: Sherlock Holmes
was right. You may remember that he advised Doctor Watson never to take the first cab, or the second. He should have gone further, and urged him not to take cabs at all. Walking is far healthier. Mr. Parker
: You'll find it so.
Out of all the cabs in all the city, the Hero
, his significant other
, or another important person will invariably get on the one that the villain is driving. If they're particularly alert they might notice they aren't headed to the park before
the villain reveals himself and uses Knockout Gas
or locks all the doors from the front of the vehicle. (They never notice before
they enter the car.)
As anyone who lives in a large metropolitan area can attest, cabbies and people looking for a taxi are aggressive and a dime a dozen; so the odds
of a Villain
or his Evil Minions
catching their target without another cab swerving in ahead of them, or having a pushy fare
cut in front of the victim, are particularly slim. This is also ignoring the possibility of the intended target biking, busing, taking the subway, metro, getting a friend to pick them up, or just plain walking.
This trope is named for the less common but more iconic scene where the target's personal driver is replaced by the villain, leading to a "You're Not My Driver" quickly followed by a one-liner from the impostor and some knockout gas or a gun to the face. It often comes with the added implication that the poor driver is lying face down in a ditch somewhere. This method is more believable than Taxi-napping a victim, since the target invariably comes to the villain but still slightly odd because nobody ever notices this until after
they're in the car.
This trope is not necessarily limited to taxis and limos either, but also planes, boats, and even zeppelins.
A particularly nasty variation has an ambulance full of apparent paramedics turn up who are actually bad guys there to finish off the survivors.
See also The Taxi
, Fridge Logic
, Gambit Roulette
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Anime and Manga
- The heroine in Ten Yori Mo, Hoshi Yori Mo falls for one of these. Justified because she only just moved in with a rich family and wouldn't know all their drivers yet. What wasn't justified was why the driver didn't just pop her in the car right there before she caught on.
- In Death Note, Mello kidnaps Sayu and demands the Japanese task force hand over the notebook as ransom. The task force members travel to Los Angeles by separate planes, but at Narita Airport Soichiro Yagami is forced to board flight SE333, where The Mafia is waiting for him.
- A benign version occurs in Mobile Fighter G Gundam, when Domon inexplicably decides to replace the Russian driver after Argo's loss to Allenby, solely to chat about the match. Argo and Nastasha take it almost completely in stride after the initial moment of surprise.
- Huge Lampshade Hanging the Miracleman story "Spy Story" by Neil Gaiman, where a paranoid secret agent goes through the following tortuous logic:
You never take the first cab that comes along. A rookie knows that. And if a rookie knows that, then the opposition knows that too. Fine. So you never take the second cab that comes along. Which leaves the first cab or the third cab. But you never take the first cab that comes along. Which means it's the third cab. But they'll have thought of that, so you ignore the first three cabs. Which is just what they'll be expecting you to do, so they'll have their man in the fourth cab. Which means... Which means...
She then gives up and takes the first cab that comes along. It's driven by another spy, of course, but then so are all the cabs in the city.
- In an issue of Suicide Squad, Black Orchid impersonated bad guy William Heller's chauffeur. She does it not to kidnap him, however, but so she can eavesdrop on conversations between him and his advisers. She let the real driver out of the trunk after completing her mission, and hypnotised him into keeping quiet about having been kidnapped and replaced.
- Tintin In America has our hero get into a cab driven by one of the gangsters he's after. He escapes and gets into a police car, but that one is smashed by accomplices in a muscle car. Later, he calls the police after another assassination attempt, but his phone line is hijacked and the police car turns out also driven by gangsters.
- Wolverine pulled this on a cocky young mob boss who threatened to kill a little girl and her father if Wolverine didn't kill a witness under Federal protection for him (obviously Wolverine didn't go through with it). When the mob boss went for the hidden gun in his limo Wolverine just told him not to embarrass himself. Fredo, realizing he has absolutely no chance of overpowering Wolverine, relents.
- Variant occurs in the Catwoman tie-in to No Man's Land. Selina hijacks a military helicopter after replacing one of the pilots, and her copilot doesn't realize this until she removes her helmet.
