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Improvised Zipline

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When a character is stuck in a high place of some sort and has nowhere to go but down, he uses anything wire-like to fly down. Gripping onto a wire hanger is a common variation to the trope; however, this is a decidedly horrible idea, as the MythBusters have busted this one's plausibility.

Real ziplines require specific, strong materials for both the line and the thing being held, so that neither one breaks, and so that the friction doesn't stop the slider halfway down the rope.

Not to be confused with Fast-Roping. A supertrope of Bedsheet Ladder.



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  • In the commercials for Push Pop, the cartoon character uses the Push Pop itself to slide across a rope between buildings.
  • In a MasterCard commercial, MacGyver escapes from a room with a bomb in it using a tube sock. Tube sock: $4. Refuge in Audacity: Priceless
  • This Levi's jeans ad has the hero use his jeans to rescue a babe from a high-rise fire.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In an Anpanman theatrical short, Uncle Negi, having left his basket full of green onions (which also contains his Naganegiman costume and sword) at the bottom of Princess Doremi's castle grounds, uses his scarf as a zipline...and promptly crashes face first into a tree at the bottom.
  • Pokémon Adventures:
    • Ruby uses his Pokeblock case as a zipline on the thread his Marshtomp is holding up to escape the flames Courtney is trying to kill him with.
    • Earlier, Janine uses her Ariadosnote  as a zipline, with it retracting silk from one end and shooting it out from another.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Adventures of Tintin, the eponymous character is seen using the handlebars of a motorbike to slide down a cable during his pursuit of a falcon in Bagghar.
  • Chicken Run did it with coat hangers.
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco and Pacha, who are trying to beat Yzma and Kronk to the palace, cross a ravine by firing an arrow with a rope attached into a tree on the other side, tying the rope to the tree on their side, and then zipping down on it.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: Po uses the same lantern string variation as the page image.
  • In Mulan, the heroine uses a string of lanterns to zip down from the roof.
  • Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! has Shaggy and Scooby sliding down a mast rope with a mop handle.
  • In Shrek 2, Prince Charming shoots an arrow with a rope tied to it and then uses his bow to zip across the fiery moat of lava.
  • In Toy Story 3 Buzz slides on the yarn holding up kid's pictures in the nursery to escape out the window.
  • In Up, Carl does a short zip-line with a garden hose and his own cane.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Back to the Future, the Mad Scientist Doc Brown uses the wire to slide down from a clock tower, rushing to connect a loose cable in time for the lightning strike.
  • Batman: The Movie (1966). During the battle on the submarine, the Penguin uses his umbrella to slide down a wire and knock down Batman with a kick.
  • Chazz Michael Michaels performs one of these with his jock strap in Blades of Glory.
  • In The Dark Knight, the opening bank robbery has Happy and Dopey land on the roof of the bank by firing a cable launcher from an office building across the street, then ziplining over the street on the new cable.
  • Chris pulls one off in Eight Legged Freaks. The Giant Spider that tries to follow falls off.
  • In Enchanted, Pip the Chipmunk did it on a wire with a clothes hanger.
  • Home Alone has Kevin using a sawn-off bike handlebar to slide from his window to his treehouse.
  • Hudson Hawk. While robbing the Vatican, Eddie throws a rope (with a grappling hook on the end) from the top of a building across a street. He then slides down the rope to escape.
  • In Like Flint. While on a mission in Moscow, Flint is pursued by Soviet agents. He jumps onto the top of a tower and fires a line to the top of another building using his multi-function lighter. He then slides down the line to the top of the building and safety.
  • James Bond:
    • Never Say Never Again. While infiltrating a terrorist hideout at the beginning of the movie, Bond climbs up a pole and slides down a telephone (?) wire onto the roof.
    • Moonraker. Bond and Holly Goodhead use a chain to slide down a cable car cable in order to escape from Jaws.
    • A deleted scene in The Living Daylights had Bond improvise a 'flying carpet' by throwing a carpet over some telephone wires and sliding down them to escape the police in Tangier. Stills of this scene were seen in a lot of publicity material for the film, but it was ultinately decided that this silly scene did not sit well with Timothy Dalton's Darker and Grittier Bond.
  • Kaleidoscope: Barney breaks in to the Kaleidoscope factory by attaching a grooved wheel to the end of his cane, and then using an electric power line as a zip line to zip across the street to the Kaleidoscope roof.
  • Santa uses a candy cane to zip down a string of Christmas lights in the animated opening of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
  • Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl did this with the chain on his handcuffs. It is worth noting that it is topologically impossible to hook handcuffs secured between your hands over a wire attached at both ends and then jump off again at the bottom. Close observation reveals that Jack actually forms a short noose from the chain and throws that over the wire, which makes the feat possible - and even cooler.
  • The Return of the Pink Panther. The thief escapes from the museum with the diamond by firing a zip line from a crossbow to an adjacent building, then sliding down the line into an apartment in the other building.
  • Robin Hood (2018): At the mines, Robin jumps off an elevated walkway and hooks his bow over a conveniently placed rope; sliding down it to land in the back of John's wagon.
  • Rush Hour 2 to escape an explosion.
  • How Julie slides from her window to her treehouse in Sleepover, using a wire hanger.
  • Slipstream (1989). A wind-worshipping cult has tied Byron to a kite flying the eponymous slipstream. Owens clips himself to the kite's anchor rope and pulls the cord on his parachute, which opens immediately in the storm and pulls him up the rope to the kite, so he can cut Byron loose. Getting down however is the difficult part.
  • The Social Network. Mark and friends make a zipline from the roof (tied to the chimney) to the pool. After just two jumps the chimney breaks and the zipline falls.
  • Tango & Cash. While escaping prison, Stallone and Russell's characters use their belts and the prison's electric lines in this manner to get over the brick wall surrounding the prison.
  • Spoofed in Water (1985). A communist rebel played by Billy Connolly is attacking the local radio station by sliding down a telephone cable (even though he could have walked up to the door, as it's totally undefended). He misjudges his distance and goes crashing through the roof instead.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Judge Doom uses his cane to slide down a wire and attack Eddie Valiant on top of the Dip wagon.

  • "Spy Trap", an Alex Rider short story, sees the protagonist use a clothes hanger, a security drone and fishing wire to bypass an electric fence.
  • In False Mirrors, the heroes use their uniform belts to slide down vertical kilometer-long high-tension cables. They, however, are in Unreal-based Virtual Reality game, so it's justified. And still, Gengis's belt snaps at the last second, and he barely survives a 20-story drop with a measly couple of HP.
  • This happens in the Scott Westerfeld novel Leviathan: Deryn is up in a scouting balloon and sees Alek's "family" coming to the shipwreck looking for him in their Stormwalker. The message lizard won't get down the cable in time, so she slings a leather strap over the tether and zips down to camp. The book also goes into detail about how and why this sort of action is dangerous and shows the sort of things Deryn has to do to prevent snapping her wrists/neck.
  • Nick Velvet: In "The Theft of the Mafia Cat", Nick sneaks the eponymous cat out of the fortified mansion by placing it in a plastic bag and using fishing line to slide it down a telephone line and over the wall of the estate.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., when Agents Coulson and May need to escape after stealing an entire filing cabinet of physical (paper) files, May uses a handle of a equipment cart while Coulson uses his belt to follow the cabinet out the window they tossed it through.
  • One episode of Arrested Development has Buster attempt this and fail miserably.
  • 1960's Batman (1966) series
    • Episode "The Penguin's A Jinx". The Penguin and his henchmen fire a rope line from the top of one building to another and slide across using umbrellas with special devices attached to the end.
    • Episode "Batman Sets The Pace". Batman and Robin crawl up the inside of a chimney to escape the Joker's poison gas trap. After they exit the top of the building, they use their gloved hands to slide down a wire to the ground.
  • In Chuck season 3 when he was training to be a "real" spy, Chuck had to do a zipline using a power line and his belt as the pulley, but failed. Then at the end of the ep he was forced to use a power line as a zip line with his belt as the pulley. This time he succeeded.
  • In an early episode of The City Hunter, Yun Sung uses his backpack to slide down a line.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Five Doctors", the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane use a cable stolen from the Raston Warrior Robot to zipline on to the roof of the Tower of Rassilon.
    • In "Remembrance Of The Daleks", the Seventh Doctor uses his umbrella and a rope to reach the top of a landed Dalek spacecraft from an upper-floor window.
  • Jason and the Argonauts has the Argonauts pursued by an army and come across a ravine. One produces a rope with which to climb down, but Jason has a better idea, tying the rope to a shield and asking Hercules if he's any good at the discus. Once the shield is thrown, the Argonauts cross on the improvised zipline, only waiting for the enemy to start crossing to cut the rope.
  • MacGyver (1985):
    • In "The Prodigal", Mac and another guy have barricaded themselves in an attic by piling up furniture against the door as bad guys with guns try to catch them. Using cleaning fluid, a telescope, moth balls, rope, some handle bars and a pulley that all happen to be lying around the attic, Mac creates a spear gun that fires a rope to a tree outside. Then he and his sidekick zipline over vicious dogs and a tall fence to safety.
    • In "Back from the Dead", Mac escapes from two mafia hit men using a fire hose to slide down a metal wire. First cut off with his Swiss army knife of course.
    • In "Children of Light", MacGyver creates a zip line to escape from the roof of a building using a steel shaft from a large TV antenna and a large rope. He ties one end of the rope to the building and throws the other end to Pete Thornton who ties it to the bumper of his van. Pete then gets the driver to move the van forward in order to tighten the line. Meanwhile Mac bends the shaft of the TV antenna into the shape of a hook and uses his jacket to protect his hand from the friction, and proceeds to slide down the line with another person (whom he was trying to free from the building).
