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M: What happened?
Eve: They're on the train, ma'am.
M: What do you mean?
Eve: I mean they're on top of a train!
Well get after them, for God's sake!
"There's absolutely no reason to get on top of a moving train."
A staple of Westerns, but still seen in plenty of action films and series, the Traintop Battle is Exactly What It Says on the Tin
. Often the result of an aborted Train Escape
A train has plenty of advantages for an action scene: it's fairly enclosed, without people able to go too far either way for fear of falling off, it has plenty of opportunity for tunnels and overhead lines for your Look Behind You
moments, it doesn't need much explanation, the high speed acts as wind to let characters billow dramatically
. In short, it turns an Action Movie into a Fighting Game
. There's really no other way to justify Boss Arena Idiocy
, and it's pretty much ensured that somebody's going to suffer that most dramatic of defeats; a short drop followed by a sudden stop.
If hero and villain are trying to get to a location in time, it means the hero can be thrown off, and "lose" without dying. Or a villain may be forced out of the action, only to return later.
It's also close enough to "normal
" people to show the look on their faces as the ceiling collapses, or when someone breaks in through the windows
A similar effect can be achieved by riding on a truck. Subway trains rarely have the room on top for a good battle, but are still seen occasionally.
The Standard Snippet
for a Traintop Battle is Suppe's "Poet and Peasant Overture".
May feature the Cool Train
, but doesn't have to. May be the result of a Train Job
and could in theory be apt for a Thriller on the Express
but in practise they prefer to keep to the tense atmosphere.
A subtrope of Interesting Situation Duel
. If the battle happens atop a moving gondola rather than a train, then it's a Cable-Car Action Sequence
. In videogames this often happens during a Locomotive Level
Note that if the track is electrified with overhead wires, climbing on the train roof usually results in immediate electrocution. The voltage used on electrification systems is high enough to cause an electric arc from the wire to the hapless victim, and it does happen in Real Life
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Anime & Manga
Films — Animation
- There is a Traintop Battle in Arthur and the War of the Two Worlds... atop a toy train. But since the belligerants, Arthur and Darkos, are 3 mm high, it works just the same.
- The second Wallace & Gromit film The Wrong Trousers has a humorous example in that a large portion of the climax happens this way, with Feathers McGraw trying to get away in the locomotive while Wallace and Gromit are in hot pursuit... on a model train. The hilarious part is that unlike the previous example Wallace is an ordinarily-sized human and can only fit on the train by balancing on one foot (the Techno-Trousers helped a little there) while being a small penguin Feathers is able to fit rather comfortably in the locomotive's tender.
Films — Live-Action
- In the film version of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the Final Battle between Lincoln and the movie's Big Bad, Adam, occurs atop a train carrying silver ammunition to the soldiers at Gettysburg. At least, that's what Lincoln wants Adam to think...
- The Charles Bronson movie Breakheart Pass has a couple, set in an 1800's Wild West setting. Supposedly, he did his own stunts.
- In Casablanca Express, most of the violence occurs inside the train, but there is one train-top fistfight.
- In The Cassandra Crossing, this has been expected and rendered impossible by placing guards with submachine guns on the car roofs, not far below a 15,000V overhead catenary.
- Emperor of the North climaxes with one very brutal train-fight between a determined hobo and a sadistic conductor.
- One of the earliest examples in Buster Keaton's The General.
- In The Marx Brothers film, Go West (of which Buster Keaton also made a version).
- Happens in The Good, the Bad, the Weird, as a result of two Train Jobs happening simultaneously.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has Indy getting chased along a line of circus train cars. One word: Rhinoceros.
- James Bond gets to do this a fair bit; the scenes been used in...
- The climax of The Dresden Files: Death Masks took place on top of a train, and the fights were pretty damn badass for a book.
- To elaborate, Dresden, a mob boss (equipped with commando gear and an assault rifle), and two Knights of the Cross (one of whom is carrying an AK in addition to his holy sword) chase and then land on the train in the mob boss's helicopter, which happens to be, on Dresden's request, playing "Ride of the Valkyries." All of that to stop a group of demons from unleashing an apocalyptic plague. Just as awesome as it sounds.
- The Sherlock Holmes tribute novel The Seven-Percent Solution features a train-top Sword Fight between Holmes and the villain.
- The Warhammer 40,000: Eisenhorn trilogy features a traintop sword-fight between Eisenhorn and the mercenary captain Clansire Etrik. However, the train is not moving at the time, which is probably a good thing since it is noted as being able to make a trans-continental crossing in a day.
- It is, however, coated with ice and in the middle of a blizzard, so that may even things out.
- In The Other Side of Dawn, Ellie jumps onto a goods train from a bridge and ends up fighting an enemy soldier atop the train and inside one of the carriages.
