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Q: Did Londo's men weaken the chains after all, or was G'Kar just really determined?

A: That was one determined Narn.
—JMS talking to fans about Babylon 5.

Heroes showing off their power -- literally or symbolically -- by busting out of chains, ropes, or similar restraints. Sometimes it involves the "flex my pecs to bust these bindings" thing, or it can be "I'm so pissed off, it's like my handcuffs are made of lead." Whichever the case, Heroic Resolve or Unstoppable Rage is usually at work.

If it turns out that the prisoner could have busted out any time, he's a Play-Along Prisoner. If he already has, and is only pretending to be still restrained, he's Slipped the Ropes.

See also With My Hands Tied, Chained to a Rock, and Chained by Fashion. If a chair is involved, we might have a Bench Breaker.

Examples of Breaking the Bonds include:


Anime and Manga

  • Chapter/Episode 1 of Bleach, where Ichigo dramatically bursts out of a paralyzing spell, demonstrating his immense spiritual power.
  • Kamina does a rather casual one in the first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Lordgenome does one in the 15th, where he makes Lazengann break free of the Gurren Lagann's shades after the failed Giga Drill Breaker.
  • Subverted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, where Fate cuts through her bonds only to have Jail entangle her with new energy threads.
  • In Ranma One Half, in order to stop Ranma from trying out for the role of Romeo, Happosai covered him in chains, encased him in concrete, and buried him in the yard. Later, Ranma very casually jump-kicked Happosai and shrugged off his bindings.
    • In a much more serious, straight application of the trope, Akane ripped through the pantyhose binding her arms and wrists with sheer brute force (no mean feat, since she was wrapped up in so much pantyhose it was several inches thick, and her wrists were tied behind her back in a similar fashion.)
    • Akane is rather effective at this. When captured by Principal Kuno and suspended high above the ground in a Crucified Hero Shot (with brooms in lieu of a cross,) she easily snapped in half the broomstick binding her arms and used the rope to swing-kick the Principal.
    • Another time, after turning into Sickeningly Sweethearts because of love mushrooms, Ranma and Akane get wrapped up in chains by Mousse, then easily break out.

 Ranma: Babe.

Akane: Hon'.

Chain breakage.

  • GaoGaiGar rips apart a net EI-14 trapped him in. "You think you'll defeat GaoGaiGar with things like this?"
  • No Unstoppable Rage or Heroic Resolve, but the androids in Dragonball Z do this with handcuffs to scare the cops.
  • Played for laughs in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (Now there's a phrase you don't hear often). When Rena decides she's taking something home, there's truly no stopping her.
  • Rurouni Kenshin broke out of hypnosis-induced paralysis on one occasion, and his most awesome He's Back moment is predicated by him snapping the chains he's bound around his sword. (Long story.)
    • Heck, even Sano and Kaoru managed the "breaking out of hypnosis-induced paralysis" part.
    • Sanosuke also exploded the front of his prison cell when he got annoyed at someone. Yes, exploded it. With his fist.
  • In the Black Rock Shooter OVA, Black Rock Shooter is bound in chains by Dead Master, but breaks out of them so she can hug Dead Master into submission
  • During the Water Seven arc of One Piece, Paulie and Luffy are pinned to the floor by Paulie's co-workers who are actually top secret government agents instructed to find the blueprints for an astronomically powerful ancient super weapon. Enraged by his co-workers' betrayal, Paulie strikes a pact with Luffy to team up and kick their asses. Cue epic chain breaking induced by way of raw, herculean strength.
  • Gunslinger Girl. Cyborg girl Triela breaks the handcuffs of Mario Bossi after she rescues him from being "taken for a ride" by his former Mafia acquaintances.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. JACK ATLAS did this twice in the series, with minimal effort. There is a reason why fans consider him the Yu-Gi-Oh version of Chuck Norris.
  • Naruto has Kisame tearing apart the thick wooden stock he was held in after freeing himself from a Mind Probe by biting his own tongue.
  • In an early episode of Gundam Wing, Heero brute-forces one hand out of some hospital restraints -- in spite of the fact that it turns his wrist into a bloody mess.
  • When the main group of Hatenkou Yuugi get arrested, Alzeid breaks his cuffs as if they were made of paper.


Comic Books

 The Punisher: You have got to be fucking kidding me.

  • In Asterix and the Goths, after the Gothic chief Metric is deposed by Rhetoric with the aid of the Gauls' magic potion, he is visited in the dungeon by Getafix, who offers him a dose of the magic potion so he can take revenge on Rhetoric. After Metric takes a drink, he bursts out of his chains, and Asterix quips, "He's got a free hand now!" (The original French edition relied on the double meaning of "déchaîné"; the English pun arguably doesn't warrant Obelix laughing over it for the rest of the book once he gets it.)
    • And in Asterix and the Banquet, Asterix and Obelix want to be captured by the Romans, but keep breaking their chains without thinking (at one point Asterix breaks through his chains to help the Romans tie up Obelix, because it's all taking too long). The Romans eventually decide to put them in the cart without chaining them up.
  • In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Soapy Slick chains Scrooge to the chimneys of a steamboat and pushes him into Roaring Rampage of Revenge mode. Scrooge doesn't just break the chains, he breaks the ship.
    • Note that the entire sequence is not as shown as alluded. The destruction of the ship shown only outside the ship (in sepia colors, no less) without actually showing Scrooge doing anything. Meanwhile the narrator gives increasingly ridiculous alternate explanations to events as they are shown as opposed to the extreme unlikelihood of Scrooge suddenly going Super Saiyan in a relatively realistic setting. In the end the narration comes to the conclusion that there is no knowing what really happened that day except that it was epic enough to spread through the North within months and turn Scrooge into a stuff of legends.
    • Inverted in many cases when Huey, Dewey and Louie are captured: They keep their lungs full of air in a false act of bravado while they're being bound, and then breathe out to loosen the ropes.


Fan Works

  • Paul does this in the New Zork chapter of With Strings Attached, when a cop puts “neut cuffs” on him that supposedly neutralize his strength. Only they don't.

  “Youse broke the neut cuffs?!” the cop shouted, his voice jumping an octave on the last two words. “Youse broke the neut cuffs!”


Film - Animated


Film

  • King Kong, folks.
  • Morpheus in The Matrix breaks through his handcuffs despite Agent Smith's best efforts to break him when Neo arrives to rescue him.
  • Forrest Gump: Three words: "Run, Forrest, run!"
  • The Boondock Saints features a variant on this trope: When Connor is handcuffed to the toilet by a Russian mobster bent on putting a bullet in his brother, he rips the toilet right out of the floor, carries it up to the fire escape, and then drops it right on the head of the mobster, killing him instantly.
  • True Lies:

 Harry Tasker: First I'm gonna use you as a human shield, then I gonna kill this guard over there, with the Patterson trocar on the table. Then I was thinking about breaking your neck.

Samir: And how are you going to do all that?

Harry: You know my handcuffs?

Samir: Hmm...

Harry: [hold his hands up] I picked them.

