Dr. Evil: Scott, I want you to meet daddy's nemesis, Austin Powers.Bond Villain Stupidity is a form of ignorance commonly exhibited by villains. It occurs when a villain fails to kill the hero when he has him cornered, incapacitated, or otherwise defenseless, thus giving the hero a chance to escape and later come back to defeat the villain. It is so named because it occurs frequently in James Bond movies. A common form of Bond Villain Stupidity is to place the hero in an elaborate Death Trap from which he can escape (slow dipping mechanisms over pits of sharks, alligators, or lava are perennial favorites). If you ever asked why the villains don't just shoot him then use their pets/lava to dispose of the body, then congratulations, you are smarter than the average megalomaniac. Also common is the inability to resist a Just Between You and Me moment before putting the hero in said death trap. Several variants of this one made the Evil Overlord List. Often includes Evil Gloating, accompanied by stock quotes such as "You Have No Chance to Survive! I don't think we'll meet again... Goodbye!" If they actually expect the hero to die before their eyes, it's Prepare to Die. Objective logic aside, a big part of the reason for this trope is because "mundane" kills do indeed seem to annoy audiences; see Dropped a Bridge on Him. This is so common that the Hypercompetent Sidekick pointing out the inherent flaws in this trope and suggesting a more pragmatic solution has become a trope on its own: Stating the Simple Solution. For more generalized villainous incompetence, see Villain Ball. Note that there are several legitimate reasons why the villain may opt to let the hero walk away:
Scott: What? Are you feeding him? Why don't you just kill him?
Dr. Evil: I have an even better idea: I'm going to place him in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death.
Scott: What? Are you feeding him? Why don't you just kill him?
Dr. Evil: I have an even better idea: I'm going to place him in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death.
— Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
- The villain wants the hero to join his side and would prefer not to kill him.
- The villain may just be looking for a good fight and considers the hero a Worthy Opponent, opting to keep him around for future entertainment. In some cases, the success of the scheme is actually a secondary goal to the fun of actually carrying it out.
- The villain considers killing the hero secondary to breaking his spirit via a Breaking Lecture, Forced to Watch, etc.
- The villain is secretly manipulating the heroes into doing his bidding for him; perhaps he wants them to escape so that he can track them to their secret hideout, but it will only work if they think they've escaped on their own.
- The villain, who is evil according to his own stature, doesn't quite feel up to engaging in cold-blooded murder.
- The villain wants/needs the hero to go though a process that will benefit him and kill the hero. If the hero is killed some other way, then that benefit is lost. The villain may not even care at all about the hero, but about said benefit. For example, what a vampire really wants is the blood of his victims; he won't get anything if he vaporizes people with some futuristic giant laser gun.
- The villain wants to avoid being blamed for killing the hero, and thus waits for a situation where he can make it look like an accident or produce an alibi for the time when the hero is supposed to die.
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Anime & Manga
- Dragon Ball Z has many examples of this:
- Freeza shows that he completely outclasses Goku and the rest of the heroes while only fighting at 50% power and that he could kill all of them in an instant, and yet he toys with them and lets the fight drag on... until Goku transforms, that is. Freeza himself even Lampshades the fact that he should probably just take Goku out right now after the 20x Kaioken, but he still keeps screwing around anyway.
- During the Cell Saga, Vegeta, after having trained for a year in the Room of Spirit and Time, becomes an Ascended Super Saiyan, and much, much stronger than his opponent, Semi-Perfect Cell. Rather than finish him here, Vegeta lets Cell absorb Android 18 and upgrade to his Perfect form, lusting for a greater fight. Cue Perfect Cell completely Curb-Stomping Vegeta, and later Trunks. While Vegeta is on the good guys' side at this time, the effect is the same.
- Vegeta also indulged in this as a villain during the Saiyan Saga, when he decided to wait for three hours for Goku to return to Earth so he and Nappa could crush the hopes of Earth's warriors.
- Cell himself makes the exact same mistake. After ascending to his Perfect form, and defeating Piccolo, Vegeta, Trunks, and Android 16 in the process, he becomes the most powerful being on earth. Rather than kill everyone, he opts to give the Z-Fighters 10 days to prepare for a tournament. Those were probably the Vegeta cells inside him, as Vegeta himself does this a few times as well, as mentioned above.
- Insanely inverted with Majin Buu. He has the Z-Fighters cornered, but Piccolo makes a sick choice that will buy them more time — suggesting to Buu that it would be more fun to kill the rest of the humans on Earth in the meantime (knowing that they can reverse the damage with the Dragonballs if they can power up enough to survive the fight), prompting horrified reactions all around. Buu simply kills the remaining survivors with one attack, then proceeds to thin the numbers of the Z-Fighters and blow up the world. EPIC FAIL!
- During the original Dragon Ball, in his fight against Goku during the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament, Tien, who was starting to feel overpowered by Goku's tremendous stamina and having several of his techniques outdone by Goku's very own, ingenuously decided that, if he could not knock Goku unconscious or push him out of the platform, he would simply destroy the entire platform; that way, Goku would lose by ring out because there would be no platform left to stand on. Tien, who possesses the ability to fly, did not have that problem. He managed to destroy the platform with his powerful Tri-Beam attack, but instead of simply waiting for Goku, who had jumped very high to escape the blast, to hit the ground, he decided to fly close to him, accompanying Goku as he fell down, in order to gloat about his inevitable victory. That opened an opportunity for Goku to use one last attack that knocked Tien unconscious, and now both fighters were falling to the ground. Subverted because Tien, by a stroke of luck, actually won the fight, but he was likely in worse physical condition than Goku by the end of it.
- In the manga he's a bit smarter; he intended to stay where he was and watch Goku fall, but Goku reacted quickly.
- Dragon Ball generally inverts this trope almost as much as it plays it straight. The Heroes are just as prone to holding back in their fights or letting the villains go, just to result in them coming back stronger later. The worst offender is probably Gohan, who, due to not possessing the same natural fighting instinct and impulse control of the Saiyans and willing martial artists, has a problem with holding back too much during his fights due to some emotional or subconscious drive and giving the villains too many openings.
- Averted with Future Trunks. After improving by going back in time, he is much more powerful when he faces Android 17 and 18 and Imperfect Cell. He wastes no time Curb-Stomping them, making sure that they are gone. Makes sense, since he grew up in misery, watching all of his loved ones die, and saw his world destroyed by the Androids. He just wants them finished as soon as possible.
- After knocking about most of the cast with ease, the Big Bad of Shingetsutan Tsukihime inexplicably declares "We Will Meet Again" and falls backwards off a bridge while laughing madly. This isn't the only instance, but it is by far the most entertaining.
- The Big Bad does this during the game as well. He goes off on a long-winded display and speech that not only allows the hero to think but also pisses him off, which allows him to retaliate.
- Justified in the game version, where the Big Bad believed he and the hero were equals and as such felt perfectly justified in explaining to the hero many important background details.
- Done quite deliberately by Jeremiah Gottwald in the Grand Finale of Code Geass, when he calls off Lelouch's Knightmare Royal Guard and duels the attacking Zero/Suzaku by himself, so as to allow Suzaku to convincingly kill Lelouch for world peace.
- In episode 4, Jeremiah does this NOT on purpose when Clovis' personal car — hijacked by Zero and company — make their way towards Suzaku's execution. When asked by his subordinates in security if they should blow up the car, Jeremiah replies "No! I shall take them myself!" If it hadn't been for Jeremiah's arrogance, the whole show would've ended right then and there.
- Lelouch himself does this several times, such as when he taunts Euphemia during the hostage situation about his hatred of the royal family (planting the seeds in her mind that Zero might be Lelouch). He also reveals to Suzaku that he knows Suzaku's deepest secret — that Suzaku killed his own father — in order to appear omniscient. Not only does this fail to recruit him, but Suzaku begins to suspect Zero's identity, as Lelouch is one of the few who knows Suzaku is a patricide.
- Subverted in the fifth Kara no Kyoukai movie. Araya mercilessly destroys Tohko, but keeps her head alive on purpose — she's created multiple exact duplicates of her own body and linked them to herself, so whenever she is "killed", her consciousness transfers to the next body, making her depend on this trope. When Alba fulfills the trope and crushes her head, she comes back with a vengeance(-in-a-box).
- After stomping Negi and his team, Fate decides they aren't completely worthless because they barely pulled off
a recoverynot dying of the wounds he inflicted. Instead of, you know, killing them in the face like he's clearly capable of, he says 'Okay I'm bored just gonna blow the gate up now. By the way, you suck Negi. Go level grind moar. Later' May be justified in that he intended to use Negi and seems oddly reluctant to actually kill people. Also definitely planning on using Asuna for something, but we don't know what yet. It eventually turns out that he's capable of changing the reality of the magic world on a whim, so his belief that they pose him no threat is at least partially justified.
- In the Kämpfer anime, Kaede had one of the good guys under her control, and used her to defeat the other blue and red Kampfers. But instead of just killing them like she said she would do, she tied them up with a chain, gloated at Shizuku, and tried to use the mind-controlled ally to kill them instead. However, not only did said victim break free of the mind control, but the heroes got Heroic Resolve so strong they broke free and went to town on the enemy.
- At one point in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, Tails is using a bit of Applied Phlebotinum, about the size of a wrist watch, to mess with Metal Sonic's programming. From off-screen, Dr. Robotnik whips out a laser gun and shoots the machine right off Tails' wrist, then he orders Metal Sonic to kill Sonic and Tails. Fridge Logic dictates that Robotnik could have just as easily saved a step by shooting Tails in the head. An explanation was given by the Hellfire Commentaries commentary of the movie:
FTA: Why doesn't he just put a bullet through Tails' head?NTom64: Because it's a family film.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Lust stabs Mustang and Havoc and leaves them to bleed to death on the floor and doesn't actually watch them die. Cue her surprise when Mustang comes back to kill her, having cauterized his own wound with fire.
- Wrath takes it a step further. Having observed Mustang brutally burn his sister to death, he determines that the currently extremely vulnerable Mustang should be left alive, on the logic that Mustang is too valuable to kill, as his alchemical skill is likely good enough to open the Gate. While this does make sense, Wrath has still made the decision not to kill the one person who, besides being smart and having a personal vendetta against them, is exceptionally good at killing homunculi. This ends... poorly for the bad guys.
- Of course, had Wrath decided otherwise he would've had to clear the room of witnesses before Mustang added the most vulnerable homunculus (due to not having a Philosopher's Stone) to his kill list.
- Wrath takes it a step further. Having observed Mustang brutally burn his sister to death, he determines that the currently extremely vulnerable Mustang should be left alive, on the logic that Mustang is too valuable to kill, as his alchemical skill is likely good enough to open the Gate. While this does make sense, Wrath has still made the decision not to kill the one person who, besides being smart and having a personal vendetta against them, is exceptionally good at killing homunculi. This ends... poorly for the bad guys.
- Quite prominent in Naruto; every time a villain has the hero in the bag, they invariably will stop to gloat, allow said hero to get back up to make the fight more fun, or just decide to be idiots instead of killing them right then and there.
- Notably when Orochimaru had the Third cornered with a kunai and instead of just SLICING HIS HEAD OFF like any smart person, decided to do a huge elaborate drama in which he summoned the Third Hokage's own teachers to kill him, resulting in Orochimaru losing the use of his arms.
- Sadistically subverted by Hidan: he savors killing so much, he toys with poor Asuma to the very end, who really does get Killed Off for Real.
- Unbelievably subverted with the power of Edo Tensei — everyone under its control is already dead. As such, a Magnificent Bastard may pull any form of Kick the Dog they want without fear of getting killed by retaliation. However, they can still have their souls sealed away or put to rest. Absolute villains like Deidara, Kakuzu, and Madara Uchiha push it to extremes, while others, like Sasori, Gaara's father, Nagato, and Itachi use it as means to apologize or atone. Itachi even has his free will back!
- At one point in Saki, Amae Koromo, who has been dominating the game since she appeared, has the opportunity to give one of her opponents a negative score, thus instantly ending the game and winning the tournament for her team. However, instead of doing this, she quite deliberately makes a lower-scoring move which reduces said opponent's score to exactly zero instead (according to the rules of this particular tournament, someone with a score of zero has a chance to come back) just because she wants to psychologically manipulate everyone and prevent the other players from making a certain type of high-scoring move. Sure enough, this buys our hero just enough time to come up with a way to win.
- In the second Black Jack OAV, when the title character stumbles upon an international drug ring working with a local hospital administrator in the course of treating a coma patient, instead of just shooting him, the gangsters drug Black Jack and leave him to die in a burning peyote grow op.
- Sailor Moon has Queen Beryl put Jedite in Eternal Sleep just as he's about to reveal who the Sailor Senshi really were. Had she not been so impatient to kill Jedite for his latest failure, the Sailor Senshi would've been goners for sure.
- In Haruhi Suzumiya, Ryoko Asakura tries to kill Kyon with a knife, giving him a chance to dodge. When that doesn't work, she freezes him in place, and it is later implied that she could have just outright deleted him from existence. She's a malfunctioning alien bio-robot, so it makes sense.
- The Dark Signers from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's weren't known for being smart, but the biggest example of stupidity on their part was when Yusei's duel with Kiryu left the hero battered, wounded, close to death, and with a fear of the villain that would take several episodes to recover from. Why didn't Kiryu finish him off when he had the chance? He claimed it "wasn't the right time." (Kiryu was almost the living definition of Ax-Crazy at the time, so at least he had that as an excuse.)
- Luppi thinks he's taken down Hitsugaya in one strike and doesn't follow through. Lampshaded by Hitsugaya when he points out that all it did was give him all the time in the world to set up an attack that could curb-stomp Luppi. Luppi was also mocked by his peers upon returning to Hueco Mundo for having been defeated so completely.
- Aizen sets up an elaborate method of ensuring Ichigo can train for a power upgrade before they fight. He was hoping Ichigo would achieve a level of power strong enough for Aizen to reach a new level of power. Unfortunately for Aizen, he completely underestimated Ichigo's growth potential and ended up being curbstomped.
- During the final battle in Plastic Little, the main villain has Tita by the neck and is counting down until he breaks it, when Tita finishes it from him and blows his brains out. What makes it particularly stupid is that the villain knows Tita is holding the gun (and she is still capable of using it) and doesn't do anything to disarm her.
- During the Dressrosa Arc of One Piece, there's an example of this plus Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: the Straw Hats' plan to liberate the island required knocking Sugar out, thus undoing the effect of her Devil Fruit power on previous victims, which had turned them into toys and made them her slaves (a number that, over ten years, had amounted to thousands). The initial plan was to trick her into eating an incredibly spicy Tatababasco berry disguised as a grape, which would make her collapse. But the plan didn't work well, to say the least; Sugar's toys found out about it, and in the ensuing confrontation ended with Robin becoming a victim of the power in an attempt to restrain Sugar, Usopp beaten up by Sugar's bodyguard Trebol, and the Straw hats' Tontatta allies beaten senseless. It would seem the heroes were, well, doomed. Until Sugar decided that, rather than use her power on Usopp (which she usually did to captured prisoners, and really had no reason to stop now) she would make him suffer, and force fed him the Tatababasco. It made Usopp make a Wild Take to end all Wild Takes, scaring Sugar into submission and, while not the way they planned, knocked her out, doing the job anyway.
- This is so common in comic books it could be renamed to "comic book villain stupidity" without missing a beat. Especially in their first appearances, any given supervillain will probably spend the first half of the issue defeating the superhero they are fighting handily and/or no selling their efforts to stop them and then proclaim "I am invincible!!!" or some such and claim the hero is not worth their effort to kill before the second half, where the hero gets up, dusts himself off, and kicks the villain's ass on their next encounter.
- Name any villain that Batman has fought at least twice, and it's a sure bet that he or she has done something like this. The fact that his enemies tend to be insane is one of the biggest reasons he's survived so long. This gets deconstructed with The Riddler, who knows full well that leaving clues at his crime scenes and leaving a difficult-but-possible escape method in his deathtraps is just going to land him back in Arkham Asylum. By his own admission, he quite literally cannot help himself.
- In the Ultimate Spider-Man series, one villain, Hammerhead, tries to avoid this trope by pulling out a gun and shooting a troublemaker; unfortunately, said troublemaker manages to catch the bullet unharmed, much to Hammerhead's surprise.
- The Umbrella Academy Story Arc The Apocalypse Suite averts this, as the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds White Violin gets shot by her brother before she causes The End of the World as We Know It. Equally, it doesn't avert it earlier when Kraken (one of the White Violin's other brothers) fails, for some reason, to destroy her violin or bow when he had the chance.
- Justified in the classic Disney comic story "Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot." In the story, the villainous Blot puts Mickey in death traps time and time again, but Mickey always escapes. It turns out that The Blot does this because, despite being evil, he can't stand to actually see anyone get hurt, let alone die. So he constructs elaborate traps to kill Mickey for him, then always leaves because he can't bear to watch. That is, until now.
- Taken to extremes in one issue of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog. Dr. Eggman decides he's sick of fooling around with Sonic and launches an all-out attack on his hometown. His forces manage to blast nearly every single good guy (except three) with powerful lasers that seem to vaporize them on contact. He then beats the crap out of Sonic for good measure. Looks like Eggman has finally won... except that those lasers didn't kill Sonic's friends, they were just teleport beams, which sent them all to cells at Eggman's HQ. Eggman announces he'll kill them all THERE… even though he could have killed them much more easily by simply making his lasers lethal in the first place. This is doubly stupid because Sonic believes everyone is dead... until Eggman TELLS Sonic that his friends are alive, and where to find them. Then he's actually surprised when Sonic mounts a rescue and frees them all. If he'd just kept his trap shut, Eggman would have had plenty of time to kill everybody.
- It's not limited to just Sonic either. Waaaay back in the Knuckles Chaotix special, the original Robotnik manages to successfully trap Sonic and all of the Freedom Fighters inside glass mirrors. However, Knuckles, who also fell into said trap, doesn't get trapped in a mirror. Instead, Robotnik takes away his special abilities (like his gliding and his spiked knuckles) just so he can still have someone to gloat over. Naturally, since Knuckles is still free, this gives him a perfect opportunity to build together a resistance to take him down. A minion even lampshades the obvious stupidity of this moment.
- Averted in Black Orchid; half the tropes on that page are related to that single moment.
- The Yellow Bastard in Sin City was fine leaving Hartigan hanging by his neck and didn't stick around long to make sure he couldn't escape, which he did. To his credit, people typically die when they are hanged. Hanged people mostly die from breaking their necks. If one survives the fall, failing to suffocate is not common but very much possible. So it's more like a case of generic stupidity owing to lack of research on the subject than the Bond Villain kind.
- Fantastic Four
- Despite being a supergenius, Doctor Doom falls prey to this a lot whenever he's trying to kill his hated Arch-Enemy Reed Richards. This is sort of justified though, because Doom's end goal isn't killing Reed — it's proving to Reed that Doom is smarter than him, and then killing him. Therefore, killing Reed without gloating about how he has been outsmarted and making him watch Doom Take Over the World and kill everyone Reed loves isn't just a tad disappointing to Doom — it would be completely antithetical to Doom's entire purpose in being evil.
- One of the biggest examples of this trope in Marvel Comics was done by the Frightful Four. Well, three of them; the Wizard, Trapster, and Sandman were, as usual, in need of a fourth member, something they never seemed able to hang onto. They managed to invade the Baxter Building, ambush the team and take the heroes hostage. So what do they do now that they have their foes at their mercy? Dispose of them? Engage in sadistic torture? Maybe hack into Reed's files? Nope. They use the Baxter Building to hold auditions for a fourth member, and force the heroes to watch. Unfortunately for them, most of the folks who showed up were Harmless Villains and a few folks who were trying to decide between this and something more legit including Texas Twister (who rejected their offer because SHIELD had offered better), and Captain Ultra (making his first appearance here, likely what made the issue stand out most) but it really turned bad for the villains when Tigra - who was friends with the FF - showed up and saw the situation. She got them out, and when the Wizard announced over the intercom to everyone waiting that whoever helped them fight the heroes could join them, they proved smarter than he was - they ran for the exit. (One villain, the Brute remained, and he ended up the fourth member, but like all other fourth members of the Frightful Four, he didn't last long.)
- In Dracula vs. King Arthur, Dracula has Arthur captured and brought to Dracula where he could've easily killed him and took over the kingdom. But rather then doing the sensible thing to clinch victory, he instead decides to "break his will" and just have Arthur thrown into the ocean after his subjects and feed on him. As you can imagine not only does this not happen, but Arthur recovers, gains some new weapons from the Lady of the Lake and regroups his remaining forces for a final battle which ended in Dracula's defeat. Yeah, nice one, lord of the darkness.
- The Phantom: The Phantom wouldn't have lasted for one generation, let alone the twenty-one he's currently at, without practically every enemy he's ever met falling for this trope. All Phantoms eventually get killed in the line of duty, but so far it's never been due to a villain having the foresight to Just Shoot Him when they have him captured. To put it in perspective, more Phantoms have died from fighting mooks than from being captured by the Big Bad.
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, Jade decides to break Jackie's limbs after she becomes evil once more, knowing that he'll be trouble later, but is forced to answer Daolon Wong's summoning before she can. She doesn't do anything like that later because while in her case, Evil Is Petty (that is, she wants to prove her superiority to them), and she wants to prove herself better than the other Chan foes, not more underhanded. Played straight later with Lung, Jade's bodyguard kills him for torturing her.
- In With Strings Attached, the Big Bad (Brox) asks The Dragon (Grunnel) why he wouldn't let her kill George and Ringo, who were both useless to them. Grunnel responds with a number of reasons, including that it's funnier to have them powerless and unable to stop the proceedings. (Also, he does genuinely like them.) Later, after it becomes clear that the two have managed to get useful stuff done despite having their magic neutralized, Grunnel apologizes to Brox for being wrong. The latter isn't terribly upset, though, as she believes that they still can't bull their way through dozens of wizards to get into the warehouse.
- Diamonds Cut is a Bond fan film, so its presence is guaranteed.
- In Clear Skies 3, Ghost wastes time monologuing, which gives Charlie and Sol time to salvage a shell and use it to kill him.
- In the Facing The Future Series, Technus managed to keep Danny, Sam, and Tucker busy while he downloaded himself into the cybertron satellite again, however, he failed to focus on Valerie and Skulker who rerouted his link to Tucker's PDA.
- In the Star Wars Rebels fanfiction Ezra Lost, the Inquisitor decides to go ahead and leave instead of making sure that Kanan fell through the ice. While it's possible he may have known The Cavalry was coming, he still probably should have stayed for a while longer; then he could have kept Kanan from surviving and Evil!Ezra from having a Heel–Face Turn. He even abandons his preciously cultivated apprentice during his sudden escape, though this could be revealed to be intentional for some villainous reason. This whole occurrence is ironic and may even be considered as funny if you remember what the Inquisitor said to mock Kanan about the fact that he had not actually died in the Season 1 finale after all — that Kanan should have stuck around to make sure he actually died.
- In The Vow, when Lord Shen has the perfect chance to kill Po and the Furious Five (all of them being placed in cells and restrained by acupuncture restraints) by just throwing his knives, he instead excuses himself to spring the trap set for the invited nobility and leaves two wolves to kill the heroes, leading them to be rescued by Jade.
- In Tintin and Alph-Art (Yves Rodier), returning Big Bad Rastapopoulos has several ways in which he could easily dispose of Tintin and Captain Haddock, before escaping. However, his sadistic need to give Tintin a slow, painful death for all the times his plans have been foiled ends up instead resulting in his own death, as he tries to hang them both, but the attempt goes horribly wrong and leads to him being thrown off a cliff.
