Follow TV Tropes


Forced to Watch

Go To

Weasel: Shall I reposenote  of [Eddie Valiant] right now, Boss?
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.

The hero may find they Ain't Too Proud to Beg and might plead "Please, I Will Do Anything!"


We might discover this dark scene in fragments as a Troubled Backstory Flashback.

Morally dubious heroes may also force a victim to watch. It can mark where the Well-Intentioned Extremist just crossed the Moral Event Horizon.

The villain is Tempting Fate by attempting this form of torture with Determinators, Plucky Girls and 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 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?


    open/close all folders 

    Film — Animated 
  • 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 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.

    Multiple Media 
  • 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.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Make You Watch


Abby Anderson

In what is easily the game's defining moment, Abby brutally murders a fan favorite character...

How well does it match the trope?

4.33 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeroKiller

Media sources: