Take Me Instead

Leela: Take me first!
Bender: Yes! Take her first!

A character offers him/herself in exchange for the freedom of another, willingly turning himself over to the villain in order to buy the safety of someone who will most likely be a love interest or a friend, although sometimes it's a complete stranger that the hero just met but has nevertheless decided that it's his job to save. And so a trade takes place, but this time the hero is using himself as a bargaining chip. (If the other character is aware of what is going on, a More Hero Than Thou dispute may arise.)

This is a specific kind of Heroic Sacrifice that may or may not end in death. Sometimes the Damsel in Distress, the Distressed Dude or the Badass in Distress is rescued by their friends or manages to escape by the end of the story, if they're lucky, but they usually won't try to escape on their own. As long as the villain keeps his end of the bargain, they're content to suffer in the other person's place.

Sometimes the villain has requested that the hero turn himself in, offering to free his hostage in exchange for the person he really wants. Often in such cases this was the villain's plan all along for getting his hands on the hero, as he is able to predict that the hero would sacrifice himself for the hostage. In other cases where the original hostage is the intended target, the sacrificer will shock the villain because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.

In situations where Balancing Death's Books comes into play, a character makes this kind of deal with Death in order to save someone who is scheduled to die.

Character types most likely to perform this action are the All-Loving Hero, who really can't help it, and The Atoner, for whom Redemption Equals Death. More than once, also, this is how the Damsel in Distress or Distressed Dude enters the scene, by trying futilely to protect someone else in their surroundings.