Films — Animation
- Edgar in The Aristocats. Gee, leaving a bunch of cats out on the countryside to get rid of them, wonder if they'll find their way back! In Real Life, cats are known to be able to find their way back to their owners from extreme distances, but since Edgar was Too Dumb to Live he probably did not know this. This should explain why he simply assumed the cats would outlive him after taking the old saying that cats have nine lives literally and multiplying nine by their expected lifespan, an assumption that got the plot moving in the first place.
- The Great Mouse Detective: Professor Ratigan has the ideal situation; bound, demoralized and in a word 'helpless'. He decides to set up a deathtrap and leave. It's justified, however, since he wanted to stay and watch, but had to leave to enact his plans because Basil arrived later than he expected.
- Played with in Frozen. The Duke of Weaseltown (IT'S WESELTON!) can't justify sending his men out to kill Elsa for witchcraft until after it looks like she did something to Anna, because, y'know, offing another country's queen is a big deal (ice powers notwithstanding). When the "rescue group" finds her, though, Hans, being the Nice Guy he is, tries to peacefully keep Elsa and the soldiers from killing each other. When he takes her prisoner later, even though everyone thinks that killing her will stop the eternal winter, he still promises to try to save her. We then get a very nasty justification. He just saved Elsa to continue to uphold his facade of being a kind, gentle man. In reality, he intended to murder her from the start so he could marry Anna and be king. It was only a question of when he'd do it and, by waiting until he could frame Elsa for Anna's death, he could kill her, take the throne, and look heroic the entire time.
- In The Lion King, Scar really should have known better than to trust the Hyenas to kill Simba.
- Also, whispering to Simba that he indeed killed Mufasa wasn't too bright, as it led to Simba's Heroic Second Wind.
- Throughout My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks the Dazzlings have Canterlot High in the palm of their hands due to how smart they were, and ultimately manages to regain their lost power. Victory really is within their grasp but after they knocked down the Rainbooms during the final showdown, they suddenly stop and stand still floating above their foes instead of trying to finish them off while they are down, which gives the Rainbooms the opportunity to get back up and counterattack with the aid of Sunset Shimmer. By the time they do decide to attack it is already too late and the heroes' counterspell is cast, freeing everyone from their control and summoning their alicorn avatar to destroy their magic pendants.
Films — Live-Action
- Examples from James Bond, the Trope Namer series, in chronological order:
- Dr. No:
- After a dinner goes wrong, Dr. No just orders his guards to beat up Bond and get him imprisoned. 007 later escapes, nearly getting drowned in the process (however, being the first Bond film nobody knew how dangerous he could be).
- In the book, he also had Bond run through Dr. No's death course. Bond was close to dying through it, multiple times. As did everyone else Dr. No had "tested"; the course was designed to kill. The only difference Dr. No ever expected was how long it would take. Funny how much difference a stolen lighter and a steak knife (and Bond!) can make...
- In From Russia with Love, Red Grant's plan is to just shoot Bond, and he actually manages to get the drop on his target and have him completely at his mercy, but he still fails because he can't resist indulging in some Evil Gloating and a Just Between You and Me speech. In Red's defense, he still would have been fine if he hadn't fallen for Bond's bribe. At least he didn't leave the guy unattended, unlike most of the jokers on this list.
- Averted by Goldfinger, with Audric Goldfinger keeping Bond alive because if he dies, then the Secret Service will just send in some guy called 008. Goldfinger instead tricks Bond's superiors into thinking that the situation is well in hand. Also justified in the same film — Goldfinger originally was going to have Bond sliced in half by a laser. The inversion is that this was going to work; Bond had to talk his way out of it, and was seconds away from losing his manhood when Goldfinger agreed. Goldfinger instead displays incredible stupidity (or maybe just bad writing) in dealing with his gangster accomplices. While he is showing them his plan with a miniature Fort Knox, one demands to leave and take his gold with him. They load the gold in a car and Oddjob drives him away, ostensibly to the airport. Then Oddjob kills him but instead of just dumping the body he takes the car, with the body in it, to an auto yard where it is cubed, along with the gold. He then returns to the farm where Goldfinger says they will have to extract the gold from the car and remains. This would be all too complicated as it is. However, after that gangster left, Goldfinger had the room sealed and all the other gangsters gassed to death. So why not just excuse himself for a minute, leaving that one guy with the others and kill them all at once, instead of destroying a car for no reason (and even then, attempting to separate the gold from the car after making it a three foot by three foot cube, rather than before)?
- Fiona Volpe successfully seduces Bond- not that it's especially difficult to do so- and doesn't do a High-Heel–Face Turn, but then monologues about it and generally screws around until Bond escapes, killing her shortly thereafter. Helga Brandt makes almost the exact same mistake a film later, though she's instead killed by her superior for being a moron.
- Big Bad Largo himself provides a classic example. He catches Bond in his pool fighting with one of his men. The mook with him is just about to shoot Bond, while Largo stops him and instead traps Bond in there to be eaten by his sharks. Naturally, Bond uses this to escape.
- In You Only Live Twice, Blofeld's guilty of it at least twice; first, he sends an assassin to kill Bond with an elaborate poison trick while he sleeps… you know, instead of shooting him or dropping a grenade on him or any of another ways to kill a sleeping guy from roughly the same distance. Later, he catches Bond in his base, and keeps him alive because he wants Bond to witness his success even though he really ought to know better than that by now. He even pulls an elaborate fakeout where he seems like he's about to shoot Bond, but shoots his own henchman instead at the last second. A little while after that, he finally tries to shoot Bond for real, but of course by then it's too late.
- Justified in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, where just for once the villain genuinely has an actual sensible reason for keeping the captured James Bond alive and explaining the plot to him: Bond is trusted by the authorities and familiar with Blofeld's record, so his report will help convince the UN that the threat is serious. Granted, that's still a pretty dumb defense, considering M- or anyone with access to the records of previous Blofeld cases- could have done the job just as well… but at least it's something.
- In Diamonds Are Forever, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd had Bond unconscious and they simply dumped him in an unfinished pipeline and left, assuming he'd eventually die. Doubly stupid, as this was the second time the pair had been given an unconscious James Bond to dispose of; the first time they tried to burn him alive, and it didn't work then; Shady Tree and Morton Slumber get him out of the retort when Tree discovers that Peter Franks' remains had been stuffed with fake diamonds planted by Bond and the CIA before being transported to Slumber, Inc. to be burned, and Bond takes the opportunity to just waltz out of Slumber, Inc. when Tree tries to question him about the whereabouts of the real diamonds.
- Most of Live and Let Die revolves around this, as the villains sequentially attempt an elaborate assassination involving a snake (despite having keys to his room), leave him unattended on a small island to be eaten by alligators, and finally try to have him fed to sharks- admittedly a classic- instead of just shooting him, despite having by then having had enough experience with the guy to know better.
- The Man with the Golden Gun:
- Bond takes up Hai Fat's invitation to join him for dinner in his mansion while pretending to be Scaramanga, not knowing that the real Scaramanga had already gotten in touch with the guy. When he arrives there late at night, he's incapacitated by some guards in an ambush. As they're about to kill him, Hai Fat forbids them from doing so because he doesn't want Bond killed in his home. They'll just take him somewhere else to finish him off right? Nope. Hai Fat has Bond placed in a karate school to... get beaten up? Maybe?
- Justifiably invoked by Scaramanga late in the film; he freely admits that he could have used his solar-powered laser to blow up Bond's plane before he even landed on the island, but chose not to do so because of how unsatisfying it would be. (Scaramanga previously got angry at Fat for the previous incident and killed him.)
- For Your Eyes Only:
- In The Teaser, "Blofeld" opts to zig and zag Bond around in the helicopter, instead of just crashing it as soon as he takes control. Justified in this case by the fact that "Blofeld" had looked forward to killing Bond for a long time and had been crippled by him - he wanted Bond to suffer.
- The main villain is guilty of it as well, choosing to kill Bond and the Bond Girl by dragging them behind his boat and assuming sharks ate them when they finally disappeared as opposed to just shooting them when he had the chance.
- A View to a Kill:
- It has a pretty bad one early on, where Zorin decides to kill Bond by rolling his car into a lake. One could guess he wanted to make it look like an accident, but once awake it was probably his easiest escape ever.
- Later Zorin has Bond at his mercy but decides to kill him by locking him in a museum and setting it on fire. In this case at least he has the excuse that he wants to frame Bond for the murder of someone else and make it look like he failed to escape after setting the museum on fire himself.
- Averted in The Living Daylights as the villain's whole plan hinges on Bond killing someone on his say so and his own ability to look like the victim and/or hero. He does miss a good opportunity to kill Bond late in the film, but it's because he thinks sending Bond to jail will be better for his cover- which he'd be right about, if Bond hadn't already outsmarted him a few scenes before.
- Almost averted again in Licence to Kill as the villain doesn't find out Bond's not on his side 'till very near the end, and when he does put Bond into his death trap he sticks around to watch until he's forced to leave because the place is on fire and about to explode, at which point he leaves his number two man in charge of finishing the job. Naturally, that goes poorly for him, but credit to Sanchez for getting so much closer to getting it right than most.
- In GoldenEye, the villains have several opportunities to just shoot Bond and don't. Then Ouroumov has the chance to shoot Bond, announces that he is about to do it, and then is promptly cold-cocked. What moves this into beyond-belief territory is that both have direct evidence of how dangerous he is when cornered. The only such opportunity that has a justified reason for not killing him is in the Statue yard, where Trevelyan is trying to frame Bond and Natalya for the theft of the helicopter. If a post-explosion examination of the bodies revealed that they had been shot beforehand, it would have raised suspicion. Also, given Trevelyan's motivations, it's not merely enough to kill Bond, and if it would be he usually has more pragmatic reasons for keeping them alive. The aforementioned frame up is just the first such example.
- Elliot Carver was preparing to do this in Tomorrow Never Dies, leaving Mr. Stamper and his henchmen to torture Bond and Wai Lin for an ungodly amount of hours, but the heroes decide to make their escape before Carver even leaves the room.
- Classic example in The World Is Not Enough. Elektra King drops a loaded pistol for Bond to collect, before she runs up a set of stairs — unarmed. In her case, she thought she was smart enough to believe that Bond wouldn't shoot a woman. She was wrong. Elektra seems pretty reticent to kill Bond generally; she seems to be waiting for him to give in to his affection for her and become her new Renard — which is still nonsensical, but no longer this trope (as she doesn't actually want him dead).
- It's either lampshaded or a spectacularly bad example, albeit not involving Bond himself: In Die Another Day, two henchmen have Jinx at their mercy, and one actually proposes shooting her... but the other one wants to do it with lasers, and gets his way, allowing Bond time to arrive and rescue her. Earlier in the film, Bond gets out a Bullet-Proof Vest and Colonel Moon keeps shooting it until it falls off into the ground.
- In Casino Royale Mr. White makes a dumb- and wholly unnecessary- deal to keep Bond alive. It ends poorly for him.
- Not quite averted in Quantum of Solace, as while the villains never really have Bond at their mercy the way they usually do at least once a movie, they do, however, leave the oft-imperiled Bond girl alive way too many times, and she ends up having as much to do with their downfall as 007 does.
- Raoul Silva in Skyfall initially toys with Bond instead of killing him because it's all part of his plan to get caught so he can exact revenge on M. Later, however, his failure to take advantage of various opportunities to kill the heroes after said plan has already run its course is best chalked up to Plot Armor and Sanity Has Advantages.
- Crops up twice in Spectre. First, when Oberhauser has Bond at his mercy in his secret base, he then decided to go all Evil Gloating, Break the Badass on both Bond and his girl, and then he'd get to killing Bond after the Cold-Blooded Torture. This gave Bond time enough to make his escape. The second time, he constructs an elaborate Death Trap, giving Bond a choice: escape now on your own, or try to rescue Swann and die together. In the latter case, he was playing on Bond's feelings to get him to fall, but since he was more interested in tormenting Bond rather than killing him, this gave Bond plenty of time to find Swann and then escape. His henchmen aren't too bright either. When they kidnap Bond, they tie his hands in front of him, with plastic zip ties. Sure enough, Bond's able to grab one of their guns and shoot them both, then break free.
- Empire listed the Bond Villain Monologues, while stating on all "What he should have done: Shot Him", save Tomorrow Never Dies. There, the villain should have "Bought Google." To be fair, General Whittaker in The Living Daylights only monologued to distract Bond as a remote control gun was aiming to shoot him.
- Dr. No:
- In The Expendables 2, Vilain captures the entire team of Expendables and lets almost all of them go for no apparent reason. The only one he kills is the youngest and most inexperienced member.
- Justified in the same fashion in True Lies, where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character Harry Tasker is captured alive so that he can document for the authorities that the terrorists are capable of carrying out their threat, and afterward when they intend to torture him since he's an American spy who most likely has some valuable information in his head.
- Subverted in the 1997 movie version of Le Bossu. After a long sword fight, the hero gets cornered by some soldiers and the Psycho for Hire. From what we have seen earlier, it will be difficult, but possible for him to escape. At this moment, the villain, exasperated by the long fight, steps up to the Psycho for Hire, draws his gun, asks why they can't do it "quick, modern and effective" and shoots the hero, who only survives because of his Plot Armor.
- Dr. Evil employs this frequently in Austin Powers. The page quote above is just one example.
- In the film Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Professor Moriarty originally intends to kill Holmes off quickly, but Holmes goads him into coming up with something "more creative," giving an example himself of the sort of death trap he would use if he had Moriarty at his mercy. Moriarty decides to prove his superior intelligence and creativity by... using the exact idea that Holmes just came up with! He does at least stick around to watch the death trap in action, and prepares to shoot Holmes when he decides it's taking too long; but he waits a bit longer than he should have, and Watson rescues Holmes Just in Time.
- In Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, Katrina's stepmother has Katrina unconscious, isolated, and is armed with a pistol. Also, everyone believes the stepmother is dead, so no one would come looking for her later. Rather than just shooting Katrina, she decides to spend a lot of time summoning the Headless Horseman to do the job, giving Katrina plenty of time to wake up and run away (though granted the stepmother is hardly concerned when Katrina escapes, probably as she figures she's dead soon anyway).
- Annoyingly present in Terminator Salvation, when after luring John Connor into the heart of its main base, Skynet sends a single unarmed T-800 to dispatch our hero. Yeah. In a base probably full of hundreds of killer robots with guns, Skynet decides to send ONE unarmed unit to kill the hero. And it doesn't bother to send more armed killer robots after the fight drags out, with Connor getting backed up by Cyborg Marcus. Somewhat justified that the T-800 DID manage to critically wound John and if Marcus hadn't volunteered for a heart transplant, John probably would have died. Skynet doesn't even seem concerned when the fight spills into the T-800 assembly line, where countless Terminator power cores (I.E. easily set off miniature nuclear devices) lay for the humans to jury rig into a bomb that will destroy the entire base if they manage to defeat that lone T-800 you sent to kill them.
- In The Last Dragon, media-obsessed villain Eddie Arkadian first plays this trope straight, stopping a minion from plugging the hero during a big staged fight because it would ruin "the show". But then at the end of the movie when the show is "over", he whips out his own gun, gives a short sneering speech about "all this kung-fu crap", and fires. The hero catches the bullet in his teeth.
- In Quigley Down Under, Quigley has rejected Marston's offer to hire him to kill the local aborigines. Marston has his goons beat him into unconsciousness. It would be easy to simply shoot Quigley in the head, bury him in a shallow grave, and tell the British soldiers that he went back to port. But that would mean the movie would only be a half-hour long, so Marston decides to have his men take him into the middle of the Australian desert and leave him to die of exposure. Inevitably, this backfires spectacularly. As if that wasn't enough, he captures Quigley AGAIN, decides he's going to beat him in an Old West style quickdraw, and gives the man a fully-loaded pistol. Fortunately, Quigley never much cared for pistols...
- In Superman: The Movie, Luthor has Superman incapacitated by Kryptonite and unable to get out of his swimming pool. Then he leaves him, expecting him to die - even though he just learned that his girlfriend's mother lives in the town that one of his bombs is about to destroy. Somehow, he does not see her betrayal coming.
- In a non-lethal example, in the final face-off in 8 Mile, Papa Doc makes the grave, and just plain stupid mistake of letting B. Rabbit go first. Big mistake, as it lets Rabbit take away every single possible verbal weapon Doc might have used against his opponent, thus losing him the battle.
- In The Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort invites Agent Denham to see him on his yacht, complete with A Lady on Each Arm, and he even boasts of putting on an act as a "bond villain". He then behaves just like one, by offering to bribe Denham and boasting of his Paid Harem while Being Good Sucks. As Belfort's lawyer notes his invitation to Denham to see him in yacht is a really stupid thing to do, since it increased the FBI's focus on him and on the operations that he's trying to hide.
- Simon in Die Hard with a Vengeance handcuffs John McClane and Zeus to a bomb on a ship and leaves them to die, instead of shooting them and blowing up the ship after.
- After John's cover is blown in Stone Cold, the bad guys put him into a chopper (which is vital part of their Evil Plan) where they plan to strap him with explosives and then drop him on unsuspecting cops below. He gets loose, some other guy gets blown to bits mid-air instead and the chopper crashes.
- Had Bane chosen to end Batman's life in their first confrontation in The Dark Knight Rises, he and Talia al Ghul would have succeeded in their plan to destroy Gotham City. Batman even asks Bane in prison when he first woke up: "Why don't you just kill me?" to which Bane replies, "You don't fear death. You welcome it. Your punishment must be more severe." Later, Talia monologues at length to Bruce about how much better revenge is when it's done slowly, giving the heroes enough time to block her remote triggering of a nuclear bomb. Bruce lampshades this shortly after, responding, "maybe the slow knife was too slow." Once Talia leaves Bane, having learned his lesson, he ignores her order to let him live and tries to kill him then and there; Catwoman's Big Damn Heroes arrival saves him.
- In Wild Wild West, after Loveless captures West and Gordon, he fits their necks with the blade-attracting magnets that the professor in the opening was also killed with. Then he leaves before ensuring their demise.
- The villains twice have our heroine helpless in their power in The Long Kiss Goodnight, and fail to just shoot her. The first time is justified by their need to interrogate her in order to learn what she knows of their plans, but despite them knowing how dangerous she is, they leave only one guy to handle her and she easily kills him and escapes. The second time, full on Bond Villain Stupidity kicks in as the bad guys fully describe their evil scheme to her then leave her Locked in a Freezer while they take her partner out and debate whether to shoot or stab him. They don't have time as she manages to blow up the building, having filled her daughter's dolly with gasoline just in case she needed to set stuff on fire.
- In Avatar, the humans exhibit this brand of stupidity. The whole point of the plot is how the White Man...oops, human race as such...is willing to kill women and children purely for greed (completely unlike typical hunter-gatherer societies). But...Unobtainium is a rock. Rocks survive saturation bombing. If the humans are so evil, they would just bomb everything around the tree, then scoop up the slightly blackened rocks. The Na'vi would never have a chance to try Rock Beats Laser, they'd be too busy burning and suffocating. A modern military only puts boots on the ground when it's trying to minimize civilian casualties (or at the very least, subdue a population it prefers not to simply kill wholesale). Except that Plan A was in fact to minimize civilian casualties, hence the eponymous Avatar program and its unforeseen consequences. It started when "fall back and bomb everything from orbit" didn't become Plan B.
- In Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless(!) disembarks onto the Hawkmen's floating city (evacuated except for Flash) and has a conversation with Flash, offering him a kingdom of Mongo to rule for himself. After Flash refuses, instead of simply ordering his bodyguards to dispatch the hero, Ming leaves and has his ship's guns blast the city into oblivion. While the city is reeling from the blasts, Flash conveniently falls into a hole where he discovers a rocket cycle.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service:
- Played with. Valentine knows when to be practical. He simply shoots Harry in the head after a minimal exchange, lampshading his lack of this trait. That said, he does describe enough of his plan before killing Harry, which was broadcast via his glasses to the Kingsman, to allow them to figure out the rest of it.
- Unlike Valentine, who refuses to abide by the cliches of classic Tuxedo and Martini villains, Arthur does not appear to have paid much attention to them, as he explains the Evil Plan shortly before his death and falls for a Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo. The victory of the heroes largely relied upon Arthur's lack of foresight.
- Death Warrant: Almost immediately after the Sandman arrives in the prison, he has his admirers gang up on Burke in a surprise attack to string him up and kill him. Then the Sandman suddenly decides to let Burke go so he "won't know when it's coming", despite having just achieved exactly that.
- In Jupiter Ascending, Titus vents Caine into the vacuum of space in an attempt to kill him, but leaves him his jet boots and allows him to kick a crate filled with instant-space suits that get vented along with him, thus allowing Caine to survive until the Aegis arrive to rescue him. Not only was it a sloppy attempt to murder him, it was also completely unnecessary, as there was nothing Caine could do to thwart Titus when he was merely imprisoned.
- Done no fewer than three times over the course of Kill Bill. In Vol. 1, after getting it very close to right the first time by shooting Beatrix in the head, Bill calls off Elle's attempt to kill her while comatose after she unexpectedly survives.
- In Vol. 2, she is injured and disabled relatively easily, but rather than kill her on the spot, Budd chooses to bury her alive, giving her the chance to dig her way out and come back for seconds. Subverted in that Budd is already dead by the time she gets to him, as Elle took advantage of her apparent death to kill him.
- Later in the same film, Bill has her at his mercy for quite some period of time but doesn't kill her. Partly justified in that instance in that he wanted information from her; there's also an implication that he (like Budd) is not actually that bothered about living through the experience.
- Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler : Mabuse never tries to kill von Wenk by simple, efficient methods. This leads to his downfall.
- Star Wars:
- Return of the Jedi: Jabba the Hutt meets his downfall thanks to a hefty dose of this. After Luke Skywalker makes it clear that he intends to spring Han Solo from his clutches, and successfully manages to kill Jabba's prized Rancor while completely unarmed, for some reason Jabba thinks it's a good idea to fly Luke and his whole posse of allies out into the middle of the desert to stage an elaborate execution at the pit of the great Sarlacc. Mind you, this is after he catches Leia trying to free Han while in disguise as the bounty hunter Boussh, and after he probably should have guessed that Chewbacca (who got in under the guise of being Leia's prisoner) was part of some kind of rescue plan. He doesn't even think to cuff Luke's hands before trying to feed him to the Sarlacc. Surprise, surprise: Luke and co. manage to stage an uprising and escape together.
- The Phantom Menace: In the opening sequence on the Trade Federation battleship, Nute Gunray tries to kill Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan using a rather simple poison gas vent in a locked room. But instead of just letting the gas do its job and waiting for the Jedi to drop dead, he drops the ball by sending a squad of battle droids to check on them. The battle droids proceed to unlock the door—letting the gas out—and are promptly mowed down by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, who managed to survive using the advanced Jedi maneuver of...holding their breath. Note that in the same sequence, Gunray makes use of security cameras to kill the crew of the Jedi's spaceship while in another room; why he didn't just switch on another security camera to make sure the Jedi were actually dead is anyone's guess.
- In Raiders of the Lost Ark, after stealing the titular ark, Belloq leaves Indy and Marion to die in the snake-infested Well of Souls. Less than an hour later, our heroes have escaped the well, killed a bunch of Nazis, and reclaimed the ark.
- Older Than Television: In John Buchan's 1919 World War I spy thriller Mr Standfast, the villain, having finally captured the hero Richard Hannay, explains his evil plans at great length. Buchan was arguably the first writer of modern spy thrillers.
- The novels Men at Arms and Witches Abroad both explain that bad guys don't kill the good guys straight away because they want to gloat, and make sure the good guy knows he's been beaten. In the first book it serves to show Carrot as a Good Man because he straightforwardly kills the bad guy without explanation; in the second it gives Granny Weatherwax a Not So Different moment, since she rather likes people she's defeated to know about it as well.
- Lampshaded and neatly subverted in Mort. Mort, Princess Keli, the wizard Cutwell and others being surrounded by the villainous Duke, who Cutwell correctly identifies as "not the kind of man who ties you up in a cellar with just enough time for the mice to eat your ropes before the flood-waters rise. This is the kind of man who just kills you here and now." Also played straight in that the Duke is willing to offer them life-long banishment (we know how well that kind of thing turns out).
- Unsurprisingly, this happens regularly in the James Bond novels. Some (Mr. Big, who has actually put quite a bit of thought into it) are smarter about it than others (Red Grant, where even Bond notices). However, the highlight has to be The Man with the Golden Gun, when it's actually not Bond, but M who gets this treatment from Russia's newest assassin, James Bond.
- In From Russia with Love, the Soviet Chessmaster Kronsteen lays a complicated and near-perfect trap for James Bond. Everything works as planned, all the pawns including Bond go through their predicted moves, and Bond gets exactly where the Soviets wanted him. But at the crucial moment the assassin Red Donovan — an Irishman who hates the English — makes the fatal mistake of engaging in prolonged crowing, boasting and gloating instead of just going ahead with his assigned task of killing Bond. This allows Bond the chance to improvise a desperate last-moment plan which works, enabling him to kill Donovan and use the information which Donovan carelessly revealed in order to catch the senior Soviet operative Rosa Klebb.
- This is probably the defining trait of Dr Mabuse, a diabolical mastermind with a few self-destructive tendencies from a series of German novels and films. He has been called the direct forerunner to Blofeld. Observe the Meaningful Name: "m'abuse" is French for "abuse myself". Mabuse is his own worst enemy.
- Warrior Cats: Originally, it was believed that the only reason Tigerstar doesn't go into Firestar's dreams and kill him was because he couldn't. However, recent Word of God revealed that he can, but he just doesn't want to.
Iceclaw: If Tigerstar can harm cats like he can and walk in their dreams, why doesn't he just do it to Firestar, take revenge, and get it over with?Vicky: Because Tigerstar wants a long-drawn out kind of vengeance, involving as many cats as possible, so that Firestar truly suffers. ...
- Happens in Harry Potter. Since Voldemort likes to establish a sense of grace and grandeur into his actions, he doesn't just kill Harry and be done with it.
- Near the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry has been disarmed, gagged, and tied securely to a gravestone. Rather than simply killing Harry after using his blood to regain his body, Voldemort not only has Wormtail cut him loose and give him back his wand, but insists on fighting him in a one-to-one duel and forbids interference from any of his Death Eaters, for no other reason than to prove, once and for all, that he is the stronger of the two. The final result of this is that Harry manages to escape and tell the world about his return (not that many people listen at first).
- Oddly averted in The Order of the Phoenix, where Voldemort apparently has learned his lesson and tries to kill Harry quickly, only to be stopped by Dumbledore. However, Umbridge plays this straight several chapters into the same book (as revealed later on) with one word: "DETENTION!"
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Draco Malfoy gloats triumphantly when Albus Dumbledore lies in a weakened state completely at his mercy, but fails to kill him despite having been ordered to do so on pain of death as he can't bring himself to do it. This leads to Severus Snape having to step in for Draco and finish off Dumbledore.
- Uncharacteristically occurs with Grand Admiral Thrawn, usually one of the smarter people in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. He has just betrayed Mara Jade by tricking her into revealing Talon Karrde's location, leading to his arrest by Imperials who will torture him if he doesn't hand over important intel, and then smugly mouths off to her face about it. Mara predictably goes berserk and attempts to attack Thrawn, at first physically then through the Force. Both of these fail, leaving Thrawn with the question of what to do with a still visibly enraged and always emotionally unstable Jade. Instead of killing her, he allows her to live, and lets her out of his sight aboard his ship before letting her go. Jade then predictably hacks into the computer network of Thrawn's ship, uses it to find Luke Skywalker, and saves him. The next one-and-a-half books can be accurately described as Jade sticking it to Thrawn which eventually leads to his plans collapsing and his death.
- Thrawn had figured that she was in a hopeless situation; no one among her old smuggling associates would trust her. This was an error on his part; she was able to convince Aves (one of Karrde's trusted associates) to lend her a Skipray Blastboat and an ysalamir, which she used to retrieve Luke from Jomark (and confront the insane Jedi Master there). Once Thrawn realized his mistake, he was quick to take steps to limit the damage, but the measures (most prominently, the attempt to stop Karrde's escape in Dark Force Rising and the attempt to kill or discredit her in The Last Command) ultimately ended up being inadequate.
- The Jennifer Morgue had a very… unique case. Realizing that he is a mad genius billionaire with access to world-ending technology and a strong desire to actually use it, the Big Bad sets up a geas that makes the tropes of a Bond movie reality. He plans to make it so that the only person who stands a chance of thwarting his plan is a solitary British secret agent... and if one of those manages to get through, then he'll shut off the geas so that said agent is nothing more than a solitary man hundreds of miles away from any back-up who can easily be killed. Small problem: despite all his precautions, the Big Bad completely fails to realize by the end that the geas he thought he ended is still operating, even when he's got the hero and his fellow agent bound up and prefers to monologue at them rather than just kill them.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The White Witch could have saved herself a lot of trouble if she'd just killed Edmund as soon as she met him. But in this case it's justified, since Edmund did not appear to represent any sort of threat personally, and she had a reasonable-seeming plan to use him to destroy her other enemies. She was in fact undone not by a flaw in her plan per se but but by Divine mercy. As Aslan points out, her knowledge went only back to the beginning of Time. She was unaware of key things that happened before that. At one point she is about to kill him, realizing that he's no longer necessary to her plans, and in the middle of sharpening her knife when Edmund (currently tied to a tree) is rescued. The only reason the Witch initially kept Edmund alive was because she learned he had two sisters and a brother, fitting the prophecy that two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve would reclaim Narnia, and thus hoped to get all four dead or petrified and be done with it. Her plan almost did work at one point, when the other three Pevensie siblings seriously gave thought to breaking into the Witch's castle to save Edmund, but were talked out of it by the Beavers. She finally gives up on the plan when the three Pevensie siblings reach Caer Paravel thus making their capture impossible, and realizes that simply killing Edmund would stop the prophecy from being fulfilled. By that point, the other assassins she'd sent to kill the children failed, and were used to track down and save Edmund.
- Most if not all of the villains in the Twilight series fall victim to this. Probably the most egregious are the Volturi. In New Moon, the only reason they don't want to kill Bella is because she looks like she'll make for an interesting vampire. Instead of just biting her then and there and holding her captive to brainwash her into being a member of their guard (which Breaking Dawn says is what they want from her), they decide to let her go back to Forks, and according to Edward will probably forget about her for thirty years or so, giving the Cullens plenty of time to turn her on their own terms, or hide her. In Breaking Dawn, their goal was apparently to use Renesmee as an excuse to kill the Cullens/force some of them to join the guard. Instead of quickly going to Forks and doing the job, they spend a full month heading over (thus giving Alice a chance to see it and warn the family) and bring a ton of witnesses, which means they have to put on a show of being fair and let the Cullens go. The witnesses aren't even necessary, since Word of God says that the vampires generally accept the rule of the Volturi as right.
- In Crescendo, Rixon spends the entire book psychologically tormenting Nora, before getting ready to sacrifice her for a ritual. Given how she's unaware and unprotected for about 99% of the book, that he doesn't manage to pull it off is really astonishing. Nora even asks why he went through such an unnecessary and elaborate ruse instead of simply shooting her in the head while she was asleep. The only answer he gives is that the sacrifice is an important moment, and he wanted it to be enjoyable for him. He then kindly holds off on killing Nora while she asks him more questions about his plan, allowing Patch to conveniently show up and save her.
- In John le Carré's spy novels, Karla (the brilliant and ruthless Soviet spymaster) knows how dangerous to his plans George Smiley is but does nothing about it. Even his mole "Gerald" admits as much after Smiley captures him. There are two more novels where Smiley defeats Karla again and again, even leading to Karla having to surrender himself to the West. Karla could easily have assassinated Smiley but never did. He could have gotten away with it, even without a cover plan but (since Smiley had the most unfaithful wife in fiction) he could easily have made it look like a crime of passion like murder/suicide. However, Karla is not an active participant in The Honourable Schoolboy, and in both Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People, Smiley is retired and not a factor as far as Karla knows. In Le Carré’s books, much like the real world (at least at the time) murder is a big deal and something that he would use only under desperate circumstances, such as those of Smiley’s People. There’s no good reason for him to try and have Smiley killed.
- In Relativity, a villain named Rasmas manages to trap all of the heroes in a typically elaborate deathtrap. Unfortunately, he's inside the trap with them when he springs it. Guess what the heroes have to do next? Justified in "Candy Corn": The villains are actually stupid (not just "Bond Villain Stupid"), but they don't kill or even unmask the hero because they want to give him as a gift to their boss.
- Justified in Pact, where the laws of karma mean that declaring what you're going to do (preferably to someone that you don't nominally control) gives you power, and leaving someone to die in a complicated death trap lets you defer karmic responsibility for their murder.
Ty: You’re telling me the universe encourages being the Bond villain?
- In Frostbite, Isaiah had Christian Ozera, Mia Rinaldi, Rose Hathaway, Mason Ashford, and Eddie Castile captured and chose to keep them alive for days. This allowed them to escape and fight back against him. Leading to his death.
- Marcus Didius Falco. Justified in The Jupiter Myth. The Big Bad Florius manages to escape by taking Petro hostage and leaving him in a death trap so that the heroes must spend time rescuing him instead of pursuing Florius.
- In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "cold station 12": "Five minutes after we leave, every stasis field in this station will shut down, releasing hundreds of pathogens. I wonder which one will kill you first".
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Lampshade hung in an episode when Harmony captures Dawn in order to get Buffy to attempt to rescue and then capture Buffy. When Harmony's minions point out that they could just kill Dawn because as long as Buffy believes Dawn to be alive then she'll come anyway, instead of waiting until Buffy arrives to kill Dawn. Harmony refuses "Because that's not the plan, duh!".
- Played slightly straight when the Master, instead of draining Buffy dry, drinks a little blood from her and leaves her to drown in a pond. Though she was clinically dead, she got revived by CPR.
- Charmed would make use of this sometimes as well. The most blatant example was probably "Engaged and Confused" when, after having two of his associates killed as they tried to kill the Charmed Ones, the demon casually freezes time (an ability he did not attempt to use earlier) so that he and his operative can have a conversation (in front of the Charmed ones) without them knowing about it. He then leaves without attempting to harm the Charmed Ones.
- MacGyver uses this constantly, usually in the form of the Big Bad securing the title hero (and usually a pretty lady) in some form of death trap that always has plenty of "useless" items lying around for MacGyver to use for escape. Lampshaded in the episode "The Ten Percent Solution", where a Nazi-lady tries to use a gas chamber on the heroes while a henchman ponders, "Why not just shoot them?"
- Happened all the time on Robin Hood. The worst examples were Guy using a half-dead lion to try and kill Robin instead of ordering the fully-armed elite soldiers to just shoot him dead; and later trapping Robin in a dungeon that was slowly filling with water and then...wandering away mid-execution. Robin survives both attempts on his life.
- Pretty Little Liars is full of this. A, despite clearly having it in for the all-girl team and having more than enough fodder to ruin their lives with, she takes her sweet, sadistic time. This gives the girls the leeway they need to try and find out who A really is. Most of the time this winds up getting them to fall into A's traps, giving A even more fodder, but it does work to their advantage sometimes.
- Subverted in Get Smart when KAOS kidnaps Max, plants a Manchurian Candidate-style hypnotic suggestion in him, then allows for him to escape, making it absurdly easy - and he stubbornly resists escaping several times, convinced he's outsmarting some clever attempts to kill him.
