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Subverted in Hellsing. The first baddie we're introduced to takes future co-star, Seras Victoria hostage as a human shield... only to have Badass Longcoat Alucard blast a gaping hole through her chest to kill him, and then turn her into a vampire afterwards.
Granted, he did have to confirm that she was a virgin first. If she wasn't, she would've become a ghoul instead.
Subverted in Fullmetal Alchemist, where a weakened Envy tries to take over Yoki's body, but finds that everyone else simply does not care about his fate, with even the cheerful Al and May Chang cheering his "heroic sacrifice".
Also used twice in later chapters as a subterfuge, with Scar pretending to run off with Winry and Edward's 'bodyguards' taking him hostage in front of soldiers who couldn't recognize him. ("How could you involve such a small child!")
Used twice in Deadman Wonderland: Shiro is Ganta's human shield during the Dog Race (he doesn't realize it and is shocked when he sees how much damage she took for him); Minatsuki uses her own brother as a human shield during her Carnival Corpse match against Ganta.
In the manga of Elfen Lied, Lucy uses the Dojikko secretary Kisaragi in this fashion just before decapitating her. In the anime, it's reversed: she kills poor Kisaragi, then uses her corpse as a shield. Of course, in both cases this is merely an act of cruelty, as her vectors protected her from gunfire.
During the Kyoto Arc of Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chigusa tries to use a kidnapped Konoka as a human shield. Unfortunately for her, it backfired in a rather spectacular fashion, as threatening Konoka just so happens to be Setsuna'sBerserk Button.
It happens again much later in the manga when Tsukiyomi Attacks the crew on Haru's airship, but is stopped by Negi, fresh from his training to complete Magia Erebia. She escapes Negi's grip by trying to cut his arm off, which he dodges by turning into lightning. She then tries to use Nodoka as a Human Shield, but before the can follow through is punched in the gut by the arm she just tried to sever.
In the manga of BerserkGuts has used a child as a shield and/or hostage in at least 2 seperate occasions, such as when he was fighting with The Count and used the apostle's daughter to ward off an attack.
An interesting twist in City Hunter. Ryo Saeba gets the drop on a bad guy in a resturant with his 357 Magnum. The Mook opens the curtains behind him, pointing out the crowded tokyo street and taunts Saeba with the fact that if he opens fire, the bullet will cut through the mook and undoubtedly hit a passer by. Ryo proves how badass he is by shooting THROUGH his own hand, slowing the bullet down just enough to kill the bad guy and still not hurt any bystanders
The first episode of Black Lagoon has Revy using some mook as a shield, then killing him as they flee. Judging by the fact he was apparently uninjured until that point, the slightly-more-bad guys were probably reluctant to shoot him, or had poor aim.
During the Final Battle of Code Geass Lelouch uses a large group of world leaders he had kidnapped during a peace meeting (including women and children) as human shields to prevent Schneizel from using his super weapon on him right from the start of the battle. The twist is that while Schneizel couldn't care less about the hostages, his new allies, The Black Knights, do. In the end, The Black Knights get Schneizel to refrain from using his super-weapon in favor of more conventional tactics, while Lelouch is sitting on the bridge of his flagship sneering with glee.
Subverted in the beginning of Beet the Vandel Buster Beltorze grabs Beet during a battle with the Zenon Knights. They think he's trying to use Beet as a hostage. Beltorze dismisses that notion rather quickly when he mortally wounds Beet right off the bat and uses the distraction to launch a powerful attack against the Knights.
Gunslinger Girl. Marco finds himself facing a Padania terrorist holding his ex-girlfriend, knowing that Marco's eye damage will prevent him risking a shot. Angelica blinds the terrorist with a torch attached to her handgun, providing a distraction so the hostage can break free.
When Dante uses Jean as a shield, Jean orders Rico to kill him so she can get her shot at killing the most wanted man in Italy as well in the process.
Played for laughs in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Bobobo usually uses his own allies as the human shields, and the villains, more often than not, aim directly for their faces or completely ignore them and punch bobobo (Usually the former, since the two he uses are the butt monkeys).
Luffy from One Piece is a rare example of a protagonist who has done this on occasion. But then again, he IS a pirate. Even one of his attacks is called Gomu Gomu no Human Shield, where he grabs someone by random to block an attack.
Ayano uses Ren as a human shield against Kazuma in episode 7 of Kaze no Stigma. However, the scene is largely played for laughs, and neither Ren nor Kazuma take her seriously.
In the Dragon Ball anime, Goku once went to rescue the leader of a village. At some point, the villain used the leader as a human shield. Said leader then delivered a "Don't mind me" speech but changed his mind upon seeing Goku's reaction.
Saint Seiya: During the Poseidon arc (at least in the anime), every time Seiya tried to hit Poseidon with an arrow, the arrow came back at him. At some time, Shaina volunteered herself as a shield but he switched positions so he'd be her shield. Shiryu then served as a shield for both while complimenting Seiya for refusing to use a woman as a human shield.
Hougen does this in Ginga Densetsu Weed by using another dog from his pack as a shield to stop Weed's Battouga. Hougen survives the attack. His packmate, however...doesn't.
Cattleya of Queen's Blade often uses a small boy as her shield. Said small boy is her son Rana. The weird part is that Rana agrees to this tactic.
