Hostage for Macguffin

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Seize something [the enemy] cherishes and he will conform to your desires."

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A variation on the Hostage Situation and Put Down Your Gun and Step Away.

The villains have captured... someone. Anyone. Usually a family member or loved one, but it really could just be the guy down the street, because the main character loves everyone.

The Villains are willing to propose a trade. Give them the superpowered item that will let them conquer the Earth and kill far more people than just their one hostage, or they will kill their hostage.

The good guys not only go through with it, it's apparent that they would in fact completely honor their side of the deal.

But all hope is not lost, because the villain, halfway through the deal and before completely securing the super-doohickey will doublecross the heroes, usually resulting in their defeat. They could have just taken the Crystal Of Ridiculous Levels Of Power but no, they had to sneer at the heroes and attempt to kill someone completely irrelevant to their goal.

Played straight, this trope often turns into a nasty Straw Vulcan where handing the MacGuffin over is obviously the wrong choice, succeeding only by sheer dumb luck. If it succeeds at all. In Super Sentai, for instance, the villain is likely to blow up a few buildings afterwards, but who cares? The hostage with a human face is saved.

Fortunately, not all heroes are that stupid. If there's a decoy MacGuffin kicking around, they might be able to pass that off as the real one. If you have a particularly Genre Savvy protagonist or an Anti-Hero, most often time's they'll subvert this trope by throwing the item in the air or threatening to destroy it anyway, causing the villain to panic and make a mistake. They can even avert this trope altogether by just shooting the villain or destroying said item on the spot.

Common in videogames; the villains usually let the heroes collect the seven whatevers and then step in with a trade. The games will even tease you with the choice of not doing it, But Thou Must!.

See also "Friend or Idol?" Decision. This can be the beginning of an Unhand Them, Villain!.

Examples of Hostage for Macguffin include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sailor Moon goes through this at least once per season, if not more.
  • The Slayers did this in the first season, when Rezo threatened to turn all the people in a town to stone if he didn't get the statue Lina stole in the first episode. To her credit, Lina was mostly just using it to get close enough to try to kill Rezo after he made his threat.
    • Also a bit of Forgotten Phlebotinum, as the statue in question is known to contain the Philosopher's Stone (which, in this universe, makes sorcerers much more powerful). At this point Lina is already a world class Sorceress (both she and Rezo have a color, i.e. are recognized as Archmages). She could easily have turn the people back or even prevented them from doing so, as any discrepancies in power would be clearly made up for by the Stone.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Saiou threatens to let Edo fall into a Lava Pit unless Judai hands over the access key to a laser weapon in space. Judai complies to save Edo, then challenges Saiou to a duel for the fate of the world. Saiou points out what only the truly most Genre Blind would forget: the time to make a challenge is before you hand over the Plot Coupon, not after.
    • Also, in the first season, one of the Seven Star Assassins holds Ryo's brother hostage for his Spirit Gate Key. He was actually willing to go through with it too, until Sho said he didn't mind being sacrificed. Ryo surrendered anyway.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!! had quite a few of this, as well: The first season had Pegasus hold Yugi's grandpa hostage for his Millennium Puzzle, while simultaneously holding Kaiba's brother hostage for his company. The second season and Virtual Nightmare sub-arc had Kaiba's brother held hostage yet again, first for Kaiba's Egyptian God Card, then for Kaiba's own body, while Yugi had Anzu and—later—Jonouchi held hostage for his God Card and Millennium Puzzle.
  • Nadia and The Secret of Blue Water does this when Nadia, Marie, and King are taken hostage by Gargoyle and Jean is told to trade the Blue Water for his friends' lives.
  • In Death Note, Sayu Yagami is taken hostage by Mello and traded for the Death Note. Uncharacteristically, Mello takes precautions so that the Note cannot be traced by the SPK or Japanese police, but makes no attempt to kill the hostage or Souchiro (who delivered the Note) after the trade -- this makes a lot more sense in the manga, where he later blackmails Souchiro for information about the police investigation.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, a beastwoman has taken all the female cast (and Gimmy) hostage from a hot spring and projects an image of them in their cage with a mosaic over their naughty bits. In exchange for Kamina giving up control of Gurren, she offers to remove the mosaic from the display, which Kamina immediately accepts. The beastwoman keeps her word, only to reveal everyone (except, of course, Gimmy) is wearing towels, and the Gurren was stolen while he was distracted.
  • In Transformers Headmasters, Sixshot takes Wheelie prisoner and threatens to execute him unless he gets the secret of Fortress Maximus' sword. He was apparently willing to let Wheelie go if Fortress came up with the goods, but Wheelie was rescued by Chromedome before his full intentions were revealed.
  • Happens twice in Transformers: Robots in Disguise, though the first time was by accident. On the first occasion, Sky-Byte started attacking a tower just to be evil, but turned it into a hostage situation when Wedge mistook it for one. Later on, Megatron threatened to kill Wedge unless Optimus Prime handed over the O-Parts, but Sky-Byte messed it up.
  • Invoked and Subverted in Inuyasha when the Thunder Brothers kidnap Kagome. The younger one was originally going to just eat her, but she convinces them that if they do, Inu-Yasha will have to avenge her death... but if they don't, he will gladly give them their Shikon Jewel Shards in exchange for her safe return. (It doesn't work, but only because the older Thunder Brother gets impatient and simply attacks him for them.)

