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Elevator Escape

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Elevators. We all know and love them. Those wonderful devices that let you reach the thirty-second floor without climbing ungodly numbers of stairs. Those wonderful moving rooms with lots of shiny buttons... including the "Close Door" button. Is Bob running from The Mafia? No problem! He just has to duck into a nearby elevator and hit that button, and the doors will miraculously slide closed just as the goons come running up to them, protecting Bob from their wrath!

Does not actually require the button being pushed to be the "Close Door" button, although it's common for a panicking character to push it repeatedly with a sense of urgency.

Occasionally, particularly when the pursuer is a killer robot, a horde of zombies, or another inhuman creature, the doors will close on their arms, forcing the hero to either push away or chop off the intruding limb(s) before their pursuer(s) manage to pry the door open. Never mind that a properly working elevator should open automatically once it detects something in the way of the door. As Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless says (following advice about avoiding Uncomfortable Elevator Moments): "Don't try to crush people by pushing the 'Close' button. I've tried it and it doesn't work."

A common subversion is for the "Close Door" button to not work. Whether it's deliberately disabled, never connected in the first place, worn out from over-use, or simply doesn't respond fast enough to be noticeable, the fact remains that pushing the "Close Door" button does absolutely nothing.

In comedy settings, expect the chased to calmly wait for the lift to arrive at its destination before resuming the panicked running once the doors open. Bonus points if the scene cuts between the chaser rushing downstairs with dramatic music playing and the chased listening to the calming elevator music.

A bit of Fridge Logic applies when you realize that elevator doors are not bulletproof, so a sufficiently armed member of The Mafia could probably shoot the escapee even if the doors did close. Until, of course, the elevator starts actually moving out of the way (see also Concealment Equals Cover). Also, if your enemies happen to have grenades handy (not very common with most mafias but quite common with well-funded terrorists and certain cartels), one of them thrown into an elevator as the doors close or dropped into it from above can ruin your whole day.

