Shoot the Hostage
Harry: Alright, pop quiz: The airport. Gunman with one hostage, he's using her for cover, he's almost to the plane. You're a hundred feet away.
A sufficiently skilled hero will just shoot the hostage taker. If the hero is less skilled but relatively nice, they'll just shoot the hostage in the leg, either to stop the bad guy from being able to take them with him, or just to get them out of the way so they have a clean shot. If the hero is a particularly dark Anti-Hero or on a revenge fueled bender, they might just shoot the bad guy through the hostage (and then possibly regret it later).
As a note, a shot in the leg can be fatal, especially if the time between the shooting and presumable paramedic arrival on-scene/transport to hospital takes as long as it seems to in most movies, so this usually wouldn't work in reality.
If a hero tries to use a hostage, there a high chance the Big Bad will do this - without bothering to go for a non-lethal shot.
Also see Hostage Spirit Link, a form of Video Game Cruelty Punishment where the health and/or fighting ability of the player is diminished if he decides to put a bullet through the hostage's head instead of save them.
WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware.
Anime and Manga
- Hellsing: Alucard shoots a villain through the hostage, Seras. Then turns the dying Seras into a vampire with her permission.
- The amount of permission varies between the first anime, the OVA and the manga. In the first anime, Alucard warns Seras ahead of time (using telepathy so the villain can't hear them) and asks for permission to take the shot and vampirize her, and takes the shot when she agrees. In the OVA and manga he just asks her if she's a virgin. When she screams "Yes!" he takes the shot (In the Hellsing universe, vampires can only be made by drinking the blood of a virgin member of the opposite sex).
- In the second Detective Conan movie we see Ran's father once shot her mother for this reason, although it took Ran and the police officer who told her about it a while to figure out he was anything other than a bad shot. Actually this was made to save them, as the trauma of being shot at makes the hostage dead weight, to where the criminal will often just let the hostage go rather then struggle to carry them.
- In the same movie, Conan shoots Ran in the leg for exactly the same reasons. Both merely just grazed them.
- Lina Inverse of Slayers doesn't just shoot the hostage, she launches a Dragon Slave at the both of them.
- In Akumetsu, when Perfect One fires into the researcher to kill Jinguuji but his aim is so perfect that the bullet does not pierce any of her vital organs, leaving her alive and still kicking while Jinguuji bites the big one.
- Early in the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure story "Diamond is Unbreakable", a man possessed by Angelo's Stand holds a woman at knifepoint and threatens to kill her if anyone tries to attack him. Josuke solves this by punching a hole through the woman to get to the crook. It helps that Josuke's Crazy Diamond Stand can instantly restore anything to its original state, so the woman is unharmed. He uses the same tactic later to remove the Stand from his mother's body.
- In Naruto, "revenge fueled bender" version which cements Sasuke as an Anti-Villain. When Danzo takes Karin hostage, Sasuke shoots a Chidori blade through both of them, hitting Danzo in the heart. Sasuke then tells her if she's getting taken hostage, that makes her nothing but a burden.
- In Sword of the Stranger, when the Chinese learn that the daimyo has kidnapped one of their own to find out what they're up to, they kidnap the daimyo. When the daimyo's general and his samurai attack, the Chinese use the daimyo as a hostage, thinking this will dissuade the samurai army. However, the daimyo's general is a Dragon Ascendant, who surprises the Chinese by ordering an archer to shoot the daimyo before opening battle.
- Gunslinger Girl. Terrorist leader Dante is using Rico's handler Jean as a Human Shield, knowing that the cyborgs are brainwashed to protect their handler at all costs. Earlier however Jean made it clear that both their lives were expandable in order to kill Dante (Dante had planted the car bomb that killed Jean's parents, little sister, and fiancee), so Rico fires a 20mm anti-material shell through her handler's chest after Jean orders her to fire regardless.
- A stabby variant is shown in this short story on Magic: The Gathering's website. Skipping to the end, Iizuka the Ruthless, ronin warlord, finds his son being held as a human shield by a bandit leader. Iizuka resolves the situation by skewering them both—he can have more children, after all—then orders his men to the attack.
