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When a character deliberately Kicks the Dog
or crosses the Moral Event Horizon
just to prove a point. Maybe they want to prove that they are willing to make good on a threat, maybe they just want to show that they're not the kind of person you want to mess with. Either way the message is the same: "I'm willing to do this just to make a point, so imagine what I'd do if you gave me a reason." Particularly effective when the character harms something he likes (like one of their favorite henchmen), as it shows they will be far less merciful to anything that they don't
See If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten
for when a character is challenged to do this.
- In Ronin, Gregor is not only prepared to, but actually does shoot at a random child in a playground simply to make the point that he is a conscienceless killer who should not be double crossed. The man he is dealing with frantically assures him that the demonstration will not be necessary, and pushes away his hand so the bullet misses.
- In Taken, Bryan demonstrates that he is willing to do anything to get his daughter back by shooting the wife of his French police contact and threatening to kill her if he won't co-operate.
- In Broken Arrow (1996), the villian detonates one of the two stolen nuclear warheads in an abandoned copper mine. "Otherwise, some DC civilian would say I haven't got the guts."
- A classic staple of James Bond style supervillains; appearing on a huge video screen before the UN to commit an act of wanton destruction just to demonstrate that they have the means and the will to do worse if their ransom is not met:
- The closest an actual Bond movie came to this was Thunderball. Used the giant screen to make threats, but didn't actually set off any of the nukes, just proved they had them.
- Spoofed on The Simpsons in the episode "You Only Move Twice":
Scorpio: Good afternoon, gentlemen. This is Scorpio. I have the Doomsday Device. You have 72 hours to deliver the gold or you'll face the consequences. And to prove I'm not bluffing, watch this.
UN Man 1: [all the men look at the explosion] Oh My God, the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge!
UN Man 2: Maybe it just collapsed on its own.
UN Man 1: We can't take that chance.
UN Man 2: You always say that. I want to take a chance!
Scorpio: (scoffs) "Collapsed on its own"... You have seventy-two hours.
- In the Austin Powers film The Spy Who Shagged Me, Dr Evil blows up the White House to demonstrate his giant moon based laser... except it was actually just footage from Independence Day.
- The Crimson Jihad in True Lies set off one of their nukes in the Florida Keys as a demonstration.
- In the "Unknown Tales" filler of Bleach, Byakuya destroys the Zanpakuto of his own sister in an effort to convince all the other Zanpakuto that he's actually on their side.
- Danny Roman in The Negotiator invokes this trope when he fakes shooting one of the hostages.
- In The Vampire Files by PN Elrod, Jack Fleming's friend shoots him with a crossbow in front of several of their enemies, partly to invoke this. However, they didn't realize Jack was a vampire, and since he'd deliberately missed Jack's heart, Jack recovered fairly quickly.
- In G.I. Joe: Resolute, Cobra Commander vaporizes Moscow and its ten million people to prove what his weapon can do and what he's willing to do with it.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- In On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard tries to coerce Jack into helping him by threatening to shoot his love interest, who happens to be Blackbeard's daughter. When Jack calls him out on it, Blackbeard orders the Quartermaster to bring him six pistols, four unloaded. Jack gets the message fairly quickly. After he leaves, Angelica asks Blackbeard if he knew which guns were loaded. His answer is a not-very-reassuring "Of course, my love."
- In The Otherworld Series, the Pack's enforcer Clay doesn't need to fight all that often in order to keep non-Pack werewolves in line, because everyone knows what he did to that one guy...
- In the TV adaptation, Jeremy easily defeats a Mutt who challenges him for Alpha and then has Clay rip the guy's teeth out. He is sending a message to the other Mutts to warn them of the consequences of challenging the Pack. If he is willing to do this to some idiot who wasn't really a threat, then the consequences to anyone who actually hurts a Pack member will be catastrophic.
- In Star Wars: A New Hope: Tarkin destroys Alderaan with the Death Star to demonstrate the destructive power of the station. In Expanded Universe accounts, this proves to be a colossal political blunder as many planets in the Empire realize that this shows that its leadership is made up of kill crazy psychos who have to be stopped at all costs and the Rebel Alliance gets an upsurge in support.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "Errand of Mercy," Kor, governor of the occupied planet of Orgainia, demands that Kirk and Spock, who were obviously sprung by the natives, be surrendered and has 200 hostages shot to show he is serious in his demands. Unfortunately for him, the Orgainians are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and have no reason to fear, let alone bow to, such threats.
- In Breaking Bad Gustavo, the main villain and drug lord, brutally slits the throat of his employee just to prove a point to the main characters, Walter and Jesse. Curiously, none of the characters are exactly sure just what the point is supposed to be. Walter initially thinks it is a warning against crossing Gustavo, since if he is willing to kill his own man then he will not hesitate to kill them, but later thinks it was actually punishment for the employee trying to take on more responsibility than Gus had given him and a warning to understand your role in an organization.
- In Boardwalk Empire ruthless gambling tycoon Arnold Rothstein intimidates an underling by recounting a horrific story where he bet a man he couldn't swallow a cue ball, intentionally causing him to choke and die. He ends the story by saying, "Do you know what the moral of this tale is, Mr Yale? The moral of this story is that if I'd cause a stranger to choke to death for my own amusement, what do you think I'll do to you if you don't tell me who ordered you to kill Colosimo?" Watch it here.
- In Skies of Arcadia, Galcian unleashes the Rains of Destruction on Valua to prove his own invincibility. All the more crushing because Valua has (under his command) previously devastated every other world power, thereby leaving all of Arcadia in economic and social ruin.
- In The Professional, Matilda takes a gun and fires several wild shots out the window at the passerby below to show Leon that she has enough disregard to human life to become an assassin.
- In a rare heroic example, in one episode of Burn Notice, Sam Axe sliced the tip of his thumb open while interrogating a villain. It convey's the point that if he is willing to do that to himself, you do not even want to think about what he will do to you. This lets Sam extract information without needing to resort to actually torturing the man.
- Dr Schlock attempts this in Sluggy Freelance after contacting Oasis, but it backfires rather badly.
- In Silly Hat Productions' Umineko: When They Cry parody episode "Epitaph", Lambadadelta declares she's going to raise the stakes to motivate Battler. If he doesn't offer at least one theory by the end of each episode, she will permanently erase one of the 'game pieces' who'd died — and since he failed to do so in that episode, she starts by erasing Doctor Nanjo.