Someone has to hide some person from parties out searching for them, or whose presence would be rather awkward to explain. So they quickly herd the person into a closet, into an adjoining room, under a bed, or some other place (the more cramped and uncomfortable the hiding place, the more Hilarity Ensues).
A classic screwball comedy usage is to have this keep on happening, with new hiding places becoming harder to find or more obvious.
Close cousin to Curtain Camouflage: the major difference being that this trope is always comedic while that one is just as frequently played for drama. For added hilarity, combine with The Stateroom Sketch. Might overlap with the other kind of "closet" if the hidden character is a secret same-sex romantic partner. Can lead to an Exploding Closet.
- In the 7th novel of Haruhi Suzumiya, Mikuru from one week in the future drags Kyon into the broom closet to hide from her present-time self. Bonus points in that her present self is actually undressing and she's trying to prevent Kyon from seeing.
- Code Geass
- In the "Cupid's Day" episode, when Lelouch looks in horror at the stampede of girls charging towards him, Rolo immobilizes everyone with his Geass and drags Lelouch into the closet right behind him to make it look like he just disappeared into the air.
- Lelouch shoves CC under his bed just as Suzaku enters the room in a sound episode from the first season, and in the school festival episode of the second season he pushes her into a basin of tomatoes to keep Shirley from seeing her.
- Happens on the Class Trip in Toradora! Taiga and the boys in the closet hear things they weren't supposed to hear; drama ensues.
- In The World God Only Knows: Keima Katsuragi uses his (quite real) sickness to make Ayumi fall for him, but when Chihiro unexpectedly arrives he hides her right next to him, under the bedsheets, and then proceeds to romance Chihiro. He even manages to make them both fall more for him at the same time, but not without making Ayumi pass out covered in sweat due to his hotness. The scene is a lot funnier than it sounds.
- During Sheryl Nome's visit to Alto's school in Macross Frontier they are forced to hide from other students in a locker. If that wasn't awkward enough, Alto's cellphone happens to be jammed between Sheryl's legs when it goes off... and it's set to vibrate.
- A Textbook perfect example occurs in Claymade's The Dark Lords of Nerima with Genma posing as Tōfū, trying to hide Ryouga from the Senshi. The entire time, he gets interrupted by people who will be recognized and blow the whole scheme, forcing Genma to hide them while distracting Ami so she won't notice.
- In the Glee fanfic All New, the Warblers go on a school trip to Europe to visit the show choir at a German school. The first day there, they are split into groups and assigned guides from the German choir. Kurt and two of his fellow Warblers, Adam and Simon, end up hiding from their guides inside a toilet cubicle. Hilarity Ensues.
- A fanfic called Birthday Gifts has the protagonist turning legal, and all girls in his Unwanted Harem successively knock on his door to "confess their love", only to be interrupted by the next one before things get steamy and quickly hide in increasingly improbable places, including An Ice Person hiding in the freezer.
- In Misunderstandings Harry and Snape hide in a closet because Sirius is coming to confront Harry about a recent argument and Remus doesn't want the house blown up by Harry's temper.
- In Metamorphosis Harry hides Tom Riddle in the closet of the babies' room at Wools' Orphanage when she hears Edna coming.
- Blue Velvet, only it's not Played for Laughs but played for horror.
- Burglar (1987). Whoopi Goldberg's character has to do this when the man whose apartment she's robbing comes home unexpectedly with a woman. She's still hiding there hours later when he's murdered, setting off the plot.
- In the movie Confessions from a Holiday Camp (which has appeared on the IMDB Bottom 100 list), a character tells one of his lovers to hide in the closet because someone's coming. Shortly afterwards, he sends the new arrival into the same closet to hide her from yet another visitor. The process repeats until the closet is completely full of people that are supposed to be hiding from each other.
- Mike Hagen is trapped in a bedroom with a shoe-eating poodle in the film Designing Woman.
