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->''"We're going over there, and bringing the most lethal killing machine ever devised. We're capable of launching more firepower than has ever been released in the history of war. For one purpose alone: to keep our country safe. We constitute the front line and the last line of defense."''
-->-- '''Captain Ramsey''', ''Film/CrimsonTide''

[[GodzillaThreshold Sometimes, the unthinkable becomes a legitimate option.]] Other times it's downright commonplace.

Nuclear warheads are currently the most powerful weapon in humanity's arsenal. They are the most destructive thing we have the capacity to deploy, and as such are treated as a last resort; a final option when all other possibilities are exhausted. They are to be used only when [[GodzillaThreshold the consequences of]] ''[[GodzillaThreshold not]]'' [[GodzillaThreshold using them are worse than the consequences of using them]]. Even now, many years past their only use, the argument about whether that was really necessary still hasn't subsided; in fiction, however, this situation comes up a lot more often.

The Nuclear Option is the well-considered and appropriate use of nuclear weaponry by a legitimate authority. Perhaps the enemy has already launched nukes at allied targets, maybe the target is NighInvulnerable and a nuke is the only way to crack through its protections, or ItsTheOnlyWayToBeSure. It's possible that some {{Cool Starship}}s are flinging nukes at each other in an otherwise empty space - see ExplosionsInSpace. The situation might already be so bad that [[GodzillaThreshold the potential for massive collateral damage doesn't matter anymore]]. In any case, the Nuclear Option is, ultimately, a ''good idea'', or at least reasonable. Differs from an EmptyQuiver, as the Nuclear Option is ordered by a legitimate authority. Also, unlike NukeEm or DeusExNukina, it's neither overkill nor likely to backfire and the nuke does something that actually makes sense.

Also applies to the use of {{Fantastic Nuke}}s and, if the NuclearWeaponsTaboo is in effect, [[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial absolutely-not-a-nuke]] weapons. Compare to the GodzillaThreshold, when you've become desperate enough to try something that's likely to cause your own side just as much harm as the enemy.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/{{Macross}}'' has this in the form of "Reaction" and "Dimension/Fold" weapons.
** ''Anime/SuperDimensionFortressMacross'': Not only are the devices extremely effective in almost every time they're deployed, but the Zentradi are astounded that humans have the technology to make "Reaction Weapons".
** In both ''Anime/{{Macross 7}}'', ''Anime/MacrossZero'' and ''Anime/MacrossFrontier'', Reaction Weapons are seen as very much "last resort" weapons that are only deployed when it becomes clear that the enemy they're fighting is dangerous enough to warrant such countermeasures.
* Subverted in the novels of ''Anime/{{Robotech}}'', where Nukes are part of a set of weapons labeled as "Conventional Weapons" and do little to hurt the enemy. Alien-enhanced [[NuclearWeaponsTaboo "Reflex Missiles"]] are used instead.
* Used repeatedly in multiple ''Franchise/{{Gundam}}'' series, notable for not only avoiding the NuclearWeaponsTaboo but portraying nukes as dangerous and powerful weapons, but not evil incarnate.
** The Universal Century timeline has prodigious use of nukes.
*** The BackStory of the One Year War features the One Week Battle that opened the conflict, where nuclear weapons are used by TheFederation in a partially-successful attempt to stop a ColonyDrop, and then used by both sides during a major fleet battle not long after. The carnage resulting from both of these occasions causes both sides to sign the Antarctic Treaty, banning the use of nukes and chemical weapons (so, naturally, both sides start work on solar-powered death rays instead... [[LoopholeAbuse those aren't nuclear, and thus are not banned under treaty]]).
*** ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam'' has M'Quve attempt to launch nuclear weapons when it becomes clear that he's lost the battle, but Amuro in the Gundam manages to destroy the missiles before they can detonate.
*** ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundamThe08thMSTeam The 08th MS Team]]'' includes a suspiciously powerful explosion attributed to a fuel-air bomb; whether this was an actual fuel-air bomb or an in-universe attempt to circumvent the Antarctic Treaty is a subject of debate.
*** A more blatant attempt to circumvent the treaty took place at the end of the series as the EFF assaulted Ginneas Sakhalin's mountain base by sending waves of [=GMs=] into certain death traps. Their hope was that one of the reactors on their doomed mobile suits would happen to melt down.
*** The second half of ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundam0080WarInThePocket Gundam 0080]]'' revolves around trying to prevent a neutral colony from being nuked.
*** ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundam0083StardustMemory Gundam 0083]]'' prominently features a nuclear-equipped Gundam, though it's only part of ThePlan, and the effects seen when the nuke is eventually used are [[ArtisticLicenseNuclearPhysics wildly unrealistic]].
*** ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamCharsCounterattack'' has the good guys using nuclear missiles in space in an attempt to prevent a ColonyDrop; they're portrayed quite accurately, in contrast to the previous example.
*** Nukes feature quite heavily into the BigBad's plan in ''Manga/MobileSuitCrossboneGundam'' (he claims he can ignore the Antarctic Treaty because that was signed between the Federation and Zeon... Jupiter was not present). As such, the heroes are not afraid to bust out tactical nuclear devices against him. In the ''Steel Seven'' sequel, the heroes also deploy nukes against the Jovian Colony Laser, ''Zeus's Wrath''.
** ''Anime/TurnAGundam'' also featured nukes as the center of a subplot. Humanity is going around digging up ancient weapons and finds a cache of nukes. The Moonrace is well aware of how powerful they are, but the terrestrial humans (who have no idea) accidentally set a few off, resulting in tragedy. Loran takes it upon himself to carry the remaining two warheads in the Turn A to prevent their misuse, and eventually uses them to stop a ColonyDrop on the Moon.
** The Cosmic Era timeline has more than its share of nukes as well.
*** The conflict in ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundamSeed Gundam SEED]]'' begins when a space colony is nuked, and late in the series a veritable swarm of nukes are deployed in an attempt to finish the job.
*** ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundamSeedDestiny Gundam SEED Destiny]]'' also features a ([[spoiler:completely ineffective]]) mass nuke attack on the PLANT space colonies.
* In ''Anime/GhostInTheShellStandAloneComplex'', terrorists demanding civil rights for the refugees interred in Japan attempt to acquire plutonium and hole themselves up in a refugee camp turned into a fortress, threatening to nuke a city if the military assaults their stronghold. While it is not actually known if the terrorist have enough plutonium or are bluffing, [[spoiler: the PowersThatBe that actually rule over Japan decide to call in a favor from the Americans and order a nuclear strike on the island. It would then be claimed that the terrorists accidentaly blew up themselves. The uprising would be over, the nuclear threat be removed, and the political establishment emerged greatly strengthed, as the population would accept any curbing of their few remaining rights to prevent that ever happening again.]]
* In ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'', "N2 mines" (the N2 stands for [[NuclearWeaponsTaboo Non Nuclear]]) are the weapons of last resort against the Angels. Of course, given that its a GiantRobot show, they're often completely ineffective, in order to show how awesome the Evas are in comparison.
* ''Franchise/LyricalNanoha'' features the only known deployment of the Arc-En-Ciel. A WaveMotionGun and FantasticNuke, it is stated that firing it at a target just offshore a Japanese city will destroy not only that city, but a significant portion of ''Japan''. This was considered acceptable because the alternative to using the Arc-En-Ciel was the ''probable destruction of Earth''. It's ultimately arranged to teleport the target into orbit before firing to prevent collateral damage.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'' has used it a few times:
** "The Apocalypse War" storyline had Dredd defeat the Sov Block by nuking them. With their own nukes.
** During the "Judgement Day" arc, Dredd had several cities nuked that had been [[ItsTheOnlyWayToBeSure overrun by zombies]].
* There is a scene in one of the ''ComicBook/MarvelZombies'' issues where Director Fury was deliberating whether or not to resort to this while New York was rapidly being devoured. Unfortunately, before it could be implemented, Quicksilver was infected, and infected every nation in the span of a few minutes.
* In ''ComicBook/PaperinikNewAdventures'' the US have threatened to use them against the [[HordeOfAlienLocusts Evronians]] more than once, and actually did so twice. {{Justified}} because the Evronian superior technology means nukes are the only Earth weapons that can actually damage their ships... Provided they actually hit, as the first time they were fired [[ShootTheBullet the Evronians shot down the missiles]].
* In ''Comicbook/KingdomCome,'' [[spoiler: the U.N. finally resorts to this to stop the massive super hero civil war from spreading out and destroying the world. It successfully kills most of them, but not all -- most notably not Superman, who is ''[[BewareTheNiceOnes furious.]]'']]

[[folder: Fan Works]]
* In ''[[FanFic/AnEntryWithABang An Entry with a Bang!]]'', nukes soften up the marauding pirates before they make Earthfall and massive nuclear rearmament is in progress in a bid to construct a shield of sorts to ward off future hostile interlopers from a ''TabletopGame/BattleTech'' faction.
* In ''[[FanFic/NeonExodusEvangelion Neon Exodus Evangelion]]'', a nuclear cruise missile is used to [[spoiler:destroy the demoness Natlateth]]. Notably, it needs special command codes from MissionControl in order to launch.
* In ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5378267/1/bConquest_b_of_the_bEmperor_b_The_World_of_Naruto Conquest of the Emperor: The World of Naruto]]'' the invading OC villains get rid of Madara and his white zetsu army this way.
* Considered by both Human powers and The Race Conquest Fleet in ''FanFic/WorldwarWarOfEquals''. [[spoiler: Ultimately, its China that drops the first nuke of the war.]]
* In ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7794500/1/Stargate-Revelation Stargate: Revelation]]'', enhanced nuclear weapons are standard armaments on Earth's warships.
* ''FanFic/FalloutEquestriaOccupationalHazards'' features the use of [[FantasticNuke megaspell warheads]] twice. [[spoiler: The first time one is used to destroy the cloudship The Tsetse, the second is a series of them wired to detonate should The Doc's [[DeadManSwitch Dead Hoof Switch]] activate.]]
** Shows up again in the sequel ''FanFic/FalloutEquestriaEmptyQuiver'', twice so far in the appropriately-named chapter The Nuclear Option. [[spoiler: First detonation of a megaspell with a yield of 1 kiloton was for eradicating a wrecked zebra nuclear sub to deal with the Anglerpony population taking hold there. Second was using one of the half-kiloton bombs from the [[CoolPlane Valkyrie]] to collapse the Battered-Sea Power Station atop the Shady Shores Biological Research facility, further thinning the number of Anglerponies.]]
* In ''[[FanFic/SovereignGFCOrigins Origins]]'', a ''MassEffect''[=/=]''StarWars''[[spoiler:[=/=]''[=Borderlands=]''[=/=]''[=Halo=]'']] MassiveMultiplayerCrossover, to get rid of a whole planet Admiral Nimitz elects to use a [[StarWarsExpandedUniverse Galaxy Gun-like]] missile capable of annihilating everything inside a ''50,000km radius'' [[spoiler:which makes sense since the planet has turned into a giant Flood organism]]. This only after the [[WaveMotionGun superlaser]] was deemed insufficient for the task.

* In ''Film/IndependenceDay'', the military attempts to fight the alien invaders with conventional weapons, which prove to be ineffective due to the aliens possessing energy shields to protect their ships. Ultimately, it is decided to deploy nuclear weapons against the aliens. Only one strike is made (annihilating [[UsefulNotes/{{Houston}} a large city]]) before it is realized even they are ineffective.
