Frank Reagan: Get your hands off my daughter.A villain uses a hostage as a Human Shield to deter the hero from attacking them and give into their demands. Unfortunately for the villain, a human shield can only protect so much, and the areas like the villain's head or arms are still exposed. So the hero or a third party will just end up shooting one of those areas instead (usually the head) and save the hostage anyway. Especially The Gunslinger or the Cold Sniper will attempt this strategy, where the By-the-Book Cop usually will not. In Real Life there is a very good reason the police doesn't engage in this when somebody has his hands on the trigger. Often involves Improbable Aiming Skills. A more specific form of Aggressive Negotiations. Can backfire and turn into Shoot the Hostage and, in turn, One-Hit Polykill.
Erin Reagan: Dad.
Dick Reed: You just try it— (Frank shoots Reed between the eyes.)
Erin Reagan: Dad.
Dick Reed: You just try it— (Frank shoots Reed between the eyes.)
— "Re-Do", Blue Bloods
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Anime & Manga
- Cowboy Bebop:
- During the episode "Ballad of Fallen Angels", Faye gets used as a Human Shield by a Red Dragon goon who orders Spike to drop his gun. Spike responds by putting one through the goon's skull before he can finish his sentence.
- Spike also does this in the prologue of the movie where he and Jet interrupt a robbery to scoop up a bounty. One of the gang was in the bathroom and takes an old lady. Spike just tells him that it's too bad for the old lady. Then the guy tries to shoot Spike and Spike immediately shoots him.
- Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini: Invoked by the Elder, when Jean Pierre attempts to pull his villainous exit, by taking Lara hostage, along with her half of the Twilight as leverage, to ensure no one got the Geltic treasure. It didn't work.
- An hostage situation in Cat's Eye is solved by threatening to do this: as soon as the hostage taker walks out of the building he has taken refuge in, Hirano shoots five rounds around his head and tells him it is very easy to kill him even with the Human Shield, at which point the criminal is too scared to stand up (and possibly keep his bladder control), let alone keep the hostage.
- Full Metal Panic!:
- In one episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Sōsuke is being chased by an angry mob of students and holds a knife to an old lady's throat, only to get instantly knocked out by a jar hurled by Kaname.
- In Dancing Very Merry Christmas, the light novel taking place after The Second Raid, Sōsuke headshots the enemy leader when he takes Tessa hostage. Tessa notes sadly to herself that Sōsuke wouldn't have dared risk the shot if Kaname had been the hostage instead.
- In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman solves a hostage situation by threatening to do this. It probably helps that the thug is new meat who doesn't know about Bats' "no killing" rule.
- In the first issue of The Savage Dragon, the hero is taking down a group of hostage takers, only for someone else to shoot the lead criminal: the vigilante known as Star.
- The Punisher has little difficulty shooting people with human shields in the head.
- Judge Dredd has a specific bullet for this purpose. The Richochet round is often bounced off the wall behind the hostage taker and used to shoot them In the Back.
- In chapter seven of Bait and Switch Eleya has her away team's sniper, Lieutenant J.G. K'lak, set up on a hilltop with a vantage point over most of the village. A few minutes later she announces herself to a group of Orion Syndicate mooks and orders them to surrender. One of them grabs a 14-year-old girl and threatens to kill her, whereupon Eleya barks, "K'lak, take him!" into her combadge and the Klingon headshots the mook from behind.
Films — Animation
Film — Live-Action
- In the first film, RoboCop shoots between the hostage's legs and castrates the hostage taker with that shot.
- During a raid on a drug lab in the second film, a criminal takes a baby hostage. Robocop uses a ricochet shot off a metal door to shoot the hostage taker in the head.
- In The Fifth Element: After Korben takes out a few of his men, the lead Mangalore holds priest Cornelius hostage and threatens "One more shot, we start killing hostages! Send someone in to negotiate!" Korben's method of "negotiating" is to calmly walk in, Boom, Headshot the leader, then ask "anyone else want to negotiate?" while waving his gun around at the rest.
- The Matrix Reloaded: While fighting one of the Merovingian's albino ghost twins, Trinity is captured and held while being threatened with a straight razor. The albino orders Morpheus to Put Down Your Sword And Step Away. Morpheus shoots him in the head, which forces him to desolidify long enough for Trinity to escape.
- In the first part of Dredd, Judge Dredd is faced with a fugitive holding a gun to a woman's head; after a failed attempt at negotiating with the criminal, he shoots a hot-shot into the perp's mouth, making his head burn up from the inside.
