->''"In books and vids, those being eavesdropped upon always thoughtfully explain what they are talking about for the edification of the eavesdropper. The eavesdroppee says, 'Of course, as you all know, the cab to which I refer is Sherlock Holmes's hansom cab which had been accidentally driven off a bridge during a heavy fog while following the Hound of the Baskervilles, and which I found it necessary to steal for the following reasons.'"''
-->-- '''Connie Willis''', ''Literature/ToSayNothingOfTheDog''

If a character in almost any type of fiction gets a chance to eavesdrop, they will almost certainly hear something important. So, for instance, if our hero finds himself hiding in the villain's base listening to a conversation, chances are it's going to be about the villain's latest [[EvilPlan plans for world domination]], rather than two random {{Mooks}} [[VillainsOutShopping talking about their weekend plans]]. It's also very likely that the villain will take this opportunity to [[{{Exposition}} go over important information everyone they're talking to should already know]], in order to give the hero all the context and backstory he needs. In this way, this trope can function as a sort of in-story version of AsYouKnow, only instead of filling in backstory for the audience, it's being done for the character, and is a way to get vital, plot-moving information from one group or person to another.

In less serious circumstances, it can also be a way for a one character to learn what someone else thinks of them. So whenever Alice is unseen but can hear Bob talking, chances are Bob will say [[BathroomStallOfOverheardInsults something important about Alice]].

There will also be occasions where Carol, whom Bob is talking to about Alice, knows full well that Alice is listening and will often be asked to talk to Bob specifically for this sort of information. Or, of course, that Bob knows (or guesses, or hopes) it and tailors his talk to Alice in a way that Carol won't realize it. (Many ExactWords evasions of ThePromise to never tell feign this on a SurrogateSoliloquy.)

This applies even if the talking character would not normally be ''coherent.'' Characters who talk in their sleep in the grip of BadDreams often give remarkable clues to the trauma causing the dream. Babbling under the influence of drugs can also produce this.

Since this trope is OlderThanSteam, [[SubvertedTrope subversions]] appear frequently. Two of the most common are: first, to have a character think they've overheard one thing, when in fact they missed an important detail that changes the situation entirely. This can lead to InnocentInnuendo and/or ThreeIsCompany situations. The second subversion is to have a character who is [[GenreSavvy aware of this trope]] annoyed when it [[ThisIsReality completely fails to happen]]. Despite this, it's still played straight often enough to be an UndeadHorseTrope.

The trope mostly exists because RealisticDictionIsUnrealistic, and because TheLawOfConservationOfDetail cuts off any eavesdropped conversation that is not relevant or necessary.

See also: ContrivedCoincidence, and ConvenientlyCoherentThoughts for a mind-reading variation. Contrast TheOmniscientCouncilOfVagueness. Characters who are likely to benefit from this trope include the SnoopingLittleKid and AmateurSleuth. If the eavesdropper gets caught, the question is HowMuchDidYouHear Occurs frequently when you use CurtainCamouflage. EasilyOverheardConversation is a given for this trope. StagingTheEavesdrop is when someone tries to intentionally invoke this trope on others in other to achieve some kind of goal.

!! Examples


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'', CuteGhostGirl Sayo floated in just as the ElaborateUniversityHigh teachers were informing Negi and his small group of TrueCompanions of everything they'd already just discussed. This worked well in favor of SchoolNewspaperNewshound Kazumi Asakura.
** It's also sometimes subverted (though better examples exist in Creator/KenAkamatsu's previous work, ''Manga/LoveHina''). Take the second manga's whole "Negi is a prince" fiasco. [[spoiler: [[IKnewIt And then...]]]]
** Another instance was when Nodoka overheard Negi and Asuna's talk about activating Pactio cards.
* Duck in ''Anime/PrincessTutu'' hides behind a fountain and hears what Mytho truly thinks of Tutu. Justified in that Fakir, with whom Mytho was speaking, knew she was there and purposely brought up the subject.
* Used (straight) a couple of times in ''Anime/NanakaSixSeventeen'', with plot significance.
* ''Manga/HayateTheCombatButler'' uses this for humor.
** The first time, Hayate, Wataru and Nagi are spying on Saki (Wataru's {{Meido}}) and Kaoru's marriage meeting. They can't hear what's being said, so Hayate reveals that he knows how to read lips, and provides 'long-range' version of this trope for the younger two. This being for humor, he reads it completely wrong. Afterwords, Wataru has interrupted the meeting and Nagi asks Hayate how confident he is in his skills, he replies that he's fairly confident.
** In the last episode of the second season, Maria does similar to the above, with significantly better results. This one is only in the anime though.
** There's also a scene in which Nagi hides Isumi in, what is functionally a closet, and gets Wataru to admit his feelings for Isumi. Unfortunately she comes out of hiding before he leaves and he furiously backpedals, killing any chance of the confession having any effect.
** There's also a scene during the Athens arc where it's implied that Yukiji knows that Karou is listening and gives Hinagiku love advice to give up her chase (in Hinagiku's case it's of Hayate), it's possible she's trying to get her fellow teacher to give up on her as well.
* ''Manga/PuellaMagiKazumiMagica'' has Mirai Wakaba during the combat between Kazumi and Satomi.
* In ''Manga/DetectiveConan'', Shinichi listens in on a transaction between two criminals and hears them discussing the details of the exchange. Justified in that he specifically followed them expecting something shady to be going on (though the criminals do go out of their way [[AsYouKnow to make sure all the details are spoken aloud]]). He's also never able to actually use the knowledge for anything useful, seeing as he gets knocked out and de-aged almost immediately after.
* Invoked in ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'': Hohenheim notices that Edward was eavesdropping on Hohenheim's conversation with Pinaco, so he brings up a topic he would have wanted to discuss with Edward.
** Played straight later when Winry arrives right on time to hear Edward accuse Scar of [[spoiler: killing her parents.]]
* In ''Manga/AttackOnTitan'', different parties managed to discover the SecretIdentity of [[spoiler:Krista Lenz]] through listening in on conservations between members of the influential Wall Cult. It resulted in [[spoiler:Ymir joining the military to find her]] and means that TheMole was aware of this information for some time.
* In ''Manga/SakiAchigaHen'', there are two instances of this.
** This is seemingly played straight, but eventually subverted, when the Achiga team overhears their coach, Harue, talking with Kumakura, coach for Miyamori about an offer for Harue to go pro. Ako believes that it's proof that she's given up on them winning the tournament, but Arata refuses to believe it. The next night, Shizuno catches up with Kumakura, who tells them that Harue ''refused'' the offer until the girls graduate.
** This is played straight with Kirame Hanada. In a flashback, Mairu, captain of the team, has a long conversation with her best friend Himeko about why they chose Kirame for the vanguard position [[spoiler:even though she's not one of the best players; it's because she never goes under zero]]. While Mairu and Himeko [[RightBehindMe pass under the bridge where Kirame is sitting]], Himeko mentions that Kirame would be upset to hear about [[spoiler:essentially being a sacrificial piece for the team]]. Kirame doesn't reveal herself or get upset, though.
* In the manga version of ''Anime/GirlsUndPanzer'', Yukari follows Miho into a cafe as she meets with Kikuyo, one of her family maids, and manages to overhear that Miho [[spoiler:will be disinherited if she loses to Pravda in the next round]].

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In ''Comicbook/TheLeagueOfExtraordinaryGentlemen Vol. 1'', the eponymous League is being employed by the mysterious Mr. M. Eventually, [[spoiler:Captain Nemo sends Griffin (the Invisible Man), to find out more about Mr. M. While Griffin is in the room, not only does "Mr. M" reveal himself to be Moriarty, but]] he then explains his entire backstory to a character that already knows it, allowing the eavesdropper and the audience to gain vital information.
** This is almost-instantly subverted when [[spoiler: Griffin ''doesn't pay attention'' to it. He found it 'quite boring, really', and forgot almost all the relevant details.]]
* This is one of those tropes that ComicBook/DisneyMouseAndDuckComics play completely straight again and again in spite of how silly it is.
* In ''ComicBook/{{Supergirl}}'' story arc ''ComicBook/{{Bizarrogirl}}'', Catherine Grant spies on ComicBook/LanaLang while the red-haired woman is speaking to ComicBook/{{Supergirl}} on the telephone. She hears their entire conversation, but she misses the part about Supergirl's secret identity being Lana's "niece".

* In "Literature/TheFamousFlowerOfServingMen", how the heroine's story is revealed.
* In "Literature/WilliesLady," the eponymous lady instructs her despairing husband on how to set up a situation in which he can get his antagonistic mother to [[spoiler:go over the necessary steps to break the spell that is preventing his wife from giving birth]]. Which she does. In detail.

[[folder:Fairy Tales]]
* In "Literature/TheGratefulBeasts", the blinded and crippled Ferko happens to rest under a gallows, where he happens to hear two [[CleverCrows ravens]] discussing magical cures in the vicinity.
* In "[[http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/pentamerone/25raven1911.html The Raven]]", doves land on the ship's mast and talk about the perils the hero's brother will face.
* In "Literature/TrueAndUntrue", True hears of magical cures from a wolf, a fox, a bear, and a rabbit.
* In "[[http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/grimms/6faithfuljohn.html Faithful John]]", [[OldRetainer Faithful John]] hears of the peril the king and his bride are in from ravens who happen to be talking of it and the magical {{curse}} that will fall on anyone who says it.
* In "[[http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/pentamerone/10parsley1911.html Parsley]]", the ogress explains to her neighbor how Parsley can't escape owing to a spell she cast, and Parsley hears it and how to break it.
* In ''Literature/{{Schippeitaro}}'', the cats talk about how they fear the title dog where the hero can hear.
* "Rumplestiltskin" features a character - usually a servant, depending on the telling - overhearing the eponymous imp in the woods gloating about how the princess will never guess that his name is Rumplestiltskin.
* "The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs" has the protagonist overhear the devil give the solutions to the three problems he encountered on his journey there, in his sleep.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/TheStalkingZukoSeries'' is entrely told from Katara's first person POV, so the only conversations that don't involve her are those she eavesdrops on. Katara usually is good at hearing everything relevant, but in one conversation in ''Not Stalking Zuko'', she realizes that Zuko has made a reference to something he and Aang talked about while she wasn't there, leaving her confused.
* In ''Fanfic/NewReality'', Brit overhears Yuan's part of conversation with Botta, whom she only knows by [[UnexplainedAccent his distinct accent.]] She gets busted, but learns quite enough to know the gist of it.
* In the fourth chapter of ''Fanfic/TheUltimateEvil'' (an AlternateUniverseFic about the first half of ''WesternAnimation/JackieChanAdventures''), [[OriginalCharacter Valerie]] ends up into Valmont's office and hides herself in the closet, finding out that someone has hired the Dark Hand to acquire the Talismans and that the mysterious employer has taken an interest in her. However, she doesn't tell the Chans of these discoveries out of the fear of being killed.
* In ''Fanfic/TheKeysStandAlone: The Soft World'', after the crappy bard Terb is called away from the tavern by his furious boss Folse, John realizes they're about to have a conversation worth listening to. Knowing he can't just follow them without attracting unwanted attention, he focuses his very sharp ears intently, listening for their chatter, and manages to hear and isolate their conversation, where he indeed learns some very useful things. He also gives himself a raging headache, but he soothes that away with a HealingPotion.
* In ''Fanfic/CommonSense'' Jessie overhears James and Meowth talking about giving up on pursuing Pikachu as they've been wildly unsuccessful so far and it's hurting their record. Though it's fully justified given that they're all in the hot air balloon together and the latter two think Jessie's asleep.
* In ''Fanfic/ChrysalisVisitsTheHague'', this is implied in one chapter, which is reciprocated as a surveillance transcript listening in on some of the main characters talking about [[spoiler: lawyer Estermann's and judge Colm's secret diplomacy and Lyra Heartstrings' secret identity]].
* In ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9495178/1/Return-of-the-Hero Return of the Hero]]'', this is how [[Franchise/{{Pokemon}} Nate]] learns that [[spoiler: Kelly isn't his mother, and that he's really the son of Ash Ketchum]].

