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Run for the Border
"Better run for the border
He's never gonna understand
Better find a place to hide
On the other side of the Rio Grande"
Johnny Rodriguez, "Run for the Border"

A character desires to escape something in his home country, and resolves to flee or relocate to a neighboring one.

This usually manifests itself in one of two ways:

Type A is your standard getaway for criminals and malcontents after they rob a bank or engage in a crime spree, to escape arrest and prosecution. This can even include travel within the same country. In the US for instance, the criminal will cross a "state line" (border between states) because the police of the state they were in has no jurisdiction in adjoining states. Especially common in Westerns, and other old U.S. movies. This also includes Prisoners of War who have escaped to an allied or neutral country as their goal after an escape attempt. Whether these types make it or not varies: it's an almost even split between those who do (and live in a lazy beach town Happily Ever After) and those who don't (usually dying in a Bolivian Army Ending).

Type B is the sufficiently more noble version, where a character's home country is either going Crapsack World by way of After the End, or is taken over by a totalitarian movement which quickly brings an end to the previous civil liberties, and escape is the only sane alternative. Fleeing the country is usually the end goal, and they'll likely either have to escape or avoid capture by the roving death-gangs or evil repressive authorities to leave.

May end in a Road Block or Border Crossing scene, or perhaps a Tropical Epilogue. For another method of evading the law by escaping their jurisdiction, see Diplomatic Impunity.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

Type A:

    Comic Books 

    Films 
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. While fleeing from their pursuers:
    Sundance: Let's go to Mexico instead.
    Butch: All they got in Mexico is sweat. There's too much of that here.
    • They eventually decide to go to Bolivia.
  • In The Shawshank Redemption the heroes flee to Mexico.
  • Spoofed in Super Troopers, where one of the highway patrolmen scares three stoners by pretending to get shot by a criminal (another patrolman in disguise), who hijacks the police car they're in the backseat of, and is intent on escaping to Mexico, despite Canada being only a few miles away.
    Disguised Patrolman: You boys like Mex-E-Co?!?
  • The Wild Bunch heads to Mexico after a robbery goes to hell and ends up getting involved in Pancho Villa's war for independence.
  • Mexico is Charlie Sheen's destination in The Chase. And, ultimately, Kristy Swanson's, too.
  • The Great Escape
  • In Tol'able David, three desperadoes escape punishment when they make it across the state line ahead of the posse that is chasing them.
  • The famous lovers (in real life, too) of Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw in The Getaway
  • The big ending of Blue Streak starring Martin Lawrence as an ex-con posing as a cop to get into a police station to recover a diamond.
  • The majority of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song consists of this.
  • As the title suggests, this is the main character's plan in Going South. However, once he gets across the Mexican border, he stops to taunt the pursuing posse that they cannot legally touch him. They ignore the legal niceties and promptly drag him back across the border. In later scenes he practices his Spanish and makes another break for Mexico.
  • In Young Guns Billy the Kid constantly promises that he'll take the gang over the border into the relative safety of Mexico. He never leaves New Mexico however, and gets everyone killed for it.
  • One Charlie Chaplin short ended with him escaping authorities by crossing over to Mexico... where he's almost caught in the crossfire of a bandito shootout. He decides to just straddle the borderline instead.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn opens with the Gecko brothers, having pulled off a bank robbery, making their way to Mexico. Worth noting is that they actually have arrangements for living there (set up by a third party for a share of the loot).
  • In Tank, the hero must drive his son across a state border in order to escape the jurisdiction of a corrupt sheriff who'd framed his boy for drug dealing. In a Sherman tank he'd bought and restored.
  • This is the entire plot of The Last Stand, as an escaped cartel boss tries to evade the FBI by fleeing back to Mexico, and the police force of the last small town before his planned crossing point try to stop him.
  • In Burn After Reading, one of the characters is caught trying to board a flight to Venezuela to escape a murder charge or two. Seeing as the CIA at this point are hoping to hush the whole farce up and hope it blows over, the Director orders that they stick him on the next flight out there.
    Palmer: We had his name on a hot list. CBP pulled him in. Don't know why he was trying to go to Venezuela.
    Director: You don't know.
    Palmer: No, sir.
    Director: We have no extradition with Venezuela.
    Palmer: Oh! So what should we do with him?
    Director: For fuck's sake, put him on the next flight to Venezuela!

