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City in a Bottle

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"For on the fateful day, when fire rained from the sky, the giant steel door of Vault 101 slid closed — and never reopened. It was here you were born. It is here you will die. Because, in Vault 101: no one ever enters and no one ever leaves."
Opening narration, Fallout 3

One step beyond a Small, Secluded World, a community has been raised for generations inside of a bubble because of an Ancient Conspiracy and begins to think there is no outside world, that The City or The Village is the only remaining bastion of civilization. This will be disrupted when either an outsider comes into the community or one of the members of the community is required to leave it for some reason. This may cause the members of the shadowy government who know the truth to kill the interlopers, if they haven't gone native and/or died themselves.

Extremely common in the science fiction genre which inspired it, especially in the more cynical age since the 70s when it was popularized by Logan's Run. It nearly always takes place in a dystopian future, or at best a World Half Full where the outside world really is that bad, or a world where the people are brought up to believe the world is untenable outside, in order to control them. This little plot device is a prime source of Paranoia Fuel for innocent minds.

Often run by an Emperor Scientist who likes to produce Designer Babies and force everyone to wear identical pajamas. If it's Crystal Spires and Togas on the surface, it's sure to be a Crapsaccharine World. If the outside world has improved after mankind abandoned it, it's also a Green Aesop. If the rest of mankind went on without them, it may be a Cruel Twist Ending.

A frequent Sub-Trope is the Generation Ship, a huge slower-than-light vessel designed for journeys lasting multiple generations — in this case, with inhabitants who've either forgotten or don't know their destination.

Not to be confused with the Bottle City of Kandor, part of the Superman mythos: Kandor really is a literal city in a bottle (shrunken by an alien robot), but isn't part of this trope. For a community that knows about the outside, but just wants nothing to do with it, see Hidden Elf Village.

Often a Domed Hometown with a Wall Around the World which may or may not be doomed by its residents' collapsing infrastructure and the idiocy and forgetfulness of the sheeple. If the hero is banished for noting that the place is falling apart, compare Defector from Decadence, Ignored Expert. If the food supply is made of people, compare Town with a Dark Secret and/or Powered by a Forsaken Child.

See also Escape from the Crazy Place. If you want to get really dark, the heroes may escape the Government Conspiracy only to find that the outside world really is barren and desolate. Possibly does double duty as an Underground City or Underwater City.

Compare Crapsaccharine World, Hidden Elf Village (especially if the inhabitants are Perfect Pacifist People), Lost World, Space Amish, and Space Elves (of the Proud Scholar Race sort). Contrast The Outside World. See also Space Brasília.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The homeland of Attack on Titan's main cast, sometimes referred to as "The Walled City" (it's basically a large monarchical city-state), is the only land that humanity still controls, the rest of the world having been overrun by Titans. As such, the government is totally comfortable with sending unarmed, untrained citizens to "reclaim land from the Titans" in order to maintain a comfortable population density within the city. However, this turns out to be a lie, as the land within the walls is not humanity's last bastion. In fact, "The Walled City" is merely a Vestigial Empire located on the secluded island of Paradis; the rest of the world, including the superpower of Marley that dominates the nearby continent, is largely thriving and Titan-free.
  • Paradigm City in The Big O is a Domed Hometown heavily implied to be a post-apocalyptic New York City whose citizens all simultaneously came down with a mysterious case of total amnesia forty years back. As far as anyone can tell until some foreigners show up to disabuse them of the notion, the entire rest of the world is an unpopulated wasteland.
  • The city of Glie, where Haibane Renmei takes place. Nobody is allowed to leave, only a few chosen people are allowed to interact with outlanders carrying supplies, and they must do so with sign language.
  • Judoh in Heat Guy J. People are not allowed to leave the city, and there is not even trade with other city-states. This is because people are mistrustful of other people because apparently humanity came close to nuking itself to death when it utilized the technology of the resident Superior Species.
  • The unnamed village from the Komi Naoshi one-shot Island, though this is merely a case of ignorance and not evil. The town fell victim to land subsidence, which was interpreted by the villagers at some point or another as the world being engulfed by the sea. This being Komi Naoshi, the ending is happy.
  • Megazone 23 does this with what the inhabitants believe to be Tokyo during The '80s; anyone who travels overseas is secretly brainwashed with memories of their "trip".
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • Jiiha village, where Simon and Kamina hail from. Kamina steadfastly believes in the surface world, much to the dismay of the chief, who only believes its existence once Yoko and a Ganmen crash through the ceiling.
    • Adai village is an extreme example: they have so few resources that they can only maintain a population of 50, and must exile any excesses, chosen by lottery.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Æon Flux tie-in comic The Herodotus File, it's revealed that the rulers of Bregna go to great lengths to prevent their citizens from learning that their city and its mortal enemy Monica were once the nation of Berognica, never mind anything about the world outside of the two walled cities.
  • Inverted in Age of X: while the mutants only think they're fighting in a The Siege situation against the rest of humanity, it turns out that there is literally nothing outside of their "bubble", and they are trapped in an Epiphanic Prison.
  • Doctor Who Magazine: Tickle Town in "Welcome to Tickle Town". Founder Tobias Tickle thought a nuclear war was inevitable and so sealed off his amusement park on its opening day — trapping the patrons — and teleported it deep underground. However, the war never happened.
  • In Gotham City Garage, Lex Luthor built a dome encircling Gotham City to protect it from the gangs of marauders roving around the wastelands... and to keep everyone controlled. Thirty-five years later, no local is certain that there's anything beyond the dome other than a dangerous desert.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Themyscira is a walled city which the inhabitants are warned not to stray from on an island that's been placed behind a magical barrier separating it from the dimension of the physical world, and where the ruling powers claim that humanity outside the barrier has been entirely killed off.
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: In Robin (1993) Annual #5, the inhabitants of the Generation Ship Gotham believe that it is the sum total of the universe.
  • The Sandman (1989) features a literal case: the majestic city of Baghdad is sealed inside a bottle at the request of its king and given to Dream to take care of, which allows the city to continue forever in dreams, even when the city is war-torn and battered in reality.
  • In The Ultraverse, the Fire People were an offshoot of humanity that lived in a hidden community Beneath the Earth for so long that the "world of light and air" was considered a myth.