    • This scene is more hilarious when you realize Harry has been pumped full of Truth Serum. And that despite having just told everyone in the room what he was going to do, he still succeeds in doing exactly that.
  • The Charlie's Angels movie has a variation: Drew Barrymore is tied to a chair. First she releases her feet, and then she breaks the chair on the mooks - but her hands keep on tied the whole scene.
  • Marv in Sin City does this. Angry prostitutes think he killed Goldie, so they tied him up and are interrogating him. He calmly explains that he's trying to find Goldie's killer. Once they understand, he calmly busts out of the ropes, much to the chagrin of the bondage expert.
    • The reason he LET THEM slap him around rather than escape a while ago? They wouldn't just let him leave, and he Wouldn't Hit a Girl.
  • Chun Li does it in the live-action movie adaptation of Street Fighter, Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in Total Recall breaks through metal shackles... twice.
  • Steve Reeves in Hercules: Not only did he burst out of the chains, he then used them as bullwhips to kick serious ass.
  • In the movie Innocent Blood, Marie has her lover handcuff her so he'll feel safe while making love to her. Afterward she casually breaks the cuffs, showing that he wasn't really that safe. Justified in that she's actually a vampire.
  • The Brainwashed Jason and Kimberly in the Power Rangers Turbo movie.
  • Sloth does this in The Goonies to retrieve a candybar that was thrown to him but fell out of reach. Chunk reacts with awe: "Jeeze, mister. You're even hungrier than I am!"
  • Parodied/subverted in Pineapple Express. After the heroes tie Red to a wheelchair with duct tape (and doing a very sloppy job of it), he tries to do this and fails.
  • In Kull The Conqueror, the bad guys taunt Kull and claim that his bonds are unbreakable, so he simply pulls so hard that the railing that he is tied to breaks.
  • In a Dream Sequence in The Return of Hanuman, Maruti is tied by chains looking at food while his mother doesn't allow him to eat. Being so hungry, Maruti breaks the chains.
  • In a moment of Heroic Resolve in UHF:

 Stanley Spadowski: MY MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!

  • Federico Fellini's strongman protagonist in La Strada does this for his grand finale.


Literature

 "You have the gall," Qorn stormed, "to stand here in the center of Qornt Hall--uninvited, at that--and in chains--"

"Oh, these," Retief said. He tensed his arms; the soft aluminum links stretched, broke. He shook the light metal free. "We diplomats like to go along with colorful local customs...."

  • In Harrison Bergeron when Harrison tears off his handicaps, straps "guaranteed to support 5000 pounds"
  • In Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny, the hero is Strapped to An Operating Table with his powers deactivated. He manages to break one hand free--which is enough to freak out the villains--before help arrives.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Arno Blunt apparently "ripped those handcuffs apart as though they were links in a paper chain."
  • Discworld:
    • Subverted in Thud, when the Watch get captured by dwarfs, Detritus the troll makes a point of not breaking his chains, even though Vimes notices they're so crappy a human could break them.
    • In Unseen Academicals, Mr Nutt chains himself up after learning he's an orc. When various "ordinary people" appear not to care about this, he is touched that they do not see him as a monster and stands up, casually smashing the chains in the process. Everyone flees.
  • In Codex Alera, Kitai shatters a chair she is tied to.


Live Action TV

  • In Babylon 5, G'Kar breaks out of his bonds when paraded before Emperor Cartagia. The conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor had arranged for him to be given weak chains, so that he can break them and create a distraction at the right time. Then the chains are replaced with strong ones, and he breaks them anyway.
  • In the Heroes episode "Run!", Jessica is implied to break free from handcuffs purely by her own strength.
    • Peter breaks out of his bonds using Super Strength in "A Clear And Present Danger"
  • Captain Jack Harkness does this after he's been captured by the Master in the Doctor Who episode Last of the Time Lords.
    • Rather funny in that, in spite of his heroic efforts, he is immediately shot dead. Considering that it's been a year since the viewer last saw him, and that there's no particular reason for his suddenly bursting his bonds, one can imagine it's happened to him a few times already.
    • Not a hero, but this is the first thing the Dalek in Dalek does after tricking Rose into touching it.
  • During the big showdown between Faith and Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy handcuffs them together. Faith then breaks the cuffs. Interestingly, a few episodes earlier when they were both arrested, they knocked out a cop and stole his keys to unlock their handcuffs, instead of breaking them.
  • Battlestar Galactica. Leoben breaks his cuffs and gets the drop on Kara Thrace simply to show he can during his interrogation. Cylon prisoners after this episode are always excessively chained and restraint-collared.
  • The X-Files ("Revelations"). A religious fanatic escapes from Scully and Mulder by diving out a window, then breaking his handcuffs after he hits the ground.
  • Cops "I can break these cuffs!" "You can't break those cuffs." He doesn't.
  • An episode of Burn Notice has Michael doing this with handcuffs. They had been specifically rigged to allow this, though.
    • Another episode has Simon breaking through his handcuffs after hinting that he'd been working at them long enough to damage their structural integrity.
  • Eliot does this in the second season finale of Leverage. However, considering that he's the show's Lightning Bruiser and the cuffs were of the plasti-cuff variety, rather than metal cuffs, it's not surprising.
    • Word of God says that their research showed that with plastic ties, this is possible given the right training and skills.
  • Happens often in Smallville.
    • "Supergirl" had Lois Lane put Gordon Godfrey in shackles, but he casually breaks them, and explains that he's being possessed by Darkseid and thus has his strength.
    • "Isis" had the titular goddess tie Clark Kent up with magical ropes he was unable to break. He escapes by breaking the table he was tied to and untangling himself.
    • "Abandoned" had Clark chained to a chair next to a furnace with kryptonite flames and savagely tortured by Granny Goodness and the Female Furies. He uses his Super Breath to freeze a chain and make a lead sheet fall on and smother the furnace. Once the kryptonite flame is out, he instantly regains his strength and breaks free.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: In the final battle against Globbor, after the spell darkening the sky is broken Ninjor breaks free of his chains (as well as the Synchronization link to Globbor) and grows to giant size to aid the Megazords.