Compare and contrast Silent Scapegoat and I Am Spartacus, which both differ in that a character is specifically taking the blame for the actions of another by claiming to be them, More Expendable Than You, in which the character is protecting someone he considers more important, Draw Aggro which is basically "come after me instead", and Prisoner Exchange, in which someone from the villain's team is captured and traded for the hostage.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Belldandy in the "Lord of Terror" arc in Ah! My Goddess, offering to be the host for the Big Bad rather than destroy Keiichi. Turns out that was exactly the right move, since the evil force can't possess a Goddess and has to release both of them.
  • Bokurano plays it straight when Kokopelli asked Koyemshi to let him do the demo battle and the last battle on their Earth so Yuu wouldn't have to battle and/or die. Being the kind of anime that it is, though it's subverted in that Koyemshi just decides to select Yuu as the last battle's pilot anyways, disregarding his promise, and sentencing her to death.
  • Milly Ashford tries this in Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally when the terrorists occupying the hotel come to take Nunnally to Kusakabe, claiming that as the eldest daughter of the Ashford family, she has more value as a hostage. The terrorist tells her that the Ashfords don't have much political value any more, and takes Nunnally anyway, causing Milly to suspect that they know Nunnally is a princess.
  • Davis/Daisuke says this in Digimon Adventure 02, trying to save his friends from being eaten in a Sadistic Choice.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric is willing to offer his life in exchange for his brother Alphonse, whose body was obliterated in their failed attempt to use alchemy to bring back their mother.
    Edward: "No, dammit. You won't take him too. Give him back! He's my brother! Take my leg. Take my arm! Take my heart, ANYTHING, YOU CAN HAVE IT! Just give him back!"
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Kaname's teacher Ms. Kagurazaka offers to be the hostage in place of Kaname when Gauron hijacks the airplane they're on. Of course, Gauron refuses, because the teacher isn't a Whispered, and is therefore useless. In fact he's about to shoot Kagurazaka after she continues to object, when Sousuke provides a distraction by 'accidentally' dropping a tray. Gauron stares at him for an uncomfortably long time, clearly suspicious, before leaving with Kaname. Kagurazaka promptly collapses in shock, and blames herself until Kaname turns up alive in hospital later.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Relena does this when the new Cinq Kingdom is attacked. She agrees to go with the Romefeller Group in exchange for the few civilians there being spared. (And she secretly hopes to start in-fighting — which she does few later)
  • In the second part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Stroheim needs human blood to awaken Santana, the first Pillar Man. He gathers a group of prisoners and tells them to choose one to die; when they're hesitant, he threatens to kill an innocent woman. A young boy steps forward and offers his own life. Stroheim praises his courage, and then tells his men to kill all of the prisoners except the boy.
    • Dio in the first arc carries out a plan to turn the entire population of a village into his vampire servants when a woman offers herself without resistance only if Dio will leave her child unharmed. He agrees, vampirizes her, and leaves the unharmed child in the arms of his newly blood-ravening mother.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! has Ako Izumi offering to be Tosaka's slave for life if he won't blackmail Negi into slavery, proving that you don't have to be physically Bad Ass to be awesome. For the record Tosaka turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who agrees to just let Negi go. She didn't know at the time, but it's implied the actual agreement she was making would have gotten her raped, among other things. Legally.
    • It's all but stated outright that it would have led to legal rape (or at least rape the government has no power to stop). Turns out Ako was pretty sure Tosaka was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but that doesn't make it less Bad Ass—just a little bit more Genre Savvy.
  • Seen in One Piece, when both Zoro and Sanji offers themselves up instead of Luffy. Zoro 'wins.'
    • Possibly one of the examples where the scene is literally MORE moving because he SURVIVES. And through One Piece logic, Kuma is actually able to put all the pain and suffering Luffy endured in an entire arc into Zoro's body. One touch makes the stoic (for this show, anyway) Zoro scream. So he relocates to a place away from the others, where Sanji later finds him amid blood-splatter and wearing the Thousand-Yard Stare. It really looks like a case of Died Standing Up until Zoro speaks. What's he say? "Nothing happened!!!"
    • Also pulled by Princess Shirahoshi in the Fishman Island arc.
  • In Princess Tutu, when Mytho is fully transformed into a raven and abandons her to have his heart eaten by the Raven King, said King's daughter (Dark Magical Girl Rue) offers to have her own heart eaten instead. This breaks the Mind Control on Mytho and he's released, but Rue is taken captive instead of him. Mytho has to go rescue her, and once she's free, they finish off the Raven King together.
  • Rosario + Vampire has Tsukune do this for his friends who had just been on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • In the conclusion of the first arc of Sailor Moon Stars. In the Darkest Hour whence the Big Bad of the arc Nehelenia has effectively sealed away all of Usagi's friends and her lover's curse is about to be made permanent. Nehelenia gives her a heart-breaking Hannibal Lecture which is also explaining her backstory (and how she endured many years of solitude). Usagi understands what it must have felt like since she is experiencing the same situation currently and tells Nehelenia to focus her raging revenge on her and sweetly asks her to let her friend go. She even tops it all off by explaining that they can be her friends in her place. By far this is one of the major Tear Jerker moments in all the series seeing Usagi offer up her life like that.
  • Also happens in The Vision of Escaflowne, when Hitomi tries to Screw Destiny so her crush Allen won't marry her friend Millerna and It Got Worse as a consequence.
  • In the one-shot episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX the evil duel monster, Jinzo, is resurrected, but to gain full physical form, he has to sacrifice the souls of those that summoned him. One managed to make it to the Slifer Red dorm where he meets the main characters. Jaden willingly offered himself up to act as the poor boy's replacement (even though Jaden had only known the kid's name for barely twenty minutes.)
    • It's hilariously played with in Shadyvox's abridged series. Jinzo responds by quickly accepting and pulling out a chainsaw. Jaden then says that they should have a duel.
  • The Special Effect of Yusei's Ace Monster Stardust Dragon on Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's is essentially this trope — it can be sacrificed to prevent any card-destroying effect, destroy the card responsible for the destruction, and revive at the end of your turn.
  • During the Yu-Gi-Oh! Doma arc, Yugi lets the Seal of Orichalcos take his soul, sparing Yami's.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, they seem to be building up to such a life-for-life scenario when Kurama uses a magic mirror to offer his life in exchange for his Ill Girl mother Shiori's. Yusuke was already deeply affected by how brokenhearted losing a son could be, so he intervenes by offering up his own life. In the manga, the mirror takes half the life force from each of them, fulfilling the request without either one actually dying. The mirror seemed pleased that it had had the opportunity to grant a wish without killing anyone, too. Apparently it's depressing being a cursed object. In the anime, the mirror simply fulfills the request for free in honor of Yusuke's self-sacrifice.
  • Saito, from The Familiar of Zero, doesn't give Louise an option. He drugs the wine used in their wedding, and passes off to an ally before taking off to fight the entire Albion army of 60,000.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In the Emergency! fic "Lost and Found" , John Gage does this when a kidnapper targets Roy DeSoto. John knows what the guy did to his previous victims and likely feels it will spare Roy and his family the same stuff. The guy still shoots Roy and John spends 18mo of captivity thinking his friend is dead.
  • Done in an Atlantis Fanfiction 'Responsibility', where, after the guards arrest Jason for stealing bread, Pythagoras takes Jason's punishment, claiming that Jason didnt know the law. (luckily the guards didnt cut off his hand, as they would have done for Jason)

    Comic Books 
  • In Death: The Time of Your Life, Death's lingering fondness for the protagonists leads her to agree to bring their baby back, but, she warns, she'll be back, and someone will be leaving with her...
  • What If? #9 sees the hostage Dwight D. Eisenhower beg the Yellow Claw to kill him instead of Jimmy Woo. While the Yellow Claw admires the President's bravery, it would be ridiculous to get rid of his trump card like that.
  • Parodied by Dirty Coward Boomerang in Superior Foes of Spider-Man, who drags his girlfriend out of hiding in order to beg Bullseye not to kill her and leave him alive with the guilt "like that totally awesome thing you did to Daredevil that you're so proud of". Both Bullseye and the girl are disgusted by this blatant Briar Patching.
  • In Swamp Thing, Zatara sacrifices his life to save his daughter Zatanna from an evil power.
  • In Usagi Yojimbo, Kitsune the pickpocket pulls this trope when her accomplice, Noodles, is caught and is about to be crucified. She starts crying and screaming through the fence that she's the guilty one and that she should die. Sadly, her pleas are ignored.

