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Making the Choice for You

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"And in the middle of this, before anything had been said outright or any decisions made (before fire would make those decisions for them), right then, mid-waltz, they heard explosions in the distance, and looked down to see, in firelight, the Greek Army in full retreat."

Making a choice isn't easy for some people. Sometimes making one choice can hurt someone's feelings when you didn't mean to, cause a Moral Dilemma about what's right, and in some cases a hero can suffer a Heroic BSoD because of it, asking themselves Was It Really Worth It?

Then there are situations where someone has to make a difficult choice that is too much for someone or their personality makes choosing something hard. In dramatic example: The Big Bad has The Hero in a Hostage for MacGuffin situation, or a character is presented with a Sadistic Choice where there is no ability to Take a Third Option. Then something unexpected happens: the hostage offs themselves to save The Hero that choice or someone else suddenly leaps in and chooses for The Hero. A Psycho Supporter Psycho Sidekick is particularly likely to intervene in these situations.

In a more comedic example: Bob is trying to figure out what to eat between hawaiian pizza, or pepperoni pizza. Knowing it'll take Bob a while to figure it out, Alice simply tells Bob to order the pepperoni pizza, which Bob goes along with as a result.

This is what we call Making The Choice For You. See Sadistic Choice for examples of what puts a character here. Compare and contrast Take a Third Option where a character is able to find a solution that exists outside the two obvious choices. When someone is presented with options but they both force you to make the same choice, see But Thou Must!. If a more pragmatic hero takes on the deed that the hero is reluctant to do, it's Sparing Them the Dirty Work. If the villain or Token Evil Teammate themselves make the choice for the hero, see Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work. When this is used to solve a Moral Dilemma, it's an example of a Debate and Switch. When someone accepts slavery because this trope will be in play and they find it liberating, it's Freedom from Choice.

This trope is often used for Rule of Drama but can also be used for Rule of Funny. The situation itself does not have to be fatal, so long as a tough decision is made by another character. Due to the nature of this trope, be warned for spoilers.


Anime and Manga

  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: During the final battle, Yoshikage Kira, puts a bomb onto the body of Josuke's friend Okuyasu thanks to his Stand, Killer Queen. Josuke wants to use the Healing Hands power of his Stand to save Okuyasu before he dies for real, but since he would need to touch Okuyasu to do, he'd be blown up by it and die. Torn between trying to heal his friend and very likely die, or let Okuyasu die, Josuke isn't sure what to do at first. Seeing this, Hayato leaps and grabs Okuyasu, blowing himself up, which allows Josuke to heal him right away, thus allowing him to heal Okuyasu safely.
    • Steel Ball Run: When caught by Pork Pie's Wired, Johnny is unable to attack with Gyro being used as a shield and is forced to give up the corpse part. Once he hands it over, Gyro utilizes Johnny's Tusk by passing it onto the fingers of the corpse part, therefore letting him attack and taking down Pork Pie.
  • The main issue of the first season of Psycho-Pass is what The Hero Akane Tsunemori should do about the Big Bad Shogo Makishima. On one hand Akane believes he's too dangerous to be kept alive, but on the other if he becomes part of the Sibyl System it could lead to the system becoming much more capable of fixing what flaws it does have. Ultimately though Akane never personally makes the final say; Shinya Kogami is the one who kills Makishima.
    • Early in the first season Akane is presented with a Sadistic Choice from Makishima: Shoot him with a real gun, or he'll kill her best friend. Akane grabs the gun and wants to shoot but her own moral code of not taking a life causes her to hesitate. Seeing this, Makishima, disappointed in her, kills her best friend.
  • Naruto: This is what triggered Nagato's Face–Heel Turn and his transformation into Pain. Back when he, Konan and Yahiko founded Akatsuki, they were lured into a trap by Hanzo of the Salamander (who was in cahoots with Danzo Shimura of Konoha) under a false pretense of peace negotiations. Hanzo took Konan hostage and threatened to kill her unless Nagato killed Yahiko. Nagato hesitated, so Yahiko instead jumped into Nagato's kunai to make the choice for him.
  • A horrifying example occurs in Tokyo Ghoul. The Protagonist Kaneki Ken has been captured by the Aogiri branch and is being tortured by Yamori. To further break Kaneki, Yamori brings in a captured human lady and her daughter and tells him to choose which he'll spare. Kaneki, being a All-Loving Hero whose afraid to hurt people and believes it's better to "be hurt then to hurt others", can't make the choice. Yamori, angered by this, murders both. This scene was changed in the Anime. Instead it's a Ghoul couple who'd promised to help rescue him that he has to choose between and just like the above example, Kaneki refuses to decide, so Yamori kills them both.

