Doom: Let him watch his toon friends get Dipped. Then shoot him.
After capturing the hero, the villain will threaten him with Cold-Blooded Torture unless he reveals where he's hidden the MacGuffin, etc. Being a good hero, he dares him to do his worst. Not only can he take it, but will do so with a smile! The villain will then calmly rotate the chair they're strapped into and show them a friend or loved one in deep trouble instead. Uh-oh...
This "deep trouble" can be just about anything: a camera feed showing a hit squad offing allies or friends one by one, the Love Interest in a slowly moving Death Trap or being outright tortured. If the villain has the means, they might force the hero into Watching Troy Burn or the Red Shirt Army being massacred by the villain's Gas Mask Mooks.
The possibilities are nauseatingly endless, but the one constant is that they are Forced to Watch, often with the offer that they can make it stop if they just give in. Sometimes the act isn't meant to make someone talk, but to Kick the Dog in a truly heinous way, sadistically Mind Raping them by taking whatever they love and destroying it before their very eyes. If it does literally involve sex, expect it to be the darkest version of Sex in a Shared Room, with the villain raping someone right in front of the hero. More cynically, this is a way for the writers to make sure that the heroes remain absolutely sympathetic — caving under torture would make them "weak," but caving to a loved one's torture makes them heroic.
In family-friendly works it can be a way of softening a torture scene: rather than getting out the knives, simply threatening the hero's loved ones can carry the story without rousing the censors. It can even be a moment of comedy if the subject of the threat is absurd or the punishment is ridiculous.
In more adult works the hero's head may be strapped to prevent them from looking away. In more extreme works their eyes may be taped open, or their eyelids removed. An anesthetic or blow to the head may leave the hero too dazed to look away. Other times, like a car wreck, the hero just won't be able to look away. For bonus points, a hero trying to look away will have the villain grab them by the chin and force them to face forward while screaming that they look on.
We might discover this dark scene in fragments as a Troubled Backstory Flashback.
The villain is Tempting Fate by attempting this form of torture with Determinators, Plucky Girls or antiheroes, as the consequences will not be pretty if they do not succeed in breaking them. Especially if the hero manages to bust loose from their imprisonment — in which case the villain is going to be facing torture and/or death of their own soon enough.
See also We Have Ways of Making You Talk. If circumstances prevent allies to team up in a fight and one has to helplessly watch the other being overpowered or killed by the enemy forces, it's Locked Out of the Fight. If they're made to watch through a window, which they can't get through, it's Helpless Window Death. If it is an object being damaged/destroyed as opposed to a living thing, then it's Interrogation by Vandalism.
Not to be confused with The Ludovico Technique, when one is forced to watch propaganda or brainwashing material, rather than something eliciting fear for another.
And yes, if you bring any real-life examples, you'll be forced to watch them being promptly deleted from here, m'kay?
- In The Incredibles, Syndrome does a variation of this to Mr. Incredible; he's made to listen to a radio transmission from his wife and children as their plane is being targeted by missiles. Worst of all, Syndrome didn't know it was Bob's family but thought they were his back-up. The reveal that there were children on board didn't stop Syndrome in the slightest.
- In The LEGO Movie, Lord Business would prefer to let Emmett and the Master Builders have a front-row seat to the destruction of Bricksburg (Emmett's home city) to really torture them before the Think Tank self-destructs. He imprisons the latter in his Think Tank and ties the former to the self-destruct mechanism's battery. Emmett, being the one forced, is closest to the computer screen where the apocalypse is effectively taking place.
- In The Man Called Flintstone, the Green Goose tortures Barney Rubble on the rack to make Fred Flintstone talk. Subverted when Fred doesn't crack and tell the Green Goose what he wants to know, but ignores Barney's suffering.
- After turning human, the titular ogre of Shrek 2 is prevented from reuniting with his wife and is forced to watch as another man pretends to be Shrek transformed and embraces his wife.
- In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the Penguin King and his soldiers are forced to watch their Ice Palace being burned by Bowser, who intrudes to steal their Power Star. The Penguin King, in shock that this would happen, can only manage a Little "No".
- In Wreck-It Ralph, during the climax, the Cy-Bug King Candy/Turbo tries to force Ralph to watch as Vanellope is about to be eaten by the other Cy-Bugs. This only prompts Ralph to attempt his big Heroic Sacrifice. A few minutes later, the Turbo side can only watch as he is drawn towards incineration.
- In BIONICLE, Karzahni's Mask of Power has the effect of trapping the target in a vision where they're usually unable to move, and witness horrible alternate futures. In one instance, he made Jaller see what would have happened if he had frozen in place instead of saving his friend Takua, thus allowing the villain Makuta to win. In this alternate future, the terrorized islanders would have risen up against Makuta's rule, only to be brutally killed one by one by his henchmen. This also counts as Mind Rape, as it leaves the victim too shaken to try to escape Karzahni's realm.
- Bad-guy wrestlers forcing their face opponents to watch beatings and other wicked actions has dates back a long time. Two examples come to mind:
- Jim Cornette and The Midnight Express forced Dusty Rhodes to watch as Cornette hit Baby Doll in the stomach with a tennis racket. This nearly caused a riot, and Cornette received death threats after it was stated that Baby Doll might not be able to have children because of the attack.
- In 1988, to help set up the first-ever SummerSlam main event (Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage [the "Mega Powers"] against Ted DiBiase and André the Giant [the "Mega Bucks"]), Savage (with Miss Elizabeth in tow) delivered a promo throwing out an open challenge, to which Andre came out and taunted the "Macho Man." Savage accepted, only to have DiBiase sneak in and attack the champion, after which Andre and DiBiase double-teamed the champion; the trope-fitter here was Elizabeth being restrained by Virgil, forced to watch a brutal-for-the-time attack.
- In 1991, Jake Roberts vs. Earthquake was set up in memorable style: Roberts was scheduled to take on Earthquake, who eventually got the better of "the Snake" and tied him in the ring ropes. Manager Jimmy Hart threw the snake bag (containing Roberts' snake, Damien) into the ring as 'Quake told Roberts, "You are going to see me ... (pause for dramatic effect) ... squash that snake!" Roberts was crying and trying to break free, but could only watch as Earthquake repeatedly performed his "Earthquake splash" to (Kayfabe) crush the snake to death.note Roberts was disconsolate as he finally broke free of the ropes ... but by that time, 'Quake was being led from the ring. Commentators McMahon, Roddy Piper and Savage remarked that it reminded some of the cruel childhood memory of being forced to watch a bully kill a beloved pet.
- A common trope used during the Attitude Era, particularly in the feud pitting "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. One example is Austin showing — via the TitanTron — that he had earlier poured tons of concrete in McMahon's new Chevrolet Corvette!!!!
- Another time, as Austin and The Rock were trading verbal jabs, Austin revealed, via video footage, that he had dropped a steel beam on top of the Rock's brand new Lincoln Continental!
- Yet another one occurred in 2000 when Austin came on the TitanTron and blew up D-Generation X's tour bus, the DX Express.
- Colt Cabana tried to force Christopher Daniels to watch CM Punk's murder of Allison Danger, which he was to perform in retaliation for Daniels attacking CM Punk's girlfriend and Second City Saints manager Lucy. Danger was spared when it was revealed BJ Whitmer was the one who attacked Lucy.
- When one of Serena Deeb's protege's, Davina Rose, showed up in SHIMMER, Portia Perez was delighted, boasting that she would force Deeb to watch Rose's destruction.
- Better Than You forced Solo Darling to watch them break the leg of her Buddy System partner Heidi Lovelace. Daffney brought Crazy Mary Dobson into SHINE to deal with BTY, which lead to the rest of Valifornia forcing them to watch Solo be put through a table.
- "El Rebelde" Noriega handcuffed Eddie Colon's wrist to the bottom ring rope and held him in place to watch The Precious One Gilbert strip and beat Eddie's cousin Orlando to a bloody mess with the help of El Gran Armando, Pedro Portillo III and some shards of glass. Noriega even punched Eddie in the chest a few times to make sure his eyes were open.
- In The Bible, a priest named Pash-Hur throws Jeremiah into jail for the night because of his prophesying about Judah's sins and the upcoming invasion by Babylon. The next morning Jeremiah declares that God has changed Pash-Hur's name to Magor-Missaviv, "terror all around," because he will watch all his friends die in the attack before being dragged off to Babylon for the rest of his life.
- Happens in The Book of Mormon. Two prophets, Alma and Amulek, preach in a wicked city and have a handful of conversions, but they are imprisoned by the evil people in the city, who also cast all the men who converted out of the city and throw all their wives and children (and scriptures) into a bonfire, forcing Alma and Amulek to watch. Amulek wants to use the power of God to stop such a horrific scene, but Alma prevents any interference, reasoning that God now has a reason to send those responsible to hell, and besides, if these women and children are righteous anyway, they're now in heaven and happy.
- One Dungeons & Dragons monster is the Vaath, a horrible amalgam of insect and lizard from the Lower Planes. It hunts by injecting its victims with a paralyzing poison, then inserting a feeding tendril into its victim's body to consume choice organs. Not only is the Vaath sadistic enough to make sure its victims live just long to watch it consume their intestines, it's also telepathic, so everyone around it — including the person being eaten — gets to experience not just the Vaath's enjoyment of the meal, but the exact flavor and texture of the person's innards.
- In many stagings of Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Sextus, held by Ptolemy's guards, has to watch his mother Cornelia being harassed by Achillas. Several productions (such as the 2013 one in Salzburg), however, proceed to subvert it when Achillas starts to have a gradual Heel Realization, has Sextus released, and lets him comfort Cornelia, and tentatively tries to make amends with both.
- In Tosca, Tosca is forced to listen to Cavaradossi being tortured, and Scarpia also describes the torture method to her. She eventually breaks down and reveals the escaped prisoner Angelotti's hiding place.
- In the second Camp Camp Halloween special, Daniel tells Max that he plans on livestreaming his death to a captive David. Cut to David, who notes that the camp's wi-fi isn't that good.
- DEATH BATTLE!: Towards the end of "Black Adam vs Apocalypse", after violently stomping on his opponent's face, Apocalypse forces the near-death Black Adam to see Kahndaq being destroyed, knowing well that he let his people down when they needed him before killing him.
- This is how Alastor from Hazbin Hotel got his moniker as "the Radio Demon". After arriving in Hell as another mortal soul, Alastor began a rapid campaign of toppling, tormenting, and decimating some of the most powerful overlords Hell has ever known to establish his own claim to power. He also went so far as to broadcast his carnage over the radio waves so everyone in Hell would know his power.
- Parodied in Aoi House when Elle finds out two heterosexual men have joined their club. As they really can't lose two more members without getting closed by the university, she is determined to fix the minor problem with Alex and Sandy.
- This happened to The Blonde Marvel when she didn't want to pay for Madame de Sade's broken window.
- Chapter 17 of Furry Fight Chronicles ends with Muko being forced to watch as Nyarai defeats Adelgund to the point of hospitalization with her Leg-Jet Burst. She wants to tag in to save her, but Adelgund refuses to prevent Muko from committing a Senseless Sacrifice against an opponent who outclassed Muko without using her real strength.
- The Greatest Gift has a disturbing example with Astra/Venus. Her father forced her to watch her Evil Twin Jupiter/Fake Venus strangle their mother to death. Did we mention they were fillies when this happened?
- Redcloak of The Order of the Stick attempts this, threatening to throw groups of prisoners into a rift in front of O-Chul, unless O-Chul gives him information. O-Chul simply doesn't have the information Redcloak is after and tells him that if he's going to kill the prisoners, then do it quickly and be done with it. Redcloak is astounded at how vile humans are. Notably, Redcloak orders that the prisoners be informed of O-Chul's statement... and fails to realize they'll see it as a sign of resistance rather than one of cowardice.
- Any time Susan overpowers Anna in Sire she is forced to helplessly watch her "Sister" pilot the body that they share and commit impassioned crimes. This has included confirmed kills so far. One of which was their beloved uncle.
- In Sluggy Freelance Hereti-Corp tries torturing Gwynn to make Torg give up information on Dr. Steve and Oasis, until Torg points out that they hadn't asked him any questions yet.
- In Unsounded, Matty Quigley is blind, yet he is able to see through the eyes of his pymaric doll, Chitz. When Starfish orders Matty's father killed, he holds up Chitz so that, even though Matty is crying and trying to close his eyes, he still sees everything. Luckily, Jivi performs a Big Damn Heroes and manages to save both Matty and his father.
- In an Achievement Hunter Let's Play of Dead by Daylight, Jeremy Dooley, playing the murderer for one round, drops Jack Patillo as he's trying to rescue Ryan Haywood from one of the spider traps and leaves him there to watch Ryan die.
- This is how Marie feels in Pyrrhic, having been forced to watch Joshua Mercy Kill Chase.
- In Receiver of Many in the nightmarish illusion weaved by Cronus for Persephone this happens in two ways: the illusionary Hades is forced to watch how Cronus rapes his wife and the real Persephone herself is forced to see this scene play out before her eyes.
- Item 1683 on the list of Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG: "Killing the orc horde by drowning them all at once is heroic. Killing them by drowning them one at a time is an alignment check."