Devil Bat: First, you find someone who has a blackmailable secret!Alice knows something that Bob doesn't want anyone else to know. So Bob has to do something for Alice so that she doesn't tell anyone. In a teen comedy, a character is blackmailed by someone outside the main cast, and the others find out and stick up for their friend. In a Government Procedural, a respected politician is confronted with pictures of them in a strip club or with a girl twenty years too young for them, and is asked for hush money. In a Super Hero story, the hero is blackmailed when someone discovers their Secret Identity. In a Sitcom, a child blackmails their sibling when they break a rare, expensive heirloom. The possibilities are endless. To list all the variations and permutations of this trope here would be a lesson in madness. Blackmail is such a key plot device, so intrinsic to the art of storytelling and human nature, that it is used by almost every series at one point or another. Sadly, it's very seldom these days that a blackmail resister (him/herself a rare animal) does so with the traditional response, and in real life usually effective, "Publish and be damned!" One of the many ways of making someone An Offer He Can't Refuse. When coupled with Sinister Surveillance, this can become Paranoia Fuel, hence the potency of Big Brother Is Watching. Of course, it's rarely stated as such, because ""Blackmail" is Such an Ugly Word". While the words 'blackmail' and 'extortion' are used interchangeably, this is not strictly true. Blackmail is a form of extortion where what the blackmailing party is threatening to do would otherwise be legal. For example "I have your loved one hostage, give me the MacGuffin or they're done for" would be extortion as taking hostages is a crime. However, "I have pictures of your loved one committing a crime, give me the MacGuffin or their reputation is toast" would be blackmail as otherwise releasing the pictures would be legal. (Assuming the there is no reasonable relationship between the threat and the demand. If a store refuses to honor a contract or compensate the other person, threatening to reveal it is legal. Likewise, if parents do not take reasonable steps to control their delinquent child, threatening to reveal evidence of crimes is not blackmail.) One side note is that the word originally did in fact mean simply extortion; rent or taxes was called "mail" in Scotland therefore taking it illegally (by threatening to burn down a neighboring clan's huts for example) was blackmail. The modern meaning shows how language evolves. Also note that blackmail is an inherently dangerous activity. Informing someone that you know too much is quite rarely the best course of action, especially if Agatha Christie is holding the pen or you haven't told anyone else (but don't tell too many people, as that would, of course, defeat the purpose of blackmail). The danger (along with the potential stupidity is compounded if the intended victim of the blackmail is already a murderer. After all, if they've already had sufficient reason to kill at least one person, is it very likely that they'll baulk at murdering another — especially if that other person is trying to squeeze them for money? Compare Blackmail Backfire when the blackmailing fails for some reason.
Hiruma: "Hey, if you don't want the world to know, then find some dirt on someone else!"
Devil Bat: Blackmail the person to become your slave, then use the data to blackmail someone else!
Hiruma: It's a Devil's Pyramid where slaves bring forth more slaves!!
Hiruma: "Hey, if you don't want the world to know, then find some dirt on someone else!"
Devil Bat: Blackmail the person to become your slave, then use the data to blackmail someone else!
Hiruma: It's a Devil's Pyramid where slaves bring forth more slaves!!
— Hiruma of Eyeshield 21, the god of blackmail.
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Anime and Manga
- This shows up at an alarming rate in hentai. Usually the person being blackmailed is trying to defend her (it's almost always a woman) honor/reputation/job by giving into the blackmailer's demands (of sex, always), even if the person who is blackmailing her raped her to create blackmail material. This is also common in the infamous Netorare genre as well. Either way, both cases would be much more heavily enforced against in real life and/or would be taken much more seriously (especially regarding the very serious crime of sextortion).
- Subverted in Code Geass: During Zero's debut, he gets Jeremiah Gottwald to release Suzaku by threatening to reveal details about "Orange" (but in reality uses his Compelling Voice power). As Lelouch tells C.C. later, there is no "Orange"; it was just a meaningless word he threw out on the spot to make the Britannians think Jeremiah had skeletons in his closet, creating division in the ranks.
- Ranma ˝:
- Nabiki Tendo did this on a regular basis. One manga story opens with her standard dating technique - get a boy to buy her dinner, take her to the movies, and get her presents, then give him a handshake and a goodnight and have him never darken her doorway again. In addition, the poor sap would have to pay serious money to keep love letters he wrote Nabiki from becoming public, which would embarrass him in front of his peers and make any subsequent girlfriends very upset.
- Nabiki also used the threat of blackmail as payback against Ranma for accidentally destroying her expensive concert tickets.
- Since Ranma is a Manipulative Bastard and The Chessmaster, he used this tactic as well, particularly in the manga. In the very arc that she blackmailed him, he searched her room for material to use against her.
- Youichi Hiruma of Eyeshield 21 done this in regular basis for everything. Recruiting helpers and potential players, securing funds for the club room/casino, getting the football club in the first place, etc. He seemingly has blackmail material on everyone in Japan as he once got permission to use the TOKYO DOME just by flashing his threatbook. It's so powerful, that it rivals the Death Note in effectiveness. Just a few of the things he obtains are his trademark guns, a TANK and anything you ask for. Even the people who Hiruma does not have blackmail material on are terrified just by the sight of the little black book and immedietely submit to Hiruma's bidding. He also got free lodging in US during their Death March.
- Haruhi Suzumiya:
- Haruhi blackmailed the Computer Club President into giving her the most modern computer of their club with pictures of him grabbing Mikuru's boobs. An event Haruhi forcefully orchestrated. The President was an innocent stranger. And when the president points out that his club witnessed the incident and would stand up on his behalf, Haruhi cheerfully exclaims "I'll just say that the whole class was planning on f***ing her!"
- Kyon proves himself even better than Haruhi at this in Disappearance: Yuki mentions to him that she might have to face repercussions for redesigning the universe. Kyon tells her to tell the Overmind from him that if it dares do anything to her, he will coerce Haruhi into remaking the universe so that Yuki exists and the Overmind does not.