J. Geil in Jojos Bizarre Adventure is somewhat fond a variation on this tactic. Since his stand, the Hanged Man, can only manifest and attack people through reflections, he causes his stand to jump into the reflections in people's eyes, holding them hostage and allowing him to attack his victims with impunity unless they're fine with killing innocent people. Fortunately, when he tries the same stunt on Polnareff and Kakyoin, they eventually just kick sand into the hostage's eyes, causing them to close their eyes and forcing the Hanged Man to jump to a different reflection (while being vulnerable in-between reflections.)
In Elfquest, Big Bad Winnowill uses the main character's child this way. Amusingly, she goes on insisting her elfin shield is foolproof even after series badass Strongbow has proven otherwise in a fairly significant manner.
In Judge Dredd, the Judges' standard sidearm has a special ammunition for this situation, Ricochet, which is specifically designed to do special trick shots to hit a hostage taker by bouncing the rounds off a back wall to hit the assailant. Depending on the writer, they might not even care. Taking down a perp is more important than not hurting a bystander (most judges consider non-judge citizens "potential perps" anyway). And, of course, its usefulness depends on the judge. While Dredd is able to get this trick to work every time he tries it, to a point where it's considered a trademark shot of his in the department, other judges are not guaranteed to pull this off. Judge Heller, for example, totally messes this up and hits a seemingly random bystander, who turns out to be the perp's accomplice by sheer luck. Judge Anderson is so concerned about protecting innocents that she didn't dare it when Judge Death (who requires some extraordinary firepower to take down to begin with, being undead) used a mother and her baby as a meat shield, which ended quite badly.
Morbius the Living Vampire did this once when he faced off with the X-Men. He snatches Jean Grey and threatens to snap her neck unless Cyclops backs off. Scott just adjusts his glasses a bit and fires behind Morbius, striking a mirror and causing his eye-beams to re-direct into the vampire's back.
Another baddie tried to use Cyclops' brother, Havok, as a hostage which resulted in Cyclops blasting both of them without hesitation. The brothers are immune to each other's powers.
One of the superheroes trying out for the team in Wildguard: Casting Call is called Human Shield, an invulnerable man who can create powerful forcefields.
Subverted in the back story of the Saint of Killers from Garth Ennis's Preacher. When the Saint (not yet known as such) tracks down the gang leader indirectly responsible for the death of his family, the gang leader shields himself with an Innocent Bystander. However, by this time the Saint has become so completely consumed with hate that he shoots the bystander anyway. Doubly subverted when it turns out that was his last bullet, and the gang leader shoots him dead, sending him to Hell to become the Saint.
When he comes back as the Saint he butchers the entire town. One guy even shoves his own daughter in front oof him, begging the Saint to take her and let him live. Doesn't save any of them.
Garth Ennis' run on The Punisher featured two notable instances: the first from "Welcome Back, Frank" where a mook in a morgue hides behind a dead body (Frank shoots up both), and later when facing the Russian on a skyscraper and Spider-Man keeps trying to intervene, getting knocked out. Frank grabs Spidey and uses his Made of Iron body to absorb the Russian's blows until he can get him off balance.
Nexus's beam power has a special property to deal with a human shield: the beam can literally steer around any obstacle to hit its target.
Played straight and subverted in the Astro City "Confessor" story arc. Kevin, the protagonist, is working as a busboy when a C-rate villain attacks and grabs him as a Human Shield. The patrons (who are all superheroes in civilian guise) hesitate to attack, but Kevin breaks free and knocks out the crook with a roundhouse kick.
In the Batman story arc Lovers and Madmen, Jack, a new and upcoming criminal, and his gang are robbing a fundraiser when Batman arrives. Jack rushes to find a human shield, taking care to choose. By complete coincidence, the person he finally chooses is Bruce Wayne's current Love Interest. Batman backs off, but Jack stabs her anyway, then flees. Batman doesn't give chase, instead rushing to the injured woman's side, but, in a fit of rage, he uses a Batarang to give Jack a large Glasgow Smile. Guess which well-known villain Jack soon becomes?
Victor Ray from 100 Bullets uses the dying body of one of his criminal partners as a human shield while fighting off numerous armed thugs.
Inverted in The Incredibles, where Mr. Incredible takes Syndrome's right hand woman hostage in retribution for the "death" of his family. Syndrome, being a narcissistic and sociopathic villain showed his true colours and called his bluff, saying she meant nothing to him. Of course being a hero Mr. Incredible didn't kill her, and she went on to betray Syndrome for total lack of caring by helping Mr. Incredible and his family escape. When she calls Syndrome out on this his response is basically to shrug and say that he knew Mr. Incredible wouldn't really hurt her, but his callous attitude cements her later decision to betray him.
In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the General of the American forces reveals that he's planning to use all colored soldiers as human shields to protect them from the Canadian forces. Chef obviously takes offense at that and commands his men to duck.
In the Transformers: The Movie, Megatron does this with Hot Rod when he foolishly tackles the bigger and stronger Decepticon leader to prevent him from pulling a concealed weapon on Optimus Prime. This causes Optimus to hesitate and allows Megatron to fatally wound him.
In the IDW Transformers graphic novel Autocracy, an almost exact duplicate of the above scene occurs, except that this time Hotrod simply transforms into vehicle mode and easily escapes, leaving Megatron wide open for Optimus to shoot.
Films — Live-Action
Played with in The Naked Gun movies. In one scene, the villain grabs the hero's girlfriend and places a gun to her head prompting Leslie Nielsen (the hero) to grab a random woman and place a gun to her head, as if such an act would stop the villain. In another scene, the heroes interrupt a formal banquet and announce their intention to capture the villain. This prompts about a half a dozen suited men in the audience to stand up and grab the women closest to them to use as human shields. When the suited men finally realize the heroes aren't talking about them they release the women and sheepishly sit back down.
In RoboCop: The Series, the titular hero has a great targeting system to deal with this kind of situation. For instance in the first film when a male assailant is using a woman as human shield, Robocop carefully shoots the crook between the hostages' legs in a successful gamble to hit his groin with just enough clearance with female human anatomy to miss her. The second film has him dealing with the similar situation by arranging a ricochet shot to hit the assailant from behind.
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy's love interest (Dr Elsa Schneider) is used as a human shield by one of the Nazis, prompting Indy to drop his gun and surrender. She is immediately revealed to be a 'Nazi Stooge'.
No list of this trope's examples would be complete without Speed, where, when one of the main characters asks what Keanu Reeves's character would do in a Human Shield situation, Keanu replies, "Shoot the Hostage, take her out of the equation." He later faces the human shield situation twice in the movie, and one of those times he actually does shoot the hostage, but only in the leg, which surprises the villain enough to get the drop on him. It's worth noting that by the second human shield scenario, the villain's put explosives on the hostage and is carrying a dead man's switch to stop him from doing this.
One of the most brilliant subversions is Blazing Saddles. To escape the bigoted mob of the town that he has just been appointed sheriff of, Bart takes himself hostage. The townspeople, of course, believe that he'll actually do it and stand down. "Ooh, baby, you are so talented! And they are so dumb!"
In the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, the Shredder holds a spearpoint to Leonardo's throat and forces the other turtles to throw aside their weapons. After they do so, he says, "Fools! The three of you might have overpowered me with the loss of but one. Now your fate... shall be HIS!"
Played with when Will Turner takes himself hostage. Since his blood is needed to break the Aztec curse, if he dies the curse will be permanent.
Played with in the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Sao Feng grabs a spy and threatens to kill him if Barbossa and crew don't stand down. His response: "Go ahead, he's not our man."
Subverted in Iron Man; when Tony starts laying into the terrorists attacking Gulmira, a bunch of them grab some nearby unarmed women and children and hold them at gunpoint. Unfortunately for them, Tony designed his armour with such a situation in mind, and, in one of the movie's many Crowning Moments of Awesome, promptly uses his targeting system to shoot them all without touching the hostages at all.
What about Lieutenant Sheckil, using Princess Leia as a shield during The Empire Strikes Back, while she screamed, "Luke, don't, it's a trap!"
Lampshaded in the franchise's CCG: the card that lets you do this has the flavor text of, "A shining example of Imperial courage and bravery."
Well give him a break; Sheckil could hardly shoot Luke after all. Vader wanted Luke alive.
Subverted in Lethal Weapon when Riggs is taken hostage during a drug bust by one of the dealers. Riggs immediately starts shouting at the officers to just shoot him, which caused the situation to get chaotic enough to distract the dealer enough for Riggs to take him down. (Of course, it bears mentioning that Riggs is suicidal...)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Alotta Fagina captures Vanessa Kensington off-camera and brings her along to use as a shield while facing off with Austin. Austin retaliates by taking Dr. Evil's son Scott Evil as a hostage, whereupon Dr. Evil tells Austin to "Kill the little bastard. See what I care".
Simon Skinner from Hot Fuzz tries this by grabbing a random child and pointing a gun at his head. The kid promptly bites him on the hand, whereupon Angel jumps him.
"Don't move or the ginger nut gets it...ARRGH, YOU LITTLE FUCKER!"
There's a couple of these. Angel tries taking Danny hostage when the truth about the NWA is revealed, but Danny's father the Chief Inspector calls his bluff. After his Face-Heel Turn the Inspector does the same thing to his son. Angel also doesn't think he'll do it; instead CI Butterman tries to shoot Angel, giving Danny a chance to disarm him.
At the end of Dirty Harry the Ax-Crazy Scorpio Killer uses a boy as a human shield. Detective Callahan simply shoots him in the shoulder (given the range and the fact that the boys was too small to provide a lot of protection, Callahan could've put a bullet in Scorpio's chest). Callahan then proceeds to give Scorpio one last chance to surrender, and then puts a bullet through him.
And in The Enforcer the terrorist leader tries using the Mayor as a human shield, dragging him up a guard tower on Alcatraz. Fortunately the Mayor refuses to go all the way up the ladder, enabling Dirty Harry to blow the terrorist up with a LAWS rocket.
Played with by Phoenix in Demolition Man. Rather than let the militaristic LAPD of the time just blow up his absurdly conspicuous mansion hideout, he takes a Bus Full of Innocents hostage. He uses this to stay Spartan's hand when they encounter one another. When Phoenix blows the building, Spartan gets the blame for killing the civilians. Turns out the hostages were already dead. But given that it just results in Spartan being available to release and fight him in the future it didn't go so well for Phoenix.
At the end of Taken, Mills's daughter Kimmy is being held hostage by an evil old rich dude who had her purchased from the Human Traffickers; Mills has a handgun aimed. The old man tries to say "We can negotiate.", but Mills puts a slug in his head mid-sentence.
While not exactly a Human Shield, in 48 Hours, Ganz gets Jack to drop his gun by threatening a wounded cop. Since Ganz kills the cop anyway, when he uses Reggie as a true Human Shield at the end of the movie, Jack just kills him.
