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The Mad Scientist or Big Bad tests or demonstrates his latest weapon, not on beer cans or inoffensive paper targets like any decent gun-nut would, but on live human beings!

Definitely a subtrope of Kick the Dog. See also Innocent Bystander and Disposable Vagrant. Professor Guinea Pig is when the thing being tested isn't a weapon, and the Mad Scientist uses it on his or herself. Guinea Pig Family is when the Mad Scientist uses his family.

Examples of Tested on Humans include:

Anime and Manga

  • Samurai Gun. The evil Shogunate test their Steampunk gatling gun on a bound woman with large breasts.
  • In Death Note, L uses a death row prisoner to "test" and locate Kira. Kira, obviously, has to use humans to test the capabilities of the Death Note.
  • In Gunslinger Girl after Raballo dies, Claes becomes unsuited for field work, so she's relegated to being the test bed for each new iteration of cyborg technology.



Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up.



  • Star Wars. Death Star. Gran Moff Tarkin. Alderaan. You know the rest.
  • The Empire Strikes Back. Vader wants to check that the carbon-freezing equipment is safe to use on Luke, so he orders it tested on Han Solo.
  • The Incredibles. Syndrome talks "retired" superheroes into coming to his Island Base, supposedly to stop a rogue robot. Actually he's using them to test the robot's abilities, constantly upgrading it with each defeat until the superhero is killed.
  • In Batman: The Movie, the Penguin tests the Dehydrator on five henchmen—henchmen wearing "Guinea Pig" on their shirts, no less.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Judge Doom tests The Dip on a poor, innocent Toon shoe.
    • Except he already knows it works (and so does the guy who explains it to Eddie), it's really just a gratuitous demonstration.
  • District 9. An off-hand comment made by the Corrupt Corporate Executive is that the protagonist is the first person to survive being incorporated with alien DNA. A more direct example (though it's a case of Tested On Aliens) is when one of the 'prawns' (with a target on his chest) is herded in front of a weapon, and the protagonist is forced (by having his arm shocked with a taser) to squeeze the trigger.
  • In Lord of War, an Arms Dealer sells a Complete Monster dictator a cache of firearms. The dictator tests one out by shooting one of his own aides, and the arms dealer is horrified: "Why did you do that? Now you have to buy it. I can't sell a used gun."
    • Note that the arms dealer was clearly horrified that the aide was shot. He's just enough of a Magnificent Bastard to know better than to tell that to someone who randomly shot his own aide.
  • The Last King of Scotland. Amin's bodyguard forces a Child Soldier to swallow one of the poisoned headache pills Garrigan had prepared for Amin, causing Garrigan to give himself away.
  • In the magnificently inaccurately-named Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, Emperor Ming tests his Death Dust on some prisoners to see if it will only kill those with the will to oppose him. Those of 'lesser intelligence' survive.

Live Action TV

  • The Professionals. In "Killer With A Long Arm" the Cold Sniper guns down someone on a golf course to check his weapon was properly zeroed for the assassination he's been hired to carry out. If there was a reason for him to use a live target other than just to be a dick it was not adequately explained, especially since he'd used a scarecrow for an earlier test.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. The Funniest Joke in the World was tested on a low-level military grunt.
  • The basic idea behind the Mads' experiments on Joel and Mike in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Find the perfect movie to crack the test subject's resistance, then release the movie on an unwitting populace.
  • An example of the good guys using this is in |V: The Final Battle. The dust used to kill the Visitors is tested on an alien prisoner. Then while the others are busy arguing about whether they should find a human collaborator to test it on, one of the human scientists willingly steps into the chamber instead.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man ("Population Zero"). The villains try out their sonic device on a small town. The initial test just renders the population unconscious - the final test will kill them.
  • On Ugly Betty, Marc briefly became someone else's assistant. He did not enjoy it:

Marc: Fabia doesnt believe in testing her products on animals, but she does believe in testing them on assistants.

  • Doctor Who: Davros tests his multiverse-destroying, matter-vaporizer gun on people collected from the streets of London. (The Daleks don't even have to hit anything, just turn it on and bye-bye multiverse)


  • The Amtrak Wars by Patrick Tilley. The Iron Masters demonstrate the new firearms they're selling to the Plainfolk by shooting dead several condemned prisoners. When one samurai misses the target, he's used in the demonstration as well. Afterwards the protagonist Steve Brickman comments on how brave the men were in facing death. One of the Plainfolk replies dryly that considering the alternative, it was the best fate they could have hoped for.
  • Flashman presents a brace of pistols to an Afghan chieftain, and witnesses one of them being tested on a slave by the Big Bad. Even the amoral Flashman is shocked.
  • King Solomons Mines by H. Rider Haggard. The king of the Kukuana people asks Allan Quartermain to show the effects of his rifle upon his assembled warriors. Quatermain replies by telling the king he would be glad to do so if the king volunteers to be the subject of the experiment. At which point it is decided to use an ox instead.
  • In Outbound Flight, the Vagaari commander gets his hands on the battle droids stowed away in Car'das's stolen shuttle. Droids of any kind are completely new to this sector of space. One of the first things he does is test their firepower on Geroon slaves.
  • The Master Sniper by Stephen Hunter. German sharpshooter Lt. Colonel Repp tests his StG44 rifle with newly-developed infra-red scope—first on some Jewish prisoners, then on an American patrol at the front lines—before carrying out the assassination he'd been tasked with.
  • In The Switch by Anthony Horowitz, the main character's father is the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company, popular because none of his products are tested on animals. They're not just tested on humans, though; they're tested on homeless children that nobody will miss.

Western Animation

  • Exo Squad. J.T. Marsh (a military officer and good fighter) is captured by Neo Megas near the Antarctic Neo Lord breeding facility and pitted against a Neo Lord to test the latter's combat abilities. It is clear that Marsh was never meant to survive.
  • In Street Sharks, Dr. Paradigm figures out that using his gene-slamming technique on humans would let him eliminate some steps, so he he tests it on the first person available - Dr. Bolton. He also tests it on Bolton's sons and a few other people, before figuring out that gene-slammed humans can't be controlled.
    • He's WORKING on that control thing...

Video Games

  • Occurs in Red Alert 3: Uprising, done by the Allies, of all people, on Soviet Prisoners. The sheer act is enough to push Dasha's Berserk Button, resulting with her calling up what few Kirovs the Soviets have left.
    • To be fair, the group committing the act was not the Allied military but the FutureTech Corporation who also worked as a Private Military Contractor for the Allies in the occupied Soviet Union. It is implied the Allies themselves did not know of FutureTech's experiments.
  • This was done many times in the Fallout Universe, by the United States. In one example, Nuka-Cola Quantum taste tests killed most of the testers. However, the most known example is probably the Forced Evolutionary Virus (intended to create Super Soldiers for the war against China), who's test on Humans resulted in terrible mutations and many many deaths, often because it caused participants to become so stupid, many died because they forgot to keep breathing. The final result is essentially an extremely hostile big green man with the intelligence of your stereotypical caveman.
    • No no. The most egregious example are the vaults themselves; marketed as shelters to benefit mankind, they are instead huge testing facilities, in which their residents are exposed to a variety of (often horrible) stress situations in order to test their adaptability and resiliency.
  • In The Sims 2, this is implied to be what Loki and Circe Beaker are doing with Nervous Subject in Strangetown. The house they have has a lab filled with science-y looking things (actually aspiration rewards) and Nervous lives in a basement room under the lab.
  • In Mass Effect 2 Mordin's former assistant uses humans as test subjects to develop a cure for the genophage. It's also what they initially think the Collectors are doing with the colonies they abduct actually they're being used to make a new Reaper.
    • Mordin himself acknowledges the logic behind using human test subjects (humans are more genetically diverse than most other species and so make excellent lab rats), but disagrees with it on moral grounds.

Real Life

  • Samurai would test their swords on criminals who'd been sentenced to death.
  • The outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II, and the disregard for human rights of prisoners kept in concentration camps allowed Japanese and German scientists to conduct experiments otherwise prohibited. Very little conclusions of scientific value were achieved and they were largely an excuse to commit torture. Though some of the work did confirm or invalidate numerous theories about the workings of the human body e.g. human metabolic rates, survival capacity in extreme conditions and when wounded, the stopping power/lethality of various weapons and the lethality and most contagious means of transmission of diseases.
    • Unit 731 of the IJA is the best known example of these wartime research units, having run through an unknown number (somewhere in the thousands) of live human specimens of Chinese and occasionally Caucasian origin for use in the aforementioned research, for which vivisection without application of anesthetic was advocated as it produced the most accurate results. Field tests of disease delivery methods and resultant effects had terminal effects on some 200k to 600k of Chinese civilians in urban areas designated for biological research in China.
  • Possibly just a legend, but there is a saying about the Russian Mafia, they'll shoot you just to see if the gun works.