    Films — Animated 
  • Beauty and the Beast has Belle using this exact line when she begs the Beast to imprison her instead of her father. Of course, since a kindhearted girl is exactly what the Beast wanted in the first place, he accepts.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Stoick and Gobber each try to lure the Green Death away from the rest of the tribe, shouting "ME!" "NO, ME!" Then Hiccup and his newly-minted dragon riders get to play Big Damn Heroes.
  • This is the essence of King Triton's offer to Ursula in The Little Mermaid. His daughter, Ariel, has signed her soul over to her and in order to break the Magically Binding Contract he has to put his signature in place of hers.
  • Strange Magic has Sunny trying to offer himself up as a hostage in exchange for Dawn by pointing out that he was the one who stole the Love Potion that the villain is trying to ransom for. Since he doesn't actually have the love potion and isn't as useful as a hostage as the King's daughter, he's rejected.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Father Damian in The Exorcist: "Take me!"
  • Star Wars: Captain Needa decides to apologise in person to Lord Vader to minimise the fallout from his ship losing track of the heroes', knowing full what's going to happen to him.
  • Max Shreck asks the Penguin to take him instead of his son in Batman Returns, convincing him that he hates him more than anyone else. (The Penguin agrees, not really because of that, but because he just wants Shreck to shut up.)
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Kirk offers himself up as a prisoner in exchange for Khan letting the Enterprise go. Khan then demands the Genesis data as well, setting up a Hollywood Hacking Indy Ploy that Kirk uses to even the odds.
    • Star Trek: Generations: Captain Picard offers himself to the Duras sisters as a hostage if they will release Geordi La Forge (over Data's offer to be the hostage himself). In First Contact he offers himself to the Borg Queen in exchange for Data. Fortunately, Data made other plans.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness: Kirk pleads with Admiral Marcus to punish him alone and spare the Enterprise crew after disobeying orders and attempting to flee to Earth. Notably, Kirk offered Khan the same deal in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Khan at least acted like he would accept (and might have); Marcus just laughs it off. Who's the real monster?
  • In Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Darby uses his third wish to go in his sick daughter's place when Death comes to claim her. His fourth wish is made on accident. The leprechaun shows up in Death's coach and says "I wish I could go with you." Darby casually says "Me too." Making a fourth wish negates all three previous wishes.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, a con artist cornered by police takes Camilla the chicken hostage. Gonzo says "Take me instead!" He takes Camilla and Gonzo.
  • At the end of Jeepers Creepers Darry has been captured by the Creeper and is considering flying away with him to eat, Trish tearfully begs him to take her instead of her brother and that she is the one he wants. The Creeper pauses to consider it, then breaks out and flies away with Darry anyway. What happens afterwards isn't pretty.
  • Captain Miller of Event Horizon offers himself in exchange for his crew to the possessed Dr. Weir, who responds, "No. There is no escape. The gateway is open, and you're all coming with me!"
  • Phone Booth
    The Caller: ...Then I have to take somebody with me don't I? And since Kelly is the most important thing in your life, I'll take her.
    Stu: No, take me! Take me! I'm the one you want!
  • Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control
    Lloyd: Let them go, I'm the one you want.
    Bruce: No I am, I'm the brains, I went to MIT.
    Lloyd: You know what? He did, take him.
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
    Megatron: Come here, boy. You remember me, don't you?
    Sam Witwicky: Just let them go, okay? It's me you want.
  • Max uses a variation on this line to save his little sister in Hocus Pocus. big brothe Max takes a life-draining potion that the evil witch Winifred was trying to force his younger sister to take, forcing her to drain him to survive coming morning.
  • Inverted in Penn & Teller Get Killed. When Penn & Teller and their female manager are abducted by thugs, Penn yells "Do what you want to the woman, but leave us alone!"
  • Gomez said this to God in Addams Family Values when he's horrified at the things his newborn son might become now that he's becoming normal. Also counts as a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment.
  • At the end of The Lost Boys, Lucy is willing to let Max bite her in order to spare Michael and Sam. Grandpa saves her from this fate at the last second by crashing his jeep into the house.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, when the dwarves were captured by the goblins, they are ordered to kill the dwarves, starting with the youngest. Ori understandably looked terrified. Immediately, Thorin stepped forward and revealed his identity to the Goblin King.
  • Non-lethal example occurs in Red Sonja. The heroine gets fed up with Prince Tarn and decides to spank him, causing the prince's servant Falkon to plead with her not to, saying that if she must hit someone, to hit him. Sonja decides not to do either, instead scolding the young prince by telling him that Falkon knows more about loyalty than he ever will. Actually, Sonja is wrong. Tarn does learn from this, and is willing to make a Heroic Sacrifice at the end of the movie; fortunately, he survives.
  • Rev. Scott yells this to God in The Poseidon Adventure during his rant after Linda's death. Then he falls to his own death once he's turned off the valve controlling the,hot steam that blocked the group's escape.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, when Katniss contacts President Snow as a means to try to serve a distraction from the rescue mission to free Peeta and the other Tribute hostages, she offers herself, telling him "release Peeta and take me instead." He replies that they're long past the point for noble sacrifices.
  • The Undefeated (1969, John Wayne, Rock Hudson). The titular band of Confederates have been captured by Mexican revolutionaries. Ludlow, who has been shunned by his companions because he refused to join the Confederate Army during the Civil War, is selected to face a firing squad for the second time (the first was averted). Captain Anderson stops him; "My turn."

