A Stock Phrase generally used for one of two reasons, dependent on whether good or evil is currently acting.
A. Good — Sadistic Choice
The Captain is forced to make a decision where there is no third option and the cavalry most certainly won't save the day. Thousands, or perhaps millions will die. The only other choice is to let the enemy overrun the area, potentially killing everyone or capturing vital resources. This form generally creates a Hurting Hero, and in especially severe cases, a Heroic BSoD. He'll also often suffer from Flashback Nightmares.
B. Evil — Horrific Realization
The Big Bad has capabilities that no one has ever imagined. He has the ability to slaughter everyone, take over the world, or what have you, and the only thing required for success is simply a bit of time. It would take a miracle from The Hero to even come close to curbing the assault, let alone win. In some cases, the situation really is hopeless, and everyone has to simply sit back and watch in abject horror as events take place.
Either case will usually result in massive loss of life, and in some cases, destruction on a global scale. Many times the action taken is the respective side's last resort. And given that it's a last resort there is little chance that anyone will ask Was It Really Worth It? due to the stakes being that absurdly high.
Examples of the Sadistic Choice:
- Independence Day used a variation of type A when President Whitmore was forced to try the Nuclear Option on an alien ship above Houston, Texas: "May our children forgive us."
- It's even more painful in the novelization which quite bluntly states that Houston wasn't fully evacuated before the nuke detonated.
- Before that point, a news anchorman reporting the destruction of the helicopter sent to communicate with the aliens said straight out, "God help us all."
- The opening credits of Wing Commander has a montage of audio snippets, outlining the history of the film's universe. This ends with the President of The Terran Confederation informing the Senate that all attempts at peaceful reconciliation with the Kilrathi Empire had failed:
It is my sad duty to inform you... as of six AM this morning, we are formally at war with the Kilrathi. God help us all.
- Battlestar Galactica. Adama invokes this when he is forced to land the fleet on New Caprica.
- Power Rangers RPM: Colonel Truman has to stop accepting refugees and shut up the Domed Hometown of Corinth before the Killer Robots can get in:
Soldier: What if there are still people out there?Colonel Truman: Then Heaven help them. Because we can't.
- World in Conflict: One mission has the player defending Fort Teller from a massive Soviet assault. The Soviets believe the Fort had the American's anti-nuke program but the Americans know it's a bust. They have to stop the Soviets from taking the Fort and realizing this thus leading to millions of deaths from Nuclear strikes on major cities. The player is ultimately overwhelmed with an overwhelming force of Soviet tanks on the way. Colonel Sawyer is given authorization to nuke the area to stop the Soviets but Mark Bannon points out that if everyone retreats the Russians will know something is up. Bannon stays behind to hold the Soviets off and the player orders the strike. After doing so Sawyer utters this phrase knowing full well the necessity of it. It's also used in multiplayer when you call in a nuclear strike.
Examples of Horrified Realization:
- On realizing that Red Skull is still alive, Captain America had a brief breakdown that ended with the words, "The Red Skull lives... God help us all."
- This is what She-Hulk has to say after her cousin smashes her into the ground during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge in World War Hulk.
- Watchmen: The Comedian uses this phrase to indicate the danger of Dr. Manhattan growing out of touch with humanity.
- The Albino Code:
Captain Fascist: Officer Howard. We are dealing with an Albeeno, which means: he has red eyes, evil in his heart, and create a storm the likes of which the human race has never seen. God help us all.
- Said by the President of the United States in the first Apocalypse film in a State of the Union address when a nuclear strike against the nation takes place.
- In Crimson Tide, The Captain, Ramsey, believes they should launch their nuclear missiles immediately to obliterate the terrorist faction in Russia. The XO, Hunter, argues that they should get confirmation before starting a nuclear holocaust as they were in the middle of receiving a message that was interrupted due to Hot Sub-on-Sub Action. Ramsey and Hunter had just led different factions of the SSBN Alabama in mutinies and counter-mutinies in order to stop what each side believes to be the worst possible move by the other side. Eventually, Ramsey finally agrees to go back and get the transmission. It is an order to abort the launch.
Ramsey: God help you if you're wrong.Hunter: If I'm wrong, then we're at war; God help us all.
- Played for Laughs in Grease, as Principal McGee tries to convince the students not to do anything unseemly at the prom, since it's going to be televised. "In just a few moments the entire nation will be watching Rydell High, God help us, and I want you to all be on your best behavior."
- How to Train Your Dragon; when the Green Death emerges from the mountain and Stoick sees what he and his people are up against he whispers, "Odin help us."
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, as the Celts prepare to attack the outlaw village, Morgan Freeman's character gasps, "Allah, be merciful".
- Said semi-facetiously by Stinger in Top Gun when Maverick, after helping to defeat enemy MiGs, suggests that he could go back to TOPGUN to be an instructor.
- The War Game. NATO battles Soviet troops in the conventional conflict that precedes World War III.
American Soldier: If things don't get better soon, then all these weapons (short range rockets) will be slamming away nuclear warheads! And then God help us all!
- Inspector Aberline upon the seeing the Wolfman escape a barrage of gunfire during the London rampage in The Wolfman (2010).
- Hank Rearden (a supposed atheist, like all of Ayn Rand's heroes) says this as the country around him turns more and more dystopian in Atlas Shrugged.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Rupert Giles: There's a reference here to the journal of Desmond Kane, pastor of a town called Sharpsville. "May 26, 1723. Tomorrow is the Ascension. God help us all." It was the last anyone heard.Wesley: Of Kane?Giles: Of Sharpsville.
- Used word for word in Danger 5 when a US infantry redshirt sees Hitler's Nazi-dinosaur army.
- Law & Order: UK. The detectives enter a building that has been torched. As they climb the stairs, Devlin covers his mouth with his scarf to block out the stench of smoke. But as they reach the main room, the camera zooms in on his face as he drops the scarf and gasps, "God have mercy". Cut to a long shot of several dozen bodies draped in white sheets, laid out on the floor.
- Lost Season 5's first episode's teaser ended with Pierre Chang saying, "God help us all" if the energy of the Orchid were released. The episode "The Lie" ended with Eloise Hawking saying, "God help us all," if Ben couldn't get the Oceanic 6 back to the island.
- The M*A*S*H Season 4 premiere, "Welcome to Korea," ends with the camp PA announcer going through the main cast and their characters. He tops it off with, "Reporting for duty as new Commanding Officer at 1600 hours, 19 September 1952, Harry Morgan as Colonel Sherman Potter. Regular Army. God help us all."
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
Captain Sisko: If we do nothing, the Dominion could sit behind that perimeter for the next five years rearming themselves. And when they're ready to come out, God help us all.
- Also used when the first threat of a Dominion invasion becomes evident.
- Vikings. Seeing only a small advance force, King Aelle is quite confident that he can beat the Vikings until the rest of the Great Heathen Army marches over the hill. (When you read the following quote, keep in mind that King Aelle is an extremely devout man.)
Bishop: (crossing himself) God help us!King Aelle: I don't think he can.
- In Mel Brooks's short-lived 1975 Robin Hood spoof When Things Were Rotten, Renaldo is framed for trouble instigated by a lookalike. He pleads his innocence when the other Merry Men are about to pass sentence on him. Little John says "Tell that to your maker!" Renaldo: "My...maker?? (to camera) MEL!!!!!!!"
- Linkin Park's "The Catalyst" uses phrasing of this sort in the verses.
- (verse 1/opening/finale) God bless us, everyone / We're a broken people living in a loaded gun...(verse 2) God save us, everyone / When we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns...
- Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge, when Yuri sets off his plot for world psychic domination:
President Michael Dugan: My God. That maniac is really going to do it. May God help us all.
- Halo: Reach:
Colonel Holland: I'm barely getting you. What's your situation, over?Carter: Colonel, there are no rebels. The Covenant are on Reach. Acknowledge?Holland: Come again, Noble-1. Did you say Covenant?Carter: Affirmative. It's the Winter Contingency.Holland: ...May God help us all...
- Mass Effect 3 opens with Admirals Hackett and Anderson discussing the mounting evidence that the Reapers have finally arrived in the galaxy and are en route to Earth. Anderson ends the conversation with "God help us all."
- Minesweeper: The Movie
Sweeper: What if we get an eight?Captain: Then God help us all.
- Used in Paw's top 9 video game composers video by Spoony:
Angry Joe: But I do wonder what would happen if Dark Paw got unleashed on the real world?Spoony: Then God help us. (Overdramatic camera zooming in.) God help us all.
Nibbler: ...and when that happens then may God help us all!Leela: Time for a diaper change!Nibbler: End transmission.
- "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" has Nibbler ending a log like this, which is most likely intended as a parody.
- Fry also shouted the phrase in "Fear Of A Bot Planet", while in the movie theater showing a film about humans attacking innocent robots.
- A Magilla Gorilla cartoon had Magilla conscripted into the armed services. He and some other conscripts are taking the military oath, and it ends with "So help me Hanna" (a reference to co-creator Bill Hanna).
- Subverted in The Simpsons when Ned's childhood psychologist hears about Ned's breakdown he says "May God have mercy on us all" as if it would likely result in a huge body count (which given his breakdown earlier, seemed quite possible). But shortly after, he finds out he left his shoes in the den and replies "May God have mercy on us all".
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered this upon being informed that the Nazis were invading Poland.