A rarer and more badass way of escaping from bonds that doesn't require an Idiot Ball is to somehow dislocate the bones of one hand (or foot) and pull said hand/foot through the loop before the swelling sets in.
A Sister Trope to Pet Gets the Keys, Hooking the Keys and Within Arm's Reach. The latter is where, instead of being tied up, the character is being attacked and manages to grab something that they can use to turn the fight to their advantage.
One step further, and it becomes a Life-or-Limb Decision. Compare Cutlery Escape Aid.
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Anime & Manga
- A variation of this trope appears in Natsume's Book of Friends: When the titular Natsume is captured by Matoba, he has his wrists bound with a type of restrictive paper that can't be seen by normal humans and is then left in Matoba's hotel room with one of his shiki as a guard. Fortunately, Natsume spots a glass of water on the table and breaks it, then punches out the shiki and uses the Newly Created Sharp Thing Made From A Conveniently Placed Breakable Thing to cut through his bonds before escaping out the window. In Matoba's defense, he wasn't then aware of Natsume's power and likely assumed that his shiki would stop any escape attempts even if Natsume did manage to break free from his restraints.
- Batman. All the time.
- Deliberately invoked by The Joker in the standalone story "Slayride". Tim Drake/Robin wakes up to find himself tied up by the Joker in a car he stole from a family on Christmas Eve. Robin searches behind his back for something to cut his bonds, and finds a small toy car, snaps the hood off it and starts cutting. But shortly after that, the Joker snatches the car hood out of Robin's hands, because the Joker placed it there. Just to provide false hope. Oh, that Joker!
- Averted twice in The Punisher MAX, where the sharp thing is hidden somewhere that won't get checked. In Frank's case, a razor blade slid inside the slit in his skin that he just made with it (to pass it off as a wound received in the preceding exchange), and later a convict hides a razor blade under his goddamn fingernail to break Frank out of prison (so Frank can kill the convict's brother's murderer).
- In the prequel graphic novel to Mad Max: Fury Road, Max is staked out in the desert by the Buzzards to die. However because they're impressed with his skill as a warrior, their leader stabs Max in the femoral artery, saying he can pull out the knife and bleed to death quickly in a futile effort to save himself, or he can die a slow death from the heat. Max is able to pull a hand from the ropes, but it's too damaged in the process to undo the knots, so he pulls out the knife only to pass out from blood loss. Fortunately a third party turns up who has a motive to save his life.
- Rulah, Jungle Goddess: In "The Harpies from Hades" (Zoot Comics #10), Rulah has her hands and feet bound and is tossed in a cell containing the skeletal remains of previous victims. She snaps the jawbone off one of the skulls, files the teeth to points against the stone wall, and uses it to cut her bonds.
- The Scorpion: At one point, Armando uses one of Mejai's spilled poisons to to burn through his bonds.
- Averted in the French comic Tyler Cross, where a woman finds herself bound and gagged in the foundations of a construction site. She notes the lack of any sharp objects and has to make do with a concrete wall corner to free her hands and feet after lots and lots of rubbing to wear down the ropes.
- The Doctor Who fanfic "Murder on Rand 2" has Norine left Bound and Gagged by Largdens, and she manages to cut herself free with a knife she hid in her shoe. However, the text points out she cuts her hands in the process.
Films — Animation
- A memorable example in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Batman starts to cut himself free with a switchblade. But when he sees that Joker has brainwashed Robin into "Little J.J.", he finishes freeing himself through sheer force, and then throws the knife at Joker's face. He ducked, but jeez.
- Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman: After the Penguin is entangled by the Batwoman, he is able to cut himself free on one of the shuriken his Bodyguard Babes put into the wall when they came to rescue. An interesting case, as the sharp thing was not present when he got tied up.
Films — Live-Action
- The American president (played by Harrison Ford, no less) from Air Force One. The film's rating permits showing that using a glass shard cuts you while you're cutting the rope.
- A conveniently placed dog appears in the Canadian kids' film Bailey's Billions. Two kids are tied up in a cage, and a dog is in another cage. He bites through the ropes on the kids' hands.
- In Blades of Glory, Chazz is tied up in a room full of ice skates.
