...she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison'd thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years...
A personal Alcatraz
made with special precautions to stop this one person from escaping. If he has a super power
, then it likely incorporates either a Power Nullifier
or mechanisms that are power-proof.
Eventually he'll break out
but to be fair to the prison's designer, the villain usually can't escape on his own.
He gets some help
from his henchmen
, some Unwitting Pawn
, or an ill-advised upstart villain exploiting the prison's Fantastic Fragility
. The purpose of the Tailor-Made Prison in a story is usually one to give a villain street cred: he must be really
bad to merit it. Also, a previous Big Bad
can be considered to be Commuting on a Bus
when in the prison. He's being kept around with a plausible reason for him to be cooling his heels
instead of raising hell and can be sprung out when dramatically convenient. Considering that any villain who merits such attention very likely has Joker Immunity
in a world of Cardboard Prisons
, the builders of the place may be fully aware that this is temporary solution
but hope it will give them, at least, a few months of peace.
There are generally skeletons — Back Story Red Shirts
— hanging about
to indicate that this is not a normally escapable place.
Sometimes this is the purpose of the Phantom Zone
. Compare Sealed Evil in a Can
for those immortal villains who can't be held by a mere custom-designed prison but can overlap if their can is custom made. Compare also Shipped in Shackles
, which is the mobile version of this trope. For added psychological trauma, may be paired with The Aloner
. Sometimes combined with Gilded Cage
. See also Crystal Prison
for a common cage.
occur when this happens way too often and way
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Anime & Manga
- Mag Mel from Bakugan got this treatment, both because he's a very powerful villain and because he is the former Big Bad, the power hungry Emperor Barodius, who in his quest for more power than he already had attempted to perform genocide on the peaceful planet of Neathia. Code Eve imprisoned him in armor created from his own evil, sealed him in another dimension, and bound him to his own throne with magical webbing. Yeah, this guy was so evil he got an entire dimension turned into a prison and then had more levels of imprisonment put in place just for him. He eventually breaks free by absorbing energy from his Psychic Link with The Hero, which Code Eve didn't know about when she put him in there.
- In Bleach, The Man Behind the Man in the Muramasa Filler Arc was imprisoned in one of these, which for some contrived reason is located inside of Karakura for no real adequately explained reason other than to give the villain the ability to threaten Ichigo's friends And Your Little Dog Too when released. The arc's Filler Villain releases him in the arc's climax, only for both to end up the way all Filler Villains do.
- Elfen Lied had the Diclonii in underground research facilities, for lack of a better term, trapped in meters thick full body casings much like Iron Maidens, being fed through IV tubes, with a perimeter marking that no one was allowed in lest their hands get to them. The only reason that any of them got out is because either a) someone stupidly dropped a PEN inside of the circle or b) they were let out to take care of the Diclonius released in a)
- Lab 5 in Fullmetal Alchemist combines this with a sort of "Area 51" kind of place. It is guarded by living suits of armor containing the souls of serial killers believed by the public to have been executed, as well as fierce chimeras. One prisoner in all versions is the Mad Bomber Zolf Kimblee who has his hands in "minature stocks" which prevent him from using his powers. In the first anime, the homonculus Greed was imprisoned there for about two centuries until a fortuitous explosion frees him. At this point, the lab takes on Cardboard Prison qualities, as he proceeds to free the other prisoners. It was custom-designed to hold alchemists, not Homunculi, after all.
- In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, the defeated and captured members of Yami (organization of villainous martial arts masters) are sent into one of the series of so-called "Big Locks" - massively built prisons designed specifically to keep the Yami members inside for good.
- Some of the newer chapters suggest that these prisons won't hold a master should one really want to get out. What holds them there is "Obey the winner" mentality and their martial artist pride.
- In One Piece it seems to be standard practice to create prisons made entirely out of seastone, which is not only indestructible but also serves as the local Kryptonite Factor for Devil Fruit users.
- Impel Down serves as this; the World Government puts some criminals down in Level Six, and everyone is supposed to forget that they ever existed. In fact, most people don't even know that Level Six itself exists, including most of the prison's inmates, thinking that it stops at Level 5.
- The Kishin Asura in Soul Eater was trapped in a bag made out of his own skin. Even then, Shinigami-sama has to use most of his power to keep him trapped, which binds him to Death City.
- The very first Tenchi Muyo! movie featured Kain, an amorphous evil entity which broke out of his subspace prison at Galactic Police Headquarters and then escaped into the past to try and kill Tenchi's mother.
- The initial plan to stop him was to put him into another Tailor-Made Prison (an alternate dimension), but when he grabbed Tenchi's parents along the way they had to go inside and finish the job with a galaxy-destroying cannon.
- The Authority has a prison located in a distant prehistoric era, before mankind ever evolved.
- In Captain America, Bullseye, who can throw anything with deadly accuracy (literally), was kept in a straitjacket in a cell with no furniture. He was fed a nutritional paste (nothing solid, since he could even use a solid bowel movement as a deadly weapon) that was piped in a bowl that was set in the floor. He eventually escaped by slamming his head into a wall until he broke off a tooth and then feigned unconsciousness, using the tooth fragment to kill the guard who came to check on him.
- Carl Draper, at times The Master Jailer, or Deathtrap, was originally the architect of a tailor-made prison for Superman's convicted criminal enemies, who could not be kept in in a standard prison. The prisoner's own powers were used to keep each other locked up. This fell apart when Superman ticked Draper off by showing him up in a case of actual Superdickery, and Draper's ego collapsed, turning him into a Stalker with a Crush toward Lana Lang.
- Reed Richards once tried to end the threat of Doctor Doom for good by trapping both of them in a Tailor-Made Prison; this being the only way he could be sure Doom would never escape. The team discovered Reed's sacrificial plan in time to rescue him, bu Doom got out too. Note that Reed only trapped Doom inside of that prison because he didn't think Hell would be secure enough, and he was right. Nobody imprisons Doom!! Reed was right. Doom has been known to escape from Hell.)