** A direct shout-out to George Pal's ''Film/{{The War Of The Worlds|1953}}'', even down to the aircraft used - in ''WOTW'', the Northrop YB-49 flying wing jet bomber (which was NOT a film prop but an actual USAF prototype); in ''[=ID4=]'', the Northrop B-2 flying wing jet bomber.
** Later, a nuke is used to destroy the mothership, but from the inside after Hiller and Dave [[TrojanHorse enter it in a refurbished alien fighter]].
* Very similar to ''Independence Day'' is ''Film/MarsAttacks'', in which every single possible weapon was fired at the spacecraft and the only option left is the bomb. But unfortunately, the aliens just inhaled it.
** And used the fallout to mock the PunyEarthlings in a [[SugarWiki/FunnyMoments high-pitched helium voice]].
* ''Film/{{Armageddon}}'' uses a nuke to split an asteroid in half. Falls under Nuclear Option rather than NukeExMachina because they're using a nuke to provide what nukes actually provide -- namely a very large explosion. Still a research flub, though, because a nuclear explosion wouldn't have been ''big enough'' to do what it did in the movie.
** ''Film/DeepImpact'' and their granddaddy ''Film/{{Meteor}}'' use the same premise.
* Subverted in ''WesternAnimation/MonstersVsAliens''.
* ''Film/TheAvengers2012'': During the [[spoiler: Chitauri invasion]] at the climax, an OmniscientCouncilOfVagueness sends a nuke at Manhattan (technically they sent two nukes, but that was only because they were GenreSavvy enough to know that ComicBook/NickFury would blow one of the planes up) rather than let [[spoiler: the aliens]] spread to the rest of the world. [[spoiler: This actually saves the day when IronMan [[RelocatingTheExplosion redirects it by physically dragging the bomb to the alien ship instead]]]].
* ''Film/PacificRim'': What attempts to seal the Rift have employed; strategic and judicious use of nuclear weapons. It's never worked before [[spoiler: because the portal wasn't allowing anything that wasn't a {{Kaiju}} to pass through it.]]
* This is apparently quite common in the alternate Earths of ''Film/{{Parallels}}'' - enough so that Polly can breezily say that the one where [[spoiler: ''Egypt'' was the one that started the nuclear exchanges]] was weird, but otherwise unremarkable. [[spoiler: And this trope's use on his home Earth is the motivation for Tinker's attempt to nuke the building ''again.'' It presumably doesn't end well for whatever's left of New York City in that version of Earth, and solidifies the notion that he's definitely got a few screws loose.]]
* ''Film/{{Oblivion 2013}}'': A nuke is successfully used to make out the primary enemy target at the climax.
* ''Film/FailSafe'': The plot of the film is that a flight of U.S. bombers with nukes has, through a combination of events, been given orders to attack Moscow. They can't be recalled and there won't be enough time to stop all of them. The President (Creator/HenryFonda) tries to convince the Soviet Premier that it's a mistake, but the Premier, while seemingly willing to believe him, needs something more to convince his military staff. So, the President quickly sets up a plan. [[spoiler:At the end, when Moscow has been destroyed by the last U.S. bomber, another, similar bomber drops the same type and number of nukes on New York City. In both cases, there's no time to evacuate or warn the civilian population of each city.]]
* ''Film/{{Skyline}}'': the military attacks one of the alien spacecraft with a nuclear weapon. Though it does do considerable damage initially, it ultimately proves insufficient to destroy the alien ship.
* Film/StarshipTroopers:
** Lt. Racdzac sees a bug hole, and tells one of his troopers, "Rico! Nuke 'em!" Rico loads a nuclear-tipped rocket in a launcher, and fires it into the hole, vaporizing everything (bugs) near the hole.
** A trooper is too injured to move, so he asks Rico to give him a nuke so he can vaporize the bugs before [[spoiler:they can eat him]]. Carmen and Rico run in an attempt to OutrunTheFireball.

* In the ''Literature/StarshipTroopers'' novel, certain soldiers are occasionally armed with tactical nuclear rockets. They're drilled extensively to "get their money's worth" out of their use. They are also taken so seriously that, during basic training, eyeballing an attack with a ''simulation'' of one (the actual payload was a smoke grenade) instead of waiting for a targeting solution, and accidentally catching one of his teammates in the simulated blast earns Johnny a ''very'' real flogging, and almost saw him subjected to a court-martial and drummed out of the military (the instructors declared he could be redeemed, so the officers simply tell him it's his right to be judged by one, at which point Johnny realizes just how much he screwed up and says no).
* ''Franchise/{{Dune}}'' has "atomics", though their use against human targets is frowned upon with threats of "planetary obliteration".
** [[Literature/{{Dune}} Paul Atreides uses them in spite of the prohibition]], arguing that [[LoopholeAbuse he wasn't attacking humans, he was attacking the Shield Wall, an uninhabited geographical feature]]. [[note]]Even taking that into account, he probably only got away with it because Arrakis is the only source of the {{Unobtanium}} that makes space travel realistically feasible.[[/note]]
** The semi-canonical ''Literature/DuneEncyclopedia'' has two instances of its use, while the last two books written by Frank Herbert himself are set in a post-Great-Convention universe where the rules no longer apply.
* Harry Turtledove's ''Literature/{{Worldwar}}'' series, an alternate history featuring an alien invasion in the spring of 1942, features gradually escalating nuclear warfare between humans and The Race, first with The Race nuking a couple of human capitals, followed by the humans learning to return the favor.
* The Literature/EmpireFromTheAshes trilogy has nukes at the ''midpoint'' of the destructive scale. More powerful than kinetic kill and high explosive warheads, but less powerful than antimatter and gravitonic weapons. The first book, featuring a more subdued conflict on a single planet, treats nukes with a healthy respect. The second flings them around like nobody's business, since the fighting took place entirely in open space. The aliens fought in the second book refer to nuclear weapons as the "lesser thunder" (antimatter being the "greater thunder").
* ''Literature/{{Bolo}}'': the titular tanks are programmed to protect humans, so they only use the Nuclear Option if all humans are out of harm's way. Of course they're also armed with a ''[[WaveMotionGun fusion cannon]]'' as an alternative.
* Considered several times in ''Literature/TheSalvationWar'', many more if the thread discussions are included. [[spoiler:A nuclear weapon ends up being used to vaporize the angelic Incomparable Legion of Light.]]
* ''Literature/WingCommander'' novels:
** In ''Fleet Action'', the [[CatFolk Kilrathi]] use Strontium-90 clad nuclear weapons to render several human worlds uninhabitable, and nearly succeed at doing so to Earth before Krueger's BigDamnHeroes moment.
** Although technically not nukes, in the same novel humans use matter/antimatter bombs as part of a plan to destroy the enemy supercarriers from the inside, when regular space weaponry fired at them from outside proves ineffective against the massively protected ships.
* ''Literature/LegacyOfTheAldenata'':
** The Chinese used nukes to try to slow down the [[HordeOfAlienLocusts Posleen]], but failed to slow them for more than a day, winding up not only destroyed as a fighting force, but poisoning the Yangtze River for thousands of years.
** In ''When the Devil Dances'' and ''Hell's Faire'', deployment and use of nukes is a significant issue, thanks to a president that's ''very'' against them. However, they do eventually get authorized for use, as area denial weapons to kill large numbers of Posleen after the Rabun Gap defenses are breached, including [[MacrossMissileMassacre flushing the nearly the entire US nuclear missile arsenal]] to nuke the Gap, just to get some warheads past the absurdly accurate anti-air fire from Posleen hardware.
* Though they are never actually used, characters in ''Literature/NightWatch'' occasionally mention having nukes on standby in case the situation escalates, as nukes are the only things that can blast through all seven layers of Twilight.
* The starships in ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' use these as standard missiles, generally armed with stand-off laser heads to reduce the effectiveness of [[PointDefenceless point defence]]. That said, the few times that a contact nuke (as opposed to said laser heads) has got through, usually due to Rafe Cardones' sheer [[SugarWiki/MomentOfAwesome awesomeness]], it has burned out or destroyed nearly every sidewall generator, particle shield, sensor array and weapon system mounted on the affected area of the ship. [[CurbStompBattle It generally dies quickly after Harrington gets a clear shot at this area]].
* The ''Literature/{{Lensman}}'' universe offers the ''super-atomic bomb'', which is used in vast numbers to attack ships that have just 'jumped in' via hyper-spatial tube and are still getting themselves in order. The trope is really only played straight on both sides later in the series, when it becomes clear to our hero that what Galactic Civilization is facing is not disorganized outlaws and criminals but essentially the evil mirror of itself. In later installments antimatter bombs ''[[EarthShatteringKaboom of planetary mass]]'' are used by the tens of thousands in single battles.
* Stewart Cowley's ''Terran Trade Authority'' universe throws nukes around A LOT. ''Spacecraft: 2000-2100 AD'' is a guidebook to the ships of three civilizations, detailing propulsion, crew, armament etc. Most of the ships of all three species (human, Alpha Centauri, Proxima Centauri) whose function is surface attack are nuclear-capable: a few are ''specifically'' designed as interstellar strategic nuclear strike ships with single, large-yield warheads, while tactical nuclear weapons of various descriptions are listed as standard armament fit on many types.
* Jim Butcher's ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' uses this trope both literally and metaphorically.
** In ''Turn Coat'', it is revealed that this is Warden Donald Morgan's preferred method of dealing with a particularly nasty breed of EldritchAbomination, by luring it into a testing area in 1950s New Mexico. He opened a portal to the spirit world seconds before the blast, destroying the creature's vessel and sending it back to its domain. When Harry gets to hear about this, he makes a point of stating for the record that whatever bad blood there may be between Morgan and himself, that is ''really cool''.
** Less literally, it is frequently mentioned that bringing mortal (non-supernatural) authorities into a supernatural conflict is regarded as the nuclear option by the various supernatural nations. Ironically, this is less due to mankind's possession of ACTUAL nukes, and more due to mankind outnumbering the monsters (or near-monsters) enormously, as well as the invention of guns, which [[TheFairFolk the Fae]] [[ColdIron and those kin to the Fae]] hate vehemently; even those who are possessed by Fallen Angels can be killed by a bullet to the brain, making humanity a very dangerous force to piss off.
* In ''Literature/TheTripods'' a submarine from one of the pre-capping navies, belonging to LaResistance launches an ICBM at a tripod city unsuccessfully. The hero hears about it several generations later.
* In the military SF novel ''The Shiva Option'' by Creator/DavidWeber and Steve White, the allied races (including humans) determine that, due to their tenacity and great numbers, the only way to defeat the invading Arachnids is to execute [[FinalSolution genocidal attacks]] against them by bombarding their worlds with antimatter weapons. Antimatter weapons technically aren't nukes, but are considerably more powerful on average and have most of the same effects on a larger scale. As it turns out, [[spoiler: Massive planet-wide casualties caused by nuclear / antimatter bombardment causes the telepathic arachnids to go into a state of mental shock, rendering nearby fleets almost completely ineffective. This makes genocidal nuclear / antimatter bombardments not only effective strategically, but also a tactical means to an end. This proves to be the Arachnids' fatal weakness, which humanity and its allies successfully exploit, allowing them to win an otherwise un-winnable war.]] Additionally, nuclear and anti-matter weapons are standard armaments used in deep space combat between opposing fleets of spaceships.
* In Creator/TomKratman's ''Literature/{{Caliphate}}'', the US President reluctantly was pressured by the Secretary of State and Defense to use nuclear weapons on Castle Honsvang in Germany, in case Hamilton fails to destroy a hideout [[spoiler:where three rogue US scientists are hiding to make a powerful virus bioweapon]].
* Creator/JohnRingo's novel ''Literature/IntoTheLookingGlass'' series:
** In the first book Earth was invaded by an alien race called the Dreen, who came through a series of wormhole like portals called Looking Glasses. At first, alien forces were repulsed with conventional weapons, but the invaders eventually deployed much more potent units that completely overwhelmed defending forces. The US president decided to order nuclear attacks on alien forces that broke past the defenders. This was highly effective as a stalling tactic until a way was discovered to close the portals the aliens were using. Several dozen such attacks were carried out over the course of the book.
** In books after the first one, nukes are standard issue for destabilizing active Looking Glasses by detonating them on the far side when there's a threat of a Dreen incursion, to buy time for moving the Earth-side LG to a secure facility in Antarctica, away from any other human civilization.
* ''Literature/TheBigOne'' is built around this trope. In this timeline, a semi-legal coup in Britain takes the British out of the war in 1940, leaving the U.S. to implement warplan AWPD-1 that envisaged a mass air assault on Germany using B-36 bombers. By 1947, the war is hopelessly stalemated and the only way the Allies can end it is to use those B-36s to destroy Germany by nuclear attack. They do. This is TruthInTelevision; AWPD-1 really existed.
* In ''Literature/TheAndromedaStrain'' the facility for studying extraterrestrial pathogens is built on top of a tactical nuke in case of containment breach, in which case the countdown starts automatically, [[spoiler: and has to be shut down after they discover that the bug in question feeds on radiation.]]
* ''A Colder War'' by Creator/CharlesStross. SovietSuperScience has SealedEvilInACan ''[[Franchise/CthulhuMythos Cthulhu]]'' as a WeaponOfMassDestruction. To oppose this, the United States has nuclear-powered bombers on constant patrol, armed with [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supersonic_Low_Altitude_Missile XK-PLUTO]]. "Three hundred megatons of H-bombs pointed at a single target, and nobody was certain it would be enough to do the job." [[spoiler:It's not enough.]]
* ''Literature/TheHungerGames'': Discussed. [[spoiler:Both District 13 and the Capitol have nukes trained on each other, but mutually assured destruction of all humanity keeps them both at bay.]]
* In ''Literature/{{Footfall}}'', amid a hostile alien invasion, the President of the United States asks the relatively unharmed Soviet Union to nuke Kansas, the chief alien landing zone. Later on, the government in exile realizes that the abandoned [[spoiler: Project Orion]] starship is the only way to get enough mass into space to challenge the alien's orbital superiority, and secretly builds an orbital battleship [[spoiler: that propels itself using nuclear explosions, vaporizing its launch site]].

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* In ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'', Malcolm, Reese, and Dewey refer to their ultimate weapon against each other as the "Nuclear Option." Years prior, they tricked Lois into thinking she had cancer by faking her x-rays (they needed to distract their parents while they signed off on their failing report cards), then kept the originals in order to blackmail the other two. If any one of them tried to push one of the brothers to the breaking point, they would reveal the original x-rays to their mother and [[TakingYouWithMe take them all down.]]
* The ''Franchise/{{Stargate|Verse}}'' series loves the bomb. "Nuke it from the inside" is the go-to solution whenever an enemy ship is too powerful, and is attempted regularly, to both success and failure. One was used in the movie, a few were used in ''Series/StargateSG1'', and nukes seem to be the primary weapon of ''Series/StargateAtlantis''. Their starships use nukes as standard armament.
* Captain John "Nuke 'Em" Sheridan from ''Series/BabylonFive''--so nicknamed by actor Bruce Boxleitner, who portrayed him. Despite the nickname, Sheridan did ''not'' [[NukeEm use nukes with a cavalier attitude.]] He's shown to use nukes ''four times'' on-screen:
** During the Earth-Minbari war to destroy a Minbari cruiser (the Black Star; this was Earth's only victory during the war);
** At Z'Ha'Dum, with the White Star as a delivery system, to destroy a major Shadow city on that world[[note]][[TheWarOfEarthlyAggression Not being on good terms with Earth]], he had to use nukes given to him by one of the alien races from the League of Non-Aligned Worlds[[/note]];
** At Coriana VI, to [[DidYouJustFlipOffCthulhu get the attention of the Vorlons and Shadows]];
** And finally, during the TV movie ''Thirdspace'' to destroy [[ArtifactOfDoom the device]] allowing the [[EldritchAbomination Thirdspace Aliens]] into the regular universe. [[note]]On this occasion, he gave up all pretense of brilliant strategy, and took the nuke by hand in an EVA suit to plant the nuke during a pitched space battle. [[LampshadeHanging Even he admitted that idea was kind of nuts.]][[/note]]
** Londo takes a page out of Sheridan's book in "Into the Fire"; when the Shadow ships refuse to leave Centauri Prime, Londo blows up [[SittingDuck the island they're based on]].
** As per the ExpandedUniverse, [=EarthForce=] is quite liberal in the use of nuclear weapons in the middle of large-scale space battles: having started arming their ships with nukes before first contact, they kept them because they were the only weapon they had that could compare to those of the more advanced Centauri, and by the time of the series they remain a mainstay of [=EarthForce=] arsenals as judicious use of nukes proved decisive both in a brief confrontation with the Centauri (when the long-brewing crisis went hot, the sudden and completely unexpected volley of nukes caused enough damage to the local Centauri force to allow the otherwise badly outgunned and outmatched [=EarthForce=] squadron to wipe out a base and all its escorts and convinced the Centauri emperor to settle things peacefully) and, most importantly, the [[GreatOffscreenWar Dilgar War]] (where well-timed and ''immense'' volleys of nukes, fired from both the ''Nova''-class dreadnoughts and dedicated missile cruisers, caused devastating and long-term damage to the Dilgar fleets).
* ''Series/DoctorWho''
** In "The Poison Sky", UNIT attempts to use the world's nuclear weapons to take out the Sontarans, but fails when the [[TheMole Sontaran mole]] ([[spoiler:Clone Martha]]) sabotages their computer systems. In any case the Doctor notes that 'nuclear missiles wouldn't even scratch' the Sontaran ships.
** The Osterhagen Project from the season 4 two-part finale ("The Stolen Earth/Journey's End") was a series of 25 nukes embedded in critical locations in the Earth's crust, so we could blow the planet apart if humanity's prospects were so bleak that killing the entire planet and its population was a desirable option. The nukes were amplified by alien technology in order to give them the oomph needed.
* Nuclear weapons are used on occasion in ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}''. The most infamous use would be the Cylon nuking of the Twelve Colonies, though that is generally portrayed as entirely ''in''appropriate use of unprovoked force throughout the series, with many of the Cylons themselves realizing later that it was actually their (or at least their leaders') own paranoid [[ItsTheOnlyWayToBeSure Only Way To Be Sure]] in regards to the possible threat posed by humanity.
** Nukes are also frequently used as ship-to-ship weapons in open space, a justified use. In the pilot miniseries ''Galactica'' survives one direct hit from a Cylon nuke, though several compartments have to be sealed off and many crewmen die.
* In the original ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|1978}}'' episode "Experiment in Terra", the Galactica comes across a planet where one nation has launched nuclear weapons against another nation, which launched weapons in retaliation.
* ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries''. A Romulan commander used an "old-style" nuclear weapon against the Starship Enterprise in the episode "Balance of Terror". It did considerable damage, including radiation damage to many of the crew members.

* Invoked with the "Ruiner" table in ''VideoGame/RuinerPinball,'' as avoiding nuclear war is not an option.

[[folder: Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/EclipsePhase'': When the [[AIIsACrapshoot TITANS]] started sending out drones to saw off people's heads world governments threw not just nukes but orbital kinetics and antimatter at them. It barely slowed them down and just made earth and large parts of many other planets utterly inhospitable to transhumans. Now ten years later [[WellIntentionedExtremist Firewall]] is all too quick to use [=WMDs=] on Exsurgent sites if the Sentinels (i.e. the players) they send in fail to destroy it with less collateral damage.
** The adventure in the quick-start guide alone has two instances. First when the [=PCs=] are on a ship infested with a virulent nanoswarm and once they report back to Firewall a missile is launched at them. And again when they (or their [[BodyBackupDrive backups]]) find a WMD cache on Mars an asteroid is redirected to flatten it unless the [=PCs=] detonate the antimatter bomb there.
** The supplement dedicated to Firewall includes stats for antimatter grenades. The larger version vaporizes everything in a 1-km radius.
* In the ''TabletopGame/OldWorldOfDarkness'' [[TheEndofTheWorldAsWeKnowIt Gehenna]] scenario, this is the [[TabletopGame/MageTheAscension Technocracy]]'s answer to the [[PhysicalGod Ravnos Antediluvian]] rising. Well, OK, it was repeated applications of [[{{Magitek}} Prime-enhanced]] spirit-shredding nuclear warheads, followed by the three most powerful Kuei Jin alive throwing down on Ravnos for several days while underneath a hurricane created by their powers to block out the sunlight, followed by the Technocracy focusing the power of the sun on Ravnos ''five times over'' by using multiple redundant orbital solar mirrors, at which point -- already completely exhausted of blood by his three-day kung fu vampire throwdown and having been repeatedly nuked in both his immaterial and his material body -- Ravnos finally turned to ash and died.
* In the category of {{Fantastic Nuke}}s, the use of [[EarthShatteringKaboom Exterminatus]] in ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000'' varies between this and NukeEm DependingOnTheWriter. For every time that a fanatical Inquisitor orders the destruction of an innocent, loyal Imperial world, there are a hundred where the threat is [[HordeOfAlienLocusts so extreme]], [[LegionsOfHell so vile]], [[TheCorruption so insidious]], or [[RobotWar so entrenched]] that destroying the entire planet really is the reasoned, logical approach.
** Also of note is the Deathstrike Missile Launcher, a mobile ''ICBM launcher'' available to the Imperial Guard for the bargain price of ''160 points'', or about three squads of {{Redshirt}}s.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 4}}'', in order to halt the Institute from bringing the terror upon Commonwealth with their synthetic humans, you must nuke the entire facility to shut down the Institute for good. The quest name is also called "[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Nuclear Option]]". Oddly enough, the other option is to [[spoiler: join the Institute and change it by becoming the Director of the Institute itself]].
* Raccoon City is nuked in the ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'' series after most of the populace has been zombified, because ItsTheOnlyWayToBeSure. Whether or not ''actual'' nukes were used, however, is the subject of much debate among fans.
** ''[[Anime/ResidentEvilDegeneration Degeneration]]'', the spin-off CGI movie, confirms that nuclear missiles were actually used.
** Somewhat murky because the various games have shown the city to be hit by a nuke (or possibly a MOAB), three lower-yield nuclear missiles, and a sustained barrage of conventional Air-to-Ground missiles.
* ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' has nukes as standard armament on human ships, though in generally small numbers. A typical human ship will have an offensive armament of a [[MagneticWeapons MAC cannon]], ten or twenty missile pods with [[MacrossMissileMassacre dozens of missiles each]], and three or four nukes. Unfortunately for humanity, Covenant ship shields are strong enough to resist standard nukes; one way to get around that is by having your Spartans deliver a football-sized nuclear bomb (like a HAVOK) to the ''inside'' of a Covenant ship.
