When a character deliberately Kicks the Dog or crosses the Moral Event Horizon just to prove a point. Maybe you want to prove that you are willing to make good on a threat, maybe you just want to show that you're not the kind of person they want to mess with. Either way the message is the same: "I'm willing to do this just to make a point, so imagine what I'd do if you gave me a reason." Particularly effective when the character harms something they like (like one of their favorite henchmen), as it shows they will be far less merciful to anything that they don't like.
This can backfire if taken too far though; it might simply convince your opponent that you are beyond all reason or that you cannot be trusted, and decide that a more decisive and ruthless approach is needed, or maybe you end up looking so Obviously Evil that your otherwise reasonable demands are no longer taken seriously, which often happens when there is a clash between moderates and extremists. On the other hand, maybe that's what you are counting on, and you want the other side to escalate things to make them look bad, extreme and unreasonable. And so on it goes, so this trope can lead to, or be the result of, some complex Gambit Pileups and Serial Escalations.
See If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten for when a character is challenged to do this.
Anime and Manga
- In the "Unknown Tales" filler of Bleach, Byakuya destroys the Zanpakuto of his own sister in an effort to convince all the other Zanpakuto that he's actually on their side.
- In Silly Hat Productions' Umineko: When They Cry parody episode "Epitaph", Lambadadelta declares she's going to raise the stakes to motivate Battler. If he doesn't offer at least one theory by the end of each episode, she will permanently erase one of the 'game pieces' who'd died — and since he failed to do so in that episode, she starts by erasing Doctor Nanjo.
- In Ronin, Gregor is not only prepared to, but actually does shoot at a random child in a playground simply to make the point that he is a conscienceless killer who should not be double crossed. The man he is dealing with frantically assures him that the demonstration will not be necessary, and pushes away his hand so the bullet misses.
- In Taken, Bryan demonstrates that he is willing to do anything to get his daughter back by shooting the wife of his French police contact and threatening to kill her if he won't co-operate.
- In Broken Arrow (1996), the villain detonates one of the two stolen nuclear warheads in an abandoned copper mine. "Otherwise, some DC civilian would say I haven't got the guts."
- A classic staple of James Bond style supervillains; appearing on a huge video screen before the UN to commit an act of wanton destruction just to demonstrate that they have the means and the will to do worse if their ransom is not met:
- The closest an actual Bond movie came to this was Thunderball. Used the giant screen to make threats, but didn't actually set off any of the nukes, just proved they had them.
- Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me: Dr Evil blows up the White House to demonstrate his giant moon based laser... except it was actually just footage from Independence Day.
- The Crimson Jihad in True Lies set off one of their nukes in the Florida Keys as a demonstration.
- Danny Roman in The Negotiator invokes this trope when he fakes shooting one of the hostages.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard tries to coerce Jack into helping him by threatening to shoot his love interest, who happens to be Blackbeard's daughter. When Jack calls him out on it, Blackbeard orders the Quartermaster to bring him six pistols, four unloaded. Jack gets the message fairly quickly. After he leaves, Angelica asks Blackbeard if he knew which guns were loaded. His answer is a not-very-reassuring "Of course, my love."
- Star Wars: A New Hope: Tarkin destroys Alderaan with the Death Star to demonstrate the destructive power of the station. In Expanded Universe accounts, this proves to be a colossal political blunder; many planets in the Empire realize that its leadership is made up of Ax-Crazy Stupid Evil psychopaths who have to be stopped at all costs, and the Rebel Alliance gets an upsurge in support. It helps that the Empire's means of destroying planets got destroyed, otherwise fear of the Death Star might actually have kept the local systems in line.
- In The Professional, Matilda takes a gun and fires several wild shots out the window at the passerby below to show Leon that she has enough disregard to human life to become an assassin.
- In Freerunner, the collar of one of the freerunners is detonated just to demonstrate that yes, the collars will kill them and yes, they have no compunction over pushing the button.
- Similar to the example above, the Big Bad in Battlefield Earth fits the protagonist's Love Interst with an explosive collar. As a demonstration, he puts another one on a friend of his and is about to push the button, when the protagonist begs him not to, promising to never ask him for anything again. The Big Bad agrees not to kill him... before passing the trigger to his NumberTwo. At the end, the Big Bad is preparing to fulfill his threat to kill the Love Interest, not realizing that the protagonist has taken her collar and clamped it around the Big Bad's arm.
- In The Vampire Files by PN Elrod, Jack Fleming's friend shoots him with a crossbow in front of several of their enemies, partly to invoke this. However, they didn't realize Jack was a vampire, and since he'd deliberately missed Jack's heart, Jack recovered fairly quickly.
- In The Otherworld, the Pack's enforcer Clay doesn't need to fight all that often in order to keep non-Pack werewolves in line, because everyone knows what he did to that one guy...
- Victor Cachat does this in Honor Harrington novel Crown of the Slaves. he firmly believes that Torture Is Ineffective so when he was trying to get information out of four bad guys he tied them to chairs in a circle so they could see each other, told them that information he wants is usefull, but not critical and that if they won't talk he'll kill them all and to prove his point shot one of them. The rest was quick to cooperate.
- When John Rain first meets rookie CIA agent Kanezaki he breaks the neck of Kanezaki's bodyguard (after the bodyguard had already been immobilized) just to make it clear he really is a cold-blooded killer. Although their relationship improves a lot over the years, Kanezaki doesn't forget this incident and is wary of antagonizing Rain too much.
- In The Otherworld TV adaptation, Jeremy easily defeats a Mutt who challenges him for Alpha and then has Clay rip the guy's teeth out. He is sending a message to the other Mutts to warn them of the consequences of challenging the Pack. If he is willing to do this to some idiot who wasn't really a threat, then the consequences to anyone who actually hurts a Pack member will be catastrophic.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "Errand of Mercy," Kor, governor of the occupied planet of Orgainia, demands that Kirk and Spock, who were obviously sprung by the natives, be surrendered and has 200 hostages shot to show he is serious in his demands. Unfortunately for him, the Orgainians are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and have no reason to fear, let alone bow to, such threats.
- Breaking Bad: in "Box Cutter", Gustavo, the main villain and drug lord, brutally slits the throat of his employee just to prove a point to the main characters, Walter and Jesse. Curiously, none of the characters are exactly sure just what the point is supposed to be. Walter initially thinks it is a warning against crossing Gustavo, since if he is willing to kill his own man then he will not hesitate to kill them, but later thinks it was actually punishment for the employee trying to take on more responsibility than Gus had given him and a warning to understand your role in an organization.
- In Boardwalk Empire ruthless gambling tycoon Arnold Rothstein intimidates Frankie Yale by recounting a story about a man whose party trick was to swallow and then regurgitate pool balls. Rothstein, unlike the man in question, knew that the cue ball was just slightly larger than the other balls, so one night he bet the man $10,000 that he couldn't do his swallowing trick with the cue ball. The ball became lodged in the man's throat and he choked to death then and there. Rothstein ends the story by saying, "Do you know what the moral of this tale is, Mr Yale? The moral of this story is that if I'd cause a stranger to choke to death for my own amusement, what do you think I'll do to you if you don't tell me who ordered you to kill Colosimo?"
- In a rare heroic example, in one episode of Burn Notice, Sam Axe pretended to be an unstable and sadistic hitman sent to interrogate and kill a particular criminal. During the course of his interrogation, Sam went into a "crazed state" during which he sliced the tip of his thumb open so that it bled quite a bit, then smeared his blood all over the other guy's face. It freaked the hell out of the crook and served to convey the point that if Sam was willing to do that to himself, you do not even want to think about what he will do to you. The crook was so unnerved that he told Sam everything he needed to know without making Sam have to resort to actually torturing the man.
- In Skies of Arcadia, Galcian unleashes the Rains of Destruction on Valua to prove his own invincibility. All the more crushing because Valua has (under his command) previously devastated every other world power, thereby leaving all of Arcadia in economic and social ruin.
- Counter Monkey's episode "Shadowrun: The Code" has the Villain Protagonist Stupid Crooks holed up in a museum, threatening to kill their hostages if their demands aren't met. When the police call their bluff, the lead player promptly executes two of the hostages and chucks their bodies out the front door. Cue Big "OMG!" by Spoony (the DM).
- Noob: La Croisée des Destins starts with a Soulless doing a Mook–Face Turn that some suspect to be a Fake Defector, causing him to be kept under guard. When one of the antagonists shows up and offers to free him, the Soulless shoots him, proving that he's serious about changing sides.
- Spoofed on The Simpsons in the episode "You Only Move Twice":
Scorpio: Good afternoon, gentlemen. This is Scorpio. I have the Doomsday Device. You have 72 hours to deliver the gold or you'll face the consequences. And to prove I'm not bluffing, watch this.
UN Man 1: [all the men look at the explosion] Oh My God, the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge!
UN Man 2: Maybe it just collapsed on its own.
UN Man 1: We can't take that chance.
UN Man 2: You always say that. I want to take a chance!
Scorpio: (scoffs) "Collapsed on its own"... You have seventy-two hours.
- Also parodied beautifully by Fat Tony in one of the Mafia episodes. "You have 24 hours get us the money. And so that you know we are serious… you have 12 hours.
- In G.I. Joe: Resolute, Cobra Commander vaporizes Moscow and its ten million people to prove what his weapon can do and what he's willing to do with it. In a meta-sense, this also proves beyond a shadow of doubt that this isn't the cartoonish Commander viewers were used to and this Commander is as dangerous as he claims.
- In Batman: Assault on Arkham, KGBeast thinks Amanda Waller is bluffing about the squad's explosive implants. Waller dares him to test it by trying to leave the prison. He does, and gets his head blown off for his trouble.