Follow TV Tropes


An Offer You Can't Refuse

Go To
Just sign on the dotted line, Mr. President.

Michael: My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
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 they can't do themself; none of their 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 them an Offer They Can't Refuse.

There are a number of reasons this would work:

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 them, 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 is 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 are refused (like, say, a bullet in the head, getting put in the hospital, or having the head of the person's prized 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. Also see My Way or the Highway, You Owe Me and Leonine Contract.

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.

Wikipedia states that political philosophy calls situations like this a "throffer", a threat mixed with an offer such as, "Kill this man for cash or I'll kill you."

For an offer that you literally cannot refuse, see But Thou Must!.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Inoue Orihime is forced to work for the Big Bad after he holds her friends hostage, without them even knowing about it.
  • This is 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 My-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.
  • Can't Defy the Lonely Girl: Egawa ensnares Sakurai in a deal by promising to send a letter of recommendation for her in return for getting Honda to come to school.When Honda learns this, she in turn tasks Sayaka with doing favors for her in return for her attendance.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Dr Marcoh is forced into cooperating with a plan to destroy the whole country because the homunculi promise to wipe out his whole village if he doesn'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 doesn'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 is forced to cooperate with Kimblee's attempts to hunt down Scar and Marcoh, using Winry as a leverage point. Kimblee even offers Ed a philosopher's stone in exchange for committing mass murder on the Briggs frontier, though Kimblee is unaware at the time that Ed and Al have already vowed to never use a philosopher's 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 or else 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.
  • This 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, steals the puzzle and chains it to a duel arena, where Yugi can get it back if he wins.
    • 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"
  • Natsume's Book of Friends: Multiple:
    • Matoba threatens Natsume to expose his Psychic Powers to his foster parents unless he complies to help him find an enemy exorcist.
    • Matoba tries to threaten Natsume into 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.
  • 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 Bam's old team were tracking devices so that FUG could blackmail Bam/Viole into working for FUG by threatening his friends lives.
  • In the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, 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.
  • Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen: In the first chapter, Elisabeth Le Fanu reincarnates Kaito Sena in a golem body and informs him he is to become her manservant—which is met with "Hard pass." After an intervening monster attack, during which Elisabeth's abilities as the eponymous Torture Princess are put on full display, she makes the offer again, this time clarifying that if he insists on returning to death, "then it will be by way of my methods."
    Elisabeth: What will it be? Make your choice. Butler? Or meat?
    Kaito: Butler, please.
  • In Death Note, Rod Ross, a mob boss who's allied with Mello, wants his subordinate Jack to get the Shinigami Eyes, thereby halving his lifespan and allowing him to see anyone's real name. When Jack balks at it, Ross says that if Jack agrees, Rod will make him his right-hand man, and if Jack refuses, Rod will kill him right then and there.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Firefly: The Sting: Saffron's proposition to the crew members: work with her on the heist, or she detonates the explosives she's rigged to the ship.
  • Forever Evil (2013) 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.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: When Paula von Gunther first refused to work for the Nazis they tortured her husband to death, then they took her toddler aged daughter hostage and requested they work for them again with the implicit threat that they'd do the same to Gerta as they had to Gottfried. She throws herself into the work and decides that the only person left she is willing to care about in the world is Gerta.
  • One Astro City story arc has an attorney successfully defending a mobster's son by applying superhero logic (mind control, evil duplicates, Comic Book Death, etc.) to the case. His success enamors him with the mob boss, who starts showering him with gifts and then offers him an, ahem, life-long position...
  • Thunderbolts: Villain-on-villain version with Moonstone's recruitment. Zemo has Fixer and Beetle bust her out of prison, then ask her to join the team. Karla had been planning on serving out her sentence, but now her "escape attempt" will add another ten to fifteen years if she goes back, so she joins up.
  • Squad: The offer the pack gives Becca at the beginning of the book is essentially, "Join us or die."

    Comic Strips 
  • 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?

    Fan Works 
  • In Alternate Worlds, Esdeath gets Tatsumi to serve under her by threatening to destroy his village if he doesn't comply.
  • 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.
  • Chaos Theory: True Assassin, on behalf of Zouken, tells Sakura to return to the Matou house and implies that if she refuses, harm will come to Taiga and the archery club members.
  • Cheshire (Miraculous Ladybug): Chloe blackmails Alya into joining her clique and abandoning Marinette by threatening the jobs and careers of Alya's parents.
  • Child of the Storm has this as Surtur's modus operandi, of the Join or Die variant. Or more accurately, 'join and keep some semblance of your independence, or die and be transformed into one of my minions anyway'.
  • A Darker Path: After gaining the "Path to Ending" power, Taylor/Atropos issues a public ultimatum to the gang leaders of Brockton Bay, to leave or die. And she reiterates it after each hit.
    So, the leaders of those gangs I just named: Kaiser, Lung, Coil, Skidmark. You have twenty-four hours to either a) leave town for good or b) surrender to the PRT. In twenty-four hours from midnight tonight, if you haven't all done this, I'm going to kill one of you that hasn't. Just one.
    Then I'll start the clock again.
  • In Forward (Peptuck), 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.
  • Heroes of the New World; Rocks D. Xebec got Whitebeard to join his crew by threatening to destroy Whitebeard's hometown of Sphinx if he refused or killed Xebec. Even with his hands around Xebec's neck, Whitebeard couldn't risk it and so agreed to his terms.
  • Miraculous City: This is how Lila coerces Chloé into joining the Disastrous team. Lila points out that even if Chloé manages to escape from them, Audrey will do everything in her power to ensure that Chloé is criminally charged for assaulting her and Chloé has already alienated anybody who would be willing to help her, a process that Lila helped speed along.
  • My Immortal:
  • 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 coerces the Apples into being the Third Kira by threatening to kill Rainbow Dash. Then, just to prove she's serious, she kills Granny Smith.
  • Mentioned word-for-word in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/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 lest a flashing neon sign reading "Dumbledore Took My Virginity and I Liked It!" 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 secures her divorce from her abusive husband by threatening to slit his throat if he doesn't sign the papers.
  • In At Gate's Edge, Fuhrer Bradley frees Kimblee from prison on the condition that he kills Roy Mustang; 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 are forced into the team when their loved ones are threatened.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku staunchly refuses to "play" with Mister Mxyzptlk after the latter turns Izuku's mom into a dog. Mxyzptlk simply replies that he doesn't have a choice.
    Izuku: No.
    Mxyzptlk: Hey, at least think about-
    Izuku: No!
    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!
  • In Ocean Wars, instead of starting his long-term plans after escaping, Golden Lion Shiki takes over Impel Down, then levitates it with his Devil Fruit, before giving the World Government the ultimatum: remove their jurisdiction from the Four Blues and allow him to move island and nations wherever he wants, or he will release every prisoner into the capital of Marie Jois. Needless to say, they were forced to comply.
  • in The dark never consumes all, for the light remains within its core, Lloyd made a deal with Luka: If he won against him in a match, he’d not only release both Chloe and Juleka, but he’d also stop looking over Marinette like a hawk unless Luka allows them to. But if Lloyd won without using his powers, he keeps the girls as new recruits.
  • 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!
    Wesker: [feigning surprise] "Oh no. Barry, I didn't REALIZE you had blackmail on ME too.
    Barry: [nervously] I-I-I... don't...?
    Wesker: [condescending tone] Then WHY do you think you're in ANY position to bargain?
  • Spy X Family: A fan comic by darahazulnote  features Damian and Anya as young adults (as in their early twenties). In the comic, Damian hasn't been able to sleep since Anya went missing a month before, when he's suddenly called into his father's home office. When he enters Donovan's office he sees Anya handcuffed and wearing a patient's robe. Donovan informs Damian that Anya is an escaped government experiment, and was finally recaptured after so many years on the run, and despite trying to force her to use her Telepathy to his advantage she has refused. Since she and Damian know each other since childhood, Donovan tells them that Damian will convince her to use her gifts to spy for him, if she doesn't obey or doesn't provide good intel on Donovan's foes, Damian will be punished for her failure, if she escapes, then Donovan will have Damian killed. Damian and Anya agree to Donovan's terms and go to Damian's private villa, where Damian tells Anya she can stay until they figure a way to get her back to her family.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Bitsy rants to Fisk, asking how he managed to make all of the people who were backing her on her scheme to raze Central Park back off all of a sudden. Fisk's answer only barely conceals the fact that he threatened them all in various ways - such as potentially assassinating Dimitry's (yet unborn) grandchild.
  • You Have But Two Choices: Ichigo and Chad are imprisoned by the Soul Society after Uryu, Orihime, and Rukia are executed. Aizen then arrives and gives them a choice: stay and be executed by the Soul Society, or join him in Heuco Mundo to develop their powers and get vengeance. The two heroes accept.
  • DNMC: After Clu discovers what D'Arg is capable of, he gives him two options: Enroll in Atlas Academy or let himself be killed and leave Master Aztec (who is also his unofficial Parental Substitute) to whatever fate the Atlesian Army has in store for her. He chooses to enroll.
  • This Bites!: In the aftermath of Strong World, when Garp, Sengoku, and a large fleet of ships arrive at the ruins of Merveille to kill Shiki's remaining monsters and arrest the remnants of his crew, Perona, who has used their powers to tame said monsters, offers to let them take Shiki's crew without a fight—that is, without losing dozens or hundreds of soldiers in battle against monsters bred to eat them—in exchange for being made a Government-sanctioned Warlord.
  • Villain Song (Roving Otter): A heroic example: with her newly inherited kingdom coming apart, Asha is willing to bully the chained-up Magnifico into helping her stabilize her country.
  • Vow of Nudity: When Spectra gets caught smuggling by a forest outpost, the commander offers to leave that out of his report if she 'services' him and his men. Considering an honest report would lead to life in prison due to the city's crackdown on organized crime, she has little choice but to agree.
  • With This Ring has this coming from the protagonist, in both the Paragon and Renegade timelines.
    • The Paragon visits Chantinelle the succubus, and bribes her with the opportunity to become a love elemental, thus increasing her power substantially, to keep her out of the way of his plans.
      Chantinelle: Now I'm curious. What exactly happens if I say "no"?
      Paul: I shoot you dead with the Ace of Winchesters. Though I would really rather not do that.
    • The Renegade visits Lex Luthor after killing every other member of the Light and makes it clear that Lex will either do exactly as he's told from now on, or not live to see a courtroom.
  • The Wrong Reflection: The Mirror Universe Kanril Eleya refers to the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance's practice of conscripting high-scoring youth into either the military or the civil service as "an offer they're not allowed to refuse."

