Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!

Bolin: ...but how are we gonna pay for all these parking tickets?
Mako: (after burning tickets) Relax, the city's under attack. The police have more important things to worry about.
The Legend of Korra, "Turning the Tides"

The main characters are no antiheroes or villain protagonists, but sometimes they simply can't be bothered to follow the rules. Why? Well, is it really that important that you stop at every stoplight and follow the speed limit, if in ten minutes if you don't get there in time, some evil demon will eat up the universe?

In cases of The World Is Always Doomed, expect the local law enforcement to be unsympathetic to this point of view, and for the heroes to heavily abuse this to do things that they couldn't ordinarily do.

This is for saving the world by any means necessary. For when the heroes (or side characters) are breaking the rules to take advantage of a lapse in law due to emergency, see Apocalypse Anarchy instead. Compare Godzilla Threshold, when a normally forbidden measure is authorized because it's the only method left powerful enough to stop the disaster. Compare and contrast No Party Like a Donner Party and I Did What I Had to Do, where the rules are broken not so much to save the world as a response to a desperate survival or self-defense situation (up to and including an Apocalypse How).


Anime and Manga
  • Cooking Master Boy: Mao and the others impersonate a deity and burn a palace down. To be fair, the ruler in question was taking money from the citizens, and creating a health emergency, by keeping them malnourished on abalone soup.

  • In Chew, this drives the plot of the book "Flambe" in which strange writing made of fire appears in the sky. It's up to Tony to stop people doing this.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • In Origins, during the Atomic War of 2070, the young Judge trainees Dredd and Rico, along with their field supervisor, came across a group of U.S. soldiers who were gang raping a civilian in the middle of the ensuing chaos in the nuclear exchange. When the soldiers sneer that rules don't matter as they're going to die anyway, the Judges oblige them.
    • Towards the end of the Total War arc, Vienna is caught up in a sector affected by a nuclear blast. One man attempts to rape her, telling her that it hardly mattered now as the city was being nuked. Luckily, Nimrod comes to her rescue.
  • In the eighth season comics for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy reasons thusly. She has hundreds of slayers fighting evil as a global organization. She needs funding. She robs a bank.

  • There was an aversion in Men In Black. Agent K chastises Agent J for endangering The Masquerade during a desperate situation, because The World Is Always Doomed and The Masquerade is the only thing that lets people get on with their lives.
  • Played straight in Battleship, when news of the Alien Invasion spreads, there are riots happening in several parts of the world. Though the attack is only on Hawaii, there are people who believe that its the end of the world.
  • Invoked in Man of Steel when Jor-El is out to get the codex to send it to Earth with his infant son.
    Kelex: Sir, breaching the genesis chamber is a class 5 offense-
    Jor-El: (interrupts) Nobody cares anymore, Kelex, the world is coming to an end!

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the episode "In the Pale Moonlight", Benjamin Sisko lies, bribes criminals, covers up the crimes of other criminals, and was an accessory to murder in order to bring the Romulans into the Dominion War on the side of the Federation. He says 'I can live with it' because the Federation was losing and their way of life was in danger of being destroyed.
    • Another episode is named 'Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,' the Roman term meaning 'in times of war the law falls silent.' In it the Federation again uses morally dubious means to ensure continued Romulan support for the war effort, including the framing of an innocent woman.
  • Dean and especially Sam Winchester from Supernatural eventually adopt this philosophy at times due to increasingly escalating circumstances. At one point in season 4, Sam even explains to Dean that the normal rules don't necessarily apply to them, because they are not normal, and that Dean had better get used to that if they are going to do what is needed to stop the coming apocalypse. Somewhat ironic since Sam started out being the one who usually complained the most about doing iffy things.
  • An episode of Sliders had a meteor about to hit the Earth with no way to stop it, cue everyone on the planet saying this. Including 3 of 4 main characters.

  • Harry Potter is no stranger to breaking the school's rules, thanks to having some kind of terrible danger strike the castle every year.
    • The Unforgivable Curses normally result in an automatic life sentence to Azkaban, but once Voldemort declares open war on the wizarding world and threatens the Muggle world, no one has a problem with the heroes using the Cruciatus curse (which, as its name suggests, causes extreme pain and is potentially fatal) in order to fight these people.
  • Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! is all about thwarting the eschatalogical intentions of the bad guys. If averting the end of the world means a hundred thousand people need to have their minds enhanced by being given an LSD trip without their knowledge or permission, then so be it... and (Bilingual Bonus) the bad guys even have the motto Der Zweck heiligt die Mittelnote . At one point there is a submarine battle in the ruins of Atlantis, where the nearest thing to a good guy, Hagbard Celine, has to reluctantly set aside his pacifism and sink the would be world-enders' submarine craft, called Der Zweck and Die Mittel.
  • This appears as a minor bit of world-building in Weis and Hickman's Starshield novels. Essentially, physics isn't the same everywhere; here's it's Newtonian, here Aristotelian, while over there it's a kind of magic that uses demons, but over there it's incantations. The borders for the different physics aren't fixed, and whenever one moves over a populated system, one of two things happens. Either they don't already know about it and treat it as an apocalyptic event and societies collapse, or they do know about it, the authorities prepare, and it's treated as a minor hiccup, like changing from driving on the left to the right (though teenagers do try new kinds of vandalism).

Video Games

Western Animation
  • The Legend of Korra has the title quote.
  • In one of The Simpsons Tree house of horror special, the whole world is in chaos where everything with a microchip goes haywire because of the Y2K bug (caused by Homer), and everyone starts looting everything they can grab.

Web Original

Real Life
  • U.S. criminal law has the doctrine of Necessity. If a defendant can show that it was necessary to break the law in order to prevent some greater harm from occurring they can be found not guilty for that reason. This only applies if the defendant (a) had no reasonable alternative (b) ceased committing the illegal act as soon as it was no longer necessary and (c) wasn't responsible for the dangerous situation in the first place. More at The Other Wiki's article on Necessity.
  • Fire engines, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles are allowed to ignore a lot of traffic laws if their lights are flashing.
    • And in some circumstances, other drivers may be required to disobey normal traffic laws, such as by running red lights, if it's necessary to do so to clear the way for an emergency vehicle with lights and siren running.
    • Law enforcement also tends to be allowed to, or get away with, breaking traffic rules during vehicular pursuit, on the grounds that it would be impossible to respect traffic laws and still capture a culprit who does not.
  • Jews are normally allowed to violate the tenets of their religion if it means saving someone's life. This even applies to Orthodox Jews.
    • Similarly, Muslims may eat normally forbidden food (such as pork or alcohol) if they are at the point of starvation.
  • The Roman Catholic Church lifted its ban on Polygamy after War of the Triple Alliance to allow Paraguay to rebuild its population. Paraguay lost 95% of all males in the war.