Alice gets unfairly sentenced to a lifetime in prison or some equally bleak fate. In this prison are others who have been trapped there for years, decades, or even centuries. In all those years they never found a way to escape, and they tell her that it's impossible. But Alice being the protagonist and all, she'll inevitably find a way to escape. And she'll do it within minutes. Something others have attempted and failed at for centuries, and Alice can do it in under 22 minutes. Because she's The Hero, that's why.
If the main character is trapped somewhere said to be "inescapable," they are, invariably, going to be able to find a way to escape. This will frequently be achieved so easily you'll be left to marvel at how no one was able to think of it before.
Usually attributed to Status Quo Is God, and because spending an entire season sitting around in prison can get a bit boring for the viewer. Usually justified if the escape is aided by allies from outside the prison.
Bonus points if it's a Kid Hero.
This trope only applies if the escape is done very easily and/or quickly AND if the prison is designed to be impervious to breaching. If the prison break takes a ton of planning and is as difficult as it realistically should be, then that's a Great Escape. If the prison is easy to escape from, but isn't necessarily played up as inescapable, then it's just a Cardboard Prison.
- Thorgal: In "The Blue Plague", Thorgal and his family are kept prisoner in a valley formed by sand dunes. He attempts escape like many others did, but finds that the walls are unclimbable. There is a waterway that may lead to freedom, but none have tried and returned, as it's mostly underwater. Being in better shape than most, Thorgal makes it and returns by threatening the king who put him there in the first place.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, after Batman finds himself on the wrong end of a Curb-Stomp Battle, Bane throws a crippled Bruce Wayne into a deep, well-like prison somewhere in the middle east, on the other side of the world from Gotham City. It is repeatedly pointed out by just about everyone that escape is virtually impossible. The prisoners have all been there for years, if not decades, with a grand total of one escape in its known history, which is implied to have taken years of planning, and was undertaken by a fit and nimble young child with the assistance of a big, burly bodyguard to protect her the whole time. Meanwhile, Bruce is trusted by no-one and has been injured so badly that he can't even walk, let alone climb the unclimbable hole. So of course, being Batman, not only does he recover near-instantly and escape in a matter of weeks, he manages to make it back to Gotham in time to stop Bane's plot.
- In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay the title characters run through a cell door that some distracted guards leave open, climb over the dead body of a terrorist who had shorted out the electric fence, then just seconds later find a boat full of Cuban refugees who offer them a lift to the USA. They are in Guantanamo for barely 5 minutes.
- One of the reasons The Last Airbender was disliked by fans in that where the cartoon's Earthbender prison was a huge platform out at sea that's only escaped because Katara (thought to be an earthbender by the Fire Nation) managed to smuggle in some bending material, in the movie they're kept in a quarry.
- In Ring of Fear, O'Malley escapes from a maximum security facility for the criminally insane mere minutes after his appeal is turned down, with no indication that he has done any planning or preparation for it.
- Sherlock Holmes (1932): After being sentenced to hang, Moriarty escapes from his cell on death row and out of the prison almost immediately.
- Downplayed in the last chapter of the Labyrinths of Echo series, where Max winds up in the Quiet City—the one place in the multiverse from which supposedly no one has ever escaped—and escapes it within about a year. Justified, however, in that Max already knows that escape is at least theoretically possible, since a bit earlier, he has met the first person to have ever pulled it off (King Mönin) and furthermore, Max is an Arbiter, meaning that his wishes (including his desire to escape) are so reality-warping, that not even the Quiet City can defy them.
- In the X-Wing Series novel The Krytos Trap, Corran Horn is imprisoned in Ysanne Isard's prison-slash-Manchurian Agent factory Lusankya, which is reputedly inescapable: Tycho Celchu only broke loose when he was being transferred to another prison, and at least one prisoner, Jan Dodonna, has been there since the Empire sacked the Rebel base on Yavin IV after A New Hope. Due to a fluke during a prison riot, Corran realizes that A) Isard is using Artificial Gravity to flip the prisoners upside-down and B) the supposed hard-labor punishment of breaking rocks is just busy-work, and is able to escape the prison by climbing through the ore processors. The Lusankya prison turns out to be part of super star destroyer buried underneath Coruscant's planetary metropolis.
- In Siberian Light a Yeltsin-era Siberia features a supposed American oil company which is actually investigating the area for its suitability for a private prison. The first ordinary convict they ship in from America escapes fairly easily despite the Siberian prison camp's forbidding reputation.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Prisoners", SG-1 is imprisoned by an offworld civilization for aiding and abetting a fugitive. The prison consists of a cavern where the only way in or out is by a stargate whose dialing device has been removed, theoretically making escape impossible. Since SG-1 knows considerably more about the workings of the stargate than other prisoners, they're able to re-power the gate with help from another prisoner and dial out manually.
- The Goodies: In "Goodies in the Nick", the Goodies are sentenced to a long stretch in prison. Once they bother taking the blankets off their heads (which, admittedly does take several years) they almost immediately discover a means of escape, via a toilet that dumps them out through the wall.
- Star Trek: Voyager. Averted in "The Chute". Harry Kim and Tom Paris are falsely imprisoned and thrown into a prison on a Space Station. All the expected tricks of a Starfleet hero fail to work, and they have to be rescued from the outside by Captain Janeway. It's made clear that if she hadn't tracked them down, they would have died in there.
- Star Trek: Enterprise. In "Judgement", Captain Archer is sentenced to the Klingon prison planet of Rura Penthe. So the series can continue, his crew just bribe the guards at the end of the episode to get him released.
- Parodied in Arrested Development when Gob gets arrested in Iraq for (accidentally) instigating an anti-Bush rally. Not only is his prison easily escapable, but the soldiers "detaining" him keep arranging easy escapes for him; the only reason he doesn't escape is that he suddenly goes Lawful Stupid and sabotages himself.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, if the Player Character takes the Schmuck Bait during a certain sidequest, he'll get trapped inside the Rakatan Prison. Here he meets an ancient alien who has been trapped there for tens of thousands of years, but thankfully, he knows a technique which can allow the PC to escape back to the real world in an instant. Sort of Justified by the fact that the escape requires two people to make it work, and all the other people who went in between the PC and the ancient prisoner chose to instead wander off into the void and be driven insane. Also, it's possible for the PC to screw it up, enabling the original prisoner to escape instead of him, while he's just stuck there for all eternity (which functions as a Non Standard Game Over, gameplay-wise).
- In Planescape: Torment, angering the Lady of Pain who rules the city of Sigil will result in being stuck in a maze which is designed specifically for the individual. The trick of the mazes is that they have exits that are supposed to be nearly impossible to find, and most who have been Mazed have never escaped. However, if the protagonist is Mazed, the player is faced with a relatively simple One of These Doors Is Not Like the Other ploy to get out.
- The Wall of Fleeing the Complex is a prison complex built into a cliff face in some wintry region. It hasn't had a single successful escape attempt, and the past fifty years have gone entirely without incident. Then they capture the infamous Henry Stickmin, with the promise that he's "going to be here for a long time". His possible escape routes include:
- Charge tackling the brute standing at the door, stealing a truck, get stuck on the edge of a cliff, and letting them push over the car thinking he went down with it. Rank: Presumed Dead.
- Waiting to be transferred to a cell, breaking down to the next level, and calling in a government buddy to pick him up. Rank: International Rescue Operative.note
- Subtly asking his fellow convict for a boost up, sneaking his way through the complex unseen, and taking off in a dinghy. Rank: Ghost Inmate.
- Taking said fellow convict with him, tag-teaming every obstacle between them and the yard, starting a Prison Riot, and riding off on a motorcycle. Rank: Convict Allies.. The page quote is from this route.
- In Void Domain, the prison within hell is specifically designed for holding demons. Humans are another matter entirely.
- In the episode "Pixtopia" in Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Star and her friends are sentenced to work in the mines possibly for the rest of their lives. There are other people in the mines who look like they must have been there for years who tell them that there's no way to escape. Seconds later, they find the exit and escape through it.
- In the episode "Wizard" from the first season of Adventure Time, Finn gets tricked into keeping a meteor at bay for eternity. The two other people that are trapped there have been there for at least decades and had never figured out how to get out. Within minutes Finn devises a plan to free them, and it works.
- The Legend of Korra: The Red Lotus were each kept inside a separate Tailor-Made Prison that prevented their powers from manifesting, and even then they were guarded around the clock. Nevertheless, all four of them broke out over a single episode.
- Zaheer was kept on a remote mountaintop and had the least precautions (a metal bridge that was deployed via bending), as he wasn't a bender. Admittedly, no one (including Zaheer) was expecting for airbending to spontaneously manifest in people across the world, so he was able to escape easily enough once he'd mastered his new talent (it helped that he was a massive airbender fanboy, having studied their philosophies for so long).
- Ghazan (an earthbender) is kept on a wooden platform out at sea. Then it turns out he's a lavabender, and all it took for him to escape was for Zaheer showing up (disguised as a guard) to throw some stones in his cage for him to create a lava shuriken and bust out.
- Ming-Hua (a waterbender) was kept in a volcano to ensure she couldn't use the atmospheric humidity to waterbend. Zaheer and Ghazan managed to get her enough water to form Combat Tentacles to break out of her cell.
- P'li (a firebender) was kept chained up in a polar prison (extreme cold prevents firebending) at the bottom of a crevasse with a metal forehead cover to prevent her from combustionbending. Ming-Hua used her waterbending to shatter the cell door and P'li's chains, and then climb out of the crevasse with her.
- Invader Zim: When Zim is taken back to Foodcourtia by Sizz-Lorr, the security systems will made Zim explode if he tries to escape, until best customer Eric the Blob mentions how the prison he worked at removed the security systems upon learning that prisoners could easily avoid having their bio-data scanned by hiding in objects like trash cans. Zim uses this by frying himself into food for Eric, and busting himself out once Eric steps out the door.