- Body: When Holly is tied up by Cali, she manages to reach a piece of broken glass (from the glasses Arthur had pulled of the table earlier) with her foot and drag it to her, and use it to cut her bonds.
- In Breakheart Pass, Deakin is able to use the fireplace in the governor's carriage to cut/burn through the leather thong binding his wrists.
- The Dark Knight has two subversions:
- attempts to do the chair-hop, but ends up simply falling over, knocking over a steel drum and landing in a gushing pool of gasoline. This doesn't end well.
- The Joker uses broken glass to escape, but his handcuffs were taken off during his interrogation and the glass was broken when Batman slammed his head into the window.
- Deadpool. The Big Bad has kidnapped Deadpool's ex-girlfriend and locked her in a hyperbaric chamber which has the oxygen pumped out. During the battle Deadpool throws a katana to pierce the chamber, letting the oxygen back in. She uses the lodged katana to cut her zipties, then pushes the blade out (despite the injury to her hand this inflicts) so she can open the chamber and use the katana for a Big Damn Heroes to save Deadpool.
- Subversion in the 1967 film Doctor Dolittle starring Rex Harrison: He just asks mice to chew through the ropes.
- Referenced but defied in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, when Edgin tries to cut himself free from his bonds on the edge of a stone step; the edge is nowhere near sharp enough, and Holga beats up all the guards assigned to snuff them by herself before Edgin finally gets free.
- Of course it helps if you're such a Memetic Badass you can create your own sharp object. At the start of an otherwise forgettable Chuck Norris action movie Firewalker (1986), our hero is staked out in the desert to die. To taunt Chuck, the villain leaves a bottle of water in his hand. Chuck is able to break the glass with just one hand, giving himself the glass shards to cut his bonds.
- Played with in Funny Games. A knife that's been left in the family's boat is later used by a tied-up Ann to try and free herself. Subverted, in that Paul and Peter see her, take the knife away, and throw it overboard. A few minutes later they send her over as well.
- In Halloween III: Season of the Witch, (the one without Michael Myers) the main character is bound to a chair so a laser powered by Stonehenge can shoot out of the microchip in the Halloween mask he is being forced to wear and will cause snakes and bugs to crawl out of his mouth. Anyway, he manages to take out the television from across the room by flinging something at it. The camera cuts away and cuts back to him with a glass shard in his hands, covering the fact that there's no logical way he could have grabbed it.
- In Hooded Angels, Hannah is able to free her bound wrists by burning through the rope on the campfire.
- Hot Spur: When Susan is tied up in the mining shack, she is able to grab a knife off the table with her teeth and drop it on the floor, then get it with her hands and use it to saw through her bonds.
- Indiana Jones:
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the conveniently-paced burning object (the lucky charm shamrock lighter) fails to be properly used, leading instead to a Disaster Dominoes sequence.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull plays it straight, with Mutt throwing his knife so Indy can cut the ropes that tie him (the knife opens while he tries, but what happens isn't addressed).
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the Orcs and Uruk-hai carrying Merry and Pippin are attacked by the Riders of Rohan, allowing the hobbits to crawl to a nearby axe and cut the ropes binding their hands.
- In Madeline, the bad guys leave Madeline and Pepito tied up in a trailer full of their props. Since they're jugglers by profession, this includes swords. It also includes a conveniently-placed motorcycle, which they use to get away.
Pepito: What idiots!
- The Matrix Revolutions: Trinity, in the real world, gets tied up by Smith in Bane's body. She's thrown down into a hatch where some conveniently placed sharp things were broken earlier.
- Monster Hunter (2020): When Captain Artemis, who has her hands bound, is knocked to the ground by the Hunter, she uses the opportunity to palm a sharp rock that she uses to cut through her bonds later that night.
- In the movie Pan's Labyrinth we are shown several times how the maid Mercedes hides her knife in her belt after using it for her work. So when Captain Vidal captures her for a spy and ties her hand in front, it is logical that she can get loose.
- Both versions are simulated by Riddick in Pitch Black. He dislocates both shoulders (eat your heart out, Riggs!), and slips his cuffs through some Conveniently Placed Starship Damage before cutting them off with a Conveniently Placed Plasma Cutter.
