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Electric Torture

"They say, 'whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.' But when it comes to torture devices, that's pretty much never true. The picana electrica delivers shocks at only 1/1,000 of an amp. It's completely non-lethal, but at 15,000 volts, it's so painful, you wish it was."
Michael Westen in Burn Notice, via voice over as the device is about to be used on him

Real torture techniques are messy, uncomfortable to watch, and difficult to simulate for TV. Such graphic violence would risk an undesirably restrictive MPAA rating or rejection by a network's standards. More of an immediate problem, a key character with broken limbs or open wounds would simply not be able to physically continue in the plot without a considerable healing period, of which there may be no room for on the timeline. Including a physically broken character in the plot would simply be an ongoing downer, defusing any joy the writer intended to create.

Instead, most torture sessions in TV, movies and video games takes the form of an electroshock treatment, some form of direct neural stimulation, or the ever popular Agony Beam. In any case, the point is to have the actor shake around as if in terrible pain without actually causing any physical damage. If the producers are particularly interested in realism, a pair of burns will be left where the electrodes were attached. Depending on medium and genre, this may include visible electric arcs. Sometimes parodied, but far more often played straight.

It's almost guaranteed that a variation on this conversation will take place:

The hero never dies or experiences serious physical injury/mutilation, and in most cases will not even show any marks, though usually requires a shoulder to help walk for another scene or so, as he is too weak to walk on his own. The hero will soon regain his strength entirely. A villain given a taste of his own medicine might die or become horribly mutilated, though.

This trope appears to be weakening in recent years after the appearance of "torture horror" films such as the Hostel series breaking into the mainstream, though this genre began back in the 1970s with films like Mark of the Devil and Salo Or The 120 Days Of Sodom.

Sometimes an example of Truth in Television - certain members of the scientific and medical communities believe that nonfatal electrical current through your brain is the most painful thing a human can survive, and certain military groups around the world have begun to utilize this. When applied properly, this method also has the added bonus of not leaving any physical evidence of torture on the bodies of the "guests". Electric torture has some side benefits to interrogators as well, as it tends to mess with brain circuitry, leading to feelings of disorientation and short term memory loss in addition to pain, which increases confusion and makes subjects more malleable. It also tends to be convenient, as it doesn't require a ton of effort on the interrogators' part and rarely requires extensive cleanup beyond the occasional loss of bowel control.

