Adam: Let's go; there's a nuke. Just telling you again.When faced with a Monster of the Week, military commanders show an unhealthy urge to move right up to the (current) Final Option (or the local equivalent) when the monster can't be killed with bullets. They never stop to consider using something else in their arsenal that's a bit more powerful than a rifle, but won't cause as much collateral damage as a tactical-yield nuclear bomb. It's all or nothing. If hand-held guns didn't do the trick, forget artillery, tanks, bunker-busters, fuel-air explosives, chemical or biological agents, just get the nukes. The heroes will probably object to this, only to be told that there's no time to "study the monster", it has to be taken out now (along with every other living thing inside a radius of five kilometers) before it gets bigger and destroys more things! From there, it becomes a race to see if the good-guy scientists can find the monster's Achilles' Heel or get the Forgotten Superweapon back online before the Army gets its approval to start lobbing warheads. Of course, if the Army wins the race, it's likely that the nukes will either do nothing, or make things much, much worse, making the heroes the last hope. As such, note that Nuke Em is only when using nukes is a bad idea, either because it's clearly overkill or it's likely to backfire. If it's a well-considered and reasonable choice given the situation, then it's the Nuclear Option. Sometimes exactly which trope the planned nuking falls under may be debated In-Universe. Very common in Science Is Bad stories and usually involves a General Ripper (in fact, the Trope Namer for General Ripper made this his signature). A popular way of ruining someone's day with Death from Above. Related to the Idiot Ball, depending on the size of the strike. Related to Deus Ex Nukina if the nuking is being used in a situation where it should be obvious that it realistically wouldn't have any effect, fallout and massive collateral damage aside. For the biological weapon equivalent, see Biological Weapons Solve Everything. If you happen to be playing a video game, and you're directly responsible for launching it, it's a You Nuke 'Em situation. See also: Five Rounds Rapid, Immune to Bullets, The Evil Army and Radiation-Immune Mutants. Not related to the incredibly egotistic alien-slaughterer of the same name.
Herman: That's what they do to everything; it didn't work in Independence Day.
Herman: That's what they do to everything; it didn't work in Independence Day.
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Anime & Manga
Manga and anime is mostly immune to this, due to the Nuclear Weapons Taboo. In fact, expect the opposite to be true: that even if it's proven that nothing but a nuke would work, there will be extreme resistance to the idea. Darker and Edgier such stories may even play this straight, of those responsible for finally pressing the button considering everything up to ritual suicide, as a result of guilt.
- In 7 Seeds, the Fuji Ship during the Minor Heat arc is basically an armoury stacked to the roof with guns, rifles, revolvers, anything that shoots bullets. Like the other Fuji shelters, it was built to sustain over time and the meteor impact, housing a big number of people to keep them safe. The ship did have another purpose, though, which was this Trope! If the people on the ship thought that things were absolutely hopeless and there was no chance of recovery, they were to activate the rockets on the ship. These rockets, which included one nuclear warhead, were to be shot out and rain all over Japan, killing everyone. This sequence would also start the self-destruct sequence of the ship, sealing all exits and exploding after the rockets were launched with a 24 Hour span of time after the activation of this sequence. Needless to say, the plot of the Minor Heat arc is to prevent this from happening.
- In Hunter ◊ Hunter Mereum, the main villain of the Chimera Ant Arc, was so powerful he literally was unbeatable. The strongest man in the world at the time could not even put a scratch on him, let alone defeat him. So he set off a nuke stored inside his body, in an attempt to kill Mereum... Except he survives and only dies hours later because of radiation poisoning.
- Amusing case in Neon Genesis Evangelion: The army do try almost everything in their arsenal before resorting to N2 mines, and when they fail decide giant human shaped robots are the best bet.
- "Believing a giant human shaped robot is the best bet" only occurred after the first two episodes at least: based on the conversation with Gendo Ikari after expending their N2 mines, their thought process was more towards "we've used all of our strongest options. Let's see your inferior robot do better". And Nerv showed them, yes, they can do better... and since, the army asked for Evangelion intervention with haste every other time an Angel appeared. ... "Eva 'em"?
- Another reason the N2 mines weren't used was because they'd incapacitate the Angel... and drastically alter the ground around it (the characters remark on redrawing the map more than once). Contrast the Eva's, who at most will level a part of the (already submerged) city.
- The Macross series are an exception to the Nuclear Weapons Taboo, although its reaction weaponry isn't nuclear per se — it's an annihilation weapon, that is, an antimatter charge (and is itself eventually surpassed in power by dimension/fold weapons, which warp spacetime itself):
- Macross Zero: The propelling force of the final episode's bizarre ending is that, just after the hero has used The Power of Love to subdue the monster controlled by his girlfriend, the navy launches nukes and makes everything worse. Though, admittedly, every other ship with smaller weapons was wiped out ten minutes ago.
- Macross 7: Lampshade hung in that, for all that it's implied that nuclear weapons are a weapon of last resort (Earth Command authorizing their use is seen as a big thing), every ship in the fleet seems to have unlimited stores of them (probably because the Protodeviln ship commanding their enemies is just that tough). At one point, Basara even exclaims "Reaction weapons! Reaction Weapons! Any time something goes wrong, is that the only solution you have?!"
- Macross Frontier shows that even chronically redshirted NUNS (New United Nations Spacey) pilots could be pretty effective when armed with the stuff. Of course, arming everyone with such weapons means that the NUNS forces on board the Frontier are reaching the end of their rope, as the Vajra have managed to adapt to everything else (and, eventually, adapt to reaction warheads too...).
- The Robotech adaptation of Super Dimension Fortress Macross also features judicious use of nuclear weapons and their 'reaction' upgrades, here called 'reflex weapons'.
- In Legend of Galactic Heroes, because of the "Thirteen Day War" that occurred centuries before the canon timeline, which nearly exterminated the human race, nuclear weapons on planets were considered a taboo. Still doesn't mean none are willing nuke their own planets just because.
- Happens in Getter Robo Go, after Shin Getter Robo goes berserk they various governments make several attempts to try and stop it, eventually resorting to a nuclear strike. The machine ends up grabbing the missile and combining with it
- Bleach had Soi Fon, of all people pulling this as Bankai. Naturally, she didn't like its nature.
- There's also the Kidou Cannon from the first movie.
- In Code Geass, Britannia decides to go with nuking things as soon as they get them. They decide to give the first one to Suzaku, who really doesn't want to do it, but he ends up doing it anyway. Schneizel takes this to the logical conclusion of nuking every major city in the world to achieve world peace.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny nuking ZAFT is Blue Cosmos leaders Muruta Azrael and Lord Djibril's first response. ZAFT creates devices like the Neutron Jammer and Neutron Stampeder to make sure that it can't happen again. The Neutron Jammer inhibits nuclear reactions from taking place, and is ZAFT's primary defense during SEED. Since the Blue Cosmos gets its hands on Neutron Jammer Canceller technology late in the warnote , nukes become a viable weapon again. In the aftermath of the war, ZAFT is Genre Savvy enough to know that mere illegality won't keep N-Jammer Cancellers from being used again someday. So they develop a much nastier defense in the form of the Neutron Stampeder, which forces any nuclear warhead within its area of effect to detonate. Thus, when Blue Cosmos attempts a preemptive nuclear strike early in SEED Destiny, the Stampeder is activated and the nuclear-armed fleet is forced to nuke itself.
- Nukes were also the first weapons deployed in the One Year War of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, by both Zeon and the Earth Federation. The Antarctic Treaty banning nukes (and biological/chemical weapons too) came about because before either side knew it, nearly half the human population had been wiped out in the space of a few weeks.
- In Gundam 0083, the Earth Federation develops the Gundam GP02A "Physalis", designed for the express purpose of tactical strikes; it's armed with a bazooka that launches nuclear warheads and a massive shield packed with radiators to help it weather the shockwaves and heat generated by the nuke. Zeon remnants steal the Physalis and use it to attack the Federation's naval review as part of their master plan: a Colony Drop on North America.
- Nukes show up again in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack as Londo Bell is forced to take up a bunch of nuclear missiles to stop Axis from falling. However, Neo Zeon steals most of them to shove into Axis, forcing Londo Bell to use what's left.
- Nukes pop up again in full force in Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam, when the Jupiter Empire invades the Earth Sphere. Crux Dogatie dismisses claims of violating the Antarctic Treaty by saying that Jupiter never signed it. Dogatie is also using nukes because he's explicitly trying to inflict as much environmental damage as possible to Earth; he wanted the planet to be a dead rock. The Crossbone Vanguard uses their own tactical nuclear weapons against the Jovian forces, due mostly to the Godzilla Threshold having been crossed in their opinion.
- Turn A Gundam expressly defies the Nuclear Weapons Taboo, with Militia forces uncovering a stockpile of warheads left over from the Dark History. The Moonrace tries to warn them about how dangerous the warheads are, but the Militia doesn't heed the warning until after they accidentally detonated one. Afterwards, Loran carries the remaining nukes in the Turn A's chest silos for several episodes, eventually using them to destroy a runaway space station before it can fall on Earth.
- Subverted in Preacher. When the Saint of Killers obviously isn't falling to the forces of Starr's soldiers, Starr declares the battle lost and drops a nuke, wiping out the rest of his troops. Then the Saint emerges from the blast site. His only words? "Not enough gun."
- In Atomic Robo this is the hero's response to a giant moving pyramid headed toward Luxor.
Robo: I didn't found this crazy organization to not nuke things.
- In a lengthy story arc where The Mighty Thor had gained the powers of Odin and became a Well-Intentioned Extremist, the government lured him to a deserted island and nuked him. It's debatable whether this would have worked on normal Thor, but all it did to Odin-powered Thor was anger him to the point of crossing a Moral Event Horizon.
- In Kingdom Come, this is the government's response to the super hero war that threatens to engulf the world.
- In World War Hulk, someone suggested Nuking the Hulk and his Warbound. Maria Hill pointed out that this would just make him stronger.
- The default strategy of Bio Apocalypse is to saturate the monster with nukes. When it only hurts the monster but fails to stop it, they launch even more. When that doesn't work they unleash a device that fires 50 nukes per second! And while it royally fucks up the monster, even THAT doesn't work. Beyond just using nukes as a go-to weapon of choice, Nuke Em seems to be the default strategy for everything, but considering the setting of the story, it makes sense in context.
- In The Secret History, the nuke dropped on Nagasaki was really just to kill William de Lecce. It's a matter of speculation whether he's really dead or not.
- Cheshire, of DC Comics, famously once destroyed Qurac with a nuclear explosive to prove that she wasn't bluffing about having nukes or being willing to use them. It gets brought up from time to time, but nobody really cares about the country itself being gone. And this was the reason why she chose Qurac, because she knew if most people tried to call her a monster because of it they would be reminded that she destroyed a country considered to be the terrorist capital of the world, and that secretly, they may have been glad she did it. She murdered millions just to troll the world, and laughed as the country burned.
- A Crown of Stars: Jinnaiís reaction to the taking of his fleet is trying to turn Buenos Aires and a chunk of Argentina into a smoking crater by launching dozens of nukes.
- Adoption Nightmare: What do you think when an annoying AI Civilization keeps on bugging you? Brina suggests this trope after taking the cities that are in anarchy.
- Evangelion 303: At least one of the members of the Senate Subcommittee overseeing the Black Project Evangelion maintains that the best way to deal with Seele was nuking the whole country where they were hiding in lieu of building Evangelions to launch a pre-emptive targeted raid.
- In Shinji And Warhammer 40 K, when Gendo asks Kaji how many UN warheads, dirty (nuclear) bombs or otherwise, are pointed at Tokyo-3 in case Misato and Risuko's plan against Iruel fails, Kaji's reply...namely, all of them, meets with his satisfaction.
- Thousand Shinji: Nukes are used all over the place to finish an enemy or Nerv itself.
- Gods Angels And Kings: Shamshel is hit with an N2 mine instead of Sachiel in this story. Godzilla is also hit with one when he goes on his literal Roaring Rampage of Rescue. It doesn't even slow his stride.
- The Grand Empire somewhat does this to Madara and his Zetsu's. But it is implied that they first had someone check to see what the impact of the fallout would be. Their plan for the effects of the fallout makes it this trope.
- In Project Tatterdemalion, the top authorities involved initially wanted to nuke the facility after the Hollows began rampaging. Bad idea. As Juushirou explains, heat and radiation kill a lot of things, but only if they're contained long enough. If the Hollow virus was sporific, all nuking the facility would've done is pop open the box the Hollows were kept in, and spread still-infectious Hollow bits up into the jetstream, dooming the world...and infecting the spaceports. And as Juushirou said, all they knew for certain was 'Alien,' and 'Dangerous,' so it could've indeed been sporific, or close enough for an apocalypse.
- In the Deva Series the Americans use a pair of SLBMs to obliterate a massive swarm of Seeds that were heading for either New York or London. Even though nothing else significant was harmed — middle of the ocean, and all — Hayate was not happy, since she feels that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch now for someone to think to launch a barrage of nukes at Al Hanthis... which would obliterate Cairo in the process. Also, the Al Hantheans are utterly horrified once they learn exactly how nuclear weapons work. It is probably worth noting that there is In-Universe debate as to whether this was Nuke Em or Nuclear Option; it did work, and Yussef and Maunders don't consider it an overreaction. Yussef notes that point defences now make anything short of a nuclear Macross Missile Massacre worthless against Al Hanthis and would rather not use another if possible, but is mentally prepared to do so if all the chips are down, unlike Hayate who absolutely refuses to consider it.
- In Mr. Evil's Ben 10 fanfiction Hero High: Sphinx Academy, the Head of the Tempus Family questions why they can't just Nuke the city school they know the Big Bad to be in. Her assistants reveal that from the structural design he already re-enforced the school to protected it against such an attack.
- Fallout: Equestria: Need to get rid of the queen of a brutally pragmatic Hive Mind AND the Zebra Necronomicon at the same time? Blow both of them to atoms with the same balefire bomb! It works.
- An End To All Things: Someone nukes the town in the opening act, according to Okazaki's memories. Or will nuke the town, the story has a measure of Anachronic Order with regards to that event.
- Discord's plan to destroy humanity in Diaries of a Madman involved this. It worked, but not quite well enough for his goals...
- Eugenesis notes that a lot of Cybertron's surface has been nuked over the course of the war. Since its inhabitants are robots, it's not as dangerous for them as it would be for most lifeforms, but most of the nuked cities are long abandoned anyway.
- Zero 2 A Revision: When Shaun attempts to head to Little Edo to gather up reinforcements in hopes of gathering a resistance against the Digimon Emperor, the entire population of Little Edo ends up getting brainwashed along with a "surprise" should he manage to survive for two hours: a freakin nuclear warhead that the Emperor chucks towards Little Edo to prevent The Ace from interfering with his plans. Had Davis and (Agumon) not arrived in time, Shaun would have been outright obliterated by it.
Films — Animation
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, the robot probe is found to be indestructible and the President wants to simply launch all the nuclear missiles on him when General Monger stops him.
- The Iron Giant has a sequence where paranoid intelligence agent Kent Mansley prompts a nuclear strike on the Giant because he wanted to see the Giant destroyed, rashly ordering it by grabbing the radio from the General that was about to have them stand down, as the situation was over. The General then asks "WHERE'S THE GIANT, MANSLEY?!" Which is about 50 feet from him.
Films — Live-Action
- When asked how to deal with the Xenomorph threat in Aliens, Ellen Ripley responds with the famous line "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." In hope of a different answer the Corrupt Corporate Executive asks Corporal Hicks for his advice and he repeats the same thing. Of course, Ripley turns out to have been right in this case, and anyway there was only one uninfected person left alive in the colony. The line is frequently acknowledged in other mediums.
- After being made aware of the aliens' plan to exterminate the human race and strip Earth of all its resources by means of a telepathic vision, a furiously badass President Whitmore in Independence Day gives the order to "Nuke 'em. Let's nuke the bastards." Subsequently, a U.S. stealth bomber attacks the alien spaceship over Houston, Texas with a nuclear weapon, which predictably, has no effect on the spacecraft whatsoever. See also: Hope Spot
- Extended in Evolution, but it uses napalm. The army gets napalm to destroy a lifeform, just after the protagonist discovers a smaller sample expands by many times after being touched by fire. They tell the army, they attack anyway and the monster becomes about a million times bigger.
- And then the scientists kill it with shampoo.
- The scientists were unable to pass on their specific information because the general in charge was an asshole who refused to take their call.
- Subverted in Mars Attacks!: Nothing Earth has done thus far can so much as scratch the Martians. The General Ripper has spent the movie insisting on using nuclear weapons, and the President, depressed at how nothing is working, finally gives the go-ahead. The Martian response to a nuke headed their way is... a small flying nozzle which intercepts the missile and sucks up the explosion. The Martian leader inhales the explosive gas and speaks with a squeaky voice, as though the gas were helium. It's possible that this was a subtle joke: when you fuse hydrogen (as in a hydrogen/fusion bomb), you get helium.
- Subverted too in the 1953 version of The War Of The Worlds. The military throws everything against the Martians before reluctantly turning to a nuke as a last resort. Notably the civilian scientist hero does not, unlike his counterpart in Independence Day, object to the use of nukes. The nuke fails to do anything to the Martians. Unlike the original H.G. Wells novel, in which the Martians are vulnerable to Earthly weapons, but theirs are so much more powerful that resistance is futile once the element of surprise is lost.
- In King Kong vs. Godzilla the military actually seriously considers nuking Kong. Luckily the heroes manage to find an alternative. Although, this proposal only appears in the English version.
- In The Return of Godzilla, not only did nuking him not work, it made him stronger. Nukes against Godzilla. Smart thinking, guys. That's like using a flamethrower against the Human Torch.
- Variation-In the 1991 film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, present-day Japan decides to nuke the Godzillasaurus that would've become Godzilla (who is now at the bottom of the Bering Sea) so that he can fight King Ghidorah. Subverted in that, he's already been nuked/mutated...in a sense (by absorbing the radiation from all the sunken nuclear subs already present in the area) and nuking him...again...only makes him bigger and far more powerful than before.
- It should be noted that Godzilla can die from too much radiation (as seen in the film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah). The only problem is that doing so causes him to go into a nuclear meltdown which would result in destroying all life on earth and reducing the earth to a wasteland. Unless you have an adolescent Godzilla (IE: Junior) around to absorb the radiation and reach his adult form.
- In Godzilla (2014), Serizawa explains that at least some Pacific nuclear tests were not tests, but attempts to nuke the monster. Stenz intends to try and eliminate all three monsters with warheads, but this ends up backfiring when the female steals two from a train, and the Male steals the third one after it has been armed, and takes it to the centre of San Francisco.
- Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. is a weird case :The "Predalien" has already managed to overrun the entire town with its more classically-styled offspring. The military solution, after the recon unit sent in is quickly butchered? Nuke the town and tell those still alive to congregate in the center of the town for an airlift, so as to keep the aliens from spreading out. While this decision is completely justified given the circumstances, it's strange that they settle for that option so fast, given how little information they have on the threat.
- The Abyss. While suffering from paranoia, Coffey decides to destroy the aliens by sending down an armed nuclear warhead.
- From RoboCop (1987): 'Get them before they get you... Nukem!'
- The Return of the Living Dead. They nuke the zombies (and all the main characters in the process), but, of course, that just causes the zombification juice to re-enter the atmosphere and create more zombies. Good going, dumbasses.
- In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the remaining human faction worships a fully functional cobalt bomb.
- The Andromeda Strain has this subverted, in that the scientists order the nuking but the message doesn't get through due to For Want of a Nail.
- In the Sci-Fi channel movie Baal Lord of Storms, the military considers nuking a storm front. While it's clearly the wrong option, there's a techno-babble reason given (something to do with disrupting electro-magnetic waves) to make it merely a bad idea and not simply a completely cracked out of their mind idea. Ironically it actually helps by weakening Baal enough for El, the God the heroes have summoned to defeat him.
- In the original Stargate movie, Colonel O'Neil secretly brings a nuke through the Stargate with the team on its very first exploration mission. His orders? Nuke the place if there's any sign of hostiles. They end up using the nuke to kill Ra.
- In The Avengers, the World Security Council decides that the Avengers are going to lose the final battle and decide to just nuke Manhattan Island (along with all its inhabitants) to disrupt the wormhole through which the Chitauri army is invading. Tony winds up nearly sacrificing himself to guide the nuke into space and chuck it at the alien ship instead. Needless to say, neither Nick Fury nor any of the Avengers were particularly impressed by their stellar display of competence.
Fury: I realize that the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I've elected to ignore it.
- How the first few Kaiju were defeated in Pacific Rim. Jaegers were developed specifically because no-one liked the idea of having to do this repeatedly. In the end, it's their creators' turn.
- Same as Independence Day, Oblivion has the protagonist Jack Harper smuggled a nuke to the alien ship Tet and detonate it to save humanity. Only difference is that the hero dies with the alien ship.
- Subverted in the book and the 1971 film version of The Andromeda Strain. The titular extraterrestrial organism (a single-celled, quasi-crystalline life form) mutates as it's exposed to ionizing radiation - at a rather sedate rate under atmospheric UV exposure, extremely rapidly with more powerful sources. Of course, the secure biohazard laboratory where this bug is being studied is equipped with a thermonuclear device for "terminal sterilization" in case of contamination, and the lab becomes contaminated when the organism mutates to a form that degrades organic polymers, thus compromising the synthetic rubber gaskets and hatch seals throughout the lab. Failsafe Failure ensues. The greatest Irony in all that was that with mutation into the "rubber-eating" form the organism stopped being dangerous to humans (which was just an unfortunate coincidence anyway), but subjecting it to the radiation of a nuclear blast might mutate it into something even more horrific.
- This trope is the final solution to the ensuing Hell on Earth in John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming. It almost doesn't work.
- In Day by Day Armageddon, the US Government decides to nuke most of the major US cities due to the spread of zombies getting out of hand. Unfortunately, this doesn't fix things, because the zombies who weren't caught in the nuke blasts absorbed the radiation and it somehow turned them from slow zombies into fast zombies. Obviously, these people have not read The Zombie Survival Guide, which specifically argues against this (for pretty much this very same reason).
- Victoria has a rare case: nuclear weapons used for crowd control. When a series of Black gangs overthrow the civic government of Atlanta and declare "the Commune." The hero, John Rumford, decides to nuke the whole city, stealing the bomb to do it because he has no authority and is a military consultant to an ally. Unlike most examples this is treated in-universe as an unambiguously good thing, with the unanimous approval of the military, cheering crowds after the fact, and no negative consequences whatsoever.
- Mentioned in passing in The Dresden Files. Donald Morgan mentions having killed a Skinwalker, a quasi-divine being with a portfolio of pain, torture and despair, he fought into the American Southwest in The '50s by luring it to the site of an atomic bomb test and teleporting out a split second before detonation.
- Despite actor Bruce Boxleitner's self-penned nickname to his series character on Babylon 5, John "Nuke 'Em" Sheridan, who uses nuclear weapons no less than four times against seemingly unbeatable opponents and winning all four times, is an aversion to this trope, as he used nuclear weapons in important strategic methods under his authority. Boxleitner's use of the nickname in the commentary track for 'Thirdspace' makes the nickname all but official.
- "Thirdspace" was probably the closest Sheridan ever got to this trope, as this particular use of a nuclear weapon had no tactical subtlety whatsoever (Sheridan carried the bomb himself and planted it on the thing to be destroyed, an idea even he realized was nuts), but it was still a reasonable option under the circumstances.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003): The new series gleefully hurls nukes around with wild abandon. In the mini-series alone the Twelve Colonies are hit by thousands of nukes: Helo reports seeing six mushroom clouds just from the one area his Raptor has landed in on Caprica in the space of about an hour. Galactica itself withstands a direct hit from a nuclear missile, although it sustains heavy damage and more than 80 casualties. Pegasus was also nuked a couple of times while in dock during this time. Nukes are also later used to destroy a Cylon basestar and Gaius Baltar appropriates one, allegedly for his research but this is later used to blow up at least three of the refugee ships and kill more than 3,000 civilians. The high-point for the use of nukes is when Pegasus withstands no less than three nuclear hits at pointblank range and shrugs them off to inflict grievous damage on the attacking Cylon basestars with its guns. Nukes are later used to destroy the Cylon Resurrection Hub and in the stand-off between Galactica and the rebel basestar. In a moment of possible high irony, the Galactica finally reaches Earth (the first one) to find the planet irradiated by a nuclear war, which has left the planet uninhabitable. Finally, the Colonial Fleet uses all of its remaining nukes to destroy the Cylon Colony Ship (and most all of the Cylons) in the Grand Finale.
- Farscape: Does this twice, once in the first season in order to destroy Scorpius' Gammack Base (Though it isn't technically a nuke per se, the yield is similar), and again in the last season, where John creates a makeshift nuke to use as leverage in his plan.
- MacGyver: In the pilot, the army plans to use a nuclear warhead to stop a chemical leak. In the end, Mac fixes it with chocolate.
- Played for laughs in Monty Python's Flying Circus, when London gangster Dinsdale Piranha thinks (correctly, as it turns out) that he's being stalked by a gigantic hedgehog named Spiny Norman. Dinsdale somehow comes to the conclusion that Norman sleeps in a hangar at Luton Airport, and blows it up with a nuclear bomb that he had previously used to extort nightclub owners. We later see Norman in the episode's climax, suggesting that either Dinsdale was wrong about where he slept, or he's immune to nuclear weaponry.
- The Outer Limits (1995): This show likes to nuke them.
- In "The Light Brigade" the titular human warship is hit by two nukes.
- In "Trial by Fire" the US president tries to nuke the aliens who have splashed down in Earth's oceans.
- After allying with Randall and gaining a permanent source of power, Monroe manages to build a nuclear bomb and attempts to use it to destroy Atlanta and cripple the Georgia Federation. Fortunately, the protagonists stop this just in time ("The Song Remains the Same", "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia").
- In the first season finale, Randall Flynn takes advantage of the power being turned back to fulfill his plan: to launch Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles at Philadelphia and Atlanta. He then shoots himself in the head after doing this. Then it turns out that he was working on behalf of the American government, which was hiding out in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for years. Now that Randall has completed his mission, the government is coming back into the USA to retake what's theirs.
- Saturday Night Live: Parodied this in the (are you ready?) "Attack of the Masturbating Zombies" sketch: a professor suggests dropping an atomic bomb on the town square, only to be told, "Professor, that's your solution for everything."
- Stargate SG-1:
- This show will sometimes resort to this, with early seasons favoring the Five Rounds Rapid treatment of nukes (namely epic failure) to give the title object and title team justification for existence. There is one early case where a nuke is actually used to prevent them all from being sucked into a black hole.
- Later seasons started using them more frequently, such as the Mark IX "Gatebuster", a naquadriah-enhanced warhead with a supposed yield of several gigatonsnote . Of course, given that they were fighting the Ori in their last season, it's logical that they would bring their most powerful weapons to bear.
- The Spin-Off Stargate Atlantis, on the other hand, practically giggles any time nukes are mentioned to the point where John Sheppard makes putting a nuke on the enemy ship his default anti-capital ship tactic, though he's more often than not justified in this (Wraith Hive Ships are quite large and for most of the series the only other weapons capable of reliably destroying them are the perpetually-in-short-supply Ancient drone weapons), and pretty much every application works as intended. Nukes are used on the first two Hive Ships sent to Atlantis, one flown into the Dart Bay, the other beamed on. Nukes are beamed onto two more Hive Ships. The Wraith are quick learners though, and find a way to jam Asgard beaming devices after this. The Genii use one to kill one of their own armies and their boss in a coup. Finally, Sheppard single-handedly flies an F-302 into the Dart Bay of a Super Hive Ship undetected and armed with a nuke.
- Then there's the giant Horizon planetary attack missile launched against the Asuran homeworld, which carried six Mark IX warheads.
- Thumb Wrestling Federation: The Big Time can cause nuclear explosions simply by winding up and slamming his opponent to the mat. Yes, he's that strong.
- Randy Newman's "Political Science" (incorrectly known as "Let's Drop the Big One Now") deconstructs and mocks this trope by suggesting the flimsiest, most frivolous excuses for nuking everyone and everything (except Australia).
- Tom Lehrer wrote the famous hit "Who's Next?" about the number of countries getting nukes. Especially funny and biting because this was in 1950, so the effects are well remembered.
- The topic of the Title Track from Massive Killing Capacity by Dismember.
- Used intermittently in Warhammer 40,000.
- Actual nuclear weapons are not prominent, being relegated to use by garrison forces for the most part. When a cosmic horror rears its head the three most favoured options are saturation orbital bombardment, Exterminatus or deploying the Grey Knights.
- Weapons on the same or greater scale as nuclear weapons include: plasma torpedoes (200 meter inter-ship ordinance), engineered viruses (including the Worldkiller Virus,) Vortex weapons, and Cyclonic torpedoes (which burrow into a planet's crust and detonate in the mantle, causing widespread surface devastation.)
- When it looks like a Space Marine force isn't going to be able to protect or take back a planet, it is their responsibility to blow the planet up before they leave. After all, if the Space Marines go up against something and can't win, it's very likely nothing can.
- In Shadowrun, Ares Macrotechnology used a tactical nuke in an attempt to saturate Chicago's astral plane with toxicity and kill the hordes of bug spirits that ravaged the city. Fortunately the bug spirits' own energy-shield trapped the physical and metaphysical blast inside the bugs' nest, preventing its full impact from reducing Chicago to a radioactive ruin. You gotta give props to FASA: it takes nerve to nuke your game company's own hometown. Their own headquarters, as a matter of fact.
- Averted in GDW's cold war tactical games like Harpoon and Air Strike which focused on conventional weapons. For a nuclear variant the game designers recommended dousing the game in lighter fluid and setting it on fire.
- Mekton has rules for nuclear weapons, with the degree to which you are screwed being directly proportional to how close you are to the centre of the blast. If you're within the basic blast radius, you automatically die unless you have a really good excuse. Outside of that, you're simply very likely to die. It also gives some key rules about using them so as not to destroy the game, just the battlefield, such as "Only drop them to establish a scenario, rather than as a cheap Draw button" and "if you must drop it during the fight, do so in the centre of the battlefield." (Just to reinforce this, the "nuclear" upgrade for missiles and bullets is very expensive.) Supernovas use the same rules, although the rules state that you just treat the hex you're in as ground zero and quit whining — the entire system is screwed, why should you be immune unless you're flying an Excessive Scale Humongous Mecha that could stomp Cthulhu underfoot?
- In Eclipse Phase many nations resorted to nukes, orbital kinetic strikes, and antimatter bombs to try and halt the TITANs during the Fall. The end result was the death of 90% of humanity and a mass exodus from earth. Not an uncommon modus operandi for Firewall either.
- Toon supplement Tooniversal Tour Guide. In Atomic Monster Theater, Colonel Rock Daring's policy towards giant monsters is literally "Nuke 'em!''
- Car Wars said "Using a nuke ends the game". The standard play maps used were 2x3 feet or so, and the smallest available nuke would destroy five maps in all directions, damage which no car would survive.
- In Duke Nukem Forever, Duke Nukem himself was once nuked by the U.S. government along with the Cycloid Emperor. But, being the Duke, he survived of course, as revealed in The Doctor Who Cloned Me DLC Chapter.
- In Crysis, after pulling off the island, the Navy decides to nuke the aliens, deflecting Dr. Rosenthal warnings that they absorb energy with comments along the lines of "There's no time to study them." To nobody's surprise, the aliens absorb the blast and get stronger. Just as predictably, it's all your problem from there. And then played straight by having the player use a nuclear grenade launcher on the alien space ship.
- In World in Conflict, this happens twice in the campaign. First a tactical nuke is called in to take out an overwhelming Soviet force headed for a "hold at all costs" level objective. Then, at the end of the campaign, you are racing against time to push the Russians out of Seattle before their Chinese reinforcements arrive and the president is forced to obliterate the city. And you can call in as many as you want in multiplayer.
- Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series:
- In Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Kane's discovery of Killian Qatar's apparent betrayal and alliance with GDI results in a slightly angry response. His subsequent orders are to, well....
- In Command & Conquer: Renegade he decides to nuke a small town just to eliminate the protagonist and his squad. Justified in that he just killed his way through a mansion filled with Nod's elite.
- In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun Kane, dissatisfied with General Vega (an Eye Candy addict), decides to reprimand him. With a tactical nuke. Sadly, he misses Commander McNeil by a few minutes.
- In ancient history, in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn you get nuked by Kane during the final mission. He sure likes his nukes.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series:
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Stalin launches nukes against capital cities of the Allies to ensure victory. Of course, the good guys disarm them in flight.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Chicago is destroyed by a nuclear bomb after the player destroys the psychic amplifier and the USSR has no further use for the city. A technical Fission Mailed too.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge the mission Power Play basically revolves around you trying to stop Yuri from nuking the city every ten minutes. It doesn't help that Yuri tends to use his first nuke to destroy your War Factory and you don't have a Construction Yard in this mission.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, Soviet General Krukov and Premier Cherdenko go back in time and kill Einstein to prevent him from granting the Allies technological superiority. On their return, they find that Japan has become the Empire of the Rising Sun and is invading Leningrad. Krukov orders the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal to be used in defense of Leningrad. Nuclear what now? Oops.
- In Command & Conquer: Generals the Chinese have nukes. And you can build as many silos as you want. Each with a separate nuclear silo. You don't need line of sight to fire them either. Death from Above indeed. General Tsing Shi Tao is noted to be obsessed with nuclear weapons, and is eager to use them in every combat situation without regard to the safety of his own men.
- The iconic Black Mesa Research Facility is destroyed by a nuclear blast at the end of Half-Life: Opposing Force. Curiously you spend a large chunk of the game trying to avert this, but a few minutes after succeeding you see the G-Man reactivating the bomb from afar. Obviously you survive, as do a number of other characters who go on to appear in Half-Life 2.
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: The Leviathan Seed on Skytown is protected by an energy shield, and unlike the last level the generators are out of reach. So what solution does the local supercomputer come up with? Assemble some parts they happen to have lying around the place, and drop a nuke on it. It's called a 'Theronian Bomb', but is also referred to as a nuclear weapon, so presumably it's pretty much the same thing with slightly different ingredients.
- The Omega Cannon in Metroid Prime: Hunters is practically a portable nuclear bomb. It's the only weapon that can kill the final boss and in multiplayer, it kills anyone, including the shooter, instantly if they are caught in the blast.
- In DEFCON your job is to pretty much nuke the entire world (with the exception of your own continent). While several other weapons beside nukes exist, they are mostly used to shoot down nuclear missiles. Or shoot down airplanes carrying nuclear missiles. Or sink submarines that can sneak up on you and fire nuclear missiles. And all is shown in the style of the final scene from WarGames.
- Operation Flashpoint and its successor Armed Assault and Arm A 2 all feature nukes to some extent - though in keeping with the ultra-realistic tone of the games they are only used as a last resort by madmen. And their detonation, should you fail to stop them, is shown to kick off global thermonuclear armageddon. Particularly true in Arm A 2 bonus mission 'Eagle Wing', which starts off with your AH-64D moving ahead of a naval taskforce to engage Russian forces, but goes all to hell... A panicked "Pull Back!" message from command is cut short by a nuclear detonation, and your helicopter is smashed out of the air. You then have to escape and evade in a silent, devastated world (and this is well outside the blast radius, which covers most of the 100km^2 map!) with your character clearly panicking as an enormous mushroom cloud towers over the horizon and black ash falls from the sky. Incredibly well done.
- Every game in the main Civilization series features the development of nuclear weapons (or "Planet Busters" in Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri) in the late game, which are by far the most devastating offensive units available even after it becomes possible to build countermeasures. However, using them makes all AI players declare war on you automatically, releases vast amounts of pollution, and in some games advances the Global Warming timer by a significant amount. Too bad the AI doesn't have nearly the same compunctions about deploying them. What makes it stand out is Nuclear Gandhi, thanks to a Good Bad Bug which makes him a Mad Bomber.
- In M.U.G.E.N: The A-Bomb. It nukes your characters and completely vaporises anything that isn't as overpowered.
- Global Effect (an early 90's PC game) would let you nuke enemy cities at will. Made the whole screen fade into white for a few moments. It was a guaranteed way to punch an ozone hole in the sky.
- The Carronade or Hex Cannon in Breath of Fire IV is depicted as a particularly (and literally) nightmare-inducing magical thermonuclear weapon equivalent. The really scary thing is in the power source and in the ammo; the power source is a princess who is converted into an artificial Endless so that she can be perpetually tortured, whilst the ammo consists of people with a close connection to the target being literally tortured to the point of a mental breakdown and then subjected to human sacrifice. It's the pain, rage, and suffering that ends up being the "warhead".
- Depicted originally as a plot-point in a town that was Hex Nuked, including literal Hex Decontamination Teams. Even with this, it is stated will take many years for the hexed city to recover—which has had to be evacuated of residents.
- Depicted most tragically in Fou-lu's storylinenote when he realises who was used as the ammo. Suffice it to say that it does not end well for the Evil Empire.
- In [PROTOTYPE], Operation: Firebreak, which is nuking the area, is the Final Solution to deal with a virus infecting a town.
- The first major arc of Shin Megami Tensei I ends with the Americans dropping nuclear missiles on Tokyo. You later Time Skip 30 years into the future, and not surprisingly, the rest of the world has been reduced to nuclear ruin.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Four Archangels continued with the example set in I. Any world they visit and judge unclean, they arrange a nuclear war in and open a gate to the Expanse so the resident demons finish off the remains of Humanity.
- BlazBlue reveals that Kokonoe keeps a fully-loaded silo in range of her lab just in case she needs a quick solution to Yuuki Terumi or whatever he may be cooking up this week. Hakumen (who saw a nuke strike against the Black Beast do jack-shit to it) is understandably horrified when he finds out.
- Heavy Weapon: Your tank's Smart Bombs, which are easy to obtain, destroy all regular enemies on the screen, and hurt bosses for a lot of damage (without destroying most of the landscape) when used. These can be used in dire situations and against particularly tough bosses to soften them up.
- One of Axton's skills in Borderlands 2 lets him set off a mini-nuke when deploying his SABRE turret(with its own cooldown).
- In the X-Universe series, Hammerhead Missiles are nuclear-tipped Terran missiles. A single Hammerhead is more than capable of wiping out an entire fighter wing or destroying a corvette with one shot. Pirates love to fire these things off in mass. In X3: Reunion, the missiles are simply labeled as "Unknown Object" until the Terrans show up.
- Near the end of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, the United States government concludes that Raccoon City cannot be saved. In order to avert wide-scale pandemics of the zombie plague, they fire a nuclear missile. As the news report at the end puts it, "Raccoon City has been literally wiped off the map."
- Resident Evil 6 has Tall Oaks nuked to prevent the spread of the C-Virus, though the protagonists note that the Big Bad, Derek Simmons, is more interested in destroying the evidence than preventing the spread.
- Fallout 3:
- One of the first sidequests has the option to detonate the nuke in the center of Megaton, which can be done as soon as you leave the Vault.
- The game also provides miniature nukes for the player to use in very, very small supply, launched by either the Fat Man or the ridiculously overpowered nuclear shotgun that is the Experimental MIRV.
- Fallout: New Vegas: Lonesome Road: Ulysses plans to use the remaining nukes in the Divide to wipe out both the NCR and the Legion, in revenge for the Courier inadvertently turning the Divide into a Death City.
- In Fallout 4 DLC Far Harbor, one of the ways you can deal with the radiation-worshipping Children of Atom is to convince their leader to initiate "Division", AKA mass ritual suicide via a nuke in their base.
- In Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, this happens to San Francisco in 1987. There's also a full scale nuclear war annihilating at least Miami and Hawaii in the ending.
- Touhou gives us Utsuho Reiuji (aka Okuu), who gained the power of manipulating nuclear fusion after eating a sun god (although her attacks don't use the traditional mushroom cloud, since she tosses miniature stars at people). She uses this power to ensure the fires of Hell keep burning. She's not very bright in canon, which fans like to interpret as her cheerfully throwing out vast spheres of starstuff at the slightest provocation.
- Parodied during the "That Which Redeems" arc of Sluggy Freelance, where the nuke dropped on the demon army turns out to be an acronym for "'Notification of Unified Kindness' Envelopes." Instead of vaporizing everything for miles around, the "nuke" blankets the area with thousands of polite yet stern letters asking the demons to please stop their invasion. This is still considered an abominable act by most Dimension of Lame residents due to the collateral damange:
Alt-Gwynn: Terrible thunder. Paper cuts impending. Litter unimaginable.
- Standard Operating Procedure for Black Mage of 8-Bit Theater.
- In Among The Chosen, nukes are listed as conventional weapons by a space-faring Mega Corp., which use them almost offhand like any other ordinance. Psychic Powers on the other hand...
- The German technocracy nukes Verona (core Italy) and about a dozen Russian cities in the World War II of the Chaos Timeline.
- In The Salvation War noted several times where Nukes might of been useful, and Word of God said that if the legions of Hell were NOT in a place where quick military action was able to take place they would of Nuked them. It wasn't needed in the first book just because of the effectiveness of modern military hardware. The second book however has three Nukes, and one of them plays this trope straight in a sideways way. One was launched by a Nuclear sub being controlled by an angel, and another was used to wipe out an angel army. The third almost killed Michel, who sensed the cart he was puling was a bit to heavy, and kicked it back through a portal.
- Rejection And Revenge: The premise is Osama Bin Laden getting his hands on nuclear materials during the breakup of the Soviet Union. New York, Century City, Las Vegas, and Riyadh are hit on February 11, 1993. Tel Aviv was also a target, but a terrorist was apprehended by Israeli before anything could happen. Iran, due to the terrorist fingering Hezbollah is blamed. Bill Clinton decides to drops nukes on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
- A Giant Sucking Sound: The Aum Shinrikyo apocalypse cult, best known for its sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway OTL, obtains a nuclear bomb and nukes Nagoya, killing 2 million people.
- Rock, Paper, Anything has nukes of various kinds used every now and then.
- Megas XLR is apparently armed with nuclear weapons. In the "Viva Las Megas" episode, Coop proposes using them to blast out of an underground bunker, but is waved off by Jamie and Kiva. He laments "What's the point of havin' nukes if I can't use em?"
- In South Park, when Finland decides to confess to the space police they are harboring stolen space money. Randy, along with every country in the world agree to get rid of Finland. Immediately, nuclear missiles wipes Finland off the planet in a matter of seconds.
- In ReBoot, standard Guardian protocol for dealing with a Class 5 web-creature in a system like Mainframe is to destroy the entire system. A Class 5 creature is capable of opening a portal to the Web, and through Mainframe's connections that can lead to an invasion of the entire Net. The Guardians themselves dislike this policy, but the Web and the creatures within it are seen as so great a threat that even the loss of an entire system is preferable to a war. They do at least send operatives to the systems in question to positively confirm that there is such a web-creature present, even they would not blow up a city on an unconfirmed rumor, but once the rumor is confirmed they push the button without a second thought.
- In Justice League Unlimited, General Wade Eiling's first thought after he is told to fix the Doomsday situation is to drop a nuclear warhead (with a little kryptonite mixed in) on Doomsday and, by extension, Superman and San Baquero. Since Eiling planned to get to Superman eventually and had long wanted to stop drug smuggling from San Baquero, he considered it killing three birds with one stone. Even Amanda Waller is disgusted by this attitude.
- Coiffio orders Model Robot in Perfect Hair Forever to "Twansfohm into an A-bomb and bwoh yohself up." for no real reason than he hates Model Robot. Model Robot complies, instantly (as opposed to the excessively long transformation sequence he displayed earlier in the show) and takes Coiffio's entire ship with him when he explodes (though Coiffio himself miraculously survives.)
- Toonami's The Intruder II sees this combined with Hoist by His Own Petard as The Intruder is killed by TOM using the very ship he used to lure the Absolution there, overloaded the engines and destroying the Absolution and the Intruder with it.
- In The Simpsons, Nelson has a poster in his room which says "Nuke the Whales".
Lisa: You don't really believe that, do you?
Nelson: (shrugs) Gotta nuke something.