"Loud noises... Sometimes you make being a ninja so easy."You've got to do something stealthily. The problem is, the thing you want to do is going to make a lot of noise, and you cannot silence it in any way. What to do? Drown it out with a bigger noise. You can create it yourself, or just wait until something loud happens nearby and make your move then. This follows the same logic as Needle in a Stack of Needles, Lost in a Crowd, and I Am Spartacus, except those are covering up objects and people, not actions. By definition, this also involves Starts Stealthily, Ends Loudly.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Lupin III used a fake construction crew to cover the sound of his other goons breaking into a vault.
- The same trick is used in the first episode of Gunslinger Girl to cover an assault on a terrorist safehouse.
- In Higurashi: When They Cry, the Yamainu use the cover of festival fireworks to conceal the noise of exploding their way into the Sonozaki bunker.
- In the anime of Golgo 13, a Mafia boss sends an army of mooks up to the roof when he sees the roof guards missing on the security camera. Meanwhile Duke is Fast-Roping down the side of the building; as the mooks empty their guns into the air conditioning room (the only cover on the roof) Duke is using the gunfire to cover his own shots as he guns down the Mafia boss.
- GITS: 2nd Gig. In a flashback showing how Saito met the Major, the Cold Sniper times his shot to coincide with the clock chime of a bell tower. In that case the idea is to confuse where the shot came from, rather than the fact that it was fired.
- Batman: In "The Malay Penguin", the Penguin rents the theatre next to a museum and hires a lot of tap dancers to stage a rehearsal so the sound and vibration will constantly trip the alarms in the museum.
- Looney's betrayal of Michael O'Sullivan in Road to Perdition is preceded by a big band starting up a rousing rendition of "The Saints Go Marching In."
- Tintin and The Picaros. Tintin turns up at Captain Haddock's hotel room and switches on the radio to high volume. It's playing one of Bianca Castafiore's operettas and as a Running Gag in the series is how much they both loathe her music, Haddock immediately asks Tintin if he's gone mad. Tintin then proceeds to point out the various hidden microphones in the room.
- The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne uses thunder to drown out his banging on the pipes with a rock, to break through them in order to escape.
- Happens in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indiana smashes a hole in the floor of a library in time with a librarian stamping books, glancing over at the librarian to make sure he times his blows right.
- Though Rule of Funny is another interpretation of that scene, as the sound of stamping books isn't that loud. Indy is checking to see if anyone is coming to see what's going on, while the librarian is staring at his stamp, wondering why it made such a loud noise.
- Used straight in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, when one of Lao Che's goons shoots Indy's accomplice when champagne bottles are being popped open.
- Referenced in Mission: Impossible II: "The generators will cover the sound of Hunt's break in."
- Nyah's theft of the necklace early in the movie involves a similar trick. To cover the sound of her high heels as she runs to the room where the necklace is kept, she only runs while dancers downstairs are dancing, making their own heels-on-floor noise.
- In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, assassins preparing to shoot the Austrian chancellor during a performance of Turandot time their shots for the climax of the aria "Nessun Dorma", at a point when the audience would erupt in applause and drown out any bullets.
- In one of the most famous heists of the Olsen-banden (Olsen's Gang) film series, Olsen and his gang performs a daring break-in of the Royal Opera during a performance of the danish classic, Elverhoj. They have to break through several sealed doors to get where they're going, and carefully time every action to coincide with appropriate musical cover. (Setting off dynamite charges during cymbal clashes, running concrete-drills during woodwind sections, etc.)
- In The Man Who Knew Too Much there is an attempted assassination during a concert, using a cymbal crash to cover the sound of the gunshot.
- In the movie A Shot in the Dark, an attempt at murder is made at a nightclub during a flamenco dance, with the gunshot being timed to coincide with the dancer's boot tap.
- In Entrapment a clock's chimes are used to mask the sounds of breaking in.
- In The Departed, one gangster is shown out in the street, tossing cherry-bombs, apparently for fun. We realize in the next scene that he was covering for the sounds of gunfire.