A favorite of the Psycho Electro; a variant of Agony Beam. See Magical Defibrillator for the flip side of electroshocking humans, and Harmless Electrocution. May be part of a Robotic Torture Device.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: A Mephisto-like character introduces Kaiser to a method of playing Duel Monsters that involves Electric Torture, which Kaiser inflicts on his own brother post his Freak Out. Later, it's revealed that he's used this method so much, it's screwed with his heart and substantially shortened his lifespan.
  • In the manga version of the original series, Jonouchi is tortured by gang members (the leader of which just happens to be a former friend) with stun guns. Later on, Yugi defeats the entire gang using a knocked-out member (holding a stun gun), the weather, and a couple of well-placed threats.
  • Yusei is the undisputed king of this trope when regarding Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: While in prison he's subjected to this twice (one of them stripped down to nothing but his boxers), three if you count the excruciating experience of being literally branded a criminal, and again when he gets his D-wheel back from security in the form of hundreds and hundreds of cattle prods. The Arcadia Movement might also have routinely done this to children in their attempts to raise a psychic army (it's how Misty's brother died, anyway).
  • During Goku's fight against Jackie Chun in Dragon Ball, Jackie Chun uses a finishing move that shocks the opponent with 20,000 volts of electricity (according to Yamcha). Goku eventually became willing to give in, but then he saw the full moon...
  • Parodied in the third episode of Excel♥Saga; a group of soldiers subject Excel to being shocked with electrodes, only to find it arouses her. In confusion, they shock another soldier, who displays the standard cartoon reaction.
  • In Fairy Tail, Erza recieves this when she's being interrogated by Kyouka of the Dark Guild Tartaros.
  • Ayeka subjects Ryoko to some form of Electric Torture in the second episode of the Tenchi Muyo! OVA after she is captured while being hung upside down, but it only tickles her and seems to have no effect. This changes when Ayeka jabs her with the hilt of Tenchi's sword and causes a much more painful electric reaction (although it can be assumed that it is much more than electricity doing the damage) due to Ryoko being unable to touch the sword.
    • Note: In the actual Japanese dialog for this, Ryouko shouts "I'm coming!" to irk Ayeka, but the subtitles in later releases of the OVA do not reflect this, cleaning it up to "That tickles!"
  • Ginji of Get Backers has been known to interrogate random mooks by slowing raising the charge ("750, 1000, 1500...").
  • A particular YuYu Hakusho villain specifically blends electricity with his personal power and then uses it to slowly torture Yusuke, with the eventual intended effect of killing him, but not before he has to watch Keiko die first.
  • Slaves in the Magical World of Mahou Sensei Negima! are equipped with collars that allow their owners to perform electric torture on them with but a few words, though these are supposed to only be used when the slave attempts to escape.
  • Samurai Gun. The forces of the Shogonate develop an electric chair for interrogations.
  • In the special Pokemon Mewtwo Returns, Giovanni does this to Mewtwo to try and get it to submit to his ownership. Eventually it frees itself rather...disturbingly.
    • In the Pokémon Special manga, there is one scene when Red is held down by several Magneton so that Lt. Surge's Electabuzz could use Thunder on him several times before his body is dumped into the ocean.
      • That may be a hint as to how Pokemon were used in wars in their world...
    • Used by Grings Kodai in Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions on Zorua to get his mother to obey him. Added points for doing it to a baby.
      • Harmless Electrocution is subverted in this case. Not only is the pain from the shock agonizing, everyone it's used on takes awhile to recover (thankfully they're all Pokemon, who seem to heal much quicker than humans anyway) and he kills Zoroark with it, though she's revived by Celebi.
    • In the main Pokémon anime, for his battle for his eighth Indigo League badge, Ash finds himself facing off against Team Rocket, since the real gym leader (the same Giovanni from above) was away on "business", and assigned the trio as his substitutes. Team Rocket traps Ash in a platform that electrocutes him whenever his Pokémon take damage during the battle. Meowth rigs the platform to send electric surges even when Ash was winning. In the end, though, Togepi makes this plan backfire.
  • In Shugo Chara!, Chairman Hoshina acts this way towards Ikuto, telling the scientists to push him further even though the X energy in Ikuto's violin is causing him harm.
  • Killua of Hunter × Hunter had been subjected to this so many times in his youth that he developed an affinity to electricity, which he used when creating his Hatsu techniques.
  • In Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, the Demon sisters try this on Panty and Stocking. However, because they're angels, it doesn't work, and Stocking even finds it pleasurable.
  • In Freezing, after objecting to (and launching an investigation into) unethical experimentation by the world government Chevalier, Elizabeth Mably is arrested, stripped to her underwear, and has electrodes attached to her head and breasts, with the sessions of electrocution lasting for over 20 minutes at a time (the downside of Super Strength; the Chevalier know this won't kill her) It's played straight as an arrow, complete with the minion/Big Bad conversation ("But Sir, if we do any more than this, she might receive permanent brain damage..." "I don't care"), but manages to be genuinely horrifying courtesy of showing things like Elizabeth drooling and losing bladder control, and her eyes rolling up into her head.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens (in an unexpected and fairly graphic sequence) to Lightfoot in G.I. Joe Special Missions #13.
  • In All Fall Down, Siphon endures a form of this while on a deathtrap power-nullifying platform.
  • The Punisher does this in the Punisher MAX issue "Long Cold Dark". The Punisher is already nasty-talented at inflicting pain on others. When Barracuda kidnaps Frank's daughter, who he didn't know existed, The Punisher goes Papa Wolf on the man and hooks up Barracuda's danglies to a car battery. For an hour.
  • Variable voltage harnesses from various Transformers Generation 1 comics serve as a restraining and torture devices for both Decepticons and Autobots.

    Fan Fic 
  • Tortured Truth, a Danny Phantom fanfiction by Darth Frodo.
  • Dunny of Company0051 decides to stick his video games card into the Master Chief's neck slot and see what happens. The result? It hurts.
  • The main reason that Celesia keeps Lulamoon around in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure seems to be so she can shoot lightings at her.
  • In Cupcakes, Pinkie does this to Rainbow Dash.
  • In what is possibly one of the most terror-inducing moments in the Tamers Forever Series, a swarm of Kurisarimon do this to Takato while he is being beaten to death.
    • Takato, Rika, Henry, Terriermon and Renamon are also on the receiving end of Azulongmon's Wind Electricity technique.
  • In Pages Of Harmony, Twilight does this very briefly to Rainbow Dash, but just as a test to make sure she could administer the electrical manipulation to her brain properly. Done in a much more blatant sense with Applejack to condition her into fearing telling the truth, so much so that she only is driven to speak in questions, as she no longer knows truth from lies.
  • In Teen Wolf fanfiction, most of the Derek/Kate fic have or at least mention this, as the fic is usually about Kate torturing him/Derek having flashbacks to Kate's torture.
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, the Psyche Master uses psychic-electric torture on his victims. In the novel, Empath is subjected to this when he dares to give the Psyche Master a piece of his mind about what the Psyche Master calls Papa Smurf. In "Hefty, The Luckiest Smurf", the Psyche Master subjects Hefty to this form of torture in order to reveal to Smurfette that Empath is now the new Psyche Master.

