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Bond Villain Stupidity

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Dr. Evil: Scott, I want you to meet daddy's nemesis, Austin Powers.
Scott: What? Are you feeding him? Why don't you just kill him?
Dr. Evil: No Scott, I have an even better idea: I'm going to place him in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death.

Bond Villain Stupidity is a form of ignorance commonly exhibited by villains. It occurs when a villain fails to kill the hero when he has him cornered, incapacitated, or otherwise defenseless, thus giving the hero a chance to escape and later come back to defeat the villain. This may occur as a result of Within Arm's Reach — where a character appears to be totally helpless in a fight but nevertheless manages to seize some advantage from something within arm's reach. Essentially, this is where having too much ambition backfires; they lose sight of the matter at hand and turn their attention on all the wrong things. It is so named because it occurs frequently in James Bond movies. A common form of Bond Villain Stupidity is to place the hero in an elaborate Death Trap from which he can escape (slow dipping mechanisms over pits of sharks, alligators, acid, lava or simply water are perennial favorites). If you ever asked why the villains don't just shoot him, then use their pets/lava to dispose of the body, congratulations! You are smarter than the average megalomaniac. Also common is the inability to resist a Just Between You and Me moment before putting the hero in said death trap. Several variants of this one made the Evil Overlord List.


Often includes Evil Gloating, accompanied by stock quotes such as "You Have No Chance to Survive! I don't think we'll meet again... Goodbye!"

If they actually expect the hero to die before their eyes, it's Prepare to Die.

Objective logic and villain hang-ups aside, the Doylist reason for this trope is because giving the hero an unceremonious, mundane death at the hands of the villain is very disappointing for the audience; see Dropped a Bridge on Him.

This is so common that the Hypercompetent Sidekick pointing out the inherent flaws in this trope and suggesting a more pragmatic solution has become a trope on its own: Stating the Simple Solution. For more generalized villainous incompetence, see Villain Ball.

Note that there are several legitimate reasons why the villain may opt to let the hero walk away; if any of these are in play, this trope is not.


Roger Ebert called this the "Fallacy of the Talking Killer" in his Glossary of Movie Terms.

Subtrope of Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? and Stupid Evil.


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    James Bond 
A recurring Fatal Flaw for many villains in the James Bond series is their refusal to just kill Bond in an easy, convenient, or practical way. It's gotten so ubiquitous with them that it's become the Trope Namer. The antagonists in any Bond movie tend to gloat about their Evil Plans, but by then, 007 has already cooked up a plan B to escape and defeat the baddies. Examples in chronological order:
  • Dr. No:
    • After a dinner goes wrong, Dr. No orders his guards to beat Bond up and imprison him. 007 naturally escapes. Arguably justified in that this was the first Bond film, so nobody knew how dangerous he could be.
    • In the book, he also had Bond run through Dr. No's death course. Bond was close to dying through it, multiple times. As did everyone else Dr. No had "tested"; the course was designed to kill. The only difference Dr. No ever expected was how long it would take. Funny how much difference a stolen lighter and a steak knife (and Bond!) can make...
  • In From Russia with Love, Red Grant's plan is to just shoot Bond, and he actually manages to get the drop on his target and have him completely at his mercy, but he still fails because he can't resist indulging in some Evil Gloating and a Just Between You and Me speech. In Red's defense, he still would have been fine if he hadn't fallen for Bond's bribe. At least he didn't leave the guy unattended, unlike most of the jokers on this list.
    • He'd also had plenty of opportunities to kill Bond before he even got on the train, but his failure to do so was his superior's fault: Red's boss' boss (Blofeld in the movie, General G in the novel) didn't just want Bond to die, he wanted him to die in a manner that would embarrass MI6 and the British government, which required a more elaborate setup then just shooting him as he walked down the street.
  • Averted and played straight by Goldfinger. Audric Goldfinger was originally going to just have Bond sliced in half by a laser, but moments from loosing his manhood Bond himself points out that if he dies, then the Secret Service will just send in some guy called 008. Goldfinger decides instead to keep Bond alive and trick his superiors into thinking Bond has the situation well in hand. This works, and Goldfinger's plan probably would have succeeded if Bond hadn't used the opportunity to charm Pussy Galore.
    • In the same film, however, Goldfinger plays the trope straight in dealing with his gangster accomplices. While he is showing them his plan with an elaborate miniature Fort Knox, one gangster demands to leave and take his gold with him. They load the gold in a car and Oddjob drives him away, ostensibly to the airport. Oddjob kills him as soon as the gangster notices they aren't heading to the airport. Instead of just dumping the body, however he takes the car, with the body in it, to an auto yard where it is cubed. He then returns to the farm where Goldfinger says they will have to extract the gold from the car. The kicker is that, after that gangster left, Goldfinger had the room sealed and all the other gangsters gassed to death anyway. So why not just excuse himself for a minute, leaving that one guy with the others and kill them all at once as he had already planned to do, instead of destroying a car for no reason (and even then, why not just take the gold out of the car before making it a three foot by three foot cube, rather than after)?
    • Notably, in the novel, the gangster who opted out of the plan "fell down the stairs" on his way out of the meeting, and the others all agreed to join the plan and were left alive, rather than the elaborate setup from the movie.
    • At one point Bond escapes his cell. Instead of trying to escape from the farm, he finds Goldfinger and the two sit drinking lemonade while Goldfinger explains his plan.
  • Thunderball:
    • Fiona Volpe successfully seduces Bond - not that that's especially difficult to do - and doesn't do a High-Heel–Face Turn, but then monologues about it and generally screws around until Bond escapes, killing her shortly thereafter. Helga Brandt makes almost the exact same mistake a film later, though she's instead killed by her superior for being a moron.
      • Big Bad Largo himself provides a classic example. He catches Bond in his pool fighting with one of his men. The mook with him is just about to shoot Bond, but Largo stops him and instead traps Bond in there to be eaten by his sharks. Naturally, Bond uses this to escape.
  • In You Only Live Twice, Blofeld's guilty of it at least twice; first, he sends an assassin to kill Bond with an elaborate poison trick while he sleeps… you know, instead of shooting him or dropping a grenade on him or any of the myriad other ways to kill a sleeping guy from roughly the same distance. Later, he catches Bond in his base, and keeps him alive because he wants Bond to witness his success even though he really ought to know better than that by now. He even pulls an elaborate fakeout where he seems like he's about to shoot Bond, but shoots his own henchman instead at the last second. A little while after that, he finally tries to shoot Bond for real, but of course by then it's too late with Tiger Tanaka stopping him with a well-aimed shuriken.
  • Justified in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, where for once Blofeld actually has a sensible reason for keeping the captured 007 alive and explaining the plot to him: Bond as a government agent would be an external witness to his activities to verify his claims that he can actually release a "Virus Omega" and is not merely bluffing.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd had Bond unconscious and they simply dumped him in an unfinished pipeline and left, assuming he'd eventually die. Doubly stupid, as this was the second time the pair had been given an unconscious James Bond to dispose of; the first time they tried to burn him alive, which admittedly would have worked as he was only saved by other villains.
  • Most of Live and Let Die revolves around this, as the villains sequentially attempt an elaborate assassination involving a snake (despite having keys to his room), leave him unattended on a small island to be eaten by alligators, and finally try to have him fed to sharks - admittedly a classic - instead of just shooting him, despite by then having had enough experience with the guy to know better.
  • The Man with the Golden Gun:
    • Bond takes up Hai Fat's invitation to join him for dinner in his mansion while pretending to be Francisco Scaramanga, not knowing that the real Scaramanga had already gotten in touch with the guy. When he arrives there late at night, he's incapacitated by some guards in an ambush. As they're about to kill him, Hai Fat forbids them from doing so because he doesn't want Bond killed in his home. They'll just take him somewhere else to finish him off, right? Nope. Hai Fat has Bond placed in a krabi krabong school to... get beaten up. Scaramanga rightfully ridicules Hai Fat's thinking before killing him.
    • Justifiably invoked by Scaramanga late in the film; he freely admits that he could have used his solar-powered laser to blow up Bond's plane before he even landed on the island, but chose not to do so because of how unsatisfying it would be. Scaramanga would like nothing better than to engage in "a duel between titans" with 007 himself.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me: Karl Stromberg orders his soldiers to take Bond to imprisoned with the American, British, and Soviet submariners while he leaves with Major Anya Amasova, instead of simply shooting them. Bond easily escapes and he frees the submariners and they fight back against their captors, eventually foiling Stromberg's hopes of instigating WWIII. Later, as Bond makes it to Atlantis to stop Stromberg and save Anya, Stromberg first tries to send Bond down a booby-trapped elevator into his shark tank, but Bond manages to avoid the trap. Later, Stromberg finally tries to shoot Bond himself with a special gun hidden beneath his dining table, and again, Bond avoids the attack and he finishes off Stromberg himself.
  • For Your Eyes Only:
    • In The Teaser, "Blofeld" opts to toy with Bond in the helicopter, instead of just crashing it as soon as he takes control. Justified in this case by the fact that "Blofeld" had looked forward to killing Bond for a long time and had been crippled by him - he wanted Bond to suffer.
    • The main villain is guilty of it as well, choosing to kill Bond and the Bond Girl by dragging them behind his boat and assuming sharks ate them when they finally disappeared as opposed to shooting them before throwing them overboard and then using the sharks to dispose of the evidence.
  • Octopussy:
    • Averted earlier in the film: After learning Bond has escaped from his palace, Kamal Khan goes on a literal manhunt after him, and he almost succeeds before Bond gets away with some tourists that happened to be passing by.
    • Downplayed later on, when General Orlov and Kamal have snuck a nuclear warhead into an US Air Force base in West Germany and have set it to detonate. After Kamal and Gobinda have left, they see Bond hurriedly driving to the base to try to prevent it from detonating. However, they let him him go since the German police are pursuing him, thus believing he'd fail to make it there in time.
  • A View to a Kill:
    • Early on, Zorin decides to kill Bond by rolling his car into a lake, presumably to Make It Look Like an Accident. Downplayed, though, as Zorin does try to get it done while James is still unconscious and even stays at the lake long enough to make sure James couldn't have survived (James does survive by spotting that Zorin was watching and using the air from the tire to stay underwater until Zorin left).
    • Later, Zorin has Bond at his mercy but decides to kill him by locking him in a museum and setting it on fire. Justified, however, in that he wants to frame Bond for the murder of someone else and make it look like he failed to escape after setting the museum on fire himself.
  • Averted in The Living Daylights as the villain's whole plan hinges on Bond killing someone on his say so and his own ability to look like the victim and/or hero. He does miss a good opportunity to kill Bond late in the film, but it's because he thinks sending Bond to jail will be better for his cover - which he'd be right about, if Bond hadn't already outsmarted him a few scenes before.
  • Almost averted again in Licence to Kill as the villain doesn't find out Bond's not on his side 'till very near the end, and when he does put Bond into his death trap he sticks around to watch until he's forced to leave because the place is on fire and about to explode, at which point he leaves his number two man in charge of finishing the job. Naturally, that goes poorly for him, but credit to Sanchez for getting so much closer to getting it right than most.
  • In GoldenEye, the villains have several opportunities to just shoot Bond and don't. Then Ouroumov has the chance to shoot Bond, announces that he is about to do it, and then is promptly cold-cocked. What moves this into beyond-belief territory is that both have direct evidence of how dangerous he is when cornered. The only such opportunity that has a justified reason for not killing him is in the Statue yard, where Trevelyan is trying to frame Bond and Natalya for the theft of the helicopter. If a post-explosion examination of the bodies revealed that they had been shot beforehand, it would have raised suspicion. Also, given Trevelyan's motivations, it's not merely enough to kill Bond, and if it would be he usually has more pragmatic reasons for keeping them alive. The aforementioned frame-up is just the first such example.
  • Elliot Carver was preparing to do this in Tomorrow Never Dies, leaving Mr. Stamper and his henchmen to torture Bond and Wai Lin for an ungodly number of hours before letting them die, but the heroes decide to make their escape before Carver even leaves the room.
  • Zig-zagged by Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough. For most of the film, she averts the trope in that her aim is to seduce Bond into becoming her new Renard, rather than to kill him. When she does decide to kill Bond, however, she straps him to a torture chair that will slowly apply pressure to the back of his neck until it snaps. She is, admittedly, about five seconds away from succeeding when Zukozsky intervenes, but she would have succeeded if she hadn't stopped to gloat between each turn of the screw. What truly moves this into "stupidity" territory is that when Zukovsky arrives, she pulls out a gun and shoots him, then instead of shooting Bond too, she drops the gun in front of him and runs away, in the delusional belief that he wouldn't shoot a previous lover. Even after she tried to kill him not ten seconds ago. This ends about as well for Elektra as you'd expect.
  • It's either lampshaded or a spectacularly bad example, albeit not involving Bond himself: In Die Another Day, two henchmen have Jinx at their mercy, and one actually proposes shooting her... but the other one wants to do it with lasers, and gets his way, allowing Bond time to arrive and rescue her. Earlier in the film, Bond gets out a Bullet-Proof Vest and Colonel Moon keeps shooting it until it falls off into the ground.
  • In Casino Royale Mr. White makes a dumb and wholly unnecessary deal to keep Bond alive. It ends poorly for him in Spectre.
  • Not quite averted in Quantum of Solace, as while the villains never really have Bond at their mercy the way they usually do at least once a movie, they do, however, leave the oft-imperiled Bond girl alive way too many times, and she ends up having as much to do with their downfall as 007 does.
  • Raoul Silva in Skyfall initially toys with Bond instead of killing him because it's all part of his plan to get caught so he can exact revenge on M. Later, however, his failure to take advantage of various opportunities to kill the heroes after said plan has already run its course is best chalked up to Plot Armor and Sanity Has Advantages.
  • Crops up several times in Spectre. Big Bad Oberhauser's petty desire to sadistically torment and relish in Bond's suffering due to their Cain and Abel relationship leads to his downfall.
    • First, when he has Bond at his mercy in his secret base, he just decided to go all Evil Gloating and Break the Badass on both Bond and the Bond Girl, and then he'd get to killing Bond after the Cold-Blooded Torture instead of instantaneously killing 007. This gives 007 ample time to bail out and conjure a plan to take down Oberhauser and C.
    • The second time, he constructs an elaborate Death Trap, giving Bond a Sadistic Choice: escape now on your own but live with the guilt of not saving Madeleine Swann in time for the rest of your life, or try to rescue Swann and die together. Bond Takes a Third Option, and he not only manages to save Swann in the nick of time, he also gives chase to Blofeld and has him arrested for his crimes. In this case, Oberhauser was playing on Bond's feelings to get him to fall, but since he was more interested in tormenting Bond rather than killing him, this gave Bond plenty of time to find Swann and then escape.
    • Oberhauser's henchmen aren't too bright either. When they kidnap Bond, they tie his hands in front of him, with plastic zip ties. Sure enough, Bond is able to grab one of their guns and shoot them both, then break free.
    • C/Max Denbigh himself is guilty of this, as he had many chances to kill M so he won't hinder his Evil Plan to seize control of the world's intelligence agencies and forward the collected intel to SPECTRE, but opts to go for Break Them by Talking near the climax. He also fails to realize that M managed to do a sweep of his office and empty his gun before C gets there, being that M is a former field agent unlike C, who's more of a corrupt paper-shuffler. He finally tries to kill M, but M manages to grab C's gun and send him down a Disney Villain Death.
  • Empire listed the Bond Villain Monologues, while stating on all "What he should have done: Shot Him", save Tomorrow Never Dies. There, the villain should have "Bought Google." To be fair, General Whittaker in The Living Daylights only monologued to distract Bond as a remote control gun was aiming to shoot him.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • During the original Dragon Ball, in his fight against Goku during the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai, Tenshinhan, who was starting to feel overpowered by Goku's tremendous stamina and having several of his techniques outdone by Goku's very own, ingenuously decides that, if he cannot knock Goku unconscious or push him out of the platform, he will simply destroy the entire platform; that way, Goku will lose by ring out because there would be no platform left to stand on. Tenshinhan, who possesses the ability to fly, does not have that problem. He manages to destroy the platform with his powerful Kikouhou, but instead of simply waiting for Goku, who has jumped very high to escape the blast, to hit the ground, he decides to fly close to him, accompanying Goku as he fell down, in order to gloat about his inevitable victory. That opens an opportunity for Goku to use one last attack that knocks Tenshinhan unconscious, and now both fighters are falling to the ground. Subverted because Tenshinhan, by a stroke of luck, actually wins the fight, but he is likely in worse physical condition than Goku by the end of it. (In the manga he's a bit smarter; he intends to stay where he is and watch Goku fall, but Goku reacts quickly.)
    • For a Professional Killer, Tao Pai Pai is pretty damn careless. After his first fight with Goku, he shoots him with a Dodonpa, seemingly killing him, but Tao Pai Pai doesn't bother to actually check Goku's body to make sure. Naturally, Goku is still very much alive, and while Tao Pai Pai is off doing other things, Goku trains with Karin to gain enough power to beat him.
    • Dragon Ball Z has many examples of this:
      • Frieza shows that he completely outclasses Goku and the rest of the heroes while only fighting at 50% power and that he could kill all of them in an instant, and yet he toys with them and lets the fight drag on... until Goku transforms, that is. Frieza himself even lampshades the fact that he should probably just take Goku out right now after the 20x Kaioken, but he still keeps screwing around anyway. He lampshades it again after Goku transforms, kicking himself for not just killing Goku when he had the chance; by the time he realizes this, however, he has no hope of victory.
      • Before then, Frieza's elite, Zarbon, beats Vegeta senseless and drops him into a lake, but refuses to check for Vegeta's body and make sure he's actually dead, in part because he doesn't want to mess up his hair by doing so. Frieza furiously lambasts Zarbon for his idiocy, correctly surmising that Vegeta has found and hidden at least one Dragon Ball and Zarbon's actions may very well have cost them their chances at finding it.
      • During the Cell Saga, Vegeta, after having trained for a year in the Room of Spirit and Time, powers up to Super Saiyan Second Grade, and becomes much, much stronger than his opponent, Semi-Perfect Cell. Rather than finish him here, Vegeta lets Cell absorb Android 18 and upgrade to his Perfect form, lusting for a greater fight. Cue Perfect Cell completely Curb-Stomping Vegeta, and later Trunks. While Vegeta is on the good guys' side at this time, the effect is the same.
      • Vegeta also indulged in this as a villain during the Saiyan Saga, when he decided to wait for three hours for Goku to return to Earth so he and Nappa could crush the hopes of Earth's warriors.
      • Cell himself makes the exact same mistake. After ascending to his Perfect form, and defeating Piccolo, Vegeta, Trunks, and Android 16 in the process, he becomes the most powerful being on earth. Rather than kill everyone, he opts to give the Z-Fighters 10 days to prepare for a tournament. Those were probably the Vegeta cells inside him, as Vegeta himself does this a few times as well, as mentioned above. Taken Up to Eleven during his fight with Gohan, where, after discovering Gohan's hidden power, does everything he can to piss Gohan off enough to unleash said power just because he wants a more challenging fight; keep in mind that he tricked Vegeta into doing the exact same thing in order to ascend to his Perfect form, and openly mocked Vegeta for being stupid enough to fall for it.
      • Insanely inverted with Majin Buu. He has the Z-Fighters cornered, but Piccolo makes a sick choice that will buy them more time — suggesting to Buu that it would be more fun to kill the rest of the humans on Earth in the meantime (knowing that they can reverse the damage with the Dragonballs if they can power up enough to survive the fight), prompting horrified reactions all around. Buu simply kills the remaining survivors with one attack, then proceeds to thin the numbers of the Z-Fighters and blow up the world.
      • Dragon Ball generally inverts this trope almost as much as it plays it straight. The Heroes are just as prone to holding back in their fights or letting the villains go, just to result in them coming back stronger later. The worst offender is probably Gohan, who, due to not possessing the same natural fighting instinct and impulse control of the Saiyans and willing martial artists, has a problem with holding back too much during his fights due to some emotional or subconscious drive and giving the villains too many openings.
      • Averted with Future Trunks. After improving by going back in time, he is much more powerful when he faces Android 17 and 18 and Imperfect Cell. He wastes no time Curb-Stomping them, making sure that they are gone. Makes sense, since he grew up in misery, watching all of his loved ones die, and saw his world destroyed by the Androids. He just wants them finished as soon as possible.
  • After knocking about most of the cast with ease, Roa of Shingetsutan Tsukihime inexplicably declares "We Will Meet Again" and falls backwards off a bridge while laughing madly. This isn't the only instance, but it is by far the most entertaining.
  • Done quite deliberately by Jeremiah Gottwald in the Grand Finale of Code Geass, when he calls off Lelouch's Knightmare Royal Guard and duels the attacking Zero/Suzaku by himself, so as to allow Suzaku to convincingly kill Lelouch for world peace.
    • In episode 4, Jeremiah does this NOT on purpose when Clovis' personal car — hijacked by Zero and company — make their way towards Suzaku's execution. When asked by his subordinates in security if they should blow up the car, Jeremiah replies "No! I shall take them myself!" If it hadn't been for Jeremiah's arrogance, the whole show would've ended right then and there.
    • Lelouch himself does this several times, such as when he taunts Euphemia during the hostage situation about his hatred of the royal family (planting the seeds in her mind that Zero might be Lelouch). He also reveals to Suzaku that he knows Suzaku's deepest secret — that Suzaku killed his own father — in order to appear omniscient. Not only does this fail to recruit him, but Suzaku begins to suspect Zero's identity, as Lelouch is one of the few who knows Suzaku is a patricide.
  • Subverted in the fifth The Garden of Sinners movie. Araya mercilessly destroys Tohko, but keeps her head alive on purpose — she's created multiple exact duplicates of her own body and linked them to herself, so whenever she is "killed", her consciousness transfers to the next body, making her depend on this trope. When Alba fulfills the trope and crushes her head, she comes back with a vengeance(-in-a-box).
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: After stomping Negi and his team, Fate decides they aren't completely worthless because they barely pulled off not dying of the wounds he inflicted. Instead of, you know, killing them in the face like he's clearly capable of, he says 'Okay I'm bored just gonna blow the gate up now. By the way, you suck Negi. Go level grind moar. Later' May be justified in that he intended to use Negi and seems oddly reluctant to actually kill people. Also definitely planning on using Asuna for something, but we don't know what yet. It eventually turns out that he's capable of changing the reality of the magic world on a whim, so his belief that they pose him no threat is at least partially justified.
  • In the Kämpfer anime, Kaede Sakura had one of the good guys under her control, and used her to defeat the other blue and red Kämpferinnen. But instead of just killing them like she said she would do, she tied them up with a chain, gloated at Shizuku, and tried to use the mind-controlled ally to kill them instead. However, not only did said victim break free of the mind control, but the heroes got Heroic Resolve so strong they broke free and went to town on the enemy.
  • Happens a couple of times in Black Lagoon, as a sign that the person in question is an amateur who's out of their depth in Roanapur.
    • While Revy and Dutch are clearing out a boat full of Neo-Nazis, one of the Nazis manages to ambush Revy and... launches into a lengthy speech about his awesomeness, the awesomeness of the Aryan race, the awesomeness of the gun he's about to kill Revy with... This goes on for nearly a full minute before Revy gets fed up, shoots him, and sardonically asks whether he was trying to kill her or sell the gun to her.
    • Happens twice in the space of three minutes in the "Hunt for Greenback Jane" arc. First, Sawyer chases Rock and Jane onto the roof of the burning dockyard, but instead of just cutting them up, she instead launches into a very long (and thanks to her speech synthesiser, very slow) speech about how she's going to enjoy doing so. Then an explosion triggered by the fire knocks the synthesiser out of her hands, and she suffers a Freak Out that takes her out of the fight. While Lagoon Company are discussing what to do with her, Lotton the Wizard appears on the opposite rooftop, unseen by anyone, with a clear shot... and launches into a dramatic introduction that gets cut short when Revy shoots him. Apparently he was Genre Savvy enough to wear a bulletproof vest, but not savvy enough to just shoot first. Shenhua even lampshades afterwards what a stupid idea that was.
  • At one point in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, Tails is using a bit of Applied Phlebotinum, about the size of a wrist watch, to mess with Metal Sonic's programming. From off-screen, Dr. Robotnik whips out a laser gun and shoots the machine right off Tails' wrist, then he orders Metal Sonic to kill Sonic and Tails. Logic dictates that Robotnik could have just as easily saved a step by shooting Tails in the head.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Lust stabs Mustang and Havoc and leaves them to bleed to death on the floor and doesn't actually watch them die. Cue her surprise when Mustang comes back to kill her, having cauterized his own wound with fire.
    • Wrath takes it a step further. Having observed Mustang brutally burn his sister to death, he determines that the currently extremely vulnerable Mustang should be left alive, on the logic that Mustang is too valuable to kill, as his alchemical skill is likely good enough to open the Gate. While he's completely right, and Mustang being forced through the Gate is eventually what triggers the city-wide transmutation circle, Wrath has still made the decision not to kill the one person who, besides being smart and having a personal vendetta against them, is exceptionally good at killing homunculi. This ends poorly for the bad guys.
      • Of course, had Wrath decided otherwise he would've had to clear the room of witnesses before Mustang added the most vulnerable homunculus (due to not having a Philosopher's Stone) to his kill list.
  • Quite prominent in Naruto; every time a villain has the hero in the bag, they invariably will stop to gloat, allow said hero to get back up to make the fight more fun, or just decide to be idiots instead of killing them right then and there.
    • Notably when Orochimaru had the Third cornered with a kunai and instead of just SLICING HIS HEAD OFF like any smart person, decided to do a huge elaborate drama in which he summoned the Third Hokage's own teachers to kill him, resulting in Orochimaru losing the use of his arms.
    • Sadistically subverted by Hidan: he savors killing so much, he toys with poor Asuma to the very end, who really does get Killed Off for Real.
    • Unbelievably subverted with the power of Edo Tensei — everyone under its control is already dead. As such, a Magnificent Bastard may pull any form of Kick the Dog they want without fear of getting killed by retaliation. However, they can still have their souls sealed away or put to rest. Absolute villains like Deidara, Kakuzu, and Madara Uchiha push it to extremes, while others, like Sasori, Gaara's father, Nagato, and Itachi use it as means to apologize or atone. Itachi even has his free will back!
    • Justified in the case of Kaguya Ōtsutsuki. Being so powerful she never encountered a real challenge or situation where she wasn't free to do as she wished. It's not that she's intentionally passing up chances to end the fight so she can toy with her opponents (though she does consider them beneath her), but rather that she seriously doesn't know any better.
  • At one point in Saki, Amae Koromo, who has been dominating the game since she appeared, has the opportunity to give one of her opponents a negative score, thus instantly ending the game and winning the tournament for her team. However, instead of doing this, she quite deliberately makes a lower-scoring move which reduces said opponent's score to exactly zero instead (according to the rules of this particular tournament, someone with a score of zero has a chance to come back) just because she wants to psychologically manipulate everyone and prevent the other players from making a certain type of high-scoring move. Sure enough, this buys our hero just enough time to come up with a way to win.
  • In the second Black Jack OAV, when the title character stumbles upon an international drug ring working with a local hospital administrator in the course of treating a coma patient, instead of just shooting him, the gangsters drug Black Jack and leave him to die in a burning peyote grow op.
  • Sailor Moon has Queen Beryl put Jadeite in Eternal Sleep just as he's about to reveal who the Sailor Senshi really were. Had she not been so impatient to kill Jadeite for his latest failure, the Sailor Senshi would've been goners for sure.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, Ryoko Asakura tries to kill Kyon with a knife, giving him a chance to dodge. When that doesn't work, she freezes him in place, and it is later implied that she could have just outright deleted him from existence. She's a malfunctioning alien bio-robot, so it makes sense.
  • The Dark Signers from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's weren't known for being smart, but the biggest example of stupidity on their part was when Yusei's duel with Kiryu left the hero battered, wounded, close to death, and with a fear of the villain that would take several episodes to recover from. Why didn't Kiryu finish him off when he had the chance? He claimed it "wasn't the right time." (Kiryu was almost the living definition of Ax-Crazy at the time, so at least he had that as an excuse.)
  • Bleach:
    • Luppi thinks he's taken down Hitsugaya in one strike and doesn't follow through. Lampshaded by Hitsugaya when he points out that all it did was give him all the time in the world to set up an attack that could curb-stomp Luppi. Luppi was also mocked by his peers upon returning to Hueco Mundo for having been defeated so completely.
    • Aizen sets up an elaborate method of ensuring Ichigo can train for a power upgrade before they fight. He was hoping Ichigo would achieve a level of power strong enough for Aizen to reach a new level of power. Unfortunately for Aizen, he completely underestimated Ichigo's growth potential and ended up being curbstomped.
  • During the final battle in Plastic Little, the main villain has Tita by the neck and is counting down until he breaks it, when Tita finishes it from him and blows his brains out. What makes it particularly stupid is that the villain knows Tita is holding the gun (and she is still capable of using it) and doesn't do anything to disarm her.
  • One Piece:
    • Played with in Alabasta; Crocodile traps most of the heroes in a cage, tosses the key to one of his giant pet crocodiles, and lets water slowly fill the room. After he leaves, it seems like he's just being overconfident that the good guys are doomed, but it turns out that he has the real key to the cage — the one he tossed was a fake. Nonetheless, the heroes escape thanks to a Chekhov's Gun while he's gone.
    • During the Dressrosa Arc, there's an example of this plus Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: the Straw Hats' plan to liberate the island required knocking Sugar out, thus undoing the effect of her Devil Fruit power on previous victims, which had turned them into toys and made them her slaves (a number that, over ten years, had amounted to thousands). The initial plan was to trick her into eating an incredibly spicy Tatababasco berry disguised as a grape, which would make her collapse. But the plan didn't work well, to say the least; Sugar's toys found out about it, and in the ensuing confrontation ended with Robin becoming a victim of the power in an attempt to restrain Sugar, Usopp beaten up by Sugar's bodyguard Trebol, and the Straw hats' Tontatta allies beaten senseless. It would seem the heroes were, well, doomed. Until Sugar decided that, rather than use her power on Usopp (which she usually did to captured prisoners, and really had no reason to stop now) she would make him suffer, and force fed him the Tatababasco. It made Usopp make a Wild Take to end all Wild Takes, scaring Sugar into submission and, while not the way they planned, knocked her out, doing the job anyway.
      • It should be noted that Sugar wasn't aware that it was Tatababasco and mistook it for poison. She was in belief that it might kill him (in a painful way).
  • In the second to last episode of the first season of Sword Art Online, Sugou/Oberon, who has spammed his Game Master status and traps Kirito and Asuna, stabs Kirito with Kirito's own sword after chaining up Asuna before he does his Attempted Rape on her. After stabbing Kirito into the ground, he's about to change the pain absorber, which, once it drops below level 3, starts affecting a user's body in the real world. Given that he was in complete control of situation and the world in which Kirito was trapped in, Oberon could've turned it off all the way on Kirito by setting the absorber to level 0 (or at least below 3) to ensure he will never have to deal with Kirito again in either the digital or real worlds. And if that happened, seeing Asuna in pain as Oberon rapes her would potentially inflict more pain and stress on Kirito and kill him in real life. Sugou wins, the end! Instead, being overconfident in his complete control of the situation, he sets it to level 8, insisting on gradually decreasing the levels to increase the pain to "give [Kirito] something to look forward to". Because of this, Kirito isn't completely dead, and gets help from Kayaba's digital spirit, who gives Kirito his admin status to turn the tables on Oberon by setting his in-game level to 1, and turning off the pain absorber on Oberon himself, then proceeds to kill him, thus, foiling Sugou/Oberon's plans. Even if Sugou had no way of foreseeing Kayaba's intervention, that still wasn't exactly a smart move.
  • During midterms in My Hero Academia, Mineta and Sero are put in a mock battle against the Pro Hero Midnight (playing the role of a villain the two have to subdue or escape past). Midnight knocks Sero out easily, but not before he slings Mineta out of range of her sleeping gas. Midnight admits she could just camp the exit until Mineta runs out of time and fails, but her sadistic streak rears up and she gives chase, giving Mineta time to regroup and trap Midnight for the win.

