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Ordered to Die

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"Listen to daddy. I want you to take the gun, and I want you to put it in your mouth, and I want you to turn around and blow your brains out. Blow your brains out. BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT!"
Krug Stillo, The Last House on the Left

A leader demonstrates their authority by ordering one of their followers or underlings to kill themselves. Perhaps the lieutenant has failed one too many times. Perhaps it's a sheer demonstration of their own power and their followers' Blind Obedience. Perhaps it's just to Kick the Dog.

A key point is that the victim obeys of their own free will. If they don't have a choice, it's Psychic-Assisted Suicide. If they have a choice between suicide and something worse, see Suicidal Sadistic Choice. If the victim doesn't realize their action will kill them, see Tricked to Death.

A variant is the leader ordering their people to do something obviously suicidally dangerous but not directly deadly, such as stand between him and The Hero.

Subtrope of Murder by Suicide. Supertrope to Walk the Plank, a specific version of execution by suicide; Seppuku can also be one. A typical indirect way of achieving this while hypocritically disguising in wartime as duty is the all-time favourite Uriah Gambit.

Compare Please Kill Me if It Satisfies You, where it's the character volunteering to die, and Leave Behind a Pistol, for when they are allowed to kill themselves as a way out. Telling someone to kill themselves without having the authority to expect them to obey is a Suicide Dare, and can end in Driven to Suicide. A culture built around thise trope is a Martyrdom Culture.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]: While Shirou is fighting Archer, Kotomine uses one of his Command Seals to force his Servant Lancer to kill himself so that he would not be able to interfere with the antagonists' plans (as a few times before Lancer was willing to help the protagonists). It ends up backfiring spectacularly on him, as Lancer is Not Too Dead to Save the Day; he ends up killing Kotomine, scaring away Shinji, and freeing Rin all before he expires.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: Vanilla Ice cutting off his own head to give Dio his blood out of Blind Obedience might count, as he had no idea he could be revived and become a vampire. Might — maybe he's just too dense to realize decapitation is a fatal sacrifice, or that he didn't have to give Dio all of his blood.
  • At the start of No Game No Life Zero, Riku orders Ivan to sacrifice himself to allow Riku and Alei to escape. Ivan accepts unquestioningly, asking Riku to look after his daughter, and Riku later reveals that he has done this dozens of times before.
  • One Piece:
    • The personnel of the military group Germa 66 are expected to become a Human Shield for their commanders if they are ordered to. In particular, their supreme leader, Judge, during his fight with Sanji, ordered his men to form a wall in front of him and then he tries to strike Sanji through his men, impaling one of them with his spear in the process, to distract Sanji.
    • Earlier on, Don Krieg, infuriated by his lieutenant Gin's decision to spare Sanji, orders Gin to throw away his gas mask immediately before bombarding the area with poison gas. Gin complies, and when Luffy throws him and Sanji gas masks (forgetting to keep one for himself), Gin throws his back to Luffy, resulting in him being (possibly fatally) poisoned.
  • Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas: Garuda Aeacos orders somes of the Specters under his control to kill themselves in front of the heroes just to show off his authority over his underlings and their unwavering devotion in him.

    Comic Books 
  • The origins of New Goddess Granny Goodness are a variant. In the hell world of Apokolips, she was selected as a warrior and was given a pup to raise, which was her closest and most faithful companion for years as her training progressed. Then, during an inspection, her instructor ordered her to kill the dog. Instead, she killed the instructor. When Darkseid appeared, he inquired why she had done so. She replied that to do so would have wasted a tremendous asset, as she had trained the dog to obey him first and foremost, even above her, who had raised and trained him. Interested, Darkseid ordered the dog to kill her. It immediately attacked and then she killed the dog. Impressed with her ability to inspire the fanatical devotion he wants, the tyrant awarded her full marks for the exercise and had her promoted.
  • Star Wars: Legacy: In the last issue of the main series, Darth Krayt demonstrates the fanatical obedience of his newly unveiled Sith Troopers by ordering one to kill itself. The Trooper places the hilt of its lightsaber under its chin and switches it on without a moment's hesitation.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Darkness Between Stars, White Diamond uses her Compelling Voice to force gems to do whatever she commands of them. When it becomes clear that Steven and the Crystal Gems refuse to bow to her wishes, she casually orders him to die, causing his gem to start killing him until Connie uses Rose's Tears to stop the effect.
  • Voldemort in The Rigel Black Chronicles gets rid of the Basilisk, by repeatedly ordering it to bite itself. For extra horror, it pleads with him to make the pain stop while it's happening.
  • SV Wishes: In the original tale Shen Yuan read, Yue Qingyuan orders his husband Shen Qingqiu to hang himself as punishment for his attempted murder and sabotage of Liu Quingge, handing him a silken rope. Shen Yuan thinks that this bordered on Disproportionate Retribution. Making it worse is that Shen Qingqiu was actually innocent.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Babylon A.D.. In an extra included in the DVD, an animated scene called The Genesis of Aurora shows the Back Story of how Darquandier met the High Priestess of the Neolite cult. The latter has the two acolytes accompanying her take poison, just to show off her power.
    High Priestess: If one will die for a religion...
  • In the movie The Beastmaster, High Priest Maax orders two of his underlings to kill themselves as a show of his power by hanging themselves. They immediately obey.
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982). Thulsa Doom once sought the secret of making steel, and massacred a young Conan's village to get it. By the time Conan is grown up and confronts him again, Doom says he has since learned that flesh is stronger: in other words, he hardly needs steel weapons now that he has an entire cult of followers who would sacrifice their lives for him without hesitation. He points out one of the Children of Doom standing high above him on a cliff and gently encourages her to come to him. She fearlessly leaps off the edge to her death, her impact smashing her body through the floorboards.
    Thulsa Doom: THAT is strength, boy. THAT is power!
  • In the opening sequence of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane and his men are kidnapping a scientist from a plane, while making it appear as though the scientist died in the plane crash. Bane orders one of his men to remain behind on the crashing plane, as the CIA's flight plan listed one of the imprisoned terrorists and their disappearance would be incredibly suspicious. His man obeys immediately.
  • In Enemy at the Gates, when Kruschev arrives in Stalingrad, he immediately hands his predecessor — who had lost almost all of his command — a pistol and tells him he's on orders from The Boss and it will avoid red tape. The guy promptly kills himself with it offscreen.
  • Defied in Flash Gordon. Ming orders Prince Thun to kill himself for providing inadequate tribute. Thun attacks Ming instead, and Ming kills him.
  • A major plot point in Harakiri. It is established that a common scam carried out by Rōnin was to ask Clan Lords for permission to commit Seppuku on their land, being given money to go away. When a young samurai named Motome tried it on the Ii clan, they made an example of him by instead physically forcing him go through with the ritual suicide with a dull blade made out of bamboo. So Motome's father-in-law Hanshiro takes revenge by challenging all the samurai who took part in the coercion to duels and cutting off their topknots, a disgrace so horrendous that even suicide can barely atone for it. When they try to simply pretend to be ill for a few days until their hair grows back, Hanshiro goes to the Ii clan's stronghold and reveals what they're doing, ensuring that they will be ordered to commit seppuku, just like Motome.
  • Legendary Weapons of China has the Boxer Clan, a cult indoctrinated since birth to be obedient to every single order they're given. In their introduction scene, two Boxers are to prove their allegiance with their orders being to commit suicide by ripping their eyes and testicles in front of a hundred other inductees. The two volunteers did exactly that.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: "We are the Judean People's Front Crack Suicide Squad! Suicide Squad, attack!" (they all stab themselves)

  • During World War 2 a Japanese officer tells some Australian soldiers he's taken prisoner that the Japanese will win because their soldiers are braver. To demonstrate, he orders one of his men to commit hara-kiri. The Japanese soldier rips open his belly with his sword. Not to be outdone, the Australian officer orders one of his men to do the same. The Australian soldier tells him to fuck off.
    Japanese officer: Aha! You said your men were braver!
    Australian officer: They are. Your man wouldn't have dared answer you back like that.
  • In a variation set before the war begins, Hitler tells a British diplomat that Germany is the stronger nation because of its iron discipline. To prove his point, he commands a soldier to jump out the window to certain death. The soldier obeys. This is repeated with a second soldier. As a third soldier is ordered to leap, the diplomat regains sufficient composure to protest.
    Diplomat: How can you throw away your life like this?
    Soldier: You call this a life? (jumps)

