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Finish Him!

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Standard for Gladiator Games, especially in Hollywood History.note 

Comicus: O Emperor, spare this poor man. He has fought so bravely for our amusement.
Emperor Nero: Let him... die!
Comicus: Tough shit.

Two characters meet to do battle on the field of honor, watched by someone in a position of authority over them. Maybe they are gladiators, fighting for the amusement of the King and his people. Maybe they are two students fighting for the right to learn from a master. In any case, they fight tooth and nail to defeat each other, and eventually one comes out on top, tasting victory while the opponent lies helpless and defeated.

As he enjoys his hard-fought victory, he is congratulated by the onlooker, who then coldly orders him to finish the job and finish off his opponent, killing them and taking the rightful place as the most brutal and powerful fighter in the land.

If the winner is The Hero (especially if he is an All-Loving Hero), he will more often than not refuse to kill his opponent, and attempt to leave without any more blood on his hands, thus earning the ire of the onlooker (unless it was a Secret Test of Character all along). If the heroic fighter is more aggressive, he may instead kill the captive to establish his character as being more inclined to brutality, to the amusement and satisfaction of the onlooker (who may not know that he is next).

Related to Coup de Grâce and Mercy Kill, where a character does this of their own free will, instead of being ordered to. Compare Kick Them While They Are Down, Get It Over With. Contrast Shoot Your Mate, Kill Him Already!.

The name of this trope comes from Mortal Kombat where it's a meme, being said after every fight to give the player the opportunity to use a Finishing Move, but in the actual storyline is rarely used. Don't confuse this for the Finnish band HIM.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Deadman Wonderland, when Ganta defeats Minatsuki in the Carnival Corpse battle, the crowd demands that he finish her off. He flips them off in a lampshaded Out-of-Character Moment.
  • Kino's Journey: Kino is fighting another Action Girl in a colosseum watched by The Caligula, who demands Kino kill her opponent after she gets the drop on her. The crowd quickly joins in the chant. Kino accepts her surrender instead, only for the mad king to shoot her opponent dead with a rifle as Kino walks away.

