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"And the most important rule of all, the one you must never forget: no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never, ever feed him after midnight."
"When the cat calls at midnight, your shorts will ignite."
A lot of times, when there's a deadline to something, it's usually midnight. Why? Maybe because it's the time when the day officially ends, or just because the twelve chimes are really dramatic. Either way, things will happen When the Clock Strikes Twelve. How this interacts with timezones and Daylight Saving Time is generally left unmentioned.
If there's an actual clock involved, the actual deadline will almost always be when the last stroke ends, even though chiming clocks in Real Life are set to start striking when the top of the hour hits (so the clock would strike twelve at 00:00:11). Possibly to give a brief warning. (A clock that strikes more than twelve will usually be recognized as broken.)
Midnight is also probably the most significant hour of the day for the supernatural—in other words, Midnight Is Magic. Ghosts, magical creatures etc. all set their clock by it; typically the time between sundown and midnight is when they are free to roam the Earth. Or it can be from midnight to dawn. Another famous variant is known as "the Witching Hour", a general concept that magic and supernatural is at its strongest around midnight through 1 a.m (Details may vary between cultures, in Japan it's called Hour of the Ox and is either from around 2:00-2:30am, or 1-3 am).
Note that if a myth about midnight events pre-dates the widespread use or standardization of clocks and time zones, then the "midnight" it refers to is most likely not instantaneous, but simply indicates the middle part of a night.
Anime & Manga
- Cardcaptor Sakura follows an endless loop of 1 day when the Time Card is set loose. The card appears and resets at midnight.
- Used in Haruhi Suzumiya, where it was set to loop at September 1, 12 midnight.
- In the Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl manga, Hazumu is scheduled to die at midnight. But in a dramatic subversion, the alien gets his sums wrong and her time of death is really 6 hours earlier. She survives though, due to The Power of Love.
- Early in Busou Renkin, Tokiko is infected with an alchemical parasite that will turn her into an homunculus in several days. For no explained reason, this will happen exactly at midnight.
- One Ranma ½ storyline has Shampoo slowly being turned into a cat, if Ranma can't overcome his fear of cats by the time the new year's bell stops ringing then she'll stay that way forever.
- Shakugan no Shana: the Reiji Meigo refills the bearer's power of existence every midnight. It apparently makes its own time zone adjustment, since it was created in Europe...
- In Saint Seiya, Saori, the Goddess Athena, will die in twelve hours if...
- ...the Bronzies fail to reach the top of the Sanctuary and remove the Golden Arrow from her chest within those 12 hours, which is helpfully pointed out by the Clock of Flames that looms over the Sanctuary.
- ...the Bronzies fail to break Hilda's brainwashing so she can return to her duties as Odin's Barrier Maiden, freeing Athena of the task of keeping Earth from flooding. No clocks, but a rough estimation of "12 hours" is tossed about.
- ...the Bronzies fail to destroy the Seven Pillars and the Principal Support in Poseidon's Temple, saving her from drowning within the Support. Poseidon's Shoguns sometimes mention the 12-hour deadline.
- ...the Bronzies fail to save her from Hades' Urn, which steadily turns red as it siphons her blood. It's much less than twelve hours in this case, though.
- And in a reversal, Hades' Specters are allowed only 12 hours to return to the world of the living. They will die again when the twelve hours are up, whether they've succeeded in killing Athena or not. The Clock of Flames is even reignited to show the good guys how much longer they have to Hold the Line.
- In Code Geass Nightmare of Nunnally, at the stroke of midnight, Rolo brings up Cinderella losing her magic when the clock struck twelve, just before announcing the dissolution of the aristocracy and the cardinals of Eden Vital taking over in place of the governors general.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the Wolkenritter are summoned at the stroke of midnight on Hayate's birthday.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Anyone who hasn't been murdered yet at the stroke of midnight of the second day of the Groundhog Day Loop is killed by something. (As of the third arc, there's been one exception to this rule so far.)
- Revealed in Ep7's Tea Party to be a bomb.
- Lucky Star uses this in the OVA. The downside is that Konata is the fairy godmother.
- Odd non-magical version in The Castle of Cagliostro: When the mechanism to open the floodgate is triggered, the hour and minute hands on the Clock Tower move in opposite directions from where they had been to the twelve o'clock position, crushing the Count between them, and the bell chimes incessantly as the water pours out of the dam and the tower sinks.
"The closest I can guess is around Midnight?"
- Used in Watchmen.
- It serves more of a red herring in Watchmen with the clock shown ticking to midnight as Rorschach and Niteowl race to stop Adrian from destroying NYC until Adrian reveals that he "did it thirty-five minutes ago."
- Subverted in an issue of Supergirl during her "angel formed from a merger of human and shapeshifting protomatter-girl" period. Supergirl asks a twentysomething witch about her divine fate, and is told to come back that night. Supergirl assumes the meeting will be at midnight, but the witch says 1:00am because she doesn't want to miss her favorite late-night show (this troper thinks it was Politically Incorrect).
- "Cinderella" (illustrated above), though many variants have her just leaving when she wanted to, or to beat her Wicked Stepmother back home.
- Common folklore holds that midnight is the witching hour.
- In The Brothers Grimm's "The Boy Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Is", he overcomes all the haunting on the house on the third day, at midnight.
- In Batman and Robin the entire city was frozen solid. Coincidentally the time between the freezing and midnight is exactly the (extremely arbitrary) interval earlier established as the amount of time an ice-covered person can stay alive. This example also crosses over with You Fail Biology Forever.
- Subverted in the live action Casper movie with Lampshade Hanging:
Casper: So I have until midnight?
- Yeah, but Cinderella hadn't been dead for a hundred years.
Angel: Cinderella wasn't twelve years old.
- In Gremlins, feeding a mogwai after midnight would lead to disaster.
- The sequel includes a scene where several minor characters lampshade the hell out of the Fridge Logic involved in this (ie. what happens if he's eating on a plane and crosses a time zone?)
- Averted in Groundhog Day, it's 6 AM that the reset happens, contrary to the expectations of at least one character.
- In Van Helsing, the eponymous character has to be cured within the stroke of midnight of his first full moon. Fortunately for him, the stroke of midnight lasts ten minutes in Transylvania.
- In The Matrix Reloaded, the bomb planted in the power plant is set to go off at midnight. It's Justified in the movie by Morpheus saying that there's a shift change in the targeted buildings at midnight. Presumably this means that there will be confusion with people coming and going and it will be easier to sneak in during that period.
- This is spoofed in the movie Idle Hands: the main character's girlfriend's soul will be dragged in to Hell at midnight... Druid time. Which is in about six minutes.
- Ella Enchanted, a Cinderella adaptation, has the critical moment of the movie at midnight. Char chose to propose at midnight in the Hall of Mirrors because his father did that too. Since Edgar's instructions regarding the sequence of events were quite specific "At midnight etc. etc." one wonders what would've happened had Char been delayed or something.
- Monty Brewster had until midnight of the 30th day to spend his $30 million in Brewster's Millions (at least in the Richard Pryor version).
- Lampshaded in Shrek 2: "Midnight?! Why is it always midnight?"
- Labyrinth gave Sarah until 13:00 (no, not 1pm in military time, 13 o' clock) to get to the center of the titular maze and defeat the Goblin King, else her kidnapped baby stepbrother would forever become a goblin. Partway through the movie, Jareth taunts Sarah by manually spinning the clock's hands forward.
- He says she has thirteen hours to solve the labyrinth but it's never indicated at what time she starts her journey. Jareth does indeed have a clock that goes up to thirteen, though.
- Outland. In a homage to High Noon in this Space Western, the killers arrive on the weekly supply shuttle at exactly 12:00. (OK, it's not midnight, but has the same dramatic effect. Anyway there's no night in space).
- The terrible (and later Mystery Science Theater 3000'd) movie The Soul Taker both used this trope straight, in that the life support machines that kept the two surviving main characters alive would be turned off at exactly midnight by the hospital (for no sensible reason), and then subverted it for no other reason than the need to stretch the movie out for a few more minutes, and so the midnight deadline is moved back indefinitely. A subversion constantly decried in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version because the film still constantly shows clocks well after the deadline has passed.
- In Enchanted, after Giselle eats the poisoned apple, she must be revived by midnight or she will be dead for good.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Charlotte is the Mardi Gras princess until Mardi Gras ends at midnight. Once midnight strikes causing Mardi Gras and Charlotte's resultant princess-dom to end, her kiss no longer qualifies to break spells. This is also a rare example of the first strike accurately signaling the top of the hour, and even then only because the scene wouldn't have worked the "traditional" way.
- Little Nicky has a midnight deadline for restoring his brothers to Hell and saving the world.
- The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie End of Days has the Antichrist arriving at midnight on a certain date. Arnie's response is: "Eastern Standard Time?" (The character telling him this goes on to state that monks worked this out in the 1600s, also coming up with the Gregorian calendar in the process... a conceit Roger Ebert royally tore apart.)