- One Piece:
- After having been trapped in Impel Down's level 6, Sir Crocodile volunteers to help get Luffy and the prisoners. Luffy initially flat out refuses, still remembering the Alabasta incident, but Ivankov assures him that Crocodile will behave because he knows a certain weakness for Crocodile. We don't know what that weakness is yet, but if the fact that Ivankov knows it is an indication, then it'll assuredly be hilarious.
- Played for laughs in the Franky's flashback to Tom. Spandam tries to make Tom give up the blueprints to Pluton by blackmailing him with the knowledge that Tom built Gold Roger's ship. Unfortunately for Spandam, not only is this information already widely known, the World Government had already tried him for it and, thanks to a deal Tom had made, were on the verge of letting him off the hook for it.
- In the New World, Trafalgar Law and Luffy blackmail Doflamingo into stepping down as a member of the Seven Warlords via holding Caesar Clown hostage, thus preventing Doflamingo from making an item he had been supplying to one of the Four Emperors, thus risking his wrath. However, Doflamingo sent out a fake news report saying that he quit and took advantage of the group's guard being down as a result of it.
- Hareluya II Boy has the 'I got naked photos' variant.
- Sae of Peach Girl staged a fake attempted rape (Momo wasn't actually raped though) and took photos to blackmail Momo's boyfriend into dating her.
- Grings Kodai, the main villain of Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions, blackmails Zoroark into attacking Crown City as part of his plan. Intresting variation here is that he never had her son anyway, it was just a hologram as Zorua had escaped on his own.
- In Shiro, the titular catgirl uses this to force Miyako (the female protagonist} to continue to keep her.
- In Monster, a hooker attempts to blackmail Johan Liebert by presenting her knowledge of the murders he's committed. With Johan being Johan, this turns out to be an EXTREMELY bad idea as he had planned for it ahead of time.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Divine, creator of the Arcadia Movement (an army of psychics who want to take over Neo Domino), gains legal immunity from Director Goodwin by threatening to say that Goodwin was a Satellite-born.
- In both the Kodomo no Jikan anime and manga, Rin does this in a pretty unique way: she creates her own blackmail material to use on Aoki.
- In Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, the mind-reader Sonica would resort to this whenever one of her clients shows reluctance in paying her for her info.
- An April Fools' Plot in Axis Powers Hetalia involved the characters receiving packages which contained an outfit, an embarrassing photo of themselves, and a letter informing them that if they did not show up at a specific location while wearing the outfit, the embarrassing photo would be made public.
- The lethargic-to-the-extreme Tanaka-kun of Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge tries to blackmail the gods into giving him a peaceful life wherein nothing ever happens. He fails.
- In Magic of Stella, Shiina oftens resorts to do this to keep the team writer Ayame in line since the latter has serious Schedule Slip issues. Shiina has a lot of stuff in her arsenal; being Childhood Friends she knows well Ayame was a tomboy with Mr. Imagination issues, both of which things seen by Ayame as Old Shame in Present Day.
- In the Yoko Tsuno story "The Prey and the Shadow", a young secretary named Margaret is framed for theft inside her job and cannot prove her innocence. It's a ploy by her boss Sir William, who has noticed that Margaret is the Identical Stranger to his niece and adoptive daughter Cecilia, and he forces the secretary girl to become Cecilia's Body Double and a part of his Evil Plan to kill Cecilia for her huge estate. Too bad Margaret swallows her fear and speaks to the titular Yoko, who's staying at Sir William's castle as a guest...
- A common plot in Buck Danny is for a pilot to be blackmailed (or his family held hostage) by foreign agents in order to force him to obey them. It always ends with the pilot dying, accidentally or on purpose, with only his fellow pilots knowing the truth.
- In Death of the Family, Batman finds out that Joker has not only taken over Arkham Asylum, but he has blackmailed the guards into working with him.
- Supergirl/Batgirl storyline Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl provides a funny, light-hearted example. At one point Bruce jokes he'll tell Gotham City about Batgirl's Batcave if Barbara is not nice to him. Barbara replies that she's already scheduled his disappearance.
- Supergirl: In one of the adventures of the titular character, a murder victim was being blackmailed by a crook who knew that he had a prison record.
- In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, Lex Luthor's alleged goal was blackmailing the US Government: unless they paid him ten billion dollars within a hour he'd allow the storm center created by his satellite to spread and build until it swamped the whole world. Subverted because he didn't intend to collect the money. He wanted to destroy the world.
Superman: Luthor... What's the purpose of all this...?
Lex: You mean — You haven't guessed? The purpose is blackmail, old enemy.
- In War World alien overlord Mongul kidnaps three Superman's friends to force him to do his bidding:
Superman: And assuming I can find this crystal key for you — What then?
Mongul: Then your three friends shall be restored to their normal size — and returned to you unharmed! Refuse to help me — and they shall be returned to you in pieces!
- In Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson was blackmailed by the Hobgoblin who threatened to tell the world he created the Scorpion. Jameson decided to print a confession and resign as Editor-In-Chief of the Daily Bugle in response.
- Blacksad: Statoc's lizard henchman was so disgusted with his murder of Natalia and Leon that he took the gun that Statoc used to blackmail his former boss. He thinks that Blacksad is trying to pull a similar scheme.
- In Retro Chill, Evil Calvin plans to use the Planet Deteriorater to blackmail the planet into bowing down to Retro and Rupert.
- Knowledge is Power: Apparently, this is how the young Tom Riddle got Slughorn to teach him dark magic: he'd caught him molesting a second-year boy. Yes, in a "Humour/Romance" fic.
- In Graduate Meeting Of Mutual Killing, Reiji Ohmoto blackmailed Ginchiyo using the most recent motive (dark secrets)
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Harry reflects on the nature of blackmail after he helps Quirrel break Bellatrix Black out of Azkhaban. He thought that if he were blackmailed, it would be best just to bite the bullet and let the information go public, rather than getting roped into worse and worse crimes until the blackmailer owned his soul... but in this case, the crime is already bad enough to get him life in Azkhaban. He decides that he has no choice but to go along with his blackmailer.
