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Join or Die
"If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed!"
Emperor Palpatine, Return of the Jedi

The Big Bad makes you An Offer You Can't Refuse, either join his organization of evil, or die right here and now. Sometimes this is accompanied by a We Can Rule Together, but not always. This offer is not always made to The Hero, it can just as easily be to a rival, or simply a promising recruit that the Big Bad can't afford to have opposing him. Nor does it necessarily have to be a villain making the offer. Some heroes may use these words to rally people to their cause in the face of attack, or The Men in Black may give this ultimatum to those who break the masquerade.

A subtrope of With Us or Against Us. Supertrope of Mutant Draft Board. Compare Sadistic Choice and An Offer You Can't Refuse. Related to Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?

Not to be confused with Ben Franklin's famous Revolutionary-era Political Cartoon, which was closer in spirit to Divided We Fall.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime And Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z, this is Frieza's main method of recruitment. According to dialogue amongst Frieza's henchmen (which was drastically changed in the Funimation dubbing), Frieza's modus operandi was to wipe out all but the most promising or useful individuals of a race and offer them a place in his empire. He promised those that joined that their race would eventually gain a more prestigious place in his New Order and those that refused were simply made extinct.

    Comic Books 
  • The credo of the Church of Universal Truth, occasional adversaries of the Guardians of the Galaxy, is "convert or die". And with a very large, very strong army, they're very good at delivering on that second part. They're able to level some planets in a matter of hours, in fact.

    Film 
  • In Iron Man, this is how the Nine Rings recruits. They attack villages and either kill or capture the men. Then, they take their women and children to an unknown location where they're used as collateral. The men are asked to join them, with their families' lives, as well as their own, on their line if they refuse. This is Truth in Television for many terrorist groups and militaristic regimes.
  • On Peter Pan, Captain Hook gives Wendy and the boys the option of joining his crew or Walking The Plank.
  • Flash Gordon. Emperor Ming offers to let Flash join him and rule the Earth under Ming's control. If he refuses, he will be killed.
  • Star Wars likes this trope. In The Empire Strikes Back, Vader tells the Emperor that this will be the choice he will give Luke. Vader instead gives Luke a We Can Rule Together. In Return of the Jedi, The Emperor makes the same offer to Luke, leading to the page quote.
  • In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves the Sheriff of Nottingham gives Lord Locksley the choice to join up or die. Cue Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Space Mutiny: Variant. Kalgan offers a technician who discovers his evil plot to either join or be cyrogenically frozen. The Techinican made the third choice of dying. Kalgan obliged.
  • In the movie Nikita, and the TV show based on the movie, this is how the title character is recruited as an assassin.
  • What the people in the Tribulation period in the Apocalypse film series are confronted with when they meet Franco Macalousso's Digital Avatar in the Day Of Wonders program...either take the Mark of the Beast and join his side, or die by whatever virtual means the program has in store for you (usually decapitation).
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, the Necromongers give this offer to the races they conquer.
    Lord Marshal: (after killing a guy by ripping his soul out) Join him, or join me.

