A fairly standard disappearing trick, favored by ninja, stage magicians, and Batman. Drop a clever little smoke bomb that puffs up and dissipates quickly, slip away during the distraction. A smoke cover apparently qualifies as being "offscreen" enough for Offscreen Teleportation, allowing a user to escape even if he or she was standing in a clear area where his/her exit would be seen at least by the viewer if not an opponent.
Still played straight in most cases, though there are a few stock variations and subversions:
The smoke user forgets to escape, and is still standing there laughing maniacally when the smoke clears, or else is too busy coughing from inhaling said smoke. He sheepishly calms down and surrenders, or mundanely runs away without looking flashy.
The escapee just hides in the room, in a very obvious place, like behind a ficus plant or a narrow lamp. Especially funny if he's in a ninja outfit.
The smoke bomb is a dud and releases little to no smoke, leaving the escapee to just stand there.
Alternatively, the excess gunpowder in the smoke bomb leaves the user extra toasty.
The Smoke In, where a cloud of smoke is used to give a flashy, dramatic entrance instead of a stealthy escape.
A parody of the Smoke In can be found in Dragon Half, when Rosario first appears to the King in a mysterious cloud of mist. The angle changes and the audience can see that behind him is a bucket labeled "dry ice".
Pokémon's "Team Rocket" frequently escapes by having Koffing/Weezing fill the room with a truly massive amount of smoke that, realistically, would indeed allow most anyone to escape. Later, when Weezing was released, Jessie's Seviper took over this role with its haze attack. While not actual smoke, James's Cacnea can fullfill the same purpose with Sandstorm, if Seviper isn't available. James performs the trick with an actual smoke bomb in the second "Best Wishes!" episode.
Tsubaki, a pretty young woman from Soul Eater, can turn into a smoke bomb... but it's a cute smoke bomb. It has little eyes and a pony-tail.
A Smoke Out is used at least once by every character of Ranma ˝ with a slightly shady or ninja-esque martial art, including Ranma, Mousse, Kodachi, Genma, Happōsai, and Konatsu. Ukyō Kuonji uses a flour bomb to create the smoke, as part of her Okonomiyaki Martial Art.
Used by the side characters in the Magic World arc of Mahou Sensei Negima! in a Big Damn Heroes moment to save Negi's butt from the newly introduced villain. They used a very well-made type of smoke that even blocks magical senses, letting everyone perform a clean escape.
Detective Conan: In Kaitou Kid's first appearance, Kid uses a flash bomb to escape undetected from a wide-open roof while surrounded by a crowd of policemen and several helicopters. Justified in that he actually disguised himself as a policeman rather than fleeing.
Parodied with Rainspider on Desert Punk. He's fond of exiting by laughing maniacally and throwing down a smoke bomb. But when the smoke clears, you actually see him running away, laughing all the while.
Several Zoids make use of this. Command Wolf types, König Wolf types, Guysack, Shadow Fox, and Saberlion.
In the video games it's usually possible to equip anything with smoke dischargers.
Used at the very beginning of One Piece by Higuma the Bear.
It pops out from time to time in Yaiba, used by Musashi while training him using Ninjutsu. Kotaro Fuuma also used it at least once while fighting Yaiba, and the same goes for Goemon.
Naruto. Practically every character in the show is capable of this, and most of them have used it onscreen... often disappearing from plain sight in open areas with just a little puff of smoke around their bodies. Kakashi even pulled this stunt while Naruto, a trained Ninja, stood directly behind him with a knife to his throat in the second "Shippuden" episode.
Bleach: Subversion of the first variety. When Ganju is forced to fight Yumichika, he knows he's not Yumichika's equal so decides to use every dirty trick in the book in an attempt to distract Yumichika into losing. At one point, he uses a spell that creates a red cloud of smoke that's designed to make the victim's eyes stream and throat clog. It's not until he starts choking in mid-gloat that Ganju realises he caught himself in the smoke as well as Yumichika. Instead of allowing him time to put distance between himself and Yumichika, the pair stagger out of the smoke together. In the long run, this turns out to be a happy accident for Ganju whose only chance for surviving was for Yumichika to be so convinced Ganju was incompetent that he'd lower his guard enough for one of Ganju's tricks to actually work. This mistake certainly helped on that front!