  • In Alamut, Hassan-i Sabbah of The Hashshashin demonstrates his power over his acolytes by ordering two of them to commit suicide, which they do without hesitation.
  • In the Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the increasingly paranoid Ganth Gray Lord decided his household was plotting against him and ordered his son Torisen's friends (some of his own sworn followers) to commit suicide, which they immediately did. This was a major factor in Torisen's choice to run away, something that was both dishonorable by Kencyr standards and the only reason he survived his father.
  • In the Conrad Stargard series by Leo Frankowski, a delegation sent by the Mongols to demand the Poles submit to the Mongol Empire orders some of their own soldiers to kill themselves to demonstrate how they don't fear death. Conrad realizes he's got to take charge of matters, or the battle will be lost before it's begun. So Conrad asks the Mongol ambassador to order another member of their delegation to kill himself. He hesitates (because it's his son, as it turns out) but complies. Then Conrad asks for yet another demonstration. When the ambassador demands to know why, Conrad says if all the Mongols are stupid enough to kill themselves, they won't have to fight them on the battlefield. By this stage everyone is laughing at the Mongols, defeating their attempt at psychological warfare.
  • The Craft Sequence book Ruin of Angels has a character who has been secretly ordered by their monarch to become a Death Seeker as penance for a perceived act of disloyalty. If the character had refused, they would have been more formally executed, which would have been a disgrace to their family.
  • The Grace of Kings: When the Chatelain and Prime Minister execute their coup, the Crown Prince receives a Forged Message from the Emperor informing him that he's been removed from the line of succession, a poison pill, and a squad of armed soldiers accompanying the messenger. He takes the hint and the pill.
  • In Quo Vadis, a Roman nobleman Petronius is ordered to commit suicide by Emperor Nero. It's clear that if he doesn't do it, he can expect a Fate Worse than Death. Petronius cuts his wrists and dies in a warm bath of water, which is supposed to be relatively painless. His beautiful slave and lover voluntarily joins him to invoke Together in Death.
  • In Fredric Brown's short story "Rebound", a person discovers he has the power of Compelling Voice and ends up shouting "Drop dead!" during a night walk. Next morning, he is found dead atop Echo Hill.
  • At least two examples in the Sword of Truth series:
    • Confessor magic enslaves a person's mind completely, to the extent that powerful ones can order a person to drop dead, and he will. Kahlan has demonstrated the ability several times over the books.
    • Jagang demonstrates his power to the captive Sisters of Dark by ordering a previously captured one to die... and showing them what it means to die when still formally serving a most displeased Keeper.
  • In the Pocket Books Star Trek novel Here There Be Dragons, the Enterprise is attacked by a ship that clearly has no chance of defeating them; the attacking crew triggers the self-destruct rather than be captured, as per their standing orders. An odd example in that the crew aren't soldiers, Proud Warrior Race Guys or religious fanatics, but regular human criminals who are Only in It for the Money; possibly their superiors have promised to ensure that blowing themselves up will be the less painful option, but it's not elaborated on. In any case, the flaws of this system rapidly become apparent, as one of the crew decides he'd rather live and ejects in the escape pod — but rather than simply turn himself in and provide state's evidence, he attempts to lead the Enterprise into a trap, figuring he can sweet-talk his way back into his superiors' good graces. It turns out badly both for him and his superiors.
  • War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches. In "Foreign Devils" the Guangxu Emperor is a Puppet King while Prince Tuan has all the power. The Emperor orders Tuan to kill himself on several occasions, but Tuan always pretends that the Emperor is making a joke.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Talons of Weng Chiang", if one of Magnus Greel's Chinese underlings fails him, that underling has to poison himself with what the Doctor describes as "highly concentrated scorpion venom." This trope is implied with the man the Doctor and Leela capture in the first episode, who puts a red tablet given to him by Li Hsen Chang (who has been brought in to act as an interpreter) into his mouth and drops dead seconds later. However, when another character kills himself by the same method later in the story, it is explicitly stated that he is being ordered to do so, with Greel personally telling him to "take the sting of the scorpion", then standing over him to make sure he obeys.
  • The Glamorous Imperial Concubine: Qi You is ordered to commit suicide. Fu Ya and Official Xiang save him by switching the poison with a sleeping drug.
  • The Legend of Xiao Chuo: Yelü Li Hu is ordered to drink poisoned wine after his rebellion.
  • In the pilot movie of Lexx His Divine Shadow orders a guard who failed to prevent the protagonists from escaping with the titular superweapon to execute her partner, and then herself.
  • Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace:
    • Ruiji is ordered to drink poison after she nearly kills Muping.
    • After her crimes are revealed Yanwan is ordered to drink poison. She refuses, so she's forced to drink it. Then she's given an antidote and kept alive for years until she's tricked into drinking arsenic.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Thine Own Self", Deanna Troi takes an exam to qualify as a command-level officer. One part of the exam is a holographic simulation of a scenario in which the ship faces possible destruction due to a malfunction in the engine; to pass, Deanna has to order a fellow officer to expose himself to deadly radiation in order to repair the problem manually.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In "Rocks and Shoals", a Vorta field officer deliberately sends his Jem'Hadar soldiers walking into a death trap, so that he can safely surrender once they are out of the way (and so they won't go Ax-Crazy and turn on him when the drug used to keep them in line runs out). They know it's a trap, but they go anyway simply because obeying the Vorta "is the order of things."
  • Supernatural: Dick Roman, leader of the Leviathan monster race, orders a minion who failed him to eat himself. Since they have a built-in Healing Factor, this is a ridiculously cruel punishment even by the standards of other Bad Bosses featured in the show.

  • In the backstory of Madame Butterfly, Cio-Cio-San's father was somehow disgraced and ordered by the Mikado to commit Seppuku. At the end of the opera, by her own choice, Cio-Cio-San kills herself with the same dagger.

  • BIONICLE: Roodaka demonstrates her authority over the Visorak to Vakama by ordering a few Visorak to jump off a tower. Subverted in the novelization where the Visorak are Saved by the Platform Below, which they had no idea was there. Played straight in the movie version where there is no platform.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Al Mualim has Altair and two other assassins jump to their deaths to prove to Robert they do not fear death. It's really a ploy to get them to circumvent the Templars and activate Masyaf's defenses.
  • Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams: Toyotomi Hideyoshi mentions this while delivering an angry speech about his power to Soki, showing how little he cares for his men.
    : "If I say fight, they fight! If I say die, they die!"

  • How the death penalty is executed in Shiloh. The condemned is offered a vial of poison. If they refuse to drink it, they are left chained up in a cell to die of starvation.

    Real Life 
  • A pretty common occurrence in Imperial China. This usually happened when a bigwig — typically an official or a general — had displeased the Emperor in some way. The offending official/general would typically receive a letter explaining how he had failed his sovereign, alongside a duly sealed imperial order to commit suicide. Recipients of such orders generally did as they were commanded, partly because this was considered the right thing to do for an imperial official (depending on the era, refusing an imperial decree might have been literally unthinkable), partly because it allowed them to save face, and partly because the penalties for defying such orders were often shockingly unpleasant.
    • One infamous example was Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi's elder son Fu Su. When the emperor died, some of his high officials decided they wanted the younger son Hu Hai to be the next emperor, so they concealed Qin Shi Huangdi's death and forged his signature on a letter commanding Fu Su to kill himself. While some of Fu Su's advisors realized what was happening, Fu Su refused to believe that anyone could dare to forge an imperial order (since falsely claiming imperial authority was the worst crime imaginable) and duly committed suicide. This allowed Hu Hai to ascend the throne as the deeply incompetent Emperor Qin Er Shi.
  • This was how Socrates died. Due to being found guilty of impiety and corrupting the Athenian youth, the Athenian government forced him to kill himself by drinking hemlock. It only insured he was made immortal due to being a martyr to his philosophy, and Phaedo by Plato portrays him facing his death with utter aplomb. The government was not unaware of the martyr problem and would actually have preferred exile; they made it incredibly easy for Socrates' students to liberate him and get him out of the city. Plato's Crito is about Socrates rejecting that option and intentionally choosing martyrdom.
  • Supposedly there was a Real Life incident that inspired this trope, variously attributed to any of the below. As with all such tales they should be taken with a grain of salt, as they may have just been exaggerated horror stories for the benefit of Western audiences.
    • Shaka Zulu (who marched an entire impi off a cliff to impress visiting Europeans)
    • Alexander the Great (to frighten a city into surrendering- in this case the men weren't soldiers, but convicts already sentenced to death, who complied so their families wouldn't be punished)
    • King Henri Christophe of Haiti at the cliff castle of Sans-Souci
    • Or The Old Man of the Mountain (that's the guy who led The Hashshashin, not the Dirty Old Man who chased Betty Boop.)


Video Example(s):


Vakama Hordika

Vakama is unable to cope with his own guilt and the blame of his team for getting them captured and injected with the mutagenic Visorak Venom. As the venom slowly turns him both physically and mentally into a bestial Hordika, he is easily convinced by Roodaka to join her and the Visorak horde.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / FaceHeelTurn

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