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Targeted to Hurt the Hero

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"And as I set out upon this world and deliver the justice mankind so greatly deserves...I will make it my mission to destroy everything that you love. [...] Starting with her."
Adam Taurus to Blake Belladonna about Yang Xiao Long, RWBY, "Heroes and Monsters"

What's a villain to do when they want to taunt or intimidate their heroic nemesis, get revenge against them, or the plot requires said nemesis to spring into action against them? Simple — kill, maim, or otherwise deeply hurt a loved one. Not only will the hero certainly be motivated to go after the villain — maybe even through a Roaring Rampage of Revenge — but the sight of their dead child/parent/significant other/spouse/sibling/best friend/sidekick/pet will surely cause a bucketload of anguish. Bonus points if the targeting method of choice is brutal or gruesome, or if their body is left for them to find.

This is the first and foremost reason Secret Identities are so important to 95% of the superhero community. If through any means the villain learns their greatest enemy's identity, they can use their loved ones against them. Savvier heroes may try to prevent this with an It's Not You, It's My Enemies, while crueler villains might utilize tactics like Forced to Watch to make the targeting worse.

Compare I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure, when a villain actively threatens to use this trope, Friendly Target, where those close to the hero are the most likely to be hurt, Collateral Angst, a more general case where bad things happening to Character A are primarily important for their effect on Character B, and And Your Little Dog, Too!, when a villain threatens to hurt a hero's loved one as a display of evilness. Also compare Death by Origin Story. Contrast Never Hurt an Innocent, where a villain will go out of their way to avoid endangering an innocent.

Depending on how useful/interesting the character is, and whether their death was abrupt or not, can overlap with Dropped a Bridge on Him. See also Revenge by Proxy, when a character goes after a perceived offender's loved one.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • At the start of the Saiyan Saga, Raditz is annoyed that his brother Goku is unwilling to destroy Earth, so he kidnaps Goku's infant son, Gohan, in order to force Goku to his side. This led to Goku and Piccolo to join forces to retaliate and rescue Gohan.
    • In the climax of the Frieza Saga, the titular tyrant targets Piccolo and Krillin as payback for Goku almost killing him with a giant Spirit Bomb. First, he incapacitates Piccolo and kills Krillin right in front of Goku. Frieza was about to do the same to Gohan, but Goku unlocks Super Saiyan and goes nuclear on the tyrant.
    • In his fight with Cell, Gohan is Forced to Watch as his father and their friends are targeted by the Cell Juniors. Cell sicced his Juniors on them because he wanted Gohan to unlock his hidden power and get a real fight.
  • Fairy Tail: Gajeel brutally beats Shadow Gear and pins their unconscious bodies to a tree in the local park, provoking Fairy Tail into going to war with Phantom Lord.
  • Gamma: The Steel murdered Hikari/Lightbright's Best Friend in front of her eyes for no reason other than to hurt her. This failure prompted Lightbright to retire from superheroics for years.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: During the events of the final battle, Kira Yamato is having a reunion with Flay Allster as he is protecting her shuttle full of innocent civilians. But Rau Le Creuset, the main villain, happens to notice, and uses the DRAGOON bits of his Gundam Providence to blast the shuttle, knowing Flay is onboard and that her death will significantly hurt Kira. The shuttle is completely destroyed, and a horrified Kira has to watch Flay and numerous others die in a ball of flame before his eyes. Rau ends up shooting himself in the foot by doing this, however, as a particularly enraged Kira later pays him back in kind, outright ensuring an over-the-top, guaranteed death for the ZAFT commander.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: Milverton sets up Adam Whiteley's family's gruesome murder by their own bodyguard so he would walk into it and be Driven to Villainy.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Nana Shimura's husband was murdered by All For One to spite her, the seventh holder of One For All, for opposing him. This is what convinces her to give her child Kotaro up for adoption while forbidding both All Might and Gran Torino from learning anything about him to keep Kotaro out of All For One's clutches. Unfortunately, this backfired horribly in the long-term, as Kotaro became physically and emotionally abusive to his own family as a result of his Parental Abandonment, creating the conditions that would turn her grandson into Tomura Shigaraki.
    • In chapter 359 of the manga, All For One is facing off against a large portion of the cast (minus "Deku" Midoriya, the holder of One For All, who is currently dealing with difficulties elsewhere), and he singles out Katsuki Bakugo for death, telling him that he's going to kill him not because he's a powerful combatant, but because he's the person there that him murdering would hurt Deku's psyche the most. He then apparently makes due on his promise a few seconds later.
  • My-HiME:
    • It's a noted tactic to target a HiME's loved ones, as the love a HiME feels for her most beloved person is the very source of her powers, and eliminating that person eliminates those powers. It's also worth noting that the death of a HiME or her CHILD will result in the death of said loved one.
    • After the loss of her eye, Nao makes it a point to call Mai on the phone and inform her that she intends to kill Mai's little brother, Takumi, as retribution. Ironically, Takumi does die to hurt Mai, but not because of Nao. It is Shiho who kills him.
    • Later, Nao, who also has a beef with Natsuki over the lost eye, targets her more directly. However, Natsuki is saved by Shizuru, revealing Shizuru's status as a HiME for the first time. Because of the humiliating defeat she suffered in the first round, Nao lies in wait for Natsuki in her apartment, tying her up. Only now, she's targeting Natsuki to draw out Shizuru for a rematch.
    • Yukino gets an anonymous text over her phone from Ishigami telling her that if she doesn't kill Mai Tokiha, then her best friend, Haruka Suzushiro, will be killed.
  • In one episode of Noir, Kirika takes up painting as a hobby, and ends up befriending another artist she meets while making her first painting in a park. Shortly after she finishes that painting, her friend is killed in a drive-by shooting by the Villain of the Week as a way of hurting her. While she tracks him down and kills him shortly after, she is scarred by this for the rest of the series: she never attempts to get close to anyone outside the underworld again (nor does she ever touch her art supplies, for that matter).
  • Redo of Healer: Knight captain Renard decides to get revenge on Keyaru for framing him for supposedly killing Flare by razing Keyaru's hometown and brutally raping his Childhood Friend Anna to death in front of her husband, even though it would have been a better option to just use her as a hostage. Keyaru does not take this well and subjects Renard to a Karmic Death by turning him into a woman and having him gang-raped by drugged rapists.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Udo Jin-e kidnaps Kaoru to provoke Kenshin to the point where he reverts back to his Battosai persona.
  • During the second season of Slayers, Hellmaster Febrizo wants Lina Inverse to cast the Giga-Slave, a spell that has the potential to return all of creation to primordial darkness. When Lina refuses, he starts killing her friends, one by one, in front of her, until she's furious enough to cast the spell. It ends up being a case of Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • Trigun: Exaggerated example with the Gung-Ho Guns: in order to make Vash the Stampede suffer, they will exterminate everybody on the planet, one town at the time. They are even willing to die trying, both because they are much more scared of what their boss, Knives Millions, will do to them if they fail, and because Vash is such a hard-core pacifist that seeing them die (hopefully by his hand) will make him suffer too.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: Episode 112 has Mr. Heartland deciding to draw Yuma out to obtain his Number cards by having his subordinate Semimaru attack and steal the memories of Kotori and the rest of Yuma's friends, leaving them catatonic. Fortunately, Yuma manages to save them with the help of III by winning the duel.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Blackest Night: Gehenna, who was killed in the most horrific manner possible, turned into salt, just to torment her boyfriend. Though this was the point as Ronnie was continuously feeding Black Lantern Firestorm emotions since they were fused together and it would have happened to anyone else who was fused with Jason to make Firestorm (such as Jason's best friend Mick if he didn't cease to exist during Infinite Crisis, or even Professor Stein).
    • Green Lantern:
      • Major Force kills Kyle Rayner's girlfriend Alexandra DeWitt and leaves her remains in the fridge for the hero to find, as Revenge for Kyle getting in his way. This was the Trope Namer for Stuffed into the Fridge as well as the inspiration for Women in Refrigerators.
      • Major Force would enact the same tactic a few years later, murdering former Green Lantern Arisia Rrab by suffocation in order to torment her friend Guy Gardner (who at the time operated as the hero Warrior). However, due to her alien physiology, Arisia did not actually die, but rather entered into a state of dormancy that she later recovered from.
      • John Stewart's wife, Katma Nui, was murdered by Star Sapphire (Carol Ferris). To make things even worse, it was not strictly because she was Stewart's wife - Ferris just wanted to kill a Green Lantern, arrived to Stewart's apartment, recognized Katma Nui as a former GL and literally said "you'll do".
    • The Flash: Barry Allen's archnemesis, Eobard Thawne, goes back in time to kill Barry's mother and to frame his father for it just to torment him.
    • Tim Drake: Robin: The villain of the first arc has figured out the identities of the Robins and uses this information to target Tim Drake, trying to give himself a nemesis that will give him a big name as a super-villian. Part of his plan involves him kidnapping Tim's boyfriend Bernard.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Dark Avengers: Lindy Lee. She was killed by Hawkeye (Bullseye) on orders from Norman Osborn in order to make Sentry release his full potential and successfully attack Asgard.
