"Ah Kirk, my old friend, have you ever heard the Klingon proverb that tells us 'revenge is a dish best served cold'? It is very cold in space."
Some point in the past, a character has had something terrible happen to him, usually the loss of a family member
or other loved one
and has sworn vengeance
on the one who did it. However, getting Revenge
at the time may not have been easy, often as they were too young, or weren't sure who the perpetrator was. But they still knew that the murderer has it coming, and know that someday they'll meet them and that drive for vengeance runs through their life.
Years later, they spend their time Walking the Earth
, getting ready for that fight, somehow. Maybe they're fighting to become strong enough
to best the villain, or battling evil in the hope they'll meet the villain (or someone suitable for getting revenge on the villain with
). They may be doing this to help others, saving them from their fate, or if the enemy is a monster, they'll hunt those down
with a passion. But what they really want is to find the one who messed up their life, bring them to bloody justice
and, through that sort out their problems
. Pity the poor hero whose target declares that for them, it was Tuesday
Named for the French (or Sicilian, or Klingon
, or drow
, depending on who you ask
) proverb, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." At least in the case of drow it also means
one can have well-planned revenge and
pull Paranoia Gambit
as a bonus. Contrast Restrained Revenge
, where the the wronged party only takes a lesser, symbolic, revenge.
For the 2009 novel by Joe Abercrombie, see Best Served Cold
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Firing Range, the inventor dedicated himself to the tank, in order to get revenge on the generals who got his son killed.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In Death Rides a Horse (AKA As Man to Man or Da uomo a uomo), a 1967 "Spaghetti Western", Ryan says to Bill, "Somebody once wrote that revenge is a dish that has to be eaten cold. As hot as you are, you're liable to end with indigestion."
- Perhaps the poster boy would be Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, a man who spent twenty years doing nothing but practice fencing to avenge his father, armed with nothing more than the sword that his father made and the knowledge of the killer having six fingers on one hand.
- The phrase was made famous again by Khan, in Star Trek II, though he wasn't especially wandering around hunting for Kirk.
- Although how he, a Human Popsicle from the 21st century, would be able to ascribe the quote to the alien Klingons defies Fridge Logic.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness Spock assumes that Harrison's ultimate plan is to finish what he had started: Kill anyone he considers "inferior." Harrison doesn't deny this. (This is appropriate, of course; Harrison is actually Khan Noonien Singh, the Trope Namer.)
- While the Bride was already rather skilled before her Roaring Rampage of Revenge in Kill Bill due to her training as an assassin, it's also implied that the daughter of Vernita Green was set up for this archetype after seeing the aftermath of the battle in which the Bride kill her mother. The Bride tells her she'll be expecting her.
- Also, in the titles. Cited as the Klingon proverb, no less.
- Happens twice in Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns. In For a Few Dollars More, Col. Mortimer has spent years honing his skills as a bounty hunter, tracking down the bandit who raped his sister and murdered her lover in front of her, which led to her suicide. Likewise, Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West has spent most of his life hunting down Frank, who murdered his brother when they were teenagers. By putting a noose round the brother's neck, and forcing him to stand on Harmonica's shoulders until his legs gave way, no less.
- Played for laughs in The Good The Bad And The Ugly, where a one-armed man trains himself for months to shoot left-handed and get revenge against Tuco, the titular "ugly", who caused his mutilation. When he finally tracks him down, he goes on to give him the obligatory monologue, until an unimpressed Tuco kills him with his concealed pistol, annoyingly quipping "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk".
- Leonard Shelby, of Memento, is so traumatized by his wife's rape and murder that he literally cannot remember anything else. Not even that she survived. Or that he already killed the guy who did it. Maybe.
- The western The Quick and the Dead has the heroine tracking down the man, and his gang, that made her kill her sheriff father.
- Conan the Barbarian (1982) had Conan searching for Thulsa Doom, who killed his family and put him in slavery (and turned innocent young Conan into Arnold Schwarzenegger).
- In Sleepy Hollow the wife of Baltus Van Tassel had actually been planning revenge on his family for years for stealing her family's home. Thus gains control of the horseman to fulfill this plan.
- In The Fall, all five of the men in Roy's story have a reason to be going after Odious, ranging from revenge for a loved one's death to being banished from their homeland.
- In Gladiator, in this life or the next.
- In Throne of Blood, Lady Kaede has been planning the eventual destruction of Washizu's entire family tree for decades, since he killed her own family when she was a child.
- In Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini sleeps with his old rival's fiancee on the day before their wedding. As Louis remarks:
"I couldn't help feeling that even Sibella's capacity for lying was going to be taxed to the utmost. Time had brought me revenge on Lionel, and as the Italian proverb says, revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold."
- In The Godfather Part 2, young Vito Andolini's father was murdered by Don Ciccio, Mafia Don of Corleone, Sicily. Shortly after, Vito's brother is killed while out for revenge, and Vito's mother is killed when she goes to Ciccio to beg for Vito's life. Vito manages to escape to America and takes the name Vito Corleone, making his fortune as a gangster. He returns to Sicily some 20 years later and finally takes his revenge on the elderly Ciccio by stabbing him to death on his own front porch.
- Revenge is the main motivation of the Big Bad in The Dark Knight Rises. For something that happened a decade earlier.
You see, it's the slow knife, the knife that takes its time, the knife that waits years without forgetting, then slips quietly between the bones. That's the knife that cuts deepest.
- In Clear and Present Danger, a Columbian drug lord kills the American who stole from him, also his wife and kids. When his security chief tells him that he shouldn't have killed the kids because of the bad press, the drug lord tells him he wasn't going to wait around for them to grow up and come after him. No one explained to him that, outside of movies, Americans generally don't do that. At least not on a personal level.
- In Law Abiding Citizen, Clyde watched helplessly as his wife and daughter are killed. Years later, he executed both perpetrators in the most ruthless manner possible. And it didn't stop there...
- Gus in Breaking Bad build up his own sizable drug empire over 20 years, with taking revenge for the death of his best friend as one of is his prime motivations. By that time the man who fired the shot is almost entirely paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to speak. As Gus arranges for his nephews and the leaders of his old cartel to be killed off one by one, he visits the old man in his nursing home, telling him the news of the latest deaths himself.
- Principal Wood in Buffy the Vampire Slayer fought vampires in the hope of finding the one who'd killed his mother. Turns out it was Spike, pre-Heel Face Turn.
- Daniel Holt in Angel. Angelus killed his family, so Holt has himself frozen, sends himself magically forward in time to present day, kidnaps Angel's infant son and raises him in a hell universe for sixteen years before sending the boy back to our dimension to kill his father. That's dedication.
- He does even further than that, by pretending to end his feud with Angel, then having his loyal follower Justine kill him and make it look like a vampire bite, so that Connor will blame Angel for it.
- An episode of Cold Case dealt with a man whose son was molested and murdered in 1987. The father was pegged as the killer and spent 20 years in prison before being exonerated, and when he gets out, he starts killing one registered sex offender or pedophile a day, vowing not to stop until the real killer of his son is arrested. At the end, he corners the murderer, planning to kill him before committing suicide, but is convinced not to by his ex-wife, who still loves him.
- Upon finding out who the main suspect was in his wife's hit-and-run death, Detective Jeffries goes after him with a gun but does not kill him.
- An episode of CSI had a particularly epic example of this. While at a sports game, a morbidly obese woman was in the winning seat, and got called down. A Jerk Ass in the audience started jeering her, and got everyone else going (a regular occurance, as his other "victims" stated). She was utterly humiliated, her fiance left her and things actually got worse from there. Obssessed, she dieted, worked out, etc. excessively, eventually becoming stunningly hot, succeeded in joining a sports team's cheerleaders, rigged the winning ticket contest so that the loudmouth jerkass won, and kissed him when he came down, killing him via poison she had put on fake lips.
- While not training, Sawyer in LOST swore to track down and kill the man who drove his father to Murder-Suicide with his mother.
- And he did, some thirty years later.
- The overarching plot of Monk is that Adrian Monk is trying to figure out who killed his wife and bring him to justice. He finally succeeds in the series finale, though the killer cheated justice by killing himself when his crimes were proven.
- The brothers in Supernatural are out to avenge their mother, a task they succeeded in. Inadvertently starting a chain of events leading directly to the end of the world. Nice job breaking it, woobies.
- In True Blood, Eric proves to love icy revenges. Russell killed his whole family when he still was a human viking, and he waited more than 1000 years to kill his husband while fucking him.
- An earlier episode of Castle had the murder victim's husband, the main suspect, end up dead a year after she went missing. It turns out, the victim was killed by her husband and her father murdered the husband after investigating the crime himself and finding out he was the one who did it.
- Rare villainous example: Dubenich from Leverage achieves this in "The Radio Job" with the help of Latimer. The next episode is Nate and the team getting back at them both.
- Slade Wilson is a villainous example in Arrow. After he decides to take revenge on Oliver, for a mix of reasons that are both justified and downright ridiculous, he vows that it will not be as quick and painless as killing him- Oliver must suffer first. To that end, he manipulates Oliver into giving up his position at Queen Consolidated through his right-hand woman Isabel Rochev, drives away Thea, murders Moira and then sends a group of thugs with Super Strength to tear Starling City apart.
- In the climax of the third episode of The Escape Artist, Will murders Foyle by making him die painfully from a minor stab wound... which gets infected by a kind of seafood that Foyle is allergic to, as revenge for Foyle murdering his wife.
- The song "Bad Blood" by the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band tells of a one-eyed man who trains for three years, then wanders four more to get revenge against the man who left him like that. When someone else beats him to it, he's rather miffed:
"Hey you, mutton-head, I've been lookin' for that particular son-of-a-bitch for nearly seven years, man! You've just spoiled everything! I could have been a doctor or an architect!"
- "Run" by Disturbed
...You really don't know how long I've waited for your destruction / I'm telling you, you just can't get away / A whole lifetime planning out your destruction, with no other function / You really don't know...
- "A Boy Named Sue", written by Shel Silverstein and performed by Johnny Cash, tells of a man who's hunting the man who named him Sue — who it turns out gave him the name so he'd grow up tough. It works.
- "The Mariner's Revenge Song" by the Decemberists is a sea shanty ballad about a man who spent his whole life searching for the seaman who caused his mother's death when he was a child.
We are two mariners, our ship's sole survivors, in this belly of a whale / its ribs are ceiling beams, its guts are carpeting, I guess we have some time to kill / you may not remember me, I was a child of three, and you a lad of eighteen / but I remember you, and I will relate to you, how our histories interweave...
- 'In the Air Tonight' by Phil Collins. 'I can feel it coming in the air tonight, O Lord/ I've been waiting for this moment for all of my life, O Lord ... '
- "The Rain" by Oran "Juice" Jones narrates finding out his younger girlfriend cheated on him with another guy in the rain, contemplates "pulling a Rambo" on the spot, but composes himself (without the couple ever even knowing this,) closes her bank account and gets rid of every gift he gave her (packing the stuff she first showed up with into suitcases), welcomes her home to give her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about the whole thing then sends her off right back out into the rain, alone.
Recorded And Stand Up Comedy
- In the title routine on his album Revenge, Bill Cosby recalls an incident where, as a kid, he got back at nemesis Junior Barnes, who hit him in the face with a slushball. Cosby built the perfect snowball and stored it in the freezer, and waited. Until July 12th, his birthday. By the time that day rolled around, his mother had found the snowball and thrown it away, and Cosby had to take his revenge by spitting on him.
Religion and Mythology
- In The Bible, David's oldest son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister Tamar. Tamar's other brother, Absalom, finds out immediately, but waits two years for the opportunity to kill Amnon.
- From Macbeth
There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fled
Hath nature that in time will venom breed,
No teeth for the present.
- Benjamin Barker was exiled for years by Judge Turpin in order to steal his wife. The play begins with his return to London as Sweeney Todd, ready to exact his revenge.
- In Final Fantasy XII, Montblanc had formed Clan Centurio to seek revenge on Yiazmat, who killed his master. Later the hero (Vaan) will accept a mission from him in order to slay it.
- In F.E.A.R., Alma waited several decades after she died for the revenge she sought against Armacham.
- In Yggdra Union, antagonists Luciana and Aegina have been waiting to get revenge on Yggdra for seventeen years as they were exiled and supposed to be killed while Yggdra, their younger sister, was pampered and groomed to receive Fantasinia's crown. The valkyrie twins believe Yggdra's ignorance to be almost as bad as Ordene's crimes. Then we have Nessiah, who's been waiting to get revenge on Asgard for the way they treated him for a thousand years. Served cold, indeed...
- In Assassins Creed II, it takes Ezio twenty years to get to the man who ordered the deaths of his father and brothers. although the man who directly kills them dies much much earlier. And even then he doesn't outright kill him, the evil pope. He just kicks his ass and punches him brutally. that's right: Ezio kicks the ass of the then current POPE. It takes another game for the pope to finally die, and not even at the hands of Ezio, but by his own poisoned apple.
- King Boo's entire motive in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is revenge against Luigi for what happened in the original Luigis Mansion, and he's become far more powerful since then.
- The protagonist in Sid Meiers Pirates embarks on a pirating career of 20 years or more to get revenge on the Marquis de Montalban for imprisoning his family. Eventually, however, the Marquis admits he's beaten and agrees to serve as your personal valet.
- In the backstory of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, this is implied to be the true reason why the Empire signed the White-Gold Concordat with the Thalmor. Both sides were severely weakened after the Great War and simply agreed to a truce for the sake of biding their time for an inevitable second war.
- Ace Attorney: While Manfred von Karma's revenge on Gregory Edgeworth was served hot, he attempted revenge on Gregory's son Miles just as the statute of limitations on Gregory's murder was running out. He prosecuted Miles for the murder of the defense lawyer on Gregory's case, and then for the murder of his own father. What makes this more painful is von Karma was the one to adopt Miles and teach him how to be an effective prosecutor. Luckily for Miles, his defense attorney, Phoenix Wright, was a Spanner in the Works.
- A recurring theme in G-Senjou no Maou. Several of the characters have been affected in their childhood, and their primary motivation is getting revenge for the things that happened to them. The most obvious one would be the protagonist towards Azai Gonzou.
- In the Voltage Inc Romance Game Kiss Of Revenge, the protagonist's mother died in the hospital due to an error which was then covered up. The protagonist spent the next twelve years working to become a doctor so that she could take a position at the same hospital and get revenge on the hospital director, who was responsible for the cover-up.
- In The Order of the Stick, the Lawful Good Inigo Montoya parody Yokyok seeks to avenge his father's death by killing Chaotic Evil protagonist, Belkar, in a bizarre inversion. Also, the first quest of the main story is for Roy to fulfill his father's blood oath to destroy Xykon for killing his master.
- In Cwen's Quest the titular character is seeking revenge on her father for trying to kill her when she was a child. In fact you could say she is fairly obsessed as she has thus far expressed little interested in other activities like helping others or amassing wealth in favor of her singular goal of revenge.
- Anak Zahard from Tower of God lost her parents due to the rules of the Zahard family, which forbade Princesses like her mother to have children. Several hundred years later she is ready to climb the Tower and kill every single member of the Zahard family. That includes an Amazon Brigade of Badass Princesses and the immortal Physical God and King of the Tower, Zahard himselfnote .
- Taken to new extremes with the Big Bad of 8-Bit Theater, Sarda, who waits for billions of years to get revenge on the main characters after they scarred him for life, murdered his family, murdered multiple sets of foster parents, and destroyed the orphanage that he lived in in addition to all of the other atrocities that they committed.
- In Darths & Droids, Jango Fett spends ten years building an army and plotting the destruction of the Jedi Order and the downfall of the entire Republic, just to get revenge against Obi-Wan for killing his "business" partner.
- In El Goonish Shive, the shadowed character known only as "The Child Left Behind" trained for years for the chance to avenge someone he knew who was killed by Damien only for Grace to do the job for him. He now seeks Grace to properly thank her.
- In an EverQuest fan comic, a high-level female Barbarian warrior approaches Cros Treewind (an NPC who kills players he sees fighting animals) from behind and yells "Cros Treewind, your ass is mine!", while he stands frozen with an Oh, Crap expression on his face. The caption says revenge is best served many levels later.
- Batman: The Animated Series had a particularly awesome example, as it was Mr. Freeze that said it.
- Macbeth in Gargoyles puts a twist on this one: "Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. And I have waited nine hundred years for this meal." However, Goliath points out to him and his nemesis Demona that every time either of them has attempted to get revenge, it only made their lives worse. As such, it goes beyond a subversion into an outright denunciation of the very idea of revenge. "What profit vengeance?" has been described by producer Greg Weisman as one of his favorite themes.
- Indeed, the hallmark concludes with Xanatos reminding Fox that he believes "Revenge is a sucker's bet."
- On Invader Zim, Tak wants to conquer Earth before Zim, since Zim was the one who made her fail her military exam and sent her to work as a janitor (on Planet Dirt) for fifty years. She actually doesn't view it as revenge so much as setting things right, though—-as she (correctly) points out, she's a highly competant invader who deserved to get assigned a planet, while Zim was sent there just to get him out of the Almighty Tallests antennae.
- Parodied in The Venture Bros.;
Phantom Limb: "Revenge, like gazpacho soup, is best served cold, precise and merciless."
The Monarch: "Yeah, yeah, you can never have enough precision in your soup."
- This is said on Dan Vs. Naturally, given the main character, only it's subverted.
Dan: Revenge is a dish best served immediately.