Can lead to an Elevator Snare where the chaser tries to outrun the victim by using the stairs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in the third episode of Hellsing Ultimate OVA: while running away from Alucard, Brazilian SWAT are trying to hide in the lift. One of them is frantically pushing the CLOSE DOOR button. It would probably have worked if not for the fact that Alucard performed his vampire mind trick on him, making him push the OPEN DOOR button instead. By the time the doors actually close, Alucard is close enough to force them open with his guns, just before massacring them all.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Happens twice in Aliens.
    • When Ripley and Hicks are trying to escape, they make it to an elevator. Hicks repeatedly pushes the button, and the door starts to close... too late to stop a xenomorph from nearly getting to the heroes (and dousing Hicks with acid).
    • Towards the end when the Queen alien is pursuing them, Ripley barely gets into the service elevator in time, driving the Queen back with her flamethrower just as it's running out of fuel. The Queen is snarling in fury when a second elevator arrives, summoned by Ripley's frantic button pushing.
  • In Ballistic Kiss, a movie about an elite hitman named Cat, one of Cat's targets tries to flee after witnessing Cat slaughter all his guards, but Cat catches up with him, blocks the elevator when it's doors are two inches from closing, and sarcastically asks why isn't he practicing the common courtesy of holding elevator doors open. In the next scene, the elevator door opens to reveal the target dead and Cat smoking a cigarette over his corpse.
  • Inverted in Entrapment. After committing their heist on the 86th floor, and setting off the alarms, Mac and Gin try to escape in the elevator, having previously freeze-framed the camera to hide their presence. The control room shuts the elevator down to try to trap them, but they escape from the elevator by forcing the doors open.
  • In the 1998 American Godzilla, Tatopoulos escapes the baby Godzillas by elevator and has to boot one of the lizards in the head to get the doors to close.
  • In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Agatha runs into an elevator while being pursued by Dmitri. Dmitri runs in after her, and they ride the elevator in tense, awkward silence. Then Agatha gets out, and Dmitri tries to get out too, but the doors close on him. Dmitri wrenches them open, but this gives her a head start on the escape.
  • Kevin from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York ducks into the Hotel elevator just as the staff is finally getting off the floor to try and grab him.
  • Jurassic Park
    • Subverted in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. When the Indoraptor first escapes his cage, Eversoll runs into an elevator and manages to close the doors just in time... until the Indoraptor's tail smashes the button and causes the doors to open again.
    • Jurassic World Dominion. When Owen Grady and Kayla Watts flee a Pyroraptor they're finally able to escape by ducking into an elevator. As it's an industrial elevator with safety cage they don't have to worry about the doors opening automatically, so they just zap the Pyroraptor with a taser once they're safely inside. And there's a variation on the trope when Claire Dearing makes it to a tower-type outpost and has to wait for the automated ladder to slowly lower to the ground, by which time several Dilophosaurs have closed in on her.
  • In National Treasure, Ben is attempting to steal the Declaration of Independence. As he's getting away, a rival thief spots him, and tries to get to the elevator.
  • North By Northwest - Roger needs to flee a hotel before the villain's goons come for him, and he reaches the elevator going down - just as they get out of the next elevator, and promptly follow him in. Roger has his mother in tow, who refuses to believe he's in any danger.
  • Olsen-Banden over alle bjerge (The Olsen Gang over the Hills): Egon is fleeing from the big bad's hired bodyguards into an elevator which seemingly is going down. The bodyguards promptly run down the stairs to chase him. However it turns out that Egon was just going down onto his knee, getting under the window in the elevator door.
  • A variation in Our Man Flint occurs when a mook pursues Flint onto an industrial manlift that uses a belt running in a continuous loop. Flint disappears through a hole in the floor, then swops to the other side of the belt so he's carried up past the unwitting mook who is riding down on the opposite side.
  • Screamers. When the lights go out in the command centre, Colonel Hendrickson orders the others out, but when they reach the elevator Ace insists on going back for him. When they get there the others have taken the elevator and fled, but fortunately Jessica returns with it as the Killer Robots are pounding on the hatchway outside.
  • In the Stargate movie Stargate: The Ark of Truth, replicators jam a door open on the Odyssey. Mitchel shoots them off to close it.
  • Used in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when Kirk and company are escaping a hospital. Security manages to reach the ground floor before the doors open, but they've already used the transporter to beam out of the elevator.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah, John and the T-800 use an elevator to get a lead on the pursuing T-1000 during Sarah's rescue from the mental hospital. The T-1000 reaches the doors just as they close and pulls them open, but a well-placed shotgun blast stuns him and the doors close normally. The T-1000 then forces the doors open again, jumps onto the descending elevator and tries to stab them through the ceiling.
  • In The Twins Effect, Helen pushes Razaf (who is weak from lack of blood) into an elevator and turns to face their vampire pursuer. She's almost killed before Razaf pushes the 'Doors Open' button and pulls her inside with him.

  • The Dresden Files: In Small Favor, Harry is running from three of the Billy Goats Gruff (a lot more dangerous than they sound), and ducks into an abandoned building to escape them. Knowing that they'll soon find a way in, even if they have to bash down a wall, he runs to the elevator and starts pushing the button for the top floor. Being that elevators run on electricity, and Harry is a Walking Techbane, it takes a few tries and lots of near-panic before it works.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 10th Kingdom inverts this in the first episode, as Virginia escapes a group of trolls by trapping them in a broken elevator.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon Cooper ensures Leonard has an elevator escape, by making sure he does not get into it with a tank of unstable rocket fuel. This explains why Leonard is still alive and the elevator at 2311 North Los Robles is out of action: the rocket fuel exploded inside the lift.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Rose": The Doctor and Rose get into an elevator to escape the Autons. One Auton gets its arm between the doors as they close. So the Doctor pulls it off.
    • "World War Three": The Doctor escapes being shot by an impromptu firing squad by virtue of a conveniently located lift.
      The Doctor: Ah, well, now, you see, the thing is, if I was you, if I was gonna execute someone by backing them against the wall, between you and me, a little word of advice, [there is a ping and a door slides open behind the Doctor] don't stand him against the lift! [steps into the lift and the door closes]
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In "The Mad Mad Tea Party Affair," the mysterious stranger infiltrating UNCLE HQ avoids our heroes by ducking into an elevator, then when Solo and Kuryakin decide Stairs Are Faster, calmly stepping out again, thanks to a device he's carrying that lets him control all the electronics in the building, including the floor indicator. However, he turns out to be an UNCLE agent sent to test their security. Later when The Mole is exposed, he uses the same device to trap the escapee between floors.
  • Wonder Woman: In "The Fine Art of Crime," Mooks are sent after Diana Prince. She ducks into an elevator, transforms into Wonder Woman, and scares the mooks into trying to escape by car. They fail.
    Wonder Woman: [watches the mooks stagger out of the car she's just destroyed] You know what this means, don't you? You'll have to walk to the police station.

