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File:Speedhostage 2960.jpg

Unfortunately for him, Jack doesn't play by that rule.


Dobson: (holds a gun to River's head and uses her as a shield) "I'm not playing anymore. If anyone so much as moves-"

Mal: (walks in and shoots Dobson in the eye)

A shield is a protective device, meant to intercept attacks. Attacks are usually accomplished with things such as bullets and swords, both of which are designed to penetrate flesh. So using a shield made out of flesh would seem like a fairly silly idea. However, make sure that the flesh belongs to someone important to your attacker, and all of a sudden, they become strangely reluctant to attack you.

If your attacker is heroic enough, then any old Innocent Bystander will do; their contract states that no matter how evil you might be, they can't even hurt the poor victim in order to get to you. For less idealistic opponents, you might need to go one better and capture their Sidekick, partner, friends or family. If you want to make really sure, make it their Love Interest.

If you've chosen wisely, then The Hero will now be unable to attack you without risking harm to your hostage. Hold a knife to their throat, and they can't even risk looking like they're going to attack. You now have the power to demand the hero disarms themselves, hands over anything you demand or even to die to save the hostage. And all you had to do was use some good old Cower Power. Hey, whatever works.

Don't let the power go to your head though. The Anti-Hero might just be tempted to shoot you anyway, even if it means a little collateral damage. And if The Hero is skilled enough or a good enough shot, they might just be able to take you out without harming your hostage. And if things go wrong you might have to deal with some unfortunate repercussions. Also keep in mind that you "shield" is actually a living and usually hostile being, eager to bite you in the hand of back-kick you in the groin the moment you lower your guard.

A Sister Trope is Bulletproof Human Shield, where your attacker(s) callously open fire anyway — only to have their shots blocked by the victim you're holding. The distinction is psychological protection ("You wouldn't dare hurt this innocent victim!") versus physical protection.

You don't have to be directly hiding behind someone for them to be a human shield. For example, filling your Supervillain Lair with kidnapped orphans is a good way of stopping the good guys from bombing it, so long as you remember to tell them about it.

If someone suddenly volunteers to be a human shield by flinging themselves between what's shooting and what's being shot at, it's Go Through Me. This trope is the less deliberate cousin to Hostage Situation.

Examples of Human Shield include:

Anime & Manga

  • Subverted in Cowboy Bebop, where one of Vicious' henchmen thinks he can convince Spike to surrender by using Faye as a human shield, without realizing Spike has no qualms about such things. He ends up with a bullet in his head mid-sentence. It happens again at the beginning of the movie.
  • Subverted in Hellsing. The first baddie we're introduced to takes future co-star, Seras Victoria hostage as a human shield... only to have Badass Longcoat Alucard blast a gaping hole through her chest to kill him, and then turn her into a vampire afterwards.
    • Granted, he did have to confirm that she was a virgin first.
  • Subverted in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, where a weakened Envy tries to take over Yoki's body, but finds that everyone else simply does not care about his fate, with even the cheerful Al and Mei Chan cheering his "heroic sacrifice".
    • Also used twice in recent chapters as a subterfuge, with Scar pretending to run off with Winry and Edward's 'bodyguards' taking him hostage in front of soldiers who couldn't recognize him. ("How could you involve such a small child!")
  • Used twice in Deadman Wonderland: Shiro is Ganta's human shield during the Dog Race (he doesn't realize it and is shocked when he sees how much damage she took for him); Minatsuki uses her own brother as a human shield during her Carnival Corpse match against Ganta.
  • Subverted in the manga Black Cat. Eve (a nanomachine bioweapon who also happens to be a 7 year old girl) convinces a criminal to let go of an infant and take her hostage instead, quickly saving the day.
  • A Flash Back in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha shows a desperate knife-wielding thug using a little girl as a Human Shield to hold back the police. The police do the smart thing and lets the sniper with Improbable Aiming Skills secretly take him out with a bullet that does Magical Damage. Unfortunately the guy turns at just the wrong moment and the sniper hits the little girl in the eye. Worse, the hostage was the sniper's little sister, causing much emotional trauma.
  • One of the key combat moves of Afro Samurai is to grab one enemy, throw him into oncoming attacks, and then charge the now-distracted attacker. In the manga, lacking enemies at hand, he uses a random boy and, later, his disabled sister.
  • In the manga of Elfen Lied, Lucy uses the Dojikko secretary in this fashion just before decapitating her. In the anime, it's reversed: she kills the secretary, then uses her corpse as a shield. Of course, in both cases this is merely an act of cruelty, as her vectors protected her from gunfire.
  • During the Kyoto Arc of Mahou Sensei Negima, Chigusa tries to use a kidnapped Konoka as a human shield. Unfortunately for her, it backfired in a rather spectacular fashion, as threatening Konoka just so happens to be Setsuna's Berserk Button.
    • It happens again much later in the manga when Tsukiyomi Attacks the crew on Haru's airship, but is stopped by Negi, fresh from his training to complete Magia Erebia. She escapes Negi's grip by trying to cut his arm off, which he dodges by turning into lightning. She then tries to use Nodoka as a Human Shield, but before the can follow through is punched in the gut by the arm she just tried to sever.
  • In the manga of Berserk Guts has used a child as a shield and/or hostage in at least 2 seperate occasions, such as when he was fighting with The Count and used the apostle's daughter to ward off an attack.
  • An interesting twist in City Hunter. Ryo Saeba gets the drop on a bad guy in a resturant with his 357 Magnum. The Mook opens the curtains behind him, pointing out the crowded tokyo street and taunts Saeba with the fact that if he opens fire, the bullet will cut through the mook and undoubtedly hit a passer by. Ryo proves how badass he is by shooting THROUGH his own hand, slowing the bullet down just enough to kill the bad guy and still not hurt any bystanders
  • The first episode of Black Lagoon has Revy using some mook as a shield, then killing him as they flee. Judging by the fact he was apparently uninjured until that point, the slightly-more-bad guys were probably reluctant to shoot him, or had poor aim.
  • During the Final Battle of Code Geass Lelouch uses a large group of world leaders he had kidnapped during a peace meeting (including women and children) as human shields to prevent Schneizel from using his super weapon on him right from the start of the battle. The twist is that while Schneizel couldn't care less about the hostages, his new allies, The Black Knights, do. In the end, The Black Knights get Schneizel to refrain from using his super-weapon in favor of more conventional tactics, while Lelouch is sitting on the bridge of his flagship sneering with glee.
  • Subverted in the beginning of Beet the Vandel Buster Beltorze grabs Beet during a battle with the Zenon Knights. They think he's trying to use Beet as a hostage. Beltorze dismisses that notion rather quickly when he mortally wounds Beet right off the bat and uses the distraction to launch a powerful attack against the Knights.
  • Gunslinger Girl. Marco finds himself facing a Padania terrorist holding his ex-girlfriend, knowing that Marco's eye damage will prevent him risking a shot. Angelica blinds the terrorist with a torch attached to her handgun, providing a distraction so the hostage can break free.
    • When Dante uses Jean as a shield, Jean orders Rico to kill him so she can get her shot at killing the most wanted man in Italy as well in the process.
  • Played for laughs in Bobobobo Bobobo, Bobobo usually uses his own allies as the human shields, and the villains, more often than not, aim directly for their faces or completely ignore them and punch bobobo (Usually the former, since the two he uses are the butt monkeys).
  • Luffy from One Piece is a rare example of a protagonist who has done this on occasion. But then again, he IS a pirate. Even one of his attacks is called Gomu Gomu no Human Shield, where he grabs someone by random to block an attack.
  • Ayano uses Ren as a human shield against Kazuma in episode 7 of Kaze no Stigma. However, the scene is largely played for laughs, and neither Ren nor Kazuma take her seriously.
  • In the Dragon Ball anime, Goku once went to rescue the leader of a village. At some point, the villain used the leader as a human shield. Said leader then delivered a "Don't mind me" speech but changed his mind upon seeing Goku's reaction.
  • Saint Seiya: During the Poseidon arc (at least in the anime), every time Seiya tried to hit Poseidon with an arrow, the arrow came back at him. At some time, Shaina volunteered herself as a shield but he switched positions so he'd be her shield. Shiryu then served as a shield for both while complimenting Seiya for refusing to use a woman as a human shield.
  • Hougen does this in Ginga Densetsu Weed by using another dog from his pack as a shield to stop Weed's Battouga. Hougen survives the attack. His packmate, however...doesn't.

Comic Books

  • In Elf Quest, Big Bad Winnowill uses the main character's child this way. Amusingly, she goes on insisting her elfin shield is foolproof even after series Badass Strongbow has proven otherwise in a fairly significant manner.
  • In Judge Dredd, the Judges' standard sidearm has a special ammunition for this situation, Ricochet, which is specifically designed to do special trick shots to hit a hostage taker by bouncing the rounds off a back wall to hit the assailant.
    • Depending on the writer, they might not even care. Taking down a perp is more important than not hurting a bystander (most judges consider non-judge citizens "potential perps" anyway).
  • Morbius the vampire did this once when he faced off with the X-Men. He snatches Jean Grey and threatens to snap her neck unless Cyclops backs off. Scott just adjusts his glasses a bit and fires behind Morbius, striking a mirror and causing his eye-beams to re-direct into the vampire's back.
    • The situation was reversed in Ultimate X-Men, when Cyclops was taken as the Human Shield. This time, he bounces the beam off of Colossus' face.
    • Another baddie tried to use Cyclops' brother, Havok, as a hostage which resulted in Cyclops blasting both of them without hesitation. The brothers are immune to each other's powers.
  • One of the superheroes trying out for the team in Wildguard: Casting Call is called Human Shield, an invulnerable man who can create powerful forcefields.
  • Subverted in the back story of the Saint of Killers from Garth Ennis's Preacher (Comic Book). When the Saint (not yet known as such) tracks down the gang leader indirectly responsible for the death of his family, the gang leader shields himself with an Innocent Bystander. However, by this time the Saint has become so completely consumed with hate that he shoots the bystander anyway. Doubly subverted when it turns out that was his last bullet, and the gang leader shoots him dead, sending him to Hell to become the Saint.
  • Nexus's beam power has a special property to deal with a human shield: the beam can literally steer around any obstacle to hit its target.
  • Played straight and subverted in the Astro City "Confessor" story arc. Kevin, the protagonist, is working as a busboy when a C-rate villain attacks and grabs him as a Human Shield. The patrons (who are all superheroes in civilian guise) hesitate to attack, but Kevin breaks free and knocks out the crook with a roundhouse kick.
  • In the Batman story arc Lovers and Madmen, Jack, a new and upcoming criminal, and his gang are robbing a fundraiser when Batman arrives. Jack rushes to find a human shield, taking care to choose. By complete coincidence, the person he finally chooses is Bruce Wayne's current Love Interest. Batman backs off, but Jack stabs her anyway, then flees. Batman doesn't give chase, instead rushing to the injured woman's side, but, in a fit of rage, he uses a Batarang to give Jack a large Glasgow Smile. Guess which well-known villain Jack soon becomes?

Fan Fiction


  • Played with The Naked Gun movies. In one scene, the villain grabs the hero's girlfriend and places a gun to her head prompting Leslie Nielsen (the hero) to grab a random woman and place a gun to her head, as if such an act would stop the villain. In another scene, the heroes interrupt a formal banquet and announce their intention to capture the villain. This prompts about a half a dozen suited men in the audience to stand up and grab the women closest to them to use as human shields. When the suited men finally realize the heroes aren't talking about them they release the women and sheepishly sit back down.
  • Inverted in The Incredibles, where Mr. Incredible takes Syndrome's right hand woman hostage in retribution for the "death" of his family. Syndrome, being a narcissistic and sociopathic villain showed his true colours and called his bluff, saying she meant nothing to him. Of course being a hero Mr. Incredible didn't kill her, and she went on to betray Syndrome for total lack of caring by helping Mr. Incredible and his family escape.
  • In the RoboCop series, the titular hero has a great targeting system to deal with this kind of situation. For instance in the first film when a male assailant is using a woman as human shield, Robocop carefully shoots the crook between the hostages' legs in a successful gamble to hit his groin with just enough clearance with female human anatomy to miss her. The second film has him dealing with the similar situation by arranging a ricochet shot to hit the assailant from behind.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy's love interest (Dr Elsa Schneider) is used as a human shield by one of the Nazis, prompting Indy to drop his gun and surrender. She is immediately revealed to be a 'Nazi Stooge'.
  • No list of this trope's examples would be complete without Speed, where, when one of the main characters asks what Keanu Reeves's character would do in a Human Shield situation, Keanu replies, "Shoot the Hostage, take her out of the equation." He later faces the human shield situation twice in the movie, and one of those times he actually does shoot the hostage, but only in the leg, which surprises the villain enough to get the drop on him. It's worth noting that by the second human shield scenario, the villain's put explosives on the hostage and is carrying a dead man's switch to stop him from doing this.
  • One of the most brilliant subversions is Blazing Saddles. To escape the bigoted mob of the town that he has just been appointed sheriff of, he takes himself hostage. The townspeople, of course, believe that he'll actually do it and stand down. "Ooh, baby, you are so talented! And they are so dumb!"
  • In the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, the Shredder holds a spearpoint to Leonardo's throat and forces the other turtles to throw aside their weapons. After they do so, he says, "Fools! The three of you might have overpowered me with the loss of but one. Now your fate... shall be HIS!"
  • Used in Pirates of the Caribbean where Will Turner takes himself hostage. Since his blood is needed to break the Aztec curse, if he dies the curse will be permanent.
    • Played with in the beginning of the third movie. Sao Feng grabs a spy and threatens to kill him if Barbossa and crew don't stand down. His response: "Go ahead, he's not our man."
    • And in the first. Jack takes Elizabeth hostage.
  • Subverted in Iron Man; when Tony starts laying into the terrorists attacking Gulmira, a bunch of them grab some nearby unarmed women and children and hold them at gunpoint. Unfortunately for them, Tony designed his armour with such a situation in mind, and, in one of the movie's many Crowning Moments of Awesome, promptly uses his targeting system to shoot them all without touching the hostages at all.
  • What about Lieutenant Sheckil, using Princess Leia as a shield during The Empire Strikes Back, while she screamed, "Luke, don't, it's a trap!"
    • "A TRAP!"
    • Lampshaded in the franchise's CCG: the card that lets you do this has the flavor text of, "A shining example of Imperial courage and bravery."
      • Well give him a break; Sheckil could hardly shoot Luke after all. Vader wanted Luke alive.
  • Subverted in Lethal Weapon when Riggs is taken hostage during a drug bust by one of the dealers. Riggs immediately starts shouting at the officers to just shoot him, which caused the situation to get chaotic enough to distract the dealer enough for Riggs to take him down. (Of course, it bears mentioning that Riggs is suicidal...)
  • Austin Powers International Man Of Mystery. Alotta Fagina captures Vanessa Kensington off-camera and brings her along to use as a shield while facing off with Austin. Austin retaliates by taking Dr. Evil's son Scott Evil as a hostage, whereupon Dr. Evil tells Austin to "Kill the little bastard. See what I care".
  • Simon Skinner from Hot Fuzz tries this by grabbing a random child and pointing a gun at his head. The kid promptly bites him on the hand, whereupon Angel jumps him.

 "Don't move or the ginger nut gets it...ARRGH YOU LITTLE FUCKER!"

    • There's a couple of these. Angel tries taking Danny hostage when the truth about the NWA is revealed, but Danny's father the Chief Inspector calls his bluff. After his Face Heel Turn the Inspector does the same thing to his son. Angel also doesn't think he'll do it; instead CI Butterman ties to shoot Angel, giving Danny a chance to disarm him.
  • At the end of Dirty Harry the Ax Crazy Scorpio Killer uses a boy as a human shield. Detective Callahan simply shoots him in the shoulder (given the range and the fact that the boys was too small to provide a lot of protection, Callahan could've put a bullet in Scorpio's chest). Callahan then proceeds to give Scorpio one last chance to surrender, and then puts a bullet through him.
    • And in The Enforcer the terrorist leader tries using the Mayor as a human shield, dragging him up a guard tower on Alcatraz. Fortunately the Mayor refuses to go all the way up the ladder, enabling Dirty Harry to blow the terrorist up with a LAWS rocket.
  • Cornelius ends up being one of these in The Fifth Element. He was saved by Korben's Improbable Aiming Skills.
    • "Anybody else want to negotiate?"
  • Played with by Phoenix in Demolition Man. Rather than let the militaristic LAPD of the time just blow up his absurdly conspicuous mansion hideout, he takes a Bus Full of Innocents hostage. He uses this to stay Spartan's hand when they encounter one another. When Phoenix blows the building, Spartan gets the blame for killing the civilians. Turns out the hostages were already dead. But given that it just results in Spartan being available to release and fight him in the future it didn't go so well for Phoenix.
  • Escape to Athena (1979). During the uprising in the village, the SS officer seizes a young Greek boy as cover, only to have him saved by the German officer played by Roger Moore.
  • At the end of Taken, Mills's daughter Kimmy is being held hostage by an evil old rich dude who had her purchased from the Human Traffickers; Mills has a handgun aimed. The old man tries to say "We can negotiate.", but Mills puts a slug in his head mid-sentence.
  • While not exactly a Human Shield, in 48 Hours, Ganz gets Jack to drop his gun by threatening a wounded cop. Since Ganz kills the cop anyway, when he uses Reggie as a true Human Shield at the end of the movie, Jack just kills him.
    • Same situation in 48 Hrs., Jack shoots the bad guy through Reggie.
  • In the Kurt Russell movie Soldier, someone tries to use a woman as a shield, but the titular, emotionless soldier empties his machine gun into both of them, then moves on.
  • Very much subverted in the 3:10 to Yuma remake, where a Pinkerton Detective Faking the Dead attempts to use a member of Magnificent Bastard Ben Wade's gang as a human shield. Since Wade figures that the Mook should have checked to be sure the Pinkerton was dead before he started looting and made himself vulnerable, he calmly shoots them both.
  • The Green Mile - a well done adaptation from its entry in 'literature', below. It features Tom Hanks as the guard captain (who also receives a Groin Attack to ensure his aim is spoiled) and David Morse as "Brutal" Howell.
  • In a notable action scene from Total Recall Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) uses one of these to protect himself against enemy fire.
  • A minor criminal tries this at the start of The Shadow. He even points out that the guards aren't good enough shots to hit only him. Ying Ko's response is to complement the human shield on his years of service, then says "shoot through him".
  • The leader of the raiders in The Road Warrior decorated his vehicle with a pair of living captives, both as a show of power and human shields. One of the captives defiantly attempts to subvert this trope, calling for his comrades in the compound to fight on, while the other is more cowardly and begs them not to shoot.
  • In Heat, Michael Cheritto attempts this as a means of last resort during a chase. Lt. Hanna shoots him anyway.
  • Men in Black. In the morgue the Bug grabs Laurel (the medical examiner) and uses her as a shield to prevent being shot by Agents J and K.
  • The Fugitive. While the U.S. Marshals are searching a house for one of the fugitive prisoners, the prisoner grabs one of them and uses him to prevent Gerard from shooting him. Gerard uses his Improbable Aiming Skills to shoot the escapee in the head, narrowly missing the captive Marshal.
  • Beverly Hills Cop. Axel Foley finds the Big Bad Victor Maitland holding Axel's friend Jenny Summers in front of him.

 Maitland: Be careful, old boy. You might hit me.

  • Evil candidate Stillson in The Dead Zone does this by holding a baby in front of himself to stop Johnny from assassinating him (in an attempt to save humanity, as Stillson was going to start World War Three once in office). This both saves and dooms him, with an iconic photo of the incident appearing on the cover of Newsweek under the headline "No Future for Stillson", leading him to commit suicide.
  • In Die Another Day, James Bond is using a virtual reality training simulation where a terrorist uses M as a Human Shield. His solution is to shoot M causing her to jerk out of the way enough for him to get a clean shot at the terrorist.
  • Cato manages to do this with the implied intention of invoking a Taking You with Me to Peeta against Katniss in the film adaptation of The Hunger Games near the climax.


  • In Stephen King's novel, The Dead Zone, the protagonist tries to assassinate an evil politican, Greg Stillson. He fails, because Stillson uses a child as a human shield; however, a photographer makes a picture of this, and publishes it, ending Stillson's career.
    • In The Green Mile, psychopathic prisoner William Wharton plays drugged during an interprison transfer until his new guards fail to pay attention. At which point he jumps up and starts beating the crap out of them. The guard captain draws his service pistol, so Wharton uses a guard as a human shield while continuing to wreak havoc. The stalemate is broken when an additional guard appears on the scene and ambushes Wharton from behind with a baton to the head. Extra balls points to Brutal Howell for advancing into his boss's gun.
  • In Outbound Flight', Commander Thrawn is coldly angry to see that his newest enemy likes to station captives in clear bubbles on the outsides of their ships; despite the pleas of the Wide-Eyed Idealist who likes him, he fires anyway.

  "Understand the reality of the situation. The Vagaari have killed them, all of them, if not in this battle then in battles to come. There's nothing we can do to help them. All we can do is focus our resources toward the Vagaari's ultimate destruction, so that others may live."

    • Notably, he despised having to go through with it - so in his rematch with the Vagaari, he arranges for an entire swarm of Trade Federation droid starfighters to close to point-blank and shoot between the cells.
    • In Allegiance, the corrupt administrator being confronted by five stormtroopers tries to pull this with one of his subordinates. Grave, the sniper, just shoots past the hostage's ear.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Xomat takes Elodie hostage against Daur. Daur declares his indifference and that he just might shoot Xomat through Elodie — which distracts him enough for Daur to get off a head shot. Elodie is muchly upset; Daur tries arguing before resorting to a "Shut Up" Kiss — their First Kiss.
  • A captured enemy officer tries to pull this one on Sergeant Jackrum in Monstrous Regiment after he tricks Blouse into making Polly untie him. Using Blouse as his human shield, he tries to force them to let him go ... However, he underestimates Jackrum, and the sergeant puts an arrow into him--barely even wounding Blouse in the process.
  • In the climax of Gone, Caine realizes he is losing the fight, so he uses his telekinetic powers to move Astrid between himself and Sam. He tells Sam to kill him, but he'll have to kill Astrid, too, because she is in the line of fire. Litterally, the line of fire, considering his powers.
  • In their final fight against the mercenary unit Avanti's Angels in the BattleTech novel Double Blind, the antagonists' leader and two of his underlings chain captive members of said unit to the outsides of their BattleMechs, gambling that the mercenaries won't fire on them for fear of killing their comrades. The tactic works painfully well, too, until the mercs' native allies show up and manage to swarm and climb the 'Mechs (at considerable cost to themselves, but that's a price they're already used to paying for a shot at capturing new war machines for their own tribes) and free the hostages.
  • In the climactic battle in Star Man's Son, the hero is used as this, tied to the barricade the mutant Beast Things have set up for their Last Stand. He manages to get loose and crawls to rescue another fellow in the same situation, but finds the man already dead.
  • Someone Elses War: The LRA uses Child Soldiers to do the bulk of their fighting because they know that most people will hesitate to hurt a child. Sad case of Truth in Television.

Live-Action TV

  • The Fed at the end of the pilot episode of Firefly tries this, taking River hostage with one gun, holding his other out, and yelling at the crew on the ship that if anyone moves...well, he doesn't get to finish his sentence, because right at that moment, Mal comes aboard, pulls out his heavily-used revolver, and puts a round in the Fed's head without a word. Or breaking stride.
  • Stargate Atlantis has one of the Genii use Dr. Weir, commander of the Atlantis expedition, as a human shield so he can get safely to the gate and escape. Shepherd, being a good marksman, puts a bullet into his shoulder, allowing Weir to get clear. And it turns out he survives in a later episode.
  • Used in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles where a hero and a villain stand off, holding hostages they think is the other's child.

 Villain: Not my kid.

Hero: Not mine either.

  • Hilariously done in Grey's Anatomy once. "Love is never using your girlfriend as a human shield!"
  • Based on the Real Life point below, Hogan's Heroes frequently used the "If it's close to a prison camp the Allies won't bomb it" reasoning to justify putting the target of the week in Hogan's reach, sometimes even inside the camp.
  • Done by the Doctor of all people in the Doctor Who serial The Face of Evil. When confronted by the savage Sevateem tribe, the Doctor threatens to kill one of them "with this deadly jelly baby" if they don't back off. The Sevateem surprise the Doctor by responding, "Go ahead, kill him." Determined not to be upstaged, the Doctor simply eats the jelly baby instead. "I don't take orders from you. Take Me to Your Leader."
  • The second series of Torchwood starts with this. It almost works.
  • Burn Notice has done it once or twice and Michael gives a tip on what to do if take hostage in this manner: go limp it's hard to both lift and carry a body.
    • Also happens in a cliffhanger season finale, with a bad guy holding Michael hostage. How does Jesse save him? By shooting Michael in the shoulder with a high-powered sniper rifle, so that the bullet would pass through the shoulder and kill the bad guy.
  • Rizzoli and Isles at the end of Season 1 an un-armed Rizzoli was grabbed by the bad guy and used to protect him from several dozen cops, including many of her close friends. She is screaming at them to "Shoot him!", apparently believing that if both she and the bad guy were shot, the EM Ts in the group would save her. She and the bad guy were shot, and we have to wait for the Season 2 opener to find out what happens...
  • In one episode of Enterprise, the hostage situation ends when the hero shoots the hostage, distracting the baddie long enough to then shoot him too. This only works because of the setup: The heroes use phasers on stun, while the baddies use projectile weaponry and have never considered weapons that don't actually harm people.
    • The cowboy is also shocked that Reed would shoot one of his own.
  • During The Mutiny in Season 4 of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, President Laura Roslin, currently resident on a Cylon Basestar, uses the entire Colonial Fleet as a massive Human Shield - and then has the gall to sneer that Gaeta, the commander of the mutineers, hasn't got enough guts to shoot through the fleet to get to her. This despite knowing that the whole point of the mutiny is to protect the survivors of the Cylon occupation of New Caprica from a new, Roslin- and Adama- sponsored Cylon occupation of the only homes they have left... Her tactics work, but that fact is to Gaeta's credit, not Roslin's.
  • Happens on Numb3rs at least twice, both times to Colby Granger. Both times he tells a fellow agent to shoot, but neither does.

Tabletop Games

  • The signature martial arts style of the Infernal Exalted, Infernal Monster Style, includes the charm Screaming Meat Shield, redirecting even magical attacks.
  • The Dread Emperor in Dungeons and Dragons has a version which goes significantly beyond this trope. That's right, he's taken one of the most contemptible things people can do and made it worse. How so? Not only is he hauling around children chained by the neck to his armor, he drains their health when he's injured.
    • Or to cast spells.
    • Oh, and he never appears with the same children twice.


  • Possible to pull off in Gears of War with the meat-shield function. Your enemies don't take kindly to it.
    • Amusingly enough, in respawning gametypes you can easily come up against an opponent using you as a human shield.
  • Mass Effect 2 in Lair of the Shadow Broker, Shepard has to deal with a hostage situation against Tela Vasir, another Spectre agent. You can do what she says(drop your thermal clips and power cells), harm the hostage and Tela, gloat about your accomplishments and ask if her plan involves hesitating to shoot a hostage, or to use faux racism against her.

 Shepard: Is that it?


Shepard: Vasir, I sacrificed hundreds of human lives to save the Destiny Ascension. I unleashed the Rachni on the galaxy. So for your sake, I hope your escape plan doesn't hinge on me hesitating to shoot a damn hostage.

  • Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, 4, and MG:Portable Ops use both this trope and Bulletproof Human Shield, depending on who you capture. In Portable Ops and 3, attempting to shield yourself with a higher-ranking officer gave you a better chance of success, as the enemies would hesitate for a lot longer - and shielding yourself with a scientist does nothing and they'll still shoot you freely.
    • However, in Portable Ops Plus, they pull out a knife and slash you, freeing their comrade and knocking you down.
    • Interestingly, you can interrogate your hostage while you're staring down other goons. And, in some cases, you can gun down the other mooks without retaliation if your hostage is of a high enough rank!
  • All of the Splinter Cell games. Though for some reason, guards never hesitate to shoot you when you have one of their own held hostage.
    • With one notable exception: the end of Pandora Tomorrow requires Sam to sneak into a TV studio and capture the terrorist leader while he's recording a speech in front of his own goons. This audacious act causes all the goons to point their guns, but not fire...unless Sam makes the mistake of turning his back on them to see where he's going.
  • Hitman: Blood Money lets you use Innocent Bystanders as Human Shields.
  • Many of the levels in the Silent Scope games require you to take out Bosses who have taken Human Shields with a single headshot.
  • Similarly, the Boss of the 2nd Mission of the arcade game Ghost Squad requires you to take him out with a single headshot while he's holding the President of the USA as a Human Shield.
  • In the FPS version of XIII, the titular character will use human shields without missing a beat.
  • In the Reservoir Dogs video game (based on the film) You can take human shields and hit or threaten them to disarm cops. An even more notable example is when you are confronted by multiple cops and your adrenaline meter is full you can preform a special torture (offscreen of course) called a "Signature Move" (which range from Pistol-Whipping the hostage to cutting off the hostage's ear) that is so brutal that it will cause every cop in the area to drop their weapons and surrender.
  • In Drakengard 2, during one scene, The Hero, Nowe, is about to stab the Big Bad, when he pulls Eris, The Hero's Unlucky Childhood Friend, directly into the path of The Hero's attack, causing him to kill her instead. (However, considering her name, and who makes the game, it was expected that poor little AEris would die...)
  • Saints Row 2 allows you to use just about anyone as cover. Taking a civilian (or a cop) hostage generally means the cops will look for a way around you. Gang members treat the hostage as a Bulletproof Human Shield instead.
  • The Bourne Conspiracy allows you to more subtly use a human shield when engaged in melee - enemies with fire discipline will cease fire if you put a friendly between you and them. Enemies without fire discipline use the Bulletproof Human Shield trope instead.
  • In Nexus, the titular hero's main blast power is steerable which means the beam can maneuver around a shield person to hit the target cleanly.
  • In Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World, Hawk attacks Emil and just as it appears Brute is going to use the opening to kill Emil, Emil actually throws Hawk at Brute's sword. The result is that Brute has just killed Hawk and there is an opening for the heroes to escape.
  • A quest in World of Warcraft sends you off to rescue some webbed-up friendly soldiers being used as "living shields" (not all of them being human, you see.)
    • It gets worse - the webbing they're trapped in is opaque and disguises silhouettes, and many of the "shields" are fakes, i.e., genuine hostiles. The only way to discover this is to open one up...
  • Call Of Duty 4 has the last terrorist grab the anonymous VIP as a shield at the end of Mile High Club. The player has a few seconds to shoot one of his exposed body parts as he jerks around, and 'Veterans Only Get Headshots'.
  • A few players have had this happen in Dwarf Fortress. One story goes that one of their best soldiers GAVE BIRTH, quite literally whilst still fighting, they then promptly held up the child and used it to block an incoming arrow.
  • The Spider-Man 2 game you could use the grapple ability to perform this.
  • Toad serves as one (apparently unwillingly) for Princess Peach in Super Smash Bros Brawl.
  • In the Action RPG Cla Dun, party members serve as human shields for your Player Character, providing an extra layer (or two, depending on the layout of the Magic Circle) of HP protection. Once they're all defeated, the player takes direct damage, and will lose if he/she is incapacitated.
  • The Getaway plays this trope to the letter. Mark Hammond can grab anyone as a hostage if he is close enough, and if you grab a gang member or PC their faction will cease fire and plead for you not to shoot - until you start picking them off like a coward. Once the hostage has outlived their usefulness you can choose to shoot them, snap their neck, or let them go.
  • The Umbrella Security Service, in Operation Raccoon City, are bad enough dudes to use zombies and Army Specialists like this.
  • In Street Fighter X Tekken Ibuki tells Rolento she isn't a human shield when she defeats him.


  • Used in the Insecticomics when Thrust protects Dreadmoon from the brunt of the Fallen's blast.

 Starscream: You used her as a shield, didn't you?

Dreadmoon: I'm a Decepticon! It was reflex!

  • Subverted in The Last Days of Foxhound. Liquid Snake is taken hostage by a random Mook, in the hope that it will stop Revolver Ocelot. Ocelot, being the Magnificent Bastard he is, simply shoots through Liquid without actually hitting him! Liquid is of course perplexed by the ballistics of this.
  • In Juathuur, Rowasu does this with Juinn. He still insists he's not a hostage.
  • In Homestuck, Dave uses Jade for this purpose at one point, since Bec Noir is psychologically incapable of hurting her directly. AUTO-HARLEY!

Western Animation

  • Used in Drawn Together by Captain Hero, after shouting "Activate Hero Shield!" He probably could have survived the gunfire anyway.
  • While not exactly "human", Hot Rod tried to tackle Megatron in Transformers: The Movie during Optimus' fight with him, with predictable results.
  • In a Flash Back in Gargoyles, Gilcomgeigne uses Gruach as such a shield to force MacBeth to surrender.
  • When in the Christmas episode of The Boondocks, a mall Santa uses a little girl as a human shield against Riley, who shoots at him with airsoft guns in retaliation for several Christmases of poverty. "Why, Santa, why? You're ruining my childhood!"
  • A more harmless version on The Fairly Odd Parents, Chester uses AJ for one to guard against a barrage of spitballs.
  • Archer:
    • Similar to The Naked Gun example, Archer responds to the villain of the pilot episode taking his mother hostage by doing the same to Lana.
    • In season 2, Archer reacts to a firefight by hiding behind Cheryl. She's pissed until he reminds her that the vest she's wearing is bulletproof. She's immediately shot in the shoulder.

  Archer: But it is, ya know, a vest.

  • Happens in World's Finest, the Batman/Superman crossover film. After being knocked out by Harley Quinn, Mercy Graves is briefly shown tied up with her mouth taped shut, and taped to some strange object. During the movie's climax, we discover that she has been strategically taped to a killer android so that Superman cannot destroy the machine without killing Mercy as well.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Prince Blueblood uses Rarity to shield himself from a falling layer cake. Rarity, her last nerve snapped, chews him out for it and then shakes herself at him so he ends up Covered in Gunge anyway.
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold: In "The Last Patrol", the Doom Patrol broke up after the supervillain General Zahl took a woman hostage and threatened to shoot her if the Patrol didn't let him go. The Patrol refused to let him go, and he followed through. The Patrol felt so guilty about letting an innocent person die that they went their separate ways and resigned themselves to languishing in obscurity.
  • Mon Suno: Early in the series, Bren once hid behind Jinja, who stated she always wanted to be a human shield.

Web Originals

  • Completely subverted in "Boston Brawl 2" in the Whateley Universe. The heroes (a bunch of teenagers from the Super-Hero School Whateley Academy) are fighting a Big Bad, his hardened super-criminals, and some mercenaries the Big Bad brought along too. One mercenary with flying power armor grabs the weakest-looking heroine (Generator is 14, but looks like a short 11-year-old girl) and threatens her with a knife. Generator's powers are a phenomenal healing rate and the ability to cast a psychokinetic copy of herself into objects. She embeds herself on the knife and casts a copy of herself into Ironhawk's armor, taking it over and using it as a weapon against the other badguys.
  • Used by Basilisx in Super Mario Bros Z episode 8. He uses Luigi, whom he turned to stone earlier, to stop Hammer Bros. Mario from striking him.
  • Occurs early on in Survival of the Fittest v4, where Gracie Wainright attempts to rob Anna Chase (who is not wearing her glasses) and Kitty Gittschall, and after being threatened by Kitty and hit by Kyle Portman, Gracie is just distracted enough for Anna to attempt to run away. However, she is quickly caught and held by the hair by Gracie, as an attempt to get Kitty and Kyle to stop attacking her and to rob Anna in peace.
  • Used as a stalling tactic in the appropriately named "Fight Scene" chapter of Fine Structure.
  • "PUT THE GUN DOWN OR I WILL KILL THE GIRL I WILL KIL-"BOOM "Don't worry, the blood will wash out."

Real Life

  • Countless Truth in Television examples during bank hold-ups and various hostage situations. Also, unfortunately, used by terrorist groups, who will occasionally launch attacks from civilian areas in the hope that the attacked nation will withhold retaliation.
    • Or just as often in the hope that they will retaliate; the deaths of civilians gaining them sympathy and recruits for their cause.
    • Also a favored tactic of dictators facing superior air power and/or artillery. They grow fond of parades and refugee camps, trusting the other nation to become enough of a Slave to PR to not simply bomb them.
      • There is also a more sympathetic version of just keeping your troops so close to enemy forces (especially while engaging) that the enemy can't risk the use of air strikes or artillery as it'll get just as many friendlies as hostiles. This has led to the occasional subversion of Shoot the Hostage where the "hostage", about to be overrun, requests an artillery strike of his own position, knowing that he can take a great deal of attackers down with him.
    • Probably the weirdest example was various American and British anti-war activists volunteering as human shields during the Iraq war. They gave up on the idea when it became clear Saddam Hussein was only prepared to let them shield military and government facilities rather than civilians, almost as if he was some kind of evil dictator.
  • Osama Bin Laden allegedly tried this with one of his wives before he was killed. It didn't work.
    • It turns out this wasn't true. There were two women, and they apparently were trying to protect him, though they may also have just been trying to give him enough time to grab the two guns next to him. When the SEAL's burst in, the women were just pushed aside and bin Laden was shot.
  • Lifeguards and rescue divers who work in choppy waters are supposed to resort to this trope if they're about to be dashed against rocks or other obstacles, while hauling an unconscious person to safety. It makes sense in theory — if the rescuer gets knocked out also, both of them will surely drown — but most people in that line of work admit that they doubt they could go through with it.
  • When advancing on a city, a tactic the Mongols often employed was to force hostages to march ahead of their regular forces. From a distance, they just looked like part of the army, thus confusing the city defenders as to the size of the force advancing on them. And those hostages were pretty handy when it came to absorbing the first round of arrows...
  • One of the techniques taught to the Russian Spetsnaz is how to use their rifle's sling to disable and use someone as a human shield.