  • The Magician: In "The Illusion of Black Gold", Tony uses a pair of handcuffs he had earlier taken from the prisoner he was rescuing to slide down a guywire to the ground, carrying the prisoner on his back.
  • Busted by the MythBusters in the case of using your pants to zip down a ski lift: There's too much friction, the angle of the lift isn't steep enough, and either the pants or your grip will fail first.
  • Both JD and Turk do this in an episode of Scrubs.
  • In the White Collar episode "Borrowed Time", the pulley Neal intends to use to zipline onto the Kessmann Building breaks, so he improvises using his belt.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Carpe Museum" Bob, Louise, and Regular-Sized Rudy are stranded on the scaffolding of an unfinished exhibit while Rudy is suffering an asthma attack. Bob manages to get to the ground and help the kids down by using his chaperone safety vest as a zipline.
    Louise: Wait, what are you doing?
    Bob: Maybe the bravest and dumbest thing I've ever done.
  • Final Space: In episode 5, when the elevator is destroyed while the protagonists are only halfway between the Infinity Guard base and the planet’s surface, Gary uses his robot arm to let himself and Quinn glide down the elevator cable. Unfortunately for Gary, the hand is capable of feeling pain and he screams in agony the entire way. Also ,the cable doesn’t extend all the way to the surface, so the two end up plummeting to the ground one they reach the end of the cable.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils": The Cutie Mark Crusaders use a clothesline as a zipline to get into Sapphire Shores' studio so Sweetie Belle can confess to sabotaging her big sister Rarity's latest project before it's too late.
  • The Secret Saturdays: In "Curse of the Stolen Tiger", the entire family (plus Wadi) use their belts to slide down a hoist rope from the warlord's mountain fortress.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in "The Springfield Connection"; Herman, the one-armed weapon seller, takes a pair of bootleg designer jeans and tries to get away using them to zipline out of Bart's treehouse. However, the jeans rip partway down as Herman laments "Foiled by my own shoddy merchandise!"
    • In "A Streetcar Named Marge", Maggie successfully makes one with a clothesline, toy dart-gun, and a hanger to get to her confiscated pacifier in a daycare center locker.
    • In "Kiss Kiss Bangalore", Patty and Selma kidnap Richard Dean Anderson to have him partake in their own personal MacGyver convention. Anderson uses the rope Patty and Selma tied him up in and a bra as a zipline to escape from Patty and Selma's apartment. This feat actually impresses Patty and Selma.
  • In the Super Friends episode "The Shamon U", Batman and Robin use their Batarangs to slide down cable car cables to escape a giant rabbit.
  • In Total Drama World Tour this is used by every member of Team Chris Is Really Really Really Really Hot in order to cross a river filled with piranhas.
    • Alejandro uses his belt.
    • Owen uses his hands, and gets rope burn.
    • Tyler uses his pants, but they end up catching fire.
    • Izzy places Noah in a backpack, wears it, and then slides across using the straps.

    Real Life 
  • Two men once created a zipline with a crossbow and abseiled over the Berlin Wall.
  • One Darwin Awards winner decided to use a karabiner clip to slide down the cable of a disused chairlift. Too late he discovered that he had no way to arrest his acceleration and no to disengage himself from the karabiner. He collided fatally with a pylon. Prefaced by the last words "Hey, watch this!"


Video Example(s):


For Warren Fitzgerald

In order to get down, Bob uses his safety vest to zipline down the rope.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ImprovisedZipline

Media sources:

Main / ImprovisedZipline