    Comic Books 
  • Name any villain that Batman has fought at least twice, and it's a sure bet that he or she has done something like this. The fact that his enemies tend to be insane is one of the biggest reasons he's survived so long. This gets deconstructed with The Riddler, who knows full well that leaving clues at his crime scenes and leaving a difficult-but-possible escape method in his deathtraps is just going to land him back in Arkham Asylum. By his own admission, he quite literally cannot help himself.
  • In the Ultimate Spider-Man series, one villain, Hammerhead, tries to avoid this trope by pulling out a gun and shooting a troublemaker; unfortunately, said troublemaker manages to catch the bullet unharmed, much to Hammerhead's surprise.
  • The Umbrella Academy Story Arc The Apocalypse Suite averts this, as the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds White Violin gets shot by her brother before she causes The End of the World as We Know It. Equally, it doesn't avert it earlier when Kraken (one of the White Violin's other brothers) fails, for some reason, to destroy her violin or bow when he had the chance.
  • Justified in the classic Disney comic story Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot. In the story, the villainous Blot puts Mickey in death traps time and time again, but Mickey always escapes. It turns out that The Blot does this because, despite being evil, he can't stand to actually see anyone get hurt, let alone die. So he constructs elaborate traps to kill Mickey for him, then always leaves because he can't bear to watch.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • In the Knuckles Chaotix special, the original Robotnik manages to successfully trap Sonic and all of the Freedom Fighters inside glass mirrors. However, Knuckles, who also fell into said trap, doesn't get trapped in a mirror. Instead, Robotnik takes away his special abilities (like his gliding and his spiked knuckles) just so he can still have someone to gloat over. Naturally, since Knuckles is still free, this gives him a perfect opportunity to build together a resistance to take him down. A minion even lampshades the obvious stupidity of this moment.
    • Taken to extremes in one issue. Dr. Eggman decides he's sick of fooling around with Sonic and launches an all-out attack on his hometown. His forces manage to blast nearly every single good guy (except three) with powerful lasers that seem to vaporize them on contact. He then beats the crap out of Sonic for good measure. Looks like Eggman has finally won... except that those lasers didn't kill Sonic's friends, they were just teleport beams, which sent them all to cells at Eggman's HQ. Eggman announces he'll kill them all THERE… even though he could have killed them much more easily by simply making his lasers lethal in the first place. This is doubly stupid because Sonic believes everyone is dead... until Eggman TELLS Sonic that his friends are alive, and where to find them. Then he's actually surprised when Sonic mounts a rescue and frees them all. If he'd just kept his trap shut, Eggman would have had plenty of time to kill everybody.
  • Averted in the first issue of the 1988 miniseries Black Orchid; the villain has the heroine at his mercy, and instead of sticking her in a deathtrap, he just shoots her. And then, having established that she's immune to bullets, he kills her with fire, and makes sure she's dead. The miniseries turns out to be about the heroine's sister dealing with the consequences of her death.
  • The Yellow Bastard in Sin City was fine leaving Hartigan hanging by his neck and didn't stick around long to make sure he couldn't escape, which he did. To his credit, people typically die when they are hanged. Hanged people mostly die from breaking their necks. If one survives the fall, failing to suffocate is not common but very much possible. So it's more like a case of generic stupidity owing to lack of research on the subject than the Bond Villain kind.
  • The Extremist Vector: The Extremists have a pretty bad case. First, they did not kill the Silver Sorcerer after getting the spell from her, and sent her to Carny giving her a chance to escape. They defeated the Justice League, and let them be. They defeated them a second time, and sent them to Carny as well. In this case it's possible they were trying to avoid their earlier mistake which lead to them wiping out all life on a planet they'd intended to rule over.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Despite being a supergenius, Doctor Doom falls prey to this a lot whenever he's trying to kill his hated Arch-Enemy Reed Richards. This is sort of justified though, because Doom's end goal isn't killing Reed — it's proving to Reed that Doom is smarter than him, and then killing him. Therefore, killing Reed without gloating about how he has been outsmarted and making him watch Doom Take Over the World and kill everyone Reed loves isn't just a tad disappointing to Doom — it would be completely antithetical to Doom's entire purpose in being evil.
    • One of the biggest examples of this trope in Marvel Comics was done by the Frightful Four. Well, three of them; the Wizard, Trapster, and Sandman were, as usual, in need of a fourth member, something they never seemed able to hang onto. They managed to invade the Baxter Building, ambush the team and take the heroes hostage. So what do they do now that they have their foes at their mercy? Dispose of them? Engage in sadistic torture? Maybe hack into Reed's files? Nope. They use the Baxter Building to hold auditions for a fourth member, and force the heroes to watch. Unfortunately for them, most of the folks who showed up were Harmless Villains and a few folks who were trying to decide between this and something more legit including Texas Twister (who rejected their offer because S.H.I.E.L.D. had offered better), and Captain Ultra (making his first appearance here, likely what made the issue stand out most) but it really turned bad for the villains when Tigra - who was friends with the FF - showed up and saw the situation. She got them out, and when the Wizard announced over the intercom to everyone waiting that whoever helped them fight the heroes could join them, they proved smarter than he was - they ran for the exit. (One villain, the Brute remained, and he ended up the fourth member, but like all other fourth members of the Frightful Four, he didn't last long.)
  • In Dracula vs. King Arthur, Dracula has Arthur captured and brought to Dracula where he could've easily killed him and took over the kingdom. But rather then doing the sensible thing to clinch victory, he instead decides to "break his will" and just have Arthur thrown into the ocean after his subjects and feed on him. As you can imagine not only does this not happen, but Arthur recovers, gains some new weapons from the Lady of the Lake and regroups his remaining forces for a final battle which ended in Dracula's defeat. Yeah, nice one, lord of the darkness.
  • Near the end of Revival our heroes are surrounded at gunpoint by US military. The commanding officer clarifies to his own troops that they have orders to kill, listens to and rebuts protests by the heroes, and counts down to coordinate the execution. The heroes' backup has plenty of time to show up and save the day.
  • During the early days of the Captain America comic books the villains had this trope BAD. Nearly every story involved the villains knocking out Captain America, Bucky, or both, then locking them in a cell or something before declaring that they're going to kill them now, only for Cap and Bucky to have escaped in the meantime. Naturally this results in the villains subsequently being beaten.
  • Famously defied by Ozymandias in Watchmen.
    Ozymandias: Dan, I'm not a Republic Serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.
  • The first issue of Bloodstrike features the team infiltrating a scientific facility, under orders of a mysterious government agent - they find their target, Corben, and shoot, but he laughs, revealing he's only a hologram. Later, once they've killed everyone, Corben shows up again, and, instead of shooting them from above (he had a jetpack) he explains his entire plan (a case of Engineered Heroics to get himself a raise) - something he could have safely done when they saw him as a hologram. His first line makes it all the more egregious:
    Corben: Now, I must destroy you immediately, as soon as I explain the truth about your mission in Jericho.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Phantom: The Phantom wouldn't have lasted for one generation, let alone the twenty-one he's currently at, without practically every enemy he's ever met falling for this trope. All Phantoms eventually get killed in the line of duty, but so far it's never been due to a villain having the foresight to Just Shoot Him when they have him captured. To put it in perspective, more Phantoms have died from fighting mooks than from being captured by the Big Bad.
  • Hsu and Chan lampshades this in an issue dedicated to parodying most James Bond movies. After the character in the James Bond role is captured easily due to reality kicking in after a night of heavy drinking, the character in the Dr. No role tries to prod the severely hung over hero into giving him a chance to brag about his plan.
    Chan Tanaka (as a Dr. No expy): Um... you sure you don't have any questions? About my nefarious plan maybe? Some people like to ask, for the sake of stalling their execution... You know, we're at the mercy of tradition.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, Jade decides to break Jackie's limbs after she becomes evil once more, knowing that he'll be trouble later, but is forced to answer Daolon Wong's summoning before she can. She doesn't do anything like that later because while in her case, Evil Is Petty (that is, she wants to prove her superiority to them), and she wants to prove herself better than the other Chan foes, not more underhanded. Played straight later with Lung, Jade's bodyguard kills him for torturing her.
  • Keter, form Ruby and Nora, is made of this trope. It gets to the point that he pretty much causes his own death.
  • In With Strings Attached, the Big Bad (Brox) asks The Dragon (Grunnel) why he wouldn't let her kill George and Ringo, who were both useless to them. Grunnel responds with a number of reasons, including that it's funnier to have them powerless and unable to stop the proceedings. (Also, he does genuinely like them.) Later, after it becomes clear that the two have managed to get useful stuff done despite having their magic neutralized, Grunnel apologizes to Brox for being wrong. The latter isn't terribly upset, though, as she believes that they still can't bull their way through dozens of wizards to get into the warehouse.
  • In the Facing the Future Series, Technus managed to keep Danny, Sam, and Tucker busy while he downloaded himself into the cybertron satellite again, however, he failed to focus on Valerie and Skulker who rerouted his link to Tucker's PDA.
  • In the Star Wars Rebels fanfiction Ezra Lost, the Inquisitor decides to go ahead and leave instead of making sure that Kanan fell through the ice. While it's possible he may have known The Cavalry was coming, he still probably should have stayed for a while longer; then he could have kept Kanan from surviving and Evil!Ezra from having a Heel–Face Turn. He even abandons his preciously cultivated apprentice during his sudden escape, though this could be revealed to be intentional for some villainous reason. This whole occurrence is ironic and may even be considered as funny if you remember what the Inquisitor said to mock Kanan about the fact that he had not actually died in the Season 1 finale after all — that Kanan should have stuck around to make sure he actually died.
  • In The Vow, Lord Shen has the perfect chance to kill Po and the Furious Five (who are all placed in cells and restrained by acupuncture restraints) by just throwing his knives. However, he instead excuses himself to spring the trap set for the invited nobility and leaves two wolves to kill the heroes. They're promptly rescued by Jade.
  • In Tintin and Alph-Art (Yves Rodier), returning Big Bad Rastapopoulos has several ways in which he could easily dispose of Tintin and Captain Haddock, before escaping. However, his sadistic need to give Tintin a slow, painful death for all the times his plans have been foiled ends up instead resulting in his own death, as he tries to hang them both, but the attempt goes horribly wrong and leads to him being thrown off a cliff.
  • Young Justice: Darkness Falls: For all their straightforward thinking, Darkseid uses this by having Superman and Superboy fight Doomsday rather than killing them right away. Then again, he wasn't planning on killing them in the first place, merely breaking their wills in order to have them more for their soldiers and not to kill them off.
  • In The Chaotic Three, for all of his evil, Darth Janus basically falls victim to this, ranting to his enemies and explaining his plans, thus giving them time to oppose his efforts.
  • Infinity Crisis: Incredibly, in Powers and Marvels, Rita Repulsa subverts this. After stealing the Rangers' coins, Zedd is about to leave only for Rita to point out "how many times have we done this?" She knows full well that if they leave the Rangers alive, "they go on some quest, find new powers, come back stronger than ever and kick our rear ends!" Zedd agrees and is about to kill the Rangers when Doctor Strange teleports them away.
  • Universe Falls: "Split Up" features a Villain Team-Up between Peridot and Gideon Gleeful. However, when the two have captured Dipper, Mabel, Ruby, and Sapphire, Gideon wants to wait until the rest of the Crystal Gems are in his clutches before getting revenge, while Peridot thinks they should kill their immediate captives. While they're distracted by their argument, Ruby manages to escape and free the others.
  • Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!: During the Hero vs. Villain exercise, Tenya decides to channel Eobard Thawne to get in-character in his role as the villain. Unfortunately, he gets a bit too caught in hamming up his speeches, gloating and laughing, it leads him to get distracted an costs him and Mineta the victory. All Might later calls him out on this.
  • In Juxtapose, Shigaraki has Izuku at his mercy. All he'd need to do to kill an unconscious and defenseless Izuku is to lower one finger. Yet, Shigaraki decides he wants to savor the terror, despair, and agony on Izuku's face when he kills him, so he wakes Izuku up. It ends up costing Shigaraki his hands.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku and Jirou have Bakugou tied up and at their mercy after a successful ambush. But Izuku decides to talk about how he isn't going to shirk under him anymore, using up time that gets the hero team to rush out instead of tying the catching tape around him. This pisses Bakugou off so much that he ends up breaking free after discovering that intense heat melts Izuku's webbing.
  • Ultra Fast Pony lampshades the utter absurdity. Unlike in the source material, Night Moon Mare doesn't want to gain anyone's respect or to plunge the world into eternal night. She just wants to kill everyone, yet she doesn't do it when she has the chance.
    Night Moon Mare: I could kill you all now, but I'll run away!

    Films — Animation 
  • Edgar in The Aristocats. Gee, leaving a bunch of cats out on the countryside to get rid of them, wonder if they'll find their way back! In Real Life, cats are known to be able to find their way back to their owners from extreme distances, but since Edgar is Too Dumb to Live he probably does not know this. This should explain why he simply assumed the cats would outlive him after taking the old saying that cats have nine lives literally and multiplying nine by their expected lifespan, an assumption that got the plot moving in the first place.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: Professor Ratigan has Basil in the ideal situation: bound in a Death Trap, demoralized from being outwitted, and helpless. However, instead of staying to watch the death trap go off, Ratigan just leaves Basil to his fate. It's justified, since Ratigan wanted to stay and watch Basil get splatted beneath an anvil, but has to leave before he gets the chance because Basil arrived fifteen minutes later than Ratigan expected.
  • Played with in Frozen. The Duke of Weaseltown (IT'S WESELTON!) can't justify sending his men out to kill Elsa for witchcraft until after it looks like she did something to Anna, because, y'know, offing another country's queen is a big deal (ice powers notwithstanding). When the "rescue group" finds her, though, Hans, being the Nice Guy he is, tries to peacefully keep Elsa and the soldiers from killing each other. When he takes her prisoner later, even though everyone thinks that killing her will stop the eternal winter, he still promises to try to save her. We then get a very nasty justification. He just saved Elsa to continue to uphold his façade of being a kind, gentle man. In reality, he intended to murder her from the start so he could marry Anna and be king. It was only a question of when he'd do it and, by waiting until he could frame Elsa for Anna's death, he could kill her, take the throne, and look heroic the entire time.
  • The Lion King:
    • Scar really should have known better than to trust the Hyenas to kill Simba. Also, whispering to Simba that he indeed killed Mufasa wasn't too bright, as it led to Simba's Heroic Second Wind.
    • On the Hyenas' side, when Scar orders them to go after Simba after Mufasa's death, Simba escapes through a bunch of brambles and into the desert; the Hyenas refuse to pursue him through said brambles, believing that Simba is as good as dead in the desert. To be fair, Simba would have died if Timon and Pumbaa hadn't found him.
  • Throughout My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks the Dazzlings have Canterlot High in the palm of their hands due to how smart they were, and ultimately manages to regain their lost power. Victory really is within their grasp, but after they knocks down the Rainbooms during the final showdown, they suddenly stop and stand still floating above their foes instead of trying to finish them off while they are down, which gives the Rainbooms the opportunity to get back up and counterattack with the aid of Sunset Shimmer. By the time they do decide to attack it is already too late and the heroes' counterspell is cast, freeing everyone from their control and summoning their alicorn avatar to destroy their magic pendants.
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers has Pete doing this to Mickey. This is notable in that he averts this with Goofy and Donald Duck, who he flat out attempts to kill.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Expendables 2, Vilain captures the entire team of Expendables and lets almost all of them go for no apparent reason. The only one he kills is the youngest and most inexperienced member.
  • Justified in the same fashion in True Lies, where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character Harry Tasker is captured alive so that he can document for the authorities that the terrorists are capable of carrying out their threat, and afterward when they intend to torture him since he's an American spy who most likely has some valuable information in his head.
  • Spoofed and lampshaded in the Austin Powers movies, where Scott Evil is quite offended by Dr. Evil's insistence on dining with his titular arch-nemesis, instead of shooting him in the head on sight.
    • In the first movie, Dr. Evil has Austin and Vanessa Kensington on an "unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism" over a pit of mutant seabass. (He wanted sharks with Frickin' Laser Beams attached to their heads, but his organization couldn't clear up the red tape.) Right after that, Dr. Evil refuses to watch, just assuming that it's all going to go to plan. Scott lampshades the ridiculousness of it, saying that there's a gun in his room, and it would only take seconds to shoot them. Dr. Evil then remarks that Scott just doesn't get it.
    • In the second movie, Dr. Evil has Austin and Felicity Shagwell over a pit of molten lava. Austin concocts a crazy scheme to try and escape, but Felicity just flashes her boobs at the guard, and they escape. Notably, soon after this, Dr. Evil does order his guards to just shoot Austin, but Austin kills them all first.
    • In the third movie, Dr. Evil tries to kill Austin's father Nigel Powers with the classic "cutting in half with a laser beam" schtick, but it moves so slow that Nigel has time for some Casual Danger Dialogue.
  • Subverted in the 1997 movie version of Le Bossu. After a long sword fight, the hero gets cornered by some soldiers and the Psycho for Hire. From what we have seen earlier, it will be difficult, but possible for him to escape. At this moment, the villain, exasperated by the long fight, steps up to the Psycho for Hire, draws his gun, asks why they can't do it "quick, modern and effective" and shoots the hero, who only survives because of his Plot Armor.
  • In Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Professor Moriarty originally intends to kill Holmes off quickly, but Holmes goads him into coming up with something "more creative," giving an example himself of the sort of death trap he would use if he had Moriarty at his mercy. Moriarty decides to prove his superior intelligence and creativity by... using the exact idea that Holmes just came up with! He does at least stick around to watch the death trap in action, and prepares to shoot Holmes when he decides it's taking too long; but he waits a bit longer than he should have, and Watson rescues Holmes Just in Time.
  • In Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, Katrina's stepmother has Katrina unconscious, isolated, and is armed with a pistol. Also, everyone believes the stepmother is dead, so no one would come looking for her later. Rather than just shooting Katrina, she decides to spend a lot of time summoning the Headless Horseman to do the job, giving Katrina plenty of time to wake up and run away (though granted the stepmother is hardly concerned when Katrina escapes, probably as she figures she's dead soon anyway).
  • Annoyingly present in Terminator Salvation, when after luring John Connor into the heart of its main base, Skynet sends a single unarmed T-800 to dispatch our hero. Yeah. In a base probably full of hundreds of killer robots with guns, Skynet decides to send ONE unarmed unit to kill the hero. And it doesn't bother to send more armed killer robots after the fight drags out, with Connor getting backed up by Cyborg Marcus. Somewhat justified that the T-800 DID manage to critically wound John and if Marcus hadn't volunteered for a heart transplant, John probably would have died. Skynet doesn't even seem concerned when the fight spills into the T-800 assembly line, where countless Terminator power cores (I.E. easily set off miniature nuclear devices) lay for the humans to jury rig into a bomb that will destroy the entire base if they manage to defeat that lone T-800 you sent to kill them.
  • In The Last Dragon, media-obsessed villain Eddie Arkadian first plays this trope straight, stopping a minion from plugging the hero during a big staged fight because it would ruin "the show". But then at the end of the movie when the show is "over", he whips out his own gun, gives a short sneering speech about "all this kung-fu crap", and fires. The hero catches the bullet in his teeth.
  • In Quigley Down Under, Quigley has rejected Marston's offer to hire him to kill the local aborigines. Marston has his goons beat him into unconsciousness. It would be easy to simply shoot Quigley in the head, bury him in a shallow grave, and tell the British soldiers that he went back to port. But that would mean the movie would only be a half-hour long, so Marston decides to have his men take him into the middle of the Australian desert and leave him to die of exposure. Inevitably, this backfires spectacularly. As if that wasn't enough, he captures Quigley AGAIN, decides he's going to beat him in an Old West style quickdraw, and gives the man a fully-loaded pistol. Fortunately, Quigley never much cared for pistols...
  • In Superman: The Movie, Lex Luthor has Superman incapacitated by Kryptonite and unable to get out of his swimming pool. Then he leaves him, expecting him to die — even though he just learned that his girlfriend's mother lives in the town that one of his bombs is about to destroy. Somehow, he does not see her betrayal coming. He does this again in Superman Returns. He seems to think he's done a better job by actually shanking Superman with a Kryptonite shard and throwing him into the sea believing this time he would be as good as dead, but it just gives Lois a chance to find and rescue him.
  • In a non-lethal example, in the final face-off in 8 Mile, Papa Doc makes the grave, and just plain stupid mistake of letting B. Rabbit go first. Big mistake, as it lets Rabbit take away every single possible verbal weapon Doc might have used against his opponent, thus losing him the battle.
  • In The Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort invites Agent Denham to see him on his yacht, complete with A Lady on Each Arm, and he even boasts of putting on an act as a "bond villain". He then behaves just like one, by offering to bribe Denham and boasting of his Paid Harem while Being Good Sucks. As Belfort's lawyer notes his invitation to Denham to see him in yacht is a really stupid thing to do, since it increased the FBI's focus on him and on the operations that he's trying to hide.
  • Simon in Die Hard with a Vengeance handcuffs John McClane and Zeus to a bomb on a ship and leaves them to die, instead of shooting them and blowing up the ship after.
  • After John's cover is blown in Stone Cold, the bad guys put him into a chopper (which is vital part of their Evil Plan) where they plan to strap him with explosives and then drop him on unsuspecting cops below. He gets loose, some other guy gets blown to bits mid-air instead and the chopper crashes.
  • Had Bane chosen to end Batman's life in their first confrontation in The Dark Knight Rises, he and Talia al Ghul would have succeeded in their plan to destroy Gotham City. Batman even asks Bane in prison when he first woke up: "Why don't you just kill me?" to which Bane replies, "You don't fear death. You welcome it. Your punishment must be more severe." Later, Talia monologues at length to Bruce about how much better revenge is when it's done slowly, giving the heroes enough time to block her remote triggering of a nuclear bomb. Bruce lampshades this shortly after, responding, "maybe the slow knife was too slow." Once Talia leaves Bane, having learned his lesson, he ignores her order to let him live and tries to kill him then and there; only Catwoman's Big Damn Heroes arrival saves him. The villains do have a justification of sorts, since torturing Batman for revenge was actually their main objective — they do want to destroy the city as well, but it's secondary to that.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • At the start of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch gets the drop on Tony, but instead of just using her powers to kill him (or hell, even just bashing him over the head with a heavy object), she lets him go so that he can create Ultron, reasoning that the Avengers will eventually tear themselves apart over this. A deleted scene even has Quicksilver angrily chastise her for letting Tony go after the two of them had spent years trying to find a way to kill him for what he did to their family.
    • Ultron himself is guilty of this at several points, most notably when he keeps Black Widow alive just so he can monologue to her. Although at one point Ultron lures Tony into thinking he's going to spiel about his grand plans before just ending the conversation and initiating the fight instead.
    • In Black Panther, Erik Killmonger overpowers T'Challa during their duel for the throne of Wakanda, but simply tosses him over the waterfall instead of killing him directly. This allows T'Challa to return later in the film and defeat Killmonger.
  • In Wild Wild West, after Loveless captures West and Gordon, he fits their necks with the blade-attracting magnets that the professor in the opening was also killed with. Then he leaves before ensuring their demise.
  • The villains twice have our heroine helpless in their power in The Long Kiss Goodnight, and fail to just shoot her. The first time is justified by their need to interrogate her in order to learn what she knows of their plans, but despite them knowing how dangerous she is, they leave only one guy to handle her and she easily kills him and escapes. The second time, full on Bond Villain Stupidity kicks in as the bad guys fully describe their evil scheme to her then leave her Locked in a Freezer while they take her partner out and debate whether to shoot or stab him. They don't have time as she manages to blow up the building, having filled her daughter's dolly with gasoline just in case she needed to set stuff on fire.
  • In Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless(!) disembarks onto the Hawkmen's floating city (evacuated except for Flash) and has a conversation with Flash, offering him a kingdom of Mongo to rule for himself. After Flash refuses, instead of simply ordering his bodyguards to dispatch the hero, Ming leaves and has his ship's guns blast the city into oblivion. While the city is reeling from the blasts, Flash conveniently falls into a hole where he discovers a rocket cycle.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service:
    • Played with. Valentine knows when to be practical. He simply shoots Harry in the head after a minimal exchange, lampshading his lack of this trait. That said, he does describe enough of his plan before killing Harry, which was broadcast via his glasses to the Kingsman, to allow them to figure out the rest of it.
    • Unlike Valentine, who refuses to abide by the cliches of classic Tuxedo and Martini villains, Arthur does not appear to have paid much attention to them, as he explains the Evil Plan shortly before his death and falls for a Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo. The victory of the heroes largely relied upon Arthur's lack of foresight.
  • Death Warrant: Almost immediately after the Sandman arrives in the prison, he has his admirers gang up on Burke in a surprise attack to string him up and kill him. Then the Sandman suddenly decides to let Burke go so he "won't know when it's coming", despite having just achieved exactly that.
  • In Jupiter Ascending, Titus vents Caine into the vacuum of space in an attempt to kill him, but leaves him his jet boots and allows him to kick a crate filled with instant-space suits that get vented along with him, thus allowing Caine to survive until the Aegis arrive to rescue him. Not only was it a sloppy attempt to murder him, it was also completely unnecessary, as there was nothing Caine could do to thwart Titus when he was merely imprisoned.
  • Done no fewer than three times with the Bride over the course of Kill Bill
    • In Vol. 1, after getting it very close to right the first time by shooting Beatrix in the head, Bill calls off Elle's attempt to kill her while comatose after she unexpectedly survives.
    • In Vol. 2, she is injured and disabled relatively easily, but rather than kill her on the spot, Budd chooses to bury her alive, giving her the chance to dig her way out and come back for seconds. Subverted in that Budd is completely consumed with guilt over his past actions and figured that it's right that she escapes his trap and comes to kill him. Also subverted in how Budd is already dead by the time she gets to him, as Elle took advantage of her apparent death to kill him.
    • Later in Vol. 2, Bill has her at his mercy for quite some period of time but doesn't kill her. Partly justified in that instance in that he wanted information from her; there's also an implication that he (like Budd) is not actually that bothered about living through the experience.
  • Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler : Mabuse never tries to kill von Wenk by simple, efficient methods. This leads to his downfall.
  • Star Wars:
    • Return of the Jedi: Jabba the Hutt meets his downfall thanks to a hefty dose of this. After Luke Skywalker makes it clear that he intends to spring Han Solo from his clutches, and successfully manages to kill Jabba's prized Rancor while completely unarmed, for some reason Jabba thinks it's a good idea to fly Luke and his whole posse of allies out into the middle of the desert to stage an elaborate execution at the pit of the great Sarlacc. Mind you, this is after he catches Leia trying to free Han while in disguise as the bounty hunter Boussh, and after he probably should have guessed that Chewbacca (who got in under the guise of being Leia's prisoner) was part of some kind of rescue plan. He doesn't even think to cuff Luke's hands before trying to feed him to the Sarlacc. Surprise, surprise: Luke and co. manage to stage an uprising and escape together.
    • The Force Awakens: Because he's freaked out, Kylo decides that leaving Rey in a room with one stormtrooper is a great idea, despite the fact that he just learned she can use the Force, her powers are rapidly growing, and she has a knack for imitating Force powers. Like Ren's own mind powers.
    • The Last Jedi: Despite clearly being able to kill Rey himself, Supreme Leader Snoke orders Kylo Ren to do it to demonstrate his conviction and loyalty. Kylo, who has forged a bond with Rey (thanks to Snoke's manipulations), instead chooses to kill Snoke.
    • Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker:
      • Sends a broadcast that announces his return to the galaxy which serves no real purpose other than removing the element of surprise.
      • When Rey confronts him, he tells her he wants her to kill him so that he and the souls of the rest of the Sith can possess her and turn her to the Dark Side which she would have done anyway if he hadn't explained this. Result: she refuses and the amount of time he wastes doing the "allow me to possess you or all of your friends will die" speech is enough for a reformed Ben Solo to charge in to help her.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, after stealing the titular ark, Belloq leaves Indy and Marion to die in the snake-infested Well of Souls. Less than an hour later, our heroes have escaped the well, killed a bunch of Nazis, and reclaimed the ark.
  • In Spider-Man, Green Goblin knocks out and captures Spider-Man, but neither kills him nor takes his mask off to see who he really is. Instead he asks Spider-Man to join him, and amazingly, he just leaves him alone to "think it over" after Spider-Man turns down the offer.
  • In True Romance, Virgil has Alabama at gun point and is about to shoot her, but she proves she is willing to fight back. This impresses him enough to put his gun away and instead start a melee fight in which Alabama gets the upper hand and finishes Virgil off in spectacular fashion.
  • In X-Men: Apocalypse, the title villain controls Professor X to telepathically broadcast his Evil Gloating to the world, allowing the heroes plenty of time to know what's up and work out how to find and stop him. If he'd just carried out his plan (fully possess Xavier's body and boost his powers, allowing him to Take Over the World) instead of bragging about it, he'd have won. Of course, every fan who points this out also notes that it is very much like Apocalypse to lose because he put theatrics before pragmatism.
  • Batman & Robin: Robin survives Poison Ivy's kiss and reveals to her he was wearing rubber lips. Robin is still sitting right next to Ivy as he says this with their faces still only a few inches apart, but instead of grabbing Robin and giving him another more forceful and less romantic kiss to kill him for sure she just glares at him for tricking her and shoves him off her throne and into the pond to drown him instead. Then instead of staying to make sure Robin drowns so her plans remain a secret she attempts to leave, just saying a mocking "see ya!" to Robin. It's like she was treating the whole thing like she was breaking up with Robin instead of trying to kill him.
  • Warlock. When the Warlock retrieves the grand grimoire and learns the word that can undo all of creation instead of saying it straight away the starts ranting "I know the word that can undo all you have wrought!" giving Kassandra time to sneak up on him and inject him with salt water which is fatal to witches.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Judge Doom might have succeeded if he'd killed Valiant when he got the chance, instead of making him watch as the Dip slowly worked its way to them. That said, it makes perfect sense in light of The Reveal that Judge Doom is a Toon himself; Toons are psychologically bound to Rule of Funny, and Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor.
  • John Wick: About halfway through the film, Big Bad Viggo Tarasov manages to hit the title character — whom he knows better than anyone is the world's deadliest and most thoroughly pissed-off assassin — with a car, knocking him unconscious. Had he simply put a bullet in John's brain then and there, it would have been the end of it. Instead, he has him dragged away for execution by plastic bag. No prizes for guessing how this turns out.
  • The Assignment: Dr. Rachel Jane, instead of killing Frank (possibly after extended surgical torture) subjects him to an involuntary sex reassignment and leaves him alive that way, with ample ability to track her down. Later, when her mooks catch him, they also didn't search him at all it seems since they miss his hidden gun which he uses to shoot them after waking up.
  • Total Recall has an instance at the end of the second act which could possibly be intentional. Vilos Cohaagen has just gotten everything he wanted: Kuato has been assassinated, and he has Dennis Quaid (actually Carl Hauser) and Melina under his thumb again, and he plans to reinsert Hauser's memories and personality in Quaid (with the bonus of Melina being brainwashed into his personal plaything). However, neither Quaid nor Melina are drugged for the memory overwrite, which allows them to fight back against a group of unprepared scientists with nary a guard set up to make sure something like this didn't happen, leading to their escape. What could make this intentional is that the entire situation, just like the entirety of the movie's second and third acts, may be part of Quaid's initial Ego Trip he purchased from Rekall, meaning Cohaagen's complacency here was "scripted" in-universe.
  • In Revenge, Dimi has Jen dead to rights when her attempt to sneak up on him fails, but instead of just killing her then and there, he can't resist toying with her first, complete with lengthy Evil Gloating. It gives Jen enough time to grab his hunting knife and perform some impromptu eye surgery on him.
  • The Mummy: After regaining his full power, Imhotep has the heroes completely surrounded by his mooks. He orders the mooks to kill the heroes and then... turns around and leaves. There was absolutely no reason why he wouldn't kill them himself or at least stayed for a few more minutes and made sure they were dead. Obviously the heroes immediately escape through a convenient manhole.

  • Older Than Television: In John Buchan's 1919 World War I spy thriller Mr Standfast, the villain, having finally captured the hero Richard Hannay, explains his evil plans at great length. Buchan was arguably the first writer of modern spy thrillers.
  • Bulldog Drummond (1920): Toward the end of the novel, Drummond is captured by the Big Bad Duumvirate. Peterson points out that he has a talent for getting out of hopeless situations, and is all for killing him on the spot, but Lakington refuses to give him a quick and simple death, and insists on keeping him alive until they have time to subject him to something painful and drawn-out. Which of course gives Drummond time to escape.
  • Discworld:
    • The novels Men at Arms and Witches Abroad both explain that bad guys don't kill the good guys straight away because they want to gloat, and make sure the good guy knows he's been beaten. In the first book it serves to show Carrot as a Good Man because he straightforwardly kills the bad guy without explanation; in the second it gives Granny Weatherwax a Not So Different moment, since she rather likes people she's defeated to know about it as well.
    • Lampshaded and neatly subverted in Mort. Mort, Princess Keli, the wizard Cutwell and others being surrounded by the villainous Duke, who Cutwell correctly identifies as "not the kind of man who ties you up in a cellar with just enough time for the mice to eat your ropes before the flood-waters rise. This is the kind of man who just kills you here and now." Also played straight in that the Duke is willing to offer them life-long banishment (we know how well that kind of thing turns out).
  • Unsurprisingly, this happens regularly in the James Bond novels. Some (Mr. Big, who has actually put quite a bit of thought into it) are smarter about it than others (Red Grant, where even Bond notices). However, the highlight has to be The Man with the Golden Gun, when it's actually not Bond, but M who gets this treatment from Russia's newest assassin, James Bond.
    • In From Russia with Love, the Soviet Chessmaster Kronsteen lays a complicated and near-perfect trap for James Bond. Everything works as planned, all the pawns including Bond go through their predicted moves, and Bond gets exactly where the Soviets wanted him. But at the crucial moment the assassin Red Donovan — an Irishman who hates the English — makes the fatal mistake of engaging in prolonged crowing, boasting and gloating instead of just going ahead with his assigned task of killing Bond. This allows Bond the chance to improvise a desperate last-moment plan which works, enabling him to kill Donovan and use the information which Donovan carelessly revealed in order to catch the senior Soviet operative Rosa Klebb. However it should be noted that the whole reason for the elaborate plot was to create a scandal around Bond's death that would embarrass British Intelligence - if they'd simply wanted him dead, they could have had him quietly eliminated any number of ways in Istanbul - making all but the final, spoilered, instance of Bond Villain Stupidity a necessary part of the plan.
  • This is probably the defining trait of Dr Mabuse, a diabolical mastermind with a few self-destructive tendencies from a series of German novels and films. He has been called the direct forerunner to Blofeld. Observe the Meaningful Name: "m'abuse" is French for "abuse myself". Mabuse is his own worst enemy.
  • Modesty Blaise novels:
    • In A Taste for Death, Modesty and Willie are captured by the bad guys. The head villain of the group runs on It Amused Me and insists on keeping them alive to die in some slow and entertaining way, despite two of his underlings (who have lost to Modesty and Willie before) advocating that they should kill both straight away.
    • In The Impossible Virgin, Modesty and Willie are captured by the bad guys. The head villain decides to keep Modesty alive because he believes he can brainwash her into a useful subordinate. He decides Willie is too dangerous and has to go, but picks an elaborate death in order to increase the psychological effect on Modesty; there is no body and it eventually turns out that Willie survived. Meanwhile, the head villain is done in by one of his own subordinates who hates Modesty and doesn't want her in the organization. The new head villain sets Modesty up for a gory death, and fully intends to stick around to watch the whole thing, but reluctantly has to leave to deal with an emergency caused by the returned Willie, giving Modesty a chance to escape.
    • In The Night of Morningstar, Modesty and Willie are captured by the terrorist organization they've been investigating. The Big Bad's second-in-command is in favor of killing them straight away to make sure they don't cause any more trouble, but the Big Bad sets his heart on an elaborate scheme in which they'll be kept alive until the terrorists' next, imminent, attack and used in a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit. Modesty escapes from her restraints and she and Willie sink the villainous plot.
  • Warrior Cats: Originally, it was believed that the only reason Tigerstar doesn't go into Firestar's dreams and kill him was because he couldn't. However, Word of God revealed that he can, but he just doesn't want to.
    Iceclaw: If Tigerstar can harm cats like he can and walk in their dreams, why doesn't he just do it to Firestar, take revenge, and get it over with?
    Vicky: Because Tigerstar wants a long-drawn out kind of vengeance, involving as many cats as possible, so that Firestar truly suffers. ...
  • Happens in Harry Potter. Since Voldemort likes to establish a sense of grace and grandeur into his actions, he doesn't just kill Harry and be done with it.
    • Near the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry has been disarmed, gagged, and tied securely to a gravestone. Rather than simply killing Harry after using his blood to regain his body, Voldemort not only has Wormtail cut him loose and give him back his wand, but insists on fighting him in a one-to-one duel and forbids interference from any of his Death Eaters, for no other reason than to prove, once and for all, that he is the stronger of the two. The final result of this is that Harry manages to escape and tell the world about his return (not that many people listen at first).
    • Oddly averted in The Order of the Phoenix, where Voldemort apparently has learned his lesson and tries to kill Harry quickly, only to be stopped by Dumbledore. However, Umbridge plays this straight several chapters into the same book (as revealed later on) with one word: "DETENTION!"
  • Uncharacteristically occurs with Grand Admiral Thrawn, usually one of the smarter people in Star Wars Legends. He has just betrayed Mara Jade by tricking her into revealing Talon Karrde's location, leading to his arrest by Imperials who will torture him if he doesn't hand over important intel, and then smugly mouths off to her face about it. Mara predictably goes berserk and attempts to attack Thrawn, at first physically then through the Force. Both of these fail, leaving Thrawn with the question of what to do with a still visibly enraged and always emotionally unstable Jade. Instead of killing her, he allows her to live, and lets her out of his sight aboard his ship before letting her go. Jade then predictably hacks into the computer network of Thrawn's ship, uses it to find Luke Skywalker, and saves him. The next one-and-a-half books can be accurately described as Jade sticking it to Thrawn which eventually leads to his plans collapsing and his death.
    • Thrawn had figured that she was in a hopeless situation; no one among her old smuggling associates would trust her. This was an error on his part; she was able to convince Aves (one of Karrde's trusted associates) to lend her a Skipray Blastboat and an ysalamir, which she used to retrieve Luke from Jomark (and confront the insane Jedi Master there). Once Thrawn realized his mistake, he was quick to take steps to limit the damage, but the measures (most prominently, the attempt to stop Karrde's escape in Dark Force Rising and the attempt to kill or discredit her in The Last Command) ultimately ended up being inadequate.
  • The Jennifer Morgue had a very… unique case. Realizing that he is a mad genius billionaire with access to world-ending technology and a strong desire to actually use it, the Big Bad sets up a geas that makes the tropes of a Bond movie reality. He plans to make it so that the only person who stands a chance of thwarting his plan is a solitary British secret agent... and if one of those manages to get through, then he'll shut off the geas so that said agent is nothing more than a solitary man hundreds of miles away from any back-up who can easily be killed. Small problem: despite all his precautions, the Big Bad completely fails to realize by the end that the geas he thought he ended is still operating, even when he's got the hero and his fellow agent bound up and prefers to monologue at them rather than just kill them.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The White Witch could have saved herself a lot of trouble if she'd just killed Edmund as soon as she met him. But in this case it's justified, since Edmund did not appear to represent any sort of threat personally, and she had a reasonable-seeming plan to use him to destroy her other enemies. She was in fact undone not by a flaw in her plan per se but by Divine mercy. As Aslan points out, her knowledge went only back to the beginning of Time. She was unaware of key things that happened before that. At one point she is about to kill him, realizing that he's no longer necessary to her plans, and in the middle of sharpening her knife when Edmund (currently tied to a tree) is rescued. The only reason the Witch initially kept Edmund alive was because she learned he had two sisters and a brother, fitting the prophecy that two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve would reclaim Narnia, and thus hoped to get all four dead or petrified and be done with it. Her plan almost did work at one point, when the other three Pevensie siblings seriously gave thought to breaking into the Witch's castle to save Edmund, but were talked out of it by the Beavers. She finally gives up on the plan when the three Pevensie siblings reach Caer Paravel thus making their capture impossible, and realizes that simply killing Edmund would stop the prophecy from being fulfilled. By that point, the other assassins she'd sent to kill the children failed, and were used to track down and save Edmund.
  • Most if not all of the villains in the Twilight series fall victim to this. Probably the most egregious are the Volturi. In New Moon, the only reason they don't want to kill Bella is because she looks like she'll make for an interesting vampire. Instead of just biting her then and there and holding her captive to brainwash her into being a member of their guard (which Breaking Dawn says is what they want from her), they decide to let her go back to Forks, and according to Edward will probably forget about her for thirty years or so, giving the Cullens plenty of time to turn her on their own terms, or hide her. In Breaking Dawn, their goal was apparently to use Renesmee as an excuse to kill the Cullens/force some of them to join the guard. Instead of quickly going to Forks and doing the job, they spend a full month heading over (thus giving Alice a chance to see it and warn the family) and bring a ton of witnesses, which means they have to put on a show of being fair and let the Cullens go. The witnesses aren't even necessary, since Word of God says that the vampires generally accept the rule of the Volturi as right.
  • In Crescendo, Rixon spends the entire book psychologically tormenting Nora, before getting ready to sacrifice her for a ritual. Given how she's unaware and unprotected for about 99% of the book, that he doesn't manage to pull it off is really astonishing. Nora even asks why he went through such an unnecessary and elaborate ruse instead of simply shooting her in the head while she was asleep. The only answer he gives is that the sacrifice is an important moment, and he wanted it to be enjoyable for him. He then kindly holds off on killing Nora while she asks him more questions about his plan, allowing Patch to conveniently show up and save her.
  • In John le Carré's spy novels, Karla (the brilliant and ruthless Soviet spymaster) knows how dangerous to his plans George Smiley is but does nothing about it. Even his mole "Gerald" admits as much after Smiley captures him. There are two more novels where Smiley defeats Karla again and again, even leading to Karla having to surrender himself to the West. Karla could easily have assassinated Smiley but never did. He could have gotten away with it, even without a cover plan but (since Smiley had the most unfaithful wife in fiction) he could easily have made it look like a crime of passion like murder/suicide. However, Karla is not an active participant in The Honourable Schoolboy, and in both Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People, Smiley is retired and not a factor as far as Karla knows. In Le Carré’s books, much like the real world (at least at the time) murder is a big deal and something that he would use only under desperate circumstances, such as those of Smiley’s People. There’s no good reason for him to try and have Smiley killed.
  • In Relativity, a villain named Rasmas manages to trap all of the heroes in a typically elaborate deathtrap. Unfortunately, he's inside the trap with them when he springs it. Guess what the heroes have to do next? Justified in "Candy Corn": The villains are actually stupid (not just "Bond Villain Stupid"), but they don't kill or even unmask the hero because they want to give him as a gift to their boss.
  • Justified in Pact, where the laws of karma mean that declaring what you're going to do (preferably to someone that you don't nominally control) gives you power, and leaving someone to die in a complicated death trap lets you defer karmic responsibility for their murder.
    Ty: You’re telling me the universe encourages being the Bond villain?
  • In Frostbite, Isaiah had Christian Ozera, Mia Rinaldi, Rose Hathaway, Mason Ashford, and Eddie Castile captured and chose to keep them alive for days. This allowed them to escape and fight back against him. Leading to his death.
  • Marcus Didius Falco. Justified in The Jupiter Myth. The Big Bad Florius manages to escape by taking Petro hostage and leaving him in a death trap so that the heroes must spend time rescuing him instead of pursuing Florius.
  • An Enforced Trope for the Bene-Tleilaxu in Dune. The Tleilaxu follow a code of honor that mandates that whenever they plan to kill somebody, they must always leave the victim some kind of opening to escape if only they're smart enough to notice it. This is due to their strong Social Darwinist beliefs, the logic being that if the victim is smart enough to escape the Death Trap, then they deserve to live.
  • Many of the villains in the Alex Rider series fall victim to this; Dr Grief plans to dissect Alex alive in a science class the following morning, giving him a window of opportunity in which to escape, Winston Yu hands him over to his snakehead to harvest his vital organs with similar results (albeit with the justification that Alex destroyed a large amount of extremely expensive equipment whilst attempting to escape, and this will allow Yu to recoup his losses), and Desmond McCain leaves him to be torn apart by crocodiles. However, Razim of Scorpia Rising (the final book in the series for many years, before writer Anthony Horowitz had a change of heart and decided to revive the series) manages to justify the trope in an unusual way: his plan not only requires Alex to be kept alive up until a certain point, it is absolutely vital that he is completely unmarked and unharmed until then.
  • Played hilariously straight in Alice, Girl from the Future. In The Kindness Ray novel, the local villain uses the aforementioned ray (which have a side-effect to induce living thing growth) to create a giant monster, which he unleashed against the heroes. He never realized, that under the influence of the kindness ray, his monster would be absolutely unwilling to harm anyone.
  • Lampshaded and justified in Worm, when Taylor is teleported into a burning building, shot and left for dead while gunmen surround the building to make sure she doesn't get out. Afterwards, Taylor wonders why the villain responsible went to all that trouble when he could have just teleported her to a bomb and detonated it. Justified in that when she asks Coil why he didn't do this, he admits that he tried to use a bomb repeatedly, and even teleporting her into a vat of acid, but the teleporter was built by Leet and went wrong whenever a bomb or acid was involved due to Leet's power actively sabotaging him, forcing Coil to keep changing the parameters of the scenario until he found a combination that wouldn't set off the inbuilt malfunction of the teleporter, and then Coil ran out of time due to the narrow window of opportunity and had to go with the burning building plan.
  • Only Ashes Remain: The villain Henry successfully captures the heroine Nita with no one around to save her or stop him or his 2 henchmen from killing her, he fully plans to kill her, she's tied up and defenseless, he and his 2 henchmen all have guns... and instead of killing her when he has the chance, he leaves her alive and lures his apprentice and her love interest Kovit to the location to teach him a lesson about Conflicting Loyalty. You can guess how it ends...

    Live-Action TV 
  • A few 24 fans weren't too attached to the Affably Evil Jonas Hodges in season 7, because of this trope. At one point in the season, Jones Hodges manages to frame Jack Bauer for the death of a man he tortured by tasering, but could've just as easily killed Jack Bauer in the process. A bit of context: the incapacitated man was lying in the hospital bed recovering from the aforementioned torture when Jack Bauer sneaked back into the room (Bauer wasn't allowed to see him, but had to interrogate him...again). When this happened, Jonas Hodges deployed knockout gas into the room to knock them out for a few brief minutes, which he then sends some men to kill the tortured man, and then leave.
  • Batman: This was the setup for almost every two-episode cliff-hanger; the villain would subject Batman and Robin to some ridiculous death trap (being turned into giant ice cream cones, or giant postage stamps, etc.) and then leave. "Tune in tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel."
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003). During The Mutiny Zarek tries to convince Gaeta he needs to kill Commander Adama and stop screwing around with a Kangaroo Court, as alive he's a rallying point for the loyalists. Gaeta, being less ruthless, and more interested in making Adam acknowledge what he's put them through with his command decisions, doesn't listen.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Lampshade hung in an episode when Harmony captures Dawn in order to get Buffy to attempt to rescue and then capture Buffy. Harmony's minions point out that they could just kill Dawn because as long as Buffy believes Dawn to be alive then she'll come anyway, instead of waiting until Buffy arrives to kill Dawn. Harmony refuses "Because that's not the plan, duh!".
    • Played slightly straight when the Master, instead of draining Buffy dry, drinks a little blood from her and leaves her to drown in a pond. Though she was clinically dead, she got revived by CPR.
    • Angelus' entire plan throughout Season 2 revolves around this; all he wants to do is psychologically torture Buffy and the Scoobies as much as possible for kicks. This leads to friction between himself and the more pragmatic Spike, who repeatedly urges him to just kill Buffy and be done with it before Angelus pushes her too far and makes her really mad. Spike's concerns are proven right in "Passion" when Angelus kills Jenny Calendar and leaves her body in Giles' bed, sending Giles into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that leads to their hideout being burned down and Angelus being beaten senseless with a flaming baseball bat. Of course, even that doesn't stop Angelus from dicking around and toying with Buffy.
  • Charmed would make use of this sometimes as well. The most blatant example was probably "Engaged and Confused" when, after having two of his associates killed as they tried to kill the Charmed Ones, the demon casually freezes time (an ability he did not attempt to use earlier) so that he and his operative can have a conversation (in front of the Charmed ones) without them knowing about it. He then leaves without attempting to harm the Charmed Ones.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Dalek Invasion of Earth": The Daleks restrain two Companions and then leave them to die in an explosion.
    • Davros sometimes does this, however he is clearly insane. He also sees the Doctor as an intellectual and seems to enjoy sparring with him. And in "Revelation of the Daleks", he implies he wants to turn the Doctor into a Dalek.
    • Justified in "The Caves of Androzani". Sharaz desires the Doctor's intellectual stimulation as well as Peri's beauty, but makes it clear that he will kill the Doctor if he can't bend him to his will.
    • Defied by the Master in "Utopia":
      "Anyway. Why don't we stop and have a nice little chat while I tell you all my plans and you can work out a way to stop me, I don't think!"
      • Although he makes just this mistake later on with Rassilon, who has near-omnipotent technology at his disposal. Goodbye Master's masterplan!
      • The Master would often have the opportunity but wouldn't take it. Of course, as he says, "A cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about." And he sometimes tries to pull a We Can Rule Together gambit.
    • "Partners in Crime": Just before being shot, the Doctor says "Wait wait, now hold on!" and his enemies listen to him and hold their fire, allowing him to use his sonic screwdriver and a sonic pen he'd gotten a hold of to create a sonic wave to disable the bad guys.
    • "Planet of the Ood":
      • The sadistic overseer Mr. Kess falls into this when the Doctor and Donna's cover is blown. After Donna is capture, Kess specifically orders the armed guards back so he can have the pleasure of chasing the Doctor around a warehouse with a giant claw arm instead of shooting him. For bonus points, he says "I've always wanted to do this."
      • Justified later on by Mr. Halpen when the Doctor and Donna end up captured (again). He says that he can't risk shooting them because of the likelihood that the authorities are going to investigate Ood Operations due to what's been happening, so the two are left handcuffed where the Ood will get them, so they'll just look like all of the other deaths by Ood that have happened. However, the Doctor and Donna are able to get the Ood to spare them when they do get attacked by reminding them of the "circle" and that they're friends.
    • "Robot of Sherwood": The Sheriff of Nottingham captures the Doctor, Clara, and Robin Hood, only for them to subsequently escape. Late in the episode, after they uncover his secret spaceship... he puts the Doctor back in irons and dumps him into a different dungeon. This time, he and Maid Marian foment a slave revolt and destroy most of the remaining robots, setting up the Sheriff and Robin Hood's inevitable showdown.
  • Falling Skies. In the final S4 episode Tom Mason and Lexi face against the Espheni commander on his ship, the commander knocks down Tom and is more focused in burning Lexi, while his back is turned Tom stabs him with a poisoned syringe that can kill him.
  • Game of Thrones provides a rare heroic example. In The Mountain and the Viper Oberyn Martell gains the advantage in his fight with Gregor Clegane and has the opportunity to finish him off, but instead delays while demanding his opponent confess to the rape and murder of Oberyn's sister. Unfortunately for him, he gets a little too close to the downed Gregor and gets pulled off his feet, at which point his foe gleefully delivers the desired confession, while simultaneously crushing Oberyn's head with his bare hands.
  • Subverted in Get Smart when KAOS kidnaps Max, plants a Manchurian Candidate-style hypnotic suggestion in him, then allows for him to escape, making it absurdly easy - and he stubbornly resists escaping several times, convinced he's outsmarting some clever attempts to kill him.
  • MacGyver uses this constantly, usually in the form of the Big Bad securing the title hero (and usually a pretty lady) in some form of death trap that always has plenty of "useless" items lying around for MacGyver to use for escape. Lampshaded in the episode "The Ten Percent Solution", where a Nazi-lady tries to use a gas chamber on the heroes while a henchman ponders, "Why not just shoot them?"
  • Patrick Jane from The Mentalist has been saved by this trope quite a few times. Often involves Holding the Floor till Lisbon arrives.
  • Morgana in the BBC series Merlin is guilty of so many examples of this that the only way the series manages to work is to provide the good guys with an equal amount of Plot-Induced Stupidity to balance her out.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Villains aren't renowned for their intelligence, but were most guilty of Bond Villain stupidity during Power Rangers Jungle Fury, where a constant stream of new villainous overlords continued to defeat the Power Rangers then walk away, only to complain later about not being able to defeat the Rangers. By about the 20th time this happened in a 32 episode show, it was very hard to keep caring.
    • Of course, many fans point out that the Rangers could be accused of "Bond Hero Stupidity" at time. (for instance, during Power Rangers Zeo, they could have prevented a lot of trouble had they opened fire on Klang and Orbus, a duo who were instrumental in a key part of Mondo's plans. The two were pretty easy targets who were always there, seemed to have very few fighting skills, and as such, a weak link in the overall chain that the heroes never considered trying to break.)
  • Pretty Little Liars is full of this. A, despite clearly having it in for the all-girl team and having more than enough fodder to ruin their lives with, she takes her sweet, sadistic time. This gives the girls the leeway they need to try and find out who A really is. Most of the time this winds up getting them to fall into A's traps, giving A even more fodder, but it does work to their advantage sometimes.
  • Happened all the time on Robin Hood. The worst examples were Guy using a half-dead lion to try and kill Robin instead of ordering the fully-armed elite soldiers to just shoot him dead; and later trapping Robin in a dungeon that was slowly filling with water and then...wandering away mid-execution. Robin survives both attempts on his life.
  • In the Smallville episode "Arrival", two evil Kryptonians confront Clark Kent. They open a portal to the Phantom Zone and shove Clark into it. At the last second, Clark grabs a piece of rebar and tries desperately to hold on as the portal sucks him in. Instead of doing something like cutting the bar with their heat vision, the villains just smirk and start walking away, only for Clark to Flash Step up to them, and shove them into the portal.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "cold station 12": "Five minutes after we leave, every stasis field in this station will shut down, releasing hundreds of pathogens. I wonder which one will kill you first".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation had an act of stupidity worthy of a true Bond villain. Commander Sela had captured Spock, Data, and Picard, and was within minutes of conquering Vulcan. Then, she left them alone in her office after describing in detail her entire evil plan. She didn't even bother to tell the guards to stay in the room to watch them.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Diesel Vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania XII. Near the end — Diesel chose not to quickly pin 'Taker post-Jackknife, but instead do some long and shit-eating Evil Gloating... at the guy known for Pivotal Wake-ups. Worse? When 'Taker did just that, and Diesel managed to Jackknife him again — Diesel repeated said Gloating. Unsurprisingly, 'Taker recovered again — wasting no time to make Diesel pay.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The Discworld Role-Playing Game enforces this trope by offering dark lord characters their own Code of Honour disadvantage — which includes the rule "if your enemies are defeated and helpless, engage in some token gloating and then ignore them while you get on with important matters". Note that, on the Discworld, Narrative Causality ensures that villains who act this way are generally guaranteed to survive their many defeats, in an equally stereotyped way — and the game supports this too.
  • This is the Unique Limitation of the Criminal Mastermind archetype from the Feng Shui supplement Seed of the New Flesh, appropriately titled "Slave to the Cheese." Not only are you 100% unable to just shoot any named cop or Buro characters you capture or non-lethally defeat, but you must do everything in your power to prevent anyone else from doing so, preferring to toy with your prey by putting them in elaborate death-traps or offering them some desperate (but psychotically "fair") gamble with which to win their lives and freedom. Not only that, but you absolutely cannot resist the urge to engage in a Just Between You and Me speech, telling them your plans in order to rub it in.
  • The trapmaster in Super Munchkin. He plays a trap card at you when you start fighting him. If he defeats you, however, his Bad Stuff is that "he leaves you in one of his traps and strolls off laughing. The idiot. No effect."
  • The Hero System features the Psychological Limitation "Over-The-Top Villainy". Villains with this Psych Limit must follow this trope (in addition to several of the other "Overblown Villain" Tropes.
  • James Earnest's Totally Renamed Spy Game (the game formerly known as Before I Kill You Mr. Bond) is based entirely around tormenting captured spies before you kill them. Each consecutive time you Taunt a particular spy doubles your score when you finally do kill him, but if another player has and uses a Taunt card of the same type, the spy escapes and blows up your Lair. Taunts include Death Traps, No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine and Just Between You and Me.
  • The Infernal Exalted have Acts of Villainy which they commit in order to please their Yozi masters if they've managed to offend them somehow. Most of them have them act in line with this trope - picking a favoured arch-enemy as per Best Enemy Recognition (Foe Yay optional), leaving the enemy to slow death instead of killing them quickly (Fiendish Deathtrap Compulsion), lecturing them about your plans (Infernal Genius Declaration), leaving clues or sending them straight to your enemy (Insane Death-Dealing Provocation) or just driving people insane for giggles (Kindly Lunatic's Blessing). And it's best to perform as much of them at once as possible.
  • The explanation for the frequency of this happening in Victory Games's James Bond 007 RPG is as a result of being Surrounded by Idiots. The villains have huge egos and want to sate them by discussing their ideas with someone who's proven themselves intelligent enough to appreciate them.
  • TSR's 80s Marvel Super Heroes game, at least in its advanced version, rewarded villains who indulged in this with Karma — the game's mix of Luck Manipulation Mechanic and Experience Points. Putting heroes into deathtraps? Same reward as defeating them, even if they escape or get rescued later. Bragging about one's brilliance and letting valuable clues slip? 20-point reward flat. (Conversely, even villains still lose Karma for killing, mechanically disincentivizing the Just Shoot Him approach by just that bit.)
  • Many a Rocket Age villain will happily allow heroes to escape unharmed, only for it to come back and bite them later in the adventure. However, this is nearly always justified, as the villain may be playing some elaborate game with both the heroes and their own lives or using the heroes as a distraction to cover up their own escape.
  • Time Lord, a 1990s licensed Doctor Who RPG, gave villains a negative "Gloating" skill. If they captured a player character, they would be forced to roll against it, and if they "succeeded" they would waste time monologuing.

  • Double Subversion in the William Gillette play Sherlock Holmes, where Moriarty's first plan is in fact to just shoot Holmes. He doesn't try it again, though; his next plan involves preparing a Short Con as bait to lead Holmes into a Death Trap (which he escapes in dramatic fashion). Justified, since Moriarty doesn't want a gunshot to be heard outside.

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Gruntilda does this in spades. After kidnapping Tooty, by the time Banjo & Kazooie enter her lair, she's already placed Tooty in the beauty-swap machine and already has it prepared to activate. Despite this, she decides to wait until the duo are defeated before going through with it. Even worse is that she blatantly has Banjo & Kazooie progressing on a lava pit and with a one-ton anvil dangling on top of them, where she could've finished them with ease, if she wasn't more focused on running her Pop Quiz.
  • Gloriously averted in Grim Fandango.
    Manny: Is this where you tell me all about your secret plan, Hector? How you stole Double N tickets from innocent souls, pretended to sell them but secretly hoarded them all to yourself in a desperate attempt to get out of the Land of the Dead?
    Hector: No.
    Hector: This is where you writhe around in excruciating pain for about an hour because that idiot Bowsley ran off with the fast-acting sproutella. That slow stuff will sprout you, but it's going to take a long time, I'm sorry to say.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII has this badly. He could, at any given moment in the original game, completely obliterate the party with ease. However, he instead prefers to mock and taunt the heroes, stringing them along with plans to manipulate them later. As is expected with the trope, this came to haunt him later — when Sephiroth kills Aeris, she's already managed to summon Holy, which ultimately stops Meteor's impact. Had Sephiroth just killed Aeris when he had the chance, Holy wouldn't have been summoned, instead he waited for Cloud to catch up to her so he could kill Aeris in front of his eyes to torment him. Justified to some degree in that Seph wasn't intending to kill Cloud and (most of) his group, it was all part of his plan to get him to deliver the Black Materia to his real body in the Northern Crater, which he then used to summon Meteor.
    • Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX is the namesake of the rule quoted above. You will encounter her three times within the span of barely more than half a disc, and each time, she will always Stock Break your entire party at 1 HP, before laughing at your weakness and taking her leave. (She's later revealed to be a Punch-Clock Villain, however.) Subverted though in that she is entirely right about your party being completely unable to stop her or the Alexandrians.
    • In Final Fantasy X, the three party members who can breathe underwater indefinitely are sentenced to death by drowning in a long but open-ended underwater canal. The other party members have to walk through a monster-infested maze instead. The reason they were placed there at all and not just executed is because of religious tradition. It's called "The Path of Repentance" for a reason. Also, the bad guys break every Bond villain tradition in the book when they actually realize that this was a bad idea and place guards at the exit.
  • Chrono Trigger: Dalton, upon first meeting your party: "Hm? Those clothes… You must be the ones the prophet said would come to interfere! I think I shall watch for the time being, and see how he plays his hand. Not that I suspect he'll tip his cards so easily. Ha!" This was a mistake and it was bad for everyone, considering what he does between games…
  • Half-Life:
    • In Half-Life, a pair of mooks capture the player character and, rather than just shooting him, toss him in a trash compactor; they were under orders to bring him to their commander, but wanted to kill him for killing their comrades, and did it so that his body would be disposed of. Which he then escapes via conveniently stacked-up garbage. Originally, a mission in the expansion pack Half-Life: Decay was supposed to explain this: the soldiers wanted to shoot him in the head and then throw his body in the garbage, but the Gina and Colette (the player characters in Decay) intervened, killing the soldiers but not being able to stop Gordon from dropping in the compactor. However, the mission was cut from the final release.
    • In Half-Life 2, near the end the main character willingly climbs into a transport within the alien citadel that immobilizes him. Naturally, its a trap and it carries him helplessly right to the Big Bad, who does not take the opportunity to shoot him. Justified later when the main villain tries to recruit him.
  • Parodied in the computer game Evil Genius. In the game, super agents cannot be killed by normal means. When they run out of health, they simply fall unconscious for a few minutes. They can only be defeated by exploiting a specific weakness. So until you figure out what their particular weakness is, your options are limited to locking them up and torturing them regularly to keep their stats down.
    • Funnily enough, the last super agent, a Expy of Bond, has no weaknesses. The only way to kill him is to end the game with him in custody, where he’ll be blasted off into space with a rocket.
  • In the original Metal Gear Solid this actually is all part of the villains' plans. Because the DARPA chief was "accidentally" killed by Ocelot, the terrorist didn't have the second part of the code to activate Metal Gear, so they needed Snake to progress through his mission and use an alternate means of activating Metal Gear (by making him think they'd already activated it, and that inputting the code would disable it). So locking Snake in a cell patrolled by an inept guard was all part of the plan.
  • And in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Colonel Volgin is incredibly prone to this to an almost facepalming degree, which works as the game is an Affectionate Parody of James Bond and other Cold War spy fiction. Best shown in the now famous Groznjy Grad torture scene where he ends up not only giving his interrogatee a ton of information about his motives that he didn't know, but unwittingly revealing this information to three other people who are all secretly plotting against him.
  • Labtech 123 in zOMG kindly takes the time to explain most of the Big Bad's plan to you, as well as how to override the security system, while he waits for reinforcements.
  • Played straight for most of the Monkey Island series, with LeChuck dreaming up more ludicrous ways of dealing with Guybrush. In Tales of Monkey Island, however, it gets subverted twice. When LeChuck reveals he was the Heel–Face Mole, he kill Guybrush by simply skewering him with a sword. When Guybrush returns in zombie form, LeChuck goes for a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to try and kill him. When Guybrush asks why LeChuck isn't going for his usual overcomplicated plan, LeChuck informs him he's learned from his mistakes. In Escape from Monkey Island. LeChuck points out to his villainous cohort that leaving Guybrush alive has always cost him in the past... then they do it anyway. By dumping him on an "inescapable" island that he's escaped from several times.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, Mission 13 has Arkham detailing his plan in manipulating the twins and his daughter into spilling their blood to undo the seal. He undid the final part of the seal by stabbing Lady with her bayonet through the leg, but it was just as easy to stab her somewhere vital and kill her, which would have prevented her from getting up and turning her weapon on him. ... It also would have stopped her from killing him at the end, too.
  • This trope is such an essential element of Touhou Project, with horrifically powerful beings fighting the player character with slow moving, colourful bullets instead of wiping her from existence, that ZUN created intricate justifications for as part of the backstory to Gensoukyou. Not only would killing Reimu do Very Bad Things to Gensoukyou (though the other main Player Character Marisa has no such protection), not only were the Spell Card rules implemented specifically to prevent that sort of destructive violence (though we don't know if there are any punishments for breaking them), but its denizens are mostly very old, very bored individuals that view fighting as an excellent hobby, and killing their opponent would prevent future encounters.
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade has two examples from two different villains:
    • Lord Lundgren's entire plan is to kill his brother, the Marquess of Pherae, and take his throne. He opts for the slow, subtle route of poisoning the marquess' food, which seems smart enough - at first. But even after the marquess has survived months of poisoning, even after seemingly everyone in Pherae - including the marquess himself - has realised what Lundgren is up to, even when the legitimate heir to the throne is at the castle gates, Lundgren sticks with poison instead of just walking up to his helpless, bed-ridden brother and smothering him with a pillow. The marquess survives. Lundgren does not.
    • Ephidel very much downplays this when he kills Lord Helman to stop him from talking. Instead of finishing Helman off, he just leaves him to die, and Helman survives long enough to warn Eliwood about Darin and the Black Fang. Darin is understandably furious when he realises this.
  • Baldur's Gate II: Jon Irenicus stands out from the norm by averting this trope; not only does he feel no need to explain his plans to you at any point, he also make good use of sedatives to take you out rather than give you a chance to escape, and he makes sure to have you killed off properly after he no longer need you. Unfortunately (for him, at least) he decided to let his sister Bodhi deal with that. She played the trope straight, and had this interesting maze she wanted to test...
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Joker gets multiple opportunities to cleanly kill a helpless Batman throughout the game, but declines to do so until Batman truly becomes a thorn in his side later in the game. At one point, Joker even goes so far as to demonstrate that he could kill Batman easily by blowing the brakes on the elevator in which he trapped him. He decides it wouldn't be fun.
    • Hugo Strange in Batman: Arkham City. Even though he knows you are the goddamned Batman, he doesn't take the opportunity to kill Bats at the beginning when Bruce was unconscious and shackled. He wakes you up and then dumps you into Arkham City without even bothering to track you. And then he tasks an assassin to kill you, suggesting that he wanted you dead the entire time. It's ultimately subverted once the real plan comes out. Batman finds the assassin's list, and Hugo tasked the assassin with killing Bruce Wayne first, THEN Batman, KNOWING that Bruce would be incognito as Batman. The whole thing was a ploy, to keep both Batman and Deadshot in Arkham City, so he could take out everyone with his aerial strikes.
    • The Antagonist Title Character of Batman: Arkham Knight has multiple chances to kill Batman, even one moment having him point out to his soldiers the weakpoints on his armor. However, Scarecrow wants him alive so he can break him down mentally and emotionally. The Knight even tells him how stupid that plan is.
  • Occurs in Knights of the Old Republic 2 when the party is trapped in force cages and a bounty hunter sneaks in to kill you. Even though he could overload the cages to kill you all effortlessly, which your teammate actually suggests, he turns the cages off so he can try to defeat two Jedi and one scoundrel in a three-to-one hand-to-hand combat. Although the dialogue and voice-acting does seem to suggest that this was the bounty hunter's original plan, and Atton's goading bruises the guy's ego enough to change his plans. (Which is still pretty stupid.)
  • Resident Evil:
    • This happens in Resident Evil 4 when the village chief nearly strangles Leon to death but lets him go when he sees he's been injected with a Plagas egg, knowing that he'll eventually succumb to the parasite's control. He later admits in a memo that he gravely underestimated Leon's capabilities and that at the rate he's going, he'll probably destroy the whole village before the Plagas takes over.
      • Also in Ada Wong's campaign, Ada gets knocked out by a Tranquilizer Dart. Instead of killing her immediately, the villains put her in a conveniently slow death trap. Naturally, Ada wakes up just in time to escape from it.
    • Resident Evil 5 shows this in Wesker, who apparently toys with Chris rather than kill him outright. Various cutscenes also depict him grandstanding and effortlessly smacking Chris around, but never bothering to, say, pull out a knife and stab him. One boss fight against him even ends with him simply scoffing and strolling out of the room. Though the general long-term goal is for Chris to end up dead at some point, he doesn't seem to care if Chris is surviving at any given moment and mostly just relishes in tormenting him. Up until the fight in the bomber, where he finally cuts the crap and starts putting much a more serious effort into killing Chris. A single mistake from that point on is practically guaranteed to be fatal to the player. Once his plans are in ruin, he finally realizes he shouldn't have dicked around so much:
      Wesker: I should have killed you years ago... Chris!
      Chris: Your mistake! It's over, Wesker!
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • Mostly averted with the Empire (though they are not technically "evil"). The Imperial Legion captured the rebel leader Ulfric Stormcloak and instead of taking him back to the capital and staging an elaborate trial, they immediately take him and the other captives to the next garrison where they are led to the chopping block right after getting of the cart. But even that turned out to be too much of a delay, as a dragon attacks and the prisoners escape in the chaos after just one of them had been beheaded.
    • Said dragon also averts this trope in this specific scene in that he actually is Alduin, the World Eater, and the reason of his attack was that he was looking for the Dragonborn so he could kill him before he unlocked his powers and became a threat- you read right: the game's Final Boss actually comes to try and kill you while you still are level 1, and you only escape alive because it takes him time to find you among all these puny mortals. He does, however, play this trope straight later in the game, where he will just leave a recently raised dragon deal with you whenever you encounter him before the boss fight.
    • Another example would be the various mad scientist-cum-mages who feel the need to have you fight a pet monster of theirs rather than kill you outright. Predictably, it always fails.
    • Harkon, the main antagonist of the Dawnguard expansion, makes a terrible mistake in choosing to spare the Dragonborn out of one-off gratitude if the latter refuses his offer to become a Vampire Lord; let's just leave it at that.
  • Inverted in Max Payne 3, where Max has Becker at his mercy and slowly strangles him rather than just give him a 9mm headache. This gives Victor Branco time to show up. Max does it again immediately by holding off on disarming the newcomer until the first villain is recovered enough to stun him, allowing both villains to escape. Somewhat justified in that Max is extremely angry and a simple kill shot is too good for Becker, and he's honestly a little surprised at the appearance of Victor, and it takes him some time to process that before he makes his move.
  • Assassin's Creed III: Charles Lee refuses to kill you in the New York prison, instead explaining how he'll frame you for their own murder plot of George Washington so you are hanged. Connor escapes. When Connor is captured at Haytham's funeral, Lee again refuses to kill him, claiming he wants to break him first. Connor escapes again, this time forcing Lee to attempt to flee the colonies entirely.
  • Saints Row IV: The Big Bad Zinyak does this to the Boss. Even though the Boss has shown how dangerous he can be to Zinyak's forces, and Zinyak has shown he can easily defeat the Boss in one-to-one combat. He decides that it's better to "break" the boss through a simulation. Considering the Boss's and the other Saint's fierce determination, you can see where this is going. Doesn't stop Zinyak from making the struggle as difficult as possible though.
  • Halo 4: The Ur-Didact, newly released Sealed Evil in a Can, is a Nigh Invulnerable Sufficiently Advanced Alien with powers of levitation, teleportation, and telekinesis. Does he use these powers to quickly kill Master Chief and then resume his evil plan? Nope. Instead he just renders Chief helpless during his lengthy monologues then tosses him away, giving the Chief another chance to stop the villain. Only at the end of the game does it occur to the Didact to teleport to the Chief and kill him himself, and even then he wastes time by suspending him over a chasm and then choking him instead of just dropping him immediately. Then he takes his sweet time yet again even after you've been freed and shoved a grenade in his chest. The guy simply does not learn, does he?
  • Far Cry:
    • Vaas from Far Cry 3 suffers from this trope badly, succumbing to it at least four times while trying to get rid of Jason Brody. First time he gives Jason a thirty-second head-start and Jason escapes. Second time Vaas gets the drop on Jason, but leaves him to die in a burning building and Jason escapes. Third time Vaas jumps Jason again, and ties him to a concrete block and throws him a pool which Jason escapes from. During this capture Vaas lectures Jason on his beliefs about insanitynote , which may indicate Vaas is aware that what he is doing is just not working but is unable to stop himself. The fourth time Vaas walks up to Jason after a crash and shoots him in the chest, but buries him in a shallow grave without checking to see if he is really dead, missing the lighter that blocked his bullet. During the fifth and final confrontation between Jason and Vaas, Vaas gets the drop on Jason again and stabs him through the chest with a large knife, but something happens, the knife starts glowing yellow, and their last fight talks place in an alternate dimension filled with television monitors. Jason wins, and when he wakes up Vaas is gone and everyone says he's dead.
    • In Far Cry 5, upon reaching certain points in the game the player character will end up captured by a member of the Seed siblings. During these points rather than simply execute you they'll just give you Motive Rants while you're under their mercy. This gets averted at the end where everything is taken from the player and they are forcefully brainwashed, and we see the results in the following game.
  • Generally subverted in the Ace Attorney series, where many of the true culprits in the cases committed murder to prevent word of some other crime they committed from getting out. In fact, given how the playable characters inevitably catch the criminals, one could argue that subverting this trope tends to backfire on them. On the other hand, when the playable characters are forced by the game to do things like be alone with the culprit and show them vital evidence, the culprit's main concern is to destroy the evidence before trying to silence the characters. Given that the evidence is what's needed to put them behind bars (without evidence, it's all but impossible to do anything to them, let alone have them arrested), this makes sense. Not to mention, at least two of those instances are interrupted by the police showing up.
  • Mass Effect 3: In the Citadel DLC, the Mysterious Figure disposes of you and your squad by locking them in inescapable storage chambers in the Council archives with about an hour's worth of air. Granted, it would have worked if the Figure hadn't forgotten about Glyph, and direct applied violence had failed several times before in that DLC, but it's still not a particularly smart move. Shepard him/herself notes that a bullet would have been quicker and far more reliable. Actually somewhat justified due to the aforementioned failure of direct applied violence - when Shepherd and their squad get locked up, they're trapped by essentially impassible barriers that prevent them from simply being shot, but also keep them from casually mowing down everything in their way as they have done thus far.
  • Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark: Rather than doing something about the outraged Autobot leader in front of him, Lockdown chose to monologue about the greatness of his evil plan.
  • In World of Warcraft, Lord Walden in the Shadowfang Keep dungeon uses a spell called Asphyxiate that will reduce the entire party's HP to one, but because he's an arrogant hunter he decides to "make it a bit sporting" by casting a spell called Stay of Execution that heals both him and your group (in normal, it's a burst that heals him a little but heals your party to full, in heroic it's a channeled spell that you interrupt when you think your healer can take it from there).
  • Double Subverted in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: Near the end of the game, Lazarevic has Drake and Elena held hostage. Lazarevic's right-hand man Harry Flynn suggests shooting them immediately, but Lazarevic wants to wait until the gates to the lost city of Shambhala are opened just to drive the fact in that he beat Drake. As soon as they're opened, he immediately has his men prepare to open fire on them, looking like waiting didn't really matter and he's actually subverting this trope - only for Shambhala's guardians to start attacking everyone, giving Drake and Elena a chance to escape.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Doctor Eggman's specialty. Constantly hatching up crazy world domination schemes and brilliant inventions, he tries to kill Sonic time and time again to the point that his Villain Song in Sonic Adventure 2 has him declaring his yearning of victory over the blue hedgehog. And in many cases, he does trap the blue blur or get the perfect opportunity. Except time and time again, his inventions have a glaring weakpoint, his Evil Gloating leaves himself wide open for retaliation, there's a significant issue that Sonic can take perfect advantage of, or he flatout spares Sonic in his few moments of victory which bites him in the ass rather quickly every time.
    • In the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Eggman actually rescues Sonic from falling to his death — in order to try killing him his preferred way, in a Sarlacc pit. Justified in that, at this point, Sonic was supposed to have one of the Chaos Emeralds on his person, so letting him fall into a pit of lava would definitely put a bit of a wrinkle in Robotnik's plans. Said Sarlacc pit is also one of the hardest boss fights in the entire franchise''.
    • In Sonic Adventure, Eggman ambushes Sonic and Tails as they leave Casinopolis. He sprays them with Knockout Gas instead of deadly poison gas, steals one of the two Chaos Emeralds they're carrying, then just leaves them there to wake up instead of finishing them off. Arguably justified in that he spends most of the game using the heroes as a MacGuffin Delivery Service.
    • A glaring case would be the beginning of Sonic Unleashed. Eggman lures Sonic (in his Super Mode) into a trap, and uses the chaos energy to split the Earth apart in his efforts to unleash Dark Gaia. With Sonic now in his werehog form and weakened at his feet, Eggman's response is to.. drop Sonic out of an airlock along with all the depowered Chaos Emeralds. Sonic survives the fall with no issue (which Eggman entirely expected but didn't care for), while the Chaos Emeralds that avert the infamous Bag of Spilling serve to let Sonic both put the world back together and simultaneously regain his Super form for the Final Boss. Orbot, one of Eggman's personal robots, points out this major oversight, to which Eggman attempts to (poorly) proclaim it was for the sake of a challenge.
    • Zavok of the Deadly Six in Sonic Lost World. Instead of personally supervising the roboticization of Tails, he and Zomom just leave him all alone in the lab. Being The Smart Guy he is, Tails successfully modifies the machine he's bound to to his own advantage.
    • Sonic Forces has two instances:
      • The villains finally have Sonic in their clutches, but instead of killing him, they instead choose to imprison him aboard the Death Egg for six months, which allows Sonic to eventually break out and stop them. Zavok mentions that Eggman wanted to show Sonic his completed empire before jettisoning him out into space. (In other words, they wanted to rub Sonic's failure in his face, then kill him.)
      • Infinite gets a moment of this after his first boss battle. After defeating Sonic, Infinite arrogantly deems him Not Worth Killing and leaves. Eggman later chews him out for doing so, correctly predicting that Sonic will continue to be a threat to their operations as long as he's still alive.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Justified in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past... possibly. The maidens are a major threat to Agahnim's plans, since they are the only ones capable of sealing Ganon or countering his evil magic. This obviously raises the question of why Agahnim only teleports the maidens to the Dark World instead of killing them. The first maiden explains that this is because they are also the only ones who can unseal Ganon, so he has to hijack their powers to free himself from the Dark World. However, one of the maidens implies that Ganon already siphoned all the power he needed from them, which does raise the question of why he's still keeping them around.
    • Zigzagged in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Though Zant was smart enough to take the Fused Shadows from Midna and Link, he merely curses Link to stay as a wolf permanently rather than killing him outright. When he meets them again at Arbiter's Grounds and sees that Link is still alive, he shatters the Mirror of Twilight and scatters its pieces across Hyrule. But he doesn't actively stop them from reclaiming them, however. Before that, he animates Stallord to kill Link, and then promptly leaves without even bothering to make sure that Stallord actually beat him.
    • Throughout The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Ghirahim constantly screws around and toys with Link in each of their confrontations, which allows Link to repeatedly interfere with his plans. By their final showdown, Ghirahim is well aware of this, and outright kicks himself for not just killing Link when he had the chance:
      Ghirahim: If only I'd put you in your place from the very beginning!
    • Hyrule Warriors: Ganondorf manages to steal the Triforce pieces from the heroes, but does not bother to kill them. This is what allows the Hyrulean forces to strike back.
  • Happens repeatedly in the Dragon Age series:
    • In Origins one and possibly both of the last two Grey Wardens are captured by Loghain and represent one of the greatest threats to his plans. Rather than simply having you executed on the spot, he has you thrown in a cell (admittedly in the middle of a fortress) with a single inept guard and all your equipment just a few feet away. If the player character doesn't choose to wait for rescue by their companions, they can escape in about five minutes without much trouble.
    • In the Mark of the Assassin DLC for Dragon Age II, the player character and Tallis get cornered by the villain Duke Prosper and a hefty number of his guards. He gloats a bit, reveals that Tallis is a Qunari, and then has Hawke and Tallis locked up in a cell. Why he didn't just have them killed then and there is a mystery. Perhaps he didn't want to ruin the carpet.
    • The Greater-Scope Villain of Dragon Age: Inquisition, Solas, a.k.a. the Dread Wolf Fen'Harel, proves to have a case of this in the Trespasser DLC epilogue, as he always saves the Inquisitor's life just as the Anchor is about to kill them. While this is justified if the Inquisitor is best of buds with or even in a romantic relationship with him, there is really no excuse for saving the one person in Thedas capable of stopping him if they are none of those things and outright threaten to kill him if left alive.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM, Marik lampshades and averts this, freely admitting to his role in hijacking the B-Sec Hologuards... and then he tries to kill you, pointing out that he wouldn't let you just walk away after telling you his secrets.
  • In Scorpion's chapter of Mortal Kombat X, after Shinnok is freed from his amulet, he has several former enemies completely at his mercy, but while he orders D'Vorah to take Johnny Cage hostage (as he sees him as a potential threat) he just leaves Sonya, Kenshi, and Scorpion behind, letting them live for no discernible reason. This allows Sonya to inform the younger Earthrealm warriors of Shinnok's plan to absorb the Jinsei which leads to his defeat
  • In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara is captured by Trinity soldiers, who proceed to lock her in an ancient crumbling prison and leave her there without posting any guards. As if that wasn't dumb enough, they also leave her equipment right outside her cell (along with a set of jail keys), which ultimately results in one of the quickest jail cell escapes in video game history.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, Giliath Osborne, the Evil Chancellor of the Trails Series has the heroes on the ropes at least twice and yet on both occasions, he lets them go. Prior to IV, he's shown to be a pragmatic villain who actually ends up geting what he wants at the end of II (winning the Civil War and crushing the Noble Alliance) and III (have someone kill the corrupted Divine Beast of Earth and spread the curse of Erebonia all over the world) but then he pulls off questionable moves where he just lets go of the heroes. He is doing this on purpose as his true goal is to get rid of the curse of Erebonia from the face of Zemuria for good.
  • Dragon Quest V: Ladja has the opportunity to easily kill the hero twice, and later the hero's wife along with him, the first while he's a child and doesn't know he's a threat yet, and the second when he turns the hero and his wife to stone and knows all too well, but in both cases decides to make a quick buck off the hero instead.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Lampshaded and inverted in this Bob and George strip. Don't worry, he got better.
  • Averted in the vampire vs. zombie webcomic Last Blood, during the final battle, the vampires are captured by zombies who chain them up with the intent to torture them. However, for the past 20 pages, there have been allusions to the idea that the leader of the vampires, Addison Payne, has a brilliant scheme to defeat the zombies at some point, even once captured. So instead of letting him live and risking utter victory just for the sake of torture, the lead zombie simply stakes him through the heart, no suggestion necessary. Despite this stroke of brilliance, he still winds up losing it all when he decides to keep one of the human women as his presumed concubine, and goes to embrace her, at which point she promptly stakes him in the heart, killing him and turning his zombies loose.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Dr. Steve originally was just going to shoot Torg, but got talked out of it.
    Dr. Steve: I've decided to just shoot you and get this over with.
    Torg: But wait, don't you want to reveal your master plan to me?
    Dr. Steve: No.
    Torg: If you were a real villain, you'd tell me your master plan before killing me.
  • League of Super Redundant Heroes: Subverted in this strip, despite the expectations of the villain's goon.
  • In El Goonish Shive, during the climax of his arc, Abraham gives a long winded speech to Ellen about why he has to kill her instead of simply doing it, giving Nanase the time she needed to catch up to and stop him. Justified, in that he really doesn't want to go through with it.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • Double Subversion with Roland Daggett when he had Batgirl and Catwoman at his mercy. When Batgirl taunted him with the suggestion that he leave them trussed up over one of his vats of deadly chemicals with acid burning through the rope, he pointed out how often this method had failed him before, and announced he was just going to have his men shoot them and toss their bodies into those vats instead. In the end, however, his stopping to tell them this gave them just enough time to get loose and take him down anyway.
    • In the episode "The Clock King", Fugate, the Clock King, gets Batman in a Death Trap. But he can't resist pulling a Just Between You and Me with a mocking taped message left behind that Batman manages to repurpose into the tools with which to escape. Had he left no message at all, it's likely the Death Trap would have worked, as Batman was ready to try getting out with a cutting torch until Fugate's message informed him that he'd deliberately thought of that already and made sure there wasn't enough time.
    • In "Trial", Batman's enemies have captured and restrained him, but instead of just killing him decide to put him on trial. With the Joker as the judge and Mad Hatter, Harley, and Croc as the Jury. The DA who stated that Batman should be put on trial was his defense, and if she got him acquitted they'd both be set free, if she failed they'd both be killed. But then, what else would you expect from Batman's enemies? Two-Face at least did want to just shoot him, but lost the coin toss. They do try to kill him after the trial, but by then Batman and the DA manage to escape.
  • In Kim Possible, this trope is part of the Tradition.
    • Discussed in the episode "Rufus in Show".
      Kim Possible: Um... Aren't you going to leave now?
      Falsetto Jones: Leave? What do you mean?
      Ron Stoppable: Well, usually the bad guy says his lame pun and then walks out, you know, leaving us to our doom.
      Falsetto Jones: But then I'd miss the whole thing! Where's the fun in that? I'm not going anywhere!
      Kim Possible: Okay, but I feel I must warn you, you're really breaking a super-villain tradition here.
    • Lampshaded in "Animal Attraction":
      Señor Senior Sr: A proper villain always leaves his foe when he's about to expire.
      Señor Senior Jr: Why?
      Señor Senior Sr: Well, it would be bad form just to loll about, waiting for it.
      Señor Senior Jr: Why?
      Señor Senior Sr: Tradition!
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ganon has both played this trope straight and subverted it more than once:
    • "Kiss N' Tell": Link (in anthropomorphic frog form) hits his head on a tree branch while dodging one of Ganon's magic blasts and is knocked out cold. Instead of finishing him off directly, Ganon summons two giant Deeler spiders to do it before taking Zelda to the Underworld without waiting. But when Link wakes up shortly afterwards, his newfound frog instincts unexpectedly take over and he eats them, much to his disgust.
    • "Stinging a Stinger": After Ganon captures Link, Zelda, and one-off Con Man Sleezenose (whom the former stole Link's already-stolen sword from), he has them thrown into a large cell to be eaten by Gohma before leaving to conquer Hyrule. He didn't count on them being able to incapacitate Gohma and break out of the cell with Sleezenose's lockpicks.
    • Subverted in "Cold Spells" when Link and Zelda fall into Ganon's giant zap-proof holding jar after a shortcut. Ganon summons Gohma to eat them and sticks around to watch, but Link and Zelda manage to get out anyway with Spryte's help.
    • He attempts to subvert this again in "That Sinking Feeling" by magically tying Link up in chains and immediately preparing to blast him. Lucky for Link, Zelda blasted Ganon with magic before he could do it.
  • Possibly the biggest case of Near-Villain Victory in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) was the three-part "Council of Evil" episode. Skeletor's plan had worked almost perfectly, had most of the heroes at his mercy and bringing Eternia to its Darkest Hour to date. But his overconfidence and ego did him in. He specifically said that the reason he wasn't killing them right away was so they could witness his true victory, seizing Grayskull and the Elders' power. Not only did this mistake cost him, it served as a serious "wake up call" to the heroes, and paved the way for the plot of second (and unfortunately, last) season.
  • Played straight in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. In the James Bond parody "Operation: Rescue Jet Fusion", Jimmy and Jet are left in an elaborate death trap... and manage to escape.
  • Shown clearly in The Fairly OddParents when Mr. Crocker meets Norm the Genie. They both hold a deep hatred for Timmy Turner, and Norm suggests sending him to Mars, while Crocker tries out a horde of elaborate impractical traps.
  • Aku in Samurai Jack, has acted in a Stupid Evil manner a lot, so it stands to reason that his stupidest involves this trope, which comes in the Grand Finale. He has Jack at his mercy and seems ready to kill him before the entire world via broadcast... only to waste time deciding what weapon to use. Jack's sword, the single instrument capable of killing Aku, is also still sitting in plain sight instead of being taken away or destroyed, meaning that even if Jack was killed, someone could still take it and finish the job for him.
  • The Simpsons:
  • In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the Hooded Claw constantly tries to murder the eponymous heroine(ish) so that he inherits her fortune instead of her. The entire episodes are devised of the heroes foiling his extremely elaborate and overly complex homicide attempts. Probably the biggest reason he never succeeded was his enjoyment at explaining every little detail of each plan to Penelope herself; it always took at least three minutes, and it would either reveal a flaw in the design to her or give her some time to either free herself or get saved by the Ant Hill Mob. Subverted in several episodes, in which the Hooded Claw admits he enjoys setting up and explaining his death traps so much that he really isn't very interested in whether or not Penelope manages to escape: if she dies, he inherits the fortune, and if she escapes, he gets to set up another death trap, so for him, it's a win-win situation.
  • All the time in Inspector Gadget. The plot of any given episode has the villain du jour trying to put the titular inspector through increasingly elaborate death traps instead of, ya know, just shooting him. This was subverted in an episode once, where they attempt to simply poison him. However Brain, Gadget's dog, has discovered the plan and keeps him from eating anything.
  • Teen Titans:
    • In the episode "X", Professor Chang's minions actually defeat Super Hero team leader Robin. But, not only do they not kill him, they don't even bother taking him prisoner! Instead, they just pass on a message that Chang has kidnapped the rest of the Teen Titans and will kill them if Robin interferes with Chang's plans. They might as well have been daring Robin to swoop in and save the day at the last minute. (Chang apparently didn't understand things like loyalty very well, and didn't think Robin would risk it while he was holding the other Titans hostage, something Starfire angrily called him out on.)
    • In one episode, Slade blackmails Robin into being his apprentice by infecting the other Titans with nanomachines that can kill them literally with a push of a button. Robin gets around this by infecting HIMSELF with the nanomachines, thus giving Slade the choice between killing all the Titans thus removing them as a threat but losing Robin as his apprentice, or potentially getting Robin as his apprentice at a later date, but leaving the Titans around to get in the way of his plans. Naturally as per this trope, he does the latter instead of the much more sensible former.
  • Lampshaded and averted in the first season finale of Generator Rex. When Van Kleiss gives the order for Biowolf to dispose of a depowered Rex. Rex asks him if he'd rather lock him a cage or tie him to a slab and use a slow moving laser on him, Biowolf simply says "No", and tosses him out the window of the Keep. Interestingly enough, this is played straight later in the episode by the Big "Good" of all people, who chooses not to turn his electromagnet defense system high enough to tear the nanites out of Biowolf's body, but simply to immobilize him for a good old fashioned beat down.
  • Played straight in the SWAT Kats episode "Night of the Dark Kat", where Dark Kat and Hard Drive have managed to capture the eponymous heroes, but instead of summarily executing them, set them on the end of a long Conveyor Belt o' Doom that leads to a rock crushing machine, a machine which is wired to blow up the warehouse if shut down, leading to predictable consequences. Dark Kat usually proves smarter than that, too. Hard Drive even lampshades it: "I still say you should have let me fry those two!"
  • Played straight in almost every episode of Totally Spies! or its follow-up The Amazing Spiez. Instead of actually spying as their occupations imply, it is always the sequence: get tiny bit of info, get captured, villain explains evil plot, leaves before making sure they die, escape, foil.
  • Superman: The Animated Series:
    • In the episode "Where there's Smoke", one of the corrupt government agents seems to have the right idea at first, arming himself with a weapon that might hurt Superman. Unfortunately for him he feels the need to explain how it works and both threaten and insult the already pissed Man of Steel, painfully finding out — when the incredibly fast hero crushes his wrist, disarming him — that he really should have just fired it when he had the chance.
    • In the three-part crossover with Batman: The Animated Series, "World's Finest", the Joker comes to Gotham with a large chunk of Kryptonite, with a proposition for Luthor to kill Superman for a billion dollars. He manages to lure Superman into his trap, and even destroys his lead suit that shields him from the radiation, but then he leaves Superman alone to die, not realizing that Batman had followed him to Metropolis, who then saves Superman by destroying the Kryptonite.
  • Maximus was prone to this in Atomic Betty, although his excuse for why he didn't stay to watch the heroes drown in his flooding room trap was "you know how I feel about water". (Which indeed was the case in several episodes.)
  • Justice League:
    • Played straight in "The Enemy Below" when Aquaman's brother, Orm leaves Aquaman and his baby son pinned to a large piece of rock slowly sinking into lava rather than just killing them both outright.
    • During "Injustice For All" Luthor and his group of Super Villains capture Batman, but instead of killing him right then they leave him tied up, which he uses to screw with them all and even finds a way to tell the League where they are. Joker even lampshades the fact that they should no doubt kill Batman right away before he gets out, even pointing out how he himself has fallen into this trope himself several times and had it backfire. Naturally, it turns out Batman could have gotten out at any time though how he does is never explained.
      Joker: And they say I'm crazy.
    • Lampshaded in "The Secret Society," where the members of the League are kept in stasis after being defeated by Grodd's Legion of Doom. Clayface, a former actor, asks why they don't just kill the captive heroes right now, and compares the situation to the mistakes made by the villains in the spy films he used to appear in. Note that Clayface is asking this while staring at Martian Manhunter. This is especially unusual because Clayface and Martian Manhunter are both Shapeshifters and the villains froze the wrong shifter by mistake. This means that Martian Manhunter in this scene is asking why the bad guys don't kill his allies. It could be he already knew this, as Martian Manhunter is also a telepath and probably got the plan from Grodd's thoughts, and is only asking out loud because Clayface isn't a telepath and would ask this. This gets Grodd to unwittingly spill his plans to the heroes before the plan is set into motion.
  • Futurama pulls this with the Slurm Queen during the 'Fry and the Slurm Factory' episode. She has Leela in a vat of goo that will mutate her into another Slurm Queen, Bender on a conveyor belt headed for a metal recycler, and Fry stuck gobbling up a tub full of addictive soda, and then she and her guards leave them to their fates. Fry saves Leela by simply dragging the tub over to where she's being held and releasing her, then she saves Bender from being turned into soda cans. Luckily for the Slurm Queen, they don't end up telling the world where Slurm soda really comes from.
  • Used and lampshaded in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Nerdy Dancin'": Dr. Doofenshmirtz leaves Perry the Platypus shackled to a table with a slowly approaching laser beam, claiming, "I saw this in a movie once. I didn't catch the ending, 'cause I had other things to do, but it seemed pretty foolproof." Perry escapes as soon as Doof leaves, simply by slipping his small hands and feet out of the shackles.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Amon has Korra completely at his mercy with about two dozen of his chi-blockers restraining her and looks like he's about to take her bending away and... doesn't. However, he justifies it and only comes across as even smarter because of it. He needs support for his plan to succeed and this early in the game, taking her bending away would only turn her into a martyr banding everyone not already on his side against him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Discord, the second-season villain, makes this mistake twice. He allows Twilight Sparkle to get her hooves on the Elements of Harmony, since he's corrupted the bearers and rendered them unable to use the Elements, and he leaves Twilight to her own devices in the unraveling Ponyville because he delights in her misery and helplessness. As such, when she regains her confidence, gets her friends back and fighting, and unleashes a devastatingly harmonious rainbow on his face, he's very much taken by surprise.
    • In the episode "Read It and Weep", we are introduced to the Daring Do novels, which are mainly patterned after Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. As such, the main villain in the books, Ahuizotl, will often put the hero Daring Do into a clichéd Death Trap. The example we see is of an ancient over-the-top execution machine involving spikes, encroaching walls, rising sand, and snakes and spiders. While it seems that Ahuizotl's confidence in Daring's demise is well-founded, he makes the classic mistake of leaving her to her doom, which allows her to use her pith helmet and some Improbable Aiming Skills to reverse the trap.
    • In the season 4 episode "Daring Don't", Ahuizotl does it again by suspending Daring over a slowly rising pit of water filled with piranhas. Given that the episode's premise is that everything in the Daring Do novels is actually real (including Daring's previous escapes), he comes off less of a real threat and more of a villain with terrible amnesia.
  • Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse has Closet, the Affably Evil Master Computer, exhibit this twice. First, he neglects to keep an eye on Barbie, Midge, and Summer while gloating to Ken, allowing the three of them to ditch him through an Air-Vent Passageway. Later, Closet threatens to fry Barbie and her friends in a giant drier, only to hear the oven's timer go off. In response, he tells the girls not to move, then leaves to check on the crème brulee he's baking. The girls seize the opportunity to remove the Dreamhouse's CPU.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero:
    • COBRA does this a lot, but one that stands out as especially stupid was the Christmas Episode. It started out like a good idea; Cobra Commander thought he'd attack the Joes' headquarters on Christmas Eve (worked for George Washington, right?) and it actually worked — he and his men took the whole team of Joes hostage. Then the Commander got a good idea, maybe. He had his men handcuff the prisoners and lock them up in their own meat locker, suspended from the hooks by their cuffs, then decided to take the Joes' vehicles for a joyride and attack a nearby city, maybe get the Joes in trouble. Then, however, Cobra Commander's last attempt at Evil Gloating ruins the plan royally. He tells his prisoners he's leaving them a "Christmas present" and puts the keys to their handcuffs on a hook by the door before he leaves to taunt them, confident they can't possibly reach it. Unbeknownst to him, Shipwreck has already partially freed himself, getting down from the hook (he leaps up and grabs hold of it when they hear the Commander coming) so when the villain leaves again, freeing himself and the other is a simple matter. Even worse, when the villains leave with the Joes' vehicles, they leave their own vehicles behind (and apparently leave the keys in the ignitions, for that matter). Did the villains think the Joes wouldn't shoot down their own crafts? Wild Bill did say he felt "like [he] shot his own horse" when he did, but he still did, and so did the others. (So all this botched plan accomplished was to prove that COBRA can't claim that the Joes have better equipment as an excuse for their failures...)
    • Ironically, during the five-part "Arise Serpentor Arise", when the villains took Sergeant Slaughter (likely one of the biggest thorns in their side) hostage, Cobra Commander was the smart one, wanting to kill him right away. Unfortunately for him, he had little control of the organization at the time, and Dr. Mindbender wanted to use Slaughter's DNA to supply the fighting expertise of his creation. It turned out very bad for them, and would be the biggest factor in the experiment creating just another failure of a leader.
  • Lex Luthor (often regarded as one of the worst offenders) actually subverts this in one Superfriends episode. He manages to subdue all the heroes except Superman in inescapable deathtraps that actually seem genuinely inescapable. (Even Batman is close to giving up). Then he reveals to his accomplice that this was part of his deal with a group of aliens that live in the sun itself; he gets rid of them, and they turn the sun red, leaving Superman powerless. They do so, and Superman is led to a nasty surprise, and Lex uses his final deathtrap on him. Thing is, Luthor is not being stupid this time. When the aliens double-cross him — as he clearly feared they would — he deactivates all the death traps with a single button on his vehicle, unleashing the heroes to deal with them. (Unfortunately for Lex, he's not as Crazy-Prepared as he'd like; they still find him and haul him to jail after doing so.)
  • Ben 10: Omniverse is filled with these:
    • Dr. Psychobos manages to temporarily get Ben in his grasp in "Outbreak" when he comes to steal a piece of the Omnitrix from him, but chooses to let him live and just leaves once he gets said piece (which is replaced by the end of the episode). When called out for it by Malware, he justifies his decision by saying Ben isn't the real threat.
    • In "Vilgax Must Croak", Vilgax has Ben at his mercy, unconscious, in human form and defenseless, with everybody around unable to assist. He still decides to just escape his jail and leave Ben alive, even though it would have probably taken him a second at best to kill him.
    • In "Frogs of War", the Inkurseans manage to conquer Earth with pure military might and force Ben into surrendering. Yet, rather than executing and putting him out of the picture permanently, they just exile him and send him into space, allowing him to come back later and infiltrate them to end their invasion from the inside. Arguably justified in that Attea was counting on it, but still, you gotta wonder why Emperor Milleus couldn't be more pragmatic.
    • A particularly ridiculous offender with the Rooters, seeing how their whole goal focuses around killing Ben to begin with. They had him as their prisoner, in human form and unconscious right in their first episode, but Proctor Servantis decides to let him go and stick with his ridiculously convoluted plan (which by the way was developed to kill Ben five years ago, and Ben has become much more powerful since then) on the argument that "he is tougher than he looks".
  • What costs Bill his defeat in Gravity Falls where Bill, rather than turning him into a tapestry like the other chosen ones, chooses to imprison Stan while he threatens the kids to blackmail Ford into giving him the equation that will break the barrier. To Bill, Ford won't give a damn if his brother gets tortured to death because Ford supposedly blamed Stan for screwing up the Zodiac, so there isn't any reason for him to keep Stanley. This bites him even harder because it's ultimately Stanley Pines who comes up with the idea to erase himself, along with Bill, once and for all.
  • Deconstructed in Wander over Yonder. Wander realizes that the reason Lord Dominator keeps succumbing to Bond Villain Stupidity and letting the heroes escape is because she's suffering from crippling loneliness and an inability to connect with others. She desperately seeks companionship but doesn't understand how to make it work, so she goes around bullying and dominating people as a supervillain, desperate to feel a connection. When her victims inevitably flee or fight back, she lets them do so because that means she'll get to fight them more later.
  • In the Mega Man cartoon, Dr. Wily and his Robot Masters have several moments where he could easily have destroyed Mega Man and/or his friends, but fails due to opting for an excessively elaborate plan:
    • In "20,000 Leaks Under the Sea", after pulling off a clever Evil Plan, he managed to trap our heroes in a fake laboratory building that was in fact an enormous robot which then took them underwater. We later find out that he had a self-destruct for the building that he could've just used right at the start to kill them all before they even realized anything was wrong. Instead, he trapped them in an Agony Beam while gloating about his plan, eventually leaving them to their fate, enabling them to make their escape. Not only that, but he apparently left some tools behind that Dr. Light was able to use to help them escape.
    • In "Showdown at Red Gulch" the Robot Masters had Mega Man completely at their mercy after they knocked him out, but instead of finishing him off, they tied him to a horse and sent him off into the desert.
    • In "Campus Commandos" the Robot Masters had Mega Man at their mercy, twice. The first time they locked him in a closet and the second time they tied him to gears in a clock and left him alone.
    • In "Brain Bot" they handcuffed Mega Man to the floor and were going to crush him, but left him alone instead of staying to make sure he died.
  • This is a signature trait of Black Heron in DuckTales, largely due to her borderline parodical status as a Card-Carrying Villain:
    • In the past, she was too focused on filming her "declaration of ill-intent" to take a young Beakley and Scrooge seriously, and she later is almost tricked into giving an evil monologue (but manages to catch herself).
    • It's not really her fault that she leaked Bradford's true allegiance to the triplets since Bradford did not enact radio silence, and she was just doing her job trying to find him for extraction. Flying a helicopter with their organization's logo on the side clear and visible so that Scrooge himself can see? Absolutely. What's worse is that when Bradford expressed indignation at the screw-up, Heron sarcastically asked if he would've preferred she fly in an unmarked helicopter. Bradford, naturally, retorts with a big fat "YES!"
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: Smytus's Fatal Flaw is his obsession with Evil Gloating and grand theatrical schemes, such as constantly putting time-wasting countdowns on his weapons for the sake of his ego. He more or less grows out of it of it by the time of Big Damn Movie and nearly takes over the Earth as a result, only to be undone by one last bit of Bond-Villain Stupidity when he tries to use his Self-Destruct Mechanism to kill Jenny... only for her to safely hurl him far away from her because his self-destruct had yet another pointless time delay.

    Real Life 
  • Allegedly, Emperor Nero tried to kill his own mother firstly by rigging the ceiling above her bed to collapse on her as she slept (the idea never got past the planning stages), then settling on rigging her boat so that it would sink with her on it — this worked, but Nero didn't count on his mother being able to swim. When he heard that she had survived, with two elaborate death traps having failed him, he decided to have the messenger arrested and framed as an assassin, then just sent his guards to stab her to death.
  • One British woman was repeatedly tazered then bound and Buried Alive by her sadistic fiance. Thankfully he was dumb enough to neglect to tie her hands, and she managed to escape and testify against him. Read the full story here.


Video Example(s):


Riddler spares Bruce

Because they couldn't just help themselves, Riddler and Two-Face spare Bruce's life after ambushing him, because then he "won't learn nothin'."

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / BondVillainStupidity

Media sources:

Main / BondVillainStupidity