"Love it when they don't look up."A character avoids pursuit or detection by hanging from the ceiling of the room or hallway. Thankfully, the upper reaches of the room have structures (walls, pipes, crossbeams, etc.) that are close enough for the hero to grab onto, even if they have to hold themselves up through sheer friction. Luckily, nobody ever thinks to look up. The only sop to plausibility is our heredity: as walking animals we naturally focus on a horizon ring. This is frequently used to achieve a Fakeout Escape, e.g. when performed in a locked room or an Empty Elevator. Sometimes the seeker is alerted to the hider's presence above by blood or sweat dripping to the floor. If a monster is involved it may lead to Vertical Kidnapping. See also: Acrophobic Bird, 1-Dimensional Thinking, Object Ceiling Cling, He Was Right There All Along. Not to be confused with a Wall Crawl, which can also involve crawling across the ceiling.
— Kim Possible, Kim Possible
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Anime & Manga
- Rider of Fate/stay night majors in adhesive acrobatics, with a minor in flight. She prefers to attack from impossible angles, since her actual combat ability leaves much to be desired. Her ceiling cling allows her to stab down into the base of Shirou's neck, from above and behind.
- Ranma ˝:
- Ranma frequently tries to escape distressing situations this way, to spy on people, and while sneak attacking — and he can cling to even a smooth, painted wooden surface◊. Once he even did a blanket cling when trying to hide from his mother as she pulled off the covers from his futon.
- At least one antagonist, Kodachi, uses this to get the drop on Akane once.
- The Iemoto of the Daimonji family can sit in the seiza position on the ceiling, and even move, clinging solely with her toes.
- Sōsuke in Full Metal Panic! almost gets away with this. It would have worked if the robots did not have the smarts to: TURN AROUND! Dun dun dun. It isn't his fault: he hoisted himself up between some ceiling pipes and engaged his ECS, waited until his pursuers passed underneath then dropped down, disengaged ECS and started going in the opposite direction but not before reporting it to his superiors via radio. Unknown to him, the enemy was tapping their communications which means he just gave away his position.
- Claire Stanfield of Baccano! does this from time to time. Of course, he doesn't do it to hide so much as he enjoys delivering surprise death from above, so the victim looking up usually isn't an issue.
- All Shinobi in Naruto who have the mastered the necessary chakra control can do this. As the necessary level of chakra control is considered a rather basic ninja skill, such displays are at least as likely to be played for comedy as they are for ambush or evasion. After all, when everybody can do it, nobody will be surprised by it.
- Lupin III does this to both dodge Zenigata and avoid a Trap Door in The Castle of Cagliostro.
- Silver managed to do this at the start of the G/S/C arc of Pokémon Special, using a pair of flourescent lights as supports.
- One of the missing Kecleon in the Pokémon anime episode "The Kecleon Caper".
- In Akazukin Chacha, it's revealed that the pink ninja Orin was there all along in class even though never shown in the first season — having been clinging to the ceiling the whole time.
- Bleach: Shinji is capable of this. He's shown in one chapter's cover art as pulling a straight example of this against Ichigo. However, in the actual manga, he can pull this stunt on people using only thin air. It's a hint of his special power (being able to reverse things).
- Spider-Man doesn't even need to grab onto anything but the ceiling itself to hold himself up. This was parodied where the person did look up (thankfully he was a civilian, not a villain) and Spidey was forced to sign an autograph to keep him quiet.
- The "escaping from the jail cell" version appears in the Super Mario Adventures comic book. Princess Toadstool fools the Koopalings into coming into her cell in this way, then beats them up and locks them in.
- The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: Lampshaded in the Fat Freddy's Cat comic Animal Camp.
"My last hope, the 'ceiling cling'."
- Wolverine did this in an early issue of Uncanny X-Men when facing the Hellfire Club.
- Dragon magazine #4, Fineous Fingers comic strip. While Fineous and his friends are exploring a dungeon, a monster attacks them and swallows both of Fineous' friends. Fineous escapes by quickly climbing a wall and holding onto the ceiling. He does this so quickly that the monster loses sight of him and can't find him. Unfortunately the part of the ceiling he's holding onto breaks off, dropping him to the floor right in front of the monster.
Films — Animation
- Done twice in the Toy Story series.
- Toy Story. Woody clings to the underside of a box to avoid being found by Sid.
- Toy Story 2. Buzz hangs onto the underside of an elevator to reach the floor where Al's apartment is.
- Helen from The Incredibles does this. And she doesn't need the ceiling to be conveniently conformed to fit her body so she can hold on — she does that part herself.
- Hoodwinked, complete with a sweat drop.
Films — Live-Action
- Serenity. As shown in the above picture, River Tam was an expert at doing this when necessary. Also doubles as The Cast Showoff moment, as Summer Glau really was capable of doing this. The only reason the beam on her right foot exists is because she was slightly too short for the width of the corridor, so the beams were used to narrow the distance.
- Used to great effect in The Professional.
- The Bride does this to hide from Go-Go Yubari in Kill Bill Volume 1.
- One of the creepiest moments of the underrated The Exorcist III is when a possessed old woman skitters by the protagonist... on the ceiling.
- Similarly, the witches in the film The Beastmaster slip past and surround the title hero this way.
- In The Movie of Matilda, Matilda clings to the underside of a table this way.
- In the 2007 Transformers movie, one of the giant robots escapes pursuit this way, clinging to the underside of a bridge.
- Parodied in Rush Hour 2, where Lee tries to sneak into a casino's back rooms. He climbs on top of a large safe being wheeled in, and clings to the ceiling once he's inside, letting it move past... then sees he's staring right into a security camera.
- Used by the burglars in the third Home Alone film.
- Lampshaded in Superhero Movie, where The Dragonfly is almost discovered while he's going to the bathroom. Hourglass' search for him launches into a minute-long search where Dragonfly hides everywhere from in a closet, to a drawer, to behind Hourglass, all at improbable speeds. He finally clings to the ceiling, but, unable to hold his pee, he begins dripping, then streaming, then gushing, then spurting like a sprinkler.
- Goldfinger does this quite well, with James Bond tricking the guard into thinking he's escaped, clinging on to the ceiling, and then dropping down behind him once the guard opens the door.
- Tom Cruise hides from Wilford Brimley this way in the movie of The Firm.
- Master vampire Valek does this in John Carpenter's Vampires (1998).
- Trick 'r Treat's Sam is seen doing this in a Meaningful Background Event.
- Cthulhu: "There were 'things', and they were everywhere! They were on the ground, they were on the ceiling, they were everywhere!"
- The Ceiling Cling scene in the Spider-Man movie. Peter Parker is in his own apartment with his mask off but otherwise in costume when friends and family come in and he has to hide to keep his Secret Identity. He clings to the ceiling as they are right under him, including Norman Osborn, his (unbeknownst to him at the time) Big Bad Friend. Just after they leave the room, a single drop of blood falls off a cut on his arm from the battle earlier. Norman hears the drop land. In the time it takes him to turn around, look down and look up, Peter has made it out the window. Norman looks out the window, but Peter is now clinging to the ledge under the window.
- Done in Men in Black II when Jay, Kay, and the worms clinging to the ceiling of an Empty Elevator attempting to break into their headquarters that's under control by the Big Bad and to dodge from a gunner droid.
- In Shanghai Knights, Chon's sister attempts to escape from jail this way.
- Xander does this in xXx, but it is sabotaged by the fact he's doing so on a rock ceiling. He jumps on top of the baddies when he accidentally catches their attention by knocking off some dirt.
- In the Movie adaption of The Cat in the Hat, Cat avoids being found out by the kids' neighbor by flattening himself onto the ceiling.
- In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dracula uses this to escape detection. A slamming door causes him to come loose.
- In Jack and Jill, Jill's Craigslist date "Funbucket" clings to the bathroom ceiling when she comes looking for him in order to ditch her on their date.
- Burt Reynolds in a Miami public restroom in Elmore Leonard's Stick.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Simza's assassin hides himself in this way. Works because he is described by Holmes as a Cossack, renowned for their acrobatic talents.
- Used by the hero in 3-Iron when trying to escape from his prison cell.
- In TRON: Legacy, Sam does this to get the drop on two guards on top of a lift.
- In Desperate Journey, The Squad clings to the undercarriage of a bridge in order to surprise some Nazi sentries. It works, because the Germans are distracted by their comrade, who is at the bottom of the ravine groaning from the Tap on the Head administered by the good guys.
- Batman does this in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to hide from the police who've caught him beating up a sex slave trafficker. When one cop spots him, he crawls along the roof and out of the room in a surprisingly creepy rapid-fire scene.
- One of the turtles in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clings to the ceiling, after hiding in the shower, to avoid being seen by April's boss when he throws open the curtain looking for a towel.
- Lampshaded in Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor.
- The villain in Peter F. Hamilton's sci-fi novel The Nanoflower is able to cling to the roof of a cave (in order to ambush a pursuer) thanks to his Power Armor.
- In Roger McBride Allen's Caliban, the eponymous robot gets past his pursuers in an underground tunnel by doing this.
- In The Wizard Of Lovecraft's Cafe, an alcoholic wizard devised a spell to allow him to catch a nap on the ceiling of his favorite pub. When he and a companion are threatened by thugs, they elude them using this spell; peoples' habit not to look up is Lampshaded.
- Windrunner Radiants in The Stormlight Archive can pull this off with their Gravity Master powers. More frequently, they glue an enemy to the ceiling to put them out of the fight for a minute.
- A Song of Ice and Fire Rhaegal does this while living in the dragonpit in Meereen, much to Quentyn Martell's surprise.
- Sidney Bristow in an early episode of Alias. Unfortunately, she's holding herself up by the hot water pipes just as the Mook walks under her, so she has to very quietly move over to the other, cooler pipe. Being her, she pulls it off.
- Angel: Spoofed when a vampire tries to ambush Angel this way — he calmly steps to one side and the vampire crashes to the floor.
- Oliver Queen/The Hood (Green Arrow) does this once in Arrow to hide from police when he broke into a police station.
- In the "Flight of the War Witch" two part episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Buck, Princess Ardala and a Pendaran captive use this to get out of their cell. Well, Buck and the third prisoner do, Princess Ardala simply hides under the bed.
- Slightly unorthodox: used by a villain in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Potential".
- Doctor Who: As most unnervingly demonstrated in "Day of the Moon", the Silence love to roost on the ceiling. In packs.
- Monica pulls this once. If only she'd held on to her comic books...
- Also, when Peter shows up at Mohinder's apartment for the first time, there's a sort of twist on this trope, as Mohinder is telekinetically pinned to the ceiling by Sylar, though Mohinder winds up dripping some blood on Peter, cluing him in.
- Richmond does this to avoid Jen in The IT Crowd.
- Naomi hides from Kate in the Lost episode "The Beginning of the End" by climbing a tree and hanging from a limb. Kate notices blood dripping on her from above.
- An alien soldier in the guise of a preteen girl tries this in an episode of The Middleman. Unfortunately for her, nobody is smarter than the Middleman.
- Subverted in an episode of Sliders, where the title group slides into a world still stuck in the Old West mode. Quinn and Rembrandt are framed for murder and jailed by the local crime boss and a corrupt sheriff, to be hanged the next day. They realize they could use their knowledge of westerns to trick the guards and escape. Quinn does a ceiling cling while Rembrandt calls for help. Unfortunately for them, the person who walks in is the above-mentioned crime boss, who is also a dimensional traveler (and a Kromagg). He simply walks up to the cell doors without opening them and immediately looks up at Quinn, mentioning that Kromaggs have their own westerns.
- Stargate Atlantis: Major Sheppard uses a ceiling cling (helped by a smoke grenade) to get the drop on three Genii Mooks in season 1 episode "The Eye". The life-signs detector monitored by one of their officers is of no help, since it cannot tell the exact height of a blip — just that Sheppard is right in the midst of them.
- In the Supernatural season 6 episode "Weekend at Bobby's" an ōkami demon uses this move to sneak-attack Bobby.
- Henry from Unnatural History does this in "The Fountain of Truth".
- One of the best ways to avoid (or lose) guards in Splinter Cell games is holding onto a pipe overhead with all four limbs. Your superspy can also do a "split jump" in narrow halls, stretching your legs to opposite walls and balancing yourself thus. By extension, you can also hang upside-down from a pipe to strangle opponents, shoot them with your pistol, or with your assault rifle in a split-jump.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the infamous Wall Master, which drops from above and attempts to grab Link. If you look up as it's falling though, it disappears...
- Super Mario World has the Spinies and Buzzy Beetles who are able to walk across the ceiling - they attempt to attack by dropping from above. One or two of the Bosses can do it too. It's not as common in 3D Mario games, presumably due to the already-stated fact that most people don't look up.
- In the commentary of Portal, the developers talk about how hard it is to get players to look up. While this is effective when hiding baddies in the ceiling, it's not quite as effective when trying to solves puzzles in twisted three dimensions. Of course Half-Life veterans learned to always look up.
- Demons do this very occasionally in Doom 3. Generally they just jump out of cupboards and from behind false walls.
- If you thought Pokémon couldn't get away with this, say hello to the deliciously-trained peons of Pokémon Colosseum and XD's Cipher syndicate. Many times a path looks clear, but a Peon will drop from the ceiling and engage you with no warning otherwise. There's one Peon in XD that takes this Up to Eleven and actually drops from an elevator ceiling when the player uses the elevator and player doesn't notice til they actually left it.
- Happens again in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2, both during the story and in gameplay. In the story, Chatot and the player are attacked by a group of particularly nasty bandits that drop from the ceiling. Chatot recognizes this just in time and shields the player from attack, taking the brunt of the blow. In gameplay, there are the Monster Houses, which can be deadly.
- Spider Splicers from BioShock do this with a distinct clinking sound.
- The "Going Rogue" Expansion Pack for City of Heroes added the Ghouls as a villain group. They like to cling to the ceilings of the subway tunnels and drop down on you as you pass under them.
- Catwoman does this in Batman: Arkham City in her last mission.
- In Chack'n Pop, this is a basic move for Chack'n.
- In the Sega Master System version of Jurassic Park (Sega CD), Dr. Alan Grant can somehow grab ceilings and move around.
- In Knuckles Chaotix, Espio is the only character that can do this. Fittingly, the series later turned him into a Ninja.
- Wing Commander Prophecy: The boss alien of the invading Nephilim uses this to ambush Commodore Blair, when the latter has boarded the alien wormhole gate to try to shut it down before humans get swarmed over by the Nephilim.
- In Team Fortress 2's fan-made Prop Hunt mode, one team is disguised as various objects in the level and can double jump to get around. The other team are all set to pyros and have to seek out the fake objects. A popular strategy is to hide atop something like a shelf in a room or right in plain sight, simply because players tend not to look directly up for enemies. Not having to look up very often for enemies in the main game mode probably helps to make this behaviour more common.
- Players sometimes do this in regular game modes as well: many maps have small ledges, beams, signs, light fixtures, or other objects that players can stand on, but it isn't obvious that they can do so. Classes with the ability to Double Jump or Rocket Jump like to hide in these spots to ambush enemies (Scouts, Soldiers, and Demomen most commonly, but it's also possible for a Pyro, Engineer, or Medic with the right weapons). However, experienced players will quickly catch on if their opponents are using this strategy.
- In Mega Man X6. One of Blizzard Wolfang's attack is to clinging on the ceiling while creating an icicles, Zero can do ceiling cling with his Hyoroga, and X has Shadow Armor, which allow him to cling on the ceiling.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Characters can do occasional ceiling running, though they can only get into it if the floor curves up at walls or down and over at ledges. Sometimes, the inversion is temporary; sometimes, the inversion is for so as long as the ceiling is flat and the character is running forward (whichever direction counted as "forward" when he started running).
- An exception is when the physics fail in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and our protagonist manages to come to a perfect stop at the top of a loop, making him stand upside down on the ceiling.
- Attempted and failed in Shortpacked!, thanks to Leslie being Genre Savvy. "When you watch as much sci-fi as I do, you learn to look up in an empty room fairly immediately."
- Done by Kroenen a lot in Abe & Kroenen (Abe's room has a convenient support beam). He's almost caught because of his unsecured Nice Hat.
- Exterminatus Now shows us an infiltrator in the gang's quarters crawling along the ceiling. Unfortunately for him, he runs into Blasphemy.
- Done by Captain Tagon (with help from his attire) here, in Schlock Mercenary, where he hides on the ceiling to ambush the Parkata urbatsu team at their gathering spot.
Narrator: Gripponan smart soles definitely qualify as force multipliers. With the right skills, they allow for amazing feats. And with the right intel, amazing feats become legendary ambushes.
- In Bad Machinery, Kid!Ryan did this to sneakily smoke cigarettes at school.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Blue Spirit clings to the ceiling with two swords and a huge length of chain without making a sound or a move.
- In Dragons: Riders of Berk, Heather does this in her cell to knock her guardian Bucket out and escape.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Boyz Crazy", Mabel, her friends Candy and Grenda (who's overweight) and the boy band Sev'ral Timez all cling to the ceiling in order not to be seen by Grunkle Stan.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: A variant in "28 Pranks Later"; Rainbow Dash doesn't cling to a ceiling, but to the other side of Cheerilee's rotating blackboard, to prank her. Rainbow Dash is holding to the frame of the blackboard with both wings and all four hooves, in a pegasus version of the position that is usually envisioned for the trope.
- Samurai Jack does this in an episode when infiltrating a tower in order to rescue a fairy from a gargoyle.
- Poked fun at by The Simpsons. Mr. Burns and Smithers attempt a Ceiling Cling in Homer's kitchen while trying to steal Maggie's teddy bear. Unfortunately Homer comes in at that very moment, and starts a marathon cheese-eating session that lasts until dawn. (That's when Smithers and Mr. Burns just give up and fall to the floor.)
Burns: (dusting himself off) Good day to you.
- Star Wars Rebels: In "Through Imperial Eyes", Ezra does this, with his hands cuffed behind his back, in his cell on the Chimaera to ambush anyone who comes inside. He doesn't get the chance, as his first visitor is the Reverse Mole.
- Subverted in Stroker and Hoop. Hoop was infiltrating a guy's office, when he suddenly hears him coming. He hides up between the rafters on the ceiling. The guy comes in, calmly sits down, picks up his telephone, and says, "Hello, Security? There's a guy up on my ceiling. I don't know why he thinks I can't see him." (Amusingly, when the guy comes in, Hoop almost drops his keys and catches them in a dramatic way, thinking he's safe).
- This list won't be completed without mentioning Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003). In the very first episode, Leo does this and does this good. And thru many episodes Turtles cling to the ceiling a lot. Well, its justified that all of them are ninjas...
- Total Drama Island: During a game of hide-and-seek/tag with Chef Hatchet being "it" (while wielding a water gun), Izzy decides to employ this trope in the mess hall...then she sneezes. Badassery Ensures.
- Done in the Transformers episode "The Golden Lagoon". The Autobots cling to a prison cell ceiling, dropping down on the Decepticons who enter the cell.
Admit it; you looked up while reading this didn't you?