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Short-Lived Aerial Escape

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That was too good to be true.

Oh no! The Bad Guys had the foresight to prepare an aerial getaway (usually in the form of a helicopter).

Does the hero take it lying down because Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress? Of course not. Especially not if he is a Hollywood action hero! He will destroy the vehicle in a spectacularly explosive manner (because everything is better with explosions), but usually not before he leaps into the flying vehicle in question to have one final, mano-a-mano, brutal fistfight with the Big Bad in question.

Tends to overlap with Hellish Copter due to the helicopters' tendencies to exist in works of fiction solely for the purpose of exploding. Contrast with Coming in Hot where the vehicle may make it to base, but battle damage or other circumstances forces it to perform a...less-than-graceful landing.


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    Comic Books 
  • In "The 'Too Many Cooks' Caper" in Detective Comics #500, Slam Bradley and a group of other detectives are trying to bring down a gang boss they believe is responsible for the murder of a friend of theirs. During his escape, the gangster shoots at Slam and misses, hitting his helicopter. The gangster flees in his helicopter, only for it to crash a few moments later, due to the damage he caused with his shots.
  • In Hyper the Phenomenal, Boris and Dolores are shot down in their airplane as they try to escape with the last of the chemical they stole.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Incredibles: At the climax, Syndrome manages to reach his escape jet, but can't resist one last threat to Mr. Incredible as he says that he'll get his infant son Jack-Jack someday. Mr. Incredible will have none of this and he tosses his car at the Syndrome's plane, knocking him into his jet's turbine, killing him as the entire plane explodes into smithereens.
    • In Incredibles 2, the villain Evelyn Deavor has the supers set the Everjust on a collision course with the city and then tries to exit stage left with her jet. The escape attempt is foiled by Elastigirl who gets onto the jet and brings the villain down.

