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Hunting the Most Dangerous Game

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Typical company picnic for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.note 

"Gentlemen, they're large, they're fast, and fucking you up's their idea of tourism."
Will Traeger, speaking about The Predator

Subgenre of The Chase where the villains are hunters and the hero is the prey — the game — in a formalized hunting motif.

Most action series have a Hunting the Most Dangerous Game episode as well as a Forced Prize Fight. Villains may get victims from any walk of life, typically kidnapping Innocent Bystanders, buying Condemned Contestants, or tricking friends/enemies/the soon to be ex-wife into an isolated spot. The hunter is likely to do things that will give the victim more of a "fighting chance" to survive for a while, whether this means releasing them from a cage into that isolated spot in the wilderness (with a "head start" like "You have one hour to prepare before I start tracking and hunting"), or, often enough, providing them with a weapon or tools. Aside from providing a good dramatic sequence, this type of episode can also become a Green Aesop about sport hunting.

If it's an actual contest, you're talking about Deadly Game, though it should be noted that the term "game" as it is used in this trope refers to the hunted species, rather than the hunt itself. The villain often is an Egomaniac Hunter for whom sapient game is the ultimate hunting thrill, or an evil aristocrat or other rich guy who gets off on the sadistic thrill of hunting down and killing those they consider inferior. In science fiction works, this is frequently the modus operandi of a Predator Pastiche.

The Trope Namer is "The Most Dangerous Game", a classic short story in which a big game hunter becomes the prey of a retired Russian general who hunts humans for sport on his private island.

Expect the villain to motivate his prey by promising he can "Win Your Freedom" by surviving X amount of time. Whether he's being truthful or not, the story rarely actually ends with the hero simply winning his freedom and leaving, because then the villain would get away with it — true resolution of this deadly game will usually only come with the villain taken down and either arrested or killed, often after the protagonist turns the tables on his pursuer.

The Wild Hunt often engages in this sort of hunting, as does the Proud Hunter Race. See also Blood Knight for someone who is more of a warrior than a hunter. When this is someone's job instead of a sport or hobby, see Bounty Hunter and Professional Killer. Villains who go so far as to have an MO and do this often enough are practicing Industrialized Evil.

See also Serial Killer, who usually drops the overt hunting motif but still maintains the spirit of the trope, especially if they engage in cat-and-mouse games with their victims. Contrast with Hunting Is Evil, which can be related but is not as related as it sounds. If the "game" being hunted is people, the evil part is fully justified, whereas Hunting Is Evil is related to the hunt of animals being dangerous (though they can overlap if a villain practices both).


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    Comic Strips 
  • Doctor Who Magazine: In "Bloodsport", a pair of alien hunters arrive on Earth in search of sentient prey to hunt because the practice has been outlawed on their home world.
  • Modesty Blaise:
    • In "The Killing Ground", Modesty and Willie are abducted by an old enemy and dropped on a desert island where they are hunted by three big game hunters, as revenge for the way they hunted him down and turned him over to the authorities.
    • O'Donnell revisited the idea 22 years later in "The Killing Game"; the second last story arc. Modesty and Willie are abducted by the Big Bad Kromm, who runs an exclusive (and illegal) club for Egomaniac Hunters. and who has decided to step up to hunting humans, and believes that Modesty and Willie would provide the perfect challenge.

    Film — Animated 
  • Tarzan: In the end, Clayton gets fed up with Tarzan and hunts him down like the animal he sees him as.

  • A trucker is hauling a load of computers through Silicon Valley and gets lost. He walks into a bar and asks the bartender where he is. The bartender starts to answer but at that moment a guy with taped glasses and a pocket protector comes through the door. The bartender grabs a shotgun from under the bar and blasts the guy right in the chest, dead. The trucker is shocked by this, but the bartender explains "It's okay — we have too many nerds here in Silicon Valley. They declared open season, there's no limit!" The bartender gives the trucker a map to get him where he needs to go and the trucker drives off. A few blocks later the trucker takes a turn too sharply and all the computers fall off the back. He gets out to survey the damage and sees hundreds of nerds coming out of the woods and helping themselves to the computers! The trucker remembers what the bartender said, so he grabs a gun from the truck and starts picking the nerds off. Suddenly he's slammed to the ground by a cop. "I'm sorry!" the trucker says, "I was told it was open season!" "Yes," says the cop, "but you can't bait them!"
  • A rich old hunter is showing off his trophy room and describing the exotic animals he's hunted. At one point the visitor points at one and asks "What is this?" "Oh, it's a Notmebwana" the visitor looks confused at says he's never heard of something like that. The hunter tells him "Oh, that's how I named it, because that's what it kept shouting as I was trying to shoot it".

  • In German, the word "Diplomatenjagd" exists, but it doesn't actually mean to hunt ambassadors, even if it can interpreted grammatically as such. Chansonnier Reinhard Mey uses this double meaning for good measure in the likewise titled song. (The state secretary gets shot only *accidentally*, though.)
  • Macabre's "The Ted Bundy Song" tells how the titular killer would seduce women, abduct them, and hunt them in the woods.
  • Tom Lehrer in "The Hunting Song", from Songs by Tom Lehrer, which takes the potential for hunting accidents to its obvious conclusion:
    I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow
    Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow

  • Behind the Bastards has a running gag about a certain meal kit delivery company (the name is always Censored for Comedy except for one instance showing it's Blue Apron) that has a private island for child hunts. He eventually retired this joke on air after several people emailed the team believing it to be true.
  • The Last Podcast on the Left describes this as Robert Hansen's M.O. He would kidnap women, set them loose in the wilderness, and hunt them down. Despite the similarity to the trope naming story, the hosts think it unlikely Hansen ever actually read it, as the man was a dullard.
  • The Magnus Archives: in "First Hunt" two men on a hunting expedition suddenly find themselves hunted by a savage Ambiguously Human hunter.
  • Plumbing the Death Star's answer to "How Would You Use The Suicide Squad?" is to execute the Squad members by putting them in the wild, giving them some sort of handicap, and allowing eager citizens to hunt them to death. James compares it to The Most Dangerous Game, although with the addition of the even more dangerous game of superhumans like Enchantress that complicate things. They conclude that the best member of the Suicide Squad to hunt would obviously Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, despite not being a member of the team, because he's the more annoying than any of them.
    James: What about Slipknot?
    Duscher: Slipknot just kills himself.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Not a literal example, but wrestler Monty Brown had a gimmick as a hunter from the Serengeti, referring to his opponents as "prey" and "big game".
  • In Lucha Underground, King Cuerno's gimmick is that he's a hunter who got tired of normal animals and aims to make his opponents into his trophies. He fights like a hunter; he observes other matches to learn how future opponents fight, then in his matches, he moves slowly and makes his opponents come to him until they become tired or make a mistake.

  • In The Shadow episode "Death in the Deep", a big-game hunter invokes this trope in a submarine, stalking ships and slaughtering their occupants for the thrill of it.
  • "The Most Dangerous Game" itself was adapted to radio several times, including on such series as Suspense (in a version starring Orson Welles as Zaroff) and Escape.

  • In Dead Winter, a large group of rich people is apparently behind a game of world-renowned assassins hunting each other for sport, with the assassins and their sponsors getting the bounty when they kill one of the other participants. Apparently, not all of the assassins are in the game because they want to be.
  • Dinosaur Comics Has this strip, in which T-Rex says that dinosaurs are in fact the most dangerous game, because humans don’t have claws.
  • Nonlethal variant in Never Satisfied: One round of the Tournament Arc sees the participants paired up with civilians (mostly local vagrant kids), sent to a secluded island, equipped with the magical equivalent of toy guns, and tasked with protecting their own quarry while hunting each others'. It becomes more dangerous than anticipated when one group encounters Su-Yeong, a Husk that had taken refuge on the island.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Bruce Moriatos of The Empire has organized a 'practice dungeon' where low level soldiers can train for 'real world experience.' The Souballo Empire often capture Elves and dump them in the dungeon for the trainees to fight and kill.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
    • In one comic, after being told his captive has escaped, the bad guy says "We must play the most dangerous game," suggesting he intends to hunt this man and is just using the misunderstood version of the expression... but no, they play tennis with a bundle of live dynamite while riding angry bears. What this has to do with catching the prisoner is not made clear.
    • In another strip, a hunter yearns to hunt his fellow man, the "deadliest prey", only to be told that the average man spends his days on the couch: "Hunting man is like hunting a chimp with no legs", and if he really wants to feel the thrill of danger, he's better off texting while driving.
  • In Super Stupor a pair of minions are hired by a supervillain so he can hunt "the most dangerous game", which the minions think is gonna be this trope and he plans to hunt them, but it turns out the most dangerous game is actually "Rocket Tigers" and they are just there to help him with that.
  • In one story in Spying with Lana, Lana's antagonist throws her into his private game reserve with intent to hunt her down. Lana immediately identifies the trope by name, and is very annoyed, because "every two-bit crackpot in the world" seems to be fixated with it; she regards it as contemptibly lame. She leaves the house to get her head start, then hides next to the door and brains the guy with a stick the moment he sticks his head out.
  • Rak Wraithraiser from Tower of God is a warrior hunter. He tracks down the strongest people he can find and kills them to become stronger. His prey is human (or humanoid), but to him, they are all turtles. Did we mention Rak is a giant bipedal alligator?
  • In Two Guys and Guy, Wayne Got Volunteered when Frank needed funding. Frank doesn't understand why Wayne would call the police over this.
  • The Wotch: An arch-mage Battle Couple kidnaps random heroes from the multiverse to hunt down for sport, including Anne and Robin. Mostly by disabling their magic, then shooting them with magic-powered guns. It ends badly for them when they push Anne so far she shows what a Wotch actually does.

    Web Original 
  • The ARMA clan Shack Tactical has a custom mod of the ARMA engine called "The Game" which turns gameplay into a mix of this and Deadly Game. Long story short, a group of civilians are poisoned and given weapons. To survive, they have to kill another civilian who is designated as their quarry, while dodging the hunter(s) who are simultaneously out to get them. Killing your quarry will get you a dose of the cure, enough to buy you another 10 minutes or so of life. This cycle repeats until only one civilian is left. The interesting x-factors here are that killing anyone other than your quarry or a hunter trying to kill you will result in a penalty to your health (and as a result, there's a chance for players to temporarily cooperate... until one ally is secretly assigned to kill one of the people they've been working with), and the local police force (who are also played by members of the clan), which is mostly just corrupt or incompetent, but some of whom are perfectly happy to join in the festivities or may decide to favor certain players...
  • Dan in this Dropout sketch sometimes spends his nights hunting the most dangerous game... A bargain. James Bargain, his high school bully.
  • Cracked, of course, did an article on this: "So You're Being Hunted For Sport".
  • One of the Decadence series of crapshots (1 minute or less) LoadingReadyRun videos has the eccentric, decadent character proclaim that he keeps fit by partaking in the most dangerous game and then the video cuts to him in the forest, revealing he does so as the game.
  • There is a Lego stop motion short on YouTube entitled The Game, which has a more modern setting and Sci-Fi elements. Word of God says it was inspired by the novel.
  • The Onion satirized and deconstructed this trope in the article: "Maverick Hunter's 'Human Beings As Prey' Plan Not As Challenging As Expected". The humans that were being hunted weren't conditioned to survive in the environment they were placed in, and offed themselves in ways the titular hunter didn't even consider was even fathomable.
  • Reasoning has the Venator, a sapient rat monster that goes around hunting human beings for his own personal pleasure. He even dresses like a hunter.
  • Subverted in Red vs. Blue. When Sarge mentions this, Doc assumes he's talking about man. In actuality, he was referring to Giant Robot.
    Sarge: "Man." Everything kills man. Man's way down on the list! Right between koala and retarded koala!"
  • RWBY Recaps makes a joke along these lines when Pyrrha throws her spear at Jaune in the forest. note 

    Real Life 
  • Man-hunting was common practice in ancient Sparta, by the Spartiate elites against their helot slave population.
    • As part of the agoge training regimen, trainees were required to stalk and kill a random helot, the object of the test being to do so without getting caught.
    • Helots were also regularly murdered at random by the Crypteia (secret police), as a means of keeping the helot population cowed and unlikely to revolt.
  • In Ancient Rome, during the reigns of Sulla and Augustus, "proscription" was a common way of eliminating political enemies; the dictator's men would simply post a list of names, with bounties payable to whoever brought those persons' heads in.
  • It was not only legal, but encouraged to do this against Native Americans during the Gold Rush, and formed part of what has become known as the California Genocide. Many communities in California offered rewards of something around $25 for a male body part — or the whole body — and $5 for a child or a woman.
  • During the French and Indian War, the French and British took advantage of the Native American practice of scalping their enemies and began offering bounties for the scalps. This resulted in some Native Americans killing civilians to get scalps to trade in.
  • A number of serial killers and mass shooters have invoked this trope.
    • Robert Hansen, a serial killer who was active in the early 1980s, would kidnap women and then release them in the Knik River Valley in Alaska. He would then hunt them, armed with a knife and a Ruger Mini-14 rifle. The films The Naked Fear and The Frozen Ground were based on him.
    • In one of his decoded letters, the Zodiac Killer wrote, "I like killing people because it is so much fun it is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest because man is the most dangeroue anamal of all".
    • Before leaving home and going on a shooting spree, James Oliver Huberty was asked by his wife where he was going. His response was simply "hunting humans".
    • Eric Harris, one of the Columbine gunmen, stated in his diaries that his wish was to take everybody and throw them into a massive game of real-life Doom, where only the strong would survive.
  • Paintball, airsoft, and lasertag enable people to hunt The Most Dangerous Game without inflicting serious injury, at least not as long as all participants follow the safety briefing. Likewise with the digital equivalent, the multiplayer First-Person Shooter. Various mock-assassination games and Humans vs. Zombies games played on college campuses could also rate as examples, depending on the game's motif.
  • In 2003 the fake website "Hunting Bambi' purported to advertise an attraction in Las Vegas where men could use paintball guns to hunt nearly naked women for sport. This proved too much even for "Sin City", the Nevada authorities took an EXTREMELY dim view and not only forced the creators to close their site but publicly declare that the whole thing was false. According to the hoaxers they received thousands of inquires from would-be participants, both as hunters and paid quarry.
  • One of the substitutes for fox hunting that has become mildly popular in Britain is to chase a runner instead. A runner who is competing totally of their own free will, we hasten to add, and who is not harmed in any way.
  • A somewhat common attitude in warfare, though since the targets are (usually) declared enemies who can typically shoot back, it avoids the more unsavory aspects of other portrayals:
    • Invoked in the Battle Cry of fighter pilots "Tally-ho". Similarly the Germans used "Horrido" (literally "victory") which is an old German hunting call.
    • Manfred von Richthofen, the Ace Pilot better known to most as the Red Baron, was an avid sportsman in his civilian life. He often spoke of his aerial combat prowess in terms of hunting Englishmen.
    • Some hunters in northwest Nigeria have switched targets from traditional big game to Boko Haram militants.
  • Daniel Wright, a tourism expert, believes that human hunting will become a televised pastime among wealthy people within the next 200 years, as resource depletion and the need to control population growth intersects with a desensitization toward violence.
  • Real life man-hunting has been common for centuries, used mostly to track down criminals, insurgents, or escapees. One of the most famous of these manhunts was the search for John Wilkes Booth who murdered president Lincoln. Notably, the intended purpose of these hunts aren't always to kill the target, but to capture instead. Depending on if the target is armed or not, capturing the target alive tends to be much more dangerous. This is one of the reasons that people like Booth end up dead at the end of the hunt.
  • Mercenary hunting involves tracking down leads and bringing in criminals and bail dodgers for decades. While stories of "Dead or Alive" posters have been exaggerated over the years, even today in the USA, legally contracted bounty hunters still exist to make informal arrests for bail dodgers having much less restrictions on them than police officers. That being said, the moral and physical standards of modern bounty hunters are very stringent, which is why less than 4,000 positions exist today.
  • Some high schools will allow their graduating class to play a game called Senior Assassin, where the participating students are randomly given a target of one of the other participants and have a week to shoot them with a water gun, which is treated as if they were killed. And, while there are usually safezones (such as the school and a target house's that you were not invited into and goggles make you flat immune), purge nights/days are pretty much as close to this trope as one can get, as goggles are "disabled" so leaving a safe zone is a massive risk.
  • In the Mühlviertler Hasenjagd, 500 starving Soviet PO Ws escaped from a concentration camp, only to be hunted down and killed soon afterwards (many failed to even reach the woods due to months of starvation).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Hunt The Most Dangerous Game


Boimler Becomes the Prey

Boimler agrees to be hunted by K'Ranch, who's getting antsy because the broken space elevator means he can't get down to Dulaine.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / HuntingTheMostDangerousGame

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