Cyanide Pill

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Agent 99: It will kill in nine seconds.
Maxwell Smart: But how do I get them to take it?

Get Smart (2008 movie)

It takes a heroic level of dedication to be willing to die for a cause... but it takes an altogether higher (some would say crazy) level of dedication to be willing to kill yourself for the cause. Sometimes, a particularly devoted henchman will not only be willing to kill themselves, but will carry around a mechanism to do this cleanly and quickly should the need ever arise. The classic example is the Cyanide Pill carried in a hollow fake tooth—the henchman simply opens the tooth with his tongue, bites down on the pill, and lets death embrace him.

It should be noted that this takes an altogether far higher level of devotion than that possessed by the standard Mook-for-hire. Absolute belief in the rightness of the cause is necessary for someone to take this step. Therefore, it's usually employed by cultists and secret agents in service to their country. However, it can also be used to imply that the Big Bad is so terrifying that death is preferable to the punishment he would visit upon his henchmen for failure. If you are facing a Fate Worse Than Death, a Cyanide Pill would be your friend.

This one has some basis in real life—though uncommon, various spy agencies have issued suicide pills to field agents to use in case of capture. U-2 pilot Gary Powers was carrying one when he was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, but opted not to use it.

Use of the cyanide pill by villainous characters may be due to the historical use of such devices by many of the high Nazi leadership at the end of WWII who chose suicide over capture and punishment by the Allied forces. (See Real Life section below for more details) Hitler himself, due to paranoia that it would not be effective, took one but opted to also shoot himself.

Compare Self-Destruct Mechanism and Tongue Suicide. See also Driven to Suicide.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Cyanide Pill include:


  • This was used for humor in a commercial for Dockers pants. The commercial showed a shifty looking fellow grabbing some papers and quickly walking his way through the corridors of a building, shadowy men in sunglasses following him all the while, just behind him. One slips into the elevator with him just as the door closes, prompting him to pop something into his mouth and audibly gulp it down. The shadowy figure leans over and says, "Nice pants." Cut to dumbfounded spy's face and the commercial ends.

Anime and Manga

  • In a chapter of Black Jack, Pinoko swallows a cyanide pill that she found in the surgeon's bag, thinking it was ordinary medicine. Black Jack then has to desperately operate on Pinoko to get the pill out before its outer shell melts.
  • The Mariages from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS Sound Stage X will liquefy its body into a combustible liquid and immolate themselves (and hopefully all nearby enemies) when unable to complete a mission.
  • In a Legend of Galactic Heroes example of Better to Die Than Be Killed, Ansbach bites a poison capsule he was carrying in his mouth rather than be taken alive after attempting to assassinate Reinhard, and succeeding in killing Kircheis, during his fake surrender.
  • In Outlaw Star, Hilda seemed to use a variant of this when she (and a Space Pirate) were falling into a star. It was a very miniaturized bomb.
  • Played with in Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid, where Sōsuke is shown to be surrounded by large forces from the enemy on both sides and no ammo left, with no escape possible. AL suggests that the rational conclusion and solution is for him to activate the self destruct system. The idea is rejected, as Sōsuke has no intention dying that way (as he "wouldn't be able to get his school credits" that way).
  • In Death Note, one person takes one after being captured by Mello after a failed raid of the Mafia's headquarters, foiled by Sidoh.
  • The title character of 009-1 has one, but she uses it in a unique manner. After being captured, she manipulates a guard into kissing her, and while he does so, she tongues the pill into his mouth. Once the guard is dead, she picks the locks to her restraints and escapes.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Marik hypnotises Anzu and forces her to take a pill, presumably a Cyanide Pill, between her teeth. If Yugi does not duel Jonouchi, Marik will force her to swallow it. (For comparison, in the anime, a giant block of concrete was suspended above her head.)

Comic Books

  • In Watchmen, the hitman that tries to kill Adrian Veidt takes one of these after his attack fails. Except not really, as Veidt had secretly hired him (trusting in his own skills to keep him alive). In order to silence the unfortunate Mook, Veidt forces a cyanide pill into the his mouth while pretending he is trying to stop him committing suicide.
  • A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (the Archie comics) story features Mooks taking suicide pills that set their heads on fire, burning the flesh off. No reason not to do it with style...
  • Usagi Yojimbo: The Neko Ninja swallow their own tongues if captured. The futuristic versions have instant immolation suits.
  • Played with in The Tick (animation), where a secret agent tells Big Blue that his tooth is filled with deadly poison... only he's forgotten which tooth. "I try to avoid crunchy foods."
  • Parodied in Sturmtruppen where the is revealed that the "Oldest Spy in the Army" attained such a title by taking mints instead of Cyanide pills.

Fan Works


  • In Contact, Jodie Foster's character is given a cyanide pill to use on herself in case anything goes wrong with her spacecraft — according to the film, every NASA astronaut and test pilot is given one of these, for emergencies where dying quickly would be a mercy. In his book Lost Moon, Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell mentioned that this had been a rumor for some time, and that it was not true — it would be much easier simply to open the main hatch and depressurize the spacecraft.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, film version: in the very beginning, one of the enemy Mooks kills himself this way after being caught by Alan Quartermain.
  • Spoofed in the movie Team America: World Police. When Gary is being briefed for his first mission, Spottswoode prepares him for the fact that, if he is captured, he might want to take his own life. To that end, he supplies him with... a hammer.
  • James Bond is supplied with a cyanide pill hidden in his briefcase o' tricks in the book From Russia with Love. He flushes it down the toilet.
    • In the first of the films, Dr. No, the enemy driver kills himself with a cyanide cigarette.
    • In Licence to Kill, a Hong Kong narcotics agent bites down on one when confronted by the Big Bad for questioning.
    • In Die Another Day, M asks Bond why he didn't take his pill when captured. Bond answers he got rid of it years ago.
    • Thunderball. Bond Girl Paula Kaplan takes cyanide rather than face interrogation by SPECTRE thugs. In a cruel irony, James Bond would have arrived in time to save her if she hadn't.
    • In The World Is Not Enough, the Cigar Girl Assassin blows herself up rather than face arrest from MI 6, or worse yet, punishment (for failing to kill Bond) from her boss.
  • An especially chilling film variant in the German film Downfall has Mrs. Goebbels drugging her six children to sleep and then crushing a cyanide pill between their teeth as they're asleep, killing them all: she knows that Adolf Hitler's reign is coming to an end, and believes that a world without the Nazis is not worth it for her children. The fact that the scene displays a historical fact arguably makes it all that much worse.
    • On the other side, Jewish families often did this during the war. Many parents poisoned their children and then themselves rather than allow them to be subjected to the horrors of the concentration camps. Arguably, the most famous example is that of famed cartoonist (of Maus fame) Art Speigleman's older brother Richieu, who died this way while in the care of an aunt.
  • The Predators of Predator and its sequels carry a suicide Self-Destruct Mechanism. Considering they choose to hunt xenomorphs, and humans who would reverse-engineer any captured technology, it's probably a good idea.
  • Used twice in Telefon (1977), the first time by a Manchurian Agent (leading to much puzzlement among the CIA as to how a typical American housewife got hold of an obsolete Soviet suicide pill) and the second time by the KGB protagonist to kill a Renegade Russian (first he throttles him, them to make sure he places a pill between the man's teeth and slams his hand against the jaw to crush it).
  • Lust, Caution: Wong Chia-chi is given one when she joins a Chinese Nationalist cell in occupied Shanghai. When she is about to face capture by the Japanese, she reaches for it but decides to allow herself to be captured alive.
  • Remo Williams, the film of The Destroyer series; Harold W. Smith of CURE keeps a pill in his pocket at all times. If CURE becomes compromised, he takes the pill to cause a "massive coronary" (heart attack).
  • In Fallen, Denzel Washington lures Azazel (possessing his partner) out to a distant cabin in order to kill him. As the partner dies, Azazel laughs because he can easily take over Denzel Washington once his host body passes. But Denzel is smoking poison-laced cigarettes...
  • Inverted in Watchmen, when Adrian deflects suspicion from himself in The Comedian's death by having an assassin hired to attack him, too. When the assassin strikes, he then proceeds to catch the bullet, beat the assassin senseless, and feed him a suicide pill so the attack couldn't be traced back to him. Dying would spoil his other plans, you see.
  • One of the Mongol Warriors in The Shadow deliberately falls to his death rather than betray Shiwan Kahn.
  • One of Salt's alternate endings has Salt using fake teeth filled with cyanide... which turned out to be fake - it's easier to escape an emergency room than a captivity room.
  • Neo-Vipers in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra have a nanomite suicide function that can also rapidly break down their bodies. It's uncertain whether they can activate this, but the Doctor certainly can.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, the HYDRA assassin who kills Dr. Erskine kills himself with cyanide hidden in a fake tooth when he's captured by Steve. According to Colonel Phillips later in the movie, every HYDRA agent the Allies manage to capture does the same thing. Except Dr. Zola.
  • In the film version of Diabolik, the protagonist fakes his death by taking a pill that puts him in suspended animation for 12 hours; the police assume he did this trope and take him to the morgue, where his Girl Friday administers the antidote.


