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Godzilla Threshold

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Stand back.

Loki: How desperate are you, that you call on such lost creatures to defend you?
Nick Fury: How desperate am I? You threaten my world with war. You steal a force you can't hope to control. You talk about peace and you kill 'cause it's fun. You have made me very desperate. You might not be glad that you did.

There is wisdom in facing a threat with a proportionate response. Sure, There Is No Kill like Overkill, but it will likely cause a lot of avoidable collateral damage, and it will guarantee that tomorrow the next threat is stronger. But every so often, the time comes when the threat is so great, the situation has gone so horribly wrong, that there is no proportionate response. When circumstances are so dire as to justify the use of any and every thing that might solve it, no matter how reckless, nonsensical, or horrific, regardless of cost. When even the summoning of Godzilla, king of the monsters and patron saint of collateral damage, could not possibly make the crisis any worse. Every so often, the situation crosses the Godzilla Threshold.

Once the Threshold is crossed, any plan, with even the smallest possibility of success, no matter how ludicrous, dangerous, or abhorrent, suddenly becomes a valid option. This serves both narrative and authorial purposes. Suppose the heroes are given Emergency Authority. Or they have an awesome weapon that nonetheless causes a lot of property damage, like a Kill Sat. Or a captured or dormant monster. Or one knows a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that will put their life at risk. Or the only ones left who are in a position to try and save the day are the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who've been bumbling their way in the background the whole time. The powers that be have to use it, but it can't be done lightly without portraying them as either careless or cruel. So the author contrives to make the situation call for its use in such clear terms the audience understands this was done as a last resort — and, if it's handled properly, the audience doesn't even notice.

Sometimes, the threshold is engineered or handled poorly. This can be the case when the heroes' actions or failures to act cause the situation to cross the threshold. General Ripper is also a likely candidate. For situations like this, there's an Idiot Ball or Poor Communication Kills to thank for the dire mess of things. Some plots center around avoiding the Godzilla Threshold and keeping the trigger-happy person in charge of the "failsafe" from pushing the button. Sometimes, they even succeed.

Note that, as the Real Life section below attempts to show, using such options tends to create more problems; if the solution ultimately causes more/worse problems than you had before, you may have a case of Pyrrhic Victory. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero and Won the War, Lost the Peace can be related in larger-scale stories. Of course, these only apply when the consequences are shown — if they pull it off without problems, you may have an Informed Flaw.

Named for the Godzilla films of the late 1980s and 1990s, in which Godzilla was again the destructive side of nature personified, if not outright evil (in contrast to his heroic characterizations during the '60s and '70s), but people were still happy to see him because he was usually fighting something far worse and he was the only thing that stood a hope in hell of defeating it.

Situations of this nature include the Willfully Weak character giving the "No More Holding Back" Speech and turning the Power Limiter off, using the Forbidden Chekhov's Gun, using lethal powers, turning to the Nuclear Option, or casting Summon Bigger Fish. After all, It's The Only Way To Be Sure. When begged, the All-Powerful Bystander may even be willing to lend a hand. In video games, this is the time to use items that are Too Awesome to Use.

Compare Lesser of Two Evils (which Godzilla Threshold could be a subtrope of), and Enemy Mine, for situations where it may be useful to team up with a lesser foe to combat a far greater mutual threat. Also compare The Tyson Zone, Disproportionate Retribution, and Evil Versus Oblivion (where the "Godzilla" of the situation is likely to be the "Evil"). Contrast The Unfettered, who lives and acts as though the situation is always past the Threshold, even when there's no good reason to do so. On the other axis is Once is Not Enough, where a character clings to their limits even when they should be beating down the villain with everything they have, and usually pays for it. Batman Grabs a Gun is a subtrope for cases where the threat convinces a character to set aside an otherwise rigorously obeyed personal rule.

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Other Examples:

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    Films — Animation 
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Salvatore Valestra tries to hire the Joker to take out Batman, under the belief that Batman is knocking off people connected to Beaumont (it's someone else), and hopes that since Joker is one of these people, he will take up the job. He laments having been pushed to the point where it's necessary, and Joker kills him to bait the real killer.
  • Same thing happens in Batman: Under the Red Hood, when Black Mask breaks Joker out of Arkham in order to deal with the Red Hood. What he didn't know was that this was exactly what Red Hood wanted.
  • Batman and Harley Quinn has a downplayed and somewhat parodied example with Harley's "Nuclear Option": she takes off her makeup and starts crying in front of Poison Ivy, which immediately makes her drop her evil plan and give Harley a big hug.
  • In Frozen II, once Anna realizes that the dam is the cause of all their problems, she goes to wake up the stone giants to trick them into destroying it.
  • In Justice League Dark: Apokolips War they resort to releasing Raven's father, the demon lord Trigon, in hopes he'll distract Darkseid long enough for them to enact their plan. This hits a couple snags when Trigon kills Constantine and chooses Superman as his vessel instead, but ultimately he's happy enough to have an enemy who can give him a good fight that he plays the role like a champ, seems to be winning their battle, and even tackles Darkseid into the portal Cyborg creates to trap both of them.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens plays this for laughs: the giant alien machine is unstoppable, so they release their monsters — a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits.
  • In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, Leo from the bad future tells Mike to send Casey Jones back to the past to stop the Krang, despite knowing it will kill his brother. Mike accepts the sacrifice and dies to allow Casey a chance to go back in time.
  • In Turning Red, Mei's family emphasize that the red panda must never be allowed out, and all the women in the family have to repress the beast as much as they could lest it break free, until the ritual when it can be separated from them. At the climax, when Ming transforms into a massive kaiju-sized red panda, Mei's grandmother and aunties break their talismans, transforming back into red pandas in order to gain the strength to pull Ming back into the sealing circle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Most 1950s monster flicks often had nuclear weapons as a last resort, from The War of the Worlds (1953) to Beginning of the End. So did Ang Lee's Hulk for that matter; they bombed a lake, though, and so there were no collateral casualties, but it was certainly the last available option once Hulk and Banner Dad had unleashed all their rage.
  • Aliens has the space marines, with Ellen Ripley in tow, arrive at the colony they are supposed to investigate only to find that said colony has been overrun and the colonists are all monster chow. In the process of evaluating the situation, most of the marines also become monster chow. With the mission screwed and the colony beyond help, Ripley suggests that they "Take off and nuke the entire site from orbit." Corporal Hicks (now the ranking soldier) agrees with her.
  • The science facility in The Andromeda Strain is set up to nuke itself if anything gets past the containment seals. The scientists later learn that the energy would only fuel the strain's reproduction, wiping out life on Earth in short order.
  • In Battle: Los Angeles, the military decides to deal with the aliens by evacuating the civilians then bombing the coastal cities being invaded. The aliens thwart this.
  • The Burning Sea: A massive undersea landslide tears open dozens of Norwegian oil pipelines. If nothing is done, the resulting oil slick will devastate the Norwegian coast, and go on to every nation around the North Sea. Setting the slick on fire now will obviously be bad, but less bad than doing nothing.
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, after Marty and Dana find the research facility, they get cornered by the armed security in a control room. The only answer they find is to open the cages and release all the monsters in them, which quickly start slaughtering every person on sight. The entire movie is clear about being built around this trope, almost from the beginning. As an exploration of how horror/slasher tropes make sense, the BIGGER threat is the Cthulhoid apocalypse that the trope invocations are attempting to avert. Even if that means utilizing the placeholder-villains of the genre to do so.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick:
    • Lampshaded by Riddick in Pitch Black when the survivors of the crashed spaceship managed to capture him, but then releases him due to the alien fauna.
      Riddick: Finally found something worse than me, huh?
    • In The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), the Necromonger threat has grown so great that some people decide to track down a Serial Killer who may be the only surviving member of a race of warriors to combat them. As the opening monologue puts it: "In normal times, evil would be fought by good. But in times like these, well, it should be fought by another kind of evil."
  • Cloverfield: The Hammerdown protocol. Though not explained in the movie, it appears to involve either nuking Manhattan or "merely" dropping multiple superheavy conventional bombs on it. To quote the radio operator, "If you can hear the [air raid] sirens, you're inside the blast zone."
  • Color Out of Space (2020): When it becomes apparent that escape from the Color is impossible, Lavinia, a good "witch", turns to the evil magic of the Necronomicon for help. Not only does it not work, but it is implied that it speeds up Lavinia's doom due to the rune she inscribes on her forehead actually representing a structure found on the creature's homeworld.
  • In The Core, the heroes reach the outer core of the Earth and discover that the nuclear weapons they've brought along won't be enough to restart it. In response, the general decides to fire up Project DESTINI to restart the core — which was the very thing that had stopped the core in the first place. The predicted devastation to the Earth's surface would be almost as bad as the lack of a geomagnetic field they were trying to fix.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The Dark Knight has several scenes musing about how much power is appropriate to stop a threat, citing things like Ancient Rome's ability to grant emergency powers to one man. Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that Batman himself has become the threshold for Gotham's criminal underworld. Their response is The Joker.
      Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.
      Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand.
    • Towards the end of the film, Batman hacks every cell phone in Gotham into a listening device/sonar array. Lucius Fox is horrified at how unethical it is, and Batman seemingly agrees, as he puts the self-destruct option in Lucius's hands instead of his own, to be used as soon as they thwart the Joker.
    • The Dark Knight Rises: Towards the end of the film, Batman uses the Bat's weapons with lethal intent, in order to stop a nuke from going off. To a lesser extent, he appears in broad daylight for the first time in the series.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel: After being defeated, General Zod confesses he has nothing more to live for and vows to make the people of Earth suffer. There is nothing they can do to stop him or restrain him. Superman comes to the hard decision that the only way to stop him is to kill him.
    • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman justifies stealing Lex Luthor's Kryptonite by pointing out Superman "has the power to wipe out the entire human race," making his existence too great a risk.
    • In Suicide Squad (2016), El Diablo absolutely refuses to ever use his fire powers to harm anyone or anything ever again. When the Squad are pinned down and facing certain death, El Diablo unleashes his power, saving them. Later on, in order to fight a giant monster, he goes even further, transforming into a giant flaming skeleton.
    • In Wonder Woman (2017), Diana had tried everything to minimize the fallout from using her powers in battle except as a last resort; but she decides to cross the threshold in the "No Man's Land" sequence as well as the final battle against her adoptive brother Ares, realizing how dangerous his desire to keep the conflict going and how he must be stopped.
    • Justice League (2017) reveals that an alliance between the Amazons, Atlanteans, humans, the Olympian Gods, and aliens was forged to stop Steppenwolf from taking over the planet millennia ago. When Steppenwolf proves to be more powerful than the League combined, it's also why (in addition to implied guilt over his actions in BvS) Batman decided to use the Genesis Chamber and a Mother Box to resurrect Superman.
    • Zack Snyder's Justice League: the Mother Boxes' Unity gets completed and its explosion disintegrates the League and perhaps most of Earth, with only Flash surviving using his phasing powers. He then decides to break his own rule and runs beyond the speed of light to travel in time to prevent the explosion, not knowing what could happen to him as he does so.
  • In Dracula Untold, all the people of Transylvania are about to get annihilated by the Turks. Vlad can only prevent this by turning into a vampire. Vlad becomes nearly unbeatable, but faces the drawbacks of being a vampire. It is still better than your entire population being wiped out.
  • In Evolution, the military plans to destroy the alien lifeforms with "tons and tons of napalm". One of the general's subordinates hints that a nuke may be a better option. It's specifically mentioned that, if the alien lifeforms aren't stopped, they will take over the planet in a matter of months, driving Terrestrial lifeforms to extinction. Of course, as the heroes find out by accident, fire speeds up the Hollywood Evolution process.
  • The teenagers in Freddy vs. Jason wanted Jason, the guy that killed 20 of their friends, to win the fight against Freddy — if only because Jason would go back home, since he has no other reason to be in Elm Street. These kids also save Jason from drowning in a dream. He kills the black girl later.
  • The climax of Galaxy Quest—The Big Bad has killed or fatally wounded everyone on the ship and the ship is hurtling towards Earth and will probably cause a mass extinction on impactnote . Jason gives the order to activate the secret superweapon, the Omega 13. The problem is, nobody knows what the Omega 13 actually does, since the Galaxy Quest TV show was cancelled before it properly appeared. The two common Epileptic Trees are that it either destroyed all matter in the universe in 13 seconds, or created a 13 second time-warp to the past. Fortunately for everyone involved, it's the latter.
  • Early on in Ghostbusters (1984), Egon goes into some detail as to how important it is to never cross the streams fired by their weapons. There is apparently a very good chance of "total protonic reversal," which would result in an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Once Gozer manifests (as a 100 foot marshmallow man) and tramples downtown New York as a warm-up to The End of the World as We Know It, the team decides to do it anyway. The protonic reversal goes off, alright... but inside Gozer's little pocket of its universe.
    • Crossing the streams is used a few more times in the video game and comic book continuities, although each time it was used successfully, there were usually extenuating circumstances involved, such as being inside of (or at least firing into) another dimension where the laws of physics work differently. In the IDW comic book series, NINE streams were crossed when fighting Tiamat in her home dimension. Later on however, the idea was rejected when fighting the Megaspook, since they were still in New York City and this time they didn't have an extradimensional portal to skew the odds.
  • Godzilla, the Trope Namer:
    • Perhaps the best example comes from the original Gojira itself, where the Japanese government decides to deploy Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer in Tokyo Bay to kill the monster. The Oxygen Destroyer also kills all other marine life in the bay, but the government considers this an acceptable loss in exchange for killing a monster that's just devastated the city. Serizawa himself is reluctant to even let anyone know about the Oxygen Destroyer's existence, even while Godzilla's rampaging, because he's afraid of how horrible a weapon it might be. He crosses his own threshold after a montage of the destruction the monster caused shows him what's at stake — and even then he takes steps to ensure his creation can't be misused. The 1956 English dub has a memorable summary of his dilemma:
      Ogata: If we don't defend ourselves from Godzilla now, what will become of us?
      Dr. Serizawa: And what will become of us if a weapon such as I now have, falls into the wrong hands? (Dramatic Pause)
      Ogata: Then you have a responsibility no man has ever faced. You have your fear, which might become reality, and you have Godzilla, which is reality.
    • 1966's Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster provides a rare Showa example for the trope namer. The main characters, stuck on an island with their exit barred by a secret terrorist cell, opt to awaken a sleeping Godzilla when their escape attempts fail. Predictably, with the big guy awake and angry, the terrorists don't last much longer.
    • Godzilla: Final Wars reaches the literal Godzilla Threshold about halfway through. Civilization is in ruins and the alien monsters are running rampant, so how could one more make things worse? Godzilla turns out to be fiercely territorial when near other monsters...
    • In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, King Ghidorah causes Japan to reach this Threshold. They bring back Godzilla (or so they thought) and juice him with radiation. Of course, after King G is defeated, he starts rampaging too, but if you think about it, the situation didn't really get any worse. At which point they bring King Ghidorah back to fight Godzilla, which oddly enough actually works.
    • Godzilla (2014):
      • Invoked. Serizawa suggests that the only thing that can stop the MUTOs is the legendary Godzilla, and that the US military should just get out of his way.
      • Admiral Stenz believes that utilizing nuclear weapons is the least costly way of dealing with the MUTO. He's aware that they feed off of radiation, but believes the sheer strength of the explosion will be enough to kill them, noting that, while the H-Bomb didn't kill Godzilla in 1954, it's a firecracker in comparison to what is at their disposal six decades later.
    • In Shin Godzilla, the UN decides to try and drop a thermonuclear bomb on Godzilla to try and kill him after he decimates several cities and kills most of Japan's higher government (including the Prime Minister), and attempts to eliminate him through conventional means have just made the situation worse, despite the fact he is currently standing in the heart of Tokyo.
    • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) the US Navy, terrified by Mothra, King Ghidorah and Rodan being woken up in quick succession and Ghidorah being a match for Godzilla, decides to drop the Oxygen Destroyer on the fight between Godzilla and Ghidorah. And when that backfires horribly and leaves Ghidorah in control of all kaiju except Mothra and Kong, Monarch sends a submarine to deploy a nuclear weapon near Godzilla to help him healing, as while Godzilla may cause damage he won't try and bring The End of the World as We Know It as Ghidorah is doing right now.
