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Line in the Sand

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"A hundred and eighty were challenged by Travis to die
By a line that he drew with his sword as the battle drew nigh
A man that crossed over the line was for glory, and he that was left better fly
And over the line crossed a hundred and seventy-nine."
Jane Bowers (and many others), Remember the Alamo

Sometimes a military commander has a dangerous or even suicidal mission, but being a nice guy he will not order his men to go on the mission. Instead the commander will ask for volunteers to step forward. Generally all of his men will step forward.

Alternatively, if the mission is to stay put and defend a hopeless position, he will offer an escape route. Generally, no one will move.

A common inversion is to have most of the men step backward, except one, who is considered to have volunteered for the mission.

Sometimes the offer is presented as genuine — "Some of you have families. No-one will think any the less of you for going home to them" — and sometimes The Captain will even try to persuade people to leave; compare Shoo the Dog. He may even precede it with Releasing from the Promise so that no one feels bound to stay. If not all of the characters are needed, he may have to select those who go, and those who can't, or who gets to Bring News Back.

Other times, it is more of a rhetorical Rousing Speech, as with Shakespeare's Henry V saying that anyone who's scared can leave because he doesn't want to die in the company of cowards.

Sometimes the volunteering is gradual, with characters being shamed into it by seeing the others volunteer. In which case, the least experienced character leads off, and the most is usually the last.

A Sub-Trope of Opt Out. The villain occasionally gets a version, with the exception that anyone who opts out is Thrown from the Zeppelin. And some soldiers, on either side, will just say "Screw This, I'm Outta Here" and leave without their general's permission.

Note: in the wake of Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait in 1990, US President George H. W. Bush announced that Saddam would not be allowed to go on to invade Saudi Arabia, saying "I have drawn a line in the sand!" Rather than a call for volunteers, his meaning was You Shall Not Pass!; since then, real-world usage has mostly followed that.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Death Note: Souichirou Yagami, the police chief in charge of the Kira investigation (and the killer's unknowing father), pulls exactly this speech to his subordinates, down to the letter of the trope. Most of them take his offer, and he's left with a handful of men, since the lack of apparent restrictions on who Kira can or is willing to kill has demoralized the police.
  • Dot Pyxis invokes one in Attack on Titan. During the Battle of Trost, in which Wall Rose, one of the two remaining walls protecting humanity from the Titans has been breached, he says that anyone who doesn't want to fight is free to go, as long as they're willing to let their families be devoured by the titans. To drive the point home he reminds them that after Wall Maria was breached, the result was a refugee crisis and the government sending a fifth of humanity to their deaths as a way of population control. He's not exaggerating when he says failure is not an option. Most of the soldiers agree to stand their ground, and with their help, the wall is sealed once again.
  • In one of the later episodes of Eureka Seven, Holland officially disbands the Gekko State, and makes it very clear that nobody at all has to stay behind. Not a single person left (though off-screen apprehension was hinted at).
    • Captain Jurgen of the battleship Izumo, a major antagonist through most of the series, plays this trope in its most classic and literal sense when he learns about the true nature of Dewey's Project Ageha. His crew, of course, all joins him in the Heel–Face Turn.
  • In Eyeshield 21, at the start of the "Death March" arc, Sakaki offers the Devil Bats a choice: either go back to Japan and take it easy over their summer break, or join Hiruma, Kurita, and himself on their trek across America and risk a career-ending injury. Naturally, they all opt to take the risk.
  • In Full Metal Panic! (the light novels and the manga, not yet the anime), after Amalgam all but annihilates Mithril, Tessa does a Line In The Sand speech to the Cool Ship's crew, telling everyone who wants to leave to come up to the flight deck in two hours' time. No one takes the offer.
  • Played with in the Giant Robo OVA: In the prelude to the final battle, Daisaku (The Kid with the Remote Control for the titular Humongous Mecha) suffers a Heroic BSoD because he can't bring himself to Shoot the Dog — or the Cool Big Sis, who may or may not have joined the enemy. The Supporting Leader, disgusted, draws a line with his sword for Daisaku to cross when he's ready. Because of the battle's choreography, Daisaku doesn't need to cross the line to send Giant Robo into a Foe-Tossing Charge Just in Time. However, when Robo's damaged, Daisaku refuses the order to retreat — across the line, mind you — to a shelter, and charges directly into the Final Battle to save Robo.
  • After the titular protagonist of Hajime no Ippo suffers a devastating loss to world-level boxer Alfredo Gonzalez following an apparent decline in his skills, his mentor Mamoru Takamura draws a line in Tokyo Bay's riverbank, standing on the side opposite Ippo. In Takamura's words, where he stands is the side of boxers so powerful they may as well be inhuman, and if Ippo cannot bring himself to join him there, he is better off ceasing to box competitively.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Of course Murrue Ramius does this to the Archangel crew. At this point, they are deserters, so she needs them to freely agree to fight at her side before she can give them orders again. Even then only 11 left the ship.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has this multiple times, since Tekkadan's boss Orga has a standing policy that anyone who wants to quit is free to do so with his blessing, and it usually gets reiterated before major battles. However, because the entire group is practically family and fiercely loyal to Orga, almost nobody ever takes him up on the offer. One exception is Takaki Uno, who resigns early in the second season after going through a major Trauma Conga Line. Late in the second season it happens again before the Final Battle (which looks incredibly bleak); most of the group reaffirms their loyalty, but Zack calls them out on their blind, suicidal loyalty. Later on he's still with the group, seemingly the result of a conversation with his friend Dane who explains that for most of them, Tekkadan is literally all they have.
  • In the Whitebeard War arc of One Piece, when Whitebeard is accused of selling out his commanders, he creates an escape route and tells anyone who wants to leave to use it, otherwise they can stay and die in battle. Everyone fights.
  • Yoshiharu volunteers to do this in episodes 10 and 11 of The Ambition of Oda Nobuna in an attempt to buy enough time for Nobuna's forces to escape the encirclement trap set up by Asai/Asakura forces. Like the trope implies, it doesn't go too well for him due to being vastly outnumbered, although every single one of them stayed with the understanding this was a Suicide Mission, and did it because they believed strongly in Yoshiharu and Nobuna's idea of a unified Japan.
  • In Noragami, when Daikoku is asking for help to save Yato and Yukine, Mayu is the only one of Tenjin's shinki to volunteer. It helps since Mayu was Yato's former shinki under the name of Tomone/Hanki. And on a serious note, the ablution can be a tiring and not to mention a dangerous process, something that Tenjin and his shinki know.
  • In Sword Art Online, just before Kirito breaks out of his cell, he warns Eugeo, who's imprisoned with him, that if they decide to stage a jailbreak, they'll go up against the Axiom Church and its laws. He says this means that there will be no time for second-guessing, and says that if Eugeo isn't ready, he should stay behind. Eugeo says he's ready, since he's determined to bring Alice back and he agrees with Kirito's belief that sometimes, there are things you must do, even if they're forbidden by law.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: After Bucciarati decides to go against Diavolo, he tells his subordinates that if they aren't 100% certain about whether or not they want to follow him, they should stay behind; otherwise, they can get aboard his boat to confirm that they agree with him. Narancia and Fugo both decide not to follow him, however, Narancia has a change of heart almost immediately and swims after the boat, meaning that Fugo is the only one who gets Put on a Bus.

    Comic Books 
  • Spoofed in one of the Asterix stories, where Chief Vitalstatistix angrily yells, "This is the end! Anyone not happy with my position [as leader] can push off!" Immediately, one of the men holding up the shield on which Vitalstatistix stands walks away, dumping the chief in the dust.
  • In an issue of Groo the Wanderer, a commander is given the unenviable task of assigning men into an army under Groo's command (likely suicide, given Groo's utter incompetence). He declares "anybody who wants to join Groo's army, take one step forward". Every man runs away except for one soldier who stands his ground with a determined look on his face. The pleased commander says "Well, at least there is one courageous man in this army." The soldier puts a hand to his ear and says "What?". "I said, at least there is..." "What?" The commander begins to sob. "This will go down in history as a bad joke told about the military!" "What?"
  • Happened frequently in Secret Six. Given the character of much of the team, they rarely refused a mission. Although Black Alice notably quit the Six rather than going on a mission to Hell.
  • Thor and Loki: Original Sin has a strange variant, with Loki shouting to the invading Angelic Fleet "So if anyone doesn't want to slaughter tiny babies in their sleep — you can back out! No blame attached! In fact, I'll pay you!" This is actually a moral test. She's planning to betray and destroy the entire fleet, but doesn't want to kill anyone who isn't planning to slaughter innocents.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns, the DN tries to convince his soldiers to return to Orzammar, because he didn't want to involve them in what he was going to do. Since he'd acted like A Father to His Men, they stick with him and remain loyal even after his Zero-Approval Gambit.
  • Near the end of The Prayer Warriors: The Evil Gods Part One, Jerry and a converted Percy Jackson say that whoever does not wish to accompany them into Hell to kill Hades does not have to do so.
  • In A Growing Affection, Hinata offers one of these to her friends, before they go AWOL to rescue Naruto. Naruto was the one who asked her to do this, because he didn't want them risking their lives and careers without knowing the whole story.
  • Secrets:
    Harry: The final battle will be fought on Saturday, three days from now. Anyone not wishing to be involved is welcome to leave now. Be aware that by staying, you will be committing yourself.
  • In Heimatfront the main characters, who are based on the girls of Oarai Academy from Girls und Panzer, are BDM volunteers who are tasked with delivering tanks to the frontline. After completing their mission, which involved a skirmish with the enemy, during which Noemi (aka Noriko) dies, Anja(aka Anzu), the leader of the group, tells the group that they can either return home, as ordered, or stay and fight alongside the group. Some choose to leave, while Maria(aka Miho) and many others stay.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ratatouille: When Linguini finally reveals the secret of his apparent ultracompetence as a chef, to the rest of the kitchen staff, just as they're getting ready to brave the critique of Antoine Ego, the most feared food-reviewer in Paris. He asks who will stand with him. They all leave. The love-interest and Token Girl comes back, though.
  • The Jungle Book (1967): When Col. Hati turns his back after asking for volunteers to go look for Mowgli, the entire herd steps back as one, save for one elephant. He joins the line after a moment. Hati turns around, looks at everyone for a beat, then laughs and says, "Now that's what I like to see: devotion to duty!"
  • Cars: Sheriff asks for volunteers to be McQueen's legal representative. All step (drive?) back, except for Mater, who then cheerfully agrees.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the otherwise forgettable Street Fighter movie, Colonel Guile makes this speech to his men after being ordered by an Obstructive Bureaucrat to disband his men and send them home instead of going after Bison. The speech ends with: "Now, who wants to go home...and who wants to go with ME?!" Every one of his men enthusiastically opt for the latter choice. Every one of his men except for the cook, that is. The Obstructive Bureaucrat places the cook under armed guard to ensure that he doesn't run off, too.
  • Parodied in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Zissou asks anyone in his crew who doesn't want to continue to step forward, and his confused German lieutenant does so because he thought he was supposed to cross the line if he did want to continue. Zissou said 'If you're not against me, don't cross this line! If yes, do.' so it's not just the fact the he was German that made it confusing.
  • The historical genesis of this trope is parodied in Viva Max!, when General Maximillian, after somewhat successfully attempting to recapture the Alamo, draws a line and asks his men who want to give in to the local sheriff's orders to leave. Everyone stars to cross, but go back when Max's assistant—the only man in the company actually carrying ammo—points a gun at them. Max's men decide to stay of their own volition.
  • In the Japanese film Ichi the Killer, when heading into the final confrontation, the sadomachistic gang leader gives all of his henchmen the opportunity to back out. One of them takes him up on it, telling him that "it's time to hand back this sake cup we drank in friendship." The gangster responds by stabbing a spike through the henchman's foot and dragging him along anyway, spike and all. None of the other henchmen try to leave.
  • Played straight in Hook, with a literal line in the dirt between the supporters of Rufio and the supporters of Peter — except that since the criterion is whether or not you believe that he's Peter Pan, Peter tries to cross the line to Rufio's side, and has to be dragged back by Tinker Bell.
  • In the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hagrid asks for volunteers to approach the hippogriff, and this trope happens, leaving Harry.
  • Accompanied by quite possibly the darkest version of this type of speech in Serenity. Then by a very nice one a bit later on.
    Mal: You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.
  • Iron Jawed Angels: Knowing anyone who joins the picket line in front of the White House after war has been declared will be imprisoned, Alice asks for volunteers and stresses that this is a choice.
  • A smaller scale version happens in The Patriot (2000). Right before the final battle, Dan and Occam and the rest of the American militia are facing down the superior British Army. Dan points out to Occam that he already served his required enlistment and that he could leave at any time. Occam confirms this and decides to stay anyways so he can fight beside his comrades.
  • Star Trek has a few examples in which the senior officers are asked to volunteer not only to accept danger but to back up the captain's defiance of Starfleet orders:
  • In Les Miserables, Enjolras gives those who want to leave the chance to go without shame when their barricade becomes the last one. No-one leaves.
  • In The Battle of Algiers, Col. Mathieu has surrounded Algerian nationalist Ali La Pointe's last safe house. La Pointe and three of his followers (including a woman and a child) hide in a wall cavity. Mathieu wires the house to explode, then shouts through the wall to urge La Pointe to at least let the little boy go. La Pointe says "Whoever wishes to may go," but the other three refuse to leave. Mathieu blows up the house.
  • In GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra General Hawk tells the Joes they've been ordered to stand down, but he's going to attack the Cobra base anyway and anyone who wants to leave can do so. Needless to say no-one does.
  • Discussed in a deleted scene from Conan the Barbarian, just before the final battle:
    Conan: Almost 20 years of pitiless cumber! No rest, no sleep like other men. And yet the spring wind blows, Subotai. Have you ever felt such a wind?
    Subotai: They blow where I live, too. In the north of every man's heart.
    Conan: It's never too late, Subotai.
    Subotai: No. It would only lead me back here another day. In even worse company.
    Conan: For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm.
  • In ¡Three Amigos!, Ned draws a literal line in the sand and challenges Lucky and Dusty to cross it and go with him to face El Guapo.
  • A villainous version appears in Heat; on realising that they've somehow attracted the attention of the police (the 'heat' of the title), Neil Macauley and his crew get together and debate whether to go through with the heist they have planned. Macauley states that they either go through with the job, or turn around and never see each other again. They decide to go through with the heist. This ends up being a spectacularly bad decision for all concerned.
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Faced with angry crewmembers who want to be with their families while facing The End of the World as We Know It, Admiral Harriman Nelson lets them pack supplies on a derelict ship and return home. Rather than the usual version of trying to shame everyone into staying, the admiral sees himself as averting the threat of sabotage and mutiny with a smaller but more loyal crew. Captain Crane isn't impressed as crewmen who might not have rebelled have now been given a chance to do so and their submarine is now undermanned, plus he thinks the admiral's claims of sabotage are a figment of his imagination.

  • Literally in Animorphs. After the Yeerks find out where the Hork-Bajir valley is located, they plan to storm it and kill everyone. Jake and his friends attempt to explain to Toby that going into battle is suicidal, and to demonstrate his point Jake draws a line in the sand and asks the Hork-Bajir to vote on which course of action is the smartest. Jake's point backfires when every Hork-Bajir votes to fight back.
  • The Lord of the Rings had a scene where Aragorn offered the people in his army a chance to do something less suicidal (by retaking an outpost) before he attacked the Black Gate. In this case, some of them actually do leave. They already were going to leave, he just gave them something useful to do so they could retain some honor.
  • Parodied in Bored of the Rings. As the Army of the West approaches the Gates of Fordor, many start to desert. Finally Arrowroot decides to shame them into being courageous.
    Arrowroot: Peoples of the West! The battle before the Black Gate of Sorhed will be one of few against many; but the few are of pure heart and the many are of the filthy. Nevertheless, those of you who wish to cringe and run from the fight may do so to quicken our pace. Those who still ride with the King of Twodor will live forever in song and legend! The rest may go.
    [it is said that the dustcloud did not settle for many days after]
  • Discworld:
    • Played straight, for a wonder, in Night Watch. Commander Vimes, pretending to be Sergeant Keel, draws a line and asks who will defend the Watch House with him. Barely a dozen men cross, although of course he knew who would. He mentions that later accounts will claim no-one left.
    • Furthermore, he notes that many of those who did cross the line only did so as the peer pressure began to outweigh their fear.
    • In A Hat Full of Sky, Rob Anybody asked for volunteers for a mission that'd probably get everyone killed. Every Feegle over the age of four automatically put his hand up.
  • In Shatterpoint, General Windu asks one of his higher-ranking clone troopers for the best pilots under his command, then changes his order and asks for volunteers, since it's one of those situations where hardly anyone's getting out alive. The trooper tells him that they'll all volunteer. It's what they're bred for.
  • An Oblique Approach. General Belisarius asks for volunteers to come with him on a highly dangerous spy mission into a country that's planning to attack. Plenty of hands are raised. He picks the three men who "had enough sense not to volunteer."
  • In another Drake work, the Honor Harrington short story "A Grand Tour". The Manticoran main characters have essentially won a light cruiser in a game of cards, and plan to use it to get revenge against the Havenite ship that had just destroyed a Manticoran destroyer. They hope to get the survivors of the destroyed ship to come with them to actually run the cruiser, but since this whole thing is a wild plan they don't have any authority and so ask for volunteers. Whereupon the senior surviving crewmember promptly orders them all to volunteer.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Reynard does this twice during The Baron of Maleperduys. Given the tone of the series, it's difficult to tell whether or not he is being sincere.
  • In The Sword of Truth Kahlan makes the escape offer to a hopelessly outnumbered force of soldiers. Then has the people who didn't choose to stick with her killed. Variants on this actually happen several times over the course of the series, due to their With Us or Against Us mentality.
  • In By the Sword, a Valdemar novel by Mercedes Lackey, the noble mercenary captain Kerowyn offers her company a vote: to stay and help the Valdemarans against overwhelming odds or to work their way to the edge of the fighting and try to escape. Every single member votes to stay.
  • Played straight in the second book of A Song of Ice and Fire, when Theon Greyjoy, preparing to make the Last Stand in hostile territory, offers the choice to his men. 17 out of 20 stay.
  • Invoked before the big battle of A Wizard Abroad in the Young Wizards series: Wizards from all over Ireland and Europe have converged to fight a major battle against the Lone Power's forces, and Johnny, the European Senior, gives them the "think about your dependents or pre-existing wizardly obligations and be absolutely sure you can do this before crossing" version, given that people being killed would be a certainty.
  • Over the course of the Vatta's War series, Captain Ky gives the civilian-minded members of her crew not one but several chances to leave with full severance pay or transfer to a more peaceful ship as she shifts over the course of the series from a trader to an armed privateer to full military. Several do leave, many stay.
  • The Hunt for Red October. Some officers are asked to volunteer for a dangerous mission, and if they opt out "nothing more will be said". They volunteer because they know something would be said if they failed to do so.