- A similar snarky retort is slung at a caller on a phone-in radio show in the movie Strange Days, when she insisted that the world would end at midnight on the last night of 1999. The DJ points out that at the time she's calling, it's already past midnight in the Middle East, where any Biblical prophets presumably were located.
- Probably the first cinematic example of this trope was in the 1920 silent film The Phantom Carriage, in which the last person to die before midnight on New Year's Eve is condemned to drive the carriage of Death and collect souls for the next year.
- The divorce decree in The Awful Truth will become final at midnight.
- In Harry Potter, Voldemort's deadline.
- In Tom's Midnight Garden, the garden appears when the clock strikes thirteen.
- In Jack Chalker's 1977 novel Midnight At The Well of Souls, the six gateways to the Well open at local midnight. That was the time the shift changed (as in the Matrix Reloaded example above) and it was the only automatic access left in the system.
- A few in Discworld:
- Reaper Man, the new Death comes at midnight because of Drama, as lampshaded by Bill Door, who notes that a Death who first appears in the flash of a lightning bolt would never collect him at 11:45 when he could do it at Midnight.
- Witches Abroad, spoofing the Cinderella story, has the witches fiddling with the clock to make midnight come earlier.
- The plot of Mort is kicked off with the title character as the only boy not apprenticed on hiring day and stubbornly waiting until the clock finishes chiming midnight before giving up. Just before the last chime Death turns up and takes him as an apprentice.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story The Hour of the Dragon, executions are at midnight.
- The Dresden Files: the entropy curse in Blood Rites needs to be done at a very specific time to work--Thirteen Is Unlucky minutes before midnight or noon.
- Likewise, the Leanansidhe's vast gifts to Harry in Changes have their own deadline, as is befitting for a faerie godmother. Since Lea's a Winter fae, however, the deadline is noon the next day instead of midnight.
- A Hunger Games arena follows the hours like a clock. Lightning strikes at twelve.
- In A Night in the Lonesome October, the familiars can only speak with their human masters between 12 and 1 at night. At one point, Snuff addresses Jack specifically to check the time.
- The classic slapstick British comedy Bottom gets a few laughs out of this trope during the Halloween episode, "Terror". When the protagonists attempt to summon The Devil Richy claims that he'll probably appear at midnight. Spud Gun wonders why he would only appear at midnight, to which Eddie replies that it's because that's when the pub closes.
- Later when the clock does strike midnight, it only delivers an anti-climactic *clank* noise rather than an ominous chime. Then there's a knock at the door...
- In the Criminal Mind Games episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the killer leaves a note telling the detectives the victim will be dead if they don't "find him by tomorrow." Munch wonders if "tomorrow" means "same time tomorrow or midnight tonight?" Cragen responds, "Let's assume worst case scenario." Midnight—which turns out to be right, unfortunately for the victim.
- The first season of 24 started at midnight.
- Subverted in News Radio, when Jimmy has a midnight deadline to sell the station:
Mr. James: It's almost 12:00. Is anybody gonna try to talk me out of this?
- Happened twice in The Twilight Zone TOS.
- In "Shadowplay", Adam Grant is a convicted murderer sentenced to be executed at midnight, who claims that the whole situation is a dream he's having. Prosecutor Henry Ritchie talks with newspaper editor Paul Carson about it:
Carson: That's another thing. Why does this always happen around midnight?
- In "One for the Angels", a young girl is scheduled to die at midnight, and a sidewalk pitchman must distract Death from taking her.
- In Charmed, Midnight is referred to as the greatest in-between i.e. where it's possible to see fairies and goblins (without being near a usual in-between such as a door or window).
- Doctor Who: In the 1996 tv movie the earth was destined to be turned inside out ([or something) at midnight (Californian timezone!) of 31 December 1999.
- In the Season Nine M*A*S*H episode "Death Takes a Holiday", the doctors desperately try to keep a moribund patient alive until after midnight on December 25, because they (B.J., especially) don't want his family to remember Christmas Day as the day he died. Failing in their task with only about 10 minutes to go, Hawkeye simply moves the hands of the wall clock past midnight, and they decide that 12:05 on the 26th will be his "official" time of death. Even the normally by-the-book Margaret sympathetically accedes to this falsification of records.
- In Sesame Street, there was a Japanese tale called "The Mystery of the Four Dragons", where a boy is challenged to find four dragons in a room before the clock chimes midnight. The villain is convinced that he will never find them and seems to be proven right when the clock starts chiming, but the boy finds them just in time before the chimes conclude.