    • Spider-Man:
      • The Night Gwen Stacy Died: After an unsuccessful attempt at using Aunt May to get to Peter, the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy to hurt Peter Parker/Spider-Man. It doesn't end well for him, to the point that the Goblin was actually killed for a time.
      • In Grim Hunt, the Kravinoff family is out to kill all the Spider-themed heroes to piss off Spider-Man. They succeed when they kill the current Spider-Woman, Maddie Franklin. Spidey reminds them why it's not a good idea to go after his friends and family.
      • In Sins Rising and Last Remains, the entirety of the storyline and all of its convoluted twists were simply the result of Harry Osborn using Brain Uploading to get back at his father and Peter from beyond the grave, to the point that he even had Mysterio implant Fake Memories of Gwen Stacy cheating on him in Mary Jane just to hurt him.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): During Chapter 16, MaNi/Elder Brother hurts San specifically to enrage the Vivienne half of Monster X. This also factors into Rodan's reluctance to risk getting too attached to others, seeing such attachments as potential weaknesses.
  • Androgyninja's A Drop of Poison features a rather dark Subversion during the Konoha Crush. Tsuchi Kin attempts to use the chaos and confusion of the assault to track down Sakura's family with the intent of murdering them; however, by the time she arrives, both have already been killed... thanks to Konoha's own forces deliberately containing Orochimaru's summoned snakes in the civilian district. So while their plans fell through, Kin still takes great pleasure in taunting Sakura with how her parents were effectively murdered by Konoha-nin.
  • As Fate Would Have It: The Shadow Triad end up kidnapping and tying up Yancy in order to emotionally hurt Nate, as well as to lure him into a trap where they would exact revenge on him for defeating Ghetsis.
  • Ben 10: Unlimited: Vilgax goes well out of his way to torture Ben in this fashion, starting by slaughtering his family, trying to burn down Bellwood, and desecrating his family's graves.
  • CONSEQUENCES (Miraculous Ladybug): In WORLD BEYOND, after the villains successfully steal the Miracle Box, Nathalie encourages her boss to target areas outside of Paris purely because Ladybug won't be able to reach and restore them with her Miraculous Cure. Hawk Moth goes around destroying various monuments around the world, while constantly blaming Ladybug and Chat Noir, claiming he'll only stop if they surrender their Miraculouses to him.
  • The Dad Villain AU was created when Hawkmoth got his way and was able to combine the Ladybug and Black Cat Miraculouses to make a reality-rewriting Wish. Out of sheer pettiness, he Wishes for Ladybug and her loved ones to be the ones who suffer the cost from Emelie using the broken Peacock Pin. He specifically worded this Wish to ensure the backlash would hit her loved ones first, only striking the former heroine when nobody else is a viable target; in other words, his intent was that she'd be Forced to Watch everyone she cared about sicken and die before she suffered the same fate.
  • Dance with the Demons: Batman initially assumes that Ra's attempted to have Catwoman assassinated as a way of getting Revenge by Proxy in this fashion. However, Ra's makes clear this wasn't the case: not only was he not responsible for the assassination attempt, he dismisses the notion that he wouldn't simply target Batman himself.
    Ra's Al Ghul: Your wife stood against me, once and only once. It is true, you gave me a death in that adventure. A quite painful death. But it was not permanent. Thus far, my deaths have been but trifles. One renewal in the Lazarus Pit and I am reborn. Her discomfiting of me was substantial but not as great as your own. No, her death would add but little to my power, and no profit. If I wished redress for my many hurts at your hands, then have no doubt, Detective: I would kill you.
  • Defied with extreme prejudice in A Darker Path. Atropos has clearly stated that if her identity is published, then she will massacre everyone responsible. She personally wouldn't be in any particular danger, but her father and her few close friends are another matter.
    • Director Wilkins goes looking for information via Sophia's school records, in hopes of getting leverage on Atropos via her family. The next thing she knows, Atropos' shears are poised over her eyeball.
    • Bastard Son does some digging in hopes of tracking down Aisha, since she's known to associate with Atropos. For that, he gets special attention, with extra helpings of public humiliation and taking away everything he cares about before he dies.
  • Ere We Go, Pluz Ultra!: After Izuku bites off two of his fingers, Shigaraki orders two of his subordinates to attack the Midoriya's apartment. Unfortunately for them, they severely underestimated just who they were going after.
  • Fates Collide:
    • Guinevere informs Arturia that she intends to slaughter everyone in the Kingdom of Apocrypha just to ensure that she suffers.
    • Similarly, Penthesilea outright admits to Ruby that the whole reason she's attacking her is that she's got a grudge against Ruby's older sister Yang.
  • For His Own Sake: Unlike the other antagonists, Kagura doesn't have any personal history or beef with Keitaro at all; the only reason she's decided that she wants to hurt him is because she wants to hurt Nagisa. In fact, she actively hopes that Nagisa and Keitaro get together so that it will sting all the more when she rips Keitaro away from her.
  • In Forgotten, Dracula won't awaken so long as his wife is alive. This makes her a natural target to various cultists.
  • In from porcelain to ivory to steel, Holly Kujo's illness from Part 3 is changed to be a curse sent by DIO to make her own Stand harm her, as a way to torment her father Joseph Joestar, the closest living relative of DIO's Arch-Enemy Jonathan. The specifics of the curse targeting Joseph's children are why he and Jotaro, Holly's son, were spared and why Joseph's illegitimate son Josuke was unwittingly affected.
  • I am not Done (MHA) has Katsuki subject Mei to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown during the Sports Festival after discovering that she's friends with Izuku, as he's pissed off that Izuku is continuing to pursue his dreams of becoming a Pro Hero after losing an arm to one of his explosions.
    • This is also Played With in that Mina incorrectly assumes that he beat the shit out of Mei in order to teach her a lesson, as she'd suggested that his temper was all show. She's left horrified at the notion that he was willing to nearly kill a perfect stranger in order to prove her wrong.
  • I'll Never Smile Again deals with Alastor's grief after Niffty is murdered. In the sequel, Common Ground, while attempting to track down the culprits with Vox's help, they discover that she was deliberately targeted — a group has been making a list and keeping tabs on the loved ones of the Morningstars and all the Overlords of Hell.
  • The Kakashi Way: Shimura Danzo firmly believes that Love Is a Weakness that undermines the Sandaime's ability to rule over Konohagakure — a weakness he saw fit to exploit by targeting those closest to whomever he deemed to be a potential threat to his ambitions. This gets played to its full, horrifying effect after the displaced Sasuke exposes his treachery; delving into his private records reveals that Danzo was secretly responsible for many painful losses experienced by Konohan shinobi. Take, for example, the incident at the Kannabi bridge — turns out that was an inside job aimed at undermining Minato. Nawaki's death targeted both Tsunade and Orochimaru, and Danzo had a hand in Dan Kubo's demise as well. Even the shunning and isolation that led to Hatake Sakumo committing suicide was engineered by Danzo.
  • Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox: During the Endgame Arc, the LOVE syndicate takes advantage of Naruto being busy on Kira's private island to send several of their agents after his loved ones. However, Darui, Zabuza and the Tiger Dragon gangsters interfere with their plans.
  • Lost to Dust: Quetzalcoatl slaughters Raven's whole tribe, including her best friend Vernal, just to goad Raven into a fight.
  • Marinette Dupain-Cheng's Spite Playlist: After Marinette transfers to another school, Lila makes clear to her that she's not just continuing to string Alya and the others along for her own amusement. It's because she knows Marinette still cares about them, despite how easily they turned upon her, and she wants to torture her with the knowledge of how they're being hurt by somebody they consider a friend.
  • In One for All and Eight for the Ninth, Re-Destro makes a point of targeting Inko and Toshinori specifically to hurt Izuku in this fashion. It backfires.
  • A Price to Pay: After Adrien betrays her, Marinette pleads with him to stop his father, warning that the Wish requires Equivalent Exchange and suspecting that he'll target somebody in her family as punishment for standing in his way for so long. Sadly, Adrien doesn't care, "reassuring" her that they'll still end up together in the new reality. True to Marinette's fears, her father dies to bring Emilie back — though both Gabriel and Adrien still end up paying the price for their hubris.
  • Straight Edge: Jack Slash murdered and dismembered Kiritsugi's wife purely for the sake of getting a reaction out of him. It failed. Much to Jack's utter confusion, leaving him convinced that there's simply nothing at all that Kiritsugu values in the world.
  • To Extinguish The Sun: Mateo abducts Antonio in order to distract and disperse the Madrigals, giving him easier access to Camilo, along with getting revenge on the family for his exposure and banishment.
  • What Goes Around Comes Around (Miraculous Ladybug): Thanks to Mayura's spying, Shadow Moth knows Ladybug's Secret Identity, and reveals his knowledge by attacking the Dupain-Cheng bakery, blowing up Marinette's bedroom and ordering her to surrender the Miracle Box on pain of seeing her loved ones killed otherwise. This backfires rather spectacularly, as it only serves to push Marinette past the Godzilla Threshold and results in her kicking his backside and exposing his identity to all of Paris.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, when the Joker, whose mind is using Tim Drake's body, deliberately targets those closest to Terry, including Bruce Wayne, his brother Matt and mother Mary and his girlfriend, Dana, who gets sent to the hospital after some members of the Jokerz gang attack her. When Joker gets a hold of a military satellite, he tells Terry that he has a choice of who he can save, as he is targeting Wayne Manor, the apartment building where he lives with his family, and the hospital Dana is in.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, this is played with in regards to Luigi. He's originally just chased and captured by Mooks as a stranger/intruder in the Dark Lands, but by the time he's brought before Bowser, the latter has already heard about Mario working with Peach and entered Crazy Jealous Guy mode, so upon learning that they're brothers, threatens to kill Luigi in revenge for Mario "trying to steal" Peach. Bowser does end up trying to murder Luigi, but not just him exclusively, and not specifically to spite Mario; he decides to sacrifice all of his prisoners at his wedding to Peach—by which point he thinks Mario is already dead after falling off Rainbow Road—in an extremely misguided attempt to impress her and prove his love for her.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Zig-zagged in Highlander. The Kurgan, believing that Heather is with Ramirez, rapes her after he kills Ramirez, because he could. It is centuries later, with her long dead of old age and having never spoken of it to her husband, as he reveals this to Connor MacLeod, that it actually hurts her real lover.
  • In Kick-Ass 2, after Kick-Ass's real identity is ratted out to The Motherfucker, he has two of his thugs brutally beat Dave's father to death and mail him a Polaroid of his bloodied corpse. This actually succeeds in persuading Dave to quit being Kick-Ass, but when the Toxic Mega Cunts attack him at his father's funeral, he changes his mind.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: Civil War: Tony attempts to do this with Bucky, attacking and trying to kill him in a gruesome fashion, which the directors explained was done not to avenge his parents, but rather specifically to hurt and punish Steve for siding with Bucky over himself.
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home: As with his last appearance, the Green Goblin loves this strategy, killing Aunt May as part of his attempt to corrupt Peter Parker, believing her to be his Morality Chain with her "holy moral mission" to help anyone they can. Which he seems to be correct about, given Peter-2 has to stop Peter-1 from killing Goblin in revenge and desecrating what May stood for. He later attempts something similar with MJ, using his glider to prevent Peter from rescuing her when she falls off the Statue of Liberty, though she is instead rescued by Peter-3.
    • The Marvels (2023): Captain Marvel realizes that in her plot to restore her broken world by looting others, Dar-Benn has been deliberately targeting worlds that Captain Marvel helped.
  • Mission: Impossible Film Series:
    • Mission: Impossible III: Davian threatens to torture Ethan's wife in front of him, and then execute Ethan in front of her just to punish Ethan for interfering in his business. When he actually abducts Julia it's to force Ethan's cooperation instead and she manages to kill his boss and last few mooks.
    • Mission: Impossible – Fallout: Lane has arranged for Julia to be in the remote village that Lark has multiple nuclear weapons set to go off in, just to make Ethan suffer. This ends up working against his plans as she helps the team defuse them.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child: Greta's death is used to motivate Mark into believing Alice's claims about Freddy targeting them. Freddy even tortures Greta's soul in front of Mark to get a reaction out of him.
  • No Time to Die: The Action Prologue is caused by Spectre targeting James Bond and his Second Love Madeleine Swann on their romantic holidays in Southern Italy. Spectre's petty leader Blofeld expected two outcomes from this attack: either Bond gets killed, or he accuses Madeleine of having lured him into the trap and they will end up separated. The second option prevails (despite Madeleine having nothing to do with it), and Bond's love life gets wrecked for five years in the process, an outcome Blofeld is delighted by.
  • Safe (2012): The exaggerated version is threatened by the Mafia as punishment after Luke does not throws a fight: they kill his wife (and gloat about it, and the fact she was pregnant, to a shell-shocked Luke) and tell him they will kill anybody he makes significant contact with until Luke feels like killing himself. By the time the plot picks up, Luke has become a homeless man and the Mafia makes clear that this was not a bluff when he makes conversation with a fellow homeless man in a shelter and they murder the old man while he was sleeping (and Luke was sleeping right next to him).
  • Saw 3D: Bobby Dagen is a Glory Hound who got famous by falsely claiming to be a survivor of a Death Trap created by the Jigsaw killer, which he parlayed into becoming a motivational speaker. Jigsaw, displeased by this, forces him into a series of real death traps where his own life isn't on the line, but rather, he has to inflict pain on himself to save the people who served as his accomplices in his scam. Bobby fails all of the challenges and is Forced to Watch as they are all graphically murdered in front of him. The death of his wife Joyce was especially bad here, as unlike the rest, she didn't know that her husband was lying about his experiences, and yet she got what is considered one of the most brutal kills in the entire series.
  • Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.: Connie LaRosa, Harry's previous love interest. The villains give the hospital a fake chart, tricking a nurse into killing her with an overdose of morphine.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Professor Moriarty sends a team of assassins to attack Dr Watson and Mary as they're on the train to their honeymoon, to make a point to Sherlock Holmes about exactly what's at stake if he continues to meddle in the Professor's affairs.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • Spider-Man: This is the Green Goblin's favored method of attacking Spider-Man once he learns he's Peter Parker, going after the two people he cares about most, Aunt May and Mary Jane Watson. He does this under the belief that Spider-Man is effectively unbeatable in direct combat unless he first attacks the heart and makes Peter want to die. However, this backfires when he threatens to kill MJ after he's finished with Peter Parker, which hits his Relative Button and gives him the Heroic Second Wind to defeat the Goblin.
    • Spider-Man 2: Doc Ock kidnaps Mary Jane and orders Peter to find Spider-Man, not knowing at the time that Peter and Spider-Man are one and the same.
    • Spider-Man 3: Venom targets Mary Jane, kidnapping her to lure Spider-Man out with the intention of killing them both. In this case, it's specifically as revenge for Peter taking Eddie's own girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.
  • In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader tortures Han Solo as part of a Batman Gambit to lure Luke to Cloud City for his famous We Can Rule Together plot.
  • The X-Files: Fight the Future: Makes up the main plot of the film. When Mulder gets too close to finding out the truth about The Conspiracy, one of the members of The Syndicate suggests taking him out. The point is made that killing him would turn Mulder into a martyr for conspiracy theorists and bring more attention to what he was seeking, and so then the decision is made to "take away what he holds most valuable" in order to manipulate him into giving up his quest. That "most valuable" thing is Scully, who is kidnapped and held in Antarctica. Mulder, of course, Took a Third Option and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Rescue.

  • Alex Rider: Invoked by Razim. Jack is blown up by a landmine just to make Alex cross the Despair Event Horizon because Razim wished to see how much emotional pain it would cause Alex. But it's actually just an empty car; Jack was extracted and the car detonated later.
  • The Beginning After the End: This is one of Arthur's major weaknesses, as his desire to protect his loved ones ends up being exploited by many of his enemies.
    • In the aftermath of the Class Trip to Widow's Crypt, Lucas Wykes joins the Radicals out of a desire to exact revenge on his longtime rival, Arthur Leywin. During Lucas's initiation, Draneeve, the leader of the Radicals, tells him that his plan to defeat Arthur involves targeting the Student Council President and Arthur's Love Interest, Tessia Eralith. Naturally, when the Radicals stage their attack on Xyrus Academy, Tessia gets incapacitated and Lucas gloats to Arthur about how he plans to desecrate her body right in front of him. Unfortunately for Lucas and Draneeve, their plan backfires on them both spectacularly. While Lucas is immediately subjected to a Cruel and Unusual Death at Arthur's hands, it is later revealed that Draneeve was not so lucky despite escaping the aftermath. As it turns out, Draneeve's master Agrona had planned to use Tessia as the vessel for an entity known as the Legacy, and the fact that Draneeve's actions had unwittingly threatened the plan led to him being Reassigned to Antarctica.
    • Tessia and Arthur's family being potential targets for his enemies is brought up repeatedly during the War Arc. For starters, ever since the attack on Xyrus Academy, Tessia was sheltered by her family as the risk of her dying would have considerable repercussions on Arthur's psyche and could negatively impede his performance on the battlefield. The same reasons applied to his family, who had been living in the Council Castle for protection. Lastly, Kezess Indrath, the ruler of the Asuras, obliquely tells Arthur that "it would be wise for [him] to close [his] heart to the Elven Princess" before Arthur leaves Epheotus to join the war. Sure enough, Agrona ends up doing just that in order to get an edge over Arthur throughout the war.
    • While Agrona had premediated that Tessia would become the Legacy's vessel, for one of his Scythes, Nico, him capturing her was this trope. He had been the Legacy's fiancé in their past lives and sought vengeance against Arthur's past self King Grey for apparently murdering her. As such, his Arch-Enemy's Love Interest being turned into the reincarnation of his own was poetic justice in his eyes, and he brings it up to Arthur's face during their rematch in the Victoriad. It does not go well for Nico, who ends up on the receiving end of a major Curb-Stomp Battle by the newly Re-Powered Arthur.
    • Arthur's first confrontation with the Legacy ends up Going Horribly Wrong because of this trope. He had brought Sylvie and Chul with him, and as both are Asuras whose bodies have harmonized with mana, the Legacy is a Woman of Kryptonite to them as she can Life Drain the mana from their bodies. While Arthur can No-Sell her powers thanks to his core running on aether instead, his attention is distracted by the fact she targets both Sylvie and Chul, Viessa's illusions, and his own desire to take her into his custody so he can separate her from Tessia (not helped by Poor Communication Kills between him, the Legacy, and Nico during the fight, who has secretly turned against Agrona at this point).
  • Durarara!!:
    • In the past, Masaomi dated Saki while leading the Yellow Scarves and regularly went to Izaya for info on the Blue Squares, a rival gang. Unfortunately, Izaya decided to order Saki to get kidnapped by the Blue Squares as part of a plot to destroy both gangs and hurt Masaomi- all for his own twisted amusement.
    • Shizuo goes off to rescue Celty and comes across Kujiragi in the middle of selling the dullahan with Vorona hired as her bodyguard. Despite being furious, Shizuo refuses to attack Vorona and reveals he knew all along she was an assassin, but never said anything because he saw her as a friend. As the situation de-escalates, Izaya has construction equipment dumped onto them, to either kill Shizuo or harm Vorona, in order to enrage Shizuo to instigate their final battle and lure the other man into his trap. Understandably, this turns out to be a terrible idea for Izaya, resulting in him being beaten within an inch of his life and crippled.
  • Evernight: Jane gets her neck snapped by Redgrave in front of Balthazar, after he chose to make Charity a vampire over her, which Redgrave does solely to mess with Balthazar.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • This is used liberally by President Snow as a way to quell rebellion and keep the Victors in line. Since he can't hurt the Victors directly if he dislikes them, he instead decides to have their families get killed to send them a message.
    • Implied to have happened in "Catching Fire". In the arena, one of the sectors is filled with jabberjays that sound like the tribute's loved ones being tortured. Finnick and Katniss know these screams aren't real, but what shakes them is the question of where those screams came from.
  • In Hero Years, I'm Dead: Sinisterion's enemies kidnapped and held Coyote hostage for twenty years because he was Sinisterion's son. Didn't really work out because the extent of Sinisterion's caring was whether or not his son died in a way that could be harmful to his own reputation.
  • In the Lost Voices novel The Twice Lost, Moreland has Anais sing to Luce's father, using her enchanted voice to drive him insane, which is the best way to hurt Luce without being able to capture her. However, after Andrew is released, Luce is able to heal the damage to his mind with her own song.
  • Nightrunner: Thryis and her family are brutally murdered in Stalking Darkness and their heads left on display for Seregil to find and blame himself for.
  • Warrior Cats: Ashfur attempted to murder Squirrelflight's kin in order to make her feel the pain their breakup had left him with. He first tried to murder Firestar, his own Clan leader and her father, shortly after she left him. Later on, he tried to kill her kits right in front of her during a fire, and only left them alone when she admitted they were not her kits.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: Emily soon realizes that one of the 'features' of the Scholomance is that this applies to the elite students. All of the elites are too strong to attack directly, but each elite also handpicked two students for the incoming class, and if a handpicked student dies or does poorly, that undermines the position of her respective elite. On one hand, this means Emily can target the psychopathic top student Morgan by going after her surviving handpicked student Alejandra. On the other, it means that everyone who hates Emily's mentor Lauren, who seems like she may be less evil than the others or even an Unscrupulous Hero herself, knows that the best way to do so is to take a shot at Emily.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Adderly: A simulated version is used by foreign spies who have taken Adderly captive. The spies need Adderly to join their side to complete their mission, so they allow him to hear cries of pain and distress from Mona. However, broken as Adderly is, he quickly discerns that Mona's cries are perfectly synced; the spies are using an audio loop to break his will. The ruse instead instills a Heroic Second Wind in the hero.
  • Black Mirror: In "Black Mirror: Beyond the Sea", David tricks Cliff into handing over his tag so that he can fridge Cliff's wife as revenge for Cliff's personal comments towards him and withdrawal of permission to use his body. David wants Cliff to experience the same kind of grief and isolation that he has.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Richard Harrow considered murdering Adrian D'Alessio to bring his criminal brothers out of hiding. Never followed through.
  • In The Boys (2019), Homelander kills Starlight's kind-hearted ex-boyfriend Supersonic and tells her that the same will happen to her current boyfriend Hughie if she keeps plotting against him.
  • In Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa, series antagonist Moroboshi escapes from prison and goes about trying to instigate Himura's murderous side. She does this by first kidnapping his best friend Arisugawa, and then targeting the three women closest to him (his student, his landlord, and his coworker). Knowing that she won't stop until she gets what she wants, Himura slips aways from his friends and confronts her alone.
  • Daredevil: Wilson Fisk's general M.O. to get people to do his dirty work. He uses his vast intelligence-gathering network and informants to find out who a target cares about, then use them as leverage to get what he wants. Spouse, friend, child... he's not picky, and he will follow through with his threats if he isn't obeyed.
    Tammy Hattley: I used to have two children, Ray. They made it look like a hit-and-run.
  • The Flash (2014): Both of Barry's parents.
    • Henry was explicitly killed by Zoom to cause Barry pain.
    • Nora was killed by Eobard just to spite Barry. He also considered a good side effect that his plan to escape prison also made Barry's Kid from the Future Ret-Gone.
  • Game of Thrones: In season 6, Ramsay releases Rickon and plays a "game" with him. He tells him to run across the battlefield to Jon, who rushes forward to save him, and as Rickon flees, Ramsay fires arrows at him. He misses deliberately until Rickon is mere feet from Jon, at which point Ramsay kills him. Rickon — who has no lines in season 6 — is used just to cause Jon pain and enrage him to the point that he charges the Bolton forces alone.
  • Luke Cage: Late in season 2, Mariah Dillard decides to lure Bushmaster out of hiding by attacking a Jamaican restaurant in Brooklyn owned by the elusive gangster's aunt Ingrid and uncle Anansi. Her men gun down everyone in the restaurant, and Mariah herself then sets Anansi on fire, lets him burn for a while, then shoots him dead.
  • Kamen Rider
  • Oz: Beecher and Schilinger's main tactic to hurt each other is to target their respective families. In a particularly twisted spin on this trope, Beecher manipulates Schillinger into killing his own son as revenge for temporarily crippling him.
  • Psych: In the Season 4 finale, Mr. Yin puts Abigail and Juliet in death traps due to their closeness to Shawn, causing the former to break up with him and the latter to take a several month long sabbatical. In the season 5 finale, he also attempts to poison Gus for no other reason than to have him die in front of Shawn.
  • In Return of Ultraman during the "Ultraman Dies At Sunset" two-parter, the villainous Alien Nackle, having intentions of eliminating Ultraman Jack in order to facilitate his invasion to earth, specifically target Aki and Ken, two of the best friends of Jack's human alter-ego, Hideki, resulting in both their deaths which deals a crippling emotional blow to Jack/Hideki.

  • Elisabeth: Some productions have Death befriend Rudolf as a young child and seduce him as an adult. This is because Sisi, Rudolf's mother, actively spurned Death - so Death presumes that killing her only son would drive her past the Despair Event Horizon and make her wish to die. He succeeded on both counts, but then realizes he doesn't actually want Sisi seeking him as an escape from suffering.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Adam Taurus is an elite member of the White Fang organization, a Faunus-rights group corrupted into a violent terrorist organization. In addition to his hatred of humans, he also directly targets Blake Belladonna, ex-member of the White Fang and his ex-girlfriend. At one point, he specifically tells her that for "betraying" him, he will dedicate himself to destroying everything she loves. This culminates in a fight against Blake's teammate, Yang, where Adam severs Yang's arm.

    Web Comics 
  • Scarlet Lady: Played With during "Prime Queen" — when Lila calls in during Nadja's show, Scarlet Lady mockingly refers to her as her "ex-best friend", referring to how Lila had previously claimed to be her friend. Unaware of the context, Nadja takes this at face value; after her akumatization, she kidnaps Lila specifically to exploit this supposed connection. Naturally, Scarlet Lady isn't interested in making any effort to save her... until Chat Noir points out that they're on the air.
  • Super Stupor:
    • The Anarch captures Punchline and the Cosmic Crusader's girlfriend, explaining to Punchline that he intends to kill the latter, thus breaking CC's spirit and Thou Shall Not Kill ethos. Punchlines points out that while the latter is certainly probable, he'll be more likely to choose Anarch as his first victim that join him in nihilism.
    • Maven (an Expy of the Green Goblin) goes to the apartment of Spider-Monkey to kidnap or kill the latter's girlfriend as revenge for his interference. Spider-Monkey's girlfriend becomes more than a little outraged at his attempt, beats the crap out of him, and feeds one of his hands to a garbage disposal. She even toys with him by forcing him to swear that he is sorry for trying and that he'll never do it again (and making him crap his pants) and then saying that "it's not enough" and turning the disposal on.

    Web Video 
  • Every Man Hybrid: HABIT delights in torturing...anyone, really, but especially the Hybrid trio. He decides to go after Jeff, and does so by taking away everyone he cares about first, from Sparky the dog, to his beloved younger brother. He then finally decides to attack Jeff directly when he's emotionally weakened. To make matters worse, he does this while in Evan's body, making it appear like his own best friend is torturing him. He even admits to doing this, claiming he needs to make Jeff "all squishy" before he could do anything else.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


"All my powers, and I couldn't do a thing."

Kessler has Trish kill to motivate Cole.

How well does it match the trope?

4.86 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / TargetedToHurtTheHero

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