Kay: What was that?
Michael: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.
Sometimes a bad guy wants something done, something he can't do himself; none of his own men can do it either, for any of a number of possible reasons. So what's a bad guy to do? Why, get in touch with someone who can do it and make him an Offer He Can't Refuse.
There are a number of reasons this would work:
- Something dearly important to the Hero is held at stake:
- If the Big Bad has a loved one held hostage, or threatens to do something nasty to them if the hero refuses.
- If it's the Hero's own life that's on the line.
- If it's implied that something bad will happen to the Hero's cherished family house or business legacy if he refuses.
- An all-time Soap Opera favorite is the Ill Girl.
- I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure
- If the Big Bad is blackmailing the hero in some way, using some past actual or perceived fault or failure of the hero as leverage against him in order to make him do the job for him.
- If the Hero and Big Bad are fighting a common threat for a change.
Either way, it's clear That Wasn't a Request. It usually turns out that by taking up the offer, the person on the short end of the bargain has been advancing some form of Evil Plan orchestrated by the Big Bad, and there's at least a fifty-fifty chance that the bad guy will double-cross the hero at some point along the way, usually in a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness moment. If it's the hero who was "persuaded" to accept the offer, this often leads to an all-guns-blazing assault on the bad guy, either to get revenge on him, rescue the loved one, or both. This "offer" is also not likely to work so well on Sociopathic Heroes or The Unfettered, who rarely care about any collateral damage incurred while exterminating their foes.
The trope name comes from the movie The Godfather where Don Vito Corleone was always making people offers (such as letting one of his favorites star in a movie or signing a business over to him) with dire consequences attached if they were refused (like, say, a bullet in the head, getting put in the hospital, or having the head of the person's prize horse being delivered to his bed). note
Compare Enemy Mine, in which the bad guy accompanies the hero, and Appeal to Force, where one party's having more power to inflict violence on another decides one's bargaining position rather than questions of justice and logic. The Face of the villain's team is likely the one who'll be appointed to make the formal offer.
In real life, particularly in Hispanic countries, this is known as "Plata o Plomo?", literally "Silver or Lead?" i.e. your choice is between taking a bribe or taking a bullet between the eyes.
- Bleach: Inoue Orihime was forced to work for the Big Bad after he held her friends hostage, without them even knowing about it.
- Essentially the basis of Alucard's role as a Sociopathic Hero in Hellsing. Although the audience isn't given all the details, it's revealed in a crucial flashback that much of the story of Dracula really did happen, right up until Van Helsing had Dracula defeated and at his mercy. From here, it seems the heroes made Dracula an offer he couldn't refuse, and so the Hellsing organization's ultimate weapon was born.
- This is essentially how the contracts are made in Mai-HiME. Set up a situation where the HiME-to be faces a lethal threat from an Orphan, then offer her the power to fight it along with a vaguely defined price to be paid in future. None of them refuse.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Dr Marcoh was forced into cooperating with a plan to destroy the whole country because the homunculi promised to wipe out his whole village if he didn't.
- Edward, in episode 29, is forced to remain a state alchemist, even after he announces his resignation, due to the homunculi threatening to harm Winry if he didn't. This is used in a similar fashion against Mustang, who has the well-being of his whole team (Hawkeye most of all) resting on his willingness to comply, although he never threatens resignation. (They both find their own ways around it.)
- Due to above, Ed was forced to cooperate with Kimblee's attempts to hunt down Scar and Marcoh, using Winry as a leverage point. Kimblee even offered Ed a philosopher's stone in exchange for committing mass murder on the Briggs frontier, though Kimblee was unaware at the time that Ed and Al had already vowed to never use a philosopher' stone due to its grisly nature. This actually leads to Edward escaping his contract; Winry is able to fake her own kidnapping and get away to safety, and a few episodes/chapters later, Ed (unintentionally) fakes his own death, letting both disappear off the map for a couple months.
- Averted during Part 4 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, when Highway Star orders Rohan to call Josuke in order to lure him into the Stand's trap, otherwise it'll suck him empty of his nutrients, he replies:
- I refuse. What I like to do the most is saying NO to people who consider themselves extremely good.
- Happens a lot in Yu-Gi-Oh!
- Implied by Kaiba's goons when Yugi's grandpa asks what would happen if he should refuse Kaiba's offer to duel.
- Pegasus does it twice; once by stealing Grandpa's soul, forcing Yugi to enter the Duelist Kingdom tournament, and again by stealing Mokuba's soul in order to get to Kaiba.
- In Battle City, Marik takes control of Tea and Joey so he can force Yugi into a duel for the Millennium Puzzle and his Slifer the Sky Dragon Card. Before that, he, via Bandit Keith, stole the puzzle and chained it to a duel arena, where Yugi could get it back if he won.
- The Big Five. Once, right after the Duelist Kingdom arc and again in the Noah arc.
- During the KC Grand Championship arc, Kaiba gets a bad feeling about one of the competitors, Siegfried Lloyd, and starts gathering intel on him. When one of Siegfried's friends refuses to cooperate, Kaiba sends his goons to make said friend an offer that he can't refuse.
- This is fairly common in Puella Magi Madoka Magica— something bad happens and Kyubey offers them a wish at the cost of becoming a Magical Girl. Although the circumstances there typically aren't deliberately arranged. Kyubey simply takes advantage of an opportunity when it is presented. Unlike when he deliberately manipulated Kyoko into trying to save Sayaka so that she would die and Homura would face Walpurgisnacht alone, forcing Madoka to make a contact.
- In the Ouran High School Host Club anime, Eclaire gives one to Tamaki: "If you accept to marry me, I will gladly give you the chance to reunite with your Missing Mom"
- Matoba from Natsume Yuujinchou threatens Natsume to expose his ability to his foster parents unless he complies to help him find an enemy exorcist. Attempts this again except with him joining his clan but is interrupted by a disturbance outside.
- An inverted heroic example occurs in Outbreak Company. In episode 12, Japan attempts to kill Shinichi after he attempts to stop their attempts at cultural warfare with Eldant. Both of their attempts fail, and after the second one Petralka threatens to cut off all diplomatic ties if the Japanese government attempted to kill him again, or hindered his work at introducing otaku culture to them. It seems to work, as Matoba later says that what Shinichi is doing may benefit them more in the long run, and for now at least, allows him to continue working without threatening his safety.
- In the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Rex Godwin's goal was to identify the suspected Signers using the Fortune Cup. However, after one likely suspect - Yusei - proved his incredible distrust in Godwin's generosity by turning down an offer of parole from prison, he realized convincing him would be hard. After several prisoners were pardoned due to abuse by the corrupt warden, Yusei stole his D-Wheel from the impound lot - as Godwin expected, and Godwin ordered his friends in Satellite kidnapped, later having his henchman Jeagar telling Yusei that their safety would depend on his participation in the Fortune Cup. (Godwin was later convinced to release them early by his star and Yusei's rival Jack Atlas - who the winner of the tournament would duel in an exhibition match - who was getting very suspicious of Rex's motives, and wanted to duel Yusei without any coercion being involved.)
- Variable Geo: Soon after The Jahana Group becomes aware of the immensity of Satomi's spirit energy, they cause her brother's medical condition to relapse, to pressure her into entering the VG tournament. Then offers to cover the costs of the procedure needed to treat her brother, in exchange for her "cooperation".
- In Charlotte, Yu is told to transfer to Hoshinoumi Academy, or else his cheating would be exposed.
- In One Piece, invitations to Big Mom's tea parties are such offers. Should one dare refuse, the head of someone they've been involved with (friend, family member, etc) will be mailed to them a few days later, until they accept. This is why Sanji had no choice but to accept going to his Arranged Marriage with one of Big Mom's daughters.
- ViVid Strike!: Einhart and Nove offer Fuka a job at the Nakajima gym and perks as free food and lodging as part of their recruitment after her initial refusal to join. They use the fact that Fuka needs the money to help support the orphanage and Fuka's recent loss of job as leverage in order for her to accept. This is a non-malicious example as Einhart sees potential in Fuka and genuinely wants to take her in as an apprentice.
- Another benevolent example again courtesy of Einhart. Upon learning that Rinne intends to quit being a martial artist, Einhart offers her a shot at her U-15 championship title, on the condition that she win against Fuka. This is so that not only would she uphold the promise of fighting Fuka, but to make a talented fighter such as her continue, and possibly find joy, in practicing martial arts.
- Psycho-Pass: After Akane discovers that the Psycho-Pass System has puppeteers controlling the AI, they declare that if she assassinated them, the key members of the entire juridical (and effectively ruling) system in Japan, it would result in the total collapse of society. As an alternative, they offer her and her squad full pardons (for some, not all) if she'll just leave. Knowing that she can't open fire without becoming a mass-murderer of citizens, she takes it.
- In Invincible, Thragg the Viltrumite Regent — one of the most powerful beings in the universe and definitely the strongest Viltrumite — offers a cease-fire arrangement with Mark and Omni-man. Thragg and the other Viltrumites will settle down on Earth and breed with humans to produce more human-Viltrumite hybrids like Mark to repopulate the Viltrumite empire over thousands of years. In return, the Viltrumites will hold off on the whole "kill everyone on Earth" thing. Thragg makes it clear to Mark that there is no way he could stop Thragg from destroying the Earth if he refuses this deal. Mark accepts.
- Lucy makes a non-lethal - but very unsubtle version of this towards Linus in a Peanuts comic strip while both are watching television:
Lucy: Why don't you be a good little brother and go make me a jelly bread sandwich? If you don't I'm going to leap on you and pound you right through the floor! So why don't you make me that jelly bread sandwich? Huh? Please, dear brother?(Linus gets up to get it)Linus: When someone asks you that nicely, how can you refuse?
- Forever Evil starts off with Lex Luthor attempting one of these with a competitor, Thomas Kord of Kord Industries.
- Several times in Vampirella:
- In "Death's Dark Angel" a corrupt sheriff threatens the Van Helsings with trumped-up charges in order to get them to follow him to Wade's place.
- In "The Resurrection of Papa Voudou" the villains tell Conrad that Adam can be saved... if he helps them evoke the powers of Chaos.
- In "... And be a Bride of Chaos" Conrad presses a stake against the gut of a local guide about to chicken out.
- Dungeon Twilight has the Greater-Scope Villain ending up with a billion plus army with a simple offer: pledge allegiance to him or suffocate when he removes the air from the territory (which he can do from his throne room). Only a few people possesses the Awesome, but Impractical alternative air source (wearing a special hat fueled by being drunk)to refuse the offer, but that means fighting the gigantic army wasted.
- A downplayed example in Revival: Ibrahim is forced to relay information to the CIA to protect his imprisoned brother, but this never affects the overall plot much.
- Rough Riders: It's heavily implied in Nation that many of the future members of the Rough Rider cells did not so much volunteer for the team out of a sense of patriotism or moral obligation, but because they were blackmailed by the government.
- In An Entry with a Bang!, the Buron Cavalry joined Vorax's expedition to "Motherload" partly because Vorax had promised harm to their dependents if they refused.
- In the Firefly fic Forward, Womack forces Mal and his crew into one of these; either they sabotage a former business partner's organ smuggling operation, or Womack will frame and then have them arrested for smuggling instead.
- In the Harry Potter fic My Immortal, Voldemort threatens to kill Draco if Ebony does not kill Harry "Vampire" Potter.
- And later, "Darth Valer" threatens demands that Ebony "kill him or I shall kill him anyway."
- In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion Gendo tells Shinji that by refusing to pilot the EVA he also drops the protection provided by the Ashcroft Foundation from the Intelligence services, especially their R&D staff who wish to cut him open to see what exactly makes him a viable EVA-pilot.
- Death Note Equestria: Mer coerced the Apples into being the Third Kira by threatening to kill Rainbow Dash. And then, just to prove she's serious, she killed Granny Smith.
- Mentioned word-for-word in the My Little Pony/BioShock fanfic Vision, to describe a deal between Trixie and Diamond Tiara.
- In Voldemort Goes Back To School when Snape catches "Evan" raiding his potion stores, "Evan" forces him to let him go without punishment or telling anyone else or a flashing neon sign reading 'Dumbledore Took My Virginity And I Liked It!' will appear on the back of Snape's trousers.
- In the penultimate chapter of Mass Effect Interregnum, Sidonis is given an offer he can't refuse by the Eclipse mercenary leader Jaroth: either he betrays the identities and locations of his fellow Archangels, or Eclipse will murder tens of thousands of civilians in cruel and inventive ways, and make him watch. In the final chapter he accepts (of course), the team is wiped out (except for Garrus), and Jaroth actually holds up his end of the bargain, giving Sidonis a bag of cash and a trip to the Citadel. (Although the text points out that Sidonis dies just as surely; it just takes a lot longer.)
- In A Taste of the Good Life, Ebony Glimmer secured her divorce from her abusive husband by threatening to slit his throat if he didn't sign the papers.
- In At Gates Edge, Fuhrer Bradley frees Kimblee from prison on the condition that he kills Roy Mustang otherwise Bradley will kill him if he fails. Not difficult considering how Ax-Crazy Kimblee is.
- In the Worm fic Security!, the self-insert protagonist Mike Allen is subjected to a attempt at this from Coil. Fortunately, he knows the magic words that will get him out of trouble. "Cauldron. Asset."
- In Masks Within Masks, several Team Rocket members were forced into the team when their loved ones were threatened.
- In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku staunchly refuses to "play" with Mister Mxyzptlk after the latter turned Izuku's mom into a dog. Mxyzptlk simply replies that he doesn't have a choice.
Mxyzptlk: Hey, at least think about-
Mxyzptlk: Yeah, well, my friends doesn't exactly have a choice in the matter. I already decided to play my games with you, and I'm gonna do it!
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Friendship Games: Principal Abacus Cinch not so subtly blackmails her star student Twilight into participating in the Friendship Games by offering to use her contacts in the Everton program to ensure Twilight's application is approved; if Twilight refuses, Cinch will use those same contacts to ensure she's denied.
- Zootopia: As part of its parody of The Godfather, Duke Weaselton claims he was made an offer he couldn't refuse. Money.
- In Peter Pan, Captain Hook gives the Darling children and the Lost Boys the choice to either join his crew or walk the plank.
- Capture the Flag: During his Engineered Public Confession, Carson reveals that he intends to destroy any country that refuses to buy the fuel he's harvesting from the moon.
- Ratatouille: When Skinner finds out Remy (a rat) does all the cooking Linguini takes credit for, he captures Remy and offers a deal: Remy develops a new line of frozen foods for Skinner and Skinner doesn't kill him.
- The Godfather is the trope namer. When Woltz fails to accept such an offer, his prize horse's head is severed and is placed in bed with him. Don Vito's preferred approach had three stages: First, make a fair or even generous offer. Second, if the first offer is refused, lower your initial offer, or even offer nothing. Third, if the person still doesn't take the hint, threaten the person with violence, possibly harming something that matters to him to make the point.
- The initial offer is often just "You'll have my friendship, and I'll owe you a favor." If you know Don Vito, you know that that's worth a lot more than haggling for a specific price.
- The novel implies that Vito uses a different approach for someone with "real balls", someone who would be willing to lose everything over a matter of honor. Judging from the way Vito and Michael interact with other important mafiosi, the approach seems to be to simply make an offer; if the offer is refused, decide whether to accept the refusal, or go to war. But don't bargain (which would be seen as weakness) or threaten (which would be an intolerable insult).
- The trope is subverted in this film when Michael assures Fredo that he'll make Moe Greene "an offer he can't refuse". In fact, Michael makes the offer in a confrontational and condescending way, almost forcing Greene to refuse it—which he does. Apparently, Michael wanted Greene to turn him down, giving him an excuse to arrange a Moe Greene Special for the movie's climax.
- This trope is subverted by Commando, in which the villains attempt to coerce John Matrix into assassinating someone by holding his daughter ransom... And Schwarzenegger's character just ignores the mission and kills them all to rescue her.
- Indiana Jones has been forced by Communists and Nazis to find a number of artifacts (and circumvent the dangerous traps before them), typically with the life of someone else on the line.
- In Mission: Impossible III, Ethan Hunt is forced to recover the "Rabbit's Foot", a biological weapon which he just seized from a black market deal and return it to its owner, Owen Davian. If he refuses to recover it, or doesn't get it to Davian in time, then his wife, Julia, will be killed.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, Lando Calrissian is forced to betray his friends in exchange for the safety of Cloud City. Unfortunately, the offer was given by Darth Vader, so naturally Lando gets double-crossed—Vader alters the deal, and warns "pray I don't alter it further".
- The gang gets back together in Ocean's Thirteen to avenge Reuben, after Al Pacino screws him out of his half of his casino by offering one of these. The first thing the gang does is offer him a chance to pay Reuben back what he owes him or else, making it also an example. He refuses and further infuriates them by insulting Reuben. They make him regret refusing their offer.
- In Sin City, Marv and John Hartigan are both made to plead guilty for the villains' crimes, using threats against loved ones.
- Saving his younger brother from Calitri is the only reason Memphis Raines comes out of carjacking retirement in Gone in 60 Seconds (2000).
- In From Russia with Love, Rosa Klebb gives Tatiana two options: Either participate in a plot to sexually entrap James Bond, or get shot.
- The film 30 Minutes or Less is about two idiots who want to rob a bank getting a very unlucky pizza delivery boy to do it for them, by strapping a bomb to his chest (effectively giving him a time limit as well).
- In Bad Boys II, big bad Tapia convinces his business associate to sign over his business to him by having his bodyguard brought back to him chopped up in pieces in a drumcan, with the implied threat that he can either sign the paper or be next.
- In Escape from New York, the government injects something into Snake Pliskin's neck and tell him he can either go in and rescue the President in a set amount of time, or else have his carotid arteries exploded.
- In Jupiter Ascending, Balem subjects Jupiter to this: he promises her that if she abdicates the throne, he'll wait to harvest Earth until after she's dead and he'll let her family live. Subverted when she realizes that even if he does kill her and her family, he can't harvest Earth if she doesn't abdicate, whereas if she does, then they're all animals for the slaughter. She thus decides that, if the choice is between her and her family being murdered or being harvested with the rest of the Earth, she'll pick the option that hurts Balem.
- Things Change: A local kingpin sends his goons to politely invite the two main characters to a meeting at his home. When one of the men starts to make an excuse, the lead goon repeats the polite invitation in a tone conveying that it's not a request.
- Female Agents: Eddy is given the choice of helping the operatives or being shot on the spot. He immediately agrees to help.
- In We're the Millers, David is given the chance to pay back his boss after being robbed by smuggling drugs across the Mexican border, and is even told that he'll pay him an extra $100,000 on top of his debt being repaid. When David tells him that he doesn't want to get caught and put into a Mexican prison, he's straight up told that he has no choice in the matter.
- 12 Monkeys. James Cole, a habitual criminal in the future, is 'volunteered' by the scientists to go back to the past to investigate the virus that now forces what's left of humanity to live underground.
Scientist: For a man in your position, an opportunity not to volunteer would be a mistake...