    Literature 
  • In Dragonlance one of the three Nerakan Knights orders' motto is "Submit or Die".
  • Standard operating procedure for Lord Voldemort.
  • In Groosham Grange, every student at the Grange, sooner or later, is given this choice.
  • In The Dresden Files, Nicodemus gives Harry an offer: take up one of the 30 silver coins and join the Order of the Blackened Denarius, or Nicodemus will slit his throat once he's done eating breakfast. Nicodemus believes very strongly in pragmatic villainy.
    • Dead Beat, however, references but averts this trope: after fighting and defeating Dresden, Kumori says she'll make him an offer. Dresden, being Genre Savvy, guesses it's this, but Kumori says he's too inexperienced. (He gets it right on the second try, though: leave or die.)
    • And in Cold Days, the Outsiders gave him first this offer, and then the other, in quick succession. He wasn't lying when he said, in Dead Beat, that these were the two offers he seems to get all the time.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Count Bricemer makes this offer to the crew of the Quicksilver. Later, he reneges on the deal.
    • Reynard himself offers this choice to his defeated enemies quite often. By ''Defender of the Crown' he's assembled a Praetorian Guard made up of Calvarians.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the wildlings give this offer to Jon Snow when he and his partner Qhorin Halfhand are captured. However, to make sure he's truly switched sides, they also force him to kill Qhorin.
  • It's said in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that Voldemort killed James and Lily Potter because they refused to join him.
  • In Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire series, this is how Sita became the eponymous vampire: the other vampires gave her a choice between either being turned or dying; she would have chosen death except that they also threatened to kill her husband and child.
  • In When The Devil Dances, Mike O'Neal Sr is approached by an old acquaintance from his mercenary days, and offered a position in a shadowy Knight Templar organization with access to Galactic technology. The acquaintance was about to kill O'Neal if he declined the offer for knowing too much about the organization, until Mike was rescued by his grand daughter, the acquaintance's brains being ballistically scattered around the room.
  • In one Choose Your Own Adventure book, the protagonist can discover the owner of an amusement park bribing a safety inspector to overlook some serious safety hazards. When the owner and his clown henchman notice you the owner offers you a thousand dollars to keep quiet or else. If the protagonist refuses they try to kill him. If the protagonist accepts the bribe and rats them out anyway, the clown arranges an "accident". If the protagonist accepts the bribe and keeps quiet the clown will sweeten the deal with an extra hundred dollars as a present. The protagonist has mixed feelings about this since it means the villains believe that he is on their side and can be counted on for future favors.
  • In Christian Nation, the POWs that survived the Civil War are given the option to become a believer in Christ and be part of the new American theocratic society within three years or die.
  • In City of Heavenly Fire, Jonathan/Sebastian does this while turning the Endarkened Ones using the Infernal Cup. If they're too young or old to be turned he just kills them.

     Live Action TV 
  • In Burn Notice, Michael has this conversation with Sam:
    Michael: I've been given a new job.
    Sam: What's it pay?
    Michael:: it's more like you do this for us or you die.
    Sam: Oh, never liked those.
  • Good Times: This is why Micheal joins a gang. Quote paraphrased.
    They asked Johnny to join and he didn't, so they broke his arm. They asked Willy to join and he didn't, so they broke his leg. Then they asked me to join, and they were looking at my neck.
  • The Ori in Stargate SG-1 convert followers this way. Anyone who refuses the teachings of Origin is assumed to be evil and must be purged. Of course, the real reason is that the Ori are empowered by prayer and simply want more power.
    • Though it turns out that Humans Are Bastards: The Ori are made stronger by being worshiped, but they get absolutely nothing from the corpses of those who wouldn't worship them. They never ordered the atrocities that their human enforcers have carried out.
  • In La Femme Nikita, not to be confused with Nikita, this is part of the Necessarily Evil MIB organization's MO. By the time they've tried to recruit you, you know too much to be allowed to walk away. Even the leader wasn't always the leader, and was brought in by basically being kidnapped, and can't ever show himself to the people who know him as plain old "Paul Wolfe" instead of "Operations" again. Which means even someone who lived it eventually came to believe it necessary.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • At CHIKARA Battle of Who Could Care Less, UltraMantis Black cut a promo before his match with MIYAWAKI where he offered him a chance to join the Order of the Neo-Solar Temple as its representative to the Orient. He said that if MIYAWAKI didn't take him up on his offer, UMB would follow him back to Japan, kill him and destroy the nation's whaling industry. He ended by invoking the trope word for word.note 

     Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • A common joke about the Imperial Guard (though not all worlds actually use conscription).
    Join the Imperial Guard or die. Then die.
    • The Tau Empire are sometimes considered to be the "nicest" faction in the setting, because they offer this choice. If anyone else attacks your world, chances are they just offer "die" or in the case of Chaos and Dark Eldar, "die horribly, get captured and tortured and/or raped until you die, or get your soul devoured, and don't answer because we'll decide for you".
    • To be fair, Chaosnote  do occasionally offers to join the ways of the Dark Gods. However even the nicest way it might develop tend to be Fate Worse Than Death.
  • In medieval fantasy game Ars Magica, Join or Die is policy of the Order of Hermes, if you're a magician the Order considers potent enough to bother with, mostly those who have a sufficient magical defense or offence. They are not, however, the Big Bad, usually.

