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They Knew the Risks

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A Stock Phrase used to make accepting someone's violent death easier, by pointing out that the dead person knew the risks before he or she signed up for them. Comes in two varieties:

  1. Lieutenant Alex is blamed for the death of Private Bob under his command and says that Bob knew the risks when he volunteered.
  2. Lieutenant Alex blames himself for Bob's death and is told that Bob knew the risks.

This is usually a Death Trope. Unmarked spoilers below!



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan has an unusually kind example of the trope: when Mr. Blouse is presented with Gabi, the killer of his daughter Sasha, he doesn't hold it against the killer and refuses to take revenge, stating that the deceased knew what she was getting into when she became a soldier.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Treasure Planet, Captain Amelia ends her eulogy for her second-in-command Mr. Arrow with this statement.
  • in the short film Le Mans 1955, Alfred Neubauer tries to play down Pierre Levegh's fatal crash by saying that he knew the risks. John Fitch then points out that the spectators, eighty of which were killed in his crash, sure didn't.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Airplane!. "They bought their tickets. They knew what they were getting into. I say, let 'em crash!"
  • James Bond:
    • In The Spy Who Loved Me, when Anya realizes Bond killed her lover on an earlier mission, he says, "Anya, in this business, people get killed. We both know that. So did he."
    • In Licence to Kill, M says this of Leiter when Bond is angry that M won't take action against the people who destroyed Leiter's life. Though Bond promptly retaliates that Leiter's wife certainly didn't, to which M can only change the subject.
      • In Quantum of Solace this is implied, if not stated outright, with Matthis, and James tries to handle the man's death as stoically as he can. This is subverted with Agent Fields' death as M explicitly stated that the agent was not meant to come in harms way because she had an office job.
  • Heat
    Neil McCauley: He knew the risks, he didn't have to be there. It rains... you get wet.
  • Dent says it about himself in The Dark Knight.
    Gordon: We're going after the mob's life savings. This could get ugly.
    Dent: I knew the risks when I took this job, lieutenant.
  • The first "Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" movie. "What do they want for 75 cents, to live forever?"
  • In Con Air, an antagonistic policeman justifies ordering the hijacked plane to be shot down by saying that the guards aboard understood the risks of the job and that the government does not negotiate with hostage takers.
  • In North Face, a group of mountain rescuers originally refuse to help the main characters, who are now stranded on their mountain in a snowstorm, on the grounds that they knew it was incredibly dangerous to even try. (They're persuaded after discovering that the young woman asking for their help is in a relationship with one of the climbers.)
  • Meru is a documentary about climbing a Himalayan peak. There is a lot of talk about how dangerous mountaineering can be, and of how much of a risk one is willing to take.

  • Ender's Game: The pilots who die invading the Bugger homeworld.
  • In The Last Continent, when the UU faculty fear Mrs Whitlow is about to be eaten by sharks, the Dean says she knew the risks when she took the job. This seems doubtful, as the Senior Wrangler points out:
    Senior Wrangler: What? Are you saying that before you apply for the job of housekeeper of a university you should seriously consider being eaten by sharks on the shores of some mysterious continent thousands of years before you are born?
    Dean: She didn't ask many questions at the interview, I know that.

    Live Action TV 
  • Zig-zagged in the Hawaii Five-O episode "The Young Assassins". Violent radicals kidnap Danno and another person and send a message that unless the governor releases two of their comrades from jail, the radicals will kill the hostages. McGarrett says that Danno "knew the odds" when he became a cop, but the other hostage (a college professor) didn't know he could become a target.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Ship"
    Jadzia Dax: They chose a life in Starfleet; they knew the risks. And they died fighting for something that they believed in.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One of the first Pearls Before Swine strips had Pig recount seeing a woman crushed by a ceiling tile at a bingo game, saying "She knew the risks of playing the game."