- Alistair MacLean's Breakheart Pass is set around an American train in indian country in the late 1800's. It has a couple. For that matter, the same author has a top-of-the-gondola fight in Where Eagles Dare.
- The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon has the protagonist forced to fight his way from one end to the other of a train in Nazi Germany that has been rebuilt as a rolling death trap while the Egomaniac Hunter stalks him from behind.
- Fitting of its Western influence, The Alloy of Law includes a gunfight atop a moving train, which continues despite the protagonist being thrown off the top (he uses magic to save himself).
- Parodied in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Raising Steam. A fantasy world where a bright inventor discovers what steampower can be harnessed to. Of course there has to be a traintop battle. The narrative dictates it.
- Happens in Kenneth Oppel's novel The Boundless.
- The videogame adaptation of Quantum of Solace includes a flashback level set during the unremarkable train ride to the eponymous Casino Royale. It now includes a traintop gunfight.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, against the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere Smorgs. To simply reach the boss fight itself, you also have to hammer your way through a veritable horde of them on top of the Excess Express first.
- The Mole Train boss fight in Donkey Kong Country Returns.
- Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal had a fight atop a hover train with jumps from car to car. The first game featured a short train top battle, as well.
- In Samurai Legend Musashi, there's an entire part of a level in which you stand on a train and fend off robots, including some that are in another train behind you!
- Just after the first chapter in Dark Cloud 2, you have to throw bombs at a car with two mooks in it firing a machine gun at the train. Fail and the game ends from the train derailing.
- Sonic the Hedgehog seems to like this trope. In Sonic Heroes there is an entire act with a railway system. Mostly you just "grind" down the rails, but a tunnel area has you doing exactly this trope, fighting off minor enemies on the train that try to push you off.
- Sonic Triple Trouble's Sunset Park Act 3 takes place on a train, with the boss apparently being the engine.
- Sonic Shuffle has the Riot Train board.
- The video game Ur Example is probably the first stage of Hudson Soft's Stop The Express. The second stage goes inside the train.
- Mega Man Zero had a stage where the second portion was on and in a train and the boss was inside the engine.
- Zero 2 had an entire stage that was a train, with the boss pulling up on another train at the end and the battle involving both of you jumping between the trains.
- Zero 4's intro stage took place on fast-moving trucks.
- Mega Man X 5 had Grizzly Slash/Crescent Grizzly's stage, which was technically centered around trucks, but it's the same idea.
- Slash Beast in X4. His entire stage was composed of several trains, barring a small section between the areas, when the first one crashes.
- Of course, Charge Man in Mega Man 5 beat them all to the punch, and even resembles a steam locomotive himself for added fun.
- This is reaching Once an Episode status for the series. The first real boss battle of Mega Man ZX Advent starts out on top of a train car, then falls inside it as the boss slowly demolishes the roof.
- In Mega Man Legends, Mega has to fight two out of three of the Goldfish Poop Gangs on top of one train while shooting across at another train outfitted with bombs, turret guns, lasers, and missiles.
- Yet another game with a train-battle level: Bubsy. Though that one's probably forgettable.
- The Ord Mantell Junkyard hovertrain in the video game of Shadows of the Empire.
- Final Fantasy VII had a series of battles on top of a train.
- Crisis Core: The opening cutscene involves Zack jumping from a helicopter onto the roof of a speeding train and fighting off attackers.
- Final Fantasy VIII doesn't have an actual battle, but it has a (kinda) traintop stealth mission.
- The battle against Janus and crew in the Prologue of Wild ARMs 3.
- Terry Bogard's stage in Fatal Fury 2, Special, Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Capcom Vs SNK 1 is on top of a train.
- The final battle against Karai in the SNES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters takes place on top of a commuter train.
- The Last Express, which is set entirely on board a train, could hardly escape a scene like this.
- Sunset Riders, essentially a side-scrolling Wild West shoot-em-up, has the requisite moving train level. Depending on the version, it can either take place on top of the train where you shoot both at enemies coming in from the sides as well as the ones poking up from the windows below and where not jumping over the quickly-approaching girders in time means instant smashy death or riding alongside of one, where you need to jump over logs dropped from a wagon so your horse doesn't trip over them and cause you to die in a similliar way.
- Skies of Arcadia has a train battle level, both inside and out. Eventually, Vyse and co. are tracked down by Implacable Man Galcian, and have to head toward the front of the train while he chases after them...very...slowly.
- Vandal Hearts also has a train battle level. The villains start releasing the back cars (very slowly) after a while, so any of your characters that are lagging behind may find themselves ejected from the battle prematurely.
