"There is one neat effect when characters unwisely venture into a corridor and the door slams shut on them. Then a laser beam passes at head level, decapitating one. Another beam whizzes past at waist level, cutting the second in two while the others duck. A third laser pretends to be high but then switches to low, but the third character outsmarts it by jumping at the last minute. Then the fourth laser turns into a grid that dices its victim into pieces the size of a Big Mac. Since the grid is inescapable, what were the earlier lasers about? Does the corridorhave a sense of humor?"
Whenever there's a security system in place, there's always a highly visible laser sensor grid with man-sized holes in it. The infiltrator must then use cunning acrobatics or clever trickery to navigate around the lasers to reach the target on the other side. Or, if he's MacGyver, he can rig up a cunning system of mirrors to deflect the lasers around himself.
Often, the grid can be disabled briefly without triggering the alarm, usually just long enough for the intrepid heroes to sprint the length of the hall/gallery/vault in question. Unless the plot calls for them to be caught, in which case the grid will re-activate an instant too soon. Sometimes the beams are invisible to the naked eye, requiring some Applied Phlebotinum to make them visible; this may take the form of an aerosol spray or high-tech goggles. Many times, to spice things up, additional devices like temperature sensors, seismic detectors, or metal detectors are added to the mix.
Most times the lasers in question will be purely sensory in nature, but occasionally they are actually dangerous in and of themselves.
Invariably, the grid will not cover the target itself, leaving a comfortable alcove for the protagonist to work in, once the system has been traversed.
In reality, low-power lasers can't be seen from the side, even with cool shades; they don't energize the air enough with photons to cause it to glow, and any laser that would give off a glow would be harmful or even deadly to touch. The aerosol trick does work on visible-frequency lasers, but if it scatters too much energy the alarm will still go off. Diverting a laser sensor with mirrors works in principle. In practice, however, it would be impossible to position the mirrors with enough precision to pull it off, or to find mirrors sufficiently flawless that they could be moved into place without their edges breaking the beam.
Real security systems don't even use lasers. A much more reliable and accurate method for detecting intruders is a standard thermal motion detector or sonar-driven door sensor. Also, non-coherent infrared beam detectors can be used, like the kind of system in your TV remote or under your garage door, for much less money.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on hazardous hallways. For more, see Death Course.
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Natsuki and Mai prepare to infiltrate a Laser Hallway in Mai-HiME, only to discover that Mikoto has already walked into the lasers and triggered the alarms.
In episode one, Rin uses cigarette smoke to reveal the lasers in an air vent. She then tries to sneak through, but unfortunately her butt trips the alarm. Hilarity Ensues...immediately followed by Squick.
In episode five, Mimi now hides out in a Buddhist temple that comes with a "laser cage" consisting of vertical laser beams to trap intruders and leave them open to fire by her army of nuns with guns. Since it's designed to contain rather than detect, the beams are spaced at a small distance from each other.
In Goshuushou Sama Ninomiya Kun this trope is combined with gag boobs to comical effect. After much careful sidestepping the lasers eventually Tsukimura Mayu's breast obscures one of the (sensory-only) beams and sets off the security response.
One features in the second episode of Angel Beats!, likely as a Homage to Resident Evil. The group is trapped in a locked corridor and have to dodge the increasingly complicated laser patterns. Matsushita ends up sliced into pieces, but of course, Death Is Cheap here and he revives soon after, although his clothes are shredded.
Occurred in a Kochikame TV special when one of the circus villains acrobat through the laser room which holds the gold head statue.
Double Subversion in 009-1. The lead character does the usual tricky laser dodging maneuvers (somewhat justified in that she's a cyborg) and gets all the way through to the end. She pulls out a device to plug into the machine at the end of the hallway, uses it, then unplugs it - and the cable falls into the laser beam, setting off the alarm. This triggers another laser grid, this one deadly, as demonstrated by cutting the wire which had tripped the alarm. The heroine tells her partner to leave her, but naturally, they escape.
The priceless diamond in Air Bud: Spikes Back is protected by lasers.
The laser hallway in the Resident Evil movie where most of The Squad is slaughtered and shredded into pieces, including one poor bastard who winds up getting "cubed."
Cube, the movie that inspired that scene, featured similar devices which sliced the characters to pieces whenever they entered a room.
In Executive Decision, the concept of the laser hallway is shrunk and applied to a bomb. There are two metal contacts that, if they touch, close the circuit and detonate the bomb. All around the contacts there are (unmoving) laser beams which, if interrupted, would detonate the bomb as well. One of the good guys dons what look like ordinary night vision goggles that give him the ability to see the beams, so he can hold a plastic straw in between the contacts without interrupting any of them.
The entire plot of Entrapment (1999) appears to have been constructed to provide an excuse for Catherine Zeta-Jones to twist and bend her way through laser beams in a Spy Catsuit.
According to Word Of God, that is exactly why it was made.
The most improbable laser hallway ever, as well as the most improbable method of moving through a laser hallway ever, appeared in Ocean's Twelve, in the lobby of a museum. Not only were there about two dozen beams, they were moving, and moreover, their movement was randomized, which means there's no way to predict how and where to move through them. Nonetheless, the French jewel thief extraordinaire makes it through.
In Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back the jewel thieves make their way through a laser hallway using various different acrobatics (each trying to upstage the last). They're foiled however when the last girl through (Ali Larter by the way) lets one rip through her Spy Catsuit as a result of eating fast food. This sets off the audio detection alarm.
Anne Hathaway's Agent 99 navigated a laser web in the 2008 Get Smart movie. The lack of a Spy Catsuit in this case was more than made up for by the presence of a slinky silver dress with a nice high split up the side. Then Agent Smart navigates it as well, though with a bit less dignity because the lasers also burn.
I remember seeing one British war movie (forget the name) which had an agent breaking the German naval codes out of a safe guarded by invisible beams (he put on infra-red goggles). Rather ironic when you realise the codes were actually obtained by the less glamorous but methodical method of Ultra cryptography (still classified at the time the movie was made).
Appears in the 2008 St. Trinian's movie, which gives us just about every heist movie trope in the space of thirty minutes.
The... er, heroes... of Ali G Indahouse have to cross a room criss-crossed with lasers. Naturally they can't see the beams, so "Dave, we has to use your special powers." Dave lights up his bong, takes a good strong hit, and blows the smoke out into the room. Once the lasers are visible, they can be avoided — and the best way to do that of course is to dance the Robot the whole way.
A strange example in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Not actually laser, rather forcefields that turn on and off at intervals, but achieving the same purpose. They were strong enough to stop a lightsaber, so they'd probably disintegrate anyone stupid enough to step into one, but the characters were all smarter than that.
An early version of this trope occurs during the robbery that opens The Return of The Pink Panther (1975), with the beams (columns of bright light rather than visible lasers) revealed by an aerosol spray can.
In a tech-free variant, the bungalow shootout in Near Dark turns the vampires' hideout into a Sunlight Hallway, as bullet holes in the walls allow beams of skin-searing light to penetrate and crisscross the room.
An episode of Space Precinct 2040 had a laser trap inside a bomb. The laser was shown by firing a fire extinguisher not-directly-at the bomb in question.
The MythBusters thoroughly debunked this trope, first by discovering that visible laser security systems such as these simply don't exist (invisible infrared laser systems are sold instead), and secondly by demonstrating that even with a crude homemade mockup of the typical Laser Hallway most of the usual "circumvention methods" used on TV and the movies won't work, and can in fact trigger it. Specifically, they found that blowing smoke/powder at red lasers (jury-rigged from laser pointers) does make them visible, but not long or well enough to be very helpful without setting them off. Night-vision goggles plus powder make even IR beams visible, but with the same problem. Deflecting a beam with a mirror or hitting the detector with another beam worked, but was impractical. And most of their attempts assume beams placed so you could squeeze past them if only you knew where they were. Ironically, the ultrasonic motion sensors can be beaten with the ludicrous methods (tried almost on a whim by the producers) of holding up a bedsheet or simply walking at a snail's pace. Were it not for the fact that these methods violate the Rule Of Cool, I'm sure we'd have seen Tom Cruise using them in the next Mission: Impossible movie.
Done rather well and "realistic" in a two-part episode of The Saint, "The Fiction Makers", which first aired in December 1968 and was later released as a theatrical film. Instead of a hallway, it was a corridor between two fences.
In the third season CSI: New York episode "Snow Day", the lab is infiltrated by drug dealers. After capturing one of them, Mac rigs up a makeshift claymore mine to keep him in place, using a web of laser beams to bar the hallway. At the end of the episode, the leader of the drug leaders dives for the machine gun that slid under the web. Mac takes cover, but the criminals (and a sizable portion of the lab) go up in a massive fireball.
Angel. Electrical-powered thief Gwen Raiden somehow bends the lasers and goes around them. In Season 5 Lindsey just walks through them using a magical glamor to prevent detection.
A laser hallway was used as a security measure in one episode of the new Doctor Who. The Doctor got through it by sonic screwdriver hacking; his force-grown cloned daughter, arriving late, had to resort to She-Fu gymnastics.
The Tom Baker arc "City of Death" features a variation; as Count Scarlioni demonstrates how he plans to steal the Mona Lisa, he shows a holographic recreation of the famed painting in the Louvre. He shows a laser grid in front of the painting which will trigger "every alarm in Paris" if tripped. Using a device that will "alter the refractive index of the air itself", he bends the laser beams so the Mona Lisa can be removed safely.
In The Crystal Maze, there was one game in the Future Zone (inspired from the original in Fort Boyard) which operated on a similar principle — using strings. Ringing a bell attached to one of the strings set off a warning. Three and it was an automatic lock-in.
Fort Boyard reintroduced a laser hallway challenge in 2012... again, using strings that set off an alarm when touched. Touching about five strings appears to be enough to lock in the contestant.
An ITV kids' game show, Swap Team, featured a similar game.
Done in the third series Robin Hood. Protecting a fake crown. With strings tripping arrows.
Lex's secret lab in the Smallville episode "Mortal" is guarded by the deadly version. Since Clark has been Brought Down to Normal, this is more of a problem than usual. A laser-guarded room full of priceless artifacts also makes an appearance in the season 6 episode "Arrow" - Green Arrow circumvents the (green) lasers with a crystal-tipped arrow.
Shawn and Gus encountered one of these. The more limber Gus wove his way through the Laser Hallway and Shawn just walked through, because he had already turned off the alarms.
They encounter another one later in the season, when Team Bartowski is sent to test a CIA security system. After Chuck demonstrates how ineffective it is, the technician replaces it with an invisible wall.
There was an episode where Parker was trapped by a laser grid akin to the one in Ocean's 12. She navigated it by doing cartwheels. It is unknown if she tripped any of them, as they meant to trigger the alarm anyway.
In a flashback in one episode, a teenage Parker is shown doing something similar to get to an ice cream sundae as part of her training. Her mentor then holds up a spoon, and she presumably does the entire thing backwards without spilling the ice cream, although it cuts back to the present before we can see her try. The same spoon shows up earlier in the episode, in a shot of her apartment / supply cache, so she did.
Parker has also overcome a roomful of lasers before using tinfoil, ice and chewing gum.
In the It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Fozzie Bear, while trying to deliver a bag of money to the bank, is nearly prevented by doing so by the evil owner of the bank by one of these. Instead of actually triggering an alarm, these lasers are military-esque grade weaponry, which burn anything they come into contact with. In one of the most Crowning Moments Of Awesome in any Muppet film, Fozzie Bear runs through the burning lasers, just to realize he forgot the bag. PainfulHilarity Ensues, as he manages to run through them again and back.
Phoebe and Piper of Charmed had to steal a chalice from a museum. The chalice was in a room with moving lasers. So, Piper froze the lasers and Phoebe maneuvered through the openings.
In Kickin' It, there's one outside the mall security office(!), Then the door itself is unlocked and the safe has an easily guessed 3-digit code.
In the music video for Britney Spears' "Toxic", stealing the vial of Mysterious Green Stuff sets off one final trap to get through: a hallway of rotating laser beams that she must dance through.
Lindsey Stirling's collaboration with The Piano Guys uses this. The red lasers contrast with a predominantly black-and-white video. Lindsey carefully plays her way through, around, and under the beams, but the cellist simply turns off the alarm system to walk through.
Shadowrun. The Neo-Anarchists' Guide to Real Life gives information on this defense system and how to defeat one, including setting up a network of mirrors to create a safe passageway through it.
Heritage Games' Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier, adventure "The Slaver Ruins". One corridor is protected by Frickin' Laser Beams that will damage anyone they hit as if shot with a laser rifle.
Beyond Good And Evil loves these. In fact, when you're not avoiding being seen by guards, you're dodging laser beams. Or both, at the same time.
In the Crusader games, invisible lasers appear every once in a while that trigger all sorts of nasty business if the player walks through them. The emitters, however, are visible, albeit very tiny, and can be blown up.
Appears in Deus Ex and the sequel Invisible War. Often appears without holes, but it does tell the player to find a solution.
In the original, red beams trigger alarms (which in turn activate any turrets in the area) while blue beams trigger something else...sometimes trivial sometimes instantly lethal. EMP devices are temporarily effective.
In the sequel, blue is replaced with white (and only shows up once) while green shows up to trigger gas traps and gold beams are weapons themselves. The NPC that tells you these useful tips also mentions that the light is holographic to scare away intruders, while the beams are invisible. While some uses of this warning are justified, more than a few times the bad guys would have done better to turn off the holographs. Still, the writers did their homework enough to handwave. A better use of holographic beams springs easily to mind - put them somewhere otherthan (though perhaps near) where the invisible operational beams are.
A "Resident Evil room" (The developers call it that and a poster for it appears a room or so back) appears in The Nameless Mod as part of the labyrinth created by the insane Shadowcode. Interstingly enough, the lasers are triggered only by your body. You don't even need a mirror - just take a box and block the beam creating a safe passway. Huh.
A large room full of lasers is in Human Revolution.
Metal Gear Solid 2 has laser hallways rigged to explosives. They actually are invisible unless you use the IR goggles or plain old cigarette smoke. Only one can be crawled through. The rest require you to find and shoot their control systems.
Lasers also appear in the original Metal Gear Solid and the gameboy version as well. They trigger an alert when broken (or in one case in MGS, flood the area with poison gas).
Psychonauts has a laser tunnel in the Lungfishopolis level.
Quake II has many such traps, and in one instance as the Marine attempts the jumping puzzle, guards hidden in alcoves in the walls appear to take shots at him. One in E3-M1 could be circumvented via an alternate route.
In Quake IV there is a level in which the player comes across a few space marines nearby a Laser Hallway. The marines point out that the lasers are deadly, as discovered by one of them who foolishly thought he could dance his way through. The player, however, having been mostly stroggified, can pass through without triggering the trap.
Persona 2: If you mention the Laser Trap in Xibalba first, that's what you'll encounter. You will encounter it later anyway even if you didn't choose it.
Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus had tons of these scattered throughout. Initially sensory, they would switch over to weapons-grade lasers if they detected intrusion. They were, in all cases, visible from any angle without any need to apply phlebotinum. A Making Of video in the third game showed beta footage of Sly using a spray can of some sort to use in order to see invisible lasers within a maze.
Oni is chock full of moving laser bars. Two end bosses are massive cybernetic brains who use a rotating pattern of laser beams against the player. The bosses are inert until the beams are crossed, then they unleash some impressive firepower at the player (who they don't seem to otherwise even see). At several places, there are large obstacles behind which the player can hide to avoid being intercepted by the lasers... and which also hold the terminals to disable the boss. They are situated inside the boss chamber.
In the adventure game Koala Lumpur: Journey to the Edge, one puzzle involves navigating three laser-beamed hallways. Each one has a distinct pattern (a clue at the entrance of each reveals it). The Fridge Logic nature of this setup is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it's on board a space station in an alternate universe, and that the station is owned by a child genius who might have just been going with the Rule Of Cool rather than the best possible security system.
Robotrek has lasers in an enemy base which activate/deactivate in a pattern. They're invisible unless you're wearing a pair of special goggles. Tripping a beam activates an alarm that brings enemy troops running into the room.
Mega Man 2 has Quickman's...pretty much the entire level. Here, though, the laser beams are huge and kill you if you so much as touch them. You will also see them in Mega Man X 5 as a shout out.
Sonic Adventure 2 had a bunch of these, mostly in vertical passages of shooting levels, but also notably in Security Hall.
Shadow the Hedgehog had some also, though these were usually just beams and could be defeated by pulling a block out of the wall with the vacuum gun to block the laser. In one case, you have to pull two blocks out, one on each side of the passage you're trying to get through.
Also appears in a number of levels in Sonic Heroes. The most notable level is Mystic Mansion, where Team Chaotix have to destroy a ring-stealing robot and then hit a switch (which has several lasers touching it, and it's very small) in order to reach the rest of the level. Oddly, the other teams don't have to deal with this room and the one before it, and one of the characters on that team (Espio the Chameleon) can turn invisible...and when he does, most lasers don't hurt him. The only ones that do are in Final Fortress, and they're huge and very different from the small red ones you usually see (they're even different colors, and they fire at you instead of being the classic grid!).
Amusingly subverted in Fallout 3. The Enclave fortress doesn't have the traditional laser beam corridors, but it does have anti-vermin laser traps under the various passageways. If the player crosses them, a weak flamethrower is ignited. They are utterly ineffective against the player at that point, and not only can they be avoided by simply going fast — the player needn't even bother with them to exit the level.
Win Back for the N64 has all sorts of horrible death lasers set up everywhere...including among the a.c. vents on the top of the main building. Not really explained how or why they were put there...but funny when the enemy freaks out and runs straight into one. Thankfully they move slowly enough Jean-Luc (yes, really) can somersault past. The blue variants don't kill immediately, but alert enemies or activate other traps.
Gears Of War 2 has a laser hallway with instant-kill flamethrowers. One person must turn them off in sequence (only one can be off at a time) to allow the other to run the gauntlet.
The Metroid Prime series features some Morph Ball tunnels with lasers, hallways with eye-like structures that shoot lasers, and in Prime 2, a regular Laser Hallway (though with not many lasers). Prime 3 has a single corridor wired with invisible lasers, designed to teach the player to use their shiny new X-ray visor to look for traps like this.
Laser Tripmines: Although, by the time you see these, you've likely come across your personal Antlion Redshirt Army.
Floor Turrets: Traps that you're forced to trigger so you can roll grenades inside.
Also several places in Half-Life 1, both as red lasers that activate turrets on the floor, and as blue-green trip mines. Sometimes in the same hallway.
There is actually a Laser Hallway in Zork III, yet another of the series' numerous anachronisms.
Space Quest IV has one of these; you have to use cigarette smoke to see the lasers so you can adjust them to let you pass safely.
Lampshaded in The Sims 2, if the Sim works in the criminal career and steals a diamond protected by a laser field with convenient gaps. The Sim in question is even said to wonder aloud why no one simply uses a solid laser wall.
The alarm type appears in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines at the end of one level. The visibility can be justified by the player being a vampire with super senses, the fact that they are arranged so that they can be crouched under or jumped over can't.
Some hallways in Second Sight are blocked by a laser grid. In order to get past it, you have to use the astral projection power, as your "ghost" can move through these barriers but not through physical objects.
Perfect Dark had a laser hallway in an early level that could only be circumvented by waiting for a maintenance robot to pass though and temporarily deactivate it. A later level has a huge laser grid surrounding Air Force One that required you to find a way around it.
In Telltale Games' "Hector: Badge of Carnage" you break into the backroom of a sex shop only to find one of those in your path. You get through it by flipping the switch located right by the entrance to turn off the lasers. Hector is way too fat to squeeze through the gaps in the laser grid.
Mission: Impossible 64 has you descend through a laser grid to reach a computer terminal, just like in the first movie.