    Comic Books 
  • Near the end of the "Superman in Exile" storyline, Superman is forced to fight in gladiatorial games on the distant planet known as Warworld. After a hard-fought battle against the champion, Superman comes out victorious, and is ordered to Finish Him by the Big Bad Warlord Mongul, who is watching the fight. When Supes refuses, it angers Mongul, demoralizes and humiliates the champion (who had hoped for an honorable death in battle), and astonishes the hordes of spectators watching the fight. This part of the storyline was adapted into a Justice League episode titled "War World".
  • Simon Dark: Gaius Publius refused when ordered to kill a fellow gladiator he'd defeated, which resulted in Caligula giving Gaius to his sorcerer as punishment turning Gaius into a monstrous nigh-immortal familiar, who retains his human sense of justice.
  • Wonder Woman Volume 1: When Wondy and Hippolyta are before the antagonists in the coliseum in issue 33 the crown holds out thumbs down to indicate they want their deaths.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Twelve Tasks of Asterix: Julius Caesar is watching a gladiator rehearsal fight when one of his minions tries whispering some information in his ear. Caesar can't hear what he's saying because of the noise, so he gives the thumbs down to get them to stop, only to find out afterwards the gladiators have all killed each other.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spartacus features what may be the Ur-Example in modern film, with Spartacus and the "Nubian" forced to fight to the death at the gladiator school (in violation of school policy that they would not be forced to kill one another while there) for the amusement of several Roman nobles. In a bit of an aversion, Spartacus, the titular hero, actually loses and his opponent is the one who refuses to carry out the killing blow, opting instead to throw his trident at the evil Roman politician who gave the order and then climb the wall of the arena to get at him. The incident (along with Spartacus's love interest being taken away from him) is what kicks off the riot at the gladiator training facility and starts the slave revolt that forms the main plot.
  • Star Wars:
  • Batman Begins: Played straight, though, without prior knowledge of Ra's Al Ghul's personality, it would seem to be a Secret Test of Character instead.
  • Flash Gordon (1980): Flash and Prince Barin are fighting on the tilting floor (with pop-up knives). While Flash is lashing Barin with a whip, Prince Vultan yells "Come on boy, finish him!". Flash's refuses and his mercy wins over Vultan and Barin.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985). Max refuses to kill Blaster after knocking off his helmet and finding the hulking brute is actually a drooling idiot. This violates the rules of the Thunderdome, in which two men with a quarrel enter and only one leaves (designed to stop quarrels from spreading and involving others). Worse, he blurts out the fact that Aunty Entity hired him to kill Blaster, forcing The Dragon to take direct action and kill Blaster himself. Entity gets her revenge by banishing Max into the desert.
  • TRON: As Crom struggles to climb back up onto a ring platform, Sark tells Flynn to "finish the game". When he refuses, Sark removes the platform and drops Crom to his de-resolution anyway (and almost does the same to Flynn, only reluctantly holding back when he remembers the MCP's orders to keep Flynn around until he dies in combat). Also used in TRON: Legacy when Clu 2 tries to make Rinzler, a corrupted version of Tron, take down the Flynns and Quorra, only for him to reply, "I fight for the Users", and turn against his former master.
  • In Naked Weapon, the evil Madame M kidnaps little girls from all around the world, brings them to her heavily guarded secret island and trains them to be sexy assassins. Once they're all grown up and their training is finished, she makes all 25 of them fight to the death until only one is left standing. Talk about wasting resources...
  • The Karate Kid movies:
    • John Kreese in The Karate Kid (1984) says this, just before Johnny gets his ass handed to him by Daniel's Crane kick. Kreese also delivers two of these in a more menacing way in Cobra Kai. In season 2, he says it while Miguel is giving Hawk a brutal beatdown for trashing Miyagi-Do. In season 3, he says it while Hawk is giving a vicious one-sided beating to Brucks.
    • In The Karate Kid (2010) remake set in China, Kreese's equivalent in that movie orders one of his pupils to strike another student that he had incapacitated during practice; the student hesitates and is smacked in the face for his hesitation.
  • History of the World Part I has its Roman section have the Emperor deem this when Comicus defeats Josephus. Comicus's response? 'Tough shit.' He hesitates, then ultimately revolts, when Josephus spends his would-be last moments crying and whimpering at the idea of dying.
  • In Dredd, Judge Dredd orders newbie Judge Anderson to put a bullet through a disabled mook's head. She meets the man's wife and baby a few minutes later. By the end of the movie, she's coldly finishing off mooks without prompting.
  • The Quick and the Dead is about a Quick Draw contest, but halfway through the movie Herod changes the rules so it's a Duel to the Death. After one of the contestants, Eugene Dred, rapes an underage girl, he gets into a gunfight with Lady. He loses and ends up on the ground pleading for mercy, then begs the Big Bad for help when he appears on the porch. Instead Herod insists Lady inflict the Coup de Grâce as per the rules. Lady heads back into the saloon instead, where Dred stupidly tries to kill her again, removing the moral ambiguity.
  • Wing Commander has the one-on-one battle between the Tiger's Claw and a Kilrathi cruiser. Paladin (temporarily in command after The Captain is wounded in battle) delivers this gem after goading the enemy into a deadly game of chicken and getting them to blink.
    Paladin: Give him a broadside, Mr. Gerald!

  • Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan has a case where the main character actually goes along, after a page of agonizing. This incidentally marks his Moral Event Horizon.
  • In E. E. "Doc" Smith's Triplanetary, the end of Patrocles's fight in the Gladiator Games; he stabs his foe, unnecessarily. Which means he lives long enough for a futile Gladiator Revolt.
  • In Starfighters of Adumar, Cartanese culture calls for the winner of a ground duel to offer this choice to someone in the crowd (usually either the perator or their Love Interest), who can choose either mercy or death. Part of Cheriss's plan to commit honorable suicide involves her giving the perator the choice and then refusing, knowing that after that, no one would offer her mercy.
  • Battle of the Labyrinth: Percy refusing to kill Ethan after defeating him in a gladiator-style duel and being ordered to kill him.
  • The Executioner. In "Canadian Crisis", Mack Bolan orders the Action Girl with him to give a Mercy Kill to a wounded mafioso she's just shot. However in this case he's trying to discourage her from going down the same violent path that he did, by showing her that War Is Hell.
  • "The Corpse of Charlie Rull": At the end of the book, the police manage to dispatch the titular undead Villain Protagonist with a combination of Five Rounds Rapid and More Dakka. They briefly stop shooting in a mixture of shock and horror after their initial shots literally tear Charlie in two, but he keeps coming. It takes their captain to get them shooting again to finish the job, with him hysterically screaming "Keep firing, you fools! Keep firing! Did I tell you to stop?! Finish it! Finish it!"
  • Tarzan and the City of Gold: Tarzan is in Trial by Combat with Phobeg, The Strongman of the titular city. Lord Greystoke wins, of course, and literally throws his opponent out of the arena. The bloodthirsty crowd throws Phobeg back, and Queen Nemone doesn't bother with niceties; she demands Tarzan kill him. The Lord of the Jungle's reply is classic:
    Tarzan: Why should I kill him? He cannot harm me, and I kill only in self-defense or for food... Tarzan kills only whom it pleases him to kill. I shall not kill Phobeg.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Altered Carbon has it done at the behest of the fighter, not the person hosting it. He's a professional Zero-G gladiator who, if he dies, will be given a new body but gets nothing if he's not 'killed' and he can't afford the medical treatment to fix his injuries.
  • Bonanza: Averted in the climactic scene of the 14th-season opener, "Forever". Little Joe has finally beaten the villain's muscle-man, Hanley, and contemplates dropping a huge boulder on his head to crush his skull... but relents. The villain, Sloan (a ruthless gambler who had earlier ordered the killing of Joe's pregnant wife), scoffs and taunts Joe for his show of mercy... and it ultimately proves fatal for Sloan, who finds he all of a sudden has to deal with his now-former very angry stooge — who does finish him.
  • Little House on the Prairie: "For the Love of Blanche", from the final season. Humorously played, however, as Blanche — an orangutan — had played dead when the sheriff (on Mrs. Oleson's orders) had appeared to kill the simian, but she avoided getting shot and was uninjured. When Blanche is revealed to be alive later, Mrs. Oleson orders the sheriff back to make sure that Blanche is dead this time.
  • The Mandalorian: In "The Marshal", Gor Koresh shouts this during a ring match between two Gamorreans, but in a subversion, he loses patience, draws a blaster and shoots the contestant himself when Din refuses to join him in a bet on who will lose. He and his goons then turn their weapons on Din, having decided there's more money in robbing him of his beskar armor.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Sisko rescues Dukat from the Maquis. While holding a phaser on Maquis members to give them a message, he's told by an increasingly irritated Dukat, "What are you waiting for? Shoot them!"
    • In "By Inferno's Light", the Vorta running the prison camp tells Ika'tika to do this to Worf during their fight when it's clear the latter can barely stand. Ika'tika, however, is impressed by Worf's Determinator spirit and chooses not to kill him. Not sharing these Proud Warrior Race Guy values, the Vorta has Ika'tika executed instead for refusing to obey orders.
  • Firefly: In the episode "Shindig", Mal ends up in a sword duel with a local aristocrat. Predicably (since, well, one of these guys is a main character and one of these guys is not), Mal wins, with the aristocrat lying wounded on the ground. He is informed that to leave his opponent defeated and wounded would leave the man with the stigma of living as a coward. Mal responds that "Mercy is the mark of a great man." note 
  • Prison Break: In Sona, a chicken-foot fight means only one of them can leave the fight alive. The first time Michael refuses and when the other guy comes at him with a knife Mahone kills him. The second time Whistler is about to kill Michael when their failed escape plan is found and the guards come storming in.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The King's Demons", the king orders the Doctor to do this after defeating his champion.
  • Averted, subverted, and played horrifically straight in the various seasons of Spartacus: Blood and Sand
    • Subverted in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. The first episode has Batiatus commanding Gannicus not to kill his opponent until the magistrate arrives to witness the games. Gannicus apparently can't hear Batiatus over the crowd, and finishes his opponent moments before the magistrate arrives.
    • Averted in Blood and Sand, when Spartacus first fights Crixus in the arena. Defeated, he gives the missio, a symbol of defeat and a plea to the editor of the games to allow him to live. The whole episode leads up to that moment, establishing that Spartacus is too proud to beg for his life, but realizes he must if he is to survive to be reunited with his wife.
    • Played heartrendingly straight in the episode Party Favors, when Spartacus and Varro fight an exhibition match for a boy's coming-of-age party. The boy in question orders the defeated Varro killed. Spartacus must follow through with the deed or they will both die, and no one will be left to look after Varro's wife and child.
  • The climax of season 2 of Ripper Street has Reid screaming at a boxing match for Drake to kill Shine. That's literally kill him. From Drake's response, it's clear he isn't going to do it, but it's a sign that Reid has gone dangerously down the Well-Intentioned Extremist route. The season ends at that point, but we can expect season three to begin with Reid having an enormous My God, What Have I Done? moment.
  • Game of Thrones.
    • Subverted in "A Golden Crown". During the Trial by Combat between sellsword Bronn and Ser Vardis, Lady Lysa calls on the latter to finish him, not realising that he's not holding off deliberately — it's because Ser Vardis can't land an effective blow on his lightly-armoured yet more skilled opponent. Ser Vardis obediently charges towards Bronn, who expertly dodges him and inflicts a fatal wound.
    • In "The Dance of Dragons", a Braavosi swordsman gets Ser Jorah Mormont on his back in the arena and looks to Queen Daenerys, clearly expecting this trope. Daenerys just stares in shock, not wanting Jorah dead yet unwilling to stop events. At the urging of the crowd, he decides to finish Jorah anyway, only to get speared In the Back by another fighter.
  • Rome: During the assassination of Julius Caesar, Brutus just stares in shock as Caesar is stabbed multiple times, an unused dagger dropping from his hand. After Caesar collapses, one of the conspirators picks up the knife, places it in Brutus' hand and insists that he strike the final blow, it being necessary for propaganda reasons that Brutus be directly involved.

  • In The Protomen's song "The Sons Of Fate", the fight between Megaman and Protoman is watched by the people of the City. Shortly after Megaman realizes they will never fight for themselves, the people shout "Destroy him!/You can save us!/You are our hope!/Kill Protoman!" Megaman does so, and leaves them to die.

  • During a battle against a Martian saucer in the Willams pinball table Attack from Mars, once the player inflicts enough damage such that its Life Meter fully depletes, one of the citizens from the city the player is defending will urge the player to deliver the final blow to the saucer with one shot into an opened sinkhole.
  • In Zen Studios' pinball adaptation of the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, after the player manages to land enough blows on Ronan during Rocket and Groot's fight against him, the scoring display will tell the player to "finish him" by shooting a sinkhole right under where Ronan stands.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Especially during the Kayfabe era, where heel managers accompanied their wrestlers to the ring, the manager — upon sensing that their bloodied jobber of an opponent was finished and ripe for the kill — would signal in some manner to his wrestler to finish him off with their finishing move. Indeed, sometimes it would be a simple demand, "Finish him!"

    Video Games 
  • In the first Fable, you fight alongside Whisper in the Arena. Since two people can't be the Arena Champion, you're ordered to fight each other to the death. The two of you make a deal to "just give them a good show," with the winner just leaving after nearly killing the other, but it's up to the player whether or not to honor it.
  • Guitar Hero III. After defeating Lou in the final boss battle in Hell, you get an opportunity to play the final section in the song and Finish Him to regain your soul. Why does he come back in GH:WT? He got sent back to hell.
    • The devil always comes back. He came back to Georgia, after all.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard can, if his/her Renegade points are high enough, encourage Jack to kill one of her childhood inmates to prevent him from reopening the facility (or alternately use paragon material to talk her out of it). If you let him go, then you get a message in Mass Effect 3 that he has gone straight and thanks you for your mercy. You also get informed that he went down fighting the Reapers and protecting evacuation shuttles.
  • The MechCommander intro video.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • The Trope Namer, where Shang Tsung (and, subsequently, Shao Kahn) orders the winning fighter to do this after every match. However, this only rarely comes up in the storyline, as most characters are killed in battle rather than after it.
    • One exception to this is the storyline for Mortal Kombat 9. Early in the story, Johnny Cage, who believes this is a mundane fighting tournament where a lot of fighters are just in strange costumes, defeats Baraka and is subsequently ordered to "Finish him!" by Shang Tsung. He refuses. Cyrax is later offered the same opportunity after beating Cage and he also stands down. Later in the game, Shao Kahn orders Kitana to kill a Shaolin monk she had just defeated. She refuses, which causes Kahn to kill the monk himself.
    • In Mortal Kombat X, D'Vorah is given the go ahead to kill Baraka by Kotal Kahn. While he does not shout the trope name outright, the thumbs-down motion he gives is as good as doing so, and the quick-time prompt that shows up on screen is for one of D'Vorah's in-game Fatalities. In this case, doing so is dependent on the player inputting them in time, though Baraka somehow dies either way.
  • At the end of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, after the climactic fight against The Boss, Snake stands over his mentor's broken body aiming her own gun at her face. The worst part? The game won't continue until you fire. You have to make Snake kill the woman who trained him for his entire life. You Bastard!.
  • Nioh: Subverted; Kelley attempts to invoke this trope ("Yes! Kill him!) when his summoned warlord Nobunaga Oda has defeated William - only for said warlord to immediately stop and call out Kelley for his overly entitled attitude, then spare William and leave.
  • Parodied in the episodic Sam & Max games. At the climax of "They Stole Max's Brain!" Sam duels General Skun'kape in a gladiatorial arena. After stunning him in traditional adventure game fashion, the only options given are "Finish Him." Instead of killing the General, however, Sam just slaps him senseless for his finisher.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The conclusion to the Final Boss battle vs. the Lich King is a form of this. After all appears lost, Tirion Fordring shatters the dread runeblade Frostmourne, breaking the Lich King's power and releasing all the souls he's stolen. As he floats there helpless, Terenas Menethil resurrects the raid group, and orders the players to finish off Arthas.
    • The conclusion to the Archimonde battle at Mount Hyjal (Caverns of Time version) is this. When you get him down to 10% health, he Turns Red and unleashes far more powerful attacks...but the raid is buffed with Blessing of Elune, rendering all raid members immune to his attacks. While there is a limited duration to that buff, the wisps around Mount Hyjal are also attacking, pretty much guaranteeing that he dies before the buff expires.
  • In Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, when you defeat Nohman in the final battle after the following cutscene in which Nohman gloats to Dingo that he had indeed killed his comrades, Dingo calmly tells him that they're waiting for him now and you're left to do the finishing move on Nohman by either obliterating him or by slashing him to pieces.


    Web Videos 
  • In Critical Role, whenever a player lands a roll that allows their character to finish off a tough enemy, Matthew Mercer will allow them to describe their finishing blow, asking them, "How do you want to do this?"

    Western Animation 
  • The battle between Zoidberg and Fry in the Futurama episode, "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?" Fry refuses, and goes into a dramatic speech about the importance of friendship. At which point Zoidberg chops off his arm, causing Fry to go into an Unstoppable Rage while chasing a terrified Zoidberg and beating him with said arm.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko kicks Zhao's butt in a duel in the third episode. Zhao, probably knowing full well that Zuko wouldn't be able to finish him off, says "do it!" when Zuko has him defeated. Zuko doesn't finish him — our first clue that he's not truly evil. When Zuko turns his back to leave, Zhao dishonorably tries to strike from behind despite having already lost — confirming that he really is truly evil.
  • There is an interesting variation in episode 2 of Beast Wars. Optimus and Dinobot are fighting on the terms, established by Dinobot, that the winner will lead the Maximals and the loser will be cast into the river below. Dinobot had been disarmed and knocked down by Optimus and tells Optimus to finish him, but he refuses. Dinobot takes this opportunity to retaliate and the whole thing just goes downhill from there.
  • In Exo Squad, Lt. Marsh refuses to kill a pirate warrior he previously defeated in a ritual fight to the death, in spite of Simbacca encouraging him to do so.
  • In Adventure Time, the Fight King says this as the main character and hero, Finn, is about to kill his best friend Jake. He doesn't go through with it.
  • Parodied in an episode of King of the Hill, when Bobby and Peggy get in a fight on their front lawn, egged on by their neighbor Kahn: "She bluffing! Finish her!"
  • In the Justice League episode "War World", after Superman defeats Gladiator Draega, Mongul orders Superman to do this. Being who he is, he refuses, even when Draega himself asks him to do so. Later, in the second part of the two-part story, Draega refuses to kill Mongul, but for a different reason — he tells the crowd Mongul does not deserve it.
  • In the Brodax Popeye cartoon "Hits and Missiles," Popeye, Olive and Wimpy are on the moon which is made of cheese and the inhabitants are sentient wedges and wheels of cheese. Popeye confronts the malevolent ruler who overcomes him. He's about to flatten Popeye by rolling over him, saying "And now to finish him off!", only for the sailor to eat his spinach and turn the tables.


Video Example(s):


"Kill him now!"

Palpatine tempts Anakin into killing Dooku. Anakin is conflicted with his actions but Palpatine tries to justify that it is normal to do such things.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (27 votes)

Example of:

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