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The gang is standing on a cliff's edge when they are startled by a helicopter which rises, roaring, into view... and yet that roaring helicopter somehow didn't make any noise until they saw it.

This is useful in a work to create some surprise wide-scale terror/action/heroics.

This is not restricted to helicopters: any roaring vehicle that should have made noise before appearing is a Surprise Vehicle.

It doesn't count if the audience hears the vehicle, but the character is too deep in thought or wearing headphones.

In Real Life, combat aircraft do something similar to this, though at much longer ranges, typically using the terrain for cover. However, this trope is mostly about something that is, in Real Life, very loud and very close, but the character doesn't hear it until it is seen.

Often a case of Gunship Rescue. Compare See No Evil, Hear No Evil, when off-screen events aren't audible until they appear on-screen. See also Silent Running Mode; Stealth Hi/Bye; Behind the Black; and Look Both Ways. Related to Rule of Perception.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 1st Gig, first episode ("Section-9"). After the Major captures a terrorist on top of a building, a helicopter carrying Batou rises up from below the edge of the building.
  • Hanaukyō Maid Team La Verite episode 1. When the maids pick up Taro and Mariel in a helicopter, it appears right next to them with no noise warning of its approach.
  • Happens frequently on Najica Blitz Tactics, thanks to Najica's ever-so-handy remote-controlled helicopter gunship. Might be partially justified by it being a low-noise Stealth Chopper specifically designed for the kind of secret missions she engages in, but still...
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi does this with the reveal of Haruna's airship, which provides a way for Negi to get to Nodoka in time to save her from a group of bounty hunters. Repeated with the same vehicle during the Governor's Ball.
  • Pok√©mon the Series: Diamond and Pearl: Galactic Battles episode "Unlocking the Red Chain of Events!" When Ash, Dawn, and Brock confront Galactic Admin Jupiter, she escapes via a helicopter which appeared from below the side of a building without having made any noise beforehand.

    Comic Books 

    Film — Animation 
  • Up has a scene right when Carl and Russel are just about to release Kevin into her natural habitat, and the Zeppelin ominously, silently rises up behind them, and only after it's snuck up did they see the floodlights and hear the roaring engines as the airship hovered to a stop.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Act of Valor. A terrorist financier is shown on his yacht in the middle of the ocean on a completely fine day, with guards keeping watch. Somehow no-one notices the US Navy surface vessels until they're right on top of them.
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. When Buckaroo is about to be run over by a truck, a ladder suddenly appears swinging from the sky. Buckaroo grabs hold and is lifted away by a Blue Blaze Irregular helicopter.
  • Aliens. When Ripley and Newt are about to be attacked by the Alien Queen in the atmosphere processing plant, the dropship rises up from below the edge of the platform they're on — partially justified due to the explosions all around them.
  • In Avatar a humungous tree-dozer SUDDENLY appears in the middle of the forest and starts wreaking terrible chaos and destruction all around it.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, Marty's Suicidal "Gotcha!" is aided by Doc's flying DeLorean.
  • Blue Thunder. The title helicopter appears from below the side of a bridge to save a woman being (unjustly) pursued by the police. It was previously established that the helicopter actually has a "whisper mode" that can be turned on to make it quieter than normal. Apparently, it is not a good idea to use it all the time; it most likely reduces the performance in exchange for sound reduction.
  • Charlie's Angels (2000) had a helicopter rising up over a castle.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The "searchlight-bearing helicopter at night mistaken for a UFO" scene that would be copied by later TV shows. In fairness the helicopters first appear from over the horizon, so it's plausible the distinctive sound of their rotor blades might not be heard at that distance. Played straight with the UN Taskforce in the Gobi Desert when three range rovers and two helicopters leap over a sand dune.
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004): As Ana is driving away through the chaos and panic in the opening sequence, a long shot shows her vehicle travelling northwards past a street intersection where no cars are seen... except for an ambulance that suddenly materializes out from behind one of the houses, driving at full speed, then crashes into another vehicle in front of Ana before plowing into a gas station and blowing that up.
  • At the end of Escape Plan, a helicopter is approaching the ship as part of the Great Escape. The ship captain is surveying the sea when the chopper suddenly rises into his field of view, startling him. However, there is no sound of rotors until they are visible.
  • In the Even Stevens Movie, this stunt was pulled by Louis in order to fool the television producer of the reality show they were on. Louis ended up rising up on a helicopter, that was hosted by a rival television reality show.
  • The first Final Destination has the stealth bus to end all stealth buses.
  • In the first dream level of Inception, the team gets blindsided by a train. Of course, they are in a dream, so being snuck up on by a train isn't exactly the weirdest thing they experience. It's also understandable that they weren't expecting a train to be driving down the middle of the street with no tracks in sight.
  • This happens in the final scene of The Mist. The main character is saved by the U.S military but he never heard the rolling of the tanks, which are rather hard to miss as they make plenty of noise as they shake the Earth as they move about. A fog shouldn't affect the clarity of sound, only sight. (Although at least in the original novella, the unnatural mist does in fact erratically deaden sound.}
  • Narrow Margin. Roger Ebert tore this movie a new one over this trope.
  • No Country for Old Men: The speeding car at the end that severely wounds Anton Chigurh at the end isn't heard until it crashes into Chigurh's car.
  • Justified in The Orphanage; although a supporting character does meet their demise at the hands of a silent bus this way, the sound for the entire scene is faded to silence, as a symbolic effect showing how focused on each other the main character and the supporting character are when they glance at each other.
  • The President's Analyst - happens exactly as described as Russian agent Kropotkin, waiting at a roadside, is surprised by a helicopter rising from a valley just off the corridor. Luckily it's his American agent friend who he had arranged to meet.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Dex suddenly appears in one of Totenkopf's hoversleds to save Sky Captain and Polly Perkins from pursuing robots.
  • In the Leslie Nielsen film Spy Hard, the main character escapes by jumping off a roof, only to appear again in a Harrier jump-jet.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me. Stromberg's attack helicopter appears from behind a low wall at the edge of a cliff with no warning.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. On the planet where "God" is imprisoned, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey rises up from behind a hill to rescue Kirk.
  • The Humongous Mecha from Terminator Salvation that was able to sneak up on people despite its earthquaking footsteps and the deafening Scare Chord noises that its gears made every time it moved.
  • Thelma & Louise had a helicopter rising up over a cliff.
  • Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Lyle Swann is trapped against the edge of a cliff with the bad guys closing in. A helicopter suddenly rises up from below the cliff edge, scaring the fertilizer out of his pursuers.
  • Toy Soldiers: Two mooks fail to notice a lurking attack helicopter within a few feet of them until it rises up to the same level as them.
  • In True Lies, Arnold's character manages to pull off a Surprise Harrier Jet.
  • Undercover Brother. As the title character is fighting Mr. Feather, The Man's helicopter rises up from behind a wall.
  • In World War Z, a family is in the middle of a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam and being admonished by a police officer to stay in their vehicle when a garbage truck runs the police officer down, overturning cars as it goes. Despite the fact that it must have been pretty noisy in knocking over cars to get to the police officer in the first place, our first sight of the truck is when it actually hits the police officer.