    Film — Live Action 
  • 12 Rounds has the helicopter in question explode in mid air after a brutal mid-air fistfight, with the hero jumping into a conveniently present swimming pool with his girlfriend just in time.
  • Subverted in The Avengers (2012): When the WSC decides to nuke Manhattan, Nick Fury takes it upon himself to head out on the deck with an RPG and bags the first plane before it can take off — but the WSC, having thought this one through, launched two jets.
  • In Battle: Los Angeles, when the squad reaches the police station, they pull out a number of civilians, and escort them to a helicopter, which doesn't allow them aboard since they're full if injured Marines. The squad is forced to stay behind, while the helicopter lifts off, and gets smashed in midair by an alien drone.
  • Done multiple times in Blue Thunder, which, to be fair, is all about helicopters anyway. The film also features instances of (almost)-Hellish Copter, and the two tropes sometimes overlap within the film.
  • John Woo's Broken Arrow, which includes no less than four exploding helicopters before the credits roll.
  • The ending scene in Charlie's Angels (2000) had a missile reprogrammed to take out the chopper than launched it.
  • Cloverfield: The protagonists almost escape Manhattan via helicopter, but the monster whacks it out of the sky.
  • Sharks of Deep Blue Sea manage to take out one in such fashion during their big escape plan.
  • Die Hard 2 features McClane lighting a Vapor Trail of the Big Bad's jet just as it is leaving the ground. Yippee-ki-yay indeed.
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance had a helicopter get destroyed, as well as one escape with moderate damage.
  • Final Score (1986): The main villain, Hawk, managed to flee in a helicopter while Richard takes down his mooks. However, Richard launches himself on a motorcycle and managed to crash through the heli's side, before falling off. Hawk then looks down, and realized Richard had left behind a grenade in the process.
  • Considering most James Bond movies since From Russia with Love feature a helicopter, 007 has taken down a few of them.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Narrowly subverted in Antarctica. After the eco-terrorists blow the glacier holding Ghidorah, they get back on their stolen Monarch Osprey and start getting the hell out of dodge with Ghidorah waking up. Thanks to Madison rebelling while everyone else is off-guard and trying to save the heroes' lives with the ORCA, Ghidorah almost shoots the eco-terrorists' Osprey out of the sky, but Emma shuts the device down and Ghidorah turns his attention back to the human heroes while the terrorists escape.
  • Green Zone: Al Rawi's men shoot down a US Delta Force helicopter with an RPG.
  • If Looks Could Kill: The villain tries getting away in a chopper overloaded with too much gold. The hero and his female sidekick shoot at it until he falls out whereupon his pilotless copter crash-lands on top of him.
  • Independence Day: The First Lady is evacuated from Los Angeles in a helicopter, but doesn't get out of the blast zone in time when the aliens attack.
  • In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the mercenaries who steal the Indominus rexs remains from the lagoon escape are chased by the T. rex., but manage to escape in a helicopter. One of them barely escapes the T. rex, and clings to the helicopter as it takes off. Cue the Mosasaurus, who leaps out of the water to pluck him off the helicopter and swallow him whole.
  • The Matrix: After rescuing Morpheus, Neo and Trinity start to make their escape in a helicopter. They don't get very far after one of the Agents demonstrates how to take down a helicopter with a handgun: he doesn't aim at the humans, he aims at the copter's fuel tanks.
  • The first Mission: Impossible film had one inside the Chunnel. Involved gum-shaped explosives.
  • Slipstream (1989). Seeing an android who is Immune to Bullets is after him, the villain takes off in his light airplane, running down the android in the process who's sucked into the ducted fan engine. Instead of a Turbine Blender the android proceeds to tear out every wire he can get his hands on and then rip his way into the flight cabin to finish off the pilot. At the last moment he decides to Save the Villain instead, but the plane is crashing and he's destroyed the controls. Oops! So the android manoeuvres the plane by physically pulling on the control cables. The airplane crashes.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Phantom Menace: During the scene where the Naboo pilots hijack their fighters away from Trade Federation droids that had secured the hangar, a turret outside the hanger manages to hit one shortly after take off, causing it to spiral in.
    • Attack of the Clones: When the Separatists retreat from the battle on Geonosis, the Republic forces are able to stop one of the transports from escaping by concentrating fire on it, bringing it crashing back down shortly after launch. Also averted because several other ships do manage to escape.
    • Averted in The Empire Strikes Back: the heroes catch up with Boba Fett as he is lifting off with Slave I. As the only weapons they have are small handheld blasters, however, the Slave I gets away.
  • Sudden Death in which Jean-Claude Van Damme shoots out the pilot and the Big Bad does a LONG Big "NO!" as the helicopter slowly crashes tail-first into the skating rink below in an orange fireball.
  • The climactic ending scene in Swordfish includes a helicopter being taken out by a rocket launcher.
  • In Triple Frontier, the protagonists' helicopter evacuation over the Andean mountains after robbing The Cartel doesn't last very long due to them overloading the aircraft with money.
  • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Wolverine destroys a helicopter by using his claws, a motorcycle, and a military Humvee as an impromptu catapult, allowing him to slice the rotors off of an enemy helicopter mid-flight. The trope is somewhat subverted in that he blows up the helicopter after it crashes, by lighting its leaking fuels with his cigar.

  • Alex Rider:
    • At the end of Point Blanc, Alex foils the villain's escape...using a snowmobile and a ski-jump.
      Wolf: What happened to Grief?
      Alex: It looks like I sleighed him.
    • In Ark Angel, Alex prevents Nikolei Drevin's escape by tying two canoes to the floats of his plane. When Drevin attempts to turn the plane around, the canoes get tangled up in the trees and the plane is torn in half before crashing.
  • At the end of Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond flies to Freetown in Sierra Leone, and then to the next diamond rendezvous. With the collapse of the rest of the pipeline, Jack Spang (who turns out to be ABC) shuts down his diamond-smuggling pipeline by killing its participants. Spang himself is killed when Bond shoots down his helicopter. With a Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft autocannon.
  • At the end of Snow Crash, YT's faithful Rat Thing chases a jet down the runway. And catches it.
  • Matthew Reilly's Temple has a giant demonic cat jump 10 feet straight up into a helicopter taking off. It explodes, but not before firing missiles into a seaplane and a couple of buildings; taking out some mooks, two more helicopters and almost totaling the heroes' Humvee with it's machine gun; and crashing into the helicopter taking off next to it.