[[folder:Film -- Animation]]
* In the first ''WesternAnimation/{{Shrek}}'' film Shrek is about to confess his love to Fiona, when he overhears Fiona talking to Donkey, saying that no-one could love a monster like an ogre. Of course, he is unaware that she is talking about the curse that turns ''her'' into an ogre, which she conveniently doesn't explicitly mention again until just ''after'' Shrek gets disgusted and leaves.
* ''WesternAnimation/AGoofyMovie'' and ''WesternAnimation/AnExtremelyGoofyMovie'':
** Pete is about to enter the hotel room right when PJ is berating Max for his lack of foresight in [[spoiler: changing the map]], even repeating what Max told ''him'' (though in context doing so was not unnatural). Of course Pete decides to use this pertinent information for malicious purposes.
** Bradley decides to talk to the Gammas about how they're [[spoiler: going to cheat]] ''immediately'' after kicking Goofy out of the fraternity. Evidently, he didn't expect Goofy to come back in to return his pin. What makes this even weirder is that apparently this is the same plan they've acted on for years.
* ''Disney/{{Zootopia}}'': From their hiding spot at Cliffside, Nick and Judy are able to overhear and record Mayor Lionheart talking about his involvement in the scheme.

[[folder:Film -- Live Action]]
* ''Franchise/StarWars: Film/AttackOfTheClones'', when Obi-Wan is sneaking through the Geonosian caverns and happens upon Count Dooku and the Separatists, who are in the middle of a conversation which tells him everything he needs to know.
** To quote WebVideo/CinemaSins: "Just once I'd like to see somebody hiding in a corner somewhere, and the bad guys aren't talking about the most important essence of their plan in earshot. Just once I'd like to hear they had bagels for breakfast or something."
** {{Averted}} in the [[Film/RevengeOfTheSith next movie]], when Obi-Wan again sneaks around but happens upon the separatists just too late to hear Grievous telling the others where they will be hiding next. Of course, this time it's important for the plot that he ''doesn't'' get to know it yet.
* ''Film/{{Goldfinger}}'' is a notorious example, with the title character being overheard by Bond revealing all the details of his plan to a group of people he [[BoardToDeath murders 30 seconds after leaving the room]].
** In the original book, he only killed the people who didn't agree to help with his scheme, making that scene more plausible.
* Subverted in ''Film/TheBigLebowski''. The Dude is in a conversation with Jackie Treehorn when the latter receives a call, writes down something on a notepad, tears off the notepad, and excuses himself. The Dude, in full sneaky investigator mode, grabs the notepad and shades it with the side of a pencil to highlight the impression made on the ''next'' sheet of paper. It turns out to be [[spoiler: an anatomically exaggerated picture of a man.]]
* ''Film/FriendsWithBenefits'' has Jamie managing to listen in when Dylan is repudiating her as a potential girlfriend to his sister.
* ''Film/TheRocketeer'' has movie star Neville Sinclair hearing Cliff Secord tell his actress girlfriend Jenny Blake about the rocketpack Sinclair is looking for.
* The Tramp in ''Film/TheCircus''. First he overhears the Gypsy woman telling Merna her future. Then later he is back at the right time to overhear Merna telling the Gypsy woman about her LoveAtFirstSight.
* In ''Film/ChildrenOfMen'', Theo is right there to overhear the members of ''The Fishes'' disclose the earlier ambush to be an inside job and that are they are about to kill him and kidnap Kee.
* In ''IShotJesseJames'', Frank James overhears Bob Ford's girlfriend Cynthy confess to John Kelley that [[spoiler: she's leaving Bob]]. He later uses this information to [[BreakThemByTalking break]] Robert Ford, in revenge for Bob killing his brother [[UsefulNotes/JesseJames Jesse]].

* Justified in ''Literature/ABrothersPrice'': Cullen hides behind a curtain to eavesdrop on a conversation between Eldest Moorland (his sister), and Eldest Whistler. As Eldest Whistler specifically asked for a private conversation, Cullen has some suspicions what they're going to talk about. [[spoiler: He is correct, Eldest Whistler asks Eldest Moorland for Cullen's hand in marriage. He is delighted.]]
* In Connie Willis' novel ''Literature/ToSayNothingOfTheDog'', the main character finds himself eavesdropping on a few occasions, and frustrated because no one gives enough context to be useful. He even references this trope, as the page quote shows.
* The second series of ''Literature/TheChroniclesOfAmber'' subverts and [[LampshadeHanging lampshades]] this - when Merlin's AloofBigBrother and the corrupt clergyman talk as they walk through the hall, Merlin only hears a snippet of the conversation and is annoyed that ThisIsReality.
* In Creator/RudyardKipling's ''Literature/TheSecondJungleBook'' story "Letting In the Jungle", after being thrown out of the human village Mowgli overhears the village hunter Buldeo telling some other men that the couple who had adopted Mowgli are due to be executed. Armed with this knowledge Mowgli sets out to rescue them.
* In ''Nicholas Nickleby'' by Charles Dickens, the author [[HypocrisyNod scornfully comments]] on how, in the theatrical productions of the traveling players, the comic relief character always happens to overhear the villains' plans and tell the hero. Then in a later chapter, Newman Noggs, the comic relief character of the story itself, happens to overhear the villains' plans and runs to tell Nicholas.
* Played very straight in Creator/CSLewis' ''Literature/TheHorseAndHisBoy''. While Aravis and Shasta are separated, they both manage to overhear important, secret pieces of information--in her case, a plan to invade the country of Archenland, and in his, the shortcut through the desert that will allow them to get there ahead of the invaders.
** This happens right in the beginning, too, when Shasta overhears Arsheesh and the Tarkaan haggling over him.
** Shasta habitually eavesdropped on Arsheesh though, which ups his odds.
* Happens all the time in Creator/DavidEddings' books. Almost each time the heroes arrive in a new place, they will come across a pair of enemy mooks telling each other everything that is to be known about it (and, typically, calling each other by name in their very first lines).
** Justified in that there are prophecies taking an active hand in making sure things happen as they're required to. Sometimes the prophecy is not exactly subtle in how it works.
** Occasionally subverted, such as very early in the Belgariad, when Garion hears Mister Wolf and Aunt Pol (later revealed to be [[spoiler: Belgarath and Polgara, millennia-old sorcerers]]) that makes no sense to either him or the first-time reader, but makes perfect sense to Wolf, Pol and the repeat reader.
* Justified in ''Literature/{{Eragon}}''. While meeting with Jeod in Teirm, Brom sends Eragon away to do some busy work, and Eragon instantly knows they want to talk about things he shouldn't hear, so he finds a secluded spot where he can sit and uses magic to listen through the wall, hearing about all of the things they didn't want him to, such as how Brom and Jeod are agents of [[LaResistance the Varden]].
* Played straight and responsible for most of the suspense in the period piece ''A Murder For Her Majesty''. The main character witnesses the murder of her father and overhears a conversation by the killers, which is what kickstarts the plot. She overhears two conversations later on by the killers and co-conspirators. She herself, disguised as a boy, is discovered for who she is by accidentally saying things out loud that the bad guys overhear when near her. A lot of convenient overhearing, but what the heck, [[TropesAreNotBad it makes the story fun]].
* This is how Jim finds out that Silver is a pirate in ''Literature/TreasureIsland''; he happens to sneak into the ship's food store for a midnight snack just before the pirates park themselves outside to plot their mutiny.
* Subverted in ''Forward The Foundation'' by Creator/IsaacAsimov: Hari Seldon's grandaughter Wanda genuinely overhears (perhaps [[{{Telepathy}} telepathically]]) members of the Psychohistory Project plotting against Professor Seldon, but, being a little girl, she doesn't understand their complicated words. It never becomes clear whether the term is "lemonade", "layman-aided", or "Elar-Monay" (the names of the conspirators). [[spoiler: And the plot isn't to kill Seldon at all--only his robot wife.]]
* Played extremely straight in ''Ozma of Oz'', the third Literature/LandOfOz book. The Nome King has transformed people into decorations for his palace, and challenged the main characters to guess which ones they are. This was a needle-in-a-haystack game until Billina the Hen overheard the Nome King and his servant going over all the information she needed to know, and it's very much an AsYouKnow conversation.
* ''Literature/HarryPotter''
** The first subversion occurs in the first ''Literature/{{Harry Potter|and the Philosophers Stone}}'' book. Harry overhears what seems to be Snape forcing Quirrell to help him steal the Stone. It turns out [[spoiler:''Quirrell'' was after the Stone and Snape, suspecting as much, was trying to scare him into giving up on it.]]
** Subverted and played straight in [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenix book five]]. [[spoiler: It turns out Snape was the one who told the prophecy to Voldemort, which lead him to try to kill Harry. However, he only heard the part labeling Harry, and not why he would be dangerous, leading to his initial downfall. Also played straight as Snape finding himself in that place at that time was very unlikely, while his job was to spy on Dumbledore, the prophecy was a surprise to all parties involved.]]
** Played straight when Dudley comments about Harry sleep talking while reliving Cedric's murder.
** Played straight in the [[Film/HarryPotterAndTheHalfBloodPrince sixth film]] when [[spoiler: Lavender]] breaks up with Ron for mumbling [[spoiler: Hermione]]'s name while semi-unconscious.
** There is also a DoubleSubversion in [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire book four]]. [[spoiler: Harry dreams about an old man listening in on a conversation between Voldemort and Pettigrew. When Voldemort kills the man, Harry wakes up and remembers only parts of the dream, particularly the part that involves killing Harry, but later on, he finds out that it was real.]] Also, while Voldemort and Wormtail do reveal much of their plan in the conversation, they only hint at a couple bits of critical information.
*** The scenario [[spoiler:Harry dreams about in and of itself is a subversion. While the old man overhears enough to solve quite a few of the book's mysteries (particularly that Voldemort's back, he's got a plan to regain his power, that Wormtail has found him, that there's some plan to capture and kill Harry, and that Voldemort caught Bertha Jorkins and tortured her to death), he has no clue what any of it means. He eventually decides that they must be speaking in some sort of code and clearly are criminals, but it turns out that eavesdropping causes him to stick around long enough to get caught, and he's killed before he has any chance of telling anyone about what he heard.]]
** And in the [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows seventh book]], while wandering around with no idea what to do next, the trio happen upon some other refugees who mention the Sword of Gryffindor, cluing them into its significance. Later, the portrait of Phineas Nigellus overhears Hermione telling Harry that they're in the forest of Dean, allowing him to tell [[spoiler: Snape, so that he can arrange for them to find the sword]]. Of course, he had been attempting to ferret out that information for a while, so it probably helped that he was actively listening for it.
* The sleeptalk version is played straight in the first book of ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'': Rand's father Tam has a high fever and unconsciously reveals to Rand that he is not his real father.
