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Shoot Everything That Moves

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Zoe: Okay, people. If it moves, shoot it.
Kaylee: Unless it's the captain!
Zoe: Unless it's the captain.
— The Firefly crew plans a rescue mission

They've got a job to do. They're facing heavy opposition. A strategy is called for.

Like, say, "shoot all the other guys". Why make things complicated?

Sometimes the good guys have to go into heavily defended territory. There aren't any neutrals there, and it's too dangerous to leave any of the opponents alive. Maybe they're the defenders and the only things coming towards their position are trying to kill them.

Or, hell, maybe you just like shooting people. But to be clear, if you're the sort of person (or army, or species) that fights every fight this way, then you're just Trigger-Happy, and this trope doesn't really fit you. This trope is about those situations where that really seems like the only solution to whatever problem you're in. Of course, if you're Trigger Happy, you may jump to that conclusion a little faster.

More Dakka might come in handy now, but it's not necessary — sometimes it's knives or clubs. Usually this isn't Gotta Kill Them All or Leave No Survivors, because you've got some objective other than killing people — say, you're rescuing someone, or getting out of the prison camp, or making the Nazis surrender. But for whatever reason, if you see anything alive, you need to make it less alive. (If you want to put a positive spin on things, just call it a "target-rich environment.")

Similar to Leave No Survivors. But in that case, the emphasis is on making sure everyone is dead — if someone hides and you miss him, you've failed. Shoot Everything That Moves is more about the situation where everything you see is a threat and a target — if something runs or hides and doesn't come out until you're gone, that's just fine. See also Leave No Witnesses, for the situation where the people around you aren't imminent threats, but they know too much for you to leave them alive.

Too many video games to count are played this way, from Space Invaders on up. So only list video games that aren't just Everything Is Trying to Kill You (and you're returning the favor).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bungou Stray Dogs, when the Black Lizard squad shows up to help Higuchi, Tachihara instructs the squad's subordinates to "kill anyone [they] don't recognize".

    Comic Books 
  • The Boys: When Wee Hughie is given his standard-issue black leather longcoat, he's told to win fights by beating the crap out of anything not wearing one. This simple advice has apparently saved Butcher's life more than once.
    Hughie: "When in doubt, fuck-up any cunt not wearin' a coat."
  • Deff Skwadron: A quick primer in Ork target-identification procedures:
    "Topside turrets! Which one of you gitz isn't shootin' like all the others!?"
    "Me, boss. 'Ow we supposed to know who's on our side and who ain't?"
    "Listen karefully and I'll explain 'ow we do things 'ere in Deff Skwadron... You shoot at it an' you miss, it's one of ourz. You hit it an' you shoot it down, then it must be one of theirs. Dead simple, see?"
    "Got it, boss. Works a treat, that does..."
  • An extremely famous Sturmtruppen strip has these order given to a sniper, with... predictable results.
    Private: "You got that? You'll have to shoot all soldiers crossing zis road here" (BANG) (the private is now crouching, a smoking hole in his helmet) "Ze enemy ones, you moron!!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Starship Troopers has a lot of fights like this.
    We are going in with the first wave, means more bugs for us to kill. You smash the entire area, you kill anything with more than two legs. You get me?
  • Applies to T-800s in the Terminator film franchise. An Infiltrator spy in the first film going on a rampage killing off human Resistance even kills off German shepherds just to shut them up.
  • 28 Weeks Later has a fairly horrific scene where the soldiers are attempting to secure a compound by shooting Infected, except that due to the speed and the confusion it's hard for them to tell the Infected from the panicked civilians running away from them. Then the snipers get the order that everyone is considered a target... Although given the alternative was being pulled down by a horde of Technically Living Zombies infected with an incurable Hate Plague, the civilians were getting off lightly.
    Abandon selective targeting. Rooftop units, target everyone at ground level. No exceptions. Repeat, no exceptions.
  • In Wild Wild West, President Ulysses S. Grant comments: "And you, West, not every situation calls for your patented approach of shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more, and then when everybody's dead try to ask a question or two".
  • Lethal Weapon Franchise:
    • Lethal Weapon: Murtaugh has been deriding Rigg's gun-happy approach until the bad guys kidnap his daughter.
      Riggs: We do this my way. You shoot, you shoot to kill. Get as many as you can. Just don't miss.
    • Lethal Weapon 2: Riggs tells Murtaugh the plan for rescuing Leo.
      Murtaugh: What's the plan?
      Riggs: Wait for my signal, then just go in and shoot those fuckers.
  • The Doom movie ups this from moves to breathes.
  • The doorgunner in Full Metal Jacket certainly qualifies. "Anyone who runs is a VC! Anyone who stands still is a well-disciplined VC!"
  • In X2: X-Men United, Col. Stryker tells his mooks that after he leaves, they are to shoot anyone who comes down the corridor, even if it was him. He knew that Mystique was on-site.
  • This is pretty much standard operating procedure in Ghostbusters. Granted, the neutron wand's highly unstable ion stream is several times more powerful than a fire hose, so firing at anything that does or doesn't move is a given.
  • In Grimsby, Nobby gets addicted to shooting everything he sees when he first discovers how to use a gun. Once he shoots a seagull, Sebastian draws the line there.
    Sebastian: (annoyed) Will you stop shooting everything?

