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Metal Detector Checkpoint

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I wasn't carrying a piece—in the Supreme Court, they use metal detectors at the entrance because some politically wired judge complained about the dangerous radicals who might invade his courtroom and shoot it out with the guards. This happens in the Supreme Court about every other century, but you can't be too careful. On the other hand, right across the street in the Family Court, the average litigant carries some kind of weapon and violence is an everyday thing, but there's no metal detectors. That's New York.
Burke, Strega

Before entering a high-security area, such as an airport terminal, courthouse, or event venue/arena, visitors will be screened using a walk-through metal detector. The purpose of this device is to detect metal objects, such as firearms or knives, that may be used as a weapon to endanger other guests. The guard staffing the checkpoint may also carry a portable metal detector wand, which is used to pinpoint the location of metal items on a person after they set off the walk-through unit.

If two people walk through the detector in quick succession, making it unclear which individual triggered the alarm, the obviously wrong one is who will be hassled by security. Say, a cartoonish shady character in sunglasses with lots of suspicious weapon-shaped lumps visible under their long-coat and a ticking suit-case walks through with a kind-looking old lady with grey hair on their tail. The latter will be detained, while the former will sneak through unimpeded (Avoiding situations like this is why people are only supposed to go through the detector one at a time, with the attendant security guard stating when the next person can pass through).

In extreme cases, a party may forget to remove a harmless item, like a belt buckle. They will be treated as a criminal immediately upon triggering the metal detector, with no effort made to investigate what actually set the machine off. This overlaps with Overreacting Airport Security.

Extended Disarming can occur if the character is packing a large amount of dangerous. If the subject's luggage is x-rayed, or in newer works involving body scanners, a Funny X-Ray may be displayed of a character's body or luggage.

While usually a comedy trope, it can be played for drama to show that there is something wrong with a character, by making them set off the detector even though a physical search finds they are not carrying any metal objects on their person. This causes the characters involved to become increasingly confused as they attempt to unsuccessfully resolve the cause of the alarm, hinting that something weird is going on.

See also Checkpoint Charlie and Decontamination Chamber.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • At one point in Death Note, part of the Kira Investigation Squad ends up having to take their pants off to get through a metal detector.
  • In one episode of Golgo 13, Golgo has to go through a metal detector with his gun. He gets a toy pistol made entirely out of plastic for the jobnote  and walks through with the bullet hidden in his mouth, where any investigator would assume the detector is sensing some dental work.
  • Seitokai Yakuindomo: When Nene Todoroki goes through one and sets it off, she thinks it's her glasses. However, the second time sets it off, and she realizes what's causing it; her vibrator.
  • One Lupin III TV movie answers the question of how Goemon gets his beloved sword Zantetsuken through the security's metal detector. He doesn't... he checks it with the rest of the luggage. The samurai is visibly nervous about its safety until he picks it up from the baggage conveyor belt.
  • In HuGtto! Pretty Cure, Ruru Amour used to cause the Craisu Corporation trouble during company trips as her android nature constantly triggered the metal detector's alarms in every public transport terminal they went to. As a result, her peers forbade her from traveling on any further trips with them.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe:
    • In an issue of The Defenders, when Doctor Strange passes through a metal detector in his secret ID, the Eye of Agamotto sets it off. He habitually keeps it invisible but forgot that his spell doesn't work on machines. He uses a quick illusion spell to make it look like a St. Christopher medal.
    • In issue #22, volume 1 of his first series, Cable goes through metal detectors at the airport and gets stopped by security, only for him to explain it's his keys. This coming from a man known to pack heat and has a metal arm. Domino points this out and Cable replies that he'd never "bring a gun through airport security. At least not a metal one..." Later in the same issue, Shatterstar tries to take his swords through airport security, but the security guard confiscates them until he leaves. The TSA was strict even back then.
    • Wolverine has run into this a few times. He usually carries forged documentation indicating that he is a war veteran with metal implants in his bones (both of which are true in the strictest sense). In issue #50 of his first self-titled series, he is made to strip down to his boxers, and finally put his arm inside the X-ray to show his bones and claws... and the latter ends up grounding him because they''re over the permissible length.
    • Invoked for tragedy in the X-23: Innocence Lost miniseries when the wife of a political figure holding a rally tells the security people to wave a pre-teen girl with crutches and metal leg braces through the checkpoint. She, her husband, her kids, and about 40 others pay for that act of kindness with their lives.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Iron Man fic Check Point, Tony and Pepper want to fly on a public airplane so that Tony can get closer to the common people. Unfortunately, Tony forgot that his arc reactor can set off metal detectors.
  • In the Animorphs fanfic Total Recall, Jake and Tom have to pass through a ton of security checks at an airport. They get past the scanners derived from alien technology just fine, but a good old fashioned metal-detector reacts to the pins and metal plate in Tom's knee that he didn't know were still there.
  • This fanart: what happens when a Naruto jounin goes through security? Hammerspace has its disadvantages.

