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A giant timepiece, visible throughout its locale. Beloved of hunchbacks, of villains who need their capes to billow dramatically, and of snipers with poor tactical sense. Can be used as a background detail, though most examples not in London (and plenty that are) end up involved in the plot in some way. One may be used to increase the suspense in a Race Against the Clock, act as the home or base for the main characters, or become the stage for a Fight Scene or Climbing Climax.
Scenes on a Clock Tower often include:
Characters nervously perching on the ledge invariably located above the clock face. For whatever reason, escaped parrots are also like to perch here. Odds are good somebody will fall, in which case...
A character grabs onto and hangs desperately from one of the clock hands. Bonus points for the movement of the hands being used for dramatic tension as they slowly tick into a position that would dump the hero off to his doom. Sometimes this effect is used by the villain as a deathtrap. Villains in this position may be saved by the hero in a Take My Hand moment.
If inside, there will be plenty of gears and other mechanisms, or at least a rope to ring the bell. Expect a stadium sized chamber full of spur gears the size of Volkswagens, on and about which the hero and villain will climb and clamber as they fight. When the gears are invariably jammed with an errant sword or wrench, expect the whole thing to tear itself apart as the designers conveniently forgot to include any sort of clutch, disconnect, or even an emergency "off" switch. Alternately, it might stop the clock on somebody about to be crushed, but only until the wrench breaks. (The mechanism inside real clock towers is often much smaller than in fiction. The workings of the Custom House Tower clock in Boston, for example, are about the size of a file cabinet; those of Big Ben, though weighing about five tonnes, cover the same sort of area as a large table.)
The Palace of Westminster Clock Tower shows up the most of any real tower; it is more often referred to as Big Ben, the nickname of its main bell (it has five).
This trope is extremely prevalent in Real Life. Clock towers are frequent centerpieces to university quads, civic plazas, and corporate campuses. Used mostly for aesthetic appeal in modern times. Please list only the famous ones under the Real Life section above.
Aka Cathedral Climax, a subtrope of Climbing Climax. If someone climbs up one of these with a weapon in real life, duck. See also For Doom the Bell Tolls.
The Castle of Cagliostro: The final confrontation scene inside a clock tower is a rather famous one as it was the first use of a fight scene in a clock tower. It has since become the first title people think of when a series pays homage and sets a melee within this location.
Sylvia was once tied to the hands of a clock tower in the Viewtiful Joe anime.
The clock tower in the city in Haibane Renmei (one of the main characters works there).
Chapter 3 of Ann Cassandra features a clock tower as both a crowning achievement for the man who built it and the site of an almost disaster.
In One Piece, during the arabastaarc the Big BadCrocodile places a huge cannon that would have been used to kill practically everyone in the city in the clock tower overlooking the square.
Features prominently in Card Captor Sakura, most especially in the episode with the Time Card.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Aster/Edo Phoenix's Clock Tower Prison card, which is based on the Palace of Westminster.
In DC Comics, Barbara Gordon (Batgirl, then Oracle) had her base in the Gotham clocktower for a while. The clock face was visible behind her computer, so presumably it wasn't a working clocktower.
Or else the original mechanic clockwork had simply been replaced with smaller electric machinery that would leave enough working space inside.
Oracle's clock tower base carried over to the Birds of Prey TV series.
In The Blue Blur of Termina, the Clock Tower serves as not only the central landmark of Clock Town, but also the main entrance to the rest of Termina from the Subterranean Forest.
Focan in With Strings Attached has a clock tower that chimes the weird time units of Ketafa. The four are so rattled when they first hear it that they dub it Gib Neb. Later, John and Ringo are taken up to see the view—it's the highest building in Focan by a lot—and the vista they see becomes significant to John not long afterwards.
In the Prisoner of Azkaban movie there's a clock tower on the grounds of Hogwarts (unseen in the previous two movies), and there are a lot of meaningful shots focusing on it, time being an important plot point at the end in both the book and the movie.
In Chaplin's The Great Dictator there's a scene where Hynkel shows off an ornate clocktower to Napoloni and Napoloni claims that it's inaccurate.
Harold Lloyd's Safety Last! has him dangling from a clockface on the side of a skyscraper, though that's not actually a clock tower as such.
The climactic fight scene of Shanghai Knights takes place on and in the clock tower incorrectly referred to as Big Ben, and includes a brief homage to Safety Last!.
Speaking of homages to Safety Last!, Jackie Chan payed another homage to that movie in his earlier movie Project A. In it, there's a fight sequence inside a clock tower and later a dangerous stunt involving him falling off the top of the clock tower.
The 1978 adaptation of The 39 Steps features a scene where Richard Hannay has to climb on the face of 'Big Ben'
Orson Welles's 1946 film The Stranger culminates in the Welles's character being impaled by a clockwork figure in a clock tower.
In Hook, the pirate town is dominated by a clock tower constructed from the corpse of the giant crocodile that Captain Hook finally managed to kill. Figures into the climax when it's brought back to life...
