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Closed Circle

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"The term 'Closed circle' is a mystery term. It refers to a situation where contact with the outside world has been severed... This is where the setting is truly allowed to shine. The culprit and other characters are unable to escape the [closed circle]. At the same time, there won't be any new characters from the outside."

This is a stock plot designed to force the characters or players to stay in a location and get involved in the adventure... and not be able to leave until it's done.


The variations on this set up are nearly limitless, and can work in pretty much any and every genre or setting. The classic set up though is as follows: The heroes are driving along, when all of a sudden what should happen but an inconvenient flat tire. Unfortunately, the spare is flat too, the rain is coming down, and of course it's also thundering. There's no choice but to stay at the Haunted Castle until the weather clears. Lo and behold, the Mad Scientist living there has just reached the critical phase in his breakthrough in bio-chemical research, and of course something goes horribly wrong and the undead Venus flytrap gets loose and starts picking them off one by one. The heroes are now locked in and can't leave, have to solve the mystery to find the demonic plant's one weakness (hint: it ain't water) and hopefully survive long enough to leave.


This plot bears similarities to You All Meet in an Inn, coupled with a Broken Bridge, and usually beginning as a Deadly Road Trip. Some genres can't get enough of it; Zombie Apocalypse movies like Night of the Living Dead (1968) and its various spinoffs, remakes, and homages all use it, as do most other monster movies and many Horror stories in general. They'll even up the drama by picking them off one by one until only The Aloner is left to fight for their life. The screenwriting book Save the Cat calls the premise Monster in the House, and points out that the story falls flat if the protagonist could just cheerfully catch a bus out of danger.

Think it's been around long enough to be a Discredited or Dead Horse Trope? Nah, it's more like an archetype, a versatile tool used to stick your characters in one spot and force them to deal with the danger. The heroes can be space cops, vacationers on a beach trip, or FBI investigators. They can be trapped by a ghost, simple mechanical troubles, a man in a mask, or an eccentric billionaire. To get out they might need to solve a mystery, survive a serial killer, repair their car, or just wait out the rain. Like we said, the variations are limitless.


There are the following ways to go about this:

  1. The location, normally connected to the rest of the world, is made inescapable.
  2. Orientation is difficult and any attempt to leave will end with Going in Circles. Usually nightfall or bad weather is making it even more difficult. Maps, phones, GPS etc. have been lost or destroyed, or never existed in the first place. The characters are too glad to have one certain point on the horizon (even if it is the Haunted House) to risk wandering off and get hopelessly lost. In some cases this may be due to magic or space warps.
  3. If the characters arrived by vehicle, circumstances will prevent them from using that same vehicle to leave.
    • The vehicle is inoperable. (The car has a flat tire, the motorbike has no gas, or the spaceship's warp drive is on the fritz). The characters must find a way to repair it before they can escape.
    • The vehicle has been destroyed. A replacement must be found, stolen, or built. Typical Deserted Island scenario.
    • The vehicle is on a schedule, has already departed, and will not return for a certain amount of time. The characters do not realize the danger until after their ride leaves. In this case, their objective is to survive for the set amount of time until the [ferry to the mainland/chartered flight/evac chopper/etc.] arrives.
    • The vehicle IS the dangerous, inescapable setting. See Thriller on the Express, Death in the Clouds.
  4. The characters are under a compulsion to stay, either by their own will or because something else forces them to remain.

This is the driving force behind many Let's You and Him Fight scenarios: Why would this group of incongruous heroes and/or villains fight that other group of incongruous heroes and/or villains? Because some wizard/super-scientist/Eldritch Abomination stuck them in a pocket dimension! Trying to get out is impossible because there are either no exits or because they're all locked in such ways that would be impossible to open by the group(s). The only way to open the Closed Circle is a fight to the death! Needless to say, most times, they either find a way out that was NOT accounted for, or just take out the ringmaster of the whole debacle.

Thanks to Technology Marches On, an increasingly unavoidable bit of Fridge Logic crops up in modern works regarding why the characters don't just call the police/mountain rescue/the Ghostbusters on their mobile phones. Hence the nigh-omnipresent Necessary Weasel that is Cell Phones Are Useless. Even works that avoid that trope play with it in that having a functional means of communication isn't really important, due to inaccessibility or a time limit that's shorter than the time it would take for rescue to arrive.

Subtropes include Trapped in Another World and Escape from the Crazy Place. A common such plot is "Die Hard" on an X. In a Video Game may be enforced by a Bottomless Pit, Broken Bridge, Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence, Invisible Walls, Locked Doors, or a Point of No Return. A good excuse for a Bottle Episode. In a Tabletop RPG, this is a Railroading technique. See also Gateless Ghetto. The "Groundhog Day" Loop could be considered a temporal version of this. Enclosed Space is a subtrope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Flying Pussyfoot in Baccano!
    • Also the case of the Advena Avis two hundred years prior.
  • Buso Renkin: Doktor Butterfly's Alice In Wonderland does this in its dispersed form, trapping the students in the school so that the Revised Humanoid Homunculi can feed on them.
  • The first half of Cross Ange takes place on Arzenal, a Penal Colony, where Norma are forced to fight and kill DRAGONs.
  • Roughly a quarter of Detective Conan stories, rising to half for multiparters. For example, Episode 52 has one of these where the main characters get a flat tire and have to stay at a spooky temple where a murder takes place. At least the episode explains that it's a second flat tire, so they can't just use the spare.
  • Kirisaki Island in Detective School Q leaves classes Q and A stormbound on said island. There is a serial killer involved. Fifty years ago, and the rest is Dan screwing with Class Q.
  • In Digimon Adventure, Myotismon creates a fog barrier that turns people around when they try to escape the city.
  • If you are chosen by the titular Gantz, try to exit a set area before the time limit and Your Head Asplode. Everybody else is free to move through the area as they please, but the scenario is always set so they can affect nothing.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Lampshaded during the Island mystery, in which the SOS Brigade is on a mansion on a private island, with only themselves, the island's owner, his brother, and his staff. A storm prevents anyone from leaving and destroys phone reception. Then their host turns up dead... Itsuki even uses what might be the common name for describing it: a Closed Circle. Ultimately, it turns out to have been an invoked trope: no murder ever took place, the "victim" is alive and well, and he and the others are actually part of the Organization, who set the whole thing up due to their worry that Haruhi would subconsciously make a real murder mystery due to the setting and her desire to experience strange things.
    • In the novels they later get in a similar situation while going on a ski resort. Turns out this one isn't intentionally done, and it took practically all of Nagato's powers and some basic knowledge in graph theory for them to escape.
    • The conclusion of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (both the book and the first season) is effectively a closed circle invocation as well, the circle being delimited by the dimensions of Haruhi's "closed space", and the time available to escape being delimited by how effectively the Celestials can stomp about. It is an interesting reduction of the trope to its simplest arrangement. There are only two people in the closed space, one of whom is the hero (Kyon), and one of them the unknowing monster (Haruhi), but only Kyon recognizes what is going on. Kyon has to figure out the "mystery" of how to escape the trap. The two ghostly intrusions (Nagato and Koizumi) are allowable in that their fates are also tied to the resolution so are arguably closed in as well, and they don't give Kyon any new information (they basically remind him of what they had previously told him).
  • Hell Girl had an episode in which a writer and his daughter are trapped in an old asylum.
  • Liar Game frequently invokes this trope by setting its various challenges in secluded locations. Rarely are the players physically prohibited from leaving, but only winners can truly "escape" by paying half their winnings to the tournament committee; the rest end up in crushing debt.
  • Happens Once an Episode in Mononoke, since the Medicine Peddler always seals off the area with magic to protect its inhabitants and prevent the mononoke escaping. Moreover, two episodes take place in a boat out at sea and a moving train carriage.
  • Ruhenheim in Monster is a particularly grand-scale case of the horror take on this trope.
  • Princess Tutu slowly reveals the town is magically cut off from the outside world. The spell is broken at the end of the series.
  • In Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, the main cast is trapped within a magical barrier that prevents them from leaving the forest. The plot involves figuring out who the traitor among them is who activated the barrier.
  • Uzumaki is set in a town where anyone entering by sea has their boat destroyed by hurricanes, all paths out on foot spiral back to the town, and in the end the boundaries of the closed circle shrink to nothing. Rapidly.
  • Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid is set in the artificial island of Mermaid, where Armed Virus carriers are sent to be quarantined until a cure can be found.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, the gang has to complete five trials before being able to return to their world, and early episodes are spent wondering why they're in the Capsule Monster world in the first place.

