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My Way or the Highway

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And now I'll tell you how high you have to jump.

"Now listen up, Mr. Pink. There's two ways you can go on this job: my way or the highway. Now what's it gonna be, Mr. Pink?"
Joe, Reservoir Dogs

A character is offered an uncomfortable, non-negotiable choice that boils down to two options:

  • Agree or conform with the other party's choice of action without question, or;
  • Get tossed aside and abandoned while the other party continues their choice of action anyway.

Unlike The Easy Way or the Hard Way, there is no threat of coercion or violence; it may instead carry an implication that the person being offered this choice is expendable.

The favored Catchphrase of the Control Freak, but may also be used by an older character to teach discipline, such as from a parent to their child (i.e. "My House, My Rules") or from a drill sergeant to a fresh recruit. If a person decides to choose 'the highway', that's Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, it's revealed that Jean's inventions fail not because he's a bad inventor (he's excellent otherwise, as it's impressive what he has accomplished on his own), but because he's sometimes staunchly against receiving feedback from people that can help him. He eventually realizes that this will get him nowhere and accepts Hanson's input.

    Comic Books 
  • In a The Avengers Annual, Wonder Man, while shooting a film, actually can't remember this line, ruining a take.
    "We can do this my way or... um... you can hit the road!"
  • Batman: Several of Batman's various incarnations have been accused of having this attitude by their sidekicks and allies. The final break between Batman and Dick Grayson in Batman: The Animated Series, for example, is caused by Dick discovering that Batman knew Barbara was Batgirl and deliberately kept it from him. He ignores Batman's attempts to explain he didn't feel it was his place to say anything, as well as Barbara's protests she was the one who asked Bruce to keep quiet, since by that point he'd become sick of Batman's Control Freak tendencies. Even worse, in later comics it's revealed that during the time Dick was away reinventing himself as Nightwing, Bruce and Barbara had become intimate with Barb even becoming pregnant with Bruce's child. Barbara asks Bruce to let her handle telling Dick (who'd asked her to marry him), but Bruce ignores her request and calls Dick to Wayne Manor to inform him. Not only did Dick not take this revelation well, he was supposed to meet Barbara but since Bruce summoned him, he wasn't there when Barbara was injured while trying to prevent a mugging, her injuries causing her to lose her baby. This was the explanation as to why by the time of Batman Beyond neither of them want anything to do with him.
  • In Superman comics:
    • In Kryptonite Nevermore, Morgan Edge makes clear that Clark Kent will do what his boss says if he wants to keep working for him.
      Clark Kent: But... this is an attack! A pretty heavy one! I'm Superman's friend! I can't!
      Mr. Edge: You can... if you like your job! Clear, Kent?
    • Subverted in Who Took the Super out of Superman?. Once again, Morgan tries to throw his weight around, but for once Clark isn't getting it:
      Morgan Edge: No backtalk, Kent! I call the shots around here and when I decide I need a man to do a report from Chile that man goes to Chile— hear me talking, Kent?
      Clark Kent: But, Mr.Edge, I...
      Morgan Edge: I don't care what you've got going next week—
      Clark Kent: But...
      Morgan Edge: I suggest you travel light!
      Clark Kent: Hold your flapping mouth, you barrel of overpriced lard! You might treat your other employees like cattle... But the cattle train stops right here!
    • In Supergirl storyline Who is Superwoman?, Alura In-Ze bluntly tells her chief of security Thara Ak-Var she'll do what Alura says or she will not be her chief of security for much longer.
  • The Transformers (Marvel): This is part of what made Grimlock's leadership of the Autobots such a failure. He successfully got the Ark spaceworthy, but only by ignoring the protests of the other Autobots that they were allowing the Decepticons to run roughshod over Earth by focusing so much on restoring the Ark. Things get so bad that Blaster and Goldbug outright desert, and other Autobots seriously consider doing the same when Grimlock focuses on hunting the two "traitors" down over fighting the Decepticons.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Day After You Saved the Multiverse, Jerome and Naomi Kent want to know why his son has suddenly developed comic-book character's powers, and why he has been missing for one week. Before listening to his history, though, Jerome reassures Clark he will always be their son, with all it entails... including obeying his parents. If he does not like their rules, he can move out.
    "That's exactly what we do want to know, son. But we want you to know something else. One, you are a member of this family, whether you are a...Superboy...or not. Two, your mother and I are still in a position of authority here, and if you don't like that, you can move out."
  • A Gamer In South Blue: Jack's crusade in the South Blue draws a lot of Marine attention, and it turns more than a bit sour when he's forced to reveal that he can use the Six Powers. Someone capable of using those abilities being autonomous is not a desirable option, so they start giving him offers to join the Navy. He continues refusing, and it soon gets to the point where the Navy refuses to pay out his bounties unless he joins them.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Aurora thinks Belladonna is giving her this when she decides to kill Aurora's father Tokiomi for abandoning her. Aurora has serious Extreme Doormat issues and believes that speaking up when she doesn't want to do something is an act of betrayal to her loved ones. To her credit, Belladonna seems to be aware of this and always tries to make sure Aurora knows she does have a say in the matter, but unfortunately she doesn't pressure enough and Aurora tends to keep quiet out of fear of being left alone.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Crow T. Robot's "Let's have a Patrick Swayze Christmas" features the line, "It's my way or the highway this Christmas at my bar-har-haaaaar."
  • A common accusation of Bruce Wayne's Batman by Dick Grayson of Batman & Robin: "It's your way or the highway!"
  • The Matrix: Switch says this to Neo. There is then a cutaway to the empty, rain soaked road outside the car. Subverted when Neo chooses the highway, and Trinity has to persuade him to stay.
  • In The Pacifier, Vin Diesel's line was "We do things my way. No highway option".
  • Used in Reservoir Dogs by Lawrence Tierny's character:
    Joe: Here are your names: Mr Brown, Mr White, Mr Blonde, Mr Blue, Mr Orange, and Mr Pink.
    Mr Pink: Why am I Mr Pink?
    Joe: 'Cause you're a faggot, alright!
    (Mr Pink and Joe argue about the name for a while)
    Joe: Now listen up, Mr Pink. There's two ways you can go on this job: my way or the highway. Now what's it gonna be, Mr Pink?
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Downplayed in the interactions between Admiral Holdo and Poe Dameron. Poe's requests for information or even reassurance are brushed off and he's told to simply follow Holdo's orders. This bites the Resistance in the ass when out of desperation Poe sends Finn and Rose off on an unsanctioned mission.

  • In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla is very matter-of-fact in laying down the rules on taking Anne into Green Gables. After listening to Anne's explanation of why she is not in the habit of folding her clothes before going to bed, she plainly retorts: "You'll have to remember a little better if you stay here"; then, when Anne tells her she does not say her prayers before going to bed and gives a thorough explanation of why, Marilla tells her "You must say your prayers while you are under my roof, Anne" without further justification.
  • In The Disaster Artist, this is Tommy Wiseau's overarching modus operandi, both on and off the job.
  • In the Warrior Cats book Veil of Shadows, a Control Freak impostor has taken over Bramblestar's body and has taken one rule of the warrior code to heart above all others, that "the word of the Clan leader is the warrior code". He finally gives an ultimatum in this book: that any cat who doesn't like it can leave the Clan.
  • Treasure Island: During an argument with his crew, Long John Silver angrily says them that they have two options: obeying his orders or a duel to the dead.
    "Did any of you gentlemen want to have it out with me?" roared Silver, bending far forward from his position on the keg, with his pipe still glowing in his right hand. "Put a name on what you're at; you ain't dumb, I reckon. Him that wants shall get it. Have I lived this many years, and a son of a rum puncheon cock his hat athwart my hawse at the latter end of it? You know the way; you're all gentlemen o' fortune, by your account. Well, I'm ready. Take a cutlass, him that dares, and I'll see the colour of his inside, crutch and all, before that pipe's empty."
    Not a man stirred; not a man answered.
    "That's your sort, is it?" he added, returning his pipe to his mouth. "Well, you're a gay lot to look at, anyway. Not much worth to fight, you ain't. P'r'aps you can understand King George's English. I'm cap'n here by 'lection. I'm cap'n here because I'm the best man by a long sea-mile. You won't fight, as gentlemen o’ fortune should; then, by thunder, you'll obey, and you may lay to it!