- Rancho Notorious: After being bound by Vern, Wilson is able to cut his hands free by rubbing the rope on a nearby grindstone.
- Robin Hood: The Rebellion: While locked in the dungeon, Marian and Much are able to prise a stone out of the wall and use it to shatter their chains.
- Smokin' Aces: After his escort is killed, Sir Ivy uses a wall fitting to cut through the zip-ties binding his hands.
- In The Suckers, Vandemeer drops his knife when he is tackled by George. Baxter is able to reach it and cut through his bonds while George and Vandemeer are fighting.
- Timber Falls: When Mike is tied to a chair in the cellar, he is able to topple the chair over and reach the scalpel Ida dropped on the floor, and use it to cut himself free.
- The Tournament: When tied to a pole inside the strip club, Joshua is able to undo one of the screws enough to cut through his bonds.
- Train: When she is being Strapped to an Operating Table, Alex manages to grab a scalpel from the tray of surgical instruments next to her. she uses this to cut her bonds, and then slash Gregor's throat when he attempts to rape her.
- In Violent Saturday, Shelley is able to use a nail stuck in a beam to rip off his blindfold and gag.
- In the sci-fi movie Xchange, the conveniently placed sharp thing is a spool of monofilament line capable of cutting through basically anything. And it shows that when a nervous person is working with monofilament behind their back, someone's apt to lose a thumb.
- Older Than Feudalism example: One of Aesop's Fables, "The Lion and the Mouse".
- Invoked in Animorphs: after kidnapping Chapman in one novel, the heroes arrange his escape because they can't kill him. They leave broken glass near the tied-up Chapman, which reinforces the idea that the Animorphs are "Andalite bandits" - Andalites don't use glass, and don't understand its sharpness.
- In the short story "The Borderland of Sol" by Larry Niven, an extremely limber Beowulf Schaefer has his arms very securely tied to the coolant line of the Big Bad's superweapon. It just so happens that he has a piece of monomolecular wire sewn into one of the buttons on his clothing, but its not like his hands are free to reach it... so he uses his feet instead. Instead of trying to cut his bonds directly, he cuts the coolant line right through, making for a big mess involving a miniature black hole that was being manipulated by a mechanism using said coolant line, and the antagonist being Hoist by His Own Petard.note
- Frequently averted, subverted, and lampshaded in Discworld.
- Particularly noteworthy is in Feet of Clay, where Fred Colon is locked in a closet when a panicky conspirator thinks He Knows Too Much: "Sometimes, and against all common sense, people inconsiderately throw their bound enemies into rooms totally devoid of nails, handy bits of sharp stone, or even, in extreme cases, enough pieces of old junk and tools to make a fully functional armored car." [ In that instance, they either didn't notice the Convenient Flimsy Trapdoor Above A Literal River Of Excrement or figured nobody could possibly be that desperate to escape.
- Perhaps the earliest example: in The Light Fantastic tied Rincewind finds a sharp rock and starts cutting the rope. He gets exactly the result he expected — cuts to his wrists till they bleed.
- Played straight in Jingo: the cabin Angua is imprisoned in a ship just happens to be the one that The Boat drills through to latch onto the ship, making a sharp pointed metal drill tip available.
- Played with and averted in the Stephen King novel Gerald's Game. The female protagonist is left handcuffed to a bed, naked, with no one alive for miles around. She makes her own conveniently placed sharp thing by breaking a water glass...which she then uses to cut, not the handcuffs, but her own hand, so the blood can act like a lubricant so her hand will slip out.
- How Much for Just the Planet?: Invoked intentionally. After Uhura and Aperokei are captured by the villain of their subplot, Ilen the Magian, he leaves them tied back-to-back in the projection room of his movie theater, with a liquid explosive that will go off at about the time the movie ends. Aperokei, knowing that Ilen — who is obsessed with movie tropes — will have left them a way to escape, realizes they can cut through their ropes with the spinning projector wheel. In reality, Ilen did this because he's an actor playing a caricatured villain, as part of the Direidian "Plan C". Oh, and the explosive was actually just ginger-beer.
- In the second The Lord of the Rings novel, Merry and Pippin are captured and tied up by Orcs. There are two Orc factions present, and they start fighting over where to take the prisoners... one dead Orc falls on Pippin with his sword in convenient reach of the hobbit's bonds.
- Used in The Lost Scrolls After Harry, Garth and Gid fail in their attempt to save Meagen and Jesse. As the evil cult people start to ready the poison, Harry starts frantically looking around for anything he can use to free them. It takes him a bit to remember that he has a knife blade he sewed into his tunic at the beginning of the book...
- Gets used in Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn when Simon and Miriamele are tied up by cultists serving the Storm King, with the variation that the Sharp Thing is the Magic Mirror that Jiriki gave to Simon. They are forced to smash it and then maneuver the incredibly sharp pieces with their bodies, something that (realistically) leaves their skin cut to ribbons. It's worthwhile, though, considering what they are about to be sacrificed to.
- Lampshaded in The Goblin Tower, part of The Reluctant King. Fugitive king Jorian, the wizard Karadur, and the woman Vanora have been tied up in Jorian's bedroom by a couple of other wizards. Jorian's sword is hanging by its baldrick on his hatrack, and though Jorian has his ankles and wrists bound, he manages to worm himself to his feet, knock the hatrack over, and (with the help of Vanora's feet) cut through his bonds. Prompting this exchange after he releases the others:
Jorian: These knaves were tyros after all, or they'd never have left aught sharp where we could come upon it.
Karadur: Remember, my son, that they are accustomed to coping with foes, not by such crude devices as swords and cords, but by spirits, spells, and the transcendental wisdom of magic.
Jorian: So much the worse for them.
- The Saga of Arrow-Odd: Captured by the viking Saemund, Odd spends the night scheduled to be executed in the morning, with his feet shackled and his hands tied behind his back, and guarded by twelve men. He strikes up a conversation with his guards to lull their vigilance, and eventually sings to them until they are all sleeping. Odd then crawls to a nearby axe and manages to cut the fetters on his hands on its edge. He unties his feet, grabs the axe, kills the guards, and gets away.
- The Satan Bug: The protagonist gets locked up in a cellar. It has no sharp objects, but it does have a vice and a rusty hacksaw blade.
- Ship Breaker. While trying to rescue Nita, Nailer encounters his Archnemesis Dad and loses his knife during their fight. Nita turns up later having freed herself from her bonds. "Thanks for the knife."
- Spice and Wolf: Some thugs beat up Lawrence, tie him up, then leave him in the woods to die. Lawrence uses the embers of his campfire to escape, but he does burn his arms in the process.
- In Edmond Hamilton's The Star Kings, the main hero, while prisoner on the enemy ship, manages to escape and draw the attention of his own side's ship. The bad guys are victorious in the battle, and they tie him up in a chair. However, the battle forces a crash landing, which cracks the chair just enough for the hero to saw through his bindings after half a day or so.
- In A Taint in the Blood, Kate is captured and tied to a camp bed in an old cabin. She escapes by breaking the bed till she can squirm across the floor, and then lighting a Coleman stove and using it to burn through the rope.
- In The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. episode "Crystal Hawks", Brisco manages to get himself loose from the ropes he's tied up in by using a partially exposed screw in Crystal's cart. The next time she catches him, she shackles him to the cart so he can't do that again.
- Angel. In "Five by Five", Faith is about to kill a Bound and Gagged Wesley when Angel does a Big Damn Heroes and her switchblade gets dropped in the struggle. Fortunately The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In and Wesley uses it to cut his bonds.
- Batwoman (2019)
- In "A Mad Tea-Party", Sophie Moore uses her diamond engagement ring to saw through the zip ties binding her and her husband Tyler to a chair. As their marriage is a bit shaky at that point thanks to Sophie having revealed her past homosexual relationship with Kate Kane, Tyler notes the irony.
- A variation in "Off With Her Head". Kate has someone tied to a chair for interrogation purposes, but agrees to give him a glass of water. Rather than using it to cut his ropes it turns out he's already got his hands free; he smashes the glass and tries to cut his own throat so he can't be made to talk.