    Film 
  • The Incredibles — Mr Incredible is tortured with electricity by Syndrome.
  • The main character of Shock Corridor is receiving electroshock treatment in the lunatic asylum.
  • Poor Bumblebee. He's shocked in the first live action Transformers movie, for no apparent reason, and in a comicbook story arc connected with said movie...
  • In Lethal Weapon, Riggs is tortured by a Torture Technician played by Al Leong.
  • John Rambo in Rambo: First Blood Part II is such a badass that he took enough electricity to make the lightbulbs of an entire Viet Cong camp flicker and still kick commie ass soon afterwards.
  • Memorably applied by Bryan (played by Liam Neeson) in Taken on a worthless brute that addicts helpless little girls to drugs before selling them to be raped by dirty old men. He slams two long-blunt-and-rusty nails into the evil bastard's deserving thighs, connects the nails to a fuse box, and turns on the light, coolly telling him that unlike third world countries (which they used to outsource this kind of thing to), the power in Paris "will stay on till they turn it off from lack of payment on the bill." When the bastard gives up information on the person he sold Bryan's daughter to, Bryan leaves the room, with the power on.
  • The torture device in The Princess Bride isn't technically electric — although it may qualify as "some form of direct neural stimulation" — but the sequence checks all the boxes, including electrode-analogues, actor thrashing around in pain, and "increase the intensity" moment. And then Westley dies. Well, mostly dies.
  • Sith Lords love to do this to their victims in the Star Wars universe. Expanded Universe information on how the Force works turns this into a subversion; it's not actual electricity, per se, more like a visual manifestation that symbolizes using the dark side to inflict terrible pain on someone you feel extreme hate for.
  • Three Kings does electric torture when one character is held and tortured by the Iraq Republican Guard. Done in a somewhat more gritty way as, among other things, you can hear his teeth cracking as he clenches them in pain when the current is passing through.
    • Similarly, the soldiers rescue a man who has been tortured this way-He is tied to a wire bed frame and electric clamps are connected to it.
  • The botched execution by electric chair of Eduard Delacroix in The Green Mile: A sadistic guard deliberately refused to wet the sponge on his head which, instead of killing him quickly, it slowly cooked him from the inside while he was still alive.
  • Parodied in Hot Shots! Part Deux, where the electrical torture causes a Big Blackout and causes popcorn to come out of the tortured.
  • Jamal is hooked to a car battery to "loosen his tongue" in Slumdog Millionaire. The treatment knocks him out instantly.
  • Used in Saw; Jigsaw shocks Lawrence and Adam a few times in I.
  • Used quite effectively (and somewhat humorously) in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as the electricity is applied to a very sensitive area and another character uses the opportunity to goad the torturer on the homo-erotic subtext.
  • Showdown in Little Tokyo. After capturing the heroes, Yoshida orders Kenner and Murata to be tortured to death by electrocution. They try to piss him off by initially laughing it off until they increase the voltage to truly unbearable levels.
  • The Evil That Men Do (1984). Charles Bronson is hired to murder Dr Clement Molloch, a doctor who advises South American dictatorships on how to torture people. The movie opens with the Mad Doctor demonstrating (to a group of army officers) the use of electric torture on a dissident journalist. A later scene lists the extensive injuries inflicted on him, including teeth shattered from being clenched so hard.
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance: Cha Yeong-mi, the main character's girlfriend, has electrodes clamped on her earlobes and gets electroshocked to death.
  • Used on the hero in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension:
    Lord John Whorfin: More power to him.
  • In the film Braddock Missing In Action III, a sadistic Viet Cong does this to Col. James Braddock (Chuck Norris) while Braddock's son watches. But, this being Chuck Norris...
  • In Tango and Cash, the prison inmates dip the two undercover-cop protagonists in an electrified water trough.
    • In a similar vein, Tango kills a mook by kicking him into an exposed electrical transformer during a rainstorm.
  • In the Serbian film Underground, Nazis try to use electric torture on Blacky, who's an electrician by trade and so completely immune to electric shocks. After maxing out the juice to no effect, a Nazi finally touches an electrode to see if it's working and blows himself across the room. This movie is a surreal Black Comedy.
  • Employed in Black Mama White Mama by a Banana Republic dictator to a presumed rebel. As is typical for the movie, the girl is rendered topless first.
  • TRON: Inverted. The MCP tortures Sark by 'depriving him of cycles'. In this case, he RUNS on electricity, so this requires the opposite action to get the desired effect.
    • Also played straight, when the MCP captures Clu 1.0, threatens him with total de-resolution if he fails to tell the MCP who his User is, then brutally tortures the Program to death.
    • Dumont the I/O Tower Guardian is also given this treatment when he was captured by Sark and brought on board his Carrier.
    Dumont: What do you want? I'm "busy".
    Sark: Busy dying, you worn-out excuse for a program?
  • Toward the end of The President's Analyst, Dr. Schaefer is captured by the phone company, who intend to extract information about the President for their ends. They have him trapped in a phone booth and subject him to some kind of high-tech pain-inflicting technology.
  • Played with in The Artist, as the movie begins with an audience watching George Valentin's newest movie, where Valentin's character is being subjected to some sort of electric torture.
  • The 1978 political thriller Power Play has a woman tortured with battery wires attached to her nipples; after checking his men didn't leave any marks the secret police chief then has her "shot while trying to escape". This motivates the protagonist (the woman was the daughter of a friend) to agree to plan a coup against the government.
  • In the movie version of 1984 made in 1984, Julia is shown at the end moving in a way that implies she's suffering nerve damage from electric torture.
  • In the Planet of the Apes sequel Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar is tortured by electric shock to get him to admit he can talk. One of the men there is apparently sickened by the display and leaves. The Big Bad shows he has an order for Caesar's execution, so just pump up the wattage and electrocute him! In the mean time, the other man went to a control room and disconnects the power. Caesar is smart enough to fake being tortured to death, then later escapes.
  • In Side Effects, Dr Jonathan Banks becomes suspicious about the mental state of a woman who committed a crime while on medication for depression. While she is in the secure hospital, he takes her to see an electro-convulsive therapy session, and tells her that it is a very effective treatment for depression, "but who knows what it will do if there's nothing wrong with you?"

