Woman: Sixty thousand!
Helo: We're not taking money. This isn't a rescue ship, this is a military vessel, and we're not taking money!
There's always that one rich Jerkass — the corporate snob, that one with the Lexus, that arrogant prick who's always looking down their nose at everybody else. "I can have anything I want, because ha ha, I'm rich." Or maybe he has quite the friendship with the mayor/governor/President (often because of the occasional donation), but then shit hits the fan. Maybe it's a natural disaster (or a supernatural disaster), an unstoppable disease, the RMS Titanic sinking, or even The End of the World as We Know It. Or maybe it's merely a Communist revolution or some weird kind of hyperinflation. Suddenly, all that wealth and "friendship" isn't worth so much, because people are more worried about plain ol' survival rather than making money or following whoever is supposedly in charge. However, it could be on a much smaller scale — maybe Kids Just Prefer Boxes or money simply isn't important to somebody, either because they value their honor more or because their desire to see you suffer and die is greater than any amount you could offer. Remember to Beware the Honest Ones, because they believe in things bigger than cold, hard cash.
Getting hit with this trope is typically a huge moment for any character used to money solving all their problems. Sometimes it can lead up to a Villainous BSoD or even a HeelFace Turn. Or sometimes they just die.
Compare Screw the Money, I Have Rules! and Worthless Yellow Rocks. Contrast Every Man Has His Price (you can get people to do anything if you spend enough money), Bribe Backfire (when money does have power, but the attempt to use it has greater negative consequences than not having done so) and the even bigger contrast Crimefighting with Cash where a character's money supply is so great it counts as a superpower in the war against crime.
- Attack on Titan's Battle of Trost has Mikasa confront a greedy merchant who insists on bringing all of his wares through a gate too small to accommodate them, risking the lives of all those around him. She delivers a brutal "The Reason You Suck" Speech to him, pointing out that her comrades are putting their lives on the line to help everyone evacuate.
Dimo: Of course! It's your job to sacrifice yourselves to protect the people's lives and fortunes! You parasites think you're so special just because you're finally being useful for the first time in a century!Mikasa: (Death Glare and Slow Walk commence) If you expect someone to die for the sake of another as a matter of course, I'm sure you'll understand this. That sometimes, a single noble sacrifice can save many lives.Dimo: Try it! I've known your boss for a long time... I can decide your fate with a single word!Mikasa: (casually knocks out all of his bodyguards) How is a corpse going to talk?
- The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Metori Saiko is introduced as a snobby heir to one of Japan's largest corporations, who thinks he can buy everyone off to do anything he wants. However, after the arc where the main characters get stranded on an island after their boat sinks, he gets some character development.
- Fist of the North Star:
- One of the first scenes is a gang of thugs murdering some people... And then calling them stupid for carrying money rather than food, water, or other things that were more useful in the post-apocalyptic world.
- Late in the manga a former low-ranked member of Raoh's army has amassed economic power (in food and resources) thanks to his mind, and uses it to order around some other survivors of Raoh's army and become a local leader and oppress people. When Kenshiro shows up, he tries to bribe him too... And ends up killed for his crimes.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Steely Dan tries to bribe Jotaro to leave him be after the former abused the latter's grandfather. It works about as well as you'd expect.
Jotaro: Good grief...You really are the lowest scum in history. You can't pay back what you owe with money.
- In Volume 3/Episode 4 of Roll Over and Die, Satils, the previous slave owner of Milkit, has Milkit kidnapped because she cannot stand to see one of her former slaves having a happy life. She tortures Milkit until Flum manages to find them. When Satils mentioning her church connections do not dissuade Flum, she attempts to bribe Flum. Flum makes it clear that no amount of money worth all the torment she inflicted upon Milkit, and she proceeds to torture Satils to death.
- Rurouni Kenshin:
- One of the Serial Killer Jin-e's victims tried to bribe him into leaving him alone, but Jin-e doesn't care about money, only about the fun from killing people and having interesting fights.
- Opium kingpin Takeda Kanryuu tries to bribe Kenshin out of attacking his mansion. This works about as well as you'd expect. Discussed by his Dragon-in-Chief Shinomori Aoshi:
Aoshi: You don't get it. Your money's of no use here. Himura Battousai does not live for gain — I told you.
- Later on, when Kenshin finally confronts him face to face, Kanryuu tries to beg Kenshin for forgiveness. After all Kanryuu has done and threatened to do, Kenshin is not in a forgiving mood.
- Saito Hajime believes wholeheartedly in "Aku Soku Zan" (Swift Death to Evil). All the money in the world will not stop him from killing you if he thinks you deserve it. Trying to bribe him would just reinforce the idea that you deserve it.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Shadi is a mysterious being who protects the Millennium Items and punishes those who would desecrate tombs and steal their artifacts. Some of his victims try to bribe their way out, and Maximilian Pegasus once tried to save one of his victims by offering to pay for what he stole, but Shadi says he and his ilk do not care about money at all and such crimes are only punishable by death or Penalty Game. He also makes it clear that one cannot buy a Millennium Item or its power; it tests its potential wielder to determine their worthiness, and those who fail such tests die horribly.
- V for Vendetta: This is the final fate of Rich Bitch Helen: losing all of her money and power. Her husband (who was in charge of the Norsefire party's Sinister Surveillance) is dead, having just killed her lover (an up-and-coming street rat, who she was grooming to become the chief of Norsefire's goons). The total collapse of the Norsefire party leaves her on the streets. She desperately flings herself onto the first guy she recognizes as a former party member, trying to seduce him by claiming that with her, they'll seize power. He no longer cares about any of it, and leaves her screeching.
- Maus features one of the rare occasions where the person on the receiving end of this trope is sympathetic. Vladek's father-in-law, a Jewish millionaire in Nazi-occupied Poland, tries to bribe himself and his wife out of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, smuggling two middle-aged Jews to safety in 1940 is simply too much risk for anyone, no matter how great the reward. In one of the saddest scenes of the story, Vladek tries to bribe one of his relatives, a Jewish ghetto policeman, into sparing his father-in-law from deportation. Unfortunately, the relative takes the bribe, and just ships the old man to his doom.
Vladek: He was a millionaire, but even this didn't save him his life.
- In American Vampire, Skinner Sweet's sire Percy has him dug up and asks him to join him. He promises Skinner money and territory to sweeten the deal. Unfortunately, Skinner's a total psychopath who has hated Percy for decades. Skinner drags Percy screaming into the sun.
- In the first Blacksad comic, the Big Bad is rich enough to kill with impunity, muzzle the chief of police, and send his goons to beat up a detective. Problem is the chief of police, while forced to back down, doesn't like rich assholes using their influence to escape their crimes, and gives carte blanche to the detective, Blacksad, to find the rich murderer and kill him. When Blacksad confronts the murderer, he rejects any bribe on principle and kills him while the chief of police writes it as a suicide. Blacksad even notes that if the Big Bad wasn't so smug, he wouldn't have been able to pull the trigger.
- In the first volume of Batman vs. Predator, Bernard Squires, gangster Alex Yeager's "legitimate" partner, is cornered by the Predator in an elevator, and his last words are an offer of payment to spare his life; naturally the alien hunter has no interest in, or use for, his money.
- Partially inverted in that the Predator chooses its targets in Gotham City partially based on their prominence in its power structure, even if those targets themselves pose little threat to it; Squires, for instance, who can't stand violence, and the Mayor, who is severely overweight and is killed in his office bathroom while suffering from indigestion.
- Batman: No Man's Land plays with this; in the sealed-off Gotham, all barter is for basic survival necessities, so anyone who flashes around paper money or jewels and expects results is treated as an idiot by most people. However, while money may not be power, the trade that it used to represent is more important than ever, and those who master the new currencies (tinned food, batteries, servitude etc.) become very powerful. The Penguin becomes the most powerful man in Gotham this way, and is famous for being the only major trader who will accept traditional valuables as payment, but only because he has a pipeline to the outside world and enough resources to survive until the No Man's Land is lifted and the economy returns to normal.
- In Batman RIP, the Black Glove mock Batman that they have more money than even him, making them completely untouchable with no court they cannot bribe. They learn the hard way their money offers no protection from either Talia al Ghul or The Joker who track down and kill them all.
- Discussed at the end of Transmetropolitan, when the Big Bad has all his crimes exposed to the public. It's noted afterwards that he's using his considerable wealth to avoid legal prosecution... but he's only got so much money, and with the absolutely massive number of people that now want him dead, it's really only a matter of time before he either bankrupts himself through constant bribes or has the bad luck of encountering somebody who cares more about their hate for him than cash. Even if he somehow manages to completely avoid prosecution, assassination, or bankruptcy, he can never be the President again, the only thing in his life he gave anything resembling a damn about.
- ElfQuest: In The Rebels#12, Cauldron City on the innermost planet is facing certain doom. There's just one ship available, a military ship without much extra capacity. When the rich and wealthy administrators ask Commander Junnard if he'll transport some of them and a few specialists off-planet, Junnard snaps back that only children, chosen by Skyward-monitored random lot, will be allowed on. When the rich folks try to pull "we have connections", Junnard tells them to try that argument with the soldiers he has guarding his shuttles -the rich snobs won't like the orders Junnard's issued.
- White Rain: Marnix finds this out the hard way when Sasuke cuts his arm off and burns him to a cinder with Amaterasu.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! fic Yu-Gi-Oh! Soul of Silicon, corrupt businessman turned warlord Gansley learned this, but was able to adjust thanks to Daala.
Gansley: Ironic, isn't it, that in Xanadu there is no currency. Money doesn't exist where Duel Spirits reign. They have no need for it. In dimensions like this, power is the only thing that counts. I wouldn't have lasted a day in my old human form. Duel Spirits wouldn't have cared about my stocks or financial clout. They would have seen nothing but the crippled old man I was without them. But now, thanks to Daala, the power I once had that only existed on paper in my stock portfolio has been replaced by true power! The power to crush anyone who opposes me!
- A Man of Iron: Someone hires a gang of bandits to kill Tony Stark. They later remark that they don't really care about money because they can just take whatever they want from their victims, and do it more because they get off on hurting people. When they kidnap Tony, he attempts to negotiate, but they mock him and say his wealth and titles are meaningless; from now on, he's just their toy that they will torture for fun and eventually kill. It takes a Big Damn Heroes from Jon, Rhodey, and the others to save him.
- Never Had a Friend Like Me: Amanda is forced by her parents into a playdate with Remy Buxaplenty. Remy learns about Norm, and tries to pay Amanda for his lamp. Even if Norm hadn't already been freed from his lamp, Amanda is still annoyed by Remy's offer. Later, when Remy poofs up a genie, and he proceeds to twist his wishes for fun, Remy tries to bribe the genie into granting his wishes exactly, but he is laughed at, since genies can wish up their own cash.
- RWBY Zero: Weiss Schnee, her father Jacques, and her brother Whitley get kidnapped by Salem. Jacques thinks this is about ransom and asks Salem how much she wants. Salem says this is not about him, this is about Weiss. Confused, Jacques says Weiss has been disowned and has no access to the family fortune. Salem mocks him for thinking this is about something as insignificant as money. What she wants are Weiss' powers on her side. With Jacques and Whitley imprisoned, it will reduce the chances of Weiss running away, as even though she hates them, she still cares about them on some level.
- Tywin thinks that he can buy out his problems but there's things that his money can't buy in Bequeathed from Pale Estates :
- He tries to set up trade agreements for food with Dorne and the Reach only for both to refuse. Dorne hates him for ordering the murders of Princess Elia and the children while the Reach has too much internal instability.
- He constantly sinks money into the Crown but has increasingly little to show for it besides more debt. Tywin can't get Cersei, Robert nor Joffery under control.
- Tywin offers that any lady that marries Joffery and bears a son will live in the highest luxury for the rest of her life. Unfortunately with how Stupid Evil Joffery is, no one wants their daughters anywhere near him.
- Lost to Dust: The bounty hunter Quetzalcoatl attacks Raven and tries to kill her. When Yang and Gilgamesh find them, they point out the bounty called for her to be taken alive, so they thank her for her help and try to pay her the reward. She scoffs and says she does not care about money; the only reason she is a bounty hunter is so she can fight the strongest opponents, then continues attacking Raven.
- Children of Remnant: Played for Drama. Jacques Schnee was forced to trade his daughter Weiss to Salem in order to ensure peace. The SDC executive laments that he spent his life accruing wealth, and it couldn't protect his youngest daughter from Salem's caprices. On the positive, this helped him become a much better human being to his remaining family.
- Fate: Kill: Shirou confronts Bach, who commits the atrocity of selling girls into slavery to people who enjoy torturing and killing girls. Bach tries to offer money to be left alone, and is shocked when Shirou points out his crimes cannot be paid for with mere money.
- Reapers Among Fairies: Princess Hisui E. Fiore's money and royal titles are meaningless when facing superhumans like Karin and Yuzu who don't give a damn who she is or how much money she has and will not hesitate to kill her for hurting their family. Hisui laments that she thought she was untouchable, but now she knows she never had any real power.
- In Don't Look Up, most, if not all, of the survivors on the Sleeper Ship are President Orlean's wealthy allies, titans of finance and industry. People who have relied on money and personal connections throughout their entire lives and have no practical skills for survival or scientific knowledge. As such, they can only stand helpless and (literally) naked as a pack of alien predators close in on them seconds after they disembark. And even if they could fight the predators off, they are all clearly past fertile age, meaning their society would last only a couple of decades at most. Given it was their greed and arrogance that doomed human civilization back on Earth, it might count as Laser-Guided Karma. Also Jason Orlean is shown to have somehow miraculously survived the impact, but he's a rich dimwit and he looks utterly lost as he takes in the devastation around him, so he'll probably die of thirst or starvation soon anyway.
- 28 Days Later: Mark talks about the early days, when people were trying to escape the country.
Mark: I remember my dad had all this cash. He thought maybe we could buy our way onto a plane, even though cash was completely useless. Ten thousand other people had the same idea.
- One of the themes of the The Dark Knight Trilogy are villains who aren't motivated by pure greed, but by some greater philosophic, if terrible, goal. In general, money won't get you anywhere with Batman's enemies, any more than it would with Batman himself.
Bane: [to Stryver] Leave us.
- In Batman Begins, Falcone says he runs the city with "power you can't buy... the power of fear" and demonstrates how he sees Bruce as some snot-nosed kid who can't handle the ugly side of life (Although this power doesn't save him when scarier people start to show up...)
- In The Dark Knight, the Joker burns his cash payment from the mob and then kills the mob boss who paid him.
- The Dark Knight Rises: Corporate mogul John Daggett gets hit in the face by this trope when Bane stops doing what he's told. Once Bane tanks all law and order in Gotham, the wealthy elites have no protection from the poor mobs or from being given "death or exile" by Judge Scarecrow
Daggett: No, you stay here. I'm in charge! [Bane puts a heavy hand on Daggett's shoulder]
Bane: Do you feel in charge? [Stryver leaves]
Daggett: [slowly realizing just how utterly screwed he is] ...I paid you a small fortune!
Bane: [disapprovingly] And this gives you power over me?
Daggett: [almost whimpering] ...What is this?
Bane: Your money and infrastructure have been important... [grabs Daggett's neck] 'til now.
- Titanic (1997): Cal tries to bribe his way off the doomed ship. While it appears to work initially, the money is thrown back in his face when it matters most.
First Officer William Murdoch: Your money can't save you any more than it could save me!
- The War of the Worlds (1953): As Los Angeles is being evacuated, people are rioting in the streets while trying to obtain transportation out of the city.
Man: Let me up. I'll give you $500 for your place. I'll make it $1,000.
Man in truck: Money's no good anymore!
- Played with, somewhat, in 2012. While some of the surviving humans were selected by geneticists, a good portion of the rest were rich snobs whose tickets ran at a billion euros apiece. It was the money from these ticket sales that paid for the ships in the first place. The trope comes into play when the storylines converge in China, where one of the ark ships has been severely damaged and its assembled passengers are nearly left to die (one of them yells "I paid a fortune to be here!"). It's also not pointed out that, in the post-disaster world, their money and power will be gone, as the economy that supported their fortunes no longer exists, meaning they'll have to work just like everyone else.
- In Quick Change, one of the bank hostages tries to bribe the robber (Bill Murray in a clown costume) by offering his very expensive watch. Being Bill Murray, the mocking reply is priceless.
