It's the Only Way

Roku: Shit! The volcano is erupting! Get everyone to safety while I hold it off!
Ta Min: Um, honey? If we already know that I'll be able to get everyone in this considerably tiny village into boats, and we don't care all that much about our possessions, why do you need to put yourself in mortal danger?
Ta Min: *sigh*

A crutch commonly used to justify a foolish or ridiculous course of action. There is almost always a more sensible course of action available if the characters involved would just bother to think, but that might ruin the contrived plot and/or prevent a tragic situation. And the audience better not try to think of any alternate solutions either, because "It's the only way!"

In many dramas, it is "the only way" in the messed-up mindset of the character saying it — television characters are frequently less reasonable and more focused than real people.

Compare with I Did What I Had to Do, the Well-Intentioned Extremist's accessory after the fact. Compare also the correlated trope When All You Have Is a Hammer. Less common is another character Stating the Simple Solution in response.


  • Series finale of Burn Notice - The "only way" for Jesse to get Charlie out of the safe house is for Madeline to push the big red button on the bomb and sacrifice herself in the process. Except of course for the countless other ways they could have easily rigged that big red button to be pressed when the bad guys opened the door. Or the countless other kinds of boobie traps the characters have rigged up over the past seven seasons.
  • In X2: X-Men United, Jean Grey sacrifices herself, supposedly because it's the only way to save the team; there has been considerable debate among fans about the multiple other ways they could have survived, or ways she could have saved them that would not have involved her death.
  • Eve Archer in Face/Off believes that taking a blood sample from Castor Troy-as-Sean Archer is the only way to establish his identity. She could have simply taken DNA samples from him and her daughter (hair, fingerprints...) and run a comparison. Either way, additionally demanding a sample from Sean Archer-as-Castor Troy would have been a good idea.
  • In the climax of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Jack Black challenges the Devil to a rock-off, and for the stakes declares the Devil can take (just) his partner Kyle Gass back to Hell as a sex slave if they lose. He then melodramatically urges the understandably upset Kyle that "it's the only way!".
    • Although, when you really think about it, it actually IS the only way. What better motivation to rock really hard than threats of rape by Satan himself?
      • Also, he had the deal center on his partner being taken by Satan so that he would be free to block the unholy lightning attack with his guitar and blow the Devil's horn off. Of course, how he expected that to work is another question entirely.
  • Parodied (kind of) in the movie Snakes on a Plane, where the villain releases hundreds of venomous snakes onto a plane containing a single person he wishes to kill. When one of his lackeys wonders if there might have been a simpler plan with a higher chance of success, the villain snaps something to the effect of, "Do you think I didn't exhaust every other option?"
  • In the quoted example from Avatar: The Last Airbender above, it may in fact be justified as Roku's holding back the magma is the only thing that gives the rest of the village enough time to evacuate.
  • A porcupine, in a Dilbert comic strip about When All You Have Is a Hammer: "We must stick them with quills! It's the only way!"
  • Weirdly justified in Transmorphers: A nuclear bomb needs to be placed next to a reactor. They attempt to throw it in, which is (of course) unsuccessful. So, our hero decides to put it in himself, despite the requisite 100% chance of death. Turns out he's actually an android, and therefore the only one capable of fooling the defense system, which is programmed to sense only organic material. It's no less melodramatic, though.
  • Played for laughs in the Bizarro Episode of Teen Titans. Why are alien tofu invading the Earth, kidnapping cows and running substitute-meat fast food chains with the intent to blow up the planet? "It is our WAY!"
  • In the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the crew decides that the only way to prevent the Kazons from taking control of the Caretaker's Array is to remain in the Delta Quadrant (rather than taking it back home) so that they can blow it up. Apparently, none of them have ever heard of time bombs.
    • Somewhat justified in that the Kazon were already there. In the middle of the battle, it was decided to destroy the array.

  • Spoofed in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
    Sky Captain: "Is it safe?"
    Dex: "Well, there's only one way to find out."
    (Sky Captain and Polly step across the booby-trapped threshold and are relieved to be unharmed)
    Dex: "I meant throw something."
  • There are better methodologies of discerning the superiority of one thing over another, but that doesn't mean that Harry Hill doesn't have a personal favourite.
  • Aliens: "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." And it wasn't that bad an idea because every colonist save one was long since dead and the majority of the marines were either KIA or awaiting a Fate Worse Than Death. Not to mention everyone save the corporate stooge was 100% on board with denying Weyland-Yutani their murderous, murderous prize by this point.
  • The Event uses this trope like there's no tomorrow. Unless a character hasn't thought up "the only way" yet, in which case you can be sure they will insist "I'll find a way!!!" when pressed about the fact that they have no gameplan.
  • Tales of Monkey Island: Spoken by Zombie Guybrush to a surprised Morgan near the end of Chapter 5, when he takes out his last shred of life and tosses it into the rip to close up the Crossroads, trapping the Pirate God LeChuck and allowing her and Elaine to use the Coup de Grāce on him simultaneously.
    • Before that, De Cava says this in Chapter 3 when he says he's weaving the husks of Manatee Throat Grubs for an artificial cochlea, unaware that the actual cochlea had been stolen by his own crew during the time they were in the manatee.
  • Subverted in Blue Beetle when Dani Garrett is about to fly her ship into a volcano, and Jaime asks if she's sure it can survive it.
    Danni: Only one way to find out!
    Jaime: No! No! There are other ways to "find out"! Like tests and experiments!
    Danni: Oh, yeah. Sorry.
  • In an episode of Adventure Time, Finn is harassed by enemies who give him exactly two courses of action (usually bad and worse) then declaring "IT'S THE ONLY WAY!! AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Then Finn finds Another Way through the obstacle.
  • Subverted in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! when Galatea concludes her new invention has to be destroyed before it falls into the wrong hands.
    Galatea: I've set the ship to destroy itself!
    Bob: What?!
    Galatea: It's the only way, Uncle! Don't you see? It's the only way!!!
    Bob: But couldn't you just take the machine apart? Or break it?
    Galatea: ............... oh. um...
    Bob: What is the matter with you?!
    Galatea: I think I'm doing very well for my age!
  • Franchise/Hellraiser is the story of a woman named Julia who kills men and collects their blood in order to revive a former lover. A visit to a blood bank would have solved her problem in a much less grisly way.