    • All over the place in Godzilla vs. Kong. The stakes are that high.
      • The potential dangers a rogue Godzilla could present are such that Apex is willing to create Mechagodzilla using one of the skulls of King Ghidorah.
      • Godzilla, in turn, considers the threat Mechagodzilla could pose if Ghidorah wakes up and hijacks it to be enough to directly attack Apex facilities, even though this will turn mankind against him. Ghidroah's rampage at the end of the film proves this to have been a valid reaction.
      • The deterioration of Skull Island's ecosystem is enough to convince Monarch to evacuate Kong and mount an expedition to Hollow Earth, which could provoke Godzilla into action.
      • A minor example, but Kong normally has reservations against biting his opponents. Godzilla is enough of a threat for Kong to sink his fangs into Big G's gills, only for Godzilla to throw him off a moment later.
      • Ghidorah hijacking Mechagodzilla and going on a rampage through Hong Kong is enough for Godzilla and Kong (who just had a massive fight a few minutes earlier) to put aside their differences and team up to kill the alien robot monster.
  • In Hellboy (2019), Daimio is repeatedly shown fighting off his transformation into his were-jaguar form by jamming a syringe into his leg. When he sees an empowered Gruagach beating the living shit out of Hellboy, he's visibly torn but eventually tosses the syringe and embraces his inner beast to save Hellboy's life.
  • Independence Day:
    • The revelation that the aliens' only interest is the complete and total destruction of Earth serves as the Godzilla Threshold moment that convinces the president to authorize use of nuclear weapons against the invaders. Naturally, it doesn't work on the intended target, though it completely destroys the (admittedly already doomed) city of Houston below.
    • Played for laughs when Jeff Goldblum drunkenly decides to trash the lab saying if we screw up this planet enough they won't want it anymore as they are there for its resources.
  • In a non-genre example, a TV reporter mentions in the wake of Joe Gallo's death in The Irishman that Little Italy, where Gallo was killed, had long been considered neutral territory by the mob as a whole, implying he should reasonably have felt safe there.note 
  • Jurassic Park:
    • In Jurassic World, the I. rex has shrugged off everything that the heroes have thrown at it — tranquilizers, bullets, rockets, Velociraptors, it's all failed. Claire orders Paddock Nine opened, releasing the Tyrannosaurus from the original film.
    • One of the majors aesops of Jurassic World Dominion is the need for humans and prehistoric life to coexist. Despite this, absolutely no one even considers trying to coexist with the super-locusts that Wu created, due to the extreme level of damage they could inflict (which could reach Class 4 on the Apocalypse How scalenote ). Even Wu, who is normally very protective of his creations, believes they need to be destroyed.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Incredible Hulk (2008), General Ross's failure to capture the Hulk forces him to give Emil Blonsky a performance-enhancing serum. Once Blonsky becomes the similarly powerful Abomination and ends up terrorizing Harlem, Ross is forced to free the Hulk so the soldier will be stopped.
    • The Avengers (2012) reveals that Nick Fury's idea to assemble a Dysfunction Junction of superpowered loose cannons is SHIELD's backup plan, behind using Applied Phlebotinum to build a Weapon of Mass Destruction and later nuking New York. The weapons in particular are called out as a bad idea, since they could potentially defeat Loki and his army... but they would also signal to the rest of the universe that humanity is ready for a higher level of warfare (which they absolutely are not). This trope is also directly referenced at the start of the final battle:
      Banner: So, this all seems... horrible.
      Natasha: I've seen worse. [referring to Bruce's last Hulk Out]
      Banner: Sorry.
      Natasha: No, we could... use a little worse.
    • Judging by JARVIS' tone (the Deadpan Snarker AI), the "House Party protocol" in Iron Man 3 is too dangerous to use. Tony uses it at the climax to summon thirty suits to imprecisely fire on the villains.
    • In Thor: The Dark World, the Threshold is the Dark Elves threatening the entire universe, and Godzilla is Loki himself. He is fully aware of the irony.
    • Echoing the first film, Avengers: Age of Ultron has the Hulk being brought out in battle a general crossing of the threshold; referred to as "Code Green." Ultron is then able to exploit this by forcing his hand in the battles of South Africa and the final battle in Sokovia. The former even has Iron Man's own threshold, the Hulkbuster armor - which Banner himself helped develop.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man, knowing that the power could kill him, in order to allow Cap and Bucky to escape and find out who was responsible for framing Bucky. Ant-Man and the Wasp has this again: Ant-Man becomes absolutely huge to prevent the bad guy from running away with Dr. Pym's shrunk laboratory, a size so big it eventually makes him pass out.
    • Discussed in Doctor Strange (2016), time magic is forbidden for being too destructive. Strange ends up resorting to time magic when he fails to stop Dormammu from being let into their universe and forces Dormammu to leave Earth with time magic. As the dust settles, Mordo quits over these actions, believing that the sorcerers are doing the wrong thing.
    • Thor: Ragnarok: Asgard is prophesied to be destroyed by Surtur the fire giant, when his crown unites with the Eternal Flame and initiates Ragnarok. The opening scene of the movie has Thor making sure this won't happen by defeating Surtur and storing away his crown in Asgard's vaults. When Hela the Goddess of Death conquers Asgard, and intends to use it to conquer all the rest of the galaxy, Thor and company's efforts to defeat her conventionally fail because she draws her power from Asgard itself. The only solution? Summoning Surtur to bring about Ragnarok and so destroy Asgard and Hela with it.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Averted. While the Avengers know that Thanos is a great enough threat that they all have to band together to have a chance at even stopping him, the Government (especially Ross) doesn't care. As soon as the fugitive Avengers show up to help, Ross immediately orders their arrest. Played straight when it turns out Fury has another threshold. There's some kind of global threat even the Avengers can't stop which causes random people to vanish into thin air? Time to page Captain Marvel. (A tie-in comic to her movie shows Fury begun carrying the pager once the Threshold he helped build broke up due in-fighting, which made crossing another emergency line more feasible.)
    • Captain Marvel (2019): At first, Yon-Rogg tries to keep the Accusers and their sledgehammer approach away from Earth. After realizing that Carol is recovering her memories of her life on Earth and is going to figure out the truth, he calls for Ronan.
    • Avengers: Endgame is all about this trope.
      • The Avengers are willing to use Time Travel in order to find and retrieve the Infinity Stones despite possible damage to the timestream, Tony creates a backup plan in case they had to deal with someone else trying to get the Stones, etc.
      • The revived Spider-Man, who hates the idea of trying to even kill people, activates the Iron Spider's "Instant Kill" mode.
      • Thanos gets forced into this three times during the final battle. The first being when Scarlet Witch beats him down. His response is to call down a massive aerial bombardment from his ship overhead, despite being warned HE and his troops will also get caught up in it. This leads directly into the second; when all of the guns on his flagship suddenly stop firing on the battlefield and start firing in the sky, now focused at something that has entered the atmosphere at high speeds. Even though the recent salvo being powerful enough to send the heroes on the ground struggling to find shelter; this change in target ends up being very much justified, as said something turns out to be CAPTAIN FREAKING MARVEL. The third and final is when Thanos realizes cannot overpower Captain Marvel in a straight up fight, whereupon he uses the unconfined Power Stone, (likely the most volatile stone, that has vaporized the user when not handled carefully) with his bare hand to knock her away.
  • Defied in Men in Black. The bug impersonating Edgar is getting close to stealing the Arquillian galaxy, so when Agent J sees him, he tries to shoot in broad view of dozens of New Yorkers with his fancy ray gun, earning K's fury.
    Agent J: Hey, we ain't got time for this cover-up bullshit! Maybe you've forgotten, but there's an Arquillian battle cruiser-
    Agent K: There's always an Arquillian battle cruiser, or a Corellian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that's about to wipe out life on this miserable little planet. The only way these people get on with their happy lives is they do. Not. Know about it!
    • The real threshold is with the Arquillians, who think a Bug in control of a Galaxy is enough of a threat to destroy the planet both are on, even if most of the inhabitants of said planet have no clue they're about to die.
  • Pacific Rim:
    • Most of the Jaeger battles take place in the water, well away from the city that is currently being targeted by a Kaiju. The 10 miles out line is referred to as the "miracle mile" and mostly they try to intercept the kaiju before it crosses the line. Fighting in the city is usually only a last resort because of the massive collateral damage, but considering the alternative it's unlikely that people will complain.
    • If you pay attention during Mutavore's attack on Sydney and happen to have a map handy, you'll notice that a big chunk of the city would be on the Kaiju side of the wall. The tie-in comics reveal that that's because they had to nuke the heck out of that area to fend off the first Kaiju attack on Sydney. Not all of the civilians were able to evacuate beforehand.
  • In Sadako vs. Kayako, the two main characters are cursed by their respective ghosts. Yuri is cursed by Sadako and Suzuka is cursed by Kayako. Keizo, a psychic they know, decides the best way to permanently get rid of both curses is to pit them against each other by double cursing both with the other's curse. This goes horribly wrong, as though the two ghosts do begin to fight, they end up merging into a single ultra-powerful ghost.
  • Star Trek films:
    • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: The Enterprise crew finds out through Lt. Valeris that there's a conspiracy between members of the Federation and the Klingon Empire to disrupt peace talks between their leaders. When Valeris refuses to share the names of all the co-conspirators, Spock forcibly mind-melds to get them. It's clear from Spock's reaction that he didn't want to do this.
    • Future Spock from Star Trek (2009) reveals information about the future to Kirk and a transwarp formula from a century later because he considered stopping Nero's genocidal campaign to be more important than keeping the time-space continuum stable (and Nero's actions had already irreparably damaged the timeline anyway).
    • Star Trek Into Darkness:
      • Spock Prime has a vow to never reveal anything of his timeline. He considers Khan enough of a threat to break his vow in order to warn the Enterprise.
      • The Vengeance so outclasses the Enterprise that unleashing the superhuman ex-Evil Overlord on it is actually the best option Kirk and co. can come up with.
  • In The Stranger, Mr. Wilson decides to free imprisoned Nazi war criminal Konrad Meinike so that the latter can be tailed by secret agents. Wilson's colleagues in the Allied War Crimes Commission are appalled at the idea of letting a war criminal free; he retorts that it's a necessary evil he must commit so that Meinike can lead them to an even more important target: Franz Kindler, one of the chief architects of The Holocaust.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah uses this as a threat to tell Dr. Silberman she is not screwing around when she has a syringe of deadly chemicals to his neck and is using him as a hostage to escape the asylum. Silberman calls her bluff by pointing out that, in spite of her extreme ways and beliefs she's not a cold-blooded killer and won't be able to do it. Sarah corrects him in very certain terms, pointing out that he's going to die on Judgement Day anyways.
    Sarah: You're already dead, Silberman. Everybody dies. You know I believe it, so DON'T FUCK WITH ME!!!
    Silberman: ...Open the door. Open the door!!!
  • Thirteen Days: Interestingly played with. Nobody in ExComm is even considering a quarantine of Cuba the first few days of the crisis and instead advocate either air strikes or an outright invasion, which will almost assuredly lead to a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict and nuclear war. It's only after Bobby spends hours grilling his associates and is at his wits ends that McNamara finally relents and brings the plan forward. Despite its obvious drawbacks (it doesn't get rid of the missiles already in Cuba, it puts the Soviet military machine on high alert about a possible attack, etc.), it proves to be the best strategy to deal with the crisis.
  • In the first Transformers film, when the Deceptions are closing in on the Allspark, the preferred military solution is to hide the Allspark in the middle of a city — where the Decepticons will have trouble getting to it until large-scale military assistance could be attained and keep them busy while the Allspark was moved to another location.
  • Tremors 2: Aftershocks: Earl is completely surrounded by Shriekers and is standing in the back of Burt's truck. His response: Set a timed explosive to go off and toss it down in the truck. That's 2.5 tons of Burt Gummer approved high explosives, parked in an oil refinery.
    Burt: [panics] That's two and half tons of high explosives Earl!
    Earl: [worried] Are you saying that's not enough?! God, Burt! Don't tell me that's not enough!
    Burt: Not enough?! It's... Never mind! Just run... FASTER!!!
  • Tremors 3: Back to Perfection has this when Burt blows up his entire bunker to kill a single Ass Blaster after it gets too close to his MREs (as he thinks, like the Shriekers, it will vastly multiply when it eats enough food), only to learn that they go into a coma when they eat too much, meaning it would have incapacitated itself from eating his MREs anyway.
  • In We Were Soldiers, when NVA are starting to overrun his men's positions Moore calls for the code "Broken Arrow"... That is, directing all available air support to fire on his positions, knowing there's a risk they'll hit his men in the process. The NVA forces are hit hard enough they have to run, but a napalm bomb does indeed hit US troops.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: The main characters' plan is to erase themselves and everyone else from existence, because in the new future they would be different people with different experiences and no memory of the originals. Everybody understands it, yet they go through with it without question anyway.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Once he finally understands that the powers of all the X-Men together will not be enough to stop Apocalypse, Charles Xavier asks Jean Grey to unleash the Phoenix force, with predictable results.
    • In Deadpool 2, Russell gets angry enough about being trapped in the Icebox Extranormal Prison that he unleashes the Juggernaut, which immediately prompts Cable to join forces with Deadpool in an Enemy Mine team-up.

