Our protagonists are flying through space in their Cool Ship when they suddenly get into a combat situation. For whatever reason, they quickly realize that hanging around is going to get them blasted into tiny pieces and decide to go to warp speed to escape. This usually involves stars suddenly zipping past like the old Windows screensaver. If the author wants there to be space battles where one side can decisively lose, rather than the losing side zipping off as soon as things start going wrong, they can use a No Warping Zone.
In Real Life, this is known as “disengagement by acceleration”; in air combat, it is not uncommon for combat to take place between an agile aircraft of limited speed, and a more unwieldy aircraft that can suddenly accelerate away on afterburner. For example, F-4s vs. MiG-17s in Vietnam, or an SR-71 or MiG-25/31 with any other known jet aircraft. It happens at sea as well. For example, the USS Enterprise in World War II was noted for its slightly higher speed than other vessels its size, as was the Age Of Sail vessel USS Constitution.
With FTL drives that need to charge up before activating, this can lead to a You Shall Not Pass situation when the enemy's still attacking. (Heroic Sacrifices optional.)
See also Blind Jump, because it's even harder for the enemy to track you if you don't know where you're going. Compare to Hyperspeed Ambush, when you use your superior speed to get the jump on the enemy. Combine the two, and you have a form of Hit-and-Run Tactics.
Spaceballs demonstrates what happens when the enemy ship tries to go even faster to pursue the fleeing ship: first the heroes' Winnebago jumps into light speed, and the villains, trying to catch them, decide to forgo light speed and go straight to "Ludicrous Speed."
In Galaxy Quest, when Jason realizes what big trouble they've really gotten themselves into, he tells the helmskid to press the "Turbo" button and keep it held down. Since the Turbo feature was only designed for short bursts of speed, Hilarity Ensues.
Star Trek: Into Darkness has the Enterprise crew book it into Hyperspace after an utter Curb-Stomp Battle at the hands of the Vengeance. Unluckily for them, the Vengeance is more than capable of catching up to them. Mid-warp.
Faced with being blown up by two thermonuclear missiles in the first book, Arthur activates the Infinite Improbability Drive (the Heart of Gold's version of a hyperspace drive). It works, but not quite as might be expected: the ship doesn't move, but the missiles are turned into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias.
In the film, when the Heart of Gold jumps to hyperspeed, the overly-bureaucratic Vogons are appalled... because the ship's crew failed to file the proper paperwork for a hyperspeed escape.
In the Mageworlds books by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald.
The Price of the Stars, while making the getaway from their rather messy kidnapping, star slingshot included to reach jump speed.
Starpilot's Grave, played true, after taking down several mageworld ships.
Subverted in The Lost Fleet where the titular fleet can't use the typical Portal Network to escape because its guarded by the Syndics. Played straight shortly after when the fleet makes use of the old fashion jump point system to escape even if it just takes them from one enemy territory to another (at least without the enemy fleet). This trope is used repeatedly in the series and just where the fleet escaped to is a source of never ending frustration to their enemies.
Happens so often in the Star Wars Expanded Universe that the Empire develops an entire class of ship, the Interdictor, to prevent it. Several higher-caliber tacticians make use of a version that's almost Hyperspeed Advance-In-Another-Direction; a ship jumps from one area of combat, or outside combat, right up next to another ship and gets a free shot in. Since it's basically impossible to time a hyperspace jump so perfectly (at least, if you're not a Jedi or Sith), carefully-positioned Interdictors are instead used to yank their own allies out of hyperspace in exactly the right place.
In Galaxy of Fear the heroes, flying in The Shroud, usually get to play this trope straight, but it's subverted in The Hunger, when the ship following them is doing so as a distraction and the bounty hunter who owns it has it on remote and is actually hiding on their ship.
Viable tactic used often by the Solar Fleet in Perry Rhodan or at worst getting closer to the C speed.
Honor Harrington: Can be done easily by any ship capable of going to hyperspace, as long as they are beyond the local star system's hyperlimit. Given that this hyperlimit usually tends to extend further out than the orbits of any noteworthy planets in a system, it is rare for there to be anything worth fighting over out there, so such an escape will typically be used only after a defeated force has fought its way back out to the Hyper Limit. That said, when fighting in a system with a Wormhole Terminus, the dynamics can change drastically. Also, hyper generators do have a short cycle time, so it is possible (if you know exactly when and where the ships are going to exit hyper) to engage a force outside the hyper limit. This is rarely seen, due to the difficulty of knowing exactly where the enemy will appear (spies are only so good) and the fact that, unless you have a crushing force advantage, the enemy will be able to hyper out again before you do significant damage.
In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, the protagonists are planning on taking a Buran shuttle on an unauthorized trip to meet the Alari. Colonel Danilov and Pyotr are supposed to be on the shuttle, while Pyotr's grandfather, his grandfather's protege, and a reptilian alien aren't. When the ruse is discovered, the Buran is still in the upper atmosphere. Danilov and Pyotr are threatened with Kill Sats, leaving them no choice but to activate the jumper prematurely. Since the jumper transports a large sphere of space around it along with the shuttle, a chunk of Earth's atmosphere is taken with them. Pyotr realizes that this will result in some nasty weather patterns (e.g. hurricanes) and that this act alone (not to mention the hijacking) guarantees them life in prison.
Done a few more times later in the duology, such as with the Geometer scoutship.
Live Action TV
Star Trek. Of course, conveniently-timed Phlebotinum Breakdown keeps it from working out very often. That, and ships can be tracked and engaged at warp, so there's no guarantee that heading to warp will allow for an escape when dealing with a sufficiently persistent opponent.
Firefly does this a couple times, notably near the beginning of the pilot. Subverted in the Big Damn Movie where they actually intend the pursuers to follow. This is also considerably less plausible than most of these examples as strictly speaking Firefly has no hyperspace: see Stealth in Space for details.
Some fanfics explain it away as a "Loads More Delta-V Than Whoever's Chasing Us" Escape, and a throwaway line about Firefly-class transports being extremely numerous out on the Rim offers a Hand Wave for the problem of being hard to find afterwards.
Not to mention that they will sometimes employ a Decoy Getaway, compliments of the Cry Baby. Notably, in the pilot, this strategy relied on the Alliance goons not being Card Carrying Villains: The decoy was pretending to be a personnel transport in distress, and they broke off pursuit in order to go help. And in the movie they launched a half dozen Cry Babies with copies of their own transponder on rockets.
Another time in the pilot they were in atmosphere and using the ship's nuclear fusion drive to blast their pursuer off course.
The rebooted Battlestar Galactica. Taken to the extreme in the series pilot, where the entire fleet has to do this every 33 minutes for 237 jumps straight.
Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis make fairly regular use of this, although in a sort-of-subversion way: they simply jump through the titular static Stargates.
They play it straight when it comes to starship combat scenes in the later seasons. However, they usually fail to do it, since the hyperdrive almost always goes off-line immediately in the first Star Trek Shake scene.
The only problem with that is the fact that you can knock them out so easily while your shields are still up. Realistically when facing an enemy employing hit and run tactic against a vastly superior army... you want to make them unable to run. So what if they manage to take out one of your ships because you didn't blow the weapons - they can't run and repair to come again.
The series finale of SG-1 is notable partly because attacks by Ori motherships forced the Odyssey to make Hyperspeed Escapes no less than four times in a single episode. The Time Dilation field generated by Carter is a last-ditch measure only deployed when the Odysseycan't jump out in time.
This is the Shadows' favorite tactic: Appear, blow stuff up, and jump back into hyperspace before anyone knows what the hell just happened. (Their first appearance in the show lasts 37 seconds due to this trope.)
In one episode, two Narn ships try to make a hyperspace escape and fail; the Shadows disrupt their hyperspace jump-points and cause the ships to get mangled as they try to leave.
Frequently used in Blake's 7 by both the Liberator and the Scorpio.
Only after the Scorpio is upgraded. In its first appearance, it's a barely-functional piece of crap that can't outrun (or fight) anything. After they upgrade its engines, it still a barely-functional piece of crap, but at least it's fast.
Cole in Tracker, quite often. Except he didn't use a spacecraft; Cirronians have a natural ability to go into hyperspeed, or FTL movement, for a limited time.
In The Space Gypsy Adventures a favorite tactic of Gemma and Damien is to warp to Zenophon to escape arrest. On a couple occasions though they had to dump their cargo first so the mass wouldn't slow them down and/or as a distraction for the Federal Alliance.
The Necron fleet in Warhammer 40,000 are noted to do either this or phase out after taking significant casualties. The Eldar (and their dark cousins) operate in the same fashion.
This tactic appears in Star Fleet Battles using its modern name.
The basis of the "Battleship vs. Battle Rider" debate in Traveller. Battleships have jump drives and are capable of pulling this off if they run into a superior force, while Battle Riders are dependent on Fleet Tenders for FTL travel so they can't retreat very easily but because they don't waste tonnage on jump drives they are able to carry more weapons.
In the classic game Asteroids (and all the clones and remakes of it) you can teleport to a random place on the screen. This might take you from the path of a rock to safety…or simply into another rock.
This is basically the entirety of gameplay in the classic computer game Robots (also known as Daleks or Zombies)
In Star Control II, it is possible to escape a battle by jumping into hyperspace (although warming up the hyperspace drives takes a couple of seconds, during which the ship is easy prey for its opponent). One battle in the game can only be “won” this way, as the opponent is a valuable potential ally who you're trying not to kill.
Central to Escape Velocity's gameplay for a number of reasons, which can lead to some exciting nailbiters:
Each solar system can only be jumped to from certain other systems, which means you typically need to jump through several systems to get anywhere. (An item in the third game allows you to move through multiple systems in a single jump, assuming you set the route in advance; this effectively allows you to bypass the "one system per jump" limitation.)
You can only hyperjump if you're at least a certain distance from the center of the system.
When jumping into a system, you always exit hyperspace on the near edge of the system, too close to jump, and headed inward fast. Since there's no Space Friction, this means you need to either stop and turn around or fly through to the other side.
Not entirely true. You can do consecutive hyperjumps if you hit the right button immediately after arrival. Of course this works only if you have your next target programmed in advance and provided you have enough fuel.
Even so, what this does is make the un-abortable autopilot spin the ship around and brake to a stop before jumping… Typically halting in the center of the system, smack dab where most of the ships (friendly or otherwise) are likely waiting.
In order to hyperjump you need to be perfectly still and pointed exactly at your destination. When you want to jump, you must enter an uncontrollable (and un-abortable) mode where your autopilot turns the opposite of the direction you're moving, brakes to a stop, turns toward your destination, and then accelerates to hyperspeed before exiting the solar system.
During all of this, you are completely vulnerable to attack, although the duration of the autopilot's work is lessened if you're moving slower and/or pointed nearly the correct way, it's still quite possible to run into a torpedo during the final hyperthrust and explode at your destination. In a related note, your ship must be moving slowly while over a planet/station to land on/dock with it.
Escape Velocity also uses the sublight version: if you don't have too slow a ship to begin with, mashing the afterburner lets you outpace not only most pursuers but most missiles. You can't hide in this manner, but you can get enough of a headstart to perform your jump in safety.
Similarly done in X-COM Interceptor, where it's fully possible to die while the ship attempts to engage its hyperdrive.
Fans of Wing Commander, particularly its spin offsPrivateer and Privateer II, are quite familiar with this tactic. Or, in the case of the latter, frequently the inability to employ it, thanks to the prolific use of random enemies and the limitations on using autopilot or the jump points when enemies are present.
Occurs very shortly before the opening of the first Halo game, with the Pillar of Autumn attempting to escape from Covenant forces. Subverted in that the Covenant ships are faster and are waiting for the Autumn when it drops out of slipspace.
Also done annoyingly in Freelancer, where the cruise engine, the high speed method of transportation can be frequently disabled by guided cruise disruptors.
A good way to run from fights in EVE Online. Be wary though: any semi-decent pirate uses warp disruptors, barring a good escape.
The "Warp Drive Active" voice over and the sight of your ship entering warp after escaping the range of an enemy's warp scrambler/disruptor is one of the most reliving experiences in games.
In the Master of Orion series, ships generally retreat by opening a portal.
Running for a wormhole in Conquest Frontier Wars could get you safely away, for a few seconds untill your enemy followed you though, or blow up the gate blocking their way and then followed you though. What often happens is your ship arrived in pieces after a jump.
Escaping into phase space is ubiquitous in Sins of a Solar Empire whenever a force or a unit has to retreat. Phase Inhibitors, obviously, inhibit this, as do several other stunning/slowing abilities. The Vasari are particularly capable of disrupting phase retreats.
There is always a cost to phase jumping, however: Making a phase jump under any conditions will remove a portion of a ship's stored antimatter (which powers ship special abilities), although never into negative values. If the enemy you're running from has a starbase established in-system, not only will a ship lose 100% of stored antimatter upon phase jumping out, it will also lose 35% of the ship's current hull points (or 50% if it's the TEC with the proper tech upgrade); this will never outright kill a ship, but it will inflict serious damage.
Mass Effect 2: A fairly frequent occurrence in the game (moreso if you purchase the "Arrival" DLC). One example, as the Normandy flees from the Collectors:
Joker: I can't dodge this guy forever, EDI! Get us out of here!
EDI: Please specify the destination, Mr. Moreau.
Joker: Anywhere that's not here!
EDI: Engaging mass effect core...
Military doctrine in the Mass Effect universe includes this. Unless one of the sides have something they can't abandon (like a planet), most ships will simply jump when things get too hot.
Star Trek Klingon Academy lets both you and the enemy do this.
Ships in Freespace, surprisingly, don't do this very often unless the plot calls for it. The fan-made campaign Blue Planet, on the other hand, has ships automatically jump out after taking critical damage, which makes a lot more sense from a real world tactics perspective.
In Sword of the Stars you can retreat from tactical encounters by jumping out. There's a waiting time for the FTL drive to be readied, but by the time you get to lategame upgraded drives the wait can be over before you even get in firing range of the enemy.
You can also, in most cases, only do it if the enemy is far enough away. The exception are the humans and the Zuul, who use jump points to enter nodespace.
The X series both plays the trope straight and averts it. The majority of FTL travel in the game is done by means of a Portal Network, but ships can also purchase aftermarket jumpdrives which take you to a given gate in the network. Naturally it can be used for a Hyperspeed Escape, but a jump requires a ten-second charge. Which is ten seconds for your opponents to kill you. Players learn pretty quickly that the drive will not save you if you wait too long to use it.
Averted because of one glaring piece of Artificial Stupidity: only ships owned by the player will buy and use jumpdrives (barring scripted plot events). One of several things the AI is not programmed to do that ships in the game are capable of...
The above is fixed in X3: Albion Prelude, where ships of the racial militaries' Rapid Response Fleets will jump to trouble spots (or rather, to the jumpgate nearest the trouble spot), and will try to jump back out if their shields get too low. Also, enemies in the games won't generally pursue if you make it through a jumpgate.
The Bonus Pack scripts include an afterburner that uses the same power supply as the jumpdrive that allows for the sublight version. Note it only doubles your speed rather than increasing it by a set amount, so putting it on a freighter is pretty useless.
Early in 'Star Ocean: Till the End of Time', Cliff and Mirage escape a Vendeeni cruiser by engaging their gravitic warp engine on Cliff's "hunch" that they will be able to escape the Vendeeni's No Warping Zone before getting melted by their cannons. His hunch is vindicated as they suddenly accelerate beyond the reach of the Vendeeni's Beam Spam.
In Starcraft the Protoss Arbiter's "Dimensional Recall" ability teleports a group of friendly units to itself. Raynor uses this to keep the UED from capturing Mengsk and himself.
Unlike the Star Wars film, X-Wing and Tie Fighter play this straight. Enemies move to a specific waypoint before warping out, while the player enters a dead stop before warp. Once hyperspace starts, the ship is out of combat. Starting with Tie Fighter, Interdictors create a No Warping Zone, which need to be taken out before escape.
The final game of the series, X-Wing Alliance, sometimes has multiple hyperspace escapes in a single mission.
In Battlestar Galactica Online this is possible, but there's a severe penalty for the chargeup time needed if you try to jump out in combat, making it hard to do so.
You can usually escape from battles in Strange Adventures In Infinite Space and its sequel, as long as you're far enough away from the enemy. Some encounters (the Urluquai) specifically start as ambushes (i.e. your ships are surrounded on all sides), so that you can't do that.
In Ether Vapor, when Sana and Luca are encounterd by a large battleship, Sana suggests this. Luca objects, refusing to allow the enemy to shoot him from behind, and destroys the battleship instead.
The player can often pull this off in FTL: Faster Than Light, the goal of the game is to get your fragile ship through 8 zones in one piece so often running away from a costly battle is the best strategy (in fact on the only strategy if the rebel fleet find you). Enemies ships can also jump away depriving you of valuable resources and maybe informing the pursuing fleet of your location. In all cases the ship must power up it's FTL drive all while being attacked, if the engines or bridge is damaged you can't jump and are forced to remain until you fix the problem.
As mentioned in the intro, some faster jets, such as the American SR-71 Blackbird or the Russian MiG-25 Foxbat, were able to use their superior speed to outrun their enemies. During the Gulf War, American F-15 Eagle pilots found that they were unable to get close enough Iraqi Foxbats to engage them in air-to-air because the Iraqi jets could simply turn and accelerate into the sunset (or, most often, to Iran, ironically enough.)
During the early years of World War II, American fighter pilots learned very quickly that the Japanese fighters were far more maneuverable than they were. As a result, the standard strategy used by American pilots who found themselves at a disadvantage was to go into a dive, as the American planes could accelerate and dive far faster than the Japanese planes could. Similarly, high-speed diving hit-and-run attacks were a popular tactic for the Americans, helped no doubt by their typical loudout of six .50 caliber Ma Deuce machine guns.
German fighters during the Polish Campaign had to face old-fashioned PZL fighter planes with parasol wings, which could fly turns round them, so they used the superior engine power of their engines (and the fact their engines were fuel-injection instead of carburettor fed) to outdive and outclimb them wherever needed. Same tactic worked for some time as well during the Battle of Britain, as the Spitfires, more manoueuvrable and faster in a straight line, would stall their engines if they attempted to dive as fast as a Bf-109 (during negative G manoeuvers, the fuel would be pushed back into the fuel lines and starve the engine).