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Vehicular Kidnapping

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Just another day in New Orleans.

"I get two more guys, guys who know how to handle themselves. Now, we roll up to the subject in an unmarked van. We grab him, put him in a bag, and we take him out to the desert."
Mr. X, Better Call Saul

We've all seen it before: a van drives up and skids to a sudden stop in the middle of the street. A bunch of Faceless Goons in black sweaters and balaclavas pile out the side and grab someone (usually a businessman, politician, top scientist or engineer, or just The Hero), stuff them in the back, then drive off.

The kidnappers will throw a Bag of Kidnapping over the target's head if they have no intention of speaking with them until they reach their destination, or else employ Instant Sedation or a simple Tap on the Head if they really don't want to talk. Alternatively, a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown or Cold-Blooded Torture will sometimes ensue as soon as the door slams shut, possibly as a form of enhanced interrogation, after which the ringleader, if present, usually follows up with a Motive Rant, an attempt to Break Them by Talking, or just an offhand mention that it would be a Shame If Something Happened to the kidnapped and their loved ones should they fail to cooperate. After learning what they wanted to know or saying what they wanted to say, the victim's captors may simply dump them out in the middle of the road and speed away.

This doesn't have to be a van, but not many other vehicles combine the same degree of interior space and outward anonymity. The number of goons can also vary, though it's difficult for one person to do this when they also have to drive the van. While the victim is usually right out on the sidewalk, sometimes the kidnappers will enter or break into a building to grab their targets. A common variant is for kidnappers to ambush their target right by the exit of a building, possibly holding them at gunpoint or shocking them with Static Stun Guns, then briskly escorting them to a van waiting just outside, thus limiting their exposure.

Part of the trope is a certain Refuge in Audacity — people aren't expecting to be kidnapped in broad daylight in front of witnesses, the latter of which may be restrained, sedated, or even killed. The van provides the element of surprise and helps the kidnappers disappear after the attack but during the abduction, stealth tends to be a secondary concern to speed and taking the target and any protection they may have off guard.

Common among Human Traffickers and the Secret Police. Compare and contrast Van in Black for suspicious vans in general, Spies In a Van for when the viewpoint is that of the police surveillance or espionage team inside the van, or Punk in the Trunk for less spacious kidnapping accommodations. May sometimes occur when dealing with a Creepy Stalker Van, though that typically involves a very different kind of kidnapper (usually a lone stalker or Serial Killer) who generally prefers to take their victims quietly and drag them back to the van after the fact, or else lure in kids with candy.


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  • A commercial for Volkswagen had a man walking to his new Passat when a van pulls up behind him, some men jump out, and they kidnap him. A few seconds later, they return and drop him off. The announcer then says "The new Passat. It only looks expensive."

    Anime & Manga 
  • In GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Miki is being harassed on the street when a guy in a van pulls up and scares them off. He offers her a ride, and she gets in, only to find out that he's a kidnapper who's abducted several girls off the streets already for a child pornography ring.
  • Played for Laughs in the live-action trailer of Pop Team Epic anime, in which a foreign guy is interviewed about anime and his tastes on it, with giant corporeals of Popuko and Pipimi watches him inside a white van behind him, and later outside the van and behind him. In the end, when he's asked for the anime of the season he would like to watch, the guy answers "Basilisk". After that, both Popuko and Pipimi kidnap the guy, crowding him back into the van as he calls out for help.
  • This happened to Rinne during a flashback in ViVid Strike!, when she was kidnapped by a group of men led by the older brother of one of the bullies she had assaulted. This was also how she first met her mentor Jill, who happened to be nearby and chased the car down on foot.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Child Catcher lures Jeremy and Jemima out of hiding with the promise of sweets, directs them into his trap which is a horse-drawn wagon disguised as a candy stand, locks them inside and drives away with them, and imprisons them with the rest of the children of Vulgaria, who have all been kidnapped as well.
  • In The Dark Tower (2017), while the Man in Black traps Roland in a standoff, his Mooks pull up in a van outside and drag Jake away as he tries to flee the scene.
  • Occurs at the beginning of Get Out (2017) as a black man is stuffed into a car after getting lost in a suburban neighborhood. He later appears as a brainwashed victim of Chris' prospective in-laws, having had his mind almost totally replaced with that of an old white woman's husband.
  • Wyatt Frame from Josie and the Pussycats discovers a cynical girl in the record store that seems immune to Mega Records' brainwashing. Wyatt none-too-subtly intones "Smells like teen spirit" into his jacket sleeve. Moments later, an overhead door flies open, the cynical girl gets grabbed by nameless mooks and tossed into a waiting van, and is then driven away. She's never seen or heard from again in the film.
  • Played for Laughs in Old School. Frank is going around gathering old alumni from his school, in most cases just telling them to get into the van. In one person's case, Frank rolls up and abducts the man right in front of his wife as they are carrying groceries out to their car at a market. Frank threatens the terrified wife that he will kill her if she says anything about the abduction, but immediately drops the act and reassures her that her husband will be home in time for dinner.
  • A variant shows up in The Siege. A man suspected of being part of a terrorist ring is running from two FBI agents and seems to have gotten away when suddenly a van with an open sliding door drives up right next to the suspect, and what had seemed to be an Innocent Bystander on the street shoves the suspect into the van through the open door and then jumps into the van as well just before it speeds away. Although shocked at seeing the guy they were chasing kidnapped by unknown people, at least one of the agents can't help but admire the skill with which it was done.
    Frank Haddad: You gotta love that move.
  • In Spy Game, there's a brief few-second clip showing Elizabeth as the victim of one of these by the Chinese, who want her for bombing their embassy in the UK. It comes as Muir explains to his superiors it was he who sold her out to them, ostensibly in exchange for the release of an American agent but also to remove her as a distraction from his protege Bishop. Her capture prompts Bishop to go after her, resulting in his own capture and setting off the present-day plot of the movie with the CIA calling Muir (ostensibly) for advice.
  • In the film adaptation of Thank You for Smoking, Nick Naylor is grabbed and stuffed in the back of a van by masked men who turn out to be anti-tobacco lobbyists. They cover him in nicotine patches with the intent of inflicting a Karmic Death by overdose — which Nick miraculously survives through the tolerance built up during a lifetime of smoking.
  • In The Candy Snatchers, the titular kidnappers drag Candy into a white and blue van with curtained windows while she's walking home from school.
  • The Day of the Jackal: With the French Action Service desperate for answers as to what the OAS is planning and why their leaders are holed up in a hotel in Rome, General Colbert orders for their bagman Viktor Wolenski to be captured and extracted to France in secret so he can be interrogated. Some Action Service grunts on a milk run knock Wolenski out as he's walking to the post office to pick up mail, roll him up in a rug, and toss him in the back of a panel truck that then drives him to an airfield.
  • In When the Bough Breaks (1994), a girl out walking her dog is lured into an ice cream van by a sign telling her to help herself and leave money in the jar. While she's looking at the selection, the killer comes up behind her and grabs her. He drives off with her in the ice cream van, leaving her dog by the side of the road.

  • ByAnyOtherName: Katya's kidnappers used to drive up and down the lane in a white car with a rear spoiler about ten times a day. Katie noticed it, but Holly didn't think much about it, until one night when the drivers stopped at Katya's house and abducted her. Months later, one of the kidnappers and some other goons grab Katie from her special school in a work van and use her as bait to trap Holly.
  • In Flawed, Celestine is invited to what she thinks is a party, only to get ambushed and tossed in a car, complete with a Bag of Kidnapping.
  • Older than the internal combustion engine: In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Red Circle", the client's husband is kidnapped in this fashion by a horse-drawn cab, but is released when the kidnappers realize they've got the wrong man.
  • From the Whateley Universe, in the first Ayla story, when she gets kidnapped:
    Ayla: What I do know is that Dr. Hammond stepped out from behind a partition and drugged me again. This time I got a needle in the neck, and I was wobbly in a matter of seconds. Hammond and Uncle Theo and Andrews picked me up, while I just got more and more dazed. They whisked me out of the room while Dad's bodyguards restrained Gracie and Janet. Of course, Gracie and Janet were totally outnumbered and didn't have a chance. The only one who had a chance was me, and I passed out before I was in the back of that black van they were moving me into...

    Live-Action TV 
  • In CSI: Miami, Ryan's car is tampered with so that he's forced to pull over to the side of the road. A van then pulls up next to him and a man comes out to knock him unconscious with a Tap on the Head. Despite it happening on a busy road while the sun's out, no-one seems to pay attention to what's happening. After Ryan spends a night being tortured and blackmailed into working for the men, the van then pulls up to his apartment and dumps him outside of it.
  • The first episode of Daredevil (2015) ends with a little boy being pulled from his father's car and dragged off by the Russians. Getting him back kicks off the plot of the second episode.
  • The Doom Patrol (2019) episode "Frances Patrol" ends with agents the Bureau of Normalcy knocking out Cyborg with an elbow-mounted Hypno Ray and trying to do the same to Jane. Properly Paranoid after all the times she's been dragged back to the sanatorium (in vans), she punches the man and breaks his hand, but he still ends up getting away, climbing into the back of an unmarked grey van — with Cyborg already inside.
  • The Hardy Boys sees this happen a couple of times:
    • The penultimate episode of the first season ends with Stacy and her Co-Dragons subduing Callie and pulling her into their van. The start of the next episode, the season finale, shows Stacy using Callie as a Hostage for MacGuffin against the Hardys, especially Frank, in exchange for their piece of the Eye.
    • The Hardy Boys themselves experience this in "Heading for Destruction", the midpoint of Season 2. The rogue Stratemeyer Global agents, having learned that the boys have the Eye or at least know where it is, lie in wait for them when they come to visit JB, corner them with the dark blue van that Joe was suspicious of earlier, put bags over their heads, and force both of them into the van, taking them back to their lair for interrogation.
  • On House of Cards (US), political "fixer" Doug Stamper is assigned the task of cleaning up the Rachael Posner loose end. He resolves the issue by kidnapping her in a van, driving her out into the middle of nowhere, and murdering her.
  • On Lucifer (2016), one Body of the Week is dragged into a van by kidnappers before his death. This horrifies the kidnappers, who turn out to be paid pranksters who make a business out of staging abductions and didn't know that their client had been killed afterwards. Lucifer himself pays to be "kidnapped" in this way so he can talk to the employees.
  • The villains of the Midnight Caller episode "With Malice Towards One" drive a windowless blue van. They use it to kidnap Billy and beat him almost to death, and later to try to run Jack down.
  • NCIS:
    • The episode "Blowback" starts with a guy getting kidnapped this Tony and Ziva, as the guy in question not only sold weapons to terrorists but also works with Arms Dealer La Grenouille, whom NCIS is currently after.
    • "Gone" starts with a teenage girl being kidnapped by Human Traffickers who also kill the naval officer who tries to save her.
  • In an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, a young girl is kidnapped this way. Subverted when it's revealed that it was part of an op set up by the OSP; the girl is perfectly safe with the agents.