The Green Mile - a well done adaptation from its entry in 'literature', below. It features Tom Hanks as the guard captain (who also receives a Groin Attack to ensure his aim is spoiled) and David Morse as "Brutal" Howell.
A minor criminal tries this at the start of The Shadow. He even points out that the guards aren't good enough shots to hit only him. Ying Ko's response is to complement the human shield on his years of service, then says "shoot through him".
The leader of the raiders in The Road Warrior decorated his vehicle with a pair of living captives, both as a show of power and human shields. One of the captives defiantly attempts to subvert this trope, calling for his comrades in the compound to fight on, while the other is more cowardly and begs them not to shoot.
In Heat, Michael Cheritto attempts this as a means of last resort during a chase. Lt. Hanna shoots him anyway.
Men In Black. In the morgue the Bug grabs Laurel (the medical examiner) and uses her as a shield to prevent being shot by Agents J and K.
The Fugitive. While the U.S. Marshals are searching a house for one of the fugitive prisoners, the prisoner grabs one of them and uses him to prevent Gerard from shooting him. Gerard uses basic tactical skills to flank the hostage taker and shoot him from the side not covered by the hostage.
Evil candidate Stillson in The Dead Zone does this by holding a baby in front of himself to stop Johnny from assassinating him (in an attempt to save humanity, as Stillson was going to start World War III once in office). This both saves and dooms him, with an iconic photo of the incident appearing on the cover of Newsweek under the headline "No Future for Stillson", leading him to commit suicide.
In Die Another Day, James Bond is using a virtual reality training simulation where a terrorist uses M as a Human Shield. His solution is to shoot M in the arm, causing her to jerk out of the way enough for him to get a clean shot at the terrorist.
An interesting variant in Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, in which Kronos finds himself in a swordfight with a vampire while his opponent's mesmerised daughter is standing, motionless, nearby. After losing his sword, Kronos dodges behind the daughter and uses her as cover.
Discussed and applied in Con Air by Cyrus during the shootout between him and the DEA agent on board.
Cyrus: "You know, the next time you choose a human shield, you're better off not picking a two-bit negro crackhead."
Lampshaded in Fear is the Key (1973). The Villain Protagonist is in a parking lot with the woman he's just taken hostage. She gets her hopes up when she sees two policemen checking out the cars. The villain promptly does a Fakeout Makeout, whispering in her ear, "First I'll shoot the fat one. And when the other's trying to figure out how to shoot me without hitting you, I'll shoot him." As a result she doesn't shout for help.
The 1988 film Deadly Pursuit (aka Shoot to Kill). The antagonist has the elderly wife of a jeweler hostage, threatening to kill her unless he gets a cache of diamonds. FBI agent Warren Stantin walks over to make the exchange, tossing the bag towards the door, but only a short distance so he'll be forced to leave cover to get it. Instead the villain picks up the small, frail woman and carries her to the bag. This has the added advantage of preventing the police (and the audience) from seeing his face, saving The Reveal for later on in the film.
Played for laughs in Sleepy Hollow, in which Ichabod Crane — who is something of a Lovable Coward — has a tendency to subtly position himself behind other people or gentle manoeuvre them in front of him in times of crisis. This includes women and children. And did we mention that Ichabod is the hero?
Horribly subverted in Hive Series book eight with Tom and Nigel.Tom takes Nigel hostage and threatens to kill him unless he is let out of the Glasshouse. Unfortunately, he overestimates his own value to Anastasia Furan, who just shot Tom in the chest.
In Stephen King's novel The Dead Zone, the protagonist tries to assassinate an evil politican, Greg Stillson. He fails, because Stillson uses a child as a human shield; however, a photographer makes a picture of this, and publishes it, ending Stillson's career.
In The Green Mile, psychopathic prisoner William Wharton plays drugged during an interprison transfer until his new guards fail to pay attention. At which point he jumps up and starts beating the crap out of them. The guard captain draws his service pistol, so Wharton uses a guard as a human shield while continuing to wreak havoc. The stalemate is broken when an additional guard appears on the scene and ambushes Wharton from behind with a baton to the head. Extra balls points to Brutal Howell for advancing into his boss's gun.
Deryni Checkmate: While fighting his way out of St. Torin's shrine to rescue Morgan, Duncam grabs Gorony, holds him at swordpoint and demands Warin unlock the door. Warin refuses, so Duncan uses his Deryni powers on the lock, and he and Morgan take Gorony with them, leaving Warin and his remaining men locked inside.
The Bishop's Heir: Dhugal MacArdry leads a band of men to investigate another band of armed trespassers on Transha land. The two groups get into a skirmish and the leader of the other group, Brice of Trurill, grabs an injured Dhugal and holds him as a shield with a sword to Dhugal's throat to end the skirmish and allow him to escape with his men. Brice brings Dhugal all the way to Ratharkin, where he's held captive by Loris and the Mearan Pretender.
Also in The Bishop's Heir: Dhugal uses Sidana as a shield, taking her before him on horseback as he's fleeing the city of Ratharkin after Judhael's consecration as bishop. Her father and brothers lead some of their troops in pursuit until they unexpectedly encounter Kelson and his forces.
In ''Outbound Flight', Commander Thrawn is coldly angry to see that his newest enemy likes to station captives in clear bubbles on the outsides of their ships; despite the pleas of the Wide-Eyed Idealist who likes him, he fires anyway.
"Understand the reality of the situation. The Vagaari have killed them, all of them, if not in this battle then in battles to come. There's nothing we can do to help them. All we can do is focus our resources toward the Vagaari's ultimate destruction, so that others may live."
Notably, he despised having to go through with it - so in his rematch with the Vagaari, he arranges for an entire swarm of Trade Federation droid starfighters to close to point-blank and shoot between the cells.
In Allegiance, the corrupt administrator being confronted by five stormtroopers tries to pull this with one of his subordinates. Grave, the sniper, just shoots past the hostage's ear.
A captured enemy officer tries to pull this one on Sergeant Jackrum in Monstrous Regiment after he tricks Blouse into making Polly untie him. Using Blouse as his human shield, he tries to force them to let him go ... However, he underestimates Jackrum, and the sergeant puts an arrow into him—barely even wounding Blouse in the process.
In the climax of Gone, Caine realizes he is losing the fight, so he uses his telekinetic powers to move Astrid between himself and Sam. He tells Sam to kill him, but he'll have to kill Astrid, too, because she is in the line of fire. Litterally, the line of fire, considering his powers.
In their final fight against the mercenary unit Avanti's Angels in the BattleTech novel Double Blind, the antagonists' leader and two of his underlings chain captive members of said unit to the outsides of their BattleMechs, gambling that the mercenaries won't fire on them for fear of killing their comrades. The tactic works painfully well, too, until the mercs' native allies show up and manage to swarm and climb the 'Mechs (at considerable cost to themselves, but that's a price they're already used to paying for a shot at capturing new war machines for their own tribes) and free the hostages.
In The Kingdom and the Crown when the bandit Moeshe Ya'abin's raid on a traveling camp is interrupted by an arrow announcing the presence of Zealots, he holds the girl he was dragging to a tent in front of him.
In Naked Empire, the eighth book of the Sword of Truth series, the Hero has a problem. He has to get a MacGuffin from a fortress that the Bad Guys are occupying, but it's surrounded by unarmed "peace protesters" from a society of StrawPacifists that the Bad Guys have persuaded to act as human shields. After all, a hero wouldn't kill unarmed civilians, right? Wrong! The hero decides to take the small group of soldiers he has with him and mount a surprise attack on the fortress, killing any of the "peace protesters" who don't get out of the way in time. Which, as it happens, turns out to be nearly all of them. The resulting slaughter is portrayed not as a tragedy, but as the morally correct outcome: they chose to side with the Bad Guys, so they deserved to die along with them.
In Mockingjay, President Snow puts a shield made of Capitol children around his mansion to deter attack. It didn't work out too well...
In Woken Furies, when the villain Anton comes under fire, his first reaction is to grab one of his own allies and use her as a human shield.
In Alloy of Law, multiple baddies do pull this on Waxillium, with various women.
A serial killer in the beginning pulls this on his wife, Lessie. Wax takes the shot, and the killer twists Lessie in the way, killing her and traumatizing Wax. He then shoots the killer in the head.
The Fed at the end of the pilot episode of Firefly tries this, taking River hostage with one gun, holding his other out, and yelling at the crew on the ship that if anyone moves...well, he doesn't get to finish his sentence, because right at that moment, Mal comes aboard, pulls out his heavily-used revolver, and puts a round in the Fed's head without a word. Or breaking stride.
Stargate Atlantis has one of the Genii use Dr. Weir, commander of the Atlantis expedition, as a human shield so he can get safely to the gate and escape. Shepherd, being a good marksman, puts a bullet into his shoulder, allowing Weir to get clear. And it turns out he survives in a later episode.
In Vikings, Ragnar uses himself as one of these to protect Athelstan from Horik's hidden archer in "The Choice". He knows that Horik will attempt to kill the priest as soon as he's out of sight, so Ragnar offers to escort Athelstan back to King Ecbert's territory and physically shields him from any kind of attack.
Hilariously done in Grey's Anatomy once. "Love is never using your girlfriend as a human shield!"
Based on the Real Life point below, Hogan's Heroes frequently used the "If it's close to a prison camp the Allies won't bomb it" reasoning to justify putting the target of the week in Hogan's reach, sometimes even inside the camp.
Done by the Doctor of all people in the Doctor Who serial The Face of Evil. When confronted by the savage Sevateem tribe, the Doctor threatens to kill one of them "with this deadly jelly baby" if they don't back off. The Sevateem surprise the Doctor by responding, "Kill him, then." Determined not to be upstaged, the Doctor simply eats the jelly baby instead. "I don't take orders from anyone. Take Me to Your Leader."
In "The Caves of Androzani" the Mecha-Mooks are programmed not to fire on anyone wearing a belt transmitter, so Peri (who is wearing one of the belts) is used as a shield by someone firing at an android soldier.
The second series of Torchwood starts with this. It almost works.
Burn Notice has done it once or twice and Michael gives a tip on what to do if take hostage in this manner: go limp it's hard to both lift and carry a body.
Also happens in a cliffhanger season finale, with a bad guy holding Michael hostage. How does Jesse save him? By shooting Michael in the shoulder with a high-powered sniper rifle, so that the bullet would pass through the shoulder and kill the bad guy.
Rizzoli and Isles at the end of Season 1 an un-armed Rizzoli was grabbed by the bad guy and used to protect him from several dozen cops, including many of her close friends. She is screaming at them to "Shoot him!", apparently believing that if both she and the bad guy were shot, the EMTs in the group would save her. She and the bad guy were shot, and we have to wait for the Season 2 opener to find out what happens...
