- The villain gets interrupted before he makes it to the hero's stall.
- The hero escapes unseen, e.g. by means of an Indy Hat Roll or a Ceiling Cling, and his stall is revealed to be empty.
- Less commonly, the hero surprise attacks the villain before his stall is opened.
- If the villain is smart and armed with a gun, he'll shoot into each stall, though the hero will likely find a way to avoid getting shot up.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Gunsmith Cats, May drags an injuried Rally into a bathroom to hide from Radinov. Played straight despite Radinov not checking the stalls because of the obvious bloodtrail. She is, however, dealing with Minnie May now.
- In Part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the villain Mariah hides in the women's bathroom of a hotel the hero's are staying at. Joseph and Avdol follow her in, reluctantly, and Avdol begins looking at the feet under the doors. Joseph hadn't gotten a good look at Mariah, but could describe her legs well enough. When Avdol finds legs that match the description, it turns out that it's actually an old lady, and Mariah had escaped out the window. Then the rest of the stalls open, filled with women who have no idea why there are two men snooping around.
- In the The Punisher storyline Suicide Run, a bunch of mafia mooks hide in the bathroom. The Punisher is not sure which stall contains what, so he shoots through all of them.
- In an issue of MAD, Jimmy Olsen goes to the bathroom of the Daily Planet to see if Superman is in there. Notably, there are some Superman boots peering out from the bottom of one stall.
Films — Animated
- Monsters, Inc., when Boo and Sully are hiding from Randall. He punches them open one by one, and Sully flinches as every door opens. Randall actually slams open the stall Sully is hiding in, but isn't looking at the time. Momentum closes the door before Randall can see them.
Films — Live-Action
- 9 to 5: Happens during an Imagine Spot.
- In The Sting, Johnny Hooker is trying to escape a hit man trying to kill him. He goes into a restroom to hide. The hit man enters and starts opening doors to find him. He gets to the last stall and realizes there's a woman inside. He figures Hooker went out the window and does the same. It turns out Hooker was inside the stall with the woman — she was helping him.
- In The Warriors, the Punks line up to kick all the stalls open at the same time. The Warriors open the doors first and a brawl ensues.
- Max Payne: Max Payne does this using his gun, to an awesome effect.
- Witness: Amish boy Samuel Lapp, who is hiding in a toilet cubicle after witnessing a murder, crawls underneath the wall to the neighboring cubicle by the time the killer (who is kicking the cubicle doors open) gets to his cubicle. Samuel reaches and grabs his hat just as the killer opens the door.
- Cast a Deadly Spell: As Mickey is trying to escape Tugwell in the train station, he goes into the bathroom and tries to hide in the last stall. Tugwell uses a magic spell that lights a fiery trail to him and blows him out of the stall.
- Edge of Darkness: Craven is being followed, and to lose his tails he goes into a highway rest stop bathroom. A moment later the tails enter the bathroom and search the stalls, only to discover that Craven has escaped out a window and lost them.
- Zombieland: Our hero has to relieve himself, and to be on the safe side, he searches each stall in the bathroom before doing so.
- True Lies: Tasker hides from a gun-wielding terrorist inside a bathroom stall. The terrorist hoses down the stalls with his machine gun, and begins opening each stall. Before he gets to Tasker's hiding place, Tasker bursts out of his stall and escapes.
- One Crazy Summer: The leader of a biker gang opens each stall and finds the person he was looking for in the last one.
- High School Musical used this to show us how Gabriella was able to turn invisible. Seriously: Sharpay hears her singing in the loo, sees nobody, checks out the stalls, kicks the lone closed-yet-vacant stall open, then spies herself in the mirror and leaves. Gabriella then reveals that she was behind the entrance wall (beside the basins). In a place Sharpay looked. True, we don't actually see Gabriella's hiding place (so she could very well have been under the basins), but the way it's played makes us wonder why she doesn't slip out while Sharpay's back was turned.
- In Air Force One, while he's being pursued by the terrorists through the plane's passenger levels, the President hides in the bathroom section. The terrorists then shoot up each stall, and check each door, only to find they're empty. Turns out the President used a different method to evade them.
- In Pink Floyd's The Wall, Pink is found hiding in a bathroom stall after the Hammers overrun England.
- Lash in Sky High (2005) searches the stalls for Ethan.
- In Problem Child 2, Trixie hides in the bathroom and stands on the toilet seats so her feet don't show. Junior looks underneath each stall, and doesn't see her feet, but he isn't fooled.
- Detective Arrosio does this when he hunts for Killer in the bathroom at the train station in Four Flies on Grey Velvet. It ends badly for him.
