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Suicidal Sadistic Choice

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This is a Sadistic Choice where one option — often the "better" option — is that the victim kills themselves. Usually this is the preferred outcome for the one presenting the choice, making it a roundabout and particularly cruel method of murder, but at other times they could be attempting to prove that the victim isn't so good after all.

The victim's option after this may vary. They may very well kill themselves; then the one who ordered them either fulfilled the deal or not. They may try Faking the Dead if it is possible (and if the one ordering didn't bother to Make Sure He's Dead). They may have to think of a third option. Or a third party may stop all this.

Subtrope of Murder by Suicide, and of Heroic Suicide if the other option is letting someone else die or suffer.

See Better to Die than Be Killed when the victim kills themselves to defy their killer, rather than being given the option, and Leave Behind a Pistol, when the option of suicide is (ostensibly) a mercy to spare the victim dishonor, embarrassment, or going on with a life not worth living. See also Ordered to Die for a choice between disobedience and suicide.

If the victim chooses to kill themselves rather than make a choice, that's a Heroic Sacrifice Take a Third Option to a regular Sadistic Choice. If they don't realize that the choice they make will kill them (a door with a pit on the other side, for example), that's Tricked to Death. If the choice is between a quick death in exchange for something and a slow death for refusing, that is Painless Death for a Price.

As a death trope, beware of unmarked spoilers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Destiny of the Shrine Maiden: The priestess sacrifice ritual is essentially a dual sadistic choice, where they have to decide amongst themselves.
  • Dororo, the samurai Tanosuke refused his lord's order to kill a man and was told to either kill him or commit suicide.
  • Naruto: In the flashbacks when Madara has been defeated by Senju Hashirama at the end of the clan wars. Hashirama, Madara's childhood friend, wants to end the feuding between their clans with a peace treaty. Madara, now jaded after the deaths of his brothers, says he doesn't trust the Senju, and the only way Hashirama can earn his trust (and therefore his co-operation with the peace treaty that would bring about Hashirama's lifelong dream of building a village where children could be kept safely away from war) is by either murdering Hashirama's only living brother Tobirama or committing suicide. When Hashirama chooses to kill himself while ordering Tobirama not to take revenge and instead work with Madara towards peace, Madara stops him and agrees to the treaty while together they create the Hidden Leaf Village. And then things took a total nosedive from there.
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • In the fourth arc, Kinzo Ushiromiya decides he's going to test which of his grandchildren is most worthy to become his successor as head of the family. The contents of the test, you ask? "In order to gain two, sacrifice one." A) Your Life B) Your lover's life C) everyone else's lives. George and Jessica actually do make somewhat shocking (albeit convincing) choices with their own brand of justification...only to take the bad guy by surprise by deciding to sacrifice none of the above and fighting back instead. But this being Umineko, they die horribly anyway.
    • This is then averted in the seventh novel where it's shown the test was used again by Kyrie and Rudolf but only to lure the cousins to where they would be killed one by one.
  • Uta∽Kata has the heroine forced to choose between killing herself or killing the rest of humanity. She ends up refusing to choose and is saved when her mirror counterpart sacrifices herself for her.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Regular Yugi's duel with the Brainwashed and Crazy Joey, which is set up in such a way that he can't take a third option or someone (either him, Joey, or a kidnapped Tea) will die. In the duel, both combatants are chained to a weight that will drop into the ocean after the time limit expires, with the keys to the chains only becoming available once the opponent's Life Points reach 0, while the hostage is bound to a chair under a weight that will fall if someone interferes. He chooses to set himself up for death and save Joey and Tea. Which is followed by Joey setting himself up to die to try saving him, since both of them hit 0 Life Points on the same turn. Luckily, either Kaiba (manga) or Serenity (anime) save Joey.

    Card Games 
  • This is how Liliana of the Veil's ultimate ability in Magic: The Gathering functions. You separate all permanents a player owns into two piles and get them to choose one, with the ideal way of playing this of course being to make sure it's a lose-lose no matter which way they pick.
    • This is how most 'split into two piles' mechanics work, but in an interesting inverse, the vast majority of them have the initiating player do it to themselves and let their opponent decide which way the split happens. The idea is an inverse of the above Liliana example, where the initiating player chooses cards that will result in a good outcome no matter which pile they choose, with little room for the opponent to create a bad pile.
  • The Star Trek CCG had a card called "Raise the Stakes" that gave the effected player a choice: either forfeit the game immediately or risk having to permanently hand over a card from their deck to their opponent should they lose the game. Notably, this is the only card from this game that was banned from tournament play.