  • Alien: Resurrection: When the motley crew of Space Pirates first set foot on the Auriga, they are all checked for weapons, albeit by a soldier with a metal detector glove instead of a gateway. However, three of them manage to smuggle in various firearms anyway because the guards aren't willing to press the issue.
  • A Deleted Scene in Daredevil (2003) has Bullseye going through a metal detector and being made to hand over a pen, toothpick and paperclip. Of course the audience knows that all these things are lethal weapons in his hands. Plus his metal belt buckle is later revealed to carry his shurikens.
  • Die Hard 2: The villains are carrying "Glock 7" pistols, supposedly an expensive German firearm made of porcelain that can't be picked up on the airport's metal detectors. This is an Urban Legend of the time — the Glock is a relatively inexpensive Austrian firearm with a polymer frame but enough metal components to set off a detector. And even if the fictional gun were entirely non-metallic, there is still the question of how they could get the bullets through the detector.note 
  • The 70's dystopian film Class Of 86 has these outside of a school as visual short hand of how bad society has fallen.
  • The Matrix: Neo walks into the building where Morpheus is being held prisoner, setting off the metal detector. A security guard comes over to him with a tray and a handheld scanner.
    Guard: Would you please remove any metallic items you are carrying? Keys, loose change...
    (Neo opens his trenchcoat to reveal enough guns to kill a small city)
    Guard: Holy shit! (violence ensues)
  • Moonraker: when Jaws goes through an airport metal detector his metal teeth set it off. When a guard tries to stop him, Jaws just grins at him and the terrified guard lets him pass.
  • In Penn & Teller Get Killed, Penn & Teller play tricks on each other throughout the film. At an airport Teller does stuff to make Penn look guilty at the metal detector. Link.
  • In A Fish Called Wanda Kevin Kline's character gets a gun past an airport metal detector by tossing it around the outside as he passes through.
  • In Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Gromit installs one of these (based on a design in "Electronic Surveillance for Dogs") to catch out Piella's murderous intentions toward Wallace. The machine works but fails to convince Wallace. Later still, when Piella is delivering a bomb, the device goes off but she pointedly pins the blame on the keys in her purse.
  • The Golden Child: Chandler Jarrell needs to get the Ajanti Dagger through an airport metal detector in Tibet. He slips the Dagger into the pocket of another passenger, then the unwitting dupe goes through and the alarm sounds. Chandler pretends to be a law enforcement official, "confiscates" the Dagger on the other side of the detector and continues on his way.
  • Parodied (of course) in Airplane!, when a guy sets it off. He deposits change, as well as a couple of fake metal limbs.
    • Recycled in Airplane II: The Sequel, when a bunch of terrorist-y thugs stroll through the airport metal detector carrying huge weapons without setting off the detector, but then an elderly woman sets it off and gets thrown up against the wall and searched.
    • Another Funny Background Event has any sexually-attractive woman walking through an X-Ray detector appearing naked on the viewing screen. Everyone else appears fully clothed.
  • In the movie In the Line of Fire, the assassin has to pass a metal detector to reach the president. He gets through by making the bulk of the gun out of non-metallic materials and concealing the metallic parts (The bullets and some springs) inside innocuous metallic items that he handed over to security before walking through the detector and collected on the other side (A pen and a key chain).
  • In The Fugitive, the Marshalls bypass the metal detectors in the Cook County Jail building by flashing their badges.
  • This is Spın̈al Tap: the scene with the zucchini in tinfoil.
  • Happens twice in Léon a.k.a. The Professional:
    • When Mathilda needs to get past the metal detector at the DEA building, she hides a weapon in the take out food bags she is delivering.
    • When Leon goes to rescue Mathilda from the DEA building he passes through the metal detector. The arsenal he's carrying sets it off, but he punches out the guard before the guard can do anything about it.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: The X-Men pass through one of these while entering a museum. Wolverine, naturally, sets it off, and then destroys it.
    • The Wolverine:
      • When Logan is scanned by Ichirō's security guards, he explains away the constant beeping of their devices as his hip replacement.
      • Logan requests a pat-down rather than have to deal with the inevitable difficulties that would arise from trying to go through one of these at the airport.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: There is one on the White House lawn; it beeps when Xavier passes through because of his wheelchair, and when it's Wolverine's turn... nothing happens because his 1973 body is adamantium-free.
  • In Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach, the team is traveling via commercial airline-including the insufferable Capt. Harris and his lackey, Proctor. Ventriloquist trickster Larvelle Jones (Michael Winslow) throws his voice to imitate a metal detector alarm every time Harris passes through it. Harris obligingly surrenders metal from his body, including keys, wallet, watch, swagger stick, belt buckle (this last with a bit of overenthusiastic help from Proctor), (although conspicuously forgetting badge, coat buttons, and officer's hat -he was traveling in uniform...well, Rule of Funny) but the alarm continues to "go off". Then a distraction causes him to forget to use his hands to hold up his now beltless pants...
  • In She's Out of My League, a perverted airport security guard sets off the metal detector when pretty women pass through it to force them to undress.
  • In Nick of Time, Gene Watson is blackmailed into a plot to assassinate the Governor of California. At one point he finds himself having to go through a security checkpoint while carrying a loaded gun. The security guard turns off the metal detector while checking Watson, demonstrating that the plot is wider-reaching than it initially appeared.
  • In Escape from Alcatraz, Frank Morris uses misdirection to steal a wedge from the machine workshop. He hides it in his shoe and puts a file in his shirt pocket, so that when he sets off the metal detector, the guards confiscate the file and let him through.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane enters the stock exchange by passing through a metal detector while disguised as a deliveryman. The metal in his mask sets off the detector, so the security guards make Bane take off his helmet....which he promptly turns into a deadly weapon to overpower all of them in a matter of seconds.
  • In the Mel Brooks film High Anxiety, a pastiche of Alfred Hitchcock films, the protagonists get through airport security despite being wanted by the police, and one of them carrying a gun, by posing as an old Jewish couple and arguing so loudly and obnoxiously that security agents just want to get rid of them.
  • The Assassination of Richard Nixon. The eponymous assassin decides to hijack a plane and crash it into the White House. He tries to smuggle a pistol through the metal detector by hiding it in a fake leg brace, but on seeing that anyone who sets off the detector is taken aside and searched, just draws the gun and charges through. Things quickly go From Bad to Worse as a result.
  • Total Recall (1990). A futuristic X-Ray scanner renders the subject as a full-body skeleton while they walk through it, enabling the large number of pedestrians entering an apartment block to be scanned without slowing them down. Later when Quaid tries to run through the scanner carrying a firearm, it sets off a Red Alert and the gun is rendered as a pulsating red object, drawing every security guard in the area.
  • Thank You for Smoking: When Nick, Polly, and Bobby, arrive at the Senate hearing, the first two go through a metal detector checkpoint without issue, but Bobby, being a spokesman for the firearms industry, has so many sidearms stashed on his person that the guard gets visibly annoyed with him.
  • Terminator: Dark Fate: The Rev-9 Terminator is Impersonating an Officer and enters a border patrol facility with one of these. He surrenders his gun, but his metal body naturally sets it off. He claims that he is a war veteran with a metal replacement hip, which the guard believes and lets him through.
    Rev-9: Expect a big ping, brother. My whole body's a weapon.
    Metal detector officer: Save it for the ladies.
  • Played with in Black Panther (2018), the heroes are able to walk through without setting off the detector as vibranium is not detectable by it. However when Klaue and his goons arrive the first sign that the building security is actually on their payroll is when they march right through the detector without slowing down with it beeping away and the guards not even reacting to it.
  • At the end of The Boondock Saints, the Saints get their weapons through the metal detector arch just by placing them on top of it and sliding them off after they walk through. Of course in that case the police officers providing security are letting them do this.
  • Wrong is Right: Journalist Patrick Hale is interviewing someone at CIA headquarters, who has him step through a device that he says will erase any concealed tape recorder he's carrying. The CIA director had earlier been shown to be carrying such a recorder to record a politically embarrassing conversation with the President, so it's not like they're not being Properly Paranoid.

