Batman Gambit/Live-Action Films

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Kirk: Khan, I'm laughing at the "superior intellect".

    • Noteworthy in that it's implied that Khan's perfectly aware that he's being blinded by his own hatred, and simply doesn't care anymore, so long as Kirk suffers.
  • The second Star Wars trilogy (and arguably the whole saga) is perhaps a huge Batman Gambit; essentially, Palpatine/Sidious is planning the Sith revenge against the Jedi. In doing so, he manipulates virtually every character to make his plan work: first, he (as Sidious) gets the Trade Federation blockading his home planet, knowing the Republic bureaucracy would drag its heels getting the blockade lifted; he gets Padmé to call for a "vote of no-confidence" against the sitting supreme chancellor, to get himself elected. Next, he manipulates multiple commercial and nationalist interests into forming the Confederacy of Independent Systems. He goes back to Padmé, getting her to leave Coruscant "for her safety" after an assassination attempt; then her proxy, gullible Jar-Jar Binks, pushes the Senate to grant him the emergency powers to form the Grand Army, a massive clone army (conveniently ordered by Jedi master Sifo-Dyas on the suggestion of his friend Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus, Palpatine's apprentice). He manipulates Anakin: presenting himself as a fatherly figure, unlike the stern Jedi Order, he makes Anakin likelier to trust his advice; uses his fear of loss to bring him closer, and gets him to kill Tyranus, pushing him closer to The Dark Side; when the Jedi are about to out him as a Sith, Palpatine turns it to his advantage: by not beating Windu, he plays on Anakin's sympathy and convinces him to "disarm" Windu, making it easier to turn Anakin to the Dark Side. With Anakin ready, Palpatine executes Order 66. He then uses his "new" appearance to justify ordering the Grand Army to turn on the Jedi: a Jedi plot to take over the Republic.
    • This could be a Xanatos Gambit, at least once he became Chancellor. If the Jedi actually succeeded in discovering his control of the republic, what could they do? Any attempt at removing him from office by force would have looked exactly like a Jedi plot to take over the republic, resulting in massive backlash. Oh, and furthermore, it would have looked like that to Anakin as well, possibly causing the birth of Vader anyway.
    • This extends into the original trilogy as well. When Sidious learns that "Skywalker" destroyed the Death Star, he concludes Anakin's child survived, a possibility he did not foresee. Seeing a way to turn this to his advantage, he orders Vader to find Luke so that he may turn him, potentially more powerful than Vader, into his new apprentice (unbeknownst to him, Vader already knew of Luke's existence and was planning to do the same thing to Palpatine). He also allowed the Rebel Alliance to learn the location of the new Death Star and its shield generator in order to trap them, knowing they would not pass up an opportunity to attack while he was personally inspecting it. The only flaw in his plan was underestimating Luke's resolve. Luke refuses to turn, forcing Palpatine to try to kill him, which accidentally manipulated Vader again: his desire to protect his family triggered his fall, and now triggered his redemption. Oh, and he also did not take into account the possibility that the local race of Ridiculously Cute Critters could defeat his army.
    • It could be argued that the entire series is a Batman Gambit by the Force, in which Anakin is driven to the Dark Side and Luke is carefully manipulated until they're both in the right place and the right state of mind for Vader to off Palpatine and restore balance.
      • Palpatine's whole Plan may have been to prepare the galaxy for the Yuuzhan Vong OR a Batman Gambit by the FORCE to do the same thing...
    • Might not qualify as a Batman Gambit or Gambit Roulette, since Palpatine's plans didn't really hinge on any particular person doing what he needed. He was playing both sides. Had the Republic not formed the Grand Army, the CIS would have won with Palpatine as their leader. He didn't actually need Padme, Anakin, Mace Windu, etc, to do anything special. At most, their actions expedited his plans.
  • Hans Gruber's planned theft in Die Hard is completely dependent on the FBI cutting electrical power (per standard procedure), which disables the magnetic lock on the Nakatomi Plaza vault.
    • Hans's brother, Simon, uses this in Die Hard with a Vengeance, thus proving the Batman Gambit is hereditary. He leads the police on a wild goose chase, making them think he's setting off bombs to get revenge on John McClane for killing his brother, when the bombs are a mere distraction to keep the NYPD away from him while he puts his real plan into motion: robbing the Federal Reserve. He's only undone because he stupidly went back to the same truckstop that he bought aspirin for his migraines (which he then proceeded to give to McClane as a joke).
      • And the original ending (viewable on DVD as an alternative) wasn't nearly as asinine.
  • General Koskov in The Living Daylights has a lot on his plate: a phony KGB defection, two fake assassination attempts (one carried out by his girlfriend), a couple of kidnappings, a few real assassinations, and a weapons-for-opium smuggling operation. All of which would have left MI6 looking like idiots, his rival in the Soviet military dead and discredited, his girlfriend Stuffed Into the Fridge and himself very, very rich, if it wasn't for that meddling 007....
  • In The Wicker Man, Sgt. Howie arrives at the island of Summerisle to solve the mystery of a missing child; the suspicious nature of the citizens convince him that they're going to sacrifice the girl to appease the sun god. Unfortunately, The Chase to halt this event is actually a trick, causing him to unwittingly act out some archetypal ritual, and then burn him to death in the eponymous structure. Why? It turns out Howie was saving himself for marriage, too. Luckily, the girl is saved. Not that she was in any real danger.
    • The islanders were even gracious enough to offer Howie at least 4 ways out. 3 different beautiful women try to seduce him which would have rendered the "virgin sacrifice" impossible. And when those fail, the innkeeper and his daughter try to drug him unconscious, since he has to go to the sacrifice of his own free will, which he can't do if he sleeps through it. Hell if he'd gotten Lord Summerisle's permission to search the island instead of demanding everything under police authority, the "with the power of a king" part might have been invalidated, too. He must have been really predictable, because it almost seemed like the islanders didn't want to do it.
  • The ending of Superman II hinges on Lex Luthor selling out Superman and telling Zod about the "take away all super powers" device... which Superman had set to affect everyone outside the device, having seen this coming.
  • Another master of plan B would be Tony Wendice from Dial M for Murder. This trope is actually subverted a few times as Tony is never quite able to anticipate everything that will happen, despite his incredibly intricate schemes. The bulk of the film is set up by the failure of his first one: having blackmailed a classmate turned two bit crook into killing his cheating wife Margot and set up a perfect alibi for himself alongside Mark, the man who she was cheating on him with, Margot's will to live is a bit too strong and she ends up killing the man in their desperate struggle. Tony spends the rest of the film trying to make it look like she killed the man in cold blood rather than self defense, wildly improvising whenever someone is about to send it all crashing down again. This is all even lampshaded early on when Mark, a novelist who specializes in just this kind of story, notes that he would never try one in real life because there will always be just one little thing that no one can anticipate.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Like Bugs Bunny, Captain Jack Sparrow is a master of the Batman Gambit, but when it backfires on him, it's a sight to behold. It's unclear whether he plans it all out ahead of time, or makes it up as he goes along, though. Probably both.
  • In John Carpenter's The Thing, the alien puppet whose identity isn't discovered until near the end of the film is executing a Batman Gambit from early on. Given how paranoid and trigger happy everyone was, he could have been shot or Mac could have let him go when he asked, although it could be argued that his insistence that he had calmed down was intentionally unconvincing
  • The entire film, Confessions, is one against the two students whom killed their teacher's daughter.
  • In the film, Training Day, part of Alonzo's master plan is to get Jake high on drugs and later use him for cover when he robbed and killed his long time drug contact. If Jake would have refused to go along with Alonzo after being offered drugs, his entire plan to steal the money would have failed.
  • In Heat, McCauley's crew meet up in a particular location seemingly to paint it as their next target, as well as to map out the viable escape routes, while Hanna's team surveys their activities secretly. When Hanna and his team later assemble on the same location to break down the gameplan of McCauley's crew, they quickly discover the worthlessness of the target location, as well as the absence of any effective escape routes. Hanna then realizes that McCauley's plan all along was to get his team out in the open so that the latter could get a good glimpse of the men pursuing them.
  • In Mary Poppins, the title character (apparently) pulls this on Mr. Banks. First, she puts the idea in his head that he should take his children on an outing to the bank. Then she tells the children all about the bird woman, whose hang out is conveniently on the way to the bank, and how cool it would be to give her their money. What ensues could only have been Mary's plan.
  • In the Belgian short film Tanghi Argentini, Andre, the protagonist, in lieu of purchasing Christmas presents for his single coworkers, cruises dating sites for women whose interests correspond to his coworker's skills (i.e. tango, poetry). He then approaches the coworker and asks to be taught this particular skill in time for a blind date he has arranged with the woman. On the night of the date, he asks his coworker to accompany and discreetly coach him. He then deliberately fails at this skill, allowing the coworker to swoop in and "steal" the woman with his superior knowledge.
  • In the finale of Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski tricks the Hmong gang into gunning down an unarmed elderly man (Walt himself) in front of a neighborhood of witnesses.
  • The eponymous protagonist of The Bourne Series is a master at these, one of his favorite methods being to deliberately get himself red-flagged on the grid in order to facilitate a particular agenda. Lampshaded in Supremacy by Nicky Parsons when she corrects an overzealous agent that assumes Bourne is slipping when they detect him in Naples, asserting that operatives like himself always have an objective to their actions. Pamela Landy, having attained some form of Genre Savvyness with regards to Bourne by the time of Ultimatum, was able to deduce his intentions when he uses the same tactic again in the film's climax.
  • Ethan Hunt does something similar in the first |Mission Impossible to clear his name after his team's mission goes horribly wrong, including actually stealing the item he's accused of stealing and finally by staying on the phone much longer than he has to to make sure that IMF headquarters can trace the call and find out where he is. This also gets lampshaded: "He wanted us to know he was in London."
    • Even more notable is the fact that all this time, Phelps and Claire have been running one on him.
  • After a baffling succession of double- and triple-crosses the big reveal scene of the WWII movie Where Eagles Dare shows that the whole film has been a massive Batman Gambit engineered by MI-6. They fake the crash of an important general in Germany so they have an excuse to send a team of important agents in to rescue him. The rescue team gets itself captured, which means the three known German moles deliberately placed on the team will reveal themselves. The team leader then identifies himself as a German agent too (he is in fact a triple agent, a Reverse Mole pretending to be an ordinary Mole, but the Germans don't know that), and claims that the three real moles were discovered by the British (true) and have been replaced (not true). In attempting to prove they are the real moles, the German agents write a list of all the spies they recruited in their time in Britain. This is the real objective of the operation, and having got the list the team escapes back to Britain.. Brain hurting yet?
    • But to the British, very, very simple.
    • It gets better! The intelligence Colonel who set this whole plan up? Also a German spy, sacrificing the others as a gambit to ensure his own survival as the spy hunt closes in. It does him no good: Admiral Rolland already suspected him and let the plan go ahead so he could expose everybody in one go, Colonel Turner included.
  • My Fellow Americans: It turns out that the events were all orchestrated by the vice-president to get the current president impeached so he could become president.
  • In Chicago, Billy Flynn manages a rather ingenious Batman Gambit of his own. He fabricates entries in Roxie's diary that state her guilt in an overly-blatant manner and sends it to Mama Morton, knowing that she'll give it to Velma. Knowing, thusly, that Velma will give it to D.A. Harrison, and that Harrison will be so eager to take Roxie and Billy down that he'll make a deal with Velma for the "evidence". And then Flynn builds up a massive mid-trial accusation of Harrison having fabricated the entries himself, since they're so obviously false. In one fell swoop, knowing exactly how everyone will react, Billy manages to get both Roxie and Velma off the hook while taking down his primary rival in the legal arena. Bruce Wayne would be proud...or furious.
    • It goes further than that, too. Billy gets Amos to divorce Roxie so there can be a dramatic courtroom reconciliation, knowing he actually will do this. Among other things. Billy is a Magnificent Bastard.
  • In G.I. Joe the Rise of Cobra, McCullen's master plan is actually a pretty good one, to create global fear of terrorism so the entire world will seek unifying leadership from the most powerful man on the planet. Duke wrongly assumes that McCullen delusionally thinks he's that man. Nope, it's the President of the United States, who's really McCullen's man Zartan.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter's entire escape is one big Batman Gambit. His scheme, in short, was to escape from his handcuffs (using a homemade key he smuggled in) while his guards were in the cell delivering his dinner, handcuff one guard to the bars, take out the other one, kill the first one, cut the face off the other one, switch clothes with him, throw the body on top of the elevator (Lecter was on the top floor of the building), set the elevator to move down the floors, wear the cops face over his own like a mask, lie down, lure the rest of the cops to him by firing his gun into the air, then get taken out of the building on a stretcher by paramedics while the SWAT team focuses on the body on the elevator. The possibility of things fucking up is endless, from the guards refusing to bring him dinner, the guard putting the tray down on the other side of his cell, to having his key discovered, to being found out impersonating the cop. And while he was preoccupied with this, he managed to disembowel the other cop and hang him ornamentally from the bars of his cage like a giant butterfly, since that's what Buffalo Bill is all about. For kicks.
    • None of which would have been possible if he hadn't gotten transferred to Memphis due to Clarice's offering of a deal the FBI was never going to honor, and if the daughter of a Tennessee Senator hadn't been kidnapped.
  • Mr. Boddy employs one of these in Clue. The Butler Did It. Sort of. Wadsworth was Mr. Boddy the entire time; the one that was killed was actually his butler. His entire plan involved getting the houseguests he had been blackmailing to kill off his informants, now a liability, and destroy all of the evidence against him. Clearly his scheme would've backfired had one of the guests taken the fake Mr. Boddy's advice and killed him instead, or not killed anyone at all. In the end, he almost succeeded, if not for the Reverse Mole.
  • Clyde Shelton's "justice" in Law Abiding Citizen relies on a number of these. Of course, it's possible in some cases he did have a back-up plan, but at other times it seems highly unlikely.
    • Catch Darby by having him panic and helping him escape. Relied precisely on knowing how he would react. Specifically, Darby, instead of forcing the "police officer" to drive using his own gun, may have gotten in the other side and pulled the "officer" out of the car instead. He also may have been carrying a second gun.
    • Murdering his cellmate to be put into solitary confinement. What if Rice or that other guy had paid attention when their informant told them it must have been a Batman Gambit (or just figured it out themselves, it wasn't that hard), and had taken him out of there and/or searched the cell thoroughly? The funny thing is that they did figure out Clyde had some sort of elaborate plot, but didn't think he'd be able to do anything from jail and he must've had an accomplice on the outside.
    • Murdering the judge with an explosive cell phone. Very likely to succeed, though, since who wouldn't take the call like that?
    • Let me go by six o'clock tomorrow or I'll kill everyone (with exploding cars). Failure conditions: If they had checked the gas tanks as well, or one of the people leaving would have got the same paranoid feeling as I did that the cars might explode or something, or if they had let him free. The last might actually have crippled his ability to run the show, but he would've "won" by getting them to abandon the law. Of course... it wasn't very likely anyway.
  • In The Postman Always Rings Twice, a woman and her lover are tried for killing her husband. The prosecutor tries a Batman Gambit to get them to turn on each other by only putting one of them, the woman on trial. The woman's defense attorney then does a Batman Gambit of his own to get her from confessing everything and he gets her off on probation.
  • Rare nonhuman example: In Deep Blue Sea, the intelligent sharks not only find away to get loose in the part-flooded interior of the floating research station, but they herd the humans in such a way that they keep flooding additional parts of the complex, causing it to sink so low that the sharks will be able to swim out of the fenced-in lagoon and into the ocean.
  • Inception has a rather elaborate one; since the team trying to incept an idea into Fischer's mind stumbled across larger problems, Cobb ends up tricking Fischer into participating in the inception by making him believe that his godfather is the one infiltrating his mind. It would increase the danger for all since Fischer is the subject, meaning that his subconscious would act up after having attention called to the fact that Fischer is in a dream.
