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Cut Phone Lines

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Dick: It sounded as though somebody snipped the wire.
Dora: Really? What did it sound like?
Dick: "Snip".

Sometimes, the villains knows what the heroes are planning to do and where they will go. In this case, said villain knows when they will have access to a phone. So, to avoid having the police interfere, they will cut the phone line, often offscreen. Expect the obligatory scene where the potential victim picks up the phone and, not getting a dial-tone, repeatedly rattles the switch-hook while going, "Hello? Hello?"

Frequently a Horror or a Mystery movie trope. Since cell phones have made this largely obsolete, this is generally replaced by Cell Phones Are Useless in modern works.

Compare The Radio Dies First and Lost in Transmission. Often overlaps with Impeded Communication.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Saitama Chainsaw Shoujo, Kirisaki Fumio makes a point of cutting the phone lines and disabling the local cell towers around her school to maximize the time she can spend cutting apart her classmates with a chainsaw before the police notice.
  • In Monster, Johan does this before killing Nina/Anna's adoptive parents.

    Comic Books 
  • Also, Lucky Luke did this trope with telegraph lines, because it is set in the Wild West. On one occasion the (fictitious) Indian tribe Blue Foots cut off a telegraph mast, while a telegram is send for Luke to the cavalry. Another time it was the so-called real Dalton Brothers who shot the telegraph lines to keep another city from learning about their arrival.
  • In The Dragon Doctors, one of the first thing bandits do when attacking is jam all communications. The second time it happens, it actually alerts Goro of the impending attack.
  • In the third issue of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Ronald McDonald says he's going to call the police about the crazy man robbing from his secret hamburger warehouse (don't ask), then one of the raptor banditos (don't ask) gives a very badass speech about why Ronald should just let them handle it instead of getting the police involved. And then Doc McNinja says that it's a moot point because he cut the phone lines.
  • An inadvertent version in Tintin and the Picaros. General Alcazar has overthrown the dictatorship of General Tapioca, so he rings the prison to cancel the Firing Squad scheduled to execute Thomson and Thompson. Only he keeps getting a wrong number, and our heroes have to race there in person to stop things Just in Time. In the animated version, there's simply no tone: As Colonel Alvarez suggests, the Picaros must have cut the phone line during the assault to avoid Tapioca calling in reinforcements.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield,
    • In a December strip Jon orders his cat Garfield to behave on Christmas or else he'll call Santa. Once Jon leaves the panel, Garfield tells the reader he cut the phone lines.
    • In another strip, Jon tries to call a repairman to tell him that he thinks the toaster is possessed. When he hears a dial tone, he thinks the repairman hung up in disbelief, but Garfield replies that the toaster cut the line.
  • Footrot Flats: In one strip, the Dog climbs the telephone pole and cuts the wires while Cheeky is on the phone attempting to invite Wal to a home cooked meal at her place.

     Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • The Incredibles had this on its collector's edition DVD, which included animated storyboards of deleted scenes. One featured an alternate situation where Syndrome tracked down the Parr family when Violet was still a baby. When Helen attempts to dial 911, hearing Bob fighting him out in the kitchen: "Don't bother, honey, I cut the wires. Just leave the scene, OK?"
  • At some point in Tintin and the Lake of Sharks, Big Bad "King Shark" orders all local phone lines cut. The mook doing the job is extremely enthusiastic about it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Amityville Horror (1979), George Lutz's home phone becomes staticky and goes dead whenever he talks to Father Mancuso on it.
  • In April Fools' Day (1986) and its novel tie-in book, this happens in an island mansion.
  • In the original version of Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and its 2005 remake, the gang members (in the remake it's corrupt officers) cut off phone communications to isolate the station house.
  • Asylum: In "Lucy Comes to Stay", Lucy cuts the phone lines in the house so Nurse Higgins cannot call the police when she returns to house.
  • The baddies in Bad Day at Black Rock cut the phone lines of the small town so that the hero can't inform the police.
  • The Bat disables both the internal and external phones when he breaks in to search for the secret room in the 1959 version of The Bat.
  • Shown on-screen in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The Nazis cut the phone lines when they invade.
  • Best Seller. When Corrupt Corporate Executive Madlock realises that Professional Killer Cleve is in the school, he picks up the phone to call the police, only to hear Cleve speaking to him via the public address system. Cleve uses a phone extension to do so, simultaneously cutting off the phone lines.
  • Blooded: When Liv makes it back to the house, she discovers that the Animal Wrongs Group has stolen all of their cell phones, and cut the landline.
  • In Breakheart Pass, someone destroys the telegraph lines so the train cannot send a message back down line to Myrtle.
  • Bulldog Drummond: Drummond attempts to call for help after the bad guys have arrived at the inn only to find that they've cut the lines.
  • La Cattura (The Ravine). David McCallum plays a German agent sent to capture a partisan female sniper in Yugoslavia. When he enters the ravine, La Résistance taunt him via loudspeakers, showing they know all about him and his mission. He finds a German outpost and gets on the field telephone to complain to his superior, only for the line to be cut.
    German officer: Hello? Hello? (hangs up) She's found him.
  • In Collateral, Vincent cuts the phone and power line of the office building Annie worked in, leaving her in the dark and without a way to reach out for help.
  • In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), ape leader Caesar does this to the communications complex of the futuristic city he was enslaved in during its ape rebellion.
  • In Day of the Wolves, the robber gang called The Wolves cut the phone and power lines at the same time they blow the bridge, completely isolating the town of Wellerton.
  • In Death Bell, the killer cuts all the phone lines in the school, steals all of the students' mobile phones, and sabotages the teachers'.
  • In The Devils Rain (1975), a town's outside phone lines are cut
  • The first Die Hard movie shows the villain's gang doing this. They weren't planning on physically cutting them, but a guy got impatient.
  • Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: The Man-Eating Plant snaps the phone line to the cottage when when Hopkins tries to phone for help in the "Creeping Vine" segment.
  • In Enemy Territory (1987), phone lines in a New York City housing project are repeatedly cut by gang members.
  • In Firstborn (1984), the no-good drug-dealing boyfriend of the titular boy's divorced mother does this.
  • In original version of The Fog, vengeful ghosts do this and cut off electricity to a town they target for their revenge.
  • In original version of Friday the 13th (1980), the phone lines to Camp Crystal Lake are, making the character even more helpless.
  • In Four Flies on Grey Velvet, the killer cuts the phone line to Roberto's house while Roberto is on the phone to God.
  • In the original Gremlins movie (1984), the gremlin in Billy's parents' basement cuts the phone line as Billy Peltzer is calling his mom to warn her about the gremlins that are hatching in their house.
  • Michael Myers does this in at least four Halloween movies, starting with 1978 original, then Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998). In the unrelated sequel, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), the evil toymaker Conal Cochran isolates the town of Santa Mira, CA. from long distance service.
  • In The Hot Rock (1972), one of the bumbling thieves does this to a police station, while another puts a radio jammer on the station's rooftop.
  • I Saw What You Did: When Steve breaks into the Mannering home, he rips the phone line out of the wall to prevent Libby from calling for help.
  • In Judgment Night (1993), phone lines in a Chicago housing project are cut by gang members who are chasing witnesses to their murder and a payphone and supermarket office phones' receivers are cut.
  • One scene in The Longest Day shows French Resistance members blowing up a dozen or so telephone poles to cut the lines. It's implied that numerous other cells in Normandy did similar things, as after a while the Germans are forced to use couriers to communicate.
  • The Matrix has a variation: Cell lines are ubiquitous so communicating is not a problem, but to actually get out of the Matrix, you need a hard line. A virtual hard line. A hard virtual... look it's gotta be a phone line so cutting the phone lines is serious.
  • Larry and Karen in My Favorite Blonde find this out when they are trapped inside the Chicago apartment where they were supposed to meet the next British courier. Unable to call for help and unable to leave with Nazi killers lurking outside, they wind up staging a brawl loud enough to bring the cops to the apartment.
  • In National Lampoon's Class Reunion (1982) vengeful ex classmate Walter Baylor does this at the titular tenth reunion of his 1972 high school graduation.
  • In The Night Holds Terror (1955), one of the villains wants to do this to the home of those he took hostages in but is told by a fellow villain that it might alert the phone company that something's wrong there and cause them to send the police.
  • In Panic Room, the thieves cut the main phone lines of the house to prevent Meg and her daughter from calling out, while the phone in the titular room is on a different line but never got connected in the first place, as Meg moved into the house that very day. However, the burglar in charge of doing the cutting simply cut the cord of the kitchen phone, not the entire line. Meg manages to jury rig the panic room's phone into the main line and get a call for help out before the thieves disconnect the lines for real.
  • In Race with the Devil (1975), long distance phone lines in the Satanic cult's rural town are either dead or "having a bad connection"; a "big wind from up north" is blamed when "Roger" tries calling the state Highway Patrol.
  • Red Hill: Jimmy destroys the landlines and pulls down the cell tower outside of Red Hill to completely isolate the town. But one of the farmers has a sat phone...
  • In Ripper: Letter from Hell, Professor Kane picks up the phone at his cabin only to discover the line is dead: the killer having sabotaged the dish.
  • In Silver Lode, Ballard asks telegraph operator Paul Herbert to send wires to California to confirm or contradict McCarty's accusations (hoping to clear his name), but the lines are down. It is later revealed that McCarty's men cut the telegraph lines.
  • In The Slumber Party Massacre (1981), the escaped psycho does this at the house where the party is held.
  • In Stage Fright (2014), Roger rips out the phone to the camp office to prevent any of the campers from calling their parents and telling them about the murder.
  • Suspense: A murderous hobo who has entered a young mother's home does this in the middle of her frantic call to her husband at work. From 1913, it may be the Ur-Example.
  • In Taps (1981) the cadets at Bunker Hill Academy do this to prevent their school from being turned into condominiums.
  • In Ted, after Ted gets bear-napped by Donnie and his son, he tries to call John for help. When Ted is about to reveal his location to him, he hears a dial tone and turns around to see Donnie with a pair of scissors holding the line.
  • In A View to a Kill, Zorin's mooks cut Stacy Sutton's phone line before invading her house and attacking her. After James Bond fends them off, he repairs the line.
  • In Tenament Game Of Survival the gang in New York City's South Bronx does this to a tenament.
  • In Wait Until Dark (1967), the baddies cut the phone line so that Susy could not call the police.
  • In Wee Willie Winkie (1937), they cut telegraph wires. This leaves Col. Williams and his frontier regiment isolated and unable to call for help against Khoda Khan and his enemy Afghan forces.
  • When Sid attempts to phone the police in What a Carve Up!, he discovers the phone line has been severed.

  • In the James Bond novel Diamonds Are Forever, Bond is visiting a mud bath to pay a horse jockey for cheating when it is noticed that the phone line is dead. The novel states that this should have been a warning for Bond, but he did not react and could not when the responsible pair of henchmen came and tortured said jockey for his betrayal.
  • Clock Punk variant in The Fifth Elephant where the equivalent of cutting the phone lines is smashing the semaphore tower and killing the operators.
  • Dean Koontz's The Face of Fear has the killer doing this in the psychic's office building. Also in its Live Action TV 1990 movie of the week adaptation.
  • John Buchan:
  • Done in Without Remorse by John Kelly for his final confrontation with the drug ring, which has set up shop in an abandoned warehouse. Kelly cuts the wires and connects his own field phone for a bit of psychological warfare.
  • Updated to the modern world in Relativity: In the story "August Moon", a killer enters a woman's house and cuts the phone line, then hunts around for a cell phone and removes the battery.
  • Doc Savage: In The Men Who Smiled No More, Pat twice has a phone line cut on her as she is attempting to call Doc.
  • Teen novel "The Vigilantes of Emerson High" did this to an opponent of their law and order-type high school clique.
  • The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder: Lewis Barnavelt tries to call the police from Barnavelt Manor, but soon realizes the phone has gone dead and isn't sure how much of his message got through (enough, as it turns out). He later discovers the line has been cut, and the culprit had removed about six inches of the wire to make sure it couldn't be easily reconnected.
  • The Governor in the Copper-Colored Cupids short story The Resurrection of the Wellsians completely emptied the Communications Room to prevent anyone from reporting his abusive rule to the Cupid Homeworld.

    Live-Action TV 


  • The A-Team episode "Black Day at Bad Rock" the motorcycle gang 'The Barbarians' do this to a pole to free their imprisoned leader and destroy the town whose sheriff had arrested their leader and is holding him for state pickup. Also, phones are cut in "Water Water Everywhere".
  • The Amazing Spiderman 1978 episode "A Matter of State" has this in an apartment building by a wall climbing villain.
  • Blake's 7:
    • As the protagonists' Comm Links are also their teleport bracelets they get lost, confiscated or smashed whenever a Teleportation Rescue would resolve the plot too quickly.
    • In "Assassin", our heroes are trapped on a spaceship being remotely controlled by Servalan, who shuts down the communicator to prevent them calling their own spaceship for help. Fortunately Servalan can't resist reestablishing comms for some Evil Gloating, so Avon puts out an emergency call. Unfortunately by that time their spaceship is so far away it's not certain if it received the transmission.
  • In season 3 of Boardwalk Empire Nucky realizes that Rosetti's men are about to attack when his butler tries to make a call and the line is dead.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Ms. Calendar cut the phone line when she was possessed.
  • Cannon: The cult members cut the phone lines before they break into Jennifer's home to murder her parents in "A Deadly Quiet Town".
  • CHiPs "Fast Company" has a small town sheriff doing this to keep witnesses from telling about his crimes.
  • Daredevil (2015): Dex cuts the power and phone lines when he attacks the New York Bulletin to kill a would-be witness on Wilson Fisk's order.
  • Dawson's Creek "The Scare" has Dawson doing this to a girl he admires.
  • Diff'rent Strokes episode "Fire" has the phones in Drummond's apartment building out during what appeared to be a fire there.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Curse of Fenric", Commander Millington orders that the phone lines be cut and all radio receivers be destroyed to completely isolate the naval base.
  • The Equalizer. In "The Children's Song", "Torn", "The Cup", "The Rehearsal" and "Last Call" episodes.
  • Father Brown: In "The Lair of the Libertines", the phone line to the hotel is cut. Father Brown discovers this just after he finds the first body.
  • Frasier: Invoked during "Nightmare Inn", the radio play Frasier directs. The in-story detective dramatically announces that the phone lines at the mansion have been cut which is the exact moment the studio phone rings. To make matters worse Noel, who's in charge of sound effects, loudly answers the phone while standing next to an open mic. Cue a Death Glare from Frasier who stomps over to yank the cord out of the actual phone.
  • The Greatest American Hero, In "Plague", its militaristic villains do this to a small town.
  • Harper's Island has the killer cutting the phone lines so no one on the island can call the mainland for help.
  • In the Helix episode "274", when he hears CDC researcher Alan's intent to call the army in for backup during an outbreak of The Virus, Major Balleseros blows up the satellite and communications system so isolated Research, Inc. Arctic Biosystems is both cut off from the outside world, and its intrabase phone lines are disconnected.
  • Hill Street Blues: In "Can World War III Be An Attitude", Hill Street station's lines appear to have been cut by gang members.
  • Lady Blue (1985) episode "Death Valley Day", a gang in a Chicago housing project does this.
  • The Magician: In "Illusion of the Queen's Gambit", the robbers do this when the take over the casino. They announce what they have done just as Jerry is picking up a phone to call for help.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: The killer does this to isolate the Snowed-In chalet from the outside world in "Murder Under the Mistletoe".
  • Murder, She Wrote had at least one episode where Jessica is the target of this.
  • The New Avengers: Done in "Sleeper" to isolate central London while the gang are Taking Over the Town.
  • Nichols: When Colonel Alcazar and his gang of revolutionaries arrive in Nichols in "The Siege", they cut the phone line leading out of town so no one can inform the outside world of their presence.
  • Person of Interest. Inverted in "Prophets" where it's the good guys trying to stop the Victim of the Week from calling 911, in order to hide him from Samaritan, an Artificial Intelligence that can tap into any camera or phone line. He connects on a borrowed mobile phone long enough to say his name before Finch cuts him off, but it's enough for Samaritan to zero in on him.
  • Police Story (1973-1978). Implied in at least one episode, "The Empty Weapon", where a mugging victim is being terrorized by two of her technicality-released juvenile assailants who found her home address.
  • Occasionally a criminal on Rescue 911 would do this so their victims were unable to call for help.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In "Dramatis Personae", the crew is split into hostile Bajoran and Starfleet factions when an alien device causes them to turn on each other. Odo tries to let higher authority know what's going on, only to find the Subspace Ansible to Starfleet has been shut down under Major Kira's authority, while communications with the Bajoran Provisional Government have been cut off under Chief O'Brien's authority.
  • Future tech example: In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Bliss", when an alien that Seven Of Nine comes in contact with tries to warn her about the "wormhole" that her crew's ship is about to enter into, the communication lines are suddenly interrupted as everything in the Astrometrics lab powers down.
  • Supernatural
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Fear", Charlotte Scott and Robert Franklin attempt to phone for help after discovering evidence that Earth is seemingly being invaded by giant aliens but they are unable to do so as the phone lines have been cut.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger has at least two episodes, "The Lynching" and "The Siege", with villains that do this.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Final Verdict", the killer does this (combined with Vehicular Sabotage) to ensure that none of his targets can leave the house or summon help.

TV Movies:

  • Bad Ronald The titular troubled teenager does this to a taunting neighbor girl
  • Escape from Sobibór has escaping Jewish inmates in World War II doing this to flee a death camp.

  • Golden Earring's Twilight Zone (1983), shown in its MTV video.

  • In Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, the murderer cuts the phone wires of the guesthouse where the victims are snowed in.
  • The Real Inspector Hound, a satire which copied most of the twists of The Mousetrap, does the same, although it fails to prevent the phone from ringing again later in the scene after the play reboots.

