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I Want Them Alive!

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"Commander, tear this ship apart until you've found those plans. And bring me the passengers; I want them alive!"
Darth Vader, Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope

Maybe the villain wants the satisfaction of killing the hero himself, especially if he considers himself The Only One Allowed To Defeat Him. Maybe he needs the hero in order to finish a magic ritual. Maybe an alive hero would net a bigger bounty than if he was dead. Maybe he wants someone to take hostage. Maybe the villain wants the hero to join him, or just wants the hero. Maybe he's under orders by superiors. Maybe he wants to take the hero prisoner for interrogation. Maybe the villain needs the hero alive to steal the hero's power. Or, perhaps, he wants to Make an Example of Them. He announces to his minions, "I want them alive!"

Usually sets up an increased amount of urgency with the scene. After all, you can only be killed once, but if the Big Bad wants you alive, then you know you're in for a really bad time.

For extra sadism, he might instead ask for only the protagonist to be taken alive and everyone else to be killed. If The Plan requires the hero alive and in decent health, then an injured hero might receive Villainous Medical Care in the name of this trope.

It could also be for non-villainous reasons. Maybe the hero and villain know each other somehow (ex-lovers, former friends, family, etc) and the villain, in spite of everything, can't bring themselves to kill the hero.

Less menacingly, this is a standard line for a Noble Demon who would genuinely prefer to keep the body count as low as possible while carrying out his Evil Plan — a sentiment his minions may or may not share. If the villain is a Worthy Opponent or Friendly Enemy, expect an Antagonist in Mourning scene if his henchmen choose to ignore this stipulation. (It's okay, though, because they probably Never Found the Body and just assumed that No One Could Survive That!).

If the minion who receives this order is clever, they may respond with Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?

Justified if they have important information and the Big Bad wants them alive for interrogation, or wants to leave an Empty Shell of his former opponents rather than martyrs.

Sometimes used on the heroic side, especially if the hero is a Technical Pacifist or, conversely, if killing the villain is Something He's Got To Do Himself. The Kid with the Leash may need to add this injunction to all his orders.

Regardless of which side, if death is not an option and the opponent is aware of this, they will definitely use this to their advantage.

A variant of Leave Him to Me!. Compare Can't Kill You, Still Need You.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The villain's main objective in 07-Ghost is to bring Teito back alive. Ayanami originally wanted to kill Teito, but he decided that he wanted the boy alive because he possessed the Eye of Mikhail. At one point, he electrocuted Teito with the Oath Collar when he attempted to kill himself.
  • Attack on Titan: The Titan Shifters, humans who infiltrated the walled city and attacked it go through a lot of trouble to capture main character Eren Jaeger alive, seemingly because he has the same powers as them, but since they're stronger many people were confused for a while as to why they specifically needed him alive and wouldn't just kill him when he became too much trouble. Then we find out that he has another power — the ability to control the mindless, man-eating titans that populate the outside world. When the titan shifters are incapacitated, the royal family's personal guard starts to launch kidnapping attempts.
  • The Dark Triad in Black Clover need to capture Yami and Vangeance alive because their magics are needed to form the Tree of Qliphoth. Dante is willing to tear off a leg or two from Yami when they fight, however.
  • In the Cowboy Bebop universe, bounty hunters are, as a general rule, supposed to bring fugitives alive and without any unnecessary roughness in order to collect their reward.
    Spike: I blow the bounty if I blow you away.
  • In D.Gray-Man, we find out why the Millennium Earl and the Noah family are so intent on capturing protagonist Allen Walker. He didn't have the 14th's memories. Allen is the 14th. The Earl makes it clear because of that fact, he wants Allen over to his side.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Father and the Homunculi want Ed, Al, Roy, Hohenheim, and Izumi alive, so they can be used as sacrifices, of course. Ed gets the most profit out of this, followed by Roy. If anyone else had walked into the middle of the Ancient Conspiracy the way he did, they would have been quietly offed.
  • A heroic variant occurs in Karneval: When Circus storms Smoky Mansion in order to rescue Karoku, Eva and Tsukumo take on Uro and only wound him without causing any serious damage. When he mocks them for their failure to kill him, Eva reveals that they were ordered to capture him alive and even comments on how hard it was to hold back against him. He manages to escape before Circus can take him into custody, however.
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes Imperial admiral Wahlen orders his guards to capture alive his would-be assassin for interrogation on the defences of the Terraist stronghold. In a variation, he shot the assassin in the arm at the cost of a poisoned knife in his own arm to make sure his men wouldn't risk being harmed.
  • Naruto:
    • Akatsuki wants all the Jinchuuriki alive because killing them would kill the Biiju sealed inside them, which is what they're after. In something of a subversion, this doesn't stop them from trying to cripple them (Kisame suggested cutting off Naruto's legs to keep him from running away, and later tried to actually do it to Killer Bee).
    • During the fourth world war, Itachi and Sasuke fight Kabuto, but they have to defeat him without killing him since otherwise the world will be screwed.
  • In One Piece:
    • It's stated that the World Government would rather criminals be turned in alive so that they can be executed publicly. A dead body causes the reward to drop by 30%.
    • A more personal example would be the CP9's capture of both Nico Robin and Franky because they want to interrogate them on the location and blueprints of the ancient, island-destroying weapon Pluton. Nero forgetting this and trying to kill Franky gets him killed by Lucci.
    • Played straight with Sanji, who the World Government explicitly wants alive only, the bounty not valid otherwise. The most likely reason is, his family, the Vinsmokes, are world-renowned assassins and not people you want to get on their bad side by executing one of their estranged children. After the events of the Whole Cake Island arc, the "Dead" part of "Dead or Alive" has reappeared on his wanted poster.
  • In SD Gundam Force, Kibaomaru wants Genkimaru brought to him alive and unharmed, so he can use the brat's portal powers to awaken a Sealed Evil in a Can. He later issues these in regards to Shute and Princess Rele during the time they were his hostages; And a hostage is no good dead.

