I'll kill your friends, your family, and the bitch you took to the prom! Hudson Hawk:
Betty Jo Biarski? I can get you an address on that if you want.
Classic scenario: Alice
is kidnapped. The kidnappers contact Bob, who is the legal guardian/spouse/caretaker/someone who should
care about Alice and explain they are holding her for ransom
However, Bob has no intention of paying. Either he flat out doesn't care, he doesn't think that much money is worth it or considers the kidnappers to have done him a favor
. The fact that the kidnapped party may die
does not faze him in the least. Of course, karmic justice normally ends up biting him in the ass. At that point the kidnappers would be annoyed that they've kidnapped someone for nothing or even be genuinely appalled by their callous attitude.
May end in a Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth
situation if the kidnapped party really is THAT annoying — see Pity the Kidnapper
A small variation of this would be Bob not taking the kidnapping seriously, seeing as Alice has previously faked similar attempts as a cry for attention. Unfortunately, this time it's for real and the Crying Wolf
See also Shoot the Hostage
, for cases where disregard for the threatened party is more proactive and immediate. For a more straight Super Trope
of this, see also Threat Backfire
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the first episode of Dragon Ball GT, a group of kidnappers snatch the recently re-chibified Goku, after being unable to kidnap Bra for ransom. They then call Vegeta with the ransom demand, saying they've got his son Goku. Needless to say, his reaction can be neatly summed up by this trope's name. (Whether Vegeta doesn't care about Goku or simply says it because he's sure the kidnappers are going to be taught a painful lesson by their victim, or a little of both, is hard to say.)
- They also try calling Bulma... who laughs and tells them to watch their backs.
- In Weiß Kreuz, Omi was kidnapped when he was young. When the kidnappers demand the ransom (with a tearful Omi begging his father to save him) his father, Reiji, declares he won't pay. It's later revealed that this was because Reiji was aware that Omi wasn't his son, but was instead the product of an affair between his wife and his brother Shuichi.
- In the Axis Powers Hetalia anime, after the Allies capture Italy, Germany simply tells them to give him pretty women and a soccer ball to keep him happy.
- Germany was most likely duping them. Before he and Italy became allies, he captured Italy in WWI and learned firsthand how unpleasant it is to have Italy as a POW and knew they would send him home eventually. Plus, he made a promise to be there for Italy when he was in trouble, and genuinely likes him.
- It's also Truth in Television: Lots of Italian POW found their captivity so congenial they emigrated to the US or Canada after the war.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, a defeated Envy tries to take control of Yoki's body, only to find out that none of his companions care. Defeated, he detaches himself and is put into a jar. Although they say they were just bluffing afterward.
- In Tiger & Bunny this turns up in Kriem's back-story. When their daughter is kidnapped and held to ransom by Jake Martinez, it turns out Kriem's parents — who hate and fear her for being a NEXT — have no interest in getting her back. Kriem finds Jake's ideas on NEXTs being superior to ordinary humans far more appealing, and so stays with him even when he decides he may as well release her.
- This is standard procedure for the main cast of Saiyuki. It's usually an act, but they're all such assholes that it's a very convincing act. And they might be slightly more caring than they seem, but one things definite: Sanzo's not going to give you a sutra cause you're threatening to kill someone.
- In Bleach's Soul Society arc, Ichigo's team hold a group of shinigami hostage and attempt to escape from another stronger group, only for the latter to laugh at the idea and explicitly state that they do not really care about the hostages who are from another division.
- Spider Jerusalem uses those exact words when his wife's cryogenically preserved head is stolen and held for ransom in Transmetropolitan. Well, eventually, after having initially enunciated his position by the use of various unprintable invectives.
- One Judge Dredd comic features a supremely obnoxious woman who's a member of a group that believes that The Power of Love can reform all criminals because they are simply misunderstood. The criminal she ends up trying this with kidnaps her for ransom, only to end up begging the group to take her back, take him to jail, ANYTHING to get rid of her.