  • In "Apocalypse 1992" by Gloryhammer, Zargothrax is about to succeed in summoning the elder god Kor-Virliath from the 18th hell dimension, dooming the galaxy and/or the universe. To stop him, the Hootsman (who is at this very moment revealed to be a cyborg) detonates his nuclear heart and causes an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. He's also stated to thereby "destroy all human life" to "save the human race," which, if you think about it, is a bit of an exaggeration of this trope to the point of nonsense.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Judaism, the principle of pikuach nefesh states that almost any religious consideration or law may be broken in order to save a specific human life from an immediate danger. For example, although it is forbidden to do work on the shabbat, including driving a car, you can use a car to drive someone to the hospital if they need immediate treatment. Similarly, if a pregnant woman has a craving for a non-kosher food, she is allowed to eat it, as it is assumed that not eating it will have negative consequences for the fetus. There are only a very small number of laws that cannot be broken, including killing another human being, and even that is permitted in cases of self-defense (or the defense of others).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Kenta Kobashi treated the Burning Hammer like this. It's an incredibly dangerous move, since performing it gives the opponent almost no way to protect their head or neck if it's botched, carrying a proportionately high risk for leaving the opponent paralyzed or outright dead. As such, he used it a grand total of seven times in a quarter-century of wrestling, winning the match each time.

  • In ice hockey, a team that is down a goal or two near the end of the game or so may elect to pull their goalie to put another attacker on the ice. It gives the possibility of tying the game, at the risk of the leading team having a much easier chance of scoring again. On average, the leading team scores an empty net goal about 1/3 of the time while the trailing team scores a goal about 1/9 of the time — in the long run this strategy is detrimental to the team that pulled its goalie. However, in most cases, what matters is that you've lost the game and not what the margin of defeat was. In addition, recent developments in professional-level play have indicated that it may actually be more beneficial to pull the goalie earlier than was considered normal. In a 2015 NCAA playoff game, the Miami RedHawks played 12 minutes and 48 seconds with an empty net down 4 goals. The RedHawks managed 3 unanswered goals before finally giving one up with only 6.3 seconds left, losing 7-5.
    • The Montreal Canadiens crossed this threshold while down 5-2 in Chicago with over nine minutes remaining in the final game of the 1969-70 NHL season, because the New York Rangers had scored 9 goals against a tired Detroit Red Wings team earlier in the day, and Montreal needed three more goals to claim the tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.note  It didn't work, as the Black Hawks scored five empty-net goals and didn't allow another tally, downing the Canadiens 10-2 and ending their 21-year playoff streak.
  • In Association Football (soccer), a team that's a goal down in the dying minutes of a game may choose to send their goalkeeper up front for a set play, such as a corner kick. The downside to this is that if the other team manages to gain possession of the ball, the goalkeeper probably won't be able to sprint back to his own goal in time to prevent the opposition from scoring easily. Therefore, this tactic is only used in times of urgent desperation. In the indoor version futsal, the alternative is a combination of this and hockey: the goalkeeper is removed, and a line player that can play goal becomes a "line keeper", guarding the net but more focused on attack.
  • In American football, the Hail Mary (having every receiver run to the endzone and throwing the ball up for grabs with a long forward pass) is an incredibly risky play that's just as likely to give the opposing team the ball as it is to succeed. As a result, it is rarely called. However, on occasion, when a team is losing with little to no time left on the clock, it becomes their only real chance of winning the game — and sometimes it works.
    • If passing isn't an option, the offense can try to continuously lateral the ball to keep the play alive. This is often referred to as the "Stanford band play" after a 1982 football game in which California University completed five laterals on a kickoff return to win the game, but the Stanford marching band had run onto the field believing that the game had ended. Due to the insane risk of this play (as failed attempts often end with the defense recovering the ball), this is reserved for the absolute last moment of the game. On the rare occasion it works, it can be magnificent: a Division III college football game ended with one team making 15 laterals on the final play to win the game.
      • Slightly averted in a 2003 NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars. Down 7 with a few seconds remaining, the Saints completed a lateral play to score a touchdown as time expired. The Saints just needed an extra point to tie the game and send it to overtime (which, prior to 2015, was extremely easy and had about a 99.5% success rate), but kicker John Carney missed and the Jaguars won the game by a single point.
      • Ironically, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell expected a lateral play from the Green Bay Packers on the final, untimed play (due to a Lions facemask penalty that some deem controversial) of a Thursday night game in 2015. Unfortunately for him, pretty much the rest of the world expected a Hail Mary, which is exactly what Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers delivered to tight end Richard Rodgers (no relation). The pass set the record for longest Hail Mary and longest air travel for a touchdown pass in NFL history, and for the Packers coming back from a 20-0 third-quarter deficit to win 27-23, the game was dubbed the Miracle in Motown.
      • Rodgers throw is made even more awesome when you realize he did it AGAIN to Jeff Janis in the division playoff, taking the game to overtime (where they lost). it makes him the first person to do it successfully twice in a season.
    • Much like pulling the goalie in hockey, NFL teams have been going for it on fourth down more often in the 21st century, after statistical analysis and economics models showed the downside wasn't as bad as had been believed. It used to be you only saw a team do it in endgame situations when time was running out and there was no chance to get the ball back and four downs would at least keep the ball out of the opponents' hands, or on situations where teams were so close to the opposing goal line that failure to score would at least put the opponent in bad field position, where the defense might even be able to salvage a safety. After Bill Belichick's Patriots teams began doing it more outside of those situations, and winning Super Bowls, in the early 2000s, other teams began to as well.note 
    • NFL officials also have the option of awarding a touchdown to a fouled player (on top of 15 yards) if, in their opinion, the foul was such that it prevented the player from scoring a certain touchdown.note 
  • In Basketball, fouling an opponent in the act of shooting (or in certain other situations) gives the opponent free throws, which are generally much more efficient than regular offense (most players make around 75% of free throws, meaning two free throws will yield 1.5 points on average, while regular offense yields about one point per possession). However, doing this also stops the clock and (most likely) gives the ball back to the other team. In late game situations, the team that is behind will intentionally foul the opponent and hope that they will miss their free throws in order to stop the clock and get the ball back. This rarely works, but it's the last option for a team that is losing to try and prolong the game to tie or even win.
    • A similar strategy is the "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy, wherein a team continually fouls a player who's really bad at making free throws (the strategy is named after Shaquille O'Neal, who was infamously bad at free throws) in the hopes that their opponents score less from the stripe than in regular play. There have been calls to change the rule that allows this strategy, however.
  • In baseball, intentionally walking a batter with the bases loaded is probably the single most desperate action a team can take in any game. If a batter is walked when the bases are loaded, all the runners move up one base, causing a run to score. Due to the sheer ludicrous risk, this is only ever done when the pitching team is leading by more than one run, and the batter at the plate is such a dangerous hitter that the opposing manager would rather have one run score than even give the batter a chance to see any pitches. The single most famous example of this extremely rare (only twice since 1955) occurrence was in a 1998 Arizona Diamondbacks/San Francisco Giants game in which then-Dbacks manager Buck Showalter ordered his pitcher to walk BARRY FREAKING BONDS with the bases loaded, bringing the score to 8-7 Arizona. Amazingly, it worked, and the Diamondbacks went on to win by one run. Bonds had hit 13 homers in 52 games at that point in the season.
    • A more common Godzilla Threshold move in baseball is putting in pinch hitters and/or runners in late or extra innings. The manager is gambling that a player he doesn't use much will bat or run successfully enough to win the game without taking the risk that might be involved by the player's subpar fielding. If it doesn't pan out, he may have to double down on the trope by putting in another substitute when the team takes the field.
      • Putting a pitcher in just to get one particular batter out in that situation is the defensive equivalent of this trope in baseball, since once you replace him he's done for the game.
    • Another baseball Godzilla Threshold is using a pitcher as a pinch-hitter or a defensive replacement for a position player. With the exception of the rare "two-way" player and a small handful of pitchers who have not-entirely-horrible hitting skills, such a maneuver is only done if there have been an unusual amount of injuries or the game has gone on so long that the manager has run out of replacements.
    • On the flipside of that is using a position player to pitch in a game that isn't a blow-out (the usual times such a move is made). This will usually only happen in the longest of games.
  • In Handball the goalie can be pulled just like he can be in Ice Hockey. However, due to a 2010s change of the rules, he can also be replaced in a "flying exchange", making teams much more likely to pull the goalie outside of "down a lot, seconds left on the clock" type situations. It even happens that both teams pull the goalie.
  • This is what the "Death Penalty" is in the NCAA, especially toward Football, in the Southern Methodist University football scandal. SMU was one of the top football schools in the NCAA, but rampant violations of NCAA rules (most especially a "Slush Fund" used to pay players to come to SMU), resulted in the school being banned from competition for a year. Most players immediately left for other schools, and SMU's program was left in ruins, only having one winning season for the next 20 years, and still hasn't truly recovered to this day. NCAA officials compared the Death Penalty to dropping a nuclear bomb, that the consequences of doing so were so catastrophic, that they have done everything they can to not do it again, even when a school committed a comparatively serious offense (such as the Penn State scandal, though smaller schools/programs have suffered the penalty).

  • Beast Wars: Uprising: On both sides in Derailment. The Resistance had the Commandos refitted into K-Bombs, which at their lowest setting can take out cities, and their highest crack Cybertron open like an egg, "just in case". The beginning of the Vehicon Apocalypse is bad enough Lio Convoy orders them deployed to stop the spread. And it still doesn't work. They end up with one last K-Bomb. Rampage uses it to take out Lord Delirious, but not before criticising Lio for the mentality that led him to think having planet-cracking bombs was ever a necessity. Also during the story, Lio orders every last Resistance member to a do-or-die run on Iacon, the Builder holdout, knowing there will be massive casualties, because it's the only way to stop the Vehicons, who will kill everyone on Cybertron otherwise. Meanwhile, on the Builder's side, the aforementioned run scares them bad enough to rescind their order never to let the Vehicons into Iacon. Which is what the Vehicon's progenitor, Galva Convoy, wanted.
    • The Toa's Nova blasts. It's been attempted two times in the known story for such purposes — when Toa Jaller and the Toa Mahri faced all six of the Barraki and their army of sea beasts and tried to stop them from reaching Matoro (who was at the time busy resurrecting the entire fricken' universe); and when Toa Helryx tried to create a flood inside the resurrected but Makuta-possessed Great Spirit's brain, thereby causing the robot and the universe inside it to shut off, effectively killing every being in it — both attempts were hindered, thankfully.
    • When the Bohrok-Kal were about to free their masters the Bahrag and re-unleash the Bohrok swarms upon Mata Nui, Tahu broke out his secret weapon that he was never supposed to use: The Kanohi Vahi, AKA the Mask of Time. Using it buys the Toa a few more critical seconds but also nearly destroys the universe.
    • In the prequel novel "Time Trap", Vakama has the Mask of Time, but is stuck in a fight between the Big Bad and the leader of a league of assassins. What does he do? He threatens to destroy the Mask, and with it all of reality.
    • When Botar teleported the Tahtorak onto the industrious island of Xia out of fun, it started wrecking the place, so they released the similarly giant Kanohi Dragon to fight it, which in turn lead to even more destruction.
    • The Visorak horde are mentioned as having a villainous example: the Zivon. In the event that a battle is going particularly poorly for the Visorak, a special breed of Visorak known as the Kahgarak are capable of opening a portal to the Zone of Darkness to release a gigantic Rahi beast known as the Zivon. The Zivon is one of the most deadly creatures in the entire lore, capable of shaking off pretty much any attack without so much as a scratch; the only possible way to stop it is for the Visorak to send it back to the Zone of Shadows. The reason this is such a double-edged sword for the Visorak horde? It turns out the Zivon is a natural predator of the Visorak, and it's only fighting to protect its food source; in fact, it's often known to celebrate victories by eating most of a horde. As such, the Visorak only bring it out when they're already suffering such heavy losses that a few more couldn't possibly make a difference.

    Web Animation 
  • The Director of Red vs. Blue creates Godzillas just so he can be ready for this:
    Director: When faced with extinction, every alternative is preferable!
  • RWBY:
    • When Yang, Jaune and Ren try to rescue Oscar from Salem, they are only able to escape through Oscar's decision to use a power that can only ever be used once. This puts Salem out of commission for a few short hours, just long enough for the heroes to save a kingdom that's on the verge of destruction. Ozpin has spent centuries building up kinetic energy inside his cane, but never using it. Oscar decides to unleash almost all of it in a Fantastic Nuke that completely destroys Salem and most of the Grimm army assaulting Atlas; having Complete Immortality means Salem does regenerate, but not in time to stop the heroes from evacuating the kingdom of Atlas's people. Oscar warns everyone that they will need to use the cane's remaining power far more carefully after that.
    • When Penny's life is put in danger by Watts and Ironwood, the heroes — who have been doing everything in their power to prevent both Salem and Ironwood from gaining access to the Relic of Creation — end up deciding to access the Relic of Creation after all, in a desperate Take a Third Option attempt to thwart both parties and save the day in an unexpected way. Penny has obtained the Winter Maiden powers, resulting in Ironwood using Watts to hack her to force her to go to the vault and access the Relic. However, the hack will cause her to self-terminate if she does so. With only an hour to spare before Ironwood bombs the city of Mantle to force Penny's surrender, the heroes decide to let Penny go to the vault, but to ensure they can "steal" the Relic to use its power to mass-evacuate the kingdom to a different continent via a magical solution.

  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
    • The version of the White House in Dr. McNinja's world has a defensive system that sends intruders into the Negazone. When Dr. McNinja has to infiltrate the White House in "Bad Enough Dude", and is faced with a lot of guns pointed at him and about to fire, he activates the system so that it affects himself.
    • In "The End: Part 1", when King Radical is minutes away from accomplishing his goal of wiping out most of the Earth's population in order to save the Radical Lands from destruction, Dr. McNinja crosses two thresholds in quick succession.
      • First, he summons Sparklelord, a powerful, near omnicidal unicorn who's so twisted and evil that McNinja previously decided to trap him in a time vortex rather than teaming up with him against Radical.
      • Then, in order to secure Sparklelord's aid, he tells him his first name (which had been erased from reality to form a pact), releasing an evil ghost wizard who proceeds to lay a curse on him. This does work, but at the cost of making Dr. McNinja Public Enemy #1, and convincing all of his greatest enemies to unite against him in one last, spiteful stand.
  • In Bob and George during the fifth Mega Man game the Bass and Mega Man alternates deem Bob to be such a great threat to The Multiverse that they decide to sacrifice the Earth (of one dimension) in order to stop him. And it doesn't work.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Elliot considers his party girl alter ego the least preferable of the three he has available given its propensity to draw attention to itself but a situation arises where the least attention grabbing alter ego form is Too Awesome to Use and his second favored form would likely look too out of place leading him to reluctantly choose the third aforementioned party form. This results in the collateral damage being accidentally kissing his girlfriend's sister on live tv and having to apologize for it.
  • Floyd had this exchange when our heroes were scheduled to stew for giants:
    Carmen: Now... Floyd, it's time for you to learn a spell that may get you out of this mess.
    Floyd: Um, Carmen? You said that me casting spells was a bad idea!
    Carmen: It is, but you two being eaten is marginally worse.
  • Homestuck:
    • By Act 5, all the kids' plans to deal with how screwed up their Sburb session are potentially suicidal. By the end of the Act, the plan they go with is all of them.
    • Much later, some characters feel that sending dozens, perhaps hundreds of other ghosts to certain doom is an acceptable price to pay for access to a means to kill the universe destroying Lord English.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, the alien Nemesites' Godzilla Threshold is any threat big enough to warrant creating a "Butterfly of Iron," a sort of artificial Energy Being that they can just barely control, with the power to destroy entire star systems. Galatea goes ahead and creates one as soon as she hears about it, thinking it will jumpstart The Singularity. It doesn't.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The Gates are all that hold back the Snarl supposedly. If all of them are destroyed, the Snarl would be unleashed. It's still better than letting someone evil gain control of one, since it would theoretically give them the power to threaten and blackmail the gods themselves.
    • The repeated destruction of the Gates to prevent Evil from controlling them ends up giving rise to a new threshold. The gods are having a serious discussion on whether or not destroying and remaking the entire universe with one Gate still intact would be a better alternative than waiting for the final gate to be destroyed and risk not being able to reset the world before the Snarl permanently kills a significant portion of the world's inhabitants or even the gods themselves. By destroying the universe themselves, they can at least preserve the souls of its inhabitants and place them in the new world.
    • Related to the above, Thor and Loki are working together on the matter because the chance to finally stop the infinite cycle of the gods making a world, the Snarl destroying it, and the gods making a new one is too good to pass up. An unrelated plot by Loki means that his daughter Hel is seriously unhealthy this cycle, and if they do succeed then she could very well die. Loki is going through with the plan anyway, but he tells Thor that if they fail and she does die, he's coming after Thor next.
  • Schlock Mercenary in book 7 gave Petey the ability to overwhelm Teleport Interdiction with brute force, and then in book 11 established him being at war with the Pa'anuri, thus preventing him from using that power to intervene in the minor problems of Tagon's Toughs lest entire worlds die for lack of his intervention. In book 18, faced with an unknown enemy using long guns on random targets and an ally armed with long guns going mad with grief and starting to use them as well - a crisis that threatens to destroy galactic civilization through paranoia of the new superweapon - he's started using rip-through teraports again.
    • Maxim 20 invokes this trope:
      If you're not willing to shell your own position, you're not willing to win.
  • Played for dark humor in Super Stupor: the superhero Mind's Eye has a little-known power that will force anyone to tell the truth, despite moral alignment or long as his penis is currently inside of them. And he notes that, yes, using this against an unwilling supervillain constitutes rape (though you'd be unpleasantly surprised by who will consent), which is why he'll never use it except in the most extreme emergencies. (Naturally, he is eventually forced to in one of the physical comics. And with a zombie, too.)
  • Tower of God:
    • None of the others taking the tests on the 20th floor with Jue Viole Grace wanted to deal with him. To them, he was a villain, the most dangerous enemy. But when Lurker brutally murders Wangnan's friend Nia, Wangnan goes and practically begs Viole on his hands and knees to stop Lurker.
    • The beginning of the Hell Train arc was all about preventing Hoaqin from gaining his full powers, because he was extremely evil and dangerous and out to kill the protagonist, and his fully powered form would be completely overwhelmingly powerful compared to the heroes. By the time Hwaryun finds out what's waiting for the characters at the final station, though (specifically, the king's army, complete with many warships and superpowered individuals, out to kill everyone on the train), she makes a deal with him to give him the missing piece of his powers in return for his help at the station.