- In H'el on Earth, Lex Luthor is the only prisoner in a prision that he designed himself. He built the prison when Superman challenged him to create a prison that even he couldn't break out of.
- Incognito: The Black Death is an extremely powerful supervillain who is kept in a specially made cell that uses up massive amounts of energy and acts as a Power Nullifier.
- Invincible featured the Superman-esque villain Conquest beaten into a coma, then sealed in a 400-ton block of solid steel kept in an unmanned facility seven miles below ground, with motion sensors designed to collapse the entire compound if he so much as twitched. He escaped in a single page.
- One of the Justice League's recurring rogues is The Key, who in recent years can count among his powers the ability to open any door or lock. He's escaped everything from interdimensional prisons to being imprisoned within an infinitely-branching mental prison created by the Martian Manhunter. At one point, he decided to try and trick Batman into killing him so he could impress the hero by escaping from death itself. Ultimately, Batman neutralized him by claiming that the only thing that would impress him is a prison the Key couldn't escape from, prompting the villain to voluntarily enter Arkham Asylum and instruct everyone on exactly how to imprison him for good, one step at a time.
- During Knightfall, The Corrosive Man was sealed away in a special room that constantly sprayed him with material that suppressed his acidic abilities. He ended up covering his hand long enough to allow him to use his powers and escaped.
- In the Marvel Universe, the only way to imprison The Absorbing Man, a supervillain whose body becomes any form of matter he touches, at one time was to put him in a cardboard box and put it in a prison cell since he would otherwise become the materials of the cell (like stone and steel) and smash his way out. Unfortunately, there was eventually a water leak that dripped on the box, allowing him to change into water, move to the cell floor, change into stone and break free.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe comics:
- The multiple-series comic arc Vector focuses on a Jedi named Celeste Morne who lived 4,000 years before the films. The arc ends 130 years after the films. Morne survives the first nearly-4,000 years thanks to the Tailor-Made Prison of Lord Dreypa, which works as basically an indestructible Bag-of-Holding version of this trope. How does she get out? She's released 18 years before the original trilogy. Who's the idiot who releases her? Darth Vader. Another one figures in the Knights of the Old Republic comic series (where Vector begins), but this time it's used only as suspended animation to hold an old woman for a month or so to keep her from dying. It also keeps her from stopping the Big Bad from ripping a nice schism in the Jedi Order, in a Xanatos Gambit planned out by said Big Bad. She gets released eventually and dies within thirty minutes.
- Dark Empire introduces the universal energy cage, a transportable cell designed to hold Jedi by suspending them in an antigravity field, electrifying the bars, and featuring feedback systems that would cause the use of Force powers to rebound upon the user.
- In the Crimson Dawn arc of the X-Men comics, Psylocke is forced to concentrate all her telepathic power on the Shadow King (an extremely powerful and malevolent psychic entity which feeds on the hatred of humanity) in order to keep him permanently trapped in the Astral Plane.
- Some time later, after the Shadow King escapes and comes looking for vengeance, Psylocke ends up trapping him inside a mutant that eats psychic energy. Because she'd already lobotomized said mutant, there's no way for the Shadow King to get out again.
- During the Fall of the Mutants storyline, the X-Men were fighting a monster known as the Adversary, and the only way to defeat him was to sacrifice their lives and souls to seal away into the form of two stone tablets. Needless to say, even Roma sees this as only a temporary set-back for the villain and once the smoke clears, resurrects the X-Men so that they can get on with their lives while Adversary takes his time out.
- The Phantom Zone in the Superman comics.
- If you want to make real sure a Transformer isn't going anywhere for a while, you take his spark out of his body and put it it in a box. Standard feature of a TF prison in the comics; rare in shows but has happened once or twice.
- In The Trigan Empire, The Worst Man On The Planet aka The Prisoner Of Zerss (we never learn his actual name), is kept in a cell on top of a tall pole surrounded by walls on an island in a "monster-infested sea". A henchman blackmails Peric, the Omnidisciplinary Scientist who designed the place to show him how to escape. There's an Air-Vent Passageway right under the rug in the middle of the cell.
- Almost every comic book has some sort of "super villain" prison where they set up specific cells to confine the villain depending on his abilities. The Sinister Six from various Spider-Man incarnations are usually confined in this way.
- An especially good example is 42, a prison in the Negative Zone built by the pro-reg side during the Marvel Civil War. Not only is it nearly impossible for the villains inside to escape, but even if they do, they're still in the Negative Zone with no easy way home.
- An older one is the Cube, literally a giant cube-shaped prison in the middle of the desert. It was intended to hold superpowered supervillains, especially those possessing Super Strength.
- The Vault was designed as a Tailor-Made Prison by the government to hold super-villains, but it turned out largely ineffective, becoming more of a Cardboard Prison. Fortunately, the government eventually realized its flaws, and shut it down, which led to smaller, more efficient facilities being designed.
- Genetically-altered Super-villains get sent to the Big House, an complex where everyone inside is shrunk by Pym Particles, and where even the strongest can be stopped by the pointer finger of a normal-sized SHIELD guard.
- Also of note is the way Superboy-Prime has been confined over the years. When The Flashes drew him into the Speed Force, he was kept in a place with only red sunlight until he was able to build a set of armor that converted it into yellow sunlight. When Infinite Crisis ended, the Guardians Of The Universe locked him in a special Sciencell inside a red Sun Eater, which was itself guarded at all times by fifty Green Lanterns. Then after he was rescued by the Sinestro Corp and landed in the future, he was sent back to Earth Prime. This was maybe the most hellish prison of all, since he got what he wanted and was sent home, only to find his parents knew everything he'd done and he was hated and unloved by everyone, unable to get back to the comic book world - not that he wanted to. When he finally did get drawn back, he tried to kill Conner Kent and ended up imprisoned in the Source Wall for his trouble. Flashpoint probably did him a favor.
- Despite being an infamous Cardboard Prison, Arkham Asylum is actually partially built on being a tailor made prison for the psychos of Gotham. For example, the crazed serial killer Zsasz is permanently restrained due to his Ax-Crazy psyche. Poison Ivy is kept in a glass prison with no space for her to control plants to break herself out, and Mr. Freeze is given a modified meat locker for his cold body. Not that any of these ever stop the more unpredictable criminals like The Joker from breaking out at will more easily than the power specific villains.
- Judge Dredd: After the Necropolis disaster and with no way to permanently destroy the non-living Dark Judges, they were held in a specially built, high-security containment unit by Justice Department. The spirits themselves were placed in nigh-indestructible, glasseen crystal tubes buried deep underground, which were secured in turn by multiple quarantine layers, and manned by robotic guards in the innermost layer to deny them living hosts. It's said that a nuke could have directly hit the facility and kept the foursome imprisoned. The only times they have escaped since is due to help on the inside.
Films — Animated
- In All Dogs Go to Heaven, Anne-Marie ends up in what amounts to a gigantic bird cage suspended over an almost bottomless pit at one point.
- Disney's Hercules sees the Titans released from the undersea vault Zeus imprisoned them in.
- The Incredibles has Syndrome put the family into special restraints that involve a large metal ball around each hand and foot and the balls are then suspended by electricity, preventing most movement. This is shown to have two flaws. One, when it's just holding Mr. Incredible, he still has enough leeway for movement to lunge, grab, and super-strength-bear-hug anyone who gets too close. Two, it has no contingency for Violet's force fields, which she can simply put around herself to block the electricity and free herself from the device.
- Kung Fu Panda - Tai Lung's prison Chor Ghom was built specifically to hold him and no other prisoners. Built into a mountain, it consisted of multiple levels with the bottom level holding the evil snow leopard with some sort of acupuncture needles paralyzing him and his front paws held by ropes tied to massive boulders hanging over the chasm. The upper layers included pulley elevators, ballistae, dynamite tied to huge stalactites, and 1000 rhino guards (several hundred of them archers). He got out by using a fallen feather to pick the lock on his restraints - a feather from a duck sent there specifically to make sure that Tai Lung didn't escape. He then uses everything that was used to imprison him to pull off an elaborate escape.
- Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return- When he captures the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, the Jester places them in individualized containment that would be the worst for them to experience. Scarecrow is on a spinning wheel surrounded by magical flames that flare up at whim. The Tin Man is in a clear box filled to the top with water so that he would continue to rust. And the Lion is in a cage the tends to shrink and sqeeze him whenever the Jester feels like it.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Avengers, we are introduced to a SHIELD prison designed to hold, and if needed, kill the Hulk. The audience never gets to see if it lived up to its designs but both Loki and Thor ended up escaping it.
- For what it's worth, Loki actually needed someone to free him. Thor managed to smash his way out, his only real trouble was getting into a good position. Given that Thor could smash his way out, the Hulk probably could too.
- Used by the villain in the film First Knight. As described above, Maligant lowers a bridge, marches Guinevere over to a ledge, then raises the bridge, trapping her within "walls of air."
- In G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Cobra Commander and Destro are being kept floating in suspension tanks, pumped full of a drug that allows their eyes and their breathing to function, but nothing else.
- The planned punishment for Louis in Interview with the Vampire is "Eternity in a box" (which, combined with the vampire fact, adds a healthy dose of And I Must Scream). He's released by the sympathetic vampire Armand in a few hours, but too late to prevent Claudia's death.
- Jason X begins with Jason being held in a facility seemingly built for the sole purpose of containing him. He's chained up in a big room, has guards and guns trained on him at all times, is stuck in multiple straightjackets that appear to be made of burlap, and is kept in a constant state of sedation by a pillow-sized IV bag hooked up to his head and neck.
- In Judge Dredd, Rico was held on an island surrounded by a bottomless pit. On the walls surrounding the pit were guards with guns and Sentry Guns trained on the prisoner. It tries to keep the prisoner in by offering nothing in the way of tools or weapons, and possibly even binding him with chains on top of that. He got out when a Well-Intentioned Extremist judge sent him a gun to take the warden hostage with.
- He was originally supposed to have been executed, but the same judge decided to keep him around, just in case.
- In Labyrinth, upon solving a Knights and Knaves style riddle, Sarah falls into a pit of hands, leading to an Oubliette.
- The Big Bad in The Mummy Trilogy gets shut into one of these after being mummified alive. Rather than being because the imprisoners believed Thou Shalt Not Kill, it was because they felt that death was too good for him.
- In the movie Runaway Train, Alaska's Stonehaven Maximum Security Prison has had only four escapes in its history, three of them by Manny, the protagonist of the movie. The deputy warden gets so fed up with him that he orders the door to Manny's cell be welded shut, at least until a judge decides this represents Cruel and Unusual Punishment and he's put back into the general population. He rather quickly escapes again.
- In Film/Superman, General Zod, his wife and brother are trapped in a sheet of glass that's impervious to everything except a nuclear explosion.
- In The Silence of the Lambs Dr. Lecter's home for most of the movie is his cell in a Baltimore insane asylum. It is a standard cell with one exception: Instead of having a fourth wall of bars it has a thick sheet of plexiglass to prevent him from reaching through the cell at orderlies. The extradiegetic reason for the plexiglass is the filmmakers not wanting to film through bars, as long closeups are a key part of the visual style. In the novel Lecter's cell has regular bars but also has a nylon net to serve the same purpose as the plexiglass.
- Silva gets imprisoned in one inside MI6's temporary headquarters in Skyfall. This does not end well, but only after the power is turned off.
- In Sky High, villains are kept within stark white prisons with power nullifiers trained on them.
- At the end of X-Men, Magneto is locked in a cell made entirely of plastic. He got out in X2: X-Men United, thanks to Mystique giving one of his guards an "iron supplement," actually at least half a pound of the stuff, in liquid form. In real life, this would have given him iron poisoning, but he didn't survive long enough to find that out.
