to confuse any possible invading Nazis.
  • A Reversed Road Sign to Ste.-Mère-Eglise briefly confuses invading Allied forces in The Longest Day, until an American officer sees through the trick and orders the sign cut down.


  • Done to spring a trap in "Dolan's Cadillac", by Stephen King.
  • James Bond does this during the car chase scene in the novel version of ~On Her Majesty's Secret Service~.
  • The very first trick Macha and Bodhb try to pull on Pidge in The Hounds Of Morrigan. It's much eerier than the usual examples, because, of course, they have magic.

Live Action TV

  • The 2007 To the Manor Born 25th Anniversary special.
  • I saw this happen in Home and Away once, a guy on the race turns the arrow around and his competitor (who is already going the wrong way) just follows it.
  • Gang members do this in The Wire. It's not played for laughs at all.
  • In the series finale of Grange Hill, a boy does this with the arrow of a sign saying something like "Year 7s this way".
  • Doctor Who: The Master does this to delay the Doctor's journey to the town of Devil's End in "The Daemons".
  • In the Amazing Stories episode "Mummy Daddy", an actor playing the role of the Mummy in a horror film receives a phone call that his wife has gone into labour. On the way to the maternity hospital, he is mistaken for a real Mummy by superstitious villagers. They start shooting at him, and one of the shots spins the road sign for the maternity hospital.
  • Ethel does it in the Lucy Desi Comedy Hour episode "Lucy Hunts Uranium." When everyone gets into a madcap race back to town to claim the money for the uranium they've discovered, Ethel moves a detour sign to throw off the Ricardos.
  • The Janitor does this to JD during his birthday triathlon in Scrubs. JD ends up biking uncontrollably down a near-vertical hill.
  • In the M.I. High episode "The Others", Blane foils the government agents testing the team by swapping the signs pointing to the library and the cafeteria.
  • The wind blowing a road sign around is how Miranda and Skye Sailendra end up in the remote town of Barren Barren in the first episode of Snake Tales.
  • In the 1960s live-action Dennis the Menace, Dennis mistakenly believes the street sign at the corner is reversed, so he turns it, whereupon a swimming pool company goes to the wrong house and basically destroys Mr. Wilson's backyard.
  • Doesn't involve arrows or directional signs, but in an episode of Corner Gas, Oscar changes a sign warning about a pothole in the road to one warning about a speed bump that was built over it by flipping the sign upside down. He tries to do it again when they go back to the pothole at the end of the episode (because it "looks more natural"), but it won't hold in place, so he says they have to build the speed bump again.
  • This is an important plot point in an episode of Mathnet. George Frankly had two invitations to a mystery weekend at The Qualms, a quaint inn in the woods, where he would essentially be roleplaying as Sherlock Holmes. While making their way there, he and partner Pat Tuesday fail to notice that the wind blew the sign in a different direction until later. The butler informs them that they're not at the inn they thought they were, meaning that the kidnappings they thought were part of the roleplay are in fact real.
  • The 'removing road signs to confuse invading troops' version happens in All Creatures Great and Small. A local tells the soldier who is removing a sign that, if he wants to confuse the Germans, he should leave that particular sign up as it has been pointing the wrong way for years.
  • In Hi-de-Hi!, Ted does this in order to stop Clive's relatives from getting to the church to prevent Clive and Gladys' wedding.

Theme Park

  • The "plot" of the Popeye-themed water ride at Universal Studios's Island of Adventure begins with Bluto switching signs so that the riders go down some "dangerous" rapids instead of the idyllic river. A thorough soaking ensues.

