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Classic scenario: Alice is kidnapped. The kidnappers contact Bob, who is the legal guardian/spouse/caretaker/someone who should care about Alice and explain they are holding her for ransom.
However, Bob has no intention of paying. Either he flat out doesn't care, he doesn't think that much money is worth it or considers the kidnappers to have done him a favor. The fact that the kidnapped party may die does not faze him in the least. Of course, karmic justice normally ends up biting him in the ass. May end in a Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth situation if the kidnapped party really is THAT annoying -- see Pity the Kidnapper.
A small variation of this would be Bob not taking the kidnapping seriously, seeing as Alice has previously faked similar attempts as a cry for attention. Unfortunately, this time it's for real and the Crying Wolf principle applies...
Anime and Manga
- In the first episode of Dragon Ball GT, a group of kidnappers snatch the recently re-chibified Goku, after being unable to kidnap Bra for ransom. They then call Vegeta with the ransom demand, saying they've got his son Goku. Needless to say, his reaction can be neatly summed up by this trope's name.
- They also try calling Bulma... who laughs and tells them to watch their backs.
- In Weiss Kreuz, Omi was kidnapped when he was young. When the kidnappers demand the ransom (with a tearful Omi begging his father to save him) his father, Reiji, declares he won't pay. It's later revealed that this was because Reiji was aware that Mamoru/Omi wasn't his son, but was instead the product of an affair between his wife Kikuno and the guy she actually loved: Reiji's younger brother Shuichi/Persia I..
- In the Axis Powers Hetalia anime, after the Allies capture Italy, Germany simply tells them to give him pretty women and a soccer ball to keep him happy.
- Germany was most likely duping them. Before he and Italy became allies, he captured Italy in WWI and learned firsthand how unpleasant it is to have Italy as a POW and knew they would send him home eventually. Plus, he made a promise to be there for Italy when he was in trouble, and genuinely likes him.
- In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and second anime, a defeated Envy tries to take control of Yoki's body, only to find out that none of his companions care. Defeated, he detaches himself and is put into a jar.
- In Tiger and Bunny this turns up in Kriem's backstory. When their daughter is kidnapped and held to ransom by Jake Martinez, it turns out Kriem's parents — who hate and fear her for being a NEXT — have no interest in getting her back. Kriem finds Jake's ideas on NEXTs being superior to ordinary humans far more appealing, and so stays with him even when he decides he may as well release her.
- Spider Jerusalem uses those exact words when his wife's cryogenically preserved head is stolen and held for ransom in Transmetropolitan
- One Judge Dredd comic features a supremely obnoxious woman who's a member of a group that believes that The Power of Love can reform all criminals because they are simply misunderstood. The criminal she ends up trying this with kidnaps her for ransom, only to end up begging the group to take her back, take him to jail, ANYTHING to get rid of her.
- In Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, the Society tells Captain Cold that they have his father hostage. He is not as intimidated as they expect, and though he does track down his father, it's only to confront and kill him himself... or at least have Heat Wave do it.
- In a Daria/Labyrinth crossover fic, found here, the Goblin King kidnaps Quinn after Daria wished her away. And then just hung out outside of the labyrinth for a few hours. The Goblin King had to pay Daria to get her to take Quinn back in the end.
- From Hudson Hawk:
Darwin Mayflower: I'll kill your friends, your family, and the bitch you took to the prom!
- This is the entire point of the Danny DeVito movie Ruthless People
Sam: You got no nuts! What do I have to do? Put a gun in your hand, aim and pull your finger down you spineless wimp! I dare you to kill her! Now that oughta do it.
- In Problem Child, when the Bow Tie Killer kidnaps Flo and Junior, Ben is initially overjoyed that they are gone. However after seeing a drawing Junior made, he realizes Junior loves him and goes out to rescue him. (Flo... not so much.)
- In Tropic Thunder, Les Grossman refuses to pay for Tugg Speedman's ransom under the false pretense of "not negotiating with terrorists" but actually for the petty reason of Tugg losing his popularity and as such not being worth rescuing.
Byong: We no get money yet. Price now a hundred million. You pay now, or tomorrow Simple Jack die!
- In Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Nick Moran's character (Eddie) loses a large amount of money at a rigged card game. He has 5 days to pay. Vinnie Jones (Big Chris) offers Eddie's father (JD) the option of giving up his bar to cover the cost... to which JD (played by Sting), replies:
JD: I do know your reputation. So I choose my words very carefully. You tell Harry to go fuck himself.
"What are you doing?"
- In the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, there's a scene with a woman and some police officers after her husband has been kidnapped. Initially, she's quite frantic and insistent that she'll pay anything and give them anything they want... until she finds out what they're asking for.
"Mrs. Curtis, did you hear me? It's your husband's life or your case of Wonka bars!"
- In the movie Too Many Crooks, a gang attempts to kidnap a businessman's daughter only to end up with his wife. When they try to ransom her back, he announces that he doesn't want her. This so infuriates the wife that she takes control of the gang and uses it to extract revenge on her husband.
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible grabs Mirage and threats to break her neck if Syndrome doesn't release him. Syndrome calls his bluff. Mr. Incredible can't bring himself to do it, and Syndrome's reaction to the situation leads to Mirage's Heel Face Turn.
- A Turkish film from the 1990s had a rich businessman accidentally kidnapped by would-be revolutionaries (they weren't intending to kidnap him. They just played along after they hit him with their car and he thought they were kidnappers). When the revolutionaries make ransom calls to various members of his family and business, they are shocked to discover that not even his mother is interested in seeing him released. The revolutionaries just let go of him instead, realising the businessman had been worse off than them.
- In The Red Green Show movie Duct Tape Forever, the villain who kidnaps Harold worries that this might be Red's reaction. It's not.
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Austin Powers: [grabs Scott Evil and points a gun at him] It seems the tables have turned again, Dr. Evil.
- Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End
Sao-Feng: "Drop your weapons or I kill the man."
- Subversion - he really isn't a spy for them, but for Beckett.
- The World Is Not Enough: M tells this to Sir King since the Secret Intelligence Service does not give in to terrorists and criminals. Electra is enraged and decides to take revenge against her father and M.
- In Goldeneye, when Janus gives James Bond the Sadistic Choice of saving the girl or completing the mission, Bond coldly answers, "Kill her, she means nothing to me." He then rescues the girl anyway and later comments, "Basic rule, always call their bluff." Later, when she changes the Goldeneye access codes, Janus threatens to kill Bond if she doesn't cooperate. Her response: "Kill him. He means nothing."
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: When Indy threatens Willie with a sharp fork, Lau Chen giggles, "Go ahead, kill her. I'll get another!"
- The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin: a woman whose husband is supposedly run over by a train pretends to be sad to the guy that tells her, but then the story gets into her thoughts and shows that she's really happy. And then he walks in the door and she has a heart attack and dies.
- The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry is almost certainly the Ur Example. The main characters attempt to release their hostage, only for him to come back to them, and in the end, they have to pay his father to get him off their hands.
- One of the Brillo stories from 1634: The Ram Rebellion is pretty clearly a retelling of the O. Henry story.
- Subverted from time to time in the City Watch Discworld books. Someone will take Angua hostage and be mildly surprised when Carrot doesn't come rushing to her rescue. Of course, Carrot knows Angua can take care of herself perfectly well, and it's the hostage takers who are in trouble.
- In Saki's "The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh", the kidnappers actually get the victim's family to pay them to keep her. Even though, as it turns out, they don't really have her...
- A 1969 comedic "caper" novel, Snatch! by Rennie Airth had the main characters kidnap the infant son of a wealthy businessman. Unfortunately, they'd used a switch of children to keep the abduction from being discovered before they could get away -- and the "changeling" was a much more agreeable child than the kidnap victim, so the father coolly told them he preferred to keep the baby he had now, thank you very much. They had to pull another kidnapping to get their underaged "accomplice" back -- especially as the female member of the gang had developed very maternal feelings toward the substitute (an orphan) while they prepared for the original snatch.
- PG Wodehouse's short story "Helping Freddie" (later rewritten for the Jeeves and Wooster series as "Fixing It for Freddie") features a Pity the Kidnapper plot wherein the main character kidnaps a small boy as part of a Zany Scheme. When the scheme backfires, he tries to return the kid, only to be stuck babysitting him when it turns out that everyone in the kid's house has influenza and they needed someone to watch him anyway.
Live Action TV
- In the BBC show Robin Hood, at one point Robin has Guy at sword-point and it demanding his own unimpeded release as well as some important black rocks (base ingredient for explosives or so). The Sheriff decides the rocks are of more worth than Gisborne and it's only due to Lady Marian interfering that Gisborne is ransomed out after all. (Naturally, Guy afterwards holds this against Marian.)
- In an episode of Allo Allo, Lieutenant Gruber, Colonel von Strohm and Captain Bertorelli are kidnapped by the Communist Resistance. Rene then tries to take advantage of this by calling General Von Klinkerhoffen while disguising his voice and claiming that unless the General pays 1 million francs, the three will be shot. The General then deadpans "Very well. Let them be shot." and hangs up.
- Later on, Herr Flick, not knowing of the previous call, then tries the same scheme and asks for two million francs. You can guess the result.
- Played with in Burn Notice (this might count as an inversion or maybe an Invoked Trope): when Sam is captured in the first season finale, Mike pretends to be glad to be rid of him in order not to give his kidnappers as much leverage.
- Pushing Daisies: As a child, Olive was accidentally kidnapped by two thieves when she tried to run away from home because her parents never paid any attention to her. When the thieves try to return her, they're outraged to discover that the Snooks never even realized their daughter was gone.
- In Weeds, Quinn and Rudolfo's kidnapping of Celia goes worse than expected once they realize everyone hates her.
- One episode of Murphy Brown has Murphy get abducted by radical environmentalists who are trying to force greater public recognition of crimes against nature committed by certain companies. Everyone they try to contact about holding her hostage is either A: a coworker that had been pranked by her recently, and is glad to see her gone, or B: thinks that this is a prank. After a day or so she annoys them so much that they let her go.
- In one episode of Human Target, Chance's ex-girlfriend's husband is captured by a ruthless South American dictator, and she comes up with a plan to kidnap the kidnapper's brother and set up a Prisoner Exchange. The kidnapping plan is successful, but it turns out the dictator doesn't really want his brother back very much.
- Subverted in the Supernatural episode "Weekend at Bobby's", where Bobby has the ghost of Crowley's son Gavin. Crowley incorrectly assumes that Bobby is trying to get his soul back from him by using his son as a bargaining chip, but Bobby reveals that he knows Crowley and his son hate each other, and that the real bargaining chip is Crowley's earthly remains, whose location Gavin was happy to give him.
- A Horrible Histories sketch has a Saxon woman abducted by a kidnapper and held for ransom. The husband offers to buy her back...for half a penny, because he's legally obligated to try and buy her back. He hopes the kidnapper will reject his offer so he can remarry, but the kidnapper ends up finding the kidnapped woman so annoying he accepts the half a penny.
- Married... with Children: The villagers of Lower Uncton wanted to kill Al and Bud inside their village out of the belief it'd break a curse while the people of Upper Uncton wanted at least one of them (Al and Bud) to die outside Lower Uncton so the curse would never end. When Al and Bud got themselves at the border between the two villages, neither side would kill them. At some moment, the Upper Uncton villagers held Peggy and Kelly as hostages to force Al and Bud to go to them, to which the two male Bundys only laffed. A villager from Lower Uncton berated the Upper Unctoners, stating it never worked against the other Bundys.
- In one Doonesbury strip, some of Duke's creditors kidnap his son Earl. When they call him up and tell him this, his reaction is along the lines of "So what? Kill him. What else you got?" Cut to Earl tied to a chair, cheerfully commenting "Boy! You guys sure don't know Pop!"
- Perhaps not strictly speaking appropriate to this trope as no kidnapping is involved, but the classic line is by Henny Youngman:
Take my wife. Please.
- A sample from Russian Humor: The terrorists have captured the State Duma and threatened to release one deputy every hour unless they are paid a ransom.
- Another sample: bandits kidnap a man's mother-in-law and threaten to clone her unless a ransom is paid.
- In the Central Park Zoo level of The Punisher for the X Box, it is possible to take a specific mook hostage and thus have Frank try and trade him to The Dragon for the innocent Joan. Quite naturally, The Dragon doesn't give a damn.
- Played with in Ansem Retort. Contessa Belle held Larxene hostage and tried to get a ransom from Governor Zexion. Zexion refused, listed his demands to take Larxene off Belle's hands, and left. Cut to a week later, and Belle's given in.
- Taken Up to Eleven later, when Axel confronts Xemnas, he asks how he plans to stop him and save his hostage Sora. Axel says he's fine going one for two and kills Sora himself.
- Played with in the very Not Safe for Work Oglaf after Ivan the apprentice is kidnapped. Mistress doesn't care, as she can get a new apprentice for free. However, Ivan succeeds in annoying Mistress enough that she finally pays the ransom.
- Kim Possible does this when the Seniors kidnap a boy band (and, accidentally, Ron) and hope to extort their manager into giving Junior a signing career of his own. The boy band has lost its popularity lately and the singers are fussy and demanding, so the manager is happy to see the back of them. Kim rescues them anyway.
- In the Halloween episode of Invader Zim, when Zim is captured in the nightmare world and the monsters try to extort Dib into surrendering his head to them, Dib tells them they can keep him and throws a can at the monster's head.
- The Venture Brothers In the episode Escape From the House of Mummies Part 2, An unnamed bad guy threatens to kill Hank and Dean unless Dr. Venture gives him the hand of Osiris. Dr. Venture's refusal is amusingly obscene.
Bad guy: Give me the Staff of Ra!
- Subverted in an episode of American Dad: Francine fakes a kidnapping of Roger in order to prove that Stan really does care about him. Stan's response is complete and total nonchalance, to the point where he actually negotiates the ransom money down to a handful of change. After a few days, he reveals that he knew the whole thing was fake. Then the Zany Scheme backfires when Stan draws Francine's attention to the terrible way Roger's been treating her throughout, which makes her hate him, too.
- In the Archer episode "El Secuestro," Pam gets kidnapped, and the show gets a lot of comedic mileage about just how little ISIS cares. First, Archer hangs up on the ransom negotiations because he thinks the kidnappers are robots and can't harm a human being. When pressed, Mallory offers five thousand dollars as ransom, a fraction of what she spent buying a table earlier in the episode. When Archer and Gilette go to rescue her, they get distracted and never get around to it. Then, when there's a Mexican Standoff and the kidnappers threaten to shoot Pam if they don't lower their weapons. No one lowers their weapons.
- In an episode of South Park that strikingly parallels Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tweek steals a bazooka and aims it at Steven Spielberg and George Lucas after they've kidnapped the other major characters (it's a long story). "All I want are my friends," Tweek explains - and then he quickly adds "Except for Cartman; you can keep him."
- Atomic Betty once had to rescue an Empress captured by Maximus, who demanded a McGuffin as ransom. Instead of giving him what he wanted, her people told him they didn't want her.
- This is Jane's backstory in The Legends of Treaure Island: Long John Silver kidnapped her hoping to hold her for ransom but she was in her own words "such a little brat" that her parents didn't want her back. As a result Silver was stuck with her until she joined the protagonists.
- Real Life example: when King Francis I of France was taken captive by Spanish troops, his own mother told the Spanish that France wasn't going to pay for him. Unable to get a ransom, the Spanish extorted political promises from the captive Francis...but of course he couldn't fulfill them without being freed, and as soon as he was free, he broke all of them.
- James VI of Scotland was notably lacking in grief when Mary of Scots (his mother) was imprisoned. According to one history when Elizabeth wept at her execution, it was a face saving device to give James an excuse to not react in the customary manner and still retain his honor.
- Though in his case, he had no personal attachment to Mary because he hadn't seen her since he was a baby, and had no actual memories of her.
- A hostage negotiator was called in to handle a kidnapping in Italy in order to negotiate a reasonable ransom demand (paying what the criminals want is a bad idea, because they'll then decide they can get even more money by hanging on to the hostage) only to have the family ignore his advice and pay the full amount. This led to a second ransom demand rather than the hostage being released. He eventually found out that the criminals, on capturing the businessman, had found evidence on him that he was a paedophile, and were blackmailing the family with it. The hostage negotiator suggested that the family pretend the businessman's wife had just 'discovered' this, and that she was so disgusted she never wanted to see him again, leading to a dramatic drop in the ransom price. Eventually the criminals decided it wasn't worth the trouble and released him anyway.
- Joseph Stalin's son Yakov was captured by the Nazis during WWII. They proposed a prisoner exchange to Stalin: His son for Friedrich Paulus (The commander at Stalingrad). Stalin replied that he wouldn't trade a Lieutenant for a Field Marshall, and left his son to die after a couple of years in a POW camp.
- During the Han dynasty, General Xiang Yu fought Liu Bang for the throne. At one point, Xiang Yu captured Liu Bang's father and sent Liu Bang an ultimatum: "Surrender or I will boil your venerable sire alive!" Liu Bang replied merely: "Send me a cup of the soup." Subverted in that Liu Bang was calling Xiang Yu's bluff.
- Also from Chinese history (at least from a book), a case of the Emperor was captured by enemy forces, yet the people showed little to no regard. By acting calm and ready to elect a new Emperor, the currently kidnapped Emperor held no value whatsoever to the kidnapper, culminating with his release. Subverted in that this is what the people were aiming for in the first place.
- They have Caller ID, and Francine called from her own cell phone