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Hot Pursuit

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"All this for a loaf of bread?"
Aladdin, Aladdin

Police officers will engage in high speed pursuits involving dozens of patrol cars for the flimsiest of reasons. No TV police force has a "Do not pursue" policy for minor crimes. Officers involved in the chase are usually Lemming Cops and are poor drivers who crash very easily. Sometimes the police might use more advanced tactics like spike strips and roadblocks, but these rarely are successful in fiction, either against the heroes or the villains.

The name comes from an old legal principle that law enforcement from one jurisdiction can work within another if they are in active pursuit of a fleeing suspect, and can arrest said suspect on private property without a warrant.

In Real Life, people who flee from police when facing a minor moving violation have often committed other crimes, evidence of which will be found when they are stopped. A person who flees police is likely to either be driving on a suspended license, be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, have warrants out for their arrest, or have drugs, illegal weapons, dead bodies, and/or kidnapped children in the vehicle. Thus, there is some Truth in Television, but not to the degree usually shown.

Subtrope of Chase Scene.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In episode 8 of K, the supernatural police force Scepter 4 deploys all of its helicopters to apprehend the Silver King from his airship. Doumyouji, a member of the top squad, remarks that it seems like a lot. It's justified, though - the Silver King is the most powerful of the seven Kings in that system, and he's been acting peculiar recently... since the night of the incident they're investigating, actually.
  • In the premiere episode of Sonic X, the police go to ridiculous lengths to catch Sonic for what, at most, could be construed as disrupting traffic. (Granted, he is also an alien creature unknown to our world, which would probably be a much more valid reason for chasing him, but this is not brought up.) And they bust out Formula 1 police cars. Parodied mercilessly in ShadyVox's abridgement of the first episode, where Sam Speed says "We're the high speed pursuit unit. Our job is to chase down anyone who commits a crime and tries to get away in an F1 racing car. And don't you dare say it doesn't happen. Because it totally does!"

    Comic Books 

    Film — Animated 
  • Non-automobile variation in Aladdin: the guards chasing after the titular hero for stealing a loaf of bread.
    • The title character lampshades it in the comment at the top of the page
      • Which is of course a reference to Les Misérables, where Jean Valjean's lifelong chase with Inspector Javert begins with the theft of a loaf of bread.
      • Shouted out in The Animated Series when a thief is being pursued by both the guards and Aladdin himself. The scene is an almost shot-for-shot remake of the one from the movie (before the singing), only the thief in question is nowhere near as good as Aladdin is, and stole a huge diamond ("All this for a diamond?").
  • BoBoiBoy: The Movie: BoBoiBoy aids the police after noticing their high-speed chase of the 3 Robs, (known here as "The Serial Laundromat Robbers"). When they catch them, the truck is found to contain 15 bags of laundry, 3 clothing irons and a flowery bedsheet.
  • Exaggerated in the climax of Boogie, where the titular, erm, Anti-Hero, must race to a courthouse within 5 minutes. After speeding at over 200 miles an hour, this leads to what seems to be a few hundred cop cars flooding the streets in pursuit, accompanied by five or so police choppers. For real, the scene of cop cars flooding the streets lasts for maybe fifteen seconds onscreen.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the Heroic Bloodshed movie The Big Heat (1988), the main character, a Cowboy Cop, engage a criminal on a foot chase through heavy traffic, both of them firing pot shots at each other while dodging moving cars. The suspect was eventually shot in the foot while on an overpass, he's unable to move out of the way of another incoming vehicle which then runs him over and sends him flying off the bridge. And upon landing, the victim hits and bounces off the windshield of another vehicle, before hitting the road with a splat. Then a third vehicle runs him over for good measure. You know, just in case he survives the fall...
  • Parodied in the extreme in The Blues Brothers:
    • Running a red light is the catalyst for the titular Brothers to be chased down by every law enforcement agency in Illinois, up to and including the National Guard. They're also chased by Illinois Nazis and a renegade country band, but for different reasons.
    • The really serious high speed pursuit comes after their initial attempt to escape from the police gets out of hand and they cause serious property damage. It's still an example of a case where the cops would be smarter to apply a "do not pursue" policy, but the initial red light is only the start of their problems.
  • Older Than Television: Any number of old Charlie Chaplin shorts. The unfortunate tramp had a way of getting into trouble with the police over minor things, usually resulting in a hilarious chase scene.
  • The Chase (1994) is basically made of one long Hot Pursuit with half a dozen police cruisers always keeping the same distance to the getaway car.
  • The Der Clown movie Payday contains five chase scenes, only one of which does not involve police cars, one of which leads to the spectacular destruction of more than one dozen police cars in Slo-Mo Big Air, and one of which has SWAT cars chase an aircraft on a runway.
  • Seen in the Smokey and the Bandit movies which are actually made of little more than long pursuits. Indeed, Sheriff Buford T. Justice seems to have the impression that declaring he's doing this gives him free reign to pursue the Bandit all over the United States without interruption from other law enforcement agencies.
  • Parodied again in Taxi 2. Insults about sexual tastes directed to some cops cause Paris' entire police force to chase down the main characters throughout the city (with predictably destructive results).

