Military Commander: Tim, they've got your wife!The Big Bad tries to get the hero (or someone else) to do his bidding by taking someone precious from him and essentially holding them to ransom. It's often a significant other, frequently a wife or girlfriend. This sort of thing tends to go in the following sequence:
Tim: But I'm not married!
Military Commander: You are now... To AMERICA!
Tim: But I'm not married!
Military Commander: You are now... To AMERICA!
- Significant other is kidnapped.
- Villain calls up hero and says "I've got your significant other. I'll put her on the line".
- Significant other is expected/ordered to wail "Do as he says!" More often than not, they say something along the lines of "Don't do it, it's a trap!"
- Villain tells hero that he is being watched. If he doesn't obey orders and/or informs the authorities, then he will kill the significant other.
- The hero will then be given his orders, usually: a) steal something, b) deliver something, c) kill someone, d) surrender to the villain, and/or e) lead his allies into a trap.
- The hero will try at least once to get a message to friends and usually succeeds (eventually). The friends in turn usually figure out what is going on — that their friend is in great danger, closely watched and controlled by a villain — and swing into action to help.
- Eventually, the significant other will be released, either by completion of mission or rescue by the hero (in a Roaring Rampage of Rescue) or The Cavalry. A Reverse Mole is sometimes involved.
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Anime and Manga
- Griffith from Berserk does this with one of the Queen's mooks in order to blackmail him into helping Griffith kill the Queen, only the hostage is the mook's young daughter.
- Guts also had a habit of doing this when he was in full Jerk Ass mode.
- Ichigo from Bleach has this done to him twice with Orihime as bait. Though, it was more of a 'We have your friend and potential Love Interest' moment.
- Subverted in Death Note, with an exchange that goes something like this (he wasn't holding anyone hostage)
Kira: Guess who I'm holding hostage.Raye Penber: ...No! You're holding her hostage? ("her", being Naomi Misora, Penbar's fiancée)Kira: (smirks to self) That's right, and I'll kill her unless you do what I say.
- It's later played straight when Mello kidnaps Light's little sister Sayu. Their father happens to be the head of the team working on the Kira case. Mello specficially mentions that it would be pointless to tell him not to contact the police, because he's in the police. But he does ask him to stop it spreading further.
- The movie has an odd variation. Naomi takes (Light's girlfriend) Shiori hostage, intending to get him to reveal himself as Kira. It turns out to be a plan on Light's behalf, with him planning a "murder-suicide" scenario.
- Judge reveals this to be the reason why Kazuhiko Asai agreed to become The Mole, after being given a cellphone with instructions and a picture of their mother, whom they haven't seen in years due to personal reasons, held at gun-point and told to follow the instructions lest she be killed.
- Fullmetal Alchemist is in love with this trope, at least metaphorically. When Ed and Roy step out of line in the middling chapters, the Big Bad crew hold Winry and the Mustang Team hostage, respectively. Ed's able to engineer Winry's escape with Scar's help, but Roy can't do much for his men. Riza is taken hostage, as she now works in close proximity with the Big Bad crew, and if Roy does anything they don't like her life is forfeit. The others are also in varying sorts of danger. Dr. Marcoh is constantly forced to do the Big Bad crew's bidding due to their hostage-taking. It gets so bad that he expresses the desire for death over having to work within the constraints any longer. Toward the endgame, Roy retaliates for the loss of his subordinates by taking a hostage of his own. King Bradley, I have your wife. However, this is later subverted when it turns out that taking Mrs. Bradley hostage was part of a Batman Gambit designed to make her realize that her husband and his top generals considered her as expendable as any member of Mustang's crew, followed by a promise from Mustang to keep her safe - which he does.
- In Ikki Tousen, Toutaku wants Hakufu to kill Ryoufou for him. What does he do when she says no? He grabs Hakufu's friend and teammate Ryoumou and chokes her, telling Hakufu he'll kill her if she keeps refusing.
- The series soon tops it by having the badly injured Gakushuu and Koukin being held hostage by Saji, the Sixth Ranger Traitor, so Hakufu goes face him after defeating and killing Toutaku. And it seems the writers love that, since in Dragon Destiny Kan'u surrenders herself to Kyoushou High when told by the Three Pillared Gods that her teammates (including her Les Yay Love Interest and leader, Ryuubi) are cornered by practically every Kyoushou fighter.
- Sango from InuYasha was occasionally coerced with threats against, or promises to release, her Brainwashed and Crazy brother Kohaku. After the first couple of times she finally seemed to get that Naraku is a liar and stopped going along with it.
Inuyasha: "Let me get this straight, you and I are supposed are supposed to be lovers?"Kagome: "This is no time to get all shy!"Inuyasha: "You actually think I'd hand over the jewel shards as a ransom to get you back?!"Kagome: "Of course you would! Cause that's what a lover would do!"
- Also early in the series, Kagome is kidnapped by the Thunder Brothers. She convinces them to let her live so they can force Inuyasha to give up the Shikon Jewel shards for her as a ransom. This was a bluff, as her relationship with Inuyasha was still fairly antagonistic at this point, and it leads to this exchange:
- Mamoru Chiba is kidnapped a couple of times over the course of Sailor Moon. Usually this isn't for any purpose except to brainwash him to fight the good guys, though twice in the original anime, his kidnapping is actually used to get the heroes to act. In the first example, during Sailor Moon S, Kaolinite figures out Usagi's true identity as Sailor Moon and traps Tuxedo Kamen in glass after taking Usagi's compact. She then demands Usagi meet her at the Tokyo Tower if she wants him back. In reality, she's just baiting a trap to get an opportunity to take Usagi's pure heart, which she believes to have a talisman. Later in the series, Nehellenia possesses Mamoru via a glass mirror shard in his eye, and kidnaps him in order to lure Usagi into her realm.
- Zoisite loves this strategy in the original anime. Zoisite has his youma kidnap Naru in order to threaten Nephrite, as he's figured out Nephrite is obsessed with her, and tries to ransom her for the Black Crystal using three powerful youma. Nephrite just proceeds to beat up the youma and take Naru back, though Zoisite ends up killing him a little while later anyway. Later in the season, Zoisite uses Naru again to threaten Sailor Moon into giving up the only rainbow crystal the Sailor Senshi have collected, this time by having a youma suffocate her until Sailor Moon gives up and hands it over (though he initially planned to just turn Naru into a youma and threaten her that way, but he missed his attack and hit a Power Ranger parody instead.) Finally, Zoisite captured the Sailor Senshi through a convoluted scheme in order to force Tuxedo Mask to give up the rainbow crystals which he had collected. This is the only time he actually failed because Sailor Venus made her first appearance in this episode, thus avoiding his trap...though he still got information on Tuxedo Mask's true identity in the process.
- Rubeus captures all four of the Guardian Senshi during Sailor Moon R and demands Sailor Moon arrive in his UFO to hand over Chibiusa and the ginzuishou if she wants them back.
- Interesting subversion in 20th Century Boys; the bad guys kidnap the daughter of a scientist whose help they need; however over his ensuing years of work, she becomes converted to their side, and is a minor villain throughout the rest of the series.
- In Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest, with Haguro in charge, it's less about having the wife and move about kidnapping the Hot Teacher that is the Anti-Hero's Morality Chain, violently torture and rape her for several hours, videotaping this and threaten said Anti-Hero with sending copies of said sexual acts to completely smear her fame.
- This is used quite a bit in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Pegasus takes Yugi's grandfather's soul to make him compete in his tournament. Then there's the Joey anchor duel. Then Duke Devlin humiliates Joey and makes Yugi duel to get him out of the dog suit. I'm sure there's more.
- Mokuba. He is kidnapped or placed in some sort of mortal peril (or both) at least once a season because the villain has an agenda against his brother.
- Done in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu when someone tells Sousuke that they have Chidori kidnapped. So before showing up to make a deal with the bad guys he kidnaps or threatens EVERY SINGLE MOOK'S MOST PRECIOUS SIGNIFICANT OTHER to force them to give up Chidori. Crowning Moment of Awesome indeed.
- In Gate 7, Tokugawa Iemitsu kipnapped the twin sister of one of the Urashichiken's members.
- Done by the Anti-Hero protagonist Kiritsugu Emiya in Fate/Zero, via An Offer You Can't Refuse; victim must "exit the stage", so to speak, but both parties sign a magical contract that state said hero cannot harm either wife or husband. He lets her go eventually. This is when Kiritsugu's assistant shows up with a machine gun.
- Gunsmith Cats: Buskie kidnaps Alan Scott's daughter to force Scott to deliver Rally into an ambush unarmed.
- Minerva pulls of a twisted version in Fairy Tail when she tells Sting, her ally, that she's holding his closest companion Lector hostage. Because she's just saved Lector's life as well, Sting would already do whatever she wanted - she's just adding the extra punch in the gut to try and make him fight for higher stakes.
- In Tiger & Bunny, Maverick tries this with Kotetsu's daughter, Kaede. Not only does it serve to piss Kotetsu off, but Kaede reveals herself to be a Damsel out of Distress who manages to save her own life and that of every other superhero trapped by Maverick's subordinate, Rottwang. Hoist by His Own Petard at its finest!