- Advice and Trust: As part of her campaign to convince Misato to let them sleep together -both literally and figuratively-, Asuka informed Misato that Shinji will not cook until she sees reason.
Misato: "But it's Shin-chan's night to cook! [...] That's way better than even my best curry!"
Asuka: "The last time you fed 'your best curry' to Pen Pen, he spent the rest of the night staring at the ceiling and barking. [...] You've cut off my supply of Shinji-cuddles at night. Until you see reason and let us sleep in one bed again, you can suffer deprivation too."
- Asuka threatens Kensuke with telling his girlfriend about his pervert exploits back in middle school if he does not stop taunting her.
- Shinji and Asuka needed a babysitter, and Shinji thought their only recourse was Kurumi. Kurumi agreed to look after Akiko… if Shinji kissed her.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: In chapter 8's omake Touji tells Asuka he knows she is Power Girl and he will tell everyone unless she puts a skimpy bikini on and models while Kensuke takes pictures. Touji thought the next step would be profit, but the only step was him getting beaten up.
- In the second-to-last chapter of The Second Try, Kaji threatens Japanese's Prime Minister with releasing to the public a lot of unpleasant documents detailing his involvement with SEELE unless he cancels the attack on NERV.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In The Letter, Geoffrey Hammond's lover demands $10000 from his other lover, the woman that killed him, in return for an incriminating letter.
- Subverted twice in The Dark Knight Saga:
Falcone: I want to know how you're gonna convince me to keep my mouth shut.Crane: About what? You don't know anything.Falcone: I know you wouldn't want the police to take a closer look at those drugs they seized. And I know about your experiments with the inmates of your nuthouse. See, I don't go into business with a guy without finding out his dirty secrets. And those goons you used – I own the muscle in this town. Now, I've been bringing your stuff in for months, so whatever he's planning, it's big, and I want in.Crane: Well, I already know what he'll say: that we should kill you.Falcone: Even he can't get me in here. Not in my town.Crane: ...would you like to see my mask? I use it in my experiments. Probably not very frightening to a guy like you, but these crazies, they can't stand it.Falcone: So when did the nut take over the nuthouse?Lucius Fox: So let me get this straight. You believe that your client, one of the richest and most influential men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who goes out at night and beats criminals to a pulp with his bare hands... and your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck.
- In Little Sweetheart, the entire plot runs on this. Thelma is blackmailing her brother to get the photos developed, Robert Burger and his mistress Dorothea to make money and doing this all with a slightly willing accomplice. It doesn't end well for most of the cast.
- In Marci X, a senator danced to her opponent's music, and her son filmed the dance.
- The Miracle Woman: Hornsby blackmails Florence Fallon by telling her that he'll blame the embezzling charges and the murder of their employee on her since all the circumstances point to her-—all of this, of course, has been done by Hornsby, not Florence; she only needs to escape to the south of France with him to avoid all of this.
- In the 1919 German film Different from the Others, Paul Korner is blackmailed by a man who knows he's gay — an offense in Germany (and many other countries) at the time. Eventually he cracks and sues for blackmail, but the blackmailer counter-sues for violation of Paragraph 175 (the anti-gay statute). They both go to prison, and Korner's reputation is ruined; he is Driven to Suicide as a result.
- This is what sets the plot of Clue in motion, seeing as how it gives all the characters a motive for wanting the blackmailer dead.
- In the Film Within a Film in Bad Education, Ignacio uses his script, "The Visit", to blackmail Father Manolo into giving him 1 million pesetas. In exchange, Ignacio would hold onto the script, and keep quiet about Father Manolo molesting him when he was a child.
- In Struck by Lightning, Carson Phillips forces his classmates to write for his literature magazine by blackmailing them.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), the police chief is threatening to arrest April's boss's son for delinquency if he doesn't get April to stop criticizing the police in her news reports.
Chanticler: That's blackmail!Pinky: That's showbiz.
- In the 1929 Alfred Hitchcock film Blackmail, Alice kills the man who was trying to rape her. Then an acquaintance of the dead man starts hinting that he knows what she did, and could be...persuaded to keep quiet.
- In Everything Must Go, Nick Halsey spies two of his neighbors engaged in BDSM sex acts, and uses it to blackmail them into letting his use their electricity and pool. Notable that the blackmail isn't explicitly stated, but implied through exchanged glances and looks.
- In Joysticks, the main characters try to get Rutter to back down with (out of context) pictures of him in the arcade with a pair of half dressed teenagers. However he simply strong-arms them into handing them over... until later on, when it turns out they kept the photos after all and show them at the debate.
- Operation: Dumbo Drop: How Cahill gets Poole to come along; he threatens to tell General "Kill 'Em All and Let God Sort It Out" Richardson that Poole slept with his wife.
Poole: I thought she was his daughter.
- Geneva does this to Ronny in The Dilemma.
- Envy: When Tim becomes rich, J-Man demands money from him in exchange for not reporting him for killing Nick's horse.
- The major plot point for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. R.K. Maroon, head of Maroon Cartoons, sets up Jessica Rabbit into cheating on her husband, Roger, with Marvin Acme. Maroon hires detective Eddie Valiant to take pictures of the encounter, and with the pictures Maroon hopes he will be able to start a massive scandal that will make Acme sell his Gag Factory as well as Toontown to Cloverleaf Industries, so that Maroon could sell his studio to Cloverleaf as well. The plan ends up failing when Acme is murdered, and Jessica's explanation of Maroon's scheme to Eddie ends up vindicating Roger of Acme's murder. Maroon attempts to repair the damage he caused by trying to find Acme's will, only to be murdered by Cloverleaf's owner, Judge Doom (the one who also killed Acme), in the process.
- In Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne stopped the town's dominant family from trying to destroy her career by accidentally sending them their revered grandfather's diary, in which was detailed how he committed cannibalism when he was shipwrecked.
- The murder mystery The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell features a young woman who accuses the protagonists of attempted blackmail. Subverted in that they actually have no clue what she's talking about.
- Early in "Too Many Magicians", the Marquis of London decides to coerce Lord Darcy into taking on an investigation by throwing Master Sean in jail.
"Blackmail", said Master Sean." 'Blackmail' is perhaps too strong a word," Lord Darcy said thoughtfully, "but I will admit that no other is quite strong enough."
- Six chapters later, Lord Darcy puts the Marquis in the same position, by showing that the same level of circumstantial evidence that "justified" Master Sean's arrest also provides grounds to arrest the Marquis' personal assistant.
"His lordship," said Lord Bontriomphe, "got you out by simple but effective blackmail.""Counter-blackmail, if you please," Lord Darcy corrected.
- Six chapters later, Lord Darcy puts the Marquis in the same position, by showing that the same level of circumstantial evidence that "justified" Master Sean's arrest also provides grounds to arrest the Marquis' personal assistant.
- "A" in Pretty Little Liars blackmails them, but she really doesn't want anything except for them to humiliate themselves.
- Charles Augustus Milverton, who bought compromising documents from disgruntled servants, squeezed the documents' writers for every farthing he could, and then ruined them anyway when they revolted or if he simply felt like it. After his death, Sherlock Holmes and Watson felt he needed killing —that and they were breaking into his house to recover some letters he stole from their client at the time of the incident.
- Lord Peter Wimsey turned the tables on a blackmailer in The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker. The asshole had stolen jewelry whose box included a document hinting at an affair the jewelry's owner had had, and blackmailed her. Wimsey made him look like a card shark and persuaded him to return all jewelry to the lady in question. Lord Peter and the other two card players then have the following conversation:
Sir Impey Biggs: It's a crime crueler and infinitely worse in its results than murder. As a lawyer ... I have consistently refused to defend a blackmailer, or prosecute any poor devil who does away with his tormentor."
Lord Peter: H'm. What do you say, Colonel?
Col. Marchbanks: A man like that's a filthy pest. Shootin's too good for him. I knew a man — close personal friend, in fact — hounded to death — blew his brains out — one of the best.
- In Murder Must Advertise, the motive turns out to be being blackmailed. Another of the workers at the agency was also approached and went for "publish and be damned"; it worked.
- In John C. Wright's Fugitives of Chaos, Amelia attempts to extort help in escaping. She bungles it.
- In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories:
- In Don Jones, Alex tries to blackmail Terwillinger to agree that both of their irresponsible behaviors should be swept under the rug. Terwillinger says, "Publish and be damned!" Fortunately this inspires Doralene to decide that he's not after all a stuffed shirt and she's in love with him. This inspires him to let Alex off after all.
- In The Napoleon Crime, Alex, finding himself cast as the Duke of Wellington, can remember only that he responded with "Publish and be damned!" to a blackmailer. At the end, when a reporter tells him that he can make him look ridiculous, Alex decides not to resist temptation: "Publish and be damned!"
- In Larry Niven's Known Space stories, the Puppeteers regard blackmail as simply another business transaction — the two parties negotiate terms, and if agreement is reached the target pays the settled price and the blackmailer gives up the relevant evidence and memories.
- In the In Death series, a number of folks have used this. Some of them even tried to blackmail a murderer, which qualifies them for the What an Idiot award. All of these blackmailers ended up dead.
- P. G. Wodehouse used this more than once in his stories, one of the more famous examples being would-be dictator Rodrick Spode not wanting anyone to know about "Eulalie", which is not a woman, but a successful lingerie shop he operates.
- Willis Sr. assists his English cousins in confronting a blackmailer in Aunt Dimity's Good Deed. An incompetent physician learns of both the family's literal skeleton in the closet and some accounting errors in the family law practice that might be construed as embezzlement, coupled with some actual embezzlement by a now-deceased in-law. Willis Sr. also informs Scotland Yard, and a Chief Inspector is present at the Denouement.
- In Grunts!, former dominatrix Magda Brandiman blackmails a representative of the Visible College to keep on selling the Orc Marines nullity talismans by threatening to reveal their S&M proclivities.
- In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, Rione admits she is being blackmailed to perform certain activities, which she has carefully shaped to cause no actual harm. She also tells Geary that Captain Bradament will be blackmailed to spy on him; she will refuse, but she will be destroyed.
- In Vernor Vinge's cult-classic novella, "True Names", criminal hackers must keep their secret identities hidden from each other to avoid being blackmailed into servitude. The story's name is a reference to the fantasy trope, I Know Your True Name, where learning a wizard's true name gives you power over him.
- A book in Galaxy of Fear has a hero doing this. The monks are unwilling to retrieve Tash's brain and put it back in her skull until Uncle Hoole threatens to reveal their secrets, and how much of their recruiting strategy is a scam.
- In Sarah A. Hoyt's Draw One in the Dark, the officer mentions the bathroom to Kyrie, knowing that she knows there would have been blood and other evidence, to get her to talk with him.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Hermione Granger discovers that the nosy, meddling journalist Rita Skeeter is an unregistered Animagus (a wizard or witch who can turn into an animal at will) and successfully uses this information to capture her in a bottle when she's transformed (her form is a beetle) and blackmail her into not writing any stories for a year. Well, all except one. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she forces her to publish an interview with Harry Potter in which Harry describes what happened the night Lord Voldemort came back. The blackmail is highly effective because Rita understands enough of Hermione to know that she would keep her word. Oh, and also because the penalty for the wizarding authorities finding out that someone is an unregistered animagus is a stay in Azkaban, the feared wizard prison guarded by dementors, creatures that suck all happiness and hope from a person and thus to be avoided if at all possible.
- In Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magick, Kat blackmails Angeline with the knowledge that she is using magic; she threatens to tell not their stepmother, but their older sister.
- A large portion of the Asshole Victims in the Nero Wolfe stories tend to be blackmailers who had the misfortune of trying to blackmail the wrong person.
- In the novel Absolute Power, when a thief witnesses the President committing a murder, he decides it would be a good idea to blackmail him. It ends just as badly as one would predict. This is averted in the movie adaptation in which the thief is the main protagonist.
- A sailor who was at the Nore mutiny with Kydd by the name of Dobbie attempts this on him during Quarterdeck for what he sees as disloyalty to his former comrades. Luckily, Kydd earns his respect through showing up for a duel ashore as a fellow sailor, not an officer.
- James Bond in COLD goes after the eponymous organization when they have the plane carrying a man who was going to blackmail them on the information he had gathered explode spectacularly when it reaches its destination.
- According to Going Clear, this is the actual purpose of "auditing" in the Church of Scientology: everything people say in their auditing sessions is recorded, then it's used to threaten members with reprisal if they leave the church. It's heavily implied that this is one of the reasons John Travolta hasn't left.
- In Hullo Russia Goodbye England, the pilots of Britain's nuclear deterrent strike jets are vulnerable to blackmail. A Russian spy attempts to compromise Flight-Lieutenant Silk over his affair, demanding £2500. A local bookie also threatens to go to the CO if another pilot's gambling debts of £1000 are not paid in full. note
- In a book about stars in Hollywood whose name escapes me, a character tells how (back in the 1960s), he'd meet underage girls and go home with them to have sex in the girl's bedroom, while her parents were home, and they wouldn't say anything or do anything about her boyfriends because she knew enough about their pot plants to get them serious prison time (back in the 1960s, possession of marijuana in California was actually a felony).
- All Men of Genius has a fair amount of it.
- The longest and most sinister attempt is by the student Volio towards Cecily's governess, Miriam. When Volio gets wind of the fact that Miriam isn't as prim and proper as she appears, and is in a relationship with a student, he tries to force her to act as a go-between and advocate between himself and Cecily, with whom he thinks himself in love. (He raises the possibility of demanding sex from Miriam too, but she tells him she would tell Cecily and thereby guarantee his rejection.) Miriam pretends to agree to help him woo Cecily, but in fact, she and her friends generate fake correspondence instead.
- A lesser instance from the same book relates to the protagonist secretly being female. The actress/prostitute Fiona, hired briefly to act the part of the maid Violet doesn't really have, uses her knowledge of Violet's dual identity to extract information on one of Violet's friends, whom she wants to seduce and settle down with. Since Fiona and said friend both end up genuinely happy together, Violet doesn't particularly resent this.
Live Action TV
- On The Knick, New York City health inspector Jacob Speight extorts bribes from building owners, threatening to force them to bring their buildings up to code. He also blackmails hospital administrators by threatening to send patients to other hospitals.
- Hogan's Heroes keep Sgt. Schultz from revealing their plans by blackmailing him with the fact that if he tells, they'll tell that he knew about their earlier plans and didn't say anything. It's a bit cyclical.
- A plot by the tin-pot little African country of Buranda in Yes, Minister results in the following between a rock and a hard place exchange between the eponymous Minister, Jim Hacker, and the very black leader of Buranda:
Hacker: That's blackmail!
Selim Mohammed: Are you referring to me, or to my proposal?
- One sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a spoof of pledge shows titled "Blackmail". Instead of lots of people paying to keep the station alive, several persons had to pay to avoid having their embarrassing secrets revealed on national TV. Including a high ranking member of the Freemasons called "Mr. S."
Host: £3,000 to stop us from revealing your name, the name of the three other people involved, the youth organization to which they belong, and the shop where you bought the equipment.
- Highlander had an episode called "Blackmail" where a guy caught Duncan on videotape beheading another Immortal. He threatened to give the videotape to the police ... unless Duncan killed his wife (he had been having an affair and had just left his mistress when he came upon them fighting).
- Georgina Sparks uses her knowledge of Serena sort of, but not actually, killing a man to blackmail Serena in season one of Gossip Girl.
- Spoofed several times on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the best being a bit in Puma Man involving a fly and a hero trying to play dead...
- In the build to Kane's debut in the WWE, Paul Bearer used the threat of revealing the "truth" of the Undertaker's past to try and force him back to his side; Taker complied for a while, before rebelling.
- Used at various points across Desperate Housewives, most notably in season one, where Mary-Alice's suicide, the event that started the series, is revealed to have been the result of Mrs. Huber attempting to blackmail her over the fact that Zack isn't really her son. In true Christie-esque style, Mrs. Huber pays for this with her own life when Paul, Mary-Alice's husband, finds out what she did and strangles her.
- Used in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", when Xander discovers that Amy is a witch and threatens to reveal this to everyone unless she casts a love spell for him.
Xander: Blackmail is such an ugly word.Amy: I didn't say blackmail.Xander: Yeah, but I'm about to blackmail you, so I thought I'd bring it up.
- Veronica Mars uses blackmail as her default MO, but her Guile Hero status isn't tarnished too much because the people she blackmails are often terrible.
- In "The Telling", a season 3 episode of The Middle, Sue is awakened by Axl when he sneaks back into the house late through her room. She uses this knowledge to have him drive her and her friends everywhere.
- Practically everybody on Downton Abbey either blackmails someone or gets blackmailed at some point. Among the blackmailers are Mrs. Bates, Thomas (who also is on the receiving end, and who conspires with O'Brien), Sir Richard Carlisle, Edith, Kemal Pamuk....
- Used by the protagonist of "A Penny For Your Thoughts", a Twilight Zone episode about mind-reading, to demand a promotion for himself and airline tickets for his friend in exchange for his silence about his boss's affair.
- In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Kevin threatens to send comprising photos to Sergeant Bate's commanding officer if she does not cooperate with Sam and Dean.