    Comic Books 
  • A more reasonable variant in a 1950s or '60s newspaper comic, when the villain told his troops to take Tarzan "alive if you can — dead if you must!" The same line was used in X-Men.
  • In an early issue of Daredevil, the Masked Marauder tells his men to capture "Daredevil" (in reality Foggy Nelson, whom the world is convinced is old Hornhead), but makes special note that "Once you have him helpless, leave him for me! The Masked Marauder must have the honor of actually finishing him!"
  • The Inventor from Ms. Marvel (2014). He's personally told Kamala that he needs her alive for his plans and that this should scare her more than the idea of him wanting her dead.
  • In Supergirl story Red Daughter of Krypton, the Diasporan king wants his soldiers to bring the Girl of Steel alive and unharmed before him, so he can take over her body.
  • Parasite is one of the few members of Superman's Rogues Gallery that doesn't want to kill the Man of Steel. No, he wants to keep Superman alive so he can keep feeding off of him for his powers.

    Fan Works 
  • Dead or Alive 4: The Devil Factor: As Ayame knows where one of the Jewels of the Forsaken that he's looking for is, Vergil is adamant to his minions that they capture her alive.
  • Heroic version in Dungeon Keeper Ami. The Light have made it as obvious as possible to their followers that if they have the option, they need to take Ami alive due to her actual morality. Since they would then put her in eternal protective custody, however, Ami isn't keen.
  • In The Hobbit fic Heart of Fire, the Necromancer of Dol Guldur (who is really Sauron in disguise) orders Azog the Defiler's son Bolg to find and bring him Kathryn alive for two reasons; her powers as a Seer would be an advantage, and because she's important to Smaug, she can be used as a bargaining chip to force the dragon into the Dark Lord's service after Smaug rejected his first offer.
    • The same chapter has a non-villainous example; when King Thranduil is informed that a woman with purple eyes (a trademark of a Seer) and a dragon scale is traveling through Mirkwood, he remembers that the Orc he just interrogated spoke about Smaug seeking someone out. Desiring answers, he orders Kathryn to be brought to him alive.
  • In Hunters of Justice, Brainiac will take pains to bring certain people to him alive for the sake of studying them to satisfy his scientific curiosity. In particular, he wants to take Ruby Rose alive after she escapes Remnant to study her silver eyes.
  • Hyrule Warriors: Cia tells her minions repeatedly that she wants Link brought to her alive.
  • Old West: In this Rango fanfiction, Dufayel wants Mon Hellsing to bring Benjamin Hares to him alive.
  • Property Of: The Decepticons have started a successful business of kidnapping humans from Earth and selling them on Cybertron as pets (after convincing the Autobots that the humans are non-sentient animals). Because humans are most valuable when they're uninjured and healthy, any human injured during capture is given medical treatment and they're given food that looks odd but perfectly fits their dietary needs. Once a human is sold, though, the Decepticons don't care what happens to it, nor do they care if humans other than their targets are killed during their hunts.
  • This Bites!: The "Wanted!" Poster for Princess Vivi of Alabasta specifies that the bounty is "Only Alive", rather than the traditional "Dead or Alive". This is a particularly horrifying example because it means that they would be in the hands of the Celestial Dragons who are doubtlessly planning any number of horrific tortures and fates to subject them to personally.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, mob boss Vladislav orders his henchmen to capture Buffy and Supergirl alive so he can feed them to an Eldritch Abomination.