Fan Works

  • The Last Son: Subverted in the climax of Book 3, after the heroes manage to lead General Zod into a trap to depower him, they're left with the problem on how they're going to deal with him, since he's too dangerous to be kept alive but at the same time Superman does not want to kill him. Wolverine is more than willing to finish him off instead, but the choice is rendered moot when General Lassider decides to launch a Kryptonite nuke at them. Superman does manage to Take a Third Option, ordering Sentrius to open a Phantom Zone singularity and giving Zod the choice to get inside to save his own life, or stay out and get killed by the nuke, while he and the other heroes escape from ground zero.

Film - Animated

  • When, in Puss in Boots, Puss has to choose between saving Humpty and the golden goose from falling, Humpty lets go and falls to his death. He even says: "I won't make you choose."

Film - Live-Action

  • In The Dark Knight, the Joker rigs two ferries to explode and leaves the detonator for each on the other ship. He informs the passengers that they need to blow up the other ship (one of which contains civilians, the other full of convicts) or their own ship will blow up. While the authorities on the convict ship try to decide what to do, one of the convicts menaces them into handing over the detonator and takes the decision out of their hands — by throwing it overboard, ensuring the civilians' safety.
  • Goldfinger: British agent James Bond is handcuffed to a ticking nuclear bomb, and has only seconds to figure out how to disarm it. He's about to go for some wires when another arm reaches in and flicks an off switch. The arm belongs to American agent Felix Leiter.
  • In The Guns of Navarone, its clear that The Mole must be killed if the operation is to succeed. Despite this Captain Mallory is reluctant to do so, but The Mole is killed by Maria before he can execute them.


  • In Animorphs Megamorphs #2: In The Time Of Dinosaurs, the Animorphs get sent back to the dinosaur era and learn that two races of aliens - one good and one evil - live on Earth. The Animorphs steal a nuke from the evil aliens intending to recreate the incident that sent them back in time so they can return to the future, but then the good aliens ask if 'they' can use the nuke to destroy a meteor that's heading for Earth. The Animorphs hand the nuke over, only for Tobias to reveal after it's launched that he had Ax sabotage it. Tobias realized that they're at the end of the age of dinosaurs, that the meteor heading for Earth is 'supposed' to wipe out the dinosaurs and the aliens, and that if it doesn't then the future will change and mankind will probably never come to be. Tobias chose to have Ax sabotage the nuke without telling Jake, Rachel, Marco or Cassie until it was too late to spare them the guilt of having to choose to do so themselves.
  • In the end of Far Rainbow, the inhabitants of the dying title planet are having a huge debate about who should be evacuated on the sole available spaceship, when The Captain of said ship, Leonid Gorbovsky, reveals that he had already ordered his crew to take every child on Rainbow on board, along with the most important pieces of art and research, leaving all adults behind to die. As the crowd silently accepts this decision and begins to disperse, Gorbovsky muses on how, despite all the progress humanity has made, it's still a very human thing to be relieved when someone else makes a hard choice for you.

Live-Action Television

  • The Arrested Development episode "Sad Sack" has the FBI realize that Michael knows where his fugitive father is. They later discover a picture of what appears to be a map of Iraq showing the locations of WMDs. They give Michael a choice: turn in his father for treason (even though he claims innocence) or go to jail instead (even though his father is guilty of so much more). He's about to announce his decision with lawyer Barry present when Barry sees the picture for the first time. He points out something that renders the decision moot: the picture is actually a close-up of Tobias' genitals. The FBI withdraws their ultimatum out of embarrassment.
  • Pierce from Community becomes much more erratic during season two. In the finale, the study group holds a vote whether or not to kick him out. Their first vote is inconclusive because it's not unanimous. Afterwards, Pierce ends up saving the day and the study group takes him back with open arms. He quits instead. (But returns without question at the start of season three.)
  • Jessica Jones. In "AKA 1,000 Cuts", Hope realizes that Jessica's biggest hurdle in taking down Kilgrave is that Jessica wants to take him alive so she can prove his powers in order to exonerate Hope, who killed her parents under Kilgrave's direction. Hope takes this dilemma out of Jessica's hands by killing herself.
  • Samurai Gourmet: Kasumi is just about to tell off the noisy café patrons for bothering everyone, but the waitress beats him to it. Thus she gets to be the real "samurai" of the episode.
  • Seinfeld. In "The Wizard," George is torn on the decision of whether to have his parents continue to live in New York so he can still have access to their money, or have them move to Florida so he can be rid of them and bask in freedom. He eventually decides to go with the former, only to have his parents announce they're going with the latter; George reminds them that they left the decision up to him, but Estelle tells him, "we were just being nice."
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Empath": The Vians give Captain Kirk a Sadistic Choice: which of his officers will be subjected to torture. If Dr. McCoy is chosen there's an 87% chance he will die, but if Spock is chosen there's a 93% chance he will suffer permanent insanity (a Fate Worse than Death to the intellectual Vulcan). Dr. McCoy makes the decision for Kirk by injecting him with a sedative, then injects Spock with a sedative when he decides to sacrifice himself and go.