* Subverted in ''Dr. Hyde, Detective, and the White Pillars Murder'': The detectives overhear several conversations, but learn nothing. [[spoiler: The important conversation is the one they were specifically invited to watch.]]
* Subverted in ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire''. In ''Literature/AGameOfThrones,'' Arya overhears a conversation between conspirators, but the conversation involves the political situation on a different continent, they don't drop many particular details, and speak metaphorically for a large chunk of the conversation. Since Arya's only ten, not only does she misunderstand, she forgets large parts of the conversation (and also misidentifies the dragon skulls being stored in the room she's hiding in as "monsters" when asked.) As a result, when she tries to relate the conversation to someone else, it's garbled to the point of incoherency.
** Subverted before that, when [[spoiler:Bran]] overhears a pair of political conspirators, who turn out to be [[spoiler:Jaime and Cersei. He also uncovers their incestuous relationship]]. They catch [[spoiler:him]], and [[spoiler:Jaime]] immediately retaliates by throwing [[spoiler:him]] off a tower.
** Generally averted or subverted in ASOIAF; characters will only get partial information, or the true meaning of the conversation will be obscured by the conversation, or the information will only be relevent to a completely different plotline. Brienne, for instance, tends to hear all kinds of interesting information about other characters and events in her travels, but she dismisses most of it as it's entirely irrelevent to her own quest.
* Justified in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' - Harry uses Listening with a capital L to eavesdrop.
* Parodied by Creator/WoodyAllen in "A Look at Organized Crime"
-->Wiretapping cannot be employed indiscriminately, but its effectiveness is illustrated by this transcript of a conversation between two gang bosses in the New York area whose phones had been tapped by the F.B.I.
-->'''Anthony:''' Hello? Rico?
-->'''Rico:''' Hello?
-->'''Anthony:''' Rico?
-->'''Rico:''' Hello.
-->'''Anthony:''' Rico?
-->'''Rico:''' I can't hear you.
-->'''Anthony:''' Is that you, Rico? I can't hear you.
-->'''Rico:''' Hello?
-->'''Anthony:''' Operator, we have a bad connection.
-->'''Operator:''' Hang up and dial again, sir.
-->'''Rico:''' Hello?
-->Because of this evidence, Anthony (The Fish) Rotunno and Rico Panzini were convicted and are currently serving fifteen years in Sing Sing for illegal possession of Bensonhurst.
* In Creator/RobertEHoward's "Literature/JewelsOfGwahlur", Franchise/ConanTheBarbarian set out after overhearing things.
* Queen Etheldredda in ''Literature/SeptimusHeap'' does this to verify everything she hears, to the point that she doesn't trust anything that she hasn't eavesdropped upon.
* Subverted in one children's novel, in which the main character thinks she overheard a murder plot, but realizes the people were talking about writing a book.
* Subverted at one point in ''Literature/ChroniclesOfChaos'' when Headmaster Boggin begins his address to the OmniscientCouncilOfVagueness with what would have been a very useful and informative AsYouKnow speech, but it stopped by his audience and told to get to the point. It is played straight later, however.
* As both Tash and Zak Arranda of ''Literature/GalaxyOfFear'' have a penchant for [[SnoopingLittleKid snooping]], they end up in position to use PlotSensitiveSnoopingSkills on villains at many points in the series.
* In Creator/SarahAHoyt's ''A Few Good Men'', Nate tells Lucius that while they had pumped him full of babble juice, he had explained everything, with careful digressions to clear up points.
* In Creator/RuthFrancesLong's ''Literature/TheTreacheryOfBeautifulThings'', Jenny hears the Woodsman and the Goodwife plotting against her.
* Máel Dúin of the medieval Irish romance ''Literature/TheVoyageOfMaelDuin'' is looking for the pirates who killed his father Ailill. When he finds a pirate fort on an island and eavesdrops on the people inside, they just happen to talk about the time they killed Ailill. Not enough: When Máel Dúin returns to the same island much later and, again, eavesdrops on the pirates, they just happen to discuss how they would react if Máel Dúin would turn up right at this moment ...
* Played relentlessly straight in the Literature/NeroWolfe novel ''Literature/TheBlackMountain.'' Our heroes have flown to Europe, traveled to a village in Montenegro, hiked into the hills, snuck into a largely-abandoned castle on the merest chance the bad guys might be there, and arrive at exactly the right moment to overhear the baddies discussing the entire plot and admitting to all their guilt.
* In ''Literature/{{Persuasion}}'', Anne is sitting by herself after the group has broken up during a long walk, and is concealed by the greenery when her old love Captain Wentworth is walking by with Louisa Musgrove, having a discussion about how important it is to be firm and decisive. And then Louisa relates a somewhat inaccurate account of how her brother married Mary Elliot rather than Anne, attributing it to Lady Russel's persuasion (rather than Anne's lack of love). Which all informs Anne that Wentworth is still very angry and hurt over their broken engagement.
* In ''Mary Cary, Frequently Martha'', the protagonist learns her family history when she's entertaining the children of one of the board members. Said board member is entertaining a visiting friend who has her suspicions as to who Mary is, and, though Mary is trying to listen ''and'' keep the children occupied, she manages to hear every relevant thing about her parents and [[spoiler: the whereabouts of an uncle who isn't aware of her existence and his involvement with the orphan asylum nurse.]]
* In ''Literature/TheMadKing'' by Creator/EdgarRiceBurroughs, the hero takes a cheap hotel room which is one of several created by dividing up an attic with thin partition walls. In the night, he is disturbed by voices from the next room -- which turns out to be the villains, whom he had been following and then lost track of -- going over their plans.
* Averted in ''Literature/TheSagaOfTuck'', when many minutes of taped conversations must be screened for the necessary information.
* In ''Ayla and the Networks'' of the Literature/WhateleyUniverse, the [[AmateurSleuth Whitman Literary Girls]] magically eavesdrop on She-Beast and Nephandus, and hear just what they're looking for [[spoiler: but they totally misinterpret it because She-Beast isn't doing anything wrong]].
** Extra funny because the WLG are explicitly [[AuthorAvatar Author Avatars]].
** This happens again later on, with a different group, the Good Ol' Boyz, come into possession of a tape that ''seems'' to implicate Ayla and She-Beast in a plot to kill some poor old lady's children and feed them to her. [[spoiler: They're actually discussing the plot of one of Shakespeare's plays. Worse, the GOB's attempt to blackmail She-Beast and Ayla backfires catastrophically when they play the tape for the headmistress - turns out that their leader, who has editic memory as a part of his powers, handed in a paper on that exact play; since he ''should'' have recognized it (and obviously didn't), [[HumiliationConga the authenticity of his work has now been called into question and he's forced to write a new paper, on top of doing detention for the blackmail attempt.]] ]]
* Subverted in [[http://parahumans.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/gestation-1-3/ Chapter 1.3]] of ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', when [[spoiler:Taylor hears Lung ordering his followers to murder children]] and attacks, only to discover that what she heard was [[spoiler:Lung laying out the rules of engagement for a fight with a gang of teenage villains]].