    Literature 
  • In the first Serpentwar Saga novel, Rupert and Eric try to flee to the Sunset Isles after killing Eric's half-brother due to a law there that said that criminals who stayed there without causing trouble for a year had their records cleared. They didn't even get close.
  • Played for Laughs in Jeeves and Wooster whenever an Oh Crap situation is met by an escape to another country.
  • Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist has a subplot where Buck has to smuggle Tsion Ben-Judah out of Israel into Egypt. This is despite the facts that (a) Israel is currently the safest place in the world, being divinely protected from the Apocalypse, and (b) there's supposed to be a One World Government, so neither "Israel" nor "Egypt" should exist any more.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andrew and Jonathan flee to Mexico at the end of season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • See CSI: Crime Scene Investigation's Season 9 opener for an example of A.
  • CSI:NY's season premiere had the perp try to escape to Canada before Mac caught up with him. Needless to say, he failed.
  • Referenced occasionally in Friends. Phoebe's future plans tend to end up with her and an accomplice fleeing to Mexico for some reason. Which is odd, considering that Canada is much closer...
  • In an episode of The Closer a murderer fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution. But because his victim, an illegal immigrant, was a Mexican citizen, Brenda smiled, got him to sign a paper stating that he had no intention of leaving Mexico, then told him that he was now under Mexican jurisdiction. And Mexico takes a dim view of people murdering its citizens. Just as two Mexican cops haul him off.
    • The murderer only steps into this trap because the victim's mother had claimed to be from (IIRC) Costa Rica, not Mexico.
  • Spoofed in The Beiderbecke Affair, when the protagonists help a dissident escape across the Yorkshire-Lincolnshire border, and later the Yorkshire-Lancashire border.
  • Shane Vendrell wants to do this in Season 7 of The Shield, but needs to hang around Los Angeles trying to wait for the heat to cool off and to get some money to do so. Lem was going to do the same thing, until Shane murdered him.
  • Due South had a rather interesting variant of type A. Ray was accused of killing a perp, though he actually didn't, and it looked worse because he had GSR on his hands from spending the morning at the range. Ray runs into the Canadian consulate and because it's technically Canadian territory, extradition proceedings have to be done before he can be removed. That gives Fraser time to find the evidence to clear him.
  • Joy attempts this in My Name Is Earl, when she is facing felony charges, but it doesn't work out so well. Earl takes the rap for her and goes to prison in her place, when he sees that Darnell and the kids are suffering without her.
  • An episode of Dexter wonderfully subverts this: after the previous season ended on a cliffhanger, with his sister discovering one of his murders, the next episode opens In Medias Res, with him rushing to the airport to buy a ticket out of the country. You only find out later in the episode, he was just there to kill a Ukrainian mobster, and had no intention of actually getting on the plane.
  • Spoofed by a Top Gear segment that didn't make it into the final cut. After "escaping" from Colditz (now a hotel, and Jeremy checked out with his credit card), they make what ends up being an economy run for the Polish border on 11.3562354 liters of fuel. James May is taken out and shot when he fails to make the border.
  • JAG:
  • Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk's 100th Case," it's revealed that serial killer Douglas Thurman, after strangling three young actresses, had Mexican currency in his wallet when he killed himself at a motel in Southern California, as he was fleeing from San Francisco to Mexico.
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico," Monk is lured to Mexico by a corrupt doctor who wants to kill him in revenge for Monk testifying against him in an insurance fraud case. Said doctor jumped bail, fled to Mexico and changed his name, and did so by committing two bizarre murders (a wild lion attack, and then a boy who drowned in mid-air while skydiving).
  • Breaking Bad: Huell and Kuby are sent to collect Walt's 100+ million dollar money stash. They stare at the giant pile of cash for a minute.
  • One season one episode of Mission: Impossible centered around an inversion: The team was trying to trick a drug dealer into chasing them from a country that had granted him sanctuary across the border into one that wouldn't, where the local police were waiting to arrest him and have him extradited to the US.