- A Scorpion Clan did it too. Only, she convinced the hostage taker to let her GET into the position to shoot him, after having sex with him. When she got into the position, she pointed out she not only could have more kids, but was PREGNANT WITH THE HOSTAGE TAKER'S CHILD!... He committed seppeku.
- The trope illustration is from Quantum and Woody #4, and is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Afterwards, Woody explains to the stunned girl that he shot her with a harmless blood capsule to distract the hostage-taker, then asks her out for a date.
- In the comic book series Preacher (Comic Book), during the Saint of Killer's Start of Darkness miniseries, the man who doomed the Saint's family takes a prostitute hostage. The Saint shoots and kills her to get her out of the way... Expending his last bullet in the process and leaving him incapable of finishing off the villains, who promptly kill the Saint in return. And then there's the little issue about spilling innocent blood, which cements his damnation.
- Early in The Maxx, the villain Mr. Gone takes a hostage, threatening to kill them if Maxx didn't give up. Maxx proceeded to crush the hostage's head. It turned out it was just a mannequin, but neither of them knew that.
Mr. Gone: (outraged) You killed my hostage... you killed my hostage. YOU KILLED MY HOSTAGE!! (blam) Never... do... that... again.
- Seen in the comic book Green Arrow, where it only helps the protagonist. Assassin Constantine Drakon had shown the ability to catch arrows midflight, no matter how many were shot at him at once. Then he took not-yet-superheroine Mia Dearden hostage. Green Arrow Connor Hawke just shot him through her shoulder.
- In an early issue of Marvel's G.I. Joe run, the Joes take Cobra Commander hostage to escape his hideout. Colonel Brekhov of the rival Oktober Guard shoots Cobra Commander to prevent the Joes from escaping. It turns out though CC was a body-double and the heroes get to get away anyway.
- The Trope Namer comes from the above quote from Speed, obviously. Shortly after that conversation, the situation describes happens, with Harry as the hostage. Jack, true to his word (and at Harry's insistence), shoots him in the leg, much to the hostage-taker's surprise (Harry's too, as he didn't think Jack would actually do it). The villain learns from his experiences in their next confrontation and straps explosives to Jack's love interest, while holding a Dead-Mans Switch, making this tactic unusable.
- The incident is also realistic in that Harry, despite only being shot in the leg, has to walk with a cane for at least a few months (if not permanently) after the incident, and is relegated to desk work during that time. He does manage to get back up and participate in a raid on the villain's house, but gets himself blown up for his trouble.
- Also, Harry mentions that a few inches the wrong way and the shot would've killed him.
- At the climax of 2007's Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is himself the hostage he shoots to kill the movie's Big Bad, firing through his own shoulder to get the villain in the heart. He had already been shot in the shoulder once, and the Big Bad was holding the gun to the wound at the time to torture him.
- The movie Hard-Boiled has the hostage shoot himself to hit the villain, also allowing Yuen to finish the villain off with a shot to the head. This scene may in fact have been the inspiration of similar action movie scenes made later.
- In Another 48 Hrs., Eddie Murphy is taken hostage, and with his characteristically big mouth, asks the cop to "Just shoot me!" Which he then does. He doesn't even bother aiming for the legs.
- In Shark Tale, Oscar attempts to fake this when the Sharks kidnap his girlfriend by having his "dolphin" partner pretend to eat her right on the spot (he grabs her in his mouth, but doesn't swallow) on his order to show that he didn't care. Fails, as the "dolphin" is a vegetarian shark who is repulsed by the simple taste of fish. He spits her out along with the contents of his various lunches.
- From the 1994 film of The Shadow, a villainous variant:
Opium Farmer: (having just taken Ying Ko's accountant hostage) Even your men are not marksman enough to shoot around him!
- Happens during the end of the film The Negotiator, in which Kevin Spacey shoots Sam Jackson. It's Only a Flesh Wound (as was intended by the shooter), but the villain thinks he's dead...which allows him to drop his guard when Spacey says he wants in on the take. Jackson's character's police radio is on, though, turning it into an Engineered Public Confession.
