A white tablecloth. A beautiful placesetting (bonus points for a lot of fine crystal or a vase of fresh flowers). Our Hero takes one corner of the cloth and with a single pull whips the tablecloth off the table, leaving the placesetting undisturbed.
This trick is a good, showy way to demonstrate that a character is a stage magician or is otherwise unusually dexterous. (It also demonstrates that the character knows physics — the dishes and glasses are held in place by inertia.)
And even when this trick fails — sending flowers, silver, and glass everywhere — it's still entertaining.
- An advertisement for Stellar Artois has a host do this from a hot air balloon, using gravity as the acting force. The tablecloth becomes a parachute holding a tray with two glasses of the beverage.
- An advertisement for Amazon's Alexa voice-activated system shows a young boy who wants to be a magician doing this with a fully-set dinner table, knocking it to the floor. His mother uses Alexa to call for the pizza order she apparently has on standby at all times.
- An advertisement for Surf washing powder features British comic figures Sharon and Tracy doing this. Sharon piles four cups of Coca-Cola and a fruit plan on the table and prepares to yank away the table cloth. Tracy hurriedly moves the washing powder and stands back. Then Sharon pulls of the trick flawlessly to both their surprise.
- Drifting Classroom: In the first chapter, Sho yanks the tablecloth containing his breakfast during his fight with his mother, causing everything to fall to the floor.
- In Revolutionary Girl Utena, when Anthy's dress disintegrates during a party due to a vicious prank, Utena whips a nearby tablecloth free (sending everything that was on the table flying in the process) and wraps it around her, making it into a new, toga-like dress to replace it.
- In one Archie Comics story, a new physics teacher and Riverdale High does this trick to demonstrate the "Objects at rest stay at rest" rule. Lunchlady Miss Beazley, who set up the table, thought the new teacher was about to ruin her work and fainted dead away.
- In Bolt, Rhino pulls a paper place-mat from under a man's food and drink without knocking it over.
- He does this a second time at a picnic during the credits.
- In The Peanuts Movie, Charlie Brown tries to incorporate this into a magic act. While practicing the first time everything falls and the second time he pulls the whole table out while the objects stay in mid air for a second. It's only later when he cancels his act and retrieves the table cloth, he does the trope successfully.
- In Ratatouille, Skinner accidentally does this as he falls into the Seine while chasing Rémy.
- Ghostbusters (1984) had the comedy version. Venkman tries to whip a table cloth from under a set table and succeeds in sending every item on the table except the centerpiece crashing to the floor.
Venkman: And the flowers are still standing!
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: Done successfully by the Grinch when trying to retrieve a tablecloth...only to immediately run back to the table and knock everything over himself. The table included. Apparently Jim Carrey got it right the very first time and had to improvise, leading to this scene.
- Das Boot: During the scene in the La Rochelle whorehouse, one crew member tries this. He's so drunk he can barely stand, so needless to say he fails.
- The Jackie Chan film Project A 2 during a fight against the hatchet wielding pirates.
- Promise Her Anything: Michele's frantic scramble to conceal all signs of a child in her apartment (her date is arriving and he doesn't know about her son) ends with her whipping off a kid-friendly tablecloth, leaving the vase of flowers in place.
- The Swedish film You The Living has an epic version as part of a dream sequence. The person who attempts it fails miserably and is subsequently sentenced to death for the damage caused.
- In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Frank N. Furter does this after the song "Eddie's Teddy" to reveal Eddie's unfortunate fate.
- Death does this in Thief of Time, in which it's a Phlebotinum Analogy for what the History Monks do — the table is still laid, but the tablecloth can now be reused. Susan points out that the salt's fallen over and the tablecloth is stained, and Death replies, "YES. AS METAPHORS GO IT IS RATHER GOOD, DON'T YOU THINK?"
- Forest Kingdom: Gleefully averted in the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 4 (Wolf in the Fold), in which Fisher snatches up a tablecloth to cover the naked body of a dead man. The toppling crash of place settings is described in all its destructive glory.
- In Stephen King's Cell, Clay tries this trick when the heroes are looting food from an abandoned restaurant. It sort of works, with all the table's contents staying upright but moving a few inches.
- The MythBusters took on a viral video showing this trick being done on a banquet table, with a motorcycle. It didn't work. Note that the video had a much, much longer tablecloth than most versions of this stunt. It is later shown how such tricks are frequently fabricated for the camera by using a pane of glass over the tablecloth but under the set and decorations to keep the latter stable as the cloth is yanked out from under both the items on the table and the glass holding them up.
- Top Gear: Similar to the MythBusters example, Clarkson tried to emulate the stunt using a Nissan GT-R to pull the tablecloth off. And, like the MythBusters example, it didn't work.
- Captain Awesome did this on Chuck.
- Time Warp did both versions, showing you the secret to achieving both.
- Benny Hill from The Benny Hill Show has done Tablecloth Yank quite a few times and has sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed. In one of the episodes, he also did an inversion of a classic Tablecloth Yank.
- In Granada's Sherlock Holmes, Holmes (Jeremy Brett) does this near the end of "The Six Napoleons". See it here.
- In Bewitched, Sam uses her power to invert the trick to put a tablecloth back under the plates and centerpiece.
- Willy has to accomplish this in The Adventures of Willy Beamish, since the tablecloth is a key item. Doing it while a goblet is still on the table will make it topple over, alerting the residents of the house he's currently sneaking around in.
- One of the games in WarioWare: Smooth Moves involves yanking a tablecloth without knocking over the settings.
- All tablecloths in Luigi's Mansion series can be yanked by Luigi's vacuum-cleaner.
- The Tablecloth Hour is a Japanese arcade game by Taito dedicated to letting players simulate this trick.
- In the second Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, when you examine a cart with a tea set and cloth on, Kay Faraday will consider doing this. Edgeworth has to talk her out of it.
- In the animation Dad's Home, the titular Dad successfully pulls this near the end, for no particular reason and on a table that had no reason to be where it was. He also kicks the table over immediately afterwards.
- Bender in the Futurama episode "Bender Gets Made": This is a double subversion, in that Bender succeeds in performing this trick, but his success was really a failure, since he meant to single-subvert the trope by just pulling everything off the table.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?", Robin knocks a thug standing on a table off his feet by pulling out the tablecloth. "I love that trick, but I can never make it work."
- In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger successfully pulls a cloth off Piglet's table without harming any of the dishes. Then he turns to leave the room:
Tigger: Ha, ha, thought they were all gonna crash, didn't ya? [slams the door and the dishes all shatter]
- Done successfully by Applebloom in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "Call of the Cutie". She wasn't really trying; she just needed the tablecloth.
- A Springtime for Hitler example in Rugrats, where Angelica has been asked to ruin a grown-ups' dinner party. She yanks the tablecloth, but everything on the table doesn't fall.
- In The Smurfs episode "Tick Tock Smurfs", Clumsy is told by his fellow Smurfs to clear the table because they're on Brainy's time schedule, and Clumsy does it by yanking the tablecloth, causing food to spill right onto Papa Smurf's face.
- Subverted in The Beatles cartoon "Please Please Me." Ants invade the boys' picnic, so Ringo grabs the blanket and yanks it off the ground, leaving the settings and fixings undisturbed.
Ringo: Didn't think I could do it, did you?
- One of the teasers on The Alvin Show, set to "The Chipmunk Song", has Alvin doing this, successfully.
- In an episode of House of Mouse, Jose Carioca tries to teach Goofy to be refined and swipes a tablecloth from underneath Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts. At the end, Goofy attempts to pull this trick in his own "goofy" fashion.
Lumiere: Run for your lives!