"Remember, men, take him alive... so there's something left to
Maybe the villain wants the satisfaction
of killing the hero himself
, especially if he considers himself The Only One Allowed To Defeat Him
. Maybe he needs the hero in order to finish a magic ritual. Maybe he wants someone to take hostage. Maybe the villain wants the hero to join him
, or just wants the hero
. Or, perhaps, he may need information that only the hero has. He announces to his minions, "I want them alive!"
Usually sets up an increased amount of urgency with the scene. After all, you can only be killed once, but if the Big Bad
wants you alive, then you know you're in for a really bad time
For extra sadism, he might instead ask for only the protagonist to be taken alive, and everyone else to be killed
Less menacingly, this is a standard line for a Noble Demon
who would genuinely prefer to keep the body count as low as possible while carrying out his Evil Plan
- a sentiment his minions may or may not share. If the villain is a Worthy Opponent
or Friendly Enemy
, expect an Antagonist in Mourning
scene if his henchmen choose to ignore this stipulation. (It's okay, though, because they probably Never Found the Body
and just assumed that No One Could Survive That
If the minion who receives this order is Genre Savvy
, they may respond with Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?
if they have important information and the Big Bad
wants them alive for interrogation, or wants to leave an Empty Shell
of his former opponents rather than martyrs
Sometimes used on the heroic side, especially if the hero is a Technical Pacifist
or, conversely, if killing the villain is Something He's Got To Do Himself
. The Kid with the Leash
may need to add this injunction to all
A variant of Leave Him to Me
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Anime and Manga
- Attack on Titan: The Titan Shifters, humans who infiltrated the walled city and attacked it go through a lot of trouble to capture main character Eren Jaeger alive, seemingly because he has the same powers as them, but since they're stronger many people were confused for a while as to why they specifically needed him alive and wouldn't just kill him when he became too much trouble. Then we find out that he has another power—the ability to control the mindless, main eating titans that populate the outside world. When the titan shifters are incapacitated, the royal family's personal guard starts to launch kidnapping attempts.
- Akatsuki want all the Jinchuuriki alive because killing them would kill the Biiju sealed inside them, which is what they're after. In something of a subversion, this doesn't stop them from trying to cripple them (Kisame suggested cutting off Naruto's legs to keep him from running away, and later tried to actually do it to Killer Bee).
- Well, in Naruto's case it would kill the fox; not all the seals work like that, but having a free bijuu rampaging around is...inconvenient.
- During the fourth world war, Itachi and Sasuke fight Kabuto, but they have to defeat him without killing him, since otherwise the world will be screwed.
- Fullmetal Alchemist- Father and the Homunculi want Ed and Al alive. So that they can be used as sacrifices, of course.
- And Roy and Hohenheim and Izumi. Ed gets the most profit out of this, followed by Roy. If anyone else had walked into the middle of the Ancient Conspiracy the way he did, they would have been quietly offed.
- Riza survived. Even after her coded message was intercepted. But then, she was being used as a leash on Roy, and Pride seemed to enjoy messing with her.
- In One Piece, it's stated that the World Government would rather criminals be turned in alive, so that they can be executed publicly. A dead body causes the reward to drop by 30%.
- A more personal example would be the CP9's capture of both Nico Robin and Franky, because they want to interrogate them on the location and blueprints of the ancient, island-destroying weapon Pluton. Nero forgetting this and trying to kill Franky gets him killed by Lucci.
- A heroic variant occurs in Karneval: When Circus storms Smoky Mansion in order to rescue Karoku, Eva and Tsukumo take on Uro and only wound him without causing any serious damage. When he mocks them for their failure to kill him, Eva reveals that they were ordered to capture him alive and even comments on how hard it was to hold back against him. He manages to escape before Circus can take him into custody, however.
- In the Cowboy Bebop universe, bounty hunters are, as a general rule, supposed to bring fugitives in alive and without any unnecessary roughness in order to collect their reward.
- In an early issue of Daredevil, the Masked Marauder tells his men to capture "Daredevil" (in reality Foggy Nelson, whom the world is convinced is old Hornhead), but makes especial note that "Once you have him helpless, leave him for me! The Masked Marauder must have the honor of actually finishing him!"
- A more reasonable variant in a 1950s or '60s newspaper comic, when the villain told his troops to take Tarzan "alive if you can — dead if you must!"
- Parasite is one of the few members of Superman's Rogues Gallery that doesn't want to kill the Man of Steel. No, he wants to keep Superman alive so he can keep feeding off of him for his powers.
- Big Bad Lord Hong from the Discworld book Interesting Times orders his army to capture Cohen and the Silver Horde alive, so he can spend months or years torturing them.
- Tolkien's Legendarium:
- Saruman does this off page with the Uruk-Hai in Lord of the Rings He wants the hobbits that they capture alive because he believes that one of them is carrying the One Ring that Saruman wants, anf he fears that if the orcs killed the hobbits and searched the corpses, one of them might realize just how powerful item they have in their hands and try to claim it for their own rather than bringing it back to their master. The hobbits are also wanted alive so they can be interrogated. The leaders of both Saruman's and Sauron's orcs say as much. In both the books and The Movie, the orcs have orders to bring them back "Alive and as captured; no spoiling."
- In The Silmarillion:
- Morgoth and his then minion Sauron order for several characters to be taken alive, although in these cases it's because they either act as hostages for their allies or know very classified information.
- Morgoth also occasionally orders his forces to bring random people back alive, so they can then be horribly tortured. This is for 2 reasons: first Morgoth really likes torturing people, and second is that their screams will have a demoralizing affect on their allies.
- Lord Voldemort consistently orders this where Harry Potter is concerned, although in a slight subversion, some of his mooks (of the Psycho for Hire type) reason that he would be equally happy with a brain-dead and badly injured Harry so long as he was able to deliver the Coup de Grâce (of course, they never get an opportunity to test this plan out). A handful of Death Eaters figure out a way to do this without personal risk (which is common in Harry Potter kidnap attempts). They call Dementors to eat Harry's soul. He'd technically be alive, but wouldn't fight back. Brilliant though it was, the plan didn't work.
- The titular Villain Protagonist of Artemis Fowl uses the Noble Demon variant as his Battle Butler leaves to deal with the Redshirt Army:
Artemis: I prefer scared to dead. If possible.
- In Stephen King's The Stand, Randell Flagg's second-in-command Lloyd Henreid issues this order to the people belatedly chasing after escaping spy Tom Cullen. Although in this case it's more Flagg will want him alive, and if he isn't, everyone's gonna be very sorry...
- Both used and averted in The Executioner novels by Don Pendleton. The hero Mack Bolan is a One-Man Army conducting his personal war against the Mafia. On one occasion a mob boss demands that Bolan be taken alive and unharmed so he can torture him to death. The button man assigned to the task retorts that from what he's heard of Bolan's reputation, the boss had better be happy with getting him in any condition whatsoever. On another occasion a hitman who's discovered Bolan holed up in a motel tells his mooks that if they find Bolan "in bed with his pants down" they're to capture him, if not just blast him on sight.
- Subverted a couple of times in the Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- In Shadows of the Empire, the main antagonist Xizor orders the Millennium Falcon destroyed: "If you can disable it and capture the crew and passengers, that would also be acceptable."
- In Dark Force Rising, Grand Admiral Thrawn (notable for being less cruel to his subordinates, as well as a big fan of the Evil Overlord List) says of the heroes: "I want them also alive if possible. If not — If not, I'll understand." He did, however, specify that the prisoner the heroes were rescuing needed to be recaptured alive. The prisoner was one of only people in the entire galaxy who knew the location of a lost but fully operation fleet of warships that Thrawn was seeking, and thus killing him without getting the information would have been a significant inconvenience.
- The EU seems to have established that as long as it's not explicitly stated, you don't have to bring back your bounty target alive...but you tend to be paid a lot better if you do. But if the target is dangerous enough and/or the bonus for a live capture isn't large enough, more pragmatic bounty hunters will opt to just kill them.