  • In the Honor Harrington short story "Let's Go to Prague" by John Ringo, a commercial spaceport scanner serving the same purpose as Real Life airport metal detectors is a potential concern for Manticoran agents trying to sneak out a defecting Peep admiral.
  • In Wild Justice by Wilbur Smith, the terrorists get through airport security using a combination of disassembled shotguns constructed mostly of plastic (except for the shells and firing pins), and Show Some Leg.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The X-Files: Agent Scully going through airport security and triggers the metal detector. This leads to the discovery of the computer chip implanted in her during her abduction.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles when John & Cameron go to their new school after traveling from 1997 to 2007, they encounter in-school metal detectors for the first time. Cameron (being a Terminator) naturally sets off the detector. John says that she's his sister and she has a metal plate in her head from a childhood injury. They lucked out when the security officer only scanned her head with his hand scanner, instead of scanning elsewhere. Afterward John tells Sara they're going to need to forge a doctor's note to allow Cameron to bypass the detectors.
  • In Leverage, a corrupt lawyer is delayed by stuffing him full of keys in all of his various pockets before he can enter the court house security check.
  • On The A-Team, there was an episode involving a plane hijacking. The hijackers got their guns through because the first guy through cut a wire on the metal detector with a small pair of nail clippers, so nothing would set it off.
  • In the Airwolf episode "Flight #093 is Missing", Caitlin is going through security at an airport and has to take a number of wedding presents (for her sister's wedding) out of her bag. "She's from Texas" is Stringfellow's response.
  • Shows up in Firefly; it's linked to a force field, so a socialite is stopped until he surrenders his derringer.
  • In Good Luck Charlie: It's Christmas, the Duncan family go through one at the Denver Airport, which Gabe sets off when he tries to smuggle a GameStation Z (as Amy wouldn't let him take it to the Blankenhoopers' house in Florida and even checked his bag before they left).
  • On two occasions of Ellen DeGeneres The Ellen Show, Justin Bieber disguises himself as a security guard and teases audience members passing through security screening to enter the studio. In one of them, he wears an earpiece where Ellen tells him outrageous things to say to the guests.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun had Dick's attempt at bringing Jail Bake foiled by it, given he eventually runs out of metal objects to disguise his smuggling.
  • Brazilian show Zorra Total had a recurring skit where in sight of a pretty lady, an airport security officer would shout imitating the metal detector to force her to strip down. Once, a Camp Gay character from another skit would do the sound himself to see if they'd frisk him.
  • The Starlost: In the pilot, the protagonists have to pass through an archway detector that scans them for a security check before they can enter The Bridge. One of them is carrying a crossbow yet doesn't trigger a response, perhaps because it's too primitive a weapon.