The never-named Albert Clock in Carol Reed's Ulster Noir, Odd Man Out.
Used to connect the two points of view as the film makes its surreal way to the climax at midnight.
Dr. Ramzi in The Dead Pit conducted his experiments in the basement of the local mental hospital's clocktower.
Half of the climax of Cars 2 takes place inside Big Ben.
In Moonraker, Bond fights a mook in a clock tower in Venice.
Hugo not only presents its own homage to Safety Last!'s clock tower scene, but its boy hero is first seen hiding inside a large clock that hangs over the train station's main gallery.
In King Of Hearts, the hero realizes at the last minute that the bomb the retreating German army planted that would blow up the village is triggered by a clockwork figure in the tower striking a bell.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the climactic showdown between Spidey and the Green Goblin that results in Gwen's death is moved from a bridge (in the comics) to an old clock tower. Plenty of gear action was involved.
Garry Kilworth's Welkin Weasels: Gaslight Geezers features Maudlin and Scruff, the hero's sidekicks, crashing a hot air balloon into Ringing Roger, the Big Ben-analogue clocktower, below which just happens to be a statue of King Redfur holding a very sharp upward-pointing lance. They catch the hands of the clock. It's quarter-past-nine, Scruff catches the hour hand and Maudlin catches the minute hand:
"We'll be fine!"
"You might be. Your hand's going upwards. Mine's going down."
Not a clocktower, but the climax of Redwall takes place in the Abbey belltower.
Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists has a climactic scene in the Big Ben tower, where the evil Bishop "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce has hidden his diabolical device which sucks the youthful life-force out of young ladies. He also tied Charles Darwin's brother Erasmus between two of the clock's cogs, planning to leave him to be crushed if Darwin didn't cancel his lecture tour.
Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge novel A Long Shadow includes a suspenseful climb up the clocktower on the local church. It also inspires one of the series' very rare comic exchanges. The shell-shocked Rutledge is talking to Hamish, the dead soldier (really, the voice of his subconscious) he constantly hallucinates:
Hamish said, "I wouldna' care to climb that high."
"Then stay here."
Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged prominently features a calendar tower — a skyscraper with a giant projection screen that simply shows the current calendar day. In fact, the novel opens with a description of this structure. Francisco d'Anconia leaves a parting message here, on the evening of the day he destroys his own company before it can be nationalized.
The Forbidden Towers, a Choose Your Own Adventure book from The Forgotten Forest series, had one branch in which the viewpoint character entered a Garden of Evil/Hungry Jungle within the Tower of Eaters. The only way out was to climb up to a giant clock on the wall and a chute opening above the numeral 12. One branch had the character take the slow but safe route of holding onto the hour hand as it proceeded to the 12; the other, riding the rapid but wildly jerking minute hand, ended...badly.
In "A Predicament" by Edgar Allan Poe, the narrator winds up getting her head stuck in a clock face in the steeple of a cathedral and is slowly decapitated by the clock hands.
Live Action TV
One episode of Monk had someone fall off a clock tower. Monk knew that she was murdered by a coworker, but couldn't work out how he could have done it when he was across the school with many witnesses at the time she fell. He bludgeoned her to death with a plank, then put her on one of the hands, knowing that she would fall when a certain amount of time had passed.
The final fight in the episode "Hush" took place inside a clock tower.
Sunnydale High's steeple, showcased in "Earshot."
The pilot of Moonlighting has Maddie and David climbing a clock tower.
Power Rangers Time Force had their 2001-era home and headquarters in an abandoned clocktower that the 2001-era Red Ranger just so happened to own. They must have found it thematically appropriate, given that they were time travelers.
In Psych, the season 4 episode "Mr Yin Presents" features Detective Juliet O'Hara dangling from a clock tower. She has been strapped into a chair that has been rigged to the hands of the clock face by the villain of the episode. When the appointed time arrived (6:30), the hands would cut the cable that was holding her up and drop her.
The End Of The Year Show (a topical comedy show broadcast on 31 December 1995) was supposedly set inside the Palace of Westminster clock tower. Since it ran for an hour, there were three gags about proceedings being interrupted by the quarter-hour chimes.
The Dad's Army episode Time On My Hands features lead characters stuck up the town hall clock tower when they try to rescue/arrest a German parachutist who was suspected from the clock. Cue hilarity with the clock mechanism, automated figures and dangerous goings on over a sheer drop.
Once Upon a Time has a prominent clock tower atop Storybrooke's library, the inside of which was featured in "The Queen Is Dead" and "It's Not Easy Being Green". Special mention for the fact that the clock magically starts working again once Emma decides to stay in town in the pilot...
Very popular residences for women in DC Comics series. Barbara Gordon/Oracle in Birds of Prey, Chloe Sullivan in Smallville, Sara Lance/Black Canary in Arrow and Barbara Keane in Gotham all live in them.
There are two clock towers in Kingdom Hearts - one in the London section of Neverland, and one in Twilight Town in the sequels. The first is the location of that world's Keyhole and a Bonus Boss who uses the tower to cast a time spell on your party members (and, eventually, you). Twilight Town's clock is a hangout of Roxas's - in both his real life with the Organization and his life in the digital Twilight Town.