    Literature 
  • In The Orphan Master's Son, North Korean interrogators use an electric torture device to wipe out their victims' personalities, turning them into Empty Shells.
  • A brain-electrodes variant shows up in Duumvirate that can also cause pleasure.
  • In Ken Follett's thriller Jackdaws, the Nazi interrogator (who is not in any way comical) tortures one of the women by sticking an electric probe up her vagina. She gets her comeuppance, however, by doing the same thing to him, simply in a different location.
  • John Galt goes through this at the end of Atlas Shrugged. Not only does he stoically endure the torture, but he's able to professionally troubleshoot the torture device, while still tied down, when it breaks after being turned up too high.
  • Heinz, one of the interrogators in Stephen King's short story In the Deathroom, has custom-built a device that draws power from a car battery and transfers it to a large steel stylus; he claims to the story's protagonist that he has used it to deliver shocks to prisoners' hands, feet, and other more delicate places. Evidence in the story indicates that he killed a friend of the protagonist by jabbing him in the temple with the stylus — the shock triggered a lethal epileptic fit.
  • The book 1984 had such a device used on the protagonist, though it was not even close to the worst torture he was subjected to.
  • In On A Pale Horse, the hero's girlfriend is tortured by being stripped to her waist, and her nipples being touched by active electrodes. Author Appeal and Fetish Fuel ahoy.
  • The Machine, Count Rugen's creation in The Princess Bride, features suction cup electrodes attached to almost every inch of the victim's skin, even on the tongue and inside the ears. Its result is rather singular; the Machine quite literally sucks away years of the victim's life. Prince Humperdinck, true to villain form, turns the machine up to the highest setting in order to kill Westley, but he turns out to be Only Mostly Dead.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has the use of Electric Judgment by the Jedi. The only difference it seems to have from Force Lightning is that it is often not intended to be lethal. And that most Jedi frown on its use, while all Sith think it's peachy.
    • Happens in Galaxy of Fear: Clones. Some mind-scanning droids are modified so their electrical scans will be almost as effective at taking information from the minds of people who aren't hardened against this sort of thing as torture droids, and as a bonus it will be even more painful.
  • Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal sees the French Action Service resort to electric torture on Viktor Kowalski, with the ex-Foreign Legionnaire dying after he breaks and finishes confessing. One set of electrodes is attached to the penis.
  • Daniel Keys Moran's The Last Dancer has a standard part of the plot being wireheads who have a circuit installed in the pleasure center of their brain, which is apparently highly addictive, but which requires an electrical connection to work. Sedon tortures D'van (aka William Devane) by installing the same thing into the pain center of his brain. The really nasty thing is that Sedon uses a battery pack to power it, and when Denice escapes with D'van and Sedon, for several hours Sedon doesn't mention to Denice that the battery pack is still supplying agony to D'van...
  • In The Regeneration Trilogy, soldiers with PTSD symptoms are subject to electroshock therapy. Although it's called psychotherapy, it's described as no less cruel than torture, since Yealland essentially shocks them until he gets the reaction he wants—going as far as shocking a man's face to make him stop smiling.
  • Similar to the Regeneration Trilogy example above, James Bond gets electroshock therapy in The Man with the Golden Gun as a deprogramming method (he had just attempted to kill M, having been brainwashed). Ultimately subverted by the addition of sodium pentothal, which allowed Bond to sleep through the process. Bond implies that this was added only fairly recently.
  • In The Hunger Games series' third book Mockingjay, it is revealed that Johanna Mason was soaked in water and electrocuted.
  • In John Varley’s Red Lightning the narrator gets wordlessly threatened with this. He wakes up bound to a chair and with his scrotum connected to a box with a dial and that is plugged into an ordinary wall outlet. The device is never switched on.
  • In The Quest of the Unaligned, Gaithim uses lightning magic to torture Crown Prince Alaric and show off his new hoshek powers.