- Also played with (and an Ironic Echo of sorts) on the situation that is the film's visual Title Drop: Grimm tries to buy a ride on the bus for him and his companions, but he has no exact change for the fare and the bus driver is such a hard-core stickler to the rules that he will not take a payment with a high-denomination bill (even when Grimm insists that he can keep the rest) and continues to demand exact change, forcing Grimm to run to a nearby store and get it (evading the police as he does so) before the bus takes off.
- In The Untouchables (1987), this trope is the entire reason for the film's title. Eliot Ness and his group cannot be bribed, which is Al Capone's usual way of keeping the cops away from him.
- In Dick Tracy, Big Boy Caprice tries to buy off Tracy. It doesn't work — Tracy just pretends to be interested long enough to entrap Caprice, and then tells him that now he has added attempting to bribe an officer of the law to the very long list of crimes Tracy will arrest him for. (In fact, in the novelization, the other mob bosses in his group initially question if it's even possible.)
- In Predator 2, Jamaican gangsters kidnap the leader of their rival Columbian gang, hang him from the ceiling naked by his ankles, and prepare to execute him. He desperately offers his fortune to them, but they reply, "This is not about money, this is about power. There's a new king in the streets. This is a message he has for your people: 'you are history!' Fucking history. Goddamn puto." Shortly afterwards, they are all killed by the Predator, which (although it's never brought up) is another thing that can't be bought off, reasoned with, or satisfied by anything other than your skinned skull on a spike.
- I Am Legend: Dr. Neville finds himself walking over a fortune in bank notes, abandoned on the floor. Considering that humanity got wiped out by a plague and he is the last survivor left in the city besides the vampires, money is pretty much useless as the paper it was printed on.
- The Dogs of War: Shannon is so pissed off about "President" Kananga's horrible regime (and having been worked over by its secret police) that when he finally confronts Kananga at his office, he unhesitatingly shoots him with a machine gun even when Kananga is offering him an absurd amount of money. He also finds his employers so repulsive that he decides not to complete his contract as written and hands over the deposed country to a more honorable man (and blows away the man who was going to be his employer's puppet president, to boot).
- An interesting example from The Reckless Moment for women during The '40s and The '50s: Although Lucia isnt a jerk, she is part of a wealthy upper-class family. However, she cant use this wealth to get blackmail money because of her position as a powerless Housewife. She needs her husband's signature (read: permission) for everything at her bank, she doesnt have collateral (therefore, she doesnt own anything) to get a loan from a loaning institution, and her valuables arent worth much.
- Us: After the Tethered break into his home and round up him and his family to kill them, Gabe Wilson tries to offer his money, car, and boat to leave them alone. The Tethered don't care about these things.
- SHAZAM! (2019): After acquiring superpowers and the allegiance of demons representing the Seven Deadly Sins, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana confronts his abusive father, a CEO, at a board meeting and slaughters everyone else in the room. His father begs for his life and offers money and his CEO position. Thaddeus lectures him on his cowardice and says his material wealth is not power like his, then has Greed kill him.
Dr. Sivana: Do you think all this material you've accumulated amounts to actual power?
- The scene mentioned in Anime and Manga also happens in the live adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin, made more chilling by the fact that the person confronting Kanryu isn't Himura Kenshin the Rurouni, but Himura Battousai the Hitokiri, only just keeping his homicidal impulses in check.
Hitokiri Battousai: Do you know what money can't buy, Kanryu? It's what you're begging for right now. Your life.
- Hercules (2014): King Eurystheus tries to offer Hercules gold to leave him alone. Given he had confessed to killing Hercules' family and framing him for it, Hercules doesn't listen and kills him. He really should have seen that coming given he earlier noted that Hercules has no price.
- Uncut Gems: Howard Ratner owes a Loan Shark named Arno money. Near the end, when Arno and his thugs enter his store to collect, Howard locks them in a room and reveals he bet all his money on a basketball game, so if they would be patient, he'll give what he owes them. Several hours later, the team he bet on wins. He excitedly lets them out while explaining he won his bet and got the money, but Arno's thug Phil is so completely pissed off about being locked in the room for so long that he doesn't care and shoots him in the face, then kills Arno when he protests.
- Gandhi: After being thrown off a train in South Africa, Gandhi meets his client, an Indian Muslim businessman named Mr. Khan. He explains to Gandhi that his background as an Indian outweighs his status as a wealthy man, and because of this, he does not expect to travel by first class or walk down the street with his white Christian attorney.
- Murder on the Orient Express: Ratchett made a good amount of money on his evil deeds...but when those deeds come back to haunt him, he finds out his cash can't save him from deserved revenge. He does try and offer Poirot cash, but the detective smells the man is no good.
- Making Money plays with this trope: Moist Von Lipwig, Boxed Crook, works for the government as the leader of the National Bank, treating it as a complex con game, which, in a very real sense, it is. He faces the resistance of the Lavish family, who are the Royally Screwed Up shareholders of the bank. And while their money definitely grants them power, this power is mere leverage, and not just Moist, but also their true opponent, the Big Goodnote Vetinari, know and understand this much better than they do.
- This is Koreiko's plight in The Little Golden Calf and the reason why he patiently awaits the end of the Soviet rule. Ostap Bender also learns to appreciate this trope when he finally makes it big.
- In Battle Royale, Oda is a rich asshole, but that doesn't save him from the Program. Everyone goes to the Program at random, even rich people. (Although it turns out Oda likes having the chance to kill his poor classmates anyways).
- In When Worlds Collide, a rich tycoon tries to buy his way onto the ark spaceship.
- World War Z:
- This is a major theme in the later sections of the book. Because of how the world has been turned upside down by the Zombie Apocalypse, people who had previously held high-paying, "important" positions like stock brokers, celebrities, and professional athletes find themselves having to be retrained so they can actually do something useful. At one point, it's mentioned that a formerly wealthy woman who held a white collar job before the end of the world is now taking a class on useful skills — being taught by her former maid.
- The tale of the "celebrity party fortress" brings it down home even harder: money will buy you no survival in the Zombie Apocalypse if you are Too Dumb to Live, like broadcasting the location of your zombie proof fortress over the Internet and showing how you are partying in style during the apocalypse while surrounded by millions of people who are desperate to keep themselves and their families safe from the zombies. In practically no time after the broadcast starts, thousands of people show up outside to demand entry and safety, and when they're refused, they begin to attack. The fortress falls in minutes to the desperate people, (because while the fortress might be zombie proof, that's not going to stop people from blowing off the doors) and the mercenaries hired to protect their rich clients decide that their lives are worth more than their pay and run away.
- OGPU Prison by Sven Hassel. Wounded German soldiers are divided into two categories; those likely to survive who'll be evacuated, and those who are too injured to bother with who'll be left for the advancing Soviet Army. A supplies officer in the latter category tries to buy an evacuation ticket off the former with diamonds he's got on hand and a Big Fancy House he owns in Berlin. They all think he's mad and laugh at him, causing the officer to break down crying, as "he suddenly realised how poor he was."
- John Ringo did this several times in Black Tide Rising, where people who were rich and powerful before the Zombie Apocalypse, continue to think that they can simply (as one character puts it) "whip out the AmEx Black" and continue to get whatever they want. The most egregious case was a Hollywood producer who couldn't quite believe that he couldn't order everybody around, and demand anything that he wanted. Interestingly, a few other characters cater to this belief, and treat them as if they were still rich and powerful. The main characters quickly disabuse them of this belief.
- Early in Lost, Sawyer is quick to point out that money is completely worthless on the Island, which makes the formerly wealthy Shannon powerless. This is why he's able to quickly assert himself as an economic leader, by salvaging anything that might be of value from the wreckage.
- In the miniseries of Battlestar Galactica (2003), Helo and Boomer land on Caprica as it's getting nuked to make repairs to their Raptor. Not long after they land, they are swarmed by a large group of civilians. One of them tries to buy his way onboard with 50,000 cubits, even though the bank they're backed by is more than likely dust now. Even if that hadn't been the case, they're military officers and it would be against their ethos to accept bribes. Needless to say, they refuse his offer, first loading all the children present and then three more people chosen by lottery.
- House of Cards (US): Frank Underwood states that he went into the public sector because he values power over money. He prefers to surround himself with people who also seek power over money, as their loyalty can't be bought. He comments on this, when he analyses where he thinks his nominal ally and former Press Secretary, the lobbyist Remy Danton, has gone wrong.
Frank: Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn't see the difference.
- Remy later on provides a counter-argument: power is better than money but only as long as it lasts. Which it never does.
- Raymond Tusk, a billionaire Affluent Ascetic who is more interested in the power that his money affords him rather than the luxury, often uses his net worth to browbeat politicians to let him have his way. He is ultimately outmanuevered.
- Xander Feng, another billionaire, also threatens Frank with his wealth, but Frank coolly retorts that all of Feng's fortune amounts to little more than the GDP of Slovakia, while Frank himself wields the United States government.
- Breaking Bad: This trope is played with a lot. While illegal money can be useful sometimes, there are other times where it can't help in any way.
- In Ozymandias, Walt tries to bribe Jack into sparing Hank from summary execution. Jack, knowing Hank won't keep his mouth shut, kills Hank anyways. As a final twist of the knife, Jack and his crew take Walt's barrels of money, only letting Walt keep one barrel out of a twisted sense of honor.
- In Granite State, Walt being a fugitive from the law means he can't deposit or hide his money, nor send it to Skyler, without attracting the attention of the feds who will just take it from him. While Ed is honest enough to help Walt escape, he isn't honest enough that he won't try and keep Walt's money for himself. Walt Jr. is so disgusted with his father, he won't accept a dime from him. Walt is so isolated and lonely, he straight up burns some of his money at one point.
- In Felina, Walt does manage to get his family money, but he has to pretend that it came from Gretchen and Elliot, who he manipulates into helping him with the help of two crooks and a laser pointer. Also Jack tries to buy his way out of trouble, but Walt is too vengeful to really care.
- Game of Thrones:
- The show really shows that gold alone does not guarantee power. The Lannisters are able to stay in power not just because they are the richest house in Westeros, but due to Tywin's cunning, ruthlessness and strong leadership, with him calling gold "just another rock". This becomes a plot point in Season 4, when it's revealed that the Westerland mines have been dry for years, and the Lannisters themselves are actually bankrupt, though Tywin was able to maintain the illusion that all was well with their finances for some time.
- When Baelish doubts Ned Stark for antagonizing the Lannisters because gold, not soldiers, is what wins wars, Ned retorts that by that logic, it makes no sense that Robert is king and not Tywin Lannister. (The "joke" being that Robert Baratheon, not Tywin Lannister, is king.) Ned is proven wrong in that the Lannisters and the Tyrells are major powers thanks to their gold and resources, and the support and loans from the Iron Bank can bring a nearly defeated contender (Stannis) Back from the Brink. Ned, however, is also right in that neither the Lannisters or Tyrells can openly rule even after defeating their opponents, because they still need the appearance of legitimacy (i.e. a King named Baratheon who is descended from the Rebel King who won the Iron Throne). The Lannisters (who are wealthy and have a reputation for "paying debts") also suffer the consequences of Bad PR and poor heirs since the Iron Bank has faith in Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King, but has none whatsoever in any of his descendants, while Stannis can count on relative youth and dependability.