  • The Dresden Files has a few:
    • Gard repeatedly gets these from the cockpit of highly illegal military helicopters. Including once to the tune of The Ride of the Valkyries.
    • Molly veiled a boat. A whole boat. The sound, the light, the water displacement, the smell. Everything. Over water. Without shorting out any of the boat's electronics. The kid lives and breathes stealthy magic. And then, pulling a leaf from Gard's book, the boat turns on the volume and blasts "We Will Rock You" across the lake.
  • One of the Russian main characters of Red Storm Rising had an encounter a force of M1 Abrams MB Ts while he was on foot, noting that he didn't even hear them until they were practically on top of him. He noted that the engine design of the M1 makes them notably quieter than other MBTs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Airwolf did this on more than one occasion, albeit justified by the eponymous helicopter having a Silent Running Mode to mask its noise.
  • All those times a helicopter is mistaken for a UFO, despite having a distinctive sound. Examples appear in Dark Skies, Airwolf, and The X-Files (which managed to avoid the cliche for several seasons until the episode where Agent Dogget first appears). Although Airwolf almost justified it with that distinctive Future Copter-ish engine noise that sounds very little like a normal helicopter.
  • Fact or Faked Paranormal Files once showed how improbable this trope is in reality when a UFO video was speculated to actually be a helicopter with a light rig attached to it, but when they tested this themselves they quickly realized that at the highest altitude the chopper could go with the rig still visible they could still clearly hear it from the ground, with the noise level exceeding 100dB, which would have been picked up by the camera in addition to the ambient noise (people talking and such) that it did pick up, and no one on the ground would have mistaken it for anything but a helicopter as a result. Later tests showed that the rig had mostly likely been attached to a silent weather balloon.
  • Serenity did this in the Firefly episode "The Train Job".
  • In the season 3 episode "Not in Portland" of Lost, Juliet's husband is hit by a very quiet bus.
  • In NCIS, Gibs and DiNozzo are out in the desert with the local sheriff, when a helicopter simply arrives over them with no hint of sound. Fortunately, McGee was tracking it by satellite and gave them warning. Gibbs shoots it down.
  • Scorpion: At the end of "Shorthanded", a helicopter rises up roaring from behind a sand dune to surprise the bad guys and deliver The Cavalry to save Walter and his team. How it could have got behind the sand dune without the bad guys hearing it in the first place is never addressed.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron steps out onto the street when SMACK. She gets hit by a car and her head goes through the windshield and she tells the people inside to remain calm.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The undermentioned stealth helicopter serves the protagonist of Deus Ex as a personal transport.
  • This happened in Final Fantasy VII with a giant airship that comes out of nowhere.
  • Used a couple times in Half-Life 2. The first time, a Combine Hunter-Chopper suddenly pops up from behind a flood control gate to continue hounding Gordon through the Canals. The other time happens later when a Strider suddenly jumps out of a large crater in the ground.
  • Averted in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando when Ratchet asks if Clank hears something before the Thugs-4-Less Leader reappears in a helicopter.
  • In Resident Evil 4, Ada makes her final exit this way, leaping off a cliff and then appearing inside a helicopter that rises up from out of sight.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In a confrontation, Mario chases Bowser to a ledge, down which Bowser falls. After a tense pause of about a second, Bowser taunts Mario from the safety of his loud flying clown copter, which was apparently waiting below the whole time.
  • Cyclonus makes his appearance like this in Transformers (2004).
  • In Trauma Team, Gabriel Cunningham pulls this when confronted by Ian Holden late in the game, by stepping back off the roof of the hospital and grabbing onto a helicopter's ladder. How he wasn't sliced to ribbons by the propeller is anyone's guess.
  • The fel reaver patrolling Hellfire Peninsula in World of Warcraft. It's a 50-foot-tall demonic robot that shakes the ground with its footsteps and makes a sound not unlike a locomotive from hell, yet it still manages to surprise (and crush) unwary players who weren't paying attention to their surroundings. The game also has the dreaded Surprise Devilsaurs, which are even worse because they are actually quite sneaky (as sneaky as a T-rex can be).
    • And then a classic Good Bad Bug made the fel reavers into normal-size bears. Which still shook the ground with their footsteps and made the locomotive from hell sounds. So, screaming stealth bears.
    • Then there's the picture-perfect example of this trope in the Halls of Reflection dungeon, as you're running from the Lich King, just as you reach a cliff, your faction's flying base appears out of nowhere. These are the size of Naval battleships, and one of them is carried in the air by two separate zeppelin balloons.