- Jack Carter (Michael Caine) does this in the toilets in the dancehall in Newcastle while looking for the weaselly Thorpy (Frank Windsor) in "Get Carter"; Thorpy is not pleased to be found.
Live Action TV
- In the Doctor Who episode, "Partners in Crime", it turns out that the bad guys are actually searching for a different person, also a spy, who happens to be in the stall next to Donna's.
- Battlestar Galactica: This situation occurs during a hostage crisis in season 2, at least, until Lee Adama jumps the guy supposedly hunting him from behind.
- The Secret World of Alex Mack: Alex Mack once avoided detection this way, when her stall was opened for examination, she had liquefied and hid in the toilet bowl.
- Law & Order: UK: While pursuing a suspect through Waterloo Station, DS Matt Devlin realizes he must have fled into the bathroom to hide. Sure enough, he searches the stalls till he gets to the one that won't open and realizes the guy must be in there.
- The Sentinel Blair is in the stalls when the terrorists take over the building. As the searcher is about to open his stall, Blair grabs the walls, pulls himself up, and kicks the door as hard as he can. Knocks the terrorist out cold. (Later in the same episode he's hiding behind a vending machine and tips it over on another terrorist, squashing him flat.)
- Mr. Bean winds up with someone else's trousers. They're too short, so he goes looking for the person who got his trousers by mistake. He finally spots them in a bathroom stall. Of course, being Mr. Bean, explaining the mixup and asking politely for his pants back is apparently not an option.
- MI High: One of Colt Winchester's henchmen does this while searching for Frank in the deserted school in "Dark Star". Figuring Frank must be in the last stall, he burst in. Frank is actually hiding behind the the bathroom door, and has rigged the toilet to blow up in the mook's face.
- Molly and Mia do this in a You're Skitting Me sketch about why girls go to the bathroom in pairs. It turns out it's because of the risk of ninja attack.
- ER. Pratt goes into the bathroom and overhears incompetent resident Morris on the phone with someone who he's asking for information and promptly goes ballistic.
- There's a Japanese Urban Legend about Hanako Of The Toilet, the ghost of a schoolgirl murdered in a bathroom stall who kills anyone who happens to be using that particular toilet. According to the story, if one is unfortunate enough to be using that stall, they'll hear Hanako herself checking each stall, giggling to herself "No one in here," until she finds the victim. Then she kills them.
- Grand Theft Auto IV has a mission where a guy you're chasing runs in the bathroom. You have to open stall by stall to get him.
- The Punisher (2005): A male mook sometimes will try to hide in the women's restroom (at Central Park Zoo). Doesn't work out, as Frank can explicitly drown him in the toilet. That's going to give a tourist a scare.
- In the first level of Duke Nukem 3D, if you check the bathroom stalls in the movie theater you'll find one enemy trooper taking a crap.
- In the first stage of Revolution X, you have to pick the right bathroom and check the stalls in order to find Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton. Other stalls may randomly have enemies sitting on their toilets.
- In The Lost Crown, you can have Nigel search the bathroom stalls in the museum basement. He won't find anyone when he looks, but when he's facing away, you can spot young Verity standing in one of them: when you're a ghost, option #2 (remaining unseen) is easy to achieve.
- In The Walking Dead, Michelle searched for Clementine and ordered her to come out with her own gun.
- In Life Is Strange, Chloe checks the bathroom stalls to see if anybody was there to overhear her talk with Nathan. However, she Failed a Spot Check and missed Max hiding in the janitor space at the end.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Players can hide in Portajohns to avoid detection by the enemy. Thus, shooting the toilets to ferret out opposing players is a common tactic. However, the hiders can also shoot back; a clever player with a powerful gun like the AWP is capable of actually killing you first, leading to a surreal inversion of the trope.
- In the Smosh Babies episode, "Potty Training", when Ian starts to suspect that Anthony is acting weird, he follows him into the bathroom and searches each stall for him. When he reaches the last one, he is shocked to find Anthony using the toilet.
- The Simpsons:
- "King Size Homer". To paraphrase, "I've never seen anyone so desperate to avoid ten minutes of calisthenics".
- In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", the soldiers search the port-o-lets for Bob, but only find Grandpa. (Who tells them, "This elevator only goes to the basement. And someone made an awful mess down there.")
- The Venture Bros.: Brock is looking for Phantom Limb inside a bathroom. He begins searching each stall, encountering a different villain in each one, before finding his target.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Karate Choppers", SpongeBob is told by Squidward to clean the stalls. Since he and Sandy are obsessed with karate, SpongeBob searches each stall for Sandy. When he finds what he thinks is her, it is revealed to be Mr. Krabs, who has had enough of SpongeBob's karate, and tells him that if he catches him doing it again, he will be fired.