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Anime and Manga
- This is first played straight, but ultimately subverted in Attack on Titan, where one of the soldiers of a band of Titan killers is cornered by one of the smaller Titans, who (thinking that she is one of the Titans in human form) desperately tries to hold back its Horror Hunger (to the point of clawing its face until drawing blood), and tries to communicate. This clues to her (and the audience) the unsettling revelation that the terrifying, humanoid giants that have plagued humanity after nearly exterminating them several hundred years ago... the seemingly unintelligent creatures who have devoured humans and caused untold atrocities for their last remaining stronghold... are not only intelligent but transformed humans. Eventually the Titan succumbs to hunger and, in obvious despair (and possible anger about being wrong about her identity), devours the unlucky scout before she can escape.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia: Paint it, White!, after escaping the alien mothership, the nations wonder why the Pictonians paused their attack upon seeing Italy. Turns out that because the Pictonians have no faces, they were confused by his extreme expressions.
- DC Nation: During the "Strangers" plot where several Titans were swapped out with their Evil Counterparts, the thing that tipped the heroes off to something being amiss was that the people they thought were their enemies weren't attacking. Connor Hawke was the first to voice this aloud, able to read Troia's body language and quickly assess that her posture was not that of an attacker, preventing Arsenal from firing a fatal shot.
Films — Animated
- Invoked in the most literal sense in How to Train Your Dragon. After Hiccup frees the Night Fury he ensnared (that is, the dragon he'd later name "Toothless"), it corners him, screams in his face, and runs off. This one event essentially kicks off the entire plot, because up until then Hiccup had been taught that dragons will always take the kill shot if given a fraction of a chance. It's implied that Toothless himself has this reaction when it becomes evident that Hiccup is cutting him free rather than stabbing him.
Films — Live-Action
- The Host looked like it was going to do this when it captured the protagonists' daughter, but it was subverted.
- Happened in Alien³. The creature gets to Ripley, who is helpless, and... hisses, and leaves. Of course, it's because Ripley is hosting a queen alien.
- Subverted in AVP: Alien vs. Predator, when the old man Weyland thinks Predator will kill him, but the Predator spares him because he is sickly. He gets killed anyway when he attacks him. Also The Final Girl thinks that the Predator will kill her as well but he doesn't because she has proven herself as a warrior, earning the Predator's respect.
- The titular character of Fido is a zombie. In the film's universe, zombies are rendered docile by electrical collars, but if the collar shorts out, in theory the zombie reverts to munching on those tasty people. Through several accidents Fido's collar does malfunction, but he doesn't eat either the boy who is his "owner" or his mother. The mother actually even says, "Why aren't you attacking me?" The zombie sort of has the hots for her. It's actually less Squicky than it sounds.
- Warm Bodies is about a zombie who gets attracted to a normal human and saves her from the rest of the horde.
- Played with in Return of the Jedi: "Only the fighters are attacking, I wonder what those Star Destroyers are waiting for." Not entirely straight in that the Star Destroyers weren't the threat, the thing that they thought was incapable of attacking was. The Star Destroyers were just there to box the Rebel fleet in, making them easier targets for the Death Star's superlaser.
- The climactic battle of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has the Enterprise under attack from an enemy ship that can stay cloaked while attackingnote , causing Kirk to initially order his ship to pull back. Both commanders on either side ask this question about the other: Kirk wonders why his enemy does not press his advantage; his enemy wants to make sure the Enterprise cannot ascertain his exact location before attacking the larger ship.
- In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kruge ponders why the Enterprise, which has a weapon advantage of 10 to 1, hasn't finished him off, and the captain is parleying terms of surrender instead. Kruge is smart enough to call Kirk on his bluff.
- Near the end of Jurassic Park III, Grant and the others are surrounded by Velociraptors who, as Grant points out, aren't tearing anybody limb-from-limb. It turns out they're just after the eggs that Billy stole earlier in the movie.