- In The Princess Bride they demand the key to the main gate from a man who says he has no such key. Wesley turns to Andre the Giant and tells him to tear his arms off. The gatekeeper pulls out the key. "Oh you mean THIS key."
- Mythica: Thane and Dagen get Peregus to sell Marek so they can free her. By putting a dagger to his throat and making him sign the contract.
- Weaponized for laughs in Doctor Strange (2016) where the title character essentially trapped Dormammu in a "Groundhog Day" Loop until he gave up
Doctor Strange: Dormammu, I've come to bargain.
- Did you hear the one about the IRA Godfather? He made an offer you couldn't defuse.
- At the beginning of The Dresden Files novel Dead Beat, Black Court vampire Mavra strong-arms Harry Dresden into finding a book of black magic for her, by threatening his friend Karrin Murphy. He takes the job, but at the end of the book makes a point of listing off all of the unsavory alternatives at his disposal which he could have made use of if he were less moral, and informing her that if she ever tries something like this again, he will chuck his principles out the window and use every last one of those alternatives to come after her.
- Mavra has not appeared since. In addition, it wasn't an empty threat: in the book Changes, a different vampire did something similar, and Harry did indeed go to great lengths and compromise his principles to fix it.
- In the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, Big Bad Pavel Kazakov plans to ask Balkan nations to let him build an oil pipeline through their territory or get bombed by his stealth aircraft. He pulls this on a Russian Army Captain later, advising the man's silence lest his girlfriend and child come to harm.
- Early in the Belisarius Series, we see the wife of the titular general fleeing assassins through the streets of Constantinople and ducking into a small eatery. She confronts the owners and slams a heavy purse on the table (her husband is quite wealthy) offering it insistently as rent for the shop, then pulls out a dagger (she grew up on the streets of Alexandria) and tells them "or take the knife, in your fucking guts!"
- In The Guardians, this is a tactic demons commonly take to entice humans into a Deal with the Devil. They'll take a vulnerable loved one hostage or hire another human to kill them if they refuse.
- A favoured tactic of the Daemon in recruiting its human agents. As just one example, it springs a prisoner from jail by cleaning his record, then, as he starts getting cold feet, reminds him that if it can jigger the records to clear him, it can also jigger them to put him back — as a child molester.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events Count Olaf makes various offers like this to the Baudelaires. The most notable being in the first book when Violet has to marry Olaf or Sunny dies. She finds a third option.
- In the Simon Scarrow novel The Eagle's Prophecy (one book in a series) the Imperial Secretary, Narcissus, gives the centurions Macro and Cato a job retrieving three ancient prophecy scrolls from pirates, not even bothering to phrase it as an offer, saying, "I won't insult your intelligence by offering you the job. You will do it, or you will die." Narcissus says that he doesn't need a reason to have them killed, but in the previous book, Cato's cohort was sentenced to decimation (1/10 of the men, picked randomly, are killed; Cato was one of the ones selected to be killed), but the men that were chosen escaped, and Macro was implicated in the death of his cohort's commander.
- In the first Jack Blank book, Jazen Knight implies that the reason Jonas Smart exerts so much economic control over Machina's businesses is because he gives veiled threats that anyone who refuses would be accused of being a conspirator to the enemy Rüstov and subsequently treated as such.
- In one Callahans Cross Time Saloon story, narrator Jake Stonebender recalls the time a well-dressed fellow (he refuses to say more, 'lest certain ethnicities be offended) tried to make Callahan an 'offer he can't refuse''...so Callahan didn't bother refusing. And apparently the gentleman's arms recovered in time.
- In the sequel to Those That Wake, Arielle Kliest makes such an offer to Mal: Get the Old Man what he wants, or else.
- In the An Ember in the Ashes, there are several. The Resistance offers to free Laia's brother if she spies for them at the military academy. Cain offers Elias "freedom of body and soul" if he participates in the Trials. The augurs offer to save Elias' life if Helene pledges herself to anyone who becomes the next Emperor.
- Burn Notice: Carla pulls this with Michael, he also manipulates some of the villains into doing this to his cover ID at the time.
- This happens pretty much all the time in the series. Michael is often given this when he is to help the bad guy, or does this himself when he gets the bad guy to do what he wants.
- Game of Thrones: Cley Cerwyn swore fealty to House Bolton when Ramsay flayed his entire family and threatened to do the same to him.
- Lost: Ben gets Jack to do his spinal surgery by also kidnapping Kate and Sawyer (Kate to control Jack, and Sawyer to control Kate, apparently.)
- Prison Break: The plot of the entire third season has the villainous Company kidnapping Michael Scofield's girlfriend and Lincoln Burrows' son, and threatening to kill them unless the brothers break an inmate out of a Panamanian prison.
- Inverted in the Doctor Who episode "Journey's End", where two groups of heroes attempt to keep the Daleks from carrying out their plan by threatening the destruction of Earth and the Crucible respectively.
- In the ninth season of Spooks, Lucas North is blackmailed by a man who threatens to reveal that he isn't really Lucas North — he stole another man's identity to escape justice after being involved in an embassy bombing.
- In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, a group of villains are auctioning off the Pink Ranger's quasar saber. Astronema (actually, Karone) interrupts by making a Whammy Bid, which she immediately raises to "all of you get to live".
- Crisis centers around these. The villains kidnap a bus full of children, then force their wealthy and powerful parents to perform dangerous and illegal missions in order to get their kids back.
- Parodied in The Red Green Show, a Canadian sketch show. In one episode's Possum Lodge Word Game, Red tries to get demolition enthusiast Edgar K.B. Montrose to guess the word "fuse". He successfully says the word as part of this phrase...
Red: If you forcibly join two things together, that's called...
Edgar: A Shotgun Wedding! (Red looks confused) Well, it's kinda like an offer you can refuse!
- In X Company a factory in Nazi occupied France has been converted to make weapons for the German army. Tom gives the factory owner an ultimatum: he can help the Resistance sabotage the factory equipment or the British airforce will bomb the factory into the ground.
- Referenced in My Name Is Earl. Joy steals a wrestling costume from her half-sister's neighbor, in order to infiltrate the match and defeat Liberty. She steals the costume by shoving the owner of said costume into the trunk of her car.
- Played straight later, with Billie. She gets mad at Earl for focusing on the List instead of sex with her, so she steals the List and starts to undo the items Earl has already completed. Then she calls him, threatening to keep hurting people on the List if Earl doesn't choose her. Earl has no choice but to meet up with Billie.
- American Gods: Variant. Mister World (representing the New Gods), offers Mister Wednesday (representing the Old Gods) a deal: In exchange for giving Wednesday a large amount of worshipers in North Korea, Wednesday will stop his plan to gain power in America. When Wednesday refuses the deal, the New Gods agree to leave peacefully, with the unspoken implication that they will then begin to prepare for war in earnest. Technical Boy demands to know why they don't just kill Wednesday now, while he's in their power. Mister World insists that Wednesday is old enough and has enough knowledge and wisdom that he deserves the respect of an honest deal instead of a Leonine contract.
- Many asked themselves why Viole from Tower of God worked for FUG, and many believed it was because he identified with their ideology of revolution. However, it turns out that the rings Yu Hansung gave to Baam's old team were tracking devices so that FUG could blackmail Baam/Viole into working for FUG by threatening his friends lives.
- "Stop Talking About Comic Books Or I'll Kill You", by Ookla The Mok.
- The Jon and Vangelis song/salute to the golden age of movies, "Friends of Mr. Cairo" has a mock scene from The Maltese Falcon that has the Peter Lorre imitator ask Sam Spade, "You going to make us an offer we can't refuse?" It actually works.
- Former WWE Superstar Charles Wright used this when he was using his "The Godfather" persona. However, instead of being a mafioso, he was a pimp, and his "offer you can't refuse" was to either step in the ring with him for their match, or the opponent could take their pick of any of the fine hos he always brought to the ring with him. Needless to say, it was very rare that the offer was refused.
- In The Bible, Judges 14, when some Philistines find that they are unable to answer a riddle Samson has asked them, they threaten his wife in order to get the answer.
- One criticism of Christianity, as voiced by Christopher Hitchens , says that the offer of redemption (through accepting Christ's sacrifice on your behalf) amounts to this, since if refused, the person goes to hell.
- In Warhammer 40K, this is standard operating procedure for the Tau: "Join us or die". They still have the moral high ground, however, since every other major faction leaves off the "join us" part.
- This trope happens every time an Inquisitor makes a "request". Unless you are very highly placed or connected death is the best thing that's going to happen if you refuse.
- In the Amonkhet block of Magic: The Gathering, the Big Bad Nicol Bolas gives Liliana Vess the option of abandoning the Gatewatch to work under him in exchange of knowing how to control the Chain Veil. Her other option is death. Naturally, she begrudgingly chooses the former.
- Vladimir Lem from the first Max Payne makes Max one of these offers. Being a cop, Max isn't really inclined to deal with mob guys to start with, but since Max is on the run from the law for a crime he didn't commit and waging a one-man war on Punchinello's syndicate, Max accepts his offer to go after Boris Dime, a former Vladimir lieutenant who has joined Punchinello, in exchange for enough guns to go after Punchinello.
- Technically, Max is under absolutely no obligation to accept Lem's deal: there's no implicit or explicit mention of a penalty for refusing. The reason Max goes along with the deal is three-fold: to get his hands on powerful weaponry, to piss off Punchinello, and to gain a potential ally.
- In fact, Vlad says this specifically for fun saying he always wanted to say that line.
- Vlad lives up to the trope in the second game, using the good will he earned in the first game to advance his plans for a while longer before revealing himself as the true Big Bad.
- Technically, Max is under absolutely no obligation to accept Lem's deal: there's no implicit or explicit mention of a penalty for refusing. The reason Max goes along with the deal is three-fold: to get his hands on powerful weaponry, to piss off Punchinello, and to gain a potential ally.
- The G-Man makes one of these to Gordon Freeman at the end of the original Half-Life. Canon establishes that Gordon accepted the offer to work for him - refusing the G-Man results in Freeman being dumped into a horde of hostile alien monsters without a single weapon, which would make the odds of Half-Life 2 ever happening pretty much nil.
- In Marc Laidlaw's non-canon Episode 3 ideas, the G-Man makes one with Alyx Vance as his new employee while Gordon is allowed to spent his retirement well away from anything else, alone, "in infinite finality". It's implied that G-Man makes these deals for his own employers to various characters such as Dr. Wallace Breen and Eli Vance.
- Most of the plot in the video game Kane and Lynch. The main protagonist, Kane, is tracked down by his old mercenary partners and is forced to recover their lost fortune. In order to motivate Kane, the mercenaries take his wife and daughter hostage.
- Fire Emblem: Genealogy of Holy War:
- One of the bosses in the battle with Thracia strong-arms General Hannibal into fighting Celice's army by taking his adoptive son Corple hostage.
- And earlier, Ayra's nephew is used to coerce her to fight Sigurd's army.
- Turns out, Arvis got this too. He's basically coerced to accept Manfroy's help, otherwise his Loptyr heritage would be revealed and there's only one fate for those with that bloodline: Getting burnt on a stake publicly.
- This is the backstory of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The Big Bad's representative invades Hyrule and slaughters anybody who gets in his way en route to Princess Zelda. When he finally reaches her, he gives her an ultimatum she can't possibly fight — surrender the kingdom or watch your people be massacred. She's already seen that her people can't stand up to the power he's brought with him, and drops her rapier in a gesture of submission.
- In the CDI Zelda games, Ganon says "Join me, Link, and I will make your face the greatest in Koridai! Or else you will die."
- Mr. Wong from John Woo's Stranglehold makes Tequila one of these offers as well. This time, the offer is to rescue his daughter Billie and her daughter Teko from the Golden Kane and the Zakarovs. Given Tequila's relationship with Billie and the fact that Teko is his daughter as well, this is an offer Tequila can't afford to pass up. Unfortunately, Wong proves to be a ruthless son of a bitch and has Billie murdered the minute the Zakarovs are history, both to prevent her from testifying against him and out of pure spite against Tequila, who he absolutely despises, setting off Tequila's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Midway through the first Baldur's Gate, you're given the option of joining the titular city's thieves guild. If you decide not to (whether because you're a good guy or just not interested), the guildmaster makes it perfectly clear that he runs on a "join or die" policy. Cue boss fight.
- In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Leonardo da Vinci's Real Life cooperation with the Borgia, given his good leanings and the villainy of the Borgia, is explained away as his being forced to work for them.
- On contrary to what some say, in BlazBlue, Litchi's turn to NOL was based on something she can't refuse rather than utter selfishness. Terumi threatens to harm Arakune before he has a chance to be cured, and went so far to have Relius detain him. While Litchi doesn't know that directly, Terumi makes implication about that scenario and what would happen to him if Litchi doesn't cooperate: He either kills him for being a 'nuisance' monster, or he'll wither and die because nobody else cared except her, and no one was willing to help Litchi. To make things worse, her life is on the line as well, not getting the cure in NOL means she will succumb to her corruption and die, leaving everyone else she loved in despair. Not to mention, throughout the offering, Terumi constantly pressed on Litchi's kind hearted nature and desire to help everyone she knows (and only she hasn't given up on Arakune) and exploited nearly everyone else's ignorance of her plight or dismissing her as 'A crazy woman trying to cure her blob-boyfriend who is already a lost cause and better off dead'. Yes, there's a lot more in line than mere obsession here.
- In Mega Man X4, Sigma gives one to the Magma Dragoon. To get the chance to fight X or Zero, he had to work for Repliforce and crash the Sky Lagoon. Being obsessed with defeating X and Zero, Dragoon couldn't refuse it.
- In Pokémon Red and Blue and its remakes, a Rocket grunt threatens you with this when you refuse to join Team Rocket. Considering how easy it is to defeat his team even after being worn down by 5 or 6 previous battles beforehand, the threat is pretty empty.
- A surprising number of Renegade dialogue options in Mass Effect consist of variations on the phrase "do [thing I want] or I will hurt/kill you".
- The ending of Mass Effect 3 has the Catalyst make three such offers to Shepard. The choices are wipe out all synthetic life including an entire species that might have become friendly to the player, become the new controlling intelligence that commands the Reapers, or forcibly cyborgify every life in the galaxy. You can refuse, but doing so means that all advanced life in the galaxy gets ground up into mulch.