In one episode of Enterprise, the hostage situation ends when the hero shoots the hostage, distracting the baddie long enough to then shoot him too. This only works because of the setup: The heroes use phasers on stun, while the baddies use projectile weaponry and have never considered weapons that don't actually harm people.
The cowboy is also shocked that Reed would shoot one of his own.
During The Mutiny in Season 4 of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, President Laura Roslin, currently resident on a Cylon Basestar, uses the entire Colonial Fleet as a massive Human Shield - and then has the gall to sneer that Gaeta, the commander of the mutineers, hasn't got enough guts to shoot through the fleet to get to her. This despite knowing that the whole point of the mutiny is to protect the survivors of the Cylon occupation of New Caprica from a new, Roslin- and Adama- sponsored Cylon occupation of the only homes they have left... Her tactics work, but that fact is to Gaeta's credit, not Roslin's.
Happens on NUMB3RS at least twice, both times to Colby Granger. Both times he tells a fellow agent to shoot, but neither does.
Strike Back generally has terrorists employ this from time to time, as a means of gaining an advantage over Section 20. That said, Scott has absolutely zero problems with using a terrorist leader as a human shield.
Bulldog, in an episode of Frasier, used Roz (who was pregnant at the time) as a shield when someone pulls out a gun. It ends up looking like he tried to push her out of the way and is hailed as a hero. Only Frasier knows the truth but is unable to get him to confess. It all comes to a head at the ceremony in Bulldog's honor. Martin, who was just tired of listening to Frasier complain about it, randomly shouts, "HE'S GOT A GUN!" Sure enough, Bulldog does it again, this time, using his own mother as a shield.
In the Australian mini-series For the Term of His Natural Life there's an attempted breakout on the convict ship. The marines bring up a small cannon, only to find their sergeant being held in front of them as a hostage. The sergeant orders his men to light the cannon's fuse. When the marines reluctantly obey the order, the convicts are forced to surrender rather than be blasted to bits.
The signature martial arts style of the Infernal Exalted, Infernal Monster Style, includes the charm Screaming Meat Shield, redirecting even magical attacks.
The Dread Emperor in Dungeons & Dragons has a version which goes significantly beyond this trope. That's right, he's taken one of the most contemptible things people can do and made it worse. How so? Not only is he hauling around children chained by the neck to his armor, he drains their health when he's injured.
Oh, and he never appears with the same children twice.
Sentinels Of The Multiverseplays with this for resident evil alien overlord Grand Warlord Voss. For each Minion he controls, Voss takes 2 less damage on his front side (Conquering Alien Warlord) and 1 less on his back side (Super-Thoranian Warrior). However, Voss's minions are capable of attacking the heroes so it's less like Voss is using them as a shield and more like Voss simply standing behind them while still allowing them to soak the hits for him like meat shields until they die and Voss has to fight on his own.
Sigma: If you really want to stop me, you'll have to shoot, destroying Zero in the process!
The Big Bad took advantage of X's tendency to hesitate in attacking due to circumstances that can destroy an ally/innocent one if he does so. It's also some sort of test that proves that he really is a special reploid, capable of worrying and portraying other various emotions that a common reploid can't.
Taken Up to Eleven in Devil May Cry 4. It's more like "monster shield" actually. Nero can use a demon as a shield. Although since demon mooks are mindless, they don't care about the "hostage" and still attempt to attack him. The demon shield takes the damage instead.
Fire Emblem Tellius in Ch. 22 (Solo) of Path of Radiance, the enemy pulls this off by using priests as these.
Possible to pull off in Gears of War with the meat-shield function. Your enemies don't take kindly to it.
Amusingly enough, in respawning gametypes you can easily come up against an opponent using you as a human shield.
Mass Effect 2 in Lair of the Shadow Broker, Shepard has to deal with a hostage situation against Tela Vasir, another Spectre agent. You can do what she says(drop your thermal clips and power cells), harm the hostage and Tela, gloat about your accomplishments and ask if her plan involves hesitating to shoot a hostage, or to use faux racism against her.
Shepard: Is that it? Tela: What? Shepard:Vasir, I sacrificed hundreds of human lives to save the Destiny Ascension. I unleashed the Rachni on the galaxy. So for your sake, I hope your escape plan doesn't hinge on me hesitating to shoot a damn hostage.
And done again in Mass Effect 3, with Miranda's father holding her sister to stop both Miranda and Shepard shooting him. You can talk him down, shoot Oriana in the leg, or Oriana will turn the tables, and throw her father and herself out the window, killing them both.note The last outcome will only occur if Miranda is dead by this point.
Metal Gear use both this trope and Bulletproof Human Shield, depending on who you capture. In Portable Ops and 3, attempting to shield yourself with a higher-ranking officer gave you a better chance of success, as the enemies would hesitate for a lot longer - and shielding yourself with a scientist does nothing and they'll still shoot you freely.
However, in Portable Ops Plus, they pull out a knife and slash you, freeing their comrade and knocking you down.
Interestingly, you can interrogate your hostage while you're staring down other goons. And, in some cases, you can gun down the other mooks without retaliation if your hostage is of a high enough rank!
In a cutscene midway through 4, Snake pulls off a decidedly elaborate variation. He chicken-wings a mook by threading a rifle through the guy's arm. Not only that, but he has a knife to the mook's throat using his other hand. He's thus able to compromise his balance and advance on the other mooks, remaining a deadly threat to everyone concerned.
All of the Splinter Cell games. Though for some reason, guards never hesitate to shoot you when you have one of their own held hostage.
With one notable exception: the end of Pandora Tomorrow requires Sam to sneak into a TV studio and capture the terrorist leader while he's recording a speech in front of his own goons. This audacious act causes all the goons to point their guns, but not fire...unless Sam makes the mistake of turning his back on them to see where he's going.
Hitman: Blood Money lets you use anyone, including Innocent Bystanders, as human shields. However, the ability to take a human shield is far more useful to the stealthy player as a way to knock someone out when you want to take their clothes without taking their life. That is, it's not very common to use your shield to, you know, actually shield you.
Many of the levels in the Silent Scope games require you to take out Bosses who have taken Human Shields with a single headshot.
Similarly, the Boss of the 2nd Mission of the arcade game GHOST Squad requires you to take him out with a single headshot while he's holding the President of the USA as a Human Shield.
In the FPS version of XIII, the titular character will use human shields without missing a beat.
In the Reservoir Dogs video game (based on the film), you can take human shields and hit or threaten them to disarm cops. An even more notable example is when you are confronted by multiple cops and your adrenaline meter is full you can preform a special torture (offscreen of course) called a "Signature Move" (which range from Pistol-Whipping the hostage to cutting off the hostage's ear) that is so brutal that it will cause every cop in the area to drop their weapons and surrender.
Saints Row 2 allows you to use just about anyone as cover. Taking a civilian (or a cop) hostage generally means the cops will look for a way around you. Gang members treat the hostage as a Bulletproof Human Shield instead.
The Bourne Conspiracy allows you to more subtly use a human shield when engaged in melee - enemies with fire discipline will cease fire if you put a friendly between you and them. Enemies without fire discipline use the Bulletproof Human Shield trope instead.
In Nexus, the titular hero's main blast power is steerable which means the beam can maneuver around a shield person to hit the target cleanly.
In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Hawk attacks Emil and just as it appears Brute is going to use the opening to kill Emil, Emil actually throws Hawk at Brute's sword. The result is that Brute has just killed Hawk and there is an opening for the heroes to escape.
A quest in World of Warcraft sends you off to rescue some webbed-up friendly soldiers being used as "living shields" (not all of them being human, you see.)
It gets worse - the webbing they're trapped in is opaque and disguises silhouettes, and many of the "shields" are fakes, i.e., genuine hostiles. The only way to discover this is to open one up...
Call of Duty 4 has the last terrorist grab the anonymous VIP as a shield at the end of Mile High Club. The player has a few seconds to shoot one of his exposed body parts as he jerks around, and if you're playing on the hardest difficulty, you have to go for the headshot.
A few players have had this happen in Dwarf Fortress. One story goes that one of their best soldiers GAVE BIRTH, quite literally whilst still fighting, they then promptly held up the child and used it to block an incoming arrow.
The Spider-Man 2 game you could use the grapple ability to perform this.
Toad serves as one (apparently unwillingly) for Princess Peach in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
In Cla Dun, party members serve as human shields for your Player Character, providing an extra layer (or two, depending on the layout of the Magic Circle) of HP protection. Once they're all defeated, the player takes direct damage, and will lose if he/she is incapacitated.
The Getaway plays this trope to the letter. Mark Hammond can grab anyone as a hostage if he is close enough, and if you grab a gang member or PC their faction will cease fire and plead for you not to shoot - until you start picking them off like a coward. Once the hostage has outlived their usefulness you can choose to shoot them, snap their neck, or let them go.
The Umbrella Security Service, in Operation Raccoon City, are bad enough dudes to use zombies and Army Specialists like this.
Parodied in Borderlands2. A Nomad variant called the Torturer wields a riot shield with a hole in the center, which their idea of repairing involves tying a midget to the front. It's totally unnecessary-bandits are capable of metalwork-they just have it in for midgets. If you manage to shoot off the chains holding down the midget, they will immediately go after the Nomad, leaving him vulnerable as he's distracted by the angry midgets.
Now that guns are standard by the time of Assassins Creed III, this becomes a tactic to use. Whenever soldiers with muskets line up in a firing line or a commander or Jäger pulls out a pistol, you can run up to a different enemy, grab them, and let them take the bullets. Since this is instant, unavoidable death for the poor sap you grab, this is a great way to kill stronger enemies.
While feeding, Rayne in BloodRayne can turn her victims around to shield herself from attackers. In Blood Rayne 2 she can do this while refilling her blood guns, can flip over the victim in either direction or even slide underneath the draining body for more defensive coverage.
In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Marluxia teleports Namine into his arms to try to ward off Axel from attacking him, but Alex laughs and says he doesn't care. At that moment, Sora, Donald, and Goofy show up to stop Axel.
Used in the Insecticomics when Thrust protects Dreadmoon from the brunt of the Fallen's blast.
Starscream: You used her as a shield, didn't you?
Dreadmoon: I'm a Decepticon! It was reflex!
Subverted in The Last Days of FOXHOUND. Liquid Snake is taken hostage by a random Mook, in the hope that it will stop Revolver Ocelot. Ocelot, being the Magnificent Bastard he is, simply shoots through Liquid without actually hitting him! Liquid is of course perplexed by the ballistics of this.
Similarly subverted in Errant Story, when Jon takes Meji hostage to try to stop a bunch of Red Shirt Veracian militia. This starts to go badly when the red shirts decide to shoot him through Meji — although they apologize to her first. But then comes the big Oh, Crap, when Meji remembers she's incredibly good with destructive, violent magic...
In Juathuur, Rowasu does this with Juinn. He still insists he's not a hostage.
In Homestuck, Dave uses Jade for this purpose at one point, since Bec Noir is psychologically incapable of hurting her directly. AUTO-HARLEY!
In The Gamers Alliance, quite a few characters—heroic, villainous and anything in between—have no problem using people (whether humans or other races) as shields to get out of sticky situations. Sometimes it works, sometimes it...doesn't.
Completely subverted in "Boston Brawl 2" in the Whateley Universe. The heroes (a bunch of teenagers from the Super Hero School Whateley Academy) are fighting a Big Bad, his hardened super-criminals, and some mercenaries the Big Bad brought along too. One mercenary with flying power armor grabs the weakest-looking heroine (Generator is 14, but looks like a short 11-year-old girl) and threatens her with a knife. Generator's powers are a phenomenal healing rate and the ability to cast a psychokinetic copy of herself into objects. She embeds herself on the knife and casts a copy of herself into Ironhawk's armor, taking it over and using it as a weapon against the other badguys.
Occurs early on in Survival of the Fittest v4, where Gracie Wainright attempts to rob Anna Chase (who is not wearing her glasses) and Kitty Gittschall, and after being threatened by Kitty and hit by Kyle Portman, Gracie is just distracted enough for Anna to attempt to run away. However, she is quickly caught and held by the hair by Gracie, as an attempt to get Kitty and Kyle to stop attacking her and to rob Anna in peace.
In a flashback in Gargoyles, Gilcomgeigne uses Gruach as such a shield to force MacBeth to surrender.
When in the Christmas episode of The Boondocks, a mall Santa uses a little girl as a human shield against Riley, who shoots at him with airsoft guns in retaliation for several Christmases of poverty. "Why, Santa, why? You're ruining my childhood!"
Happens in World's Finest, the Batman / Superman crossover film. After being knocked out by Harley Quinn, Mercy Graves is briefly shown tied up with her mouth taped shut, and taped to some strange object. During the movie's climax, we discover that she has been strategically taped to a killer android so that Superman cannot destroy the machine without killing Mercy as well.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In "The Last Patrol", the Doom Patrol broke up after the supervillain General Zahl took a woman hostage and threatened to shoot her if the Patrol didn't let him go. The Patrol refused to let him go, and he followed through. The Patrol felt so guilty about letting an innocent person die that they went their separate ways and resigned themselves to languishing in obscurity.
Countless Truth in Television examples during bank hold-ups and various hostage situations. Also, unfortunately, used by terrorist groups, who will occasionally launch attacks from civilian areas in the hope that the attacked nation will withhold retaliation.
Or just as often in the hope that they will retaliate; the deaths of civilians gaining them sympathy and recruits for their cause.
Also a favored tactic of dictators facing superior air power and/or artillery. They grow fond of parades and refugee camps, trusting the other nation to become enough of a Slave to PR to not simply bomb them.
There is also a more sympathetic version of just keeping your troops so close to enemy forces (especially while engaging) that the enemy can't risk the use of air strikes or artillery as it'll get just as many friendlies as hostiles. This has led to the occasional subversion of Shoot the Hostage where the "hostage", about to be overrun, requests an artillery strike of his own position, knowing that he can take a great deal of attackers down with him.
Probably the weirdest example was various American and British anti-war activists volunteering as human shields during the Iraq war. They gave up on the idea when it became clear Saddam Hussein was only prepared to let them shield military and government facilities rather than civilians, almost as if he was some kind of evil dictator.
Doing this with civilians under your control (either physically forcing them or ordering them in a situation where they must obey) in a war situation is a war crime; people have been tried for it before the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal. Of course, so is shooting them from the offending side, making the whole deal Dirty Business for everyone involved.
Similarly, any otherwise protected place (hospitals, churches, etc.) lose their protection when armed forces are based in them (such as putting an anti-aircraft gun on a hospital).
Early reports soon after his death indicated that Osama bin Laden tried this with one of his wives just before he was killed. Later clarified that while there were two women present they apparently were trying to protect him, though they may also have just been trying to give him enough time to grab the two guns next to him. When the SEAL's burst in, the women were just pushed aside and bin Laden was shot.
Lifeguards and rescue divers who work in choppy waters are supposed to resort to this trope if they're about to be dashed against rocks or other obstacles, while hauling an unconscious person to safety. It makes sense in theory — if the rescuer gets knocked out also, both of them will surely drown — but most people in that line of work admit that they doubt they could go through with it.
Addressed in an episode of Baywatch, a lifeguard in training did this, and had trouble dealing with it afterwards.
When advancing on a city, a tactic the Mongols often employed was to force hostages to march ahead of their regular forces. From a distance, they just looked like part of the army, thus confusing the city defenders as to the size of the force advancing on them. And those hostages were pretty handy when it came to absorbing the first round of arrows...
One of the techniques taught to the Russian Spetsnaz is how to use their rifle's sling to disable and use someone as a human shield.
The Westboro Baptist Church employs these, usually children, because they know vigilantes can and will try to kill them whenever they demonstrate. Innocents tend to get caught in the crossfire, anyways. Many of the documentaries about them point out this only victimizes the civilians, not demonizes the attackers.