The planet Earth in fiction seems to be a magnet for every hostile alien, demon, trans-dimensional being and human-created atrocity known for a very simple reason.
They come for the food.
Humans seem to be the universe's top delicacy. On a planet covered with millions of animal and plant species, it seems that humans are the only thing here worth eating.
From a predator's standpoint, humans aren't really worth eating. We are frighteningly inefficient as a food source, given the amount of meat on us relative to our size (compared with other prey animals, humans are kinda bony - you ever try pigeon? Or quail? Think of that, only more so, and mammalian and less delicious.), as well as our reproduction rate, and of course, our ability to fight back with our brains, our opposable thumbs, and our general jerkassishness as a race as a whole.
Nonetheless, rampaging alien carnivores will bypass an entire herd of beef cattle, bison, elephants, whatever, just to get their chops around a nice, juicy human. Maybe it's because humans are easier to find nowadays?
(And don't even get us started on how, apparently, human and alien biology is a hundred percent compatible - every space monster seems perfectly equipped to digest human flesh which probably never even existed in its native environment — or if not, it never realizes until it's too late.)
A lighter version of the trope, bordering on aversion, is when the aliens can, in fact, eat just about anything... but humans just taste better. In other words, that line above - "Humans are a delicacy" - is taken literally; you wouldn't eat it every day, but when you get the chance...
This also happens in just about every zombie movie — the zombies spend almost all their time and efforts attempting to feed on live humans, which is pretty strange for creatures acting on "pure motorized instinct."
Likewise, in any given werewolf horror movie, the werewolf typically preys on live humans, as opposed to raiding a butcher shop or a livestock farm. In cases where the lupine hunting instinct is said to be causing this behaviour, why doesn't the werewolf go after wild deer or rabbits? This makes no sense given that wild wolves will scavenge from an existing food source if available, rather than waste energy hunting for it, and humans behave much the same way.
On the topic of horror genre monsters, the same could go for vampires. It seems like all recently turned vampires just decide, "Hey, let's go kill humans!" They never once consider feeding on other animals, such as livestock, which would surely contain more blood than humans, nor does it occur to them to break into the blood bank of a hospital. A human would be more likely to fight back, and human blood would increase the risk of food-borne diseases.
(However, vampires are more likely to have justifications for this behavior, since their hunger is often supernatural in origin; being dead, they aren't "feeding" in any biological sense, and often the blood must come from a living human. In other cases it's explained by sheer sadism, as vampires become inherent sociopaths as soon as they're turned.)
Makes absolutely no sense in dinosaur movies that has Tyrannosaurus rex pursuing people. For a predator whose typical diet consists of elephant-sized herbivores, it's plain illogical for it to pass over a big, hearty hadrosaur dinner for some scrawny Human McNuggets.
Can also be justified if the monsters are a result of The Virus, if said virus is human-specific and spreads through a bite, since it can be altering its host's mind in order to spread itself around more effectively.
Named for the classic The Twilight Zone (1959) episode (itself based on a short story by Damon Knight) that dramatically shows you cannot judge a book by its title. See I'm a Humanitarian for plain old cannibalism, and How to Invade an Alien Planet for additional reasons why this doesn't work so well. May lead to People Farms. Related to Horror Hunger and, for less intelligent hunters of humans, Super-Persistent Predator. Contrast Monstrous Cannibalism, when creatures cannibalize members of their own social group, not somebody else's. Consuming Passion is for when this trope has sexual undertones. Also see Literal Maneater for when the alien or monster is an attractive female that specifically eats male humans.
- Homunculi in Busou Renkin eat humans, but this doesn't seem to be necessary for their survival; after an early feeding frenzy, Papillion Mask doesn't eat another human for the duration of the series. Victoria Powered later suggests that it's because, unlike other homunculi, Papillion has absolutely no wish to be human again. Notably, this tidbit comes after the line, "Want a taste? It's my mother."
- The "Processing Plants" in Cannon God Exaxxion convert humans into food, among other things, some of which is actually sold back to other unwitting humans. Somewhat justified as the aliens' main motivation is to colonize the planet & making the dominant species into a foodsource is simply convenient.
- The Cyborg 009 2001 series has the Athans, a race of talking an telephatic dinosaurs that invade the peaceful Kingdom of Yomi to use its citizens as their living food stock. Hence why the five Princesses of the kingdom first latch on Black Ghost, and later on the Cyborgs as the BG Group betrays them...
- This is a genetic imperative of the aliens in Parasyte - as one tells the main character, the first thing all of them hear in their heads when they take over a body is "Kill and eat this species!" This is further expanded on early in the story, when the main character sees a Parasyte that accidentally landed in a dog - it's eating another dog.
- The demons in YuYu Hakusho, combined with Carnivore Confusion. It doesn't say whether all species of demon have to eat human flesh to survive, though. This leads, later in the series, to a what measure is a human discussion, as well as Raizen's death via starvation for his medieval Japanese human lover, from whom Yusuke is descended.
- In their first appearance in Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta and Nappa are shown successfully invading an alien planet and eating the remains of the planet's Humanoid Alien inhabitants. (Though they had a lot of insect-like features to them.)
- Alien invaders in Gantz are shown snacking on humans.
- Titans in Attack on Titan look like giant naked humans, although they act more like zombies, and tend to eat anyone they manage to grab. Their presence was so devastating that humanity is reduced to building a gigantic, fifty meter wall to attempt to keep them out. Which it does for at least a hundred years, until one day they see an even larger Titan peering down at them right before it breaks a hole in the wall... What's odd is that the titans don't bother other animals and can't even digest their victims, instead getting their power from the sun. Once their bellies get full, they vomit them up and go looking for more humans to eat. It's eventually revealed this is an instinctual drive to eat an unawakened Titan shifter, which will give them back their sense of self and humanity, but they have no way of reliably sensing them so they simply eat every human in sight.
- Saiyuki: There's a legend that a youkai who consumes a Sanzo priest will become immortal. This is apparently not true, but it still gets protagonist Genjo Sanzo more negative attention than he'd like.