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Parodied in an episode of ''Series/FamilyMatters''. Steve Urkel eavesdrops on Laura from the hotel room directly above hers, immediately hearing a seductive male voice that he believes to be Laura's date in her room. A couple seconds later, the voice proceeds to talk about dog food -- Laura was watching TV by herself, and the voice was from a dog food commercial playing on the TV.
* In ''Series/TwentyFour'', they keep hearing of and eavesdropping about imminent attacks, but the characters are extremely unlucky in that the eavesdroppees tend to [[TheOmniscientCouncilOfVagueness use terms like "The Target"]] instead of actually giving useful information.
* In ''Series/TheComicStripPresents''' Creator/EnidBlyton parody "Five Go Mad in Dorset", the Famous Five overhear two villains conspiring: "BlahBlahBlah kidnapped scientist blah blah. Blah blah Kneecap Hill blah blah. Blah blah atom bomb blah." That's right - the villains actually ''say'' "Blah blah".
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** Subverted when Arya tries to relay Varys and Illyrio's cryptic conversation to her father in "The Wolf and the Lion". Since she's only eleven and doesn't understand most of it, the information gets all mixed up in her head and Ned justifiably tells her NotNowKiddo.
** Played straight when Locke overhears Jon and Sam speculating about Bran.
* In an episode of ''Series/YoungIndianaJones'', Indy, while fighting in Europe during WWI, is told to spy on the Germans. When he gets to their base in the middle of the night, he falls asleep listening to the German soldiers talk about the most mundane topics, and barely wakes up in time to hear them discuss their acquisition of [[Main/{{BFG}} two howitzer guns]].
* In ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}'', when Callie follows someone and listens in on a conversation, she hears exactly what she wanted to hear despite the characters not having a need to say it again.
* In ''Series/RobinHood'' Marian was always in the right place, at the right time, to hear exactly what the Sheriff and Guy of Gisborne were planning, and pass it on to Robin. The villains would often discuss their plans ''right in front of her'' and then wonder how Robin was always one step in front of them.
* Although it happens in nearly every KidCom and TeenDrama, whenever a ''Series/SavedByTheBell'' character listens in on a conversation, it always relates or leads to relation problems.
* In an episode of ''Series/GilligansIsland'', two Soviet cosmonauts land on the island after missing their target. Gilligan later overhears the two of them plotting to get the castaways drunk at a party and tie them up so they can't return to civilization and embarrass the Soviet space program by telling the world that they missed their target. One wonders why the two Russians would be privately conversing with each other in English.
* This trope is parodied in an episode of [[Series/{{Blackadder}} Blackadder III]]. Baldrick overhears two actors discussing how they intend to murder the Prince in a hilariously gory fashion, and immediately suspects a plot. In fact, the actors were merely rehearsing a play.
* Parodied in one of ''Series/TheColbertReport'''s Tek Jansen stories. The hero is hiding in a kitchen when the bad guys enter and explain their evil plan out loud. They then leave the kitchen, having entered it for no other reason.
* Happens very, ''very'' frequently in the Spanish cop show ''Series/LosHombresDePaco''. There are way too many examples to list from that show.
* Averted on ''Series/TheWire''. The vast, vast majority of the intercepted chatter is useless fluff.
* Subverted on ''Series/{{The Office|US}}''. When Jim is promoted, Dwight goes through an elaborate plan to bug his office, and ends up with hours and hours of Jim talking to clients about paper.
* In one music video and song for the {{Creator/Studio100}} series Series/KabouterPlop called "Jij Praat Teveel". Kwebbel can be seen doing this and even sings about it.

* Occurs twice with the same incident in ''[[Pinball/WHODunnit WHO dunnit]]''. [[spoiler:Tex overhears his wife Victoria conspiring with someone over the phone to murder him (though he doesn't know who her co-conspirator is). When he confronts her afterward and threatens her, her Butler overhears and plots to kill him in retaliation.]]

* Creator/WilliamShakespeare plays with it a couple of times:
** In ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'', first Hamlet, eavesdropping on Claudius, decides not to kill him, since it sounds like he's praying. Actually, Hamlet had just missed the important part, and Claudius was really lamenting the fact that he ''couldn't'' pray, because of all the murdering and usurping he'd been doing lately. Then Polonius tries to [[InvokedTrope set up]] this trope, hoping to learn something by eavesdropping on Hamlet talking to his mother. Instead, he gets stabbed, which isn't particularly helpful.
** Another Shakespearean instance, which proves pivotal to the plot -- the eavesdropping scene in ''Othello''. Horribly subverted as Othello completely misunderstands and misinterprets what Cassio is saying (it doesn't help the courtesan he's seeing chucks Desdemona's hanky back in his face either).
** Shakespeare even [[InvokedTrope invokes]] this trope twice in ''Theatre/MuchAdoAboutNothing'':
*** The supporting characters conspire to have Beatrix and Benedick overhear them talking about how each is crazy in love with the other in order to get the two to fall in love. It works, sort of.
*** And in the same play, the villains conspire to have Claudio overhear a conversation he misinterprets, which is basically the entire plot.
*** Given that the "Nothing" in the title was pronounced "Noting" in Shakespeare's day, the title [[LampshadeHanging hangs a lampshade]] on it.
** In ''Theatre/TwelfthNight'', Sir Toby and others overhear Malvolio talking about how he would like to marry Olivia and stop Toby from drinking. This kicks off their plan to humiliate Malvolio.