- In Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, the Society tells Captain Cold that they have his father hostage. He is not as intimidated as they expect, and though he does track down his father, it's only to confront and kill him himself... or at least have Heat Wave do it.
- Used in Harvey Comics' Richie Rich with Richie's wannabee-girlfriend, Mayda Munny. In at least one story, she's so obnoxious that the kidnappers end up paying her father to take her back.
Films — Animated
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible grabs Mirage and threatens to crush her if Syndrome doesn't release him. Syndrome calls his bluff. Mr. Incredible can't bring himself to do it, and Syndrome's reaction to the situation leads to Mirage's Heel-Face Turn.
Films — Live-Action
- From Hudson Hawk:
Darwin Mayflower: I'll kill your friends, your family, and the bitch you took to the prom!
Hudson Hawk: Betty Jo Bialowski? I can get you an address on that if you want.
- This is the entire point of the Danny DeVito movie Ruthless People
Sam: You got no nuts! What do I have to do? Put a gun in your hand, aim and pull your finger down you spineless wimp! I dare you to kill her! Now that oughta do it.
- In Problem Child, when the Bow Tie Killer kidnaps Flo and Junior, Ben is initially overjoyed that they are gone. However after seeing a drawing Junior made, he realizes Junior loves him and goes out to rescue him. Flo... not so much.
- In Tropic Thunder, Les Grossman refuses to pay for Tugg Speedman's ransom under the false pretense of "not negotiating with terrorists" but actually for the petty reason of Tugg losing his popularity and as such not being worth rescuing.
Byong: We no get money yet. Price now a hundred million. You pay now, or tomorrow Simple Jack die!
: Great. Let me get this down. A hundred million... Oh, wait! I got a better idea. Instead of a hundred million, how about I send you a hobo's dick cheese? Then, you kill him. Do your thing, skin the fucking bastard. Go to town, man. Go to town! In the mean time and as usual, go fuck yourself. *Puts phone down* We do not negotiate with terrorists
- In Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels Nick Moran's character (Eddie) loses a large amount of money at a rigged card game. He has 5 days to pay. Vinnie Jones (Big Chris) offers Eddie's father (JD) the option of giving up his bar to cover the cost... to which JD (played by Sting), replies:
JD: I do know your reputation. So I choose my words very carefully. You tell Harry... to go fuck himself.
- John's response to Butch Cavendish's threat to drop Rebecca off the side of a moving train in The Lone Ranger:
John: Go ahead.
Rebecca: [confused] John?
John: She tends to land on her feet.
- In The Big Lebowski, Bunny gets this, although the titular Lebowski tries to hide it. He puts phone books in the ransom case, and then hires the Dude to make the drop, confident that things will go awry, and no one will believe that the Dude didn't keep the money for himself.
He was fuckin' glad, man!
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:
"What are you doing?"
"Stealing your woman."
- This is subverted in the sequel to Crocodile Dundee. After Rico kidnaps Mick's friend Walter and forces him to lead him and his gang to Mick's lodge in the Outback, Rico calls for Mick to come out, threatening to shoot Walter. Mick calls back, telling Rico to "Go ahead and shoot the bastard!" and then, to drive this home, seemingly tries to shoot Walter himself with his rifle, but missing. Mick actually does this to save Walter's life, because he rightfully believes that Rico won't kill Walter if Rico believes he wants him dead. This actually works; Rico thinks that Walter is likely this only one who can track Mick down in this place, so he's convinced to keep him alive until Mick can rescue him later. Mick probably also believes (correctly, in all likelihood) that Rico would have killed Walter anyway if he had come down.
- In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, there's a scene with a woman and some police officers after her husband has been kidnapped. Initially, she's quite frantic and insistent that she'll pay anything and give them anything they want... until she finds out what they're asking for.
"Mrs. Curtis, did you hear me? It's your husband's life or your case of Wonka bars!"
"... how long will they give me to think it over?"