    Comic Books 
  • The protagonists of Elk's Run happen to live in their Closed Circle. Their town was built to be isolated from the rest of society, with the only way out being a tunnel through the mountains that could easily be blocked off during an emergency. Police investigation of a Vigilante Execution qualifies as an emergency to those who participated in said execution, no matter how much the rest of the cast wants to get out of town.
  • The Maze Agency: Gabe and Jen are stranded on island with a (literal) boatload of suspects when the boat that brought them there is blown up in #20. And then someone is murdered following a séance...

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: The entire cast and crew of Bolt’s TV show are gathered together on a movie studio set in “The Murder Mystery” after The Director is killed. All are suspects with plausible motives, and Penny monitors the proceedings.
  • A Crown of Stars: In chapter 45 Shinji and Asuka are transporting troops from Avalon to their homeworld when the portal gets shut and they are cut off and trapped in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by warlords and bandit gangs. Their only option is fighting the dictators ruling the wastelands and ruins as trying to convince the person who blocked the dimensional gate to let them leave.
  • The first installment of the Elemental Chess Trilogy turns Central City into this when it gets invaded. All entrance and exit points are blocked off.
  • Escape From the Moon: The entire story (except for the last chapter) takes place in a small space station and the area right outside.
  • In Hope for the Heartless: When the invisible and powerful servants of the Fates are assigned to temporarily serve and counsel the Horned King, they are bound within the borders of his castle courtyard.
  • Mega Man Dissonance: All teleportation in the city has been disabled (except for the Element 5, naturally), so Mega Man and Proto Man must find out the source of the jamming.
  • The Deserted Island in Mother Of Invention is already this for Applejack, who as an earth pony has no access to Pegasus Flight or Unicorn Teleportation. She later finds out that these are all blocked as well.
  • In the Sabrina Gaiden of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, when the title character begins to terrorize her hometown, some people try to escape, but they always run into her on the edges of the town.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Other World in the Coraline movie is only as big as the surrounding area of the Pink Palace. Once Coraline gets the idea to just walk away, she finds the forest flaking apart to reveal a white void - which reforms into the Pink Palace right in front of her again. It's presumably because the Other Mother doesn't have the power to reach any further. "Small world."
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown: A literal closed circle made from ice prevents the protagonists from leaving the valley. Their goal is reaching a "boat" (a vast piece of wood from a giant tree) to survive the inevitable flooding.
  • Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers: Shaggy and Scooby want to leave the mansion as soon as they find out its haunted, but Shaggy's Jeep sinks into the swamp, no one can come to get it out until morning, and its miles to the nearest town (with a gun-totting hillbilly with a grudge against Shaggy's family roaming through the woods). Unusually for this trope, he gets the truck back some time later. Instead of Hightailing it out of there, as you might expect, Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy decides to stay and finish the case. Seems even Shaggy and Scoob can't let a mystery go when it hooks them.

    Film — Live Action 
  • 8 Women: The story takes place entirely inside a mansion where the characters gradually become trapped and isolated due to the snow, Cut Phone Lines, a damaged car and locked gates. Under those conditions they have to figure out who from among them committed a murder.
  • 12 Angry Men: The jury members are deliberating in the jury room and aren't allowed to leave until they come to a decision.
  • Alien: The characters are trapped in a spaceship with the alien. That said, there's still the escape pod.
  • Film/Beetlejuice: When the Maitlands try to leave, they wind up in a strange limbo-like location called Saturn, a type of limbo inhabited by sandworms.
  • In The Blair Witch Project, the main characters become lost in the woods while filming a documentary about the Blair Witch. Efforts to reorient themselves fail, even things like following a river or walking in one direction until they're out.
  • The entire point of The Breakfast Club is that none of the characters would even speak to each other if they hadn't been forced to stay alone with each other for the day.
  • In Cemetery Man the man in charge of a town's cemetery (and putting zombies back in their graves) finally has enough and tries to drive away. Inexplicably the highway seems to have been destroyed and there is no way out.
  • In Clue, the butler locks all the characters up in a remote house in order to confront a blackmailer. Once the blackmailer is killed, it's still pouring rain, there are angry guard dogs roaming the perimeter, and they're in the middle of nowhere, keeping everyone motivated to stay. Even if someone did want to run, it would make them look like the killer.
  • In Coherence, a group of eight is bound to stay at a house because due to a time/space anomaly any attempt to leave the place will just cause the characters to reemerge at the same house in an alternate reality.
  • In Color Out of Space (2020), as the titular Eldritch Abomination's power grows as it feeds on its surroundings, it uses its influence to conspire to keep the unfortunate Gardner family trapped on their rural property by disrupting their phone service and rendering their vehicles inoperable, making escape from the area impossible. In desperation, Lavinia and Benny eventually attempt to escape on horseback. But then it possesses the horse.
  • The eponymous contraptions of the Cube movies are these. The protagonists are doomed to roam around a maze of cuboid rooms until they can figure out its particular structure and escape. Or not.
  • Dog Soldiers: The house is surrounded by werewolves and their vehicle is damaged.
  • In D-Tox, the rehab centre gets Snowed-In; trapping the patients and staff inside as one them starts to play Ten Little Murder Victims.
  • In The Evil Dead (1981) they can't leave the cabin because the bridge is out and the trees are all rapey. Also, a curse is turning them into Deadites.
  • In Ex Machina, Caleb is dropped off by helicopter into a compound in the middle of a vast wilderness, with no other means of leaving available to him. His communication with the outside world is cut off because his cell phone has no signal and he can't use the keycard-locked house phones. This is entirely intentional on Nathan's part, as his goal was to create a secret and undisturbed place for his experiments.
  • The 2007 Spanish film Fermat's Room has the main characters trapped in a locked room by the villain, with Advancing Walls Of Doom to make things more interesting.
  • Flightplan (2005): Set aboard a plane, so there's only so many places a missing daughter could be hidden.
  • Though nods to this are seen throughout the anthology, about 75 percent of the run-time of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is set on a cruise ship that is out to sea, making it the straightest example of this trope in the series.
  • Phil Connors, Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, not only experiences a "Groundhog Day" Loop but is perpetually stuck in Punxsutawney due to a blizzard blocking the roads.
  • The Haunting of Whaley House: The ghosts lock all of the doors, making the doorknobs hot to the touch, and drain the cell phones. And an attempt to break the windows leads to the character attempting getting impaled with his own chair.
  • Part of the initiation ritual in Hell Night entails being locked up inside an abandoned manor. Unfortunately, there's also a killer loose.
  • In the British chiller The Hole they can't leave the titular bunker because the leading lady has the key and won't open that door until the guy she is infatuated with will start to like her. The twist? The other three people with her don't know it.
  • Protagonists of House of the Dead can't leave the island because zombies are swimming in the surrounding waters. Same thing happens later when they barricade themselves into the titular shack.
  • In House on Haunted Hill (1959), Vincent Price's character locks several characters in his mansion with the promise of a large cash reward for staying the night. It was all a convoluted plot to expose his wife's affair and to kill her and her lover.
  • House on Haunted Hill (1999) has this among its many Double Subversions. This time the Price character is a mogul famous for parlaying his animatronic genius into into a thrill-ride empire, so everyone expects elaborately staged technological wizardry from him, and though everyone suspects he's behind locking them all in, they can't pass up the million he offers to remain there — at least until it's too late to say Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
  • Horror movie Identity traps a handful of protagonists in a motel by way of a major storm, and includes broken bridges and vehicles as well. But it turns out that regardless of all that, moving in any direction away from the motel will STILL bring you back to the motel...because it's all happening in one person's head.
  • In Jumanji anyone who rolls the dice of the titular board game becomes a player. Once four players are chosen those specific people must finish the game in order for all the horror it unleashes to be undone.
  • The Killing Room (2009): Four subjects are locked in a room for a psychological experiment. They're then told only one can get out alive. The film also covers the man running the experiment and a new recruit for the program. They never leave the premises, and it's implied that if the new recruit does try to walk out before the experiment runs its course, she'll be killed.
  • The 1930 Laurel and Hardy short "The Laurel and Hardy Murder Case" ended up having all the relatives of a recently deceased millionaire — including our two heroes — forcibly detained by a police detective in a mansion. Said detective believes one of them is the murderer and keeps them there until he finds the guilty party. One frantic character even attempts to escape out a window, but is stopped as everyone else is warned that cops are surrounding the mansion to prevent escape.
  • In The Legacy (1979), protagonists Maggie and Pete try to leave the Ravenhurst mansion after the other guests start dying, only to find that all the roads lead back to the mansion.
  • In Lizzie Borden's Revenge, the sisters are locked in the sorority house for the weekend as punishment, while the rest of the sorority heads off on Spring Break.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate: Once the family arrive at the hotel, Torgo tells them, "There is no way out of here. It will be dark soon. There is no way out of here." Michael decides it would be a good idea to stay the night. This is the least of his problems. Or the audience's for that matter.
  • In The Mansion, the eponymous mansion is isolated, their phones don't get any bars, their van disappears, and the forests surrounding the mansion are believed to contain wild boars.
  • In Murder on the Orient Express (1974), the characters are all on a train stopped by snow.
  • Non-Stop: Also set on a plane, as an air marshal searches for a killer among the passengers.
  • In Panic Room, the thieves and the residents of the house are all basically stuck around the titular panic room, as the bearer bonds the thieves are after are kept in the room and the family are obviously reluctant to 'trust' the thieves that they only want something kept in the room.
  • In The Phantom of Crestwood, a landslide takes out the only road to the ranch, meaning no one can enter or leave.
  • Pitch Black just loved this trope. First, their starship crashes on a mysterious planet. They go to retrieve power cells so they can leave in a smaller, functional ship. The car they're using is solar powered, and seemed ideal on a planet with three suns, but as luck would have it, they have a solar eclipse, which releases the monsters that are harmed by light. As monsters pick off each of the characters, and they continuously lose light sources, the remaining characters are trapped in a cave, with Riddick holding the only working flashlight.
  • Pleasantville is physically isolated—it's surrounded by mountains on all sides, and all of the roads circle back in towards the city. No one is ever seen entering or leaving the town either. This all changes by the end, though, when the teenagers who got sucked into the TV reality open up the worldview of Pleasantville's inhabitants, and there is now at least one road leading out of the town.
  • In Prison, nobody gets out because, it's prison. Additionally, there's a supernatural force that won't let them.
  • Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies uses the setting of the penitentiary where they were performing the event to justify the wrestlers having difficulty escaping. Their cell phones were confiscated before entering under the auspices of security.
  • The eponymous villain in Psycho Cop Returns locks the protagonists up with him inside the office building they are partying in.
  • Quarantine is set in a quarantined apartment building. Enforced, in that one character attempts to escape and is promptly killed by a sniper.
  • Revenge (2017): Richard's holiday home is in the middle of the desert. Richard and Jen arrive there by helicopter, which leaves and won't be returning for 48 hours. The house has a satellite phone and a radio, but by the time Jen is in trouble, she cannot access them, and the only all-terrain vehicles are controlled by the men hunting her.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show. With only a few very minor variations, it precisely fits the classic version of car breaks down in the rain, protagonists are stuck in a spooky castle. Though this is only natural considering that it's a parody of (among many other things) exactly those kinds of stories.
  • All "games" in Saw movies are held in closed locations.
  • In the Sharon Stone thriller Scissors, her character (Angie) spends most of the movie trapped in a show home.
  • In Rear Window, L.B. Jeffries is confined to his apartment with a multiple leg fracture.
  • Scream Park has the protagonists trapped inside the locked fences of the park. Even if they got over the fence, their car keys were confiscated by the manager before the party.
  • Slaughter High: After the characters enter the school, the killer seals and booby-traps all the exits: trapping them inside.
  • In the Slasher Movie Terror Train, a murderer is onboard the titular vehicle and due to the winter, nobody can get off. They just have sit in and wait for the next station.
  • The Thing (1982) takes place at an Antarctic research base which lacks the resources for anyone to get off the continent without outside help. Blair destroys their communications equipment to keep the Thing from escaping alive, leaving everyone stranded for the next couple months until someone comes for routine resupplying, trapped with the monster than can assume the form of anyone its killed. Then The Thing uses this to his advantage, destroying the base so everyone else will freeze to death while it hibernates until the resuppliers come and give it a way to the rest of the world.
  • This short was remade 15 years later as The Three Stooges short "If A Body Meets A Body". It follows the plot for the most part. In fact, the police detective is even played by the same actor, Fred Kelsey.
  • Played out on a large scale in Tremors. Yes, the monster's stomping ground is a great big valley, but it's a great big valley that no one can leave because the monsters can outrun them, and the only normal road out was blocked off by a landslide inadvertently caused by the monsters.
    Burt: We are completely cut off! We've got the cliffs to the north, mountains to the east and west. That's why me and Heather settled here in the first place: geographical isolation.
  • The Truman Show is a massive set for a reality show with only one real person, Truman Burbank, with the creators deliberately Railroading ways so Truman could spend his entire life in the fictitious Seahaven set. Or that was the idea at least...
  • The protagonists of Unknown (2006) are properly trapped in an Abandoned Warehouse in the middle of nowhere, doors are shut tight, windows are made of bullet-proof glass, cell phones are destroyed and the landline connection is cut. Lampshaded by one of the trapped characters: "Somebody's obviously gone to a lot of expense to secure this."

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Even when the Nautilus travels around the whole world, The Professor Aronnax, Battle Butler Conseil and Idiot Hero Ned Land are confined to the submarine. They can only talk with Captain Nemo (since all the other crew speak a secret language).
  • Anna Pigeon: In Firestorm, Anna is working with a fire crew during a wildfire. The crew is caught in a firestorm and retreat into their personal shelters. After the firestorm passes, one of the crew is found stabbed to death inside his shelter, meaning the killer has to have been one of those present when the firestorm hit.
  • Battle Royale takes place in a purposely vacated, remote island. Moreover, the students are equipped with radio transmitters that will explode if they somehow do manage to leave the confines of the island, forcing them to compete in the titular Battle. Moreover, as the "game" goes on, more and more zones of the island are made off limits, tightening the circle.
  • Arthur Clarke's short Breaking Strain: the realities of interplanetary navigation.
  • In Lawrence Block's The Burglar in the Library Bernie, Carolyn and the other guests and staff of Cuttleford House are trapped there after the rope bridge is sabotaged.
  • Anthony Boucher's The Case of the Seven Sneezes.
  • The Other House and garden in Coraline. If you walk too far, you find yourself coming back to the house again, and only Coraline herself and the cat can leave. The real Pink Palace is not this, but when Coraline attempts to call the police for help, they don't believe that her parents have been kidnapped and so she has to deal with the situation herself.
  • Michael Crichton loved this trope. Seriously, pick nearly any one of his books.
  • Agatha Christie:
    • And Then There Were None: Bad weather and sabotaged communications.
    • Even better: Murder on the Orient Express (1934). The entire murder investigation goes on while the eponymous train has been immobilized due to a snowstorm. The idea that the killer or killers could have escaped away is quickly shot down, by establishing that an attempt to escape on foot would be suicidal.
  • Dead Mountaineer's Hotel: The characters are in a hotel in a snowy valley, and an avalanche locks them from the outside world for at least a couple of days.
  • Cyril Hare's An English Murder: heavy snow.
  • This happens in several books of Galaxy of Fear. It takes place on a number of different planets, and the very first book ended with their ride being destroyed. Although they were rescued by the crew of the Millennium Falcon, they were dropped off on another world to make their way from there right in the next book. In many other books, if the ship they picked up in the second one isn't damaged in some way, they have another reason they can't just leave.
  • In Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted: A Novel, the cast of characters trap themselves in an isolated theater, each unwilling to leave until they're able to present themselves as the hero of the resulting news stories and Ripped from the Headlines movie.
  • The Hunger Games. Twenty-four tributes are forced to fight to the death in an arena surrounded by force fields and natural boundaries like mountains and lakes. The Gamemakers can even instantaneously alter the arena to make it smaller and smaller as the games progress, thereby increasing the drama for the audiences both in- and out-of-universe.
  • Some of Matthew Reilly's works have this. Contest, Ice Station, Area 7, Army of would think he uses this trope so as to help concentrate the explosions and other demolition. The protagonist of his short story "The Dead Prince" invokes this trope so as to prevent the culprit from getting away.
  • Several interesting examples in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. Cecilia is a city which has swallowed the world, Trude cannot be left because it is all cities and Penthesilia consists only of outskirts, leaving Marco Polo uncertain as to whether or not he can ever be not in the outskirts of that city.
  • The Invisible Host: human agency.
  • In Krabat, you can't run away from the mill — the master (an evil wizard) will prevent it. Even suicide won't work.
  • Christopher Manson's MAZE has two. The first is a network of menacing rooms that lead you around in circles with only one way out. The second is where you end up when you take that one way out.
  • The Maze Runner Trilogy:
    • The Maze Runner features a place called The Glade. A bunch of teenagers are trapped in it with no memory of their lives before they woke up there. The doors open at dawn and close at dusk, but only lead to a giant maze with no exit. Better yet, the maze changes every night while the doors are closed. Oh, and if you're in the maze at night, giant metal monsters attack you.
  • Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game: a man is shipwrecked on a remote island, with only an Ax-Crazy hunter for company.
  • In Murder at Colefax Manor, the player can't leave the manor's grounds until they have solved the mystery. Played straight when the player enters the caverns, as they are then unable to return to the manor or its grounds.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers' The Nine Tailors: A car accident keeps Lord Peter in Fenchurch St. Paul during the New Year peal at the beginning of the story, and a flood traps him there for the endgame. In between he is not trapped, however, just at those critical times.
  • SJ Morden's One Way is largely set in an under-construction Mars base, so even if there was anywhere else on the planet to go, there wouldn't be enough oxygen or battery power to get there anyway.
  • Project NRI has the Niege Research Institute, where all the characters are trapped in.
  • In Pyramids, once the gigantic pyramid is completed, its incredible amount of Pyramid Power almost completely severs Djelibeybi from world, trapping its inhabitants with ALL of its gods. Since several of the gods often were responsible for the same thing, Hilarity Ensues as the gods duke it out for control over things like the sun.
  • Septimus Heap:
    • In Magyk, Draggen Island is the Closed Circle, preventing Silas from returning and also DomDaniel from arriving.
    • Syren island in Syren.
    • The Heaps' room in Darke.
  • The novel Severance Package takes place mostly on one floor of an office building. It's revealed that the financial services firm where the main character works is really a cover branch for the CIA, and they're being shut down — the hard way. The people are given a choice: drink poisoned mimosas for a peaceful death, or be shot in the back of the head. The elevators have been disabled and the exit doors rigged with gas so no one can leave. Then the real fun begins ...
  • In Ellery Queen's The Siamese Twin Mystery, a forest fire traps the cast.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: As the water in the Grand Canyon retreats, David and the others find themselves trapped on a ledge high over the river.