- Belgian thriller Salamander begins with a bank heist where safety deposit boxes are identified and broken into. right away, one robber cautions another not to get greedy and steal jewelry, cash or other valuables. All they are after are photographs and incriminating documents to use for blackmail purposes.
- Smallville features blackmail from time to time. Perry White protects himself by hiding, with various lawyers, multiple copies of murder evidence against Lionel Luthor, to be revealed upon his own death. Chloe Sullivan blackmails the Suicide Squad into helping to save the Justice League from the VRA's Lotus-Eater Machine. A shadowy figure tries to blackmail Martha Kent with Clark's secret, but Lionel buys the evidence from him to learn what she is hiding.
- Played with in the Sherlock episode A Scandal in Belgravia, where a dominatrix threatens to release photographs of her session with a member of the royal family. She doesn't actually want anything, however - the photographs are just a power play to ensure she'll always have the UK government under her thumb. Later on, she takes this Up to Eleven with possible information on future terrorist attacks. If the government don't meet her demands, all she has to do is deny them the intelligence.
- Charles Augustus Magnussen's MO.
- Babylon 5:
- One episode dealt with Londo's Purple Files, a collection of dirt on all the other noble families compiled over years. Apparently, there was enough in them to blackmail the entire Centauri Republic.
- Garibaldi also took this approach to muscle out the old corrupt board of directors of Edgars Industries, along with arranging to put a Price on Their Heads if they had him or his wife assassinated.
- In Zoey 101: Rebecca finds out a secret of Zoey and makes her do all sorts of humiliation things on campus. In the end, Zoey gets bailed out by her friends, whom she was trying to keep the secret from.
- The arc ending season nine and starting season ten of Bones wound up being a blackmail ring started by J. Edgar Hoover himself. When Booth is in jail, Brennan even resorts to using some of the information they uncovered to get him released.
Brennan: I've never blackmailed anyone before, but I think I've covered everything.
- In Orphan Black, Paul works as Beth's (and, later, Sarah's) monitor to keep the Dyad Institute from releasing information about a friendly-fire incident he was involved in in Afghanistan.
- Later, he finds out about Olivier's past, including some outstanding warrants for sex offenses, and threatens to let the police know unless Olivier helps him cover up Helena's existence.
- The Mentalist
- C.B.I. team leader Teresa Lisbon blackmails Sam Bosco to drop all charges against Patrick Jane in "Black Gold and Red Blood". Lisbon threatened to reveal that Bosco had done something very bad in the past to a criminal who had gotten away without being charged. Revealing the secret would have ended her career as well, since Lisbon helped Bosco cover it up.
- In the sixth season, when Dennis Abbott recruits Patrick Jane into the F.B.I., Jane provides a list of demands on a napkin that he wants met if he's going to work for them. When he gets back to the United States, Abbott reneges on the deal and instead tries to set his own terms, which include stuff such as Jane basically being on a sort of probation which could be retracted at any time if he doesn't toe the line while working with the F.B.I. Jane, of course, does not like this at all, so he escapes then tells Abbott that he has a list of names of members of the F.B.I. who are members of the Blake Association and he'll release it to the media unless his own demands are met and he's allowed to work for the F.B.I. free as a bird. It's a total bluff, but it works, as Abbott has no way of knowing that he's lying.
- Midsomer Murders: Blackmailing one's neighbors is something of a countywide industry in Midsomer, and has much the same results as an Agatha Christie novel.
- House of Anubis:
- A favorite trick of Jerome in Season 1. He first blackmails Mara, using the fact that she cheated on a test for Mick (without Mick even knowing) to make her do chores for him. When everyone found out the truth anyways, the deal was broken. His only other successful attempt was when he threatened to tell on Sibuna to Victor, if Nina and the others didn't continue to protect him from Rufus as promised. He did at one point try and make Patricia tell him information he wanted (this time out of fear and anger over what happened to Alfie as an indirect result of Sibuna's adventures in the cellar) with the same sort of threat, but Patricia blackmailed him right back, leaving him powerless.
- In the second season, Jasper was being blackmailed by Rufus himself at the same time. He was forced into helping him and Vera as The Mole, or else Fabian, his godson, could be harmed. Then Jerome found out he stole the gem Jerome had spent all season finding, and sure enough, also ended up blackmailing Jasper to force him to help get the gem back.
- Murdoch Mysteries: The victims of the week in "In the Altogether" are a blackmailer and the doxy he used as Honey Trap to photograph important men in compromising positions.
- Adam-12: The appropriately titled "IAD-Blackmail" has Pete discover that a fellow officer is blackmailing a witness to keep quiet. The officer tries to get Pete on his side after having saved Pete's life earlier in the episode, but Pete just gets ticked off about having his name drug into it.
- The Affair: Oscar tries to blackmail Noah with knowledge of his affair with Alison. Noah asks his affluent best friend to loan him the money, but out of guilt he admits what happened to his wife anyway and tells Oscar to go screw himself.
- Guilt: D.S. Bruno is coerced into covering up Prince Theo's involvement with Molly by his personal secretary, using corruption in his past.
- NCIS: Tony threatens Kate with a picture of her as the winner of a Wet T-Shirt Contest in Panama City. In the end, Kate has Abby either pulls up or photoshop a picture of Tony at a rather risqué dude ranch. They both decide to call a truce, simultaneously deleting each picture. They probably should have actually looked at their keyboards, since they both send a e-mail of the pictures to Gibbs.
- Retail: Cooper once blackmailed Stuart into giving him extra hours on the job after discovering that he will lose his job if the inventory goes poorly.
- Blackmail is a large part of The Children's Hour. Enfant Terrible Mary tries to spread rumors about her two teachers — in the original play and the second film it's that they're lovers while in the original adaptation it's that one of them is having an affair with the other's boyfriend—that leads to them losing their jobs and being ostracized. In order to help her, Mary threatens a school-mate who stole another's bracelet. She is too naive to realize that kids don't get put in jail for taking each other's things, and is scared of being in jail for decades.