- In X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto attacks a mobile prison convoy that contains several dangerous mutants. Juggernaut is manacled to the wall 24 hours a day so he cannot build up any momentum.
- Subverted in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The concrete cell under the Pentagon was not built specifically for Magneto, but simply constructed that way because steel was being rationed at the time. It still holds him quite well, though.
- In Star Wars Attack of the Clones Obi-Wan is held inside a force field cage that appears to be electrified and nullifies his powers. Unlike the more complicated comic book version it simply shocks him repeatedly, thus preventing him from focusing on anything other than nullifying the pain.
- Downplayed in Animorphs. Visser Three (by then, promoted to Visser One) is tried and imprisoned in a special "Yeerk box," built by the Andalites that lets him hear and speak, and then he's shipped off to a special max-security prison until he dies. The 'downplayed' comes from the fact that he's a sentient slug that can barely move under its own power and is deaf and blind. The reason he's imprisoned now is that he led the Yeerks trying to take over the human race.
- Also, David. He was trapped in rat form (by being kept in a space too small for him to resume human form, thus unable to change back before Mode Lock set in) and kept on a rocky island with not much life on it for being willing and able to destroy the Animorphs and any hope for the world with a few words to the Yeerks and repeatedly trying to kill them. Books later, Crayak and the Drode give him a chance at revenge at Rachel, but when Rachel ignores Crayak's offers for super strength, Crayak and the Drode leave. Rachel catches David and David pleads to be killed, as being put back on the island would be a fate worse than death. It is left unclear at the end whether Rachel killed him or sent him back to the island.
- Meg Murray's father's prison in A Wrinkle in Time.
- Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series has several mentions of prisons made to hold particular types of crafters. Earthcrafters are held in wooden cages off the ground to prevent contact with the earth, windcrafters are held in windowless stone cells to prevent breezes, watercrafters are held in a ring of fire that dehydrates the air around them, and so on. That's adequate for normal people, who only have access to one or two types of elemental, but High Lords and Ladies have access to all six, so a prison for them has to be incredibly complicated, often tailored to the specific individual.
- Also by Butcher, in the short story "Love Hurts", the villain lovingly describes the cage for the protaganist. It is covered in spikes so that he can not fall asleep, inside a half-bowl so he must stand in his own waste, and there is a rack with three needle-nosed spears on it outside so any passing evildoer can participate.
- In Peter Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga novels, very serious but non-capital crimes are punished by a one-way trip to the surface of a prison world, which is much the same as being cast back into the Stone Age, as there is no real civilisation or technology. No visitors, and a military blockade ensures no rescuers will get close enough to even see the world.
- The Gordon R. Dickson short story Danger - Human had the aliens construct an escape-proof cell, consisting of metal physical enclosures, an impenetrable force field, constant armed surveillance, and access only for carefully monitored brief periods to provide food and water, to study a human they'd abducted to try and find out why humans kept conquering the galaxy. Didn't work.
- The first part of Dante's Divine Comedy was thick with this, not so much due to the fact that Hell was escape-proof, but due to the fact that sinners were punished via creative means that fit the crimes they had committed in life. To give one example, thieves had their very forms stolen from them, and continually shifted from one monstrous form to another.
- In The Eyes of Kid Midas by Shusterman Neal, Kevin creates a prison for the school bully full of fish. Fish being one of the few things that Kevin knows that the bully is afraid of.
- Fablehaven has several examples of this. One of the most unique examples is Olloch the Glutton—he isn't trapped anywhere, he's just Taken for Granite...until someone feeds him.
- Spore, in Galaxy of Fear, is harmless in the vacuum of space. It needs air to spread and bare skin to infect; being stored in a sealed room in a deep pit on an airless asteroid, with plenty of warnings outside of the door, is ideal. The Ithorians didn't kill it because of their dedication to pacifism. Unfortunately, in the three hundred years since the outbreak was contained they started letting people mine the asteroids, even that asteroid. Partly this was out of the knowledge that if they said what Spore was, The Empire or others would try to use it, whereas if they just warned people away, it would just make treasure hunters more determined.
- In Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon, Conan the Barbarian is thrown into a prison with a skeleton and taunted with the fact that only the slaves and their master know of it, and he will die there like the last one.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Zarracka has a custom made cell to negate her ice powers. It has successfully held her for ten years and she never escapes from it. Her jailer, Daniar, was so paranoid about her breaking free while she was gone, that she took the Ice Person with her to another country and she escaped from a weaker cell.
- In The Black Prism, the first book of The Light Bringer Trilogy, the brother of the Prism, who both share the ability to create temporary matter from light, called luxin, is trapped by the Prism in a blue crystal prison, which is designed to absorb all blue luxin on contact, rendering his abilities useless. While it is supposed to be the perfect prison, the Prism is extremely paranoid, and makes 6 more identical cells, each for every color of the light spectrum, all of which lead to each other through a series of traps and pitch black tunnels filled with crystals that drain the luxin of those exposed to them.
- In Suldrun's Garden (the first book of the Lyonesse trilogy) by Jack Vance, Aillas is lowered into an Oubliette ("a bell-shaped cell fourteen feet in diameter and seventy feet underground") for impregnating King Casmir's daughter and left to die. Aillas finds a dozen skeletons sitting around the oubliette, with a note scrawled on the wall welcoming him to their "council." Just before he figures a way out, he starts to hear them talking to him. Taking months, he constructs a ladder from the bones of the previous occupants, and escapes.
- In Myth-ing Persons, Aahz is imprisoned on Limbo in a special jail cell designed to hold vampire criminals. It's the mouth of an animated dragon's-head statue, which is mobile and aware enough to swallow a would-be escapee who tries to rip out its teeth/bars with vampiric strength, or inhale them if they turn into mist.
- In The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas, Utopia is Powered by a Forsaken Child locked in a dark basement.
- Tartarus in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
- In The Silmarillion, where Melkor was imprisoned in a completely inescapable prison. If only those morons didn't release him for good behavior. All Sauron's lairs worked this way too. Thorin's father was imprisoned for so long he could no longer remember his own name.
