Sometimes, things really are serious.

The stock situation -- and StockPhrase -- is a Matter of Life and Death. The ObstructiveBureaucrat is prone to get this flung in his face. Although considerable variation is allowed in the face of different situations: whatever the problem is (or problems are) can be used instead.

People on your side who do not take it seriously -- such as the CavalierCompetitor -- may also be told "This is NotAGame."

When the stock phrase is used erroneously, it's probably an example of SeriousBusiness.

Not to be confused with the 1946 David Niven movie ''Film/AMatterOfLifeAndDeath'' or the 2006 Music/IronMaiden album of the same name. ''Definitely'' should not be confused with the Franchise/WallaceAndGromit short, "WesternAnimation/AMatterOfLoafAndDeath".



[[folder: Fan Fiction ]]

* In ''Fire Burns'', Katherine is convincing James to let her into the Gryffindor common room. James is being difficult.
-->'''James:''' Come back tomorrow. If it's that important, I'm sure you'll still remember it.\\
'''Katherine:''' It's very important, James.\\
'''James:''' Oh yeah? A matter of life and death, I suppose.\\
'''Katherine:''' (smiling unpleasantly) Damn straight.


[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Film/TheBigLebowski'':
-->'''Walter Sobchak''': ''I'm saying, I see what you're getting at, Dude, he kept the money. My point is, here we are, it's shabbas, the sabbath, which I'm allowed to break only if it's a matter of life or death...''
* ''Film/AClockworkOrange'':
-->'''Alex''': ''Missus! It's a matter of life and death!''
* ''Film/EverAfter'': An old man convinces Prince Henry to retrieve a treasure stolen by a gypsy as [[MetaphoricallyTrue "it is my life."]] Henry is not pleased to learn after that it was a painting.
-->'''Prince Henry:''' You claimed it was a matter of life and death.\\
'''Old Man:''' A woman always is, sire. ''[Unrolls the painting to [[TheReveal reveal]] [[Creator/LeonardoDaVinci the Mona Lisa]].]''
* ''Film/NightAtTheMuseumBattleOfTheSmithsonian'':
-->'''TheThinker statue''': '''I'll tell you what's the matter of life and death: THAT GIRL OVER THERE.''
* ''WesternAnimation/TheWildThornberrys'' movie. Eliza says this to her boarding school roommate when she has to leave.


[[folder: Literature ]]

* In Creator/DanAbnett's Literature/GauntsGhosts novel ''Ghostmaker'', Dorden has authority to go into the ship's supplies, and yells at someone trying to check up on him: he is trying to get medical supplies for a soldier in critical condition.
** In ''First & Only'', seeing that Gaunt would die unless he acted, Dorden [[ActualPacifist for the first and only time]] in the series fired a gun.
* ''Literature/TheStainlessSteelRat''. The con-man title character says this while posing as a League Admiral, then quietly reprimands himself for over-playing his part.
* In L. Jagi Lamplighter's ''[[Literature/ProsperosDaughter Prospero Lost]]'', when Miranda complains about Mab's driving, he says she had told him it was a matter of life and death.
* In Creator/RickRiordan's ''Literature/PercyJacksonAndTheOlympians'', Rachel uses this on her father to convince him that Percy is in danger.
* In Creator/SandyMitchell's ''Cain's Last Stand'', Literature/CiaphasCain, hearing Magos Tayber wants to talk to him, knows it's a matter of life and death because she didn't vox him.
* In Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Discworld/{{Mort}}'', Mort wakes up Ysabelle in the middle of the night and demands she come help him, urging that it's a matter of life and death. (Death had vanished.)
* In Angie Sage's Literature/SeptimusHeap book ''Flyte'', Jenna insists on a message being sent because it's a matter of life and death. Later, when Marcia and Aunt Zelda quarrels, it's on the grounds that it's a matter of life and death.
* In Creator/PoulAnderson's "Marque and Reprisal", a spokesman speaks of how the issues before them are of life and death.
* In Creator/SarahAHoyt's ''[[Literature/DarkshipThieves Darkship Renegades]]'', Thena reflects on how treating the mentally ill started only after it became feasible; before, when they could threaten the existence of the tribe, they were probably killed.
* ''Goodbye, Mickey Mouse'' by Len Deighton. A married woman rings the US airbase demanding that the American pilot she had an affair with get in contact with her immediately. On being asked if this is a matter of life and death, she shrieks that it is and hangs up. When the pilot goes round to her house, he finds that her husband who's returned from fighting in Burma forced her to make the call at gunpoint as he's planning a MurderSuicide of [[LoveTriangle all three parties]].
* In Creator/SeananMcGuire's ''Literature/OctoberDaye'' novels
** ''Rosemary And Rue'': when Devin withdraws his offer of a freebie for help, Toby's not surprised; this was a matter of life and death, not something trivial.
** ''One Salt Sea'': Walther asks how important it is -- nice to know or life and death -- and Toby tells him life and death.
* In Creator/DorothyLSayers' Literature/LordPeterWimsey novel ''Whose Body?'', Sir Julian Freke runs up when Parker is getting in a cab, blathering that he needs to go and it's a matter of life and death.
** In ''Clouds of Witness'', Mary comes looking for Peter on the grounds it's a matter of life and death.
** In ''Gaudy Night'', Harriet talks of her undergraduate days, when she had believed that the only spirits on the college were kept under lock and key for life-and-death emergencies.