- In the finale of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, Heero needs only one last shot from Wing Zero to destroy the Elaborate Underground Base, but Dekim Barton reminds him through broadcast that Relena was inside the base, making Heero hesitate from pulling the trigger. Although, it's hard to tell if Dekim thinks Heero wouldn't harm Relena either because she's a major political figure or because Dekim knows she's Heero's Love Interest.
- In the anime of Magic Knight Rayearth, Inouva takes Ferio captive and tells Fuu to give up being a Magic Knight or Ferio will be killed. It backfires hugely, since Fuu's refusal to go along with it is what proves her heart to Windam.
- In Howl's Moving Castle, Madame Suliman holds Sophie's stepfather (whom she's never met) hostage, forcing Sophie's mother to betray her by planting a Peeping Bug in the castle.
- Almost subverted in the comic miniseries Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge. The agents of the Big Bad Libra kidnap the father of Rogues leader Captain Cold. They threaten to kill him unless Cold and the Rogues surrender. But the bad guys don't understand that his father's sadistic abuse and terror was the main factor in shaping Cold's personality. So he tells them that he will hunt them down, kill them, and kill his father himself. The Rogues do kill the bad guys, but Cold does not kill his father. Instead he orders his teammate Heatwave to burn him to death.
- Transmetropolitan makes use of this with Spider Jerusalem's wife's cryogenically preserved head. Mostly subverted in that Spider does not actually care about his ex-wife, much to the consternation of those who have her. Spider then completely subverts this by throwing his wife's cryogenically preserved head into the river. Since she was the one who had angered the kidnappers in the first place, they then calm down and leave.
- Bungled by Fink and Mean Machine Angel in Judge Dredd when they abduct Dredd's landlady assuming she is his wife.
- X-Men foe Nimrod, a Sentinel from the future, forced an alternate timeline Forge to repair him by holding his daughter hostage. This is after he murdered Forge's wife — Storm in this timeline — right in front of the kid.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Queen Chrysalis kidnaps the Cutie Mark Crusaders to force the cooperation of the Mane 6.
- In Morbius' Marvel NOW! series, the Rose tells Morbius he has his mother, who is alive "but I wouldn't say well" and is bound to get a lot worse. The Rose gives Morbius his mother's wedding ring as a reminder he works for him now. Subverted when Morbius reveals his mother died years ago; he even was at her side when she passed away. The Rose's employer, who provided the ring, knows Morbius would know the threat was empty — so it was the Rose who was being conned.
- The first issue of the Invader Zim continuation comic reveals that this is the reason Prisoner 777 provides Zim with information — Zim has his children, and will "erase them" from existence if their father doesn't do what he says.
- In Secret Six, Catman receives a phone call letting him know that his infant son has been kidnapped and will receive one year of life for every member of his team Catman kills in the next five minutes. He considers it for a very long moment, but instead tells the kidnappers that they can drop the kid...but he'll find them. Which he does.
- In Back to Brooklyn, Paul Saetta kidnaps his brother Bob's family with the implication he will murder Bob's young son Michael if Bob crosses him.
- Protecting her family from this is why X-23 sent her aunt and cousin into hiding at the end of Target: X. Kimura eventually tracks them down anyway, and although she at first considered killing them out of spite, she ultimately plays the trope straight and decides to use them as leverage to force Laura to submit to her in All-New Wolverine. Considering it's Kimura, it's highly unlikely she'll hold up her end no matter what Laura does.
- In The Lion King Adventures, the Royal Reaper breaks this to Simba in quite a chilling way.
Simba: What have you done with Nala?The Royal Reaper: Oh, she's safe. For now. I'm taking good care of her. Very good care indeed.Simba: If you hurt her, then—The Royal Reaper: I'm afraid it's too late for warnings now, Simba. I've already... injured Nala to a certain extent, so she won't be running away from the location where I've held her captive. Was it necessary? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Will I do it again? Yes.
- All He Ever Wanted. In one of the most polemic parts of the fic, the Big Bad keeps the Action Girl's Non-Action Guy ex-husband hostage and uses this not just to have her pull a Face–Heel Turn, but to actually torture and rape her in front of him to show off his power.
- And Shine Heaven Now: Walter. In Hellsing, he pulls a Face–Heel Turn which is never adequately explained. Here, the bad guys have his daughter, Maggie (imported from Read or Die). How far he will go to keep her safe remains to be seen.
- One of the villains in the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fic series The Private Diary of Elizabeth Quatermain forces the title character's cooperation by taking her best friend hostage. Unfortunately for him, the rest of the True Companions find out...
- In the Mass Effect fanfic Interstitium, Wrex and Shepard have to set this up in order to convince the other krogan to let Mordin take care of some personal business on their planet. Since Mordin doesn't have a wife, however, they have to fake it. With Miranda playing the part, and Mordin hamming it up for all it's worth.
- Jim Rhodes helps with the Program in 72 Hours because his family is being held hostage by the government.
- A Growing Affection has the Fire Daimyo's daughter kidnapped by the Big Bad. The price for the girl's safety? That the Fire Nation and Hidden Leaf Village stay out of the coming war.
- In Naruto fanfic Nightingale, Orochimaru holds Hinata hostage, and the ransom note he sends to her father says, word for word, "I have your daughter."
- In "Brilliancy," the second part of the Fullmetal Alchemist Elemental Chess Trilogy, the trope is turned upside down. Roy knows his wife has been taken - he just doesn't know who did it, or why.
- In Zero 2 A Revision, when Oikawa's pleading of Demon to teleport him to the Digital World ends up being met with deaf ears from the Digimon, he decides to threaten original Digidestined Hiroaki's ex-wife soon to be wife Nancy for his Digivice, desperate to enter the Digital World. However, after Cody's grandfather gives him a harsh word beating, Oikawa breaks down and releases the hostage, finally realizing what he has done.
- In of the installments of the Black Crayons series, A Child's Innocence has two examples:
- Annabelle Lennox is kidnapped by Laserbeak and Starscream so that the Autobots will be distracted with trying to get her back.
- Mikaela Banes is kidnapped by Dylan Gould and Soundwave to force Sam Witwicky into being The Mole for the Decepticons.
Films — Animated
- In Despicable Me, up-and-coming supervillain Vector kidnaps Gru's adopted daughters and demands the moon, which Gru has shrunk and removed from its orbit, in exchange. Gru complies, but when Vector goes back on the deal, he finds himself dealing with an enraged Papa Wolf.
- The Snow Queen (1995)'s sequel has this. The Snow Queen kidnaps Dimly to force Ellie to go to her castle. A similar thing happened in the first movie, but there it wasn't intentional.
Films — Live-Action
- Probably the first film example is The Black Hand (1906), where three mobsters kidnap the daughter of a butcher in order to press him for $1,000.
- Gary Oldman ups this trope's usual ante in Air Force One: "When you talk to the President, you might remind him that I am holding his wife, his daughter, his chief of staff, his national security advisor, his classified papers - and his baseball glove!" And it's that last part that really pisses everyone off. Only Tim Curry could have delivered that line any better.
- Bayard the bloodhound, in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010), reluctantly serves the Red Queen because she's holding his wife and their pups in her dungeon.
- Played with in Austin Powers. When Austin is about to capture Dr. Evil, Alotta appears holding Vanessa at gunpoint, telling Austin to let him go. At this point Scott walks in, so Austin grabs and holds him at gunpoint in exchange for Vanessa. Dr. Evil is completely indifferent.
- In The Big Lebowski the (non-Dude) Jeffrey Lebowski's wife, Bunny, is "kidnapped" and held for one million dollars ransom.
- In Bon Cop, Bad Cop, the villains kidnap the French cop's daughter in similar fashion.
- The Monster in Bride of Frankenstein, on Dr. Pretorius' orders, kidnaps Elizabeth so that her husband will co-operate in making a bride for him.
- The Excuse Plot of Schwarzenegger's Commando is that the baddies have kidnapped his daughter to force him into doing their bidding. It becomes clear straight away that this isn't going to work.
Diaz: (waving Jenny's "I Love You Daddy" Father's Day card in Matrix's face) If you want your kid back then you gotta cooperate, right?
Matrix: Wrong. (shoots Diaz)
- In Capricorn One, the astronauts are told the safety of their families is contingent on their willingness to cooperate with the fake moon landing.
- Die Hard plays around with this. McClane's wife is among the hostages taken by Hans' crew, but Hans is completely unaware of this until late in the movie. And once he does find out and radios McClane to tell him about it, he can't get a hold of him because he's already fighting The Dragon.
- Live Free or Die Hard has the villains capturing McClane's daughter instead. Instead of even feigning that he'll cooperate, he just tells them he's going to kill them all and take her back. And when they try to emotionally manipulate him by putting her on the line with him? She tells her dad exactly how many bad guys are left.
- Speaking of Coen Brothers films, the plot of Fargo revolves around a basic plot of I Have Your Wife. Just as we planned.
- In Clockstoppers, the Big Bad kidnaps Zak's father to ransom back Zak's hypertime watch.
- The Firewall-esque Lifetime Movie of the Week The Kidnapping has Judd Nelson kidnap a bank employee's daughter (and her babysitter, whom they promptly kill when she tries to escape with the kid) to get her to give them access to a specific safe-deposit box.
- Subverted and then played straight in Akira Kurosawa's High and Low: kidnappers tell a wealthy industrialist they have his son, except they grabbed the his servants' son by mistake. After a lot of conscience wrestling — close a major deal or save someone's child — he pays the ransom. The rest of the movie follows the cops trying to track down the kidnappers, and the kidnappers reasons for their crime.
- Hostage: Bad guy kidnaps Bruce Willis' family to force Bruce to get a DVD that incriminates him from a hostage situation going on elsewhere. After resolving the hostage situation and getting the DVD, he manages to kill the bad guy and save his family.
- Every post-Indiana Jones Harrison Ford movie features this plot, such as 2006's Firewall.
- Happens more than once in Jupiter Ascending. Stinger's daughter is ailing, compelling him into handing Jupiter and Caine over to Titus in exchange for the money to afford a 'recode'. Balem does this with Jupiter's entire family, in order to convince her to abdicate so he can take Earth for his own.
- In the Marvel Spider-Man Trilogy films, this happens to Peter Parker all the time—Mary Jane is held hostage in some manner by supervillains at least four times; as is Aunt May, twice; and so are quite a number of innocent civilians throughout the trilogy. In the second movie, it's done by a villain who doesn't even know that Peter is Spider-Man.
- In The Karate Kid Part II, the villain Chozen forces Daniel to fight him by threatening to kill Kumiko, the Japanese girl Daniel loves. He doesn't actually kidnap her, but he does capture her in the middle of a festival and hold a knife to her throat in front of the entire village, so it counts.
- The film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has a variation that might be called I Have Your You. The Big Bad steals Dorian Gray's portrait — yes, that one — and uses it as leverage for his cooperation. Interestingly for a villain, he actually honors their agreement once his victim holds up his end of it.
- In a more straightforward example from the same film, the Big Bad forces the cooperation of the scientists he kidnapped by holding their wives and children in prison cells.
- The movie Ransom is a complete subversion of this trope. Instead of paying the ransom for his son, he offers the amount of 2 million bucks to anyone who can find and rescue his son instead, because he assumes either 1. his son is already dead, or 2. the kidnappers have no intention of returning his son anyway.
- In Red the CIA captures Frank's love interest, Sara. When Cooper tries to use this to get Frank to turn himself in, the CIA runs a phone trace. As it turns out, Frank was in Cooper's house at the time while Cooper's wife and kids were outside; Cooper is shocked and promises that Sara would not be hurt.
- Red Eye: "Right now, our guy is parked outside your dad's house, listening to a little smooth jazz while he sharpens his 12-inch K-Bar. That's a knife."
- The kidnappers in Ruthless People threaten to kill Sam Stone's wife. Turns out, however, that he was going to kill her, and the kidnappers appear to have saved him the trouble.
- In the Made-for-TV Movie San Francisco International Airport (another proud MST3K alumnus), a group of thieves do this to an airline pilot to force him to keep his flight for the day grounded, as part of a Evil Plan to smuggle the proceeds of a bank robbery out of town. (Their leader also kidnaps a female airport employee for another stage of the plan.)
- The first Saw plays this pretty straight with Dr. Gordon's family.
- In an interesting subversion, in the second movie Detective Matthews's son is taken hostage, but, in order to get him back, Matthew's is ordered not to steal/kill/etc. but... to do nothing. He fails miserably in one of the best twist endings ever.
- Subverted (possibly inverted) in the movie Se7en: Less "I have your wife" and more "You have your wife's head.". The idea is still to use this to get the hero to do what the villain wants.
- In Space Mutiny, the villainous Elijah Kalgan kidnaps the commander's "daughter-mother".
- In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader captures and tortures the rebels with the intent of luring Luke to rescue them - and either turn him to the dark side or hand him over to The Emperor. The rebels try to warn Luke that it's a trap, Leia and Chewie get away because Lando has a conscience, Han's taken prisoner by a bounty hunter, and Luke needs rescuing himself after Vader schools him in a lightsaber duel.
- Superman II. Ursa has the 3 Kryptonian supervillains take Lois Lane along with them to the Fortress of solitude with the intent of using her as a hostage against Superman.
- The Usual Suspects has a "flashback" of how Keyser Soze came to power. Low-level thugs take his wife and children hostage while he's out on business. He comes home to find them under guard and with guns pointed at them. He then shoots his wife, multiple thugs and his kids. He tells the only remaining thug still alive to tell his bosses what happened.
- Shooter. The bad guys kidnap Sarah, which makes Bob realize how much he cares for her.
Nick Memphis: I didn't know you had a woman.Bob Lee Swagger: Neither did I... until they took her.
- The Man Who Knew Too Much sees Dr. Ben McKenna receive warning about the impending assassination of a prime minister. The people in charge of the plot try to prevent Ben from telling the police by holding his son hostage.
- Act of Valor: Miller shows Christo a recording of the latter's daughter during his interrogation, with this implied. Then immediately subverted; he is not threatening Christo's daughter, he's just showing him his daughter to remind him of what he will lose if he doesn't cooperate and gets sent to prison for the rest of his life. When Christo asks if Miller will leave his family alone, he emphatically replies that he would never harm Christo's family. It's a brilliant piece of subtext without a direct threat, because you know Christo was wondering how in the hell this guy got footage of his daughter.
- Killer Elite. A Retired Badass is forced to do One Last Job when his mentor tries fleeing with the money rather than taking on the dangerous assignment. After completing the job, he's retired to his home when he gets an unexpected phone call from his employer saying he still has to kill one more person, and implying that he has hitman's girlfriend. He rushes to her room only to find she's sleeping peacefully. Then he finds a cartridge case tucked into her hair.
- Welcome to the Punch (2013). A Professional Killer goes to visit his grandmother, only to find the Cowboy Cop and Villain Protagonist sitting on either side of her, posing as his old army mates who've come to visit. Unknown to grandma, a third man standing right behind her is pointing a pistol at her head. They make it clear the killer is to come out "for some drinks" while one of them waits with grandma to ensure his co-operation. The killer calls their bluff.
"You think that keeping a hostage is going to force me into a corner? But none of you have been where I have, seen what I've seen. None of you have the selfless commitment. And not one of you possesses what it takes...to actually put a bullet through the back of that woman's head." (shootout ensues)
- The Conspiracy: The Tarsus Club buys Aaron's silence by threatening his wife and child.
- Best Seller. The Corrupt Corporate Executive has the protagonist's daughter brought to him by two policemen as a demonstration of his power. He says she is free to leave with her father, as he's now demonstrated that his men can reach her at any time.
- In the 1982 thriller Who Dares Wins (aka The Final Option), the protagonist is an ex-SAS man sent to infiltrate a terrorist group as a Fake Defector. However the terrorists suspect he may be lying to them, so they send a team to hold his family hostage while they carry out their main plan.
- Code of Silence: The Comachos kidnap Diana Luna to force Sergeant Cusack to deliver mafia guy Tony Luna (Diana's father) to them. When Luna is killed along with his uncle (thus making the deal impossible, as the Colombians wanted him alive), Cusack arranges a fake hostage exchange so he can take out the whole Comacho gang single-handedly.
- Done twice in Assassination Games, once with the girl in Brazil's apartment — he tells them that he doesn't care — and once with Flint's comatose wife.
- In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Lex Luthor, has Lois Lane kidnapped to get Superman's attention and once Superman saves up and confronts him, Luthor reveals he knows who Superman is and has also kidnapped Martha Kent, intending to force Superman to kill Batman as part of his plan to discredit Superman. Once Batman learns what's going on, he goes and rescues Martha. Luthor's reaction is to release Doomsday.
- Jack Reacher proves himself to be Genre Savvy when the female attorney he's working with is kidnapped. "You'll bounce me around to make sure I'm not followed, then walk me into an ambush and kill me." He then goes on to be the first action hero in history to not only defy but invert it — He's got all the evidence he needs, so unless they give up their location so he can come try and kill them when he is damn good and ready, he'll just cut his losses and hand everything to the FBI.
- Criminal: Xavier forces Bill/Jericho to give him the Wormhole program by holding Jill and Emma hostage.
- In A Brother's Price the villains kidnap a husband in order to invoke this trope. However, it fails, as one of his wives has infiltrated the lower class criminals hired to do the job. So it is more of a "your sister has her husband, and we are trying to get them both."
- High Lord Kalarus in Codex Alera likes this tactic. When he rebels against Gaius, he kidnaps the High Lady Placida and other loved ones of important nobles in order to insure that they stay neutral in the civil war. He even took Rook's, his own chief spy and assassin, daughter hostage to ensure her cooperation and locked her in the same room as Placida. Placida is a Person of Mass Destruction in her own right so she probably could have escaped on her own, but Kalarus set the security systems to go for the kid first if she tried to escape, since he knew that she would not sacrifice a child for her own freedom.
- In the book, play and movie The Desperate Hours, three escaped cons take the protagonist's family hostage in their own home.
- It happens in a quite interesting way in The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, because it's the heroes who kidnap Hermógenes's wife to use her as bait. Eventually, she becomes Diadorim's friend.