- Happens to Leon between the events of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil 4. After escaping Raccoon City with a then 10 year old Sherry Birkin, Leon and Sherry were detained by the U.S. government and Leon was given a choice; become a special agent for the government so his expertise on the zombie outbreak can help the government or let said government perform experiments on Sherry since she has the dormant G-Virus inside her body. Leon reluctantly agreed.
- This trope happens to Rean Schwarzer in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II where Duke Cayenne offers him to join the Noble Alliance so that he could see his sister again. Thankfully, he is talked out of this by nearly everyone else in the ship, mainly because they have an agenda of their own that requires Crow fighting Rean.
- Rose Guns Days taking place in a mafia-heavy setting, this is bound to happen. However, those who accept Caleb's "help" aren't much better off than those who refuse in the end.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, Loan Shark Furio Tigre finds himself in a situation like this when he gets in a traffic accident with a young woman named Viola Cadaverini, who happens to be a Mafia Princess. Her grandfather being The Don and a Papa Wolf, Tigre is forced to pay for her medical bills and then some by the end of the year, or else...
- In Justice for All, assassin Shelly de Killer does this to Phoenix himself: either get Matt Engarde acquitted of murder, or Phoenix's assistant and best friend Maya Fey dies. This seems like an easy choice considering that Phoenix has spent the entirety of two games helping his clients be acquitted, but it takes a nasty turn once it becomes obvious that Engarde is guilty as sin.
- In Pokémon Apokélypse, Giovanni threatens Ash's loved ones in order to make him throw a fight.
- In RWBY, Cinder amasses all of her followers this way, starting with threatening to call the cops on a young thief and ending with threatening to wipe out a terrorist group if they don't agree to be her muscle while always pointing out the benefits of working with her. Roman Torchwick implies this is the case for him as well, though his recruitment in the Flashback Episode is limited only to an audio of him meeting Cinder.
- Volume 5 shows that this is a terrible way of building loyalty, and only works if the subject is truly intimidated; When Cinder cajoles Raven's Tribe for help with the theft of the Haven Relic, Raven only agrees after showing how unimpressed she is by Cinder's threats. She later confides with her subordinate that they are going to double-cross Cinder the first chance they get.
- In Resident Evil Abridged, Barry is forced to setup his partner, Jill. If he refuses to comply, his captain, Wesker, will tell Barry's wife about all the hentai has stored in his browser history. Wesker invokes the trope when Barry starts to have second thoughts, unaware that Jill is eavesdropping outside the room.
Barry: (adamant) "You've gone too far, Wesker! I won't do it!"Barry: (nervously) "I-I-I... don't...?"Wesker: (condescending tone) "Then WHY do you think you're in ANY position to bargain?"
- In G.I. Joe: Renegades. Cobra Commander calmly makes his weapons supplier, James McCullen, a counter-offer while the arms-dealer is being slowly swallowed by a giant cobra.
- Played with in Jackie Chan Adventures where Chan is injected with a serum that will turn him to stone unless he exchanges the Talismans held in Section 13 for the antidote. While Chan is willing to suffer the consequences, Jade is not so thrilled about his decision.
- In Teen Titans, Slade once threatened to kill Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy and Raven if Robin didn't become his apprentice. Robin managed to turn it around on him by injecting himself with the same nanites that were in the other Titans, and made an offer of his own: Either Slade didn't kill any of them, or he killed all of them, thus losing his apprentice.
- In The Legend of Korra, Kuvira beats a group of bandits and binds them to the railroad tracks. She tells them that they could join her or hope that someone finds them in the middle of nowhere and rescues them before another train comes. They join her.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, Two-Face's whole origin started with something like this, and it was a case where the offer was not only refused, but the man making the offer would greatly regret it. Mobster Rupert Thorne got ahold of Harvey Dent's records, which detailed his anger management issues which at times made him seem like a different person. (Often called "Big Bad Harv" by doctors.) Thorne threatened to expose them to the public unless he got a few "favors" from the DA's office. Dent's response however wasn't what he expected:
- After that, a violent fight broke out, and despite Batman's attempts to stop it, Dent was caught in an explosion that marred half of his face, causing his Split Personality to be given life as Two-Face, and his Start of Darkness completed. His first criminal acts as the villain were, naturally, aimed at Thorne.
- La Ballade des Dalton: When Lucky Luke is asked to witness the Daltons fulfilling the condition required to inherit their Uncle's money, he's told he'll be killed if he refuses.
- In The Simpsons episode The Seven-Beer Snitch, Homer is sent to prison. When Homer is offered the position of prison snitch, it's clear he'll be whacked if he refuses.
- The Powerpuff Girls: "Not So Awesome Blossom" has the dad and sisters of said Powerpuff held hostage by Mojo Jojo, who will spare their lives if Blossom pledges her devotion and servitude to him. But, in contrast to earlier when she couldn't do anything right, Leader Girl has a trick or two up her sleeve.