- In Deuce Bigalow, several people hide in a house when Antoine appears. Deuce's "male madame" T.J. pulls Kate's blind roommate Bergita into a closet. When they emerge from the closet minutes later, they're rumpled and post-coital, and Bergita's blindness has been cured! "You're black? (grins) I knew it!"
- Non-comedic example: In The Faculty, while breaking into the teacher's lounge looking for a scoop, Casey and Delilah hide in a broom when they hear teachers approaching. It's from there that they witness the school nurse being taken over and discover a dead body.
- A mild-mannered zookeeper in Fierce Creatures winds up in a closet with a half-naked girl and a live sheep.
- The Fifth Element has a rather spectacular example of this trope involving multiple people and a truly improbable selection of hiding places (including a freezer and a self-making pull-out bed). None of the people he hid enjoyed their hiding places very much. Leelo got wet and cold when the shower began its self clean, the military guys got frozen, and the priest nearly suffocated under the plastic that the bed wraps itself in.
- In A Hard Day's Night, Paul McCartney's grandfather steals a hotel worker's suit and locks him in the closet of the suite where The Beatles are staying. Hilarity Ensues when they come back.
- Another spectacular example can be found in the 1949 film The Inspector General: two in a closet, one in a chest, one under a bed, and one on top of a canopy bed. Although the last one didn't work out so well...
- Played for cringe comedy in Kid Detective (2020): as a child, the titular protagonist would investigate other people's houses and hide in the closet when they returned home. As an adult, he tries the same strategy to somewhat detrimental results.
- The Last Boy Scout introduces Bruce Willis' character as the cuckolded husband in this scene... and as a cop, he correctly sniffs out that the other guy is hiding in the closet and nearly shoots him.
- Early in Live and Let Die, an Italian Secret Service agent is forced to hide in Bond's closet when M drops in unexpectedly. Moneypenny sees her, but keeps quiet.
- The Man with the Golden Gun: James Bond puts Mary Goodnight in a closet so he can make time with Andrea Anders. Ms. Goodnight is not pleased.
- Used by the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers and Monkey Business:
Thelma Todd: What are you doing in that closet?
Groucho: Nothing — come on in!
- Momentum: A rare action movie example involving Olga Kurylenko's character Alex. To avoid an awkward situation, her partner (and ex-lover) has her hide under a hotel room bed while meeting a female associate. This inadvertently saves Alex's life, as professional killers arrive on the scene soon after.
- The original Pink Panther movie features this done with Clouseau's wife trying to hide two people from Clouseau. Of course, he doesn't notice, even as their hiding places get less and less hidden.
- Parasite (2019): After the Parks come back early, the entire Kim family (except for Chung-sook) has to frantically hide. Ki-woo initially hides under Da-hye's bed, while his father hides under the coffee table in the living room. As members of the Park family move around, the various members of the Kim family all join each other under the coffee table until they're all under there. Unfortunately the Parks decide to sleep on the couch to watch their son (who's in the yard), mere feet from where the Kim family is hiding. They don't notice them, but awkwardly start having sex on the couch.
- La Reine Margot hides her lover the Duke de Guise in her closet when her husband makes a surprise visit. It shouldn't be a surprise given its their wedding night, but she pretty much forbade him to come to her.
- Played With in Silver Lode. Ballard hides not in Dolly's closet, but in the roof space above the closet, in order to hide from McCarty. The closet is the first place McCarty looks.
- This happens in Victor/Victoria when King tries to find out if Victor[ia] is really a man or a woman. King's poor bodyguard gets the worse end of the deal, being trapped out on the balcony in the snow.
- What's New Pussycat? takes this to absurd levels, climaxing in a hotel where all the guests (except the protagonist, he hopes) is hiding an illicit affair with someone else. At one point, in fact, Victor (Woody Allen) lets a woman hide in the closet of the room he's in with his date... then does the same with the man chasing her.
Date: Oh, Victor! I can't let you make love to me with someone in the closet!
Victor: Oh really, how many people in the closet do you need?
- The Woman in Red: Teddy hides from Charlotte's husband on the ledge.
- In Zorro, the Gay Blade, the governor's wife makes a pass at Don Diego in his bedroom, then gets shoved in a coffin-like box when her husband arrives. Conversing with Diego, the governor has a fit of temper and runs the box through with his sword, but his wife is unharmed when Diego checks on her once they're alone.
- A burglar is robbing a house when he hears the owner coming. He flees into the closet, but it turns out the owner is a singing instructor, and she's working with a less-than-promising student. Partway into the lesson, the burglar stumbles out and demands, "Call the police!"
- A Russian joke that takes this Up to Eleven:
A man comes home after a business trip late one evening and hears a sound from the bedroom. He opens the door to find his wife on the bed, which is rumpled. Thinking nothing of it, he changes and goes to sleep. Later, in the middle of the night, a naked man with a knife jumps out of the wardrobe and shouts: "I am fugitive criminal Ivanov!" and then runs through the door. A few seconds after that another naked man jumps out of the wardrobe and shouts "I am police detective Petrov, have you seen where fugitive criminal Ivanov went?" The confused husband gestured to the door. "Thank you, citizen—SWAT team, follow me!"
- Three men were waiting at the Pearly Gates to Heaven, but were told that there was only one spot left. That spot would go to whoever had the most worthy death. The first man says, "I suspected my wife was cheating, but I didn't have any proof. So I decided to catch her by surprise, by coming home early from work. She was wearing a towel, but her hair wasn't wet, so I knew she wasn't taking a shower. I searched all over for the guy, and finally found him clinging pathetically to my windowsill. I pounded on his fingers until he let go, but he landed in the bushes and survived, so I threw my refrigerator out the window to finish him off. After all the excitement, I fell dead from a heart attack."
"Interesting," replied St. Peter. "Next?" The second man said, "I was minding my own business, riding one of those stationary exercise bikes on top of my apartment building, when the screws came loose, and I fell off the edge of the roof. I grabbed for dear life onto the first open windowsill I saw, but then some idiot started pounding on my fingers. It must have been my lucky day, because I landed in the bushes, alive and unharmed, but then that same idiot threw his refrigerator out the window and crushed me to death with it!" "That, too, is horrible," said St. Peter. "And you?"
The third man replied, "OK, picture this: I'm sitting, butt-naked, in a refrigerator..."
- In one of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books, the entire Ace Gang are forced to hide from "Wet" Lindsay in a toilet cubicle, and struggle not to crack up as they hear her talking to her friends.
- In Lord Byron's Don Juan, Juan's first lover hides him from her husband, his lawyer and a mob of the town's menfolk... under a scrunched-up blanket. It works. Alas, they didn't hide his shoes...
- In Jennifer Crusie's Faking It, Davy and Tilda meet when they are both hiding in someone else's closet.
- In one of the Flashman novels, the title protagonist reminisces that he once had to hide under a bed when a lady he was with heard her husband coming. He found a private detective already there, and they both had to wait under the bed while the lady and her husband occupy themselves above them.
- Once La Reine Margot hides both her husband and her lover in the same cabinet, at the same time.
- In the Arabian Nights, a woman hides the chief of police, the judge, the vizier and the king in her closet, each time saying her husband will be home soon. This actually isn't true, and it's just a plot by the woman to humiliate the dignitaries. Which she does, because they end up stuck in there so long that they all pee on each other.
- In The Burglar in the Rye, Gentleman Thief Bernie Rhodenbarr hides in the shower when his victim returns early. In The Burglar on the Prowl, he hides under the bed. In The Burglar in the Closet, he hides in the closet.
- Mentioned in one of the Girls books by Jacqueline Wilson. Ellie recalls an occasion where she, Magda and Nadine hid in a toilet cubicle to avoid a gym class with a Sadist Teacher; but the teacher found them, ordered "the girl with six feet" out of the stall, and forced them to run laps as punishment.
- The Coronation: Izabella has to stuff Afanasii the butler in a closet after her lover Pavel shows up, then has to stuff Pavel in a closet after her other lover, Pavel's father George, shows up.
Chandler: And condoms are going to help us do that?
- In an episode, everyone except Rachel and Ross ends up hiding in Monica's bedroom as Rachel and Ross break up in the lounge room. Later subverted when Rachel and Ross had another highly emotional fight with the other four characters trapped in the same room. Joey, in a rare moment of planning ahead, stashed a box of food, drinks, a deck of cards and other entertainments in the room after the last time, just in case. He also included condoms, "just in case [they] had to repopulate the Earth."
- Ross is also trapped under sofas and beds in multiple later episodes.
- Another episode had Joey needing to be hidden from Ross when he was checking up on Rachel. Monica and Chandler, in the adjacent room, pull him in while Rachel's back is turned. The result is similar to a Gaslighting; since Rachel doesn't know where Joey is, she spends the rest of the scene looking for him.
- This happens all the time on Desperate Housewives, but the most memorable was when tiny Eva Longoria managed to hide in a suitcase. Not even a very big suitcase.
- In the episode of The Burns and Allen Show "Silky Thompson; Gracie Writes 'My Life with George Burns'", Gangster Silky Thompson is hidden in the closet to avoid the police. Just then Harry Morton comes in looking to hide from a man he sold a swamp to.
Gracie: That's a shame, Harry. Had you come only a minute sooner you could have had a nice spacious closet, now you'll have to make do with the bedroom upstairs.
George: Make a reservation next time!
- In Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm hides under his girlfriend's bed to avoid being seen by her father. When the father asks what's going on, she gives a Sarcastic Confession. He then sits her down for a heart-to-heart on top of the bed, leaving Malcolm to be tortured in silence.
- The I Love Lucy episode "Drafted" involved a misunderstanding which caused Ricky and Fred to think the women were pregnant and Lucy and Ethel to think the men had been drafted. Accordingly, they plan a baby shower and a going away party, respectively, for each other. To keep the parties secret until the right time, they all shove all of their guests into the Ricardos' tiny closet—giving them a huge human knot to untangle at the end of the episode.
- An episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody includes a scene that is a direct homage to the closet scene from A Night at the Opera.
- In Against the Wall, Abby has to hide under the bed when her drunken brother comes over to visit Brody with whom she is in a Secret Relationship.
- Inadvertant example in The West Wing when Ainsley, getting a bit stressed while waiting in Leo McGarry's office to meet President Bartlet, has a bit of a panic attack moments before he arrives and flees into what she thinks is a bathroom, but is in fact Leo's closet. Bartlet is, needless to say, a bit bewildered.
Bartlet: Why's she in the closet?
Sam: She thought it was a bathroom.
Bartlet: Then why's she still in the closet?
Sam: That's a mystery to us all, sir.
- Doctor Who: Due to time travel, the Doctor is forced into this with three versions of River Song and one older version of himself. Played for Drama a bit, when the Doctor realises that one of the Rivers is on her very last date with his older self before she'll die.
- That's Last Night. See it here.
- How I Met Your Mother: "The Over-Correction" opens with a How We Got Here Split-Screen Phone Call with four of the main characters each hiding in a different closet. The episode goes on to tell the story of three of the four sneaking around and hiding in Barney's various closets as they try not to be caught.
- In an early episode of ER, several staff members sneak upstairs to retrieve a crash cart that has been swiped by another department. To avoid detection, all five of them end up not only crammed into one bathroom stall, they manage to do so in a way that has only one person's feet showing under the door.
- Conan: Andy Richter sneaks into Conan's dressing room. When he sees Conan coming, he hides in the closet. Conan discovers him eventually and yells at him to get out.
- Played for Drama in Glee's school shooting episode. Brittany is in the bathroom when the shooting starts, so while the rest of the Glee club huddles down in the choir room, she ends up balancing on top of a toilet so that the shooter won't see her feet beneath the cubicle door. The viewer thinks she's all alone in there, until Mr. Schue comes to get her and it turns out that the other cubicles contained more students doing the same thing.
- One episode has Frasier hiding in Daphne's closet because he promised not to go in her room. And then went in her room.
- Happens in the form of the shower in Rescue Special Ops. Jordan is taking a shower at the RSO base when Heidi comes to talk to him, Vince then walks in and Heidi hides in the shower with Jordan. Vince later reveals to the other members that he knew that the two of them were in there but he didn't tell them that.
- In the season 5 opener of Castle, the titular novelist has just had passionate sex with Kate Beckett... when his mother arrives. Poor woman gets shoved in the wardrobe while Castle tries to stall his mother... and then realises that she's left her bra by his bed.
- To make it funnier, it's later revealed his mother knew she was there all along!
- Person of Interest. Reese decides to get close to the Victim of the Week by dating her. At one point he tells Finch they're going back to his apartment, and as Reese's dating website profile says he loves dogs, Finch has to rush over to the apartment with Bear. Reese and the girl turn up while he's still there, so Finch ducks into a nearby closet only to find Reese's Wall of Weapons. Despite Bear sniffing at the door he doesn't get discovered, and emerges when the girl goes to the bathroom.
Finch: (pointing at closet) When are you ever going to need all those? You shouldn't have brought her back here. The longer she stays, the more questions she'll have.Reese: (herding Finch to the door) Imagine how many questions she'll have if she comes out and sees you here.
- In Inside No. 9 episode "Sardines", the family plays a game called "sardines" which is essentially everyone is hiding in a huge wardrobe.
- The Partridge Family: In "Waiting for Bolero," Shirley knocks on Keith's door in the middle of a date when he's supposed to be working on a song. Keith shoves the girl into a closet and hides as much evidence as he can before letting Shirley in. She still immediately realizes what's going on because of the smell of perfume in the air and the pom-pom he left on the sofa.
- Trapped in the Closet is entirely built around this trope.
- The Kingston Trio's rendition of "Worried Man Blues":
Well Bob is in the livin' room holdin' hands with Sue
Nicky's at that big front door vowing to come on through
Well I'm here in the closet, oh lord what shall I do
We're worried now but we won't be worried long
- In The Matchmaker and Hello, Dolly!, Cornelius hides in a coat closet and Barnaby under a table in an attempt to avoid Vandergelder. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Maurice Ravel's opera L'heure Espagnole (The Spanish Hour), a clockmaker's wife hides her two lovers inside grandfather clocks when an inopportune customer comes along. After many charades and clocks moving around, the customer becomes her third lover!
- In The Marriage of Figaro, the infamously flirtatious servant Cherubino comes to visit Susanna to tell her all about his troubles after hitting on the count's wife. Then the count comes, and since she doesn't want to be caught alone with Cherubino, she hides him under her bed. The count is there to tell her about all the troubles he's having with Cherubino hitting on his wife (and he's there to hit on Susanna, too), and he's in the middle of this when the music teacher, Basilio, decides to come visit her to tell her all about the local news (also mainly Cherubino's exploits)- and Susanna doesn't want to get caught alone with the count, either, so she hides him as well. Of course, by the end of the song, all are discovered.
- And later, when Cherubino goes to visit the Countess, the Count comes knocking then, too, and the Countess hides him in her closet, and tells the Count it's Susanna, her maid. The Count doesn't believe her, and they argue over it until he's about to tear down the door... and then the closet opens and out walks Susanna - she and Cherubino switched, and Cherubino left through the window. Then the gardener comes to complain about window jumpers...
- In The Moon is Blue, a few hours after Don has been knocked out by Patty's Overprotective Dad, when he hears someone ringing his doorbell and knocking, he hastily shoves her in his bedroom, remembering to put her purse and jacket in there as well. Unfortunately, when David picks up the phone he overhears her on the bedroom extension, and turns on Don with righteous indignation.
- The "play within a play" in Noises Off takes place in a house where the owners are supposed to be on vacation. A variety of people wind up there, most of whom have their own reasons for not wanting anyone else to know they're present, or at least not with that other person, so they keep ducking/being shoved into various hiding spaces. Infallibly, each new person or set of people who goes into hiding leaves a clue to their presence behind, and a later arrival will notice and wonder about it.