- Contra: Shattered Soldier has a level that involves chasing a train down on motorcycles, attacking the weaponized caboose, and heading to the engine. At which point a mecha attacks the train, leaving the player to wonder why our One-Hit-Point Wonder heroes had to bother.
- Before that was Contra: Hard Corps. The boss was a Humongous Mecha that pushes the train to a halt and climbs onto it, which was the inspiration for the boss in Shattered Soldier
- Hard Corps: Uprising likewise has one taking place on an underground railway, with another set of tracks running along the ceiling as well and cars being destroyed left and right either by having either track end prematurely, taking too much damage from enemy fire, or being used as projectiles by yet another Humongous Mecha running along the tracks. And that's before you get to the actual boss, which takes place in a vertical tunnel with both trains now moving straight up and subject to be destroyed entirely by the boss's huge laser. Thankfully there's a neverending supply of train cars, which proceed to roll in from offscreen and attach themself to any of the remaining ones whenever one is destroyed.
- The entire final act of Gears of War takes place on a train, with the members of Delta Squad fighting their way to the front car to activate a superweapon.
- The second mission in Soldier of Fortune, complete with Bilingual Bonus (the train is in Africa; the guards speak Swahili).
- In Marvel Super Heroes, Psylocke's stage is on top of a moving train through what looks like Hong Kong (or a Chinatown somewhere else, maybe even Madripoor, the game doesn't state where).
- In a similar example, in Ranma ˝ Hard Battle for the Super NES, Shampoo's stage is on top of a moving train.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe apparently has trainlike vehicles that allow for this, just going really fast.
- One mission of Jedi Academy centers around this.
- A sequence in Shadows of the Empire uses the trope.
- In Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, there are two levels in Parsley Woods taking place in/on a train. Falling onto the rails while the train is in motion is instant death.
- There are also levels like this in The Shake Dimension, Wreck Train and Derailed Express. You've got both fighting across the top of the train and making your way through the carriages though.
- The 1800s level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time was set on a moving train of flatbeds. Other than Foot Soldiers riding up on horses and boarding, it could have been a ground level and not changed the essence of the gameplay.
- In an inversion of The Problem with Licensed Games, The Tiny Toons game for the NES (The one with the Amusement park setting)) has Hampton Pig on top of a Train Ride, having to fight several enemies, avoid getting stranded on disengaged cars, and fight Arnold the Pit Bull.
- The SNES game also has a battle taking place on a train, except it's Buster Bunny doing the fighting in this case. It even uses the above-mentioned Standard Snippet as background music in one part.
- Banjo-Tooie has a fight in the train's boiler. Old King Coal (a Grubby Boiler Monarch who's not the jolly old soul Kazooie thought he was) won't let you use his train until after you beat him into submission.
- TimeSplitters: Future Perfect in the Bond parody level. The second part is on a train. After you apply the emergency brakes, the camera PoV cuts between the train and your partner's girlfriend, making it look like she's about to be run over. As the train grinds to a halt, the camera pans out... showing several dozen feet of track between her and the train.
- In Ninja Gaiden II for the NES, Ryu is in a hurry to get to the Lahja mountains. His solution: climb onto the top of a train and fend off the enemies that attack him as he makes his way to the locomotive.
- At least two of the Metal Slug games have fights on moving trains, including trains as bosses or subbosses.
- Armored Core for Answer features a fusion of this and the Battleship Raid trope with the Arms Fort Great Wall, GA America's ultimate AF. Your objective is to get inside it and blow it sky-high. I don't think anyone's been dumb enough to attack it's outside other than to get into the damn thing.
- The second stage of Time Crisis 2 has this where you fight along not one but two speeding trains (the first the the passenger compartment and the second alongside an adjacent train). After fighting off the mooks you deal with the boss who takes you on with a gun turret, swings a missile around at you (no, really) and lastly tries to take you down with a gatling gun while holding onto a helicopter before you blow him up. Likewise in TC3, the end of the second area has you fighting atop a speeding train. The difference here is at the end of the stage, the bridge is blow out from underneath, resulting in the heroes being forced to climb their way up from the still attached dangling compartments.
- The N64 Spider-Man game features a level where Spidey has to hold off hordes of lizard men while atop a subway car.
- Tomb Raider IV has one of these. With ninjas.
- An obscure action-adventure game for the first Playstation, Covert Ops: Nuclear Dawn (known also as Chase the Express), has one of these due to taking place onboard a high-speed train. You have to shoot a boss, jump over to his train, pull some switches and jump back to your train.
- One of the stages in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift has the fighters standing atop a speeding monorail.
- The Sega shooter Confidential Mission 2nd stage is set on a train which not surprisingly forces the heroes on top of the train in few occasions
- Luis of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony jumps aboard an El Train in order to steal one of the cars. He has to shoot his way past half of the LCPD to reach the front.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has two entire chapters take place in a moving train. Nathan Drake works his way to the front one car at a time, alternating between gunfights and crawling along the sides of the cars while dodging passing signal lights — and then a helicopter gunship shows up and starts blowing cars off the train behind him. Nathan lampshades and complains about how the mooks continue to attack him and don't seem to notice the helicopter about to kill them all.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks features a train-top battle as part of the final boss fight.
- Which more or less is how the Super Smash Bros. 3DS game's Spirit Tracks stage is. While it is one of the constantly moving and changing stages featured in Smash Bros., the fighters do battle on the Train from the game the stage is based on and it's constantly changing train cars that it pulls throughout the fight, so it's stage based off it in Smash Bros. 3DS is this trope as well
- Shadow Hearts opens up with one of these.
- The SNES adaptation of Batman Returns has one.
- inFAMOUS has a mission where Cole has to rescue a bunch of hostages on a train. Unusually, Cole himself provides the train's motion, powering it with his electrokinesis to move it somewhere safe while zapping enemies from the top.
- This happens in The Saboteur, in which Sean has to rescue a defecting scientist from a Nazi train before the train reaches the bridge that Sean has rigged to blow. There are also hijackable turrets every couple of cars that can be fired at any Nazi installations the train happens to pass.
- The final mission of Total Overdose is along the top of an old steam locomotive.
- Old Dynamix game Heart Of China has a battle atop the Orient Express. He's armed with a sword. You're armed with a piece of metal you ripped off the train. Don't forget to duck when the tunnels show up (the only way you know to duck is that he ducks first; he's facing the direction the train is moving).
- The third map of Blood took place on a Cabal-owned train, which ends up crashing into a carnival when Caleb blows up the engine.
- Both Unreal Tournament and Unreal Tournament 2004 have Assault maps with this sort of premise, though the 2004 map isn't so much "trains" as "gigantic trucks". Falling off is possible, and leads to instant death.
- Every other level of Data East's Express Raider is a traintop Beat 'em Up.
- The fourth stage of Super Double Dragon is a truck-top battle, which may be a Shout-Out to the second level of Bad Dudes.
- Two back-to-back levels of Syphon Filter 2 have you racing to the front of a train to stop it before it reaches a blown-out bridge. You fail to stop it, but jump onto a chopper stolen by Lian just before it falls through.
- One of the bosses in Stage 6 of Sin and Punishment: Star Successor takes place on top of a train. To damage the boss you have to knock the trains back and make sure they hit it. Also, try not to stay in the air for too long or you'll be blown off.
- In Spinmaster, the second half of Stage 1 takes place atop a jet plane taking off.
- The end of the second chapter of Shining Force III ends with a large battle on top of a moving train that is heading towards a broken bridge. Oddly no matter how long you take, or even if you quit the battle and go do some shopping from one of the passengers underneath, the train won't reach the bridge until you finish the fight; and then it's just in time.
- In McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure for the Sega Genesis, you fight the Ringmaster Wolf, who earlier captured your friend, Birdie the Early Bird, in the middle of the second world. After the battle, the train crashes into a set of buffers and you and he both fall. Birdie catches you to return the favor for saving her, while the Ringmaster Wolf continues falling until he lands into a pile of boxes.
- Stage 7-1 in Vice Project Doom.
- The entire shtick of Iron Horse.
- The Megadrive version of Psycho Pinball's Wild West table had this for its bonus game.
- Beyond: Two Souls, Jodie when escaping the police because she's a wanted CIA. And you know, has Aiden.
- The Secret World has one of these in mission The last train to Cairo. Contains several fights on top of railcars, and a tunnel section that involves dodging lights and beams attached to the ceiling.
- The Spider-Man 2 video game tie in recreates the battle with Doc Ock on the train.
- In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, you can actually fight some Dream Eaters onboard a Solar Sailer in The Grid. Like in the film, the sailer takes on the appearance of a freight train with the cargo, not present in the game fortunately, being deactivated programs being shipped to be rectified.
- The Solar Sailer battle in Space Paranoids, in Kingdom Hearts II, could count as well, though the sailer looks more like a flat boat than a train. And unlike the one in The Grid, it's an actual battle with a weight limit.
- Low G Man has this in the first hidden level, Cyber Express.
- The Ballad of Cripple Kane starts out with of course, a saloon brawl, a horse chase, but it ends up on a train. Oh wait you knew that, reading the trope and all. It's still 'awesome'!
- In "Black", Blake and Adam battle security robots both in and on a train.
- In "No Brakes", the heroes battle White Fang mooks and mechas on a train inside a Grimm infested underground tunnel.