    • Used several times in the Ryanverse, but almost always framed in such a way that the line in the sand is a challenge rather than a decision: telling soldiers their mission would be dangerous and possibly illegal, but pointing out that they're badasses, for example, to play to their ego. The only time anyone opts out is is Without Remorse, when Green Berets are asked to volunteer for a very dangerous mission without being told what it is, during the Vietnam War. The ones who opt out are those that had already served three tours in Vietnam and didn't want to punch their luck any further.
  • In Rihannsu: The Empty Chair, Jim Kirk, unable to reveal his secret orders from the President, addresses the crew and tells them that anyone who doesn't feel comfortable serving with him in his new effective capacity as Admiral of the rebel Rihannsu fleet is free to leave. Not only does no one take him up on his offer, Sulu and Chekhov break out a pirate flag they'd made up for the occasion.
  • In an unusual version, Rek makes this offer towards the end of the siege of Dross Delnoch in Legend — and almost one quarter of his men (650 out of a total surviving force of 2,690) take him up on the offer. Rek makes it clear that he's giving them this option in order to avoid forcing brave men to choose between death and dishonour.
    "He has played his part and fought like a man. It is criminal that he should feel the need to flee in shame."
  • Without Remorse: At the briefing for Operation Boxwood Green, the Marines are informed that they won't learn the details of the mission until after they volunteer. Most of the older Marines, who've already served multiple tours in Vietnam and now have families of their own, decide not to go because of this. It's noted that if they had known that it was a rescue mission for American prisoners of war left behind in Vietnam, every single Marine would've volunteered.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, when Jaume sees that his Empire is slowly turning into a deranged dictatorship, he tells his men that he's going to try and set things right, but considering what they'll likely be asked to do, he will not hold it against them if they choose to leave — and in fact, releases them from their oaths, should they not go with him. Three opt out, but the rest remains.
  • The White Company: Sir Nigel Loring asks only for volunteers for an extremely dangerous mission and is quite disheartened to see no one stepping out from the ranks. It's quickly explained to him that everyone stepped forward (his bad eyesight is a Running Gag throughout the book).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in Band of Brothers, where Lt. Welsh asks for volunteers to take a look at a suspicious looking house; although Blithe raises his hand, Welsh also says "You three have just volunteered too", thus ordering them to take a look instead of asking them if they want to.
  • In Stargate SG-1 General Hammond asks for volunteers to rescue SG-1, who have been captured by Hathor. Everyone steps forward before he's even finished the sentence.
  • In the series finale of Stargate Atlantis, Woolsey gives one of these to Ronon and Teyla:
    Woolsey: I wanted the opportunity to offer you both one last chance to reconsider... You're being asked to fly to another galaxy, to take what might turn out to be the losing part in a battle that isn't yours.
    Ronon: You mean like everyone on this base has been doing for the last five years?
    Teyla: Thank you for your consideration, Mr. Woolsey, but I assure you it is not necessary.
    Ronon: We're not going anywhere.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Played for Laughs during Worf's "bachelor party". His human friends wrongly assume it will involve the usual Klingon carousing, but it's actually an ordeal of self-torture and sleep deprivation. Worf asks who's first to have his chest carved on by a wicked-looking knife, and Dr Bashir is too dead on his feet to notice that his friends have taken a sudden step backwards, leaving him as the 'volunteer'.
      Worf: I did not expect it to be you, Doctor.
      Bashir: Neither did I.
    • Played straight in "The Die Is Cast" when Sisko asks for volunteers to go on a mission to rescue Odo against orders. Everyone is on the ship when it's time to go (though it turns out one had only joined to sabotage the mission on orders from Sisko's superiors).
    • The beginning of season two, when Sisko decides to remain on the station after being told to pull out by Starfleet.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • "The 37's", the crew find a planet that was colonized by 20th century humans who were abducted, and who defeated their captors. At the end of the episode, Capt. Janeway gives her crew the option of staying on the planet, or continuing their long, difficult journey back to Earth. When she time comes, everyone stays on Voyager.
    • "Timeless" takes place in a Bad Future where Chakotay and Harry are the sole survivors of Voyager after the experimental slipstream drive intended to take them home broke down mid-warp, killing everybody aboard when it crash-landed on an ice planet outside the Alpha Quadrant (Harry and Chakotay were aboard the Delta Flyer mapping the course for Voyager). The two put together a plan which would save the ship in the past. After they track down Voyager's crash site, Chakotay reminds his girlfriend in this future, Tessa, that if they succeed, it will undo their relationship, too. Tessa agrees to help them despite this.
  • NCIS. Tony is asking his friends to help Ziva, who is framed and on the run. Palmer is alarmed to realize that they might not just end up fired, but jailed. Tony delivers the stock line for this trope, "no one's gonna think less of you if you want out, Palmer."
    Palmer: Really?
    DiNozzo: Well no. They probably would... at least I know I would.
  • Battlestar Galactica plays it nice and straight in the finale, with a line taped down the center of the flight deck. This is played rather more realistically than most examples, as there are at least twice as many people who end up on the port (non-volunteer) side of the line. However, most of those were civilians and most of the Marines and Pilots do volunteer. Some of those who volunteered are ordered to stay behind since the civilian fleet cannot lose their expertise and leadership. Later, in the briefing room, Helo again asks for volunteers to pilot the Raptors for the mission; every hand in the room is up before he even finishes speaking.
    Helo: That's my Raptor wranglers; always looking for new and interesting ways to get killed.
  • Babylon 5: just before declaring independence from Earth, Sheridan gives a speech to this effect. Because J. Michael Straczynski considers the ones where everyone follows The Hero unrealistic, one background character opted out.
  • In the season 3 finale of Merlin, Arthur sits Gwen, Merlin, Gaius, Elyan, Percival, Gwaine, Lancelot, and Leon down around a round table, tells them they're all equals, and asks if anyone will help him rescue his father. Despite the fact that most of them have good reason to hate Uther, they all join him without hesitation. Well, except Merlin, but that's just to squeeze in a funny moment.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: For some reason, instead of having an already permanent professional army, The higher ups of Numenor must ask for volunteers for the military expedition to the Southlands. Elendil himself handles the recruitment.
  • Parodied in Get Smart. In a spoof of Mission: Impossible, Max is listening to a taped briefing from the Chief.
    Chief: If you accept this mission, this department will disavow any knowledge of your actions. If you don't're fired.
  • The scene from A Song of Ice and Fire is recreated in Game of Thrones. In a departure from the series, more or less every Ironborn cheer loudly along with Theon's attempt at a Rousing Speech... Then one of them clubs him in the head. They then sell him out and go home.
  • Rome. Julius Caesar shows how this is done with his Rousing Speech when he needs to take his elite 13th Legion into Italy, an illegal act. First Caesar informs them the Senate has declared him a Public Enemy. His soldiers are shocked and outraged. He adds that by standing with him, the Senate is declaring all of them outlaws as well. Caesar then whips up their fervor by denouncing the treacherous attack by a thousand Pompey supporters on Marc Antony and the fifty 13th Legion men who were protecting him. Antony is standing there with blood on his face (which Caesar had instructed him not to wash off) as evidence of this. Caesar declares his intention to march on Rome and save it from these Corrupt Politicians who have such contempt for Roman values. The kicker comes when Caesar calls out Legionary Titus Pullo from the ranks and publicly rewards him with a bag of silver for killing the first attacker (ironically Pullo set the whole incident in motion, as his attacker had a personal grudge against him).
    Caesar: Are you with me, Titus Pullo? Will you come with me to Rome?
    Pullo: Yes... Yes sir! Certainly!
    Caesar: Titus Pullo is with me. And you — are you with me?!
    [entire legion roars their assent]
  • The Power Rangers Wild Force episode Forever Red features Tommy recruiting every Red Ranger to date note  for a special mission to stop the remnants of the Machine Empire. Every last one signs on without hesitation, with newcomer Cole being the first to step up.
    Tommy: Guys, this is gonna be a very dangerous mission. But I can't force you to go. This is a decision you have to make on your own.
    Cole: I don't know much about spaceships, or this Machine Empire. But I will go wherever I must, to protect the Earth.
    Wes: Same goes for us. [Himself and Eric]]
    Carter: Count me in.
    TJ: It's not even a question.
    Andros: Then it's settled.

  • "There was a decorated general with a heart of gold / that likened him with all the stories he told / of past battles, won and lost, and legends of old / a seasoned veteran in his own time..." (Ask your college-age friends. Especially the ones that wear upturned collars.)
  • Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' "Billy Don't Be a Hero" touches on such a situation:
    I need a volunteer to ride up / And bring us back some extra men

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: Appears in the biblical Book of Judges, 7:3. God commands Gideon to issue two tests in order to thin out the ranks of the Israelite army so that it would be apparent that the victory was won by God's power, not simply superior military might. In addition to permitting those who were afraid to participate in the upcoming battle to leave, Gideon also observed how the soldiers drank from a river; those who knelt down to drink were sent homenote . These two tests thinned the Israelite army down from 32,000 to a mere 300. Oh yeah, and they won too.
  • In The Iliad, Agamemnon seems to try a Reverse Psychology version of this, but the moment he suggests the Greeks might want to give up on the siege and go home most of the army takes him at his word and makes a break for it. Odysseus has to round them back up.

  • William Shakespeare's Henry V features Henry's rousing "St. Crispin's Day Speech," including the coining of the phrase, "band of brothers."
  • Of course, in Les Misérables. Enjolras does not wish to waste lives, and orders those men who have wives and children, or who have women dependent on them (mothers, sisters) to depart before the grand finale where everyone dies. Exact lyric: Let us not waste lives, let all women and fathers of children go from here

    Video Games 
  • Somewhat done in Kirby Super Star's "Revenge of Meta Knight" subgame, when Meta Knight asks his crew to escape the Halberd before they all perish. Naturally, they refuse.
    • Or rather, they refuse until their "one last attempt" at killing Kirby fails. After that, they flee.
  • Played straight in Advance Wars 2, in the Green Earth mission 'Sea Fortress'. You control Commander Eagle, who, naturally, has a strong airforce. However, the opposing CO this particular map foresaw this and deployed heavy anti-air defences all over the place. Eagle gives his men the option to pull out of this potentially fatal mission if they wished, but all stayed out of loyalty. It kind of makes you feel bad during the unavoidable massacre of most of your forces afterwards.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, before the last battle, Cloud asks each member of the party to think about whether they have a reason for fighting, and to only come back if they're convinced they do.
  • Before passing through the Betrayer's Gate in Neverwinter Nights 2, this is one of your options when dealing with your party members. Their reaction depends upon your Influence score with each of them, but the affirmative responses (especially from Gann or Safiya if you complete the romance subplot) are all heartwarming moments.
  • Auron in Final Fantasy X gives a speech to this effect about three quarters through. It is also right before a nice juicy treble-boss fight.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, Brunnya, an enemy general of the now fallen Bern, tells this to all her troops before their Last Stand against Roy's army. They all choose to stay; she ends up having to forcibly discharge any and all soldiers with children and/or elderly parents. This in only in the secret chapters needed for the true ending.
  • Mustafa of Fire Emblem: Awakening. After Emmeryn's Heroic Sacrifice many in King Gangrel's army come to doubt their cause in the war. Upon encountering the Shepherds, Mustafa announces that any man who no longer wishes to fight may desert without repercussions (and it's implied that the only reason he fights you himself is because Gangrel will go for his family if he doesn't). All of his men choose to stay, feeling that loyalty to their commander is more important than misgivings about their purpose (much to his dismay). For this reason, the ensuing battle is a massive Player Punch.
  • In versions of DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu that have two loops, if you unlock the second loop, it is presented as Colonel Longhena, both your commander and the Big Bad, giving you the option to either challenge his special forces or to Opt Out. Take him on? Welcome to the second loop. Leave? The game ends.
  • A variation happens in Persona 4. After Nanako apparently dies and the party corners Namatame (whom they believe to be the culprit), Yosuke announces that he intends to take revenge on Namatame by throwing him into the TV and leaving him to die, then tells the party that if anyone doesn't want any part in this, they're free to leave. If you take Yosuke up on his offer, you get a bad ending.


    Web Original 
  • In Interlude 13 of Worm, Director Piggot allows any Wards to Opt Out of the confrontation with the Slaughterhouse Nine.
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall's Robocop vs. the Terminator #2 review, Linkara is confronted by all his friends that his current plan (hijacking the world's satellites to target a superweapon on short notice) is highly immoral. After explaining his reasons (but not even attempting to defend the morality of it) he tells them to either stand by him or leave. The usually inspirational trope is inverted when not even Pollo is willing to stay.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Arnook, the chief of the Northern Water Tribe gives his entire civilization the option of fighting or not before the Fire Nation attack in the Siege of the North.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Carnage of Krell", after the 501st and part of the 212th are tricked into attacking each other by General Krell, Captain Rex gathers the survivors together and announces his intention to arrest Krell for treason against the Republic. Before he gives his orders, he offers them all a chance to Opt Out since what they're going to do could be considered treason, but no one does. Until they're actually underway, at which point Dogma decides that he can't go along with them. The rest of the troopers disarm him, lock him up, and continue.

    Real Life 
  • The source of the phrase: Francisco Pizarro's first expedition to Peru went badly. The second expedition brought more evidence of a native population in Peru. After bickering with his lieutenant Diego de Almagro, he retreated to Isla de Gallo while Diego tried to convince the governor of Nicaragua to approve their expedition, which was refused. When ships arrived to bring everybody else home, Pizarro drew a line in the sand and said "There lies Peru with its riches. Here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian". Only 13 soldiers followed him. That's right, kids, Older than You Think.
  • Supposedly, at the Battle of the Alamo William Travis drew a line in the sand and asked for all who would defend the Alamo to step across the line. An invalid Jim Bowie asked to be carried over the line. The whole story rests on the testimony of the one man who supposedly did NOT cross the line, but went over the wall instead. In the 1990s movie, Santa Ana sends a message to those settlers in the Alamo that whoever leaves will be pardoned, and reminds them that Mexico knows no racial segregation. Many of the militia accept the offer and leave with their families. Pity it wasn't true. There were reasons Tejanos sided with the American settlers. However to give credit where it's due the women and children were spared.
  • The Duke of Cumberland is said to have given an order of this kind to his men shortly before the Battle of Culloden.
  • A 2004 Australian Football League match between Hawthorn and Essendon became notorious as one of the most violent in league history, with multiple fights breaking out between players. It became known as the "line in the sand match" when it was alleged that Hawthorn team director Dermott Brereton (himself a former Hawthorn player) told his team at halftime to "draw a line in the sand" against perceived Essendon aggression. (Brereton denied the specific wording, but admitted to telling the team to take a stand.) in the end, 16 players received fines from the AFL, three of them also drawing suspensions from four to six matches, and two other players were suspended for a single match.