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Put Down Your Gun and Step Away
"In a hostage situation, you have to be cruel to be kind. The more you care, the more leverage they have. Like buying a car, you have to make them think you can walk away."
Michael Westen, Burn Notice, on the reality of this trope.

Classic variant of the Hostage Situation. The villain has a hostage in his grasp, and a gun pointed at said hostage's head. The hero(es) barge in with guns out. Villain tells the heroes to get rid of their guns or the hostage gets it. ("Kick them towards him." "Put them down and step away." etc.)

The heroes will do exactly that, and it's usually only a stroke of luck that saves them from the villain just plugging them right then and there. It's implied that karmically this is the right thing to do, though, so that stroke of luck will happen nearly every time as a "reward."

Even trained police and military will do this, which goes against every rule and all logic in real life in regards to this situation. In fact, there was an episode of Cops where we see the trainer emphatically tell the police officers to never take their gun off for a hostage taker.

A possible reason why this works in fiction is that Evil Is Cool in there. In Real Life, criminals are far more cowardly and most definitely not cool. On the other hand, hitting an object as small as a person's head at more than a few paces with a handgun is really difficult, so it's more of a case of psychological pressure on a cowardly criminal that makes this trope far from Truth in Television, but that could be said of most cases of defensive firearm use.

The main problem with the situation is that the hostage taker, barring the occasional ones who are willing to give their life, doesn't want to shoot the hostage much more than the heroes do. If they were to kill the hostage because the heroes refused to drop the guns, there is suddenly nothing to keep the heroes from using said guns. However, the characters almost never think this through.

This is usually not Truth in Television: real-life police and military forces train their people to never put down their guns in a hostage situation, because if you do you'll just end up with a dead hostage and a dead hero.

This trope is often subverted to show either that a character is edgy and a possible Anti-Hero, or that they're Just That Good.

Compare Hostage for MacGuffin.

Examples:

It's best to give examples of when this trope is subverted

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted by Cowboy Bebop: A mook has a gun pressed to Faye's head and demands Spike drop his. Without hesitation, Spike shoots the hostage taker cleanly between the eyes and the whole scene quickly devolves into a Blast Out.
    • Also subverted in The Movie: A mook caught robbing a convenience store holds his gun up to an elderly woman customer. Spike just reminds the mook that, as a bounty hunter, Spike is paid for catching criminals rather than saving innocents, so the woman's life is worthless to him. This pisses off both the criminal (who points his gun at Spike instead of the hostage) and the woman (whose thrashings allow her to slip free), conveniently giving Spike a clear shot at the bad guy.
  • In the spiritual sequel Samurai Champloo, Mugen convinces the hostage-taker that he simply doesn't care about Fuu, and charges. The baddie throws Fuu off to the side and runs away. Given Mugen's personality, he may not have been bluffing.
    • Mugen does it again when two rival Yakuza factions are facing each other down, and he shows up to settle a mostly unrelated grudge against one side of the fight. One boss asks Mugen if he cares what happens to the other boss's son. "Not really."
  • A variation appears in Riding Bean, where Rally faces a hostage situation where the villain orders her to throw her gun to him. She resolves the situation by doing some sleight of hand that allows to her to throw only the magazine and takes advantage of his distraction at the trick to use her gun's chambered round to shoot him.
  • Subverted in Sailor Moon, where Sailor Mars is told to stop her attack with a fire bow, but manages to accurately shoot the enemy with her "Mars Flame Sniper" ability without hurting the hostage, Sailor Neptune.
  • A non-gun example occurs in the anime Claymore, Clare throws away her sword to save Raki when he's held hostage by a Youma. When it attacks, she tumbles down a hill and in what can hardly be considered anything but a karmic moment, ends up besides the sword and easily kills the Youma. Afterwards, she claims that she only threw away the sword to fool the Youma and keep it from escaping.
  • Subverted in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, when Sousuke initially relents upon being confronted by a gang of hostage takers and produces an implausibly large pile of weapons from nowhere - and then reveals that he is holding the gang leader's little brother hostage and will kill him if the bad guys try anything with their hostage. He then tops it off with listing the name of every last one of the other gang members and the one thing they hold most dear - and all the horrible "accidents" that could occur to them. The gang backs off. At which point the trope is Double Subverted as the little brother had been bribed by Sousuke to play along and was never in any danger.
    • In a later episode he tries this again by holding an old woman hostage to escape his class. Kaname simply knocks him out before he even has a chance to finish his threat and after he's tied up they carry him off to finish their paintings.
  • Subverted in the anime Detective Conan. During the clock mansion case, the villain captures Ran and threatens her with a deadly weapon. Kogoro and Conan quickly shout that this is a poor idea on the villain's part, immediately before Ran knocks him out with her karate.
  • A variant subversion in Bleach: Byakuya Kuchiki is fighting an Arrancar who can control others. The Arrancar controls Rukia, Byakuya's adopted little sister, and threatens to get her to cut her own throat, unless Byakuya drops his sword. Byakuya does so... then hits Rukia with a binding spell. Then drops his sword in an entirely different way.
  • Subverted in Sengoku Basara's anime when Mitsuhide attempts to use Mori Ranmaru as a Human Shield against Kojyuurou, counting on that his attacker, being one of the heroes, Wouldn't Hurt a Child. Kojyuuro's reply is that, child or no, Ranmaru is still a servant of Nobunaga who has killed lots of people and is therefore fair game. Then he charges.
  • Subverted in New Dominion Tank Police. In the opening of the first episode, Leona and Al corner a crook in a bar when he takes the owner hostage. Leona informs the crook that the hostage is his only protection and if he kills him, she'll open fire on him. She gives him to the count of ten to surrender or be shot at by her tank. The criminal takes the wise choice and surrenders only to be outright ignored by Leona. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Eury pulls this in Immortal Rain. Dora Folk takes Ayla hostage, and tells Eury to drop his gun. Eury throws his gun in the air, turns around, and then reaches behind his back to grab his falling gun and shoot Folk.
  • Played unfortunately straight in the RS arc of Pokémon Special. Wallace's Pokemon are fighting Maxie's and Archie's until the two reveal that they have his love interest, Winona, who is being strangled by a Tentacruel. Wallace returns his Pokemon to their Pokeballs and the buttons are swiftly melted off so he can no longer fight. He then gets brutally thrashed (Not his Pokemon, ''HIM'').
  • A Mook in Chapter 274 of Mahou Sensei Negima! attempted to pull this off when he grabbed Konoka and ordered Setsuna to stand down, proudly stating that he had investigated Setsuna's weakness. He was... a little off on that assessment. A few seconds later, Setsuna had Flash Stepped behind him, sliced his armor to pieces along the way, and rescued her beloved ojou-sama.
  • Subverted in all the first episode incarnations of Hellsing. When Seras is taken hostage by a vampire, Alucard simply shoots through her, killing them both. He then turns Seras into a vampire to save her.
  • Banana no Nana: the hostage taker was trying to get an edge on the girl who defeated her; said girl's ability is manipulating bananas. Which leads to this line.
  • A chapter of Naruto has Danzo taking Karin as hostage. Subverted when Sasuke fires an infused Chidori anyways, right through Karin and into Danzo.
  • In Angel Cop, the titular character flatly states she's keeping the gun no matter what, and later affirms that if the hostage-taker had shot the hostage, it would have been his fault, not hers.
  • Subverted in Rurouni Kenshin, during the manga's version of the Raijuta arc. Raijuta, having just been beaten by Kenshin, grabs Yahiko and threatens to kill him if Kenshin comes any closer; an unafraid Yahiko flatly points out what the end result will be.
    Yahiko: If you kill me, what's to stop him from killing you?

