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Danger Takes a Backseat

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"Rule #31: Always check the back seat."

A character walks to their car. She may be aware that something is dangerous out there, or we may get a creepy vibe. But eventually she gets into the car, unharmed and prepares to drive off. She adjusts the rear-view mirror and- OH GOD TEETH IN THE FACE!

Perhaps it's because there's some idea of a car as a safe place, but attackers in TV regularly hide in your backseat, waiting to attack when you enter the car. Whether it's psychos with knives, hitmen with fiberwires, flesh eating monsters or mysterious spies with secret information, the intrusion of personal space is creepy if not outright terrifying. It's nearly never noticed before the victim is in their car, and no reference is made to how they got in without breaking the windows.

Occasionally a stealthy or mysterious Anti-Hero protagonist can pull this off to intimidate someone, but it's not a very heroic thing to do — it's rude! Chances are high he'll do it with a *Click* Hello if he uses a gun.

Unfortunately, this can be Truth in Television.

See also Offscreen Teleportation, Stealth Hi/Bye. Compare Not My Driver, Closer than They Appear.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In 52, The Question sort of... magics his way into the back of Renee's car between panels in Week 4.
  • For the Anti-Hero variant, Batman has made something of a habit of this. But then, sneaking up and scaring people is part of his MO.
  • Subverted in an issue of Mister Miracle. When his wife Big Barda gets into her car, she finds a mob thug hiding in her back seat: "Oh, please don't hurt me, I'll do anything you say," she mewls. (Anyone who is familiar with Big Barda's abilities and personality knows why this is funny.) Cut to later as she tells her husband about the incident: "Oh my god! Is he okay?!"
  • In Silverblade #1, Milestone is kidnapped when one of Vermillion's minions hides in the backseat of the Cord and grabs him and injects a sedative into his neck when he attempts to drive off.
  • This was how John Constantine first introduced himself to Abby Arcane in the pages of Swamp Thing. Of course, in his case a wizard literally did it.
  • In Welcome to the Jungle, Harry Dresden and the zookeeper he's protecting encounter a hellhound in the back seat of the Blue Beetle.
  • The DC Comics Halloween Special Are You Afraid of Darkseid? has a framing story of the Teen Titans telling campfire stories, some of whch are DCU riffs on classic ones. Damian's story describes the Batmobile apparently being run off the road by a truck, which is actually trying to warn Batman that the Mad Hatter is in the back with an axe.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy: Selford Depool does this to kill the hostess who had discovered his secret (that he was an escapee from the state asylum) and was taking the evidence to the police.
  • In one Robotman and Monty strip, the protagonist is afraid to adjust the rear-view mirror of his car at night, citing the tendency of such an act to reveal a killer waiting in the back seat. But he does it anyway, and freaks out upon seeing the reader's eyes in the mirror.