[[folder:Video Game]]
* This is a game mechanic in ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedI''. One of your submissions in each assassination is to seek out very specific people, sit on a bench nearby, and listen to their conversations. These inevitably give you some information about the target or ways you can infiltrate their strongholds and kill them.
** Of course, since you're reliving someone else's memories, it's possible that he waited for hours to hear the relevant information and didn't pay much attention to the rest or remember it.
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonDiamondAndPearl'', when the player is infiltrating the enemy base they will conveniently walk into a room where the BigBad is giving a speech to his mooks laying out his EvilPlan point by point. (This is partially subverted later when the BigBad reveals that he was leaving out key points of the plan during said speech.)
* In "VideoGame/ShounenKinindenTsumuji" has a gameplay mechanic in which you can listen to any conversations and remember them to solve puzzles.
* Listening in on conversations in the ''VideoGame/LauraBow'' games will earn you vital information needed to solve the murders, although there are a few times when you can spy on someone and they're doing something totally harmless, like sitting alone in their room or sleeping.
* Played straight all the time in ''VideoGame/VagrantStory''. The main character even has ''special magic eavesdropping powers''.
* Played with in ''VideoGame/TombRaiderLegend'', where--in the first level-- Ms. Croft stumbled upon two guards talking about monkeys and how they react to cigarettes.
* In one of the early levels of the first ''VideoGame/SplinterCell'' game, one of your objectives is to listen in on a conversation with your laser mic. Although you get there in plenty of time, if you don't set your mic up once they start talking, you can miss important parts of the conversation and fail the mission.
* ''VideoGame/PaperMarioTheThousandYearDoor'' has you listen in on Grubba monologuing a layout for everything he wouldn't have wanted somebody who just happened to be listening to know. He lampshades it at the end by saying "Well, since I'm thinking out loud here, I think I'll put this here paper in this drawer." and then a few seconds later "There, now that that's all settled."
* Subverted and poked fun at in ''VideoGame/MaxPayne''. When the elevator Max is in reaches the designated floor you can sit in and eavesdrop upon some mooks talking. They're discussing... bullet time in television. You can choose to enter bullet time yourself and kill them that way, just for kicks.
* In ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2'', there are a couple of sequences where you have to listen in on conversations with a directional mic. You have to keep the aim focused on each speaker as they walk around to hear everything they say.
** [[spoiler: Invoked]] in [[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid the first Solid game]], where the FOXHOUND members (particularly Liquid and Ocelot) have lengthy conversations about critical details in their plan within earshot of Snake at the exact moments that he happens to be there to spy on them. [[spoiler: It turns out they are deliberately playing off this trope to keep up the appearance that they are capable of launching the nuke from REX. They aren't, however, as Ocelot "accidentally" killed the DARPA chief while torturing him to find out the passcode to arm REX. Since they know Snake has the PAL key which is the only other means of arming or disarming REX (and it can only be used once), but have no idea how to use it themselves, they stage these conversations so Snake will overhear them, think they are going to launch a nuke imminently, and use the PAL key to disarm REX, but actually activate it instead. It works.]]
* Actually averted in ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity'' and ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamOrigins''. You can pick up on random thugs conversing with each other when going through the city. More often that not, it's just nonsensical (although sometimes hilarious) banter.
* Averted in ''VideoGame/CrashOfTheTitans''. The local Mooks will simply be chatting about whatever from the time you enter the area until the time when you get within sight. There is even an achievement for sitting through one of these conversations.
* In ''VideoGame/KingsQuestVIHeirTodayGoneTomorrow'', the hero, through a hole in the wall, overhears the BigBad [[SoundingItOut voicing]] his EvilPlan for the princess in a letter to his villain friend.
* A villainous variant in ''VideoGame/HyperdimensionNeptuniaRebirth1''; while the party are discussing their plans to infiltrate Avenir and find out their plans, their Avenir contact is outside listening in on the entire thing.
* ''VideoGame/{{Deadpool}}'': fifteen seconds of loud explanations from the unaware mooks on how the door and lever work,
--> Deadpool: Alright, High Moon, ''we get it''!
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyII'', Leila eavesdropping on [[spoiler:Firion and the imposter Princess Hilda]] lets her and the rest of the party know when it's time for them to play BigDamnHeroes.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'':
** Before arriving to Lionel Castle, Ramza is secretly hearing the conversation between Agrias and Ovelia. Mustadio doesn't seem to realize the "secretly" part.
** When Loffrey is sent to negotiate [[spoiler: the mediation of the church in the War of the Lions]] with Dycedarg, which the latter rejects, the conversation slowly becomes a subtle threat of [[spoiler: revealing how he poisoned his own father in order to fulfill his plan of becoming the ruler of Gallione and, eventually, regent king of Ivalice]]. His brother Zalbaag is shocked, while listening to everything behind the main door.
** After Delita dismisses Ovelia to talk in private with Orran and Valmafra, she pretends to leave by closing the door, but she remains hidden listening the conversation. Paranoia ensues.
* In ''VideoGame/LufiaAndTheFortressOfDoom'', Lufia happens to overhear [[spoiler:the Hero and Aguro discussing whether the Hero would be able to kill Lufia, given that they had just been told that she is the Sinistral of Death and that her merely existing allows the other Sinistrals to reincarnate]].
* One of the key mechanics in ''VideoGame/Hitman2016''. The game even notifies you when a conversation you're overhearing could lead you to an assassination opportunity.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Played straight and lampshaded in [[http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20010710.html this]] strip of ''Webcomic/SchlockMercenary''. "That was quite a bit more convenient than I could have expected."
* Played straight when [[NamedAfterSomebodyFamous Dean Martin]] learns Molly's origin in ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob.'' Then he gets frustrated they don't say more, and settles in to just be a [[http://bobadventures.comicgenesis.com/d/20071120.html peeping (or listening?) tom instead.]]
* Mostly averted by ''Webcomic/DarthsAndDroids'' [[http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0309.html here]] (along with instructions for avoiding it in a tabletop game!).
* Lampshaded in ''Webcomic/GastroPhobia'':
-->'''[[http://gastrophobia.com/index.php?date=2011-04-01 Philia:]]''' Check it out, those guys are fortuitously discussing subject matter pertinent to our current task.
* ''Webcomic/BeyondTheCanopy''. Glenn's CallToAdventure comes when he overhears some suspicious characters talk about going to [[ForbiddenZone the Forest's Navel]]. Later, Grandpa eavesdrops on some skeleton guards, and hears just enough to figure out that Glenn has acquired [[ArtifactOfDeath the Remnant]].
* ''Webcomic/{{Spacetrawler}}'' has a [[JustifiedTrope justified example]]. The intelligent, subterranean Mihrrgoots want to prevent the outside world from learning of their existence, so they have to [[LaserGuidedAmnesia mindwipe]] any outsiders who wish to leave, and then deliberately arrange a way for them to "escape" once they wake up from the mindwipe. This involves, among other things, some actor Mihrrgoots talking amongst themselves so the "prisoners" listening to them learn just enough to escape.
* Averted in ''Webcomic/GeneralProtectionFault''. Nick and Dexter, thanks to the poor quality of their "spy equipment," have difficulty making out what Craig and Sharon are talking about.
* In ''Webcomic/KidRadd'', Sheena listens in on Crystal and QB discussing Crystal's scheme, starting with QB mentioning the possibility of killing Radd, while the two are in a room that Crystal thinks is soundproof.
* Used in ''Webcomic/SamuraiPrincess''' while Itchyknee-san is searching for the princess and just happens to over hear the Raeka's royal vow of vengeance. PRINCESS FOUND!
* [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] on ''Webcomic/IWasKidnappedByLesbianPiratesFromOuterSpace''
-->[[http://rosalarian.com/lesbianpirates/?p=2758 "I have this sudden urge to ask you to remind us all what the plan is, while hoping nobody might be listening."]]
* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' Xykon uses the magical device Teevo to scry on Miko to find the location of the Gate. Unfortunately for him, the throne room is protected against scrying. However, as she leaves beaten by Roy, [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0415.html he overhears just enough from the others' conversation to figure out the necessary details]].
* In ''Webcomic/UrbanUnderbrush'', [[http://www.lepusstudios.com/uu0151.html Caius overhears Clive's rejection of his being in on the gift exchange while he arrives with Clive's gift.]]
* In ''Webcomic/{{Blindsprings}}'', Imogen arrives just in time to learn about [[http://www.blindsprings.com/comic/blindsprings-page-one-hundred-and-seventy-four Ember asking Tammy not to tell her about the Cistern spirits.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''Film/NoobLaCroiseeDesDestins'': After some time looking for Tenshirock, Dead finds him just in time to overhear Tenshirock telling someone else that he considers the shared casual play session he's currently having with Dead to make peace with him after years of mutual hostility to be a joke. In the previous movie, Dead had tolerated Tenshirock temporarily opting out due to his casual play avatar Rock getting possessed by one of the game's villains, but Rock had become usable again by the time that conversation happened.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', a bathing Katara swims by Toph and Sokka just as they are talking about her. This may or may not have been deliberately engineered by Sokka in order to get the girls stop fighting.
* Subverted in children's cartoon ''WesternAnimation/{{Arthur}}''. Arthur notices that his sister D.W. has been acting strange and upset lately, so he sets out to find what's wrong with her, and eventually places a walkie-talkie in her room at night to hear her sleep-talking. D.W. apparently catches on to this: "I'm sad... because... because... BECAUSE ARTHUR IS A DODO-BRAIN!" (Eventually it turns out that she's upset because she wasn't invited to a friend's birthday party -- nothing to do with her brother at all.)
* This occurs in ''"Flirting with Disasters"'' in ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'' where Valerie eavesdrop in time to hear Sam and Tucker talking about the [[DatingCatwoman dangers of dating her to Danny]]. Danny confesses he wants to be her boyfriend regardless which shocks both [[UnluckyChildhoodFriend Sam]] and Valerie. Luckily, Sam notices Valerie before they could dig deep with their other conversation dealing with Danny's secret identity whom Valerie currently chases.
* On ''WesternAnimation/TheMarvelousMisadventuresOfFlapjack'', Flapjack overhears sailors talking about K'nuckles. Camera cut to his shocked expression after every line.
-->'''Fat sailor:''' I told you, Ernie, we'll take care of him [K'nuckles] like the last guy.\\
'''Ernie:''' And just how did we take care of him because...I forgot.\\
'''Fat sailor:''' We'll feed him to the shark!\\
'''Ernie:''' And then what happens... I mean, after we feed him to the shark?\\
'''Fat sailor:''' He dies.
* Parodied on ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''. While Bart is overhearing a conversation between Principal Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie, Skinner reveals that he is trying his hand at stand-up comedy. He invites Willie, giving him directions to the comedy club starting from the Simpsons' house.
* In the last episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheSpectacularSpiderMan,'' [[JerkassWoobie Harry]] lingers just long enough to accidentally hear [[LoveInterest Gwen]], his girlfriend, and [[TheHero Peter]], their mutual best friend, confess their feelings for each other. He's able to use this information to his advantage, however, when [[spoiler:his father's [[NotQuiteDead apparent]] death]] guilts Gwen into staying with him.
* A subversion kicks off the plot in the first postscript season episode of ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'' after ''So the Drama''. After Bonnie plants the notion in Ron's head that he isn't good enough for Kim and that it's only a matter of time until she "trades up", he spends a day moping but reassures himself that Kim wouldn't do that. Then he overhears Kim telling Monique that Bonnie is right and that it's time to "trade up". If he waited a little longer, he would have realized they were talking about cell phones and the rest of the episode would have been really boring.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'', Roger is trying to trick Steve into thinking he's adopted. Then Steve happens to overhear his father Stan saying to his mom, "As far as I'm concerned, we only have ''one'' child!" Steve is horrified, not realizing that Stan is actually disowning Steve's sister Hayley due to her anti-gun beliefs. Roger lampshades it: "I just love when crap lines up like that."
* Subverted in the ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'' episode "Little Miss Interprets". The Powerpuffs repeatedly overhearing snippets of perfectly innocent statements [[spoiler:concerning their surprise birthday party]] which lead them to believe that everyone in Townsville is plotting to kill them.
* Parodied in the ''WesternAnimation/SonicBoom'' episode "Battle of the Boy Bands", when Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails are eavesdropping on [[NoCelebritiesWereHarmed Justin Beaver]]'s producer and manager, trying to get information on a supposed brain-washing scheme.
-->''(producer and manager talk about scheduling)''
-->'''Tails''': "I guess it makes sense that he [[SubvertedTrope wouldn't conveniently reveal his evil scheme]] the exact moment we happened to be listening."
-->'''Producer''': "[[DoubleSubversion Shifting gears completely]], how's our evil scheme coming along?"
-->''(scheme is discussed)''
-->'''Knuckles:''' Justin's producer [[LampshadeHanging conveniently revealed the whole scheme]], right in front of us! [[BreakingTheFourthWall Talk about]] [[SelfDeprecation lazy writing]]!"