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Shoot the Hostage Taker

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Frank Reagan: Get your hands off my daughter.
Erin Reagan: Dad.
Dick Reed: You just try it— [Frank shoots Reed between the eyes]
Blue Bloods, "Re-Do"

A villain uses a hostage as a Human Shield to deter the hero from attacking them and compel the hero to give in to their demands. Unfortunately for the villain, a human shield can only protect so much, and areas like the villain's head or arms are still exposed. This allows the hero or a third party to just shoot one of those areas instead (usually the head) and save the hostage anyway. The Gunslinger and the Cold Sniper are the most likely to attempt this strategy, whereas the By-the-Book Cop usually will not.

In real life, there are several reasons the police don't try this. Putting aside the difficulty of hitting only the hostage taker, even an on-target shot may fail to incapacitate the criminal fast enough. Such a shot can even cause them to discharge their weapon due to the hostage taker involuntarily squeezing whatever they're holding onto. And if that thing is a gun, they may end up shooting the hostage after all.

A common form is for the hostage taker to get out about half a sentence of Put Down Your Gun and Step Away before the No-Nonsense Nemesis headshots him.

Often involves Improbable Aiming Skills. A more specific form of Aggressive Negotiations. Can backfire and turn into Shoot the Hostage and, in turn, One-Hit Polykill.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A hostage situation in Cat's Eye is solved by threatening to do this: as soon as the hostage taker walks out of the building he has taken refuge in, Hirano shoots five rounds around his head and tells him it is very easy to kill him even with the Human Shield, at which point the criminal is too scared to stand up (and possibly keep his bladder control), let alone keep the hostage.
  • It occurs so frequently in Chainsaw Man with Denji that it may as well be a Running Gag. Every time a Devil tries to hold someone hostage to get him to stand down, it just motivates him to charge at the Devil even harder while proclaiming that he doesn't give a damn about who they're threatening.
  • At one point in City Hunter, a villain who took a girl hostage in a restaurant tried to defy the trope by standing in front of the restaurant's window; that way, shooting the hostage taker would inevitably lead to the bullet going through him and hitting someone on the busy street behind him. Ryo manages to pull off the trope anyway by shooting through his own hand to slow the bullet down.
  • Cowboy Bebop:
  • Full Metal Panic!:
    • In one episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Sōsuke is being chased by an angry mob of students and holds a knife to an old lady's throat, only to get instantly knocked out by a jar hurled by Kaname.
    • In Dancing Very Merry Christmas, the light novel taking place after The Second Raid, Sōsuke headshots the enemy leader when he takes Tessa hostage. Tessa notes sadly to herself that Sōsuke wouldn't have dared risk the shot if Kaname had been the hostage instead.
    • Sōsuke takes Tessa hostage in order to deliberately provoke Casper to do this in Approaching the Nick of Time. Unable to fire his AS's weapons without killing them both, Casper chooses to shoot Sousuke by hand, which requires him to open the AS's cockpit to aim, thus leaving him open to Kurz's Last Breath Bullet.
  • Golgo 13 follows the exploits of the world's best sniper, and though he's often employed as an assassin, he's also frequently hired by governments to deal with extraordinary hostage situations. The story "At Pin-Hole!", in particular, shows him being hired to snipe a hijacker holding a plane hostage, as officials aren't confident the normal SWAT snipers can penetrate the cockpit windows and still take out the hijacker before he detonates a bomb.
  • Lupin III: The Secret of Twilight Gemini: Invoked by the Elder, when Jean Pierre attempts to pull his villainous exit, by taking Lara hostage, along with her half of the Twilight as leverage, to ensure no one got the Geltic treasure. It didn't work.
  • In the first episode of Lycoris Recoil, Takina opens fire on arms dealers who have taken her fellow Lycoris agent at gunpoint, using a belt-fed machine gun. She didn't particularly care if she had hit the Lycoris, though.
  • Vice tried doing this in the backstory of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, only for the hostage taker to turn at the last second, and the shot hit the hostage in the eye. Did we forget to mention that said hostage was Vice's little sister?
  • An episode of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars has Queen Nehelenia taking hold of Sailor Neptune while Sailor Mars aims her fire bow. Neptune insists Mars shoot them both, but Mars is able to pierce Nehelenia through the heart without hitting Neptune. It turns out to be a wasted effort, as they only destroyed one of Nehelenia's many fragments before passing out from exhaustion and being captured by the real thing.
  • TSUKIMICHI -Moonlit Fantasy-: When Tomoe and Mio effortlessly beat up his thugs, Mils grabs Toa and holds a knife to her throat and uses her as a shield. He starts giving demands, only to be shocked when Tomoe and Mio charge him without hesitation and take him out with a double Megaton Punch.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman solves a hostage situation by threatening to do this. It probably helps that the thug is new meat who doesn't know about Bats' "no killing" rule.
  • Judge Dredd has a specific bullet for this purpose. The Richochet round is often bounced off the wall behind the hostage taker and used to shoot them In the Back.
  • Justice: Alfred is brainwashed and holds Billy Batson hostage. Superman, who was weakened by kryptonite, throws a coffee mug at his head to knock him out.
  • The Punisher has little difficulty shooting people with human shields in the head.
  • In the first issue of The Savage Dragon, the hero is taking down a group of hostage takers, only for someone else to shoot the lead criminal: the vigilante known as Star.
  • The usual modus operandy of the titular detective from the Italian comic Kerry Kross. When other characters protests that this maneuver is dangerous as she could potentially hit or harm the hostage, but she retorts that it's the quickest solution.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Bishop shoots and kills the Fenris twins when they take Psylocke hostage.