    Film — Animation 
  • In the Heavy Metal story "Harry Canyon", the title character is a taxi driver ready for this stunt with a disintegrator ray installed in the back of his seat to kill anyone trying to rob him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The second person killed in The Aggression Scale is a man who gets into his car and is immediately shot by Lloyd who is hiding in the back seat.
  • There's a variation on this in Aliens where the pilot of the dropship is attacked by an alien that has snuck on board.
  • Played with in The Amazing Spider-Man. A car thief uses a high-tech device to break into a car, gets into the driver's seat, and starts trying to hotwire it. Spidey's sitting in the backseat the whole time, and actually has to clear his throat before the car thief notices him.
  • Antebellum: After Veronica is lured into a fake Uber, Jasper grabs her from behind and starts throttling her before knocking her unconscious by slamming her head into the window.
  • Assault on Precinct 13
    • In the 1976 original, one character manages to leave the precinct through a sewer pipe, hotwires a car, and speeds off to call for help... only to be killed by a gangbanger hiding in the back seat.
    • In the 2005 remake, two of the protagonists try to make for a car past the attack squad to get help. They seemingly manage to get to the car and start celebrating then one of said squad pops up from behind the seat, murders one of them and captures the other.
  • The Judge Reinhold film Baby On Board subverted this when the lead character, a cabbie, returns to his taxi after getting some coffee only to have a man with a gun pop up from the backseat. The thug demands money, and the cabbie asks to put his coffee down first. As he does, he presses the button that deploys pepper spray from the roof of his car. Cue the thug staggering out of the car while the cabbie calmly hands him eye drops and tell him it'll wear off in a few minutes.
  • In The Batman (2022), D.A. Colson leaves the 44 Below club under the influence of drops and is trying to start his car when he notices the headrest on the driver's seat is missing. Just as realisation sinks in, the Riddler rises from the backseat and chokes him into unconsciousness.
  • In The Beast of Yucca Flats four-hundred-some-odd pound Tor Johnson manages to sneak into the back seat of a car while the driver changes a tire.
  • Last scare in Children of the Corn (1984) involves one of the children attacking Burt from the backseat of his car. He punches her out and the cast start walking to the neigboring town.
  • Colombiana. The Big Bad flees the protagonist's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in a van only to find she's left two attack dogs in the back.
  • Conspiracy Theory has the Hero pull this off a few times.
  • The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course: After chasing the Irwins for miles, with one of them falling off their truck, and being dumped in a croc-infested river, one of the agents declares nothing could shock him. Then they turn around to see that Brozzie's pack of Angry Guard Dogs are sitting in the backseat.
  • Eric Draven does this to T-Bird, one of the five targets of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, in The Crow.
  • The Dark Knight has Harvey Dent/Two Face pulling a slightly modified version of this on Salvatore Maroni- Maroni gets into the back seat and then notices Dent sitting next to him. A Freeze-Frame Bonus reveals the mook who intended to get into that seat gets dragged off-screen by Dent moments before Maroni climbed into the car; Dent evidently got in at the same time.
  • Dawning of the Dead: At one point, Alex and Christian are given an old shop owner's car, and use it to get through town to the docks. On their way, they're jumped by a zombie in the back seat, causing them to accidentally flip the car.
  • Subverted in James Rolfe's short movie The Deader The Better. The film is about two men whose job it is to patrol a cemetery where zombies emerge every night. Despite being standard Romero zombies who only need one good hit to the head, one of the men delights in creatively dismembering them, which he's reprimanded for by his partner. Sure enough, when he drives home that morning, there's a zombie in his backseat. Karmic Death, right? No, he savagely beats it up and throws it out the window.
  • Dog Soldiers has this happen when a werewolf hides in the back of a Land Rover. Joe, who is inside the Land Rover at the time, realizes this before the wolf attacks, however, and decides to leap into the back of the Land Rover to take on the creature himself. The results aren't pretty.
  • Double Indemnity: Phyllis and Walter are in on a murder plot to kill her husband and split the insurance money. Phyllis hides Walter in the back seat for him to ambush and strangle him.
  • Danger takes a front seat in Drive a Crooked Road. Harold climbs into the chief teller's car and lies down in the passenger side foot well. When the teller opens the door, he finds Harold lying on the floor pointing a gun at him.
  • A variation occurs in The Elusive Avengers: the Crown of the Russian Empire. Here, Monsieur Duc's agents board the back seat in mid-trip during a short stop (the driver is also of the "not my" variety) while Colonel Kudasov is still unsuspecting, then try to assassinate him.
  • Elves (2017): When Colin gets into the driver's seat of his car, which won't start thanks to the cold, he finds himself being strangled by a mysterious assailant.
  • Justified in The Equalizer 2 as Robert McCall works as a Lyft driver. Halfway through the movie one of his passengers turns out to be a hitman sent to kill him.
  • At the end of Escape Plan, Clark is attempting to flee, only to discover Hush lurking in the back seat of his car. A cloth soaked in chloroform clamped over his nose and mouth soon follow.
  • The Human Alien kids in Escape to Witch Mountain do this early in the movie. Unusually for this trope, we see how they do it.
  • Drummer does this during a meeting with Barney in The Expendables 3. The vehicle in question? A truck with FORD written on the front in bold capital letters.
  • In Eyes of a Stranger the titular Serial Killer ambushes one of his victims by hiding in the backseat of her car, after calling her in her office and via the elevator phone as she descends to her parking garage.
  • In Faceless, Barbara is kidnapped when she is lured into Nathalie car for cocaine. Dr. Flamand is hiding in the backseat and grabs and immobilizes her while Nathalie injects her with a sedative.
  • Fear, Inc. opens with a Pursued Protagonist being chased through a high rise carpark. She reaches her car and thinks she is safe, but when she starts the car she hears voices on the radio saying her pursuers know exactly where she is. Then she is garotted by someone hiding in the backseat.
  • In A Few Good Men, Lt. Kaffee is on the receiving end when Lt. Col. Markinson is waiting in his car. Markinson points out that he left the back door unlocked. Possibly a subverted trope (on account of the fact that there was actually no danger)?
  • In the movie Firewall the hero is kidnapped when the villain gets in the back of his car.
  • The Godfather.
    • Clemenza knows that his protege Paulie betrayed Don Corleone. So he has Paulie drive him and a new henchman Rocco around for hours under the pretense of finding good housing for the upcoming Mob War; when Clemenza goes to relieve himself, Rocco kills Paulie from the back of the car.
    • He does it again more directly when Carlo Rizzi is to be exiled. "Hello, Carlo". Explainable, as it wasn't Carlo's car.
  • Halloween
    • In the original Halloween film, Annie plans to drive over to her boyfriend's house after leaving her babysitting charges with Laurie. Finding her car locked, she goes into the house to fetch the keys, comes back to the car, opens the door without having to unlock it...and just has time to notice steam on the windshield when Michael Myers (whose breath caused said steam) springs from the back seat and throttles her.
    • This also happens in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers where Michael clings to the bottom of a moving pickup truck, before climbing up the side and killing the three men in the back of the truck.
    • And in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, where Michael lurks in the back of Barry's van.
  • The Hangover has it with a sedated tiger. Hilarity (and car damage) Ensues.
  • Played straight in The Hills Have Eyes (2006). Bob attempts to flee the gas station in an abandoned car but is subdued by the mutant leader Papa Jupiter who is hiding in the backseat
  • The Hit List: After Gates is murdered, Allan tries to phone Brian Feltzer, the next name on the list, to warn him. Unable to reach him, Allan jumps in his car, intending to drive to where Brian-is to warn him in person. However, Jonas is waiting in the back seat of Allan's car and claps a gun to Allan's head before explaining that now he has started killing, the only way for Allan to stop him murdering all five people on the list will be for Allan to kill him.
  • In Hot Fuzz, Frank Butterman attempts to flee in a stolen squad car and is attacked by the swan in the back seat. Justified, as we previously saw the swan put into the car and Frank is in a panic at the time.
  • In House of 9, Claire is abducted when her kidnapper garbs her from the backseat of her car outside a nightclub.
  • In The Howling (1981), just as Karen and Chris are driving away from The Colony, Werewolf!Bill pops up from the backseat and attacks.