- A somewhat unusual spin is put on this trope in The Billy-Club Puppets, the comedy for puppet theatre by Federico García Lorca, in which two Rosita's suitors end up hidden in two wardrobes that are conveniently located in the same room. They even have an angry conversation but can't go beyond threats because of being locked in their respective wardrobes.
- A common tactic used by the Germans in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is to hide themselves in closets, and then surprise and try to kill players once they are caught off-guard. One can simply shoot the closet first, however, and then watch their corpses fall out of the closet all of a sudden.
- In the Clock Tower series, this is your primary way of evading Scissorman or other pursuers: hide behind a couch, under a bed, in the closet or bathroom or whatever else you can find, and pray the killer doesn't catch on.
- Metal Gear Solid 2 lets Snake hide from soldiers via convenient empty lockers, as do subsequent games in the series.
- Ditto Resident Evil: Outbreak, which also lets the characters hide under beds. Some characters, like Mark, are even too big/fat to utilize the lockers.
- This is your way of evading Pyramid Head at least once in Silent Hill 2.
- Class Trip Crush contains several instances of the girls having to scramble for hiding places to avoid being caught in the guys' room by a teacher. It usually results in the protagonist getting unexpectedly up close and personal with one of the guys by hiding in his futon.
- This is one of the ways you can evade the titular Ao Oni. But on rare occasions, he's smarter than you think...
- The BLU Spy in Cuanta Vida. See the quote above.
- A particularly nasty variant occurs in College Roomies from Hell!!!, where more and more people are added to the closet instead of moving someone around. It starts on the 2005-09-21 strip and ends on the 2005-10-12's.
- Hitmen for Destiny: Jymre hides in a closet onboard the cruise ship.
- Ménage à 3 features both Sonya and Didi determined to get Gary to sleep with him after hearing of his Urban Legend Love Life. Unfortunately, as they're waiting for him he returns with Yuki, forcing them both (naked) in the closet. At which point Sonya gets bored and starts giving Didi a boob massage. Needless to say, they pop out at the worst time, with... various degrees of plausibility.
Sonya: What the- This isn't my closet!
- Two Looney Tunes examples:
- In "Racketeer Rabbit", Bugs Bunny does this twice to a mobster named Rocky (based on Edward G. Robinson), once as a prank and once for real.
- In "Tom Turk and Daffy", Daffy Duck does this repeatedly to hide a turkey from a hunter, then the turkey "helps" him the same way.
- Gargamel and Azrael get into a similar shuffle hiding inside a giant Papa Smurf statue in The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Trojan Smurf".
- Home Movies - while on a field trip to a hotel, the kids sneak off and shoot a movie on location. They're filming in a room when the lodgers come back - Brendon and Melissa hide in the closet, but she gets so anxious and keyed up that she bursts out the door screaming. Jason is found, in costume, sitting on the toilet and demanding some privacy.
- The 24 Hour Fort Challenge is an internet challenge which revolves around trespassing in locations after they shut for the evening, usually followed by the participants snooping around while trying not to get caught by roaming security guards and other staff members - it's definitely quite a good example of a Schmuck Bait challenge, given the amount of people who have been caught. Most people taking part have to hide in just about anything while the location shuts and everyone else clears off, so this trope naturally comes into play.
- During the development of the original Macintosh, the engineers wanted to use a floppy drive made by Sony, but Steve Jobs thought it would be too expensive, and instead contracted another company to make a cheaper version of the Sony drive. The engineers secretly kept working with Sony, though, and on one occasion, they had to hide the Sony representative in the closet when they heard Steve coming.
- An infamous anecdote from the Bill Carter book The Late Shift claims that a few months after Jay Leno started hosting The Tonight Show, he hid in a small office at NBC to eavesdrop on a crucial conference call where network executives discussed whether to keep him or ditch him for David Letterman.