- The titular Ghouls of Tokyo Ghoul are a humanoid species incapable of digesting anything but human (or ghoul) flesh. Possessing a variety of superhuman abilities, they are otherwise identical to humans and have a variety of opinions concerning their strict dietary requirements. Some take great pleasure in tormenting and killing humans, while others are peaceful scavengers that simply want to co-exist as much as possible. In spite of being physically superior to their natural prey, Ghouls are oppressed and actively hunted by a government agency. An underground society of wealthy ghouls takes this trope to its natural conclusion, operating "Gourmet Societies" where humans are butchered and served up as fine dining.
- The plot of The Promised Neverland kicks off when the three main children discover that the "foster families" their fellow children are regularly sent to are a race of giant man-eating demons, that their peacful orphanage is actually a farm where they are the cattle, and that their "Mother" is the farmer and works for the demons.
- The apostles in Berserk are cruel and sadistic, and some of them are also man-eaters.
- Even the Awakened Beings from Claymore are man-eaters. Once upon a time they were ordinary humans who were made to half-demonic warriors and eventually transformed into pure demons.
- Some youkai in InuYasha also feed on humans.
- In Rosario + Vampire a female youkai tries to eat a young girl (the cousin of the male protagonist).
- Played with in Toriko: the monsters in the much more dangerous Gourmet World could have an incredibly easy time waltzing in the Human World and eating everything in it (humans included)... but they usually don't bother, because the food and creatures in the Human World is considerably less tasty than that of the Gourmet World. The Four Beasts of the titular arc are major exceptions: they prey exclusively on humans, and enter the Human World every few centuries specifically to "harvest" as many humans as possible, then they go away to allow for repopulation.
- Nextwave explains monsters' preference for eating humans by detailing why humans are especially tasty to them.
- Inverted in the Star Wars Expanded Universe comic Qui Gon And Obi Wan Last Stand On Ord Mantell, the title characters discover that a group of humans are smuggling aliens off of their planet, and assume it is because they are useful as cheap slaves. In reality, it is because they are "delicious".
- One Strontium Dog story had a planet of aliens who imported many other sentient species as slaves. The fit ones were put to work building monuments to the king, while the sick, lame, and old were put in battery farms to be fattened up before eating.
- Marvel Zombies 5 involves a world where H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds happened. Then the Martians came back, immune to Earthling's diseases. Then, they did human farming. So, what do you do with the Zombie virus? It's a dirty war, let's poison the enemy's food.
- The Venom symbiote from Spider-Man has become addicted to human flesh and will attempt to force its host to satiate that addiction.
- In the Pony POV Series, it's mentioned before humans went extinct on Equus, Minotaurs were a predator species towards them as per mythology. By the time of the Golden Age it apparently died out as a practice (though Patch had to stop one Minotaur from starting a 'human BBQ' restaurant chain following the apocalypse, only to resurge during Discord reign and wipe out any native humans still living in Equestria (except Somnambula).
- Lampshaded in Madagascar, when the lemurs are discussing Julian's plan for Alex. When the fosa are mentioned, panic breaks out, and one of the lemurs holds a book with the title To Serve Lemur, screaming, "It's a cookbook! It's a cookbook!"
- In The Mousehole Cat the Great Storm Cat likes to eat humans, calling them "mice-men".
- This is the premise for Peter Jackson's (yes, that Peter Jackson) first movie, Bad Taste: if the aliens have their way, our entire species will be served throughout the galaxy as "Crumb's Country Delights"...
- The sci-fi movie Daybreakers explores this trope with an interesting twist: what if 95% of the population are now vampires, and only 5% are humans?
- Inverted in District 9. Some of the Nigerians believe that by eating the aliens, they'll gain the ability to use their DNA-coded weapons (this is based on Truth in Television—albinos in Tanzania are hunted by a superstitious but dangerous few trying to gain their "power"). Humans Are Bastards is in full effect.
- Also played straight with Koobus's fate. It seems everyone's got a taste for everyone else in that universe.
- In Dude, Where's My Car?, the first thing that the alien Amazon Brigade do after merging into the Super Hot Giant Alien is swallow the nearest teenage boy whole.
- Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong (2005):
- The Vastatosaurus rex of Skull Island seemed to find blonde heroine Ann Darrow an irresistible tidbit, eagerly pursuing her with intent to devour regardless of circumstances. One actually drops the half-eaten carcass of its reptilian prey (massing about as much as a human) to pursue her, and later a V-rex struggles to bite her while dangling by (industrial strength) vines over a canyon floor! (Maybe blonde female humans are "carnosaur crack" and just the sight or scent of one immediately addicts the poor brute.)
- After the brontosaur stampede ends with the herd of sauropods left in a pile - which, given their huge size, would have left most of their skeletons effectively pulverized and probably killed instantly in Real Life - the predatory Venatosaurus pack promptly ignores the already-disposed of banquet before them in order to pursue the small band of fleeing humans (who are armed with Tommy guns, no less).
- In the M. Night Shamayalan movie Signs, the aliens want to "harvest" humans, but are afraid of, and affected badly by, water. The liquid that makes up most of human biology. Maybe they planned to turn us all into jerky.
- In the 2009 film Star Trek Kirk is marooned on the planet Delta Vega where he is attacked by a large predator. That predator is killed by an even larger predator which drops its huge, freshly killed prey in order to pursue the minuscule Kirk.
- The beast is probably territorial, and is chasing Kirk off of its land - notice how it uses threat displays before chasing Kirk.
- In Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks initially think our heroes are food. Except Leia since she ran into Wicket, a single Ewok, first. A hilariously dark short animation from Disney shows Leia trying to keep the Ewoks from eating the captured Stormtroopers after the battle. It's quite clear that Ewoks have absolutely no qualms about eating humans, given the opportunity.
- Troll 2: The goblins try to treat the Waits family to Nilbog food so that they can turn them into "half-man, half-plant" goblin food.
- Arnold: They're eating her! And then they're going to eat me! OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDD!
- The iconic giant plant from Little Shop of Horrors, is an alien species that survives only by feeding off of fresh human blood, and arrived on earth in the first place to conquer America and feed off of its inhabitants, supposedly due to an extreme lack of food on the species' native planet.
- Battle Beyond the Stars. Caymen of the Lambda Zone captures The Chick and, though he admits he'd normally get a fine price elsewhere for a pretty thing like her, he's now going to feed her to an alien who's purchased her body for more carnivorous purposes.