Video Games

  • Dragon Age: Origins can potentially have this happen twice, and both times it's the same character doing it for you.
    • During the Landsmeet, regardless of how well you did things Loghain forces a Duel Boss against you (unless you messed up badly, in which case it's a absolute chaotic battle between everyone) and after he's defeated you are presented with a choice: Kill him, or make him a Grey Warden. However, if Alistair is the one you pick to fight him, Alistair outright kills Loghain without any chance for the player to decide.
    • In the normal ending, you have to decide who among the Grey Wardens in your party (your Player Character, Alistair, or Loghain) will sacrifice their life in order to kill the Archdemon for good. However, if you have romanced Alistair, did not order him to participate in Morrigan's ritual, and did not leave him behind to hold the Denerim gates, he will charge off to kill the Archdemon on his own, denying you the option to sacrifice your life for him.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening:
    • Chrom is forced into a Sadistic Choice early on by Arc Villain Gangrel: Either give him the Fire Emblem, or he'll execute Chrom's older sister Emmeryn, whose also the ruler of Ylisse. Chrom is hesitant in what to do and considers giving the Fire Emblem over to save Emmeryn. Emmeryn however willingly falls to her death rather then make Chrom decide, since the Fire Emblem is too important for him to give up.note 
    • Later on Lucina discovers that the Avatar/Robin is likely the one who betrays Chrom in the future and kills him since Validar can control them. She then tries to kill the Avatar/Robin and the player is presented with a choice: Allow Lucina to do it, or refuse. Regardless of the players choice, Lucina hesitates long enough for Chrom to drop in and decide not kill the Avatar/Robin for Lucina.
  • Defied in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. The party makes a promise to the Wise Tree Laurel that they won't power up the Alchemy Dynamo and bring about The End of the World as We Know It. After encountering the Mountain Roc and completing their quest to obtain one of its feathers, the Big Bad Duumvirate shows up and blackmails them into retrieving the orb necessary to power up the Dynamo from the Roc's stomach using the lives of party member Eoleo and a young girl as leverage. The Knight Templar Big Brother of the girl in question, their Jerk with a Heart of Gold traveling partner Prince Ryu Kou, then dramatically makes off with the orb and warns the party not to interfere so it doesn't explode and kill them all. However, Team Mom Karis suggests that he's taking responsibility for whatever happens so that the others don't have to feel guilty about breaking their promise to Laurel and playing into the villains' hands. However, he angrily retorts that he doesn't care about any of that and just wants his sister back.
  • The player has several choices to make in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. (For example, if the Nemesis corners you in a newspaper office, do you set off a trap or dive out of the window?) If you take too long to decide, the game makes the choice for you.
  • At roughly the halfway point of Tales of Xillia 2 Ludger gets hit with a Sadistic Choice while on the ESS Pelune. Ether he tries to save Alt Milla from falling to what will likely be her death, or drop her and go save Elle from Rideaux. If the player tries to save Alt Milla and her Relationship Values is high enough though, she willingly lets go so the real Milla Maxwell can return and so Ludger can save Elle.
  • Tales of Zestiria:
    • Following the battle with the corrupted Cardinal Forton the party tries to purify her only to discover that because of how corrupted and sure of herself she is, they can't do it. Sorey as a result finds himself unsure if killing her is right or if he should try to purify her again. Before he can Mercy Kill her though, Rose stabs and kills her to prevent Sorey from dealing with the guilt of having to do it.
    • Defied during the Final Boss. Sorey and Mikleo are faced with a Sadistic Choice of killing Gramps, who Heldalf has absorbed, or try to defeat Heldalf which means they'll leave him to suffer in agony till Heldalf dies. Rose attempts to do it for them but Sorey and Mikleo prevent her because they want to save Gramps.

Web Comics

  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: A massive-scale version is revealed to have happened in the Just Before the End era. At some point, the options with dealing with the Rash were letting the patients die or give them an unfinished cure whose side effects are ultimately lethal. The "possibly turning into a zombie" complication attached to the Rash made people in charge decide to get the cure to as many people as possible without informing anyone of the side effects.