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The Heroes of a story often draw a Line in the Sand, asking "Who's with me?" when proposing a particularly dangerous course of action.

Occasionally, the villainous version can also be seen. A villain has a grand scheme, but not necessarily the resources to pull it off. He calls together a room full of potential investors and outlines the plan.

But these guys are businessmen, used to being pitched at, and sometimes one will stand up and announce that it sounds too risky, and he wants out. So as not to risk scaring the rest, the villain will graciously allow him to leave, and remind him not to talk about it. He will ask his henchman to "show him out." The Henchman will nod, smile, escort him from the room and kill him, thus ensuring total loyalty and secrecy for his evil plot.

Compare and contrast Board to Death, where all of the businessmen are killed.

Examples of Thrown From the Zeppelin include:

Films -- Live-Action

  • Probably the best known version is from Goldfinger, where the unfortunate investor is killed, then crushed with his car. Goldfinger then gasses the rest of the investors anyway, eliminating any potential competition after gaining their confidence.
    • Roger Ebert wondered why Goldfinger would bother to give the presentation detailing his master plan to the gangsters, if he was just going to kill them all afterwards. He concluded that Goldfinger had already paid for all the models to be built and had to show them to somebody to justify the expenses. Another possibility is that, since Goldfinger was anything but modest, his ego made him want to outline his brilliant scheme to someone outside his own organization. The investors probably didn't send the money ahead of time, either.
      • In the book, the investor who backs out (and his bodyguard) is the only one to die. The others go on to help Goldfinger with his scheme.
  • The trope name is taken from another James Bond film, A View to a Kill, in which the meeting is taking place on board Max Zorin's blimp, and the investor is, quite literally, Thrown From the Zeppelin.
  • In The Phantom movie, when the Big Bad presents his plan to steal the magic skulls, one of his associates decides to leave. Oddly enough he objects on the basis that the idea is morally questionable, rather than because it revolves around magical skulls. The big bad impales him with a javelin.
  • In the film F Folkes, one of the hijackers gets cold feet and wants to leave with the government representatives who came to investigate (and will be trying to convince the government to pay the ransom). The Big Bad, played by Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame), pretends to sympathize with him, and tells him he can go, but signals one of his henchmen to shoot him when he's on the lift being carried off.
  • In a scene from The Avengers 1998, the villain (Sean Connery) announces his plans for world domination to a room full of scientists then asks if any of them will opt out. Two scientists raise their hands to quit and the villain kills them with poison darts in front of the other scientists, unusual for this trope. The other scientists are eventually killed off anyway.
  • Don't forget the 1989 Batman movie, where the Joker (Jack Nicholson) brings in the "mob bosses" of Gotham, and introduces himself as the new big boss. One of the mobsters opts out, and as they shake hands he gets the "joy buzzer" from the Joker, which rather gruesomely kills him, as a lesson to the other bosses. ("I'm glad you're dead!")... then goes on to order the deaths of the other bosses.
    • He decides to kill them all on the "advice" of the boss he just killed [1]. It's the first sign that Jack, who was "just" a psychopath, is now completely unhinged Chaotic Evil.
    • In The Dark Knight, the Joker pretends to have a similar tendency, but is really just planning to kill just about everyone he can, whether or not they want to be his ally.
  • In The Legend of Zorro, after the Ancient Conspiracy members hear Armand's evil plans, one disagrees. As a result, Armand demonstrates his secret weapon - nitroglycerin - by throwing a small bottle of it on him.
  • Dick Tracy (1990). When Big Boy Caprice offers to let the other gangsters join his operation, Spaldoni is the first to question why he (Big Boy) should be the leader. Big Boy casts an aside glance at Itchy, who steps outside the room. Five minutes later, he returns in time for Spaldoni to turn down Big Boy's offer. Big Boy had the foresight to realize that at least one of his former rivals would be unwilling to go along with the plan, and had Itchy prepared to take them out.
  • Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life has the villain infect his board of potential investors with a strain of "super-ebola," letting one of them die before the others sign up for his plot...and the vaccine.
  • A variant occurs in The Sum of All Fears when one of the Russian scientists decides to opt-out. The villain's butler first helps him put his jacket on, then strangles him with his own scarf right in front of the other scientists before any of them can have second thoughts.
  • The Jackie Chan movie The Tuxedo had the villain call in an underling who'd been publicly criticizing The Plan, and gave said underling a drink of his dehydrating water. He also uses this later on the water company executives who refuse to give their companies to him.
  • Taken to absurdity in the Italian movie Diabolik; mob boss Valmont meets with his subordinates about the police's offer to team up to fight the eponymous super-crook. Three of them vote against the plan; Valmont shoots two, but misses the third, who begs for his life. Valmont agrees not to shoot... then presses a button that drops the man through a hole in the floor. When the film was riffed on the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike responded to the above moment by shouting "Extreme organized crime!"
  • Space Mutiny also a scene where some traitorous engineers hold a meeting (at a suspiciously small table), and when one of the wimpier ones threatens to report their treason, boss engineer MacPhearson kills him with his cane.
  • In Kill Bill, O-Ren declares herself the leader of the various Yakuza families, to which one of the bosses objects. She cuts off his head and then tells the remaining bosses (in English, since this is important) that she's not asking, she's telling.
  • If Looks Could Kill: Augustus Steranko has this done to the French finance minister at the beginning. The finance minister won't sign France up for Steranko's plan to have all of Europe's gold stored in his chateau, so Steranko has the guy killed by getting bludgeoned to death with a tea tray.


  • In a Star Trek novel, a recruiter tells his recruits about a plan to destroy the Federation by pumping a virus through their replicators. When one of the recruits decides not to take part, he's given a pat on the shoulder and allowed to leave. He's dead from the virus 30 seconds later.
  • A heroic (depending on your tastes) version happens in Stone of Tears where Kahlan, before leading the remnants of a small army on midnight raids to destroy the larger, more experienced army that destroyed their home, lets a dissenter and a group leave. She then sends another group of soldiers to kill the lot of them, deducing correctly based on...something that they planned to rat them out to the larger army.
  • Moist von Lipwig is presented with two options at the beginning of Going Postal. He can become Vetinari's postmaster, or he can walk out the door behind Vetinari. Moist is smart enough to open up the door and drop an object down the inevitable pit before trying to walk out. The test is subverted in Making Money, the next Moist von Lipwig book. The door by which Moist can exit is perfectly normal and he is free to walk away and go back to his job at the Post Office.
    • His evil counterpart Reacher Glit at the end of Going Postal used the door. It's ambiguous whether he stormed through without checking it or indeed comitted suicide rather than work for the patrician, though the latter would fit better with the book's theme of every freedom being based on the most basic one: The freedom to take the consequences.
  • Seems to happen at least once in ever single Alex Rider book.

Live-Action TV

  • In the MacGyver episode "Legend of the Holy Rose", the bad guy has his advisor with a niggling conscience thrown from a helicopter when he is of no further use.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look saw this action denied by a lack of No OSHA Compliance. After several minutes of flashing lights, a safety rail being placed around him, and a voice announcing "Trap door number four is about to open, please vacate the area" he got up and left.
  • In the final part of the Doctor Who serial Genesis of the Daleks, Davros does this to his staff to sort out the dissenters from his loyal supporters. After the ones who are with him come over to stand beside him, he has the Daleks do what they do best to the ones still on the other side of the imaginary line.


  • Pay attention to the negotiation with the mobsters at the beginning of the campaign in Evil Genius, and you'll see how one of them, after trying to back off, is the victim of your hidden shrinking beam...

Western Animation

  • In The Venture Bros. episode "Tag Sale You're It", the security guards in the beginning are lined up and given the option to opt out. One does. The leader quietly tells another guard to make sure he doesn't make it to the gate.
    • Also in the episode "ORB" this gets inverted when Aleister Crowley puts forth a plan that is a little too daring for some people's tastes and promptly finds himself ejected from a zeppelin.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Lex Luthor pulled this off far more frequently than you'd think a Saturday morning cartoon on the WB in the late nineties would do. Often, this involved having his bodyguard, "Mercy", escort someone home. One memorable quote:

 Superman: I know about Dr. Vale. It's just a matter of time before the police find them.

Lex Luthor: And what makes you think there's anything left of him to find?

Superman: *flinch*

  • A literal example happens just before the climax of Disney's The Great Mouse Detective: On the way to the Big Ben clock tower, Professor Ratigan actually throws his bat henchman Fidget over the edge of his blimp, where he then falls to his doom as a result of him not listening to Ratigan's evil plans. However, according to one of the spinoff comics based on the film, Fidget is actually revealed to have survived the fall from the blimp and has, for some reason, turned to the side of good.
    • Another literal example happens near the end of Atlantis: The Lost Empire. While the villains are escaping with the Atlantean Crystal via blimp, one of the heroes crashes an Atlantean flying vehicle into said blimp as an attempt to prevent the two villains from escaping. The Big Bad, Rourke, now realizing that his blimp is starting to descend, actually throws Helga off the side of the blimp's gondola as an attempt to lighten the load, severely injuring her in the process. However, right before she dies, she manages to fire off a flare gun to take out the blimp.
  • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Bonk complains about his gang's latest heists under their new leader, the Joker, and wants out. Joker responds by pulling a gun on Bonk and firing. Subverted in that the gun merely pops out a "BANG!" flag, and everyone sighs in relief. Then Joker immediately fires the gun a second time, killing Bonk with the flag through the torso.
  1. It's not clear wheather the Joker is joking that the boss is telling him, or he geninuly thinks the corspe is talking to him