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Implied Death Threat
"We're a lot alike, you and I. You tested me. I tested you. You killed me. Ióoh, no, wait. I guess I haven't killed you yet. Well. Food for thought."
GLaDOS, Portal 2 trailer

This trope is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: A character threatens to kill another, but without actually using the words "I'll kill you." Usually involves the use of an analogy or a hypothetical question. This often allows the maker of the threat to be a Karma Houdini, since he can claim he never really threatened the target. Often the person making the threat will avoid naming the threatened person directly. If the threat is made against the other person's family or against his property, that's Shame If Something Happened.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Comics 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin prepares to throw a water balloon at the resting tiger, only to stop when Hobbes comments, "As if life isn't short enough."

    Film 
  • A more overtly violent example than most in National Security, after Earl pulls over a student driver:
    Earl: Student driver, huh? *pulls out his gun* Lesson 12: Man with gun. Get your ass up out the car.
  • In Ice Age, Soto does this twice to Diego, his second-in-command charged to bring back a baby so he can eat it alive. When Diego loses it over the falls, Soto snarls at him, "You'd better. Or you can serve yourself as a replacement." He even sends an Implied Death Threat by proxy when he sends two of his sabres to warn Diego to bring back the baby or "don't come back at all!" Something that hints at certain death for Diego, since the tigers pretty much use each other to survive, at least in Soto's pack.
  • Fist Of Fury has Bruce Lee (as "Chen Zhen") give one to two Japanese students at a Dojo, all while forcing them to eat pieces of paper with the insult: "Sick Man of East Asia."
    Chen: Now you're eating paper. The next time, it's gonna be glass.
  • The Third Man: Harry Lime casually opens the door of the ferris wheel while discussing the fiscal worth of human life. Watching him carefully, Holly Martins gets a good grip on the doorframe.
  • In the James Bond film Licence to Kill the ruthless drug lord who really runs the local Banana Republic reminds his Figurehead President "Remember—you are only President for Life".
  • In the 1986 action comedy Tough Guys the protagonists are marched off by a shotgun-toting hitman.
    Harry: Where are we going, friend?
    Hitman: We're going up this alley, "friend".
    Archie: And then what?
    Hitman: And then I'm coming out. Alone.
  • Extreme Prejudice (1987). Texas Ranger Jack Benteen meets his childhood friend turned drug kingpin Cash Bailey at the Mexican border. Neither side is willing to compromise, and as Jack turns to leave Cash says, "You know, Jack. I got a feeling the next time we run into each other, we gonna have a killin'. Just a feeling."
  • Conspiracy. Heydrich brings the few officials opposed to the Final Solution into line this way.
    Heydrich: Sitting at that table I will ask for your agreement on what is proposed.
    Kritzinger: And I must answer now.
    Heydrich: Oh you will answer now or you will answer...later.
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God. "That man is a head taller than me. That may change."
  • This exchange in North by Northwest:
    Vandamm: It seems to me you fellows could stand a little less training from the FBI and a little more from the Actors Studio.
    Roger: Apparently, the only performance that will satisfy you is when I play dead.
    Vandamm: Your very next role. You'll be quite convincing, I assure you.
  • The Killing Room (2009). A female NSA psychiatrist is recruited to observe an experiment, and is shocked to find it's a lethal Mind Control program. At one point she steals the swipe card and it looks like she might free the subjects. The head researcher has already killed two subjects with a Boom, Headshot, and he tells her it's more merciful to just get it over quickly if you're required to kill a man. Then he adds pointedly, "Or a woman."