  • Decomposing Angel plays this straight, with competent driving all around. It avoids the Lemming Cops trope, but still manages to be very destructive.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, policeman Sam Vimes exploits this age-old right of "hot pursuit" twice.
    • In The Fifth Elephant, he technically leads a pursuit across national borders by pursuing the suspect (the mad werewolf Wolfgang von Überwald) out of the Ankh-Morpork embassy in the town of Bonk. The local watch recognise he has the right and stands back.
    • In Snuff, he claims the same right to investigate crime in the disputed Shires region; technically speaking, the Watch even pursue the criminals into Quirm and faraway Howondaland to make arrests.
  • P.F. Chisholm's Robert Carey series of historical novels are set in the late 1500s, on what was then the disputed border between the kingdoms of England and Scotland. The titular Sir Robert Carey (commander of the English border guards), in A Surfeit of Guns, is patrolling the border one night near Carlisle and intercepts a fugitive crossing from the Scottish side. A short time after, his patrol halts a Scottish incursion of armed men, who turn out to be on the King of Scotland's lawful business, allowing them by ancient right to cross into England in hot pursuit of one escaping from justice. Recognising they have the right, Carey releases the fugitive to them, despite his pleas for mercy. note 
  • Defied in Super Minion. The cars in Fortress City are all programmed to automatically pull over if a police vehicle sends an automatic command, regardless of anything the driver does.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Pretty much Once an Episode in CHiPs.
  • Roscoe P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard would gleefully shout over his CB that he was in "Hot Puuuur-Suit!" of the Duke boys, frequently followed by him driving off a cliff or into a lake when he couldn't match the Dukes' driving ability.
  • Due South featured a car chase in the episode Heaven And Earth, notable for having highly competent driving on the part of all of the cops involved, along with a bitchin awesome accompanying song. And how did the chase start? An All Points Bulletin got put out with a vague description of the suspect being in a particular area. Two cops saw a guy walking down the street looking shifty, and tapped the siren to get his attention. Guy takes off running, and the cops take off driving backwards after him, before pulling a hairpin turn to get going the right direction.
  • Father Brown: In "The Labyrinth Of The Minotaur", Mallory and Goodfellow arrive at the manor to arrest Bunty, but Bunty is hot on the tail of Logan, who has driven away after locking Father Brown in the attic with Arthur. Bunty nearly runs down Mallory trying to get after Logan, and he and Goodfellow follow in suit.
  • Friends: During their Secret Relationship Chandler and Monica attempt to spend a weekend at a hotel together. Chandler immediately gets distracted when he discovers the news has coverage of the police pursuing a man attempting to flee to Canada. Apparently the chase doesn't end well, Chandler tells Monica not to speak ill of the dead when she calls the driver an idiot for trying to flee with only half a tank of gas.

  • C. W. McCall: Played for laughs in "Four Wheel Drive", in which a lone driver going 67 miles per hour catches the attention of a cop, who proceeds to chase him through a valley where the Nishnabotna River flows. The cop's car ends up "mired in fourteen feet of mud", so he calls ahead... and twenty-five more cops come to back him up, finally catching the driver.


