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Phone Booth

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"Okay, suicide booth, give me your best shot. Electrocution, please, side order of poison... Helloooo? Kill me, you stupid machine! What the... 'local calls fifty cents'!? It's a street corner telephone parlor! Oh, what kind of horrible, suicide-free time is this?"

A Phone Booth (or phone box, as it's more commonly known in the UK) is a tiny closet, often outdoors and usually with one or more glass-paned walls, designed to contain a Pay Phone. Nowadays, they are mostly a historical trope; even before cell phones took over, they were being replaced by the more space-efficient and wheelchair-accessible standalone pay phones, and in the U.S. they've almost completely disappeared, although the booths themselves are seeing a resurgence in upscale theaters and restaurants to reduce public cell phone chatter. In Britain, there are still a fair few phone boxes around (Maybe a certain show keeps them in style?), although the traditional Red Telephone Box is an increasingly rare sight outside of central London, where many have been preserved - perhaps to enable Tourists to take a photograph proving that they really are in London.


In addition to the tropes associated with the Pay Phone, there are a number associated with the Phone Booth itself.

  • In fiction the Phone Booth has often been used as a changing room, most notably by Superman. In Real Life the aforementioned glass-paned walls would make this problematic. (In the early days of Superman, phone booths usually only had glass in the door — and frosted glass, at that.) It's also justified because Superman's alter-ego is a reporter. In just about every movie of the time, a reporter on the scene would duck into a nearby phone booth and call the editor or someone else at the paper's HQ. So, people would see Clark Kent jump into a booth and assume he's making a call, when he's actually changing into Superman.note 
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  • In an earlier era, a popular pastime among the young was to see how many folks could be simultaneously fit in a Phone Booth. This would seem to be dangerous due to the glass-paned walls. In modern days, you will still occasionally see people trying this with port-o-johns. A photo shoot in cycle five of America's Next Top Model had a photo shoot in which all six remaining girls had to stand in a single phone booth wearing only galoshes and newspapers (and, ostensibly, underwear).
  • A secret door or even elevator might be disguised as a phone booth, for example in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. The glass-paned walls might be troublesome for the secrecy here. Spoofed in the very last seconds of the theme sequence of Get Smart.
  • A common horror movie trope is for the victim to be trapped by an assailant in a phone booth. Depending on the tone of the work, blood can splatter on the glass-paned walls and obscure the killing within to provide a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • And of course, phone booths are an ideal place for murders, as the booth's close quarters make for little room to dodge and no place to run. Plus, the glass-paned walls make it easier for the shooter to aim.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Hughes is murdered in a phone booth by Envy, as he tries to share his discovery that Homunculi have infiltrated the military and that Amestris is a huge transmutation circle. This is necessary because of his belief the security of the military lines had been compromised.
  • Rosette uses a payphone in Chrono Crusade. Since it's set in The Roaring '20s, this isn't too odd...except that Chrono and Rosette actually have some sort of special phone on their ammo box that works somewhat like a modern-day cellphone, and it's never explained why she didn't use that phone in the first place.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Keiichi commits suicide in a phone booth while under the effects of Hinamizawa syndrome.
  • In the first part of 5 Centimeters per Second, which takes place in the early '90s, Akari calls Takaki from a phone booth.
  • In Sailor Moon , after Mamoru tries the Break Her Heart to Save Her regarding Usagi, the poor girl gets inside a phone booth and cries while in a Troubled Fetal Position.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman has actually lampshaded the disappearance of traditional phone booths in at least one incident.
    • In the movie (the 1978 one) Christopher Reeve looks for a phone booth to change into Superman, but he finds a standalone pay phone instead. He winds up using revolving doors instead (you have to see it to understand).
    • Actually (and Common Knowledge to the contrary), Supes has hardly ever used a phone booth for this purpose in the actual comics. Superman's use of the phone booths most famously, (and iconicly) comes from an old radio show.
    • Used as a Mythology Gag in Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-man, in which Peter Parker asks Clark Kent where he might find a payphone in the hopes of using it to change into Spider-man. Because they are in a convention hall, the payphones are naturally not in inside of boxes that he can hide in, much to his dismay.
  • In the new Dial H series, the Hero Dial is actually connected to a disused phone booth, meaning Nelson has to transform in a phone booth.
  • In a MAD magazine parody of Star Trek: The Original Series, Captain Kirk is seen stepping into a phone booth before using the transporter to make a phone call to the planet that he's beaming down on.
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #24, Indy is lured inside a phone booth by a ringing phone. However, once inside he finds the door won't open. The villains then drive a truck at the booth.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Coco: When they first meet, Miguel pulls Héctor into a phone booth to ask him about Ernesto de la Cruz.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Lola Rennt has a long scene inside of a phone booth.
  • The movie Phone Booth has its somewhat Jerkass main character trapped in a Phone Booth by a sniper.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds features a memorably bloody scene where the heroine takes shelter in a phone booth, which is then battered by kamikaze seagulls. (Those glass walls again...)
  • Mel Brooks' film High Anxiety, being a spoof of suspense films like The Birds, includes a phone booth scene as a Homage. Speaking of glass walls, The Dragon attempts to kill the hero while the hero is making a phone call and winds up impaled on a glass shard from the booth.
  • The Time Machine in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is in the form of a Phone Booth, perhaps as a nod to Doctor Who. They wanted to go with a old step van, but didn't want to seem like they were ripping off the DeLorean from Back to the Future, so they went with a phone booth. Whoops. However, it's not Bigger on the Inside, so things get a little tight with all the historical figures.
  • Terri Doolittle gets trapped in the Phone Booth while using the Pay Phone to call for help in Jumpin' Jack Flash.
  • In Clockwise, headmaster Brian Stimpson tries to use a phone box on his way to the headmasters' conference. When three of them do not work properly, he has a fit of rage and smashes one of them.
    Pat's Mother (watching from the window): They're vandalising those phones again. He's showing off his muscles, and she's egging him on.
  • In Duel, Mann just escapes from one before the semi plows into it.
  • The Spanish short film La Cabina concerns a man becoming stuck in a phone box. Played for laughs at the beginning. At the end... not so much.
  • In The Grudge TV series, Kayako husband and murderer calls the visiting teacher from a phone booth to inform him that he killed the teachers pregnant wife by announcing the babys gender. Once the call stops, the murderer starts to smash the fetus against the phone booth in mad rage.
  • Apparently, the phone booth from Local Hero is the one that gets the most phone calls per year in the UK. The location didn't actually have a phone booth when the film was made, but one was later installed as a tourist attraction.
  • The Matrix ended its opening sequence with Trinity narrowly escaping through one of these.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, one of the mooks makes a long phone call to the villain, but an impatient man outside demands him to get off the phone only to be punched through the glass and knocked out.
  • Toward the end of The President's Analyst, Dr. Schaefer gets stuck in one - he waves down a truck, but instead of freeing him they pull up the whole booth, with him trapped inside, replace it with an empty one, and spirit him away to the headquarters of The Phone Company. Earlier on, one of their booths similarly trapped a pursuing Chinese agent to keep him from getting abducted by them.
  • The Sting featured a couple indoor phone booths. The first was occupied by an older woman when Johnny needed to call Luther. He pulled her out to make the call. Later at the same booth, Lt Snyder catches Johnny there. Almost. The second one was the one the calls came in on to Lonnigan to tell him what horse to bet on.
  • Phone booths were already on the outs in the late '70s as seen in the first Superman movie — Clark Kent is desperately looking for a place to change, and stops at a pay phone with a little head-sized enclosure before moving on and using a revolving door at super-speed. It does make an appearance in the subway in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace when Clark has to stop a runaway subway train that Lois Lane is on.
  • Help!: The Eastern thugs pursuing The Beatles call them in Scotland Yard from a phone booth across the street - several of them are jammed inside playing instruments as the leader hypnotically chants "Go-o-o to the window!...Go-o-o to the window!"
  • One of the gadgets being tested at Q Branch in GoldenEye is a phone booth rigged with a giant airbag, which traps its occupants against the glass when inflated. Amusingly, it's a British Telecom booth.
  • In The Cannonball Run, Arthur J. Foyt is trapped inside a phone booth by a vehicle that has backed itself in front of the door and couldn't get himself out. He tries to slide underneath the opening at the bottom of the booth, but apparently gets stuck.
  • In Diamonds on Wheels, after tailing the gang to London, Bobby uses a red phone box (still in common use at the time of the movie) to phone the police. However, he spots the crooks and has to scarper, leaving the receiver dangling off the hook.
  • Watson is in a phone booth talking to Holmes when he is taken by surprise by Price in Murder at the Baskervilles.
  • When Charles meets with his CIA contact in Crooked House, they hold a private conversation by standing in phone booths next to each other and conversing via the phone.
  • Fear, Inc.: After being abandoned in the desert, Joe manages to make it to a phone booth at an old gas station, only to discover the phone isn't working.

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix does the elevator-disguised-as-a-phone-booth shtick. It's used as the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic. And then they cram six people into it, of course.
    Harry: Whoever's closest to the receiver, dial six two four four two! (on the phone buttons, this spells MAGIC)

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete: "The Call" revolved around Little Pete and his friends investigating a mysterious ringing phone booth on the edge of town, on the hottest day of the summer. It turns out the call was for the Petes' mother Joyce, from a guy who had a long-standing unrequited crush on her.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Phone booths have a key plot role in a couple episodes:
    • In "Key to the School", Mr. Conkin and Miss Brooks use the phone booth in Marty's Malt Shop to call board superintendent Mr. Stone after everybody is locked out of Madison High. Unfortunately, it's not soundproof and mixing a milkshake is louder than you might think.
    • In "Monsieur Leblanc", Walter Denton calls Mrs. Davis' house from a phone booth pretending to be a Spaniard interested in purchasing Mr. Conklin's car.
  • One episode of America's Next Top Model had the girls do a photo shoot in a phone booth. Naked. With six girls inside.
  • The "Police Call Box" disguise of the TARDIS in Doctor Who is essentially a Phone Booth skin. The disappearance of Police Call Boxes from the natural environment has made this something of a Trope Breaker in recent years, especially since fans presumably would not take kindly to having the TARDIS "unstuck" from its Call Box form. For obvious reasons, the TARDIS "Phone Booth" lacks glass-paned windows.
    • This has actually been lampshaded a few times in the new series. Given a Hand Wave by the mention of a device that makes people ignore it - that and the Doctor's a time traveller. It's not like it's fit in just about anywhere they've parked it since their first trip to Earth.
    • The 6th Doctor did try to fix the Chameleon Circuit at one point, but the results were equally if not more conspicuous; at one point it turned into a fairground organ. He seems to have given up and put it back the way it was at some point. The Master's TARDIS never seemed to have this problem.
      • Some notable examples of police boxes that are still standing in the street are in Edinburgh, where a couple of police phone boxes have been converted into coffee kiosks. They seem to be pretty popular as well.
    • The city of Baltimore, Maryland has its own police phone box. It is a very popular photo location during the city's annual Comic-Con.
  • Get Smart used the Phone-Booth-as-an-elevator trick in its opening credits. Of course, the phone booth was behind several serious-looking and presumably locked doors, which made the disguise a bit unnecessary.
    • There was also an episode with a phone booth that was rigged to fill with water, drowning the person inside. (The door was locked from the outside while the water poured in.)
  • A Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch involves someone engaged in the anti-social habit of urinating in a phone box ... before revealing that the queue of people behind him have the same intent.
  • Ellery Queen: The Victim of the Week in "The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne" is murdered in a phone booth. Stabbed in the throat, he attempts to use the phone to leave a Dying Clue.
  • The Monkees: The Monkees try to audition for a big record producer over the phone in a phone booth; meanwhile, a long line of people are waiting to use the phone booth, including a large man in a suit and glasses.
  • DCI Banks: In "What Will Survive", the missing Estonian woman is making a panicked call for help from an extremely isolated phone booth when she is grabbed by her abductor. Tracing the call, the police find blood on the floor of the booth.
  • One of the fourth season sabotages on Cutthroat Kitchen involved forcing a competitor to give up their prep station and do all of their cooking in a cramped phone booth.
  • CSI: In "The Finger", Catherine and a man whose mistress has been kidnapped are sent to isolated phone booth at an abandoned building to receive the next clue to her location. The phone has been vandalized, but the clue turns out to be a map in the phone book.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Patty the Daytime Hooker, Catalina, Darnell, and Kenny (somehow) had four-way Sex for Solace in one of these, while they were hiding from killer bees. Patty wanted to have sex without charging for it, Catalina didn't want to die a virgin, Kenny wanted to have sex with another man for the first time, and Darnell was up for anything. (Though he especially wanted Catalina because she was a virgin.) Afterwards, when the bees were gone, they agreed never to speak of it again.

  • The Superman connection is mentioned in The Spin Doctors' song "Jimmy Olson's Blues":
    It's got me up the wall and through the roof,
    Lois and Clark in a telephone booth.

    Video Games 
  • Escape the Phone Booth, a flash puzzle game where you wake trapped inside a phone booth. You have to try finding your way out with what few items you have on you or can find.
  • The Interactive Fiction game Pick Up the Phone Booth and Die, and its spinoff Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle. The former has only two commands that do anything: "Pick up phone booth", which kills you, and "Push phone booth", which wins the game.
  • In The Legendof Zelda Links Awakening, there are phone booths scattered across the overworld, and are used to get hints to progress through the game.
  • In The Lost Crown, Nigel has to use a phone booth to contact anyone outside Saxton, as he didn't bring his cell and the phone in his rented cottage is broken haunted.
  • Safe Cracker starts in one, and Jerry Crabb gives you instructions over the phone on how to get into his company headquarters down the street.
  • In Mass Effect 3, The penultimate levels are set in London. Despite the fact that it's half-past the futurenote , there are plenty of the iconic red British Telecom phone boxes (see the page image if you are somehow unfamiliar with them) in the background detail... more, in fact, than you would see almost anywhere in the real London today.
  • In the Jaleco Arcade Game Psychic 5, going into a phone booth lets the player select between Espers.
  • Kicking off the spoofs the SPY Fox games are known for, the first puzzle of Spy Fox in Dry Cereal involves calling Monkey Penny from a phone booth on the island of Acidopholis. As soon as the exchange is finished, we see that there's an elevator shaft — with a cartoony twist to it — that leads straight to the underwater Mobile Command Center.
  • The Ghost Train: You can find one by the train tracks after making offerings to the ghosts.
  • Inunaki Tunnel: After solving the clock puzzle, the Player Character comes across an old phone booth. You can enter it to answer the phone, but you'll be stuck in it for a short period of time.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The entrance to Section 13 in Jackie Chan Adventures is through a phone booth that serves as an elevator, although it appears there is an easier way in through the stairs. For the most part it does work in concealing the location of the instillation.
  • An episode of Futurama reveals that phone booths start making a comeback in 3010 AD; Hermes Conrad is happy to learn this, as it means he no longer has to lug a cellphone around. Still, it is also important not to confuse a phone booth with a suicide booth.
  • Shoeshine Boy uses a phone booth to transform into Underdog. During the transformation, the booth suddenly explodes.
  • In OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes, KO goes into a phone booth to make a call, but looks at the phone and asks what that thing is before pulling out his cell phone. As the show takes place in a world of superheroes, the booth is labeled a "changing booth".
  • Daffy Duck locks Bugs Bunny in a phone booth at a TV studio in People Are Bunny while he goes on a game show. Bugs winds up winning a jackpot by answering a math question. ("If there's one thing us rabbits can do, it's multiply!")
  • The Pink Panther wants to be a superhero ("Super Pink") and answers the call to a potential emergency. However, the nearest phone booth is occupied. Pink simply removes the phone booth exterior (leaving the occupant and phone where it is) and proceeds to change into his costume in it.

    Real Life 
  • Well, duh.
  • The Safe House, a spy-themed restaurant in Milwaukee, has a themed phone booth where guests can choose from a selection of background noises while placing a call, the better to deceive listeners espionage-style.
  • In the 1930s, there was an experimental phone box design which included a stamp-vending machine on the outside of the phone box. This was a failure because the sudden clunk of the machinery alarmed those inside using the telephone.
  • There was outrage in Britain shortly after the privatisation of the Post Office Communications division as British Telecom, when the new private owners began replacing the old red boxes with allegedly cheaper and more easily-maintained American-style boxes. It was pointed out that BT was making large amounts of money by selling the old boxes off as antiques and collectable artefacts, and cynical commentators wondered if this had been their intention all along. Public revulsion was focused on a part of British heritage and instantly recognisable street-furniture being replaced by anonymous "could-be-anywhere" ugly glass cubes.
  • The traditional red phone boxes can now often be seen in front gardens of private houses, when collectors have bought them. The few that remain on the streets now rarely contain telephones: in some cases, they have been converted into community libraries.


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