In Empowered, used by Ninjette in book 2... to avoid embarrasment before ThugBoy, and then fleeing through a window. (And note that, since she leaves the tattered remains of Emp's suit behind, she's quite logically buck naked afterward.)
Used by Jafar in Disney's Aladdin, wherein the villain's smoke bomb enables him to escape from two guards who had hold of his arms and were in the process of dragging him away. When the smoke clears, the guards are holding onto each other instead. Of course, heisa sorcerer.
Morgana in the Little Mermaid II takes this to a ridiculous extreme. She pulls an "Ink Out" in the middle of open ocean, while surrounded by merpeople on all sides. Of course, sheisa sorceress.
In The MovieBatman Mask Of The Phantasm, the Smoke In and Smoke Out are major parts of the Phantasm's repertoire. Despite having no more superpower than Batman himself, the Phantasm on several occasions makes a Smoke Out departure while standing in the middle of a clear area; this is never remarked on, let alone explained.
Esmeralda does this to get out of a tight spot in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In this movie there doesn't seem to be real magic, so it would have to be a trick.
Films — Live-Action
Kung Pow! Enter the Fistsubverts this with a side-effect nobody else has noticed. A ninja throws a smoke bomb in an open field, but the smoke quickly blows away. It then subverts this again by turning out to have an effect: the smoke bomb revives some Mooks for The Chosen One to beat up again.
Done straight in the latest movie, but also subverted when Raphael does a standard ninja Smoke Out, but instead of mysteriously vanishing he's seen running away. Also Lampshaded in the film when Karai and a henchman disappear.
There is also a scene where Raphael smokes out... only to leave Casey Jones coughing and waving smoke away... then Raphael leans out from behind a nearby structure and chastizes Casey for just standing there like an idiot.
Michaelangelo: What is it with ninjas and smoke bombs?
Skeeve, of the Myth Adventures series by Robert Asprin, tries to do a Smoke In to intimidate an army by turning invisible, walking up to the spot, setting off some smoke powder, and turning visible once more. Right after turning visible, he finds out that standing in the middle of a cloud of smoke does little for your ability to breathe, and he does his best to be intimidating while in mid-sneeze.
In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins plans to leave his eleventy-first birthday party by slipping on his ring of invisibility at the climax of his speech — which Gandalf quick-thinkingly turns into a Smoke Out by throwing one of his pyrotechnics on the stage. Bilbo is annoyed, but Gandalf explains that he doesn't want rumors going out about vanishing hobbits. Doesn't happen in the film version, though.
Peruvian instant darkness powder is used by Draco and company so they can get into Hogwarts.
Harry uses a decoy detonator in book 7.
The Peruvian darkness powder is used in The Film of the Book so Harry can overhear Draco's plans of becoming a Death Eater.
Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: in one episode, the trio attempt to escape by this method, but when the smoke clears, they are pressed up against a locked door frantically trying to get out.
Subverted in Teen Angel, where the title character creates smoke but is left standing in the room. Then, in front of the person he wants to escape from, walks into a closet.
Power Rangers characters, good and evil, frequently exit by blasting the ground in front of them to create a dust cloud. It's usually plausible that they could have escaped (we usually see things from the point of view of the one they're escaping from; the person(s) using this trick are gone by the time their opponent can run through the dust cloud, look where they were, and then look around) but the Overdrive season features two ninja characters for whom smoke clouds are essentially just another brand of teleportation.
Lee Van Cleef's character, an American Ninja, used to do this all the time in the short-lived TV series The Master.
The Spike TV show Deadliest Warrior gives a highly possible real-world origin for the Smoke Out in the form of "black eggs", literal whole eggshells painted black and filled with either sand, pepper (either ground or as a mace-like extract oil), and/or glass that is thrown into the enemy's face; the theory was, the egg would shatter upon impact (or, if the contents were dry ingredients, crushed pre-throw) and splash all over the enemy's eyes, blinding them for several seconds and giving the illusion that the escaping ninja vanished in a puff of smoke.