- The Sinister Six Trilogy has Electro, who's first seen in a sealed plastic box suspended in water.
- Doctor Impossible is in one at the beginning of Soon I Will Be Invincible.
- In Shattered Sky, Dillon Cole has the power to see patterns and create order from chaos. No ordinary prison could hold him—locks would spontaneously unlock themselves in his presence, guards would bow to his whim, and he could easily tap into the resonant frequency of a wall to tear it apart. The millionaire genius Elon Tessic manages to design a specialized prison that won't be affected by his powers. Naturally, Dillon, being a protagonist, manages to escape anyway.
- Digitised personalities run in virtual environments in Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series are effectively immortal if their environment is not sophisticated enough to include death or the possibility of suicide. Someone running in a simple, low-power simulator could remain there for a very long time indeed, made worse by the fact that simulations run faster than normal time. Few hundred years of boredom sound like fun?
- In War of the Dreaming, Azrael de Gray's imprisonment in Dreamland takes the form of a cage made of inward-pointing, sharpened hooks, suspended on a mile-long chain off the rim of a Flat World. Food and water are provided by the cage's momentum swinging him periodically through the rim-waterfall. The Fae invented this type of prison specifically for him.
- Isaac Asimov published books that were a collection of short stories. One involved an alien species trying to deal with an alien murderer and considered the constrictive prison to be inhumane. They created a much larger building for that alien to reside in, with food deliveries through a Pneumatic Tube system, and no way out other than a fatal 50 foot drop. The prisoner opened its wings and flew away.
- In Twenty years after, the first sequel to The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan and Porthos have been captured on the orders of Cardinal Mazarin and are imprisoned in Rueil Castle. Mazarin requests thirty extra soldiers to guard exclusively the two "special guests". Unsurprisingly, they manage to escape anyway.
- In the first book of The Coldfire Trilogy, the Hunter is captured and rendered totally helpless by being placed in a simple bonfire. A normal human who can manipulate fae could easily extinguish the flames and escape, but the Deal with the Devil the Hunter made for immortality long ago robbed him of his ability to manipulate anything related to life or light, like fire. All he can do is tap into the weak currents of earth fae to constantly heal himself to avoid being burned to death. Damien wonders what is more painful to the Hunter: being burned alive, or the blow to his pride due to being rendered powerless through such mundane means.
- In Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, the extremely powerful shapeshifter Chimera was kept in one. He's bound in shackles that will slice off his limbs and neck if he grows too big, and if he tries to shrink they'll electrocute him.
- When the protagonists of Alphas are brought to Binghamton, they're put in custom-made cells too sturdy for Bill's Super Strength and soundproofed and signal-proof to block the abilities of Rachel and Gary.
- In an episode of Angel the gang is plagued by a sadistic ghost named Pavayne who feeds other dead souls to hell in exchange for not going there himself. He tries to do this to Spike (a ghost at the time) but they stop him by corporealising him. Since they cant kill him, since that would put them back to square one, Angel has him locked in a box in the basement of Wolfram & Hart. A coffin like box with a small window in which he can live "forever".
- Connor does this to Angel and drops him in the harbor for a couple of months, too.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angelus is in one, which he gets out of via perfect happiness brought on by screwing Buffy (she must be VERY good in the sack). The Ubervamps are in one (the Hellmouth) as well.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Pandorica Opens", one of these is constructed for the Doctor by a huge number of his enemies working together, to stop him from destroying the universe. The Doctor, through timeline wonkiness, literally let himself out (as in, an Eleventh Doctor on the outside released the one on the inside, albeit by proxy).
- The Eleventh Doctor gets stuck in another one during the opening of "Day of the Moon". It's assembled around him (while he's chained and straitjacketed) from bricks of dwarf-star matter and is completely impregnable. This time, however, it's part of his plan to get himself and his friends away from their enemies' eyes and ears - he was sitting next to the cloaked TARDIS the whole time.
- Earlier examples from the new series are also apparent. In "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit", The Tenth Doctor encounters one of these.. The Time Lock which was put into place during the Time War can be seen as one as well, as it effectively sealed the rest of the universe from the War.
- Building 26 in the eponymous Heroes episode has one of these for Tracy Strauss: she's chained to a chair in an extremely hot room. Which turns out to be a really bad idea, as trying to "make ice in an oven" has supercharged her powers in a weird form of Charles Atlas Superpower. Level 5 is where the Company kept all the most dangerous super powered criminals, usually keeping them drugged. Flint's cell was fireproof, Echo was gagged, and Knox was kept in a straitjacket.
- The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Sentence" featured a mental version of these. People would serve out their sentences within a day of real time, but would in their minds experience their entire captivity in a prison like this.
- The Slammer: Erica the Critic is kept with a special cell in solitary confinement that is chained shut from the outside.
- Supernatural, being a show that runs on Sealed Evil in a Can, has a few of these. In all cases escape requires extensive outside intervention.
- Lilith et.al. merely get out of the general Hell at the end of season two, and Dean goes there and is not considered a particular escape risk at the end of three, but season four revolves around keeping The Devil in his, referred to as The Cage and locked with six hundred seals. And season five winds up being about putting him back in it—this time with his brother Michael, Sam, and Sam's half brother Adam. Sam gets out half a season later, but only with the help of Death.
- From season 6 onwards there's Purgatory, which in this setting is the holding tank for non-human souls, apparently including vampires, however that works. It later turns out to have originally been built to contain the Leviathan, a race of horrible unkillable shape-shifting black slime things God didn't know how to unmake and was worried would "consume the rest of creation."
- The criminal alien Jeanio from Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger (and his Power Rangers S.P.D. counterpart) gets this as his punishment; as he has the ability to escape into the reflection of any mirrored surface, he was eventually captured on a planet devoid of any starlight and kept in a pitch-black cell with all mirrors removed surrounded by guards wearing matte sunglasses. Black duct tape is used to cover anything metal (such as an SPD badge) on your clothing. He escaped by forcing one of the Rangers (whose family was killed by him) to cry and escaping in his tear's reflection.