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons. 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.
  • 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.
  • In Peter Pan, Captain Hook gives the Darling children and the Lost Boys the choice to either join his crew or walk the plank.
  • 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.
  • In Turning Red, Tyler tells Mei that she has a choice: she can either attend his birthday party as a red panda, or he tells her mother about the little side hustle. Mei realizes she doesn't have a choice, but demands $200 in compensation. Tyler agrees to that, foreshadowing that he's a bully but he's not all bad, and also foreshadowing that when we finally see his house, it turns out his family is rich enough to live in a mansion, thus explaining why $200 is a price Tyler has no problem with paying.
  • Zootopia: As part of its parody of The Godfather, Duke Weaselton claims he was made an offer he couldn't refuse. Money.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Deep Cover: Before Russell testifies at the House Judiciary Committee, Agent Carver threatens to charge Betty with money laundering unless Russell gives glowing praise of the DEA and its investigation. Russell complies with these demands, but manages to screw them over another way.
  • Weaponized for laughs in Doctor Strange where the title character essentially snares Dormammu in a Time Loop Trap until he gives up.
    Doctor Strange: Dormammu, I've come to bargain.
  • 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 explode.
    • They do this to Snake again in Escape from L.A.. They inject him with a virus that will supposedly kill him in 12 hours unless he brings the President's Rebellious Spirit teenage daughter back. Ultimately subverted as the virus is just a fast-acting version of the common flu.
  • Female Agents: Eddy is given the choice of helping the operatives or being shot on the spot. He immediately agrees to help.
  • 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 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 his assassination for the movie's climax.
      • In the novel, it's stated that Moe had occasionally publicly humiliated Fredo Corleone, and that Tom Hagen realized when the offer was made that Moe was a dead man, because the Corleone family DID NOT WISH to convince him. Michael is intent on avenging the family dishonor.
  • Saving his younger brother from Calitri is the only reason Memphis Raines comes out of carjacking retirement in Gone in 60 Seconds (2000).
  • How To Blow Up A Pipeline: Rowan was given the choice of fifteen years in prison or giving the FBI evidence against other activists. She took the deal, but used it against them nonetheless.
  • 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 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.
  • Margin Call: Tuld gets his fixer Carmello to blackmail Eric Dale to keep him quiet after his firing the day before, threatening to have his severance taken away. Eric begrudgingly does what they ask because of the insane reward on offer if he plays ball.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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."
  • Rapture-Palooza: The Beast propositions Lindsey, which she turns down immediately. He says that's fine, but he'll now kill everyone she knows, so Lindsey agrees to sleep with him. Rather than go through with it though she plots with her boyfriend to kill him.
  • In Silver Lode, McCarty tells Ballard that he wants all Ballard's assets, or he'll kill him. Ballard suspects he'll kill him regardless.
  • In Sin City, Marv and John Hartigan are both made to plead guilty for the villains' crimes, using threats against loved ones.
  • Star Wars: 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".
  • Theresa & Allison: Some humans have become vampires' blood slaves as the other option was them being killed in one "meal".
  • 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.
  • Tromeo and Juliet: Monty was extorted into signing over his company to Capulet by the threat of Ingrid taking away his son, as he isn't Tromeo's biological father.

  • Did you hear the one about the IRA Godfather? He made an offer you couldn't defuse.
  • A mafioso confronts a man with an offer he cannot refuse: Sign a contract or die. The man grabs a pen, airily comments that the criminal's extortion methods are flawed, jots down something on the contract and hands the paper back to the crook. When the mafia man looks at the document he realizes that, rather that signing with his name, the man has signed the contract with the words "I'm suicidal. Fuck off."

  • 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 that 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'' 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.
  • Warbreaker: The magic in this setting is powered by Biochromatic Breath, which can be transferred between people only by willful, intentional Command. The necessity of Intent means that you can't trick someone into giving up their Breath or take it by force, but there's nothing (except laws and ethics) stopping you from torturing someone until they are willing to give up their Breath just to make it end.
  • The Reluctant King: Fifth Plane demons are compelled to serve wizards by threatening to hold them inside a magic circle until sunlight enters it, killing them.
  • Discworld's Lord Vetinari has a variant - An Appointment You Can't Miss. Whenever he feels there is a need to talk to someone, a secretary will helpfully swing by the fellow's residence and remind them they have an appointment with His Lordship, no rush. However, as time passes, instead of a kind secretary, it will be Dark Clerks and Palace security who pass by, so while Lord Vetinari might not feel the need to rush, said fellow most certainly will.
  • All The Skills - A Deckbuilding LitRPG: Arthur is given a choice between keeping a Legendary-rank spell card away from the Baron, or having a red dragon hunt down and kill him and everyone he cares about.
  • The Oleander Sword: The yaksa give the Ahirani nobles an ultimatum on their return: worship them or die slowly of the rot.
  • The Chronicles of Dorsa: Tasia forces Akella, a female pirate captain, to help her in book three, using such methods as locking her in a totally dark cell over several days until she agrees.
  • The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi: Salima offers Amina a vast fortune to rescue her kidnapped granddaughter... and threatens to have her entire family killed if she doesn't accept.
  • Worm: This is one of Coil's modus operandi when it comes to "recruiting" people. Tattletale, for example, was cornered into an alley and threatened with getting her head blown to bits if she didn't accept his "job offer".
  • Hive Mind (2016): Keith threatens to use the secrets of everyone on Amber's team against them if she doesn't cooperate with his plan to reclaim Olivia, up to and including telling Amber's nosy-hating parents that she is really a telepath.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Gods (2017): 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.
  • In Season 3 of Arrow, Ra's al Ghul offers Oliver Queen the position of his heir of the League of Assassins. When Oliver asks what will happen if he refuses, Ra's tells him he's free to go, and even returns his captured friends as a gesture of goodwill. Unsurprisingly it's not that easy, and by the end of the episode when Oliver still hasn't reconsidered his offer, Ra's starts putting pressure on Oliver by dressing up as the Arrow and murdering people to turn the city against him. And that's just for starters.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • In the "New Caprica" arc, President Baltar is forced to cooperate with the Cylon occupation authorities to give their presence an umbrella of legitimacy. After the human rebels start engaging in terrorist attacks against the Cylons and Les Collaborateurs, the Cylons force Baltar to sign an order for summary executions in reprisal. When he objects, they shoot Caprica Six for agreeing with Baltar, then threaten to kill him next (she can resurrect; Baltar can't). He signs it, which comes back to haunt him when he's later tried for war crimes and points out that he had no real choice but to comply.
    • In "Blood on the Scales", Felix Gaeta and Tom Zarek organize a military coup against Adama and Roslin, capturing the former while the latter continues to coordinate the resistance against them. Gaeta insists that Adama be tried for his "crimes", and has Romo Lampkin dragged in to serve as Adama's defense counsel, a job he had previously fulfilled during Baltar's trial. Lampkin immediately recognizes what's up by suggesting that if he refuses, the two marines standing to the side will presumably use him for target practice.
  • Better Call Saul:
    • As a job for Nacho, Mike has Tuco sent to prison by framing him for an armed robbery and assault. Tuco's uncle Hector wants Mike to reduce Tuco's sentence by admitting to the police that the gun Tuco had was actually Mike's. First Hector makes an offer of $5,000, then he sends armed thugs to Mike's house to strong-arm him into agreeing, and then he sends the Cousins in to threaten the lives of Mike's family, at which point Mike realizes he has no choice. When Mike has another meeting with Hector, Hector rescinds his initial monetary offer and says the deal is Mike agrees to recant his testimony to get Tuco's sentence reduced, and he gets to leave the building alive, although Mike is able to impress Hector enough to shake a $50,000 payment out of him.
    • Early in season 4, Gus finds out that Nacho induced Hector's heart attack by swapping his medication with placebos. The Salamancas are extremely sadistic against those they consider their enemies, so Gus murders Arturo (another one of Hector's goons) in front of Nacho and threatens to let word of Nacho's treachery slip to them if he doesn't agree to be Gus's double-agent against them. Later on, Gus threatens the life of Nacho's father to keep him in line. Gus agreeing to leave Nacho's father in peace is what gets Nacho to agree to be executed.
  • Breaking Bad: During Season 4, the cartel starts strong-arming Gus into complete control of his meth operation. Gus refuses, but is forced to agree once they start killing his men and sabotaging his shipment trucks until he gives in. Of course, this is All According to Plan for Gus.
  • Burn Notice: Carla pulls this with Michael, he also manipulates some of the villains into doing this to his cover ID at the time. Indeed, it 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.
  • Crisis (2014) 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.
  • 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.
  • Game of Thrones: Cley Cerwyn swore fealty to House Bolton when Ramsay flayed his entire family and threatened to do the same to him.
  • The Glamorous Imperial Concubine: Zhao Yi poisons Fu Ya's mother and will only give her the antidote if Fu Ya helps kill Fei Hong.
  • Gotham Knights (2023): Lincoln thinks he has one when Stephanie's father gets arrested for illegal possession of prescription drugs (to give her addict mother), saying he will get the charges dropped if she won't give testimony on the Court of Owls. Stephanie however realizes this would mean her friends dying. After agonizing briefly over it, Stephanie refuses the offer, realizing she can't save her parents from themselves anyway.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: In "Testimony" when Fred's defense lawyer tried to defend him by saying June signed up for Handmaid "duty", she fires back that her only other "choice" was being sent to the Colonies, a slow death sentence. Of course, even without that, it would be irrevocable "consent" (e.g., selling herself into slavery).
  • 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).
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • Referenced as 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Pure: After he gets Gerry Epps arrested, Eli Voss gives one to Noah: become the boss for the Canadian Mennonites, or else. The second season has Anna receive one too, but from Voss's partner in the cartel he ran the cocaine for. We earlier see one Mexican police officer refusing a similar offer, and dying for it.
  • 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!
  • Parodied in an SCTV spoof of The Godfather: Guy Caballero says he will make another character an offer that will "be to his liking."
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "The Circle", Odo deputizes petty crook and gambler Quark because he needs the Ferengi's underworld contacts to gather information on who's supplying weapons for a coming Civil War. Quark finds this Actually Pretty Funny until Odo points out the alternative — he locks up Quark for obstruction at a time when Quark might need to get off the space station in a hurry.
    • In "Civil Defense", the crew accidentally trips an old security program which will destroy the station, killing thousands, if it's not shut down in time, and which can only be deactivated by the station's former commander Gul Dukat. In this case, Dukat didn't create the situation, but he's more than happy to use it to his advantage, refusing to help unless they allow him to reestablish a "permanent Cardassian presence" on the station. It ends up backfiring on Dukat rather spectacularly, however, when he tries to beam out to give them "time to think about it" and the program perceives him as trying to abandon the station in a crisis and reacts by trapping him on the station and locking out his access codes, forcing him to work with the others on disabling the program in order to save his own life.
  • The pilot episode of Tales from the Darkside centers on Gideon Hackles, owner of the only store in a small farming town. His store only runs on credit, and thus he has the whole town under his heels. He establishes that his only other love besides his money is Halloween; specifically, because he turns his home into a haunted mansion of ghoulish animatronics and sounds. He does this as a little game with the town's children, as anyone who steps through has the chance to find their parent's I.O.Us and free themselves of their debts. Of course, what usually happens is the kids bolting out of the house screaming in terror. What qualifies it for this trope is that Hackles doesn't even offer this as something the parents could do as a chance to free themselves of their debts. He orders them to bring the children, because he'll take their farms if they don't play ball.
  • Treadstone: An indigenous Columbian chieftain is offered money by mercenaries from a mining company to buy his people's traditional land. He refuses, and they beat him up for it. The mining company also has hired Treadstone to assassinate him if he rejected this offer.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): The Seanchan demand people whom they have conquered publicly swear oaths of fealty. Any who refuse are immediately killed in a brutal fashion, so as you would expect few reject the demand.
  • 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 Royal Air Force will bomb the factory into the ground.