- Hutt crime lords have a tendency to post alive-only bounties on those who have betrayed or just offended them, so as to inflict some nasty torture before killing them.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, Valerius inverts it:
You all know the Countess Albiona. Search for her, and if you find her, kill her and her companion instantly. Do not try to take them alive.
- In "A Witch Shall Be Born" Constantius orders it for Conan.
- A big part of the reason why Galbatorix was ultimately defeated by Eragon and Saphira in Inheritance Cycle. Had he wanted to, he could have easily had them snuffed out like candles, or done so himself, well before the fourth book. But no, he was hoping to break their will and turn them to his side, hoping to use Saphira (whom he believed to be the last female dragon), to establish a new line of Riders.
- Trapped on Draconica: Gothon insists that Ben and Kalak be brought to him alive. He knows that Kalak is his son, and Lucia has convinced him that sacrificing Ben can bring his dead wife back to life.
- This is a common statement by vermin commanders in the Redwall books that are either looking to take prisoners or make examples.
- The titular doctor of Dr Franklins Island turns animals and people into strange hybrids, some of which survive in very twisted forms. It's stated early on that he doesn't like to have any of them deliberately killed. So when there's a jailbreak, his security has a hard time.
Live Action TV
- In Farscape, John Crichton knows his buried knowledge is invaluable to his enemies, uses it, and abuses it to the point of strapping himself with a bomb to blow up an enemy base and getting away with it. Twice.
- Scorpius himself, who was at the wrong end of this prior to his more-or-less Heel-Face Turn, acknowledged the tactical genius of this move before ordering the evacuation of his doomed base.
- Not to mention also facing down heavily armed troops once using this: after being captured by Scorpius' right hand man Braca, Crichton is subjected to a bit of gloating by radio from Scorpy, who in the process mentions that Crichton's wormhole physics knowledge is possibly unique in the universe. This leads Crichton to realize that Braca's threat to shoot him, even in a non-vital limb, is a bluff, since the human tendency to bleed out (something Sebaceans don't share) would make it impossible for Braca to seriously harm him without endangering the information he carries. Crichton has no such reservations about hurting Braca, though.
- In the season one finale of Burn Notice, Michael uses the knowledge that his pursuers need him alive to take himself hostage and force them to let his family go.
- Used in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. In an earlier episode, Captain Archer had escaped from Rura Penthe and a bounty was placed on him. He is turned in to the Klingons by a bounty hunter, but then manages to escape in an escape pod. One of the Klingons asks if he can charge weapons, but the Klingon captain responds, "No, I want him alive." Later, in the first "In a Mirror, Darkly" episode, the Dark Malcolm Reed offers to kill the Dark Admiral Forrest and Dark Jonathan Archer replies "I want him alive."
- In Angel's fourth season The Beast declines to finish off any of the main characters despite having multiple opportunities to do so. This turns out to be because Jasmine wants to make them her primary servants once she's born.
- This is pretty much the Senior Partners' entire M.O.: Angel will be a big player in the apocalypse, whether for good or for evil, and they plan to corrupt him to their side for that. Therefore, no matter what, no one at Wolfram & Hart is allowed to even try to kill him, though that doesn't stop some of their flunkies from trying (and failing) to do so.
- Surprisingly averted by Apophis (usually the most cliche of bad guys) in the season 1 finale of Stargate SG-1. Klorel, son of Apophis, discovers Teal'c and O'Neill hiding out on his ship. When Klorel asks if Apophis wants them alive, Apophis quickly states that Klorel should kill them both, quickly. The Genre Savvy didn't help, though.
- In the seventh episode of season one of Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister, in ordering the City Watch to arrest Ned, curtly orders, "Take him alive. Kill his men."
- In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni instructs Team Rocket to bring him Pikachu alive and unharmed so it can fight MechaMew2.
- Later, when Ash surrenders to Team Rocket, his friends and family try to follow them—but Meowth specifies the Boss only wanted Ash.
- Police forces prefer to capture rather than kill suspects and fugitives, generally only resorting to killing to prevent other people from dying.
- The fact is that police forces in countries with Rule of Law have no authority to use deadly force except in situations where bystanders would have that same right.