Alice has Bob at gunpoint
... and he calls her bluff. Sometimes bravado will make him mock her into the bargain, or even do something dramatic, like step forward and place the muzzle of the gun
against his forehead, daring her to pull the trigger
There are two possible outcomes: Bob's right, and the gun wielder is humiliated as he smugly takes the gun right out of her hand
— a possible cue for Not with the Safety on, You Won't
or It Works Better with Bullets
Alternatively, Bob's wrong
A snappy One-Liner
from the gunman is almost mandatory at this point - this counts as Talk to the Fist
for the first few versions and Bond One-Liner
for the last.
Related to Defensive Failure
, subtrope of Underestimating Badassery
. Will often result in someone being Killed Mid-Sentence
. Compare Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand
, where Bob is a hero and Alice is an enemy whose nobler side he is trying to reach. Contrast Gunpoint Banter
, which is much more lighthearted. Not related to Like You Would Really Do It
, which is an Audience Reaction Trope
It's worth noting that in real life, this is a very good way to get yourself killed
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Anime & Manga
- Monster: Roberto says this to Tenma, who has a gun pointed towards him:
Roberto: "You can't do it. You're a doctor, you can only give life. It's my job to take life. You can't do it."
- Terror of Mechagodzilla
Akira Ichinose: You can't do it. You wouldn't shoot me!
- From Death Note:
- At the end of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, defeated villain Gouda attempts to leave the country and is not impressed by the police squad that tries to arrest him, because he is under the protection of American diplomats, and Aramaki wouldn't dare to touch them. The thing is, Aramaki has a direct order from the Prime Minister to keep Gouda from getting away under any circumstances. The Major is more than happy to make sure of it when he refuses to be taken into custody.
- Lelouch does this to Kallen in the two-part opening of Code Geass R2. She holds him at gunpoint, demanding to know if he used his Geass to gain her loyalty, but he just calmly walks up and takes the gun from her while explaining that her loyalty is her own. Considering she was his most loyal supporter in R1 he had good reason to believe she wouldn't do it.
- Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta says this to Future Trunks when the latter threatens to ki-blast him to stop Cell from reaching his Perfect form. Trunks proves him wrong.
- In one Batman story, Catwoman is pointing a gun at Black Mask, and he confidently says she won't shoot him, since she's just a thief with altruistic leanings, not a cold-blooded murderer. Turns out that horrifically torturing her loved ones was a really bad idea.
- During the Knightquest storyline, Commissioner Gordon confronts AzBats after finding out that he let Abbatoir die, letting his hostage suffer a long and gruesome fate. Realizing that this Batman isn't the one he knows of, AzBats manhandles Gordon when he's called out on his actions before Gordon pulls his pistol at him. AzBats tells him that he's knows that he's not the only one who doesn't murder, letting Gordon hesitate enough to allow him to swing off.
- In the Blacksad album "Somewhere within the Shadows", Statoc says this to Blacksad. He is quickly proven wrong. Blacksad also notes that without the jolt of contempt he felt from Statoc's upfront taunting, he probably wouldn't have pulled the trigger.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In Due Date, Ethan Trimblay accidentally gets Peter accused of terrorism. A Federal Air Marshall points a gun at Peter, telling him to drop the "Device," which is really a Blackberry. Peter sarcastically says, You gonna shoot me, rent-a-cop?"
- In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, one of the bad guys starts one of these when the protagonist has picked up the man's gun. The protagonist was very pissed however, and doesn't even let him get halfway through his speech.
- Elektra King does this one in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough: "You wouldn't kill me. You'd miss me." Bond's reply, of course, is "I never miss."
- The Losers. Max says while holding the trigger for the snuke. "Now, since you can't shoot me." Cue Clay shooting him in the arm.
- A variant occurs in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy threatens to shoot the Ark of the Covenant with a panzerfaust if the Nazis don't release Marion. Belloq refuses, taunts Indy to blow it up, and points out how Indy can't do it because of the Ark's archeological value. Indy thinks about it, realizes Belloq is right, and gives up.
- To prove his point, Belloq even helps Indy by holding the German soldiers at gunpoint with a submachine gun when they try to shoot Indy or get in the way of Indy's line of fire.
- Hudson Hawk. After Almond Joy uses curare darts to paralyze Eddie and Tommie Five-Tone, Anna Baragli shows up and points a gun at her.
Almond Joy: You're not gonna shoot little ol' me, are you? You're not gonna shoot little ol' anybody. [snip] I read your dossier, sister. [shoots Anna with a curare dart, paralyzing her instantly]
Note: Anna didn't shoot because she's actually a nun.
- At the climax of The Sound of Music, Rolf has Captain Von Trapp at gunpoint. The captain calmly says this to Rolf, claiming that Rolf is merely a boy trying to be a soldier and not a full-blown killer like his fellow Nazis. He's right...but then Rolf calls the other Nazis to do the job for him.
- In Mean Streets, "you don't have the guts" - followed by the target fleeing the premises sharpish, only to set up a drive-by in revenge.
- In Mystery Team, Jason goes up to the man holding him and his friends hostage, and tells him that he wouldn't shoot them, because he's not a killer. He gets shot in the shoulder.
Jason: HE'S A KILLER!
- Sexy Beast has a scene where the young pool boy threatens Don with a gun. Don, being terrifying as hell, is pretty sure the kid doesn't have the guts to pull the trigger. He's right, snatches the gun from him and pistol whips him with it. Unfortunately for him, Deedee (who is standing behind Don with another gun) isn't quite so reserved about pulling the trigger.
- Casablanca has two variations (incidentally, both with the same gun): Ilsa visits Rick to try to get him to give her the letters of transit, when he refuses, she picks up his gun and threatens to shoot him. Rick's response: "If you'll stick at nothing to get those letters, then go on. Here, I'll make it easy for you." She doesn't shoot. Variation because Rick is saying (paraphrased), "If you're the Ilsa I knew you won't shoot me, but if you will, then I have no desire to live." The second case is at the airport, Rick threatening Major Strasser. Strasser doesn't say anything, but continues his (phone) call and seems to be calling Rick's bluff. He gets shot.
- It's awkward to observe from the angle, but Strasser also attempts to shoot Rick.
- "Come on John, I know you're not going to kill me. I don't hear a red ball."
- In the 1944 Fritz Lang movie Ministry of Fear. "You wouldn't shoot your own brother, Carla."
- In the French movie Le Poulpe, a woman is holding a bunch of thugs at gunpoint, who say she doesn't have the balls to shoot them (they'd know). One ends up shot in the foot.
- The Big Bad in The Transporter turns out to be the father of the Damsel in Distress. When The Reveal happens, he says he'll never change and challenges her to pull the trigger on him or The Dragon. She can't do either, but at the end of the movie kills her father to stop him shooting Frank.
- In Die Hard when McClane has a gun to one of the robbers' heads:
Tony: You won't hurt me. You're a policeman. There are rules for policemen.
McClane: Yeah, that's what my captain keeps tellin' me.
- In Cloud Atlas, Vyvyan Ayrs tries this on Frobisher when the latter decides he's not going to let Ayrs take the credit for the Cloud Atlas Sextet.
- Welcome to the Punch (2013). A Professional Killer goes to visit his grandmother, only to find the Cowboy Cop and Villain Protagonist sitting on either side of her, posing as his old army mates who've come to visit. Unknown to grandma, a third man standing right behind her is pointing a pistol at her head. They make it clear the killer is to come out "for some drinks" while one of them waits with grandma to ensure his co-operation. The killer calls their bluff.
"You think that keeping a hostage is going to force me into a corner? But none of you have been where I have, seen what I've seen
. None of you have the selfless commitment. And not one of you possesses what it takes...to actually put a bullet through the back of that woman's head." (shootout ensues)
- At the end of Bound, Violet has a gun on Caesar:
Caesar: You don't want to shoot me, Vi.... I know you don't.
Violet: Caesar, you don't know shit. (Shoots him.)
- In Kick-Ass 2, when Colonel Stars and Stripes pulls a gun on Mother Russia, she says, "You will not shoot, you are superhero, you help people, you do not hurt them." She then easily disarms him and tries to shoot him with his own gun, only to learn that he didn't have any bullets and was just trying to intimidate her.
- In The 39 Clues, only Ian Kabra is talking to his mother Isabel and saying that she wouldn't shoot her own daughter Natalie, which is what she was threatening to do. She does.... But Natalie lives; she only shot her in the foot as a warning.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, when Tywin Lannister is held at crossbow-point by his son Tyrion, he ignores the latter's warnings not to use a certain word. Boy, was the former in for a surprise! All he can manage to say is: "You shot me!"
- In A Dance With Dragons, Theon gets the successful variant. A spearwife becomes angry with him and threatens his life. For the first time in about a year, he outright grins and tells her that she needs him to get past the guards. She disgustedly lets him go.
- In All the Flowers Are Dying, the novel's antagonist is in a confrontation with one of the protagonists. She has a gun, and he is convinced that she's not going to shoot him. The fact that the scene is told from his perspective, and therefore we can see just how certain he is, in his mind, that she's not going to shoot, and how confident he is in his ability to psych her out of shooting him, makes it all that much more awesome when she shoots him while he's still finishing his thought.
- In a Nancy Drew book, the gang is held hostage by a crazed football coach. His prize student very slowly and calmly walks toward him and takes the gun out of his hand. What especially makes this a Crowning Moment of Awesome is that the guy has been experiencing one disaster after another throughout the book and has basically been reduced to a sniveling wimp because of this, but he musters up the courage to pull off a Hidden Badass moment.
- This is how Achilles dies in the Ender’s Game sequels:
Achilles: "You can't do it, Bean. You don't have it in you. You can't kill someone in cold blood."
Bean: "Wrong." *shoots him*
- Awareness of this trope is how one Spot the Impostor situation is resolved in Galaxy of Fear. Unable to tell the real from the fake, Tash leveled a blaster and said she'd just have to shoot them both. The one who thought she would was the impostor - her real uncle knew this trope, and Tash knew he knew.
- A classic example happens in the BattleTech novel Dark Destiny when Myndo Waterly, Primus of ComStar and by then more than a little off her rocker and flush with her imaginary conquest of both the Clans and the Successor States in one fell swoop, declares to her Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht who's just returned from the hard-fought actual battle that did in fact stop the Clan invasion on Tukayyid while she was scheming behind his back that she knows that as an honorable warrior he'd never just shoot her and she is therefore free to just walk out of the room and have him arrested for disagreeing with her own maniac vision of the future. Focht then shoots her in the back of the head.
- Invoked and exploited in The Vor Game. Miles threatens to blow Gregor into atoms with a plasma cannon. Gregor walks forward until the muzzle of the plasma cannon is against his chest. Which is exactly what Miles wants. The plasma cannon is uncharged, and the object was to separate Gregor from his captors and slam shut a blast door behind him.
- In The Lion Game, Thrakell Dees tries this on Action Girl Telzey, with indifferent success:
Thrakell: No. You might have killed me after I tripped you up. You felt threatened. But you won't kill someone who's helpless and can't endanger you.
Telzey: Don't count on it. Right now, I'll be trying not to kill you but I probably will, anyway.
Thrakell: What do you mean?
Telzey: I'm going to shoot as close to you as I can without hitting you. But I'm not really that good a shot. Sooner or later, you'll get hit.
Live Action TV
- From LOST, "The Beginning of the End": Jack is threatening Locke with the same gun Locke pointed at him before.
Locke: You're not gonna shoot me, Jack, any more than I was gonna shoot—
Jack pulls trigger. Gun clicks.
- In Arrow, The Huntress says this to Oliver, knowing that even though they're opposed to each other, they have feelings, having briefly been in an intimate relationship. He subverts this and fires an arrow at her, but she catches it.
- In the Supernatural episode Bad Day at Black Rock, there are two mirrored cases when Dean tells the person "You're not gonna shoot anybody. You see, I happen to be able to read people. Okay, you're a thief, fine. But you're not a killer." In the first case, it works and it looks like he can read people. The second time, the person shoots before he can finish saying it.
- Masterfully used by Sam in "When the Levee Breaks": when he escapes from the panic room, Bobby catches up to him and threatens to shoot. But of course, he backs down and gets a Pistol-Whipping by Sam.
- Michael Westen of Burn Notice gets this from time to time. In one case, someone he'd been unable to bring himself to kill once before was proven wrong while in the middle of shouting "Your trigger finger has RUSTE- (bang)". It was Just A Flesh Wound, but still pretty awesome.
- From Doctor Who:
- In the 2011 Christmas special, a group of workers doesn't believe a mother would shoot them. Then she mentions that she's looking for her kids, and suddenly he's a lot more concerned about his life.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Kivas Fajo tries this on Data. After having kidnapped him as a trophy and killing a woman Data became friends with, Data has the villain at gunpoint. He believes Data is incapable of doing it, and goes on to claim he'll just keep killing people if Data doesn't behave. Data declares that he can't let him live and pulls the trigger... right when he's beamed back to the Enterprise.
- Garak tries this on Bashir in "Our Man Bashir", declaring his intention to cut and run, leaving Bashir's fellow officers to potentially die. Bashir responds by shooting Garak in the shoulder as he turns his back.
Garak: What if you'd killed me?
Bashir: What makes you think I wasn't trying?
- Boardwalk Empire:
Jimmy: Well, I wasn't going to, but you kinda talked me into it. *BANG*
- Magnum, P.I.: At the end of "Did You See the Sunrise?", Magnum confronts Ivan, a Russian agent who's about to walk free after murdering a POW, masterminding an attempt to turn Magnum's friend TC into an assassin, and killing one of Magnum's friends with a car bomb in a misaimed shot at Magnum. Ivan is unconcerned, chiding Magnum that he's far too honorable a man to shoot someone in cold blood. Right? Wrong.
- Warehouse 13: When H.G. Wells attempts to destroy the world, Myka forces a gun into H.G.'s hands and points it at her own forehead, convinced there is enough good left in H.G. that she won't be able to pull the trigger.
Myka: If I am wrong, then kill me. Do it! Kill me now! I mean, we're all going to die anyway, right, so what's the difference? So shoot me. Just shoot me now. Kill me, but not like that. Not like a coward. I want you to look me in the eyes and take my life.
- Criminal Minds has one episode where a serial killer has psychologically tortured and broken a child for years, and forced him to help her kidnap other children for their "family". However, when she orders him to help her load the children into a crematorium, he points a gun at her. She laughs and says "You gotta be kidding". Turns out he wasn't as broken as she thought.
- The Walking Dead has Dale pulling a gun on Shane, whom he rightly suspects to be a murderer when they're alone in the woods, but he calmly walks up until the muzzle's pressed against his chest and dares Dale to pull the trigger. After a moment, Dale just walks off.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined). While investigating the Black Market, Apollo learns that its ringleader, an ex-mercenary turned crimelord named Phelan, went so far as to start selling children as sex slaves. The trope then shows up in this exchange:
Phelan: "You're not gonna shoot. You're not like me. You're not gonna-"
- Chuck: Happens several times to Chuck Bartowski in the third season:
- The first time, he has the Big Bad of the episode at gunpoint when she tries to escape, but she rightly guesses Chuck won't pull the trigger. Unfortunately for her, Shaw does before she can finish drawing her own concealed weapon and shoot him instead.
- Midway through the season, Shaw twice goads Chuck on his inability to kill. The first time ends with Chuck getting his butt kicked and Shaw escaping with Sarah, intending to kill her. Chuck takes off in pursuit and corners him, trying to talk him down by telling him that he (Shaw) can't do this. Shaw tries to call his bluff again, but this time Chuck does pull the trigger to protect Sarah.
- And again in the season finale, Chuck has Shaw's throat in a choke-hold, but refuses being goaded into killing him for good. Shaw tries to tell him off for being weak, before being clobbered by Sarah, who tells him that it's what makes Chuck great.
- In the final episode of the third season of Game of Thrones, Ygritte holds Jon Snow at arrow-point after he flees the wildlings and by extension her. Jon says that she won't hurt him. She shoots him. Three times. He survives and barely manages to escape.
- It's later pointed out in season four that Ygritte has improbably good aim so John would be dead if she'd really wanted to kill him. If John had said she wouldn't kill him, he would have been right, but she clearly had no problem with shooting him a bit.
- In the Season Four finale, Tyrion may very well not have if Tywin didn't repeatedly call Shae a whore. Tywin kinda had it coming, though...
- In Agents Of Shield, episode "The Asset", after Skye disarms Quinn and points his gun back at him:
Mook: Kid's got balls.
Skye: Thanks, but...yuck.
Quinn: But do you have what it takes to pull the trigger?
Skye: (beat) Nope! (jumps out a window)
- In Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Maw challenges Kyle Katarn to kill him after the latter defeats him in combat. When Kyle refuses to do so, Maw goes on to describe in horrible detail just what exactly happened to Kyle's father. It works, and immediately after the reaction, there is a look of genuine horror on Kyle's face.
- Paco Mendes tries to pull this on Madison Paige. He's right, the Origami Killer does. But not after Madison squeezes his balls a little...
- The final (regular mission) target in Hitman: Blood Money is Mark Parchezzi III, who like 47 is a clone created to be the ultimate assassin. During their confrontation, Parchezzi combines this with Not So Different, but 47 isn't hearing it.
Parchezzi: You can't shoot me, 47. I'm just like you...
Agent 47: I can do whatever I'm paid to.
- In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory: Douglas Shetland: "You wouldn't shoot an old friend, Fisher." You can choose to either stab or shoot him here.
- Mass Effect: Commander Shepard really likes pulling his/her sidearm during conversations. Usually, those on the receiving end say something like this, only to have Shepard remind them that they're above the law.
Asari Merchant: "You can't shoot me!"
Shepard: I don't give a Vorcha's ass about your security cameras!"
- Larson in Tomb Raider Anniversary attempts to get Lara to stand down by saying she wouldn't be willing to kill him to get past him. He turns out to be wrong, although Lara is shaken by what she did for the rest of the game.
- In Perfect Dark, when you break into Cassandra de Vries' office to steal the key to the sub-basement levels of dataDyne where Dr. Caroll is holed up:
Cassandra: "You won't shoot me, foolish child!"
- Joanna doesn't - she instead knocks Cassandra out to steal her necklace, which is where said key is.
- Later, in the extra mission "Mr. Blonde's Revenge", where you, playing as a Skedar enforcer in his human disguise, have to actually kidnap Cassandra, she will say the same thing as you escort her to the helipad at gunpoint. Even the "foolish child" part.
- In Remember Me, in one of the memory remixes, the player must arrange it so that Frank kills Alexia, prompting him to shoot himself in his guilt. In the remixed memory, Frank stumbles when he goes for his gun, and Alexia scoffs at him, saying, "What are you going to do? Shoot me?" while adding that he has never turned the safety off...and if the safety has been turned off in the remix, Alexia gets shot in the struggle to get the gun out of Frank's hands.
- In I Am Alive, your pistol is used as a Weapon for Intimidation as much as it is for shooting people. However, unless you take out the bolder members of group first, they'll eventually decide to call your bluff and attack.
- In The Legend of Korra, the Earth Queen is extraordinarily arrogant and believes that her position protects her even after her guards have been defeated. When threatened by Zaheer, she claims that he would not dare harm a queen. What the Earth Queen does not know is that Zaheer is a member of an anarchist revolutionary group that specifically dislikes world leaders, so he has no compunctions against attacking her and proceeds to suffocate her to death using his airbending.
- Used with a twist in The Venture Bros. when Hank and Dean are Brainwashed and Crazy.
- Beast Wars: Silverbolt and Blackarachnia had a Dating Catwoman relationship throughout the second season, with the Knight in Shining Armor Silverbolt constantly talking about redeeming Dark Action Girl Blackarachnia. When she grows fed up with his speeches she threatens to shoot him, only for him to say that she will not do it because he knows she has good inside her. Just to prove him wrong, she shoots him. Though shocked, Silverbolt looks for a silver lining by pointing out that she shot him in the leg, not anywhere instantly lethal. She then threatens to shoot him in the vital circuits and he wisely stops talking.
- In Men In Black: The Series, J and K end up in this position several times, with J holding the gun on K. Inevitably, J can't bring himself to shoot his partner, but he usually finds another solution.
- The Family Guy two-parter where Stewie simulates killing Lois, ends with Lois holding Stewie at gunpoint, but can't kill her baby. But Stewie's dad Peter sure can.
- When a madman with a gun threatens the boys of South Park while they're pretending to be superheroes, Mysterion actually tells his friends to leave, walks up, presses his own forehead against the barrel of the gun, and dares the man to shoot. Not that he really had to worry because he reveals in the same scene that he can't die. Turns out Mysterion was Kenny. and the Running Gag of him dying and coming back was a legitimate superpower.
- Archer: Villain of the Week Spelvin approaches Cyril armed with nothing but a katana. Cyril closes his eyes and fires a volley of bullets...leaving Spelvin compeletely unharmed and Archer complaining about how much Cyril sucks. Then they notice that while Cyril didn't hit Spelvin himself, he did successfully destroy Spelvin's computer, completely ruining his plan.
- Parodied and discussed in an early American Dad! episode, where Francine threatens Stan with a gun for turning their backyard into an internment camp. Stan cites this trope word for word, elaborating that soon her arm will get tired, she'll drop the gun, and then they'll go and have "nobody got shot sex". Exactly that (sans sex) happens, and Francine storms out.