- Doc Savage gives this as the reason why he doesn't form relationships. That hasn't stopped people from speculating that the 1930s hero has other reasons....
Savage: Ah, there's no room in my life for love, Mona.
Mona: But why, Doc?
Savage: There was a girl once. We were to be married. She was kidnapped by the men I had been pursuing—they threatened to kill her if I didn't drop the chase. I gave in. I had to. Later, when she was returned safely to me, I realized there could never be a future for us. I realized if I were to do what I had chosen with my life, there could never be a loved one who could be used against me. Or harmed because of me. Do you understand?
- This is why Wellington Yueh betrays the Atreides in Dune, with a twist: the Harkonnens have Yueh's wife Wanna, and they are torturing her. Constantly. Yueh's deal with the Baron is that the Baron will kill Wanna, putting an end to her miserable existence. This is why Yueh also sacrifices his life to assassinate the Baron; the plan fails, but it's kind of sweet.
- In Fangs of K'aath 2: Guardians of Light, the villain Tzu-Khan has the good Shah Raschid's wives kidnapped. With them in his clutches, he makes contact to the Raschid through a magic mirror about how he intends to have them horrifically tortured and yet unable to die unless the Shah surrenders. However, the heroic wives break free just long enough to reveal the location of the villain's army and instruct their husband both to break his mirror to cut off contact for more threats, and "Kill the bastards!" Well aware of what his wives are sacrificing sending that message, Raschid wastes no time to honour those demands. Fortunately, a combination of cunning and The Power of Friendship allows the wives to not only individually escape, but to join the fight against the villain.
- A Greg Egan short story changes this to I Stole A Copy Of Your Wife's Brain Upload.
- In The Guardians, demons are fond of this tactic to coerce humans into a Deal with the Devil. Deacon betrays his friends and gets several of them killed trying to ensure his lovers' safety. It was all in vain.
- Harry Potter:
- The premise of Dean Koontz's novel The Husband. "We have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash."
- In Night Over Water by Ken Follett, Eddie the mechanic must help hijack the airship because the bad guys are holding his pregnant wife hostage.
- In The Scarlet Pimpernel, Chauvelin gets Marguerite to help him because he has taken her brother, Armand.
- In one of the sequels, Eldorado, Armand betrays the Pimpernel to Chauvelin in exchange for the freedom of Armand's lover, Jeanne L'Ange, who had been arrested for helping him elude capture; ironically, the Pimpernel has already freed Jeanne from prison.
- The third Soldiers of Barrabas (a Heroes "R" Us series by Jack Hild) novel had enemies of Nile Barrabas from his Vietnam days kidnapping his girlfriend and saying "You've got 48 hours before we kill her. Come and get her." The Big Bad thinks his jungle fortress surrounded by booby traps and ambushes will take care of Barrabas and his men, but they kill an ambush squad and infiltrate up their hidden retreat path, which is free of booby traps. Even so the girlfriend only escapes with her life because The Dragon is Genre Savvy enough not to execute her as ordered, knowing Barrabas would spend the rest of his life hunting him down.
- In the third book of the Spaceforce series, the Big Bad Minty Mazata taunts Jay with this when she is arrested. It works - he storms off to save her.
- The Stainless Steel Rat's wife was once held hostage by the tax office to get him to pay his arrears. She went quietly so as to give him time to think of something. Normal thugs are not advised to attempt this. Really.
- Happens all the time actually, though it's not always shown how. Though there's usually a mention later of a number of mooks being bumped off in the process by Jim's armed and psychopathic wife.
- The Strain: The Master hides in Eph's apartment to await his return to tell him "I have your pig wife."
- In Superman novel The Last Days of Krypton, the villain kidnaps the hero's wife. It's a two-for-one hostage since his wife is pregnant.
- The Big Bad of The Tamuli, by David Eddings, sends The Dragon to kidnap the knight Sparhawk's wife. Seeing as 1) Sparhawk has a handful of assorted gods who like him and are willing to help him out, and 2) there's nothing in the world he loves more than his wife, this can only be considered a Very Bad Idea in the long run.
- In Twilight, James blackmails Bella to sneak away from the Cullens by pretending he has her mother as a hostage: in reality, he just played a recording of her voice over the phone.
- In Grunts!, Ashnak uses the threat their mother's life to "encourage" Will and Ned Braindiman to steal nullity talismans from the Visible College for him.
- Gender flipped in Mockingjay where President Snow kidnaps and tortures Katniss' husband as one step in foiling the revolution. A pretty interesting example since Katniss and Peeta aren't actually married, Peeta just claimed that they were married and pregnant in the hopes of gaining sympathy and sponsors for Katniss in the Quarter Quell. They are engaged, but that's kind of on the fake side too.
- What turns it into Fridge Horror is when she realizes that Snow insisting that she convinces him that her feelings for Peeta are genuine had nothing to do with quelling the riots in Panem, as Katniss originally thought, and everything to do with this trope. Being no idiot, Snow knows that Peeta's value to him is in direct proportion to how much Katniss cares about him. Unfortunately for Peeta, Snow figures out that Katniss is in love with him before she herself realizes it.
- In a way this trope applies to all Hunger Games victors. Unless they stay in line and do whatever Snow asks of them (like prostituting themselves) their families will pay the price. As Johanna Mason and Haymitch found out the hard way.
- Lieutenant Vulpes forces Mehitabel to spy for the Bastion by threatening her lover Hallam Bellamy with torture in Doctrine of Labyrinths.
- In The Tombs by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry, this is attempted. It fails miserably. The husband, Sam Fargo, mounts a rescue while his wife Remi plots a daring escape. For good measure, they set fire to the kidnapper's house on the way out.
- In City of Fallen Angels , Lilith tells Simon that she has his girlfriend. Due to the fact that he had just broken up with Maia and Isabelle he does nothing, and assumes that it's an empty threat, until he discovers Maureen has been killed due to her crush on him.
- Very common practice in A Song of Ice and Fire, with both heroes and villains doing this and often for similar reasons. Families often send children off to live with other families as wards or squires, but this requires coercion or a huge amount of trust. Some people get Kicked Upstairs where they can be watched, like Harys Swift, whom Cersei named Hand of the King. Some people are unable or unwilling to negotiate for their loved ones because the terms of release are too demanding (at least to them) or they don't actually care about that person. In other cases, the party holding the hostage has no intention of letting them go regardless. This reflects real life medieval Realpolitik.
- Danaerys takes children from many powerful families in Mereen, but grows fond of them and refuses to punish them for the crimes of their parents, which her advisers consider to rather defeat the point of the exercise.
- In Half Bad, Mercury uses Annalise as leverage to get Nathan to do what she wants.
- After Kasia (the Not Love Interest) is taken by the Wood and saved from it in Uprooted, Prince Marek orders Agnieszka and Sarkan to go on his fool's errand to save his decades-imprisoned mother from its deepest depths... otherwise he'll have Kasia executed under the law for The Corruption. Then he brings her to the capital with the Empty Shell of a queen to keep up the threat because proving the Queen is clear will save Kasia's life too.
- In Relativity, August Moon captures Ravenswood's wife, Melody. Unfortunately for Moon, Melody's a good fighter. He finally manages to subdue her, but he's still in a foul mood about it when Ravenswood shows up to rescue her.
- In the Temeraire series, I Have Your Captainnote is standard operating procedure in the West for capturing hostile dragons and keeping them under control as they will do a great deal to keep their human from harm. Of course this is hazardous as killing the captain has rather the opposite effect and being too hamfisted with threats of harm can backfire.
- The Mistborn trilogy has this, complete with a formal note - though in this case the wife is a badass winner of the Superpower Lottery.
- Alex Rider: In Eagle Strike, Damian Cray kidnaps Sabina Pleasure to force Alex's cooperation and prevent him from going to MI6 with the flash drive.
- 24 managed to carry one off, very successfully, for 8 episodes of season one, as Jack's wife and daughter were kidnapped. Among other things, Jack was forced to shoot his friend Nina (but set it up so she'd survive). Her later revelation as The Mole caused some rather rapid Retcon.
- 24 also used this trope in season three with Tony's wife Michelle being kidnapped. And then in season four, they reversed it as Tony was kidnapped and Michelle was forced to work with the bad guy.
- 24 loves this trope so much it was parodied by Derrick Comedy.
- The 100 has a rare case of the hero doing this: Clarke threatens to kill Cage's father unless he releases the captive Sky People. He doesn't, and she follows through on her threat.
- Agatha Raisin: In "Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet", the killer abducts Agatha's cat Podge and threatens to kill him if Agatha does not stop her nosing about.
- In the Season One finale for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cybertek manages to recruit several people to participate in their cyborg program with an "incentive" program, the incentive being, "Do as we say and your wife/husband/kids may survive." Garrett also has Mike Peterson's son hostage, forcing Peterson to serve HYDRA as Deathlok. When Skye reveals to Peterson that his son is safe, Peterson turns on Garrett.
- In Alias series 2, in order for Sark to give her an antidote to save Vaughn from a deadly illness, Sydney was forced to assassinate (or rather attempt, it turned out to be a ploy for the two to work together) Arvin Sloane. This is a slight variation on the scenario.
- Happens in Arrow, with Count Vertigo kidnapping Felicity and then calling Oliver from her phone. He then threatens to kill her if he doesn't surrender and allow himself to be killed. Oliver shows up at the required place, but isn't willing to get himself killed, so the Count almost kills Felicity. A very angry Oliver kills him before he can hurt her.
- Badger: Wilf is abducted in "The Price of a Daughter".
- In Battlestar Galactica (2003) Admiral Adama threatens to have Cally Tyrol put up against a bulkhead and shot, to force Chief Tyrol to end a refinery workers' strike. And this is the good guy to one of his own men.
- Breakout Kings: In "Queen of Hearts", Lilah Tompkins escapes from prison by claiming to have had an accomplice kidnap a guard's son, and threatening to kill him unless the guard cooperates. She shows the guard a photo of his son on a mobile phone in order to convince him She was bluffing, but the guard had no way of knowing that.
- After playing it straight multiple times, there is a spot of Lampshade Hanging on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Harmony claims to have the perfect plan to defeat Buffy, but when Spike outlines the above plan as a guess, she steals the idea. It fails miserably.
- On Burn Notice, this is Brennen's M.O. He does it in every episode he appears in, in his first episode he actually strapped a bomb to a child to prevent anyone from rescuing him before he'd gotten the MacGuffin he wanted.
- In another episode, he has a henchman with Michael's brother. They manage to get him to back off, by making him believe they have someone ready to kill - his daughter.
- Happens to Mac when Christine is kidnapped in CSI: NY 'Seth and Apep'. It's actually a relief to Mac in one sense - hearing Christine's voice proved that the severed tongue Mac was sent earlier was not Christine's and that she was still okay.
- Also happens in an episode of CSI: Miami. A man is forced into participating in the robbery of the bank truck he drives, which results in the death of his partner, because his younger sister is being held hostage. As it turns out, his sister is in on it and in fact came up with the plot because she knew this trope would work on her big brother.
- DCI Banks: In "Bad Boy", Banks' daughter Tracey is kidnapped in an attempt to get him to remove a gun being held in the evidence store.
- Delete: General Overson is coerced into helping the AI by its threat to kill his daughter, who has a heart implant which it can hack. After he gets it removed, Overson immediately stops helping the AI, which then kills him.
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Lucky Numbers", the wife of a lottery winner is kidnapped, with the kidnapper demanding 50,000 pounds.
- Doctor Who: In the episode "Time Heist", the Teller is coerced into working for the bank because they have its mate chained up in the private vault.
- The shortlived series Drive used this to force Alex Tully into the race, with the implication that they would release her only if he won.
- Neatly defied in the Due South episode "The Vault". Ray and Fraser are trapped in a vault with armed robbers outside. The robbers capture Ray's sister Francesca, and call a phone located inside the vault. They inform the heroes that they have Francesca, and Fraser immediately responds by disabling the phone before the robbers have a chance make any demands. Fraser correctly reasons that if the robbers cannot communicate with them, they have no way to threaten them and no reason to harm Francesca.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: A recurring trope, played most often with Boss Hogg and his wife, Lulu. As Lulu was overweight and homely, her being kidnapped averted the usual "damsel in distress" convention of a stark-raving beauty being kidnapped … often because the criminals knew that Boss held Lulu dear to his heart and that they could exploit this to get him to give in to their demands.
- In Elementary after Moran helps Holmes take down two of Moriarty's minions, Moriarty sends him a coded message reading "Moran, you never told me you had a sister. She dies or you do. Your choice. M." Moran bashes his own head in.
- Sherlock's former drug dealer steals a lot of money from some very bad people and they kidnap his daughter to get it back. The man already spent the money so he goes to Sherlock for help.
- Moriarty kidnaps the child of a Greek businessman and forces him to kill the son of a prominent Macedonian politician. The idea was to cause a major political rift between the two countries and then cash in through a currency manipulation scheme.
- Some of Moriarty's former henchmen kidnap Moriarty's daughter to force the mother to transfer over valuable property to them. It ends up being a very bad idea and when a pissed off Moriarty catches up to them; one of the kidnappers willingly goes to his death because otherwise Moriarty would go after his family.
- A group of French mobsters kidnap Joan Watson so that Sherlock and Mycroft obtain valuable information for them.
- In the Emerald City episode "Science and Magic", the Wizard forces a local rebel to denounce magic by threatening his pregnant daughter with death.
- Firefly: "Objects in Space". The bounty hunter Jubal Early tries to force Simon at gun point to either reveal where River is or help him capture her. Simon would rather die than betray his sister, so Jubal points out that Simon's smart enough to play along with a view to taking advantage of any slip-up Jubal might make. Simon remains unimpressed so he then reveals that he has captured Kaylee (Simon's Unresolved Sexual Tension Love Interest) and will rape her to death if Simon doesn't comply. At this point, Simon takes the "seeking advantage" option.
- Game of Thrones:
- Theon is kept as a ward/hostage at Winterfell for a decade to prevent his father Balon from rebelling against the Iron Throne again. This is a completely acceptable part of Westerosi society.
- Sansa and Jaime counteract each other's value for this trope. Neither side will harm their prisoner for fear of the consequences to their loved one.
- Cersei takes Ros (mistaking her for his mistress) as hostage in "The Prince of Winterfell" to mollify her fears that Tyrion is plotting a Uriah Gambit for Joffrey in the coming battle.
- Practically a weekly event on the Highlander TV show. Evil immortals really like to lure Mac in with this one.
- InSecurity: The Dutch kidnap Burt's parents and force him to steal N.I.S.A. technology to ensure their safety.
- In Kamen Rider Double, this was done in the Accel movie. Akiko is kidnapped by the Commander Dopant, who believes that killing her will cause Ryu to become consumed by vengeance and "cleanse" the city of evil. The plan fails due to Ryu being changed by Akiko's love, and he instead takes down Commander Dopant as Kamen Rider Accel.
- At the end of the miniseries Kill Point, Worthy Opponent Mr. Wolf takes negotiator Horst Cali's wife hostage to force him to slip Wolf and his team out of the police standoff. To his credit, Wolf doesn't seem happy to do it and, when one of his men decides not to let her go, he gives Cali a gun and covering fire to go to her rescue.
- Leverage: In "The Bank Shot Job", Nate and Sophie are caught in the middle of the bank robbery being staged by a military vet. He is doing so because meth dealers have kidnapped his wife and are threatening to kill her if he doesn't pay his son's debts.
- In Lost one of Widmore's psycho's for hire Keamy tries to get Ben by holding his daughter at gunpoint. Ben then tries to double bluff Keamy by pulling a Break His Heart to Save Him bluff, claiming she means nothing to him and is therefore a pointless hostage to try to get to him... It doesn't work
- Also in the episode "The Hunting Party", after Jack tells Kate to stay behind while he, Sawyer and Locke search for Michael, she follows them and gets captured by the Others. Jack was not too happy.
- In the MacGyver episode "Hearts of Steel", disgruntled steel mill workers attempt to kidnap the daughter of the industrialist who put them out of work, but end up abducting his housekeeper's daughter instead.
- Madam Secretary: Russian Foreign Minister Anton Gorev and the McCords make this a Defied Trope in season 2. When Russian President Ostrov dies in "The Doability Doctrine", Gorev tells them to look after his daughter Olga, who was one of Henry's students at Georgetown. In "The Long Shot", Maria Ostrova tries to have her abducted by Russian Intelligence as leverage during her power grab, but Henry, having been warned by his mole Captain Petrov, gets there first.
- Spoofed in a MADtv skit where the bad guys keep doing this to the hero, ending with "I have your goldfish!"
- Mission: Impossible: A recurring aspect of many episodes, where the villain uses a loved one to coerce a victim into doing his bidding.
- In "The Wall", the villain kidnaps the daughter of a key negotiator in order to sabotage a set of diplomatic talks.
- In "The Bunker," a missile scientist works for an enemy state because they have captured his wife.
- NCIS does this in "See No Evil", until it turns out the officer pulled it on himself to get $2m from the Pentagon.
- Also, the Mexican drug cartel's have Gibbs' heterosexual life partner, Franks.
- This trope is the reason why the human rights commission agent in NCIS: Los Angeles uncharacteristically attempted to kill the defected sister of the Sudanese dictator in transit before she could testify against her brother: A French CEO kidnapped his wife and daughter, and he threatened to have them killed if he didn't assassinate her.
- The New Avengers: In "Hostage", a gang of villains abduct Purdey and hold her hostage to ensure Steed's compliance.
- In one episode of Person of Interest, a surgeon's spouse is covered by a sniper to force the surgeon to 'accidentally' kill a high-profile patient while he's on the operating table. What makes this invocation so noteworthy is that it is one of the first examples (possibly the first on network television) of this trope being used on a same-sex couple.
- Also, Finch faked his death to his fiancee, Grace, specifically so she wouldn't be endangered by this trope. It turns out not to matter for Root, who cheerfully informs him that Grace thinks she's a children's book author, and he can either help her with her scheme or... she can go get coffee with Grace.