** The last mission of ''VideoGame/{{Halo 4}}'' involves you trying to blow up [[spoiler:the BigBad's Forerunner ship]] with a HAVOK.
* In Bungie's earlier ''VideoGame/{{Marathon}}'' series, nukes are instead the favored weapon of ''the marauding aliens''. The Pfhor deployed them without pause against the ancient S'pht, your colony at Tau Ceti, and against [[ThatsNoMoon the Marathon herself]]. Of course, when that fails, it's time to break out [[EarthShatteringKaboom the Trih'Xeems]].
* The ''Franchise/MetalGear'' series is named after and revolves around HumongousMecha that can launch nuclear missiles, and your job is to destroy them. It also features a use of the 'Davy Crockett' hand-held nuclear missile launcher at one point.
* The ending of ''VideoGame/{{Resistance}} 2'' has the heroes attempting to use a [[strike:nuke]] fission bomb to destroy the Chimeran fleet. [[spoiler:It actually works as planned, but the ending implies Hale was [[YouAreTooLate too late]] to stop the Chimera's master plan, leading to a SequelHook.]]
* The flash game Exmortis 2 has a nuke being dropped in the midst of an invading horde of demons, in the middle of the USA. It doesn't stop them at all, but it proves to everyone how truly fucked they are.
* Midway through ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'', the only way to destroy the shield of the massive Leviathan Seed poisoning the planet Elysia is to assemble and drop a Chozo Theronian Thermonuclear Bomb on it, which [[spoiler:successfully works]].
* In a much smaller scale, the Large Missiles (and later, Kojima Missiles) in ''VideoGame/ArmoredCore'' series. Kojima missiles are [[NuclearWeaponsTaboo eerily close to real nuclear weapons]].
* In ''Franchise/MassEffect'', salarian STG captain Kirrahe determines that re-purposing his ship's drive core as a twenty-kiloton nuke is the only way to destroy Saren's krogan cloning facility on Virmire and needs your help to make it happen.
** And then there's "Arrival", where Shepard sets off The Project [[spoiler: an asteroid ramship that hits an active Mass Relay]], setting off an artificial supernova that kills 300,000 Batarian civilians. The disaster averted? [[spoiler: The eponymous Arrival of the Reapers, which would have spelled doom for the entire galaxy, is pushed back a few more months, giving the Citadel races precious time to prepare. Which they don't appear to use at all leading to the near destruction of the batarians and almost everyone else]].
** The "Miracle at Palaven" is the result of a joint battle between the Turians and Krogans against the invading Reapers where the Krogans carried nuclear devices into Reaper harvesting ships and detonated them. It's noted that while this hampered the Reaper invasion considerably, all of the Turian captives were killed as a result.
* In the ''VideoGame/StarCraft'' franchise, Terran military forces routinely employ tactical nuclear weapons against their opponents. Given the raw strength of Protoss forces and the sheer numbers of Zerg forces, usage of nuclear arms is completely justified for them.
** Specifically, in ''Brood War'', Admiral Stukov notes wryly that because Korhal was ''already'' [[NukeEm sterilized by a Confederate scorched-earth response]] in the backstory to the first game, Mengsk has no compunctions about using them freely. In ''Heart of the Swarm'', General Warfield is also pretty liberal about using his (he even remarks "time for the nuclear option" when beginning his counterattack), but then he is on [[LethalLavaLand Char]]. It's not like he can make it ''worse''.
* In ''VideoGame/SwordOfTheStars'', the first Hiver fleet that [[DeathFromAbove visited humanity]] was driven off only after Earth broke out its ICBM stockpile. In-game, your missile warhead options ''start'' at nuclear fission and go up from there.
* The Earthling Cruisers from ''VideoGame/StarControl'' carry fire-and-forget homing nukes and point-defense laser systems as standard. The nukes are leftovers from a previous war, stored in underground 'Peace Vaults' for about fifty years. Worth noting that the other races of the Alliance were ''very'' pleased to see that Earthlings had a large supply of nukes lying around; most of them had dismantled their nuclear arsenals long ago, but now they were facing an enemy against whom a powerful weapon like a nuke would be quite handy.
* FantasticNuke category: in the final mission of ''VideoGame/WarcraftIII'', Furion decides to mount a final DesperationAttack using a booby-trap on the sacred Mount Hyjal, with the elves' World Tree as bait. The massive explosion results in the destruction of thousands of night elven spirits, severe damage to the World Tree (though the epilogue narrator notes that it "will heal in time"), and the loss of their immortality, [[TheExtremistWasRight but it works]].
* Setting one is the whole plot of the first ''VideoGame/GearsOfWar'' (well, a "Lightmass bomb" rather than a nuclear bomb, but the results are similar).
* In ''VideoGame/{{Xenonauts}}'', Nuclear Option is a significant part of the back story, since this is how the [[PunyEarthlings Iceland Incident]] ended. [[spoiler:This is also what happens if you don't deal with a terror site in time.]]
* In ''VideoGame/ParasiteEve'', as of Day 5 all efforts to kill Eve have been unsuccessful. The U.S. Navy attempted an airstrike on her via carrier-launched fighters but that failed when Eve [[SnipingTheCockpit melted the pilots]] when they got within range of her. Things [[FromBadToWorse got worse]] when she then fuses with [[AttackOfTheFiftyFootWhatever an enormous monstrosity]] that is made out of the [[GreyGoo liquified genetic matter of hundreds of New York residents]] and [[MonumentalDamage infests the Statue of Liberty.]] It is at this point that the White House authorizes the use of a nuclear warhead to destroy Eve. [[spoiler: It actually works: the giant monster is killed, but Eve survives the blast. However, [[TheHero Aya]] is on hand to finish the job.]]