    Comics 
  • Subverted by Tintin, who had this to say about being told to drop his gun: "So you can shoot us down like rabbits? No we're keeping (our guns)"

    Film 
  • Subverted in the film Billy Jack. Evil deputy (Kenneth Tobey) is holding a school girl hostage in a Kent State-like situation. He tells Billy (Tom Laughlin) to drop his rifle or he'll shoot the girl. Billy tells him to go ahead and shoot her. Deputy says, "You'd kill her? Just like that?" Billy shakes his head and says, "You'll kill her. And then I'll kill you. Just like that."
  • A reverse occurs in Casino Royale, where Bond has the hostage in the embassy and is surrounded by guards with guns. He calmly gives up his gun and returns the hostage. Of course, he's still got an ace in the hole...
    • Namely that Bond didn't give up his gun, but the gun he took off the bad guy he's holding hostage.
  • Subverted in the beginning of Speed. But since the bad guy is loaded to the gills with explosives, Jack can't exactly shoot him... so he shoots the hostage in the leg instead. It works; no casualties. The bad guy gets wiser at the end of the movie, though.
  • Dirty Harry: The Scorpio Killer grabs a boy as a hostage; Callahan responds by shooting him in the shoulder (the boy escapes unscathed) and delivering his "Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya', punk?" line before finally taking him out.
  • The Matrix series has several.
    • The Matrix Reloaded. When one of the albino twins has a razor to Trinity's neck he tells Morpheus to put down his sword. Morpheus responds with a Boom Head Shot.
    • The Matrix Revolutions features a Lampshade Hanging version, where Bane/Smith, holding Trinity as a hostage, explains to Trinity that, while the best thing for Neo would be to just fry them both with his plasma gun, instead he's going to do exactly what the trope prescribes. He then taunts Neo by saying he is bound to Put Down His Gun And Step Away, which he does.
  • A subversion happens in the Miami Vice film. A white supremacist took a hostage, and is being aimed at by a female cop with an assault rifle. The bad guy says "You pull the trigger, and I kill her!" Then the cop tells him a bullet can reach a speed of 500 meters per second, which gives him absolutely no time to pull the trigger. Since he refuses to believe that, the woman shoots him in the head.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean Will Turner does this to himself. And it works, because he's the only son of Bootstrap Bill Turner, and without his blood the pirates can't lift their curse.
    • Of course, it only works after he reveals his name. Before he does that, Barbossa seems bemused at why he should care that some kid offs himself.
  • In RoboCop 2, the titular character orders his partner to put her gun away to stall for time and lull the hostage taker into complacency. He then holds his gun off to the side and shoots the bad guy in the head with a carom shot.
    • And in the previous movie, he aims between the hostage's legs and shoots the bad guy's crotch.
  • In The Untouchables, at the end of the shoot-out in the train station, a bad guy threatens to kill his hostage. Eliot Ness puts his gun away but promptly tells partner George Stone to kill him, which he does with a bullet between the eyes. It was established in Stone's first scene that he is one of the best shots in the police department.
  • Indiana Jones
    • Inverted in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Indy being the one holding the gun (or in this case, the RPG launcher), and Belloq calling his bluff to blow up the Ark of the Covenant (with the Nazis present strongly objecting).
    • Played straight as a whistle in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Colonel Vogel is holding Dr. Elsa Schneider at gunpoint and tells Indiana "Put down the gun or the Fraulein dies." Henry Jones (Indy's father) warns Indiana that she's a Nazi but Indy doesn't believe him. Indy puts down the gun and is captured. Dr. Schneider then takes Henry Jones' notebook from Indy and tells him "I'm sorry, but you should have listened to your father," thus admitting that she is a Nazi.
    • Subverted in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Held captive by Russians, Indy manages to get his hands on an assault rifle and points it at Irina, telling all the mooks to lower their weapons. At first, they comply. But then one of them grins and points his pistol at Indy again... followed by every other Russian doing the same.
  • The Iron Man movie awesomely subverts this. Stark is facing a group of terrorists who have taken human hostages, and he apparently can't hit them with his arm repulsors without harming the civilians. Not at once, at least. Instead, he targets each individual terrorist and shoots them with precision shoulder-mounted shots simultaneously.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, a villain grabs Mina Harker and holds a knife to her neck. The rest of the League reluctantly puts down/away their guns so he won't hurt her. However, Mina is more powerful than she seems. She handily wrestles the villain into submission, bites his neck and drains his blood. It turns out she's a vampire. Poor villain!
  • Averted in Men In Black, during the confrontation in the morgue. While holding Laurel hostage, the Bug orders Agents J and K to "Put your weapons down!" Without missing a beat, Agent K responds "Never gonna happen, insect."
    • Because K knows that the stakes are much greater than the life of a single human. If the Bug escapes with the galaxy, the planet is doomed, so Laurel is dead either way.
  • Used in the final standoff of John Woo's The Killer. The triad boss Johnny Weng has taken Jenny, the Killer's girlfriend, hostage and orders him and his Cowboy Cop partner to lay down their guns. The cop takes the wounded syndicate hitman, Paul Yau, hostage in turn and tries to get Johnny to let her go, only for Johnny to cross the Moral Event Horizon and put a bullet through Paul's head with a second gun before reaffirming his threat. The Killer and the cop lay down their guns, with their plan being the Killer pulling the spare gun out of the cop's pants and shooting the triad boss. Once the guns are down, Johnny shoots the Killer, the Killer falls, grabs the cop's spare gun and puts a bullet in the bad guy's gut, knocking him away from Jenny. Then the two of them have a shootout on the ground, but as the Killer only has one gun to Johnny's two, the Killer goes down with both of his eyes shot out and dies in a very tragic fashion, and the task of taking the triad boss down goes to the cop in one of the director's most tragic endings.
  • Subverted in Hot Fuzz. Holding Danny and an injured Nicholas at gunpoint, Dr. Hatcher tells Danny to "Drop 'em." Danny complies, but his shotgun goes off when it hits the ground, blowing half of Hatcher's foot off.
    • And then again at the very end, when Danny's father holds Danny at gunpoint and says the same to Nicholas, who calls his bluff.
  • In Blazing Saddles, Sheriff Bart, to the people of Rock Ridge after taking himself hostage. The townspeople end up dropping their guns.
    Bart: Oh, baby. You are so talented. And they are so dumb.
  • A subversion in The Film of the Series S.W.A.T.. In the opening bank robbery, a robber takes a customer hostage and demands that the hero and his partner drop their weapons. The hero's partner simply shoots the hostage, then the hostage taker. Instead of props being given all around, the hostage ends up suing the city, and the hero's partner ends up fired and becoming the Rival Turned Evil.
  • Subverted in The Usual Suspects. When rivals take Keyser Soze's family hostage and use them as human shields, Soze simply kills his family, then kills the hostage takers.
  • Double subversion in the opening of Last Action Hero. The (literally) Ax-Crazy serial killer takes Schwarzenegger's son hostage and orders him to drop his weapon. Schwarzenegger drops his gun (or rather, his arsenal)... and also drops a frag grenade at the villain's feet. The villain, knowing that Schwarzenegger isn't crazy enough to frag his own son, figures the grenade is a fake and orders the kid to pick it up. Turns out the grenade is really a trick knife, which the kid uses to stab the villain.
    • Unfortunately, the kid still dies, as the falling bad guy manages to drag the kid with him.
  • Subverted in The Naked Gun. When the Big Bad takes Lt. Frank's love interest hostage and orders Frank to drop his weapon, Frank refuses to comply, says "two can play at that game!" and grabs a random civilian woman from the crowd to use as his hostage.
  • Averted in Taken. The hostage taker holding the hero's daughter at knifepoint doesn't even get to finish his line before being shot in the head.
    • Which is precisely what a Combat Pragmatist should do - take the shot when the hostage taker drops his guard slightly to talk.
  • About midway through The Dark Knight, while Bats and Gordon are busy elsewhere, The Joker manages to take Detective Stephens, a "20 year man", hostage. Stephens urges the other cops to just shoot, because it's his fault anyway. They don't.
  • Judge Dredd. Rico to Judge Dredd, when Rico's robot has Judge Hershey by the neck.
  • A variation occurs in Dredd. Ma-Ma threatens Dredd and Anderson with an explosive detonator and orders Dredd to put his gun down, as killing her would detonate enough explosives to take out Peach Trees. Dredd shoots her and tosses her out a window anyway.
  • In (the trailer for) the obscure Charlie Sheen film The Chase, Sheen tells some guys to kick their guns over to him—they try, but miss by a mile. Sheen: "I said kick them over to me, Pele!"
    • In the movie proper, this is, on the whole, played way too painfully straight...despite Sheen's character not even having a gun. Lampshaded later by the girl he kidnapped: "You kidnapped me with a candy bar?"
  • Parodied and invoked by Loaded Weapon 1:
    Wes Luger: What's going on in here?
    Mr. Jigsaw (holding Jack Colt hostage): Drop your gun, Mr. Luger!
    Wes Luger: I don't have one...
    Mr. Jigsaw: [confused] You are not carrying a weapon?
    Wes Luger: Don't believe in them.
    Mr. Jigsaw: [slides a gun over] Pick up the gun.
    Wes Luger: [picks up the gun]
    Mr. Jigsaw: Drop the gun Mr. Luger!
The scene ends with both hostage and villain telling Luger to drop his gun, as he becomes stricken with a flashback upon holding the weapon and starts acting erratically.
  • Subverted in The Adventures of Pluto Nash, when the protagonist tries this on a posse of Mooks trying to kill him over some sort of conspiracy about turning the Moon into a massive gambling den or something. (It Makes Sense in Context. Almost.)
    Pluto: Alright, drop the guns! Unless you wanna try an' shoot around your friend here!
    Other mook: Easier to shoot through him.
    Pluto and his hostage: (variations on a theme of "Oh Crap.")
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. One of Dr. Totenkopf's Mooks tries this on Joe in the Tibetan uranium mine, and it works!
    Thug: Drop the gun.
    Joe: [drops his gun] I told you, I don't know what you're talking about. You'll just have to kill us.
    Thug: As you wish.
  • Averted in 48 Hours. When the Big Bad holds Reggie hostage at gunpoint, he orders Jack to drop his weapon. Reggie insists that Jack shoots him. Which he does. After which Reggie berates Jack for nearly killing him.
    • Played straight at the beginning however, where Jack giving up his gun gets one cop killed and lets the bad guys get away. That's why he doesn't make the same mistake at the end of the movie.
    • And in the sequel, Another 48 Hours, Reggie tells Jack, "Why don't you just shoot me yourself?" which Jack does (not in the head, though). Then Jack shoots the villain. The look on the villain's face in between the 2 shots is priceless.
  • Averted in Navy Seals. When Charlie Sheen's character is confronted by a hostage holding terrorist on a ship, he motions as if he is going to place his MP-5 on the ground, but in the middle of the motion, he pulls the trigger, scoring a head-shot and killing him instantly.
  • Played totally straight in Eraser, by which we mean the bad guy has the girl hostage and tells Arnie to drop his weapon. He does...and is promptly shot several times.
    • Of course, being Arnie, the bullets miss every vital organ.
  • In Face/Off, Castor Troy (under the guise of his arch-nemesis Special Agent Sean Archer) is facing off against Archer (under the guise of Castor Troy). Then Archer's rebellious teenage daughter walks in. Archer grabs her and holds her at gunpoint. Unfortunately for him, she uses a butterfly knife to stab him in the thigh, precisely how he himself taught her a few days before.
  • Subverted in Die Hard. Hans Gruber has his gun to the head of John McClane's wife Holly. He orders McClane to put down his machine pistol and McClane does so. Little does Hans know that McClane has a pistol taped to his back...
  • Parodied in ˇThree Amigos! One of the Amigos takes the Big Bad hostage and orders his henchmen to drop their weapons. Immediately, dozens of stone-cold killers kick their pistols towards him.
  • A slight variation is played for laughs in Red Heat. There's no hostage as such, but Danko and Ridzik themselves are held at gunpoint by the Big Bad and ordered to hand over their guns. Ridzik averts the trope for a second in a Truth in Television moment, saying "a Chicago cop never relinquishes his weapon", only to hand it over a fraction of a second after the Big Bad cocks his gun.
  • One especially obnoxious example occurs in The Expendables 2. The Big Bad has the newest member of the crew in a Hostage for MacGuffin scenario, and demands that the heroes hand over their weapons and the MacGuffin or they kill him. They do, and Vilain kills him anyway just to be a dick. What makes it more irritating is that this band of hardened mercs who have been doing this for decades really should know better.
    • Actually, that one made perfect sense. Saving The New Guy was never really an option. They put their guns down because they were completely surrounded and outgunned.
  • In The Hobbit, the trolls use Bilbo to make the dwarves surrender.
    Tom: Lay down your arms or we'll rip his off!
  • Shoot 'em Up. Smith rigs several automatic weapons in a gun warehouse to fire when he yanks on a cord attached to the trigger. He wipes out the mooks sent after him via this method, only to have a Click Hello from one he missed. The mook tells him to throw down his gun, so Smith does so...onto the last cord. Cue Camera Abuse.

    Literature 
  • In one Bujold novel, The Vor Game, Miles Vorkosigan finds a different solution:
    "Cavilo!" he shouted. "Deactivate your weapons and freeze, or I'll blow Gregor to atoms!"
    Body language was a wonderful thing. It was amazing, how much expression could come through the blank shining surface of space armor. The littlest armored figure stood openhanded, stunned. Bereft of words; bereft, for precious seconds, of reactions. Because, of course, Miles had just stolen her opening line. Now what do you have to say for yourself, love? It was a desperate ploy. Miles had judged the hostage-problem logically insoluble; therefore, clearly the only thing to do was make it Cavilo's problem instead of his own.
  • In Kathryn Lasky's Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, Striga is holding Bell hostage and tells the fighters to drop their weapons. She forgot about a fighting style called danyar that doesn't need weapons
  • In the Star Trek novel Memory Prime, a villain makes Kirk toss his phaser aside. Kirk does, but we're told he never left anything to chance if he could control it—he had actually practiced throwing a phaser so that it was in just the right spot that he could dive and grab it again. But the villain then fries the phaser with his own weapon, so it doesn't work out.
  • In another Star Trek novel, Star Trek: The Lost Era: Well of Souls, a violent criminal demands Captain Rachel Garrett and her ship's doctor toss their weapons aside. His hostage is Garrett's young son, so she does so. The doctor hesitates (no doubt knowing you don't comply with this sort of demand), but then follows the captain's lead.
  • in Serpent Tide, the big bad does this, both to get weapons away from her "son's" kidnappers (read: his real family), and to get the kid to come with her. She takes his aunt hostage...too bad said aunt is a black belt...
  • Jack West, Jr. in Six Sacred Stones subverts this twice in as many nanoseconds, headshooting two hostage taking guards before they finish their line, while wearing NVGs in a pitch black room.
  • If knife examples count, Bellatrix Lestrange does this to Harry and Ron with Hermione as the hostage in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She's actually crazy enough that she probably would have done it, too.
  • In Honor Among Enemies, a warlord/hostage taker insists Harrington meets with them without her or her guards carrying weapons. She agrees, and calmly goes through their weapons scanners...which only scan for contemporary, powered weapons. Her many-centuries "obsolete" and antique .45 automatic is, however, undetected in her briefcase.
  • This happens in The Dresden Files novel Grave Peril, albeit with a sword instead of a gun. Harry even points out how dumb it is to comply, but given that the hostage was Michael's pregnant wife, it's understandable that he wasn't thinking logically.
  • In the Jerry Ahern Two Fisted Tale The Takers, the sadistic Daddy's Little Villain has a knife to the throat of the hero's Love Interest. The hero (being a gun writer) states that he's not going to throw down his weapons, he's going to set them down, and carefully places his pistols on the ground, while dropping a hint that now would be a good time to bring down her Combat Stilettos on the villainess' foot...

    Live Action TV 
  • In the pilot episode of Breakout Kings the US Marshals corner the escaped convict only to find out that he is wired a little girl to a bomb and is holding the detonator. The senior agent orders his partner to lower his gun and when he does the senior partner shoots the criminal in the arm which causes him to drop the detonator.
  • Subverted in the pilot of Castle; Richard Castle finds himself in one of these situations, but manages to extricate himself. It helps that the safety was on, but Castle is nonetheless justifiably impressed with himself.
    Castle: [Excitedly] Tell me you saw that! You're gonna put that in your report, right?!
    • He was also probably more than a little worried about his fingerprints now being all over the hostage taker's gun.
    • Subverted again in season two, when Castle is again held hostage by the man who murdered Beckett's mother. This time, the police actually do drop their weapons because Beckett needs the hitman alive to discover who ordered the hit on her mother, but Castle once again manages to extricate himself. This time, a headbutt's involved. And the safety isn't on.
  • Subverted in Criminal Minds when Gideon confronts The Tommy Killer. The killer has his gun pointed at his intended victim and says he'll kill her if Gideon doesn't put his gun down. Gideon counters by pointing out that if the killer hurts the victim, he'll kill him and tell the whole world that the killer was just a lowlife burglar. (This was to play on the killer's need for recognition. If Gideon killed him and claimed that he was a burglar, he would never get famous for his murders.)
  • Played with in Farscape, wherein Crichton does this to hold off two mooks using his finger for a gun and himself for the hostage.
    Back off or the white boy gets it!
    • Which is a parody of a scene in Blazing Saddles. On Sheriff Bart's arrival in Rock Ridge, all the townsfolk draw on him the minute they realize he's black. He defuses the situation by holding his own gun to his chin, and saying "Next man makes a move, the nigger gets it!" The townsfolk then immediately plead for him not to shoot and Bart takes himself into the sheriff's office, all the while pleading with his 'kidnapper' for mercy.
      • Knowing the main character of Farscape, him getting it from Blazing Saddles is probably canon, rather than it being considered an original idea within the Farscape universe.
    • A more serious example in another episode. Scorpius holds Crichton at gunpoint, forcing Moya's crew to drop their guns. Then Crichton's brief Love Interest, a Sebacean engineer, to show up with a gun pointed at Scorpius. Laughing, Crichton tells her to shoot Scorpy and be done with it. She hesitates, though, allowing Scorpius to shoot her. So much for the rescue.
  • Subverted in the 'Just That Good' sense on Firefly. Dobson is holding a gun to River's head and trying to convince Simon to come quietly. Mal walks up the gangplank and shoots the Fed through an eye without missing a beat, or even breaking stride.
    Dobson: I'm not playing any more. If anyone makes so much as * BLAM*
  • Played with a twist, arguably enough of one to merit justifying itself, in Heroes: The hostage-taker is a visibly desperate Noah Bennet, who has already shot someone else, the hostage is the team's leader, Danko, and the ones being told to back down are two black-ops mooks who normally work for both of them.
  • The Others make Jack, Sawyer, and Locke do this in the LOST episode "The Hunting Party." It's partly because they're holding Kate, but also because the Losties are vastly outnumbered, and the Others are excellent shots.
  • Double Subversion. In The Mentalist, Jane is taken hostage by his boss, Agent Hightower, who was revealed as a murderer. The first subversion is that they have taped a shotgun to their hands and the back of Jane's head, so if they are shot or knocked over, the gun will kill Jane by itself, and the cops never put their guns down but they likewise had to let the two of them leave. Subverted again when it turns out Hightower had been framed, the gun was unloaded, and the whole thing was a ruse by Jane to get the real killer to drop their guard.
  • Subverted in the Miami Vice episode, The Glades. A little girl is taken hostage by a Mook as Sonny Crockett rounds a corner, pistol aimed.
    Mook: If I so much as twitch I'll kill her!
    Crockett: Maybe...you won't...even...Twitch. * BLAM *
    • A Shout Out to this scene is made in the more recent Michael Mann movie. See the Film section.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers they play this trope straight at multiple times (with the ranger powers replacing guns of course).
    • Other seasons of Power Rangers have examples as well (always played straight).
  • Subverted in the NCIS episode "Child's Play". A man is holding a young girl hostage and demanding that the team "back off" or he'll shoot her. The team refuses to, and Gibbs calls to Ziva to see if she has the shot. The hostage taker claims that she'll miss. Gibbs glibly asks the girl, who has been playing through war scenarios as a tactical advisor in a military program, what the odds are of Ziva missing. She calculates various variables and comes up with 97.6%. Gibbs orders Ziva to take the shot. Ziva nails the hostage taker in the forehead.