    Music 
  • Burl Ives' song "One Hour Ahead of the Posse". A murderer tries to reach the Rio Grande river and cross into Mexico.
  • Inverted in the Johnny Rodriguez song "Run for the Border," where the narrator is running for the border to get out of Mexico so he can get away from the irate knife wielding husband of a woman that he spent the night with.
  • Subverted in Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money" - he makes it to Honduras, but the trouble has followed him. "Send lawyers, guns, and money/The shit has hit the fan."
  • Deconstructed somewhat in Townes Van Bandit's "Pancho And Lefty"; Lefty sells Pancho to the federales so he can run for the border himself... and ends up dying alone and broken-hearted.
  • Blues Traveler's "Get Out of Denver" is a local variant.
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman" ends with one - the twist being that the runaway and the cop chasing him are brothers who ended up on different sides of the law.
    I chased him through them county roads
    'Til a sign said "Canadian border, five miles from here"
  • George Strait's "The Seashores of Old Mexico"
  • Christopher Cross's "Ride Like the Wind"
  • "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace" by The Mountain Goats is about torturing a man to death and then fleeing to Mexico.
  • "Hey Joe", recorded by Jimi Hendrix among others, ends with the title character resolving to go to Mexico after shooting his wife for infidelity.
  • Attempted by the narrator in "Cocaine Blues" by JohnnyCash, but not even making it to the border saved him.
    Made a good run, but I run too slow
    They overtook me down in Juarez, Mexico.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Border Crossing, an adventure for Espionage and Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes, is closest to a Type A. The player characters are Western spies who infiltrate East Germany during the Cold War to investigate a mysterious "factory", and then have to get themselves out of East Germany. Unless the players have done an incredible job (or the GM has incredibly lousy die rolls), the secret police will be coming after the characters at some point in the mission.
  • In Spycraft 2, if you find yourself the subject of a manhunt you can escape by invoking this trope to initiate a chase scene: the manoeuvre is actually called "Run for the Border".
  • The "Made it to Mexico" quality from the Shadowrun supplement "Safehouses" means your hidey-hole is in another jurisdiction, making it much harder for the heat to track you. The downside is that you have to cross the border first.

    Theatre 
  • In Boris Godunov, Anti-Hero Grigory becomes a fugitive and succeeds in escaping Russia after a close encounter with the police at an inn near the Lithuanian border.

    Real Life 
  • Subverted in real life: During World War II, German POWs were imprisoned in Kansas. A few of them managed to escape ... for three days. They asked how close they'd gotten to Mexico. They were very disappointed to discover that they hadn't gotten out of the state, let alone the country. This relates to how a lot of Europeans don't seem to realize how truly gigantic the United States really is; Americans for their part have the same problem when it comes to Canada.
    • Late in the war, 25 Germans broke out of a camp near Tucson, Arizona. Most tried to hike to Mexico, but only two got farther than a few miles before being caught. Three built a boat, intending to row down the Gila River — which they did not know was a dry riverbed until they were actually standing in it. It only runs during flash floods, so it wouldn't have been much help anyway.
    • There was a Movie "The One That Got Away" about a German pilot who escaped from Canada to the USA (pre-Pearl Harbor). True story, but he really was the only one, mostly because they just plunked the prisons in the middle of lots of empty wilderness where even if they did escape, they wouldn't last long.
  • This is partly the reason why the FBI was formed: during the Prohibition era, the lack of any centralized police force meant that gangsters could commit their crimes and cross state or county lines without fear of pursuit.
  • The reason why many American criminals (especially serial killers and murderers) escape to Mexico is because the Mexican Constitution forbids the deportation of people facing the death penalty in their home countries. That law was created during the Cold War and during the time period when almost all Central and South America were controlled by military dictatorships, but the law doesn't have exceptions for criminals for democratically-elected countries (like the U.S), and while they can be deported back, they can't face the death penalty due to a treaty with the Mexican government.
    • Ironically, this law ended biting the Mexican government in their ass thanks to the Zhenli Ye Gon case: the main culprit, by law, cannot be stripped of his acquired Mexican nationality and deported back to China since he will be executed if he puts a foot there, but the Mexican government doesn't want him in the country; since the American law agencies also wanted him too, he was extradited to the U.S. instead.
  • During the first Gulf War, this happened to a small Special Air Service patrol known as "Bravo Two Zero." They were inserted behind enemy lines to look for Scud missile launchers, but their position was compromised and they were forced to make a run for the Syrian border. Of a six man patrol, one died along the way of exposure, four were captured after being split up and commandeering a taxi, and the last successfully fled 180 miles on foot to Syria. The latter holds the record for the longest known successful escape and evasion.
  • During the Mexican drug war, an unidentified group, after having inflicted heavy casualties on drug cartels further south, attempted to flee north and ended up getting stranded just outside Matamoros. Of the nine who were stuck there, six died and the remaining three were never found.
  • During The Troubles, this was a favoured strategy for Irish terrorists of the IRA/INLA organisations. The Partition border between the two Irelands is long, tortuous and impossible to seal. IRA members could perform an action in the Six Counties and if not caught, would routinely flee over the border to safe houses until the heat died away. British forces could not officially follow and if caught on the wrong side, could provoke diplomatic protests from the Republic. note  Irish soldiers patrolled the border on their side for the dual purpose of seeking to arrest terrorists and preventing British forces from crossing. There are unconfirmed and officially denied stories of British Special Forces crossing the border anyway and catching the terrorists off-guard where they thought they were safe.