* The intro for ''Outpost'' states that a nuclear weapon was launched against the asteroid "Vulcan's Hammer", in collision course with Earth, in order to attempt to change its path (even if the animations showing it being destroyed into tiny pieces). It failed and just broke it instead in two large fragments that striked our planet.

* In ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'', when the demons of the Dimension of Pain invade and conquer the USA of the PerfectPacifistPeople Dimension of Lame, UsefulNotes/TheEuropeanUnion and Soviets decide the GodzillaThreshold has been crossed and they must use a nuke...[[spoiler:however, in this dimension, NUKE is an acronym for Notification of Unified Kindness Envelopes, and it's just a missile containing thousands of leaflets politely asking them to stop]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* The Wiki/SCPFoundation has a [[BigBulkyBomb ten megaton nuclear warhead]] located under each one of their containment Sites. This is justified because if whatever they were containing got out, it'd be a FateWorseThanDeath for humanity as a whole.
** Defied in the case of SCP-682, the [[InvincibleVillain Hard-to-Destroy Reptile]]. Since it adapts and weaponizes anything used against it, they are ''extremely'' reluctant to throw a nuke at it, for fear of what it could become if it survived (and all evidence says that it ''would'' survive).
-->Notes: One would think that putting SCP-682 in the epicenter of an explosion that can cause third-degree burns at a distance of 300 km is a good idea, but as long as there are odds of survival we simply cannot go through with it. Yes, it's a goddamn nuke, but if 682 [[FromASingleCell survives]] and [[AdaptiveAbility adapts]] we'd be boned beyond belief. [[ReasonableAuthorityFigure O5-█]]
** In addition, at least one nuclear device has gone off in Roleplay/ActiveDuty.
* In ''AudioPlay/WereAlive'' after [[OurZombiesAreDifferent grown-up "Little Ones"]] reach [[spoiler: Boulder]]. Col. Kimmet decides to activate the nuclear fail-safe beneath the city.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Discussed and prevented in the first episode of ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague''. Superman had got the UN to let him dismantling all the world's nukes... only for the Earth to be immediately invaded by aliens after humans no longer had a Nuclear Option (one of the major supports for the move was an alien pretending to be human). Later episodes had nuclear weapons, so most likely they rebuilt the to ward off more alien invasions.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* [[UsefulNotes/HarryTruman President Truman]] chose to utilize the Nuclear Option in the Air Force's de-urbanisation campaign before using it in the Allied campaign to occupy the Japanese home islands (first phase November 1945, Operation Olympic, part of the larger Operation Downfall). If all it did was start firestorms that would raze two of the four marginally important cities that it had proven impossible to set afire like the other 82 (87 including those four plus Kyoto, but Kyoto was taken off the list), at the cost of just four flights' worth of fuel and a few dozen men's wages instead of the fuel and bombs and pay for many thousands of planes and men, then that was an obvious saving - the USA would have as many bombs as it needed by November, so why not use these two now? But if the bombings convinced the Japanese that the USA was producing so many nuclear weapons that it could afford to waste two of these incredibly expensive superbombs on razing two cities of very marginal military value (given the virtual shutdown of the entire Japanese economy) and have enough to spare for the invasion, then that might convince the Japanese to surrender before the guaranteed-to-succeed-at-minimal-cost invasion even began. [[UsefulNotes/AtomicBombingsOfHiroshimaAndNagasaki It worked: all Japanese estimates of American A-Bomb productivity concurred that they would at least have the handful necessary to catastrophically undermine command-and-control of Japanese forces attempting to repel the American invasion, and some speculated (because their own programme was not sufficiently advanced to gauge this effectively) that the Americans might have many dozens or even hundreds of weapons within the next few months or even at that very moment.]]
* Hypothetically, an option that might be considered to destroy an asteroid if it were about to strike the earth. However it's not considered a very good option except for fairly small ones, a large one might be broken into several large pieces that might collectively be more dangerous than the intact asteroid, as not only are there now several asteroid fragments, but now they're radioactive, too.
* Colonel Stanislav Petrov very nearly came to this conclusion in late 1983, when he saw what looked like 5 [=ICBMs=] inbound to Moscow while on duty at an early-warning center. Fortunately, he was mistrustful of the newly-installed system (which was malfunctioning -- the satellites had picked up a rare reflection at just the right angle over the right portion of the US to spoof the IR signatures of launching [=ICBMs=]), [[OnlySaneMan and rational enough to realize that launching only five warheads as a first strike was suicidally foolish]]; otherwise, he might have deemed it a US first strike and would have alerted his superiors in the Soviet Union (at that point absolutely paranoid that the US was imminently planning such a sneak attack) who would have ordered a "counter" strike against the "attack"... the upshot of which is that we probably would be too busy being radioactive dust or having never been born to be reading Wiki/TVTropes right here and now. Petrov himself was neither punished nor rewarded for the incident. Though he found himself HauledBeforeASenateSubCommittee, it was concluded that he had acted properly and sensibly in the situation, but since the incident demonstrated several technical problems with the early warning system, and therefore was an embarrassment his superiors and the influential scientists who were responsible for it, Petrov was ultimately just quietly transferred to a less important post and his story was not told until after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
** Less reassuring still has been the recent revelation that at that time some US military planners were advocating a multi-weapon "decapitation" strike upon the Soviet Union (though their proposals were rejected). If Soviet spies had been better at their jobs, then news of these proposals would have reached Soviet early-warning center staff members - and the odds off us being here to read this would have been even slimmer.
* In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks UsefulNotes/GeorgeWBush was presented such an option to launch a nuclear attack on who was responsible. Whatever else can be said about that man, he turned it down.