    Web Original 
  • What the SCP Foundation are prepared to do to contain some items. Then again, an awful lot of the things they deal with really are that dangerous. Most foundation sites must have a several megaton strong nuke armed at all times for exactly this kind of situation. Meanwhile, their opposite-number the Global Occult Coalition has Emergency Procedure "Pizzicato" for massive emergence of Threat Entities (and also covers the Foundation itself massively losing control of its own contained objects, and the literal end of the world). Force authorisation states that "All restrictions re: NBC weaponry, Memetic Cascade Sequences, and Nanotech Grey Goo items withdrawn" and "Acceptable Collateral Damage: 90% of worldwide human population".
    • "SCP" semi-officially, by way of motto, stands for "Secure, Contain, Protect". The former two words refer to securing and containing anomalous entities, and "protect" refers to protecting the general populace. Since securing and containing SCP-682, a powerful and hard-to-destroy reptile hellbent on destroying everything and everyone it sees, has proven to be a total crapshoot, the Foundation wants to destroy it instead of keeping it in containment, as its existence is a mortal threat to anyone it sees.
    • One of their plans involves the release of all prisoners regardless of why they were imprisoned in the first place (so the worst of the worst: serial killers, sociopaths, etc.), the idea being that it's better to have what remains of mankind be Always Chaotic Evil than having no mankind at all.
    • On a meta-level, most articles featuring subjects more powerful or mary sue-ish than SCP-076-2 or SCP-682 are almost universally downvoted. The reason those articles are allowed to remain is explicitly to serve as a reference point for what not to do, since a reptile that cannot be killed and an immortal warrior are fundamentally not very interesting. More powerful entities do exist, but those articles are mostly about other, more interesting elements than the creatures themselves.
  • In Touch, we are presented with a monster so far left nameless, which was so powerful that it convinced every global government to work together with one another in order to try and kill it. they still fail.
  • Every plan to deal with Tennyo in the Whateley Universe. One we saw in a holographic simulation destroyed the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. and plunged the planet into nuclear winter, which was still considered a reasonable alternative to an uncontrolled Star Stalker possibly destroying the planet. Tennyo's best friends have Plans A-Z, and Tennyo approves.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin episode "A Race to the Finish", Sludge, Drudge, and Trudge are terrorizing the Jungle Grunges' village. In order to fight them off, Arin and Aruzia willingly use Vitamin Z to tap into their Superpowered Evil Side, turning into the Iron Warrior and Aluminum Amazon, powerful armor-clad monsters who mindlessly attack anything in sight. Though Teddy and the Grunges manage to splash them with water, causing the transformation to wear off, the village still suffers significant collateral damage.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang's original plan to defeat the Fire Lord is to wait for Sozin's Comet to pass. He realizes he's not going to master all four elements before it comes and that the Fire Nation has already conquered every major population area in the world, and thus decides that since there's not much more practical conquering the Fire Nation could do anyways it would be smarter to weather the enhanced-Firebending assault, master all four elements properly, and then take down the Fire Lord. Zuko shoots this down, explaining how Ozai plans to burn the entire Earth Kingdom to cinders using the comet and that, ready or not, they have to stop him before the comet comes.
    • The Legend of Korra: During Kuvira's assault of Republic City, the heroes not only enlist the aide of Varrick to build a response to the giant mecha suit, but also release Hiroshi Sato from prison to help. Lin explains how returning Sato to prison once they're done with him is an option and that they need every Gadgeteer Genius they can get their hands on, and Sato is more than willing to help because he loves Republic City more than he hates any Benders. Sad to say, Sato doesn't survive the battle.
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, when Graviton wakes up after the security of all four supervillain prisons fails and starts going on a rampage in New York, Nick Fury declares an "Omega-level" emergency, meaning all SHIELD personnel, the Hulkbusters, and the US armed forces are now under his direct command. It ultimately takes the newly-formed Avengers to bring Graviton down.
  • In Beast Wars Megatron tries to destroy Optimus Prime. He muses that he was hesitant to make such a drastic change to the timeline but realizes that he now had no choice but to make the ultimate gamble.
  • Ben 10:
    • Professor Paradox is a man who can go almost anywhere or anywhen and do almost anything. Even though the Celestialsapiens have banned him going anywhere within 500 lightyears of one of their people, even they can't really do anything about it should he decide to do so. He mostly obeys out of respect for their laws unless the situation requires him to violate the restraining order. So who does a being as powerful as Paradox call when he reaches his godzilla threshold? Ben Tennyson.
    • In the last few minutes of the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode "Forge of Creation", Aggregor defeats the heroes and is moments away from acquiring Reality Warper abilities that will grant him eternal power over the universe. Kevin then absorbs energy from the Ultimatrix to go One-Winged Angel to stop him, knowing that this will make him evil again. Thankfully, Ben's younger self is able to guilt-trip Kevin out of trying to steal the Reality Warper powers for himself.
    • In the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "Mystery, Incorporeal", the odd battles around campus repeatedly cause Ben's Omnitrix to glitch and only offer Ghostfreak - the form whose DNA sample comes from an evil mastermind named Zs'Skayr who can regenerate From a Single Cell, including the Omnitrix's sample of him. If Ben uses Ghostfreak, it may control him and not the other way around. When Darkstar's plans to gain ultimate power begin to come to fruition, Ben gives in and actually uses him. He has no problems since Zs'Skayr has already regenerated elsewhere.
    • Alien X is a literal Omnipotent Reality Warper, who can casually do feats of true, godlike power up to restarting the universe. However for Alien X to do anything Ben has to act an intermediary for X's other personalities who are diametrically opposed (Rage/Agression and Calm/Pacifism) and always disagreeing on everything they talk about and get them to all reach a unanimous decision on an action. After Ben realized that he can't even turn back to human without a unanimous decision, leaving his allies to deal with what's basically a heavy, immobile suit of armor, he swore off using Alien X unless things do get genuinely severe enough to need an unbound Reality Warper like that.
  • In the Danny Phantom episode "The Ultimate Enemy" Clockwork actually alters time — consider that he is in charge of maintaining the proper flow of time—to stop Dark Danny from coming into existence.
  • The DuckTales (1987) episode "The Uncrashable Hindentanic" revolves around Uncle Scrooge and his new airship. His sidekick and perennial crasher of aircraft Launchpad desperately wants to fly it but is told that Scrooge actually wants to keep the airship in one piece. When the events of the episode conspire against this Scrooge eventually relents and tells Launchpad to take the wheel. They crash, but Launchpad accidentally takes out the opposition while saving the passengers.
    "If we are going to crash anyway, we may as well crash with style."
  • On two occasions in Fantastic Four: The Animated Series, once when Doctor Doom manages to steal the powers of the Silver Surfer and again when Earth was menaced by Ego the Living Planet, the Four (and The Mighty Thor) are forced to lure out the Planet Eater Galactus to set things right.
  • Generator Rex:
    • "The Swarm" deconstructs this trope. A colony of Nigh-Invulnerable, metal-eating EVO locusts were headed towards major Chinese cities while making short work of anything Providence threw at them. White Knight decided to Nuke 'em despite Doctor Holiday's warnings. She turned out right when not only the nuke failed to kill the insects, but it increased their numbers & made the new colony more resilient than before. Doubles as Genocide Backfire.
    • The Nanite Event itself, the cause of all EVO-related problems, was this. Caesar thought it was either that or humanity becoming slaves to corrupt, power-hungry gods.
  • Deploying the universe portal from Gravity Falls risks tearing the universe apart, but Grunkle Stan risks it anyway so he can be reunited with his long-lost brother.
  • Hilda: Episode 13; early in the episode, a Nisse warns Hilda against trying to enter the nowhere space of the outside world, since it's so big one could easily get lost in it forever or end up anywhere in the world at random. In the climax, Tontu and Jellybean's owner see no other option than to let the car they're in (and Jellybean is on) enter this nowhere space, since it's out of control so the only alternative is crashing into the town wall and either die or get caught. While Hilda, Johanna and Tontu are lucky and emerge seconds later on the other side of the wall, Jellybean and his owner disappear into the void. At the end of the episode, we see they're fine and ended up in the wilderness near Hilda's old house. But the protagonists don't find out, at least not this season.
  • In Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5, Sage was forced to freeze the entire Red Sentient race to stop her Evil Twin brother Krytus from leading them on a multiversal conquest. When Krytus and her have their final confrontation, she tells him she did it because he was a threat to not only her entire race but the multiverse and she had to. Krytus' response? "You were right!" It says a lot when the guy she used it on is well aware that she was justified for doing so and doesn't care.
  • In Invincible (2021) after Omni-Man drops the mask the Global Defense Agency invokes this in the most literal sense possible by sending a captured kaiju to fight him after the bomb, Kill Sat, and undead cyborgs all failed.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • In the season two finale, after failing to free the Demon Sorcerers from their banishment, Shendu offers a chance at victory by Rewriting Reality with the Book of Ages. His siblings are initially against it, stating even they wouldn't dare tampering with the book for fear of destroying reality itself. But as Shendu points out, their current reality isn't very favorable either and the others eventually agree with the plan.
    • In the Grand Finale, Drago has devastated San Francisco and is preparing to release the demon world unto Earth. To stop him, the heroes have to free his father Shendu from his imprisonment to fight him. Fortunately for them, Shendu is more angry at his son for trying to take over "his" world than at the heroes for his previous defeats at their hands, and he keeps Drago busy long enough for them to figure out how to banish both of them. Happens again when Shendu struggles against Drago and the cast elect to restore his full power by giving back the talismans.
  • Johnny Test: In the Series Fauxnale "JX5: The Final Ending", Dark Vegan returns to take revenge on Johnny and destroy all life on Earth by leveling its forests and draining its water. Johnny, currently in an Enemy Mine situation with five of his archenemies who have accidentally gained the same superpowers as him, suggests that they form one huge Power Poot to destroy Dark Vegan's flagship after he rips out the self-destruct button. It works, destroying the entire fleet.
  • In the Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "The Edge of Yesterday", it is revealed Dr. Benton Quest developed a method of time travel in hopes of going back in time and stopping the death of his wife Rachel. Before he could go through with it, he decided changing history was too dangerous and using it for his own gain unethical, so he sealed the unused program to await a more justifiable use. When Ezekiel Rage sets a huge nuclear bomb to go off deep in the Earth's crust, likely to wipe out humanity and the world, Benton realizes that time had come so sends Jonny, Jessie, and Hadji a message to unlock the program so that they can go back and stop Rage before he plants the bomb. They are unable to stop the bomb going off, but they use the system to send Rage and the bomb back to the age of dinosaurs before it does. That far back, and on the surface, the explosion doesn't have enough of an effect on history to alter the present.
  • Justice League:
    • In "A Better World", the League has to fight the Justice Lords, their Knight Templar parallel Earth counterparts who have no compunctions about killing or lobotomizing their enemies. Batman notes that the only way they’ll win is by crossing a line themselves. They resort to making an alliance with Lex Luthor, allowing him to walk free with a Presidential pardon once the Lords are defeated.
    • Green Arrow and Speedy's "quantum arrows", which are only to be used in an emergency. When used together, they create an explosion powerful enough to create a small mushroom cloud.
  • In the final episode of Phineas and Ferb, Doofenshmirtz informs Vanessa and Perry that his machine has a fifty percent chance of tearing the entire universe apart, but if they didn't try using it that was going to happen anyway.
  • Megas XLR:
    • Earth is being invaded by the almost unkillable metal-devouring robot R.E.G.I.S. Mk 5, which had been scheduled to be thrown into a black hole until Coop accidentally rammed the ship transporting it. Coop discovered that the R.E.G.I.S. Mk 5 was solar powered and would forever stay active so long as there was light to power it. Coop's solution was to block out all sunlight so it couldn't operate. He does this by creating a nuclear winter scenario by belching enough smog out of his engine to block out the whole damn sky.
    • In the second S-Force episode, Targon believes that enlisting Coop's help qualifies as the trope.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • The Rabbit Miraculous can be used to travel through time. However, For Want of a Nail is very much in effect, and time-travel can have highly unpredictable results. This is why the Rabbit is the "hero of last resort", only used when things have gone spectacularly wrong.
    • The kwamis can use their powers independently of their human holders, but usually refrain from doing so because they have limited control over them. Even so, the titular villains in "Style Queen" and "Gang of Secrets" proved so effective that Plagg and Trixx had to use their respective powers to save the heroes; Plagg nearly destroyed Paris, while Trixx only made the Eiffel Tower wobble like a slinky.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Twilight's Kingdom - Part 1", since Lord Tirek has the power to drain ponies of their magic (and in effect take away their cutie marks), local Mad God Discord is tasked with catching him. Discord's ability to sense magical disruptions makes him the only one capable of finding Tirek before his power grows too great, in addition to being so powerful that Tirek does not yet have the strength to drain him as he does ponies. It fails. Miserably.
    • Releasing Discord in the first place to try and "reform" him could be seen as one of these; although Princess Celestia did not know of any immediate threats to Equestria, the possibility of one so great that they would need Discord's help was her reasoning for freeing such a dangerous being. Basically, they released "Godzilla" early so they'd have time to convince him to help them before the threshold-level threat actually showed up.
    • From the same arc, the other princesses giving Twilight all of their powers so that Tirek couldn't steal it could be this as well.
  • At the end of the first season of Ninjago, after the Great Devourer is unleashed and their efforts to prevent it from destroying Ninjago City prove ineffective, the ninja are forced to entrust previous villain Lord Garmadon with the Golden Weapons of Spinjitzu so he can destroy it. He's successful, but since he's still evil, he flees once the job is done and begins the next season planning to use the weapons to destroy the ninja.
  • The Real Ghostbusters episode "Revenge of Murray the Mantis", a giant supernatural praying mantis goes on a rampage through New York, and to stop it the boys release The Big Guy. Who is "the big guy"? Everyone's favorite 100-ft. Marshmallow man, Mr. Stay-Puft himself! Don't worry, "he's all better now", and the fight between him and the mantis is one of the series highlights.
  • In the second season of ReBoot, a web creature evades capture and deletion to open a massive invasion portal from the web. This jolts the entire Mainframe system into survival at all costs protocols, Phong uniting with both Megabyte and Hexadecimal to build a portal closing supercannon and building a massive common army to hold the invaders at bay long enough to use it.
  • South Park, "It's a Jersey Thing": When over half of America is taken over by New Jersey, the nation eventually turns to Al Qaeda for help.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks:
    • In "No Small Parts", when Mariner explains her plan to upload a virus into the Pakled ship, Ransom voices that whoever could come up with a code like that so quickly would have to be "some kind of morally bankrupt genius". Rutherford is forced to turn to Badgey, a rampant AI that previously tried to kill him and Tendi, for help, as he's the only one who can pull this off.
    • In "The Stars at Night", with the Cerritos being chased by three rampaging AI-driven Texas-class ships (ironically ran by the very same AI code that lead to Badgey), Boimler lets out a Big "SHUT UP!" and tells them to listen to Shaxs' idea to stop them - namely ejecting the warp core. Captain Freeman groans that he always says that before getting hit with a "Eureka!" Moment and realizing they can use it as a very powerful mine. Dr. Migleemo worries that doing so at high warp might rip them apart, but Boimler says it's better than definitely being ripped apart by photon torpedoes. The Cerritos survives being ripped out of warp, but is left dead in the water due to damage from both this and the overspeed prior to ejecting the core.
  • Steven Universe: Future: In Episode 14, it's implied, and later confirmed by Word of God, that this is what Steven's pink mode is, as it gives him any abilities he might need to escape a dire, life or death situation. The problem is, it's been triggering when it isn't needed because, in his current state of mind, every bad thing that happens to him feels like a life or death situation.
  • The "TransWarped" episode of Transformers: Animated sees the Autobots' human friend upgrade herself into a more powerful form, but the upgrade goes wrong, nearly destroying her best friend and the city. Her powers are eventually bypassed, but when Megatron shows up in control of the Autobots' tide-turning, war-winning weapon, Optimus Prime is forced to consider the option of removing the bypass and unleashing the girl, in an uncontrollable state.
    • Unicron is often treated this way across Transformers. He's often the only thing that can push Autobots and Decepticons to work together.
  • In Season 1 of Wakfu, Sadlygrove has to be careful not to let the Shushu Rubilax imprisoned inside his sword from possessing him. Otherwise, he becomes a hulking gray monster that attacks everyone around him. After some further training with his master in the desert and defeating Rubilax in a duel, Sadlygrove can only be possessed if he lets Rubilax possess him. In Episode 25, Nox unleashes his most powerful creation, a clockwork monster called Razortime. Razortime proves to be so dangerous that Sadlygrove willingly lets Rubilax possess him when the Shushu practically begs Sadlygrove to let him help. Unfortunately, Razortime is too much even for Sadlygrove's demon form.
  • What If…? (2021): During the final two episodes of Season 1, Infinity Ultron (a version of the AI that successfully took possession of Vision's body and all six Infinity Stones) uses the power now at his disposal to start spreading across the multiverse and wiping out all life everywhere. The threat of this is so great that Uatu ultimately chooses to break his vow and start gathering heroes from different universes together to fight Ultron.
  • In the final episode of W.I.T.C.H., the Guardians are forced to use the Zenith forms, basically becoming their trademark elements, to battle a massively powered up Cedric. It nearly goes sour as the girls lose themselves in this form.
  • Discussed in Xiaolin Showdown. The Sapphire Dragon is the most dangerous of all Shen Gong Wu because it cannot be controlled; after use, it will transform the user's enemies into a sapphire statue... and then turn the user's friends into statues, and then the user, and will keep going until it has done the same to everyone on Earth. The Shen Gong Wu scroll says that it "is only to be used as an absolute last resort."
  • Young Justice:
    • With most of the team imprisoned by the powerful Black Beetle, Roy Harper releases the Galactic Conqueror Mongul from his cell first, allowing Roy to free the rest of the team while Mongul and Black Beetle fight.
    • Anyone who puts on the helmet of Dr. Fate gains incredible magic power, but runs the risk of having their body stolen permanently by the Lord of Order, Nabu, who is tired of being stuck helplessly in the helmet while the forces of chaos have their way with the world. Wearing the helmet is considered an absolute last resort, but even so it's worn by three different members of the team, each time because it was clearly the only viable option.
    • In Outsiders, it's revealed that The Light has the "Nuclear Option", which is to target and murder every last member of the Justice League's families. However, they know that doing so would lead to Mutually Assured Destruction as the Justice League would go to great lengths to obliterate The Light, so they don't treat that option lightly, going so far as to actually murder Ocean-Master when he attempts it for petty revenge.


Video Example(s):



When the mycologist says that the only way out of the situation is to bomb your own capital city to take out a hostile pandemic, you know that it's really serious.

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