    Film — Animated 
  • In the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, after the "feast of fools" sequence wherein Esmeralda humiliates Frollo and his troops, Frollo says to Phoebus, "find her, captain. I want her alive." It's good to know that Frollo is, at least, not a necrophiliac.
  • Ice Age: Soto tells Diego to bring him the human baby alive, wanting to eat him "fresh" so he can really enjoy his revenge.
  • Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World starts with Radcliffe sending John Smith falling to his death, and then lying to King James and saying that he had tried to save Smith. The king is not pleased, saying "I wanted him alive!" And then it turns out that Smith isn't really dead.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Dr. Facilier contacts his friends on the other side to find and capture the escaped Prince Naveen. Since his blood was necessary for his scheme, Facilier told them that Naveen needed to be brought back alive... for the moment, anyway.
  • Cade gives the order to capture Shua alive at the start of Sky Blue.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Babylon A.D.: While we don't see the bad guy in question actually giving the order, this is definitely in play when a group of mercenaries break into Toorop's place to take him back to their boss, a Russian mobster/warlord named Gorsky. Toorop figures this out on his own because he recognizes one of the mercs. He uses the opportunity to kill said merc (whose methods disgust him), then willingly goes along with his associates.
    Mercenary: [says something in Russian]
    Toorop: No shit, Karl! If you wanted me dead you would have blown up the building!
  • In Batman (1989), Commissioner Gordon does this when Jack Napier (who would later become The Joker) is cornered at the Axis Chemicals plant:
    Commissioner Gordon: This is Commissioner Gordon. I want him taken alive. I repeat, any man who opens fire on Jack Napier shall answer to me.
  • Battle Beyond the Stars. This is the fatal mistake that Sador makes. Having won the eponymous battle, he uses his Tractor Beam to drag Sapient Ship Nell in so he can torture the Sole Survivors by cutting them up for body parts. Nell ejects the crew and activates the Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • In the first Blade movie, after spending the entire movie trying to kill Blade, Frost realizes he needs him alive for his plan.
    Frost: Bring me Blade — alive.
    Quinn: Wait, what?
  • Subverted in Braveheart with Edward Longshanks. "Bring me Wallace. Alive if possible. Dead... just as good."
  • The Dark Knight:
    • Gambol's response to the Joker flouting the Mob's authority: "I'm puttin' the word out. Five hundred grand for this clown dead. A million alive, so I can teach him some manners first." Boy, did that end horribly.
    • Also used by Gordon, except from a heroic rather than villainous perspective. "I want Lau alive. The Joker, either way." Note that this was because Lau was going to testify against the Gotham mob, which may have finally ended their power. Becomes a moot point when the Joker sets the mob's money and Lau on fire, and then kills the other mob bosses.
  • The opening scene of District 13, thus allowing for a cool scene of Le Parkour.
  • In Dragonheart, the villain wants the dragon captured alive because killing the dragon means killing the villain.
  • A good example in Eraser. After DeGuerin frames Kruger as a traitor, Chief Beller tells him to find and bring Kruger back. DeGuerin agrees. Then Beller points out that he wants Kruger alive, suspecting something in DeGuerin's behavior. Naturally, DeGuerin has no intention of Kruger being alive to reveal the truth about him.
  • The Fly II: After Martin Brundle mutates into the Martinfly, Bartok tells the security detail that he wants Martin captured alive because only Martin knows the password to the Telepods. However, after quite a few people fall to the Martinfly, the head of the security detail decides to simply gun Martin down, and even threatens Bartok at gunpoint when he objects.
  • In The Godfather Part II, after the assassination attempt on him IN HIS HOME, IN HIS BEDROOM WHERE HIS WIFE SLEEPS, Michael Corleone tells Rocco he wants the gunmen captured alive. He even repeats the order, to make absolutely sure. However, he is realistic; he later confides to his adopted brother/lawyer, Tom Hagen, that he doesn’t expect his men to be successful, and that the assassins are already dead.
  • In Hudson Hawk, the villains berate one of their henchmen for threatening to kill a captured Bruce Willis, remarking that they need him alive to steal a MacGuffin for them. Realizing that they can't kill him, Bruce takes the opportunity to begin acting outrageously (singing a silly song, slapping the henchmen around, and grabbing the villainess and dancing lewdly with her) until The Dragon threatens Bruce with a Groin Attack, and the villainess remarks there's one body part that he won't be needing to steal the MacGuffin later on.
  • Jason X: Professor Lowe tells Sgt. Brodski and his men to capture Jason Voorhees alive, because he plans to sell Jason to pay off his debt. However, as soon as Lowe is out of earshot, Brodski tells his men that they're just going to kill Jason outright, and to "put one in his leg so we can say we tried."
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when Saruman sends the Uruk-Hai out to battle, he tells the leader that "one of the halflings [hobbits] carries something of great importance" so he wants them alive "and unspoiled" note . Luckily for Merry and Pippin, the Uruk leader doesn't know he has the wrong hobbits.
  • In The Mask, Dorian Tyrell offers fifty thousand dollars to anyone who can find the titular Mask character... and bring him in the next day alive, so Tyrell can find out where The Mask took the money from a bank robbery.
  • Masters of the Universe:
    • Skeletor orders He-Man brought to him alive because he wants to break his spirit and humiliate him before his people.
      Evil-Lyn: The people wait for He-Man. They believe he will return to lead them. For you to rule completely, he must be destroyed.
      Skeletor: If I kill him, I make him a martyr, a saint. No, I want him broken first!
    • This is a case of Pragmatic Villainy when Skeletor's lead mercenary Karg starts yelling at the other mercenaries who are shooting and throwing things at Julie not to kill her because they need her alive for questioning; she's one of the few people on Earth who might have any idea where the MacGuffin they've been sent to retrieve is.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Lord Cutler Beckett, in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End to Davy Jones: "We need prisoners to interrogate, which tends to work best when they're alive."
    • Will in the first film is one of the few characters to use this trope to his advantage. Though in his case, Barbossa didn't know it was specifically Will he needed alive until he told him.
  • Averted in Riddick; the bounty on him is worth twice as much if he's dead (presumably because he's more trouble alive). Fortunately the leader of one of the bounty-hunting teams has his own reasons for wanting Riddick alive and talking.
  • This is one of the few tropes to be played straight in Spaceballs when Spaceball One spots Princess Vespa's Mercedes:
    President Skroob: Tell Dark Helmet he must take the Princess alive!
  • In Spider-Man 2, Harry makes a deal with Otto to bring him Spider-Man alive in exchange for tritium to power his machine. At first he wanted Otto to kill him but found that it would be more satisfying to do it himself.
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader will sometimes tell his men to do this as part of his Evil Plan.
    • In A New Hope, Darth Vader gives us the Trope Namer after capturing the rebel ship in the intro sequence. He not only wants the stolen Death Star plans, but also the location of the secret rebel base, and thus needs someone alive to question who might be more forthcoming than the captain of the ship.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader invokes this trope to the bounty hunters because he wants to use his captives as bait for Luke Skywalker:
      Vader: You are free to use any methods necessary, but I want them alive. [points specifically at Boba Fett] No disintegrations!
      Fett: [sounding quite grumpy] As you wish.
      • Boba Fett also needs Han Solo alive so he can collect the bounty placed on him.
  • Averted in The Three Musketeers (1993), with Tim Curry's Cardinal Richelieu declaring a bounty on the titular Musketeers: "One thousand gold pieces on each of their heads, dead or alive!" (Steps away, then returns) "...I prefer dead!"
  • Played with in The Warriors, when Masai bellows, "I want ALL the Warriors! I want them alive if possible, if not, WASTED!"
  • In The Film of the Book The Wizard of Oz, The Wicked Witch Of The West takes the "extra sadism" route: "Do what you want with the others, but I want [Dorothy and Toto] alive and unharmed!" Possibly justified in that she thinks it's necessary that way to get the Ruby Slippers.
  • A Justified Trope in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Specifically, Trask wants Mystique alive, since he needs not just her blood (which he gets) but also her brain tissue and spinal fluid for what he plans to do with her abilities. In the Rogue Cut, President Nixon misunderstands his intentions.
    Trask: And I want her. For research purposes, of course.
    Nixon: I don't care who you screw, as long as it's not me.

  • Artemis Fowl: The titular Villain Protagonist uses the Noble Demon variant as his Battle Butler leaves to deal with the Redshirt Army:
    Artemis: I prefer scared to dead. If possible.
  • Discworld: Lord Hong, the Big Bad of Interesting Times, orders his army to capture Cohen and the Silver Horde alive, so he can spend months or years torturing them.
  • Dr. Franklin's Island: The titular doctor turns animals and people into strange hybrids, some of which survive in very twisted forms. It's stated early on that he doesn't like to have any of them deliberately killed. So when there's a jailbreak after he states his intention to vivisect two of his subjects, his security has a hard time.
    No! Don't shoot to kill! Don't damage them! I want them alive! I haven't finished with them!
  • The Executioner: Both used and averted. The hero Mack Bolan is an One-Man Army conducting his personal war against the Mafia. On one occasion a mob boss demands that Bolan be taken alive and unharmed so he can torture him to death. The button man assigned to the task retorts that from what he's heard of Bolan's reputation, the boss had better be happy with getting him in any condition whatsoever. On another occasion, a hitman who's discovered Bolan holed up in a motel tells his mooks that if they find Bolan "in bed with his pants down" they're to capture him, if not just blast him on sight.
  • Harry Potter: Lord Voldemort consistently orders this where Harry is concerned, although, in a slight subversion, some of his mooks (of the Psycho for Hire type) reason that he would be equally happy with a brain-dead and badly injured Harry so long as he was able to deliver the Coup de Grâce (of course, they never get an opportunity to test this plan out). A handful of Death Eaters figure out a way to do this without personal risk (which is common in Harry Potter kidnap attempts). They call Dementors to eat Harry's soul. He'd technically be alive but wouldn't fight back. Brilliant though it was, the plan didn't work.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones, the villain wants the hero alive to make a deal with him. However, his underling, who is given this task, still tries to kill the hero, because of a personal enmity. Doesn't succeed, though, and then seems content with taking the hero captive, as per the original order.
  • Inheritance Cycle: This is a big part of the reason why Galbatorix was ultimately defeated by Eragon and Saphira. Had he wanted to, he could have easily had them snuffed out like candles, or done so himself, well before the fourth book. But no, he was hoping to break their will and turn them to his side, hoping to use Saphira (whom he believed to be the last female dragon), to establish a new line of Riders.
  • Redwall: This is a common statement by vermin commanders that are either looking to take prisoners or make examples.
  • The Stand: Randell Flagg's second-in-command Lloyd Henreid issues this order to the people belatedly chasing after escaping spy Tom Cullen. Although in this case, it's more Flagg will want him alive, and if he isn't, everyone's gonna be very sorry...
  • Star Wars Legends subverts this a couple of times:
    • Shadows of the Empire:
      • The main antagonist Xizor orders the Millennium Falcon destroyed: "If you can disable it and capture the crew and passengers, that would also be acceptable."
      • Darth Vader has put out an enormous bounty for the capture of Luke Skywalker, alive only. It is after all impossible to turn a dead man to the Dark Side. On the other hand, Xizor (who secretly is out for revenge against Vader) anonymously posts his own huge bounty for Luke, dead only. When a group of bounty hunters join forces and manage to capture Luke, they foolishly decide to see if they can play the two against each other and get them to bid even higher... which gives Luke more time to escape and leads to Vader slaughtering them upon his arrival.
    • Dark Force Rising: Grand Admiral Thrawn (notable for being less cruel to his subordinates, as well as a big fan of the Evil Overlord List) says of the heroes: "I want them also alive if possible. If not — If not, I'll understand." He does, however, specify that the prisoner the heroes were rescuing needed to be recaptured alive. The prisoner is one of very few people in the entire galaxy who knows the location of a lost but fully operational fleet of warships that Thrawn is seeking, and thus killing him without getting the information would have been a significant inconvenience.
    • The EU seems to have established that as long as it's not explicitly stated, you don't have to bring back your bounty target alive... but you tend to be paid a lot better if you do. But if the target is dangerous enough and/or the bonus for a live capture isn't large enough, more pragmatic bounty hunters will opt to just kill them. Hutt crime lords have a tendency to post alive-only bounties on those who have betrayed or just offended them, so as to inflict some nasty torture before killing them.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Lord of the Rings: Saruman does this off-page with the Uruk-Hai. He wants the hobbits that they capture alive because he believes that one of them is carrying the One Ring that Saruman wants, and he fears that if the orcs killed the hobbits and searched the corpses, one of them might realize just how powerful an item they have in their hands and try to claim it for their own rather than bringing it back to their master. The hobbits are also wanted alive so they can be interrogated. The leaders of both Saruman's and Sauron's orcs say as much. In both the books and The Movie, the orcs have orders to bring them back "Alive and as captured; no spoiling."
    • The Silmarillion:
      • Morgoth and his then minion Sauron order for several characters to be taken alive, although in these cases it's because they either act as hostages for their allies or know very classified information.
      • Morgoth also occasionally orders his forces to bring random people back alive, so they can then be horribly tortured. This is for two reasons: first Morgoth really likes torturing people, and second is that their screams will have a demoralizing effect on their allies.
    • The Children of Húrin: The biggest example is when Hurin is the last human survivor in a battle, and Morgoth orders his army to take him alive because he knows the location of Gondolin. He picks up an axe and kills seventy orcs and trolls before he is finally taken.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Gothon insists that Ben and Kalak be brought to him alive. He knows that Kalak is his son, and Lucia has convinced him that sacrificing Ben can bring his dead wife back to life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Season 1 finale of Andor, Dedra Meero is furious to learn that Anto Kreegyr and his men have all been killed in an ambush, as she'd wanted them to be captured alive so she could interrogate them about Axis. She thus goes overboard in trying to make sure that Cassian, her sole remaining lead to Axis, is brought in alive. This backfires when Maarva posthumously incites a riot, and Dedra's forces are completely insufficient to stop it.
  • In Angel's fourth season The Beast declines to finish off any of the main characters despite having multiple opportunities to do so. This turns out to be because Jasmine wants to make them her primary servants once she's born.
    • This is pretty much the Senior Partners' entire M.O.: Angel will be a big player in the apocalypse, whether for good or for evil, and they plan to corrupt him to their side for that. Therefore, no matter what, no one at Wolfram & Hart is allowed to even try to kill him, though that doesn't stop some of their flunkies from trying (and failing) to do so.
  • The Book of Boba Fett. Boba issues the order "Alive" to Fennec Shand as she's about to pursue a couple of would-be assassins. Fennec takes this to mean she only needs one of them alive; so she captures both, then kicks one off the building as a warning to the other.
  • In the season one finale of Burn Notice, Michael uses the knowledge that his pursuers need him alive to take himself hostage and force them to let his family go.
  • Daredevil (2015). In "Penny and Dime", an Irish mob boss wants the Punisher captured alive, not just so he can torture him for killing his son but also so he can find out what Castle did with a Briefcase Full of Money he stole. When some mooks corner Castle, he grabs their leader as a Human Shield. The leader shouts at the others not to shoot because the boss wants Castle alive, only for Castle to immediately gun down the others as he's not so restricted. Unfortunately more mooks arrive and succeed in subduing him.
  • The Defenders (2017). One of Sowande's men begins shooting at the heroes with an automatic rifle, putting in the crossfire Danny Rand, who they are trying to capture. Madame Gao pulls out a gun and shoots the guy in the back of the head.
    Madame Gao: We want him alive.
  • Farscape. John Crichton knows his buried knowledge is invaluable to his enemies, uses it, and abuses it to the point of strapping himself with a bomb to blow up an enemy base and getting away with it. Twice.
    • After being captured by Scorpius' right-hand man Braca in "Look at the Princess", Crichton is subjected to a bit of gloating by radio from Scorpy, who in the process mentions that Crichton's wormhole physics knowledge is possibly unique in the universe. This leads Crichton to realize that Braca's threat to shoot him is a bluff. He also takes advantage of the Sebacean's ignorance of humans by claiming that he'd bleed out from Only a Flesh Wound. Crichton has no such reservations about hurting Braca, though.
  • The season two Big Bad Zoom in The Flash (2014) has a standing order to all his minions that any speedster they encounter is to be brought to him alive and unharmed. Failure to do so means Zoom will kill you, as he can't steal speed from a dead speedster.
  • Game of Thrones. In "The Wolf and the Lion" Jaime Lannister, in ordering the City Watch to arrest Ned, curtly orders, "Take him alive. Kill his men." Ned Stark's wife is holding Jaime's brother prisoner, but Jaime knows that the death of a few soldiers can be brushed under the carpet (and is by the King, despite Ned's objections).
  • The Mandalorian: Played with. When the Imperial client hires the Mandalorian, he says that while they want "the asset" back alive, he is willing to negotiate a reduced fee if he is provided proof of termination. Doctor Pershing panics and says they definitely need the asset alive, but the client waves him off by saying he's just being pragmatic. And then it turns out someone else hired IG-11 specifically to kill the asset, throwing quite a lot of doubt on what exactly is happening.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Our heroes aren't happy to be given these orders in "The Mad Mad Tea Party Affair".
    Waverly: It's vital we find out why he did what he did. Therefore should the attacker strike again, you must take him alive, and unharmed. That is mandatory.
    Solo: Well you mean, don't shoot unless he shoots first?
    Waverly: I mean, Mr. Solo, don't shoot at all.
  • Surprisingly averted by Apophis (usually the most cliché of bad guys) in the season 1 finale of Stargate SG-1. Klorel, son of Apophis, discovers Teal'c and O'Neill hiding out on his ship. When Klorel asks if Apophis wants them alive, Apophis quickly states that Klorel should kill them both, quickly.
  • Star Trek:
    • Parodied in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Playing God". In the B-plot O'Brien is dealing with an infestation of Cardassian voles and Sisko teases him, "Phasers on stun, Mister O'Brien. I want those voles taken alive." After they start causing problems in the episode's A-plot, Sisko tells him to take the phasers off stun.
    • After Captain Archer escaped from Rura Penthe a bounty was placed on him. He is turned in to the Klingons by a bounty hunter but then manages to escape in an escape pod. One of the Klingons asks if he can charge weapons, but the Klingon captain responds, "No, I want him alive."
    • In the first "In a Mirror, Darkly" episode, Mirror Malcolm Reed offers to kill Mirror Admiral Forrest and Mirror Jonathan Archer replies "I want him alive."

  • In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni instructs Team Rocket to bring him Pikachu alive and unharmed so it can fight MechaMew2.
    • Later, when Ash surrenders to Team Rocket, his friends and family try to follow them—but Meowth specifies the Boss only wanted Ash.

    Video Games 
  • Aliens vs. Predator (2010): Karl Bishop Weyland says it almost word-for-word when he, impressed by the Specimen Six Chestburster's exceptional display of intelligence, stops Dr. Groves from killing it.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: Norman Osborn tells the guards of Oscorp to capture Spider-Man alive, but the guards are also informed that "if you accidentally load your guns with bullets instead of tranqs, well... oops."
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake: When Reno and his men are chasing Cloud and Aerith, his men open fire with their guns. Reno angrily orders them to not aim at Aerith because they need her alive for questioning.
  • Malia Gedde in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers leaves a message for Doctor John: "Keep eyes on GK but do not harm."
  • In Iji, the bounty the Komato put on Iji's head has three conditions: a low bounty for total destruction, a bounty more than an order of magnitude higher for preserving her equipment (as her Nanogun is an example of technology they don't have and want), and a bounty fifty times that for taking her alive. Asha, while an arrogant bastard, will settle for dead.
  • Rare hero example: in Jak II: Renegade after you defeat Krew, you discover that the latter sent Sig on an assignment to open a door in the Underport. When you get there, you see him fighting for his life and claiming Krew set him up to open the door and let hundreds of Metal Heads into the city.
    Jak: Krew's dead.
    Sig: Yeah? Well he's lucky! 'Cause he would not want me to catch him alive!
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Zelda herself does a mild variation of this late in the game, because the baddies stole her body.
  • A variation of this trope occurs in Mass Effect — "Spare the asari if you can. If not, it doesn't matter." A second one comes from Mass Effect 2 — "I want his body recovered, if possible."
  • Dr. Doppler in Mega Man X3 tells his minions Bit and Byte to bring X to him... alive if possible. Both of them, when X finds them, interpret the order as "kill X". So does Vile.
  • The Mercenaries series encourages this. While your contacts don't have a problem with you killing high-value targets, they pay you double if you manage to capture them alive.
  • In Mischief Makers, the Beastector are told to bring in Marina and the Prof alive. They appear unable to even grasp the concept.
  • While you can kill or capture large creatures for varied rewards, some quests in the Monster Hunter games enforce this. Kill instead of capture, and you fail the quest. There are ways to guarantee a capture to avoid an accidental kill.
  • In No One Lives Forever, Magnus Armstrong regularly orders mooks to tie up and take the protagonist Cate Archer alive. The minions appear to be smart, as they regularly ask why they don't just kill her.
  • A variation of this trope occurs in Pokémon. To catch a Pokémon, you must first weaken it, then throw a Pokeball at it. The catch is, if you go too far and hurt the Pokémon too much, it will faint and you will not be able to catch it. It is very frustrating trying to catch a shiny/legendary Pokémon, and hurt it too much. You might have another chance to catch a legendary, but a shiny is almost impossible to find, making them rarer than legendaries.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, crime boss Goto has posted a substantial bounty on Jedi, with an I Want Them Alive! stipulation attached. This causes a legion of bounty hunters to pursue the protagonist in order to collect on the bounty... and almost none of them bother even trying for a "live capture".
      • The irony here is that Goto actually wants a Jedi brought to him so they can work for him, which deadness kind of precludes.
      • He really doesn't care, though: as he puts it, "A true Jedi would have no trouble surviving such attacks... and if you could not then you would be useless to me."
    • The Force Unleashed has Darth Vader tell his men, "Take them alive, The Emperor wants to execute them personally."
  • Resident Evil:
    • In Resident Evil 2 (Remake) the Umbrella Corporation sends out a team of their personal soldiers to find and capture William Birkin after finding out that he was hoarding the results of the G-Virus research to himself and was plotting to screw the company over. The company orders their soldiers to capture the scientist alive (presumably to interrogate him), but as soon as Birkin pulls a gun on the group, a twitchy soldier pumps the scientist full of holes until he slumps over. This gets the soldier scolded by their leader, Hunk, who is understandably pissed off because now the mission was compromised. The team settles on taking back a sample G-Virus sample and leaving Birkin for dead, except he wasn't and he injects himself with the G-Virus.
    • In Resident Evil Village, Big Bad Mother Miranda wants Ethan Winters alive. But once he kills Lady Dimitrescu's daughters in self-defense, the latter decides she'd rather kill him painfully instead.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken: Kazuya and Nina's pre-battle cutscene has shades of this. Nina asks if they really have to take their opponents alive, to which Kazuya responds, "It's preferable, but accidents do happen."
  • In Tales of Legendia, Vaclav orders his generals to bring Senel back alive (though they’re free to do whatever they want to the other team members), on the grounds that he’s able to draw out Shirley and her sister’s power for the Nerifes Cannon.
  • The player in XCOM often finds himself in the position of issuing this order whenever the squad identifies an alien with useful knowledge.
    • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the only way to advance the story is by building an Alien Containment facility and using Arc Throwers to bring in some alien prisoners so Dr. Vahlen can "interrogate" them, which basically amounts to sticking probes in their brain and interpreting as much data as possible before the alien expires. More generally, taking aliens prisoner is extremely useful since interrogating certain types of alien will give you research credits that boost your progress through the game's Tech Tree. At the same time, stunning an alien bypasses the Self-Destruct Mechanism for their equipment, so once you do the proper research, you'll be able to retrofit captured alien plasma weapons for your soldiers' use instead of having to build them from scratch.
    • Dark VIP missions in XCOM 2 task your team with infiltrating an area and neutralizing an important figure working for the ADVENT Coalition. Winning the mission can be as easy as sneaking up to the VIP, attacking from concealment, and making a run for the extraction point, and will net you a basic reward of Supplies. But if you have a soldier get close enough to deliver a Tap on the Head and take the VIP nonlethally, you'll net some valuable Intelligence as well. This does mean, however, that you'll be dealing with the map's enemies with one less soldier, since the trooper carrying the VIP can do nothing but move and grab the rope at the evac point.
    • XCOM: Chimera Squad encourages you to keep some enemies alive for interrogation, as each mission where you make at least 5 prisoners grants you a guaranteed Intel award. The job is made much easier by the fact that you can have tranq rounds and can bash enemies unconscious with the stock of your guns (amusingly, XCOM being legendary for your troops' A-Team Firing, it is easy to end up with many live captures just because Pistol-Whipping is an Always Accurate Attack.).

    Web Animation 
  • In volume 4 of RWBY, Salem orders her subordinate Tyrian to track down Ruby Rose. As he starts to giggle to himself over the hunt, Salem adds that he is to bring Ruby to her, causing him to visibly pout over the fact that he won't be allowed to kill her.

  • Frans Rayner in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja subverts this when Doc's father is making his way towards Rayner's base.
    Rayner: Bring him in, dead or alive, whatever. It would be cool if I could kill him myself, but you know... whatever.
  • In Dreamkeepers, Big Bad Nabonidus wants to capture Mace alive for reasons related to his undisclosed Power. Not all of his minions care: One is seen putting revenge over orders by summoning a hitdemon and sending it with explicit orders to kill Mace.
  • In Exterminatus Now, this is used to justify Lothar being barred from a mission. Lothar protests by saying he got his last suspect alive...
    Commander Schaefer: Yes. And the doctors say that if he ever wakes up, he might just have enough of his brain left to answer our questions.
    Lothar: There, you see? I don't know what you're all bitching at me for.
  • Girl Genius: Ferretina's reaction to Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer.
  • The Order of the Stick: Lord Shojo and Mr. Scruffy order Miko Miyazaki to take the ones responsible for the Redmountain Gate's destruction (the protagonists) alive for trial. Mostly so Shojo can gauge how much they know about the Gates and hire them to safeguard the remaining ones.
  • Sluggy Freelance: During the "That Which Redeems" arc, Horribus insists that Torg be taken alive so that Horribus can rip out his soul and torture it for all eternity.

    Web Original 
  • The Evil Overlord List isn't too keen on this.
    #78: I will not tell my Legions of Terror "And he must be taken alive!" The command will be "And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical."

    Western Animation 
  • Also Justified in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. The Queen is very specific about making sure any humans are brought to her "alive and undamaged". Otherwise, they can't be used to power her Slaverlords.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Justified. Killing Aang would just lead to some other Avatar being reincarnated and the hunt having to start all over again unless the attackers are lucky enough to trigger the Avatar State and kill him while he's defenseless, but even accomplishing that isn't easy. However, the series is big on Fight Scenes so this often led to jarring circumstances where Aang is nearly killed by the same people who explicitly stated that they wanted him alive moments beforehand. This up and down went on until season 3 where the notion is dropped altogether. Even if he does reincarnate that still buys them probably a decade without worrying about him, and the Fire Nation could probably conquer the rest of the world then (especially after taking down the Earth Kingdom).
    • Toph's dad puts out a reward for finding her, but Xin Fu seems to misunderstand the mission.
      Xin Fu: She's wanted — dead or alive.
      Master Yu: No she's not! I'm certain her father wants her alive!
    • In the sequel series, Unalaq instructs his children to capture Korra alive since she's the only one who can open the portals to the Spirit World. He is not pleased when she is presumed dead.
  • Ben 10: Zs'Skayr in the original series seeks to possess Ben and take control of the Omnitrix, for which he needs Ben alive. In "Be Afraid of the Dark", he stops his minion Dr. Viktor's attempt to fry Ben with lightning when they're pursuing him, explaining that he wants the boy alive.
  • Futurama has Zap Brannigan pointlessly invoke this trope:
"Remember, men, take him alive... so there's something left to kill."
  • Gargoyles has this trope pop up a few times, especially in the first season.
    • In his introduction episode, Macbeth clearly doesn't want to kill the world's last gargoyles, though he doesn't say so out loud. He specifically waits until the sun goes down and the gargoyles come alive before he starts his assault, using traps that take down Brooklyn, Lexington and Bronx but don't kill them. He later tells Goliath that the whole plan was a trap for Demona, which probably would have worked... if Demona hadn't turned her back on her clan now spends her days plotting their destruction.
    • The season one finale has Xanatos say this trope word for word, as while Demona is willing to kill off the last of her clan, Xanatos still wants the gargoyles alive, possibly still believing that he can convince/force them to be his personal bodyguards.
  • Justice League: The episode "A Better World" has a surprisingly sad example. The Justice Lords' Start of Darkness happened because Lex Luthor killed their Flash. They clearly value each other's safety more as a result of this. So it's no surprise when, after they trap the Justice League, they go to great lengths to contain them without killing them (Lord J'onn even apologizes to them before he activates the trap) and get the League's Hawkgirl medical treatment when she's injured in the fight. This is why Flash's Sick Captive Scam works so well on Lord Batman.
  • The Owl House:
    • Emperor Belos gives Lilith orders to bring her sister to him alive so he can obtain the key and door to the Human Realm in Season 1.
    • After Hunter's defection in season 2, Belos orders him returned to the castle alive, demonstrated by the scouts putting him to sleep instead of just killing him outright. Belos is still planning to kill Hunter though, he likely ordered him returned alive so that nobody would get suspicious as to why the Emperor suddenly wanted his right hand man killed.
  • Justified in Sheep in the Big City as Sheep can only be used as a power source for the Army's sheep-powered ray gun if he's alive.
  • Skull Island: In the third episode, one of the mercenaries hunting Annie threatens to murder her for stabbing him in the leg, at which point his superiors Irene and Sam get very annoyed with him, the latter even putting his hand on his gun in warning. They force said mercenary to reiterate that he's a professional who was hired to bring Annie back to the U.S. unharmed and that all other priorities are secondary before they let it go.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • "Gathering Forces": When approaching the fort Kanan and Ezra are hiding in, the Inquisitor tells his squad of stormtroopers to "Keep them contained. I want them alive."
    • "Call to Action": Tarkin tells the Inquisitor he wants the Jedi leader of the rebels on Lothal alive.
      Tarkin: And remember, I want this Jedi alive.
    • "Zero Hour": Tarkin orders Grand Admiral Thrawn to take the rebel leaders alive to Make an Example of Them during his assault on their base, as he's confident an officer of Thrawn's caliber can pull it off. This ends up giving those rebel leaders the opportunity to escape with their lives.
    • "A Fool's Hope": Pryce instructs her troops to "Make sure to take the Jedi boy alive.", citing that Palpatine himself needs Ezra alive as Ezra is now the only one who can access the World Between Worlds.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Livewire busts Parasite out of jail, wanting him to drain Superman so she can take him down. He complies, but when she moves in for the kill, Parasite betrays her because Superman is much more useful to him as a live prisoner... and so is she.
  • Wakfu: Nox instructs Igôle to bring Adamaï to him without damaging the young dragon too much. This is partially because Adamaï could be useful in luring him to Grougaloragon's Dofus after the dragon blew himself up and his spirit is now returning to his Dofus to be reborn, and partially because Adamaï wouldn't be a bad source of wakfu to drain in order to replenish what Nox lost in the previous huge battle.

    Real Life 
  • Police forces prefer to capture rather than kill suspects and fugitives, generally only resorting to killing to save themselves or other people from imminent harm, though sometimes they kill fleeing violent criminals if they refuse to surrender and would pose a serious continuing threat to society.
  • During the Iraq War, probably apocryphal reports circulated that US forces were determined that Saddam Hussein's information (read: propaganda) minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, was to be captured alive if at all possible. However, it was more for entertainment value: MSS had become famous for his ludicrously inaccurate briefings on Iraq's military prospects,* and apparently the general consensus was that someone that funny didn't deserve to die. In the end, MSS surrendered, and unlike most of the rest of Saddam's inner circle, wasn't prosecuted for war crimes.
  • During the Roman Siege of Syracuse, during the Second Punic War, the Romans were fully aware of Archimedes and his contraptions, so much so that it was said that even witnessing a single pulley could instigate panic on the invading Roman soldiers. The Roman general, Marcellus, aware of Archimedes's scientific genius, ordered his soldiers to capture him alive, as he thought Archimedes's knowledge could be valuable for the Roman army. However, under still-debated circumstances, Archimedes was killed during the Siege (the most considered idea is that a Roman soldier found Archimedes, but didn't recognize him; the soldier asked him where he could find Archimedes but the man himself, too focused on a mathematical diagram he was looking at, refused to answer and the soldier killed him as a result), which infuriated Marcellus at the loss of such potentially valuable genius.


Video Example(s):


Trope Namer

Darth Vader gives us the Trope Namer after capturing the rebel ship in the intro sequence. He not only wants the stolen Death Star plans, but also the location of the secret rebel base, and thus needs someone alive to question who might be more forthcoming than the captain of the ship.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / IWantThemAlive

Media sources: