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"Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop

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Margo: Relax, dummy. You only get stuck if you hit the floor.
Quentin: Oh, so it's like Mission: Impossible.
Eliot: That movie was stupidly unrealistic.
The Magicians (2016), "Plan B"

The commonly spoofed scene for which everyone remembers Mission: Impossible (1996). Tom Cruise hacks a CIA computer while dangling horizontally from two cables in a heavily protected room. The floor is pressure and weight sensitive, to the point that even a single drop of condensation dripping off of a forgotten soft drink and onto the floor is enough to set off the alarm. To get into the room, he has to bypass a laser grid in a ceiling ventilation duct.

It was an homage to a similar scene in the 1964 film Topkapi, and it's now a must whenever there's a spy or Heist Episode in a show.

Sometimes a Desperate Object Catch is thrown in for added drama. See also Fast-Roping and The Ground Is Lava.


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  • The scene has been parodied countless times, and even continues to be, by advertisers, particularly for dandruff shampoo, deodorant or muscle relaxant.
  • Apple's promotional short film advertising the new iPad Pro containing the M1 chip involves a Mission: Impossible spoof where a somewhat geeky-looking spy (later revealed to be Apple CEO Tim Cook in a Latex Perfection mask) who uses this method to snatches an M1 chip from a MacBook Air.
  • A 2023 McDonald's commercial depicts Hamburglar making off with a tray full of cheeseburgers in this way.
  • In a PBS Ad, it shows Cookie Monster dropping from a cable in this style, while solving a word puzzle under a time limit while Arty Smartypants from Between the Lions briefs him.
  • A 2014 Progressive auto insurance commercial shows the two bumbling agents from A. Nother Insurance Company trying to steal the Name Your Price scanner from a protected room. It goes about as well as you would expect, with Flo and an assistant watching the ineptitude on the security feed with popcorn.

  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Flying Island: The Sky Adventure episode 38, Wolffy attempts to break into the Elder Stars' house to kidnap baby Slowy by sawing the building's roof off and lowering himself to Slowy's crib with a rope. Unfortunately for Wolffy, the rope's too short for him to actually reach his target.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: In "Noby, the Great Illusionist", to retrieve his Beast Mask comic from Big G, Noby has Doraemon hold him by his cape when they use the Pass Loop on the roof of Big G's house so that he can dodge some bells attached to strings set up by Big G.
  • The Belladonna Lily Woman in Noir attempts this to kill Mireille with a knife and is very close to pulling it off when a nearby bit of light from a gunshot hits her knife and attracts Mireille's attention, allowing her to shoot the woman first.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, in order to test the museum's security, Janine uses her Weezing's smoke to reveal the lasers then lowers herself with her Ariados's thread to steal the museum display.
  • SPY×FAMILY: As you expect from a series with spy thriller, "Twilight" aka. Loid Forger pulls this off in the movie, SPY×FAMILY CODE: White. While infiltrating a wine cellar, he carefully lowers himself into the room with a rope line.

    Comic Books 
  • In Robin plus Impulse, Tim Drake tries to acquire records from the phone company while dangling from a wire extended from a skylight and holding a flashlight in his mouth. In this case there was no pressure sensitive floor, but there was a lot of debris he was hoping not to make noise by standing on and he intended for a speedy exit using the line he was hanging from.

    Fan Works 
  • Performed by Secret Agent Sweetie Drops, trying to steal the Twilicane. With Lyra Heartstrings holding the cable.
    Lyra: [thinking] She REALLY needs to cut back on those sweets...