  • Several instances in Animorphs, where controllers start shooting anything that moves for fear it might be an Andalite in morph.
  • In Battle Royale a good number of students try this. To be specific, Kazuo Kiriyama is the most merciless student that guns down anyone and everyone in his way.
  • Mentioned a few times in the Vorkosigan Saga as a viable combat tactic when using stunners since it reduces friendly fire mistakes from potentially lethal to merely annoyingnote ; it's also extremely useful for hostage situations. Unless, that is, someone has a heart condition, or the hostage takers have rigged some kind of dead-man switch as a precaution against exactly this tactic, or a stunned target goes over a railing...
    Elli Quinn: Gee, I feel really bad about that. I've never killed a man by accident before. Unprofessional.
  • In one of the Sven Hassel novels, Porta is instructing the New Meat in everything they should have learned in basic training and didn't.
    "If there's any doubt, shoot. If you hit one of ours, too bad! Comfort yourself with the thought that he wouldn't have lived long anyway."
  • Referenced in the novel The Third World War when NATO launches a desperation B-52 carpet bombing mission in order to halt the Soviet advance in Germany. As it would be impossible to hide such a massive formation of large aircraft from radar, Warsaw Pact forces saw it coming and launched their interceptors. NATO fighters sortied going out to meet the enemy aircraft, with a simple order: if it was flying toward the west, shoot it.
  • In Mailed Fist, tank commander John Foley describes an engagement in Holland where he had to lead his three tanks down a forest road by night, knowing the woods to either side were full of Germans with Panzerfausts. He detailed his machine-gunners to continually fire into the forest to either side and his drivers to go flat out. None of his tanks were hit, and in the morning there were quite a lot of dead Germans with anti-tank rockets they had not had a chance to fire.
  • In the Novelization of Revenge of the Sith, the droid-control center on Utapau has been destroyed by Commander Cody's troops, but rather than simply shutting down like on Naboo, the TradeFed battle droids default to a series of pre-programmed standing orders.
    "Standing Order Number One was, apparently, Kill Everything That Moves."
  • In Congo Mercenary, Major 'Mad Mike' Hoare derides reconnaissance by fire as "shooting wildly at anything in sight to establish what's not there". He's puzzled when one of his mercenaries shoots off a rifle grenade to blow up the wall of a prison. A bank at least he could have understood.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Firefly episode "War Stories", quoted above. The crew needs to rescue Captain Reynolds from Niska's satellite, and Zoe gives this as instructions.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, O'Neill gets annoyed with Woolsey continually calling out "General, is that you?" when he hears something. So when he needs to go activate a control in a flooded area, he hands Woolsey a gun and says, "If something is coming, then it isn't me. Don't call out to it. Shoot it."
  • In Defiance we find out that Nolan's nickname when he was a soldier in the Pale Wars was "No Man's Land" because he tended to be trigger happy and shoot anything that moved in the no man's land between the two armies. He has since gotten better.