    • Also in the episode where the mole at NCIS is dealt with. One of the agents is taken hostage, and the hostage taker orders Gibbs to drop his gun. Gibbs is shot in the hand, but is able to shoot through the agent, who told him to.
  • In the NUMB3RS episode 'Jacked', the team refuses to do so during the final standoff, calling the hijackers' bluff. They pull this off mainly because the hijackers are carting blanks, and faked shooting a hostage earlier. The team simply brings out the 'dead' hostage, encouraging the real hostages to run away.
  • Much 'fun' is had with this in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. When a criminal mastermind takes John Connor hostage and threatens to shoot him, Derek Reese responds by taking the criminal's little girl hostage with the implied threat that he will shoot her. But whoops!, turns out she's not the criminal's kid, and he couldn't care less. So Derek simply shoots him in the head. The thing that is consistent across the entire Terminator universe is that Terminators do not take hostages, they just shoot.
  • Stargate SG-1 has this in the first season finale. The good guys hold Skaara hostage with a weapon that needs two shots to kill him. The baddies outnumber them and have a clear shot on Teal'c. Obviously, O'Neil puts down the gun as his good-guy duty despite there being nothing hindering the Jaffa and their Goa'uld master from killing them right there (considering there are a few seasons beyond the first, they obviously didn't, but...). What would have hindered the Jaffa in question from pointing out that regenerating the Goa'uld in the sarcophagus in the very same room wouldn't be too much trouble and thus the heroes actually had no power over their hostage, leading to the viewer not considering O'Neil bloody stupid?
    • A third shot, which disintegrates the corpse or something similar. Even if Jack didn't realise it (I don't remember when the throwaway disintegration Zat ability was introduced, but I have a feeling it was in the same episode).
      • Which has wisely been disused, and was eventually Retconned out of existence according to Word of God; the producers and writers declared they regretted ever introducing it in the first place.
  • Subverted on Star Trek: Enterprise. When a mook in a Space Western colony puts a revolver to T'Pol's head and tries this trope, security officer Reed just stuns her with his phaser, then shoots the mook while he's gaping at Reed's apparently ruthless action.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", Ianto is struggling to decide what to do when an alien blowfish has a hostage when a shot is heard, as Jack has shot it from behind.
  • Defied on Blue Bloods. A serial rapist tries to pull this on Frank by holding Erin hostage. Frank drills him in the forehead with his .38 before he can finish the sentence.
  • Played straight on an episode of Unforgettable when the father of the Body of the Week takes an officer hostage at gunpoint. In the police station. He orders Nina to do this; she complies.
  • Subverted in the Hawaii Five-0/NCIS: Los Angeles crossover. Dracul Comescu's bodyguard takes a bystander hostage and orders Chin Ho to do this. Chin delays just long enough for Kono to line up a shot from her sniper perch.
  • In the Spetznaz vs Green Beret episode of Deadliest Warrior, the section detailing the Spetznaz ballistic knife has a Russian taken prisoner, and the hostage taker demands that another Spetznaz do this. The second Spetnaz pretends to comply and acts like he'll put down his gun, then shoots the blade from his knife at the hostage taker.
  • Subverted in The Good Guys with the episode "Don't Tase Me Bro". The antagonist takes Dan hostage so Jack slowly puts his gun down before whipping out a Taser and shocking both Dan and the antagonist into submission.
  • One episode of Law & Order had a criminal grab a hostage in a train station, only for one of the cops to come from behind and put a gun to his head.
  • Doctor Who: Eighth Doctor, in a very Doctorish move, escapes from a cop by stealing the guy's gun and holding himself hostage. Even fans who don't like the movie like that scene.
  • Boardwalk Empire: An unnamed thug tries this on Richard Harrow in the season three finale as he holds Richard's surrogate son Tommy at gunpoint. Richard slowly crouches down and sets his rifle on the floor—and then angles it upwards and shoots the guy through the eye, at which point Tommy runs into his arms for a hug.
  • Certainly seen at least once on 24 if not more often.
  • Used in "Love Hurts" on The Following
  • Deconstructed in The Blacklist episode "Frederick Barnes": The eponymous criminal holds a hostage at gunpoint and orders Agent Keen to surrender her weapon, which she does. Barnes escapes and Keen is told that she will have to be reported for violating FBI regulations, which state that you never surrender your weapon, no matter what the circumstances.

    Video Games 
  • In the opening cutscene in Resident Evil: Code: Veronica, Claire suddenly finds herself cornered by an entire squad of enemy soldiers, so she puts her hands up and drops her gun... then catches it in mid-air and shoots the explosive barrels behind them.
    • This was also done in the movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse with Alice in place of Claire, in a tacked-on scene that replicates part of the game's intro.
  • Urban Chaos Riot Response has many criminals taking hostages, but they don't bother with threats: they just shoot you - and the hostage if you get too close (instant Game Over, of course). You block their bullets with an unbreakable shield, to their utter inability to adapt to this strategy, then when they reload... they get a bullet to their head. And then they survive. And move to another location with the hostage. Sometimes they throw a grenade instead of reloading, designed to throw you off. It's cool the first time or two you do it, by the 20th time you do the exact same procedure (with a checkpoint a mile way), you'll wish they had played this straighter.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance plays this straight for once... and does a great job of showing one of the reasons you never do it in real life, as the hostage taker immediately turns to kill one of the hostages now that they can't stop him, and is only prevented from doing so by the timely appearance of reinforcements.
    • A similar event happens in the sequel, Radiant Dawn. La Résistance drops their weapons and halts their liberation efforts when bad guys threaten the villagers. Lucky the leader of the resistance is a seer, and knows this will result in a Heel-Face Turn. Sure enough, some of the enemy troops rescue the villagers and the fight continues.
      • Averted in Fire Emblem:The Sacred Stones. When one of the villains has a young girl, he tells Eirika to hand over her braclet (which she does, since she did not know of it's significance). But when they were told to drop their weapons, Seth says that dropping their weapons "Would be tantamount to suicide".
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect 1, a mook takes a hostage. Garrus goes and shoots the merc in the head, saving the hostage, he's just that good. The player can either compliment Garrus on his aim or criticize him for his recklessness.
    • In Mass Effect 2, Kolyat tries this on Shepard, unaware that Shepard cares more about him than the hostage. Indeed, if Shepard ends up needing to shoot someone, (s)he can fatally Shoot the Hostage while (s)he will only wound Kolyat. Alternatively, a paragon interrupt has Shepard shoot the lamp to startle the inexperienced Kolyat, and then move in fast and punch him.
    • Done again in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, you're given the option to drop all your heat sinks and kick them over or shoot the hostage in the arm. Or, if your Paragon or Renegade are high enough, simply telling the hostage taker that you're comfortable shooting the hostage to get to her via Badass Boast.
  • Happens all the time as a Random Crime Occurrence in the True Crime series. The solution is always a Pretty Little Headshot or a stun shot hit.
  • In SWAT 4 at least this happens sometimes, though there is no button to drop your own weapon, and as a police officer that would be a stupid move anyway. It's entirely possible to shoot the suspect, but that is risky.
    • And, of course, if you have to shoot the suspect, you didn't do something right (it's always possible to get every suspect to surrender).
    • Just screw that and use only non-lethal weaponry. If the suspect is fleeing, he won't get far, if he takes to long to drop his gun, just shoot him just in case, and even if you hit a civilian, that's no problem!
  • Shih-na takes Kay Faraday hostage after being discovered in Ace Attorney Investigations. Cue a double Crowning Moment Of Awesome, as Detective Badd appears behind Shih-na with a gun to her head followed by Lang jumping in between them and grabbing Shih-na's gun arm, taking Badd's bullet to the leg in the process.
  • The Uncharted games feature about a dozen of these, but one that really stands out is actually a subversion. In the second game, after having this pulled on him so many times, Nate finally tries to do this himself, taking one of Lazarevic's men hostage. He forgot that his adversary was pure evil, though, and the attempt fails after Lazarevic shoots the hostage himself.
  • The first few missions of the Silent Scope games end with this kind of situations. The point, however, is that since you're a sniper, you have to sort your way around the hostage's head and aim for the taker's head.
  • This is the gameplay mechanic that the Reservoir Dogs video game is based off of: civilians can be taken hostage, and police officers can be convinced to drop their weapons if you threaten the hostage or beat them. The more elite a police officer is (security guards to average cops to SWAT teams) the more threatening you have to do to get them to cooperate. All characters also have a special 'finisher' move that they can use on a hostage to cause all cops in visual range to lower their weapons in fear and disgust. (Playing as Mr. White involves him taking out a razor for this moment. So... yeah.) Cops will sometimes just decide to shoot you if you have made a habit of killing people though.
  • In Win Back, The Dragon does this to Jean-Luc, while holding Lisa hostage as well. Then Jake busts in, but senselessly gets himself killed.
  • In Blue Force, there is a scene where you and you partner are investigating a criminal on a house boat. Once you break in you are faced with the bad guy and asked to put down your weapons. After some hesitation your partner does, and if you follow suit you both get shot (duh).
  • Subverted, partially played straight in the GDI ending of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. Michael McNeil charges into the Temple of Nod to find Kane with a knife to Umagon's neck and a gun pointed at him. She says "Kill him! Forget about me!", which makes sense because Kane is soon to slip away (with the ICBM launchers destroyed, the world-altering tiberian missile could be intercepted by the space station Philadelphia by this point) and probably find another way to destroy the space station and launch his missile. McNeil keeps his pistol trained on Kane at all times, allowing a brief Hannibal Lecture, when a luckly-timed bomb detonation nearby gives Umagon the distraction she needs to escape Kane's clutches.
  • Sometimes crooks in L.A. Noire take bystanders hostage. Rather than throw your gun away (which they might tell you to in a cutscene before the minigame begins) you're expected to shoot them before they decide to kill their hostage anyway (plus there's a few action sequences where a gang takes groups of hostages, where it's basically the same as any other firefight, except you have to avoid shooting the hostages).
  • A pair of Thalmor soldiers pull this in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim during the quest "Diplomatic Immunity", using the guy who got you into the embassy as a hostage. Most players find this a great time to Just Shoot Them.

    Webcomics 
  • Subverted in the webcomic Rip and Teri. Secret agent Rip Dustin is rampaging through the Supervillain Lair because the villain has his girlfriend captured. So the villain gets on the loudspeaker and announces, "Attention, Dustin. I have your woman! Surren— AAA!" The last bit is because said woman has just clocked him from behind with a lamp.
  • Played with in Spacetrawler. Qwahntoo has Pierrot hostage, and threatens to kill him if his friends, Emily and Gurf, don't hand over their ship. (He doesn't even ask them to put their guns down—instead he just points out that he's impervious to their lasers.) Emily, however, knows exactly what's up: "I don't believe in threats like yours. Because if we give in, you'll just cut his head off anyway... then kill us as well." So she shoots Qwahntoo anyway. It doesn't kill him, but it does blast him backwards, knocking Pierrot out of his clutches.
    Qwahntoo: Holy shit. You actually did it. You're totally insane.
    Emily: Huh. You weren't bluffing. It didn't kill you.

    Western Animation 
  • The phrase is parodied in Kim Possible when Shego comes to retrieve a "nano-tick" attached to Kim's nose, which Ron is about to burn off with Diablo Sauce:
    Shego: Put down the hot sauce and step away from the nose.
  • In the South Park episode Wing, the boys try to get money starting a talent agency though their first client Token switches to a legitimate agency. Their second client, is Tuong Lu Kim's wife. At the same time, the Chinese Mafia attempts to get their payment back for smuggling her into the country. The boys thinks the talent agency took another client and confront the mafia. When the leader threatens to kill her if they advance any further, Cartman points out that he is bluffing because she would be of no use dead. Stan resolves everything with the "I've learned something today..." speech.
  • Parodied in the Wonder Pets episode Save the Skunk. Ollie the Bunny is a little overzealous about saving an animal, and picks up a toad that obviously doesn't need saving. After Linny informs him that the toad is not who they are there to help, Ming-Ming tells Ollie, 'Put down the toad and step slowly away from the rock.'
  • Parodied in the Archer pilot when The Mole takes Malory hostage and Archer responds to this... by taking Lana, his fellow agent, as a hostage ("classic misdirection"). The mole replies that it isn't a game and that he will kill Archer's mother, "Just picture her lying there dead in the street…", at which point Lana points out in disgust that she feels Archer's erection poking her back. Horrified, the mole lets Malory go but gets brutally gunned down before he can deliver a What the Hell, Hero?.

    Real Life 
  • It goes as far back as the 1963 incident dramatized in the The Onion Field.
  • John Dillinger showed why you should never give into these demands. On March 3, 1934, he escaped from Crown Point, Indiana's jail (the strongest in Indiana, supposedly) by taking janitor Sam Cahoon hostage with a fake gun carved from a piece of wood. Using Cahoon and a deputy, Ernest Blunk, Dillinger lured all of the guards up to the cell block, disarmed them, and locked them in a cell. Before grabbing two submachine guns and escaping in Sheriff Lillian Holley's car, he showed his hostages the "gun" he used.


Prepare to DieThreatening TropesScare 'Em Straight
Prisoner ExchangeI Have Your IndexPutting A Hand Over His Mouth
Puppet GunGuns and Gunplay TropesQuick Draw
The PurgeNarrative DevicesPut Me In, Coach!
Pull the I.V.Television Is Trying to Kill UsRacing The Train

alternative title(s): Put Your Gun Down And Step Away
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