    Video Games 
  • In Hitman (2016), the Shadow Client excuses Sean Rose's death as this to his lieutenant, hacker Olivia Hall.
  • In Last Scenario, Newick tries to downplay Selene's and Jord's deaths this way.
  • Freelancer: Lord Hakkerra invokes this after Ozu dies on a mission.
  • Metal Gear Solid:
    Snake: I sacrificed Meryl to save myself...
    Roy Campbell: Snake... She was a soldier. She knew the risks. Battlefield casualties are always tragic, but they're an unavoidable part of war.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth: J. Edgar Hoover says this about a field agent after the latter is horribly burned the slime of a Shoggoth. Made worse by the fact that Hoover just shot the agent himself as the agent was hysterical with pain.
  • In both video game adaptations of GoldenEye, this is said of 006's death at the Facility during the Runway mission. Only it turns out Alec's Not Quite Dead.
    • From the N64 version:
      M Briefing: 006 knew this was going to be a risky mission.
    • And from the remake:
      Bond: Bond to MI6. The base is destroyed. 006 is dead.
      Tanner: I... I'm sorry, James.
      Bond: Save it. He knew the risks.
  • The opening of Mass Effect 2 involves the security mechs on a space station going rogue and attacking people. The player character, having fought their way to the one escape shuttle, can express a desire to go back and search for other survivors, but the two with them state that the player character is more important, and everyone on that station signed on willing to die to save them.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: When Hazel accuses Ozpin of sending his sister Gretchen to die and cites this as his reason for siding with Salem, Oscar defends Ozpin by saying Gretchen willingly signed up to be a Huntress knowing it would be dangerous. Hazel doesn't buy it, and it's later revealed that this is because he'd discovered something Ozpin was hiding from everyone, including Gretchen and Oscar: Salem, queen of the Grimm, cannot be killed, making the conflict with her and her minions a Forever War that can only be stopped if she wins.

  • Spoofed in 8-Bit Theater
    Black Mage: If this is the right place, then we will be completely justified in slaughtering the occupants within. If it isn't, it'll be a practice session. As we all know, practice sessions don't count, so we'll be absolved of any alleged crimes.
    Red Mage: But you're going to kill them even if they're innocent.
    Black Mage: And it's practice, so it won't count.
    Red Mage: But they'll be dead.
    Black Mage: Hey, they knew the risks when they took the job.
    Red Mage: Job?! Risks?! You're a mass murdering psycho!
    * Beat Panel*
    Black Mage: If you think about it, that's really their problem.
  • In the finale of the space arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space, the Stag King arrives in British Space, seeking the sacrifice of the "true king". Arthur having given most of the actual kingship duties to Mordred, since he actually seems to enjoy them, they both say "Well, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it" simultaneously, then argue about what "true king" actually means in this context. They both end up going. The Stag King takes Mordred, leaving Arthur to be rescued (but unable to return to British Space) by the Ladies of Avalon.

    Western Animation 
  • A Character Catch Phrase on the "Super Chicken" segments of George of the Jungle was Super Chicken telling his sidekick Fred "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it" when things got bad, although it never got more dangerous than Non-Fatal Explosions. It was even on his Theme Tune.
  • A less than lethal one. During the Chase Scene in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode 'The Last Roundup', Pinkie accidentally knocks Rarity out of a cart. When asked to go back and get them, Rainbow Dash says this and keeps chasing.
  • A non-fatal example: in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "I Am The Night", Batman arrives too late to prevent Gordon from being shot. Part of Dick's attempt to talk him out of the resulting depressed apathy is pointing out that Gordon knowingly accepted the risks of being a cop.
  • At the climax of the Batman Beyond episode "The Call", Batman dives underwater to try and stop a Puppeteer Parasite-infested Aquagirl from releasing the rest of the parasites into the oceans. Meanwhile, topside, Superman starts dropping boulders into the water to try and plug the drain. Big Barda objects since Terry is still down there, but Superman answers, "He knew what he was getting into." After a moment, Barda starts helping Superman. Terry survives and succeeds in freeing Aquagirl from the parasite.