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"Rear Window" Witness

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A protagonist is caught in a situation where they are Forced to Watch a crime (or what they think is a crime) but is powerless to do anything to stop it. Later on they may be unable to prove a crime has occurred, or they may find themselves targeted by the killer looking to eliminate any witnesses.

May or may not lead to a "Rear Window" Investigation. Often features in the "Rear Window" Homage.


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    Comic Books 
  • A '90s The Flash story had the Flash in a glass elevator, when outside the elevator on the lower floor, he sees a hitman pull a gun on someone. Being the Flash, he could stop the crime easily. Being stuck in a glass elevator between floors presents a bit of a challenge (at this point of his development, he couldn't "speed-phase" himself through solid matter without said matter exploding, and he didn't want glass shards hitting any innocents).
  • Through the Woods: In "My Friend Janna", Yvonne goes to Janna's house in the night, and watches through Janna's window as the ghost apparently kills Janna. Afterwards Janna's room is empty and there's no sign of Janna, so people search for her in the hope that Janna merely ran away or something.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • ABCs of Death 2:
    • In "K is for Knell", the woman witnesses multiple murders being committed in the apartment block opposite while standing on her balcony.
    • In "S is for Split", a man in France is on the phone to his wife when an intruder breaks into their home and attacks her with a hammer.
  • In Abominable, the villain-across-the-street is none other than Bigfoot. Yeah.
  • Absolute Power (1997): Clint Eastwood's Cat Burglar character is trapped in a special safe/closet with a one-way mirror when burglarizing a mansion. A couple comes in, they have rough sex, and the man's bodyguards mistakenly shoot and kill the woman. The woman was the elderly homeowner's trophy wife, and the man was the President of the United States. Clint initially tries to flee the country, but instead he vows to expose the truth.
  • In the movie The Bay Boy, the main character witnesses a murder through a store window by a crooked cop, but is scared by the cop into not telling anyone.
  • In The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, the hero is trapped between two sets of sliding glass doors when he witnesses a murder attempt on a young woman.
  • Body Double: While housesitting, unemployed actor Jake Scully gets to watch a sexy neighbour, Gloria Revelle, who does a sexy dance in front of her window every night at exactly the same time. He becomes interested in the girl, infatuated even, following her around and eventually meeting her. She also has another admirer however and while watching her one night through his telescope, Jake sees her murdered by this other man.
  • In Burglar, based on The Burglar in the Closet by Lawrence Block, Whoopi Goldberg's character is hiding in a closet during a burglary when she witnesses an extended bed-rattling session, followed by a killing. She isn't able to see the face of the murderer, however.
  • Clubhouse Detectives is a kid-friendly version from the 90s, where a kid spots the murder from the bathroom window, and tries to convince his mom and the police. Since this is a kids movie, Adults Are Useless and they have to take matter into their own hands.
  • In Death Walks on High Heels, Captain Lenny is using his telescope to spy on Nicole when he witnesses her murder, although the rainy weather prevents him from getting a clear look at the killer.
  • Disturbia (2007), where the protagonist is confined to his house by a house-arrest legband.
  • In Don't Open Till Christmas, the girl working the peep show can only watch helplessly as her client is stabbed to death on the other side of the glass.
  • In Girl House, Alex is watching a private online show with Devon when she is attacked and mutilated by Loverboy.
  • In Home Alone 3, the protagonist is home sick from school and witnesses the burglary of a neighbor's home, but can't get anyone to believe him.
  • In Lady on a Train, San Francisco debutante Nicki Collins goes to visit her aunt in New York. Before reaching Grand Central, Nicki's train makes a brief stop and, when she looks up from the book she is reading — a mystery by novelist Wayne Morgan — she witnesses a murder in a nearby building.
  • In what should be the most ridiculous possible example, but isn't, 2003's Mimic 3: Sentinel was pitched as ""Rear Window" Homage with giant cockroaches." In the movie, the protagonist is confined to his house by an acute immune system disorder caused by the last outbreak of the giant cockroaches.
  • In Murder, She Said (based on 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie), Miss Marple is studying the passengers on the express passing her train when the blind in one compartment flies up, revealing a set of gloved hands strangling a woman.
  • The Other Side Of The Street is 2004 Brazilian film. Regina, a lonely and retired grandmother, defies social expectations maintaining a very active lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro's urban life. She does this largely by supplying the police with tips on criminal activities in the area. When she witnesses what she believes is a murder across the street, she tries to obtain incriminating statements from the supposed perpetrator but in the process her whole world changes...
  • At the end of Ratter, Emma's mother in Wisconsin can only watch helplessly via webcam as Emma is assaulted and abducted in New York.
  • The Trope Namer is Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1954 film Rear Window, in which Jimmy Stewart is laid up with a broken leg and sees enough to make him suspect that his neighbour has murdered his wife. Later he can only watch as the might-be killer returns to the apartment while his girlfriend is searching it.
    • Remade in 1998, with wheelchair-bound, paralyzed Christopher Reeve playing the wheelchair-bound, paralyzed protagonist. A particularly effective moment comes when the murderous neighbor breaks into Reeve's apartment and unplugs his ventilator, a situation that you just know Reeve had either experienced or had nightmares about.
      • Reeve actually spoke without a ventilator during filming.
  • In Scare Campaign, Emma can only watch helplessly on the monitor as the Axe-Crazy Rohan attacks Marcus and Dick with an axe: seemingly butchering both of them.
  • In Shock, Janet goes to the balcony in the middle of the night after a nightmare. She witnesses the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Richard Cross asking for the divorce to his wife and having an argument with her. Out of the blue, Dr. Cross kills her with a candlestick and Janet has a nervous collapse and stays catatonic in shock in her room.
  • In Sisters (1973), newspaper reporter Grace Collier, who lives in an adjacent building to Danielle, is certain she's seen a murder in Danielle's apartment, and calls the police.
  • In Sorry, Wrong Number, a crossed line causes an invalid to overhear two people planning to kill her.
  • In Tiger Bay, the curious girl Gillie peeks through the mail slot of the neighbor's apartment door only to witness Bronek kill his girlfriend in a rage.
  • In The Window, a young boy is watching from the fire escape as his neighbors murder a man with a pair of scissors. He reports the incident to the police but nobody believes him.
  • In The Witch Files, Claire is talking to Jules via webcam when she witness the black smoke enter Jules' room and attack her.
  • In Witness To Murder, a woman (played by Barbara Stanwyck) sees a murder committed in the apartment across the street from her, leading to the murderer attempting to keep her quiet by Gaslighting her into insanity.

  • In the Agatha Christie novel 4:50 from Paddington and its film version Murder, She Said, a character on a train witnesses a murder happening on another train on a parallel track.
  • In Demon Road: Desolation, Virgil looks out his window and sees his neighbour getting murdered and the cops hiding the body.
  • Eighth Doctor Adventures: Fitz, in Timeless, witnesses a woman being brutally attacked while snooping through the window of her house. Shaking and horrified, he works up the courage to go into the house, and finds seemingly the same woman, denying that anything happened. Hmm...
  • There was a Goosebumps book involving this trope.
  • Morgenregen: The Black Forest Fairy: Poor Silke witnessed her own father's murder by Blackwing pretending to be Erik. She pretended to be asleep through the whole thing, afraid of what "Erik" might do to her.
  • In Mystery of the Witches' Bridge, Lamie happened to be fishing near the Witches' Bridge and thus knew Old Dan never made it to the Bishops with the money.
  • This is one of the sources of Isaac's work troubles in Outsourced.
  • Simon Ark: In "The Witch of Park Avenue", Simon and his publisher can only watch on as the Victim of the Week gets trapped in a revolving door and then keels over dead.
  • The Westing Game: Not a crime, but Chris is a witness to Sikes going into the Westing House just before Westing's body is discovered, thanks to his bird-watching.
  • Whispers From The Dead: Or in this case, Front Window Witness—the entry hall of the Holt house has huge windows beside the door so that, as Dee Dee points out, "anyone coming to the door can see inside." It turns out the pizza girl Darlene Garland saw Adam Holt murdering Rosa this way, which is why he dragged her inside and killed her too.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of ALF, the titular character (house-bound because he's an alien) thinks he witnesses a neighbor commit murder.
  • Castle (2009):
    • In the episode "The Lives of Others", Castle is so bored while recovering from a snowboarding accident, he starts watching his neighbors with binoculars, and sees what he's convinced is a man murdering his girlfriend with a knife, but neither he nor Beckett can find any hard evidence, so everyone except Castle is convinced he's just going crazy with boredom. Beckett even refers to it specifically as a "rear window scenario." Turns out Beckett staged the whole thing as a birthday present to Castle, and everyone, including the "murderer" and "victim," were in on the prank.
    • In an earlier episode, Castle and Beckett investigated the murder of a bird watcher. After retrieving the victim's camera, they find out that he had taken photos of a kidnapping, and the last photo was of the kidnapper just before he shot the victim.
  • Colonel March of Scotland Yard': "The New Invisible Man", a man indulging in some Naughty Birdwatching claims to have seen a pair of gloves fatally shoot a man in the front room of the house opposite.
  • The season 6 episode "Point of View" of CSI: NY pays homage to Rear Window where Mac Taylor is severely injured during the pursuit of a suspect and is confined to his apartment, observing the neighbors. Mac witnesses a shady deal similar to L.B. Jeffries and his suspicion of his murderous neighbor.
    • In "Unfriendly Chat," Adam is on a video chat with a woman he has never met before when she is strangled.
  • Doctor Who: In "Aliens of London", Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, is witness to a murder by the Slitheen while hiding in a cabinet. Later, just as she and Rose uncover the Prime Minister's corpse, one of the Slitheen catches them in the act and moves in for the kill. Cue cliffhanger...
  • Happens to Daisy in Downton Abbey.
  • In an episode of Due South, Fraser witnesses a crime through his hospital window.
  • Early Edition: In "Where or When", Gary falls off a scaffolding and breaks his leg, and is laid up in his apartment watching his neighbors across the alleyway. He begins seeing a woman in his dreams dressed in 1940's attire, who looks exactly like the new waitress he just hired. The waitress lives in an apartment across from him, and when the paper reveals she is going to be shot and killed, Gary tries to prevent it from happening.
  • In an episode of Highlander: The Series, Tessa witnesses a murder and then can't convince the police of the fact. The fact that the immortal killer was the police chief probably had a lot to do with it.
  • In a Halloween episode of The Jeffersons, Louise happens to look across the street into another apartment and witnesses a murder; the murderer is dressed as a giant white rabbit. Nobody believes her but the rabbit saw her seeing him and tracks her down.
  • Jonathan Creek: In "The Problem at Gallows Gate", Adam's sister Kitty witnesses a murder through a pair of high-powered binoculars during a badger watch.
  • An episode of Kate & Allie had Chip looking out his bedroom window and believing he saw a murder. The episode plays out similar to Rear Window until it's revealed that the "murderer" was a magician and what Chip saw was him practicing a trick.
  • Leverage: The plot of "The Broken Wing Job" kicks off when Parker is laid up with a torn ligament. Bored, she starts watching the security feed from Hardison's brew pub and spots two crooks planning a crime. (Like in Rear Window, Parker recruits the friend who's helping take care of her to do the legwork for her investigation, and it ends with a showdown with the crooks in Parker's HQ.)
  • Murder, She Wrote:
    • In "Crossed Up", Jessica gets her lines crossed with another caller's and overhears a murder being plotted between a man and a hired assassin. She initially tries to stop the murder from happening and busies herself with the investigation after the killing happens anyway.
    • In "The Murder Channel", a friend of Jessica's witnesses a murder on her television when a mislaid cable sends a video feed from the apartment downstairs to her set.
  • The NCIS episode "Witness". While adjusting to her new apartment, a young MIT graduate films the death of a sailor being strangled. The local authorities and even NCIS have doubts concerning the supposed death but McGee insists that the case needs to be investigated further, prompting the team to search the apartment opposite the graduate's for evidence.
  • Psych: The episode "Mr. Yin Presents" was filled with references to Alfred Hitchcock, including a point where the characters in the show are forced to portray Hitchcock film alter egos. Shawn, at one point, plays James Stewart (and manages a convincing Stewart voice to boot) by sitting in a wheelchair on a "set" created by the villain.
  • The Raising Hope episode, "Murder, She Hoped" is an homage to Rear Window, with a wheelchair-bound Burt and Virginia, who is dressed like Grace Kelly, investigating their backyard neighbor's murder of his wife.
  • The Return Of The Saint episode "Signal Stop" has a variation where a woman on a train reports a murder being committed in an empty building next to the line.
  • Mathnet, the Law & Order-style show-within-a-show on Square One TV, used this plot in "The View From the Rear Terrace": Kate Monday is housebound with a broken leg and suspects her neighbor is a mad bomber and her partner, George Frankly, while skeptical at first, eventually ties the neighbor to a revenge scheme targeting local banks.
  • That '70s Show: In "Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young Too Die", Fez is stuck in wheelchair with a sprained ankle in the Foreman's house. Watching next door with binoculars in the hope of seeing Midge naked, he becomes convinced that Bob has murdered Midge.
  • The Unusuals: In "The Dentist", Bank's locks himself in his apartment due to paranoia and becomes convinced that his neighbor was murdered.

    Video Games 
  • In the first part of Batman: Arkham Origins, Commissioner Loeb is locked into a poison-filled chamber by Black Mask while Batman watches helplessly behind glass.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: In the middle of a botched heist, V and Jackie are forced to hide in a room and witness Yorinobu Arasaka murder his father Saburo Arasaka, the head of the Arasaka megacorporation, in cold blood and hear them discuss how Yorinobu stole a Relic chip (the one holding Johnny Silverhand) from his father to sell it to Netwatch.
  • In Dead Space, you witness a worker of the Ishimura get brutally killed by a Lurker with a pane of indestructible glass separating you. You can't do anything to help him, and must eventually go into the room after the door unlocks.
  • April May in the second case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is initially set up as one. But it turns out she knows a lot more about the crime than a mere 'witness' should...
  • D.J. in Resident Evil – Code: Veronica witnesses several scenes in the game but never interacts with any of them. As a mouse, it would be utter suicide for him, after all.

    Western Animation 
  • Love, Death & Robots: "The Witness" begins with the man noticing the woman witnessing him killing someone from a window in the next building. The man then chases the woman through the city. The episode ends with her killing him, only for someone who looks just like the man to witness it from the next window...
  • Rocko's Modern Life: Rocko in the episode "Ed is Dead", where he thinks Bev killed Ed during an argument. Cue "Rear Window" Investigation, and The Reveal that what actually got destroyed and buried was only a meatloaf sculpture of Ed, and that Ed was at the doctor's having a wart removed from his butt.
  • The Simpsons
    • Parodied in "Bart of Darkness", when Bart is confined to his room after breaking his leg, he thinks Ned Flanders killed his wife, when it turns out he accidentally killed his wife's favorite houseplant. The high-pitched scream Bart heard earlier came from Ned.
    • Parodied in "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" — again with Bart — but with the twist that, in fact, Bart saw that a crime wasn't committed. The accused man is innocent, but there's so much circumstantial evidence, and the legal system in Springfield is so corrupt, that he'll be convicted unless Bart speaks up.

     Real Life 
  • The people who recorded the first plane crash on 9/11 count. They were mostly just tourists who happened to be filming the Towers at the time, and, being mere civilians with cameras, were powerless to help.