    Films — Animated 
  • Thneedville in The Lorax (2012) is a lesser version — it hasn't been closed-off for hundreds of years, but it's been at least a generation, possibly longer, since anyone traveled beyond the walls. Also, the residents are aware that there's a world outside their town, but they don't know or care about what it's like, since they're perfectly happy where they are.
  • In WALL•E, the directive to keep the Axiom from going back to Earth doesn't necessarily force humanity to forget life on Earth; it just happens all on its own.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Æon Flux could almost be a remake of Logan's Run. In 2011, a deadly pathogenic virus has killed 99% of the Earth's population, forcing the survivors to regroup and scatter across the Earth. 404 years later, in late 2415, all of the survivors inhabit Bregna, a walled futuristic city-state, which is ruled by a congress of scientists. Although Bregna is largely an idyllic place in the destroyed Earth, people routinely disappear and the population has nightmares. At the end of the film, a dirigible crashes into the city wall, breaking it down to reveal the surrounding land for the first time in centuries. It is lush and fertile, not a wasteland as they were taught.
  • The village of Johnny "Goodboy" Tyler in Battlefield Earth originally believed they were the last people left on Earth.
  • Turned on its head in Dark City (1998). Everyone in the city is subtly programmed to believe that there is an "outside" to their monstrous city (which is locked in everlasting nighttime), the beautiful sun-lit Shell Beach. Everyone is utterly certain they know the way to Shell Beach, but if someone actually tries to find it, the only train that supposedly goes to Shell Beach never stops at any train station, all roads going there simply go in circles or end in front of walls or canals, and in the end, Shell Beach was only an illusion. In reality, the city is all there is, a huge edifice drifting in the darkness of outer space, created and controlled by the Strangers, aliens who abducted humans from... some other place no one can remember anymore, because the Strangers control their memories.
  • Goliath Awaits features a British ocean liner sunken by a U-Boat in 1938 a la the Lusitania, which was partially saved and transformed into an underwater version of this by a genius inventor/Chief Engineer. Generations have grown up, and some people don't want to return to the outer world when a crew finds them 43 years later.
  • The Island (2005): The last remnants of humanity hope to win a state-run lottery to be resettled on an island paradise. In actuality, they are clones harvested for body parts by an unscrupulous corporation. Of course, this film is an unacknowledged remake of Clonus which is about a colony of people who similarly hope to be resettled in a paradise known only to them as "America" and who are likewise clones raised to provide spare organs for the rich and powerful.
  • Logan's Run is the Trope Codifier. In the year 2274, the remnants of human civilization live in a sealed city contained beneath a cluster of geodesic domes, a utopia run by a computer that takes care of all aspects of life, including reproduction. The citizens live a hedonistic life but, to prevent overpopulation, everyone must undergo the rite of "Carrousel" when they reach the age of 30. There, they are killed under the guise of being "renewed". When Logan and Jessica escape the dome, they discover that they have been lied to and that life exists outside the dome, and that it is possible to live past 30.
  • The Mole People is about a subterranean albino Sumerian race who disbelieve in the surface world.
  • Pandorum is set on a Generation Ship, primarily due to Space Madness and Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Pleasantville: The people in the TV show actually do know there are other people — it just never occurred to them they can leave and see them...
  • The plot of The Thirteenth Floor involves a simulation of the early 20th century city that only extends to the city limits.
  • THX 1138: The eponymous protagonist lives in one of these, until the very end.
  • The Village (2004) is about a village whose population lives in fear of creatures inhabiting the woods beyond it, referred to as "Those We Don't Speak Of". It is revealed that the village was founded in the late 1970s. Edward Walker, then a professor of American history at the University of Pennsylvania, approached other people he met at a grief counseling clinic, all suffering the crime-related death of loved ones. He asked them to join in creating a place where they would sustain themselves and be protected from any aspect of the outside world. They built Covington in the middle of a wildlife preserve purchased with Edward's family fortune. The head park ranger tells Kevin that the Walker Estate pays the government to keep the entire preserve a no-fly zone, while also funding the ranger corps who ensure no outside force disrupts the preserve.

  • Maraposza Street, also known as "the dreaming street", in Abarat.
  • In Across the Universe (Beth Revis), the remainder of humanity is riding aboard a single, city-sized spaceship to their new home planet. The trip will take generations, so the important people have been cryogenically frozen while the rest are ruled by Eldest and his protege, Elder.
  • The protagonist of Andrey Livadny's Ark turns out to be the last "pure" descendant of the human crew of a Moon-sized (it's literally made out of the Moon) Generation Ship, drifting in space for millennia, during which the alien inhabitants of the various biospheres (who mutinied against the humans long ago), as well as the other human descendants (who have their own Earth-like biosphere), have forgotten that they're on a ship and reverted to more primitive technology. After millennia of lack of maintenance, the Ark is beginning to fall apart at the seams, with more and more systems shutting down. The ship's A.I. is unable to affect repairs in most areas. This, however, is not the biggest twist of the novel.
  • Ember from The Books of Ember, an Underground City which became a new home for civilization After the End, completely surrounded by darkness on all sides. The only light the residents have ever known is the harsh glow of the town's streetlights... until the power generators start to go out. Then the citizens find their way out and realize that the world has gone on without them.
  • The underground city of Topeka in A Boy and His Dog is one of these, sheltering its genetically and culturally inbred populace from a post-apocalyptic world.
  • High Sacristan, location of the Canticle Engine in Micah E. F. Martin's short story "The Canticle", is the last city on Earth. Everything visible from its walls is desolate, endless dessert.
  • The City and the Stars and its original version Against the Fall of Night are the Ur-Example of this trope. Both have a remarkably utopian vision compared to most examples, however. Diaspar really has achieved a technological utopia, so why leave? Then, of course, we're introduced to Lys, the other utopian vision...
  • The H. G. Wells story "The Country of the Blind" is about a mountaineer who, while visiting Ecuador, stumbles upon a lost population of people living in a valley that has been cut off from the rest of the world. Thanks to a disease that rendered their citizens blind and unable to produce sighted children, the entire population is now sightless. They have no concept of how vision works — and no idea of what eyes are for. The visitor thinks, because of his extra sense, that he will be able to easily take over the valley, but it turns out the villagers' other senses have compensated for their loss of vision and they remain virtually unimpaired. (They also regard his "vision" as something of a curse, which is driving him crazy, and decide there is only one medically sound solution.)
  • Deltora Quest 2 features Lief, Barda and Jasmine attempting to collect three pieces of a magic pipe. One piece was being held on a literally bubble-enclosed island, citizens of said island banishing the part of their group who told the truth and acknowledged the past. What brings down the bubble is Jasmine's insistence on telling the truth, rocking the faith of the one sorcerer still left alive on the island.
  • Agatean Empire (an Expy of China) from Discworld. It is completely surrounded by a high wall and general population only knows outside as a desert wasteland populated by homicidal vampire ghosts. Their word for foreigner also means ghost — until Twoflowers' (Discworld's first tourist) book "What I did last summer" kick-starts a revolution.
  • In Divergent, the people of Chicago, having resided there for eight generations believe that Chicago is the last remaining bastion of humanity, and that what lies beyond the outer gates is desolate wasteland. Averted in Allegiant, when it's revealed that not only does Chicago is not the only bastion, the US government still exists, albeit as a Fallen States of America. Half of the US population is dead, but other peoples still exist in other cities, some of which were also formerly used for experiments to produce more GP population. In fact, Tris' mother, Natalie was a refugee from one of those cities: Milwaukee.
  • The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, set in futuristic Zimbabwe, includes an area cordoned off — much like in The Village (2004) — where the people chose, generations ago, to live apart from the modern world, and where they have turned into a shamanistic backwards tribe that believes in boogey men and kills certain unwanted babies (specifically twins — or, rather, one of the twins, the girl if it's a split-gender pair).
  • One of the few (perhaps the only) novels based on the Earthdawn game uses this trope. A kaer, built to withstand the centuries-long invasion of the Horrors, is supposed to let its inhabitants out when the threat is over. However, thanks to a Horror that slipped inside before the kaer was sealed, something went wrong with the mechanism designed to tell the occupants it was time to leave, and the kaer's residents are slowly dying out in their needless confinement.
  • In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, set generations after a Zombie Apocalypse kills most of humanity, Mary lives in a town that is fenced in to keep the Unconsecrated (or zombies) out. It is revealed that pretty much all surviving towns are like this.
  • The Community from The Giver, has existed for long enough that no one has any concrete knowledge of the world outside it (known as "Elsewhere"), except the Receiver of Memory. An interesting example as it was intended for their own good, and the ones who Know The Truth carry the burden of knowing every memory ever held by mankind, including the bad and painful ones.
  • The third book of the Gormenghast trilogy, Titus Alone, is about Titus exploring the world outside of Gormenghast. As Gormenghast is a crumbling medieval castle, he is shocked when he discovers a city of skyscrapers.
  • In Christopher Priest's novel The Inverted World the inhabitants of the mobile city are told that they, originally colonists from Earth, are bottled in because of the harsh environment of their alien planet. Only the elites are allowed to go outside and know the real truth.
  • The Jacob's Ladder Trilogy novel Dust plays with the "stranded generation ship" version.
  • The planet Krikkit from Life, the Universe and Everything was originally one of these totally by accident. Well, maybe not totally by accident... It's worth noting that the Krikkiters' response when they did discover that there was an outside universe was to decide, with chilling logic, that the truth must be restored by destroying it. ALL OF IT.
  • "The Machine Stops" features an underground city, the inhabitants of which have forgotten what the surface world is like to the point of believing it is a lifeless, barren world. Believing their artificial environment is the only solace from a dead world, the protagonist of the story ends up finding otherwise with disastrous results.
  • The D'ni, as seen in the Myst novel The Book of Ti'ana, are a strange example. The central hub of D'ni culture is indeed located underground, tunelling deep and wide in all directions. But they also have access to special books which can transport them to a theoretically infinite number of Ages, many of which are outdoorsy. But when Atrus and his team are building upwards through disused tunnels, they still encounter resistance from politicians who believe that, in their homeworld, the "Surface" is an impossibility! Though most of the political opposition to tunneling to the surface has less to do with a belief in its impossibility, and more to do with a belief that D'ni has nothing to gain by going to the surface (they can write linking books for any surface resource they need) and much to lose (if there are hostile dwellers on the surface they may follow the D'ni back down the tunnel and sack the city.)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: Airstrip One is generally considered to be one of these. Opinions vary on what the rest of the world might hold.
  • The Nomes Trilogy features inch-high people known as 'Nomes' who live in a large Store and refuse to believe that there is any such thing as 'the Outside'. When the Store Nomes are visited by Nomes who are from the Outside, one of the Store Nomes' leaders actually pretends not to be able to see them. A recurring metaphor throughout the series is the Real Life bromeliad plant, which, to the frogs who live inside, is the entire world. Indeed, Truckers and its sequels, Diggers and Wings are collectively known as The Bromeliad Trilogy.
  • Non-Stop is based on this concept, but with some gleefully British plot twists.
  • Saraksh from the Noon Universe is a "planet in a bottle" — the index of refraction of their atmosphere causes them to believe that they live on the inside of a hollow sphere, and they're very confused by the arrival of Earthlings.
  • Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward has one of these — a 'neighbourhood' which long ago sealed itself in and indoctrinated its residents to believe that they live in the only surviving human settlement surrounded by a barren, irradiated wasteland (which always takes longer than the scientists thought to become safe again). Only the high-ups know that there's a perfectly viable world all around it. Worryingly, it's not the scariest Neighbourhood out there.
  • Orphans of the Sky is about a multi-generational space craft where the inhabitants lost the knowledge that they were on a ship (along with most other knowledge) after a failed mutiny, so the current generation thinks the whole universe is just the ship.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's short story "Paradises Lost" from the collection The Birthday of the World is the generation ship take on this, with the twist that the ship isn't stranded. Some of the people on the ship (by the end of the story, a large majority) believe that there's nothing outside the ship and "the journey is all". A minority remember the original purpose of the voyage, which is to explore and possibly colonize a far-flung planet.
  • The inhabitants of Paradyzja, the titular Space Station from the novel by Janusz Zajdel, are perfectly aware of The Wall Around the World keeping them safe from random Earth terrorists as well as the vacuum of space... except the terrorists don't exist (Earth is peacefully trading with Paradyzja, selling it all those nifty electronics that keep the populace under control) and the "station" is really a complex of windowless buildings on the surface of planet Tartarus. Travel between it and the mines is not really space travel — it's just a hovercraft trip with a long stop in the middle to simulate space flight.
  • In The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick, humans live underground, convinced by their authorities the surface is locked in an Endless War fought by the robots they build and repair. It's only when Nick, the protagonist, has to get out to the surface to obtain a vital piece of equipment that he learns the war has ended a long time ago.
  • Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison is set on a massive Generation Ship composed of hundreds of completely independent and isolated biospheres, each featuring a different civilization. Originally written as a screenplay for a television series, the main character is from a Space Amish biosphere, whose inhabitants threaten to execute him for blasphemy when he tries to inform them of his recent discovery — that they are all on a giant spaceship.
  • "The Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic uses such a society as a metaphor for the human soul and the philosopher.
  • The planktonic humans from James Blish's short story "Surface Tension" — genetically modified descendants of a crashed colony vessel, whose survivors deemed the planet unlivable by anyone larger than a water flea — believe they live in a complete universe bounded at top and bottom. In fact, they live in a puddle, and the "space expedition" they launch only travels to the next puddle over.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's novella Thirteenth City has a human crash-land on a planet suffering the aftermath of a nuclear war with its Human Alien inhabitants living in twelve enclosed and self-sufficient Cities, where their lives are closely watched and regulated by the aptly-named Watchers. Children are raised by Watchers and frequently moved to other Cities once they reach adulthood, sex partners are selected by the computer, complete social equality is the goal of every Equal (the term is itself an honorific). No one lives past 60, as the Watchers kill them. There are Outsiders, people who live in the radioactive wasteland and occasionally raid the Cities for new recruits and supplies. The protagonist meets Outsiders and a former Equal and decides to help them against the oppressive rule of the Watchers. He finds out that there is a secret Thirteenth City, a pristine forest used as a retreat by the Watchers, while everyone else lives in squalor. However, when he finally reaches it, he finds out that the current social state is the only one possible on this planet. The forest can only hold a few thousand Watchers. The Cities can support millions, although supplies are low. Also, Watchers are selected from children with a sufficiently high IQ in order to understand the necessity of their actions and are themselves subject to the 60-max rule. The astronaut pledges to tell his people about this and get help for their dying world.
  • H. M. Hoover's This Time of Darkness tells of a city several kilometers underground whose inhabitants don't realize that they're basically a slave race whose labor is being used to keep the above-ground inhabitants in luxury. There's a strong contrast between the City in a Bottle environment (an incredibly filthy city with low lighting, poor food, cramped living quarters, and no choice of clothing or haircuts... not to mention that generations of malnutrition has made the entire race unfit and ugly) and the other environment... and then there's contrast between both of these environments and the wild outdoors that the children get cast out into, and the town they eventually reach. The basic premise is reused in an episode of Stargate SG-1, with a planet in the middle of an ice age. The apparently pristine domed city on the planet's surface is supported by the efforts of slave laborers in an underground complex, who have no idea that the city exists and believe themselves to be the last remnants of their civilization. Dissenters in the city are brainwashed and sent to be laborers.
  • Cowslip's warren in Watership Down. The rabbits there are fed and protected from predators by farmers who lives nearby, but the humans don't do this out of the goodness of their hearts; The undergrowth is littered with snares. The rabbits are too comfortable in such a sheltered life, so they to deny any knowledge of the snares and the friends taken by them.
  • Each of the worlds in The World and Thorinn believes that it is the only world. In actuality, each is a carefully conserved sector under the surface of the Earth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fraggle Rock:
    • The small creatures called Fraggles live in a cave which exits to a mousehole in a tinker's shop (or a lighthouse, if you saw the UK version). One fraggle, "Uncle Traveling Matt," wanders the outside world, sending postcards which show great places of geography (and mundane, everyday objects) from an innocent's point of view.
    • The Gorgs who live on the side of the cave opposite the tinker's shop. These three creatures are so enormous that they believe themselves to be the only sentient beings in the Universe, and labor under the delusion that they are the Universe's supreme rulers.
  • In one of the final episodes of Lost, Jacob and the Man in Black's mother tells the Man in Black that the island is all there is, and that nothing exists beyond the sea.
  • In an episode of Mutant X, some of the group accidentally enter a pocket dimension that had been set up to be an agrarian utopia. All references to the outside world had been erased, in the belief that human nature could be changed with a clean break from human history and all its violence.
  • The Orville: The episode "If the Stars Should Appear" has the crew encounter a huge bioship that has a giant ecosystem inside it with a single city and lots of farmland. The people believe that this area is the entire universe, created by their god. To believe otherwise is heresy, punishable by death. In fact, the leader admits there is a possibility their beliefs are wrong, but he doesn't want to cause a panic (and lose power). After getting to the bridge, the crew see a message left by the ship's captain, who reveals that the ship's journey was supposed to only last for a century, but a Negative Space Wedgie knocked out the engines, leaving the ship adrift for two millennia. The dome is also designed to open to simulate night but hasn't been opened in a long time. They open it to show the people the stars for the first time in their lives.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "A New Life", approximately 40 young people who are tired of the rat race join a religious community in an isolated wooded area. It turns out that the 20 square mile area surrounding their village is part of a massive spaceship and that aliens intend to sell their descendants into slavery, after humanity's rebellious traits have been bred out of them.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • In "The Gamekeeper", SG-1 encounters a planet where the population lives inside a greenhouse-like building. They're all hooked up to a simulation to preserve them indefinitely while their planet repairs itself from an extreme industrial disaster. The computer/caretaker that is also in charge of helping repair and maintain the outside environment keeps telling them that it isn't safe to leave yet, as it believes that they would simply destroy the environment yet again if set loose in the real world.
    • "Beneath the Surface" has a magnificent city in a frozen wasteland. The city is being powered by slave force working in mines underneath the city. Those in the city know the truth, those in the mines think the mine is all there is. SG-1 isn't pleased by this, so the local administrator abducts them, gives them Fake Memories, and forces them into being part of that slave labor force. It's implied the other members of the slave labor are also people given fake memories, possibly a sentence for criminals or those the people in power don't like.
    • In "Revisions", the stargate is inside a dome created by a force-field, and the atmosphere outside is actually toxic. The twist is that the computer controlling the dome is running out of power and has to slowly shrink the dome and kill off some inhabitants (mind control through their neural links to make them walk outside) in order to save the rest. Eventually, the humans are all evacuated to another planet.
  • The Starlost features a Generation Ship where disaster has killed the crew, while the passengers have lost the knowledge that they were indeed aboard a ship — not to mention, the disaster has altered the ship's course to collide with a star.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
  • Utopia Falls: New Babyl exists inside a shield to protect it from dangers outside, with no one having gone beyond for centuries.

  • Dimension X: In episode thirty-one, an adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's "Universe", it is generally believed that the Ship, which is a sphere, 25 kilometers wide and with 100 levels, is the sum total of the universe. Even asking what is beyond the Ship is considered heresy and typically leads to the culprit being fed into the converter.
  • The protagonists of Earthsearch encounter another ship like their own with the 'colony that's forgotten they're on a spaceship' version. The locals are panicked by the sight of their spacesuits, assuming they are monsters. A Reasonable Authority Figure takes them into custody, but when they reveal they're searching for Earth has them sentenced to death by hanging, the fate of anyone who suggests the Earth is a real place instead of the afterlife it's assumed to be. Fortunately, they're rescued by the Underpeople, inhabitants of another colony on the spaceship, who mention that any attempt to show the Earth Worshippers outer space causes them to Go Mad from the Revelation or just accuse the Underpeople of creating illusions to deceive them. Incidentally, the author James Follett also wrote a prequel novel, Earthsearch: Mindwarp, based on this concept, in which the protagonists of an Underground City go in search of the dreaded Outdoors.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The premise of Dialect is that the players exist in this sort of community and have developed their own language. They reconnect to the outside world, and the rest is exploring the changes in language.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the early module The Lost City, the few residents of the underground city who aren't drugged out of their minds by the evil priesthood are still convinced there's nothing but desert on the surface, and nothing but unbeatable monsters in the surrounding tunnels.
    • The shadow elves, when they finally found their way to the surface, found themselves in the midst of an uninhabitable wasteland (the Broken Lands). They concluded that the whole surface was like this, so returned to their underground realm, where they didn't learn of their mistake for centuries.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • City in a Bottle, which blocks out all other cards from the Arabian Nights expansion (which was about 20% of all cards when it came out; it is somewhat less useful today).
    • Bottled Cloister is a smaller-scale version of this, showing a large abbey inside a glass bottle.
    • Feroz's Ban has an entire world in a bottle, to represent the magical seal placed by the Planeswalker Feroz around the Homelands.
  • Metamorphosis Alpha is set on a lost and damaged Generation Ship packed with mutants.
  • Paranoia: Most people in Alpha Complex are aware that there is "an Outdoors", but all info on it is very heavily restricted, to the point that showing that you know that grass is green is grounds for execution. Unless you're rank Green or above, of course.

  • Brigadoon features a Scottish village which only appears every one hundred years and became isolated based a local pastor's prayer for a miracle to protect the villagers from change. The miracle is then jeopardized by Harry's wish to leave.

    Video Games 
  • Rapture in BioShock was created to become this eventually, either when the surface world destroyed itself in a nuclear war or when citizens stopped recommending colleagues from the surface to recruit, whichever came first. Official propaganda depicts the surface as a dystopia to discourage any thoughts of leaving, and anyone who tries to leave anyway is met with violence. By the time you arrive, however, only a decade and change has passed since its founding and everything has already gone to hell.
  • Black Sigil: Bel Lenora voluntarily sealed itself off from the rest of the world then forgot that the rest of the world existed.
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter: In the underground world, the existence of "the surface" is a legend, a myth — after all, how could it even be possible for a place to have no roof?
  • Cholo: This is the background premise: the radiation from the nuclear holocaust has mostly died down, but you must take control of robots on the surface and crack the exit open from the outside before anyone can leave.
  • Custom Robo for the Gamecube eventually reveals that you've been living in a domed city and your "flat world" was actually the last habitable area of a ruined round planet. Rahu destroyed most of the planet, with nothing left outside but a handful of ruins and the Z-Syndicate's base surrounded by floating abyss and storms.
  • Dark Chronicle: The city of Palm Brinks was cut off from the outside world by a giant stone wall, the only exits being the train station and main gate. This was actually done by the mayor to protect the citizens from the villain. He was after a mystical artifact called the Atlamillia (actually three jewels but the city has the red one), and he didn't want to destroy the city with the artifact floating around in there somewhere. The male hero, Max, has been carrying the jewel around for some time now, and no one noticed.
  • Dragon Quest VII: A major supernatural cataclysm ripped the world and its spirit apart, meaning the various island cities ripped apart from the former continents don't even remember that a few decades ago, there were others. For all they know, there has only been their island, the sea, the sky, and nothing else. The protagonist's job is to fix the screwed up problems that each island has developed so they can stitch their world back together.
  • Dwarf Fortress: This is a perfectly legitimate strategy, and in fact was used on a regular basis in the 2d version. In 40d it was much less necessary for the experienced player, but it is back, to a certain degree, in the 31 series. Depending on your supplies, it is perfectly possible to survive for a hundred in-game years (consider that at 50 FPS a season will take two to three hours) off incest, kittens, and Plump Helmets. Some players generate worlds with no surviving civilizations to embark with this trope invoked. Embarking to an isolated island a simpler method. In either case, after the first wave of immigrants, there will be no contact with the outside world, or evidence that it exists.
  • Fallout:
    • The publicly expressed purpose of the Vaults was to shelter a human population safely underground in the event of a nuclear war; in reality, they were a series of social experiments designed to test the occupants' reactions to stressful situations. One Vault contained a population of 999 women and one man, one was rigged to open six months after it was sealed (when the inhabitants were told it would be sealed for the next 200 years), one was even rigged so that it couldn't close, and so on. Needless to say, this is pretty much a Crapsack World combined with this trope, with a hearty dash of After the End thrown in for good measure.
    • Vault 101 from Fallout 3 remained closed for two hundred years, rather than opening to the outside world as radiation levels decreased, and the Overseers tell the population that the surface is still inhabitable. Whether or not it remains a City in a Bottle depends on the player's decisions.note 
    • The Nellis Air Force Base's population of explosive-loving Boomers in Fallout: New Vegas traces its origins to Vault 34 and has a strict isolationist policy, enforced upon the outside world with artillery fire. The Boomers make everything they need inside the airbase, and only have one goal outside its walls. They are pretty ignorant of the outside world; while they have gathered some intel through binoculars, they're surprised that the courier even speaks the same language when they drop by.
  • Injustice 2 adds modernization to the old myth: Brainiac invented a form of non-euclidian digistruction so he could digitally compress stolen cities into head-sized data matrices with some pocket-dimension bullshit involved. Depending on who defeats Brainiac, the cities are restored, destroyed, or kept preserved, for good or evil.
  • The majority of worlds in the Kingdom Hearts series, with most of the exceptions being worlds whose very purpose is linked to the multiplicity of worlds. At most, there's youth speculation about the existence of other worlds.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Koholint Island in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The citizens (except for Marin) believe there is nothing beyond the sea and don't understand the concept of "when" they came to the island. This is because the island is All Just a Dream.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has this in Kokiri Village, where the locals know little to nothing of what goes on outside the forest, and all believe that leaving will cause them to die.
    • Ordon Village from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an example due to geography. The closest civilization from Ordon, Kakariko, requires a massive trek through a monster-filled forest and an equally monster-filled Hyrule Field. As such, for normal people, going between the two requires a great deal of planning and possibly even hired protection.
    • Skyloft in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword qualifies — the civilization apparently consists of less than a thousand people, all of whom live on a few dozen floating islands in the sky. The land below is a complete mystery, believed to be overrun with hideous monsters, but an impenetrable cloud cover prevents anyone from even descending to it.
  • Mass Effect 2 reveals that the Reapers themselves are kind of walking cities in bottles. Dialogue was removed that details the Reaper harvesting process. EDI states that the captive humans were being reduced to their basic components by being dissected down to the atomic level. The data from the process could then be uploaded into a Reaper's neural network, thus storing the knowledge and essence of the individual that was liquefied in the process. Harbinger indicates that being turned into a Reaper is a form of rebirth.
  • Master Detective Archives: Rain Code features Kanai Ward, an isolated city of eternal rain where outside contact is impossible and its people aren't able to leave, while having to deal with the Amaterasu Corporation in control of it. While they aren't stated to forget the outside world, the citizens never refer to the outside world and have likely lost their sanity over the three years they've been stuck in that condition. This turns out to be protecting the citizens from going on a rampage around the city, as they're defective homunculi, which are vulnerable to UV light, and the CEO made a cloud machine to protect them from it, which also caused the rain. The isolation was also done to keep them from leaving, and that worked too well, it seems.
  • Might and Magic VII features a bonus level in the form of a Temple in a Bottle.
  • The Mystery Case Files game Return to Ravenhearst has an in-universe example. There's a map on the wall of Gwendolyn and Charlotte's home-schooling classroom that depicts nothing but an outline of England and Wales, with "Unknown" scrawled on the vague, fading-out edges of Scotland, Ireland, and the French coast. The only settlement on the map is Blackpool, nearest town to the Ravenhearst estate.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the residents of the Kingdom of East Mikado really do believe that there isn't anything outside — the thought never once occurs to anyone. They are so convinced East Mikado contains the entirety of humanity that a major character finds a novel set in France and immediately assumes it's a fictional country. It's not that they're super-ignorant: the Archangels, led by Gabriel, are deliberately subtly influencing the thoughts of the people of East Mikado in this way, treating the place much like a human ant farm.
  • Walled City 99 in Stray (2022) was originally built as a metropolis-sized bunker to protect its human inhabitants from a major plague ravaging the world outside and generally making it unlivable for civilization. However, by the time the game begins the humans have already died out, leaving behind their robotic successors in complete isolation. Many outright consider "Outside" to be nothing more than fantasy, with there being very few exceptions.
  • In Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden, the American Sunbelt region is similar to the Pleasantville example above. For some reason, it never occurred to any of these people to go visit the Gundam X crew up in Canada or the Combat Mecha Xabungle guys across the sea.
  • Crysta in Terranigma is a very small village with less than one hundred people living in it, and are completely unaware that there's an uninhabitable, hostile world around them. When protagonist Ark is told that he'll leave Crysta, he voices amazement that there was even a path past the trees that leads to the outside. Intentionally done, as this is a mirror version of the Lightside village of Storkholm, created by Dark Gaia to create the Darkside Ark and send him out on his destiny, which will end in his death and allowing Lightside Ark to be born.
  • Suramar in World of Warcraft was protected from the Sundering by a magical barrier and has remained sealed away for 10,000 years since. The society forced back into the world by the Legion's arrival is ruled by a Decadent Court and severely addicted to mana.
  • In Zeno Clash 2, the primitive, brutish 'world' of Zenozoik is discovered at a moment of revelation to be only a long-isolated fragment of a larger, far more technologically and socially advanced planet that has intentionally imprisoned the inhabitants there.


    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, the underground hatch (and likely their old city of Beautopia) that Susan Strong and the Hyooman tribe live in starts out this way.

    Real Life 
  • On a less philosophical note, cities in Ancient Greece were akin to micro-countries, and looked down on everything and everyone outside the city's boundaries as uncivilized and barbaric. Plato's Cave is arguably the Ur-Example.
  • There is a common Russian stereotype of Moscovites that they think Moscow is this and everything else except, probably, St.Petersburg, is wilderness. Moscovites often jokingly refer to the rest of the world as "TransMKADia", MKAD being shorthand for the Moscow Beltway.
    • Same for Londoners. This particularly galls the rest of Britain since the media is almost entirely based in London.
    • Ditto in France which is divided into two parts, namely Paris and the Province (as in outback).
    • Then there's this famous cover of The New Yorker depicting the city dweller's view of America.
    • Just like in France, Mexico is usuallly divided into Mexico City and 'Provincia' (Province); while this trope is true for most lower income Mexico City residents (some of them who have never gone outside the city limits), the view is mostly a stereotype seen by non-Mexico City residents.
    • Some old-school Stockholmers consider everything outside "the tolls" (i.e. the city's medieval toll gates) to be a wasteland, and take pride in never having been there. Over five sixths of modern Stockholm is "outside the tolls".
    • In Finland, the common view is that the country is approximately divided into two parts, "stadi" (from the Swedish staden, "the city"; consisting of the capital Helsinki and its neighboring towns Espoo and Vantaa) and "lande" (from the Swedish landet, "the countryside"; consisting of everything else, including other cities such as Tampere, Jyväskylä, Oulu, and the former capital Turku). A common joke in "lande" is that the Helsinki residents consider God's back to be located just north of Vantaa (note that in Finnish, "behind God's back" (Jumalan selän takana) is idiomatically equivalent of saying "no man's land" or more crassly, "the ass-end of nowhere").
  • Most people have the stereotype that all of New York IS Manhattan and/or New York City, despite NYC being only a very small geographical portion of the state, with such different politics, economy, ecology, attitude, and most other aspects of life that many upstaters wish the two could become separate states. The idea of NYC being separate from the rest of the state came to a head during the U.S. Civil War. Democratic Mayor Fernando Wood proposed that New York City should become a sovereign city-state called " Free City of Tri-Insula" and live off the import tariffs. The idea was too radical for even the time but the city remained against the war and the draft, leading to the bloody New York Draft Riots.
  • While a lot of big cities play with this because some people don't see a reason to leave, smaller more remote cities play it even straighter because there just isn't anywhere to go in convenient time. On the lower end of the spectrum would be somewhere like Charlottesville Virginia, which despite being a large and historically important city, receives an unusually low amount of visitors thanks to its geographic isolation. On the more extreme side is Norilsk Siberia, which is remote even by Siberian standards, is more than a little toxic, and has the movements of its population regulated by the Russian government thanks to the nearby presence of nukes.
  • A lot of medieval villages existed in a state of almost complete isolation, with the only contact from the outside world being the occasional travelling merchant and representatives from the local lord, or (for the unlucky) the even more occasional invading army.
  • Own your own ecosystem!
  • The basis of the book 'Nothing to Envy' is showing the truth of this trope in North Korea, the name coming from the fact that they are conditioned to believe that North Korea is the most advanced and glorious nation on the planet... which leads to quite significant culture shock for those who actually defect.
  • The Black Soft-shell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) is extinct in the wild, existing only in a single pond adjoining an Islamic shrine in Chittagong, Bangladesh. There are about 400 turtles in the pond.

Alternative Title(s): Bottle City