    Video Games 
  • Another non-car incident occurs towards the latter third of Assassin's Creed. Granted, at this point your character has killed half a dozen important members of society and countless soldiers and guards and they're on the lookout for funny behavior in a white hood, but even so much as knocking someone over or climbing a wall will cause Altair to have half the city watch chasing him. Even before that point, the guards will attack him for the crime of taking his horse above a walk (When did speed limits get imposed in the 12th Century?)
  • The GTA cops are lenient compared to those in Driver, who will pursue you to the end for traffic offenses that GTA's police will ignore. Driver cops have even been known to go after the player when another car breaks the law.
  • Occurs during the "Sk8r Boi" level of Elite Beat Agents, where the Agents are assisting a cabbie who Drives Like Crazy. If you pass the third segment, the cops, informed that Jack's passenger is a woman in labor, subvert this by giving up the pursuit and escorting you, as they would in real life.
  • The Getaway managed to sort of justify it; occasionally you'll hear someone on a police radio mention that they've recognised the player character, who became wanted for murdering his wife (which he didn't actually do) in the opening cutscene and has been roaming the streets of London single-handedly causing enough mayhem to rival the 2011 riots.
  • In both the Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row series, the police will chase you after a simple fender bender. If the chase goes on long enough (and enough officers get killed trying to chase you), SWAT teams, helicopters, soldiers and eventually tanks will be called in to take you down. Though to be fair, after the player has killed multiple police officers and racked up thousands of dollars in property damage, they have some valid reasons to call in the tanks and jets. Ironically the police will up your wanted level when they kill themselves in pursuit of you — apparently the GTA universe has some harsh felony murder laws. And of course the cops have absolutely no regard for innocent bystanders. Tanks, helicopters, troop trucks and jet fighters in the middle of an urban area - "Well, he dinged my fender!"
  • Need for Speed is the most obvious example in all Blood Sport video games, with a sub-series of NFS games called Hot Pursuit that allows players to play on either side of the law. Those games (especially Hot Pursuit 2010 and Rivals) also give those vehicles a lot of weapons to work with; roadblocks, spike strips, helicopters, EMPs, jammers, nitrous, etc. It's actually justified in Heat through a combination of the entire police force of Palm City being Rabid Cops and the cops selling impounded sports cars on the black market for piles of cash.
  • Road Rash 64 has cops going hog-wild all over the game world's island simply for a motorcycle race. If the ending animation is done just right, cop cars will slam into the drivers, sending them flying. Murder for speed.
  • WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$: Mona's chapter revolves around her needing to reach her workplace in time. Unfortunately, due to having to stop in order to let some school children cross a street slowly, Mona realizes that she won't make it if she drives under the speed limit, so she drives faster and a police unit detects her, thus beginning a chase that complicates when more units join. Some buddy animals accompanying Mona attempt to throw stuff to the units to derail them, and winning the microgames symbolizes their success in doing so.

    Visual Novels 
  • Downplayed when the title character of Melody drag races (using Arnold’s car) with a couple of guys. Melody and Sophia end up getting chased by the cops, but the police apparently end up following the guys instead, so Melody gets off the hook. Apparently, the police never ran the plate for Arnold’s car.

    Web Original 
  • The Hire: This happens to the Driver when he goes tearing across town in his BMW sports car, trying to find a woman locked in the trunk of a car before high tide comes in. The cops don't know he's on a rescue mission, and instead assume that he has stolen the car. Needless to say, they are nowhere near his level and don't appear to cause any significant delay to his rescue.

    Real Life 
  • Different police forces and countries have different doctrines regarding pursuits as they can be extremely hazardous to the police, the suspect(s) and anyone else on the road. A lot of the time the police will not engage in one unless the offence is serious enough to warrant it, instead opting to send a ticket via mail or quietly arrest the suspect in a safer location at a future point. Even if pursuit is deemed necessary, police will often keep their cars far enough behind to be out of sight and follow the car by helicopter or drone, then move in to arrest the suspect once they’ve stopped. High speed car chases are generally a last resort due to the potentially tragic consequences and in many jurisdictions they've been outright banned.
  • Italian law enforcement is known to use high-performance sports car donated to them, such as the Lamborghini Gallardo two in 2004 and a third in 2008), the Lotus Evora (two in 2011) and the Lamborghini Huracán (one in 2014 to replace one of the Gallardos after it was destroyed on the line of duty and one in 2017). They were immediately put into service for chases on highways and other duties that require extreme speed, such as organ transport. As such they're also equipped with refrigerators among other custom modifications. In 2011, Panama put their own Gallardo into service, this one seized from a company that had ran a Ponzi Scheme.
  • The Philippine MMDA officers are notorious for enforcing hot pursuit to even minor offenders in their zealous attempts to apprehend them. On February 13, 2024, when MMDA officers spotted a motor scooter rider carrying three passengers (the wife is on the rear, and a child is on the middle), they decide to chase down the offender (forcing the latter to speed away), ignoring that the MMDA's antics would only endanger the child.

Well hey, hey, Mister Policeman! Bet I can drive faster'n you can!


Video Example(s):


Need for Speed: Most Wanted

After beating all of the Blacklist racers and reclaiming their prized BMW M3 GTR GT, the player ends up being chased by the police as the most wanted driver in Rockport.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

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Main / HotPursuit

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