  • In At All Costs Havenite (the enemy) secret agent Victor Cachet visits Honor's ship for a parley. Honor is an empath and can tell he is carrying a suicide pill in his pocket and insists that he disarm the injector. She lets him go after the truce, because that is the honorable way to treat an enemy. She just wants him to know that she knows. It is not specified that he is using cyanide, only that it is a suicide device.
  • A little over halfway through the Discworld novel Thud!!, Sam Vimes is attacked in his home by agents of the "deep down" dwarves he suspects of trying to cover up a murder. One of the dwarfish agents survives and is captured, but not for long, as Vimes discovers the dwarf has succumbed to a slow-acting poison he and the others took before going on their mission.
    • And in the Discworld novel Monstrous Regiment, a captured enemy spy does his best to eat the military secrets he's been entrusted with, conveniently written on rice paper. A few moments later the spy dies, and the good guys realize the manual was poisoned. His orders to eat the papers were not only intended to protect the manual, but also to execute the hapless spy.
  • Dune: Duke Leto is betrayed by Dr. Yueh, but the doctor gives him a poison-gas tooth so he can kill Baron Harkonnen, the Duke's enemy. This makes Leto something of a kamikaze—but an unsuccessful one, as the gas only kills Harkonnen's advisor.
  • I Am Legend. The novel, not the movie.
  • In the Destroyer series of novels, Dr. Smith has a Cyanide pill in a false tooth. He would swallow it if C.U.R.E.'s security is ever breached.
  • In the Darker and Edgier Hardy Boys Casefiles series, the boys had a recurring nemesis in the Assassins, all of whom were equipped with a poison tooth. This led to a situation where Joe was rushing towards an Assassin, when he realizes said character is having a problem getting his tooth out. So he punches it out of the guy's mouth.
  • The protagonist of the Quiller spy novels refuses to carry a suicide pill because he's Suffix 9 (Reliable Under Torture), though he changes his mind in the later novels.
  • On the Beach: In the aftermath of an apocalyptic nuclear war, with fallout having killed most of the globe and spreading southward, the Australian government provides cyanide pills to its citizens so that they need not die slowly of radiation poisoning.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, they find an assassin dead of poison—causing Ragnor to comment on what a fanatic the assassin must have been. The possibility of mindcontrol is brought up.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy, a protagonist is surrounded by hordes of possessed whose modus operandi is to torture people until they lose the will to live and allow themselves to be possessed. To avoid that fate and pull a Taking You with Me, she issues a "kamikaze code" to her Powered Armor, blowing herself and her attackers up.
  • Some cultists in David Eddings's Malloreon series come with an automatic, magical one preinstalled; upon being asked a certain question, the one who gets interrogated goes mad and throws himself off a cliff, laughing maniacally all the way.
    • A similar magical method, called "death-triggers" is used in the Deryni novels.
  • L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth (the book, not the movie) has this with high-ranking Psychlos. Anyone who knows their classified, encrypted math system gets some brainwashing and an implant in his brain. If he attempts to teach the secret to any other race, a fuse blows and his mind is fried.
    • but specific Psychlos-upper-crust males who have been taught Psychlo mathematics (an absurdly complex system which is, itself, encoded in such a way that you have to be taught the key in order to make any sense of it) are also implanted with what one character later recognizes as roughly equivalent to a fuse. If the Psychlo even considers teaching mathematics to someone else, the fuse blows and their minds are fried.
  • In Animorphs The Hork-Bajir Chronicles the Arn bioengineer themselves to die if they are taken over by a yeerk.
  • In Half a Crown, an Alternate History novel in which Britain made peace with Hitler rather than fight World War II, the leader of the British secret police has formed a group inside the secret police that defies the government by doing things like smuggling Jews out of the country. All members have a false tooth implanted with a cyanide pill so they can take it rather than be forced to betray the others.
  • In Torch of Freedom, the protagonists realize that something is seriously screwy with the Mesa Corporation when one of their agents resorts to this rather than be captured. Victor Cachat also carries one everywhere he goes; other spies find this somewhat excessive.
  • Subverted a little in the novel James Bond From Russia With Love. The world's quintessential spy, James Bond, is issued a cyanide pill with his kit. He flushes it down the toilet at the first opportunity.
  • In The Dresden Files novel Death Masks, Nicodemus' fanatics are equipped with cyanide pills in case of arrest. They end up chomping down on hem when defeated and handcuffed.
  • In A.C. Crispin's Han Solo novels, it's once mentioned that Rebel agents carry suicide pills. One of them has hers put on the collar of her armor, in case she ends up too badly hurt to put it into her mouth.

"My duty is to obey my orders. All of my orders."
Leia frowned. Something about the way he'd said that... and abruptly, she knew what it was. For a captured commando facing interrogation, there could be only one order left to follow.

  • In the Tortall Universe, suicide spells are sometimes used to avoid truthspells or torture
  • In the third Hunger novel, Mockingjay, Katniss has one of these and attempts to use it, but is stopped.
  • A Piece of Resistance, a novel by Clive Egleton set in a Soviet-occupied Britain. Two members of La Résistance are caught by a counter-intelligence agent. The woman bites down on her cigarette and suddenly falls to the ground. It turns out there is no suicide pill; she was simply creating a distraction so her partner could attack the agent. Ironically at the end of the novel the same woman is stopped by police and bites down on a suicide pill she's carrying in her mouth—it turns out that her papers were in order and it was simply a routine check.
  • The title character of Firebird was sent to war under orders to kill herself in the line of duty (Members of the royal family more than four places from the throne traditionally suicide so as to prevent succession disputes. With the recent birth of her niece, she was now fifth in line for the throne). After failing to get shot down, and failing to kamikaze into a mountain, she takes poison as she is tractored into an enemy warship so that she cannot be interrogated. Her captors realize that she'd taken poison almost immediately and manage to keep her alive.
  • In Path of the Fury, all members of the Imperial Cadre have suicide devices built into their cybernetic implants that trigger automatically if they are captured. The system is so sensitive that a friendly medic accidentally sets off Alicia's when trying to get basic diagnostic data. Fortunately, the suicide device shut off after the doctor stopped examining the hardware (but not before she nearly killed one of the other surgeons on reflex).
  • An assassin in Watchmen pulls this to keep Viedt from knowing who sent him. It was Viedt himself.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Doctor Who serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a member of the Black Scorpion Tong, after being captured by the police, commits suicide with a poison pill to avoid revealing anything under interrogation.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. The Orion spy uses one of these in "Journey to Babel," right after his comrades blow up their ship with their Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation. Romulan defector Admiral Jarok kills himself by ingesting a felodesine chip which he brought with him.
  • In the Deep Space Nine episode "Extreme Measures", Sloan, an agent of the very secretive Section 31, triggers a "neuro-depolarizing device" when he's captured by Dr. Bashir. This not only kills him but starts destroying his brain and all the secrets within; Bashir has to delay this process long enough to get some crucial information from Sloan's mind. This is the third appearance of a cyanide pill in Deep Space Nine; earlier episodes featured the termination implant, which Vorta are expected to activate if captured by the Dominion's enemies, and a literal pill of Cardassian origin, which not only kills someone but causes their body to crumble into dust within a few hours, leaving no trace.
  • In Babylon 5, the captain of a renegade Minbari warship, which broke from its government when they called for surrender at the Battle of the Line, turns himself in to B5 authorities, then takes a poison pill hidden in a tooth. His crew had planned to use his death, ostensibly at Human hands, to provoke a war. When another, loyal Minbari warship arrives and disables the rogue vessel (without killing, as Minbari do not kill other Minbari), the crew of the renegade activate a self-destruct.
    • Psi Corps operatives do this too, with a with a nice little rant about "the future".
  • The TV series Martial Law does this in a particularly disturbing way. A few episodes deal with a cult whose Mooks carry a Cyanide Pill that's surgically embedded in their pinky finger. When cornered, they break their finger (with a sickening *crick* noise), the pill breaks along with the bones and kills them very quickly indeed.
  • An episode of Get Smart has Maxwell Smart and KAOS Agent Seigfried compare their suicide contingencies. Smart has a raspberry-flavored cyanide pill. ("Care for a taste? It's all right, it's not addictive.") Seigfried says he has a "suicide ring". It works through his wife. ("She says if I ever take it off, she'll kill me.") In the 2008 movie, Max is reminded of the pill in his belt buckle, but in a subverted Chekhov's Gun, it never gets used.
    • Of course, the film also provided the page quote, which was taken from an early episode of the TV show.
  • Parodied in an episode of 'Allo 'Allo! where suicide pills are slipped to René as he is imprisoned by Herr Flick. When he (and the Colonel and Captain) swallow the pills, they don't work.
    • An episode near the show's finale (when the Nazis are becoming increasingly worried at the possibility of an Allied invasion) had General Von Klinkenhoffen provide Gruber and the Colonel with "suicide teeth", ridiculous looking dentures that served the same function when bitten down hard. Those didn't work either.
  • Foyle's War. In "The Funk Hole" the murderer steals a cyanide pill kept by one character in case of a German invasion and uses it to fake another man's suicide.
  • The heroine in the 1979 mini-series A Man Called Intrepid had one of these hidden inside a hollow tooth. When she's caught by German soldiers in the woods they make sure to knock her out so she doesn't have time to use it.
  • An episode of Blackadder features unspecified suicide pills which only kill after a characteristic set of mood swings forming an Overly Long Gag. Naturally, Blackadder cons his enemies into accidentally taking them rather than using them himself.
  • In the The Closer episode "Time Bomb", when the police arrive to arrest one of a group of Nietzsche Wannabes planning a massacre, he takes several antidepressants before they cuff him. At the station, they let him get a chocolate bar from a vending machine, not knowing that the chocolate, combined with the antidepressant overdose, will kill him mid-interrogation.
  • In the Life episode "Hit Me Baby", an assassin pretends she's about to swallow a suicide pill, so that when an officer rushes over to stop her, she spits the pill right down his throat.
  • The UnSub in the aptly-titled Criminal Minds episode "Poison" takes a fatal dose of botulism before he's arrested so that he dies before the agents can finish interrogating him.
  • In The Inside episode "Point of Origin", a serial arsonist being interrogated sets himself on fire by pouring the interrogator's pitcher of water on himself (before turning himself in to the FBI, he had doused himself with a chemical that ignites when combined with water).
  • In The Agency, the CIA provides a Russian scientist with a poison injection device disguised as a ballpoint pen. It was established that a squad of Russian security agents were hunting down those communicating information to the west, and shoving them into lit furnaces; punishment for traitors. The pen was meant to be a merciful option if the scientist was caught. Instead, the scientist used the pen as a weapon to take out the last boss agent.
  • In a right-to-die episode of Law and Order the defendant's Kavorkian-esque father drinks poison before his court appearance, which gives him enough time to claim responsibility before dying.
  • 24 Season 3: CTU distributes suicide pills to people who have been exposed to a deadly virus for which there is no cure, so if they want they can die without suffering the painful effects of the virus.
  • In one episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Ilya fakes taking one of these as part of an elaborate scam aimed at an enemy diplomat.
  • In the new V series, all Visitors living among humans carry a pill that not only kills them but also incinerates their bodies within seconds in order to hide that they're Lizard Folk.
  • In the popular Soviet series Seventeen Moments of Spring, a man is recruited as an informant by Stirlits (Soviet spy in Nazi Germany) and given a suicide pill hidden in a cigarette, an obvious Chekhov's Gun. He is later cornered by Nazi counter-intelligence agents and proceeds to take the pill... and jump out the window for good measure.

Newspaper Comics

  • FoxTrot referenced this in one strip where Jason and Marcus are (as usual) going to harass Paige. In the throwaway panels Jason gives Marcus a stick of vanilla chewing gum, saying "It's the closest thing to poison I could find."

Tabletop Games


  • In the Lone Wolf book Dawn of the Dragons, an assassin questioned by Lone Wolf uses a poison pellet hidden in a tooth to kill himself—but also to liberate a Deadly Gas in the cell, trying to take the hero with him. Lone Wolf can shrug off the effects thanks to his Nexus power.

Tabletop RPGs

  • In the Pathfinder adventure path Curse of the Crimson Throne, Red Mantis Assassins can choose to disintegrate themselves when killed, making them harder to resurrect or interrogate posthumously (which is the important bit, since only the willing can be resurrected).

War Games

  • Subverted in the Warhammer 40,000: Eisenhorn trilogy, where a captured Mook commits unintentional suicide when Eisenhorn tries to interrogate him, thanks to an implanted bomb in his head set to go off if the bearer even thinks of revealing a certain piece of information.

Video Games

  • In the game Return to Castle Wolfenstein, your character does have a cyanide pill in his inventory, and he can use it, but there's never any real reason why he should. Your fellow secret agent companion takes his during a cutscene in the beginning of the game rather than suffer the horrors of Nazi interrogation.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Snake hides a pill in his tooth in the event that he's captured by the Russians. However, it's not a death pill, it's a fake death pill that dulls his vital signs to almost nil. After the enemies inspect his body and leave, he can activate his Revive pill and come back to life, complete with the "Game Over" music playing backwards. Snake needs to activate his Revive pill fairly quickly, otherwise he dies for real.
    • The Revival pill is also key to solving a Puzzle Boss: During a particularly trippy boss "fight", Snake is inevitably killed...but his inventory is still accessible.
    • Every single female mook gets one of the Cardassian varieties in, much to the consternation of every red-blooded male playing. Kojima is an epic troll.
    • The character Revolver Ocelot has a capsule holder around his neck, presumably housing a cyanide pill.
    • The microbombs implanted in the main bosses fit this trope to a tee.
  • Sword of Vermillion features an item called Banshee Powder. You take it, and it kills you, bringing you back to the last church you visited. However, it's quite advantageous to use it in situations you can't get yourself out of without dying (such as being poisoned and too far away from town), as you don't have to pay the church a fee if you use banshee powder.
  • In Perfect Dark, there is a counter-ops mode that uses the same levels as in the one player mode but gives the other player control over one of the mooks. When the mook dies, the player gets control of the next mook. If the current mook is too far from the action, they can use a suicide pill to switch to the next.
  • In Grim Fandango, revolutionary leader Salvador Limones has a suicide pill implanted in a fake tooth that kills not only himself, but anyone else too close to him when he uses it.
  • A minor boss early in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Beyard, takes poison after he's defeated. Granted, it's made explicit that if he failed and wasn't killed in battle, his superiors would kill him. The Black Fang's just nasty like that.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Mordin Solus makes an offhand comment that while updating the Cerberus crew's dental records, he found out they are outfitted with cyanide capsules in a tooth. He finds them crude in comparison to the ocular nerve flashbangs that salarian agents are apparently outfitted with.
    • It turns out in the third game that Cerberus was listening to that particular conversation.
  • In the Kingdom of Loathing Christmas Crimbo 2009 event, members of the Elvish Resistance dropped suicide pills made of sugar. A small pill containing enough sugar to kill one of Santa's elves. Even the narrator is astonished.
  • In the "bad" ending of Wing Commander Secret Ops (fail to destroy the command ship before it opens the gate to Nephilim space), the captain of the Cerberus tells pilots there's a pill beneath their seat that will kill them, so they don't have to experience the horror of endless waves of aliens overrunning the universe.
  • In The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, the Blackwood Ring of Silence is a magical version; a ring that deals massive amounts of fire damage. To the wearer.
  • Type "kill" or "explode" into the client log of Team Fortress 2 and you will bid farewell, cruel world. You can even assign the command to a key for convenience. This actually has a function in-game, in the event that you get stuck. Really funny when a poor sap doesn't know how to do this when he needs to.
  • In Penumbra: Black Plague, it's revealed that members of an underground complex were issued cyanide pills in case they got contaminated with the stuff they were researching. Way, way better fate than letting the contamination run its course.

Web Comics

  • Zexion used to carry a stash of these for impromptu Mercy Kills. Or if someone was bothering him. Until Namine switched them with Mentos.
  • In Girl Genius, Moloch von Zinzer is offered one when he's about to be sent to a particularly nasty prison/forced-labor camp. He takes it but doesn't use it, and now that he's back in the story many readers suspect it's a Chekhov's Gun.
    • Given all the stuff that von Zinzer drinks I have to wonder if the poison actually would kill him... or even if he's already tried to take it.
  • In an early Schlock Mercenary comic, Tagon attempted to interrogate the captain of an alien terrorist ship that Petey captured, he requested some suicide pills and hot cocoa, turned out that he didn't need the suicide pills due to his species' allergy to chocolate. In the following comic Tagon and Petey discovered that his species was also fatally allergic to tea, coffee, and alcohol.
    • The captive actually added "suicide pill" into his request for otherwise ordinary (for humans) refreshments, knowing that Tagon would notice and refuse it but possibly allow the rest of them. That makes the move a Censor Decoy in the form of a Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick.
  • Parodied in Sam and Fuzzy. Fuzzy is sent in alone to perform a burglary and finds something resembling a Cyanide Pill in his equipment... Which turns out to be a jelly bean. In the event of his capture, he is to eat it as a reminder that if he keeps his mouth shut, he can have the rest of the bag afterward.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 comic Old Wounds, Spy says he intends to kill himself to avoid torture and offers to spit some of the poison from in his mouth into Miss Pauling's.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal points out "a bit too macabre" part of the "Super-realistic spy gear" toy set.

Web Original

  • In the review of Batman and Robin, The Nostalgia Critic was removed from all his methods of suicide, but they forgot his Cyanide Pill. It didn't take long for him to try to consume it... and gets thwarted by the security guard.

Robin: I want a car! Chicks dig the car!
Batman: This is why Superman works alone...
Critic: (pauses, tries to pop the bill)

Western Animation

  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Off Balance", Batman corners two of Count Vertigo's henchmen, who gas themselves to death using a hidden catch in their masks rather than allow themselves to be captured. Batman later explains to Commissioner Gordon that they had "erased their own memories" when cornered, but from the way they're drawn convulsing and ending up with vacant dead stares on their faces, it's obvious that only the Never Say "Die" clause kept their demise from being outright stated.
  • Thanors in Chris Colorado have literal kill switches installed behind their ears and are seen using them in some episodes.
    • Similarly when he fights agents from the Council of Shadows, they would rather inhale "coma gas" than surrender.
  • The Venture Brothers, "Love-Bheits": It is revealed that Heroic Comedic Sociopath Brock Samson has a false tooth loaded with arsenic, which he offers to Dr. Venture when they are captured by Baron Underbheit. Hank and Dean think this is the coolest thing ever, until they agree that a cherry Italian ice tooth would be even better.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons: Homer is caught by Mr. Burns trying to sneak into his mansion. He almost takes a cyanide pill, but Burns mistakes Homer for a magazine editor and allows him inside, stopping him from doing so. (He then tries to take it again when Burns says they'll be doing "a little walking".)
  • Parodied in Drawn Together when an assassin, who's also a genericized breakfast cereal leprechaun, takes one of his "cyanide marshmallows". There's one in every box!
  • Parodied in Family Guy as Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun do a No, You Hang Up First routine (only instead of hanging up a phone, it's taking a Cyanide Pill.)
  • Invader Zim has a Self-Destruct Mechanism in the first episode - but opts not to use it once he realizes no one will ever believe Dib that he's an alien.
    • Also this Troper remember's in the episode Dib's Wonderful life of Doom that after Zim gives up WAY too easily he commands Gir to self destruct, possibly to keep any humans FILTHY hands off whatever secrets Gir may have known.

Real Life

  • In 1985, serial killer Leonard Lake swallowed a hidden cyanide pill while in police custody, rather than face trial for his crimes.
  • All members, from the leader to the grunts, of the terrorist/guerilla Tamil Tigers organization wear wore a cyanide capsule on a string around their neck in case of capture.
  • Hermann Göring committed suicide with a potassium cyanide capsule the night before he was to be hanged, making a mockery of the prison guards who allowed him to have it.
    • It is suggested that Göring chose to commit suicide as a protest against being executed at the gallows instead of by firing squad, as he saw the former as suitable only for criminals and not military men.
      • Göring wasn't the only Nazi to do this. As World War II ended, a captured Heinrich Himmler committed suicide in this manner before the British could question him.
      • Adolf Hitler resorted to a combination of Cyanide Pill and shooting himself (along with his wife), in case the pills failed to work - even though he had witnessed a poison pill successfully kill his dog, Blondi.
      • Joseph and Magda Goebbels slipped their children cyanide pills in their dinner, and actually force-fed one to their eldest daughter because she knew what was going on. This was all because they didn't want to live in a world without Nazism.
      • Robert Ritter von Greim, the Luftwaffe's last commander, also took cyanide while in U.S. custody after learning he was about to be handed over to the Soviet Union in an exchange of prisoners.
    • Invoked by the Nazis on Erwin Rommel. After they found out he was a co-conspirator in the July 20 plot to kill Hitler, they gave him a choice: Either he could face trial (which would be bad news for him and his family), or he could quietly commit suicide with a cyanide pill, in which case it would be officially stated that he died as a hero, he would be given a military funeral, and his family would receive pensions from the German government. Needless to say, he took the pill.
  • Kim Hyun-hee and her elderly mentor were given cigarettes soaked in cyanide to use if they were captured after their attempt to blow up Korean Air Flight 858 as part of a North Korean terrorist mission. They were caught; her mentor died, but the cigarette only sickened Kim for some days.
  • The assassins' guild known as the Black Hand, despite sparking World War I, were on the whole outlandishly incompetent. After they'd, through pure coincidence, managed to kill Archduke Ferdinand, it turned out the cyanide pills they'd reserved for their capture failed to work.
    • This becomes understandable when you realize the context. Firstly, it is a common mistake to believe that the group that directly attacked Ferdinand's motorcade was the Black Hand. It wasn't; it was actually a small Anarchist/Nationalist (yes, go figure) group called Young Bosnia, which was one of the smaller, local groups to group known as the Black Hand (actually Unity or Death in the native Serbian) co-opted to act as a proxy. The Black Hand itself was horrifically effective (their spate of assassinations in Bosnia, Austria, and Bulgaria shows as much), but the higher ups grossly doubted the competence of YB (and not entirely unjustly), and so they gave them secondhand gear. That, and consider the fact that the Black Hand's stocks of cyanide had been riddled with impurities, and you get what happened.
      • Obviously the black hand wanted to generate a false lead to some decoy to take attention off their real selves (while still have a headline with their name in it - good for terror/recruiting). This is spy handler basics!
  • One of the most iconic Danish resistance fighters during World War II, Bent Faurschou-Hviid, better known under his codename "Flammen" (The Flame), commited suicide with a cyanide capsule in October 1944 to avoid capture by the Gestapo.
    • When a number of Danish resistance fighters were captured by the Gestapo, the resistance appealed to Britain to help them, as the resistance was unable to get cyanide pills to them. In one of the most daring missions of the war, the British sent in bombers to bomb the Danish Gestapo headquarters, freeing them from the basement prison.
      • Although the mission was successful, in a tragic error, during the mission the bombers also accidentally bombed a nearby children's school. After the war, some of the bomber pilots visited the families and found the families were comforting them. The families understood how necessary the mission was and that the children's deaths were an accident.
  • Not necessarily cyanide but certainly by poison; Cleopatra is said to have died this way. A Roman biographer commented that it was customary for royalty to have a supply of poison "just in case". Given that she might have been tortured, and possibly gang-raped if her regime fell, one can see the logic.
  • To avoid being a POW, Spetsnaz would have some way to kill themselves, either a pill or a spare grenade.
  • L-pills, as the slang went were regular issue in both the SOE and the OSS for reasons that are not to hard to figure out. They would have been considered illegal combatants even by the more-or-less gentlemanly regimes that ruled Imperial Germany and Imperial Japan in the past, and in World War II the enemy had no problem with applying the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. Aside from not desiring that for themselves, no one wanted to blurt out information about comrades.