Elder Thunder Brother: Now give us your shards of the Sacred Shikon Jewel or you will never see your beloved again!
Inu-Yasha: (to Kagome) You told them I was IN LOVE with you?!

  • In an episode of Pokémon, Buneary was captured by Team Rocket, and Pikachu can't do anything, since shocking the mecha will mean hurting Buneary (who has a crush on Pikachu). Team Rocket offers to release her, if he joins Team Rocket. Pikachu accepts, but unsurprisingly, TR doesn't release Buneary.
  • In Buso Renkin, Chouno promises to give Kazuki the antidote for the homunculus core that is taking over Tokiko's body in return for his kakugane. However, Kazuki can't be separated from his kakugane, and as Tokiko reveals when she shows up, the antidote was a fake anyway.
  • Hotshot lampshades this in Transformers Armada:

Ah, great. The old 'sacrifice your partner or lose the weapon' gag.

  • In Pokémon Special, Noland gives Guile Hideout the translated Jirachi report in order to save Anabelle's life, thus allowing Guile to nearly flood the world with a magically wished-up Kyogre.
  • Inverted in After War Gundam X. The antagonists have captured Garrod's companion and Love Interest Tiffa, and are holding her near their newly-completed Wave Motion Gun, made out of a space colony. Garrod arrives with his own Wave Motion Gun, the colony-destroying Satellite Cannon, and demands her return or else he'll cripple their superweapon. After a demonstration on Garrod's part, the antagonist's leader realizes his best move is to send Tiffa over. As soon as she is safe next to her soon-to-be boyfriend in the Double X, Garrod blows it up anyway.

Comic Books

  • In an issue of Nodwick, a pair of dragons have captured a noble knight and his retinue and demand a series of powerful artifacts for his return. After the party succeeds in making the trade and the dragons leave, the now-freed knight instantly proceeds to chew them out for their stupidity in handing the wyrms the means to cause suffering to an untold number of innocents... enraging the party fighter and wizard into pummeling him senseless.