  • On the Run: Meg is taken hostage by the big bad, and her brother tries to take her place. The two fight over it, leading the big bad to laugh, and reveal that yes, he framed their parents; the Falconers are such loyal people, they'd do anything for family. Too bad for him Meg has a guardian guard pig, and the farm is bugged.
  • In Dean Koontz's The Good Guy, Timothy Carrier encounters a hitman at a bar who mistakes him for the man who ordered the hit. The killer hands him $10,000 and a picture of a woman, promising the rest when she's gone. After Tim locates the woman, they are both hounded by the killer on a harrowing chase, and eventually he offers himself in the exact words, "take me instead'" so that she might go free.
  • In Outlander, the villain captures the heroine, Claire, as she tries to rescue her husband Jamie from prison and hanging. Jamie offers himself to the villain, to torture and rape as he pleases without crying out or exposing him, if he'll let Claire free.
  • In Watership Down, in the last legend of Prince El-ahrairah, the Prince of Rabbits is playing Chess with Death for the fate of his people. After he loses, he asks to die in their place. The Black Rabbit refuses (commenting that other rabbits offer him bargains like that all the time), but El-ahrairah tries to enforce the decision by jumping in one of the pits full of plagues, intending to catch a deadly disease and carry it home to the enemies besieging his warren. Then the Black Rabbit informs him that he is immune to that plague and cannot carry it ... but spares both him and his people because of El-ahrairah's bravery.
  • Also done by Zak in The Dark Elf Trilogy's first book, Homeland to save Drizzt's life.
  • In I, Claudius, when Caligula falls ill, some of his subjects make grandiose public announcements that if Death spares the Emperor, they'll kill themselves in his place. Later, when Caligula gets better, he forces them all to follow through on it.
  • In The Last Command, Luke offers to stay with Joruus C'baoth if he lets Leia, Han, Mara, and Talon go. Fortunately for him, Joruus is power-hungry enough to refuse the offer.
  • In Harry Potter, Mama Bear Lily Evans-Potter offers her life to Voldemort so he would let baby Harry live. He doesn't listen to her of course. And ultimately it was her Heroic Sacrifice what saved Harry by triggering a powerful ancient magic that protected him and destroyed Voldemort's body.
    • This same magic is activated again when Harry allows Voldemort to kill him to save the world. When he comes Back from the Dead, he notices that none of the spells Voldemort tries to cast on anyone at Hogwarts affect them for very long.
    • In Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore yells this while drinking the potion in the cave, which sends him back to his sister's death, wanting to be killed in her place.
    • In Deathly Hallows, when Bellatrix gets Hermione to torture her, Ron offers himself to be taken instead of her. Bellatrix answers he can take her place... if Hermione dies under questioning.
  • Painfully inverted in 1984. Those captured by the Ministry of Love inevitably give up their friends and family, some before being tortured, at hearing the threat. At the end, Winston tells O'Brien to take Julia instead, and do anything to her, to avoid having his face eaten off by rats. It later turns out that Julia betrayed him too.
    Under the spreading chestnut tree,
    I sold you and you sold me.
  • Aslan secretly tells the White Witch this when she comes back for Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss offers herself to possibly die in the place of her sister Primrose in the Hunger Games.
    • Peeta does something similar for Katniss, encouraging Haymitch to put all his focus on saving her at the expense of Peeta's own life (as well as putting himself in harms way numerous times in the arena to save or protect Katniss). In Catching Fire Peeta and Katniss both do this for each other, each making a pact with Haymitch that he will save the other. At one point in the arena when they are separated Katniss begins to scream Peeta's name to lure any enemies to her so that he can have a chance to live.
    • Mags volunteered to take Annie's place in the Quarter Quell in Catching Fire.
  • In the Star Trek: The Lost Era novel Well of Souls. The spirit lifeform Uramtali wants to use the telepathic civilian Ven Kaldarren as a host for her consciousness. Unfortunately for her, he's instinctively blocked her telepathic summons, and she can't reach him. As a back up plan, she lures his young son and another child instead, trying to possess them. She still wants Kaldarren, though; they're just bait and "incentive". She attempts to take the son (knowing Kaldarren would surrender himself for his child), but his mind is not suitable, so she's left possessing the other boy. This isn't quite so certain, but Kaldarren soon offers a Take Me Instead anyway.
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents sees Maurice offering one of his nine lives to Death in exchange for Dangerous Beans'. Not a completely straight example, since he knew well enough that he wouldn't be going anywhere that moment, but still astonishingly selfless for a cat.
    • Granny Weatherwax (a witch) plays a game against Death for the life of an infant, with herself as the stakes should she lose. It's heavily implied he was deliberately playing to lose, with both he and Granny tacitly agreeing to pretend otherwise (Death in the Discworld is actually a pretty nice guy).
  • In The Dresden Files novel Death Masks, Shiro appears to do this by offering to trade himself to Nicodemus in exchange for Dresden. However, at the end of the story, it's revealed that Shiro had terminal cancer and would have died soon regardless.
  • In The Quest of the Unaligned, Nahruahn forces the villain to accept this trade by a form of Loophole Abuse. The villain has captured Alaric and is torturing him to death, when Nahruahn appears on the scene and challenges the villain, who is a far more powerful mage than he, to a duel of power. Since Nahruahn does have a genuine grievance against the villain (who stole a precious artifact that was in Nahruahn's trust), the rules of magic render the villain physically incapable of refusing this challenge. Furthermore, it is impossible to use magic on anyone else when you are in a duel, so the villain has to release Alaric.
  • In After The Golden Age, police officer Mark Paulson offers himself as a hostage in place of Distressed Damsel Celia West. This actually exasperates Celia; she's been taken hostage many times before and knows how to handle it, while Mark is likely to try something stupidly heroic and get himself killed.
  • During The Color Of Distance Anito is told she will have to be called away from home, essentially exiled, to become a wandering enkar. Her sort-of-sister offers to become an enkar in her place and is gently refused. After some consideration she decides to become an enkar to come with her.
  • In Frostbite, Rose volunteered to let Isaiah drink her blood, rather than let him drink from Mason Ashford and Eddie Castile. She argued that she had experience having her blood offered to Moroi.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Workaholics episode "Old Man Ders", Ders steals Montez' car and the guys cruise around in it. At the end of the episode, cops have found the car and confront the guys, who are drunk. One of them asks, "You guys are driving the convertible, right?" Ders is about to fess up, but Adam (who didn't get Ders anything for his birthday) stops him and says "You know what? Happy birthday, bud."
    Adam:Yeah, I was driving it, what's it to ya? I've gotten plenty of DU Is, give me another one. I don't care, I don't care copper!
    Cop: The car's been reported stolen, and you've been driving it drunk?
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "One For the Angels", a salesman convinces Death to take him instead of a little girl who is sick.
    • The street vendor was supposed to die that day, but he pleads with Death to let him live long enough to make one last great sales pitch. Death agrees. The man swears off making any more pitches and believes that he has cheated Death. Death then mentions that Someone Has to Die that day, and a little girl that the vendor knew is hit by a car. The vendor immediately offers to die instead, but Death refuses and leaves, promising to return to take the little girl before midnight. In an effort to stall him when he arrives, the vendor pitches himself as an assistant to the overworked Death. It's a great pitch that enthralls Death, and he misses the deadline to claim the little girl. The vendor then willingly goes with Death, having made his last great pitch. A more complicated example than most.
    • In the episode "In Praise of Pip", the wounded (possibly dying) bookie Max Phillips pleads with God not to let his son Pip die in Vietnam. He offers his own life instead, and immediately falls to the ground lifeless. The next scene shows Pip walking with a cane visiting the amusement park.
  • Merlin spends most of 1X13 offering his life in exchange for Arthur's after Arthur suffered a mortal...bite. In the same episode, we have Merlin trying to offer himself for his mother, Gaius doing so instead to protect Merlin, Merlin offering himself in exchange for Gaius, and ultimately the price paid is the life of the big bad of that season. Balancing Death's Books indeed.
  • A Mad TV sketch takes place at a funeral, with a woman mourning her husband, screaming "Take me, Jesus! Take me instead!" Sure enough, Jesus shows up, brings the woman's husband back to life, and then asks the woman to go with him. Naturally, the woman wasn't expecting her wish to be granted, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Surprise," Buffy and Angel are caught by Spike and about to be killed by the Judge, Buffy first. Angel offers "Take Me Instead of her;" Spike replies, "You're not clear on the concept, pal. There is no 'instead.' Just 'first' and 'second.'"
  • Angel. Gunn offers the Conduit to the Senior Partners his life in exchange for Fred Burkle, dying after being infested by an Eldritch Abomination inside a sarcophagus she opened. The Conduit just laughs, saying he already has Gunn's life. Gunn finds out what he means later; it was his signature that freed the sarcophagus from Customs so it could be delivered to Fred, a deal Gunn made in exchange for maintaining his brain upgrade.
  • In the series finale of Life, Crews offers Roman to exchange himself for Dani. He then kills Roman with a punch to the throat and walks away unharmed.
  • A variation occurs in the Supernatural episode "The Rapture." Castiel's former vessel, Jimmy, gets shot while trying to rescue his wife and daughter from demons. However, Castiel has taken up residence inside Jimmy's daughter Claire, and takes down the demons with ease. Castiel-in-Claire then tells the dying Jimmy that he can now be at peace. Jimmy begs Castiel to possess him again, instead of his daughter. Castiel says to Jimmy, "I want to make sure you understand. You won't die, or age. If this last year was painful for you, picture a hundred, a thousand more like it." Jimmy responds, "It doesn't matter! You take me! Just take me."
  • In the Firefly episode "Safe," Simon says this when River is about to be burned at the stake by over-zealous backwoods villagers, asking them to kill him in her place. They refuse and are about to burn them bothnote  (even though Simon just healed some sick villagers and he's the only doctor for miles around). They are only saved when the Big Damn Heroes show up in the moment that named the trope.
  • Cameron Mitchell tried this in one episode of Stargate SG-1. Of course, the bad guys of the episode just grabbed everyone and ignored him.
    • O'Neill tries this too, it doesn't work for him either.
      O'Neill: You can do anything you like with me.
      Nirrti: (purring) I know.
  • The Thin Blue Line episode "Fire and Terror" ends with a double Take Me Instead, the second instance throwing Gary the gay fireman out of the closet.
    Lunatic: I'm armed, and I'm dangerous, and I'm gonna take a hostage
    Habib: Take me!
    Goody: No Maggie! you're too beautiful to die! Take me!
    Gary: No Kev! you're too too beautiful to die! Take me!
  • Doctor Who: The number of times the Doctor has uttered this line or something similar to try and spare someone else's life. Let me count the ways...
    • Arguably the most notable example in the series: during the Jon Pertwee arc "The Daemons", when the Daemon Azal(a godlike alien being who influenced Earth's legends of devils and demons) was about to kill the Doctor, Jo Grant literally shouted the trope name. Azal's inability to understand the concept of Jo's Heroic Sacrifice caused the logically-minded Daemon to vanish in a Puff of Logic.
  • Fairly common in Police Procedurals involving a hostage crisis:
    • In Without a Trace, Jack Malone offers to trade places with Love Interest and fellow FBI agent Samantha Spade when she is taken hostage and wounded.