- The Boys (2019). In "Over The Hill With The Swords Of A Thousand Men", superpowered terrorist Kenji is Shipped in Shackles with his hands bound in duct tape so he can't use his telekinetic powers. He rubs the tape against his chains to free a single finger, which enables him to direct enough telekinetic power to summon and crumple a drink can, creating a sharp piece of metal to cut the rest off.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the episode "The Dark Age", bad guy Ethan Rayne has Buffy tied up, with her arms wrapped around the edges of a table and tied together beneath it. There is a conveniently located screw sticking out the bottom of the table that she uses to saw through the ropes.
- Michael has to do this in Burn Notice when a former friend sells him out. He escapes but bloodies his wrists.
- In one episode, Castle has his character Nikki Heat tied to a chair and can't figure out how she will escape, so he has Alexis tie him up for research. He ends up knocking over a garbage can and using a broken soda can to cut free.
- In a later episode, Castle and Beckett are locked in a room and are bound with zip ties. Castle finds a screw and uses it to saw at Beckett's binds. A decent amount of time passes and he doesn't even make a dent in it.
- CSI: NY:
- In "All Access," Stella's stalker/ex-boyfriend breaks into her apartment, ties her hands behind her back, and dumps her in her own bathtub where she (unrealistically quickly) breaks apart a straight-razor and uses the blade to cut through her bonds.
- In "The Untouchable," perps use a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to ambush Mac. They then taze him from behind, zip-tie his hands, and pull a knit cap over his head before leaving him in a construction area. He manages to find a piece of rebar to saw thru the tie, and also does so more quickly than would be realistic.
- Doctor Who:
- In "Day of the Daleks," the Doctor rubs his bonds against a wine rack in the cellar to cut his wrists free.
- In "The Caves of Androzani" the Doctor is chained to the wall in a spaceship's control cabin. He's able to break free of the wall, and finds a vertical glowing energy beam he can use to cut the chain, through trying to do so while standing with his back to it is rather painful.
- In the pilot episode, Dobson is seen sawing at his bonds with a sharp object. The possibility is raised that Jayne left it with him for exactly that purpose. It would not be out of character for him...
- Also, when Jubal Early has Kaylee tied up, River suggests to her that there must be something sharp nearby. Justified since she's in the engine room with a whole bunch of tools, making Early Too Dumb to Live.
- Game of Thrones. In "The Sons of the Harpy," after kidnapping Tyrion Lannister, Jorah Mormont steals a fisherman's boat, then returns to where he's left Tyrion lying in the sand, his longsword stuck through Tyrion's bonds to hold him in place. He finds Tyrion frantically rubbing the ropes against the blade, but Jorah was only away for a moment, not enough time to escape.
- In the Haven episode "301," Audrey uses broken glass to cut through her ropes. Her hands get very bloody in the process.
- In Hawaii Five-0, a serial killer who has Max tied up creates his means of escape by smashing several objects with a golf club, then leaving the room for a minute. Max tips his chair over and uses a glass shard to cut the rope. He's not done yet; he gets back in the chair and pretends he's still bound, and when the killer raises the club to cave in his skull, he runs him through with the shard.
- The Hexer: Subverted. During their escape from the Nilfgaardian captivity, Dandelion and Geralt improvise a "knife" out of a broken clay bottle. As Dandelion quickly finds out, it's incredibly dull, requiring from him an extensive effort to actually cut the rope.
- In Homeland, Carrie manages to sever her bonds this way when held prisoner by Abu Nazir, but her escape is unsuccessful.
- Used on Leverage when a mook has to escape.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: When Adar approaches him, Arondir finds a sharp stone and hides it in his hand planning to attack his captor. It's subverted in the end because Adar decides to release Arondir.
- MacGyver (1985): Or 'hot thing' in this case. In "Off the Wall", Mac has his hands and feet bound with plastic ties and is left in a condemned building alongside a Timebomb. He manages to hook a wire hanger into the faulty wiring so that it heats up and he can use it to melt through the ties.
- Subverted on NCIS. Jenny, while tied to a chair, spends considerable effort edging a flat shard of metal towards her with her foot. Then the guy kicks her out of range. (Yes, he kicks her out of range, not the convenient sharp object. Ouch)
- In the series Once Upon a Time, in the episode called "Hat Trick", Emma does this with a tea cup from which she had drunk earlier. While falling into a drug-induced unconciousness, she drops the cup, and when she wakes up she's bound and gagged. So she drops a pillow onto the tea cup and stomps on it, breaking it, and uses it to cut the rope.
- Parodied in Police Squad!, where a kidnapped woman begins sawing away at her bonds on the requisite sharp object, wipes her forehead with her hand from the strain of it all, and then puts her hand back into the ropes to continue sawing away.
- Double Subverted in Snobs: Abby is captured and tied up below the deck of a ship. She tries using a letter opener to cut through the bonds, but one of her captors comes back in and takes it from her before she can finish. Luckily, the titular dog finds her and finishes the job.
- John Sheppard in Stargate Atlantis uses a conveniently placed rock to cut the rope when he has hands tied behind his back. It makes more sense once you know it's a scenario cooked up by an AI.
- In Supernatural this happens in almost every other episode, one or both of the boys gets tied up and finds a nail or a knife or a sharp edge of some sort to break the ropes.
- Invoked in The Walking Dead, when Milton drops a scary-looking tray of sharp things the Governor happened to have laid out in the holding cell, and deliberately leaves one lying out of sight when he clears up the others.
- In Warehouse 13, Claudia is handcuffed with no way out. Looking around, she picks up a plastic spatula and tosses it down disgustedly. After the action falls, Artie shows up and tells her he sees seven ways out of the situation. He picks up the spatula and corrects himself: "Sorry, eight." It should be noted that he got himself out of a similar situation earlier in the episode using a iron to make an electromagnet.
- An Invoked Trope in Westworld. After being captured by Wyatt's cult, the Man in Black wakes up with a noose around his neck, with the rope leading over a tree limb to a blindfolded horse and the nearest knife is stuck in a nearby corpse. He has to reach the knife without spooking the horse, and barely succeeds.
- The Westerner: After being tied up by the Ritchie brothers in "School Days," Dave is able to escape by wedging a knife into a drawer and using it to saw through his bonds.
- In Broken Sword II, this is the very second thing you do in the game - after knocking over a Conveniently Unstable Bookshelf to get rid of a poisonous spider, you find a sharp bracket on the wall behind it.
- In Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, the three McCall brothers are tied up in a shed where there was a saw. Only William uses the saw, however, and just goes to untie his brothers.
- Parodied in The Curse of Monkey Island. After Guybrush is swallowed whole by a very large snake, you can see that all around you are: a Snake-Slicing machete, a can of Snake-Away, the Jaws of Life, a good-size Snake-Beating plank, some high-fiber cereal, and a Nine Iron golf club. All of these things would easily allow him to escape if they weren't outside the snake.
- Danger Girl have a level titled "Breaking Out!" which starts with JC Strapped to an Operating Table by the Mad Scientist, Dr. Kharnov. But while in the midst of taunting her, Kharnov accidentally left a long syringe within JC's reach, leading to her grabbing said syringe and shoving it though Kharnov's guts.
- This is an option in the video game Darklands when you are tied up by devil worshipers in a hamlet. The game features an illogical subversion; it can be easier to break the ropes with brute force if strong enough than it is to cut them.
- In the into to FEAR 3, the Point Man is being interrogated by a pair of Armacham troops, up until the point that that Paxton Fettel waltzes into the room and possesses one of them. As soon as he does so and attacks the other guard, the Point Man produces a small knife he'd hidden up his sleeve and cuts the zip-tie around his wrist, then kills the guard Fettel is possessing.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: In the LucasArts adventure game based on the movie, you instead use a convenient polearm held by a set of armor.
- In King's Quest V there is a mouse you save really early on in the game. If you don't, when you become tied up much later, the mouse won't come and rescue you by gnawing through your ropes.
- The first Max Payne game uses a variant: The villains don't leave anything sharp lying around when Max is taken prisoner, but they do tie him to a Conveniently Flimsy Wooden Chair, which breaks apart when he strains against his bonds hard enough.
- Nightshade on the NES has this or a variant in a couple points. Right at the start of the game, you use a Conveniently Placed Candle (The game even notes it's there "For no explainable reason" when you examine it) to free yourself from a chair. Later, one of the continue scenarios has you use some sharp metal protruding from the wall as part of your escape.
- Played with in Rule of Rose; the sharp thing is very deliberately placed, as well as controlled by the villain: a pair of scissors that is automatically lowered by rope to cut the protagonist's ties, and then lifted up again beyond her reach.
- Parodied in The Secret of Monkey Island. When Guybrush is thrown underwater tied to a heavy idol, the ground around him is littered with swords, scissors, and other miscellaneous sharp objects, all of which are just out of reach. If you wait a while, you'll hear two people on the dock discuss whether they should throw a knife into the water, and then decide not to. The solution, of course, is to pick up the idol and climb out.
- Cosmic Dash: In the "Paranoia" arc, Dash is restrained to Dorian's operating table because he's going crazy due to the bad guy gaslighting him. Said bad guy walks to him and grabs a scalpel from the nearby instrument platter, but Mara comes in the nick of time to engage the baddie... Allowing Dash to grab another scalpel with his toes, and free himself.
- In Girl Genius, it is Chekhov's Gunned and subverted:
Othar: I escaped using naught but my wits!
Gil: And something my father left within your reach, right?
- In Weak Hero, Gray restrains Wolf by pulling his sleeves over his hands and then tying them behind his back. Wolf is eventually able to escape from it thanks to a nail sticking out of a nearby structure.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang uses the ludicrously spiky helmet of his own guard.
- An episode of Captain Planet had Gi tied to a chair in a room used to gather coral from a reef. One sharp piece falls conveniently nearby and we all know what happens after that...
- Fillmore!: In "Codename: Electric Haircut", Fillmore is able to cut through his bonds with a CD that fell on him when he was being tied up.
- Inspector Gadget: Given Penny's propensity for getting Bound and Gagged, inevitably she stumbled across more than her fair share of conveniently placed sharp things.
- In Ketchup Vampires, after Huberta has kidnapped Bella she takes her form in order to seduce Pino, Pino however sees through the disguise and bounds and gags her, he then locks her in a dungeon, she manages to escape by cutting the ropes with a rusty pipe in the cell.
- This also occurs in the "Big Top Trap" episode of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
- In Sports Goofy in Soccermania, Goofy is bound and tied up in a chair after being kidnapped by the Beagle Boys. However, he was able to use his foot to grab a nearby kitchen knife.
- Aimee Semple McPherson claimed to have escaped her kidnappers by cutting her bonds on the lid of a tin can, and responded to reporters' incredulity by repeating the feat in their presence.
Anime & Manga
- In the seventh The Garden of Sinners, Shiki manages to one-up most of the examples on this page by chewing her own thumb off to get out of handcuffs. Of course, the thumb in question is on her artificial left arm, but it just shows how hardcore the character is. It's even more hardcore when you realize that despite being an artificial limb, she can feel through it and is nearly indistinguishable from a flesh and blood arm.
- Lupin III does this quite often, through joint dislocation rather than crushing his hand. The only time we explicitly see his escape is during the first Red Jacket episode. The rest of the time is usually just off-camera.
- In Suki A Like Story, Asou intentionally breaks his thumb so he can wriggle free from his restraints. This is just one of many signs that he's far more than a simple school teacher.
Films — Live-Action
- Assassins. Professional Killer Miguel Bain dislocates his thumb to escape police handcuffs after being arrested.
- In The Boondock Saints, the brothers are handcuffed to chairs, so they move to allow one brother to stomp the other's thumb until he can pull it out of the handcuffs. It hurts to watch.
- In Lethal Weapon 2, Riggs is chained up and thrown into the sea. He dislocates his arm at the shoulder to get out. This is actually a Chekhov's Gun, as he does this to escape a straitjacket earlier in the film, on a bet.
- In Pitch Black, Riddick dislocates both shoulders to escape from being attached to a pole by having his hands put around the pole and handcuffed together. It was revealed in the extra features reel on the DVD that Vin Diesel very nearly can do that move in real life. Not quite, but close.
- In Saw III, Eric Matthews escapes the Bathroom (in which he was trapped inside at the end of the previous film) by breaking his foot with a toilet lid to get it through the shackle.
- Played with in The Dresden Files novel Proven Guilty, where Harry is held captive by a pair of villains in an old garage, who are selling him on eBay. There's a tool chest a few meters away, but out of reach, and he can't use any magic because the restraints are designed to trap wizards. However, with a bit of help from Lasciel, he uses a technique that lets him dislocate his thumb and slip one hand free of the restraints. Then he gets to the tool chest and manages to find a hacksaw. Fortunately, the restraints are made by fae troll-smiths, and iron is the fae's bane, so the hacksaw goes right through the restraints. He also levels a few curses at his dad, the stage magician, who never got around to teaching him how to get out of a pair of handcuffs painlessly.
- Variant: In Gerald's Game, the heroine escapes from being handcuffed to a bed in a cabin somewhere in BFE (the only other person who could have let her out is her husband, recently deceased of a heart attack) by using a broken drinking glass to cut the skin around her wrist, partly degloving her hand to slip out of one cuff.
- In the Inheritance Cycle's fourth book, Inheritance, Eragon and Arya are imprisoned in Helgrind by the fanatic worshippers of the Ra'zac. Eragon considers breaking his thumbs to get out of his chains when the Ra'zac's eggs start to hatch.
- In Issola, Vlad considers how to get friends out of ceramic wrist bindings. He rejects the break-the-hand approach primarily because he doesn't have the oil he'd need to slide the hands out afterward.
- Mindstar Rising, a sci-fi novel by Peter F. Hamilton, has the protagonist and his fellow captive stomping their hands to crush the bones so they can pull them through the handcuffs. Even though he can create neurohormones to dull the pain, it still severely squicks them both.
- In Shackles, one of the Nameless Detective novels by Bill Prizoni, Nameless employs a variant. Shackled in a cabin, Nameless starves himself till he can slip his hands out through the manacles, tearing off some skin in the process.
- Vorkosigan Saga: Miles Vorkosigan used to be able to do this easily when his bones were still brittle enough that he could crush them with his own muscles. The bones were replaced with unbreakable synthetics by the time of Komarr, so that he was unable to escape no matter how hard he tried.
- Defied in Burn Notice. Michael Westin is handcuffed, one hand to each arm of the chair he's sitting in. He notes that breaking your thumbs will work in such a situation, but it's much easier to use leverage and relative hardnesses of the restraints and whatever they're hooked onto to break loose instead, and then you don't have to deal with broken bones.
- Casey tells Chuck about this trick (breaking one's own thumb), but Chuck's far too pain averse. Casey himself pulls it later. Still later Morgan does it, but discovers he didn't need to break his thumb.
- This is how Dexter escapes the Skinner in season 3 - rocking the table over to land on his hand.
- During Season 3 of Person of Interest, Fusco breaks his thumb (the bad guys broke two of his other fingers earlier, so a little more pain wasn't that big a deal) to escape from a pair of handcuffs.
- Miss Parker employs the 'crushed hand' variant in one episode of The Pretender when she dislocates her own thumb to allow herself to slip out of a set of handcuffs.
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Sarah Connor manages to be even more badass: after breaking her hand bones, she bites her wrist open, giving her the necessary slipperiness.
- An extreme example happens in V7E11 "Gravity", when the fight between Arthur Watts and James Ironwood ends with former trapping the latter's arm in a Hard Light shield, which does not hurt at first, but attempts to move the trapped limb causes severe burns. Watts warns Ironwood not to try something unless he wants to lose yet another arm, but Ironwood grits his teeth and just pulls his arm out, burning off all the skin on it, and literally wipes the floor with Watts using only his other, cybernetic arm.
- In the next chapter "With Friends Like This...", Tyrian, being a Combat Sadomasochist he is, dislocates his thumb to escape the bindings, then immediately sets it back and joins the fight without any concern, as his Aura is gradually healing the injured digit and his weapons do not require holding with hands anyway.
- In Errant Story, Sara dislocates one of her thumbs to slip that hand out of a pair of Anti-Magic manacles and gets bonus badass points for using her injured hand to grab Meji and run off.
- In Get Medieval, Torquel escapes by dislodging his thumb rather than break it.
- In one of the Team Fortress 2 comics, the Soldier recommends this method to the Heavy's sister Zhanna. It turns out that didn't work, so she cut off her hand instead.