- This ultimately tanks the titular character's career in Hamilton. Marie Reynolds seduces him, then she and her husband blackmail him by threatening to publish the proof. Which is a problem, given that Hamilton is 1) active in politics and 2) mostly-happily married. Unlike most examples of this trope, Hamilton does go public, though only because the proof of his affair exonerates him from an accusation of embezzlement. It works, but he almost loses his wife and his career as a result.
- Disgaea: Hour of Darkness:
- A case of this in Chapter 5 of the first game. Embarrassing photos of Laharl that were provided by Etna have arrived in Maderas' hands, and he uses this to lure him into a gigantic trap (involving busty babes and optimistic sayings) under threat of spreading the photos and compromising the young heir's reputation. In reality, Maderas didn't have as much control over the situation as he wanted...
- In the Makai Senki Disgaea anime, the issue with his vassal Etna's memories is also blackmail, rather than threat of destroying them for good.
Maderas: I sorted them into three categories: Embarrassing memories, extremely embarrassing memories, and downright humiliating memories!
- In Mass Effect, if a particular origin story is chosen (growing up as an orphan on the streets), a gang member your character used to know would eventually come to your character and try and blackmail him/her about his/her past. When playing as a Shepard with a Ruthless background, for example, this meant the gang member thought that your character's past as a street gang member would harm his/her career more than the fact that he/she is "The Butcher of Torfan", who kicked dogs across the galaxy. In the quest, your character can point out that as a Spectre, he/she is legally authorized to execute anyone he/she sees fit, including him. Alternatively, your character could just shoot him.
- You can do this to a Blood War veteran in Planescape: Torment - threaten to spread the word of how he sold out his comrades to save his own skin. "This is blackmail, old man..." He'll tell you that you're disgusting but capitulate.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: Several people try to blackmail "poor, unfortunate" Deputy Commissioner Francis McReary, mostly over him coming from a family of Irish gangsters and the less-than-savory means he used to rise in the LSPD's ranks. Niko himself can get in on the act, extorting Francis into removing anything lower than a 4-star wanted level, if he agrees to kill his brother Derrick for him.
- Played for Laughs in Lego Marvel Superheroes. J. Jonah Jameson gets Doc Ock and Agent Coulson to clean up the wrecked Bugle office or he'll tell everyone Otto's middle name is Olivia and Coulson buys all Nick Fury's eyepatches.
- Fallen London: With the amount of intrigue going around in the Neath, it's only natural blackmail would crop up as one of your options. There's even actual pieces of "Blackmail Material", which are quite valuable and rather difficult to obtain. The description for them is also quite apt:
"Step carefully. This knowledge is dangerous to both you and them."
- Sakazaki Yuuya of Hatoful Boyfriend's mother was a noble who eloped with a commoner. Her noble fiancee killed her lover, took her back, and told her Yuuya could live if she killed her second child in the egg. Volunteering to do it for her, Yuuya actually hid the egg and switched it with the forthcoming pure noble egg, and had his mixed-class brother brought up noble. Years later a doctor who's examined both brothers determines that the noble is Yuuya's full brother and uses this knowledge to force Yuuya to do things for him lest he tell people who have no compunction about killing Sakuya.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
- In Trials And Tribulations the motive for the second case is blackmail. It's rather complicated. First, Luke Atmey, a self-proclaimed ace detective, investigates a recent theft by Mask* DeMasque. He quickly figures out who Mask* DeMasque is, and blackmails him (the threat being ratting him out)... into stealing more stuff. And giving it to him. Through a safe-deposit box to hide his identity. In return, he gives a small fraction of the revenue to the thief. The head of a large security company, Kane Bullard, finds out about this through the guards he dispatched to the various heists, and sends a blackmail note to Mr. Atmey, calling him to his office and telling him to bring $50,000, or else his dirty crime will be revealed. Upon reading this, Atmey forwards the letter to Mask* DeMasque. The vague contents of the letter make him think he's being blackmailed, so he goes to Kane Bullard's office. What happens when they're there is a story for another trope page.
- This is essentially Redd White and Bluecorp's method of doing business in the first game. When Marvin Grossberg gave information on Misty Fey to White, the police suspected someone leaked it, and White blackmailed him into paying him money, later using his influence over him to prevent him from defending Maya when she was charged with killing Mia Fey, something White himself had done. The revelation that many of White's victims had been Driven to Suicide easily puts him over the Moral Event Horizon. In a karmic twist, Mia, her spirit channeled by Maya, tells him that she will release a list of his victims to the press if he does not confess to killing her.
- In War: 13th Day, Night tells Ambrosia that he will imprison Arsenik for attacking him unless she gives him a kiss everyday. But the game strongly implies that he takes it farther.
Ambrosia: At times, he took more than simply a kiss. His hands would grasp my waist, alight on my back, and...and so much more. It would scandalize me to tell you what else he did.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, after November deduces that the Marquis is not noble, Perrault accuses her of blackmail.
- In Ansem Retort, Zexion blackmails Namine into shutting up when it turns out she caused Sora's amnesia
- Evil Diva threatens her mother with revealing — well, a vaguer than usual Noodle Incident.
- Squid Row: How to get the day off
- In Minion Comics, Von Gernsbach and Mr. Magnum plot to blackmail various world leaders.
- In Monsieur Charlatan, the count uses this as well as money to get an assassin to take a job.
- Polanstuck: Switzerland keeps a book for their plan to take over the world.
- In Freefall, the police chief threatens to have Sam receive The Pardon; Sam agrees to comply with the blackmail.
- In Ozy and Millie Millie once attempted to blackmail her mom into buying her a new bike with some stories she'd written when she was a child, but apparently your mom always has more dirt on you than you have on her.
- Ricky does this to Hans, Cale, and Kerzach in Darwin's Soldiers: Pavlov's Checkmate. It works with two of them.