- The Matrix Revolutions: A Zerg Rush of Sentinels is about to overrun Zion, only to stop at the last second. Morpheus soon realizes that Neo must be up to something.
- One classic Feghoot takes place on an island inhabited by creatures called Trids. A hostile giant lives on a mountain in the middle of the island and has a habit of punting Trids to their doom when they try to climb the mountain. Thus, the Trids decide to send a visiting rabbi to negotiate with the giant. Upon reaching the mountaintop, the rabbi encounters the giant and asks why it isn't attacking, and the giant responds: "Silly rabbi, kicks are for Trids!"
- In the climax of Holes, the protagonists are surrounded by the deadly yellow-spotted lizards, leaving the villains to believe that they don't even have to shoot them because they're about to die a far more horrible death. Fortunately for the protagonists, they've been living on onions for the past few days, and this diet is repellent to the lizards, allowing them to survive.
- In Jingo, the mere fact that the D'regs are not attacking is enough to convince a veteran commander to surrender to Captain Carrot on the spot, having first insisted that these can't be D'regs because D'regs would be attacking.
- In Life of Pi, the title character ends up on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, and an injured zebra. He wonders why the hyena hasn't attacked him or either of the other animals yet. When the hyena makes its move, Pi learns that the hyena didn't attack because a tiger was hiding under the tarp.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who there are a couple of instances of Daleks not attacking despite all logic. Often justified by their weapons not working, though notably in Waters of Mars it was because the target was due to die at a fixed point in time, and even the Daleks aren't crazy enough to screw with fixed points.
- In "Victory of the Daleks," the Daleks seem to be working for none other than Winston Churchill and are just WWII robots, completely uninterested in exterminating the Doctor.
- In an episode of Stargate SG-1 as the team is hiding, they are spotted by Amunet as she, Apophis and a group of guards are leaving though the gate, but she does not signal their presense. The host Sha're, Daniel's wife, was using her willpower to distract Amunet
- Occurs in Season 2 finale of Battlestar Galactica. The Caprican Resistance walks into a Centurion ambush and a bitter firefight ensues...until the Centurions just stop firing. The Resistance spend the whole night awake wondering what the frak is going on.
- It is also an inversion: The group contains a humanoid Cylon infiltrator. When the firefight stops, he begins to wonder why his side won't attack despite numerical, technological and territorial advantages.
- Also occurs on the Season 4 opener, where Anders gets into a dogfight with a Raider. The Raider gets off a scan...and breaks off. It doesn't make the poor guy happy, as he had found out moments ago that he is a Cylon and could have probably lived without the stamp of approval from a Raider.
- Zombie pigmen in Minecraft. Normal zombies, skeletons, spiders, creepers, just about anything else will attack you for no reason at all, but for some reason zombie pigmen are passive unless provoked. They fight in droves and have powerful attacks, so it's likely done to prevent rage quits.
- Shining Blade in Guild Wars.
- Done by the player in BioShock 2 if you choose to spare a certain character (who up until that point considered you a mindless monster) she'll undergo a Heel–Face Turn of sorts (she won't outright betray the Big Bad, because she still believes in her and thinks she was just wrong about you, but she'll send you supplies every so often).
- Some Splicers do the same to you. A few scripted sections have Splicers pop up right behind you and pointedly not attack. Depending on your paranoia, Sander Cohen might count, since after you kill his enemies, photograph their corpses, add them to Cohen's disturbing quadtych, and fight off his army of Splicers that he sends in a moment of paranoia, he gives you another present and just stands there, true to his word about letting you leave. Unless you attack him or his quadtych.
- Occurs in Bastion when you storm the Ura fortress. The kid sleeps while an enemy swordsman watches nearby. No matter how long you wait, they will not attack until the kid wakes up.
- Happens with a geth in Mass Effect 2, who takes out some enemies for you, and can later potentially join your party.
