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Always Save the Girl

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Majesty: Burn the whole city... that's pretty extreme for the life of one woman.
Caine: Fuck the city. I'd burn the world to save her.

The hero makes it plain that they value the life of their Love Interest over those of everyone else: friends, family, True Companions, strangers, even all other life in the universe. It can come about as the result of a Sadistic Choice, only having enough time to rescue one person out of several, a case of The Dulcinea Effect, or whatever other requirements the plot puts in their way and plainly making a decision.

As long as the hero shows a decent amount of angst over the decision, the audience might sympathize. This is less likely if the couple in question were Strangled by the Red String or if they've only known each other for a short time. Given sufficient set up, the audience might also feel that the hometown/nation/world deserved it for relentlessly abusing the hero and/or the love interest in general.

Sometimes the hero will find a way to save both the love interest and everyone else. If done right, the hero can come out looking even more clever and badass. Other times, the "The Needs of the Many" argument will fall on deaf ears.

Not to be confused with Men Are the Expendable Gender, which covers the Double Standard where women in general are more likely to be rescued than men. See Damsel in Distress for cases when the hero simply saves the girl, without the moral dilemma of having to skip saving someone else for doing so.

See also Hostage for MacGuffin and Save the Princess. Contrast Bros Before Hoes and Loved I Not Honor More.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Belldandy in Ah! My Goddess makes it clear she puts Keiichi's life ahead of all others, once allowing the cutting of the Universal superstring rather than killing him when he is possessed by the Lord of Terror, ends up taking the third option to save the day.
  • Gender-inverted in Attack on Titan.
    • Mikasa is like this in regards to Eren, who saved her from her parents' killers, killed them and then gave her a place to call home. She was willing to take on the entire military to protect him, and when Ymir supposedly joins the Titans trying to kidnap Eren, and Krista tries to protect her, Mikasa was willing to cut through Ymir and Krista if it would save Eren. She gets called out on this sometimes, most notably by Jean.
    • It is noted by others, such as Reiner, that Ymir cares a lot more about Krista's safety than that of humanity's and Reiner tries to use this fact to in his attempt to recruit Ymir for their Kill All Humans plan.
  • Matsuri of Ayakashi Triangle is generally altruistic and self-sacrificing in his duties as an exorcist ninja, but protecting his childhood friend Suzu is his absolute highest priority, and why he took the job in the first place. He's initially determined to exorcise Shirogane, even though that would make the undesired magic sex change Shirogane inflicted upon him permanent, to eliminate a potential threat to humanity. When Suzu objects to Matsuri sacrificing himself, he reluctantly complies and lets Shirogane live.
  • Berserk: Guts only cares about one thing aside from slicing monsters apart and that is former love of his life and former Hawks Captain Casca. While their first meeting was hostile, after Casca grudgingly keeps his body warm with her own, Guts forms strong feelings for her. He was more than ready to fall off a cliff with her and had no qualms blocking arrows shot at her with his body, it's these acts that ultimately cause Casca to fall for him, as she claimed no man had ever shed blood for her in battle before. Guts goes above and beyond protecting her, brutally defending her from violating monsters and when he couldn't save her from Griffith in the Eclipse, Guts becomes borderline insane.
    • In the Conviction Arc. Guts saves the now insane Casca from being burned at the stake as a witch by Bishop Mozgus and his henchmen, who are being backed by all of the citizens who blindly follow whatever he says just to save themselves from damnation. They want to burn her because they think she is responsible for the influx of monsters and evil spirits around St. Albion (and technically they're correct, since the Brand of Sacrifice on Casca's breast attracts evil spirits that are nearby that want to eat her). Guts doesn't really give a damn about what will happen to the innocents caught up in the attack so long as he and Casca survive at the end of it all, and indeed is disgusted that all that these people are even doing is praying and clinging to Mozgus's every word instead of trying to get the hell out of Dodge. He tells Mozgus and the refugees to suck it up and deal with it.
    • After this, Guts has begun amassing new teammates and friends along on his journey, and although he cares for them all, Casca still remains on a completely different level. He clearly puts her well-being ahead of his other comrades (as this was a big reason why he tried to convince one of his teammates to stay with the group since she served as Casca's caretaker) and Guts is fully prepared to drop everything at a pin drop if there is even the slightest chance that Casca will be cured of her insanity.
  • Kyo of Black Bird (2006), on top of his Single-Target Sexuality for Misao, will pay any and all costs, including the destruction of his clan to save Misao, because he really doesn't care about much other than her.
  • Code Geass:
    • At the end of Season 1, Lelouch drops everything in the middle of the key battle and goes off to save his sister Nunnaly, and again in Season 2 when Lelouch does the same thing when Kallen is captured, and this time someone even lampshades how it reeks of preferential treatment, and how absurd it is to choose one life over an entire country. Doesn't stop him from doing it anyway. However, Code Geass shows that this doesn't pan out, since while Lelouch does choose the girl over everything else, in both cases it backfires, causing him to suffer defeat, and lose the girl anyway.
    • In a non-hostage example, Ohgi secretly goes AWOL from the Black Knights to see Villetta, who he knows is going to kill him. In contrast to the above examples, Ohgi not only makes it out of the ordeal with his life and no repercussions whatsoever, but also manages to get Villetta into the Black Knights with him in spite of what she's done.
  • In the 1972 Devilman anime, the titular Devilman (who in this continuity killed Akira and then took his identity) is supposed to start kicking off the demon army's plans to take over Earth. However, he falls in love with Akira's girlfriend Miki and decides that no matter what, he will protect her. Not only he fulfill this vow, but this is one of the few continuities where Miki makes it to the very end instead of having some horrible fate befall her.
  • D.Gray-Man: Cross Marian claims to have this mentality. The team of Exorcists sent to find him end up battling Tyki on the Ark. Cross is sneaking around behind the scenes, and is aware of the younger Exorcists fighting down below. He goes to save everyone. He claims he saved Allen because he needed him. Later, while the ark crumbles, Cross holds Lenalee close while trying to halt the download process of the Akuma Egg. Then later, while flirting with Lenalee, he goes on to say he'd have come to help everyone sooner if he'd known she was with them.
  • Just like its base series before it, Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA calls this into question with Miyu. Her brother, Shirou Emiya, ends up wishing on the Holy Grail to spare her and take her to another universe instead of using her as the grail vessel she is...but this results in his world being destroyed. He doesn't mind, as long as Miyu can go on to live a happy life. In the middle of 3rei, protagonist Illya is put into a similar situation; she is forced to sacrifice her friend Miyu for the sake of stopping Pandora, or keeping her alive but risking even greater danger. Her resolve is to save Miyu and the world, but it only results in Miyu getting absorbed and the world getting demolished instead. Illya then makes good on her promise and does genuinely save both Miyu and the world, but at the cost of her own existence. And the world is still ruined afterwards.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • It's subverted in one scenario. Ed's Love Interest is used as a hostage by one of the more Ax-Crazy villains in the story, who tells him to obey some murderous orders from the military higher ups. Ed seems to comply pretty quickly, but in reality he is already planning to Take a Third Option.
    • It's also averted when a villain attempts to force Roy Mustang to attempt human transmutation by having a mook cut Riza Hawkeye's throat; recognizing an eye signal from the wounded Hawkeye, Mustang realizes that if he saves her, not only will he lose limbs or organs and become the last tool the Big Bad needs to bring about the end of the world, Hawkeye will kill him. He refuses. Unfortunately, even after a Big Damn Heroes moment, the villain's bosses manage to somehow force him to do human transmutation against his will, albeit with a method that severely weakens Pride as a result.
    • When Roy is giving in to Revenge Before Reason, Riza stops him from going too far by threatening to shoot him — as they agreed if he ever strayed from the path he had chosen. He asks her what she plans to do after she kills him, and she admits she's going to kill herself, since there will be nothing left for her. That is what finally convinces him to step back.
      Roy: I can't lose you too.
  • Getter Robo Armageddon brings us the "father/daughter" version: during a discussion, Hayato tells Benkei they can't think now about Kei, and remembers him the world's fate hangs in balance. Benkei's reply is compared with his adoptive daughter Kei, he does not care for the world.
  • In Inuyasha, Sango's inability to live without Miroku shows how damaged she really is after losing everything she loved, and she'll do anything, anything, to save him. When she fails, she finally gives up and asks to die with him.
  • In King of Thorn, this becomes a plot point, when it is revealed every character, who have been saving Kasumi every time she gets in trouble, even at possible cost of their life, has been in fact implanted forcibly with the undeniable urge to protect Kasumi at all costs.
  • Knight Hunters:
    • Subverted at the last second. This is Youji's default mindset, but he ends up killing the woman he loves in order to save his teammates.
    • Aya also makes it pretty clear that he doesn't give a single fat damn about Weiss's mission to make the world a better place if it interferes in any way with his ability to protect his little sister.
  • My-HiME:
    • While Mai is gradually becoming closer to Yuuichi and he's about to become her Most Important Person, her ailing brother Takumi is trying to become independent from Mai, which upsets her and makes her question their closeness. Natsuki suggests that Takumi was Mai's Most Important person at first, but Yuuichi replaced him before Takumi died and later Yuuichi himself kicked it. Besides, as said below, Takumi ultimately becomes someone else's MIP.
    • While not weighing her loved one's life against many others, Akira allows her' most important person Takumi to live after he finds out her true gender, when she should've executed him.
    • Yukino is also once on the verge of killing her friend Mai in order to protect her best friend Haruka, implying that she is her Most Important Person. Confirmed when Yukino's CHILD is destroyed by Shizuru, which kills Haruka.
  • Played straight right after the timeskip in Mythic Quest. Tragic has decided to put off defeating the Chaos Sorcerer indefinitely so he can fully concentrate on finding Aramusha. He gets back on track after discovering most of the information about her is lies and misdirections planted by Shadow himself to keep Tragic distracted from him.
  • Naruto: Obito over his crush Rin. When Rin kills herself by jumping in front of Kakashi's attack, Obito decides to destroy the world in order to create a new one where Rin is alive.
  • In a flashback/movie from Negima! Magister Negi Magi it's revealed that Nagi saved Arika from her execution, despite the fact that, as a scapegoat, her death would help mitigate the aftereffects of the great war.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Gendo Ikari has this mindset. He is obsessed with his dead wife Yui, he doesn't care if the world is destroyed by his meddling with Gods who can cause the Apocalypse, as long as he can see Yui again.
    • Shinji Ikari takes after his father. In "End of Evangelion", when he sees that Asuka is dead he stops fighting, not caring what happens to the rest of the humanity.
    • In Rebuild of Evangelion, when Asuka's Eva is taken over by an Angel, Shinji refuses fighting because he doesn't want to hurt her, and when his father forces his robot to destroy the Angel, seemingly killing Asuka, Shinji attempts bringing Nerv down and killing everyone inside the base, not caring that it is humanity's last line of defense. And when later it is Rei's turn to be absorbed for an Angel, he activates his robot's full power, even though Ritsuko warned him that it would set off the Third Impact. Basically, Asuka and Rei are two of the few people Shinji cares about. Hurt them and expect pain.
  • One Piece:
    • Sanji is the living embodiment of this trope. A good example is seen in the Foxy filler; Sanji nearly gives up a game of a Red Light-Green Light by jumping after an enemy girl to rescue her. Sanji is still in the game by kicking his legs really fast so he floats perfectly still, but the game master can't see. He loses when the girl kisses him. This was not be the last time Sanji would save a female from the villain team, during the chaos of the Tea Party in Whole Cake Island Arc, Sanji saved Pudding from the collapsing wedding cake despite her plot to shoot him dead at the altar.
    • Sanji is especially protective over the ship's navigator and fellow pirate Nami. Her safety is a frequent cause of his own injuries, such as on Drum Island when Nami was gravely ill, and Sanji joined Luffy in taking her to the doctor's and got his spine cracked as a result of the avalanche caused by the Lapahns. In Skypeia when Sanji went aboard the Ark Maxim with Usopp to save her from Eneru only to be blasted by the God for his heroics, and on Thiller Bark when Nami was kidnapped by the invisible Absalom to become his bride, Sanji went alone to rescue her and defend her honor and got knifed though his shoulder while protecting her.
    • Luffy also strongly prioritizes helping his friends over the rest of the world. The most obvious example is when he released half the inmates of Impel Down in his quest to save his brother. The prisoners served as a cannon fodder and most of them were shot, bludgeoned or poisoned to the death before they subjected themselves under Buggy. Luffy has yet to show any sort of guilt for the dozens of dangerous criminals that managed to escape alive.
    • In fact, the first three rises of his bounty involved crises with the women of the crew. He first gained his bounty after defeating Arlong and liberating Nami from his control. Then, his defeat of Crocodile, an act that ultimately saved Vivi's country, would have his first rise. The next rise happened after he saved Robin from Enies Lobby, an event where he would also defeat several thousand mooks, and include the destruction of the entire island itself thanks to the inept chief of CP9 accidentally ordering a Buster Call, and the entire crew declaring war on the World Government (which basically amounts to the entire world). This would result in a staggering two hundred million beri increase. His latest rise, while not involving a woman this time, still involves saving someone. While the rescue wasn't successful, his actions over the course that one week (which included punching out a world noble, one of the rulers of the world, and causing the first mass breakout of Impel Down, where only one person had ever escaped on their own before) caused a hundred million beri increase.
    • Robin says she cares more about the other Straw Hats than the entire rest of the world. This is more logical than many cases, given that the Straw Hats are the first people she's met since the destruction of Ohara who haven't tried to use her, kill her or turn her over to the Marines.
    • Master Swordsmen Zoro has rescued female crewmates on multiple occasions but doesn't make a huge and song dance out of it because he has absolutely no interest in romance, only in being "the best swordsmen" Heroes Prefer Swords. But the big exception to this mindset is Marine Captain and beautiful Swordswoman Tashigi who just so happens to be identical to Zoro's dead childhood friend Kuina, small world huh? Zoro was unable to fight her without a Freak Out and opted (like Sanji for most evil ladies) to avoid her all together. This was made difficult as Tashigi assumed Zoro had gone easy on because she was a woman, humiliated Tashigi vowed to beat Zoro chasing him across Grand Line with her Superior Smoker. When they met again after two years, Zoro had got over her appearance and "seemed" indifferent towards Tashigi who still called him out on being sexist, saying that he was holding back when they were fighting the evil harpy Monet. Zoro tired her accusations sat out of the fight and watched while Tashigi struggled against the powerful foe, when she was about to die Zoro stepped in and saved her as he couldn't stand watching her suffer, slicing the harpy in half and letting Tashigi finish her off. Zoro even carried her out of the room on his shoulder (which is rare for him).
    • This is the main reason why the second half of the Whole Cake Island arc played out the way it did. The only reason the Straw Hats were present in time for the Tea Party is because Sanji was the unwilling groom the Big Mom Pirates kidnapped for it, and they were there to take him back, albeit discreetly. Sanji wanted to go with them the moment they finally had an opening, but as it turned out, the entire wedding was a sham to assassinate him and his biological family; despite justifiably hating said family, he was ultimately too compassionate to leave them to their fates and asked for the rest of the crew's help in saving them. Luffy and co. agreed, which led to them getting involved with Capone Bege's own assassination attempt on Big Mom — and when that failed, the entire situation escalated into a full-scale conflict that engulfed all of Totto Land. End result? Big Mom mindlessly rampaging all across the archipelago for over half a day, causing untold amounts of casualties and property damage, the destruction of dozens of her crew's ships, and the defeats of several thousands of her subordinates, up to and including her over all strongest underling in her second son, Charlotte Katakuri. And to top it off, the entire situation was witnessed by a high-ranking World Government agent and an In-Universe media baron. All of these events were so outrageous that the Straw Hats were declared an Emperor-class crew over them, even though ninety percent of what happened was completely unintentional on their end.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Akemi Homura is revealed to have this mindset. Happily, saving the girl in question also coincides with saving the world by ensuring she'll never turn into a super-powerful, world-destroying Witch. Sadly, it's not as easy as it sounds, even with multiple attempts. She's even had to Shoot/Mercy Kill The Girl once, and Kyubey eventually revealed that it was her very actions that ironically led to both the Girl and the World getting screwed at the same time, but the sacrifice was necessary to avoid the universe itself getting screwed by entropy instead.
    • This is deconstructed in one of the series' manga spinoffs, Puella Magi Oriko Magica. At the end of the manga, Homura, Mami, and Kyoko are all alive, and neither Madoka or Sayaka had to sign Kyubey's contract. But Oriko killed Madoka with the last of her strength to try to prevent Kreimhild Gretchen from appearing (since it will go unchecked and destroy the world), and Homura decides to press the Reset Button again, despite the fact that this ending works out well for everyone else. She just doesn't care about a Golden Ending that doesn't include Madoka's wellbeing. In the main series, this is eventually reconstructed when Homura's perseverance finally pays off and Madoka uses her wish to rewrite reality.
    • In the same spinoff, Madoka herself calls out Homura, saying that if she's going to sacrifice innocent people to save her, then she doesn't want to be saved. Homura asks her not to ask her not to save her and says that it's impossible to save everyone in the school so she might as well save her, before putting a barrier around her to keep her safe while she goes off. In Homura's defense, even the much more idealistic Mami notes that it's impossible to save everyone in the school.
    • This happens again in the show's sequel Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion where Homura's desire to save and protect Madoka leads her to hijack Madoka's power, redo her Cosmic Retcon and trap Madoka and the entire universe in what is essentially a Lotus-Eater Machine. Sayaka, a part of the Law of Cycles who knows Madoka better than anyone, gives her a royal chewing out for this... then, after Homura leaves and her friends show up, starts crying Tears of Joy because she's so happy to see them again.
  • Rave Master:
    • The villain Sieg Hart wants to kill Elie to prevent the destructive power of Aetherion from awakening and tearing the world apart. He tries to make Haru see his point that one life is a small sacrifice for saving the world, to which Haru replies, "If peace can only come through killing someone, then I don't want it." When the power awakens anyway, Hart is unable to do anything, and it's up to Haru to make the decision... And he decides to Take a Third Option and seals the power without killing her.
    • Later, Haru fights a youth-restored Shiba and is getting his ass handed to him. Haru tries to motivate himself by thinking about how the world will be doomed if he loses, but it doesn't work. Then he thinks about how if he loses, Elie will cry, then defeats his opponent in a single blow.
  • Red River (1995) gives an interesting justification for this trope. Kail goes to all sorts of trouble to keep Yuri safe and while he does care about her well-being, he has a more personal reason to be invested in her staying alive — his Wicked Stepmother Nakia magically summoned Yuri to Anatolia for the purpose of ritualistically killing her to curse Kail and his brothers to die, so her own son could take the throne. If Nakia succeeds in killing Yuri, Kail's a goner. The trope is played with more further into the manga, as Yuri is in danger of threats besides Nakia. Kail occasionally has to remember that he has a duty to the entire empire and must keep that in mind even if Yuri's in danger (for her part, Yuri's usually fine with Kail acting for the greater good of the people). He nearly plays the trope straight in one instance, where Yuri is framed for the murder of his older brother, who had been king, and Nakia tries to use this as a justification to have her executed. Kail nearly goes against all sense and begins to head off to the city-state she's hiding in, only to be stopped when Ilbani threatens to commit suicide, on the grounds that he dedicated his entire life to helping Kail become king and care for the empire. Kail going to help Yuri and thus committing treason would throw away all hope for that dream being realized and thus give Ilbani no reason to live. This shocks Kail enough to stop.
  • Played very straight in one of the Sailor Moon Super S specials. A puppet is stealing Haruka's life energy. The ventriloquist tells Michiru that she cannot harm the puppet, because if the blue bottle the puppet is holding it destroyed, all the shadows of the world would attack their owners. Michiru Deep Submerges the puppet anyway. The ventriloquist asks Michiru how she knew he was lying, and she says, "Oh, it wasn't true?" Shocked, he replies, "You did it just to save her? What kind of heroine are you?" to which she says, "Oh, maybe you misunderstood. A world without Haruka is hardly worth saving." note 
  • As Seraph of the End goes on, it becomes abundantly clear that Yu will always prioritize Mika's survival, even when everything else objects to it or his survival itself is part of the plans of higher beings. When presented with the choice to either revive all of his and his teammates' families or bring back Mika, Yu at first pretends to go with his friends but ultimately decides he's not giving up on Mika (at least noting that he's going to try and find some way to get everyone their happy ending along the way).
  • The end of Slayers NEXT, when Lina chooses to cast a spell that can potentially wipe out the entire universe just to save Gourry. However that season's Big Bad was pressing her very hard to force her to cast that particular spell; Lina would have been killed if she didn't cast it, and that she had been severely psychologically abused by this point. Moreover, she had made very clear that she did not want to do it and she tried all alternatives she could come up with until she ran out of options. At the end she had to choose between casting the Giga Slav and maybe destroy the universe or getting killed by the Big Bad together with Gourry and all of her allies. Neither of these outcomes happen, but solely because the Lord of Nightmares possesses Lina's body to finish the Big Bad herself.
    Lina: [as she's right about to cast the Giga Slave] "God damn it... If I cast this spell, the world will go to Hell... But I choose Gourry over all of this world!!"
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, just like everything else, takes this trope and cranks it past absurdity. It's also a Defied Trope. Simon does everything in his power to save Nia from the Anti-Spirals, and in the end is unable to save her. However his own spiral power has grown so much he could theoretically use it to revive her. It's heavily implied doing so would cause so much damage to the universe it'd cause the calamity that the Anti-Spirals were trying to prevent. So Simon refuses. He could literally just will Nia back to life if he so chose but does not so as not to destroy the universe.
  • This Ugly Yet Beautiful World: Hikari is the anthropomorphic personification of extinction. Takeru is a mutation born to stop her. And he still does everything in his power to protect her, consequences be damned. Granted he doesn't know either of those facts for most of the series, but even after he learns the truth it doesn't change anything.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-. At the beginning, it was touching and powerful when Syaoran was willing to give up everything he knew, and even Sakura's love for him, in exchange for saving her life. In later chapters, when we find out that, for Sakura's sake, he has purposely damned an entire town, watching them melt before his eyes, chosen staying with her over his own world and family at the age of seven, and then made a Deal with the Devil to radically alter — and not for better — the life of her entire family, herself, and his own parents, along with, potentially, all of space and time it's starting to become... a tad aggravating. The town and its people were fake, things ended up okay (sort of), and he really didn't have a choice in the matter anyway.
  • Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest has Inugami the hero who's biggest Berserk Button is if someone messes with Aoshika. Haguro did in a huge way and now he's gonna pay.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: Yuya and Yuzu have a downplayed version of this for each other, if the other is hurt, they will drop whatever they were doing to help them. But usually it just means they aren't going to duel or pass on a message to the public.

    Audio Plays 
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who play Neverland has an example where the Doctor refuses to shoot his friend Charley, even though she's a temporal anomaly that poses a threat to the whole Universe by her very existence.

    Comic Books 
  • El Eternauta: Subverted at the end (the second volume). After blowing up the enemy headquarters, the hero flies to help La Résistance. When he arrives to the war scene, he must choose to help either his wife and daughter at one side of the battlefield, or the bulk of the women and children of the small population of last remaining humans. He goes for the later and saves them, but by the time he can go to help his wife and daughter, they have died.
  • Surprisingly played straight in the 2011 run of Journey into Mystery (Gillen). When Loki is confronted by the Leah who he created for the Serpent's story he decides to risk everything to give her a chance at having a better future
  • Superman:
    • In the Supergirl story arc Bizarrogirl Bizarro #1 needs help to fight Godship so he creates Bizarrogirl. Then he decides he can't risk her life and decides to take her to Earth, abandoning Bizarro World.
      Bizarro: For all her perfections, we hate her, so me decide take her to Earth and live with public identities. Let godship eat Bizarro World.
    • War World played with this. Alien tyrant Mongul threatens to kill several friends of Superman — Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Steve Lombard — if the Man of Steel does not bring him a key which would allow him to acquire Warworld, an immensely powerful weapon. Superman plays along, waiting for a chance to save his friends and thwart Mongul, even though Martian Manhunter warns him that he is putting countless lives on the line for three people. Unfortunately Superman cannot trick Mongul and has to choose between giving the Key to the galactic despot and letting his friends die. He decides he cannot bring himself to hand over the key.
    • Sibling version in The Girl with the X-Ray Mind. Supergirl needs to help to defeat the Phantom Zoners, and with nobody else to turn to, she resorts to Lex Luthor. As far as Luthor is concerned, the Zoners can wipe humanity out with his compliments; nevertheless, he agrees to team up with Supergirl because the Zoners' scheme has endangered his little sister Lena, and he will not put up with that.
  • Averted in Ultimate Fantastic Four during the Ultimatum storyline. Reed Richards chooses to confront Doctor Doom and save the world at large, abandoning his dying girlfriend, Sue. Eventually, she calls him out for it and breaks up with him. He explains that he made the "logical" choice, as saving the world would ultimately mean saving her as well. Sue remarks that she always felt that their love defied logic, and leaves him.
  • Sabretooth is this way with Monet in Uncanny X-Men. They had two missions helping other mutants but he was mainly concerned with protecting her. He also showed loyalty toward her over their other teammates. He shows the same bias toward Holly Bright, another love interest in First X-Men.
  • In the final issue of Wolverines, it turns out that this was the secret plan of Mystique. When she learns that her girlfriend Destiny had actually manipulated her, and that she was supposed to revive Wolverine instead, she is livid and destroys the MacGuffin needed to draw Logan's soul back from the void, declaring that she would rather watch the universe die than bring Logan back, if that means she can't have her girlfriend back.
  • Gender-inverted (along with everything else) in Y: The Last Man the three astronauts (two male, one female) who avoided the effects of the male-killing plague crashland on earth, their pod in flames from a missile attack. One of them is able to escape the pod before it explodes. It's the woman, who reveals that the other two basically threw her out against her protests. Another character remarks on the apparent stupidity of the chivalry in a world where males are desperately needed, but the woman reveals that it's most likely because she was pregnant with one of the two's sons.)

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars:
    • This is something Shinji and his father have in common. Both of them would destroy the world for the woman they love. Several characters call Shinji out on it:
      Daniel: And as for how serious he is, Asuka, I’d like you to keep in mind something my wife told him yesterday that Shinji didn’t like to hear very much; that he’s a lot like his father in a key way. They both have made the decision that the entire rest of the world isn’t as important to them as one particular woman and that life isn’t worth living without her.
    • Gender Flipped and played for drama with Rei. She does not want Shinji leaving her sight because she cares for him and wants to protect him... so she shut down the dimensional portal, cutting Shinji and Asuka’s platoon off and blocking them from contacting with the Empire. She was endangering not only their lives but also endangering everyone on the whole planet only because she was afraid of Shinji leaving and jealous of Asuka.
  • A Growing Affection: Naruto's actions during the Dojutsu Tournament arc. He puts Hinata above everyone else (including himself) multiple times in the four chapters.
  • The Undertale Continuation Fic Betrayed heavily deconstructs this trope. Before the story proper, Frisk had RESET following a successful Pacifist Run because he had been unable to give Chara her own body, and came to the conclusion that killing all the monsters would strengthen her enough to do so, and that he could just RESET afterwards so he wouldn’t “really” be killing anyone. Of course, this just taught Chara, who was soulless and therefore did not understand morality, that violence is the best way to achieve one’s desires, so she wrested control from him and destroyed the world, as in the Genocide Route. Frisk was horrified but had to relinquish his SOUL for her to restore the world, and immediately did another Pacifist Run. The fic starts at that point, with Chara killing Toriel and Frisk’s friends and starting another war, and Frisk lost his RESET ability upon leaving the Underground, so he has to live with the consequences of what he had done. Even after Chara has a Heel Realization and is given a SOUL, their friends are still dead and both of them are wracked by guilt to the point of being suicidal, only choosing not to kill themselves because they need to find a way to bring everyone back. Even then, Frisk hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he values Chara’s life more than everyone else’s despite pretty much everyone calling him out on it, and when the heroes are all arrested and Chara is sentenced to death, with Frisk being forced to carry out the execution, he admits to himself that the rational and logical thing to do is to kill her, since all his other loved ones will be pardoned if and only if he goes through with it, and Chara wants to die as atonement for her actions, but he still can’t bring himself to do so, and the court refuses to negotiate a way out of this. The only reason there isn’t a Downer Ending right there is thanks to Mettaton showing up with a monster SOUL, proving that those Chara killed can be brought back to life. Even after they earn their happy ending, they don’t think they deserve it, and in the Alternative Ending, everyone else agrees that Frisk and Chara’s actions can never be forgiven, so the two of them travel to a secluded location and commit mutual suicide, inverting both this trope and Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending.
  • Child of the Storm plays with this trope — while Harry has chivalrous instincts bred in the bone, he uses his head more and more as time goes by, and is less prone to doing something "very noble, and very, very stupid." However, it's made clear in the sequel that the one circumstance under which he'll willing cross his personal Godzilla Threshold is to resurrect Carol, with whom he has a relationship that blends snarky but undying friendship and Courtly Love, if she ever died — though with the caveats that he'd first use the threat of it as Blackmail material, then if that failed, do it somewhere where there would be no collateral damage. Since this personal Godzilla Threshold means becoming the Dark Phoenix, even with the caveats, this revelation is quite reasonably greeted with horror.
  • Evangelion 303: In chapter 10 Gendo chided his son for neglecting his duties and to be so fully focused on a pretty girl that he does not care what happens to the rest of the world.
    Gendo: You disappoint me... Letting your emotional ties to a pretty girl blind you to the crying needs of the entire civilized world... You would turn your back on every innocent soul on the planet because you can’t see past your infatuation.
  • In Memento Vivere, a Final Fantasy X fanfiction, Auron chooses to protect Rikku instead of Braska during Sin's attack on Djose. He later regrets this decision, lamenting that it was a mistake he wouldn't make again.
  • The One I Love Is...: In the side-story "Let the World Burn / One Dream at a Time" Gendo explains he had tried to wipe humankind out, destroyed lives — including the ones of his son and the girls he loved- - and got his hands stained with blood... because he had to free Yui. He loved her, he missed her, he blamed himself for her getting trapped inside Unit 01, and he had to set her free, not matter what.
    Gendo: I should have known. Once you were trapped, I had to set you free.
    Yui: And you thought the Third Impact would free me. That doesn't explain why you had to devastate your son's life. Seele would have given you the Impact.
    Gendo: I couldn't let the old men control it. I had to make sure everything happened correctly.
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, Toki is willing to alter events so that Mai, Natsuki and Nao's tragic pasts are changed and they never end up at Fuuka Academy, thereby risking a temporal paradox, so that she can be together with Hayate — all details about Hayate are intentionally left vague, and the Usurper even questions her superficial attraction to him compared to how far she will go to have him by her side.
  • The Second Try: In the original timeline Gendo was willing to turn the whole humankind into primordial soup only to see his wife again, and Shinji lost his will to fight when he saw Asuka was dead, letting the world die. In the altered timeline Shinji almost caused the Third Impact again when he thought Asuka had been killed because he could not stand losing her. He later realized that he really would have lost everything if he would have done so.
    Yui: Is it okay now?
    Shinji: Yeah. She's fine. That's all that matters to me.
  • In Scar Tissue, a character summarizes Shinji's actions in End of Evangelion:
    "You killed last every human being because you wouldn't have the guts to save her [Asuka]. Then, you gave a big fuck you to Instrumentality to bring her back."
  • Thousand Shinji: His girlfriend Asuka, Rei and Misato were the three persons more precious to Shinji. When Asuka and Misato got killed and Rei showed up to grant him his deepest wish he asked her bringing them back, not matter the cost. The cost was Third Impact.
  • When Cordelia tried explaining to Xander in And Another Thing I Hate About You that the Powers That Be could very well have had a plan that saved the world but required her death, Xander angrily says the Powers can go to hell. Nobody hurts his girls.
  • In Necessary to Win, Maho defies this trope. While her primary motivation for being heiress of the Nishizumi school, which requires upholding her mother's winning at all costs ideology and meeting her difficult expectations, is Miho's happiness, Maho doesn't give Miho's happiness disproportionate weight, and is unwilling to use methods to further her goals that would cause many people to suffer.
    Was upholding the Nishizumi style, or even Maho's ulterior motive for doing so, worth the lives of those girls in that fallen tank? Maho did not believe it was, and desperately hoped for the welfare of the girls who crewed Tank 6.
  • Heavily implied during the Roaring Rampage of Rescue in Cinderjuice, when BJ's Unstoppable Rage over his Morality Chain being kidnapped scares his allies. The sequel confirms that he would have destroyed everything around him had the rescue efforts failed; the notion is revisited a few times throughout the series, always with the same conclusion.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Subverted. In the final confrontation with Voldemort, he offers to spare the life of a single person Harry cares about for every secret Harry gives him. However, Hermione is not on this list, as Voldemort has given his followers orders that she should not be harmed under any circumstances, explicitly including should she somehow escape. Plus, since she's now a troll unicorn with a Horcrux, there's very little that anyone could do to permanently harm her anyway. As Harry explains to Hermione, he was fighting to save everyone he cared about except her.
    Hermione: That's the least romantic thing I've ever heard.
  • Vigilante Tendency: The events of the fic stem from Tsuna's decision to protect his crush Kyoko from some bullies who want to get revenge on Ryohei. It all goes downhill from there.
  • Jaune in From Beyond takes it to rather extreme lengths. Not only will he do pretty much anything to save Blake — getting an innocent man killed included — but he is also willing to endanger his entire world by letting Cinder go and refusing to follow Ozpin so as not to make Blake unhappy. Even Jaune himself acknowledges how messed up that is.
  • In Serendipity, chronically affection-starved Chat Noir considers dropping his responsibility to the people of Paris so he can date a girl without worrying that Hawkmoth will target her. She manages to talk him out of it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney's Hercules pulls this with Hercules giving away his powers to make Megara safe. It leads to Fridge Horror when you consider what would have happened if an unlucky accident hadn't killed Meg and returned his powers. Though Herc himself falls straight into Good Is Dumb.
  • Lupin III The Castle of Cagliostro: Lupin drops everything to rescue Clarisse, and even lampshades it at the start of the film:
    Jigan: "So who do we help?"
    Lupin: "The girl!"
    Jigan: "Typical."
  • The Place Promised in Our Early Days has the heroes risk the entire planet Earth to wake Sayuri from a coma induced by the world-ending machine.
  • At the climax of Weathering With You, Hodaka saves his friend and crush Hina from sacrificing herself, knowing that this might mean the extreme weather the city has been going through will continue. The audience is immediately informed that it indeed did, and the city has been flooded with non-stop rain for three years since then, which logically must have killed people. Hodaka seems concerned about all of this, but as soon as he sees Hina again, he decides that it was all worth it for her.
  • In Wonder Woman (2009), Steve Trevor saves Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman!) from certain death at the hands of Ares, the God of War. She then slaps him, tells him she would rather have died and he saved the world, and sulks.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me is playing with a trope. First it is averted when Austin decides to save the world and let the Girl of the Week die, but later he goes back in time with Evil's time machine so that he can save the girl while his past self saves the world.
  • Avengers: Infinity War:
    • Sadistically subverted and deconstructed several times: The Vision, whose existence partially relies on the Mind Stone which is what Thanos and the Black Order is after, is told point blank by his Love Interest the Scarlet Witch and his teammates that they will not allow him to sacrifice himself by destroying the stone and attempt to Take a Third Option by safely removing the Mind Stone and then destroying it before Thanos can get his hands on it. In the end, it's All for Nothing. The Black Order's army prevents the safe removal of the Mind Stone and Thanos arrives, forcing the Scarlet Witch to destroy the Mind Stone and the Vision with it. And then Thanos reverses her sacrifice using the Time Stone, kills Vision in front of her, and completes the Infinity Gauntlet, thus ending half of all life in the universe.
    • Earlier, Star-Lord's Love Interest Gamora makes him promise to kill her should Thanos capture her. Peter is naturally reluctant, but when the moment comes he manages to bring himself to shoot her, only for Thanos to use the Reality Stone to render his gun useless and takes Gamora with him. Gamora's survival is also temporary as Thanos later sacrifices her to obtain the Soul Stone.
  • Batman Forever: Batman knows he wouldn't be able to save either the girl or Robin, then he goes and saves both anyway because he's just that good.
  • Cloud Atlas: Hae-Joo and Sonmi have this trope going on.
  • Discussed in Courage Under Fire, reflecting a shift in the U.S. military's attitudes toward women in combat. Female soldiers themselves weren't a problem, but prior experience suggested that male colleagues would endanger themselves or the mission to protect the woman.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The Joker is counting on this in The Dark Knight, as he tells Batman the two hostages' locations backwards to ensure that he saves Dent even though he wanted to save the girl.
    • Bane in The Dark Knight Rises plans on this when he captures Miranda Tate, knowing that Batman will come to her rescue. However, it's quickly revealed that Miranda is a Decoy Damsel.
  • Parodied in D.E.B.S., where the girl doesn't want to be saved as she's in a Girls' Love relationship with the villainess.
  • In Demolition Man, an old newsreel shows the result of John Spartan's rescue mission:
    Reporter: How do you justify destroying a seven million dollar mini-mall to rescue a girl when the ransom was only $25,000?
    Rescued Girl: Hey, fuck you, lady.
    John: Good answer.
  • Invoked in Ex Machina. Both Nathan and Ava separately work to see if Caleb will do this, manipulating him into considering Ava a princess in the tower who needs rescuing. And maybe she is, but the fact she's invoking the trope shows that she can be seen to be considerably less much innocent that her situation would imply.
  • Fear Street has Deena Johnson spend the entire trilogy trying to save her girlfriend, Sam Fraser, from the horrors of Shadyside that is inflicted on the latter. She ultimately succeeds, but at the cost of so many of their friends' lives.
  • Hellboy:
    • In the first film, the villain Rasputin offers Hellboy the choice of bringing about the Apocalypse to gain enough power to save his desouled girl, Liz, or to save the world and lose her forever. Hellboy initially sees this as no choice at all, and begins the procedure of summoning the Ogdru Jahad and ending the world, before Myers throws Hellboy his father's cross. The cross burns into his flesh, reminding him that this is his choice. Save the world, or save Liz, and his father always did say that a man is made by his choices. He then chooses the world, tears off his newly regrown horns, and stabs Rasputin to death with one of them. There is then a Double Subversion when he saves the girl anyway by intimidating the thing in charge. A newly awoken and somewhat confused Liz asks him how he saved her. His answer?
      Hellboy: Hey. You, on the other side. Let her go. Because for her, I'll cross over, and then... you'll be sorry.
    • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army this is played straight by both Abe and Liz. Abe tries to save his porcelain princess by giving her brother the MacGuffin that controls the Golden Army (which nearly drove humanity extinct last time it was used) while Liz, after being told by an Angel of Death that Hellboy would bring about the Apocalypse, tells Hellboy's Angel of Death to sod off and save him anyway. It shows just how much Liz trusts Hellboy (and, as the director's commentary points out, is the humane decision to make), but she still screwed the world to save her man.
  • The Hunger Games: Or rather, "Always Save the Boy with the Bread". Katniss Everdeen continuously prioritizes Peeta's survival over what's best for her own survival, the rebellion and her squad.
  • A rather dark aversion is revealed to be Spooner's Freudian Excuse in I, Robot. He and a young girl were in a three-way car accident and a passing robot jumped into the water to help. Spooner shouted for the robot to save the little girl instead, but the robot's simplistic programming told it that Spooner had a higher chance of survival since his car hadn't sunk as far, so it saved him and let the girl die. This is why Spooner distrusts robots; to him, a human would've known that saving a helpless child is more important than saving an adult that can possibly fend for themselves.
    • Played with at the climax of the film: Sonny is about to inject nanites into VIKI to destroy her, when Spooner order him to save Dr. Calvin, who's falling to her death. He even yells "Save her! Save the girl!", just to make the parallel with the above scene obvious. Sonny complies... but tosses the nanites to Spooner so he can finish off VIKI himself, thus saving the girl without sacrificing their main objective.
  • Averted in Jack the Giant Slayer. Brahmwell decides to cut down the beanstalk to save the kingdom, even if it means his daughter will be left trapped with the Giants.
  • James Bond:
    • The Spy Who Loved Me: 007 chooses to defy his superiors to save Anya Amasova from the villain's lair, which is about to be torpedoed by the navy. Considering that she said she would kill him as soon as the mission was over, this proves that he really did care about her.
    • GoldenEye: There is a double subversion. Bond tells Janus to go ahead and kill Natalya, but this is a Batman Gambit. Of course, he ends up saving her.
  • In Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), one of the members of the rescue party makes the perfectly reasonable observation that Anne is probably dead already, that a good number of the rescuers have just died, and the rest of them will probably either get killed or get left behind, since their ship will sail without them if they are not back in time. He is immediately accused of being a Dirty Coward by The Hero, and since the character has been an arrogant douchebag for the entire film, we are presumably meant to hate him even more for the heinous crime of not wanting to die horribly for an almost certainly lost cause. Even though Anne is brought back alive; of the seventeen people who die on the island, fifteen were killed trying to find her. No matter how much you might love Anne, is that really a price you want to pay?
  • Pretty much the same thing happens in Krull. At least the prince manages to kill a horrible beast that would likely murder countless people if not stopped in the process (and a few of his allies survive), but it's clear that he's only in it to save the princess.
  • In Looper, the future Joe will just about anything to save his wife. However, when given an option to stop his past self from meeting her, he refuses. He cannot sacrifice their relationship.
  • The Matrix:
    • The Matrix Reloaded, in which Neo, faced with a choice between restarting the free human race with 7 other males and 16 females to rebuild Zion and returning to the Matrix (which the Architect says will result in the end of the free human population, and will crash the Matrix killing the non-free humans there) decides to return to the Matrix to save Trinity. At least, until The Matrix Revolutions...
    • The Architect also pointed out that the previous "One's" loved humanity in a general sense, leading them to sacrifice most of the population for the sake of the species as a whole. Due to the Oracle's influence, Neo loved Trinity more than humanity, directly leading to humanity's freedom.
  • In the MST3Ked film The Magic Sword, a young prince leads a band of knights on a quest to rescue his lady love. All the knights are killed along the way. At no point does anyone even mention that fact that several good men have died to save a single life and several more are likely to before the thing is done.
  • Parodied in The Naked Gun 33 1/3. Rocco tells Frank to give him the bomb or he'll shoot Jane. A long discussion about the possible consequences of each action, and which is preferable, ensues. It doesn't help that the terms keep changing.
  • Exploited in Plunkett & Macleane when despite Plunkett's warnings he'll be captured, Macleane attempts to to go back and save Lady Rebbecca despite the risks. It is a trap and General Chance is waiting to arrest him.
  • Predators: Royce is a Combat Pragmatist who doesn't hesitate to abandon any one of the team that gets injured or falls behind, unless it's lone female Isabelle. The fact that he shrugs and moves on any time she deliberately stays behind to help the others makes it seem more like a spinal reflex on his part than adherence to an honor code.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy offers to let the Nazis keep the Ark in exchange for Marion, threatening to destroy the Ark if they don't comply. Belloq calls his bluff (as an archaeologist, Indy can't bring himself to destroy the Ark, even to keep it out of the Nazis' hands) and Indy gets captured.
  • In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, despite knowing the consequences of doing so, Dave gives up the Grimhold and Merlin's ring to save Becky. Despite the consequences, Balthazar admits that he would have done the same.
  • The King in Spaceballs sacrifices himself and the entire population of his home planet, just so the princess doesn't get her old nose back.
  • There's the choice given in Spider-Man where Peter is forced to choose between Mary Jane's life and the lives of some children in a cable car. It appears for a moment as if he's chosen M.J., but actually he's Taken a Third Option.
  • Star Wars:
    • Anakin's character is a massive deconstruction of this trope. He adamantly refuses to give up on those he loves, even though the Jedi preach non-attachement, and even when giving up is the healthiest thing to do. The loss of his mother is the first time he truly fails, which causes him to rage out and murder everyone within reach, and Obi-Wan only barely manages to convince him that they should prioritize capturing Dooku over going back to get Padmé. When he starts getting nightmares of his wife dying in childbirth, Palpatine exploits this by offering a way to save her, but only if he embraces the dark side. Even Anakin's final betrayal of the Jedi reflects this trope, both since he needs Palpatine to save Padmé (or so he thinks), and because he wants to save the kind old man who was always there for him.
    • The Force Awakens: Finn lies about knowing how to stop the Starkiller Base in order to convince the Resistance to let him join the rescue of Rey.
      Finn: I'm just here to get Rey.
  • Double Subversion in The Three Musketeers (2011). D'Artagnan is at first reluctantly willing to ignore Constance (who has been captured by the villains) and continue with their mission, saying that the fate of France is more important. Athos urges him to save her, or else he will save France only to become a lonely and bitter man like him after he lost Milady de Winter. The Musketeers then save her.
  • In The Wolfman (2010), Gwen's actions in protecting Lawrence from Aberline are understandable, but she is also putting the chance that he can be cured above the likelihood that he will kill again (and in fact Lawrence does end up infecting someone directly because of her.)
  • Wolves: When he loses his first fight against Connor and his pack, Cayden is urged to leave town, but won't leave Angel to be used by Connor.
  • In Zombieland, this trope causes Columbus to change one of his Rules of Zombieland (Never Be A Hero) and face his greatest fear (a Monster Clown) in order to save Wichita.

  • The Acts of Caine. Caine says it straight in Heroes Die: "I'd burn the world to save her."
  • In Below, the instant Gareth reveals he's bringing Cirawyn on the quest to keep Brenish in line, Brenish tells him point blank that her safety comes before his own. This bites Gareth hard later on, and the rest of the quest with him—friend and foe alike.
  • A Brother's Price has a gender-reversed example, when Jerin gets abducted, his multiple wives all want to go after the kidnappers. The eldest sister manages to change their minds, pointing out that this is just what the kidnappers want, making this a subversion. She, of course, does go after the kidnappers.
  • In Beast Tamer, the reason protagonist Rein Shroud has a powerful Battle Harem is that push comes to shove, he will put everything aside to rescue the nearby Damsel in Distress, and she joins his party in gratitude.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Accelerator doesn't care if you're an angel, an esper, or the entire world's military forces combined; he won't let anything happen to Last Order.
    • There's also Touma, who will help anyone in need. Usually this help involves punching someone in the face. While everything around him is exploding. During one arc, several factions are trying to capture, rescue, or kill Orsola Aquinas due to her supposed knowledge of The Book Of Law. When Touma rescues her, she is surprised and charmed to find that he didn't care about the knowledge at all. He was the only person who cared about her.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain series has a defiance in the last book. Eilonwy and Gurgi being separated from Taran's group of soldiers after a fight in the woods. While Taran is worried about their safety, he knows it's smarter to follow the advice of his men, who remind him that it's vital that they reach their destination in time and hope for the best for anyone missing. That Eilonwy and Gurgi have managed to pull themselves through scrapes before helped.
  • An Invoked Trope in The Dark Crusader (a.k.a. The Black Shrike) by Alistair MacLean. The Big Bad threatens to shoot the prisoners one by one unless secret agent John Bentall helps his Evil Plan, but is just laughed at; Bentall wouldn't be a secret agent if he wasn't ruthless, right? However he baulks when his fellow agent Marie Hopeman is about to be shot, because he's fallen in love with her in the course of his mission. At the end of the novel, he confronts The Mole who first assigned him the mission, saying he assigned Marie to work with him for exactly this reason.
  • Discworld:
    • Defied with Captain Carrot, who says "Personal isn't the same thing as important." While he wants to get Angua back, he joins Vimes's group to stop the war in Jingo instead of going off by himself after her. Of course, Angua is a werewolf, and Carrot knows it, so he rarely thinks she's in any real danger.
    • Used in The Fifth Elephant: though there isn't a crisis in Ankh-Morpork that needs dealing with, he immediately resigns his commission and goes after her when she leaves the city. He informs the proper authorities first. He's not rash, even when he is doing the romantic thing.
    • With Lobsang in Thief of Time. He stops for his old mentor who is feeling the strain of the Dangerous Forbidden Technique; time and reality itself stops because of it.
      Susan: I'm sorry? You were dashing to prevent the end of the world but you stopped to help some old man? You hero.
  • Dragon Bones:
    • A man expresses his willingness to do something evil in order to save his brother. When another character sarcastically asks him whether he also tortures puppies, he replies coldly "To save my brother, I would."
    • Averted by Ward, who, when the necessity of keeping the dragon bones safe is explained to him, kills Oreg, whom he regards as brother-like friend, with his own hands, thus enabling a Heroic Sacrifice, that keeps the bones safe.
  • Used repeatedly in Dopamine. In Act I, the girl in need of saving is Tina. In Act II, it's Julie Yen. In Act III, it's Sergey's daughter, Rosie.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • When a Red Court Vampiress is referring to Harry Dresden's Love Interest, Susan, who was already half-turned into a vampire herself:
      Bianca: You would risk war between the Wizards and the Red Court for one person?
      Harry: (slams his staff down on the floor) For one person! For one life! For one soul!
    • Earlier, when Bianca smugly thinks she's got Dresden cornered and is going to force him to sacrifice an innocent life, asks him logically if one woman is worth the price of war. He just responds quietly "I love her." note 
    • Warden Luccio is one of the most battle-hardened Wardens. She fought against the archmage necromancer Heinrich Kemmlernote  and knows the danger he and his disciples can bring. In Dead Beat she is leading a contingent of Wardens to stop the Heirs of Kemmler from performing a dark and dangerous ritual on Halloween. In streets now filling with undead minions of the Heirs, they come across some kids trick-or-treating and they stop their crucial mission to move the kids to safety. Luccio is disappointed at Harry when he expresses shock they would do this.
    • Changes. Susan has crossed the line and become fully vampire. Harry uses her as a human(ish) sacrifice to wipe out the Red Court entirely, winning the war and saving countless lives the Reds would have ended in the future. Not that there was much in the way of better options at the moment.
    • Also from Changes, not a Love Interest, but instead a daughter Harry makes it very clear he'd let the world AND HIMSELF burn if it means he can keep Maggie safe. In fact, the entire plot of Changes (as well as most of the preceding books' Red Court-related events) only happens because of people taking advantage of this trait of Harry's. His being the handiest Unwitting Pawn around is a major reason people he cares about get in danger.
    • In Ghost Story Uriel calls attention to the consequences his actions in Changes have had for just one other person he cares about to point out that, basically, this trope is a really stupid approach, while Harry considers some of the global effects of his actions that he might have avoided if he'd been less reckless.
  • Sousuke winds up facing this dilemma in Full Metal Panic! when Kurama gives him five minutes to surrender both Kaname and the Arbalest before he blows up Jindai High. In this case, while Sousuke rejects leaving everyone to die out of hand decides he's going to Take a Third Option and save them all, Kaname and Al argue that probability of such a plan working is 1%. Sousuke recognizes that they're right, but also can't deny that love has made him irrational enough to bet on that 1%. And he pulls it off... only for Leonard to show up with the Belial to critically (though not mortally) injure Kyoko, Curb Stomp the Arbalest and give Kaname the Sadistic Choice to either surrender or watch Sousuke and Kyoko die. She surrenders without a second thought.
  • Harry Potter:
    • This trope basically sums up how Snape responded to Lily being in danger. He was happy being a Death Eater until Voldemort targeted Lily (and her husband and child, but he wasn't concerned about them). In this case, the trope worked for good, motivating Snape's Heel–Face Turn as Voldemort could not have been expected to spare Lily since Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.
    • Defied in Deathly Hallows. Harry worries about Ginny's safety while she's at a Hogwarts run by Death Eaters, but resists the urge to go find her because finding the last Horcruxes were more important — though not enough to send her the Marauder's Map, preferring to stare at her dot on the map rather than give her a tool to track said Death Eaters' movements so she could better resist them: Always Remotely Stalk The Girl?
  • The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious: Seiya was summoned to Gaeabrande to save it from demons. While he's very dedicated to preparing and training as much as possible to ensure his success, he'll still prioritize saving his friends over the world, as shown when he refuses to sacrifice Elulu to gain the only weapon that can kill the Demon Lord.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • Peeta Mellark is sort of a micro-cosmos version of this. The only thing he cares about in the arena is that Katniss makes it out alive even though that means his own death. In Catching Fire he more or less says outright that his own family's pain if he dies doesn't matter so long as Katniss gets to live.
    • Gender-flipped with Katniss as the story progresses. All she cares about during the quarter quell is saving Peeta at the cost of her own life, effectively ending the love triangle as she'd rather die for Peeta than live for Gale. When Peeta is taken by Snow she initially loses all will to fight and doesn't want to contribute to the rebellion. She gets better, but once she realizes that anything she does to help the rebellion will directly result in torture for Peeta she becomes useless to their cause. Later on in the third book she refuses to let her squad mates kill Peeta even though he's mentally unstable and has already accidentally killed one of their team (while trying to kill Katniss), needing him to live because of her own feelings for him.
  • From My Dead Body, fifth book of the Joe Pitt Case Files, title Anti-Hero and Vampire Joe Pitt goes through maiming torture, starves himself to the point of death, and starts a war between vampires, other vampires, and eventually the human world, just for a chance to save his girlfriend, who he hasn't seen for a year.
  • John Carter of Mars: This rule is so powerful on Barsoom that even the women accept it and submit to being rescued no matter how distressed they may be at leaving their male companions and love interests in deadly peril.
  • Defied in Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm novels. The hero's professional standards don't allow him to jeopardize the mission for "irrelevant females."
  • In A Hard Day's Knight, renegade knight Stark plans to hand Excalibur over to an evil incarnation of Merlin — one who's already decimated his own world, and will invade Stark's if he gets the sword — in exchange for the resurrection of his dead wife. He eventually subverts this trope, but only because his wife's ghost calls him out on it, insisting that she'll kill herself again if he buys her life at such a price.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • Played with in the series, where Athena accuses this of Percy: "You would give up the world to save your friends". Played straight, when Percy realizes this is his heroic flaw, and subverted when "It would seem you have managed to save both."
    • It's come up again in the sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus, where Percy's fatal flaw will prevent him from making a hard choice, and Frank will have to force him for the sake of the world.
  • In David Weber and John Ringo's Prince Roger series, averted when Nimashet Despreaux is kidnapped by mobsters. Roger leads the assault on the Imperial Palace whilst some of his ex-SWAT allies rescue her. He needed some convincing to follow this course of action.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero puts this mentality through a much more cynical lens with Motoyasu, as he insists on coming to the rescue of every cute girl he meets. Problem is, not only is this mentality born from a selfish desire for a harem that he's nursed from the very start of the series, said cute girls are either perfectly capable of fighting for themselves, never need his help in the first place and ultimately end up resenting him for his forced assistance (Raphtalia and Filo), or are all too keen on taking advantage of it for their own selfish gain (Malty and the rest of his party), and to the point of using him as a glorified attack dog. What's more, this winds up putting said girls in danger by repeatedly antagonizing the person he blindly assumes is "brainwashing" them (Naofumi), and to the point where he outright tries to either maim or kill them without sparing even a second to consider his actions.
  • In Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, the title character frequently works as a bodyguard, and he's told clients to their face that if he has to choose between protecting them and protecting his long-time lover Susan Silverman, he'll choose Susan without blinking. Spenser's blood brother Hawk feels the same way — about the same woman. God help you if you're foolish enough to try to influence either of them by threatening Susan; it's a quick trip to the morgue. For that matter, Hawk will kill you for being a potential threat to Susan.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Luke Skywalker is very protective of Mara Jade. Much to her annoyance. So much so that when she dies, Luke actually considers suicide and Ben has to talk him out of it.
    • Apparently, Luke's overprotectiveness rubbed off on his student, Jacen Solo. It doesn't annoy his girl, Tenal Ka, as much.
  • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story "Delenda Est", Van Sarawak drags Deirdre along when Everard rescues him, without regard for what it does to the rescue.
  • The Wheel of Time gives us Perrin, who diverts his mission to bring The Prophet back to Rand when Faile is kidnapped. When called out on this, he makes it quite clear that the rest of the world can burn if it gets his love back — even when it looks like an actual, imminent possibility.
  • In Within Ruin, Virgil epitomizes this trope to the point that the true reason behind the group's journey is to collect enough souls to prolong Descarta's life. Even Descarta herself was originally a vessel for the soul of Virgil's first love Ankaa. Virgil went as far as to learn untold dark magics, create a fake religion, and start a war to ensure there would be enough dead to provide all the souls he needed to this end. Virgil does more than just save the girl he creates her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 loves playing with this trope; both Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida are put into Sadistic Choice scenarios at different points during the series run, and their differing reactions are part of what make Tony such an effective Foil for Jack. Jack does absolutely everything in his power to Take a Third Option on Day 1, but his wife ends up being killed anyway, having had the misfortune to find out the identity of The Mole. When Tony's turn comes two seasons later, he breaks down completely at the prospect of losing his wife and proceeds to play this trope 100% straight, despite it being presented in-universe as morally and legally indefensible. Agonizingly, it's Jack who has to force Tony almost literally kicking and screaming into taking a third option, despite knowing firsthand what kind of grief is in store for Tony if it doesn't work, and Tony once reminds Jack about he supposedly "let (his) wife die".
  • The 100:
    • Season 2 has Finn utterly obsessed with rescuing Clarke, willing to leave allies to die or attack innocent people if it will help him get to her. This is shown to be a very bad attitude to have, since it leads to him slaughtering a village, and ultimately results in his death. Especially since the people he was trying to rescue Clarke from hadn't actually taken her.
    • And when Finn faces consequences for these actions, Raven is ready to do whatever it takes to protect him, even trying to get someone else punished for his crimes, or starting a war with their allies in a (probably futile) attempt to save him.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Played with in the third season finale. The Big Bad is about to transform all of Europe into brainwashed monsters, which he would then use to conquer the world. Daisy Johnson is immune to this transformation, but prepares to pull a Heroic Sacrifice to save the world. Her boyfriend takes her place against her objections, noting that he can't think of a better way to die than saving the world and the woman he loves at the same time.
  • Angel: in "A Hole in the World", Angel nearly makes this choice when he learns that the only way to save Fred is to let hundreds of thousands of people die in her place. He initially spits out an angry "to hell with the world" and storms off to perform the ritual as the scene cuts away. When it returns, though, he's still standing at the threshold, unable to actually go through with it, and he finally, sadly turns away.
  • Given a few twists in Babylon 5 episode "Comes the Inquisitor". The Vorlons send the Inquisitor to see if Delenn has the right stuff to be one of the Chosen Ones in the fight against the Shadows. At the end of the episode the Inquisitor puts the life of her love interest on the line, saying that she can only save Captain Sheridan by giving up her fight against the Shadows. She chooses to save Sheridan... and it turns out this is exactly what the Vorlons were looking for: "How do you know the chosen ones? No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Not for millions. Not for glory, not for fame... For one person."
  • Bill Adama does this twice in Battlestar Galactica, first to save his surrogate daughter Kara Thrace in "You Can't Go Home Again", then to save the woman he loves, President Laura Roslin, in "Sine Qua Non". Both times he's called on it by his colleagues and (eventually) realises they're right; fortunately fate rewards Adama's determination and returns both women to him.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century has a subversion. The Evil Alien Computer put Buck through having to choose between Wilma Deering and Hawk (an alien from a Proud Warrior Race of birdmen). He chose Hawk because he guessed that Wilma was really a double, put in by the Evil Alien Computer, because the real Wilma Derring wouldn't have been such a wuss.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "The Gift", Buffy is willing to let the entire world die in torment to save Dawn. Notably, Dawn thinks this is crazy, and insists that Buffy let her die. She takes a third option. It doesn't fit on the surface, but Word of God says that Dawn was intended to fill the dramatic role of Love Interest from Season 5 on out.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In Season 2 Episode 13, Matt finds that the Hand have kidnapped Karen and a bunch of other Daredevil survivors as a trap for him and Elektra. While they go to rescue the hostages, it's clear that Karen is his top priority and he can't help but stop to see that she's okay when he finds her.
    • In Season 3 Episode 10, Matt has broken into Fisk's hotel room to wait for Fisk to come back from a meeting with some crime lords so he can kill him, but then finds out that Fisk has sent Dex to kill Karen, and has located her hiding at Matt's church. He has to choose between sticking to his plan and attempting to kill Fisk but likely losing Karen in the process, or leave to go rescue her and give up what will likely be his only chance to kill Fisk, since security will be increased after he leaves that will ensure he won't get another shot like this. He chooses to leave and go to rescue Karen.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor, particularly Ten, tends to put their companions (who are usually, if not always, young and female) before anyone else. Also, Ten's era suggests that the Doctor's companions represent their humanity in a universe full of mass death; as seen in "The Fires of Pompeii" when Donna convinces Ten to go back for one family among all those destroyed in Pompeii. It's mentioned some times that the Doctor feels responsible for the danger their companions get into, since they brought them to wherever it is they are.
    • As of Eleven, the Doctor has sacrificed three of their lives for a companion, two of them female. The Fifth Doctor died to save Peri Brown; the Ninth Doctor died to save Rose Tyler; the Tenth Doctor died to save Wilfred Mott.
    • Then you have Rory Williams:
      The Doctor: All of creation has just been wiped from the sky. D'you know how many lives have now never happened, all the people who never lived? Your girlfriend isn't more important than the whole Universe.
      Rory: [punches him] She is to me!
    • Amy gets in on it too. To hell with time and space, Amy Pond wants to be with her husband.
    • River Song takes this trope to extremes, disintegrating Time itself to keep from killing the Doctor. She really takes after her parents here.
    • Perhaps learning from the above examples, the Twelfth Doctor loves Clara Oswald so much that, similarly to River, he is willing to take extreme risks to keep her safe. She's willing to do the same for him (and others) as well. This culminates in his efforts to save her from her death — after it happens at the end of Series 9, and the outcome is that he loses his memories of her and they are parted forever, both having realized that the extremes they go to for each other are just causing more problems for everyone. There is also an example of this earlier in the season in "Before the Flood" when, after being challenged about his actions, the Doctor outright says, "I'm a dead man walking. I'm changing history to save Clara." For a series that spent a half century repeatedly reminding the audience — and the Doctor! — that changing history is dangerous, reckless and must not be done, this is a huge deal (and also an example of O.O.C. Is Serious Business).
    • The return of River Song in the 2015 Christmas special sparked a major retcon as it was previously thought that River's story arc had been concluded. As a result, it was now established that the Doctor was prepared to go to his final death in the 2013 Christmas special without having resolved the Timey-Wimey Ball related to her death.
    • In "The Husbands of River Song", River and the Doctor are fighting over who will pull the Heroic Sacrifice to save a crashing spaceship. The Doctor declares "No one on this ship is worth your life!" They both then belatedly realize that for once, that's actually true; the ship only caters to the worst murderers, cannibals, and genocidal maniacs in the galaxy. Even getting on the crew requires proof of multiple murders. With their consciences clear, River and the Doctor just leave and let the ship crash.
  • Dollhouse:
    • In the first season finale Omega!Echo allows Alpha to escape in order to retrieve Caroline's original wedge. This could be seen as a particularly selfish example, since Echo is Caroline (sort of).
    • Also a fundamental part of Paul Ballard's personality; first he saves Mellie, then he gets to work protecting Echo from everything.
  • Farscape:
    • The series makes this brutally clear at around the middle of the fourth and final season. Scorpius is on the ship and John is convinced he's only there because he craves the wormhole knowledge in John's head. So far over past seasons, Scorpius threatening John, his family, even the entirety of Earth hasn't made John give in. Meanwhile Aeryn, angry that she has done everything she can think of to tell him that she wants a relationship with him, confronts him on his emotional deadness... and John performs a neat trick that shuts down the comms long enough for him to explain that, yes, he'd let anything else be destroyed, but Aeryn and her child? Not in this universe. But if Scorpius knew that, he'd come after her immediately and he won't let that happen.
    • Next episode, she gets kidnapped by Scarrans with similar designs on wormhole knowledge, forcing Crichton into a deal with Scorpius — trading the wormhole knowledge for his help in rescuing her. Whoopsidaisy. Incidentally, Crichton (and some fans) seem to believe that Scorpius wasn't fooled by the comm trick, and engineered the whole thing from beginning to end. Certainly he got all the information his big brain needed to puzzle out the truth during that same episode.
  • In the Firefly episode "War Stories", one of the villains presents Zoe with a Sadistic Choice between a captive Mal and Wash. She surprises the villain by immediately choosing her husband over her captain/war-buddy before he can even finish. note 
  • In Flashpoint the rules against team members dating are there for this specific reason. During a dangerous situation the team and civilians could be put in danger if one of them breaks protocol to try and save their Love Interest. In one episode an undercover cop falls in love with a gangster's girlfriend. He then tips her off about the upcoming city-wide bust so she is not arrested. As a result another cop gets shot, the gangster escapes, the undercover cop's career is ruined and the girl gets killed.
  • In the Fringe episode "And Those We've Left Behind," a man uses his wife's research to create a time bubble to go back to a time before she succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease even though said bubble is causing anomalies that wind up killing people. Peter surmises that this is all only possible because he recently willed himself back into existence.
  • On Haven, this is Nathan's fatal character flaw, and almost always crosses over into Love Makes You Dumb territory. It should be noted he does this even when Audrey asks him not to, setting of the Nice Job Breaking It, Hero events of seasons 4 and 5.
  • Charlie of Heroes. In the first season, Sylar kills her and when Hiro saves her, she is kidnapped by Samuel and left in the 1944.
  • On House, Foreman secretly switches Hadley from the placebo to the real drug in the drug trial he is working on, something that can end his career if it becomes known. Hadley is a bit weirded out by this, as they had only been dating for a couple of weeks. When the drug gives Hadley a brain tumor and turns her blind he is all set to openly tell his supervisors about it. They gets better.
  • From Merlin we have Guinevere on the one hand, and Camelot on the other. For Arthur, Merlin and all the Knights of the Round Table, Guinevere always comes first.
  • In One Tree Hill there is such an amazing frequency of Lucas saving Peyton that it is even acknowledged by her saying "You're always saving me" repeatedly.
  • Pushing Daisies: Ned keeps Chuck alive fully knowing someone else will die instead.
  • The BBC's Robin Hood:
    • When the outlaws and Marian are all taken hostage. Take a wild guess who Robin's the most afraid for. (Poor Much.)
    • Happens again in Season 3 in which all the outlaws abandon a house that has caught on fire in order to rush off and save Kate. One can only assume the villagers were not too impressed.
  • Sherlock: Something like this also happens in "The Blind Banker" — Sherlock pulls a Big Damn Heroes to save John and his girlfriend Sarah when they get captured by the Black Lotus. When General Shen manages to get away, Sherlock is torn between chasing after her or freeing Sarah and, even though John notes that it bothers him he let General Shen get away, he still chooses to stay behind and help Sarah, even though she was out of immediate danger by that point.
  • Smallville:
    • Clark does this where Lana is concerned on more than one occasion. He generally does find a way to Take a Third Option. However, it comes to a head in "Requiem", where Lex Luthor posed a sadistic choice to Clark and the now-superpowered Lana: allow Lana to absorb the kryptonite radiation from a bomb and save the city but sacrifice their ability to be together, or let the city die in order to preserve their romance. Clark and Lana agonize over what to do, but ultimately they decide to do the heroic thing. The Sadistic Choice involved — and the evilly elegant way he Out-Gambitted Clark and Lana into putting themselves in this position in the first place — marked this as perhaps the episode where Lex Luthor officially became the diabolical Manipulative Bastard and The Chessmaster we all know and love-to-hate in the comics.
    • "Bride" and "Legion": When Brainiac possesses Chloe's body, he/she/it proceeds to drain the world of its knowledge and readies Doomsday to destroy what is left. With great difficulty, Clark manages to save both Chloe and the world.
  • A well known aversion in Star Trek: The Original Series is in "The City on the Edge of Forever" wherein after a doped up McCoy destroys the Federation by saving one woman. Kirk and Spock go back to find McCoy and realize that the woman who has become a love interest for Kirk is the very one that MUST die for the timeline to be restored. Ultimately, Kirk decides he must let her die, but it was a difficult decision.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Kira finds out about Odo's feelings for her when she encounters an alternate future where she had died when the Defiant crashed on a planet and the crew formed a town. The cast were subject to The Time Traveller's Dilemma as going back to change things would result in those being born in the town never existing. Odo pretty much committed chronocide, not just on himself but on the crew of the Defiant and their descendants without even thinking about it. Unlike many instances of this trope, however, Kira's knowledge of this would create a rift between them that would take months to heal.
    • Worf fails to save a Cardassian dissident because he goes back to save an injured Jadzia Dax (who dies anyway a few episodes later). Sisko gives a speech berating him for it, then tells him he'd do the exact same thing.
  • Supernatural is a twisted-straight version. Heroes are more concerned with their Heterosexual Life Partner than with any Love Interests. Especially the moment in "All Hell Breaks Loose" where the hellgate opens: Sam, Ellen and Bobby try and shut it; Dean gets pinned to a grave by the Yellow-Eyed Demon, and Sam immediately goes to save his brother, leaving Ellen (who is a woman, but not a Love Interest) to try and shut one door by herself. Also of particular note is the end of Season 10: Sam is going to extreme lengths to cure Dean of the Mark of Cain, leading to not only Charlie's death but the release of the Darkness; meanwhile, Dean is talking to Death to try to make things safe on Earth by making sure he and the Mark are contained, but when Death commands him to kill Sam to make sure it will stick, he kills Death instead. Between the two, they choose each other, and the Darkness still gets released.
    • Castiel is willing to go against Heaven and Hell in order to save Dean, rebelling against his own kind in order to protect him, every time he's told to choose between his fellow angels and Dean, he chooses Dean. And he gets called out on it, repeatedly, by various characters.
      Metatron: Ah. So Gadreel bites the dust. And the angel tablet — arguably the most powerful instrument in the history of the universe — is in pieces, and for what again? Oh, that's right — to save Dean Winchester. That was your goal, right? I mean, you draped yourself in the flag of Heaven, but ultimately, it was about saving one human, right?
  • John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles finds Cameron — his Terminator love-interest — with her chip missing. Ignoring Judgment Day's impending arrival and his mission to stop it, he leaves his mother, and joins forces with a rogue T-1000 (liquid metal Terminator), jumping to the future in order to rescue her. In jumping after Cameron, John seems to have erased himself from the timeline, veritably sacrificing himself and his position of mankind's savior to save the "woman" he loves.
  • Timeline: When Logan sees Emma under the Hindenburg, he rushes over to pull her out of harm's way, despite her death having been a matter of history, and being warned about the effects of saving someone who died in the past. In the end she's killed by Flynn anyway and winds up recorded as one of the new Hindenburg victims.
  • Torchwood: Children of Earth: A mild version which might even count as a somewhat Out-of-Character Moment for Captain Jack Harkness. Jack is facing the alien menace 456 and is prepared to lead humanity in a war against them to protect the children of the Earth. Then the 456 releases a virus in the building, while Jack's love interest Ianto is in it. When it's apparent Ianto can't escape and will be killed by the virus, Jack recants and begs the 456 to spare Ianto in return for his surrender. By then it was too late and Ianto died in Jack's arms. It's unknown whether Jack really would have given up protecting humanity's children in exchange for Ianto's safety, or whether he was just bluffing in an attempt to save Ianto's life. makes it doubly ironic then that Jack later gives up his grandson's life for the sake of humanity's children. Ianto had at least signed up for the danger. Jack's grandson hadn't.
  • The X-Files:
    • This isn't even a thought for Mulder in terms of Scully; he seems to do it on pure instinct. Mulder is so predictable when his partner is taken, that the villains of the story exploit it. In the 1998 movie Fight the Future, one of Syndicate suggests that instead of killing Mulder, they must "Take away what he holds most valuable. That with which he can't live without." with the next scene showing Scully staring off into the horizon. True to form, Mulder doesn't hesitate to save her, even when it includes going to Antartica and breaking into a top-secret space craft.
    • It works the other way around, too, in which Scully will risk everything to save Mulder. She doesn't even let being pregnant get in the way of heading her own private investigation into his abduction, which involves driving cross-country and confronting alien replacements. In fact, it is Skinner who tries to convince her that Mulder wouldn't want her to do this if he had known her condition.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is the core philosophy of the Court of Tears from Princess: The Hopeful. Tears is all about protecting those you have chosen to value (usually the city of Alhambra and the Court of Tears, but those who follows the Queen of Tears’ philosophy without actually giving her their allegiance might choose a different group to protect), even if this requires actively screwing everyone else over.

    Video Games 
  • Alpha Protocol allows you to player to use this trope or defy it. You even get tailored responses to it, either calling you out or congratulating you about it. One particular option (Rome) is to either save the day, or save the girl. If you save the day, everyone tells you that you did the right thing, but Mike is still racked with guilt about it. If you save the girl, everyone tells you that you did the wrong thing, including the girl that you saved. And Mike is racked with guilt about it. And The Bad Guy Wins either way.
  • In Armored Core 4, this is Gender-swapped, Fiona Jarnefeldt is hinted at being in love with the Player Character — but this is made clear if you're doing poorly on a particular mission on Hard Mode — the enemy has sent forces to destroy the city that you're trying to protect, and you can't use your radioactive Primal Armor, or you'll risk harming the innocent civilians of the city... if your AP falls below 25%, she'll choose to save you instead, and activate your Primal Armor anyways.
  • The Burnable Garbage Day: Deconstructed. At the end of the game, CR-999 is given a choice to destroy Pandora and save the world, or allow her reconstruction/rebooting to go through and save her. If you choose the latter, her faulty programming will cause her to destroy CR-999 and the world. However, if you have the Pandora Part Φ to override her faulty programming, she will recognize CR-999 as her friend and help him rebuild the Earth.
  • In Chrono Cross, the flirtatious but practical harlequin, Harle, can ask the player character which he would choose: the world or her. If he chooses her, she is visibly affected and thanks him for saying so, even if it's only a kind lie.
  • The Dig. When Maggie Robbins dies towards the end of the game, Boston Low can resurrect her using a life crystal, going against good sense and breaking his promise to her (since they've already seen Brink regress into violent paranoia from using them). If he chooses to do this, she will commit suicide by throwing herself off a cliff so you can't resurrect her again. At the end of the game, the Cocytans will resurrect her and Brink, and her attitude towards you will depend on your choice - if you kept Boston's promise, she's happy to see him and hugs him, while if you resurrected her, she's furious and immediately decks him.
  • Dragalia Lost: Prince Euden cares deeply for his people and his kingdom, but he's shown on occasion that, if pushed, he'll prioritize his sister Zethia over them in a heartbeat. Emphasized in Chapter 15, where his obsession with saving Zethia almost gets everyone slaughtered by the Agito.
  • The Big Bad of Arc One in Wizard101 is Malistaire, who used to be the professor of the Death school of magic before his wife Sylvia, who was the professor of the Life school, passed away from an incurable illness. He was highly skilled at Death magic and deeply admired across the Spiral, but he went off the deep end soon after she died and set off to bring her back by any means necessary, enacting a plot to steal a book of powerful magic in order to awaken the Dragon Titan, who has the power to resurrect the dead. In the process, he's left multiple worlds across the Spiral in violent chaos, which you'll now have to traverse and repair to eventually get to him and stop his plan, because the Dragon Titan is extremely dangerous and will quickly lay waste to the land again if awoken.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • If a female Warden romanced Alistair, he chooses to deliver the final blow to the Archdemon, killing himself in the process because he won't let the woman he loves die. And no, he can't be persuaded out of his decision. It can be avoided in multiple ways, like accepting the deal that Morrigan offers near the end of the game, or simply leaving him behind when you go to confront the Archdemon.
    • The sequel lets your Player Character do this, if you romance Anders. You can let him live after he blows up the Chantry... despite all the fallout that comes with the decision, such as Sebastian swearing vengeance.
  • Allegretto in Eternal Sonata, more so in the PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release.
    Allegretto: (to Frederic Chopin, PS3 version) Why did Polka, of all people, have to suffer like that? What the hell is wrong with this world!? Damn it! You! You come barging into our world out of nowhere, then just leave when you get tired of it! This is supposed to be your dream, right?! Well then, why couldn't you do anything!? No. That's not it. It isn't a dream at all. It's real. And I don't know what, but I have to do something!
  • In Fable III, at the beginning of the story you can choose between saving your childhood friend and/or lover, or saving a group of protesters who are dissatisfied with your older brother's regime. To make things worse if you're considering choosing the former, your childhood friend will practically beg you to choose him/her, while the protesters will grovel for their lives as you make your decision.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil decides to hand over the last remaining crystal that Golbez needs for world domination in order to save Rosa's life. Turns out there are four more crystals after that, but he didn't know that at the time. And he didn't even do the exchange right.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Main hero Cloud Strife will often act indifferent but if there's a young woman in danger, he will rush to her rescue and the game will make the Cloud (the player) choose between Childhood Sweetheart Tifa Lockhart and Innocent Flower Girl Aerith as they both get in danger at certain points in the game and Cloud must come to the rescue and both of them have more than platonic feeling towards Cloud. Unfortunately for players who were interested in Aerith, the Big Bad Sephiroth comes in and ruins any hopes of romance with Aerith as she is Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by him, those players who chose Tifa get a romantic scene between her and Cloud before the final battle.
      • In a Flash Back, Tifa made Cloud promise if she was in any danger, he'd come back and save her. Cloud keeps his promise, when Tifa is knocked out by Sephiroth Cloud takes her to safety and then goes to fight Sephiroth.
    • Final Fantasy VIII:
      • Squall clarifies his priorities after being confronted with the possibility that, as a sorceress, Rinoa could end up going insane or being possessed by the Big Bad: "Rinoa... Even if you end up as the world's enemy, I'll... I'll be your knight." Unlike the FFIV example, in FFVIII the issue is mostly hypothetical (aside from certain Epileptic Trees), but Squall does choose to free Rinoa after she voluntarily surrenders herself to be imprisoned in order to keep the Big Bad from using her to attack others.
      • It's implied that this is why Seifer is helping the Sorceress Edea, at least at first; he sees himself as the heroic knight protecting the princess, and says as much to Squall.
    • Final Fantasy XIII:
      • Les Yay example: Fang would do anything up to and including causing the apocalypse — twice if it meant keeping Vanille safe.
        Fang: The world can burn if that's what it takes to save Vanille.
      • Snow holds this philosophy in regards to his fiancee Serah, as shown in the first chapter of the game, and several of the flashbacks. It's reconstructed after that, as he believes saving the world is the only way to save the girl. He's right, too.
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2: Caius would and did destroy time and space and wander the darkness for all eternity if it would save Yeul. His theme says: "Even if there is a heart in Chaos, Or if Fortune may bring wars, I will resist and go to fight against it... I will protect her"
    • Final Fantasy XV: Male version in Episode Ignis, where Ignis declares that he would rather allow the Big Bad to bring the world to ruin than allow Noctis to follow through with performing a Heroic Sacrifice necessary to save Eos from the Starscourge that is slowly destroying it.
      Ignis: This world means nothing to me. Do with it as you wish. But I refuse to let Noct sacrifice his life to save ours. I won't let you take him away!
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics Ramza has a little sister named Alma and loves her (and she loves him too). To the point when Alma gets kidnapped, Ramza immediately tries to saves her for the entire second half of the game.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, the Avatar is given the choice of whether to give up their existence to end the Big Bad once and for all, or to let Chrom deal the final blow and put it to sleep for 1,000 years. Chrom instantly objects to the former, and if the player chooses the latter option during the final battle, Chrom will insist it was the right thing to do because the Avatar's life is precious to him and the others. If the Avatar is female and married to Chrom, this ending feels a lot like this trope.
    • In Radiant Dawn, Soren's death quote implies this regarding Ike:
      "Ike… Please live… Even if all the cities burn, and the seas swallow Tellius… You mustn’t die… Not you…"
  • The Force Unleashed:
    • Starkiller disobeys a direct order from his master, Darth Vader, and rescues Juno Eclipse from The Empirical.
      Juno: I've been branded a traitor to The Empire. I can't go anywhere, do anything.
      Starkiller: I don't care about any of that. I'm leaving the Empire behind.
    • In The Force Unleashed II, Starkiller is called out several times by Rahm Kota about how he doesn't care about the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance and just wants to rescue Juno.
  • Golden Sun gives us Felix's big Establishing Character Moment at Venus Lighthouse: standing up to the endbosses over Sheba (at Level 5!), then jumping off the top of the Lighthouse to save her when she falls off, endangering himself and the mission to restore Alchemy to the world twice for the sake of some girl he implicitly just met.
  • .hack//G.U. has this as a central theme in the story. Anti-Hero Haseo makes it clear right from the beginning that he intends to revive his comatose girlfriend Shino and doesn't care what he has to destroy in the process. This causes a LOT of problems, though Haseo mostly doesn't care... at first. Haseo's own character arc is, briefly put, his learning that although saving Shino is still important his friends and the other players matter too. Ironically, not only did Shino see him as Just Friends, he probably doesn't even end up with her anyway.
  • inFAMOUS outright averts this when offered a sadistic choice by the villain to save Trish or a building full of doctors. Saving the girl is the evil choice to make and sacrificing her for the good of the many is the good one. Not only that, there's literally NO WAY to save her — you go to save her, she's a decoy and the real Trish is among the doctors. You save the doctors, she's the real Trish.
  • In the Killer Instinct reboot, it's revealed that Ultratech was founded by a man named Ryat Adams. Most of his research, including the creation of ARIA, was dedicated to trying to save his wife from disease. Tragically this failed, and ARIA took over the company after his own demise.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Sora commits a Heroic Sacrifice in order to save Kairi. However, "saving her" is equal to "recreating the Big Bads' opportunities to end the world, which he just foiled a few minutes ago." Especially stupid, because Sora's also the only one who could stop The End of the World as We Know It, since he's the one with the Keyblade. In the manga adaptation, he at least throws Donald the Keyblade before committing suicide, so his friends can take over the task. Turns out to be pointless, because it disappears as soon as he's gone anyway.
    • This persists in Chain of Memories, where Sora tells Namine to shatter his heart and memories if it will mean saving her from harm at the hands of Marluxia, and that he'll still protect her even without his memories. Marluxia is amused at the naivete of this strategy, saying that Sora will be comatose if he loses his memories and unable to do anything. Of course, then something happens that challenges this claimnote , so it's unknown exactly what would have happened had Sora followed through with his initial plan.
  • The Last of Us: Joel has spent an entire year escorting Ellie, a girl who is immune to the Cordyceps infection that has destroyed most of humanity, to a militia group known as the Fireflies, who need her to create a cure. However, once the Fireflies find them after they nearly drown, Joel learns that the process of producing the vaccine will kill Ellie. Joel has grown too attached to Ellie to let her go, essentially seeing her as a replacement for his deceased daughter Sarah. He takes Ellie from the Fireflies before the operation and kills their leader Marlene, who was Ellie's previous caretaker, effectively dooming what's left of humanity. Once Ellie wakes up, Joel lies and tells her that the Fireflies had stopped looking for a cure, and it's implied that Ellie knew Joel was lying and that she wanted to die.
  • Life Is Strange has Max potentially be of this mindset with the series finale. You have to choose between saving Chloe or saving Arcadia Bay: rewind to the day you watched her die and let Nathan kill her, or destroy the photo and watch Arcadia Bay be destroyed.
  • LostMagic has one of the most obnoxious examples of this. The Big Bad asks the character to hand over the MacGuffins or else she'll kill the girl. If the player refuses, the girl disappears and the hero goes mad over her loss, gets brainwashed by the Big Bad, starts working for her, and hands over all the MacGuffins he had, all by the end of the next cutscene. The player then has to go around killing people and doing the Big Bad's bidding.
  • Love of Magic: MC makes it clear that if he has to burn down the whole world to save Emily, he will burn down the whole world. When facing certain death, given the knowledge that he can shield Emily, Dylan, and Bella, or he can shield himself, he doesn't hesitate before shielding Emily and his companions. The Horned Lord agrees.
    The Horned Lord: You did the right thing, for the right reasons. If we can't protect those we care about, fuck destiny. No victory is worth losing yourself for.
  • Mass Effect:
    • After making the Sadistic Choice on Virmire, if the person you saved was your Love Interest, they will call you out on this, blaming their relationship with you for the other's death. This becomes Harsher in Hindsight with Ashley, as one of her letters to her sister explicitly warns her not to get into that situation, although she assumes that she'll be the one making the decision.
    • If you start a new game in Mass Effect 2 without importing a save, the default is always the crewmember of the opposite sex being saved.
    • Paragon!Shepard is a lot nicer about it than most examples of this trope, possibly giving Ashley a bit of a speech on how she shouldn't blame herself for Kaidan's death, but should blame Saren instead for forcing you to choose.
    • Zigzagged in the case of a Male Shepard sacrificing Ashley for Kaidan's sake. At first it seems like an aversion because Kaidan wasn't a love interest at the time. Their Relationship Upgrade in the third game carries the heavy implication that Virmire was the point where Kaidan started to seriously think that Shepard was capable of reciprocating his interest.
    • In a non-romantic sense, if Tali gets exiled on her loyalty mission, Shala'Raan, a friend of Tali's parents and the only admiral who cares what happens to her, will become furious with her and Shepard for not showing the evidence that would have exonerated her, although she calms down after a moment.
    Shala'Raan: I don't give a vorcha's ass about the fleet! I was trying to protect you, Tali!
  • We get a Rare Male Example in Persona 3's Playable Epilogue, The Answer, in which Yukari, grief-stricken with the loss of the Main Character, who she is heavily implied to have fallen in love with, is willing to risk the destruction of the entire world, if it gives her a chance to bring him Back from the Dead. However, she does eventually get better.
  • The postgame of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon has this where the player finds Mew asleep at the end of Purifying Cave. However, when Mew is approached, who should stop the player but Nuzleaf and the Beheeyem. They tell the player to stay back, as Mew is said to have some parts of Dark Matter left. As Mew glows, the player questions if they accept this... And that is when the player outright refuses to accept Mew's fate; the player does not want to say goodbye for the second time, and the player just does not care a bit if they bring back Dark Matter by bringing the partner back because the player can just fight it again. Then, the scarves the player and partner have are sacrificed to bring the partner back, and Mew tells the player that it is because of the player's wish that the partner came back. It turns out to be a setup masterminded by Ampharos to lure the player into the Purifying Cave to bring the partner back, and Nuzleaf and the Beheeyem got the chance to redeem themselves and succeeded.
  • Taken to a literal extreme in the ending of Prince of Persia (2008), where the Prince releases the very same god of darkness he just sealed in order to revive his female sidekick Elika — who was the person he was helping to seal that god in the first place. Not only that, but the whole reason they were doing anything to begin with is that he was not the first person to do that. Nearly every line the Prince says in the Epilogue is him trying to justify what he did. As well as the above, he says that Elika's powers have grown, and if Ahriman didn't think she was a threat why is he pursuing them? The Ahura had been beaten before they rallied and sealed him away; if they could just repeat that somehow... For most of the epilogue, Elika doesn't listen, but at the end she leaves the Prince, saying she can't do it alone — she has to find her people.
  • An interesting variation in Radiant Historia: the rescue-ee isn't a love interest, but a family member, and the rescuer is the Big Bad. He figures that if either he or his nephew has to die to postpone the end of the world, then the world is so screwed up that it doesn't deserve to be saved. He resorted to borderline Mind Rape to avoid his nephew calling him on it.
  • At the Road Cone in Radiata Stories, Jack can choose to play this straight or avert it. Deciding to help Ridley brings about the destined end of humanity but leaves Jack with Ridley, while deciding to stay behind to aid the kingdom saves the human race at the cost of Ridley's life and Jack deciding to wander the earth a bit.
  • Resident Evil: This has become standard procedure for Leon after he believed Ada to have died in Resident Evil 2. His current VA, Matthew Mercer, actually commented on it in an interview:
    Matt Mercer: Even if a situation seems very dangerous and stupid and a total trap, if there’s a woman who needs help he can’t turn that down [...] And in the end of it he’ll feel better about himself knowing he went through the motions on the off chance whoever it was really needed help.
  • Saints Row: The Third: You have to make this choice at the end of the last mission. You can either let Killbane escape and save Shaundi (and Viola and Burt Reynolds), or go after Killbane and condemn Shaundi (and the others) to die. The sequel makes the former choice canon, making it this trope. The game actually starts playing Bonnie Tyler's "I Need A Hero" when the choice comes up. It seems like the devs really wanted you to save her.
  • Played with in Save the Date, where saving your date is literally the name of the game.
  • Sly Cooper:
    • If Sly's love interest Carmelita is in danger, he will risk life and limb to save her even if he knows full well that he's headed into a trap; several of his enemies have used this to their advantage.
    • Same with Bentley towards his love interest Penelope. At least until he found out she was evil, which caused him to turn his back on her.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006):
    • The ending has Elise debating whether or not to destroy the time-destroying evil sun god Solaris if it means she'll never meet Sonic, who thankfully assures her that the world's more important.
    • There's also a gender-inverted example earlier in the game with Amy, following Silver's attempt at killing Sonic:
      Amy: If I had to choose between the world and Sonic, I would choose Sonic!
  • In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Spider-Man is given the choice of either turning Black Cat over to S.H.I.E.L.D. after she's badly injured following her second boss fight, or bonding her with a symbiote to heal her.
  • It's very easy to see this in StarCraft II, as Jim Raynor's internal conflict about what to do about the controlled/infested Kerrigan is obvious, and thus even though the Queen of Blades "murdered 8 billion people" as Raynor says himself, he is still haunted by the prospect of getting her old self back. That is, until Raynor's Raiders and the Moebius Foundation manage to use a Xel'nagan artifact to cure Kerrigan, and infestation is normally 100% incurable because it "mutates too fast".
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: A male Trooper might be faced with this during the story arc. Sgt. Jaxo, an ally and secondary love interest is with you on a mission. The Sadistic Choice is saving 300 Republic prisoners of war by sacrificing her, or saving her at the expense of 300 prisoners. If you do pick the "save girl" option, it's Dark Side points, most of your companions will seriously disapprove, and Jaxo will be so traumatized by your call to save her over the prisoners she cuts off all contact with the Trooper.
    • Playing a male Sith Warrior or a female Bounty Hunter in Star Wars: The Old Republic? Yeah. The game springs this on you in Knights of the Eternal Throne. You can save Vette or Torian — not both. Vaylin will kill the one you don't save. Yes, you can save the love interest, but you can also sacrifice them. The game accounts for both with special dialogue options.
  • Tales Series:
    • Tales of Destiny: Leon chose this rather than the party members and the general state of the world. It gets him branded as a traitor, killed, and Marian to attempt (but failing) suicide. He doesn't even succeed — The party finally rescues her in the end.
    • In Tales of Destiny 2, Kyle is leaning towards this decision when he learns that Reala will be erased from existence if he kills Fortuna, but Reala slaps him out of it and gives him a What the Hell, Hero? speech setting him straight. Judas also knows he will be a victim of this, but doesn't tell the party until he's fading away to make their decision easier.
    • Tales of Symphonia:
      • In one of the more poignant scenes, it is established that Colette will have to sacrifice her life and become an angel to save their world. Lloyd doesn't like this, and is just barely convinced by everyone, including her, that this is for the best. After several plot twists and a Boss Rush, Lloyd and party run off with Colette after all. And if that wasn't enough of a double subversion, Lloyd argues in a skit that because he was willing to sacrifice Colette for the sake of the entire world, he's a horrible person.
      • The incident in which Governor-General Dorr cooperated with the Desians to get a cure for his mutated wife, resulting in many people being taken to the human ranches and used to harvest Exspheres. Lloyd gets angry at this, telling him that he's endangering many other people to save his own loved one, and ultimately saying that if he actually cared, he would have given up his position to get help for his wife, but Colette calms him down by telling him that not everyone is strong enough to resist the Desians. It's implied that Lloyd has, in the course of the above incident, realized what it's like to make a decision like this, especially when the choice that's ostensibly for the world's benefit won't necessarily be the best thing in practice.
    • Tales of Xillia 2 protagonist Ludger is frequently characterised as being willing to put the life of someone he loves, either Elle or Julius, over the safety of the world, even if it puts him at odds with others he cares about, a trait which extends to his Alternate Self, Victor.
      • In the Bad Ending, Ludger's unwillingness to see Julius die for the sake of saving the world results in him turning against his friends and killing them all, forsaking saving Elle and the world. This is despite Julius being a completely willing sacrifice who doesn't have much longer to live anyway.
      • One of the ways to achieve the Ludger Ending is if Ludger wishes for Elle's safety over the fate of the universe. When pressured on what they'll do about saving the world, Ludger says he can use his own powers to resolve the situation, but Elle ultimately refuses to let him do that because the power will kill him, and instead sacrifices herself to save both him and the world.
      • In Elle's backstory, her father, Victor, is a Fractured version of Ludger who failed to complete Origin's Trial after travelling with another Fractured version of Elle with violet-eyes. When it was discovered that Ludger's daughter would be the Key of Kresnik with the powers needed to save their world, Bisley and Ludger's friends and family try to convince him to give her up for the sake of their world. Ludger refuses and ultimately kills Bisley, Julius, and his friends, when Bisley tries to kidnap the newborn Elle.
      • In Arc 6 of Tales of Asteria, Victor's backstory involves the violet-eyed Elle he travelled with being set to be sacrificed by her father, with the justification that it's for the sake of the world. Fractured Ludger refuses and declares he'll protect her even if it makes the entire world his enemy, and kills violet-eyed Elle's father.
        Ludger: It's not wrong that you're alive. What is wrong is sacrificing you to save the world.
  • In The Walking Dead video game, most players choose to save Carley over Doug, not that it matters much since the person you save ends up dying Episode 3 regardless of who it is. It's also averted in Episode 3, where most players choose to save the injured Omid over his Action Girlfriend Christa. In a subversion, however, the person you don't save will manage to catch up. The person you do save will berate you for saving them over the other, however, and both have very good reasons: Christa will berate you for saving her over her injured boyfriend. Omid will berate for reasons that are implied, but not explicitly revealed until Episode 5: While Christa is uninjured, she's also pregnant.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Aoi Shiro, this is treated as the right way to go, always. The few times Syouko can take the decision to not save Yasumi or Nami and she does (which she notes how it's out-of-character for her), things always end badly.
  • Chaos;Head:
    • Takumi could have let Norose use Noah II to greatly improve the world but he saved Rimi instead. Of course, that's assuming the psychopathic Norose would use the Noah II as he claimed he would.
    • Much of the story of the sequel, Steins;Gate revolves around saving Mayuri from her fated death. The True Ending changes the girl that needs to be saved to Kurisu. Saving the world from SERN's Dystopia/World War III just happens to be a bonus.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • In the Heaven's Feel route, things take a different turn than normal as superhero-wannabe Shirou basically says "Screw all that other stuff, I'm saving Sakura even if she might start devouring the town or go berserk." When asked directly whether he wishes to save the girl or protect the town and by extension his ideal itself, he picks the girl despite the destruction this will probably entail. If you don't do it, you get a bad end. To make things worse, she knows and realises this, and is desperately torn between wanting Shirou for herself and wanting Shirou to be happy. Inevitably she can only sit and watch as he throws away his ideals in order to save her.
      Sakura: I... I broke him.
    • Subverted in the Fate route. Shirou briefly considers throwing aside his ideals and using the Grail to wish Saber gets her happy ending and be with him, be damned to the consequences anyone else suffers, but ultimately refuses to go through with it since not only would he be betraying his ideal, he would also be betraying Saber, who would never want her salvation brought in such a way. They do get their happy ending...a long time later.
    • Also subverted in Archer's backstory. The exact details aren't made clear, but he apparently lived a version of the Fate route, where Sakura became the Shadow and he had to kill her. This, along with having to watch his sister die (because Illya is a homunculus who was never designed to live past the Grail War), put him on the path to being an Anti-Hero.
  • Invoked in the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, when Phoenix's longtime assistant Maya is kidnapped by an assassin who blackmails him (you) into getting your new client off the hook no matter what and only giving you one day in court to get it done, whereas you would normally get three. High-stakes and very difficult, but by this point, being the third game with Maya having been by your side, she's very dear to both Phoenix and the player, so you're willing to go all out to get her back, but the situation changes when you found out that your client, for the first time ever, actually is guilty, and in order to get him off, you would have to accuse an innocent woman and get her thrown in jail for the rest of her life. Even though Maya's life is on the line, she very much wants Phoenix to disregard this trope completely and convict your client, even though it means that she would die, but depending on how low you're willing to go to help her, that might not deter you very much. Everything turns out okay in the end, regardless of whether or not you want to throw an innocent person under the bus to save Maya, but it all serves to make you reflect on your morality toward the situation.
  • By the end of the third day in Sweet Fuse: At Your Side, Urabe makes up his mind to do whatever it takes to keep Saki safe... even if it means bargaining with Count Hogstein, keeping Saki locked up for the final three days of games, forcing the rest of their companions to unwittingly kill him and putting everyone else's live in danger, including the lives of their friends and Saki's uncle.
  • In Yo-Jin-Bo, the guys often mention how they are More Expendable Than You and are willing to sacrifice as many of their own lives as are necessary to save yours. Sayori, of course, is less than pleased with this.
  • This is Junpei's general mindset in Zero Escape Trilogy. Whenever something happens, protecting Akane always takes priority.
    • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the entire plot is centered around Junpei saving Akane from dying as a child, to the point where she set it up that way. Though to be fair, if Junpei succeeds in this, it leads to the ending where every single person who possibly can be saved is saved. However, there's also an ending where Ace kills everyone else, including Junpei and Akane, and the earliest way to get yourself stuck into that route is to force your way through Door 3, betraying Lotus and Clover for the sake of not having to separate from Akane.
    • Deconstructed in Zero Time Dilemma. Junpei willing to go to any lengths to protect her is the main cause of friction between them as most of the time Akane doesn't want to sacrifice other people to save herself. Most of the What the Hell, Hero? speeches he gets from her (and one Bitch Slap) involves sacrificing someone to protect them or suggesting it. In one particular ending he performs Heroic Sacrifice to save her... and sends her over Despair Event Horizon as she watches him die.
    • Tenmyouji from Virtue's Last Reward is a familial example. He will protect his adoptive grandson Quark no matter who he has to screw over in the process, even if it's himself. Junpei hasn't changed at all in 45 years, he's just switched targets.

    Web Animation 

  • Friendship is Dragons: In the Discord arc, Rainbow Dash is given a choice between her friends and saving Cloudsdale. Unlike in the show, she never turns on her friends. However, Applejack's player steps out of character in order to tear into Dash for making this choice way too quickly.
    Applejack: The correct answer to a hostage-taking is NEVER "Just burn it down; I don't care!" Ah know you'd rather punch things than let yerself get yanked around, but you gotta look fer more options! You can stall. You can negotiate. You can run a game of your own. Ya don't just blow it all up!
    Fluttershy: No to mention, that choice plays right into Discord's hand by creating... this situation...
    Rainbow Dash: It was an arbitrary, binary challenge designed by an all-powerful god. Refusing to play might've been seen as breaking Rule 2. There was no guarantee something wouldn't happen to Cloudsdale LATER. The choice I made was meaningless!
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Amospia, later known as "Mosp" commits treason against the forces of good out of the belief that fighting in the war with the demons will get her lover killed. He's not at all pleased, and ultimately gets killed by an arrow that was meant for her.

    Web Original 
  • The first volume of John Dies at the End ends with David Wong explaining that the forces of darkness have "checkmated" him now that he is in love with Amy. The shadow people drive this point home by demonstrating how easy it would be for them to retroactively kill Amy if he ever steps out of line.
  • Red Panda Adventures:
    • The Red Panda is a true, dyed-in-the-wool superhero. He adheres to Thou Shalt Not Kill and works tirelessly for the betterment of those under his protection. However, it is consistently shown that he will discard all of that the moment any threat to the Flying Squirrel's safety presents itself. In "The Devil's Due", the Red Panda seriously considers killing villain of the week Nick Diablos when he repeatedly hypnotizes the Flying Squirrel to either attack him or torture her. By battle's end, he possibly does even worse than kill Diablos, as the Red Panda delivers unto Nick Diablos the fate he reserved for his own victims: a catatonic state in which he'll experience his greatest fears forever.
    • In "The World Next Door", Alternate Time Traveler Baboon McSmoothie needs to steal the prototype of a device its Nazi scientist creator will eventually use to wreak havoc during World War II, and tries to recruit the Red Panda's aid in doing so. Even after the Red Panda is convinced of McSmoothie's story, he refuses to assist the commission of a crime against someone who, at that moment, is innocent of any wrongdoing and may never be guilty of such. It's then that McSmoothie reveals that his Red Panda expected this and prepared accordingly. That Red Panda had a sidekick called the Flying Squirrel, too. That Flying Squirrel was killed in a deathtrap meant for the other Red Panda, and McSmoothie offers the full case file on the Villain Team-Up that will launch the attack so that it might be prevented from happening to this universe's Flying Squirrel. The Red Panda accepts, even knowing that due to the vast differences between his timeline and McSmoothie's the case file may well be worthless.
    • In "The Field Trip", that once innocent of any wrongdoing Nazi scientist Professor Friedrich von Schlitz has become a proper member of the Red Panda's Rogues Gallery, and shoots the Flying Squirrel in the process of getting away. The Flying Squirrel is fine, due to having protection against the type of weapon von Schlitz used, but the Red Panda doesn't let the matter go so easily, later noting that von Schlitz didn't know that and had every intention of killing one of them. The very next episode opens with an assassination attempt on von Schlitz orchestrated the Red Panda.
  • Averted in Eliezer Yudkowsky's The Sword of Good, when Selena is testing Hirou's resolve.
    Hirou: It's not exactly a difficult question! Calling it 'the Choice between Good and Bad' kind of gives away the answer.
    Selena: What if the Lord of Dark had me prisoner, and threatened to kill me unless you—
    Hirou: Good.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • In the episode "Hot to the Touch", Finn is stuck between harming his new crush Flame Princess or allowing her to destroy the Goblin Kingdom. He breaks down over this moral choice and cries. Resolved when Flame Princess sees him crying and comes to the conclusion that he is a "water elemental" and this is why he keeps accidentally hurting her.
    • A gender-inverted subversion in "Burning Low" where Princess Bubblegum forces Jake to plug up Finn and Flame Princess's oxygen supply so that Flame Princess wouldn't burn out the world unintentionally after Finn kissed her. Princess Bubblegum was aware that this would suffocate and potentially kill both teenagers, but even though Finn is one of her closest friends, she prioritized the safety of the planet without hesitation.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • A villainous example in "Deep Freeze"; Mr. Freeze encounters a crazed mogul, Grant Walker, who wants to use his technology to freeze the entire planet, killing everyone except those on his island. In exchange for his cooperation, Walker offers to revive Freeze's wife. Freeze is willing to go along with the plan until Batman points out that Nora would be waking up to a cold, dead world (and would blame Freeze for it), whereupon Freeze releases Batman and Robin and helps them defeat Walker.
    • Another episode has Harley Quinn try to invoke this as a Sadistic Choice, telling Batman he can either catch her, or save Catwoman from a Conveyor Belt of Doom. Batman pulls the factory's power switch.
      Harley: Good choice. Help.
  • Batman Beyond: Terry often prioritizes Max's safety over everything else. Bruce sometimes calls him out on his choice of priorities by telling him he should be dealing with bigger problems. Oddly enough, Terry rarely plays the trope straight with his actual Love Interest Dana, as she is almost never in danger at the same time as some bigger problem.
  • Arguably Beetlejuice's most redeeming feature is this, as he will stop at nothing to save or protect his precious Morality Chain if she's in danger (or, sometimes, even just mildly inconvenienced). This includes surrendering to the debt collectors who are hounding him, breaking his own hypnosis, and returning to the place he hates most in the Neitherworld.
  • Ben 10:
    • In Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix, Ben willfully activates the Omnitrix to save Gwen, and when he is warned that doing so will speed up the destruction of the universe he answers, "I don't care!" Granted, Gwen is his cousin and not his Love Interest, but considering the Kissing Cousins subtext...
    • Justified, on the other hand, in the sequel Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, when villain Captain Nemesis attempts to pull out a Sadistic Choice using Ben's girlfriend Julie and another girl everyone thinks he is dating. Ben does save Julie without hesitation... but it turns out he was smart enough to have his friends come with him and save the other girl.
  • Code Lyoko:
    • A justified example where it's in the interest of everyone for team leader Jérémie to always save his Love Interest Aelita first, since she is the key to prevent XANA from attacking the real world. Even if others are left in dangerous situations in the process, Aelita can save them as long as she doesn't arrive too late; as such, saving her over the others is the logical move.
    • The premise of the show, on the other hand, plays this trope straight, as Jérémie is willing to risk the life of thousands of people by playing heroes with his friends rather than just sacrificing Aelita to save millions. Still, from some perspective, leaving a 14-year-old girl to her death to save many isn't moral either.
  • In one Family Guy episode, Peter's reckless time-traveling lands him in an alternate reality in which Peter married Molly Ringwald instead of Lois. Al Gore is president; Dick Cheney, Osama bin Laden and Karl Rove are dead; people are healthier and living longer, the environment and economy are both in great shape, and America's generally a much happier place to be. And of course, Peter doesn't give two craps about the state of the world ("I don't know who any of those people are"); all he cares about is that he gets Lois in the end. (This is not even taking into account that Lois and Peter are both Happily Married in this alternate universe.)
  • Generator Rex: When Rex is stuck in the Bug Jar, a city containing the most dangerous EVO monsters. Circe has just made sure that they stay in the city, and he's given the choice to protect her with Bobo, or restart the generator to project a barrier to keep all these dangerous creatures in. Rex lampshades it in his "hero-monologue."
    Rex: Caught between saving his love interest or the world, the hero makes the... stupid choice.
    • Biowulf then shows up in a Villainous Rescue, subduing the immediate wave, and ordering him to fix the generator. With the creatures further at bay, he's able to use the extra time to fix it, and run.
  • In Justice League, Morgaine le Fey attempts to manipulate the Martian Manhunter into betraying his new world and his allies for the promise of restoring his dead world — and with it, his wife and children. Defied in that only when his psychic assault on Etrigan causes him to see how Jason Blood had fallen for a similar offer, and been betrayed, did he realize that the offer was false and foil Morgaine's plan.
  • While obviously not a Love Interest, Legion of Super-Heroes (2006) has Superman's Darker and Edgier clone from the future (further in the future than the setting of LOSH) protecting a boy who is being targeted by assassins. Turns out they're from the future, too. The boy will grow up to be largely responsible for the existence of Big Bad Imperiex. It was to show how ruthless "Superman X" isn't anymore, when he decides the ends don't justify the means and chooses saving the kid over preventing Imperiex's rise.
  • Gender switch variation in the Season 1 finale of Loonatics Unleashed. When Lexi fails to save Ace and Rev, she gives a surprisingly emotional speech, more or less solely directed at Ace, leading to a slightly awkward moment when he and Rev turn out fine.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Twilight's Kingdom Part 2", Twilight is willing to give her and the other Princesses' powers to Tirek to save her friends. She even saves Discord, despite his betrayal.
  • Invoked in The Owl House episode "Clouds on the Horizon". Not wanting to put Luz and King in unnecessary danger when the time comes to stop the Day of Unity, Eda instead sends them (along with Willow, Gus, and Hunter) on the significantly safer mission of busting Luz's girlfriend Amity out of her house when she was grounded by her Evil Matriarch of a mother. All the kids end up getting involved with the Day of Unity anyways, but points for effort.
  • A non-romantic, familial example occurs in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The turtles are captured by Baron Draxum and the Foot Clan. After a rescue attempt goes sideways, Splinter ultimately hands over the last piece of the Dark Armor in exchange for their lives, not realizing that they've already freed themselves by that point.
  • Like in the original films, this is Anakin's Fatal Flaw in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He will always put his friends' lives ahead of anything else, and is willing to do anything to save those he cares about, whether that be his friends in the 501st, his spunky padawan, his beloved wife... or the kind old man who always gave him advice when he needed it.
  • In one X-Men: The Animated Series arc, time travelers kill the young Professor X, resulting in a Bad Present where all mutants are constantly at war with the Sentinels... and the Future Even-More-Badass Storm and Wolverine are married. When Bishop comes from the future to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, Wolverine initially refuses to help, somehow knowing that fixing the past would prevent him and Storm from getting together. When Bishop straight up asks if Wolverine is really willing to allow the devastating war to happen so he can be with Storm, Wolverine says yes without hesitation. After things are set right, there are hints that they both realize something happened, but nothing comes of it.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Save The Girl Screw The World, Romantic Love Is More Important, Always Save The Boy


Lament of the Fallen

Mei makes it clear that Kiana's life is more important to her than anything else.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AlwaysSaveTheGirl

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