A protagonist is caught in a situation where he is forced to watch a crime (or what he thinks
is a crime) but is powerless to do anything to stop it. Later on he may be unable to prove a crime has occurred
, or he may find himself targeted by the killer looking to eliminate any witnesses
May or may not lead to a Rear Window Investigation
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- A '90s Flash story had the Flash in a glass elevator, when outside the elevator on the lower floor, he sees a hitman pull a gun on someone. Being the Flash, he could stop the crime easily. Being stuck in a glass elevator between floors presents a bit of a challenge (at this point of his development, he couldn't "speed-phase" himself through solid matter without said matter exploding, and he didn't want glass shards hitting any innocents).
- The Trope Namer is Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1954 film Rear Window, in which Jimmy Stewart is laid up with a broken leg and sees enough to make him suspect that his neighbour has murdered his wife. Later he can only watch as the might-be killer returns to the apartment while his girlfriend is searching it.
- Remade in 1998, with wheelchair-bound, paralyzed Christopher Reeve playing the wheelchair-bound, paralyzed protagonist. A particularly effective moment comes when the murderous neighbor breaks into Reeve's apartment and unplugs his ventilator, a situation that you just know Reeve had either experienced or had nightmares about.
- Reeve actually spoke without a ventilator during filming.
- Absolute Power: Clint Eastwood's Cat Burglar character is trapped in a special safe/closet with a one-way mirror when burglarizing a mansion. A couple comes in, they have rough sex, and the man's bodyguards mistakenly shoot and kill the woman. The woman was the elderly homeowner's trophy wife, and the man was the President of the United States. Clint initially tries to flee the country, but instead he vows to expose the truth.
- In The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, the hero is trapped between two sets of sliding glass doors when he witnesses a murder attempt on a young woman.
- Body Double
- Disturbia (2007), where the protagonist is confined to his house by a house-arrest legband.
- In what should be the most ridiculous possible example, but isn't, 2003's Mimic 3 Sentinel was pitched as "Rear Window with giant cockroaches". Here, the protagonist is confined to his house by an acute immune system disorder caused by the last outbreak of the giant cockroaches. Surprisingly watchable, and easily the best of the Mimic movies; Rear Window is apparently a Bullet Proof Script.
- ...and then along comes Abominable to disprove that theory, where the villain-across-the-street is none other than Bigfoot. Yeah.
- In Sorry Wrong Number, a crossed line causes an invalid to overhear two people planning to kill her.
- Clubhouse Detectives is a kid-friendly version from the 90s, where a kid spots the murder from the bathroom window, and tries to convince his mom and the police. Since this is a kids movie, Adults Are Useless and they have to take matter into their own hands.
- In Burglar, based on The Burglar in the Closet by Lawrence Block, Whoopi Goldberg's character is hiding in a closet during a burglary when she witnesses an extended bed-rattling session, followed by a killing. She isn't able to see the face of the murderer, however.
- In the third Home Alone movie, the protagonist is home sick from school and witnesses the burglary of a neighbor's home, but can't get anyone to believe him.
- The Other Side Of The Street is 2004 Brazilian film. Regina, a lonely and retired grandmother, defies social expectations maintaining a very active lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro's urban life. She does this largely by supplying the police with tips on criminal activities in the area. When she witnesses what she believes is a murder across the street, she tries to obtain incriminating statements from the supposed perpetrator but in the process her whole world changes...
- In the movie The Bay Boy, the main character witnesses a murder through a store window by a crooked cop, but is scared by the cop into not telling anyone.
- In the Agatha Christie novel 4:50 from Paddington and its film version Murder She Said, a character on a train witnesses a murder happening on another train on a parallel track.
- There was a Goosebumps book involving this trope.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of Highlander: The Series, Tessa witnesses a murder and then can't convince the police of the fact.
- The NCIS episode "Witness".
- In an episode of Due South Fraser witnesses a crime through his hospital window.
- Gary gets caught up in a plot while stuck in his apartment with a broken leg in an episode of Early Edition
- The Unusuals has an episode along these lines.
- Psych: The episode "Mr. Yin Presents" was filled with references to Alfred Hitchcock'' including a point where the characters in the show are forced to portray Hitchcock film alter egos. Shawn, at one point, plays James Stewart (and manages a convincing Stewart voice to boot) by sitting in a wheelchair on a "set" created by the villain.
- In an episode of Doctor Who, Harriet Jones is witness to a murder by the Slitheen while hiding in a cabinet. Later, just as she and Rose uncover the Prime Minister's corpse, one of the Slitheen catches them in the act and moves in for the kill. Cue Cliff Hanger ending.
- Happens to Daisy in Downton Abbey.
- In an episode of Alf, the titular character (house-bound because he's an alien) thinks he witnesses a neighbour commit murder.
- Jonathan Creek: In "The Problem at Gallows Gate", Adam's sister Kitty witnesses a murder through a pair of high-powered binoculars during a badger watch.
- The season 6 episode "Point of View" of CSI: New York pays homage to the Rear Window where Mac Taylor is severely injured during the pursuit of a suspect and is confined to his apartment, observing the neighbors. Mac witnesses a shady deal similar to L.B. Jeffries and his suspicion of his murderous neighbor.
- The Return Of The Saint episode "Signal Stop" has a variation where a woman on a train reports a murder being committed in an empty building next to the line.
- The now-forgotten 1979-80 ABC sitcom The Last Resort had an episode about this; see a vintage promo for it here.
- Mathnet, the Law & Order-style show-within-a-show on Square One TV, used this plot in "The View From the Rear Terrace": Kate Monday is housebound with a broken leg and suspects her neighbor is a mad bomber and her partner, George Frankly, while skeptical at first, eventually ties the neighbor to a revenge scheme targeting local banks.
- An episode of Kate And Allie had Chip looking out his bedroom window and believing he saw a murder. The episode plays out similar to Rear Window until it's revealed that the "murderer" was a magician and what Chip saw was him practicing a trick.
- In the Castle episode "The Lives of Others", Castle is so bored while recovering from a snowboarding accident, he starts watching his neighbors with binoculars, and sees what he's convinced is a man murdering his girlfriend with a knife, but neither he nor Beckett can find any hard evidence, so everyone except Castle is convinced he's just going crazy with boredom. Beckett even refers to it specifically as a "rear window scenario". Turns out Beckett staged the whole thing as a birthday present to Castle, and everyone, including the "murderer" and "victim", were in on the prank.
- In an earlier episode, Castle and Beckett investigated the murder of a bird watcher. After retrieving the victim's camera, they find out that he had taken photos of a kidnapping, and the last photo was of the kidnapper just before he shot the victim.
- In Dead Space, you witness a worker of the Ishimura get brutally killed by a Lurker with a pane of indestructible glass separating you. You can't do anything to help him, and must eventually go into the room after the door unlocks.
- April May in the second case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is initially set up as one. But it turns out she knows a lot more about the crime than a mere 'witness' should...
- Parodied in an episode of The Simpsons in which Ned Flanders accidentally kills his wife's plant and a wheelchair-bound Bart thinks he killed his wife.
- Parodied in another episode — again with Bart — but with the twist that, in fact, Bart saw that a crime wasn't committed. The accused man is innocent, but there's so much circumstantial evidence, and the legal system in Springfield is so corrupt, that he'll be convicted unless Bart speaks up.
- Rocko in the episode "Ed is Dead", where he thinks Bev killed Ed during an argument. Cue Rear Window Investigation, and The Reveal that what actually got destroyed and buried was only a meatloaf sculpture of Ed, and that Ed was at the doctor's having a wart removed from his butt.