    Film — Animation 
  • The Bad Guys has a variant; Snake is used as the cable by Wolf and Piranha, who grab onto him as they enter the room with the Golden Dolphin in it during their big heist. Piranha climbs up to the top of the air vent Snake came out of and holds him there, with Wolf being lowered along with Snake towards the trophy. Things go well until a machine designed to prevent the Bad Guys from stealing the bounty turns on, forcing Tarantula to hack into it.
  • Kung Fu Panda 4: This is how Zhen the fox thief starts stealing the Jade Temple's artifacts, dangling on a rope from the ceiling and dropping down whenever Po has his back turned.
  • The Princess and the Frog briefly references the scene as Tiana (in frog form) falls into the bayou and gets tangled in some spiderwebs right above the water in the same pose as Ethan Hunt.
  • Parodied in Shrek 2, when Pinocchio does this with his puppet strings, complete with Mission: Impossible music. However, with all his turning and tumbling, Pinocchio gets wrapped up in his own strings and just hangs there.
  • In Tangled, this is how Flynn steals the crown at the start of the film.
  • In Toy Story 3, after Woody drops from the tree he is temporarily suspended inches from the ground by his pullstring.
  • The Wallace & Gromit short The Wrong Trousers has a variant that predates the movie, involving a robotic pair of trousers fitted with suction cups walking across a ceiling of a museum to steal a heavily protected diamond.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • There's a variation of this in The Boondock Saints, with the protagonists falling though the ceiling accidentally, getting tangled in their rope... and killing everyone in the room as they spin about upside down. This happened because they got lost in the building's vents and got into a fight right there, leading to the vents giving way. It was only through sheer luck that they managed to fall into the right room, the room that the Russian mob dudes were that they were aiming to kill.
  • A variation in the first Charlie's Angels (2000), where she had to do cartwheels across a pressure-sensitive floor and then handstand on a computer box.
  • Fat Slags does a surprisingly in-depth parody of this scene when the heroines decide to ruin the villain by stealing his laptop, which is full of incriminating information.
  • The drop is done in Heroes Wanted when Santi and Lola are dropped down the central shaft of the Conaco building as part of an infiltration.
  • Inspector Gadget (1999) does this with a sound-sensitive alarm.
  • For that matter, it's been paid homage to in every Mission: Impossible Film Series sequel to date. It even gets lampshaded in Mission: Impossible II, with the Big Bad predicting that Hunt will break into the building holding the MacGuffin they both want by some sort of "acrobatic insanity".
    • Mission: Impossible II sure enough has Ethan Cable drop down a skyscraper's ventilation shaft, with a time limit due to closing louvres at the top and some security guards to dodge.
    • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol re-enacts the scene, but with magnets taking the place of the cable and with a spinning fan blade in place of the lasers.
    • Mission: Impossible – Fallout replaces the cable with a HALO skydive (High Altitude low opening, jump from heights that need supplemental oxygen and open the parachute low to avoid detection) to avoid security in a club. Skydiving's "arms splayed out" position resembles similar positions in previous drops.
  • The Pink Panther (1963) uses a variant predating Mission: Impossible.
  • In The Santa Clause 2, Charlie ropes into the school gym through a skylight in order to spray-paint graffiti.
  • In Shoot 'Em Up, both Smith and one of the Mooks try this down the middle of a spiral staircase during a shootout. However, Smith shoots the mook's rope, leading to him taking a long fall.
  • In Spice World, Mel C is introduced doing a drop to a Subbuteo table and making a half-field shot.
  • Topkapi was the Ur-Example, as stated above. A thief is lowered by rope into a museum to steal a priceless bejeweled dagger, because the slightest pressure on the floor triggers the alarm.
  • Parodied in Wrongfully Accused, where Leslie Nielsen dangles by the wires of an air conditioner above a laser grid shaped as the Star of David and stops a comically large amount of things falling from his pockets.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in The Basil Brush Show, when the group finds a pool of Anil's chilli sauce between them and a safe containing the answers for the Quiz Night.
  • Batwoman (2019). Magpie does this for her introductory jewel heist. The next time she does it, Batwoman introduces herself by cutting her cable and dumping her onto the floor.
  • In the Bones episode "El Carnicero en el Coche" Hodgins lowers himself like this into the burnt out husk of a car, to avoid the car falling apart at the slightest touch whilst hunting for evidence.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Parodied in "Smashed" when Andrew drops down to steal a diamond, only to have Warren and Jonathan stroll into the museum without issue.
    • Played straight in "Choices" when the Scoobies break into the Mayor's office in season three. Buffy is the one lowered down on the harness to steal the MacGuffin. When the alarms go off however, the pulley jams and Angel has to jump in and save her; though Buffy uses the harness to do a flip so she can kick a henchvamp in the face.
  • Chuck:
    • Half-parody in the first promos for the TV show, in which Sarah would drop down successfully while Chuck would start spinning in place and get told to "Tense your abs!"
    • Also played (relatively) straight in "Chuck vs. The Mask".
  • Doctor Who: Done in "Planet of the Dead". Lady Christina steals the chalice in the prologue, and then she uses the same skill to retrieve the antigravity clamps in the Tritovore ship.
  • In the Father Ted Christmas Special "A Christmassy Ted", Father Todd Unctious uses one of these to attempt to steal Father Ted's Golden Cleric Award. It breaks partway through, leaving him hanging helplessly in full view of Father Dougal, who fails to notice him anyway. And afterwards Mrs. Doyle uses it to clean the windows.
  • In her first appearance on Highlander, Amanda used one as part of a heist, to avoid a pressure-sensitive floor alarm. When she had the item she wanted to steal but before her accomplice could pull her up, Duncan appeared in a balcony. He tossed a coin to determine whether or not he should call the cops on them, then "missed" catching the coin, which hit the floor and set off the alarms.
  • In an episode of iCarly, Freddy drops into a room on cables and is mistaken for a spider.
  • Used in The Latest Buzz, of all places, with one of the teen reporters trying to retrieve a column from the editor's desk.
  • A season 3 episode of LazyTown has Robbie Rotten confronted with a laser grid and trying one of these to steal Sportacus's crystal; he's unsuccessful in his attempts and ends up framing Stingy for his crimes.
  • Parker's trademark maneuver on Leverage is to jump off the side of buildings and lower down on a cable, instead of doing this on the inside. She then goes in through the window. No one but Parker is crazy enough to do it willingly, though they are often forced to anyway.
  • It goes catastrophically wrong for one of The Lone Gunmen in the first episode of their series. However it's possible that they could actually have pulled it off, if left to their own. The only reason they didn't manage it was because Yves was after the same thing they were, and she had the technological know-how to royally mess it up for them.
  • Referenced in The Magicians (2016) Bank Robbery episode when the team plans to use an anti-gravity belt to drop Penny down into a bank vault and steal gold.
  • Actually done in the Mission: Impossible television series (both the original and the 1980s remake).
    • In "Doomsday", Barney used a cable drop to steal the plutonium from a nuclear warhead that was surrounded by photoelectric sensors and so could only be approached from above.
    • In "The Lions", Grant gets lowered into the temple and is suspended above the altar so he can tamper with the eponymous lions.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide had Ned attempt one of these out of the ceiling. Notable in that it was a science class and a student notices Ned and greets him before leaving; also in that instead of dropping stealthily, Ned plummeted like a rock and then swung back and forth helplessly, wrecking the classroom.
  • In the 10th anniversary episode of Operation Ouch!, Mini-Xand drops from the ceiling on a cable in an attempt to reach the cake.
  • Used in episode six of the third season of Primeval when Danny Quinn is testing the security systems at the Anomaly Research Center.

    Music Videos 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • A similar stunt led to the tragic death of Owen Hart. As the masked, buffoonish superhero "Blue Blazer," he was to be lowered on a cable to ground level, only to become tangled in the line just above the ring, a stunt he had performed a few times before. He would then have used a quick release to fall a few feet, comically, on his face. However, a malfunction or unintentional release caused him to fall from over 70 feet, leading to his death.
  • Supposedly, the WWF were trying to replicate WCW's stunt of Sting regularly dropping to the ring on a cable to attack opponents (usually the New World Order). After Owen's death, Sting would repel from the ceiling instead of being lowered on a cable.

    Video Games 
  • Every now and then in the Beat 'em Up game Dark Judgement, enemy commandoes armed with machine-guns will drop down on ropes and spray bullets all over the area with their weapons. They're slightly harder to reach than the ground-level mooks, and will continue firing until you knocked them down by jumping and punching or until they have finished their ammunition. In the case of the former, you can collect their guns for yourself after beating them down.
  • Parodied in, of all places, Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition. Duke is breaking into the CIA and has to drop into a room modeled on this scene. Since Duke is very unsubtle, you just drop right in and shoot the mutant aliens who respond. Or use the jetpack to slowly lower yourself down. The room is worth taking a safe look at too, using this method, as they went to an impressive amount of detail for the reference — not only is there a knife stuck in the table, but there's a garbage can full of puke on the floor!
  • Jonathan Kane: The Protector have a bunch of mooks breaking into Jonathan's safehouse through the skylight in this way, during an intense All Your Base Are Belong to Us moment.
  • This makes up the objective of the second mission in JumpStart 5th Grade, where Jo Hammett has to use climbing gear to rappel onto a bomb and divert a grid of security lasers before she can disarm the bomb itself.
  • Occurs in the final mission of Metal Slug 4.
  • Persona 5's second dungeon has Morgana pull this off to grab the heavily-guarded Treasure using a hooked stage cable. However, Madarame saw this coming and switched it for a fake before the heist was pulled.
  • Done in the first heist of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time when Sly has to steal the dagger.
  • There's is a segment in Spy Fiction (2003) where you must access a computer in a high security room and the entire sequence plays out almost exactly as it occurs in Mission Impossible.
  • The second Thief had a medieval-tech version, with ropes that could be attached to the ceiling beams and shimmied down. In the penultimate mission, it's the easiestnote  way to retrieve the masks, which are guarded by a pressure-sensitive floor with Deadly Gas.
  • This exact trope — a spy dangling from a body rope to hack into computers — is used in the Totally Spies! Game Boy Advance game.

  • Cinema Bums features a strip where Mindy does this to break into David Yates's bedroom to discuss a potential Doctor Who movie.
  • In College Roomies from Hell!!!, Roger does this (through the floor of one of the upstairs apartments) to get to a videotape in the girls' apartment. When Margaret catches him, she points out that loudly humming the Mission Impossible theme isn't especially stealthy.
  • Freddy Fox: In the 72nd strip (which happens to be called "Mission Impossible"), Freddy tries to snatch Simon's sandwich via lowering himself with a cable attached to his body, but the latter cuts it with a pair of scissors and says "Nice try... better luck next time!"
  • In one flashback scene of Girl Genius, Gil uses this method to secretly modify the blueprints of Castle Wulfenbach.
  • Torg tests this out as one of their plans to infiltrate Ayleeorgnet in Sluggy Freelance. Owing to miscalculating the length of the cables, he knocks himself out. Note that it was to be called "Operation Look I'm Tom Cruise!" (Given that the competition included "Operation Run Around Willy-Nilly"...)

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, it's done in "Ayla and the Networks", as the good guys of the the Intelligence Cadet Corps lower themselves down a cable into an air shaft, diasbling alarms as they go, in order to break into the secret lair being rented by The Masterminds and figure out their caper. Lampshaded by one of the team, who won't stop humming the theme song to Mission: Impossible.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television; a theft from a Best Buy store seems to have involved this trope.
  • In a non-criminal variant, makers of high-quality multi-ply sails for boats use harnesses to suspend themselves over the fabric and check it for flaws. Stepping on the sails while their layers are being laid out and fused could damage the material, so hanging over them is the safest option.
  • A penetration tester did the outside version once. It did however require that the windows be left open and access to the building roof. This flaw was then addressed.


Video Example(s):


Reach for the Sky

When Woody drops from the tree, he is temporarily suspended inches from the ground.

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