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' ('Unexpected'):
--> '''Matt Parkman''': [To Ted] ''Hey, I only came here because you said this was a matter of life and death. You can't go blowing anything more up.''
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' ("The Price"}:
-->'''Devinoni Ral''': ''Yes - protection. Your protection, your captain, your crew, your...edge. Yes. Now, it's a matter of life and death when you take the advantage; me...I deal in property - exchanges. Nobody gets hurt. So you tell me - which one of us would you say has more of a problem with ethics?''
* ''Series/TheTwilightZone1959'' ('Perchance to Dream'):
-->'''Narrator: [opening narration]''' ''Twelve o'clock noon. An ordinary scene, an ordinary city. Lunchtime for thousands of ordinary people. To most of them, this hour will be a rest, a pleasant break in the day's routine. To most, but not all. To Edward Hall, time is an enemy, and the hour to come is a matter of life and death.''
* Spoofed in ''Series/GetSmart''. Maxwell Smart is trapped in a phone booth that's flooding with water. He tries to ring Control for help, but finds he's run out of quarters.
-->'''Smart:''' Operator, this is a matter of life and death!
-->'''Operator:''' That's what they ''all'' say.
* On ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment'', Lucille Bluth consistently refers to one of these in text messages as "a matter of land" (she means "l" and "d"). People mostly wind up wondering what land has to do with anything.


[[folder: Newspaper Comics ]]

* When ''ComicStrip/FrankAndErnest'' are opticians visited by {{Superman}}, who misjudged distance and nearly fell into a building, they cheerfully observe that it's a matter of life and depth.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout|1}}: A Post-Nuclear Role-Playing Game'':
-->'''Vault Dweller''': ''I would much rather tell him in person. It's a matter of life and death.''


[[folder: Web Comics ]]

* ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'': Agatha [[ throws a fit]] when her companions talk about her boyfriends in the face of multiple crises and enumerates all the problems.
* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'': Julia tries to get Durkon's attention by telling him it's a life or death emergency. (He was justifiably busy, though.)
* In ''WebComic/AntiHEROES'', [[ used for ]] SeriousBusiness -- like expired milk.
* In ''Webcomic/SandraAndWoo'', [[ pleading for food to rescue the squirrel from his mate.]]
* In ''Webcomic/DocRat'', [[ Doc is distressed because he's only used to facing questions of life and death, not justice.]]
* In ''Webcomic/DragonMango'', [[ after her father threatens to eat one,]] [[ Bleu Berry insists on telling her fellow students how to defend themselves from dragons because it's a matter of life and death.]]


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* A good line from ''WesternAnimation/ThePenguinsOfMadagascar'' comes from when Julian busts into the penguins home while they're busy. "This better be a matter of life or death, Ringtail. Because if not, then we can arrange those stakes!"