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->''"I want him to live a long life alone with his cowardice."''
-->-- '''Westley''', ''Film/ThePrincessBride''

Some work towards crushing their opponents. Others, though, prefer to just step back and watch them live on. This is "Cruel Mercy" -- sparing one's enemy (or, in some examples, even actively keeping them alive) as a punishment rather than a reward.

Heroes rarely kill their enemies: they either practice ThouShaltNotKill or have a [[TheHeart moral friend]] remind them "IfYouKillHimYouWillBeJustLikeHim" if they ever get too tempted. However, some heroes are creative. Much like a torturer using a CoolAndUnusualPunishment, the hero does {{forgive|ness}} the villain, or at least spare his life, but does so in a poetic yet "cruel" way.

Villains will also do this. If they are [[RevengeByProxy doing it for revenge]], their aim will be to make the hero feel what they've gone through. Some are mental -- rather than wishing to hear SoProudOfYou, it's their arch-enemy's disapproval they start to crave. Other villains are trying to make the character break down -- they [[BreakTheCutie subject them to a series of]] {{Mind Rape}}s and [[ForcedToWatch make them watch]] as they destroy what's precious to them, all in an attempt to push them beyond the DespairEventHorizon. Maybe they want to see [[HeroicBSOD the heroes cry]], or [[StartOfDarkness bring them]] [[FaceHeelTurn over to]] TheDarkSide. Some villains delight in showing the hero to be NotSoStoic, or they wonder what will happen if they TeachHimAnger... or they just enjoy ignoring the hero's repeated pleas to GetItOverWith.

There is no typical Cruel Mercy; each is tailored to the person for maximum effect. However, there are a few repeating variations. Sometimes, one is just allowed to live, especially if he believes MightMakesRight and AsskickingEqualsAuthority, and now that he isn't the strongest, his self-esteem is non-existent. Similarly, some villains lose it because GoodHurtsEvil and EvilCannotComprehendGood, so the hero's mercy is a kind of BrownNote. For others, the hero may force them into a mundane life where they go through a daily mental HumiliationConga. Still more might refuse to take a life themselves but [[ThrowEmToTheWolves won't deny others]] -- [[DoWithHimAsYouWill especially those who have been wronged by the villain]] -- their own chance. In some situations, the hero may decide that being left to [[ThePunishmentIsTheCrime live with the consequences of his actions]] is the most fitting punishment for the villain. And sometimes, if the villain is too dangerous to let free, he is trapped in a TailorMadePrison along with the people he hates most in the world, or with a view of something he despises or which upsets him...

Usually, the villain or one of the hero's friends will ask "[[NoNonsenseNemesis Why did you let me/him live?]]" Expect the hero to give a [[ToThePain vivid description]] of how they believe they are being [[FateWorseThanDeath much crueler this way]]. Might also overlap with NotWorthKilling if the intended message is used to insult the value of the person being spared.

See also BaitTheDog. Not to be confused with VillainsDyingGrace. Contrast MercyKill, which aims to do the exact opposite, and DoWithHimAsYouWill, where the hero only spares the villain to let others kill him. Contrast GoAndSinNoMore, where the villain is grateful for the hero's mercy. Inverse of CruelToBeKind, which is about [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin acting cruel to be kind]]. If the Mercy is genuine and the Cruelty perceived, it's DontYouDarePityMe. May be part of AndIMustScream or overlap with FateWorseThanDeath.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'' has a lot of this due to the fact that despite being focused on fighting, death is very rare in the series. Luffy in particular does this very often. He attacks with all his might, but would rather see his enemy live with all his hopes and dreams gone than downright killing them. Occasionally, however, some villains actually end up better off than they started (Wapol, for example became an incredibly wealthy toymaker and tyrant of another kingdom, and Eneru went to the moon like he originally wanted).
* ''Anime/DragonBallZ'':
** Goku planned to do this to Frieza during their fight on Namek, beating the tyrant senseless and driving him to a VillainousBreakdown before deciding that, with Frieza's ego in shambles over having been defeated by [[FantasticRacism a Saiyan of all beings]], he's NotWorthKilling, outright telling him as such and ordering Frieza to "go crawl off someplace and hide" and continue to live with the shame of his defeat. Later, after Frieza [[AnArmAndALeg lost his arm]] and [[HalfTheManHeUsedToBe entire lower body]], he tried it again before flying away. It backfires both times: the entire reason Frieza lost his limbs in the first place was because he [[HoistByHisOwnPetard got hit with his own energy disc]], and when Goku gave him some energy to at least survive, Frieza turned around and tried to kill him with it; by this point, Goku is done giving Frieza chances and blows him away, outright calling him a fool for not just walking away when he had the chance.
** Earlier, after Goku tricks Captain Ginyu into [[BodySurf switching bodies with a frog]], Vegeta chooses not to kill him for this reason, finding Ginyu being forced to live life as a frog amusing.
** In ''Anime/DragonBallSuper''[='s=] ''Anime/DragonBallZResurrectionF'' adaptation, Gohan easily beats Ginyu-in-Tagoma's body despite being out of shape and only able to hold Super Saiyan form for a few moments. He spares Ginyu and tells him to get lost. This pisses off Frieza so badly, as it reminded him of the aforementioned mercy Goku gave him, that he goes and ''tortures Gohan for it.''
** Frieza could actually be considered a {{Deconstruction}} of this trope. Every time Goku showed mercy with the intent of making him live with the shame, Frieza would either attempt to kill him or blow up the planet, [[spoiler:the latter of which in ''Resurrection F'' and ''Super'' killed everyone on Earth and would have lead to a bad ending if Whis hadn't turned back time]]. Frieza is the type of foe who ''needs'' to be killed.
* Happens to Ritsuko in episode 23 of ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion''. After revealing the secrets of the Terminal Dogma and of Rei and the Dummy Plug System to Shinji and Misato, Ritsuko [[spoiler:realises that Gendo used her, and destroys Rei's clones. She then breaks down into tears, inviting Misato to shoot her, saying that she welcomes death. Misato refuses, saying that Ritsuko is a fool for saying so]].
* In ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'' (both the manga and the ''Brotherhood'' series), Scar does a violent variation (not exactly mercy) to Dr. Marcoh and ''really'' makes it clear that post-HeelFaceTurn, he's still an AntiHero. Marcoh comes to Scar admitting that he had created the Philosopher's Stones which were used to wipe out most of the population of Ishval (Scar's country). While Scar has in the past killed state alchemists for less, he's cooled by this point and is also taken aback when Marcoh begs for death (Marcoh had been threatened by Lust and Envy that if he didn't make another Stone for them, they would kill Macoh's entire village). So, what does Scar do? He "helps" Marcoh to fake his death by using his powers to horribly disfigure his face.
** And by this point, Marcoh loathes himself so much that he doesn't really care. While he has the skill and opportunity to repair the damage later, he decides to keep it as penance.
** It also served a practical purpose: No one besides the homunculi were able to recognize the disfigured doctor, allowing him and Scar's group to travel with more ease.
* In ''Anime/SamuraiChamploo'', a previous comrade of Mugen betrays him so that she will not be alone, something she's terrified of. He kills ''everyone'' in the old crew who betrayed him and then just ignores her, even when she asks him to kill her so she can be TogetherInDeath.
* Hiei of ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'' was ordered killed by the [[LadyLand village of his birth]] due to the expectation that any male child born to their OneGenderRace of normally {{Truly Single Parent}}s would inevitably destroy them if allowed to grow up. Years later, he returned to do [[SelfFulfillingProphecy just that]], but, after seeing the pitiful lives the villagers lived, he came to the conclusion that killing them would only end their misery.
* In ''Anime/{{Noir}}'', after Chloe reveals that [[spoiler:Kirika was the one who killed Mireille's parents]], Kirika begs Mireille to keep the promise that she made in the first episode and kill her. Instead, Mireille walks away, severing their partnership and leaving Kirika with the knowledge that she is now alone. [[spoiler:They reconcile in the penultimate episode.]]
* In ''Manga/FistOfTheNorthStar'', Kenshiro ends up doing this to Souther, partially. While he does ensure that Souther eventually dies soon enough, the fact that he actually does show mercy to Souther is the dagger through the heart of Souther, who himself had sworn off all kinds of mercy, making it a heavy blow onto his pride. Possibly Amiba as well. Kenshiro doesn't directly kill him and mocks Amiba's inability to avert his fate.
* Veronica of ''Manga/FrankenFran'' makes one friend (Yura) in her month long stay at a girl's school. [[TeensAreMonsters Every other student performs multiple acts of bullying, from dumping water on her to writing on her clothes.]] [[spoiler:In the end, none of the bullies (except one) are harmed, and her friend turned out to be the one who was behind all the bullying and sold the bullied girls to pedophiles. Veronica brutally kills the men in Yura's room, along with the bully, and leaves Yura there to explain the situation to the authorities.]]
** The real irony is that it was true mercy: while even TheIngenue HumanoidAbomination Adorea managed to make some friends in that school, Veronica has NoSocialSkills nor the slightest idea how to make a friend. [[spoiler:She knew from the very beginning that Yura was a FalseFriend. Even so, Veronica really felt that a false friendship is better than nothing, so Veronica led Yura into her own plan, trying to enjoy the most of their false relationship. That simulation really [[ItMeantSomethingToMe meant something to Veronica]], and for that, [[YouWillBeSpared Yura was spared]]. [[MonsterSobStory The last panel shows her denying her tears to Adorea.]] ]]
* ''Anime/GingaDensetsuWeed'': Hiro leaving Kamakiri to recover by himself (not likely) comes to this. Hiro has left the Irish Wolfhound wounded, bloodied, de-fanged, and castrated on the ground, but instead of killing him for [[YouKilledMyFather killing his father when he was a puppy]], he leaves him there after saying to live with his wounds to understand the feelings and pain of others. Kamakiri tries to attack him one last time... but fails, leaving him howling in pain and rage as his death arrives.
* The ending of ''Anime/RevolutionaryGirlUtena'' can be seen this way. [[spoiler:Rather than actually killing or hurting Akio, Anthy simply walks out on him, leaving him powerless.]] Since there wasn't really too many ways to kill him anyway, it mightn't have been mercy, as such. But since [[spoiler: Akio '''needs''' [[DecoyDamsel Anthy]] as a part of his plans]], this is the '''''worst''''' thing that could've happened to him, plus [[spoiler: he gets to see how Anthy ultimately regained enough of her self-worth to leave him out in the cold forever.]]
* The ending of ''Anime/SenkiZesshouSymphogear G'' has [[spoiler:[[BigGood Genjurou]] sparing [[BigBad Dr. Ver]], preventing him from [[DrivenToSuicide attempting to kill himself]] [[DirtyCoward upon witnessing all his plans unravel]] when Maria, Kirika, and Shirabe, Symphogears he manipulated to advance his goals of making himself look like a hero by exploiting the chaos of the moon crashing into the Earth courtesy of Nephilim, his creation, finally wised up and [[HeelFaceTurn joined]] Hibiki, Tsubasa, and Chris to stop Nephilim. Genjurou's reasoning is that he's not going to let Ver be written off as having pulled off a "HeroicSacrifice" in the attempt to stop the moon's fall, instead making sure he's going to see justice done. It was so bad that by the end he's reduced into a giggling fit as he's being led away in handcuffs]].
* In ''Anime/GhostInTheShellStandAloneComplex'', after Motoko goes [[UnstoppableRage completely berserk]] and unloads a full clip of a .50 cal anti-material rifle [[ShortRangeLongRangeWeapon point blank]] into Gayle's Armed Suit cockpit for nearly killing her, running out of ammo is the only thing that stops her from killing him. At that point, the pressure from the denting of the armor plating was suffocating him inside his suit. She only allowed him to live so that he would forever regret ever hunting her down.
* In ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure'', Josuke, the protagonist of part 4 has a Stand that allows him to [[CombatMedic restore things to their original estate, including wounds]]. However, when he's angry he can use his powers in pretty sadistic ways. Like one villain who ended up crippled in the hospital, was visited by Josuke. The villain immediately started pleading that he wouldn't hit a poor, crippled man in a hospital. Josuke heals him back to perfect health just so he can ''beat him up so bad he cripples him again''.
* In ''Manga/TokyoGhoul'', after escaping his restraints Kaneki beats [[TortureTechnician Yamori]] within an inch of his life and devours his Kagune. Then, having crippled the other Ghoul suitably, he simply leaves him to be [[ThrowEmToTheWolves finished off]] whenever [[HunterOfMonsters CCG]] finally finds him.
* The ultimate fate of [[spoiler: Queen Nakia]] in ''Manga/AnatoliaStory'' is this: [[spoiler: she's in perpetual house arrest and living comfortably... but she ''knows'' that she owes it to Yuri and Kail, the portagonists and her worst enemies, who intend for her to witness how the Hitite Empire blossoms and flourishes ''without'' her in power. As a plus, her son Juda aka the person she intended to put in the throne as her PuppetKing, has completely deserted her.]]
* A meta example comes from ''Anime/MobileSuitVictoryGundam'', which has its primary antagonist Katejina Loos lose both her eyesight and her memory in the final battle to make a surprise appearance at the very end where she is reduced to TheOphelia. The decision to spare Katejina from death was motivated by this trope, as Creator/YoshiyukiTomino detailed in an interview, describing Katejina as too evil for death alone to be a sufficient punishment. As he directly puts it, "Life was a heavier punishment for her".