- Peter Baelish, who is an embodiment of a nascent Corrupt Corporate Executive, is also seen as a "money grubber" by the High Lords of Westeros, and ultimately the word of a teenage daughter of a High Lord counts for more than that of a longtime successful finance minister.
- Jaime gets a lesson in this from Locke, who is enraged by Jaime's arrogant attempts to buy him off with promises of gold. To prove the point, Locke cuts his hand off.
- When hiring the sellsword Bronn, Tyrion Lannister boasts that he can beat any price Bronn is offered to betray him. Unfortunately his sister Queen Cersei is able to bribe Bronn with a noble title and he already planned on making the castle of his future wife his. While gold is good for him, being able to drink his own wine in his own keep is a dream he can't afford with standard sellsword pay and he really wants his promised castle, and to become part of the High Class of society, with a marriage, children, and a legacy of his own. In the end, Tyrion does manage to make good on his promise to double whatever anyone else offers Bronn by promising Bronn he can have Highgarden, a far better prize than the one Cersei is offering him. Essentially, Tyrion bribes Bronn with power rather than mere coin.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
- In the second half of Season 3, Hive, an ancient Inhuman who HYDRA was originally founded to worship, and who was banished from Earth centuries ago, asks Gideon Malick why he is helping Hive. Malick says that his family was promised that Hive would help them take over the world. Hive muses that Malick already owns an appreciable portion of the world; between his money and his connections, he can have very nearly anything he wants at any time. Hive says that what Malick actually wants is power, personal superhuman power like what the Inhumans have. Hive, being Affably Evil, helps him find this power.
- A few episodes later, after Malick's death, Hive is informed that there is a lot of money up for grabs. Hive is dismissive, and says that they have neither the time nor the inclination to sort through a bunch of diversified investments. Giyera says that while Hive is right, they can't get all of it within a reasonable timeframe, but they can get nine hundred and sixty million dollars immediately. That manages to give even Hive pause, and Hive admits that will be useful.
- In Season 3 of The Wire, Omar Little and Brother Mouzone corner Stringer Bell in one of the buildings he's developing, intent on killing him. Stringer tries to offer money. Considering he ordered the torture/murder of Omar's boyfriend in the past, and set Mouzone up to be shot, it fails. Omar says it isn't about the money and they kill him.
- The whole theme of The Beatles hit, "Can't Buy Me Love".
- Prince: "Diamonds and Pearls" deals with love overpowering money.
- Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" has a pharaoh realizing all his wealth and power won't buy him immortality: "And in my last hour I'm a slave to the power of death."
- From the refrain of Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance":
No money, man, could win my love;It's sweetness that I'm thinking of.
- The story of King Midas is about a man who wishes everything he touches turns to gold...only to realize the hard way that he can't eat gold, nor can he hug the golden statue that was once his daughter.
- The Apostle Judah Mathew insists all his opponents be paid as much as he is, he will even give them his pay day, for he has that which monetary gain can never attain: Power From Above.
- There's a reason MVP's wanted TNA's World Heavyweight Championship belt. He had money already, being the "Highest Paid Free Agent" in the sport and respect for his runs in Florida, Puerto Rico, WWE and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Then he became director of wrestling operations of Impact and all was good until he saw the owner of the LA Clippers lose the team in a scandal and decided he wanted something that couldn't be so easily taken away.
- The Bible reminds its readers in a few places (the Book of Psalms and The Four Gospels) that all the money in the world can't save your eternal soul from death, since God basically owns everything in creation, and that the price on a soul is costly. The only thing that can save a person is faith in God's only begotten Son Jesus Christ, who has paid for the sins of mankind with His blood. (The Book of Tobit and 2nd Maccabees, which appear in the Catholic canon of Scripture, contradict this by saying that almsgiving saves a soul from death.)
- In the book of Acts, Simon Magus tries to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit with money so that he could lay hands on people and give them the same power. Peter the apostle outrightly rejects it, saying that Simon's heart is not right before God and that he should pray that such a thought in his mind will be forgiven him for attempting it.
- In the Song of Songs, the Shulamite says that if a man were to give the wealth of his whole house for love, it would be utterly condemned.
- In the Book of Ezekiel, God through the prophet tells Jerusalem that their silver and gold won't save them in the time when the Babylonians invade their city and take them as prisoners or kill them.
- In Max Payne 3, when Max reaches the innermost part of the dilapidated Imperial Palace Hotel, he finds Dr. Fisher harvesting the organs of Gangbangers and regular people rounded up by an aggressive SWAT team that sold them to a crooked paramilitary organization, which hired Fisher for the sole purpose of performing the extractions. When Max confronts him, he insist he did it to save the lives of people in need of organ transplants, but when Max doesn't buy that explanation, Fisher gives an armful of money to Max so he can look the other way. Max lets the money drop to the floor, and when Serrano, who had been antagonizing Max up until that point, comes into the room, Max steps back and allows Serrano to stab Fisher with a scalpel.
- Grand Theft Auto V during the Golden Ending: One of the main villains Devin Weston cheats the heroes out of their payment and tries to put a hit on one of them, thinking he can get away because he is so rich and powerful (though to be fair, he does own his own small army of Merryweather guards). Trevor goes after him in his luxurious and heavily guarded mansion, kills all his guards and imprisons Weston inside his own car's trunk. Weston tries to bargain with Trevor by offering money and employment in exchange for sparing him and gets increasingly desperate as he realizes that Trevor doesn't really care about money since not only is he already rich from all the heists and crimes he's done by that point, he really hates Weston and no fortune in the world can save him from his inevitable death.
