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Glassy Prison

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Prisoners in glass boxes shouldn't throw shade.

"So they put Silva in a glass cage which is what you do when you catch a villain halfway through the movie."
Screenwriter Guy, Ryan George's pitch meeting for Skyfall

So a character has been busted, caught, kidnapped, jailed ... whatever. They now have to be contained somewhere, and what better choice than a transparent cell with zero privacy?

Being imprisoned in such a manner, functionally on exhibit for the captors, may be a demeaning moment, or an opportunity to show how self-assured the character is. Possibly a result of the character falling victim to The Collector. A Poisonous Captive might take advantage of the transparency to communicate with their captors. Overlaps with Human Popsicle if the character is rendered immobile. That said, having one or more walls be see-through does have practical advantages for a jailer - if the guards can casually look into the room at any time, then it becomes a lot harder for the prisoner to do things like make shivs, attempt to saw through the window bars or dig an escape tunnel without getting caught.

This trope comes into action when a character is deliberately placed within a transparent cage to hold them. This transparent material can be glass, another material, or Some Kind of Force Field. If only one wall is transparent, then it's a Force-Field Door or a material version thereof. Often comes with a side-order of Nobody Poops. Compare Cardboard Prison and Crystal Prison.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Baki the Grappler: Ryukou Yanagi is first shown imprisoned in a tempered glass box, the walls of which are perfectly transparent and able to withstand a missile strike. He breaks out of it with minimal effort.
  • Snow of MÄR interestingly averts this trope; though she encases herself in ice when she first appears, it's made quite clear that she can only stay in her ice prison for a couple of hours before she freezes to death.
  • Naruto: The Water Prison Technique traps the target in a liquid version of this, leaving them unable to move due to the sheer heaviness of the water.
  • Pokémon the Series: Black & White:
    • Team Rocket's boss, Giovanni, puts Meloetta, Ash, and Pikachu in two of these as part of his plan in "Meloetta and the Undersea Temple!".
    • Team Rocket puts Pikachu in one of these in "The Name's N!".
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: R! Sakura and R! Syaoran voluntarily enter one of these, where they are separated from each other for a long period of time as the price for one of Yuuko's wishes.

    Comic Books 
  • Mega-City One's incarceration cubes, in 2000 AD, have sometimes been portrayed this way.
  • Batman:
    • Depending on the Writer, Arkham Asylum's cells are sometimes portrayed as this (see the Western Animation section below). Other creators portray them with quasi-Victorian or even medieval-style iron-doors with only a food- and eye-slot.
    • In Batman Eternal, after capturing Hush, Batman keeps him imprisoned in a transparent cell in the Batcave.

    Fan Works 
  • Eleutherophobia: In The Day the Earth Stood Still, the military places Tom in a plexiglass cell so that they can observe him for three days.

    Film — Animated 
  • Incredibles 2: When taken prisoner by the villain, Helen wakes up bound to a chair in a chamber with glass walls. To keep her from using her Rubber Man powers to escape, the temperature is lowered to below freezing.
  • The blue canine-like alien Stitch, of Lilo & Stitch, is introduced to the audience in a holding cell of this variety, trying vainly to break out.
  • Titan A.E. features Cale Tucker being held in the brig of the Drej mothership. The entire cell is made of translucent energy. Cale is able to escape when he figures out how to manipulate the energy to open a temporary hole through it.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Austin Powers in Goldmember, Dr. Evil is imprisoned in a transparent prison where everyone can see his every move, including the unsanitary ones.
  • In Clockstoppers, the corporation responsible for creating the hypertime watch keeps an accomplice who attempted to escape earlier in a prison cell made of glass in the center of the lab floor. He was in hyper-time, meaning that the onlookers couldn't see him, but he wrote disdainful messages on the walls of his cell that could be seen after spending a week in hypertime and aging prematurely.
  • In Escape Plan, the Tomb has elevated cells with glass walls to minimize the ability of prisoners to hide contraband and generally make them easier to monitor.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • The Silence of the Lambs: Hannibal Lecter's cell at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane has a glass wall facing the hallway, as he's by far the most dangerous inmate there.
  • In Skyfall, Raoul Silva is captured by Bond and incarcerated in a glass cell in MI6 headquarters before being interrogated by M.
  • Species: The young Sil is held inside a confinement area with glass walls. When the project director decides to kill her with poison gas, she breaks through the glass and escapes the laboratory.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: Magneto is imprisoned within a plastic, transparent prison at the end. Also doubles as a Tailor-Made Prison, as Magneto would be able to use his powers to escape from a cell that used metal in its construction.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Large panes of glass form the ceiling of Magneto's cell underneath the Pentagon.

  • In The Butterfly Garden, the Garden consists of corridors of glass-walled cells. Heavy walls lower when the gardening staff arrives to hide the kidnapped girls. Then there are the display cases along the hallways; when a Butterfly turns twenty-one, the Gardener murders her and preserves her body in a glass cell filled with resin, the butterfly tattooed on her back facing out.
  • Gor: In Kur of Gor, Tarl Cabot is imprisoned in what the narrator calls a "glassine" tube. The narrator means "glass-like", but that's not what glassine means.
  • His Dark Materials: The Authority is shown to have been imprisoned in a glass box by his henchman, Metatron.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias: Irina Dereveko is held in one of these by the CIA.
  • In The Blacklist, this is done to Raymond Reddington after he turns himself in to the FBI. Interestingly exploited in one episode when a gang of killers infiltrate the FBI compound and Reddington locks himself in the bulletproof, airtight cage, effectively turning his prison into a bunker so that he can wait for rescue.
  • Dracula (2020): Count Dracula gets stuck in one after reaching England after his regenerative coma. He is quickly let out of it with the help of a lawyer, though.
  • Get Smart: In "Pheasant Under Glass", a Kidnapped Scientist is being held by KAOS in a cell made of "nuclearized glass", so CONTROL gets an opera singer to break the glass with her voice. When the note fails to shatter the glass, she just smashes it with her Brawn Hilde body.
    99: Hey, Max, look... Professor Pheasant!
    Max: Well, what's he doing in a telephone booth, reading a book?
    99: That's not a telephone booth, Max — that's a glass cell.
    Max: Of course... they've got Pheasant under glass! [99 rolls her eyes]
  • In Good Eats, Cocoa Carl is being kept in one of these (in a Shout-Out to The Silence of the Lambs), as Alton comes to question him about the ingredients in a protein bar manufactured by his company that was being marketed as "health food".
  • Jake 2.0 features one of these, a glass-walled holding cell (with no facilities) in the middle of an empty room with constant surveillance. Its use in the series emphasizes that the characters held there (various terrorists) are dangerous not because of any special Jake-style abilities but because of the threat they pose to national security. (Ironically, Jake's nemesis DuMont, who could have used special looking after, ends up in a regular prison, which he easily worms his way out of.)
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Nikita: After being overthrown by his Dragon Ascendant Amanda at the end of season 1, Percy ends up in one of these. Naturally, he eventually escapes.
  • The Sandman (2022): After the occultist Roderick Burgess captures Dream of the Endless, the Corinthian warns him that his binding circle won't be enough in the long term and advises him to construct a sphere of thick glass to keep Dream in, under 24/7 observation by guards who are given pep pills so that they won't fall asleep in his presence.
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack has Alex and her family trapped in one of these.
  • The Sherlock episode "The Final Problem" reveals that Sherlock has a sister who is housed in a maximum-security psychiatric facility, inside a glass chamber. Cue a Window Love scene between the two siblings. She actually uses this trope to her advantage, setting the scene to look like it's in play, when actually the glass pane isn't there at all, giving her the chance to surprise Sherlock when he thinks he's physically safe from her.
  • An improvised version occurs in Titans (2018) when Dr. Adamson is kept handcuffed to a rail in a glass-walled shower room in one of Bruce Wayne's (many) luxury apartments.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Silence", Jamie Tennyson lives in a glass cell in the basement of his club for a year to prove that he is fulfilling his part of the bargain and remaining silent.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • The cells in Arkham Asylum in Batman: The Animated Series have one wall that is made out of glass.
  • The Archons of "The Sleeping Planet" believe that Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space have stolen their Robotron, and imprison them in a huge transparent bubble.
  • Loonatics Unleashed: The most secure cells in the below-ground Acmetropolis Prison are an isolated circular platform with a transparent dome. The Sagittarius Stomper was put in one, alongside his mother. Likewise for Mallory Mastermind, and for four of the six Loonatics.
  • Professor Pericles in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is imprisoned in a see-through cage.
  • One episode of Superfriends has a Mad Scientist called the Raven imprisoned in a glass cube. Nonetheless, the Raven is able to construct a lifelike robot duplicate of himself and escape.
  • In the Totally Spies! episode "Future Shock", the Spies' adult counterparts have a version of this that can be carried like a suitcase (by two people) and can still fit a prisoner inside, useful for both arrest and holding of prisoners. (Mandy is apprehended this way, but unfortunately, it does nothing to quiet her.)


Video Example(s):


Loki's Cell

In The Avengers (2012), the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier contains one designed as a Tailor-Made Prison for the Hulk that can be dropped 30,000-odd feet out of the bottom of the ship at the push of a button. They use it to contain Loki.

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