Jack: Shoot the hostage.
Jack: Take her out of the equation. Go for the good wound and he can't get to the plane with her. Clear shot.
Harry: You're deeply nuts, you know that? "Shoot the hostage"... jeez...
A sufficiently skilled hero will just Shoot the Hostage Taker. If the hero is less skilled but relatively nice, they'll just shoot the hostage in the leg, either to stop the bad guy from being able to take them with him or just to get them out of the way so they have a clean shot. If the hero is a particularly dark Anti-Hero or on a revenge-fueled bender, they might just shoot the bad guy through the hostage (and then possibly regret it later).
As a note, this is definitely not a good idea in real life. A shot in the leg or arm can be fatal, especially if the shot hits a major artery, and the time between the shooting and presumable paramedic arrival on-scene/transport to hospital takes as long as it seems to in most movies. So this usually wouldn't work in reality.
If a hero tries to use a hostage, there's a high chance the Big Bad will do this - without bothering to go for a non-lethal shot. This makes taking a hostage highly ineffective against villains, unless you know they really do care about the person or still need them. If the hostage happens to be a Hostage MacGuffin, shooting them is the quickest way for an Anti-Hero to solve a problem. And if a hero or villain deliberately target the hostage first for the sake of torturing his enemies, this is Revenge by Proxy. If the hostage is shot by someone that's not the one holding the hostage, or the one faced with the choice, see Making the Choice for You.
Also see Hostage Spirit Link, a form of Video Game Cruelty Punishment where the health and/or fighting ability of the player is diminished if he decides to put a bullet through the hostage's head instead of saving them. Kill the Host Body is a variant of this trope in which the hostage taker is an entity possessing the hostage.
WARNING: High risk of spoilers.
- In Akumetsu, when Perfect One fires into the researcher to kill Jinguuji but his aim is so perfect that the bullet does not pierce any of her vital organs, leaving her alive and still kicking while Jinguuji bites the big one.
- In the second Case Closed movie we see Ran's father once shot her mother for this reason, although it took Ran and the police officer who told her about it a while to figure out he was anything other than a bad shot. Actually this was made to save them, as the trauma of being shot at makes the hostage dead weight, to where the criminal will often just let the hostage go rather than struggle to carry them.
- In the same movie, Conan shoots Ran in the leg for exactly the same reasons. Both merely just grazed them.
- Dragon Ball: Goku once faced a villain who held a hostage who told Goku not to care about his life. However, the hostage had a change of mind once Goku made it clear he'd respect the hostage's "request".
- In Dragon Ball GT, during an attempt to stop Super 17's rampage, Pan and Giru manage to block Dr. Gero and threaten him with death. Sadly, because Dr. Myuu secretly modified Hell Fighter 17 in order to make him respond to his and his only orders, Super 17 doesn't recognize Gero as his boss anymore. Which leads to Gero's death at the hand of one of his creations.
- The manga of Elfen Lied plays around with this for the Cute Clumsy Girl secretary Kisaragi at the beginning. Initially, Kurama wanted to save her but realized that he would have to perform a Heroic Sacrifice that may end up saving her. Lucy instead pops off her head after this sad moment and the army with Kurama ends up shooting through her anyway even though it doesn't work.
- Gunslinger Girl. Terrorist leader Dante is using Rico's handler Jean as a Human Shield, knowing that the cyborgs are brainwashed to protect their handler at all costs. Earlier however Jean made it clear that both their lives were expendable in order to kill Dante (Dante had planted the car bomb that killed Jean's parents, little sister, and fiancee), so Rico fires a 20mm anti-material shell through her handler's chest after Jean orders her to fire regardless.
- In HeartCatch Pretty Cure!, one Desertarian captures Cure Marine and traps her within her watery body. When Cure Blossom prepares her Pink Forte Wave to revert the monster, Cure Marine freaks as she'll be hit with the attack to. Thankfully, Pretty Cure magic is actually purification magic and all that happens is that Cure Marine feels very calmed and relaxed.
- Hellsing: Alucard shoots a villain through the hostage, Seras. Then turns the dying Seras into a vampire with her permission. The amount of permission varies between the first anime, the OVA and the manga.
- In the first anime, Alucard warns Seras ahead of time (using telepathy so the villain can't hear them) and asks for permission to take the shot and vampirize her, and takes the shot when she agrees.
- In the OVA and manga he just asks her if she's a virgin. When she screams "Yes!" he takes the shot (in the Hellsing universe, vampires can only be made by drinking the blood of a virgin member of the opposite sex), then offers to turn her while she's dying.
- The manga also has a page where Seras is training some of the mortal redshirts in the Hellsing Organization and frustrated at their inability to hit targets just 500 meters away she demonstrates by grabbing a gun and casually nails the targets. Then their commander notes that she hit the simulated hostages too.
- In Isuca, a tree demon uses a girl as a shield. While Sakuya and Shinichiro try to figure out what to do, Suseri emotionlessly launches her Razor Wind attack which injures the girl and kills the demon. When the others call her out on it, Suseri says it's her job to slay demons, not save people, and besides, they can simply use a healing spell to fix the girl up.
- Early in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, a man possessed by Angelo's Stand holds a woman at knifepoint and threatens to kill her if anyone tries to attack him. Josuke solves this by punching a hole through the woman to get to the crook. It helps that Josuke's Crazy Diamond Stand can instantly restore anything to its original state, so the woman is unharmed. He uses the same tactic later to remove the Stand from his mother's body.
- In Mazinkaiser SKL, Misty's Psyco Gear is grabbed by two enemy mechs. When the pilot of one mech jumps onto hers with intent to assault her(yes, right there in the middle of a battle), Fudou simply cleaves through all three mechs with his sword(and steps on the offending pilot for good measure).
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn when the crew of the Nahel Argama learns that one of the refugees they rescued is actually Mineva Lao Zabi, the fugitive princess of Zeon, they try to use her as a hostage against the Neo-Zeons attacking them. Resident Char Clone Full Frontal coldly informs them that, princess or not, their current mission is worth far more than the life of one girl and orders his men to open fire anyway. Possibly a Take That! to a similar incident in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED where the antagonists did back down from putting their princess' life at stake.
- In Naruto, "revenge-fueled bender" version which cements Sasuke as an Anti-Villain. When Danzo takes Karin hostage, Sasuke shoots a Chidori blade through both of them, hitting Danzo in the heart. Sasuke then tells her if she's getting taken hostage, that makes her nothing but a burden.
- Earlier during the Chunin exam, Ino takes possession of Kin and claims to her partners Dosu and Zaku that if they kill her, Kin would die with her. Ino has to undo her jutsu and go back to her body when the two make clear they don't care.
- One Piece: The CP9 Agent Rob Lucci's backstory includes him being sent to deal with pirates that had taken 500 of a country's soldiers hostage. As Lucci is a One-Man Army, he could have immediately beaten all the pirates himself, with few of the soldiers dying. Instead, he lets the pirates catch him so he'll be taken to the hostages. Once there, he kills them all himself, reasoning that those soldiers failed to protect their country and thus were worthless (even evil). After that, he kills all the pirates as well.
- Lina Inverse of Slayers doesn't just shoot the hostage, she launches a Dragon Slave at the both of them.
- In Sword of the Stranger, when the Chinese learn that the daimyo has kidnapped one of their own to find out what they're up to, they kidnap the daimyo. When the daimyo's general and his samurai attack, the Chinese use the daimyo as a hostage, thinking this will dissuade the samurai army. However, the daimyo's general is a Dragon Ascendant, who surprises the Chinese by ordering an archer to shoot the daimyo before opening battle.
- Tokyo Ghoul uses this trope to illustrate several points, in an unexpected manner. When an elderly woman gets caught in the middle of a fierce battle between Investigators and a ghoul, they immediately fear her being used as a hostage. Hachikawa decides to take this approach, shooting at the "old hag" since he considers killing Irimi more important. Irimi surprises everyone — including herself — by shielding the old woman and is mortally wounded in the process. Afterwards, Hirako and Kuramoto are deeply shaken by seeing a Ghoul value a human life more than an Investigator tasked with protecting humans.
- A stabby variant is shown in this short story on Magic: The Gathering's website. Skipping to the end, Iizuka the Ruthless, ronin warlord, finds his son being held as a human shield by a bandit leader. Iizuka resolves the situation by skewering them both — he can have more children, after all — then orders his men to the attack.
- In Avengers Academy, Marauder attacks the team, then tries to take a hostage once the instructors show up. Unfortunately for him, the hostage he grabbed was Boulder, whose only power is being Nigh-Invulnerable. The instructors have absolutely no problem opening fire- end result, Marauder is taken down and Boulder is completely unscathed.
- While escaping from Devil's Island in Combat Kelly and his Deadly Dozen #5, Laurie takes the commandant Major Strasser hostage, but Sgt. Schoen shoots Strasser dead so the escapees can't exploit him.
- The second arc of Copperhead climaxes when Sheriff Bronson takes Nestor hostage to confront Nestor's brother Zolo. Outgunned, Zolo shoots Nestor to spare him from the justice system.
- In an early issue of Marvel's G.I. Joe run, the Joes take Cobra Commander hostage to escape his hideout. Colonel Brekhov of the rival Oktober Guard shoots Cobra Commander to prevent the Joes from escaping. It turns out though CC was a body-double and the heroes get to get away anyway.
- Seen in the comic book Green Arrow, where it only helps the protagonist. Assassin Constantine Drakon had shown the ability to catch arrows mid-flight, no matter how many were shot at him at once. Then he took not-yet-superheroine Mia Dearden hostage. Green Arrow Connor Hawke just shot him through her shoulder.
- Early in The Maxx, the villain Mr. Gone takes a hostage, threatening to kill them if Maxx didn't give up. Maxx proceeded to crush the hostage's head. It turned out it was just a mannequin, but neither of them knew that.
Mr. Gone: (outraged) You killed my hostage... you killed my hostage. YOU KILLED MY HOSTAGE!! (blam) Never... do... that... again.
- In the comic book series Preacher, during the Saint of Killer's Start of Darkness miniseries, the man who doomed the Saint's family takes a prostitute hostage. The Saint shoots and kills her to get her out of the way... Expending his last bullet in the process and leaving him incapable of finishing off the villains, who promptly kill the Saint in return. And then there's the little issue about spilling innocent blood, which cements his damnation.
- The trope illustration is from Quantum and Woody #4. Afterwards, Woody explains to the stunned girl that he shot her with a harmless blood capsule to distract the hostage-taker, then asks her out for a date.
- In Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven, the Kid is face to face with Big Bad Cresto Pike, who is holding two hostages in front of him: Wyatt Earp, and the Kid's father. Without hesitation, he shoots them down non-lethally before fatally shooting Cresto. He's a Western hero, he has Improbable Aiming Skills as a matter of course.
- In one issue of Those Annoying Post Bros, the original Caroline is kidnapped, in spite of that fact that Professor Ed made thousands of clones of her to prevent that. Henry tries to rescue her. When he fails, Ron Post just kills her instead.
- In one issue of Ultimate X-Men, Magneto grabs Havok to use as a hostage to force the X-Men to stand down. Cyclops doesn't hesitate for a second to fire an optic blast through Havok to hit Magneto. Of course, as brothers, Cyclops and Havok are naturally immune to each other's powers, so Magneto takes the full force of the hit while Havok is unscathed.
- Another issue inverts the trope by having Cyclops himself taken hostage. He shoots Colossus, bounces the beam off of him, and knocks out the gunman.
- In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, this is indoctrinated by the good guys. A baddie got your medic hostage? Shoot through him.
- In Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin, this is Bellatrix/Delphini's approach caused by residual influence of Miss Demeanour.
- In the MLP/Green Lantern crossover In Brightest Day, Rainbow Dash pulls this on Gilda when Black Lantern Mitta attempts to use her as a meat-shield, but it's immediately subverted when Rainbow Dash reveals that she blasted her with a Ring Construct to turn her into a Red Lantern.
- Done in A Mission For Harper, after Harper gives a rather inspiring speech how he did always want to shoot the hostage.
- In Scarlet Lady, Scarlet doesn't actively hurt hostages, but she's entirely apathetic about whether or not the Akuma of the Week kills them, because her World-Healing Wave can resurrect the dead. Even using her "love" interest Adrien doesn't faze her- if she can save him after the Akuma throws him off the Eiffel Tower, then great, a romantic moment! If not, oh well, and she's sure he'll appreciate her sacrifice in allowing him to die for the greater good.
- Tales of Karmic Lies Aftermath uses this for a dramatic climax to The Movie Ladybug: Miraculous Journey. After an akuma takes her own daughter hostage, Chat Noir saves the girl, then immediately threatens to kill her himself with his Cataclysm to see if that makes the akuma balk and back down. Chat Noir assumes that Death Is Cheap since his partner can restore everything with her Miraculous Cure, unaware that the hostage is Ladybug, and understandably unhappy with his willingness to murder a civilian.
- ADMIRAL Awesome does this to signify the beginning of his journey from Anti-Hero to Nominal Hero in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure.
- Bitterroot kills a hostage to cut a hostage situation short in Urban Wilds. The catch? She's the hostage. Her necromancer friend resurrects her later.
- Artemis Fowl once had Butler shoot his own father in order to trick the Russian Mafiya. Of course, it wasn't a real bullet — it was a fairy capsule designed as a fire extinguisher, filled with his own blood. Unfortunately, the mafiya ended up throwing the man into the Arctic water anyways...
- The ultra-violent spy novel series COBRA, by Joseph R. Rosenberger, includes an installment in which the protagonist, Jon Skul, along with an ally, willingly shoot and kill a woman being used as a human shield in order to kill the mook holding her. The book in question somewhat lampshades the scenario by having the mook appear confident that the "good guys" would not shoot an innocent, at which point Skul and his ally exchange a look and then open fire.
- In the first novel of The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, Sheb uses Roland's lover, Allie as a shield and hostage. Roland kills her out of pure instinct; his trained hands react quicker than his mind. Changed in the revised edition.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
- In Monstrous Regiment, Sergeant Jackrum shoots at an enemy soldier holding Lieutenant Blouse hostage, taking off a bit of Blouse's ear in the process. Jackrum's unnervingly casual about it... "Wouldn't be the first officer I've killed, neither..."
- At the end of Hogfather. Susan ends up with the Big Bad hiding behind her elderly grandfather. She's armed with a poker from the fireplace. She hurls it through her grandfather and into Teatime. Makes more sense given her grandfather is somewhat thin.
- Eldraeverse: The Empire of the Star's policy concerning hostage situations is to bombard the site from orbit and restore the hostage from backup.
- The Executioner. In "Bloodsport", Bolan is up against a terrorist group led by twins Thomas and Tanya Morganslicht. Tanya is the dominant one of the pair, so Bolan takes her hostage to make her brother abandon their Evil Plan. Instead, Thomas shoots her dead on the spot.
- In Exile's Honor, Alberich is training battle/bodyguards for then-Princess Selenay and knows that she's more likely to be taken hostage than just killed. We don't get to see that session, but he fully intends to teach the guards to shoot Selenay in the leg if this happens, because it will slow down her captors. (Being an intelligent man, he plans to save that lesson for a time when Selenay is not present.)
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Xomat takes Elodie hostage against Daur. Daur declares his indifference and that he just might shoot Xomat through Elodie — which distracts him enough for Daur to get off a headshot. Elodie is muchly upset; Daur tries arguing before resorting to a "Shut Up" Kiss — their First Kiss.
- The Hunger Games: President Coin orders a bombing attack on children being used as human shields by President Snow — and makes it appear that the attack was initiated by Snow, in order to destroy any remaining public support for Snow's regime. Sadly, especially for Katniss, Prim is among these.
- In Kris Longknife: Intrepid, religious extremists try to crash a passenger liner with 5,000 passengers into a planet to start a war between the Peterwalds' and Longknifes' blocs of planets. The Peterwalds' Secret Police suggest shooting out the reactor and destroying the ship, but Kris and her team prefer to attempt a long-shot plan to shoot out some of the liner's engines and cause it to miss. Due to unforeseen circumstances, destroying the engines causes the ship's fuel water tanks to burst, which destroys the reactor and the ship anyway.
- The Tie-In Novel Monk novel Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu has one. The temperamental detective Mad Jack Wyatt threatens to shoot through Monk after Charlie Herrin tries to use Monk as a human shield. Afterwards, Monk congratulates him on his "bluff", but he wasn't bluffing — he always shoots the hostage.
- In David Drake's RCN novel What Distant Deeps, Adele forces a squadron of Alliance warships to surrender by blowing up a ship full of hostages (which had been taken by the Alliance from a newly captured planet to ensure the local government's cooperation). This is to prove that she can and will destroy their ships if they refuse to surrender. When called out on this by Lieutenant Vesey, her sociopathic Battle Butler Tovera points out that the ship would have been crewed by the Fifth Bureau, and their standing procedure is to space all the hostages themselves before surrendering, to ward off rescue attempts.
- In the Saga Of The Noble Dead book The Dog in the Dark, Leesil does this to save Captain Bassett. Since it's a high fantasy world, he does it with a thrown stiletto rather than a gun, but the principle is the same.
- Variant in one of the Star Trek: New Frontier books, in which maverick captain Mackenzie Calhoun takes The Kobayashi Maru test. His response to the no-win scenario in which your ship must face an unbeatable number of Klingon warships in order to rescue a civilian ship... is to destroy the civilian ship. Calhoun reasoned that either the Maru's crew was already dead, or they would be Klingon prisoners after he lost the hopeless fight, an idea to which death would be preferable. The other possibility was that they had turned traitor and were collaborating with the Klingons to trap his ship.
- This was likely inspired by a sequence in Star Trekker, a parody manga briefly published in the early '90s by Antarctic Press until Paramount came down like a mountain on them. In that case, the resulting explosion crippled the nearby Klingon cruisers. The (Japanese) captain was ordering a follow up strike to take advantage of the Klingons' momentary confusion when Admiral Kirk himself kills the simulation and walks in to dress down the captain. She, in turn, explains succinctly that as Klingons do not take prisoners and saving the vessel was a clear impossibility, priority had to be given to saving her own ship...which Kirk dismissed, but later we see that it was really more a matter of him not wanting anyone else to win the simulation.
- Star Wars Legends:
- In The Han Solo Trilogy, Han attracts the attention of local authorities on Coruscant when trying to access a bank account that had been flagged. He takes a bank manager hostage in order to escape. The Stormtroopers' response? Shoot the bank manager.
- In the first book of the Legacy of the Force series, a terrorist is holding a room full of people hostage. He wears an explosive belt and has strapped one of the hostages to himself to act as an Human Shield. Jacen Solo arrives at the scene and pretends to negotiate with the terrorist. He then turns to the unfortunate Human Shield, gently asks what his name is, appears to try calming the frightened man... then he says "I'm sorry" and activates the explosives himself. When called out for it, Jacen just replies that the only way he could save the other hostages and neutralize the terrorist was to let that single man die.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- In The Vor Game, Miles Vorkosigan threatened to shoot the hostage, in order to turn a hostage situation around, and make it the hostage taker's problem.note
- Roic actually does shoot a hostage in Cryoburn...with a stunner. The hostage is fine, just somewhat scared. It wasn't an option in the case above because the hostage-taker had Power Armor.
- On another occasion in the series, "stunner tag" isn't an option because stunners are explicitly only less-lethal weapons and one of the hostages has advanced heart disease and likely wouldn't survive being stunned.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Faith and Fire, the Back Story tells of Saint Celestine and how a soldier serving her was once taken hostage. He shouted for her to kill the enemy anyway, and she threw her spear. He was mortally wounded — but didn't die, in the Miracle of the Wound. The religious ceremonies at the beginning of the novel are in honor of this miracle.
- In Legend of the Five Rings, a Scorpion Clan woman did it too. After seducing a Crane Clan bushi to let her into the castle where her children were held (against his explicit orders), she killed her own children, pointed out she not only could have more kids but was was pregnant with his child... So he committed seppuku.
- This trope doesn't work so well if the hostage is a powerful mage capable of casting a Lightning Bolt that can incinerate both hostage-taker and shooter, as Meji, the protagonist of Errant Story, demonstrates.
- In Flip Side, when a knight Bernadette humiliated by kicking his ass in front of the knight council gets ahold of the magic crazy-making super-power-giving collar-outfit-thing and goes after her in a bar, and then tries to use her as a human shield when Maytag shows up, Maytag makes it very, very clear that she will kill Bernadette herself rather than allow Bernadette to be raped and murdered. And, despite the fact one of her main skills is bluffing, Maytag is perfectly serious. Luckily, she wins.
- In The Handbook of Heroes comic "Hostage Crisis", Witch takes Elf Princess hostage. Inquisitor resolves the situation by simply stabbing through them both. Resurrection magic exists in this world, after all.
- Homestuck: the heroic Dirk Strider is being held at swordpoint by the villainous Lord Jack, who is in turn being held at swordpoint by the semi-villainous Spades Slick. The heroic Dave Strider decapitates all three with a single sword stroke. In this case, the heroes have an ally with resurrection powers.
- Darreon in Lucky Dawg tries to taunt the 4 Horsemen Of Alliance with a Sadistic Choice - he will kill a little girl unless one of them will take her place. However, the 4 Horsemen, being assholes, just kill his hostage. Too bad for them, Darreon was looking for a hero to fight, not somebody like them, so he slaughters them in a very brutal way.
- Part Five of the Team Fortress 2 comic series has Miss Pauling held hostage by the ''TF Classic'' Demoman at one point. Zhanna decks the TFC Demo... by clocking Miss Pauling in the face. It's not shooting the hostage, but it's the same idea.note
- In Tower of God, near the end of the Workshop Battle, Reflejo is holding Hwaryun hostage when fighting against Bam, Khun and Rak, and uses her as a human shield. Khun stabs her. Subverted: he even says killing the hostage would be more his style, but not today (basically because Bam is his Morality Pet and makes him be nice), and anyway, he just got a magic knife with the power that stabbing someone in the heart with it causes them to vanish and be contained within the knife.
- In the Round Robin story Collisions (relevant hostage shooting scene here), the Ridiculously Human Robot with Improbable Aiming Skills is forced into a Mirror Match with her Trigger Happy future self, with her Love Interest stuck in the middle as the hostage. Of all the options she could have taken, she picks this one (it happens to be the s.o.p. of the organization that she works for)—but it ends up working in her favor because her future self flies into a murderous rage and charges at her guns blazing, the hostage forgotten.
- Inferno Cop's titular character was confronted with this issue once. It wasn't out of pragmatism; he was just so outraged at his opponents being willing to take a hostage that he opened fire. Keep in mind, his bullets are Made of Explodium.
- In Worm, Weaver shoots and kills a hostage held by the Slaughterhouse Nine, because the hostage-a toddler-was otherwise destined for a Fate Worse than Death, and because there was a chance that the child would experience a Traumatic Superpower Awakening and cause The End of the World as We Know It.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Boiling Rock- Part 2," Sokka, Zuko, Suki, and Hakoda are breaking out of the eponymous prison, which is located on an island in a boiling lake inside the caldera of a volcano. Prisoners and staff are transported in and out via a tram. Sokka and Hakoda plan to hijack the tram with a hostage and simply ride to freedom. Suki points out that the warden will still cut the line, and Sokka's response is "Not if the warden is the hostage." Unfortunately for them, the warden lives up to the claim he'd made in the first partnote and orders his subordinates to cut the line.
- In the Beast Wars episode "The Low Road". Of course, they all heal injuries regularly, and the hostage in question has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder at best.
Dinobot: (holding Tarantulas) Do not fire, Megatron! I have a hostage!
Megatron: Why, so you do. *Fires*
- Code Lyoko featured a situation where the team leader, Jeremie, ordered Odd to shoot a teammate to force XANA to free her from mind control. Considering that teammate was Aelita, who's both Jeremie's best friend and his love interest, this took some serious guts.
- Then again, Aelita would have died if they hadn't threatened to kill her, so this becomes a bit of Taking You with Me, rather than sheer guts.
- In one of the final episodes of The Legend of Korra, the heroes manage to capture Bataar Jr, fiance of Kuvira, the season's Big Bad, and try to use him to convince her to give up on conquering Republic City. Kuvira tells Bataar over the radio "I love you" (probably intended to be the last thing he heard her say) before turning the arm-mounted cannon on her mile-high mecha on the warehouse where he's being held and firing.
- Real-life law enforcement often uses non-lethal weapons in hostage situations for this very reason, amongst others.
- During the Beslan school hostage crisis involving 1,200+ hostages (including over 700 children), one of the children managed to slip out a window, but was so traumatized and disoriented by the ordeal that she ended up wandering around into everyone's line of fire. According to a Military Channel documentary on the Russian Spetsnaz commandos, some of the commandos seriously considered shooting the girl in the leg in order to keep her still and prevent her from being killed outright by the increasingly erratic and panicky hostage-takers, who had already executed numerous hostages.
- According to some accounts, as many as 80% of the hostages who died were not executed by the terrorists but were killed by indiscriminate fire (including with heavy weapons like tanks and rocket launchers) from the Russian military, who were widely accused of not caring about rescuing anybody, just about killing the terrorists.
- A similar situation occurred with the Moscow theater hostage crisis. With the terrorists taking up heavily fortified positions and having planted explosives, the Russian authorities concluded that a conventional assault would be practically a suicide attack. They instead pumped some sort of gas into the theater. While this managed to disable the terrorists to the point that the Russian authorities were able to eliminate them with minimal casualties, the gas ended up killing 100-300 of the hostages, depending on which source you believe. Once again, the Russian government was heavily criticized for prioritizing killing the terrorists and saving face over worrying about the hostages' safety.
- Most prisons will politely inform visitors that they have a 'no hostage' policy. Whether this extends to simply not negotiating for your release or full-on not caring if you're the human shield is never really detailed.
- Some prisons, especially high-security ones, in the event of a riot or breakout attempt, typically state that guards are expendable in these circumstances. If it's a choice between shooting through the guard and letting the prisoner escape, they'll shoot through the guard. Other prisons work to avoid the trope by making sure the grounds are covered from at least two angles such that covering one opens you to another.
- In certain high-security areas in the military, the guards have the standing order:
"There is no such thing as a hostage, only a shield you will shoot through. If you are taken captive, you will notify the guard before you pass him."
- In 1920s China, a British submarine captain was faced with the dilemma of letting a hijacked river steamer escape, or allowing the pirates to kill their hostages. He opted to sink the ship.