  • A very significant percentage of all theater-style Live-Action Role-Play games have some version of this trope. Otherwise, players being true to their characters might very well leave the game area.

    Live-Action TV  
  • American Horror Story: Murder House, anyone who dies in the house has their ghost become trapped in the house for all eternity. An example is shown when Violet attempts to leave the house, only to come through the back door, again and again.
  • Ascension (Miniseries): The show is about a murder that takes place aboard a Generation Ship that has been in space for 50 years, so the murderer has no way of escaping.
  • Being Human (US): Sally is unable to leave the house at the beginning, describing the outside as just "dropping off". However, she eventually learns to leave the property and venture outside. In the UK version, Annie is always able to leave the house, but usually chooses not to.
  • Bring 'Em Back Alive: In "Storm Warning", Buck escapes being murdered aboard a ship, then is forced to wait out a storm with his shipmates, one of whom is the would-be killer.
  • Used in one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Dawn wishes to a Vengeance Demon that everyone would stop leaving her (really, she has abandonment issues, and for a very good reason, her father left them when she was 9, her mother's dead, her sister died for a few months, came back and then ignored her, the people who have been taking care of her split up, one of them leaving and it just keeps getting worse throughout the show. They end up trapped in the house. With a demon.
  • The Death in Paradise episode "The Man with the Golden Gun" is set on a millionaire's private island; there were only a specific group of suspects who could have committed the crime, and as the episode unfolds a storm traps the suspects and the detectives on the island until they have solved the case.
  • This is the premise of the Doctor Who episode "Midnight", in which the Doctor and a bunch of tourists are trapped in a train car with a mysterious and probably malevolent alien.
    • Actually, it seems almost every other episode of the new series the TARDIS is lost, stolen or thought to be destroyed, only to turn up once the plot's been resolved.
      • Happens a lot in the original series, as well, to the point that "small group of people trapped in a base, being killed of by a monster/monsters" is pretty much the standard Who plot. Hell, in the second serial The Daleks, the Doctor fakes this scenario by deliberately sabotaging the TARDIS so he can explore Skaro. This backfires when the Daleks steal the piece he took from the TARDIS, making this a real Closed Circle scenario.
    • In one particular Rory/Amy era episode, there's two closed circles. One is entirely within the Tardis (though the other eschews it, for one traditionally nebulous reason or another). Only the antagonist has control over travel between the two. Oh, and one of them is imaginary, apparently. What's real is a feature of the eventually resolved plot twist(s), of course.
  • This trope, which means that Ted has to put up Bishop Brennan, who is frightened of rabbits, whilst the parochial house is infested with rabbits, is bizarrely parodied in an episode of Father Ted:
    Mrs. Doyle: I've got some bad news Your Grace — I just heard on the radio that they've taken the roads in.
    Bishop Brennan: They've "taken the roads in"?
    Ted: Yes. They roll them up when it gets too stormy and store up in a big warehouse on the North side of the island so they don't get damaged.
  • Gilligan's Island, so much so that people ask why they don't Just Eat Gilligan.
  • In Helix, several factors conspire to keep the CDC rapid response team at Research, Inc. Arctic Biosystems during their investigation of an outbreak of The Virus. It's CDC protocol to achieve full containment of a pathogen before leaving, the helicopters that transported them can't stay, due to the Hostile Weather's ability to coagulate fuel, and satellite communication to the outside world, though instantaneous, is only active for an hour a day. Then the satellite is sabotaged directly after the CDC's lead researcher decides he's lost control of the situation and states that he intends to call for backup.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: The Kamen Sentai Gorider special uses this premise. Emu Hojo wakes up in a mysterious amusement park that seems to be on an island floating in the void. He (and the five other Kamen Riders who subsequently show up) quickly discover that it's impossible to leave the park; no matter which direction you go, you'll always end up back where you started. The plot thickens when the six realize that besides being Riders, the other common bond between them is that they're all dead...
  • Les Revenants: Towards the end of the first season, a few characters decide to get the hell out of the sleepy French town where a bunch of weirdness is happening. They keep driving through the same tunnel only to end up right back in town.
  • The Leverage episode "The Ten Little Grifters Job" — whose title is also an Agatha Christie homage — plays with this trope.
  • Lost, which starts with the survivors of a plane crash. Then in season five, most of the ones who left the island returned.
  • Lost Tapes: most settings in various episodes are usually some variation of this, with the characters ending up in an isolated or enclosed area that they can't easily get out of, such as the North American wilderness, an Australian rainforest, an old house, the Gobi Desert, a condemned boarding house, or a sewer.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: "Murder Under the Mistletoe" takes place in an isolated chalet. A snowstorm leaves the chalet Snowed-In, with roads to icy to drive on, and engines of all the vehicles frozen. Cut Phone Lines complete the isolation.
  • Happened infrequently on Murder, She Wrote, such as the episode where a murder took place on the victim's private island, one where Jessica and others are stuck at a 24 hour diner during a storm after their bus breaks down, and another where people are Snowed-In at a ski resort due to a blizzard, and also one episode had a murder happen in a plane mid-flight.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • "Stairway to Heaven" is set at a lodge on an island during a heavy thunderstorm. Detective Murdoch arrives soaking wet and tells everyone there that the ferry to the mainland won't operate again until the storm lets up, so he and Dr. Grace have to work the murder case entirely onsite.
    • "Friday the 13th 1901" starts as a "hen party" (a bachelorette party) on an island over a weekend. The boatman isn't scheduled to return for several days, the only boat on the island is found to have a gaping hole in it, and the period setting means there's no communications technology. Thus Drs Ogden and Grace have to take the lead in solving the problem of the ax-wielding killer.
  • In Once Upon a Time, the Dark Curse keeps the inhabitants of Storybrooke from leaving the city and keeps (most) visitors away. Even after the Curse is broken, those who cross the city's boundary lose all memory of their fairy tale selves, until Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin takes specific precautions to avoid that.
  • The Village Head in Saengchori controls who comes and goes in Once Upon a Time in Saengchori.
  • Orange Is the New Black for the most part takes place in a women's prison.
  • In an episode of Sanctuary, the characters were trapped because of a severe snowstorm which was delaying the rescue team from arriving.
  • Built into the DNA of Sapphire and Steel; it occurs in every serial. It was handwaved in various ways, generally along the lines of "Time won't let us leave", and contributed to the series' sense of unsettling claustrophobia.
  • A Bottle Episode of Scrubs is set up when JD offhandedly wonders if a patient may have SARS. The hospital is automatically locked down and quarantined until the events of the episode are over and the hospital is declared safe.
  • Common in Stargate SG-1 back in its early years, since the Stargate is the only way off of a planet and it's plausible that the team's access to it would be blocked.
    • Even more common in Stargate Universe. The castaways have no control over Destiny's course or how long it lingers in a star system; they're just along for the ride.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Our Man Bashir" has Bashir and Garak playing a James Bond holosuite program for fun, until a transporter malfunction raises the stakes by replacing five of the characters with five of the station's senior staff. What makes it this trope is that, if they try to leave, hide, or otherwise go Off the Rails before their friends outside can fix the problem, the program will end and erase the crew.
  • Used in at least one episode of The Twilight Zone, "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" They don't find out the true identity of the titular Martian — or if there even is one — before they finally leave the circle to their doom.
  • A couple of episodes of The West Wing. Lampshaded in "Holy Night," the fourth-season Christmas Episode in which everybody is waiting for it to stop snowing so they can leave the White House.
    Leo: Dr. Keyworth, Dulles and International are both closed.
    Stanley: Ah.
    Leo: You mind being our guest for a little while?
    Stanley: Thank you.
    President Bartlet: And now we're one-third of the way through an Agatha Christie story. [leans forward] "Won't nobody be goin' nowhere. The bridge is warshed out." [awkward pause] Well, I'm finished. But I was doing the guy that says that in the Agatha Christie stories.