Appeared in a lonelygirl15 video, of all places; in "Mission Possible", Danielbeast has to navigate one of these. It was pretty offensive they would invoke at least 4 of the worst tropes in fiction in what is supposed to be a convention-smashing ground-breaking series, including Everything Is Online and Pac-Man Fever, which you would assume would be eradicated in early drafts when your target audience — to the point that people far enough outside it are unable to even gain access to view your show — is Internet-savvy computer geniuses.
In the DuckTales episode "Dime Enough for Luck", Magica De Spell tricks Gladstone Gander into stealing Scrooge's Number One Dime. The dime is guarded by an impressive set of moving lasers that he bypasses because he has unusually good luck.
In the first episode of the '90s X-Men series, the beams are detected by smelling ozone, revealed by super-summoned fog, and shut down by scaling overhanging pipes to reach the control panel.
In X-Men: Evolution, Iceman uses an ice bridge to pass the beams along the floor, and when bragging to Shadowcat, he's spinning the keys (to disable the security system) on his finger. They fly off, fall through a beam, and trigger the alarm. The look on Iceman's face is priceless.
Drakken even has a laser snow field around one of his lairs.
The best one is from "A Sitch In Time", where the entire room is filled with deadly laser beams, and Kim gets her first job: using her cheerleading and gymnastics moves to dive through all the beams and turn it off. She was looking for jobs like babysitting.
The early Kids' WB toon Road Rovers did a variant on this in an ep titled Hunter's Heroes, replete with mirror deflection. (The website linked from this entry also acknowledges the difficulty on this page [see "Deflector"].)
In her first appearance, Catwoman uses a clever way of getting past such a hallway (actually, a room) to steal a diamond necklace; she uses her housecat Isis - who can see the infrared beams and, thus, can steer around them with her sleek body - to get the jewelry for her.
Harley Quinn simply jumps around the beams when she goes to steal a diamond. Works fine, but then Ivy activates the alarm during her own robbery from another wing of the facility.
In the Wallace & Gromit short The Wrong Trousers, Feather McGraw's plan for bypassing the lasers protecting a diamond is by having a sleeping Wallace, strapped to remote-controlled Techno-Trousers, walk on the ceiling, then using a retractable arm on Wallace's helmet to snatch the gem. It almost works, until the arm swings over and the diamond hits one of the lasers, activating the alarm.
Used and mocked in The Venture Brothers when Doctor Girlfriend and Henchmen 21 try to go to the Monarch after Dr. Killenger becomes his new right hand man. A hallway has laser tripwires, and Doctor Girlfriend nimbly flips and weaves through them all. Henchmen 21 tries, and just trips into a lot of them from the start setting off an alarm (nothing deadly, just sirens). Doctor Girlfriend then just opens a secret hallway to where the Monarch is and leaves 21 behind.
Used in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toon, where April, Casey and Splinter are forced to traverse one of these in order to rescue the turtles in an early season 3 episode. While it proves easy enough for Splinter and April (who in this episode reveals that she has taken a level in badass) it proves quite difficult to the graceless Casey.
Doctor Doofenschmirtz installs an "anti-platypus security" system in one episode of Phineas and Ferb that includes a Laser Hallway, among other traps. Naturally, Perry manages to avoid every trap easily.
Trevor Goodchild uses one on Aeon Flux in the first episode of the TV series. It's suggested he knows the problems with this setup, he just likes to watch the gymnastics she does to get out of it.
Robin and Red X both overcome a tangle of lasers that are protecting a Xenothium vault when Robin goes after whoever was in the Red X suit in Teen Titans.
The episode "Double Date" from Justice League Unlimited sees Huntress use an aerosol spray to reveal lasers in Mandragora's home. She simply vaults and flips through them.
There's a "laser maze" game at the Excaliber casino's arcade in Las Vegas.
The British Museum uses a "beam system" to protect some of its exhibits. However, given that they're not protected in any other way, nobody bats an eyelid when someone sets off the alarm (since it can be easily done innocently by someone who's leaning in to get a closer look), and the "beam system" gets a sign to itself... it's probably not there because it's effective.