Elevator Escape


Elevators. We all know and love them. Those wonderful devices that let you reach the thirty-second floor without climbing ungodly amounts of stairs. Those wonderful moving rooms with lots of shiny buttons... including the "Close Door" button. Is Bob running from The Mafia? No problem! He just has to duck into a nearby elevator and hit that button, and the doors will miraculously slide closed just as the goons come running up to them, protecting Bob from their wrath!

Does not actually require the button being pushed to be the "Close Door" button, although it's common for a panicking character to push it repeatedly with a sense of urgency.

Occasionally, particularly when the pursuer is a killer robot, a horde of zombies, or other inhuman creature, the doors will close on their arms, forcing the hero to either push away or chop off the intruding limb(s) before their pursuer(s) manage to pry the door open. Never mind that a properly-working elevator should open automatically once it detects something in the way of the door. As Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless says (following advice about avoiding Uncomfortable Elevator Moments): "Don't try to crush people by pushing the 'Close' button. I've tried it and it doesn't work."

A common subversion is for the "Close Door" button to not work. Whether it's deliberately disabled, never connected in the first place, worn out from over-use, or simply doesn't respond fast enough to be noticeable, the fact remains that pushing the "Close Door" button does absolutely nothing.

A bit of Fridge Logic applies when you realize that elevator doors are not bulletproof, so a sufficiently armed member of The Mafia could probably shoot Bob even if the doors did close. Until, of course, the elevator starts actually moving out of the way (see also Concealment Equals Cover). Also, if your enemies happen to have grenades handy (not very common with most mafias but quite common with certain cartels), one of them thrown into an elevator as the doors close or dropped into it from above can ruin your whole day.

Can lead to an Elevator Snare where the chaser tries to outrun the victim by using the stairs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Averted in third episode of Hellsing Ultimate OVA: while running away from Alucard, Brazilian SWAT are trying to hide in the lift. One of them is frantically pushing the CLOSE DOOR button. It would probably work if not for the fact that Alucard performs his mind trick on him, making him push the OPEN DOOR button instead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Olsen-Banden over alle bjerge (The Olsen Gang over the Hills): Egon is fleeing from the big bad's hired bodyguards into an elevator which seemingly is going down. The bodyguards promptly run down the stairs to chase him. However it turns out that Egon was just going down onto his knee, getting under the window in the elevator door.
  • Tatopoulos escapes the baby Godzillas by elevator in the 1998 American Godzilla film, and has to boot one of the lizards in the head to get the doors to close.
  • Larry does this in the first Night at the Museum movie when running from the Huns.
  • Kevin from Home Alone 2 ducks into the Hotel elevator just as the staff is finally getting off the floor to try and grab him.
  • North By Northwest - Roger needs to flee a hotel before the villain's goons come for him, and he reaches the elevator going down - just as they get out of the next elevator, and promptly follow him in. Roger has his mother in tow, who refuses to believe he's in any danger.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah, John and the T-800 use an elevator to get a lead on the pursuing T-1000 during Sarah's rescue from the mental hospital. It's initally subverted when the T-1000 reaches the doors just as they close and pulls them open, but then immediately put back on track when a well-placed shotgun blast stuns him and the doors close normally.
  • Happens twice in Aliens.
    • When Ripley and Hicks are trying to escape, they make it to an elevator. Hicks repeatedly pushes the button, and the door starts to close... too late to stop a xenomorph from nearly getting to the heroes (and dousing Hicks with acid).
    • Towards the end when the Queen alien is pursuing them — Ripley barely gets into the service elevator in time, driving the Queen back with her flamethrower just as it's running out of fuel. The Queen is snarling in fury when a second elevator arrives, summoned by Ripley's frantic button pushing.
  • In National Treasure, Ben is attempting to steal the Declaration of Independence. As he's getting away, a rival thief spots him, and tries to get to the elevator.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 movie, The Ark of Truth, replicators jam a door open on the Odyssey. Mitchel shoots them off to close it.
  • In The Twins Effect, Helen pushes Razaf (who is weak from lack of blood) into an elevator and turns to face their vampire pursuer. She's almost killed before Razaf pushes the 'Doors Open' button and pulls her inside with him.

  • Played with in The Dresden Files. Harry is running from three of the Billy Goats Gruff (a lot more dangerous than they sound), and ducks into an abandoned building to escape them. Knowing that they'll soon find a way in, even if they have to bash down a wall, he runs to the elevator and starts pushing the button for the top floor. Being that elevators run on electricity, and Harry is a Walking Techbane, it takes a few tries and lots of near-panic before it works.
  • Played with three times in Matthew Reilly's Contest. Double Subverted when the contest starts when an alien (Reese) almost breaks through the doors after they closed, but they still escape after shutting the doors again. Subverted properly, when the next alien they try to escape from (Karanadon) this way pulls them back up by the cables. Invoked and Subverted by the Big Bad Bellos so he could trap them by going through the ceiling hatch.
    • The personal elevator was used exactly once by the marines in Area 7. Played dead straight, of course they immediately escape through the ceiling hatch anyway because the elevator is a death trap.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Rose", the Doctor and Rose get into an elevator to escape the monsters. One monster is slightly faster than is usual for this trope, and gets its arm between the doors as they close.
    • In the episode "World War Three", the Doctor escapes being shot by an impromptu firing squad by virtue of a conveniently located lift.
    The Doctor: Ah, well, now, you see, the thing is, if I was you, if I was gonna execute someone by backing them against the wall, between you and me, a little word of advice, (there is a ping and a door slides open behind the Doctor) don't stand him against the lift! (steps into the lift and the door closes)
  • Sheldon Cooper ensures Leonard has an elevator escape, by making sure he does not get into it with a tank of unstable rocket fuel. In The Big Bang Theory, this explains why Leonard is still alive and the elevator at 2311 North Los Robles is out of action: the rocket fuel exploded inside the lift.
  • The Man From Uncle. In "The Mad Mad Tea Party Affair", the mysterious stranger infiltrating UNCLE HQ avoids our heroes this way, ducking into an elevator, then when Solo and Kuryakin decide Stairs Are Faster, calmly stepping out again, thanks to a device he's carrying that lets him control all the electronics in the building, including the floor indicator. However he turns out to be an UNCLE agent sent to test their security. Later when The Mole is exposed, he uses the same device to trap the escapee between floors.

    Video Games 
  • After you confront Dr. Breen in his office near the end of Half-Life 2, he escapes in his personal lift before Gordon can catch him. You have to chase him down to the main reactor before you can confront him properly.
  • Both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 have campaigns where this can happen, with the survivors fighting off waves of zombies while they wait for the elevator doors to open up. Often viciously averted in VS Mode, when smart infected players spit acid into the elevator or pull a survivor back OUT just as the doors are closing.
  • A staple way to gain a mid-chase break in Mirror's Edge. Here the doors clearly are bulletproof since their closing is met with a barrage of dents appearing as the trigger-happy Blues spray the area. At one point Faith gets to experience the other side, as Jacknife ducks into an elevator and gives an insufferably smug wave as he disappears.
  • Midway through Silent Hill 2, James and Maria have to pull one of these off to escape Pyramid Head. Only James makes it.
  • The No Mercy mission from PAYDAY: The Heist, being set in the same hospital as the Left 4 Dead campaign of the same name, has the crew escape to the roof using the elevator for a helicopter rescue. There's a chance that the elevator will lose power mid-escape and fall to the basement, though this has almost no effect on the gameplay - instead of the helicopter, the crew escapes via an ambulance parked in a basement entrance.
  • In Dead Space, this happens when a necromorph chases you near the start. The elevator slams shut, cutting its body in half. Not exactly OHS compliant...
    • It's a subversion in the beginning of that part, though. Isaac makes it into an elevator and the door shuts in front of the Necromorph...then the Necromorph pulls the doors open and manages to get inside before the door slices it in half.
  • In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, you have to use this to your advantage. LeChuck confronts you by an elevator. If you can get the doors to close on him, you can tear off part of his beard which you need for a voodoo charm.

    Web Comic 

    Western Animation 
  • Totally Spies!!: Sam, Alex, and Clover chase a thief into an elevator. The thief, however, escapes through a ceiling panel, cutting the cable. The elevator of course falls down, but stops a couple of times on the way, providing time enough for a Clip Show.
  • Inspector Gadget: In "The Infiltration," Brain escapes Gadget in this manner. In the stairwell, Gadget performs his own version of this with the Gadget Copter...only to crash into a chandelier.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Prophecy of Doom," the prophet's henchman tries to kill Bruce Wayne by cutting the cable. It would have succeeded, too, had Bruce not been wearing his Batman costume under his suit and armed with a Batgrapple at the time.
  • The Beatles episode "Help!" has Paul chasing fashion thief Jacques Le Zipper up the Eiffel Tower. Jacques uses an elevator; Paul pursues him up another elevator.
  • Happens in Star Wars: Clone Wars, near the end of the second season. Shaak Ti and two other Jedi take Chancellor Palpatine down a hallway as Grievous begins slashing his way through the assembled guards. They call the elevator while listening to Grievous fighting, and when it all goes quiet, the Ithorian Jedi repeatedly mashes the button. They do make it inside though, despite Grievous busting out of the office and running down the hall towards them.

    Real Life 
  • Used as part of the punchline of a chapter in a computer graphics book. The author recounts a story involving him and a couple of his friends streaking through a hotel hallway, knowing that the timing of the elevator worked out just right for the doors to close behind them and cut off pursuit. The author got ahead of his compatriots and got the doors to close early, leaving them stranded. He was so tickled at how clever he was that he didn't realize that the elevator had gotten to the ground floor before it opened up on the lobby. Which, of course, introed the chapter on raw speed and exposed faces.