There isn’t anyone on the planet who can deny the pleasure of watching a good Rube Goldberg machine. For those of you who don’t know, Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist, often referred to as the “father of invention” for his series of comics depicting what we call Rube Goldberg machines: Complicated, deliberately over-engineered contraptions that ultimately perform a very simple task. Ironically, they’re rarely (if ever) built by rubes. One step triggers the next in a chain reaction until the final task is complete. Once it starts, it’s practically impossible to peel yourself away from the anticipation of what’s coming next.
From Japan to the United States, Goldberg contraptions have flooded cultures around the world in commercials, contests, movies, and TV shows. We’ve put together a collection of some of the best Rube Goldberg machines, apparatuses, inventions, and devices that will blow your freakin’ mind — one domino at a time. If you like these, check out our picks for the coolest Lego machines or a collection of useful 3D print ideas.
Scandiweb — Christmas Tree Lightswitch
If you want to see every element in detail, you may need to slow this video down a bit. Even sped up, it lasts for more than four and a half minutes, which seems insane until you notice that the video was uploaded by Guinness as the World’s Largest Rube Goldberg Machine! Crafted by Latvian e-commerce company Scandiweb as a treat for the citizens of Riga (and, of course, for some sweet PR), the machine is unfathomably large, featuring dozens of unique twists and several sections where multiple paths diverge only to come together once more in ridiculous fashion. Other entries on our list may feature more unique themes or ideas, but none are quite as mind-bottlingly detailed.
HEYHEYHEY — Melvin the Magical Mixed Media Machine
Design studio HEYHEYHEY created Melvin the Machine for the 2010 Dutch Design Week at the MU art space. The contraption uses cameras and videos to record the audience’s reaction while in motion. These photos and videos are then uploaded to Melvin’s social media accounts. This Rube Goldberg machine also creates original works of art during the performance. Melvin’s Twitter has been silent for a few years now, though, the official website did specify that the Magical Mixed Media Machine would be taking an indefinite break from Twittering, Facebooking, and partying.
HEYHEYHEY — Melvin the Mini Machine
The same design studio behind Melvin the Magical Mixed Media Machine, HEYHEYHEY, also created the newer and much smaller Melvin the Mini Machine. After the success of the original Rube Goldberg machine, the studio was bombarded with requests to take their wonderfully inefficient show on the road. However, the massive unit was simply too big and expensive to rebuild routinely. HEYHEYHEY then decided to create a more travel-friendly version of their original Rube Goldberg machine. This unit is designed to fit within the confines of a pair of suitcases, which work in tandem as part of a larger, more portable performance.
2D House — Isaac Newton vs. Rube Goldberg
Though some of the machines on this list are painfully detailed and long-winded affairs, Toronto-based 2D House kept it short and sweet with this contraption. Gravity has met its match here, as the first half of the process is made to look like your average, run-of-the-mill Rube Goldberg machine (if there even is such a thing) — except it’s being filmed upside down. Once you see the odd flight path taken by the marbles at around the 15-second mark, your brain starts to realize how ridiculous this thing actually is. Instead of the burdensome complexity we’ve come to expect from these videos, Newton vs. Goldberg makes you want to go back and watch it again to try and figure out exactly what’s going on.
Fallout 4 — Red Rocket
Thanks to its in-game settlement building feature, Fallout 4 has a creative community of builders making inventive structures. YouTube user IAGO made liberal use of several downloadable mods to create a virtual Rube Goldberg machine within Fallout 4‘s Commonwealth wasteland. Built upon a Red Rocket gas station, this ridiculous machine involves flame jets, bowling balls, pressure pads, paint guns, a basketball hoop, and pain-in-the-ass NPC Preston “Another settlement needs your help” Garvey imprisoned in wooden stocks. Though many elements of the video aren’t available in the vanilla game — the extremely PG-13 armor set worn by the player character, for instance — we had fun watching the digital contraption play out. We’re not really sure what “L**K TODD$ FINGER” means, but who cares? It’s cool, and it has fireworks.
Honda — Cog
Six hundred and six takes later, this Honda commercial titled “Cog” first aired in the U.K. in 2003. Hoping to boost car sales, Honda got a team of engineers, car designers, and even a sculptor to design the machine — made up parts from two disassembled Honda Accord cars. The two minute commercial, which only aired on TV a handful of times, cost over $1 million and seven months to film. That said, it proved to be money well spent. The commercial’s popularity skyrocketed in the United Kingdom, hitting the highest web traffic records for the Honda U.K. domain in its history the day after the commercial aired. “Cog” has also nabbed the most awards of any commercial in history to date. No graphics or digital tricks were used in the making of the commercial, despite what YouTube commenters would have you believe.
OK Go — This Too Shall Pass
The Chicago band OK Go became an overnight sensation after the release of the music video for Here We Go Again, which featured a treadmill-based dance routine. Since then, the band has become famous for its elaborate videos. To break ground in the music industry for a second time in 2010, the band needed the help of an elaborate Goldberg contraption. The video, cleverly titled This Too Shall Pass raked over 50 million views on YouTube and took over four months to shoot. The enormous contraption flows over two stories of an LA warehouse, making the video’s single, unbroken camera shot quite impressive. The beat and lyrics of the song perfectly synch with each step of the contraption from a falling piano to swinging pledge hammers and everything in between. The team even got the help of NASA scientists for the video that induces some serious gasp-heavy moments.
MythBusters — Rube Goldberg Christmas
The idea of a creating a Goldberg contraption was so tempting for the famous MythBusters duo, they didn’t even need a myth to build it. Hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hynema do it big and this Christmas inspired machine is no exception. Fire, an oversized nutcracker, a Mentos explosion, and the remaining 31 working parts make for a must watch MythBusters moment. If you want more MythBusters/Goldberg, the boys came out with a series called “Unchained Reaction” in 2012, pitting two teams against each other to build Goldberg-like machines. But for now, enjoy the OG of MythBusters’ Goldberg creations.