    Fan Works 
  • In chapter seven of Bait and Switch Eleya has her away team's sniper, Lieutenant J.G. K'lak, set up on a hilltop with a vantage point over most of the village. A few minutes later she announces herself to a group of Orion Syndicate mooks and orders them to surrender. One of them grabs a 14-year-old girl and threatens to kill her, whereupon Eleya barks, "K'lak, take him!" into her combadge and the Klingon headshots the mook from behind.
  • Reapers Among Fairies: Minerva uses Millianna as a hostage and boasts that she has the advantage because Virtue Is Weakness. Ichigo simply uses a Flash Step to get right next to Minerva and stabs her to save her hostage.
  • Worm Grand Order: Billy the Kid intervenes with a train robbery and starts slaughtering the bad guys. Some of them grab civilians and try to use them as shields, but Billy casually shoots the bad guys in the head.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 48 Hrs.. The Big Bad is holding Reggie Hammond hostage. Jack Cates is advancing on them with a handgun. Reggie tells him to shoot the bad guy. When Cates does, no one is more shocked than Reggie.
  • The Accountant (2016). The title character is at a farm doing some shooting practise. Turns out hitmen are there holding the couple who own the farm at gunpoint. They get tired of waiting for their target, so take the woman out to the porch, with a hitman inside the house pointing a gun at her, and tell her to call out to him to come inside. Unfortunately the rifle the Accountant is using for casual target practise is a scope-mounted .50 Barrett anti-material rifle; he fires a single shot that goes through the wall and obliterates the hitman's head before he can pull the trigger.
  • The Archer: Lauren manages to shoot Bob in the chest at the climax despite him holding Rebecca hostage, and her having just been shot through one of her hands.
  • Asian Cop: High Voltage, an old Donnie Yen crime film, have Yen's character shooting the hostage taker during a stand-off scenario... through the hostage's arm. Which kills the villain while leaving the hostage alive, save for an arm in a sling.
  • During the Red Triangle Circus initial attack on Gotham Square in Batman Returns, a clown takes the future Catwoman hostage when Batman gets out of the Batmobile and threatens Selina with a taser. Batman fire his grapnel at the wall before the clown and, while the clown mocks him for "missing", rips a chunk of the wall out and smacks the clown in the back of the head with it.
  • Batman basically does this in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. To save Martha Kent from a flamethrower-wielding mook, he shoots the guy's flamethrower and then uses his (fireproof) cape to shield her from the ensuing explosion.
  • In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Nakia shots the Talokan solider holding Shuri hostage. The soldier’s death is one of the leading events to the attack Wakanda.
  • Played with in Copycat. M.J. shows off the Chekhov's Skill early in the film: shoot the hostage taker in the right place on his shoulder, the nerves go haywire, and they automatically drop the gun. Later, when she doesn't aim right and doesn't follow up with more shots, she's more or less directly responsible for her co-worker's death because the hostage taker immediately grabs the gun with his ''uninjured'' hand and shoots his hostage.
  • Discussed at the end in Cyberjack, where the terrorist bad guy Nassim, with all of his minions already dead, takes the female lead hostage and taunts the hero Nick to shoot him. They were in a similar situation years before when Nick was still a cop and Nassim took his partner hostage, only to attempt to kill them both when Nick complied with Nassim's demands and lowered his gun. Of course, this time around he shoots him for real.
  • Averted in De Slag Om De Schelde. There's a standoff between a German soldier holding a pistol to the head of the wounded Captain Turner, and one of his men who has a rifle pointed at the German. Even though Turner orders him to take the chance of firing, the two soldiers just keep shouting at each other to put down their weapon until the German's pistol goes off (apparently by accident) killing Turner.
  • In the first part of Dredd, Judge Dredd is faced with a fugitive holding a gun to a woman's head; When the suspect tries to negotiate with a "let me go or I blow her head off" ploy, Dredd hits him in the mouth with Abnormal Ammo that burns his head inside-out.
  • Sonny's partner Sal gets shot this way at the end of Dog Day Afternoon.
  • The second installment of The Elite Squad. During the raid in the Bangu prison, Fraga (the human rights negotiator) joins the rebel prisoners and voluntarily stands at gunpoint under Beirada's mercy just as the BOPE arrives. He begs for a ceasefire in order to avoid more killing. Officer Mathias lowers his gun and orders Beirada to drop his, and he obeys - only to get shot a split-second later. Much to Fraga's dismay and criticism of the left-wing media.
  • In The Fifth Element: After Korben takes out a few of his men, the lead Mangalore holds priest Cornelius hostage and threatens "One more shot, we start killing hostages! Send someone in to negotiate!" Korben's method of "negotiating" is to calmly walk in, Boom, Headshot! the leader, then ask "anyone else want to negotiate?" while waving his gun around at the rest.
  • In The Fugitive, there's a sequence where Marshal Gerard and his men track down one of the other fugitives from the train crash, who takes one of Gerard's men hostage. Gerard shoots him at close range, leaving his subordinate temporarily deaf from the gunshot but still alive.
  • In Godzilla vs. Megalon, Gigan has Jet Jaguar between his sharp hook hands to keep Godzilla away. Godzilla simply hits Gigan in the face with his atomic breath.
  • In Heat, Hanna takes out one of the villains with a headshot when the latter uses a little girl as a Human Shield after a bank robbery.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark raids an Afghan warlord to destroy the Jericho missiles that were illegally sold to him. A group of mooks grab a bunch of civilians and start yelling something at him in whatever language is used in the area (the gist is probably "drop your weapons or we start killing hostages"). Tony targets their heads with shoulder-mounted micromissiles and blows them all away at once, leaving the hostages unharmed.
  • Jack Reacher. A Dirty Cop is using a woman as a Human Shield, hiding behind her with a single eye showing, his backup revolver at her head, his issue Glock pointing at the only door that Jack Reacher can come through. Reacher, using an assault rifle with iron sights, steps into the doorway and fires a single shot that kills him. The woman is visibly in shock until Reacher puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
  • The thriller Malevolent (2002) culminates in the cop protagonist (Lou Diamond Philips) shooting the psycho rich kid who is obsessed with him between the eyes when the latter tries to escape with a hostage after a lengthy car chase.
  • The Matrix Reloaded: While fighting one of the Merovingian's albino ghost twins, Trinity is captured and held while being threatened with a straight razor. The albino orders Morpheus to Put Down Your Sword And Step Away. Morpheus shoots him in the head, which forces him to desolidify long enough for Trinity to escape.
  • Inverted in the 1984 film Night of the Comet: "I can't have you holding one of my people hostage." The person who says this line then unexpectedly kills the hostage, a lesser member of his post-apocalyptic gang, instead of the person holding him at gunpoint.
  • The Patriot (2000): Benjamin Martin rescues his son Gabriel from certain execution by slaughtering a band of around twenty British soldiers. The second-to-last soldier tries to use Gabriel as a human shield. Martin, who is wielding a tomahawk, simply takes a second to carefully aim and lobs the axe into the soldier's head.
  • RoboCop:
  • In Swashbuckler, Lord Durant attempts to escape from Lynch and his men by grabbing Jane and holding a knife to her throat. He backs towards the balcony, planning to get to the carriage that is waiting for him below. However, Lynch pegs him through the heart with a thrown sword.
  • In the Action Prologue of S.W.A.T. (2003), Gamble attempts this but hits the hostage. She survives and sues the city, and Gamble and his partner Street are thrown off the S.W.A.T. team.
  • In Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, one of Mr. Baek's assassin attempts to use Geum-ja's daughter Jenny as a Human Shield. Seriously bad move. Results in a Literal Disarming as she blows the hand holding the knife off at the wrist.
  • In Taken, the man who bought Bryan's daughter Kim as a Sex Slave holds a knife to her throat and says, "We can negoti—", but Bryan shoots him in the head. Mind you, this was after Bryan had already killed literally every man in his security detail. He would have had a better chance just giving her to him and pleading for mercy.
  • The opening rescue from Treasure Hunt features the leads (played by Chow Yun-fat, Michael Wong and an unnamed white guy who's Chow's partner) on a mission to rescue an ambassador. They managed to kill every mook in the scene, until the last one tries holding the ambassador as a shield. Unimpressed, Chow shoots the last mook in the shoulder, and as the released ambassador makes a run the trio proceeds to fill the last mook with all the bullets.
  • In True Lies, a bad guy uses Helen as a human shield while telling Tasker to drop his gun. Tasker drops the rifle in his left hand but reveals he has a handgun in his right hand, which he immediately uses to shoot the bad guy between the eyes. It prompts the 'I married Rambo' reaction from Helen.
  • At the climax of the Union Station shootout in The Untouchables (1987).
    Gangster: Me and the bookkeeper are walking out of here, getting into a car, and driving away. Or else he dies. He dies, and you ain't got nothing. You've got five seconds to make up your minds.
    Eliot Ness: [ignores the gangster, addresses Stone] You got him?
    Stone: [Stone is lying flat on his back, supporting a baby with one hand and holding a revolver in the other] Yeah, I got him.
    Gangster: One!
    Ness: Take him.
    Stone: [headshot] Two.
  • A different take in The Way of the Gun. Jeffers uses Painter as a Human Shield against Parker and Longbaugh. Painter breaks the Mexican Standoff by drawing a gun from his doctor's bag and killing Jeffers.