- An unknown agent tries to blackmail Phase in the Whateley Universe, in what was probably an attempt to make Phase's dorm hate him. Not only does it not work, but it leads Phase and his team into accidentally finding and stopping some mutant ninja thieves, thus making Phase more popular.
- By From Justin to Kelly, The Nostalgia Chick has resorted to this to get her "love" Todd in the Shadows to spend time with her, giving him the choice of trying not to starve when he's so poor or making some money by doing a crossover with her.
- In Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv), the Narrator blackmails Mikami into letting him make a documentary of his life with his knowledge that Mikami is a crazy mass murderer... and that he likes to dress up in frilly pink underwear and go dancing down the street.
- Porkchop 'n Flatscreen! has the first half of Episode Two consisting of Mai blackmailing Bobby (with a photo of his exposed wings) into dating Ayane.
- In Ten Little Roosters episode 1, Michael plans to send everyone in the party to jail after revealing he has pictures of the people they killed (except for Miles - for some reason, he keeps getting Barbara's dick drawings.). Then, Michael ends up being the first one to die when his beer's poisoned.
- In RWBY, Cardin ends up using Jaune as a lackey when he holds Jaune's Dark Secret that he faked his way into Beacon Academy over his head. He drops it when Jaune finally grows a pair and saves him from a Grimm.
- This is the main point of the Super Mario Logan episode "Cody's Revenge!", where after Bowser Junior breaks a bowl of Raisin Bran, Cody blackmails him by forcing him to do what he tells him to do, otherwise he'll show Bowser a picture of the broken bowl that he took on his phone, as Revenge for continuously treating him like a Butt Monkey.
- An episode of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy is dedicated to Kevin blackmailing Eddy into doing his bidding. If Eddy doesn't do what he's told, Kevin will tell everyone his Embarrassing Middle Name. He spends the entire episode using the threat to humiliate Eddy in a dozen different ways, up to and including making him play horns and eat a raw fish like a trained seal. And then he reveals the name anyway! This isn't surprising since Kevin is one of the cul-de-sac's resident personifications of the jerkass trope.
- The Fairly Oddparents:
Vicky: ...Or I'll show your parents this!
- Vicky has done this a few times, but that's just one thing among a sea of evil things she's done. And one time, it's even fake blackmail.
Recording of Timmy's voice: Hi, I'm Timmy Turner, and I-
Obviously fake voice: cheated on my math test
Timmy: Hey! I never cheated on my math test!
Timmy recording: Hi, I'm Timmy Turner, and I-
Second recorder: -cheated on my math test!
Mayor: Those clothes were in style back then!Vicky: Tell that to the voters!
- Another instance was in "Miss Dimmesdale", when she blackmailed the Mayor, one of the judges of the Miss Dimmesdale pageant, with an Embarrassing Old Photo of him from the 1970s.
- Chowder did one episode where everyone in town was blackmailing Miss Endive with a picture of her eating toe jam with a fork.
- She would have been fine if she used a spoon.
- In King of the Hill, Bobby discovered that Kahn was bribing the water meter guy during a major Texas drought so he could water the lawn beyond the limit and be the only person in the neighborhood with a healthy green lawn, and blackmailed Kahn so he could take baths in his house.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door Operation: B.U.T.T. the Delightful Children From Down The Lane blackmail Numbuh 1 with some pictures they took of his butt.
- They get back at them, though.
- In The Simpsons, Homer goes to Patty and Selma for help with his money troubles when he doesn't want Marge to know the truth. Patty and Selma have fun with this.
Selma: We know something you don't want Marge to know. Now, we own you like Siegfried owns Roy.
- Futurama: Bender thinks that "Blackmail" is Such an Ugly Word. He prefers "extortion". The "X" makes it sound cool.
- Done to Ace and Lancer in "Shop Talk" of My Little Pony Tales when the girls lure them into doing something embarrassing to entertain some baby ponies they're babysitting, then take pictures and threaten to expose them unless they stop teasing Teddy.
- Teddy also threatens to show Ms. Hackney the entry in "Bon Bon's Diary" that says she cheated in a test unless she goes to the scool dance with him.
- In the "Ponyville Confidential" episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Diamond Tiara resorts to this when the Cutie Mark Crusaders decide that they don't want to do Gabby Gums columns anymore, showing that Featherweight had taken pictures of their embarrassing first attempt at reporting.
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, Principle Abacus Cinch forces the Human World version of Twilight into using magic to get Crystal Prep to win the titular event by holding her application to an important group study hostage.
- Code Lyoko In Log Book, Ulrich was blackmailed when Sissi threatens to put his diary in the paper. He wrote about Lyoko, too.
- CatDog had an episode where Winslow blackmails Cat into becoming his slave with a video tape of Cat reading Dog's diary that he recorded himself.
- In Season 3 of Detentionaire, Cam gets caught up in this. The blackmailer has a picture of him buying an essay from another student (which he actually threw out, but was passed in for him) and threatens showing it to Principal Barrage, who would likely expel him. He's told to do several tasks such as do a dance on camera in front of the whole school, eat a bug and film it, pour hot soup on his lap, etc. He's not the only one being blackmailed, though, and he teams up with the others to find out who the blackmailer is.
- By the end of season 1 of Young Justice, three members of the team are being blackmailed for separate things: Superboy is addicted to a Psycho Serum being supplied by Lex Luthor, Miss Martian is actually a monstrous white Martian and not the Green-Skinned Space Babe she presents herself as (which was discovered by Queen Bee's henchman Psimon), and Artemis is not Green Arrow's neice as she claimed, but rather the daughter of the villain Sportsmaster. In the penultimate episode of the season, all three have their markers called in by the villains only for their plot to fail because all three heroes had earlier come clean with the rest of the team. And then it turns out that none of them are actually The Mole at all.
- An As Told by Ginger episode has Miranda blackmailing Ginger in "Cry Wolf" when she threatens to reveal Ginger's secret about her not being allowed to shave her legs if Ginger doesn't do her bidding.