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Better run for the border

He's never gonna understand

Better find a place to hide

On the other side of the Rio Grande"
Johnny Rodriguez, "Run For The Border"

A character desires to escape something in his home country, and resolves to flee or relocate to a neighboring one.

This usually manifests itself in one of two ways:

Type A is your standard getaway for criminals and malcontents after they rob a bank or engage in a crime spree, to escape arrest and prosecution. This can even include travel within the same country. In the US for instance, the criminal will cross a "state line" (border between states) because the police of the state they were in has no jurisdiction in adjoining states. Especially common in Westerns, and other old U.S. movies. This also includes Prisoners of War who have escaped to an allied or neutral country as their goal after an escape attempt. Whether these types make it or not varies: it's an almost even split between those who do (and live in a lazy beach town Happily Ever After) and those who don't (usually dying in a Bolivian Army Ending).

Type B is the sufficiently more noble version, where a character's home country is either going Crapsack World by way of After the End, or is taken over by a totalitarian movement which quickly brings an end to the previous civil liberties, and escape is the only sane alternative. Fleeing the country is usually the end goal, and they'll likely either have to escape or avoid capture by the roving death-gangs or evil repressive authorities to leave.

May end in a Border Crossing scene. For another method of evading the law by escaping their jurisdiction, see Diplomatic Impunity.


Type A:



 Sundance: Let's go to Mexico instead.

Butch: All they got in Mexico is sweat. There's too much of that here.

    • They eventually decide to go to Bolivia.
  • In one version of The Shawshank Redemption the heroes flee to Mexico.
  • Spoofed in Super Troopers, where one of the highway patrolmen scares three stoners by pretending to get shot by a criminal (another patrolman in disguise), who hijacks the police car they're in the backseat of, and is intent on escaping to Mexico, despite Canada being only a few miles away.

 Disguised Patrolman: You boys like Mex-E-Co?!?

  • The Wild Bunch heads to Mexico after a robbery goes to hell and ends up getting involved in Pancho Villa's war for independence.
  • Mexico is Charlie Sheen's destination in The Chase. And, ultimately, Kristy Swanson's, too.
  • The Great Escape
  • Von Ryan's Express
  • The famous lovers (in real life, too) of Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw in The Getaway
  • The big ending of Blue Streak starring Martin Lawrence as an ex-con posing as a cop to get into a police station to recover a diamond.
  • The majority of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song consists of this.
  • Subverted in Going South in that the 'hero' stops on the farside of the Rio Grande to taunt the pursuing posse... only for his horse to keel over on him. He is promptly captured by the posse, who simply rode over the border and dragged him back.
  • In Young Guns Billy the Kid constantly promises that he'll take the gang over the border into the relative safety of Mexico. He never leaves New Mexico however, and gets everyone killed for it.
  • Spoofed by a Top Gear segment that didn't make it into the final cut. After "escaping" from Colditz (now a hotel, and Jeremy checked out with his credit card), they make what ends up being an economy run for the Polish border on 11.3562354 liters of fuel. James May is taken out and shot when he fails to make the border.
  • One Charlie Chaplin short ended with him escaping authorities by crossing over to Mexico... where he's almost caught in the crossfire of a bandito shootout. He decides to just straddle the borderline instead.
  • From Dusk till Dawn opens with the Gecko brothers, having pulled off a bank robbery, making their way to Mexico. Worth noting is that they actually have arrangements for living there (set up by a third party for a share of the loot).
  • In Tank, the hero must drive his son across a state border in order to escape the jurisdiction of a corrupt sheriff who'd framed his boy for drug dealing. In a Sherman tank he'd bought and restored.


  • In the first Serpentwar Saga novel, Rupert and Eric try to flee to the Sunset Isles after killing Eric's half-brother due to a law there that said that criminals who stayed there without causing trouble for a year had their records cleared. They didn't even get close.
  • Played for Laughs in Jeeves and Wooster whenever an Oh Crap situation is met by an escape to another country.

Live-Action TV

  • Andrew and Jonathan flee to Mexico at the end of season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • See CSI's Season 9 opener for an example of A.
  • CSI: NY's season premiere had the perp try to escape to Canada before Mac caught up with him. Needless to say, he failed.
  • Referenced occasionally in Friends. Phoebe's future plans tend to end up with her and an accomplice fleeing to Mexico for some reason. Which is odd, considering that Canada is much closer...
  • In an episode of The Closer a murderer fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution. But because his victim, an illegal immigrant, was a Mexican citizen, Brenda smiled, got him to sign a paper stating that he had no intention of leaving Mexico, then told him that he was now under Mexican jurisdiction. And Mexico takes a dim view of people murdering its citizens. Just as two Mexican cops haul him off.
    • The murderer only steps into this trap because the victim's mother had claimed to be from (IIRC) Costa Rica, not Mexico.
  • Spoofed in The Beiderbecke Affair, when the protagonists help a dissident escape across the Yorkshire-Lincolnshire border, and later the Yorkshire-Lancashire border.
  • Shane Vendrell wants to do this in Season 7 of The Shield, but needs to hang around Los Angeles trying to wait for the heat to cool off and to get some money to do so. Lem was going to do the same thing, until Shane murdered him.
  • Due South had a rather interesting variant of type A. Ray was accused of killing a perp, though he actually didn't, and it looked worse because he had GSR on his hands from spending the morning at the range. Ray runs into the Canadian consulate and because it's technically Canadian territory, extradition proceedings have to be done before he can be removed. That gives Fraser time to find the evidence to clear him.


  • Burl Ives song "One Hour Ahead of the Posse". A murderer tries to reach the Rio Grande river and cross into Mexico.
  • Inverted in the Johnny Rodriguez song "Run For The Border," where the narrator is running for the border to get the hell out of Mexico so he can get away from the irate knife wielding husband of a woman that he spent the night with.
  • Subverted in Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money" - he makes it to Honduras, but the trouble has followed him. "Send lawyers, guns, and money/The shit has hit the fan."
  • Deconstructed somewhat in Townes Van Zandt's "Pancho And Lefty"; Lefty sells Pancho to the federales so he can run for the border himself... and ends up dying alone and broken-hearted.
  • Blues Traveler's "Get Out of Denver" is a local variant.

Tabletop Games

  • Border Crossing, an adventure for Espionage and Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes, is closest to a Type A. The player characters are Western spies who infiltrate East Germany during the Cold War to investigate a mysterious "factory", and then have to get themselves out of East Germany. Unless the players have done an incredible job (or the GM has incredibly lousy die rolls), the secret police will be coming after the characters at some point in the mission.
  • In Spycraft 2, if you find yourself the subject of a manhunt you can escape by invoking this trope to initiate a chase scene: the manoeuvre is actually called "Run for the Border".

Real Life

  • Averted in real life: During WWII, German POWs were imprisoned in Kansas. A few of them managed to escape ... for three days. They asked how close they'd gotten to Mexico. They were very disappointed to discover that they hadn't gotten out of the state, let alone the country.
    • When was this? Because if it was after May 22, 1942, Mexico wouldn't have been too welcoming.
    • There was a Movie "The One That Got Away" about a German pilot who escaped from Canada, to the USA (pre-Pearl Harbor). True story, but he really was the only one. Mostly because they just plunked the prisons in the middle of lots of empty wilderness where even if they did escape, they wouldn't last long.
  • Truth in Television. Partly the reason why the FBI was formed was because during the Prohibition era, the lack of any centralized police force meant that gangsters could commit their crimes and cross state or county lines without fear of pursuit.
  • The reason why many American criminals (especially serial killers and murderers) escapes to Mexico is because the Mexican Constitution forbids to deport people who are going to face death penalty in their home countries. That law was created during the Cold War and during the time period when almost all Central and South America were controlled by military dictatorships, but the law doesn't have exceptions for criminals for democratically-elected countries (like the U.S), and while they can be deported back to the U.S., they can't face death penalty due to a treaty with the Mexican government.
    • Ironically, this law ended biting the Mexican government in their ass, thanks of the Zhenli Ye Gon case since the main culprit, by law, cannot be stripped of his adquired Mexican nationality and deported back to China, since he will be executed if he puts a foot there in this case, but the Mexican government neither wants him in the country, and since the American law agencies also wanted him too, he was extradited to the U.S. instead.

Type B:



  • Happened in The Day After Tomorrow because Mexico was far enough south that the new ice age would be less deadly to people from northern United States. One especially snarky web review put it thusly:

 TV NEWS: In other developments tonight, millions of Americans are evacuating to Mexico, which briefly closed the borders while drunk on the incredible irony of the situation, but then the administration forgave all Latin American debt. ¡Buenos días a nuestros nuevos amigos!

  • The movie Fortress (with Highlander star Christopher Lambert) has the protagonist and his pregnant wife try to leave a dystopian US after it implements a no-births policy to fight the increasing population growth. The film even opens with shots of the heavily crowded international bridges between the US and Mexico.
  • The Sound of Music, though here it's because Austria has been taken over by Nazi Germany.
  • Inverted in the opening of The a Team movie featuring the newly formed team fleeing a Mexican drug lord and his mooks to the U.S. border. The result?

 Hannibal: General Tuco. You are engaged in unauthorized combat with United States military personnel... OVER U.S. AIRSPACE.

Cue Oh Crap looks from the Mexicans... followed by an air strike.



Live-Action TV

  • Americans flee to Mexico in the Made for TV Movie Super Volcano, where Yellowstone Park erupts, covers much of the US in ash, and plunges the world into a nuclear winter. They are forced to close the border here too.
  • After painting their cars with the most anti-Southern slurs they could think of, driving through Alabama and subsequently getting rocks thrown at them, the members of Top Gear made a run for the Louisiana border. Why they thought it would be any better on the other side is up for debate.
    • If they didn't know Mississippi was in the middle, the idea that they didn't do any research seems beyond the point of debating.
    • They were trying to reach New Orleans, which was the designated 'finish line' for the challenge. And by the way, they just didn't have rocks thrown at them, the guys and their camera crew nearly got beaten up by some Alabama locals, making this a Chased by Angry Natives trope as well.


  • The Billy Joel song "Miami 2017" tells of a future in which New York City is destroyed and everyone flees to Florida. They can't literally Run for the Border because "The Mafia took over Mexico."
  • Chris de Burgh's song Borderline is about this (probably the Nazi takeover of Germany, judging by the context of the sequel song Say Goodbye to it All).

Video Games

  • Dragon Age II begins with this version, as Hawke and his/her family flee the monstrous invasion of darkspawn. It potentially ends with Type A, as Hawke goes on the run with his/her Love Interest, who may be a highly wanted criminal.

Western Animation

  • Amusingly inverted in South Park's "Last Of The Meheecans" episode. Butters inspires a resurgence of nostalgia, homesickness, and nationalism that causes Mexican emigrants to the United States to cross the border back into Mexico. Border patrol guards eventually have to guard the border on the U.S. side instead to prevent the loss of menial labourers to the American economy.
  • In Alfred J Kwak, Alfred and his friends flee to neighbouring Broad Reedland when their home Great Waterland is turned into a fascist dictatorship by Dolf and his National Crows Party.

Real Life

  • The southwestern United States play host to a ton of illegal immigrants who fled Mexico due to higher wages.
    • With the new immigration laws passed by Arizona recently, there's been a lot of news hubbub about Mexican immigrants moving back to Mexico (or at least out of state).
      • Along with lifelong legal residents of Hispanic descent who didn't feel like staying around and risk harassment.
  • North Korean defectors fall on the far end of type B.
    • During the Cold War, much the same situation was the case for East Germany.
    • During the Cultural Revolution, there were many Chinese who fled to North Korea.
      • Some choose to swim to Hong Kong or Taiwan.
  • When Germany transformed into Nazi Germany in the 1930s, many intellectuals, political opponents, and Jewish people emigrated to escape persecution. Those that fled to other European countries usually found themselves in the same situation all over again when the German army overran these states several years later.
  • The northern free states in the US were this way for escaped slaves, until the Dred Scott decision (since condemned as the Supreme Court's Dethroning Moment Of Suck) effectively forced them to keep running all the way to Canada.