"Money buys a man's silence for a time. A [crossbow] bolt in the heart buys it forever."Somebody is involved in something dirty, or just did something nasty. Could be The Government, could be The Mafia or The Syndicate, could be General Ripper, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, or an Ancient Conspiracy. No matter what bad guy was involved, somebody saw it all, heard it all, or somehow caught wind of what's going down (or what went down), and the bad guy in question has found out about the witness. Since the witness now knows too much, the bad guy's entire scheme may come crashing down, so they aim to "silence" the witness in some manner, through bribery, blackmail, intimidation, or even murder. A common variant is that the person who purportedly knows too much doesn't actually know anything at all (or at least, doesn't understand what knowledge they have) — but the overly paranoid conspirators believe that they do, thus leading to their campaign of persecution. There's a good chance the hero will eventually get sick of being relentlessly hounded/threatened/shot at by the conspirators and start fighting back. In the process, they usually learn the "real" secret anyway by constantly coming into contact with said conspirators at every turn and eventually will find a way to bring the plan to ruin. The ironic conclusion, of course, is that if the Big Bad had just relaxed and left the person alone, they'd have succeeded. If it isn't the hero getting persecuted, it will likely be someone the hero cares about, which will usually prompt either a bodyguard scenario as the hero tries to protect them against the bad guys, or a Roaring Rampage of Revenge if the loved one is killed. Either way, it's an excellent MacGuffin. The most common motive for bad guys to go after innocent people, and also part of the reason that the FBI has the Witness Protection Program (in addition to protecting people from revenge after they testify). Another, less sympathetic variation occurs when a character learns a guilty secret possessed by another character and decides it would be a profitable enterprise to blackmail the second character in exchange for their silence. This one usually overlaps with Asshole Victim, since the second character understandably won't like the idea of being on the hook to a sleazy blackmailer for the rest of their life, and is likely to decide that getting rid of the blackmailer will cost them less in the long run than paying up. If the blackmail victim's guilty secret is that they are a murderer, this may also add elements of Too Dumb to Live to the blackmailer — after all, someone who's already killed at least one person is unlikely to have many qualms about bumping off someone else, particularly if that someone else is trying to exploit them for money. See Revealing Cover-Up, Killed to Uphold the Masquerade, Have You Told Anyone Else?, and His Name Is.... See also Leave No Witnesses for those situations where a roomful of people all Learn Too Much at once. Where the knowledge itself is harmful, see These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Compare also with You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
— Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, Game of Thrones
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Anime & Manga
- Attack on Titan:
- Pastor Nick is a high-ranking member of the Church of the Wall, and knows many important secrets. As soon as he becomes willing to reveal what he knows to Historia Reiss, members of the 1st Brigade torture and murder him.
- Alma, the mother of Histoira Reiss and mistress of a certain nobleman, was murdered to clean up any loose ends.
- Marco Bott overheard Reiner and Bertolt discussing their plans, and confronted them about it. In a panic, Reiner chased him down and got Annie to help by stealing Marco's gear. The three left him to be eaten by a Titan, though they weren't very happy with what they'd done.
- The driving force as to why The Syndicate keeps trying to kill Spike in Cowboy Bebop. He tried leaving after he met Julia, but his fellow teamsters felt that he would be too much of a risk if he ever got it in his head to squeal on them.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00:
- Sent in a message to Professor Eifman just after he figured out the true agenda of Celestial Being's founder, and just before the Thrones attack the base, killing him in the process. Either sent by Ribbons Almack or by Veda itself.
Eifman's computer screen: "You have witnessed too much."
- Played with in the case of Kinue Crossroad. She is killed for knowing too much, but the guy who killed her is a violent sociopath, and deliberately gave her the information before killing her for knowing too much, apparently just because doing so amused him.
- Sent in a message to Professor Eifman just after he figured out the true agenda of Celestial Being's founder, and just before the Thrones attack the base, killing him in the process. Either sent by Ribbons Almack or by Veda itself.
- Pokémon Adventures has Ghetsis invoke this on Black after he defeated Team Plasma's King N, not wanting anyone to get wind of the king's defeat as it would harm Team Plasma's public image. He opted killing the only witness other than himself with a nice smile and polite demeanor.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
Isaac: Do you know what shape this country is in?
- Hughes learns about the Ancient Conspiracy, or at least a little more than the others know. We all know what happened to him...
- It's not until quite a bit later in the story that the audience is shown exactly what he had uncovered. At first it seemed that he'd discovered little more than that there was an Ancient Conspiracy, and his knowledge shouldn't really have been a threat to them yet. But in fact, he'd also realized that all of Amestris was a giant transmutation circle, a fact that was the linchpin of the entire conspiracy. No wonder the guy got offed.
- In Brotherhood, Isaac McDougall found out exactly the same thing Hughes did. He also gets offed for his efforts by Wrath/Bradley himself.
- Code Geass R2:
- In episode 14, Rolo claims to have killed Shirley Fenette for remembering the truth about Lelouch as Zero This isn't completely true (Shirley wanted to help reunite Lelouch with his real sibling, Nunally, eliciting Rolo's jealousy), but it's not a total lie either ( she knew that Nunally was Lelouch's sister when she wasn't supposed to.)
- In the first episodes of both the first and second season, Lelouch is about to be shot for having seen C.C., although the second time it was intentional.
- In Suzaku of the Counterattack, this is why Schneizel had Marianne killed.
- In an early episode of R2, Rolo murders a Britannian soldier who walks in on a conversation he's having with Viletta for hearing things he shouldn't. And all the guy heard was the word "Geass", which he couldn't possibly have even understood.
- One Piece:
- The scholars of Ohara got too deep in researching the Void Century (which is hinted at being a huge threat toward the World Government), and consequently the island, along with its inhabitants, was bombarded into oblivion by the World Government. It's also the real reason why Nico Robin has a bounty; she's the Sole Survivor of Ohara, her mother Olvia was one of the Scholars and she inherited her knowledge.
- Played for comedy in Luffy/Ace's flashback. Luffy discovers where Ace and Sabo keep their treasure, and they state that they're going to kill him to keep him from telling, only to realize that neither of them have killed anyone before.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing:
- All five Gundam Pilots were ordered to kill anybody who sees the Gundams, or who discovers their identities. Heero takes it to an extreme, by repeatedly threatening to kill Relena for finding him washed up on a beach in his spacesuit. Duo was a bit more forgiving, by simply using a road flare to obscure Relena's view of Wing Zero and Deathscythe and then warning her that it was in her best interests to look away.
- Near the end of the series, Hilde wound up becoming a target of the White Fang, when she infiltrated the Libra base and hacked their systems to gather data on Vayette and Mercuriousnote . Quantz mobilized them and sent them to silence her before she could get the information back to the Gundam pilots - with the attempt being narrowly subverted, thanks to Duo's intervention. While Hilde is seriously injured, she lives through and succesfully gives the info away.
- Played with an in episode of Lupin III where Nyx's daughter accidentally finds some evidence that would expose Rebecca as a thief. Rebecca seemingly kidnaps the girl, and when Nyx confronts her, she says that she had to do it to "keep her mouth shut". Nyx takes this as an indication that Rebecca has murdered the young girl to silence her, and understandably freaks out. It turns out that Rebecca actually just sent the girl off on an all-expenses-paid shopping trip in order to bribe her into keeping quiet.
- Variable Geo: Chiho thought Damian hadn't noticed her while she was eavesdropping on him at the Jahana Research Facility. She overhears one of the lab techs say they'd get better results from Satomi's field tests with live data, rather than simulations. Damian doesn't even bother looking over his shoulder, he simply smirks and tells him to start with the girl spying on them, from the doorway.
- Monster: If someone possesses any evidence that Johan Liebert exists, that's enough to have Johan arrange for them to die. The exceptions to this are his sister (whom he considers his "other self"), General Wolf, and Dr. Tenma (the latter two saved his life). Though, he's got his own plans for them. And they are just as evil.
- In Psycho-Pass, Kagari is killed when they find out the true form of the Sibyl system.
- In the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series, this partially is what prompts Dark Magical Girl Miyu to get the otaku Secret Keeper to fall to his death. The fact that he showed absolutely no understanding about Miyu's nature and what it means to be the Guardian really didn't help his case.
- In the original manga of the Hentai series Bondage Fairies, main heroine Pfil is invited into the home of a trio of sisters while on a missing-stag-beetle case. While there, she accidentally stumbles upon a detached stag beetle leg. The sisters realize that they've been found out, and they knock Pfil out and take her captive, starting the plot.
- In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Osamu Sugo leaves the Missing Link F-1 team after knowing of his boss Smith's plans to use Asurada, the computer system created by Hayato's father, as a weapon of mass destruction. He soon disguises himself as Knight Shoemach, in order to keep an eye on Hayato, as well as Smith and his men. During his racing duel with his rival Bootsvorz, Smith attacks Osamu from behind with his helicopter's missile for exposing said secret. Osamu survives the incident, but ends up injuring his eye.
- Averted in Mai-HiME. Akira is duty-bound to kill Takumi if he finds out she's a girl, but not only is unable to go through with it, but even saves his life by giving him his medicine.
- Baki kills Hayate after he sees him meeting with Kabuto, learning that the Sand and Sound Villages are conspiring to destroy the Leaf Village.
- This happened to Kabuto himself too. He and his mother figure Nonou were spies for Root, but Danzo decided they had become a liability and set them up to kill one another. This was the catalyst for Kabuto's Face–Heel Turn.
- Lyrical Nanoha:
- Used as a Tear Jerker in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's when the Wolkenritter try to kill Nanoha and Fate to protect Hayate's identity as the master of the Book of Darkness. It's made painfully clear that they really didn't want to go through with it, but they were scared and desperate.
- Bell Matera of StrikerS Sound Stage X, who was immediately forced to commit suicide the moment he figured out what the Mariage were seeking.
- In Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force Marty gets his Head Asploded before he can tell Arnage and Veyron more about his employer.
- Detective Conan features many, MANY cases:
- The series starts with this trope: Amateur Sleuth Shinichi Kudo comes across a mysterious black man extorting from another man, but he fails to see the black man's partner, who sneaks on him and knocks him out cold with a lead pipe. The two try to force feed him a poison pill plus a serum... but the pill only shrinks him into a body of a child and assumes the alias of Conan Edogawa.
- In the Ski Lodge case, this was the reason for Minako Mochizuki's murder: she found out that two of her three favorite teachers were involved in a fraud, so she tried to confront them... so the two strangled her to death and then made it look like she committed suicide. And the third teacher? She killed them as part of her plot to get revenge for Minako's murder.
- In the Luxury Liner case, Tatsuo got beaten to death by his wife Aki's cousin Ichiro because Tatsuo saw him trying to drop the killing weapon (a knife which he used to kill his grandfather) in the sea.
- The Non-Serial Movie Phantom of Baker Street reveals the immediate reason for Hiroki's death is because he found out Schneider was the direct descendant of Jack the Ripper.
- In another Non-Serial Movie, a boy named Touma Tachihara witnessed a murder committed by one of his mother's friends, who then kidnapped him and tried to kill him. However, Touma then fell off a cliff and fell in a coma, only waking up eight years later. The killer targets him again, fearing that if he ever recovered his memories, he'd denounce him.
- Almost happens to Ran Mouri twice, once in the anime/manga and later in a Non-Serial Movie. In the first, she steps inside several rooms where guys are undressing, but one of them has a secret... and he's the killer of the case. In the second, she clearly sees the face of a murderer who immediately tries to shoot her dead, and even when she has a huge Trauma-Induced Amnesia he still attempts to murder her.
- In the "Timeless Sakura Love" case, Sumiko Kobayashi finds herself in this position after she stumbles in a murder scene and catches a glimpse of the culprit. Good thing that Shiratori, Sato and the Detective Kids manage to help her and keep her safe.
- It's implied that Akemi Miyano might have been at the receiving end of this trope. The Black Organization couldn't outright murder the woman because they needed her to keep her younger sister Shiho/Sherry's loyalty in check, but once it was clear that Akemi was in love with a man who had been The Mole in the group, they decided to create a situation where they could eliminate her by having her do a bank heist she was supposed to fail... and which ended up with two agents of the group, coincidentally the same two who shrunk Shinichi, shooting her dead.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
- In Part 3 (Stardust Crusaders), Enya is killed by Dio and Steely Dan (Dio supplied the weapon) so she can't reveal how The World works. The kicker: While dying, Enya made clear that she would never have thought to betray Dio, though Joseph might have been able to read her mind with Hermit Purple. Steely Dan just laughs at her.
- In Part 4 (Diamond is Unbreakable), Shigechi buys a limited-edition sandwich, but picks up the wrong bag after setting it next to someone else's. The bag he took belonged to Kira, who had left his latest victim's hand in it. When Shigechi opens the bag and sees what's in it, Kira murders him to hide his crimes.
- Part of Diavolo's plan in Part 5 (Golden Winds) is to murder anyone and everyone who knows anything about him, or has even seen his face. This extends to his own daughter, the Action Girl Trish. Fortunately, Buccellati is able to rescue her before he can do the deed.
- In Part 6 (Stone Ocean), Whitesnake kills Jongalli as insurance against Jotaro and Jolyne learning who's really behind the latter's imprisonment — Enrico Pucci, the prison chaplain.
- Happens thrice in the first part of Sorcerer Stabber Orphen:
- Lai steps on who everyone believes to be Childman but is actually Azalie in Childman's body. She turns him into a Human Popsicle, and he remains as such until the end of the first series.
- Shastanasi, one of the Elders of the Towers of Fangs, also realizes that Azalie has taken over Childman's body and tries to blackmail her. Childman!Azalie fights back, and soon Shastanasi is seen as an Empty Shell.
- Some time later, Hartia finds the frozen Lai and tries to confront "Childman"... but then he sees Childman!Azalie's shadow in Azalie's form. She almost kills him on the spot and does severely wound him, but he manages to escape to Orphen and Co.'s side and tells them the truth.
- Phantom Quest Corp.: In Incident File 04, Detective Karino suspects the Hadja of running a scam operation and gets caught snooping around their compound. Their leader, Mukyo, has him subjected to tickle torture while interrogating him about how much he knows. Then attempts to silence him permanently by dangling him over a pit and summoning the apparitions he'd allegedly excorcised. Thankfully, Ayaka and the others arrived at that time to save Karino's bacon.
- In Murasakiiro no Qualia JAUNT blows up an entire plane in order to dispose of Hatou and Yukari's family, who were traveling to America, because they were prying into the incident that resulted in Yukari's death.
- Allen Schezar's father Leon from The Vision of Escaflowne is believed to have abandoned his family, but this is what actually happened to him. Several years ago, the Zaibach Empire targeted him because he had gathered lots of information on the Draconians and was about to blow their cover. When they managed to find Leon, they took his notes and killed him. Allen doesn't learn about this for several years, when he confronts Leon's spirit and tries to call him out on what he believes to have been Parental Abandonment. When he learns that Leon never left the family, he eventually makes peace with him.
- In Gunslinger Girl, when Hillshire learns the girl he just rescued had been turned into a cyborg killer, Jean gives him two options: become Triela's handler, where at least he can watch over her, or be murdered. Either way, he wasn't leaving the Agency a free man.
- It's also implied that Claes's handler Raballo was killed because he wanted to reveal the Agency's existence.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Major warns a helpful independent hacker who gave her evidence regarding the Laughing Man that he's getting too close to figuring out the truth, which could put his life at risk from whomever is responsible. He thanks her and agrees to back off for his own safety.
- In Soul Eater Buttaki Joe is butchered by Justin Law when the former levels up his soul sensing abilities and discovers the hide-out of the Kishin.
- In Top 10, pop star and former science-hero sidekick Glenn Garland is killed because he was going to tell the media about the illegal and repulsive actions of a group which he used to be a part of. The Vigilante from Venus also expressed concern that they were going to try to kill her before she went to trial, for fear that she would incriminate them in her testimony.
- This trope is what sets the whole plot of the first Sin City story "The Hard Goodbye" in motion, as Goldie is killed on orders from another character after she discovered his nasty secret habit. Another character dies after mistaking a death squad for honest cops and telling them everything.
- In Watchmen, two people knew the same thing:
- One is killed because he knows the details of a plan, even though he had no intention of revealing it; he had told Moloch, who simply didn't understand what he heard and would be no threat to its success even if he did understand it.
- The other (not Moloch, by the way) is killed because he knows the plan and is going to reveal it. His murder may have been pointless, though, because he'd mailed his journal to the "New Frontiersman". Whether anyone of importance would believe what that Conspiracy Theorist tabloid reports is unclear, though.
- This is essentially the reason that The Boys haven't been brutally butchered by ruthless "superheroes" the Seven; the only reason they aren't dead is that they have even more damaging information on someone that The Seven fear more.
- As the lead geneticist in the Facility's attempts to clone Wolverine, Dr. Sarah Kinney knows everything about the X-23 project, particularly after Rice reveals that additional clones are currently in production, with the plan being to sell them to the highest bidders. After firing her, Rice decides to ensure her silence about the project by arranging to have X-23 kill her by contaminating Sarah with the trigger scent (that, and because he's a tremendous dick). Unfortunately for him, Sarah's final act is to turn X-23 loose against the Facility itself...
- Dynamite's run on The Shadow:
- In #8, a seemingly ordinary couple is killed. Their deaths are widely dismissed as just another murder, but the Shadow knows they chanced on something that the murderers were trying to hide.
- In the Light arc, the first victim of that murderer doesn't match the profile of the subsequent victims. After some investigation, the Shadow concludes that he must have known something about the Light that she didn't want to get out.
- Button Man: Offing is standard procedure of dealing with anyone who knows too much about the killing game. Even Harry himself has tied up some loose ends of his own.
- Magnificent Kamen in Sailor Nothing allows no witness to escape to reveal the Masquerade. The fact that he's a Yamiko probably has something to do with that.
- In Winter War, Hisagi kills Iemura for discovering that he is a Fake Defector, even though they were (theoretically) on the same side and Iemura was offering his support, because he didn't believe that Iemura could keep the secret. The guilt eventually drives the killer into Heroic B.S.O.D. to the point where his zanpakutou has to take over his body just to keep him alive.
- In Pages Of Harmony, Twilight ends up kidnapping and killing Spike and Sweetie Belle because she fears they'll learn too much about her plans involving the Elements - the former because he hangs around the library and starts to get suspicious, and the latter because she witnesses Rarity being kidnapped.
- In Advice and Trust, Rei wanted to tell Shinji and Asuka everything about her origins and NERV and SEELE's real goals, but Kaworu warned her that SEELE would kill them all if they found out that they knew too much.
- A recurring theme in The Shadow is Vader (or more recently, Luke) killing someone for knowing Luke's identity beyond "Vader's Apprentice". Most notably, Boba Fett tries to blackmail Luke with the fact he's Anakin Skywalker's son, threatening to tell Vader if Luke doesn't get him an unspecified amount of money. Just before killing him, Luke tells Boba that Vader is Anakin Skywalker.
- Team 8. Kurenai is killed because she's just figured out and proven how to beat Itachi's Tsukuyomi. Overlaps with Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Played for Laughs in A MODern Man when Harry moves his future-selfs corpse and Draco spots him.
Draco: W-was that a muggle?
Harry: Of course not! That was a witness.
Draco: To what?
Harry: That matters even less than if he was a muggle. He thought he saw something, that was enough. You haven't seen anything today, have you, cousin?
Draco: No! Not a thing! I gotta go!
Films — Animated
- Nicodemus inverts this in a discussion with Mrs. Frisby in The Secret of NIMH; instead of using it as an excuse to die, he utilizes this fact as a reason to survive by leaving their colony. "My child, we can no longer live as rats... we know too much." In this case, the rats have become so intelligent that they've developed morals against stealing from the local farmer to survive, and must form their own civilization away from humans.
- The true Big Bad of Monsters, Inc., Mr. Waternoose, says this, and unfortunately for him, Mike gets it on tape.
- Fred in Big Hero 6 cites this trope as the reason why Yokai is trying to kill them, after the heroes see him and his nanobots.
- Aladdin and the King of Thieves: Regardless of the fact that Aladdin is Cassim's son, Sa'luk quickly declares that Al is still an intruder
Sa'luk: Blood or mud, the boy is an intruder, and we have rules about intruders. He has found our secret lair. He has seen too much. He must die. (turns to Abu and Iago) They must ALL die!Iago: DIE?! He's your son! I'm his friend! CAST A VOTE FOR MERCY HERE!!Sa'luk: Yes, Cassim, mercy would be so like you. Soft...and weak!
- Zootopia: Emmitt Otterton was on his way to talk to Mr. Big and was "silenced" when Doug shot him with a serum pellet while he was on route. According to Manchas, Otterton wailed about "Night Howlers" before fully succumbing to savage madness.
Films — Live-Action
- In '71 Captain Harris and Sergeant Lewis decide that they need to kill Gary after he sees the bomb in the pub.
- Alfred Hitchcock was fond of this trope, which he used as the key plot element in films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, and The Saboteur.
- The main action of the Brandon Lee movie Rapid Fire starts when Brandon's character witnesses a bad guy in the act of taking out a rival.
- In a movie about the presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio's assassination in Tijuana called Colosio: El Asesinato, the main character is a police officer who works undercover and is asked by the president's former brother-in-law José Francisco Ruiz Massieu to investigate the murder. After a series of investigations, he concludes that the very same party killed Colosio. At the same time, someone is killing everyone involved with the case and murder, including the murderer and anyone who dares to seek the truth. As a result, the main character gets killed in the end as well as his pregnant wife, his partner, the police chief in Tijuana, and Ruiz Massieu, all because of this trope.
- Snakes on a Plane: The catalytic event for the eponymous serpents upon the aircraft.
- Subverted slightly in Adventures in Babysitting — one of the kids had taken a Playboy magazine that could get the crime boss put away, and the presumption the criminals made, of course, was that the kids had read it, plus the fact that they'd met at all meant they knew too much. The magazine was returned, and the crime boss' underling resigned, knocking him out along the way.
- The Hong Kong action movie Sha Po Lang (known in the US as "Killzone") kicks off with the murder of a witness ordered by a Triad crimelord so that his testimony could not be given and the crimelord would be set free. This sets four cops against him, all with their own reasons for wanting to take him down.
- In Lethal Weapon, Riggs is tortured by the bad guys to find out what he knows about their impending shipment, which is nothing.
- In Serenity, the Operative is sent after River because she picked up the secret of Miranda, which has been buried for twelve years, from the heads of top members of the Alliance's Parliament who came to the Academy to see her. The nature of the secret in question means that Parliament wants more than anything to keep it buried, even if it means River must die.
- This is a perfect example of the variant, since River was totally crazy, so she couldn't have communicated what she knew to anybody who could do anything about it. The Operative coming after her and the crew compelled them to find out the truth.
- The Man with One Red Shoe (the American remake of the French The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe) has the scheming deputy head of the CIA trying to frame the actual head, so that he can have his job. The head knows this, and lets slip that someone who can foil this plan very simply will be arriving at the airport. He then sends his aide to meet any random person at the airport, so that the deputy and his men will follow them and try to find out what he knows. The aide picks a rather head-in-the-clouds musician, who's wearing a pair of mismatched shoes because of a practical joke.
- The Hero in Marathon Man is one of the actually-know-nothing kind.
- Governor Swann is killed in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End because he finds out what really happens when someone stabs Davy Jones' heart.
- It's pretty strongly implied that the "villain" of The Hunted was just acting in self defense, pursued by government assassins over his past black-ops experience.
- Robert's justification for killing Leroy and Destiny in Mystery Team.
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, Col Phillips warns a captured Zola that Schmitt will see him this way.
- In the sequel, a maid walks in on her employer briefing the Winter Soldier, and is regretfully shot dead.
- In Drive, a gangster uses a crew of low level criminals to rip off a Mafia boss with the intent to later kill them and take the money for himself. When the plan blows up in his face, he and his partner decide that everyone involved Knows Too Much and must die so the Mafia never finds out who was really responsible. Ironically, the only survivor of the crew actually does not know anything and was about to leave town.
- Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors, adapted from the stage musical. This trope did not apply to the original film.
- Inverted in Diamonds Are Forever concerning the diamond smuggling ring. When one of your own passes you fake diamonds, he knows too much about the circumstances to die. This is demonstrated when Shady Tree rescues James Bond (who had assumed the identity of Peter Franks, a fellow diamond smuggler who Bond had killed) from a retort to question him about where he hid the real diamonds, only for Bond to use leverage against him to the tune of $50,000 ("You bring me the real money, and I'll bring you the real diamonds."), and then Zig Zagged when Albert R. Saxby reminds Wint and Kidd that they "didn't get the real diamonds. So we need Tree, alive." Wint and Kidd remark on how "that's most annoying" because they had already cut Tree down, as revealed when Bond shows up in his dressing room.
- All over the place in The Fourth Protocol, about a Soviet plot to set off a nuclear bomb outside a US airbase in Britain and Make It Look Like an Accident. The implications of this plan being exposed are so serious that the KGB sleeper agent and the scientist who assembles the bomb are set up to be killed. The film takes this up to another level for dramatic purposes — it opens with traitor Kim Philby (who planned the operation) being shot, the man who shot Philby getting his neck broken, and an innocent bystander who walks in on an exchange of a smuggled component gets stabbed.
- In American Beauty, Col. Fitts kills Lester to make sure he doesn't tell anyone that he's gay.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: The two crewmen who killed the Klingon Chancellor are killed in turn by another conspirator, Lt. Valeris. On finding the bodies, Kirk grimly notes "First rule of assassination: Kill the assassins."
- In Cube 2: Hypercube, this appears to be the entire reason why almost everyone was thrown into the hypercube to die, as they all have some sort of connection to the hypercube's controllers. Except for Sasha, who it's revealed went inside willingly to hide, and Kate, who's an operative sent in with a mission. It's also why Kate's superiors summarily execute her when she returns with her mission accomplished.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Shredder orders his Foot Clan to kill April O'Neil when she begins to dig too deep into his group.
- The Conspiracy kicks off when the subject of a conspiracy theorist documentary goes missing, and Jim is killed and Aaron threatened into silence after being found out at the Tarsus Club.
- The President's Analyst is privy to the innermost thoughts of the President - when the strain of the job becomes too much he skips town, pursued by foreign agents wanting to tap his mind, and domestic agents who, because he knows too much, want to bring him in or kill him.
- I Come in Peace: Larry's FBI boss tries to kill his subordinate after Larry hands over the energy weapon which he retrieved from the alien cop, but Larry's local partner Jack saves him by shooting the guy first.
- Averted in The Third Man. After Harry Lime makes an Implied Death Threat during his motive speech in the ferris wheel, Holly Martins tells him that the authorities already know that he's Not Quite Dead, so killing Holly wouldn't change anything.
- Shark Attack: It turns out that Steven's friend was murdered and dumped into a shark-infested lake because he was starting to uncover the bad guy's plan.
- RED starts when a commando team tries to assassinate retired CIA agent Frank Moses. He quickly realizes that someone is trying to kill him because of something he knows, but because he doesn't know what it is and they don't know who he might have told, they're targeting people he's been in contact with as well so he's got to find his old friends before they can be attacked as well.
- The Internecine Project (1974). A former intelligence agent is being promoted to government advisor, so he plans to have four colleagues who know about his past 'dirty tricks' work kill each other off.
- Mulholland Falls: Alison was murdered because she had uncovered and recorded illegal nuclear testing on U.S. military personel at the atomic testing site.
- A KGB agent is questioned by his superior: "How much is 2 plus 2?" - "Four." - "And how much is 3 times 5?" - "Fifteen." - "And how much is the square root of 9?" - "Three." At the moment, the superior draws his gun and shoots the agent. "Comrades, I had to neutralize him, he knew too much!"
- In A Brother's Price, the protagonists find the corpse of a man who likely died from blood loss after his tongue was cut off. They conclude that the women who killed his family and kidnapped him wanted to keep him around (men have Gender Rarity Value in the setting), but didn't want him to be able to talk, and were too incompetent to silence him without killing him. Later on, one of Jerin's kidnappers advises her sisters to not talk too much in front of Jerin, as she would like her future husband to have a tongue.
- In Duumvirate, anyone getting too close to certain truths is most commonly fed misinformation, with options for inflicted insanity, death, and acquisition.
- In Dragon Bones the protagonists are told about a man who got tortured and very nearly killed by the villains, who suspected he knew too much. He faked being masochistic and suffering amnesia in order to avoid this fate. (He pretended to have forgotten about the torture and be only worried someone could find out that he sometimes pays women to inflict pain on him.) It worked, probably due to Wrong Genre Savvy villains who thought they were in a detective novel, where leaving the potential witness alive would indeed be cleverer.
- An interesting variant in Animorphs — the heroes consider this during the David Trilogy, when the eponymous character turns against them. It makes them pretty uncomfortable, though in the end, they decide on an even more extreme solution.
- The Mote in God's Eye. After the three midshipmen crash land on Mote Prime, they wander around for a while and make a number of discoveries. The Motie decision makers decide to kill them to keep them from telling the other humans what they've found out. And it plays out the other way, too. The humans are about to be captured, but they decide that they know too much about human technology to allow themselves to be taken prisoner — so they kill themselves.
- In Girlfriend In A Coma, Karen, the eponymous character, believes this was why she went into her coma in the first place — she caught a glimpse of the future, and it wasn't pleasant.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts:
- Traitor General is a rare heroic example, with a kill team being formed to hunt down and eliminate the eponymous villain before he spills too much of what he knows to his new Chaotic masters.
- The Armour of Contempt: Ludd interrupts a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown intended to kill Merrt. The man ordering it assures him that the body would never be found here, and offers a bribe. Ludd says he could report it anyway, and the man admits he knows too much to live. Fortunately, Ludd had backup, even though Hark had been distracted for a minute before.
- If you're a character in an Agatha Christie novel, don't ever try to blackmail a murderer if you want to live to the end of the novel. And if you know anything that might have any relevance to the murder whatsoever, go immediately to Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot and tell them everything, even if you aren't certain that what you know is important. Under no circumstances should you hint that you know something but fail to say what it is. Characters who have found this out the hard way include:
- Amberiotis of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe knew about Alistair's Blunt bigamy, a fact which he discovered from Ms Mabelle Salisbury Seale, who is friends with his secret wife. Both were killed to hide the scandal from the public.
- Louise Bourget of Death on the Nile
- Joyce Reynolds, the 13-year-old schoolgirl from "Hallowe'en Party" (1969). She tries to use her knowledge of a murder to her benefit. Instead, the murderers have her killed, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. And what makes this worse is that it's not even her knowledge, really; she's overheard the child who really does know about the murder talk about it and has tried to pass it off as her own knowledge for attention.
- Later in the story, a second victim Joyce's younger brother Leopold figures it out, tries to blackmail the killer, and meets much the same fate.
- Angele Blanche from Cat Among the Pigeons is another would-be blackmailer.
- Other characters who "knew too much" include Donald Ross from Lord Edgware Dies and Mrs Upward from Mrs McGinty's Dead — as well as the principal murder victims in Three Act Tragedy, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Cards on the Table, Evil Under the Sun, and A Caribbean Mystery.
- An example that's neither a blackmailer nor the principle murder victim is Salome Otterbourne in Death on the Nile, who witnesses the murder of Louise Bourget (see above), goes to tell Poirot, and gets to invoke His Name Is... before being shot dead by the killer.
- An example of the second variant comes in Why Didn't They Ask Evans?. Bobby Jones witnessed the death of a man who stumbled and fell off a cliff, then tells a woman claiming to be the man's sister that his last words were "Why didn't they ask Evans?" This is enough to convince the conspirators that Bobby has to be killed, which is in turn enough to convince Bobby that the man was murdered, "Evans" knows something important, and he should investigate...
- Syme in Nineteen Eighty-Four lauds the principles behind New Speak to Winston, explaining in great detail how it helps the Party perfect its control over the general populace. Despite being thoroughly loyal to the Party, he is eventually made an "unperson" due to this understanding. A fate Winston himself is able to see coming, predicting that Syme will be "Vaporized" several chapters before it actually happens.
- Honor Harrington: Defied in Crown of Slaves. Some Solarians suggest offing Thandi Palane, but are warned away by the fact that she is connected to knowledgeable and hardened killers (read: Victor Cachat, Anton Zilwicki, and Jeremy X) who would take bloody vengeance, compounding the fact that the person who knows too much is the one they would go to for assassinations in the first place.
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: This is the reason why Arronax, Conseil, and Ned Land will remain prisoners of the Nautilus and cannot come back to Civilization. Ever. (Captain Nemo lets them abandon the Nautilus and explore land, but is always in uncivilized shores). Captain Nemo explains:
"... You came to surprise a secret which no man in the world must penetrate — the secret of my whole existence. And you think that I am going to send you back to that world which must know me no more? Never! In retaining you, it is not you whom I guard — it is myself."
- Pretty Little Liars: Hanna gets hit by a car when she recognizes A's number in Perfect.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Bran sees Jaime and Cersei having sex and is then pushed out of a tower for it. During the ensuing coma, he's attacked by an assassin. We later learn that the assassination attempt is a subversion — he was attacked because Joffrey wanted his father's approval.
- Jon Arryn learned about Jaime and Cersei as well, and promptly died under suspicious circumstances. Interestingly, this is also a subversion — he was killed because Petyr felt like sowing some discord.
- Petyr also has a habit of doing this, murdering Ser Dontos, whom he used as a catspaw in order to smuggle Sansa Stark out of Kings Landing, and his accomplice in Jon Arryn's murder, Lysa Tully.
- Undoubtedly inspired by the assassination of Von Papen (see Real Life), Ian Fleming had two SMERSH assassins fall victim to this trick in his first James Bond novel Casino Royale.
- Brandon Sanderson
- The Emperor's Soul; Shai is knows she's going to be killed after she is no longer useful to her captors in part because she could blackmail them with the fact that the Emperor was almost killed and they resorted to forbidden magic to fix and conceal this. She doesn't actually want to blackmail them, but they won't believe that.
- Used as well in "Sixth Of The Dusk", where Dusk originally thinks this is why Patji is trying so hard to kill him, even when he's trying to drive intruders from the island. He knows the secret of the island's heart, the fact that every Aviar must migrate here and eat a special fruit filled with worms. Otherwise, they cannot grant a talent.
- A constant danger for the protagonists in the Safehold series. Their knowledge of Safehold's status as a Lost Colony in Medieval Stasis would be blasphemous to the average person, so they have to be insanely cautious about who they let in on the knowledge. Those people are also told, if they don't work it out themselves, that if there's any danger of betrayal they'll be forced to take measures.
- A specific instance occurs in the third book, By Heresies Distressed when an attempted assassination is foiled by the arrival of Merlin, who is supposed to be hundreds of miles away in a whole other country. Merlin then proceeds to kill every enemy there to prevent anyone from talking about his arrival.
- In Kill Decision, after Strickland discovers that someone is stealing his team's code and gathers them, the villains have them killed before they can investigate further or tip anyone off.
- Subverted in A Piece of Resistance, a novel by Clive Egleton set in a Soviet-occupied Britain. A resistance leader is captured, and the protagonist is told by his superior that he must be freed or, failing that, killed as he knows the identity of hundreds of Resistance members. It turns out the only person he knows is the superior, who's just protecting his own skin.
- In Striptease by Carl Hiaasen, this drives much of the main plot as characters discover a Congressman who beat up another patron at a nudie bar. They're hoping for some blackmail, but the Congressman's people have other ideas. A purer example is mostly in the background — three migrant workers are hired to murder one character, sent back to Jamaica afterwards, and it's implied that a fatal accident will be arranged for them there.
- The Enemy by Desmond Bagley. A British scientist runs to Sweden after an attack on a member of his family. A Government Agency of Fiction follows him but only finds the scientist and his bodyguard killing time there. In order to shake things up, they pretend to be a KGB team conducting a ridiculously inept tail, but this backfires badly when the bodyguard responds by shooting dead the man he's guarding after they're cornered. The rest of the book is spent finding out what was so important about the scientist he had to be killed to prevent him falling into enemy hands.
- Throughout Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Kreacher the house-elf serves as little more than a nuisance to anyone in 12 Grimmauld Place (namely Sirius), but they can't free him with clothes because he knows too much about the Order.
- A case of this kicks off the Nelson De Mille novel The Charm School, when the KGB silence a tourist who blundered into evidence of the eponymous school. Ultimately, the US government also decides to hide the existence of the Charm School - and the American POWs who staff it - through even more drastic methods.
- In Updraft, this is why the Singers executed Nat's father; he knew that Singers possessed knowledge of how to safely navigate at night, which would be very useful for non-Singer fliers. Even if the Singers had been prepared to share that particular technique, people would wonder what else the Singers were hiding... and would now be better able to discover just that, since night would no longer cover Singer activities which people would get really angry about.
- The climax of Dinner at Deviant's Palace is a No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine situation with a bunch of the villain's underlings joining the villain and the hero for the eponymous dinner. When the hero is shown in, he addresses the villain by his true name, and the villain notes that several of the dinner guests have now been let into a secret they can't be allowed to leave with and will have to be killed when the dinner is over. As the conversation continues through the hero's other discoveries about the cult, the villain continues to casually note whenever another revelation has doomed a few more guests, until they get to the real reason the villain's cult bans music, at which point the villain announces that the list now includes every single person in the room.
- One of Luis Fernando Verissimo's chronicles plays with this, being about a man who calls someone else on the phone by saying "I know everything", essentially blackmailing them into doing what he wanted without ever saying what he knew about. He began doing this to other people, and managed to move up in life as a result. However, things escalated to the point the man was cornered by hitmen at his beach house and murdered... because of this trope.
- A short story in The Best in Chess revolves around a cobbler who claims to have discovered an unbeatable chess opening, thereby rendering all Chess theory—and the game itself—obsolete. A chessmaster reassures him that there's still a way to defeat it, but then plunges a chess bishop into the cobbler's back.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Angelus is very thorough in disposing of everyone who knows how to restore his soul. Jenny Calendar is killed and her computer (monitor) is destroyed after she translates the spell.
- Faith murders a Volcanologist in his office, seemingly at random. We later learn that the doctor excavated the fossilized remains of an Old One, which puts Buffy on the trail of the Mayor's weakness.
- The First makes Andrew something of a priority that needs a quick killing.
- Victor from Burn Notice. It ends sadly...
- River Tam from Firefly. We don't find out what it is that she knows until The Movie Serenity (see Film), but we know her handlers paraded her in front of many top-level politics and military leaders... without realizing that she is a mind reader, so the government definitely considers it too much. So much so that two government agents killed an entire building full of people for the crime of having heard her speak gibberish while she was under arrest.
- Game of Thrones:
- The series kicks off with the Starks receiving a letter stating that Jon Arryn was murdered which they decide was due to this trope.
- Bran is defenestrated for seeing too much, even if he doesn't completely understand what he saw.
- Dontos Hollard receives a crossbow bolt because he cannot be trusted with a secret.
- The Tomorrow People:
Dr. Culix: The boy on the bike? He's seen too much. Get him!
- Dollhouse: Rather than being "terminated" (one way or another), a "handler" who has been exposed for raping his assigned "doll" is offered a task more suited to his evident personality: eliminate a woman who has inadvertently learned too much about the Dollhouse from an FBI agent investigating the organization. Only it's subverted when it's revealed that the target is a doll herself, one with a "killer" sleeper personality, and he's actually being sent to his death as part of a larger scheme.
- UFO. A continuing duty of SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation) is to suppress information on UFO incidents to prevent worldwide panic over the knowledge that beings from another world are harvesting human organs. Their methods include intimidation (ranging from beatings to government pressure on the employers of the witness), conscription into SHADO, amnesia pills, and even murder.
- In the Mission: Impossible episode "The Town", Phelps stumbles across a town of Russian spies and discovers the fact. They intend to make his death look like natural causes. Fortunately, he has four brilliant colleagues.
- Doctor Who
- In the serial The Gunfighters, Johnny Ringo is in Tombstone looking for fellow Magnificent Bastard Doc Holliday, and the barkeep recognizes him, and threatens to go to the Earps.
- This was the Doctor's justification for kidnapping Barbara and Ian. Couldn't have them revealing the existence of advanced aliens, after all.
- Warehouse 13:
- Implied in Claudia's first episode after she breaks into the Warehouse to coerce Artie to help her save her brother (as in, she knows about the Warehouse and now we have to do something about it). They seem like the kind of folks who consider death to be a (albeit viable) last resort, though, and Claudia ends up joining the team.
- Something very similar happens in the first episode of Season 3 — the warehouse agents run into ATF agent Steve Jinks on a mission, and their attempts to explain the situation away don't work because he's a Living Lie Detector. Since he's in on the secret and already a federal agent, he gets recruited.
- Actually, given that they share the same universe, he's probably one of those called Alphas.
- In Battlestar Galactica (2003), this is basically why Tory kills Cally, who has learned that Tory, Cally's own husband Galen, and Colonel Tigh are actually Cylons. Important to note that Galen is not in on this, and kills Tory for it when he finds out.
- NCIS: The episode "Witness" was based on this motive. It included a medium Tear Jerker, as McGee narrowly failed to save the girl, who he'd hit it off with just the day before.
- Several (main and minor) characters on The Wire have been killed off because of this trope. Whether they do or don't know too much, the results tend to be tragic.
Stringer Bell: "But there go a life that had to be snatched, Avon (...) Twenty years above his fucking head. He'd flip, man! They got you, me, and Brianna! No fucking way, man! Hell, no! Now, I know you family, you loved that nigga, but you wanna talk that 'Blood is thicker than water' bullshit, you take that shit somewhere else, nigga! That motherfucker would've taken down the whole fucking show, starting with you, killer!"
- Someone from Pretty Little Liars is in great danger in the Summer Finale of the show. A even sends a text to Emily which says 'She knew too much.'
- In The X-Files, Mulder knows entirely too much right from the start, and then gathers more information along the way. When attempts to get him to come to the dark side fail, the Syndicate try to destroy him instead. Since Mulder is more valuable to them alive than dead, they tend to do terrible things to people he cares about. Arguably the worst was giving Scully an inoperable tumor that spelled a slow and painful death for a season (until a cure is found by Mulder's snooping ways, of course).
- An interesting variant occurs with John in Farscape because, while he knows that the Ancients put wormhole knowledge in his head, he isn't able to unlock that information himself for a few seasons. This leads to Scorpius chasing him across the universe and mind-probing him to figure out information that John is still trying to discover himself.
- Cold Case
- Part of the reason why the teacher in "True Calling" was murdered was because she had proof that another teacher was using drugs and forcing a student to bring them to him. When she called him out on it, he simply snapped and chased her to the streets before finally killing her.
- The victim in "Blood On The Tracks", who wanted to confess to the cops about a crime he and several of his friends had been involved in that left another friend dead. With only one other person in the group agreeing with him, two of the others conspired to kill them both in order to ensure their silence.
- This trope is the very reason the vicim in "That Woman" was killed, when she accidentally learned the secrets of an Alpha Bitch, an Armored Closet Gay, and an accidental couple, even though she would of kept them anyway.
- In the episode "Democracy", five people who had evidence of a voting fraud conspiracy "accidentally" die before they can reveal the fraud. Unfortunately for the conspiracy, one of them managed to get the list of their names to Charlie shortly before being killed, who determines that the odds of five random people dying in a given two week period are approximately a bajillion to one. Don orders a second autopsy on the one who gave Charlie the list, which confirms that she was murdered, and the attempt to tie up a few loose ends has now attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- In "Disturbed", the episode after the credits opens with a murdered mailman who was last seen alive outside of a home where a woman was killed. He waves at the repairman entering the house. The repairman is a serial killer and he kills both his intended victim in the house and the mailman who passed by three hours ahead of schedule and saw the repairman enter the house. Nearly an aversion, since the mailman only possibly knew something.
- Prison Break: Usually the reason Anyone Can Die.
- The Shadow Line:
- This is why Jonah Gabriel and his partner were shot before the events of the series, in that they came too close to discovering the true extent of police involvement in Counterpoint.
- Ross McGovern is killed for investigating the above incident too closely, because his investigations could have led to what Gabriel and Delaney discovered.
- Even invoked in episode 6, when Glickman tells Gabriel to confront Commander Penney with the news that he knows about Counterpoint. They're counting on Penney then sending Gatehouse after Gabriel, because they want to lure Gatehouse into a trap.
- Used several times per season in 24, usually overlapping with You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
- In Season 1, Nina kills Teri because she overheard information that would have compromised her escape from CTU, though there are also other reasons considering both women's history with Jack.
- In Season 2, Marie kills Reza just as he is about to clear his own name and find out who moved the funds for Syed Ali.
- In Season 3, the reason why the Big Bad forces CTU to execute Ryan Chappelle.
- In Season 7, the villains kill Dubaku after he is captured because he has information on them that he is using as blackmail to prevent being subject to You Have Failed Me and You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
- Parodied in The Black Adder. Edmund desperately tries to call off his plan to assassinate Dougal McAngus, who may have evidence proving his brother is an illegitimate child. When he tries to tell Percy that "He knows too much!" Percy, momentarily forgetting just why they are killing him (Dougal had stolen three titles from him), menacingly replies "That is why he must die!"
- Rare (anti?)heroic example in Merlin (2008) in the series 4 finale. Merlin knows that Agravaine cannot be allowed to reveal to Morgana that he's Emrys, and so kills him off. Alright, he waited until the guy pulled a knife to actually do it, but it's heavily implied that he wasn't going to leave alive either way.
- In the JAG episode "Someone to Watch over Annie", the ten year old son of Harm's Romantic False Lead by accident gets to see a murder at Andrews Air Force Base while slipping away from his school class when on a tour. It turns out the bad guys are weapons smugglers who don't shy away from trying to killing witnesses.
- Ellery Queen: The reason that the title character in "The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs" was killed.
- This is the driving element of the pilot of Graceland. Felix is a low level drug dealer who is caught by the FBI when he tries to trade a truck load of counterfeit jeans for a duffel bag full of cocaine. His Russian bosses are not happy about this since Felix knows too much about their operations and could talk to the feds to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. They kidnap Felix's family so he stays quiet but Felix realizes that they will have him killed in prison and then murder his family so there are no witnesses. He cooperates with the FBI and Mike is sent in undercover as Felix's brother-in-law. The Russians like to invert the trope by having someone commit a murder for them and then they blackmail the person with the threat of turning them in to the police. Mike offers to kill whoever the Russians pick since this will give them enough leverage over Felix to ensure that Felix never talks and they have no need to keep his family hostage. The target turns out to be another witness who knows too much and it quickly becomes clear that the Russians will not keep their side of the bargain and will instead kill everyone who knows about the plan.
- Arrow: This, combined with You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, is why Malcolm/Dark Archer kills the scientists who built the Markov earthquake-generating device for him upon its completion.
- The Killing: The reason the Pied Piper targets and kills Bullet in Season 3; she had called the police saying she had info on his identity.
- The 100: Prior to the start of the series, Clarke's father was killed to keep him from revealing that the Ark's life support was failing, and that the Council was planning to "cull" a large portion of the population to conserve oxygen. Clarke herself was put in solitary confinement for this same reason.
- In the second season, Octavia figures out that Clarke and Lexa knew a missile was going to hit Tondc, but chose to save themselves without warning anyone else to evacuate. Lexa tries to have Octavia killed to keep her silent, but Clarke stops her, insisting that Octavia is loyal to their cause and will keep their secret.
- There's this exchange at a hearing in Get Smart:
Senator: Mr. Smart, how many arrests did Control make last year?Maxwell Smart: I don't know.Senator: Who's the number one man in your organization?Maxwell Smart: I don't know.Senator: How many cases were assigned to Control last year?Maxwell Smart: I don't know.Senator: What would you do if you were fired, Mr. Smart?Maxwell Smart: They can't fire me.Senator: And why not?Maxwell Smart: I know too much.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Variant. Robbie Reyes (AKA Ghost Rider) beats Daisy Johnson (AKA Quake) in a fight. Since he has the supernatural ability to know who deserves to die (and she doesn't deserve it), he lets her live. She shows up at his work the next day, making it clear she knows everything there is to know about him. They fight again, she gets knocked out, and she wakes up to find him going through her stuff. She knows too much about him to let live, so he's looking for any sign that she does deserve to die, despite what his abilities say. In the end, he doesn't find anything, and they start working together pretty much because they're tired of fighting.
- In the Agent Carter episode "The Lady in the Lake", Dirty Cop Det. Andrew Henry is murdered because he knows too much about Corrupt Corporate Executive Chadwick's dirty secrets, having covered up at least one murder for him.
- House of Cards (US):
- One of the most shocking moments of the Season 2 premiere is when Frank Underwood pushes Zoe Barnes in front of a subway train, in order to silence her about their backchannel communications, which he's been using to manipulate events in his favor.
- "Chapter 64", the penultimate episode of Season 5, sees two examples of this, one lethal and one not. Frank pushes Secretary Durant down the stairs, hospitalizing her, so that later she can't testify at a Congressional hearing about his dirty dealings. Later, Claire kills Tom Yates via poisoning to stop him from publishing a manuscript detailing everything she and her husband have done to stay in power (including the murders of Zoe and Peter Russo).
- "Jane Doe" by Within Temptation.
- Little Shop of Horrors: "He knows your life of crime! I think it's suppertime!"
- Older Than Steam: In Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre, the king has a riddle that anyone seeking his daughter's hand in marriage must answer or it's Off with His Head! The thing is, the answer to the riddle is "The king is screwing his daughter", and the king understandably wants this kept quiet.
- The Home Guard Auxilary Units were stay-behind units trained in the event of a German invasion of Britain during World War II. Each patrol consisted of local men recommended by their Chief Constable. They had secret orders only to be opened in the event of an invasion. One man opened his anyway and found to his shock that his first mission was to assassinate the Chief Constable, as he was the only man who knew the identity of the unit members.
- Warhammer 40,000: This is a possible outcome for planets assualted by the forces of Chaos. Even if they manage to defeat Chaos, The Holy Orders of the Emperor's Inquisition may decide that it would be best if they couldn't tell anyone about it, since the true nature of Chaos is supposed to be kept secret from the general public.
- In Life is Strange, if Max was successfully able to convince Victoria to be careful of Nathan, Victoria would of gone to Mark Jefferson about this. Little did Victoria knew that Mark Jefferson was actually the Big Bad of this game and comes into this conclusion and murders her because of that.
- Max Payne: It turns out that the junkies who killed the title character's wife and baby girl were sent by Nicole Horne after a dossier about Horne's project found its way to the wife's desk and Horne decided to silence her by "any means necessary." Tragically, Max's wife was trying to tell him about this ("a strange memo, something about Vikings"), but he ignored it. In the third game, Da Silva knows this will happen to him if he digs too deep, so he points the much more combat-competent Max in the right direction instead.
- The protagonist in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is an example of the second type: all he knows is a gnome gave him a ring and told him to "Find the boy," but due to the conspiracy's repeated attempts to murder you, you eventually figure out their incredibly convoluted plans.
- Fire Emblem:
- Takes place twice in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones: Some characters know well what the Hell is going on in the Empire of Grado (the Cleric Natasha whose mentor, a well-respected high priest, was killed for discovering that the Emperor was dead and revived as an Artificial Human and the Shaman Knoll, Lyon's second-hand in the project to revive said Emperor). The Empire frames both of them as traitors; Natasha has to flee from her homeland and Knoll is imprisoned and slated for execution... but in-game, both survive and join Eirika's (in Natasha's case) or Ephraim's (in Knoll's) troupes.
- Towards the end of the Conquest route in Fire Emblem Fates, the Smug Snake Iago figures out that the Avatar is a traitor when his men discover a certain someone who was meant to be killed. After hearing his accusations, the Nohrian royal siblings decide that it would be better to kill Iago and Hans to protect their foster sibling's life rather than face the wrath of an enraged Garon. Iago and Hans really don't help their case by directly attacking the Avatar *in front of the Nohrian siblings*, too.
- Modern Warfare 2: After sending all of the TF 141 to both of Makarov's safehouses, General Shepherd betrays them all because he suspected that they knew about his plans to make the U.S. the most powerful country in the world.
- Hawke and Lash from Advance Wars Dual Strike are attacked when Hawke figures out the Big Bad's true motive for starting a war. Of course, the allied nations save them and they all fight the Big Bad together. Hm. Maybe the Big Bad was planning on getting rid of Hawke and Lash anyways, since Lash is caught up in Hawke's problem for almost no reason.note
- In Halo 3: ODST, an NMPD officer on Kinsler's payroll is instructed to make sure Dr. Endesha is dead, and to eliminate any witnesses. Unfortunately for him, you are a witness. Let's see: a corrupt cop versus an elite UNSC shock trooper. Guess who wins...
- In the Hitman series, this is pretty much the only reason 47 will kill an innocent (in canon), as his existence is already very volatile and he cannot afford letting anyone (other than a select few) know about him.
- In Half-Life, the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit are sent in to combat the aliens and kill all the scientists and security guards. Later on, Black Ops is sent in to kill the HECU survivors. Finally, the G-Man nukes the entire base at the end.
- This sets up the plot of Robinson's Requiem: you and several other Robinsons have discovered that AWE banishes or kills any agents who have potentially contracted alien diseases or virii while exploring unknown planets. Unfortunately for you, AWE finds out that you've learned this Awful Truth and decides to send all of you to the Death World Zarathustra.
- Before the Rank 8 fight in No More Heroes, Travis interrupts Shinobu's presentation before her class. She sighs, tells him to meet her outside, then draws her katana as he leaves. When they meet up, she's complaining about how hard it is to lead two lives... at which point Travis makes the connection: "You killed them, didn't you?"
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Ace's motivation for killing Clover, Snake, Musashidou, Nijisaki, and the Ninth Man are them knowing about his own past. Though, it was also to obtain his '9' bracelet which would put him at an advantage.
- In Sonny, this is the reason the ZPCI board the White November in the first game and destroy the village in the second game. In the former, Sonny kills the soldiers after they take out Louis, escaping on a lifeboat after receiving the MacGuffin. In the latter, Sonny and his crew fight the leader of the troops briefly before fleeing on an old train.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, if you convince Veronica to leave the Brotherhood of Steel for the Followers of the Apocalypse in her personal quest, several fanatical Paladins will massacre a Followers outpost and then try to go after Veronica since they see her as a heretic who might end up spreading knowledge about the Brotherhood that they're devoted to keeping secret. After fighting them off, Veronica is left horrendously traumatized, but she's sure that she made the right choice in leaving the Brotherhood.
- L.A. Noire: Dirty Cop Roy Earle sells out By-the-Book Cop Cole Phelps by revealing his affair with Elsa Litchmann as he knows that if he keeps on moving the ranks, the Suburban Redevelopment Fund and its conspiracy will be exposed. However, it only encourages Cole to investigate Elysian Fields, much to Roy's dismay.
- In Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, after being captured and revealed to be a Steef, Stranger immediately proceeds to kill D. Caste Raider and his gang, using only his bare hands.
- BlazBlue: Continuum Shift: This, coupled with Protectorate issues, turns out to be the big motivation behind Captain Hazama's attempt on the life of Makoto Nanaya in Jin's story. Makoto turns out to be big friends with Noel Vermillion and Tsubaki Yayoi, both of whom had big roles to play in Hazama's plan, so getting her as far away from them (like, say, Ikaruga) is high on his priority list. Unfortunately for him, she winds up finding out that Noel Vermillion is a Murakumo unit, an artificially created being with the purpose of using the Eye of the Azure to destroy the Master Unit. As if that wasn't enough, she winds up falling into an alternate timeline where Noel didn't exist and Tsubaki wound up dead, which ironically is fuel Hazama used to facilitate Tsubaki's Face–Heel Turn, and the first thing she does is block an attempt on Jin's life by Hazama. The knowledge of Murakumo Noel is dangerous enough, but the possibility that the events Makoto witnessed could abort or reverse Tsubaki's change in alignment mean that, to him, it's not worth chancing her staying alive.
- In Splinter Cell: Conviction while Sam is interrogating Galliard, a man working for a mysterious group named Megiddo, he learns about Megiddo controlling multiple locations, but before he has a chance to obtain more information, Galliard is assassinated by a shooter to protect Megiddo's identity. The shooter responsible for assassinating him later dies in a car bomb explosion, assumed to be arranged by Megiddo, so the shooter can't reveal Megiddo's identity, if he is ever caught by Fisher.
- The Walking Dead Episode 1 a good reason to not choose Carley to live, especially if playing Lee as a paranoid jerk ass.. Episode 2 Larry in episode 2 also falls into a weird inversion of the trope, as he threatens to tell everyone and he's being the antagonistic jerk ass, while you may play Lee to be a man of a gentle spirit.
- In Mass Effect, on Noveria the volus, Han Olar, asks an asari commando about to kill him if he'll get a "you know too much speech?" Fortunately, Shepard saves Olar before the commando can kill him.
- In [PROTOTYPE] this trope ends up being the cause of the whole plot. After the real Alex Mercer was hired to make a virus ten times deadlier, his employers who were under investigation, decided to permanently silence all loose ends. Just as their assassins caught up with him, the real Mercer spitefully unleashed the virus to take the whole world with him just before he was gunned down.
- Misao: At the end, if you choose to sacrifice the wrong person, you end up being transported back with Sohta - the killer. He concludes that Aki knows too much and promptly does away with her. Truth also reveals that this is why Ayaka was killed.
- In Ghost Trick, this was the reason that Sith arranged for the deaths of Jowd, Cabanela, Pigeon Man, and Lynne. All of them had some interaction with/knowledge of the Temsik meteor, and he wanted to be the only one to know about its existence. Because those were the same people that Yomiel, the owner of the last shard of the meteor, wanted dead, this worked out fine... until Yomiel realized that he himself fell under this trope, and Sith was preparing accordingly.
- In the flash game The Dead Case, it's revealed that when she was alive, the church ghost had unknowingly been married to a serial killer. When she found evidence for what he had been doing, he burned down the house and killed her.
- In The Secret World, this is a regular occurrence: when you finally discover The Secret World, you're either in or you're dead. Between the traditional demon-purging Templars, the control freak Illuminati, the mayhem inducing Dragon, and the mercenary (and non-playable) Phoenicians, you're usually dead by dawn if you run. And these are the GOOD GUYS. Most of the bad guys just leave victims and corpses for you to find. The netural factions are too bogged in their own problems to deal with any of this.
Mihail: Hey, it could be a recipe for lemon pie, for all I know.
- The recruiter for the Templars outright says that now that your player character knows that the supernatural is real through their own superpowers, they're a target for anima harvesters. You either get syndicated or you go on the hunt-or-be-hunted for the rest of your life. Considering that there are no levels in the game and respawn points require a sponsor, that would mean you're f***ed if you choose the latter.
- In one mission, two nobodies are chased halfway around the world and declared public-enemy heretics because they have tiny, tiny snippets of information against a super-cult. One of them is suicidal (and has been since she was 14), the other doesn't even know the password to the tablet PC he stole, or what is on it. It's YOU. No seriously. You get to see some of your character's extra stats. For example, greatest fear? Your handler.
- Deadly Premonition gives this as a reason why Becky Ames gets killed. Said character was there when Anna Graham was killed and her murderer also knows that they have an item that could be a good hint for his identity. Diane Ames gets killed for similar reasons, after the previous character gave them more knowledge.
- This happens to Kyle in Parasite Eve 2. The President is outraged that Kyle suddenly resigned as a mole without going through the proper channels and is also worried that their spy might leak info.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Premier Cherdenko tells the Commander this to his face right before killing him because he has outlived his usefulness. In this case, the "too much" is that the Soviet Union was on the brink of losing before Cherdenko used Time Travel to Make Wrong What Once Went Right and, in the process, made himself Premier. In earlier missions, he already killed two of the other people who knew, his right-hand man General Krukov and the time machine's inventor, Dr. Zelinsky.
- This happens a lot in the Ace Attorney series.
- In the first game, Mia was murdered because she had pieced together Redd White's blackmailing schemes.
- Justice for All:
- The first case reveals that Dustin Prince was murdered because the killer thought he learned about his dark secrets, and freaked out at the thought that a cop might be after him. Tragically, Prince didn't know anything. He and Maggie just happened to be on a date when they found the guy's cell phone and, had the murder not happened, they would have just handed the thing over and gone on their way.
- In case 4, there's an interesting variation at play. Matt wants to protect himself from being potentially implicated by the assassin he hired, who would have been the only remaining person to know about his involvement in the crime, so he kept blackmail material to get that assassin arrested if need be. This proves to be his undoing, as the assassin is so insulted at Matt's lack of trust in him, that he drops their contract.
- In Trials and Tribulations, this is a favorite reason of Dahlia Hawthorne's, for committing murder. She kills Doug Swallow because he figured out that she stole poison from the pharmaceutical labs and was trying to tell Phoenix, and it was also revealed that she'd been on her way to poison Phoenix because he unwittingly had the only piece of evidence that could implicate her in another crime. Earlier, she arranged for the death of her half-sister to prevent said sister from confessing to a crime they committed, and also talks her boyfriend into a suicide pact so he'd kill himself before Mia Fey could get him to implicate Dahlia. Finally, she poisoned Diego Armando when he got too close to proving her guilt over the death of her half-sister.
- In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, Buddy Faith, Akbey Hicks, Deid Mann, and Cece Yew are all murdered for knowing too much about the smuggling ring and trying to reveal it to the authorities.
- Dual Destinies:
- In case 1, Ted Tonate murders Detective Candice Arme because she sees him trying to steal a bomb to sell on the black market.
- The third case has Professor Means murder Professor Courte because she learned he was accepting bribes from the parents of students, in exchange for giving them good grades.
- This is the reason the phantom murdered Metis Cykes prior to the events of the game. She had a psychological evaluation that may have helped the police identify him, and he had to prevent that at all costs.
- The first culprit of Spirit of Justice murders Paht Rohl because he knew that the Founder's Orb had been stolen. That would throw suspicion on the culprit, the person who would have the easiest time stealing the thing (a proper suspicion, because the culprit did steal it).
- Dangan Ronpa: The Mastermind attempts to frame and execute Kyoko Kirigiri because she stole Monokuma's special tool, which allowed her to explore locked areas of the school, which lead the risk of her solving the mystery and ending the Killing Game early.
- In Super Dangan Ronpa 2's third case Hiyoko Saionji is killed on the spur of the moment, simply because she walked in on Tsumiki while she was killing Mioda. Tsumiki couldn't let her live to be evidence against her in the Class Trial.
- New Dangan Ronpa V3: During the third case, Angie Yonaga is murdered because she walks in on Korekiyo setting up the trap that would later be used to kill Tenko.
- In Grisaia no Rakuen the designer of the Thanatos system had a little accident after he tried selling the system to the terrorist Heath Oslo. Most of the people who are left don't really know the limits of the system as a result, which allowed Kazuki freedom to use the system in highly unintended ways until she blew her cover.