  • "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.
  • In his version of "Mack the Knife," Frank Sinatra says that Ol' Blue Eyes plus Quincy Jones equals this trope:
    But with Quincy's big band, right behind me
    Swinging hard, Jack, I know I can't lose
    When I tell you, all about Mack the Knife babe
    It's an offer, you can never refuse

    Myths & Religion 
  • 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.
  • The Book of Mormon has multiple heroic examples:
    • Ammon is attacked by the king of the Lamanites, who was angry about Ammon's preaching and influence over his son. It ends with Ammon standing over him and the king offering whatever he wants in exchange for mercy; Ammon demands the release of his fellow missionaries from prison.
    • Captain Moroni outmaneouvres, overpowers, and surrounds an invading Lamanite army, then demands that they surrender their weapons and vow never to attack again.
      Moroni: Now as ye are in our hands we will spill your blood upon the ground, or ye shall submit to the conditions which I have proposed.
  • 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.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • 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.

  • One Embers in the Dusk sidestory has a captured Jotunheim rebel who only joined the rebellion because the old Governor's regime sent his wife to a concentration camp, and the new one didn't return her home. The Avernite questioning him explains that his wife died in the camp, but gave birth to the rebel's daughter a month before that. While the rebel will be shot in any case, it is up to him to determine whether the child will be growing up in the overcrowded and understaffed (thanks to the rebellion) facilities of Jotunheim, or the comparable paradise of an Avernus orphanage.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has a rare example used for humor: several Solaris stables consider trying to use organized crime families to threaten Kai Allard-Liao after his policies proved unpopular because he paid his crews higher wages and provided safer employment contracts, which cut into their profits. Someone eventually realize that they cannot even hope to think of threatening him because:
    • Kai is close friends with the Prince of the Federated Commonwealth, the largest nation in Inner Sphere.
    • He is also friends with the heir-designate to the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine, the second-largest and most militaristic nation.
    • Kai hiself is the actual heir to the St. Ives Compact, a small but soverign nation (and he has a viable claim to the throne of the Capellan Confederation on top of that).
    • Besides that, Kai is also the two-time Champion of Solaris.
    • He's the nephew of the commander of the Kell Hounds, one of the most elite mercenary units around.
    • He is the single greatest Mechwarrior ever tested on a Wolf's Dragoons proving ground, and is personlly known and respected by the elite mercenary unit's commanders.
    • Finally, he is one of a vanishingly small number of people who has the unflinching respect of Clan Jade Falcon (after killing well over fifty of them, but that just made them respect him more because their culture values talented warriors).

      A rough tally of the number of Mechwarriors willing to bring 'Mechs to help Kai if he asked is approximately five regiments (540-ish Battlemechs) plus at least another fifty to seventy five Power Armor-wearing Super Soldiers. The odds stacked against the criminals are so hilariously one-sided that the stable masters sheepishly drop the idea.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • In the Amonkhet block, 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.
    • Literally the name of the Brokers Villain Song, in which they promise safety with none-to-subtle threats if one does refuse.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • 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 or" 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.

    Video Games 
  • In A Hat in Time, upon crash-landing in the Subcon Forest, local malevolent spirit the Snatcher immediately traps the protagonist and makes her a deal: she can sign away her soul to the Snatcher, getting it back once she's done some errands for him, or die on the spot. You can refuse, whereupon the Snatcher will reiterate that it's sign or die: refuse enough times and he'll kill you on the spot.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 implications about that scenario and what would happen to him if Litchi doesn't cooperate: he either kills Arakune for being a 'nuisance' monster, or he'll eventually wither and die anyway, and no one was willing to help Litchi in her efforts to cure Arakune's condition. To make things worse, her life is on the line as well, not getting the cure means she will succumb to the same corruption afflicting Arakune and die, leaving everyone else she loves in despair. Not to mention, throughout the offering, Terumi constantly pressed on Litchi's kind-hearted nature and desire to help everyone she knows (only she hasn't given up on Arakune), exploiting nearly everyone else's ignorance of her plight or their dismissal of 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.
  • Chest: Zong didn't want to fight the Demon Lord, but he had no choice because Prime Minister Andre threatened to ban toilets if he refused.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day: Don Weaso applies this to Conker twice. The first time occurs when Conker stole his money, he sends him on a suicide mission to repay him. If Conker lives, he could go free as long as he was out of Weaso's territory. If he dies, then meh, no biggie. Conker manages to survive, but just as he's about to head home after the War Chapter, he runs into Weaso again who strongarms him into doing a bank heist. This second time has the added twist that Weaso is doing it as a ploy to bring Conker to the Panther King.
  • At the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins, Duncan demands you join the Grey Wardens. Of the six potential player characters, only the Human Noble and a Circle Mage who reported Jowan's plan to Irving don't face guaranteed immediate death as a consequence for refusal. The Dalish Elf stands to die of a Darkspawn taint, while the City Elf, Dwarven Noble, Dwarven Commoner, and Circle Mage who didn't report Jowan all face execution for various crimes (or in the Mage's case, Tranquility, which really isn't much better).
  • Dyztopia: Post-Human RPG: At the end of Chapter 2, President Zazz states that Zeta won't help rebuild Vulcanite's power grid until Akira is captured, essentially coercing the citizens into turning on Akira whether or not they believe they blew the power plant up.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The plot of the Dragonborn DLC turns out to be Hermaeus Mora orchestrating one for the Skaal; His help is required to stop Miraak (because reaching Miraak requires the full Bend Will Shout, which only Mora knows), so the Skaal can either accede to his demands to give up their secrets in exchange for the Shout, or Miraak will enslave them all, along with quite probably the rest of the world.
  • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War:
    • Ayra's nephew Shannan is used to coerce her to fight Sigurd's army.
    • One of the bosses in the battle with Thracia strong-arms General Hannibal into fighting Seliph's army by taking his adoptive son Coirpre/Charlot hostage.
    • Turns out, Arvis got this too. He's basically coerced to accept Manfroy's help, otherwise his Loptous heritage would be revealed and there's only one fate for those with that bloodline: Getting burnt on a stake publicly.
  • Galaxy Angel II: In the second game of the trilogy, Mugen Kairou no Kagi, the reason why Three Marquis of the Arms Alliance start a war against Seldar and the Luxiole was because they were approached by the Will, a race of aliens from a different dimension, with the chance to gain access to their technology if they proved themselves worthy. Genievres' words after his final defeat and before he is annihilated are to urge the Rune Angel Wing and the Luxiole to agree to whatever offer Parfait is about to make them now that they have the Will's attention. It's heavily implied he felt overwhelmed by the Will's power and was trying to keep them safe by way of playing the Will along enough to escape unharmed.
  • 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". Half-Life: Alyx reused the idea in the form of the G-Man helping Alyx prevent Eli's death in the future and then revealing that she has to replace Gordon as his new employee in exchange, dismissing her objection with a simple "I'm afraid you misunderstand the situation" before detaining her anyway.
    • 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 & 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.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel:
    • This trope happens to Rean Schwarzer in the second game. 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.
    • Happens again in the third Cold Steel game, or more specifically, the Northern War that happens in the Time Skip between the second and third games, which is referenced in flashbacks. Chancellor Osborne has Aurelia Le Guin and Wallace Bardias, two leaders of the provincial armies, lead the attack on North Ambria, which leads to its annexation into Erebonia. By leading the invasion, the provincial armies were allowed to stay in power. Considering the nobles lost the civil war, it was either this, or the provincial armies would've been dissolved as punishment for supporting the nobles during the war.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Vladimir Lem from 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.
    • Vlad lives up to the trope in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, 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.
  • 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.
  • Happens to Leon between the events of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil 4. After escaping Raccoon City with a then 12 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 comes up at least twice in Shin Megami Tensei:
    • In Apocalypse, Nanashi encounters Dagda in Yomotsu Hirasaka after getting killed by Adramelech. This leaves Nanashi with one of two options: become Dagda's puppet and personal attack dog or accept death and leave Asahi for dead. Nanashi chooses the former.
    • In V, Aogami offers the protagonist his strength after saving him from the demons of Da'at. The protagonist is hesitant, but he accepts. It's more voluntary than most other examples, but the trope is still very much in effect.
  • Splatterhouse: As Rick was mortally wounded, he had no real motivation to decline the Terror Mask's request to become its new bearer even if it meant becoming its slave. In the 2010 remake, the Terror Mask outright points out to Rick that "without me... you're fucked."
  • This goes all over the place in Stellaris.
    • At the top of the food chain for most of each game will be the Fallen Empires, ancient civilizations that have been traveling the stars since before yours was in diapers; they are the most powerful factions for the entire game until regular empires (usually yours) eventually overtake them. Most of them request things of the younger empires, or even give them gifts if they like them for one reason or another. When they make demands while they dislike you, however, it's usually because you've done something that they don't like, and they want you to stop. Fail to obey, and there will be suffering.
    • Next ones down are the Marauder Clans. They usually leave normal empires alone, although they will demand tribute on a regular basis. If a regular empire refuses to pay said tribute, however, they will immediately send a raiding fleet to one of that empire's systems. Their raid fleets tend to be considerably stronger than an empire's earlygame fleets, but usually come out weaker than midgame fleets.
    • And finally, the regular empires themselves, of which the player is one. Depending on relative power, this can be invoked by most empires on eachother thanks to wargoals, which can force opposing empires to cede to demands if they lose depending on the valid goal (known as a casus belli) selected. There are exceptions, however; certain options aren't available between certain types of empires. For example, there is no way an organic empire of any sort is going to subjugate a Determined Exterminator empire, and the only wars available between any other empire and a Devouring Swarm are ones that entail total destruction of at least one side of the conflict; even if the side opposite of the Devouring Swarm is yet another Devouring Swarm.
  • 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.
  • In Strike Commander, you go from initially picking your contracts as you see fit to accepting them because there's no other choice. Whether because they're going broke, or because some powerful organization is extorting them (especially the Internal Revenue Service), the Wildcats increasingly become pawns forced to go against everything they believe in. Breaking the cycle and teaching these organizations that you're not to be trifled with is a key element in the plot.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • 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 Whole Episode Flashback 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 Bandit 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.
  • DarkMatter2525: "Would You Vote For God?" uses the analogy of a human dictator offering his people a "choice" between choosing him or torture as the analogy to how fundamentalist Christians argue God acts, i.e. with the "option" to worship him vs. going to Hell. He notes that very few people would consider that a "free choice" if a person did it, but rather the worst form of oppressive coercion.

  • The Fantasy Book Club: In the If They Were Monsters AU. The debutantes have the choice to marry their suitor or get ripped to shreds.
  • Marionetta: Kamille gets the choice between joining the circus or being killed. Downplayed, as she gets killed anyways to bind her to the circus.
  • Unsounded: Nary threatens Duane to escort his daughter to her cousin Stockyard, or Nary would reveal Duane is a plod to anyone in town with a pitchfork and torch and a desperate need for a break from monotony.

    Web Videos 
  • On the Dream SMP, during the L'Manburg War for Independence, Dream makes this to each member of L'Manburg (Wilbur, Tommy, Tubbo, Fundy, and Eret) — to join him or die. None of them take the offer except for Eret, who is "rewarded" with Puppet Kingship of the Greater SMP in return.
  • In Pokémon Apokélypse, Giovanni threatens Ash's loved ones in order to make him throw a fight.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 (2003), 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.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • Two-Face's whole origin started with something like this, and it was a case where the offer is not only refused, but the man making the offer would greatly regret it. Mobster Rupert Thorne got ahold of Harvey Dent's records, which detail his anger management issues which at times made him seem like a different person. (Often called "Big Bad Harv" by doctors.) Thorne threatens to expose them to the public unless he gets a few "favors" from the DA's office. Dent's response however isn't what he expected:
      Dent: There's just one problem... [raspy voice] You're talkin' to the wrong Harvey.
    • After that, a violent fight broke out, and despite Batman's attempts to stop it, Dent is caught in an explosion that mars half of his face, causing his Split Personality to be given life as Two-Face, and his Start of Darkness completes. His first criminal acts as the villain are, naturally, aimed at Thorne.
  • 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 (1998): "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.
  • A Thousand and One... Americas: Near the end of the twelfth episode, when the priest of Tiahanaco learns that Chris knows the secret behind the making of bronze, he tells him that he'll have to spend the rest of his life in the city to prevent the secret from becoming widespread (this is because the making of bronze was a secret during the era of the pre-Columbian civilizations in Real Life), but he'll be treated like a prince and become a priest once he grows up. Chris appreciates the offer, but refuses and tries to escape alongside his pet dog Lon. He wakes up afterwards.
  • Yankee Doodle Cricket: This 70s Chuck Jones cartoon has Chester the cricket and his friends teach the song "Yankee Doodle" to the local wildlife. One animal happens to be a frog, uninterested in Chester playing the song and eating him. A nearby bald eagle sees this, grabs the frog, and threatens it into letting the cricket go.
    Eagle: Now then, friend frog, that is an American citizen you are holding in your mouth-bone. The way I see it, you have a choice in the matter. You can either restore this cricket's civil liberties, or you can be opened up without anesthesia.
  • Hilarious zig-zagged in the Looney Tunes short "A Gruesome Twosome": A girl puckers up for a male cat to kiss her but he gets yanked out of the scene. A dog suddenly appears and disclaims he does not belong in the cartoon, "But I can't pass up a chance like THIS!!!" and gives the girl cat an incredible kiss before exhuberantly exiting the scene.

    Real Life 
  • Pablo Escobar's infamous offer: "plata o plomo", "silver or lead".
  • Duress is a legal defense for most crimes in many jurisdictions (usually with the exception of murder), which usually means threats of violence toward oneself or another (e.g. being forced to rob a bank by people holding your loved ones hostage).
  • In 1945, the Rockefeller Foundation were deeply afraid that the discovery of nuclear power would threaten the lucrative oil business that had built the family fortune. To head off this threat, they approached geneticist Hermann Muller to scaremonger about radiation for them: he was in no position to refuse as he was 56 years old, had no pension or savings (due to frequent job-changes often forced on him as a result of his socialist beliefs), and had a young wife and a 2-year-old daughter with health problems who would likely require expensive treatments.


Video Example(s):


Jason Rake

After capturing the underwater pirate captain Jason Rake, the duplicitous Admiral Lancaster presses him into his service.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / RecruitingTheCriminal

Media sources: