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Kill On Sight

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If this person is found or captured, kill them immediately.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
sgamer82 on Aug 14th 2016 at 8:39:15 PM
Last Edited By:
marcoasalazarm on May 13th 2018 at 8:38:53 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

The Hero is on the run, and the villain has declared that if he's found he is to be killed immediately. No questions, no capturing, no trials. You see him, you shoot him. This trope covers any situation in which open season is declared on a individual or group of individuals.

Often the reasons behind this decision are as significant a plot point as the proclamation itself. Insisting on this policy can make people question a villain with otherwise good publicity. A clear villain doing this can also unwittingly emphasize the size of threat the person or group being targeted represents. If those being targeted are viewed as Always Chaotic Evil, whether that turns out to truly be the case may depend on the alignment of those giving or carrying out the order. In a Crapsack World, this can also highlight the level of paranoia a person or people are held under. Seeing this done by someone on the Good Guys' side could be them deciding I Did What I Had to Do or an acknowledgement that whatever they're facing is so dangerous or has otherwise escalated such that ideals like Thou Shalt Not Kill are unattainable in that particular case.

Compare Leave No Survivors and Shoot Everything That Moves, which is this trope on a broader, less-discriminating scale.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Elfen Lied opens with Lucy having Escaped from the Lab, killing twenty three guards in the process. Since she is so dangerous, the search party is instructed to kill her on sight.
  • Naruto: Inverted with the future Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, during the Third Shinobi World War. He was so badass that enemy countries ordered their troops to flee whenever he was sighted on the the battlefield.

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • Judge Dredd. After Dredd escapes the crashed Aspen Shuttle, Judge Griffin orders the Capture Team to kill him.
  • Batman. When Dirty Cop Lieutenant Eckhardt leads the Gotham police officers into Axis Chemicals, he shows them a picture of Jack Napier, who Carl Grissom wants dead for canoodling with his mistress Alicia, and tells them "Shoot to kill. Know what I mean?" When Commissioner Gordon arrives on the scene, he immediately takes over command of the cops from Eckhardt, telling everyone that he wants Napier taken alive and that any man who opens fire on Napier will answer to him.
  • Star Wars Revenge of the Sith has Emperor Palpatine issue the fateful "General Order 66" to all clone commanders, which is a "kill all Jedi on sight" directive. This is a subversion of the Imperial Senate's directive to apprehend the Jedi Knights after Master Mace Windu had deduced Palpatine as the Sith Master and had tried to vanquish him.
  • The Gauntlet has Detective Shockley sent to Las Vegas to extradite a witness to Phoenix. However, the witness can identify The Mole within the police department, so mob assassins all aim to silence her. Further, The Mole convinces the Phoenix police that Shockley has gone rogue, and must be taken down with extreme prejudice.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, the Book of Dragons describe every dragon depicted as dangerous and should be killed on sight. The only exception is the Night Fury which the books says you must hide from.
  • The Fugitive: After the One-Armed-Man kills a police officer during a battle with Kimble, Deputy Marshall Gerard bemoans the fact that since Kimble is now accused of being a Cop Killer, that means the Chicago Police will shoot to kill if they find him.

    Literature 
  • By the fifth book of the Safehold series, How Firm a Foundation, the Church of God Awaiting's Inquistion has caused numerous atrocities. Their forcing honorably surrendered Charisian prisoners to be turned over to them for Cold-Blooded Torture and execution serves as the last straw for the Empire of Charis, who announce from that moment forward that, while any rank-and-file soldiers can surrender and expect honorable treatment, Inquisitors will be shown no quarter. The best they can hope for after that is to renounce their service to the Grand Inquisitor, at which point they'll stand trial for any crimes they committed rather than be executed outright.
  • In Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe, the parallel universe's humanity is engaged in a war with an alien race. Any time an agent of theirs is spotted, a description is passed to the population and everyone knows to kill on sight. A dozen innocents die each time, but due to the aliens' abilities, there is no alternative.
  • In Warrior Cats, occasionally a leader will order that if a particular cat is found in their Clan's territory, they should be killed on sight: this includes when Tigerclaw is exiled from ThunderClan for murder, and when Graystripe is exiled from RiverClan for betraying them during battle to save Fireheart's life.
  • In The Wolf Chronicles, when Kaala is (temporarily) exiled from her pack in the first book, Ruuqo informs her that if she's found in the territory after that, she'll be killed on sight.
  • 1632: After the Battle of the Crapper, the mercenaries who don't pass Gretchen's examination are exiled from American territory. Before they're sent off, they're photographed and the pictures put on posters reading "Wanted — Dead".

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Broca Divide", after an offworld virus breaks out at Stargate Command, General Hammond requests that the military cordon off the mountain with an armored division and that anyone attempting to leave be shot on sight and the body burned.

    Music 
Your finger on the trigger but it don't seem right You're in the army now

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia supplement Acute Paranoia, adventure "The Harder They Clone". When The Computer learns that Bill-Y-IDL is part of the conspiracy, it announces over the Complex-wide PA system "Bill-Y-IDL is a traitor! Terminate on sight!"

    Video Games 
  • The backstory of Undertale, as learned in the Neutral and Pacifist runs, reveals that the monsters' king, Asgore, declared that any humans who appeared in the Underground are to be killed following the death of his son at human hands. He regrets the decree immediately once he calms down, but by that point it's too late to rescind the order.
  • In XCOM 2 this is how Advent reacts to any resistence members. You can even find wanted holograms of your top soldiers from your curent, or previous game.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, this is what happens to Hawke's secret informant within the Grey Wardens (depending on the world state, Stroud, Alistair, or Loghain). After he publicly challenges the Orlesian Warden-Commander Clarel's new policies, he is branded a traitor to be killed on sight by other Wardens. This forces him into hiding, where the Inquisition has to find him in order to discover the nature of said policies.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: The only town available in the early game is Los Santos, trying to get into the other towns gets an instant four-star wanted level with cops pursuing and trying to shoot you down. The ingame explanation is that there's an earthquake warning.
  • In Tales of Berseria, daemons are considered Always Chaotic Evil creatures that kill humans on sight. For this reason, Exorcists recruited by the Abbey (the only beings with the power and authority to fight daemons) have a standing decree to kill them on sight. The events of the game, however, reveal that daemons are NOT universally evil (although usually hostile or bitter), and when a high-ranking Exorcist learns that the Abbey sometimes takes daemons captive, it comes as a shock and makes several characters question their motives.

    Webcomics 
  • In Charby the Vampirate Daray's parents issue a kill on sight bounty on him after he proves a disappointment by not murdering any dragons, which is considered a traditional coming of age right in their village, being mistaken for trans by his homophobic father after a magical mishap temporarily enlarges his chest, for which they disown him, and setting their house on fire as a birthday present to himself.

    Web Original 
  • Worm: The Slaughterhouse Nine have a Kill On Sight order because they are incredibly and horrifyingly destructive supervillains. Unfortunately it is easier said than done.
  • The SCP Foundation policy on Reality Benders is straightforward: "kill that motherfucker before he knows you're even there." Their process for training people to face Reality Benders consists of getting them so high on drugs they'll believe anything they're told, then telling them things like the doors and windows have vanished and desks are going to kill them. It's the closest they can come to a Reality Bender attack without an actual Reality Bender, and they encourage their hunters to remember this moment if they ever think a Reality Bender can be contained or otherwise reasoned with.

    Western Animation 
  • The Shattering Robonoids from Steven Universe patrol Homeworld's underbelly, searching for Off Colors, defective Gems, and fugitives on the run. If one scans for and finds a Gem's gem, it fires a blast that can make a sizeable hole in rock.

Feedback: 40 replies

Aug 15th 2016 at 1:08:03 AM

Compare Leave No Witnesses, which is limited to killing witnesses.

Film

  • Judge Dredd. After Dredd escapes the crashed Aspen Shuttle, Judge Griffin orders the Capture Team to kill him.
  • Batman. When Lieutenant Eckhardt leads the Gotham police officers into Axis Chemicals, he shows them a picture of Jack Napier and tells them "Shoot to kill. Know what I mean?"

Aug 15th 2016 at 1:23:28 AM

Also compare the Sub Trope Sic Em, where the Big Bad orders his minions to hunt down and kill the Hero.

Aug 15th 2016 at 5:27:46 PM

Some Wanted Poster might have variants where the wanted is only wanted dead.

Aug 17th 2016 at 12:25:55 PM

I would suggest a Real Life example, but I think this needs a No Real Life Examples Please and/or Rule Of Cautious Editing Judgement disclaimer, just to know...

Aug 17th 2016 at 4:23:54 PM

Aug 17th 2016 at 5:29:10 PM

Film

  • Star Wars Revenge Of The Sith has Emperor Palpatine issue the fateful "General Order 66" to all clone commanders, which is a "kill all Jedi on sight" directive. This is a subversion of the Imperial Senate's directive to apprehend the Jedi Knights after Master Yoda had deduced Palpatine as the Sith Master and had tried to vanquish him.

Aug 18th 2016 at 6:54:02 PM

Do you mean as an expression or as a trope? Because I came up with nothing for the trope.

Also changed the Star Wars entry to refer to Mace Windu, rather than Yoda, since Yoda didn't act until after Order 66.

Aug 19th 2016 at 1:27:09 AM

Live Action Film

  • In The Blues Brothers, as Jake and Elwood begin their joyfully destructive ride to Chicago, the pursuing cops are advised that use of lethal force in apprehending the Blues Brothers is authorised. This escalates into Army involvement employing tanks and helicopters...

Sep 13th 2016 at 9:39:41 PM

Film

  • The Gaunlet has Detective Shockley sent to Las Vegas to extradite a witness to Phoenix. However, the witness can identify The Mole within the police department, so mob assassins all aim to silence her. Further, The Mole convinces the Phoenix police that Shockley has gone rogue, and must be taken down with extreme prejudice.

Jan 25th 2017 at 9:15:44 PM

  • In XCOM 2 this is how Advent reacts to any resistence members. You can even find wanted holograms of your top soldiers from your curent, or previous game.

Jan 26th 2017 at 1:26:32 AM

Maybe go for Kill On Sight since gun's 'n stuff isn't really a requirement? The old title could be a redirect.

Jan 26th 2017 at 11:57:16 AM

TV:

  • In the Stargate SG 1 episode "The Broca Divide", after an offworld virus breaks out at Stargate Command, General Hammond requests that the military cordon off the mountain with an armored division and that anyone attempting to leave be shot on sight and the body burned.

Feb 9th 2017 at 1:37:25 PM

Anime:

  • Elfen Lied opens with Lucy having Escaped From The Lab, killing 23 guards in the process. Since she is so dangerous, the search party is instructed to kill her on sight.

Mar 6th 2017 at 9:29:43 PM

  • In Dragon Age Inquisition, this is what happens to Hawke's secret informant within the Grey Wardens (depending on the world state, Stroud, Alistair, or Loghain). After he publicly challenges the Orlesian Warden-Commander Clarel's new policies, he is branded a traitor to be killed on sight by other Wardens. This forces him into hiding, where the Inquisition has to find him in order to discover the nature of said policies.

Mar 6th 2017 at 3:12:44 AM

In How To Train Your Dragon, the Book of Dragons describe every dragon depicted as dangerous and should be killed on sight. The only exception is the Night Fury which the books says you must hide from.

Mar 6th 2017 at 10:08:47 AM

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: The only town available in the early game is Los Santos, trying to get into the other towns gets an instant four-star wanted level with cops pursuing and trying to shoot you down. The ingame explanation is that there's an earthquake warning.

Mar 6th 2017 at 10:48:13 AM

In Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe, the parallel universe's humanity is engaged in a war with an alien race. Any time an agent of theirs is spotted, a description is passed to the population and everyone knows to kill on sight. A dozen innocents die each time, but due to the aliens' abilities, there is no alternative.

Mar 6th 2017 at 12:29:33 PM

In Tales Of Berseria, daemons are considered Always Chaotic Evil creatures that kill humans on sight. For this reason, Exorcists recruited by The Abbey (the only beings with the power and authority to fight daemons) have a standing decree to kill them on sight. The events of the game, however, reveal that daemons are NOT universally evil (although usually hostile or bitter), and when a high-ranking Exorcist learns that the Abbey sometimes takes daemons captive, it comes as a shock and makes several characters question their motives.

Mar 6th 2017 at 8:41:32 PM

Having not actually played Ever Quest but only read guides (and that several years ago at this point), I'm vaguely aware that players who do a lot of murdery crimes can find themselfs being executed on sight by the town guards.

... Please don't paste that in unedited as a proper example.

Mar 7th 2017 at 2:47:04 AM

Tabletop Games

  • Paranoia supplement Acute Paranoia, adventure "The Harder They Clone". When The Computer learns that Bill-Y-IDL is part of the conspiracy, it announces over the Complex-wide PA system "Bill-Y-IDL is a traitor! Terminate on sight!"

Apr 3rd 2017 at 7:38:59 AM

Giving this one last bump before launch to see if there's anything that anyone thinks should still be added, be it last minute examples or something to add to the description. Otherwise I'll launch as-is by the end of the week.

Apr 3rd 2017 at 3:30:58 PM

I don't think The Blues Brothers is really an example. The exact quote doesn't say lethal force, it says "unnecessary violence":

Police Dispatch: Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been approved.

And even though bringing in the military hardware is ridiculously over-the-top, they still capture Jake and Elwood alive, without even trying to shoot them.

Apr 3rd 2017 at 9:08:51 PM

Worm: The Slaughterhouse Nine have a Kill On Sight order because they are incredibly and horrifyingly destructive supervillains. Unfortunately it is easier said than done.

Dec 1st 2017 at 11:03:33 PM

I know this is close to launch, but perhaps "Kill on Sight" would be a better title since not all examples have to do with guns?

Literature:

  • In Warrior Cats, occasionally a leader will order that if a particular cat is found in their Clan's territory, they should be killed on sight: this includes when Tigerclaw is exiled from ThunderClan for murder, and when Graystripe is exiled from RiverClan for betraying them during battle to save Fireheart's life.
  • In The Wolf Chronicles, when Kaala is (temporarily) exiled from her pack in the first book, Ruuqo informs her that if she's found in the territory after that, she'll be killed on sight.

Dec 7th 2017 at 1:30:26 PM

Maybe. I've just gone with Shoot on Sight because it's a better known expression than anything.

Dec 7th 2017 at 1:49:27 PM

The Fugitive: After the One-Armed-Man kills a police officer during a battle with Kimble, Deputy Marshall Gerard bemoans the fact that since Kimble is now accused of being a Cop Killer, that means the Chicago Police will shoot to kill if they find him.

Dec 7th 2017 at 7:07:41 PM

I agree that The Blues Brothers does not actually count as an example as the police make no attempts to shoot them, merely arrest them with a ridiculous amount of force and destruction.

  • In Charby The Vampirate Daray's parents issue a kill on sight bounty on him after he proves a disappointment by not murdering any dragons, which is considered a traditional coming of age right in their village, being mistaken for trans by his homophobic father after a magical mishap temporarily enlarges his chest, for which they disowned him, and setting their house on fire as a birthday present to himself.

Dec 7th 2017 at 7:05:04 PM

Third panel here for a suggested image

Dec 8th 2017 at 2:15:46 AM

The Shattering Robonoids from Steven Universe patrol Homeworld's underbelly, searching for Off Colors, defective Gems, and fugitives on the run. After locating a being, they scan for its gem. Upon finding one, they fire a blast that can make a well sized hole in rock.

Dec 9th 2017 at 3:23:50 AM

Music:

Jan 28th 2018 at 4:23:12 AM

Feb 19th 2018 at 12:47:06 PM

I vote for "Kill On Sight" instead of "Shoot On Sight."

Feb 21st 2018 at 10:59:30 AM

My vote remains with "Shoot on Sight" because it is, to my knowledge, the more widely known phrase and for Added Alliterative Appeal, but consensus seems to favor Kill in Sight so I'll likely go with that

Feb 23rd 2018 at 9:45:05 AM

Sixteen Thirty Two: After the Battle of the Crapper, the mercenaries who don't pass Gretchen's examination are exiled from American territory. Before they're sent off, they're photographed and the pictures put on posters reading "Wanted — Dead".

Feb 27th 2018 at 8:58:33 PM

^^ Shoot on Sight could be made into a redirect.

Apr 24th 2018 at 5:57:44 PM

  • Naruto: Inverted with the Minato Namikaze during the Third Shinobi World War; he was so badass that the rival countris had issued their troops to flee whenever he's sighted.

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