  • A glaring example is Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses where it gets done in a convertible.
  • The Incredible Melting Man: The melting man kills an elderly couple when he creeps into the back of their car before they come back.
  • Strangely averted in Independence Day. Steven drives across the desert with an unconscious alien in the back of his truck. He brings it to the secret lab without incident. Very unexpected.
  • Interview with the Vampire: After Louis ends the titular interview, Daniel drives home on the highway, reviewing the tapes, when Lestat jumps him and bites his neck, then takes the wheel.
    Lestat: I assume I need no introduction.
  • The Irishman: Early in the film, Briguglio strangles Tony Castellito from the backseat of a moving car. Frank, who is both a hitman and Properly Paranoid, later on refuses to ride in the front seat with Briguglio sitting behind him.
  • I Saw What You Did: When Libby is trying to start the car to escape the house, Steve rises up from the backseat and grabs her by the throat.
  • The remake of I Spit on Your Grave has Jennifer doing this to Sheriff Storch after luring him into the park.
  • In Julia X, Julia leaves her date and returns to her car. As she sits down, The Stranger rises from the backseat and slips a garrotte round her throat.
  • The dilophosaur that kills Nedry from Jurassic Park attacks him in his jeep.
  • Played for Laughs in Jackie Chan's Kung Fu Yoga. The main hero steals a car to chase a man, only to find there’s a lion in the backseat. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Happens to a policeman in The Last Starfighter. He goes and gets into his squad car, only to be attacked and killed by a shapeshifting alien "hitbeast" called a Zando-Zan.
  • In the Spanish thriller La sombra de la ley (aka Gun City), The Dragon of a local crime boss tries to garotte the protagonist from the backseat as he's driving down a country lane. The car stalls and the camera circles it repeatedly as the two men engage in a desperate Gun Struggle until one of them gets shot.
  • By far the best addition to Let Me In was a 10 minute sequence where we follow the killer in the back seat from the time he gets in to the time he makes the kill. It's also one of the most intense sequences in the movie.
  • Parodied in Loaded Weapon 1. The heroes are driving somewhere and suddenly realize they're "being followed," whereupon a pair of armed Mooks are suddenly revealed to have been sitting in the backseat in plain sight the entire time. The driver then "loses" then by taking a sudden turn. When we see the interior of the car again, the thugs have disappeared.
  • In Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels Dog does this to Big Chris by threatening Little Chris. It does not end well for Dog.
  • A Deleted Scene in Looper has a police officer (tired after being up all night searching for the protagonists) getting into his squad car after fetching coffee and not noticing that Kid Blue is crouched in the seat next to him until he speaks up (the cop is so startled he crashes the car into a parked vehicle).
  • At the end of Lucky Number Slevin, the detective who has always been one step behind the protagonist falls victim to this while having an expository conversation with his colleague over the radio in his car. The protagonist is polite enough to wait until the exposition is finished, but strikes before the detective hangs up, making sure the colleague knows something is up.
  • Machete: Luz hides in the back of Von Jackson's jeep. When he tries to escape, she emerges and shoots him in the back of the head.
  • In The Matrix Reloaded during the highway chase scene, one of the Twins chasing Morpheus, Trinity and the Keymaster (the latter the target everyone's after) ghosts his way into the trio's car and rematerializes in the back seat leading to an in-car fight to keep him from taking the Keymaster while trying to keep the car steady.
  • Night of the Demons 2 has Angela popping out of the trunk to interrupt two horny Catholic school students.
  • Happens in the horror anthology Nightmares, in the "Terror in Topanga" segment, and is based on the same Urban Legend (e.g., "The Killer in the Backseat") as the introductory scene in Urban Legend.
  • At the end of Night School (1981), the killer seeming rises from the backseat of Lt. Austin's car and holds a knife to his throat. It turns out to be Taj playing a practical joke.
  • Jimmy Angelo pulls this in Practical Magic when his abused girlfriend, about to be rescued from their motel room by her more sensible sister, insists that she can't leave without the lucky necklace she left hanging on her rearview mirror...
  • Technically, Indiana Jones finding a snake in the compartment of his friend's plane in Raiders of the Lost Ark is a subversion, as the snake is harmless. Not that he cares.
  • Saw:
    • The first film has a variant. Gordon isn't attacked in his car immediately, but when he steps out of it momentarily to use a phone, you see the back door slowly opening...
    • In a flashback in Saw II, this is how Obi kidnapped Laura for the Nerve Gas House game.
  • In Scare Campaign, Emma and JD pile into the minivan and attempt to escape the Abandoned Hospital. However, they can't find the keys and JD jumps out to retrieve a spare set. After he is gone, a blood covered Rohan rises from the backseat and lays his hand on Emma's shoulder.
  • Played with in Scream 4, where characters scared of Ghostface are constantly checking the back seat when getting into a car. It doesn't help.
  • Screamers ends with a shot of a doll in the back of the one-man spacecraft used by the protagonist to escape the planet. The doll is the type previously seen carried by the Creepy Child Killer Robot. Just before the movie ends we see the doll start to move of its own accord.
  • A flashback in Series 7: The Contenders shows Action Mom Dawn garroting a victim from a past series this way.
  • The Yellow Bastard did this in Sin City. This was sort of implausible, since 1) it was snowing, 2) he was bleeding pretty badly, and 3) it was mentioned several times how much he stank, so you'd think there'd be some sort of a sign or trail that would've tipped them off. Hartigan does mention smelling him the whole time, but attributes it to a lingering stench from checking out his car.
  • In Slaughter High, Carl manages to break out of the booby-trapped school and makes it to Carol's car. However, while he is trying to start it, the jester stabs him from behind with a sword through the driver's seat.
  • Parts II and III in the Slumber Party Massacre trilogy both feature a scene where a person sitting behind the wheel of car gets struck with a drill that goes through the seat.
  • In Some Guy Who Kills People, Lyle Bagwell is murdered by the killer hiding in the cab of his pickup truck. The last shot of him is his bloody hand clawing desperately at the rear window.
  • Played painfully straight in The Strangers. The male lead makes a dash for the car to see if it's still working. He sees that all the windows of the car have been smashed in. Now, any person with half a brain would either give up on checking the car, or at least look in the backseat. What does this guy do? Gets into the car without even taking a quick glance to the seats behind him! Guess what happens? he doesn't get killed (there), but there WAS someone in the backseat.
  • The short film Suspicious has this happening to Janane Garofalo's character, in an enactment of an urban legend.
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby features a particularly vicious cougar in the back seat of the car that Ricky Bobby learns to drive again.
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning does this with the rebooted version of Leatherface, when he kills a fleeing woman by hiding in her car and surprising her. Which is actually rather incongruous, given that Leatherface is approximately 12 feet tall and built like a linebacker.
  • Tommy Boy with the deer (which Chris Farley and David Spade thought was dead).
  • Triple 9: Russell gets into his car and one of Irina's mooks rises from the backseat and wraps a plastic bag over his head. Later, Franco gets in car at the hospital and sees Jeffrey's tie hanging from his rear view mirror. He then looks in the mirror and sees Jeffrey in the backseat holding a gun on him.
  • The Undertaker (1988): In one scene, a man sitting in his car boasts to himself about his intention to solve all the murders... and then Roscoe grabs him from the back seat and stabs him in the eye with a knife.
  • The first victim to die in Urban Legend was killed this way. As mentioned further below, it references a well-known urban legend, as do many of the important killings in the movie.
  • Grace Jones as "May Day" murdered two guys this way (separate attacks) in A View to a Kill, resulting in James Bond not getting the support/reinforcements he expected.
  • Wolf Creek. The main character, believing she's gotten away from Mick Taylor, gets into a car, then hears his distinctive chuckle in the seat behind her, right before he stabs her in the back.
  • One of the rules that the Genre Savvy Columbus adheres by in Zombieland is to make sure to always check the backseat for any zombies. Unfortunately Tallahassee doesn't listen to this and an entirely human Little Rock gets the drop on him. Also comes in handy earlier when the two find an H2 Hummer with weapons in the backseat.
    Tallahassee: Thank god for rednecks!

  • Subverted in one Artemis Fowl novel, where an invisible Holly hits Butler with her mesmer as he leaves the car and gets in when Butler comes back. Artemis, noting that Butler didn't perform the usual security checks or perform the errand Artemis told him to do, immediately asks the (still invisible at this point) Holly what she wants.
  • Played with in Bad Monkeys. An attendant at a gas station is trying very hard to get Jane to leave her car and come into the gas station. She recognises the urban legend-type setup and says, "There's a guy with an ax hiding behind the driver's seat, isn't there. Don't worry, he's not going to hurt me."
  • Another good guy version happens in the Burke novels. Burke removes the back seat of his Plymouth and puts in a pile of dirty blankets, saying he uses the back to carry stuff. Actually the Prof (who's very short) is hiding under the blankets. When the man in the passenger seat pulls a gun, he suddenly finds cold steel pressing against the back of his neck.
    Prof: Your hole card is a low card, motherfucker. I see your pistol and raise you one double-barreled scattergun.
  • The Count of 9: Donald the private detective drives away from Mortimer Jasper's house, only to be surprised by two thugs who were hiding in the back seat of his car. They beat the hell out of him and steal the jade idol that Donald just received from Mortimer Jasper. (The idol was stolen, and Donald eventually figures out that Jasper sent the goons to retrieve the idol that he'd just handed back to Donald.)
  • This is Dexter's M.O. in the books. Plus some fishing wire to the throat. Ouch...
  • Discworld: In The Fifth Elephant, a very clever werewolf pulls off a low-tech variant, hiding under a tarp in a rowboat to ambush someone as they came aboard.
  • Fair Warning: The serial killer at the end of this novel kicks this trope up a notch, hiding in the trunk of Jack McEvoy's SUV before opening the hatch to the back seat.
  • In The Fault in Our Stars, Peter Van Houten scares Hazel when he pops up in the back of her parents' van.
  • In Stephen King's novel Gerald's Game, Jessie finally escapes the (almost) human version of Death and her Cuffed-to-the-bed predicament. She runs outside, jumps in her car, and gets a few miles down the road before tiredly glancing into her rear-view mirror and gets an eyeful of the guy she just narrowly avoided. Whoops!
  • In John Dies at the End, the protagonist is driving in the middle of the night with a lot on his mind, and experiences this trope. Fortunately, the guy in the backseat just wants to talk. Unfortunately, the guy brought along something to motivate the protagonist into speaking more freely, and it's thirsty for blood.
  • Nick Velvet:
    • In "The Theft of the Fireman's Helmet", Nick meets the two thugs who hired him to steal the helmet. Getting in the front seat of the car to talk to the brains of the outfit, Nick realizes too late that the second one was hiding in the back seat. He jabs a gun against the back of Nick's neck in case Nick is planning any funny stuff.
    • In "The Theft of the Campaign Poster", Nick gets threatened by a thug hiding in the back of his car who puts him in a choke hold and then knocks him out.
  • In Pact, the protagonist Blake Thorburn, after having become a Mirror Monster, steps into the reflection of a rearview mirror of the back of a car being driven by a local wizard in order to have a chat. He's not actually sitting in the back seat, but in the reflection of the back seat.
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark retells the classic Urban Legend about this under the title "High Beams".
  • Short and Shivery: In "Narrow Escape" (from book 4 of the series, A Terrifying Taste of Short and Shivery), Tessa drives away from the gas station, ignoring station attendent Dale yelling at her to get out of the car. It turns out that he saw the Gold Country Killer, a serial murderer who's been stalking the area, climb into her backseat. Fortunately, Dale follows and catches up to her in his own vehicle, and proceeds to clobber the killer with a tire iron just in time.
  • Star Wars Legends: Death Troopers features quite an interesting one near the end of the book. Late in the novel, the "team" of survivors, Trig, Han, Chewie, and an unnamed Imperial soldier are flying back to civilization in a small Imperial ship. Trouble is, the forgot to make a headcount. A nearby space zombie leaps out from behind, takes a good chunk out of the nameless Imperial man, only to be shot by Cody, who apparently took a back-er seat than the zombie.
  • The Surgeon. Dr. Catherine Cordell gets into her car, intending to return to the hospital to tend to a patient. But when she calls the hospital from her car phone to verify some information, she's told that a previous call originated from that very same phone. Her attacker lunges at her from the backseat...
  • Jack Fleming of The Vampire Files has resorted to a heroic version of this to take down gangsters. Justified by his being able to enter locked cars by vanishing, and not showing up in rear-view mirrors even if he goes solid.
  • Wyatt: In Paydirt, Wyatt hides in the boot of an another criminal's car. He waits until the car is underway, then kicks his way in through the backseat and claps a gun to the driver's head.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Face My Enemy", Raina gets in her car to discover a HYDRA mook waiting for her in the backseat.
  • Angel pulls this on Wolfram & Hart employees when he wants to intimidate them. Since he's a vampire, they can't see him in the rear-view mirror.
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead:
    • Deadite-Roper hides in the Delta's back seat in order to ambush Ash while he's driving.
    • When Professor Knowby tries to escape the cabin in 1982 with the Necronomicon, he's killed by that time period's Ruby who hid in the back seat of his car.
  • Every time someone gets into a vehicle in the Crows' garage on Batwoman (2019), you can usually expect someone dangerous hiding in the back seat. It's often Alice, but the trope was subverted at least once by Sophie's sister Jordan, who's coming to her for help.
  • A non-lethal version in The Boys (2019). Billy Butcher has a habit of Trespassing to Talk, appearing in houses, offices and car backseats with equal disrespect for privacy. The latter is justified when he has to make contact with someone confined to a secret Vought facility covered by surveillance cameras. He hides in their car, leaving the door ajar so they'll come out to investigate, then he tells them to drive him somewhere the cameras aren't watching.
  • In Breaking Bad, this is how Tuco kidnaps Jesse and Walt at the beginning of season two.
  • The Victim of the Week in episode 1x02 of By Any Means is chloroformed by an attacker hiding in the back of her car.
  • In Carnivàle, Justin Crowe uses astral projection to hijack the car Henry Scudder is using to escape, killing him with a sickle.
  • Castle: In "Significant Others", the Victim of the Week is stabbed to death with an icepick by a killer hiding in the back of her car.
  • Used in The City Hunter, with Yun Sung doing this to Kim Jong-Shik; and later when The Dragon is arranging Young Ju's "suicide," beginning by drugging him unconscious from the back seat and locking him in the car.
  • Inverted in an episode of Cold Case. A young drug mule who stole some of the wares is being chased by her bosses when she encounters her "friend", who lures her into her car where her boyfriend (and enforcer for the dealers) surprises the girl in the front seat and then kills her while the friend held her down.
  • In the CSI: Miami episode "Special Delivery", the Victim of the Week - a delivery driver - is garrotted from the back of his van as he gets back into the driver's seat.
  • On Curfew, pregnant Faith has an encounter with Team Awesome where they get out of her shooting them by doing a song and dance routine. After she drives off, she discovers that one of them, Cheese, snuck into the back seat of her Jaguar during the performance. However, it turns out that Cheese recognized that she was in labor and went along to be a birthing coach.
  • Daredevil (2015): After learning from Karen the details of how Wilson Fisk got himself out of prison (by snitching on an Albanian gang), Matt hides in the backseat of Big Ben Donovan's car, and when he gets in, strangles him from behind and threatens him into giving up why Fisk is doing this (he did it to get accessory charges against Vanessa thrown out). Matt is forced to abandon his interrogation when an FBI tactical unit monitoring Donovan show up to rescue him, and Matt is forced to fight them off to escape.
  • In the final battle of the KGB vs. CIA episode of Deadliest Warrior, the last KGB agent is killed via a CIA agent hiding in the back of his car and garroting him.
  • Dexter pulls this on Mike Donovan, the Pedophile Priest he kills in the very first episode.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the TV movie, the Doctor does this to Grace. Well, she knew he was around, as he'd followed her to her car, but he sort of vanishes and gets in the back of the van without her noticing. He's not exactly an Antihero, but due to Trauma-Induced Amnesia, he has No Social Skills — even more so than usual.
    • "The Waters of Mars": Ed and the escape shuttle are lost when the possessed Maggie boards it behind him and infects him, prompting him to blow up the ship before the infection can take hold.
  • Drop the Dead Donkey. Played for Laughs when Globelink News decide to make a crimewatch program. Gus Hedges assures the police liaison officer that it's not going to increase the public's fear of crime for cheap ratings. Cue the title sequence showing a couple moving fearfully through a darkened street, while an ominous voiceover accompanied by creepy music tells how crime is lurking everywhere, waiting to strike... The music stops as the couple make it to their car, lock the doors and sigh with relief, only for a blood-stained man wielding a huge knife to rise up from the backseat.
  • FBI: In "Second Life", Victim of the Week Chloe Rogers is abducted by someone hiding in the back seat of her pizza delivery car.
  • In Hawkeye (2021), knowing that Kazi is the only person who can get through to Maya, Clint waits for him in the backseat of his car and threatens him, demanding he talk Maya into calling off her vendetta before things escalate any further.
  • Heroes: Danko is relaxing in his car fiddling with the radio only to be interrupted by Sylar: "I love this song."
  • Inspector Morse had an interesting variation. A female office worker is being hassled by a creepy co-worker. When she leaves he starts chasing her in his own car, and by the time he gets her to stop she's quite hysterical — it turns out he's trying to warn her about the man he saw jumping into the back of her van.
  • Lethal Weapon. In the "Lawmen" episode, Barton kidnaps Captain Brooks from such a position. The setting makes the trope so obvious of its actualization, that a nagging feeling can be anticipated.
  • In Leverage episode "The Rashomon Job", Eliot pulls this on an unsuspecting doctor to get into an art show.
    Eliot: Don't talk. I know it's your first instinct to talk, but don't. Your best course of action is to nod.
    Doctor: Wh...
    Eliot: Nod. [Doctor nods] Good. I'm gonna need a couple things from you. I need your clothes, and I need your little invite to this party. Now this can go two ways; you can give them to me, and I can stuff you in the trunk of this car, which, by the way, looks pretty comfortable. Not a bad night. Or you can not give them to me... (Eliot’s face hardens) and I can do exactly what you'd expect a crazy guy in your back seat to do to you.
  • Lampshaded in the fourth episode of the second season of Lie to Me in that the victim, Torres, is later seen to berate herself for not locking the car door. It was broad daylight...
  • Major Crimes: In "Year-End Blowout", Sykes is preparing Rusty for his decoy mission and tries to drive home to him the importance of always checking the back seat of his car before getting in. On his first day, he fails to do this and Sykes rises up from the back seat and puts a gun to his head.
  • Midsomer Murders: The first two victims in "The House in the Woods" are garrotted by a killer hiding in the backseat of their car.
  • An episode of Millennium (1996) has a service station owner calling a woman into his office because her credit card was invalid — it turns out he'd actually seen a man hiding in her back seat. That killer was also striking in the manner of Urban Legends.
  • Motive: In "Purgatory", a strip club owner returns to his car to find it has been broken into. He climbs inside, and is surprised by the killer in his back seat who proceeds to interrogate him. He then goes for the gun he has hidden in the car, only to learn the killer has already found it and taken it. Things then get worse for him.
  • In the Mr. Bean episode Mind the Baby, Mr Bean, a Doberman sneaks into Mr. Bean's car, after a Running Gag that whenever Mr Bean makes a baby's toy squeak, the dog runs after it. He squeaks it one last time, and the dog barks in his car, from the back seat.
  • NCIS: In "Crescent City" (the Back Door Pilot for NCIS: New Orleans), FBI Agent Doyle is killed by a murderer hiding in the back seat of the car.
  • The New Avengers: In "Cat Among the Pigeons" Steed is attacked by a falcon that has been planted in the back of his car.
  • In the New Tricks episode "Only The Brave" a gang member tries this on Sandra, threatening her with a gun. This is a mistake as Sandra breaks his nose and knocks him out.
  • One episode of New York Undercover has a subversion with a young supermodel being attacked in her car. The assailant didn't kill her, but he did slash up the poor girl's face, effectively ending her modeling career.
  • Used in One Life to Live. Todd Manning has been stalking his victim Marty Saybrooke for several days, intending to persuade her into not testifying against him—he's planning to rape her again and possibly kill her. He lurks in the backseat of her car, but his attack his foiled when her friend shows up and unwittingly saves the day, with neither of them having ever been aware of his presence.
  • In Orphan Black, Katya contacts Sarah Manning this way. Katya at first thinks that Sarah is Beth.
  • Person of Interest: Combined with Dying Moment of Awesome in "Dead Reckoning". Rogue Agent Kate Stanton has forced Mark Snow to wear an Explosive Leash and carry out her orders for months. Finally she sets the timer to blow him up, only to find him sitting in the back seat of her car as the last few seconds count down.
  • Played with in the Power Rangers S.P.D. episode "Reflection". While hunting for the escaped criminal, Mirloc, Bridge and Z spot him in the rear view mirror of their jeep and turn around to face him in the back seat, except he's not there. Mirloc reminds them that his the power is to travel through reflective surfaces so he's only appearing to them through the mirror.
  • Psych:
    • Shawn Spencer pulled this off in hilarious fashion on two cops.
    • Another episode inverted it. Abagail is in the back of Buzz's cop car when suddenly he's knocked out and the episode's villain gets in the front seat.
  • Psychopath Diary: In-woo hides in Mu-seok's backseat. As soon as Mu-seok gets in the car In-woo sedates him.
  • The Punisher (2017): A non-lethal version when Turk finds a Not Quite Dead Frank Castle waiting in his backseat.
    Turk: Oh, hell no.
    Frank: (amused) Oh, hell yeah.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: The Victim of the Week in "Over/Under" is stabbed to death by the killer, who slips into the backseat of his van as it is going through a carwash.
  • Scott & Bailey: In S03 E08, DCI Gill Murray is threatened by a woman who hid in the back of Gill's car. The rest of the episode shows Gill's team and other police officers trying to work out who the woman is, where she is forcing Gill to drive them, and how to safely rescue Gill, while Gill tries to convince her captor to let her go.
  • Scream Queens (2015): In "Hell Week", one of the security guards is stabbed to death by the killer hiding in the back of her patrol car.
  • In the Smallville episode "Pariah", the killer has the ability to turn into sand and can get to the backseat easily.
  • In The Stand (1994) miniseries, Campion sees (or believes he sees) Randall Flagg traveling with him and his family from Project Blue to Arnette in the backseat:
    "There was a man with us some of the time; he was a dark man. I was looking through the rear-view mirror and I'd see him just sitting there, grinning at me. I thought I could outrun can't outrun the dark man."
  • Supernatural:
    • This occurs in the series pilot; one of the victims of the Monster of the Week agrees to take her home, but when he reaches the house she vanishes. As he's driving away he checks the rear-view mirror and sees her sitting in the back seat. Cue Gory Discretion Shot. Justified Trope as she was a ghost.
    • Happens in "The French Mistake", in which a depowered angel hides in the backseat of Misha Collins' car. He himself lampshades it.
      Misha Collins: [typing into his phone] Ever. Get. The. Feeling. That. There's. Someone. In. The. Back. Seat? Frowny-face.
    • The good guys that can teleport tend to do this too. Only with less gore and more friendly scare.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a poor secretary discovers a Terminator waiting in the back seat of her car. She promises not to scream. Don't make promises you can't keep...
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): Referenced in the episode "Perchance to Dream". Edward Hall tells the psychiatrist Dr. Rathmann that he once nearly got into a car accident because his overactive imagination led him to believe that he was living out one of these stories in real life. As he looked into his rearview mirror, he thought he saw a pair of strange catlike eyes, something that distracted him enough to nearly hit another car.
  • In Walker, Texas Ranger, Alex (of course) is kidnapped by one of the Villain of Week's henchmen, who has been lurking in the backseat of her SUV. One would think that as an ADA, the girlfriend of a cop, and someone who's been kidnapped or assaulted numerous times, she'd be more vigilant about her personal safety.
  • The X-Files: In the episode "Alpha", the killer is a dog who shapeshifts between a human and canine form, meaning he/it can be small enough to hide in the back, yet is also able to open the car door.

  • The end of Ayumi Hamasaki's music video for the song "ourselves".

    Mythology & Folklore 
  • The classic Urban Legend about this goes something along these lines: A woman driving alone is pursued by another car or truck, Duel style, and its driver keeps flashing his headlights or high beams at her, to her increasing panic. When she finally makes it home and gets out of her car, the other vehicle parks right behind her. She runs inside and calls the police, they arrive and attempt to arrest the other driver who had stayed inside his vehicle with the lights on, keenly watching the place. However, he then reveals he was only chasing the woman and flashing his lights because there was a man with a knife hiding in her backseat, who was still there right now. Every time the man stood up while she was driving, he had flashed his lights to make the man duck down again.
  • A non-headlights variation has the woman stop at a gas station, paying with a credit card, and the attendant insists that there's a problem with her card so could she please step inside the store? To her annoyance, the woman gets out, and the attendant suddenly drags her inside, to her shock. But then he tells her about the man hiding in her backseat.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In Chikara, this happened to Mr. Touchdown, who left the Wrestle Factory, only to get jumped by Nazmaldun-possessed Ultra Mantis Black. The next time we saw Touchdown, he'd become part of Nazmaldun's "HeXed Men", which lasted until the end of the season, when the hex was broken.

  • A Suspense episode titled "Backseat Driver" stars Jim and Marian Jordan (aka Fibber McGee and Molly) as a married couple driving home from the movies who discover that an escaped killer has been hiding out in the back of their car.

    Video Games 
  • In Army of Two: The 40th Day, one cutscene involves a man robbing a store, running to a car, and preparing to make his getaway...only to realize that there is a tiger in the back seat. It ends about as well for the robber as you would expect.
  • Played straight in the worst ending of the Super Famicom horror game Clock Tower. The protagonist flees the house of death in a stolen car, and just as she thinks she's gotten away from it and the scissors-wielding murderer... cue scissors rising up, scream, and Fade to Black.
  • In some of the various endings of Dead Rising the pilot who comes to pick you up at the end of the 72 hours is attacked by a zombie hiding in his helicopter.
  • In Dead Space, at the end of the game, when Issac successfully scrambles to the shuttle after defeating the (surprisingly easy) Hive Mind and is seemingly safe, he is surprised by Nicole's Necromporphed corpse lunging at him from behind the cockpit as the screen cuts to black.
  • FAITH: The Unholy Trinity: One of the endings for the first chapter involves John shooting a mysterious shadow in the woods and getting jumped by Michael while inside his car.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, T-Bone Mendez, who (correctly) suspects that CJ is a double agent, pulls one of these to try and get him to admit it. He hides in the back seat of the car, then gets CJ in a chokehold from behind and puts a gun at his temple. CJ doesn't spill the beans and after a bit Mendez is called off by Mike Toreno.
  • This is how Michael and Franklin meet in Grand Theft Auto V. Franklin has been sent to repossess Michael's son's SUV and manages to get it out of the garage successfully. On the way back to the dealership, Michael jumps out of the back seat and takes charge of the situation, threatening Franklin by gunpoint to do so. If the player refuses to do what Michael says, Michael will knock Franklin out with a Pistol-Whipping. Players who are paying attention will notice a blanket covering the backseat.
Michael: That's a nine-millimeter semi-automatic pushed against your skull. Ah-ah, don't look around, you just keep driving where you're going.
  • Rebuild shows this in one of the endings, when a zombie sneaks up on whoever is piloting the repaired helicopter... before getting its brains blown out by a fellow passenger.
  • A non-car example in the Henry Stickmin Series: In Complex, one can choose to take the luxury cruiser out. If so, Henry ambushes the captain of the vessel this way, complete with sudden violin. He sails off into the sunset... and then one of the crew members does the same thing to Henry.
  • Resident Evil 2 uses this in the introductory cutscene. Claire and Leon pile into an abandoned police cruiser and start driving for the station. A zombie eventually lunges out of the back after Claire finds a gun in the glove compartment. The three swerve into a wall, causing the unbuckled zombie to fly through the windshield (or rear window if you put in Leon's disk).

    Visual Novels 

  • Kevin & Kell: Attempted in the March 1, 2007 strip, where an alligator is hiding in wait in the backseat of a sheep's car. Unfortunately for the alligator, the sheep happens to be a customer of Aby Eyeshine and her auto service, and had a "Check Back Seat" light and associated ejection seat installed for just such an event.
  • While Mordecai Heller of Lackadaisy didn't mean Mitzi harm when he hid in her backseat to wait for her, you can bet he went about it that way because he was very used to meaning people harm.
    Mordecai: I'd like a word with you...if you can refrain from assaulting me with bakelite for a moment.
    Mitzi: Is that all? Why do you always have to do things the creepy way?
  • In one issue of Penny Arcade, Tycho goes to Game Stop to buy a copy of Street Fighter IV on its release date, only to find out that they only have one copy, a used one. Tycho immediately questions how this happened. The next two panels are from earlier in that day; Gabe picked up a copy, only to find the store manager, Frank, was in the back seat of his car, and...coerced Gabe into selling it back for store credit.
  • Done by the titular character of Schlock Mercenary. Except that, since he's an amorphous blob who can change his shape at will, he doesn't need to lay in wait on the backseat.
    Haban: Hmm... my flight seat is softer than I remember- HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF urk.
  • Subverted in Uncommon Animals when Terry checks her backseat, only to find it empty, before taking off.

    Web Original 
  • A variation occurs in the Alice Isn't Dead episode "Nothing to See," where the long haul trucker Character Narrator is troubled by persistent, loud banging in her trailer, only to check it twice, find nothing and still hear noises, until the third check, where her Humanoid Abomination stalker the Thistle Man reveals himself, then makes a point of attacking her in a Target parking lot to display how easy it is, and how no one will help. The police, as it turns out, are in his pocket.
  • In Everyman HYBRID (a subset of The Slender Man Mythos), there's a brief shot that shows the Slender Man himself in the back of someone's car. One of the team remarks on it, thinking it's the fake Slendy they'd been putting in as a prank, but when the car later pulls over, there's nobody in the back-seat.
  • In the ninth episode of The Joker Blogs, Dr. Arkham gets into his car only to be greeted by the recently escaped Joker.

    Western Animation 
  • Played for laughs in an early episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy where Grim sneaks into the car of a man who was driving erratically since he was playing with his cell phone behind the wheel. After Grim kills the phone's battery, the driver barely avoids crashing and killing several kids who were crossing the street. As he realizes what he almost did, he adjusts his mirror and sees Grim in the backseat, causing him to panic and floor it again.
  • Home Movies: In the season 1 finale, McGuirk uses this on a soccer dad as his Moment of Awesome.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • In Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the following two instances have the Villain of the Week hiding in the Mystery Machine:
      • Played straight in "Nowhere to Hyde", when the Ghost of Mr. Hyde hides in the van after stealing a necklace while the gang is at the malt shop, then is discovered by Scooby when the latter grabs the beach blanket the former was hiding underneath to keep the gang warm due to van's broken air-conditioning unit, which then kicks off the mystery. It's also lampshaded when Shaggy and Velma are discussing the B-Movie I Was a Teenage Blob.
      • Inverted near the end of "Jeepers, It's the Creeper" when the titular Creeper is found in the driver's seat when the gang is about to contact the sheriff when they, at first, suspect a hermit they visited as the culprit.
  • The Simpsons:
    • A variation with Bart sprinting from his home to the school bus to escape a killer dog and convincing himself that he's safe when he gets to his seat, only to be chased right back out by the dog in the seat behind him.
    • In another episode an escaped convict tries this on Marge, but waits on the backseat of the wrong car.
    • Another episode invokes the above urban myth with Otto telling Lisa a story about a someone doing this. He ends up terrifying her into screaming at the top of her lungs when he tells her that he was the maniac.
    • In yet another, some sleazy executives make a getaway from Homers' farm, where he grows addictive tomatoes laced with nicotine, in a helicopter, soon after the farm is devastated by crazed farm animals addicted to the product. One of these, a sheep, is hiding in the back seat.
  • Total Drama:
    • For the whole of World Tour, Ezekiel hides out in the cargo hold of the Total Drama Jumbo Jet. He starts out as a normal teen who can't accept his early elimination, but the longer he stays in hiding, away from humans and alone with rats, scavenging and biding his time for food, the more he feralizes and the more he is framed as a potential threat to those on board whenever he's present in the shadows. It doesn't come to that, if nothing else because Chris has him captured.
    • In "A Blast From the Past", a sea monster earlier shown to arrive at and roam the island hides in the back of Chef's jeep when he looks for Shawn. The monster does not attack either, because it's actually Amy and she only seeks to harm Samey.

    Real Life 
  • Being "taken for a ride" was a common method of execution by The Mafia. This entailed being driven to an out-of-the-way location and then killed by a hitman sitting in the seat behind the victim.
  • Also a precaution included in every female defense guide ever. If you're walking to your car and it's dark, check the damn back seat first. Men should do this as well as women, for obvious reasons.
  • One story in a kid's magazine was written by a girl who got in a car with her mother to head to school, only to have a cat jump out. They had left the window open, and newborn kittens were in the trunk.
  • Inverted in at least one real-life case. In 2012 in Australia a thief stole a woman's car, only to find that her baby was still in the child seat in the back.
  • Supposedly, the "Killer in the Backseat" (or "High Beams") urban legend originates from an event that happened in New York during 1964, where a police officer found an escaped murderer in the backseat of a police car and shot him dead.
  • One of the first episodes of the Investigative Discovery show, Over My Dead Body, featured this, where a woman went to go get gas for a moment. He held her (and her kids) at knife point but she managed to fight him off and get him out of her car (after he made her drive to a secluded location), before she ran him down. The perp survived, was arrested, and sentenced to prison, while paralyzed from the waist down.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Rear View Mirror Reveal



An attempt to escape Claridge via an abandoned police car goes awry when there turns out to be a parasite-infested victim still in the backseat.

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Main / DangerTakesABackseat

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