- Fate/stay night. Subverted. Shirou stumbles upon two Servants fighting, and one of them races to kill him due to the Holy Grail War's "no witnesses" rule. He's mostly dead when someone saves his life.
- In Scrapland Vicus is killed because he was willing to share his evidence of The Archbishop's murder with D-Tritus.
- In Terra fighter pilot Alexis Hawke's CO has serious misgivings about their fighter squadron's mission to destroy a Resistance base. After two fighters and four crew don't come back (two Red Shirts were killed, Alex and Rick were shot down and rescued by the Resistance) he voices his concerns openly to the general, who shoots him.
- Vampire Cheerleaders: In vol.1, Leonard becomes suspicious of Lori and her cheerleading squad and spends weeks secretly observing them. Once he had sufficient evidence, he confronted them and threatened to expose them as vampires. Lori's immediate response was to try to kill him, but he'd taken the precaution of eating plenty of garlic and drinking Listerine, which made his blood toxic to her. So she resorted to the next best thing: buy his silence by having the cheerleading squad screw him.
- In Guilded Age, when one of his employees finds out about the players hidden in the basement who can't be removed from their Deep-Immersion Gaming, HR kills him.
- Girl Genius:
- The entire Wulfenbach Vespiary Squad is targeted by the rest of the Wulfenbach forces after Herr Baron himself is infected by a slaver wasp and is compelled to destroy them. Thankfully, Tarvek and the Jägers salvage enough of the unit and their materials for them to continue their mission under a lower profile.
- According to Tarvek, the Master of Paris encourages clubs to look over the code he uses to control the city in order to look for weaknesses that he can fix. Between Gil and Tarvek, they belonged to over twenty such clubs. The problem is if they learned too much about the code, the Master would drop their entire headquarters into a bottomless pit.
Tarvek: The trick was to always make it out the door just as they started celebrating.
- The Order of the Stick: Redcloak in #827 can't risk certain facts about a battle getting back to Xykon. Most of his soldiers in that battle were summoned and could be simply dismissed, but there was one goblin who needed to be dead. Luckily for Redcloak, the goblin in question was killed in that same battle, so was able to merely refrain from resurrecting him.
- In The Nostalgia Chick's review of Disney Princesses, she guesses that The Princess and the Frog was only created because Disney needed to expand their Princess line. A ninja is sent to silence her.
- The Nostalgia Critic: In his review of Full House, the Olsen Twins try and kill the Critic when he attempts to tell the world his new knowledge that they're evil.
- Atop the Fourth Wall: Harvey Finevoice is able to figure out the clues in the book about the Entity at once. As such, he jumps to the top of its priority list to consume. The Ninja Style Dancer was grabbed earlier than the rest of Linkara's household for similar reasons.
- In Red vs. Blue, Tucker finds out by accident that Vic is the Mission Control liaison for both sides, and correctly concludes that the Reds and Blues are being played against each other by a third party. Vic hires Agent Wyoming to assassinate Tucker before he can tell anybody. Fortunately, Wyoming fails.
- This is theorized to be one reason why the Slender Man goes after people. Of course, he's also been known to go after people for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
- Poor Desmond from Critical Role is privy to a lot of information about the Briarwoods, the couple that killed Percy's family. This knowledge almost gets him killed by invisible stalkers, but Vox Machina manages to save him in time.
- Two Dark Angels in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device are messily killed afer their leaders blab out the exitence of Fallen within their earshot.
- Parodied in an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, appropriately titled "The Chan Who Knew Too Much". A cabal of wizards repeatedly states that Jackie "knows too much" when he finds out any of the cabal's secrets... their name, their plans for Stonehenge, or even the location of the bathrooms in their secret lair. ("He's privy to our privies!") To make it even better, Jackie really didn't know anything at all about when he first accidentally dropped in on all of them — for all he knew, they could have just been wannabe satanists or something. They pretty much told Jackie everything themselves, e.g showing him that they knew magic by trying to kill him with it.
- Gloriously lampshaded when Jade claims to know their magic words, but can't cast their spells. The man gloats that she 'knows nothing' and Jackie cries out, "That's what I've been trying to tell you!"
- In Batman Beyond: Said in its entirety by Inque about Terry McGinnis. It is also motive behind Derek Powers's murder of Terry's father, which prompted Terry to become Batman.
- Played with in The Simpsons:
- Homer followed his coworkers to the Stonecutters' headquarters. He gets inside by falling through the skylight and is instantly surrounded. They declare that he has seen to much and must pay "the ultimate penalty". So they toss him out the front door.
- In "New Kids on the Bleech", after Lisa discovers the Navy's conspiracy to recruit people via Subliminal Seduction, Lt. Smash says ominously "Well, now that you know, I'm afraid I can't let you leave." But Lisa already left.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Punch-Clock Villain Doctor Otto Octavius is entirely correct to fear that someone will discover his involvement in the creation of Supervillains made to antagonize Spider-Man. Indeed, Green Goblin engineers a Freak Lab Accident to silence the doctor for good. The catch? Octavius lives, though he's become much less meek and a lot more megalomaniacal. Unfortunately, the newly-christened Doctor Octopus assumes Spider-Man is the culprit.
- Transformers Animated has Blurr, who was offed by the traitor for knowing to much.
- Spoofed in the Looney Tunes short "Bugs and Thugs", where gangster Rocky decides that Bugs "knows too much" when he, among other things, correctly identifies Carson City as the capital of the state of Nevada.
- Lampshaded in Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders, where the villains say this as they prepare to kill Fred, Velma, and Daphne. Fred grumbles "That's always our problem..." in response.
- In Futurama, a robotic toilet the crew is throwing away offers them "Happy Poopy Time" if they spare it. Fry simply says "You know too much."
- An episode of The Venture Bros. has Dr. Orpheus about to reveal the truth of why The Monarch was arrested. As he's about to spill the beans, Phantom Limb calls in the Strangers to freeze everyone in ice and administer either memory wipes or hypnotic suggestions to the room, thereby making Orpheus declare that Monarch is guilty of crimes he didn't commit.
- In Baxter Stockman's debut in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, after he's made a master control for the hundreds of Mousers Shredder forced him to make, Shred-head decides that "He knows too much" and sends his Foot Soldiers to eliminate Baxter. Only the Turtles' timely intervention prevent the Foot from succeeding.
- Played With in an episode of The Penguins of Madagascar where the penguins are trying to bury shredded documents, only for Julian to mistake them for puzzles and put one together showing a penguin shaking hands with a Sasquatch and the King of Sweden, causing Kowalski to say the trope name word-for-word.
- At the end of one episode of Gravity Falls, Stan's bid for mayor is torpedoed by his own criminal record; one such crime included "first-degree llamacide", to which Stan responds, "That llama knew too much!"
- During the "Orders" arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a clone trooper nicknamed Fives discovers the existence of an organic chip implanted into each clone trooper's brain at birth, enabling one to command the clones to commit any action without hesitation, including killing the Jedi. When he attempts to present his findings to the Chancellor, he is secretly drugged by the lead scientist responsible for the organic chips to make him appear insane. Furthermore, the Chancellor reveals that he's the one who orchestrated the implantation of the organic chips, and has Fives hunted down and ultimately killed before Fives can reveal the truth to the Jedi.
- In 1942, the Russians arranged an assassination of Von Papen, the German ambassador to Turkey. They gave the would-be assassin a package which they said was a smoke bomb to cover his escape. The assassin decided that attacking under cover of the smoke was a better plan and so set it off early: it exploded killing the assassin but leaving von Papen unharmed except for the gore splattered on his suit. The Russians of course intended him to do this after shooting the target, thus preventing him from telling who was the guilty party.
- This gambit was also used by Irish terrorist groups, such as the Provisional IRA, to eliminate members whose trust was in doubt, those suspected of being double agents for British security services. Terrorists in this position might be instructed to drive a car bomb to a certain location. But the bomb would be on a short fuse and explode long before they got there. It is suspected that British Intelligence exploited this by deliberately planting doubts in the IRA leadership's mind as to the reliability of certain members, thus eliminating terrorists, without the irksome need of proving a case that would stand up in court.
- This is the reason why, in a lot of urban neighborhoods, people won't talk to the police about crimes they saw, and is also the basis of the "snitches get stitches" saying.
- Not at all helpful are the anti-"tattle tale" rules that are in most schools, teaching children the wonderful lesson to never bring a wrong doing to the proper authorities no matter what they see.
- The scene in Goodfellas when Robert DeNiro's character systemically kills all of the participants in the Lufthansa Heist at JFK was an accurate representation of real life in which gangster James Burke did just that.
- In Polish Resistance member Jan Karski's autobiography, he tells the story of being rescued from the Gestapo, and being told by his rescuers shortly after escape "We were given two orders. The first one was to save you at any price; the other was to shoot you in case we did not succeed."
- According to legend, the slaves that built the tomb of Genghis Khan were killed by the soldiers guarding them, and these in turn by other soldiers, to ensure that people could never find his burial place.
- In the world of drugs and of prostitution, it is easy for people to disappear when others fear they know too much.