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A Stock Phrase. The easy way is usually giving in, and the hard way usually involves some kind of violence or torment.
A popular variation for badasses is "We can do this the easy way or the really easy way." Offering two variations of "hard way" and no "easy way" or even "the fun way" is also common.
See also The Window or the Stairs.
Films -- Animation
- Parodied in Osmosis Jones: Some cops go a sleazy bar, and the lead one announces, "We can make this easy... or hard." One cop behind him will apparently settle for otherwise, saying "Or, somewhere in between. Like, semi-easy, or medium hard," causing the lead cop to admonish him. "You don't get to say that!"
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
The Colonel: You can break easy mustang, or you can break hard.
Films -- Live-Action
- Inverted in Back to The Future Part II. Biff's Mooks say this to Marty -- "the easy way" is being knocked on the head.
- Chain Lightning
Lt. Col. Brennan: How do you want it, Willis, the easy way or the hard way?
- Excess Baggage
Vincent: We can do this the easy way or the hard way.
Emily: What's the hard way?
Vincent: It's harder... it's harder than the easy way. That's what I know.
Det. Roland Castlebeck: The easy way or the hard way, Raines. Easy way or the hard way.
- Hidden Agenda
Sam Turgenson: We can do this the easy way or the hard way.
Jason Price: Is that pillow talk, Sam?!
- One of many running gags in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka is the two henchmen told that there's "two ways to leave. The stairs or the window." When they choose the stairs, they are always thrown down them, til the end, when one exasperated henchman jumps out the window to his death. Turns out the other option in that instance was the freight elevator.
- Not exactly the same, but close, is RoboCop and "Dead or alive, you are coming with me."
- Tooth & Nail
Jackal: We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. I don't really care which way, but by sunrise I'm gonna be gnawing on your bones!
- A variant appears in The Rundown. The Rock's character gives the people he deals with two options. The first, Option A, is coming along with him, giving him what he wants, or otherwise complying with him -- in other words, "the easy way." Option B, "the hard way," basically means that he'll make them do whatever Option A entailed, and usually by kicking the person's ass.
- In the 45-minute video Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters, a young man is threatened by a Maryland State Trooper to either "make it easy on himself" by consenting to a search of his car, or he can "make it hard on himself" (by refusing). They show two versions of the event: the guy stands on his rights, refuses the search, and gets only a traffic ticket; the guy lets the cop search, with him and all of the passengers in the car end up going to jail for possession of drugs. (Doesn't mention if he still gets the traffic ticket for which he was pulled over.)
- Variant in The Colour of Magic T.V. adaption; it features a part in which Rincewind and Twoflower are hiding under a sacrificial pyre from wizards from the Unseen University attempting to drag Rincewind back. They tell him that he can go the easy way or the very easy way. The easy way being that he comes out and goes along with them, the very easy way being that they light the pyre with him still under it.
- Played with a few times in Discworld books.
- In The Fifth Elephant, somebody trying to sneak into a town will corner a guard and mention that this can be done the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is for the guard to ignore them, the hard way... is for the person to leave and try to find another way in.
- In the same book, another easy way turns out to involve using wolves to pull a sled.
- A more serious instance, from Small Gods:
"I want it stopped. And I want it stopped the hard way."
"You want me to kill all the inquisitors? Right!"
"No. That's the easy way. I want as few deaths as possible."
- Another serious example, from Carpe Jugulum, about the nature of good and evil:
Granny Weatherwax: And the hard way's hard, but it's not half so hard as the easy way.
- Invoked in all but name, also from Carpe Jugulum:
Granny Weatherwax: So all I'm really here for, d'you see, is to see whether you get justice or mercy... So here's my offer, you see. You hand back Magrat and the baby and we'll chop your heads off.
The Count: And that's what you call justice, is it?
Granny Weatherwax: No, that's what I call mercy.
- And another in Making Money when Cosmo offers Moist a bribe to give up. After Moist refuses, he explains that giving him the opportunity to surrender was, for Cosmo, doing it the hard way.
- Tortall Universe: Jokingly used by the friend of Beka (both of them are Provost's Guards, or protopolice) to get her to come to a breakfast. Quickly followed by I Always Wanted to Say That.
- Thirty Rock, episode "Tracy Does Conan".
Jack: Conan, this is important to me. So, we can either do this the easy way or the hard way.
- The A-Team, episode "Steel".
Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith: There are two ways we can do this: the easy way and the hard way. In a few minutes my friends and I are going to come down on you like your worst nightmare. You're gonna wish the Earth had opened up and swallowed you whole.
Bad guy: What's the easy way?
Hannibal: That was the easy way.
- Bad Girls, episode "Battle Lines".
Yvonne Atkins: Nah, I just feel its about time you picked on someone your own size. So what's it going to be, Al? The easy way, or the hard way?
- Frequently played around with, as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "We can do this the hard way, or... actually, there's just the hard way."
- From "Seeing Red"
Buffy: There's two ways this can end. And right now, I think they're both going to hurt.
- In "Enemies" after the requisite tongue-fest and attempted murder Faith finally gets Angelus pinned beneath her.
Faith: You wanna listen or you wanna die?
Angelus: Long as you're there, I mostly want you to wriggle.
- In "All The Way" Giles says this to a vampire who's holding Dawn hostage. Suddenly lights come on to reveal they're surrounded by vampires.
Vampire: What were my choices again?
- Chuck, episode "Chuck Versus the Marlin".
John Casey: (to Lester and Jeff) We could do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is I shove his [Chuck's] foot up your ass.
Jeff: What's the hard way?
John Casey: I use my foot!
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, episode "My Best Girl's Wedding".
Hercules: (facing group of thugs) Okay, guys, look, we can do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way. (thugs prepare to attack him) Nobody ever wants to do it the easy way.
- How I Met Your Mother, episode "Matchmaker".
Ellen: You wanna do this the easy way or the hard way?
Barney: What's the hard way? Security roughs me up and tosses me out?
Ellen: No. That's the easy way. The hard way is that I slap the crap out of you myself.
- At the start of "Honey," Mariah Carey, playing a captured spy, gets this choice.
- Played with in Serious Sam, when adressing a group of baddies in a cutscene.
- In episode 4 of the semi-interactive Flash cartoon 3|Way, to deal with some mooks you are given the choice between "the easy way... or the sleazy way." The easy way is violence; since this is a pornographic series, you can guess what's the sleazy way.
- The Order of the Stick
Roy Greenhilt: Hey gnome! There are two ways this can go down: the easy way or the hard way.
Leeky Windstaff: Druids always pick the hard way; it encourages natural selection.
- Also, strip #442 is titled "We Can Do This the Easy Way..."
- Mocked in Smash Comics, one of the filler comics for Knights of the Old Coding. Ganondorf asks Marth and Jigglypuff if they want to do this the easy way or the hard way. He then Shadowkicks them before they can answer, stating "the hard way it is." When Marth points out that he hadn't said anything yet, Ganondorf admits that he's impatient.
- In this strip of Weregeek. Not that it worked too well.
- Marsh Rocket: Although not explicitly stated, it's implied here.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob: When the Butanian dragons refuse to side with Riboflavin against Voluptua, his response is, "A pity. I guess I'll have to do this the messy way after all. And I must admit... that will be more fun!!!" He then starts blasting everything in sight with a BFG.
- Schlock Mercenary had a discussion on which way things will go. Kevyn thinks the easy way is usually mined, Petey thinks it's an optimistic view.
- Secret Squirrel says this to rogue panda One Ton, who's just eaten a clove of garlic. "One Ton choose... HAAAAAAARD!"
- In King of the Hill, Hank, Bill, and Boomhauer grabbed Dale if they want to handle this the easy way or the hard way. "Do it the hard way."
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
"Now Gary, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. Or the medium way. Or the semi-medium-easy-hard way. Or the sort of hard with a touch of awkward-easy-difficult-challenging way."
- In Transformers Animated, Optimus gives the speech to a speeding motorist... who turns out to be another Transformer, specifically Lockdown.
- Played with in the Looney Tunes short Operation: Rabbit. After Bugs Bunny refuses Wile E. Coyote's invitation to give up willingly, Wile E. muses, "Why do they always want to do it the hard way?"
- The Penguins of Madagascar
- "Popcorn Panic": "We can do this the easy way, or we can do this Rico's way."
- When the penguins faced an outlaw raccoon named The Archer, Skipper doesn't even get to finish the phrase.
Skipper: We can do this the easy way, or we can... (Archer escapes) Oh, have the decency to let me finish!
- In Wakfu season 2 episode 2, Remington Smisse introduces himself to Evangelyne this way, with rhyming to boot.
Remington: And there are only two ways out:
the good one, smooth and easy,
or mine, much more painful and deadly.
- Access to Tiberius's hilltop villa on Capri was via a winding path that ran along a steep cliff. Visitors knew that there were two ways off the island: being escorted back down the path to the dock (if you pleased the emperor), or suffering an "accident" as you walked along the clifftop (if you did not).