  • Killer Mike (of Run the Jewels) has a song called "JoJo's Chillin'" wherein the Karma Houdini title character realizes right before passing through the airport detector that he has weed on him. Luckily, the TSA agent is an old friend, so she directs police attention to the old lady who had it out for JoJo.
  • The music video for Simple Minds' "Promised You a Miracle" features a model walking through what is presumably an airport metal detector, while putting her luggage through another detector on a conveyor belt.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Shadowrun metal detectors are a security device that runners must be wary of. They're a standard feature in secured buildings and can detect the weapons and other metal devices runners often use.
  • The walkthrough metal detector from GURPS: High-Tech gives a variable bonus to the operator's Search skill. The description notes that security teams don't usually have the sensitivity turned all the way up because it can end up catching even tiny bits of metal and lead to long lines.

    Video Games 
  • Left 4 Dead: the Dead Air level has these. Given the human characters are carrying guns, you best avoid these. If you don't, be prepared for a swarm a zombies to come rushing at you and your friends due to being attracted by the high pitched alarm. The port to the sequel isn't as merciful: it's mandatory to go through the detector, as there are now fences that funnel passage to it.
  • In Second Sight, you are able to bypass one (since your Invisibility power is actually a Charm Person ability it isn't much use against machines) by using telekinesis to manipulate a loose connection (although anyone who didn't hear a conversation between two guards would think using telekinesis on it just stops it working for some reason).
  • Hitman:
    • In Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, you have to dress up as a fireman and launch a fire alarm to enter through one of these; those fireman's axes have a lot of secondary uses...
    • In Hitman: Blood Money, your final mission requires you to infiltrate the White House as part of a tour-group. The main challenge is the metal-detector/X-ray checkpoint. There's a number of ways to smuggle weapons inside — your Sniper Rifle can be upgraded with a special foil-covered Attache Case which can glide through the X-Ray, but you can also smuggle in your trusty Silverballers — by slipping them into the luggage of a middle-aged woman. When she gets nabbed at the checkpoint, the guns are confiscated, and you can then retrieve them from the lock-up later (after you've 'borrowed' a Marine Uniform, preferably.)
    • Hotel in Hitman: Contracts has a few, including the door. So much for being given a cool sniper rifle. Though it's possible to smuggle it in, and it's possible to smuggle the bomb out (it's a mission objective). A security uniform helps (they are supposed to be armed, of course). Thanks to Artificial Stupidity, the easiest way to get things through this metal detector is to put them down, walk through without setting it off... and then pick them up again from across the rope barrier.
  • You have to avoid these in the airport from Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow's final level, because Sam Fisher carries lots of metal gadgets and weapons. Naturally, they set off an alarm if you pass through them.
    • One or two make appearances in Conviction and Blacklist, but they are always avoidable, usually by jumping over a counter right next to them making them largely pointless and more just traps for the unobservant.
  • In Police Quest 2: The Vengeance, just make sure to show your police ID when going through the airport metal detector.
  • In Prison Architect, you can make use of these to spot and confiscate metallic contraband (many weapons are metallic), though they often give false positives... And inmates that are victims of an unnecessary search tend to be upset about the experience. They are also useless against any contraband that is not made of metal.
  • The Intensive Treatment Unit in Batman: Arkham Asylum uses some sort of high-tech x-ray chamber, but the Arkham Mansion has a Metal Detector Checkpoint on one side of a corridor intersection. Aside from alerting some gun-toting Mooks that you're here, it serves no purpose at all.
  • Resident Evil – Code: Veronica has one of these that requires you to put your items in a box that isn't linked to the normal item boxes. Don't forget that empty fire extinguisher.
    • Resident Evil 6: Leon and Helena go through one with their firearms on them. This sounds the alarm, which attracts the zombies to their position. Oddly enough, the corridor has two detectors, one at each end. While you can slide over the counter and avoid the second one, the first checkpoint has an Insurmountable Waist-High Fence in place to force you into the setpiece.
  • There's a puzzle in Grim Fandango which involves a security checkpoint at a cat race track. The goal is not to actually get there, but to get into the back room with the police officer Carla, who has a crush on Manny and therefore would like to strip-search him. Unluckily for her, she's only supposed to do this if normal search doesn't give any results, and Manny doesn't set off the detector when his inventory items are removed. The solution is to have Manny drink some liqueur with metal flakes in it right before walking through the metal detector. Hilarity ensues.
  • One level in Dead to Rights has two Mooks standing on the other side of a metal detector. Given the usual number of firearms on Jack Slate's person, walking through the metal detector will alert the guards—provided you haven't killed them already. While you're in the next room over, the metal detector will go off several times in a row, a subtle clue that a very deadly ambush is waiting for you when you return into the metal detector room.
  • In Mass Effect 2, you have to pass through one to enter the Citadel since you're using a civilian dock rather than a military one. However, since you're Commander Shepard, you're allowed to walk right on through while carrying enough firepower to take out an army.