     Video Games 
  • "Join me, Link, and I will make you a face, the greatest in Koridai. Or else you will DIE!!"
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online: In the finale of the Sharn Syndicate quest chain, Talon Darsin, the overlord of the Sharn Syndicate in Stormreach, makes this offer to you. And since your goal in the final quest is to kill him, well, no guesses on what your response to him is.
  • The Master makes the Vault Dweller such an offer in the original Fallout game. Accepting results in a non-standard game over.
    The Master: So what shall it be? Do you join the Unity, or do you die here? Join! Die! Join! Die!
  • Mass Effect: Saren's response to Shepard's resistance is this. Join the Reapers - 'cause if you don't, you're guaranteed to die.
    Saren: Is submission not preferable to extinction? [...] Everyone you know and love, you will all die.
  • Grim Fandango has this exchange between Deadpan Snarker Manny and Sassy Secretary turned resistance fighter Eva.
    Manny: Any messages for me?
    Eva: One, join, or die!
    Eva: Again!
  • Also used in BlazBlue for Litchi. The message is pretty subtle, but Hazama is pretty much saying to her "Join us, or you die by your own corruption while we just toss the cure away."
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the backstory of the Sith Inquisitor is they were a former slave of the Sith Empire, who after being discovered to be force-sensitive, was naturally given the option to either go to Korriban for training or die where they stand.
  • At the end of Assassin's Creed: Rogue, Juhani Otso Berg offers you a choice between a Templar Ring or a bullet.

     Web Comics 

     Western Animation 
  • In Kim Possible, Gemini tries to force Ron Stoppable to join his terrorist organization of WEE by threatening him with a laser.
  • In "Lucky Luke and the Ballad of the Daltons", the Dalton Brothers learned their Uncle Henry willed them his whole money if they kill the jurors and the judge who sentenced him to death by hanging and Lucky Luke provides testimony confirming they did it. When they approached Lucky about it, Joe Dalton offered the following deal: if he agrees, they'll give him a share of the money; if he refuses, they'll kill him. (Actually, they intended to kill him once the You Have Outlived Your Usefulness kicked in).
  • X-Men: Evolution: When the X-Men offered Rogue a chance to join, she was afraid they'd kill her if she refused (Mystique made them look like the bad guys to drive her to her side.) Once she learned they wouldn't, she was more willing to hear them out, and finally joined once Mystique kicked one dog too many.
  • In Book Four of The Legend of Korra, this is Kuvira's method of restoring the Earth Kingdom to order, though she doesn't threaten - technically - to do the actual killing. With bandits rampaging across the countryside and her military the only cohesive force large enough to provide much-needed protection and aid, governors are left with the choice of accepting her authority or watching their state utterly collapse. She also cuffs a group of captured bandits to a maglev railway and provides them with a "choice": either they pledge their allegiance to her, or she'll leave them for the next train.

     Real Life 
  • A saying among drug lords or gangs in Latin America was "Plata o Plomo" (Silver or Lead). It meant you could either take a bribe, or take a bullet.
  • Genghis Khan and his Mongol Empire made this ultimatum to the inhabitants of the conquered areas. Some people wouldn't surrender - and the Mongols' harsh retribution is probably the reason why most people did.
  • Conscription is in essence this trope. Whether or not death is involved depends on the conscripting government. Even if one objects to military service, the bosses usually find something else for one to do. Summed up, in relation to the Soviet Union, by historian Robert O'Connell.
    The people knew that if they didn't work they would die. And they would die in a particularly horrible way. They might die of German occupation. Or partisan retribution. Or Soviet coercion. Or starvation. It was "work or die".
  • If a missionary (of any religion) comes with a militia, you can expect this to happen


It's a Costume Party, I SwearDirty Social TricksLeonine Contract
Humiliating WagerBargain TropesLeonine Contract
With Us or Against UsThreatening TropesYou Have No Chance to Survive
Involuntary Suicide MechanismA Slave to the IndexLeonine Contract
I Would Say If I Could SayDialogueJoke Exhaustion
Joggers Find DeathDeath TropesJoker Immunity

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