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The two cars are chasing through a run down light industrial area. There is a large pile of empty cardboard boxes, usually at a corner. Either the first car misses them and the second careens into them scattering the boxes over the set or the first strikes a glancing blow, sufficient to scatter the boxes into the path of the second car.
In a foot chase, a variation of the latter case happens often; the one in front will deliberately knock down such a pile as he passes, in order to delay his pursuers.
Sometimes the boxes are strictly for show; the first car will send half of them tumbling every which way, and the second car will take care of the rest.
In rare cases, can be used to hide from pursuers.
- Deconstructively parodied in an issue of Spawn, in which a cop car blasts through a pile of boxes...which had a homeless man sleeping under them.
- Jackie Chan film Armour Of God has a truckload of boxes conveniently placed for the car to land after a double highway overpass ramp jump.
- Spoofed by The Comic Strip Presents in this scene in which "The Bullshitters" keep looking for cardboard boxes to drive through during their car chase.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 subject Future War is infamous for its fight scenes with huge stacks of boxes as far as the eye can see, which are all clearly empty.
- Subverted in an episode of Ashes to Ashes. Gene and Alex are on their way to a crime scene and come across an archway filled with stacked cardboard boxes. Alex quips "I know how this goes" and fully expects Gene to drive through them... and Gene simply sets the car in reverse and grumbles that he's gonna have to go around them.
- Parodied in Father Ted. Dougal is forced to drive a milk float that will explode if it drops below 4 miles per hour, and panics when he sees a stack of boxes at the end of the road. As he trundles slowly towards them, Ted re-stacks them on the opposite side of the road. After Dougal passes the boxes, Ted drives his car straight through the stack.
- Spoofed in Funky Squad, an Australian parody of 70's cop shows.
- In Power Rangers, going through boxes can touch off minor explosions that send sparks everywhere. The whole world is Made of Explodium.
- Starsky and Hutch itself was infamous enough for this to spawn the above examples.
"How about that alley?"
"No, there's no boxes down that one. No, go down that one."
They go down another alley, no boxes. What are they going to do?
"Right, stop the car, get some boxes out of the boot, set them up, drive around the block..."
- Used in the Top Gear second hand police cars challenge, where Hammond is awarded points for flamboyant driving by crashing through a pile of gratuitous cardboard boxes slightly off the edge of the track.
- An earlier newspaper article by Jeremy Clarkson codified the trope:
Clarkson: A car crashing through an explosion is great cinema. A car crashing through some cardboard boxes is great television. A car coasting to a stop for no reason means they've run out of budget on The Bill.
- From an Angry Beavers episode which parodied Starsky and Hutch: "Quick, they're headed for the cardboard box district!". In fact, cardboard boxes were a running gag in the episode.
- Played straight in the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Backfire". Also played straight with the Fruit Cart, as the car that Dexter has accidentally started driving crashes through them both one after the other.
- Lampshaded in The Simpsons, when the cops are taking Bart for a day on the job. While they are explaining that it's not the action-oriented job Hollywood takes it to be, they are interrupted by a heist and immediately start a high-speed chase through an alley full of cardboard boxes. As their car sends them scattering everywhere, one of the cops nonchalantly exclaims "damn boxes".