Subverted in Castle; investigating the death of a magician, Beckett and Castle approach a street magician with a motive. The street magician, obviously not keen to answer questions, does the standard Smoke Out disappearance — and Beckett (who, as it turns out, knows a little something about magic) merely rolls her eyes, opens up the box he's standing on (and which he slipped into after dropping the smoke bomb) and yanks him out.
Beckett: Alakazam, jackass.
On The Cape, Max and anyone else trained by him can do this at a level verging on supernatural. Subverted in Episode 3 when Vince fights Gregor and gets grabbed by the cape in the middle of his smoke-out.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Vegas in Space". Before being sent on a mission, Buck is given devices which cause a complete blackout in the immediate area. While on the mission, he uses one to escape from enemies.
R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk supplement Solo of Fortune II. An ad for Midnight Arms includes the Ninja Smoke Pellet. Throwing it to the ground causes a flash and a cloud of smoke that allow you to confuse and escape your enemies.
Sheik escapes this way from Link several times in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In Super Smash Bros Melee this was actually turned into her recovery move. Impa, the Princess's badass nanny, also shows the ability to do this once. Keep in mind though that, in Ocarina, there is no actual smoke, only a moment of blinding light. It helps that Sheik is magic, though. To be specific, the sheikahs use Deku Nuts, which blind you and daze you. Link and the player see it as them instantly disappearing, but what actually happens is Link loses his awareness giving ample time for them to get away. You can do this yourself with the in game enemies, as the Deku Nut is a useable item.
Rogues have this as an ability, called "Vanish", which at one point required a reagent called "Flash Powder" to work. And even now that the flash powder is no longer required, the animation still shows the classic smoke bomb going off at the character's feet. The actual effect is to put you straight into stealth mode even from combat.
Due to issues involving aggro of pets and NPC enemies, the effect of the dud smoke grenade is often replicated when the enemy just keeps attacking you when they shouldn't be. Supposedly fixed in a very recent patch, though it remains to be seen.
Another (newer) ability is actually called Smoke Bomb, but it's mostly unusable for escaping, rather creating an area that can't be targeted into from the outside by enemies. It's practically an inversion as it forces you to stand still if you want to be covered by it and could be used to get into combat by getting a ranged enemy to close in.
In the Shado-pan dailies against the mantid, the players can get a Wu Kao Smoke Bomb. Using it puts them into stealth for a short period of time, and for a few seconds, enables actions without breaking stealth. It can be a useful way of escaping from encounters.
In Final Fantasy VI, a Smoke Bomb allows you to instantly escape from any battle that you can normally run away from. It's also used in a cutscene to escape from a burning house, even though that's not how they work and there's no explanation given for how a cloud of smoke allows one to escape from a house that's on fire.
Edge from Final Fantasy IV has this as one of his Ninjutsu abilities, which allows the party to run immediately from any non-boss battle.
In City of Villains, Ninjutsu Stalkers' Smoke Flash power enables them to them to shed aggro from nearby enemies to escape or set up for an Assassin Strike, and Ninja Masterminds' Smoke Bomb enables a henchman of their choice to do the same.
Subverted in Tenchu 2. Genbu tried this method twice but failed.
Played straight in Tenchu: Shadow Assassins, though. Rikimaru and Ayame have an innate Smoke Out ability for when they're spotted, but can use actual smoke bombs as a substitute for it... which is nonetheless their least effective use, versus creating temporary cover or distracting opponents for a hissatsu.
In Ninja Gaiden, the Xbox series, enemy ninjas will smoke out if Ryu runs out of their encounter boundaries. He can also use smoke bombs to distract the enemy for a while. KarmaRunners have made their usage an art in the quest for ever-higher score.
In Billy Vs SNAKEMAN, players can do this to run away from a mission (auto-failing and forfeiting the consolation experience in exchange for a refund of the stamina cost.)
In Splinter Cell Conviction, the enemy Splinter Cells will often throw smoke grenades just before they make their entrance.
Taken Up to Eleven in The Sims 3: World Adventures. Escape Dust does more than allow you to Smoke Out — it flat-out teleports you back to a safe place (i.e. either your base camp or home). It starts to slide into Mundane Utility territory, because if you get a large amount of them, you can start using them to cut down on your travel time.