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Franchise/{{Batman}} has done this a few times, as his [[TechnicalPacifist no-killing policy]] can make it a necessity; in one instance, a man inadvertently killed a mutual friend as part of a revenge spree, but destroyed the evidence. Batman forced the killer to stay in the same small town, referring to it as the killer's "prison," and returned once a year to make the guy sit at the gravesite of the friend he rued killing.
** Similarly, in ''ComicBook/KingdomCome'', the evil members of the [[TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized Mankind Liberation Front]] are ultimately forced into helping care for the survivors of an attack they helped launch; ComicBook/LexLuthor is especially galled at having to empty bedpans.
** Or the time he tracked down the black ops agent who helped frame him (Bruce Wayne) for murder. Since there was no evidence of the man's existence, he couldn't be tried, so Batman put him [[GoAmongMadPeople in Arkham]]. The spy tells the doctors that he's not crazy; he's a secret agent who framed Bruce Wayne for murder and there's no record of the mission because he was tasked directly to the president. None of the doctors believe him.
** He also managed to pull this off on ComicBook/TheJoker once in "The Devil's Advocate", when the Clown Prince was on Death Row for a crime that he, surprisingly, ''didn't'' commit. [[http://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/4006988.html Batman's investigation found the real culprit, so Joker was spared.]] But Bats gets one last dig at The Joker.
-->'''Franchise/{{Batman}}:''' You came close, Joker. Just minutes from death.
-->'''Joker:''' But I'm still '''HERE''' bay-bay!
-->'''Batman:''' That's right. And when you're sitting here alone... in the middle of the night... unsleeping in the dark. Remember... every breath you take you owe to ''me''. What's the matter? Don't you have any jokes for me?
* ComicBook/CaptainAmerica does this inadvertently sometimes. His enemy Flag-Smasher once went into a lengthy MotiveRant about how he couldn't stand knowing Cap was simply a better person.
* Comicbook/{{Daredevil}}:
** In the comics, Bullseye's hatred of Daredevil was actually exacerbated after the hero saved him from an oncoming subway train, which Bullseye considered a humiliation. He gets a nice little speech about it in the issue where he breaks out of jail and kills Elektra.
** The first arc in Volume 2, "Guardian Devil", focuses on a dying Mysterio wanting to go out on one last swan song, and unsure if Spider-Man is the real deal due to the events of ComicBook/TheCloneSaga focuses on Matt instead, trying to drive Matt into a rage so he'll be forced to take his life. Daredevil refuses to give in and instead gives him a brutal TheReasonYouSuckSpeech, breaking Mysterio and [[DrivenToSuicide driving him to shoot himself]].
* In ''ComicBook/ElseworldsFinestSupergirlAndBatgirl'', ''Comicbook/{{Batgirl}}'' explains ''Comicbook/{{Supergirl}}'' that she doesn't want Lex Luthor dead because she wants him to suffer. If he's dead she can't make him pay for his crimes which include [[spoiler:her parents and Supergirl's cousin's murders]].
-->'''Batgirl:''' Stop. I need him alive.\\
'''Supergirl:''' But why?\\
'''Batgirl:''' Because... Because he has to suffer for his crimes!
* ''Franchise/TheFlash'', rather than killing Inertia for killing Bart Allen, leaves him [[AndIMustScream trapped immobile to stare at a statue of Bart for an eternity]]. Wally has gone on record in support of killing villains under desperate enough circumstances; he intentionally took a much more sadistic keel in this case.
* Comicbook/{{Supergirl}}: In ''Action Comics #286'', Luthor killed himself accidentally. Because he shot himself with an experimental nuclear Kryptonite ray-gun, Supergirl was capable of finding a method to revive him. Why would she do '''THAT'''? Because he was sentenced to life, and she didn't want him to escape his life-term jail sentence through death.
-->'''Lex Luthor:''' Before I was respected! Now the other criminals will laugh at me behind my back because I was saved by you!
* Franchise/{{Superman}} seems to do this to Lex Luthor on an almost daily basis without even trying. Apparently, Lexi's ego is so enormous that having a man more powerful than him, who uses his might out of genuine altruism and refuses to work for him, is so [[EvilCannotComprehendGood incomprehensible]] that it galls him like nothing else ever could.
* In one SpiderMan story in the early 2000's, a particularly ugly fight between Spidey and the Green Goblin (the Goblin had just crippled Flash Thompson) ended with Spidey coming within a hair's breadth of finishing Norman off. Spidey spares him, and later tells him that just ''being'' a person as horrible as Norman is its own punishment. Norman's reaction implies he sees the truth of this.
** During "The Gauntlet" and "Grim Hunt," the original Kraven the Hunter is brought BackFromTheDead by his ex-wife Sasha, who put Spider-Man and his "spider family" through Hell in the process, killing Madame Web, Mattie Franklin, and Kaine, the last of whom was sacrificed in a BlackMagic ritual to bring Kraven back. Having [[DrivenToSuicide met his end by his own hand]], Kraven [[UnwantedRevival is]] ''[[UnwantedRevival not]]'' [[UnwantedRevival happy to be alive again]], especially since he CameBackWrong because the ritual that resurrected him needed the ''real'' Spider-Man, not a clone. During Spidey's subsequent RoaringRampageOfRevenge against Sasha and the Kravinoffs, he nearly kills Kraven with a spear, but Julia Carpenter persuades him not to by showing him visions of a BadFuture that will result should he go through with it; Kraven is not happy, since he ''wants'' to die and, according to him, can ''only'' die by Spider-Man's hand.
* Comicbook/GhostRider actually has this trope as one of his powers. His [[MindRape Penance Stare]] does no physical damage, but forces his opponent to feel every single bit of pain or evil they've inflicted on others. Most recover, but have something to think about for the rest of their lives.
* This is what ComicBook/{{Cyclops}} decides to do to Kaga, the [[EvilCripple crippled]] [[GeniusCripple evil genius]] BigBad of [[Comicbook/XMen Astonishing X-Men]] #31-35, who hates the X-Men because they're a bunch of incredibly attractive people with superpowers, whereas he is a realistic mutant, sickly and deformed as a result of being born to a Hiroshima survivor. After Kaga's MotiveRant, Cyclops decides to arrange for Mutants Sans Frontières[[note]]Warren Worthington's X-Men-affiliated charity organization[[/note]] medical funding to be used to take the best possible care of him until he dies of natural causes.
* In ''ComicBook/NewXMen'', ComicBook/EmmaFrost, upon catching Kimura trying to assassinate [[MoralityPet X-23]], proceeds to explain to the nigh-invulnerable villain [[BreakingSpeech exactly why she acts the way she does by pointing out]] that she only does what she does to X-23 because of her [[DarkAndTroubledPast childhood]] before erasing her one and only happy memory and then sending her off with the psychically implanted suggestion of hunting down her employers.
* In the 1993 ''ComicBook/XMen'' storyline ''ComicBook/FatalAttractions'', ComicBook/{{Magneto}}'s new MouthOfSauron Exodus explains to Fabian Cortez that the sole reason why he doesn't "hurl you into oblivion like the insignificant flea you are" is because Magneto himself has decreed that Cortez live for the purposes of this trope, knowing that being stripped of his power and authority over the Acolytes -- being reduced to a "victim of someone else's legacy" as Exodus calls it -- is a far more painful punishment for the ambitious Cortez than death alone could ever be.
* In the 2010 ''ComicBook/{{Wolverine}} -- Mr. X'' one-shot, [[TheFightingNarcissist the]] [[AxCrazy titular]] [[CombatClairvoyance villain]], having lost once before to the titular hero, trains obsessively for months to prepare himself to counter Wolverine's berserker rage, then lures Wolverine into a fight. But Wolverine refuses to let him trigger his rage and ultimately refuses to fight him at all, realizing that leaving Mr. X forever wondering WhoWouldWin will cause him more torment than simply defeating him.
** A particularly nasty example is Wolverine's treatment of Matsu'o Tsurayaba, the {{Yakuza}} boss who killed Wolverine's lover Mariko. Every year on the anniversary of her death, Wolverine fought his way past Tsurayaba's defences, took a piece of his body, and left him alive. This was taken to the point of Wolverine actively stopping Tsurayaba from killing himself or anyone else from killing him, because Wolvie wanted him to suffer as long as he did. By the time we find out about this, Tsurayaba is missing a hand, an arm, a leg, half his face, and his body is covered with scars and medical implants.
** Wolverine isn't a stranger to this sort of treatment himself: during Creator/ChrisClaremont's run, his ArchEnemy Sabretooth had his "yearly tradition": every year, on the day that Wolverine believed to be his birthday, Sabretooth would track Wolverine down, regardless of where he was or what he was doing, beat him to within an inch of his life... and then walk away, just so that Wolverine knew that Sabretooth could kill him whenever he wished.
** In a story published in ‘’X-Men Unlimited ‘’(1st series) #40, 2003, Sabretooth did the same to a man [[HuntingTheMostDangerousGame who was hunting him]]. The hunter was treating Sabretooth like any other beast he hunted, and it was working. Sabretooth turned tables when he refrained his instincts and animalistic tendencies and started to act like a human, using his brain to outsmart the hunter. The hunter, then, thought he would be killed by Sabretooth… what didn’t happen. Sabretooth, instead, took the hunter’s clothes, weapons and technology, leaving him alone and naked in the woods, telling the guy that all he needed to do to survive was [[{{Irony}} behave as an animal]].
* In ''ComicBook/AmericanVampire'', infamous outlaw-turned-vampire Skinner Sweet attends the book signing of a writer who was there back when Sweet was turned, and has since made a fortune from his one novel, a fictionalized account of the outlaw's story. Sweet exits the event, leaving behind a note saying "You are old and I am young for eternity. So I let you live to suffer and die. Why not? What better revenge is there than that?"
* In a flashback in ''ComicBook/{{Planetary}}''#7, Jack Carter happens to run into an {{Invisible}} man, who explains that he's "this year's Herod", a PunchClockVillain sent by the government to kill a pregnant local prostitute just in case she's carrying the second coming. Disgusted, Carter does a seemingly ineffectual spell and walks away. When the Herod goes to continue his mission, he finds he's been trapped on that street corner in an invisible forcefield only a few feet in diameter. For the rest of his life.
* [[PlayingWithATrope Played with]] at the end of the ''ComicBook/YoungJustice'' comic book; [[spoiler:when Secret turns back to the light side,]] {{ComicBook/Darkseid}} takes "revenge" [[spoiler:by restoring her to life as an ordinary mortal]]. Though he considers this cruel mercy, in reality it's exactly what she wanted.
* Towards the end of ''ComicBook/NikolaiDante'', [[spoiler:Arkady/Dmitri]] has both Jena and Nikolai kidnapped, and says he'll stop torturing Nikolai to death if Jena marries him.
* ''ComicBook/TheSandman''.
** The first time Morpheus goes to {{Hell}}, he escapes by pointing out that "What terrors would Hell hold if those entombed within could not dream of {{Heaven}}?" This gets kicked up a notch when Hell is taken over by a pair of angels after Lucifer abandons his position. The two decide that horrible things will still happen, but for the purpose of reform instead of punishment. This makes everything so much worse, because it implies a false hope that the torment of the damned might someday ''end''. Key word being "false." (The damned, for their part, are astonished that the angels achieved this.)
* New Republic commander [[ActionGirl Mirith Sinn]] is captured and tortured to learn the location of an enemy of the Empire. She holds out until the BigBad orders an orbital bombardment on her men's secret fallback position. She dejectedly gives him the information he wants...and he orders that the bombardment continue until every last rebel is dead. But he keeps one part of his deal... he lets her go.
* During the events of "Dead End Kids", the ComicBook/{{Runaways}} become stuck in UsefulNotes/NewYorkCity in 1907, where they encounter past versions of Gertrude Yorke's parents. When the Yorkes discover that their daughter is dead, they launch a plan to nuke the city to kill the Runaways. It fails, and the Runaways' leader, Nico Minoru, decides to punish them by casting a spell that forces them to go back and live out the rest of their lives knowing that they and Gertrude will all die, and they can't do or say anything to stop it.
-->'''Nico''': They'll go back where they came from. And they'll know. What happens to Gert, what happens to them, they'll know every second it's coming. They won't be able to change anything they do. Or say anything. Not even to each other. For all the world, their short, useless lives will play out exactly like they did before. But inside... ''they'll never stop screaming.''
* In one of the ''ComicBook/MarvelStarWars'' stories, the ''Millennium Falcon'' accidentally breaks through a NegativeSpaceWedgie to find a PocketDimension where a group of [[IconOfRebellion former Rebels]] have [[IWillFightNoMoreForever isolated themselves]] from the rest of the Universe. When a group of Imperial Destroyers follows the ''Falcon'', they [[AlwaysChaoticEvil attack and ultimately destroy]] this refuge, but doing so [[HonorBeforeReason eats up all their reserves]], leaving them defenseless to the ''Falcon'''s [[NoRangeLikePointBlankRange guns]] and unable to cross the border again. The crew of the ''Falcon'' decides against destroying the Destroyer, opting to "leave them here, rotting away as a tribute."
* In the ''[[ComicBook/ThePunisher Punisher]]'' Franken-Castle arc, Frank spares the life of overzealous monster hunter Robert Hellsgaard. Hellsgaard thanks him for his mercy, which prompts Frank to smirk, "Yeah, right. ''Mercy''," as he leaves him behind, alive but forever trapped in the burning demonplanes of limbo.
* In ''[[ComicBook/MyLittlePonyFiendshipIsMagic My Little Pony: Fiendship Is Magic #1]]'', Sombra ultimately chooses not enslave or harm Radiant Hope in any way as he still had feelings for her after he embraces his inner darkness. Though this ultimately leads to his defeat, Sombra's final act of making the Crystal Empire disappear for 1,000 years is a form of suffering specifically meant for Hope as she is forced to spend the rest of her life as the sole surviving Crystal Pony and isolated from everything she had ever known.
* In the final arc of ''Comicbook/WarMachine'' Vol. 2, Rhodey and his friends hatch a complex plan that ultimately results in a group of extremely dangerous [[WhiteCollarCrime White Collar Criminals]] suffering a collective FateWorseThanDeath. When ComicBook/NormanOsborn asks Rhodey why he was spared, Rhodey says that he studied Osborn's psychological profile extensively, and came to the conclusion that leaving him unharmed, but with the knowledge that Rhodey and his friends were too smart for him, would be far worse than any other punishment they could dole out. Osborn laughs this claim off as ridiculous, but as soon as Rhodey leaves, he falls to his knees in anguish, indicating that Rhodey's assertion was 100 percent accurate.
* In ''ComicBook/KickAss'', [[spoiler:Vic Gigante, the big DirtyCop of the series, is the only major villain to survive the trilogy, but not before Mindy brutally maims him with a GroinAttack which also cripples him waist-down, intending to let him live and force him to become a StoolPidgeon to his fellow {{Corrupt Cop}}s. The last time Dave heard of him in the ending is that the whole experience caused him to lose quite a lot of weight when he was brought to court to testify]].
* Franchise/GreenLantern: Red Lantern Bleez intended to inflict this on one of the men responsible for selling her into slavery. She wanted him to live the rest of his life in fear of her, but her leader Atrositus killed the man on the spot, saying that her method wasn't how the Red Lanterns worked.
* ''ComicBook/LuckyLuke'': "The Bounty Hunter" ends with the titular bounty hunter, having brought in a small army to capture a wanted Indian (who wasn't even guilty in the first place), be let off by Luke. Luke then claims the reward for the Indian and puts it on the bounty hunter's head instead to let him experience being hunted down.
* ComicBook/{{Diabolik}} usually murders those who have earned his wrath, but sometimes his revenge consists in him making them know he could kill them anytime and leaving after telling them that one day, when he'll be bored enough, he'll come back to kill them, making them live in terror as they wait for him to come back and destroy themselves in the process. Apparently, he ''never'' comes back.
** Done more horrifically to Elisabeth Gay, that he drove to insanity ''because'' he knew she considered it a FateWorseThanDeath. When she recovered and tried to take her own revenge for that and [[WomanScorned choosing Eva over her]], he let her leave [[SubvertedTrope not because of this]] but [[MyGodWhatHaveIDone he had realized he had gone overboard]] and couldn't bring himself to hunt her down.
** {{Subverted}} in "Diabolik's Treasure": it ''seems'' he's planning to do this to most members of the group that [[spoiler:stole his favoured treasures]], but in the end his revenge is limited to enjoy their fear as they escape the country as not only this was their own revenge for when Diabolik unwittingly ruined their own lives as part of his capers (and that's something he can respect) but [[spoiler: he's actually ''grateful'' for them exposing one of his weaknesses and starting a chain of events that destroyed it]].
* ''Atar Gull'' is the son of an African chieftain who is MadeASlave in Jamaica. He begins working his way up the ladder, gaining the trust of his masters, the Wil family (who are considered among the kindest on the island, even by the escaped slaves, for such humane treatments as only applying half the beatings prescribed by the law), and using it to slowly ruin them, poisoning their cattle and slaves (including his own son) and murdering their daughter by putting a snake in her bed. When Wil is completely broken (his wife having committed suicide), Atar refuses his freedom, claiming that he'll stay with the master in France and take care of him, earning nothing but praise and admiration from the locals for his devotion. Once Wil suffers a stroke that leaves him unable to move or talk, Atar drops the mask and gloatingly confesses everything, including his intention to keep Wil alive as long as possible, as revenge for his treatment and Wil having hanged Atar's father. When Wil dies, Atar breaks down entirely.
* ''ComicBook/{{Purgatori}}'': After Lucifer takes away her powers and sends her to Earth to suffer never-ending hunger, Purgatori repays him by leaving Lucifer to fend for himself in the pit of hell after he just lost most of his own power due to Cremator's demon-destroying blade.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''[[Fanfic/TheLifeAndTimesOfAWinningPony The Lunar Rebellion]]'':
** In the aftermath of the Pegasopolan rebellion, everyone is eager to see how Celestia will choose to deal with the defeated rebel forces. Her allies are initially furiously outraged when she announces that she will not have the rebel clan leaders executed for their crimes, and the rebels themselves can scarcely believe how light they are getting off... until she reveals that she intends to completely and totally disband the clans, essentially striking their very cultural identity from Equestrian history. The intensely traditionalist clans seem to consider this a FateWorseThanDeath.
** On a more individual level, this is why Sunbeam Sparkle chooses to prevent [[spoiler:Dusk Charger]]'s execution, although he had betrayed the Solars, let [[spoiler:the Avatar into Canterlot]] and kidnapped Sunbeam's daughter to deliver her to warlocks, crimes that other characters note fully warrant execution. As far as she's concerned, having to watch the clans be systematically dismantled and the culture he had built his life around destroyed, all the while living with the knowledge that his actions led to this happening, is a far worse fate than any death or torture she could devise. [[spoiler:Dusk]] himself agrees.
* In ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5363164/1/The_Noble_Nine_A_Kill_BillEsque_Tale_of_Revenge The Noble Nine,]] A Film/KillBill[=Esque=] Tale of Revenge'', [[VideoGame/ChronoTrigger Crono's]] only goal in life [[BloodKnight is to die a noble death in battle]]... so [[VideoGame/{{Metroid}} Samus]], playing the role of the Bride in this story, spares him. [[spoiler:The other seven members of the Nine are all dead by the end of the story - all by Samus's hand, except for Franchise/{{Sonic|TheHedgehog}}, who denies her the satisfaction of his death by killing himself in front of her.]]
* Some fan fiction views [[AllLovingHero Aang's]] [[ThouShaltNotKill mercy]] on [[BigBad Ozai]] from the ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' GrandFinale as this. "[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4414322/1/Cruelty The Avatar calls this mercy]]." Considering Ozai planned to burn a ''continent'' to the ground to secure his rule, on top of a lifetime of other atrocities, his Cruel Mercy may be [[KickTheSonOfABitch very well-deserved]].
* In the fanfic ''The Girl Who Lived'', Rose Potter takes the ''Harry Potter'' example mentioned further down and ramps up the 'cruel' factor by about a thousand percent. Harry persuades Sirius and Lupin to spare Pettigrew because he doesn't think James would want them to become murderers (and to help prove Sirius's innocence). Rose, on the other hand, describes in rather ghoulish detail how much worse than death life in Azkaban will be for him, and ''this isn't even the creepiest thing she does''.
* In the ''Deep Space Nine'' fanfic ''The First Tile,'' a bereaved Trill father whose daughter's death was ordered by the planetary government hopes the monarch has a ''long'' life in prison.
--> ''"I'm glad he will spend the rest of his life in a prison, eating meager food, surrounded by cold walls, performing the same kind of labor many Unjoined spend their entire working lives doing. I don't want him to get out. I want him to spend the rest of his life remembering what he did to our world, and when he dies, I hope that even the wind forsakes him. I say that as a father, in the name of every other parent who will, or *has* faced the same truth."''
* In ''Fanfic/FrigidWindsAndBurningHearts'', Princess Luna realizes that killing [[SmugSnake Captain Braveheart]] will just confirm in everyone else's eyes that she's a monster. So instead, she spares his life, and [[spoiler:teleports him to his commander, telling him to have fun explaining his actions to his superior]]. Braveheart [[PrecisionFStrike is not too happy]] upon hearing her plans. [[spoiler:Unfortunately, this backfires, as he just tracks them down ''again'' and ambushes Twilight.]]
* [[http://www.fanfiction.net/u/485015/Mr_Evil Mr. Evil's]] OriginalCharacter Fredi Heat sees this method as worse than just killing them. Despite having no qualms about brutally killing someone that looks at him wrong (did I mention he is a "good guy"), he always sees it more cruel to take someone in alive rather than dead. As he quotes "'Alive' just means you can still breath on your own".
* The courts decided not to prosecute [[ComicStrip/ForBetterOrForWorse John Patterson]] for letting his wife Elly go insane and then attacking her in ''FanFic/TheNewRetcons'' because his reputation was already shot and it'd just be a waste of the court's time. John, having a SelfServingMemory, thinks he beat the system. [[spoiler: He does eventually see their point when Christmas rolls around and he's all alone.]]
* ''FanFic/ABriefHistoryOfEquestria'': After Hurricane's coup against [[TheCaligula Commander Sullamander]], the latter's remaining loyalists tried to stage a counter-revolt and were effortlessly crushed. When Hurricane realized that his own ([[AbusiveParents unloving and unloved]]) mother Star Saber was the leader of the revolt, he spared her -- not out of familial obligation, but because he wanted her to live with her utter failure.
* ''FanFic/TheFallOfTheFireEmpire'':
** After [[spoiler:Yue/Tui]] destroys Yuan's fleet, she lets him live to wallow in his failure and insignificance. [[spoiler:Unfortunately for him, Shiyan is much less merciful.]]
** And at the end of the story, [[spoiler:Jiazin's first act as Fire Lord is to force [[EvilChancellor Qing Xi]] into retirement as punishment for collaborating with the majority of Azula's crimes.]]
* [[spoiler:Grey Hoof]] suffers this in the ''Fanfic/WakingNightmares'' chapter "A Blank Story, part 2". (''VideoGame/StoryOfTheBlanks'' is considered canon.) [[spoiler:After he's shown to have learned nothing from his punishment by transferring the curse to everypony in Ponyville just to save himself, Celestia decides he needs a more severe punishment... trapping him in the ruins of Sunnytown, alone, under a spell that makes him imperceptible to others (and causes them to avoid the area). The spell also keeps his mind calm and sane, as falling into madness would be a merciful escape, and Celestia won't allow even that.]]
* In ''Fanfic/ThePrayerWarriors'', during The Evil Gods, Part 2, after Jason kills the [[CriticalResearchFailure Roman god]] {{Creator/Socrates}}, [[Literature/PercyJackson Thalia]] comes to him with one of Socrates' captured followers. The follower begs Jason to kill her, but he tells her he will not, [[{{Hypocrite}} because murder is a sin]], and says she will become his slave and has Thalia take her away to be punished. This may also apply to a Communist {{Mook}} in ''Threat of Satanic Commonism'', whom Jerry spares after cutting off his arms and legs and blinding him, so that he can suffer from his wounds and have the possibility of converting and going to Heaven.
* Sometimes Naruto/Naruichi's mercy in ''[[http://fanfics.me/read2.php?id=91953&chapter=1 The Darkest Light]]'' are this. While one man he begged to be spared for the sake of his son, the next he begged to be spared because "If he dies, he won't be able to teach the lesson." Said man was beaten to unconsciousness then forced to work for free for a month while wearing a sign that makes people ask questions, thus causing him to explain that he's only alive due to his victim's pleas. Then again, the first man Naruichi wanted spared since he attacked Naruichi thinking he was harming his boss. The second gave a fake coin to Naruichi (who is blind), which is considered a horrible crime.
* ''FanFic/{{Hivefled}}'': Darkleer fell in love with the Disciple and let her go, hoping she could rebuild her life. She didn't want to, and tracked him down with the intention of killing him for not letting her join her dead lover.
* When Sasuke defects in ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9920512/12/Reaching-for-a-Dream Reaching for a Dream]]'', Naruto lets him leave, just to rub in that Sasuke was no match for him. [[spoiler:Subverted however when Naruto's words drive Sasuke to attack him in a rage, causing Naruto to kill him.]]
--> '''Naruto''': "You're old enough to be making your own decisions, so if you want to shack up with a weirdo like Orochimaru, that's fine with me, just make sure you can live with the consequences."
--> '''Sasuke''': "Wait, you mean you're just letting me go?"
--> '''Naruto''': "We both know that you're not even close to being strong enough to get away from me unless I let you. So run away little boy, run away and escape the only way you can. Because I ''let'' you."
* In ''FanFic/SwingingPendulum'' Central 46 decides to permanently imprison Ichigo in isolation and darkness instead of executing him with the rest of the Visoreds as an acknowledgement for killing Aizen. A very horrible punishment for a guy known for his loyalty to his TrueCompanions. Shinji lampshades it:
--> '''Shinji''': What kinda fucked up acknowledgement is that?! Death is better, ya thrice-damned Shinigami!
* In ''[[FanFic/IcedFairysANewWorld A New World]]'', Lunarians have invaded Gensokyo ''en masse'' to avenge a centuries-old murder, and in pursuit of that revenge, have used Earth's own nuclear weapons to nearly exterminate mankind. Even so, Tenshi isn't overtly concerned until after a brutal battle, her OnlyFriend Suika is slain by a Lunarian warrior. An embittered Tenshi asks the Lunarian WasItReallyWorthIt. The answer (no) and the response (a suicide attempt) so infuriate Tenshi, she invokes Heaven's Mercy on said warrior, condemning her to an unending life of self-sacrifice and absolute piety until the wounds the Lunarians have inflicted upon Earth heal. The broken woman can barely whisper how much worse her punishment is than Hell's Justice.
* In ''FanFic/VengeanceOfTheStar'', Twilight is forced to watch as her adopted son Spike is killed infront of her by assassins. In retaliation she captures them and during their trial, after stripping them of their wings and horns, ''kills their families in front of them'' before stripping them of their magic and banishing them from Equestria.
--> ''Twilight:'' "You three are hereby banished from Equestria, should he ever return, my guards will send you back in worse condition than before." She stated before leaning down and glaring into their eyes. “Now you will know the pain I will have to suffer for the rest of my life, the pain of knowing that your actions have cost you your family, the pain of knowing that you will die alone, with your entire bloodline hated by all of Equestria. The pain of knowing that your entire legacy is now tainted. All. because. of. you."
* In ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10784770/1/Harry-Potter-Geth Harry Potter: Geth]]'', a Quarian admiral who attacked Tali and was (along with the other admirals) telling the Migrant Fleet BlatantLies about the Geth and life on Rannoch is sentenced to house arrest on Rannoch for the rest of her life. Specifically, she has to live there without receiving the nanites that would let her leave her suit and her apartment has a window that takes up an entire wall to let her see the Geth and Quarians living together in peace.
* ''Fanfic/TheSecondTry'': Ritsuko claims that she [[spoiler:saved Gendo's life]] because being in a coma is a fate worse than death to him, though it's not clear whether she's being sincere.
-->"Though you still would have died if Ritsuko hadn't found and helped you. At first she always said she didn't even know why she had done it. Later she changed it to 'Having to live in this condition is a bigger punishment for him than death'."
* ''Fanfic/BloodAndHonor'': When Sanguis realizes that killing Jedi isn't as satisfying as she hoped it'd be, she turns to this instead, bringing out the darkness lurking in the hearts of several of her opponents and then leaving them to face the truth about themselves.
* In tjhe ''Series/{{Supernatural}}''[=/=]''Series/{{Arrow}}'' crossover fanfic ''[[http://archiveofourown.org/works/1053817/chapters/2793109 God Is Cruel]]'', after Oliver's actions lead to Laurel being stabbed by Slade, her husband Dean furiously tells Oliver he'll kill him if she dies. Later, as Dean prepares to take her off life-support, he tells Roy he's actually going to make sure Oliver lives, and gives to a ToThePain-esque speech about why that's actually worse. Roy is left genuinely terrified by it.
-->'''Dean:''' God is cruel, Roy, and so am I. You tell him he's going to live a long, healthy life. Death is too easy. Death would be wasted on him. You tell him he's going to wake up every single day with her blood on his hands. You tell him he's going to live with Tommy and Laurel and everyone else he's killed whispering in his ear every night. I'm not gonna waste a bullet on Oliver Queen, Roy. I'm gonna make sure he lives.''(leans in closer)''. Laurel is going to die tonight, and he's gonna have to live with himself for a long time. And trust me, that's worse than death.
* In ''[[Fanfic/TwiceUponAnAge All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird]]'', this is the [[VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition Lord Inquisitor]]'s logic in deferring to the Lady Inquisitor when judging [[spoiler:Blackwall]]. "Toria will ''forgive'' him. And... that forgiveness will be harder to accept than any condemnation."

[[folder:Film -- Animated]]
* ''Disney/TheLionKing'': Simba corners Scar at his mercy and after a climactic fight scene, eventually sends him off the edge of Pride Rock, where Scar is now at the cruel mercy of his hyena henchmen, [[DisneyVillainDeath who finish the job on their traitorous leader.]]
* ''Disney/TheHunchbackOfNotreDame'': Quasimodo poises Frollo's dagger above him. Frollo begs for his life, but Quasimodo nails him with his speech that Frollo has lied to him all his life about the world being dark and cruel.
-->'''Frollo''': Now, now! L-L-Listen to me, Quasimodo!\\
'''Quasimodo''': NO, YOU LISTEN! All my life you've told me the world is a dark, cruel place! But now I see that the only thing dark and cruel about it is people like ''YOU!''
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Barnyard}}'': Otis prepares to punch Dag like his dad did, but instead orders him to NEVER return, before hitting him with a golf club and Dag soars out into the distance while howling in pain.
* ''WesternAnimation/OpenSeason'': Shaw prepares to shoot Boog when [[TakingTheBullet Elliot leaps in front and the bullet hits him instead.]] This makes Boog enraged and he pins Shaw to the ground and roars fiercely in his face, before tying him up with his own gun. [[spoiler: Elliot's fine; the bullet only shot off his remaining antler.]]
* Usually, the objective of a DuelToTheDeath (whether it's a WizardsDuel or otherwise) is to kill your foe. However, in ''Disney/TheSwordInTheStone'', Merlin wins the duel with Madame Mim by giving her a rare but non-lethal disease, mocking her by saying she'll be as good (or rather, as bad) as ever in a few weeks after plenty of rest, fresh air, and sunlight. (and Mim ''really'' hates sunlight.)


[[folder:Film -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/KillBill'':
** The Bride does this to Elle Driver at the end of their fight in ''Kill Bill Volume 2'' after she snatches out her remaining eye and crushes it underfoot, leaving her stuck in the narrow-halled trailer with a poisonous snake while she's thrashing about in a literal and figurative blind panic -- all in the middle of the desert. She was toast.
** She also "spares" Sofie Fatale after chopping off her other arm (the first was lost when fighting O-Ren) during her interrogation and hurling her down a hill, just so that she can deliver a message to Bill, and makes a point that she could do a lot more than just take her arm if Sofie doesn't cooperate.
* ''Film/ThePrincessBride'': Westley threatens Prince Humperdink with a duel ToThePain, which involves leaving the loser alive but severely disfigured, "wallowing in freakish misery forever."
* In ''Film/{{Serenity}}'', Captain Mal spares the Operative's life so he can show him a message which proves that [[spoiler:an Alliance experiment killed almost everyone on the planet Miranda and created the Reavers out of the remainder]], crushing the Operative's dream of the Alliance creating a "[[{{Utopia}} perfect world]]".
--> '''Mal''': "I ain't gonna kill you. Hell, I'm going to grant your greatest wish -- [[ForcedToWatch I'm going to show you]] [[ApocalypticLog a world]] [[GoneHorriblyRight without sin.]]"
* ''Film/ThreeHundred'': "You there. Ephialtes. May you live forever." To the Spartans, not achieving a "beautiful death", which meant dying in battle, was a horrifying prospect; those who died of old age didn't even get gravestones.
* In ''Film/TheKarateKidPartII'', Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that he let John Kreese live (after inducing Kreese to break both of his hands, delivering an IronicEcho of Kreese's own words, and embarrassing him with a nose grab) because for a man as twisted as him, living is a worse punishment than dying. [[spoiler:Daniel does the same to Chozen at the end of Part II, but this was more a case of teaching someone who should know better.]] Kreese doesn't take the humiliation well. The plot of Part III revolves around his plan of revenge.
* In the recent Burton adaptation of ''[[Film/AliceInWonderland2010 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland]]'', the White Queen, due to her vows not to harm any living creature, [[spoiler:condemns her sister to spend eternity wandering the borders of Underland chained to her right-hand man, the one person she loves. Being shunned wouldn't have been so unbearable, since she thought he loved her too... until he tried to kill her, and later begs to be killed to get away from her.]] The only response from the White Queen is a faint smirk and the reply "But I don't owe you a kindness.". BewareTheNiceOnes indeed...
* Invoked and then subverted in Creator/JohnFord's ''Film/MyDarlingClementine''. After the O.K. Corral gunfight, Wyatt Earp tells Old Man Clanton (whose sons have just been killed in the fight, and who had earlier killed Earp's brother James) that he's not going to kill him: "I hope you'll live a hundred years, so you'll feel just a little of what my pa's gonna feel." Then he tells him to get on his horse and get out of town. As Clanton is departing, however, he suddenly turns to shoot Wyatt, and Wyatt's brother Morgan shoots and kills him.
* In ''Film/{{Shenandoah}}'', Creator/JimmyStewart's character confronts the young Confederate soldier who's just shot and killed one of his sons after mistaking him for a Union soldier, telling him he hopes he lives a long life and has many children so that he can come to feel about them the way that Stewart does. "And then, when a man comes along and kills one of them..." he starts, before he's overcome with emotion and walks away.
* ''Film/LittleBigMan'' has a scene where General Custer spares Jack Crabb's life, after Crabb attempts to kill him in his tent but loses his nerve at the last second. Crabb states in narration that this is the worst thing Custer could have done to him.
* Near the end of ''Film/TheDeparted'', Costigan finally captures Sullivan, TheMole inside the police force. Sullivan begins trying to threaten and intimidate Costigan, then begins [[VillainousBreakdown breaking down into tears]] and pleading with Costigan to "Just kill me". Costigan refuses, saying "I ''am'' killing you", meaning that he's intent on bringing Sullivan up on charges, thus ruining his life and forcing him to live through and experience everything that will result from that. Immediately afterwards, [[spoiler:Costigan is killed, and a couple scenes later, after getting away with everything, Sullivan receives a rather painless death.]]
* ''Film/HardToKill'':
** The ending features Creator/StevenSeagal's attempt at this trope. After roughing up the villain ''anyway'', he tells him "Death is far too merciful a fate for you. So what I'm going to do is put you in prison. A nice petite white boy like you in a federal penitentiary... now let me just put it this way: [[PrisonRape I don't think you'll be able to remain anal-retentive for very long]]."
** He does much the same thing to the BigBad of ''Film/FireDownBelow'', disabling his enemy with one shot instead of killing him, for much the same reasons as the above flick. No one ever accused Steven Seagal movies of an abundance of originality.
* ''Film/{{Ricochet}}'' has this exchange:
-->'''Styles:''' Why don't you just kill me?
-->'''Blake:''' [[AffablyEvil Oh, I don't wanna kill you. I wanna kill your life!]]
* In ''Film/TrainingDay'', Ethan Hawke's character leaves Denzel Washington's character alive after their final confrontation. It might seem merciful, but Denzel owes a very large debt to TheMafiya, and Ethan took the money he was going to use to pay them off. [[spoiler: He doesn't last long.]]
* A lenient example -- sort of -- happens in ''Film/TheGoodTheBadAndTheUgly''. At first it seems like Blondie is going to ride away and leave Tuco to hang himself when he eventually falls as retribution for double-crossing him. At the last minute, however, he turns, and fires his rifle, severing the rope, saying "Just like old times." Tuco is alive and has his share of the gold, but with no horse and in the middle of the desert, getting back to civilization won't be easy. (Of course, he did manage it when Blondie abandoned him at the ''beginning'' of the movie.)
* In ''Film/{{Bent}}'', Max convinces the guards in the concentration camp to let him and Horst have a better, safer job than the other people. Taking rocks from one side of the room, and putting them in a neat pile on the other side of the room. They then have to repeat this task over and over, all day, every day. Eventually they both start going insane from this psychological torture, and start dreaming about piling rocks even in their sleep.
* The ending of the original ''Film/CapeFear'' (the remake has Cady suffer a KarmicDeath instead):
-->'''Bowden''': "No! That would be letting you off too easy, too fast. Your words -- do you remember? Well, I do. No, we're going to take good care of you. We're going to nurse you back to health. And you're strong, Cady; you're going to live a long life... in a cage! That's where you belong, and that's where you're going -- and this time for life! Bang your head against the walls. Count the years... the months... the hours... until the day you rot!"
* At the beginning of ''Film/HocusPocus'', Winnifred Sanderson punishes Thackery by transforming him into an immortal housecat.
-->'''Winnie''': His punishment will not be to die...but to live forever with his guilt.
* In the end of ''Film/EverAfter'', Danielle saves her stepmother and stepsister from transportation to America, and almost certain death. When the queen asks her what shall be done with them instead, she simply asks "That you show them the same kindness that she showed me." That kindness would be de facto slavery.
* In the biopic film ''Film/{{Elizabeth}}'', the eponymous queen has Walsingham expose the Catholic plots to assassinate her, culminating in her ex-lover Lord Robert Dudley being exposed as one of the conspirators after she previously rejected him. He knows he is destined for execution as a traitor to the crown and begs for it, but Elizabeth decides: "I rather think to let you live; to remind me of how close I came to being weak."
* ''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'' gives us this little gem:
-->'''Khan''': I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you, and I wish to go on... hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, left her, marooned for all eternity at the center of a dead planet, buried alive, buried alive...
-->'''Kirk''': [[SayMyName KHAAAAAAN! KHAAAN!]]
-->[[spoiler: Of course Kirk is only acting at this point; he already knows they will shortly be rescued]]
* In ''Film/HighlanderEndgame'', Jacob Kell's goal is to make Connor [=MacLeod=]'s life a living hell, killing all those close to him and keeping Connor alive until they are the last two Immortals left.
* ''Film/StarTrekIIITheSearchForSpock'': For Klingons, getting captured alive is probably the worst humiliation you can visit upon them. The one remaining crew member of the Klingon ship gets the Enterprise crew to promise to kill him instead of keeping him captive. Later, Kirk orders them to lock him up. When the Klingon shouts, "But you said you would kill me!", Kirk responds: "ILied".
* In ''Film/TheDarkKnightRises'':
--> '''Bruce Wayne''': Why didn't you just... kill me?
--> '''Bane''': You don't fear death. You welcome it. Your punishment must be more severe.
--> '''Bruce Wayne''': Torture?
--> '''Bane''': Yes. But not of your body. Of your soul.
--> '''Bruce Wayne''': Where am I?
--> '''Bane''': Home, where I learned the truth about despair, as will you. There's a reason why this prison is the worst hell on Earth: hope. Every man who has ventured here over the centuries has looked up to the light and imagined climbing to freedom. So easy. So simple. And like shipwrecked men turning to sea water from uncontrollable thirst, many have died trying. I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope. So, as I terrorize Gotham, I will feed its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe that they can survive so that you can watch them clambering over each other to stay in the sun. You can watch me torture a city. And then when you have truly understood the depth of your failure, we will fulfill Ra's al Ghul's destiny. We will destroy Gotham, and then, when it is done and Gotham is ashes... then you have my permission to die.
* In ''Film/TheHobbitTheDesolationOfSmaug'', Smaug briefly considers letting Thorin have the Arkenstone just to watch it drive him mad with greed, and later refrains from killing Bilbo just to make him [[WatchingTroyBurn watch Laketown and the people who helped him burn]].
* In ''Film/TheDuellists'', d'Hubert wins the final duel with Feraud with one bullet remaining. By the rule of combat, Feraud's life now belongs to d'Hubert, and he forces Feraud to finally submit to his notions of honor instead. Feraud is to leave d'Hubert alone forever and live out his life knowing that his archrival defeated him.
* ''Film/EndOfDays''. After Satan successfully acquires the girl whom he needs to sire his child and dispatches Jericho, he leaves him alive and crucifies him to a building solely so he can lament his failure and personally witness TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt.
* In ''Film/{{Se7en}}'', the killer has already proven himself to be a monumentally depraved piece of work with the sheer methodical cruelty of his various killings. When he corners Detective Mills during a downtown chase in the rain, he leaves him alive in what appears to be a random moment of mercy. [[spoiler:It turns out that he had already been stalking the Detectives who were pursuing him for some time. He had far greater plans for Mills in mind, decapitating his wife Tracy out of Envy and making him the final piece in his murder set by letting Mills kill him out of Wrath.]]
* Played with and then Subverted in ''Film/HardCandy''. [[spoiler: Hayley seems to do this when she makes it clear to the pedophile Jeff that just killing him would be too easy, and her ultimate plan is to castrate him so he can never have sex again. She fakes the surgery very well and leaves Jeff mentally defeated. But the whole thing was a trick to further mentally torture Jeff until he finally gives up and Hayley talks him into killing himself.]]
* In ''Film/TheHiddenFortress'', after being defeated in duel, Hyoe demands to be killed by Rokurota but the latter decides to spare his life, much to Hyoe's dislike
* In ''Film/ThorTheDarkWorld'', Loki's sentence is this. While [[spoiler: life in prison would normally be a merciful sentence considering what he's done, consider that for someone who lives as long as Loki, that might mean spending four thousand years in solitary confinement. Odin spared Loki's life because [[MamaBear Frigga]] asked him to, but he did it in the cruelest way possible for both of them, actually making it part of Loki's sentence that they could never see each other again. That's not only a cruel punishment for Loki, it is one for Frigga as well, especially since, unlike her son, she did nothing to deserve it.]]
* In ''Film/{{Maleficent}}'', at the last second of cursing Princess Aurora, Maleficent responds to King Stefan's begging for mercy with a CurseEscapeClause: the eternal sleep can be broken by TrueLovesKiss. [[spoiler:Which Maleficent firmly believes does not exist.]]
* In ''Film/{{Cinderella 2015}}'', Ella forgiving Tremaine definitely counts as this, as it means that all of Tremaine's efforts to [[BreakTheCutie break]] Ella have failed.
* In ''Film/TheBeastOfWar'', a Soviet soldier convinces the Afghan rebels to spare the crew of the tank that massacred their village, then tells the tank commander why:
-->'''Koverchenko:''' Sorry, sir. Not much of a war. No Stalingrad. How is it that we're the Nazis this time? How is that? I tried to be a good soldier. But you can't be a good soldier in a rotten war, sir. I want you to live to see them win.
* In ''Film/BatmanVSupermanDawnOfJustice'', Franchise/{{Batman}} brands certain criminals with a Bat symbol, letting other inmates know they're responsible for particulary vicious crimes, such as the human trafficker at the beginning of the film. These branded criminals are then often murdered in prison by the other inmates (although the inmate who murders the aforementioned human trafficker is paid to do so by Lex Luthor). At the end of the film, it looks like he's about to brand Comicbook/LexLuthor as well, but instead arranges for him to be transferred to [[BedlamHouse Arkham Asylum]].
* In the third movie, Film/{{Harry Potter|and the Prisoner of Azkaban}} convinced his godfather Sirius not to kill the bastard who had framed Sirius for betraying Harry's parents and condemned him to a decade of horrible imprisonment, so they could instead lock him in the same nightmarish prison Sirius had been locked in, where foul, joy-draining demons would slowly drive him into madness and death. Naturally, it backfired.
* In ''Film/IShotJesseJames'', [[spoiler: Frank James]] has Robert Ford at gunpoint. However, he decides to spare Bob, but not before telling him that [[spoiler: his LoveInterest Cynthy is leaving him for his rival John Kelley]]. [[TraumaCongaLine Given everything he's been through]], Bob [[GoMadFromTheRevelation doesn't take this news well]].
* ''Film/OnceUponATimeInAmerica''. [[spoiler:Noodles discovers that his best friend Max faked his death, and arranged Noodles' imprisonment and the death of their friends. Now Max is facing his own lengthy prison sentence, he invites Noodles to take his revenge by killing him. Noodles pretends not to recognise him, stating that the Max he knew [[ThatManIsDead was a good friend who died long ago]]. Max says that's a better way than any of getting revenge, and kills himself by throwing himself into a garbage compactor truck.]]