- The Labyrinth was build by Daedalus to be a prison for the Minotaur.
- In Norse Mythology, the god Loki can shape-shift his way out of any kind of fetters, talk his way out of any kind of incrimination, and seemingly almost by reflex think up plots to bring down the invincible. So the gods turn his sons into wolves ripping each other's guts out and tie him up with said guts, entomb him in an isolated cave beneath the world, and place a snake over his head that constantly drips venom into his eyes to keep him distracted. He is sprung by his children on the eve of Ragnarok. His monstrous children that is - not his humanoid children, whose intestines bind him.
- Fenris Wolf, Loki's monster son, was imprisoned with a specially crafted, unbreakable, ribbon-like chain, made from women's beards, cat's footfalls, and other things you don't see around anymore.
- The Champions setting includes Stronghold, a prison specifically designed to hold supervillains. And unless your GM changes things around, it does a pretty good job of holding them.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Tharizdun, The Chained God, obviously. Ironically, Torog, the patron of slavers, torturers and prison guards as well.
- The Ravenloft campaign setting. Yes, the setting is composed of prisons tailored to hold and torment a very special guest.
- A large chunk of the Meta Plot of the setting (back when it had one) was woven around the Lich Azalin's elaborate plans to get out of his particular custom prison regardless of the fallout. He almost succeeded once, with another notable failure. In an unusual take on this trope, so far the prison is still holding.
- Several editions of D&D (not to mention 3.5's spiritual successor Pathfinder) have had the imprisonment spell, which puts the target in stasis and traps them underground until such time as the proper counterspell is cast.
- The 3.5 Edition supplement Fiendish Codex 1: Hordes of the Abyss has Layer 73: the Wells of Darkness, which is an entire demiplane containing nothing but these. Doubles as a combination of a 24-pack of sealed evils and, since most prisoners can't communicate from within their cells, And I Must Scream.
- The Pathfinder adventure path Legacy of Fire introduces a construct called the tophet that's essentially an ambulatory Tailor-Made Prison. They're often commanded to convey prisoners out into the desert at noon...or underwater. (And that's just the ones that don't have nasty enchantments built right in.)
- Exalted: While not for a single individual, the prison-realm of the Yozis fits this trope perfectly. It was made from the mutilated body of Malfeas, the King of Primordials, and reinforced with the "surrender oaths," a ritual combination of physical and spiritual torture intended to permanently bind the creators of the world to the body of their King, such that they could never escape.
- As appropriate to this trope, the Yozis have struggled for Ages to free themselves from their prison. Their most recent attempt was the creation of the Infernal Exalted, though it remains to be seen whether this plan will work any better than their previous ones.
- Legend of the Five Rings has the Tomb of Iuchiban, built when the Bloodspeaker was captured and turned out to be unkillable. The tomb encircles him with multiple levels of mundane and magical wards, and surrounds those with a Death Course of traps - not to keep him in, but to kill any of his followers trying to free him.
- Mage: The Awakening has a spell called "Oubliette", which forces someone into a nightmarish pocket dimension, where all sense of space and time breaks down, they see and feel future images of themselves at different points of their imprisonment, and are physically and mentally tortured. Using this spell will ding your Karma Meter unless you're at such a low Wisdom that trapping someone in a prison of inescapable eternal torment doesn't bother you.
- In Planescape, if the Lady of Pain decides, for whatever reason, that simply passing over you and letting her shadow reduce you to shredded meat isn't the right punishment, she seals you away in a personalised planar labyrinth, a "Maze" as the locals call it. There's always a portal out, though the trick is finding it before you go utterly mad or die of old age.
- And of course there's the persistent rumour that Sigil itself is a tailor made prison. For the Lady of Pain. Yup, the absolute supernatural ruler of the City of Doors is unable to leave.
- Scion has a Justice Boon called "Personal Prison" where the subject is tossed into an inescapable prison for years to face the true horror of their crimes... and then the effect ends, and they realize that their experience lasted a few minutes in real time.
- Warhammer40000: The C'Tan, being ancient evil gods that have only recently woken up, tended to get hit with this trope. Strictly past tense at this point.
- The Nightbringer was trapped in a two-part dimensional prison with his star-eating ship of the same name. Uriel Ventris prevented the ship from being freed, but not the entity itself.
- The Martian Dragon is believed to remain trapped in a prison the God-Emperor himself fashioned for it. Which means it was on Terra at some point.
- The Outsider was supposedly trapped in an extra-galactic prison by it's kin, who feared it. But the Tyranids are giving that part of space a very wide berth, so...
- However this has been downplayed after the 5th edition retcon, as Necrons revolted and enslaved the C'tan, they now use tesseract labyrinth which is basically a pokeball made by Doctor Who.
- BIONICLE gives us Avak. Belonging to a species that was subjected to an experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, he received the power to conjure cages made out of absolutely anything at will. These only exist as long as he keeps focusing, though.
- Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer!, of Girl Genius is introduced imprisoned in one of these in Castle Wulfenbach. He tries to get Agatha to release him from it, thinking her to be the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter (she didn't do it, not wanting to be the easily duped minion that sets the insanely dangerous experiment free). "Professor Phil Foglio" is later found and inadvertently freed by a group seeking to rescue Agatha in Sturmhalten. He's singing, "Oubliette, oubladaa, life goes on, yeah!". It was a pit filled with the bones of all those who pissed off the local Prince. The rescue party also ended up in another one but a comrade they'd been separated from earlier showed up through a secret door and let them out.
- Lok's prison in Juathuur. He still gets visits, sort of.
- In Roza, old Gil.
- In The Dementia Of Magic, Marzos was imprisoned by other mages, but escaped.
- The SCP Foundation makes these, both for anomalies which are dangerous to humanity and for harmless anomalies which would break the Masquerade if they got loose. The prisons can range from as extreme as keeping a regenerating Omnicidal Maniac immersed in a vat of concentrated hydrochloric acid to as minor as fencing off areas where weird stuff happen.
- In fact, the Foundation is (indirectly) named after this. The Foundation calls a paranormal entity/object/etc an SCP, which comes from "Special Containment Procedures"; the list of things which must be done to keep a paranormal thing locked up, or at least reduce the danger it causes and keep the public ignorant of it, and the rules which must be followed by any researcher who wants to study it.
- "Safe" objects are anything that can be contained with relatively mundane and simple methods like a locker (by that definition a grenade would be "Safe"). "Keter" objects either require extreme measures to contain them or are actually impossible to fully contain. The aforementioned Omnicidal Maniac is one of these. It repeatedly escapes its prison and kills many people before being recaptured. "Euclid" objects are in between the two — objects that are originally "Safe" can easily become "Euclid" once they display more anomalous properties and can eventually become "Keter" if those properties make containment unfeasible.
- The distinction here has become muddied as of late. The official definitions of the classifications now say that "Safe" are well understood, and will always do the same thing under the same stimulus (i.e., a gun will fire a bullet if there is one loaded and the trigger is pulled), while Euclid are something of an Ironic Nickname (every once in a while, the bullet fired will heal someone instead of injuring them). Keter are dangerous and unpredicatible (a sentient gun that can fly and hunts people down in alphabetical order, except on Tuesdays where it goes by birth date). The containment of Euclid and Keter is often a Tailor Made Prison, but occasionally doesn't need to be; sometimes locking it up and leaving it alone is enough. Meanwhile, some Safe objects might need a special method of locking them up, as long as it's one that always works.
- Tech Infantry has the Federation (and later Imperial) Prison in the R45 system, a Death World with orbiting warships and magical fields to prevent escape or rescue, where the most dangerous supernatural criminals are sent. The more mundane version of the trope is seen when Andrea Treschi kidnaps Xavier Pollos and holds him prisoner in a deep pit to force him to carry out an assassination on Treschi's behalf.
- The web novel Worm features The Birdcage, a prison designed to hold supervillians on life sentences. It is designed to counter a huge variety of superpowers through both active and passive measures, most of which are spectacularly lethal to those who attempt to escape. An escape is eventually effected with the aid of an individual on the outside who has the ability to create dimensional portals, but even that required cooperation from the prison's controllers.
- The Fire Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender used special "cooling cells" to imprison rowdy firebenders. The cells were so cold they couldn't muster up the heat to firebend. Zuko used his fire breathing to keep warm and remove the fastening bolts from the inside.
- Waterbenders were likewise kept suspended in metal cages far from the ground and water, as well as having hot dry air pumped in. When they were given water, their arms and legs were fastened. Hama got out by learning to manipulate the blood in living beings.
- Earthbenders also received the Fire Nation Touch; their prison was an offshore metal prison. They eventually broke free by using the coal from the boiler room to earthbend. Later, Toph gets trapped in a steel cage, with her captors convinced that she can't escape because she can't bend metal. Subverted there, however, since Toph proceeds to become the world's first metal bender, turning any future cells into Cardboard Prisons. That is, until some Genre Savvy guards locked her up in a prison... made of wood. Thankfully, Katara was with her and she was able to sweatbend the wooden bars off their cell.
- Even Air Benders can't escape the Fire Nation's obsession with tailor made prisons. When Aang was captured by General Zhao, he was bound hand and foot in taut chains to avoid him airbending. Though he could still blow with his mouth, he was trapped so completely Zhao threatened they would keep him imprisoned until he died to avoid the hassle of searching for the next Avatar. Good thing the Blue Spirit came along!
- In third season of the sequel series The Legend of Korra Zaheer and his gang of benders were kept in these by the White Lotus. Earthbender Ghazan was caged on a wooden platform in the middle of the ocean, waterbender Ming Hua was suspended over a volcano, and firebender P'li was kept deep underground in a glacier. Zaheer himself was a non-bender and was simply taken to a secluded location high on a mountain. Unfortunately for the White Lotus, he develops the ability to Air Bend following Harmonic Convergence. This gives him the edge he needs to escape, whereupon he sets out to free his teammates.
- In Book Four, the recaptured Zaheer gets a new and improved one. This time, it's in a large cavern inside a mountain. He is manacled hand and foot and chained to the ground, limiting his movements to a well-defined circle in the center, and the only way in or out is through a double set of massive, bulkhead-like sliding doors that require several metalbenders to lift or lower.
- Probably the most dangerous villain in Batman Beyond is Inque. She came closer to killing Terry than any other villain - even Blight - likely did, and he was never able to defeat her alone. She is vulnerable to severe cold, however, so when he apprehended her that way, they figured the best way to hold her was to simply keep her frozen. And it might have held her for good if the guy in charge of watching her hadn't developed a weird crush on her.
- Used against the heroes by the villain in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command - Green-Skinned Space Babe with phasing powers Mira Nova was put in a cell that played loud noises to keep her from concentrating, The Big Guy Booster was stuffed into a cell with bouncy sides so he couldn't break out, and Robot Buddy XR was manacled with all of his limbs extended to their limits. Backfired hilariously, when Mira dismissed the sound as "a little annoying", Booster considered the bouncy cell to be the funnest thing ever, and XR saying Zurg was doing a better job than his chiropractor.
- Parodied in Freakazoid! when Freak ends up not only revealing his weakness to Gutierrez, but also helps build the cage to trap him. Freakazoid kicks himself for it while Gutierrez lampshades it all.
- The Inhumanoids from Inhumanoids were sealed up in their own personal prison at the beginning of the series: Tendril, chained up in an underground cell; D'Compose, petrified in a massive hunk of amber; and Metlar, trapped in another creature's magnetic field.
- Doomsday from Justice League Unlimited was imprisoned in one by Project Cadmus after Justice Lord Superman lobotomised him, as he was literally impossible to kill. He escapes from it with the help of a wronged minor villain, goes right back to getting his revenge on Superman, is encased in magma from a volcanic eruption, and banished to the Phantom Zone.