- Used against Elias, of all people, by Dominic. In chasing him down, Dominic's gang manage to shoot and capture Scarface. The rest of the episode is a conflict between Reese, who is trying to get Elias out alive because he is a more palatable candidate than Dominic for leader of New York's organised crime, and Elias, who is willing to turn himself over to Dominic for the chance they'll let Scarface go free.
- In the finale of Power Rangers S.P.D., Emperor Gruumm reveals that he has Doggie Kruger's long-thought-dead wife Isinnia in his possession.
- In the third season of Prison Break, the Company blackmails the brothers into working for them by kidnapping the remaining people they care about. When the seemingly impossible task set by the villains forces the brothers to make a desperate attempt at a rescue, one of the captives is executed as an object lesson.
- Done by the villain in the Rizzoli & Isles episode "My Own Worst Enemy" is order to ensure the cooperation of an importer.
- In RoboCop: The Series, a villain kidnaps Robo's wife from his old life, i.e. Mrs. Alex Murphy. The item he is to steal is a ray gun that causes heart attacks, called the Heartbreaker. Initially, his built-in Restraining Bolt stops him, using Obstructive Code of Conduct three, "uphold the law". As soon as Robo pictures his wife in danger, directive two — "protect the innocent" — overrides this.
- This is subverted in an episode of Sharpe, when a villainous Frenchman tells his more noble countryman he won't plead for the release of his English wife. Sharpe promptly walks over and helps the English wife mount a horse behind her husband.
- An inversion in BBC's Sherlock. In "The Great Game", Moriarty strapped bombs to people Sherlock had never met and gave him a time limit to solve several mysterious crimes. Sherlock was mostly dispassionate towards the hostages and only cooperated because he found the mysteries amusing. When the final victim was John Watson, however, Sherlock no longer found the game fun and attempted to appease Moriarty with valuable government information. Which turned out not to be Moriarty's object after all!
- In the final episode of series two, John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade are threatened, but especially John. Sherlock has to fake his death for all of them.
- And John gets captured and thrown in a bonfire in Season 3 episode 1.
- And both Mary and John are being screwed with by Magnussen.
- In the first season finale of Los Simuladores, their leader Santos is kidnapped in exchange for helping a mob boss being set free.
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand plays with this. Sura isn't exactly kidnapped, she's captured and sold as a slave, but Batiatus promises Spartacus to search for her, buy her and reunite them in exchange for Spartacus behaving well. When Spartacus, after some minor hiccups, behaves and is victorious in the arena, Batiatus is true to his word, buys Sura and brings her to the ludus. Then he orders her killed right before they reunite, so she dies in Spartacus' arms.
- Done to Miles O'Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The twist: the villain was actually a Pah Wraith (a noncorporeal being) possessing his wife, and could kill her instantaneously. The only solution was to figure out a way to kill the Wraith even more instantaneously, without letting it catch on to the plan.
- Seems to happen a few times in Supernatural, though it's more like "I have your brother." This is discussed a few times, with others saying that Sam and Dean are each others' Achilles' Heel, since they would do almost anything to save each other.
- Teen Wolf has the villain going for Scott's best friend Stiles instead of his girlfriend, when Gerard takes Stiles because he knows that's the best way to hurt Scott. Playing with the trope, Gerard doesn't give Scott a chance to bargain for Stiles's safety or the opportunity to rescue him, just beats Stiles within an inch of his life and then releases him as a warning for Scott to back down before he hurts him again.
Gerard: You have a knack for creating a vivid picture, Mr. Stilinski. Let me paint one of my own. Scott Mc Call finds his best friend bloodied and beaten to a pulp. How does that sound now?
- Gwen's mother, husband and daughter are held hostage by Olivia Colasanto in Torchwood: Miracle Day to blackmail Gwen into kidnapping Jack for her.
- This is a favourite tactic of The Network in Utopia for blackmailing people by reminding them they can get to their loved ones at any time. "Jen's great, really great. It'd be such a shame to see her raped".
- White Collar: In the cliffhanger ending of the third series mid season finale, Keller has kidnapped Peter's wife, El.
- Keller likes this one; in "Payback" he kidnaps Peter to force money out of Neal.
- Toyed with on The Wire: Brother Mouzone kidnapped and tortured Omar's boyfriend Dante for information, and then held him hostage, agreeing to release him to Omar on the condition that Omar work with him to take out Stringer Bell. Omar and Dante were on the outs anyway, Omar was unimpressed by the fact that Dante had given up information on him, and Omar had been looking for a chance ever since Stringer had his previous boyfriend tortured and killed two years prior; Dante is released to Omar, but they then part ways.
- The X-Files:
- Mulder makes it very clear very early on in the series that the only way to hurt him is to hurt Scully, and that he'll go to great lengths to get her back. So, Scully falls victim to this quite a lot. But as the bad guys quickly figure out, this never has the desired effect. If anything, it makes Mulder even more resistant to dealing with them and he gets her back his way. Plus the Roaring Rampage of Revenge that goes along with this. This trope makes up about half of the 1998 movie Fight the Future.
- It works the other way around, too. And if anything, Scully is even more frightening when Mulder is taken. In season 8, Mulder is missing and she unleashes hell on whoever gets in her way. Never mind that she's pregnant. It takes Skinner pointing out that Mulder wouldn't want her to risk her life and the baby's to get her even take a breath.
- Modesty Blaise: In "Samantha and the Cherub", Lucy Kolin, the wife of Soviet musician who defected to the West, is kidnapped. Her husband is told to renounce his defection and return to the USSR if he ever wants to see her again.
- In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the villain pulls this on Tom with his girlfriend Becky in order to get him close enough to stab him.
- In Margin for Error, the Consul keeps his unhappy wife Sophie from running out on him by reminding her that he's protecting the life of her Czech father in Prague.
- In Oedipus at Colonus, Creon, knowing Oedipus is necessary for victory, forcefully abducts Oedipus' daughters (on whom he is completely dependent) to get him to come. Fortunately, Theseus intervenes.
- In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Baron de Valois captures Bartolomeo's wife and tries to make him surrender.
- Also in Assassin's Creed: Revelations Ahmet kidnaps and threatens to kill Sofia Sarto in order for Ezio to deliver the Masyaf Keys. Ezio gives in, and Ahmet releases a girl that's dressed like Sofia, but ends up being a doppleganger. Ezio eventually finds and reaches Sofia moments before she is killed by hanging.
- Subverted in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn: Bodhi will warn you against continuing to oppose her lest you lose everything dear to you, and kidnap your love interest character, if any — but will offer no deal not to hurt them if you yield, presumably because she knows you have no choice but to follow her anyway and because she likes to be sadistic.
- In the most recent development of BlazBlue, this eventually happens to Litchi Faye-Ling when Relius Clover took hostage of her boyfriend-turned-freaky... thing Arakune and told her to join NOL, or she'll never get the cure which NOL has, or even see him alive again. This plays up Litchi's Love Martyr qualities and by the end of the series, she pulls a Face–Heel Turn and hampers Ragna's quest to destroy NOL. It's not known how she'll end up since her Face–Heel Turn shows at the Cliffhanger ending.
- In Clash At Demonhead, Bang is told that his girlfriend has been kidnapped and instructed to meet one of the bad guys at a specific location. It's a lie; she was never kidnapped.
- The plot of the original Double Dragon is about Billy and Jimmy being forced to fight their way into the Black Warriors' turf to save Billy's girlfriend Marian.
- At one point in Dragon Age II, a rebel mage group kidnaps one of your party members - usually your love interest or sibling, but if neither of those are available, they'll go for the companion with whom you have the strongest friendship - and demands you aid them to secure their safe return.
- Malcolm Hawke was in a similar situation. Larius threatened his pregnant wife to force him to seal Corypheus with Blood Magic.
- In the Attract Mode for Final Fight, Damnd (the Round 1 boss) calls Haggar and tells him to turn on the TV. It reveals his daughter Jessica with her hands tied behind her back.
Haggar: What have you done to her?!Damnd: Nothing yet. But we'd enjoy the opportunity.
- In The Force Unleashed 2, Darth Vader tries to force Starkiller to work for him again by kidnapping Juno Eclipse, the woman he loves.
Vader: Find and kill General Kota. If you refuse, the woman dies. You will return to me and give yourself to The Dark Side. If you resist, she dies. And when your training is complete, you will hunt down and execute the rebel leaders. If you FAIL, SHE DIES!
- The motivation for the protagonist in The Getaway. Hilariously parodied by the Unskippable crew:
Charlie Jolson: I ring you, you do the job. You don't do what I tell you, the kid dies. You don't do it where I tell you, the kid dies. You don't do it when I tell you, the kid dies! Are you getting my drift? Now you want to see your kid again, you do exactly what I say. You talk to anyone, you're late, or you let me down, your kid dies! Do I make myself clear?Paul Saunders (as Mark): But what if I go skydiving?Graham Stark (as Charlie): Your kid dies!Paul: What if I forget to bathe?Graham: Your kid dies!Paul: But what if I kill my kid?Graham: Your ki—touché.
- Spoofed in GTA: Vice City, as demonstrated by the page quote.
- The whole point of the video game Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. Kane is forced into finding his mercenary friends' lost fortune when they take his wife and daughter hostage.
- In this case, though, the wife gets killed, which starts the above-mentioned Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and depending on the ending, the daughter either hates Kane forever or is killed while trying to escape. The latter is the good ending.
- This happens twice to Kairi in Kingdom Hearts II. She gets kidnapped by Axel, and then Saix kidnaps her while she's already kidnapped.
- In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Maleficent pulls this on King Mickey, kidnapping Queen Minnie in order to try to get him to hand over the datascape. Her plans are thwarted by the timely intervention of Lea.
- The reason for the actions of Dr. Cossack in Mega Man 4, as Dr. Wily has his daughter hostage.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All did this in the last case, only with the hero's beloved assistant Maya rather than his significant other.
- Used in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, where the Big Bad kidnaps Layton's adopted daughter in order to make absolutely sure that Layton will pursue him. The irony is that Layton, being Layton, would have gone after him anyway — all this trick did was make him mad.
- The freeware RPG Game Quintessence - The Blighted Venom: Lunair kidnapped Reivier's wife Serai to Aeria under orders of the Duke, but after finding out that her own family betrayed her, struck a deal with Reivier that she would bring Serai back if he gets her the cure to the Quintessence's aftermath.
- The plot of Red Dead Redemption is kicked off by the hero's wife (and child) being held hostage by a Knight Templar.
- In the first Resident Evil game, Wesker blackmails Barry to do his bidding by using the latter's family as leverage - if Barry doesn't do what Wesker says, his family will die.
- Sophitia Alexandra in SoulCalibur 4 is a sacred woman, a loving mother, and a holy fighter. Then her children get infected with the evil sword Soul Edge, and it tells her to destroy all its enemies, or else her kids will die. Sophitia's Mama Bear qualities drive her to betray everything for which she stands in order to save her children. She gets better... thanks to Algol suddenly growing sympathy for her and helping her destroy Soul Edge.
- In Tales of Destiny, the reason why Leon Magnus betrays Stahn is because his Brainwashed and Crazy father Hugo Gilchrist took hostage of Leon's favorite maid/mother figure Marian; forcing him to fight Stahn off and the surrounding circumstances ended up killed him.
- Eddy Gordo in Tekken is mostly a normal guy, who does love his mentor. In 5. mentor goes out of jail, but is sickly. He fought in the 5th tournament to get the cure, failed to win. Then, Jin Kazama, after apparently having a Face–Heel Turn as the new boss of Mishima Zaibatsu, moved his mentor to his hospital and offered Eddy the cure if he works for him in the upcoming war with the world. Eddy reluctantly accepted, but in the end, he found out that Jin was lying and his mentor is dead. Even though Jin turns out to be executing The Plan for a greater good, that's the last straw for Eddy and he quits the Zaibatsu.
- Inverted in Wing Commander II, the traitor attempts to hold Spirit's fiancée for ransom. It doesn't quite work.
- Cecil's Love Interest, Rosa, is abducted in Final Fantasy IV as soon as Golbez sees she's important to him. He doesn't actually give marching orders until a while later, but they're to bring him one of the world's Power Crystals. Cecil complies without hesitation; Golbez goes I Lied with equal unhesitance, but they manage to get her back anyway.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Cait Sith holds Barret's adopted daughter Marlene hostage in order to force the party to continue working with him as they head to the Temple of the Ancients, at least, sort of. He ends up working with the party, and protects Marlene when Midgar is in danger on Discs 2 and 3.
- In Final Fantasy IX, Kuja pulled this off, holding the entire party hostage in order to get Zidane and the party members of Zidane's choice to go fetch the Gulug Stone from Oeilvert. (This was immediately followed up by him kidnapping Eiko, though in this case, it was for his own purposes, not because he wanted something from the party.)
- Metal Gear really loves using this trope:
- In the original Metal Gear, Ellen Madnar was held hostage by Outer Heaven so her father would cooperate in developing Metal Gear.
- In Metal Gear Solid, the Pentagon arranges for Meryl Silverburgh to be captured by the Sons of Big Boss by deliberately sending her to Shadow Moses with full knowledge that she's being sent the same day they'll revolt. They do this in order to force Roy Campbell (who the series eventually reveals is her father) to not only cooperate in halting the revolt, but also in keeping secrets from Solid Snake (such as Metal Gear REX's development and Snake being used as a vector for a bioweapon virus known as FOXDIE). In the in-game novel on the events in the sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, its also revealed that not only were the Patriots behind the Pentagon's decision in regards to Meryl being sent, but also heavily implied that they would have had both Meryl and Roy Campbell killed if Campbell had even attempted to expose the secrets to Snake.
- Metal Gear Solid 2 has two instances of this in the game (three, counting the aforementioned in-game novel), and the Patriots are responsible for all. The first is with Olga Gurlukovich: The Patriots kidnap her child immediately after birth, and threaten to kill her child should Olga either disobey their orders or fail her mission (in this case, if Raiden ends up killed). The second time is to Raiden himself: Not only does he have to save Olga's child after she dies in an act of sacrifice, but must continue to live for Rosemary and his unborn child, as they are holding her hostage, and she's pregnant, and it is implied that even after Raiden succeeds in the exercise, they are still holding them hostage.
- Something similar is revealed to be the reason why The Sorrow and The Boss fought to the death in Dolinovodno: They had to fight due to The Boss's failure and her unauthorized usage of the Philosopher's spy network; otherwise, the Patriots would have murdered Ocelot - who is the son of The Sorrow and The Boss.
- Used against Abel in Fire Emblem : Mystery of the Emblem. The Archanea soldiers occupying Altea kidnap Est, forcing him to fight against Marth's army, although he can be persuaded to rejoin again after speaking to either Marth or Est.
- In Geneaology of the Holy War, Travant kidnaps Hannibal's adoptive son Corple to force him to fight. Path of Radiance does the We Have Your Younger Siblings, Radiant Dawn is I Have Your Milk-Sister, and Awakening does this twice with Maribelle and later Emmeryn - both ploys by Gangrel in an attempt to get the Fire Emblem all for himself.
- In The Space Bar, the police detective main character's partner is kidnapped and held hostage by the criminal they're chasing, and the Big Bad regularly calls the main character's PDA to taunt him with his partner's potential fate. Since the two seem to be good friends as well as work partners, it ends up being a rather significant motivation.
- In Danganronpa, every chapter, Monobear provides the students with an artificial "motive" to entice them to kill one another. I Have Your Wife, or at least a variation of it, plays out as the "motive" of chapter 1: Monobear shows each student videos of something horrible happening to either their friends or loved ones (Makoto Naegi's family caught in an earthquake, Sayaka Maizono's idol group disbanding and everyone forgetting about her, Mondo Oowada's gang breaking up, something bad happening to Leon Kuwata's baseball team, etc.). Monobear teases the students with the possibility that the situations on the videos might be real, so wouldn't it be a good idea for a student to commit murder, "graduate" from the school, and thus be able to go find out? The student who finally takes Monobear up on that is Sayaka, but it doesn't work because when she tries to kill Leon, Leon successfully defends himself, and then kills her.
- Seen in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim when the Hearthfire DLC is installed. The Dragonborn may come home from a hard day's adventuring to find a ransom note from a thug called Rochelle the Red, who has taken the hero's beloved wife/husband captive. If the Dawnguard DLC is also installed, the spouse may be abducted by vampires; or, if the Dragonborn isn't married, the vampires may abduct one of their in-game friends instead. As the kidnappers shortly learn, it's not really a smart idea to antagonize the Dovahkiin in such a personal manner.
- Happens in Grand Theft Auto V when Trevor kidnaps cartel boss Martin Madrazo's wife Patricia, partly as retaliation for not being paid for a job he did, and partly because he had a thing for Patricia the moment he laid eyes on her. In the end, the whole thing's Played for Laughs.
- In Super Robot Wars BX, the SMS are forced to work for Marder because he held the Macross Quarter crew captive.
- A Corrupt Corporate Executive takes Lilah hostage in Ctrl+Alt+Del. To get her back, Ethan must surrender his crown as the King of Wintereenmas. In what can only be regarded as his personal Crowning Moment of Awesome, Ethan throws the crown on the floor before the guy can finish making the demand.
- Used to great effect by the slavers in Far to the North to put an end to Kelu's Mama Bear rampage.
- The Fallen tries this in the Insecticomics, kidnapping Lazorbeak in order to manipulate Kickback. Kickback simply waits for Lazorbeak to rescue herself, which she does with great glee.
- Trope Overdosed The Webcomic: Bob gets this from SPIS and immediately begins preparing to head off into the trap.
- Sluggy Freelance: Sasha went undercover as part of Torg's plan, and was captured by Monicruel, who is using that as leverage over Torg's team.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, Ferron forces Refan to work for him by threatening to kill Refan's son Gabriel if Refan refuses. Arawn kidnaps Kagetsu's wife Marya, forcing Kagetsu to work for him and preventing him from joining the Alliance.
Kagetsu I: Release her.Arawn: Oh, I think not, my dear friend Kagetsu. I'm afraid I'll have to have some assurance of our friendship from here on in. I cannot have you joining yourself to the elf-lover and the wizard. Know that from this day onward, I own your precious wife.