* In the backstory of ''Literature/DragonBones'', Oreg is an immortal slave who CannotSelfTerminate, so provoking his owner, the only one who ''can'' kill him, into doing it, is his only means of committing suicide. An attempt to do so failed, his owner decided to have him beaten to what would usually be death by someone ''else'', thus keeping him alive.
* [[spoiler:Anastasia Furan]] does this to [[spoiler:Laura]] in the seventh installment of the ''Literature/HIVESeries'' by [[spoiler:making her a student of the Glasshouse instead of killing her. She showed Laura the setup of an execution of Otto, Wing, Shelby, and Franz, and then led her away letting her believe the death of her friends was her fault. Laura was thrown in with the rest of the Alphas, who blamed her for their predicament. In addition, Laura was very physically weak, and at a distinct disadvantage in the Glasshouse's rigorous training.]]
* In the end of Thomas Sniegoski's ''Literature/TheFallen'' series, the [[TheChosenOne hero]], Aaron, [[WhatKindOfLamePowerIsHeartAnyway forgives]] [[OurAngelsAreDifferent Verchiel]], causing him to go back to heaven. Since [[KnightTemplar Verchiel]] has spent the last few millenia [[NiceJobBreakingItHerod systematically wiping out various angelic offspring]], allowing eldritch abominations to thrive on Earth by ignoring his job, and [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking generally being a douche]], the welcoming reception is NOT pretty.
* A Battle Sister in the ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' novel ''The Bleeding Chalice'' refers to the villainous version of this trope: Chaos troops sparing Imperial soldiers because they'll suffer more that way, after she was spared by the "traitor" Sarpedon (who was actually sparing her because he was a good guy at heart(s) and admired her determination).
** In Trooper Caffran's DayInTheLimelight in ''[[Literature/GauntsGhosts Ghostmaker]]'', his squad encounters and defeats a Khornate Chaos cult, which worships death. As a reward, he gets to execute the cult leader personally -- but refuses, saying that since the cultist longs for death, keeping him alive is the real way to punish him. Gaunt agrees.
** One of the short stories in ''Fear the Alien'' anthology book has a Dark Eldar Archon sparing the life of a woman who answered his question, despite her begging to die since her husband was killed. Unusually for [[{{AlwaysChaoticEvil}} Dark Eldar]], though, the Archon was not being intentionally cruel: he spared her life so that she may savour her agony, which the Dark Eldar (being beings who literally feed on pain and misery) [[{{BlueAndOrangeMorality}} would consider a good thing]].
** ''[[Literature/CiaphasCain The Traitor's Hand]]'' wraps up with Cain deciding to pull a few strings to get Commissar Beije out of a probable death sentence, not because he likes Beije (he doesn't) but because he knows Beije will hate having to live with the knowledge that he's alive thanks to Cain.
* Frodo in ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' does this to Saruman. Or so Saruman alleges.
* At the end of ''[[Literature/RealmOfTheElderlings Fool's Fate]]'', the [[spoiler:Pale Woman]]'s prophecies have all been thwarted and her power destroyed. She screams at Fitz to kill her, saying that her visions told her this would happen if she failed. Fitz responds that they are not in her vision of the future, but his, and that she dies slowly, alone. [[spoiler:She does.]]
* This is advocated in Literature/TheBible. "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." -- Proverbs 25:21-22
* ''Literature/VorkosiganSaga'':
** In ''Literature/TheMountainsOfMourning'' novella, Miles Vorkosigan had to judge an old woman for the killing of her "mutant" granddaughter (who only had a harelip, actually). The woman was upholding cruel traditions she'd grown up with, but executing her (per the law) would not serve any purpose other than to make people cling more tightly to the backwards traditions rather than less. Instead, Miles declared her legally dead and forbade anyone from performing traditional funerary rites for her. In her mind, and in the minds of those who would have agreed with her killing her granddaughter, this effectively destroyed her ''soul''. It also made her legally dependent on her daughter, the mother of the child she had murdered.
** In ''Literature/{{Memory}}'', Miles's boss/mentor Illyan's biochip was sabotaged [[spoiler:by one of Illyan's subordinates and friends,]] which nearly drove him insane to the point where he begged for a clean death. After they ferret out the culprit, Miles wonders if the man will commit suicide now that he's been caught, and asks Illyan if he would want to [[LeaveBehindAPistol allow that]].
--->'''Illyan:''' Dying's easy. Living's hard. Let the son of a bitch stand his court-martial. Every last eternal minute of it.
* In ''Literature/LesMiserables'', Valjean frees InspectorJavert, the man who hunted him for nearly 20 years of his life, when the latter is captured and sure to be executed by LaResistance for spying on them. Valjean doesn't mean it to be cruel, but for Javert, it's the cruelest thing he could have done: it breaks his brain that he should owe his life to Valjean, whom he thought of only as a criminal and fugitive. The Cognitive Dissonance [[DrivenToSuicide drives him to suicide]]. See the entry under Theatre.
* Done in ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' to Visser One (formerly Visser Three): when he's finally captured, he's made to give up his prized Andalite host body, put on trial for his many, MANY crimes, and forced to live out the rest of his life in his natural Yeerk state (i.e. blind and helpless), imprisoned, in complete isolation, and with no chance at ever getting another host body.
** Also done to David. Rather than kill him, they trapped him as a rat and left him alone on an island.
* Attempted by Lysa Arryn in ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire''. When her prisoner, Tyrion Lannister, wins his TrialByCombat, Lysa is forced to release him... so she orders him to be escorted to the Kingsroad, where he will be at the mercy of bandits.
** Sansa Stark convinces Joffrey to spare Ser Dontos by appealing to his sense of cruelty, telling him it would be far harsher to make him a fool than to have him killed. [[spoiler:It kind of comes back to haunt her later.]]
** Arya Stark refuses to grant Sandor Clegane a MercyKill when he's wounded and feverish, instead riding off and leaving him to die. It's implied, however, that despite Sandor's atrocities, she is reluctant to kill him, after all they've endured together.
* In ''Day Watch'' (the second book of the ''Literature/NightWatch'' series), a group of Dark Others is convicted of a serious crime and given the option between two fates: execution by hanging (as opposed to the more severe [[FateWorseThanDeath dematerialisation]]) or being allowed to live in return for never using their powers again and living a normal human lifespan. When they choose the latter option, Gesar (head of the Light One delegation) is asked if he has any opinion, and he reluctantly recommends that their sentence be commuted to permission to perform extremely minor magic, which is granted. One of the Day Watch witnesses notes that, in the long term, this is even crueler than being killed or having no magic at all, as using incredibly weak spells will act as a constant reminder of the power they truly have but can never use.
* In ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'', Rand, who [[WouldntHitAGirl cannot bring himself to have a woman executed]], decides that [[spoiler:Lady Colavaere, who usurped the throne of Cairhien and murdered opponents]], is to be sent to the smallest farm she possesses, and to live off it. [[spoiler:She hangs herself]].
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** In ''Discworld/WyrdSisters'', Granny Weatherwax attempts this by showing the villain her True Self. Subverted because it doesn't work: Lady Felmet is proud of her strength and cruelty. While she's busy boasting about it, [[TalkToTheFist Nanny Ogg clubs her with a cauldron.]]
** Featured a lot in the witch books, actually. In ''Discworld/WitchesAbroad'', Lady Lilith locking the witches in a dungeon instead of having them executed is described as this.
** The Elf Queen ''tries'' this on Granny Weatherwax in ''Discworld/LordsAndLadies'', describing how she'll drive Granny insane, reduced to looking through scraps while remaining aware of how the villagers see her. Too bad Granny already knows what the villagers think of her, and doesn't care.
** In ''Discworld/{{Maskerade}}'', a band of muggers [[MuggingTheMonster threaten Granny Weatherwax]], only to injure themselves in an encounter with the Ankh-Morpork Opera House's famous Phantom. Granny decides to take pity on them by stitching up their self-inflicted wounds... with a blunt needle.
** Witch philosophy as a whole runs like this: if you kill your foe, your foe is dead and that's that. If you ''beat'' your foe, but let them live, then your foe is beat and knows they've been beat, and they'll know it for the rest of their life, and there's no point in beating a foe if they won't be around to know they've been beat afterward.
** MagnificentBastard Vetinari knows usurping rulers like to employ this trope and plans for it. "Never build a dungeon you wouldn't be happy to spend the night in yourself." Said dungeon has locks and bolts on the ''inside'' of the door, a secret stash of food, keys, and other things. Also, room service (intelligent magically-mutated rats).
* In ''[[Literature/PreludeToDune Dune: House Harkonnen]]'', Duke Leto invokes this trope on a man who was involved with the death of Leto's son (and is very remorseful about it, to the point that he is considering suicide):
--> '''Leto:''' I sentence you... to ''live''.
* In the Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse, when Boba Fett escapes from the sarlacc's stomach, he considers killing it, but leaves. The sarlacc asks him why, and he says that leaving it alone in the desert, immobile and depending on creatures falling into its mouth every few years for food, will be a more fitting revenge.
* ''Literature/IHaveNoMouthAndIMustScream'' is very, very much about this: The antagonist is an insane, sentient supercomputer who has brutally murdered the entire population of Earth, save for five people he keeps indefinitely alive inside his own systems and tortures for his own amusement. [[spoiler:And when four of these five people find a way out, the supercomputer punishes the remaining survivor [[AndIMustScream by making him incapable of suicide and altering his perception of time]].]] The computer game adaptation expands on the supercomputer's motivations, by explaining that in becoming sentient, he was driven mad by only being able to use his vast intellect to kill others.
* After Mr. Wickham runs off with Lydia in ''Literature/PrideAndPrejudiceAndZombies'', Mr. Darcy tracks them down and bribes Wickham into marrying Lydia and going into the priesthood on the condition that Darcy gets to beat the crap out of Wickham. The punishment is threefold: Wickham is trapped for life with the most annoying person in the entire P&P&Z universe, he has to give up gambling and seducing women, and he can't run away from any of this because he can't move under his own power. Considering that the Bennett family probably would have just killed him, this punishment is somewhat more fitting.
* In one of the ''Literature/HorribleHistories'' books, Terry Deary writes an account of Lambert Simnel, a peasant boy who was chosen to be the figurehead of a rebellion against Henry VII because he resembled the Earl of Warwick. Henry crushed the rebellion and made Simnel one of his servants in a display of PragmaticVillainy. In Deary's account, Simnel is left shellshocked by watching the rebels being slaughtered, and writes: 'Cruel Henry had the real Earl of Warwick put to death, but cruellest of all, he sentenced me to live'.
* Used in one of the ''Literature/JohnCarterOfMars'' books. A minor bad guy has just been caught rigging a duel to put John Carter at a disadvantage, and the jeddak orders said bad guy to duel Carter. Carter simply carves an X in the guy's face, then disarms him and declares that he's satisfied because living with that scar is a FateWorseThanDeath.
* Literature/TheScarletPimpernel deliberately invokes this in the sequel ''Sir Percy Hits Back'' when he tells his ArchEnemy Chauvelin that he finally has his chance for revenge. Chauvelin [[EvilCannotComprehendGood naturally assumes]] that the hero intends to let Chauvelin's daughter be executed, but finds out at the end that Sir Percy's "way of hitting back" is to save his daughter and spare his life. No! Anything but that!
* In Roger Zelazny's ''Literature/ForeverAfter'', Gar Quithnick uses a nerve strike on a deposed villain that will kill him the instant he holds himself superior to another person, although he can still live a long life of humility.
* God in Creator/StephenKing's ''Literature/{{Desperation}}''.
-->"You said 'God is cruel' the way a person who's lived his whole life on Tahiti might say 'Snow is cold.' You knew, but you didn't understand. Do you know how cruel your God can be, David? How fantastically cruel? Sometimes he makes us live."
* [[spoiler:Lanre]] in ''Literature/TheNameOfTheWind'' lets [[spoiler:Selitos]] live after destroying all they hold dear.
** [[spoiler:Kvothe himself]] does this to the leader of a group of thieves and rapists [[spoiler:pretending to be Edema Ruh]]. The rest of them he simply kills, but he wounds the leader fatally in the stomach and leaves him alone to die by inches, leaving behind a water skin only so that dying of thirst won't end his pain before the wound kills him.
* ''Literature/HonorHarrington'': When pragmatic politics requires that she can't simply have them offed, or even tried, Queen Elizabeth III of Manticore forces the two conspirators most responsible for her father's death into exile on newly-annexed and quite primitive Basilisk, away from their political power bases, and allows the third to move to Sphinx and perhaps find a treecat to adopt her. Being empathic, every treecat will know she's a traitor.
* ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'':
** If you've pissed off Harry Dresden and he ''doesn't'' kill you, it's because he's making sure you ''really'' suffer. On one occasion, a man possessed by a Fallen Angel "agreed" to repent before Knights of the Cross -- since technically, getting such repentance is their job, it gave him immunity from them, but not from Harry. This comes back to bite him later.
** Mab keeps giving Harry the option of giving her disgraced Winter Knight a MercyKill. Harry says he doesn't deserve it. [[spoiler:Harry does eventually kill him but he's only doing it because he needs to claim the Mantle of the Winter Knight. He refuses to consider it mercy.]]
* Wizards in the ''Literature/SwordOfTruth'' like doing this. Zoranders and Rahls are especially well-known for it.
* Implied in Mary Shelly's ''Literature/{{Frankenstein}}.'' After Frankenstein's death, [[spoiler:the monster himself]] explains how letting the monster live would have been a more satisfying revenge than killing it outright, since forcing it to live alone and in guilt of its crimes would be torturous.
* In the final ''Literature/MythosAcademy'' book by Jennifer Estep, Gwen is fighting her nemesis, Vivien, who murdered Gwen's mother and many others. She uses her {{psychometry}} magic to [[spoiler:shove every bit of suffering she'd experienced in her own life or through others' memories into Vivien's head until her mind broke. When last seen, Vivien is curled up in a ball mumbling and begging for it to stop. It's implied that her condition is permanent; rather than kill her, the good guys stick her in prison to live out the remainder of her days.]]
* In the third book of the ''Literature/InheritanceCycle'', Eragon does this to old blind Sloan by cursing him to wander in the land of the elves and never visit his beloved daughter again unless he becomes a better man. By the end of the series, Sloan hasn't changed enough to break the curse, but Eragon at least restores his eyes so Sloan can watch his daughter and granddaughter from afar.
* In Creator/SharonKayPenman's first novel, ''Literature/TheSunneInSplendour,'' Edward of York has [[YouKilledMyFather every good reason in the world]] to execute the defeated Marguerite d'Anjou, but refrains. She asks him the ArmorPiercingQuestion: "Even if it were a mercy?" His response: ''Especially if it were a mercy."
* ''[[Literature/TheAscendantKingdomsSaga Ice Forged]]'' by Creator/GailZMartin. Because Blaine had a damn good reason for killing his father (in addition to raping his own daughter Mari, he had beaten Blaine and his brother Carr for years), one of King Merrill's advisers convinces him to commute what should be a beheading offense to transportation to a PenalColony in the far north. It's not much of an improvement: despite Merrill sending the prison warden a note saying he is explicitly forbidden from killing Blaine, it's only Blaine's own determination and badassery that let him survive. {{Downplayed}} in that Merrill is genuinely being merciful here, but can't simply pardon Blaine for publicly killing a nobleman.
* ''Literature/TheSagaOfRagnarLodbrok'': When Aslaug leaves Aki and Grima, the couple that murdered her foster-father, she forgoes taking revenge on them, because they also raised her; but she predicts that their lives will be unhappy and will only go downhill from there.
-->''"[...] I will not do you any harm--but I now pronounce that each day will be worse for you than those that have passed, and your last day will be the worst."''
* Deconstructed in ''Literature/VillainsByNecessity'', through the actions of its chief HeroAntagonist Mizzamir, who could best be described as a LawfulGood EvilOverlord.
** Mizzamir detests killing, which he views as barbaric and wrong, preferring more "enlightened" methods of dealing with criminals. Unfortunately, these involve [[TakenForGranite turning them to stone]] and [[BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood stripping them of all their free will.]] Even though Mizzamir is doing his best to adhere to the ThouShaltNotKill trope, the story does display that the action isn't really that much better and only technically counts as "merciful." The FiveBadBand [[VillainProtagonist who make up the book's leads]] (and who include among them an unapologetic assassin) openly admit they'd ''prefer'' being killed to what Mizzamir would do to them.
** [[spoiler: The book's backstory reveals that brainwashing people and robbing them of their free will was a recent act for Mizzamir, and his previous actions were even worse. When his compatriot Sir Pryse's brother was turned to the dark side, Pryse begged Mizzamir for mercy and not to kill him. Mizzamir's "mercy" was to turn Pryse's brother into a horse. This really turned out to bite him in the ass, as Pryse realized just what a horrible person Mizzamir was below the surface and joined the forces of darkness to dethrone him.]]
* The ending to R.S. Belcher's ''Nightwise'' features this in the final showdown between Laytham Ballard and Dusan Slorzack: after a grueling WizardsDuel, Slorzack realizes that with his supply lines shut down, there'll be no more deliveries of food and water to his home in the [[PocketDimension Greenway]]; worse still, thanks to his previous DealWithTheDevil, he can't leave the Greenway to stock up on supplies without Satan claiming his soul, and due to its nature as an impenetrable sanctuary that even the Devil can't touch, Slorzack can't affect the world outside the Greenway. So, caught between dying of starvation and suffering for all eternity in Hell, he decides to let Laytham kill him, even delivering an impressive speech in an attempt to FaceDeathWithDignity... only for Laytham to shoot him in the leg and leave him to it.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/TheTwilightZone1959'':
** In one episode, a hypochondriac sells his soul to the devil for immortality. He starts thrill-seeking, but his wife dies trying to stop him from jumping off a building. He's convicted of murder and tells his lawyer to get him sentenced to the electric chair, but his lawyer manages to talk the judge down to [[WhoWantsToLiveForever life in prison instead]].
** Combined with a FacingTheBulletsOneLiner in "The Obsolete Man". "Yes! In the name of God I WILL let you out!"
** A robber wakes up in an afterlife -- and quickly realizes that, through his companion, can wish for absolutely anything, ever... and gets bored after a while... [[spoiler:and realizes he's in Hell.]]
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The end of the episode "The Family of Blood": [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUXNtKmpOwU&feature=related/ "We wanted to live forever.]] [[BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor So the Doctor made sure that we did."]] In fact, an earlier warning that he may be forced to kill the family is revealed to actually have been an offer of kindness in comparison (though what he had ''really'' been pushing for up to that point was to help the whole family find a planet they can live on peacefully without harming any intelligent creatures).
** In a later episode, "I forgive you" was almost certainly as devastating to its target, but the Doctor probably didn't mean it to be. But then, what could possibly be more devastating to ''the Master'' than being at someone's mercy, i.e., being under another's mastery? So much so that when Lucy shoots him, he REFUSES to regenerate, despite having spent the entire classic series descending to progressively lower depths just to keep himself alive.
** Also, in "A Good Man Goes To War", he shows his cruel mercy by making the man who plotted to kill him instead get known as "Colonel Runaway."
-->'''The Doctor''': No. Colonel Manton, I want you to tell your men "run away."
-->'''Colonel Manton''': What?
-->'''The Doctor''': Those words. "Run away." I want you to be famous for those exact words. I want people to call you Colonel Runaway. '''(getting angrier)''' I want children laughing outside your door, 'cause they've found the house of Colonel Runaway. And when people come to you and ask if trying to get to me through the people I '''''love!''''' '''(he composes himself)'''... is in any way a good idea, I want you to tell them your name. Look, I'm angry, that's new. I'm not really sure what's going to happen now.
-->'''Madame Kovarian''': The anger of a good man is not a problem. Good men have too many rules.
-->'''The Doctor''': Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.
-->'''Madame Kovarian''': Give the order. Give the order, Colonel Runaway.
** The fate of Strax is a case of this. The Doctor sentenced him to become a nurse. Problem being, Strax is a Sontaran, a fanatic cloned warrior race who consider dying on the battlefield the ultimate act of honor (to the extent that they only have three fingers, since that's all that's necessary to hold a weapon and pull the trigger.) To not only deny him the ability to die on the field of battle, but be forced to prevent others, often his enemies, from dying of the field of battle, is Cruel Mercy bordering on IronicHell. This is, however, mostly glanced over, and Strax has taken to his new duties surprisingly well.
** The War Doctor had every intention of dying with the Gallifreyans and Daleks when he activated the Moment, a sentient superweapon, as he believed he didn't deserve to live. The Moment understood just how much this trope would hurt him.
-->'''The Moment:''' Then that's your punishment. If you do this, if you kill them all, then that's the consequence. You. Live.
* A ''Series/LawAndOrder'' episode ended with the wife of a man who blew up a helicopter (killing all six passengers, including his wife's alleged paramour) begging the court to not use the death penalty. When it was revealed that the wife was the {{Chessmaster}} who set the whole thing in motion by faking the affair, the attorneys asked why she begged for mercy for her husband. The answer: she wanted him to live a long life knowing he was powerless and trapped.
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'':
** In season 3, Angel's newborn son Connor is kidnapped by his old enemy Holtz, kicking off a series of events that result in Holtz taking Connor to Quor'toth, a hell dimension referred to as "the darkest of the dark worlds." Lilah and Wolfram & Hart were present during the incident, planning to capture Connor for research purposes, but seeing Angel overcome with grief at the loss of Connor, Lilah is perfectly content to just let Angel suffer and drives off.
** Fred attempted this when she found out exactly who sent her to Pylea, and opened a portal to a far worse hell dimension. However, Gunn couldn't bear to see her do that to somebody else, so he ran up and broke the man's neck before he could get sucked in.
** Angel himself spent many years as a soulless vampire committing countless atrocities including killing everyone in his village including his own sister. After torturing and killing the favorite daughter of a tribe of Kalderash Gypsies, [[GypsyCurse they curse him]] by restoring his human soul, thus afflicting him with a conscience and condemning him to an eternity of remorse for the crimes he has committed.
** Later, Connor locked Angel in a steel coffin and dropped him in the sea, knowing that he would not die, but starve and [[GoMadFromTheIsolation go mad]].
* D'Hoffryn pulls one of these on Anya in an episode of ''Series/{{Buffy|The Vampire Slayer}}''. Overwhelmed with guilt over slaughtering a fraternity for a vengeance wish, Anya begs D'Hoffryn to undo it. He tells her the price is the life of a vengeance demon; to atone for her actions, she is all too happy to accept death. He then [[spoiler: summons Anya's friend Halfrek and kills her instead.]]
-->'''D'Hoffryn''': Haven't I taught you anything, Anya? Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain.
* ''Series/{{Highlander}}'':
** In the episode "The Colonel", during a flashback set in World War I, Immortal Simon Killian ignores an order that the war has ended and orders his men to attack, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of many soldiers on both sides. At his trial, he is initially convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad, but Duncan testifies that Killian was insane at the time and didn't deserve execution. Killian is sentenced to life in prison, spending 70 years locked up.
** In another episode, the crew of a ship mutinies against their uncaring captain, an Immortal. Duncan convinces the crew to leave him on a deserted island, rather than shoot him. When the captain pleaded with Duncan not to leave him there, Duncan told him he brought it on himself and to be thankful he still had his head attached. The Immortal captain spent over 100 years on that island, dying of hunger and thirst every few days, only to revive.
* ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries'':
** Captain Kirk and company at one point find themselves trapped with the infamous Harry Mudd, an AffablyEvil fraudster. The Enterprise crew works together with the villain to escape the android-run prison that they are trapped in, but in the end Kirk decides to leave Mudd behind. Mudd is left to enjoy a life of luxury, but is also left with at least 500 androids-- ''all'' of which have been programmed to mimic his overbearing, nagging wife (and ignore his override commands!).
** Forcing Cyrano Jones to pick up every single tribble on K-7 (a task estimated by Spock to take 17.9 ''years''), instead of arresting him for trial, is a form of Cruel Mercy on Kirk's part. Especially when you consider there's nothing to stop the tribbles breeding...
*** Kirk had told him that the sentence he would have received for the crime would have been 20 years, so he considered it a better option. Still, the problem with them continuing to breed was a concern that no-one mentioned.
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'':
** "The Wire." Garak mysteriously collapses, leading Bashir on a quest to the Cardassion Union to meet the one man capable of saving Garak's life, Enabran Tain. The problem is that Tain is the man who exiled Garak from Cardassia and now hates his former protege with a passion. When he quickly offers Bashir all the information Bashir needs to save Garak's life, Bashir is surprised and thankful. Tain chastises Bashir's gratitude telling him -- to Bashir's growing horror -- that he's not doing Garak a favour by saving his life. He wants Garak to live a very long life in exile, surrounded by people who hate him for being a Cardassian and knowing he will never, ever be able to return to his beloved homeland again.
** "Sons of Mogh." Cultural differences resulted in Cruel Mercy to Worf's brother Kurn. With their family dishonored in the eyes of the Empire, Kurn seeks Worf out to give him his honor back... by killing Kurn in a specific ritual. When Dax puts the pieces together (the identity of the Klingon that recently arrived; Worf's belligerence toward Quark over acquiring a specific type of Klingon incense), she arrives just after Worf has struck with the ritual blade, but is in time to have Kurn transported to the infirmary and save him. Denied the restoration of his honor (especially since Sisko threatened Worf not to try it again), Kurn suffers a FateWorseThanDeath for a Klingon, and slips into a deeper depression, turning suicidal... until Worf decides to provide him with a new identity, and have Kurn's memory wiped, so that he can start his life as a Klingon anew.
** In one episode, O'Brien meets an alien who is specifically bred for HuntingTheMostDangerousGame by a ProudWarriorRace. The prey ultimately gets captured by the hunters in a shameful way, so they give him a FateWorseThanDeath by sentencing him to go back to their homeworld alive and caged, the ultimate humiliation. O'Brien rescues him and allows the hunt to continue, to the joy of both prey and hunters.
** In the episode Broken Link Odo is judged for killing a member of his species and as punishment he is stripped of his shape shifting abilities and turned into a humanoid. One of his fellow changelings sadly comments that it would've been kinder to simply kill him.
* In the ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' episode "Too Short A Season", a now-aged admiral returns to negotiate with a hostage-taker he had previously betrayed years ago--the terrorist wanted weapons, but the admiral gave them to both him and his enemies to preserve the balance. The admiral is taking illegal drugs that make him de-age, but eventually cause incredible pain and death. When they finally meet, the terrorist initially wants to kill the admiral with one of his own smuggled weapons for poetic justice, but then decides a better revenge is to leave him to live in the pain caused by his drugs.
** In the ''TNG'' episode "The Survivors", the [[EnergyBeings Dowd]] Kevin Uxbridge invoked this on himself. After an attack by the Husnock resulted in the death of his beloved human wife, Kevin used his powers to kill every Husnock in the galaxy with a single thought. Out of guilt, Kevin exiled himself on the colony world with only a replica of his wife to keep him company and remind him of his crime. Captain Picard notes that his crime is beyond the human scale to judge, but Picard notes in his ending log that if he sees it as fitting, then he should be left alone.
* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'':
** In the second season, Hiro [[spoiler: [[BuriedAlive buries Adam Monroe alive]] after his plan to wipe out humanity with a virus is thwarted. What makes it worse is that due to Adam's healing ability, [[AndIMustScream he would be trapped, unconscious but fully healthy, in that coffin forever]].]] BewareTheNiceOnes indeed.
** In the fifth season, [[spoiler:Peter and Hiro don't kill Samuel Sullivan. They reveal his crimes to his fellow super carnies and teleport them away, taking away Samuel's surrogate family and powers in one stroke. Samuel has a VillainousBreakdown as he stumbles around the empty carnival, alone and powerless.]]
* ''Series/TheShield'':
** Midway through the final season, popular supporting cast character Ronnie Gardocki gives a speech about how killing turncoat murderer Shane Vendrell would be too merciful and would be more content with him rotting in jail for the rest of his life. The irony fairy strikes Ronnie at the end of the series as he is arrested and facing possibly spending the rest of his life in jail. A nasty bit of subversion, given that Ronnie survived countless injuries that would have killed lesser mauve/red-shirt characters over the course of the series, let alone him being the only subordinate of Vic Mackey's to survive the end of the series alive.
** Vic Mackey's final fate as well could be described as "cruel mercy"; made to face the fact that he turned his protégé into a man who murdered his pregnant wife and young son, forced to watch his most loyal friend arrested (with his betrayal of Ronnie shoved into both men's faces for added "fuck-you"-ness), and then ordered out of the police precinct, now knowing that every one of his sins are now public knowledge amongst the rank and file police officers who used to look to Vic as the precinct's resident Alpha Male. Vic Mackey was given immunity for his numerous and varied crimes, and got a nice cushy contract working for ICE to boot. However, Agent Murray, in her capacity as Mackey's LiteralGenie, tells him that he's not going to be out on the street busting skulls like he used to; he's going to be sitting at his desk, with its sterile surroundings and bad lighting, doing ''paperwork'' for his entire tenure. Noncompliance means dissolution of his immunity agreement, and off he'll go to prison. And once said tenure is over, he'll be kicked out and never be allowed to work in law enforcement again. Some familiar with Mackey's character would see this as his own personal hell. This is open to interpretation, however, as the last scene of the series is Vic strapping on his pistol and heading out into the night, suggesting that he will somehow find a way to continue being who and what he is.
* In ''Series/RobinHood'', Robin spares Gisborne's life after he has [[spoiler:killed Marian, the woman they both loved, and Robin's wife]]. Gisborne begs Robin to end his life; instead Robin spares him and forces him to live with his guilt (though by the next episode Guy is terrorising the village of Locksley and ends up killing the [[ReplacementScrappy new regular's]] kid brother, so letting him live probably wasn't such a good idea after all). They do end up reconciling by the end of season 2, especially after finding out that [[spoiler:they share a half-brother (by Robin's father and Gisborne's mother), only for both to be killed in the GrandFinale]].
* Played with in ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' episode "Shindig" when Mal is informed that not killing a beaten foe in an honor duel indelibly stains their honor, as they've been marked as NotWorthKilling. Mal considers this as Atherton is lying on the ground.
-->'''Mal''': I bet. It would be humiliating, having to lie there while the better man refuses to spill your blood. Mercy is the mark of a great man. [stab] Guess I'm just a good man. [stab] Well, I'm alright. [throws down his sword and walks away from his more-wounded-than-necessary opponent]
* ''Series/BlakesSeven''
** Towards the end of Season 2, Blake calmly refuses to kill his nemesis Travis, now a crippled fugitive. Considering what happens in the season finale, this turns out to be a pretty major head against wall moment, something both Jenna ''and'' Travis point out in the scene itself.
** In "Orbit", a MadScientist invents a superweapon and wants to [[WeCanRuleTogether join with Servalan to rule the galaxy]]. When the weapon is destroyed, Servalan (who's had no problem killing those who've failed her in the past) decides that leaving him alive will be a better punishment, knowing [[EmperorScientist what he might have been]]. As it turns out, he's killed right after she leaves by an abused underling.
* A villainous example is seen in the ''Series/{{Merlin 1998}}'' TV miniseries. [[spoiler: After he turns against her, Mab removes Frik's powers, but doesn't kill him, instead leaving him to wander the world in his misery, not a magical being but not quite human either. Luckily for him, he turns out to be quite happy as a human.]]
* There's a particularly vicious example in La Reina del Sur where Teresa, a drug trafficker in Spain, captures and tortures one of her many enemies, a French heroin trafficker who also uses the drug to keep women high and under his control in his brothel. She has him savagely beat with a bat to the point where his spinal cord is damaged beyond repair, yet she leaves him alive so that he can "drag himself at the feet of others like the animal that he is," as Teresa stated (she had major issues against someone using drugs to force women into prostitution). He is killed in the following episode for telling the cops about it, though.
* ''Series/{{Farscape}}'':
** At the end of Season 2, [[spoiler: John is strapped to an operating table to remove the neural chip Scorpius had implanted in his brain. Partway through, Scorpius comes in, incapacitates the doctor, takes the chip, and... lets John live, strapped to the table and unable to speak.]] It's especially fitting given what drives Scorpius.
--->Scorpius: [[spoiler: I condemn you John Crichton... to live. So that your thirst for unfulfilled revenge will consume you! Goodbye.]]
** In the Season 4 episode "Mental as Anything" [[spoiler: Macton (the man who killed D'Argo's wife) attempts to break D'Argo's mind by trapping him in a mental recreation of his cell on Moya. Luckily, D'Argo prevails and ends up breaking Macton instead by trapping him in a mental recreation of his worst memory - disfiguring his sister's corpse to make it look like D'Argo killed her. When asked why he didn't kill Macton, D'Argo can only say he wasn't enlightened enough to give the man a MercyKill.]]
* ''Series/TrueBlood''. Eric wanted to leave Russell in the sun to burn, until he had a vision of Godric and decided to spare Russell. By burying him in concrete the following night. Naturally, his vision of Godric does not approve. [[spoiler:It also backfires, as a vampire zealot ends up freeing Russell in an attempt to overthrow the Authority. Eventually, though, Eric finally has his vengeance and stakes Russell]].
* Used quite often on ''Series/BurnNotice''. Though some of his opponents do get killed as a result of Michael Weston's machinations, just as often they are left alive, in the burning wreckage of their lives, holding the match as the police sirens close in.
** Special mention has to go to the episode where [[SixthRanger Agent Pierce]] learned that the man who killed her fiance years ago has become a CIA asset due to his status as a KnowledgeBroker, and because he keeps turning over his information piece by piece, the CIA has been forced to allow him to continue living like a king. She makes the man think he's about to die from a rare and lethal virus, so the man calls his son so the son can take all the information the father was using and continue to live large off of it. When that happens the team she has following the son takes him and the information into custody, meaning that now both the man and the son have officially [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness outlived their usefulness]]. Everything is then summed up in the following quote.
--->There is no virus. We have the information you murdered Gene for. We have your son. And we have you. I'm not killing you, Ahmad, but believe me, your life is over.
* Hotch explicitly cites this idea on ''Series/CriminalMinds'' when he explains to Haley why he doesn't think that Foyet will make an explicit attempt on his life.
* The perp in the ''Series/{{CSI}}'' episode "Living Legend" turns out to be Mickey Dunn, a legendary mob boss thought dead for decades going on a RoaringRampageOfRevenge on the people who tried to kill him. The reason why he waited this long is revealed when he goes into cardiac arrest: the bullet in his chest moved and he was told that he only had a week to live. When he wakes up, he brags about how this will go public and his legend will be revived only for Catherine to show him the bullet: the hospital doctors (much more competent than "mob doctors") removed the bullet with no problems, and estimate Dunn now has about 20 years to live, all of which he will spend in a prison filled with a generation of criminals who don't know who he is and eventually fade to obscurity.
* On ''Series/{{Luther}}'', the title character gives this to [[spoiler:Ian Reed]], refusing to kill him and insisting he is punished for his crimes despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that he's transparently trying to commit SuicideByCop. [[spoiler:He's very unhappy when Alice Morgan then decides just to kill him anyway.]]
* Parodied in ''Series/{{Blackadder}} Goes Forth''. Blackadder and Baldrick crash behind German lines and are captured during World War I. The Red Baron tells them that rather than have them shot, they're going to be sent to a convent to teach home economics to girls. "For a man of action such as yourself, the humiliation will be unbearable!" The punishment doesn't seem like such a bad thing to Blackadder.
* ''Series/BreakingBad''
** Gus Fring does this to Hector Salamanca, keeping him alive and visiting him every time he kills someone related to Salamanca. Made worse by the fact that Salamanca can only move his finger. [[spoiler:This backfires spectacularly when Hector, with Walt's help, manages to kill Gus via suicide bomb.]]
** Near the end of the series, [[spoiler:before the neo-Nazis kill Jesse, Todd argues to keep him alive so they can continue making meth. Walt, who originally called in the neo-Nazis to kill Jesse, agrees, thus forcing Jesse into a life of slavery and telling him that he watched Jane die just to break his spirit.]]
* ''Series/HoratioHornblower'': Horatio attempted this on Simpson, after being given a free shot at him when he cheated in their duel. After hearing Simpson beg for his life, Horatio spares him, declaring that he's not worth the gunpowder. [[spoiler: Ultimately subverted in that Captain Pellew disagreed, and also didn't take kindly to Simpson trying to backstab Horatio after that declaration.]]
* In ''Series/OnceUponATime'', Snow White is in a major HeroicBSOD and shows signs of being a DeathSeeker. She goes to Regina and asks her to end the feud (and her misery) and just kill her. Regina is at first happy to oblige, but then notices a dark spot in Snow's heart. Regina gleefully explains that that spot will grow, and darkness and evil will consume her. It will destroy her and her family. So Regina decides to let Snow live, despite her now begging for death, knowing that this will be her revenge.
* In ''Series/SpartacusBloodAndSand'' both the Romans and the rebels get in on this. It backfires ''every single time.''
* ''Series/{{Defiance}}'': In "The Serpent's Egg", Irisa lets Daigo live despite him being responsible for the abuse she suffered as a child, because being forced to live a normal life is far greater a punishment than any torture or execution she could give him.
* In the episode of ''Series/AreYouAfraidOfTheDark'' called "The Tale of Cutter's Treasure," a boy’s little brother is kidnapped by the ghost of Jonas Cutter, a pirate captain cursed by the boys’ grandfather to guard a cave filled with treasure but never be able use it. He rescues his brother, and defeats Cutter in battle with a magic dagger, but he quickly realizes that using the dagger on Cutter would put his his soul to rest. Rather than allow Cutter to be free from his curse he breaks the dagger and abandons him in the cave,leaving him trapped guarding his treasure, alone forever.
* In the ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode "Threads", it seems like Anubis will [[YouHaveFailedMe execute his minion Ba'al]] for betraying him and failing to defend Dakara from the System Lord's enemies. Even Ba'al thought Anubis' plan to [[OmnicidalManiac wipe out all life in the galaxy at once]] was a ''tad'' overkill, if only out of self-preservation. However, Anubis lets Ba'al live solely so he can witness the coming end of all life, himself included, knowing that his work on the Stargate network made it possible.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** Sandor Clegane {{Mercy Kill}}s a farmer slowly dying of a gut wound while Arya Stark looks on. After he's severely injured with a broken leg miles from aid, he begs Arya to kill him as she's been threatening to do since Sandor cut down her friend Mycah on the orders of his sadistic master Prince Joffrey back in Season One. Instead Arya robs him and walks off leaving Sandor to die slowly, an act that comes across as [[TroublingUnchildlikeBehavior much more cold-blooded]] [[Literature/AStormOfSwords than in the novel]].
** Littlefinger seems to see being spared by Brandon Stark like this when he says "In the end, she wouldn't even let him kill me," in "You Win or You Die".
* ''Series/MurdochMysteries'': In "Midnight Train to Kingston", Murdoch and Dr. Ogden are among those on the train taking James Gillies to be hanged. At one point, they're discussing the situation, and Julia speculates that it might be better for Gillies to rot in prison instead, suggesting that a life sentence would be "crueler".
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' In season 10, it's revealed that in 2003, Dean (presumably) killed a young boy's father. In 2014 he finally finds Dean, who has been turned into a demon, and is beaten horribly by him. Sam later tells Dean that even though he is now a demon, he still let the man go. Dean tells him that that was the worst thing he could have done, as the man had [[YouKilledMyFather trained his entire life for the moment when he would finally gain vengeance on Dean]], and instead, Dean "whipped his ass."
* ''Series/{{Power Rangers Super Megaforce}}'': In the episode "Vrak is Back, Part 1", the returned villain Vrak shows the Megaforce Rangers cruel mercy not once, but twice. At the end of their first battle, he tells the Rangers he wants them to suffer in the humiliation of their defeat. At the end of their second battle, he once AGAIN says he won't destroy the Rangers, instead leaving them alive so they are [[ForcedtoWatch Forced to Watch]] his Drills destroy the Earth.
* ''Series/TheOriginals'': After Tyler tries to get his revenge on Klaus, Klaus lets him live after realizing Tyler ''wanted'' to die.
* ''Series/The100'': When Clarke is given the chance to kill Emerson for [[spoiler:his role in killing 42 Sky People]] but instead she decides to banish him and force him to live with the knowledge that he'll never get revenge for [[spoiler:his son and his people's death]]. This comes back to bite her in the ass when he returns to kill all her friends personally. Having learned her lesson, she just kills him.
* In the ''Series/LegendsOfTomorrow'' episode [[Recap/LegendsOfTomorrowS2E5Compromised "Compromised"]], Sara, who's been trying to kill Damian Darhk all season, decides to spare his life -- before [[BreakThemByTalking telling him of his own future]], where the grand plan he's been preparing for all his [[ReallySevenHundredYearsOld long life]] is doomed to failure, letting him live the knowledge that everything he's working for will come to nothing. [[spoiler: Unfortunatly, Darhk knows an evil time-traveller, and decides to ScrewDestiny]].
* In the ''Series/{{Supergirl}}'' episode [[Recap/Supergirl2015S2E7TheDarkestPlace "The Darkest Place"]], [[Comicbook/MartianManhunter J'onn]] tries to kill M'gann when she reveals she a White Martian, one of the race that [[LastOfHisKind destroyed his]]. At the last minute, he spares her life, not out of mercy, but so she can live out the rest of her long life imprisoned in a DEO cell.
* In the series finale of ''Series/{{Forever}}'', Henry is faced with a seemingly impossible choice. He can't allow Adam to go free because the fellow immortal would simply continue his sociopathic murder spree and continue attacking those Henry cares about. At the same time, he can't kill him because Adam merely resurrect somewhere nearby (and prove Adam's argument that Henry will eventually become as killer just like him). But Henry is a doctor, and therefore knows how to cause Adam to have a stroke that will leave him paralyzed and unable to communicate so he can't kill himself and can't tell someone else to kill him, but still aware. With modern medical technology, and regular payments of the bills, he can be kept alive in that state indefinitely. Which is a very long time when you can't age and die.
* In ''Series/PennyDreadful'', the Putney family try to imprison and enslave Caliban as the first exhibit in an abusive freakshow, [[MuggingTheMonster not realising his physical strength]]. He kills Mr and Mrs Putney, but deliberately leaves their daughter Lavinia, who had particularly callously pretended to befriend him while being in on the plan, as a blind[[note]]He didn't blind her, she always was[[/note]] orphan about to stumble on her parents' gruesomely wounded corpses.

* In the GrandFinale to the [[AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho New Eighth Doctor Adventures]] the Dalek Time Controller tells the Doctor he will be left on Earth and watch as it becomes a plague planet. Due to being a Time Lord, he will survive long enough to see humanity die out.

* And once again in Shakespeare's ''Theatre/{{Cymbeline}}'' by Posthumous Leonatus to Iachimo who had just confessed to masterminding a plot which caused Posthumous to order his wife murdered.
--> "The power that I have on you is, to spare you;\\
The malice towards you to forgive you: live,\\
And deal with others better. "
* In Creator/WilliamShakespeare's ''Theatre/MeasureForMeasure'', the Duke does not kill Lucio as threatened, but forces him to marry the whore who bore his child. "Marrying a punk, my lord," Lucio laments, "is pressing to death, whipping, and hanging."
** Depending on how you interpret it, the BigBad Angelo suffers this as well. The Duke doesn't have him killed, but forces him to wed a wife he didn't want and live after having his crimes revealed publically. His original plan was to have him marry her and then be killed, but he ultimately changes his mind.
* In Creator/WilliamShakespeare's ''Theatre/TheMerchantOfVenice'', [[AmbiguouslyGay Antonio]] insists on Shylock, a Jew, converting to Christianity as punishment for what he's done. For a Jew, that's... let's just say bad. In Yiddish, the word for "Jew", "yid", is used as a synonym for "person". As a former Jew, he'd be neither accepted by the Jewish community nor the Christian one. And as what's a pitiful parting shot in comparison, Antonio takes some of his money and forces him to bequeath his estate to his runaway daughter and son-in-law in his will.
** Even worse, [[ValuesDissonance in Shakespeare's time]], this would have been considered a ''happy ending.'' The Jew gets to be saved, right? It was not until much later that productions started to focus on the negative consequences of converting.
** Worth noting that the contemporary parallel play, ''Theatre/TheJewOfMalta'', involves the eponymous Jew dying by being boiled in a pot of oil. *shrug* FateWorseThanDeath versus CruelAndUnusualDeath...
* Yet another Shakespeare example: In ''Theatre/RomeoAndJuliet'', Romeo murders Tybalt, a fellow aristocrat of Verona, and as Tybalt's aunt says, the punishment for this is death. But the Prince of Verona tempers the sentence to exile, because Tybalt killed Mercutio (the Prince's cousin) and Romeo avenged his friend's death. When he hears this news, however, Romeo hears it as Cruel Mercy, declaring exile to be a FateWorseThanDeath because it means separation from Juliet, and threatens to kill himself. Friar Lawrence proceeds to [[WhatTheHellHero chew him out]] over all the {{Wangst}}ing he's been doing.
* In ''Theatre/LesMiserables'', as in the novel, Valjean has the chance to kill InspectorJavert and instead lets him live.
--> ''Damned if I'll live in the debt of a thief!\\
Damned if I'll yield at the end of the chase!\\
[[IAmTheNoun I am the Law]], and the law is not mocked!\\
[[DontYouDarePityMe I'll spit his pity right back in his face!]]\\
There is nothing on earth that we share! It is either Valjean or Javert!\\
It was my right to die as well,\\
instead I live, but live in Hell!''
* ''Theatre/TheLaramieProject''. Based on the real-life trial following the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard, the victim's father says that while their family believes in the death penalty, they ask the jury to instead give the murderers consecutive life sentences to honor their son and show the killers the mercy that they didn't show.
--> "May you have a long life. And may you thank Matthew every day for it."

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Exalted}}'', it's a common habit among the Infernal Exalted. Indeed, there's a Kimbery charm which ensures this is the only kind of mercy you can show without spending willpower.
* As many stories in the ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'' setting have proven, may the gods help you if you to try to cheat, con, steal from, or harm the Vistani. They are notorious for [[GypsyCurse inflicting dark and horrible curses]] on anyone who does, and victims of such often wish they were never born.
* In the ''[[TabletopGame/YuGiOh Yu-Gi-Oh!]]'' TCG, there are a few cards that prevent your opponent's monsters from being destroyed by battle, such as Underworld Dragon Dragonecro and Serpent Suppression. However, this is not to help your opponent stand up better to you. The first one, while keeping the monster it battles alive, drains away its ATK points (and soul, in the manga), leaving only a 0 ATK point carcass instead, and even creates a token for its controller with the drained ATK as its Attack points. As for the second one, it is seen in Reptilliane decks, which focus on making the ATK of opponent monsters 0. Combined with this card, they can relentlessly keep attacking the weakened monsters, who, despite not being destroyed, are still inflicted with damage which their controller takes. Some Comboes are even famous, such as using a card that prevents destruction by battle on an opponent monster and keep attacking it with a monster with the ability to attack multiple times, such as the infamous Chimeratech Overdragon, Great Poseidon Beetle, and Number C107: Neo Galaxy-eyes Tachyon Dragon.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'', the Dark Eldar, arguably the most evil faction in the game (an impressive feat given the setting), once rescued Craftworld Iyanden from Chaos. The Craftworld had resorted to taking souls from the Infinity Circuit to power Wraith Constructs, something Craftworld Eldar revile as necromancy. The Dark Eldar saved their Craftworld cousins just to ensure they would be forced to live with what they had done.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Planescape}}'', the baernoloths (mysterious fiends believed to have created the yugoloth race) can heal any wound upon a creature that they have personally inflicted. Typically, they only do this to a captive victim while sadistically torturing it so that the victim won't die quickly.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* This happens in the GoldenEnding of ''VideoGame/CallOfDutyBlackOps2''. [[spoiler:If the player spares Menendez, he doesn't get martyred for Cordis Die like he wanted to. In addition, all of his plans unravel, and he has to watch the people who did it from inside of his cell mock him on late-night TV.]]
** This seems to be Menendez's modus operandi, along with DisproportionateRetribution and {{Kneecapping}}: take out his grief on everyone close to those who have wronged him, while leaving his actual targets to "suffer with him". Case in point, he has multiple opportunities to kill Woods [[spoiler:for the death his sister]] and flat out tells David, the SEAL commander leading the worldwide manhunt for him, that he will not kill him several times, getting more satisfaction by [[spoiler:tricking Woods into murdering his best friend and grooming David into being the UnwittingPawn in his plan to destroy America and the First World]]. Woods puts it best:
-->'''Woods''': The dead don't suffer, kid. That's why you and I are still here.
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidVThePhantomPain'':
** At the end of Mission 31, [[spoiler: Big Boss and Miller come across [[BigBad Skull Face]] crushed under a collapsed radio tower, who begs them to finish him off. Instead, Big Boss and Miller elect to [[AnArmAndALeg blow off Skull Face's arm and leg]] with [[HoistByHisOwnPetard his own]] [[ShotgunsAreJustBetter lever shotgun]] and leave him to die slowly as revenge for Skull Face causing the destruction of [=MSF=] during the events of ''Ground Zeroes'']]. Ultimately averted, as just after they have done so and are turning to leave, [[spoiler: Huey shoots Skull Face in the head]].
** After [[spoiler:Huey is confirmed to have betrayed both [=MSF=] and the Diamond Dogs, Venom Snake lets him live... but exiles him from Mother Base, forever known to the world as the failure he is]]. As one last act of spite, [[spoiler:Venom Snake has Huey exiled on a small life raft, forcing Huey to throw his treasured mechanical legs overboard to stay afloat]].
* In the trailer for ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'s'' co-op mode, [=GLaDOS=] provides a voice-over that ends, "Don't disappoint me..." {{Beat}} "...or I'll make you ''wish'' you could die."
* Also by Valve, in ''VideoGame/{{Team Fortress 2}}'s'' ''Meet The Medic'', the [[{{OffWithHisHead}} disembodied head of the BLU Spy]] being stored in the fridge says "Kill me." The Medic replies with, "Later..."
* ''VideoGame/Disgaea3AbsenceOfJustice'': In the 'normal' ending of after defeating [[spoiler: Super Hero Aurum]], who orchestrated everything that happened in the game, the defeated boss asks Mao to kill him. Mao refuses, and instead drags [[spoiler: Aurum]] home to his lab to 'experiment' on him, presumably to unlock the secret of his OneWingedAngel transformation. You see him briefly during the credit-roll, and he looks... decidedly uncomfortable. This is particularly amusing in that [[spoiler: Aurum]] THOUGHT he was performing a XanatosGambit -- if he had defeated Mao, he would have been famous and revered throughout the world as the hero who slew The Overlord, and if he lost, he got the glorious death he'd always wanted... shame it didn't work out that way, huh?
** Played with in the [[VideoGame/DisgaeaHourOfDarkness original]], where Flonne wants Laharl to throw a fight against the ghost of a hero so that he can rest in peace after defeating a Demon Overlord, but Laharl refuses and fights with everything he has, defeating the ghost. The ghost then thanks Laharl for the battle, pointing out that the only heroic death is to fall against a mighty opponent; Flonne was unknowingly promoting Cruel Mercy, while Laharl was being [[CruelToBeKind mercifully cruel]].
** ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 4| A Promise Unforgotten}}'' gives us Nemo, an OmnicidalManiac who firmly believes HumansAreTheRealMonsters and seeks to wipe out Earth (which will mean the end of Celestia and the Netherworld as well). When he finally discovers that Artina, the one example of IncorruptiblePurePureness he ever encountered in this CrapsackWorld, is "alive" as an angel, he relents and tries to pull a RedemptionEqualsDeath. Specifically, this will mean the destruction of his soul. The heroes decide that this is not sufficient punishment for his crimes, and instead give him a normal death so that he will be reincarnated as a Prinny and be forced to work off his karmic debt. They then cheerfully list the horrible labors they will have him endure for eons. In a mild subversion, Nemo accepts this and the end credits show him as a Prinny looking up at the Red Moon (signifying his eventual reincarnation).
* In ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'' you can bypass [[spoiler:the second battle with Asha]] [[PacifistRun instead of killing him in a duel to the death]]. You end up [[spoiler:[[DrivenToSuicide crushing his ego so deeply that he kills himself in despair]]]].
* Near the end of ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'', Angelo saves [[spoiler:Marcello]] from a DisneyVillainDeath. Given that he had just given a massive TheReasonYouSuckSpeech to a crowded amphitheater that veered into EvilGloating, then was possessed by [[{{Satan}} Rhapthrone]] and resurrected the demon's body in front of said crowd, leaving his ambition, reputation and ''everything'' he'd spent his entire life working for in tatters... yeah, death would've been kinder. Getting saved by the [[spoiler: half-brother]] he despised was just another kick in the side at that point.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Starcraft}}'', Kerrigan exhibits this on Zeratul after he kills his Matriarch who demonstrated that she was Kerri's thrall.
--> '''Kerrigan''': "I said you are free to go. I've already taken your honor. I'll let you live because I know that from now on your every waking moment will be torture. You'll never be able to forgive yourself for what I've forced you to do. And that, Zeratul, is a better revenge than I could have ever dreamed of."
** She also showed cruel mercy to Mengsk:
---> '''Kerrigan''': "I think I'll leave you here, Arcturus, among the ashes of your precious Dominion. I want you to live to see me rise to power. And I want you to remember, in your most private moments, that it was you who set me loose in the first place."
*** As ''VideoGame/StarcraftII'' showed, however, that part ''really'' didn't stick: Four years later, the Dominion has become the dominant power in the Korpulu sector and Kerrigan is nowhere to be found. [[spoiler:The campaign ends with Mengsk almost succeeding at 'fixing' his mistake. In ''Heart Of The Swarm'', Kerrigan has also learned from this and just kills Mengsk...or at least tries to. Even with his home planet invaded and him alone while confronting Kerrigan, Mengsk still nearly kills Kerrigan ''again'', until Raynor interrupts the party.]]
* Briefly mentioned in ''VideoGame/TitanQuest'' when the Yellow Emperor reveals that the Telkines are rampaging around to [[spoiler: free Typhon, strongest of the Titans]]. The gods banished [[spoiler: all other Titans after defeating them]], but bound [[spoiler: Typhon]] in nigh-unbreakable chains beneath a mountain so for all eternity he would be chained to what he desired most but could never have.
* In ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'', the Jedi Council spares [[BigBad Darth]] [[spoiler: [[PredecessorVillain Revan's]] life]], only to [[spoiler: completely overwrite his personality in order to [[HeelFaceBrainwashing make him into their pawn.]]]]
* ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublicIITheSithLords'',
** You can do this to [[spoiler: Atris, leaving her to be driven insane by the hissing of Sith Holocrons]], shortly after [[HeelRealization she's learned that she's actually evil]] and has been beaten within an inch of her life.
** You can pull this on two of the Jedi Masters you're trying to find, too. Let's see, Vrook. You're on this rock that hates Jedi, but makes an exception for me because I saved the place and you didn't. Have fun. Oh, Zez-Kai, you're a broken coward living in a WretchedHive, surrounded by every CrapsackWorld trope in existence and you can't manage to pick up your lightsaber and do a thing about it while I did. I'm getting stronger and will kick the Sith's arse while you sit and mope. Meditate on that for a while and get back to me.
** Kreia ''loves'' this tactic. She is quite happy to sit back and [[BreakThemByTalking let her enemies know in great detail how badly they screwed up]], but she won't destroy anyone or anything she can ''use'', which means she'll spare them and then recruit them into whatever agenda she cares to run.
* ''Videogame/StarWarsTheOldRepublic'':
** Several characters (particularly the Imperial faction) have this as an option. For example, sparing [[spoiler:Nomen Karr]] as the Sith Warrior means sending him back to the Jedi Council as a humiliated fallen Jedi while leaving [[spoiler:Tarro Blood]] imprisoned as a Bounty Hunter means denying him an honorable death and letting him go down with the ship you're about to blow up.
** Light-sided Imperials often use this as a justification to their crueller allies for leaving people alive. They wouldn't be able to get away with just leaving them alive for moral reasons, but have to come up with a pragmatic or evil reason to do so.
* According to [[VideoGame/ShinSuperRobotWars Ryusei Date]], this trope is the true reason behind the 'Mercy' Spirit Command on the ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' series, which leaves the target with 10 HP if the next attack would destroy it.
* In the canon ending of ''VideoGame/{{Drakengard}}'', Caim doesn't kill [[spoiler:Manah]] after defeating her, instead opting to personally drag her around the entire country and tell everyone that they meet that everything that has happened was entirely her fault (well, figuratively 'telling': [[HeroicMime Caim's mute]]. Presumably he uses SignLanguage, or 'interpretive brutal murder'). Caim, being [[SociopathicHero Caim]], is making a traumatized formerly-possessed 6-year-old with abandonment issues walk from village to village in the cold and the rain, just so that everybody she meets will hate her, and this is in character for him. In the end, she ''stabs him in the eye'' and ''jumps off a cliff'' to escape. When they meet again in the sequel, she ''[[FreakOut utterly freaks out]]'' at the sight of him.
* In ''Videogame/{{Drakengard 3}}'', after Zero kills Four, Decadus begs to die alongside his former mistress. Zero tells him that she kills her sisters and takes their men as her own and expects him to be prepared for a busy night. Granted, things end up working out for him in the end.
* In ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIV'', you can do this to [[spoiler:Darko Brevic, the man who betrayed Niko's old army unit. When Niko meets him, he is a drug addicted, guilt-ridden wreck, who confesses to having sold out his unit's lives for a mere $1000 dollars in order to fuel his drug addiction and begs Niko to kill him. The player is thus given a choice: if Niko shoots Darko, the latter thanks him with his dying breath and [[VengeanceFeelsEmpty the former ends up not feeling any better]]. If Niko spares him, he remarks that letting Darko live with his addiction and guilt is the bigger punishment and Darko [[VillainousBreakdown utterly loses it]]. Ironically, if the player chooses to spare Darko, Bernie (the other survivor of Darko's treachery) will call Niko congratulating him for having overcome his desire for revenge.]]
* In ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights: Hordes of the Underdark'', if you shell out the absurd amount of money for [[BigBad Mephistopheles's]] TrueName, you not only get to skip the final boss fight, you can bind him to your service afterwards -- including the option to force him to serve as a chambermaid in an inn for all eternity.
* Deconstructed in ''[[VideoGame/HeroesOfMightAndMagic The tale of Elwin and Shaera]]''. TheHero defeats [[BigBad Lord Harke]], then despite all of his crimes, spares him and locks him up, but not before delivering a long speech about how he's been humiliated and broken. Harke then somehow gets the guards to send false news of Elwin's death to Shaera, knowing that she will commit suicide. [[spoiler: It didn't work]], but it has proven that Harke is just as dangerous as a prisoner as he was with an army behind him.
* In ''VideoGame/TheForceUnleashed'', Starkiller spares the life of Maris Brood after defeating her. Senator Bail Organa protests, but Starkiller says that she isn't free, the memories of what she had done will haunt her forever.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft''
** Baine Bloodhoof inflicts this in the [[WarcraftExpandedUniverse Expanded Universe]] novel ''Literature/TheShatteringPreludeToCataclysm.'' Baine ''wants'' to take bloody vengeance against Magatha Grimtotem ([[spoiler: Who is 90% responsible for the death of his father Cairne]]) and Garrosh Hellscream ([[spoiler:Duped into being the other 10%]]). However, he also knows perfectly well that doing so will only cause division and civil war. Instead, upon defeating Magatha's attempt at a Grimtotem coup, he personally smashes her Shamanistic totems (an affront to the elements that would take a great deal of apology and abasement for Magatha to be forgiven for) after offering full pardons to the quarter or so of Grimtotem Tauren who would swear allegiance to the Horde. As for Garrosh, he puts aside Garrosh's role in events because the Tauren need the protection the Horde can offer.
** Attempted with [[spoiler: Garrosh]] by denying him a warrior's death. Unfortunately, he breaks free and tries to take over the world again.
* The end of the last mission in ''[[VideoGame/NintendoWars Advance Wars: Dual Strike]]'' has something like this. If the player chooses "Yes" when [[TotallyRadical Jake]] has to kill [[spoiler:[[BigBad Von Bolt]]]], Jake is handed a gun from [[spoiler:Hawke]], who would have shot him himself if Jake couldn't bring himself to (if the player chooses "No"). [[spoiler:Jake doesn't hesitate, and shoots Von Bolt's chair, which was what was about to revive the Grand Bolt the good guys defeated earlier. When asked by Von Bolt why he didn't kill him, Jake stated that he didn't want him dead while everyone else cleaned up his mess.]]
-->'''Jake''': Welcome to natural selection, chump!
* In ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'', Cass' companion quest involves taking revenge on two groups of people who wiped out her caravan. Cass initially wants to take a direct, violent approach, but you can instead offer to uncover evidence of the conspiracy and pass it along to the NCR. Though Cass is initially disappointed, she'll decide that the NCR's legal procedures will do more harm to her enemies than a faceful of buckshot ever could.
** Once you pop [[spoiler:Mr. House]] out of his life-support chamber, you'll have three options for how to deal with him -- simply killing him, setting his equipment to electrocute him, or putting him back inside but cutting him off from the rest of his systems. The last choice is considered the worst, since exposure to outside microbes will [[AndIMustScream leave him to slowly die over the course of a year, trapped in a coffin-sized canister and unable to do anything but watch while you dismantle everything he's accomplished]].
** At the end of the ''Honest Hearts'' DLC, you'll get to help decide what the vengeful Joshua Graham does with his enemy, White Legs warchief Salt-Upon-Wounds, after crushing the rest of his tribe. Graham is all too happy to execute the tribal for his crimes (which include butchering Graham's hometown), but if your Speech skill is high enough you can exorcise his inner demons and bring some measure of peace to his soul by convincing him to let Salt-Upon-Wounds go. The ending narration reveals that despite their leader's survival, the White Legs never recover from their defeat, abandoning him and leaving him a sad, pathetic wreck of a man.
** It's easy to overlook, but if you read the terminals left at the H&H Tools building and pay attention to the game's backstory, you can see that Mr. House did this. He was cheated out of the family hardware business by his half-brother, but [[StartMyOwn started his own]] robotics company and became one of the most powerful industrialists on the planet. House all but took over Pre-War Vegas and dismantled the company that was his birthright on the stock market... except for that last store on the outskirts of Las Vegas, so that his half-brother would be around to see how successful House was. From the building's log entries, it's clear the experience drove him quite mad.
** According to Mr. House, sparing General Oliver in an Independent Vegas ending either with House or you in charge counts as this. He will be forced to go back west humiliated and empty-handed as a scapegoat for leading thousands of soldiers to their deaths in an unpopular war with his chance at a political career completely destroyed. House even calculates a probability of him committing suicide from it all. The same goes for President Kimball if he's still alive, though House notes a much smaller chance of suicide.
* Near the end of ''StarWarsBountyHunter'', Jango Fett faces down his arch-nemesis, Montross. Aside from doggedly attempting to kill Fett and steal bounties from him, Montross was personally responsible for the deaths of both Fett's foster figure and a later mother figure. After Fett beats Montross in their final duel, the defeated man gasps that he deserves a better death than this. So Fett leaves him alive, ignoring his pleas that Jango finish him, and Montross is subsequently given the extremely ignominious death of being torn apart by feral cultists.
* Subverted in ''[[VideoGame/DawnOfWar Dawn of War: Dark Crusade]]'': Eliphas the Inheritor is confronted by a daemon who blows off his attempts to place the blame on his followers but instead of torturing him in [[TabletopGame/{{Warhammer40000}} good-old Chaos fashion]], simply kills him outright.
-->'''Eliphas:''' [[OhCrap No]]! I will NOT go to the [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Basilica of Torment]] again!
-->'''Daemon:''' Fear not, Apostle. The Basilica is reserved for those who may redeem themselves. [[YouHaveFailedMe You will have no such chance]].
* In ''Videogame/MassEffect2'', Archangel's [[spoiler: (AKA Garrus)]] loyalty mission involves hunting down TheMole who betrayed his squad. When you meet the guy, you see he's an absolute mess, wracked by guilt. Subverted in that sparing his life ''is'' the nicer option -- you just have to convince Archangel that killing the guy won't make him feel any better, and that they both have to live with what happened that day. Letting Archangel kill him as planned, meanwhile, is played as an incredibly cold-blooded and mean-spirited move.
** There's an incident in Jacob's loyalty mission as well: you find Jacob's father shipwrecked on a planet with eventually deadly vegetation having set himself up with a harem of partially brain-damaged women from his crew (and besieged by the hyper-aggressive brain-damaged men thereof). The Paragon path has you bring him back to stand trial. The Neutral option is to let him go... having destroyed his camp's defences on the way in, so the feral crewmen can tear him apart. The Renegade option has you leave him, while Jacob [[LeaveBehindAPistol hands him a mostly empty pistol]].
** In the second game, Aria's predecessor as the most powerful figure in Omega is kept around as a supposed adviser, but the truth is that she keeps him around as her personal trophy, with his new nickname "The Patriarch" being a StealthInsult since to an [[OneGenderRace Asari]] it is a nonexistent and meaningless word to reflect his complete lack of power. However, it's possible to either give him some bit of comfort by either agreeing to deal with assassins coming for him on his behalf (giving him some semblance of actual power) or to convince him to deal with them himself (which at least [[FaceDeathWithDignity lets him die]] as a [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Krogan]]).
** Aside from this, there was an instance in the VideoGame/MassEffect1 DLC ''Bring Down the Sky" that allowed something similar. If you opt to let some hostages die in order to capture batarian terrorist Balak, you can either kill him outright or spare him. Doing the latter means taking him to the planet he'd tried to destroy to stand trial...which, incidentally, was where the hostages came from.
** In ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'', a sidequest revolves around a batarian terrorist (not Balak) who committed a variety of destructive acts in revenge for [[spoiler: Shepard wiping out a batarian star system in the "Arrival" DLC of [[VideoGame/MassEffect2 the previous game]]]]. Badly wounded from an attack on the Citadel by Cerberus, he lies in the hospital of the refugee camp, and asks you to MercyKill him. Shepard can either turn off his life support, or invoke this trope and call the nurse to come to his "aid".
* Near the end of the first ''VideoGame/BaldursGate'', with about three battles left in the game, you can meet [[BigBad Sarevok's]] mentor, cast aside and too injured to move. He expected to die in Sarevok's ascension to godhood and go down in history as its architect, but you have the option to leave him alive to watch his plans crumble and eventually die in obscurity (without the option to surrender).
* In ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedII'', Ezio does this to Rodrigo Borgia, the man behind the conspiracy that killed his father and brothers as a youth. At first Ezio sought revenge by fighting the Templars and dismantling Rodrigo's plans over the course of twenty years, only for him to go into hiding and eventually resurface as Pope Alexander VI, vested with virtually unlimited political and religious power to help the Templars further consolidate their control over Europe. Not that this stops Ezio, though, as he decides to take the fight to the Vatican and try to publicly assassinate Rodrigo, culminating in a fistfight following a chase, which Ezio won. However, instead of killing him, Ezio leaves Rodrigo alone, humiliated just as ultimate victory was within reach. Even as Rodrigo pleas to end his misery, now that he has nothing to live for, Ezio states that killing him won't bring back his family and innocence, instead letting him waste away in despair, knowing that the Piece of Eden hidden in his papal staff refused to allow him to open the Vault, but it did for Ezio. Come ''Brotherhood'' the it got worse for Rodrigo, as his role became nothing more than a figurehead for his son Cesare. Finally, [[spoiler:when Cesare kills him (to prevent his role from influencing opposition to his cause), it was ''Ezio'', of all people, who comes to comfort him in his dying moments, and this played as the climax of Ezio's CharacterDevelopment, showing how he has transcended his desire for vengeance, having decided that everything he does, however bloody, will always be for the greater good]].
** However, in Brotherhood Machiavelli [[WhatTheHellHero chews out Ezio]] for leaving Rodrigo alive since after all's said and done, the Borgia are still in power and are still major threats to the Assassins. In fact, it leads to Rodrigo's son Cesare leading an assault on Monteriggioni and killing his uncle Mario. Ezio later states that because of this, he's not going to make the same mistake twice.
* In ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'', there is a way to do this to [[spoiler:Anders]]. He fully expects to be executed and die as a martyr after [[spoiler:blowing up the Chantry and enticing a full-on civil war between the Templars and Mages]], and if released from custody will try to die in battle anyway [[spoiler: if you side with the Templars]]. But if the Champion has [[spoiler:a full Rivalry meter with him, s/he can convince Anders that he must atone for what he did, freeing him ''and'' keeping him in the party while you help the Templars exterminate every mage in the tower. Siding with the mages makes the mercy less cruel, but the "martyrdom would be the easy way out" aspect is still there.]] Writer [[WordOfGod Jennifer Hepler]] stated in an interview that she believed this fate would be "poetic justice".
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'' itself allows you to do this to several characters, to include Sten (though the option is less about outright killing him, and more about leaving him in his cage to die later), Jowan, Zevran (who enters into a "service contract" with you afterwards), and [[spoiler:Loghain, in exchange for him serving you and the Grey Wardens, no less]]. There are other potential instances, such as [[spoiler:Branka]], though the cruelness of them comes down to YMMV.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'', continuing with the tradition, has this for the Grand Duchess Florianne. One option is to spare her life and sentence her to serve as the Inquisition's jester, denying her all her wealth and fancy clothes, ruining her reputation, and making her a laughing-stock in both Orlais and the Inquisition fortress.
* In ''VideoGame/AlphaProtocol'' Mike has the option to spare whoever the final boss turns out to be, knowing they'll be dragged through courtroom after courtroom for the rest of their lives, watching while their empire crumbles.
* ''VideoGame/{{Dishonored}}'' has been billed as a game about assassination in which you don't actually have to kill anyone. You can do a full PacifistRun, but the targets still need to be "neutralized" in some way or another. There's a non-lethal option for dealing with each individual target, which is often a FateWorseThanDeath and possibly quite ironic. It's enough that PlayerCharacter Corvo Attano has become [[Pantheon/MentalismIntermediateGods the god of Cruel Mercy]].
** High Overseer Thaddeus Campbell: [[spoiler:Branding him with the heretic sign of his own religious order, rendering him into a social pariah. And then he catches ThePlague.]]
** Morgan and Custis Pendleton: [[spoiler:Arranging a criminal to disfigure them, cut their tongues and put them to work in their own slave mines.]]
** Lady Boyle: [[spoiler:Handing her over to a StalkerWithACrush, never to be seen again.]]
** Lord Regent Hiram Burrows: [[spoiler:Exposing his crimes to the public, ruining him and getting executed by his former subjects.]]
** Averted however in the case of [[spoiler:Daud, where sparing him is considered either a legitimate act of mercy (if you beat him in a fight) or simply sending him a message (if you pickpocket his purse from him).]]
** The [=DLCs=] with Daud continue this tradition. Bundry Rothwild: [[spoiler:Torturing him in his own interrogation chair and then locking him in a crate of his own design that's bound for a voyage set to last for many months.]]
** Arnold Timsh: [[spoiler:Evicting him from his home, getting all of his property and assets seized by the government, and being thrown into Coldridge Prison for good measure.]]
** Edgar Wakefield: [[spoiler:Can be simply knocked out...and left to the mercy of the [[BadBoss savage]] and [[ImAHumanitarian cannibalistic]] captain he mutinied against.]]
** Delilah: [[spoiler:Trapping her as an inanimate island within the Void ''for all eternity''... At least until she escapes in 2.]]
** And once again, it's averted in the case of [[spoiler:Billie Lurk, where sparing her is a genuine act of mercy.]]
* ''Videogame/Dishonored2'' brings back the tradition of non-lethally neutralizing enemies, often with a side of poetic justice.
** Mortimer Ramsey: [[spoiler:Locking him in the Empress' secret chambers with the imperial coffers and taking the key with you so there's no way for him to get out.]]
** Kirin Jindosh: [[spoiler:Using an intelligence-draining chair he created to functionally lobotomize him]].
** Breanna Ashworth: [[spoiler:Tampering with her magical device so that it drains her of her powers, rendering her useless to Delilah]].
** Luca Abele: [[spoiler:Get his more sane and humane body double to switch places with him, who will have him committed to an asylum]].
** Once again, it's subverted with the case of the Crown-Killer, in which [[spoiler:you cure Alexandra Hypatia of her SuperpoweredEvilSide]] and Aramis Stilton, where [[spoiler:ensuring that he doesn't go mad in the past changes history for the better]]. Delilah's fate is debatable since [[spoiler:you trap her in the Void once again, but this time in a world where she'll forever live out her fantasies of being Empress.]]
* At the end of ''VideoGame/MaxPayne 3'', Max leaves the BigBad alive to suffer with the massive, utter loss of everything he'd been working towards -- his power, money, status, and prestige -- not because of Cruel Mercy, but so that the public can know the full extent of what happened ''and'' have someone to rightly blame for it. [[spoiler:But, just for good measure, Max gives him some immediate karma by stomping on the villain's leg, breaking it so badly that the bone sticks through his skin. It's also worth noting that the BigBad doesn't last a week in jail before being found dead.]]
* In ''VideoGame/HitmanAbsolution'' after interrogating Lenny Dexter, 47 has to deal with him in some way. While he's given various different ways to kill him, the easiest and perhaps cruelest way is to simply drive away and leave him in the middle of the desert, letting the heat and the vultures do his job for him.
** In ''VideoGame/Hitman2016'', Hokkaido mission, 47 can deal with [[spoiler:Erich Soders]] via a great variety of [[CruelAndUnusualDeath Cruel and Unusual Deaths]]... or he can simply [[spoiler:destroy the extremely rare replacement heart Soders betrayed the ICA for, condemning the latter to a slow death in a hospital bed since there's no way of getting another heart in time.]]
* In ''VideoGame/BioShockInfinite'' [[spoiler:you have the choice on whether or not to kill Cornelius Slate. If you spare him, Booker remarks it "was no mercy" since Comstock's men will arrive any second and drag him off for ColdBloodedTorture. Sure enough, if he lives, you find him in a cell, lobotomized.]]
* The GoldenEnding of ''[[VideoGame/NancyDrew Ghost of Thornton Hall]]'' can be interpreted this way. Nancy has the choice to [[spoiler: save the culprit, Clara, rather than let her burn to death]]. However, this means that [[spoiler: Clara]] will have to face justice for [[spoiler: possibly-unintentionally killing her cousin]] and reveal the truth to her family. [[spoiler: Clara]] implores Nancy to leave her behind to die, but Nancy responds that she deserves to pay for her mistakes.
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'': in the Brotherhood storyline, The Boss attacks Maero's tattoo artist Matt during a live performance with his band and lets him live, but not before using the pyrotechnics on the stage to burn his guitar-playing hand.
* Most of the Parasites in ''Videogame/TheCatLady'' end up dead by the end of the story, but you can choose to spare one of them: [[spoiler:Eye of Adam, the crippled suicide cult leader who tries to goad Mitzi into ending his life. If you can talk her out of it, he spends the rest of his life in a care home, denied both the death he craves and the computer he needs to interact with the rest of the world.]]
* In ''Videogame/PAYDAY2'', one of the heists, contracted by [[Main/GratuitousRussian Vlad the crazy Ukrainian]], involves stealing a tiara meant for the bride of his enemy, Dmitri, completely [[Main/WeddingSmashers ruining the wedding]]. When the heist is concluded, Vlad cheers, "I could have killed wife, but why give him dead wife for short time when I can give him nag wife forever?"
* One way to avoid massive diplomatic penalties when waging war in ''{{VideoGame/Civilization}} 5'' is to declare peace once your opponent is down to one non-capital city in the middle of nowhere. Not only will your opponent most likely cease to be a threat for the rest of the game, but there's always a chance another civ will simply finish them off while they're weak and take the warmonger penalty for you (bonus points if [[{{Hypocrite}} they were complaining about]] ''[[{{Hypocrite}} your]]'' [[{{Hypocrite}} warmongering earlier]]).
* In ''VideoGame/TheWitcher3WildHunt'', this is a possible fate for Whoreson Junior. Between having three other major crime bosses after him, [[spoiler:his secret backing from King Radovid being pulled]], and [[OneManArmy Geralt]] and [[PhysicalGod Ciri]] slaughtering all his men and destroying his underworld empire, [[HowTheMightyHaveFallen Whoreson ends up hiding in the Bits, trying to get by as a beggar and having children taunt him and throw rocks at him]].
-->'''Ciri''': On the way here, I didn't know what I'd do. Killing him was definitely an option.
-->'''Geralt''': Still want to?
-->'''Ciri''': No. This is worse.
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 5}}'': Ann Tamaki ultimately spares the StarterVillain, not out of kindness, but so he'll have to suffer [[FateWorseThanDeath a lifetime of shame and punishment for his sins]].
* Heavily implied to be the reason [[BigBad Zero]] from ''VisualNovel/NineHoursNinePersonsNineDoors'' didn't kill [[spoiler: Hongou]] despite [[spoiler: masterminding deaths of other people who planned the First Nonary Game]]. [[spoiler: Hongou]] was the one Zero hated most, and that's why he was to suffer most[[spoiler: getting officially tried and forced to live knowing he was completely defeated and spending rest of his days in prison.]]. WordOfGod confirms that(if "[[ShrugOfGod i think that's what happened]]" counts as confirmation).