- Referenced in the Kim Possible episode "Stop Team Go", when Hego reacts to the appearance of an old enemy:
- There were a couple episodes in the Post Script Season where other villains broke Shego out of prison (while leaving Drakken behind to rot). Presumably her cell was made tough enough that she couldn't use her powers to break out on her own.
- In the TV series Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness episode 'Owl Be Back', there are two; an owl-shaped cage for Fenghuang, and a panda shaped one for Po when it's feared he's turning evil. It also lampshades the above example by stating Po "obliterating" Tai Lung put the guards out of work, and one in particular really holds a grudge toward Po about it.
- In ReBoot the heroes create a Firewall to seal off Megabyte's entire infected sector of Mainframe. It works against Megabyte, keeping him imprisoned at least until Enzo's Time Skip. Hexadecimal, on the other hand, easily overloads the Firewall and leaves Mainframe at Megabyte's mercy.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Professor Pericles is kept in a special isolated cell (visually based on Magneto's cell from the X-Men movies) in the maximum security animal asylum.
- The treasure of Crystal Cove is actually a Tailor-Made Prison for the Nibiru Entity. The device that trapped it was also its only connection to our world.
- Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
- Dr. Robotnik builds one of these for Sonic in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Sonic Breakout". Sonic lets himself get captured in order to break a comic artist out of Robotnik's prison when said artist drew a comic making fun of him, but his plan backfires when Robotnik's specialized prison wing is meticulously designed to counter every one of his abilities and activate upon seeing his blue fur. He still escapes in the end by duping the system's color-trigger with a poster of himself taped to Grounder's back, which causes the security system to attack Grounder and Scratch, leaving him to get away.
- In Sonic X, when Sonic is arrested for a crime, he's put in a cell that's underwater because they know he can't swim. Only Chris and his butler Mr. Tanaka get him out, Dressed like they're the stars of The Green Hornet.
- On The Spectacular Spider-Man, Norman Osborn's company is hired to make these for all the new supervillains (which is ironic, since he was also involved in their creation). Sandman's was designed to use air pressure to keep him from escaping, while Rhino's released tranquilizer gas if he tried. Their escape was due to Electro blowing the power to the whole prison.
- In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, it's revealed that Captain America and the Red Skull have been stuck in what is one of these, "outside of time", since the ending days of WWII. When they get released, Skull gets back to his old schenanigans, and is such a hassle that Cap makes a Heroic Sacrifice by dragging him back into the machine that sent them into the pocket dimension all over again.
- Dr Octopus was kept in a prison cell that were made to hold his tentacles.
- Livewire in Superman: The Animated Series got an electrically insulated cell. She escaped when a ditzy janitor let her borrow his tape player.
- Superman in the DCAU has several point been held up in cells that had red sun light sent in to cancel out his powers. When Hawkgirl betrayed the team in the Justice League, each of the team was put in a personalized cell to counter their powers.
- In an episode of X-Men: Evolution, Professor X is called away to deal with a situation at the Tailor-Made Prison holding his brother (usually best known as the Juggernaut), whose security has been tampered with. Since the prisoner's supervillain name often gets prefixed with "the unstoppable" for very good reason, he's kept asleep in a liquid-filled tank without his helmet and still chained up just in case. Tension mounts when the safeguards need to be shut down and restarted properly, which allows him to start waking up...though in something of a subversion, while he does snap his chains without even trying hard, he's rendered unconscious again at just about the last moment before he can really start to move. (It turns out that the whole threat of Juggernaut getting loose was merely a distraction to get the Professor out of the way, allowing a shapeshifted Mystique to infiltrate the school and acquire Cerebro's files on the X-Men without getting caught.)
- In Ben 10: Omniverse, the Plumbers planned on placing Vilgax in one of these. To prevent Vilgax from manipulating anyone into helping him to escape the Plumbers were going to send him to an entirely automated prison complex with him as the sole inmate.
- The Electric Eel on Underdog was captured in a large glass jar, which neutralized his "electric shocking power."
- Back in the 19th century the worst prisoners spared from death penalty were boxed in into tiny alcoves that were then bricked shut save for a window through which they were fed. In practice this was a far more cruel punishment than death, as it meant slowly wasting away from infections - apparently the builders thought that Nobody Poops. Or they didn't.
- Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed of Sixteeth Century Hungary (aka "The Blood Countess") was a brutal serial killer who tortured and killed hundreds of young girls over several years. Scholars say there may have been as many as 650 victims, but evidence was only found for 80 of them. When caught, her accomplices were executed or sentenced to life in prison, but she was never tried for any crimes due to her noble status. Instead, she was placed under house arrest for the rest of her life, where she was immured in her bedroom with only a small opening to provide her with food. She died after living this way for four years.
- Stammheim Prison was the first supermax prison in Germany, purposely built to keep captured members of the Red Army Faction. As with many improvements in public security of the period, it was a huge failure; the captives were quite able to communicate with each other and even had firearms smuggled inside their cells.
- The guns in question were allegedly used to commit suicide. However, persistent and not entirely baseless theories have circulated that, actually, the Baader-Meinhof gangers were executed by the German government. (Andreas Baader, for instance, fired his gun at least 3 times and supposedly shot himself in the back of the neck so the bullet exited his forehead.) So, how much of a failure the prison was is debatable.
- Robert Maudsley, a British serial killer, was sent to prison in 1973. Whilst there he tortured and killed several people, apparently cannibalising one, until in 1983 it was decided he was too dangerous for a normal cell. He now is kept for 23 hours a day in a glass cell where the bed is a concrete slab, the toilet and sink are bolted to the floor, and the only other thing he has is a chair and desk made from compressed cardboard. He is escorted for one hour a day to an empty yard to exercise under the supervision of six guards. The cell was made eight years before Silence of the Lambs used it for our other famous cannibal.
- In Colombia, Pablo Escobar had one made pretty much to his own specifications.