- In The Usual Suspects, according to Verbal, Keyser Soze once saw his raped wife and children held at knifepoint by Hungarian gangsters. They kill one kid to let him know they're not fooling around. He kills the other kid, and his wife, and all but one Hungarian, to let them know that he isn't either.
- And then he kills the gangsters' families, and their friends, and all their business partners, to let everyone know that he is absolutely apeshit crazy.
- That's such crap. Everyone knows Keyser Soze is a myth, just a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night.
- And then he kills the gangsters' families, and their friends, and all their business partners, to let everyone know that he is absolutely apeshit crazy.
- Subverted in the first RoboCop movie, where the cyborg's first patrol ends in him shooting through the skirt of the attempted rape victim to hit the knife-wielding thug behind her right on his groin.
- Another villainous example: In Tomorrow Never Dies when Bond has taken the Big Bad's computer guy hostage, the villain combines this trope with Outlived Your Usefulness and shoots his own henchman.
- In Casino Royale, Bond doesn't do this, but definitely indicates a willingness to do so, as he believes that the hostage is a traitor.
Bad guy: I'll kill her!
- In SWAT, one of the protagonists solves the hostage problem by shooting the hostage taker through the hostage's shoulder. Predictably, this does not sit well with his hierarchy (or the hostage, for that matter).
- In the beginning montage of Soldier we see Kurt Russell's character shoot through a civilian to hit the enemy behind in a shooting range. We then see him shoot a civilian dead being used as a human shield.
- The ending of The Deaths of Ian Stone. Medea tries to save herself by using Jenny as a shield, but Ian runs them both through, then hits the Reset Button and reunites with Jenny.
- Subverted in the Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger film Fire Mountain Howls, GaoGod looks like he's about to do this to GaoKnight to hit Hades Org. Despite everyone, even the Gaoranger, assuming he's trying to do this, being a God, he bends the arrow around GaoKnight's head through Hades Org's.
- In both versions of 3:10 to Yuma, the plot gets started by Ben Wade's gang robbing a wagon (a stagecoach in the original, while it is an armed carriage in the remake). After overtaking the wagon, one man attempts to hold a member of the gang hostage, only for Wade to shoot the outlaw and then the hostage-taker.
- In Night of the Comet, the protagonists are captured by a gang of quasi-zombified stockboys. One of the girls grabs on of them as a human shield, and the leader casually shoots his own man, for no reason other than to show how little he cared.
- In the second Crocodile Dundee movie, the drug lords are trying to find Mic in the bush, so they kidnap Walter both as leverage and as a tracker. Mic shoots Walter in the ear after the drug lord threatens to kill Walter if Mick doesn't come out. It saves Walter's life in the long run as the drug lord thinks Mic doesn't want them to have Walter to track him.
- Sudden Impact: "Go ahead, make my day."
- In Terry Pratchett's novel Monstrous Regiment, Sergeant Jackrum shoots at an enemy soldier holding Lieutenant Blouse hostage, taking off a bit of Blouse's ear in the process. Jackrum's unnervingly casual about it... "Wouldn't be the first officer I've killed, neither..."
- Another example, at the end of Hogfather. Susan ends up with the Big Bad hiding behind her elderly grandfather. She's armed with a poker from the fireplace. She hurls it through her grandfather and into Teatime. Makes more sense given her grandfather is somewhat thin.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Faith & Fire, the Backstory tells of Saint Celestine and how a soldier serving her was once taken hostage. He shouted for her to kill the enemy anyway, and she threw her spear. He was mortally wounded—but didn't die, in the Miracle of the Wound. The religious ceremonies at the beginning of the novel are in honor of this miracle.
- Variant in one of the Star Trek Expanded Universe books, in which maverick captain Mackenzie Calhoun takes The Kobayashi Maru test, and his response to the no-win scenario in which your ship must face an unbeatable number of Klingon warships in order to rescue a civilian ship... is to destroy the civilian ship.
- This was likely inspired by a sequence in Star Trekker, a parody manga briefly published in the early 90's by Antarctic Press until Paramount came down like a mountain on them. In that case, the resulting explosion crippled the nearby Klingon cruisers. The (Japanese) captain was ordering a followup strike to take advantage of the Klingons' momentary confusion when Admiral Kirk himself kills the simulation and walks in to dress down the captain. She, in turn, explains succinctly that as Klingons do not take prisoners and saving the vessel was a clear impossibility, priority had to be given to saving her own ship...which Kirk dismissed, but later we see that it was really more a matter of him not wanting anyone else to win the simulation.
