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"'d be dead already."

Line uttered by a villain or Big Bad to "prove" their specific involvement. Maybe a group of unknown assailants attacked the hero and he tries grilling the most likely suspect; some mafia boss or the like. No, he didn't order it because he's just so totally Badass that if he did, he wouldn't have failed. This reasoning is also used for heroes who muse about whether or not to trust a villain who offers them hospitality or aid. In addition, he may also at times cite how he would have made sure there was no evidence tracing the hit back to him when explaining he wasn't responsible if they found evidence seemingly implicating him for it.

You can pretty much accept this line to be true whenever it is spoken; (almost) nobody ever bluffs a failed assassination attempt this way.

It might come up, when a villain who was secretly spying on the heroes or even hiding among their ranks suddenly offers them help, as they happened to have a common goal. Heroes are understandably reluctant to accept such help and are suspicious of his motives, so the villain may resort to this trope to "reassure" the heroes that he means them no harm... this time. Sometimes the argument will be raised by some of the hero's companions to persuade the stubborn hero.

A common inversion is to have the person being threatened calmly shake the threat off with the reasoning, "If you were really going to kill me you'd have done it by now."

Not to be confused with I Wished You Were Dead. Compare Break-In Threat, or alternatively, Did You Die?.

Examples of If I Wanted You Dead... include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mahou Sensei Negima has Negi doing something along these lines to the demon that petrified his hometown. Negi knows a spell for killing demons, but decides not to use it. Of course, said demon wasn't entirely evil anyway.
    • The general theme of "I won...? Wait, that means you must have let me win!" is used continually throughout the series; this is at least the second time it's applied to a supposed life-or-death struggle.
  • There is a little Variation of this in Naruto: After Sasuke's Fight with Itachi, Tobi reveals to him that Itachi never really planned on killing him. Sasuke, of course, doesn't believe it, to which Tobi replied: "But you're still alive! [...] If he really planned on killing you, you would've..."
  • Madlax essentially said this in actions, not words, in episode 3. When the "scary chick" guard commander is attempting to zero in on her after she has killed her target ( who hired her to do it), twin shots are heard, and the commander's beret flies off, with a track cut through the top. Madlax had her dead to rights, and both of them knew it, yet she spared her.
  • In Parasyte Ch. 6, a parasyte reassures Shinji (who is naturally freaking out) that an invitation to meet for coffee is benign by citing this trope.

Comic Books

  • In Atomic Robo, Egypt's armed forces tell this to Robo and his Action Science Team after shooting at him because he blew up a pyramid. It Makes Sense in Context, mostly.
  • The Kingpin to the Runaways: "If there was going to be violence at this table, it would be over and you would be dead."
  • Joker has a tendency to broadcast his crimes in the open especially after they've been conducted, which means if he denies credit committing the crime, chances are he's actually innocent of the crime that occurred. It also at times leads to an inversion of the portion of the trope of not leaving behind evidence towards him having committed the crime, which can be implied in Under the Red Hood where he asks in half-amusement and half-disbelief "You actually think I would go through all this trouble [of bringing in another Red Hood] and not make sure you knew it was ME?!"

Films -- Live-Action

  • The Godfather has Virgil Solozzo telling Tom to: "Come on get in the car. What are you worried about? If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead already."
  • In Dirty Harry, Harry shoots Scorpio in the leg.

 Scorpio: [crying with reason] You tried to kill me.

Harry Callahan: If I tried that your head would be splattered all over this field.

  • A nice subversion in the 2008 Get Smart movie:

 Siegfried: How do I know you're not CONTROL?

Maxwell Smart: If I were CONTROL, you'd already be dead.

Siegfried: If you were CONTROL, you'd already be dead.

Maxwell Smart: Neither of us is dead, so I'm obviously not from CONTROL.


Shtarker: That actually makes sense.

    • Bonus points for also subverting the inversion.
  • Wanted: "If your name had come up, you'd already be dead."
  • Mr. Brooks

 Mr. Brooks: Don't worry. If I were here to kill you, you would already be dead.

  • The Jumanji film gives us, "Stop your cringing, woman; I could have shot you at any moment."
  • Used to a point on The Princess Bride, where Fezzik misses the Man in Black's head with his rock on purpose, so they can fight it out sportsman-like.
  • In the Russian film "D'Artagnan and three musketeers" the titular hero accuses Milady de Winter of shooting him when he was riding a horse. She responds with scorn, that "If I'd been shooting you, you'd have been dead. I was shooting your horse!"
  • The Shadow (1994):

 SHIWAN: Kill you? * chuckles* If I wanted you dead, Ying Ko [referring to Lamont], I would have your liver on a pole right now.

  • A slight variant in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Barbossa assures Elizabeth that the food isn't poisoned. After all, he needs her blood or so he thinks to lift the curse, so there's no reason to kill her. Yet.
  • Marcus makes this point to try to convince John Connor that he isn't hostile in Terminator Salvation.
  • Not actually stated, but the spirit is certainly there in Predators. After the Russian has nearly mowed him down with his BFG, Royce flanks him, and puts his gun to the Russian's head.

 Royce: Please stop doing that. We're not your enemy.

Russian: How do I know that?

Royce: Because otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Russian: (Accepts this and joins the party)



  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, when Gaunt takes Commissiar Kanow hostage, he points out that he could have killed and didn't. (Kanow is unpersuadable. Gaunt has his men overpowered and gets Ludd, the junior commissiar, to make the contacts he needs to prove his identity.)

 Look, sergeant. I had the stone drop on you just then, and yet no one's dead so far. Is that the act of a heretic or a deserter?

  • Flood by Andrew Vachss. It's stated that martial arts Badass Max the Silent is so notorious no-one even laughed when a judge told him he had the right to remain silent during an attempted murder trial. After all, everyone knew Max never attempted to murder someone.
  • In the second Mistborn book, apparent Starscream Zane continually tries to kill his father Straff, but only because it's what Straff expects, as it's what he'd do if their positions were reversed. Zane never says the trope line out loud, but he does think it to himself during his POV sections.
  • Another example from Sanderson, this one heroic, In The Stormlight Archive, Dalinar says this to King Elhokar almost word-for-word after he finally gets fed up with Elhokar's paranoia. He more or less charges into the king's room, beats him up, explains to him that his guards are ultimately loyal to Dalinar himself rather then to him, and that he could kill Elhokar anytime he wanted, which makes Elhokar realize that Dalinar is loyal.
  • In Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow, Schofield (the target of a bounty hunt) is offered aid by a notorious bounty hunter.

  "If I wanted you dead captain, I'd have put a bullet in your head. There is an $18.6 million dollar bounty on your head. Rest assured I am being paid considerably more than that to keep you alive."

  • In the book version of The Hunt for Red October, the Soviet fleet goes on "blockade" duty off the U.S. Atlantic coast for the rogue missile sub, making the Americans distinctly nervous. Being the height of the Cold War, the U.S. decides to make a few demonstrations to the Sovs of what would happen if the Red Banner Fleet were ever to move aggressively. The most spectacular of them involved four A-10s racing under the radar horizon of the fleet and boxing the battlecruiser Kirov with flares. The exact message that the pilots wanted to send was, word for word, "If we had been serious, you'd be dead by now".
  • In The Bible, David twice gets close enough to Saul to kill him, but stays his hand, believing that he should not lay a hostile hand on "the Lord's anointed". The first time, he cuts off a part of Saul's robe, while the second time, he steals Saul's water jug and spear. The message, although not explicitly said, is clear. It's an old trope, ladies and gentlemen! And Saul doesn't get the message. Too Dumb to Live much?
  • A variant not involving death occurs in David Drake's Northworld trilogy. Main character Hansen comes to visit Gadgeteer Genius Ritter, who's working on a project for him. Ritter isn't getting very far on the project, and he snappishly says something about Hansen checking up on him. Hansen, who's been given godlike powers, thinks, If I wanted to check on you-- and demonstrates that his powers would let him spy on Ritter completely undetected.
  • Another variant appears in Isaac Asimov's novelization of Fantastic Voyage. The mission experiences several misadventures, each of which could have been accident or sabotage. All but one of the specialists are eliminated as suspects because something went wrong in their respective areas of expertise that they could have sabotaged far more subtly and effectively.
  • The Dresden Files: Not death, quite, but Harry and Murphy are talking and it comes out that Harry witnessed a murder without telling the police.

 Harry: This again. I remember how this goes. You slug me in the jaw and arrest me.

Murphy: I damn well should.

Harry: Hell's bells, Murph!

Murphy: Relax. [sigh] If that was what I had in mind, you'd be in the car already.

  • Not exactly "dead," but there's an exchange in Animorphs #10, right after Erek discovers Marco, unmorphed and fairly helpless, hidden in the grass in a field crawling with Controllers.

 Erek: Stay here. I'm going to lead them away. Then come and meet me at this address. I want to talk to your leader.

Marco: How do I know that this isn't a trap?

Erek: Why would I do that?

Marco: Maybe you want to catch all of us at once.

Erek: Marco, you seem like a brave guy. But if I wanted to know who and where your friends were, I'd give you to Visser Three right now. You would talk.


 Stephano/Olaf: If I wanted to harm you, orphan, your blood would already be pouring down these stairs like a waterfall.

  • David Isaak's Shock and Awe:

 Rex Atwater: My point is that Western civilization is cutting its own throat. Our enemies hit us as hard as they can, but we're supposed to strike back in a limited, perfectly accurate, fair way... and always apologize. Do you remember during the invasion of Iraq, when all of the Arab press was crying out they're deliberately targeting civilians? And the White House responds with patient denials, instead of saying, Christ, if we were deliberately targeting civilians, do you think there'd be anybody left to bitch?

  • In one of the Posleen War novels, Cally O'Neal actually uses this as a legal defense in court. The man she shot claimed she tried to kill him. She claimed that he tried to rape her and she shot him in self-defense. She resolves the argument by taking the jury to a firing range and conclusively proving that if she could have easily killed the man at the range he was shot if she'd wanted to. The man is arrested for attempted rape and posters are put up around town with her picture and the message: WARNING! Jail Bait. To be considered Armed and Dangerous.
  • In Freedom Loki/Gragg tells Dr. Philips this.
  • From the Honor Harrington novel Echoes of Honor:

  "Commodore Ramirez, what possible motive could the Peeps have for 'luring' you out here and pretending to be Manticorans?" she demanded. "If they wanted you dead, all they'd have to do would be to stop delivering food to you! Or if they're too impatient for that, I'm sure a little napalm, or a few snowflake clusters—or an old-fashioned ground sweep by infantry, for goodness' sake—could deal with you!"

    • Done as a ship-to-ship threat occasionally, usually with the Manticorans firing a salvo of missiles, then detonating them just outside of lethal range to tell their enemies, "We can utterly destroy you whenever we feel like it. Surrender."
  • In Stone of Tears, second book of the Sword of Truth series, Kahlan discovers that her Con Dar bloodrage from the previous book has left her with a Hand Cannon-esque magic attack that appears to blow through just about anything. Thinking this puts her on even ground with witchwoman Shota, she goes into her domain to have a chat, and boasts that with that power, she has nothing to fear from Shota's power. The witchwoman shrugs, and points out that, if Shota wanted her dead, the magic would've done absolutely nothing to stop her from poisoning the tea Kahlan had just drank, which quickly deflates Kahlan's notions of invincibility.
  • In the Robert Crais novel L.A. Requiem, Cole does a variation of this by saying it about Pike, not himself, when Pike is suspected of being responsible for the murder of a witness. A bit of an atypical variant, as the guy actually is dead and Cole is explaining why Pike didn't do it:

 Cole: "If Pike were going to kill him, you'd never find the body. He'd dispose of Dirsch and leave you wondering what happened. Pike is the most dangerous man I know and I've known more than a few."

  • In the Roy Johansen novel Beyond Belief, Joe Bailey confronts murderer Stuart Dunning and accuses him of the murder of Robert Nelson, which he committed in a manner that made it appear telekinetic in nature. Dunning declares "If I had telekninetic powers, we wouldn't be having this conversation." Subverted in that he does indeed want to kill Bailey, but is using this to deny the original murder.
  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel Duty Calls, the Big Bad invites Cain to a meal and tells him not to worry about poison; if he was to be killed, it would have been done already with gunfire.
  • Used second-hand in The Truth. To make a long story short, an altercation ends up with Vetinari's assistant, Drumknot, receiving several knife wounds, which certain parties pin on Vetinari. William DeWorde smells a rat, not because he doesn't believe that Vetinari would stab someone, but because DeWorde doesn't believe that Vetinari would stab someone without killing them.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Shadows of Steel, a back channel special envoy between the Iranians and the US is told that the President is still in control of the situation, for if he wasn't, overt military action would have been taken already.

Live-Action TV

  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit: When accused of ordering a hit on the now comatose man who was sleeping with his wife, the richest guy in the world not only tells Detectives Munch and Fin that he doesn't care, but, "If I wanted Victor Ko dead, he'd be in his grave by now."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Vengeance Factor", a much smaller and technologically inferior ship repeatedly and ineffectually attacks the Enterprise. Picard finally orders a limited attack to take down their shields and convince them to start talking. The other captain's first signal is an accusation that the Enterprise is there to destroy them; Picard makes the obvious rebuttal.
    • Similarly, in Deep Space Nine, Garak is told to be more serious when he lists Kira as a suspect in blowing up his shop.

 Garak: I am serious; I don't think she likes me.

Odo: She doesn't, but if she wanted you dead, you would be.

Garak: You do have a point.

  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Checkpoint", Glory goes to Buffy's house to demand she give her the Key. While Glory goes on, Buffy subtly takes a fireplace poker and prepares to attack Glory with it, only to have Glory take it from her before she can even swing.

  Glory: Buffy, if I were here to fight, you could tell by the being dead already. So play nice, little girl.

    • Obligatory Angel example: In one episode, this is how Angel convinces Wesley that he's not Angelus.
  • The first season of Andromeda features a variant: Hunt is trying to recruit a politician, and he's later found dead while locked in a room with Tyr--the weapon is found to be keyed to Tyr's DNA. He claims that he couldn't have killed the politician, because if he had, he knows enough ways to do it that no one would be able to tell.
  • In an episode of the 70's show Search, the leader of a criminal group replied to the suggestion that they'd committed (and botched) certain murders by having a guard place two or three pistol shots within a few centimeters of his leader's head. It demonstrated not only the skills of his men -- they wouldn't have botched the killings -- but his degree of trust in their loyalty. He didn't flinch at all as the shots were fired.
  • Cameron to John:

 If I was going to kill you we wouldn't be having this conversation.

  • In The Mentalist episode "Redline", a very rich guy, when asked if he killed the victim of the week, makes the point that with his resources, if he'd been responsible for her death, they wouldn't have found the body; she'd have just disappeared.
  • In Babylon 5, the first appearance of G'Kar's aide Na'Toth features this, when he accuses her of being an assassin sent to kill him.
    • In Season 3, Neroon cites this trope as a reason he won't kill Marcus after sending him to the infirmary.
  • In Burn Notice a man interrogates Michael's mother, claiming, "Your son shot at me. He tried to kill me!" to which Maddie disdainfully responds, "If Michael wanted to kill you, you'd be dead."
  • On an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, Granny has taken up a feud against the Drysdales. At one point she shoots Mr. Drysdale's hat off, leading to this exchange:

 Mr. Drysdale: She shot at me!

Jed: Naw, she shot at your hat. If Granny ever starts takin' aim at you, you'll be castin' a polka-dot shadow.

  • In the MacGyver episode "GX-1", Mac and Nikki are trying to reach and destroy a crashed experimental spy plane before the Soviets can get to it, said Soviets being backed by an elderly psychic. At one point while Mac and Nikki are planning their next move, the psychic shows up at their campsite. He states he wants to defect and assures them he means no harm by pointing out that if he did, he would have revealed their location to the Soviet troops.
  • Said almost word for word by Kurt in The River. Played with in that Kurt is not really a villian and even helps save Lincoln in the end.

Video Games

  • Thief: Deadly Shadows has this bit of convo:

 Garrett: "I suppose if you were Gamall, you would have tried to kill me just now."

Artemis: "No, I would have succeeded."

  • Ripper: Used by Quinlan late in the story after another of his contacts blew up in front of him, making him look like a suspect.
  • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, there is an inversion in the second case. The only son of the yakuza is accused of shooting a man in the head. His mother knows he is innocent (of this crime at least), because he couldn't shoot the broad side of a barn.
  • Renegade Shepard can do this in Mass Effect 2.
  • Deus Ex:

  JC Denton: If I'm gonna kill you, you're already dead.

  • In The Godfather 2, the Mangano consigliore threatens you with this.


  • Humorous invocation in this Backward Compatible webcomic, as two reviewers try for the same assignment.
  • A more benevolent variation appears in this Schlock Mercenary strip.

Western Animation

  • Teen Titans: After Bumblebee, at Brother Blood's orders, battles Cyborg, she tries to convince Cyborg she's The Mole: "If I was fighting for real, you'd be spare parts by now."
  • The animated series based on Disney's Hercules has Medusa delivering a variation of this line to Hercules.

 Medusa: If I wanted you stone, you'd be stone, all right?

  • Batman Beyond: An assassin assures Batman a stray shot to get his attention was just that, for this reason.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Tails is kidnapped in one episode where Robotnik had nothing to do with it. Robotnik said that, if he had kidnapped Tails, he'd be torturing him.

Real Life

  • Charles Manson. "Believe me, if I started murdering people, there'd be none of you left."
  • Porter Rockwell, the Mormon gunfighter dubbed "the Prophet's bodyguard" was accused of shooting at Lilburn Boggs, governor of Missouri who issued the famous "Extermination Order". His response? "I never shot at anything in my life. I either shot it or I didn't shoot."
  • There was an Iraqi army officer who was interviewed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq who reported that when he was leading his men in the field, an American attack jet appeared and made a mock attack run at them, diving at them and then pulling up to fly in a wide lazy circle. The Iraqi officer decided that the American pilot was giving them their one chance to surrender unharmed, especially considering his experience from Desert Storm.
  • A famous Australian clip from 60 minutes had a reporter interviewing some freedomfighters in another country.

 Reporter: How easy would it be to kill me?

Man: Like this. *takes out a gun and puts it to his head and pulls the trigger*

    • The gun wasn't loaded, but it sent a clear message that they could have killed him at anytime and weren't hesitating to kill.


Comic Books

  • Near the end of the first volume of Runaways, the team realise that one of them is a mole for the Pride but have no idea who. When Nico comes up, Alex points out that she's one of their most powerful members and could have hurt them ages ago if she wanted to.

Films -- Live-Action

  • Captain Von Trapp says something similar to Rolfe in The Sound of Music when Rolfe threatens to shoot him, but in this case he's doing it to convince Rolfe that Rolfe doesn't have it in him to kill someone and should just hand over the gun.
  • Anthony Perkins uses this line of reasoning in The Black Hole. It actually holds true... for a while.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark:

 Satipo: The Hovitos are near. The poison is still fresh, three days. They're following us.

Barranca: If they knew we were here, they would've killed us already.

  • The Hunt for Red October - Sam Neill's first mate says this to one of the panicked crew after the sub narrowly avoids destruction by a torpedo launched by the Russian Navy. Subversion: The Navy really was trying to sink the submarine.
  • The inversion appeared in The Postman. The heroine grabs an unloaded rifle and points it at one of the enemy Mooks, ordering him to put his hands up. The Mook pauses and says, "No. If you had a bullet, you'd have shot me."
  • In Braveheart Stephen and William Wallace agree that if Robert The Bruce had wanted to kill Wallace "He'd have done it at Falkirk".
  • In Transformers, Sam deduces that Bumblebee "Doesn't wanna hurt us. He'd have done that already".
  • Said of the "Snake King" in Courageous. "If he wanted you dead, he'd have killed you by now."


  • Dumbledore in Harry Potter: "If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first Disarmed me, you would not have stopped for this pleasant chat about ways and means."
    • Dumbledore accuses Malfoy of being half-hearted in his assassination attempts.
    • In Deathly Hallows, when Harry and Hermione are at the graveyard in Godric's Hollow, they hear something rustling in the bushes, but after a moment of waiting and listening Harry points out that if it was a Death Eater they'd be dead by now.
  • In the Swedish spy-novel "Coq Rouge" the hero proves that he isn't an assassin out to assassinate the palestinian big-shot by disarming his body-guards, grabbing a machine-gun, pointing it at the big-shot... and turning over the weapon. Subverted when the big-shot then calmly points out that he knew this was going to happen and that the weapons weren't loaded.
  • In Animorphs, Marco is first to point out that he believes that Visser One isn't setting a trap because, if she wanted to capture him, it'd be far simpler to do so directly than setting a trap.
    • When the team investigates Yeerks tampering with food, one of them suggests that they want to poison people. Ax disagrees, since if the Yeerks wanted to kill a lot of humans, they would use Dracon beams to set the atmosphere on fire.

 [Long pause]

Marco: Well, that's comforting.

  • Rose in Slave Trade by Susan Wright: "I guess that means no one's awake or they would have killed us already."

Live-Action TV

  • Angel episode "Peace Out":

 Wesley: If you really believed that, you'd have killed us already.

    • In another episode, the title character proves that he haven't reverted to his Angelus self by... effortless disarming his friend, going for the jugular and not eating him.
  • A variant on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: after Joyce's death Xander, obviously looking for someone to blame, suggests that Big Bad Glory may have murdered her and only made it look like a random brain aneurysm. Willow then points out that Glory had basically pulled this trope as a threat before--if she had killed Joyce, she would want them to know that it was her.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, after Sheldon accuses Leonard of being a violent sociopath, he claims that he's not worried for his personal safety because "I imagine that if you were going to kill me, you would have done it years ago."
  • Season one of The Wire: When Omar and Brandon are parleying with McNulty and Kima at the cemetery, Omar takes note of McNulty's service weapon as they approach and tells him, "If you was gonna use that, you'd have been done using it by now." McNulty, acknowledging the point (and noting that Omar and Brandon are both unarmed and their van is empty), holsters his gun.
  • In Smallville Lex Luthor's fiance tried to kill him by leaving him alone on a plane without a pilot. When Lex survives and confronts her, she tries to pin the murder attempt on his father Lionel. Lex tells her that "if my father wanted me dead, he wouldn't have failed."
  • Season four of Supernatural: Shortly after Dean is pulled out of Hell, a demon threatens to send him back. Dean coolly replies, "No, you won't. Because if you could, you'd have done it already."

Tabletop Games

  • In the prologue story to one edition of Mage: The Ascension, the mage Mercedes finds out that her lover Gericault is one of the Nephandi (an Eldritch Abomination worshiping cult of mages). Mercedes attacks him and knocks him to the ground, where they have the following exchange:

 Gericault: Let me up.

Mercedes: I'm going to kill you.

Gericault: You are a practical woman, Mercy, and this is not a dime novel. If you were going to kill me, you would have done so five seconds ago. Let me up.


Web Originals


 "They would have killed us already, if they were going to," the female said, although her voice wavered

  • Subverted in the Lonelygirl15 episode "Prom: It's To Die For - Part 4", when Jonas points a gun at Edward Salinas and demands that he hand over the camera:

 Jonas: I'm not kidding.

Salinas: I think you are. If there were any bullets in that gun, we'd all be dead by now, but there aren't, are there?

Jonas pistol whips Salinas and runs off with the camera.

  • This advice for what to do when making first contact with aliens makes the point that, since there is almost no chance that two random species would just happen to be at similar levels of technology, and they are the ones with interstellar flight, if the alien hasn't killed you already it probably isn't hostile.

Video Games

  • in Fallout 3, the Player can have a random encounter with "Mel", a highwayman who tries to stick you up with a sawed-off shotgun. The Intelligence-tied response basically calls him out on it, stating that a real raider would have just killed and looted.

Western Animation

Real Life