- Sonny's partner Sal gets shot this way at the end of Dog Day Afternoon.
- In The Fugitive, there's a sequence where Marshal Gerard and his men track down one of the other fugitives from the train crash, who takes one of Gerard's men hostage. Gerard shoots him at close range, leaving his subordinate temporarily deaf from the gunshot but still alive.
- Played with in Copycat (starring Leo de Cap). M.J. shows off the Chekhov's Skill early in the film: shoot the hostage taker in the right place on his shoulder, the nerves go haywire, and they automatically drop the gun. Later, when she doesn't aim right, she's more or less directly responsible for her co-worker's death.
- In the S.W.A.T. movie's Action Prologue, Gamble attempts this but hits the hostage. She survives and sues the city, and Gamble and his partner Street are thrown off the S.W.A.T. team.
- In Iron Man, Tony Stark raids an Afghan warlord to destroy the Jericho missiles that were illegally sold to him. A group of mooks grab a bunch of civilians and start yelling something at him in whatever language is used in the area (the gist is probably "drop your weapons or we start killing hostages"). Tony targets their heads with shoulder-mounted micromissiles and blows them all away at once, leaving the hostages unharmed.
- In Taken, the man who bought Bryan's daughter Kim as a Sex Slave holds a knife to her throat and says, "We can negoti—", but Bryan shoots him in the head.
- In True Lies, a bad guy uses Helen as a human shield while telling Tasker to drop his gun. Tasker drops the rifle on his left hand but reveals he has a handgun on the the other hand, which he immediately uses to shoot the bad guy between the eyes. It prompts the 'I married Rambo' reaction from Helen.
- At the climax of The Untouchables.
Gangster: Me and the bookkeeper are walking out of here, getting into a car, and driving away. Or else he dies. He dies, and you ain't got nothing. You've got five seconds to make up your minds.
Eliot Ness: [ignores the gangster, addresses Stone] You got him?
Stone: [Stone is lying flat on his back, supporting a baby with one hand and holding a revolver in the other] Yeah, I got him.
Ness: Take him.
Stone: [headshot] Two.
- The second installment of The Elite Squad, During the raid in the Bangu prison, Fraga (the human rights negotiator) joins the rebel prisoners and voluntarily stands at gunpoint under Beirada's mercy just as the BOPE arrives. He begs for a ceasefire in order to avoid more killing. Officer Mathias lowers his gun and orders Beirada to drop his, and he obeys - only to get shot a split-second later. Much to Fraga's dismay and criticism of the left-wing media.
- In Godzilla vs. Megalon, Gigan has Jet Jaguar between his sharp hook hands to keep Godzilla away. Godzilla simply hits Gigan in the face with his atomic breath.
- In Heat, Hanna takes out one of the villains with a headshot when the latter uses a little girl as a Human Shield after a bank robbery.
- 48 Hrs.. The Big Bad is holding Reggie Hammond hostage. Jack Cates is advancing on them with a handgun. Reggie tells him to shoot the bad guy. When Cates does, no one is more shocked than Reggie.
- A different take in The Way of the Gun. Jeffers uses Painter as a Human Shield against Parker and Longbaugh. Painter breaks the Mexican Standoff by drawing a gun from his doctor's bag and killing Jeffers.
- Jack Reacher. A Dirty Cop is using a woman as a Human Shield, hiding behind her with a single eye showing, his backup revolver at her head, his issue Glock pointing at the only door that Jack Reacher can come through. Reacher, using an assault rifle with iron sights, steps into the doorway and fires a single shot that kills him. The woman is visibly in shock until Reacher puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
- In the prologue of Last Call by Tim Powers, the Big Bad uses his young son as a human shield when his wife threatens to shoot him, and finds out the hard way that holding a small child so that his head and chest are covered leaves his groin exposed.
- From the desk of Timothy Zahn, the writer who actually allows the Galactic Empire to be competent, we have the standalone Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Allegiance. Human Shield? Not a problem for a stormtrooper sniper; just shoot past the hostage's ear.
- Forms a Crowning Moment of Awesome in The Alloy of Law, when Lord Waxillium Ladrian has to shoot the bad guy who is holding a gun to the head of his not-a-girlfriend. However, the villain is koloss-blooded, which means that only a perfect headsot will drop him before he can pull the trigger. Furthermore, he knows this and is holding the girl directly between his head and Wax's gun. Wax's solution? Shoot a bullet off to the side and then shoot the first bullet with a second bullet in midair, causing the bullet to curve around the girl's head and drop the villain. The stakes are rendered somewhat higher by the way this trope had been horribly subverted in the Prologue, when Wax's attempt at this had ended up killing his girlfriend after the hostage taker moved as right as he fired.
- Shining Armor, a Space Western by Dominic Green opens with a Cool Old Guy practising his kata (as he does every morning) which concludes with him cutting several vegetables without damaging the rice paper they're resting on. Later on he climbs into a Giant Mecha to defend his village from mining company enforcers, one of whom grabs his daughter and holds a gun to his head. The mecha brings down one hand with such precision that he flattens the hostage taker's head while his daughter only suffers a wet dress.
- In The Dinosaur Lords, when The Mole takes Valerie hostage, he makes the mistake of doing so in front of Karyl, a man with nigh-supernatural aiming skills. Predictably, he's shot in an artery and bleeds to death.
- In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Debt", the police raid a brothel run by a Chinese gang. In one of the rooms, a gang member takes one of the prostitutes hostage and uses her as as a Human Shield. The prostitute is saved when Detective Elliot Stabler dives through the door of the room and shoots the gang member in the head.
- In the pilot of Alphas, Hicks is confronted with a villain holding Rachel hostage and ducking behind her in such a fashion that the shot was virtually impossible. The villain had prepared for this ahead of time and had planned to psych Hicks out so that he wouldn't be able to make the shot. Being as Hicks' ability essentially is perfect aim, he makes it by use of ricocheting the bullet.
- Firefly. An Alliance lawman takes River hostage at gunpoint and gets out about half a sentence of demands before Mal storms in and shoots him in the face. Without even breaking stride.
- At the end of the Blue Bloods episode "Re-Do", a Serial Rapist takes Erin hostage within sight of Frank, and tells him to put down his gun and step away. Or that was the plan, anyway: Frank puts a .38 round through his forehead before he can finish the sentence.
- In the series 2 premiere of Torchwood Jack Harkness makes his re-introduction by shooting a "blowfish" who was using a human shield.
- Boardwalk Empire: Harrow does it when one of Rosetti's men holds Tommy hostage.
- In the Justified episode The Life Inside, a criminal takes a pregnant woman hostage.
Raylan: Jess, you ever hear about a spot snipers call the apricot? It's where the brain stem meets the spine. Hit a fella there, he ain't gonna pull no trigger. It's just, lights out.
Jess: Oh, what, you're telling me you're that good?
Raylan: Me? (He shakes his head and gestures to Deputy Tim Gutterson, beside him.)
Jess: Really? Okay, this is how this is going to go down — (Tim takes the shot, perfectly.)
- In Stargate Atlantis, Kolya has Weir as a hostage and is trying to drag her through the Stargate, betting Sheppard won't risk it. Sheppard calmly puts one in his shoulder and sends him through the gate without Weir.
- There is a show dedicated to snipers that discusses this. Can't recall the name, but they show off various military world record holders for distance shots and at one point showcased a police officer who made a near-impossible to replicate shot against a robber who took a woman hostage in New York. A simulation (with paint-filled waterballoons strapped to moving dummies) was set up and every single sniper-in-training failed to shoot the hostage-taker (red paint) without also killing the hostage (white paint). Then they got the sniper who made the original shot (now retired) to come to the range. He made the shot.
- Late in 24 Day 8, Jack needs to recover some information from Dana Walsh only to discover her being held hostage by one of the villain's main goons. The guy attempts to say "You're not gonna take the shot", but before he's even finished saying this, Jack shoots him in the head.
- Combined with Shoot the Hostage and One-Hit Polykill in the Burn Notice episode "Guilty as Charged". Jesse snipes Michael through the shoulder to kill the guy using him as a Human Shield.
- Castle has a failure of this in a featurette on the season 5 DVD. Jon Huertas (Esposito on the show) is at a tactical training course (to lend authenticity to his role as a former Green Beret-turned-homicide detective), and during a "storming a hostage standoff" scenario he tries this (with plastic bullets) and hits the hostage in the face before nailing the hostage taker.
- Luther: John allows himself to be taken hostage by the crime LARPer who's hiding in a truck cab with a bomb. He even goes as far as dousing himself in gasoline to give the criminal the edge. Once he's inside the cab, he radios the police snipers the guy's exact position.
Bomber: What does it say?
Luther: The "A" between the "L" and the "R". Aim low.
