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Shirtless Captives

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At least they let him keep his mask.

Inexplicably, captors often find it necessary to relieve male prisoners of their shirts and characters whose regular attire requires them to be shirtless are often imprisoned, chained, shackled or otherwise restrained. There's some question as to whether this phenomenon is due to the need to prevent them from hiding a means of escape, a form of humiliation or punishment, to make them more vulnerable to the whip or whatever else they want to do to the guy, or if the captors enjoy providing fanservice or maybe something else entirely. Or, alternatively, Villainesses Want Heroes. Of course, it's also pragmatic if Clothes Make the Superman.

This is almost entirely a male character trope for obvious reasons. Compare Go-Go Enslavement, and Shameful Strip, of which it can be a subtrope. See also Barefoot Captives for the other end of the body (though the captive could end up both shirtless and barefoot).

It can be a prelude to, if not an integral part of: Working on the Chain Gang, Made a Slave, Slave Galley, and Gladiator Games.

A staple of Sword and Sandal films.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: This happens to Eren when he is captured by Rod Reiss.
  • Berserk:
    • The first arc had Guts get captured by the guards of the village of Koka for killing some of the Snake Baron's thugs, and get put to the torture, which is the first time we see him shirtless.
    • Played for disturbing effects when Griffith gets imprisoned by the King of Midland, who has him stripped completely nude. And it's made clear that he remained nude for the entire duration of his imprisonment and torture.
    • When Guts gets captured by the Holy Iron Chain Knights, his top armor gets removed. And then Farnese whips him, leading to her getting distracted by his blood dripping down his chest.
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Happens to Tamahome when he is captured by Nakago.
  • Reborn! (2004): When Tsuna is captured by Spanner, he wakes up to find himself handcuffed to a bed wearing nothing but his boxers.

    Comic Books 
  • In Brath issue #7, our titular barbarian is captured and is taken to the capital city, bare-chested, with many chains and shackles involved and also Gladiator Games.
  • Judge Dredd: During the Origins arc, Dredd is captured by the people of Fargoville and put to work on a chain gang as punishment for being a Fargo clone. His back gets fairly bloodied from the whippings the foreman gives him. He goes along with it until nightfall, when he makes his move to escape. Fortunately for him, his shirt isn't too far away, so he's able to cover up before taking the fight to the locals.
  • In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 annual #4, Colossal Boy has been captured by Starfinger, so naturally he's been relieved of his shirt, secured spread-eagle to a frightening instrument panel and tortured.
  • Red Robin plays this for drama rather than fanservice when Ra's al Ghul's creepy sister chains up Tim and starts trying to undress him in order to rape and murder him. She doesn't get past unzipping his collar since Tim's sister Cass arrives to save the day.
  • In Teen Titans vol. 1, issue #22, most of the Titans have been captured by the Church of Blood and the confessor rids Robin of his shirt, and proceeds to restrain, torture and interrogate him. Robin (Mr. Fanservice incarnate Dick Grayson) never gets his shirt back on this occasion.
  • In Ultimatum: Fantastic Four Requiem, Dormammu captures the Human Torch and keeps him chained and shackled, shirtless, to an enormous boulder while channeling his power to attack New York City.
  • Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor ends up shirtless and captive quite frequently, a sampling of examples:
    • Wonder Woman (1942):
      • Queen Clea seems to really hate that Steve wears shirts, and removes them from him both times she captures him, the first time having him dressed in a loincloth and sent to die in an arena fighting monsters for her amusement (he killed them and escaped). When he tried to arrest Clea without knowing she'd teamed up with Giganta and was knocked out by the larger woman he woke to find himself bound to a stake with his clothing torn to bits.
      • When Giganta captures Steve after his mind has been thrown for a loop by Zool's malfunctioning evolution machine, his shirt is nothing but tatters.
      • When the Saturnians nab all the men in the DC intelligence office after drugging them to sleep, the next time Steve is seen, he's in shorts and chains — he and Wonder Woman break each other's chains and free all the slaves together.
    • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Steve's shirt was torn up and lost in the plane crash that landed him on Themyscira, so when the Amazons who believe Antiope's propaganda capture him and drag him to the capitol, he doesn't have one.
  • X-Men:
    • In X-Men (1991) issue #7, "Inside Out", Wolverine is interrogated by Omega Red and Fenris after being captured by them, and relieved of his shirt.
    • In X-Men: Gold, vol. 2 issue #27, when Colossus is kidnapped from his bachelor party by Lydia Nance and the advanced Sentinel Alpha, he is taken to her base in the savage land, where he is placed in restraints and stripped of his shirt.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Terry and the Pirates, the Dragon Lady has Pat Ryan shackled shirtless to the wall of her junk after she captures him.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku gets stripped to his underwear and Strapped to an Operating Table by scientists working for U.A. while they conduct tests on him to determine the origins of his Venom Strike. The tests are non-invasive and more embarrassing than harmful, but he's dismayed that he had to remain unmoving for hours until they were done.
  • In the X-Men: Evolution fanfic XXY:Evolution, where most of the characters are genderbend, John Grey (male Jean Grey) got captured by a vengeful Bulk (female Blob) who was manipulated by Mysterioss (male Mystique). She had him suspended in chains and strip down to his waist.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Action Jackson: Jericho "Action" Jackson is captured by the bad guys when his girlfriend is taken hostage. The next time we see him, his shirt is off and his wrists are tied to the ceiling of a car factory. His chief captor explains they plan to stage a car accident, and need to burn him alive to make it look convincing. He is saved at the very last minute. No explanation ever given even in the grand explication for why it is necessary for him to be bare-chested.
  • Casino Royale (2006) has James Bond stripped completely naked and tied to a chair. This turns into Fan Disservice as Le Chiffre repeatedly whacks James's balls with a rope.
  • At the climax of Death Walks In Laredo (1966), our hero, one of three brothers who had the valuable mine they inherited from their father stolen by a greedy land baron, is ambushed by the land baron's loyal gunmen. He thought he was going to sneak into the baron's estate, but unwittingly walked into a trap. After being captured and being subjected to a grand explication by the land baron, we next see our hero hanging upside down, with each leg tied to an archway. He has been relieved of his shirt. The henchmen take turns letting him swing back and forth over a fire they start under his head until his brothers arrive to save the day.
  • Flash Gordon (1980): Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkoff go to the great hall where they meet the Emperor and watch tribute from his galactic Empire flow in. Then, Ming decides he wants Dale. Flash starts a football-esque fight, but an inopportune pass KOs the hero. He gets hoisted by six guards, and Ming, not amused and thankfully despite his daughter's pleas, says the following great line: "This one here has defied us before our subjects, we order him disposed of tonight, by public execution." The next time we see Flash, all of his clothes are gone except a very skimpy pair of black shorts. His hands are in binders lifted up high and he is in an iron mask. After his last request, a final talk with Dale, he is escorted to drumbeat to the gas chamber.
  • Hercules (1983): Hercules is wandering about a castle looking for the damsel in distress that the righteous son of Zeus is supposed to rescue when all of a sudden, the floor gives way. It's a trap. Herc falls down and must knock himself unconscious in the fall because the next time we see our steroided-up mythological hero, he's lying on the floor, with steel shackles on his wrists and ankles, chained to floor. He also wears an iron collar that is equally chained to the floor. Just as he wakes up, an entourage led by Minos' evil henchwoman stomps in. She tells Herc that Minos has given him to her as a gift and that she's really quite pleased.
  • Hercules Against the Moon Men: Hercules wears an exomis-style tunic (which covers half of the chest) for most of the film, but after being captured by Samara and the titular Moon Men he is next seen completely shirtless and in chains and then placed in a bizarre torture machine.
  • In Lethal Ninja (1992), our two heroes are ambushed by the crazed (former Nazi) mad scientists and his paymaster and surrender while in full ninja gear. The next we see them, they are stripped of their shirts, and suspended by chains around their wrists over a pool of electrified water, with chains hanging from their feet as well, so that if they move even slightly, one or the other's chains will reach the water and electrocute one of them.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Frodo is shirtless during his capture in Cirith Ungol's tower before Sam rescues him and they both don orc armor to pass the army unharmed. Justified in that the orcs needed the Mithril Vest needed to be delivered to Sauron, who then decides to send his messenger to deliver the vest to the awaiting Fellowship at the Black Gate as proof that Frodo died from the torture when in reality Frodo and Sam have been long gone to Mount Doom.
  • He-Man spends most of Masters of the Universe in an advanced form of leather loincloth-speedo combination, a pair of bandoliers and a cape. He-Man et al get really outnumbered by the forces of evil. In order to spare the lives of his friends, He-Man agrees to return in chains with Skeletor as his slave. Once back home, Skeletor parades He-Man in front of his assembled court to make him a trophy. Dolph has been further relieved of clothing, and is completely bare-chested. His wrists have shackles and he is attached by means of cable to the floor. He-Man resists all of Skeletor's demands. Skeletor wants to humiliate He-Man and to have him kneel before him with the whole planet watching. He-Man will have none of that. So, to help him make up his mind, Skeletor decides to laser-whip him.
  • Mole Men Vs The Son Of Hercules: Not once, but three times Hercules and his shirtless companion find themselves bound, first after being captured and turned into slaves for the mill-stone their wrists are tied behind their backs which are then tied around their necks, secondly, when they are brought into an arena so they can fight to the death to marry the Queen, and finally when Hercules and his companion are chained and yoked inside a torture-cum-test-of-strength device.
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II: Rambo enters post-war Vietnam to scout for living American POWs. When confronted by the Vietnamese military, his superiors in Washington decide not to come to his rescue and he is surrounded by soldiers brandishing assault weapons as an American helicopters leaves without him. The next time we see Rambo, he is in a pit of animal waste and mud, submerged to his neck and chained to a yoke at the wrists. Then, the Russians show up. They clean Rambo up and return him his pants and boots, while he remains shirtless, and then lead him in for a preliminary interrogation with our Russian friend with a piano wire about his neck and bound hands. The Russian talks to Rambo and basically tells him that they're going to torture him and execute him, to which Rambo replies with a stoic curse. Then, they strap him to an old bed frame and hook it up to electricity, giving Rambo a shocking time. Eventually, Rambo's Vietnamese girlfriend shows up with weapons and breaks him out.

  • Doc Savage: In The Men Who Smiled No More, Doc and his aides are captured, mind-controlled and put to work as part of a slave labour force, wearing nothing but their shorts.
  • Justified in My Brother is a Superhero: Zack has three stars on his chest that glow to indicate how much power he's holding, so it makes sense that the villain would keep him shirtless while experimenting to make him a Living Battery.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: The Season 1 finale "Sacrifice" begins with Oliver having his arms held up with chains, at the mercy of the Big Bad, in one of his numerous Shirtless Scenes. He escapes in a sequence reminiscent of his Workout Fanservice scenes.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • A partial example in "Becoming, Part 2". Giles is captured by Angelus and has had his jacket, waistcoat and tie removed and his shirt unbuttoned, presumably for torturing purposes.
    • Buffy's solo "Going Through the Motions" in the opening of the Musical Episode "Once More, with Feeling" has her rescue a hunky Open-Shirted Captive tied to a tree who was going to be sacrificed by a demon and some vampires. Since the song is about her lack of interest in life after being brought back from Heaven, she then ignores his implied offer of Rescue Sex.
    • Season 7 has The First Evil kidnap Spike and chain him up shirtless. It's quasi-justified in that it needs Spike's blood to drip on the Seal of Danzalthar to open it. But not fully, since the only thing stopping its minions from taking the blood from his arm rather than his chest seems to be James Marsters's physique. This is lampshaded by the First, who has taken the form of Buffy, Spike's love interest at the time. "She" mentions that the original plan was to use geeky Big Bad Wannabe Andrew, but "she" is glad it turned out this way because "you look a lot better with your shirt off."
  • Doctor Who: In "Dalek", the Ninth Doctor loses his shirt when Henry van Statten finds out he's human and decides to torture him. He gets it back when circumstances force van Statten to release him.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: In "Hercules and the Amazon Women", Hercules and Iolaus run into monsters and get into a fight in which Iolaus is stabbed and killed by one of the monsters, which turn out to be women dressed in animal-like armor. Herc is so distraught that he gets captured by these Amazons. They tear his shirt off, yoke him, gag him and bind him to a sled and parade him into town. Everyone gawks at the hunk of man being shown off like some trophy. They bring Herc to see the Queen, who interrogates Herc and beats him up a bit. He also spends some time in a cage.