    Live Action TV 

  • In Series/Teen Wolf, this happens to be Kate Argent's favorite form of torture, (unless you're Derek, and then it's a mix of electrical, Mind Rape and "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization torture).
    • Seen in The Tell, when she attacks Derek with a cattle prod, containing "900,000 volts" (she laughs at this) and in Formality where she now has Derek chained up, shirtless, and hooked up to some sort of electrical torture device that sends volts through the wires, that are connected to Derek on his stomach. Oh, and did I mention she has Derek for at least 2 days?
    • Used a lot in Teen Wolf. Chris Argent even notes that his family has detailed information on how electricity affects werewolves. A certain voltage prevents them from shifting, a higher voltage takes away their regeneration, and so on. It makes him question how such scientific accuracy was obtained.
    • At the end of episode 3x13 Anchors, the question of where is Derek (and Peter) is answered when they are shown chained (shirtless,of course) to a metal chain link fence and being electrocuted. It continues in the following episode.
  • Doctor Who
    • Inverted in the episode "Dalek", where The Doctor is the torturer and the evil Dalek is the victim. Effective as it's the first time in the new series you see the Doctor acting actively "cruel" to another creature, showing just how seriously he takes the situation.
    • Played straight in the same episode as well, with Christopher Eccleston giving a Shirtless Scene strapped to a table. Yum.
    • The Tenth Doctor does this to himself in "Human Nature/The Family of Blood". The Visual Dictionary specifies that, with the Chameleon Arch's settings, high-voltage electrical current rewrites the Doctor's biology — causing two hearts to meld into one, for just one example.
  • 24 employs several variations on the trope, including a fictional drug that gives the subject the sensation of being on fire, sensory deprivation, and, in a pinch, sticking the subject's feet in a bucket of water and shocking him with a defibrillator. In one case Jack Bauer is actually rendered clinically dead, and his torturers ironically have to restart his heart.
  • Number Three's torture of Baltar in the third season (episode: "A Measure of Salvation) of Battlestar Galactica, made even more uncomfortable for the viewer by the perverse sexual overtones. This may or may not be Truth in Television; some people like that kind of thing... He's strapped to a table enduring painful shocks and later, an agony device to the ear. He gets through it by disconnecting his mind from his body.
  • The sadistic Adelai Niska from Firefly tortures Mal and Wash with this. He had tortured two other anonymous victims in this and a previous episode. With those disposable characters, he had used whips and knives, leaving obvious and permanently disabling damage.
    • Subverted when Mal and Wash have a hilarious argument while they're being tortured. Also subverted somewhat in that Niska did cut off Mal's ear and used some kind of under-the-skin torture thingy. True to the spirit of this trope, though, all obvious physical damage was completely healed by the end of the episode.
    • In somewhat of a subversion, Mal actually is killed by the torture, and both Mal and Wash have noticeable burns
    • Mal didn't actually die from the Electric Torture, but whatever machine Niska used on him afterward did kill him. But Niska, being a sick, sadistic hun dan, brought Mal back just so he could torture him more.
      • It's "huai dan." Literally "rotten egg," colloquially something more like "jerkass." The more you know...
  • Stargate SG-1 has done this repeatedly. Daniel was tortured in this way in "Evolution" after recovering an Ancient healing device. The whole team besides Teal'c was tortured this way via metal cages in "New Ground". Pain induction is one of the stated powers of the Goa'uld hand device, used in more episodes than would be reasonable to note here. Daniel alone gets zapped by it enough times that in later seasons he jokes he's starting to get used to it.
    • Also the Zat guns did this with one shot (second shot kills.) In their first season of use, that is. Later this was quietly shifted to a much-less-interesting phasers-on-stun effect.
    • Also used in Stargate Universe when Kiva tortures Rush by tasering him until he reveals his identity.
  • Star Trek TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror": "agonizer" devices.
    • This can also be assumed to be what is happening in "the booth" in that same episode.
  • Babylon 5
    • The Centauri Emperor had G'Kar tortured with an "electric whip" that delivered an increased charge each time, with a guaranteed fatal shock on the 40th blow, simply because he wanted to hear G'Kar scream. He does, on the 39th lash.
    • Several episodes also feature Narn "Paingivers" which directly stimulate pain centers, producing much the same on-screen effect as standard electric torture.
    • "Comes the Inquisitor" featured electrified bracelets which could be (and were...a lot) activated at the press of a button on the eponymous inquisitor's cane.
  • Highlander had an episode in which villain Kalas discovered a Watcher trailing him. He captured the Watcher, strapped him down to a table shirtless and barefoot, and kept zapping his feet with electricity until he talked.