- The bonus level "Mile High Club" in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ends with you having to shoot a terrorist using a hostage as a Human Shield. On higher difficulties, you must get a headshot or you fail the mission.
- Played with in Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fidel Castro was holding his mistress as a hostage, if you shot the hostage taker, the hostage would immediately attack you. Turns out the Castro you killed was a body double, they both are keeping you away the real Castro.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, at the end of the first mission, you must attempt to save Josie Thorpe from Zeke Sanders, who has taken her as a hostage. Among the many options is to shoot Zeke before he can hurt his hostage.
- Batman: Arkham Series:
- Batman: Arkham Asylum has a non-lethal version: When Zsasz is holding a knife to Dr. Young's throat, you save her by knocking him out with a Batarang.
- In Batman: Arkham City, Ra's Al Ghul holds his own daughter, Talia, hostage at knife point when Batman refuses to kill Ra's and take Ra's place as leader of the League of Assassins. Batman saves Talia be hitting Ra's with a Batarang.
- Mass Effect:
- Mass Effect features a mission on the Citadel where some mooks take hostages in a medical bay. In a cutscene, Garrus takes out the mook holding a hostage, and after combat ends, the player, as Commander Shepard, can choose how to respond to this. Renegade Shepard's response is to compliment Garrus for taking the mook out; Paragon Shepard chastises Garrus for doing something that could have gotten the hostage killed.
- This is an option to resolve the hostage crisis at the end of Thane's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2. You can shoot his son Kolyat, the hostage taker, nonfatally, or Shoot the Hostage. The third option is a Paragon interrupt that has Shepard shoot a lamp behind Kolyat to startle him, whereupon Shepard moves in and decks him.
- In "Lair of the Shadow Broker", Tela Vasir takes a civilian hostage with a similar set of options for resolving it. Among them is to have Shepard distract her while Liara throws a gorram table at her head.
- Dragon Age II gives Rogue PCs a lower-tech version during the Wayward Son quest.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, Roman gets kidnapped and you must rescue him; you finally find him used as a hostage by a Russian mobster. You must carefully aim for the Russian's head to free him.
- In Army of Two: The 40th Day, enemies will sometimes use civilians as human shields. You can do this to them, but if you're not careful, it's possible to kill the enemy and the civilian with the same bullet. Also, your partner can rescue you this way if an enemy holds you hostage.
- This is the usual way for Cole Phelps to resolve a hostage situation in L.A. Noire. Don't take too long to line up a shot or you'll lose.
- Operation Wolf series:
- The second boss of the first game uses an old woman as a human shield, but an able player can off the boss without hurting the woman (who will then wave happily at the player.) Just wait for the boss to pop out to shoot you, and blast him then.
- The sequel, Operation Thunderbolt, does this in the final stage, where you confront the lead hijacker on the plane and he uses the pilot as a human shield. Kill the pilot and you get the bad ending; wait till the hijacker pops out to shoot you and blast him till he goes down to get the good ending.
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat has one particular side quest in the second map that has you rescuing a captive stalker from a gang of bandits in a holed up warehouse, due to an initial refusal to hand over precious loot to the bandits according to his friends. You can choose to storm the place either by yourself or with the stalker's known friends and launch the daring rescue. Once you get to the last room in the warehouse, the bandit ringleader has a gun pointed behind the hostage and warns you to not make any sudden moves. At this point, you have the golden opportunity to make a carefully placed head shot on the ringleader; however, you have only three seconds to do it before he pulls the trigger and effectively shoots the hostage dead (and thus failing the quest).
- In the first half of Stage 3-3 of Time Crisis 2, Ernesto Diaz uses Christy Ryan as a hostage shield. The players have to engage Diaz accurately, otherwise, a missed shot hitting Christy will cost 5000 points.
- Played straight and played with during one level of The Matrix: Path of Neo in an abandoned church. An Agent takes the guy you're supposed to save hostage. Neo can then try to shoot the Agent and either it takes or dodges the bullet.
- The Saints Row series gives you plenty opportunities to do this thanks to the human shield mechanics : whenever an enemy grabs an Innocent Bystander to use as a squishy organic cover, you can save the hostage's life by shooting said enemy clean in the face.
- In the adventure / police procedural game Blue Force, there comes a point where a criminal takes a hostage and the opportunity to invoke this trope comes up. However, the Player Character is a rookie cop and Reality Ensues if you take the shot; you hit the hostage by mistake and the criminal immediately shoots you dead.