  • "Trigger Happy" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, in the style of a jaunty Beach Boys tune.
    Come on and grab your ammo,
    What have you got to lose?
    We'll get all liquored up
    And shoot at anything that moves!
  • "The Hunting Song" by Tom Lehrer, in which the singer goes out to hunt deer, but bags two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.
    People ask me how I do it,
    And I say there's nothing to it.
    You just stand there looking cute,
    And when something moves, you shoot.
  • 99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons by Nena has World War III happen over a misunderstanding caused by helium balloons, with both sides either being too hysterical or trigger-happy to double-check the facts.

    Newspaper comics 
  • In The Boondocks, Riley is a fan of accusing people of this.
    Riley: "[The NRA] got this thing where you just go out and kill everything you see. They call it hunting."

  • In Sega Pinball's Starship Troopers, clearing out a planet requires killing all of the Bugs there. The number and type varies according to the planet.

  • In the Film Reroll version of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (which, to put it mildly, diverges somewhat from the plot of the film), the climactic sequence involves E.T. and another member of his species leading a group of human marines to infiltrate a hostile alien warship. The marines are instructed that to be on the safe side they should shoot anyone they meet who isn't human or a member of E.T.'s species. The roleplayers who are being the marines follow this instruction with gusto, not always to the benefit of their mission.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: The mentality of a few of the players, namely TT 2000, who has made it his explicit goal to kill everything on the field.
    • The hostile faction will attack anything. Including whoever summoned it.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Company of Heroes: "Get out! Fire at anything! Fire at everything!" ~ Volksgrenadier sargeant exiting a troop transport while under fire
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars: One of the "closing in on enemy" quotes for NOD's Militant Rocket Squads is "If it moves, kill it!". While not an exact quote, it's still very similar.
  • In Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, the main character is initially given a laundry list of objectives, before complaining about it. His Voice with an Internet Connection then gives him a new, simpler objective, which is the trope word for word.
  • Clicking the "Story" button on the menu of Kill Monty brings up the words "SHOOT EVERYTHING" in massive letters.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Mentioned on the jungle world of Dxun, home to some reconstituted Mandalorian Clans (Proud Warrior Race Barbarian Tribe (In Space). Specifically, the Mandalorian quartermast Kex says:
    The only advice I'll give you when you're in the jungle, shoot anything that moves. Then shoot the things that don't move, just to be sure.
  • The developer commentary in Left 4 Dead uses the phrase several times... chiefly when describing how certain Special Infected were designed to make players avert the trope.
  • What happens when you call in the Rabbit team in Lobotomy Corporation. It causes an entire department to immediately lock down, trapping everyone inside it, and send in mercenaries that start firing at everything within said department, no matter whether it's an employee, a clerk or a breaching Abnormality.
  • The Official Strategy Guide to MechWarrior 2 actually had the advice "If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't move, shoot it until it moves, then apply rule 1."
    • The first mission of MechWarrior 4s'' campaign began with this.
      Peter Dresari: Move in fast, and vaporize anything that isn't a rock.
      Casey Nolan: Except each other, that is.
      Peter: Yes, except each other.
  • The Combine Snipers in Half-Life 2 are this to the point that they don't just hit Resistance members or zombies, they also shoot at reprogrammed rollermines and even crows. Justified, since they're brainwashed cyborgs.
  • In Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, Gunnery Sergeant Jack Lauton tells Corporal Joseph Griffin to get the back of the truck full of explosives "And shoot anything that moves. It's gonna be a bumpy ride."
  • In Metro: Last Light, The Rangers of the Order's Codex explicitly states "if it's hostile, you kill it". It harkens back to Metro 2033, when it was Hunter's motto (he was a Ranger).
  • When the eponymous duo from the first Ratchet and Clank game intercept a message from Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman Drek to his troops, they see that his instructions to them in regard to the invasion of a city were as follows:
    • 1) Destroy everything that moves.
    • 2) Steal the power generators from Gorda City
    • 3) Destroy everything that doesn't move.
    • 4) Oh, and don't forget! Have fun.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line, this is used to illustrate how the originally proper and professional Cpt. Walker has gone off the deep end, becoming a murder happy Blood Knight.
    Adams: So, how we gonna do this?
    Walker: Kill everything that fuckin' moves.
    Adams: Sounds like a plan.
  • Syndicate Wars was usually played using point and click, selective attacking - but you had the ability to pump your agents full of psychotropic drugs that would either make them auto-attack anything with a weapon, or just anything that moves and is within combat range. Not usually useful, but spectacular with the right weapons.
  • Team Fortress 2: enemy players of the Spy class can disguise as your teammates, but real teammates are Friendly Fireproof. Thus, the easiest way to check for Spies is to just shoot everyone.
  • In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, one of the round-starting lines for the S.A.S. is "Remember, this is bandit country—shoot everything that moves." Inevitably some players take this as a challenge.
  • Quite obviously, the whole point of the game If It Moves, Shoot it!.
  • The rules in the Instructions section of the original Jazz Jackrabbit are "Run like the wind", "If it moves, shoot it" and "If it doesn't move, take it!".
  • Evil Genius: Normally it's better to social-fu incoming agents into submission, then capture anyone with a heat rating, releasing them from the cage only in the name of either torturing them to death or using them to gain XP for your henchmen. However, there are three buttons on the interface that control the alert setting. The green one involves everyone going around unarmed. The yellow has workers and combat minions carry guns, but not use them unless ordered to do so. The red? That's the instruction to engage anything not a minion or henchman on sight. It tends to be reserved for the endgame siege, where socialising stops being viable and the only remaining strategy is to kill indiscriminately.
  • Operation Wolf punishes this mentality. If you accidentally (or "accidentally") shoot a civilian or hostage, you will take damage.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising has the Big Bad Hades, who has temporarily teamed up with you due to an Aurum invasion, order his troops to "shoot anything that moves", as the enemy forces are a dangerous threat that could destroy the Earth, a rich source of souls for Hades. Of course, "anything that moves" can include you as well, mostly because that particular commander is a gigantic troll.
  • Warcraft III: The expansion sees Arthas enter a Nerubian tunnel where dwarves have taken refuge. One of them is heard saying "Shoot anything that shuffles or skitters!" (they don't know The Undead are joining in).

  • Exterminatus Now is fond of this approach.
    Virus: "What's going on?!"
    Harry: "Whatever it is, we'd better stop it!"
    Virus: "How?"
    Harry: "The only way we know how... kill everything that isn't us!"

    Web Original 
  • This is what the basic plan for the final battle of Shadowhunter Peril turned out to be. Yes there were battle strategies, yes their primary goal was to get the kids out of the city, but once that was ensured and a few of the multiple Big Bads were occupied, it turned into shoot-or-stab-anything-that-isn't-remotely-human-until-it-is-unrecognizable-chunks. and it worked quite well.
  • In The Thwomps, Mario wants to squish everyone, much to Luigi's annoyance.

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers: Animated, the orders Megatron gives during his Villainous Breakdown in the finale:
    Destroy the Autobots! Destroy the city! Destroy anything that's not me!!!
  • Kaeloo: When instructing Kaeloo, Stumpy and Quack Quack on what to do during his own new version of hide and seek, Mr. Cat explains that he counts to 100, they hide somewhere, and then he shoots everything that moves with a bazooka.
  • Earthworm Jim does this a lot. "EAT DIRT, EVERYONE IN THE VICINITY! AH-HAHAHAHAHA!"

    Real Life 
  • By some accounts, the U.S. designated "free-fire zones" in Vietnam, in which servicemembers were to consider all unidentified people as hostile, and shoot on sight. (If so, this would be a violation of The Laws and Customs of War.) Depicted in several Vietnam war movies.
  • In the first Gulf War, maps were divided into grid squares called killzones, and patrolled by allied aircraft, with orders to engage any military target. This led to friendly fire due to lack of information sharing between service branches and countries, the most well known instance being when an American A-10 destroyed two British IFVs, killing 9 soldiers.
  • US Marines General Chesty Puller is reported to have said "All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time."
  • There's a piece of conventional wisdom that goes, "If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't, shoot it just in case."
    • An alternate version from World War II. "If it moves, shoot it. If it screams in German, shoot it again!"
    • Another version: "If it moves, shoot it. If it stands still, salute it."
  • "When in doubt, empty your magazine." Unofficial slogan of the US Army.
  • Standard video game tactics: "If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't move, shoot it anyway. If it has a functioning brain, shoot it first. If it shoots back, run."
  • Operation Freedom Deal: "A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves." It didn't work.