  • Subverted in the film and literary versions of The Da Vinci Code, when Teabing has Sophia hostage and demands that Langdon hand over the cryptex, which contains the location of the Holy Grail. Knowing that Teabing's legs are crippled, Langdon throws the fragile cryptex in the air, causing Teabing to panic and fall over attempting to catch it.
  • Subverted in the film The Rock, where General Hummel threatens to execute a civilian hostage if Stanley Goodspeed, and John Mason don't return the guidance chips for the General's nerve-gas equipped missiles. When it looks like Goodspeed might go through with the deal, Mason crushes the chips.
  • Parodied in The Naked Gun 33 1/3, where Rocco has Jane held at gunpoint and Drebin is holding the bomb Rocco wants. Naturally Drebin refuses, prompting Rocco to mention Jane. Drebin then agrees, only for Jane to intersect and explain how they'd all die if Rocco got the bomb. After several different suggestions all work out in no real way where Drebin and Jane can be alive together, Drebin points out the madness and says that's he's the cop, he should have the gun, and that Rocco's the villain, and he should have the bomb. They then engage a swap, and as expected, Rocco snatches the envelope, and hands over the gun, as everyone slaps their heads at the stupidity of it.
  • Averted in the first RoboCop movie: during a attempted rape stopped midstream by the appearance of the titular hero, one of the wannabe-rapists grabs their victim, trying to use her as a meat shield. Robocop shoots the hostage taker in a VERY sensitive area, right through the woman's skirt. The other wannabe rapist surrenders rather quickly after this.
  • Averted in Speed where Keanu Reeves shoots the hostage (Jeff Daniels) in the leg to make him immobile to keep the hostage taker from taking him along.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Prince Nuada makes such a demand of Abe Sapien. Which is strange, because Nuada's hostage is his own sister, and any injury she suffers is transmitted to him, making his threat the equivalent of holding a gun to his own head. But Abe's holding the Idiot Ball, so he complies anyway.
  • This was one of many issues with the Dungeons & Dragons movie. Villain takes Chick captive and demands Hero hand over MacGuffin, okay, business as usual. However, the MacGuffin in this case is a magic rod that summons and controls dragons. Critics and audience alike saw the obvious solution in that, but of course, Hero didn't.
  • The Mortal Kombat 2 movie. Shao Kahn threatens to kill hero Johnny Cage, and Raiden immediately threatens to respond by killing all four of Shao Kahn's greatest warriors right there on the spot. Then in a defining Idiot Ball moment, he instantly backs down from his threat. Johnny Cage pointlessly dies moments later.
  • Subverted in the film version of The Wizard of Oz, when the Wicked Witch of the West has Dorothy and Toto trapped in her castle. The Witch threatens to kill Toto unless Dorothy gives her the ruby slippers, and Dorothy tearfully agrees to do so, but the ruby slippers are stuck to Dorothy's feet and won't come off, something the Witch remembers the hard way when the slippers shock her.
  • Sneakers. Big Bad Cosmo captures Liz and threatens to kill her unless Martin Bishop gives him the box containing the decoding chip. He promises to let them go once he has the box, but double-crosses them. Luckily, Martin has a couple of aces up his sleeve.
  • Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. A couple of Dr. Totenkopf's Mooks capture Polly Perkins, Joe's Love Interest.

Thug: Give me the vials and the girl will live.
Joe: What vials? What are you talking about?
Thug: I will not ask a second time.

  • Buckaroo Banzai. Lord John Whorfin demands that Banzai turn over the Oscillation Overthruster or he'll kill his Love Interest, Penny Priddy. What he doesn't know is that the Overthruster is actually in Penny's purse (she got it in an I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin moment just seconds before being captured, but has no idea what it is herself). Banzai, however, does know this, and uses the Tracking Device in it to locate Whorfin's base and mount a rescue mission. Which fails. Momentarily.
  • "El Dorado". The villains capture Cole Thornton and offer to trade him for Bart Jason, the Living MacGuffin, who is in jail awaiting trial for murder.
  • Frantic. The wife of Harrison Ford's character disappears from their hotel room after she picks up the wrong suitcase at the airport. Once the villains realise they've grabbed the wrong person, they offer to exchange the wife for the suitcase containing the MacGuffin—Ford's character is willing but a rival faction which also wants the MacGuffin interrupts things.


  • In the Narnia Solo-Game "Return of the White Witch", it is possible to be in a position to screw up the enemies plans, having two key components the villains need to resurrect the Big Bad. Preventing this will save many, many lives; however the villains get you to give up by threatening a random baby squirrel (which seems less weak when you remember that animals are the same as people in Narnia). If you insist on the "needs of the many" route and call their bluff, Aslan steps in and forces you to submit, and your Karma Meter takes a hit. No arguing with Big Lion Jesus.


  • Much of the plot of The Dresden Files novel Small Favor revolves around this, however with the subversion that Harry and the Big Bad both know neither side intends to follow through with their end of the bargain, but keep up with the pretense because it's the most profitable course.
    • It is... Slightly more complicated than that. Both Harry and the Big Bad knows that the other side will try a trick. But both are sure they have a BETTER trick. Also, a very profitable course. For the Big Bad, at least.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Edge of Battle, Jason Richter is threatened with the lives of some children if he doesn't give up the activation command for a CID. He gives it up... and Zakharov not only lets him go, but also doesn't backstab him afterwards.
  • Mr. Motley makes this offer to late into Perdido Street Station: Lin's life in exchange for the slake-moths. However, the resident Satisfied Street Rat says that he's seen Motley pull this trick before, and every time, the hostage was dead before the demand was even made, because there's nothing in it for him not to kill them. It later turns out Motley actually did have a reason to keep Lin around (not that Lemuel would have had no way of knowing it), but it's still unlikely that he'd have kept his end of the bargain.
  • Peter and the Starcatchers:
    • In the first book, Slank takes Molly hostage and demands the trunk of starstuff in return.
    • In the second book, Umbra and his crew capture Shining Pearl for the same reason. The Molluscs don't have the starstuff, though, so they end up using her to guarantee safe passage back to their ship.

Live Action TV

  • Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Choices": The Scoobies have captured the Box of Gavrok belonging to Mayor Wilkins, while Mayor Wilkins has captured Willow. The Scoobies debate the morality of destroying the box instead of giving it to the Mayor, but agree to make the trade. The Mayor does not attempt to kill Willow anyway, and releases her once he has the box. The result is that Willow is safe, but the Mayor has the box.
  • Subverted and played straight in the old Doctor Who story The Daleks' Master Plan. The first time it happens, the Doctor goes for the third option and gives the Daleks a fake MacGuffin so he can get the TARDIS back. The second time this tropes plays out straight, but only because for once the Doctor's Indy Ploy didn't come off right.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki has a rare example where the character actively chooses the MacGuffin over the hostage. Kagawa Hideyuki (Alternative Zero) wants to stop the war of the Kamen Riders and the bloodshed it causes. When Big Bad Kanzaki Shirou threatens to kill Kagawa's family, Kagawa lets him do it and continues to fight for the greater good. This is held against him, of course, since Kagawa is the local Straw Vulcan. (The family survives, because Kido Shinji butts in and saves them without Kagawa's knowledge.)
  • In an episode of Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, everyone in Angel Grove is kidnapped by Rita, and the Rangers must give up their power coins (making them powerless) to have them released. They comply, but Rita doesn't hold up her end of the deal.
    • A subversion comes in a later episode, when the same trick is tried again. Not surprisingly, this time the villains get chocolate coins.
  • Warehouse 13 episode "Nevermore" MacPherson, after manipulating Pete and Myka into being the MacGuffin Delivery Service, holds Myka's parents hostage for the Poe artifact. He holds up his end of the deal after getting the artifact.
  • On NCIS, the Weatherman leaves a kidnapped, drugged little girl lying on a pressure plate, which is wired to electrocute both her and a bank of computers if she moves. Given more time, the agents might've been able to deactivate the trap without destroying the computers' crucial information; unfortunately, the girl starts to wake up and they have to snatch her off the bed fast, saving her life but forfeiting the stored data.


  • In the events portrayed on Dawn of Victory, by Rhapsody, the Princess Irene is captured by evil forces, who threaten to kill her unless the Emerald Sword is surrendered to the evil king. Subverted: when the heroes arrive they are captured and made to watch while the Princess is raped to death by demons. One of the heroes escapes, sans Emerald Sword.

Video Games

  • Sonic Adventure 2, where Eggman has Amy Rose held hostage and Sonic has the final (fake) Chaos Emerald in his possession. Eggman, however, correctly guesses the Emerald is a fake and promptly launches Sonic into space.
  • It gets used so often that your Karma Meter in Skies of Arcadia goes down if you actually fall for this—and Aika will instead refuse on your behalf, after calling you an idiot.
  • Final Fantasy IV has a slight variation of this trope, approximating the MacGuffin Delivery Service, when Golbez holds Rosa hostage in the Tower of Zot and demands that Cecil fetch and hand over an elemental crystal as ransom. Predictably, once Golbez has what he wants, he orders his minions to execute Rosa anyway, and Cecil must rescue her, but in this case Golbez gets to keep the MacGuffin. To nail it further, the Crutch Character dies in a Senseless Sacrifice, although that last part was heavily foreshadowed (if you didn't know it already).
    • Final Fantasy IX has this. When you're trying to invade Kuja's fortress, he takes your group hostage and has half of them go off and steal a Plot Coupon from a dungeon he can't breach due to its Anti-Magic field. The other half manages to escape, but not quick enough to prevent the hero from handing the item away.
  • Kingdom Hearts II: in the Beauty and the Beast segment, Xaldin captures Belle and the Beast's rose and confronts the heroes holding one in each arm, telling the Beast to choose between them. The heroes freeze in indecision -- just long enough for Belle to give Xaldin an elbow to the stomach, grab the rose, and run for the group. By the time Xaldin's caught his breath, the Beast is already on him.
    • It should be noted that though the main heroes froze, Beast decided on Belle pretty much instantly. He just lucked out when Belle let him have both.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: the villains try to use this scheme to push Ramza into handing over the Zodiac Stones and the Germonik Scriptures. He sees through this enough to negotiate a compromise and only hands over the Scriptures. Unfortunately, this plus the two Zodiac Stones the villains already had eventually proves to be just barely enough when push comes to shove...
    • In a separate instance, the villains hold Mustadio's father Besrodio captive so that they can get Mustadio's Zodiac Stone. After Mustadio tells them where it is and Ramza hands it over, the villains gloat and attack the heroes anyway. Joke's on them, however: Mustadio gave them a fake.
  • The very first Wild ARMs game has a Princess handing over a magic stone that will enable the villains to destroy the world; because they want to destroy her kingdom. In the Video Game Remake Alter Code F, she gets into a hefty argument with another party member over the morality of this. Her reasoning is that the people of the city are dying now, and handing over the MacGuffin will save them, but doom the planet to a slow death, which she reasons can be averted by getting the MacGuffin back. So she wasn't entirely naive.
  • Happens in both Golden Sun games; the characters have been told that handing over the MacGuffin will destroy the world, yet they do so anyways. Yes, later it's revealed unlocking the MacGuffin is a good thing, but at the time, they didn't know that.
    • In the first game, the antagonists are holding a girl hostage and they demand the party to hand over a staff in exchange that the girl won't be harmed. The party hands the staff over and then complain to the antagonists that they are not holding up their end of the bargain, saying they would let her go. The antagonists then gleefully point out that those were their terms; they only agreed to not harm the girl.
  • Final Fantasy Legend II (called SaGa II in Japan) uses this. In a relatively unusual variant of the trope, once your characters hand over the 76 MAGI they collected, the villain releases the hostages and leaves.
    • The door he leaves through is sealed and requires MAGI to open, so he assumes that you will never be able to reach him. He never knew about the 78th MAGI.
  • At one point in Clive Barker's Undying, one of the villains demands a magic stone from the main character in exchange for his friend's life. Despite his friend's protests, and despite the fact that killing the friend has seemed to be the sole goal of the villains up to this point, he hands it over. This doesn't play out so much to standards of the trope, as to how it realistically would—the baddie kills his hostage, then uses the stone to enhance his powers.
  • Used in Gunstar Heroes Not only do you have to give the Big Bad the Gems you got, but you have to fight your way to the Big Bad and take out The Dragon before you perform the transaction.
  • Late in Ganbare Goemon 3, the villain Shishi Jurokubei demands the Conch Shell used to summon Goemon Impact in exchange for Omitsu, the hero's Love Interest. The exchange is made without a hitch until the hostage is revealed to actually be Villainous Crossdresser Sister Bismaru, the real Omitsu having been with Jurokubei all along.
  • In Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia your idiot rival gets himself captured by the Bad Guys and they offer him in exchange for the shiny gem you've just caught that would ruin their plans to plunge the world into everlasting darkness. Despite the rival insisting that you keep the gem because even he can see how obviously better of a decision it is, But Thou Must! is in full effect and you have to make the trade no matter what.
  • In Tales of Symphonia Yuan holds the hero hostage to get his father, Kratos to give Yuan the Eternal Sword, with which he intended to save the world himself. It might have worked, if the Big Bad hadn't interrupted.
  • Used in the first Vandal Hearts; interestingly, the team is saving a known traitor.
  • In the first Ninja Gaiden (the NES one), Jaquio makes Ryu give him the Demon Statue that will let him summon the Ancient Demon; or else he would kill "the girl." (Irene, but Ryu at this point didn't even know her name.) Naturally the Demon is summoned, but fortunately Ryu kills the Demon anyways.
  • At the end of the descent from the peak of the Balance Temple in Lost Magic, the Diva of the Twilight shows up, verbally confounds Trista, her sister, effectively making her a hostage, and then gives you the option to either give Isaac's Wand of Light to the Diva or hold on to it. You actually do get to choose in this case, although the game really wants you to give up the Wand.
  • In Seiken Densetsu 3, whichever villains correspond to your chosen main character will kidnap the Faerie in a bid to get the Mana Sword. In a rare twist, all of the villains keep their part of the bargain and return the Faerie unharmed.
  • In Epic Mickey, the Phantom Blot threatens to kill Oswald and Gus if Mickey doesn't surrender his heart. Mickey spends the rest of the game trying to stop the unleashed Blot and get his heart back.
  • This occurs during the ending of Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant. After you defeat the Final Boss and find the Astral Dominae, the real Dark Savant shows up. He's captured Vi Dominia, and makes the standard demand. The game does let you refuse, but if you do, you die instantly. If you agree, he takes it and teleports away, leaving you and the girl behind, setting up the sequel.
  • Case 2-4 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Shelly de Killer kidnapps Maya in order to force Phoenix to acquit Matt Engarde. Of course, Phoenix has no idea that Engarde hired de Killer to kill Juan Corrida.
  • In Brave Fencer Musashi after obtaining the Sky Crest, the Flatski demand Musashi to hand over the completed sword Lumina for the captive princess. Musashi hands over the sword and Flatski activated it on the crest causing the Sealed Evil in a Can to be released.
  • In Solatorobo, Bruno kidnaps Elh to make an exchange for Red's medallion and indirectly his life.
  • In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, after it becomes clear to the Big Bad that Ezio cannot be stopped by any man or army in his quest to recover the Masyaf Keys, he instead pulls a classic "I have your girlfriend" ploy. Ezio, who is at this point weary to the bone of the constant struggle, accepts the terms but has his fellow Assassins prepare for the inevitable treachery, which gives him an opportunity to chase down the villain and recover the keys.

Web Comics

  • In Ctrl+Alt+Del, a corporate executive abducts Lilah to force her boyfriend Ethan to surrender the crown of Wintereenmas, as he believes this will give him control over the gaming industry. Ethan complies immediately, telling Lilah she's much more important than the crown, but the cute twist comes when the gamers rebel and reinstate Ethan as the King of Wintereenmas.
  • In Strays, the fox woman tries this. It would have worked better if 1. Meela had been Feral's pup, and 2. Feral had the thing she was looking for.
  • Dubious Company's Imperial Guards and Sky Pirates quickly turn this into a Gambit Pileup.
    • Gary holds a fireball to Sal demanding the pirates surrender. Walter reminds him of the errors in killing the Barrier Maiden and takes back Sal.
    • This gives Leeroy the idea to takes his sword to Sal, demanding the Imperial's surrender. In response, Marty takes Elly hostage.
    • Since Elly is Mary's Love Interest, Mary's Clingy Jealous Girl instincts kick in and the debacle dissolves into Enemy Civil War.

Western Animation

  • Winx Club put a few twists on this in "Date with Disaster": Bloom gave the Trix Stella's ring, which they had been trying to get for the duration of the series up to this point (5 episodes). This was in exchange for the Trix letting Stella go. The witches oblige, but in the very next episode, it turns out that the ring does not contain the power the Trix are really looking for.
    • The Winx would face this again in season 3, this time letting that season's Big Bad get away with a magic box in exchange for saving a guy who's interested in Layla (Layla is completely uninterested in him, and she doesn't know that he's her intended, but obliges anyway).
  • Inverted twice on Code Lyoko: the Lyoko Warriors put Aelita in danger to force XANA to back off his attack. Good thing she's only useful to him alive.
    • Which makes sense, since Aelita is as textbook an example of a MacGuffin Girl as you're likely to find.
    • Played straight in the appropriately named episode "Ultimatum," when XANA possesses the school principal and kidnaps Yumi and Odd whom he threatens to "liquidate" should Aelita not give herself up to him in the given time frame.
  • My Little Pony: "The Ghost of Paradise Estate".
  • Used in Transformers Animated, with the justification that the villain making the threat plans to start with the hostages and keep up the death and destruction until he finds the MacGuffin himself. Neither party intends to honor the agreement.
  • Used rather nastily in Armada. The hostage turned out to be The Mole. Also played straight when Megatron kidnaps Billy and Fred and holds them in exchange for the Mini-Cons.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures lampshades and justifies this trope in the season one finale when Zhang holds Pepper hostage and forces Tony and Gene to retrieve the fifth Makluan Ring for him or else he will kill Pepper. Pepper responds to this with a sarcastic 'Gee, THAT'S original'. However, this allows Pepper to get close enough to Zhang to steal back other four Makluan Rings which Zhang stole from them earlier.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus pulls one of these when Spider-Man plays keep-away with the Applied Phlebotinum Doc Ock needs to power his Artificial Limbs. The chase leads toward Coney Island, where Octopus realizes Spidey feels obliged to save Innocent Bystanders from the resulting chaos. Exploiting this, he grabs a nearby damsel and leaves her hanging precariously from a rollercoaster to force Spider-Man to give up the power source. The damsel is actually Peter Parker's then-girlfriend (sort of) Liz Allan, though neither she nor Octopus know Spidey is Parker.
  • In Barbie and the Diamond Castle, Lydia forces Melody, hiding in a mirror, to show herself (and give up the location of the Diamond Castle) by ordering a mind-controlled Alexa to walk toward a pit of lava/acid. Once Melody comes out, Lydia promises to set Melody's friends free once the Diamond Castle is revealed, but as they leave, she secretly orders her pet dragon to off the other girls (who end up escaping and saving the day).
  • The main plot of the Danny Phantom Made for TV Movie "Reality Trip" deals with Freakshow holding the trio's parents hostage in exchange for the three Mineral MacGuffins. He reminds them once they deliver that "The deal was 'If you want to see your parents alive again.' Well, here they are, alive... for now!"
  • In Ben 10 Alien Force, Vilgax holds Gwen and Kevin hostage for the Omnitrix. Ben hands it over almost immediately.