Music


Music Videos


Religion and Mythology

  • In a Greek legend told by Aristoxenos (4th century BCE), Pythias was convicted of conspiring against the tyrant. Damon volunteered to take Pythias's place so that Pythias could make arrangements for his family before his execution. Pythias made the arrangements and hurried back so that Damon would not be executed. Bandits captured him and left him tied to a tree. Pythias frees himself by Breaking the Bonds and arrives just in time to prevent Damon 's execution. (The tyrant was so impressed by the Power of Friendship that he pardoned Pythias.)
  • The ending of the story of Samson in The Bible (making this at least Older Than Feudalism).
  • Fenrir from Norse Mythology did this with every chain the Aesir used on him, except for the ribbon Gleipnir. It looked like any other ribbon, but was made from impossible things--the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the saliva of a bird. Therefore, it was unbreakable.
  • In one myth about Hercules, Hercules traveled to Egypt, where the Pharaoh captured him and was going to sacrifice him to the Egyptian gods. However, Hercules broke the chains binding him to the altar, scared the Pharaoh into hiding, and escaped.


Tabletop Games

  • GURPS always lists the ST needed to break bonds. The Ultra-Tech book also has a clever device for stopping people from trying this: razor-wire (or monofilament) hidden inside resilient tape, when a person busts free it cuts his hands off.
  • Mutants and Masterminds also has rules for characters of a sufficient strength breaking through their bonds automatically. At higher values of strength (or weak bonds), it can even happen as a free action, effortlessly.
  • Hero System defines handcuffs and other restraints with the Entangle power, which has "use my Strength to break free" built into it.


Video Games

  • Metal Gear Solid 2, near the end, when Solid Snake breaks out of his handcuffs to chase after Metal Gear Ray - specifically stated by Hideo to symbolize him 'breaking free of his genetic heritage'. In story, it's justified that a one-in-a-million bullet hit them.
  • Done by Chris of all people in Sonic X who somehow manages to free himself of his restraints in the first series finale. It was probably a Power of Love thing.
  • Mega Man X's titular character, after Zero's Heroic Sacrifice to destroy Vile's Guard Armor, burst free of the paralyzing electro-chain in a heroic resurgence.
  • Ryu bites clean through his bonds in Breath of Fire 3. Probably justified, since he is a dragon...
  • In Quest for Glory II, a fighter character will eventually be invited to join the Eternal Order of Fighters after an initiation test that involves being completely unarmed and chained to a wall and told to break free in ten seconds. It is entirely possible to fail if the character's strength stat is too low, which will result in the character being bitch-slapped with a big-ass sword and thrown out.
  • In Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World Regal has since stopped wearing the Handy Cuffs he wore in the first game, but ends up in some again for unrelated reasons. After being properly proven innocent, the guards can't find the key, so he notes that the makers of these cuffs aren't known for being sturdy, breaks them, and recommends they buy some from his company next time.
  • In Fate Stay Night, Berserker, aka Hercules, have broke anti-divine chains (which supposed to bond him entireley) with his iron will. Manly man indeed.
  • In Geneforge 4, the player character is sent into Shaper Monarch's dungeons to rescue Khryk, a senior Shaper. The rescue is entirely unneeded, since Khryk could have broken himself free at any time, but chose to remain in captivity to learn Monarch's weaknesses and pass them on to you.
  • In Baldur's Gate Minsc getts to perform this task "The bars! They bend and twist with my berserker strength! Minsc and Boo are FREE!"
  • In a flashback in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, Ganondorf does this. Set for execution at the hands (or sword rather), of the sages, he breaks free from his chains (AFTER he is already stabbed in the stomach) and in one swift move kills one of the sages. Of course, he had the Triforce of Power on his side, so he did have some help.
  • In the last bit of the opening cutscene for a new game in Jak 2 Renegade, the title character displays his new Dark Eco powers by changing his skin and hair colour to white (and eyes to entirely black) and snapping his metal wrist restraints like daisy chains.
  • Even Noodle People like Mickey Mouse can muster the strength for this, as shown in Epic Mickey
  • You do this at the start of the Syndicate remake.