- In Mass Effect 3, if the Geth and the Rachni are recruited for the Crucible, an email from some of the personnel mention their initial freakout when they showed up, asking for Shepard to maybe give a little warning the next time they recruit Cthulhu?! In the former case, it lead to one of the soldiers having to awkwardly go and apologise to the Geth Prime whose headlights they shot out.
- In the comic book interquel for Left 4 Dead, The Sacrifice, a military doctor asks why the zombie horde isn't following them, but decides that it's a good thing. Louis responds that the zombies aren't attacking because a Tank is approaching, which is definitely not a good thing. Similar scenarios also happen frequently in the game itself.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, light-sided Sith Warriors and Inquisitors tend to receive this reaction from various Republic troops, civilians and Jedi they encounter, especially if they'd just provided them with a Villainous Rescue.
- The player can invoke this in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, during the Shivering Isles Expansion Pack, by taking a tame Gnarl and quintupling its size in front of a party of adventurers attempting to force their way into the Isles. This ends up driving the rogue insane.
- A hint that all is not what it seems during Oersted's story while fighting a demonic boss in Live A Live, unfortunately winning is a But Thou Must! situation.
- In Dark Souls II, Manscorpion Tark is one, despite having a threatening appearance, he is actually friendly. Should you wear the Ring of Whisper, you can talk to him and hear his story, and in return he becomes your Chekhov's Gunman.
- In Bloodborne, Rom the Vacuous Spider is one, as a vacuous Barrier Maiden, it has no intent to do harm, however, this is a But Thou Must! moment, you have to kill her to uncover the secret of Mensis Ritual. Ebrietas is another one, despite being an Eldritch Abomination, she'll willing to co-exist with humans, however, if you want to resurrect Queen Annalise after sending Alfred to grind her, you have to kill Ebrietas.
- May happen between players in nearly any PVP multiplayer game. Spotting an opponent who is clearly aware of you, but is deliberately choosing not to attack you or return fire can be pretty jarring, usually leading the player to pause and ask "Why isn't he attacking?"
- In The Wotch, a villager gets this situation during an attack by Xaos's Fallen. Instead of attacking, it almost manages to say "run".
- In Dragon Mango, Agent Vinegar, sent after a murderer, finds his target overpowers him but doesn't kill him, which leaves him baffled.
- Happens in Schlock Mercenary, when a commando unit has infiltrated the Toughs' ship and surrounded them.
Breya: [muttering] So, Captain, what happens if we open fire?
Tagon: Well, we might take two or three of them down with us.
Breya: But we'd die?
Breya: And what if they open fire?
Tagon: We'd die, they'd all live. We're outgunned, Admiral.
Breya: This begs the question: with nothing to lose, why haven't they opened fire yet?
Commando: BECAUSE WE'RE NOT MURDEROUS, MERCENARY SCUM LIKE YOU ARE!!
- In one episode of The Legend of Tarzan, Jane is captured by the leopard men. When she finds herself in their city, she asks why they brought her there if they weren't going to tear her apart. Turns out they wanted to break the spell that Queen La had put on them so they could return to being regular leopards, but the spell could only be broken by their queen. So they kidnapped Jane so she could take the role as queen and break the spell.
- Sometimes you wish Valerie Grey would ask this about her "Arch-Enemy" Danny Phantom- who actually isn't her Arch-Enemy, but actually The Hero who never attacks, but she's too blind to see it.
- In the The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! episode "Gamma World", Thor is fighting Absorbing Man, who has taken on the substance of Mjolnir. Absorbing Man seems to be beating Thor to a pulp, all the while shouting at the god to get up and fight. Moments later, Thor raises his hand and stops Absorbing Man in mid-swing. Thor then shows him why taking on Mjolnir's properties was a bad idea, by controlling him just like he controls his hammer.
- Godzilla: The Series has a juvenile-sized Zilla, Jr. about to chomp on Nick Tatapolous in the first episode. What stops Zilla from eating Nick is because he had imprinted on the scientist right after hatching and thinks Nick is his "dad".