- Weird sci-fi flick Lifeforce has an unusual spin on vampire mythology: vampires are actually aliens who visit humanity from time to time to suck us dry of life energy.
- The book the movie is based upon Space Vampires does the same and fleshes it out a bit more.
- Averted in the Russian films Night Watch and Day Watch, where the vampires generally drink pig blood so that they don't have to attack humans.
- Played straight in Jack the Giant Slayer. Giants invade the lands below the clouds because they love the taste of humans.
- In Godzilla (2014), while their primary food source is radioactive material, the female Muto devours a squadron of soldiers positioned on a pier and would have eaten Ford had Godzilla not killed her.
- In the film of Jurassic Park, it's played both ways by the two predators, the tyrannosaurus and the velociraptors. The former doesn't appear to be specifically hunting humans, and in fact generally appears to be attacking the cars they travel in - which are in fact of a similar size to hadrosaurs or ceratopsids, which would have been prey in real life. The velociraptors on the other hand very much do seem to have a hankering for human meat, but then a human would make a pretty decent meal for a raptor and they've learned that humans are easy prey...
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Laureline is captured by aliens, only to be forced to wear a nice white dress and a ridiculously huge hat and carry fruit to their emperor, part of a long line of food being brought to his highness. The Emperor rejects all the other foods in distaste, but then gleefully grabs the fruit and squeezes it across Laureline's head, which is sticking out the top of her hat which now bears an uncanny resemblance to a large dinner plate...
- Hellboy has the tooth fairies. They are also man-eaters.
- In The Awakeners by Sheri S. Tepper, humans are allowed to immigrate to the planet Northshore after the government essentially makes a Deal with the Devil with a native species (that resemble human sized, talking birds). When a person dies they are fed a liquid, The Tears of Viranel, which supposedly helps them on into the afterlife. In reality this liquid turns them into walking zombies, and tenderises their flesh so the native species can eat them.
- In The Silver Chair (the fourth book published in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, and the sixth book chronologically), the children are invited to stay in the giants' castle, where they will be "part of the great Autumn Feast in their honor." The older female giants fawn and tut-tut over their charges. Then the kids stumble upon a giant-sized cookbook that lists Man as a delicacy, albeit with very little actual meat. The cookbook goes so far as to list Marsh-wiggle (the species of the children's Non-Human Sidekick), claiming that while edible, they are very stringy and have a "muddy flavor."
- Subverted a bit in one of Larry Niven's Draco Tavern stories, "Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing!": A minor character tells the (protagonist) bartender his tale of being in the first diplomatic mission to the Glig, where they're given standard DNA testing among other things. And then cloned as a meat source. To make matters worse, if humans don't allow this practice, and accept royalties for it, the Glig will just eat bootlegged clone meat.
- Inverted in the short story From Gustible's Planet by Cordwainer Smith. Petting Zoo People ducks invade/decide to hang out on Earth, eat all our food and refuse to leave. When there's an accident involving a Duck-person official, a fire hazard, and smell-o-vision, the entire world realizes that they're delicious. The few ducks that survive the ensuing massacre beat a hasty retreat and change their galactic phone number to 'unlisted'.
- In Yulia Latynina's Inhuman, the extinct Ttakas ate everything regardless, including humans, though they showed no particular preference. A better example would be the Barrs, who have a proud hunter culture and like to eat their prey - especially humans because they're so difficult to kill, what with their power armour and their general predominance.
- The immortals from the Clive Barker short story The Midnight Meat Train have to eat human flesh to survive, though they claim not to enjoy it. The Eldritch Abomination that leads them and is implied to be the original source of all myths of gods doesn't seem terribly interested in eating much of anything during the brief time we see it, though.
- A number of aliens in John Scalzi's Old Man's War universe like to eat humans, most notably the Rraey. This tends to be the main issue with human-Rraey relations.
- In Parasite Pig by William Sleator, there are crablike aliens that have a whole gourmet tradition for cooking humans and similar creatures (complete with treating them as guests and fattening them up), even though they don't have space travel and have to wait for humans to come to their home planet. (In that verse, Casual Interstellar Travel exists, but Earth-inhabiting humans don't have access to it, and it generally doesn't seem as if the crabs in question do.)
- The godlike Managers imprisoned beneath the showgrounds in The Pilo Family Circus consider the entire human race little more than an exquisite but minuscule delicacy.
- Averted in Piers Anthony's "Small Mouth, Bad Taste", in which a prehistoric race of sentient lemurs was driven to extinction because, unlike we humans, they were quite tasty to predators.
- In Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, vampires usually feed from humans, but have no problem whatsoever with existing on animal blood if they have to. Lestat even explains this to Louis in Interview with the Vampire when he points out that if Louis doesn't want the(at the time) still-superstitious humans opening his coffin while they're at sea, Louis "damn well better keep that ship clean of rats." Additionally, Lestat's mother Gabrielle lives almost exclusively in the wilderness, and subsists on wild animals.
- The War Against the Chtorr series has an invading alien ecology transforming Earth into a world where humanity will not only serve as food, but will welcome it.
- In David Weber and Steve White's In Death Ground (a novel based on the Starfire tabletop wargame), on every human-colonized planet the Arachnids take over, they eat the locals.
- Older Than Radio: The Martians in H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds are here for the food. As medical science at the time (or at least Wells' understanding of it) had the digestive system actually transforming food into blood to keep the body moving, the Martians "fed" by directly transfusing human blood into their system.
- This trope is one of the main themes in Michel Faber's Under The Skin. The book plays with the reader's perceptions as the aliens call themselves "humans" and refer to Earthlings as "vodsels". The protagonist's job is to pick up human hitchhikers while disguised as a voluptuous human female, and deliver the meat to a farm to be processed and sent to the home planet for the rich to eat as a delicacy.
- The movie adaptation makes it far more ambiguous, but we do see a red paste sliding down a chute after the victims are killed, reminiscent of processed meat.