- In the movie Too Many Crooks, a gang attempts to kidnap a businessman's daughter only to end up with his wife. When they try to ransom her back, he announces that he doesn't want her. This so infuriates the wife that she takes control of the gang and uses it to extract revenge on her husband.
- A Turkish film from the 1990s had a rich businessman accidentally kidnapped by would-be revolutionaries (they weren't intending to kidnap him. They just played along after they hit him with their car and he thought they were kidnappers). When the revolutionaries make ransom calls to various members of his family and business, they are shocked to discover that not even his mother is interested in seeing him released. The revolutionaries just let go of him instead, realising the businessman had been worse off than them.
- In The Red Green Show movie Duct Tape Forever, the villain who kidnaps Harold worries that this might be Red's reaction. It's not.
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Austin Powers: [grabs Scott Evil and points a gun at him] It seems the tables have turned again, Dr. Evil.
Dr. Evil: Not really. Kill the little bastard. See what I care.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, when Sao-Feng notices a spy in his midst while negotiating with Barbossa, and suspects foul play:
Sao-Feng: "Drop your weapons or I kill the man."
Barbossa: *confused* "Well, kill him; he's not our man."
Will: Wait a second. If he's not with you and he's not with us... then who's he with?
- Subversion - he really isn't a spy for them, but for Beckett.
- The World Is Not Enough: M tells this to Sir King since the Secret Intelligence Service does not give in to terrorists and criminals. Electra is enraged and decides to take revenge against her father and M.
- In Golden Eye, when Janus gives James Bond the Sadistic Choice of saving the girl or completing the mission, Bond coldly answers, "Kill her, she means nothing to me." He then rescues the girl anyway and later comments, "Basic rule, always call their bluff." Later, when she changes the Goldeneye access codes, Janus threatens to kill Bond if she doesn't cooperate. Her response: "Kill him. He means nothing."
- In Casino Royale, when Bond learns Vesper is taking the poker winnings to a meeting with Gettler, Gettler spots Bond, and puts a knife to Vesper's throat, saying "I'll kill her!" Bond replies "Allow me."
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: When Indy threatens Willie with a sharp fork, Lau Chen giggles, "Go ahead, kill her. I'll get another!"
- Cradle 2 the Grave has the Big Bad Ling kidnap Anthony's daughter. He calls Anthony and offers to exchange her for the black diamonds he stole (they're actually a new form of plutonium). Since neither Anthony nor Su (a Taiwanese agent) has the stones at the moment, Anthony asks Su to talk to Ling. Su and Link converse in Chinese, and Su tells Ling he won't negotiate for the stones. When the infuriated Anthony is about to pounce on him, Su replies he's stalling for time, as Ling wouldn't have released the girl anyway, and now Ling is confused why Su is refusing to deal. On the other hand, Su realizes that the danger the stones represent and is simply making the pragmatic choice.
- In 1967's The Happening (not the same as this film) some hippies kidnap a retired mob boss (Anthony Quinn), and demand a ransom for him. His associates, his mother, and his wife all give the same answer.
- The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin: a woman whose husband is supposedly run over by a train pretends to be sad to the guy that tells her, but then the story gets into her thoughts and shows that she's really happy. And then he walks in the door and she has a heart attack and dies.
- The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry is almost certainly the Ur Example. The main characters attempt to release their hostage, only for him to come back to them, and in the end, they have to pay his father to get him off their hands. You can read it here.
- One of the Brillo stories from 1634: The Ram Rebellion is pretty clearly a retelling of the O. Henry story The Ransom of Red Chief.
- Subverted from time to time in the City Watch Discworld books. Someone will take Angua hostage and be mildly surprised when Carrot doesn't come rushing to her rescue. Of course, Carrot knows Angua can take care of herself perfectly well, and it's the hostage takers who are in trouble.
- In Saki's "The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh", the kidnappers actually get the victim's family to pay them to keep her. Even though, as it turns out, they don't really have her...
- The kidnapping is described as a retreat so payments are rationalised as being very reasonable for a good spa.
- A 1969 comedic "caper" novel, Snatch! by Rennie Airth had the main characters kidnap the infant son of a wealthy businessman. Unfortunately, they'd used a switch of children to keep the abduction from being discovered before they could get away — and the "changeling" was a much more agreeable child than the kidnap victim, so the father coolly told them he preferred to keep the baby he had now, thank you very much. They had to pull another kidnapping to get their under-aged "accomplice" back — especially as the female member of the gang had developed very maternal feelings toward the substitute (an orphan) while they prepared for the original snatch.
- P. G. Wodehouse's short story "Helping Freddie" (later rewritten for the Jeeves and Wooster series as "Fixing It for Freddie") features a Pity the Kidnapper plot wherein the main character kidnaps a small boy as part of a Zany Scheme. When the scheme backfires, he tries to return the kid, only to be stuck babysitting him when it turns out that everyone in the kid's house has influenza and they needed someone to watch him anyway.
- In the short story "Pure Rotten" by John Lutz, two criminals kidnap a rich man's Bratty Halfpint step-daughter. The kidnappers and the stepfather exchange a series of notes. The kidnappers demand money and make increasingly blunt threats. The stepfather refuses to pay and tells them to go ahead and kill the girl. The final note reveals that the girl has got the better of her kidnappers, has copies of all the notes and is changing the scheme to blackmail since people who try to kill children don't tend to do well in prison.
- In Mario Puzo's The Family, Cesare Borgia is attacking the city of Forli and has captured the ruler's sons. He tells her he will kill them unless she surrenders. Her response is to yell "Kill them! I can always make more!" while pulling up her skirt to demonstrate that she is, indeed, equipped to give birth. Cesare spares the boys anyway, on the grounds that there's no particular advantage to killing them.
- Caterina Sforza allegedly did this in real life as well. She certainly cared more about other points of strategy than about getting her sons back, at any rate.
- In Philip K Dick's short story "Human Is", Jill's husband Lester gets his body stolen by an alien while on a business trip to the dying planet Rexor IV. About a week later, the Rexorian is tracked down by the FBI, who tell Jill that they can apprehend the Rexorian culprit and even get her real husband back - all she has to do is testify on tape to the (incredibly obvious) change in her "husband"'s behavior. Jill, however, decides to play dumb, as Lester was a tremendous Jerkass whereas the Rexorian's only noticeable flaw appears to be his outdated grasp of English.
- When Winger gets kidnapped by ratmen to trade for Singe, this is Garrett's reply. It's equal parts Bluffing, Pity the Kidnapper and Winger being Winger.
Live Action TV
- In one Doonesbury strip, some of Duke's creditors kidnap his son Earl. When they call him up and tell him this, his reaction is along the lines of "So what? Kill him. What else you got?" Cut to Earl tied to a chair, cheerfully commenting "Boy! You guys sure don't know Pop!"
- In the Central Park Zoo level of The Punisher for the Xbox, it is possible to take a specific mook hostage and thus have Frank try and trade him to The Dragon for the innocent Joan. Quite naturally, The Dragon doesn't give a damn.
- In Uncharted 2 Among Thieves, a captive Drake attempts to escape Big Bad Lazarevic by holding one of his Mooks at gunpoint. Lazarevic then gives a short speech claiming that "great men" like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot "prevailed" because "they had the will to do what other men would not". Lazarevic then shoots the hostage himself.
- In the Dink Smallwood mod Attack of the Mutant Veggies the king refused Dink's demand for gold to buy a better sword with the explanation that Visigoths had kidnapped the queen and if he didn't keep paying them extortionate sums, they'd bring her back.
- Played with in Ansem Retort. Contessa Belle held Larxene hostage and tried to get a ransom from Governor Zexion. Zexion refused, listed his demands to take Larxene off Belle's hands, and left. Cut to a week later, and Belle's given in.
- Taken Up to Eleven later, when Axel confronts Xemnas, he asks how he plans to stop him and save his hostage Sora. Axel says he's fine going one for two and kills Sora himself.
- Played with in the very Not Safe for Work Oglaf after Ivan the apprentice is kidnapped. Mistress doesn't care ("I can get a new one for free"). However, Ivan's continued pleas for aid (via a decidedly NSFW method) succeed in annoying Mistress enough that she finally pays the ransom.
- Crosses over with Hoist by His Own Petard because the method Ivan used to annoy Mistress even from captivity was something imposed on Ivan by Mistress.
- In Bruno the Bandit this resulted in a custody battle during a kidnapping-in-progress.
- Police Talesnote by Nikolay Fyodorov, story 55. Bandits kidnapped a detective's shrewish wife to force him to stop his investigation. He was very happy, doubled his efforts and soon arrested them all. The wife got killed when police stormed their hideout. The officer got a reputation of uncompromising enemy of The Mafiya and several promotions, but "just in case hasn't re-married yet". Of course, it's a cautionary tale. Of note is the discrepancy that a house is stormed by riot police (possible, but unlikely).
- Real Life two-for-one example: in the aftermath of the Battle of Pavia (1525), final battle of The Italian Wars, King Francis I of France was taken captive by the troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Aragon and Castile-Leon, Archduke of Austria and Duke of Burgundy and Duke of Milan, etcetc. Francis' own mother told Charles' representatives that France refused to pay anything for her son's safe return. Ultimately they did, because the alternative was another French Civil War. However, Francis' government was just as broke (the wars had been cripplingly expensive) as Charles's and so Charles had to settle for a mere million Francs up-front. He also took Francis' sons hostage and extracted a series of political promises from the captive Francis...which he couldn't fulfil unless he was released. And when he was, he broke all of them despite the threat to his sons' lives. (Charles let them live and they were later released unharmed, for the record).
- James VI of Scotland was notably lacking in grief when Mary of Scots (his mother) was imprisoned. According to one history when Elizabeth wept at her execution, it was a face saving device to give James an excuse to not react in the customary manner and still retain his honor. On the other hand, he had no personal attachment to Mary because he hadn't seen her since he was a baby, and had no actual memories of her, he might not have forgiven her for the murder of his father, and, given that he was next in line for the English throne, it probably wouldn't have looked good for him to declare war on England.
- A hostage negotiator was called in to handle a kidnapping in Italy in order to negotiate a reasonable ransom demand (paying what the criminals want is a bad idea, because they'll then decide they can get even more money by hanging on to the hostage) only to have the family ignore his advice and pay the full amount. This led to a second ransom demand rather than the hostage being released. He eventually found out that the criminals, on capturing the businessman, had found evidence on him that he was a paedophile, and were blackmailing the family with it. The hostage negotiator suggested that the family pretend the businessman's wife had just 'discovered' this, and that she was so disgusted she never wanted to see him again, leading to a dramatic drop in the ransom price. Eventually the criminals decided it wasn't worth the trouble and released him anyway.
- Joseph Stalin's son Yakov was captured by the Nazis during WWII. They proposed a prisoner exchange to Stalin: his son for Friedrich Paulus (the commander at Stalingrad). Stalin replied that he wouldn't trade a Lieutenant for a Field Marshall, and left his son to die after a couple of years in a POW camp. How much it was this trope and how much a refusal to show favouritism when there were literally tens of thousands of other Soviet soldiers held prisoner is uncertain, but Joe wasn't exactly in the running for Parent of the Year.
- During the Han dynasty, General Xiang Yu fought Liu Bang for the throne. At one point, Xiang Yu captured Liu Bang's father and sent Liu Bang an ultimatum: "Surrender or I will boil your venerable sire alive!" Liu Bang replied merely: "Send me a cup of the soup." Subverted in that Liu Bang was calling Xiang Yu's bluff.
- Also from Chinese history (at least from a book), a case of the Emperor was captured by enemy forces, yet the people showed little to no regard. By acting calm and ready to elect a new Emperor, the currently kidnapped Emperor held no value whatsoever to the kidnapper, culminating with his release. Subverted in that this is what the people were aiming for in the first place.