The Big Bad makes you An Offer You Can't Refuse, either join his organization of evil, or die right here and now. Sometimes this is accompanied by a We Can Rule Together, but not always. This offer is not always made to The Hero, it can just as easily be to a rival, or simply a promising recruit that the Big Bad can't afford to have opposing him. Nor does it necessarily have to be a villain making the offer. Some heroes may use these words to rally people to their cause in the face of attack, or The Men in Black may give this ultimatum to those who break the masquerade.
- In DARLING in the FRANXX, VIRM, the series' Greater-Scope Villain operates this way. A Hive Mind of ascended Energy Beings, they regard other sapient races with Condescending Compassion for their mortal, turbulent existence, and they seek to mend this by assimilating all other sentient life forms into their collective. A race that refuses, as the Klaxo sapiens did, is summarily attacked with intent of extermination.
- In Dragon Ball Z, this is Frieza's main method of recruitment. According to dialogue amongst Frieza's henchmen (which was drastically changed in the Funimation dubbing), Frieza's modus operandi was to wipe out all but the most promising or useful individuals of a race and offer them a place in his empire. He promised those that joined that their race would eventually gain a more prestigious place in his New Order and those that refused were simply made extinct. Frieza even makes this offer to Nail, Piccolo and Goku while fighting them during his arc, as they're each significantly stronger than most of his army, though he fully expects them to refuse and die.
- The credo of the Church of Universal Truth, occasional adversaries of the Guardians of the Galaxy, is "convert or die". And with a very large, very strong army, they're very good at delivering on that second part. They're able to level some planets in a matter of hours, in fact.
- Also used by name when King Blastaar takes over the Negative Zone prison. A few of the surviving prisoners were given the choice. Blastaar actually bothers asking what happened to the ones that refused it. They died.
- In Supergirl fanfic Hellsister Trilogy, Mordru is putting together an army to destroy the Legion of Super-Heroes. He gives his prospect recruits one choice: follow him or die right away.
Mordru: I am gathering a strike force to confound or destroy my enemies. Though my power dwarfs that of any single being, I cannot function in many places at once... not with full coordination of purpose. I have brought you here to work as some of my agents. Accede, and great wealth and power shall be given you. That, and the lives of your old enemies, whom I will send you against. Refuse, and you die on the spot. Make your decision.
- In Iron Man, this is how the Nine Rings recruits. They attack villages and either kill or capture the men. Then, they take their women and children to an unknown location where they're used as collateral. The men are asked to join them, with their families' lives, as well as their own, on their line if they refuse. This is Truth in Television for many terrorist groups and militaristic regimes.
- On Peter Pan, Captain Hook gives Wendy and the boys the option of joining his crew or Walking The Plank.
- A similar situation occurs in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift:
Manny: Look, as much as I'm tempted to join a monkey...the Easter Bunny and a giant bag of pudding...I'll pass. No one's going to stop me from getting back to my family!Captain Gutt: That family is going to be the death of you!
- Flash Gordon. Emperor Ming offers to let Flash join him and rule the Earth under Ming's control. If he refuses, he will be killed.
- Star Wars likes this trope. In The Empire Strikes Back, Vader tells the Emperor that this will be the choice he will give Luke. Vader instead gives Luke a We Can Rule Together. In Return of the Jedi, The Emperor makes the same offer to Luke, leading to the page quote.
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves the Sheriff of Nottingham gives Lord Locksley the choice to join up or die. Cue Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Space Mutiny: Variant. Kalgan offers a technician who discovers his evil plot to either join or be cyrogenically frozen. The Techinican made the third choice of dying. Kalgan obliged.
- In the movie Nikita, and the TV show based on the movie, this is how the title character is recruited as an assassin.
- What the people in the Tribulation period in the Apocalypse film series are confronted with when they meet Franco Macalousso's Digital Avatar in the Day Of Wonders program...either take the Mark of the Beast and join his side, or die by whatever virtual means the program has in store for you (usually decapitation).
- In The Chronicles of Riddick, the Necromongers give this offer to the races they conquer.
Lord Marshal: (after killing a guy by ripping his soul out) Join him, or join me.
- In Aquaman (2018), to expand his armies to invade the surface world, Orm threatens the Fishermen kingdom and then the Brine Kingdom. Ricou, the Fisherman King, refuses, gets murdered by Orm who then forces Ricuo's daughter to cooperate. The Brine King outright refuses and to Orm, This Means War!.
- In Dragonlance one of the three Nerakan Knights orders' motto is "Submit or Die".
- Inverted in The Night's Dawn Trilogy where the Confederation armada is intercepted by the much superior Organisation fleet at Tranquility, and is given the ultimatum "Surrender and join us, or die and join us". The inversion is justified as the Organisation are basically made up of souls come back from the "beyond" to possess still living people.
- Standard operating procedure for Lord Voldemort.
- It's said in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that he killed James and Lily Potter because they refused to join him.
- In Groosham Grange, every student at the Grange, sooner or later, is given this choice.
- In The Dresden Files, Nicodemus gives Harry an offer: take up one of the 30 silver coins and join the Order of the Blackened Denarius, or Nicodemus will slit his throat once he's done eating breakfast. Nicodemus believes very strongly in pragmatic villainy.
- Dead Beat, however, references but averts this trope: after fighting and defeating Dresden, Kumori says she'll make him an offer. Dresden guesses it's this, but Kumori says he's too inexperienced. (He gets it right on the second try, though: leave or die.)
- And in Cold Days, the Outsiders gave him first this offer, and then the other, in quick succession. He wasn't lying when he said, in Dead Beat, that these were the two offers he seems to get all the time.
- The Reynard Cycle: Count Bricemer makes this offer to the crew of the Quicksilver. Later, he reneges on the deal.
- Reynard himself offers this choice to his defeated enemies quite often. By ''Defender of the Crown' he's assembled a Praetorian Guard made up of Calvarians.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the wildlings give this offer to Jon Snow when he and his partner Qhorin Halfhand are captured. However, to make sure he's truly switched sides, they also force him to kill Qhorin.
- In Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire series, this is how Sita became the eponymous vampire: the other vampires gave her a choice between either being turned or dying; she would have chosen death except that they also threatened to kill her husband and child.
- In When The Devil Dances, Mike O'Neal Sr is approached by an old acquaintance from his mercenary days, and offered a position in a shadowy Knight Templar organization with access to Galactic technology. The acquaintance was about to kill O'Neal if he declined the offer for knowing too much about the organization, until Mike was rescued by his grand daughter, the acquaintance's brains being ballistically scattered around the room.
- In one Choose Your Own Adventure book, the protagonist can discover the owner of an amusement park bribing a safety inspector to overlook some serious safety hazards. When the owner and his clown henchman notice you the owner offers you a thousand dollars to keep quiet or else. If the protagonist refuses they try to kill him. If the protagonist accepts the bribe and rats them out anyway, the clown arranges an "accident". If the protagonist accepts the bribe and keeps quiet the clown will sweeten the deal with an extra hundred dollars as a present. The protagonist has mixed feelings about this since it means the villains believe that he is on their side and can be counted on for future favors.
- In Christian Nation, the POWs that survived the Civil War are given the option to become a believer in Christ and be part of the new American theocratic society within three years or die.
- In City of Heavenly Fire, Jonathan/Sebastian does this while turning the Endarkened Ones using the Infernal Cup. If they're too young or old to be turned he just kills them.
- In The Dinosaur Lords, Raguel's ultimatum to all of Providence is to either join the horde or be killed by the horde.
- In The Vampire Chronicles Akasha annihilates most of her vampire progeny and then gives an ultimatum of this nature to the survivors: they can either help her create new world order, or die. None of them agrees.
- In the Warrior Cats series, this is how Tigerstar operates. One particularly notable moment is when his son defied him:
- In Burn Notice, Michael has this conversation with Sam:
Michael: I've been given a new job.
Sam: What's it pay?
Michael:: it's more like you do this for us or you die.
Sam: Oh, never liked those.
- Doctor Who: The Cybermen operate by this creed. Exemplified by the Cybus Cybermen in their introduction.
Cyberman: Upgrading is compulsory
President of Britain: What if I refuse?
The Doctor: Don't.
President: What if I refuse?
The Doctor: I'm telling you, don't.
President: What happens if I refuse?
Cyberman: Then you are not compatible.
President: What happens then?
Cyberman: You will be deleted. [kills him]
- In La Femme Nikita, not to be confused with Nikita, this is part of the Necessarily Evil MIB organization's MO. By the time they've tried to recruit you, you know too much to be allowed to walk away. Even the leader wasn't always the leader, and was brought in by basically being kidnapped, and can't ever show himself to the people who know him as plain old "Paul Wolfe" instead of "Operations" again. Which means even someone who lived it eventually came to believe it necessary.
- Game of Thrones:
- One of the recruitment methods of the Night's Watch is offering an alternative to prisoners facing a death sentence.
- Qhorin Halfhand hints to Jon that they will both die unless Jon invokes this with the wildlings.
- Good Times: This is why Micheal joins a gang. Quote paraphrased.
They asked Johnny to join and he didn't, so they broke his arm. They asked Willy to join and he didn't, so they broke his leg. Then they asked me to join, and they were looking at my neck.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Making Friends and Influencing People", Ward explains that this is HYDRA's policy, particularly towards Gifted people. If they don't serve HYDRA, they're seen as a threat, and exterminated.
- Daredevil (2015): James Wesley tries to threaten Karen Page into backing off on her investigation into Wilson Fisk with the offer of a "job", then threatens her life when she makes clear she will not budge. Karen grabs his gun and shoots him to death with it.
- Luke Cage (2016): Diamondback crashes a secret meeting of gangsters in Colon's Gym and kills all of the bosses, with the exception of Mariah, Shades and Domingo. He tells Domingo that he's being spared to send a message to the other gangs in Harlem: either they buy from Diamondback, or he'll kill them.
- The Ori in Stargate SG-1 convert followers this way. Anyone who refuses the teachings of Origin is assumed to be evil and must be purged. Of course, the real reason is that the Ori are empowered by prayer and simply want more power.
- Though it turns out that Humans Are Bastards: The Ori are made stronger by being worshiped, but they get absolutely nothing from the corpses of those who wouldn't worship them. They never ordered the atrocities that their human enforcers have carried out.
- This is the choice the British Men of Letters give the American hunters in season 12 of Supernatural. When the American hunters refuse, the Men of Letters begins to brutally murder any hunter they can find.
- In Da Vinci's Demons Season 3, the Ottomans have the citizens of Otranto lined up and being forced to chose between beheading or converting to Islam. This event did historically happen, but the Ottomans were not armed with super-advanced inventions made by Da Vinci like in the show.
- This is how the Borg operate in Star Trek — either they assimilate you or they destroy you. And as far as they're concerned, Resistance Is Futile.
- At CHIKARA Battle of Who Could Care Less, UltraMantis Black cut a promo before his match with MIYAWAKI where he offered him a chance to join the Order of the Neo-Solar Temple as its representative to the Orient. He said that if MIYAWAKI didn't take him up on his offer, UMB would follow him back to Japan, kill him and destroy the nation's whaling industry. He ended by invoking the trope word for word.note
- Games Workshop games:
- Warhammer Fantasy:
- Vlad Von Carstein's Catchphrase was "Surrender and serve me in life, or die and slave for me in death". Those who chose not to surrender to him discovered he was as good as his word.
- Warhammer 40,000:
Join the Imperial Guard or die. Then die.
- A common joke about the Imperial Guard (though not all worlds actually use conscription).
- The Tau Empire are sometimes considered to be the "nicest" faction in the setting, because they offer this choice. If anyone else attacks your world, chances are they just offer "die" or in the case of Chaos and Dark Eldar, "die horribly, get captured and tortured and/or raped until you die, or get your soul devoured, and don't answer because we'll decide for you".
- The more evangelical forces of Chaos, such as warbands of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion, will occasionally offer their victims the chance to join the ways of the Dark Gods. However even the nicest way it might develop tend to be Fate Worse than Death.
- In Necromunda, all enemies captured by the Redemptionists (except wyrds and other mutants) are given a choice, to join the Crusade or be burned at the stake as a heretic. The 1st and 2nd Edition rules represented this with the Redemptor Priest's Redeemer special rule where any captive not rescued by their comrades had to roll off against the Priest and became a fanatical Redemptionist if they lost. Any other result saw the captive killed as a heretic.
- In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, the Bloodreaver tribes of Khornes Bloodbound partake in a ritual known as the Dark Feast. Any enemy who were captured alive during the battle are given the choice to either join the Feast as a comrade or become the main course.
- Warhammer Fantasy:
- In medieval fantasy game Ars Magica, Join or Die is policy of the Order of Hermes, if you're a magician the Order considers potent enough to bother with, mostly those who have a sufficient magical defense or offence. They are not, however, the Big Bad, usually.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse: when the Black Spiral Dancers capture Gaia Garou, they give their captives the choice of traversing the Black Spiral Labyrinth or facing execution.
- In the Time of Judgment scenario in which the Shadow Lords fall to the Wyrm, Grandfather Thunder kills Whippoorwill, leaving the Black Spiral Dancers bereft of a tribal totem. The Shadow Lords demand that the Black Spirals either join their tribe or face execution.
- "Join me, Link, and I will make your face the greatest in Koridai! Or else you will DIE!!"
- Dungeons & Dragons Online: In the finale of the Sharn Syndicate quest chain, Talon Darsin, the overlord of the Sharn Syndicate in Stormreach, makes this offer to you. And since your goal in the final quest is to kill him, well, no guesses on what your response to him is.
- The Master makes the Vault Dweller such an offer in the original Fallout game. Accepting results in a non-standard game over.
The Master: So what shall it be? Do you join the Unity, or do you die here? Join! Die! Join! Die!
- In Mass Effect, Saren's response to Shepard's resistance is this. Join the Reapers - 'cause if you don't, you're guaranteed to die.
Saren: Is submission not preferable to extinction? [...] Everyone you know and love, you will all die.
- Grim Fandango has this exchange between Deadpan Snarker Manny and Sassy Secretary turned resistance fighter Eva.
Manny: Any messages for me?Eva: One, join, or die!Manny: But I'm already...Eva: Again!
- Also used in BlazBlue for Litchi. The message is pretty subtle, but Hazama is pretty much saying to her "Join us, or you die by your own corruption while we just toss the cure away."
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the backstory of the Sith Inquisitor is they were a former slave of the Sith Empire, who after being discovered to be force-sensitive, was naturally given the option to either go to Korriban for training or die where they stand.
- The law in the Empire is that all Force-sensitives must go to Korriban for Sith training, even if they're too weak to make it as Sith and would inevitably die. The penalty for refusal is death. And in the tie-in novel Fatal Alliance, we learn that the penalty for refusing to give your Force-sensitive child to the Sith is, oh, just guess.
- At the end of Assassin's Creed: Rogue, Juhani Otso Berg offers you a choice between a Templar Ring or a bullet.
- In Halo, this is how the Covenant has traditionally expanded its multi-species empire; any species who don't agree to become at least subservient allies will have their worlds bombarded from orbit until they surrender. In fact, a growing number of the Covenant begin to develop doubts about their genocidal war against humanity precisely because humans were only given the "Die" option.
- In the trailer for Ghost Recon Wildlands, the Big Bad offers the people a choice. They can either join his drug cartel and receive food, medicine, protection, power, wealth, and the chance to rule like kings...or be Forced to Watch as he destroys everything and everyone they love.
- In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Mages Guild Stewardess Ranis Athrys has this attitude toward any mages who don't join the Guild. Several of her quests involve convincing outsider mages to join, and most can be accomplished by simply killing the mage in question.
- The standard recruitment technique for the Ganglion in Xenoblade Chronicles X when it comes to the races that make up their ranks. The Prone and the Marnucks in particular were fighting planetwide civil wars on their homeworlds, and the factions that joined the Ganglion were the ones they treated leniently. The Wrothians were even subjected to a planetary blockade until they agreed to join them.
- This is how the Scarlet Chorus recruits in Tyranny. If the conquer a town or defeat an army, they bring all the survivors together and offers them 'redemption' in the Chorus. Those who refuse are killed on the spot. Those who accept are thrown into a circle with all the other accepters and handed a weapon, with the understanding that nobody leaves the circle alive until they've killed at least one other person inside it. The surviving half of those are then offered a place in the Chorus as frontline troopers, with the unfortunate 'candidates' at that point being either so well and truly traumatised or already so psychopathic that they're a perfect fit for the Chorus.
- Sinfest used this as a style of advertisement. The word from our sponsors: "It's us... or it's death".
- Homestuck has this in the form of Her Imperious Condescension, fish-alien queen of Alternia. When her entire race is destroyed by Gl'bgolyb, she rushes back to Alternia in a desperate attempt to find some way to revive her new extinct race, and instead encounters Lord English's servant The Handmaid. After Condy kills The Handmaid, Lord English himself comes and recruits Condy with the promise of reviving her dead race, which she must obey or will be killed violently for refusing.
- True Villains has the Nominal Hero Sebastian try to vanquish the Diabolical Mastermind Xaneth Antares, only to be subdued and offered a job instead. He flips to Villain Protagonist pretty quickly. Xaneth also has insurance in the form of a Stable Time Loop from his patron God of Knowledge to demonstrate Sebastian's future loyalty.
Sebastian: And what's in it for me?
Xaneth: Oh, this is the fun part. You learn how to fight better, you learn all the tricks of the villainy trade, including how to be an insufferable prick. You learn how the dungeon works, you get a small cut of whatever loot we get... And... I don't rip your spine out through your skull and tie it as a ribbon on the package containing your still beating heart that I will send to your mother along with the message that she's next.
Sebastian: [Beat] So where do I sign up?
- In Kim Possible, Gemini tries to force Ron Stoppable to join his terrorist organization of WEE by threatening him with a laser.
- In "Lucky Luke and the Ballad of the Daltons", the Dalton Brothers learned their Uncle Henry willed them his whole money if they kill the jurors and the judge who sentenced him to death by hanging and Lucky Luke provides testimony confirming they did it. When they approached Lucky about it, Joe Dalton offered the following deal: if he agrees, they'll give him a share of the money; if he refuses, they'll kill him. (Actually, they intended to kill him once the You Have Outlived Your Usefulness kicked in).
- In Book Four of The Legend of Korra, this is Kuvira's method of restoring the Earth Kingdom to order, though she doesn't threaten - technically - to do the actual killing. With bandits rampaging across the countryside and her military the only cohesive force large enough to provide much-needed protection and aid, governors are left with the choice of accepting her authority or watching their state utterly collapse. She also cuffs a group of captured bandits to a maglev railway and provides them with a "choice": either they pledge their allegiance to her, or she'll leave them for the next train.
- Parodied in The Simpsons. The Japanese commercial for "Mr. Sparkle" dishwashing powder has the eponymous mascot declare to a bunch of attractive models, "Join me or die! Can you do any less?" He then uses his magic to turn them into sumo wrestlers, followed by making a two-headed cow crumble like shattered glass.
- X-Men: Evolution: When the X-Men offered Rogue a chance to join, she was afraid they'd kill her if she refused (Mystique made them look like the bad guys to drive her to her side). Once she learned they wouldn't, she was more willing to hear them out, and finally joined once Mystique kicked one dog too many.
- A saying among drug lords or gangs in Latin America was "Plata o Plomo" (Silver or Lead). It meant you could either take a bribe, or take a bullet.
- Genghis Khan and his Mongol Empire made this ultimatum to the inhabitants of the conquered areas. Some people wouldn't surrender - and the Mongols' harsh retribution is probably the reason why most people did.
- Conscription is in essence this trope. Whether or not death is involved depends on the conscripting government. Even if one objects to military service, the bosses usually find something else for one to do. Summed up, in relation to the Soviet Union, by historian Robert O'Connell.
The people knew that if they didn't work they would die. And they would die in a particularly horrible way. They might die of German occupation. Or partisan retribution. Or Soviet coercion. Or starvation. It was "work or die".
- If a missionary (of any religion) comes with a militia, you can expect this to happen.
- When Spain was conquering parts of the globe like the Inca and Aztec empires, they got a lot of the natives to convert to Christianity this way. Under Spanish law at the time, slavery was legal, but only if the slaves weren't Christian. So people were given a choice, abandon their customs and religious beliefs or be Made a Slave.