Nothing Personal

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"It's nothing personal. Just business."

A longstanding Stock Phrase that has two uses.

The first is usually used by an antagonist. Generally it will be given after the antagonist has announced what he's about to do, but before he actually does it. Alternatively, it may be given after the protagonist has overwhelmed the villain and the villain is trying to defuse the hero's anger or justify his actions. It wasn't personal, after all. This can also come in the form of "it's not personal."

Often used this way by the Lovable Traitor and the Punch Clock Villain. Often this phrase comes back around in the form of an Ironic Echo.

Usually, when a person says this, it really isn't personal to them. Why this should matter to the person they're hurting is a mystery, however. One can also argue that saying it isn't personal makes it personal, as it means the victim doesn't matter to the speaker. As such, this trope can also refer to the character himself and not just to dialogue.

The second is to use it as another way of saying "no offense." Nothing personal, but this comment might offend you. This is more a figure of speech than a stock phrase, and as such we probably shouldn't catalog examples.

Often punctuated with "Just Following Orders". Contrast times when it is personal. See also Being Personal Isn't Professional and Consummate Professional.

Unfortunately, this trope is very much Truth in Television.

Examples of Nothing Personal include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Used in Afro Samurai, when a random mook who led an attack for the Number Two Headband asks Afro "Why you gotta kill all my men? Why you gotta kill me?", Afro replies "Nothing personal. It's just revenge."
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has Fate starting off like this. He actually says he doesn't have anything against Negi, but beats the crap out of him because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eventually after Negi lands a punch on him, he switches to It's Personal, which escalates to The Only One Allowed to Defeat You levels.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: End of Evangelion, one of the JSSDF tells Shinji that shooting him in the head is nothing personal, Misato explains to said grunt that he shouldn't take her blowing them away personally either. The wording differs in the translations:

Subtitle-Misato: Nothing personal here either. *BANG!*
Dub-Misato: Heeey, no offense taken. *BANG! SPLORCH!*[1]

    • On the English language commentary, Jason and Amanda Lee say that they originally imagined Taliesin Jaffe delivering the line in an "I eat babies for breakfast" voice, but when he delivered it in a much more casual way they realized it was even colder and went with it.
  • In Bleach Starrk says this to Kyoraku just before shooting him in the back. The reason why he got the chance to do so, incidentally, was because Kyoraku took Wonderweiss's attack on Ukitake rather personally.
  • In Digimon Tamers, when Beelzebumon comes after the Tamers to fulfill his Deal with the Devil, he claims that it's just business and following through with the deal (odds are, given how conflicted he was to attack people he kinda liked, he's probably more telling himself that than he is them). Then he kills Leomon and it promptly goes to his head, subverting the trope.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Morlun, thousand years old immortal that predates over beings with animal-like powers gave us a funny dialogue based on it, when he encountered Spider-Man:

Morlun: "This is how it's going to be. You will run. I will hunt you.(...) But finally you will fall from power. And then you will die. But you have my word. It's nothing personal. "
Spider-Man: "Wait a second. You say you want to kill me and claim it's nothing personal? Nothing personal?! Listen, man. I was fighting with every kind of jerk on this planet. I was fighting with freaks, mutants, aliens and superequipped gangs...God dammit, I was fighting even with my own costume! And you know what? You're the first one, that really pissed me off!"

  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, we see a flashback to the climactic final confrontation between Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty. They make it clear to one another that this isn't a manner of personal spite and immediately begin fighting to the death.
  • Lampshaded and subverted by Underworld in a Marvel Civil War comic. He visits the injured Hammerhead in the hospital, then tells him about a time that Hammerhead had grievously injured a friend of his for a petty amount of money. Underworld puts a gun in Hammerhead's mouth and, before pulling the trigger, says "It's always personal, ya mook."
  • Ultimate Hulk vs Wolverine had a variation; after ripping Wolverine in half, Hulk is about to eat one of Wolverine's legs, letting him choose which one. Wolverine gets understandably pissed off, which prompts Hulk to say "You're taking this way too personal...", commenting that if he doesn't eat one leg, Wolverine will just reattach them and chase after him. When Logan says he'll do that anyway, Hulk comments that he's just giving him motivation to eat both legs.
  • Deathstroke spears Phantom Lady through her torso. When she asks him why, he responds "Sorry, darlin'. Just business."


Film[edit | hide]

Tom Hagen: "Your father wouldn't want to hear this, Sonny. This is business, not personal."
Sonny: "They shoot my father and it's business, my ass!"
Tom Hagen: "Even shooting your father was business, not personal, Sonny!"

Pegasus: What, no hello, no how are you? I thought we were friends, Kaiba-boy. Don't tell me that kidnapping your little brother and seizing control of Kaiba Corp. has put a rift between us. It was nothing personal.

Randal Graves: Oh, hey, Caitlin, break his heart again this time and I'll kill ya. Nothing personal.

The Joker: When I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you know that I'm telling the truth. It's the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and look where that got you.

Lord Cutler Beckett: He actually expects us to honor our agreement. Nothing personal, Jack... it's just good business.

Dr. Kaufman: I'm just a professional doing a job.
Bond: Me too. [BANG!]

  • Used in Shark Tale, which isn't surprising since the whole movie seems to parody The Godfather.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day used the phrase as its Tagline. (probably to parody a really infamous case of using It's Personal)
  • The romantic comedy You've Got Mail emphatically rejects the trope: Godfather fan Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) runs the chain of mega-bookstores that ran the little specialist bookstore owned by Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) to the ground:

Joe: It wasn't personal.
Kathleen: What is that supposed to mean?! I am so sick of that. All it means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's personal to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal anyway?
Joe: Uh, nothing.
Kathleen: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

  • In Apocalypse Now, a movie that takes place during the Vietnam War, Colonel Kurtz's haunting monologue emphasizes how important this concept is for a soldier. Kurtz illustrates this by describing an occasion when he was on a humanitarian mission to help a village and they gave medication and other supplies to help the people there, but the enemy took notice of this and killed every single person there just to spite the Americans. This shook Kurtz to his core, he wept bitterly and became so depressed over what had happened he thought he was going to go insane, but then he realized that to the Vietcong what they had done was nothing personal they loved their families and motivated by that love they were willing to do anything that it took to defeat the Americans so that they would leave the country and they could get back to their normal lives. In Kurtz's mind he had determined that the Vietcong had the right idea on how to be a soldier, you have to be a good, moral person but at the same time be able to tap into your instincts and be able to kill without, remorse, passion or judgment, if the Americans were as dedicated as their enemy and were willing to do anything that it took to win then the war would be over very quickly.
  • Used by Jelly when he's about to murder Billy Crystal, in Analyze This. Crystal responds, "Don't kid yourself, Jelly. It doesn't get more personal."
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace: When apprehended, the bounty hunter who attempted to assassinate Padme states, "It's just a job."
  • Jamie Reagan, the least likely of the Blue Bloods characters, says this to Mafia prince Noble Santino when he asks why Jamie befriended him for the sake of an undercover op. Interestingly Jamie felt enough remorse to at least try to keep the mob from assassinating him when they discovered Noble's error.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

Lana: And then he had the nerve to say "It's nothing personal, only business."

Carla Tortelli-LeBec: It's nothing personal. Just letting off steam.

Allison Parker: It's all in this memo. Again, I'm sorry. It's nothing personal. It's more about your illness.

  • Nada Personal, the exact translation of the phrase that names the trope, was the name of a Mexican Soap Opera, and of the memorable Opening Song specially composed for it. In the soap, the title was justified because most of the protagonists involvement in the plot was because they were collateral damage of a Narc Boss' actions, and the phrase was uttered several times. In the song, however, the phrase was used as "Between both us/there is nothing personal...", i.e. There is no intimacy between us anymore, even if we still love each other.
  • Used in the MacGyver episode "Strictly Business": Mac's arch-nemesis Murdoc returns and announces to MacGyver that his employers, the assassination organization H.I.T., has assigned Murdoc to kill him. Mac is dumbfounded because the last time they met, they had teamed up against H.I.T. to rescue Murdoc's estranged sister who was kidnapped by H.I.T. when Murdoc resigned. Murdoc explains that his sister was later killed in an avalanche, giving Murdoc nothing to live for and prompting him to go back to his former life. Thus Murdoc explains his desire to kill Mac as "Nothing personal. Strictly business." (And indeed this was the only time he did so for that reason since their first meeting it was because he got in the way of his battle with Pete Thorton and the others were motivated by revenge more than anything else).
  • Played with in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Warren says "it wasn't personal" when trying to persuade Willow not to kill him for killing Tara. Her response? "This is."
  • Used in Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, where Lassard is kidnapped by jewel thieves as a hostage, but he thinks it's all staged for his benefit and is having the time of his life. When the kidnapper is about to shoot him, he uses this phrase, but then the other cops show up. When Lassard finally figures out the truth, he tells the kidnapper the same thing, right before punching him out.
  • Common on Survivor where whittling down tribes to the final numbers often causes a lot of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Boston Rob "The Rahbfatha" Mariano takes this to almost catchphrase levels.
  • Used frequently in Burn Notice, both from the villains and the protagonists, although the protagonists use it more often to explain to the Victim of the Week that what the villains are planning to do to them isn't personal (as if that should matter).
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Inside Man," a dabo girl named Leosa helps some Ferengi to steal a hologram made by Reg Barclay, whom she was sleeping with. When she gets caught, she tells him "If it makes any difference, it wasn't personal. It was just business."


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Played with in Discworld's recurring phrase "Personal isn't the same as Important".
  • In the Andrew Vachss Burke book Strega, one of the child sex offenders tries to call his child pornography "just business". This is contrasted with an earlier self-proclaimed pedophile that Burke is forced to speak civilly with, who speaks disdainfully of those who are "commercial" with child pornography and waxes lyrical about emotional bonds and being personal.
  • In Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Ares does this, telling Percy that "you just might get those hardheaded idiots to listen to you. So I have to kill you. Nothing personal." It seems to be being used humorously, though.
  • In Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge's Red Flight is attacked by several Adumari ships before ever reaching the planet. After touching down Wedge speaks to the diplomatic liaison for an explanation.

"They were probably young, undisciplined pilots trying to achieve some personal honor by killing you in a fair dogfight. I doubt it was anything personal."
"You do. I take it very personally. We just had to vape four pilots in what is theoretically a friendly zone."

Michael: Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That's what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes. Right? And you know something? Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult.

  • In Unwind, Risa is consigned to being "unwound" (to donate all her organs) because of budget cuts at the state children's home where she lives.
  • Mentioned in Jon Stewart's Earth (The Book) (written to aliens) that humans often believed that trade was, for some strange reason, exempt from normal moral codes of conduct.


Music[edit | hide]

  • "You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You!" by Black Flag.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Quintessence: The Blighted Venom: At the end of Chapter 1, Lunair says to Reivier, "Nothing personal... But I'd rather not be held back by an annoyance like you."
  • Sword Man in Mega Man 8. He's very businesslike, citing his orders from Doctor Wily as the only reason he's fighting.
  • Invoked by Zevran in Dragon Age after you beat him, as he doesn't know Loghain's issues with you, and you can't afford to take it personally.
  • In the original Tomb Raider, the cowboy says this when you encounter him in Natla's Mines
  • Played straight in Metal Gear Solid when Snake talks to Naomi about why he beat her brother Gray Fox and left him to die during the events of Zanzibar Land. According to Snake the fight between him and Fox was nothing personal, they were simply soldiers on opposite sides and it is a soldier's job to kill the enemy, that Fox survived is something Snake is happy about for Fox was his best friend at one point.
  • In Mass Effect, Ambassador Udina calmly sells you out to the Council and grounds your ship, despite having been on your side through most of the game. When you call him out, he says you've served your purpose and it's just politics.
    • In Mass Effect 2, if the player takes the Renegade path during Zaeed's loyalty mission, when you corner Vido Santiago he pitifully tries the "just business" line with Zaeed. It doesn't have any more success than one would expect it to.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Affably Evil Sniper is very clear on the differences between a paid assassin and a crazed lunatic when it comes to how to treat the act of murdering someone.

"Feelin's? You know who's got a lot of feelin's? Blokes who bludgeon their wives to death with a golf trophy. Professionals have standards."

Havoc: Are you still angry?
Sakura: No, but I still have to kill you, it's my job.

  • Fallout: New Vegas: Just before Benny attempts to kill you and set the game's plot in motion, he insists that the whole situation is a case of "wrong place at the wrong time".
  • Portal 2: When GLaDOS hints that she was going to kill Chell and start testing robots instead, she claims this trope (Of course, considering her personality ...):

"It's nothing personal. After all, you did kill me. Fair's fair."

  • This turns up a lot in Armored Core. You're a mercenary, and generally any enemy pilots you fight are mercenaries from the same group you work for. Business is business, and just because you were allies earlier is no reason to hold back now. Outside of the storyline, only a small minority of pilots are actually interested in fighting specifically you.
  • Eternal Sonata has Rondo use this on Claves when she kills her. "Sorry, but I was ordered to kill you if your identity was revealed. Nothing personal."


Web Comics[edit | hide]

I could have said it's not personal, but just looking at your stupid-looking face made it personal.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In Teen Titans, Jinx said it right before attacking her ex-team mates in the series' penultimate episode.
  • The Question uses this in Justice League Unlimited as he is about to kill Lex Luthor in cold blood, even as he describes his distaste for other person as "brobdingnagian". Slightly subverted in that Q proceeded to get his ass handed to him by Lex Luthor, then sent to a prison in which he would be tortured with one of his team-mates as his main warden. Seems it wasn't personal to Captain Atom either.
  • Transformers Animated: Dirt Boss turns Bulkhead into a People Puppet and plans on using him to create an explosion at an oil refinery...while his fellow Constructicon Mixmaster is attached to him. Dirt Boss himself doesn't even respond to Mix's protests, while Scrapper tells Mix it's nothing personal.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • It is not unknown for professional soldiers to feel this toward their counterpart on the other side.
    • Not necessarily just because they viewed them as worthy opponents but because they realize that in another life they could have been friends. War is just a game of politics, the meaning of who is an enemy changes from one day to the next. Under those circumstances they realize it is petty to hold resentment towards an enemy now that the war is over.
  1. the dub track has an extra brain-splattering-on-the-wall sound effect