  • On the NCIS: New Orleans episode "Tick Tock", Pride is out jogging when he's nabbed by masked men in broad daylight, who turns out to be contractors working for Apollyon, a private intelligence unit contracted by anyone who can afford their services.
  • Starsky & Hutch:
    • In "Bloodbath," Starsky is kidnapped by cultists in a black van with curtained windows, right when he's about to testify against their leader.
    • In "The Psychic," three men kidnap a teenage girl in a blue van. They have no intention of giving her back even if they get the money, so they abandon her in another van in a junkyard.
  • In the Here Come the Brides episode "The Crimpers," the titular kidnappers abduct Jeremy in a horse-drawn wagon. Joshua sees them loading Jeremy into the wagon and tries to fight them, but they knock him out and place him in the wagon next to Jeremy.
  • Played for Laughs in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Will Smith decides to move back to Philadelphia. In order to preserve the show, NBC sends two execs to throw Will into a van and take him back to Bel Air.
  • Used several times on Walker, Texas Ranger, usually when the villains and their mooks have their own vehicles, but on some occasions, they end up stealing one (most prominently, an ambulance in Season 9's "Faith").

  • The video for Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" focuses on missing youths. During the second verse, a teen prostitute is picked up by a creepy-looking old man in his car. A bit later, she's shown being thrown into the back of a van by several men, one of whom gets in with her. She's then shown being loaded into an ambulance with blood on her face.
  • Happens to the titular prostitute in the video for "Maxine" by Sharon O'Neill.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Kurt Angle was framed John "Bradshaw" Layfield, whose gimmick at the time was riding to ringside in limousines, with such a kidnapping of Joy Giovanni, who was feuding with JBL's secretary Amy Webber, in an attempt to direct Giovanni's self-appointed bodyguard The Big Show at JBL.
  • Samoa Joe was the subject of a "kidnapped by ninjas" meme after failing to fight off a surprise attack in the parking lot by multiple masked, hooded assailants and shoved into the back of a white van that quickly sped away on a 2010 episode of TNA Impact. What ingrained this incident fan lore more than say, the Van in Black angle running around the same time in CMLL, is that no one seemed to recognize the significance of a very public kidnapping captured on camera and broadcast nationwide. Joe's associate Tazz mentioned that Joe wasn't returning his calls but couldn't seem to put two and two together. As far as Samoa Joe is concerned, the angle never happened. That goes for fans and fellow wrestlers.

  • Played for Laughs in Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues. Hyeon finds Benedict outside of the high school and suspects that the police are looking for him since he didn't return home the previous night. Hyeon tries to get them away from the school, but then Benedict's hyper-intelligence power causes him to start freaking out. Nadine then comes across the duo, so Hyeon in a panic tells her to grab Benedict and help him get the boy to his car trunk. Benedict does recover his senses in time to go in the back seat instead, however.

    Tabletop Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • At the beginning of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, ordinary schoolgirl Kaede Akamatsu wakes up in an odd classroom and recounts that she was walking to school as usual when someone shoved her in a van. She screamed for help, but everyone around her ignored her, reinforcing her beliefs about how rotten the world is. This plotline is abruptly dropped upon Kaede regaining her Ultimate Pianist talent, only to come back in chapter 6 when it turns out her initial personality may have been the real one.
  • Subverted in Double Homework. The protagonist thinks he might be seeing Amy getting kidnapped when she sees a couple of men picking her up and putting her in a van. He even calls the cops just in case, but without much to go on, they canít really investigate it. However, when he goes to Amyís studio later just to check up on her, he finds her there. Itís only later that the real purpose of the men putting Amy into the van can be inferred: theyíre Amyís royal bodyguards.

    Web Videos 
  • Alantutorial: When Alan posts a video of him bloody and inside a truck, it's made clear he'd been kidnapped, a situation that continues for all episodes afterward.
  • Backwards Songs With Luke: When captured by The Illuminati, Luke ends up in a dark van.


Party in the CIA

Agent Al gets thrown in a van by kidnappers.

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Main / VehicularKidnapping

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