    Western Animation 
  • Hong Kong Phooey: One of his fellow superheroes had to let a criminal go because said criminal had crossed the state border.
  • Sheriff Ricochet Rabbit pursued a criminal named El Loco Lobo until Lobo crossed the border and was arrested by Ricochet's Mexican counterpart.
  • A strange example from The Simpsons episode "The Bob Next Door": Sideshow Bob tries to kill Bart at Five Corners, a point where five states meet, intent on carrying out the murder in pieces across the different state lines so that he hasn't committed a murder in any specific jurisdiction and cannot be tried for it.note  When the cops show up, Bob tries to use the border to escape from Chief Wiggum, only to find police officers from the other four states have him surrounded.

Type B:

    Anime and Manga 
  • A Certain Magical Index: Hamazura is forced to flee Academy City when he learns that he has topped Aleister's hit list. He certainly escapes in style: stealing a supersonic plane and auto-piloting it to Russia. Then World War III happens and AC forces continue pursuing him, so he has to make a run for the Elizalina Alliance border... but that doesn't stop the AC forces either, since it's a World War and he's only twenty meters inside the border anyway. He kicks himself mentally for thinking that such things as national borders would deter Academy City.

    Comicbooks 

    Films 
  • Happened in The Day After Tomorrow because Mexico was far enough south that the new ice age would be less deadly to people from northern United States. One especially snarky web review put it thusly:
    TV NEWS: In other developments tonight, millions of Americans are evacuating to Mexico, which briefly closed the borders while drunk on the incredible irony of the situation, but then the administration forgave all Latin American debt. ˇBuenos dí­as a nuestros nuevos amigos!
  • The movie Fortress (with Highlander star Christopher Lambert) has the protagonist and his pregnant wife try to leave a dystopian US after it implements a no-births policy to fight the increasing population growth. The film even opens with shots of the heavily crowded international bridges between the US and Mexico.
  • Inverted in the opening of The A-Team movie featuring the newly formed team from fleeing a Mexican drug lord and his mooks to the U.S. border. The result?
    Hannibal: General Tuco. You are engaged in unauthorized combat with United States military personnel... OVER U.S. AIRSPACE.
    Cue Oh Crap looks from the Mexicans... followed by an air strike.
  • In the independent monster film Monsters, the protagonists are stranded in Mexico, which is overrun by gigantic aliens. They are trying to sneak across the American border without getting arrested or eaten.
  • In a Run For The State Line variation, the ex-military father of Tank uses his WWII Sherman tank to free his son from the corrupt Georgia sheriff who'd framed him, then drives it to the Tennessee border where the governor has promised they'll all get a fair trial.

