[[caption-width-right:170:Where did she get that sharp thing?]]

Whenever someone is tied up, the bad guys often leave something sharp in the room that the victim can use to cut themselves free. Even if tied to a chair, they can move the chair to the object to cut the ropes. This is as unrealistically common in serious drama as it is in adventure, action and other genres that don't take themselves seriously.

A rarer and more badass way of escaping from bonds that doesn't require an IdiotBall is to somehow ''break the bones of one hand'' and pull the crushed hand through the loop before the swelling sets in. (Ouch!)

One step further, and it becomes a LifeOrLimbDecision.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In an episode of ''LightNovel/SpiceAndWolf'', some thugs beat up Lawrence, tie him up, then leave him in the woods to die. Lawrence uses the embers of his campfire to escape, but he does burn his arms in the process.
* A variation of this trope appears in ''Manga/NatsumesBookOfFriends'': When the titular [[DistressedDude Natsume]] is captured by Matoba, he has his wrists bound with a type of restrictive paper that can't be seen by normal humans and is then left in Matoba's hotel room with one of his shiki as a guard. Fortunately, Natsume spots a glass of water on the table and breaks it, then punches out the shiki and uses the Newly Created Sharp Thing Made From A Conveniently Placed Breakable Thing to cut through his bonds before escaping out the window. In Matoba's defense, he wasn't then aware of Natsume's power and likely assumed that his shiki would stop any escape attempts even if Natsume ''did'' manage to break free from his restraints.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Franchise/{{Batman}}. All the time.
* Deliberately [[InvokedTrope invoked]] by the Joker in the standalone story "Slayride". Tim Drake/Robin wakes up to find himself [[BoundAndGagged tied up]] by the Joker in a car he stole from a family on Christmas Eve. Robin searches behind his back for something to cut his bonds, and finds a small toy car, snaps the hood off it and starts cutting. But shortly after that, the Joker snatches the car hood out of Robin's hands, because [[MagnificentBastard the Joker placed it there]]. Just to provide false hope. Oh, that [[ForTheEvulz Joker]]!
* Averted twice in ''Comicbook/ThePunisherMAX'', where the sharp thing is hidden somewhere that won't get checked. In Frank's case, a razor blade slid inside the slit in his skin that he just made with it (to pass it off as a wound received in the preceding exchange), and later a convict hides a razor blade ''under his goddamn fingernail'' to break Frank out of prison (so Frank can kill the convict's brother's murderer).
* In the prequel graphic novel to ''Film/MadMaxFuryRoad'', Max is staked out in the desert by the Buzzards to die. However because they're impressed with his skill as a warrior, their leader stabs Max in the femoral artery, saying he can pull out the knife and bleed to death quickly in a futile effort to save himself, or he can die a slow death from the heat. Max is able to pull a hand from the ropes, but it's too damaged in the process to undo the knots, so he pulls out the knife only to pass out from blood loss. Fortunately a third party turns up who has a motive to save his life.
* ''ComicBook/LeScorpion'': At one point, Armando uses on of Mejai's spilled poisons to [[PoisonIsCorrosive to burn through his bonds]].

* The ''Series/DoctorWho'' fanfic [[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10311569/1/Murder-on-Rand-2 "Murder on Rand 2"]] has Norine left BoundAndGagged by Largdens, and she manages to cut herself free with a knife she hid in her shoe. However, the text points out she cuts her hands in the process.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* A memorable example in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyondReturnOfTheJoker'', Batman starts to cut himself free with a switchblade. But when he sees that Joker has [[spoiler:brainwashed Robin into "Little J.J."]], [[BreakingTheBonds he finishes freeing himself through sheer force]], and then throws the knife at Joker's face. He ducked, but jeez.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/TheDarkKnight'':
** It's subverted. Harvey Dent [[spoiler:attempts to do the chair-hop, but ends up simply falling over, knocking over a steel drum and landing in a gushing pool of gasoline. [[TwoFaced This doesn't end well.]]]]
** Likewise, ComicBook/TheJoker uses broken glass to escape, but his handcuffs were taken off during his interrogation and the glass was broken when Batman was bouncing him off the windows.
* In ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade'', the conveniently-paced burning object (the lucky charm shamrock lighter) fails to be properly used, leading instead to a DisasterDominoes sequence.
* ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheKingdomOfTheCrystalSkull'' plays it straight, with Mutt throwing his knife so Indy can cut the ropes that tie him (the knife opens while he tries, but what happens isn't addressed).
* Subversion in the 1967 film ''Film/DoctorDolittle'' starring Rex Harrison: He just asks mice to chew through the ropes.
* A conveniently placed ''dog'' appears in the Canadian kids' film ''Bailey's Billion$.'' Two kids are tied up in a cage, and a dog is in another cage. He bites through the ropes on the kids' hands.
* In ''Film/BladesOfGlory'', Chazz is tied up in a room full of ice skates.
* In ''Film/HalloweenIIISeasonOfTheWitch'', (the one without Michael Myers) the main character is bound to a chair so a laser powered by Stonehenge can shoot out of the microchip in the Halloween mask he is being forced to wear and will cause snakes and bugs to crawl out of his mouth. Anyway, he manages to take out the television from across the room by flinging something at it. The camera cuts away and cuts back to him with a glass shard in his hands, covering the fact that there's no logical way he could have grabbed it.
* In the movie ''Film/PansLabyrinth'' [[ChekhovsGun we are shown several times how the maid Mercedes hides her knife in her belt]] after using it for her work. So when Captain Vidal captures her for a spy and ties her hand in front, it is logical that she can get loose.
* ''Both'' versions are simulated by Riddick in ''Film/PitchBlack''. He dislocates both shoulders (eat your heart out, Riggs!), and slips his cuffs through some [[BenevolentArchitecture Conveniently Placed Starship Damage]] before cutting them off with a [[LaserBlade Conveniently Placed Plasma Cutter]].
* The American president (played by Creator/HarrisonFord, no less) from ''Film/AirForceOne''. The film's rating permits showing that using a glass shard cuts you while you're cutting the rope.
* ''Film/TheMatrixRevolutions'': Trinity, in the real world, gets tied up by Smith in Bane's body. She's thrown down into a hatch where some conveniently placed sharp things were broken earlier.
* In ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings: TheTwoTowers'', the Orcs and Uruk-hai carrying Merry and Pippin are attacked by the Riders of Rohan, allowing the hobbits to crawl to a nearby axe and cut the ropes binding their hands.
* In the sci-fi movie ''Xchange'', the conveniently placed sharp thing is a spool of monofilament line capable of cutting through basically anything. And it shows that when a nervous person is working with monofilament behind their back, [[{{Fingore}} someone's apt to lose a thumb]].
* Played with in ''Film/FunnyGames''. A knife that's been left in the family's boat [[ChekhovsGun is later used]] by a tied-up Ann to try and free herself. [[spoiler: Subverted, in that Paul and Peter see her, take the knife away, and throw it overboard. A few minutes later they send ''her'' over as well.]]
* Of course it helps if you're such a MemeticBadass you can create your own sharp object. At the start of an otherwise forgetful Creator/ChuckNorris action movie, our hero is staked out in the desert to die. To taunt Chuck, the villain leaves a bottle of water in his hand. Chuck is able to break the glass with just one hand, giving himself the glass shards to cut his bonds.
* In ''Film/{{Madeline}},'' the bad guys leave Madeline and Pepito tied up in a trailer full of their props. Since they're jugglers by profession, this includes swords. It also includes a conveniently-placed motorcycle, which they use to get away.
* In ''Film/BreakheartPass'', Deakin is able to use the fireplace in the governor's carriage to cut/burn through the leather thong binding his wrists.

* OlderThanFeudalism example: One of Literature/AesopsFables, "The Lion and the Mouse".
* Frequently averted, subverted, and lampshaded in ''Literature/{{Discworld}}''.
** Particularly noteworthy is in ''Feet of Clay'': "Sometimes, and against all common sense, people inconsiderately throw their bound enemies into rooms totally devoid of nails, handy bits of sharp stone, or even, in extreme cases, [[LockingMacGyverInTheStoreCupboard enough pieces of old junk and tools]] to [[Series/TheATeam make a fully functional armored car]]."
** Perhaps the earliest example: in ''Discworld/TheLightFantastic'' tied Rincewind finds a sharp rock and starts cutting the rope. He gets exactly the result he expected -- cuts to his wrists till they bleed.
** Played straight in ''Discworld/{{Jingo}}'': the cabin Angua is imprisoned in a ship just happens to be the one that The Boat drills through to latch onto the ship, making a sharp pointed metal drill tip available.
* In the second ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' novel, Merry and Pippin are captured and tied up by [[OurOrcsAreDifferent Orcs]]. There are two Orc factions present, and they start fighting over where to take the prisoners... one dead Orc falls on Pippin with his sword in convenient reach of the hobbit's bonds.
* In Edmond Hamilton's ''Literature/TheStarKings'', the main hero, while prisoner on the enemy ship, manages to escape and draw the attention of his own side's ship. The bad guys are victorious in the battle, and they tie him up in a chair. However, the battle forces a crash landing, which cracks the chair just enough for the hero to saw through his bindings after half a day or so.
* In the short story "Literature/TheBorderlandOfSol" by Creator/LarryNiven, an extremely limber Beowulf Schaefer has his arms very securely tied to the coolant line of the [[BigBad Big Bad's]] superweapon. It just so happens that he has a piece of [[AbsurdlySharpBlade monomolecular wire]] sewn into one of the buttons on his clothing, but its not like his hands are free to reach it... so he uses his ''feet'' instead. Instead of trying to cut his bonds directly, he cuts the coolant line right through, making for a big mess involving a miniature black hole that was being manipulated by a mechanism using said coolant line, and the antagonist being HoistByHisOwnPetard.[[note]]He was using the black hole to rob ships leaving from Sol, and then eliminate the evidence afterward by using that black hole to consume the ships and people aboard them.[[/note]]
* Gets used in Creator/TadWilliams' ''Literature/MemorySorrowAndThorn'' when Simon and Miriamele are tied up by cultists serving the Storm King, with the variation that the Sharp Thing is the MagicMirror that Jiriki gave to Simon. They are forced to smash it and then maneuver the incredibly sharp pieces with their bodies, something that (realistically) leaves their skin cut to ribbons. It's worthwhile, though, considering [[EldritchAbomination what they]] [[MindRape are about]] [[FateWorseThanDeath to be sacrificed to]].
* [[InvokedTrope Invoked]] in ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'': after kidnapping [[spoiler: Chapman]] in one novel, the heroes arrange his escape because they [[TechnicalPacifist can't kill him. They leave broken glass near the tied-up Chapman, which reinforces the idea that the Animorphs are "Andalite bandits" - Andalites don't use glass, and don't understand its sharpness.]]
* Used in ''The Lost Scrolls'' After Harry, Garth and Gid fail in their attempt to save Meagen and Jesse. As the evil cult people start to ready the poison, Harry starts frantically looking around for anything he can use to free them. It takes him a bit to remember that he has a knife blade he sewed into his tunic at the beginning of the book...
* Lampshaded in ''The Goblin Tower'' by Creator/LSpragueDeCamp. Fugitive king Jorian, the wizard Karadur, and the woman Vanora have been tied up in Jorian's bedroom by a couple of other wizards. Jorian's sword is hanging by its baldrick on his hatrack, and though Jorian has his ankles and wrists bound, he manages to worm himself to his feet, knock the hatrack over, and (with the help of Vanora's feet) cut through his bonds. Prompting this exchange after he releases the others:
-->'''Jorian:''' These knaves were tyros after all, or they'd never have left aught sharp where we could come upon it.\\
'''Karadur:''' Remember, my son, that they are accustomed to coping with foes, not by such crude devices as swords and cords, but by spirits, spells, and the transcendental wisdom of magic.\\
'''Jorian:''' So much the worse for them.
* Played with and averted in the Creator/StephenKing novel ''Literature/GeraldsGame''. The female protagonist is left handcuffed to a bed, naked, with no one alive for miles around. She makes her own conveniently placed sharp thing by breaking a water glass...[[spoiler:which she then uses to cut, not the handcuffs, but ''her own hand'', so the blood can act like a lubricant so her hand will slip out]].
* In ''[[Literature/KateShugak A Taint in the Blood]]'', Kate is captured and tied to a camp bed in an old cabin. She escapes by breaking the bed till she can squirm across the floor, and then lighting a Coleman stove and using it to burn through the rope.
* ''Literature/TheSagaOfArrowOdd'': Captured by the viking Saemund, Odd spends the night scheduled to be executed in the morning, with his feet shackled and his hands tied behind his back, and guarded by twelve men. He strikes up a conversation with his guards to lull their vigilance, and eventually sings to them until they are all sleeping. Odd then crawls to a nearby axe and manages to cut the fetters on his hands on its edge. He unties his feet, grabs the axe, kills the guards, and gets away.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Parodied in ''Series/PoliceSquad'', where a kidnapped woman begins sawing away at her bonds on the requisite sharp object, wipes her forehead with her hand from the strain of it all, and then puts her hand back into the ropes to continue sawing away.
* Subverted on ''Series/{{NCIS}}''. Jenny, while tied to a chair, spends considerable effort edging a flat shard of metal towards her with her foot. Then the guy kicks her out of range. (Yes, he kicks ''her'' out of range, not the convenient sharp object. Ouch)
* Used on ''Series/{{Leverage}}'' when a mook has to escape.
* ''Series/{{Firefly}}''. In the pilot episode, Dobson is seen sawing at his bonds with a sharp object.
** The possibility is raised that Jayne left it with him for exactly that purpose. [[AntiHero It would not be out of character for him...]]
** Also, when [[PsychoForHire Jubal Early]] has Kaylee tied up, River suggests to her that there must be something sharp nearby. [[JustifiedTrope Justified]] since she's in the engine room with a whole bunch of tools, making Early TooDumbToLive.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer:'' In the episode "The Dark Age", bad guy Ethan Rayne has Buffy tied up, with her arms wrapped around the edges of a table and tied together beneath it. There is a conveniently located screw sticking out the bottom of the table that she uses to saw through the ropes.
* Michael has to do this in ''Series/BurnNotice'' when a former friend sells him out. He escapes but bloodies his wrists.
* In ''Series/TheAdventuresOfBriscoCountyJr'' episode "Crystal Hawks", Brisco manages to get himself loose from the ropes he's tied up in by using a partially exposed screw in Crystal's cart.
* In ''Series/{{Warehouse 13}}'', Claudia is handcuffed with no way out. Looking around, she picks up a plastic spatula and tosses it down disgustedly. After the action falls, Artie shows up and tells her he sees seven ways out of the situation. He picks up the spatula and corrects himself: "Sorry, eight."
* In ''Series/HawaiiFive0'', a serial killer who has Max tied up creates his means of escape by smashing several objects with a golf club, then leaving the room for a minute. Max tips his chair over and uses a glass shard to cut the rope. He's not done yet; [[spoiler: he gets back in the chair and pretends he's still bound, and when the killer raises the club to cave in his skull, he runs him through with the shard]].
* In the series ''Series/OnceUponATime'', in the episode called "Hat Trick", Emma does this with a tea cup from which she had drunk earlier. While falling into a drug-induced unconciousness, she drops the cup, and when she wakes up she's bound and gagged. So she drops a pillow onto the tea cup and stomps on it, breaking it, and uses it to cut the rope.
* In ''Series/{{Homeland}}'', Carrie manages to sever her bonds this way when held prisoner by Abu Nazir, but her escape is unsuccessful.