    Video Games 
  • Near the beginning of Dead Space, Isaac makes it into an elevator and the door shuts in front of a pursuing Necromorph...then the Necromorph pulls the doors open and manages to get inside before the door slices it in half. Not exactly OHS compliant...
  • After you confront Dr. Breen in his office near the end of Half-Life 2, he escapes in his personal lift before Gordon can catch him. You have to chase him down to the main reactor before you can confront him properly.
  • Both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 have campaigns where the survivors fighting off waves of zombies while they wait for the elevator doors to open up. Often viciously averted in VS Mode, when smart infected players spit acid into the elevator or pull a survivor back OUT just as the doors are closing.
  • In Mirror's Edge has several moments where Faith gets a brief respite from pursuing Blues by getting into an elevator. Here the doors clearly are bulletproof since their closing is met with a barrage of dents appearing as the trigger-happy Blues spray the area. At one point Faith gets to experience the other side, as Jacknife ducks into an elevator and gives an insufferably smug wave as he disappears.
  • In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, LeChuck confronts you by an elevator. If you can get the doors to close on him, you can tear off part of his beard which you need for a voodoo charm.
  • The No Mercy mission from PAYDAY: The Heist, being set in the same hospital as the Left 4 Dead campaign of the same name, has the crew escape to the roof using the elevator for a helicopter rescue. There's a chance that the elevator will lose power mid-escape and fall to the basement, though this has almost no effect on the gameplay; instead of the helicopter, the crew escapes via an ambulance parked in a basement entrance.
  • In SOMA, just as Simon gets the lift in Theta Labs working and gets close to it, a monster walking about the area suddenly beelines towards him, forcing him to quickly get into the lift and get the door closed.

  • Starward Lovers: Jen and Rocker narrowly manage to escape some enemies by getting onto an elevator, the door slamming shut just in time.
  • Unsounded: Elka, Toma and Minnow just manage to escape a series of deadly traps Toma accidentally set off by leaping in the nearby elevator. Then the elevator cable gets cut by Duane nearly killing Elka and Toma since Duane's in an unreasonable mood and jumped to conclusions about who might be in the elevator.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League. In "Eclipse," Flash finds himself stuck on the Watchtower when the Justice League is possessed by the Monster of the Week. He uses his Super-Speed to race for the elevator... then has to wait for it to arrive with Superman charging up behind him.
  • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, near the end of the second season, Shaak Ti and two other Jedi take Chancellor Palpatine down a hallway as Grievous begins slashing his way through the assembled guards. They call the elevator while listening to Grievous fighting, and when it all goes quiet, the Ithorian Jedi repeatedly mashes the button. They do make it inside though, despite Grievous busting out of the office and running down the hall towards them.
  • Totally Spies!: Sam, Alex, and Clover chase a thief into an elevator. The thief, however, escapes through a ceiling panel, cutting the cable. The elevator of course falls down, but stops a couple of times on the way, providing time enough for a Clip Show.

    Real Life 
  • Used as part of the punchline of a chapter in a computer graphics book. The author recounts a story involving him and a couple of his friends streaking through a hotel hallway, knowing that the timing of the elevator worked out just right for the doors to close behind them and cut off pursuit. The author got ahead of his compatriots and got the doors to close early, leaving them stranded. He was so tickled at how clever he was that he didn't realize that the elevator had gotten to the ground floor before it opened up on the lobby. Which, of course, introed the chapter on raw speed and exposed faces.
  • In 1967, Daryl Hall and John Oates were both with separate bands at a competition in Philadelphia when a gunfight broke out between two rival gangs. They both ran to the same service elevator to escape, started talking, found they shared interests and once they discovered they were attending the same college, they eventually began hanging out with each other. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Deivant Ollam points out that elevators in most corporate buildings are fundamentally insecure due to safety overrides with keys that can easily be found or stolen and yet they are often used as an element of the security perimeter of most buildings.


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Why's It Doing That?

Leon and Buddy are cut off from escape when an elevator door shuts on them. Seconds later, the elevator mysteriously starts working again, allowing them to escape.

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