    Literature 
  • The classic from Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    "Come," called the old man, "come now or you will be late."
    "Late?" said Arthur. "What for?"
    "What is your name, human?"
    "Dent. Arthur Dent," said Arthur.
    "Late, as in the late Dentarthurdent," said the old man, sternly. "It's a sort of threat you see... I've never been very good at them myself, but I'm told they can be very effective."
  • One is shown early in Pyramids:
    "A noble blood flows through my veins."
    "Want it to stay there?"
    • Pteppic tries one himself, though he admits it's not very good as threats go, because the Guild didn't really cover that:
    Pteppic: I could give you this knife.
    Guard: So what?
    Pteppic: I could give it to you point first.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Played with in A Clash of Kings when Tyrion is attempting to get Joffrey to understand that being the king doesn't mean he's untouchable:
    Joffrey: The king can do as he likes.
    Tyrion: Aerys Targaryen did as he liked. Has you mother ever told you what happened to him?note 
    Ser Boros Blount: No man threatens His Grace in the presence of the Kingsguard.
    Tyrion: I am not threatening the king, ser, I am educating my nephew. Bronn, Timett, the next time Ser Boros opens his mouth, kill him. Now that was a threat, ser. See the difference?
    Joffrey: You're the monster, Uncle.
    Tyrion: Am I? Perhaps you should speak more softly to me then. Monsters are dangerous beasts, and just now, kings seem to be dropping like flies.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Victorious episode "Rex Dies", while Cat is going on about the catwalk:
    Jade: If someone was pushed off this catwalk and hit the ground really hard, do you think they'd live?
    Cat: Why are you asking that?
    Jade: No reason.
  • NCIS:
    • In a Season 1 episode when Ari holds Ducky hostage in autopsy.
    Ducky: I can't wait to weigh your liver.
    • Ducky does it again when Ari calls him, reveals that he has Gerald hostage, and asks for a "professional courtesy, from one doctor to another." Ducky's response?
    Ducky: Well, I'd be happy to give you a free autopsy.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt gives one to Hank after the latter discovers he's Heisenberg. Hank states that he doesn't even know who he's talking to anymore.
    Walt: If you donít know who I am, maybe your best course of action is to tread lightly.
  • On Dollhouse, Matthew Harding keeps Adelle in line by telling her, "You wouldn't like the early retirement plan." She's seen enough - and frankly, done enough - that she knows exactly what he's talking about.
    • Albeit in hindsight he probably meant The Attic.
    • And Adelle shuts up a snarky Topher by pointing out that Mr Dominic is responsible for the "termination of unstable employees".
  • In Friends, when Joey is trying to seduce a lady, and Gunther keeps laughing at him while disguising it as a cough:
    "Seriously, Gunther, you should see someone about that cold. If it gets much worse, you could die.
  • Game of Thrones:
    Queen Cersei: You're just a soldier, aren't you? You take your orders and you carry on. I suppose it makes sense. Your older brother was trained to lead and you were trained to follow.
    Lord Eddard: I was also trained to kill my enemies, your Grace.
    Queen Cersei: As was I.
  • Rome. A Running Gag with Marc Antony; the most notable occasion is when he's forcing Cicero to make him governor of Gaul.
    Cicero: Please go on, make your threats. I don't like to submit to mere implication.
    Antony: There is a question I've always wanted to ask you. Your old friend Crassus, when he was captured by the Parthians, is it true that they poured molten gold down his throat? Because that would really sting.
  • Deep Space Nine. Done as a Character Development moment for the normally cowardly Quark to Brunt of the Ferengi Commerce Authority, who up to then has been bullying Quark For the Evulz.
    Quark: Look I've broken the contract so do your job; take my assets, revoke my Ferengi business license, do whatever you have to do, then get out. And if you ever walk into my bar again...
    Brunt: (smirks) Yes?
    Quark: You won't walk out. (Brunt's smile vanishes)
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Gang Buys a Boat," Dennis explains that he wants to take women out on a boat since they are less likely to refuse his sexual advances because of "the implication." When pressed about what he means by "the implication," Dennis elaborates that he means "the implication that things might go wrong for her if she refuses to sleep with me."
  • Doctor Who. In "The Caves of Androzani" Mad Scientist Sharaz Jek makes it clear he doesn't appreciate the Doctor's constant snark.
    "Your sense of humor will be the death of you, Doctor. Probably quite soon."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WCW: Cactus Jack and Abdullah the Butcher brought a cake to celebrate Sting's birthday.
    Paul E. Dangerously: It's not Sting's birthday.
    Cactus Jack: I know that. Don't you think I know that? But I wasn't here for Sting's last birthday. I wish I was at Sting's last birthday. But you see it's very important that we celebrate now, because Sting's last birthday was Sting's last birthday! BANG BANG! BANG BANG!note 

    Radio 
  • The very first The Adventures Of Harry Nile story, "West For My Health", had Harry up to his eyeballs in debt to a mob boss, who agreed to forgive Harry's debt if he went out to the west coast to kill a guy who was threatening his business. Just to make sure Harry didn't try to avoid doing the job, the mob boss sent an associate to watch him. The associate pulled Harry aside and told him, "I'm your doctor. I'm telling you to go west for your health."

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Chaosium's Stormbringer adventure Stealer of Souls: Tormiel's house has a Demon of Protection that is required to give two warnings before attacking intruders, such as, "Gee, this is an unhealthy place to visit without an invitation," or "Do you know where your blood comes from?" If the intruders ignore his warnings, he's free to kill them.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy VII, there was a blacksmith in Midgar. If you talked to him, he would say, "Hey, wait a minute, you. You can't leave without buyin' something. Might not be good for your health, if ya know what I'm saying."
  • In Portal 2, when you meet up with GLaDOS again, she says: "Look, we both said a lot of things that you're going to regret." She then continues along this line in later chambers, with her "real surprise, with tragic consequences," her "solution to both our problems [...] that honestly works out great for one of both of us" and her announcement that she has learned to discard things that "are just taking up space". And just when it seems that she couldn't lay it on any thicker, in Chapter 8, Wheatley gets a turn, with a triumphant Don't Explain the Joke thrown in:
    Wheatley: You [...] are going to love this big surprise. In fact, you're going to love it to death. Love it until you're dead — until it kills you. I don't know if you're picking up on what I'm saying here...
    GLaDOS: Thanks, we get it.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Llednar delivers one after Cid nullifies the law that makes him invincible.
    Llednar: ...This reeks of foul play. If you weren't a judge... (summons allies and begins to fight)
  • Build That Wall from Bastion. It sounds slow and mournful, but the lyrics are actually a death threat to an entire civilisation.
    "I dig my hole, you build a wall. One day that wall is going to fall...Go build that wall until it's done, but now you've got nowhere to run. So build that wall and build it strong 'cause we'll be there before too long."
  • In League of Legends, several champion taunts are examples of this trope:
    Orianna:"I know what makes them tick. I know how to make the ticking STOP."
  • In Assassin's Creed, During the multiplayer, when Vidic trains the new initiates:
    Warren Vidic:"Succeed, and you will learn the secrets of our order. Fail, and a lot more than your contracts will be terminated."
  • During the second Hatoful Boyfriend Yuuya finds out that his brother's butler Albert is actually an assassin. Considering his powerful Big Brother Instinct this disturbs him rather a lot. It's the one thing that breaches his cheerful, friendly version of stoicism and gets him to make direct threats. He settles back after hearing the explanation, but doesn't feel easy about it.
    "Sakuya seems to have this sorted out. ...but if you do end up hurting him, I'll hunt you to the ends of the earth and back. Remember that."

    Web Comics 
  • Biggs, of all people, from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures . He does a lot of unethical things, but threaten his family and look out.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius gets very annoyed at the rest of the Order while he's stuck in the form of a lizard, and the first thing he does after being restored is to effortlessly Disintegrate a dragon that had been threatening them:
    Vaarsuvius Fascinating. I cannot help but notice that the disintegrated remains of a dragon are indistinguishable from those of a human, or a halfling, or a dwarf.
    Roy: Point taken.
    • Subverted in another strip. Annoyed about being distracted from his/her research, Vaarsuvius threatens Elan.
    Vaarsuvius: "Do as you wish, though I find it odd that one who just witnessed the haste with which I will remove that which distracts me from my crucial research would risk becoming just such a distraction one's self."
    Vaarsuvius: "Because then I might be forced to remove the distraction."
    Elan: "I don't get it."
    Vaarsuvius: "YOU are the distraction in this case. Remove the distraction, which is you. Remove YOU with haste."
    Elan: "...What are you getting at?"
    Vaarsuvius: "Oh, forget it. It would take longer to make you understand than it would to research the next spell."

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, of all shows, contains an instance of this at the end of "A Canterlot Wedding, Part 1:"
    Twilight: I'm sorry.
    Imposter Cadance: You will be.
    • Early on in "The Return of Harmony, Part 1," it's implied via a stained glass window depicting Discord dangling three ponies over a fire that the Mad God in question may well have a body count under his belt. This renders his line in the next episode, "And these are only my first changes!" far more unsettling.
    • Angel Bunny seems prone to receiving these, for some reason: In "Just For Sidekicks," Twilight's owl assistant Owlowiscious delivers a non-verbal one to the rabbit, advancing and looming menacingly over Angel after the latter promises to make trouble for Spike. Makes sense, considering bunnies often end up as meals for owls and Owlowiscious and Spike are friends.
    • Some fans have interpreted the somewhat memetic "biting into an apple" scene from "Green Isn't Your Color" as one.
  • From Avatar: The Last Airbender : Katara is rather skeptical of Zuko's Heel-Face Turn and makes it horribly explicit;
    Katara: Let me tell you something right now. You take one step backwards...one slip up...give me one reason to think you might hurt Aang- and you won't have to worry about your destiny anymore. Because I'll make sure your destiny ends right then and there. Permanently.

    Real Life 
  • After the Gunfight of the OK Corral, a feud kicked up, with two of the Earp brothers getting shot and Wyatt Earp going on a vendetta spree. Johnny Behan, a police officer with some very longstanding bad blood with Earp (it included a love triangle and them running against each other for office), just so happened to be a part of the posse that was chasing after him. One day, when he was away from backup, he came across Earp in the street:
    Behan: I have to see you, Wyatt.
    Earp: One of these days, Behan, you may see me one time too many.
    • And they parted, never to meet again for the rest of their lives.
  • "Pretty Boy" Floyd once sent a message to the sheriff of his home town of Sallisaw, Oklahoma: "I'm coming to see my mother. If you're smart you won't try to stop me." The sheriff was smart.


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