- World War Z (and 'The Zombie Survival Guide before it) had the zombie hunger for human flesh as part of the solanium virus's lifecycle. Zombies feed largely because a single bite is enough to convert the victim (they don't need to eat; human flesh simply builds up in their digestive systems. If they live long enough, food intake will push undigested flesh out of their rear). The major problem with this is that "Feed" instinct usually outweighs "Spread" instincts.
- Larry Niven's Known Space Verse plays it straight and averts it for different species. The kzinti used to eat humans during the Man-Kzinti Wars, but had to give up the practice during peacetime. On the other hand, one of the main characters tells a story of being attacked by a native predator on the planet Gummidgy. It tore a chunk out of his side, then stopped chasing him to eat the strip it had in its grip... and then dropped dead on the spot, from biochemical incompatibility.
- Defied in Tara Duncan. A dragon states that he won't eat humans: cows taste better. The heroine wonders how he can tell.
- Played with in Chess With A Dragon, in which humanity is in danger of becoming food to any of a number of predatory alien species if we can't pay off a massive debt owed to one of them. In this case, it's not that humans are particularly prized as food: it's that every newly-spaceworthy species gets conned into the same position, and it's become routine for carnivorous races at the top of the galactic pyramid-scheme to eat whichever species are indentured to them.
- In the Goosebumps book Attack Of The Jack-O'-Lanters, people are reported as missing around Halloween in a fairly background event. The protagonists meet two new friends who help them scare a couple of bullies, and aren't particularely phased when the duo turn out to be aliens. As they escort them back to their spaceship, the aliens reveal that they ate all those people and that they will continue to return to Earth to do exactly that, before taking off in their spaceship. (And they warn the protagonists that if they don't try to lose weight by then, they might go after ''them''.)
- Nightmare Hour: The kids of "Alien Candy" invite a chubby kid to become president of their club. In reality, they're aliens that wanted a meal.
- In Robert Asprin's Myth-Nomers and Im-Pervections, Skeeve is in disguise in a Pervish restaurant and asks for "something from [his home dimension of] Klah", and is brought what appears to be a cooked Klahd/human; it turns out it's a fake constructed out of other kinds of meat. (The chef's explanation that 'you need a license to sell sentient beings' is not reassuring.)
- Galaxy of Fear: Eaten Alive has this in a roundabout fashion, though not just to humans. Enzeem make people feel welcome on D'Vouran. When they're not wary D'Vouran drags the people down, kills them, shreds them. Enzeem suck fresh nutrients out of the soil. They actually have a sign in their town reading "We Live To Serve".
- Army Of Terror has Eppon turning people into goo and absorbing it, leaving Empty Piles of Clothing everywhere. He was designed to be able to do that. In fact he was the first member of a planned army, apparently designed to infiltrate military groups or population centers as adorable cuddly children.
- "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" by Mack Reynolds features a discussion between two undercover aliens. One race considers human meat a delicacy. The other is stirring up wars and tribal conflicts for alien thrill tourists. The first one notes sourly that this could spoil an awful lot of good meat.
- This is why devils are in the business of seducing mortal souls to evil in The Screwtape Letters; they feed on them in Hell. It is emphasized in the sequel short story, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", where it is stated that evil religious zealots are punished in Hell by being made into blended wine — those who hated each other the most make the best vintages when combined.
- In Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, by Spider Robinson, Chapter 8, "Unnatural Causes," reveals that an alien race has been intervening in human history to lead us ultimately into a self-destructive war, so they can eat the corpses, which they are too squeamish to slaughter for themselves. It never seems to have occurred to them that they could secure a steady meat supply from Earth by manipulating human history so that we will accept them as gods, to by worshipped by offerings in the form of dressed animal carcasses (or even human carcasses).
- In the Paradox Trilogy, the xith'cal are an alien species that enjoy eating humans (and other sentient species) and regularly abduct them for food.
- The Culture. In "The State of the Art", a soup made from human flesh is served up to the human crew by a practical joker. No-one is really squicked out by this — the meat has been cloned on the ship, using a few cells taken from various world leaders of the time, ranging from Richard Nixon to Kim Ill Sung — so the whole thing is treated like a joke.
- Space Vampires has a group of space traveling aliens planet hopping and stopping by Earth from time to time to suck the Lifeforce from their victims. If memory serves, there is just something special about humanity.
- In The Traitor Son Cycle, the Wild creatures often eat humans they fight - and when boglins are involved, the feast begins even before the battle is over.
- The trolls from The Girl from the Miracles District are man-eaters, making them the magical world's Cleanup Crew.
- In Animorphs you can see the taxxons. They are an alien species of giant millipedes that have uncontrollable hunger and eat everything they can get. It is never shown in the books, but if a taxxon gets the opportunity, he would eat a human too.
- In The Mortal Instruments there are demons that eat humans. But not all demons do that. Most of them kill humans just for fun, and some of them also rape humans for warlocks to be born.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians there are monsters chasing young demigods so they can kill them. And many of them eat it too. Half-gods are only half-human, but that still qualifies these monsters to this trope.
- In the German SF series Maddrax the animals and plants have mutated into huge monsters, and the predators among them frequently hunt humans as well. It's probably easier to list the animals (and even plants) that humans.
- The Ra'zac of The Inheritance Cycle quite happily eat any humans Galbatorix doesn't specifically tell them not to. Oromis says they come from the same continent as humans and were likely what forced King Palancar to move his people to Alagaesia. It's unknown how the Ra'zac followed, since one of their only weaknesses is a crippling terror of deep water.
- Big Bad Jasmine needs to regularly eat humans whole for nourishment. When Gunn finds out about this, he screams "To Serve Man! It's To Serve Man all over again!" When Angel mentions this as one of his reasons for opposing her, she quickly retorts "Like you never have?"
- In the episode "Unleashed" a group of depraved culinarists catch a werewolf for her meat. Since a werewolf returns to human form when it dies, it has to be eaten alive.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Standard vampires in Buffy are shown to make regular runs at blood banks in an effort to stay out of Buffy's way, while Angel buys animal blood from a slaughterhouse. And when Angel becomes CEO of Wolfram & Hart, he is given a cup of blood to drink. Wondering at the taste, he is informed that "the secret ingredient is otter."
- Another episode addresses it more directly and then plays with it, without even using vampires. Buffy—working at a fast food place called "Double Meat Palace"—notices that the managers are extremely secretive about the meat making process, and that some of the more troublesome employees disappear without question or concern. She comes to the conclusion that the meat is actually human, but when she investigates it she finds out that the meat isn't even meat, it's vegetable matter and that the disappearing employees are the result of a man-eating monster who likes the taste of those who have eaten the food there.
- Doctor Who:
- The serial The Two Doctors featured Shockeye, an alien who prattled on endlessly about the gourmet possibilities for the preparation of human flesh.
- There's a subversion/inversion in "The Impossible Planet", in which the Ood advance on the Doctor and Rose repeatedly stating "We must feed" - their translator was malfunctioning and the full message was "We must feed you, if you are hungry" (they're servants).
- In the Eleventh Doctor's stories, we're introduced to the Silurian Madame Vastra, who was caught and redeemed by the Doctor after preying on the workmen building the London Underground. She casually mentions eating Jack the Ripper, and a later episode confirms that yes, she continues to eat people, though she seems to restrict herself to serial killers (presumably she eats other food too).
- Game of Thrones: As befits the dragons' reputation of eating only "cooked meat", Drogon has killed and charred a three-year old girl, and Daenerys seems to have taken towards feeding the grounded Viserion and Rhaegal with Meereen's rebellious Masters.
- Stargate Atlantis: The Wraith, the Big Bad alien race, can only subsist on the life-energy of humans. After puberty, a Wraith's digestive system shuts down and while they can still consume food and drink orally, they won't derive sustenance from it. We never saw one starving to death since they can just hibernate when hungry but "Todd" did show signs of it like randomly fainting (or going delirious and speaking in rhymes in an alternate universe). Much of the protagonists' challenge involves keeping them from finding Earth, which they desire because of its large population even though it's in another galaxy. At times, the Atlantis crew looks for ways to biologically alter the Wraith so they won't need to drain human life-force, but they always fail. Sometimes the efforts just plain don't work, other times they induce side effects that the Wraith of Todd's hive (the only group of Wraith willing to even try to come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement) find unacceptable.
- Quite a few monsters in Supernatural are prone to snacking on people or specific parts of them, but the Leviathans certainly take the cake, as their entire M.O. seems to be "they eat people". With cheese.
- The Trope Namer was the word-for-word title of an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959). The story begins when seemingly benevolent aliens come to Earth bringing solutions to the world's issues of war, hunger and poverty, and eventually offer humans rides back to their home planet. Said aliens are carrying a book instructing them on how to aide humans, entitled "To Serve Man" (that is, presumably, to be of service to man). However, as more of the book is translated, its true nature is discovered, leading to the reveal: "It's a cookbook!"
- The aliens in V (1983) plan on making humanity into a food source. Subverting the trope since it didn't follow though, however, they seem to have no problem with eating other mammals as well (see: the famous sequence where one swallows a guinea pig whole).
- The first season of War of the Worlds ends with the Blackwood team allying itself with an android sent by a "friendly" alien race to help protect mankind from the invaders. Her final message back to her homeworld before leaving, subtitled for the benefit of the audience, but untranslated for Blackwood and his team, changes a hopeful ending to a Downer Ending. The message? "Humanity still in danger as future food supply."
- The Space Beasts of Ultraman Nexus specifically eat humans, even though most of them are kaiju-sized, meaning humans wouldn't provide much sustenance. It's revealed later on that they actually feed on the fear they produce by attacking and eating humans. Fear makes them more powerful and more numerous until they eventually destroy all life on the planet and move on to another world. This is also why the series' Memory-Wiping Crew exists — to prevent exactly that from happening.
- Power Rangers Turbo:
- It's not like she did this often, but Divatox clearly had no qualms against trying to devour the Rangers after they had been shrunk to minute size. (This ended very badly for her, as one of them shot her in the tongue when she tried to snag them with it; the whole rest of the episode had them trying to avoid and hide from the very sore and pissed-off villainess as they tried to escape.)
- Don't forget Mad Mike the Pizza Chef. (On second thought, maybe that one should be forgotten...)
- Many prehistoric animals (or the future) in Primeval also hunt and eat humans. Whenever you see a predator, you can assume that it will attack a human.
- In The Big Bang Theory one of the aliens that intercept a message sent by Sheldon into space comments when it sees him: That alien looks delicious.
- "Martian Girl!" by The Aquabats!:
She had an appetite that couldn't be beat
She came from space to eat people meat
I guess I didn't taste good anyway
'Cause when she kissed me, she flew away!
- Cattle Decapitation has an album titled with this trope.
- Similarly, Creature Feature uses a song named after this trope.
- Many of the paranormal predators and parasites from the SCP Foundation universe either solely or preferentially target humans.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, one of the rules that all werewolf clans are supposed to follow is not eating humans. This is explained as being partially because it's dangerously close to cannibalism (all werewolves have a werewolf as one parent and either a human or a wolf as the other), but mostly because with all the preservatives we eat, we're just not very healthy for them. One clan (consisting only of werewolves with a wolf parent) breaks this rule whenever they can, but this has more to do with their inherent misanthropy than anything else.
- In Werewolf: The Forsaken, werewolves are forbidden from eating humans or wolves - their cousins on either side of the spiritual family tree. Thing is, if they break that rule, they gain Essence back...
- In fact, eating other werewolves is actually an even worse ding on the Karma Meter than eating human or wolf flesh.
- There's actually two Lodges that relate to eating human flesh in some manner.
- In Werewolf: The Forsaken, werewolves are forbidden from eating humans or wolves - their cousins on either side of the spiritual family tree. Thing is, if they break that rule, they gain Essence back...
- In Vampire: The Requiem, vampires are basically forced to take their human blood directly from humans; the rules state that preserved human blood is only about 1/8th as nourishing as directly drained blood. So a vampire who wants to try and be a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire by only taking blood through donations or from blood banks needs to drink eight times as much.
- In Starfire, one alien race, the Arachnids, finds humans to be a delicacy.
- Of course, Dungeons & Dragons has plenty of races who prey on humans; perhaps the most blatant example are the Meazels as they are depicted in the 4th Edition. They had appeared in previous editions, but the 4th gave them a backstory that claims their race was cursed millenia ago. A Deal with the Devil that they made out of desperation turned them into degenerate beings who could only live on human flesh.
- In Warhammer 40,000, humanity is evolved enough to colonize most of the galaxy, using the most advanced interstellar traveling in the setting with the help of unique Beacon-like construction at the center of their Imperium - Holy Terra. A few editions later a Horde of Alien Locusts entered the galaxy from the outside. To be fair, these creatures devours everything and everyone that they found, human or not, but the catch? Like the moths to the flame, they fly precisely to this human Beacon. Of course, the whole galaxy is not happy.
- The whole plot of Commander Keen 6 revolves around saving the protagonist's babysitter from aliens that want to eat her (the full name of the game is Commander Keen 6: Aliens Ate my Babysitter!). The game even features a level which contains a book with "How To Serve Man" written on the cover with alien alphabet.
- Buried in Time: The Journeyman Project Part 2 features a player death sequence in which the hero accidentally teleports himself onto the table of some aliens preparing to sample earth cuisine, and is mistaken for Kung Pao Chicken.
- The Kaiju Gods of Primal Rage can eat the humans who enter the battlefield to pray to their respective god during battle to gain health. Taking this to the extreme is Sauron (No, not that one) whose insatiable appetite has him eating everyone in his ending.
- Referenced in World of Warcraft - the item "An exotic cookbook" is described as having the title "How to serve Man". Seeing as it drops in a jungle area populated with cannibalistic trolls, this is definitely meant to be taken literally. In fact, you can even read the book:
1. Get one or eight man.2. Hit man hard.3. Hit man more.4. Put man in fire.5. Eat man.
- Undead characters also have a racial ability called "Cannibalize" that enables them to consume humanoid corpses every so often to restore a percentage of their health.
- In Warcraft III, the Troll Witchdoctor has 'Soylent Gray is made from Trolls' and 'It's a cookbook! A COOKBOOK!' as his taunts. His last taunt (before cycling back to the non-pissed phrases) is a hilarious parody of Iron Chef.
- It's hinted in the X-COM series that one of the reasons aliens harvest humans is for food... some fan works retaliate with humans dining on the aliens in return. (Rule of Funny is in play)
- One of the ways that players can earn money in the game is selling recovered alien technology—including alien corpses. It is never made entirely clear who buys those corpses, but in the official X-COM tie-in novel by Diane Duane, the protagonist actually wonders if restaurants are buying them.
- A common joke about the second game, Terror From the Deep, is that bases undoubtably eat hearty after fending off Lobster Men attacks.
- In XCOM 2, ADVENT burgers are noted to be quite tasty, but nobody can remember seeing a cow in a very long time. So the burgers are either this or some kind of Artificial Meat, and given that ADVENT are generally bastards and that ADVENT is already slaughtering humans on an industrial scale for the Avatar project, resulting in corpses to be disposed of somehow, the evidence strongly leans towards the burgers being human.
- In Tomb Raider, dinosaurs (and other various large creatures) seem to find Miss Lara Croft a delicacy, considering they attack her on sight with or without provocation, in addition, in various QTE's, Lara can get Swallowed Whole by either a T-Rex or Snake creature, with the former ignoring several Raptors to eat Lara.
- Aside from using humans or various parts thereof in their war machine, the Strogg from Quake II and Quake IV also reprocess humans into Stroyent to feed their troops. When the player himself is Stroggified, he can also use it as a means of replenishing health.
- This is a required survival behavior for the player's monster in Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!; eating humans staves off hunger and heals damage. Unprotected civilians are the best, while armored tanks and infantry provide minimal benefit.
- Touhou's youkai are generally said to be man-eaters (no, not THAT kind), though this is usually kept in the background:
- The prologue of Perfect Cherry Blossom, written by a Hakurei shrine maiden (possibly Reimu herself) notes that humans are delicacies to the youkai and that teams of them regularly leave Gensokyo to kidnap outside humans for food, disguised as accidents or people running away from home.
- In Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, Hieda no Akyuu says on one hand that the humans of Gensokyo are no longer hunted by youkai as food ... but later comments that outsider humans are common prey (as well as hermits).
- One of the few times a youkai has threatened to eat a human in-game is the encounter with Utsuho Reiuji in Subterranean Animism, when playing as Reimu and Suika. Utsuho finds Reimu rather tasty-looking, and expresses her desire to eat Reimu right then and there.
- Embodiment of Scarlet Devil is full of this. Rumia and Meiling seem to want to eat Reimu, and Patchouli thinks Marisa might be a good source of vitamins. Remilia is unenthusiastic about both protagonists because she's already full, and Flandre has "only ever seen humans in the form of a drink" and is suspicious of Reimu's claim to be one - granted those last two are vampires, so they're likely just talking about blood... There are scattered examples in other games too.
- Tempura Wizards from Kid Icarus: Uprising have the ability to turn Pit into shrimp tempura that they eat for a One-Hit Kill. Granted Pit isn't a human, but it's safe to say that Tempura Wizards also do this to humans.
- Implied in Mass Effect 2. This is one of the theories about why the Collectors make unusual requests for people. It is also implied that The Shadow Broker who Shepard and Liara defeat does this, as the game often references how his species, Yahg, are apex predators and Feron states that the guards are terrified of him and that not everyone who enters his office comes back out.
- Played with in Mass Effect 3. According to Javik, Protheans liked to eat the Salarians, but back when they were still around the mental capacity of frogs. Remember, this is Javik.
- While a number of Covenant races in Halo are capable of eating humans, the Brutes are the only ones who actually relish in it, as they consider humans to be quite delicious.
- In Starbound, Florians treat just about anyone like this. Except they're sliiightly too tribalistic and proud of their strength to actually herd them, and thus hunt them down. This limitation doesn't stop them from being a huge threat.
- The monsters of Evolve can eat the corpses of dead hunters, as well as the colonist casualties that can be found on the maps. While hunters aren't the most filling of prey (2 meat for an intact hunter, 1 for a casualty) they still provide an adequate meal, with the added bonus that Lazarus can't revive eaten corpses.
- In the Final Story of Shadow the Hedgehog it turns out that rather than ruling Earth, Black Doom is here to use it as a food source. The Archie adaptation expands it to the level that the Black Arms race use the Black Comet to treat every living race as their personal drive-thru restaurant, and Earth/Mobius is just another pit-stop for them.
- It's actually learning this that no matter what path you've taken thus far, this is why Shadow decides to fight Black Doom.
- Fire Emblem:
- The Wolfskin Keaton of Fire Emblem Fates enjoys eating human meat, as one of his in-battle quotes after he kills a (human) enemy is "Fresh meat is the best!" And on the Birthright path, he tells the protagonist Corrin's party that he and his group ate the last group of soldiers that tried to pass through the Wolfskin home of Mount Garou, and then tosses human remains to them to prove he's not lying.
- The wolf laguz Volug of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is implied to be a case of this, as one of the things he can say when supporting with someone is "You ever wonder what would happen if I just ate everyone we fought? Would the rest keep fighting?" And of course, the majority of the enemies fought in the game are human. Must be something with wolves.
- Can be inverted in the Utopia DLC of Stellaris if you're playing as humans, or played straight if you're not. One possible form of enslaving alien pops available to Xenophobic empires is to raise them as livestock, which helps boost food production on the planet they're on. There's also a trait only available with Biological Ascension that lets you make your slaves Delicious and double the amount of food you can get out of them. Additionally, a method of purging pops is to process them into food.
- Orion Burger casts this as its premise but also deconstructs it a little: the aliens are facing pressure about the use of sentient meat, but rig the test so that humans will not come out as such.
- Pokémon Black and White: According to a story in Lacunosa Town, Kyurem is said to drag people off into the night and eat them. Its unknown how much credit the story has, but its at least made the locals enforce a curfew and construct a wall around the town.
- Mystery from Mystery Skulls Animated is thought by some to be a Gumiho since his favorite food is stated to be "......... 'Chicken'" referencing his having bitten off the arm of the team's Lovable Coward.
- DSBT InsaniT: Killer Monster eats people, namely those sent to his realm.
- In 'Untamed and Uncut', K-Seal intends to eat Portica and Kayla.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal features this strip, where two aliens discuss just how problematic eating humans would be.
- Schlock from Schlock Mercenary occasionally delves in here, albeit not too often. the biology aspect is kinda laid aside because Schlock's immune system is good enough to reject even nanobot assault.
- Aylee from Sluggy Freelance seemed to eat nothing but human beings at first. Justified since her species is specifically designed to take over worlds, so she'd naturally be geared towards attacking the dominant species.
- Also the zombies. Justified because not only do they need to eat humans, they need to eat SPECIFIC PARTS, because they "are what they eat". Their bodies constantly rot, and only regenerate the body parts they consume. Hence, the ones that go after BRAAAAAAINS end up being as smart as regular humans while those with a low-brain diet are stupid like regular zombies.
- Tower of God: The White Steel Eels and the Bull are known for their great and varied meat diet, including unlucky humanoids.
- Deep Rise plays this to its most horrifying conclusions. Humans aren't just food to the Nobles, they're living technology. We get to see a washing machine made out of a person.
- Freeman's Mind has an inversion when Freeman considers eating the aliens in episode 51, but lacks the means to cook them.
- In Roll To Dodge: Savral, Elves are known for having a taste for human flesh.
- Demons in Tales of MU are required to feed on humans, either something physical or intangible, depending on the individual. Even ones who feed on blood apparently find human flesh tasty, as do other races such as ogres and mermaids (Why did you think they were so attracted to sailors?). With members of these races integrated at a human university, it can lead to culture clash.
- It's been mentioned in Ben 10 that humans are one of the universe's most delicious species.
- Inverted in the Futurama episode "The Problem with Popplers". The Planet Express crew discover a delicious life form on an uncharted planet, and market it as a snack food. Unfortunately for them, it turns out the popplers are actually larval Omicronians, who are none too pleased when they find out. Somewhat subverted when the Omicronians insist on eating humans (i.e., Leela) as compensation. Unfortunately for them, she isn't a human, she's a mutant. But the difference isn't easy to notice in behavior.
Fry: Oh no, what if the secret ingredient...is PEOPLE?!
- Parodied in the episode "Fry and the Slurm Factory":
Leela: Nah, there is already a soda with that, Soylent Cola.
Fry: Oh... how is it?
Leela: It varies from person to person.
Announcer: It's a buncha muncha cruncha humans!
- When they were flung into the past, Prof. Farnsworth insisted that he and Leela needed to fit in by ordering period meals. His idea of doing this was an array of Soylent products. Their waitress just ignored them and brought chili dogs.
- "Human Horns" (noses) are valued as aphrodisiacs, most likely due to a misguided assumption it's the human wing-dang-doodle.
- Glagnar's Human Rinds are popular enough that they sponsor the show.
- Also, Elzar, the four-armed Neptunian cooking show host made something called "Human Broth" during the 3007 economic depression, to feed impoverished citizens. (It doesn't take a genius to figure out what it was made of, and both alien and human citizens ate it.) Of course, he probably doesn't do that anymore. (Well, probably. Stranger things happen on this show.)
- There is at least one butcher shop that deals in black market meats. Unsurprisingly Human meat isn't one of them.
- Subverted in an episode of Sunbow's G.I. Joe, where Scarlett mentions that animals actually find that humans taste rather bad (all while being chased by a mind-controlled T-Rex).
- In Lilo & Stitch: The Series, French Fry fattens up Lilo and Stitch by feeding them very fattening foods that never make them feel full with the intent to cook and eat them himself once they're properly plump. Even after realizing why French Fry keeps feeding them, the two still can't stop indulging in his food.
- The Uglions in the Sam & Max: Freelance Police animated series open a restaurant "to serve man". The Twilight Zone episode gets another Shout-Out in the game "What's New Beelzbub?", when Max exclaims that Stinky's baby book is a cookbook.
- Triple-subverted in a Simpsons Hallowe'en Special parodying the Trope Namer. Lisa finds a book entitled How to Cook Humans, but Kang quickly wipes away some dust to reveal the true title - How to Cook for humans. Lisa then wipes away some more dust, revealing that the title is in fact How to Cook Forty Humans. Finally, Kang wipes away the last of the "space dust", showing that the full, complete title is How to Cook for Forty Humans. After that, the aliens are so disgusted at Lisa's assumption they would eat her that they leave Earth for good... after trying everything you'd expect from a secretly "humanitarian" race, including the book that looks like a cookbook, the neverending feast, constantly saying things that sound like a Double Entendre about eating people, etc. Although it is partially justifiable, as they've probably never done this with humans before and didn't expect to be thought of as people-eaters.
- It's been said that Matt Groening wanted the title to turn out to be How to Cook For Forty Humans and Then Eat Them, but he was fortunately vetoed — having them be wrong about it is much funnier.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episode "The Trouble With Augie", Donatello and April encounter the Brotherhood, a race of lizard-like beings who allegedly sought to reach Earth in order to share their technology. However, Donatello eventually finds that not only does the Brotherhood plan to consume every human on Earth, they had already done so with the main inhabitants of the planet they currently lived in.
Uncle Augie: The Brotherhood wish to serve humanity!
Donatello: Yeah. Medium rare. Like that Twilight Zone episode!
- In Adventure Time, Jake invites his rainicorn girlfriend's parents over for dinner. He tells them Finn is his goblin servant to impress them. When he finally fesses up that yes, Finn is a human, they start licking him. When they realize Jake and Finn are friends, though, they settle for artificial human.
- In several episodes of the Aladdin regular series, the heroes ran afoul of the Al-Muddies, elemental spirits made of living mud who were carnivores known to prey on humans. Normal ones are feral and brutish creatures who tend to attack in mobs; their Sultan, however, stands out, not just because of his titanic size, but via his incredible cunning and intelligence (not to mention being able to talk), and a fondness for cooking victims. (Even going so far as to call himself "a gourmet".)
- The Flamin' Thongs: When the alien Kevins from the planet Kevin intercept the radio broadcast inviting them to the barbecue to celebrate the opening of Radio Whale bay, they arrive intending to eat the Thongs as the main course, and feed them stuffing to fatten them up.
- In an episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, a 10th level warlock makes a deal with a puss goblin and an antelope-snake to free Auntie Roon from her banishment so they can kidnap the children of Orchid Bay, intending to eat them. Roon agrees to help them but says she can't eat any herself - she's "homo sapien intolerant".
- In one episode of Men in Black: The Series, after a Prison Break in the MIB headquarters, one of the escapee criminals is a giant, sapient dragon-like alien, who was incarcerated there for eating an entire bus full of tourists in New York City.
- In The Legend of Korra you can see Avatar Wan. When he is banished from his hometown, he encounters a huge spirit plant that tries to eat him up.
- Truth in Television among some members of the animal kingdom; some animals do kill and eat humans occasionally, inverting our usual sense of security as an alpha predator at the top of the food chain. Usually, these are big cats, bears, wolves, hyenas, crocodiles, etc. who prey on humans either opportunistically, or because they're starving and unable to eat their regular prey.
- There are a number of modern predator species/populations who have included humans as a regular part of their diet. These include the polar bear, the large crocodiles of Africa and Australia, the tigers of the Sunderbans, a population of lions in Rwanda who learned to prey on refugees during the civil war, and chimpanzees, who regularly hunt monkeys, and have been known to steal and eat human babies, sometimes being as bold as to snatch them right out of their mother's arms.
- There's this one particular crocodile in Africa named Gustave. He's easily distinguished by the dozens of scars on his face from many, many failed attempts to kill him. He seems to have developed a taste for humans, and, rumour has it, his known body count is in the hundreds.
- The idea that humans are somehow unpalatable or repugnant to most predators is probably a myth. We are unlikely to taste much different than your average monkey or ape, which are part of the regular menu for many predators. Instead, living predator species for the most part have learned that humans are dangerously persistent prey and not worth the effort. It may also not be that humans taste bad, rather we generally don't have much meat compared to other similar-sized animals. Combined with having guns and stuff, humans are not very good prey. It's not really worth all the trouble. We also look a lot bigger than other animals of our body weight, due to our vertical posture. A predator that'd happily take down a human-sized quadruped is likely to hesitate before tackling a creature that towers over its usual game.
- One particularly famous example of size intimidation are mountain lions. Simply opening up and spreading your jacket convinces an aggressive mountain lion that you suddenly doubled in size, and can scare them off.
- However, their are still many predators that will attempt and sometimes succeed to kill and devour humans. Even with guns, would you really want to go out in the wild where dangerous animals lurk?
- Real Life aversion: While great white sharks do attack human surfers, such cases are generally thought to be mistaken identity, as they virtually always spit them out after a single exploratory bite. Seals and other marine mammals, the shark's staple diet, have much thicker subcutaneous fat than humans, so a quick taste is enough to convince a great white that our flesh is too lean to be worth consuming.
- Abundant fossil evidence indicates that early human ancestors were regularly food for any number of large carnivores, including big cats, hyenas, and eagles. One species, Dinofelis, a leopard-sized saber-toothed cat, may have even been a hominid specialist. This continued up to at least the time of Homo erectus, the discoverer of fire and the first human species to legitimately be a competent major predator in its own right.
- Many parasitic invertebrate species like mosquitoes and lice consume human blood as a regular part of their diets, making them real-life vampires of sorts, but obviously too small to eat a live human whole.
- An Australian cookbook has a typo listing "freshly ground black people" as ingredients for a recipe. "To Serve Man" jokes ensue.
- Modern advances in technology and biology have resulted in machines that can 'taste' - use to detect rotten food, authenticate wine, and the like. During a public demonstration of one such machine, a curious and amused reporter stuck their finger into the machine's 'mouth'. The machine's response was that humans taste like salted bacon.
- Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, has a footnote about this during a part of the book where he refutes various arguments against watching for other life.
Surprisingly many people, including New York Times editorialists, are concerned that once extraterrestrials know where we are, they will come here and eat us. Put aside the profound biological differences that must exist between the hypothetical aliens and ourselves; imagine that we constitute an interstellar gastronomic delicacy. Why transport large numbers of us to alien restaurants? The freightage is enormous. Wouldn't it be better just to steal a few humans, sequence our amino acids or whatever else is the source of our delectability, and then just synthesize the identical food product from scratch?"