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"If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed!"
—Emperor Palpatine, Star Wars
"Are you sure? I won't make the offer twice. Join me now, or you WILL die."
—Tigerstar talking to Bramblepaw, Warrior Cats
The Big Bad makes you An Offer You Can't Refuse, either join his organization of evil, or die right here and now. Sometimes this is accompanied by a We Can Rule Together, but not always. This offer is not always made to The Hero, it can just as easily be to a rival, or simply a promising recruit that the Big Bad can't afford to have opposing him. Nor does it necessarily have to be a villain making the offer. Some heroes may use these words to rally people to their cause in the face of attack, or The Men in Black may give this ultimatum to those who break the masquerade.
Anime And Manga
- In Dragonball Z, this is Frieza's main method of recruitment. According to dialogue amongst Frieza's henchmen (which was drastically changed in the Funimation dubbing), Frieza's modus operandi was to wipe out all but a handful of a race save for the most promising or useful individuals and offer them a place in his empire. He promised those that joined that their race would eventually gain a more prestigious place in his New Order and those that refused were simply made extinct.
- In Iron Man, this is how the Nine Rings recruits. They attack villages and either kill or capture the men. Then, they take their women and children to an unknown location where they're used as collateral. The men are asked to join them, with their families' lives, as well as their own, on their line if they refuse. This is Truth in Television for many terrorist groups and militaristic regimes.
- On Peter Pan, Captain Hook gives Wendy and the boys the option of joining his crew or Walking the Plank.
- Flash Gordon. Emperor Ming offers to let Flash join him and rule the Earth under Ming's control. If he refuses, he will be killed.
- Star Wars likes this trope. In The Empire Strikes Back, Vader tells the Emperor that this will be the choice he will give Luke. Vader instead gives Luke a We Can Rule Together. In Return of the Jedi, The Emperor makes the same offer to Luke, leading to the page quote.
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves the Sheriff of Nottingham gives Lord Locksley the choice to join up or die. Cue Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Space Mutiny: Variant. Kalgan offers a technician who discovers his evil plot to either join or be cyrogenically frozen. The Techinican made the third choice of dying. Kalgan obliged.
- In the movie Nikita, and the TV show based on the movie, this is how the title character is recruited as an assassin.
- In Dragonlance one of the three Nerakan Knights orders' motto is "Submit or Die".
- Standard operating procedure for Lord Voldemort.
- In Groosham Grange, every student at the Grange, sooner or later, is given this choice.
- In The Dresden Files, Nicodemus gives Harry an offer: take up one of the 30 silver coins and join the Order of the Blackened Denarius, or Nicodemus will slit his throat once he's done eating breakfast. Nicodemus believes very strongly in pragmatic villainy.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the wildlings give this offer to Jon Snow when he and his partner Qhorin Halfhand are captured. However, to make sure he's truly switched sides, they also force him to kill Qhorin.
Live Action TV
- In Burn Notice, Michael has this conversation with Sam:
Michael: I've been given a new job.
- Good Times: This is why Micheal joins a gang. Quote paraphrased.
They asked Johnny to join and he didn't, so they broke his arm. They asked Willy to join and he didn't, so they broke his leg. Then they asked me to join, and they were looking at my neck.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- A common joke about the Imperial Guard (though not all worlds actually use conscription).
Join the Imperial Guard or die. Then die.
- The Tau Empire are sometimes considered to be the 'nicest' faction in the setting, because they offer a choice. If anyone else attacks your world, joining isn't an option.
- In medieval fantasy game Ars Magica, Join or Die is policy of the Order of Hermes, if you're a magician the Order considers potent enough to bother with, mostly those who have a sufficient magical defense or offence. They are not, however, the Big Bad, usually.
- Dungeons and Dragons Online: In the finale of the Sharn Syndicate quest chain, Talon Darsin, the overlord of the Sharn Syndicate in Stormreach, makes this offer to you. And since your goal in the final quest is to kill him, well, no guesses on what your response to him is.
- The Master makes the Vault Dweller such an offer in the original Fallout game. Accepting results in a non-standard game over.
The Master: So what shall it be? Do you join the Unity, or do you die here? Join! Die! Join! Die!
- Mass Effect: Saren's response to Shepard's resistance is this. Join the Reapers - 'cause if you don't, you're guaranteed to die.
Saren: Is submission not preferable to extinction? [...] Everyone you know and love, you will all die.
- Grim Fandango has this exchange between Deadpan Snarker Manny and Sassy Secretary turned resistance fighter Eva.
Manny: Any messages for me?
- Also used in Blaz Blue for Litchi. The message is pretty subtle, but Hazama is pretty much saying to her "Join us, or you die by your own corruption while we just toss the cure away."
- Sinfest used this as a style of advertisement. The word from our sponsors: "It's us... or it's death".
- In Kim Possible, Gemini tries to force Ron Stoppable to join his terrorist organization of WEE by threatening him with a laser.
- A saying among drug lords or gangs in Latin America was "Plata o Plomo" (Silver or Lead). It meant you could either take a bribe, or take a bullet.
- Genghis Khan and his Mongol Empire made this ultimatum to the inhabitants of the conquered areas. Some people wouldn't surrender - and the Mongols' harsh retribution is probably the reason why most people did.