- The LoadingReadyRun episode "Ransom" took it to its illogical extreme. The villain kidnaps the hero's girlfriend and calls him with the demands. The hero counters by kidnapping the villain's henchmen. The villain escalates by kidnapping the hero's mother which the hero counters by capturing the villain's deaf brother. All this takes place in the span of five minutes with the hero and villain still engaged in the original phone conversation. The villain tries to end things by kidnapping the hero but the hero responds by kidnapping the villain (while still tied up in the villain's lair).
- Subverted in Demo Reel, as Tom Collins makes Tacoma think something awful is or will happen to Rebecca, who appears to be alone in a big studio at night and who Tacoma thinks needs protecting after hearing about her past. Turns out she's fine and it was a trap so he could be kidnapped and delivered to her as a warning.
- In Welcome to Night Vale the Sheriff's Secret Police kidnap family members to ensure people vote the right way at elections, storing them in the secret location of the abandoned mine shaft, which has been used for this purpose so frequently that it's actually quite nice, with king-size beds, wi-fi, and, as the Sheriff's Secret Police recently announced, now gets HBO.
- Subverted in the "April Moon" episode of Batman Beyond. A gang kidnaps a cybernetic doctor's wife and holds her for ransom in exchange for him performing cybernetic upgrades on them. Only it turns out they didn't kidnap her, she's cheating on her husband with the gang leader and ran off with them of her own free will. He got his back, though; while he eventually discovered the ruse, they never found out that he did, and the leader ended up coming back still thinking the wife was leverage. The episode lets you imagine how things played out from there.
- The third Danny Phantom movie: Freakshow kidnaps his parents and sister as ransom for the Reality Gems.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons series, Hank the Ranger and his friend Bobby the Barbarian are kidnapped by Big Bad Venger, who keeps Bobby hostage and forces Hank to do his dirty work and not say a word about why is he doing it, much to the horror of the other kids in the group (especially Sheila the Thief, who happens to be Bobby's sister).
- Subverted in an episode of Family Guy where in a flashback, Lois is captured by criminals who demand a ransom of her rich father. They put her on the line. His response: "Now honey, you know family policy, we don't negotiate with kidnappers."
- The whole problem between Zachary Foxx and Queen of the Crown in Galaxy Rangers. Zach has Eliza's body in stasis. The Queen has her Life Energy decorating her living room as a little red crystal, and a one-sided case of Foe Yay. Acts mostly as a subversion, as Eliza's the only human psychocrystal and just too good a tool to actually destroy. The closest it came to this was "Psychocrypt," where the Queen's relentless Mind Rape against both of them caused Zach to make a suicidal run to get his wife back.
- Subverted in Gravity Falls. After using size-altering crystals to capture Dipper and Mabel, Lil' Gideon calls their Grunkle Stan to demand the Mystery Shack's deed in exchange for their safety. However, Stan doesn't believe the twins are in danger.
Stan: Oh yeah. This has gotta be your worst plot yet. I saw them playing in the yard a few minutes ago. They're fine.Gideon: I have them in my possession! You don't believe me? I will text you a photo!Stan: ...Text me a photo? Now you're not even speaking English! (Hangs up)
- In Kim Possible: So The Drama, Dr. Drakken uses Kim's new boyfriend Eric as a hostage. Subversion: Eric is a synthodrone working for Drakken to distract Kim and ultimately bait her into a trap.
- Inverted in Season 4 The Legend of Korra when the heroes kidnap Kuvira's fiance in an attempt to get her to leave Republic City alone, threatening to keep them apart forever if she doesn't back down. Kuvira decides to Shoot the Hostage instead.
- In Robot Chicken, the Mad Scientist kidnaps the Robot Chicken's wife once he learns that he has escaped from his laboratory, forcing him to battle all the original Robot Chicken characters in order to get to him.
- The Christmas Special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town has a humorous variant on this trope. Burgermeister Meisterburger forces Kris Kringle to turn himself in by capturing Kris's penguin companion.
- Parodied in The Simpsons. Homer, Lenny, and Carl are waiting for Mr. Burns to leave the parking lot. The mailman talks with Mr. Burns a bit in regards to skydiving (which is not what they wanted to see, as they really wanted to leave). Homer then gets the idea of tricking him into leaving by calling him by claiming that he kidnapped his wife... and then changing it to his brother, and then to his dog, and despite it being a fairly obvious deception, the mailman still fell for it.
- Star Wars Rebels: "Legacy of Mandalore" has a case of I Have Your Husband — it's revealed that Sabine's father is being held on Mandalore as a hostage in all but name in order to ensure Clan Wren's cooperation.
- The penultimate episode of Static Shock: Omnara kidnaps Static's father. Richie, Static's best friend and sidekick, also has the tendency to get kidnapped a lot.
- The first season finale of Teen Titans: Slade injects Robin's four teammates with potentially deadly nanoprobes and has his finger on the button, forcing Robin to become his sidekick. The scheme falls apart when Slade cows Robin by engaging the probes on a limited setting; the combination of this sudden inexplicable pain that seems to be under Slade's control and Robin's frantic reaction to it tips off the Titans that they are being used as hostages to control their friend. And then Robin puts the nanoprobes in himself when Slade is about to kill his friends, and since they aren't selective, he'd die too.
- An episode of Tripping the Rift had Darf Bobo tell one of the judges for his daughter's supermodel contest that he's kidnapped his wife, and if he knows what's good for her, he'll vote for his daughter. Upon seeing the picture Bobo provides for evidence, the judge tells him that's his mother-in-law, and that Bobo's free to kill her.
- Used in the Goultard special for Wakfu. The villain kidnaps Goultard's wife and children in order to lure him into a fight. He kills them before Goultard arrives, and taunts him about it in order to make Goultard angrier. This is actually all part of a plan to get a parasitic demon that feeds off of rage to see Goultard as a more appetizing host and jump from the villain into Goultard. The villain doesn't get to enjoy his new found freedom for long, however, as Goultard kills him immediately afterward.
- Variation in The Zeta Project: Agent Lee gets held hostage by a sadistic mercenary threatening to kill her unless Zeta surrenders. Zeta, who she has been chasing, hunting down and treating like he's less than a sentient being, intervenes immediately anyway because that's just the kind of person he is. Setting aside their relationship, though, the rest of the trope is played like this, right down to the mercenary calling Lee Zeta's 'girlfriend' in several dubs.
- At some battle during the Chu-Han War after the collapse of the Qin Dynasty, the King of Chu, Xiang Yu eventually captured the father of his rival, Liu Bang. At one battle, Xiang Yu and Liu Bang faced one another across a ravine. Xiang Yu yells (more or less), "Just give up! I have your father, and I'm going to boil him alive!" Liu Bang famously responded, "Send me a cup of the soup!"
- For the curious, Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu (founding the Han Dynasty in the process), and Liu's father didn't get the least bit boiled.
- Another historical example, this time from 12th century England, concerns King Stephen threatening to hang the small son of one John Marshal if he doesn't surrender his castle. John replies, rather crudely, that he still has the hammer and anvil to make even better sons. In justice to John, King Stephen was a coward and everybody knew it. Little William Marshal was not hanged and grew up to be the most famous knight in England and France.
- During the Spanish Civil War, the Republicans, (no, not those republicans), captured the son of José Moscardó e Ituarte, the Nationalist commandant during the Siege of Alcázar. The Republican forces called Moscardó on the telephone, and demanded he surrender or they would kill his son. Moscardó asked to speak to his son, whom he told: "Commend your soul to God and die like a patriot, shouting 'Long live Christ King' and 'Long live Spain.'" His son's reply? "That, I can do."
- It's been said that in the Joseph Stalin era, those with families were the first to "confess" to being "spies".
- The German government tried to use this tactic against Joseph Stalin after his son Yakov was captured as a prisoner of war during World War II. The Germans offered to release Yakov in exchange for captured German Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus. Stalin refused, responding "I will not trade a Marshal for a Lieutenant." Yakov latered died in a POW camp under unclear circumstances, either by suicide or being shot by camp guards.
- During the Sengoku Jidai, the Matsudaira Clan attempted to form a alliance with the Imagawa Clan, one of the requirements was for the Matsudaira Daimyo to send his son to live in the Imagawa capital of Sunpu as hostage. This the Matsudaira dutifully did; unfortunately, the boy was captured by the Oda Clan en route to Sunpu. The Oda, mortal enemies of the Imagawa, threatened to kill the boy unless the Matsudaira break their alliance with the Imagawa. However, the Matsudaira called their bluff, and essentially dared the Oda to kill the boy, as that will demonstrate to the Imagawa of how seriously they took their alliance. Unsure of what to do, the Oda detained the boy (in safety and comfort) for three years and eventually returned him to his father. That boy later grew up to be Tokugawa Ieyasu, and the rest is Japanese History.
- A robbery technique involved calling a bank manager's wife at home and convincing her not to answer the phone for some reason (e.g. claiming to be a telephone company working on the line, which would cause the phone to ring at random). They would then call the bank manager and use this trope, telling him to fill a suitcase full of money and meet them in ten minutes or else. The manager would try to call home of course, but when there was no answer would assume the worst.