When various characters are trapped or held captive (say, during a jail scene) the harmonica may be played, as Background Music
if not by an actual character. It's also done in isolation, such as being stranded or lost in the wilderness. Or just camping or boredom, which borderline qualifies as the previous. Sometimes associated with Wild West
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- A drunk driving PSA features a man sitting on a small bed in a dark, empty room, throwing a ball against the wall as a harmonica soundtrack plays in the background and a narrator talks about the consequences for drunk driving including "doing time". This is revealed to be a parody of the trope's normal use when we hear his mother yell at him to stop bouncing the ball: Turns out he's not in jail, he just had to move back in with his parents because a large fine (probably combined with no longer being able to drive to work) caused him to no longer be able to afford rent.
Anime & Manga
- When Kyon went to talk with an inmate in Kyon Big Damn Hero, the inmate in the cell next to his is shown playing the harmonica. They use the music from it to prevent anybody from hearing Kyon's conversation.
- Socrates does this while jailed in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series.
- In Shadowchasers Ascension Tiberius - a major villain from the previous fic of the franchise - is in the maximum security wing of prison and starts to get annoyed by a prisoner in the next cell, playing a harmonica. (The conversation is a Villainous BSOD for him, as he realizes no-one is frightened of him anymore):
Tiberius: Will you stop playing that thing?
Inmate: Do you mind? I'll play this "thing" as much as I please.
Tiberius: If I could get over there, Iíd strangle you.
Inmate: Yeah? Well, you canít, so shut up.
Film — Animated
Film — Live Action
- In the novel Forrest Gump, Forest learns to play harmonica from his buddy Bubba in Vietnam. Forest plays it for Bubba as he lays dying. Not used in the movie.
Live Action TV
- In a series of strips of Kudzu, Maurice gets thrown in jail for singing the blues without a license. While in a cell, he starts to play a harmonica and is told "no blues." There's a list of acceptable songs on the wall, which include showtunes and Peter Paul And Mary.
- In Americas Army if you shoot an instructor during the training missions the mission will end, the screen will fade to black and then reveal you to be in a jail cell with harmonica music playing in the background.
- Kaori uses a flute to the same effect in Eien no Aselia.
- In the game over screen of Donkey Kong Country 2, a harmonica plays over a shot of Diddy and Dixie in a jail cell.
- Some of the background music of Red Dead Redemption includes harmonicas.
- There is a hobo playing a harmonica at the run-down hobo camp in L.A. Noire.
- Other instrument variation: In Girl Genius, a man in the cells under Sturmhalten is playing what appears to be a Captivity Mandolin, seen here.
- During a The Simpsons episode the kids are sent to school by a prison bus rather than the usual school bus, and look as if they were sent to an actual prison. One of the kids plays the harmonica.
- Lampshaded in another episode, see the quote above.
- When Bart gets sent to juvenile hall in "The Wandering Juvie", a harmonica is amongst the personal effects the warden confiscates. He plays a few bars of the traditional incarceration tune before putting it away.
- The main character of Pizza Boy in: No Tip, a What A Cartoon! Show short, does this after being sent to jail for assaulting a couple who refused to give him a tip after he made a long and dangerous delivery.
- Occurs in Jimmy Neutron: After being thrown into the brig by the Junkman, Sheen does this.
- In a episode of °Mucha Lucha! After Rikochet,Buena Girl, The Flea and Pulgita are mistaken for being burglars they went to jail while trying to go to the big match, While in jail Pulgita begins to play the harmonica and after playing it she stops when she sees her brother The Flea begins eating the dirty laundry who Buena Girl took away from The Flea. After the jail break, Pulgita no longer has the harmonica.
- Tiny Toon Adventures had Buster producing a harmonica after being framed for theft. When the guard gets sick of it, he stuffs it down Buster's throat (and he spends the next scene with a harmonica-shaped bulge in his neck).
- Played with in the Fairly Odd Parents Wishology: The harmonica turns out to be music coming from a record player, whose turntable is being operated by the captive fairies.
- South Park:
- Played straight in the film version, although the harmonica player in question is Ike the baby.
- And again in "Whale Whores", with Cartman playing the harmonica in question. "Oh, I'm in Japanese prison, lord, don't belong here, my eyes are round..."
- In the season three episode "Jakovasaurous".
- One episode of Home Movies has Brendan making a prison movie, in which he is making harmonica noises.
- One episode of Daria featured Daria playing the harmonica while grounded. Her parents lift the grounding just so they don't have to listen to her play.
- In an episode of Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat, the crew lands in jail. One pulls out a harmonica and begins to play: "What? They always play harmonica in prison movies!"
- Played by the koala in the zoo/prison in The Life and Times of Juniper Lee episode "The Great Escape".
- Played by one of the Sirrians when Glenn and Lincoln are locked up in the Pound in the Dogstar episode "The Beagle Has Landed".
- Parodied in The Real Ghostbusters when the four guys are locked up in a ghost world prison.
Peter: Whoever's playing the crummy harmonica, knock it off!
Egon: It's their version of elevator music.
- In Zekes Pad, Zeke's dad plays a harmonica when they are trapped inside the snowbound house in "The Artful Dodger". It gets stuck to his lips.
- Invoked in one episode of American Dad! by Steve and Klaus after spending several days locked in a closet.
- Used as BGM in a Family Guy episode where the four men are put into a chain gang.
- In Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Diminutive plays one when he and Doofenshmirtz are thrown in a cell together in "Norm Unleashed". At the very end of the episode, Doof tells him to knock it off.
- The opening of Cellbound has the jailbird protagonist playing a wistful tune, though just for show; as soon as nobody's looking he drops the harmonica and continues going over his escape plans.
- Used in an episode of Johnny Test which used every prison gag in the book. Dukey even lampshades it.
Dukey: It's in every great prison movie.
- Looney Tunes: At the start of "D'Fightin' Ones."