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Cardboard Boxes

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"Quick, they're headed for the cardboard box district!"

The two cars are chasing through a run down light industrial area. There is a large pile of empty cardboard boxes, usually at a corner. Either the first car misses them and the second careens into them, scattering the boxes over the set, or the first strikes a glancing blow, sufficient to scatter the boxes into the path of the second car.

In a foot chase, a variation of the latter case happens often; the one in front will deliberately knock down such a pile as he passes, in order to delay his pursuers.

Sometimes, the boxes are strictly for show; the first car will send half of them tumbling every which way, and the second car will take care of the rest.

In rare cases, can be used to hide from pursuers.

Unrelated to Kids Prefer Boxes or Cardboard Box Home. See also Sheet of Glass and Fruit Cart. Judging by the ratio of parodies to straight examples on this page, this appears to be a Dead Unicorn Trope. See Trash Landing for when cardboard boxes are used to soften the fall of characters.



  • An advert by Nissan UK for the Almera GTi took the form of a spoof of The Professionals. At one point Bodie tells Doyle to drive down a narrow lane full of rubbish.
    Doyle: Why?
    Bodie: Litter. Makes the car look good.

Comic Books

  • Deconstructively parodied in an issue of Spawn, in which a cop car blasts through a pile of boxes...which had a homeless man sleeping under them.
  • In Violine, a car jumps onto a ship, crashing into a stack of crates to break its landing.


  • An early example, if not the Trope Maker, was the car chase from the 1972 Italo-crime film The Master Touch.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 subject Future War is infamous for its fight scenes with huge stacks of boxes as far as the eye can see, which are all clearly empty.
  • Lolita (1997). When Humbert finds that Dolores has left the hospital with her 'Uncle Gustav', he drives wildly to the hospital, smashing into dustbins as his car weaves down a narrow street.
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  • Quick: During the chase through the marketplace, the bike slams through a pile of empty cardboard boxes.
  • Tomorrow Never Dies. One of the land rovers chasing James Bond and Wai Lin drives into a truckload of boxes...containing fireworks, which (of course) proceed to go off from the impact.
  • Played with in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Hulk is rampaging through a city and smashes open a truck, spilling cardboard boxes all over the road.
  • Speed. The "black guy with the sports car" ends up crashing it into a crash barrier made up of large containers of water (justified, as such barriers exist in real life). The heroine also has a nasty moment when she thinks she's hit a Baby Carriage, but it's actually full of empty drink cans being recycled by a homeless person.

Live-Action TV

  • Subverted in an episode of Ashes to Ashes (2008). Gene and Alex are on their way to a crime scene and come across an archway filled with stacked cardboard boxes. Alex quips "I know how this goes" and fully expects Gene to drive through them...and Gene simply sets the car in reverse and grumbles that he's gonna have to go around them.
  • The Professionals of course, and parodied in The Comic Strip Presents "Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown" where 'Bonehead and Foyle' make a point of looking out for cardboard boxes to drive through during a chase scene so as to look more dramatic.
  • Parodied in Father Ted. Dougal is forced to drive a milk float that will explode if it drops below 4 miles per hour and panics when he sees a stack of boxes at the end of the road. As he trundles slowly towards them, Ted re-stacks them on the opposite side of the road. After Dougal passes the boxes, Ted drives his car straight through the stack.
  • Spoofed in Funky Squad, an Australian parody of 70's cop shows.
  • In Power Rangers, going through boxes can touch off minor explosions that send sparks everywhere. The whole world is Made of Explodium.
  • Starsky & Hutch itself was infamous enough for this to spawn the above examples.
    • Levels in the Starsky and Hutch Video Game would give you a secondary objective of destroying X cardboard boxes.
    • In Bill Bailey's "Starsky And Hutch" segment, the duo are looking to make a getaway while pursued by the mob.
      "How about that alley?"
      "No, there's no boxes down that one. No, go down that one."
      They go down another alley, no boxes. What are they going to do?
      "Right, stop the car, get some boxes out of the boot, set them up, drive around the block..."
  • Used in the Top Gear (UK) second hand police cars challenge, where Hammond is awarded points for flamboyant driving by crashing through a pile of gratuitous cardboard boxes slightly off the edge of the track.
    • An earlier newspaper article by Jeremy Clarkson codified the trope:
    Clarkson: A car crashing through an explosion is great cinema. A car crashing through some cardboard boxes is great television. A car coasting to a stop for no reason means they've run out of budget on The Bill.
    • Including as part of the title sequence created by Top Gear (UK) for The Interceptors, a non-existent Seventies cop show.
  • Spoofed in Garth Marenghis Darkplace when a chase scene ends with the Monster of the Week crashing into a huge mountain of cardboard boxes sitting in the middle of a forest for no apparent reason.
  • Attempted in The Brittas Empire when a wheelchair-bound drunk runs amok in the leisure centre, only for Colin to stack them up to the point no one can see him coming. Subverted in that those boxes aren't empty and a leak of Sodium Hypochlorite leads to the centre's closure due to a subsequent chlorine gas cloud/
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Duty and Honor," the killer knocks over some boxes during a car chase, forcing Crockett to get out of his car to clear them away.
  • Midnight Caller: When Jack is running away from a shooter in "With Malice Towards One," he knocks over a trash can to delay him.


Professional Wrestling

  • A Forgotten Trope but cardboard boxes were a staple of WCW when falls outside of the arena needed to be broken and noise needed to be made.
  • TNA, in it's effort to be WCW, also used cardboard boxes, although they use them more sparingly, usually to cushion wrestlers for dangerous spots, and they're often disguised to look more dangerous than they really are, though at the 2007 Slammiversary a tarp exposing some fell off during the match between Abyss and Tomko.

Real Life

  • In 2012, British stuntman Gary Connery became the first person to land a wingsuit without a parachute, by crashing into a huge pile of 18,600 cardboard boxes, arranged into a landing strip that measured 350 feet (106.7 meters) long, 45 feet (13.7 meters) wide and 12 feet (3.7 meters) high.

Web Original

  • During the Nostalgia Critic vs. Angry Video Game Nerd Final Battle, which takes place in the Nerd's basement, the Critic is sent flying into a pile of cardboard boxes that just happen to be set up there. He calls the Nerd out on this:
    NC: Who keeps piles of boxes around? Honestly?
  • Homestar Runner: Parodied in "Dangeresque Puppet Squad: The Curly-Fried Caper". Dangeresque and Dangeresque Too chase bad guy Szechuan Steve to outside an abandoned warehouse, where Dangeresque attacks piles of cardboard boxes for no apparent reason while Dangeresque Too runs around dramatically jumping over garbage dumpsters.

Western Animation

  • From an episode of The Angry Beavers which parodied Starsky & Hutch: "Quick, they're headed for the cardboard box district!". In fact, cardboard boxes were a running gag in the episode.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Parodied in "No Power Trip"; Dexter is in a car careening down a hill, and after hitting a Fruit Cart we see a guy selling "empty cardboard boxes" on the street corner, which Dexter also ends up driving through.
  • Lampshaded in The Simpsons, when the cops are taking Bart for a day on the job. While they are explaining that it's not the action-oriented job Hollywood makes it out to be, they are interrupted by a heist and immediately start a high-speed chase through an alley full of cardboard boxes. As their car sends them scattering everywhere, one of the cops nonchalantly exclaims, "Damn boxes!"


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