Webcomics

  • We don't see how Tip escapes from his bonds in the Skin Horse storyline "Dead Dogs"; all he says is "Please, like I've never been chained to a bed before."
  • Parodied in Schlock Mercenary. Food Service Commando Jud Shafter wrote in his memoirs that he broke free of his bonds after he realized they were only toilet paper. What he didn't mention was that it took him 15 minutes.
  • In The Specialists, when Question Mark offers to take them off as a gesture of good will, Hartmann demonstrates that he was the Play-Along Prisoner.


Web Original

  • In the Lonelygirl15 episode "What The Hell?!??!", Jonas appears to have broken free from some ropes of his own accord, but this turns out to be a slight subversion since it is revealed shortly afterwards that Daniel loosened the ropes for him.
  • Supergirl breaks her bonds in this fan video.


Western Animation

  • Jimmy Neutron's mom bursts free of ropes to save her son and husband from a robot copy of herself.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls, in the episode "Bubblevicious", Mojo Jojo zaps Bubbles with a laser, and she breaks free and promptly beats the living crap out of Mojo.
  • Thundarr the Barbarian Opening Narration: "But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice!" He was apparently forced into gladiatorial sports until he broke free of his chains and devoted his life to battling sorcerers.
  • Parodied in an early episode of The Tick. The Tick initially had the power to swell his muscles to twice their size by flexing (this was quickly forgotten). In the first encounter against Chairface Chip'nDale, the Tick attempted to use this to break free of his ropes, but had to stop because he would have killed Arthur and American Maid in the process. Instead he saved the day with his "Good Dental Hygiene".
  • On The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Penelope has been known to do this on a couple of occasions.
  • In the Pinky and The Brain episode "Welcome to the Jungle", the mice are tied up by Brain's archnemesis Snowball, who intends to burn them at the stake. Brain tells Pinky, who has been displaying a surprising prowess at surviving in the wilderness, to rip his way free of the ropes, but Pinky is too weak to do it. But when Snowball kicks Pinky off the platform and into quicksand, Brain suddenly goes into an Unstoppable Rage and rips the ropes off himself.
  • In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, one episode had Mega Man get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the evil scheme of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans, Mega Man let himself be handcuffed. Soon after his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs like they were nothing.
    • When he's captured by Wily, on the other hand, he's only able to loosen an arm. (Presumably, Wily has the foresight to use special manacles.)
  • During an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, the threat of Evil Clones popped up after Jackie's clone was found, so the rest of the J-team willingly strapped themselves to chairs for an interrogation. When an actual evil clone appears and Jackie is the only one free, Tohru and El Torro both burst out of their bindings, Viper slips out of her rope, and Captain Black... well, the poor guy tries to get out.


Real Life

  • Most handcuffs are rated to resist 495 lbs (about 2200 newtons) of force for 30 seconds. This is one of the reasons they are considered "temporary" restraining devices.
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