- Miles Vorkosigan once threatened to shoot the hostage, in order to turn a hostage situation around, and make it the hostage taker's problem.
- It's also mentioned that, in a world with stunners, this is a really good option - stun everyone (hostage and hostage taker alike) and sort them out once they're unconscious. It wasn't an option in the case above because the hostage taker had Power Armor.
- Artemis Fowl once had Butler shoot his own father in order to trick the Russian Mafiya. Of course, it wasn't a real bullet -- it was a fairy capsule designed to hold water rations, filled with his own blood. Unfortunately, the mafiya ended up throwing the man into the Arctic water anyways...
- In Exile's Honor, Alberich is training battle/bodyguards for then-Princess Selenay, and knows that she's more likely to be taken hostage than just killed. We don't get to see that session, but he fully intends to teach the guards to shoot Selenay in the leg if this happens, because it will slow down her captors. (Being an intelligent man, he plans to save that lesson for a time when Selenay is not present.)
- In The Han Solo Trilogy of the Star Wars EU, Han attracts the attention of local authorities on Coruscant when trying to access a bank account that had been flagged. He takes a bank manager hostage in order to escape. The Stormtroopers' response? Shoot the bank manager.
- In Lee Goldberg's MR. MONK AND THE BLUE FLU, Mad Jack Wyatt threatens to shoot through Monk when he is the hostage. Afterwards, Monk congratulates him on his "bluff", but he wasn't bluffing—he ALWAYS shoots the hostage.
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Xomat takes Elodie hostage against Daur. Daur declares his indifference and that he just might shoot Xomat through Elodie—which distracts him enough for Daur to get off a head shoot. Elodie is muchly upset; Daur tries arguing before resorting to a "Shut Up" Kiss—their First Kiss.
- In the first novel of The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, Sheb uses Roland's lover, Allie as a shield and hostage. Roland kills her out of pure instinct; his trained hands react quicker than his mind. Changed in the revised edition.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe: In the first book of the Legacy of the Force series, a terrorist is holding a room full of people hostage. He wears an explosive belt, and has strapped one of the hostages to himself to act as an Human Shield. Jacen Solo arrives to the scene and pretends to negotiate with the terrorist. He then turns to the unfortunate Human Shield, gently asks what his name is, appears to try calming the frightened man... then he says "I'm sorry" and activates the explosives himself. When called out for it, Jacen just replies that the only way he could save the other hostages and neutralize the terrorist was to let that single man die.
Live Action TV
- In Fringe episode "Entrada" Peter shot hostage held by Fauxlivia. That's because he figured out (s)he was a shape-shifter.
- Variant: the Lost episode "Enter 77". Kate and Sayid are holding Mrs. Klugh, who responds by ordering Mikhail to shoot her dead, which he does.
- In Stargate Atlantis, Genii commander Colya, after being forced to abandon Atlantis, takes Weir hostage and tries to goad Sheppard into shooting them both. Unfortunately for him, the Atlantis team has much more accurate guns, and Sheppard calmly puts a bullet right through Colya's shoulder.
- Star Trek: Enterprise: During a shoot-out on a Wild West planet, T'Pol gets a six-shooter put to her head. Reed shrugs, shoots her, then the hostage taker while he's still gaping at Reed's apparently ruthless action. His phase pistol is set on stun.
- At the end of the first season of 24 when the Big Bad staying at an accomplice's house Jack Bauer takes the daughter of the host hostage and demand that everyone drop their guns. Victor Drazen merely smiles and shoots her. Her father is understandably upset about this, but at this point he has outlived his usefulness.
- Bryce did it when Chuck was being held hostage on Chuck. He did make sure Chuck was wearing a Bulletproof Vest first, though... by asking him in Klingon.
- NCIS. Agent Lee got Gibbs to shoot through her to take out the Weatherman.
- In the first episode of Demons, the protagonist is instructed to shoot his (not) girlfriend with magic ammunition, which he is told will only bruise her at worst, but will disintegrate the monster holding her captive. He complies, and after that, she's pissed at how little hesitation it took for him to shoot.
- The Equalizer. Robert McCall is holding a gun to the head of a Double Agent, and offers to swap him for one of his men being held prisoner by a KGB cell. The head of the cell replies, "Let me explain the ground rules" and shoots the double agent dead. Caught without his human shield, McCall is then taken prisoner too.
- In the Australian mini-series of For the Term of His Natural Life an attempt by convicts to escape ends with a sergeant being held hostage, facing a small cannon aimed by his fellow marines. The sergeant orders them to light the fuse and kill them all. Realising he's not bluffing, the convicts are forced to surrender.
- From Spooks, where Ros Myers shoots through fellow officer Jo to kill a terrorist. Jo dies too.
- Played with in a particularly nasty fashion on Rizzoli and Isles. Since it's the Cliff Hanger season finale, spoilered: Jane herself is the hostage. She is determined not to let her Corrupt Cop captor escape. She grabs his gun and shoots through herself to kill him. Black screen, end credits. To be continued.
- The leader of a gang of Russian gangsters intimates that he'd do it on an episode of Leverage after Eliot uses one of his men as a human shield:
Hardison: You going to shoot through your man?
- Season 6 of Supernatural reveals that soulless Sam once shot a woman being used as a Human Shield by a monster he was hunting. Once she falls over dead, he then kills the monster.
- Inverted in the Charmed episode "Which Prue Is It, Anyway?", when Prue's duplicate tries to make the warlock of the week surrender his weapon by holding his ally hostage. He instead kills his ally before killing the Prue duplicate.
- The first plot twist, and Delita's Start of Darkness, in Final Fantasy Tactics includes a resistance knight using kidnapped "noble" (shows what he knows!) Teta as a human shield at an abandoned fortress. Algus, under order of Ramza's Knight Templar brother Zalbag, shoots Teta first, and then puts another arrow into the knight when he's frozen in disbelief. This gets Delita mad enough to want to kill him, and a Climax Boss battle ensues. She dies instantly, but the kidnapper actually survives, holed up in the arsenal, until after the battle where he ignites the powder stashes and blows the whole place to bits.
- Several missions in the Silent Scope arcades end with you shooting the last foe while he's holding a hostage. If you hit the hostage, you fail the mission. Or the game.
- Operation Wolf's sequel, Operation Thunderbolt, did this one too.
- Goldeneye 64. A valid way of solving the hostage situation on the train level. Shoot Natalya in the leg and she lurches forward and down in pain, leaving the general open to a lead surprise.
- Alternatively, you could just side-step enough so that she isn't in your way. The hostage-take doesn't react in the slightest.
- Sakura Taisen III has a slightly odd example where the "hostage" is a painting (a very thinly-veiled Expy of the Mona Lisa). Lobelia's response? Use her pyrokinesis to destroy the painting, which turns out to be a forgery. When asked how she knew it was a fake? She didn't.
- During Thane's loyalty quest in Mass Effect 2, his son, Kolyat, takes a turian politician hostage. If don't use the Paragon Quick Time Event, you have two choices: shoot Kolyat (nonfatally) or shoot the hostage (fatally). Your possible justifications for the latter are that you kept Kolyat from doing it (the whole point of the quest) or that the hostage deserved it - we see earlier that he has a pretty drastic anti-human bias and was threatening shopkeepers.
Kolyat: All of you, back off! I'll kill him!
- The DLC mission Lair of the Shadow Broker has a moment when an enemy takes a hostage and makes her talk, making her confess that she has a son, she wants to live and see him again, she doesn't want to die. If you don't have a sufficient Paragon or Renegade score to talk your way out of it (in either of those paths, you can list off some of your more terrifying achievements and ask if the enemy really thinks you can't kill one innocent for the greater good) you can still choose to shoot the woman nonfatally.
- Mass Effect 3 does it again when you confront Miranda's father, who's holding her sister Oriana hostage. If you can't / don't use the Charm / Intimidate options (different ways of saying "You let her go, you walk"), you get a Renegade Interrupt to shoot his hostage in the leg, giving Miranda the chance to finish him off.
- Zoran Lazarevic, the Big Bad of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves does this without hesitation, after giving an impassioned speech comparing himself to such "great men" as Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan and Pol Pott, saying that "they had the will to do what other men would not." Of course, he's a Complete Monster, so this is to be expected.
- Kane and Lynch. Lynch does this during one of his psychotic episodes and is genuinely distressed when Kane returns. It doesn't help that things just get worse from there as a result.
- Metal Gear Solid - Psycho Mantis holds Meryl hostage by forcing her to hold a gun to her own head. One of the ways to stop her from committing suicide would be to throw a stun grenade, knocking her cold. Another way to prevent this is to punch Meryl to the point of unconsciousness. In Twin Snakes, the remake, you can also shoot her with the tranquilizer gun.
- The situation repeats itself in 4, this time with Screaming Mantis and Meryl (Again).
- Then there is the variation with Raiden in 4 where Vamp grabs him from behind and he uses his sword to stab himself and nail Vamp through his own gut.
- The Courier is asked to do this in a side quest of Fallout: New Vegas, because the NCR troops outside Legion-captured Nelson refuse to attack as long as it would risk their comrades who are crucified in the town square. It's very possible to Take a Third Option by killing all the Legionaries and then letting down the hostages, which amazes the questgiver and gets you loyalty points with one of your possible companions.
- Can be done optionally in the Modern Warfare 3 mission "Stronghold"; one of Makarov's men grabs a Czech POW and tries to take him hostage, but there's absolutely no penalty if Yuri (the player) decides to simply shoot through the prisoner to kill the thug. Captain Price even quips, "He never would have made it anyway...".
- Darreon in Lucky Dawg tries to taunt the 4 Horsemen Of Alliance with a Sadistic Choice - he will kill a little girl, unless one of them will take her place. However, the 4 Horsemen, being assholes, just kill his hostage. Too bad for them, Darreon was looking for a hero to fight, not somebody like them, so he slaughters them in very brutal way.
- In Flip Side, when a knight Bernadette humiliated by kicking his ass in front of the knight council gets ahold of the magic crazy-making super-power-giving collar-outfit-thing and goes after her in a bar, and then tries to use her as a human shield when Maytag shows up, Maytag makes it very, very clear that she will kill Bernadette herself rather then allow Bernadette to be raped and murdered. And, despite the fact one of her main skills is bluffing, Maytag is perfectly serious. Luckily, she wins.
- In the Round Robin story Collisions (relevant hostage shooting scene here, the Ridiculously Human Robot with Improbable Aiming Skills is forced into a Mirror Match with her Trigger Happy future self, with her Love Interest stuck in the middle as the hostage. Of all the options she could have taken, she picks this one (it happens to be the s.o.p. of the organization that she works for)--but it ends up working in her favor because her future self flies into a murderous rage and charges at her guns blazing, the hostage forgotten.
- Code Lyoko featured a situation where the team leader, Jeremie, ordered Odd to shoot a teammate to force XANA to free her from mind control. Considering that teammate was Aelita, who's both Jeremie's best friend and his love interest, this took some serious guts.
- Then again, Aelita would have died if they hadn't threatened to kill her, so this becomes a bit of Taking You with Me, rather than sheer guts.
- In the Beast Wars episode "The Low Road". Of course, they all heal injuries regularly, and the hostage in question is a Reliable Traitor at best.
Dinobot: (holding Tarantulas) Do not fire, Megatron! I have a hostage!
- Real-life law enforcement often uses non-lethal weapons in hostage situations for this very reason, amongst others.
- During the Beslan school hostage crisis involving 1,200+ hostages (including over 700 children), one of the children managed to slip out a window, but was so traumatized and disoriented by the ordeal that she ended up wandering around into everyone's line of fire. According to a Military Channel documentary on the Russian Spetsnaz commandos, some of the commandos seriously considered shooting the girl in the leg in order to keep her still and prevent her from being killed outright by the increasingly erratic and panicky hostage-takers, who had already executed numerous hostages.
- The hostage was his emperor. It really threw their opponent off balance, Gregor picked up immediately and played his part beautifully.