    Video Games 
  • Friday the 13th: The Game: Destroying the phone box with a machete/axe/whatever is often at the top of the Jason player's things-to-chop-up list when a new game begins, as the camp counselors can use it to call the police which will allow a Road Block to be set up just beyond one of the exits to the map after a few minutes. Having the police will allow counselors to escape the map on foot through that exit when normally they would need be in a car; police can also shoot Jason if he gets too close to the exit and stun him in order to provide some covering fire for the escaping counselors. Since completing the call requires the counselor to complete a minigame, it's certainly possible for the call to get cut off in the middle of the conversation if Jason happens to kill the line at that moment.
  • Near the end of Portal, in GLaDOS' chamber there is a red land line phone (which strangely has the company logo as a rotary dial), and the line between the receiver and the device has been cut. The developer commentary says that this phone was there for someone to sit by and call for help if GLaDOS ever became sentient and godlike. Apparently, that plan didn't go too well.
  • Murder in the Alps: In the climax of Atlantic Connection, Anna Myers discovers that Otto Reger's friend Gerhard Wagner is a member of the Brownshirts who want to take over Otto's hotel and continues using it for their smuggling business. She attempts to call the police, only to find the phone lines cut by Gerhard. Once the villain is arrested, he sarcastically asks from the police chief if "committing crimes against their country" includes cutting phone lines.
  • The ECM Rush in Payday2 is basically this, but applied to cellphones. Drop cell phones jammers, hit the place for loot, and leave before the pagers that the guards carry warn the security operator.

    Visual Novels 
  • When They Cry
    • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Rika cuts the phone lines in both Irie's clinic and at the only payphone in the village so Akasaka wouldn't know about his wife's death, and she would have more time to ask for his help in saving her life before she is to be killed a few days after the Cotton Drifting Festival.
    • In every arc of Umineko: When They Cry, the external phone line of Rokkenjima is cut just before the murders start. Note: only the external line. The internal line is used in Episode 1, 4 and 5 to give the survivors some mysterious or threatening calls.

    Web Originals 
  • The Board James review of 13 Dead End Drive has James locking his friends in his house so they have no choice but to play the game. Upon informing them that the phone lines have been cut, they pull out their cell phones, only for James to flat out snatch them and destroy them in frustration.
    James: Fuck technology!

    Western Animation 
  • Daffy thinks thinks Porky has done this as part of a plot to trap him in the house in The Looney Tunes Show episode "The Muh-Muh-Muh-Murder". He hasn't. The phone was an antique that was only there for decoration.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch: In "The Bear Who Came To Dinner," Peevly is calling a doctor to give Square Bear a check-up so as to see if he's faking an injury. The call is intercepted atop a phone pole by Hair Bear, who is using Gabby the Parrot to impersonate the doctor's secretary.
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog pilot "The Chicken from Outer Space", as Eustace is turning into a chicken, Muriel tries to call an operator. However, the space chicken cut the lines.
  • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Momma Robotnik's Birthday", Sonic tricks Scratch and Grounder into thinking they are contestants on a game show he is hosting. Robotnik sees this from the monitor in his lair and tries to call them to warn them about Sonic, but Sonic literally cuts through Grounder's phone line with a knife, which also somehow cuts Robotnik's phone line, much to the latter's bewilderment. This scene, unfortunately, was cut from the Toon Disney broadcast.
  • Near the end of Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Shaggy is calling the sheriff to report that he's found the escaped circus ape the Sheriff has been looking for on-and-off when a mysterious hand cuts the phone's lines. It's Foreshadowing to that the "Sheriff" who first appeared is an imposter; Shaggy notes that the person he's talking to sounds different, and most likely the imposter was trying to keep the real police away from the mansion.

    Real Life 
  • Charles Manson's minions cut the phone lines to Sharon Tate's house before killing everyone inside.
  • Martial law in Poland in 1981 began with the phone lines going dead.
  • Actually recommended as advice in Namibia. If you get stranded on a deserted highway, throw rocks on the phone line until it breaks and wait for a repairman to come pick you up.
  • In Oakland, CA. in 2010, injured phone lines was named as one incident that 911 personnel won't send emergency responses to.
  • A common strategy in warfare, to interfere with enemy communications, going back at least as far as the American Civil War. Power lines similarly are a common target.


Video Example(s):



When Alan is hiding in the office in the lumber mill and tries calling the Sheriff's office for help, only for the phone-tower to spontaneously fall, leaving Alan with no way to call for help.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / CutPhoneLines

Media sources:

Main / CutPhoneLines