Western Animation

  • Wile E. Coyote tried this a few times with the Roadrunner and a detour sign. The gag being that the way the Roadrunner went turned safe, while Wile E.'s way turned out to be the one with the road out...cue whistling sound...
  • One of Dick Dastardly's favourite dirty tricks in the Wacky Races.
    • Not surprising since, as has been mentioned elsewhere, Wacky Races (ahem) borrowed a lot of Road Runner gags.
  • Listed as one of the things Stitch is programmed to do in Lilo and Stitch, along with backing up sewers and stealing everyone's left shoe.
  • In an episode of the ~Viva Piñata~ cartoon, the heroes flip a road sign to get the bad guy off their trail and send him towards a volcano. Of course, as he's driving a really slow forklift, it takes him 50 years to actual reach the volcano.
  • I have very vague memories of an animated feature in which the wind happens to spin the sign round, sending the hero in the wrong direction (it may have been Tubby The Tuba on the way to the city).
  • This is one of the dirty tricks the three bullies in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown pull during the raft race.
  • Done to lure the Mystery Machine into a trap in Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster.
  • Subverted in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "Cajun Granny Stew", where he does this to try trick a Fox (who has kidnapped Muriel) into driving into some rocks. The Fox doesn't buy it, and runs over the sign and Courage (who wisely decided to stand directly behind the sign). Subverted again when the Fox immediately falls off a cliff.
  • In the Robot Chicken spoof of Cannonball Run, Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane does this to trick, "them Duke Boys," possibly as an homage to the actual show, The Dukes of Hazzard.
  • Transformers Cybertron: Ransack does this in episode 15, "Detour."
  • Subverted Trope in Family Guy. Peter looks as if he's going to do this in the episode "Chitty Chitty Death Bang," in order to get the circus parade to come to Stewie's birthday party. Instead, he beans the parade leader with the sign and takes his place.
  • Used by Boris Badenov in one of the Rocky and Bullwinkle openings (see it towards the end of this video). However, instead of rotating the entire arrow he's able to remove the arrowhead from one end and attach it to the other instead.
    • And, during the Upsidaisium arc, Boris and Natasha decide to switch the sign pointing to a 900-foot cliff with the one pointing to the mountain to which they (and the heroes) are going. The catch is that they come up with this plan independently, and cancel each other's efforts out. Boris and Natasha fall down the cliff (nonfatally), while Rocky and Bullwinkle continue on without noticing at all.
  • Happened in an episode of Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics. The cheaters mistakenly switched the signs back, resulting in disgust from their teammates (although they DID get a 50 point bonus for "chivalry" because the judges thought they did it to help their opponents).
  • In an episode of The Busy World of Richard Scarry, an inadequately supported sign flips and sends people looking for a stall selling corn into the middle of a cornfield, causing them to become Lost in the Maize.
  • Superfriends 1973-74 episode "The Fantastic Frerps". This is how King Plasto diverts a shipment of raw plastic from the real GREPS building to his imitation.
  • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Fall Weather Friends," Rainbow Dash flips the sign marking the path for the Running of the Leaves, sending Applejack off the track. She hastily flips it back when she hears Twilight Sparkle coming, to keep from being caught.
  • In the Harry Potter parody of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, when sabotaging Gunderstank. Billy spins the signs when Grim leads a field trip, so the signs are reversed yet upside down.
  • Happens in Doctor Snuggles.
  • Occurs in the first episode of 101 Dalmatians: The Series to lure Cruella away from the three main puppies she's chasing after in her car.
  • A non-racing version occurs in one episode of Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures. While trying to deliver a package, Strawberry encounters a sign that tells her the way to go, only for a breeze to flip the markers, knocking off the one she needs.
  • In an episode of Danger Rangers about pedestrian safety, a kid does this during a race in a failed attempt at cheating.

Real Life

  • During the War of 1812, "Walnut St." in Washington DC was changed to "Tunlaw St." to confuse the British.
  • There's a sign the wrong way near Monument Tube station in London, implying that Cannon Street is to the East.
  • Mentioned in Film above, the switching (or removal) of signs did regularly happen in WWII.
    • In fact it was one of neutral Ireland's main defenses. Road signs were arranged so that following them would lead the invaders in a big circle. Still practiced by some locals today, though that's more so that they can troll the tourists who get lost and stop to ask for directions.
  • During the Prague Spring, the inhabitants of Prague removed or painted over street names to confuse the invading Red Army.
  • During the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, the Germans devised Operation Greif, intended to confuse Allied troop movements by doing things like reversing road signs, placing phony minefield warnings, and giving wrong verbal directions to any Allied units they encountered.
    • Similar tactics were used inside Britain, in case of Nazi invasion. Road signs were routinely removed, often confusing domestic military units traveling through the countryside. This was often made worse by the fact that villagers would be very suspicious of any stranger asking for directions while using the "wrong" accent — i.e., one that marked him as from out of town.