    Live Action TV 
  • Hawaii Five-O once had a bad guy trying to escape Oahu via Learjet. Cue the automatic weapon squad firing M-16s at the escaping plane which promptly exploded in a ball of stock footage.
  • In the pilot episode of Misfits of Science, the villain's chopper is taken out by a basketball hurled into its rotors. This jolts it enough so that the bad guy, who'd been aiming a Death Ray at the heroes for a devastating parting shot, misfires into the helicopter's fuselage and blows his own aircraft to atoms.

    Video Games 
  • Enemy leaders attempt to do this a few times across the Ace Combat series, but they usually do it mid-mission, where you're easily able to shoot them down before they get anywhere.
  • The Advanced V.G. saga concludes with Miranda attempting to escape aboard her private jet, rather than face the consequences of her actions, after her defeat. She even shoots Chiho with a concealed gun, when she tries to make her land the plane. But she uses her remaining strength to radio her friends and tells them to shoot it down. They honor her dying request by blowing Miranda out of the sky with a combined energy attack.
  • The NES Bionic Commando has you blowing up Master-D's escape helicopter with a bazooka after bringing down the Albatross. The remake, Rearmed, gives it a proper boss fight.
  • Call of Duty
    • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has it twice for the heroes. First, the SAS's extraction chopper gets shot down in the Russian countryside after rescuing Nikolai, then the Marine protagonist's heli gets knocked out of the sky by a nuclear blast wave, killing everyone on board including the player character and the pilot they just rescued.
    • At least twice in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. First, in the climax of "Of Their Own Accord", Hunter 2-1's Blackhawk and a SEAL team's Little Bird get attacked by an anti-aircraft missile battery soon after being evacuated from a rooftop. They combine this with Taking You with Me by opening fire on the missile batteries even as their chopper falls from the air. The last mission of the game has this being invoked as the villain tries to make his getaway in an MH-53 Pave Low.
    • And we have it again in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. At the very end of the last level, "Dust to Dust", Price follows Makarov to the top of the hotel, where Makarov gets on a Little Bird helicopter. Price jumps on the helicopter, takes out the two pilots, but can't stop the helicopter from crashing.
  • At the end of Desert Strike the dictator tries to escape in a large cargo plane, which the player has to destroy before it leaves the runway.
  • In Elevator Action Returns, after making your way through the deathtraps of the final area, you reach the roof of the building only to see the final boss flying away higher and higher in a helicopter... oh look, a handy bazooka nearby. It only have 4 shots. You need to hit twice. Don't miss.
  • In Far Cry 4, you can blow up Big Bad Pagan Min's chopper as he's leaving the palace. It's entirely optional though.
  • Far Cry 5 kicks off with a boom when the Hope County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Marshalls show up to arrest Joseph Seed. The actual arrest goes off smoothly, though the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife; when trying to extract him via helicopter, Seed's followers promptly fly into a frenzy, rushing the chopper as it tries to take off. Eventually, one of the cultists flings himself into the chopper's rotors, which damages the rotors and causes the chopper to crash.
  • A common tactic in Grand Theft Auto Online for those who have caught the attention of a particularly homicidal group of players is to make for the nearest airstrip, get into a plane or chopper, and fly to the other side of the map. Sometimes, this getaway works, but other times, the attacking players just pull out a rocket launcher and blast the poor fellow out of the sky just when they thought themselves safe.
    • You do this to the target of "The Hotel Assassination" from GTA V's single-player campaign, shooting down his helicopter when he tries to escape.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the mission to the Mars Archives seems like it's over when your target Dr Eva hops on a Cerberus shuttle, but then James comes in at the last moment driving a shuttle of his own and rams Eva out of the sky.
  • Max Payne
    • In the first game, Max doesn't let Nicole's escape helicopter get as far as taking off before he topples a radio antenna onto it.
    • He does it again in Max Payne 3 with Victor's private jet, grounding it with several shots from a grenade launcher just before it lifts off.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has this occur at the end. Big Boss rescues Paz and Chico from Camp Omega and manages to get Kaz and one random soldier off Mother Base as it's being destroyed. However, the second bomb inside Paz goes off as she leaps out of the helicopter, causing it to spin wildly out of control and crash into a pursuing XOF chopper. Most of the occupants of the chopper actually survive, with Big Boss and the medic /Venom Snake both ending up in a nine-year-long coma and Chico actually dying in the crash.
  • At the end of Mirror's Edge Faith jumps into a helicopter from the roof of the Shard and uses her momentum to kick Jacknife out through the other door. As he falls out he fires his machine pistol hitting the pilot and the engine, with Faith leaping onto the building's roof at the very last moment.
  • After beating the final boss of Sonic the Hedgehog, Eggman makes an escape in his hoverpod. If Sonic jumps at it before it gets away, he can send it crashing down.
  • Tequila blows up a helicopter in the climax of the battle with Vladimir Zakarov in the John Woo game Stranglehold.
  • A heroic example in ZombiU as the Ravens of Dee prepare to evacuate London in a helicopter. However, before the chopper can pick you up, the tower's flock of ravens takes off from the Tower of London and flies straight into the propeller, sending the chopper spinning out of control and crashing in a fiery explosion. Their second attempt is a lot more successful, provided you make it there in one piece.

    Web Animation 
  • In Vinesauce's The Blue Shell Incident, Garfield attempts to escape in a helicopter after apparently killing Mario, but it's blown up almost instantly.
  • In the fifth episode of Bunnykill, the final act consists of an extended fight/chase scene as Smoke, this installment's Big Bad, flees in an attack chopper from Dust. Smoke dies. A lot.
  • How It Should Have Ended has its take on the ending to Predator. With Dutch, Billy, and their new local girlfriend running for da choppah, Dutch delivers the line that the Predator is hunting them because they are armed, and thus valid sport. Billy finds the obvious solution: discard all weapons, and hope that's right. Certainly enough, with no weapons on them, the (rather disappointed) Predator lets them on their way. As the chopper lifts off, Dutch looks around in horror-his gaze sweeping from the door gunner's machine gun to the pilot's sidearm—as he realizes that their vehicle is armed, making them once again valid prey.

  • Sluggy Freelance: In the middle of "K I T T E N I I", the clown commander abandons his troops to kitten attack after sabotaging their defenses. The kittens themselves grow wings to attack his helicopter before he can escape. The copter explodes first with blood, then with a fireball on collision with the ground.

    Western Animation 
  • Done in the premiere episode of Justice Leaguethe Imperium decides it has to leave after Batman turns their machinery back on them and causes the Imperium and his shapeshifter lackeys to burn in the sunlight (with J'onn literally dragging the Imperium into the light). Diana notices and lassoes the Imperium's escape ship, with Hawkgirl whacking at it with her electrified mace; the blow causes the ship to crash and explode within the organic factory thing they'd been using to help block the sunlight (and where the nascent team had been captured).
  • Parodied in The Venture Bros., when Race Bannon battles snake minions aboard a plane to recover a canister of the Goliath Serum. He kicks their asses and finishes them off with a grenade blast as he escapes out the side with a parachute... and is fatally wounded as the falling plane's wing clotheslines him in the chest.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Renny Harlin Helicopter Explosion


Die Hard 2 Plane Explosion

Just when it looks the like bad guys are about to get away, Joh McClane sets their escape ablaze. (And drops his famous one-liner.)

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ShortLivedAerialEscape

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