  • Vexxarr has fun with a standard airport security guy checking an armored robot for random metal objects.
  • Monica of Wapsi Square has a bit of a problem with the metal detector at the airport. She made sure she had nothing metal on her person only to set off the detector with the underwire in her bra.
  • Lothar in Exterminatus Now triggers these... what they expected from a cyborg with three appendages and part of the head quite visibly not his own?
  • The example from The Matrix above is parodied in xkcd's tribute to the 10th anniversary of the film's release. Security guard asks Neo open his coat, which he does... and the security guard feels disgusted.
  • In A Miracle of Science, the main characters, an Earthman and a Martian woman, find themselves getting through spaceport on Venus, where Martians - who have Magic from Technology by way of nanites - are treated as the enemy and not allowed in. The Venusians have every newcomer walk through an elaborate hi-tech detector. The drama is short lived— it turns out only Martian technology can reliably detect Martian technology. Specifically artificially intelligent Martian technology, so the detector is itself a Martian. So all Caprice has to do is ask nicely to be let through. Somebody didn't think THAT one through.

    Web Original 
  • A RWBY Chibi skit has Cinder, Mercury and Emerald attempt to pass through a metal detector. Cinder and Emerald passed, but Mercury gets stuck with the security due to his robot legs. Eventually the security puts him through an X-ray scanner.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: in the episode in which Homer got a handgun, he took Marge to an NRA meeting. Kearney tried to go through without a gun, was turned back, handed a gun, and made to go through again to ensure that the detector beeped.
  • In Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko is stripped down to his underwear after setting off the metal detector. This after several characters with metal in their persons (including a chainsaw-wielding maniac and a Tin Man) go through without the machine going off.
  • This Cartoon Network promo for Secret Squirrel.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Major Monogram implies having trouble with metal detectors when telling Dr. Doofenshmirtz how he has a lot of metal in his body.
  • Justice League Unlimited: Task Force X are sent to infiltrate the Watchtower. Deadshot has a ceramic pistol that won't set off the metal detector, but Captain Boomerang gives everyone a heart attack because he's carrying 75 cents in change.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Vacation", Grizzly is forced through a security checkpoint at the airport while escorting Nom Nom to his plane flight. He turns out to have a surprising number of metal objects lost in his fur, including a set of nail clippers and a wrench.

    Real Life 
  • At least one website sells a small metal card with the Bill of Rights on it, so that as you pass through a metal detector it will set it off, at which point you place the card on the tray and say, "Here, take my rights". It's intended to make a statement about the overreach of security. The site doesn't explain what you say to the people behind you in line who aren't amused by your making the ritual into performance art making them late for their flight.
  • US military service members traveling in uniform used to have so much trouble with this that it became routine for security personnel to simply check their ID and then wave them through after the metal detector went off. This is because dress uniforms (and there was a time when military personnel traveling on official orders were required to wear their service dress uniform) are filled with metal. Between rank insignia, belt buckles, buttons, ribbon racks, qualification and unit badges, name tags, branch of service emblems, tie pins, and various other accessories, a service member would almost have to strip naked in order to get through a metal detector without setting it off. After 9/11 and with the realization that traveling in uniform made it easy for terrorists to spot them, the Department of Defense relaxed these rules considerably and now service personnel travel in civilian clothes and change into their uniforms after arriving.