  • From the desk of Timothy Zahn, the writer who actually allows the Galactic Empire to be competent, we have the standalone Star Wars Legends novel Allegiance. Human Shield? Not a problem for a stormtrooper sniper; just shoot past the hostage's ear.
  • Forms a Moment of Awesome in The Alloy of Law, when Lord Waxillium Ladrian has to shoot the bad guy who is holding a gun to the head of his not-a-girlfriend. However, the villain is koloss-blooded, which means that only a perfect headsot will drop him before he can pull the trigger. Furthermore, he knows this and is holding the girl directly between his head and Wax's gun. Wax's solution? Shoot a bullet off to the side and then shoot the first bullet with a second bullet in midair, causing the bullet to curve around the girl's head and drop the villain. The stakes are rendered somewhat higher by the way this trope had been horribly subverted in the Prologue, when Wax's attempt at this had ended up killing his girlfriend after the hostage taker moved as right as he fired.
  • In The Arts of Dark and Light, Caitlys does this with her magic when a renegade priest takes Marcus hostage. Since she gets rather upset about such things, the spell she uses doesn't so much kill the evildoer as it destroys him.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, when The Mole takes Valerie hostage, he makes the mistake of doing so in front of Karyl, a man with nigh-supernatural aiming skills. Predictably, he's shot in an artery and bleeds to death.
  • In the prologue of Last Call by Tim Powers, the Big Bad uses his young son as a human shield when his wife threatens to shoot him, and finds out the hard way that holding a small child so that his head and chest are covered leaves his groin exposed.
  • In the McGurk Mysteries book "The Vanishing Ventriloquist", this scenario is achieved by newcomer Mari on her own kidnapper when the guy takes McGurk hostage. She even uses martial arts for the shooting, to great effect.
  • Shining Armor, a Space Western by Dominic Green opens with a Cool Old Guy practising his kata (as he does every morning) which concludes with him cutting several vegetables without damaging the rice paper they're resting on. Later on he climbs into a Giant Mecha to defend his village from mining company enforcers, one of whom grabs his daughter and holds a gun to his head. The mecha brings down one hand with such precision that he flattens the hostage taker's head while his daughter only suffers a wet dress.
  • Bazil Broketail:
    • Eilsa actively encourages Relkin to do it when Waakzaam takes her hostage and tries to force him and Bazil to surrender. It fails.
    • Dook ends up on the receiving end of this trope. When Bazil and Relkin board his ship, subdue his men and free the imprisoned dragons, Dook manages to take one of the hatchlings hostage and tries to escape with it, still determined to make money out of selling it. So Relkin, in desperation, just throws his dagger at Dook and kills him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Late in 24 Day 8, Jack needs to recover some information from Dana Walsh only to discover her being held hostage by one of the villain's main goons. The guy attempts to say "You're not gonna take the shot", but before he's even finished saying this, Jack shoots him in the head.
  • In the pilot of Alphas, Hicks is confronted with a villain holding Rachel hostage and ducking behind her in such a fashion that the shot was virtually impossible. The villain had prepared for this ahead of time and had planned to psych Hicks out so that he wouldn't be able to make the shot. Being as Hicks' ability essentially is perfect aim, he makes it by use of ricocheting the bullet.
  • Arrow:
    • Used for the Season One climax of the flashback scenes on Lian Yu. Fyers, the commander of the mercenaries, is holding a gun to Shado's head. Oliver Queen has his bow, but he has never deliberately killed anyone before and was unable to reliably hit a target when training earlier. Oliver choses to take the shot and doesn't miss.
    • Dodger has an Explosive Leash on Felicity Smoak and threatens to trigger a radio detonator unless Oliver backs off, so Oliver throws a flechette dart to paralyze the nerve in Dodger's hand so he can't press the button.
  • Blake's 7: In "Aftermath", Servalan is holding Avon at gunpoint (with an empty gun, as it turns out) when Dayna comes up from behind her with a drawn bow.
    Servalan: If she fires, the chances are that I would still pull the trigger. Do you want to risk it?
    Avon: It's out of my hands.
  • At the end of the Blue Bloods episode "Re-Do", a Serial Rapist takes Erin hostage within sight of Frank, and tells him to put down his gun and step away. Or that was the plan, anyway: Frank puts a .38 round through his forehead before he can finish the sentence.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Harrow does this when one of Rosetti's men holds Tommy hostage.
  • This is how Christopher Pelant dies in Bones. He takes Brennan hostage and orders Booth to drop his weapon. Brennan yells for Booth to shoot. Pelant is dumbfounded by the idea she would rather die than let him go, and while he's distracted, Booth shoots him in the throat.
  • Combined with Shoot the Hostage and One-Hit Polykill in the Burn Notice episode "Guilty as Charged". Jesse snipes Michael through the shoulder to kill the guy using him as a Human Shield.
  • Castle has a failure of this in a featurette on the season 5 DVD. Jon Huertas (Esposito on the show) is at a tactical training course (to lend authenticity to his role as a former Green Beret-turned-homicide detective), and during a "storming a hostage standoff" scenario he tries this (with plastic bullets) and hits the hostage in the face before nailing the hostage taker.
  • Firefly: In "Serenity", while Mal, Zoe and Jayne are trying to make a deal on a moon, an Alliance lawman takes River hostage at gunpoint and tries to arrest her and Simon. When Mal and his group get back, the deal has gone south and the Reavers have just shown up, so when Dobson tries to repeat his demands, he gets out about half a sentence before Mal walks in and shoots him in the face without even breaking stride. They don't have time for hostage shenanigans if they want to escape the Reavers, and frankly, Mal's about done with other people's bullshit at this point.
  • Flashpoint plays out a more realistic variation on this trope. The SRU officers do occasionally have to shoot a hostage-taker, but this is seen as a last-recourse option, to be used only in cases where there is an imminent threat to someone's life. Additionally, the show makes clear that the SRU is aware of the risks and will always weigh in those factors before making the call to take the shot. Even their ability to reliably hit their targets is explained by them being an elite group of officers specifically selected for their qualifications in various areas, including marksmanship.
    • The pilot episode, "Scorpio", features a hostage-taker who has already killed one person and is threatening another. He is becoming increasingly agitated and Parker's attempts at negotiation are hampered because the hostage-taker doesn't speak English and the translator is stuck in traffic. Eventually, Parker is forced to give Ed the green light to take the shot rather than continue to risk the hostage's life.
    • In "Grounded", the team has to storm a hijacked plane in order to save the lives of the passengers being held hostage. In this case, they still give the hostage-takers a chance to drop their weapons and surrender, but only one out of three complies; the other two try to shoot it out with Sam and Raf and are killed.
    • Averted in "Eyes In", in which the SRU can't shoot without risking the life of the hostage, a fact which the hostage-taker is counting on. In this case, Parker bluffs the hostage-taker into believing that the team can do exactly what they can't (shoot him without risk to the hostage). As soon as he believes the hostage won't protect him, the suspect surrenders and is taken into custody without incident.
    • In at least two cases, this was the hostage-taker's intent:
      • "Who's George": A would-be bank robber wants his seriously ill wife to get his life insurance policy to pay for her care, but if he pulls the trigger on himself, the policy is void, so he deliberately tries to make himself into so much of a threat to the hostages that the police will have no choice but to shoot him.
      • "Behind the Blue Line": A soldier who feels overwhelming guilt over the deaths of his unit-mates takes Spike hostage to get the SRU to view him as a threat and then takes aim at Sam. The team later realizes that just as he pointed the gun at Sam, he said something indicating that he was intending and expecting to die.
  • In the Justified episode "The Life Inside", a criminal takes a pregnant woman hostage.
    Raylan: Jess, you ever hear about a spot snipers call the apricot? It's where the brain stem meets the spine. Hit a fella there, he ain't gonna pull no trigger. It's just, lights out.
    Jess: Oh, what, you're telling me you're that good?
    Raylan: Me? (He shakes his head and gestures to Deputy Tim Gutterson, beside him.)
    Jess: Really? Okay, this is how this is going to go down — (Tim takes the shot, perfectly.)
  • The final twist to the plot of the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Revolution". After the detectives arrest the mastermind, his daughter takes hostages inside a bank to try and secure her father's freedom. By the time the NYPD detectives arrive on scene, the FBI has already made up their minds to shoot her if they have the chance. Nichols, who feels differently, attempts to save her and is able to successfully talk her down. Unfortunately, it's all for nothing; the FBI sniper takes the shot just as the hostage-taker is moving to surrender.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • In "Holden's Manifesto", Rollins talks the eponymous character into letting his hostages go and is right on the verge of disarming him when the sniper takes him out. She's understandably upset by this turn of events.
    • In "Debt", the police raid a brothel run by a Chinese gang. In one of the rooms, a gang member takes one of the prostitutes hostage and uses her as as a Human Shield. The prostitute is saved when Detective Elliot Stabler dives through the door of the room and shoots the gang member in the head.
    • In "Fault", a serial killer takes Stabler hostage and taunts Benson that she can't shoot him without risking her partner getting killed. Then Stabler tries to convince her to do it anyway. He ends up getting taken out by a sniper while he's distracted by toying with Benson.
  • Lucifer (2016): Chloe Decker does this to a villain who's threatening to garotte Lucifer if she doesn't drop her weapon. As Lucifer is being annoying as usual, she claims that she was aiming for him and missed.
  • Luther: John allows himself to be taken hostage by the crime LARPer who's hiding in a truck cab with a bomb. He even goes as far as dousing himself in gasoline to give the criminal the edge. Once he's inside the cab, he radios the police snipers the guy's exact position.
    Bomber: What does it say?
    Luther: The "A" between the "L" and the "R". Aim low.
  • In The Mandalorian's season 2 finale, "The Rescue", an Imperial true believer shuttle pilot takes the cloning engineer Dr. Pershing hostage when the heroes board the disabled Lambda shuttle. After gunning down his copilot who was trying to surrender, he decides to start punching Cara Dune's Alderaanian Diaspora Berserk Button. He also seems to acknowledge that she's a Rebel drop trooper, not putting two and two together that she would be a proficient pistol markswoman as a corollary. She drills him in the face after she's had enough of his fanatic ranting, with Pershing's ear getting singed in the process.
  • NCIS
    • One episode starts with the team at a shooting range, practicing for just this manner of situation. Gibbs takes Kate's cell-phone and Tony's hat, and proceeds to place them on the targets as an extra incentive to get it right (the next scene, Kate is working on getting a new cell-phone and Tony's hat has a couple of holes in the bill). At the end of the episode, Kate is forced to shoot a hostage-taker. The hostage is reunited with his wife... with his ear bandaged up, implied to be due Kate nearly hitting him in shooting the hostage-taker.
    • In a later episdoe, not only does Ziva shoot a bad guy who took a Child Prodigy hostage, but the prodigy in question even calculates Ziva's chances for success.
  • In NCIS: Los Angeles, Kensi is being held hostage when Deeks bursts in. The hostage-taker doesn't have time to finish his threat before Deeks drills him through the forehead.
  • The Professionals: In "The Acorn Syndrome", Ray Doyle faces off with a kidnapper holding a teenage girl hostage, and does the lower your gun trick to get the kidnapper's guard down before raising his pistol and firing.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Kolya has Weir as a hostage and is trying to drag her through the Stargate, betting Sheppard won't risk it. Sheppard calmly puts one in his shoulder and sends him through the gate without Weir.
  • In the Torchwood series 2 premiere, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", Jack Harkness makes his re-introduction by shooting a "blowfish"-like alien who was using a 'human' shield.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is how you "defeat" the Dreamer in Sentinels of the Multiverse. The Dreamer is a young girl who, in the midst of a nightmare, lost control of her incalculable Psychic Powers. If she runs out of HP or is destroyed by other means, you lose. To defeat her, you first have to destroy the monsters born from her nightmares. When there are no Projections in play, she flips to her "Roused From Slumber" side. In this state, her powers go into overdrive - she plays two cards from her deck each turn and deals damage directly to the heroes. However, the extra card plays are a blessing in disguise: each time you destroy a Projection after she flips, the card is placed under her, and once there are twice as many Projections under her card as there are heroes in the game, she wakes up and you win.
  • The Take The Shot gun schtick in Feng Shui 2 gives you a +4 bonus to your Guns against any bad guy pulling a Put Down Your Gun and Step Away situation, basically making it easier to do this to them. It's also one of the default gun schticks of both the Bodyguard and the Karate Cop archetypes.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • Batman: Arkham Asylum has a non-lethal version: When Zsasz is holding a knife to Dr. Young's throat, you save her by knocking him out with a Batarang.
    • In Batman: Arkham City, Ra's al Ghul holds his own daughter, Talia, hostage at knifepoint when Batman refuses to kill Ra's and take Ra's place as leader of the League of Assassins. Batman saves Talia by hitting Ra's with a Batarang.
  • In the adventure/police procedural game Blue Force, there comes a point where a criminal takes a hostage and the opportunity to invoke this trope comes up. However, the Player Character is a rookie cop and Surprisingly Realistic Outcome if you take the shot; you hit the hostage by mistake and the criminal immediately shoots you dead.
  • The bonus level "Mile High Club" in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ends with you having to shoot a terrorist using a hostage as a Human Shield. On higher difficulties, you must get a headshot or you fail the mission.
  • Played with in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Late in the first mission, Fidel Castro holds his mistress as a hostage. If you shoot Castro, the hostage immediately attacks you. Turns out the Castro you killed was a body double, and they both are keeping you away from the real Castro.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, at the end of Adam's first mission at the Sarif Manufacturing Plant, Zeke Sanders, the militia's desperate leader, takes the plant's manager Josie Thorpe a hostage and threatens to execute her if Jensen tries to prevent his escape. Among your many options is to shoot Sanders before he can hurt his hostage, though you'll need to be quick on the draw.
  • Die Hard: Vendetta begins it's first level where John needs to diffuse a Hostage Situation and rescue his daughter, Lucy, who's among the captives. He saves her by shooting the mook using her as meatshield.
  • Dragon Age II gives Rogue PCs a lower-tech version during the Wayward Son quest.
    Slaver: (holding a sword to Feynriel's neck) Take one more step, and the boy dies!
    Rogue Hawke: This is as close as I get. (launches Murder Knife into the slaver's throat)
  • Enemy Front has a cutscene where you save the local priest from a Kraut holding him at gunpoint, with you shooting the Kraut within an allocated time or the priest dies (and you'll have to restart the level).
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, Roman gets kidnapped and you must rescue him; you finally find him used as a hostage by a Russian mobster. You must carefully aim for the Russian's head to free him.
  • In Army of Two: The 40th Day, enemies will sometimes use civilians as human shields. You can do this to them, but if you're not careful, it's possible to kill the enemy and the civilian with the same bullet. Also, your partner can rescue you this way if an enemy holds you hostage.
  • This is the usual way for Cole Phelps to resolve a hostage situation in L.A. Noire. Don't take too long to line up a shot or you'll lose.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect features a mission on the Citadel where some mooks take hostages in a medical bay. In a cutscene, Garrus takes out the mook holding a hostage, and after combat ends, the player, as Commander Shepard, can choose how to respond to this. Renegade Shepard's response is to compliment Garrus for taking the mook out; Paragon Shepard chastises Garrus for doing something that could have gotten the hostage killed.
    • This is an option to resolve the hostage crisis at the end of Thane's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2. You can shoot his son Kolyat, the hostage taker, nonfatally, or Shoot the Hostage. The third option is a Paragon interrupt that has Shepard shoot a lamp behind Kolyat to startle him, whereupon Shepard moves in and decks him.
    • In "Lair of the Shadow Broker", Tela Vasir takes a civilian hostage with a similar set of options for resolving it. Among them is to have Shepard distract her while Liara throws a gorram table at her head.
  • Played straight and played with during one level of The Matrix: Path of Neo in an abandoned church. An Agent takes the guy you're supposed to save hostage. Neo can then try to shoot the Agent and either it takes or dodges the bullet.
  • Operation Wolf series:
    • The second boss of the first game uses an old woman as a human shield, but an able player can off the boss without hurting the woman (who will then wave happily at the player.) Just wait for the boss to pop out to shoot you, and blast him then.
    • The sequel, Operation Thunderbolt, does this in the final stage, where you confront the lead hijacker on the plane and he uses the pilot as a human shield. Kill the pilot and you get the bad ending; wait till the hijacker pops out to shoot you and blast him till he goes down to get the good ending.
  • The Saints Row series gives you plenty opportunities to do this thanks to the human shield mechanics : whenever an enemy grabs an Innocent Bystander to use as a squishy organic cover, you can save the hostage's life by shooting said enemy clean in the face.
  • SWAT4 has this as the tactic to any suspect who points a gun at a hostage. One of the few times in the game when warning at all is a mistake.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat has one particular side quest in the second map that has you rescuing a captive stalker from a gang of bandits in a holed up warehouse, due to an initial refusal to hand over precious loot to the bandits according to his friends. You can choose to storm the place either by yourself or with the stalker's known friends and launch the daring rescue. Once you get to the last room in the warehouse, the bandit ringleader has a gun pointed behind the hostage and warns you to not make any sudden moves. At this point, you have the golden opportunity to make a carefully placed head shot on the ringleader; however, you have only three seconds to do it before he pulls the trigger and effectively shoots the hostage dead (and thus failing the quest).
  • In the first half of Stage 3-3 of Time Crisis 2, Ernesto Diaz uses Christy Ryan as a hostage shield. The players have to engage Diaz accurately, otherwise, a missed shot hitting Christy will cost 5000 points.
  • In the second season of The Walking Dead, when most of the protagonist's group are taken hostage by Carver and his men, Kenny may try to shoot Carver while he's using one as a Human Shield. Kenny actually does hit Carver and avoid the hostage, but only gives Carver a shoulder wound he completely ignores (his actions are literally identical if you never get Kenny to shoot him).
  • Xena: Warrior Princess has an example without bullets in the second and third stage. Xena must rescue civilians captured by pirates, and pirate mooks will constantly use innocent captives as a Human Shield. Xena rescues them with her Chakram, whose trajectory and elevation can be controlled with the Chakram-cam allowing Xena to target pirate mooks without hitting civilians. It goes without saying that accidentally hitting civilians with the Chakram or missing pirates too many times (leading to the pirate deciding to just kill his captive) would penalize Xena.

  • Defied in The Dragon Doctors, where a baddie uses a gun specially equipped with a dead man's switch for hostage situations. But it was vulnerable to Sarin's then-little-known "Equipment Failure" spell.
  • The Last Days of Foxhound: In FOXHOUND's first actual mission, a goon takes Liquid hostage, only to be killed by Ocelot. Of course, because Ocelot in The Last Days of FOXHOUND is generally portrayed as a ridiculous bullet wizard whose shots can trivially defy the laws of physics, the shot is pointed at Liquid but inexplicably phases through him and kills the goon.
    Liquid: So just how the hell did you do that?
    ocelot: Magic!
    Liquid: Seriously, how?

    Real Life 
  • In April 2009, the American freighter Maersk Alabama was raided by Somali pirates, who then escaped in a lifeboat and took the ship's captain Richard Phillips hostage when U.S. Navy forces showed up. After 5 days of standoff, members of DEVGRU arrived on-scene to provide sniper support from the Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge. The Bainbridge's commanding officer, Captain Frank Castellano, ordered the SEALs to open fire and kill the three pirates holding Phillips hostage when he saw them aim an AK rifle at Phillips' back. This event was dramatized in the movie Captain Phillips.


Video Example(s):


Negotations didn't go well

One of the RSV Per Berger crewmen use a disarmed mercenary as a human shield against the mercenaries who kidnapped him and his fellow crew. Unfortunately, the mercenaries decided to just shoot the crewman and their colleague, the latter as collateral.

How well does it match the trope?

4 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShootTheHostageTaker

Media sources: