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Gentlemen, I trust you will remember this as the day that you almost caught --
Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

A Sub-Trope of No Escape but Down.

It's a classic scene: after a prolonged battle the hero finally has the stylish villain cornered atop a high tower. The hero's reinforcements are finally arriving and the villain know that even if he defeats the hero, his schemes are thwarted. Rather than surrender, the villain salutes the hero, says "You win this round, but We Will Meet Again" and then leaps out of a window into a convenient lake or moat and swims away, as the hero considers going after him but decides against it.

To qualify as a Prisoner of Zenda Exit, a Worthy Opponent (usually a stylish villain or rougish hero) should be facing certain capture or death but instead escape by leaping from a high place into water, thus living to fight another day.

This is Rupert of Hentzau's exit in The Prisoner of Zenda, and has been repeated countless times in homages.

When a villain goes out with guns blazing rather than be apprehended, it's Better to Die Than Be Killed.

Examples of Prisoner of Zenda Exit include:

Anime and Manga

  • Shingetsutan Tsukihime: After knocking about most of the cast with ease, the Big Bad inexplicably declares "We Will Meet Again" and falls backwards off a bridge while laughing madly.
  • Anti-Villain example doing this against Villains in the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime. Greed is cornered by Envy and Sloth, and declaring that he wouldn't be stupid enough to fight two homonculi at once, jumps to a convenient boat below carrying his minions.
  • Sync in the Tales of the Abyss anime after his mask breaks.

Comic Books

  • Jon Sable does it Jon Sable Freelance #49 in a story that was an Homage to The Prisoner of Zenda. Jon claims the opportunity to make this kind of exit is irresistible, and chooses to leap from a tower window into the moat rather than stick around and explain to the authorities what was going on.
  • Comics example: in The DCU, Batman foe Michael Baffle (who was intended to be a recurring character but was never brought back) escapes Batman this way after a fencing duel in Detective Comics #63. He leaps off the roof a castle (transported stone by stone from Europe and reassembled in Gotham City) into a nearby lake.
  • Armando does it to escape from Trebaldi's castle in Le Scorpion. He dives from Trebaldi's clifftop castle into the river at the base of the cliff with an unconscious Mejai slung over his back.
  • In IDW's G.I. Joe, Major Bludd does this this to escape the Baroness after his attempted coup is uncovered; plunging off a cliff into the ocean. The pursuing Cobra troops search for him but cannot find him.


  • Justine de Winter in the film The Return of the Musketeers. She dives out of the castle window into a lake and is last seen swimming away. Raoul starts to follow her but is stopped by D'Artangan.

 "Do you really want to go after her, boy? Because - by God - I don't!"

  • Parodied in the film The Great Race, as part of an extended, almost scene-by-scene parody of The Prisoner of Zenda. The Great Leslie is dueling with Baron von Stuppe. When the Baron realizes that Leslie is the superior swordsman, he breaks off the fight and quips "He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day", adds a We Will Meet Again, mentions he has a boat waiting for him, and jumps out the window. Unfortunately the boat is right under the window, and the Baron smashes through the boat and sinks it.
  • Jack Sparrow's escape from his execution when he trips and falls from the fort into the ocean in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. However, he was almost certainly planning to dive before he fell. Norrington even decides to give him a day's headstart before he'll chase him
    • Subverted in Dead Man's Chest when he is hit by a tidal wave, interrupting his dramatic exit.
  • Although not at the climax of the film, Prince Septimus escapes from Captain Shakespeare's ship this way in Stardust. The window isn't open at the time, which just screams of a missed chance to awesomely subvert the trope by having the guy bleeding horribly after - but no, Super Window Jump was in full effect.
  • Used in Don the Chase Begins Again.
  • Milady does this in The Three Musketeers 2011; preferring to leap from the airship into the English Channel rather than be shot.
  • In Solomon Kane, Kane escapes from the Devil's Reaper by diving through a stained glass window into the ocean below.


  • The originator was Rupert of Hentzau in the novel The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, and its various film versions; Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. being the most stylish.
    • The original novel actually didn't play it quite straight: Rupert of Hentzau has his glorious 'this was the day you almost caught me' on the bridge, before diving into the moat, but the hero chases him, and thus his actual exit from the novel is with a cheek wound from the hero, having stolen a horse from a peasant girl, still dashing, but hardly the stylish exit of the nobleman. He rides off laughing like a maniac though, so props for that.
    • The revisit with time travellers version The Zenda Vendetta grants Rupert the chance to make this kind of exit at the end.
  • Parodied in George Macdonald Fraser's novel The Pyrates, where the Anti-Hero tries to escape from a husband he was cuckolding and that guys goons (he has also cheated them at cards) and he ends up tripping when trying to do this and gets beaten to a pulp by them.
    • Fraser does play this straight though in one of Flashman novels where Flashman catches his wife with Lord Cardigan and Cardigan does this, making Flashman think the latter at least deserves some credit for panache.
      • How much panache? Well, when Flashman entered his wife was naked from the waist up and Cardigan was naked from the waist down. Cardigan still manages a dignified exit.
  • Big Bad Caiboche does this in the Young Bond short story "A Hard Man to Kill", leaping from the smoking deck of the ocean liner Colombie into the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone thinks he has leapt to his death but there was a submarine waiting to pick him up.
  • Baldanders does it in Book of the New Sun.
  • The Marquis does this in Scaramouche, disappearing without a trace.

Live Action TV

  • Count Grendel in the Doctor Who story (and Zenda homage) "The Androids of Tara", leaping from the castle wall into the moat.

 Grendel: Next time, I shall not be so lenient!

Video Games

 "Well, there's no sense in my lingering around here. I believe I shall return to London and have myself a spot of tea. Well then, ta-ta, everyone! If you survive, I hope you'll come and pay me a visit there someday! Bwahahahaha--(gets konked on the head with a piece of stray debris) D'oh!

  • Genesis after your first fight against him proper in Crisis Core.
  • Subverted in Nehrim: Barateon, the Big Bad of the first section of the story, is chased by the hero up a tower and jumps after waving the player so long and taunting them only hit to hit a spike on the way down.

Western Animation

  • Carmen Sandiego, Once an Episode in Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?. Sometimes more than once.
    • In the theme song, she jumps off the Statue of Liberty to escape Zack and Ivy... then flies away using a jetpack.
  • Played straight (as straight as The Simpsons play any trope) in the action-packed spinoff "Wiggum, P.I.", when Big Daddy jumps out the the window of the (stolen) Governor's Mansion into the bayou:

 Skinner: He's gradually getting away, Chief.

Wiggum: Ah, let him go. I have the feeling we'll meet again, each and every week. Always in more sexy and exciting ways.

  • The Great and Powerful Trixie left with a bang in one episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic.
    • More a subversion; she definitely was going for this.
  • Syndrome attempts a variation of this at the end of The Incredibles. It doesn't work, mostly because the hero isn't in the mood to just let him get away.
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