Q: Did Londo's men weaken the chains after all, or was G'Kar just really determined?Heroes showing off their power — literally or symbolically — by busting out of chains, ropes, or similar restraints. Sometimes it involves the "flex my pecs to bust these bindings" thing, or it can be "I'm so pissed off, it's like my handcuffs are made of lead." Whichever the case, Heroic Resolve or Unstoppable Rage is usually at work. If it turns out that the prisoner could have busted out any time, he's a Play-Along Prisoner. If he already has, and is only pretending to be still restrained, he's Slipped the Ropes. See also With My Hands Tied, Chained to a Rock, and Chained by Fashion. If a chair is involved, we might have a Bench Breaker.
A: That was one determined Narn.
A: That was one determined Narn.
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Anime and Manga
- Chapter/Episode 1 of Bleach, where Ichigo dramatically bursts out of a paralyzing spell, demonstrating his immense spiritual power. Rukia is astonished at him breaking her spell, since a normal human shouldn't even be capable of twitching when held by it, let alone standing up.
- Kamina does a rather casual one in the first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Lordgenome does one in the 15th, where he makes Lazengann break free of the Gurren Lagann's shades after the failed Giga Drill Breaker.
- Subverted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, where Fate cuts through her bonds with a new weapon only to have Jail entangle her with new energy threads. Then Double Subverted after her adopted children talk her out of the effects of Jail's Breaking Speech and she activates her Super Mode, destroying these threads with its Transformation Sequence and avoiding any new ones with the speed boost it gave her.
- In Ranma ½, in order to stop Ranma from trying out for the role of Romeo, Happosai covered him in chains, encased him in concrete, and buried him in the yard. Later, Ranma very casually jump-kicked Happosai and shrugged off his bindings.
- In a much more serious, straight application of the trope, Akane ripped through the pantyhose binding her arms and wrists with sheer brute force (no mean feat, since she was wrapped up in so much pantyhose it was several inches thick, and her wrists were tied behind her back in a similar fashion.)
- Akane is rather effective at this. When captured by Principal Kuno and suspended high above the ground in a Crucified Hero Shot (with brooms in lieu of a cross,) she easily snapped in half the broomstick binding her arms and used the rope to swing-kick the Principal.
- Another time, after turning into Sickeningly Sweethearts because of love mushrooms, Ranma and Akane get wrapped up in chains by Mousse, then easily break out.
Ranma: "Babe."Akane: "Hon'."
- GaoGaiGar rips apart a net EI-14 trapped him in. "You think you'll defeat GaoGaiGar with things like this?"
- No Unstoppable Rage or Heroic Resolve, but the androids in Dragon Ball Z do this with handcuffs to scare the cops.
- Played for laughs in Higurashi: When They Cry (Now there's a phrase you don't hear often). When Rena decides she's taking something home, there's truly no stopping her.
- Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin broke out of hypnosis-induced paralysis on one occasion, and his most awesome He's Back moment is predicated by him snapping the chains he's bound around his sword (It's a long story).
- Heck, even Sanosuke and Kaoru managed the "breaking out of hypnosis-induced paralysis" part. Triple in the case of Kaoru since she was also in an And I Must Scream situation and Forced to Watch as Kenshin was reverting to his former Battousai self.
- Sanosuke also exploded the front of his prison cell when he got annoyed at someone. Yes, exploded it. With his fist.
- In the Black★Rock Shooter OVA, Black Rock Shooter is bound in chains by Dead Master, but breaks out of them so she can hug Dead Master into submission.
- During the Water Seven arc of One Piece, Paulie and Luffy are pinned to the floor by Paulie's co-workers who are actually top secret government agents instructed to find the blueprints for an astronomically powerful ancient super weapon. Enraged by his co-workers' betrayal, Paulie strikes a pact with Luffy to team up and kick their asses. Cue epic chain breaking induced by way of raw, herculean strength.
- Gunslinger Girl: Cyborg girl Triela breaks the handcuffs of Mario Bossi after she rescues him from being "taken for a ride" by his former Mafia acquaintances.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: JACK ATLAS did this twice in the series, with minimal effort. There is a reason why fans consider him the Yu-Gi-Oh version of Chuck Norris.
- Naruto has Kisame tearing apart the thick wooden stock he was held in after freeing himself from a Mind Probe by biting his own tongue.
- One of Pain's bodies holds Naruto captive and announces that the Kyuubi has been captured, only for Naruto to start chatting with his enemy in order to buy enough time to convert his captor into a stone monument, and then break that stone statue to free himself.
- In an early episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Heero brute-forces one hand out of some hospital restraints—in spite of the fact that it turns his wrist into a bloody mess.
- When the main group of Hatenkou Yuugi get arrested, Alzeid breaks his cuffs as if they were made of paper.
- In the second season of Bakemonogatari, when Araragi wakes up and realizes he has been chained up by his girlfriend Senjougahara, he is disturbed but overall rather calm about the whole thing. Until Senjougahara mentions that his little sisters might be in danger... and we're suddenly reminded that he does indeed still have vampiric strength when he snaps the chains like rubber bands.
- In episode 5 of "Maid-Sama!" after being kidnapped and hands cuffed behind her back by stalkers who are obsessed with her. 16 year old Badass Normal Misaki breaks her handcuffs after they imply she's weak and submissive and then proceed to kick their asses.
- Done by Chris of all people in Sonic X who somehow manages to free himself of his restraints in the first series finale. It was probably fueled by The Power of Friendship.
- Towards the end of Soul Eater, Death the Kid is put on trial by the Witches, and is handcuffed. He breaks the restraints not to attack them - as he had previously threatened - but to beg for their assistance in the fight against Asura. It works.
- Kan'u Unchou does this in Ikki Tousen: Dragon Destiny.
- James once did this in an episode of Pokémon.
- Gluttony in Fullmetal Alchemist breaks free from restraint when realizing Mustang is present to seek vengeance for Lust's death.
- In Saint Seiya, in the Poseidon arc, after having all of his techniques worked around, his armor crushed and ending up bound in Shun's chains to spare him, Determinator Scylla Io pulls a truly epic one on Shun, doubling with a I Am Not Left-Handed and a Let's Get Dangerous! moment, before unleashing his stronger technique that does NOT depend on his armor.
- Superman #233 cover was the beginning of the Kryptonite Nevermore arc which launched The Bronze Age of Comic Books in Superman.
- And it was a Shout-Out to his most iconic Golden Age image.
- In issue #238, Superman is encased in a shroud of stone, and he manages to break out.
- Superman: Brainiac: Brainiac traps Superman inside a metallic cocoon. Superman cannot break it until Brainiac insults Earth one time too many. Furious, Superman shatters his metallic prison.
- In The Supergirl From Krypton Batman shackles Kara to a stretcher as he examines her. The young Kryptonian shatters the metal cuffs as soon as she wakes up.
- In Supergirl Volume 5 # 2, Cassie Sandsmark alias Wonder Girl binds Supergirl with her magic, unbreakable lasso. Supergirl shrugs it off.
- In Supergirl Volume 6 #17, Wonder Woman binds Supergirl◊. After a few moments, though, Kara uses a burst of sunlight◊ to free herself.
- Kara does this in the cover◊ of Supergirl vol 6 #37 which harkens back to Superman #233 Kryptonite Nevermore.
- Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade: Mr. Mxyzptlk materializes Kryptonite chains around Supergirl during the final battle. She breaks them easily.
- Frank Castle does this in "The Long, Cold Dark" arc of The Punisher MAX, having been incapacitated by his nemesis Barracuda, who in addition to fulfilling this trope, also exhibits Bond Villain Stupidity. Barracuda intends to kill the Punisher's daughter-he-didn't-know-he-had right in front of him, thus giving the Punisher the Unstoppable Rage he needed to burst out of the cuffs.
The Punisher: You have got to be fucking kidding me.
- Barracuda does this himself later in the arc, finally losing it after being shot, beaten, having his crocodile clips wired from a car battery to his testicles for about an hour, tied up in chains and thrown into the boot of Frank's car. Frank's response?
- Spider-Man has also done this on occasion. Because of his goofy, family-friendly demeanor, villains often underestimate his true strength. In one story, both Spidey and Nick Fury are tied up in chairs, Spidey in chains and Fury in ropes. Spidey breaks the chains when the villains are briefly distracted, then Fury, unable to break his ropes, instead breaks the chair he's tied to.
- In Asterix and the Goths, after the Gothic chief Metric is deposed by Rhetoric with the aid of the Gauls' magic potion, he is visited in the dungeon by Getafix, who offers him a dose of the magic potion so he can take revenge on Rhetoric. After Metric takes a drink, he bursts out of his chains, and Asterix quips, "He's got a free hand now!" (The original French edition relied on the double meaning of "déchaîné"; the English pun arguably doesn't warrant Obelix laughing over it for the rest of the book once he gets it.)
- And in Asterix and the Banquet, Asterix and Obelix want to be captured by the Romans, but keep breaking their chains without thinking (at one point Asterix breaks through his chains to help the Romans tie up Obelix, because it's all taking too long). The Romans eventually decide to put them in the cart without chaining them up.
- In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Soapy Slick chains Scrooge to the chimneys of a steamboat, and taunting him with Scrooge's family letters, revealing that his mother had died, pushes him into Roaring Rampage of Revenge mode. Scrooge doesn't just break the chains◊, he breaks the ship. After bringing down the entire steamboat around himself, Scrooge then proceeds to cause so much destruction the townspeople think a tidal wave hit them. Note that the town is twelve hundred miles upriver from the ocean.
- Note that the entire sequence is not as shown as alluded. The destruction of the ship shown only outside the ship (in sepia colors, no less) without actually showing Scrooge doing anything. Meanwhile the narrator gives increasingly ridiculous alternate explanations to events as they are shown as opposed to the extreme unlikelihood of Scrooge suddenly going Super Saiyan in a relatively realistic setting. In the end the narration comes to the conclusion that there is no knowing what really happened that day except that it was epic enough to spread through the North within months and turn Scrooge into a stuff of legends.
- Inverted in many cases when Huey, Dewey and Louie are captured: They keep their lungs full of air in a false act of bravado while they're being bound, and then breathe out to loosen the ropes.
- In Batman: Year One, Bruce Wayne is arrested after his first unsuccessful attempt at crimefighting and has to break a pair of handcuffs after being shot in the shoulder. Once he develops the Batman identity, he makes sure there are plenty of lockpicks in the suit.
- Ultimate Spider-Man has a similar sequence after Spidey is shot and arrested.
- Sin City: Marv is tied to a chair while interrogated by the prostitutes. Once they agree he's innocent of killing their leader, he stands up, revealing he could have broken free at any moment. The girls are shocked: if anyone knows her knots, it's a dominatrix.
- Vampirella: In "Deaths Dark Angel". In a state of bloodlust craze, Vampirella is even stronger than already.
- Subdued example in All-New Wolverine:
- Laura allows herself to be cuffed by Mooney in issue 2 when she arrives at Alchemax Genetics' headquarters while investigating the Paris attack. Emphasis on allows. Once everyone is satisfied she's exactly who she says she is, she makes it very clear one snikt later that she was always in control.
- Issue 14: After being arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. for massacring a town under the effects of the trigger scent, Laura is forced to escape when Fury refuses to pursue the culprits when they flee towards Madripoor. Laura puts her flexibility on display by working her cuffed hands out from behind her back so she can slice through her restraints with her foot claws.
- Paul does this in the New Zork chapter of With Strings Attached, when a cop puts “neut cuffs” on him that supposedly neutralize his strength. Only they don't.
“Youse broke the neut cuffs?!” the cop shouted, his voice jumping an octave on the last two words. “Youse broke the neut cuffs!”
- Similarly, it happens with the drain wrap that the Hermit's Rock ambushers put on Paul in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. He's supposed to be brought down to normal in it, so the guy watching over Paul has a nasty shock when Paul immediately breaks out of the stuff. Later, Paul adds immunity to such things to his ever-growing list of powers; he'd all but forgotten about the incident with the neut cuffs in Strings, though he certainly remembered it now.
- Pete Malloy does this in the ''Adam-12'" fic "Into The Forest". One of the guys holding him and his girlfriend prisoner tries to rape his girlfriend. Despite being injured and exhausted, Pete breaks the leather strap he's tied to a tree with and charges the guy, ready to kill if he has to. They don't escape, but the villains learn how they shouldn't tick him off.
- Iowa does this in front of President Harry Truman in a 4-koma◊ for Pacific: World War II U.S. Navy Shipgirls.
- The Bridge:
- Godzilla Junior and Xenilla both humor their guards when they get arrested at different points in the story, then casually break their shackles.
- King Sombra shackles Princess Cadance with crystal constructs and boasts that even with her Alicorn strength, she won't be able to break free in time before he kills her. Xenilla arrives in time to tackle him away before he can stab her, then while the two are fighting, Cadance manages to break them.
- Harmony wraps Bagan with a chain that becomes stronger the more evil the prisoner is. Bagan is able to break it, possibly because he considers himself Above Good and Evil.
- After being put in The Chair in Dancing With Demons, Sunny/Naruto decides he's bored with it and calmly breaks out using his demonic chakra.
- In one Naruto story, when Gai decided his interrogation (part of the tests to join the ANBU) was over, he simply stood up from his chair and declared as such. It's noted that those chairs are supposed to be near impossible to break, but most people can't activate four celestial gates at once with a thought.
Films — Animated
- Quasimodo gets one at the end of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The Ominous Latin Chanting in the background sings of breaking free of death.
- In How to Train Your Dragon Stoic The Vast wrenches apart the harness that Toothless was trapped inside while underwater.
- Fiona in Shrek 4-D eventually manages to break the rope that were bonding her to a raft.
- In a Dream Sequence in The Return of Hanuman, Maruti is tied by chains looking at food while his mother doesn't allow him to eat. Being so hungry, Maruti breaks the chains.
Films — Live-Action
- King Kong, folks.
- Morpheus in The Matrix breaks through his handcuffs when Neo arrives to rescue him, despite Agent Smith's best efforts to break him.
- Forrest Gump: Three words: "Run, Forrest, run!"
- The Boondock Saints features a variant on this trope: When Connor is handcuffed to the toilet by a Russian mobster bent on putting a bullet in his brother, he rips the toilet right out of the floor, carries it up to the fire escape, and then drops it right on the head of the mobster, killing him instantly.
- True Lies:
Harry Tasker: First I'm gonna use you as a human shield, then I gonna kill this guard over there, with the Patterson trocar on the table. Then I was thinking about breaking your neck.
Samir: And how are you going to do all that?
Harry: You know my handcuffs?
Harry: [hold his hands up] I picked them.
- This scene is more hilarious when you realize Harry has been pumped full of Truth Serum. And that despite having just told everyone in the room what he was going to do, he still succeeds in doing exactly that.
- The Charlie's Angels movie has a variation: Drew Barrymore is tied to a chair. First she releases her feet, and then she breaks the chair on the mooks - but her hands keep on tied the whole scene.
- Marv in Sin City does this. Angry prostitutes think he killed Goldie, so they tied him up and are interrogating him. He calmly explains that he's trying to find Goldie's killer. Once they understand, he calmly busts out of the ropes, much to the chagrin of the bondage expert.
- The reason he LET THEM slap him around rather than escape a while ago? They wouldn't just let him leave, and he Wouldn't Hit a Girl.
- Chun Li does it in the live-action movie adaptation of Street Fighter, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in Total Recall (1990) breaks through metal shackles... twice.
- Steve Reeves in Hercules (1958): Not only did he burst out of the chains, he then used them as bullwhips to kick serious ass.
- Innocent Blood. When Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Marie decides to have sex with cop Joe Gennaro, she allows him to cuff her hands behind her back so she can't harm him. During sex she vamps out and breaks the cuffs, but just continues having sex without killing him.
- Sloth does this in The Goonies to retrieve a candybar that was thrown to him but fell out of reach. Chunk reacts with awe: "Jeeze, mister. You're even hungrier than I am!"
- Parodied/subverted in Pineapple Express. After the heroes tie Red to a wheelchair with duct tape (and doing a very sloppy job of it), he tries to do this and fails.
- In Kull the Conqueror, the bad guys taunt Kull and claim that his bonds are unbreakable, so he simply pulls so hard that the railing that he is tied to breaks.
- Bane does this in the opening of The Dark Knight Rises. For extra impact, he stands up just as he does it, revealing to both his captors and his audience that he is huge.
CIA Agent: Well, you got yourself caught! What's the next step in your "master plan"?Bane: Crashing this plane (*snaps cable ties*) WITH NO SURVIVORS!
- In a moment of Heroic Resolve in UHF:
Stanley Spadowski: MY MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!
- Federico Fellini's strongman protagonist in La Strada does this for his grand finale.
- Played for Drama in The Muppet Movie with Miss Piggy snapping her bonds to save her frog.
- John Carter does this the first time the Tharks put him in chains (justfied, as his Earthling bone structure and musculature give him superhuman strength on Mars). So, the next time, they use bigger, stronger chains that he can't simply break. What does he do? He breaks the rock that the chain is attached to.
- Man of Steel:
- When Superman is in military custody, he breaks the handcuffs he was in, effortlessly, to show that they couldn't control him.
- He also does this in Zod's mothership when he's being held prisoner.
- Interesting example in Spider-Man 2. Doc Ock has just delivered a bound Spidey to Harry who grabs a dagger to kill him, but he unmasks him first. He stumbles back with shock seeing Spidey is his best fried, Peter Parker, who snaps his bonds effortlessly and tries to explain to Harry what had happened with his dad. He fails, but he was in a bit of a rush to save the world from Doc Ock, so...
- John Wick. Ms. Perkins does the dislocating her thumb trick to slip out of her handcuffs. Likewise Miguel Bain (also a Professional Killer) in Assassins, to escape from police custody.
- In Spectre, James Bond at one point gets captured by some mooks who zip tie his hands together and put a black bag over his head. As soon as the van stops and they attempt to march him out, he kicks their asses, then breaks the zip tie with no effort before removing the bag.
- When Carl Lyons is handcuffed by Vietnamese intelligence agents in the first Able Team spin-off novel of The Executioner series, he knows from his prior experience as an LAPD cop that crazies can break handcuffs and decides to find out if he's crazy enough. He is. Later Carl discovers the cuffs were "Made in Vietnam" and dismisses them as "cheap imitations".
- In The Silmarillion, Finrod Felagund breaks his bonds, then kills a werewolf bare-handed (though he does die as well.)
- In American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand, Big Pete Bondurant does this whenever he is arrested. It's treated as a parlor trick to impress whatever cops arrested him rather than a feat of determination and strength. Of course, the fact that Bondurant is able to do this so casually only makes this more impressive.
- From one of Keith Laumer's Retief stories:
"You have the gall," Qorn stormed, "to stand here in the center of Qornt Hall—uninvited, at that—and in chains—"
"Oh, these," Retief said. He tensed his arms; the soft aluminum links stretched, broke. He shook the light metal free. "We diplomats like to go along with colorful local customs...."
- In Harrison Bergeron when Harrison tears off his handicaps, straps "guaranteed to support 5000 pounds"
- In Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny, Wakim is Strapped to an Operating Table with his powers deactivated. He manages to break one hand free—which is enough to freak out the villains—before help arrives.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Arno Blunt apparently "ripped those handcuffs apart as though they were links in a paper chain."
- Subverted in Thud!, when the Watch get captured by dwarfs, Detritus the troll makes a point of not breaking his chains, even though Vimes notices they're so crappy, a human could break them.
- In Unseen Academicals, Mr Nutt chains himself up after learning he's an orc. When various "ordinary people" appear not to care about this, he is touched that they do not see him as a monster and stands up, casually smashing the chains in the process. Everyone flees.
- In Codex Alera, Kitai shatters a chair she is tied to.
- In the first Warrior Cats book, Longtail doesn't want Rusty to join the Clan because he was owned by humans, and the two fight. There's a moment during the battle where Longtail grabs the back of Rusty's collar and begins using it to strangle him. Rusty struggles forward until his collar snaps, and the Clan leader stops the fight, saying that it's a sign that Rusty is meant to join the Clan.
- Mindstar Rising by Peter F. Hamilton. The hero Greg Mandell and a fellow prisoner free themselves by using their neural implants to cut off their pain receptors, then stomping on a wrist to shatter the bones so they can slip free. Even without pain, it's as squicky to them as it sounds.
- In Fool Moon, Harry Dresden is bound by wrapping his ankles and wrists in duct tape. He lampshades the idea that duct tape is an unbreakable restraint, pointing out that while it's fine if the prisoner is supervised, if you leave him alone for a few minutes it's not all that difficult to weaken it and break free.
- Babylon 5 G'Kar breaks out of his bonds when paraded before Emperor Cartagia. The conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor had arranged for him to be given weak chains, so that he can break them and create a distraction at the right time. Then the chains are replaced with strong ones, and he breaks them anyway. Cartagia actually mentioned that the chains were "unbreakable". Not that that's going to stop G'kar, mind you.
- In the Heroes episode "Run!", Jessica is implied to break free from handcuffs purely by her own strength.
- Peter breaks out of his bonds using Super Strength in "A Clear And Present Danger"
- Captain Jack Harkness does this after he's been captured by the Master in the Doctor Who episode Last of the Time Lords.
- Rather funny in that, in spite of his heroic efforts, he is immediately shot dead. Considering that it's been a year since the viewer last saw him, and that there's no particular reason for his suddenly bursting his bonds, one can imagine it's happened to him a few times already.
- Not a hero, but this is the first thing the Dalek in Dalek does after tricking Rose into touching it.
- During the big showdown between Faith and Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy handcuffs them together. Faith then breaks the cuffs. Interestingly, a few episodes earlier when they were both arrested, they knocked out a cop and stole his keys to unlock their handcuffs, instead of breaking them.
- Battlestar Galactica. Leoben breaks his cuffs and gets the drop on Kara Thrace simply to show he can during his interrogation. Cylon prisoners after this episode are always excessively chained and restraint-collared.
- The X-Files ("Revelations"). A religious fanatic escapes from Scully and Mulder by diving out a window, then breaking his handcuffs after he hits the ground.
- C.O.P.S. "I can break these cuffs!" "You can't break those cuffs." He doesn't.
- Burn Notice:
- An episode has Michael doing this with handcuffs. They had been specifically rigged to allow this, though.
- Another episode has Simon breaking through his handcuffs after hinting that he'd been working at them long enough to cause metal fatigue. Mike advises his captor to change his cuffs more often.
- Eliot does this in the second season finale of Leverage. However, considering that he's the show's Lightning Bruiser and the cuffs were of the plasti-cuff variety, rather than metal cuffs, it's not surprising. Word of God says that their research showed that with plastic ties, this is possible given the right training and skills.
- Happens often in Smallville.
- "Supergirl" had Lois Lane put Gordon Godfrey in shackles, but he casually breaks them, and explains that he's being possessed by Darkseid and thus has his strength.
- "Isis" had the titular goddess tie Clark Kent up with magical ropes he was unable to break. He escapes by breaking the table he was tied to and untangling himself.
- "Abandoned" had Clark chained to a chair next to a furnace with kryptonite flames and savagely tortured by Granny Goodness and the Female Furies. He uses his Super Breath to freeze a chain and make a lead sheet fall on and smother the furnace. Once the kryptonite flame is out, he instantly regains his strength and breaks free.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: In the final battle against Globbor, after the spell darkening the sky is broken Ninjor breaks free of his chains (as well as the Synchronization link to Globbor) and grows to giant size to aid the Megazords. Earlier in Season 1's "Wheel of Misfortune", Tommy was tied to a tree by Putties, but after a few minutes of straining he managed to bust the ropes.
- On Kamen Rider Fourze, Gentaro and his friends are tied up in one episode. Heroically summoning the "power of youth," Gentaro rips the ropes apart... only for a subversion as it turns out one of the miniature robot buddies did it. One of the other characters even hangs a lampshade on the gag by claiming the actual explanation "makes more sense."
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be", Dean snaps the ropes suspending him when he sees Sam in trouble. To be fair, though, the ropes were already damaged.
Religion and Mythology
- In a Greek legend told by Aristoxenos (4th century BCE), Pythias was convicted of conspiring against the tyrant. Damon volunteered to take Pythias's place so that Pythias could make arrangements for his family before his execution. Pythias made the arrangements and hurried back so that Damon would not be executed. Bandits captured him and left him tied to a tree. Pythias frees himself by Breaking the Bonds and arrives just in time to prevent Damon 's execution. (The tyrant was so impressed by the Power of Friendship that he pardoned Pythias.)
- The ending of the story of Samson in The Bible (making this at least Older Than Feudalism).
- An unfortunate person from Gadara (you heard that one), was described as doing that on regular basis. To be fair, it's not specified, whether this strength is result of Demonic Possession, or the man simply was strong enough to begin with:
...a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.
- Norse Mythology:
- Fenrir did this with every chain the Aesir used on him, except for the ribbon Gleipnir. It looked like any other ribbon, but was made from impossible things—the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the saliva of a bird. Therefore, it was unbreakable.
- Gesta Danorum: During his imprisonment for rebellion Ubbe, son of Ragnar Lodbrok, tears his chains "by immense violence"; only to be shackled with stronger chains which he is not able to break.
- In one myth about Hercules, Hercules traveled to Egypt, where the Pharaoh captured him and was going to sacrifice him to the Egyptian gods. However, Hercules broke the chains binding him to the altar, scared the Pharaoh into hiding, and escaped.
- GURPS always lists the ST needed to break bonds. The Ultra-Tech book also has a clever device for stopping people from trying this: razor-wire (or monofilament) hidden inside resilient tape, when a person busts free it cuts his hands off.
- The Witcher: Game of Imagination inverts it to the point of a deconstruction. The spell Fire net binds its target and that's about all it does. Any attempt of movement will deal d3 damage. Breaking free? That's 2d6 damage - almost half of the maximum possible Vitality the average character will have.
- Mutants & Masterminds also has rules for characters of a sufficient strength breaking through their bonds automatically. At higher values of strength (or weak bonds), it can even happen as a free action, effortlessly.
- Hero System defines handcuffs and other restraints with the Entangle power, which has "use my Strength to break free" built into it.
- Legend System has both Athletics and Larceny checks for breaking and slipping out of restraints respectively. The examples given for breaking restraints range from "hastily-tied ropes" through "runed adamantine manacles" to "the crushing gravity of a prison world".
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, near the end, when Solid Snake breaks out of his handcuffs to chase after Metal Gear Ray - specifically stated by Hideo to symbolize him 'breaking free of his genetic heritage'. In story, it's justified that a one-in-a-million bullet hit them.
- Mega Man X's titular character, after Zero's Heroic Sacrifice to destroy Vile's Guard Armor, burst free of the paralyzing electro-chain in a heroic resurgence.
- Ryu bites clean through his bonds in Breath of Fire III. Probably justified, since he is a dragon...
- In Quest for Glory II, a fighter character will eventually be invited to join the Eternal Order of Fighters after an initiation test that involves being completely unarmed and chained to a wall and told to break free in ten seconds. It is entirely possible to fail if the character's strength stat is too low, which will result in the character being bitch-slapped with a big-ass sword and thrown out.
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Regal has since stopped wearing the Handy Cuffs he wore in the first game, but ends up in some again for unrelated reasons. After being properly proven innocent, the guards can't find the key, so he notes that the makers of these cuffs aren't known for being sturdy, breaks them, and recommends they buy some from his company next time.
- In Fate/stay night, Berserker, aka Hercules, have broke anti-divine chains (which supposed to bond him entirely, and the more godly you are the more impossible it is to escape) with his iron will. Manly man indeed.
- In Geneforge 4, the player character is sent into Shaper Monarch's dungeons to rescue Khryk, a senior Shaper. The rescue is entirely unneeded, since Khryk could have broken himself free at any time, but chose to remain in captivity to learn Monarch's weaknesses and pass them on to you.
- In Baldur's Gate II Minsc gets to perform this task "The bars! They bend and twist with my berserker strength! Minsc and Boo are FREE!"
- In a flashback in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Ganondorf does this. Set for execution at the hands (or sword rather), of the sages, he breaks free from his chains (AFTER he is already stabbed in the stomach) and in one swift move kills one of the sages. Of course, he had the Triforce of Power on his side, so he did have some help.
- The opening cutscene of Jak II: Renegade shows Jak Strapped to an Operating Table. He displays his new-found dark eco powers by snapping the metal restraints around his wrists and ankles like daisy chains.
- Even Noodle People like Mickey Mouse can muster the strength for this, as shown in Epic Mickey
- You do this at the start of the Syndicate remake.
- Done symbolicly when the player enters the Shrine of Farewell in Hellsinker.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, prosecutor and Boxed Crook Simon Blackquill smashes his handcuffs against his bench when sufficiently agitated. This justifiably freaks out everyone in the room, as he gets angrier and more aggressive when his chains are broken (shouting "Silence!" instead of "Objection!", using his hands as samurai swords to strike Phoenix, etc.).
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has a Witch who breaks her chains after Neo frees her from a dungeon.
- We don't see how Tip escapes from his bonds in the Skin Horse storyline "Dead Dogs"; all he says is "Please, like I've never been chained to a bed before."
- Parodied in Schlock Mercenary. Food Service Commando Jud Shafter wrote in his memoirs that he broke free of his bonds after he realized they were only toilet paper. What he didn't mention was that it took him 15 minutes.
- In The Specialists, when Question Mark offers to take them off as a gesture of good will, Hartmann demonstrates that he was the Play-Along Prisoner.
- The main character of Average Joe does this after realising he let himself get tied up and dakked for no good reason.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace breaks free of her shackles when she goes into her Unstoppable Rage toward Damien.
- In The Search For Henry Jekyll, Jekyll is occasionally able to regain control if something sufficiently agitates him or Hyde, which is represented as him tearing himself free of the strings wrapped around him.
- Jimmy Neutron's mom bursts free of ropes to save her son and husband from a robot copy of herself.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, in the episode "Bubblevicious", Mojo Jojo zaps Bubbles with a laser, and she breaks free and promptly beats the living crap out of Mojo.
- Thundarr the Barbarian Opening Narration: "But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice!" He was apparently forced into gladiatorial sports until he broke free of his chains and devoted his life to battling sorcerers.
- Parodied in an early episode of The Tick. The Tick initially had the power to swell his muscles to twice their size by flexing (this was quickly forgotten). In the first encounter against Chairface Chip'nDale, the Tick attempted to use this to break free of his ropes, but had to stop because he would have killed Arthur and American Maid in the process. Instead he saved the day with his "Good Dental Hygiene".
- On The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Penelope has been known to do this on a couple of occasions.
- In the Pinky and the Brain episode "Welcome to the Jungle", the mice are tied up by Brain's archnemesis Snowball, who intends to burn them at the stake. Brain tells Pinky, who has been displaying a surprising prowess at surviving in the wilderness, to rip his way free of the ropes, but Pinky is too weak to do it. But when Snowball kicks Pinky off the platform and into quicksand, Brain suddenly goes into an Unstoppable Rage and rips the ropes off himself.
- In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, one episode had Mega Man get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the evil scheme of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans, Mega Man let himself be handcuffed. Soon after his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs like they were nothing.
- When he's captured by Wily, on the other hand, he's only able to loosen an arm. (Presumably, Wily has the foresight to use special manacles.)
- During an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, the threat of Evil Clones popped up after Jackie's clone was found, so the rest of the J-team willingly strapped themselves to chairs for an interrogation. When an actual evil clone appears and Jackie is the only one free, Tohru and El Torro both burst out of their bindings, Viper slips out of her rope, and Captain Black... well, the poor guy tries to get out.
- In the Superfriends episode "Fairy Tales of Doom", Superman gets trapped in the story Gulliver's Travels, and the Lilliputians tie him up Gulliver-style with kryptonite ropes while he was asleep. Superman manages to fight past the weakness and break the ropes.
- In The Smurfs episode "The Purple Smurfs" (the Animated Adaptation of the comic book story "The Black Smurfs"), Lazy as a purple Smurf is shown to be strong enough to break the ropes that are binding him. Hefty as a Purple Smurf also breaks the ropes in the same fashion.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Old Master of Earthbending, King Bumi of Omashu, pulls this off during what's generally considered his most impressive act. However, he was not handcuffed, or even tied up — he was restrained in a solid metal box with only his face showing. He escaped from this box, with his face, and went on to chase an entire occupying army out of his city.
- Most handcuffs are rated to resist 495 lbs (about 2200 newtons) of force for 30 seconds. This is one of the reasons they are considered "temporary" restraining devices. It would be possible to make more durable handcuffs, but it would also be too expensive to be practical.