  • In the Nineteen Eighty-Four parody Me and the Big Guy, the end implies that the annoyingly happy-go-lucky Citizen 43275-B was trying to annoy Big Brother so much that he would kill the telescreen, allowing him to write his diary in peace.
  • In Le Samourai, a hitman plants himself outside his (married) girlfriend's apartment, waiting for her husband to come home before leaving to perform a hit. The hitman is later brought in for questioning by the police and his girlfriend and her husband are brought in to identify him. The husband (suspicious of him sleeping with his wife) picks him out of a lineup, assuming he's fingering him for a crime, when in reality he's offering him an airtight alibi for the killing.
  • In PCU, the school president slaps The Pit with money they owe the school. She anticipates that they would throw a wild party, thus causing the politically correct students to file enough complaints to throw out The Pit.
  • The Punisher manages one in his first film, manipulating the crime lord who had his family killed. Frankie planted evidence that the crime lord's wife and secretly gay right-hand man were having an affair, leading to the crime boss directly killing the right-hand man and hurling his wife onto a railway track.
  • The sci-fi film Hunter Prey features one on the part of the aforementioned prey.
  • The entire plot of Street Kings depends on The Hero being a Killing Machine that will kill all the corrupt cops that he finds without being killed or bought, and he does. The gambiteer claims this was a Xanatos Gambit but it's clearly not as the Unwitting Pawn is almost killed and buried in the process.
  • The Man Who Never Was tells a fictionalized version of Operation Mincemeat from the Real Life section.
  • The end of noir film The Racket has one that hinges on a criminal really not wanting to be thrown under the bus, a corrupt judge being suggestible and venal, and a crooked cop wanting to cover his back. Summed up by a surprised participant afterwards:

"You mean you thought all this through?!"

  • Every single fight scene in the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films is a Batman Gambit in miniature; we are treated to Holmes' inner monologue as he determines exactly how his opponents will behave and how he can best counter them, immediately followed by the actual fight in which the opponent behaves exactly as Holmes deduced he would and Holmes thus wins the fight. Subverted in the climax of A Game of Shadows; Holmes and Moriarty play this trick on each other, and both determine that there's no way for Holmes to win, until Holmes does something neither one expected, sacrificing himself to kill Moriarty by grabbing him and jumping off the balcony into the Reichenbach Falls below.
  • Casper and Kat pull this on Carrigan after she dies and comes back as a ghost to steal Casper's treasure and then use his father's Lazurus Machine to come back to life. They reminded her about her supposed unfinished business, noting that all ghost have unfinished business which is why they don't cross over. She promptly boasted that she had everything that she wanted so she had no unfinished business. No sooner had she said that, she crossed over.
  • In The Usual Suspects, Verbal Kint's (Keyser Soze) whole plan to cover his tracks, depends on convincing Dave Kujan to act exactly like he knew the customs agent would. At any time during the interrogation, Dave could have looked on the police evidence wall by chance and discovered Verbal was weaving a grand lie. He could have also look on the back of his coffee cup and seen the name Kobayashi. He doesn't do this until after Verbal leaves the office, and by then, it's already too late.
  • The Cabin in the Woods, The entire ritual sacrifice masterminded by the Director hinges on the victims playing up to actual horror movie tropes. They must ignore the warnings and must enter the spooky cellar and mess with an artifact unleashing some type of horror. If they don't, then the entire sacrifice fails and the world ends
  • All of Loki's plans in The Avengers. All of them.
    • He uses mind control to turn Hawkeye and Selvig into his pawns--arguably two of the most valuable pawns that he could have, seeing as Selvig is one of maybe three people who know how to use the Tesseract and Hawkeye is a skilled sniper who has little reservations against killing.
    • Loki also counts on the Avengers' instability as a team and the Hulk losing control to help his master plan along.
    • Finally, Loki's eventual defeat and return to Asgard may be both a Batman Gambit and a Xanatos Gambit: Loki knows that the Avengers would want him to take responsibility for his actions, and Thor would of course want to keep Loki as close as possible.

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