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Kill on Sight

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This trope covers any situation in which open season is declared on an individual or a group of individuals, be they heroic or villainous.

Often the reasons behind this decision are as significant a plot point as the proclamation itself. Insisting on this policy can make people question a villain with otherwise good publicity. A clear villain doing this can also unwittingly emphasize the size of threat the person or group being targeted represents. If a "Wanted!" Poster is involved, it may read as only "dead" (or in a more comedic context "preferably dead") instead of "dead or alive", and can also serve as an example of Price on Their Head. If those being targeted are viewed as Always Chaotic Evil, whether that turns out to truly be the case may depend on the alignment of those giving or carrying out the order. In a Crapsack World, this can also highlight the level of paranoia a person or people are held under. Seeing this done by someone on the Good Guys' side could be them deciding I Did What I Had to Do or an acknowledgement that whatever they're facing is so dangerous or has otherwise escalated such that ideals like Thou Shalt Not Kill are unattainable in that particular case.

People who are declared Outlaw in historical settings are usually treated in this fashion.

A Sub-Trope to Murder Is the Best Solution. Compare Leave No Survivors, and Shoot Everything That Moves, which is this trope on a broader, less-discriminating scale.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Elfen Lied opens with Lucy having Escaped from the Lab, killing twenty three guards in the process, before taking a bullet to the head, and temporarily lost her memories. Since she is so dangerous, the search party is instructed to kill her on sight.
  • Naruto: Inverted with the future Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, during the Third Shinobi World War. He was so badass that enemy countries ordered their troops to flee whenever he was sighted on the the battlefield.
  • In One Piece, this is inverted with Sanji's "Wanted!" Poster immediately following Dressrosa, which reads as "Only Alive" instead of "Dead or Alive" like other criminals. It's because his estranged father - a rather influential person - has arranged it so that Sanji could be brought to him because he needs Sanji for an Arranged Marriage with one of notorious pirate Big Mom's daughters.
  • Trigun: At first played straight in that Vash the Stampede's sixty-billion dollar bounty means people will try to shoot him dead the moment they see him even if the poster doesn't explicitly requests it to, and then inverted in the third act when the Bernardelli Insurance Company uses its political capital to order the removal of Vash's bounty and declare him a living "Act of God" — the new posters have explicitly read "if you see this man, run for your life".

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, the Book of Dragons describe every dragon depicted as dangerous and should be killed on sight. The only exception is the Night Fury which the books says you must hide from.
  • Pocahontas: Governor Ratcliffe declares that "anyone who doesn't shoot an Indian on sight shall be charged with treason and hanged!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman (1989). When Dirty Cop Lieutenant Eckhardt leads the Gotham police officers into Axis Chemicals, he shows them a picture of Jack Napier, who Carl Grissom wants dead for canoodling with his mistress Alicia, and tells them "Shoot to kill. Know what I mean?" When Commissioner Gordon arrives on the scene, he immediately takes over command of the cops from Eckhardt, telling everyone that he wants Napier taken alive and that any man who opens fire on Napier will answer to him.
  • The Fugitive: After the One-Armed-Man kills a police officer during a battle with Kimble, Deputy Marshall Gerard bemoans the fact that since Kimble is now accused of being a Cop Killer, that means the Chicago Police will shoot to kill if they find him.
  • The Gauntlet: Detective Shockley is sent to Las Vegas to extradite a witness to Phoenix. However, the witness can identify The Mole within the police department, so mob assassins all aim to silence her. Further, The Mole convinces the Phoenix police that Shockley has gone rogue, and must be taken down with extreme prejudice.
  • Judge Dredd. After Dredd escapes the crashed Aspen Shuttle, Judge Griffin orders the Capture Team to kill him.
  • Star Wars Revenge of the Sith has Emperor Palpatine issue the fateful "General Order 66" to all clone commanders, which is a "kill all Jedi on sight" directive. This is a subversion of the Imperial Senate's directive to apprehend the Jedi Knights after Master Mace Windu had deduced Palpatine as the Sith Master and had tried to vanquish him.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Admiral Marcus declares a manhunt against Commander Harrison after he orchestrates a bombing at a Starfleet facility in London.
    Marcus: This man has shown willingness to kill innocent people, so the rules of engagement are simple. If you come across this man and fear for your life or the lives of those nearby, you are authorized to use deadly force on sight.

  • 1632: After the Battle of the Crapper, the mercenaries who don't pass Gretchen's examination are exiled from American territory. Before they're sent off, they're photographed and the pictures put on posters reading "Wanted — Dead".
  • By the fifth book of the Safehold series, How Firm a Foundation, the Church of God Awaiting's Inquistion has caused numerous atrocities. Their forcing honorably surrendered Charisian prisoners to be turned over to them for Cold-Blooded Torture and execution serves as the last straw for the Empire of Charis, who announce from that moment forward that, while any rank-and-file soldiers can surrender and expect honorable treatment, Inquisitors will be shown no quarter. The best they can hope for after that is to renounce their service to the Grand Inquisitor, at which point they'll stand trial for any crimes they committed rather than be executed outright.
  • In Warrior Cats, occasionally a leader will order that if a particular cat is found in their Clan's territory, they should be killed on sight: this includes when Tigerclaw is exiled from ThunderClan for murder, and when Graystripe is exiled from RiverClan for betraying them during battle to save Fireheart's life.
  • In Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe, the parallel universe's humanity is engaged in a war with an alien race. Any time an agent of theirs is spotted, a description is passed to the population and everyone knows to kill on sight. A dozen innocents die each time, but due to the aliens' abilities, there is no alternative.
  • In The Wolf Chronicles, when Kaala is (temporarily) exiled from her pack in the first book, Ruuqo informs her that if she's found in the territory after that, she'll be killed on sight.
  • The Executioner. During his war against the Mafia, it's mentioned that several police departments have issued unofficial "shoot on sight" orders regarding Mack Bolan. Whether they actually follow those orders depends on the individual officer, as some are secretly sympathetic to his vigilante actions.
  • Worm: Most superheroes in the series will focus on capturing their enemies or otherwise safely neutralizing them, only killing as a last resort. While supervillains have no such compunctions, when they kill another dangerous supervillain, that is counted as a crime even if the villain deserved it. However, some villains are considered so great a threat that the Protectorate has a "Kill On Sight" order: superheroes have a legal right to go all-out against such threats, and supervillains will not have it counted against them if they kill someone with that order. This is most prominently seen with the Slaughterhouse Nine, a group of superpowered serial killers with such a body count that nobody cares about them being brought to justice, only that they are dead and unable to continue killing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • "World War Three": The Doctor is framed for killing a roomful of alien experts by acting Prime Minister Joseph Green and General Asquith, who are aliens in disguise. After he escapes to the upper levels of 10 Downing Street, Green gives the soldiers orders that the upper floors are off limits and that if the Doctor should come downstairs, they are to shoot him on sight.
    • "Day of the Moon": The Silence have been secretly controlling Earth for millennia because no-one can remember a Silence unless they're looking directly at them. During a Hannibal Lecture a captive Silence scoffs at the Puny Earthlings who have the audacity to take him prisoner. "You should kill us all on sight." This turns out to be a mistake as his comment is recorded and broadcast as a subliminal command during the live television coverage of the first Moon landing. The humans then proceed to attack every Silence they encounter.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Broca Divide", after an offworld virus breaks out at Stargate Command, General Hammond requests that the military cordon off the mountain with an armored division and that anyone attempting to leave be shot on sight and the body burned.
  • Batwoman (2019)
    • In "The Rabbit Hole", the Gotham police give Crow Security the green light to kill Alice. Kate, having discovered that Alice is her long-lost sister Beth, places herself between them as a Human Shield until her father agrees to arrest her instead.
    • After she escapes from their custody killing two officers, Crow Security issues a B-42 Shoot To Kill order on Alice. Unknown to them the collapse of The Multiverse has created an alternate universe version of Kate Kane's sister who is entirely innocent of her crimes, whom Batwoman now has to protect from them.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia supplement Acute Paranoia, adventure "The Harder They Clone". When The Computer learns that Bill-Y-IDL is part of the conspiracy, it announces over the Complex-wide PA system "Bill-Y-IDL is a traitor! Terminate on sight!"

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, this is what happens to Hawke's secret informant within the Grey Wardens (depending on the world state, Stroud, Alistair, or Loghain). After he publicly challenges the Orlesian Warden-Commander Clarel's new policies, he is branded a traitor to be killed on sight by other Wardens. This forces him into hiding, where the Inquisition has to find him in order to discover the nature of said policies.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: The only freely explorable places available to CJ early in the game are Los Santos and Red County. If CJ tries to get into the other places, such as Flint County or San Fierro before the bridges are unlocked, he gets an instant four-star wanted level with cops pursuing and trying to shoot him down. The ingame explanation is that there's an earthquake warning and a phone call from officer Hernandez of C.R.A.S.H. telling CJ that they're watching him, and that him leaving town would be a big mistake.
  • This can happen to the Courier in Fallout: New Vegas if their reputation with either the NCR or Caesar’s Legion drops to Vilified. If you are Vilified by the Legion, a group of Legionaries at lower levels and Praetorians at higher levels will occasionally ambush you and initiate combat with, “The Caesar has marked you for death, and the Legion obeys!!” If you are Vilified by the NCR, a team of Rangers ambush you and give you one chance to improve your reputation with them. The second time, you encounter them, they will attack you. That said, both sides give you a full pardon for all transgressions, only once. Become Vilified again, and they attack on sight for the remainder of the game.
    • This also happens in Fallout 3 based on your Karma. Acquire too much good Karma, and Talon Company mercenaries attack you on sight. Acquire too much evil Karma and the Regulators declare you a menace to society and attack you on sight. That said, you can take perks to reset your karma at any time, or just set it to maximum in either direction. Note that in this game, attacks cease if you regain karma and get back to Neutral.
    • In Fallout 4 you will eventually become Kill on Sight to two out of three factions - The Institute, The Railroad or the Brotherhood of Steel. This is because you will eventually reach critical points where you will become permanently hostile. With the Institute, you start out hostile until you meet Father, after which they become friendly. However, if you do anything to get banished - by either killing a named member, go to the Mass Fusion building with the Brotherhood or be discovered while smuggling weapons to synth rebels - they become hostile once again. With the Brotherhood, you are friendly in the beginning, but they turn hostile if you kill a named member or go to Mass Fusion with the Institute. The Railroad is trickier. If you bring your Institute aligned companion anywhere even near their hideout, they attack you on sight. If you progress a little too far in the Brotherhood’s quest line, they order you to attack the Railroad, at which point, the Railroad turns hostile, anticipating an attack. If you attack the Institute’s headquarters with the Minutemen, set their reactor to blow them up, but don’t issue an evacuation order, allowing synths to escape, the Railroad attack you on sight. The Minutemen are always kept friendly to you, just in case you antagonize all three other factions.
  • In Tales of Berseria, daemons are considered Always Chaotic Evil creatures that kill humans on sight. For this reason, Exorcists recruited by the Abbey (the only beings with the power and authority to fight daemons) have a standing decree to kill them on sight. The events of the game, however, reveal that daemons are NOT universally evil (although usually hostile or bitter), and when a high-ranking Exorcist learns that the Abbey sometimes takes daemons captive, it comes as a shock and makes several characters question their motives.
  • The backstory of Undertale, as learned in the Neutral and Pacifist runs, reveals that the monsters' king, Asgore, declared that any humans who appeared in the Underground are to be killed following the death of his son at human hands. He regrets the decree immediately once he calms down, but by that point it's too late to rescind the order.
  • The story trailer for Wolfenstein: Youngblood has the Nazis place a kill order on the "Terror Twins", Sophia and Jessica Blazkowics.
    Wanted: Murder, resisting arrest, conspiracy
    Inciting insurrection, possession of contraband
    Crimes against the Reich
  • In XCOM 2 this is how ADVENT reacts to any resistance members when not conducting house arrests to arrest collaborators... who implicitly just get put through a Kangaroo Court and, after brutal interrogation, end up executed or worse. You can even find wanted holograms of your top soldiers from your current, or previous game.

  • In Charby the Vampirate Daray's parents issue a kill on sight bounty on him after he proves a disappointment by not murdering any dragons, which is considered a traditional coming of age right in their village, being mistaken for trans by his homophobic father after a magical mishap temporarily enlarges his chest, for which they disown him, and setting their house on fire as a birthday present to himself.

    Web Original 
  • The Quest Den series Nice Save! has Quincy the god of gratuitous evil. All other gods have left standing orders for their followers to murder Quincy cultists on sight if they can get away with it (he's the only god with this dubious honor).
  • The SCP Foundation policy on Reality Benders is straightforward: "kill that motherfucker before he knows you're even there." Their process for training people to face Reality Benders consists of getting them so high on drugs they'll believe anything they're told, then telling them things like the doors and windows have vanished and desks are going to kill them. It's the closest they can come to a Reality Bender attack without an actual Reality Bender, and they encourage their hunters to remember this moment if they ever think a Reality Bender can be contained or otherwise reasoned with.

    Western Animation 
  • Drip-Along Daffy: Implied with wanted outlaw Nasty Canasta, who is standing right next to a "Wanted!" Poster that reads "WANTED: DEAD" on his Establishing Character Moment. Unfortunately for Daffy, he's such an incredibly badass man that when Daffy tries to draw on him, he literally eats Daffy's guns.
  • The Shattering Robonoids from Steven Universe patrol Homeworld's underbelly, searching for Off Colors, defective Gems, and fugitives on the run. If one scans for and finds a Gem's gem, it fires a blast that can make a sizeable hole in rock.