Inescapable Net

"Net... overpowering! Arms... tired... heavy! Can't... move... must... urk..."
Bat Thumb

Want to incapacitate somebody without killing them? Then the most foolproof way of pulling this off is with the Inescapable Net, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's a net that, when thrown over someone, causes them to just flail around helplessly, trapped like a bunch of fish, ready to start dying.

This trope is particularly popular in children's animation, where the intended audience usually just accepts the application of this trope without considering the general silliness of the idea. Suffice to say, this trope is much more difficult to pull off in live action television, in which the participants usually just end up looking silly.

To some extent this is Truth in Television. Animals surprised by nets usually don't have enough time to figure out a way to get out of it before the hunter is able to incapacitate them permanently. Of course, anything that is substantially stronger, smarter or with more escape time than your typical hunted animal doesn't have this excuse. Sometimes however, heavy weights will be added to the edges of a net to make it more difficult to escape from, or the corners will be attached to long ropes to drag the captured target away.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Pokémon anime, Pokémon caught inside Team Rocket's nets will only rarely manage to free themselves, despite them usually being pretty powerful in battle. Usually handwaved as being electric/whatever proof nets. The peak of this trope may be when Team Rocket captured Cresselia, a Legendary Pokemon, with an ordinary net.
  • One Piece:
    • Justified when the Marines use a net to trap Alvida and Buggy — it's a net specifically designed to counter Devil's Fruit powers, so they're screwed.
    • Don Krieg can fire a weighted net from his gun, which is used to send people into the water. Doesn't stop Luffy.

    Comic Books 
  • Averted in a very early Spider-Man comic featuring Kraven the Hunter's debut. Kraven catches Spidey in a net, but Spidey reasons that, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the net must have a weak joint in it, and he then tests the netting until he finds a part he can make big enough to escape through.
  • One Silver Age Justice League of America story had the Flash trapped in a net that would shrink around him and crush him to death.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: In Return of the Jedi, the protagonists find themselves suspended in snare-nets laid by the Ewoks. They are able to quickly escape, but not before the Ewoks arrive in force to surround them.
  • Spoofed in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist: the hero is trapped in a net that isn't even big enough to cover his head.
    Mayor: Master Betty, my compliments! That tiny net was sure-fire!
    Master Betty: Mm, yes, a tiny net is a death sentence. It's a net and it's tiny!
  • Predator:
    • In the first movie, the mercenaries manage to catch the Predator hunting them in a net thanks to Dutch playing bait, but the alien promptly tears the net apart by firing his plasma caster.
    • The Predator nets in the film series are quite effective, but that's also because they automatically contract on the target and are apparently made out of something like piano wire, so targets are less incapacitated and more cubed. How well this works when the "prey" starts bleeding an insanely corrosive acid, however...
  • Rue in The Hunger Games is inescapably trapped under a net tied to tree trunks. A freeze frame reveals the trap's poor set up which Rue should have had no problem escaping from.

  • In Lone Wolf book 8, The Jungle of Horrors, your traveling companion Paido is snagged by the bad guys in a net that is also studded with fish hooks, making it practically impossible to quickly free him before they drag him off. You see him again a couple of books later, alive but covered in scars from where the hooks were pulled out.

  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • "Connor Nets" are capable of doing this to starships. Connor Nets are justified by them being EMP's in the form of a net to tangle stabilizers and shut down engines.
    • As well as Stokhli Spray Sticks, which basically fire electrified riot goop.
    • Force Nets, which are actually a darkside method of executing someone by constricting the net.
  • Lampshaded/justified in the Planet of the Apes book: The protagonist and narrator writes that he was so panicked he did exactly the wrong thing when trying to escape from the net, which led to his capture.
  • In one of the Warrior Cats field guides, one cat told a story about how his ancestor got chased through an old rabbit warren by some kind of terrier. He dashes out of one of the tunnels, only to get caught in a net and be at the mercy of the human and the dog.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The Electric Company (1971), Spider-Man catches criminals this way with his webbing.
  • One episode in the second season of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? had this happen to the good guys early on to act as a lead-in to the supervillain death-trap challenge.
  • Averted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Consequences". The Watcher's Council trap Angel under a net, and to make sure he stays down they start whaling on him with crowbars.
  • Used in each season of the reality TV show The Colony. In the first season Grand Finale, the colonists drop a huge, weighted cargo net on a group of raiders that had been channeled into a narrow corridor. In the second, one of the colonists is hit by a net with weighted corners made of very light fiber that wraps around him and tangles him, rendering him completely immobile.

    Video Games 
  • The Brawler subclass from Dungeon Fighter Online has a skill called Heaven's Net, where they throw a net forward and use it to pull enemies up to them, as well as immobilize them.
  • Warcraft III:
    • The Ensnare ability, throwing a net on the unit to keep it from moving. While it makes sense when bringing down air units to ground level, why ground units never try to break out is anyone's guess.
    • The Undead have a similar (air-only) ability with sticky web strands.
  • Rise of the Triad has troops that can fire nets at you. If you don't have a knife handy (a knife whose sole purpose it is to cut nets, apparently), your character is pinned down hard until you shake it off. No moving, no shooting, not even any turning. Though curiously, if you DO have a knife, you can still run around as usual until you cut the net off.

    Web Comics 
  • Parodied in The Order of the Stick, where the party gets trapped in a net on an island with an orc tribe hunting after them. They quickly figure out a way to get out of the net, but Elan warns them that the presence of the net is proof that they were supposed to be caught, and that trying to escape from the net is ultimately futile because the narrative structure is working against them. They're then beat up while still removing the net.
  • Also parodied by Daisy Owl here.

    Western Animation 
  • Many Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
    • Done most blatantly in Superfriends. These are characters with the ability to vibrate through walls, move entire planets, turn into lightning bolts — but put them under a net and they have no idea what to do. If you're lucky, it'll be a kryptonite net, but that still doesn't explain that no one else can escape.
    • Also used in Scooby-Doo and shows like it to capture the monster at the end.
  • Happened in Darkwing Duck several times, the most egregious of which is when a villain made entire of malleable, liquid water gets trapped in an ordinary net.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, fairies are literally incapable of escaping if trapped in a butterfly net. Not a special, fancy net—an ordinary butterfly net. Talk about Weaksauce Weakness! Rules of magic. Handwaved the first time it's brought up, with Wanda stating that if it has wings and flies, a butterfly net will catch it.
  • In the Looney Tunes short Elmer's Candid Camera, Elmer puts a net over Bugs Bunny. Bugs then begins gasping for air and pretends to die, causing Elmer to sob and call himself a murderer.
  • In Lady Lovely Locks dragon-hair nets are almost completely unbreakable and are resistant to most magic. Ravenwaves uses one to capture Shining Glory, while Maiden Fairhair uses one to stabilize the castle after a tunnel was dug underneath it.
  • Ruby-Spears' Mega Man cartoon used this on occasion. Since Mega Man was a robot the nets were either metal or electrified, and one instance had him invoke this in order to get into where Dr. Light was being held prisoner.