Shinobi from Red Alert 3 can use a smoke bomb to throw off enemy targeting.
In the main Pokémon game series, Smoke Ball is a held item that allows you to escape any fight with wild Pokémon.
Inverted in Mortal Kombat 9, Smoke can throw a cloud of smoke at his opponent's feet that forcibly teleports them to a more vulnerable position.
In the DS game Lego Battles, a group of ninjas uses variation 1 from the trope description. After the smoke clears, one of the ninjas is still standing in place, looking sheepish. Then he sidles quickly away.
In Batman Arkham City, Batman can use this to get away from gun-toting mooks should he be spotted. For even more fun, toss a pellet into an unaware group and watch them freak out and fire at each other.
In The Art Of Theft, Trilby escapes via smoke bomb if he fails or quits a level.
In Annet Futatabi, Annet uses a smoke bomb to escape in a cutscene.
Nitro Splicers in BioShock use smoke grenades to confuse the player.
Houdini Splicers will start running, and then phase into a cloud of smoke as they teleport out.
Combat Arms has smoke grenades among other Trick Bombs what's interesting is that instead, they're generally used to cover a Close Quarters oriented player and make sniping him far more difficult while he gets into the building the snipers are in. If he succeeds expect a Mass Oh Crap from the said snipers.
A Rogue ability in Dragon Age II. The Duelist Prestige Class has the "Vendetta" talent, which lets you teleport across the battlefield like this.
Pointed out in a comic from xkcd. Mouseover: "The sad thing is that I just wanted to talk about your poor smoke-bomb techniques."
Done once by Pintsize in Questionable Content during his "underwear ninja" phase. Marten even commented on this: "That was incredibly bizarre, even for Pintsize."
In The Wotch, Kirk Ericson, little brother to one of the main characters, pretends to throw a smoke bomb before he hides (and tells people that they can't see him now). Kirk has about the same relationship to Naruto and his ilk that Don Quixote has to knightly romance, so...
Played mostly straight in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, but parodied in one episode where the eponymous doctor is so used to doing this that he reflexively uses it to escape from an awkward social encounter.
Averted in one strip of Magick Chicks — this is Tiffany's usual MO, but when she offers Layla a snack to divert her attention from Faith's attack, she's too startled when Layla recognizes her by taste and doesn't even think of a smoke grenade, passing out from blood loss instead.
Phase of the Whateley Universe has his own Utility Belt even though he's just a high school frosh. He's done the Smoke Out, the Smoke In (using it as a costume change too), and even a smoke attack against Kismet.
Darkwing Duck favors the Smoke In, as his main weapon is a gun that fires various gas pellets. It accompanies his Catch Phrase, "I am the terror that flaps in the night..."
This regular schtick backfires on Darkwing at least once when he faces some FOWL goons; he creates some smoke and enters it for his entrance in front of them, but the guards, familiar with this move, simply punch into the cloud and connect, since they knew Darkwing would be in there.
However, in another episode, Darkwing creates a cloud of smoke and begins his Catch Phrase. The goons shoot the cloud of smoke, oblivious to the fact that Darkwing is, in fact, behind them...
Like many elements of his character (including his costume), this dramatic introduction is taken from The DCU's Crimson Avenger.
Subverted in Batman Beyond, when the new Batman uses the standard schtick to get away from the police when he is framed for murder. However, the Police Commissioner is Barbara Gordon, formerly known as Batgirl. As such, she knows that stunt by heart and thwarts it easily, which gives Batman a real challenge to get away.
Spoofed in an episode of Dave The Barbarian, where the Stump Sprite appears in a Smoke In and nearly chokes to death on his own smoke.
The Robot Devil pulls this move in the concert hall finale of Futurama, declaring "It's back to hell for me!" and vanishing in a puff of smoke. The camera then cuts to the stunned audience's reaction, and we see him quickly running up the aisle and out of the theater.
In an episode, a fortune teller consulted by Lisa appears to attempt a Smoke Out, but when the smoke clears, she's still at her table, quietly waiting for Lisa to leave.
In another episode, Mr. Burns attempts to use this trick to escape a tableful of stockholders — however, being ludicrously old and not very fast-moving, he's still fumbling with the door-handle when the smoke clears...
The 2000s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon has the Shredder's elite guard use this as a cover for Offscreen Teleportation, able to appear behind an opponent they've just vanished from in front of, all without being seen or heard by characters or viewers or having had time to go around and get into position.
Played hilariously straight in the Nickeleon show when Donatello creates smoke bombs for the first time; Michelangelo starts abusing of them despite Don warning they are hard to make, and the trope is so exagerated that it seems to give Michelangelo onscreen teleportation. At one point, he says he'll bring Splinter, throw a smokebomb... and when the smoke dissipates, not only does have disappeared, bu Splinter is now standing instead of him, asking calmy why they asked for him.
Of course, at the end of the episode, when they actually need the smokebombs to escape Shredder, it turns out Michelangelo wasted all of them. Donatello made more in the following episodes through.
Ninja technophile (literally) Otaku Senzuri does this all the time, but hasn't gotten hang of the hiding part. This leads to a lot of "Where did he go?" "Oh, he's right there." situations for him.
The Monarch also does this in the season four finale when he "crashes" the Venture Brothers' Prom. He gives some speech and smokes out both him and Dr. Mrs.The Monarch and the two are seen still standing on the stage when the smoke clears at which point they just walk away.
Plankton tries this in one episode of Spongebob SquarePants. The smoke bomb explodes in his face, leaving him charred. "Well, this stinks..."
Subverted in Stroker And Hoop, where David Copperfield tries this and Stroker just shoots into the smoke and kills him (though he turned out to have just been Faking the Dead).
Ed Edd N Eddy: Eddy attempts a Smoke Out with a homemade smokescreen to escape from the kids at a party he and the Eds crashed. But once he releases it it ends up flooding the house in a white powder and burying the Eds.
Used in Teen Titans When Robin used it to get his team away from Now-Evil Terra. Beast Boy lingers for a bit before he runs off into the smoke.
In "Isabella and the Temple of Sap", a guru the Fireside Girls meet gives them advice then disappears in a puff of smoke. Gretchen points out that he just moved a little ways away.
In "Does This Duckbill Make Me Look Fat?", Dr. Doofenshmirtz is outclassed by Perry in Candace's body bids hir farewell and appears to speed off screen in a Doofenshmirtz-shaped cloud of smoke. When the smoke clears, he's standing there, looking surprised, and asks "What just happened?"
Played with in a Wile E Coyote And The Road Runner episode. The Coyote got rocket shoes and played with them before the Road Runner arrived. First, the Road Runner made his "BEEP BEEP" and started his run with a dust cloud the coyote in fast pursuit, only for the Road Runner to hold position. When the Coyote realized the mistake and returned, the Road Runner did the same trick again, and the coyote waited for the dust cloud to clear, only for the runner to escape.
In the TUFF Puppy segment "Super Duper Crime Busters", Kitty overdoes this, smoking in and out of places with the words "Nowhere and Everywhere!"
Ben 10 Omniverse: Khyber's pet has one of his predator forms, Buglizard, who possess the ability to produce smokes in order to confuse its enemies and escape or attack, much the same way than Squids and Octopi would. It's played more or less realistically, in that the smoke usually cover enough area so Buglizard's disappearance would be credible, and he is actually shown escaping to the viewer in some scene. Also subverted in a flashback, where Khyber, when confronted to the actual Buglizard he got the sample from, merely used a gaz mask with infavision to counter the smoke.
Total Drama Island has one episode where Izzy used this technique to vanish. Inverted a couple of episodes later, when Chris used the same technique to make an entrance.
Squids and octopi do an Ink Out when they feel threatened.
Smoke grenades typically aren't used right at the user's feet but can have the same effect. In fact it is most effective to throw the smoke grenade at the enemy so that he can't see anything. The closer the smoke grenade is to you, the easier it is to know where you are or if you leave that source of cover.
Smoke screens can be used to provide cover for a retreat (the enemy knows something's going on, but can't see exactly what).
Laying smoke is an extremely common tactic used in naval warfare. Not so much in modern times, as radar does limit its effectiveness, but used correctly can trick an enemy battle line into firing where you don't actually have ships.