- In The Great Escape, they do this at least twice. Once, with singing "Twelve days before Christmas". When starting the tunnel and needing to break a thick piece of slate, some of the prisoners pound some stakes into the ground with mallets (for their vegetable gardens that are part of the distraction as well).
- Used straight in the film of Enemy at the Gates in Vasily Zaytzev's Establishing Character Moment where he dispatches five Germans with five shots purposefully timed to coincide with artillery explosions.
- In P2, when the police arrive to check out a 911 call at the eponymous parking garage, the kidnapper blasts Christmas music over the speakers to drown out the heroine's screams for help from the locked trunk of a car.
- The Godfather - when Michael goes to shoot Sollozzo and McCluskey in the restaurant, he waits for a stopping subway to be at its loudest before he shoots.
- The Godfather Part II - young Vito waits for Don Fanucci in his apartment hallway and shoots him as fireworks go off in the festival outside.
- Sleepers (1996). Gangbangers execute a man on the approach area of an airport, waiting till an airliner comes in to land before opening fire.
- Law Abiding Citizen. Clyde shows his cellmate how to use the remote to turn up the volume on the stereo he's been given, then bloodily stabs him to death with a steakbone under cover of loud rock music and the other prisoners shouting in outrage.
- Colombiana. A SWAT team is raiding the protagonist's apartment and makes an explosive entry; at the same time she uses an explosive charge to blow a hole through a wall to make her escape into the lift shaft.
- Three Days of the Condor. The chattering of 1970's era teletypes and printers cover the sound of the hit squad with their silenced submachine guns attacking a CIA research station.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
- Three men are sneaking up to Blondie's room as a Confederate army column marches by. Unfortunately the column comes to an abrupt halt just as a spur jingles, alerting Blondie.
- In the prisoner of war camp run by Angel Eyes, he has a band of captured Confederate soldiers play to cover the sound of his men torturing Tuco. Though all the prisoners know what's happening anyway.
- In a Dutch movie a member of La Résistance disassembles his bunk and uses the parts as improvised tools to break out of a Nazi cell block. Unfortunately the prisoner in the neigbouring cell starts asking about the noise he's making. So the resistance guy calls for a biblical quotation from a deeply religious prisoner, knowing the other prisoners will start shouting at him to shut up and he can proceed under cover of their argument.
- The protagonist of The American is secretly building a custom-made rifle in a small Italian town. At one stage he has to hit a metal disc with a ball hammer, so waits till the church bells start ringing.
- The Art of War (2000). A triad gangster turns up the stereo before torturing a female agent for information.
- All the President's Men. Woodward comes to Bernstein's apartment, insists on turning classical music, loud, and communicates with Bernstein by typing notes on his typewriter after being warned that their apartments are bugged. The piece we hear is Vivaldi's Concerto in C for Two Trumpets.
- Averted in The Russia House. Sean Connery's character is given some basic spycraft instruction, and is told that running showers or playing music loudly won't work against modern listening devices.
- The Bourne Identity. When Bourne is being tracked through tall grass by Clive Owen's Cold Sniper, Bourne lets off a shotgun, disturbing some very noisy birds, and runs for cover while the ensuing cacophony covers his footsteps.
- In Sinners and Saints (2010) the villains are playing a record loudly to cover up their torture session. However this also means they don't hear two detectives entering the house until they interrupt events.
- Final Exam: The Gammas fake a mass shooting so that some of them can cheat on a test.
- Road to Perdition. Michael Sullivan enters a hotel to confront a mob accountant, leaving his son in the car as a lookout. His son then sees Professional Killer Harlen Maguire crossing the road, and honks the car horn in warning. Sullivan doesn't hear it as the accountant's teletype machine is chattering — it's not clear if this is deliberate, though everything else the accountant does is clearly meant to delay Sullivan until Maguire arrives.
- An unusual example in The Breakfast Club, but this is a case of covering something up with a cacophony. Bender crashes through the ceiling; Vernon of course hears and comes into the library to investigate. Bender hides under Claire's place at the the table, but hits his head and lets out a cry of pain. Andrew rapidly taps loudly on the table as a distraction. Then Bender tries to stick his face between Claire's knees. Claire reacts as would be expected, and all four teens begin coughing to drown out Bender's further cries as she kicks at him.
- In Scarface (1983), the infamous chainsaw scene is preceded by the Toad's female associate turning up the volume on the hotel room's TV.
- Quantum of Solace. After chasing a man into a belltower, James Bond yanks on the bell rope so the noise of the church bell will cover him running up the stairs, preventing the man from plotting his exact position.
- Used for an Overt Rendezvous in The Ipcress File. Harry Palmer and Colonel Dalby meet with shady agents at a bandstand in a park to seal a deal regarding the proto-proton scattering device. The loud marching music played by the band indeed drowns out their talk.
- Frank Garcia's Marked Cards and Loaded Dice had a story attributed to John Philip Quinn, a 19th century crooked gambler. One day a man approached Quinn and asked to become a "bottom dealer" for him. As the man dealt out the cards Quinn listened for the distinctive sound of a poorly executed bottom deal. He then told the man that if he would give Quinn a signal when he was about to begin, Quinn would fire off a pistol and distract everyone else in the room from the horrible noise the man made.
- Donna Andrews uses this in Some Like it Hawk. The protagonists have scheduled a lot of very noisy events at the town festival so they can open a squeaky trapdoor without being noticed.
- Marie Brennan's Doppelgänger duology has Mirei, newly restored to her original body by the Fusion Dance of Miryo and Mirage, using the cover of applause to knock out a pair of guards and confront the Primes.
- In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, the main character bases his plan for a concert hall burglary around the musical composition to be played, so that the noisiest parts of the job take place during the noisiest part of the concert.
- Overlaps with We Need a Distraction in Death or Glory. To cover up the sound of most of their team cutting into an ork encampment with a laser torch, they make a huge ruckus at the main gate — with a rocket launcher.
- A variation occurs in The Belgariad when Belgarion has to scare off a demon with the Orb of Aldur. To stop enemies homing in the "sound" that it makes, the effect covers the entire sky above the mountain range the good guys are in making it impossible to zero in on.
- A gang of prisoners attempt to time their shooting and killing of Johnny Powers with the roar of a Concorde flying overhead in Public Enemy Number Two. They're only stopped with Nick Diamond's intervention.
- In Marathon Man, Babe is taking a bath in his apartment when the bad guys break in. He's listening anxiously as they quietly walk around, then gets really scared when they turn the radio on, loud, to cover up his screams for help.
- In one of the Sven Hassel novels, a senior SA officer has been arrested in the Night of the Long Knives purge. As he waits in his cell, he isn't alarmed because he thinks he's too important to harm — until he realises that the sound of a revving lorry and motorcycle are masking regular bursts of gunfire, like you'd hear from a firing squad.
- The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth. A safecracker breaks into an apartment while the owner is away in the country for New Year's Day, and waits till the stroke of midnight before setting off the charge that blows open his safe, covered by the fireworks and general outburst of revelry.
- A Song of Ice and Fire. Olenna Tyrell is trying to coax some treasonable details about King Joffrey from Sansa Stark. Given the ever-present threat of spies in the Deadly Decadent Court, she has The Jester Butterbumps sing loudly to prevent anyone overhearing.
- In By Royal Command, Bond shoots the lock to his cell, timing the shot with the hourly blast from a cannon outside.
- The Shadow: In Gangdom's Doom, gangsters set up a fake riveting crew on a skyscraper under construction to cover up the sound of machine guns being fired at street level.
- Alex Rider: In Snakehead, Alex uses a peal of thunder to cover up the explosion he uses to blow a float off a seaplane. Later, he uses another peal of thunder to mask the sound of him smashing the plane's window.
Live Action TV
- The pilot episode of the Mission: Impossible TV series uses fireworks to cover the sounds of the team's escape.
- This is used in Farscape when John is hiding in the walls from the bad guys who can hear his heartbeat and breathing. His shipmates start speaking loudly in various alien languages to give him time to escape.
- A minor Running Gag in The A-Team is that whenever Face and Hannibal were captured, their friends would naturally come to rescue them. When they realized their teammates were close by, they would cover up their noises by singing "You Are My Sunshine."
- Due South: In the episode "Mountie on the Bounty", Fraser and Ray are undercover aboard a freighter ship that has been dumping toxic waste in Lake Michigan. While Ray sneaks off to the hold to investigate, Fraser draws the attention of the ship's crew by singing "Barrett's Privateers". By the second chorus everyone else in joining in, making it easier for Ray to move around unencumbered.
- Whodunnit? (UK): In "A Bad Habit", the thief uses a chisel to break the sacred sceptre free from its brackets on the wall; timing his blows to coincide with the striking of the abbey clock.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "The Initiative" vampire Spike attacks Willow in her dorm room, turning up her CD player so the students outside can't hear her screaming.
- In "The First David Job", Hardison covers up Parker lifting the statue from a vibration sensor by triggering every car alarm in the parking lot. The guards see the sensor has been triggered, but hearing every alarm in the parking lot go off, they assume that it was an earth tremor and reset the sensor.
- In "The Scheherazade Job" they use the climax of the masterpiece "Scheherazade" to cover-up blowing up a hole in the ceiling of a vault and as an excuse to get the people to turn off the seismic sensors. Notably, they immediately wreck their own plan because they are too enraptured by the violin solo which follows to actually finish the heist (so the alarm ends up going off anyway).
- In Black Sails, the pirates of the Walrus start hammering on the deck of a slave ship whose crew has barricaded themselves into a lower compartment. The slave crew assumes that the pirates are futilely trying to burrow into the compartment, but in reality they're masking the sounds of the ship's slaves striking off their irons in preparation for a revolt.
- Get Smart
- Max is meeting his contact in a record store, so he plays a record up high in case they're being bugged. They end up shouting so loudly everyone in the store can hear what they're saying.
- In the tv movie Get Smart, Again! the useless Cone of Silence has finally been ditched and replaced with Hover Cover, which involves standing on a rooftop between three hovering helicopters. Naturally this also proves more trouble than it's worth, as the participants get blown off their feet.
- In an old skit on Sesame Street Bert & Ernie find themselves unable to get to sleep because of the sound of a dripping faucet. Ernie decides the best solution is just to drown out the sound by turning on the radio at full blast. When Bert complains that the radio is too loud, Ernie turns on the vacuum cleaner to drown that out. Bert is left to handle all of the sounds himself only to be kept awake by Ernie's snoring.
- There is an even older sketch where Bert gets annoyed by the sound of Ernie's TV show, so he decides to drown it out with a record. When Ernie complains that the record is too loud, he drowns it out with the radio. Bert one-ups even that by turning on a blender to drown out the radio, promptly blowing a fuse.
- Murder, She Wrote: In "Murder: According to Maggie", the killer uses the gunshots on screen during the screening of TV show to drown out the sound of their actual gunshots.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Murder by Magic", the killer uses the sound of gunshot being used in a magic trick to mask the sound of the gunshot they used to kill one of their victims.
- Boardwalk Empire. Al Capone is trying to schmooze some important Hollywood guests, only to be called to a back room to deal with a case of embezzlement. He orders his henchman to turn up the music on the radio, so they won't hear a gunshot.
- Porridge: When Harry Grout is forced into organizing the digging of an escape tunnel for another prisoner, the noise of the tunneling is covered up by a choir singing Christmas carols.
- Person of Interest
- An accidental version in "4C" when John Reese is fighting a hitman in the airplane cabin while the passengers are watching an action scene in North By Northwest. At one point a gunshot is fired at the exact same time it is in the movie.
- Lampshaded in "A Perfect Union" when Reese spots some villains just after Harold Finch has to sing at a wedding. "Finch better sing louder, 'cause we've got some serious ass to kick."
- Doctor Who. In "Thin Ice", the Doctor and his companion are tied up next to a bomb in a fairground. However despite Bill saying she'll scream her head off, the villains don't bother to gag her as no one hears her over the sounds of the fair.
- The Professionals. Before Doyle hauls a criminal into the storeroom of a pub for some Perp Sweating, he throws the manager a coin and tells him to play something loud on the jutebox. Subverted when the criminal turns out to be an undercover policeman, and the noise is actually meant to cover their friendly conversation (now and again they knock over a few cans to make it sound like Doyle is roughing him up).
- After Zeus was born and his father tricked into eating a rock thinking it was his son, the nymphs who raised him often made a racket to cover up Zeus's crying so his father wouldn't hear him and realize he was still alive.
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 requires you to synch an explosion with background thunder. If you don't, you have to fight your way through the horde of enemies who then arrive.
- At the beginning of the first Soviet level of World at War, you have to snipe idle German soldiers as Luftwaffe flights pass overhead, in reference to Enemy at the Gates.
- In Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, you can get away with making noise if the ambient sounds of the environment are loud enough.
- One of the first puzzles in Zork: Grand Inquisitor requires you to turn the propaganda-spewing speakers' volume to maximum, so that you can steal something from a shop without the owner hearing the alarm bell.
- One of the final puzzles in Still Life 2 requires you to turn on a large fan while you sneak up on the villain.
- One of the main story assassinations in Assassin's Creed II could be accomplished using Ezio's pistol, if you timed your shot with the fireworks going off in the area.
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Similar to the Assassin's Creed II example, a storyline mission sees you providing sniper fire support at night with a huge thunderstorm right overhead as the rest of your fireteam sneaks into an enemy camp. In order to avoid alerting the guards to your shots, you time them to coincide with the sounds of the storm.
- In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the sound of some pyrotechnics and a gun going off are masked by the concert going outside.
- You can use this to your advantage in Hitman. If someone's firing guns for another reason (like to celebrate a wedding), you can kill someone and use their gunfire to mask the sound of yours.
- In the Sniper Elite series, you're encouraged to make use of this to take out enemies without giving yourself away. Being that your missions mostly take place in active WW2 warzones, this means that in addition to using regular loud noises like thunder and planes flying overhead, you can fire while dropped bombs explode nearby or while flak erupts across the sky.
- In Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive gunshots can be masked by other loud noises such as a nearby roaring waterfall or thunder.
- The SCP Foundation has SCP-539 - The Perfect Distraction, which performs this trope to a T. Every test of 539 (shaped like a gray frisbee) happens as such: 539 is thrown, something weird happens, and everyone looks away from 539. Repeated testing has shown that the “something weird” part usually involves predatory animals appearing out of thin air.
- In a King of the Hill episode, Strickland and the other local propane shops start an illegal price-fixing racket and Hank is forced by the Feds to wear a wire during one of their meetings so that the team assigned to catch them could get proof. So how does Hank keep from getting Strickland shut down? He gets the freaking Orange County Choppers to rev their engines outside the store in order to cover up his explanation of the situation to Buck.
- Family Guy: In the final segment of "Three Kings", a parody of The Shawshank Redemption, Andy (Peter) is tries to bust open a sewer pipe with a rock to escape the prison, but he is within hearing range of Norton/Carter, who is watching an episode of Friends in his office.. To cover his noise, Andy times his banging of the rock to the clapping of the show's theme song.
- Car stereo thieves sometimes intentionally trigger a nearby car alarm to mask the sound of breaking glass.
- There's an Urban Legend about a college campus that had a tradition of students screaming for a few minutes during finals week to let their stress out before they went back to studying, and a student having been murdered during the Scream one year because her screaming was masked by everyone else's. Even without encouraging students to scream at a specific time, some campuses could be noisy enough to drown out a cry for help. That said, it's still a legend.
- It's said that as an actor, John Wilkes Booth was familiar with the play "Our American Cousin" enough that he timed his assassination of Abraham Lincoln with the point of the play the audience would be laughing the loudest.
- US fitness center chain Planet Fitness censors out the sound of those who drop weights or grunt while lifting weights with a "lunk alarm", a rotating blue light with an air raid siren.
- During the Tet Offensive the Vietcong used firecrackers to cover the sound of gunfire.
- In autocratic countries like East Germany or the USSR, where constant surveillance was a way of life, it was common for citizens to play loud albums to drown out whatever sensitive topic they might wish to discuss.