  • A variation occurred on Cold Case, when the investigation of a drive-by shooting that killed a young girl over a decade ago revealed that her then-12 year old brother had done so (he was aiming at the man his mother was having an affair with). When they came to arrest the young man his middle-aged father tries to confess rather than let his son go to jail for murder.
  • In the first season of 24, one of the thugs that has kidnapped them tries to drag Kim out of the room to rape her. Terri offers herself instead, promising not to fight, and the guy agrees. Terri uses the opportunity to steal his cell phone.
    • Later in the same season, Jack offers himself to the Drazens in Kim's place, knowing they'll kill him. They accept the offer, but obviously things don't go as planned.
    • In Live Another Day, Jack hands himself to the Russians in exchange for Chloe.
  • In the finale two-parter of Highlander, Duncan offers his head to the villain (who has Joe and Amanda hostage) in exchange for their lives. He has every intention of going through with allowing himself to be killed, but then Methos shows up ...
    • He also does it in the season 1 ep 'Bad Day in Building A', so the villains will kill him and give him the freedom to move around the courthouse, hunting them one by one.
  • In the NCIS episode "Kill Ari", Ducky learns that Ari has taken Gerald hostage, and goes to meet with Ari in order to prevent him from killing Gerald. Ducky, fully expecting Ari to kill them both, tells Gerald to get in his car and get away. Shortly after that, we learn that Gerald has absolutely no experience Driving Stick. Ari lets Gerald escape in his own car, seemingly out of pure unbridled pity at the attempt.
  • In Deep Space Nine, Ben Sisko says this exactly in "The Reckoning" when the Pah-Wraith arrives in his son's body. The Pah-Wraith simply mocks the Prophet for its Emissary offering himself to its enemy before hurling him across the Promenade.
  • An episode of Mash had a soldier going off his nut and taking Charles hostage in exchange for safe passage to the United States. Klinger hears this and offers to take Charles' place as hostage but only because it means his ticket out of the Army. Unfortunately for Klinger, his captor collapses from blood loss and the escape never takes place.
  • One episode of The A-Team dealt with a plane hijacking. The president of the airline (actually Hannibal in disguise) offers himself in place of the hostages aboard the plane.
  • In the two.part miniseries House of Frankenstein (1997), a vampire holds a woman's child hostage and has her call the protagonist (whom she is friends with) to lead him into a trap. After she reluctantly does so, the vampire proceeds to try to bite the child which the mother frantically offers herself. Of course, the vampire is a jerk and was looking to kill both of them anyway but luckily some ashes from her dead husband are enough to take the vampire down.
  • The Following: Ryan Hardy makes this offer to Joe Carroll on more than one occasion, but since everything Carroll does is designed to torment Hardy, he never takes him up on it.
  • Patrick Jane does this during a hostage situation in "Nothing Gold Can Stay" on The Mentalist, after he decides he can't let a risky plan to attack the hostage-takers go through. He even specifically uses the phrase "take me instead."
  • There's an interesting example in season 4 of The Walking Dead: Daryl attempts to pull this with the Claimers, offering his own life in exchange for them letting Rick, Carl and Michonne go free. It doesn't work, as they simply decide to kill him as well. Thankfully our heroes manage to save themselves and kill the bad guys anyway.
  • At the end of The 100's first season, Murphy takes Jasper hostage after he catches Murphy killing one of the people who had tried to lynch him. Bellamy, another one of the people who had tried to lynch Murphy, manages to free Jasper by agreeing to become Murphy's prisoner and accept whatever revenge he has planned.
    • In the second season, the Grounders demand that Finn be executed for the murders he's committed, and Clarke tries offering herself up in his place, pointing out that she's killed more of their people than Finn has. The Grounders' leader doesn't accept this, though: Clarke killed their soldiers during the war, but Finn murdered unarmed civilians without provocation.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit S14:E7 (Vanity's Bonfire) ends with a woman who's terminal brain tumor left her reliant on a cane to walk and too weak to handle a pitcher of water confessing to beating the head of her husband's physically healthy mistress in with a 20 pound hunk of crystal, while also swearing under oath that her 15 year old daughter came straight home from school that afternoon and never left the townhouse.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • In The Bible, the ten oldest sons of Jacob, led by Judah, sold their younger half-brother Joseph as a slave. Jacob was heartbroken, and grew more attached to his youngest son , Benjamin. Years later, Benjamin is falsely accused of stealing from the Egyptian vizier and is going to be taken as a slave as punishment. Judah, realizing how much this will destroy their father, offers himself as a slave instead. Of course, the story ends with the vizier revealing that he's actually Joseph, who brought this whole situation about to see if his older brothers had changed.
  • Making this one Older Than Feudalism is the myth of Admetus and Alcestis. Admetus is a beloved king; and, when he is due to die, Death agrees to allow him to live if he can find another willing to die in his stead. However, he is unable to find anyone - for all that his subjects love him, they don't love him enough to die for him, with even his father refusing to do it. Finally, believing himself doomed, he returns to his room - to find that his wife, Alcestis, has already agreed to die in his place, and promptly expires. Admetus lives - but in the knowledge that he has lost the one person who loved him enough to die for him. Then, in a surprise twist happy ending, Admetus's Hot-Blooded friend Heracles arrives and punches out Death to bring Queen Alcestis back.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In 2001, during the time Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley were regularly putting women through tables. Their intended victim that night was Molly Holly, the girlfriend of their younger brother, Spike. Spike laid across the table, begging Bubba to spare Molly and do him instead. Bubba drove Molly through the table AND Spike.

    Radio Drama 
  • In the first part of the Adventures in Odyssey episode "The Perfect Witness" Katrina Shanks speaks this trope verbatim to the criminals who were robbing the bookstore where she worked and were kidnapping young, blind customer Jenny.

    Stand-up Comedy 
  • Inverted in George Carlin's list of things you people have never said before: "Do what you want to the girl, but leave me alone!"

    Video Games 
  • In Resident Evil 6, Helena offers herself to Simmons in order to save her younger sister Deborah. It doesn't work, and she ends up having to kill her in the end after she is infected with the virus.
  • There is one instance in Baldur's Gate where you can offer yourself instead of your love-interest.
  • The 'Ritual of Soul Transfer', appears in several places in the Valkyrie Profile series of games, and allows anyone to sacrifice their own life to resurrect a recently deceased. You get a couple of... 'recruits' that way.
  • Hazuki does this in Moonphase at some point in the series to spare the others from the antagonist's torture.
  • Lampshaded in Crash Twinsanity.
  • Laharl desperately tries to invoke this when Flonne gets flower-ized in Disgaea's endings.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, one of the main quests involves making a Heroic Sacrifice in order to bring a little vampire girl back from the dead, exchanging her life for the hero's. Instead of the Hero dying, the girl's Pet Monstrosity ends up exchanging his own life, in a particularly tear-jerking scene.
    • In Quest for Glory V the Hero finally gets his chance: One of the quests takes you to Hades, where you can give up your life to restore either Katrina or Erana to life. You still manage to escape Hades because you're that Bad Ass, but this trope is in full effect. Word of God is that the Hero's sacrifice saved both women.
  • Early in Final Fantasy XIII, Snow offers himself as a l'Cie in return for the Pulse fal'Cie turning Serah back to normal. It doesn't listen. And subsequently makes him (and the rest of the party) l'Cie regardless.
  • Heiss does this in Radiant Historia, in a truly tearjerking moment, in a desperate effort to save the one person he gave a damn about.
  • Parodied in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time when Quark tries to trade his life for that of the War Grok
    Quark: Please, take me instead! All I ask is that you name something impressive in my honor! Perhaps a school, or a food court.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, if Zsasz finishes telling his story before Batman can trace the call, then the next time he calls, Batman will stall for time by offering to replace Zsasz's hostages with himself.
  • In Ib, if Mary finds Ib's rose in the toy box, Garry will offer his own rose in return for Ib's back. Since the two roses are directly linked to Ib and Garry's health, he is voluntarily handing over his life to a malicious little girl just to save Ib.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword, Ninian offers to go with the Big Bad in exchange for him sparing the lives of the heroes and her little brother. It does work, but it still ends up getting her (temporarily) killed.
  • A few examples in The Elder Scrolls series:
    • Skyrim:
      • One of the Forsworn only joined up because he lost his daughter to the CHOPPING BLOCK in his place, where he says that he had to watch, and then they threw him in the mines anyway. According to the Forsworn, he's far from the only one. Although the Forsworn are a gang of fanatical butchers who strong-arm the working class into performing assassinations, their opposition is a corporation that uses this trope to kill the families of those who are strong enough to mine and initially too stubborn to stay jailed.

    Web Original 
  • In one episode of Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, the characters are attempting to sneak deeper into Freelancer Command and come up with the plan for Washington to pretend to take Church prisoner to get past the guards. Caboose, being stupid, doesn't understand the "pretend" part, and attempts a Take Me Instead.
  • We Are Our Avatars: After fighting the creator of Sword Art Online in a final battle, Kris decides to sacrifice himself to revive Kirito because Kirito's virtual avatar died during the fight.
  • The eponymous A_J of AJCO requests that the Liasion Officer hand herself over - if she does, her friends and allies trapped in the hangar with her will be granted what they need to survive. She agrees almost immediately, even though she hasn't yet heard the full terms and conditions.
    <Egg> Ill do anything if you let them live.
    <Facilitator A_J> Quite agreeable.
    • She doesn't change her mind even when she finds out that she is extremely likely to die a slow and painful death to irradiation or chlorine poisoning, or be forced to commit suicide.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: While in Saudi Arabia, Stan offers to take Francine's place in being stoned to death. He ends up joining her...and Steve...and Hailey.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Aang volunteers to surrender to Zuko if he agrees to stop attacking the Water Tribe village.
    • Some years earlier, a woman named Kya confessed to being a waterbender and offered herself to the raiders attacking them as a prisoner. Unfortunately the commander of said raid did not see fit to take prisoners and murdered her on the spot. Unfortunately for him, Kya was covering for her young daughter Katara, the last Waterbender of the Southern tribe, who eventually tracked him down to correct the misunderstanding.
  • In The Legend of Korra's Grand Finale, Prince Wu, of all people, does this when some Earth Empire soldiers arrest a large group of evacuating Republic citizens. Being the heir to the Earth Kingdom throne, after all, he's a far more valuable prisoner. It's actually a subversion; Wu was stalling for time until his badgermole allies could take down the soldiers.
  • Inverted in an episode of Family Guy when Death comes for Quagmire are he fakes his own death and his new wife (who he faked the death in the first place to get away from) tries to block death from getting (Glenn) Quagmire. After being touched by death, she dies. When Death tells everyone he needs to take someone, everyone convinces him to take her, noting that she was suicidal and her (last) name WAS Quagmire.
    • The time Big Fat Paulie had a hit put on Lois, thinking that Peter wanted him to. Peter tries to convince the mob boss to have him killed instead, only for the mob boss to point out that if he doesn't want the hit, they can just call it off.
  • Kindly inverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, when deciding who should get the last ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala.
    Applejack: Twilight, sugar, I...I didn't mean to put so much pressure on you. And if it helps, I don't want the ticket anymore. You can give it to somepony else; I won't feel bad. I promise.
    Fluttershy: Me too. I feel just awful that I made you feel so awful.
    Pinkie Pie: And me too. It's no fun upsetting your friends.
    Rarity: Twilight, it was unfair of me to try to force you as I did.
    Rainbow Dash: YES! That means the ticket is mine! Ha, ha, ha; ♪I got the ti-cket, I got the ti-cket!♪
    [Beat with disapproving glares]
    Rainbow Dash: Y'know...I haven't perfected my signature moves for the Wonderbolts anyway...I don't need that ticket either.
  • Used and Inverted in The Simpsons. In a Halloween Special, Homer stands in front of a group of brain eating zombies, saying to take him and leave his family. The zombies crowd around, feeling his head... then go "no brain" (to Homer's annoyance) and chase after the rest of Homer's family. In another Homer says, "Please don't eat me, I have a wife and kids... eat them instead!"
  • South Park
    • In "Coon vs. Coon and Friends", Cartman has Cthulu banish his friends to the sunken city of R'Lyeh fallen from the stars. Mysterion, who wakes up in bed after he is killed, commits suicide there to confront the Coon and Cthulu. He tells Cthulu to take him instead of his friends and rid him of his Immortality Hurts curse as only an immortal can kill another immortal. His friends are saved.... by Mintberry Crunch.
    • Inverted when some criminals takes the fourth grade class as hostages in "Super Fun Time." Mr. Garrison tells them, "Please, if you must take anyone, don't take me. These kids are worth more to you."
  • In Transformers Prime, when Shockwave prepares the cortical psychic patch to extract information from Arcee, Cliffjumper says something to this effect. It doesn't work, but he did try.
  • Young Justice actually goes through with it, though it's a non-fatal example: Zatanna puts on the Helmet of Fate and gets possessed by Nabu, who refuses to release her. In exchange for her freedom, her father Zatara offers himself instead, and is still possessed by Nabu five years later.

    Real Life