Created By: Hodor on May 23, 2013 Last Edited By: Hodor on May 27, 2013

Justified Revenger Villain

A villain who torments the hero because of a legitimate grievance.

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Is this tropable? Probably Up for Grabs.

Villains have a lot of motivations in fiction, evil for the sake of evil, greed, morally justified revenge.

The last of these is a rarer motivation, and tends to show up in a few ways. Often, the villain (except in respect to their grievance) will be a completely terrible person, so as to obscure their legitimate beef with the hero (compare with Strawman Has a Point), although works which embrace Gray and Gray Morality might treat the villain as having a legitimate point and have the hero admit as much themselves. Anti-heroes when confronted with this kind of thing will generally mock the villain and evoke But for Me, It Was Tuesday.

If this doesn't involve a hero, but instead someone who the hero tries to help avoid a pursuer, expect that someone to be Evil All Along and the pursuer to be Good All Along, subverting expectations.

Compare and contrast with Avenging the Villain.

Warning- spoilers ahead


Manga and Anime
  • The premise of the final arc of Rurouni Kenshin is that Kenshin, a former assassin turned The Atoner, is being opposed by a group of villains who he wronged in his past. It turns out that while the leader, Enishi, has a (sort of) legitimate grudge, as does one of the other members, everyone else is actually has no relationship with Kenshin, and is in the group for other reasons (often For the Evulz).
  • Happens a couple of times in Samurai Champloo'':
    • The nasty nobleman on whom Mugen performed a Mutilation Interrogation in the first episode comes back for revenge in the second.
    • It is eventually revealed that Jin became a ronin and left his dojo behind because he killed his sensei for what turn out to be very good reasons. Some of the other students track Jin down and try to kill him at various points. In some cases, the students don't know that the snesei was evil; in others, they do, but don't care.
    • Toward the end of the series, Mugen is menaced by the "Three Brothers" a trio of sadistic sociopaths. It turns out in his days as a pirate, Mugen robbed their father, a merchant, of a lot of money, and the brothers were blamed for it.
  • Trigun has the version where the person helped by the hero is Evil All Along. In one episode, Vash helps an industrialist whose beloved daughter was kidnapped by thugs. Turns out the industrialist is a Corrupt Corporate Executive and the thugs are more or less good people who he had oppressed.

Comic books



  • In Warbreaker, the Affably Evil Denth is against Good Is Not Nice hero Vasher because of things Vasher did in the past (specifically, killing his wife, who was Denth's sister and killing a man who was their best friend). For much of the novel, it appears as if Denth is a good guy and to a lesser extent that Vasher is a bad guy (or at least worse than Denth). Because the novel is more along the lines of Gray and Gray Morality, it is shown that both Vasher and Denth think their actions were in the right (i.e. Denth did those killings for Shoot the Dog reasons) and have reasonable motivations for thinking that way.

Live Action Television

  • In "Vendetta", the first episode of Zen, a criminal targets men who were responsible for putting him away on a false charge- a Dirty Cop who framed him; a judge who let it happen; and Zen himself, who as a young investigator at the time, was responsible for "signing off" on the case (and did so because he didn't want to rock the boat}. Zen is definitely a somewhat gray character and that action is not presented as justified (although it seems pretty clear that the man framed was a criminal who happened to be innocent of that particular crime). When confronted by the criminal, Zen distracts him by mocking him and stating probably but not definitely falsely that he does that kind of thing all the time, so he has no idea who he is.
  • Happens a lot in Once Upon a Time, and because of the show's Roussea Was Right attitude, it will vary as to whether the audience is to sympathize with the villain or victim:
    • Regina, the "Evil Queen" is devoted to ruing Snow White's life because of a semi-justified grievance with misplaced blame (basically, Regina was going to become Snow White's step-mother (Snow White is a princess), and the two were friendly, but Regina was in love with a peasant. Because of her fondness for Regina, young Snow accidentally told Regina's social-climbing mother information indicating that Regina was going to run away to be with the man she loved. Regina's mother killed the man and ripped out his heart)
    • Captain Hook wants to kill Rumplestiltskin because Rumple killed the woman he loved (who was Rumple's wife) and chopped off his hand. Rumple is an Affably Evil sort of Anti-Villain and Hook is a Lovable Rogue and Noble Demon who will [[Chronic Backstabbing Disorder back-stab
    • Toward the end of the second season, Regina is menaced by Owen, a member of an anti-magic conspiracy. Regina first met Owen when he was a child, and they hit it off and Regina wanted to adopt him, she wanted to adopt him. Things went badly, and Regina ended up doing... something to his father, leaving Owen separated from him in the real world. Owen wants revenge and to find out what happened to his father.
  • The villain of one episode of Defiance is a young Irathient (sort of Space Native Americans) woman named Rynn. As a child, family was murdered by two men who wanted their land and they in turn sold that land to one of Defiance's leading citizens Rafe McCawley (ironically played by Native American actor Graham Greene) in what he knew to be a crooked deal. The now adult Rynn seeks revenge on the two men and Rafe, but doesn't care if Rafe's innocent family members or the entire town of Defiance are harmed in the process. Rynn is presented sympathetically, and the Irathients end up receiving reparations, and Rynn makes sort of a Heel–Face Turn.

Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • May 23, 2013
    This could probably be some sort of subtrope to Freudian Excuse, if we can make it separate enough.
  • May 23, 2013
    I am not sure the word "revenger" is a word. Maybe you meant "avenger"?

    • Nero in Star Trek justifies his crimes against Spock with the alternate universe's Spock's failure to save Nero's homeworld.
  • May 23, 2013
    Xena's nemesis Callisto in Xena Warrior Princess hates Xena because Xena's forces destroyed her town and killed her family.
  • May 23, 2013
    Agree with @Koveras. Swap it out for "avenger".

    • This is a favorite among the recent Star Trek films as ''Into Darkness'' has the crew of John Harrison aka Khan held hostage by a corrupt Starfleet admiral in order to force Khan to make weapons. Khan escapes and presuming his crew murdered, "responds in kind". Cue the explosions.

  • May 24, 2013
    Thirding Justified Avenger Villain.

    Expanding arromdee's example above:

    Live Action TV
    • Xena Warrior Princess. Xena's antagonist Callisto pursues her because, in the Back Story, Xena's army burned Callisto's village Cirra to the ground and killed her family. This drove her insane and made her determined to cause Xena to suffer instead of just killing her.
  • May 24, 2013
    The final antagonist Lee must deal with in The Walking Dead is a man whose wife and child left him (and ended up being killed by zombies) because earlier in the game, the group Lee was travelling with found a cache of supplies he'd left in his car and helped themselves to it.
  • May 24, 2013
    Koveras is correct, "revenge" is the noun and "avenge" the verb, so it should be "avenger", not "revenger".

    About your Dr. Doom example: can you cite the stories where his hatred of Reed Richards is justified? Because in all the stories I've read, regardless of the writer, it's always the case of Never My Fault.
  • May 24, 2013
    • Khan in Star Trek II. In an Original Series episode, Kirk left him and his followers on a nice-looking planet to start a colony. Shortly afterwards, the planet was hit by a meteor and became a hellish desert wasteland, and the Federation never bothered to check up on them.
  • May 24, 2013
    Compare Jerkass Has A Point or What The Hell Hero. May also be a result of Then Let Me Be Evil.
  • May 24, 2013
    Glad to get so many responses. A couple of things:

    Not sure on the avenger/revenger distinction. Avenger for me has the connotation of "taking revenge on someone else's behalf".

    RE the Doctor Doom one, it might have been something I had heard. I'll delete it, since I don't know of a concrete example.
  • May 24, 2013
    I think it's the recent film adaptation where Doom was actually right to accuse Richards.

    • Seems to happen on a frequent basis in Futurama due to Planet Express, or the Earth race as a whole, managing to disturb or offend another alien civilization. In "The Problem With Popplers" for example, the team farm off and eat a strange substance from an alien planet, which turns out to be a nest of newborns of the Omicronians.
  • May 25, 2013
    "Morally justified revenge" is getting into YMMV terriotory. To keep this an objective trope, you'll need to be careful it stays framed as "this is the character's opinion/justification"

    Righteous Revenge Rationale

    (This would allow for works with no clear villain or hero)
  • May 25, 2013
    See Knight Templar if they get too fanatical about them being 'wronged'.
  • May 27, 2013
    In one episode of Barney Miller the 12th Precint house gets vandalized by a man with a more-or-less legitimate greivance against Barney: 17 years previously Barney had written the man a ticket for littering while the man was on his way to a job interview; since Barney made him late for his interview he didn't get the job, which led to a downward spiral and he ended up in & out of prison for years. [1]