It is also the site of the final confrontation between Roxas and Xion.
There's at least one level in each of the Castlevania games that takes place inside a clock tower, complete with moving gears, pendulums, and medusa heads.
Tick Tock Clock in Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart DS — also a Gimmick Level in that depending on the time displayed on the clock you enter to reach the level, the clock will operate fast, slow, screwed up(in which everything will move randomly), or stopped, and different speeds of activity may be necessary to complete certain missions.
The Garal Clock Tower in Treasure Of The Rudras The Clock Tower is a countdown timer for The End of the World as We Know It the world will end but the Tower is a timer, one Death Knell for Every Day that passes upon activation, the tower serves another purpose, the clocks on the sealed doors with a clock face above them start to move upon activation, it moves a total of 8 times in one cycle, which unlocks if the clock hand is at the 12 O' Clock position
Spagonia from Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations has a huge one smack dab in the center of the city, reminiscent of Big Ben. Sonic has to climb the tower in his younger (in Generations). regular and Werehog forms (in Unleashed) at some point to traverse through their respective acts.
Gondolir, the main human city in Eternum Online, has a clock tower in its center.
The playable introductory scene to Bayonetta is a fight that takes place on the face of a smashed clock tower as it plummets down a seemingly endless cliff.
In Deadly Premonition, the Community Center has a large clock tower, which serves as the site for two of the three final boss battles.
The Scarlet Devil Mansion from Touhou Project features one and is the stage for the mansion's Ninja Maid Sakuya in the fighting games.
The teaser trailer for Mass Effect 3 shows a human soldier sniping out of a broken Big Ben.
Hibikino High's place of legend in the 2nd game of the Tokimeki Memorial series is a clock tower named "the Legendary Bell". Its bells are normally broken and can't ring, but it's sort of magical and will ring to give its blessings and grant eternal happiness to couples making their Love Confession near it on Graduation Day.
In Persona 2, Seven Sisters High's Clock Tower is used as the first boss battle setting.
The city of Stormwind in World of Warcraft features a very resilient clock tower. Even after said tower is partially melted during the Cataclysm, it still chimes every hour, on the hour.
Though morphE does not feature the example mentioned in the Mage: The Awakening entry, it is set in that universe and depicts the Acanthus watchtower as a giant clock tower looming over the supernal realm of Arcadia.
Dr. Doofenschmirtz of Phineas and Ferb plans to steal Big Ben because the numbers on his watch are too small for him to read...
A Christmas episode of Futurama also had a parrot-fetching; parodied by using a giant digital clock, complete with Fry falling off of and grabbing onto the darkened segments.
In the Batman: The Animated Series episode The Clock King, the titular King uses the hands as a deathtrap to scissor the Mayor. He and Batman also fight on the hands and in and amongst the dramatic (but impractical) steampunkish gears inside. The scene is a direct visual Homage to Castle of Cagliostro.
An episode of The Batman had a three-way fight between Batman, Catwoman and Ragdoll inside Gotham Clocktower.
The title characters in Gargoyles move to a clocktower after Xanatos gets out of prison.
A Jackie Chan Adventures episode has a clocktower fight at the end. Tohru falls and grabs onto the clock hands (guess how that turned out...).
This appears in Disney's version of Peter Pan - as well as the sequel, Return to Neverland.
In The Great Mouse Detective, the final showdown takes place on (and inside the clockworks of) Big Ben Tower. The fight ends with the Big Bad falling to his doom.
In The Backyardigans, a James Bond-themed episode has the villain Lady in Pink scrambling to the edge of a clock tower's hand to retrieve a bottle of chocolate syrup. Pink falls off, but Agent Secret swoops in to save her in time.
The Mr. Men Show: One segment in the episode "Clocks" had Mr. Tickle and Mr. Bump fix one.
Though not a Clock Tower, per se, the BIOCOM tower in Broken Saints pretty much acts as one—it's a Cathedral like complex filled with stained glass and machinery (including a crucifix-like device which controls a Kill Sat,) and it requires a long climb in order to get to. It's also the setting for the final confrontation and battle with the Big Bad.
That clock tower everyone calls Big Ben, actually the Palace of Westminster clock tower in London. It has been officially named the Elizabeth Tower, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.
Big Ben is the bell.
More specifically, it's the bell that sounds the hour.
The Kremlin clock tower, more properly called Spasskaya Tower, in Moscow.
The Custom House Tower, with its four clock faces, was the tallest building in Boston (by law!) for most of the 20th century.
The Allen-Bradley Clock Tower in Milwaukee is the largest four-sided clock in the world with each face measuring just over 40 feet in diameter. The architect of the tower purposefully did not include chimes so that the Westminster Clock could retain the title of "world's largest chiming clock." The tower is a local landmark and known to older Milwaukeeans as the "Polish Moon" due to its presence in the night sky over a part of the city that used to be known for its Polish immigrants.