    Literature 
  • The implied ending of The Handmaid's Tale.
  • Pretty much the entire second half of Galaxy of Fear is the Arrandas and their uncle, having foiled an Imperial plot, trying to find a place outside of the jurisdiction of the Empire. But space doesn't have tremendously clear borders, so any place that looks safe generally isn't after a while.
  • On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follet dramatises the true story of Electronic Data Systems employees escaping from Iran after the revolution.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Americans flee to Mexico in the Made-for-TV Movie Super Volcano, where Yellowstone Park erupts, covers much of the US in ash, and plunges the world into a nuclear winter. They are forced to close the border here too.
  • After painting their cars with the most anti-Southern slurs they could think of, driving through Alabama and subsequently getting rocks thrown at them, the members of Top Gear made a run for the Louisiana border. Why they thought it would be any better on the other side is up for debate.
    • If they didn't know Mississippi was in the middle, the idea that they didn't do any research seems beyond the point of debating.
    • They were trying to reach New Orleans, which was the designated 'finish line' for the challenge. And by the way, they just didn't have rocks thrown at them, the guys and their camera crew nearly got beaten up by some Alabama locals, making this a Chased by Angry Natives trope as well.

    Music 
  • The Billy Joel song "Miami 2017" tells of a future in which New York City is destroyed and everyone flees to Florida. They can't Run For The Border because "The Mafia took over Mexico."
  • Chris de Burgh's song Borderline is about this (probably the Nazi takeover of Germany, judging by the context of the sequel song Say Goodbye to it All).

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age II begins with this version, as Hawke and his/her family flee the monstrous invasion of darkspawn. It potentially ends with Type A, as Hawke goes on the run with his/her Love Interest, who may be a highly wanted criminal.
  • In Papers, Please, you play a border inspector in the Fictional Country of Arstotzka, and you may encounter a number of desperate refugees (including a few asylum seekers later on) coming through your check point. The Inspector will have to turn them away if their paperwork isn't in order, or face increasingly severe pay deductions. You'll also encounter a fair number of Type A entrants, and you eventually get the ability to detain suspicious characters. One ending even has you and however many family members you can afford flee to Obristan with forged passports.

    Western Animation 
  • Amusingly inverted in South Park's "Last of the Meheecans" episode. Butters inspires a resurgence of nostalgia, homesickness, and nationalism that causes Mexican emigrants to the United States to cross the border back into Mexico. Border patrol guards eventually have to guard the border on the U.S. side instead to prevent the loss of menial labourers to the American economy.
  • In Alfred J. Kwak, Alfred and his friends flee to neighbouring Broad Reedland when their home Great Waterland is turned into a fascist dictatorship by Dolf and his National Crows Party.

    Real Life 
  • The southwestern United States play host to a ton of illegal immigrants who fled Mexico in search of higher wages.
    • With the new immigration laws passed by Arizona in 2010, there's been a lot of news hubbub about Mexican immigrants moving back (or at least out of state), along with lifelong legal residents of Hispanic descent who didn't feel like staying around and risk harassment.
  • North Korean defectors fall on the far end of type B.
    • During the Cold War, much the same situation was the case for East Germany.
    • During the Cultural Revolution, there were many Chinese who fled to North Korea. Some even chose to swim to Hong Kong or Taiwan.
    • According to the non-fiction book Nothing to Envy detailing the lives of North Korean defectors, one path out has a double example. For political reasons, South Korean Consulates in China cannot accept North Korean defectors as refugees, but the Korean Embassy in Ulanbattor, Mongolia can. After making it to China, they then have to try and cross another border into Mongolia. As long as they've crossed the border, even if they don't make it all the way, Mongolian authorities will deport them South Korea rather than back to North Korea like Chinese authorities would.
  • When Germany transformed into Nazi Germany in the 1930s, many intellectuals, political opponents, and Jewish people emigrated to escape persecution. Those that fled to other European countries usually found themselves in the same situation all over again when the German army overran these states several years later.
  • The northern free states in the US were this way for escaped slaves, until the Fugitive Slave Law (which allowed slave catchers to arrest escaped slaves in free states and transport them back down south) and the Dred Scott decision (which declared that slaves are not technically people) effectively forced them to keep running all the way to Canada.


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