- In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama The Chimes of Midnight, a servant is murdered every time the hour is struck, until the clock strikes midnight and time winds back to ten o'clock and the whole thing starts all over again.
- In Exalted, demon summoning always requires a set timeline for the ritual—the sorcerer must begin the ritual at sundown and conclude it at midnight. The higher the class of demon, the more restricted the times one can summon—a First Circle Demon can be summoned any night, a Second Circle Demon can be summoned on nights of the new moon, and a Third Circle Demon can only be summoned at Calibration (the five-day period at the end of the year when fate checks its books).
- Into the Woods, strung out to the twelfth chime, too. And why is a chime chiming in the middle of the woods?
"Bring me these by the time of midnight in three days' time, and you shall have, I guarantee, a child as perfect as child can be! Go to the woods!"
- The mice arrive at midnight in The Nutcracker.
- The Rake's Progress is another case of the twelfth-stroke deadline, with the time between strokes supernaturally dilated to accommodate a deadline extension.
- Older Than Steam: In A Midsummer Night's Dream (rather anachronistic for something purportedly set in Ancient Greece):
Theseus: The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve: Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
- In The Cat and the Canary, Cyrus West dictated that his will be read at midnight twenty years after his death.
- In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff disguised as Herne the Hunter meets Mistress Ford in Winsor Forest at midnight.
- The central plot of Persona 3; When the Clock Strikes Twelve (literally), a Dark World appears and spews monstrosity. One can only wonder the implications this has to the main characters' life.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, when the clock strikes twelve on the eve of the Carnival of Time, the Clock Tower opens, allowing festival-goers to ascend it. Since this year there's also a Omnicidal Maniac calling the place his home, it's also when the rather creepy "we're all going to die" BGM starts playing, no matter where the player is in the game world.
- In a kind of subversion, the moon won't crash until 6 in the morning, as that is when the three days have passed. It still fits when you go to fight the final boss, however, as you are likely to do it as soon as the Clock tower opens.
- In the first Quest for Glory game, the mandrake root must be plucked from the ground at precisely midnight, otherwise it vanishes in your hands.
- In the hidden object/puzzle game Nightmare Realm, the Extractor kidnaps Emily at exactly 11:59 pm, one minute before her 7th birthday.
- The ZX Spectrum game Killed Until Dead gives you until midnight, game time, to stop the planned murder.
- During the opening of the Homestar Runner Halloween-themed game "Halloween Potion-ma-Jig", Marzipan demands Homestar gather all the ingredients before midnight. However, since the player has no time limit for making choices, they never explain what would happen if Homestar doesn't make it in time.
- In a Mythology Gag referencing the fairy tale character on which she's based, Cinder Fall of RWBY is told in episode 7 of volume 2 that she needs to get back to the school dance by midnight to avoid arousing suspicion.
- The Halloween Episode of CatDog used a minor variation; the deadline's not midnight itself, but rather the twelfth chime of midnight. How the curse knows how many chimes have passed is not mentioned.
- Batman: The Animated Series episode Holiday Knights has bombs set to go off when the new year ball drops at midnight.
- Inverted in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon episode City at the Edge of Midnight, in which enslaved children "hold back the wheels of time, for the clock must never strike midnight".
- Inspector Gadget, Cuckoo Clock Caper. Penny is Bound and Gagged under a giant mallet that will crush her when the clock strikes five. "Guess who won't be alive?"
- In Kim Possible So The Drama, Drakken states that he would launch his giant robot army around the world at midnight.
- That would mean that after Kim and Ron foiled Drakken's scheme and saved the world, it was after midnight when they went to the prom and shared their First Kiss. Guess Kim's parents decided to be lenient on her curfew this time.
- Maybe he was in a different time zone when he activated it?
- The Fourth Halloween Special of The Simpsons has the trial for Homer's soul start at the stroke of midnight.
- Fantasia: The "Night On Bald Mountain" gave way to "Ave Maria" at midnight—with the creatures flinching until the last stroke, when they retreated.
- The Buffalo stampede on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- New Year's Day. Happens every year.
- Walt Disney World's Pleasure does this every night with party to boot.
- If you look at it that way it is actually a daily event.
- Ever taken an online class? You will know what it's like to be working right up until 11:59 PM and have to shoot off an e-mail like you're trying to Outrun the Fireball.
- The Doomsday Clock is a meter for the world's impending destruction made by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists magazine. It was first invented to show the closeness of the nuclear holocaust during the Cold War. It is measured in minutes to midnight on a clockface. Guess what event 0:00 represents.