- Doctor Who does this during The Dalek Invasion of Earth, when the Daleks restrain two Companions and then leave them to die in an explosion.
- Defied by the Master:
"Anyway. Why don't we stop and have a nice little chat while I tell you all my plans and you can work out a way to stop me, I don't think!"
- Although he makes just this mistake later on with Rassilon, who has near-omnipotent technology at his disposal. Goodbye Master's masterplan!
- The Master would often have the opportunity but wouldn't take it. Of course, as he says, "A cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about." And he sometimes tries to pull a We Can Rule Together gambit.
- Justified in "The Caves of Androzani". Sharez desires the Doctor's intellectual stimulation as well as Peri's beauty, but makes it clear that he will kill the Doctor if he can't bend him to his will.
- Davros sometimes does this, however he is clearly insane. He also sees the Doctor as an intellectual and seems to enjoy sparring with him. And in "Revelation of the Daleks" he implies he wants to turn the Doctor into a Dalek.
- In "Robot of Sherwood", the Sheriff of Nottingham captures the Doctor, Clara, and Robin Hood, only for them to subsequently escape. Late in the episode, after they uncover his secret space ship...he puts the Doctor back in irons and dumps him into a different dungeon. This time, he and Maid Marian foment a slave revolt and destroy most of the remaining robots, setting up the Sheriff and Robin Hood's inevitable showdown.
- Defied by the Master:
- In the Smallville episode "Arrival", two evil Kryptonians confront Clark Kent. They open a portal to the Phantom Zone and shove Clark into it. At the last second, Clark grabs a piece of rebar and tries desperately to hold on as the portal sucks him in. Instead of doing something like cutting the bar with their heat vision, the villains just smirk and start walking away, only for Clark to Flash Step up to them, and shove them into the portal.
- Power Rangers villains aren't renowned for their intelligence, but were most guilty of Bond Villain stupidity during Power Rangers Jungle Fury, where a constant stream of new villainous overlords continued to defeat the Power Rangers then walk away, only to complain later about not being able to defeat the Rangers. By about the 20th time this happened in a 32 episode show, it was very hard to keep caring.
- A few 24 fans weren't too attached to the Affably Evil Jonas Hodges in season 7, because of this trope. At one point in the season, Jones Hodges manages to frame Jack Bauer for the death of a man he tortured by tasering, but could've just as easily killed Jack Bauer in the process. A bit of context: the incapacitated man was lying in the hospital bed recovering from the aforementioned torture when Jack Bauer sneaked back into the room (Bauer wasn't allowed to see him, but had to interrogate him...again). When this happened, Jonas Hodges deployed knockout gas into the room to knock them out for a few brief minutes, which he then sends some men to kill the tortured man, and then leave. This makes the more Genre Savvy fans think, "why didn't he kill Jack while he had the upper hand?" (Answer: because that would be bad for ratings).
- Patrick Jane from The Mentalist has been saved by this trope quite a few times. Often involves Holding the Floor till Lisbon arrives.
- Morgana in the BBC series Merlin is guilty of so many examples of this that the only way the series manages to work is an equal amount of Plot-Induced Stupidity for the good guys to balance her out.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003). During The Mutiny Zarek tries to convince Gaeta he needs to kill Commander Adama and stop screwing around with a Kangaroo Court, as alive he's a rallying point for the loyalists. Gaeta, being less ruthless, and more interested in making Adam acknowledge what he's put them through with his command decisions, doesn't listen.
- Falling Skies. In the final S4 episode Tom Mason and Lexi face against the Espheni commander on his ship, the commander knocks down Tom and is more focused in burning Lexi, while his back is turned Tom stabs him with a poisoned syringe that can kill him.
- This is the Unique Limitation of the Criminal Mastermind archetype from the Feng Shui supplement Seed of the New Flesh, appropriately titled "Slave to the Cheese." Not only are you 100% unable to just shoot any named cop or Buro characters you capture or non-lethally defeat, but you must do everything in your power to prevent anyone else from doing so, preferring to toy with your prey by putting them in elaborate death-traps or offering them some desperate (but psychotically "fair") gamble with which to win their lives and freedom. Not only that, but you absolutely cannot resist the urge to engage in a Just Between You and Me speech, telling them your plans in order to rub it in.
- The trapmaster in Super Munchkin. He plays a trap card at you when you start fighting him. If he defeats you, however, his Bad Stuff is that "he leaves you in one of his traps and strolls off laughing. The idiot. No effect."
- The Hero System features the Psychological Limitation "Over-The-Top Villainy". Villains with this Psych Limit must follow this trope (in addition to several of the other "Overblown Villain" Tropes.
- James Earnest's Totally Renamed Spy Game (the game formerly known as Before I Kill You Mr. Bond) is based entirely around tormenting captured spies before you kill them. Each consecutive time you Taunt a particular spy doubles your score when you finally do kill him, but if another player has and uses a Taunt card of the same type, the spy escapes and blows up your Lair. Taunts include Death Traps, No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine and Just Between You and Me.
- The Infernal Exalted have Acts of Villainy which they commit in order to please their Yozi masters if they've managed to offend them somehow. Most of them have them act in line with this trope - picking a favoured arch-enemy as per Best Enemy Recognition (Foe Yay optional), leaving the enemy to slow death instead of killing them quickly (Fiendish Deathtrap Compulsion), lecturing them about your plans (Infernal Genius Declaration), leaving clues or sending them straight to your enemy (Insane Death-Dealing Provocation) or just driving people insane for giggles (Kindly Lunatic's Blessing). And it's best to perform as much of them at once as possible.
- The explanation for the frequency of this happening in Victory Games's James Bond 007 RPG is as a result of being Surrounded by Idiots. The villains have huge egos and want to sate them by discussing their ideas with someone who's proven themselves intelligent enough to appreciate them.
- TSR's 80s Marvel Super Heroes game, at least in its advanced version, rewarded villains who indulged in this with Karma — the game's mix of Luck Manipulation Mechanic and Experience Points. Putting heroes into deathtraps? Same reward as defeating them, even if they escape or get rescued later. Bragging about one's brilliance and letting valuable clues slip? 20-point reward flat. (Conversely, even villains still lose Karma for killing, mechanically disincentivizing the Just Shoot Him approach by just that bit.)
- Many a Rocket Age villain will happily allow heroes to escape unharmed, only for it to come back and bite them later in the adventure. However, this is nearly always justified, as the villain may be playing some elaborate game with both the heroes and their own lives or using the heroes as a distraction to cover up their own escape.
- Double Subversion in the William Gillette play Sherlock Holmes, where Moriarty's first plan is in fact to just shoot Holmes. He doesn't try it again, though; his next plan involves preparing a Short Con as bait to lead Holmes into a Death Trap (which he escapes in dramatic fashion). Justified, since Moriarty doesn't want a gunshot to be heard outside.
- Gloriously averted in Grim Fandango.
Manny: Is this where you tell me all about your secret plan, Hector? How you stole Double N tickets from innocent souls, pretended to sell them but secretly hoarded them all to yourself in a desperate attempt to get out of the Land of the Dead?
Hector: This is where you writhe around in excruciating pain for about an hour because that idiot Bowsley ran off with the fast-acting sproutella. That slow stuff will sprout you, but it's going to take a long time, I'm sorry to say.
- Final Fantasy
- Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII has this badly. He could, at any given moment in the original game, completely obliterate the party with ease. However, he instead prefers to mock and taunt the heroes, stringing them along with plans to manipulate them later. As is expected with the trope, this came to haunt him later — when Sephiroth kills Aeris, she's already managed to summon Holy, which ultimately stops Meteor's impact. Had Sephiroth just killed Aeris when he had the chance, Holy wouldn't have been summoned, instead he waited for Cloud to catch up to her so he could kill Aeris in front of his eyes to torment him. Justified to some degree in that Seph wasn't intending to kill Cloud and (most of) his group, it was all part of his plan to get him to deliver the Black Materia to his real body in the Northern Crater, which he then used to summon Meteor.
- Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX is the namesake of the rule quoted above. You will encounter her three times within the span of barely more than half a disc, and each time, she will always Stock Break your entire party at 1 HP, before laughing at your weakness and taking her leave. (She's later revealed to be a Punch Clock Villain, however.) Subverted though in that she is entirely right about your party being completely unable to stop her or the Alexandrians.
- In Final Fantasy X, the three party members who can breathe underwater indefinitely are sentenced to death by drowning in a long but open-ended underwater canal. The other party members have to walk through a monster-infested maze instead. The reason they were placed there at all and not just executed is because of religious tradition. It's called "The Path of Repentance" for a reason. Also, the bad guys break every Bond villain tradition in the book when they actually realize that this was a bad idea and place guards at the exit.
- In Chrono Trigger Dalton, upon first meeting your party: "Hm? Those clothes… You must be the ones the prophet said would come to interfere! I think I shall watch for the time being, and see how he plays his hand. Not that I suspect he'll tip his cards so easily. Ha!" This was a mistake and it was bad for everyone, considering what he does between games…
- In Half-Life, a pair of mooks capture the player character and, rather than just shooting him, toss him in a trash compactor; they were under orders to bring him to their commander, but wanted to kill him for killing their comrades, and did it so that his body would be disposed of. Which he then escapes via conveniently stacked-up garbage.
- In Half-Life 2, near the end the main character willingly climbs into a transport within the alien citadel that immobilizes him. Naturally, its a trap and it carries him helplessly right to the Big Bad, who does not take the opportunity to shoot him. Justified later when the main villain tries to recruit him.
- Parodied in the computer game Evil Genius. In the game, super agents cannot be killed by normal means. When they run out of health, they simply fall unconscious for a few minutes. They can only be defeated by exploiting a specific weakness. So until you figure out what their particular weakness is, your options are limited to locking them up and torturing them regularly to keep their stats down.
- In the original Metal Gear Solid this actually is all part of the villains' plans. Because the DARPA chief was "accidentally" killed by Ocelot, the terrorist didn't have the second part of the code to activate Metal Gear, so they needed Snake to progress through his mission and use an alternate means of activating Metal Gear (by making him think they'd already activated it, and that inputting the code would disable it). So locking Snake in a cell patrolled by an inept guard was all part of the plan.
- Labtech 123 in zOMG kindly takes the time to explain most of the Big Bad's plan to you, as well as how to override the security system, while he waits for reinforcements.
- Played straight for most of the Monkey Island series, with LeChuck dreaming up more ludicrous ways of dealing with Guybrush. In Tales of Monkey Island, however, it gets subverted twice. When LeChuck reveals he was the Heel–Face Mole, he kill Guybrush by simply skewering him with a sword. When Guybrush returns in zombie form, LeChuck goes for a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to try and kill him. When Guybrush asks why LeChuck isn't going for his usual overcomplicated plan, LeChuck informs him he's learned from his mistakes. In Escape from Monkey Island. LeChuck points out to his villainous cohort that leaving Guybrush alive has always cost him in the past... then they do it anyway. By dumping him on an "inescapable" island that he's escaped from several times.
- In Devil May Cry 3, Mission 13 has Arkham detailing his plan in manipulating the twins and his daughter into spilling their blood to undo the seal. He undid the final part of the seal by stabbing Lady with her bayonet through the leg, but it was just as easy to stab her somewhere vital and kill her, which would have prevented her from getting up and turning her weapon on him. ... It also would have stopped her from killing him at the end, too.
- This trope is such an essential element of Touhou, with horrifically powerful beings fighting the player character with slow moving, colourful bullets instead of wiping her from existence, that ZUN created intricate justifications as part of the backstory to Gensoukyou. Not only would killing Reimu do Very Bad Things to Gensoukyou (though Marisa has no such protection), not only were the Spell Card rules implemented specifically to prevent that sort of destructive violence (though we don't know if there are any punishments for breaking them), but its denizens are mostly very old, very bored individuals that view fighting as an excellent hobby, and killing their opponent would prevent future encounters.
- Baldur's Gate II: Jon Irenicus stands out from the norm by averting this trope; not only does he feel no need to explain his plans to you at any point, he also make good use of sedatives to take you out rather than give you a chance to escape, and he makes sure to have you killed off properly after he no longer need you. Unfortunately (for him, at least) he decided to let his sister Bodhi deal with that. She played the trope straight, and had this interesting maze she wanted to test...
- Hugo Strange in Batman: Arkham City. Even though he knows you are the goddamned Batman, he doesn't take the opportunity to kill Bats at the beginning when Bruce was unconscious and shackled. He wakes you up and then dumps you into Arkham City without even bothering to track you. And then he tasks an assassin to kill you, suggesting that he wanted you dead the entire time.
- Occurs in Knights of the Old Republic 2 when the party is trapped in force cages and a bounty hunter sneaks in to kill you. Even though he could overload the cages to kill you all effortlessly, which your teammate actually suggests, he turns the cages off so he can try to defeat two Jedi and one scoundrel in a three-to-one hand-to-hand combat. Although the dialogue and voice-acting does seem to suggest that this was the bounty hunter's original plan, and Atton's goading bruises the guy's ego enough to change his plans. (Which is still pretty stupid.)
- Resident Evil
- This happens in Resident Evil 4 when the village chief nearly strangles Leon to death but lets him go when he sees he's been injected with a Plagas egg, knowing that he'll eventually succumb to the parasite's control. He later admits in a memo that he gravely underestimated Leon's capabilities and that at the rate he's going, he'll probably destroy the whole village before the Plagas takes over.
- Resident Evil 5 shows this in Wesker, who apparently toys with Chris rather than kill him outright. Various cutscenes also depict him grandstanding and effortlessly smacking Chris around, but never bothering to, say, pull out a knife and stab him. One boss fight against him even ends with him simply scoffing and strolling out of the room. Though the general long-term goal is for Chris to end up dead at some point, he doesn't seem to care if Chris is surviving at any given moment and mostly just relishes in tormenting him. Up until the fight in the bomber, where he finally cuts the crap and starts putting much a more serious effort into killing Chris. A single mistake from that point on is practically guaranteed to be fatal to the player. Once his plans are in ruin, he finally realizes he shouldn't have dicked around so much:
Wesker: I should have killed you years ago... Chris!
Chris: Your mistake! It's over, Wesker!
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
- Mostly averted with the Empire (though they are not technically "evil"). The Imperial Legion captured the rebel leader Ulfric Stormcloak and instead of taking him back to the capital and staging an elaborate trial, they immediately take him and the other captives to the next garrison where they are led to the chopping block right after getting of the cart. But even that turned out to be too much of a delay, as a dragon attacks and the prisoners escape in the chaos after just one of them had been beheaded.
- Said dragon also averts this trope in this specific scene in that he actually is Alduin, the World Eater, and the reason of his attack was that he was looking for the Dragonborn so he could kill him before he unlocked his powers and became a threat- you read right: the game's Final Boss actually comes to try and kill you while you still are level 1, and you only escape alive because it takes him time to find you among all these puny mortals. He does, however, play this trope straight later in the game, where he will just leave a recently raised dragon deal with you whenever you encounter him before the boss fight.
- Another example would be the various mad scientist-cum-mages who feel the need to have you fight a pet monster of theirs rather than kill you outright. Predictably, it always fails.
- Inverted in Max Payne 3, where Max has Becker at his mercy and slowly strangles him rather than just give him a 9mm headache. This gives Victor Branco time to show up. Max does it again immediately by holding off on disarming the newcomer until the first villain is recovered enough to stun him, allowing both villains to escape.
- Somewhat justified in that Max is extremely angry and a simple kill shot is too good for Becker, and he's honestly a little surprised at the appearance of Victor, and it takes him some time to process that before he makes his move.
- Assassin's Creed III: Charles Lee refuses to kill you in the New York prison, instead explaining how he'll frame you for their own murder plot of George Washington so you are hanged. Connor escapes. When Connor is captured at Haytham's funeral, Lee again refuses to kill him, claiming he wants to break him first. Connor escapes again, this time forcing Lee to attempt to flee the colonies entirely.
- Saints Row IV: The Big Bad Zinyak does this to the Boss. Even though the Boss has shown how dangerous he can be to Zinyak's forces, and Zinyak has shown he can easily defeat the Boss in one-to-one combat. He decides that it's better to "break" the boss through a simulation. Considering the Boss's and the other Saint's fierce determination, you can see where this is going. Doesn't stop Zinyak from making the struggle as difficult as possible though.
- Halo 4: The Ur-Didact, newly released Sealed Evil in a Can, is a Nigh Invulnerable Sufficiently Advanced Alien with powers of levitation, teleportation, and telekinesis. Does he use these powers to quickly kill Master Chief and then resume his evil plan? Nope. Instead he just renders Chief helpless during his lengthy monologues then tosses him away, giving the Chief another chance to stop the villain. Only at the end of the game does it occur to the Didact to teleport to the Chief and kill him himself, and even then he wastes time by suspending him over a chasm and then choking him instead of just dropping him immediately. Then he takes his sweet time yet again even after you've been freed and shoved a grenade in his chest. The guy simply does not learn, does he?
- Vaas from Far Cry 3 suffers from this trope badly, succumbing to it at least four times while trying to get rid of Jason Brody. First time he gives Jason a thirty-second head-start and Jason escapes. Second time Vaas gets the drop on Jason, but leaves him to die in a burning building and Jason escapes. Third time Vaas jumps Jason again, and ties him to a concrete block and throws him a pool which Jason escapes from. During this capture Vaas lectures Jason on his beliefs about insanitynote , which may indicate Vaas is aware that what he is doing is just not working but is unable to stop himself. The fourth time Vaas walks up to Jason after a crash and shoots him in the chest, but buries him in a shallow grave without checking to see if he is really dead, missing the lighter that blocked his bullet. During the fifth and final confrontation between Jason and Vaas, Vaas gets the drop on Jason again and stabs him through the chest with a large knife, but something happens, the knife starts glowing yellow, and their last fight talks place in an alternate dimension filled with television monitors. Jason wins, and when he wakes up Vaas is gone and everyone says he's dead.
- Generally subverted in the Ace Attorney series, where many of the true culprits in the cases committed murder to prevent word of some other crime they committed from getting out. In fact, given how the playable characters inevitably catch the criminals, one could argue that subverting this trope tends to backfire on them. On the other hand, when the playable characters are forced by the game to do things like be alone with the culprit and show them vital evidence, the culprit's main concern is to destroy the evidence before trying to silence the characters. Given that the evidence is what's needed to put them behind bars (without evidence, it's all but impossible to do anything to them, let alone have them arrested), this makes sense. Not to mention, at least two of those instances are interrupted by the police showing up.
- Mass Effect 3: in the Citadel DLC, the Mysterious Figure disposes of you and your squad by locking them in inescapable storage chambers in the Council archives with about an hour's worth of air. Granted, it would have worked if the Figure hadn't forgotten about Glyph, and direct applied violence had failed several times before in that DLC, but it's still not a particularly smart move. Shepard him/herself notes that a bullet would have been quicker and far more reliable.
- Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark: Rather than doing something about the outraged Autobot leader in front of him, Lockdown chose to monologue about the greatness of his evil plan.
- In World of Warcraft, Lord Walden in the Shadowfang Keep dungeon uses a spell called Asphyxiate that will reduce the entire party's HP to one, but because he's an arrogant hunter he decides to "make it a bit sporting" by casting a spell called Stay of Execution that heals both him and your group (in normal, it's a burst that heals him a little but heals your party to full, in heroic it's a channeled spell that you interrupt when you think your healer can take it from there).
- Double Subverted in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: Near the end of the game, Lazarevic has Drake and Elena held hostage. Lazarevic's right-hand man Harry Flynn suggests shooting them immediately, but Lazarevic wants to wait until the gates to the lost city of Shambhala are opened just to drive the fact in that he beat Drake. As soon as they're opened, he immediately has his men prepare to open fire on them, looking like waiting didn't really matter and he's actually subverting this trope - only for Shambhala's guardians to start attacking everyone, giving Drake and Elena a chance to escape.
- In the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Dr. Robotnik actually rescues Sonic from falling to his death — in order to try killing him his preferred way, in a Sarlacc pit.
- Justified in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past...possibly. The maidens are a major threat to Agahnim's plans, since they are the only ones capable of sealing Ganon or countering his evil magic. This obviously raises the question of why Agahnim only teleports the maidens to the Dark World instead of killing them. The first maiden explains that this is because they are also the only ones who can unseal Ganon, so he has to hijack their powers to free himself from the Dark World. However, one of the maidens implies that Ganon already siphoned all the power he needed from them, which does raise the question of why he's still keeping them around.
- The Greater Scope Villain of Dragon Age: Inquisition, Solas, a.k.a. the Dread Wolf Fen'Harel, proves to have a case of this in the Trespasser DLC epilogue, as he always saves the Inquisitor's life just as the Anchor is about to kill them. While this is justified if the Inquisitor is best of buds with or even in a romantic relationship with him, there is really no excuse for saving the one person in Thedas capable of stopping him if they are none of those things and outright threaten to kill him if left alive.
- In Yu Gi Oh BAM, Marik lampshades and averts this, freely admitting to his role in hijacking the B-Sec Hologuards... and then he tries to kill you, pointing out that he wouldn't let you just walk away after telling you his secrets.
- In Scorpion's chapter of Mortal Kombat X, after Shinnok is freed from his amulet, he has several former enemies completely at his mercy, but while he orders D'Vorah to take Johnny Cage hostage (as he sees him as a potential threat) he just leaves Sonya, Kenshi, and Scorpion behind, letting them live for no discernible reason. This allows Sonya to inform the younger Earthrealm warriors of Shinnok's plan to absorb the Jinsei which leads to his defeat
- Ultra Fast Pony lampshades the utter absurdity. Unlike in the source material, Night Moon Mare doesn't want to gain anyone's respect or to plunge the world into eternal night. She just wants to kill everyone, yet she doesn't do it when she has the chance.
Night Moon Mare: I could kill you all now, but I'll run away!
- Lampshaded and inverted in this Bob and George strip. Don't worry, he got better.
- Averted in the vampire vs. zombie webcomic Last Blood, during the final battle, the vampires are captured by zombies who chain them up with the intent to torture them. However, for the past 20 pages, there have been allusions to the idea that the leader of the vampires, Addison Payne, has a brilliant scheme to defeat the zombies at some point, even once captured. So instead of letting him live and risking utter victory just for the sake of torture, the lead zombie simply stakes him through the heart, no suggestion necessary. Despite this stroke of brilliance, he still winds up losing it all when he decides to keep one of the human women as his presumed concubine, and goes to embrace her, at which point she promptly stakes him in the heart, killing him and turning his zombies loose.
- In Sluggy Freelance Dr. Steve originally was just going to shoot Torg, but got talked out of it.
Dr. Steve: I've decided to just shoot you and get this over with.
Torg: But wait, don't you want to reveal your master plan to me?
Dr. Steve: No.
Torg: If you were a real villain, you'd tell me your master plan before killing me.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- Double Subversion with Roland Daggett when he had Batgirl and Catwoman at his mercy. When Batgirl taunted him with the suggestion that he leave them trussed up over one of his vats of deadly chemicals with acid burning through the rope, he pointed out how often this method had failed him before, and announced he was just going to have his men shoot them and toss their bodies into those vats instead. In the end, however, his stopping to tell them this gave them just enough time to get loose and take him down anyway.
- In the episode "The Clock King"'', Fugate, the Clock King, gets Batman in a Death Trap. But he can't resist pulling a Just Between You and Me with a mocking taped message left behind that Batman manages to repurpose into the tools with which to escape. Had he left no message at all, it's likely the Death Trap would have worked, as Batman was ready to try getting out with a cutting torch until Fugate's message informed him that he'd deliberately thought of that already and made sure there wasn't enough time.
- In "Trial", Batman's enemies have captured and restrained him, but instead of just killing him decide to put him on trial. With the Joker as the judge and Mad Hatter, Harley, and Croc as the Jury. The DA who stated that Batman should be put on trial was defense, and if she got him acquitted they'd both be set free, if she failed they'd both be killed. But then, what else would you expect from Batman's enemies? Two-Face at least did want to just shoot him, but lost the coin toss. They do try to kill him after the trial, but by then Batman and the DA manage to escape.
- In Kim Possible, this trope is part of the Tradition.
- Discussed in the episode "Rufus in Show".
Kim Possible: Um... Aren't you going to leave now?
Falsetto Jones: Leave? What do you mean?
Ron Stoppable: Well, usually the bad guy says his lame pun and then walks out, you know, leaving us to our doom.
Falsetto Jones: But then I'd miss the whole thing! Where's the fun in that? I'm not going anywhere!
Kim Possible: Okay, but I feel I must warn you, you're really breaking a super-villain tradition here.
- Lampshaded in "Animal Attraction":
Señor Senior Sr: A proper villain always leaves his foe when he's about to expire.
Señor Senior Jr: Why?
Señor Senior Sr: Well, it would be bad form just to loll about, waiting for it.
Señor Senior Jr: Why?
Señor Senior Sr: Tradition!
- Discussed in the episode "Rufus in Show".
- Played straight in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. In the James Bond parody "Operation: Rescue Jet Fusion", Jimmy and Jet are left in an elaborate death trap... and manage to escape.
- Shown clearly in The Fairly OddParents when Mr. Crocker meets Norm the Genie. They both hold a deep hatred for Timmy Turner, and Norm suggests sending him to Mars, while Crocker tries out a horde of elaborate impractical traps.
- The Simpsons:
- Subverted in "You Only Move Twice" where Homer's new employer, a megalomaniac, tries to kill Mr. Bont with such a deathtrap, and Bont escapes, only to be promptly tackled by Homer. Wising up, the guards just shoot him.
- In a Deleted Scene from "$pringfield", Homer's incompetence at the blackjack table gets James Bond captured by Blofeld. Bond asks Blofeld to at least tell him his Evil Plan but the villain said he wasn't going to fall for that again.
- In "The Great Louse Detective", Sideshow Bob was allowed out of prison to help the police to find out who's been trying to kill Homer. During a scene, somebody asked him why doesn't he simply shoot Bart. The topic wasn't discussed again until the epilogue, when Sideshow Bob did try to follow the advice but found out he grew accustomed to Bart's face.
- Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers has Pete doing this to Mickey. This is notable in that he averts this with Goofy and Donald Duck, who he flat out attempts to kill.
- In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the villain Hooded Claw constantly tries to murder the eponymous heroine(ish). The entire episodes are devised of the heroes foiling his extremely elaborate and overly complex homicide attempts. Probably the biggest reason he never succeeded was his need to explain every little detail of each plan to Penelope herself; it always took at least three minutes, and it would either reveal a flaw in the design to her or give her some time to either free herself or get saved by the Ant Hill Mob.
- All the time in Inspector Gadget. The plot of any given episode has the villain du jour trying to put the titular inspector through increasingly elaborate death traps instead of, ya know, just shooting him. This was subverted in an episode once, where they attempt to simply poison him. However Brain, Gadget's dog, has discovered the plan and keeps him from eating anything.
- Teen Titans:
- In the episode "X", Professor Chang's minions actually defeat Super Hero team leader Robin. But, not only do they not kill him, they don't even bother taking him prisoner! Instead they just pass on a message that Chang has kidnapped the rest of the Teen Titans and will kill them if Robin interferes with Chang's plans. They might as well have been daring Robin to swoop in and save the day at the last minute. (Chang apparently didn't understand things like loyalty very well, and didn't think Robin would risk it while he was holding the other Titan's hostage, something Starfire angrily called him out on.)
- In one episode, Slade blackmails Robin into being his apprentice by infecting the other Titans with nanomachines that can kill them literally with a push of a button. Robin gets around this by infecting HIMSELF with the nanomachines, thus giving Slade the choice between killing all the Titans thus removing them as a threat but losing Robin as his apprentice or potentially getting Robin as his apprentice at a later date, but leaving the Titans around to get in the way of his plans. Naturally, as per this trope he does the latter instead of the much more sensible former.
- Lampshaded and averted in the first season finale of Generator Rex. When Van Kleiss gives the order for Biowolf to dispose of a depowered Rex. Rex asks him if he'd rather lock him a cage or tie him to a slab and use a slow moving laser on him, Biowolf simply says "No", and tosses him out the window of the Keep. Interestingly enough, this is played straight later in the episode by the Big "Good" of all people, who chooses not to turn his electromagnet defense system high enough to tear the nanites out of Biowolf's body, but simply to immobilize him for a good old fashioned beat down.
- Played straight in the SWAT Kats episode "Night of the Dark Kat", where Dark Kat and Hard Drive have managed to capture the eponymous heroes, but instead of summarily executing them, set them on the end of a long Conveyor Belt-O-Doom that leads to a rock crushing machine, a machine which is wired to blow up the warehouse if shut down, leading to predictable consequences. Dark Kat usually proves smarter than that, too. Hard Drive even lampshades it: "I still say you should have let me fry those two!"
- Played straight, and not quite Narm, as it IS a kids show and kids are stupid, in almost every episode of Totally Spies! or its follow-up The Amazing Spiez. Instead of actually spying as their occupations imply, it is always the sequence: get tiny bit of info, get captured, villain explains evil plot, leaves before making sure they die, escape, foil.
- In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Where there's Smoke", one of the corrupt government agents seems to have the right idea at first, arming himself with a weapon that might hurt Superman. Unfortunately for him he feels the need to explain how it works and both threaten and insult the already pissed Man of Steel, painfully finding out — when the incredibly fast hero crushes his wrist, disarming him — that he really should have just fired it when he had the chance.
- Justice League:
Joker: And they say I'm crazy.
- Played straight in "The Enemy Below" when Aquaman's brother, Orm leaves Aquaman and his baby son pinned to a large piece of rock slowly sinking into lava rather than just killing them both outright.
- During "Injustice For All" Luthor and his group of Super Villains capture Batman, but instead of killing him right then they leave him tied up, which he uses to screw with them all and even finds a way to tell the League where they are. Joker even lampshades the fact that they should no doubt kill Batman right away before he gets out, even pointing out how he himself has fallen into this trope himself several times and had it backfire. Naturally, it turns out Batman could have gotten out at any time though how he does is never explained.
- Futurama pulls this with the Slurm Queen during the 'Fry and the Slurm Factory' episode.
- Used and lampshaded in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Nerdy Dancin'": Dr. Doofenshmirtz leaves Perry the Platypus shackled to a table with a slowly approaching laser beam, claiming, "I saw this in a movie once. I didn't catch the ending, 'cause I had other things to do, but it seemed pretty foolproof." Perry escapes as soon as Doof leaves, simply by slipping his small hands and feet out of the shackles.
- In The Legend of Korra, Amon has Korra completely at his mercy with about two dozen of his chi-blockers restraining her and looks like he's about to take her bending away and...doesn't. However, he justifies it and only comes across as even smarter because of it. He needs support for his plan to succeed and this early in the game, taking her bending away would only turn her into a martyr banding everyone not already on his side against him.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- Discord, the second-season villain, makes this mistake twice. He allows Twilight Sparkle to get her hooves on the Elements of Harmony, since he's corrupted the bearers and rendered them unable to use the Elements, and he leaves Twilight to her own devices in the unraveling Ponyville because he delights in her misery and helplessness. As such, when she regains her confidence, gets her friends back and fighting, and unleashes a devastatingly harmonious rainbow on his face, he's very much taken by surprise.
- In the episode "Read It and Weep", we are introduced to the Daring Do novels, which are mainly patterned after Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. As such, the main villain in the books, Ahuizotl, will often put the hero Daring Do into a clichéd Death Trap. The example we see is of an ancient over-the-top execution machine involving spikes, encroaching walls, rising sand, and snakes and spiders. While it seems that Ahuizotl's confidence in Daring's demise is well-founded, he makes the classic mistake of leaving her to her doom, which allows her to use her pith helmet and some Improbable Aiming Skills to reverse the trap.
- In the season 4 episode "Daring Don't", Ahuizotl does it again by suspending Daring over a slowly rising pit of water filled with piranhas. Given that the episode's premise is that everything in the Daring Do novels is actually real (including Daring's previous escapes), he comes off less of a real threat and more of a villain with terrible amnesia.
- Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse has Closet, the Affably Evil Master Computer, exhibit this twice. First, he neglects to keep an eye on Barbie, Midge, and Summer while gloating to Ken, allowing the three of them to ditch him through an Air-Vent Passageway. Later, Closet threatens to fry Barbie and her friends in a giant drier, only to hear the oven's timer go off. In response, he tells the girls not to move, then leaves to check on the crème brulee he's baking. The girls seize the opportunity to remove the Dreamhouse's CPU.
- As you might expect, C.O.B.R.A. does this a lot in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, but one that stands out as especially stupid was the Christmas Episode. It started out like a good idea; Cobra Commander thought he'd attack the Joes' headquarters on Christmas Eve (worked for George Washington, right?) and it actually worked - he and his men took the whole team of Joes hostage. Then the Commander got a good idea, maybe. He had his men handcuff the prisoners and lock them up in their own meat locker, suspended from the hooks by their cuffs, then decided to take the Joes' vehicles for a joyride and attack a nearby city, maybe get the Joes in trouble. Then, however, Cobra Commander's last attempt at Evil Gloating ruins the plan royally. He tells his prisoners he's leaving them a "Christmas present" and puts the keys to their handcuffs on a hook by the door before he leaves to taunt them, confident they can't possibly reach it. Unbeknownst to him, Shipwreck has already partially freed himself, getting down from the hook (he leaps up and grabs hold of it when they hear the Commander coming) so when the villain leaves again, freeing himself and the others is a simple matter. Even worse, when the villains leave with the Joes' vehicles, they leave their own vehicles behind (and apparently leave the keys in the ignitions, for that matter). Did the villains think the Joes wouldn't shoot down their own crafts? Wild Bill did say he felt "like [he] shot his own horse" when he did, but he still did, and so did the others. (So all this botched plan accomplished was to prove that C.O.B.R.A. can't claim that the Joes have better equipment as an excuse for their failures...)
- Ben 10: Omniverse is filled with these:
- Dr. Psychobos manages to temporarily get Ben in his grasp in "Outbreak" when he comes to steal a piece of the Omnitrix from him, but choses to let him live and just leaves once he got said piece (which is replaced by the end of the episode). When called out for it by Malware, he justifies his decision by saying Ben isn't the real threat.
- In "Vilgax Must Croak", Vilgax has Ben at his mercy, unconcious, in human form and defenseless, with everybody around unable to assist. He still decides to just escape his jail and leave Ben alive, even though it would have probably taken him a second at best to kill him.
- In "Frogs of War", the Inkurseans manage to conquer Earth with pure military might and force Ben into surrendering. Yet, rather than executing and putting him out of the picture permanently, they just exile him and send him in space, allowing him to come back later and infiltrate them to end their invasion from the inside. Arguably justified in that Attea was counting on it, but still, you gotta wonder why Emperor Milleus couldn't be more pragmatic.
- A particularly ridiculous offender with the Rooters, seeing how their whole goal focuses around killing Ben to begin with. They had him as their prisonner, in human form and unconcious right in their first episode, but Proctor Servantis decides to still let him go and stick with his ridiculously convoluted plan (which by the way was developped to kill Ben ''five years ago'', and Ben has become much more powerful since then) on the argument that "he is tougher than he looks".
- Allegedly, the Emperor Nero tried to kill his own mother firstly by rigging the ceiling above her bed to collapse on her as she slept (the idea never got past the planning stages), then settling on rigging her boat so that it would sink with her on it — this worked, but Nero didn't count on his mother being able to swim. When he heard that she had survived, with two elaborate death traps having failed him, he decided to have the messenger arrested and framed as an assassin, then just sent his guards to stab her to death.