Clock Tower

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A giant timepiece, visible throughout its locale. Beloved of hunchbacks, of villains who need their capes to billow dramatically, and of snipers with poor tactical sense. Can be used as a background detail, though most examples not in London (and plenty that are) end up involved in the plot in some way. One may be used to increase the suspense in a Clock Tower Finale, act as the home or base for the main characters, or become the stage for a Fight Scene or Climbing Climax.

Scenes on a Clock Tower often include:

  • Characters nervously perching on the ledge invariably located above the clock face. For whatever reason, escaped parrots are also like to perch here. Odds are good somebody will fall, in which case...
  • A character grabs onto and hangs desperately from one of the clock hands. Bonus points for the movement of the hands being used for dramatic tension as they slowly tick into a position that would dump the hero off to his doom. Sometimes this effect is used by the villain as a deathtrap. Villains in this position may be saved by the hero in a Take My Hand moment.
  • If inside, there will be plenty of gears and other mechanisms, or at least a rope to ring the bell. Expect a stadium sized chamber full of spur gears the size of Volkswagens, on and about which the hero and villain will climb and clamber as they fight. When the gears are invariably jammed with an errant sword or wrench, expect the whole thing to tear itself apart as the designers conveniently forgot to include any sort of clutch, disconnect, or even an emergency "off" switch. Alternately, it might stop the clock on somebody about to be crushed, but only until the wrench breaks. (The mechanism inside real clock towers is often much smaller than in fiction. The workings of the Custom House Tower clock in Boston, for example, are about the size of a file cabinet; those of Big Ben, though weighing about five tonnes, cover the same sort of area as a large table.)

The Palace of Westminster Clock Tower shows up the most of any real tower; it is more often referred to as Big Ben, the nickname of its main bell (it has five).

This trope is extremely prevalent in Real Life. Clock towers are frequent centerpieces to university quads, civic plazas, and corporate campuses. Used mostly for aesthetic appeal in modern times. Please list only the famous ones under the Real Life section above.

Aka Cathedral Climax, a subtrope of Climbing Climax. If someone climbs up one of these with a weapon in real life, duck. See also For Doom the Bell Tolls.

Not to be confused with the video game series Clock Tower.
Examples of Clock Tower include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Sylvia was once tied to the hands of a clock tower in the Viewtiful Joe anime.
  • The clock tower in the city in Haibane Renmei (one of the main characters works there).
  • The Castleof Cagliostro: the final confrontation scene inside a clock tower is a rather famous one.
  • Chapter 3 of Ann Cassandra features a clock tower as both a crowning achievement for the man who built it and the site of an almost disaster.
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GoGo has one in which Syrup lives with Mailpo until episode 25, and Suite Pretty Cure has another as Siren and Trio the Minor's base.
  • In One Piece, during the arabasta arc the Big Bad Crocodile places a huge cannon that would have been used to kill practically everyone in the city in the clock tower overlooking the square.
  • Features prominently in Cardcaptor Sakura, most especially in the episode with the Time Card.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In DC Comics, Barbara Gordon (Batgirl, then Oracle) had her base in the Gotham clocktower for a while. The clock face was visible behind her computer, so presumably it wasn't a working clocktower.
    • Or else the original mechanic clockwork had simply been replaced with smaller electric machinery that would leave enough working space inside.
    • Oracle's clock tower base carried over to the Birds of Prey TV series.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In The Blue Blur of Termina, the Clock Tower serves as not only the central landmark of Clock Town, but also the main entrance to the rest of Termina from the Subterranean Forest.
  • Focan in With Strings Attached has a clock tower that chimes the weird time units of Ketafa. The four are so rattled when they first hear it that they dub it Gib Neb. Later, John and Ringo are taken up to see the view—it's the highest building in Focan by a lot—and the vista they see becomes significant to John not long afterwards.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Back to The Future. One, Two and Three.
    • And in all of them it's the same clock tower, just in different time periods.
  • In the film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Lemony Narrator hides out in a pretty fantastical-looking Steampunk clock tower, visible only in silhouette.
  • In the Prisoner of Azkaban movie there's a clock tower on the grounds of Hogwarts (unseen in the previous two movies), and there are a lot of meaningful shots focusing on it, time being an important plot point at the end in both the book and the movie.
  • In Chaplin's The Great Dictator there's a scene where Hynkel shows off an ornate clocktower to Napoloni and Napoloni claims that it's inaccurate.
  • Harold Lloyd's Safety Last has him dangling from a clockface on the side of a skyscraper, though that's not actually a clock tower as such.
  • The climactic fight scene of Shanghai Knights takes place on and in the clock tower incorrectly referred to as Big Ben, and includes a brief homage to Safety Last.
  • Speaking of homages to Safety Last, Jackie Chan payed another homage to that movie in his earlier movie Project A. In it, there's a fight sequence inside a clock tower and later a dangerous stunt involving him falling off the top of the clock tower.
  • The Hudsucker Proxy does this one from the inside.
  • The 1978 adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps features a scene where Richard Hannay has to climb on the face of 'Big Ben'
  • Orson Welles's 1946 film The Stranger culminates in the Welles's character being impaled by a clockwork figure in a clock tower.
  • In Hook, the pirate town is dominated by a clock tower constructed from the corpse of the giant crocodile that Captain Hook finally managed to kill. Figures into the climax when it's brought back to life...
  • The never-named Albert Clock in Carol Reed's Ulster Noir, Odd Man Out.
    • Used to connect the two points of view as the film makes its surreal way to the climax at midnight.
  • Dr. Ramzi in The Dead Pit conducted his experiments in the basement of the local mental hospital's clocktower.
  • Half of the climax of Cars 2 takes place inside Big Ben.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Garry Kilworth's Welkin Weasels: Gaslight Geezers features Maudlin and Scruff, the hero's sidekicks, crashing a hot air balloon into Ringing Roger, the Big Ben-analogue clocktower, below which just happens to be a statue of King Redfur holding a very sharp upward-pointing lance. They catch the hands of the clock. It's quarter-past-nine, Scruff catches the hour hand and Maudlin catches the minute hand:

"We'll be fine!"
"You might be. Your hand's going upwards. Mine's going down."

  • Not a clocktower, but the climax of Redwall takes place in the Abbey belltower.
  • Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists has a climactic scene in the Big Ben tower, where the evil Bishop "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce has hidden his diabolical device which sucks the youthful life-force out of young ladies. He also tied Charles Darwin's brother Erasmus between two of the clock's cogs, planning to leave him to be crushed if Darwin didn't cancel his lecture tour.
  • Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge novel A Long Shadow includes a suspenseful climb up the clocktower on the local church. It also inspires one of the series' very rare comic exchanges. The shell-shocked Rutledge is talking to Hamish, the dead soldier (really, the voice of his subconscious) he constantly hallucinates:

Hamish said, "I wouldna' care to climb that high."
"Then stay here."

  • Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged prominently features a calendar tower—a skyscraper with a giant projection screen that simply shows the current calendar day. In fact, the novel opens with a description of this structure. John Galt co-opts the projection equipment to add drama to his delivery of the long mid-book Author Filibuster.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • One episode of Monk had someone fall off a clock tower. Monk knew that she was murdered by a coworker, but couldn't work out how he could have done it when he was across the school with many witnesses at the time she fell. He bludgeoned her to death with a plank, then put her on one of the hands, knowing that she would fall when a certain amount of time had passed.
  • The final fight in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush" took place inside a clock tower.
  • The pilot of Moonlighting has Maddie and David climbing a clock tower.
  • Power Rangers Time Force had their 2001-era home and headquarters in an abandoned clocktower that the 2001-era Red Ranger just so happened to own. They must have found it thematically appropriate, given that they were time travelers.
  • In Psych, the season 4 episode "Mr Yin Presents" features Detective Juliet O'Hara dangling from a clock tower. She has been strapped into a chair that has been rigged to the hands of the clock face by the villain of the episode. When the appointed time arrived (6:30), the hands would cut the cable that was holding her up and drop her.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • One stands at the center of Clock Town in The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask. It's not only the entrance to Termina from Hyrule, it's also where the endgame takes place.
  • The Curse of Monkey Island, there is one on Plunder Island in Puerto Pollo.
  • The Parisian level in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. In the console version, the time corresponds to your system clock.
  • There's two clocktowers in Kingdom Hearts - one in the London section of Neverland in the first game, and one in Twilight Town in the second. The first is the location of that world's Keyhole and a Bonus Boss, while the second is a hangout of Roxas's - in both his real life with the Organization and his life in the digital Twilight Town.
    • It is also the site of the final confrontation between Roxas and Xion.
  • There's at least one level in each of the Castlevania games that takes place inside a clock tower, complete with moving gears, pendulums, and medusa heads.
  • Zasalamel's stage in Soul Calibur III is located inside a clock tower.
  • Tick Tock Clock in Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart DS—also a Gimmick Level in that depending on the time displayed on the clock you enter to reach the level, the clock will operate at a different speed, and different speeds of activity may be necessary to complete certain missions (the clock can even be stopped).
  • The Garal Clock Tower in Treasure of the Rudras The Clock Tower is a countdown timer for The End of the World as We Know It the world will end but the Tower is a timer, one Death Knell for Every Day that passes upon activation, the tower serves another purpose, the clocks on the sealed doors with a clock face above them start to move upon activation, it moves a total of 8 times in one cycle, which unlocks if the clock hand is at the 12 O' Clock position
  • Spagonia from Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations has a huge one in the center of the city, reminiscent of Big Ben. Sonic has to climb the tower in both his regular and Werehog form (in Unleashed) at some point to traverse through their respective acts.
  • Gondolir, the main human city in Eternum Online, has a clock tower in its center.
  • The player character in the Game Boy Advance version of The Sims lives for a short while in a clock tower.
  • One of the levels in Thief 3 takes place inside a clock tower.
  • Many iterations of the game series Clock Tower will prominently feature a clock tower at some point. I know, I was shocked too.
    • The clock towers don't show up for quite a while in some games. This LP of Clock Tower 3 uses the lack of a Clock Tower as a Running Gag.
  • Also featured in Resident Evil 2 on top of the R.P.D. and 3 & 4 as just stand alone towers.
  • There is one in the Neighborhood in Backyard Skateboarding.
  • The playable introductory scene to Bayonetta is a fight that takes place on the face of a smashed clock tower as it plummets down a seemingly endless cliff.
  • In Deadly Premonition, the Community Center has a large clock tower, which serves as the site for two of the three final boss battles.
  • The Scarlet Devil Mansion from Touhou Project features one and is the stage for the mansion's Ninja Maid Sakuya in the fighting games.
  • The teaser trailer for Mass Effect 3 shows a human soldier sniping out of a broken Big Ben.
  • Hibikino High's place of legend in the 2nd game of the Tokimeki Memorial series is a clock tower named "the Legendary Bell". Its bells are normally broken and can't ring, but it's sort of magical and will ring to give its blessings and grant eternal happiness to couples making their Love Confession near it on Graduation Day.
  • In Persona 2, Seven Sisters High's Clock Tower is used as the first boss battle setting.
  • The city of Stormwind in World of Warcraft features a very resilient clock tower. Even after said tower is partially melted during the Cataclysm, it still chimes every hour, on the hour.
  • The PC 98 Castlevania clone Rusty has the obligatory stage taking place inside a clock tower, which in this case is also an Auto-Scrolling Level.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Dr. Doofenschmirtz of Phineas and Ferb plans to steal Big Ben because the numbers on his watch are too small for him to read...
  • An Adventures in Odyssey video had Dylan fetch a parrot.
  • A Christmas episode of Futurama also had a parrot-fetching; parodied by using a giant digital clock, complete with Fry falling off of and grabbing onto the darkened segments.
  • In the Batman the Animated Series episode The Clock King, the titular King uses the hands as a deathtrap to scissor the Mayor. He and Batman also fight on the hands and in and amongst the dramatic (but impractical) steampunkish gears inside. The scene is a direct visual Homage to Castle of Cagliostro.
    • An episode of The Batman had a three-way fight between Batman, Catwoman and Ragdoll inside Gotham Clocktower.
  • The title characters in Gargoyles move to a clocktower after Xanatos gets out of prison.
  • A Jackie Chan Adventures episode has a clocktower fight at the end. Tohru falls and grabs onto the clock hands (guess how that turned out...).
  • The Classic Disney Short Clock Cleaners.
  • This appears in Disney's version of Peter Pan - as well as the sequel, Return to Neverland.
  • In The Great Mouse Detective, the showdown takes place on (and inside the clockworks of) Big Ben Tower.
  • In The Backyardigans, a James Bond-themed episode has the villain Lady in Pink scrambling to the edge of a clock tower's hand to retrieve a bottle of chocolate syrup. Pink falls off, but Agent Secret swoops in to save her in time.
  • Big Bentley from Cars 2.
  • One episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had all four of the turtles bound to various parts of a clock tower, to be eliminated at midnight.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Though not a Clock Tower, per se, the BIOCOM tower in Broken Saints pretty much acts as one—it's a Cathedral like complex filled with stained glass and machinery (including a crucifix-like device which controls a Kill Sat,) and it requires a long climb in order to get to. It's also the setting for the final confrontation and battle with the Big Bad.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • That clock tower everyone calls Big Ben, actually the Palace of Westminster clock tower in London.
    • Big Ben is the bell.
      • More specifically, it's the bell that sounds the hour.
  • The Kremlin clock tower, more properly called Spasskaya Tower, in Moscow.
  • The Custom House Tower, with its four clock faces, was the tallest building in Boston (by law!) for most of the 20th century.