    Comic Books 
  • The first incarnation of Doom Patrol ended with one. Their archenemy General Zhal gave the Patrol the choice of nuking their location or nuking a small fishing village in Maine, a sacrifice that wouldn't be remembered. The Patrol's answer? "Fire away, Zhal!"
  • A double version appeared in the Assault On New Olympus arc in The Incredible Hercules. Hephaestus traps Hercules and his teen partner Amadeus Cho in separate chambers, each with a Big Red Button. The only way for Herc to be free is if Cho pushes his button, which would remove the air from his chamber, killing him. Or Herc can push his button, saving Cho by sacrificing his life. Almost before Hephaestus finishes explaining the trap, Herc and Cho push both their buttons simultaneously, shorting out the system and releasing them both. This scene also counts as a heartwarming moment, showing that Herc and Cho would each sacrifice themselves for each other, no questions asked. Hephaestus neglected to consider this option and expresses his anger with a succinct "Frickin Hercules".
  • When Prometheus first fought the Justice League of America, he had a plan to take out each of them. One of the few he could never kill on his own was, of course, Superman. And Superman was in his electric form at the time, so kryptonite was out of the question. But Prometheus knew that Superman could destroy himself by removing his energy containment suit, so he contrived a situation where innocent civilians were trapped on a satellite with a dwindling oxygen supply, destroyed all of the escape shuttles, and claimed to know the location of a secret teleporter that would take them back to Earth if Superman killed himself. He even declared that Wonder Woman's lasso wouldn't work on him - he wouldn't try to lie, he'd just stay silent until he was brain-dead. While the situation was resolved through the intervention of other heroes, there was no indication that Superman would refuse if it came to it; he stated plainly that he'd do anything to protect innocent people, but he'd need more than a mere promise on Prometheus's part.
  • Secret Six: Junior forces victims to choose whether they kill them or their family and friends. If they choose themselves, Junior kills them. If they choose their family, they kill them anyway and leave the body and a recording of them begging Junior to kill their family where the family will find it.
  • In The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, Big Bad Overlord offers his prisoners the chance to compete in gladiatorial matches to the death. Anyone who wins twelve matches gets a choice - nobody has ever spoken to somebody who has made it, but knowing that Overlord is Ax-Crazy, the Sadistic part almost goes without saying. The choice? Commit suicide on the spot, or fight Overlord. The two options are one and the same.
  • Ultimate FF: Doom left the team with one. Save the army of murderous fishmen from an alternate reality, or themselves?
  • The wolf prince Hrimhari is given the chance to sacrifice his own life to save his love Rahne Sinclair of X-Factor. However, Rahne is pregnant with his child, and the one offering the deal will only save one person in exchange for Hrimhari. One life for one soul. Hrimhari subverts the choice by choosing to save the nearby mortally wounded Elixir instead, since Elixir has extremely powerful healing powers (no Healing Factor though, hence the "mortally wounded" issue) that could save Rahne and the child.

    Fan Works 
Dragon Ball
  • In Volume I of the ongoing fanfic Dragon Ball X Denkuma offers Korros to kill himself to save Haven or let it be destroyed.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
  • Rainbow Factory: When workers find out the truth about the rainbow factory, namely that it uses equine resources to make rainbows, they're given a choice: keep their mouths shut and be party to the slaughter of countless foals whose only fault was failing a flight exam, or spare a foal only to take their place. Only twice was a foal's life spared-those of Fluttershy and Derpy Hooves.
  • Split Second (My Little Pony) has Discord give one to Sparkle: Kill Fluttershy, and get a book with a spell that might save her life, kill her sister, and get her leg back so that Sparkle doesn't bleed to death, kill all 12 mares present to get both, or do nothing and die. She takes a fifth option.
  • From RWBY: Second Generation, Verse is forced into this in the final chapter of Volume 2. Cobalt offers Verse the choice to either kill himself or watch his teammates and friends die in front of him. With everyone else at gunpoint, he only has a few seconds to make a choice. He instead decides to Take a Third Option, and kills the people behind the gun, saving himself and his friends.
  • In a fanfic for BBC's Sherlock, here, the horrific cliffhanger ending of the series was continued upon in such a way that Moriarty offered this sort of choice to Sherlock, only instead of having him choose between two people, he was forced to choose between himself and John (with the threat of the full extent of Moriarty's madness hanging over John's head if he takes the third option). Being Sherlock, he takes the third option.

    Film — Animated 
  • Cars 2 features a rare example of the hero giving the villain one of these. At the climax of the film, Mater, having had a Time Bomb strapped to him that only the Big Bad can deactivate, quickly works out that said Big Bad is Miles Axelrod and confronts him in public while the timer is still ticking down. Miles is thus forced to choose between deactivating the bomb and outing himself as the villain, or dying a very fiery death. He chooses the former option (at the last second, naturally), and is arrested.
  • In Rango, Rattlesnake Jake grabs Beans in his coils and demands that she sells her ranch to the Mayor or he'll crush her to death. Rango calls Jake out for a duel, saving Beans.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In All Superheroes Must Die, the supervillain Rickshaw is putting four superheroes through a Death Course with captured citizens as leverage. One of these stages involves trying to force the heroes to kill themselves in exchange for Rickshaw releasing several hostages, but one of the heroes correctly figures out that their captor is lying and will kill them anyway, so he removes the choice by killing the hostage himself.
  • At the end of Escape Room (2017), Tyler and Christen are each presented with a pair of buttons. One of them will save themselves, the other one will save their partner.
  • In the Swedish film of Let the Right One In, Oskar is ambushed in the school swimming pool and given the "choice" to drown himself, or to have his eyeball gouged out. He is twelve years old. When Eli shows up and saves Oskar, there is no mercy for the bully responsible.
  • Monster Party: When Elliot captures Casper and Alexis, he ties them up in chairs suspended over the swimming pool. Each of them has a knife taped to their hand which will allow them to cut the rope holding the other's chair: causing them to fall into the pool and drown. Elliot sets up a timer and tells them they have one minute for one of them to slice the other's rope or he will kill both of them.
  • In Se7en the unseen perpetrator of a number of grisly murders disfigures a beautiful but vain woman, then gives her the choice: sleeping pills to kill herself or a phone to call for an ambulance. We figure out what choice she made as the police are examining her corpse.
  • In Self Less, Damien is faced with one of these once he learns that the medicine he's been taking is all that stands between his continued existence and Mark Bitwell, the original owner of the body Damien's in, returning. If Damien continues to take the medicine, he'll live but Mark will fade away forever. If he stops taking the medicine, he'll fade away but Mark can return to his family. In the end, Damien chooses the latter.

  • The Burning Kingdoms:
    • In the opening chapter of The Jasmine Throne Chandra forces Malini and her companions to choose between burning to death or being his prisoners for life. They agree to burn, but she refuses and is imprisoned.
    • Later in The Oleander Sword, as revenge for this and having drugged her into submission, Malini also gives Chandra poison, saying it's his choice to drink it and die then, or be slowly poisoned over many months before he finally dies. Chandra drinks the poison.
  • In Frostbite, Isaiah the Strigoi gave his captive Moroi, Christian Ozera and Mia Rinaldi, a sadistic choice. They could starve to death or drain the blood of their dhampir friends and turn into a strigoi. In addition, the one who chose this path condemned the other Moroi to death.
  • N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy: The theocratic Arameri dynasty gives heretics two choices — jump from the top of the palace, or get cooked from the inside out by a magical halberd that's cursed to prolong the experience. Yeine is horrified to learn that her mother once wielded the halberd.
  • Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined: At the end of the book, Beau is bitten by a vampire and his transformation is irreversible. He now has to choose between dying on the spot or continue turning into a vampire.
  • In Stephen King's short story, Riding the Bullet, the protagonist has to make a decision: either he or his mother will die soon. He saves himself and chooses his mother. She doesn't die, but he still knows that his choice was to let her die.
  • Sword of Truth: In the second book of the Sword of Truth series, Stone of Tears, Kahlan encounters a man who had just tried to kill her hanging from a ledge, about to fall to his death. She gives him the choice of taking her hand and living the rest of his life as an essentially brainwashed slave or falling to his death. He chooses the latter.
  • In Under the Yoke, a character suffers flashbacks to a Draka brainwashing technique that was used on him: being given control of the switch that directed current into one of two electric chairs, he being sat in one and his father in the other, so that he could only save his own life by committing patricide.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Condor: Bob is coerced to shoot himself between seasons 1 and 2, after he gets threatened with his wife being killed too otherwise.
  • Dexter:
    • Serial Killer "Trinity" from season 4 kept killing people in cycles. His second victim of each cycle was a mother of two who was forced to jump to her death. He threatened them that he would do unspeakably horrible things to their family members had they not jumped.
    • When the Koshka Brotherhood needs a Fall Guy in Season 7, they show up at a flunky's door with a pistol, some Liquid Courage, and instructions on how he's to write his suicide note. He protests, so they tell him that if he goes through with it, they'll take care of his family... and if he doesn't, they'll take care of his family. He does it. For extra-black irony, the police aren't fooled by his "confession" for a moment.
  • In Elementary, Moriarty forces Moran to commit suicide by saying if he doesn't Moran's sister will be killed.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: A psychiatrist puts couples in a trap with a timer and forces couples to choose to kill their spouse or be killed and let their spouse live. He did this nine times and only an elderly couple choose the "altruistic" choice. The killer was inspired by the sadistic choice put to his grandfather during the Holocaust and was trying to prove that it was human nature to make the selfish choice.
  • NCIS: "A Many Splendored Thing" starts with a navy officer being told to kill herself or her daughter will be killed. Two scenes later, NCIS is examining her body.
  • The first episode of Sherlock revolves around a serial killer who apparently never directly kills their victims, but merely talks them into killing themselves, at gunpoint. However, there was technically a chance for them to survive the game (unless they were both poisoned).
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "Body Parts", Quark is diagnosed with a fatal illness, so he auctions off his soon-to-be remains, only to learn that the diagnosis was wrong and he was going to live. Unfortunately, the person who bought his no-longer-going-to-be remains was his nemesis, Brunt of the FCA, who leaves Quark with a choice. Option A is to fulfill the contract between them and find some way to die so Brunt can have the remains he bought and paid for. Option B is to break the contract, one of the gravest sins a Ferengi can commit, have all of his belongings liquidated, and have his commerce license revoked, rendering himself Persona Non Grata.

  • The team in The White Vault find themselves in this scenario at the start of the second season. They can either stay at Outpost Fristed, with no food, knowing perfectly well that no one can hear their distress calls, and that a malicious, intelligent monster knows exactly where they are, how to cut their power, and how to open the door... or they can take their chances out in the arctic wasteland in the middle of a seemingly unending storm, travelling at least twelve hours in subzero temperatures (on foot, because the monster already sabotaged their vehicles), before they might reach civilization — and that's assuming the monster, the polar bears, or the storm doesn't finish them off before they get there. The first option is certain death, but the second offers the absolute slimmest chance at survival, and they all know it. They opt to leave the Outpost and everything that can go wrong immediately does. The monster takes one of their own, they're attacked by a polar bear, and they soon realize they've been Going in Circles, and end up right back at the Outpost.

  • The High Brahmin from La Bayadere offers this to temple dancer Nikea. She can take the antidote to her snake bite but must give up Solor and love the High Brahmin instead, or she can succumb to the poison and die. Nikea chooses death over living without Solor.

    Video Games 
    Web Comics 
  • Done accidentally by Sugar to Lola in Drop-Out. Sugar meant to invite Lola on a romantic Suicide Pact, knowing both of them are severely depressed. While most of this is implied rather than stated, it's clear she failed to consider that Lola is a lot more disadvantaged than her and Sugar has a lot of power over her; Sugar's European-passing and Lola has obviously African-American traits (even with their furry natures) and Sugar comes from a well-off and loving if overbearing family while Lola is an ex-foster-kid with no one else to turn to. Without Sugar's support, Lola would be unable to pay for their apartment and end up homeless, would have no emotional support left, and might be blamed by Sugar's friends and family for Sugar's death.
    Web Video 
  • Has popped up recurringly in death challenges in Escape the Night:
    • In Season 1 Episode 6, "Did Someone Call For an Exorcist?", the death challenge requires the two individuals voted in, Matt and Sierra, to perform an exorcism, where one (Sierra) must hold down the possessed victim and the other (Matt) has to prepare a series of steps which ends with either killing oneself or their partner. Unfortunately for Matt, he misreads the instructions and isn't unaware of the fact he has the option of suicide until after accidentally killing Sierra; this revelation drives him to the Despair Event Horizon, and his mental state worsens for much of the following episode until his own death in a different death challenge.
    • In Season 3 Episode 9, "Control Issues", the death challenge ends with one of the competitors finding a loaded handgun, with the option to either kill themself or their competitor. Being sent into the death challenge with her best friend Manny, Nikita chooses self-preservation.
  • Pirates SMP: The quest for the treasure of Kishi traps any and all travellers who take on it inside its catacombs and requires a quester to kill their companion by throwing them into a pit of Spikes of Doom to escape. By mutual brotherly instincts (and possibly fueled with individual self-worth issues), Scott is prepared to pull off a Heroic Sacrifice, but Acho ends up pulling a last-second More Hero than Thou, pushing Scott out of the way and falling into the stalagmite pit in the process, while stars older brother who privately swore he wasn't losing star again can only watch in horror.

    Western Animation 
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021): After Skeletor destroys the Sword of Power and De-Powers them, he has Masters of the Universe chained to a platform and submerged in a pool of Havoc. His ultimatum is that they embrace the power of Havoc and serve him as Dark Masters, or drown. Eldress, Krass, and Ork-0 are able to save them in time.

    Real Life 
  • Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was "allowed" to commit suicide by Hitler's orders instead of being executed for his suspected involvement in the July 20 Bomb Plot. The alternative would have been his execution along with that of his family - which would have been bad for morale and publicity, as Rommel earned himself quite the reputation both among the German people and with the Allies.
  • This was known as 'obligatory Seppuku' in medieval Japan, and was a way for doomed nobles or samurai to die with some dignity: They would be ordered to commit seppuku at a particular place and time, and if they chose not to they'd normally be forcibly brought there later and executed anyway.