Cut Phone Lines

Dick: It sounded as though somebody snipped the wire.
Dora: Really? What did it sound like?
Dick: "Snip".

Sometimes, the villain knows what the heroes are planning to do and where they will go. In this case, said villain knows when they will have access to a phone. So, to avoid having the police interfere, he (or she) will cut the phone line, often offscreen.

Frequently a Horror or a Mystery movie trope. Since cell phones have made this largely obsolete, this is generally replaced by Cell Phones Are Useless in modern works.

Compare The Radio Dies First and Lost in Transmission.


Anime and Manga
  • In Saitama Chainsaw Shoujo, Kirisaki Fumio makes a point of cutting the phone lines and disabling the local cell towers around her school to maximize the time she can spend cutting apart her classmates with a chainsaw before the police notice.
  • In Monster, Johan does this before killing Nina/Anna's adoptive parents.

Comic Books
  • Also, Lucky Luke did this trope with telegraph lines, because it is set in the Wild West. On one occasion the (fictitious) Indian tribe Blue Foots cut off a telegraph mast, while a telegram is send for Luke to the cavalry. Another time it was the so-called real Dalton Brothers who shot the telegraph lines to keep another city from learning about their arrival.
  • In The Dragon Doctors, one of the first thing bandits do when attacking is jam all communications. The second time it happens, it actually alerts Goro of the impending attack.
  • In the third issue of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Ronald McDonald says he's going to call the police about the crazy man robbing from his secret hamburger warehouse (don't ask), then one of the raptor banditos (don't ask) gives a very badass speech about why Ronald should just let them handle it instead of getting the police involved. And then Doc McNinja says that it's a moot point because he cut the phone lines.
  • An inadvertent version in Tintin and the Picaros. General Alcazar has overthrown the dictatorship of General Tapioca, so he rings the prison to cancel the Firing Squad scheduled to execute Thomson and Thompson. Only he keeps getting a wrong number, and our heroes have to race there in person to stop things Just in Time.

Films — Animated
  • The Incredibles had this on its collector's edition DVD, which included animated storyboards of deleted scenes. One featured an alternate situation where Syndrome tracked down the Parr family when Violet was still a baby. When Helen attempts to dial 911, hearing Bob fighting him out in the kitchen: "Don't bother, honey, I cut the wires. Just leave the scene, OK?"

Films — Live-Action
  • In Wee Willie Winkie, they cut telegraph wires. This leaves Col. Williams and his frontier regiment isolated and unable to call for help against Khoda Khan and his enemy Afghan forces.
  • The first Die Hard movie shows the bad people doing this. They weren't planing on physically cutting, but a guy got impatient.
  • The Matrix has a variation: Cell lines are ubiquitous so communicating is not a problem, but to actually get out of the matrix, you need a hard line. A virtual hard line. A hard virtual... look it's gotta be a phone line so cutting the phone lines is serious.
  • In Film/Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), ape leader Caesar does this to the communications complex of the futuristic city he was enslaved in during its ape rebellion.
  • In the original version of Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and its 2005 remake, the gang members (in the remake it's corrupt officers) cut the phone lines to isolate the station house.
  • Shown on-screen in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The Nazis cut the phone lines when they invade.
  • At least one phone line is cut in the first Gremlins movie.
  • In Film/The Hot Rock (1972), one of the bumbling thieves does this to an NYPD precinct house, while another puts a radio jammer on the precinct's rooftop
  • Michael Myers does this in almost every Halloween movie, ex. I, II, 4 and 7 (20 Years Later). In Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers, Michael burns down phone lines outside a distant diner/gas station to cut off long distance to/from Haddonfield and also shorts out the town's electricity while there to blacken the entire town.
  • In Day of the Wolves, the wolves cut the phone and power lines at the same time they blow the bridge, completely isolating the town of Wellerton.
  • In original version of Film/Friday the 13th (1980), Jason's mother cuts the phone lines at Camp Crystal Lake to keep anyone from telling the police what's happening there.
  • In Film/Enemy Territory (1987), phone lines in a New York City housing project are repeatedly cut by gang members.
  • In Film/Judgment Night (1993), phone lines in a Chicago housing project are cut by gang members
  • In Panic Room, the thieves cut the main phone lines of the house to prevent Meg and her daughter from calling out, while the phone in the titular room is on a different line but never got connected in the first place, as Meg moved into the house that very day. However, the burglar in charge of doing the cutting simply cut the cord of the kitchen phone, not the entire line. Meg manages to jury rig the panic room's phone into the main line and get a call for help out before the thieves disconnect the lines for real.
  • In "The Devil's Rain (1975)", a town's outside phone lines are cut
  • In "Race With The Devil (1975)", outside phone lines in the Satanic cult's rural town are either dead or "having a bad connection"; a "big wind from up north" is blamed for this.
  • In Ted, after Ted gets bear-napped by Donnie and his son, he tries to call John for help.. When Ted is about to reveal his location to him, he hears a dial tone and turns around to see Donnie with a pair of scissors holding the line.
  • In Four Flies on Grey Velvet, the killer cuts the phone line to Roberto's house while Roberto is on the phone to God.
  • In A View to a Kill, Zorin's mooks cut Stacy Sutton's phone line before invading her house and attacking her. After James Bond fends them off, he repairs the line.
  • One scene in The Longest Day shows French Resistance members blowing up a dozen or so telephone poles to cut the lines. It's implied that numerous other cells in Normandy did similar things, as after a while the Nazis are forced to use couriers to communicate.
  • Larry and Karen in My Favorite Blonde find this out when they are trapped inside the Chicago apartment where they were supposed to meet the next British courier. Unable to call for help and unable to leave with Nazi killers lurking outside, they wind up staging a brawl loud enough to bring the cops to the apartment.
  • In Wait Until Dark, the baddies cut the phone line so that Susy could not call the police.
  • Bulldog Drummond: Drummond attempts to call for help after the bad guys have arrived at the inn only to find that they've cut the lines.
  • The baddies in Bad Day at Black Rock cut the phone lines of the small town so that the hero can't inform the police.

  • In the James Bond novel Diamonds Are Forever, Bond is visiting a mud bath to pay a horse jockey for cheating when it is noticed that the phone line is dead. The novel states that this should have been a warning for Bond, but he did not react and could not when the responsible pair of henchmen came and tortured said jockey for his betrayal.
  • Clock Punk variant in The Fifth Elephant where the equivalent of cutting the phone lines is smashing the semaphore tower and killing the operators.
  • Done in Without Remorse by John Kelly for his final confrontation with the drug ring, which has set up shop in an abandoned warehouse. Kelly cuts the wires and connects his own field phone for a bit of psychological warfare.
  • Updated to the modern world in Relativity: In the story "August Moon", a killer enters a woman's house and cuts the phone line, then hunts around for a cell phone and removes the battery.
  • Doc Savage: In The Men Who Smiled No More, Pat twice has a phone line cut on her as she is attempting to call Doc.

Live-Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Ms. Calender cut the phone line when she was possessed.
  • Harper's Island has the killer cutting the phone lines so no one on the island can call the mainland for help.
  • In season 3 of Boardwalk Empire Nucky realizes that Rosetti's men are about to attack when his butler tries to make a call and the line is dead.
  • In the Helix episode "274," when he hears CDC researcher Alan's intent to call the army in for backup during an outbreak of The Virus, Major Balleseros blows up the satellite and communications system so isolated Research, Inc.. Arctic Biosystems is both cut off from the outside world, and its intrabase phone lines disconnect.
  • Future tech example: In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Bliss", when an alien that Seven Of Nine comes in contact with tries to warn her about the "wormhole" that her crew's ship is about to enter into, the communication lines are suddenly interrupted as everything in the Astrometrics lab powers down.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Final Verdict", the killer does this (combined with Vehicular Sabotage) to ensure that none of his targets can leave the house or summon help.
  • In the Supernatural episode "The Usual Suspects" (S02, Ep07), the phone cuts out during Karen Giles' call to 911.
  • Father Brown: In "The Lair of the Libertines", the phone line to the hotel is cut. Father Brown discovers this just after he finds the first body.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Curse of Fenric", Commander Millington orders that the phone lines be cut and all radio receivers be destroyed to completely isolate the naval base.
  • "Series/The Equalizer" In "The Children's Song", "Torn", "The Cup", "The Rehearsal" and "Last Call" episodes.
  • "Series/The Greatest American Hero", In "Plague" its militaristic villains do this to a small town.
  • "Series/Hill Street Blues": In "Can World War III Be An Attitude", Hill Street station's lines appeared to have been cut by gang members.
  • "Series/Lady Blue": In "Death Valley Day", a gang in a Chicago housing project does this.
  • Person of Interest. Inverted in "Prophets" where it's the good guys trying to stop the Victim of the Week from calling 911, in order to hide him from Samaritan, an Artificial Intelligence that can tap into any camera or phone line. He connects on a borrowed mobile phone long enough to say his name before Finch cuts him off, but it's enough for Samaritan to zero in on him
  • "Series/Police Story". Implied in at least one episode "The Empty Weapon" while a mugging victim is being terrorized by her assailants who found her address.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: The killer does this to isolate the Snowed-In chalet from the outside world in "Murder Under the Mistletoe".
  • The New Avengers: Done in "Sleeper" to isolate central London while the gang are Taking Over the Town.

  • In Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, the murderer cuts the phone wires of the guesthouse where the victims are snowed in.
  • The Real Inspector Hound, a satire which copied most of the twists of The Mouse Trap, does the same, although it fails to prevent the phone from ringing again later in the scene after the play reboots.

Video Games
  • Near the end of Portal, in GLaDOS' chamber there is a red land line phone (which strangely has the company logo as a rotary dial), and the line between the receiver and the device has been cut. The developer commentary says that this phone was there for someone to sit by and call for help if GLaDOS ever became sentient and godlike. Apparently, that plan didn't go too well.

Visual Novel
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Rika cuts the phone lines in both Irie's clinic and at the only payphone in the village so Akasaka wouldn't know about his wife's death, and she would have more time to ask for his help in saving her life before she is to be killed a few days after the Cotton Drifting Festival.
  • In every arc of Umineko: When They Cry, the external phone line of Rokkenjima is cut just before the murders start. Note: only the external line. The internal line is used in Episode 1, 4 and 5 to give the survivors some mysterious or threatening calls.

Western Animation
  • Daffy thinks thinks Porky has done this as part of a plot to trap him in the house in The Looney Tunes Show episode "The Muh-Muh-Muh-Murder". He hasn't. The phone was an antique that was only there for decoration.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch: In "The Bear Who Came To Dinner," Peevly is calling a doctor to give Square Bear a check-up so as to see if he's faking an injury. The call is intercepted atop a phone pole by Hair Bear, who is using Gabby the Parrot to impersonate the doctor's secretary.
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog pilot "The Chicken From Outer Space", as Eustace is turning into a chicken, Muriel tries to call an operator. However, the space chicken cut the lines.
  • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Momma Robotnik's Birthday", Sonic tricks Scratch and Grounder into thinking they are contestants on a game show he is hosting. Robotnik sees this from the monitor in his lair and tries to call them to warn them about Sonic, but Sonic literally cuts through Grounder's phone line with a knife, which also somehow cuts Robotnik's phone line, much to the latter's bewilderment. This scene, unfortunately, was cut from the Toon Disney broadcast.

Real Life
  • In Real Life, Charles Manson's minions cut the phone lines to Sharon Tate's house before killing everyone inside.
  • Martial law in Poland in 1981 began with the phone lines going dead.
  • Actually recommended as advice in Namibia. If you get stranded on a deserted highway, throw rocks on the phone line until it breaks and wait for a repairman to come pick you up.