Jim Hacker: Tell me general, where's the hotline?
General: Which one?
Jim Hacker: The one to Russia.
Bernard Wooley: The Red hotline, sir.

If there's a crisis between the USSR and the US in fiction, expect the President to phone up the Soviet leader on his direct line, usually a red dial-telephone with no dial.

Except it's not like that in real life, and never was. Beginning operation in 1963, the Moscow-Washington Hotline, colloquially known as the "Red Phone", is designed to relay text originally via Teletype, then fax machine, nowadays a secure fiber-optic line through which emails are exchanged because of the possibility that speech could be misinterpreted (a voice link was tested in the 70's but dropped); each side writes in their own language, which is then translated and both versions are given to whichever leader. Also, the Hotline connects the Pentagon to what was then the Communist Party leadership across the street from the Kremlin; it's not a direct link between the White House and Kremlin itself. During the height of the Cold War, the line was tested hourly, often using poetry. The Hotline is still in use today, still not a phone.

Nowadays, after the Cold War, the Hot Line trope is more likely to be used between the Ultimate Authority Mayor or other Reasonable Authority Figure and a local superhero. Expect a Catch Phrase, often falling under "To the Batnoun!"


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    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert's company built one once. It looked like an ordinary telephone. Dogbert used it to prank call Gorbachev.

  • Averted in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic MANE. Princess Celestia proposed the installation of a hotline between her palace and the USR Chancellery in Stalliongrad, but the Chancellor would not have it installed because he refused to recognize that Celestia had any claim to be the ruler of Equestria. Comes back to bite them both during the invasion of Saddle Arabia when the USR mistake an ammunition dump exploding for a tactical nuclear strike, and begin to retaliate in kind. Celestia's attempts to communicate with the Chancellor have to be routed through their embassy instead, by which time it is too late.

  • Dr. Strangelove: Not actually the Moscow-Washington line, but rather an ordinary phone. Which is even worse. Considering the nature of the ensuing conversation, as well as the entire film itself, that is very, very likely intentional.
  • Averted in Thirteen Days. The Hotline did not exist at the time in fact, it was created because of the Cuban Missile Crisis with messages going by coded telegram. As depicted in the film, this resulted in the US spending 12 hours decrypting and translating Khrushchev's offer (a rambling 3000-word message) to remove the missiles in return for the US not invading Cuba. While the Americans were working on interpreting that message, a second message arrived, this one from the Politburo and much more aggressive, demanding the US remove missiles from Turkey in exchange for the USSR doing the same in Cuba. ExComm thought about it, and publicly accepted the first offer (while discreetly accepting the second later).
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, Hadley answers a red phone and is told that the sacrifice didn't go exactly as planned. Their failure results in the destruction of all life as we know it.
  • Expect to see at least one red phone per 1970s James Bond movie. Though they're usually in government offices, they're usually not the hot line.
    • In Thunderball, a government head specifically mentions the President and Prime Minister talking over the Hot Line, which, as the Trope Description mentions, was not a voice line at the time (1965) - it's also used between friendly countries, rather than Moscow.
  • The Avengers (1998). Mother is the head of The Ministry, a top secret British intelligence agency. He has a red phone on his office that connects directly to the British Prime Minister.
  • Our Man Flint. Lloyd Cramden, head of the agency Z.O.W.I.E. (Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage), has a red phone that he uses to communicate with the President of the United States.
  • In the Made-for-TV Movie The Trial of The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil's Friend on the Force police captain has a direct line to call Daredevil.


    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 Season 6.
  • The TV series Yes, Minister poked fun at the prosaic realities of the hotline - the phone only goes to a Kremlin switchboard... and the operator doesn't speak English.
  • The live-action Batman show had a hotline connecting Commissioner Gordon's office to Bruce Wayne's study (of course, Gordon didn't know where Batman's end of the line was located).
    • The phone is also equipped with Diversionary Bat-phone Lines, which prevent tracing the calls back to Stately Wayne Manor.
  • Seen in the revival series of Doctor Who, at 10 Downing Street.
    • In "The Impossible Astronaut", River comments that the functions within the souped-up spacesuit have a communication suite that links up directly to the highest authority it can find, giving the little girl (River as a child) a hotline to the White House.
    • In "The Day of the Doctor" we're shown the Space-Time Telegraph, a gift from The Doctor to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and left for his daughter, Kate, which gives a direct hotline in times of crisis to the TARDIS, or from the TARDIS to the Black Archives. (In the classic series it was mentioned but not seen at the end of "Revenge of the Cybermen" and beginning of "Terror of the Zygons".)
  • In Stargate SG-1, General Hammond has a frequently used red phone that includes a direct line to the President. That's the second line, though, the first line is for his grandchildren.
    • Diuscussed in one episode where Hammond is on the hotline with a lackey who is stonewalling him. Hammond shouts at the flunky "Do you know what color this phone is!?"

  • Spy Hunter features an unseen caller using a red phone to call Agent GK.

    Video Games 
  • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, President Dugan has five of them. He only uses the one wired to the Kremlin when he receives word of the invading Soviet forces. Dugan and Soviet Premier Romanov's conversation turns hostile quickly and Dugan threatens to nuke the invasion force. Romanov dismisses the threat, having ensured that the nukes will be swiftly deactivated.
    • And, foreshadowing the next game, one of the other phones is labeled "Tokyo".
  • Portal. Before entering GlaDOS's chamber, you see a red phone. In the commentary, the devs explain that it was a hotline for scientists to use in case of an emergency with the AI. They point out that the connection cord is cut, hinting at just how effective it was.

    Web Comics 
  • In Blindsprings Asher Thorne, the Prime Minister of Kirkhall, is shown to have one that he uses to call up Master Lumen, the controller of the Gravers.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Mayor of Townsville has a hotline to The Powerpuff Girls that goes to phones in both their bedroom and the school they attend.

Alternative Title(s): Red Phone, Bat Phone