- Batman once impersonated the limo driver of a woman who nearly got away with two murders by playing on the Riddler's ego. She only noticed something was amiss when she realized the limo wasn't going to the airport. (Detective Comics #822) He does this again in Superman: Red Son.
- An issue of Green Arrow featured a scene where the female vigilante Thorn used a taxi cab in order to stalk a criminal she was planning to kidnap. The real driver is shown tied up in the back seat with his mouth taped shut, apparently having been knocked out by Thorn.
- The villain Whirlwind did this one time to The Wasp, who he had a long-standing Villainous Crush on (he'd once been her actual limo driver years earlier). Unfortunately, he decided to reveal himself immediately, while they were still parked in front of Avengers' Mansion, a building renowned for being full of superheroes. His fellow Masters of Evil coming to the rescue isn't enough to stop the asskicking that follows.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Flutterspy, this is how Fluttershy discovers the spy plot against the Equestrian Fashion Forum. While she and Rarity are headed back to the hotel, their carriage is hijacked by evil ninja Red Adder, who explains the disruption by claiming that the original driver is taking a break after almost running over a cat. ("Union rules. Very strict.") When Fluttershy recognizes her as a model for Rarity's rival designer Miss Worthy, she attacks, forcing supermodel-cum-spy Fleur de Lis to come to Fluttershy's rescue.
Films — Animated
- A slight variation from Anastasia, where Dmitri takes over for the Dowager Empress's driver, forcing her to see Anya. The variation here is that Dmitri is the hero, and simply trying to make amends for his earlier deception. The Stock Phrase is also inverted: Instead of the Dowager saying the phrase, Dmitri turns around and says "I'm not [your driver]!"
- In the Batman: The Animated Series/ Superman: The Animated Series crossover movie, Lex Luthor's usual driver (Mercy Graves) is waylaid and impersonated by Harley Quinn, so The Joker can meet with him. The comic adaptation adds in a bit of dialogue humorously implying that the real Mercy was taped up in the trunk the entire time.
Films — Live-Action
- In Spider-Man 3, Eddie Brock kidnaps Mary Jane this way.
- In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the plane Indy, Short Round, and Willie board to escape Shanghai mobster Lao Che is owned by Lao Che, so he promptly signals the pilots to parachute out and let the plane crash.
- James Bond
- Subverted by Bond in Dr. No, where a villain claims the embassy sent him. Bond covertly phones the embassy to find out the truth, and properly deals with the villain.
- However, in the later Roger Moore Bond film Live and Let Die, Bond falls for this trick (in a taxi this time), though pretty much everyone in the city is in the pay of the Big Bad. Then he falls for it again, with the same driver.
- The Roger Moore Bond has also had Blofeld send a phony helicopter to pick him up at the opening of For Your Eyes Only. Blofeld then kills the pilot and takes radio control so he can finish 007 off personally. Well, try to anyway.
- Bond pulls this trick on M in Skyfall when he abducts her for her own safety after the attack on Westminster.
- Variation in Goldfinger, one of the mobsters that opts out of participating in the climactic big heist thinks Goldfinger's chauffeur is taking him to the airport. He realizes too late that he's actually being taken to a "pressing engagement" with a scrapyard car crusher.
- Poked fun at in What's Up, Tiger Lily?, a Gag Dub of a Japanese spy movie. The main characters walk into a random cab and promptly tell the driver they want to be kidnapped. He of course, obliges, seeing as how this was a Not My Driver scene in the original dub of the movie.
- 1998's Godzilla featured a Taxi-napping of Matthew Broderick by Jean Reno.
- Subverted in that he's actually the good guy.
- The first act of Requiem for a Dream ends with Marlon Wayans making a deal with some black drug kingpins. The partition slides down and Wayans marvels that they have a white driver, only for bullets to start flying; the driver was a hitman for an Italian cartel.
- In X-Men, Mystique and Toad kidnap Senator Kelly by piloting his helicopter to Magneto's island. Somewhat justified: as Mystique can shapeshift to look like anyone at all, she murders and impersonates the senator's real staff.
- Japanese tokusatsu example: in Kamen Rider: The First, the Shocker operative Spider poses as a cabdriver for the explicit purpose of finding his victims and, when necessary, taking them somewhere secluded to dispose of them.
- The classic British gangster film The Long Good Friday ends with the main character and his mistress entering a dummy vehicle and being 'taken for a ride' by his enemies.
- Played Straight in The Game, when Nicholas finds out that the cab he gets on the street is owned by CRS.
- An example of the hero (or should I say Villain Protagonist) using this technique occurs in Assassins (1995). Robert Rath, having lost track of rival contract killer Miguel Bain, steals a cab and, upon hearing a radio call about a priest in the area Bain was last seen asking to be taken to the airport, realizes that's his man. Rath intends to shoot Bain when he gets out of the car (as there's a sheet of bulletproof glass between them) but at the last minute Bain sees the driver's ID card is missing and realizes who Rath is, leading to Gunpoint Banter through the glass.
- Another heroic example occurs in Undercover Blues, where Jeff Blue stops a bank robbery in progress by booby-trapping their getaway minivan and replacing their getaway driver with himself. Lampshaded when he says, "No one ever looks at the driver."
- In Scrooged, the Ghost of Christmas Past is a taxi driver. He solves the "aggressive real taxi cutting in" problem by aggressively cutting in himself. Crunch.
- In One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, Lord Southmere is kidnapped by the Chinese. He realizes what's happened, but can't do anything about it because they're being followed by another car full of the driver's colleagues.
- In Undercover Brother, Mr. Feather kidnaps James Brown using this technique. "James Brown" is actually Undercover Brother wearing a Latex Perfection mask.
- Parodied in The Third Man.
- Done in Death to Smoochy. This time, the passenger does not realize who he is (not until much later in the film), even though the driver's dialogue is incredibly Subtext-filled.
- In Life Is Beautiful the protagonist does this to try to win the heart of the woman he loves.
- In The Art of War, this happens at the end with the film's Big Bad, after the main character informs the Chinese that she had their ambassador assassinated. After smugly letting the hero know she's a Karma Houdini, she realizes they're not going to the U.N. building right before the "driver", a Triad, turns around and shoots her in the head.
- In The Whole Nine Yards, Oz plans to take Jimmy to a museum in order to ensure the latter doesn't try to kill him, while the women go to the bank. He hails a cab that is waiting across the street. On the way, Jimmy lets him know they're not going to the museum, at which point the driver window is opened, revealing Frankie Figgs.
- In Eraser, the Big Bads are leaving the courthouse in a limo, talking about the apparent deaths of the protagonists, only to realize that neither of them is responsible for the car bomb. They suddenly stop at train tracks, and the doors lock. The driver runs away, revealing him to be Johnny, a friend of Kruger's. They then get a call from Kruger, who faked his and the girl's deaths. After saying his catch-phrase ("You've just been erased."), he watches as they "catch a train".
- In Red, the Vice-President and his Secret Service guards get in a limo marked with the Presidential seal while under fire. Cooper tries to warn them, but they don't listen as they think he just wants to escape with them in the armoured limo. Then one guard is knocked out when the limo stops abruptly, and the other is tazered by the driver, who is Moses. The VP then gets the same treatment.
- In the first dream level of Inception the protagonists kidnap Fischer this way. Possibly justified in that they designed the place, so they could make sure theirs was the only cab available.
- As listed under Literature, this is how the bad guy in The Bone Collector catches his victims.
- The ambulance variant is used to kidnap Scully in The X-Files: Fight the Future.
- Inverted in Collateral, in which the protagonist is a cab driver whose cab gets hijacked by a hitman.
- The assassination attempt on Colonel Kudasov in The Elusive Avengers: Crown of the Russian Empire combines this and Danger Takes a Backseat. First, Kudasov boards a taxi driven by an agent of Monsieur Duc, then the taxi stops briefly and two more agents board the backseat.
- Played for Laughs at the end of Bullshot, where the audience is shown a montage of photographs of The Hero getting married to his Love Interest. The final photograph reveals the villain is disguised as their chauffeur. But that is another tale...
- In Dick Tracy vs. Cueball, Tess gets into a taxi that's being driven by Cueball.
- In the 2000 movie of Hamlet (starring Ethan Hawke), the scene where Hamlet intends to kill his uncle Claudius is played this way—Hamlet replaces the chauffeur. Claudius gives his Ignored Epiphany soliloquy in the backseat of his limo.
- In Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, Arkadian's thugs try to kidnap Laura Charles this way (the first time), before Leroy steps in and beats them to a pulp.
- A heroic version is Resident Evil: Apocalypse. When the heroes start winning, Major Cain runs into his helicopter and orders the pilot to take off. When the pilot doesn't respond, Cain angrily confronts him, only to find LJ at the controls instead. LJ then punches him out.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The Runaway Bride" (the second Christmas Special of the new series), the Bride of the title gets kidnapped in this way by one of the killer Santa Clauses, who is driving a taxi.
- Before in Terror of the Autons the Doctor and Jo are about to be lynched by carnies then the police turn up. As there are only two constables to contend with the crowd of carnies, the sensible course was to rescue the Doctor and Jo by taking the pair into protective custody. The Doctor notes it is unusual that the Brigadier has used his head for once and the constables aren't very talkative, the pair turn out to be the killer shop window dummies of the title. Another old school case is the killer limousine driver who picks the Doctor up in The Seeds of Doom.
- In Torchwood: Children of Earth Gwen gets picked up after the Hub bombing by ambulance paramedics who turn out to be MI5 assassins out to finish her off.
- In 24 season one, Jack kidnaps Ted Cofell, by taking the place of his personal driver. He then does it again to "Alan York" (really Kevin Caroll), who gets in the car with Ted Cofell (who Jack had killed).
- Inverted on Heroes. Mohinder Suresh, one of the protagonists, funds his research into finding super powered people by driving a cab. Bennet, The Dragon and the series' Magnificent Bastard, attempts to ambush Suresh by posing as a fare. Ironically, Suresh also taxis Peter without ever knowing he's one of the people he's looking for.
- Additionally, Sylar kills Mohinder's father, Chandra, in his own taxi.
- In the Season 3 Finale, neither the driver nor the car's owner were actually who they were supposed to be.
- The Suresh taxi seemed to have some sort of magical gravity: any time any main character ever needed to go anywhere in New York, they'd end up in Suresh's taxi.
- At the end of the audition tape that concluded Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondents Association speech, Colbert has successfully outrun Helen Thomas and fled Washington for New York. He steps off the plane, breathes a sigh of relief and gets into his car - to find Thomas in the driver's seat. His reaction is predictable.
- Somewhat subverted in the House episode "Living the Dream", when House kidnaps his favorite soap star because he believes that he has a life-threatening illness (or is just bored, we're never 100% sure).
- Beautifully subverted in series 2 episode 9 of Life, where Charlie tries to kidnap one of the people involved in his imprisonment. "You misunderstand me, this isn't a kidnapping. This, detective, is a kidnapping".
- In one episode of Forever Knight, a man kidnaps a rich society lady and her daughter by killing their chauffeur and taking the driver's seat while the two women are out shopping.
- NCIS. In "Reveille" a motorcycle-riding Ari pulls up alongside Kate on the street, then zooms off, knowing she'll commandeer the first car she sees to chase him. Unfortunately it's full of Ari's mooks.
- This trope pops up occasionally on Smallville.
- The episode of Mission: Impossible "The Killer" (or at least, its remake) involved taking the villain to a bugged hotel. However, they didn't know in advance which hotel he would want to go to, so the first two cabs of the airport were crewed by IMF agents. The second cab slowlynote takes him to the the hotel that wasn't there yesterday while said hotel gets puts the name the baddie chose ("The Raeburn Hotel") on its front porch (and everything else).