  • The midpoint of Alias's second season featured Jack Bristow being specifically tortured with electricity. He didn't break, but it was implied that he would have died had the Big Bad been allowed to jolt him one more time.
    • In the first season, his daughter was interrogated with good old-fashioned electro-shock therapy equipment when she'd gone undercover in a Bedlam House in Ruritania.
    • Syd also gets shocked when the NSA arrest her and take her to a secret prison facility in the third season.
    • Julien Sark had his way with Vaughn in season 3 as they volleyed insults back and forth.
  • Farscape's Aurora Chair, which Scorpius uses to view memories of his victims while simultaneously putting them in agonizing pain. The Sci-Fi channel website summary of it describes it as a "mental search engine", explaining the pain as, due to the way that memories are organized, requiring the activation of "every last neural pathway, one by one" - ouch. This also leads to an awesome subversion of Save the Villain and a Bond One-Liner from Aeryn Sun, after strapping Crais into the chair:
    Aeryn: "I will give you your life."
    beat
    Aeryn: "I will make you watch your life."
    • Fortunately, despite the pain, giving Crais a chance to review his life, where he came from, the decisions he made, and their consequences started his Heel-Face Turn.
    • The Aurora Chair is more of a subversion, as it isn't actually torture: it's a Mental Picture Projector which the victim is almost incapable of consciously resisting. It just happens to be excruciatingly painful, and its users can't be bothered to do anything to mitigate that.
    • Also, Nebari jailers give their prisoners restraint collars that can be used as torture devices: by pressing a button (usually attached to the interrogator's forehead) the collar inflicts crippling pain on it's wearer. There are two distinct types of collars: one, as seen in "Durka Returns" is a very basic Electric Torture device with no obvious method. The other, seen in "A Clockwork Nebari", injects acid onto the skin and into the veins- making it potentially lethal. However, both make a loud and extremely annoying beeping when activated.
  • Elle Bishop of Heroes - does this to pretty much everyone she meets, even those she likes, particularly Sandra Bennett and then Sylar - though, he literally asked for it.
    • Noah turns the tides on her in season 2, when he straps her into a chair in a small pool of water and drenches her, so that anytime she tries to shock him, she ends up zapping herself instead.
      Noah: Stings like a bitch, doesn't it?
  • Electroshock collars were used in one of the universes jumped to in Sliders to prevent people from lying.
  • The behavior-modification chips implanted in Spike (and presumably other demons) by the Initiative in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Saturday Night Live alluded to this in an early 2009 commercial parody. One of the items offered at Guantanamo Bay's going-out-of-business sale was C-C-C-CAR BATTERIES!!!
  • This happens to Sayid in the first season of LOST, at the hands of Danielle Rousseau, who believes him to be one of the evil "others". Sayid manages to escape after convincing Rousseau that he is not one of them.
  • Legend of the Seeker has the Mord-Sith, whose Agiels cause intense pain and flashing light when they touch someone. Using it enough can kill them, but it doesn't leave any sort of mark when they're done.
  • The "Blinking Electrocution" game on Distraction. The contestants have to answer questions while strapped to electric chairs, and are shocked every time they blink.
  • This was the specialty of the killer in the Criminal Minds episode "Limelight".
  • In Married... with Children, Peg and Al are competing with Steve and Marcie on a TV game show which gives prizes to the couple who torture each other worse. One of the tortures is electrocution.
  • In an episode of The Flash, Barry Allen is transported ten years into the future where his brother's killer Nicolas Pike runs Central City. He uses an electric chair in the old STAR Labs to give whoever opposes him an electric lobotomy. However, when Nicolas has Barry strapped up to the chair and given a full measure of the chair's powers, it briefly restores Barry's superspeed, allowing him to escape.
  • JAG: Clayton Webb, while on an undercover CIA mission in Paraguay together with Mac, is subjected to this particular kind of torture in the season eight episode "A Tangled Webb". Mac is also about to treated the same, but then Harm arrives and saves them.
  • At the end of "Wahine'inoloa", in the third season of the reimagined Hawaii Five-0, Doris McGarrett is shown torturing a hit man she thought she had killed years earlier with a battery and jumper cables.
  • Burn Notice has this used on Michael in the season 6 Fall opener. The gang tries to steal a plane from a drug smuggler, but Michael and his new friend are left behind and captured by the person they were stealing the plane from. The cocaine smuggler ties the two up and bring out a picana electrica. Michael, through voiceover, notes that it produces only one milliamp of current, so it won't kill you, but the fact that it produces 15,000 volts of electricity will make you wish it did. Cue a shot of Michael yelling in pain.

    Pinball 
  • In Data East's The Simpsons, the flashers include pictures of the Simpsons family undergoing electroshock group therapy.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • On a fall 2003 edition of WWE Raw, Kane tied up Shane McMahon to the ringpost. He then applied a set of jumper cables to Shane's "nether regions". The other end of the cables were hooked up to a car battery.

    Radio 
  • In The Burkiss Way's parody of George Orwell's NineteenEightyFour, there is this dialogue after "Winston Smoth" is caught by the Thought Police.
    (O'Brien) Would you like one of these to smoke?
    (Smoth) No, thank you. (politely refuses)
    (O'Brien) Well, would you like one of these to smoke?
    (Smoth) No, thank you.
    (O'Brien, losing patience) Look, we've got to put the electrodes somewhere!

    Truth In Television 
  • the notorious Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts is the only "treatment facility" in the United States to still use "aversive therapy" (read: intentionally inflict pain on their "patients" to "cure" them of "behavioral disorders". They do this using a device developed there called the GED (Graduated Electronic Decelerator). It's worn in a fanny-pack with electrodes stuck onto the skin with electrically conducting adhesive. The devices are not FDA approved and the methods used routinely at the center would be considered a crime against humanity if used on prisoners of war, but under the pretense of "medical treatment"? Unfortunate Implications abound, of course.
  • Used widely in South America during the 60s-80s.
    • The parrilla was an infamous interrogation tool routinely used by the Chilean secret police during Pinochet's dictatorship (1973-1990). It was a metal frame prisoners were strapped onto naked, while the questioners applied electrodes to whatever body part they thought appropriate. The torturers usually considered the penis and vagina particularly appropriate (even developing a wet-steel-wool electrode for better electrical contact on female victims).
    • The picana, described in the Burn Notice example above, was an electric cattle prod that Argentine torturers used on their victims during the Dirty War (1976-1983). Oftentimes, people were raped with the picana.
    • The "Cadeira do Dragăo" (Dragon's Chair) was an electric chair used as a torture device and part of the plethora of torture devices used by the Brazilian military dictatorship in the 60s-70s.
  • Used by Syria after the Yom Kippur war on captured Israelis, though it hardly ever earned them any good intelligence.
  • Doing this to the genitals is a favored technique of the torturers working in Middle Eastern Secret Police forces in general, more as a punishment/warning for opposition to the regime than any actual attempt to get information. This is part of the reason for the recent revolutions in the region.
    • This is inherited from French police and army, who used this generously on Muslims during the Algerian independance war. It was called "Gégčne". The leader of the French far-right party is (in)famous for having used this with enthusiasm.
  • Subverted by ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy), more commonly known as electro-shock therapy, which takes place under anesthesia.

    Video Games 
  • In American McGee's Alice, Alice will enter a lab where the March Hare and the Dormouse are undergoing medical torture. The March Hare is being alternately electrocuted and Dunked in a dunk tank, while the Dormouse has a constant electric current running through him as he is operated on. There's not a damn thing you can do for them.
  • Happens in Metal Gear Solid: It is possible to be killed in this scene; to survive, the player must repeatedly press a button to keep Snake's health bar up. Something similar happens in the second game. The third game, Snake Eater, also has the hero tortured with electricity, but meanwhile the Big Bad is also (literally) beating the piss out of him. Cunningham also (very briefly) does this to Big Boss by whipping him with a stun baton (twice), as well as placing his artificial leg directly into Big Boss's groin between the two shocks in the very beginning of Portable Ops. Peace Walker also has this happening to Big Boss.
  • In the backstory for Star Control II, thousands of years ago, many of the Ur-Quan voluntarily wore "Excruciators" for months or years to prevent them from being mind-controlled by the Dnyarri (as the one doing the mind control also feels the pain and has to break the link). The experience left most quite insane.
  • Squall is subjected to electric torture in early Disc 2 of Final Fantasy VIII. More so, if you refuse to feign cooperation.
  • Used on Pikachu of all people in the story mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
    • Well, actually it's possible to use electric Pokémon like Pikachu as power sources, so they were actually sucking electricity from its body. But it still qualifies as torture.
  • Occurs in the first two Shadow Hearts games, just to fulfill a villain's perverse fantasies (much more blatantly in the second). In the first one, it's done to Alice, and giving the proper responses (the first one every time) opens a sidequest (and saves her from being shocked). In the second one, you choose who gets the torture, and the responses you give determines the contents of a later treasure chest.
  • Double H in Beyond Good & Evil is trapped in an Electric Torture machine when you first meet him. Even the heroine Jade is visibly squicked about his situation.
  • In Mother 3, Fassad's method of choice for punishing Salsa for disobeying him... or whatever excuse he had. He really enjoyed shocking the monkey.
    • It does have the side effect of healing whatever status anomalies he might have at the time when he uses it during battle though. Fassad probably knows this, as he seems to be about fifty times more likely to shock the monkey when he's inflicted with one of these statuses.
  • Done to Bruce Morgenholt in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Sam arrives too late to do anything, and finds him suspended above a bathtub having endured a very long torture. Players will hear his screams before they get to him.
  • This was used to more realistic effect in BioShock in an audio diary of one of Fontaine's smuggler mooks. He said it couldn't be any worse than what Fontaine would do to him.
  • In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri when you seized the last base of another faction there would be a brief video showing a writhing figure screaming in agony as he or she was electrocuted. Given you had already beaten them was the torture really necessary? Yes, Mwa ha ha ha.
    • It should be noted that faction leaders are never killed, just kept alive for interrogation. If you defeat an enemy faction early in the game, they will be kept in your stronghold for several hundred years.
    • If you lose the game by having your last base taken, your character is shown in the same eternal state as well.
  • All of the torture featured in Knights of the Old Republic employs electroshock. Many of them involve the Sith and their Force Lightning, but there's a prominent scene in which it's delivered by muggles via more conventional "force cages".
  • Similarly, in The Old Republic, Sith Inquisitors carry out torture with Force Lightning. Only this time, players can do it too.
  • the white chamber has the protagonist watch a tape... Of herself, strapped to a table, and electrically tortured (with nobody around, mind you). This is where it gets weird. Seconds after the tape starts playing, in a flash, she finds herself on that same table, the same happening to her. You CAN die here, but the time limit is so incredibly generous and the puzzle rather simple, the only real way to die is to let the time limit run out.
  • In Return to Castle Wolfenstein Agent Zero is shocked to extract information by an SS scientist in the titular castle. He expires before they can get anything out of him.
  • In Hitman: Contracts, 47 finds one of his targets in the aftermath of one of these. The proper way to assassinate him is to let the machine run until it finally kills him.
  • In Wet, Rubi is captured due to some subterfuge. She is suspended with her feet in a tub of water connected to a car battery charger, but the interrogator loses interest and orders her killed after about 30 seconds. Naturally, she quickly makes her escape and turns the tables on the torturer. She's badass like that.
  • Tales of Destiny has portable versions of this forced onto the party when they are made to cooperate with Leon. However, the heroes are mostly good subordinates and so Leon resorts to punishing snarks directed at him (or, Rutee).
  • Implied in Modern Warfare 2. Soap locks himself and Ghost in a garage with their target's assistant, while Ghost is seen doing... something involving a car battery and jump leads.
    • Also seen in Black Ops, where you are being tortured, especially at the start of the game.
  • Done at the start of Scaler. To a twelve year old boy. Unfortunately, this backfires on the villains, in the form of causing Bobby to turn into a lizard before becoming Trapped in Another World.
  • In the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2, Feron, Liara's friend and partner who was one of the people who got Shepard's body back from the Shadow Broker, is strapped to a specially-built torture chair that basically amounts to this. The only way to get him out of there without cooking his brain is to shut down the power at central processing, which means taking the Shadow Broker down.
  • In Street Fighter IV, this is done by very-evolved psychic Rose, of all people. One of her ultra-specials, Illusion Spark, traps the opponent's arm in her scarf. She then proceeds to shock said opponent, apparently stopping only when she feels like it. To be sure, this is a more benign version - at least in that it's a fight rather than a torture session and she intends to knock the opponent out, not to extract information from them. Still, this move basically gives us a mini-session of Electric Torture mid-fight...
  • You can do this to someone in order to get a safe combination in Dishonoured. Strange variant, in that the man you torture was being tortured willingly; at least, at first.
  • Happens twice in Kingdom Hearts II; first, when Sora is forced to watch Donald and Goofy being tortured by Sark as a demonstration towards his role as "a Heartless Commander" after the teenager's snarky comment. Later on, all three of them get paralyzed from an electric shock while trying to steal a statue from Hades.
  • This happens several times throughout the Ratchet & Clank series. One noticeable moment is when the Unknown Thief AKA, Angela Cross captures Clank and electrocutes him as part of her warning video for Ratchet to leave Bogon, lest the same thing happen to him.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the finale to Justice League Unlimited, Darkseid launches an electrical attack on Superman called "The Agony Matrix" that uses electricity to activate all the pain receptors in every nerve cell in his body, literally putting him in as much pain as physically possible.
  • In the same show, the Question was captured after attempting to assassinate Lex Luthor and put through electroshock torture.
  • In the series' precursor, Justice League, the Martian Manhunter is also tortured by a Nazi interrogator (after going back in time) with such methods, although all that's seen is a shot out of the outside of the building as he begins to scream while the lights flicker.
  • From Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Robin's torture at the hands of The Joker.
  • The Iraqis in South Park torture Santa Claus with two electrodes on the testicles.
  • Danny Phantom: Valerie uses a nasty looking taser weapon on Danny after she finally captures him. Meanwhile, Vlad has Danielle Strapped to an Operating Table...
  • In the episode "Deep Cover for Batman" from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Red Hood, the good counterpart to the Joker, is strapped to a chair and shocked to try to reveal his plan. His response?
    "It tickles."
  • Duncan from Little Elvis Jones and the Truckstoppers has a shock watch, which inflicts a brief version of this on him in order for his boss to let off some steam. Yes, his boss is a colossal dick, how did you guess?
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Emperor Zurg tries to do this to XR. It doesn't work out to well, seeing as how XR regards the voltage flowing through him as the eqivalant of a pleasant massage.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode Cargo of Doom, a Jedi is subjected to this trope. The "more power" conversation occurs, and the Jedi dies.
  • In Metalocalypse, Dr. Rockso the Rock & Roll Clown is put into the same device Han Solo is in on the above illustration.
    Offdensen (clearly faking surprise): Oh my gosh what is happening why are you torturing this man stop at once.
    Rockzo: Thank you! Thank you! You're an angel.
    Offdensen: Yes, yes, it'll be all right. There there... Give him one more.
  • In The Simpsons, Mayor Quimby gets this by accident when making an announcement on live television. He was demonstrating what would be done to criminals, pretending to be executed with an electric chair, not realizing that it was actually on until he was strapped in and Police Chief Wiggum flipped the switch.
  • From Adventure Time, how Lemongrab tortures his prisoners in "You Made Me!".
  • The opening scene of Archer. Sterling Archer is undergoing an "Electric Torture by the KGB" training scenario, but doesn't take it seriously. At the end of season two, he gets captured by the KGB and is interrogated in the same fashion.
    Kinda wishing I'd taken my training more seriously. Which is, uh, pretty rare for me.


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Electric Instant GratificationApplied PhlebotinumElemental Absorption
Drowning PitDeath TrapElectrified Bathtub
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