  • Exterminatus Now has a hilarious example with its subversion of Black Helicopters.
    Conspiracy Theorist: Black Helicopters! With silenced, counter-rotating blades and light-absorbing paint! They're real, man! Don't be suckered in by the media lies!
    Virus: Helicopters? Try VTOL jet aircraft, dude. And there's no such thing as "light-absorbing paint". It's actually a resin matrix of nanoscopic piezoelectric metacrystals. Active noise-cancellation is civvy technology already used in sound studios, you just need a massive number of CPU cycles to make it work 3-dimensionally on a whole aircraft. Techno-angelic cloud-computing makes CABAL the most powerful supercomputer in the world, of course, so that's not a problem.
    Eastwood: Those guys are foreign businessmen or something. You got nothing to worry about from them. They aren't Inquisition.
    Conspiracy Theorist: I- You- Oh. Oh gods. Oh gods.
    Lothar: Keep watching the skies, friend. We'll see you later.

    Web Videos 
  • Most videos of people getting hit by trains, but especially this fake video of a girl walking in front of an oncoming train. Note that not only is the roaring train too quiet for anyone to hear, but it's apparently traveling without any lights on until the last second... and apparently not traveling on train tracks. As parodied in Cirno's Perfect Math Class here.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • This is a favorite trick in Blue Angel airshows. There are six Blue Angel fighters (all twelve-ton F/A-18s) aloft for the show, crossing in front of the stage in alternating directions. They get you nice and used to that, looking alternately to the left and right to spot the approaching aircraft as they approach in singles, pairs, and quads. Then a four-plane formation passes. Then you're told to look in one direction for a single approach. You do-VOOOM! The missing plane blasts overhead from the OTHER direction and hits its burners for giggles. Even though the plane is invariably a hundred feet up, half the 6-foot-tall humans reflexively duck.
  • The Thunderbirds, the Air Force's F-16 flying team, does a similar stunt, going so far as to explain it as a relatively common tactic in air-to-ground operations. If the anti-aircraft gunners are looking the wrong way, it's much harder for them to shoot you.