- In God of War: Chains of Olympus, Kratos defeats the Persian King in a fight. The Persian King begs for his life and even tries to bribe him with his kingdom, his women, and a chest full of gold. Kratos not only refuses to spare him, he crushes his head with the chest before having sex with his slave girls.
- In Red Dead Redemption II, Angelo Bronte tries to offer a bribe to any of the Dutch Van Der Linde gang that will kill Dutch and set him free. He's actually surprised when none of them take the offer. It never occurred to him that his immense wealth and web of corrupt officials would be useless against men who a) value loyalty more than money and b) have already wiped out the gangsters guarding him. He still goes out defiant, unlike Devin Weston, but he's proof that when your only real power is your checkbook, you better hope you get to use it on people who care about cashing checks.
- In a similar vein, being a man of great wealth and resources does not mean that you're somehow bulletproof. Status as a Captain of Industry doesn't mean the right (wrong?) man won't just shoot you down if you push him hard enough. Leviticus Cornwall finds this out the hard and stupid way, after laughing at Dutch's offer to let him go in exchange for a payoff... while the trigger-happy outlaw is standing ten feet away... fully armed.
- In the remake of Resident Evil 3, Nicholai Ginovaef is willing to let the world burn if it gives him a nice bonus, causing him to exacerbate casualties in order to get more combat data. By the end, after getting injured and being held at gunpoint by Jill, he begs her to help him escape in exchange for his information on his backers (who isn't Umbrella this time). Jill, however, fed up with his mercenary nature and backstabbing, tells him she can do her own detective work, and leaves him to an uncertain fate ahead of an impending missile strike that obliterates Raccoon City.
- In Double Homework, coming from a wealthy (or even royal) background is not enough to keep Amy and Dennis from being subjects of Dr. Moselys experiment, or from having them killed for knowing too much.
- The Order of the Stick: When the Crystal Golem decides to rebel against Bozzok for all the abuse he's put her through, including being reanimated as a golem in constant agony, Bozzok tries to get Grubwiggler (the wizard who reanimated Crystal) to help him deal with her. Grubwiggler decides that helping Bozzok is against his best interests, and leaves. Bozzok tries to offer Grubwiggler triple what he was paying, but Grubwiggler, tired of Bozzok's constant infringing on his magical research, tells him he wasn't as smart as he thought he was, and teleports home.
- 8-Bit Theater: This trope coming into play motivates Thief into wanting to save the world, since if the world ends, "money won't be worth the act of picking it up".
- Unicorn Jelly: The Arks off the dying world would probably be tailored for the rich and powerful... IF there were enough damn space for a bunch of useless snobs. As the Arks are barely functioning on unknown precursor technology that has not been improved for over 500 cycles, there simply isn't enough weight support for more than a skeleton crew of the fittest soldiers and the thinnest assassins, a handful of the thinnest and not smartest scientists, and a few dozen children for colonization because their weight is by far the lightest. In fact, the heroes only get to board because one of them accidentally slaughtered a dozen kids. No amount of money, or even political power, will make up for the ability to float the ark off a planet that's up next for asteroid target practice.
Did you think you'd see the rich and powerful, triumphing up the galleyways in hopes of buying their future? These arks are already over the limit from the bare minimum of crew members, and every human onboard has to serve a purpose or they're dead weight!
- Schlock Mercenary: Tagon's Toughs hate General Xinchub so much that even obscene amounts of money are not enough to get them to rescue him. Particularly notable when they (eventually) forgave, and even employed, several people who ticked them off, betrayed them, or both; Xinchub was that bad.
- Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope: A man who is begging for his life tries to offer the Androids money. Android 17 says he is immortal so he doesn't want or need money before killing him.
- In one episode of Arthur, Elwood City is struck by a massive blizzard. Mr. Crosswire manages to beat Mr. Read to the last of the food at the supermarket, but that's where his influence ends. Upon returning home, Muffy complains that none of her electrical devices are working and begs him to fix it by paying someone. He replies "This is something money can't fix."
- Batman: The Animated Series has a case of this in the episode "The Terrible Trio" where Warren, the group's leader, truly thinks that he can get away with murder because he has money. When he finds he can't bribe Batman, he still thinks that his family's lawyers will get him off. This is followed by a Gilligan Cut to him being thrown in prison.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Furniture and Meat", Finn and Jake go to the Wildberry kingdom to spend all of their excess treasure. Jake quickly goes nuts when he realizes he can get away with just about anything by tossing around money. He finally bites off more than he can chew when he offers Wildberry Princess money if she lets him sit on her head. She gets so angry and embarassed that she orders Finn and Jake's arrests and confiscates their loot.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?", Filthy Rich tries to bribe the Tantabus, a dream monster created from Princess Luna's guilt, into letting him go. It doesn't work. Played With, as he later uses the dream reality to give himself money-themed superpowers, which he uses to ride a cloud of bits and fire them at high speeds at the monster, to much greater effect.
- Gravity Falls: When Bill Cipher invades our dimension and takes over Gravity Falls, Preston Northwest tries to use his wealth to join Bill's forces as some sort of Horseman of the Apocalypse. Having no use for money, Bill simply deforms Preston's face.
- In The Simpsons episode "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", Burns sells the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to some German businessmen for what he considers a very good price. Then he pays a visit to Moe's Tavern, only to get jeered at and thrown out by the plant employees that no longer have reason to fear him. So Burns decides to buy the plant back, and rehires Homer (who the Germans fired).
- Inverted in The Princess and the Frog, where Dr. Facilier notes that while he has magic, money is what gets you real power. Logically enough, he spends the movie trying to use black magic to steal a fortune.
- G.I. Joe: Resolute: During his ultimatum to the UN, Cobra Commander admits to learning this lesson the hard way, expressing the belief that his constant defeats at the hands of G.I. Joe were the result of him thinking money brought power. He now understands that it's the other way around; with control over others comes wealth, meaning that by forcing the nations of the world to cede power to him, he will have all the money he could ever want.
- The Punic Wars fit this to a T. Carthage was a merchant oligarchy richer than God, going up against a regional power called The Roman Republic. The Carthaginians could out-buy and out-sell the Romans, and yet they got crushed in a Curb-Stomp Battle because they tried to buy mercenaries instead of raising an army. No amount of money and bribes could attract Roman allies with strong traditions and commitment to loyalty. Nor is money sufficient by itself towards nurturing civic virtue, since the Barcid family cared far more about defending the city-state and countering the Romans than the Carthaginian Senate did. They did far better the second time by raising their own armies.
- And even then, the Carthaginians had a real problem with paying those mercenaries on time. When payments were delayed due to a war indemnity, their response was to launch the Mercenary War. In the end, Carthage had to hire a new mercenary army to defeat their old one, showing that they had the money and just didn't feel like paying.
- Before World War I, the German Reichstag was divided over how to fund the state budget. The German state argued amongst itself until World War I, when state expenditures exploded... and the Reichstag couldn't agree on what taxes to implement to fund them. So the German state created vast sums of new money by refusing to tax even a fraction of the amount it was spending. State spending was massively reduced after the war's end, but the German Parliament continued to be deadlocked on how to reduce the deficit. The result was a ludicrously quick economic recovery from the war, as fewer people saved money and everyone spent virtually all their income as soon as they got it, raising the inflation rate still further. By 1923, inflation was increasing every single day, all faith in the currency evaporated. The economy collapsed once it got to the point where it took literal wheelbarrows of Reichmarks buy a loaf of bread.
- Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was known to have hoarded wealth in both his country and abroad. In the last months of his rule, there was much speculation as to whether or not he would be able to escape by either bribing remnants of his army or calling on foreign connections. In the end, neither helped him, and he was killed in the uprising.
- Many middleman minorities can find themselves in this situation where a racist government can confiscate their property and persecute them. Indians made up the business class of Uganda, but none of that wealth stopped Idi Amin from exiling them and handing their property over to his cronies.
- Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were helped into power, in part, by wealthy industrialist backers. Once Hitler assumed power, he did what he wanted and was glad to nationalize a factory he thought wasn't doing what it should. When it became clear that Nazi Germany was going to lose World War II, Hitler's final act was going to be bringing Germany lower than Dark Ages poverty by blowing up every bridge, every farm house, every factory, etc. across the country. This plan was so insane that the general assigned to the plan never implemented it.
- In the aftermath of communist revolutions, the elite classes find themselves dispossessed of their wealth and often executed by the new ruling class of communist aparatchiks. In the early years of Maoist China, many landlords found themselves humiliated, imprisoned and brutally executed by Mao's forces. Fidel Castro happily nationalize the property of Cuba's elite, forcing many of them to emigrate to Florida. In Stalin's Russia, the class of independent farmers created by the New Economic Policy, known as kulaks, were shuttled off to Siberia (if they were lucky), with the commissars taking their land for collectivization.
- When the Soviet Union fell, a small number of businessmen in Russia took control of recently privatised state-owned companies and basically carved up the nation's economy into personal fiefdoms. The President at the time, Boris Yeltsin, couldn't do much within the law to stop them, and they became the famous oligarchs of The '90s. When Vladimir Putin, who didn't much care for concepts like "rule of law" or "democracy", came to power he kindly reminded these very rich men that they may have the cash, but he had the guns. Contrary to popular Western imagination, the oligarchs are no longer major political power players in Russia, but more like nobles under a medieval absolute monarchy; they get to keep their money and prestigious positions, but only at the pleasure of Tsar Vladimir. After the invasion of Ukraine, when the founder/owner of one of Russia's largest banks (which also bore his name) protested the war, Putin basically stole it by forcing him to sell his controlling interest at a 97% discount and, in an act of extreme pettiness, ordered the bank's board of directors to change its name to erase any connection to the founder.
- China's in a similar position right now. After the Cultural Revolution, there was a diffusion of power throughout the CCP and limited free markets were allowed, leading to the rise of homegrown millionaires and billionaires who wielded significant influence. However, current President Xi Jinping has overseen an unprecedented level of centralisation and is considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao. He's demonstrated that he can and will simply depose, imprison and confiscate the assets of any wealthy party elite or businessman he feels like, even the heads of some of China (and the world's) biggest corporations (which unlike in Russia aren't even nominally independent of the state).
- This is often pointed out regarding Doomsday Preppers who stockpile gold or cash. The theory behind stockpiling precious metals is that if a disaster destroys a country, that nation's currency will be worthless, but gold or silver would still hold value. However, in the event that there actually is a widespread collapse of civilization, money is not going to be nearly as valuable a commodity as food, medicine, or basic tools. A bag of gold coins isn't useful by itself — it's only worth something because everyone agrees that it's worth something. A hammer and saw, a case of canned beans, or a box of clean bandages would be much more useful in a post-apocalyptic world than a bag of coins.