  • In the Eagles song Hotel California, the narrator arrives at the hotel and later discovers that he apparently can't leave.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played for Laughs in Get Fuzzy, whenever Bucky tries to pretend he didn't do whatever thing he did. Rob is always quick to realize that there are only three of them in the apartment, and he and Satchel can be accounted for.
    Rob: (as Satchel freaks out over a broken piggy bank) Well, it's only you and me and Bucky in this place. And since you and I didn't do it...
    Satchel: This is no time for riddles, Rob! If you know something, then for the love of food, out with it!

    Role Playing Games 
  • Almost all dramatic Journal Roleplay games take place in closed circles, forcing characters to stay where they otherwise wouldn't (unless a player drops). This is so prevalent that this type of game has earned the name "spooky jamjar".
  • The entire point (at least initially) of Escape from Ironheart is to, well, escape from Ironheart, a massive, supposedly inescapable prison.
  • Ruby Quest is set in a big underwater facility with no escape. Well, until the end.

    Tabletop Games 
This is a classic game master technique for getting players to stick around for a while and follow the plot.
  • In Betrayal at House on the Hill, the players always start in front of the main door, but can't just turn around and leave. You have to explore, triggering Omens, until the Haunt starts, at which point you may be able to escape... if the scenario lets you.
  • Part of the setup for "Cthulhu City", a Trail of Cthulhu variant setting, is that there's no reliable, mundane way to leave the city, and even if you think you've managed it, you haven't, to the point where there's a specific page the GM can reach for to come up with an excuse for why this particular escape attempt didn't work, plus some extra ideas in the text for specific areas. These can range from the straightforward (stopped by the Transport Police; car sabotaged) to the suspicious and occult (ship sunk by Something in the water; encounters with cultists; lost in the fog) to the just plain weird (trees in the forest gradually blur together until the investigators find themselves on a city street; attacked by invisible serial killer; the outside world is a post-apocalyptic landscape, an alien world, Carcosa or something; the first time you fall asleep after reaching another city, you wake up back in Great Arkham, but part of that city has been taken back in with you).
  • Mark Rosewater discusses the unique problems this trope presents for the story of Magic: The Gathering. Since Magic's main protagonists are almost all planeswalkers, and the defining trait of planeswalkers is that they can freely move between planes, each story must carefully explain why the protagonists either can't or won't just planes-walk away.
  • A Pyramid article on unusual artifacts included the Enigma Van. While it could resemble any mode of transport suitable for the setting (from Conundrum Carriage to Secret Starship), the key points were that it was attracted to mysteries, and once it found one it would break down until the mystery was solved. An obvious Deconstruction of the Mystery Machine. The same series also had the Bloody Typhoid Mary Celeste, a vehicle which was more generally attracted to trouble (and therefore seen as being trouble - it was also very distinctive), but which would likewise break down if the PCs tried to leave before the situation was resolved.
  • In a Ravenloft campaign, a DM can use the Mists to keep players from straying from a certain area (ie, players go into the Mists and emerge in the same place), but doing so is a cheap trick.
    • Some individual locations within the setting are Closed Circles by their very nature, as with Baron Evensong's one-room study/prison.

  • Used for the basic premise of Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark, in which the characters are confined to a mansion due to both an inmate from the local asylum being loose and a relative's will stating that they forfeit their inheritance if they leave.
  • Also the premise of The Mousetrap.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit plays with this trope. The characters are only locked in by their own flaws and mediocrity.
  • Wait Until Dark is about a blind woman whose basement apartment becomes her prison when she is targeted by a trio of criminals looking for a misplaced heroin shipment.

    Video Games 
  • Modern Battle Royale games invoke this figuratively, by having a group of players dropped onto an island to fight to the last one standing, and literally by having a circle of damaging energy/fog close in around them at certain intervals to ensure that the dwindling players meet at some point and keep fighting.
  • Alone in the Dark (1992) The main character can't leave the mansion Derceto as the door mysteriously slams as soon as s/he enters. And if you try to open it, you get eaten by what looks like a giant Man-Eating Plant.
  • You are stuck in the eponymous town of Anchorhead. Your car broke down and has been towed away to the city of Arkham, and your purse and phone are in it. The only phone you can find doesn't work; the road out of town leads into wilderness. In addition, as Croseus's power over him grows, your husband outright refuses to leave, and you're determined not to go without him.
  • In Ancient Domains of Mystery, you leave the Drakalor Chain (by going to the same part of the road where you arrived), but this permanently ends the game. Ideally you should do it after you finish the game's main goal. You can freely exit most of the dungeons and get back to the main map, provided you can survive the return trip. With the exception of the lowest levels of the Caverns of Chaos once you've broken the elemental lock. After that, you can only go onward, to glory or death (or quitting, but where's the fun in that?)
  • In the first game of The Bard's Tale Trilogy, the magic of the evil wizard Mangar has placed the area surrounding Skara Brae under perpetual winter conditions, making it impossible for the heroes to leave town for the entire game.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum has Joker take over the Arkham island, trapping Batman inside and forcing him to confront some of his major arch-enemies and a lot of henchmen. By the mid-point of the game, Batman displays that he could have left Arkham any time he felt like it, but refuses to do so until he gets the island back under control.
    • While Batman himself could in theory leave whenever he likes, this is not true of other characters - at one point Commissioner Gordon leaves via speedboat, only to be promptly recaptured by Joker's men.
    • In the sequel, Batman: Arkham City, things just keep happening to keep Batman in the prison area rather than figuring out some kind of escape route. While the auto-targeting machine-guns and heavy guard presence, both on land and at sea, aren't in principle insurmountable, a) Hugo Strange knows his secret identity and will leak it if he leaves, b) he only has ten hours to figure out what's going on before "Protocol Ten" starts, and c) after a little while Joker poisons him and quite a few other people in Gotham, and the only hope of a cure in a meaningful timeframe is located within Arkham City.
  • The makers of BioShock went on record to explain why Rapture is a city at the bottom of the ocean and not, say, a hideout in Colorado: to justify this trope. Otherwise, the player character could simply find a plane or just walk out into the wilderness to get away from the freaks in an open air environment. In Rapture, you are stuck down there until you finish the job. Which hides the real reason you are down there obeying orders.
    • Similarly enforced in BioShock Infinite. Instead of under the sea, Columbia is a city in the clouds, and Booker is sent there via a one-way lightouse-rocket, and it's just as inescapable. Any time he and Elizabeth devise a way to leave (mostly via the First Lady Airship) are thwarted by Elizabeth, the Vox Populi, Songbird, or some other external force. By the end of the game, Booker is basically begging Elizabeth to leave Columbia, but she refuses to go until Comstock is dead. The Playable Epilogue throws many, many wrenches into this plan, but also breaks the circle and takes the setting away from Columbia by going to various locations, including Rapture, both lighthouses, Wounded Knee, and Booker's office.
  • In Bloodborne, Yharnem is one of these. The game hides it well, by having gates in the game that are unopenable (and presumably would lead to other parts of the city or even outside) and due to the generally confusing city layout and large amounts of Gothic architecture (making it more difficult to tell what direction they're looking in).
  • Used in all of the Chzo Mythos.
    • Five Days a Stranger, the house itself won't let you leave.
    • Seven Days a Skeptic, you're on a spaceship. Help is coming in 7 days and the escape pods aren't an option.
    • Trilby's Notes is slightly subtler, and some players may not even notice, but you try walk away from the hotel entrance, you'll simply reappear at the the other side.
    • 6 Days a Sacrifice, you are trapped in an underground bunker and the accesses to the surface are inoperable/blocked.
  • Probably the only Survival Horror game in history to avert this is Clock Tower: The First Fear. At any point in the game, you can go to the garage, take the car keys, and drive away. You can get two endings this way: One has Jennifer escape only to be found dead in her room 3 days later, the other has Scissorman rise out of the back seat as she's driving.
  • In Dead Island, military patrol boats surround the island and apparently shoot down any vehicle trying to pass by regardless of intention. This is an attempt to keep the zombie experimentation as under wraps as possible via Leave No Witnesses.
  • Dead Rising has Frank West invoke this on purpose, telling the helicopter pilot to return in three days, as he is at the mall for a scoop. Unfortunately a zombie outbreak is happening at the same time, and the helicopter becomes both his and the survivors' only form of rescue. At least at first.
  • Dead Space
    • Dead Space invokes this pretty early on, by having the shuttle you crash landed in explode in your face when you go back to try and repair it.
    • Likewise Dead Space 2, except this time it's not just the Necromorphs impeding your escape.
  • In Devil Survivor, everyone is caught in the Tokyo Lockdown — nobody can get out of the Yamanote Circle, and has to deal with the demons, loss of electricity, limited supplies, and all the nasty human factors that come into play as the lockdown wears on.
  • One of the main story quests in Dragon Age: Origins sends the Player Character into a Circle of Magi tower full of abominations with the purpose of clearing out the creatures (and slaughtering any surviving mages, if the player is feeling cruel). There is only one exit out of the tower and the door is locked behind the Warden when he/she enters. Incidentally, the name of the quest is "Broken Circle."
    • The Golems of Amgarrak DLC also features this trope, as Jerrik and the Warden are unable to leave the thaig until the Harvester is defeated.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion — Intentionally invoked by the contracting client in the 'Whodunit?' quest for the Dark Brotherhood. The same client also awards a performance bonus for carrying the trope out to its murder mystery conclusion.
  • Ephemeral Fantasia combines this with "Groundhog Day" Loop. The game takes place on an island where time resets back to Monday at midnight on Friday, and the next ferry won't arrive until Saturday morning. Thus, only by ending the loop can one leave the island.
  • In many levels of Eternal Darkness, you can go to the main entrance and examine it, which will give you the reason why the current character can not or will not leave. For example, Paul Luther is framed for a murder and running away would be an admission of guilt, and Edwin Lindsey stays in the temple because nobody gets the better of Dr. Lindsey! Even if that someone is an undead horror. The exceptions are Ellia who gets locked in by a Ghost Butler, and all the forbidden city levels (Pious, Karim, Roberto and Michael), as the forbidden city has no obvious exit.
  • One story in Fate/Grand Order has two crime families and a larger crime organization under the front of the Marble Trading Company come together to hammer out the details for an arranged marriage between the two families in a beach house on an isolated island because of a letter threatening them to call off the engagement or someone would die. Unfortunately, whoever sent that letter came along with them and because transportation takes a while to arrive to the island, they're stuck with the murderer for several days. The protagonist accidentally intrudes upon it by magically possessing one of them in their dreams and by giving the information to Sherlock Holmes, he deduces the island's location and charters a boat to go stop the murderer.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the characters are given a buggy needed to cross the obligatory knee-deep creek in their way to the next area. After crossing the creek, the buggy breaks down — right in front of the town where the player needs to go. Once the quest inside that town is finished, the buggy is conveniently fixed, allowing them to cross the other obligatory knee-deep creek.
    • If you went to the town first, thus not breaking the buggy, an NPC still offers to fix it for you. An odd oversight, as the town is easily spotted and the player is just as likely to go straight there.
  • All Sumio Mondo needs to do at Lospass Island in Flower, Sun and Rain is stay one day at the hotel and then leave to disarm a bomb at the airport. Except there's a time loop that resets every time he fails, and first he has to solve a puzzle to leave his room, then open the stairwell, then unblock the lobby entrance...
  • In Fredbear and Friends, when Thomas decides it's high time to leave the haunted pizzeria, he finds the exit door locked. After smashing the lock with a hammer, he discovers, to his horror, that the short corridor behind it that would normally lead to the exit now somehow ends with a solid wall, and the back door has likewise disappeared. The front door returns after the clock hits 6 AM, although now it's locked with a keypad.
  • Goat Simulator has one boat in Goat City Bay that turns around and takes off when you land on it. If you ride it to its ultimate destination, it crashes on an island that has barriers around it to prevent you from "swimming" to shore. You can just pick "Respawn" from the menu to return to town, though.
  • In most of the Grand Theft Auto games the town you're in seems to have no entrance roads, i.e. a Gateless Ghetto, or they're blocked by Insurmountable Waist Height Fences. And to add to that, the district you start in is isolated from the rest of the city at the beginning of the game, either by Broken Bridge or Border Patrol.
  • In inFAMOUS, Empire City has been quarantined following the explosion because of a spreading plague. And the military isn't kidding; an early mission is a blatant escape attempt only to watch quite a few NPCs mowed down by a wall of machine guns at an exit point. Later on, gangbangers put hostages out for display on boats so the Navy won't sink them as they leave for open waters. The player makes sure it doesn't come to that, but Mission Control assures him the gangbangers are wrong. Also happens on a smaller scale like Grand Theft Auto above; the routes into different boroughs are closed until the plot opens them.
    • In inFAMOUS: Second Son, the city of Seattle is quarantined under martial law by the D.U.P. due to several "bio-terrorists" escaping into the city. Delsin and Reggie make it into the city just as the D.U.P. collapses the last bridges into and out of the city.
  • Like the video game that it was based off, the entire premise of Heta Oni is that a group of nations are locked in a mansion, with one (or several) bizarre monsters trying to kill them. The situation is inverted later, when the remaining nations find out what's going on and try to come to help out. They reach the mansion grounds, only to find that they can't get inside and must settle for fighting any monsters that wander out.
  • Kingdom Hearts starts because the characters feel this way. They live on a series of islands and feel like there's nothing to do, so they build a raft to see the world. Chain of Memories plays it straight. A narrow pathway leads to Castle Oblivion. There's nothing but an empty field in the opposite direction. To top it off, Marluxia appears and hints to Sora that Riku is there.
  • Colonel's Bequest and its sequel Laura Bow & The Dagger of Amon Ra both have closed circles. Though part two lets you wander about the city a bit before hand before locking the door. Both also have a Serial Killer walking about though only the first one is a psycho the other one is merely a man who would've gotten away with it if Laura hadn't been there that night.
  • Played with in Luigi's Mansion — At first, the front door is locked, but by the time Luigi finds the key, he's found evidence that Mario's probably somewhere in the mansion and therefore has no motivation to leave.
    • Also played with in Luigi's Mansion 3. The first visit back to the lobby shows that the ghosts have barricaded the exit and tampered with all other exits and phone lines to ensure Luigi and co. stay trapped. However some of Professor E. Gadd and King Boo's comments imply that Luigi could have escaped any time if he really wanted to, but he wouldn't leave until he has rescued Mario, Peach and the Toads.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo this is what happens when an Agent/the System 'seals' off an area in the Matrix. You can't leave until you've gotten rid of the Agents, or it's subverted in that you sometimes find a way out that they forgot to block off.
  • In Maze: Subject 360 when the main character gets in her car and tries to leave Haven she encounters an endless road where everything looks exactly the same, courtesy of a malicious Reality Warper.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Samus arrives on a planet in response to a distress call or otherwise, but her ship gets damaged, forcing a crash landing. Throughout the game, the ship is the process of gradually repairing itself while Samus is out and about on her adventure, and if you periodically return to the ship, you can even scan it and get a reading on how far the repairs have progressed.
  • As soon as you enter Mortlake Mansion, you're trapped in there until the mystery is solved.
  • The Mystery Case Files game Dire Grove has a form of this. The titular community is very isolated and experiences harsh weather conditions, so the residents pack up every fall and spend the winters elsewhere. Because of this, anyone who does go into the town during this off season has almost no chance of escaping it.
  • You can leave the dungeon in NetHack — but then the game calls you a coward and ends. You're actually supposed to leave once you have the Amulet of Yendor, but when you do, you step into the Astral Plane and head on up.
  • In Penumbra Philip is forced to stay in the abandoned mine, first because of a blizzard outside, then because of a lack of accessible exits.
  • The Phantasmat series has a variety of ways to trap its main characters, whether it's an avalanche or a car accident or the front door of a creepy old house vanishing.
  • In the original Phantasy Star, a guard forbids Alis from leaving the first town, although she can simply leave through another exit.
  • In Phantasy Star Online, the people of Pioneer 2 are attempting to colonize the planet Ragol. However, colonization efforts are halted due to a mysterious explosion that cuts off all contact with the scientists already planetside, and can't proceed until the cause of the explosion and the fate of the scientists can be ascertained.
  • The seventh generation Pokémon games pull off a justified example; After defeating Guzma in Po Town, you cannot use Charizard Glide until after you talk to Nanu at the front of the Shady House. note 
  • [PROTOTYPE] does something similar. The main character can't swim, and the only other route out of the city is heavily guarded by the military, and impossible to break through without getting killed.
  • In Resident Evil, most games evoke this trope to some degree:
    • In Resident Evil 0 Rebecca and Billy are trapped on a train, then a mansion, and finally an Umbrella research lab. All three locations are full of monsters and locked doors.
    • In the first game, the your character and his/her team were attacked by mutated dogs and chased into the mansion. If you attempt to open the front door, one will jump in to attack you.
    • Resident Evil 2 starts with Leon and Claire fighting to escape the zombie-infested streets and get to the police station. Once they get there, the rest of the game is them trying to figure out how to escape.
    • In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Jill is trapped in zombie raccoon city. At one point, Nemesis shoots down her rescue helicopter.
    • Resident Evil – Code: Veronica has Chris and Claire stuck on a remote island and an isolated Antarctic research lab. Both of which are controlled by Umbrella and full of zombies.
    • In Resident Evil 4, even after rescuing the President's daughter, the bridge to get out of town is out and a helicopter before Mike sent to pick you up apparently got shot down.
    • One of the common complaints about Resident Evil 5's narrative and gameplay is that it subverts this for most of the game. Narrative-wise, save for the segment when Chris and Sheva go underground into the ancient ruins and discover the laboratory where the Projenitor Virus was created there is never a moment that they're not in full contact with their superiors and able to call for an extraction and/or for reinforcements. Unsurprisingly, the underground segment is also often considered to be the best segment of the game since the isolation and the goddamned Licker Betas is the only time the game is actually tense and scary. Gameplay-wise wise, since you can replay whatever chapters you want, item and ammo management no longer exists since you're free to quit the game whenever you want, go to a previous chapter and farm for herbs, ammo, and rocket launchers, and then pick right back up where you left off with enough firepower to invade a country.
    • Resident Evil: Revelations: The characters spend the majority of the game trapped on Ghost Ships infested with a new type of BOW. Bonus points for Jill and Parker's BSAA ship being destroyed by Veltro agents.
    • Resident Evil: Revelations 2 takes place on an abandoned island near Russia. At one point, they find a helicopter but Alex Wesker sabotages it causing it to crash.
  • In the original Rogue, the stairs only work one way until you get the Amulet of Yendor.
  • Scratches not only uses this trope, it makes it your fault that you're trapped because you let your car's battery run down. Guess there aren't any cab services in rural England.
  • The protagonist in Serena refuses to leave the log cabin for various reasons throughout the game.
  • In Shivers, the player is locked in the museum grounds on a dare. In addition, once the player enters the museum, there is no way out.
  • Silent Hill
    • In Silent Hill Harry Mason crashes his jeep after trying to dodge Alessa, who appears out of nowhere on the road. Later on in the game you can find the truck, but no vehicle including his truck works. Nor can he climb up the cliff he crashed down, and most of the town's exiting roads have giant gaping pits straight to hell.
    • In Silent Hill 2, for most of the game you can backtrack to James' still working car parked in a freeway rest stop and theoretically leave, but you can't because then the game would be over.
    • Silent Hill 3 has a combo of case 1 and 3. At the beginning Heather goes into a slightly dark version of the mall populated by monsters by crawling out of a women's bathroom window and entering another section of a mall, but refuses to go back that way before facing monsters because the "weird old guy" is outside the bathroom door. Attempting to leave through that door after encountering monsters will reveal that the door can no longer be opened. In fact the long walk out of the bathroom to the other entrance of the mall, framed by the setting sun, is perhaps the only time direct sunlight seen in the series, and the alley is very appropriately blocked off by a van that leaves no space for the driver to enter or leave. Still, leaving through the women's restroom after meeting the first monster would probably still lead back to the Dark World. Interestingly, even after killing a boss and returning to the "real world" (quotations are used since it's still populated by flesh rending monsters) both she and the PI can't find any other real people but each other and two crazy cultists. Oh, and monsters, corpses, and monster corpses.
    • Silent Hill 4 actually does this three different ways, Henry starts off locked in his own apartment, then he discovers a way to travel to different locations - only to find that, due to locked doors, blocked exits, and enclosing fences, these areas are inescapable, too. Finally, he manages to break free of his apartment, only to find that it's been a part of the Dark World all along.
      • There's also a fourth example as part of a puzzle. Holding a specific item in his inventory in the forest will cause the pathway back to loop forever, so Henry must find a way to get it from point A to point B without carrying it.
    • Lampshaded in Silent Hill: 0rigins in a late cutscene when Dr. Kaufman asks Travis why he hasn't left yet if he hates the place so much, and Travis snaps back with an irritated "I can't".
    • Finally justified in Silent Hill: Downpour: The town won't let you leave - when Murphy gets smart and tries to hotwire a speedboat, the owner outright tells him that the town has "rules", and gets pissed if you break them. When Murphy ignores him, a horde of Screamers assault him and drive him away from the boat, plus all the giant fences that wall off explorable areas.
    • Silent Hills: Other than the starting room and a mid-game break, you spend the whole game wandering a very creepy hallway, which always loops back to start it all over again when you try to leave. Granted, word at the time was this wasn't indicative of what the full game was going to entail, but we'll never know since the whole thing was cancelled.
  • In Chapter 4 of Space Pirates and Zombies you can't leave a system unless you kill lots of zombie bases or ships.
  • Sunset 2015: A US-backed coup has broken out the the country of Anchuria, and Angela's college degree isn't recognized by the new regime, meaning she can't go home. She had to take a job as a housekeeper to make ends meet, and the bulk of the game is set in her employer's penthouse apartment suite.
  • String Tyrant The game takes place at a mysterious mansion that is in it's own pocket dimension. In-story running away from the mansion has you end up back at the mansion. In-game the mansion is surrounded by impassable trees.
  • System Shock and its sequel both strand you in deep space.
    • In the original, you are on a space station and are kept well away from the escape pods.
    • In System Shock 2, you are stranded out in deep space after the ship is attacked and the warp drive breaks down. This is bad enough, but it is made worse as it is the only warp drive in existence.
  • Yamatai Island in Tomb Raider (2013) is one. Storms pop up out of nowhere to destroy any transport that gets near the island (Along with any transport built or salvaged by the people on the island who try to leave), so the survivors of the Endurance are stuck there until Lara can figure out why and stop it.
  • Ultra Despair Girls has the cast trapped in a very bizarre robot-overrun town. When one character tried to escape via city canal, the bracelet on their wrist exploded in the middle of swimming out.
  • Undertale: The Underground is one giant closed circle, thanks to the magical barrier preventing exit. The magic doesn't block entry at all, but the Underground only has two physical entrances, and local legends strongly discourage anyone from approaching. And the magic will allow someone with a sufficiently powerful SOUL to exit, but the amount of power needed means a human has to kill a monster and take their SOUL to leave, or vice-versa. Unsurprisingly, the Golden Ending has the barrier destroyed for good.
  • In Until Dawn, the characters are trapped on the mountain due to a combination of a bad snowstorm grounding the rescue helicopter until the morning and a turned-off cable car in which a missing Josh possesses the only key.
  • Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- is set in the eponymous island where Armed Virus carriers are sent to be quarantined until a cure is found. Unlike the island of Mermaid, Bhikkhuni is said to have developed an efective way to treat the symptoms of the disease.
  • The World Ends with You; You're stuck in Shibuya whether you like it or not. Unlike most RPGs where the first town you visit is usually blown to pieces.
  • In Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, Adol is shipwrecked on an island and can't leave because he doesn't have/can't build a ship large enough to travel back to the mainland. And once that is resolved, he still can't leave because of conditions that make it unsafe to sail (unnatural weather patterns in VI, a sea monster in VIII). By the time that's resolved, he's thoroughly caught up in the story and has no interest in leaving until he finishes the adventure.

    Visual Novel 
  • Dangan Ronpa Trigger Happy Havoc: 16 students are trapped inside a prestigious academy by a sadistic Teddy Bear named Monokuma. The only way to escape? Kill one of your classmates, then successfully cover up the crime.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair continues the trend but this time the students are trapped on a group of islands with no means of escape. There's even a closed circle within a closed circle when the students are trapped within a fun house located on the island.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has a similar premise to the first, but the students can leave the school building and go outside... whereupon they run into the "End Wall" surrounding the school and the area outside.
  • Endless Summer revolves around a group of college students, along with their tour guide and pilot, finding themselves trapped on a Caribbean island.
  • In Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, this actually took place prior to the events of the game, in-universe; the village the game takes place in was apparently quarantined in the days leading up to the "Rapture." Plenty of people still tried to escape, with varying results.
  • Exit/Corners revolves around five people trapped in a hotel forced to play an insane mastermind's game. This trope is somewhat Played With because the circle isn't entirely shut off from the outside world (as is usually the case); each captive is granted a device that allows them to send and receive text messages from only one person in the outside world.
  • Infinity series:
    • Ever17 revolves around a group of people trapped in an underwater theme park.
    • Remember11 involves two Closed Circle groups. Kokoro, Lin, Yomogi, and Yuni are trapped in a mountain cabin due to bad weather, and Satoru, Utsumi, Hotoru, and Yuni are at the SPHIA psychiatric hospital, which is located on a remote island.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and its first sequel Virtue's Last Reward are set on a cruise liner designed to flood after nine hours, and at an Abandoned Warehouse respectively, both converted to house a series of Deadly Games intentionally designed to test the limits of group mentality. The third game, Zero Time Dilemma, is set in a deliberately created Closed Circle designed for an experiment, which the Big Bad has modified to be even more malicious than the first two.
  • Obduction uses literal Closed Circles: each of the four abducted races is encased in a spherical bubble of force, cut off from each other. Even when you find a way to traverse the force-bubble walls, you only pop out on the opposite side of the same bubble, still confined within it.
  • Queen at Arms has this going on, sort of. Protagonist Marcus is serving in the Ortheran army. Although a few chances come up for her to desert and run away, she is unable to take them. Even if the player has her try, it doesn't work.
  • Raging Loop has this happen to the remote village of Yasumizu every so often, during which feasts are held, and the village is closed off from the rest of the world and has other methods of outside contact removed. The only way out is through the river Saranaga, which is dangerous because it's considered a gate to the underworld, and it's a dangerous rapid even disregarding that.
  • Nukige Starless is this, for a very cruel reason. The Mamiya mansion is in a very isolated place, to the point where there's supposedly no internet or phone service, it requires a taxi just to reach, and has a gigantic gate with a hyper aggressive guard dog to boot. Even if you did manage to get out, an early plot point is that the unremovable-without-special-tools bracelets they force their employees to wear function as both trackers and stun collars. This is to give the Mamiyas an extra way to avoid trouble for all the illegal stuff they have going on (as it wouldn't be hard to drain their entire extensive fortune strictly through keeping themselves out of prison for a few decades if what they did caught wind), which the protagonists are caught up in.
  • The characters of Umineko: When They Cry joke about how being trapped on a remote island in a storm feels like an old-fashioned murder mystery — right before the corpses start stacking up.

    Web Comics 
  • Goro of The Dragon Doctors had to fend off four thieves assaulting a hospital. The first attempt at doing so, activating an ice barrier around the hospital, accidentally locked the thieves in the hospital with her.
  • Mitadake Saga has an automatic lockdown triggered by the death of a teacher. This leaves the students trapped with a murderer. Who just so happens to be one of them...
  • Oddity Woods, "The Demon of Labyrinth Inn": The innkeeper invites his guests to a dinner party, and subsequently traps them there at the mercy of a demon prowling the halls... However, it turns out that the actual Closed Circle is enforced by the ghost of a girl who was killed in the inn a year prior, who sensed that her murderer was among the dinner guests and decided to trap them all there until someone could figure out who it was.
  • The entirety of Problem Sleuth takes place inside a cruelly labyrinthine office building. The main characters spend all 1600+ pages solving its puzzles both in the building and in their imaginary worlds.
  • White Rooms: The white rooms loop, and if you walk in a straight line you always come back to the start. Rits hypothesizes that the exit must not be in the edges, but somewhere in the middle.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: In "A Night at the Inn", Bessie the snail suddenly comes to a stop while pulling Anne and the Plantars back home, forcing them to stay at a bed-and-breakfast that turns out to be run by cannibalistic toads. When they escape the inn, they find that Bessie has a Bear Trap on her tail, and then discover snails belonging to the toads' past victims, also with their tails trapped.
    Sprig: This was all a set-up! They entrap passengers at the inn! We're the "breakfast" in bed-and-breakfast!
    Hop Pop: Yeah, obvie! Let's go!
  • Beast Wars has 5-7 Maximals fighting 5-7 Predacons at Pre-historic Earth. Both factions' spaceships were totaled after the initial crash landing and the massive amount of energon radiation ensured that they could not communicate with any possible rescue parties.
    • They do get the chance to get back several times, but the attempt is foiled each time. For example, the Maximals on Cybertron start sending out transwarp probes all over space and time, looking for Optimus Primal. One of these happens to show up in orbit of prehistoric Earth. The Maximals start building a communication array to contact the probe, but Megatron finds out and has the array destroyed, not willing to go to prison again. Another time, a transwarp wave is sent out from Earth and is intercepted by the Tri-Predacus Council (the rulers of the Predacons). They send a Predacon agent to find Megatron and arrest him but disrupt the wave before it reaches the Maximals. When the agent, a former Decepticon named Ravage, arrives, his ship seems like a way off Earth. it is destroyed at the end of the episode.
  • In the Season 9 premiere of Family Guy, And Then There Were Fewer, a storm has taken out the bridge, stranding everyone in the mansion, there's no cell reception, and the landlines are dead.
  • In the last few episodes of Gravity Falls, during the Weirdmaggedon arc, the town is completely cut off from the rest of the Universe by the formation of a sort of bubble or dome. This is a rare example where this isn't really a bad thing, given the fact that it also keeps Bill Cipher and his hench-maniacs from leaving the area.
  • Most episodes of Scooby-Doo and similar series start this way.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons when the only bridge out of town is destroyed as a meteor is headed straight for them. Conveniently forgetting that Springfield has been shown to be on the ocean, bordered by a desert, a forest, and several other biomes.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars, "Mystery of a Thousand Moons": People can come to Iego no problem, but the superweapon in the moons destroys any ships that try to leave.


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