* John Sheppard in ''Series/StargateAtlantis'' uses a conveniently placed rock to cut the rope when he has hands tied behind his back. [[JustifiedTrope It makes more sense]] once you know [[spoiler:it's a scenario cooked up by an AI]].
* In ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' this happens in almost every other episode, one or both of the boys gets tied up and finds a nail or a knife or a sharp edge of some sort to break the ropes.
* {{Invoked|Trope}} in ''Series/TheWalkingDead'', when [[ReluctantMadScientist Milton]] drops a scary-looking tray of sharp things the Governor [[TortureTechnician happened to have laid out in the holding cell]], and deliberately leaves one lying out of sight when he clears up the others.
* DoubleSubverted in ''Snobs'': Abby is captured and tied up below the deck of a ship. She tries using a letter opener to cut through the bonds, but one of her captors comes back in and takes it from her before she can finish. Luckily, the titular dog finds her and finishes the job.
* ''Series/{{Castle}}'':
** In one episode, Castle has his character Nikki Heat tied to a chair and can't figure out how she will escape, so he has Alexis tie him up for research. He ends up knocking over a garbage can and using a broken soda can to cut free.
** In a later episode, Castle and Beckett are locked in a room and are bound with zip ties. Castle finds a screw and uses it to saw at Beckett's binds. [[SubvertedTrope A decent amount of time passes and he doesn't even make a dent in it.]]
* ''Series/DoctorWho''. In "The Caves of Androzani" the Doctor is chained to the wall in a spaceship's control cabin. He's able to break free of the wall, and finds a [[CowTools vertical glowing energy beam]] he can use to cut the chain, through trying to do so while standing with his back to it is rather painful.
* In the ''Series/{{Haven}}'' episode "301", Audrey uses broken glass to cut through her ropes. Her hands get very bloody in the process.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones''. In "The Sons of the Harpy", after kidnapping Tyrion Lannister, Jorah Mormont steals a fisherman's boat, then returns to where he's left Tyrion lying in the sand, his longsword stuck through Tyrion's bonds to hold him in place. He finds Tyrion frantically rubbing the ropes against the blade, but Jorah was only away for a moment, not enough time to escape.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/KingsQuestV'' there is a mouse you save really early on in the game. If you don't, when you become tied up much later, the mouse won't come and rescue you by gnawing through your ropes.
* This is an option in the video game ''VideoGame/{{Darklands}}'' when you are tied up by devil worshipers in a hamlet. The game features an illogical subversion; it can be easier to break the ropes with brute force if strong enough than it is to cut them.
* Parodied in ''VideoGame/TheSecretOfMonkeyIsland''. When Guybrush is thrown underwater tied to a heavy idol, the ground around him is ''[[RedHerring littered]]'' with swords, scissors, and other miscellaneous sharp objects, all of which are just out of reach. If you wait a while, you'll hear two people on the dock discuss whether they should throw a knife into the water, and then decide not to. The solution, of course, is to [[spoiler:pick up the idol and climb out]].
* Parodied again in ''VideoGame/TheCurseOfMonkeyIsland''. After Guybrush is swallowed whole by a very large snake, you can see that all around you are: a Snake-Slicing machete, a can of Snake-Away, the Jaws of Life, a good-size Snake-Beating plank, some high-fiber cereal, and a Nine Iron golf club. All of these things would easily allow him to escape if they weren't outside the snake.
* In ''VideoGame/BrokenSword II'', this is the very second thing you do in the game - after knocking over a Conveniently Unstable Bookshelf to get rid of a [[AnimalAssassin poisonous spider]], you find a sharp bracket on the wall behind it.
* In ''VideoGame/CallOfJuarezBoundInBlood'', the three [=McCall=] brothers are tied up in a shed where there was a saw. Only William uses the saw, however, and just goes to untie his brothers.
* Played with in ''VideoGame/RuleOfRose''; the sharp thing is very deliberately placed, as well as controlled by the villain: a pair of scissors that is automatically lowered by rope to cut the protagonist's ties, and then lifted up again beyond her reach.
* In the into to ''[[VideoGame/FirstEncounterAssaultRecon FEAR]] 3'', the Point Man is being interrogated by a pair of Armacham troops, up until the point that that Paxton Fettel waltzes into the room and possesses one of them. As soon as he does so and attacks the other guard, the Point Man produces a small knife he'd hidden up his sleeve and cuts the zip-tie around his wrist, then kills the guard Fettel is possessing.
* ''VideoGame/{{Nightshade}}'' on the NES has this or a variant in a couple points. Right at the start of the game, you use a Conveniently Placed Candle (The game even notes it's there "For no explainable reason" when you examine it) to free yourself from a chair. Later, one of the continue scenarios has you use some sharp metal protruding from the wall as part of your escape.
* ''VideoGame/JohnnyRocketfingers''
* ''VideoGame/IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade'': In the [=LucasArts=] adventure game based on the movie, you instead use a convenient polearm held by a set of armor.
* The first ''MaxPayne'' game uses a variant: The villains don't leave anything sharp lying around when Max is taken prisoner, but they ''do'' tie him to a Conveniently Flimsy Wooden Chair, which breaks apart when he strains against his bonds hard enough.

* In ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'', it is [[ChekhovsGun Chekhov's Gunned]] and [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20040227 subverted:]]
-->'''Othar:''' I escaped using naught but my wits!
-->'''Gil:''' ''And'' something my father left within your reach, right?

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* This also occurs in the "Big Top Trap" episode of ''WesternAnimation/ThePerilsOfPenelopePitstop''.
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Captain Planet|and the Planeteers}}'' had Gi tied to a chair in a room used to gather coral from a reef. One sharp piece falls conveniently nearby and we all know what happens after that...
* In ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', Aang uses the [[SpikesOfVillainy ludicrously spiky helmet]] of ''his own guard''.
* ''WesternAnimation/InspectorGadget'': Given Penny's propensity for getting BoundAndGagged, inevitably she stumbled across more than her fair share of conveniently placed sharp things.
* In ''WesternAnimation/KetchupVampires'', after Huberta has kidnapped Bella she takes her form in order to seduce Pino, Pino however sees through the disguise and bounds and gags her, he then locks her in a dungeon, she manages to escape by cutting the ropes with a rusty pipe in the cell.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Fillmore}}'': In "Codename: Electric Haircut", Fillmore is able to cut through his bonds with a CD that fell on him when he was being tied up.

!!Crushed hand variant examples:

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In the seventh ''LightNovel/KaraNoKyoukai'', [[spoiler:Shiki]] manages to one-up most of the examples on this page by [[spoiler:''chewing her own thumb off'']] to get out of handcuffs. Of course, [[spoiler:the thumb in question is on her [[ArtificialLimbs artificial left arm]]]], but it just shows how hardcore the character is.
** It's even more hardcore when you realize that despite being an artificial limb, she can feel through it and is nearly indistinguishable from an flesh and blood arm.
* ''Franchise/LupinIII'' does this quite often, through joint dislocation rather than crushing his hand. The only time we explicitly see his escape is during [[Recap/LupinIIIS2E1 the first Red Jacket episode]]. The rest of the time is usually just off-camera.
* In ''Manga/SukiALikeStory'', Asou intentionally breaks his thumb so he can wriggle free from his restraints. This is just one of many signs that he's far more than a simple school teacher.

* In ''Film/SawIII'', Detective Eric Matthews escapes the infamous bathroom by breaking his ''foot'' to get it through the manacle.
* In ''Film/LethalWeapon2'', Riggs is chained up and thrown into the sea. He dislocates his arm at the shoulder to get out. This is actually a ChekhovsGun, as he does this to escape a straitjacket earlier in the film, on a bet.
* In ''Film/TheBoondockSaints'', the brothers are handcuffed to chairs, so they move to allow one brother to ''stomp the other's thumb until he can pull it out of the handcuffs.'' It hurts to watch.
* In ''Film/PitchBlack'', Riddick dislocates both shoulders to escape from being attached to a pole by having his hands put around the pole and handcuffed together.
** It was revealed in the extra features reel on the DVD that Vin Diesel very nearly ''can'' do that move in real life. Not quite, but close.
* ''Film/{{Assassins}}''. ProfessionalKiller Miguel Bain dislocates his thumb to escape police handcuffs after being arrested during an assassination.

* Literature/MilesVorkosigan ''used'' to be able to do this easily when his bones were still brittle enough that he could crush them with his own muscles. The bones were replaced with unbreakable synthetics by the time of ''Komarr'', so that he was unable to escape no matter how hard he tried.
* In ''Literature/{{Issola}}'', Vlad considers how to get friends out of ceramic wrist bindings. He rejects the break-the-hand approach primarily because he doesn't have the oil he'd need to slide the hands out afterward.
* Played with in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' novel ''Proven Guilty'', where Harry is held captive by a pair of villains in an old garage, who are [[ItMakesSenseInContext selling him on eBay]]. There's a tool chest a few meters away, but out of reach, and he can't use any magic because the restraints are designed to trap wizards. However, with a bit of help from [[spoiler: Lasciel]], he uses a technique that lets him dislocate his thumb and slip one hand free of the restraints. Then he gets to the tool chest and manages to find a hacksaw. Fortunately, the restraints are made by [[TheFairFolk fae troll-smiths]], and iron is the fae's bane, so the hacksaw goes right through the restraints. He also levels a few curses at his dad, the stage magician, who never got around to teaching him how to get out of a pair of handcuffs painlessly.
* Variant: In ''Literature/GeraldsGame'', the heroine escapes from being handcuffed to a bed in a cabin somewhere in BFE (the only other person who could have let her out is her husband, recently deceased of a heart attack) by [[spoiler:using a broken drinking glass to cut the skin around her wrist, partly degloving her hand to slip out of one cuff]].
* ''Mindstar Rising'', a sci-fi novel by Creator/PeterFHamilton, has the protagonist and his fellow captive stomping their hands to crush the bones so they can pull them through the handcuffs. Even though he can create neurohormones to dull the pain, it still severely squicks them both.
* In ''Shackles'', one of the Nameless Detective novels by Bill Prizoni, Nameless employs a variant. Shackled in a cabin, Nameless starves himself till he can slip his hands out through the manacles, tearing off some skin in the process.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* This is how Series/{{Dexter}} escapes the Skinner in season 3 - rocking the table over to land on his hand.
* ''Series/TerminatorTheSarahConnorChronicles'': Sarah Connor manages to be even ''more'' badass: after breaking her hand bones, she ''bites her wrist open'', giving her the necessary slipperiness.
* Casey tells Series/{{Chuck}} about this trick (breaking one's own thumb), but Chuck's far too pain averse. [[ChekhovsSkill Casey himself pulls it later.]] Still later Morgan does it, but discovers he didn't need to break his thumb.
* [[DefiedTrope Defied]] in ''Series/BurnNotice''. Michael Westin is handcuffed, one hand to each arm of the chair he's sitting in. He notes that breaking your thumbs ''will'' work in such a situation, but it's much easier to use leverage and relative hardnesses of the restraints and whatever they're hooked onto to break loose instead, and then you don't have to deal with broken bones.
* During Season 3 of ''Series/PersonOfInterest'', Fusco breaks his thumb (the bad guys broke two of his other fingers earlier, so a little more pain wasn't that big a deal) to escape from a pair of handcuffs.
* Miss Parker employs the 'crushed hand' variant in one episode of ''Series/ThePretender'' when she dislocates her own thumb to allow herself to slip out of a set of handcuffs.

* In ''Webcomic/ErrantStory'', Sara dislocates one of her thumbs to slip that hand out of a pair of AntiMagic manacles and gets bonus badass points for using her injured hand to grab Meji and run off.
* In ''Webcomic/GetMedieval'', Torquel escapes by ''dislodging'' his thumb rather than break it.