- Done in the original Battlestar Galactica to trick Baltar into releasing the hostages. Though, to be fair, they had to do this, as Baltar demanded his centurions, who were already disassembled. They manage to rebuild them, but they can't do anything well. As soon as he releases the hostages, he orders the centurions to launch. The pilot says "By your command" and punches through the controls. The colonials then surround Baltar and take him prisoner again.
- In The Sandbaggers, this happens to Wellingham on a routine visit to Brussels; he's suspicious when his regular driver doesn't show, but gets in his limo when the new driver shows him a set of proper NATO-issued credentials. Since the kidnapping turns out to have been masterminded by the West German government as part of a Batman Gambit to arrest a terrorist cell outside their proper jurisdiction, the credentials are probably even real...
- Attempted in True Blood, where the imposter soon discovers why it's a dumb idea to try to deceive a telepath.
- For an episode of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat series, he began by having an eerily silent taxi driver take his victim past his destination to a dark alleyway where a bunch of actors in hoodies surrounded the cab. By this point the guy was on the phone to the police.
- The MO of the "Cabbie Killer" in CSI: New York.
- This happens to the title character in the series two finale. After getting in the first cab he sees, he's treated to a video of Moriarty explaining his plan like something out of a kid's fairy-tale. He gets out of the cab, runs to the driver's window - and sees Moriarty, who quips "No charge" and drives off.
- Made especially glaring, because the series started with an adaptation of "A Study in Scarlet": Sherlock really had a good reason to pay specific attention to cabbies. Then again, Moriarty is portrayed as just that good at foiling Sherlock...
- A heroic variant, which could be called "Not My Executioner" at the end of "A Scandal in Belgravia", after Mycroft informs Watson that Irene Adler has been captured and beheaded by a terrorist cell in Pakistan. In order to spare Sherlock, Watson tells him that Irene is in witness protection in the US. Holmes then sees the last text message sent to him by Irene, and we see a flashback to her execution. She's on her knees in a burqa, typing out the message before her phone is taken away. An executioner walks up with a sword... and she hears the ringtone for herself that she has put on Sherlock's phone (a woman moaning). The next words from the executioner are "Run when I tell you".
- Non-villainous variation on The Golden Girls, although Dorothy kind of thinks he's kidnapping her at first. Her ex-husband Stan rented a limo and replaced the hired driver so he could take her to the church on her wedding day as his gift. She got annoyed for a while, then settled down for the most part.
- Jarod, the titular character from The Pretender, employs someone to replace a corrupt lawyer's limo driver to get him out of the way so he can track down evidence to bring down a killer and free an innocent man who was framed for the killing. Jarod also does this himself, replacing one of the regular villains' (Mr. Lyle) limo driver so as to kidnap him and get information out of him regarding a mass murderer who had escaped justice and was trying to find asylum in the U.S.
- 1960's Batman episode "An Egg Grows in Gotham". When millionaire Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson take a limousine to the ceremony, they discover that the supervillain Egghead has taken the place of the driver. He triggers a gas release that renders them unconscious.
- In an episode of Person of Interest, John does this to save the POI of the week, a sailor on shore leave that has been jumped by a couple dirty Marine Force Recon. When they put him in the trunk of the car, John, having replaced the member who stole the car a few minutes earlier, drives off before the others can get in the car.
- Rizzoli & Isles: In "You're Going To Miss Me When I'm Gone", the Victim of the Week is murdered by a someone posing as their driver who stops the car on a deserted access road.
- Foyle's War: In "High Castle", an assassin takes the place of a cab driver to kill his victim.
- Inverted in Stan Ridgway's "Drive, She Said": a genuine taxi driver picks up a beautiful female fare, who promptly pulls a gun on him and turns out to have just robbed a bank.
- In the "It's a Wonderful Crisis" arc in Alex, Alex notices that his car isn't being driven by his usual driver. The driver turns out to be the Devil who has brought the car into the perfect place for Alex to be killed by Clive jumping off the roof of the bank.
- In the Im Sorry I Havent A Clue Mockumentary In Search Of Mornington Crescent, Barry gets abducted by sinister forces while taking a cab to Elephant and Castle in a game of "live" Mornington Crescent.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- There's an episode where the Joker impersonates the helicopter pilot of Cameron Kaiser, a one-shot character, to try and kill him.
- Also happens to Bruce and Summer Gleason in "Night of the Ninja," where they wind up getting in a cab driven by Kyodai Ken, an old rival of Bruce's who wants revenge for Wayne exposing him as a thief back when they trained under the same master.
- Superman: The Animated Series: Lana gets into a car, thinking she is being driven by Luthor's usual assistant... "Sorry. No Mercy tonight."
- This also happens in Justice League Unlimited, with the hero of the episode, The Question, posing as a cabbie in order to interrogate a mid-level mook. In a nice touch, a shot from the back seat includes a small photo of the driver, so that eagle-eyed viewers can see that the guy up front really is not his driver.
- In the Looney Tunes cartoon "Baseball Bugs", the dirty Gas House Gorillas need a home run to win the game. The batter knocks Bugs' first pitch clear out of the park. Bugs flags down a cab, telling the driver to "follow that ball!", but the cab screams off in the wrong direction. It's being driven by one of the Gorilla's players, and according to the posted driver credentials, it really IS his cab. In The Unmentionables, special-agent Bugs is taxi-napped by Rocky's gang in this way as he leaves FBI headquarters.
- Used a good number of times by Nick Fury in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. The cab would then turn into a hovercraft and fly back to base.
- In SWAT Kats episode "The Metallikats", Mac Mange does this to kidnap Mayor Manx and Deputy Mayor Briggs. He gives himself away instantly due to his crummy driving.
- A comedic variant was used in X-Men: Evolution: Kitty has just gotten her learner's permit and is eager to drive. Throughout the episode, Professor X obliges several different X-Men (Jean, Scott, Storm, and Wolverine) to take her driving—with near disastrous results (she prefers to use her powers to drive straight through obstacles, rather than, you know, avoid them). At the end of the episode, Professor X asks "Logan" to drive back to the mansion, only to discover Kitty in the driver's seat. This is also a Brick Joke: Wolverine told Xavier that he would get back at him for making him to take Kitty driving.
- Parodied in The Venture Bros.. Not only does Dr. Venture not notice his driver is the 8-foot gray-skinned guy with a metal jaw we went to college with, but he doesn't even notice when Phantom Limb begins gloating about the kidnapping over television screen (he's too busy listening to his Walkman). Fortunately for Dr. Venture, they put the knockout gas in the front seat.
- Later in the same episode, Dr. Venture gets into the same cab with the same poorly disguised driver - and no, he still doesn't notice.
- The Simpsons: Homer and Bart are specifically told not to go into unlicensed cabs in Brazil, advice which they of course ignore. They end up with not a normal cab driver, but a kidnapper.
Driver: My American friend, I'm afraid this is a kidnapping.
Homer: So that means I don't have to pay the fare?
Driver: Well, I suppose -
Driver: I'm afraid you don't appreciate the seriousness of the situation.
Homer: Fine, take me, but please let the boy go.
Driver: I'm afraid he's already gone.
Homer: (turns to see Bart walking off) D'oh!
- Parodied in Family Guy, and lampshaded by a speech in which the real driver demonstrates how easily he gets knocked out.
- Filmation The New Adventures of Superman episode "Luthor Strikes Again". After Jimmy Olsen gets into a cab, steel plates slide up covering the windows, trapping him inside. It turns out to be a trap set by Lex Luthor.
- In an episode of Detentionaire, Lee gets in a taxi that's supposed to take him to the airport which actually has a Hazmat for a driver. Luckily, he's perceptive enough to notice when the car takes a wrong turn and just barely manages to escape.
- This tactic was used, unsuccessfully, by the Gotti crime family to do away with radio host, founder of the Guardian Angels and witness in a then-upcoming murder trial Curtis Sliwa. He was badly wounded, but managed to escape the specially-rigged taxi cab.
- This is a very real danger to hitchhikers in certain more crime-ridden regions of the world. You can be picked up by a robber, rapist or kidnapper.