    Video Games 
  • Gods Will Be Watching has both Abraham Burden and his partner Jack stripped to the waist when Hollistic Empire is torturing them.
  • Used a lot in the Metal Gear series.
    • Happens twice in Metal Gear Solid, and justified in both cases. The game takes place on an island in the Arctic Ocean during a blizzard, so without his shirt, Snake wouldn't get very far. The second time, Liquid wanted to challenge Snake to a one-on-one fistfight, and Snake's suit has built in body armor, giving him an advantage.
    • Taken a step further in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, in which Raiden is stripped completely naked. Also justified here, in that Raiden has a lot of advanced technology wired directly into the suit, and that it's quite cold inside Arsenal Gear, where he's being held.
    • Happens to both the player character and an NPC in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. In the latter case, she was stripped to her underwear, and justified in-universe that it wasn't because for Fanservice reasons (said NPC is quite attractive), but rather because they were in an outpost in the middle of a Central American jungle. Without clothes, gear, or supplies, she'll die of exposure long before she could make it to civilization should she escape. She did escape, and thankfully for her, she bumped into Big Boss's faction.
  • Every P.O.W in the Metal Slug series plays this straight.
  • Minion Masters: The Slitherbound Slave Mooks are all male and topless.
  • StarCraft II: In the New Folsom Blues level, most of the Dominion prisoners wear bright orange pants and nothing else. Tychus Findlay is introduced this way as well before he's sealed into his Powered Armor.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Ichiban Kasuga when captured and chained up was stripped of his shirt. Justified because the captor wanted to record on video the tattoo on his back while he is being interrogated.


    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In "The Demon's Quest: Part II", Batman is stripped of his shirt by Ra's al Ghul's henchmen and put in chains in the dungeons after his capture attempting to sneak into the Lazarus Pit compound. The henchmen also want to remove Batman's mask, but Ra's tells them to leave it, as "it is a mark of honor".
    • In "Bane", Robin is kidnapped by Bane and his accomplice. He is stripped of his shirt and dangled by chains over a tank in which they intend to drown him. Justified in that Bane uses the uniform shirt to show Batman that he'd kidnapped Robin.
  • In the Biker Mice from Mars episode "The Pits", Throttle and Modo are captured, stripped of their shirts, put in chains and sent to work in the titular pit mine.
  • In The Dragon Prince, Runaan is shirtless after he's thrown into Katolis' dungeon. Apparently Aaron Ehasz thought of a reason afterwards, but has neglected to share it. Averted with Gren.
  • In Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Duncan/Man-at-Arms is dragged off to the dungeon by the villains in episode six. The next time we see him, he's shirtless for no apparent reason.
  • In the South Park episode "Fantastic Easter Special", Randy and the rest of the Hare Club For Men members are captured by ninjas hired by the Catholic Church. When Randy awakens in his prison cell, his shirt has been removed for some reason.
  • In the X-Men: The Animated Series episode "Repo Man", Wolverine is captured by Alpha Flight and Vindicator on behalf of the Canadian government. He is next seen strapped to a table, stripped of his shirt, being inspected and interrogated by government scientists.