* Horribly/Hilariously {{Subverted| Trope}} in ''Webcomic/SchlockMercenary'' after Kevyn captures an alien warlord who had just executed one of his squad members simply to test a theory and was about to do the same to his LoveInterest before he intervened. Rather than take his revenge on the warlord ("I know he murdered our friend, but [revenge] will take you into a very dark place, Nick"), he opts to turn him in to the proper authorities... who will then kill him and [[ImAHumanitarian eat him]] ''[[http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20070502.html a little bit at a time!]]''
-->'''Nick:''' Your place sounds darker, sir.
-->'''Kevyn:''' It has the advantage of being legal.
* Thaco in ''Webcomic/{{Goblins}}'' [[spoiler:destroyed Dellyn Goblinslayer's carefully-constructed legacy, leaving his elite guards dead, his prisoners escaped, and his reputation in Brassmoon ruined. When Dellyn finally faced Thaco and was defeated, he expected to be killed and earn a place in the legends of goblins as their racial nemesis until Thaco told him he was [[NotWorthKilling not worth the XP to kill]]]].
-->'''Complains''': "You fought [[spoiler:the Goblinslayer]]? Did you kill him?"\\
'''Thaco''': "No. I destroyed him."
* [[Franchise/{{Metroid}} Samus Aran]] uses this as a ''threat'' in ''Webcomic/CaptainSNES'': [[http://www.captainsnes.com/2002/11/28/236-the-interrogation/ "I will not permit you to die."]]
* Done in ''Webcomic/GirlGenius''. After Dr. Beetle dies, Baron Wulfenbach tells Dr. Merlot that for his part in the incident, he'll be put in charge of the city of Beetleburg...after Dr. Beetle has been given a hero's funeral with full honors, and the full details of Dr. Beetle's death, including the fact that Dr. Merlot's theatrics were the direct cause of it, have been released to a public that loved and respected Dr. Beetle.
** Also, Merlot's punishment for his first screw-up on the new job? Sent to join the repair teams in [[AIIsACrapshoot Castle]] [[ComedicSociopathy Heterodyne]].
* Done in a social way for humor in ''Webcomic/EerieCuties'', to set up for its spin-off, ''Webcomic/MagickChicks''. After the Hellrune Coven have tried to use a gender-bending magical orb for a small plan that turned into a fiasco that left one boy stuck as a girl, they're called in front of the headmistress. Since they're also the [[AlphaBitch "Queen Bees"]] of their school, they're told protocol would demand they be expelled. However, the headmistress believes that would let them off TOO easily. So she talked with the head of Artemis Academy to get them transferred over there as part of an exchange program, forcing them to start all over without any social benefits from their soon-to-be-former school. To a young girl who fought a lot of her high-school life to be popular, losing your status and being "socially dead" is worse than a physical death.
* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'':
** When defeating Samantha and her father, Roy decides not to kill them, just leave them there. He argues that after disbanding the bandits, they won't be able to cause more trouble in the future. Then Belkar points out that it is this trope, leading to the trope-naming line of YourApprovalFillsMeWithShame.
** PlayedForLaughs: After Redcloak delivers a scathing NotSoDifferent-themed TheReasonYouSuckSpeech to the (currently trapped in a forcecage) paladin Miko, Xykon comments that he ''was'' just going to kill her, but now thinks it'd be crueler to let her live and think about what Redcloak said. Subverted in that she reacts to Redcloak's speech with a blasé, [[IronicEcho "Meh. As indignant speeches go, I've heard better."]] Also subverted in that it was Redcloak's plan from the beginning to let her escape so he can scry on her when she gets home, providing intelligence for the upcoming attack.
** Tarquin is dealt with in this way. [[spoiler:Rather than slaying him in an epic showdown like Tarquin wants, Elan simply ditches his father in the middle of the desert, thereby giving their story an unsatisfying and anticlimactic end, something that the [[WrongGenreSavvy drama-obsessed]], [[ItsAllAboutMe self-absorbed]] Tarquin finds utterly unacceptable.]]
* Parodied in ''Webcomic/EightBitTheater'' when Black Mage [[{{Briarpatching}} desperately tries to convince]] [[spoiler:Sarda]] [[http://www.nuklearpower.com/2009/09/22/episode-1175-the-best-revenge/ to employ this trope]]. Played straight when [[spoiler:Sarda]] agrees.
-->'''[[spoiler: Sarda:]]''' Oh, I wanted to kill you the [[Really700YearsOld first billion, billion and a half years]], but then... it just wasn't enough anymore. Besides, killing you started to lose its novely [[DeathIsCheap after the first few times]]. [Zaps all the Light Warriors] See? I barely cracked a smile over that one.
-->'''Red Mage:''' I wish he'd stop making incredibly painful points with our corpses.
* At the end of chapter 49 of ''{{Webcomic/Drowtales}}'', Minka Dutan'vir sees former Kyorl'solenurn Holy MOther Valla'drielle, who earlier in the chapter had ordered the reclaimed tower of his people dropped and many of them killed, then tried to burn Minka himself at the stake as an example only to be interrupted by a peaceful protest led to by the intended Holy Mother of the clan, Anahid. He chases and corners her and begins to choke her, but remembers and echoes Anahid's words that forgiveness is true strength and lets Valla'drielle go. Valla'drielle simply spits FantasticRacism at him, and is left to live and fade away in ignominy as the KnightTemplar attitude she embodies will soon be a thing of the past.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''Roleplay/InkCity'': [[WesternAnimation/AeonFlux Trevor]] pulls this on [[Franchise/{{Pokemon}} Mew]], with a [[ManipulativeBastard twist of manipulation]]: originally, he was poised to take his revenge on ''[[AlternateDimension another]]'' [[GenkiGirl Mew]] who had just arrived. He waited until [[TheAtoner Mew]] publicly confessed before informing her he wasn't going to seek his pound of flesh; watching her live as an outcast would be ''far'' more satisfying.
* ''Literature/ChakonaSpace'': Allen Fesler's character, Neal Foster has pulled this off a few times.
* In the WebAnimation/YouTubePoop "[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OVCpD-7nI4 One more Final: I need you(Tube Poop)]]" Luigi refuses to kill Link despite his pleadings, preferring to let him live with his misery.
* WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic: The Devil's daughter Evilina thinks that it would be crueler to leave the Critic alive to suffer the pain after reviewing ''Film/SonOfTheMask'', despite him wanting to be killed.
* ''Literature/{{Twig}}'': Sanguine, the last of a unit of experimental assassins that were killed by the Lambsbridge Gang, decides to let two members of the gang live after he's determined that one is infected with an incurable plague, satisfied that they've suffered enough and his dead fellows would be content with that punishment.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Explicitly invoked in the ''WesternAnimation/{{Centurions}}'' episode "Cyborg Centurion". Ace [=McCloud=] is in a deeply nasty area, and has to defeat a local tough in a {{Gladiator Game|s}} to establish his credentials. The woman he's with asks Ace, "Why didn't you kill him?" and Ace tells her "I did worse than that. I humiliated him and let him live. He'll never command respect from these people again."
* Optimus Prime refuses to kill BigBad Megatron, [[spoiler: who had just caused the deaths of one of his soldiers minutes before]], during the finale of ''WesternAnimation/TransformersAnimated'', telling him, "That would be the easy way out, Megatron. ''You don't deserve it''." Instead he destroys Megatron's weapon and drags him back to Cybertron to face justice in stasis cuffs, humiliated.
* [[WesternAnimation/TheTransformers Another Optimus Prime]] is clearly tempted to break his code against killing or even harming humans when an EgomaniacHunter traps and tortures some of his Autobots to get to Prime himself and take his head as a trophy. This causes the BigGood of the series to go on a PapaWolf RoaringRampageOfRevenge and culminates in prime effectively leveling the hunter's mansion without actually hurting him. Optimus proceeds to tie the old man to the nose of a Soviet fighter plane that the hunter had stolen earlier in the episode and ships him right back to Siberia and into the hands of a ''very'' displeased Soviet Union.
* A ''GIJoe'' skit from ''WesternAnimation/RobotChicken'' has a new member joining the Joes. He has a [[MinoredInAsskicking doctorate]] and is [[ColdSniper extremely skilled with a sniper rifle]], but due to a small accident [[NeverLiveItDown he is given a humiliating code name and not respected]] by the rest of the Joes. He later [[FaceHeelTurn joins Cobra]] and [[BewareTheNiceOnes kills all but one of the Joes with his aformentioned sniper rifle]]. What happens to the last Joe left?
-->'''Duke:''' You motherfucker, you killed everything I love! [Rips off his shirt and stands out in the open, making himself an easy target] Take me too! Take me too!
-->'''Calvin:''' No. No, you live with it.
* ''WesternAnimation/GIJoeARealAmericanHero'':
** In the "Sink the Montana" episode, retiring Admiral Lattimer learns that his ship, the U.S.S. Montana, is about to be decommissioned and sent to the scrapyards, and [[FaceHeelTurn defects to Cobra]], in a desperate attempt to save the ship to which he has become emotionally attached. The Joes set out on a mision to stop Cobra's pulse modulator weapon (which can render technology useless) by [[BreakOutTheMuseumPiece "borrowing" the U.S.S. Constitution]], an old-school 19th century navy ship that doesn't have any computerized technology to disable. Near the end, when Lattimer [[MyGodWhatHaveIDone realizes that his ship is set for self-destruct on a collision course with the Norfolk naval base]] the pulse modulator is destroyed, Destro locks the Montana's guns in automatic firing mode before retreating.
-->'''General Hawk''': Come on Lattimer, let's get out of here!
-->(Flashback to Lattimer's commissioning ceremony)
-->'''Admiral Overton''': Captain Lattimer, command of the U.S.S. Montana is now yours, serve her well.
-->'''Lattimer''' (in the present time): [[GoingDownWithTheShip No, no, I-I-I can't leave her!]]
-->'''Hawk''': My aching back, George! [[DefiedTrope Forget that going down with the ship stuff!]]
-->'''Lattimer''': No, I'm staying!
-->(Hawk promptly and reluctantly knocks out Lattimer before rescuing him from the sinking Montana)
-->'''Lattimer''': [[LampshadeHanging It would have been more merciful to let me drown]].
** Soon afterwards:
-->'''Shipwreck''': What'll happen to Lattimer now, Hawk? Court martial, prison?
-->'''Hawk''': I don't know, but he's already received [[AFateWorseThanDeath the worst punishment imaginable]].
-->[[FadeOut The Montana sinks with an explosion cloud resembling a cobra's lower fangs]].
* One of the most memorable aspects of the ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' GrandFinale is this trope: Aang [[spoiler: doesn't kill Phoenix King Ozai, but takes his ability to firebend from him. Knowing Ozai, it would be a FateWorseThanDeath, which isn't to say he didn't deserve it. He's also left to rot in a cell (the same cell where he imprisoned Iroh no less) as a powerless wreck while the son he hated becomes the new Firelord]].
** Azula pulls this on herself during her VillainousBreakdown. She hallucinates her mother, and this follows, completely breaking her world view.
--->'''Ursa''': I think you're confused. All your life, you've used fear to control people like your friends Mai and Ty Lee.\\
'''Azula''': But what choice do I have?! Trust is for fools! Fear is the only reliable way! Even you fear me.\\
'''Ursa''': No. [[spoiler:I love you, Azula. I do.]]
** Katara does this to the man who killed her mother. [[spoiler:After finding out how horrible his life is, she decides to spare him so he can continue to endure it.]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'', Peggy confronts Cotton on his deathbed to [[CallingTheOldManOut Call The Old Man Out]] for being such a horrible, emotionally abusive father to Hank, who only ever wanted [[WellDoneSonGuy his father's love and approval]]. She takes a hint from one of the page quotes above by saying she hopes he will never die, so that he may live forever in the hell that he has created for himself. Cotton, just to spite her, responds "Do you, now?" and dies immediately thereafter.
* In "The Dragons' Graveyard," the darkest episode of ''WesternAnimation/DungeonsAndDragons'', the kids have finally had it with Venger constantly attacking them and preventing them from getting home. Against Dungeon Master's wishes, they attack Venger, and finally have him at their mercy. Hank could easily kill him, but finally spares him, saying verbatim that [[IfYouKillHimYouWillBeJustLikeHim "If I did, we'd be no better than you are."]] But Hank makes it very plain to Venger as they leave, "We've beaten you, and you know it."
* [[TheStarscream Grimian]], a member of the Vandals in ''WesternAnimation/HotWheelsBattleForce5'', overthrows [[BigBad Captain Kalus]] but instead of killing him, spares his life so he may live in shame. When Kalus returns and defeats him, he [[IronicEcho tells him the exact same thing]] and [[KickedUpStairs promotes him to his second in command]] so Grimian can live in his shadow. [[spoiler:After Grimian sells out the Vandals to the Red Sentients, Kalus and Grimian have a final battle, ending with Kalus' victory. After destroying Grimian's car, he banishes Grimian instead of killing him, once more prefering the traitor live in shame rather than die in battle like a warrior. However, after his next attack, which has the entire planet invaded, Kalus just executes him.]]
** While he doesn't see it as such, [[spoiler:Zemerik, under the control of the [[{{Cult}} Alpha-Code]], forgiving Krytus is seen at this by Krytus. Krytus had just finally got his revenge on Zemerik for betraying him, but forgiving him, Zemerik also rendered Krytus' revenge meaningless.]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' episode "War World", the gladiator Draaga fights the despotic ruler Mongul; Draaga defeats him, but refuses to grant him a warrior's death, preferring to let him live in disgrace. (This may or may not have been a mistake on Draaga's part. Mongul does make a return appearance... But what ultimately happens to him could well be considered even worse, depending on your point of view.)
** See ComicBook/ForTheManWhoHasEverything for what happens.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/HeManAndTheMastersOfTheUniverse1983'', Evil-Lyn, Whiplash, and Beastman set up a trap when Skeletor is out on an errand. Said trap involves using a shrink ray on He-Man's allies and holding them captive in a small cage. Eventually, after the hero restores them to proper size, Whiplash and Beastman (along with Skeletor's steed, Panthor) get a taste of their own medicine and fall victim to the shrink ray. Evil-Lyn assumes he's going to use it on her and pleads with him not to. He does not. He ''smashes'' the weapon, thereby leaving her to explain to Skeletor what happened to it and the other henchmen. (Skeletor's reputation as a BadBoss is well known.)
* [[GodOfEvil Discord]] from ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' [[spoiler:[[BreakTheCutie breaks]] and {{Hate Plague}}s five of the mane cast, breaks apart their friendship, and plunges Equestria into a WorldGoneMad, driving ''everyone'' insane... but never touches [[TheHero Twilight Sparkle]]. No, he merely lets the fact she's lost everything she cares about drive her over the DespairEventHorizon and cause her to lose all hope. Thankfully, she finds a way to turn this around.]]
** The Mane Six inadvertently end up doing this to [[ArcVillain Starlight Glimmer]] after she pulls a HeelFaceTurn at the end of Season Five. Despite stealing cutie marks from ponies, enslaving a village, and then nearly destroying the world due to a time-travelling revenge scheme, Starlight Glimmer surprisingly isn't punished for her actions. Instead, Twilight Sparkle and the others [[EasilyForgiven easily forgive]] Starlight and give her a second chance as Twilight's student. Throughout the following season, Starlight still can't understand why she was forgiven, developed [[BeAllMySinsRemembered a personality quirk]], and spends most of the season struggling with her shame [[ThePunishmentIsTheCrime and being haunted by her evil past]], to the point where she takes on a TroubledFetalPosition when confronted by her old village.
* This is how [[AntiVillain Razer]] joins the Interceptor crew in ''WesternAnimation/GreenLanternTheAnimatedSeries''. He tries to goad Hal Jordan into killing him, since Razer had just caused the destruction of an inhabited planet, as well as the planet's resident Green Lantern, but Hal catches on to what Razer's trying to do, and refuses to let him off that easy, instead taking his Red Lantern ring and taking him prisoner. Razer, understandably, freaks out, and begs for death.
* In ''WesternAnimation/XMen: The Animated Series (90s)'', Storm meets and falls in love with a charismatic ruler. He ask her hand in marriage and she accepts, only to discover short afterwards that he's a cruel tyrant. She destroy his entire kingdom leaving it in ruins, freeing the people he had enslaved whom start to rebel, and all while he's powerless to stop her. "STOOOORM!!!"

[[folder:Real Life]]
* One of the many, many arguments thrown about between pro-death penalty / anti-death penalty groups is the theory that spending the remainder of one's life in prison is a [[FateWorseThanDeath harsher sentence than being executed]]. But the pro-death-penalty people note there are people like true psychopaths (as noted a few times above) who will ''never'' see it that way; as long as they're ''alive'', they'll never stop conspiring to win: be it by trying to break out, by trying to corrupt the prison, or by ''any'' other way they can devise. In which case, DeathIsTheOnlyOption.
** This is practically the argument of philosopher Michel Foucault in his book ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discipline_and_Punish Discipline and Punish]]'': someone who went into prison and served their sentence, more often than not, will find it far harder to integrate back into normal society, essentially being marked wherever they go.
** Invoked some time ago in Italy by some lifer prisoners who requested death penalty to be restored, because they found spending the rest of their lives in prison an excessive punishment.
** When Communism fell, the Russian Federation abolished capital punishment. Anyone convicted of murder after that point would be sentenced to life in prison, and anyone who was previously on death row had their sentence commuted to twenty-five years from that point, regardless of how long they had already been in prison. Many former death row inmates, who had spent years or decades awaiting execution, killed themselves, unable to face even more prison time.
** Suicidal Death Row inmates are put on suicide watch. Let that sink in for a minute[[labelnote:note]]The death penalty means that you will die at the hands of ''the state'', which is enacting the penalty against you; essentially, you have your life ''taken'' from you for your crimes. Killing yourself, while achieving the same ultimate end, does not serve as a penalty because you are taking your life into your own hands ''after'' the state has stated you do not have that option anymore[[/labelnote]].
* Turkish Sultan Alp Arslan did this to the captured Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV after crushing his army in the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Manzikert Battle of Manzikert]]. His own court quickly deposed him, and later [[EyeScream had him blinded]].
* [[AncientRome Julius Caesar]] specialized in this, often showing clemency to defeated rivals especially in Rome's civil wars, which, under the rules of Roman high society, left them permanently beholden to him because they owed him their lives. Cato the Younger actually killed himself to avoid this.
* An infamous example happened to Creator/LucioFulci's ''Film/TheNewYorkRipper'' in 1984. BBFC director James Ferman got creative with the punishment he had in store for the film for potentially violating British obscenity laws of the time. He didn't order any print to be destroyed; rather, he ordered all prints within the UK to be returned to Italy.
* This is one aspect of the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counting_coup Counting Coup]] practice among the Great Plains Indians. It sends the message, "I can lay my hands on you and there's not a damn thing you can do to stop me. You are so far below me that you are not even worth killing."
* In pre-modern times, [[TheExile exile]] was this. Being kicked out of your country's borders with no way home, no support network, and a strong likelihood of being unable to speak the local language or know the way to a civilization, much less a friendly one.
** Marooning, the naval practice of abandoning someone on a beach, is a variation of this. Ironically, the stereotypical desert island was a kinder punishment than a location with food and potable water: even assuming the latter scenario wasn't a HungryJungle, the poor mapping and navigation of the era meant discovery was virtually impossible, and the marooned sailor would GoMadFromTheIsolation.
** Another variation is excommunication from a religious institution. Execution is kinder, as it still grants rites that allow the dead to go to their proper place in the afterlife. Excommunication means both being cut off from your social support network in this life and damnation in the next one[[note]]This is why in the 11th to 16th century, excommunication was the ''preferred'' method of dealing with a terrible enemy. Many a bribe passed into Papal hands to ensure that the proper judgment was rendered[[/note]].
** Similarly, being declared an outlaw. Make yourself annoying enough to those in power by not following the laws, and rather than seek you out and cast you into a dungeon, the King declares you literally "outside the law"; if you refuse to obey the laws, you also don't receive their protection, and anybody may rob, beat up, and even murder you without any penalty.
* A popular internet meme is the phrase "May my haters live long to see my success."
** Ninja from the band DieAntwoord has a tattoo of a similar line, "May my enemies live a long time so they can see me progress."
** This is one half of the sentiment behind the old aphorism, "living well is the best revenge". (Along with the idea that stronger forms of {{revenge}} [[PyrrhicVictory aren't usually worth it]].)
* Many, ''many'' examples from warfare. One noteworthy tactic is wounding enemy soldiers instead of killing them, because wounded soldiers take up more resources. For instance, small land mines (nicknamed "Toe-poppers") used in [[UsefulNotes/TheVietnamWar Vietnam]] against American soldiers, would horribly wound but not kill, forcing the entire squad to withdraw and call for medivac, rather than mark the location of a corpse to be picked up later, and continue with the mission.