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the third season of The Walking Dead, the normally mellow and friendly Rick passes the Despair Event Horizon after some... stuff and things and tells the rest of the group that their camp is not a democracy anymore and anyone that's not happy is free to leave.
  • A variation is used in The Bernie Mac Show; when Vanesa, Bernie's oldest niece, runs away from his home, he catches her in the bus headed from L.A. to Chicago and when he asks her why she's on the bus, she responds: "you're always telling us, 'it's my way or the highway,' so you you know what? I'm choosing the highway."
  • Used for Black Comedy in Batwoman (2019). After Kate Kane murders a particularly vile criminal in a fit of rage, her evil sister Alice blackmails her into helping rescue one of her minions from Arkham Asylum. Kate agrees on condition she do things her way. Alice points out that as Kate's way involved strangling a man until he choked to death in his own blood, she'd like nothing more!

  • In the chorus for the Limp Bizkit song "My Way," singer Fred Durst insists to do things his way—his way "or the highway."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Savio Vega's Catchphrase, especially in IWA Puerto Rico, of which was a part owner and World Wrestling League, where he was director of wrestling operations.

    Video Games 
  • In Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls, Segami's motivation begins and ends with stopping the CPUs and Sega Hard Girls from fighting. However, due to her status as an Amnesiac Hero, she usually can't come up with a better explanation than "We have them stop from fighting because I say so", and she completely refuses to accept any other methods.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Swedish expression "Management by Perkele" stems from this. It refers to Finnish management mentality ("either you do this or else"), which contrasts with Swedes' more discussion-oriented decision-making.
  • The French Foreign Legion's unofficial motto is "march or die", do as you're told or get out.
  • One of the major points in both the Android vs iOS and the PC vs. Console debates is that Android and PC both run on much more open systems
    • On a PC, if you don't like a particular piece of software, up to and including the operating system itself, you can change it, whereas you can't change a console's operating system note , and you often can't install other programs than what it comes pre-packaged with, meaning it's the manufacturer's way, or the highway of turning in your entire console
    • Android, likewise, is a far more open system than iOS - allowing for third-party developed applications and for downloads outside its designated stores.
  • John Kricfalusi once attempted to intimidate a Nickelodeon executive by sending her a memo stating that his cartoons "will cost what they cost and take as much time as necessary". He was promptly fired from the studio.
  • The Pennsylvania Railroad became infamous for this starting around 1946 or so, the first year they actually failed to turn a profit. As it happened, the upper management held this attitude, and expected that every employee stay loyal to the company, follow their ideas alone and ignored all other suggestions, and charged as exuberant a shipping rates as they wanted across their network. With the cracks beginning to form, PRR soon began to lose public confidence rather quickly. Only a year later, their crack passenger train, the Red Arrow, jumped the tracks on February 18, 1947, a few miles from the world famous Horseshoe Curve, when the engineer applied the brakes on the cars and not the locomotives going downhill, killing 22 and injuring over 100. Not only did this incident make national headlines, but the railroad began losing business as shippers moved to their competitors, and even the switch to diesel power failed to help the line keep afloat. Business sunk so bad that by 1957, merger talks with the New York Central Railroad, Pennsy's biggest rival, initiated, but by the time the two lines (plus the government-mandated addition of the New Haven) merged into the Penn Central, the old PRR managers' attitude still held out. By 1970, the line had gone bankrupt, and it nearly killed the entire railroad industry, almost bringing the US economy down with it. Had the government not created Amtrak in response and quickly took oversight of the fledging line to become Conrail by 1976, things could have been even more disastrous.