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Thou Shalt Not Kill / Live-Action Films

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  • The Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman movies have been a bit more flexible with this trope than the comic book version, with Batman demonstrating that he's not especially concerned if his enemies end up dead on numerous occasions. The Christopher Nolan movies, however, have been a bit closer to this trope, with Bruce Wayne's refusal to kill a key element of his motivation ("That's why it's so important. It separates us from them."). However, in Batman Begins, he informs Ra's Al Ghul that "I won't kill you... but I don't have to save you.", before flying off, leaving Ra's in a train car that soon after crashes and explodes, presumably killing him. Anyone who knows Ra's from the comics knows it's a case of Immortal Life Is Cheap, even if Batman doesn't.
    • The Nolan Film Justifies this (or at least tries to) because the last time he saved Ra's he came back and continued his Knight Templar plan despite that. It's even lampshaded:
    Bruce: "I saved your life."
    Ra's: "I warned you about compassion."
    • In Batman Returns, he gives a circus strongman a bomb, then smiles sadistically before knocking him down into the sewer to be blown to pieces. He enjoys killing in Burton's films.
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    • By The Dark Knight his moral philosophy appears to have evolved somewhat, as towards the end he goes out of his way to save The Joker's life. On the other hand, the Joker was trying to drive Batman to murder, so this looked like the only way to beat him.
    • He also has another justification besides personal philosophy: he's a Hero with Bad Publicity in the Nolan films, so he knows acting as judge, jury, and executioner isn't going to help his reputation.
    • Another fact to consider is that Batman personally threw the Joker off the building. If he didn't catch the Joker, then he explicitly killed him. But with Ra's, he willingly put himself on the train with the knowledge that Batman would try his absolute hardest to stop him. Ra's taught Batman everything he knows and remembers that one time that Bruce unintentionally burnt down an entire fortress to avoid killing. Ra's obviously understood the potential risk of going against Batman, and one could reasonably assume that he would have some sort of way to escape. Nolanverse's Batman follows the code that he will never intentionally kill a person, but if the bad guy puts himself into a position where s/he will be killed by collateral damage in the act of Batman saving Gotham / the innocent, and there is no way to save them, then there is nothing that can be done. Ra's had no way of saving himself on the mountain, but Bruce could save him, and so he did. On the train, Batman had reason to believe that Ra's could save himself, and the only choices were Batman and Gordon destroy the train, or every living thing in Gotham dies. The same exact problem comes up in The Dark Knight Rises, when the nuke will go off in less than ten minutes, the tanks are actively trying to kill Batman and Catwoman, they can't force the truck to go back to the generator, and all warning shots have failed to get the truck to stop. Either the truck and tanks are stopped with force, or literally everything in Gotham is wiped off the face of the earth and the rest of the US gets hit by the fallout.
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    • In The Dark Knight Rises Batman explicitly tells Selina Kyle "No guns, no killing.". She is less than enamored with the idea, responding, "Where's the fun in that?!" Selina later saves Bruce's life by shooting Bane dead right as he is about to kill the hero, and jokingly states that she doesn't feel too strongly about the whole no-kill thing.
      • Later in the film, the Godzilla Threshold is crossed and Batman fires his weapons with lethal intent, when intimidation with them failed.
    • This is in comparison to Batman: The Movie when he was trying to find a safe place to dispose of a bomb he refused to throw it where anybody could get hurt. Including at ducks. Later in the movie when he and Robin accidently kill some mooks they do mourn for them as they weren't expecting them to combust.
  • Deconstructednote  in Man of Steel, where Superman is placed in an impossible situation where, General Zod, enraged beyond reason, has sworn he will never stop killing humans in an effort to hurt Kal-El for preventing the rebirth of Krypton. There is no super prison, no gateway left to the Phantom Zone - just Kal, Zod, and a family of four about to be incinerated by Zod's he breaks Zod's neck. This is not an action he undertakes lightly however, as the following scene shows.
    • Expanding on the above, Word of God says that in the Man of Steel continuity, this incident is why Superman swears never to kill anyone: he knows first-hand what a terrible, traumatic thing it is to take a life.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch Cassidy, the tough, notorious, wildly-successful, train-looting, bank-robbing, gun-waving, badass outlaw, when faced with the prospect of a shootout, lamely admits to the Sundance Kid that he had never killed a man in his life. It's almost painful to hear Butch pleading with the bandits to go away so that he won't have to defend himself.
    • Ironically, this is just after the two of them have quit their criminal lives for a legit job.
  • In Warriors of Virtue, the Warriors cannot kill. In fact, when Ryan arrives, he learns that their leader, Yun, is in the middle of a Heroic BSoD because he accidentally broke that code in the heat of battle. The fact that the soldier he killed was actually Elysia's brother probably didn't help his mindset much.
  • Subverted in Mystery Men. The Bowler, a woman whose bowling ball has her father's spirit within, confronts her father's killer. He taunts her, saying that she doesn't have the nerve to take her revenge. He is right; she's a hero and as such above that. Her father, however, is dead and pretty pissed about it and is something of a prick, so he really has no problem killing the guy.
    • But played perfectly straight with Dr. Heller—which makes the heroes reject his help, until he shows them how effective his inventions can be.
  • In the Terminator series, John Connor orders the T-800 to not kill anybody. This carries over to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles... where both John and Sarah try to live by this, but over the course of the series are forced into taking a life each (see below).
    • In the novelization and the original screenplay for Terminator 2, the Terminator is shown to be having a great deal of trouble with this. Its' original orders before traveling back in time were to destroy anyone or anything that threatened the safety of John Connor. The Terminator also self-preservation programming that would not allow it to let any threat or attack against itself go unanswered. These scenes were left out of filming because there wasn't really any feasible way to show the Terminator experiencing internal conflict. In the film, the Terminator simply uses non-lethal but incapacitating attacks when dealing with humans, although it's very clear that it would use lethal force without hesitation if it was necessary to protect John.
  • In Blue Thunder, protagonist Frank Murphy is a police helicopter pilot, and he naturally goes to some lengths not to kill anyone (except the Big Bad) even while they're trying to shoot him out of the sky. This despite being in command of a heavily armored Black Helicopter armed with a 20-mm rotary cannon, which has an uncanny ability to blow away cars, choppers, and aircraft without harming the people inside.
  • In Hot Fuzz, Nicholas Angel aims for incapacitating shots in the final shootout. Despite the several gory murders before, the final shootout sees no deaths.
    • Angel's shooting skills were purposely laid out as a Chekhov's Skill early in the film, so it's justified. Danny, on the other hand...
    • Tom Weaver does seem to die in the end, but even that happens by accident and not directly by Angel.
  • Recited verbatim by Brother Gilbert in Dragonheart before deciding to kill the evil king Einon. Einon survives the attack however.
  • Surprisingly averted in The Adventures of Captain Marvel, where the titular hero kills no less than 3 people over the course of the 12 chapter film serial. Given this take on Cap was more of a two fisted pulp adventurer than a traditional superhero it makes sense, and he does spare the lives of most of the villains he faces.
  • In both the SpiderMan Trilogy and The AmazingSpiderMan franchise, Peter Parker will always try to reason with his enemies instead of killing them.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • This is the hallmark of Professor X for most of the X-Men hexalogy;note  he detests violence and firmly objects to the notion that deadly force is required to subdue evildoers. A grey area occurs in X-Men: First Class, where Magneto's insatiable desire for revenge corners Charles into a moral bind—if he releases Sebastian Shaw from his psychic grip, then Shaw will eliminate Erik, but if he maintains the mental hold, then Magneto will kill their target, and Xavier becomes an accessory to murder; Charles opts for the latter. In X-Men: Apocalypse, he breaks his one inviolable rule when his own life, the lives of his team and billions of others are at stake: he's unable to take down Apocalypse on his lonesome, so he commands Jean Grey to immolate his adversary with her Phoenix Force.
    • Nightcrawler, given his religiousness...
    • Most of the movies have the characters perfectly okay with using lethal force, but this is a specific plot point in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It's stated that the young version of Mystique never killed anyone (even the people she used her Shapeshifter powers to impersonate), but Jumped Off The Slippery Slope when she decided to kill Bolivar Trask. Her decision to kill Trask set off a chain of events resulting in a Bad Future, which is the main reason Wolverine travels back in time to stop her.
  • Subverted in a rather surprisingly brutal way in the movie Darkman. The protaganist has caught the bad guy from falling to his doom by the pantleg. The bad guys starts into a typical "You can't kill me, you're the good guy..." speech, and unwisely ends it with the line "you couldn't live with yourself." The protagonist, who by this point has been burned beyond recognition, left for dead surgically altered, and has already killed every one of his hired thugs (which he knew about!) promptly lets go of the bad guy, letting him fall to his death, replying "I've had to learn to live with a lot of things."
  • As in the original series, The Lone Ranger wants the justice system to deal with the villains rather than take revenge himself, and enforces this trope on Tonto, despite the fact Tonto wants vengeance on Cavendish and Cole. In the end, Tonto passes up killing Cole... but has no qualms about leaving Cole to his Karmic Death.
  • In Star Wars, the Jedi have compassion for all living things, and so they extremely dislike having to kill someone or something. However, they realize that it is sometimes necessary. This view gets slowly degraded during the Clone Wars.


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